Story & Art by Haruhisa Nakata
Translated by John Werry
English Adaptation by Jason A. Hurley
Touch-Up Art & Lettering by Joanna Estep
Design by Adam Grano
Edited by Joel Enos
Levius’ journey to the top of the M.M.A. world continues in Levius/est Volumes 2 and 3! Following Levius’ recovery, he is finally ready to make his debut in Grade I. That said, with the announcement of the massive M.M.A. event Southern Slam, Levius is scheduled to face an unexpected adversary: Grade I’s champion Oliver E. Kingsley.
Levius has been able to stand against powerful opponents in the past, but pairing our protagonist against the strongest fighter in the world sounds insane. What seemed like an end-goal for the series has suddenly become the next objective, creating an insurmountable feeling of tension. This is given further weight through the manga’s depiction of Kingsley’s strength. In his 58 year reign as champion, Kingsley has never been defeated and is able to reduce his enemies to a pile of flesh in an instant. The odds are heavily stacked against Levius, but despite that, Levius still feels determined to take the challenge. In Levius’ eyes, he’s been given the opportunity to fight the very best the M.M.A. world has to offer and he must face it head on, no matter the cost.
What’s most interesting about this entire situation is Kingsley’s motivation to fight Levius. While Levius has a lot to gain by defeating Kingsley, the champion is driven by his connection to Levius’ father Daniel. Acquaintances during the previous war, both Kingsley and Daniel strived to achieve “est”, a term referring to the “ultimate being” equivalent to god. While Daniel passed on without achieving “est”, Kingsley believes that Levius shares his father’s will. Kingsley claims that there can only be one inheritor of “est”, and as a result, he and Levius are fated to fight to the death for that power. Levius’ eyes are set on the world of M.M.A. but Kingsley aspires to go beyond it, achieving strength that has never been seen before.
While Kingsley is one of the major figures of these volumes, the manga also formally introduces AJ’s brother Balthus. As Clown had previously alluded to, Balthus is still under Amethyst’s control and is being used as a showcase of their power in M.M.A. Grade III. Balthus appears almost deranged, wildly lashing out during his fights and mumbling cries of help. There’s a clear dissonance between Bathus’ physical actions and his mind, making his character appear truly tragic.
With Levius occupied with his upcoming fight with Kingsley, the weight of Balthus’ appearance is interestingly shifted to AJ and Natalia. While AJ has been freed from Amethyst’s clutches, she still feels responsible for her brother’s current servitude to the cruel organization. Meanwhile, as Natalia is also presently in Grade III, she is fated to eventually face Balthus in the Southern Slam. Balthus seemed like the next natural enemy for Levius to fight, but with AJ and Natalia taking the reins of the situation, it provides a refreshing change in dynamic for the story.
Levius/est tends to not have a lot of dialogue per chapter, and it’s likely due to Nakata’s meticulous artwork. Oftentimes, Nakata will go on for long stretches with no text whatsoever, conveying the story solely through his visuals. During Levius’ confrontation with Kingsley, there is an amazing sequence where Kingsley unleashes a devastating attack on the surrounding area, and Nakata depicts it through a series of silent pages that emphasizes the impact of the destruction. Whether it’s a powerful attack, a dynamic facial expression, or a shocking moment, the manga always manages to draw your eyes to the page and keep you invested. Nakata has a deep understanding of visual storytelling and it shines in droves throughout Levius/est.
Levius/est continues to raise its stakes, bringing about ambitious challenges for its cast while still being action-packed and visually stunning. Nakata has crafted a story that builds your excitement at every turn, and it will be interesting to see where the story heads in the next volume.