Until Death Do Us Part
死がふたりを分かつまで (Shi ga Futari wo Wakatsu Made)
TAKASHIGE Hiroshi (Story), DOUBLE-S (Art)
Seinen – Action, mature, sci-fi, war
13 Omnibuses (complete)
A girl suddenly begs for help from a blind man. Mamoru, a member of a vigilante group who is always itching for a fight, agrees to be hired. But he is taken aback when Haruka proclaims their contract is “until death do us part”! Why? And in a world threatened by terrorists and corrupt governments, how long will this contract really last?
Until Death Do Us Part has some solid action, but it also suffers from serious downtimes.
First, holy cow, are these volumes thick! Yen Press made the decision to release this series as 2-in-1 omnibuses. It makes sense because a lot of readers aren’t too keen on collecting long series, especially for a more niche title. Each volume is less than the cost of two normal volumes form Yen Press, but they are quite thick. I mean, even some normal manga are only around the 150 page mark, but these omnibuses are easily 450 pages. I do worry about the spines, but they seem to be holding up rather well. Yen Press also kept the original bonus pages at the end of each (Japanese) volume, and there are color inserts as well.
But let’s get to the elephant in the room book: the romance. The first omnibus reveals that Haruka, the 12-year-old female lead who can see the future, says the (fully grown, late 20s or so) Mamoru is her future husband. However, this isn’t a lolicon manga. Mamoru doesn’t show signs he’s attracted to the tween (later teen) Haruka. Romance is not heavily focused upon, but this marriage is certainly in the back of Haruka’s and other characters’ minds. If the thought of a child growing up and marrying an adult figure in their life repulses you, you are probably going to have a hard time reading Until Death Do Us Part.
At its core, this manga centers around a girl with precognition who teams up with the often sadistic katana wielder of a vigilante group. At first, Haruka, Mamoru, and other members of Element Network deal with local criminals and yakuza, but the war on criminals eventually turns into an international conflict. Rather than just introducing new antagonists one after another, Mamoru keeps untangling a large-scale operation that involves several organizations, and Element Network isn’t the only group investigating. This is very much a war manga, not a romance one. Killing is kept to a minimum for Haruka’s sake, but there are still plenty of deaths and disturbing crimes.
What starts out as a war on the streets turns into a war between nations, so expect a lot of characters and groups. The series is roughly divided into three main arcs: the Element Network section, Haruka at school arc (aka “introduce a bunch of characters” arc), and the finale. The first volumes are very good. Element Network is based on preventing crimes, and their members have access to amazing technology. Battles were originally centered on Mamoru fighting with a katana (with the help of his special sunglasses and his tech support) versus guns. Eventually other weapons are introduced, which does help shake up the typical action scenes of dodging or getting hit by bullets.
On the other hand, the series loses much of its realism when you have bouncy balls being introduced as someone’s weapon of choice.
I wouldn’t have had a real problem with this if it weren’t for the next major story shift. Suddenly, Until Death Do Us Part becomes a crossover manga involving two other series. It’s not just that Takashige brought in people from his other manga, but other creators’ works entirely. These characters become a huge focus for much of the middle part of the manga, and it’s these parts are the sections I like the least in Until Death Do Us Part. The manga already has a lot of interesting warriors, most notably in the large group known as “The Wall”. Until Death Do Us Part does provide some background information on its crossover characters, but an author can’t do as much when using another person’s characters, and I just couldn’t get invested in characters whose stories I will surely never get to experience. (None of the other manga have been licensed in English, and it’s unlikely they ever will be.) Until Death Do Us Part just puts a bit too much into crossovers, and while it may be a thrill for those series’ fans, I would have rather met more of The Wall or Element Network in general instead of some assassin who set up a three-way standoff.
The last couple volumes are all dedicated to the final battle. Here, it’s all about an invasion and a revolution. Think RPG of where an elite but small squad tries to defeat the evil ruler. While the other characters all seemed impossibly good, the Final Boss is even more of an exaggeration. This section just… feels less realistic with the enemy’s power level and the fact death is avoided so much.
To make up for the lack of death, Mamoru is on the sadistic side. He would rather have an enemy suffer mentally and physically each day instead of getting release in death. Haruka, of course, is a little girl who is thrown into a horrifying situation. I do like how her precognitive abilities are not infallible, so she is not completely (mentally) overpowering her opponents. A lot of characters debate on whether they should coddle her or force Haruka to be strong, but she does mature a bit. I really wouldn’t call this character growth; in fact, I wouldn’t say anyone really grows in Until Death Do Us Part. Some people may regret their actions or realize how powerless they are, but almost every person in the story is an adult with their own already-established personality. The motivations for the main characters are revealed, but I really wasn’t moved by a lot of the antagonists’ reasons. But it’s hard to relate when people treat murder as a business.
Ironically, the busier the scene, the better the art. The action scenes — especially ones involving car chases, which the artist admits he loves to watch in movies == are well done with clear attacks. Close-ups of the characters are fine, but eyes are often uneven or lack detail when further away or when characters display a neutral expression. These shots are definitely the weakest part of the art. I am impressed with the character designs. Many artists are locked into a few body types and hairstyles so that some manga scenes look like like it features twins or triplets. DOUBLE-S, with both the series’ own as well as the crossover characters, does not fall into this category. Mamoru’s first partner, for instance, has dreadlocks, which cannot be easy to draw. Plenty of characters have facial hair; many enemies come from Africa, which requires plenty of screentone. With a large cast of characters (both throwaway and rotating), this makes it much easier to distinguish the characters. I may not remember their names, but I remember their roles and affiliations. Even the digital art (cars, buildings) blends in well and don’t look out of place. There are also a few horror shots, but these are often shown through Mamoru’s CG images on the sunglasses instead of showing a detailed shot. Of course, as you might expect, blood is aplenty, and you will see some explosions. Again, if the art is supposed to have impact, then it’s usually a much better image than when Mamoru’s team are sitting around eating dinner.
Honorifics are used, although this is a title where honorifics are not necessary. Many of the cast members are from foreign countries, and even most of the native Japanese speakers are not the respectful type. Haruka seems to be the only one who really uses honorifics. The volumes also include translator’s notes but most are rather short. This isn’t too surprising since the cast members are busy fighting and not leading normal lives. Groups like the Kakuhoukai are left in romanized Japanese with a translation note. English is denoted with < >. The only other thing I really noticed was that some volumes seemed more curse-heavy than others, although it’s the same translator for the whole series.
Despite its unconventional leads, Until Death Do Us Part starts off as a nice sci-fi and action blend. The middle volumes centering around Jesus and Haruka’s new school are lagging, but it does pick up toward the end. I’m usually not a fan of skipping volumes (I have manga OCD), but I would prioritize up to about the fifth volume, and then get Volume 9 or 10+. There are no character introductions in each volume, but you should be able to piece it together.