NOTE: Levius/est is a direct continuation of the story started in the original Levius series. The first chapter is dedicated to catching people up, but new readers will probably think things like: “Wait, what is a clown mastermind doing in this boxing manga?” Levius fans are still wondering the same thing, but at least we have context!
For those of you who don’t know, Levius/est is set in an alternative world that is powered by steam. It has a 19th century aesthetic, but the technology on display is very modern, if not futuristic. By far the most popular sport in the world is MMA, Mechanical Martial Arts. Cybernetically augmented figthers duke it out in boxing-like matches but with more of a gladiatorial vibe. It’s become so much of a cultural touchstone that MMA has become a way for countries to act out proxy warfare. Among all that intrigue, our main boy Levius rose through the MMA ranks in order to become one of the 13 members of the elite Rank 1 fighters. He eventually wins a Rank 1 promotion match, but it leaves him near death, and the circumstances surrounding the match put the whole world on the brink of war.
I have read the original volume (Omnibus? The book is 680 pages) and liked it enough to check out the “sequel” series. The original book started out strong, but began to fall onto unneeded battle manga tropes as it went on. But now the climactic fight is in the past, and there’s still more story to be told. I’m glad to say that while it’s more operatic, the series is still good.
After the fight left nearly all our main cast with life-threatening injuries, most of this volume is dedicated to their recovery. Levius, our main guy, doesn’t wake up until three chapters in. So instead we get to see more of the side characters. Zack, Levius’s trainer and uncle, is my favorite character, so seeing more of his boisterous personality is always welcome. He’s the big oaf with a heart of gold, and he often lends necessary levity. He is representative of the author’s ability to portray characters with deep feelings in a more realistics way. It’s better than your usual “I SCREAM TO SHOW MY EMOTION” character writing of battle manga. This is particularly true of A.J., the once enemy turned friend, who is much more powerful than I remember. Other characters such as Weinberg have changed as well. While always a top ranked engineer, Weinberg is now always the smartest guy in the room. It seems that all the characters have been “powered up” from the previous series, which I’m sure will lead to cool tech and battles.
Other than watching the characters recover, we also get to learn more about the world. The steam they use is more than just water and can do some pretty crazy stunts. It’s been awhile since I read the previous book, so this might be a retread for fresher readers, but I found this to be very eye-opening. The series is no longer grounded by our sense of reality, and that could be for better or worse. We’ll have to wait and see.
There’s also a new character introduced that could also be either a positive or negative addition. Natalia Cromwell is a spunky MMA fighter who joins Levius’s gym. Past readers might remember that Levius’s last name is also Cromwell, and there’s a surprising reason for that. She’s the sort of character that could add something to this book or become really annoying. I wasn’t able to come to a conclusion on Natalia in this volume, but it will be interesting to see what happens.
That’s the first volume in a nutshell: A continuation of good ideas, some new interesting additions, and no large flaws in sight. This is an alright starting volume for newcomers to the series, and continuing readers will want to keep reading to see how everything turns out.