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. We’ll be covering a bunch of chapters this week, including Sakamoto Days chapter 1.
Welcome back! I took a break last week, so now we’re faced with a backlog of chapters to cover – whatever to do? How about taking a leaf out of Weekly Shonen Jump’s book and doing a combined bumper issue? That sounds fun, right? As a result, we’re covering several chapters of several series this week, including Sakamoto Days chapter 1, Phantom Seer chapters 12 and 13, Moriking chapters 28 and 29, MASHLE chapter 39 and 40, and Undead Unluck chapters 40 and 41… Phew. Let’s just jump right into it, shall we?
Sakamoto Days Chapter 1
Before we discuss Sakamoto Days chapter 1, we have to address the elephant in the room: why haven’t I spotlighted Build King?
It has long since been the tradition of this column to cover each and every new series that debuts in Weekly Shonen Jump. This is because they are the lifeblood of the magazine, its hopes for the future – along with a good source of page views.
Nevertheless, I can’t bring myself to support Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro, nor tangentially endorse his continued presence in the world’s biggest manga magazine, especially in light of what happened to Act-Age.
Being a serialized author in Weekly Shonen Jump is not the same as any other job. While I don’t believe that ex-convicts should be discriminated against because of their criminal record, that is not exactly the same thing as drawing manga in Jump. As a Jump author, you are one of the lucky few who are able to command the largest amount of attention, owing to the magazine’s legendary status; you are also a role model, whether you like it or not.
Continuing to give Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro the spotlight just feels wrong. It also feels like an insult for fans of Act-Age, who accepted the series’ effective erasure from the face of the earth if it meant that Tatsuya Matsuki would be punished properly for his destructive actions. No one deserves a series in Jump; that is an honor that is earned through talent and hard work. Shimabukuro discarded that honor a long time ago.
In any case, Sakamoto Days is one series that definitely deserves to be in Weekly Shonen Jump. Yuuto Suzuki is a talented up-and-coming author with two successful one-shots already under his belt: Garaku and Locker Room, the latter of which was adapted into a drama earlier this month under the title Coin Laundry. Clearly, this is someone who would benefit from greater exposure, and Sakamoto Days chapter 1 proves that he has the talent to capitalize upon it.
If I was to describe the premise of Sakamoto Days in a phrase, it’d be ‘John Wick meets SPY x FAMILY meets The Way of the House Husband.’ But simply comparing Suzuki’s series to others would make it seem like a rip-off, which it isn’t. It may enjoy many of the same appeal points, but it combines them all in an original way.
The majority of Sakamoto Days chapter 1 is dedicated to setting up the series’ premise. Taro Sakamoto was, six years ago, the criminal underground’s deadliest assassin. One day, however, he met a girl and got married, settling down and gaining a lot of weight in the process. Now, he minds a neighborhood convenience store with his wife and young son, a far cry from his previous criminal past.
The criminal underworld hasn’t forgotten about him. Sakamoto’s former gang sends Shin, his former partner, to knock him off as he ‘broke the rule of our world’ (the typical yakuza stuff) and ‘abandoned his responsibilities.’ Shin will have a job of it, however, as Sakamoto has lost none of his previous skills.
Immediately, this premise reminded me of John Wick, as it is the latest piece of popular spy media to offer its take on the ‘legend comes back’ trope. Yet, there is also the impact of SPY x FAMILY: seeing Sakamoto Days chapter 1 slide in right next to Mission: Yozakura Family seems to speak to the fact that Shueisha is realizing that spy stories sell. And finally, there are elements of The Way of the House Husband, as a former legendary criminal is transported to a fairly mundane suburban setting.
To call Sakamoto Days a simple capitalization on current trends, however, would be doing it a disservice. Not only does Yuuto Suzuki have clear talent, he showcases it in interesting ways: he plays around with different art styles and interesting character designs, and creates unique battles with otherwise inconspicuous domestic items.
From what I can tell, Sakamoto Days chapter 1 appears to be more or less a retelling of the 2019 one-shot upon which this series is based. Yet, it leaves off in an interesting place: Shin is offered a job at the Sakamotos’ convenience store while the threat of yet more assassins looms large. This positions Sakamoto Days as a sort of buddy comedy with plenty more room to grow, especially considering Shin’s unique abilities as a mind-reader. Again, this is much like Anya’s abilities in SPY x FAMILY, so there is that clear influence.
To say that I wasn’t thoroughly entertained by Sakamoto Days chapter 1, however, would be nothing but a big fat lie. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this up-and-coming author can impress us, especially considering his less-than-auspicious company.
Phantom Seer Chapters 12 and 13
Okay, so we still have about eight more chapters to go. I’m going to try to go through them as quickly as possible, because otherwise this week’s column will end up taking an age to read. Got it? Got it.
Much like Sakamoto Days chapter 1, Phantom Seer is a relatively new addition to Weekly Shonen Jump that didn’t impress me that much upon release. Recent chapters have changed my mind, however, as series author Tougo Gotou is proving that he can put together a thrilling story while also developing its main characters. We also have a stellar presentation (as usual) from Kento Matsuura.
Phantom Seer chapter 12 marks the end of a very brief training arc for secondary protagonist Aibetsu, as she is taught by both Yayoi and Kenma how to control her ‘beckoning hand’ powers. Gotou does this in an interesting way, as he not only uses unique visual motifs but also an unusual structure: Aibetsu is training at the same time as Iori is fighting Senjudoji, eventually jumping straight into the battle at the end of chapter 12.
Attempting to pull off the series’ first major battle alongside a training segment was a risky move, but one that pays off. It keeps Phantom Seer chapter 12 light and refreshing, moving along at a nice pace before leading perfectly into chapter 13. Here is where Phantom Seer finally shows us its credentials as a battle manga: Gotou’s command of the fight against Senjudoji is perfect, giving us such cool moments as Iori using the arm of Ongyoki to travel up to the phantom and deliver the decisive blow.
For a while, it seemed as if Phantom Seer was shaping up to be more of a mystery-horror series, but chapter 13 proves that it can do action, too. It’s also clear from Yayoi’s ominous monologue at the end that Aibetsu and Iori’s tribulations are far from over, so I look forward to seeing where things go from here.
One final point: My main criticism of Phantom Seer when it was released was its unappealing characters, but that might have been too preemptive. While Iori came across as a little too curt and Aibetsu a little too passive at first, both characters have since received significant development and shown off their more endearing points. Chapter 13, in particular, is full of such moments: Iori’s look of rage as Senjudoji escapes is irresistible, and Aibetsu’s desire to get stronger in the face of adversary is inspiring. Once again, these are good seeds for the future that I can’t wait to see sprout.
Moriking Chapters 28 and 29
Oh, Moriking. Moriking, Moriking, Moriking. Only Moriking could start a training arc while staring down the face of cancelation, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this series, it’s to expect the unexpected. Luckily, thanks to Tomohiro Hasegawa’s talents, it somehow works.
Moriking chapter 28, which released two weeks ago at this point, sees our insect characters training their bodies to be able to put up a fight at the upcoming Hoshiking tournament. This comes courtesy of a new character, Koichi, who uses his insect-breeding prowess to train two of our main characters with hilarious consequences.
To be honest, the idea of embarking on a training arc at this point in the story was already to get me on board with Moriking chapter 28 out of sheer incredulity, but the successful gags seal the deal. Moving on to Moriking chapter 29, this deals with the first match of the Hoshiking tournament proper: once again, the gags here land thick and fast, making for an entertaining story.
A special shout-out has to go to Oka, who is undoubtedly the MVP of Moriking chapter 29 (I have a type, and it’s a praying mantis girl who loves to eat loads of food). Then, once again, we have to recognize the strength of Hasegawa’s writing: as was evident from the very beginning, the author has clearly thought far too much about how insects would act if they were human sized. Moriking chapter 29 offers several more examples of this, as the new characters of Riokku and Tiger Beetle correspond perfectly to their real-life counterparts.
There isn’t much more to say about Moriking chapters 28 and 29, as they are mostly very silly. Very, very silly. Even so, they function as yet more evidence that this series deserves more credit than it is given. Check it out if you get the chance.
MASHLE Chapters 39 and 40
Many hopes were riding on MASHLE chapter 39. As I said last time, I was expecting the end of the series’ latest arc to bring with it some sort of training segment, where the basics of this world’s version of magic would be explained and the shortcomings of the series’ battle focus thus resolved. No such dice.
MASHLE chapter 39 is mostly just a nice reunion of all our characters, who had been split apart for the majority of the previous arc to participate in individual battles. This chapter brings them back together, allowing the story a moment to reflect on what just happened and survey the lasting effects.
To say that MASHLE chapter 39 is all gags, however, would be doing it a disservice. There are several important plot elements in here that deserve to be covered, such as the fact that everyone now knows that Mash cannot use magic and that the sinister ‘Innocent Zero’ is on the move. This then feeds nicely into MASHLE chapter 40, which deals with the former revelation.
It was almost a good thing that I took a vacation last week, as I probably would have been frustrated by MASHLE chapter 39 if I read it in isolation. It addresses none of my hopes and none of my fears. Nevertheless, following it up immediately with MASHLE chapter 40 was a nice experience: it serves a slice of plot along with the light-hearted character interactions.
Mash finds himself in front of a tribunal in MASHLE chapter 40, forced to explain why he hid the fact that he can’t use magic (exactly as I predicted, by the way). In this, he is asked by a new character Ryoh Grantz (captain of the Magic Security Forces, apparently) to light a candle without moving from where he stands, giving birth to an excellent scene where Mash proves that muscles can be just as powerful as magic.
This sort of bonkers set piece is exactly what got MASHLE popular in the first place, and neatly avoids having to explain any of the underlying magic system. Nevertheless, that need is still there, and I hope that Hajime Komoto addresses it ASAP. I’m cautiously optimistic.
Undead Unluck Chapters 40 and 41
Finally, we come to Undead Unluck chapters 40 and 41 (we’re in the home straight now). If you’ve been reading Yoshifumi Tozuka’s series from the beginning, then you probably know by now that nothing can be taken for granted; there is always some sort of massive plot twist lurking around the corner that threatens to overturn the entire apple cart. Even so, Undead Unluck chapters 40 and 41 take the biscuit.
Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a Weekly Shonen Jump series turning suddenly into a Western forty chapters in, moving the characters and the action entirely to Reconstruction-era America. But that’s just the type of story that Undead Unluck is. In chapter 40, Anno-Un uses their (again, gender has not been specified at this point) ability (which is, yes, basically Heaven’s Door from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure) to transport Fuuko into Andy’s past, attempting to find out ‘Why Andy was born.’
This is part of Anno-Un’s ongoing efforts to train Andy and Fuuko to be strong enough to take on the UMA Autumn, making Undead Unluck chapter 40 the third chapter in this column to feature a training arc alongside Phantom Seer chapter 12 and Moriking chapter 28. In any case, the results are pretty effective: not only do we get to see a younger, more reserved Andy, we also get a taste of his tragic past.
When all of Andy’s comrades get gunned down suddenly in a bar by some roaming bandits, Undead Unluck chapter 41 doesn’t even feel like a Weekly Shonen Jump manga. It feels the hardest, most rootin’ tootin’ Western out there, which is a genre you hardly ever see in manga, let alone Jump. The only difference is that Andy can’t die, which effectively makes him into Wolverine, anyway. Needless to say, it’s pretty entertaining.
Andy and Fuuko’s training has yet to complete, so we can expect Undead Unluck to stick around in the old West for a while yet. That’s great news, especially considering some of the missteps that previous parts of the arc have made.
You can read Sakamoto Days chapter 1, Phantom Seer chapters 12 and 13, Moriking chapters 28 and 29, MASHLE chapters 39 and 40, and Undead Unluck chapters 40 and 41 for free via VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump.