A lot of typical shonen titles undergo the cycle of one super overpowered enemy taking out a character who then has to power up somehow to overcome their opponent. In Kingdom, however, characters earn their stripes on the battlefield and that is where they really shine. Not only through martial might but things like strategic direction or pure will and determination.
Kingdom has beaten pretty heavy contenders to reach the top three manga-selling spots in Japan last year including Attack on Titan, Haikyuu!, and My Hero Academia and One Piece. This manga has given rise to one of the greatest characters you’ve never heard of because of the terribly animated anime adaptation and long-running 600+ chapter manga. Thus, we were not able to get a real taste of this beast.
Kingdom is basically historical seinen manga set way back (250 years ago) in the warring state period of ancient China where the region is divided into 7 different states and they fight for supremacy over the land. We follow Shin as he grows from being just a common foot soldier into the most significant generals in all of Chinese history (Oversimplification of the Plot). Watching Shin and his army develop over these last 671 chapters that this is running has captured the minds of millions around the world.
It might sound a little cliché but when done right this trope can lead to the most suspenseful and emotive storytelling.
It doesn’t seem to be very unique for: it follows the good old shonen formula of starting a character from nothing and slowly but surely rising up to be the best of the best. But beyond that, it sets itself aside from the rest of its peers. The reason behind the huge popularity is the focus that the side character gets, unique art for the manga, and incredible storytelling.
“This character single-handedly changed the fate of entire Kingdom manga” doesn’t define Kingdom rather the story runs so much deeper than just the main character. The main character Shin is making his moves to become ‘the greatest general under the heaven’s (Every hero’s ‘larger than life’ goal). There is a constant progression for this character and he is getting closer and closer to his goal. He improves every battle.
This guy has got a good sidekick named En. He is the Lieutenant of Shin’s army of five thousand men. En is not really one of those ruthless, badass warriors with loads of wisdom rather he is kind of the opposite. As the time passes we see Shin’s unit ripping through everyone but En fading away into the field full of badass fighters until this one incident at the Yellow River. This was Lieutenant En’s big moment which if went wrong could have separated Shin’s army from the conquest across the rest of China. Now he gets respect from the soldier, the lost faith in him.
Though this sounds cliché, the way this whole thing is done, everything is beautifully portrayed and appears wholesome, it makes you question everything you like about this series. Apart from the juicy action that happens on the battlefield, this moment is a gift from En which greatly contributes to the reason why the Kingdom was the 2nd most selling manga in Japan last year.
There is a little warrior, Kyoukai who is opposite En. She has establishes herself as one of the most badass swordsmen on the battlefield, slicing and dicing all her way through the enemies. But she is quite mysterious but over the course of hundreds of chapters, we get to know her painful past and her desires, and when it reaches its epic climax. The fact that Yasuhisa Hara drip-fed this story to the readers over hundreds of chapters is a testament to his storytelling. This isn’t even the main plot but it carries so much pain due to the time, care, and weight that’s been invested into the side characters.
The art style is quite unique, the illustration is brutal. The detail and focus given to the panels really conveys the pain.
In the Kingdom manga, Yasuhisa Hara has done an incredible job of seamlessly weaving the unification of China alongside the tales of these great side characters who were trying to find a place in this world. Kingdom hits nail on the head almost every single time and proves why it is a contender for the greatest manga of all time.