The Worst Manga Ever

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to participate in the Japanese delinquent world? With its immersive atmosphere, highly decompressed storytelling, and blow-by-blow action, Worst offers readers that experience.

Other manga such as Tenjou Tenge and School Rumble feature older-looking high school students who have the features of young adults rather than teens. Worst takes this a step further: most of its brawling gang bosses appear to be in their twenties or thirties, despite being high schoolers.

They look pretty old.

Artistic quirks aside, Worst is an intriguing look at the brutal world of high school delinquency. A high degree of idealization is present, but for this reviewer it was merely entertaining rather than debilitating. Unlike, say, Akagi, where descent into delinquency means involvement with yakuza, criminal enterprises, and shootings, Worst manages to retain a certain purity and innocence even as it depicts ugly brawls.

Disarm not his hand, but his heart.

This scales all the way up from the personal level to the organizational level. When two rival gangs get together to have a grudge match, the mediator suggests five rounds of single combat between champions for each faction, and it actually happens. Of course, there is a limit to how far the author stretches this suspension of disbelief – one combatant pulls a hidden knife, and the inevitable free-for-all between rank and file is merely delayed, not averted.

Nevertheless there is a certain innocent honesty throughout the work that may be likened to the Western ideal of chivalry. In the hyper-masculine world of Worst, strength is self-worth, and combat is the true test of that strength.  Weapons, rather than being the tools of warfare, are foreign objects that have the potential to alter the balance in the contest of strength.  Reliance on them is seen as dishonest, even as reliance on poison or “witchcraft” was seen as an affront to the fairness of a medieval European duel. Honesty and loyalty are valued above intelligence, and “street smarts” above intellectual pursuits.

Advanced moron theory. For dummies.

“I want to check what sort of man I am, in a world like this,” proclaims the cover of the ninth tankobon.  It is the fighters’ reason for striving, the justification for the mad effort involved in an increasingly elaborate system of ranks, matches, and grudges that few in the larger world will ever know or care about. In the end, the reader is left asking: what kind of manga fan am I?  Reading Worst is a step towards finding out.

3 thoughts on “The Worst Manga Ever”

  1. Interesting, something like a SRS BSNS Cromartie High School.

    I also find it interesting that in both titles, ‘there is no other world’ outside that of the delinquents’ society and heirarchy. Ikkitousen comes to mind as well, though it is a weaker comparison for obvious reasons.

    One thing I wonder about, To feel GAR for someone involves the object in a position or in the act of protecting something. It isn’t very inspiring (of GAR feeling) if the thing being protected by the GAR object (the character) is merely his own reputation or standing (as opposed to the village, humanity, spiral beings, Japan, etc.). Is Worst’s characters really that GAR inspiring given this distinction?

  2. @ghostlightning – Indeed, most of the characters do not come across as particularly protective in a conventional sense.  I would say this is deliberate, as they are really kids, even if they look like adults.  On the other hand, if we look for examples of protecting things, we do find them. There is one story arc where someone’s brother is assaulted and he reacts by single-handedly attacking about twenty men in a berserker rage.  There are also incidents such as the disarming shown above, where men act to preserve the “purity” of the fight.  In that last panel above, someone is being lectured against attempting to fight on graduation day and thereby ruining it for the graduating seniors.  Other students had moved in to quell the violence before it could really happen.

    On the whole, I’d say the characters aren’t really protectors, but they do have their moments.

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