Volume 2 of Daigo Umehara Manga “Daigo The Beast” Released
In fighting games, Daigo Umehara is a living god. There are few esports moments more memorable than the immortal Evo Moment #37 when Daigo perfectly parried every hit of Justin Wong’s 15 hit Chun-Li super combo then punished with a super combo of his own to win Evo 2004. Since then, Umehara has continued his fighting game career and become an icon in Street Fighter IV and V, and transitioned to other industries such as consulting and book writing. A manga based on Daigo’s life, titled Umehara FIGHTING GAMERS! was serialized in Japanese comic magazine Young Ace Up and published in volumes by Kadokawa Shoten. Fans of Daigo and fighting games now have the opportunity to read the second volume in English, titled Daigo The Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers!
Birth of a Beast
Daigo The Beast’s approach to Daigo’s life comes from the perspective of a composite character named Nuki who becomes Daigo’s rival in games like Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Vampire Savior (Darkstalkers 3 here in the west). Throughout the first volume, we see how Nuki approaches fighting games as a fun past-time to becoming seriously invested in his own growth as a player after encountering a debilitating loss to Daigo. We see other characters throughout the manga interact with Nuki and flow in and out of his life as he pursues Daigo’s shadow. It’s an effective means of telling a story not just about Daigo, but the environment and time Daigo was living in.
The manga achieves a good balance between telling us about Daigo and informing us of what it must have been like growing up in 90s Japan. We get to see a young generation that’s disillusioned and economically disenfranchised after the burst of Japan’s housing market bubble and how the arcade became a symbol for youth rebellion. Despite being a fairly non-confrontational activity, getting really involved in fighting games must have been seen as troubling to conservative Japanese parents.
The manga’s art is surprisingly high-quality for a project that’s adapting a person’s life. Character’s faces are detailed and expressive, backgrounds have rich textures that exude a gritty and musty atmosphere for these characters to play in, and in-game character movement is presented in a way that can be followed easily by those who are unfamiliar with fighting games. A detail that’s especially appreciated is the representation of high-energy moments in a match where players have to keep an uneasy calm over feelings of anxiety and pressure. The manga shows these moments well with the flourish that you’d expect from an artist like Makoto Yukimura of Planetes and Vinland Saga fame.
Outside of the Daigo branding, it’s a good title for lovers of manga that want to branch into a different type of story they haven’t read before. For fighting game fans, it may be challenging to get into if they have a particular bias against Daigo or see things like his books as vanity projects that overstate his ability and prestige.