If you’re just joining us, Briefs by Blake is a special series that spotlights a handful of manga that only ran for a short while (chapter lengths in the teens to twenties).
Stealth Symphony is an urban fantasy manga by Ryohgo Narita, the creator of Durarara!!, with art by Yoichi Amano. It ran for only 20 chapters (sometimes listed as 21, but I believe that is because there’s an extended-cut version of the final chapter being counted as 21), and I suspect – though I don’t know for sure – that this was due to it being canceled rather than being finished in the time the author intended.
Part of the reason I suspect this is that I had never heard of it before stumbling onto it randomly. I was simply trying to pull a random series off of Viz’s website to read, and this is the one I got. I’ve mentioned it a few times since, only further confirming my suspicions that it’s an unknown series.
Which is a shame, because right from the start I was totally charmed by it. Being a sucker for urban fantasy settings, and well-known as shonen trash, the excitement of the world and the promise of some cool battles with cool powers was more than enough to hook me. But the gorgeous artwork and cute character design definitely helped. While not quite as stylish, it certainly reminded me of Soul Eater in the early days.
The plot revolves around Jig, a young kid with a bummer of a past who has come to the city to solve a problem. Specifically, he has an ancient artifact grafted onto his back the protects him from harm and deals back twice the damage intended upon him to whoever was intending it. Not wanting to use Counter and Mirror Coat on everyone he meets, Jig hopes to free himself of this curse so he can be a normal human. He also fears his own abilities, given that the retaliatory attack is involuntary and based on the actions of those around him. Jig hates the thought of being violent or hurting anyone, and so the wings really don’t feel like they belong with who he sees himself as.
He meets an invisible dragon named Troma in the city and shortly thereafter makes a life for himself as a member of Troma’s mercenary office. He is thrust into a world full of all kinds of interesting takes on fantasy creatures. He embarks on exciting adventures that lead to crazy-powered shonen-style brawls. And soon, we readers start to see that there’s more to all this than initially meets the eye.
That’s the line that stuck with me from just about the only other review I’ve been able to find for this series: That every character and every plot has something surprising about it. There are subversions of expectations across the board, and while I don’t think they are all total whammy revelations, I do think they lend the series a certain sense of mystery even in more mundane moments.
Overall, I found my too-short journey with this saga to be a good one. The art is consistently strong, the powers and fights are cool, and the underlying story is interesting. I do think it can occasionally be bogged down by its huge cast, a sweeping thing that barely fits in its short run.
But more, and the other thing that makes me think this was canceled, is that the ending feels quite sudden and a tad rushed. The last few chapters, from somewhere around chapter 16, are quite a rollercoaster ride, but for me, they felt like a quick transition from what had been happening before, and like we hadn’t earned being at the end of the story yet. The ending also has a few things that I, personally, wish had gone differently, so I do think my reaction in the last handful of chapters was less enthusiastic. But I also admit that much of that is more personal taste, and wouldn’t let it stop me from recommending it.
Which I do. I enjoyed this series. What’s more, I feel like there’s a lot to unpack here. The world is huge and exciting, as is the cast. There are a lot of intriguing hooks that don’t get fully fleshed out, leaving ample room for discussion or your own filling in of the blanks. I definitely can see myself returning to this in the future to re-read partly so I can pick up on the things I missed amid the huge cast of characters and sometimes too-quick pacing, but partly just because the series as a whole was really fun. And I hope this review encourages a few of you to check it out as well. With such a small number of chapters, dedicated bingers can finish this in a day or two, and even slow-readers like me will have it finished quickly and be ready to dissect all the lovely little details the series leaves for you to ponder.
Blake is one half of Blake & Spencer Get Jumped – a member of The Geekly Grind podcast network! Make sure to tune in and get their thoughts on classic anime series, new manga titles and more!