Mononofu continues to increase and further abett my budding shogi obsession, as Samon the Summoner premiers and Academia continues to impress. The newest "Jump Start" is Samon the Summoner, from neophyte mangaka Shun Numa. Samon follows high schooler Sakura Teshigawara as the new weirdo student, Samon, turns her life upside down by summoning demons in an attempt to corrupt her overly nice ways.
Numa showcases a great sense of humor during the inciting moment of this manga, but for the most part, the art is just too lackluster for this manga to last. I think that the story itself is a gag that will wear thin eventually (even with the probably weirdly appealing demon-summoning bad-boy angle), but man is this art spotty.
I think some people will peg Numa for being a little more cartoony than others in the anthology, but the line work isn't just cartoony: it's sparse, and far too sparse to meet the proper level of detail that people expect form something taking up a spot in Jump. If the demons themselves were something super special, I would be singing a different tune. Alas, they are not.
Meanwhile, Mononofu is on the cusp of being a solid series. So far I'm enjoying the character work, and while the art isn't killer, it's definitely way more solid than its partnered "Jump Start" title. The pacing is there, the drama is there, and there is plenty of potential for more interesting characters and situations.
There are two things I see potentially holding Mononofu back. The first is the possibility that Ikezawa does not embrace the potential for interesting characters whose personalities are bound up with their shogi strategies. I think Ikezawa has definitely embraced this for the main character, but it's less clear with others, and if Food Wars has proven anything, it's that people will embrace being bombarded with interesting characters whose styles are bound up with their personalities.
The other problem: not quite enough shogi. Again, I think Food Wars is instructive of a working formula for niche mangas like this one: you need to treat your audience like it is willing to learn about the subject when it's time to be a student. There is always room for drama (goodness knows Food Wars is currently aware of that), but there needs to be a place in the manga for education as well, especially since shogi is such an interesting and expansive game.
Then, of course, there is Academia. A lot of people are buzzing about One-Punch Man, and I hope that they take the time to jump over to Academia, which is similarly taking the western superhero model and dressing it up with shonen goodness. The rise of the series' ultimate villain, All for One, draws a sharp dichotomy between good and evil that's built around the concept of the perils of selfishness and the importance of a teaching lineage built on sharing knowledge and power with the populace.
That's some deep shit, but boiling it all down, essentially, into two or three characters, and giving them not-so-thinly-veiled names like, "All for One" and "One for All" is a great, quintessentially shonen way of reducing these complex ideas down into a form that is digestible for a wide audience.
Bakuman is back with a prequel miniseries, but I'll talk about that more next week because I've got shogi to play.