Raw Hero, stylized as RaW HERO, is a 2019 Superhero(?) Spy Sit Com manga by mangaka Akira Hiramoto. Serialized in the twice monthly “Evening” magazine by Kondansha since September 2018, it presently has two volumes, one of which has been published in English by Yen Plus.
“cause raw’s what you lack” – RaW Hero is a pretty interesting title. Much like the title implies, the comic does revolve around heroes – some super, even. However, the real sticking point here is the use of “Raw”. It’s a heavily context reliant (and thus a seemingly contradictory) term. On one hand, raw can refer to purity (with a heavy implication of strength) while on the other it can refer to exposure and vulnerability (e.g. a raw wound). The duality of that term isn’t lost on Akira Hiramoto as we see our protagonist exhibit both aspects of the term in their pursuit of heroism.
At some point, certain humans began developing superpowers. As is expected, two major groups arose out of this development – benign individuals devoted to justice, “Heroes”, and those devoted to destruction and villainy or the aptly named “monsters”. Against the backdrop of all of this, enter one Chiaki. He’s a young man trying get a job so he can take care of his two young brothers. He’s a regular guy with regular guy problems. On his way to an interview, he stops what he presumes to be a groper on the train, sacrificing his chance to make it to the interview. By some bizarre stroke of luck, one door closes on Chiaki, only for his good deed to open another one. Congrats, Chiaki, you got a job – right in the middle of the super conflict. As our protagonist infiltrates agencies and gets uncomfortably close to supers one can’t help but wonder if this actually was some bizarre stroke of luck – or was this just some cruel cosmic joke?
Chiaki – Our protagonist. Young man looking for a job to support him and his family. Determined to be their “hero” and goes to some weird lengths to do so.
Chinatsu – The youngest of Chiaki’s two brothers. Optimistic and trusting, he’s the most supportive of his brother’s plight.
Chiharu – Chiaki’s middle schooler younger brother. Though no more aware of their brother’s situation than Chinatsu, he’s much more cynical and presses Chiaki more as a result.
Hyouichirou Tadano – An investigator on the Justice Management Team of the Police Division. A chance meeting with our protagonist proves to be the start of a new opportunity for the young man. He’s kind of a lech, honestly, but he seems to have some major connections.
SALF – An organization Chiaki takes a chance and interviews at. Naturally, the boy has no idea what they do – or even what he’s doing and the poor boy has to wing it.
Heart Mask (title mine) – Not officially named, but a mysterious masked heroine that makes multiple appearances during the run of the volume. I call her Heart Mask because from certain angles her mask looks somewhat like a stylized heart. But then again, that just may be me
Akira Hiramoto hit a home run with their previous work, Prison School, last decade. It was a guilty pleasure of mine (and of many others, I assume). So when RaW HERO appeared on the shelves I was eager to scoop it up. I liked Prison School well enough, but I was having a little bit of trouble with how to describe it. Raw Hero, however, helped me put my finger on what to describe both as and gave me a better idea of what Akira Hiramoto has been doing so well. You see, Prison School is touted as a “sex comedy” and Raw Hero is described as a “youth cartoon spy sit com”. That’s a bit of a mouthful. I think a more fitting term for them is “Aesthetically Horny Sit Com”.
JEEZ, what makes you say that? Well, they’re “Aesthetically Horny” because neither are explicitly about sex or use the act itself in their comedy – though Raw Hero pushes the envelope much farther with it cutting short of actually depicting sex between the local horntoads. What they DO do, is peddle in the horny with their characters designs, situation progressions, camera angles and choice outfits. You aren’t going to to look at the cover the same after chapter 4, FYI.
And the “Sit Com” part? The blurb for Raw Hero had me expecting a more conventional superhero story. What I was seeing was, albeit disjointed, somewhat in line with that -until chapter 3. You get early hints of this with the arrival of Tadano, but it isn’t until half way through the volume that it sets in that the book is fucking with you (and the main character). It was at this point that I saw it. Akira excels at taking mundane situations and tweaking them with non-sequiturs in order to make your main characters jump through hoops to escape the low key Rube Goldberg machines they now find themselves in. Our protag can’t just go to a regular interview at a regular company and answer regular questions like a regular person. OH NO NO NO…it must be a special agency (that threatens to kill him, no less) while dressed up like someone’s OC so he can make a complete fool of himself. The beauty of this is that you can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the events, but the grounded situations and character motivations allow an undercurrent of wholeheartedness that you come to appreciate.
And all of that runs on the multi-tiered juxtapositon that the characters provide. The best examples of this are Chiaki and Tadano. We get our humor from watching this straight-laced, virtue minded young man “gussy up” as someone’s laughable OC to interview for a job and then fumble around with the specifics of said job (which itself IS and isn’t what it was portrayed as). However, you can’t help but root for the boy. He obviously cares about his brothers and his determination to get a high rise condo to put a smile on Chinatsu’ face is rather heartfelt. Tadano is a lech. But he’s also super serious. He molests his “assistant” in public and, when called on it, tries to pass it off as a hidden test of some kind for our protagonist. He essentially plays straight man to his own comedic eccentricity. Thing is, he’s everything he says he is. He cavorts with actual heroes, does point Chiaki towards an actual job ( which he attempts to prep him for) and it turns out that everything was on the up and up with his “assistant” as she likely wanted him to feel her up. He’s a competent agent who’s also pervy. The real clincher, though, is when he recognizes that Chiaki might be in trouble. After a brief moment of weakness, he remorsefully relents and hopes for the protag’s success. A perv, he may be, but he does care some for the protag and that’s reassuring.
Now if any of this sounds remotely interesting to you, go for it. Be warned that when I say “Aesthetically Horny Sitcom”, I most certainly DO mean “Horny”, you’re gonna get some nudity and whatnot. Some may count that as a con. Personally, I consider the lack of background on Heroes, Monsters and how this whole messes started (AKA worldbuilding) to be the biggest con. But I presume that we’ll start rectifying that in the next volume.