Yagi Norihiro

Manga master of dark arts and dark humor

21 August, 2010 by

Having already covered several high profile Mangaka names like Toriyama Akira and Oda Eiichiro, this time I’ll be introducing a lesser known mangaka: Yagi Norihiro (八木教広). Calling him a lesser known mangaka might not be exactly appropriate, since anime fans should be rather familiar with the Claymore animation that appeared during 2007. What most people didn’t really take note of, is that the anime adaption of Claymore was derived from this mangaka.

Born 1968 and hailing from Okinawa Prefecture, Yagi Norihiro is definitely unique in many aspects. It’s a rare sight to spot any Okinawan mangaka and I’m guessing that his unique drawing style might be somehow derived from his exposure to the Okinawan way of life.

The reason why I regard his works as unique is from my impression when I first laid eyes on Yagi’s colored art. It gave the feeling of a artistic paintwork of sorts. By taking a look at his manga art, some might regard his drawings as minimal and I do realize he pays more attention to the shadows and atmosphere, for the lack of facial expression on some of his characters.

So far Yagi has done up 2 major series: Angel Densetsu and Claymore. Both of his works enjoy considerable attention but it wasn’t until after the Claymore anime which shot him up to the popularity he enjoys now. For the rest of this article, I’ll be guiding you through the finer details of each of his works.

From top, Angel Densetsu, Claymore.

Firstly, Angel Densetsu (エンジェル伝説). It was his first debut manga to be serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump and it ran from 1992 till 2000. A total of 15 tankobon volumes were published since then. Prior to his success in the Claymore manga, I would consider anyone who read Angel Densetsu to be a very brave or hardcore manga fan. Even I would have to admit that I only started reading Angel Densetsu after Claymore.

Angel Densetsu is a dark humor manga that follows the story of a collage boy named Seiichirou Kitano, a kind and naive boy with the sinister looks of a devil but a heart of gold (or alternatively a heart of an angel, where the manga’s title “Angel Densetsu” derives from). Due to his sinister looks, he has causes many misunderstandings between his peers and teachers, leading people to assume that he is a villain or heroin addict who would kill them should they stare at him for even a second.

You’ve got to admit that Yagi’s color works are rather rough looking and his manga art looks very minimal from the pictures below. But after a while one will notice that this is a very unique drawing style he has taken in his works. You could say that his art has a very dark feel to it (not every scene is dark, but at least most are). It does suit his manga concept and he’s managed to create a manga with a great atmosphere that is enjoyable to read.

Everyone who have taken their precious time to read through Angel Densetsu have given rave reviews on how Yagi Norihiro managed to bring through the concept of dark humor so cleverly. I would really recommend this manga series to anyone who is able to endure through the rather rough artworks. This is, after all Yagi Norihiro’s first serialized manga, so expect that his work will improve greatly through the course of time.

Angel Densetsu tankobon cover.

Most of his color cover pages feature a roughly colored style of art.

The initial outlook of the manga gives an imperssion that this is a very dark manga.

But in actual fact, it is a comedy manga. Go figure.

Next up is the still ongoing Claymore manga. Possibly his most well known work due to the release of a Claymore anime in 2007. The series initially premiered in the now defunct Monthly Shonen Jump in 2001 but has since then been shifting around other sister magazines like Weekly Shonen Jump, until it finally settled on Jump Square in November 2007. The individual chapters are released on a monthly basis on Jump Square (ongoing) and 18 tankobon volumes are currently published by Shueisha, as of 2010.

Claymore (クレイモア) is a dark fantasy manga that evolves around the main protagonist Clare, which surprisingly is a female half human, half yoma (妖魔) warrior (there’s not really a lot of shonen manga that uses a female character as a protagonist). Clare and her group of warriors are produced by an organization with the sole purpose of killing sentient monsters called Yoma that feed on human innards. These warriors are named “Claymores”, based on the swords they wield and have a cold outward appearance towards everything. Their distinctive silver eyes also give them the nickname “Silver Eyed Witches”.

Fantasy manga are a dime the dozen in the shonen manga world but Claymore definitely stands for being well developed. Besides the initial yoma slaying tale, there are also a recollection of plots through which the reader will understand the reasons why Clare was made into a Claymore and her motivations on carrying out her “duties” as a Silver Eye Witch. There’s a larger and very interesting story twist unraveling in the current part of the story, making Claymore an engaging read.

In terms of artwork and color, Yagi Nohiro has definitely pushed himself up a notch from his previous work “Angel Densetsu”. To some readers, the art in the first few volumes of the manga might still be considered rough. But believe me that once you get through this slightly unbearable part, the artwork only gets better and the story will definitely draw you into chasing the manga chapter by chapter.

Yagi Norihiro is noticeably better at drawing females rather than males. But even with that, I believe that some will still consider his characters expressionless or categorize them as “same faces with different hair styles”. But that’s Norihiro’s drawing style for you. Where he excels in instead, is his superb shadows and dark renderings that suits the needs of this manga perfectly.

Such a dark manga would usually not capture any mainstream attention in the shonen manga world, but Claymore is one of the few such that has actually made it this far. I would recommend this manga series to anyone who is able to look past some of the rough artworks.

Claymore tankobon cover.

Claymore's main protagonist, Clare.

Since Angel Densetsu, Yagi's color artworks have vastly improved in terms of linework.

This will give a slight idea of how the characters/monsters in Claymore looks like. Click to enlarge.

Yagi Norihiro’s works are not exactly meant for every reader. It will require some dedication and understanding on the readers part, to enjoy either Claymore or Angel Densetsu. Some readers might even mistake his manga for a Seinen genre. But once you get past the initial barrier, you’ll realize that Yagi’s works offer an alternate little paradise in the world of shonen manga. Go on and pick up one of his manga series. You won’t be disappointed by the dark worlds that Yagi Norihiro has imagined.

Addicted to film, Yan shoots with a black Nikon Fm3a. For special occasions, Yan shoots with a Mamiya Sekor TLR.