Rock & Roll Gods
Music has the power to inspire and break the chains of everyday life, especially the sounds of Bremen.
"The Musicians of Bremen" is a Grimm fairytale where a dog, a rooster, a cat, and a donkey who were on their way to the city of Bremen to become a band. The animals run across a group of criminals and defeat them by combining their strengths.
Likewise, so does Bremen.
Umezawa Haruto's punk rock manga centers around seventeen year old amnesiac Romio Kasuiga. His name isn't even his real one; he consulted a fortuneteller, and then pieced together his name from words that he liked. One day, Romio crosses paths with eighteen year old Reiji Hino, working at a restaurant. Romio bets him that he can finish a huge bowl of food in three minutes, and if he does he gets a free meal. After wolfing down the food and running away, Reiji catches up with Romio. Seeing how free the younger boy is, he decides to simply run away to Tokyo, start a rock band and become famous, taking only his guitar and some clothes with him. On their way to Tokyo, Romio and Reiji encounter a bike gang who instantly dislike their carefree ways. Tossing manhole covers, Romio almost single-handedly defeats the entire gang.
Still outside of Tokyo, the young men accidentally fall asleep on a bus bench right outside of a one-day rock festival. There they meet Kyo Hayama, a platform-heeled gunguro girl with a tiny secret: she's a boy! Some scalpers want to rape Kyo as payment for a ticket, and Romio and Reiji save her in the nick of time. Stealing tickets from the unconscious men, the three of them enter the festival... and they dream a common dream: to be up there, onstage, thousands of fans screaming their names. Romio makes his way through security onto the stage, just wanting to stand up there and feel it. It is there that he decides to become the God of Rock.
Reiji begins to assemble his band, with himself on guitar. Romio becomes the lead singer, for as Reiji points out, it's not the ability to sing that makes a lead singer in a rock band; it's the ability to be Rock. As it turns out, Romio actually can sing. It's almost magical... Ryo immediately insists on auditioning; as it turns out, she's a fabulous drummer who works as an S&M mistress, despite being only sixteen. She claims the whips help her to improve her skills, as the wrist motion is the same.
Now all they need is a bass guitarist. As soon as they say it, they stumble across twenty year old Ran Fujii, bassist for Sulfuric Acid, a slightly satanic Death Metal band that uses a combination of drugs and Ran's music to drive the audience to do acts of violence, madness and death. The members of Sulfuric Acid made a pact when they began, that they would disband when they turned twenty, when they became adults. If someone wanted to leave before then, they would be burned by sulfuric acid, rendering them unable to ever perform music again.
The lead singer, Mitsuzuki turned twenty a few months ago, and Ran thought that he was free to quit and join a better band. Mitsuzuki sabotaged the live debut performance of Ran's new band, demanding the return of Ran, as the drugs won't work without his guitar playing. Apparently, Ran is gifted/cursed with absolute pitch, hearing everything as musical tones, and only he can pick up and play the subtle tones that are required to activate the drug. Romio, as his usual charismatic and bold self, claims Ran as a member of their band, starting a fight with Mitsuzuki that ends with Ran's playing hand burned with acid and Mitsuzuki attempting to drink sulfuric acid. Out of this tumultuous beginning, Bremen forms. Taking their name from the Grimm story, the band member's roles are set: Romio as the stray dog, Ryo as the cat, Reiji as the rooster (only natural with his red mohawk), and Ran as the donkey. Why the donkey? Well, one of Ran's dreams is to own a Ferrari, "the prancing horse" one day. Romio tells Ran that he might just be a donkey right now, but one day, he will be a horse.
Now in its ninth volume, Bremen is a rich story about music and the struggle to become Gods of Rock. Along the way, we hear about Ryo's background and her struggle with gender identity, as her father wants his son back, and Ryo wants her father to accept her as her true self, which is female. But above all, Bremen is an action comic. In true punk style, the band kicks, punches and flicks coins like ninja stars at anyone and anything that stands in their way. Bremen's manager and number one fan, Ruri Hanada, enters the manga when the band saves her from being raped and filmed in order to destroy her acting career forever. As the manga progresses, the metaplot of Romio's past begins to be revealed. Just imagine if Sid Vicious was alive as an instrument of spreading mass media... That's all of a hint you'll get. Bremen, as you could guess from the description above, contains some foul language and mature subject matters, but it is not gratuitous at all. It merely reflects the violent underground world of the manga.
Umezawa Haruto's style is very clear and linear, using sharp and heavy lines everywhere. Lines are used for shading, as well as emphasis and motion. Haruto also uses tones, but mostly for object textures and Ryo's golden skintone. It's a style that is quite easy on the eyes, compared to the amount of attention to details found in many popular manga series.
It is doubtful if Bremen will ever receive an English release (Bremen is being released currently in French by J'ai Lu.), as it is certainly not typical shounen material for American audiences (Bremen is published by Shueisha (Jump Comics)). Regardless, this is a great manga, in particular for rebellious teenagers who wouldn't be caught reading a fluffy shoujo manga. Umezawa Haruto's chapter title pages imitate classic punk and rock album covers, giving the reader a visual high-five for catching the reference. Bremen is for everyone who dreamed of breaking out of society to realize a dream of your own.