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Manga / Shamo

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At the age of sixteen, Ryo Narushima was a straight "A" student. He seemingly had no trouble getting into Tokyo University and joining the elite of society. However, that summer something cracked inside Ryo's head. With a small knife, he brutally murdered both of his parents, leaving only his sister alive and cowering in a corner. After being sent to a reformatory, he learns martial arts from an old convict named Kurokawa (who tried to assassinate a politician... also with a knife) that helps him overcome his bullying. He continues to study Karate while at the same time becoming more and more of a sociopathic monster.

Fun for the whole family!

The series seems to be a critique of parents pushing their kids too hard in their academics and being too controlling, seeing as it's what makes Ryo violently attack his own. Whenever someone brings it up he seems truly pissed that he killed them. The manga also has a heavy theme of violence, as it aims to show the thin line between sport and self defense/murder.

The manga began serialization in Manga Action in 1998, later moving to Evening in 2004. It was put on hiatus in 2007 over a legal dispute between the writer and illustrator over who should be credited as the creator of the series. Thankfully, the dispute was settled and the series concluded in 2015 with its 34th volume.

This manga provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Implied to be the case with Ryo's parents a few times throughout the series.
  • Animal Motifs: Naoto Sugawara is an eagle. And of course, Ryo is depicted as a Shamo, and he's called a gamecock by several characters.
    • Bonus points for looking like one, i.e. thin, with good posture, and very vicious.
  • Art Evolution: Not by much, but slowly and surely Akio Tanaka adds more facial details to character's faces as the series progresses.
  • Author Appeal: Like Terrence Malick of the film industry, Akio Tanaka loves to have close up shots of various animals pop up throughout the series. Though much less so in later chapters.
  • Badass Long Coat: Ryo's not a big fan of light clothing.
  • Batter Up!: How Yamazaki got kicked out of the baseball league.
  • Beard of Evil: Ryo at the very very end of the Black Monkey arc.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Both lampshaded and played straight. Because Ryo's parents are abusive he murders them. Because he murders them he's sent to the reformatory. Because he murdered his parents the inmates and staff treat him with extreme cruelty. And because of this he comes out much more vicious and depraved than to begin with.
  • Better the Devil You Know: Averted. The old Chinese master chooses the evil Ryo to defeat the only slightly more evil Black Monkey.
  • Bishounen: Toma Takahara. He's a famous ballet dancer.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Ryo spends the first 16 years of his life being a mild mannered perfect son. After that, not so much.
  • Byronic Hero: Though capable of redemption (as evidenced by his care-taking of his sister and various small charitable acts shown throughout the manga) ultimately Ryo is depicted as a Byronic hero spiraling into darkness, his chances at reform slowly ebbing away as he gives in to more and more of his depraved and brutal tendencies.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Ryo uses actual self defense techniques, like always going for the eyes and groin. He even takes this to some pretty ridiculous extremes digging up dirt on his opponents and blackmailing them to drop out or a contest (so he can get the money of course)
  • Character Focus: Toma Takahara appears out of nowhere and the story suddenly becomes about him for several volumes.
  • Deconstruction: The manga is a deconstruction of the Shonen fighting genre, as well as of Professional Wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts, and Kayfabe.
    • A significant theme of the series is how these industries have commercialized martial arts, and have diverted them from their original design as a means of self-defense and survival. Part of what distinguishes Ryo from nearly all of his opponents is that his initial motive for practicing mixed marial arts was in order to survive, whereas his opponents have other (though not necessarily lesser) reasons for fighting. Tellingly, his teacher was a militant political terrorist.
    • The series also explores the depravity required to design certain storylines in both MMA and Professional Wrestling, both of which often take cues from real-life conflicts or personal issues among competitors, some of which can be very serious.
  • Darker and Edgier: Quite possibly than any other fighting manga in existence.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Well at least Ryo and his sister seemed to think so.
  • Determinator Ryo is almost purely this and hate. No matter how hellish his life is, no matter how many enemies he faces, no matter how large and invincible the people he fights are, no matter how seemingly impossible his goals are, no matter how much pain he is in, he will simply not give up.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Ryo never outright wins even one of his main fights in the entire series. However he some how usually comes out on top.
  • Driven to Suicide: Ryo's first girlfriend, Megumi.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Megumi, Ryo's first girlfriend, stabs her friend to death when suffering from withdrawal.
    • Ryo takes a special steroid before his match with Sugawara and one of his eyes turn blood red signifying how demonic he has become.
  • Disney Villain Death: For a series that normally averts such things, it's finally played straight in the case of Black Monkey.
  • Downfall by Sex: Averted. After Ryo rapes his rival's girlfriend and getting her pregnant, she seeks revenge by stabbing him. Ryo's doctor assures him that it is fatal however Ryo survives to fight another day.
  • Dying Alone: The final fate of Ryo as he dies from his injuries alone in a forest after his fight with the brother duo.
  • Evil Is Petty: Suwagara refuses to fight Ryo. Ryo decides that raping his girlfriend would be the perfect way to get Suwagara to change his mind.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Invoked - the thugs in the juvenile rehab center that Ryo's being held at are utterly disgusted at Ryo because he killed his parents, saying that not even they would do such a thing... while being far more despicable than Ryo was. Being a natural weakling doesn't really help Ryo's cause either.
  • Evil Gloating: Ryo does this to Suwagara about raping his girlfiend in their first match.
  • Evil Mentor: Kurokawa, the person who teaches Ryo karate, thus prompting his descent into The Dark Side is a staunch traditionalist who tried to assassinate the Prime Minister for opening up foreign relations.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Both in the movie and manga, Toma mentions this about Ryo.
  • Evil Only Has to Win Once: Lampshaded. Ryo never outright wins any of his main fights. Though he does often come close.
  • Evil Virtues. Ryo may be a cheating, murderous rapist but he is also ambitious, hardworking, resourceful and determined. He also refuses to use a gun when offered the chance to outright murder Suwahara
  • Failure Is the Only Option: For as badass and invincible Ryo is often presented he never actually outright wins any of his main fights in the manga. He does however win against a few no names (sometimes) and it's strongly implied that he has won many fights in the street outside of the ring. This in turn makes him out as a sort of Doomed Moral Victor.
  • From Bad to Worse: Despite becoming a badass after getting out of the reformatory Ryo never finds any long lasting success in his martial arts career and only causes more trouble for himself and the people around him.
  • Filler Arc: A lot consider the Black Monkey Arc to be so. Others say it was character development.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Subverted with Moemi who aborts Ryo's potential son.
  • Groin Attack: Ryo does this in the reformatory to his rapist, Masa, with his teeth.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: Ryo is a Shrinking Violet before prison. While Ryo did technically kill his parents which landed him in jail it was mentioned by his sister that if he hadn't done it she believed he would have died and if he didn't she eventually would have done it herself. However once he is subjected to the horrors of prison and learns martial arts he becomes a sadistic relentless monster of a human being who commits various acts of assault and rape just for the fun of it.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In a bizarre example Ryo's teacher the man responsible for Ryo learning to become a ruthless martial artist sees the error of his ways and turns good during the final days of his life. He even apologizes to Ryo and tries to get him to stop being as evil.
  • He's Back!: Of both alignments: on the good side, Sugawara recovers fully and wants to beat the ever loving crap of Ryo, and on the bad side, so is the Black Monkey, who pretty much destroys Sanshiro
  • Human Shield: Ryo uses Blue Monkey as this against Black Monkey, though oddly, no bullets were involved.
  • Humiliation Conga: Ryo may come off as a badass but he goes through this quite often. He gets raped in jail, urinated on by a she-male, beaten horribly every day by his one eyed trainer, and possibly by his parents which drove him to murder in the first place.
  • In Name Only: Now a Chinese indie film! With gore and Chinese wuxia style!
  • Invincible Hero: Averted; Ryo loses/is disqualified from a fair number of fights even when he's cheating and breaking rules. He also goes months without training and becomes rusty as a result.
    • Also, Ryo is by NO MEANS the strongest in the series. Literally every main fight he has, he is outmatched (sometimes severely outmatched heck he even at one point gets beat up by a transvestite prostitute). And besides some filler fights, he never outright wins any fight. However, this is where his Villainous Valor comes into play.
  • I Will Find You: Ryo searching for his sister.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The "special sports program" that allows a karate master to teach children in a prison is lampshaded with one sentence. It refers to the martial arts program as "famous" implying it's very controversial and debated in the media. It's never mentioned again.
  • Light Is Not Good: It is VERY subtle in the series, but it's there, and one of the main points of the series. One example is Mochizuki, who depending on your point of view, is actually the villain. Another is Ryo's family (particularly mom and dad), who on the surface seemed like good people. However, Light Is Good is played straight with Toma.
    • Though ultimately Light Is Good is also averted with Toma. For all his good intentions, the only reason why Toma means to be kind to Ryo is because he has never gone through any lasting loss and harm, being the Innocent Prodigy that he is. Ryo even mentions this, that he is like a child and has no blood thirst, and the entirety of the Black VS White chapters of their fight is translated simultaneously as a kind of mental battle while Toma is trying to save Ryo while fighting off his corruption. It didn't work. Since Toma's goodness is not so much about his being GOOD as it is about his never being exposed to evil in his life, it is a fragile thing — he ultimately cracks and gives up on trying to save Ryo and ends up trying to kill him with the best of them. Of course, that might just go to show how much Ryo is fucking EVIL inside.
  • Locked into Strangeness: Natsumi, after years of substance abuse.
  • Man Bites Man: Ryo bites off a part Isao Kanayama's (Me-Kum Kim's) nose during their brawl in the burning shack.
  • Mark of the Beast: In one scene early in the manga, Ryo marks up his body with paint in order to give himself a more "evil look" to which his girlfriend at the time replies, "You look like a devil."
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Ryo's sister says early on that she understands why he had to kill their parents.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Ryo is a natural weakling and very rarely has any real mass to him throughout the series. This is especially noticeable in the Toma arc. The only exception being when he had to put on bulk to fight against Suwagara
    • In addition to most people who fight against Ryo tend to be physically bigger (not that it usually helps)
  • Near-Villain Victory: Happens to Ryo a lot. The most notable being the first fight between Ryo and Sugarawa.
  • Nominal Hero: Ryo is not a nice person. He fights dirty, shows a casual disregard for the feelings of others, and even commits a few rapes.
  • Noodle Incident: The narration is never crystal clear about how much and to what extent Ryo's parents were hard or/and abusive with him, Ryo takes it as if they violated his very soul, but the narration makes it very fragmented and disconnected, after progression Ryo still resides in Unreliable Narrator territory when coming to his "abusive" parents. His sister does reinforce that they would have (possibly literally) wound up killing him if he didn't murder them first, but we're still never shown anything.
  • The Psycho Rangers: The Black Dogi are this in comparison to Toma's team.
  • Prison Rape: This happens to Ryo very early on in the story. It's technically "reformatory rape", but the same principle applies.
  • Promiscuity After Rape: After Ryo is raped by his fellow inmates he is released. Where upon he rapes at least 2 women. One is Suwagaras girl friend the other is never named. It is implied that he does this on a regular basis but we never see this. He also works as a male gigolo.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: This is how Ryo's story unfolds, going from a gentle, unassuming young man to the most psychopathic martial artist ever conceived.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Despite all of the horrific crimes that Ryo commits, the true villain of the manga is society at large. Society is what turned Ryo into the monster that he is (as well as many other characters for that matter) And towards the latest chapters, it is very apparent that this is what Ryo is truly fighting against. The hypocrisy of society in everyday life and those who pretend to be good, but are really in some ways, even worse than he is. In this way, Ryo is actually more of a Byronic Hero than a true villain. Sometimes.
  • Rape and Revenge: Ryo to Masa twice, first when Ryo bites off Masa's penis and later, after learning karate, Ryo beats him to near death in a sparring match.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Ryo died, alone and angry, and the last scene implies that his sister will never learn about how he died. That being said, he managed to take down the brother duo before succumbing to his wounds and gave them a message to deliver to Sakiko’s father so that he would never try to mess with her again, giving a hint of hope that finally, after so many years, Ryo’s sister and Sakiko will finally be able to live in peace. Them again, some people would argue that Ryo dying is a good thing...
  • Post-Rape Taunt: Sugawara hallucinates Ryo mocking him with this.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Ryo when he murders his parents.
  • Sex Is Evil: Always with Ryo. If he doesn't rape you he's working as a gigolo. And let's not forget the male/male rape scenes...or better yet, let's leave it unmentioned.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: For a number of chapters Ryo attempted to get the scroll of secret techniques of the Dark Monkey’s school that were buried under a rock. Eventually he got desperate and blew the rock up only for the ancient scroll to crumble into dust the moment he touched it.
  • Shrinking Violet: Ryo is this, prior to learning karate.
  • Shout-Out: The female judoka that went against Toma is nicknamed "Yawara" referencing a famous real-life Japanese judoka, which in turn nicknamed Yawara after the Naoki Urasawa manga. So it's a two-layered reference!
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Just about every character has a serious character flaw and almost all of the traditionally "good" characters wind up horribly injured. Later arcs are starting to slide the other way, though.
  • Start of Darkness: Seeing as what kicks off the story is the main character murdering his parents, this was a given.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: Toma invokes this more than once, but Sanshiro, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champ, is stricken by it right on.
    Sanshiro: Shit! I ain't a fag! But I... I think he's beautiful!
  • Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred!: To Toma, in the end of volume 28.
  • Suicide Mission: Ryo vs Toma. Ryo gets injured beforehand and knows the fight will aggravate his wounds to the point of killing him, but still chooses to fight anyway.
  • Take Our Word for It: The picture Ryo draws as a child is apparently so disturbing that it made his teacher at the time retire. It is never shown in the series.
    • And considering all of the other horrific things that they show over the course of the series, i.e. rape, murder, prostitution, maiming the fact that THIS was the one thing that they refused to show really makes you wonder just how disturbing it really was...
    • Black Monkey's past. While we do know how he got his scars we know almost nothing else about Black Monky's past. This is very telling because Ryo is a parent murdering rapist however somehow the things Black Monkey has done are so horrific that not only does his master Ehru choose Ryo as his student to stop his crimes but the normally peaceful Ehru even tries to kill his adopted son with a sword which is how Black Monkey lost his arm. While we never find out what caused the shift whatever he did it must have been Really Bad.
  • Taking You with Me: Ryo vows to do this to Toma in their fight.
  • Take That!: Shamo really, really likes taking the piss out of MMA competitions.
  • Tragic Hero: The main character is an extremely dark example of this with more emphasis on the tragic than the hero part. Also Suwagara.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Sakiko draws lines and sells them to people as portraits.
    • Ryo seems to understand.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: One of the Brothers hired by Sakiko’s father to get his daughter back. Known only as Immortal, he’s pretty much The Juggernaut. Not only does he have Super-Strength and Super-Toughness, but the fact that he’s crazy allows him to utilize Confusion Fu.
    • A Deconstruction, as his unskilled fighting style forces Ryo to adjust his fighting style, as he is more used to fighting technically-trained fighters who have a specific rhythm.
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind: Ryo qualifies as a Villain Protagonist. After his last fight with Sugawara, he spends most of his time coasting while fighting opponents with much less skill, to the point where his physical condition and technique deteriorate so much that he finds himself being pressured against a middle-aged retiring fighter.
  • Villains Never Lie: Strangely, lying is one of the few offenses that Ryo doesn't commit. Go figure.
  • Villain Protagonist: Ryo is a murdering, cheating, rapist who only fights for the rush and money it brings. He's the main character.
  • Violence is the Only Option: And even when it isn't the only option, nobody hesitates to choose it as one.
  • Will Not Be a Victim: Deconstruction Both Ryo and his sister - everything they do from murder to robbery to rape is them just wanting to survive. This concept is the primary motivation for all of Ryo's development. Whenever anybody does anything towards him, he almost always comes up with something to strike back, no matter how awful the means.