The lineup just seems so thin to me without Naruto, but this week nearly all of the serials reported in with central characters displaying the Shonen hallmark of hard work in the style of the Gutsy Ninja. There was sort of a weird synergy between the content of a lot of these issues this week. Both Food Wars and Toriko featured a Japanese rice porridge dish known as "Ojiya." At first blush, I guess nobody should be that weirded out that two food-oriented manga had some overlap in certain dishes being mentioned. It is still sort of surprising to me, though, because they both take the food theme in such insanely different directions, one making mundane dishes into entire landscapes, and the other taking normal mundane cooking and trying to make it read like any ol' Shonen fighting manga.
I don't think I would have got too caught up on this similarity if the rest of the issue didn't have the same kind of flow. Soma, the main character in Food Wars, finally started to get recognized by his peers. This was after a pretty cheesy but totally spot-on monologue from another character explaining how Soma's hard work made his peers weary of him. School Judgment drew on the same perennial Shonen theme of the hard-working underdog to cap off a quick new case this week, even though the tail end of the issue sort of threw that same character's motivations into question.
Nobody should be surprised that this watershed Shonen theme popped up in so many of these stories, especially since Food Wars leans heavily on the theme in almost every arc (that's what you have to do with a straight Shonen hero like Soma); but, with an absence of a lot of familiar faces in the lineup lately, it was definitely a good surprise to see the unity of this theme running through this issue. Ichigo is just about to show back up in Bleach, Luffy is just one of a bajillion people involved in fights all across Dressrosa in One Piece, and Naruto is pretty much over. Sure it's a little reductive to just defer to these three whenever things seem a little shaky in Jump, but there's a reason beyond the length of their respective runs (and perhaps even behind the length of their respective runs) that we think of these characters when we think of Jump: they're the hard-working underdogs thrust into a life that only really seems chosen by them. But the only real choice that any of them make is the Shonen creed of creeds: work hard, look out for your friends, and beat the shit out of something evil.
It's cool to see some of these new series like School Judgment, as well as some of the more matured series like Food Wars, step up to try and fill those shoes a little bit. Let's see if they can keep it up.
Writers: Various Artists: Various Publisher: Viz Media Release Date: 1/19/15 Format: Digital Anthology