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, Alice and Jess check in with “Full Drive” and “Golem Hearts.” If you have any thoughts on these titles, or “Ruroni Kenshin,” “Blue Exorcist,” “Seraph at the End,” “Food Wars, “Dr. Stone” “We Never Learn,” “Black Clover,” “Robot X Laserbeam,” “One Piece,” or “The Promised Neverland,” or let us know in the comments!
Golem Hearts Chapter 2
Written and Illustrated by Gen Osuka
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
“Golem Hearts” is a strange manga to talk about because it seems to want to be a lot of things at once without actually nailing down tone in a way that makes sense. This second chapter picks up a month after the kidnapping event. Noah and Lemmeck have returned to their normal routine but Noah is a special golem and that’s going to draw unwanted attention. The military comes to town and wants Noah and Lemmeck to join them. Obviously, Lemmeck is entirely against this but the military is used to using force and uses that force against these two. This chapter is the turning point for the series. This is where the story actually starts because Noah now has purpose other than being a helpful golem and that gives the series a bigger scope. The problem is that it still reads very strangely as even this tragic scene doesn’t carry the emotional weight that I think it should. It’s all very Pinocchio and Gepetto but given that these first two chapters have honed in on a lighthearted atmosphere, this moment doesn’t entirely click for me. It tries to do what “One Piece” does by not being a straight up action drama but where “One Piece” takes its time, “Golem Hearts” does not.
Osuka’s art also doesn’t address this problem I have with tone. Noah is drawn almost like Astro Boy – carefree and happy. The work is technically good but I don’t feel as connected to this major tragic moment as I think I should be. Osuka’s depiction of Noah at this point does shift as he becomes violent and angry but it almost comes too late in the story for me. Much of what happens here visually doesn’t do anything exciting. It’s all planned and paced in a very expected way. However, the action here in the later part of the chapter is very well done with big moments and a solid use of speed lines that pulls you right into things.
Final Verdict: 6.5 – I think there could be something worthwhile here but at two chapters in, I’m not sold.
Full Drive Chapter 3
Written & Illustrated by Genki Ono
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle
Last time, when I took a look at “Robot X Laserbeam,” I was surprised at how reserved its storytelling was compared to the stereotypical image of a sports manga I had in my head. It was refreshing and it made me want to take a look at Genki Ono’s “Full Drive,” another sports manga story that swaps out golf for table tennis.
Now, while I want to preface this by acknowledging that I did end up enjoying this chapter, “Full Drive” is much more the stereotypical fare I was expecting from sports manga. This chapter centres around Dan, who has inherited his grandfather’s table tennis skills and shows them off in a friendly spar with burgeoning rival, Atsushi. The chapter dives deep into the strategy and techniques of table tennis, using the ability to compress time in sequential narratives to explore varying techniques in real time that keeps up the tension of the match without ever moving too far ahead of the reader’s knowledge of the sport to become incomprehensible.Continued below
What’s so fascinating to me about sports manga is how it seems to exist in response to how cliche many fantasy-based shonen manga stories have become. With the popularity of “Dragonball,” “One Piece,” “Naruto,” and many others of that ilk that blend a kind of fantasy adventure with superheroic, end-of-the-world stakes for decades on end, the style has become somewhat tired. “Full Drive” is the kind of story that takes that boisterous shonen style that highlights ramping tension, fast-paced action and earnest, heartfelt storytelling inherent to the genre, but juxtaposes it with… table tennis.
Final Verdict: 7.6 – I don’t know, maybe this is my Western sensibilities talking, but there’s something how seriously the story takes table tennis. Still, I can’t fault it’s earnestness.