Miss my previous review? You can find it here!
Volume 2 begins with a key bout for Natalia’s progress within the M.M.A – a high-profile Grade III fight that could set her up for a promotional bout and entry into Grade II. She is able to secure a victory with a very thin margin, furthering her romantic rivalry with A.J. in her attempts to secure Levius as her future partner.
Meanwhile, it has been determined that Grade I will serve as an outlet for a Proxy War between nations. Organizations & countries alike would stake their hopes on a specific fighter and wager their dominion in the arena. It is against this backdrop that Levius learns of his first Grade I match.
To the shock and dismay of his loved ones, Levius is set to take on the reigning champion of Grade I – an undefeated beast of a fighter known as “The Emperor”. Having ascended to the top of the ranks at the mere age of 13, Kingsley has maintained his undisputed authority over Grade I for nearly 60 years. And now, he has selected Levius to be the first one to participate in a Grade I title match.
While Zack and the others reel with shock and fear at what a bout with “The Emperor” means, Levius faces the opportunity with a characteristic excitement.
Kingsley requests a meeting with Levius, and presents to him a startling truth: he knew his father, Daniel, many years ago – when he was a soldier. Daniel had a gift – an ability to detect mechanized weaponry and soldiers…a sort of sixth sense that allowed him to protect others and get them to safety in advance. Kingsley admired him, and was disappointed by his death in the attack that claimed Levius’ arm and placed his mother in her vegetative state. Ultimately, he brought Daniel back with him and enshrined his corpse in a tree, with the manga’s namesake etched into a fitting inscription.
With his dying breath, Levius’ father encouraged him to become a God. To elevate himself, surely as a means of protecting others or preventing further pain and suffering from spreading throughout the land. The message isn’t necessarily all sunshine and rainbows, however, as Kingsley quickly informs him that there’s no need for more than one God.
Kingsley asserts his strength and discourages Levius from challenging him, disparaging his mother in the process. Levius loses his temper and attempts to trade blows with Kingsley, only to be struck down with a single attack. Kingsley promises to continue their bout in the ring, where nobody will be able to save him.
As the volume concludes, we see an up and coming fighter in Grade IV – one with a similar last name…
Levius/Est has a lot of things going for it – the stark art style, the characters, the great balance between comedy and gut-gripping drama…not to mention the clashes in the ring. Volume 2 does a great job of further illustrating the stakes as Levius tries to find his way within Grade I, and come to terms with what being in that upper echelon really means.
The art continues to be my biggest draw – with Levius’ “devil grin” being the standout piece from the volume in my opinion.
The detail in the creases near his eyes, the sheer power in Levius’ countenance here made me stop and linger on the image for quite some time. This isn’t the only example in this volume, but it’s certainly the strongest.
As Levius’ bout with Kingsley becomes more publicized, it’s also interesting to note how the politics and merchandising around the M.M.A becomes more recognizable in this volume. I appreciated this peek behind the curtain as even Zack contemplates how best to market Natalia.
The main thing that might annoy some readers is Natalia’s obsession with having a romantic beef with A.J. – the love triangle trope doesn’t really land, especially given Levius’ history with the two of them. It distracts from Natalia’s boisterous, bold nature, and A.J. is all but a background character for the majority of the volume as it is.
Overall, Levius/est continues to be a welcome addition to my manga reading. I’m hoping we get some more world-building and get introduced to the rest of the Grade I fighters in due time. Also…is that A.J.’s brother?! With volume 3 due out in just about a month, we won’t be waiting too long to find out!