The beginning of a new week can only mean one thing: time for 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 dive 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 Phantom Seer chapter 1, Chainsaw Man chapter 82, and Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin chapter 8.
This isn’t really related to Weekly Shonen Jump, but the news of the passing of Kousei Eguchi over the weekend saddened me greatly. The young artist had only just started his Kimio Alive in Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine, and was on track for great things – to have him snatched away from us at the tender age of 23 (only a year older than me!) feels like a huge loss. So while we will be discussing a lot of Shueisha series from here on out, don’t hesitate to check out Kimio Alive via Kodansha. That’s the least we can do to help keep his memory alive.
Phantom Seer chapter 1
The latest round of new series continues this week with Phantom Seer chapter 1, following Burn the Witch’s highly anticipated but decisively low key debut last week. Yet, unlike Burn the Witch, this series is sticking around for the foreseeable future – meaning that it definitely merits closer inspection.
Heading into Phantom Seer chapter 1, two things gave me a fair bit of excitement. Firstly, the series is based on a one-shot from last year that won first place in the Golden Future Cup: also titled Phantom Seer (or Honomieru Shonen/The Barely Visible Boy in Japanese), it brought together Tougo Gotou on story and Kento Matsuura on art.
That last name, in turn, may sound a little familiar. Matsuura also did the art for last year’s Tokyo Shinobi Squad, which evoked some worrying themes while maintaining a consistently cool art style. The second thing that got me excited, then, was the prospect that Matsuura might finally be able to find a story to match the quality of his art.
Drat. He picked the short straw again.
For the most part, Phantom Seer chapter 1 is pretty unremarkable. It follows the story of Riku Aibetsu, a high school girl who has some sort of psychic power that allows her to detect imminent danger. She ends up coming into contact with Iori Katanagi (above), a mysterious boy who tells her that she’s being haunted by a phantom – fast forward a couple of plot developments later, and the two are battling it out against spirits in a style that does remind you of Shaman King (at least, that is what a lot of people are saying).
Immediately, however, Phantom Seer chapter 1 is confronted with a problem: there have already been quite a lot of supernatural series in Weekly Shonen Jump as of late. Even if we discard such concluded series as Bone Collection and Mitama Security, then the recently debuted Ayakashi Triangle from Yabuki Kentarou touches on very much the same notes – Riku even attracts spirits, just as Suzu attracts ayakashi.
Nevertheless, I was willing to give Phantom Seer chapter 1 the benefit of the doubt. Very quickly, however, several things rubbed me the wrong way. Firstly, the character of Iori isn’t very likeable – I get that that is supposed to be the point, but I wasn’t able to find any charm points among the aloofness and egotism. Secondly, it’s hard to see where things might develop from here on out – there is the mystery of Iori’s older sister, but the whole thing feels like a rehash of the original one-shot. Hardly an exciting start.
To be honest, I was pretty clocked out for the majority of Phantom Seer chapter 1 – that is, until the character of Ongyoki (above) appears. This is Iori’s “Phantom” that he unleashes at the very end, coming straight out of the most nightmarish regions of Japanese mythology. His dark, terrifying appearance did provide a welcome wake-up call for what was otherwise quite a boring story.
Even so, this poses several problems. For starters, having the majority of your debut chapter be quite unengaging isn’t exactly a good look, and I can’t help but think that this is setting up exactly the same dynamic that plagued Tokyo Shinobi Squad: mediocre story punctuated by occasional glimpses of artistic greatness. After all, it is Kento Matsuura that is doing the majority of the heavy lifting here, not Tougo Gotou.
Shueisha must see something here, as they lauded the initial one-shot, but I’m afraid I cannot. All I can see is the barely visible outline of something that has already crashed and burned, and I’m not sure if I want to go through that again. Still, things could get better from here on out, so keep your eyes peeled.
Chainsaw Man chapter 82
Any pain that I felt from reading Phantom Seer chapter 1 was, surprisingly, nothing compared to the pain that I felt while reading Chainsaw Man chapter 82. To be honest, the past couple of chapters of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s series have been nothing but pure pain, starting with Aki’s death in 79 and followed by Power’s death in 81. At this point, reading Chainsaw Man is pure masochism – you either like being hurt, or enjoy watching other people suffer.
Either way, you’re probably not right in the head. You might as well join the club.
Chainsaw Man chapter 82 opens with a line that is surely aimed as much at the readers as it is the characters of the series. Denji, still reeling from the death of Power, asks Makima “Am I dreaming?”, desperately hoping that he is right. Makima responds with perhaps the most terrifying thing ever – a cold-hearted laugh that is delivered without dialogue and without sound effects, placing the emphasis on solely her writhing body and contorted facial expressions.
This spread may go down in history as one of the most brutal in Weekly Shonen Jump history. Seriously, there is nothing more insulting and more terrifying than someone laughing in the face of abject pain and tragedy – to a certain extent, it also feels like Fujimoto is laughing at us through her.
Chainsaw Man chapter 82 also had strong competition on the antagonist front this week. My Hero Academia, in particular, is continuing to show us how terrifying Shigaraki can be now that he has gotten his hands on All for One. Nevertheless, Chainsaw Man chapter 82 has one more thing going for it: the series of revelations that follow this brutal scene, recasting the whole series in a different light.
After having “a good laugh”, Makima goes on to admit that everything that has happened in Denji’s life up until this point has been part of her master plan. In order to break his “contract” with Pochita, she decided to make his life as happy as possible, before breaking the whole thing down and making it impossible for him to live a normal life. It seems to have worked, as well, as Chainsaw Man chapter 82 ends with Denji lying listlessly on Makima’s couch.
As to why Makima would do this, it’s not quite clear. There’s something about the fact that Denji killed his father – turns out that what was behind that ominous door was the truth that he did not kill himself – but there is clearly something that we aren’t being told. Why would Makima be interested in breaking Denji’s contract with Pochita in the first place? I’d wager it’s something to do with the fact that Pochita is actually the Devil, foreshadowed all the way back in chapter 53, but that remains to be seen.
To be honest, that ongoing mystery is the only thing really keeping the series going at this point in time. By killing off most of the main characters, Tatsuki Fujimoto is walking the dangerous line between shock horror and outright disgust – it’s very possible that some readers will give up on the series as a result.
Of course, there is also the prospect of seeing how Denji manages to break out of Makima’s control. But whether or not that happens is another question entirely. Judging from Fujimoto’s previous work, Fire Punch, he doesn’t exactly do happy endings – satisfactory ones, for sure, but not ones that really leave you feeling good inside.
Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin chapter 8
Finally, we come to Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin chapter 8. After all of Phantom Seer chapter 1’s dark horror and Chainsaw Man chapter 82’s intense drama, you’d be forgiven for wanting a palette cleanser. Last week, we finished off with some gag manga for that very purpose, but there is no such dice this week: Moriking was average, Magu-chan was more of the same, and Me & Roboco is back to its usual disconcerting antics. Still, Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin chapter 8 is here to save the day, as it finally gets into its plot after several weeks of mucking about.
It must be said that I have been quite enjoying Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin as of late. Perhaps it’s something to do with its 2000s-era idiosyncrasies, or perhaps it’s something to do with the tropical setting – either way, Ryuuhei Tamura has managed to craft something here that has gone beyond its unfortunate political connotations and become something genuinely entertaining. Props to him.
We’ve known about the concept for the overall plot of Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin for a while now, but chapter 7 really is the first time that it is put into action. Samejima and Orpheus are interrupted in the middle of their ocean diving expedition from last week by a sudden call: it’s from ‘Section Seven’, a “supersecret agency” within public safety that no one knows for sure really exists. They have a mission for the reluctant partners: take down the ‘Osawara family’, an “ocean gang” that is threatening to disrupt the peace on the tropical island of Anegashima.
All this call in Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin chapter 7 really does is confirm what we already knew. We already caught rumors of so-called “ocean gangs” back in chapter 2, and Orpheus has never held back in hinting that there is a whole world beneath the ocean’s surface. Nevertheless, one other important thing to come out of this call relates to Samejima: Jingui, the caller from Section Seven, confirms that she was the one who got him sent to the boonies, and that if he wants to get out, he has to “distinguish” himself even more than Orpheus has.
This provides Samejima with a concrete goal, which is something that he was sorely lacking up until this point in the story. Furthermore, Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin chapter 7 jumps straight into the implications of this revelation by getting Orpheus and his partner to take on the antagonistic gang members, who are actually anthropomorphized sea creatures thanks to the power of Chica. A lot of stuff to take in, for sure, but also necessary for plot development.
Whether or not Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin chapter 8’s plot development does anything for the series’ prospects is an open question. While I haven’t seen much criticism beyond the slightly insensitive political nature of the first chapter, I haven’t much praise, either – what I worry is that Ryuuhei Tamura’s name might keep things ticking along for a bit, before the series comes to a magnanimous end in the vein Samurai 8. We’ll just have to wait and see.