Since this manga only has positive reviews so far, I figured it was time for a less positive one (I dropped this at 6/11 volumes). This review will contain spoilers of those 6 volumes.
Most people who will read this review have probably watched or read Death Note, one of the biggest gateway-manga/anime lately (and also one of my first manga). Lots of people liked the "battles of the mind" in that series (as did I), and especially the battle between Kira and L were well-received. Now, meet Bloody Monday, a manga that seems to have tried to become a second Death Note, but failed miserably.
The biggest reason why this failed can be found in the character-section (which is why I'll address this section first), and mainly the main character: Takagi Fujimaru. This guy is a "normal high-schooler, but..." (yeah, how clichéd can it get?) "...he's also a genius hacker who goes by the name of Falcon" (becaue the 'taka' in 'Takagi' means falcon). *sigh*... And then this guy is supposed to fight against an organisation of terrorists to stop them from unleashing a killer virus called Bloody-X (my guess is that they want to unleash it on a Monday, because everybody hates Mondays), with his most prominent opponent being a guy who is referred to as "J". (And no, this isn't some prequel to Death Note)
So what's so bad about the MC, apart from the cliché I mentioned already? Well first off: all aspiring authors should note that having a hacker as your MC is almost never a good idea. Why not, you may ask? Well, because you need a relatively "flexible" main character if you want a dynamic story, and a guy whose only merit is being good at hacking can't get that kind of "flexibility" ("flexible", for lack of a better word). What most authors then do to make their character more "flexible" is make them "genius hackers who can hack the most unhackable things in 5 minutes or less", completely forgetting the fact that it's impossible for computers to have that kind of speed. And that's also what happens in Bloody Monday: "Falcon" hacks into most networks in 1-2 minutes, until... there's a sytem with a defense he designed himself, in order to make it unhackable even for him. Some terrorists demand he hacks into it in 5 minutes, or his sister will die (more about that later). Falcon complains that it's impossible even for him, so one of the terrorists goes outside and gets orders to give him 3 more minutes (like that would help) if necessary. She goes back inside and... ta-da! He hacked into it in less than 4 minutes! When asked to explain how come he was faster than he said he was, he explains that he used his gomu gomu abilities to go into gear second and evolved and got better... And then people complain about ass-pulls in Fairy Tail.
A second problem I have with the MC is that he's just so ******* stupid. He finds a traitor, but decides to listen to the things an enemy says to make him doubt his judgement, which makes it possible for said traitor to shoot an ally and abduct him. When he meets J, the big baddie, he also acts stupid. He also involves all his friends, which has to be the dumbest thing any shounen protagonist ever did. Aside from pure stupidity, he's also too damn naive. It's as if L would play mindgames against Naruto or some other dumb shounen character.
Third problem: the MC can't decide whether he has resolve or not. One moment he has lots of fighting spirit, the next he's as indecisive as some generic harem-girl who has yet to decide whether or not she'll confess.
The fourth problem isn't actually purely about the MC, but more about the supporting cast: the MC and one of his friend are the only people who are a little competent, while they have the support of "Third-I" (some kind of FBI/CIA/NSA-thingy). Having a your teenaged MC be the only person who's competent just makes me roll my eyes as much as I did in Aldnoah.Zero, and that means a lot of eye-rolling.
"Enough about the MC, talk about the rest of the cast. " - my inner voice.
So yeah, a bit about the side characters:
- the MC has a little sister, who is sick and weak, and gets abducted about as many times a Naruto says "dattebayo". This element may also remind you from that other semi-mind-battle series, Code Geass.
- his best friend and "back-up", who is also an archer: Otoya Kujou. Archers are cool, nothing to say about this guy. He's arguably the most interesting person.
- a bunch of other friends: meh, they're there and they're involved because the MC is stupid, but most of them were bland or not very well fleshed out
- Third-I: an organization of people who are incompetent 99% of the time and can only do something when they have a target to shoot that isn't even moving.
- the terrorists: J is a boring version of L. The others are barely worth mentioning.
Characters: 3/10 (bland, boring, and stupid are the keywords here)
This section is rather short: although the premise is exciting, it quickly becomes repetitive, bland, and at times even flat-out stupid. The author should know that we really didn't need to see the same people get abducted everytime! And he shouldn't bring back dead people if he wanted to have a serious manga (because that's what the manga seems to want to be). The "impossible hacking skills" of the MC also diminish the realism the manga was aiming for.
The most important parts this manga is missing is also easy to describe: excitement and enjoyment. The manga feels so flat that I felt barely any suspense, creating a boring and unenjoyable manga.
Story: 2/10 (repetitive, boring)
I'm not very good at rating art in manga, but it was good I guess? I've seen better, but I've seen lots of worse stuff too.
3.5/10 Not recommended
Recommendations: Death Note, Liar Game, Code Geass (Onani Master Kurosawa)
Title: Bloody Monday
Author: Ryuumon Ryou
Artist: Megumi Kouji
Gener(s): Action, Drama, Mature, Psychological, School Life, Sci-fi, Shounen
Summary: A virus deal clinched in Russia on the Christmas Eve. Purpose: unknown. Two clues: a mysterious lady, "Maya," who is one of the gangsters, and "Bloody Monday," the keyword for the project.
Then an incident happened in far-distant city of Tokyo. Fujimaru Takagi, a second year student at Mishiro Gakuin High School, is commissioned to find out the truth by the Public Security Intelligence Agency, for his great ability as a super hacker. Now, Maya approaches Fujimaru as his high school teacher....
Addictional Information: Truly marvelous story, one of my personal favorites. It has very steady climax, just enough to keep you hooked onto it. Plenty of twists and drama, making you craves for more and more. However, this is a completed series, a well-made. Lucky, there is a second series of Bloody Monday Season II, ready for more drama and twists. This is a manga you want to read. There is some of flaws in the story, but nothing enough to ruin your mood and craves for more.
Awesome and realistic high school+shounen+mystery, based in a present time, is quite a rarity. Usually mangakas either go the supernatural route ( for example Psyren, Future Dairy, Death Note ) or give up on high school setting, and change into seinen instead ( like Remote or Angel Heart ). Bloody Monday, while maintaning the image of characters being "extraordinary", still manages to pull a captivating story.
Story - 8/10
All of it starts with introduction of a genius hacker, Falcon. For a moment there, we are lead to believe, that the story might go the very cliche "villain of the week course". But it takes just one chapter for the engines to start up, and very soon we are taken on a high speed rollecoaster, with traps, battle of wits and load of plot twists - some of them unexpected, some of them annoying.
Author not even for a moment let us have a grip on the overall situation. The moment you think you know, what's the sides looks like, someone turns out to be a traitor. The victory in one chapter, might turn out to be unexpected loss 20 chapters later. If that's not enough there can always be new information, new person appearing, new threat, new encounter... But even with all that constantly twisting plot, overall the story seems quite coherent.
If I have to compare this manga to something, the closest would be american series "24". The combination of personal grudges and terrorist objectives, involvment of main characters family, betrayals and desperate battle against time - those are characteristics of both of those titles. Another similarity is short period of time, during which all the incidents occur. The action, that takes place in manga, is resolved in few days ( I wasn't curious enough to count exact numbers, but I'd estimate the whole course = 2 weeks).
Art - 8/10
The drawing style is really good and fits the slightly dark overall mood. Characters are detailed and good looking, scenes are filled with suspense, emotions and action (depending on which one is needed at the time).
Characters - 7/10
As a Shounen manga, Bloody Monday have characters that are really appealing.Through their actions, speeches and looks the really make this title a very enjoyable reading experience. So why I give it only score of 7? Along with Shounen advantages, this title have some of the shounen flaws - those characters lack depth. Fujimaru have barely any growth, even though he is suddenly in the middle of really bloody mess. Otoya, apart from his role near the end, just acts like a sidekick. There is some mentioning of Aoi having crush on either Fujimaru or on his father, but that is neither properly used as a motivator, nor resolved at any given point. Basicly there is lots of "cool characters", that fit the story well, but they aren't exactly alive.
The enemies rank slightly better in my eyes. They aren't just bunch of evil, obsessed madmans (well some of them are :P) , but have convincing goals and motivations. From the money driven hitman, through people wanting to get revenge on the country up to the religious fanatics - each of them has their reason, to act the way they act.
And as a last note - Haruka is just an annoying baggage. Her only purpose through the manga is to get kidnapped and rescued (and since she has kidney problems the rescue need to be fast).And as if that wasn't enough she also like to put herself in the middle of danger, "because she can't leave onichan alone".
Overall - 8/10
This manga have it flaws, but which manga hasn't got any? If you like a good thrillers, you won't be disapointed. This title is very enjoyable combination of high school shounen and intelliigence agency vs terrorist story.