Weekly Shonen Jump 9/19/2005

Up next is the king of comics, Weekly Shonen Jump. I'm not kidding when I call it the king - Shonen Jump is big. How big? Well, it' has several foreign editions and you'll easily recognize the names of about half the comics below, even if you'e never read them. That's how big it is.

One thing you may notice about these reviews - I won't be saying much about these individual comics. Shonen Jump may have the most popular comics, but it rarely has the absolute best. That isn't to say that the comics are bad - but they're usually produced with an eye on mainstream success that keeps them from having the edge that I prefer in my comics. (Having said that, I do dig Bleach and Eyeshield 21.)

The cover feature and opening story is Bleach. If you're not familiar with Bleach, it's the sort of comic that's practically guaranteed to be an smash hit with the right marketing machine behind it - a high school student with magic powers who fights demons with a ridiculously huge sword. And, judging from the pin-ups in the front, the supporting cast also includes a huge number of ridiculously-endowed women, which can't hurt either. This particular story pits Ichigo and Orihime against some oddly humanoid Hollows, and Ichigo ets his butt kicked until Kisuke shows up on the last page. Not bad stuff, but not particularly gripping, either.

Bleach is followed by the comic that recently set sales records in America - Naruto. It's another can't-miss concept - teen ninjas - but I've never really understood the popularity of the art. Everything always looks stilted to me, and there's a sad lack of variety in the line weights, even for manga. This installment pits the gang against some demon puppets, which seems to be a big theme in manga these days...

Up next is Eyeshield 21, a manga about American football that's actually quite entertaining. Looks like the Devil Bats have finally qualified for the tournament that leads to the Christmas Bowl and are about to start a game with the Seibu Wild Guns. Or maybe it's an all-star game of some sort - there are definitely some Ojo and Bando players hanging around. It also seems the team's picked up some new players, including a guy with a soul patch and a cheerleader. I'll have more to say about this later - I've got a big pile of these sitting in my "to review" list.

After that it's One Piece, which features an absolutely bizarre sequence of a submarine/train leaping over a barrier to hit a gigantic German dude in the back. One Piece is bizarre in a bad way - the art is crowded, chaotic, and incoherent - but everything is so lively that you really do find yourself wondering what's going on.

And then it's back to sports manga with Prince of Tennis, which interrupts a match with a flashback about the rehab Kunimitsu went through for the injuries he suffered before the beginning of the first volume. Prince of Tennis is certainly of above-average quality, but it seems so formulaic and stiff that I have a hard time getting into it. I'll hav emore to say about this one later too.

Now we're running into comics I've never heard of. The next feature has some martial artists looking for rhinoceros beetles in the jungle - it's played mostly for laughs, as far as I can tell. Then there's what seems to be a gag comic about girls playing with ouija boards that takes a rather scary turn at the end when a girl is attacked in her bath by a monster. Both seem like fine comics, but nothing particularly compelling.

Then it's back to the bizarre antics of Bobobo-Bo-Bo-Bobo, which seems to be doing a martial arts tournament of some time. I'm actually mystified by this series' success - so much of it is dependent on bad Japanese puns and pop culture references that a literal translation is impossible, and the attempts I've seen to replace terrible Japanese jokes with terrible American jokes have been absolutely terrible.

I know absolutely nothing about Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, but I want to know more. It's got a weird mix of realistic, semi-cartoonish and completley cartoonish characters that's absolutely bizarre and natural at the same time. It seems to be some sort of crime or gang thing going on, but then there's a sequence where the main character is captured by a schoolgirl with a net that's played entirely for laughs. I'll have to cross my fingers and hope someone picks this one up...

I know Death Note is available in English, but I know absolutely nothing about it. This installment is notable for seeming to feature a phone conversation between the main character and someone who is either the President of the United States or George Soros, or possibly both.

The next comic is mostly talking heads, and badly-drawn talking heads at that, but it does feature a pervert in a dog suit licking a canister of chemical weapons, a man in a suit with a cricket for a head, and a vampire elevator operator with the world's worst hairstyle. The following story, featuring a high school student with a giant mochi-shaped head who seems to be engaged in a contest with a classmate to see who can be the most disgusting. This includes posing naked in the high school library and trying to suck up a sleeping girl's drool with a straw, and ends with both of them encased inside a giant crystal iron maiden. I'm not sure I want to know what's going on here. I don't know what the next story is, either, but it's got a nice clean style that I wouldn't mind seeing more of.

Then there's some sort of contest-winning story, the longest in the book, which uses a Naruto-derivative style to tell some sort of odd fantasy store with flying fish, magic broomsticks, and exploding castles. Weird, but not really compelling.

Takaya has some really cute girls in it, but other than that there's not much to keep your attention here.

Dunno what's going on in D.Gray-Man, but I get a sort of Full Metal Alchemist feel from it. Apparently it's got something to do with exorcisms, but this installment is mostly talking heads.

Next up is a comedy about policeman, with an installment that's apparently about watch repair.

Mr. Fullswing is a basbeall manga with some overdone art, which seems to have a lot less on-field action than the other baseball manga I've seen. Anyway, if I'm following the story correctly, this installment's big twist is that Mr. Fullswing strikes out in the big game.

I have no idea what the next comic is. It's got a Buddhist priest and a big monkey demon so I thought it might be a variant of Saiyuki but that's apparently not the case. It's got some really well-drawn action scenes, but nothing that makes it stand out of the crowd.

The next story seems to be set in ancient China, except for the fact that there also seems to be a giant television sc reen in at least one panel and a guy with a cybernetic eye in another. Again, well-drawn but nothing particularly compelling.

The book closes with a gag manga about a bride eating pudding. I think.

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