The Seven Deadly Sins
七つの大罪 (Nanatsu no Taizai)
Shounen – Action, adventure, comedy, fantasy, romance
184 Chapters, 15 Volumes (ongoing) of 20 Volumes (ongoing)
Crunchyroll / Kodansha Comics USA
Ten years ago, the most powerful group of knights, the Seven Deadly Sins, tried to overthrow the kingdom. Their coup failed, and the seven members disappeared. Rumors have been swirling of a Rust Knight crying out for the Seven Deadly Sins. The rumors prove true when a suit of armor appears at a tavern run by its youthful-looking owner.
The Seven Deadly Sins proves you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to make a good story. An author just needs to tweak the wheel to make the plot feel fresh.
“A Princess and a Hero team up to find other allies to save the kingdom.” Been there, done that.
Now enter The Seven Deadly Sins.
This series takes a lot of the typical fantasy J-RPG story tropes and just has fun playing with them. The leader of the Seven Deadly Sins, Meliodas, is powerful right from the start, but he is not a dark, moody protagonist. The shota (young boy)-looking character doubles as the ossan (old man) character. The one who seems to only care about his own amusement is fiercely loyal to his lover. The legendary wizard Merlin is a woman. The group’s hideout is a bar located on top of a giant pig. This is a familiar tale, but not everything is copy-pasted from the usual clichés.
There’s also an additional way Suzuki toys with the usual: power levels. While several popular manga have an overly powerful male (rarely female) lead, it’s very unusual to have a whole slew of incredibly strong warriors. This doesn’t mean the heroes get to steamroll over their opponents. In RPG terms, even at max level, some Bosses still take quite a bit of work to defeat. Most manga try to play the battles off like a Level 1 challenge; The Seven Deadly Sins shows you can still fight a hard, lengthy battle at Level 99.
Anyways, the gist is that Princess Elizabeth manages to find the leader of the “evil” knights, Meliodas, and the pair try to stop a coup with the help of his missing allies. The initial problem is mostly wrapped up by Volume 13, which seems incredibly fast when compared to other major shounen hits (mostly of the Weekly Shonen Jump variety). The Seven Deadly Sins just keeps marching forward with its face pace, as filler is minimal. It only occasionally takes a break with a few side-stories (some more humorous, some more focused on relationships).
What really impresses me is how well-thought out this series is. The series may technically have two major conflicts, but these battles are heavily connected. A lot of authors fly by the seat of their pants each week, but Suzuki definitely has a solid plan. Characters from early volumes make a return in later ones, some rising to prominence. What seems to be meaningless chatter in a bar turns out to reference a future character’s introduction. Suzuki keeps enough cards hidden in the first 13 volumes — including one of the titular Seven Deadly Sins. The Deadly Sins themselves still have room to power up since not everyone has their
ultimate weapon Sacred Treasure, and and the gathered group ends up separating a number of times. All in all, this is a pretty ingenious way to avoid following the typical “saved the world, now more powerful enemies appear”. I can almost see The Seven Deadly Sins as a Hollywood flick with Meliodas dramatically looking off into the distance and proclaiming, “The real battle starts now!” just before the credits roll.
The manga isn’t without its flaws. Meliodas’ groping of Elizabeth gets repetitive and annoying rather quickly. This is full-blown sexual harassment with him sticking his head in her chest or up her skirt. I know it’s done comically, but it’s just constant grabs and rubbing. The series’ fast-moving progress means there’s not a lot of down-time or meaningless filler, which, overall, is a good thing. However, several opponents don’t get much of an introduction. They’re dispatched by the kingdom and then quickly dispatched by the Deadly Sins. A whole mess of Holy Knights are introduced, and the sheer number of named characters is overwhelming. Even when I reread this series in short succession, I still had to ask myself a few times, “Who were you again?” Finally, without going into spoilers, I think everyone is waiting for a Raise/Zing-less Big Dramatic Moment. The manga needs more emotional punches.
Fortunately, another aspect makes up for the series’ weaknesses: the characters. The manga has a large cast, and I don’t know how you couldn’t find yourself being fond of at least one of them. Perhaps you’ll like the pervert Meliodas’ optimism hiding his wrath. Diane, the Sin of Envy, acts like a cute little girl despite being a strong 29-foot-tall giant. Ban is a thief who ignores anything that doesn’t catch his interest, but he is easily shocked. Elizabeth, the female lead, is probably the most stereotypical and boring character. She is pretty much a demure, needs-to-be-supported princess. A lot of people may be uncomfortable with how she doesn’t really resist Meliodas’ groping of her, but really, Meliodas shouldn’t be grabbing at her in the first place.
Since most of the cast are adults who have chosen to risk their lives in Liones’ military, characters aren’t really developed so much as explored. We get to see how most of the Sins got their titles and discover the reasons why many of the Holy Knights have taken up their proverbial swords. Again, this makes sense because of the characters’ ages. Only a few — Elizabeth in particular — really grow and change. Personally, my favorite characters are the talking pig Hawk and Deadly Sin Gowther. As the manga’s mascot, Hawk plays both the role of snarky assistant as well as faithful companion. Gowther is basically Captain Obvious combined with Captain Oblivious. It’s too bad magical girl anime didn’t exist back in this old Britannia; Gowther would probably parody every “I’ll punish you!” speech in existence, and if he found a good cosplay fanatic, he’d probably wear the matching costume. However, Ban is, by far, is the character with the most impact. His backstory is arguably the most emotional, and his young age compared to the rest of the Deadly Sins means he experiences the most internal conflicts.
Since everyone is so overpowered, Suzuki ends up drawing quite a few large-scale destruction scenes. It isn’t uncommon for the ground to break and cliffs to collapse. In fact, sometimes the world seems to take more damage than any of the characters. Despite the level of destruction, there’s little blood. Lots of scratches, bruises, and, in one case, a snap of the neck, but not a lot of gore. (This is a shounen series after all.) With all the boulders cracking and huge explosions, the action can be a bit difficult to follow. Dozens of blows in a single frame is almost more common than a single punch. It’s little surprise The Seven Deadly Sins received an anime adaption; the battles are too fast and big for manga format. However, considering how much of the actual world we see (and the fast pace means he needs to pack a lot into each chapter), the art is pretty impressive. The panels are busy; it’s not as busy as, say, Negima!, but it’s also not as clean. His characters are drawn in a way that heavily resembles Toriyama’s (of Dragon Ball and Dragon Quest fame). When I first started this manga, I had to do a double-take that this wasn’t a manga version of Dragon Quest. The fashion style ranges from simple one-pieces to flirty miniskirts to elaborate fantasy-style armor. It’s a good thing the Holy Knights don’t wear their helmets too often or it would be really difficult to tell them apart. (Of course, from a logical standpoint, how dumb are they for taking off their helmets?) Combined with Suzuki’s European setting, I think Suzuki could work on a future Dragon Quest game if Toriyama couldn’t.
Honorifics are used. This is one manga where I wouldn’t have chosen to keep them in. The world in this series is obviously an alternate England. Signs are clearly written in English. So it’s a little awkward for Elizabeth to say “Meliodas-sama” instead of “Lord Meliodas”. I guess one of the fantasy elements is a version of English that has those honorifics? However, terms like “nee-san” are not used. Why? Haven’t a clue. So it’s “Sister Veronica” instead of “Veronica-nee-sama”, but still “Veronica-sama” and not “Lady/Princess Veronica”. Yet, for others, it’s “Sir Helbram” instead of “Helbram-sama”.
A lot of the characters have unique or rare speech patterns, but this is hard to get across in English. Diane, for instance is a boku girl, and King uses the bumpkin-ish “oira”.
Each part is called a chapter, but the series often uses “Tale” when written in English the title pages. Most of the attack names are in English, but a few are changed. One of Hawk’s attacks is called “Super Pork-Lion Illusion”, but it’s called “Super Roast Illusion” in Japanese. (Well, “Roast” is ロース [“Roosu”), a shortened form of ロースト [“Roosuto”].) “Mother Catastrophe” becomes “Mother Earth Catastrophe”. Titles like “Undead Ban” are rewritten as “Ban the Undead”.
A long time ago, most manga were released in English well after being released in Japan. While this took longer, it also allowed translators to read most or all of a series to know how to translate things. Plus series usually had a separate person for the adaptation, or at least an editor. I believe The Seven Deadly Sins started its simulpub translation and then back chapters were translated later. This may explain why there are several inconsistencies and errors. Hawk, for instance, usually claims he’s from the “Knighthood of Scraps Disposal”, but “Order of Scraps Disposal” and even “Garbage Disposal Knighthood” are used. Jericho’s brother is called “Gustav” and then “Gustaf”, the Dawn Roar group is usually “Roars of Dawn” but also once called “Dawn of Roar”. Its leader’s name is incorrectly romanized as “Slater” for two volumes, and one member’s name is hilarious written as “Wine Height” for ワインハイト, which I would romanize as something like “Weinheit”. The head of the Holy Knights regularly rotates between “Captain” and “Chief”. Elizabeth’s nickname is written as both “Elly” and “Ellie”, and Ban’s stage name is both “Bain” and “Baan” in the same volume. The translator also mixes up “highness” (used for princes/princesses) and “majesty” (used for kings/queens).
Anyways, at least in the early volumes, this series needed a good editor or someone to recheck the text. I spotted several (“you’re princess”). Some sentences are just plain awkward. And other times, the dialogue is unnecessarily punched up. Hawk cries out, “Here comes daddy!”, which is ironic since we immediately find out he’s a mama’s
boy pig. These fortunately don’t pop up too often after the initial volumes, but one line’s “enhancement” doesn’t jive when it comes back into play later.
tl;dr version: Series needs an editor. A lot of these errors should have been fixed for the print version, and it’s a shame they weren’t.
The Seven Deadly Sins a popular title for good reason. The story is incredibly accessible to Western audiences while still showing off its anime-like charm. Even if you have a Crunchyroll Premium membership, the series has more than enough good qualities to justify buying the graphic novels. Even better, the manga’s solid pace means you won’t be investing in a lot of unimportant volumes.
The first season of the anime is available on Netflix. A second season is in production.