Genre: Shounen, Sports, Boxing, Drama
Publisher: Gen Manga
Artist: Shige Nakamura
Wolf is an odd ball manga, and I say that with tongue in cheek. It involves the sport of Boxing. If you have heard of Boxing or follow it devoutly, you know how some boxers generally study their opponent in the ring or likes to wait until his/her opponent fights so aggressively that he tires him/herself out, then in the later rounds that boxer stops avoiding and starts attacking with precision and power? That’s kind of how Wolf operates. It started off sluggish and pretty mediocre, like a fighter who had little business being in the ring, then transformed into a moving, fast paced story that, unless you can’t deal with the old school type of art or you can’t deal with some of the contrivances early on, makes this manga an enjoyable, fun work to read again and again.
Shige Nakamura’s story is simple: we follow the main character Naoto Kurosaki, who travels to Tokyo to meet his father. Unfortunately, he doesn’t travel for pleasantries — he traveled to kill him. Naoto failed because his father, Kengo, is a professional boxer, and Naoto can’t come close to matching him in speed or power. So what does he decide to do? He of course decides to stay in Tokyo at the gym, and with his father’s encouragement, he takes up boxing. As he starts getting into the ring and into more matches, he soon realizes the opponents he has to face and the challenges they present, forcing Naoto to try and train harder to become a better boxer, until the fateful title match with his father.
As you can probably tell, the story can be considered kind of odd. Naoto claims he wants to kill his dad. The reason for this stems from Kengo leaving Naoto and his mother alone 12 years ago so he could box professionally. I’m certain in a realistic setting you wouldn’t travel to Tokyo just to decide to kill someone — you’d probably try and not associate with that person forever. His mom of course doesn’t suspect Naoto wants to kill anyone, which ultimately makes you question exactly if she was ever too unhappy in the first place: hint, she wasn’t. So immediately, in questioning a key part of the narrative in work, that’s generally a sign the story isn’t going to go anywhere.
But Wolf managed to mostly overcome this and broke through with me in the end because of two reasons: the Boxing and heart. The Boxing part of the series took over and made the manga endearing, as with the matches that took place, it was either heated, full of emotion, or entertaining to turn the page and find out what happens next. When it came to heart, it ultimately means seeing how Boxing changed Naoto’s mindset, from one desiring to kill a person to someone who ended up in love with Boxing. And while his mindset never wavered from his original intention, the chinks in the mindset were planted throughout many of the challenges he had to go through due to some tough opponents, and while it seems to get too light towards the end, I enjoyed this part of Wolf a lot, and can say as long as you can tolerate some of the story flaws, the manga will get you turning that page until you get to the conclusion.
But while it did still manage to be a solid read, that’s about its ceiling. It can’t get any higher than that unfortunately due to reasons aside from what I’ve already discussed is a problem in Wolf: the art and the other characters in the manga. The art feels like a throwback, as it harkens back to the past, giving the manga a classic, old-school style feel to it. If Nakamura intended to aim it to be this way, so be it. The only thing is that alienates potential readers since some probably reject that type of art. Of course, even those with interest in still reading something like this will notice some of the movements (especially early on) are pretty mediocre and poorly drawn. The art gets better as it goes on, so it doesn’t turn out to be a big deal. The real deal comes down to the characters. At least aside from a few of them, they are either not developed or pointless inclusions. I’m not certain why Shota, a big kid who aspires to be a Sumo Wrestler, was ever brought into this story (he appears in chapter 1) especially since he rarely appears in the manga, or contributes in a meaningful way.
So I don’t think Wolf can manage to be anything other than a solid read for some, a mediocre read for others. If you’re in need of sports manga and can deal with a flimsy premise, Wolf will not waste your time. If you’re in need of a moving drama, Wolf may also be worth a look. Otherwise, you may not want to check this out if some of the elements described above are a turnoff.