Peter, Chiaki, and Faye check in on all the new additions to the Shonen Jump app since April 2020!
Content Warning: Suicide
Date Recorded: November 22nd, 2020
Hosts: Peter, Chiaki
0:08:14 Bone Collection
0:11:59 Time Paradox Ghost Writer
0:21:56 Yuugen’s All-Ghouls Classroom
Ayashiki Ayakashi Triangle
0:27:23 Magu-chan: God of Destruction
0:30:10 Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin
0:36:34 Me & Roboco
0:39:41 Spirit Photographer Saburo Kono
0:42:11 BURN THE WITCH
0:45:02 Phantom Seer
0:49:26 High School Family
0:51:38 Our Blood Oath
0:54:16 Comment on Build King
0:54:52 Moriarty the Patriot
0:56:52 Death Note Special
0:58:17 Kaiju No. 8
1:01:29 Ghost Reaper Girl
1:06:35 Blue Flag
CHIAKI: Oh, Faye. Just so you know, Agravity Boys finally used the gender potion.
FAYE: [laughs] Chiaki, are you still reading Agravity Boys? Oh my God. Okay.
CHIAKI: I read 43 chapters of Agravity Boys!
FAYE: Oh, my God.
CHIAKI: And it sucks!
FAYE: I could have told you that from, like, twenty. [laughs]
[Intro music plays]
PETER: Hello and welcome to the Anime Feminist podcast, Chatty AF. My name is Peter Fobian. I’m a producer at Crunchyroll and editor at Anime Feminist. Second time hosting the Weekly Shonen JUMP podcast. I am joined by Chiaki and Faye. If you two would like to introduce yourselves…
FAYE: Hi. I’m Faye Hopper. I’m a freelance writer at places around the internet. You’ve probably seen me at Anime News Network writing reviews. And if you want to find me after this podcast, you will be able to find me at my Patreon.
PETER: Good. All right, and we’re returning to Weekly Shonen Jump. We previously did one of these podcasts back in… who knows, a thousand years ago. February or March, I think, so a thousand years ago, where we covered most of the manga that hadn’t got anime adaptations yet. Shonen Jump has been releasing a ton of new manga since then, so we figured we’d touch back on what new or good and not-good stuff is in Shonen Jump.
Once again, a refresher if you’re wondering why we’re doing this: Shonen Jump is probably the most popular comic property in the world—first point of contact for many anime and manga fans in the West, and at least one-third of its readership is female, so… feels like a good opportunity to offer warnings or notify people of maybe surprisingly good things that are in the magazine.
And last time we did this, I believe, Moriking had just released. It was one to three chapters in. We might have mentioned it, but we didn’t want to go over it since we have a ten-chapter rule for this podcast, which I guess is now official since we’ve had a second podcast. So, that’s what we will be talking about first.
It was released in April 2020. The mangaka is Tomohiro Hasegawa, former assistant of Naoshi Komi, the creator of Nisekoi. And Hasegawa previously authored a gag manga, Seishun Heiki Number One, or Youth Weapon Number One, which I have not read.
The premise is about high school Shoko’s younger brother Shota getting a rhinoceros beetle larva, saying he will raise it to be the king of the forest, Moriking. Then when it hatches, it turns into a beautiful young man who, it turns out, is actually trying to do that. And there are several insects out there who are all vying, I guess, to be insect king of the world. Something like that. And then they do lots of gags. How is everybody feeling about this manga now?
FAYE: I read like 11 chapters of this damn thing, and I have literally nothing to say about it. It is so massively insubstantial in almost every way. We’re going to be talking about a lot of awful gag manga this podcast, but even the worst, I got a couple chuckles out of. I’m ashamed of it, but I did. I never once had anything but a stony expression on my face as I was reading this manga.
CHIAKI: You mean, Ko Kurotsuchi wasn’t even doing it for you?
FAYE: No, I’m afraid not. I’m afraid not. No.
CHIAKI: That was my one joke that I kinda chuckled at. And then I moved on.
PETER: Actually, now that you bring that up, I had forgotten about this. Did they make a joke that the girl was afraid she was a shotacon when he was introduced?
FAYE: Yeah. It was vaguely like that, and again, the second chapter has a lot of the father thinking they’re dating and being very invasive about that—thinking Moriking and Shoko are dating. Most of that goes away later on, and also… I don’t know. [sighs]
How do I even describe this? It’s like a weird half-measure between a typical battle royale shounen thing where every one of the insects is vying for dominance to be king of the world for all insects, mixed with stakes-less, repetitive gag manga that has one joke for every character, which is, in Shoko’s case, she doesn’t like Moriking very much, and in Shota’s case, he adores Moriking and would do anything to be by him. And that’s it.
All the characters are extremely one-note like this, which is not the worst thing in a gag manga, but those aren’t even funny gimmicks! Someone dislikes him and someone likes him. Those are not funny gimmicks, and it’s like this for the rest of the cast, too.
PETER: I felt like it was maybe going somewhere when it— I don’t want the burden of character development to be on Shoko, but I thought the moments where she was learning how Moriking actually positively contributed to her household and then building positive relationships with… I don’t remember the praying mantis girl’s name… I thought was—
FAYE: I think Oda or something, I believe. Oda?
PETER: —kinda nice. It didn’t seem like it was going to go anywhere, and, again, it has to go back to the premise where he’s… I think a problem is Moriking’s just not funny—the character.
PETER: He never does anything funny. It’s supposed to be like a surrealist comedy, I guess, and he just doesn’t ever… I don’t know. Maybe the character’s too familiar.
CHIAKI: He’s just a sight gag. That’s the thing. You’re supposed to laugh at his presence, the surreality of everything that he does, except it’s just—
FAYE: [crosstalk] Yeah, with his stupid beetle top thing, right?
CHIAKI: Yeah. And later on—well, even from the get-go—how he dresses or doesn’t dress is the key to why he’s an absurd character. It gets old hat really, really fast.
FAYE: There’s another thing. He’s a good boy. He’s a very, very good boy. He doesn’t really have any moral wrinkles or anything, apart from occasionally not knowing human customs and making mistakes. He does his best to help people in that classic shounen sort of way.
And again, if the intention is for that to be a mock-up of shounen convention where you have the shounen hero trying to help the weak, but also the ways he helps the weak are utterly ridiculous and surreal, it just doesn’t scan at all—at all—I don’t think. Again, it’s this weird half-measure between absurdist comedy and shounen convention that never really leverages the benefits of either approach, in my opinion.
PETER: We’ve all come down on it, but I think so far, its greatest crime has been being boring.
PETER: You can correct me if I’m wrong. I think it’s just none of us personally liked it, but has it fucked up at all or is there anything like warnings you’d want to give people?
CHIAKI: In my show notes here, I just wrote, “Totally inoffensive. Nothing matters. This is a gag manga.” And that’s how I summed it up.
PETER: I mean, that’s pretty good for a gag manga in Shonen Jump, actually, as we’ll probably see. [laughs]
FAYE: It is. It is. Considering the stuff that we’re talking about later, right? Yeah, okay.
FAYE: I’m sorry if I sounded a little harsh talking about it. It’s fine. It’s just boring and I don’t particularly know what to say about it.
PETER: We read a lot of bad manga and we gotta vent. And Moriking looks like the first. [chuckles] If you want to vent right away, that was the first chronologically, so, apologies to Moriking.
FAYE: Yeah, it’s the warmup to the workout, where we’re just hitting the punching bag over and over again.
CHIAKI: Those of you who might not be aware, I have been yelling at Peter on Twitter and in Slack constantly over how much I hate reading some of these things.
PETER: Yeah. Well…
PETER: And I empathize with you. Apologies.
FAYE: I was not in communication with y’all up to the recording, but also, that’s similar to my experience reading some of these things.
PETER: Silently cursing me. [chuckles]
PETER: All right, cool. [chuckles] With that, we’ll move on to Bone Collection, which started up in April and was canceled, effective August. Maybe we’ll get into why. The mangaka is Jun Kirarazaka, who I can’t find any info on. This might be their debut.
It’s about a world besieged by interdimensional yokai. Kazami Jinai is a descendant of a famous exorcist family, but he’s actually really bad at it and only has one spell. A girl falls through a yokai gate near him one day, kinda like in Twin Star Exorcist, and demands that he take her on a bunch of date-like activities. They’re attacked by a yokai, and he’s mortally wounded. But then he discovers that the girl is actually a yokai and borrows her power—his one power is borrowing yokai power—creating a bone sword to defeat the yokai.
Turns out that the girl is a Gashadokuro, which is a giant skeleton-type thing, like a bone king, who goes by Paira, and the premise is basically she wants him to keep using her bones to defeat yokai so that once he’s used all of her bones, she’ll turn into a human, because she really wants to be human. And I know Chiaki has a lot to say about this one.
CHIAKI: [sighs] I mean, okay, the central premise for this story is trying to disempower Paira. The whole point of this story is “Paira doesn’t want to be powerful. Paira wants to just get married.” It’s such a frustrating premise to go from.
I was not impressed with it. It’s just horny from the get-go. And then, you get to the end because it got canned real quick, and it got really good only because I think the author did not take it well that he was canceled and just decided to go “Screw it.”
FAYE: I slightly disagree with that assessment. I think this manga sucks top to bottom, personally. So, the way the exorcism system goes is that all yokai are bad and evil, for the most part, and need to be exorcised, and if they’re not exorcised, it’s a crime. And what’s the spell he uses to channel the yokai’s power that’s illegal or something?
PETER: The name of the spell?
CHIAKI: The Yokai Spell.
FAYE: Yeah, the Yokai Spell.
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] Literally the Yokai Spell. [laughs]
PETER: Oh yeah, that is what it’s called. I was like, “How the fuck am I supposed to remember that?” [chuckles]
FAYE: And then at the end it turns around to be like, they fight the Big Bad and then they realize, “Okay, now it’s time to open up human-yokai relations and stop discrimination and make it so a bold, new society prospers from this.” And it’s like, “You didn’t do anything to earn this. You didn’t do anything to earn this at all.”
CHIAKI: Absolutely not.
PETER: He had to wrap it up. That big hook was coming from stage left. He had to figure something out.
CHIAKI: It was so rough! That’s why I love it! [chuckles]
FAYE: In abstract, I’m okay with it. I’m okay with that being the theme. But the problem is that’s not what most of this manga is. It’s, as you said, shitty comedy about fanservice and gender roles.
You were absolutely right in your estimation that this manga is about an ultra-powerful woman who wants to rescind her power and just get hitched because that’s all women want, right? Get hitched; that’s all they want. It’s frustrating, and it’s even more frustrating because it is not funny at all. No joke lands. I will also say, I have not read or seen anything which had the generic anime nosebleed gag in a while.
CHIAKI: [murmuring] Oh, man.
FAYE: And the generic anime nosebleed gag happens, like, every chapter without fail.
CHIAKI: [murmuring] That’s true.
PETER: It’s like carbon dating the author when you see that joke.
FAYE: Yeah, exactly. [chuckles]
PETER: I think we pretty much said everything that needs to be said about Bone Collection. Okay, next one I think is going to maybe be the most interesting manga that we discuss, period. It’s Time Paradox Ghostwriter, which started up in May and canceled in August of this year. The writer’s Kenji Ichima. The artist is Tsunehiro Date.
It’s about Teppei Sasaki, an aspiring mangaka who wants to get a series in Weekly Shonen Jump. He won the Rookie Award, but he is now almost 25 and is yet to get a one-shot in the manga until a lightning bolt strikes his house, melts his fridge, microwave, and toy robot together, and they begin spitting out copies of Shonen Jump from ten years in the future.
He’s blown away by the premiere chapter of a series titled White Knight by one Itsuki Aino before the volume vanishes. He isn’t sure if he dreamed the whole thing, and he thinks that White Knight was really good, so he just decides to make the manga.
It is accepted, it becomes number one in its first week, and then he encounters a 17-year-old aspiring mangaka, Itsuki Aino. He discovers that it is not original work and he hasn’t dreamed it up. It was canceled in August, and that came on the tail end of Kenji Ichima… I think he disabled his social media due to negative comments about the portrayal of plagiarism in the series, so this is a hairy one.
FAYE: So, this might be a controversial statement given that fact of the manga’s development, but I kind of love this. I kind of really, really, love this in a way I was not expecting to.
And I can get into that later, but I think it navigates a lot of the thornier aspects of its premise, like the plagiarism aspect and even the “This is a manga about saving—” If you take it in its basic plot levels, this is basically a manga about saving a woman from herself, which, again, that can play into some misogynistic stereotypes, but I think it’s navigated really, really intelligently in all those cases. I can get into why later, but I’m curious what Chiaki thinks and you think, Peter.
CHIAKI: I personally didn’t really like it as much, primarily because it was framing the story in such a way that Teppei is constantly doubling down on plagiarism, and I wasn’t particularly finding him a good character. I don’t want to root him on, especially if it’s just like, “Oh, but he’s doing it so that he can save a girl.” It’s like, “So, your whole point of trying to save someone is to plagiarize for work? That makes no sense.”
I felt like there was some potential for the story to go somewhere a little bit better. I know they totally dropped it because the story ended so quickly, but I figured in my head they had a much bigger paradox story brewing in the back somewhere. I just wish they got to it a little sooner, because the series was canned well before that really bore fruit.
PETER: Yep. Yeah, I think the premise was super fascinating. I think even though the initial plagiarism part was well-written, if the exact same thing had happened to me, I probably would’ve also copied White Knight, because dude was desperate and he literally thought he dreamed the whole thing up. So, it’s like, “Man, am I a genius and I came up with a really good manga premise in this really stupid dream?”
FAYE: I would point out, he spends about two chapters agonizing over the ethics of plagiarism and even literally tries to say, “Hey, this isn’t my work. I can’t publish this manga,” only for the editorial to literally refuse that as an option.
PETER: Yeah. Imagine there was a lot of social pressure at work there. And I think the manga would have been cool if he was caught in this situation where he had to continue plagiarizing. I just think the later framing kinda harmed that, right?
FAYE: I agree, and I will say a couple other points: one, it would be different for me if the original author didn’t know about what was happening; and [audio cuts out briefly] that there’s a potential squickiness to her giving her blessing in spite of the ethical dubiousness of what’s ultimately happening.
But also, as a result of this, she ends up giving up on White Knight and ends up creating her own amazing work alongside him towards the end, which plays into another theme of the manga I find really resonant. But, again, she’s her own person, her own agent in all of these things, making her own decisions about what’s happening.
And also, part of the big theme is that it’s not just… He’s plagiarizing White Knight in story terms, but also a big character moment for him is he has to make White Knight his own thing. He can’t just be rotely copying what the original author made. He has to make it his own thing expressed his own way, or else it won’t be resonant at all; it will just be a shallow copy.
And while I agree, again, that is potentially sketchy— I agree with you, Chiaki, in the sense that there is a certain regard in which this premise is just utterly unsalvageable. I agree. I do agree with that on a certain level. But at the same time, I felt like it was navigated in such an intelligent way that I thought the ethics of plagiarism were navigated to my satisfaction.
PETER: I feel like the setup was really good, and I was really hoping the manga would be some sort of psychological thriller. If it had been about him desperately trying to dig himself out of a hole that he had gotten himself into, I think he would’ve been more sympathetic, because he did unintentionally plagiarize in the first place. But now, all the forces of the universe are trying to get him to continue making this manga. So if it’s just him suffering and trying to figure out how he can stop being a plagiarist and get his own work in there, something like that, it would have been better.
And I also think the moment that Itsuki was introduced and didn’t— I think it was really leading up to an interesting dynamic where she might have questioned whether or not he was a plagiarist or whether she’s— I don’t know if it would have been good if she was questioning whether she was crazy the whole time. But I think it let him off the hook really fast.
And once it became about saving her, it just became like Steins;Gate all over again, where all of these forces that are violating the laws of time and space are just doing it to save one single girl, and it’s like, “Why? Why is this happening?”
FAYE: Two things. The time travel stuff is not the reason I like this manga. Not at all. I think Time Paradox Ghostwriter handles the abrupt cancellation thing better than, say, Bone Collection did, though that’s not a high-water mark.
FAYE: But at the same time, literally the writer inserts themself in the story in order to say, “Hey I’m gonna stop time so you can solve the problems.” And it’s very clear the last three chapters are an extremely rushed means of ending this as quickly as possible.
But two things. I think this manga is about two main things. One, it’s about learning how to achieve your dreams without killing yourself. And it’s about, two, finding joy in making art because someone out there will always love your art even if it’s not everyone in the world. And I think these are both fairly mature conceits, especially in the context of a Jump work culture which basically valorizes killing yourself for your art; spending no time on anything but making manga.
And I think to have something like this come out in the exact magazine which is kinda the ultimate symbol for horrible working conditions in manga and to say, “Hey, there’s a life outside of this. You are not making anyone happier by working yourself to death by making manga, even if the manga is good. You are destroying your life and not living up to your full potential.” I think there’s an interesting criticism to be had where… Again, how come the man does it? How come the man basically kills himself in order to save a person, but the woman is the one being saved from overwork? I feel like there’s an imbalance there.
But at the same time, I think this is a really interesting point to make in the context of, again, this magazine. And, again, I just really like the latter thing, too, where it’s a very nuanced statement: “You’re never going to make a manga that pleases everyone, but at the same time, if someone likes your manga, even if it’s just your family or your friends, that’s enough. It’s about what it means to have personal satisfaction from the things you make.” And I found that really sweet and really touching, personally.
CHIAKI: I wonder if anyone found it ironic that Time Paradox Ghostwriter just emphasizes constantly that Jump is only capable of publishing the most original and funny ideas ever conceived in manga.
CHIAKI: Teppei is constantly told that his stuff is too generic, too bland. And we read how many ghostbuster manga for this podcast?
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, God, yeah.
FAYE: I think that’s an interesting point; but also, again, it is kind of making a statement on what the editorial culture is like there when the first editor he tries to get through in order to get his manga published in Jump is verbally abusive to him and his work. And again, out of the basis you said, which is lack of [chuckles] orig— Sorry, Peter, I was about to diss Black Clover, and I’m not going to do that in front of you.
CHIAKI: [chuckles wickedly]
PETER: Ooh, shit.
FAYE: [chuckles] I agree with you, but also, I think it was making gestures towards this broader work culture toxicity. That was something that I found really striking.
PETER: Anything else you wanted to go with, Chiaki, or should we move on?
CHIAKI: I’m good.
PETER: Okay. I do want to leave it off with a note that it is hard to tell when they get the note as to when their manga’s going to be canceled. It’s difficult to tell how much of this was original intent and how much of it is “Oh, God, I’ve gotta wrap this up before chapter 20.”
All right. We’ve got a couple one-shots in this one. I want to leave these as brief as possible, mostly just because we have so much manga to work through. If you have any quick thoughts about if any of these are good, if there’s really something you want to explore, go ahead, but there’s just 50 pages, so…
We’re going to start off with Yugen’s All-Ghouls Classroom, which—I wonder if that’s supposed to be a pun—was in May 2020. It’s by the Food Wars duo, Tsukuda and Shun Saeki. It is about… Well, I guess it’s not really about the teacher. It’s about Falbion Girls’ Academy, told from the perspective of Mishiro Sato, a new teacher there. She’s assigned escort Dr. Yugen Tojimbo to assist in the exorcism of one of the students. Also, he’s trying to find a wife and age is only a number. Go.
CHIAKI: [speaking with ironic glee] He’s kiddie on kids! It’s funny! It’s a joke! [returns to normal voice] Okay. [sighs]
FAYE: Fun fact: authority figures abusing their power in order to hit on underage girls, that’s not funny. That’s a thing that happens in the real world, and it’s really disgusting and symptomatic of broader cultural problems. And it’s… yeah. I like the Food Wars guys’ character designs well enough, even though they’re really sameface, but, yeah, there’s just no getting over the fundamental squickiness of this premise.
PETER: I did want to say the main character is just Erina Nakiri, and the dude is her dad. Oh, God, I can’t remember what his name is, the bad guy from Food Wars.
FAYE: Feels like a pilot for an eventual serialization.
PETER: Yeah, and they ended with “Oh, and the whole class is haunted, so he’s got to exorcise 30 students. I’m like, “Okay, are they going to serialize this?” Hope not.
PETER: All right, we good?
PETER: All right. Now for Chiaki’s favorite manga, Ayashiki Triangle. [Mispronunciation; actual title is “Ayakashi Triangle” —Ed.] Started in June 2020. It’s by Kentaro Yabuki, the author of Black Cat and To Love Ru. [chuckles] This one is not available on the Shonen Jump app, which we’ll probably discuss why a little bit.
And it’s about Matsuri and Suzu, who bonded as children over their ability to see ayashiki but grew apart when Matsuri became an exorcist and discovered Suzu is a spirit medium who gives off energy that ayashiki really want to eat. So, he is trying to protect her.
Eventually, she’s attacked by a powerful ayashiki named Shirogane. Matsuri attempts to save her by binding the spirit, but the spirit is pretty sure that once he’s defeated they’re going to have a romantic scene and doesn’t like that, so he genderswaps Matsuri, turning him into a girl, and it’s a genderswap comedy.
CHIAKI: Heh heh heh. Boobs. Am I right? [laughs]
FAYE: [cracks up]
CHIAKI: This is unfortunately my pit of shame, which is anything that has to do with genderbending magical transformation is just automatically on my A-list. But I still cannot stand this series overall because it’s just constant fanservice. Constantly, constantly, constantly. The thing is that it’s a gender-bender story, and in somewhere like Jump, I don’t expect it to be taken particularly with any kind of finesse. So, it’s par for the course, and I’m not impressed nor am I really happy.
PETER: [laughs] Not impressed, not happy.
FAYE: So, I’mma make a confession: I have not read or seen To Love Ru. Shocker, I know. But I was expecting horny, ‘cause Black Cat, To Love Ru guy. That’s obvious. But I was not expecting lame; thuddingly lame in every regard.
The fanservice is the typical “Girl just exists and there’s an upskirt shot or a shot of her cleavage.” Very standard, not all that interesting, and kind of invasive. The character dynamics are the most boring stuff in the world. Not much happens.
Also, there are two kinds of manga we read. There’s gag manga and there’s exorcist/esper manga—and yokai stuff, too. This happens to be the latter. And I will say, I do not know if I could ever read an exorcist manga again after all we read for this podcast. So, that’s all I’ll say.
PETER: Yeah. I don’t know what’s going on at Jump. They are leaning so hard into yokai. Demon Slayer blows up at the end of 2019, and 2020 is just all yokai-defeating manga. I think they’re just trying to have lightning strike again. It’s your fault, Tanjiro.
FAYE: And I just want to say as a trans person, once again, I never know how to feel about these kinds of stories, because this is literally the stuff I want with all my heart and then it’s freely given to people and they don’t want it. And I never know how to feel about it. So, yeah. Anywho…
CHIAKI: Yeah. Also, when I read these stories and everyone’s like, “I’m stuck as a girl! Oh, no!” and I’m like, “Have you ever heard of HRT?”
FAYE: Yeah. Exactly, yeah.
PETER: [chuckles] All right. So, I guess that’s my indication to move on to the next one. Out of all the gag manga, this one was actually my favorite, and I’m going to lead with that one. It’s Magu-chan: God of Destruction. Started in June. It’s by Kei Kamiki, who I have no info on. This might be their debut.
It’s about Ruru Miyanagi, who’s digging for clams on a beach when she uncovers a holy gem that was acting as a vessel for the god of destruction, Magu Menueku, who’s been sealed for 600 years. She breaks it. He is released. She names him Magu-chan. They live together and it’s very cute. And he wants to destroy the world. It’s like Invader Zim and Dragon Maid.
FAYE: Yeah, it’s like if Invader Zim had an actual heart and not just overriding cynicism. This manga’s great. It’s what a lot of manga in Jump aren’t, which is just pleasant. It’s just really pleasant and sweet. And the jokes are cut of a similar cloth, but the jokes also happen to be a thing a lot of the manga we’ve been talking about aren’t: really, really funny a lot of the time.
And I will say I was not sold on it initially. It took maybe ten chapters in for it to really click for me. But once I did, I was like, “Oh, this is awesome. I really like it.” And I might have teared up at the chapter about the dog.
CHIAKI: It’s very heartwarming and I really like it. I’ve grown to like all the characters. Everyone’s just goofy, and it’s fun to tune in each week. Also, I’m reading Magu-chan’s voice in a Wakamoto voice.
CHIAKI: So, if they do make an anime of this, I really hope they get that kind of voice for Magu. They have to.
PETER: I could only hear it in Invader Zim. [chuckles] That was just what was in my head every time.
FAYE: Oh, my God, yeah. Him saying lines about “foolish supplicants” in the Richard Horvitz voice. God. Yeah, okay.
PETER: That was all that was in my brain the whole time. I feel like it’s Invader Zim, except it’s maybe about Invader Zim learning about… I don’t know…
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] Human emotion?
PETER: That love is important and you don’t need to destroy the world if you got a family. [chuckles] Something like that.
FAYE: And all the supporting cast is great, too. Even the character [audio briefly cuts out]—which, again, is kind of a dicey prospect for me… What’s the name of the guy character who has a crush on Ruru?
CHIAKI: John Face?
FAYE: Yeah, that kind of character has a tendency for me a little… hm? But also, his crush is so go-nowhere and kind of sad that it feels a little more authentic and a little more like it could be played without being creepy than it often does.
PETER: Yeah, it’s more about him getting owned.
FAYE: Yeah, basically.
PETER: Cool. Yeah, I guess no complaints about that one, and it seems like all of us felt pretty good about it, actually. Cool. All right, the next one… [sighs] I’ll summarize this as best I can. Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin. Started in June 2020. It’s by Ryuhei Tamura, who was the author of Beelzebub, so what comes next should maybe not surprise you.
It’s about Boyle Samejima, who’s a renegade cop in Tokyo, which doesn’t like renegade cops, so they send him off to the remote island of Ogasawara, which… population is about 1800. There he has a new partner, who is an actual real-life dolphin named Orpheus, who, along with the local police precinct, protects a girl named Chako, who was some sort of medium for this really weird cult who is obsessed with humanity returning to the sea and who might have god powers via Suzumiya Haruhi.
Also, fish around the island keep spontaneously evolving into humans and can participate in shounen battles, I guess. And there’s a conspiracy. It’s really, really weird.
FAYE: I’m gonna go halfsies. I thought some of it was really funny and other parts were just skin-crawlingly awful. Oh, I will say, the first chapter starts off with a lot of Dirty Harry stuff, and specifically there’s a scene where a bunch of people are recording cops on their cell phones and it’s framed as a bad thing. And this chapter came out in June. I don’t need to explain why that’s, at least from an American perspective, a little [inhales sharply] freaky.
Japanese police are a different system than American police, but also, it’s not fun to see a bunch of police shoot off their guns and talk about “You know, an officer sometimes needs to pull their gun in the line of duty.” It’s like, “All right…” I’m not fond of this. I’m not fond of this right now, in this moment or in any moment, really.
CHIAKI: And just speaking as somebody more familiar with the Japanese police, the Japanese police are far more insidious in terms of police brutality in that everyone trusts them, if you’re part of the hegemonic Japanese majority.
They are still cops, in Japan. They are still harassing minorities. They have a conviction rate of 99% in Japan, mainly because they can force confessions out of people if there’s no culprit at hand to actually pin the blame on. Japan has its own problems, too; they’re just better at hiding it.
FAYE: Yeah, exactly. I will say most of that is mercifully ditched by the end of the first chapter. But it’s still there. It’s still there, so, yeah.
PETER: Yeah, I must admit that in the first chapter, I was about ready to just go like, “Screw this,” when it introduces the first female character and she raises her arm to wave and the chest of her shirt just busts open.
CHIAKI: [with dread] Yeah…
FAYE: It’s brought back in a really creepy joke in a chapter where a bunch of teenagers want to touch her breasts later on. These are the parts that I mentioned… mm? “Skin-crawlingly awful,” yeah, I think that’s fair. I think that’s fair. But also, the generic shounen stuff doesn’t work for me at all. I don’t care about the cult. I don’t care about the politics of the various underwater races who occasionally pop up to the surface. I don’t care about any of that.
However, I will say the manga is really good at absurdism. The most recent chapter I read—not the most recent chapter but the most recent chapter that I read—is the one where… What’s the name of the girl again? Little girl?
PETER: [crosstalk] Chako.
FAYE: Chako or something, I think? She lies about breaking a mug—
PETER: Oh, yeah. Oh, God.
FAYE: And since her power is literally to make things happen as your wishes, she literally lies about saying, “Oh, yeah, it was a giant monster saying ‘Wassup!’” And then it literally spawns a giant monster who just says “Wassup!” who breaks all the mugs.
PETER: “Crushing you with this table is gonna feel awesome!” [laughs]
FAYE: [laughs] It’s really funny. In moments like that, it’s genuinely funny. And I like most of the character dynamics, too, frankly. They’re a little pat at points, but I like Orpheus’s relationship with his surrogate daughter. And again, I like that it’s an overprotective parent in a way that’s not really all that creepy, which is a hard thing to do. But yeah, no, decidedly mixed is how I’m skewing on this, for sure.
PETER: Yeah. If it didn’t have a lot of that bad accessory stuff, it is almost like the Two and a Half Men version of Spy × Family with the dynamic around Samejima and Orpheus taking care of Chako.
FAYE: A little bit, yeah.
CHIAKI: That’s funny because I classified it in my notes “Two and a Half Men but it’s more like A Man and a Dolphin and a Toddler.”
PETER: Yeah. If you want to get super literal, yeah, sure. Oh, you did make it to the part with the girl going to the sea, right? With the dolphins?
FAYE: Yes, I did.
PETER: I thought that was super interesting and kind of showed me a lot of why people liked Beelzebub, which I thought just looked so bizarre I couldn’t imagine how it was also taken seriously as a shounen manga. But I kind of see how the author can balance these serious plotlines with these really absurdist elements after reading that chapter.
FAYE: I thought that chapter was evocative and one of the bits I was more interested in of the main, serious plotline stuff, for sure.
PETER: I do think it leaves off of the creepy stuff with the female characters, too, almost intentionally. Remember the scene where… I can’t remember what her name was. She’s the magical girl, and she wants to take the guy back to the ocean with her. And she’s teaching him how to swim. She’s like, “First, you take off all your clothes.” And of course, you think it’s going to be her flashing everybody, but then she just turns into a weird-looking fish with a girl face. So, it almost sets you up for that kind of stuff and then defies your expectations later on.
FAYE: Just by being absurd. Yeah.
PETER: So, overall, I’m pretty interested in this one, actually. Almost like I don’t want to be, but I think it pivots well, and a lot of its more problematic elements have not been so prominent the last few chapters for me.
FAYE: Cautious recommendation is what I would say.
CHIAKI: Yeah. I’m having fun. I’m reading it.
FAYE: Yep, me too.
PETER: Good. So, we all like it. And Chako is great.
FAYE: Oh, absolutely.
CHIAKI: Oh, precious child.
PETER: Okay, so, the next one is Me & Roboco, which came out in July. It’s by Shuhei Miyazaki, who has previously only authored Oyakusoku no Neverland, which is a parody of The Promised Neverland.
It takes place in the year 20XX. Ultra-capable AI-powered robotic maids called OrderMaids have become ubiquitous. Bondo Taira, a 10-year-old is jealous of his friend’s top-of-the-line OrderMaid Meico and convinces his mom to buy one for the family. But the one that arrives is not a cute anime girl. It’s Roboco, who is large and muscular and can’t do any maid stuff. And that’s the setup.
CHIAKI: Is this Ready Player One, but a manga?
PETER: Ah, I was hoping you’d say—
FAYE: May I read some quotes to you real quick?
PETER: [laughs] Yeah, sure. Wow, prepared.
FAYE: May I read some quotes to you? Okay.
FAYE: Okay, so the setup for this bit is main child is thought to be up to some hanky-panky with Roboco by the mom, which, oh, isn’t that hilarious? 11-year-old boys being up to sexual shit. Hilarious. Okay. She bursts in the door and says, “Is this To Love Ru? Wait. Don’t tell me it’s To Love Ru Darkness!” And then she says, “Elementary school students shouldn’t read any further than Ayakashi Triangle.”
PETER: Yeah, literally just the joke is they make a reference to a Shonen Jump manga.
FAYE: I did not get to the chapter where they go to the Shonen Jump offices. I’ve heard about this chapter, though. Did y’all get there or…?
PETER: No. I got to chapter 10 and quit out.
CHIAKI: Let me also say that they literally have a joke where Roboco’s sister shows up and says, “You have to be a maid. No more parodies!” And Roboco literally just shouts, “But parodies is what makes this manga keep going!” [laughs]
PETER: [chuckles] Well, at least they know.
FAYE: At least they know. Oh, also, there was a Karen joke. Yeah, wasn’t the Karen joke funny? [chuckles]
CHIAKI: Oh, God! There was a Karen joke.
CHIAKI: “Are you a Ka—?” [chuckles]
FAYE: “Are you a Karen?” Oh, God.
CHIAKI: [sighs] There’s some absurdist moments that I kind of like, and it gets a little bit heartwarming at times, but this is so much. I’m not sure if you are aware of Doraemon, which is a time-honored classic of Japanese children’s manga and anime.
FAYE: [crosstalk] I’m aware of Doraemon. Yeah.
CHIAKI: Okay. This is basically a riff, conceptually, of Doraemon. Entirely, with more riffs.
PETER: So, the manga that is all references is itself a reference.
CHIAKI: [deadpan] Only the most original ideas make it to Shonen Jump.
PETER: So, basically, it’s Japanese Ready Player One, seems like nobody really enjoyed it, and it has problematic elements.
FAYE: This was painful. This was painful, yeah. I don’t even want to get into how Roboco’s presentation is handled or anything, her being a buff robot lady and stuff. Although I will say Nick Dupree called this “the Peter Griffin maidbot manga,” and I don’t think there’s a more apt description than that.
PETER: Oh, no!
PETER: I can see it now. [chuckles] Okay. So, next up, Spirit Photographer Saburo Kono. Premiered in August. It’s a one-shot by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu, the Promised Neverland duo.
Ever since a woman committed suicide by jumping off its balcony, no one moves into the apartment next to Sota’s and none of them stay for more than three days. A creepy spirit photographer named Saburo Kono shows up in the unit and demands Sota assist him in taking a photo of the spirit haunting it to exorcize it. I think this one is just All-Ghouls Classroom, except good and creepy in a way where it’s supposed to be creepy and not creepy because it’s about a pedophile.
FAYE: It has the things I really loved from The Promised Neverland. It takes a premise which could easily be droll and emotionless and imbues it with so much heart and compassion and empathy. And from a personal perspective, I cried really hard reading this manga.
You should probably put a trigger warning on this episode for what I’m about to talk about, but I’ve battled suicidal ideation basically all my life and my partner has, also. So, to see the end of the manga, where the value of living, even in spite of how sad you are, how depressed you are, how much everything hurts, the value of continuing on… It really hit me hard right now, and in a way that I wasn’t expecting and a way that really just connected with me deeply.
PETER: Yeah. I was very shocked at what it was able to pack into the 50 pages for a one-shot.
FAYE: If this becomes a whole serialization, I’d be like, “Oh my God, yes. Absolutely.”
CHIAKI: Yeah, give me more stories of Kono. That’s perfectly good.
FAYE: [crosstalk] He’s such a fun character.
PETER: Yeah, it’s weird that this really creepy, surreal, maybe demon character was able to springboard the story into this really heartfelt and touching ending. I am worried that if it turned into a Kino’s Journey-esque series of exorcisms that it might— I mean, obviously, not all of them are going to land like this one, so that’s the possible pitfall. But just as an example of what can be done with the format, I think this was really good.
FAYE: Yeah. No, easily the best one-shot we read, for sure.
PETER: Agree. Anything to add, Chiaki?
CHIAKI: No. All right there.
PETER: Okay, I guess, then we’ll have to go to Burn the Witch by Tite Kubo. It’s about Reverse London, the London under London, where wizards like Noel and Ninny are experts at dealing with magical beasts called Dragons, which have been causing trouble for residents of both Londons for centuries. I think they’re responsible for or related to—involved in 70% of all deaths in London, which is pretty crazy. There’s also a guy named Balgo.
CHIAKI: God, Balgo sucks.
FAYE: So, I recently read and reviewed the Ryohgo Narita light novel continuation of Bleach’s final arc. That was everything I like about Bleach.
This is admittedly a better and more successful version, but it’s still a version of everything I do not like about Bleach. Mostly Tite Kubo’s worldbuilding, because the way it works is: he just piles on details, almost seeming like he’s making it up as it goes on; just piling on details and details and details, stuff that’s unrelated to the story, stuff that’s unrelated to characters. It’s just exposition about the world and doesn’t even do a particularly good job making it consistent or making the characters adhere to the rules of the world.
Again, they mention so often how cavorting with Dragons is a crime punishable by execution in most cases, but that’s not the case for almost any character we see. [chuckles] The miniseries is about Balgo’s attempt to be executed by the higher-ups, but at the same time, he comes out fine because of some deus ex machina stuff.
And then the idol lady—who, by the way, is a very nice stereotype of a predatory lesbian, for the record… That’s nice. Thanks, Tite Kubo. She becomes Dragonclad, too, and basically ends up in the same place Balgo is, and it’s just… It’s fine. It’s fine.
There’s a lot of good parts. The monster designs are really good. I like Noel and Ninny well enough. They’re fine characters, I guess. It’s just, again, I’m not a fan of Tite Kubo’s worldbuilding and the way he layers stories, and this is kind of why I bounced off of it ultimately.
PETER: Yeah. I think I would be a lot more interested if both Noel and Ninny didn’t have a sexual predator attached to them.
FAYE: Oh, Jesus. Yeah.
PETER: And especially when it’s revealed that Noel actually likes Balgo, who is a complete fucking creep.
FAYE: Yeah. No. Literally, spends the first chapter screaming about how Noel should show him her knickers or whatever. Yeah. No, it’s not good. They mercifully seem to lose that in the miniseries, but also, it’s the kind of foundation you can’t really ignore.
PETER: Any thoughts, Chiaki?
CHIAKI: I have never read Bleach. I have no interest in Tite Kubo. And I just watched the mini-OVA anime, and I thought, “Okay, that’s a thing,” and I read it, and I’m like, “Okay, Balgo sucks,” and that’s it.
PETER: Okay. So, you got the full experience.
PETER: Okay. So, we’ll move on to Phantom Seer, which premiered in August. The writer is Togo Goto, and the artist is Kento Matsuura, who we discussed on the last cast as the artist of Tokyo Shinobi Squad. The two have previously released a number of one-shots together in Jump Giga since 2017, and I guess this is where Kento Matsuura fell after Tokyo Shinobi Squad was mercifully canceled.
It’s about Aibetsu Riku, who always wants to help other people and has the power to detect danger. One day, she’s asked to speak in private by the strange student Katanagi Iori, who’s believed by her classmates to be a psychic. He warns her that she’s haunted. Although he doesn’t want to get involved, his older sister on the phone orders him to help her.
During the exorcism, she learns that her power is actually attracting demons and her ability to sense danger is just when they’re about to attack her. Therefore, she’s kind of causing the danger that she’s been sensing this whole time. And that’s how the two become attached in the future as an exorcist duo, even though Iori really doesn’t want to be an exorcist. What do people think of this one?
FAYE: I actually like it. I actually like it, primarily because of the two main characters. Let me see… Aibetsu is the main female character and Iori is the main male character. I think they both have really strong internal characterization. Aibetsu is this neurotic, constantly down-on-herself person who wants to help people but oftentimes finds her self-hatred getting in the way of that. And meanwhile, Iori is the complete inverse in that he just wants to leave the life of an exorcist behind and just be a normal person.
And aside from that, their dynamic is sort of antagonistic but in kind of a fun way, and it’s refreshingly platonic, too. There’s almost no creepy sexual shit, apart from like one joke about a hot spring that, even then, isn’t played the worst, from what I’ve seen. It’s fairly standard shounen in a lot of key ways, but I like the characters, and I specifically like the way they’re developing them, too.
PETER: Yeah. It’s really hard to write a shitty dude as the main character just because there’s so many of them and so many of them actually just suck. They’re not good. And I feel like this series is walking the tightrope pretty well. I like Aibetsu a lot, and I feel like the series right now is trying to power her up so that she can participate in the battles with the guys.
FAYE: Yep. [speech obscured by audio quality]
PETER: I also think the introduction of the— I can’t remember his name, the megane guy. I like him a lot. I think he’s a really good addition to the cast. So, I’m more encouraged the more I read from this manga. Also, the older sister kicks ass.
FAYE: Oh, absolutely, she’s awesome.
CHIAKI: I want her to step on me.
PETER: Also, the way she holds a phone by balancing it on her finger is very good. [chuckles] It’s fuckin’—it’s so stu—it reminds me of watching Umamusume, where they have the long phones for the ears that are on top of their head; defamiliarized phones.
FAYE: I’m happy the Tokyo Shinobi Squad artist is on a good series, actually, because his art in this is really, really good. Really, really good.
PETER: Yeah, I think I tweeted about that. It’s just like they’ve been unleashed, because some of the shit they draw is really good, like the girl with the broken mirror in her mouth and stuff. It’s genuinely creepy shit. So, I like this series.
FAYE: Yeah, it’s really good.
PETER: High hopes. Thoughts, Chiaki.
CHIAKI: I am a little worried about the girl because her training arc feels not as offensive, so I might see her more as a supportive character even in the battlefield.
PETER: Yeah, that’s my concern, too.
FAYE: Yeah, same.
CHIAKI: But they’re doing a lot more than when I started off with the series. So, hoping for more and the best.
PETER: So, optimistic. Okay. Definitely some areas of concern, but so far, it’s walked the tightrope and I am willing to feel optimistic about its future, I think is where we’ve all landed. Okay, okay. Cool. So, good. [chuckles]
Next one is High School Family, which started in September. It’s by Ryo Nakama, who previously authored a feudal gag manga Isobe Isobee Monogatari in Weekly Shonen Jump, which lasted for four years.
It tells the story of Kotaro Ietani, who passed the entrance exam to get into high school and is surprised to be joined by his father, mother, little sister, and cat, all of whom passed the same exam without his knowledge to fulfill their dreams of attending high school. They end up in the same class, and Kotaro is pretty much just embarrassed the whole time because his entire family is attending his high school. Does anybody have anything to say about this one? [chuckles]
FAYE: Parents: they’re embarrassing. Also, the main character’s kind of a dick. I don’t know if that improves. I didn’t read terribly far into this. I don’t know if that improves, but the main character… A lot of the jokes are just premised on him being very mean to his family in a way that does scan as authentic to how some not-great teenage boys can act; but also, it’s not a very endearing trait for the protagonist of a comedy manga to have, and it’s not funny. It just isn’t funny. The only joke that got me is the introduction of the cat and the cat’s intentionally awful design.
PETER: Yeah, very weird art style.
CHIAKI: The kid is definitely the tsukkomi act. He’s the straight man, so he has to be a prickly asshole to every weird situation that comes up. Does that make him a good person? Probably not. Yeah, this is a series that I am reading only because you told me to.
CHIAKI: I’m going to promptly drop it right [inaudible beneath crosstalk].
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, yeah, I have no intention of reading another chapter. It hasn’t done anything awful, but I have not laughed once. It was kind of a pain to read through.
FAYE: [crosstalk] It’s one joke! It’s one joke! Literally one joke!
PETER: [crosstalk] It’s just one joke told over and over again.
CHIAKI: And you said this might go on for 4 years and 16 volumes? [laughs]
PETER: Yeah, that’s what his last manga managed, so who knows?
FAYE: Oh, my God.
PETER: Anyway, Our Blood Oath also started in September. It’s by Kazu Kakazu, who I have no information on. This might be their debut. It’s about an orphan named Shin, who formed a blood oath with Ko Hizuki, the child of his adoptive vampire parents. After the parents were killed by a mysterious white-haired vampire, they’re both granted supernatural powers by their bond, which they use to slay supernatural creatures preying on humans while dealing with vampires that spend all their time torturing humans and other vampires.
I don’t really understand who the bad guys are in this. They seem to be vampires, but they also hate other vampires. I guess I led off a little negatively, but feel free to [chuckles] tell me what you think about it.
FAYE: I mean, it’s a fair point because it’s just not very good. I don’t think this manga is very good at all. It’s not particularly offensive in any one way. It’s just bog standard and underdeveloped, is the way I would describe it. Bog standard and extremely underdeveloped. And also, this has the stink of “about to be canceled” all over it, frankly. I don’t know if that’s going to happen. It might run for years, but who knows?
CHIAKI: In the outset, I was a little bit more hopeful for it, but once the secret society of vampires who hate humans were introduced, I just lost interest because it was like, “Oh, okay, it’s very typical.”
PETER: Yeah, I think the setup was okay. I was like, “Maybe this could turn into a good manga,” but once they introduced the antagonist, who just seemed to randomly and capriciously fuck with humans and/or vampires for no… They have no philosophical reason to do any of that kind of stuff. No motivation to do it, really.
It just seems like the enemies are enemies to be enemies and they do bad stuff to good people so that the main characters will have to do something about it. And in that context, they are enemies. There’s no central conflict.
FAYE: The moment that lost me was when they start developing the vampire discrimination aspect of the world. There’s a moment where they’re telling the story about how a vampire was revealed to a village and then the village literally murdered the vampire’s family and the vampires slaughtered the village in turn. And this is followed up by the kid saying, “But why can’t vampires and humans all just get along?”
PETER: Love Tokyo Ghoul.
FAYE: Yeah. I think solving systemic oppression is a little more complicated than that, but you know, it’s a very easy sort of shounen thing to rattle off.
PETER: Unimpressed, seems to be the general consensus.
PETER: Okay. So, next on the list is Build King, which premiered in November 2020, which we’re not going to be reviewing. It’s by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro, who is the author of Toriko, who was also convicted for violating child prostitution laws, so I think we’re all happy with just never reading this ever.
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] Agreed.
FAYE: [crosstalk] Sure are.
PETER: Just wanted to put out that warning for anybody who is interested in Build King but doesn’t want to read anything by somebody who would do something like that.
Then there’s Sakamoto Days. Started in November. There’s only one chapter out. Some early problematic elements, but maybe if we do another cast, we’ll talk about that one. And the next stuff is not in Weekly Shonen Jump technically, but they’re on the app, so we thought we’d discuss it as well.
First is Moriarty the Patriot, which started in August in Jump Square. I think there’s more out, but it’s just a matter of translation. It’s by Ryosuke Takeuchi, who previously wrote All You Need Is Kill and was an assistant under Yusuke Murata and the author of Medaka Box, Akira Akatsuki. The artist is Hikaru Miyoshi, who previously was an assistant under Hiromu Arakawa, who has made a ton of good manga like Fullmetal Alchemist and Silver Spoon.
I’m not going to summarize this one because the anime is out. We’ve done a couple of articles on this, written by Chiaki, so can you just summarize anything that might be different with the manga than the anime?
CHIAKI: All I’ll say is that the three chapters that are out are entire arcs of stories; and also, the anime is taking a lot of liberties from the manga, and I think the manga is a lot more solid of a story than the anime. I haven’t read past chapter three, and if it’s the same vein as what the anime is going towards, I am not totally impressed. But I have yet to read volume two, and that will make or break the manga in my opinion.
FAYE: Yeah. It’s “Eat the Rich: The Manga” so far. It’s pretty good. [chuckles]
PETER: Yeah. I guess the main concern just comes up… The anime cuts off some pretty important details, which you can read in Chiaki’s stuff; and maybe the later manga stuff, based on what happens in the anime, becomes a little problematic.
CHIAKI: So, I’ve been cross-promoting, like “Listen to the Jumpcast. Listen to the midseason check-in.” Check out the end-of-season podcast, where I will rip into Moriarty. Okay.
PETER: Yeah, stay tuned for the end-of-season podcast, where you’ll have everything to say about it.
PETER: Yeah, consume all of our articles and podcasts, please. Okay, so, next is the Death Note special, which was in February. I’m not sure this was actually out when we did our last podcast, but we’ll just go over it really briefly. There’s a one-shot in Monthly Jump Square by the Death Note duo, Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. I know what I’m doing.
It’s about Ryuk getting bored again, traveling the human world, giving the Death Note to a kid genius named Minoru Tanaka, who surprises Ryuk by asking him to return in two years. When he returns, Minoru acts [out] his plan to use the Death Note to make fat stacks of cash.
FAYE: I like it, but I like Death Note. Death Note was the best thing these two authors ever wrote. This also doesn’t have the massive misogyny of Death Note or the authors’ later works, by virtue of not featuring many female characters.
PETER: [laughs] I was going to say, it’s because no women.
FAYE: Yeah, exactly. [laughs]
PETER: I mean, to be fair, there are very few characters. It’s like Ryuk, Minoru, and Donald Trump are the three main characters in the manga.
FAYE: Yeah. Yeah, that happens. That happens.
CHIAKI: I thought it was a smart imagining of a post-Kira world.
PETER: Yeah. It was almost like one of those allegorical tales about trying to get rich quick or something. It almost seemed to have a moral to the story. I’m not sure what the moral is, but it was very concise.
FAYE: Also, it’s really funny. It’s really funny, too.
PETER: Yeah, it is a little funny.
PETER: All right. Let’s move on to Kaiju No. 8, which is in Jump+ and, as I understand it, has become extremely popular very quickly. The mangaka is Naoya Matsumoto, former assistant to Toshiaki Iwashiro, the author of Psyren, and was actually assistant during the time that Yuki Tabata, the author of Black Clover, was an assistant as well, so maybe they know each other.
It’s about Kafka Hibino and Mina Ashiro, who made a promise as children they would both join the Japanese Defense Force to exterminate kaiju and protect their homes. Hibino failed and became a member of the kaiju cleanup crew. He gets injured on the job, and some sort of weird wasp-like monster flies in and turns him into a kaiju monster, although he retains his humanity. After this, he decides to try to join the Third Division once again with his new friend, and they both get in and become kaiju hunters, except he’s also a kaiju and nobody knows. Thoughts?
CHIAKI: I’m having fun. I’m having fun.
FAYE: It’s good. It’s good. It’s the most conventional shounen of what we read, but it’s good and the characters are fun. And the art’s great.
PETER: I think it’s also worth mentioning the main character’s 32 years old.
FAYE: Ah, it’s so good!
CHIAKI: Ah, mood!
PETER: The potential love interest is… I actually have a problem with this because they were childhood friends, and I think they were both similar sizes when they did that. So, you’d figure they’d be around the same age. But she’s like 27 or 28, so there’s a five-year difference between the two of them, which feels just like an intentional effort to age her down. But also, they haven’t made any jokes about her life being over because she’s over 25 or her youthful beauty having faded because she’s nearly 30 or anything like that, so I think it’s treated Mina pretty well.
She’s also kind of… I guess how proactive she is in the story will determine my ultimate opinion on her as a character, since she’s really been talked up as the best kaiju killer ever. It’s a thing like Mikasa, where they spend a lot of time talking about how she’s superhumanly powerful and then she never accomplishes a single thing over the course of the entire story. I will rescind my… I don’t know, the manga’s still good on its own, but that’ll be definitely a pain point for me because I hate it when they do that shit. But so far, it seems like they are doing pretty good with all of their characters.
CHIAKI: Yeah, I really hope Mina gets to open up as a character very soon. I want more interaction with her, because right now what we have is her standing in the back, looking very authoritative and occasionally smiling. That’s about it. I’m wondering where it’s going to go with the mushroom-head guy, the second-in-command, because depending on how he shakes out, Hibino’s either gonna get closer to Mina or gonna get shunted down.
FAYE: Yeah. I don’t have much to say about it because it’s so conventional in so many of its details, but again, it’s fun, I love the premise, and it’s got a really good heart underneath it all.
PETER: So, conventional and enjoyable. Everybody loves the trash kaiju dad. Cool.
Next is Ghost Reaper Girl, which premiered in July on Jump+. The mangaka is Akihisa Ikeda, who previously authored Rosario + Vampire. I don’t know if you say the “plus.” It might just be “Rosario Vampire.” It’s probably just “Rosario Vampire.”
It’s about 28-year-old aspiring starlet Chloe Love, who’s attempting to land her big break in an acting role but keeps getting attacked by ghosts because of her quote-unquote “pure energy.” She’s caught in an alley and rescued by a man dressed all in leather, except he doesn’t have a shirt on, wielding handcuffs. He is a Ghost Reaper from the realm of Hades and self-introduced “gentleman lolicon” Kai— Is it Kai Iod [pronounced “ee-odd”]?
CHIAKI: I’m honestly going to tell you I forgot his name—
PETER: His name’s Kai.
CHIAKI: —because he does not mention—
PETER: Kai, I’m confident about. We’ll say Kai. Turns out there was a huge jailbreak in the underworld and Chloe’s a perfect spirit medium, just like Ayashiki Triangle, so all the spirits want to eat her and shit. All hell’s escapees want to possess her. To protect herself, she’s forced to form a contract with Kai and quote-unquote “let him inside her,” turning her into Ghost Reaper Girl.
This is when— I don’t know why I’m even bringing this up. By the author’s request, it reads left to right, which just absolutely confused the shit out of me because on the app, you still have to swipe in the same direction, but you’re left to right even though you’re turning the pages the opposite direction. It sucks. I don’t know why the author requested this, but that’s how it is. What do people think of the actual manga?
FAYE: The first chapter’s absolutely intolerable, for the most part. Not only is there the whole him introducing himself as a lolicon. There’s also the way possession is very much framed as kind of an allegory for sexual assault, frankly, in a way that is very disquieting. And it tries to do, somewhat, the thing where it’s an allegory for how women are mistreated in the entertainment industry, and a lot of the main character’s frustrations are very resonant in that way; but at the same time, it’s very much trying to have its cake and eat it, too, with that stuff, and I found it really uncomfortable.
CHIAKI: Yeah, the first chapter is [sighs] bad.
CHIAKI: But it grows on you because the lolicon immediately gets shafted into a minor role, and they introduce a catboy. And then, she becomes a catgirl. And I’m sorry, but that’s just who I am and I love this series. [laughs]
FAYE: No, it’s good. I don’t think it’s good per se, but I did end up enjoying it in the end more than I expected to.
FAYE: They introduce the Re-Animator, basically Frank West the Re-Animator, in the most recent chapters, and that’s been fun, too.
CHIAKI: Shoggoth is also pretty good.
FAYE: Oh, yeah. For sure, for sure. I will say I’m not— Shoggoth? Remind me who Shoggoth is again? Is that the…?
CHIAKI: Blade arms.
FAYE: Blade arms… Okay.
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, the girl?
CHIAKI: Blade-arm girl.
FAYE: I do think that potentially plays into some stereotypes about bisexual people in terms of them being ultra-libidinous all the time and hitting on absolutely everyone and being sexually invasive to absolutely everyone, but that’s not too much of that character, so I don’t know.
PETER: Is this the leader of Ghost Reapers?
FAYE: Yeah, Shoggoth is the corpse lady, but, no, this is the leader of the Ghost Reaper Brigade.
CHIAKI: The nurse.
FAYE: The nurse.
PETER: I did find it weird how she’s just… They start her off as pretty predatory, but after that, she did seem to calm down to the point where she’s just like, “This is what I’m into right now, and I’m DTF if you’re interested.”
FAYE: [chuckles] Yeah, no, it’s weird. It seems to start out with these noxious stereotypes and then calm it down to something a little bit more manageable.
PETER: Yeah. Chapter ones are sort of notorious—and episode ones—of having sexual assault somewhere in there to get the fans, which really sucks, and after that, a lot of series have calmed down. This has happened a lot, and I really don’t like it, but I do think that this manga really pulls back on a lot of its problematic elements and actually becomes pretty fun and essentially becomes about Chloe having a reverse-harem of boys who she can wear his costumes to get superpowers.
FAYE: Yes, that’s the especially fun part of it, I think.
PETER: It becomes kind of a really fun romp, which I was not expecting after the first chapter.
CHIAKI: I just have brain worms and I love catgirls.
PETER: [laughs] Well, rest assured, Chiaki, the rest of us were also having fun reading this.
PETER: Maybe it’s not just the brain worms. Also, I don’t know where I’d describe this, so I want to put it out there: I think the Rosario + Vampire mangaka was reading old Tohru Fujisawa manga. I mean, the main dude is basically just dressed like the exorcist from his manga. I think it’s Tokko, the girl who has the butterfly tattoo on her stomach. It’s like the himbo version of that girl. So, what I’m saying is it’s a really crazy kind of ‘90s throwback, so proceed with caution, but all of us had a fun time.
All right, and now, next is Blue Flag, which was a big surprise for me. I guess it’s finished. It ran from February 2017 to April 2020 in Jump+. It’s by KAITO, who previously authored Cross Manage and Buddy Strike, which were both in Weekly Shonen Jump.
It’s about Taichi, an awkward high schooler in his final year that somehow gets mixed up in his classmate Kuze’s attempts to overcome her awkwardness to ask out the school’s idol, Toma. Taichi begins to scheme ways to get them all together, which Kuze’s friend Itachi starts showing up in, and things get extremely romantically square-like. It’s not a love triangle, I guess. It’s a big square. But it is extremely good, I think. And I’d like to hear your thoughts.
FAYE: This is almost certainly the best thing I read, for the record.
PETER: Oh, yeah.
FAYE: I didn’t think I was going to finish it. I read basically all the stuff that’s on the app, which is 26 chapters, four volumes, last night. I don’t even know where to start.
I think the main problem with it is I don’t think it’s as emotionally insightful as it thinks it is, but it is very emotionally insightful—very, very emotionally insightful—and intensely empathetic to all its characters. Characters are constantly having nuanced discussions about romantic relationships and romantic attraction and really nuanced, complicated versions of what it means to truly love someone versus what it means to just be affectionate towards someone, that I just found really compelling.
There’s also the thing we’re bringing up. Two of the people in the love quadrangle are queer and specifically lusting after people of the same gender, and I’ve heard some iffy things about how this is navigated in the later characters. And I also do think way more effort is spent on depicting Kuze and Taichi’s romantic developments than on…
PETER: Toma and Itachi.
FAYE: Yeah, Toma and Itachi. And I do find that kind of weird. But also, at the same time, it’s making the point that these people’s affections are sidelined and are so deeply buried while the straight people’s affection are allowed to be detailed.
And I think it’s also extremely good at depicting the way cishets—for lack of a better word—oftentimes are just completely oblivious to any kind of queer subtext or any kind of a queer person trying to communicate to you a thing about their sexuality or about their gender identity. It’s really good at articulating that. I’ve experienced that so many times in my life. And yeah, I just really, really like this manga.
PETER: Hard to believe it’s shounen.
CHIAKI: Well, it is Jump+. I found that Jump+ series tend to be a little bit more interesting to me, overall.
FAYE: Yeah. Some of them run on a biweekly schedule, for instance, which is probably way better on the authors, as well.
PETER: I think this is biweekly or monthly. It would’ve had to have been, considering that chapter count and how long it ran.
FAYE: Oh, yeah. No, and also, the art’s really good, too.
CHIAKI: I haven’t finished Blue Flag. This was the last series that I was reading, and I was dying from fatigue at this point. But I’m hoping to come back to it and finish it out because I just got to a big twist and I’m excited.
PETER: Yeah, I got to chapter ten, and then I’m like, “Okay, I have to read one more,” because of the same thing that you saw. I definitely intend to finish this now.
FAYE: I read all 26 chapters last night in like two hours, so, yeah. [laughs] For whatever reason, slice-of-life stuff about relationships and inner emotional lives is my shit. I don’t know why. They’re like my candy, and that’s a weird thing to be candy, but they’re like my candy.
PETER: Yeah. No, it’s really fucking good. I think all the characters are just perfect, and the way they interact is really good. There’s no problematic shit that happens. It’s very… I don’t want to say “pure,” but…
FAYE: I hear it gets to some iffy takes about queerness in the later chapters, for what it’s worth. But even that’s more well-intentioned ignorance than it is actively malicious, which is not a distinction that matters that much in my estimation, but it is something.
CHIAKI: Well-intentioned ignorance from the author, you’re saying?
FAYE: The author, as writing about queer issues. Yes, I believe. This is only hearsay, so I haven’t read the later chapters myself, but I know people who are caught up, and they’ve told me some things that are like, “That’s a weird take to make about people who are homophobic, buddy.” That kind of thing.
PETER: My concern for the manga is pretty general to what happens in this sort of series, where you have a hetero romance and a queer romance. I feel like Taichi and Kuze are probably going to get together, and I’m hoping Itachi doesn’t fall into that… It’s a specific trope with lesbian characters where it’s like, “Oh, so long as I can be near the girl that I like, that’s all I need.” The Darling in the Franxx thing. I really don’t want that to be her fate.
FAYE: I really hope the series is smarter than that, but it’s entirely possible that’s where it ends up going.
PETER: I don’t have any evidence for that past just that being what happens most of the time, but that’s my major concern proceeding forward. Otherwise, I can say the whole manga so far has been an amazing read.
All right, any extra notes on that one?
PETER: Okay. I’d probably go with recs at this point, but I think we pretty clearly outlined the good and the bad in this one, as opposed to the last one. Also, we’re super low on time. We’re past, actually, so I think I’ll just close us out unless there’s anything somebody absolutely needs to say.
CHIAKI: No plug for Black Clover?
PETER: It’s still good. What can I say?
FAYE: I just want to say something a little serious. In the wake of Build King and in the wake of Nobuhiro Watsuki, and in the wake of what happened with Act-Age recently, as well, I found it very hard to tolerate a lot of the creepy sex stuff in a lot of this manga in a way I hadn’t in the past, and it’s made me realize that we have not heard the last of sexual abusers from Jump. We have not heard the last of that. And I think this is not just a company-wide problem; this is a culture-wide problem.
PETER: So, you’re saying your goodwill towards Shonen Jump is being adversely affected by the people they allow to continually publish despite…
FAYE: Yeah, and just the stuff that continually crops up in their manga, the kind of stuff.
PETER: Maybe if they had some female editors, that’d be good.
FAYE: Oh, yeah. [laughs]
CHIAKI: Yeah, that’ll help. I’ve definitely thought about canceling my Jump app subscription, following that news with Shimabukuro coming back. I was like, “Why am I paying for this?”
PETER: I cannot blame anybody who decides to go with that decision. Yeah, it’s discouraging. Well, on that negative note, [chuckles] I guess I’ll close things out. Sorry, guys. Anyway, thanks for listening, everybody.
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