The Shonen Jump Meat Grinder: Why So Many Manga Die Young

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With a bunch of new Shounen Jump titles debuting as of late, I’ve written a new post over at Apartment 507 about the high turnover rate of Jump manga. Check it out!

[Apartment 507] Japanese Manga App Review: Shonen Jump +

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I wrote a review of another Japanese manga app! See if it’s up your alley.

Nowhere to Go But Everywhere: Kinnikuman

I’ve recently been reading the Shounen Jump classic Kinnikuman (literally “Muscleman”) by the creative duo known as Yudetamago. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be “transparent.” A transparent work, as I’m using the term, describes something where you, as a reader, are able to see the creative process used in creating the series, and in that sense Kinnikuman is the most transparent manga I have ever seen. Plot points and important climaxes are revealed with little prior warning, and the reader isn’t given much time to parse any logic, which is good because there never is any.

The basic premise of Kinnikuman is that it’s about a bumbling oaf named Kinniku Suguru trying to be a superhero. It starts off as an Ultraman parody, but as the comic progressed the creators got into pro wrestling so, “Hey why not!” they said. “Let’s turn the whole comic into a wild and crazy version of pro wrestling where people wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people!”

One of the later villains in the series is named Sneagator. His name is a portmanteau of the words “sneaker” and “alligator,” and that’s exactly what he looks like. But he also reveals that he has the ability to shed his skin and turn into different reptiles, such as snakes and lizards, and according to Sneagator he can turn into the most terrifying reptile of all, a frilled-neck lizard! Except this frilled-neck lizard can SPIN ITS FRILLS LIKE A BUZZSAW.

But that’s not even Sneagator’s true form! In fact, I think I’ll let the images do the talking.

Yes, his true form is THE FOOT OF A TYRANNOSAURUS REX. Now consider that the whole series is like this. You can pretty much tell that every single moment in Kinnikuman had its creation preceded by at least one of its authors saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool if _________.” Repeat this for 36 volumes.

You might think I’m complaining about its lack of structure but I’m really doing quite the opposite. This transparency is the charm and primary strength of Kinnikuman. Oda (One Piece) and Toriyama (Dragon Ball) have both been lauded for understanding what boys like and want, and appealing to their senses, but they both have a level of self-control and an idea of what would happen at least as far as the current arc. Series such as Pyuu! to Fuku Jaguar are crazy and frenetic, but you can tell that the jokes are planned out well, that there’s a method to the madness. Kinnikuman has none of that sophistication and doesn’t really need it. On top of that, it’s about as extreme as a series like Violence Hero Riki-Oh but unlike Riki-Oh it’s still definitely meant for children. Kinnikuman is unique among its peers.

Seriously, check it out if you want to see the kind of wonderful Shounen comic that just can’t survive these days.

Reminder that Shounen Jump’s Special Anime Streaming is About to End

I’m here to remind everyone that January 31st, 2009 is the last day you can see the three  exclusive Shounen Jump anime specials airing on their official website.

I already wrote a review for their Dragon Ball special, so check it out.

The One Piece special is an isolated episode, but it’s the fun and wonder you’ve grown to expect out of One Piece. Even if you’ve never actually seen One Piece before it’ll be all right as long as you’re not afraid of spoilers, as the Straw Hat Pirate crew is pretty far along by this point.

This is Letter Bee’s first anime, and it’s really nice to look at. Kind of atypical for a shounen jump series, Letter Bee feels a little more subdued than expected, which I can only call a good thing.

I’d write longer reviews but I realized that by the time I wrote them, it’d be already too late.

So go forth, young anime fan!

Giving Shounen Jump Fans the Bird

Weekly Shounen Jump is celebrating its unbelievable 40th anniversary, and as part of the festivities Shounen Jump has all-new episodes of three of its series. By downloading their own proprietary media player, you can actually watch these episodes subtitled for free until January 2009. One of the titles is One Piece, another is Letter Bee (which I know nothing about). I’ll get to One Piece and Letter Bee’s exclusive episodes another time; this is all about perennial favorite Dragon Ball.

Akira Toriyama’s most famous work is by far the most popular Shounen Jump properties of all time, its worldwide success is rivaled by few other. This is made all the more impressive by the fact that there hasn’t been any new Dragon Ball anime for a long, long time. Even in America the final episodes of GT aired years ago. But some would argue that at some point the Dragon Ball series took a bit of a detour and lost some of its original spirit. Among these critics might be Toriyama himself as this new Dragon Ball anime special feels very much like a return to form, and it’s written by Toriyama too. “Yo! The Return of Son-Goku and Friends!!!” is like a combination of everything that made Dragon Ball popular throughout its incarnations rolled into one.

The story is about Mr. Satan opening up a new hotel to celebrate his victory over Majin Boo and inviting Goku and Friends over for a sumptuous banquet. Some new characters show up, stuff blows up and things get eaten. Really, the story is just a flimsy excuse to get everyone together and for chaos to happen, and it’s the type of chaos which combines the fighting of Z with the humor of the original. Kamesennin is back to wearing his old turtle shell and making lewd comments towards Chi-chi, Goku powers up to Super Saiyan just because, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance but not really. It’s just a single-episode adventure dedicated to the fans and it really shows.

The most notable addition is the introduction of Vegeta’s little brother, Tarble. I’ll let the pun sink in for a second before I move on.

Man, Toriyama.

Tarble would be a spoiler except he’s right there on the front page and in the character descriptions, so he’s fair game. Tarble was sent away long ago by King Vegeta because Tarble lacked any sort of fighting prowess. Having avoided much of the events of Dragon Ball, Tarble even still has his tail. With the existence of Tarble now revealed, it just makes me think that every time Vegeta said something like “WE ARE THE LAST SAIYANS IN THE UNIVERSE KAKARROT!” he was murmuring under his breath, “exceptforthatotheronehrmrmrmr.”  Well Dragon Ball was never super big on maintaining canon anyway so it’s no big deal. It’s just another way of humanizing Vegeta just a little because you’d have expected him to fly over to Tarble at some point and punch him in the face for being so weak. Then again, Vegeta might respect the fact that Tarble tries to fight even when he sucks at it. I’m thinking too much about this, but how could I not when I now know that Vegeta is also Reinhard Von Lohengramm?

If you’re a Dragon Ball fan, I really don’t have to tell you to go watch this, but go watch this. If you’re not a fan of Dragon Ball, or you’re the kind who complains about powering up taking too long, keep in mind that this is just one 20-something minute episode and there’s no time to waste on powering up excessively and standing around. There isn’t even an deserted area in the middle of nowhere to fight and blow things up in! There’s only Mr. Satan’s hotel.

Poor, poor Mr. Satan.