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 “Ghost Reaper Girl” and “Spy x Family.” If you have thoughts on these or any other current Shonen Jump titles, please let us know in the comments!
Spy x Family – Mission 30
Written & Illustrated by Tatsuya Endo
Review by Vince J Ostrowski
“Spy x Family” has a simple, yet ingenious premise: for their own secretive reasons, a government spy (Twilight/Loid Forger) and a stealthy assassin (Thorn Princess/Yor Forger) must live together as a family, and raise a young telepath as their daughter as part of a serpentine mission. Each new chapter seems to stack additional difficulties onto the arrangement, while continuing to deftly balance the growing relationships between the characters and the basic conflicts that arise from simply trying to stick together as a family.
Before this chapter (or “mission” to use the parlance of the series), another spy cohort has been added to the mix: Fiona Frost, who means to take Yor’s place as the matriarch of the Forger family, by whatever means necessary. Like every element of “Spy x Family” so far, Fiona’s motivations are realistic and multifaceted, even if she’s not exactly a sympathetic character. She appears to be legitimately in love with Twilight, yet also desperate to prove that she would more expertly play the role of Twilight’s wife for the sake of the secret mission. At the same time, there is a suggestion that her playing that role would increase her standing in the spy agency, which is another realistic layer of motivation. It’s all handled so well, as are Yor’s efforts to maintain her position in the relationship, and Loid’s deft and thoughtful responses to whatever Fiona tries to throw at them.
The dance that “Spy x Family” does is so impressive, and this definitely extends to the visuals. An extended sequence finds Twilight and Fiona challenging one another over Twilight’s domestic situation using a seemingly impossible secret agent skill of mouthing different words than the ones coming out of their mouths, all while Yor is in the room with them. The staging of all the characters and the keen visual delivery that certain dialogue bubbles are used for the words being said versus different boxes for the words being mouthed is so expertly handled that the potential for confusion is easily sidestepped. Keeping in mind that their daughter is a telepath who is reading minds and reacting to things that aren’t being said, it’s really hard to overstate how entertaining and crystal clear it all is. By the end of “Mission 30,” a surprising moment of beautifully rendered vulnerability hits with two characters standing in the rain, and this is where “Spy x Family” really separates itself from the pack.
But that’s “Spy x Family” in a nutshell. The rare Shonen Jump manga that is utterly mature and professional in delivery on its face, with an endless undercurrent of entertainment and humor throughout. Each new element added to an already complex familiar arrangement produces tense interactions, humorous misunderstanding, and even a few surprisingly effective moments of pathos.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – “Spy x Family” is among the very best that “Shonen Jump” has to offer right now, with a mature visual language that acts as a sleek delivery mechanism for tension-filled entertainment.
Ghost Reaper Girl Chapter #2
Written and illustrated by Akissa Saiké
Translation by Stefan Koza
Lettered by Annaliese “Ace” Christman
Reviewed by Zach Wilkerson
“Ghost Reaper Girl” continues to toe the line between provocatively humorous and uncomfortably perverse, but this second chapter skews toward the former as we get more devilish magical girl action.Continued below
The chapter begins with an ominous tease for the “villain of the week.” We see him devouring tentacles, which could be read as a welcome metatextual “death of the tentacle porn” from the previous chapter. It’s a stretch, but one can hope! Picking up after the formation of Chloe and Kai’s pact, the duo goes back to Chloe’s apartment.
I was reasonably concerned by the tone and content of the first chapter, but Saiké does not seem content to let “Ghost Reaper Girl” wallow in lolicon-esque jokes and titillating imagery. There’s a playfulness to Kai and Chloe’s burgeoning relationship, despite Kai’s frustratingly perverse motivations. Some books would take a more fanservice-like approach to the pairing, but I’m thankful that Saiké is far less gratuitous.
The chapter quickly moves into the action as a soul devouring spirt, the feline Noel Ulthar, bursts into Chloe’s apartment. Saiké’s art, easily the series’s strong suit, is terrific here. The fight sequence is well choreographed and staged. It’s well balanced with the humor of Chloe’s reaction to her apartment’s destruction.
Last chapter alluded to Chloe’s childhood homelessness and Saiké uses this chapter to draw a sympathetic connection between Chloe and Noel’s starvation. While a little heavy handed, the plot beat demonstrates Chloe’s empathy and compassion, further endearing her as a protagonist. In a fairly standard shonen turn of events, Chloe’s heroism and kindness manages to turn Noel to her side, rounding out her supporting cast.
While the lolita overtones continue to be somewhat frustrating, I’m surprised by how well the book is settling into a satisfying and enjoyable rhythm. The interplay between Chloe and Kai is cute and has the makings of a legitimately engaging partnership. In all magical girl or sentai type stories there’s a certain tension and excitement leading up to the transformation sequence, something Saiké handles masterfully. Chole’s “Ghost Reaper Girl” design and transformation is fantastic, practically begging to be reimagined in animation. The series is off to a strong start, but upcoming chapters will have to decide whether the series will focus on slice of life/monster of the week, a la contemporary “Mitama Security,” or a more plot driven, supernatural action series. Shonen Jump certainly has more of the latter at this point but “Ghost Reaper Girl” seems well suited for either.
Final Verdict: 7.0 – With great art and design and likable characters, “Ghost Reaper Girl” is an unexpected delight.