Welcome to This Week in Shonen Jump, our weekly check in on Viz’s various Shonen Jump series. Viz has recently changed their release format, but our format will mostly remain the same. We will still review the newest chapters of one title a week, now with even more options at our disposal. The big change for our readers is that, even without a Shonen Jump subscription, you can read these most recent chapters for free at Viz.com or using their app.
This week, Rowan checks in with “Ayashimon.” If you have thoughts on this or any other current Shonen Jump titles, please let us know in the comments!
Ayashimon Chapter 21
Written and Illustrated by Yuji Kaku
Reviewed by Rowan Grover
Opening this chapter with a visit to a high-class, Tanuki and Kitsune-owned hotel is right on target with the kind of weirdly wholesome tone that Ayashimon nails every time. Yuji Kaku settles the readers and the cast in comfortably to this place, having a hostess give a brief rundown of its ownership history and having Ten and Kotton exclaim at how fancy the trappings are. Which makes the incredibly left-of-field twist about the exact nature of the hotel even more shocking, Kaku is playing with some seriously twisted body horror tropes that I don’t think I can fully do service in this review. It’s a truly polarizing moment that gives you a true sense of fear for the characters trapped in the hotel, and makes you really root for Maruo and the gang when they resolve to save them.
The character works outside of these moments is pretty solid. Kaku lays a little heavy on the dialogue, but it works to build a sense of character for the newcomer baddie, Tamagawa. He’s a fellow who has every expected path his life might take planned out to the minute, and so Kaku plays with this god-tier foresight well to make him a menacing character. It’s within the realm of the infamous Ozymandias “I did it twenty minutes ago” line but there’s just a hint of annoyance and flaw within Tamagawa’s personality that makes him uniquely and equally terrifying. Next to him, the intimidating, rage-filled Kotton feels like a teenager throwing a tantrum, which is works pretty well as development for his own character, struggling against an unexpected threat.
Since this chapter is more dialogue-centric, there’s a lot more focus placed on character acting and facial expressions, and Kaku does a great job depicting subtle nuances in each of the main players here. The obvious one to mention is Tamagawa, who always bears a look of smug confidence in varying degrees of seriousness. He can turn quickly from an annoying mansplainer to a cold, staring psychopath without a sweat, and even when things don’t go his way, his look is of mild annoyance, like reacting to an unanticipated chess move. On the other end of the spectrum, the chapter has a well-paced decline in Kotton’s feeling of control over the situation. He starts the conversation off laid back in a chair with his legs up. As things spiral away from him, he moves to the edge of his seat, to leaning forward to make a point, to finally throwing his chair against the wall. It’s pitch-perfect and complements the dialogue nicely.
Outside of this, we get some decent setting manipulation and light action scenes, which while short in supply, still feel impactful. The way the hotel goes from looking like a high-class monolith on the inside and outside at the beginning of the chapter to the twisted mockery it becomes later is kind of astounding. Kaku uses some pretty jarring and blatant distortion techniques in the art to signify this change. Usually I’d knock that kind of instant, slap-in-the-face transition but it seems that Kaku is really going for the shock factor with what the hotel turns out to be, and it works well within the context of that. We get a fun little action scene later on as Maruo kicks a tanuki posing as Kotton, using speed lines and sound effects to create a powerful moment. It was a great way to pick things back up in pace and get my blood boiling in anticipation for the next chapter.
Final Score: 8.4 – “Ayashimon” genuinely threw me off-guard with this week’s chapter, continuing to shock and impress.