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’re chatting MASHLE chapter 34, Undead Unluck chapter 35, and Mission: Yozakura Family chapter 54.
I wasn’t initially planning on talking about either MASHLE or Undead Unluck this week, but the recent advertisements in both Akihabara and Ikebukuro convinced me: if Weekly Shonen Jump is boosting these two series, then I probably should too. In other news, there is a new series this week: the first half of Ryouji Hirano’s Rengoku-centered Kimetsu no Yaiba spinoff, titled Rengoku Kyoujurou Gaiden. Strangely enough, though, VIZ Media hasn’t picked it up for English release, so we won’t be discussing it here. Perhaps they’re waiting to release it all at once? Who knows. Anyway, on with the manga.
MASHLE chapter 34
MASHLE is on the front cover of Weekly Shonen Jump this week, which is part of the reason why this column is focused on it. Nevertheless, that is not the whole reason.
Anyone who has been reading the series as it releases week to week will know that it has made the slow (and sometimes sloppy) shift from goofy gag manga to full-blown battle manga. That much was evident months ago. Yet, what makes MASHLE chapter 34 significant is how it addresses some of the shortcomings of this new approach, proving that author Hajime Komoto is getting more and more comfortable writing big action setpieces.
One of the big problems that continues to plague MASHLE is its lack of a power system. Any successful battle manga needs to have some sort of ground rules, both in order to anchor the clashes and provide the reader with some understanding of what is going on. It might even allow them to think ahead and predict the outcome of the battle, which is always. That is what makes modern battle manga, such as My Hero Academia and One Piece, so compelling.
Even so, MASHLE has yet to develop this. There are the beginnings of such a system in the spells that the characters utter (‘Secondth’ clearly means more powerful magic than the basic version), but this has not yet been properly codified. MASHLE chapter 34 gets around this problem, however, in a unique way: the addition of a narrator.
The usefulness of a narrator to battle manga has been demonstrated multiple times in such series as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: throughout the many parts of Hirohiko Araki’s long-running series, there is usually always a narrator who provides commentary and explains what is going on. Narrators have fallen a little bit out of vogue, however, due to the popularity of power systems (and for good reason – they can take away from the tension and excitement as a non-diegetic element) as pioneered by Dragon Ball. But even that series often had narration, if only from bystanders to the action.
MASHLE chapter 34 takes this old school approach, then, by having Love in the same room as Mash and Abel and narrating the action in an exasperated fashion. This makes up for the lack of power system somewhat, but not entirely.
Luckily, as one particular installment of Hajime Komoto’s series, MASHLE chapter 34 doesn’t really suffer from this. Alongside the narration, what helps it is the fact that a lot of the action is more physical than ethereal – stemming from the beefcake nature of the protagonist.
It is strange to think that, not half a year ago, I denounced Mash Burndead as unoriginal and uninspired. How times have changed. There is no greater joy in my week now than diving into a chapter of MASHLE and seeing Mash effortlessly take on a cocky antagonist, often with a quip or two to boot. Even Komoto’s art is now funny to me, whereas I previously found it quite crass and basic.
Part of that is because of how Mash’s role in the story has changed. We see in MASHLE chapter 34 how his very nature breaks the rules of this fictional universe, using muscles to overcome magic in the most imaginative of ways. This is in stark contrast to his previous role as a punchline, using his muscles to get a quick laugh. Now, he’s much more active and, as a result, much more compelling.
Furthermore, MASHLE chapter 34 does a very good of explaining how and why his fighting style is so effective. One moment that particularly struck me was when Adel casts ‘Marioness Secondth,’ summoning a massive, demonic puppet from the sky. Yet, it was not this striking imagery that intrigued me, but how Mash avoided its attacks – using his body and brain to their fullest advantage.
Nevertheless, MASHLE chapter 34 does have one important feature: the fact that its battle takes place between a magical opponent and a non-magical one. This may sound obvious and even unimportant given that this is the core concept of the series, but previous chapters have proven the opposite: when two magic users come face to face, the trading of spells without much grounding can prove confusing. The absence of a power system is, therefore, still felt.
With this in mind, we can say MASHLE chapter 34 benefits from a fair bit of good luck. By focusing on Mash and Adel, it manages to overcome some of the obstacles that have impeded it in the past. But these obstacles will not go away, so there is a need for Hajime Komoto to address them as soon as possible.
If MASHLE chapter 34 proves anything, however, it’s that things can get better. The addition of a narrator is effective, and shows that Komoto is slowly learning how to write good battle manga; one other thing that we haven’t mentioned yet is the fact that there is no repeated art. Simply magical.
One of the reasons why I love reading serialized stories, and particularly manga, is the fact that it can change so much over the course of its run. That is as true for Dragon Ball as it is for Yui Kamio; and if MASHLE isn’t careful, it may end up as one of my favorite series in the magazine – consider it well and truly boosted.
Undead Unluck chapter 35
Undead Unluck, meanwhile, has been following a reverse course. The first couple of chapters left me enthused, completely smitten with the main characters and excited about where the story might lead. Fast forward a couple of months, however, and several things have left me a little cold: less enthused, but still interested in seeing where things go from here on out.
Undead Unluck chapter 35 marks the end of the first major battle of the ‘Four Seasons’ arc, making it the perfect juncture to look back and evaluate how the arc has shaped up so far. Carrying on from the last, ‘Unrepair’ arc, it follows the Union as they prepare to take on the next set of Quests – but there is a traitor in their midst. This is revealed in chapter 31 to be Billy, who has actually been the leader of Under (a mysterious organization introduced at the end of Unrepair) all along.
A brief recap of the story so far was necessary because we haven’t covered Undead Unluck for some time – for four months, to be exact. This is both because of the sheer amount of quality chapters releasing each week and the fact that Yoshifumi Tozuka’s haven’t been so hot – Undead Unluck chapter 35 suffers as a result of this.
The first problem comes in the form of Billy. Outside of a brief introduction in chapter 8, we haven’t really had an opportunity to see what makes him tick – rendering his betrayal in chapter 31 quite unremarkable for the reader. True, Tatiana’s reaction gives some sense of how impactful this is supposed to be, but we don’t really share in any of it.
Undead Unluck’s latest arc also suffers from a case of bad pacing. This was particularly prevalent in the past couple of chapters, as the Union attempted to get rid of Burn and get back the Round Table – all while suspended in mid-air. The problem with this is not the concept, but the execution: stretching the action over multiple chapters diluted the sense of urgency and caused things to come off track. Case in point: the actual geography of the fight.
Still, to say that Undead Unluck chapter 35 is badly constructed or poorly written would be inaccurate. Picking up right where chapter 34 left off, Fuuko and Andy threaten Apocalypse’s life while temporarily giving up the Round Table – they may not have won the battle, but they may still win the war. Perhaps Tozuka would have just simply benefitted from trimming things down a bit.
In any case, Undead Unluck chapter 35 also lays the basis for yet more explosive narrative developments in the future. Aside from the need to retrieve the Round Table by the 31st, Billy also mentions ‘Ark’ – some sort of object that Juiz is after. My money is on something to do with the Ark of the Covenant, which is quite exciting.
Probably the most revelatory part of Undead Unluck chapter 35 that we have failed to mention thus far, however, is the fact that Andy and Fuuko’s world is on a loop.
I’ll be honest: when I read this part of Undead Unluck chapter 35, I shouted “Oh holy shit!” and got up from my desk, only sitting back down again to take a screenshot. It’s that good.
Yet, far from just being an exciting plot twist, it also reminds of Noah’s Notes: the one cancelled Jump series that still stays in my heart. To be honest, there have always been many things about Yoshifumi Tozuka’s series that reminded me of it (the charismatic characters, the unique setting), but Undead Unluck chapter 35 cements it. Time loops are awesome.
Call it sentimentality, call it bias, call it what you will. Undead Unluck is a damn good series and I’ve decided to see it through to the end. There are some problems, sure, but they also come alongside a whole load of originality – if bumps along the way are part of the scenic route, then that’s a price I’m willing to pay.
Mission: Yozakura Family chapter 54
Both MASHLE chapter 34 and Undead Unluck chapter 35 were in the spotlight this week thanks to Weekly Shonen Jump’s BOOST campaign, but that same honor was not afforded to Mission: Yozakura Family. As myself and many others noted at the time, this seemed strange: not only is Hitsuji Gondaira’s series selling well, it would also benefit very much from some promotion – arguably more so than Undead Unluck or MASHLE, which were already proving popular.
Even so, Mission: Yozakura Family continues on, slightly out of touch with its contemporaries and out of sync with its closest relatives. It almost feels like the awkward older brother of Weekly Shonen Jump. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t popular: Mission: Yozakura Family chapter 54 is a shining example of the series’ growing fanbase.
Remember that spy submission competition from a while back? Yeah, the one for the first anniversary. It was always made clear that the spies submitted as part of that competition would eventually appear in the series, but not all at once – in this sense, Mission: Yozakura Family chapter 54 surprised us all.
While Gondaira’s insistence on creating new characters instead of developing old ones has annoyed me in the past, I’m willing to give it a pass in Mission: Yozakura Family chapter 54 because these are fan-submitted. There is also a lot of variety here, featuring a lot of different abilities and even body types.
With any luck, Mission: Yozakura Family’s bombastic utilization of fan submissions in chapter 54 should serve to strengthen further the ties between the series and its fanbase. One way to keep readers engaged is to give them a degree of ownership over the story, whether it be through popularity contests or even merchandise. And considering that Shueisha appeared to have gone above and beyond in creating chapter 54’s color page, let’s hope it pays off.
On a final note, it turns out that I forgot to read chapter 53 before reading chapter 54, so my week started off with a double dose of Mission: Yozakura Family goodness. Considering that I featured chapter 52 two weeks ago and looked forward to seeing what came after the cliffhanger, I’m honestly surprised at my own negligence, but no matter. Hitsuji Gondaira certainly is on a roll right now – let’s hope that he can keep it up.