Manga is one of my pastimes that I have proudly cherished along with anime. Like the anime industry, it is filled with many styles and creative faces that have shaped everything to what you see now. In particular, Weekly Shonen Jump has had various phases of content since the first issue in 1968. With several series that started a generation ending, one can clearly see said phase changing to something new. Due to the addition of new jump starts in Shonen Jump, possibility of an ambitious new era is among us, which could be a catalyst for fun times ahead.
The ending of beloved long-running series such as Bleach, Naruto, Toriko, and even Nisekoi signifies that an era has ended. Many memories have been shared because of these manga, but all things eventually conclude and sprout new beginnings. This leaves slots for new series to take over and release ideas. With fresh newcomers or returning authors arriving to make something different, voids will be filled and opportunities for recognition are within reach. If 2016 marked the end of an old era, then surely 2017 is a fresh start as multiple jump starts have appeared back-to-back in issues. Whether they were successful or not, reading through them has been a treat.
The Promised Neverland
Out of all jump starts that ran in august 2016, The Promised Neverland attracted my attention due to its misleading beginning. This is noticeable when looking at the first few pages as everything appears calm and usual. It feels like an entry to a slice of life or comedy manga with nothing chaotic happening followed by monologuing from Emma, the main character. How art is drawn within well-structured panels can give away hints on where The Promised Neverland will go, but also doesn’t say too much for its twist. This series doesn’t feel “shonen” either since manga of that demographic caters to teenagers and usually includes action gimmicks with a ton of battles. Instead, we get something gruesome, something that offers thrilling chills, something….full of despair.
At its core, The Promised Neverland is psychological survival drama that focuses on intellectually adept children trying to escape every horror around them in a strategic way. Placing of demon-like creatures, carefully planned actions, followed by some emotional torment spells what The Promised Neverland is about. With this setting, subversive elements run amok that can make you come back every week and read what will happen next. Series like these remind me of manga such as Hunter x Hunter, Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, or Bleach during its first arc since they all have a dark twist. If narrative doesn’t sell any dark themes, then perhaps aesthetic will. Shading and character facial expressions gives The Promised Neverland that ominous feeling to capture fear and intimidation. Shading appears realistically thorough in dark coloring, similar with how seinen manga looks, which presents some horror. Expressions are stern, yet simultaneously childish due to most characters being 12 or under. This delivers intensity along with familiar shonen vibes that appeals to the demographic. Combination of all these artistic merits stands out in jump for maximum appeal.
If you haven’t looked into The Promised Neverland I highly recommend doing so since a good time awaits you. You can read it here.
U19 has an interesting pseudo-sociological premise where how good and obedient you are as a kid determines your place in society when you become an adult. The series follows Eiji Kudo who has all makings of a shonen protagonist. His bold rebellion against current society leads him into trouble since he isn’t following the rules. For added effect, Akari, Eiji’s childhood friend and love interest, gets taken away due to genetic circumstances. Eiji being shocked from seeing Akari being taken, unlocks a hidden supernatural power, which is meant to hook readers.
Unfortunately, how this theme is executed turns out to be childish and overdramatic. The idea is great, but adults acting evil in a cartoony way throws away any serious intent U19 was building on. Examples are presented with comedic dialogue and character models you would see for gag manga. Everything feels all over the place, as if it were trying to appeal both older and younger audiences. U19 doesn’t know consistent tone shifts either by suddenly alternating between comedy, then dramatic panels. Some characters act silly in one moment, only for an obnoxious adult figure to barrage like a madman. Insertion of supernatural powers also seems unexpectedly forced. Although foreshadowing hinted at this, Eiji releasing said powers proves convenient timing is at work here. The first theme sufficiently provides material that could build into a fine message, so including powers throws everything out of sync. Because of this, U19 becomes predictably boring.
Despite me dropping after reading the first chapter, I do suggest you to give it a shot here.
We Never Learn
We Never Learn is what can be described as a fun romantic comedy with dashes of cliché and harem. The series focuses on Yuiga Nariyuki and his struggle on educational merits to succeed in life. His chance finally breaks through when an opportunity for a vip recommendation is offered, but not without a catch. Yuiga must help Rizu Ogata and Fumino Furuhashi get into their college of choice, which provides problems itself. Rizu excels at mathematics, but prefers literary arts, while Fumino’s strong point is literary arts and wants proficiency for mathematics. Based on this setting alone, we have an interesting plot point which could bring about some compelling drama, comedy, or slight romance. We Never Learn‘s strength definitely lies with romantic comedy that shines further because of how appealing the art looks followed by fun character personalities. Potentially, fun times are ahead if everything executes intriguingly enough.
Romantic harem elements carries semblances to past series such as Nisekoi or Love Hina where multiple female characters eventually take interest in the male protagonist. Specifically for We Never Learn, Rizu and Fumino gives Yuiga their attention because of their situation. Although no hint of attraction shows, signs of curiosity for Yuiga gradually begins appearing each chapter by having either Rizu or Fumino reflect on Yuiga’s actions. How fun characters can be strengthens comedic moments that adds personality. Facial expressions and behavior depicts this by structuring their faces and actions together. Whenever something funny takes place, Fumino’s eyes may gleam for one panel, then become pudgy in the next one, which boosts comedy merits.
Despite that, cliché executions of typical harem scenarios, weird romance instances, and poor humor choices results in We Never Learn‘s negatives. For Rizu, Fumino, and Yuiga, their personas can fall under familiar harem tropes that are overused. Rizu falls under the Kuudere type (Cold, emotionless), while Fumino exhibits DereDere qualities (Sweet, ditzy). Yuiga himself is just an all-around nice guy willing to go the extra mile for others, which makes his actions seem simple. Rizu’s cold attitude shows she has trouble expressing herself emotionally, followed by Fumino’s aloof air-headed responses towards Yuiga’s straightforward conversations. All of this leads to predictable behavior patterns by the main trio that feels dry; knowing Rizu will act coldly when talking with Yuiga becomes boring. Uncomfortably weird romantic gestures within We Never Learn could throw off readers. Heavy implication of Yuiga’s sister having a complex about him provides proof of said gestures. The entire discussion surrounding brother-sister romances are controversial, but this only hinders what has been established between Yuiga, Rizu, and Fumino.
Although fun characters aid in comedy, not all attempts to be humorous play out well. Panels featuring comical romance innuendos appear lackluster and empty due to predictable reactions. Examples are when Fumino accidentally falls asleep on Yuiga, only for him to react nervously dramatic. If there are any upsides here, it would be the character designs. Most cast members that were introduced look gleamingly gorgeous with backgrounds complementing their figures well. Shaping of the eyes has been met with careful attention to detail, which feels aesthetically pleasing. Well-balanced shading helps all designs blend in with each boxed panel to make sure readers are not overwhelmed with art placement. Finally, Rizu, Fumino, and Yuiga stand out. Rizu appears a bit intimidating, Fumino being beautiful, plus Yuiga giving off stern charisma. With all of this in mind, We Never Learn could be a new jump start containing the best art.
For proof, you can check out chapter 1-3 here!
Demon Prince Poro’s Diaries
If U19‘s comedy proved to be childish, then Demon Prince Poro’s Diaries blend of supernatural and comedy doesn’t work out nicely. The series focuses on Poro, prince of a demon world that is currently under going battle royales to determine who will be king. Unfortunately for Poro, he has no interest in taking part due because of his timid and nonviolent personality. Unmotivated, Poro travels to earth where escapism towards a normal life awaits him. Right away, the premise comes off as intriguing, but shaky. Curiosity on how Poro’s Diaries will handle mixing supernatural elements along with this escaping comedy runs wild. So many things could go wrong if certain points are not recognized, but everything might turn out fine when proper genre shifting is involved.
Sadly, Poro’s Diaries doesn’t live up to anything by having humor that isn’t funny. Cheap displays of comedy include Poro indulging in otaku-like hobbies such as buying figurines, anime, or manga. References to past series shows this and provides readers that Poro likes nerdy content, which doesn’t tell us anything about his personality. For further attempts at laughs, Poro interacts with earth in a astonishingly manner, which feels forceful. Every single event on earth excites him to an insane degree and comes off as repetitive. The concept of supernatural demons is also a letdown since it only serves for cool two-page spreads and comedy support. An example of this happens when Poro’s super strength destroys a classroom door during his first impression entrance. I am apparently supposed to be laughing, but nothing funny comes across my way here. If Poro’s Diaries demon battle concept reminds of anything, it would be Zatch Bell. Zatch Bell is an endearing fantasy battle manga which includes mature themes while simultaneously featuring demon children fighting for king. Poro’s Diaries could easily produce something great like Zatch Bell, but relies on bland humor.
Check out the series here to see if you find it appealing.
Anyone who enjoyed Beezlebub by Ryuuhei Tamura might be excited to learn that he is back with his new comedy, Hungry Marie. The manga centers around Taiga who has had a crush on Anna since they were kids. Sadly, because of their parents being opposite religion factions, their separation becomes inevitable. Years later, conversations between them start, but only due to weird circumstances. Anna is attempting a ritual by reviving dead princess Marie-Thérèse Charlotte from the dead, despite Taiga’s shock. It is later revealed that one sacrifice will be needed for Marie’s resurrection, so Anna kidnaps Taiga. Major bombshells arrive during Taiga’s love confession when lightning suddenly strikes him, which causes his transformation into Marie herself. With this juicy setup established, misunderstandings and ruckus are unavoidable.
Hungry Marie succeeds where U19 and Poro‘s Diaries fails by nailing down interesting gags, comedic timing, along with cleverly drawn panels. Exaggeration of how serious Anna and her father are about their rituals provides amusing ways on bringing humor to the readers. One example is when Anna’s dad goes out of his way to purchase two chicken thighs online for the ritual, which brings forth well-executed comedy. Timing also plays a key factor by knowing which moments something funny should take place. Hungry Marie does this by doing a gag after or before something of importance happens. There are no wishy-washy attempts either since gags do not appear during relevant plot points in order to progress the story. Panels are strategically drawn and amplify all atmospheres for comedic or serious effect. Character models appear whacky when reacting comically by facial expressions looking astonished. Fine background shading helps convey serious tones, which informs readers on sincere plot progression. Combining these methods together makes for a successful series I hope we get more from soon.
There were hardly any problems the first chapter delivered besides the unneeded meta commentary. There are some monologuing that contains self-referring manga jokes that didn’t come off as funny. Still, not all jokes will work well, so a flaw or two is within the norm. If you wish to check out Hungry Marie, you can read for free here!
Robot x Laserbeam
Boring would be the word used to describe Robot x Laserbeam. Written by the same mangaka who wrote Kuroko no Basket, Tadatoshi Fujimaki, this manga oozes disappointment narratively and concept-wise. The series follows Robato Hatohara (Robo) and how he has no interest in anything. He gets invited to join a golf club, but declines since sports are not for him. After witnessing a friend getting bullied during golfing, Robo steps up and immediately aces multiple swings, shocking the bullies. This gains Robo more attention from golf members and their captain.
Golf is a niche sport on its own and whether it appeals to many becomes arguable. Since golf isn’t my preference either, wondering how Robot x Laserbeam could make it interesting caught my attention. Unfortunately, there aren’t any detailed explanations about the sport itself to give readers any insight. Displays of page spreads filled with swing shots proves this since Robot x Laserbeam has no intention to explain anything. Everything fails narratively as well since Robo is a bland character. Part of what grows a character in sports manga are all hardships they face when aiming for top success. How Robo owns golf without trial-and-error practice feels boring and would be slapping series like Baby Steps in the face. His personality is also boring since one could literally describe it as….robotic. How Robo shows apathy for everything around him exhibits this and feels intentional. That might be the joke here, but if so, then that doesn’t fit well with a sports theme.
Again, since this felt boring, there isn’t much else to add. If anything, only disappointment lingers since Fujimaki can do better than this. But to fill your curiosity, you can read it here!
Dr. Stone is a new manga that caught me by surprise when reading the first chapter. It focuses on Taiju and Senku enjoying high school life, then one day, an unknown burst of light appears. Said light causes this unexpected phenomena to occur where everything gets turned into stone. All of life and civilization ceases functioning for thousands of years with nothing but nature left. Suddenly, Senku followed by Taiju are restored back to normal with their only next door neighbors being nature and wildlife. Wanting restoration of civilization, Taiju and Senku task themselves on achieving that merit, but lacking resources will make that goal difficult.
Written by Riichiro Inagaki, the same writer for Eyeshield 21, Dr. Stone throws in an unexpected twist that felt tragic and suspenseful. Rapidly switching from a normal high school scenario to apocalyptic chaos shows this, which also grabs readers in fast. Tons of potential lies within this setting since survival is at stake here along with restoring life. Characters put surviving on priority by focusing their actions on that goal. Taiju is loud and brash, so manual labor suits him well, while Senku thinks cunningly, making scientific innovative progression his forte. With these two on the move for civilization, seeing their future encounter should be worthwhile.
For any downfalls, it would be the art. Specifically with eye shaping, some appear bizarre as if you were looking at an early 90’s shoujo manga. There’s also an issue with body figures as they are drawn too flashy or over-the-top. Men having excessive muscular body tones may be too ambitious when going for bodily proportions. Additionally, Taiju’s brashness can be a bit overwhelming and out of place, which breaks any tension going on. He exhibits this behavior during some moments where Senku explains how life has changed now and things will never be the same.
Other than that, Dr. Stone is intriguing and I hope we get to see more of it in the future. Check it out here if you’re interested!
After seeing all these jump starts, I believe it’s evident that and old era of shonen has passed with a new generation ready to take over. Not to say older series were bad, but all things come to an end. Reading new content from ambitious mangaka is a fine way for readers to witness fresh stories. For honorable mentions, series like Straighten-Up, Blade of Demon Destruction, and Amalgam of Distortion that didn’t make it into the magazine were series I looked forward to. Hopefully one of the series mentioned in this post will run and offer something compelling. As long as new manga keeps publishing, new heights await Shonen Jump!