I’ve been reading Weekly Shonen Sunday for about 26 issues now, inspired mostly by friend of the site Sakaki’s Weekly Shonen Sunday Talkback blog, and whilst my language skills aren’t quite up to snuff, I’ve been having fun reading about 3/4 of the magazine week-on-week. So to give me an excuse to gush a little about the titles I’m currently reading, here’s a list of them all from top to bottom, in terms of my personal enjoyment. The order isn’t *massively* relevant, as I do love EVERY SINGLE SERIES I’m going to talk about in this two-part write-up, it’s more an excuse to organise them all. So, eight series in this one, then the remaining seven, with the three latest Sunday series being exempt because hardly any chapters are out of those so far (with the promise of reviewing them in the future). Okay? Okay.
1. Saike, Once Again, by Tsubasa Fukuchi
This is the first series that really pulled me into Sunday (once again, largely because of Sakaki, but I’ll stop flattering him for now), and it’s with very good reason. It’s incredibly easy for comics about super-powered characters to go the full battle route, or at the least to have every power be this incredibly bombastic thing. Saike turns that completely on its head, keeping many of its powers weirdly specific or not specifically suited to battles, and twists a JoJo-esque narrative out of it, having our small group of heroes (like, EXPLICITLY heroes, if Saike’s aspirations mean anything) working out how to get through unusual situations, usually involving other ability users, with or without their own skills. And what skills they are! Saike’s essentially comes down to “if I drown myself in a lake, the current day will repeat itself”, which is so unsuited to simple solutions that when it does come up it’s often to have him gain victory through attrition, learning from all the previous errors he’s made on previous repeated days. Hizu is the bruiser-type, but his apparent herculean strength is actually a clever trick; his power is to turn any solid into styrofoam, allowing him to wield telephone poles with ease, only returning them to their original material as they collide with enemies.
I love this comic. It’s easy to just say “it’s so smart!”, but in all honesty it’s so much more complex than that. It’s the original touches, the thoughts one can’t imagine any other author producing, that just kind of drop your jaw. It even comes to how the comic is presented; outside of one storyline, each volume is a complete tale. A piece of a larger story, yeah, but by keeping the actual arc contained in a single tome Fukuchi is able to make a very sellable product. You can feasibly hop in on just about any volume and keep your head above water, and get a complete tale for your trouble. The sales… don’t always reflect this, but as a creative decision I’m in awe of it. A fantastic comic, and one I’m glad to be up to date on, owning all 11 volumes, and being very ready for whatever happens next.
2. Amano Megumi is FULL of Openings! by Nekoguchi
I’m a pretty big fan of cheesecake in my comics (or beefcake, even. It’s all delicious, thank you), but only when it’s done in a way that doesn’t feel too… manipulative, or out of place. Like if a comic wholeheartedly dedicates itself to lewdness I’m in its corner 90% of the time. Amano Megumi is one such comic, whose simple core concept is to have Megumi, she who is full of openings, be far too relaxed around her best friend and audience view-point Manabu, revealing herself at compromising angles and positions as they go about their incredibly cute lives together, overloading Manabu to the point that he inevitably explodes into a fantasy land, envisioning Megumi in all sorts of lewd outfits and set-ups. It is, if we’re being honest here, lewd as heck.
That might not sound like the sort of unbearably amazing comic that would earn itself the second spot on a list, but it’s all in the execution, and the ridiculous sincerity that Nekoguchi seems to infuse each chapter with. There’s not an ounce of this comic that feels like it’s denigrating its main character, and explicitly has Megumi be a strong character full of agency. It’s far too easy for shonen manga to go down gross routes with lewd comics, throwing us non-consensual gropes or threatening situations that give the fan-service an edge of skeeviness that tarnishes the whole work. Whilst I still have a gap to cover between the handful of volumes of this I own and the current chapters, I’ve yet to see anything that feels objectionable as it goofily gives us excuses to look at a curvy girl’s cleavage. It’s fun, cute and sexy, and I’m pretty shameless overall so give me that cheesecake any day of the week.
3. Sou-bou-tei Must Be Destroyed by Kazuhiro Fujita
Kazuhiro Fujita is surprisingly underrated for someone who has such a fantastic body of work. Author of three long-running manga series (including Ushio & Tora, which had an anime adaptation as recently as 2015), as well as the renowned Black Museum short stories and character designs on the popular anime Bakegyamon, calling Fujita prolific feels like an understatement. So when there’s a new series by such a talent, you pay attention.
Which brings me neatly to Sou-bou-tei Must Be Destroyed, a horror story about a boy with an arm that can turn into a drill trying to destroy a mansion filled with evil water. The core concept of this series sounds kind of… dumb, if we’re being honest, but the horrifying execution with which every new horror contained within the mansion is introduced we’re given the sort of bone-chilling tale that isn’t for the faint of heart.
Not that the horror is really the pull. The cast of Sou-Bou-Tei is an eclectic mix of bizarre personalities, all out to deal with the mansion for their own reasons, from the bandaged time-lost soldier Zanka to the perfect goofball Takoha (arguably the character the series revolves around most of the time, despite drill-arm boy Seiichi being the apparent protagonist of the series), and each and every one is a delight. Them, combined with the sort of artistic expertise that makes every twist, turn, and terrifying glance a pure delight for the eyes, makes Sou-Bou-Tei Must Be Destroyed the safest bet for the third position on this list.
4. The Lies of the Sheriff Evans by Mizuki Kuriyama
Something nice and easy to explain! The Lies of the Sheriff Evans is a comic about a sheriff in the wild west who’s forged an identity as a complete badass, but can’t seem to make any headway with the ladies. This comedy series is solid gold, tapping into similar veins that comics like Gintama before it, but honed down and simplified to essentially deal with one person and one issue on the regular. Well, unless we count Phoebe Oakley, our delightful deuteragonist and the closest woman to actually being a viable love interest for Evans, if only they weren’t both complete idiots. The series has largely been episodic gags, but has recently veered into slightly longer stories, giving the two a lot more room to breathe and grow, and my love for the comic has kind of grown with that. Episodic stuff isn’t viable forever, and I want Evans to be around for a good while yet.
5. The Ninth Wave by Michiteru Kusaba
I’ve got a real soft spot for this kind of series. What do you even call it? Educational slice of life? You know the sort, where you follow characters going to an unusual school and learn information along with them, like Silver Spoon, Moyashimon: Tales of Agriculture, and uh this. The Ninth Wave.
This particular educational slice of life gets bonus points for me by being about “boat stuff”. I love a good boat, me. Bit of rowing? Sure! Fishing? YES PLEASE! I was born in a coastal town, and have a big affinity for this stuff, despite being crap at all of it in real life, so seeing our protagonist Minato, a fashionable city boy, dealing with it all fresh, going from an uneasy kid trying something new to fully embracing the path ahead of him, is a treat for me. The secondary story (seemingly dropped for now) starring Nagiko, the girl who inspired Minato to enroll at his university, as she deals with her academic path in the city, is a joy as well, giving us a talented and independent woman as a deuteragonist in a shonen manga, which feels… rare, overall.
Mostly I love this for the quieter moments. Minato in awe of boating, shedding a tear at finding manly camaraderie, moments given huge real estate on any given page. Giving so much space to moments that aren’t necessarily big sells for its teenage audience is kind of amazing, and shows a confidence in the story that surprises me, seeing how it tends to struggle on in both the magazine and volume sales. Still, I love it, and that’s all that matters. It’s for me.
6. K.O.I King of Idol by Tamiki Wakaki
On the note of things I have a soft spot for; stories where the character has to cross-dress and keep their real gender secret. King of Idol is a particularly interesting one in how it does this. Sure, it’s a boy masquerading as a girl at a school for aspiring idols, but from his peculiar talent for controlling people with his voice, to the strange holographic technology that all idols at the institute uses, it has enough unique spins to make it stick out. Mahoro, our ‘king of idol’ as it were, is a fantastic character as well, motivated to sing the songs of his deceased mother, in the hopes of using them to reach her in some way, whether as a connection to her or in the more literal way that he hopes to meet her using the holographic technology of the institute (which no-one seems to think is feasible; holograms don’t bring back the dead, but the dedication from Mahoro is heartening).
Oh! The performances! It’d be strange to talk about an idol manga without mentioning how fantastically it communicates the idea of musical performances in a mute medium. Excellent lettering choices (with no furigana, grr) simulate the voices in action, and the holographic tech the series revolves around provides these huge, show-stopping moments that sell the idea of a performance to the reader. It’s a fantastic workaround for something that really, truly, shouldn’t work in comics.
7. Ariadne in the Blue Sky by Yorihiro Nagi
Ariadne is an unusual thing. Based on a one-shot that ran in Weekly Shonen Jump, by an author known for his monthly comics, it exists now as a weekly comic, in a different magazine, by a different publisher. It’s tempting, as someone who’s made whatever reputation he had in the past diving into the background of comics publishing, to read deeply into whatever happened there, but to do just that would be a disservice to one of the more interesting debuts Weekly Shonen Sunday has had since I began reading it.
Ariadne is, at this early stage, a high fantasy road trip, as our main character Rashil escorts the mysterious and gravity-challenged Princess Leanne, making jokes, riding horses, and only occasionally having to face off against bounty hunters and soldiers from the upside-down and floating kingdom of Ariadne, and whilst it feels kind of slow at times, what it does give us is the logical conclusion of Nagi-sensei’s body of work so far. This is a series unafraid to play with the comedy of Angel Densetsu, or the action of Claymore, and gels the two together seamlessly for something that recognisably owes parts of itself to what came before. But what really awes me, to my core, is how little quality is sacrificed in Nagi-sensei’s move to a weekly publication. If anything, the art seems to have actually kicked up a notch compared to the sparse wastelands and parade of blonde people that Claymore often appeared to be, and instead we’re given a full world, packed with details and history unexplored, a suitable backdrop to these beautiful characters going on their high adventures. Stunning.
8. Major 2nd by Takuya Mitsuda
I’m not the biggest fan of real life baseball. Nearly all my knowledge of it in real life comes from being a big fan of comedian Greg Proops, who is in turn a big fan of real life baseball, but this second-hand relationship with the real sport does nothing to change the fact that my absolute favourite sport in comics is baseball. Visitors to the old version of the site will remember me writing obsessively about the history of the sport in Weekly Shonen Jump, and given the chance I’ll gab on about everything from ROOKIES, to Mr. Fullswing, to Astro Kyudan, to this, Major 2nd. There’s something about the sport that is uniquely suited to comic books, and I will never stop loving baseball comics.
Major 2nd does something a step beyond so many of the baseball comics I’ve before it. It has several women playing in the school team, playing on par with the male students, and being just as, if not more developed than a huge chunk of the team. It’s a big deal. Women face constant sexism and barriers when it comes to playing baseball, especially if we look over to professional leagues, and to just see them represented so lovingly here is fantastic. Sure, it’s just a school club, and sure it’s not the same as real change, but it’s something, and it feels like it means a lot. To have that, alongside a fantastic core of our main character Daigo dealing with legacy and the pressure of having a father famous for his baseball skills while struggling to achieve anything, is a treat. It’s an expertly done story by a creator who presumably has built up a lot of experience handling just this sort of story in the original Major.
I haven’t read the original Major.
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