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, Vince and Zach check in with “Teenage Resistance! David” and “I’m From Japan.” If you have any thoughts on these titles, or “My Hero Academia,” “One Piece,” “Black Clover,” “Dr. Stone,” “The Promised Neverland,” “We Never Learn,” or “Food Wars,” let us know in the comments!
Teenage Renaissance! David
Written and Illustrated by Yushin Kuroki
Reviewed by Vince J Ostrowski
I have no idea how to write about this manga. I kind of can’t believe it’s real, and that’s saying something considering anime and manga premises can get almost as wacky as you can imagine. Right up front I have to say that the final review score for this thing is pretty arbitrary, but I’ll do my best to explain how I arrived at it. “Teenage Renaissance! David” basically intends to be a fairly straightforward horny high school manga where some of the students just happen to be walking works of classical art, Michelangelo’s Statue of David being the main horny teen character. It’s a typical day at generic manga high school, being awkward, looking at panties, and forming big sweat drops on your forehead even though you’re made of marble. And that’s the joke, basically. David goes through all the same stuff an awkward teen goes through in these stories – being bashful around the object of his affection (The Birth of Venus) and getting trolled by Manneken Pis, the famous urinating boy fountain. I’ll leave it up to you to guess whether David gets pissed on or not. It’s all honestly a pretty good joke, however. Famous works of art intertwining in funny and fitting ways is a pretty good joke with the commitment that Yushin Kuroki puts into it, I just don’t see how this is an ongoing series – it almost wears out its welcome by the end of the first chapter, and is incredibly thin once you get past the incredulity of the premise.
Kuroki’s art, being a purposefully realistic depiction of the art in question, is quite impressive. At times, the manga appears to be a visual study of the real life art that just happens to have a ridiculous story tacked on. And Kuroki doesn’t do a bad job of manipulating the art to reflect some familiar manga elements. When David gets caught ogling a classmate, he gets a classic anime sweat drop, but it takes a more realistic form than the big cartoon dabs we usually see – it almost looks like it could be an element of the sculpture. Similarly, when he imagines Venus in her clamshell bathing suit, blood trickles from his nose as you would expect. And yes, his smallish marble penis is made the subject of an extended joke, though the private bits are obscured by a censor that appears to be Viz’s doing rather than the original art. It makes one wonder how this ended up in the American Weekly Shonen Jump in the first place. And for all the jokes made (quite overly) at the expense of David’s penis, not one joke about it being “hard” like marble. Damn.
“Teenage Renaissance” seems like such an unlikely premise for a manga story that I can’t help but wonder where it came from. My DC3cast pal and Weekly Shonen Jump co-columnist Zach Wilkerson told me about “Sekko Boys”, an anime series about the exploits of a foursome of marble statues who have formed a musical idol group. Perhaps Kuroki was inspired in some way by “Sekko Boys” or was perhaps stuck in a vaporwave phase (see Floral Shoppe by Vektroid, which is the best recommendation you’re going to get in this column). Whatever the case, “Teenage Renaissance” is worth flipping through to see Kuroki’s artistic approach and to chuckle at the audacity of the joke, but it doesn’t have lasting appeal and I’d be hard-pressed to recommend following this series for the long haul, however long that may be. It’s one hell of a curiosity – just try explaining it to your normie friends.Continued below
Final Verdict: 5.0 – “Teenage Renaissance” is a one-joke story. I thought it was a pretty decent joke, but I cannot believe it’s a continuing story. It’s basically worn that joke out by the end of chapter one.
I’m From Japan Chapter #1
Written and illustrated by Seiji Hayashi
Reviewed by Zach Wilkerson
In a week featuring two new “Jump Start” series in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump, “I’m From Japan” is somehow the more normal offering. Any other week this quirky gem would stand out as one of the goofiest and most fun examples of what the manga medium has to offer.
“I’m From Japan” begins with a fairly standard premise; a new kid at a new school. This mundane familiarity doesn’t last long, however, as the protagonist Tokio Abiko meets the rambunctious and overbearing Japan Hinomoto. Yep, you read that right, his name is Japan, and that’s the least quirky thing about him. This pompadoured cherubim would feel right at home in the video game “River City Ransom.” Ironically, then, that it’s Tokio that’s the brawler, decking Japan and threatening to beat up the strongest kid in school within the first few pages.
This “Cromartie High School”-esque juvenile delinquency is but one half of “I’m From Japan.” The other half, surprisingly, is a love letter to geography and travel, specifically in Japan. The series is set to blend a Travel Channel appropriate devotion to the prefectures of Japan with hardcore martial arts.
Propped up by clever puns and use of Japanese homophones, Japan’s quirky obsession and subsequent school of martial arts is a terrific concept. There’s a kind of bizarre geomancy at play here, but one specifically tied to the magic that lives within towns, cities, and unique cultures. Because I can’t resist mash-up descriptors, it’s like Jack Hawksmoor meets “Parts Unknown,” but with a sprinkle of classic kung-fu.
Within this chapter we learn the famous fruits of the Yamagata and Aomori prefectures, see a traditional song and dance routine, and get schooled on local topography. You know, all while one guy beats down on a gang of bullies, fairly standard stuff. At the end of it all, the chapter even manages to capture the concepts of class disparity between rural and urban areas, and it gets heavy.
Of course, this is a visual medium, and even the best concept falls flat if it’s not well illustrated. Thankfully, Hayashi’s penciling stands out as the freshest and most dynamic work I’ve seen from a series in Weekly Shonen Jump for some time. Their style feels classic, timeless, oozing with the charm of martial arts series of days past. The line work is especially clean, and the diversity in character design is impressive and well appreciated. The care and creative thought that goes into the design of Japan’s attacks is easily one of the chapter’s biggest highlights.
Ostensibly a gag manga, “I’m From Japan” comes out of the gate with surprisingly strong legs. With 40+ prefectures left to explore, there’s a huge opportunity for the series to educate American readers about the unique traditions and customs of various Japanese locales.
Final Verdict: 8.6 – While we’ve had a bit of losing streak in terms of “Jump Starts” in recent months, the winning mix of humor, action, and education makes me really hope we get more of “I’m From Japan.”