A new round of Jump Start means we get a "taste of what's new in Japan" and I get to see if I can predict a winner again. The first new series appearing in Jump Start (Shonen Jump's initiative where it serializes several new series for their first few chapters and picks a winner partially based on fan response) is Kagamigami from writer/artist Toshiaki Iwashiro. Kagamigami is something new, but something not wholly unfamiliar: it makes heavy use of souls (like Bleach, although these are shikigami rather than shinigami) and has a titular character partnered with a sassy fox (like Naruto, albeit this Fox is less genocidal). Where Kagamigami is different is in the pairing of our fox-partnered character with a female detective whose gift for detective work, unbeknownst to her, is tied to the mysterious shikigami powers.
I really enjoyed the first chapter of Kagamigami, which says a lot because I think making a strong first impression with any comic anywhere in the world is one of the hardest things to do in any narrative medium. But I'm worried that what made Kagamigami so enjoyable were the familiar elements rather than any charm inherent in this story itself. As is the norm for Jump, Iwashiro's art was crisp, quick, and clever. Of course, it also included a couple of obligatory ecchi upskirt shots, which I'm pretty sick of; but, I guess I can't complain, since I'm the one reading these books that are meant for teenagers in a culture that treats sexuality much different than what I'm used to. Anyway, it looks like a strong group of Jump Starters coming up, so we'll see if Kagamigami stays strong through its opening chapters compared to the competition.
No One Piece this week, but Food Wars picks up after the tournament winner was decided, and I was completely right to be looking forward to the next arc. Now that the first-years of the cooking institute have proved themselves in competition, they're being forced out into the field to be interns at actual restaurants in Japan. One of the reasons that Food Wars is so successful and, frankly, so enjoyable, is because that even though it's a niche series it keeps things moving. One of the biggest problems that people have with engaging with even some of the most exciting Shonen manga is pacing. Ask any casual anime fan who has tried to watch the beginning of Naruto: the number of flashbacks and the amount of time where nothing happens in general is so immense that many people can't make it through the first couple dozen episodes. But where action-packed and exciting ninja or pirate themed series have slowed to a halt in some places, Food Wars insists on exploring every corner of the culinary world at a steady, refreshing pace.
My Hero Academia started serialization this week, and I'm going to wait a few chapters before I weigh in on this series. It's always a little weird to just jump in on the middle of something that's still sort of a fledgling series. We came in on Food Wars in serialization when it was near 100 chapters and really had a good handle on the identity of its characters and of its tone and themes. I don't have an immediate sense of that from Academia, but it strikes me as a series that is carefully crafted in terms of cerebral action and character development. What I'm waiting to see is how those things play out in broader arcs.
Writers: Various Artists: Various Publisher: Viz Media Release Date: 2/9/15 Format: Digital Anthology