Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Story/Art: Haruhisa Nakata
Translation: John Werry
Adaptation: Jason A. Hurley
What They Say
It’s Levius versus Oliver in the championship match at the Southern Slam, the top tournament in Mechanical Martial Arts. Before the fight, Levius learns that steam syndrome may be endangering Oliver’s life, and that only Levius can save him. But when the starting bell rings, Levius finds out just how dangerous the champion can be, steam syndrome or no!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
I wanted to see an explosive ending to the match between Natalia and Balthus, but I was hoping that I would at least be able to make out what was going on in the match. Nakata’s art is typically strong, he is a great artist, but the cluttered artwork in the final moments of this matchup is a chaos of phantom imagery that evokes a tornado of debris rather than two humans battling it out. It is shonen bullshit at its peak, and I couldn’t even tell the characters apart from the scenery.
The match ends so poorly for everyone that the entire arena is nearly blown sky-high. It takes the intervention of several outside fighters to bring Balthus to heel. The winning blow was actually Balthus collapsing from being spent. The one bright side to the fight is the robot Clown was using has its head torn clean off. That means the Dr. isn’t going to be present for the rest of the matches.
Both Natalia and Balthus survive their match, but both are worse off for it. Even Bart can’t stay out of the fray and the overload of Balthus’s emotions threatens to turn him into a more dangerous nuke than his sister. The match only ends with a de-escalation move made by an unlikely source. Lying broken in recovery Natalia decides to finally throw in the towel. Whatever jealousy and antagonism existed in her one-sided battle for Levius’ heart, she casts it aside.
From there the focus shifts into the final match. Levius needs a new second because both Zachs and Bill can’t do double duty. They call in AJ to handle Levius, and call in a colleague of Bill’s to serve as a ring surgeon. It’s an untested combination, and Levius refuses to replace his medical-grade arm with a battle one, leaving himself at a disadvantage. (A life-threatening one, of course, because everything in this series is.) On paper, this fight would appear to be in Levius’ favor. He is young and still relatively healthy. Oliver is basically dying.
The issue Levius faces is that logic doesn’t exist in the land of overpowered shonen battles. Plus, Oliver is loved by the populace for reasons that aren’t clear. Biscotti (goddamn it) fuels the fires of the patrons by announcing that this is Oliver’s retirement match. That means even if he wins this fight to the death he is still going to be stepping down out of the ring. To add insult to insult, Oliver is the one who saved Levius back when he was a kid because, of course, he is!
So no matter what, Levius will lose something in this fight. It will either be AJ back to the military or Amethyst. It might be his life or that of his hero. The MMA fans who dislike him will certainly not be happy about it if he wins. On top of that, you can’t trust any side to keep their word.
I’ve grown to respect Natalia a lot more, and she finally sees reason in the madness when she nearly loses her trainer. Sometimes you have to know when to walk away, and she does but not before nearly getting everyone blown up. To be fair, it’s not her fault. Levius knew that he was an underdog going into the title bout, but he learns that it’s not just in the strength of body but in public opinion as well. A messy start to this volume gives way to a battle that pits the elderly champion against the young upstart. I don’t see how Levius is going to pull the world out of its bloody tailspin. This isn’t exactly the type of shonen where friendship saves everything.
Content Grade: B –
Art Grade: A –
Packaging Grade: N/A (Digital)
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: Teen Plus
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: September 15, 2020
MSRP: $12.99 US / $ CAN / £ UK