The second volume of Hoshin Engi continues everything that got started in the first volume: a fast-moving and wildly colorful story based, however loosely, on a Ming-era Chinese classic novel. There’s been any number of manga adaptations of classic Chinese literature, and from what I’ve seen they typically just take the bare bones of the original material and drape a far more outlandish story around it.
Hoshin Engi is no exception, and while I confess I haven’t read the original story, I’m not sure the vast majority of people encountering the manga in English for the first time will have, either. But does it matter? Not really, since the point of Engi is to give us one wild bit of adventure after another, and in that sense it succeeds completely. Like the Dragonball sagas (also adapted, in however loose and open-ended a fashion, from Chinese mythology and fantasy), it gives us a hero and a spate of villains with powers far beyond the human norm, and watches them collide.
Volume 2 opens with Taikobo, the hero, escaping death at the hands of Dakki, arch-villainness of the series thanks to the machinations of one of Dakki’s underlings, Buseio. Buseio’s aghast at the way Dakki has become perverse and corrupt, and sends Taikobo packing to find a way to stop Dakki. Riding his faithful flying hippo (!), Supu, Taikobo almost immediately gets into his first real round of trouble—he blunders across the powerful Nataku, a creature harboring a grudge against his own parents (well, they’re not really his own parents … it’s complicated). Dealing with Nataku is hard enough, but Taikobo also has to deal with Yozen, a shapeshifter who impersonates Dakki and gives Taikobo a few challenges to prove himself with. And then there’s a certain “party” that Dakki throws at the end of the volume—a “lake of liquor and a forest of meat”—which turns out to be both a vile trap and a power-grab in one.
I’ll confess I didn’t enjoy Hoshin Engi quite as much as our original reviewer did, but I’m ascribing most of that to personal taste rather than any serious defects on the part of the book itself. If the idea intrigues you and the first book perked your interest, the second book should satisfy nicely, too.