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 Mitama Security: Spirit Busters chapter 18, ZIPMAN chapter 4, Chainsaw Man chapter 52, and Dr. STONE chapter 134.
As you may have noticed, we’re covering a little more than usual today. That is because while Japan doesn’t take much time off over Christmas (hence why I’m writing this on Christmas Eve), the New Year will be pretty much a washout as most of the country comes grinding to a halt. That includes most manga magazines and publishers, which is why this week’s column will actually be the last of 2019 – I’ll be taking a break next week alongside all of the publishers, with the aim of returning in the second week of January. In the meantime, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Mitama Security: Spirit Busters chapter 18
Starting things off with Tsurun Hatomune’s shapeshifting gag series, Mitama Security: Spirit Busters chapter 18 might just be funniest yet. Hell, it might just be the funniest chapter of any gag series this year! 2019 is going out with a bang.
The hilarity starts from the very beginning, as we get to see how the members of ‘Body’ – the elite group at the top of the spirit-busting security organization – intend to settle their score with Mitama, who was caught red-handed in last week’s chapter neglecting his job and indulging his client, Rena Haze, in her spirit line nonsense. How are they going to go about this? Baseball.
This comes so out of left-field that it’s hard not to laugh, and an eye-roll or two has to be induced by the pun ‘Prei ball.’ But this isn’t just an empty gag, as Hatomune’s lead-up is expertly crafted with Yuko’s narration immediately intriguing the reader and giving the gag just the right amount of prior space to settle, before flying off into the distance.
In this sense, Mitama Security chapter 18 starts off on a very strong note. But further gags come thick and fast not long after, firstly in the form of tiny exchanges between characters – Mitama asking where they got the stadium from, only for a Body agent to reply with the very appropriate question of why he is only just asking now, after he has put on a full baseball uniform – but also in the form of a surprise appearance from Baby Ruth, considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time.
But Mitama Security chapter 18 isn’t all fun and games. There’s a real sense of danger throughout this chapter as the Body members constantly promise to keep good on the threat of exorcising Rena’s spirit companions, those lovable horrors that we, as readers, have no doubt come to love over the course of the series thus far. It is then towards the end of the chapter that they unveil some seriously dangerous supernatural abilities to do so.
The fact that Hatomune can elicit both laughter and dread (albeit very mildly so) from the reader in but one chapter acts as a testament to the strength of his writing, as well as the conscious transformation that has taken place in such an arena. You could argue that this is also why the series is currently ranking so high in the Weekly Shonen Jump table of contents over its contemporary, Mission: Yozakura Family.
Judging from the end of Mitama Security chapter 18, it looks like the baseball story will continue next time (not next week, if you can remember), and I can’t wait to see what other gags Hatomune is going to pull out from inside his sleeve. Consider this chapter well and truly a home run.
ZIPMAN chapter 4
While Mitama Security chapter 18 may be riding high on previous successes, ZIPMAN is still finding its feet. Yuusuke Shibata’s latest series only launched at the beginning of this month, and while there have been previous successes, there’s still a lot of work needed to be done; hence why ZIPMAN chapter 4 is mainly about clearing up past loose ends and setting up the story’s future.
Initially, we deal with the aftermath of the clash between Jackman and Cutie Charm, which started back in chapter 2. Unzipping the Cutie mecha suit, our protagonists Koshiro and Kaname find an unlikely villain – a young man who might be just a little too into a cartoon meant for little girls.
There’s an obvious parallel here with Koshiro and Kaname’s situation, who are also both adult males who may or may not be obsessed with Jackman, another tokusatsu show meant for little boys. Consequently, the story takes the opportunity to talk about the importance of staying true to yourself, as Kaname lambasts the villain not for his obsession, but his misinterpretation; saying that Cutie Charm would never attack an innocent person.
Aside from this important thematic idea, which will no doubt be important for those children reading the series in Weekly Shonen Jump, ZIPMAN chapter 4 also provides us with some explanation as to the identity of our antagonist group. Much like the young man inside Cutie, they’re all fans of a certain series (cartoon or tokusatsu) that have somehow been given their “ideal suits” by a mysterious organization. Looking at one specific panel, we can even see some examples: a silhouette that looks very much like Devilman, another being the spitting image of Optimus Prime.
Furthermore, as it turns out, Koshiro may not be as innocent of a victim as a reader might have initially presumed him to be. Rather, ZIPMAN chapter 4 hints heavily that he was involved with this organization back when he was in his human form, as he demonstrates some knowledge as to the identity of the individuals who are coming after him.
The result of all this is that the series’ antagonistic group is firmly established in both identity and function. With this out of the way, ZIPMAN chapter 4 then moves on to tie up two other loose ends: the moniker of our protagonists and their overall narrative goal.
Koshiro and Kaname have been operating under the name ‘Jackman’ for a while now, taken directly from their favorite tokusatsu show, but there has always been a strange sense of dissonance between that appropriated name and the name of the series. Never fear, however, as Koshiro and Kaname decide to rename themselves ‘Zipman’ in this chapter after a back-and-forth debate. The exchange is a little eye-rolling, but it’s effective nonetheless in establishing a more consistent identity for the series.
Finally, ZIPMAN chapter 4 also establishes an overall narrative goal for our protagonists: return Koshiro’s body back to normal, as well as make Cheena – their contested childhood love interest – smile. How they’ll achieve that last goal in concrete terms is anyone’s guess, but does act as a clever piece of characterization for the warring brothers.
With all of these elements firmly in place, I’m expecting next week’s chapter to move beyond the narrower narrative confines of ZIPMAN chapter 4 and give us some proper tokusatsu action. The last fight with Cutie Charm was quite entertaining due to her magical girl fighting style, and I can’t wait to see Shibata’s imagination run wild. And if the end of this week’s chapter means anything, then it’s that, next time, we’ll get just that – look forward to it.
Chainsaw Man chapter 52
Putting Chainsaw Man chapter 52 next to the gag-heavy Mitama Security chapter 18 and the more lighthearted ZIPMAN chapter 4 could lead to some tonal whiplash, because this week Tatsuki Fujimoto is pulling no punches. Moving on from chapter 51’s cliffhanger ending, we follow Reze as she deals with her defeat and tries to escape the clutches of the Devil Hunters.
Interestingly, it is during this segment that we get to see a little bit of Reze’s backstory for the very first time. As Master explains to Aki, she was the result of human experimentation at the hands of the Soviets in order to serve in the army. This proves, then, that there was, indeed, a genuine connection between her and Denji that wasn’t entirely faked, because their situations were analogous in many ways – further highlighted by the line “I didn’t go to school either.”
This line is delivered just as Reze is slaughtered by Makima, who was somehow able to follow her all the way to Yamagata and put her down without a moment’s notice. Thus, Chainsaw Man chapter 52 brings the Bomb Girl arc to a slightly depressing close – especially as the chapter cuts back to Denji, who has been waiting in the café for Reze all day.
Not wanting to leave off on a depressing note, however, Chainsaw Man chapter 52 has one last hurrah – the re-entry of Power into the story after being absent from the majority of this arc, as well as her re-entry back into the war for Denji’s heart. The Denjibowl rages on, with no end in sight.
It will be interesting to see where Tatsuki Fujimoto takes the series from here. Will he dive into the series’ overarching plot concerning the terrifying Gun Devil, or will he take his time and introduce a new foe for Denji to face, much like this arc did? Only time will tell.
Before we go, however, I’d just like to pay special attention to yet more examples of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s incredible sense of visual direction and style that lie within Chainsaw Man chapter 52. Virtually the entire sequence where Reze gets the train and makes her way to Yamagata is delivered without dialogue, with the silence only being broken by Makima’s arrival on the scene.
Not only does this give Makima’s line the weight it deserves – it is the line that signals Reze’s demise, after all – but it is yet another example of brilliant, engaging storytelling that truly stands out in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump.
There are other examples of this in Chainsaw Man chapter 52 as well as countless others in Fujimoto’s wider body of work, but I’d just like to take this opportunity heading into 2020 to thank the heavens that Fujimoto got picked up by Shueisha. His talent deserves the widest audience possible – a type of audience that only Shueisha and Weekly Shonen Jump can provide. Stay crazy, Tatsuki Fujimoto.
Dr. STONE chapter 134
Finally, we come to everyone’s favorite science adventure series. Much like Chainsaw Man chapter 52, Dr. STONE chapter 134 is also rounding off a major narrative arc that has been going on for a long while now. This chapter also marks a return to the more lighthearted tone of both Mitama Security chapter 18 and ZIPMAN chapter 4, so it’s perhaps a little more suited to the festive season.
The battle over the petrification device has reached fever pitch, especially because last week we finally learned how it actually works: voice control. But Minister Ibara was one step ahead once again and sent one of his minions to the island’s center with the device set to blow in his stomach. Failing to see through Ibara’s plan, Dr. STONE chapter 134 opens on the almost apocalyptic sight of the petrification light making its way towards Senku and friends – how on earth will they get out of this one?
With regard to that question, Dr. STONE chapter 134 doesn’t offer many answers. It’s no surprise to see Senku alive and well at the end of the chapter, planning on taking the fight to Ibara with the telecommunications device that formed the basis of the Stone Wars arc, but we don’t know exactly how he managed to get himself out of that initial scrape.
It obviously has something to do with the fact that all of the Kingdom of Science were petrified with their hands in the air – their fingers possibly denoting some kind of measurement – but we really have no choice but to wait until next time to see.
What I really wanted to talk about with regard to this chapter was Boichi’s art. The Korean-born artist’s work for the series has always been a strong point, but there are several moments during this chapter where he demonstrates a sense of scale that has yet to be seen in the series up until this point.
Starting from the eye-catching opening with the expanding petrification sphere, we then get this fantastic shot of Minister Ibara as he rejoices at the success of his evil plan and the sight of the expanding sphere as a giant wave rears up before him, mirroring several similar, more cosmic moments in Boichi’s spin-off series, Dr. STONE Reboot: Byakuya, in terms of size and perspective.
Incidentally, that spin-off series also came to an end this week. Given this, it may have surprised you to see it absent from the line-up for this week’s column, but I’m planning on writing something more detailed and long-form on the series and its final chapter in the New Year now that it’s wrapped up, so look forward to that.
And, besides, Dr. STONE chapter 134 has more than enough exciting moments to stand on its own – if not because of all the examples cited above, then at least the touching moment between Hyoga and Mos as they reconcile in the face of their imminent petrification.