REVIEW: ‘Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers!’ Volume 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers!

The arcade scene may not be as strong as it was in the 80s and 90s, but media surrounding that time period holds a special place for many gamers – especially those who have dedicated time to playing fighters like Street Fighter. Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers! is written by Itaru Orikasa and Maki Tomoi, and is illustrated by Kengoro Nishide. For the English Edition published by Udon Entertainment features translation work by Greg Moore and lettering from Marshall Dillon. The volume covers 14 chapters with a bonus chapter and an afterward included, making this manga a thick book to pick up.

In Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers!, we meet Daigo Umehara, the most dominant fighting game champion in the world. And, a real person, in fact, he is also the manga’s editor. But before he was Japan’s first pro gamer, Daigo was one of many players battling their way through Japanese arcades during the golden age of fighting games. In Volume 1, we meet Shinya “Nuki” Ohnuki, a gamer with prodigious talent who is drawn into world of fighting games after a chance meeting with Daigo that pushes him further into the competitive scene. The only person who can beat Shinya is Daigo and for the bulk of the volume we see a rivalry between Umehara and “Nuki” grow and push each of the teens towards gaming greatness.

While the characters Nuki and Daigo are important, the strongest part of Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers! is that the writers, Orikasa and Tomoi go to great lengths to detail the world of fighters and flesh out the pro circuit scene that will transport former coin-op players back to their golden days. Additionally, the language used by the characters sounds like any conversation you would hear in the middle of a fighting game tournament today.

Guard blocks, turtling, all of it reads like words from gamers and while this may provide a barrier for those unfamiliar with the mechanics and strategies of the games in question, especially in an arcade setting, the writers provide definitions in the margins of the pages. This helps make Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers! a story for anyone to pick up, in a way similar to how Hi-Score Girl mitigated mechanics and gaming history with enough exposition to make the story accessible for those outside the fighting community.

But even with this consideration given,  Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers! is a love letter to fighting games, arcades, and how communities and competitors are built up around them. This is most on display in the manga’s illustration by Nishide. The close-ups of hands-on fight pads with giant sound effect lettering immediately brings the sound of smashing buttons and turning sticks to mind. But, Nishide takes this one step further by not just illustrating the matches between the characters in-game, but also the thought process that goes into strategizing.

On one double-page spread, Nishide draws the synapses of Nuki’s brain with his face in the foreground corner and the character move set in the background, flowing together. It’s a part of the book that drives home how Nuki has become consumed with getting better, but also how hard he is trying to find a way to throw Daigo off.

Ultimately, Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers! may be slightly dry for readers who aren’t already fans of fighters or gamers in general. But for those who have a connection to games, the way in which the community and competition are defined in this manga will make this a must-buy. Additionally, the art alone makes this a title to pick up for fighting game fans  and it’s take on Daigo Umehara makes it a piece of video game history as well.

Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers! Volume 1 is available from booksellers now.


Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers! Volume 1
4

TL;DR

Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers! may be slightly dry for readers who aren’t already fans of fighters or gamers in general. But for those who have a connection to gams, the way in which the community and competition are defined in this manga will make this a must-buy. Additionally, the art alone makes this a title to pick up for fighting game fans and it’s take on Daigo Umehara makes it a piece of video game history as well.