Zombiepowder. (ゾンビパウダー Zonbi Paudā?) is an unfinished action manga and the first serialized work of Tite Kubo, author of the popular manga series Bleach. It was published in Japanese by Shueisha in 1999, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump. Zombiepowder. is distributed in English by Viz Media. The series is 27 chapters in length, and collected into 4 tankōbon.
Zombiepowder. follows a young boy named Elwood Shepard and mysterious criminals Gamma Akutabi and C.T. Smith in their search for the Rings of the Dead, a group of legendary artifacts with the power to resurrect the departed and grant immortality to anyone who collects enough of them. The series has an anachronistic western setting, with sparsely populated human settlements separated by desert. The trio travel from town to town in this world, fighting other criminals for possession of the Rings of the Dead. They obtain three of said rings in the course of the story, but due to the series' cancellation, the plot is left incomplete as Kubo had a breakdown.
Although critical reception was largely mediocre Zombiepowder. has achieved moderate commercial success in the United States due to the popularity of Tite Kubo's second manga series Bleach.
Setting and plot
Zombiepowder. is set in a western-themed environment with inconsistent levels of technology, which has been compared by reviewers to that found in Yasuhiro Nightow's manga series Trigun. Most prominent characters in the series are powder hunters, individuals who seek the titular zombie powder. The zombie powder is a life-giving substance that can imbue an individual with limitless life force, granting them immortality or even raising them from the dead. Zombie powder can only be obtained by gathering twelve rings called the Rings of the Dead. These rings are dangerous artifacts that, individually, devour the life force of anyone they touch, rendering them comatose, but when they find a host, they give birth to the mysterious and powerful substance; 'Zombie Powder'.
The story begins with young pickpocket John Elwood Shepherd befriending powder hunter Gamma Akutabi, a highly wanted criminal who possesses one Ring of the Dead, after a botched attempt to rob him. Another member of the local gang for which Elwood works sees the two together and assumes Elwood is harboring the criminal in hopes of turning him in for his substantial bounty. The gang attacks Elwood's home, and Gamma comes to the rescue, but not before Elwood's sister Sheryl is slain. Following the gang attack Elwood decides to accompany Gamma in his powder hunting in hopes of resurrecting Sheryl.
After leaving Elwood's hometown, the pair meet up with Gamma's long-time partner C.T. Smith, another highly wanted powder hunter. Smith has infiltrated the ranks of Ash Daughter, a gang which has found a Ring of the Dead. The three successfully obtain the ring following a fight with the gang's leader, Ranewater Calder. In this fight Gamma reveals that he is pyrokinetic as a result of mastering the fictional sword art karin zanjutsu, which he uses to kill Calder, ending the first volume of the series.
The remaining three volumes concern themselves with the battle for a third ring, which has been embedded in the body of comatose Emilio Lufas Getto for years. Gamma and company learn of Emilio's existence from his sister Wolfina, a tabloid journalist and crimefighter who does not believe in the Rings of the Dead, and offer to restore him in exchange for the ring he contains. Before they can do so, however, Emilio is kidnapped by Balmunk the Mystic, a powder hunting magician who leads a circus-themed gang. Elwood, Gamma, Smith, and Wolfina team up to retrieve Emilio, and succeed in doing so after a number of battles with Balmunk's henchmen. The conflict culminates in a fight between Gamma and a giant golem summoned by Balmunk, which Gamma defeats after entering and leaving a berserk state. Balmunk is beaten but not killed, and departs swearing revenge on Gamma.
After rescuing Emilio, Gamma arranges to have the Ring of the Dead removed from his body by an old friend, mad scientist Nazna Gemini. The characters are brought to Nazna's lab by Angelle Cooney, a young girl with a romantic interest in Gamma and the power of teleportation. Once there, Gemini agrees to operate to remove the ring from Emilio in exchange for a year of experimentation rights on Wolfina. Due to the series' early cancellation, Zombiepowder. is ended without a solid conclusion: The final chapter shows Gamma and Smith leaving Elwood and Wolfina behind as they depart the Gemini Laboratory, whose staff have just begun the operation to save Emilio. It is left ambiguous whether Elwood chooses to follow Gamma, stay with Wolfina and Emilio, or become a powder hunter in his own right.
Gamma Akutabi (芥火完真(ガンマ) Akutabi Ganma?)
- Gamma, the team leader and main combatant of Zombiepowder.'s cast, is a 23-year-old powder hunter who desires the zombie powder for the sake of immortality, and has already obtained one Ring of the Dead at his introduction in the first chapter. He is one of the most wanted criminals in the Zombiepowder. universe, bearing the highest possible danger level of "S-0" and a bounty of 960,000,000 nīt (the series currency). He apparently once loved a woman who made him change his ways, and it is implied that her death caused him to set out seeking the powder. He fights using his superhuman strength and speed, a steel-plated right arm which allows him to catch bullets, and a large sword-chainsaw hybrid. Other abilities Gamma possesses which were not fully explored in the course of the story are mastery of Karinzanjutsu (火輪斬術?, lit., Fire-Ring Cutting Technique), a fictional ancient sword art which grants him a controllable aura called the "black flame of death", and a berserk state Balmunk refers to as Gamma's "monster".
- The Zombiepowder. reviewer from Anime News Network considered Gamma to be a typical "bad-ass anti-hero", good at creating mayhem and not much else. IGN's review of the series treated him similarly, saying his role of "protagonist who wields a lot of power and hides a dark secret" was done effectively but not remarkably, and was typical of action shōnen manga.
John Elwood Shepherd (ジョン·エルウッド·シェパード Jon Eruuddo Shepādo?)
- John Elwood Shepherd, referred to more commonly as Elwood, is a 14-year-old pickpocket who joins up with powder hunters Gamma and Smith in an effort to resurrect his dead sister Sheryl Ann Shepherd. He is introduced in the first chapter of the series. Elwood has great talent in throwing knives, theft, and ingenuity in combat, but struggles to overcome his sidekick status and measure up to the abilities of his superhuman partners. Smith and Gamma both see Elwood as a younger version of Gamma, which fills Gamma with both hope and worry, as he sees great potential in Elwood for strength, but also for evil. This concern prompts Smith and Gamma to leave Elwood behind at Gemini Laboratory at the end of the manga, and whether Elwood decides to follow the pair or not is left ambiguous.
- Reviewers of Zombiepowder. found Elwood's character mostly unremarkable, due to his similarity to numerous other tag-along/protege characters found in manga. The reviewer for MangaCast said she was "fond of" his character, but that he suffered from sidelining by Gamma, while Den of Geek thought his motivation for seeking the zombie powder was an effective twist on the usual plot device of avenging a dead relative.
C.T. Smith (C. T. スミス C.T. Sumisu?)
- C.T. Smith is the least developed member of the main Zombiepowder. cast, while little known backstory or motivation,it is implied that he is, like Gamma an "S-0" level criminal since Gamma says "he wouldn't choose a partner that was so weak he could kill him". He is first introduced in the third chapter as a hired assassin working for the Ash Daughters, but this is soon shown to be a ruse, with Smith actually being Gamma's long-standing partner. Smith possesses superhuman speed, unusually good luck, and fights using handguns, with which he has extreme accuracy. He has no other known abilities, but according to Gamma, he and Smith are both incapable of killing the other.Even though it is said he is good at every thing, He is shown to be terrible at building bombs, and they usually go off at inconvenient times. Tite Kubo's character commentary for Smith in volume one states that Smith's appearance was based on a London banker, and notes that the "C.T" in his name was originally meant to hold some significance before the series' cancellation.
- Compared to his fellow cast members, C.T. Smith has had more favorable critical reception. Anime News Network said he was one of the few fresh points of the series and had the most distinctive design among the cast. MangaCast's reviewer, on the other hand, found his role mostly extraneous, due to being overshadowed by Gamma.
Wolfgangina Lalla Getto (ウルフギャンギーナ·ララ·ジェット Urufugyangīna Rara Jetto?)
- Wolfgangina Getto, nicknamed Wolfina, is a busty 18-year-old paparazzi journalist who specializes in criminal expose stories. Her comatose brother Emilio contains a Ring of the Dead, which he found 8 years before the main story line and has been consuming his life force ever since. Wolfina is introduced in the ninth chapter of the series, and joins up with the main characters soon after in order to protect her brother from Balmunk. She fights using a modified camera tripod she calls "the tripod of justice". At the end of the series she agrees to work for Zanza Gemini for a year as an experimental subject in order to pay for the operation removing the Ring of the Dead from Emilio, and is left behind by Gamma and Smith as they continue their powder hunting.
- Reception of Wolfina's character has been superficial but positive, limited to contrasting her large-breasted character design to the otherwise lanky designs used in the series and remarking on her creative and quirky weapon choice.
Baragne Binoix Bartoreuil Balmunk (バラーニュ·ビノワ·バルトルイユ·バルムンク Barānyu Binowa Barutoruiyu Barumunku?)
- Balmunk the Mystic is a sorcerer, powder hunter, and "A-0"-class wanted criminal who is introduced in the eleventh chapter and takes the role of antagonist for the remainder of the series. He has powerful summoning abilities which allow him to create weapons, call upon his henchmen and beasts such as tigers, and in his most powerful technique, create a giant golem named Amantine. Balmunk leads a gang of criminals with unusual powers based on traditional circus acts and freak shows, such as fire swallowing and the box-impalement trick. Balmunk kidnaps Emilio in order to obtain the Ring of the Dead within him, but is defeated by Gamma. He has an unknown background with Gamma, and knows about Gamma's berserker personality, but the details are never revealed due to the story being cut short by cancellation.
- Balmunk and his circus troupe received positive reception in reviews, which considered the group a colorful and creepy opposing threat. A scene at the end of volume 2 in which Balmunk offers to return Emilio's body to Wolfina unharmed, but without his head, was cited by MangaCast as an eerie and effective character builder. Anime News Network said his character was a unique application of a villain trope that, while not original, is a rarity in Eastern comics, and rarely done so "outlandishly" even in the West.
Zombiepowder. began serialization in Shueisha's Weekly Shōnen Jump in 1999, and ran a short 27 chapters before being canceled in 2000. According to the author's commentary in the cover leaf of the third tankōbon, Tite Kubo was in a state of severe emotional trauma when he wrote it. The series was collected into four volumes, published in 2000 in Japan. Zombiepowder. was licensed for English distribution by VIZ Media in 2005, following the success of the Bleach manga. The first English volume was released in the United States in September 2006, and the last was released in June 2007.
There are several differences between the Japanese and English releases of Zombiepowder.. The cover of the second manga volume, which featured an illustration of C.T. Smith holding a gun to his own head, was redrawn for the English edition to instead feature a picture of Gamma in sunglasses. The English editions of volumes 2-4 also each contain a one-shot story from early in Kubo's career: Ultra Unholy Hearted Machine, Rune Master Urara, and Bad Shield United, respectively.
Zombiepowder. sold unremarkably in Japan, but has been commercially successful in the United States. Two likely reasons for this success are that its English release followed the international popularity of Tite Kubo's second manga series Bleach, and that the American market has a larger appetite for series which focus on violent action. The second volume was in the top 100 graphic novels for Christmas 2006.
Critical reception of Zombiepowder. as a whole has been mostly mediocre and average. Two reviews from Anime News Network have ranked it as a C, it received a C+ review from MangaCast, a Den of Geek review gave it 3/5 stars, and an IGN review concluded it was "no better or worse that many other shōnen titles" with "not much to separate it from the massive stock of shōnen series that are similar to it". The universal criticism in these reviews is that the series as a whole lacks originality, with most mentioning that it reads very much like an author's first effort, and would appeal mostly to fans of the author.
Reception for individual elements of Zombiepowder. has been more mixed. The series premise of seeking magical items was criticized as cliche by ANN and IGN, but the parasitic nature of the rings and zombie powder themselves were complimented by MangaCast and IGN for lending suspense to the plot. The setting was criticized by ANN for not having much effort put into it, being too similar to Trigun, and seeming to be chosen just for the sake of coolness, while IGN liked the mixture of the old west, arcane, and technological. The quality of individual characters in the series was again a mixed bag, both for artistic design and personalities, but with a general consensus that the characters did not go much beyond their respective tropes.
Of all the elements of the series, Zombiepowder.'s action sequences received the most feedback. ANN said the action was entertainingly violent, well-paced, and interspersed well with comedic moments, but with the disclaimer that the action was "the entire sum and substance" of the series. IGN opened their review with a Tite Kubo quote from the first volume's flap:
The theme is fighting. Sitting there and just reading it without thinking is fine. But if you ever feel like it please try to use your mind as you read."
and said that if this advice was taken Zombiepowder. could be a "great shōnen tale", but that without it the story was only enjoyable by dissection and comparison to other series. Finally, Den of Geek found Zombiepowder.'s "wall-to-wall" action sequences colorful and fun, but complained that the sheer mass of them overwhelmed the rest of the story.
|No.||Title||Japanese release||English release|
|1||The Man With the Black Hand||February 2, 2000 |
|September 5, 2006|
|2||Can't Kiss the Ring (of the Dead)||April 4, 2000 |
|December 5, 2006|
|3||Pierce Me Standing in the Firegarden||June 2, 2000 |
|March 6, 2007|
|4||Walk Like a Zombie||August 4, 2000 |
|June 5, 2007|
- Kubo, Tite (2000). Zombie Powder vol. 01 (in Japanese). Shueisha. ISBN 4-08-872828-9.
- Kubo, Tite (2000). Zombie Powder vol. 02 (in Japanese). Shueisha. ISBN 4-08-872852-1.
- Kubo, Tite (2000). Zombie Powder vol. 03 (in Japanese). Shueisha. ISBN 4-08-872877-7.
- Kubo, Tite (2000). Zombie Powder vol. 04 (in Japanese). Shueisha. ISBN 4-08-872897-1.
- Theron Martin (2006-10-25). "Zombie Powder G.novel 1". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
- A.E. Sparrow (2006-10-09). "Zombie Powder Vol. 1 Review". IGN. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- "Zombie Powder Vol 2 - Is that a gun growing in your ear?". MangaCast. 2007-06-11. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- Matt Haigh (2008-08-12). "Zombie Powder Volume 1 review". Den of Geek. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- Kubo, Tite (2000). Zombie Powder vol. 01. Shueisha. p. 108. ISBN 4-08-872828-9.
- Theron Martin (2007-03-01). "Zombie Powder GN 3". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- Kubo, Tite (2000). Zombie Powder vol. 03. Shueisha. Author's commentary. ISBN 4-08-872877-7.
- "New Viz Titles". Anime News Network. 2005-11-25. Retrieved 2008-10-12.
- "ZOMBIE POWDER./2| 久保 帯人". Shueisha. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- "Zombiepowder., Vol. 2". Viz Media. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- "Zombiepowder., Vol. 3". Viz Media. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- "Zombiepowder., Vol. 4". Viz Media. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- "Top 100 Graphic Novels Actual--December 2006". ICv2. 2007-01-16. Retrieved 2008-09-13.
- Kubo, Tite (2006). Zombie Powder vol. 01. Viz Media. Author's commentary. ISBN 1-42150-152-X.
- "ZOMBIE POWDER./1| 久保 帯人" (in Japanese). Shueisha. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- "Zombiepowder., Vol. 1". Viz Media. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- "ZOMBIE POWDER./3| 久保 帯人" (in Japanese). Shueisha. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- "ZOMBIE POWDER./4| 久保 帯人" (in Japanese). Shueisha. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
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