The beginning of a new week can only mean one thing: time for new Weekly Shonen Jump! Shueisha’s legendary manga magazine has been releasing every week for over 50 years at this point, and it still has enough exciting series in its roster to justify its hallowed status. Plus, with VIZ Media now publishing the entire thing in English, there’s never been a better time to jump in. In this column, Jacob investigates the latest and greatest in the world of Weekly Shonen Jump, telling you what’s worth your time and what’s not. This week, we’ll be chatting Chainsaw Man chapter 95, Sakamoto Days chapter 2, Dr. STONE chapter 176, and Undead Unluck chapter 42.
Another week, another column where I am foiled by my own self-imposed rule to only cover Weekly Shonen Jump series. SPY x FAMILY, in particular, had a fantastic chapter this week, addressing some of my previous concerns about the plot being put on hold. Still, there are a bunch of great Weekly Jump chapters to cover, and you may notice that there are little more than usual: this is because, following on from last week, I’ve decided to do slightly shorter write-ups in the aim of covering more variety. Onwards!
Chainsaw Man chapter 95
We’ve known for a while that Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man would be coming to an end. If the direction of the story for the past twenty or so chapters wasn’t enough to prove that point, then series editor Shihei Lin announced on Twitter this week that this week’s chapter was ‘the zenith of the climax.’ So, it appears as if Chainsaw Man chapter 95 may be one of the last times we get to discuss the series as it is published.
What kind of conclusion is Chainsaw Man heading for? This was the question in my mind as I headed into Chainsaw Man chapter 95. The author’s previous work, Fire Punch, was undoubtedly redeemed from some sloppy late-game narrative choices by a spectacular, thematically rich ending. Chainsaw Man has, on the whole, been much more consistent than that series, but the point still stands: the conclusion could make or break it.
What sort of mindset is our protagonist, Denji, in as he heads into the final battle? Chainsaw Man chapter 95 primarily concerns the bloody clash between him and our antagonist, Makima, but before we discuss that, we need to backtrack a bit.
In chapter 92, Denji was taken away by Kishibe to hide from Makima, where he had a bit of an existential crisis. He said that he wanted to become ‘normal’ to Kobeni, who responded with disbelief: why would you want to be a normal human when you can do stuff like come back to life? And was there any real difference from Chainsaw Man’s existence as a pawn for Makima and how we are used in everyday life? This prompted Denji to reexamine his motivations, discovering that he did indeed want to be Chainsaw Man… for reasons both good and bad.
As Denji headed into the final battle in Chainsaw Man chapter 93, we didn’t know what kind of training he underwent. But, clearly, he did something, because he can use his chains much more freely than he used to. He beats away the hybrids, but doesn’t have much luck with Makima; Chainsaw Man chapter 95 then ends with her ripping out his heart.
This is preceded by a series of conversations where Makima berates Denji for not being the ‘proper’ Chainsaw Man. Even as she is killing him, she laments that ‘Chainsaw Man… doesn’t spit.’ In a word, Denji has not lived up to her expectations.
In this sense, Tatsuki Fujimoto appears to be on track to hit upon much of the same ideas he did in Fire Punch. What does it mean to be a hero? For whose sake do they exist? And to what extent would our protagonist even want to go along with that?
Denji’s conception of who he is as Chainsaw Man will be critical in determining the outcome of the story. Behind the fantastic imagery and brutal combat present in Chainsaw Man chapter 95, there is a real question lurking in the background: is Denji a hero? And if he is, what kind of hero is he? Is he a hero with free will, or just a puppet for someone else?
Whatever his answer will be, I look forward to Chainsaw Man’s imminent conclusion.
Sakamoto Days chapter 2
It feels almost too good to be true that Yuuto Suzuki joined Weekly Shonen Jump when he did, because just as one of my favorites is on the way out with Chainsaw Man chapter 95, another is on the way in with Sakamoto Days chapter 2.
This promising rookie’s first proper series launched in Jump last week, and although it draws inspiration from a lot of pre-existing spy material, it combines these inspirations in a unique way. Sakamoto Days chapter 2 is, in turn, further proof that this series is more than just the sum of its parts, balancing deftly as it does entertaining action, compelling characters, and long-term narrative progression.
To take the first part first, Sakamoto Days chapter 2 is a feast of high-octane spy action. It repeats the approach from chapter 1 (using otherwise mundane objects and settings) to great effect, showing that Suzuki’s basic approach to the blow-by-blow story is absolutely on the money. Particularly noteworthy is when Shin uses the handles on the bus where Sakamoto’s wife is being held hostage (more on that later) to assault his opponent, which casts this otherwise mundane object in an entirely different light.
Nevertheless, the star of Sakamoto Days chapter 2 is undoubtedly Sakamoto’s wife. This is great news, as the two protagonists are male, which risked making Suzuki’s series into a bit of a boys’ club. Luckily, Sakamoto’s wife Aoi enjoys just as big of a presence as her male counterparts in this chapter, showcasing her agency at several points by chastising her husband and interacting wryly with the bus hijackers.
What gives Aoi particular presence, however, is when Sakamoto Days chapter 2 flashes back to the past, to show how she and Sakamoto developed their relationship. We don’t get to see how they first met (I have no doubt that we will do at some point in the future) but we do see how they got to where they are today: Aoi offers Sakamoto an ultimatum using her own life, setting the ground rule of ‘no killing.’
Aside from developing Aoi’s character (next is Sakamoto’s son, please) this sequence in Sakamoto Days chapter 2 precedes a set of ‘mission priorities’ declared by Sakamoto: ‘Rescue,’ ‘Incognito,’ and ‘No killing.’ Although the first priority relates to the hostage situation in this chapter specifically, you could easily repurpose them to be more general: ‘Fulfill the mission,’ ‘Don’t reveal our hitman identities,’ and ‘Don’t inflict lethal wounds.’
Obviously, I don’t have a direct line into Yuuto Suzuki’s mind, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if these turn out to be the basic principles upon which future chapters of Sakamoto Days are constructed going forward. Everyone knows that rules and structure are very important to serialized stories, and in Sakamoto Days chapter 2, these are very literally represented by the book of ‘Sakamoto family rules’. All in all, the series is setting up nicely for its continued future.
Dr. STONE chapter 176
If the appeal of Sakamoto Days chapter 2 was getting to figure out where the narrative might go in the future, then reading Dr. STONE chapter 176 was like having all of those expectations broken. But in a good way. Riichiro Inagaki has demonstrated plenty of times in the past that he can handle almost any type of story (see: Bar Francois in chapter 145), and Boichi has always been there to support him with incredible artwork. In this sense, Dr. STONE chapter 176 is nothing out of the ordinary.
Simply put, Dr. STONE chapter 176 sees the science shonen series transform into Mad Max. Why do I say this? Because Senku and the Kingdom of Science are battling it out with Stanley and Xeno’s minions on motorcycles, like a scene straight out of Fury Road.
If you’d have asked me towards the beginning of Dr. STONE’s serialization if I expected Riichiro Inagaki to depict a vehicle chase in light of the series’ prehistoric setting, then I probably would’ve said no. But that is the beauty of scientific advancement, and it’s not as if these new vehicles came out of nowhere (they were constructed in previous chapters).
Undoubtedly, the quality of Dr. STONE chapter 176’s action is heightened by fantastic artwork from Boichi. But the back-and-forth from Inagaki’s script is also exemplary: first, Stanley and co. are shocked as the Kingdom of Science unveil their sweet new wheels. They regain their composure quickly and give chase, but Ryusui and Carlos respond with a smokescreen. Stanley isn’t about to give up, however, and forces his way through the smoke to shoot Tsukasa and Hyogo, two of the Kingdom’s most powerful combatants (don’t worry: they’re not dead, just wounded). It then seems as if all is lost, as Xeno’s forces launch their airplane (stolen from Senku and Ryusui), but, again, the Kingdom was ten steps ahead and sabotaged the engine in advance with sugar water. Down it goes. Phew.
The amount of action contained within one single chapter of manga is staggering and showcases the synergy of Inagaki’s writing and Boichi’s presentation better than ever. The artist’s use of vertical panels, in particular, is very effective at conveying a large amount of information in limited pages (see above).
Senku and the Kingdom aren’t out of the woods just yet, however. Xeno managed to communicate something to his comrades through morse code as he was tied to the back of one of the motorcycles, presumably, where his enemies are headed. Dr. STONE chapter 176, then, will probably end up as just another enthralling installment in a new arc that has already proven its worth. The only way is up.
Undead Unluck chapter 42
I wish I could say the same about Undead Unluck chapter 42. I really do. While the chapter before Dr. STONE chapter 176 didn’t fill me with much anticipation, the same could not be said for Undead Unluck chapter 41.
Last week, the latest installment in Yoshifumi Tozuka’s series was dulely spotlighted for covering genres hardly ever glimpsed in Weekly Shonen Jump, as well as diving into one of our protagonists’ tragic pasts. Nevertheless, Undead Unluck chapter 42 wastes almost no time dialling all of that back: although it opens with a heartfelt addition to the last chapter’s narrative, it then goes very quickly into a montage.
I’ll be honest: when I turned the page (virtually) and saw this double-page montage spread, my heart sunk. I may have even said ‘Oh, come on!’ out loud (that’s the kind of thing I do when reading Weekly Shonen Jump) because part of the reason why I loved Undead Unluck chapter 41 was because it took place in the old West; chapter 42 moves very quickly to leave that all behind. I really wanted to see more of cowboy Andy, I really did.
That being said, I do understand why Yoshifumi Tozuka took this decision. At the end of the day, this narrative is tertiary to the main story, and Fuuko was only sent in there by Anno-Un to find out ‘Why Andy was born.’ Still, I could’ve gone for a couple more chapters.
Luckily, Undead Unluck chapter 42 does wrap up in a satisfactory way. Putting the massive montage beside, Fuuko grows close to the young Andy and ends up letting it slip that she ‘loves’ him while talking outside. The adorable relationship between the brash Andy and the reserved Fuuko has always been one of the cornerstones of this series, so to see it developed in such a way is incredibly satisfying – pushing it closer to the shojo manga that it so often parodies.
If Tozuka wants to make up for the disappointment of Undead Unluck chapter 42, then they really need a stellar chapter next week. In particular, I’m expecting rapid character development from Fuuko at the hands of her training with Anno-Un, and maybe even a touch of affection from Andy. Her saying that she loves him in the past may have filtered through to the present, considering the Butterfly Effect.