Story and Art by Mitsuhisa Tamura with Original Concept by Kazuhiro Tamura
Published in the US by Viz
Slugline: Children's adventures that aren't as dumb as they first appear.
Sanshiro wants to have adventures, much like his missing father had. Unfortunately, he is still a child under the guardianship of his grandparents, who would prefer that he would give up all such foolish dreams and be an innkeeper like they are. They are helped in this goal by living on a small island, making it difficult for Sanshiro to get into trouble. But Sanshiro is not to be denied, so when a mysterious figure offers Sanshiro a chance to be in the game BakéGyamon, which is run by monsters on a Reverse-Japan empty of people, Sanshiro jumps at the chance for adventure. Not even the prize of single wish granted matters more to him than having an adventure. But while Sanshiro is enthusiastic, neither is he ignorant to the dangers of adventuring and he uses his monster allies and the fellow players he wins over to great effect.
You see a device to summon monsters, monster seals and the word 'game' together, you expect to see a thinly disguised collectible card game or an attempt to launch one. Add that Sanshiro starts the volume out as the typical over-excited naive guy, so while he never quite losses that aspect, it is a bit of a surprise that he gains a brain. He isn't the smartest guy in the volume, but he does show something more than just relying on his enthusiasm to get by. If this manga is an ad for card game, it is among the worst ones I've seen, since the creatures that they can summon change by scene and there isn't any particular key cards or the like. The manga's game is more like chess, where the point is to figure out how to use your particular piece (monster) to your best advantage rather than using the manga to showcase the creatures and gameplay. Rather than fighting, it is more like dealing with puzzles and challenges. In that way, the manga was a pleasant surprise, in that it feels no need to be what you expect, but instead is its own story.
BakéGyamon, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga