Back in September 2014, Viz Media announced the “Jump Start Initiative.” Its goal was to provide a preview of a new manga debuting within the Japanese edition of Weekly Shonen Jump by providing American readers the first three chapters of a new series. If certain criteria was met (e.g. an online poll), a series may have the possibility of getting fully serialized in the digital American version of the magaizine. So far, we have seen Hi-Fi CLUSTER (which ended up getting cancelled) and Gakkyu Hotei: School Judgment become part of the magazine.
A new series is up for consideration now and it’s called Kagamigami. It’s by Toshiaki Iwashiro, who created another popular series in the past called Psyren (which is available from Viz). I only read two volumes of it, but I did like what I was seeing from it. With the guy’s newest series coming out, let’s see what he has here and if it’s worth voting for so that Viz can fully serialize it. Is it good?
Kagamigami #1 (Viz Media)
After a strange opening in a post-apocalyptic world 100 years into the future (what a downer to start on that everyone dies in the end!) followed up with a brutal massacre in a public park, we meet this young woman named Mako. As a child, she used to have this power where if she touched an object, a glowing thread came from it and led her somewhere (possibly to the owner of said object). This power eventually led her to discovering a lost child and everyone gave her a lot of praise, saying she could grow up to become a great detective.
However, 12 years has passed since then and her powers seem to be gone and her new business as a private detective is pretty bad. Just as she’s feeling her most hopeless, she hears about the murder in the park and goes to investigate it, hoping that solving that case will get her some attention. When she sneaks into the crime scene, she discovers a strange young boy named Kyosuke who is a user of Shikigami, the ability to summon strange spiritual creatures to do his bidding. He and his partner, a spirit fox named Hakutenmaru (Haku for short), have been sent by the Shikigami Association to solve this case. And thus, all of their lives become intertwined with one another.
The awesome fox demands petting woman! What don’t you understand?!
Alright, let’s get to the main point of this. This isn’t a bad start to a new manga, but it feels like we have seen this all before done several times. There are many familiar elements we’ve seen in stories like Bleach, Inuyasha, Ikekkaishi, Muhyu & Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation (a rather underrated series) and more with a young teen fighting or solving supernatural cases or incidents of demons and monsters. It’s been done before and sadly, most everything in this issue has been done before. Nothing is particularly bad with this setup and I do admit to being fond of these kinds of stories, it’s just rather generic and doesn’t do too much to separate itself from the pack (outside of the strangely depressing opening and also closing narration).
But story and character-wise, how does it work even if we ignore everything that came before? Well like stated before, it’s not bad by any means; it’s standard fare opening chapter stuff you’ve seen before. The characters are reasonably introduced and given some interesting traits to get your attention, while also being rather likeable or amusing. It gives a quick summation of the world and some backstory to get the audience’s attention, but holds back enough to slowly reveal more information as time goes on. The entire story here is a simple done in one so you get an idea what you can expect from here on out (or at least for a little while, since these kinds of manga do eventually branch into bigger things) and sets up the current status quo for now. All of this stuff works and does what it should, but not much more than that.
You’ll never become a great detective if you can’t learn the proper way to sidestep someone.
On top of this, the writing is just okay. The characterization is decent and gives the audience an idea of what to expect from the characters (mostly typical stuff, but it works for the time being). The story structure is also fine, except for two points in the chapter where it feels like we skipped a panel or two for some reason, like when we discover who the true villain behind everything is and Mako is talking to him. She asks him, “is this how your parents raised you? Then immediately she says, “Of course not jerk!” It just sounds awkward. The humor is pretty decent for the most part and did get a few chuckles out of me at points, like where Mako is trying to get into park to check the crime scene and cop keeps blocking her despite all of her efforts. The only other thing I would say could be problematic with the writing is the opening and ending narration that mentions the strange post-apocalypse and seems to imply that it is Mako’s spirit trying to tell someone who is still alive on the Earth about the story. It really doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the tone the book is trying to set and makes you feel like this whole series will be a downer considering where the world will be going.
The artwork is probably its strongest asset. The creator has had plenty of experience working and creating manga in the past, so his work here does look very good. The characters are decent looking so far and have some good reactions and expressions throughout. I like the designs of the spiritual and supernatural creatures so far, which do stand out nicely (some designs are familiar, but have enough of a twist to keep them interesting). The layouts are solid and easily to follow outside of the two hiccups I mentioned with the structure of the book. The action is very nicely drawn and exciting to look, really looking spectacular and really intense at points. The only negative is the out of place fanservice panty shot that really doesn’t seem to fit in with the manga well considering the tone and feel. For a series like this, this is the right kind of artwork for it and I do look forward to seeing more of it in the remaining preview chapters.
Kagamigami #1 is a very standard first issue with a very familiar premise that we have seen plenty of times before in manga. It doesn’t seem to be doing anything too groundbreaking at this point outside of the odd opening, but there’s nothing wrong with it either. The writing isn’t bad, the humor should get a few good chuckles out of you, and artwork is pretty strong. Ultimately, is this a manga to vote for so that you can tell Viz to keep on publishing it in their Weekly Shonen Jump magazine? I would say very hesitantly yes at this point. There’s potential here to grow and get better, but you could easily find better examples of this type of manga elsewhere.