Flame of Recca Volume One is a manga by Nobuyuki Anzai, and it was published in North America by Viz Media in 2003. The series is rated “T+” for older teens; after reading this volume, I would agree with this rating. Content-wise, there are a few panels that feature frontal female nudity. There are also occasional panty shots in this volume.
The main character in Flame of Recca is a teenage boy named Recca Hanabishi, and he is essentially a “ninja otaku;” he is interested in all things having to do with ninjas, and he even claims that he himself is an actual ninja. At the beginning of the series, Recca meets a teenage girl named Yanagi Sakoshita after saving her from a boy who was harassing her. It turns out Yanagi has an ability to heal any wound or injury due to her kindness and compassion. Recca is so impressed with Yanagi that he decides to become her personal ninja.
Recca takes Yanagi to a remote location, and he shows her a secret ability that he has: an ability to control flames. The two are interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious woman named Kagehoshi, who claims that Recca is the one who is able to kill her; she also wants him to serve her. He refuses, and a short skirmish ensues. Kagehoshi gets away, but warns that she will be back.
Meanwhile at school, Recca has to deal with his long-time rival, a tomboyish girl named Fuko Kirisawa. She has never beaten Recca in a fight, and is very determined to accomplish that feat. Fuko has a run-in with Kagehoshi, and the two storylines come together to finish off this volume of Flame of Recca.
Before reading this manga, I had already seen the first episode of the Flame of Recca anime series, so I knew what to expect in some of the early chapters of this volume; however, there are a few minor differences between what happened in the manga and how the events were portrayed in the anime. Also, there is some introductory material at the beginning of the first episode of the anime that is not presented in the first volume of the manga. Unfortunately, by not having some of the introductory information at the beginning of the manga, I found myself having a hard time caring about the mystery that is presented in the manga. Not only that, I also discovered that I didn’t really care too much about what happened to these characters for most of this volume, because there really wasn’t enough character development early on to make me want to care.
Another gripe I have has to do with how similar the hair design looks for Kagehoshi and Fuko. Perhaps there may be a reason for this similarity to exist, but from what information is provided in this volume, it feels like the mangaka was being lazy when designing these two characters.
When I reached the end of the volume, I discovered that there was a note from the English editor for the Flame of Recca manga, where the editor is already trying to convince jaded manga readers to not dismiss this series as simply “just another exercise in karate chops and panty shots.” The decision to include this in the first volume might have been made in an attempt to try to ward off criticism; however, when I saw that, it just struck me as kind of odd. If this had been a later volume in the series, I could better understand this kind of note being included.
In my opinion, Flame of Recca will primarily appeal to manga readers who enjoy seeing kick-butt action that has panty shots mixed in, and aren’t terribly concerned with plot.