Wending his way home after a bender one evening, master moocher and game programmer, Keita Ibuki, decides to satisfy a craving for ramen at a noodle stand. Instead of slurping soup, though, he surrenders his meal to a manic girl who, unbeknown to Keita, is a Motosumitama, a guardian of the coexistence equilibrium. When his new acquaintance is attacked, Keita gets caught in the crossfire and loses an arm. Awakening from the shock of his injury, Keita finds himself back in his apartment...arm intact! But just whose arm is it?
Black God, also known by its Japanese name of KuroKami is a manga of Korean origin, created by writer Dall-Young Lim and manhwa artist Sung-Woo Park. Set in Tokyo, it follows the story of Kuro, a being known as a Motosumitama. She is a super-powered guardian that helps control the flow of "Tera" in the world, through what is known as the Doppeliner system, which within the fiction is the true reasoning for what ordinary humans know as Doppelgangers.
In a chance meeting with Keita, a young, struggling freelance programmer she saves his life from a malevolent Motosumitama, and soon becomes intertwined with his life as a result of an unfortunate accident during the fight. His link with her is already made relevant however, due to his sad childhood in which his mother died shortly after meeting her own doppelganger (whom of course, Kuro corrects to be a "Doppeliner").
I found the artwork to be excellent quality throughout. It's not going to turn any heads in terms of style – the good guys are cute and the bad guys aren't – standard fare, but the attention to detail is never skimped upon. The fight scenes in particular are very expressive, though at times, the absolutely colossal amount of speed lines can confuse a little. It gives a fantastic sense of emphasis and heaviness to each action, but each panel can often take a second or two to work out which way the limbs are flying.
The character designs themselves are fairly generic outside of Kuro herself. The writing never makes them come off as boring however – it's just the human characters are generally just normal people, thus no elaborate design is needed. I found Kuro's design to be very pleasing and cute however. More than anything, despite the fact that she wears not much more than a baggy coat, the artwork is incredibly ungenerous in terms of fan service (unless you have a particular fetish for bare legs at least). For this reason I found Kuro to be a much more likeable and respectable as a character, rather than the usual action girl of the week, whose panty-shots far outnumber her heroic feats. For those who care though, a little fan service is splashed out for the random artwork on each chapter title page. As an extra bonus, the first four pages are printed in full colour, which is a wonderful introduction to the story.
Speaking of which, the story itself is a little haphazard. It all flows fine, but I felt not enough emphasis was put onto the interesting doppeliner aspects, and far more on the super powers of Kuro. I'm sure this will be explained further in later volumes, but it's something I found a little jarring. Especially considering the emphasis on doppelgangers is a far more original premise than the super powers and fights.
The overall story arc is not very long, but this simply means in order to fill a whole book, it is very detailed, benefitting from plenty of character development as a result. It is however, the kind of story which is not afraid to crack jokes again as soon as the drama of a fight is over, which some might find awkward. I personally found it made Kuro even more endearing as a character, as it is usually based off some confused obsession of hers that is entirely unimportant considering the serious situation that was occurring mere moments before.
I very much enjoyed the manga, and my only major criticisms are as follows: firstly, as just a personal peeve, the translations of sound effects are very small and out of the way, which can reduce some of the drama of fight scenes. However this is by far a rare occurance in translated manga, so it should not bother most. The only other criticism is also related to the text, and this may or may not be a result of translation. During some scenes, a character swearing is shown by using the classic "@#!?&!" method. This however seemed completely inappropriate and slightly killed the mood, since the manga is not afraid to show lashings of blood, violent attack moves, and at times, fairly adult jokes.
To end on a positive note, I'll talk about the bonus content. First is a side-story that features both an explanation of Kuro's fighting style (not to mention a very humorous explanation to an aspect of her dress sense too) and a very satisfying plot and character in the process. In addition, there is also an omake featuring the makers of the comic, which I found to be genuinely funny in its retelling of anecdotes, with many jokes featuring the Korean team's unfamiliarity with the Japanese culture, design and language.
This is well worth looking into if you want to try something new that is fairly "safe" in terms of entertainment value. It's not groundbreaking, but it's certainly one of the better action mangas, and has both a classic, fun story in its action, fantasy and humour, and something more interesting and new in the Doppeliner system plot. With a pleasing art style and a clear passion behind it, I could easily recommend Black God.