One Piece was off in this week's Weekly Shonen Jump but Black Clover, Academia, and even Bleach were all excellent. After drooling over the first few chapters of Black Clover, I got pretty quiet about the series for the duration of its first couple of arcs. It's pretty easy to go from enthralled with a series to lukewarm; just look at School Judgment, which is no longer serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump since it got booted over to Shonen Jump +, where it had its final chapter. I was crazy about that series when it started (mostly because the other Jump Starts were not viable at all), and continued to be a fan right up until the last little story where it started to get a little repetitive. Similar to Black Clover, School Judgment had incredible visuals (some of the most ambitious layouts I've ever seen in a manga), but ultimately fell flat.
Black Clover is doing much better, despite a much more familiar premise. One of the reasons for its success is no doubt the theme of class division that was at the forefront of this chapter. Asta is a typical shonen hero who is completely clueless and stubborn regarding the norms of his society. Seeing him butt heads with what is essentially a caste system has been uniquely entertaining. I will admit, though, that I flip-flop often on how entertaining I find his less political hijinx. The starry-eyed gag that gets pulled in every other page where he's not fighting only lands with me some of the time.
Meanwhile, Horikoshi continues to step up his game on Academia, and just in time for the first volume's English-language release next week. I continue to be very impressed with all of the heart that goes into this series. What particularly grabs me are the fight scenes. If I'm going to be a heathen for a second, I think that one of Kishimoto's weak points was choreographing a fight scene for a page of manga. It seems as if Horikoshi has taken some cues from some of the better sequential artists in the western world, because he often takes his time to make big moments of a fight not just big, but clear.
The tenth story page of this week's Academia is not only clear but visceral. I can feel Midoriya winding up to deliver a blow. By providing a clear, visceral page for this moment of the fight to take place, Horikoshi is further accentuating the prototypical-manga-style jagged vertical close-ups of the characters in the fight that follow on the next page. It's not just a bunch of visual posturing: it adds to my experience of the fight as a reader.
And then, there's Bleach. Oh, boy. I haven't slogged through all of this series quite yet, but in the parts I have experienced, Kenpachi is by far my favorite character. Watching last chapter as he inexplicably lost his arm was painful, and this chapter was even more painful. To be fair, the series is still ridiculous, but getting to experience Kenpachi's awesomeness and Kurotsuchi's ridiculous, care-free, mad-scientist attitude is a good taste of how Kubo can make this series work, sometimes. Beating the Quincies is going to mean we get to see all of the characters we love (or at least, used to love) in this series at their best. Every time I think I'm done with this series, Kubo makes me excited for what will happen next week. Sigh.