The Way of Shao Volume 1 is action-adventure, music, and martial arts manga written by Shao Dow with, art by Tonio Maicon, and published by Tokyopop. The Way of Shao takes place in a world where musicians have enhanced powers and abilities. Live shows and concerts are like a battle, not just to get new fans but for survival as well.
The Way of Shao Volume 1 tells the story of ShaoDow, an ambitious music artist fighting his way to the top of the music world. One day, when he sneaks into a concert, he ends up entangled in a rap battle with the enigmatic Homicyde. ShaoDow’s debut performance on the stage quickly turns into a trial by fire. Meanwhile, he tries to discover the secrets behind the mysterious energy known as The Vibe and unlock the power of the Sound Blade.
It is awesome to see more manga being produced by creators outside of Japan. In particular, I’m thrilled that the creator of The way of Shao is a Black man. The writer, Shao Dow, is a professional rapper, manga author, and martial artist. It is clear to see that his manga is a combination of his passions, and I think that makes for an exciting premise.
I like that The Way of Shao blends hip-hop, manga, and martial arts together. Being a fan of titles like Samurai Champloo is was interested in it checking out in the first place. The use of these elements in the premise seemed like it would make for some interesting world-building and characters. Unfortunately, there’s not much world-building going on in this volume. Volume 1 is only 125 pages long, and the story doesn’t move forward much; it reads more like an extended one-shot than a full manga volume, which makes the story feel very limited.
The main character ShaoDow is a solid character. He comes off as an archetype of an average Shonen protagonist. This isn’t a bad thing; he is reminiscent of other leading characters in manga series such as Naruto for example. While he comes off as goofy and lacking some skills, it is clear that there is a great power deep within him that’s just waiting to burst out.
The artwork of The way of Shao really shines in the action sequences. I felt the artist does a great job of capturing movements that make action scenes feel very fluid as you read them. Additionally, the artist, Tonio Maicon seems to pay homage to certain elements of other popular manga. For example, very similar to the Naruto’s Shadow Clone Jutsu, there is a similar scene where the antagonist is able to summon copies of himself to fight ShaoDow.
One issue I had with the artwork was that some of the Black character’s lips were overexaggerated and drawn larger. I assume the artist was going for a chibi-like or comedic look with the characters in those moments. However, I think there is a way to do that without touching on stereotypical minstrel features.
I also couldn’t help but notice the lack of Black women characters. I’m not even referring to having main characters or supporting roles. There are barely, if any, Black women visible throughout the volume. I would think a manga created by a Black man would also include at least some Black women, even if to just make them visible in the background.
Overall, while the premise of The Way of Shao Volume 1 initially grabbed my attention, after reading it, I just don’t think this is a manga for me. The premise is interesting as it blends action, martial arts, and music together, but I think that hurts it. The first volume feels more like an extended one-shot than a full volume story. If there were to be a second volume that builds the world out more and introduces other characters, then I think I would give it another shot.
The Way of Shao Volume 1 is available now. Learn more at Tokyopop.com
The Way of Shao Volume 1
Overall, while the premise of The Way of Shao Volume 1 initially grabbed my attention, after reading it, I just don’t think this is a manga for me. The premise is interesting as it blends action, martial arts, and music together, but I think that hurts it. The first volume feels more like an extended one-shot than a full volume story.