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 Undead Unluck chapter 1, Dr. STONE chapter 135, Mission: Yozakura Family chapter 20, and Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru chapter 34.
Welcome back! I took a break last week given that most of the major manga magazines were also on break, but that doesn’t mean that exciting chapters didn’t come out in the meantime. Go check out SPY x FAMILY chapter 19 and Attack on Titan chapter 125 if you haven’t already, as I won’t be covering them here. In the meantime, I hope that you got the chance to check out my article on Hiroyuki Ohashi and Ongaku, as it’s the type of manga that will most likely never get a shoo-in here, given its self-published nature. Anyway, on with the manga.
Undead Unluck chapter 1
New year, new series – at least, that’s what I’d like to say, but Weekly Shonen Jump already published its first issue of the year two weeks ago. Nevertheless, Undead Unluck marks the first of three new series that are set to join the Jump line-up in the coming weeks to make up for the loss of Yui Kamio, Tokyo Shinobi Squad, and Beast Children – none of which will be particularly missed.
In its opening pages, Undead Unluck chapter 1 certainly makes a strong first impression. It opens on our protagonist, Fuuko Izumo, declaring that she is going to kill herself now that she has seen the story of her favorite manga to the end. That isn’t something you see very often in Weekly Shonen Jump and does mirror, in a dark way, the state of mind that some manga fanatics have.
Not just content with suicide, the series also seeks to break taboos in other ways: when we are introduced to our secondary protagonist, Undead or ‘Andy,’ he is stark naked with only a black censor box covering his nether regions. This is played for laughs throughout the chapter, but such sexual humor makes the series stand out even further. In this sense, it joins the likes of Chainsaw Man in the way that it gleefully pushes the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable in a Jump manga.
Returning to the narrative, it becomes clear quite quickly that Undead Unluck chapter 1 aims to become an ‘unconventional conventional battle manga’ along the lines of Medaka Box or even Yui Kamio. Our protagonist Izumo was born with a power known as ‘Unluck’ that brings misfortune upon anyone who touches her. This ability was, in fact, what caused her parents to die in a plane crash when she was young and is also the reason why she decides to kill herself at the start of the story: she’s convinced that she’ll never have a fairytale romance like the one in her favorite manga because no one can touch her bare skin.
Luckily for her, however, a chance encounter brings her in contact with her natural foil: an undead zombie called Undead who can never die, able to regenerate his body from severed limbs or even his decapitated head. This means that even if he touches her, triggers her ‘Unluck’ and meets a sticky end as a result – something that happens multiple times during this chapter – he can just come back to life. In fact, that’s his aim: he wants to use Izumo’s power to somehow find a way to finally die after his long, immortal life.
Even so, some enemies from a mysterious organization who are in pursuit of Undead and his immortality aren’t going to let them have their way. Their attempt to capture him and Izumo forms the middle part of Undead Unluck chapter 1, during which the series’ appeal as an ‘unconventional conventional battle manga’ comes into play: Izumo uses her Unluck power to set Undead free, and he removes a piece of shrapnel from his head to unleash all of the combat experience he has built up over his long life.
This kind of unconventional battle system – the intersection of an abstract ability with a concrete one – reminds of the way that Nisio Isin writes many of his battle manga, which plays with words in the same way that this series does with ‘Unluck.’ Nevertheless, I can’t help but think that Undead Unluck chapter 1 might’ve done a little too much too quickly, especially in terms of explaining the intricacies of Izumo’s power. This might, as a result, leave author Yoshifumi Tozuka with little ammunition to work with in the future, as the pressures of writing a serialized story come to bare.
Even so, there are several aspects helping Yoshifumi in this task: namely, the chemistry between his two main characters, Izumo and Undead. There’s a sort of flirty banter between the two (as well as outright sexual passes) that makes their relationship both humorous and interesting (begging the question of ‘will they won’t they,’ especially given that Izumo is so obsessed with romance).
Furthermore, Yoshifumi’s art in Undead Unluck chapter 1 is quite strong, particularly in terms of character designs. While they do feel quite conventional with their thick, cartoonish outlines, several touches to the designs – Izumo’s beanie, Undead’s tattoo – make them feel fresh and unique, as well as a joy to look at.
And even if Yoshifumi might’ve gone too fast in exploring Izumo’s powers, there’s still plenty to explain with regards Undead’s powers, including how he got them. Plus, if a throwaway line from one of the mysterious agents is anything to go by, there’s actually more superpowered people like Izumo and Undead out there; couple this with the chapter’s outright declaration of the characters’ goal at the very end (the ‘Quest for the greatest death ever), and it’s clear that series has some life yet. Seeing where things go from here on out will be exciting to see.
Dr. STONE chapter 135
Now that the new blood of Undead Unluck chapter 1 is out of the way, it’s time to move on to some of the more firmly-established old guard. The pace of Dr. STONE published has been quite truncated as of late, missing an issue in December due to Boichi falling ill which – along with falling victim to the general magazine hiatus – has meant that it feels like it been a good while since we last checked in with Senku and the Kingdom of Science. Shall we?
Dr. STONE chapter 135 picks up right where chapter 134 left off, with the Kingdom of Science having fallen victim to Minister Ibara’s clever petrification ploy but with Senku, somehow, being left alive. The majority of this chapter is, therefore, dedicated to explaining how Senku managed to get out of the otherwise seemingly impossible situation – and yes, it does have something to do with those funky poses.
Simply put, the Kingdom of Science chose to line up in such a way and strike those poses to allow Senku the data he needs in order to calculate the speed and rate at which the petrification light advances, which, in turn, would allow him to calculate the correct timeframe in which he would need throw up a vial of revival fluid, un-petrify himself and save the day in Dr. STONE chapter 135. Simple enough, right?
While the solution offered in Dr. STONE chapter 135 is quite convoluted with plenty of discrepancies as to how this would work in real life (see official translator Caleb Cook’s handy-dandy diagrams for that), it’s still wonderful science nonsense that taps into the core appeal of the series and our main character.
Furthermore, the set-up for this solution gives Dr. STONE chapter 135 the chance to deliver some unexpectedly poignant character beats: in the first place, it’s incredible to see the level of trust enjoyed between Senku and the Kingdom of Science, so much so that they’re willing and able to potentially sacrifice their lives to calmly help him in his calculations (even Hyoga does it!), and there’s a nice callback to the very beginning of the series as Senku remarks that doing such massive calculations would be a piece of cake for him, the man who counted every second for close to 6000 years.
Even so, while Dr. STONE chapter 135 might’ve been full of scientific wonder and subtle character moments (as well as a reference to Tesla’s CyberTruck), I can’t help but hope that this chapter marks the true, final end to the Treasure Island arc. Perhaps it’s due to the truncated publication schedule, which is no fault of the series’ own, but it feels like we’ve been repeating the same Senku vs. Ibara conflict for a while now, and such a bombastic finale as this surely offers the perfect opportunity to move on to greener pastures. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Mission: Yozakura Family chapter 20
Similarly, it’s been a while since we last covered Mission: Yozakura Family – almost two months, in fact. But, unlike Dr. STONE’s excusable situation, the series has been publishing on a consistent weekly basis ever since it began, so the problem has simply been that there’s nothing been worth covering. In fact, the quality of Hitsuji Gondaira’s series has lowered considerably in previous weeks, with a lowering place in the Weekly Shonen Jump table of contents to match. Does Mission: Yozakura Family chapter 20 help to buck this trend? Not quite.
In the beginning, things look like they’re on the up. The ‘government spy’ from last week’s chapter, Sui Aoi, makes a return in a welcome bid to finally develop some characters other than the protagonist, Taiyo Asano. Kyoichiro tasks Taiyo with restoring the family’s honor by taking on Aoi, but Taiyo recognizes that he’s far too weak to do so at this point on time; thus, he resolves to tail Aoi and learn from his skills, hoping to be able to take him on in the near future.
What follows in Mission: Yozakura Family chapter 20 is a fairly entertaining narrative that sees Taiyo try and fail to tail Aoi, but get a little further each time in the process. The amount of different locales and missions we see along the way introduces some welcome variety, and the prospect of introducing a consistent rival character for Taiyo outside of the battle for Mitsumi’s heart is encouraging. After all, a little rivalry goes a long way in shonen manga.
Yet, Gondaira doesn’t seem willing or able to stick with one narrative thread for too long and, by the end of Mission: Yozakura Family chapter 20, the whole rivalry between Taiyo and Aoi is more or less settled. We rush through the slow grind to match Aoi’s abilities and instead arrive straight to at the climax, end of Aoi’s day, where the two spies have a final showdown. During this showdown, Taiyo manages to land a hit, and it is a result of this that Aoi more or less accepts him as an equal.
Of course, that isn’t to say that Taiyo somehow ‘won’ against his rival, or that Aoi wholly respects him by the end of Mission: Yozakura Family chapter 20, so there is the possibility of this rivalry coming up again in the future. Nevertheless, Gondaira signals quite handily at the end of the chapter that the whole motivation behind Taiyo’s rivalry has been cleared up – the incident’s effect on the Yozakura name has more or less disappeared – and it seems like the series will be back to its regular antics next week.
It’s hard to express my frustration with Mission: Yozakura Family. While I enjoy its traditional espionage approach, its hard to be optimistic about its future given the half-hearted approach taken by author Hitsuji Gondaira. This abandoned rivalry is but one example of the graveyard of other ideas that the author has picked up and half-used, throwing them out like old toys. Consistency is key, especially in the hectic environment of weekly serialization, and that’s something that this series doesn’t have. As a result, unless Gondaira does something special soon, I fear that reaper man may be a’coming…
Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru chapter 34
Much like Mission: Yozakura Family, Masashi Kishimoto and Akira Okubo’s Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru also appears to be in a life-or-death situation. Sales have been low, reception has been mixed, and it currently lurks at the bottom of the table of contents. What is to be done? Perhaps a new arc will straighten things out.
It is, therefore, encouraging to see that the majority of Samurai 8 chapter 34 is dedicated to setting up the next arc of the series. But, first, it’s necessary to sum up the trainwreck that was the last arc. There’s a reason I haven’t covered the series since almost the very beginning of the history of this column: things have been so bad that they’re not even worth making fun of. Aside from the botched battle royale premise, so many of the samurai battles have felt lifeless and incomprehensible, and the climax of the arc – oh, the climax – essentially boiled down to a nameless character pushing a button with a remote-controlled hand. Great stuff.
Nevertheless, Samurai 8 chapter 34 offers the series the chance to start over. Having called in the cavalry for the final fight against Ben, Hachimaru and his friends – including the newly-named Sanda – have been taken into custody by the space samurai cops and are now set to embark on “a kind of community service.” What this will shape up to be is anyone’s guess (probably something to do with the planet that gets blown up), but at least we’re getting away from tired material and onto greener pastures.
Other developments in Samurai 8 chapter 34, however, don’t fill me with that much hope for the series’ future. Hachimaru sets about downloading the Kongo-Yasha license from his master’s samurai key – whatever that means – and is in a sort of digital imagination space, whereupon he obtains the ability to detect other Pandora’s Box keyholders, as well as see the extent of his abilities expressed in number form.
Much of this power development feels quite cheap and seems to take away from the tension of the story as a whole. After all, if Hachimaru can simply detect the other keyholders, then there’s no more excitement to be had in tracking them down and figuring them out. Furthermore, boiling abilities down to numbers like an RPG comes straight out of the light novel handbook of cheap storytelling devices, also removing the possibility of character and power growth through emotional development – something which is always more compelling than simple power escalation.
But who knows where this will all end up. With the warrior god Fudo Myo-o appearing at the very end of Samurai 8 chapter 34, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious to find out. Let’s just hope that Kishimoto and Okubo can get their act together, and fast – because there are hundreds of other young artists ready and willing to take their place. Case in point being Yoshifumi Tozuka, who proved his worth this week with Undead Unluck chapter 1.