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 “Shudan” and “Hunter x Hunter.” and If you have any thoughts on these titles, or “My Hero Academia,” “Cross Account,” “Dr. Stone,” “Robot X Laserbeam,” “The Promised Neverland,” “Black Clover,” “We Never Learn,” “Yu Gi Oh Arc V,” or “Food Wars,” let us know in the comments!
Shudan! – Chapter 3
Written and illustrated by Takuma Yokota
Review by Vince J Ostrowski
When it comes to comics centered around sports, Japanese manga seems to have the market dominated. I can name 2 dozen sports anime & manga, but I probably can’t count enough American sports comics on my fingers to fill up one hand. Because of this, reading a sports manga almost always feels rewarding and different, as there’s really not a great analogue for it in American comics. But the more you read of them, the more you start to differentiate the ordinary ones from the extraordinary – the uniqueness of the genre itself starts to lose its novelty. While “Shudan!” is definitely a competent and enjoyable read, it’s not reaching for the stars with its ambitions. In fact, it follows its tropes pretty much to the letter.
Soshi is a soccer-playing student with one significant asset (his speed), but is otherwise an avatar of the ordinary schoolboy. Of course he’s awkward around girls, so of course he starts acting like a petrified dork when a girl joins his Hamanishi Football Club. *gasp* You read that right: a girl playing football. So this is obviously a tired trope, and the regressiveness of suggesting that a girl being exceptional at a sport is naturally cut by Soshi (and the rival team – aka, the bad guys) being the only one who really feels this way and is forced to get over it and come to a growth in his character. Soshi has a friend (Roku) who is also the team leader who gives him enough hell about his hangups to help him push past his prejudice (through motivational dialogue, of course). Meanwhile, she just may be the key that helps put the soccer team over the top. Is all of this sounding familiar to you? Because it’s literally every sports manga ever. None of this is bad or painful to read, it’s just so overly familiar that you never once even expect the unexpected to happen (spoiler alert: it doesn’t). It’s not particularly entertaining, funny, or clever. Soshi is whiny in the way that the awkward protagonist tends to be. And the first “arc” seems to wrap up tightly by the end of this, the third chapter, just in time for Viz to decide its either going to stay or go based on a popularity vote. One wonders whether there are more interesting turns down the road after an intentionally rudimentary opening arc, but we may never find out if that’s the case. If it never came back, no one would ever remember it except to say that they wished it were around instead of some inferior fanservice manga. And if it were to be voted up for an extended run, no one would probably be upset about that either. It just exists.
When thinking about the art, I kind of come to the same conclusion. It’s nice to look at, it’s certainly adequate in delivering the soccer action that a sports manga promises, and it goes big when it comes to characters expressing their various tropey emotions and hangups. It’s fine, but it doesn’t do anything to push the genre or the medium. “ROBOTxLASERBEAM”, while not the greatest sports manga in the world, impressed me with the extreme detail with which it rendered its sporting sequences. “Shudan!” just accomplishes a workmanlike job. Speed lines and sound effect lettering fills the background during the action, conveying the movement well, but confounding any opportunity for detail. Ultimately this stylistic choice is a perfectly fine one, but it doesn’t go out of its way to impress a reader. Also, if the idea of a “kawaii” manga is particularly attractive to you, I suppose I would say that all the designs are extremely cute. The characters have cute uniforms, cute celebrations, and stupid, cute little faces. It’s all cute, all the time with this one. It’s also worth mentioning that this comic seems to be entirely devoid of fanservice, which is welcome in a manga anthology that seems to be picking up more and more fanservice as the years go on.Continued below
The saying goes: if you shoot for the moon, you’ll land among the stars. “Shudan!” prefers to eke its way up to them from the middle of the pack. I’m not sure it’s going to get there.
Final Verdict: 6.0 – “Shudan!” is a cutely rendered sports manga that sticks to just about every trope in the genre, graceful and inoffensive, but that’s about all you can say for it.
Hunter X Hunter Chapter 361
Written and Illustrated by Yoshihiro Togashi
Reviewed by Zach Wilkerson
Nearly a full year since its last published chapter, “Hunter X Hunter” returns to Weekly Shonen Jump. As it turns out, I’ve never read an issue of “Hunter X Hunter,” so this long hiatus ushers in my jumping into the series. When it comes to American comics, there’s a saying that every issue is someone’s first issue. This mentality can lead creators to make each issue as accessible as possible through the use of recap pages or expository dialogue. The illusive “jumping on point” is a mythical beast that comic creators tout as often as possible. However, even with a three page recap of the series thus far, “Hunter X Hunter” seems to have no intentions of dumbing things down for accessibility.
To be frank, my ability to adequately review this chapter is hindered by the fact that I have absolutely no freaking idea what’s happening. The recap sets up the events of the events of the current arc, involving a battle royale between 14 royal children on ship headed for the “Dark Continent, but I can hardly make heads or tails of anything past that. However, stripped of any context, depth, or nuance, “Hunter X Hunter” is still pretty fun.
The lead protagonist of the series, Gon, is nowhere in sight. Instead, the chapter focuses on blonde haired boy, presumably one of the 14 children of the King. The boy is in possession of a gauntlet bearing chain linked needles, which seemingly have the ability to steal the “Nen” abilities of others. Said abilities include the power to possess animals smaller than a hamster. That’s pretty kooky, right? Meanwhile there’s a weird little frankenstein spider teddy bears that crawl inside of individuals and possesses them? I don’t know what I’m reading, but I like it.
“Hunter X Hunter” is currently the second longest running series published, after “One Piece” of course. While that freight train of series has evolved over time and feels right home with its contemporaries, “Hunter X Hunter” feels delightfully dated. The lead character’s design, scratchy hair and huge expressive eyes, feels like throwback to the protagonists of the 90s, when Toonami reigned supreme in the psyche of american adolescents. Togashi-san’s work is dynamic and engaging during action sequences, showcasing the wackier elements of the story. However, the more mundane moments feel somewhat generic.
With a long running and oft delayed series like “Hunter X Hunter,” it’s pretty unreasonable to jump into a given issue, let alone mid-arc, and expect to have any meaningful comprehension of the proceedings. Nevertheless, with the series potentially returning to Weekly Shonen Jump as regular feature, there’s plenty here for new fans of the series to enjoy.
(As a side note, those interested in reading more “Hunter X Hunter” can currently access the first 17 chapters of the series for free at viz.com)
Final Verdict: 7.5 – This manga classic’s return to the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump is less “triumphant entry” and more “business as usual.” Of course, when the business is good, that’s not such a bad thing.