Story & Art by Haruhisa Nakata
Translated by John Werry
English Adaptation by Jason A. Hurly
Touch-Up Art & Lettering by Joanna Estep
Design by Adam Grano
Edited by Joel Enos
Depicting combat sports in manga has been a trend for decades. The sight of a brawl keeps you on the edge of your seat, and it’s exhilarating to see who will triumph. Classics of the genre such as Tomorrow’s Joe have become flagship inspirations for manga as a whole, and long-running titles like Baki continue to be beloved by readers. Still, as more titles continue to come out, there grows a need to innovate and take the genre in a new direction. Levius does just that, showcasing its titular character Levius fight his way through the ranks of the futuristic Mechanical Martial Arts (M.M.A.) world. Levius is an adrenaline-pumping and emotional manga that keeps you wanting more.
As the title would make you expect, Levius is a character-driven story at its core. In the ring, Levius behaves like an entirely different person, immersed in the battle before him and solely focused on his opponent. That being said, Levius is still a caring person at his core. He wears his old medical arm as a reminder of what he lost during the war, as well as to feel the pain that he inflicts on his opponents. While Levius aims to reach the top of the M.M.A. world, he wants to do so on his own terms and stay true to who he is.
Levius isn’t alone on his journey, as he is coached by his uncle Zack. Despite Zack’s aloof appearance, he is a knowledgeable source on M.M.A. and helps prepare Levius for his upcoming opponents. Still, Zack has trepidations about Levius participating in the sport due to its brutal nature and high mortality rate. What Zack seeks is for Levius to be genuinely happy, and he will do whatever he can to make that a reality. Levius’ mechanical engineer Bill is also actively involved in the story. Bill claims that the primary motivation for his work is money, but in reality, he cares about Levius and Zack’s well-being. If Levius is going to risk his life in the ring, Bill wants Levius’ gear to be up for the challenge, and he will provide the expertise to make it happen. Bill and Zack provide strong foundation for the supporting cast, and help create meaningful interactions with Levius both inside and outside the ring.
It’s soon established that the main antagonist group of the series is the technology corporation Amethyst, who were responsible for the destruction of Levius’ childhood home. Leading the corrupt organization is the deranged Dr. Clown Jack Pudding. Clown is a sadistic character who is willing to go to any length to strengthen Amethyst’s power. His over the top antics cause him to be both an entertaining and despicable person, making him a solid antagonist for the series. Clown doesn’t do all his dirty work directly though, instead using brainwashed Amethyst soldier AJ Langdon to showcase the organization’s power in the M.M.A. ring. While AJ is one of the soldiers responsible for destroying Levius’ home, she is also a victim of Amethyst as well. Due to her father’s liberation efforts, she and her brother were captured by Amethyst and used as test subjects for the experiments. AJ serves as a brutal opponent in the ring for Levius, both being victims of a common enemy but forced to face each other to the death.
One interesting aspect about Levius is that the entire manga is drawn in a left-to-right format. Haruhisa Nakata was heavily inspired by European comics, and it is fully evident in his artwork. Most of the characters in Levius have a strong western complexion, as opposed to many modern manga titles. Levius is also intricately detailed, filled to the brim with complex mechanical designs and diverse backgrounds. As expected, the action sequences are superb as well. During the M.M.A. matches, the artwork delivers the impact of every hit and further immerses you in the experience. There is no other manga being published in English that looks like Levius, and that makes it all the more fascinating.
Levius is the start of a fantastic story that is action-packed and emotional from beginning to end. Between its great cast of characters and unique artwork, it has everything it needs to stand out among its contemporaries in the manga space. Levius’ fight to the top will continue in Levius/est, and I am excited to see where the story goes next.