Eleven (or XI, or one higher than ten [X]) champions face off against one another in a competition. They each wield a special sword. I am purposefully drawing comparisons to the currently running X of Swords, because how can I not?
To be fair, the comparisons are mostly surface-level, and Last Round Arthurs Vol. 1 is greatly elevated by being able to really lean into being a battle manga, while still delivering a unique experience.
Luna Artur is one of the eleven champions who have a claim to King Arthur’s throne. They each have an Excalibur and a sidekick who they summon to help them fight. They have to defeat the others in order to become the new king. She’s also the school council president, which she considers to be training for her (prospective) future role as king. She uses her Jack (basically a squire/sidekick) to help her make money because she sold her Excalibur. Rintarou Magami is naturally gifted at pretty much everything and wants to be a part of the action, so he offers to help Luna. They’re both awful in their own ways. It extremely rules.
The cast is definitely the strongest point in the story for me so far, but I also really like the balance between the school stuff and the battle manga stuff. It feels fresh to me, even if I also recognize that it’s probably already been done. Really, it’s already reminiscent of the Chunin exams in Naruto.
There are other weaknesses too. For one, this is very much a volume one, so it feels like a lot of setup, and really, the plot didn’t engage me much, aside from the core concept being extremely fun. It also feels like it’s going toward well-treaded tropes, but I reserve my right to be wrong when future volumes release. Either way, the characters are the strength of this series.
That being said, I’m also not a fan of Rintarou being the main protagonist. I find Luna more interesting, and while they see Ed pretty equal in these chapters, I am wary of the future of the series focusing too much on him and neglecting her. As long as they’re fairly well balanced, I think the series will be pretty strong, but if he becomes the focal point, I can see myself dropping off.
As for the art, it largely feels familiar to me, which I’m genuinely comforted by, since I’ve mostly been reading American comics for so long, and I’ve neglected my manga roots. I am really fond of the character designs, and I think they have unique enough appearances that it’s easy to differentiate between characters, even with the black and white art. The art in this volume feels really approachable to American audiences especially, at least if I’m to be trusted!
Even with those complaints, I really enjoyed Last Round Arthurs, and I’m anticipating the next volume. The characters are the kind of scumbags that are fun to root for and I can see growing into characters that I genuinely love, and the core concept is one that is easy to follow while still allowing for surprises and drama.