Peter, Chiaki, and Faye discuss the many manga on the Shonen Jump app that haven’t yet received anime adaptations!
Date Recorded: April 12th, 2020
Hosts: Peter, Chiaki, Faye
0:09:47 Agravity Boys
0:15:03 Chainsaw Man
0:20:14 Guardian of the Witch
0:24:20 Jujutsu Kaisen
0:30:19 Mashle: Magic & Muscles
0:34:23 Mission: Yozakura Family
0:39:12 Miitama Security: Spirit Busters
0:44:08 Spy X Family
0:50:16 Undead Unluck
0:53:32 Samurai 8
0:59:11 Tokyo Shinobi Squad
PETER: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Peter Fobian. I’m a producer at Crunchyroll and the longtime editor and first-time host of the podcast here. Today I’m joined by Chiaki and Faye, if you two would like to introduce yourselves.
CHIAKI: Hi, I’m Chiaki Hirai. I am a freelance writer and editor for Anime Feminist. You can find me on Twitter @AnimatedEmpress or @Chiaki747. One’s public, one’s private, and neither have anything sensible to say.
FAYE: All right, I am Faye Hopper. I am also a freelance writer, primarily over at Anime News Network. I do work primarily on reviews on the fall and spring manga guide. Currently on social media hiatus for mental health reasons. Otherwise, you can find me at my Patreon.
PETER: And today we’re gonna be talking about Weekly Shonen Jump manga, but maybe not the titles you’re most familiar with. We’re going to be focusing specifically on new series that haven’t yet gotten anime adaptations.
Weekly Shonen Jump is a pretty popular manga magazine, in fact the most popular, and since it has its app, it’s basically the most available manga source in the entire world. Since it’s a first touchpoint of exposure to many people in the world for anime and has a roughly 50/50 gender split in its readership, representation in Shonen Jump matters a lot. So we want to highlight what some of these series are doing well or maybe just forewarn people against some series before they inevitably get anime adaptations.
As a rule, we’re discussing around the first ten chapters of each one since we’re hoping to get through a lot of titles. But we’re probably going to be talking about stuff much further down the line.
So, let’s just get this thing started. We’re going to be going roughly alphabetical and see if we can squeeze in a couple extras at the end, which seemed to have recently concluded, which makes our first title for today Act-Age.
It’s created by writer Tatsuya Matsuki and illustrator Shiro Usazaki. It’s about Kei Yonagi, who’s [an] aspiring actress who has the ability to completely immerse herself into a role. CEO of talent agency Stars Arisa Hoshi doesn’t want to hire her because she’s convinced that the girl’s talent will basically destroy her. But hotshot Sumiji Kuroyama believes he can polish her into a world-famous actress.
Unfortunately, this one has a giant 40-chapter gap, so only the first six chapters are available to read in English until the Shonen Jump app closes the gap. But since it’s one of two manga in Shonen Jump that feature a female protagonist, was hoping to talk about what’s currently available with this one. So, any thoughts?
CHIAKI: So, just to start off on this one, I like it, but the problem is definitely the first six chapters and then the 40-chapter skip. The fact that it even skips to the middle of an arc is a huge detriment to me getting into the story just when it was getting good.
PETER: Yeah, honestly, this is one that we wanted to… We wanted to record this podcast a year ago, but we decided to wait until the Act-Age chapter gap had closed. And it sort of became apparent that that wasn’t happening, which is why we decided to move forward.
FAYE: Yeah, in terms of my reaction to it, I basically had the same reaction Chiaki is, like “Oh, this is just getting good,” because most of the first three chapters are basically just premise setup.
So they’re mostly just the actress and the director becoming acquainted with each other, the director pursuing the actress because he believes she’s an incredible talent, and then we only really start getting into actual auditions and how the rest of the acting world reacts to her around that point. And then there’s a cutoff, and then just dead air and you’re suddenly in the middle of an arc where, if you skip forward, they’re literally just doing a performance, with some character you’ve never heard of, of “Night on the Galactic Railroad.” And it’s just like, okay, cool. All right. [Chuckles]
It sucks, too, because I like a lot about it. I really like that the main character is working class and specifically not in a great place financially but is just struggling to feed and protect and just take care of her younger brother and sister after their parents, I believe, are dead or gone. And I also really love the premise in terms of battle manga, because it’s unique and it’s a world I’m personally invested in and care a lot about.
The other problem with that being, of course, okay, will it have things to say about the way this world operates? Will it have things to say about the way actors are treated predominantly and how meat grinder-y this industry can be? As far as I saw, it was mostly a fairly traditional extolling the virtues of grit and integrity and talent.
PETER: Oh, so “Is it an Idolmaster or a Perfect Blue?” kind of thing.
FAYE: Yeah. Well, obviously it wouldn’t be like Perfect Blue, but just a little commentary on how bad things can be in that specific industry. It’s something I would be very curious to see if later arcs touch on.
CHIAKI: It’s definitely more focused on the potential self-harm you can commit with genius, with Kei being potentially able to destroy herself through her work. Just to bring in a separate title, this series, I feel, kind of lines up with Skip Beat, a shoujo manga with the same sort of “actress who can totally assume a role” schtick and who’s also trying to fight her way up. But I feel Act-Age is a little bit more balanced. It’s got that hotshot director a little bit more than just Kei’s own abilities.
FAYE: Well, that, and Kei, specifically from what we’ve seen of her, is a very withdrawn interior protagonist. She’s not terribly expressive for an actress. In fact, the contrast is supposed to be she has this incredible ability for emotional expression, but it’s basically only in an acting capacity. It’s not in her daily life. She’s a traditional savant in a lot of ways.
And one of the things I really like about the series is that she might have this natural talent, but if it’s not honed properly, is not harnessed properly, it is kind of useless, because there are several instances… I believe there’s a commercial she takes where… Oh, yeah, no, that was it. Where, again, the way she acts is she sort of imagines a scenario she’s lived or imagines the scenario based on factors in her life.
And so, when she’s an extra in a samurai scene, she imagines that one of her siblings is being attacked, and she literally jumps out and punches the samurai dude who’s about to murder some people in the face or whatever. And she’s not supposed to do that because the scene doesn’t call for that, and an actor’s role is to do what the script says and what the director says, fundamentally. I thought that’s a really interesting layer to add to that, the traditional battle manga training aspect.
PETER: For me, it kind of dodged one of my big problems with series that usually have some sort of male coach or producer role, where usually they’re introduced by groping the girl’s muscles or something like that, via Umamusume. I’m kind of wondering what your take on the relationship between Sumiji and Kei is, since it seems like… I wouldn’t say he’s exploiting or manipulating her, but he definitely kind of has a plan for her that she doesn’t quite understand.
FAYE: I think the reality is the specific trope the director embodies is that of the eccentric director. And specifically, there’s some conflict between him and his talent agency because the talent agency doesn’t really regard her as a safe bet, as someone who can really meaningfully act in the way they need her to act.
And it’s a complicated question because, on the one hand, I think about it less in terms of gendered expectations and more that I do in terms of work roles in that instance because, again, the eccentric director who just scoops people off the street is a very classic one, and I’m more worried about how he treats her as a worker—how he treats her as a mutual participant in the creative arts—than I am about how he treats her as a woman—if there is any sort of skeevy sexual assault aspect to it, as there often is in this kind of story—because thus far it hasn’t seemed to have factored in, at least in their relationship. Again, it’s really one of those things where I would just need to see more to have a firm conclusion.
CHIAKI: I did read a little bit ahead, and he does have a genuine sense of concern for her and her well-being. So, I wouldn’t say he’s a bad person. Definitely feels like that coach who’s willing to push their charge much harder than what would normally be considered normal.
PETER: Well, hopefully they give us some more chapters of this one. Since it’s not about fighting and has a female lead, I’m particularly interested in this title, so I guess we’ll just keep waiting for this one.
The next one, I don’t know if this is gonna be very short or very long.
PETER: It’s Agravity Boys, authored by Atsushi Nakamura. It’s in the year 2118. Four boys are sent to survey new possible homes for humanity. They arrive on a foreign planet and learn that Earth was destroyed, two days after they left, by a black hole. Saga, Chris, Geralt, and Baba are basically the last remaining humans on Earth and need to figure out how to restore human civilization by themselves. And it’s a gag manga, I guess.
CHIAKI: There’s also Higher Being. Can’t forget about the Higher Being.
PETER: Oh yeah, lots of interactions with higher intelligences, alien lifeforms. If you want to take that one away… I’m not quite sure what else I can say about this.
CHIAKI: You know, starting off the entire series with a potion that will change somebody’s sex and overwrite reality itself to be like “Oh, you were always born a woman” and play it as a gag manga is a little insulting to trans people, just so we’re clear on that.
FAYE: Just a smidgen, you know.
FAYE: The jokes about how “Oh, you’re the one who should turn into a girl because your penis is small” and “You’re the one who should turn into a girl because you’re androgynous” is also really, as a trans woman myself, not fun to read, especially when you’re not expecting it. So, yeah, no.
CHIAKI: And the fact that they keep up this joke that Chris is the default girl on cast later on in the series. It’s become a running gag, and it kind of frustrates me, like “Oh, it was a one-shot gag. Now we’re moving on. Maybe this will be a little bit better.” No, it comes back.
FAYE: No, it does. And specifically, there’s an arc where they go to a hot springs and, you know, gotta dress down. And everybody’s worried like “OMG, we’re gonna be attracted to Chris because Chris’s features are feminine.” And it’s just like “Fucking Christ. I can’t.”
It is exceptionally hard to read, and frankly, the entire series is nothing but, I think, what it’s trying to be. I think it’s trying to be an It’s Sunny in Philadelphia–style comedy about awful people doing awful things. I think that is what it is trying to be. The problem is it can never quite decide if it really wants to condemn these people and their idiocy and their oafishness or if it wants to frame it as endearing, as likable, as “Oh, these dorks and their misadventures.”
And that’s especially sticky when you’re dealing with issues as fraught as the ones we’re talking about, in terms of the gender switch bit or the hot springs bit; or any time any feminine presence enters the equation, there’s always this salivating quality, like “OMG, are they going to do something awful to this potential lady?” And of course, the lady never shows up! [Pretends to chuckle goofily] It’s just completely unbearable, completely unbearable.
CHIAKI: I feel like the entire joke is that boys are horny.
FAYE: That’s literally it.
CHIAKI: And that’s it. That’s the joke!
FAYE: [Chuckles] Boys are horny and they’re stupid, and that’s it. And also, each chapter is named after a pop song for some inexplicable reason. I don’t understand why. It has the Cowboy Bebop thing where there’s a chapter named “I’m Gonna Be (500au)” and “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight,” because I’m sure this chapter has to do with Ben Gibbard singing about his breakup angst or whatever.
Again, so much of it just doesn’t feel coherent, or particularly coherent in intention. I don’t know what the series is trying to do fundamentally. I really don’t, especially because it oscillates so wildly between conventional shounen “the power of friendship” stuff and just a bunch of awful people being awful to each other and awful to the world around them.
PETER: Yeah. One of the things that It’s Always Sunny does is it has them surrounded by normal people, so you can see a contrast between decent human beings and the main cast. But they’re literally the only humans left, so it’s hard to make value judgments on the characters. Are these people shitty? Oh, it’s hard to tell since no one’s telling them they’re shitty or living happier lives for not being shitty people. There’s no contrast there.
I was surprised… The opening one, I was like “That’s not a good joke to start out with,” but then when that was like four chapters deep and that was the joke from every chapter, I was like “Man, this series… I don’t know if it’s got too much to offer.”
Any final thoughts to wrap this one up?
CHIAKI: Well, knowing my terrible taste, I’m still reading it.
PETER: [Chuckles] That does not surprise me.
FAYE: Most of the manga updated today, and I literally had to struggle through this most recent chapter. It’s not a good time, and I really cannot wait to never glance at it again, personally.
PETER: Yeah, I’ve dropped it.
CHIAKI: I’ll admit that the latest chapters— It’s getting interesting, but also worse at the same time.
FAYE: No, it is. At least they’ve introduced a new cast and they’re in a different location finally. But at the same time, it’s like “Oh, my God!” It’s like maybe we didn’t actually want a female presence in this story actually. Maybe we didn’t. But anywho.
PETER: Saving them from these guys.
FAYE: Yeah. [Chuckles]
PETER: Okay. Well, next is my personal favorite, Chainsaw Man. It’s by Fukimoto [sic] Tatsuki, who was awarded the best new Jump creator in 2013. It’s about a boy named Denji who’s living a subhuman existence trying to pay off his deceased father’s debt until he is killed and revived by his only friend in the world and demon dog Pochita, which turns him into the chainsaw demon.
From there, he basically moves from one form of indentured servitude to another, becoming a Demon Hunter under the employ of a mysterious Makima, and is basically just trying to enjoy basic human pleasures like eating toast with jam on it or maybe getting a girlfriend in exchange for killing demons.
CHIAKI: Chainsaw Man said women’s rights.
PETER: He did. It’s true.
FAYE: He did. And specifically, I would really like to talk about the female cast of Chainsaw Man, specifically because they are interesting and, in my opinion, a lot of fun in a way that Shonen Jump female side characters are almost never allowed to be fun.
For one, you have a character who is the kind of character I haven’t seen very much in any type of manga, much a manga less aimed at boys, which is Power, who is yet another… In the world, there are Devils who have possessed bodies of people. So, they’re not people anymore. They are just bodies. They’re just devils taking on the form of a body in order to exist, and sometimes the organization that Denji works for contracts them or to work with them.
And Power is extremely egotistical, extremely brash, extremely gross, and just very unpleasant but in an extremely fun and endearing way that women almost never get to be, much less in a Jump manga. One of the more recent chapters had her refusing to eat vegetables and her getting into an argument with Denji over refusing to eat vegetables, because she thought they taste awful. And it ended in a food fight, and it was just like… [Chuckles] “I love this! I love this a lot.”
PETER: Yeah, Power’s kind of like… I hate to make the comparison, but the Mineta of Chainsaw Man, the designated piece-of-shit character, but isn’t a piece of shit in that awful way where you wish they didn’t exist.
FAYE: And is also a girl. [Chuckles] You know? That’s huge for me. That’s huge for me.
PETER: Mm-hm. Love Power.
CHIAKI: I’m gonna admit that the amount of gore and the style overall kind of clashes with what I can typically stomach, so this was a little bit harder to get through. I did definitely start out going like “Oh, this is interesting,” but I just could not stick with it.
PETER: I mean, that’s fair. It is very gory. A lot of pretty violent imagery. Actually, that’s one of the things about Chainsaw Man. I was surprised it was in Shonen Jump since it really reads like a seinen manga. It’s got more mature characters, very bloody. A lot of people say it’s very grim, but I think there’s kind of a real sense of optimism in the series despite that. But still, it’s very off tone for what you would expect to get in Shonen Jump.
FAYE: See, I agree with that. Well, I agree, Chiaki: the violence is at a level where… I like it a lot for a lot of reasons, but I am extremely hesitant to recommend it to almost anybody beyond if I know their specific tastes enough and if I know they’ll gravitate to this. And specifically, I do think… The thing is, for me, I am not entirely clear on what this manga is saying. I am not entirely clear on the specific worldview of this manga.
Chainsaw Man is typically structured, where basically it introduces a status quo and then the status quo is violently interrupted in a flurry of character death, just constant character death, where a bunch of characters you’ve been introduced to and come to care about just die horribly, horrifically. And then it resumes that status quo, and then in the current arc, we’re currently in another major death, everybody’s dying, everything sucks, the world is awful.
And I don’t know. I go back and forth, because I think Chainsaw Man is a very empathetic manga. I think it has a lot of respect for its characters, and I think it has a lot of interiority for its characters. I think the mangaka is an incredibly talented storyteller who does things in terms of how he frames conversation and specific action I never see in Jump manga. It feels a little more considered in terms of storytelling than most Jump manga do.
But the problem is I can’t tell if this is pure nihilism or if this is the fundamental integrity of humanity in the face of nihilism. It’s extremely hard to tell, and it oscillates by the chapter for me in terms of what I think it’s saying. And frankly, I need to see where it ends in order for me to have a full take on it, because a lot of parts that I really love, a lot of parts of it make me extremely uncomfortable, and I’m just kind of sitting with my weird half-feelings for it most of the time.
PETER: That’s a good take. It’s a super unusual manga. I am very curious about where it goes, though. Okay, I guess we should move on. I want to talk about Chainsaw Man more, but there are a lot of manga in Jump, it turns out.
Next one’s, I think, the newest that we’re talking about here. It’s Guardian of the Witch, authored by Asahi Sakano, who’s a former assistant of Yuki Tabata. It’s about… I think her name’s supposed to be… It’s Manafsa or Manasufa, and Fafner.
Manasfa—I hate having to say her name—she’s the witch protector of the city of Berne, which is under attack by demonic Evils—which I guess they’re just demons. She is a witch, who get their power by being injected with Evils, I think is how it works. But that power comes with an expiration date as they’re slowly corrupted by the Evils and turn into a demon themselves.
This is usually solved by their guardian knight, who in this case is Fafner, killing them once it becomes apparent that they’re going to lose control of themselves to the Evil within them. But Fafner decides that sucks, and instead, they all run off together to try to find a way to cure her of her evilness with her assistant Nahta. This one’s only about ten chapters in, so it’s still pretty early in the story, maybe too early to tell. But if you have any early impressions, I’m curious.
CHIAKI: I’m just glad that Manasfa is not like a Pokemon at this moment—she has great potential, but she’s not just there to fight—and that there’s some symbiosis going on with Fafner in their fights. I like that. At the same time, though, Fafner, I feel, is taking on more of the spotlight. The comic is settling into talking about how he is training and how he is trying to become a better guardian for his witch.
FAYE: To be fair, I think they do give her a certain amount of interiority. Obviously, Fafner is the main focus, but I do think they give her specifically a certain amount of interiority. I think chapter 10, the fight between her, him, and another ex-guardian who’s sort of retreated after his witch died, there’s a really interesting conversation between them where they basically outline their anxieties.
Fafner’s like “Hey, I couldn’t protect anybody. I feel like I’m a failure. And if I had left you behind, I would have felt like a failure, too.” And it’s like “Hey, I’ve lived my life as a complete shut-in, and I also feel completely incompetent, like I’m completely incapable of doing anything, especially like now that I’m out of this castle and all my magic aptitude, all the things that controlled and inhibited my magic are gone.”
And I thought, “Okay, she is given a certain amount of interiority,” and again, the fight at the end of that chapter is won not by her playing support and Fafner just sort of rushing in. It’s won by them collaborating on a strategy to beat the guy. And I do think that speaks to at least some thoughtfulness regarding her characterization.
PETER: Yeah, that was my initial hope. But it’s still in that too-early-to-tell sort of category. I can say that kinda puts it head and shoulders above Samurai 8, where Ann’s role as a Princess is literally just to pray for Hachimaru’s success.
FAYE: Well, also, I consider this manga extremely interesting in regards to Samurai 8. Where in Samurai 8, the Princess–Samurai status quo is a very good status quo that needs to be upheld, here, the witches, who are given Evil magic, which rots their being—they have to be killed at a certain point—that’s evil. That’s toxic, in spite of what it’s meant to fight. That’s evil and it needs to be destroyed. The whole goal is “I want to create a world where witches are never made again.”
And it’s very fascinating that in Samurai 8 you have the status quo that is awful but is good and needs to be upheld, and here, it’s like no, this is bad and needs to be stopped.
PETER: Yeah, that’s a good point. Well, I am hopeful about the series. I really liked it just aesthetically starting off, and I felt like it’s got a lot going for it. But it just sort of depends on if it really plays to its strengths further on.
Ooh, the next actually recently had an anime announcement: Jujutsu Kaisen.
CHIAKI: Oh, cool.
PETER: It’s by Gege Akutami, and it’s a sequel to his one-shot Tokyo Metropolitan Magical Technical School.
FAYE: I didn’t know this. Okay, cool.
PETER: Yeah, so he did a one-shot, which sort of established a presence, and then he made Jujutsu Kaisen.
It’s about a boy named Yuji Itadori. He’s a member of his high school’s Occult Research Club. During a ghost hunt, he ends up consuming one of the 20 fingers of the ancient demon Sukuna and is captured by demon hunters, who basically said, “You are basically possessed by a demon now, so we can either execute you or you can eat the dude’s other 19 fingers”—I guess he’s got four arms—“which will mean he’s fully subsumed in your flesh, and then we’ll kill you, and that means we also kill Sukuna.” He decides on the latter choice because that means he gets to live longer.
And interestingly, the series said that he is trying to choose the conditions of his own death, which I think was a really interesting way of placing it. And now it’s sort of fallen into this traditional shounen battle manga pattern where he’s joining other demon hunters to hunt down demons and search down… I think they’re at 18 fingers when we’re at ten chapters here.
FAYE: So, as someone who’s completely caught up on this series, let me just say that this series has tone problems. And I don’t just mean tone problems. I mean extreme, terrible brutality that’s shocking one second and then lighthearted comedy the next, without anything to really sell that or indicate that.
It also feels like a series that is completely lost in terms of focus. It is introducing characters constantly. It is introducing art styles constantly. There’s a flashback that happens about partway through to explain some new context and give backstory to a major villain that is not telegraphed at all, at all, in my opinion. And so you’re just reading it like “Is this a flashback? Who are these people? Is this guy younger now?”
I think it has major storytelling issues in spite of a couple interesting ideas. I think it has major storytelling issues and problems managing tone. There’s an arc with a kid who’s sort of despondent and being radicalized by one of the curses, the main villain curse. And it is brutal and involves multiple people in a school dying and his mom dying horribly for no good reason. And it’s just unpleasant a lot of the time in a way that feels extremely jarring. And I’m not sure I’m entirely on board with it.
PETER: Yeah, the Junpei arc. Yeah, I was just gonna say, at its darkest, it is like Chainsaw Man in terms of brutality and stuff like that, but then it really pivots back to jokey Shonen Jump high school combat manga a lot. I agree on that.
FAYE: Yeah. And again, there’s a bit where Itadori, the main character, is killed off, except not actually, and then they spend like 30 chapters just not telling people that “oh, wait, he’s actually alive” for some—this is where the Junpei arc happens, actually—for some training exercise. And then he comes back and there’s like a couple chapters’ kerfuffle about it, and then it’s fine and everything’s back to normal. And it’s just like, “Why? Why did you need to make that story choice?” I don’t understand, apart from needless shock.
PETER: I assume the reason was to separate him from the supporting cast. They introduce Megumi, and I don’t remember what the other guy’s name is, the one who can make shadow dogs or whatever. And they’re like “Uh, actually, those two need to go to school while we have a solo arc with Itadori.”
Any thoughts on your side, Chiaki?
CHIAKI: Again, I was reading the first dozen or so chapters. I was kind of into it, but feels like it’s a lot for me, too.
PETER: Okay. Same thing.
PETER: That’s fair. Yeah, I really liked Megumi when she was introduced, and I think there’s still a short chapter gap that needs to be overcome before I can really read into it, so I’m hoping she gets some good screen time later on. [Editor’s Note: Peter misspoke; he’s referring to Nobara, not Megumi.]
CHIAKI: That is caught up, I think. I was going over it this morning actually, and all the chapters seem to be there.
PETER: Since the anime announcement, I’ve noticed they’ve been rapidly closing that gap, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re finally there.
FAYE: If it was, last time I checked, when I caught up, it was like six chapters, and it was in the middle of a tournament arc, basically, and I was just like “Oh, okay, I know what happens.” I just skipped ahead, and “Oh, I know what happens. These two people became friends, cool, got it, moving on.” [Chuckles]
PETER: I did that, too. I was not a fan of that Todo character, the guy who just asked what girls everybody’s into.
FAYE: Oh, yeah, it’s like “I like girls who are tall and have big butts!” and it’s like “Shut the fuck up.”
PETER: [crosstalk] Ah, buddy.
CHIAKI: That’s where I stopped reading.
CHIAKI: That’s where I stopped reading. I was just like [chuckles nervously] “I don’t like this guy.”
FAYE: Yeah, no, exactly. Yeah, also, it has the… You know, I like Hunter × Hunter a lot. I think Hunter × Hunter does it better. It has the problem of an extremely complex power set, but unlike Hunter × Hunter, which makes sure to outline the rules of the power set constantly, I don’t know anything regarding the power set or anything.
PETER: It’s so aesthetic but absolutely incomprehensible. Their demon atmospheric mode, where they take you into their personal astral plane or whatever…
FAYE: It gets so much worse in the later chapters. It gets so much worse. [Chuckles]
PETER: Just the initial explanation I noticed, it’s like “You can’t dodge any attacks here.” I’m like “Okay, well, that presents a lot of problems.” It’s basically like whoever’s got more personality wins, I guess, which, you know, shounen manga, so…
FAYE: Also, another big problem… I think my favorite aspect of it was Itadori’s relationship with Sukuna, this sort of Greed-from-FMA-style demon who resides in his body. That was completely ditched in the back half. They stopped talking about it at all.
PETER: [crosstalk] Ah, what?
PETER: I remember, I was reading, I was going, “This is so ‘90s Bastard meets modern-day shounen fight series.” I really liked the throwback of him and his partial possession. That sucks.
CHIAKI: Yeah, gimme that Ushio to Tora, man.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. Love piece-of-shit demons.
All right, well, I guess we can move on to the one everyone’s probably been waiting to discuss because of all of its themes, Mashle: Magic and Muscles.
FAYE: [through chuckling] Oh my God!
PETER: It’s by Hajime Kotomo [sic]. It follows… Mash Vandead is the main character’s name.
PETER: He’s, I guess, the only guy in the world who doesn’t have magic, so he works out a lot and has superhuman physical abilities. Through narrative contrivance, he’s forced to attend magic school, and there’s a lot of magical classism and prejudice, which he solves by hitting stuff really hard mostly. It’s kind of a gag manga which is like Black Clover meets One Punch Man. How do you feel about it?
FAYE: Well, regarding the One Punch Man thing, in terms of its commentary on the falseness and terrible stiflingness of meritocracy and in terms of just how it’s drawn, it is biting that hard. It is biting that really, really hard in a way that… I really don’t know how to feel about this manga.
I will admit I laughed at a lot of the jokes, but at the same time… Also, it is super obviously Harry Potter pastiche in a way that I don’t think is parodical. I don’t think this is meant as mocking. I think it is literally just they have wands and are at a magic school because Harry Potter did that.
PETER: I mean they play Quidditch, so…
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] Yeah!
PETER: The person’s obviously got a lot of ideas for physical gags around superhuman strength, like how he throws the broom and then just jumps on it. But I don’t know. A lot of its gags—I get what you’re saying—I find myself laughing at them, and then I’m just sort of disappointed in myself.
PETER: It’s kind of like eating a Rice Krispie Treat where you’re like “That was good,” but then like three seconds later, you’re not sure if you’ve eaten anything at all. You could just continue eating them forever and never feel full.
PETER: Yeah. [Chuckles]
CHIAKI: The facial expression is very much the Gag Manga Biyori. I’m not sure if it’s ever been translated into English, but it’s this short series of comics of just gags, just slapstick humor. And it’s nice to have on a weekly basis just to read and enjoy, but nothing to tell your friends, like “You gotta read this.”
PETER: Yeah. It’s definitely not the worst gag manga in Shonen Jump.
FAYE: [Laughs] I think we just talked about it, so, yeah. But otherwise, it’s pleasant enough. The most recent chapter had a very manipulative lady in it. I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s fine. It’s fine. There really isn’t much to say about it, I think, apart from… Well, I think the reason why it’s in any way funny is just sheer absurdity.
He should not be able to counter magic, and yet he literally just buries a dude in the ground and is like “Done.” And it’s just like “How? This doesn’t make any sense.” And just sheer absurdity’s sake that a society that is so profoundly based on magic that it literally cannot handle someone doing something practically. I think that’s an interesting idea. I’m just not sure it’s executed all that well.
CHIAKI: Would you say it’s practical, though, because the dude just uses…?
FAYE: I think it’s trying to be practical, because he has all these lines about how [Assumes a gruff masculine voice] “You could just do that with your hands!” [Returns to normal voice] I think that’s the intention. And then he’ll jump off a cliff to save his friends and I don’t know how he does it. It is like “All right, whatever. You know, it works.”
PETER: Maybe you could, Mash.
PETER: All right, yeah, that one’s… I mean, it’s a gag manga, so not too much to analyze there. We’ll see if it’s still around after a while. I’m not quite sure how it’s doing readership-wise.
Next one is Mission: Yozakura Family. It’s by Hitsuji Gondaira, I think is how you pronounce the name. It’s about Taiyo Asano. I think his family dies in a tragic car accident, and his only remaining friends, since he has trouble forming connections with people because he’s afraid he’s gonna lose them, is Mitsuki [sic] Yozakura.
Unfortunately her older brother is psychotic, and through narrative contrivance, he is forced to marry her so that her older brother, through a pact made with family members, cannot harm anyone who is a member of the Yozakura family, will not literally kill Taiyo for being friends with Mitsuki. Except then he finds out that the Yozakuras are a family of spies, and he must also become a spy to be a member of the family and undergoes hellish training, becoming a spy.
And it’s not quite a shounen battle manga. Not quite sure how to categorize this one. It’s kind of an ensemble-cast spy comedy action series.
FAYE: With a little romance thrown in.
CHIAKI: I apologize totally. I did not actually know I had to read this one. But from what you just explained, it sounds like a lot and it sounds like I want to read it. [Chuckles]
FAYE: I was talking to… Y’all know LossThief on Twitter. We’re in a mutual Discord server, and I’ve been talking to him about a lot of these series as I’ve gone through them. And he said something that really struck me, that sort of parallel my feelings on this series, which is: the real strength of the series and the real thing that makes it is the relationship between the main character and his eventual wife. And the thing that always threatens to ruin it is the incredibly patronizing and creepy brother character, who is always just invading the lady’s space in order to air-quotes “protect” her.
PETER: Are you saying the problem with the series is the siscon? Because I believe that.
FAYE: Yes. That is literally what I’m saying. That is literally what I’m saying. And on the one level, the series at least acknowledges that it’s toxic and bad. And given how it treats other relationships in the series, especially Taiyo and… I’m sorry, I don’t remember her name…
FAYE: Mitsuki. Yeah, Taiyo and Mitsuki, thank you. …Especially Taiyo and Mitsuki, it understands healthy relationships. It understands what healthy relationships are comprised of. I remember there’s an arc later where it appears that Taiyo might be cheating on Mitsuki, and Mitsuki is mostly like “Nah, I believe in him. He wouldn’t do that to me. I trust him, I trust him.” And in the end, it’s like, nah, he was just getting a present for the actually creepy brother character because he wanted the brother character to like him.
And that kind of stuff speaks to me. At least the author understands that this brother character is terrible and creepy. And yet it won’t stop making constant jokes about it. It’s a very have-its-cake-and-eat-it-too kind of thing.
PETER: Mm-hm. I really agree on that take. I really like the main relationship in the series. And I also think Mitsuki’s pretty interesting because she’s the only member of the family that doesn’t have some sort of weird superpower, which, through how their family works, has made her the head of the family.
And despite being unpowered and the love interest of the main character, I think she has a lot of agency in the series and actually… Well, I mean, I was about to describe what agency is. But yeah, she’s got a lot of agency and force of personality, which would normally… I think a character in her situation would very rapidly get sidelined in any other manga with the same sort of setup.
FAYE: Especially since the premise is entirely about protecting her from outside forces. It’s literally about “She needs to survive or else the household dies.” And I don’t know. I don’t know. I think it’s fun enough. It stands interestingly in contrast to another manga I’m assuming we’re talking about later on.
PETER: Oh yeah.
FAYE: But yeah, I like it. It’s cute. It’s fun. There are things I have reservations about in it. Honestly, in contrast to Jujutsu Kaisen as well, it handles its tone shifts a lot better. It’s more of a dramedy than a straight-up comedy. And it’s not anything groundbreaking in terms of “Oh, Taiyo’s parents’ deaths might not have been entirely accidental,” but it still mines them for compelling emotional territory. The first chapter has a lot of interiority and a lot of surprising pathos for a manga this silly.
PETER: Yeah. I think what it’s missing is just a primary narrative, because it just seems to jump around to a lot of subplots and feels very directionless, despite the fact that it’s got a lot of good material to work with.
FAYE: Specifically, it can’t really decide if it’s an ensemble cast about the family or if it’s about the specific world of spies in which it takes place. It has a lot of trouble deciding, “Hey, do I want to focus on the weird members of the family or do I want to focus on worldbuilding?” It has a lot of trouble deciding which side it wants to lean on.
PETER: Yeah. Definitely suffering by comparison to the next spy one we’re going to talk about.
PETER: But first, we’re gonna have to take a stop off in another gag manga, Mitama Security: Spirit Busters by Tsurun Hatomune. It’s about Mitama, who’s a Secureity agent, which is very hard to say in English and I believe is a Japanese pun on the word “ghost.”
He’s out to save Rena, who is haunted by, like, a 100-spirit-long conga line of ghosts that follow her around day and night, and, through his efforts to exorcise all these ghosts, actually kind of reveals to her that being haunted isn’t so bad and she actually has a lot of ghost friends, which was surprisingly heartwarming to me. But yeah, it’s another gag manga, relatively directionless, and I’m curious what you two think about it.
CHIAKI: I like how the conga line of spirits slowly start being developed with their own set of characters, recurring characters, people… They’re all interesting and I like them. But also in the outset, the whole thing is “We need to bust these ghosts,” and that’s totally thrown out by like chapter 5. [Chuckles]
FAYE: I actually didn’t mind that. I actually kind of like that. I thought it was like “Oh, it’s just gonna be sort of an esper manga.” It’s very much in the esper manga tradition, for sure. And I thought it was gonna be about “Oh, it’s just gonna be a new spirit [to] exorcise that’s menacing her and him every week.”
And it turned out to not be that. It turned out to be like “No, you need to overcome your anxieties and recognize that these spirits have feelings and are worthy of consideration, and you really have no reason to be afraid of them half the time, dude.” Because, again, the whole thing is that… His name is Mitama, I believe, right?
FAYE: Mitama is deathly afraid of these spirits in spite of having extreme psychic capacity. He is deathly afraid of these spirits and will literally rush away, and the only way he can actually beat the spirits is by crying, which activates his super sense where he can just take down any spirit in his path.
And I don’t know. I don’t know. I like that shift, personally. I was like “Oh, it’s just gonna be cute ghost hijinks, where you just learn to talk to them and have fun with them and treat them like actual beings with sentience.” I don’t know. I thought it’s also extremely cute and funny, and it especially has a really good grasp of visual humor.
CHIAKI: Yes. I love the subplot for Yuko, Rena’s girl ghost that is in love with Mitama. I am always tuning in for that one.
PETER: [crosstalk] She’s just a ghost, but she’s got a bow on her ghost head. [Chuckles]
FAYE: It’s so good! It’s so good! And just how they flail around trying to make Mitama not notice that she’s actually a ghost, and it’s revealed at the end, Mitama was like “Oh, I was deathly afraid, but I went along because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.” And it’s like “Aw!”
PETER: Yeah. I think that was the turning point for me in the series, when… I can’t remember quite how that went because I haven’t read the first ten chapters in a while. But there was sort of a turning point where, through some subplot, Rena realized that it was actually kind of all right having all these ghosts around and starts to make friends with them. And the whole atmosphere of that chapter was embracing her uniqueness and realizing all these ghosts were actually like friends, which took me by left field.
I didn’t know if he was ever going to exorcise these ghosts or if it was gonna be exorcising them one by one, but then it’s like, “oh, actually, the ghosts weren’t even a problem and now she’s much happier after realizing that they’re all really cool people that she gets to hang out with.” It’s like something she has that nobody else has. And that really took me by surprise and, I feel, is the primary charm for me in the manga now.
FAYE: I agree. But this is also a manga where Mitama dunks a spirit through a basketball hoop at one point. It’s like…
PETER: Well, there’s also a salmon ghost that wants world domination.
FAYE: Oh my God! The salmon ghost who’s constantly scheming is like “Oh, yes! All of you will serve me!” and trying and is just absolutely terrible at it. Oh, God.
PETER: And is meant to be a spy villain who uses ghosts like Pokemon in yin-yang Pokeballs.
FAYE: Yeah, no, I find the series super charming and funny, personally. Okay, the one thing I’m a little not sold on is they are trying to sell a somewhat romantic pairing between Mitama and Rena, and I think there’s a pretty major age gap there, so… yeah.
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, yeah, definitely.
CHIAKI: She’s in high school!
PETER: Yeah. Hoping they never progress that at all.
CHIAKI: Yeah, I’m banking on Mitama and Yuko. It’s gotta be. Gotta be.
FAYE: [crosstalk] Me too, absolutely.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. OTP.
PETER: Okay, so let’s move on to the one I know all of us want to talk about. It’s currently, I’d say, neck and neck as my favorite Shonen Jump manga with Chainsaw Man right now. It’s by Tatsuya Endo, who previously worked as assistant on both Blue Exorcist and Fire Punch, which was the author of Chainsaw Man’s last manga.
FAYE: Oh, wow.
PETER: Yeah, it’s set in a fictional post–World War One fantasy Europe. It’s about a spy, codename Twilight, who’s given a mission to get close to a reclusive head of state for the enemy nation. But the only way he can get close to this guy is through… The guy has a son, and he only attends school events but otherwise never leaves his compound. So, to get close to this guy, he has to get a kid in the school and create this entire family persona.
He ends up adopting this orphan named Anya, who, unknown to him, is a psychic that can read people’s minds and manages to convince him to marry a woman who, unknowingly to him and her, is an assassin for the enemy country named Thorn, and later convinces him to adopt a dog who can see into the future. No one is aware of anyone else’s powers or positions except for Anya, who is very excited to be living with a spy, an assassin, and a future-seeing dog. And it’s adorable.
CHIAKI: I love this. This is unironically the best comic that I’m reading right now.
PETER: It’s amazing.
FAYE: It’s incredible, yeah.
PETER: I can’t believe how good it is. It’s in Jump and does none of the Jump stuff. It’s hard to believe it’s in Jump and that it’s so good and doesn’t do any of the bad stuff you’d expect from a shounen manga.
FAYE: Well, for one, it’s biweekly, right? I believe.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah.
FAYE: It’s biweekly and, I believe, in Jump+ specifically, as is Chainsaw Man, I think. And yeah, no, it’s just… Ah, my god, the jokes! The jokes!
PETER: So good.
CHIAKI: The faces! All the faces!
FAYE: Anya’s reaction faces are the best thing. Like, oh my god, that one scene where… I don’t know if y’all read this far, but she gets the dog and is like “All right, I’m gonna cook,” because, again, the goal is he’s trying to cozy up to someone who’s very high-ranking at the school Anya attends. And there’s a son who there’s a lot of tension with, and he’s like “All right, I’m gonna tell this son I have a dog to get him to hang out with me.” And she walks up to him and is like “Hey, I have a dog.” And he’s like “Yeah? So what?” And her face…
FAYE: It’s a full page of just utter devastation. It’s amazing! [Chuckles]
PETER: Yeah, Anya is a shitlord and she’s hanging out with these rich kids and doesn’t know what’s impressive and what’s not impressive and is always being surprised. It’s so good that it’s really funny and completely wholesome, too. It hasn’t done any bad stuff that I can think of, especially with the way Thorn is characterized. She’s a little ditzy and has a very obsessed brother, but they never leverage that for comedy in a way that detracts from her character, I don’t think.
FAYE: The weird thing about it, to me… It’s not really a reservation. It’s just something I’ve noticed. Well, specifically, it’s a mock Cold War. And specifically, it’s a mock Cold War towards the end of the fall of the Iron Curtain, where relationships are starting to be restored and borders are starting to open, and specifically the spies are there to make sure the cold war doesn’t perpetuate itself. Explicitly the goal is stated. It’s an anti-war manga in the sense that the spies’ goal is to end the war.
In terms of actual real-world politics, that’s not how that stuff usually goes, but you know what? It’s really silly fantasy, so I’m not gonna get super hung up on that aspect, specifically. But you know, espionage ain’t a cute thing. That’s really the only potential thing I have, reservation-wise.
CHIAKI: All I’ll say as far as the fake family concept there was, I really hope that they do— The Forger family is growing. The love for each other. They’re becoming a real found family, and that actually is one of the most heartwarming things, despite the fact that it’s all sort of a sham.
FAYE: It will be really interesting to see what happens when each of their identities is revealed to each other. I think it will be really—
PETER: Or if.
FAYE: Yeah, if. I think it might. I genuinely could see that being in-game territory for this series.
PETER: Yeah. Actually, I’ve wondered that a lot. And my prediction is it comes to a thing where they realize they’re on enemy sides, the mom and the dad, and then they kind of pull a… I mean, it’s so close to Mr. & Mrs. Smith, it’s impossible not to make the comparison.
PETER: …But they kind of decide to work together. I don’t know. At this point, they probably end the war through some sort of contrivance. [Chuckles]
FAYE: And it’s also so good because you would expect this premise of “They constantly have to hide their identities” would get monotonous, and it never does. Not once. It’s always finding new, cool ways to perpetuate it. It’s great!
CHIAKI: And there’s continuity. Twilight is like “Oh, I have to go to the bathroom really bad.” Yor’s like “Oh, no, was my breakfast that bad?” And then in the next chapter, she’s learning to cook because she’s like “I made breakfast so bad, I put my husband on the crapper for a full three hours!” [Laughs]
PETER: [crosstalk] It was about three hours, yeah. [Chuckles]
FAYE: Right. That is something that separates it from a lot of the other gag manga in Jump right now. Its narrative is continuous. Yeah, absolutely.
PETER: One of my favorite chapters is when she gets shot in the ass on a mission and—
PETER: —Twilight, he can sense something’s wrong, so he invites her out on a date and is completely baffled when she says yes or no to different ideas, not realizing that it involves whether it involves standing or sitting.
PETER: It’s very good. Well, we’ll get into recommendations later, but I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise where that’ll fall for us.
All right. We do need to move on, though, to a great one that I’m sure we want to talk about, Undead Unluck.
FAYE: Oh my god!
PETER: It’s by Yoshifumi Tozuka. Everyone who touches this girl named Fuuko suffers terrible, often lethal, bad luck. So she decides to commit suicide for the good of humanity but is saved by a zombie-like guy named Andy, who is cursed with supernatural regeneration and is looking for somebody who’s finally able to kill him, so he is determined to experiment on her by touching her in a bunch of very uncomfortable ways to give him the maximum amount of bad luck to find something that can finally kill him. Also, there are other people with superpowers, I guess.
CHIAKI: You screamed out in pain. Would you like to elaborate?
PETER: You ever just look at the key art of a manga and just go, “This is gonna be problematic, isn’t it?” [Chuckles]
FAYE: Yeah. So, specifically, it was even worse because I literally was like “All right! Done with Agravity Boys! Can’t wait to get to the next thing and wash the taste of that out of my mouth.” And then, literally the first two-page spread is this undead dude feeling this girl under her shirt and her looking mighty uncomfortable about that. And it’s like “Oh, God! Oh, God!”
And then there’s the whole thing where it’s like [Assumes a gruff masculine voice] “Hey. You know, I bet it would be even crazier if we banged,” [Returns to normal voice] and she very much does not want that, and it’s like “Jesus Christ, this is a terrible premise.”
PETER: Mm-hm. It’s really bad.
FAYE: Mercifully, it ditches that aspect in the later chapters, at least for now. Mercifully! So we don’t have the uncomfortable aspect of her constantly being groped, mercifully. But still, it is a terrible note to start out a manga like this on.
CHIAKI: And it speaks to the pacing overall of the manga because it took nine chapters to get to the point of what the whole story’s supposed to be about. And for ten chapters Andy doesn’t even have a decent pair of pants.
FAYE: No, he doesn’t.
CHIAKI: No, his wing-wong is just out in the air for everyone to appreciate.
PETER: I can’t remember. Do they just black-bar it?
CHIAKI: Yeah, they black-bar it.
PETER: Yeah, there’s so much black bar.
FAYE: Oh my god. And again, there’s that aspect where he’s just exposing himself in front of her constantly, and there’s this really awful monologue where it’s like “Yeah, he may have fondled me and made me super uncomfortable, but he was super nice to me, actually.” And it’s like “No. Don’t do this. Don’t do this.” [Chuckles] God.
PETER: Yep. So that’s Undead Unluck.
I think we have enough time to go over… and I really want to talk about these—well, some of these last three. At least one of them, I just want to let people get their hits in. But I was saving these for last in case we ran out of time since they each have ended. Hard to say… You don’t really announce whether a manga is cancelled or this is the natural ending point for the manga, but you can come up with your own theories for these next three. But yeah, each have semi-recently ended but still haven’t received anime adaptations, so we decided to bring these in as well.
The first won’t probably come as a surprise: is Samurai 8. It’s the latest work by the creator of Naruto, Masashi Kishimoto, who is writing while his former assistant Akira Okubo is illustrating. It ended on chapter 43.
I actually think the visual style is super cool for this manga. It’s like a high-tech space opera. It’s about this boy named Hachimaru, who’s born with a huge amount of disabilities and allergies that force him to remain hooked up to a giant life support system.
But after encountering this… I guess Samurai are kind of like planetary protection knights who are kind of like cyborgs who are basically a sentient spine that gather matter around them. The one he meets is Daruma, who looks like a cat and is blind for some reason, even though he wasn’t always that way, who turns him into a Samurai, so he’s not disabled anymore.
And then he meets Ann, who is a Princess, which is a title given to girls who partner with Samurai and pray really hard to make them more powerful. And then there’s more Kishimoto-esque super plot where the main character turns out to be the chosen one that needs to save the universe or something like that. But yeah, he’s going to go on his quest to become the greatest Samurai ever or something.
FAYE: Or would if the manga didn’t get canceled.
PETER: Yeah, and then it ended. Actually, it ended— I’m just going to spoil it right from the start.
PETER: It ended at the exact moment that I would have gone, “Okay, I’m reading this fucking manga for sure.”
FAYE: I will admit, all of the endings to the ones we’re going to talk about are hilarious in how abrupt they are.
PETER: Which gives the feeling they’re canceled. [Chuckles]
FAYE: Especially because I think the ending implies that… Oh, what’s the name of the main Princess lady? I forget.
FAYE: Ann. …Implies that… Is Hachimaru dead at the end? I don’t know.
PETER: Oh, he’s Madoka.
FAYE: Oh, he’s Madoka. So he’s like God to make the world a better place and… Okay, to be brief, I hated this series. Kishimoto learned all the wrong lessons from Naruto. That’s my hot take.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yes, he did. Oh my god, yes. That’s such a succinct way of describing Samurai 8. [Chuckles]
CHIAKI: Just to make clear—and I told Peter this—I, for the life of me, could not start this manga. It was so dense at the beginning that I was just—
FAYE: It was like 70 pages, too!
CHIAKI: 70 pages, and the first few pages especially are just like “And there’s lore and more lore.” And I don’t understand. There’s so much text. There’s so much going on. I don’t care enough. I’m going to sleep. Good night.
FAYE: I basically read up to chapter 13 and was like “I am not reading more of this. What happens at the end?” And the ending is literally nothing but that insane worldbuilding technobabble. Nothing but. [Chuckles] [Sighs]
PETER: Personally, I actually started feeling it in the middle chapters a little bit, only in the sense that I was like “I would really like an OVA of this series.”
You know the old anime OVAs where they just kind of go like “There’s a lot of plot that we can’t get into because this is 40 minutes long, so let’s just do the aesthetics and action”? If they did that, I feel like it would be a sick OVA, because the artistic style and aesthetic of the world is super cool.
Yeah, it’s like Kishimoto just said, “What if Naruto but only the post-Kaguya introduction Shippuden nonsense?” is Samurai 8.
FAYE: With terrible gender dynamics that were specifically ingrained into the worldbuilding.
PETER: Yeah, yeah.
FAYE: Oh, God. Ugh.
PETER: I remember her big moment is she prays so hard that she starts bleeding out of her nose or something. I’m like “Jesus. The fuck?”
FAYE: [crosstalk] Oh my god.
PETER: But in the end, Hachimaru becomes Madoka because he realizes if you don’t believe that your consciousness disappears when you die then it doesn’t.
FAYE: [Laughs] It’s real but it’s stupid!
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] Fair.
PETER: You really decide whether you cease to exist or not subconsciously when you die, I guess. But after that, yeah, Hachimaru is Madoka, and they defeated a big bad guy, and then Ann decides, “Fuck this. I’m not gonna be a Princess anymore. I’m gonna become a Samurai.” And then the last chapter is her starting her own quest with a lot of the side characters, and she has a big katana, and I’m like “Oh, this looks really cool now, and it’s over!”
FAYE: A lot of the last chapter definitely felt like “Oh, Kishimoto heard the criticism. Now he’s desperately trying to course-correct in the last three pages.”
PETER: Maybe. I sure hope he’s aware of… That describes to me an awareness of the problem with the manga.
FAYE: Jump mangaka generally are aware of the problem. I don’t know if you read One Piece, but you’ve seen those SBS ones where Oda gets, like, “Hey, why do all your women look like poles with tits attached?” and he’s like “Because it’s rad” and then he draws a couple poles with tits attached. “And here’s how I draw my ladies. And I’m not backing down on this because I’m an asshole.”
PETER: Yeah. Well, maybe I was hoping for something closer to— Oh my god, who’s the Sword Art guy? Reki? Kara? I think it’s Reki. Anyway, the Sword Art Online guy, where he encountered the criticism and decided to course-correct. So, if that is what Samurai did for Kishimoto… I think Kishimoto’s an amazing writer. Naruto had a lot of really good ideas in it that were executed amazingly, at least in the first 500 chapters or so.
PETER: So if he realizes, “Hey, maybe my big weakness as a writer is I don’t let women do enough,” and then his next work accommodates that, I think Samurai 8 was worth it.
Anyway, Tokyo Shinobi Squad. [Chuckles]
FAYE: Well, so much for globalization.
PETER: Yeah, oh, yeah. So it’s written by Yuki Tanaka and illustrated by Kento Matsuura. It’s set in 2049 Tokyo. After something called the Galapagos Reform, Russia, China, America and Japan are connected by hyperloop, which has resulted in Tokyo being the most crime-ridden city in the world because globalism.
PETER: And all this crime has allowed Shinobi to emerge from the shadows they’ve been hiding in since the Sengoku period to work as mercenaries. It follows a Shinobi squad made up of Jin, Papillon, and… I think he’s… Is he from the Philippines?
PETER: The kid?
CHIAKI: Yeah, the kid.
PETER: His name is En, who joins their squad because he thinks ninjas are cool or something. And they end up fighting a lot of other mercenary ninja squads, because globalism.
CHIAKI: And also, racial caricatures…
PETER: Oh yeah, that too.
FAYE: Oh. I didn’t read that far, mercifully, but yeah, I’d imagine. Well, literally it specifically says in the first chapter, it’s like “The moment immigrants from other countries started coming in, the world went to hell.” And it’s like “Oh. Oh, joy. Oh, joy.”
CHIAKI: There’s that small nod where En is from the Philippines, so “therefore not all immigrants are bad” is sort of their argument. But at the same time, it relies so heavily on racial stereotype and this fear of immigration that is a very pertinent topic today in Japan because of the labor shortages. It’s kind of inexcusable in my opinion that this was greenlit at all.
PETER: Yeah. It came at the worst time, too. It’s amazingly bad timing for it.
FAYE: And even ran almost 30 chapters or something, I think, yeah.
PETER: I get the feeling that globalism wasn’t the reason it was canceled either.
FAYE: Nope! Probably the same reason everything’s canceled: low readership.
PETER: Yeah. It’s true crime was just being boring.
CHIAKI: I do really appreciate how it ended, though, which was like two chapters of filler and then one chapter of “Hey, let’s go into the future. Everything’s great now.”
FAYE: Doesn’t it end mid-fight, too?
CHIAKI: Pretty much!
FAYE: Oh, my god. [Chuckles]
CHIAKI: [Chuckles] “And they lived happily ever after.”
FAYE: “And open borders stopped.” God.
PETER: Anyway, enough of that. So, our last title today, since we’re going in semi-alphabetical order, is Zipman. Or maybe Ripman would be more…
PETER: I’ve been holding on to that one. It recently ended on chapter 17. It was authored by Yusaku Shibata, who’s a former assistant of Eiichiro Oda himself. It follows Kaname Tatara, who’s a scary-faced high schooler who’s wanted to be a hero since he was a kid. His twin brother and world-renowned genius Koshiro Tatara recently died under mysterious circumstances that are revealed to have been he was turned into a giant mecha kigurumi. And an evil organization called Zipdown is trying to do something bad.
But the two brothers team up by one brother getting inside the other brother to battle them, kigurumi mech–style. There’s also a childhood friend and mutual love interest that they have, named Cheena, who gets put into a princess gown, so she has to be saved later on. What do you think of Zipman?
FAYE: Well, it is awash in pop culture references, for one.
PETER: Oh yeah.
FAYE: I wish it did more interesting things with that. But it’s very interesting when at the end of the series, when the brother’s soul gets sealed inside, it literally whips out the Matrix of Leadership from the ‘80s Transformer movie and opens it up and… You know, there’s a really interesting idea in specifically emulating pop culture heroes and fighting the way pop culture heroes do, a really interesting idea there, and it’s not capitalized on at all. I found this mostly pretty boring.
CHIAKI: I thought it showed a lot of promise as well, and I was kind of excited to keep reading. This was actually the one that I wanted to keep reading and then definitely fell off to the wayside.
As far as Cheena goes, yes, she is put in that dress to be damseled. And, you know, it just ends abruptly after a timeskip happens way too early in the series. Honestly, I think that was around when they were told to wrap things up. But I feel Cheena had more of an opportunity to be a character in her own right after the timeskip. Except, again, this series was basically done by chapter 10.
PETER: Yeah, she eventually gets her own— Well, by then I guess they’re mass-producing kigurumis or something. I did think there was something to it. I agree. I remember one of the first villains was the boy who really liked magical girls. There was an aspect of perverting your childhood obsessions in the series.
FAYE: Specifically, I like the thing that it was like. It was specifically Cutie Honey, was the thing it was riffing on, I think. Specifically, once he beats him, I think the main character is like literally “Hey, it’s cool. Boys can be magical girls, too. Just don’t hurt people in the process.” And I’m like, “Okay. That’s kind of neat.”
PETER: “A magical girl would never attack people like that.” And he’s like “Ah, damn. I’ve been defeated.” So, yeah, you felt like there was something there, but then I don’t even think they gave that character a name and he disappears.
FAYE: No. And then five chapters later, it’s like “All right, cancelled! Wrap it up.” And it’s like okay, cool, great.
PETER: Yeah, I thought there was cool elements there, but it never really coalesced into anything that I was very interested in.
FAYE: It had really good action. It had really good action. I will say that for it. It had really good action.
PETER: I liked the idea of him… There’s a lot of zippers on their outfits, and he beats them and takes the zipper handle thing and connects it and then is able to add different parts of different kigurumi mechs to it. I thought that was a cool aesthetic choice, but I don’t think he ever explored the— I mean, I think by the time he was introducing the concept, they were already pretty sure that the manga wasn’t going to go anywhere, so he just started taking everybody’s zippers and turning into the ultimate kigu mech.
All right. Anything else someone absolutely needs to say about Zipman?
FAYE: Not related to Zipman, but working conditions at Jump are awful and they need to change, because I don’t think we can talk about Jump without mentioning that fact.
CHIAKI: Also hire more women.
FAYE: That too.
CHIAKI: Weekly Shonen Jump’s entire editorial staff is male.
CHIAKI: Jump+ has a few women editors, apparently. But yeah, the core magazine has an all-male editorial board.
PETER: Yeah, I agree with that. I think it recently came out today, the next issue is going to be delayed.
FAYE: [crosstalk] Delayed. Due to COVID.
PETER: Okay. So at least they’re giving them a week break due to a global pandemic. That’s what it took. Or Golden Week. That’ll do it. All right.
I figured we’d wrap this one up by just in general asking for recommendations. Of the manga we have discussed, which would you actually recommend people read? Give me your top three. Or maybe you can give me one warning against a manga you specifically would never recommend reading, as well.
CHIAKI: For me, the top three would be Spy × Family, Guardian of the Witch, and, I guess, Mitama Security, as far as the ones that I’ve read. I won’t bother with Agravity Boys because, you know… Do not trust my taste in anything. [Chuckles]
PETER: Okay. I know that. But Faye?
FAYE: Okay. So, number one: Spy × Family. Read Spy × Family. Everyone needs to read Spy × Family.
FAYE: I watch anime with my mom, and I am very sad there’s not an anime adaptation of Spy × Family yet so I can watch it with my mom.
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] Can I just say, I bought the Japanese manga for my family, and I’m asking my parents to read it. Yeah. All right. [Laughs]
FAYE: Nice. Cool.
PETER: Family friendly.
FAYE: Everybody needs to read Spy × Family.
Number two: Chainsaw Man, with a lot of caveats. If you are not into gore and if you really are not sold on its worldview… I’ve heard a lot of arguments about its worldview. Some people think it’s nihilistic trash. I kind of do, too. Some people don’t. I kind of think that, as well. It’s a messy manga with a lot of really rich characterization and a lot of really cool visual ideas and a lot of staying power. I think that I just need to see how it ends in order to really have a final stance on it.
Three: I would say Mitama Security: Spirit Busters. It’s really cute, it’s really funny, the jokes are really good, and the art is really good, too.
PETER: Yeah, I definitely concur on Spy × Family. I feel like an anime is an inevitability. It’s just gotta… It’s too good. You can’t not get an anime. We would not live in a just world. Well, we don’t, but…
Then yes, I probably also agree on Chainsaw Man and Chiaki’s recommendation of Guardian of the Witch, mostly just because I’m very optimistic about where it’s going. Also with caveats on Chainsaw Man, there’s one chapter which I guess you need to go to Viz’s website to read because of a lesbian orgy.
FAYE: [crosstalk, ironic] Oh! Oh, God, the porn! The porn!
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] I love it!
PETER: It’s a crazy manga, but it’s also extremely good. So, if you can handle that, please read Chainsaw Man.
CHIAKI: I specifically went to the website just to read that chapter. None of the other chapters, just that one.
PETER: Yeah. I appreciate it. I first learned of it when somebody put an image up on Twitter and they had covered it with different emojis to block different parts of the shot, including—
CHIAKI: Was that me?
PETER: Maybe. Was it you?
PETER: Did you use a pair of scissors in a certain part?
CHIAKI: Yes! Yes! [Laughs]
PETER: That was inspired. [Laughs]
FAYE: Someone posted that image, yeah. God. Good work, good work.
PETER: I can’t believe Shonen Jump did that.
CHIAKI: [Sighs proudly]
CHIAKI: They’ve been getting horny.
PETER: Yeah, it’s part of history now. But yeah, Chainsaw Man good. All right.
CHIAKI: Before we finish things off, Peter, I just wanted to ask a real quick question. What’s the best manga on the Shonen Jump app, and why is it Black Clover?
PETER: Are you just asking me to do a…?
FAYE: I was waiting for this to happen. I was waiting for this to happen. I was waiting for it.
PETER: You know that I’m a Black Clover stan? Does my reputation precede me?
FAYE: Oh, yeah. Frankly, it’s mostly what I’ve heard about you, yes.
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, what the hell? My reputation precedes me.
PETER: I’m getting ambushed right here. This is crazy. Well, I can’t pass up an opportunity to talk about Black Clover, I guess.
FAYE: Oh my god. [Chuckles]
PETER: It’s really good. I feel like Tabata dodges a lot of the bad shit that the other authors do very well. It’s funny as hell. Really good action. Anime is great. Black Clover for President.
PETER: Oh, I can’t believe… All right. I’m gonna do the outro now. I have a reputation now. Cool.
PETER: So, thank you for listening, everybody. If you like what you heard today, we have a Patreon at www.patreon.com/animefeminist. Just $1 a month goes a long way toward helping us run both in print and in your earbuds.
Thanks for listening, AniFam, and we’ll catch you next time.