Review by Frank Plowright
While Eldo Yoshimizu’s art was a frequent source of amazement during Volume One, his story often made little sense. Two pages are need to recap characters and a plot that skipped from person to person, present to past and location to location. Ryuko is the central character, an ambitious woman with a history haunting her, leading a Yakuza clan in the Middle East, and about to learn a secret she’s long wanted: the whereabouts of her mother. The answer’s not one she’s going to like.
Yoshimizu’s art is still the strong point. He’s as schizoid with his styles as he is with his writing, but there’s a far greater foundation to the drawing. He’ll switch from somehow very simple traditional manga linework as per the sample page to kinetic action, then to illustrations that have noodling to them on a par with Sergio Toppi. He can evoke an instant mood, and has a magnificent eye for movement. Yoshimizu’s attitude to women is as contradictory as his art. Almost every single one of the strong characters within a large cast is a woman, yet he’ll still occasionally drop in a cheesy posed pin-up shot while toying with Madonna comparisons elsewhere. Still impressive, though, are shots of Ryuko on her motorbike tearing through the city.
The plot is frankly too complex, seemingly constructed piecemeal as the story was originally serialised rather than working toward a fixed point. While it obviously kept matters fresh for Yoshimizu, and ensures everyone is surprised at appropriate places, the emphasis on shocks is at the cost of logic. It’s eventually clarified that what’s at stake is control of a criminal dynasty, but without any certainty who’s aligned with each other at any given moment. The only solution appears to be a Godian Knot moment, and Yoshimizu turns in a phenomenal action-packed seventy page penultimate chapter with almost the entire relevant cast lured to a single location. Once the dust appears to have settled, Yoshimizu again changes the ground rules to crank things up again for the final chapter.
Everything is eventually explained, if not always logically, which ranks this conclusion slightly higher than the opening volume. Both provide an adrenaline rush with amazing art, and if preferred they’re available combined in a slipcase as Ryuko: The Complete Manga Collection.