Hello there and welcome to Your Manga Week. Finding time to keep up with all the manga that releases on a weekly basis can be difficult, so I’m here to tell you what’s worth your time and what’s not. We’ll also be discussing the story and arc developments as they come. This week, we’re talking Jujutsu Kaisen chapter 97, My Hero Academia chapter 262, and MASHLE: Magic and Muscles chapter 6.
One of the best things about living in Japan for a year was definitely cycling. Not only are there far fewer hills, but the roads in Japan are far more welcoming to cyclists than they are here in the United Kingdom, so ever since I came back I’ve been hankering to get back in the saddle. Yet, I’ve also been aware that things just won’t be the same. This week I finally caved and bought a new Brompton folding bike, but I must admit that the kind of feeling you get from sweating your way up a massive hill is quite different from the kind of feeling you get when cycling peacefully next to the banks of the Tama river. At least it’s a good workout, though, and it really makes me want to check out Yowamushi Pedal sooner rather than later. Anyway, on with the manga.
Jujutsu Kaisen chapter 97
It may surprise you to hear that Akutami Gege’s Jujutsu Kaisen has yet to be featured in the relatively short history of this column. This is despite many calling it Weekly Shonen Jump’s ‘next big thing,’ as well as the recent announcement that it would be getting an anime adaptation. So what makes Jujutsu Kaisen chapter 97 different? Why feature the series now, after all this time? As it turns out, the answer lies less in the chapter’s strengths than it does the absence of many of the series’ weaknesses as a whole.
One of my biggest problems with the series and why I’ve subsequently yet to feature any of its chapters in this column is the kind of narrative structure that Akutami Gege tends to employ. Instead of telling a story from beginning to end, he tends to jump about in the continuity – sometimes forwards for dramatic reveals and sometimes backwards for exposition and flashbacks – which makes parsing the individual stories quite a chore.
Another one of my problems with the series is its power system. That’s not to say that the series’ supernatural abilities are somehow badly explained or hamfisted, just that the series hasn’t done much work since an initial exposition dump in volume 2 to reinforce how they work, meaning that if you’ve been reading the series for a while (like me), it can be hard to remember the rationale behind what exactly is going on.
Many have pointed out the similarities between Jujutsu Kaisen’s power system and that of Hunter x Hunter, and I would have to agree. The way that ‘cursed energy’ works in the former is almost the same as the ‘Nen’ system in the latter, but I think that the key difference between the two is the way that each respective author – Akutami Gege and Yoshihiro Togashi respectively – approach the explanation of each respective power system. Togashi is, even now, constantly updating the system and expanding its possibilities alongside the reader as the arcs progress, whereas Akutami has seen fit to explain the system in a massive chunk at the beginning and leave it at that. That’s not to say that there haven’t been new developments since then – there have – but they don’t seem to be all that important.
This brings us to Jujutsu Kaisen chapter 97. Unfortunately, we are coming in in the middle of a fairly extensive narrative arc, consisting of a flashback to Jujutsu High teacher Satoru Gojo’s past and the currently-unfolding ‘Shibuya Incident.’ For all of the reasons outlined above, I’ve yet to cover any of this arc (although I have come close many times); the narrative has been moving about all over the place, making it hard to track where all the characters are at any one time, and the under-explained power system has made comprehending some of the flashy battles that have been occurring quite hard. For the most part, I’ve just been appreciating Akutami’s art and wondering what the hype is all about.
Jujutsu Kaisen chapter 97 changes all of that. Apart from a brief intersection with another fight that is occurring elsewhere, it sticks with Yuji and Megumi as they battle it out against a Curse (one of the series’ antagonists) in a linear manner. It even slows down to explain what is going on and how the two students manage to beat the enemy in the end. Quite elementary stuff, but something altogether uncommon in this series.
Also worth mentioning is the quality of Akutami Gege’s art. When I said that I spend most of my time just staring at the artwork, that’s not a snide comment: it’s meant to show my genuine appreciation for his breezy character designs, engaging paneling and eye for detail. All of this is true in Jujutsu Kaisen chapter 97 just as much as it is elsewhere: the characters are very easy to tell apart, the action is easy to follow on a visual basis, and the level of detail very much goes above and beyond. The sheer number of realistic depictions of people getting punched in the face is but one example of that.
With all that being said, did Jujutsu Kaisen chapter 97 somehow help me give in to the hype? Not really. This is but one excellent chapter in a sea of others that I’ve struggled to fully engage with, and it only manages to do this by actively bucking so much of the series’ regular hallmarks.
It seems clear, to me at least, that this series isn’t really meant for me – as I said in my initial review, it feels like the perfect series for the potential new generation of Jump fans. Even so, I’ll continue to read it week by week out of morbid curiosity and, hey, if you’re enjoying the series, then power to you! Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong. I would value the conversation.
My Hero Academia chapter 262
One series that I have had no trouble getting behind, however, is My Hero Academia. Although it too has acted as a gateway for a whole new cohort of Jump fans, its careful attention to worldbuilding, character development, and bombastic visual presentation won me over a long time ago – to the point where, now, I couldn’t imagine a Weekly Shonen Jump without it.
So, you can imagine my surprise when, last week, My Hero Academia was absent from the magazine. This wasn’t anything to do with the latest controversy, which was the conclusion that some people jumped to, but instead a scheduled break for Kohei Horikoshi as one of the magazine’s leading authors. You gotta look after your brightest and best, I suppose.
My Hero Academia chapter 262 is thus the first chapter in two weeks, and what a chapter to come back to. It encapsulates pretty much everything I love about the long-running series and gets me very excited about its future. Carrying on from the last, initial foray into the dastardly doctor Daruma Ujiko’s Nomu-creating lab, it follows a handful of pro heroes as they try to track down and arrest the brains behind the villains’ operation, as well as deal with a whole legion of high-grade Nomus that are unleashed upon them.
By far the most standout part of this chapter is the character of Mirko and the kind of action that her Quirk entails (no pun intended). Her rabbit-like abilities and unwavering resolve, even against a swarm of highly powerful and seemingly unstoppable Nomus, brings an energy and drive to this chapter that has quickly made her into a new fan favorite (just look at the replies to Horikoshi’s latest sketch of her).
It is interesting to note how much the manga has been focusing on Mirko as of late, as her own kick-centric fighting style is very similar to the kind of style that Deku is starting to develop. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the two characters ended up crossing paths sometime soon to further Deku’s training and power progression, nor would I be the first person to make such a prediction. When compared to Mirko’s real-life rabbit ears, the rabbit-like protrusions on Deku’s original mask should be enough for anyone to make this mental connection.
Another reason as to why it wouldn’t surprise me if Mirko and Deku formed a partnership sometime soon is because Tomura Shigaraki, too, is progressing rapidly in his own power development. My Hero Academia chapter 262 actually suggests towards the beginning that Daruma is performing on Shigaraki the very same procedure that he uses to create Nomus: ripping apart his body and artificially transplanting Quirks within him.
Given the destruction that Shigaraki was already able to wreak at the end of the Meta Liberation Army arc, the prospects for the success of this procedure are terrifying, to say the least. If Deku is going to train alongside Mirko, then he needs to do it, and do it fast – because the villains are already well on their way to surpassing him.
The final moments of My Hero Academia chapter 262 also suggest that Hawks’ double agent gig may be up. While the villain who runs through the Paranormal Liberation Front headquarters at the very end doesn’t believe Hawks to be a traitor, he seems fairly certain that Jin Bubaigawara AKA Twice has something to do with the heroes being able to find out where Daruma is keeping Shigaraki. Even if the villains don’t immediately expect Hawks, the ripple effects of this accusation will surely put immense pressure on his cover and possibly push him into a situation that he may have wanted to avoid.
In any case, My Hero Academia chapter 262 was an excellent chapter that had me realizing why I love Kohei Horikoshi’s long-running series all over again. Not only did we get a feel for a new character in the form of Mirko, but her fighting style also made reading this chapter an absolute joy. Several elements also have me very excited for the future of the story, so safe to say that the author’s worldbuilding and narrative game is still very much on point.
MASHLE chapter 6
Now that we’ve covered some of the more high-profile series in Jump right now, it’s time to check out some of the new kids on the block. MASHLE: Magic and Muscles is one such series, having launched a little over a month ago alongside such series as Undead Unluck and Guardian of the Witch. While it didn’t get the perfect start, I’ve always held out hope that things might get better – and MASHLE chapter 6 demonstrates that this confidence was not misplaced.
MASHLE chapter 6 is a continuation of the narrative that began last week, centered around Mash’s inability to perceive the fact that his new “friends” are actually bullying him, which stems in turn from his kind-hearted, gullible nature. Yet, as soon as he discovers his friend Finn being assaulted by one of these boys, he quickly switches tact and attacks him, ignoring the consequences that may or may not follow.
This week’s chapter, then, deals with the fallout of Mash’s actions as he must explain himself to the authorities of the school. Before that, though, he ends up clobbering yet another important person – the vice-principal Farman – and trying to bury him alive.
Although this is mostly played for laughs – and it is quite funny – there is some important character work going on here. All of this clearly establishes that Mash isn’t afraid of anything in his quest to become the Divine Visionary, and he’ll smash through any status quo to get there – the first of which, obviously, being his inability to use magic, but he also refuses to bow to the traditional figures of authority within the school and wider society.
This ends up being something that the principal agrees with when he meets with Mash, so he ends up being let off the hook. Instead, we are treated with some exposition that explains how exactly our protagonist is going to have to go about achieving his goals. Put simply, in order to become the Divine Missionary, Mash will have to become the top student of the academy in terms of both schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Doing so will net him special coins, at the end of the year the student who holds the most of which will be chosen for the honor.
The system outlined in MASHLE chapter 6 immediately made me think of the House Points system in Harry Potter, and this seems to be an obvious influence: if not just in the setting, then also in the fact that next week’s chapter will see our characters engaged in a match of what essentially amounts to Quidditch.
All in all, the way that MASHLE chapter 6 so keenly defines our protagonist and the lengths to which he is prepared to go to achieve his goal has me confident that this series may end up having a bright future. Rebellious characters who go against the status quo have always been my kind of thing, and the way that the narrative so clearly sets out a path for Mash to follow has me at least a little confident that author Hajime Koumoto has an idea of where he’s going with all of this. This series may be one to watch.