By the Sword Vol. 1
Finally, I found the manga that had entered onto my Wanted! list so many months ago, and has become such a controversy since word came of the edited-out nipples found within its pages. Actually, I really didn't find it an issue, since the only scene where nipples could be found consists of one (admittedly large) panel, and censored nipples really don't bother me; I have an imagination. People seem to be irate more at the idea of censorship than at the example found in By the Sword. If Matoh objected to the edit, then I haven't heard of it. She's probably pleased that her work can reach more people with a lower age rating than what By the Sword in its original format would have. U.S. standards are different from Japanese.
That been said, let's turn to the manga in question.
By the Sword opens with our hero, Asagi. He is looking for The Moegi, a legendary sword made with a hundred and one demon orbs. As Asagi is a karinin (demon hunter), and he breaks swords quickly with his innate supernatural powers, he really needs The Moegi. The current owner of the sword is a girl named Kaede. She seeks to cure her demon father, whose powers were sealed by The Moegi. So now the fearsome fire demon Kurenai is a chibi astral version. The trick is that only the son of Kurenai's sister can draw the sword and release the seal. Guess who just happens to be that person?
Asagi can wield The Moegi, laying death and destruction everywhere, but the drawback concerns Kaede. Apparently, the sword only sealed Kurenai's powers; his body is elsewhere. So when Asagi draws the sword, Kurenai enters the nearest available body... his daughter's. As Kaede has no memory of these possession sessions, Asagi tries not to use the sword much, as he thinks it's rather gross and unkind to Kaede.
In return for the sword, Asagi promises to help Kaede to restore her father. Now they must find where his body is. So the gang goes to visit Asagi's mother and ice demon, Tsubaki. She explains that it was Kurenai's wife, Fuyo that sealed his powers in order to seal The Moegi against a certain individual. She also reveals that only Fuyo can restore Kurenai's body, and Fuyo's spirit is... somewhere else, while her body lies encased in ice under Tsubaki's guardianship. (For those curious, the missing nipples occur around here.) Now the quest turns to finding Fuyo's spirit as the first volume ends.
Whew. That's a lot of family drama. I really found the story engaging, as I was tempted to write off By the Sword as just another action-adventure title. Like any family situation, comedy abounds, but it never takes away from the action pace of the story. However, the story really feels like it's two steps away from turning into a Jerry Springer episode. When Asagi realizes that the only cute central female character in his life is his cousin... let's just say that I suspect Matoh of deliberately creating this situation, based on her past works.
I'm a big fan of detailed manga artwork, and Matoh definitely delivers on that front. Kurenai and Tsubaki's entricate tattoos are reproduced flawlessly throughout the volume, an attention to detail that I really like to see in manga. My own drawback that I had concerns ADV Manga's practice of placing translator notes at the back of the manga. I find that it really disrupts the flow of my reading, having to flip back and forth for the total experience. Happily, By the Sword has very few of these notes. On the other hand, I appreciate ADV Manga using page numbers.
If you're looking for a title with beautiful girls and boys, try something else from Sanami Matoh (FAKE, Until the Full Moon). However, if you'd like some action, demon-slaying, and chaos within the family, pick up this title.