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 chatting Agravity Boys chapter 1, ZIPMAN chapter 2, and Dr. STONE Reboot: Byakuya chapter 7.
Preparing to write this week’s column, I was fully prepared to either lead in with, or at least feature prominently, the latest chapter of Hajime Iseyama’s Attack on Titan. After a previous chapter that left things on such a precarious cliffhanger, it seemed pretty obvious. But, to my dismay, Crunchyroll Manga is at it again – as of the time of writing, a full 2 days since the launch of the latest chapter on Monday, September 9 in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine, it’s still not available on the service – we’re in a ridiculous situation where not only is a “simulpub” not simultaneous in any sense of the word, but also one where reading the illegal scans would probably be a better option. I know that manga doesn’t seem to be a particularly big priority for the company anymore, but please: spare a thought for those who have no choice but to use your service! Anyway, on with the manga.
Agravity Boys chapter 1
Here comes round two of Weekly Shonen Jump’s new slate of series: Agravity Boys by Atsushi Nakamura. Apparently the series is based on a previous one-shot by the author of the short-lived Kurokuroku, but I still had no idea what to expect going into chapter 1. No idea, but I certainly nothing along the lines of what I found.
Simply put, Agravity Boys follows the story of four boys trapped in space and tasked with the challenge of rebuilding and repopulating humanity after a nuclear war that destroyed their home planet of Earth. The only problem? They’re all guys.
What follows in Agravity Boys chapter 1 is an extremely strange story that suffers from a lack of focus and tone almost as much as it does from an unshakeable feeling of discomfort stemming from the entire situation.
I couldn’t help but feel a little weird as one of the guys is singled out to become a girl simply because he looks and acts more “feminine,” with all of the others beginning to dote on him as a result of this. It feels more like the lead into a hentai doujinshi than a Weekly Shonen Jump manga.
Thus, I was a little relieved to see that Agravity Boys chapter 1 finishes up with the four friends’ final decision to get rid of the elixir instead of forcing their friend to become a girl as they realize that other crews of colonists were sent out alongside them: meaning that there might be other, female survivors on other planets.
But this hardly takes away from the strangeness of the whole story up until that point, and that’s to say nothing of the inconsistent tone of the entire chapter. Serious developments, such as when an extra-dimensional being appears to give them the gender-changing elixir, are made fun of while seemingly humorous developments, such as the whole idea of turning their friend into a girl, takes on an oddly serious and sexual tone, as outlined.
That’s a shame, as it is in an artistic sense that Nakamura Atsushi proves himself to be more than a talented mangaka. Aside from the impressive mechanical and background designs, there are also little touches such as the unique, Kill la Kill-esque typography that goes a long way in establishing a unique visual identity for the series. It’s just a shame that that’s in the service of such a bizarre and disconcerting premise.
As a result, it’s hard to see Agravity Boys panning out in the long term. Unless things change dramatically from this chapter 1, then I can’t see the series’ premise having much appeal both among Weekly Shonen Jump’s traditional base and the wider audience – it just honestly doesn’t feel like something that should’ve ever made its way into the magazine in the first place. Consider me well and truly tapped out.
ZIPMAN chapter 2
Luckily, ZIPMAN has come to save the day, along with the dignity of Weekly Shonen Jump’s newest recruits. In ZIPMAN chapter 2 (stylized ZIPMAN!!), former Eiichiro Oda and Kohei Horikoshi assistant Yusaku Shibata continues on his good streak, building on the success of last week’s chapter 1 and raising the series’ sights for the foreseeable feature.
ZIPMAN chapter 2 picks up a little while after chapter 1 left off, with Kaname asking his older brother, Koshiro, why on earth he is alive, but also how on earth he managed to get himself turned into a giant mecha suit. The answer: a robot broke into Koshiro’s office the night of his passing, absorbing the genius scientist into its body and, next thing he knew it, he was waking up next to his brain-dead body and now a zippable dog suit. Life just hits you hard, sometimes.
But not all of the answers surrounding Koshiro’s fate have been answered just yet. The identity of the robot and what on earth their motives may have been are still looming large, and so it’s quite clear from this that Shibata is clearly playing his cards quite close to his chest on this front. That’s not a bad strategy, considering that this mystery will no doubt form the overarching story of the series, which is looking promising enough to avoid an early cancellation.
Not privy to giving away all of his secrets just yet, ZIPMAN chapter 2 then moves into a scene involving Kaname and his childhood friend Cheena, whom both brothers harbor affections for.
As an aside, it is thanks to this scene that we find out that both Kaname and Cheena are actually still in high school – something that I’d have never guessed from their character designs and general mannerisms. Could this be something Shueisha forced on Shibata and his story given the prevalence of other high school settings in the magazine, such as My Hero Academia? We may never know.
Anyway, this segment also provides us with a nifty action scene when Kaname is forced to fuse mid-air with Koshiro, as Cheena is threatened by a new tokusatsu foe, who again takes the form of a character from an in-universe tokusatsu show.
Given this development in ZIPMAN chapter 2, as well as the precedent set in chapter 1, it’s becoming quite clear that ZIPMAN will be taking a classic ‘monster of the week’ format, at least for the foreseeable future.
While the star of that kind of story has faded in Weekly Shonen Jump over the past decade, I’m more than happy to see it make a return – especially when the idea so cleverly matches the characters’ reverence for the type of classic tokusatsu shows that often made use of it. In comparison with Agravity Boys chapter 1, it’s safe to say that ZIPMAN chapter 2 left me a lot more enthused.
Dr. STONE Reboot: Byakuya chapter 7
Finally, I’ll end with a brief discussion of Dr. STONE Reboot: Byakuya chapter 7. To be honest, I’m kind of sick of featuring this spinoff series in the column – by my calculations, nearly 50% of its chapters have been featured in here thus far – but there are just too many interesting things to point out and explore.
Previous weeks have seen me waxing lyrical about the supposed focus of Dr. STONE Reboot: Byakuya as Rei, a robot created by Byakuya, had seemingly taken center stage after their creator set off for Earth, where they were to set about the task of repopulating humanity and laying the foundations of Ishigami village.
This was disconcerting as no one, including myself, had come to the series expecting the adventures of Rei – especially when Byakuya’s name was in the title. Boichi should’ve really called it Dr. STONE Reboot: Rei if wanted to do so. But, fortunately enough, Dr. STONE Reboot: Byakuya chapter 7 does instigate that big change in focus many had wanted – just not in the way that you’d expect.
The chapter does contain some more Rei adventures, as they seek to resolve the problems of the International Space Station (ISS) and keep themselves in working order. It’s relatively innocuous stuff, so it is when the focus shifts back to Earth that most readers’ ears will perk up.
We rejoin Byakuya on Earth 38 years after the petrification and, presumably, since he set off from the ISS. He’s now an old man who’s managed to outlive all of the other interplanetary members, surrounded by his grandchildren.
The fact that Dr. STONE Reboot: Byakuya chapter 7 skipped over such a large portion of Byakuya’s life and thus the kind of story I wanted to see when the spinoff series was first announced should’ve had me up in arms. But Boichi manages to save face at the very end, as the stories of a man and his robot finally intersect.
It is a giant light atop the ISS that Rei had tasked themselves with last time we see them, and it is just as Byakuya lays dying in a river that he finally sees the fruits of his creation’s labor: a brilliant bright light that crosses the vast vacuum of space in an almost mystical signal of farewell.
The sheer beauty of this moment is what has me most positively about Dr. STONE Reboot: Byakuya chapter 7. Indeed, this mirrors similar moments of similar beauty in previous chapters in a way that has me begrudgingly heading towards the end of this spinoff series with some sense of positivity.
It will be interesting to see what the series does with its remaining two chapters. And even though Dr. STONE Reboot: Byakuya might not have been the story we wanted, Dr. STONE Reboot: Byakuya chapter 7 shows that we can surely celebrate what we got.