Monochrome Factor is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Kaili Sorano. The story follows the exploits of Akira Nikaido, a lazy high school student. His life changes when he meets Shirogane, a man who suddenly appears and tells him that they share a fate, though Akira is understandably skeptical. Later while Akira is helping a friend Aya she is kidnapped by a shadow monster. This event forces Akira to recognize his role in restoring the balance between the human and shadow worlds.First serialized in Mag Garden's bi-monthly Manga magazine Comic Blade Masamune in May 2004. When the magazine ceased publication, the manga began serialization in the new and revamped magazine, Comic Blade Avarus, in September 2007. The series is now completed.An Anime adaptation produced by GENCO, and animated by studio A.C.G.T., premiered on TV Tokyo on April 7, 2008. It later aired on other networks such as AT-X and TV Osaka. The anime has shōnen-ai themes which are almost completely absent from the manga. Originally running from April 7th, 2008 to September 29th, 2008, the anime consists of 24 episodes.
Tropes associated with this work:
Alas, Poor Villain: Nanaya's not exactly the most sympathetic guy on the planet at first. Then he gets the crap beaten out of him by Shirogane (who cuts his arm clean off without even batting an eyelash), narrowly manages to escape death by fleeing back to the shadow world, only to promptly have his skull crushed by Homurabi when he arrives. And the kicker is, that's not even the worst thing that happens to him in this manga. Nanaya's life just plain sucks.
A Magic Contract Comes With A Kiss: Occurs in the first episode of the anime. Though it's debatable at first whether Shirogane kisses Akira because it's a crucial part of the contract formation or because he just wanted to.
All There in the Manual: Though Monochrome Factor is more or less free of this for the most part, Sorano does from time to time include little character profiles in the manga detailing things that don't generally come up in the main narrative—like their favorite food, favorite video games, favorite TV shows, the creator's impressions of their personality, et cetera.
Anti-Hero: Akira falls under type 2, while Shirogane is more of a type 4.
Art Evolution: Kaili Sorano's artwork has evolved steadily in just the short few years Monochrome Factor has been running. For the best examples, just compare this scan from volume 1 and this one from volume 8 (sort-of-spoilers for the second one).
Badass Boast: Kou lays one down on Sawaki right before their big showdown.
"Though on the surface you looked uptight, you were a diligent and good person. That's what the kings said about you. Did you think you could be forgiven due to that praise? Ryuuko and I are the only ones who know your sins... know what you did. So I want to stop... no, sorry. That's a lie. I came to kill you."
Baseball Episode: Not explicitly Baseball, but the anime did have a tennis and boxing episode?
Berserk Button: In Volume 5 of the manga, Kou has a brief run-in with Sawaki, one of Homurabi's Children. Though it's very clear that the two don't like each other, the exchange between them isn't especially hostile. Until Sawaki makes the mistake of asking Kou to give his regards to "Ryuuko's successor," meaning Akira. Ryuuko is already a painful subject for Kou, and Sawaki was one of the people who betrayed him. Safe to say, just hearing Sawaki mention the late King's name is enough to send him into a brief rage.
Big Bad: Homurabi. Though in recent chapters, it's starting to look like Shirogane's filling that role.
Bittersweet Ending: By the end of the manga, Akira has fully awakened as king alongside Shirogane, and Homurabi has redeemed himself and earned the forgiveness of his Children. That doesn't change the fact that Kengo's still dead, and the only person who remembers that either him or Akira ever existed is Aya, who had to return to the human world alone. And that means Kengo's sister forgot about him too. Ouch.
Blessed with Suck: Kengo's dark factor makes him extremely powerful. It also causes him to black out, lapse into an animalistic, Ax Crazy mode, and attack everything around him. Then Homurabi kills him to take his powers, and uses them to beat the crap out of his best friend.
Also, the kings. Incredibly strong, but forced to abandon everything and everyone they knew from the human world to accept their kingship. Shisui in particular had issues with this one.
Bondage Is Bad: Kou, in the anime adaptation, is implied to have a bit of a bondage fetish, present for no other reason than to creep Aya out after she beats him up and he begs for more.
Can Not Spit It Out: Akira is forced by Aya to apologize for his behavior to Kengo. What does he do? He gets half of "sorry" out, then body-slams Kengo and takes off.
"I'm never gonna say that, you idiot!!"
He does, finally, manage to apologize to Aya, and even embraces her, right before accepting the kingship, which effectively should erase any memories that she, and anyone else in the human world, has of him.
Camp Gay: Shirogane—but only in the anime. Even in the drama CD, where Shirogane still has the same voice actor, he pretty much avoids the camp gay altogether.
Catch Phrase: Akira's, especially in the anime, might as well be "Ahou ka?" ("Are you an idiot?")
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Damn near all of Homurabi's subordinates. Either they outright join Akira's side against him, like Nanaya and Lulu, or they deliberately subvert his plans from the inside, like Sawaki. Shiki is the only one who is technically still on Homurabi's side, but it's been established that not even he's 100% loyal.
Creating Life: Kou was, in fact, created by Ryuuko, using a technique that basically makes him an odd amalgamation of a human and Rei. Most likely in direct response to Kou's creation, the technique was later permanently banned, and a few lines of dialogue in the flashback arc imply that there was probably some debate among the kings as to whether Kou should have even been allowed to live. As one might expect, this whole ordeal has left Kou with some slight daddy issues, existential angst, and general self-loathing.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: While definitely a weakling as a kid, years of backing Akira up in schoolyard fights and training himself by night have morphed Kengo into the utter epitome of this. Even Akira, who makes a habit of demeaning Kengo on a regular basis, still is willing to admit that he's strong. Still didn't save him against Homurabi though.
Date Peepers: Occurs in one episode of the anime, when Kengo and a girl from their school apparently are going on a date. It turns out she really just wanted someone to confide in about her girlcrush on Aya. Though she does apparently develop a thing for Kengo by the end.
Dark Is Not Evil: While the Monochrome Factor universe is split up to a light and dark world, it's stressed that there's no real "good" or "evil" to either side—they both exist in order to preserve balance, and one side can't exist without the other. Slightly subverted in that the "light" side does seem to have a disproportionately high number of "good" characters, but that also may be because we've only encountered a few of them.
Dead for Real: While it's stated that Akira could choose to give Kengo back his inshi to revive him, he instead gives it to Shirogane to fully restore him to his old self.
Though Sawaki did ultimately survive his duel with Kou, after being visited by Ryuuko and Kengo's spirits, he chooses to join them in the afterlife rather than continuing to live as a Shin. He commits suicide with one of his spears off-panel.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: In the second episode of the anime (which is known for a lot of invented and embellished Ho Yay subtext), there's a scene where Akira needs to pull a couple of spikes out of Shirogane's back. The camera angles, the characters' expressions, and the fact that both of them are shirtless makes the whole scene look very... inappropriate, to say the least.
Doomed by Canon: Seeing as we know from very early on that Akira is Ryuuko's reincarnation, once the Ryuuko-centric flashback arc gets going, readers know exactly how it's going to end.
Double Agent: A big part of the second half of the anime is that one of the main characters could be this. You're set up to believe early on that it's Shirogane. Turns out to be Haruka.
Mr. Fanservice: Kou. Troubled past? Check. Emotional and physical scars? Check. Sexy voice? Check. Looks great with his shirt off? Check. Comfortable with man-on-man scenes? Check. Akira and Shirogane are also great examples.
Family Unfriendly Death: Kaili Sorano almost seems to have an aversion to killing off characters, but when she actually does... hoo boy. Just as a basic rundown:
Nanaya - Homurabi grips either side of his head, lifts him off the ground, digs his nails into his scalp, and crushes his skull.
Kou - Sawaki pins his right hand to a column with his spear, then leaps back, summoning a flurry of other spears to finish the job. The shot at the beginning of the next chapter shows him impaled through the chest, stomach, left thigh, and right knee, with blood flowing down the column behind him.
Ryuuko - Sawaki impales him from behind with his spear. When he withdraws the weapon, Ryuuko stumbles forward into Homurabi, who calmly reaches his hand into the wound to pull out his light inshi.
Kengo - Caught by Homurabi, who lets the poor kid suffer in fear for a few pages as he casually relays his plans to Shirogane. Then he digs his fingernails into Kengo's chest, violently ripping out his dark inshi.
It should be noted that Nanaya and Kou are the only two of these who manage to not die permanently.
Immortality Begins at Twenty: Pretty much all of the immortal characters appear to be frozen in their late teens or early twenties, with the exception of Shiki. Though even he plays this one totally straight when he shows his "true form."
This trope is especially relevant in Kou's case, who appears to have only two distinct life stages: a twenty-five year old man, and a big white doggie.
Ineffectual Loner: Kou . Though he is very strong, by the time the main story rolls around his power has waned considerably, and any attempts to do anything alone tend not to end well. He gets roughed up so badly while fighting just regular kokuchi that he apparently has to do minor surgery on himself, and his big, climactic battle against Sawaki, um... doesn't go very well.
It Runs in the Family: The Suzuno family. Aya, her father and her grandfather are all sword-wielding, short-tempered people who value honor. Aya's mother is the only non-fighting one, but she isn't too inclined to stop them when it gets out of hand.
Look Behind You: After Aya catches Akira and Kengo skipping class, Kengo attempts to distract her by shouting "Oh my! Look over there! A pile of X-rated magazines!" It works.
Luminescent Blush: Akira, of all people, starts having them in the anime, whenever Shirogane gets a little too touchy-feely.
Mood Whiplash: Sawaki goes from asking Ryuuko and Kengo's spirits if he can "go with them" to complaining (complete with humorously mock-serious face) that he won't be able to tease Kou anymore to preparing to stab himself in the throat with his own spear. Never mind Chapter 56, where we go from Kengo fanboying over Akira's new king's robe to him being stabbed through the chest with Homurabi's claws. Ouch.
Parental Abandonment: Aside from Akira commenting that his family's Buddhist to get Shirogane (who he first thinks is a crazy cultist) off his back, we've had absolutely no sign of his parents in over fifty chapters. Given his personality, it's not implausible to assume that they're not very close.
This might be the case for Kengo too. Though he seemed to have a pretty decent relationship with his parents as a child, they don't really seem to be around much in his teen years. Adding that to the fact that he, Akira, and Kou seem to spend all major holidays together...
Partial Transformation: Kou is an interesting example in that he really can't fully transform, or he'll disappear.
Perpetual Smiler: Shirogane is this, though it gets toned down further along in the series.
Power Fist: Kengo and Kou use these are their main weapons.
Power Incontinence: Kengo's dark factor abilities probably qualify. At full capacity, he's practically one of the strongest people in the series—problem is that the second his powers kick in, he blacks out, loses all sense of friend-or-foe, and attacks damn near everything he sees.
Rage Against the Mentor: Akira's attempts to find out more about the Shin and kokuchi are frequently rebuffed by Shirogane until Lulu reveals to Akira that Shirogane is a King of the Shadow. He then forces Shirogane to reveal that Akira is the reincarnation of the King of the Rei, or light.
Royal Blood: Shirogane and Ryuuko (and by extension, Akira).
Sequel Hook: The Monochrome Factor anime really, really tried to do this, with Homurabi and Ryuuko making their first appearances in the last episode as well as Shirogane apparently disappearing. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the show's poor reception means it's unlikely to go any further.
Thou Shalt Not Kill: Akira has no problem beating the living daylights out of his best friend, sometimes for no apparent reason. But he has serious issues with outright killing, as demonstrated the numerous times he stops Shirogane from killing a person possessed by the kokuchi and his unwillingness to put Nanaya out of his misery.
Three Amigos: Akira, Kengo, and Aya. Surprisingly enough, there's been next to no romantic development between the three of them, unless you count some potential Ho Yay between Akira and Kengo.
Tsundere: Akira borders on this from time to time—especially in the manga.
Underdogs Never Lose: Akira awakens Ryuuko for a short time in order to beat Nanaya, and Aya gains a second sword in order to beat Lulu.
Unexplained Recovery: Nanaya, who somehow managed to survive getting his skull crushed by Homurabi early on in the series. It's insinuated that Homurabi revived him by using a bastardized version of the same technique that Ryuuko used to create Kou. It just didn't work very well.
Unstoppable Rage: Surprisingly, subverted on two counts, and during the same general arc:
First there's Kou, who launches into an all-out berserker assault against Sawaki, as a last-ditch effort to make him pay for Ryuuko's murder before he overuses his power and disappears. Sawaki defeats him exactly one chapter later.
Then there's Akira, who is mere seconds too late to save Kengo from having his dark inshi ripped from his chest by Homurabi, effectively killing him. After Kengo's big TearJerker death scene, Akira breaks up the fight between Shirogane and Hommurabi, dramatically screaming GIVE KENGO BACK! at the very end of the chapter. It looks like it's going to be a Crowning Moment of Awesome for Akira. Then Homurabi spends the next two chapters kicking his ass.
Why Did It Have To Be Ghosts: Aya is deathly afraid of ghosts. The spots where "ghosts" are often seen are places where kokuchi gather. The group has to seal up the tears where the kokuchi enter and fight them. Do the math.
You Can See Me?: Shirogane is invisible to ordinary humans, so you know this one happens from time to time. Moreso in the anime, for whatever reason.