Zetman was one of the very first manga i ever read and the first one to keep me awake at night because of the addictive nature of its plots. I remember before this i had read Evangellion and Veritas, and after those i came across a variety of less than impressive manga before finally settling on Zetman which impressed me not only with its story but its great art. Before this is remember being blown away by Veritas’ rather clean artistic style, until i came across Zetman and it blew Veritas’ own impressive art out of the water.
Back then i didn’t have access to internet, so i read Evangellion and then Veritas in my school’s computer lab. SO one could say it was the first manga i took home with me and up to this day i can still remember why i thought so highly of it as a truly quality manga series, not merely in terms of the art but an amazingly touching story.
The story kicks off at the end. Two great heroes, ZET and Alphaz are facing off in battle. From this point we are taken back through time to their beginnings, and the story that placed both allies of justice at opposing ends.
Jin Kanzaki is a genetic creation of the Amagi cooperation, an organization responsible for unleashing a plague of monsters known as players. The players can take the form of man and have done so since their creation is keeping with a strict set of rules designed to ensure that they and their kind continue to exist in the shadows. Until now that is.Once unleashed they take the shape of monsters with a thirst for human flesh.
Jin was created with the express purpose of destroying the players, a being as close to humanity as possible but who could transform into a near indestructible entity known as ZET, a force that would be hailed as the hero that would save humanity.
Kouga Amagi is everyone’s dream child, smart, wise, handsome, hardworking, dedicated, all the things that allow him to stand out among all others even those older than him as a true heir to his father and grandfather’s legacy at the head of the Amagi corporation. But Kouga has no interest in this particular destiny that has been chosen for him, to continue down the corporate path; Kouga has always idolized the famous TV hero Alphaz and ever since his child hood, he has wished for one and only one thing, to become Alphas, to become a hero that would rise to the call of humanity’s need and save the innocent.
The fates of these two men intertwine as they each seek to protect mankind, with each facing his separate set of obstacles along the way; Jin a child barely capable of understanding the harsh world he and his ‘grandfather’ must endure on the streets, confused about his true nature, the circular symbol burnt into his right arm and the insidious past his only family is clearly attempting to hide from him; Kouga, healthy, wealthy, in possession of everything that anyone might ever want, except for the support of those around him, who will constantly disparage his attempts to find his calling as a hero.
By the time this story comes to a close both individuals will have to question the meaning of heroism and justice and determine what it means to fight for good. Where Jin will struggle to fight through the clouds of hate and vengeance growing within him against those than have caused him so much grief in their attempts to acquire his power, Kouga will have to come to terms with the true face of his family, their role not as heroes but villains in the big picture, as the fates of both slowly draw towards each other.
This is one of those manga series i might not have read if it wasn’t for boredom. I remember reading Evagellion, enjoying its promising progress and grimacing painfully at the rather dour end that resulted. I was intent of locating another manga that would wash the bitter taste of the mecha series away. Veritas did just that, until its end also left a less than satisfactory and sour taste once more.
In searching for something that could make me forget that irritating finale, i came across zetman in various forums. Most spoke highly of it but i couldn’t bring myself to bother. Nothing about it sounded particularly enticing. Even the title, zetman, sounded like a cheap villain from super sentai, and the poster displayed a very cliché design for the superhero ZET. Basically i was not too keen on it and instead jumped to fairy tail.
When i decided to give this manga a true chance a few months after, i was amazed at how deep, unique and none cliché the story was. Even the cheesy look of ZET was explained. The Amagi cooperation in zetman also makes anime, and in engineering ZET, they designed him to look like one of their successful anime super heroes, which was an interesting twist; reminds me kick ass for some reason.
Let me just say that i am yet to get over my anger over the fiasco last April. TMS entertainment had the audacity to release an anime adaptation of this great manga; and while they did a good job of getting me excited, what they did to the manga was nothing short of evil. I only watched the first episode before deciding i couldn’t sit back and watch these people butcher one of my favorite manga stories ever.
Those that did watch it, my brother included, justified my fears over what an atrocious piece of work this 12 episode anime was. And normally that wouldn’t be enough to sway me, at the very least i do not drop anime after one episode because someone else said it was bad unless i have given it a good attempt at 4 or 5 episodes. But with zetman, that wasn’t necessary, not after what i saw in the first episode.
Here is the thing. Zetman isn’t merely a great story, it has the best starting i have ever read in a manga. While the rest of zetman was great, those first 20 or so chapters were nothing short of genius; beautiful, sad and tragic, the sort of back story you rarely get, perfectly paced and concise. These were 20 chapters of Jin’s childhood, showcasing his hard life as a kidof 10-12 years, stronger than most humans, violent when he had to be, and very protective of his grandfather during their lives on the street.. This was the backbone of Jin, it showed us who he was as a character and created a base for what he would become later on. When you see Jin do what he does later on, you can trace his behaviors all the way to the start.
What did the anime do with that? you might ask; well they fitted all 20 chapters of absolutely crucial story telling in a 2 minute flash back in the beginning, A TWO MINUTE FLASH BACK. We are talking about a story absolutely necessary to zetman, and…TWO MINUTES… if i was a cussing man i would have a few choice words for that studio. Good thing i am not.
After those first 20 chapters, we get another 20 or so chapters of Jin in his early teens, not too old, not too young but none the less a child finding his way in a hard world, and those too proved crucial in building the character of Jin. And what did they do? I do not think we even hit a minute this time, more like few seconds flashes here and there. When i first saw those first 15 minutes of the anime, i thought i would explode. WHAT THET HELL WERE THEY THINKING? To discard Godorou’s (his grandfather) story like that and…never mind Godorou, WHAT THEY DID TO AKEMI? Those are characters whose impact on Jin’s life would echo on through all 180 chapters, and for them to be treated to a few seconds of screen time when Katsura thought it necessary to show their back story in such detail and to give us several chapters of Jin’s life with these characters…unforgivable.
Most zetman anime fans who have not read the manga do not understand why i rage against the anime so heatedly. To them zetman was an okay anime they would watch if it progressed to a second season (hopefully not). They obviously do not understand that they have not experienced the true zetman story. The true zetman story is nothing short of brilliance in its action packed, yet dramatic and ultimately tragic telling. And that is what irritates me. These people will not bother with the manga because they think they already know the story, and they do not.
Enough raging against the anime WHICH SHOULD BE SCRUBBED OUT OF EXISTANCE. If Fate Stay/Night is getting another animation this year or next year, why shouldn’t zetman? I for one would love to see a true telling of Jin and Kouga’s story.
Okay, now i am calm. If you didn’t infer it from my rant above, the story of zetman is brilliant. It is about superheroes, two of them in fact. One was born to be a hero, one is determined to make himself a hero. One is haunted by the consequences and sacrifices of saving innocents, another, in trying to achieve his dream as a hero cannot forget that one day he met the other, and in turn met a true hero, one who, no matter how hard he tries, cannot forget him and will find himself measuring each and every one of his actions against what he believes the other, the truer more righteous hero in his eyes, would do.
There is an evil corporation that brought about evil and now wants to fix things. They will stop at nothing to get at ZET, there creation even as those among their own ranks seek to protect him and whose only dream for him isn’t to see his rise as a super powered mutation, but to enjoy and live life as a normal human. Jin and Kouga live larger than life existences that more often than not will affect the peace of those around them.
Even though he has it all, Kouga cannot help but admire Jin. Jin might have nothing but to Kouga, he has everything that the wealthy fellow wants. Jin holds a hate towards himself where Kouga sees nothing but light. Both are at odds as to what the true nature of justice is. Even as kouga struggles to prove that his own sense of justice is the truth, he can’t help but recognize that in doing so, he isn’t actually disparaging Jin’s sense of justice, but merely unwilling to admit it to himself that he doesn't have it within him, power, will, mental strength, to carry out Jin’s form of justice, the true righteous justice, instead choosing to forge for himself a path that his weaker will can accommodate. It is this weakness that haunts him and which others take advantage of.
This manga is mature and does not hold back in terms of visuals when it tries to get a cold hard lesson across. I am reminded of Kouga… AHHH I CAN’T STOP RANTING AGAINST THE ANIME. What they did to Kouga’s character in the anime was just as irritating, nothing short of injustice…that mini arc with Kouga and his murderous would be mentor Jirou was as crazy and brutal as it was intriguing story telling that kept me at the edge of my seat AND THEY JUST…AHHHH…
There is no way the anime can expect to bring about the same depth in character development as the manga when it is so intent on skipping many of the events that created the relationships between some of these characters.
This manga is unpredictable and the story will run towards any direction at any point in time. Fortunately it is only as brutal as it needs to be. Sure when there needs to be blood there will be, but there is no Spartacus level gore when there doesn’t have to be. The art is amazing; most times it felt like i was reading art pieces in a museum with words attached to them. If there is one manga that does not need color, it is zetman. It is perfect as it is. The characters are deep, dynamic and continuously evolving. Jin might be the main character but he isn’t the primary focus.
There are a ton of characters each of which gets maximum exposition, each playing a key role in the plot and rarely ever present as filler. The action is also great, especially when displayed with Katsura’s brilliant art.
Basically Zetman is a must read. It has as much action as you need to follow a manga, but more importantly, it has a deep, complex and dramatic story that will draw in anyone that gives this manga a decent attempt.
RATING: 7/5, exceeded my expectations. The manga has been stuck at chapter 188 for a long while now, i wonder what is happening.
HIGHLIGHTS: I do not remember as much about zetman as i would want to, it has been a while since i read it, but the Akemi and Godorou arcs were my favorites. Though the Kouga and Jirou arc is a close contender, finally bringing Kouga’s struggle to become a hero to the fro. Jirou was the sort of madman you rarely see in manga; he shined as a villain trying to be the hero but doing better as the villain; he was cold and determined in his vengeance.
The first time Jin transforms into true ZET was epic, though the action scenes when he would transform into white ZET were more unpredictable. The introduction of the different levels of players and the EVol organization, a company of powerful players that do not fall to the hunger than other players succumb to created a nice change in the pace of the story. I liked the fact that Katsura kept Kouga at the front as a character, just as important as Jin. His struggles with his family’s failures, that as a hero he would have to fight against their own works and their determination to keep him out of it was intriguing to watch.
Zetman, created by Masakazu Katsura, premiered as a one shot in shonen jump between 1989 and 1994. It made its formal appearance as a mature series in 2002 in the weekly young jump.
Katsura surprised many with the mature action packed Zetman seeing that all his earlier works were romantic comedies, usually shojo’s revolving around the trivial problems of teens. Katsura is good friends with Akira Toriyama and he is the person to thank for coming up with the idea of fusion for Akira’s dragon ball z series, an idea he floated during discussions for one of their collaborations on another series. He played an important role as designer for Tiger and Bunny.