Title: Helck Vol. 1
Author: Nanaki Nanao
Release Date: January 10, 2023
I enjoy it when manga has a history I am unaware of before I read it. Helck is a series that flew under my radar when it was initially published from 2014 through 2017, but that may have something to do with it being released in Japan. Regardless, I tend to forget that not all fantasy action appears in Shonen Jump, as plenty of other manga circles radiate quality titles. Helck Vol. 1 showed me that I need to try harder to look for underrated manga series because this is one that I’m hooked on.
Helck Vol. 1 will turn you into an absolute Helck-stan or a Helck hater. Either way, you’ll want to stick through to see where all the pieces connect, which doesn’t happen in volume. A tournament is underway in the demon realm to choose a new demon lord. The strongest demons have arrived, but among them is a human hero named Helck. As it turns out, humans are the enemy of demons, but Helck seems to win over the crowd with his pure strength and charm.
He dominates the event, which angers the higher-ups, especially Vermilio the Red, one of the Empire’s four elite lords. She is not a fan of Helck and attempts to sabotage his rise to glory within the demon realm. There’s a subplot that pieces together where Helck came from, but that is a huge mystery and one of the more interesting story developments.
The story is told through a comedic lens, and I have to say, there’s so much content here that I couldn’t help but laugh. The writing is self-aware and narrows down a core group of characters that lend to some narrative beats. However, the opening is rather messy as the story finds its footing.
You don’t know who’s who as you attempt to figure out the rules of this world. Still, there’s usually a reason whenever a plot hole seems to appear. For example, Helck cannot fight outside the tournament based on an unbreakable contract. Regardless, I doubt he wants to, but we are still in the dark about that.
Helck has very little character development, and all you’ll know about him is that he’s a little goofy, super nice, cunning, and very strong. Vermilio is the main star of the show, and we learn about the demon realm through her as she does her best to get Helck out of the tournament.
The illustrations and panels highlight the comedic moments, but I would have liked there to be a bit more action panels. At around 200 pages, this manga is a dense read. There’s so much content here that you likely won’t be able to finish it in one sitting, which I enjoy. It allowed me to sit with this humor and find the fun in it when rushing through may highlight some of the pacing issues.
Helck Vol. 1 surprised me as a stand-out fantasy adventure that I might have overlooked. It’s packed with charm, but its characters take a few chapters to be fully realized. The future volumes will likely grow their bonds as we learn more about who Helck is. But in the meantime, we can laugh as Vermilio attempts to get rid of him.
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