Buronson and Ryoichi Ikegami

Strain is the story of Mayo, an hitman who lives in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. His rep is that he will kill anyone for five dollars, but when he's hired to kill the mother of a teenage hooker by the name of Shion, he has a change of heart. Because of this uncharacteristic change of heart, he's marked for death. And, rather than killing the girl, he takes her under his watch.

The world of Strain is a mirror reflection of the underside of real Malaysia - dark and dirty streets littered with hookers, drugs and violence. While revealing this harsh world, elements of hope shine through. Mayo's change of heart and Shion's attempted act of self-degradation to save her mother both show a light amongst the darkness. Outside of these people, the world proves to be a cruel and sadistic society, reveling in a lack of rules.

Rather than creating a cyber future or a fantasy steeped in lore, Buronson tells a modern fictional story akin to Western action movies. Instead of looking for a fight or retelling history, characters interact and show signs of introspection. Ryoichi Ikegami's illustrations are a change of pace from the standard manga. Characters and surroundings are drawn with a strong sense of realism and volume. The heavy tone of the story is achieved through ink washes that give even more life to the art work and body to the characters.

Strain is not for all audiences. The heavy nudity and sexual scenes are often offset but the almost casual murders. Readers of young ages should not get this and those who like their manga a little more fantastic might not care for it. Both the art and story are well done and provide a nice change of pace from the average tome of manga.

- - Kinderfeld

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