Random Three Kingdoms stuff

I think it should be fairly obvious from my previous posts, I have an irrational love for Three Kingdoms.

This love extended to, while I was in Japan, picking up various Three Kingdoms manga. I found no less than three different takes on Three Kingdoms (four if you count the “split” in the Scholar Bunko series) and one where, while Three Kingdoms is the setting it is not really the focus. I have heard enough of Ikkitousen to know it shouldn’t be considered among these (though I may check it out from sheer curiousity). So I figured I’d write up a bit about each. Read on if this sounds vaguely interesting.

Interestingly, though, during my research on the mysterious Huo Hu in Destiny of an Emperor, I found out that the original Tenchi wo Kurau (天地を喰らう) is actually based on a manga of the same name, rather than Yokoyama Mitsuteru’s Sangokushi. From what I gather (mostly speculation), the manga is incredibly biased towards Shu… like most.

Mitsuteru’s Sangokushi, from what I’ve read of it is just an expansion on the original story with a stronger focus on Liu Bei and his sworn brothers as characters (where in Three Kingdoms you only see the big picture). Zhang Fei is strong and loyal enough, but has a tendency to kill people who get in his way (even inadvertently). Guan Yu is, as always, wise yet decisive, and so on.

The Scholar Bunko series (also, of course, titled Sangokushi) is my favorite, since it’s closer to history or at the very least to the novel. The picture is more balanced than usual; Sun Jian is somewhat hot-headed, but his personality really comes out before Si Shui gate, where due to lack of supplies his troops begin to fail. His confrontation with Yuan Shu (who was to send supplies) thereafter is even more intense than in the novel. Too bad Cheng Pu comes off looking like such a jerk (and he doesn’t return for Chi Bi), but I’m glad he at least has a role.

Cao Cao comes off much like Julius Caesar – ambitious, motivated and somewhat manipulative. Incidentally, he has curly hair and wears a coronet-like headpiece. Just as in the novel, his character is shown in the anecdote wherein he manipulates his own father into mistrusting his uncle, so as to carouse as much as he pleased. Even minor events with Cao Cao such as his single-handed rescue by Cao Hong are faithfully shown.

The third Sangokushi series, which had no other distinguishing features, I can’t say much about. I couldn’t stand to read much of it when I saw that Zhang Fei looked exactly like Xu Zhu in Dynasty Warriors.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from anything that makes a modicum of sense is Ryuurouden (龍狼伝), or Dragon-Wolf Legend. Ryuurouden is the most stereotypical manga you could imagine that could pertain at all to Three Kingdoms. It involves (of course) a Japanese highschooler on a field trip to China who is magically transported back to Three Kingdoms. Even writing that made me shudder. He appears in the middle of Xu Shu’s debut battle (the one with the Seven Gates formation), and that appearance causes Xu Shu to be fatally wounded by a nameless subcommander under Cao Ren. Naturally, said high-schooler is chosen to take over as strategist.  He accepts so as to protect his girlfriend who was transported back with him. Xu Shu’s sister (oh yes, he randomly has a sister, Renhua, who fights alongside him) becomes angry at his death and all sorts of bad things ensue.

Characters are over-the-top – the more important a character is, the larger (physically) they are. Zhang Fei is roughly three times as tall as Shiro (the highschooler) and in several scenes is shown picking up other people one-handed. Zhao Yun, oddly, is shown as overly serious and obeying orders to a fault. He is one of the few good characters (as that’s a believable trait), as Cao Ren is shown as being strong but horribly inept and even Li Dian is shown as intelligent yet highly dishonorable. Ryuurouden does get bonus points, however, for admitting the existence of Sun Qian and even giving him a few important lines!

I only have the first volume of this manga, but it looks like it can only go downhill in most respects. It’s a guilty pleasure – fun to read, but at the same time so badly cliched.

If I had to recommend any one of these, it would be the Scholar version (by Yu Terashima, Toshiaki Kojima, and Lee Chi Ching).  The Scholar Bunko is the “beginning” part (I only have the Yellow Turban Rebellion and Anti-Dong Zhuo Campaign volumes – I don’t know how far it goes), and comes in standard manga size (approx. paperback).  There is also the Burger SC Deluxe (awesome name), which deals with the events of Chi Bi.  It’s a larger sized set, with much nicer art quality.  Unfortunately, it follows the novel in treating Zhou Yu like dirt, but such is life.

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