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 Ken are catching up with “Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin” and “Spy x Family.” If you have thoughts on these or any other current Shonen Jump titles, please let us know in the comments!
Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin Chapter #1
Written and illustrated by Ryuhei Tamura
Translated by Adrienne Beck
Lettered by Brand Bovia
Reviewed by Zach Wilkerson
Upfront, this is a weird one for Viz and Shonen Jump to publish in America considering the current political climate. I applaud their dedication to Japan/US parity in terms of content offerings. However, I can definitely see this story going over better in a country where the rate of deaths by police is 0.2 per 10 million persons (2018), versus 46.6 per 10 million persons (2019). Current events aside, is the book itself any good?
The book’s title says it all. Combining classic hard-nosed noir tropes with fantastical aquatic farce, “Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin” is an exercise in excess and absurdity. Officer Samejima is a Tokyo cop that’s as hard and pulpy as they come. His narration boxes have blood on them! Early on, Samejima is reassigned to rural Ogasawara Islands after his reckless antics fall under scrutiny. He’s quickly placed on a case involving a mysterious cult, recently vanished, and their oracle, a young girl recently returned from sea.
Oh, and his partner is a dolphin.
Over the course of the first chapter “Hard-Boiled Cop” plays fast and loose with common police tropes. The big city cop moves to a small town and quickly butts heads with the quaint locals. His first encounter with Officer Umi Nanase, whose shirt is so tight that she literally bursts, is tame by some manga standards but still comes off as excessive fan service. The officers later investigate a hit and run, where author Tamura touches on hot issues like police gun use, intimidation by force, and the use of social media and video recording to document police activities.
All the while, one of the police officers is a walking dolphin.
The hit and run section could either be read as extremely problematic or absurdist satire. The culprits, a group of bratty tourists are clearly in the wrong and practically beg for retributive justice. However, the action of the police officers is reprehensible. Samejima intimidates with force. Orphie, who I may remind you is a dolphin, threatens the group for filming them and confiscates their phones claiming “violation of privacy rights.” The duo later unholster their guns, already an uncommon occurrence for this small town, to shoot out the tires of an escaping vehicle. It’s hard to tell if the book is lauding the officer’s expert marksmanship or highlighting the absurdity of the rapidly escalating events.
A series of events that is, of course, all the more absurd because of the officers is a huge, anthropomorphic dolphin.
The partnership between Samejima and Orpheus is cute, with Samejima being immensely confused that he is both partnered with and outranked by an actual dolphin person. The duo’s burgeoning “two dads” scenario with Chako, the cult’s child oracle, is quite sweet. Tamura’s artwork is very well detailed and dynamic. His characters are expressive and the action and movement between panels is impressive.
Nevertheless, in spite of the fantastic big huge dolphin man, the timing of this manga in the US just feels wrong.
Final Verdict: _._ – It’s impossible for me, as a person, to give a number to this comic. It’s fun and well crafted, and while it never quite falls into the pitfall of being “copaganda,” it plays very loose with a lot of issues that cause pain and trauma for so many in the US. Also, Black Lives Matter.Continued below
Spy x Family Ch. 29
Written & Illustrated by Tatsuya Endo
Reviewed by Ken Godberson III
When you were a child, did you ever get assigned a project to research a job one of your parents did? It’s something very common and now little Anya Folger has the assignment. The trouble naturally is that when your “mama” and “papa” are an assassin and spy respectfully, it becomes a bit awkward. And that’s the premise of this one-shot chapter of “Spy x Family”: Yor and Loid trying to find ways to do this project without traumatizing their little charge. Plot-wise, that really is the whole premise, but what carries the chapter is the humor, both narratively and visually.
It’s actually a bit difficult to talk about what actually happens in this chapter because as I said, the very simple premise is carried by Endo’s knack for humor and I don’t really want to spoil jokes. Suffice to say that following Anya’s perspective for the most part causes for some childish misinterpretations of what Yor and Loid are saying. Anya’s overactive imagination is on fully display visually as Endo creates some of the most laugh-out-loud facial expressions I have seen in a while. Even when Loid, in his cover as a hospital psychiatrist, breaks some of that stoicism a bit, you can’t help but smile at the goofiness of it.
If there is a downside to this chapter, well it falls down to what you are looking for in this series. Now that it’s about thirty chapters in, it’s safe to say if you are looking for a hard, meaty and serious series of spies having to look after a kid, this isn’t it. Admittedly even for the series itself, this chapter was a bit light, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “Spy x Family” works as a fun, light hearted chaser for perhaps what are considered “heavier” books, but that in no way takes from it’s quality. It knows what it is and does it very well.
Final Verdict: 7.3- A very funny, if light, one-shot chapter.