Punch Up!

Oni. (Punch Up! Bk. 1). Aug. 2023. 146p. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9781637152171.
Gr 4-8–It’s time to punch it up. When the Wide Plains Fighting Tournament comes to town, Pitch sneaks into the competition, determined to obtain a mentor. The young fighter idolizes Sonny Chan, not realizing that this down-on-his-luck champ might not be worthy of such adulation. Initially, the pair scrapes out a win using Sonny’s by-the-seat-of-your-pants strategy, but their opponents have such unusual techniques that Pitch’s monk-training kicks in. Each bombastic battle is full of Power Rangers–type villains, in all their cheesy costumed glory, and uplifting moments that demonstrate the young man’s chief traits of optimism, impulsiveness, and guts. In between matches, there are brief reminders of values and lessons that have yet to truly stick. Most attempts at sincere development get overshadowed by the exuberant tone and exaggerated designs which come from this blend of the western comics and shounen manga styles. While the characters show some growth, this story will appeal mostly to those who get swept up by headstrong, campy fun.
VERDICT This light, bloodless, shounen-inspired fighting series debut delivers a power fantasy for younger comic fans.

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