Break-Age [1994]

Break-Age was mentioned in my Yureka review. Therefore, I’ve decided to cover it.

Now, this is a manga. Yureka is a manwha. Manga is Japanse. Manwha is Korean. For Westerners and outsiders, this small distinction may not matter much. I mean both are a word for comic after all. However, calling manga manwha and vice versa can certainly trigger some people. I believe it is something like calling Welsh people British because you couldn’t care less. Or, in my case, I don’t think I will be able to tell.

Anyway, for the record, I’ve scanlated volume 1,2, and a little bit of 3 before dropping it.

Released in 1995 (Volume 1, Korean version, 1994 in Japan), I purchased this manga in an era where Japanese names in Korean translated comic was forbidden. If you are a long time visitor to my site, you may recall me mentioning this more than a few times.

Japanese names were replaced with Korean names, and the same rule applied to Japanese named places. Yes, that was a thing in Korea.

I’ve purchased up to volume 7 of the Korean version before the publishing company went belly up and no other companies picked it up. This was a common occurrence back then. There were tens of small publishing companies and they picked up a lot of manga series. As of 2020, there are only three big publishing companies in Korea.

Since the Internet wasn’t a thing back then, it took me a while to find out that the series ended with 10th volume. However, I chose not to illegally import the Japanese version because I wasn’t too overly attached to the story.

Fast forward about 15 years later, in 2010ish, I chose to find out how it’d really end. How that happened was simple. I was in my comic room as usual, dipping tea and reading books. At one point, I was looking at Break-Age series. I re-read it up to volume 7 and wondered myself, “I wonder how it ends.”

It took me only few hours to find second-hand books in Japan and the whole series arrived at my doorstep in 2 days which would have been unthinkable back in 1995 since the very act of importing something from Japan was illegal. For the record though, importing Japanese goods commercially was still fine. But importing anything cultural personally, especially manga books, was a huge no-no back then.

Now, with that huge off-topic crap out of the way, let us get on with the review.

Break-Age is about a LAN (local network) based robot combat simulation game called “Danger Planets” by a company called Degger. How it works is like this. You purchase pre-made robot diskette and use it to play combat games in designated centers. If your digital robot gets destroyed though, the diskette would be rendered useless until its data is repaired or restored from a backup. I say LAN but it is a prototype of MMORPG, and each designated gaming centers are capable of linking up together, basically creating a large private network of some sort.

Normally, players at a gaming center A would only be able to play against those within the same gaming center. Only in large events, like tournaments, you would see gaming centers linking up together.

Now, those with skills would be able to create their own robot designs within game limits, and the main protagonist of this manga, Nimura Kilio, is one of those kids.

The story begins as Kilio encounters a very tough robot (Benkei) in a battle. He would later soon find out that the pilot is a girl of a similar age. Initially, he gets really depressed that he lost to a girl. Soon enough though, he brings out his hidden card, a self-made robot (Crow), and challenges the girl whose name is Takahara Sairi. If he wins, she would have to go out with him. She accepts and Kilio wins.

Thus, their relationship begins and they live happily after.

Of course, life is never that simple.

It turns out that Sairi’s idea of “dating” is online battles, and if she ever defeats him, that’d be the end of everything. You know what though? From the beginning to the end, Kilio never loses to her. Of course, by volume 4 or so, Sairi is truly in love with Kilio that the battle no longer matters. However, for Kilio though, the fear of losing her is too much that he fights like his life is depended on it whenever he battles her.

I mean the dude even has some nightmares about Sairi beating him and leaving him. To me, it’s a borderline obsession.

Anyway, this manga revolves around Danger Planets which should be obvious. Sairi’s personal life is revealed in volume 2 and so on. However, what sets this manga different from the rest is probably a fact that the relationship between Nimura and Takahara actually advances properly in steps. At first, Sairi is “dating” him only to defeat him. As they get to know each other, they properly date outside of the game.

And I feel it’s important to mention that Kilio calls Sairi Sairi-san for many volumes. It takes him a really long time to remove “-san” and just call her very casually. The primary reason for this, I believe, is that Sairi is a year older. She is slightly taller than Kilio in the beginning as well. He does grow up to be much taller than her in the end though.

Anyway, the beauty is that it goes far beyond that typical advancements in relationship. In its later plot (vol 7 ~ 10), the relationship is no longer the topic as it is clear that Kilio and Sairi are inseparable. The dreaded questions of life come up. What career Kilio would take. What Sairi will do after graduation.

And, no, they do not enter the same university. That would have been way too cliche.

The story also has a fair amount of side characters who are tracked which actually take up a fair amount of screen time in its later part of the story.

So, do I recommend it? Well, there is something to remember. It is that this is an old title. This is 90s manga. By 2020, this is a relic. I can already see widening cultural differences from the manga and the manga of 2020.

Personally, I favor the culture of the old when it comes to manga simply because there is far less focus on physical stuff such as boob physics, micro skirts, and such. Perhaps the most importantly, each manga had distinctive styles back then. Today’s manga styles look/are too similar to each other.

What I am trying to say is that it used to be like the wild west in 90s and early 2000. Now, 2020, I feel the whole industry is too tame.

Additionally, I am not even sure whether you can find the copies easily anymore. you CAN find the copies for 100% certain; I am just unsure how easy it is going to be as an outsider.

I do have one major complaint regarding this manga. It is that Sairi falls for Kilio a little too easily. Considering how their relationship begins, I feel she falls for him a little too easily.

And, while this is not a complaint, there is no typical love triangle between the two. From the start to finish, Kilio and Sairi are pretty much devoted to each other 99%. I am not saying their relationship is super smooth but I could tell they would never break up from early on.

In the end, this manga was never popular. I mentioned that I could only purchase up to volume 7 in Korea before its publishing company went belly up.

Now, if you look at the publishers of volume 8 and 10 of Japanese version, you will also notice that the publishing company has changed also. Back in the older era, this was never a good sign. Unpopular series had a strong tendency to swap publishers before barely managing to hit the final line. Another possibility is a company merger.

So, after doing some google research, it appears that ASCII Comix had a merger but that was in 2008. What that means is that Break Age license was let go, and Aspect Comix picked it up which kind of backs my claim of it being unpopular back then. Of course, there is always a chance that the license was purchased off ASCII Comix, but that almost never happens because printing comic books does not generate the kind of income that would entitle a hostile takeover unless we are talking about something like Naruto series.

This is an okay manga. It probably doesn’t deserve to be sought out nowadays. I don’t feel the cost will justify the fruit.

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