Until Death Do Us Part, vol. 1

untilIt all begins with a tragic scene that usually presents itself as an ending – a 12-year-old girl held captive by some very bad men. Suddenly, she escapes! Running, she desperately scans the crowd around her looking for someone … anyone … who can save her. Her chosen hero? A seemingly ordinary blind man.

It seems crazy, but the girl, whose name is Haruka, is not mad. She’s a psychic whose power allows her quick glimpses of probable futures – a talent her gangster kidnappers would dearly love to exploit. And the blind man, whose name is Mamoru Hijikata, is far more than he seems, a fact that becomes obvious as he pulls a katana with an ultra-fine blade from out of his cane.

Protecting the innocent is all part of Mamoru’s job as a hired sword for The Element Network, a loose association of people who lost loved ones to organized crime and terrorism and who pool their resources and talents to fight a vigilante war on evil. Mamoru’s partner in the organization is Igawa, a White Hat computer hacker. He monitors the software that, coupled with a special pair of high-tech sunglasses, allow Mamoru to track the trajectory of bullets in mid-flight and deflect them with his molecule-thin sword cane.

Complications arise when Igawa and Mamoru are recruited by The Wall, the paramilitary force of The Element Network charged with fighting terrorism. Soon our heroes find themselves having to contend with the Yakuza, the police, and the terrorists. Only Haruka’s precognitive talent may allow them all to live long enough to save the day.

The character of the blind warrior is a cross-culture trope that can be found in multiple media, from films like Blind Fury to American comic books like Daredevil. In Japan, the most popular variation on this concept is Zatoichi, a blind wanderer, gambler and masseur whose cane holds a hidden sword he uses to protect the innocent in order to atone for his gangster past. Mamoru Hijikata seems to be a modern version of Zatoichi, though he seems less concerned with atonement than in honing his skills, and this first volume tells us nothing of Mamoru’s past.

Regardless, the story by Hiroshi Takashige goes far beyond merely modernizing a classic Japanese character. Until Death Do Us Part features a complex story with multiple subplots and many interesting characters. Fans of technological thrillers, action movies and stories involving superpowers will all find some aspect of this series to their liking. The dialogue seems to be well translated from the original Japanese, though the leader of The Wall (members of which all take codenames based on Phonetic Code) has his name spelled “Alfa” rather than “Alpha”.

The artwork by Double S is, in a word, astonishing. An amazing amount of detail is fit into every panel of this book. Each character has a distinctive look, so the reader will have no trouble telling who is whom, even when the characters are operating incognito. The action scenes are all well-choreographed and flow naturally from panel to panel.

Until Death Do Us Part is rated OT for older teens, age 16 and up. This first volume features an attempted rape, some brief above-the-waist female nudity, adult situations, multiple violent scenes of people being shot and cut apart, and a fair amount of cursing up to and including the f-word.

Until Death Do Us Part, vol. 1
by Hiroshi Takashige
Art by Double S
ISBN: 9780316213905
Yen Press, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)

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