Brave 10 (ブレイブ・テン) is a seinen, historical fiction, fantasy manga series authored and illustrated by Kairi Shimotsuki. My first encounter with the series was back in 2014, when I watched the anime as it was simulcasting. I didn’t find it mind-blowingly brilliant but entertaining enough to read the first volume of the original source material. My journey past the initial volume halted as I became distracted with other things. However, recently, I have been craving historical manga to read and I made the decision to give this series a second chance. It still isn’t the most-fantastic serial out there, nevertheless, it was enjoyable enough to make me want to read the sequel, Brave S, which I’ll discuss at a later date.
Brave 10 centres on Sanada’s Brave Ten warriors from Japan’s Sengoku Period (Warring States). In the manga, there are ten individuals from various fighting background that are brought together via one person in order to protect an incredible power—a priestess named Isanami— from falling into the hands of political leaders with malevolent and corrupt intentions.
My first impressions of the manga weren’t the best, and to be blunt, most of my initial thoughts kind of stuck with me as I read through all eight volumes of the series. Some of those include the somewhat unoriginal and two-dimensional premise of the story, the average artwork, oversexualisation of the female characters, and the annoying as hell damsel-in-distress. Regardless, I enjoyed what I was reading and, in the end, that’s all that really mattered for me during my reading expedition.
For the premise, it’s kind of a great-A escort adventure. There is this priestess that everyone must protect. Even though she has a mysteriously kick-arse power, she is a damsel in every sense of the word. So much of plot is about protecting Isanami and not hurting Isanami and etc., that it can feel overtly irritating. This dire need to focus on her at all times makes it difficult to connect with other characters or to learn more about them, which would have given the story some meat and bones beyond what it became.
The characters themselves all vary in personality, but don’t stray too far from standard personality types (tsundere, yandere, etc.). My favourite traits about all the characters were their abilities. A few of those abilities are very cool and badass, but others are weird as fuck. While they can be disturbing or uncomfortable, I also welcomed the imaginative use of insects, for example, as what is essentially a power quirk because it added a tiny aspect of creativity. Since the manga is supremely action-packed, all of the different skills help to keep the battles from becoming too repetitive or mundane. It also makes the reading go by quickly, making it a good option for people who want to read manga but can’t invest in long-winded serials.
I will openly confess that I remembered the oversexualisation of the female characters from my time watching the anime, and I think I have been in somewhat of a mood to read ridiculous and slightly perverted things. I don’t get pleasure from it like normal folks would as I’m very much asexual, but I can appreciate nakedness a hell of a lot. The beauty of the ecchi element in Brave 10 is that it’s not sensational. Yes, the women have unrealistic physiques, but their bare breasts and scenes of coitus are far and few in between the volumes. There’s a lot of flirtation and crude commentary and teasing that makes up for the lack of actual sex and nipples, but that isn’t so bad or too far-fetched given the ambiance of the setting and social camaraderie within the narrative. Personally, I found it pleasant and it helped me have fun.
Another facet that I fucking adore, without apology, are arguing and bickering bishōnen buds. When you have a bunch of outrageously attractive (or what can be construed as boyishly handsome) dudes arguing in ways that will eventually lead to bromances, and that sometimes borderlines queer flirtations, I know I will be laughing and smiling. I think it’s because it reminds me so much of the friends I had when I was growing up as an adolescent, most of which were dudes. This type of behaviour or interaction takes me back to the good ol’ days of my youth and that nostalgia is brilliant.
The artwork is pretty average across the board. Some panels are far more beautiful than others, usually where the scenery is concerned, and the rest can be so jam-packed with details that it’s slightly disorienting or befuddling to decipher what the hell is going on. Being partially blind (yay, eyeglasses) doesn’t help with that bit either, and that’s all relative to the reader really. My one specific nit-pick is that occasionally during the action sequences, the majority of the characters look so similar to one another that it can be a challenge to differentiate between them.
All in all, Brave 10 isn’t a masterpiece. It isn’t unique or remarkably imaginative, and the characters are rather simple and flat. If you want to feel inspired with the illustrations, you may not get that either. Nonetheless, it’s a historical romp through the Sengoku that can be entertaining and jovial, and a nice choice for folks who are in the market for something less serious than usual.
6 hairpins outta 10!