Today, it is common – see obvious – that a successful manga is endowed with derivative works. This ranges from spin-offs to novels, via a very specific category of publication: character books. Often centered on the characters, the latter are often enriched with additional data, global focus on the story that allow it to be understood with an objective gaze, or even illustrations and interviews with the author. Tokyo Revengers being one of the current hens with the golden eggs of the Kôdansha house, it was legitimate that the title mixing furyo and fantasy by Ken Wakui was entitled to its own works.
And if the Japanese readership seems fond of these releases, French fans increasingly want to have access to them. If these bibles were until now reserved for behemoths like One Piece, more frequent today are the series whose character books are offered in our bookstores. It’s clearly not a norm, but readers of commercially strong series are rewarded that way.
Tokyo Revengers has been entitled, to date, to no less than two character books. The first, the one discussed in this column, was called Tenjo Tenge and reached Japanese bookstores on April 16, 2021, on the occasion of the imminent release of the live film and the broadcast of the anime. The second book was released a year later, on April 15, 2022, and has the fairly explicit subtitle Valhallah – Black Dragon. A third volume has just been announced and will be released in its home country on June 17 and will be titled Tenjiku-hen. From there to think that a fourth part dedicated to the following arc will be proposed, there is only one step.
On our side, the character book waltz is approached in a somewhat particular way by Glénat editions. If the first work (named with us “Hell and Paradise”) is individually planned for July 6 in our points of sale, it was first made available in “preview” via a collector’s box, alongside volume 18 of the manga and a set of two bookmarks (randomly selected from a series of 6). This is how this column can be offered a few weeks before the release of the book with us, many readers having already got their hands on it through the box, sometimes comparing with passion the models of bookmarks unearthed , via social media.
Because the book is a character book, a large part of this first opus is dedicated to the characters, those that we are led to meet in the Moebius and Valhallah arcs, which makes for a good bunch of portraits to deal with. But where some books establish rather succinct files, Ken Wakui manages to distil many small elements, from deliciously useless information that we like to discover (the famous trivia) to some details on their personalities, going back to their journeys during the first two arcs of the manga. The objective, like that of the very useful fresco summarizing Takemichi’s time travels and their effects, is to rediscover the work with a different perspective, and to take the time to sit down to appreciate the cast of the series. Because on the first volumes, only a handful of figures were entitled to honor, and even an antagonist like Tetta Kisaki was not immediately put in the spotlight. At a time when, in the story, the characters and sub-plots multiply, taking the time to come back to each portrait is not foolish.
And if the large characters section is pleasant to browse, it is not the most addictive point of this first character book. We appreciate more the color pages offered, returning to illustrations made by Ken Wakui on special occasions or simply to appear on the covers of volumes, commented creations in order to understand a little better the state of mind of the author when he approaches these different visuals. Over the volumes, and this is especially noticeable by the cover illustrations, the mangaka has turned to very stylized renderings and outfits that seem to evoke fashion, sketched by an artist who likes to introduce all kinds of patterns on these characters. . For a few pages, Ken Wakui returns to these graphic aspects, allowing us to understand his approach.
But for any reader wishing to learn more about the author’s state of mind when he started Tokyo Revengers, it is certainly the interview of a dozen pages that will hit the mark. Without going into detail, the artist returns to the fundamentals of his approach, whether in relation to the story or the characters, a great opportunity to learn more about the foundations of Tokyo Revengers and the way Ken Wakui thinks this river story subject to multiple twists. We learn, without saying too much, that the initial project had to be a bit different from the final rendering. And to support his point, the author provided the storyboard of the first chapter, a type of supplement always appreciable when one wants to observe the approach of an author, and the paw he displays in the famous “nemu” returned to the editor.
The program of this first character book is therefore as simple as it is effective, this one benefiting from other small supplements that are generally amusing, when the author does not compile several sketches drawn in parallel (made for his social networks, for example). The book is no more than it claims, namely a collection of information for fans, those who want to immerse themselves in the story, establishing a good balance between obvious character portraits and data from more precise creations, via the interview with Ken Wakui in particular.
Note that this first opus has the merit of not spoiling too much, in particular because it mainly deals with the work on the surface, focusing on the Moebius and Valhallah arcs. This will probably not be the case of the following two volumes which seem to have a more precise program. And of course, we hope to see them arrive at Glénat editions soon. We will even go so far as to hope that the publisher can offer the guidebook linked to the first season of the animated adaptation, a book published twice, with a second version enriched with additional pages. These publications are always more complex to negotiate since they include the production committee in the rights loop, but nothing is impossible when you see that the Demon Slayer and Naruto anime have seen their own guides published with us.