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, Zach and Vince check in with “The Promised Neverland” and “One Piece.” If you have any thoughts on these titles, or “Robot X Laserbeam,” “My Hero Academia,” “We Never Learn,” “Dr. Stone,” “Black Clover,” or “Food Wars,” let us know in the comments!
The Promised Neverland Chapter #40
Written by Kaiu Shirai
Illustrated by Posuku Demizu
Reviewed by Zach Wilkerson
With the children finally well outside of the walls of the demonic compound, we get our first glimpse of the world at large. If this is the titular, “Promised Neverland,” however, it leaves a bit to be desired. The children are out of the frying pan and into the fire in this fantastical chapter.
Transitioning away from the orphanage, along with its secrets and subterfuge, Shirai morphs this series into a sort of fantasy adventure. The children explore a sentient underground carnivorous forest, using the metatextual writings of Mr. Minerva as a guide to safety. This subterranean world bears strong echoes of Miyazaki classics like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke. The heroic Ugo, the adventurer of Minerva’s stories, also bears more than a passing resemblance to Nausicaa herself, right down to the pet lemur. The metatextuality at play with the books of Mr. Minerva add an interesting new layer to an already deep tale.
As the mysteries surrounding the state of the world at large thicken, our characters continue to grow in unique ways. The crucible of the last handful of chapters has left a profound mark on our two remaining protagonists. Emma has stepped up into a de facto leadership role, with Ray turning over a new leaf after years of playing the double agent. The specter of Norman, though unspoken, continues to hang heavy over the series, adding yet another layer of pathos to these young heroes and heroines.
Moving the story into new areas allows Posuku Demizu to really exercise his craft. The chapter begins with one of our fullest views of a demon in the series to Demizu’s designs are imaginative and uniquely haunting, absolute nightmare fuel. These designs contrast with the more whimsical designs of the children and the fantastical forest. The underground world, with its strange flora and fauna, is charming and well detailed. Demizu employs a subtle change in style when illustrating portions of the Adventures of Ugo, highlighting the storybook nature. I’d love to see Demizu explore these tales further in future chapters.
With a major status quo change, the creative team has managed to not only move the plot and characters forward in meaningful and interesting ways, but has incorporated new genres of story as well. Meanwhile, the mysteries of the the demons and the history of this world take approach LOST-ian levels. Pair that with the consistently unique and engaging artwork of Demizu and it’s easy to see shy “The Promised Neverland” continues to stand out week after week.
Final Verdict: 8.7 – “The Promised Neverland” continues to delight as the story heads in exciting new directions.
One Piece: Chapter 866 – Natural Born Destroyer
Written and Illustrated by Eiichiro Oda
Review by Vince J Ostrowski
If you haven’t been following “One Piece” since the beginning, seeing something that has reached more than 800 translated chapters and trying to find an entry point can feel like an insurmountable task. Part of the reason I wanted to review it this week, however, was to try to convey that you shouldn’t be afraid to jump into an insanely long-running manga. This particular chapter is as good an entry point as you’re going to get after all these years, if you approach it with the proper mindset.Continued below
“One Piece” has been running in Japan for 20 years now. But part of the beauty of Eiichiro Oda’s storytelling is that while its lore is incredibly deep and wide-ranging, its characters and situations can be distilled down into basic tropes for readers that are just trying to get into it and are comfortable with filling in the details as they go. It’s like picking up an issue of “Action Comics” after 80 years and having to kind of feel your way through what may have been happening to these characters in the last couple years as you go along, but no matter how much Superman you’ve read, you at least recognize who Superman and Lois are as characters.
“Chapter 866”, however, doesn’t concern any of “One Piece’s” regular cast of principal characters, and that makes jumping on here even easier. The entry almost plays out as a fable or a fairy tale, concerning a “holy mother” savior figure (Mother Carmel) who takes a village of giant orphans under her wing. The issue opens on one of the giants (an over-eager, hyper-active and uncontrollable child) being left on an island by her pirate parents who’ve decided they can’t handle her. The sequence plays with superficial humor of a giant child being bribed with candy, but carries with in a cutting undercurrent of tragedy – this child is being abandoned. But like a good fable, there are two sides to the story. After Mother Carmel takes her in among the other giant orphans of Elbaph, she causes destruction and chaos at every turn when she doesn’t mean to. She’s an innocent character that doesn’t realize the consequences of her size and aggression. She’s Lennie from Of Mice and Men. And the way things unfold, she may just be facing a similar fate.
For me, the major driving force that keeps bringing me back to “One Piece” is Oda-san’s versatile and quirky art style. After reading “One Piece” on-and-off for more than a decade, I know that his style can be something of a love-it or hate-it thing. I get it. The characters aren’t exactly always handsome or pretty, in fact they are often quite goofy or downright off-putting. The world of “One Piece” is one where traditionally handsome swordsmen can inhabit the same space as silly rubbery heroes and medieval grotesqueries. The island of Elbaph and its giants reminded me of the land of the Blue Meanies from The Beatles “Yellow Submarine” animated film. The characters have deranged smiles and their emotions are way over the top. It’s not for everybody, but it’s this variance that keeps Oda’s work interesting and lively to my eyes, even if it’s not always pretty. I admire the way that he packs each panel with detail, and how all these myriad fantastical elements come together in a way that feels greater than the sum of its parts. One of the most laudable aspects of “One Piece” is that way that Oda seems to be able to succeed at including any genre or style of fantasy storytelling that he attempts.
Surely at some point this particular story will dove-tail into the greater narrative of “One Piece”, but for anyone looking for a place to jump in, starting with the “origin story” of what looks to be a new antagonist isn’t a bad place to start. “Chapter 866” sets up its conflict in a clear manner that doesn’t require anything from outside these pages at this point. If you like what you find here, I can say that “One Piece” gets much more rewarding the more you read it.
Final Verdict: 7.0 – Chapter 866 is a nice breather of an interstitial story told in an unconventional way. It may not be the most affecting or interesting entry into the series, but it does show the scope and versatility of “One Piece”