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 “Aliens Area.” If you have thoughts on this or any other current Shonen Jump titles, please let us know in the comments!
Aliens Area Chapter 1
Written and Illustrated by Fusai Naba
Reviewed by Rowan Grover
The concept of aliens covertly infiltrating human society and working from within to undermine them is not a new idea in fiction. It’s not even the first manga to deal with that, since “Parasyte”, a personal favorite, already nailed the idea with a very distinct body horror tone years ago. So what does Shonen newcomer “Aliens Area” bring to the table? Well, for starters, Fusai Naba presents us already with a distinctly human protagonist.
High Schooler Tatsumi Tatsunami at first comes off as a loveable slacker type, which I was already cautiously on board for. However, we soon see that it’s not that he doesn’t want to go to college, he simply can’t justify it. Tatsumi is an orphan and carries the weight of looking after and providing for his two younger siblings, whilst also trying to keep a part-time job and deal with weird things happening to his body. It’s a quick and efficient setup to get us to care for the character who has very human problems. On top of that, I appreciate that the siblings aren’t just plot drivers: Naba writes them interacting with Tatsumi in very cute ways.
Naba was smart to push character development so early because the real hook of the manga is a bit of a harder sell. “Aliens Area”, at least in this debut chapter, doesn’t do too much to separate itself from other stories like it. The twist is that yes, aliens have indeed infiltrated society and yes, Tatsumi has been infected by alien tech since his “accident” five years prior to the story. Because of this, we get the overarching plot engine established: that aliens are out to get this tech back. It’s interesting enough but without a specific motivation for Tatsumi outside of surviving to look after his family, it feels a little aimless by the end of the first chapter, which isn’t a great portent. Coupled with that, Tatsumi is helped and goaded into being recruited by police/government stooges, which feels like an old-fashioned and redundant plot point in 2022.
Thankfully, what really elevates this debut from “emotional alien manga” is Naba’s jarringly angular art style. Few times have I ever seen an artist use the way that they shape the human body to express a character’s personality, and fewer times have I seen it done as well as it is here. Our lead Tatsumi is a great initial example of this. From the moment we first see him, his body is full of sharp edges: point hair, rigid eye shape, pointy nose, pointy everything. It pairs well with his abrasive introductory dialogue. Yet as the story opens up, we see more of Tatsumi, more of the weary lines circulating these sharp features, the shoulders that angle aggressively downward, showing how much his life is weighing down on him. Naba also brings in a great comparison point pretty early with Tatsumi’s siblings. These kids are really only ten or so years younger than him, yet their body shapes are much rounder and softer, their eye shapes punctuated by smoother lines, portraying their innocence deftly.
Moving away to the action and alien part of this debut is where we see Naba really lean into this rigid, yet sweeping style. As soon as you see the aliens, even in their most human form, they have a disturbing quality to them, almost as if Naba is drawing them with their non-dominant hand. They have a shaky quality, with exaggerated facial features that become more unsettling as the story progresses. It’s in this that Naba is able to compete with contemporaries in this medium, giving the aliens a body horror element that only subtly morphs the human form, yet just enough to make the aliens sit uncomfortably with the reader.
The way that the action is framed in the debut is just as fun too, with the camera feeling like it’s thrown around the scene like a tennis ball. When Tatsumi’s siblings are being held captive, we see the camera go from behind his figure at a low angle, to skyrocketing above into the ceiling, and then land in another panel in front with a bulbous, fish-eye effect. It’s super dynamic and adds a lot of tension to the story.
Final Score: 7.5 – “Aliens Area” is a solid debut. The hook may be a little rote, but it’s bolstered by strong character development and super stylistic art.