Underdog (Manga) Volumes 1 and 2 Review

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Rating: 6.5/10

Plot: Naoto is a very angry and perverted college student. He lives his life hating the world around him and makes a hobby out of setting up cameras in apartments where he knows the women living there are sexually active. His entire life, he’s been known as the ‘ghost boy’ as no one ever notices him and he hardly had any friends outside of his best friend, Yuuki. One day, a woman named Noa comes to him with a proposition; she is part of an organization that holds a tournament. The winner gets to rule the world. The rules? Kill your opponent without directly causing them harm.

Breakdown: I have a bit of a thing for ‘death tournament’ titles. Something about the concept seems so interesting to me and it can make for some really cool stories and scenarios. This one is dark and interesting, but also kinda stupid and confusing.

First of all, while they do establish the rules of the tournament clearly, even written out for us, I don’t get who this organization is nor why they have the power to give the winner the ability to dominate the world. Surely, if they did control the world, allowing third parties and the cops to know about the tournament wouldn’t be a problem.

Second, the ecchi is very prevalent here and it just doesn’t fit. Yes, Naoto being a creeper does lay the ground work to put suspicions on him when he’s being followed by the cops later, but the shots of all the sex aren’t really necessary, especially when unrelated ecchi is used as eyecatches for interludes between chapters and volumes. I’m definitely not a prude, and I stomach plenty of fanservice and ecchi in my anime watching career, but there’s no reason for half of these sex shots to be there and there’s definitely no reason why Noa has to look like a prostitute whose boobs are planning a prison break from her ‘blouse’. Half the manga is darkness, murder and depression and the other is deranged sex.

The ‘bad’ cop, Detective Satou, is incredibly over the top and stupid. Yeah, I’m so sure that a serial killer would be dumb enough to leave his student ID and stack of peeping tom porno DVDs at the scenes of his crimes. He’d also make a big production out of attacking his sister afterward. That won’t raise suspicions. It’s not like that doesn’t reek of a frame job or anything.

But that’s really not his biggest problem; that would be his

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You know the angry ‘attack dog’ detective trope? This guy is the raging ‘Kujo’ detective trope. He is obsessed with catching Naoto to the point where he will openly torture the guy in a room full of cops, without even turning the camera off, to get him to confess. Naoto had been accused of two murders and an assault on his sister up to that point. He had no personal vendetta here, and being a detective he should be well used to murders, but nope. He’s beating the hell out of him, he’s depriving him of sleep and probably food and water and it takes the ‘good cop’, Detective Arashiro, to finally tattle on him to their higher-ups and get him kicked off the case. Not that it matters because he still follows a tip from Naoto himself to an abandoned location, alone and fully intent on just straight up murdering him in spite of the fact that they have no evidence to connect him to any crimes.

I’m getting a bit far into this without laying out the story, so here goes.

Naoto is a miserable college student who spends most of his time breaking into apartments and setting up spy cameras to watch women having sex so he can masturbate to them. He became such a miserable person because, when he was a kid, he was constantly mocked and taunted being called ‘Ghost boy’ because he’s never noticed…..But that doesn’t really make sense because if you really were ignored constantly then you wouldn’t be mocked constantly. The two kinda contradict each other. If he was so well known that he had a nickname and the taunting was so frequent that it ruined his personality growing up then he was being paid plenty of attention, it was just negative.

His dad is also a complete ass to him for no reason, but his mom and sister clearly love him a lot.

One day, as Naoto has a sudden meeting with the police, he’s ‘saved’ by the barely dressed huge boobed Noa, who offers him an opportunity to participate in a tournament. Nearly 200 people are paired up twice a month to kill each other before two weeks are up. The hitch is that the participants can’t tell anyone about the tournament and they cannot directly harm their opponent. They also cannot hire anyone to kill them by proxy. Basically, they have to set it up so that the opponent either dies in an accident that is not of their doing or they have to kill themselves.

Naoto kinda accidentally agrees and he’s paired up with over-the-top bad guy #2, Hiuchi Masaya. He’s a serial killer who is batshit crazy. Seriously, he paints himself up in full body warpaint to commit his murders, he hangs from the ceiling to scare people like a super villain and has zero conscience whatsoever. His reasons for killing are simply to make a mark on the world.

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I told the guy at the facepainting stand to give me ‘the Joker’ and he adds kitty whiskers. I really can’t trust anyone at the state fair.

Naoto is a scared puppy throughout most of the first half of this match up as Hiuchi keeps killing people and framing Naoto for his crimes. This is not to get Naoto to kill himself or get him the death penalty as this would be way beyond the two week limit, but it’s to set it up so that bad cop kills him at a crime scene.

He is eventually arrested when his sister, Mirai, is kidnapped by Hiuchi and assaulted. He set up the room to make it look like Naoto did it, lured him to the location and let the cops tail him there.

Despite the evidence against Naoto, they don’t have enough to pin him to the murders, especially since the evidence planted in his room, a student ID of one of the victims and a severed hand of another, and his porno DVDs were taken and disposed of by his best friend, Yuuki, at the request of his sister, who didn’t know of the murder evidence.

Though, to be honest, this is another stupid point. The ID, hand and DVDs out of the way….Mirai is an eyewitness who knows her brother is innocent. She spent at least a half hour or so with Hiuchi since he was trying to trick her into believing he was Naoto’s old friend to get her drugged. She remembers Hiuchi and his alias. She remembers his appearance, his actions, what he was wearing, how he sounded, everything. She even remembered him going to strangle her after she mentioned that she was jealous of Hiuchi’s skinny build. She could’ve cleared Naoto right there and got the police to go after Hiuchi, but she lied and said she didn’t remember anything.

That’s not just dumb for Mirai, that was dumb of Hiuchi. You left an eyewitness, dumbass. Hell, you tried to strangle her in a FAST FOOD JOINT. Tons of people could back up her up on this claim. Good thing Mirai’s an idiot. Right, Hiuchi?

Right as Naoto is released, Satou reveals that Hiuchi had done something very horrible to Mirai that they didn’t notice when he had her in that warehouse. This enrages Naoto enough to finally snap and make a plan to fight back.

He realizes that Hiuchi has a pattern of attacking a girl three times before killing her, even though he didn’t seem to do this with the other two girls, and realizes that Mirai is in danger yet again. So Hiuchi, being predictable and dumb, paints himself up in his warpaint, dons a black cloak and waltzes into the hospital where Mirai is….While carrying a bag full of crossbows and weapons that are in plain sight. It’s only because Yuuki was there to stop him that Mirai didn’t get attacked again.

As Yuuki beats the crap out of Hiuchi, Naoto realizes that he’s so enraged that Yuuki will probably end up killing him if he doesn’t stop him. Despite this allowing him to win this round, Naoto decides against it since he doesn’t want the blood on Yuuki’s hands. Instead, he takes Hiuchi’s unconscious body and an accomplice of Hiuchi’s, his psychiatrist, to set it up so that it looks like Naoto is about to kill the accomplice. Luring Satou to the building across the street, it would allow Naoto to kill Hiuchi in the same manner that he had planned on getting him killed.

However, Hiuchi’s accomplice refuses to take orders from Naoto anymore, even in spite of the blackmail he has over her, and hits him over the head with a pipe. Since both Naoto and dumbass pedo doctor bitch are both too stupid to maybe tie Hiuchi up or do something to him that ensures that he sleeps through the whole thing, Hiuchi gets up and knocks both of them out, setting them up with strings to make the scene look like Naoto about to shoot the accomplice.

With Satou already in the neighboring building, Hiuchi is all set up to get Naoto killed. However, he didn’t count on Arashiro, having intelligent suspicions about the whole situation from the start, showing up and stopping him from shooting Naoto. With their backs to the wall, Hiuchi reveals that he has somehow kidnapped Mirai a-friggin’-gain and threatens her with death. End of volume two.

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Like I said, the story is pretty good, but it’s just over the top and too insane sometimes. It keeps hugging the line between realistically creepy to stupid insanity. And really, Mirai is kidnapped again? It’s been shown that it’s not against the rules of the tournament to tell third parties about your opponents as long as you avoid telling them about the tournament. This is shown when Naoto is allowed to tell Yuuki about Hiuchi. Naoto could just tell the cops about the situation and they’d put her under secure protection.

Hell, just the fact that Naoto was framed for her attack and the murders would be enough to put her under guard yet they don’t even up hospital security after the first time a maniac with a bag of weapons nearly got into her room. Hell, did the cops even learn about that? A huge fight, complete with deadly weapon drawn, broke out in the middle of a hospital; bad enough for Naoto to believe Hiuchi would die from it. Hospital staff didn’t catch wind of it? I know she went to the building on her own, how she knew they were there I don’t know, but still if she was under guard they would’ve stopped her from leaving and thus stopped her from getting kidnapped again.

The characters are mostly fine. Arashiro, Mirai and Yuuki are obviously the most likable, even if Mirai was a dumbass that one time. Naoto is fine. He’s a creeper who hates the world and nearly everyone in it, but he’s not a terrible guy. He obviously loves and cares for Yuuki and Mirai. Hiuchi is a decent villain, but he’s just so over-the-top most of the time. The fact that his big backstory is being mocked for being skinny and not eating a lot is also kinda silly. Satou is completely unlikable, though. Some might say he just has a strong sense of justice, but I just don’t think so. He’s an enraged lunatic who can’t see through his own anger to see the glaring problems in the murder case, leading him to torture a guy for something he was not guilty for. He’s itching for a perp and will mow down the sheep to get to the wolf. This isn’t a good cop or justice; this is a psychopath.

In this regard, even Arashiro is not blameless as he watched this happen and basically just said ‘if you keep this up, I’m leaving.’ Yeah, he did get him kicked off the case later, but that was only after the torture and right before Naoto was about to be cleared.

Sadly, I believe this title has been canceled. MAL and Anime-Planet list this as finished with three volumes and 17 chapters, and it lists the year as 2007 to 2009. I was only able to read two volumes and 11 chapters. The thing is, even two volumes in, Naoto is still on his first opponent of the tournament. The series was likely intended to be quite long especially if there are nearly 200 participants at the start. Unless something happens in volume three that ends everything out of the blue, and I doubt it, this manga was likely canceled.

It’s a shame because, despite its flaws, there is a pretty good tournament set up here. Usually stories like these involve direct killing and the twist of needing to find some other way to the kill the opponents is interesting and leaves it open to a lot of possibilities. I have to admit, though, I really can’t imagine an end-game here.

Art: The art is very detailed, though in a dreary fashion.

Bottomline: Since it’s probably unfinished, I can’t give this a full recommendation, but if you like these death tournament kinds of story, check it out. It’s not fantastic, but it is fairly interesting for what it is.

Recommended Audience: While you don’t see anyone killed on panel, several people do get badly wounded. There are some corpses but none of them are dismembered or anything. Outside of an arrow to the face, they’re pretty intact. The subject matter in itself is a more mature one as is the tone. The biggest issue in this department would be the nudity and sexuality. They get about as close to showing straight up hentai as they can. They somehow manage to avoid showing genitals, even in the more graphic sex scenes, but there are at least five sex scenes in the first two volumes, two of them with underage boys, though not shota levels. 17+

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