***Major Tokyo Revenger’s Manga Spoilers Below***
If someone had asked me a couple of years ago what I thought was one of the best Shonen series of the past decade, Tokyo Revengers would have easily taken the cake.
Story-wise, it was a tightly written Delinquent manga with a simple premise: Takemichi, the protagonist, discovers that he can travel back in time to when he was a teenager. He then decides to use this power to save his friends and loved ones from terrible fates tied to the Tokyo Manji Gang that was formed at this time, rising through the ranks of the gang to destroy it from the inside. In turn, he is able to correct the mistakes he originally made in his own life, creating a better future for himself.
It was a novel concept that set the series apart from the many other Shonen battle series available. Not only that, but its pacing was well executed, with each arc feeling distinct from the one before it and like it was designed to work toward a larger narrative goal. There were clear and defined rules for how its MacGuffin of time travel worked, and there were consequences when Takemichi didn’t adhere to them.
All of this served to make the series something special. After the conclusion of an arc wherein the long-running protagonist was defeated, it felt like Tokyo Revengers was set to cruise its way into the pantheon of the greatest manga series of all time.
That was then though. Today, the series has taken a proverbial nosedive.
Following the aforementioned showdown with the villain of the series, the manga entered its “final arc.” As this arc played out, most everything that made the rest of the series phenomenal was either rehashed or entirely thrown out the window for tropes and gimmicks. Gone was the clear and methodical design, replaced by sudden reveals, MacGuffins galore, and a bombardment of new characters who never felt relevant to what had been built up by that point.
Serving as the cherry on top is the series’ last few chapters. Though the final chapter has yet to release, the second to last chapter retcons everything that happened in the series by having Takemichi time travel back to when he was a child alongside his friend Mikey. They then fix or undo everything that occurred throughout the entire series, and manage to give every single character a happy ending.
It feels more than a little insulting and sours the experience the rest of the series provided. Not only that, but it leaves fans who followed the series throughout the years to deal with the fact that everything they’d cared about led to an ending that makes little to no use of everything else that came before it.
What’s most insulting though, and what makes the ending of Tokyo Revengers so god-awful, boils down to one simple fact: It didn’t earn the ending it has tried to pull off via its final arc.
While the series definitely built itself up toward Takemichi saving all the people he cared about, it didn’t put nearly enough time toward an ending wherein everything is tied up neatly. Throughout the series, several difficult topics from abuse and the consequences of one’s actions to the darker impulses of human beings were tackled earnestly. They offered sympathetic views of their villains at times but still were honest in their reflection on what could be forgiven about their actions and what could not.
Not only that, but the series offered an oddly self-aware view of Delinquent culture and the potential risks that are associated with being a part of it. In its view, both the members of the gangs and people close to members of gangs can and will get hurt due to the constant violence surrounding them. The only way to avoid it is to get out of this culture as quickly as possible and to look for a more peaceful existence even if that goes against one’s worse instincts.
The series seemed to understand this before the final arc. It even originally had a core message of Takemichi not being able to fix everything and everyone even with the ability to travel through time, and that the only way for the majority of his friends in the Tokyo Manji Gang to live a happy life was to let go of the gang and those who were too embroiled in its culture. It was what gave the series its narrative weight, and what made it so much more impactful than its contemporaries.
The fact that the final arc runs completely counter to all of this, and moves Tokyo Revengers toward an ending that is completely different than what everything else in the manga built toward, is beyond frustrating. What’s even more frustrating, though, is that it very well could have taken the time to build toward this new direction and end through more fleshed-out arcs and more well-paced, thoughtful writing.
The series was in no way at risk of being canceled. It remains one of the highest-selling manga series of all time and has only been gaining popularity outside of Japan with the airing of its anime adaptation. The author Ken Wakui also hasn’t made it known that he’s struggling with any health issues, or that he’s struggling to keep up the publication of the series in some way.
As such, it could have easily remained in publication long enough to properly build to this kind of ending. Instead, it rushed toward a conclusion that doesn’t do the rest of the series justice and that the rest of the series didn’t earn. It’s a crying shame, and will likely go down as one of the most frustratingly sad ends to a phenomenal manga of all time.
Regardless of what happens in the series’ final chapter, Tokyo Revengers has failed to realize its full potential. It had everything it needed to be a legend of its medium and would have earned that status handily even a year ago. Now though, it’ll only ever be an example of how the ending is paramount, and how an unearned ending can make the rest of a story not worth experiencing.