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 two titles 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, Zach and Vince check in with “Food Wars” and “Samurai 8.” If you have thoughts on these or any other current Shonen Jump titles, please let us know in the comments!
Food Wars Chapter 315
Written by Yuto Tsukuda
Illustrated by Shun Saeki
Contributions from Yuki Morisaki
Translated by Adrienne Beck
Lettered by Mara Coman
Reviewed by Zach Wilkerson
Just over a year ago, “Food Wars” wrapped up the long running, high stakes ‘Central’ arc. It was a particularly strong and important arc, resulting in a massive status quo change for the series, setting up a multitude of possible storylines for Soma and his friends.
Fast forward some fifty-odd issues and we find the series coming to an abrupt and unexpected end. I could resort to the old whimper vs bang cliche. However, the more egregious offense lies in the emphasis on the more problematic aspects, rather than its endearing qualities
After the preceding chapters delved in to the secret history of Erina’s mother and the clandestine machinations of her grandfather, this chapter focuses simply on one last shokugeki between Soma and Erina. Actually, it is more one last attempt for Soma to win the approval of Erina. As always, Soma prepares a seemingly plebeian dish that mystically possesses gourmet flavor. True to form, Erina rejects his dish with disgust, but not before blowing up a building with the explosive force of disrobing.
And, that’s about it. While there are certainly some touching and sentimental moments between the characters present, particularly Soma and Erina, the final chapter focuses more on exposing Erina (twice) than demonstrating any kind of growth for its characters. Even the best moments, tinged with nostalgia and youthful exuberance, feel somewhat hollow and unearned.
“Food Wars” has always bordered on “problematic fave” territory, due to the book’s predilections for displaying underage characters in various stages of undress. I, and I imagine most fans, overlooked this because of the stong core concept, the well developed cast, and a surprising attention to culinary detail. Here at the end, those latter items take a backseat to the former, leaving this reader to question what it was all really for. Scambled eggs all over my face. What is a boy to do?
It’s been a rather disappointing fall from grace for one of the most promising books in recent Weekly Shonen Jump history. Technically, it seems this is not entirely the end for the series, as a three part monthly epilogue has been commissioned. Hopefully this will provide a more satisfying capstone for the extended cast and the book as a whole. However, as the nominal final chapter of “Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma,” one might wonder if we’ve had too much of a good thing.
Final Verdict: 3.0 – A slight and hollow finale for this problematic gem of a manga.
Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru – Chapter 6: Samurai of Fate
Written by Masashi Kishimoto
Illustrated by Akira Okubo
Review by Vince J Ostrowski
Much to the dismay of my column-mate, the delightful Zach, I’m not very well-versed in “Naruto.” Someday I’m sure I’ll connect with it, but for the time being I was excited to at least get a chance to check out the new series from the same manga-ka in its earliest stages. I have to say, I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve read so far. “Samurai 8” is a typically lighthearted shonen manga with a good sense of humor (and some of its best jokes are in this chapter) and an intriguing art style which lends itself toward surprises around every turn.
Chapter 6 spends its length explaining the basic structure of the lore behind “Samurai 8” – how everything works and fits together like a puzzle to create the fantasy hierarchy of samurai and princesses, which appears to be the main conceit of the series to this point. The samurai (who is also known as a “key” or contains a “key” within them – both of these ideas seem to be used interchangeably) needs a key holder (an animal familiar) and a corresponding princess to come together to unlock the true battling abilities of the samurai. This works well both as just a fun, simple RPG game-like concept and as a keen piece of shonen-style storytelling; the reason being that the bond that the samurai forms with their princess inspires them to be a stronger person. In that way, the samurai combination requirements feels like it has actual stakes and a reason to exist outside of merely a plot contrivance. The idea is less that being near the princess magically unlocks new power, but that having a person to protect that you care about makes you want to be a stronger person and push yourself beyond the limits.Continued below
This structure is doled out as exposition, but I must say, it’s some of the most smoothly delivered exposition dialogue I’ve read in some time. The samurai master explains the structure to Hachimaru, as diagrams clearly show what he’s talking about and Hachimaru interjects with some comedy that gives us a better idea of his character, too. By this point, we can confidently say that Hachimaru is a bit of a daydreamer. A running joke is established that he can’t let the samurai master get to the end of a sentence without interjecting and saying something that directly steps on something the master was about to say in the first place. There is a humorous callback later in the chapter, when we meet Hachimaru’s apparent princess, where she hopes out loud that her samurai will be someone who will listen to her well, because she likes to talk. While we’re on the subject of humor, Hachimaru attempts to summon his soul sword for the first time under the master’s guidance, and what results is a dick joke right out of the movie Spaceballs. It’s quite good, and the visual gag simply slams it home.
In fact, all the visuals in this manga are to be lauded for how loose and fun they are. I appreciated the way that the character models would become more or less detailed as the comedy required them. At times, an overly simple rendering of a character’s face sells the emotion or humor a lot better than a detailed expression would. It never feels like Akira Okubo is taking an unnecessary shortcut by doing this kind of thing, the characters simply appear fluid in a way that’s truly pleasing to the eye and gets the expression across. Even more exciting are the visual aesthetics of the world itself. I’m reminded of Akira Toriyama’s penchant for making the world of “Dragon Ball” seem both ancient and futuristic while playing around in the very same setting. Goku could be running from a dinosaur in the very same scene that Bulma is using a high tech capsule device to make a motorcycle appear. Here too, it’s unclear what sort of time-and-place setting this is, but I mean that as a high compliment. The characters and their familiars seem to be animal in nature, but also possess segmented, robotic features. When the samurai master wants to show Hachimaru the ways of the samurai, his head opens like a clamshell case to reveal a projector device. Later, Hachimaru tries popping his own “key” in and out of his head on the fly in much the same way. It’s visual details like this that are brilliantly under-explained that give the world of “Samurai 8” some mystery, and a sense that anything can happen, visually.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – For a chapter full of exposition, “Samurai 8” is early as good as it gets when it comes to shonen manga that doesn’t take itself too seriously and looks to show you something new at every turn.