A year has passed since I last attempted to spell out some of the must-read titles available via VIZ Media’s free Shonen Jump service. With regard to the service, nothing much has changed. It’s still as consumer-friendly as ever, offering a wide selection of manga both old and new at a very reasonable rate of just $1.99/month. The only problem with the service is its spotty mobile app and regional coverage, but other than that, it’s still an incredibly good deal.
That being said, the world has obviously changed a great deal since then. The majority of us are now in forced lockdown due to the global outbreak of the Coronavirus, and we have a lot of time on our hands. In these times, manga – or any form of entertainment, for that matter – is essential. Not only does it provide us with an entertaining way to pass the time, but it may also offer us a glimmer of hope and relief in the darkness. Since you already know that you should be using this time to catch up with One Piece, here are five other recommendations.
When did it start? December 2018 – Ongoing
Who’s behind it? Tatsuki Fujimoto
What’s it about? Denji, a broke teenager down on his luck, ends up one day fusing with his dog Pochita and becoming Chainsaw Man – part-Devil, part-human, all chainsaw. We follow his misadventures as a Public Safety Devil Hunter, taking on all manner of fearsome supernatural foes and even falling in love in the process.
No doubt about it, Chainsaw Man by Tatsuki Fujimoto is the best series running in Weekly Shonen Jump right now. Ever since it debuted, it has impressed with its boundary-pushing humor and content, and even now, one year later, nothing has changed. It is a constant surprise that something like this is even published in Weekly Shonen Jump, and the emotional heights that the story has reached in some of its recent arcs was wholly unanticipated. The series’ charismatic cast, too, is sure to capture your heart.
Furthermore, what makes Chainsaw Man even more special in the context of VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump line-up is how it represents a step-up for the series’ author, Tatsuki Fujimoto. Fire Punch, his last series, is also available via the service, and reading the author’s debut work alongside this one is astonishing; it shows that he has not been forced to give up many of his unique idiosyncrasies, including his grimdark storytelling (as a matter of course), but also his beautiful paneling and artwork. What the success of Chainsaw Man should mean is that his talents are being exposed to an even larger audience, which gives me high hopes for his future. Read here.
SPY x FAMILY
When did it start? March 2019 – Ongoing
Who’s behind it? Tatsuya Endo
What’s it about? Super spy Twilight is tasked with his toughest mission yet: build up a fake family so that he can prevent a deadly war between two rival countries. The only problem? Both his wife and his daughter have hidden identities, just like him – one being a contract killer, the other a mind-reader. Hilarity ensues.
Although Chainsaw Man is doing well, it is hard to deny the fact that SPY x FAMILY is one of the hottest manga in Japan right now. It is up there next to Koyoharu Gotoge’s Kimetsu no Yaiba in terms of both sales and popularity, even sweeping a couple of awards shows last year. In this sense, we can expect an anime adaptation sooner rather than later. Why not use VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump, then, to get ahead of the curve?
Doing is well worth it, too, because SPY x FAMILY has so much going for it. Almost every chapter is stuffed full of pitch-perfect comedy, heartwarming family drama, and breathtaking action setpieces. The series warrants its popularity in almost every way. From an industry point of view, the series’ popularity is doubly important given that it further proves that digital-only services such as Jump Plus can produce just as many hits as their traditional older brothers. Read here.
When did it start? March 2018 – Ongoing
Who’s behind it? Gege Akutami
What’s it about? After an unfortunate run-in with a supernatural Curse, Yuji Itadori ends up swallowing one of the fingers of the undisputed King of Curses, Sukuna. Faced with the choice of either learning how to control the demon within or be killed, Yuji enrolls in Tokyo Metropolitan Curse Technical College and his adventures as a Jujutsu Sorcerer begin.
Speaking of upcoming anime adaptations, here’s one series that already has one confirmed. Although there hasn’t been much information since the initial announcement back in November, rest assured that Jujutsu Kaisen is going to become a pretty big deal in the near future. In this sense, you can once more use VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump to get ahead of the crowd.
Recommending Jujutsu Kaisen on this basis is perhaps the best I can do because Gege Akutami’s series has never exactly been to my liking. But there are enough people out there who jive with its dark art style, punchy action, and Hunter x Hunter-inspired power system, so I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
The only catch is that VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump is still missing some chapters from the middle part of the series – a hangover from the ‘Jump Start’ days, where the company would only translate the first three chapters of any given new series. act-age suffers from the same fate. Still, the company is working to fill those gaps over time, and they have already made solid progress. Here’s hoping that the pace dials up sooner rather than later. Read here.
Mitama Security: Spirit Busters
When did it start? September 2019 – Ongoing
Who’s behind it? Tsurun Hatomune
What’s it about? High school student Rena Haze has a problem: her body attracts ghosts, who follow behind her in massive numbers every single day. Fortunately, Joh Mitama is here to help – a professional spirit buster tasked with exorcising Rena’s pesky poltergeist problem. The only problem is, he’s deathly afraid of ghosts. Hilarity ensues.
Most of the series recommended so far as part of this list belong to the action genre, or are at least action-oriented, which is an unfortunate byproduct of the fact that action tends to sell well among Weekly Shonen Jump’s Japanese readership. VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump can’t help but reflect that fact. But if you are in the mood for a good laugh, then Mitama Security may provide you with just that.
Tsurun Hatomune’s pun-based approach to humor may rub some the wrong way, but for me it works very well in that self-aware kind of way. It’s cast of characters, too, are quite charming and work together surprisingly well. The fact that the series has changed quite dramatically from its inception to focus less on wacky gags and more on comedy born from character interactions, then, is a welcome one. If there was a Most Improved award for Jump manga, then Mitama Security would surely get my vote. Read here.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
When did it start? December 1986 (Part 1) – November 1995 (Part 4)
Who’s behind it? Hirohiko Araki
What’s it about? The Joestar family fights battles across time and space, sometimes facing off against their mortal enemy, DIO. VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump has up to Part 4!
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure surely needs no introduction. The manga has also been a cultural powerhouse in Japan ever since its release, but the series has only just gained proper recognition in the west thanks to David Productions’ excellent anime adaptation. Its inclusion on this list demonstrates, in turn, the range of series that VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump has to offer – not just up-and-comers, but also golden oldies.
Only Parts 1 through 4 are available through the service, so you won’t be able to get up to date with the series just yet. This is because VIZ is keeping pace with their gorgeous physical releases, which are well worth picking up. Nevertheless, you can certainly bide your time as you wait for that eventual Stone Ocean anime announcement.
Whether or not you’re a JoJo newbie or a dedicated fan, then Hirohiko Araki’s manga is worth checking out. There is something about Araki’s art that the anime doesn’t quite do justice, mostly because of the relative lack of visual fidelity. It is also interesting to note the differences between the two mediums, even if they are relatively minor. Plus, who doesn’t love a bit of JoJo? Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here.