Many accuse battle manga of stagnation. Besides the fact that so many giants of the genre have been running for decades now (think Baki, One Piece), it’s easy to point to the latest wave of new manga and find in them a severe lack of original ideas and compelling elements. But if you were worried about the future of battle manga, then rest assured – Young Jump Battle shows that there’s life in the genre just yet.
Shueisha launched this special edition of their seinen-oriented magazine back on October 15, and contained within it are twelve one-shots centered around the theme of ‘battle’ from rookies and established authors alike. With some exceptions, they show that there’s more than a few new compelling ideas knocking around the genre of battle manga just yet – as well as introducing us to the authors that may or may not form the genre’s next generation.
Adorning the front cover of Young Jump Battle is Duelant. This one-shot was penned by author Toshimitsu Matsubara, who just finished up his boxing manga Rikudou in Young Jump itself after a respectable 22 collected volumes this May.
By virtue of its placement and author credit, it’s obvious that Duelant has the biggest chance of breaking out from the shackles of a one-shot and becoming a full-blown serialization. Nevertheless, Matsubara hasn’t rested on his laurels with this one.
The story takes place in medieval Europe, more specifically during the 13th century in the Holy Roman Empire, where warriors from across the whole continent are embroiled in vicious duels to prove their might, with the victor being ordained by God.
Our point-of-view character Katrea is being viciously targeted by the victor of one of these duels in her hometown, whereupon a chance encounter brings her into contact with a small, black-haired Asian man who offers to fight to free her from her subjugation.
Duelant is by far one of the darkest manga in Young Jump Battle in terms of both story and art. Toshimitsu Matsubara pairs his brutal story of medieval warfare with an almost charcoal-black aesthetic that apes some of Kentaro Miura’s most iconic visuals in Berserk, which was no doubt an inspiration.
Yet Duelant is not a fantasy manga, but a battle manga as per the Young Jump Battle name. In this sense, Matsubara puts special emphasis on the swordplay mechanics in the duels of Duelant, leading to one fantastic moment where our black-haired protagonist uses a crack in his sword to deliver a killing blow.
Nevertheless, Duelant is not entirely perfect. The one-shot’s main drawback is its main character, the nameless ‘Demon of the Tartar,’ whose Asian identity is blatantly inserted into the story to act as a self-insert character for the Japanese audience. His bland personality doesn’t seem to provide much meat for a proper serialization, either – that is, if the series manages to make it out of Young Jump Battle.
Still, Duelant was an entertaining read that has me excited for what Toshimitsu Matsubara has in store for us next. Medieval manga are few and far between in the battle genre, so it would be nice to see this one-shot reemerge as a proper series – with some tweaks made here and there.
Ken no Boyou
Alongside Duelant on the front cover of Young Jump Battle was Ken no Boyou (Sword of the Gravestone) and for good reason.
This one-shot was written by the duo behind the excellent Terra Formars, artist Kenichi Tachibana and author Yu Sasuga, back when they were rookies. As far as I can tell, it’s being published here in Young Jump Battle for the very first time, and I’m very glad that it was.
In terms of story, Ken no Boyou takes place in the year 2098 where society has aged to an extreme degree, as technology has facilitated longer lifespans and quasi-immortality. This offers up a clever twist on the current ‘low birth rate, aging society (shoshikoureika)’ phenomena that Japan currently finds itself confronted with, as the average age has risen to a whopping 85.2 years old.
Our protagonist is the seemingly innocuous Shiba, an old man who is traveling about on a moped when he meets the young girl Miyuki and gets wrapped up in an incident surrounding the ‘Elderly Persons Protection Law,’ which essentially exempts old people from the law. This incident, in turn, reveals another, more tragic side to his otherwise peaceful personality.
It must be said that I was immediately endeared with Ken no Boyou as soon as I learned that the protagonist would be an old man on a moped. I don’t know why, but I always find such characters to be a lot of fun, and Shiba definitely doesn’t disappoint. His old man antics are always amusing, and the way that he interacts with Miyuki is quite endearing.
But the star of the show here has to be Yu Sasgua’s incredibly detailed story, which clearly signaled his talent even back when he was a rookie. His vision of the future not only incorporates contemporary issues but also touches upon the theme of life and loss, stating boldly that perhaps to die is to be human.
Bringing this all together is Kenichi Tachibana’s fantastic art. While he doesn’t have anything quite like the giant cockroaches from Terra Formars to work with, he still does his best in bringing the story’s artificial hearts, which use mammoth tissue, to life in a grotesque fashion.
One-shots are particularly fun to read as they usually signal series to come, but in the case of Ken no Boyou, there’s also an element of loss. Tachibana and Sasuga are still hard at work on Terra Formars, with no sense that it might be coming to an end any time soon. This means that for however compelling Ken no Boyou might be, there’s almost no chance that we’ll see its full potential as a serialization realized anytime soon. Still, at least Young Jump Battle has kindly demonstrated what we’re missing out on.
With Duelant and Ken no Boyou out of the way, we can now move on to some of the one-shots in Young Jump Battle penned by less established authors, who prove themselves more than ready for a proper serialization when the time calls for it. No[skill]man is a great example of this.
Eri Tsuruyoshi, who penned the one-shot, is not exactly a new author. He’s been around since 2017, having already received one series in the form of Blue Phobia. But that series didn’t last for very long (only 5 months), so it’s safe to say that No[skill]man marks a move on the author’s part for a new serialization.
The one-shot takes place in the near future, where humans can ‘install’ skills of a professional standard directly into their brains – think ‘I know kung fu’ from The Matrix.
Our protagonist Ninairo Kuuya, however, is one of those rare people who can’t install skills, his body having an allergy to the technology needed to do so.
That doesn’t stop Tsuruyoshi from giving him some special powers, however. In a narrative move that very much mirrors other shonen battle series as Black Clover and My Hero Academia, throughout the one-shot Kuuya begins to develop an ability that no-one else has – a premonitory ‘sixth sense.’
This fact becomes apparent as Kuuya begins to get mysterious visions of the heir to one of the biggest ‘skill’ companies Amane Luka being captured, which compels him to go and rescue her. This then leaves the series off on their fateful meeting, as Luka comes face to face with an ability that technology can’t quite capture.
It’s quite clear from this that Tsuruyoshi views No[skill]man’s placement in Young Jump Battle as the opportunity to appeal for a new serialization. The way that he has aped the formula of previous successful series and left the story off on a cliffhanger are but two examples of this.
To be honest, I’m skeptical as to how far Tsuruyoshi will be able to take the concept of premonition in a battle manga, but I’d certainly be interested in seeing more – here’s hoping that Shueisha give this young talent another shot some time soon.
Now for something completely different. All those who think that all battle manga are the same really ought to check out Oogui Nadeshiko (Big Eater Nadeshiko), which takes the art of competitive eating and runs wild.
Our story follows a conceited and abrasive young male ‘food fighter,’ who is looking for an opponent in a ramen store one day when a beautiful young girl named Nadeshiko walks in.
He tries to hit on her and get her to exchange numbers with him, but she refuses to do so unless he can beat her in a competitive eating competition – which she promptly wins.
In general, it’s surprising that no one has attempted to make a battle manga out of the concept of competitive eating already. It’s fairly big in Japan, with many shops of all sizes offering some sort of ‘challenge menu.’ There are also such online figures as Max Suzuki who help to promote the art through such services as YouTube.
Oogui Nadeshiko turns competitive eating into a tense psychological battle, as our conceited young fighter finds himself flabbergasted at how Nadeshiko doesn’t carry a towel, nor does she sweat. As he explains, when engaging in competitive eating, the body excretes a lot of sweat as it ratchets up the digestive process and creates a lot of heat as a result. But Nadeshiko’s special power, if you will, is that she can store up this sweat and release it at will – giving her a distinct competitive advantage over normal participants.
In this sense, Oogui Nadeshiko follows the same formula as other food-based battle manga as Food Wars! in infusing a culinary art with special abilities. But that’s definitely not a bad thing, as the one-shot’s focus on competitive eating makes it truly unique. There’ss a lot to like here from author Kouzuki Kouichi and artist Chigasaki Asa, the latter of which is a relative newbie, and I really hope that this one can transcend Young Jump Battle and become a full-fledged series.
Finally, we come to Yankee Hiyoko-san (Delinquent Hiyoko-san). This one-shot follows the story of the titular Hiyoko, who is a high school female delinquent (who would’ve guessed), as she struggles to beat her toughest opponent yet – a boy who makes her heart flutter.
Newbie author Kafun has clearly taken a very liberal interpretation of the word ‘battle’ here, but it’s no less entertaining as Hiyoko struggles to understand the concept of love and the idea that she might be attracted to this otherwise innocuous male classmate. Some of Hiyoko’s rough-and-tumble friends also try to help her along the way, but to no avail.
Newbie artist Houmatsu Awa also helps him in this task, offering up some competent, if not exactly inspiring artwork and character designs.
I’d love to talk more about Yankee Hiyoko-san, given how much I love the idea of female high school delinquents, but there’s honestly not much more to add. The one-shot is by far the shortest in Young Jump Battle, coming in at just over ten pages and cutting short what was developing into a fairly engaging narrative as a result. Let’s hope that this was just the amount of pages that this newbie duo was asked to do, and not some kind of production issue…
Young Jump Battle: The Bad
All of that is not to say, however, that Young Jump Battle is all good. While I have just outlined five very solid one-shots, we mustn’t forget that this is, in fact, a measly five out of twelve.
One of those twelve one-shots I missed out because it’s not an isolated story – rather, it’s a special side story for Tiger and Bunny, which I’ve never seen. It wouldn’t be fair, therefore, for me to comment on it.
Nevertheless, the rest of the one-shots in Young Jump Battle don’t get such a free pass. The other six series that I’ve missed out, those being Rousoku no Gou; Gokkosan; Bad Ass Guard; Killing Mission; Kaijin Lovers and Bakenekoroku, suffer mostly because of two distinct problems.
Firstly, the problem of density and information overload. This applies mostly to the fantasy one-shots that appeared in Young Jump Battle, those being Rousoku no Gou, Gokkosan, and Bakenekoroku. These three series invariably dump a large amount of information on the reader within the opening pages and then proceed to litter the entire chapter with more and more exposition and lore.
This is a problem as it immediately disengages the reader from your one-shot. After all, why should they bother to try and take all of it in if it’s going to be over in thirty or so pages? Story content should be kept simple and worldbuilding to the absolute minimum in tandem with the format of a one-shot, which should act as more of a vertical slice than the prologue to a proper story.
Secondly, the problem of adult content and themes. That’s not to say that I’m against such things appearing in a manga, far from it. But what such series as Bad Ass Guard, Killing Mission, and Kaijin Lovers suffer from is a severe lack of tact when it comes to balancing these themes and placing them within an overall story.
For starters, Bad Ass Guard introduces a transgender character in its New York setting with the Japanese equivalent of the word ‘tranny’ and then proceeds to make their identity the butt of an overly long, unamusing joke. Killing Mission then attempts to draw the reader in with perverted visuals in lieu of a properly developed espionage story. And then Kaijin Lovers – well, let’s just say that it reads like more of an 18+ hentai doujin then a battle manga.
Young Jump Battle: The Future of Battle Manga
Nevertheless, Young Jump Battle contains within it twelve one-shots that, with varying degrees of quality, show off the sheer versatility of the battle manga genre and its ability to continually inspire the imagination and provide solid entertainment for the reader.
Out of those twelve, four one-shots are particularly noteworthy in their ability to possibly inspire a proper, full-length serialization outside of this special edition of Shueisha’s seinen magazine. If we don’t see the authors of Duelant, No[skill]man, Oogui Nadeshiko and Yankee Hiyoko-san in the pages of Shueisha magazine within the year, then I’d say that the company would be doing them all a massive disservice. (Ken no Boyou is obviously missing from that list as the duo are already serialized in Young Jump with Terra Formars.)
Indeed, with Shueisha’s flagship shonen magazine Weekly Shonen Jump leaving many spaces open for new series going into next year, perhaps we’ll even see the authors get given a shot in that hallowed publication in the form of another one-shot, or perhaps even a series. Given that Jump itself has more than a fair few battle manga in serialization, it’s certainly not a far-flung prospect.
As a whole, Young Jump Battle is sure to assure any reader that the battle genre of shonen manga is alive and kicking in more ways than one. It’s unfortunate that none of these one-shots are available in English as of the time of writing, but I hope that I’ve done my bit in sharing with you all what could very well be the future of battle manga.
Shueisha’s Young Jump Battle is available to purchase now.