Ubel Blatt is not a story for the faint of heart. This is not a story of happiness and dreams, or even of of love and loss. This is a story of vengeance and the all consuming greed that leads to the downfall of man. Ubel Blatt is a dark fantasy filled with violence, sex and bereavement. This is a seinen story – that is, one aimed towards adults. There is very little self-censorship in the story and an enormous amount of violence. I cannot stress how much violence there is – seriously, if you couldn’t read Berserk, you will not be able to read this. But violence is not all there is, and so we find a wonderful and powerful story in Ubel Blatt.
The epic, written and illustrated by Etorouji Shiono and first published in Young Gangan magazine, is published in America by Yen Press.
Decades before the start of the series, the Empire of Szaalenden was engaged in war with the demonic nation of Wischtech. To stop this evil, the emperor sends 14 heros, armed with holy lances. Along the way, three heroes fall before they enter Wischtech. Four of the 11 left betray the others and are killed by the remaining seven. Those seven succeed, and become known as the Seven Heroes, while the four who were killed are branded as the Lances of Betrayal. The Seven Heroes return from their mission, and the empire prospers.
However, history is written by the survivors.
The story of the Seven is not as true as it appears. A young fairy-human hybrid named Koinzell appears in the frontier land between the once evil nation and the Empire. Koinzell begins a bloody campaign to kill the Seven Heroes and right the wrongs committed by those Seven. Who is Koinzell and what is the character’s motivation? That is for the reader to find out.
Koinzell’s quest is epic in scope as he is essentially making an enemy of the whole empire. Taking influence from great tragedies and epics, the characters of Ubel Blatt are well rounded and fleshed out. A reader of the series is able to tell how the characters think and what drives them. Each of the Seven Heroes are for all purposes evil, but the reader can see what drove them to that point. Their actions, while reprehensible, are grounded in something relatable to the experience of being human. Be it, jealously, fear, greed or even something as simple as a desire for something – the smallest of emotions can end up becoming the grandest of tragedies and lead to the downfall of the one who emotes.
Despite some moments of levity this is, in the end, a story of vengeance. Koinzell gains compatriots along his quest, makes connections with his past and meets his enemies in battle. The action in Ubel Blatt is awesome in its scope and detail. Koinzell is a master swordsman, and all of the battles he engages in become more and more inspiring. Conflicts in Ubel Blatt range from duels to full-scale battles between opposing armies. All of these are made more memorable as the characters involved in the battles are fleshed out. Even minor characters have intricate backstories rooted in the ever-expanding world.
There are also many mysteries in Ubel Blatt, and the reader is the one to unravel them as they read. Each plot twist is well crafted and fits with the narrative and tone of the story. Although the story at times may be heart-wrenching, it will leave you desperate for more. It is that intense a story. Koinzell is an avenger. He will not stop, he will not concede and he will not forgive. His story is something worth the heartache and discomfort. It is a story that feels organic, feels real – even though there is magic and monsters. Go read it.