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 one title 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, Rowan checks in with “Ayashimon.” If you have thoughts on this or any other current Shonen Jump titles, please let us know in the comments!
Ayashimon Chapter 1
Written and Illustrated by Yuji Kaku
Reviewed by Rowan Grover
“Ayashimon” chapter one doesn’t break any particularly new ground, it doesn’t re-invent the Shonen Jump wheel. But everything it does do, it does exceedingly well. The premise here isn’t dissimilar from other SJ manga like “One Punch Man”, featuring a protagonist, Maruo Kaido who is overpowered and has become bored trying to find a suitable match. The thing that separates Maruo from the rest of the bunch is that he seems fully formed right off the bat. Kaku delivers so many interesting facets to him in this 58-page debut. At the header, he’s the protean Shonen protagonist, even to the point that he proclaims to the world that his dream is to become a Manga hero. He goes around searching for fights and for a job that will let him fight, and that kind of abrasive purity makes him instantly charming. On the other hand, we see the other end of this, when he does get in the midst of a fight. Maruo immediately switches gears once he’s found a suitable match, and becomes incredibly bloodthirsty and masochistic, all at once wishing for more people to beat him up as he does the same to them. Kaku is swinging for the fences here with their protagonist and it makes them immediately compelling.
We can also see from this debut that “Ayashimon” is a melting pot of peer influence. Kaku is smart in how he cribs off recent popular tropes. The name of the manga actually refers to a group of Yakuza operating in Japan who are all secretly demons and monsters, cashing in on the never-ending “Demon Slayer” hype and mixing it with a little bit of street-level crime. Even the mysterious demon Urara has elements that feel reminiscent of Makima from “Chainsaw Man”, playing a mistress-type role to Maruo as she subtly dominates him and recruits him into her Ayashimon group via a creepy exchange of blood. The tipping point, however, is that Kaku makes it quite literal how much both he and Maruo are influenced by manga tropes, which gives the whole thing less of a contrived feel and more of a well-researched tone. This is made distinct when Maruo literally performs a Kamehameha straight out of “Dragon Ball” but a little more bargain bin, which makes the character and the debut as a whole feel endlessly charming.
Kaku’s art is no slouch in this debut, either. Maruo may look simple enough in character design, but he’s instantly made memorable with a detail that is actually touched upon in his backstory here. Maruo is always bandaged up, a look that he likes because he thinks it looks cool whenever his Manga heroes like Goku or Jotaro are battle-damaged. It’s not much, but it makes him instantly recognizable from the beginning of a fight because of his perpetual nose bandage, which is such an economic and clever move on Kaku’s part. The designs for the Ayashimon demons are also pretty unique and terrifying, invoking a lot of body horror to creep us out. The most present demon here is Uwan, one of the Yakuza bosses. He doesn’t have a particularly traditional design but whenever he enters his demon form, his eyes shrink and his skin folds up in uncomfortably tight layers. The eye-shrinking element is a great way to quickly dehumanize Uwan and make him feel more bestial.
The fights here aren’t too prominent, but they do a great job at showing off how powerful Maruo is. There’s a quick flashback scene showing Maruo training from a little kid with methods he learned from his heroes, which escalate quickly from kicking a tree to punching a massive boulder in half. This kind of intense power display is part of what makes Maruo so terrifying when he fights given that his character design is much more typical of the protagonist of a sports manga rather than something on this scale. It’s the same technique that “One Punch Man” uses, but it’s executed with subtler intentions here. Maruo igniting his terrifying abilities are a great way to show when he’s switched gears from innocent to demonic, especially indicated when he gets injured from a punch and retaliates by picking up a car to throw at his enemies.
“Ayashimon” may be cribbing from a lot of its peers but it’s doing so with the purest intent whilst managing to execute an outstanding debut from it. This is one to keep an eye on, folks.
Final Score: 9.0 – A well-rounded, exciting debut.