This week’s Jump includes a preview of Tokyo Ghoul ahead of its English release, a highlight to an otherwise average week. Bleach, One Piece, and Food Wars were all brutal this week. But the difference between the tones in how each managed to kick the shit out of its protagonists is worth pointing out. In Bleach, we are being faced with the imminent destruction of-- well, of everything, really. More and more, however, the whole charade that Bleach has turned into looks like it's driven by this "Quincy" concept. Now more than ever it seems as if the Quincies were just added to the series as a way of causing an otherwise unfounded catastrophe in Soul Society. I know that's pretty reductive, and I want to like the concept of Quincies more than I do; but, every single time something crazy or bad happens, the explanation is "because... Quincy."
Food Wars, by sharp contrast, stands as an example of the better way to put your characters in a bind. When you put pressure on your characters from the machinations of weird sci-fi junk which only serves to drive conflict, it's hard to get your characters out of that conflict in a way that satisfies the reader. But Food Wars reminds us again and again that Soma is only human; that he has a lot to learn and is willing to get scolded and overworked so long as it means he is improving and reaching his goals. It sounds trivial, since this is the kind of thing at the center of the formula for Shonen heroes. Yet I am pretty sure it's a lesson that Kubo needs to learn in terms of how he depicts Ichigo and his cohort. It has been a long time since I have read a chapter or even an arc of Bleach and then came away satisfied with the progress that a character has made. Any sense of actual progress is--and excuse this pun--hollow in the world of Bleach because weird plot devices often create and resolve the conflict.
Of course, One Piece is best example of this sort of thing. Food Wars is rooted in the world of cooking and cannot inflict the sort of gruesome suffering that Oda can on Luffy and the rest of the pirates. So when One Piece gets tough, it. Gets. Tough. The turnaround hasn't quite happened yet, and things are looking pretty bad; but, that's typical One Piece. When the turnaround does happen, it will be a big character moment. Even better than that, Oda lets his character moments shape the landscape of his series because he knows, better than pretty much anybody else who has been making manga, that this series is about the damn characters.
No word on the Jump Start winner quite yet, but I'm excited to find out. All of the series were in a weird in-between point this week so the issue felt a little empty. Toriko had a pretty important chapter, but I have to be honest that the series is just way too weird for me like 78% of the time.