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, Robbie and Ken check in with “Robot X Laserbeam” and “Jujutsu Kaisen.” If you have any thoughts on these titles, or “One Piece,” “We Never Learn,” “Black Clover,” “The Promised Neverland,” “My Hero Academia,” “Dr. Stone,” “Food Wars,” “Blue Exorcist,” “Seraph at the End,” or “Hunter X Hunter,” let us know in the comments!
Jujutsu Kaisen Ch. 1
Written & Illustrated by Gege Akutami
Reviewed by Ken Godberson III
If a tree falls in the middle of the woods with no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a story you read leaves so little of an impact on you, was it even real? I guess that may have just spoiled my review of the debut chapter of “Jujutsu Kaisen,” but it doesn’t make it any less valid. I have always been a believer that the objective of issue/chapter one of a story -be it comic, manga or thinky brainy wordy book- is to get the reader to chapter two. “Kaisen” already had a step in my direction being a supernatural action story, but the unfortunate truth is that this introduction doesn’t do enough to elevate the basic premise.
“Jujutsu Kaisen” follows high schooler Yuji Itadori and his friends Sasaki and Iguchi, (only) members of the school’s Occult Club. Mostly it’s just them messing around with ouija boards, however, it isn’t long before even stranger things begin happening when a stranger arrives at the school. Soon, Itadori is embroiled into a world of Curses, creatures that manifest with a concentration of negative energy, usually through some form of talisman and are capable of possessing unsuspecting humans. Outside of the weirdness, Itadori is dealing with the death of his beloved grandfather, and the fear of death that begins to creep into him. The chapter culminates in Itadori diving headfirst into the world of Curses in order to protect Sasaki and Iguchi. It’s a very basic introduction.
On the art side, Akutami’s work is pretty good. Design-wise, Itadori does stand out with his lighter colored hair and incredibly expressive reactions to the going-ons around him. Even when the scenes are more somber, such as when Itadori is with his dying grandfather, Akutami is able to capture the emotion of the scene very well. The designs of the creatures are pretty fun, one in particular being a combination of a giant flea, a lizard and a xenomorph. There is a great attention to detail to not only the supernatural creatures but to other creepy things like a spider (which already gets “Oh Hell No!” points from me) and a dried up finger. This art does show potential, it just needs a stronger story to work with it.
However, (and normally I don’t do this, but it wasn’t until I looked at the story a second time) I feel like it’s necessary to address an elephant in the room: it’s a supernatural action story that deal with creatures that can possess people and a big part of the premise seems to be about removing or “exorcising” them from people, with a protagonist that gets a direct connection to the weirdness and even loses a loved one… in the same magazine that has “Blue Exorcist”. It’s very strange to see another exorcism manga being in Shonen Jump and it may be unfair to compare this to a manga nearing its 100th issue, but even in its infancy “Exorcist” felt like a better version of this.
In conclusion, “Jujutsu Kaisen” just doesn’t feel like anything unique. It feels like a bog standard supernatural action manga. Itadori feels like a very lukewarm protagonist when it comes to others in the magazine and Akutami doesn’t really do enough with the premise to make it stand out. If it’s going to survive beyond the first few weeks to become an ongoing, it’s going to have to hit this first story out of the park.Continued below
Final Verdict: 5.3- Some artwork with potential is in need of a story that needs to quickly find its identity.
Robot x Laserbeam Ch. 47
Written and illustrated by Tadatoshi Fujimaki
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant
Here we are, 47 chapters in, and… things are actually moving at a good pace. One tournament arc has just ended, but they’re setting up for another by creating character-driven conflict and introducing an array of new characters. That’s more or less what this chapter consists of, and overall, it’s pretty entertaining.
There are two key elements this chapter is setting up: Robo’s conflict with the Don and the appearance of new rivals. The former is a relatively common trope; there’s often some more experienced antagonistic force that goes out of their way to repay the main character for some slight. In this case, Robo is being set up so that he’ll have to face off against the highest-ranked competitors, which for the readers means we’ll get to enjoy plenty of high-powered showdowns.
What’s more amusing is the way in which the conflict gets set up. Earlier in this series, it felt as though Robo’s expressionless look and overall lack of tact would make him a boring character, but it’s done just the opposite, as the reactions we get from the people around him are more than enough to compensate. Robo doesn’t express much, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel at all or have any desires; he just has a different way of showing it. He’s not the type of shounen protagonist to proclaim “You struck my friend earlier, and for that, you shall pay!” but he will simply state “You ran into my friend without apologizing. I don’t like rude jerks like that. So I won’t work with you.” And the story accelerates from there.
While that’s all well and good for setting up the conflict, what’s more important are the characters that come with it. Tadatoshi Fujimaki introduces a half-dozen new characters this chapter, each with a distinct design and an introduction that gives us a good idea of their personalities. It’s here where Fujimaki’s artwork really comes through, with such a wide array of unique looks and expressions that tell us all we need to know about them.
Credit should absolutely be given to the mangaka’s skill with character designs. From the Don’s exaggerated scowling to Kuze’s cocky smirk, personality shines through in every panel. Since the chapter takes place inside a single room (large and impressive though it is) the artistry can really shine through in the character work, and boy does it ever.
There’s just a few lines given to introduce each of them, but they all have different and interesting stories behind them. Whether it’s an older man whose skills haven’t dulled in age or a young rookie already making waves, it’s clear that Fujimaki has plans for each of them, so we have plenty to look forward to.
Though I am a little concerned that the one specifically described as “a guy who looks like a lady” specializes in “traps.”
That concern aside, this chapter does a fine job bringing in new characters and setting up future conflicts through character-driven motivations. It’s setting up for an exciting arc, which is not something I expected from a golf manga, but “Robot x Laserbeam” has proven itself interesting enough to keep on reading.
Final Verdict: 7.4 – A good introduction to several new characters, and it sets the stage for conflict and competition to come, as any good sports manga should.