Random Manga Theatre 50: Holy Land

Hit the “Random” button and see what comes up! In this feature, we take a look at whatever manga the Random Number God decides to throw at us and find out if it’s worth your time.

This time: Holy Land, by Kouji Mori

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Iro finds a lot of manga when doing this feature, and as you all may notice, some of them are okay, a lot of them are stinkers, and a few of them are great. But they’re also not always his kinda thing, which is where I come in. What he finds to be interesting but not necessarily amazing, I might find to be my style.

Holy Land is a perfect example of that. As a martial artist who’s practiced everything from orthodox boxing to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Shaolin Gung Fu, I absolutely love a good fighting manga. However, I’m not looking for a battle shonen with powerups and beams, but grounded stories about scrappy fighters who push themselves to the limits to overcome their opponents. Whether it be the stylized but exciting Hajime no Ippo or the wonderfully grounded All-Rounder Meguru, I’m always on the lookout for a good fighting manga focusing on the realistic aspects of fighting.

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Holy Land tells the story of Kamishiro Yuu, a Highschool student who’s been on the suffering end of bullying his entire life. Having decided he’s done being a weakling, he practices boxing and ventures into the mean streets to find thugs and beat them into submission, earning him the title of the “Thug Hunter.” His unassuming appearance lets him get the jump on most smalltime bullies, but as his reputation starts to spread, the street fighters of the city begin to seek him out, each desiring to bring down the Thug Hunter for their own reasons.

It’s a long story, but a rewarding one. It tells a story of change and improvement. Yuu is a weakling at heart. For every two steps forward he takes down the road of personal improvement, he takes one step back. It can get a little tedious at times, but his story is one I’m sure many can identify with. He’s not the chosen one, he’s not a prodigy, he’s just a regular kid who’s sick and tired of having no control in his life, and takes his agency into his own hands.

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However, the most impressive aspect of the manga is its depiction of fighting. I can honestly think of very few manga that portray fighting, and especially street fighting in the way Holy Land does. Strikers have to worry about grapplers. Grapplers have to worry about wrestling on asphalt. Punching a hard skull with your bare hand can lead to long-term injury. Simply falling down on concrete can be a game-ending occurrence. Kouji Mori’s clearly done his research and it shows in Holy Land. Each fight is a tense affair, and you never know how a fight is going to end.

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Verdict: A Wholly Entertaining Experience
Holy Land is a lot of fun to read for anybody who’s ever practiced any fighting sport or is a fan of one. Featuring a whole gamut of fighting styles from boxing and wrestling to Judo and Kenpo, there’s a lot to appreciate for fighting fans. While Yuu’s often tedious development is somewhat of a grind to get past, the fights are decently well-grounded in real technique and a joy to read. If you want to see fights that are actually fights rather than stylized performances, Holy Land is for you.

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