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 Our Blood Oath chapter 1, Phantom Seer chapter 3, and Chainsaw Man chapter 84.
Just as the last series in this latest batch makes its debut, the first one takes its exit – I’m talking here of course about Burn the Witch, which ended this week. Never fear, however, as it will be back for ‘Season 2’ sometime in the future – great news considering that season 1’s limited nature has been hampering my enjoyment somewhat. Anyway, on with the manga.
Our Blood Oath chapter 1
Are you tired of new series yet? Of course not! There’s always room on your ever-expanding currently reading list, and you have no excuse now that VIZ is translating anything and everything that appears in the magazine. This week’s new addition comes to us in the form of Our Blood Oath chapter 1, penned by Kazu Kakazu – a Golden Future Cup winner last year, so it’s safe to say that many had their eyes on this young talent.
Unfortunately, Our Blood Oath chapter 1 is entering into a very crowded market. There have been a lot of supernatural series in Weekly Shonen Jump as of late, including in this latest batch – Phantom Seer itself touches upon many of the same notes, as we shall see later on. Nevertheless, I will try to give credit where credit is due.
Firstly, it must be said that there is some very effective horror in Our Blood Oath chapter 1. Aside from the creature designs, one of the best parts of this chapter that made me stop for a second and consider was when Yuki, the audience POV character, returns home after work, only to be greeted by the dead stares of his family. A mixture of terror and confusion permeated my mind at that moment, and it almost carries the entire chapter.
The momentum that this moment generates doesn’t go to waste, either. It turns out that Yuki’s family have been taken over by ‘possession-type vampiric beasts’ and were raising him up until his 16th birthday so that they could enjoy his flesh as its plumpest. This is home invasion horror straight out of a Junji Ito story, and it is very effective.
The only problem is that this moment is by far and away the best part of Our Blood Oath chapter 1. That’s not to say that this first chapter is bad – far from it – but that everything else feels a little weak by comparison.
For starters, Yuki is a pretty uninteresting character. This is to be expected, given that he is just a conduit for the audience to get familiar with the actual main characters, but doesn’t go very far in proving that the series has potential beyond the Golden Future Cup one-shot.
The main characters in question are undoubtedly Ko and Shin Hizuki, two vampiric siblings bound by the titular ‘blood oath.’ Our Blood Oath chapter 1 does spend some time exploring how this came to be, as well as how this actually functions (Shin offers his blood to fuel Ko’s vampire powers), but more exploration is definitely needed.
Speaking of those vampiric powers, they are undoubtedly another cool part of Our Blood Oath chapter 1. The way that Ko uses his blood to form weapons and attack the vampiric beasts is pretty eye-catching, even if not entirely original.
Even so, what this does is push the series further away from horror and towards action – very clearly laying the basis for a transformation into a battle manga sometime in the future.
The thing is, we already have quite a lot of those in Jump right now. In fact, anyone who had the misfortune of reading Bone Collection as it published will note the similarities between its bone-based powers and Our Blood Oath’s blood-based ones – even if Bone Collection barely used them.
In any case, it is a little disappointing to see Our Blood Oath chapter 1 move so quickly away from the concept of a ‘vampire’ manga and towards a ‘battle’ one. I mean, the kind of vampires that appear in chapter 1 aren’t exactly your traditional types – I know that the subgenre is loose at best, but the beasts that take over Yuki’s family feel more like demons than anything else.
Still, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t interested in reading more. There was enough interesting stuff in Our Blood Oath chapter 1 to pique my interest, and the chapter’s final declaration that “The path to human and vampire coexistence will be a long one” clearly sets up the direction of the overall narrative. Seeing if that can ever come true, along with uncovering more about Ko and Shin’s past, is a prospect I’m willing to wait for.
Phantom Seer chapter 3
One of the reasons why Our Blood Oath chapter 1 may struggle to impress is because, among other series, Phantom Seer is publishing right alongside it. This supernatural horror manga launched at the beginning of this month and does, unfortunately, hit upon much of the same notes as Our Blood Oath. Nevertheless, it is also rife with problems, many of which may drag it down before Our Blood Oath’s star truly rises. In this sense, Phantom Seer chapter 3 makes for an excellent case study.
Much like Our Blood Oath chapter 1, Phantom Seer chapter 3’s strongest moment comes thanks to some inventive horror. Our protagonists Iori and Riku make their way to an abandoned house after a tip from Iori’s shaman informant, Yojiro, only to find themselves at the mercy of a ‘Sakabashira.’
This type of Japanese yokai manifests inside a house when one of the pillars has been placed upside-down – in other words, the opposite direction to which the tree was pointing when living. One of its key behaviors is mimicking noises, such as creaks and moans, but also entire sentences. In Phantom Seer chapter 3, it picks up on Iori’s ‘Yeah’ when he first enters the house, leading to the creepy moment pictured above.
Again, much like Our Blood Oath chapter 1, this is by far the strongest moment of the chapter and almost makes it worth reading. Yet, there are still some problems. One thing I picked up on when reading Phantom Seer chapter 3 was the fact that the series had become very ‘quippy’ – featuring lots of back-and-forth, bratty exchanges between Riku and Iori.
These aren’t very funny or entertaining, mainly because Riku and Iori aren’t very interesting characters. Further adding to the problem is the fact that author Gotou seems to have abandoned one of Iori’s key traits: in chapter 1, he very clearly states that he has no interest in helping people, but Phantom Seer chapter 3 opens with him saying “I’m seriously thinking of helping people.” Go figure.
Character development is, of course, always welcome, but it feels a little too early on in the series’ lifespan to be making changes such as these. Even if Iori says that it might be because of Riku’s “influence,” it feels more like Gotou writing himself out a corner than actually fleshing out his characters. After all, how can you have a monster of the week series without a motivated protagonist?
That is, in turn, how Phantom Seer is quickly turning out. Last week’s chapter 2 focused on a ‘Yadoshogyo,’ while this week’s chapter 3 focused on another beast from Japanese mythology – not a bad idea for a series, but one that lives and dies on the quality of its stories. And unfortunately, I’m not sure if the characters can function as an effective vehicle for that.
That being said, another aspect of Phantom Seer that is quickly becoming clear is its potential as a battle manga. Last week saw Iori summon just the arm of his demon Ongyoki, while Phantom Seer chapter 3 reveals that he can also use the power of any phantoms that he has exorcised – effectively making him into a sort of supernatural pokémon master.
So, here we have two series that are more or less set on the same path. Just as Our Blood Oath attempts to transform vampires into battle manga, so too does Phantom Seer for yokai and demons. The question is: which one will prevail?
It’s hard to say at this point, but my money is on Our Blood Oath. There is much more potential there in exploring the back story and interesting dynamic of the brothers Ko and Shin, while Phantom Seer appears to be struggling to grasp what its characters even are.
Furthermore, while Phantom Seer chapter 3 does introduce some new characters – the aforementioned Yojiro, as well as the mysterious bespectacled figure at the very end – it still suffers from a lack of an overall narrative, which may come to adversely affect it in the future.
Chainsaw Man chapter 84
This is it. This is the chapter you’ve all been waiting for. Our Blood Oath chapter 1 and Phantom Seer chapter 3? Get all of that new stuff out of here. Chainsaw Man chapter 84 is our big payoff for almost half a year of waiting, as well as a tantalizing taste of what is to come.
For starters, we finally learn in Chainsaw Man chapter 84 what on earth the Angel Devil was on about all the way back in chapter 53 when he said that every single one of the Special Division Devils remembers the sound of Denji’s chainsaws from back when they were in hell. As it turns out, this is not because Chainsaw Man is actually The Devil (Lucifer, Lucy, the Big L, etc.), but because he is the ‘Hero of Hell’ – the “devil that devils fear most.”
This is because Denji has the power to erase any Devil that he eats from existence, which is the entire reason that Makima is interested in him in the first place. Stemming from this, perhaps the most surprising revelation in Chainsaw Man chapter 84 is the fact that Makima might not be a villain, after all – she wants to use Denji’s powers to create a better world.
Of course, we should take this with a little grain of salt – Makima has never been the most truthful character, and she has no real reason to tell Kishibe the truth. But this does put to bed one question that has been looming over the series for a couple of months, as well as offers a new perspective on a character we thought we once knew.
That being said, there are a couple of questions that do remain unanswered by Chainsaw Man chapter 84. For one, what does the revelation back in chapter 82 that Denji killed his father have to do with all of this? Was it simply a way for Makima to back Denji into a corner, or might it mean something more? Furthermore, what means might Denji have for breaking free of Makima’s control – and even if he did, could it be considered ‘right’ given her plans?
In this sense, Tatsuki Fujimoto seems to be looping back to the exact same ideas that he explored in his debut work, Fire Punch. In that series, the protagonist Agni struggled with the idea of being a ‘hero’ and what it meant to be one, eventually coming to the conclusion that such a role is always for the benefit of someone else. Some of the imagery in Chainsaw Man chapter 84 certainly evokes this idea, such as the final image of Denji returning from hell:
It is now not just up to Denji whether or not he fights back against Makima, but the choice of the readers of whether to accept that. Certainly, there is an argument to be made that Makima’s actions are for the greater good, but this will come at the cost of Denji’s own individuality and personal freedom. Once again, what Fujimoto seems to be exploring here is the idea of subjective morality, and I’m loving every second of it.
You can read Our Blood Oath chapter 1, Phantom Seer chapter 3, and Chainsaw Man chapter 84