B-Boy Bomb is a Taiwanese hip-hop martial arts manga, written and drawn by Sad.F, a Taipei-based hip-hop afficiondo. I have only read the first issue, written in 1999, but the first volume has already made me fall in love with the series.

The series is subtitled "our street, our life", and you might think that you are in store for some gritty, Taiwanese style hip-hop street realism. However, the story, while full of references to Hip-Hop culture, seems more based on the Chinese tradition of the Chivalry novel, as well as some silly romantic conventions of "virtuous young men and ideally marriagable women". For example. In other words, take some Water Margin, with a little Hong Lou Meng, and add some break dancing, and you get this comic.

For example, our protagonist, "Red Head", is an 18 year old Daxue freshman who enjoys listening to rap music. He also happens to be an incredible martial artist who defeats a group of thugs in hand to hand combat, only to find out that their boss is his tongxue, who has left their Sifus good path. He must confront his ex-friend about his criminal ways. This is a pretty standard chivalry plot.

And for all that, I can't stop loving it. The opening scene of the manga, which involves the hero dancing with the heroine to the sweet romantic sounds of Mobb Deep's Hell on Earth, made me rethink horrorcore hiphop, romance and Chinese culture. When our hero makes a 3 AM run to 7-11 to get a cupcake for the heroine, I can't help but feel the cuteness. When that same girls ex-boyfriend, a tempermental yet basically good DJ sees our hero seemingly flirting with another girl, and warns our hero not to break his ex' heart, I can't help but feel the goodness. And when our hero returns home from his super kung-fu combat to try and win at DDR in order to impress the girls, it makes sense despite its ridiculousness.

Being that this is a manga, I should say something about the art style. It is about in the middle range of manga art, being neither extremely detailed or extremely minimalistic. As befits the gritty hip-hop realism of the story, the streets of Taiwan are portrayed in places in all their run down, stray dog infested glory. In other places, the art is very idealized, especially in its portrayal of the marvelous physiques of the lead hero and heroine. And in a few places, the art becomes super deformed for comic effect.

In these first 196 pages, Sad.F winds together about ten plots, capturing meaningful points about the cultures of hip-hop, youth, China, Taiwan, the internet and many other trends and movements that seem confusingly juxtaposed, yet, in both reality and in this sappy yet moving novel, seem to all make sense.

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