Welcome to This Week in Shonen Jump, in which a rotating duo of Multiversity staffers take a look at two stories contained in each installment of Viz Media’s Weekly Shonen Jump. For the uninitiated, Weekly Shonen Jump is an anthology that delivers more than 200 pages of manga of all varieties. We hope that you’ll join us in exploring the world of Weekly Shonen Jump each week. If you are unfamiliar, you can read sample chapters and subscribe at Viz.com.
This week, Rowan and Matt return to talk about one classic strip and one brand new one. If you have any thoughts on the two titles discussed this week, or thoughts on “The Promised Neverland,” “Black Clover,” “One Piece,” “My Hero Academia,” or “One Punch Man,” “Food Wars,” let us know in the comments!
Robot x Laserbeam Chapter 2
Written and Illustrated by Tadatoshi Fujimaki
Reviewed by Matt Lune
I’ve not been reading manga for too long, but already I can tell that sports manga is amongst my favorite. Much like you don’t need to be a chef to enjoy “Food Wars,” you don’t have to be a fan of the particular sport in question to enjoy any specific sports manga. The latest ‘Jump Start’ in the pages of “WSJ” is “Robot x Laserbeam,” a golfing manga that started last week and continues here. Main character Robato Hatohara continues to be reluctant to start playing golf, despite possessing a supernaturally gifted talent and his best friend pushing him, which leads to a lot of comical exchanges where Robo’s seemingly oblivious apathy towards his skill baffles and infuriates those around him. There’s humor throughout this chapter, which gives a lighthearted tone to what I’m sure will turn more and more serious as the series progresses and it moves through the tropes of the subgenre; namely tournaments; ‘life and death’ battles against ever increasingly insurmountable foes; extended pacing that really shows the agony, passion and drive of our protagonist. The seeds are all here in this early chapter.
Within ‘Chapter 2,’ we learn a little more about Robo, including some hints as to how he became so good at golf. He’s been insisting that he’s never played and that all he does is aim really, really well. Thanks to an extended sequence with his father we learn that there’s a love of golf running through his family and that he may have been practicing in secret. This adds a little much-needed depth to the main character, who was starting to feel a lot like Saitama from “One Punch Man:” a character that comes across as mundane but who’s actually the Greatest Of All Time. That suits a tongue in cheek book like “One Punch Man,” in a sports manga though there’s a great deal of weight in the struggle, the slow and sometimes painful rise to the top, so it’s interesting to know there’s more to learn about the lead as “Robot x Laserbeam” progresses.
The art makes some great choices when it comes to detail. A lot of the time when the focus is on the conversations or the interpersonal drama there’s nothing but blank backgrounds. Sometimes, specifically when establishing a scene or setting up a new location, the backgrounds are reintroduced with beautiful detail. There are two panels especially where Robato’s father is driving him to an allotment and we get to see the rural landscape fully realized around them. In fact, that whole scene is detailed really well, and It’s moments like this that help to fill out the world.
The pacing is everything in a sports manga, and while there’s still a large amount of talking heads in this early chapter, when Robo steps up to swing, the panels grow larger and larger until they explode outward in a rush of speed and energy, his perfect shot flying like, well, like a laser beam. The best sports manga, much like any shonen manga in fact, knows when to play for laughs and when to play it seriously. In “Robot x Laserbeam,” that weight comes from the other characters reacting to Robatamo’s unbelievable skill. Their reactions help to establish just how incredible he is, and there are early hints of challengers, enemies, and obstacles that all give this series an energy that will appeal to fans of the genre.Continued below
“Robot x Laserbeam” manages to achieve what a lot of the best sports manga does, which is setting out a compelling, thrilling, fun but serious adventure serial that is enjoyable even if you’re not a fan of the sport in question. Being a Golf fan is absolutely unnecessary to enjoy this series, and this chapter specifically lays the groundwork for deeper characterization, engaging rivalry and future conflict. Here’s hoping this series gets picked up by “Weekly Shonen Jump” to continue in the anthology.
Final verdict: 8.5 – An awesome new series filled with energy and fun characters, that just happens to be about Golf.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V Chapter 20
Written by Shin Yoshida
Illustrated by Naohita Miyoshi
Reviewed by Rowan Grover
“Arc-V” has been a solid return to form for the “Yu-Gi-Oh!” manga series, and chapter 20 continues the high paced monster card battling. Shin Yoshida deepens the series intrigue by exploring the mysterious masked foe Ren, someone who looks a little too suspiciously like Kaiba to me. There’s not a lot of room for character exploration here as 90% of this issue is the duel, but the vagueness in which Ren is referred to makes it intriguing to return and discover his identity.
The duel which, as I said, takes up most of the chapter, is pretty standard as far as “Yu-Gi-Oh!” duels go. I understand the need to explain every move considering that the main audience for this series are the car game players, but I think the narrative can afford to take a breather and not clog up the panels every once in a while. I’m a big fan of the cheesy introductions to cards like ‘SWING! PENDULUM OF DESTINY!!’ but I think beyond that, some moves might be more obvious to fans of the series, and don’t need overexplaining.
However, what I love about this series is the “Akira”-esque high octane motorcycle fights. It’s a solid way to break up the monotony of what’s essentially two white dudes standing around playing cards, and Yoshida scripts some intense sequential action. Early on in the series, the duelists speed around a 360 degree pipeline between turns, giving great opportunity for mid-fight sledging. It’s pretty tame considering the audience of this book, not really going past “NOW YOU’VE DONE IT” or “AS IF I’D LET YOU!”. What kind of irks me is some of the predictability of the duel and these characters’ reactions. In the middle of the chapter, both characters tell each other “I KNEW YOU’D MAKE THAT ATTACK” at least three or four times, and it honestly wears thin even after the first time.
Naohita Miyoshi nails the super-monster and high-speed motorcycle art here, and is the biggest draw for anyone who’s not a devoted card gamer. Early on in the duel is my favourite sequence of the whole book, Yugo fusi- I mean, ‘synchro summoning’ two cards to create his signature CLEARWING FAST DRAGON (the name leaves something to be desired). The page leading up to it is one of the best examples of sequential storytelling in this series I’ve seen, as we see each individual card appear and interact in order to fuse – all the while, Yugo and Ren continue their tense motorcycle battle. Each monster card bursts from the panels to appear in a suitable dramatic fashion, and the final synchro summon takes place on a full page spread.
The speed lines in the art can get a little tiresome however. I understand that we’re literally in the middle of a motorcycle race, but there’s a point where it becomes a little dizzying for the reader to follow. I think there’s something of a missed opportunity in not rendering the skyscraper-sized monsters amidst the dystopic cityscape, but it still comes across with certain grandeur. What does work here is how the visuals can present cues as to how the inner workings of the card games play out. We get a lot of the symbols of the cards seamlessly blending into the backgrounds – backing up what the dialogue is telling the reader. It’d be interesting to see the manga rely simply on these visual cues instead of bloating us with dialogue, however the explanations kind of work with the campy tone of the series to an extent.
“Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V” chapter 20 is a serviceable continuation of the latest spinoff of the popular card game, giving us dynamic duel action over fun motorcycle races. The inner-workings of the card game get a little too much at times, but it’s bound to be more enjoyable to devoted fans of the series.
Final Verdict: 6.5 – A reinvigorating chapter in a solid series, “Arc-V” falls short by being too overstuffed where it counts.