Super excited for some new "Jump Starts," starting this week with Mononofu, a manga about shogi, a Japanese version of chess. Also, OH MY GOD Food Wars!!! I like chess a lot. I was really into it when I was a kid, but that was just because my goal was to get good enough to beat my dad. Once I did, I pretty much stopped playing. I think I'm better than the average person who doesn't play much, but that's obviously not very good.
I first got interested in shogi when I was watching/reading Naruto, since it was the game of choice of some of my favorite characters. The game is most notable for allowing you to drop pieces you've captured back onto the board under your control at any time, with surprisingly few restrictions as to how you do this. It's a hard game to pick up outside of Japan unless you have somebody to learn with (apps and learning resources are scarce), but Mononofu has the potential to spark some interest.
The first few pages from Haruto Ikezawa (a former assistant of Oda!) are a little too frantic. Ikezawa is trying to give a reader a sense of what a klutz the main character is, but in the process puts together some ironically scatter-brained pages where the dialog is a bit obtuse. Eventually it comes together, and Ikezawa throws together a promising (if fairly typical) cast of characters.
It's not clear how well Ikezawa will be able to illustrate shogi games and situations. I think Mononofu has the potential to do well only insofar as Ikezawa is able to immerse the reader in the shogi game itself. Doing this will require educating the reader about the game of shogi, which further requires clear, easy-to-follow artwork. Of course, Mononofu is not a textbook: the art is going to need to be interesting, and the development of his characters is going to have to carry the reader’s interest for a majority of the time when they're not at the shogi board.
I thought that Food Wars was on the verge of a bomb drop, but I did not see this coming. To avoid spoilers, I won't say much here, but essentially the entire face of this series just got changed, which is not something I gave much thought to headed into this fairly typical, fairly innocent arc. Food Wars, by all accounts, has its first really menacing villain.
I can't get over how good this series is. It took Tsukuda two issues to introduce the villain and insert him into the role in which he will drive conflict. That's absolutely stellar writing. It didn't feel quick, it didn't feel out of left field: we had been set up for this and we didn't even know it. What's better is that the villain is particularly tuned to be a troublesome antagonist for Soma in particular, so we're primed (again, in two issues!!!) for the exact type of trouble this fellow is going to cause.
Bleach and Academia continue to roll along and make me giddy, and the next "Jump Start," Samon the Summoner, starts next week.