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, Ken and Robbie review “My Hero Academia” and “Act Age.” If you have any thoughts on these titles, or “Food Wars,” “We Never Learn,” “Blue Exorcist,” “Black Clover,” “Robot X Laserbeam,” “Dr. Stone,” “One Piece,” “Hunter X Hunter,” or “Seraph at the End,” let us know in the comments!
Act-Age Ch. 3
Written by Tatsuya Matsuki
Illustrated by Shiro Usazaki
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant
So we reach the third chapter of another Jump Start series, where the readers will decide if it’s worth following. In this time, we’ve met protagonist Kei Yonagi, saw her get her start as an actress, and now get to see as she makes her way into the acting world.
And… it doesn’t quite work. But points for trying.
There’s plenty of shonen series where the main character has some amazing but unrefined skill at whatever the focus of the series may be. Whether they’re somehow amazing at golf, exorcisms, card games, or fighting with whatever mystical techniques the series may follow, there are plenty of ways to get great arcs out of talents the characters are growing to understand.
Acting, however, is not necessarily a talent that lends itself well to this kind of storyline. Sure, there are great stories out there about people trying to make it as actors, but for the story Tatsuya Matsuki is going for to work, Kei somehow has to be both amazing at acting and completely unfamiliar with even the most basic of concepts, in spite of apparently really wanting to be one.
Which brings us to this issue, where she’s cast as an extra in a period piece, and it’s a good thing there are characters on hand to explain what an extra is and why they’re important. Not knowing all the people who work behind the scenes is one thing, and we’re given some amusing descriptions for the production team, film crew, and so on, but apparently even being an extra is an unfamiliar concept to our main character.
So when she leaps out from the crowd, interrupting the filming to save a child she should have known wasn’t actually in danger, it’s unclear if we’re supposed to see this as another sign of her ability to get in character, or an indication of just how clueless she is.
Lastly, it’s just hard to portray immense acting talent in a format that doesn’t involve any actual acting. Shiro Usazaki’s artwork does the best it can, adjusting Kei’s posture and expressions to match what she’s acting as, and changing the lighting and tone of the panels to create the mood the scene is supposed to portray, but it still often has to come down to other characters remarking on how great she is.
Issues with the main character aside, the supporting cast is fine. We learn more about the director, Sumiji Kuroyama, and hints that his ambition could be somehow be disastrous for the industry, and he meshes well with the other characters, particularly production manager Hiiragi. There’s definitely room to develop the characters and give us more from them in terms of backstory and their interactions, but it doesn’t seem like the manga is ready to do that yet.
Throughout most of the manga, Shiro Usazaki’s artwork is acceptable. The character designs for the more important characters are pretty solid, and it makes new characters recognizable from the moment of their introductions. There are some moments where the shading gets really nice, particularly in establishing shots, close-ups, and the moments where we see Kei’s talent coming through, and we’re occasionally given some nice amusing expressions from the more emotional of characters. The way the panel turns into a widescreen shot during the filming scene works quite nicely too, and really adds impact to the moment.Continued below
It does feel a little scarce at other times, though, particularly when characters are standing around and talking without anything of particular importance coming up. That is put to good use to demonstrate how the extras are supposed to be faceless, unimportant bystanders, which contrasts well with how Kei stands out, but other times it just makes the pages less than memorable. It’s not bad by any stretch, it just feels lacking at times.
“Act-Age” gets full points for effort. It tries to use an old shonen trope with a new theme and concept, and clearly has an idea in mind for its character arcs. It doesn’t work quite as well as one would hope, perhaps due to the limitations of the genre, but it was a good effort. The series doesn’t quite do it for me, but if you enjoy it, I will certainly not question your tastes.
Final Verdict: 5.5 – A shonen manga about acting was always going to be tricky to pull off, and while “Act-Age” falls a bit short, it’s not the worst. Decent characters, acceptable artwork, and some enjoyable moments makes it a passable series, but nothing outstanding.
My Hero Academia Ch. 169
Written & Illustrated by Kohei Horikoshi
Reviewed by Ken Godberson III
Let me tell you a pet peeve I have in mainstream superhero comics. It is the complete and utter lack of breather issues. And I’m not just talking about a one-shot adventure. I’m talking about a character-centric time outside of the costumes where the characters can just take a moment to… well… breathe. For example, something I would just love to see in the current “Detective Comics” is just an issue where Cass, Stephanie and Tim just hang out. It could provide some interesting insight into the characters when they’re not up to their necks in danger and show they’re more than their masks. But the need to coordinate with other books or just lack of desire makes such stories rare.
It’s why I loved this chapter.
After the grueling arc dealing with Overhaul, the academy is trying to at least find some semblance of normalcy with the upcoming School Festival. The class has to come up with some service or exhibition for the Festival and it allows some of the more supporting characters the chance to shine. In particular, this chapter has a focus on Kyouka Jiro and her musical talents. Or rather, her self-consciousness about her musical talents. She’s very snippy, in particular to Denki Kaminari, despite him knowing how good she is and encouraging he tries to be with her. On top of that, is a plethora of little moments from characters such as Iida, Momo and Shouto that remind us that these characters are teenagers, and they have their own awkwardness and eccentricities.
Artistic wise, Horikoshi gets to calm down the action and focus on character work and he does a great job with it. All the characters get a brief moment when making suggestions for the class project, from Tokoyami’s dour expression to Koda’s shy, but earnest expression on his rocky face. Even Mineta gets a bit of “humor” to his over-the-topness when he suggests a strip club (For Godssake, this character is still here?!). But as the story has her as the main character, it’s the art for Kyouka that seals the deal. Body language is important in how Horikoshi depicts her nervousness. Examples range from her shuffling feet, to twiddling her “Earphone Jacks” to the panic looks she has when its suggested she come up with the music for the dance party the class goes with. Seeing such a normally calm character get all visually flustered is very humanizing.
“My Hero Academia” chapter 169 isn’t moving the story along, but it is such a refresher. You can’t have every chapter be something major and it’s good to see characters like Kyouka get a little time to be in the sunlight. It’s also kind of a new reader friendly place to jump, if that’s important to you.
Final Verdict: 8.8: A great chance for Class 1-A to catch a breather and focus on the more human traits of a supporting character.