Come for the Food Wars, One Piece, and Bleach and stay for the... well, the Food Wars, One Piece, and Bleach. Black Clover, victor of this round of Jump Starts, begins its official serialization this week, and I had mixed feelings about its first official chapter in Jump. As far as the positives are concerned, when the background/settings are present, they are phenomenal. We're talking really detailed stuff with a clear vision as to the vibe that Tabata wants this series to have. The character detail is similarly impressive. Also, though some might think that Asta's acceptance into this new group of folks was a little quick, there's a reason the Black Bulls are known as outcasts. Setting Asta up (consistently) as someone unworthy of anyone's time contrasts the Black Bulls with the rest of the magic society up to this point.
The main thing that irked me about Black Clover's premiere was that lack of background detail in a lot of panels. As I already mentioned, where there is background detail, it's great. I understand it's demanding to have that much detail throughout a manga (these guys produce at a rate that straight-up embarrasses most American comic artists), but when entire sequences transpire with no setting cues, it comes off quite lazy. Another odd feature of this chapter was a two-page sequence where it gets explained that the flat of Asta's blade repels magic. Tabata mostly relies on textual, third-person omniscient narration to describe what's happening. I get that a move like this has some sort of place in works of fantasy, but this is still a manga: the over-expositiony feel of that much text makes the sequence feel clunky. I fully appreciate the difficulty of a manga having to introduce the rules of a new world to its readership. I just hope this doesn't become the main means by which Tabata chooses to explore this world.
As is the usual story, One Piece and Food Wars are steadily killing it and Bleach is becoming a dark horse contender for one of the better titles being serialized. I say it almost every week, but it bears repeating: whatever you might think about Bleach's history of over-hype and disappointment, the return of Aizen is fantastic. The main reason I dislike the whole Quincy business is because it sets up a set of antagonists to Soul Society with absolutely nothing at ethical stake. In other words, it is not as if the Quincies are making us think about the essence of what Soul Reapers do: they're just diametrically opposed. They're just inherently a source of conflict. It's too cut and dry.
But Aizen? Pshh. Aizen is a real damn villain whose actions have had a dramatic impact on the way characters and readers alike understand the world of Bleach. Bringing him back into the fold at the climax of this series is a nod not only to how rich his character is, but how rich his impact has been on his peers. Just this chapter we got to see that two-fold, in terms of his sheer power and the instant drama his partial release has caused among the Soul Reapers.
I enjoyed Blue Exorcist this month, but the monthly serialization thing always makes dialog-centered chapters feel like they are missing something (a problem which Seraph faces nearly every time I read it). Academia was good as well, but not terribly exciting since it just finished up a great fight and is bridging chapters between fights every few weeks. I would say the lineup right now is, generally, the strongest it has been since the loss of Naruto, mostly thanks to the addition of Food Wars, Academia, and the resurgence of Bleach. Some weeks, like this one, the monthlies just don't hit that hard, and some of the weeklies are in between high-points. Still, Weekly Shonen Jump, even on its off-weeks, is worth the price of admission.