Gachiakuta Manga Volume 1 Review – Review

From the outset, Gachiakuta‘s heavily graffiti-inspired art is striking – with deceptively simple and immediately cool-looking character designs depicted with clean, thick line-work contrasting with a grimy, lived-in world. The opening chapter, in particular, plays with perspective and warped proportions to instantly draw the reader into a kinetic, breathless action sequence. Although instantly recognizable as manga, creator Kei Urana imbues their art with such unusual characters and personalities that they make reading through troubled protagonist Rudo’s story a pleasure.

Even if the setting is hardly original – Yukito Kishiro did the floating city above a scrapyard thing decades ago with his famous manga GUNNM/Battle Angel AlitaGachiakuta creatively inverts Kishiro’s premise by opening the story in the supposed elevated utopia, only later descending to the filth-ridden underworld. The Sphere is only a utopia for the rich, privileged few, living sterile lives in spotlessly clean houses, carelessly disposing of easily-repairable items to the mysterious pit below. They are the epitome of the clueless uber-rich, never recognizing their privilege, focused only on the new and shiny, giving not a second thought to the fate of their city’s voluminous garbage effluent, and actively despising the slum-living Tribesfolk unable to live in comfort and cleanliness.

In comparison, Rudo has been brought up to value possessions – he makes a living by raiding the city’s garbage collections before the refuse is dumped into The Pit, repairing and reselling what he rescues. His guardian, Regto, teaches that items, when loved and used, can be imbued with souls – and that philosophy drives the plot forward.

After an almost Oliver Twist-style opening section depicting the tragedy of Rudo’s origin, he’s forcibly dumped into what might as well be another world – the enormous, toxic garbage dump that comprises what seems to be the entire planet. He’s attacked by gigantic trash monsters – towering aggregations of dumped refuse that have developed some rudimentary form of consciousness and hunt after any humans with the misfortune to be dumped there with them. This suggests that when discarded carelessly, items will develop twisted, malformed souls of their own, becoming a scourge for innocent surface dwellers. This is yet another way that the super-rich unthinkingly ruins the world for everyone else.

Rudo meets some of said surface-dwellers who (in typical post-apocalyptic desolate world-style) aren’t all too enamored to meet someone from the floating utopia continually dumping toxic crap on their heads. During a fight against some less-than-savory new acquaintances, Rudo awakens to his innate power and perhaps the reason his father left him with blackened, scarred hands that require special gloves to relieve the pain. He’s a “Giver” who can imbue chosen objects with enhanced features (such as vicious-looking spikes) and increased power. New friend Enjin recruits him to an organization called “The Cleaners,” and we leave off there with a new status quo and a role for Rudo to develop in probably fairly typical shonen hero style.

I had a lot of fun with this manga, especially with the unusual, very cool art style. Gachiakuta‘s world seems interesting, and author Urana leaves multiple plot hooks to be explored in the future (Rudo’s father is likely also skulking around alive on the surface somewhere…). It’s a series I’ll keep an eye on in the future since it fulfills that persistent Mad Max-esque itch in the depths of my soul. Similarly-minded fans of post-apocalyptic and eat-the-rich chaos should check this one out.