Viz has finally overhauled the Weekly Shonen Jump homepage and it looks like the start of some very good things. I've been reading Weekly Shonen Jump as an official subscriber (hey you, stop reading illegal scans: 50 cents a week for all this content is worth paying for) for two years. I didn't read the English-language version of the magazine that was available when I was a kid, but by the time I became interested in manga, it was no longer serialized, and WSJ wasn't available as a digital service yet. I was mad when I found out about it because I felt it could have been advertised a lot better, and instead it was just sort of in a corner of Viz Media's webpage.
But things have come along in the last two years. Digital manga bundles are now on sale very often from Viz's site, and they effectively use WSJ as a platform for promoting those sales. I personally still like owning manga in hard copy whenever I can (tankobons might be my favorite trade format, despite the small art), but if you like owning digital comics, Viz has come a long way in making its properties available. One of my favorite additions came last year with the Naruto app which serializes a rotating sequence of Naruto chapters. Now, on the main site, it looks like they've taken that idea and applied it across a bevy of their popular titles. Even if it's not quite as sequential as the Naruto app, making these chapters available for free encourages people to give the best English version of the product a try legally, in vicinity of mouse-clicks where they can purchase more.
Sorry to go on about such business-leaning minutiae; but, the more time you spend in the comics world, the more you realize that an integral part of watching these publishers is watching them make... weird decisions, often underselling what they have. And I can't think of another product on par with WSJ in the amount of and quality of the work that they have to put out every single week.
Ok fine, I'll talk about the words and pictures.
The beginning of what looks to be Bleach's final fight started a little slow. Kubo has quickly racheted things up to the nth degree, as he has been prone to do in these final fights, and the last couple of chapters (this one in particular) are visually and thematically some of his best in recent memory. Kubo has quickly and definitively positioned Yhwach as being Ichigo's better, juxtaposing his powers with all of Ichigo's accomplishments. Visually, Yhwach dominates pages. Normally, the precise contrast of black and white defines Kubo's best pages. Yhwach completely blows this out of the water by spilling black across the pages haphazardly, whether it be with his movement or his mere presence.
Black Clover is at another milestone, as Noelle looks to finally awaken the true power we've been waiting to see. What I love about this development is how natural Tabata made it feel. Week-in and week-out I point out the typical shonen stuff that unfolds itself in these pages, but I'm always more interested in exploring how a particular creator fit that into their story in a unique way. Here, Tabata places Noelle's ascension in a fight that feels decidedly not about Noelle in particular. When Yami told Asta to surpass his limits in the previous fight with the Eye of the Midnight Sun, it was a much more straightforward type of development, one where Tabata was using Yami to crudely reach through to the reader and say, "SEE, Asta's leveling up guys!" Of course, this did fit Yami's crude characterization, but Noelle's moment will allow her to shine in a much more interesting way.
Things in One Piece are nuts right now: I can't believe how quickly things escalated after the amount of time they took to set up this arc. As Jimbei prepares to leave Big Mom and join Luffy's crew (I can't even believe I'm saying that already), Luffy and his Rescue Sanji squad are descending on Big Mom's home island. Even though we're not even at whatever big story moment is about to go down, the resulting chapter is one of Oda's best in awhile. Despite his imagination being constantly on display, I wouldn't say he's had a particularly visually interesting chapter in a couple of months at least, since each one was kind of the same conversational setup. Despite this chapter being conversation-heavy as well, the character designs on display were bold and full of life. The Sun Pirates are all very rich character designs (I love Aladdin's design in particular) and the whole chapter just felt like it got a little more love than the last few.
Food Wars has built the foundation of its next big arc by sending the students off to pass tests in Hokkaido, the northernmost major island of Japan. I couldn't be more excited about this: any time there are tests, this series brings out the best in its culinary exploration and in its character work. I'm especially excited to learn a bunch of oddly specific things about Hokkaido cuisine.
[su_box title="Score: 5/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]