The manga series Wind Breaker (not to be confused with a webtoon with the same name!) has taken Japan by storm since it began on Magazine Pocket in early 2021. The series by Satoru Nii has an anime adaptation by Cloverworks in the works and has sold over 1.22 million copies in Japan between its digital and print release. Now the series has made its English debut in print and I’m here to find out if it’s worth your time.
The story follows protagonist Haruka Sakura who has just transferred to Furin High School in Makochi Town. The school is known for being home to delinquents and the neighbourhood has long been the site of gangs fighting one another. Haruka has joined the school hoping to battle his way to the top and prove his strength, but the reality of what he finds here is different from what he expected!
On his first day in the area, Haruka unwittingly saves Kotoha Tachibana from some thugs trying to convince her to hang out with them. Kotoha runs nearby Café Pothos and, just like Haruka, is not originally from the area. She tells him all about how unsafe it used to be until the students of Furin came together to protect it from other gangs. Rather than fight among themselves, the students have made it their duty to work together to protect the ordinary town folk from harm. Kotoha warns Haruka that he will never be at the top of Furin if he’s all alone; you need more than fighting skills to stand there!
With his two-tone hair and different-coloured eyes, Haruka has always been labelled a delinquent and shunned by those around him. At this point, he believes that all he’s good for is his ability to hold his own in a fight and has no interest in befriending or working with someone weaker than him. He’s shut himself off from the world, but Kotoha can tell that, although he talks about being a lone wolf, Haruka just wants to find a place to belong and that place, hopefully, will be Furin.
On his first day at the school, our protagonist meets Akihiko Nirei, a fellow first-year who is in Haruka’s class and is a bit of a klutz. He might not have the skills necessary to fight off thugs who mean to harm him and the townspeople, but his heart is in the right place. Haruka initially wants nothing to do with him, but when he finds him in trouble later on, will our protagonist really be able to turn a blind eye?
Haruka might be constantly itching for a fight, but it quickly becomes clear to us readers that his life at Furin will change his future considerably. Here he will find like-minded individuals and more than that, the residents of the town welcome him with open arms as he protects them from those looking to cause harm. Having that kindness bestowed upon him may show Haruka that there’s a different path to the top of Furin that doesn’t involve pushing everyone away and making a lonely journey fighting everyone who challenges him.
Delinquent manga have been popular in Japan for a long time and here in the West, there’s a growing appetite for them thanks to series like Tokyo Revengers. But rather than focus on the nitty-gritty of being in a gang, Wind Breaker instead emphasizes Haruka’s feelings of not fitting in. As Volume 1 goes on, you get the sense that being a misfit is the main theme of the series. This is a town where those who don’t belong elsewhere can come together, be accepted for who they are and grow up in a place that gives them the chance to figure out who exactly they are and what they stand for.
This isn’t mangaka Satoru Nii’s first work, but it is the first to make it to the English market. Reading through this first volume it’s easy to see why Wind Breaker has become so popular, not just because of its charming cast but also due to the artwork. There are a lot of fight scenes in the four chapters included in this release and each one is easy to follow and a real feast for the eyes. I’m impressed with just how detailed each panel is without overwhelming the reader and still capturing the fast pace of these brawls. It’s easy to see why this one has been picked up for an anime adaptation as I’m sure it will look amazing on our screens.
As previously mentioned, Wind Breaker comes to the West thanks to Kodansha and Volume 1 has been translated by Jacqueline Fung with lettering by Michael Martin (the digital edition has lettering by Andrew Copeland). The release reads well with no issues to note and there are extensive translation notes at the end of the book, which go into the history of delinquents in Japan as well as explaining the meaning behind the name Furin. It’s clear a lot of care has gone into this one, which is always nice to see.
Wind Breaker is ongoing in Japan with 13 volumes currently available. In English, Kodansha has been releasing the series digitally since April 2022 and has released 11 volumes so far. The physical releases continue with #2 in October and #3 following in December, so it appears we’ll be on a bi-monthly schedule for now.
Overall, Wind Breaker gets off to an action-packed start. It’s easy to see how this series has grown a sizable fanbase with its likeable cast of characters, detailed artwork and empathetic coming-of-age story. If you like the base premise then I am sure you will find yourself coming back for more in the future.
A free preview can be read on Kodansha’s website here.
Our review copy from Kodansha was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.