Warning: Significant plot spoilers ahead!
Welcome to AiPT!’s weekly Shonen Jump recap column! This is where I share my reactions to the latest chapters of all the various Jump comics I’m following. From established hits to the latest Jump Start series, I have plenty to talk about. With that said, be warned: there are some major spoilers ahead, so be careful reading further if you have yet to catch up on this week’s new releases.
The plots thickening
It’s abundantly clear from Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma chapter 314 that the creators are trying to wrap things up satisfyingly, but I’m not sure that they’re succeeding. Much of this week’s installment consists of flashbacks to Senzaemon recruiting Soma and the other members of his graduating class, all in the hopes that having an exemplary group of peers will allow Erina to overcome the despair wrought upon all previous bearers of the Divine Tongue. Then when we return to the present Soma has already finished his dish for his match against her: a tempura rice bowl.
Everything about the presentation of this information feels very calculated, yet it lacks emotional impact. We already knew that Soma’s class was very talented before this, but implying that their roles in the plot were ultimately given for Erina’s sake feels a bit insulting to their individual talents and potentials. Then you have Soma’s rice bowl. In terms of the competition, it’s daring for him to answer the call for “a dish the world has never seen before” with a type of food the world most certainly has seen before. It feels even more appropriate that he presents it to Erina, who once critiqued a similar dish he made quite a while back.
Unfortunately, this all comes across as too convenient to be meaningful. In the face of an impossible challenge, opt for the simple. When facing your greatest opponent, present the revised version of your past failure. The scene just sort of writes itself, and though Erina’s despair is remarked upon by other characters, we don’t actually see it from her perspective. She hasn’t had enough development and focus prior to the series’ ending to make any of this feel earned. The teeny bit of introspection last week wasn’t enough. Soma’s presentation of the dish also feels very reminiscent of how he incorporated past culinary failures into his winning dish at the end of the Central arc. All in all this is a chapter that’s very transparent in what it’s trying to do but, like much of the series’ last arc, it just doesn’t have enough heart and riveting character drama to make the tidy coincidences feel earned. We’ll soon see how the actual finale plays out…
On a much more positive note we have Beast Children chapter 3. At this point I think it’s my favorite of the recent crop of new series. Is it rough around the edges? Sure, but it also has a sense of earnest sincerity that’s infectious and a lot of fun to follow. This week Sakura meets Shin Kujirai and the rest of his high school’s rugby team, who turn out to be the last students Sakura’s former idol, Onotora Ikki, taught prior to his death. This revelation reveals the full context behind the manga’s title (Ikki was the beast, and the rugby team his children), and I’m very excited to see how Sakura’s relationships with all these new characters develop.
Meanwhile, The Promised Neverland chapter 137 finally has Emma and Ray break free of the physical constraints of time and space in order to get one step closer to making a new promise. The artistic choice to strip away the previously lush world and replace it with a simple all-black geometric expanse is a great one that shows just how different the separate planes of reality are from each other.
My Hero Academia chapter 231 also has some cool developments with the return of Hawks, who Horikoshi cuts away from just as he’s about to attack Best Jeanist…or is he? I imagine we’ll be getting a double-cross instead, but it’s still nice to see the traitor plot thread brought back to the forefront. The action then shifts back to the villain-on-villain conflict, which doesn’t really make much notable progress in comparison.
The character developments
After the series’ underwhelming debut last week, Tokyo Shinobi Squad chapter 2 seems largely concerned with giving En and Jin time to bond. They go meet up with Jin’s boss together before taking down some generic yakuza, and the whole point of it all is to show En’s admiration for Jin and his individualized sense of justice. Unfortunately, despite Yuki Tanaka and Kento Matsura’s efforts here, the characters still aren’t interesting. What makes these particular do-gooders with honor codes any more compelling than others? Nothing, as of yet.
We Never Learn chapter 114, meanwhile, delivers simple but fun interactions between the core cast members I’ve come to love. Ogata’s interest in games gets tied back to her relationship with her now deceased grandmother, and she has a nice moment of emotional honesty with Yuiga. This is followed up, however, by her admission that she doesn’t actually like herself, despite feeling appreciated by all her friends. The chapter cuts off there at an effective point to drum up interest for next week.
Perhaps the best character work this week is in ACT-AGE chapter 68. Though there are other actors around her, the one true star is Chiyoko. Her complete and utter devotion to her craft is demonstrated through an intense bit of method acting in which she consumes a whole egg, shell and all, in order to prepare for a role in which her character must expel another, smaller character from her body. It’s difficult to describe with words alone, but trust me when I say that the egg panel above is way more dramatic in context than it looks on its own.
The Last Saiyuki chapter 14 is also a standout in terms of character development. Estelle’s past gets dived into further, with her showing a level of courage and depth that makes her surprisingly likable for a character who just debuted mere chapters ago. Ryunosuke and Koharu also have a great moment of stepping up to the plate. Without spoiling it, I’ll also mention that this chapter has the best two-page spread in any of this weeks’ Jump comics.
The artistic standouts
At this point it’s safe to assume that, unless I specifically say it’s suddenly undergone a shocking dip in quality, Chainsaw Man is always one of Jump’s artistic standouts. Tatsuki Fujimoto leans hard into his monster design skills in chapter 25, and the results are stunning. A new creature’s inhuman abundance of human limbs, both incredibly off in how they fit together and also beautified with a massive amount of flowers, is perhaps the series’ most memorable design to date. Add in great flow to the action and this manga continues to be a feast for the eyes.
Few other series are as consistently pleasing to look at as Dr. STONE. Boichi delivers it all in chapter 108: lovely nature backgrounds, humorously extreme and scary close-ups on characters’ faces, effective pacing, and even some impressively detailed card game gags. Suika and Ginro are the only ones left on the Perseus who haven’t been petrified, and the vast gulf between their levels of competence is sure to make for some entertaining chapters ahead.
Then we have Boruto: Naruto Next Generations chapter 35. I adore Mikio Ikemoto’s style, and getting to see his take on the nine-tailed fox this week is a lot of fun. The sheer precision in the line-work is very impressive, and there’s a shot of Kawaki crying a single tear that manages to utilize that trope effectively in what feels like a watershed moment for the character. Ikemoto’s penchant for shifting perspective across a scene to bring attention to various important details, like the Uzumaki family’s vase, is also top-notch. We also get some major reveals toward the end with regards to Jigen and a new type of ten-tailed monster, but it’s the stellar visuals and great character moments that make this chapter really stand out.
Lastly I need to give a shout-out to Boys Over Flowers Season 2 chapter 98 for delivering something I never expected from the series: excellent sports manga art. The characters all play a brief match of basketball and the visual flow to it is surprisingly strong for a series that seldom features any kind of action. It’s an enjoyable chapter all around, but Yoko Kamio’s demonstration of her artistic versatility is easily its most memorable aspect.
All the rest
Despite being the most hyped up of all the recent new Jump manga, Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru is also the one I’ve had the most problems with aside from Tokyo Shinobi Squad. Akira Okubo’s art style continues to be a lot of fun to look at thanks to how much it has going on, but there are times when this busyness becomes a drawback. Action scenes in particular can get quite difficult to follow, and the payoff doesn’t always feel worth the effort of trying. We get some more lore dumping this week, but it’s not grounded enough to feel like much more than additional trappings for a manga that’s already heavier on style than substance. There are some cool panels of a cat samurai wielding guns though, I’ll give chapter 5 that much.
Meanwhile, Yui Kamio Lets Loose chapter 13 manages to be the series’ best in weeks. It’s not riveting, but it’s not filled with images of Yui getting assaulted for the purpose of titillating the reader, either. We get to see the two Yuis meet face-to-face and talk for the first time, which is an interesting development for the characters. There’s also a good Dr. Strange gag, random though it may be.
My Hero Academia: Vigilantes chapter 55 is innocuous enough until its ending. We get some cute panels of All Might pre-depowering, but sadly the fun is disrupted by the return of Knucklebuster. Remember him, the worst third of the core trio? Sigh.
Double Taisei chapter 4, meanwhile, is a bit uneven but I continue to be intrigued by Haga’s character. There are some panels this week that have a Death Note-esque mood to them that’s quite endearing, over-the-top as they are. This week’s installment ends on a cliffhanger with a mysterious seated figure facing away from the audience. Who it is and how this turns out, we shall see…
The best chapter of the week
The month-long waits for Boruto: Naruto Next Generations continue to be worthwhile. Between the excellent art, character spotlight on Kawaki, and getting to see Kurama again, chapter 35 is a lot of fun. And now, the long countdown until chapter 36…