Smokin’ Parade takes everything from Deadman Wonderland and cranks it up to 11. A main character that is thrust into a world full of super powered monsters, only this time instead of being framed for murder, he is almost murdered himself. Over the top gore in nearly every chapter, as well as bad guys that couldn’t act more evil unless they were going around murdering kittens and puppies. Unfortunately, everything I hated about the Deadman Wonderland has been amplified, and it is missing some of my favorite parts from the author’s previous work. They focused way to much on improving areas that were already fine in Deadman Wonderland, and left their weaker areas to be deteriorate even further.
What happens when you put a bunch of rich kids with too much access to their parents money in a school together? Hyakkaou Private Academy is just that, a school for the rich and elite and it is more of a casino than a school. Instead of regular after school clubs like track and field or gardening club, almost all after school activities that the students take part in here involve gambling. Whether its a classic game like blackjack or poker, or some random made up game, the students and Hyakkaou Private Academy spend their afternoons playing against each other gambling away whatever money they can get from their parents. Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler is a manga that’s all about high stakes gambles, with kids winning it big or going massively in debt by losing it all.
Shonen Jump has been having a rough time keeping new series in their magazine over the past few years, especially series that could replace long-running classics like Naruto and Bleach. Every so often a series like School Judgement will stick, only to be cancelled after a few volumes. The only series to really stick around for the long haul in the last couple of years have been Food Wars, My Hero Academia and Black Clover (with the later two being the more recent additions to Shonen Jump’s catalog of long running series). The Promised Neverland is showing signs of promise as it consistently does well in the weekly rankings (despite some poor pacing) and could be another series we will be seeing a lot of over the next few years.
Despite the relatively low success rate of series becoming big hits the authors keep going to Jump in order to try and hit it big. With the latest batch of new series to be featured in the magazine, one series in particular has been keeping me coming back for more each week, that series being Dr. Stone, a story written by the author of Eyeshield 21 with some crisp and expressive art to accompany it. I think the series has the potential to join the ranks of all the other series I had talked about and become one of Jumps new long running hits.
Not all manga need long, mulit-volume stories to be great. In fact, some stories are better when they are left short and sweet, allowing you to take in the full emotional weight of its story in one go. The Gods Lie is exactly that type of manga, and even though it is only one volume long it is perhaps the single best volume I have read this year. No joke, it perfectly told its story in just 5 chapters leaving me with all kinds of emotions. Easily one of the best single volumes of manga from this year.
Published By: Vertical Comics
Story and Art By: Kaori Ozaki
The Gods Lie follows the story of Natsuru Nanao and Rio Suzumura as they bond together over summer vacation. Both are 6th graders who have had a pretty rough life. Natsuru currently lives alone with his mother, his father had passed away when he was younger. Rio lives alone with her younger brother while they wait for their father to come home from crab fishing in Alaska. Perhaps its this mutual understanding of loss that allows both of them to connect on such an emotional level, but its not the only thing that drives their friendship.
The story doesn’t really dive too deep into themes of loss in the opening chapters of the volume, but instead works on developing the relationship between Natsuru and Rio. I found these early chapters to be quite enjoyable, often putting a smile on my face as I read through them. Seeing their relationships grow over the coarse of their short summer vacation was satisfying to see in a medium that is often contempt with dragging out a romance. Its a young, pure romance that really warms the heart as you read it.
The pure joy and peacefulness of the early chapters soon transition into deeper, and darker emotions. As the truth as to why the two kids are alone comes to light you start to feel incredibly pitiful for them. It is hinted in early chapters that something is not right, in a quite heavy handed way honestly (Natsuru complains of a funny smell around the house at one point). Though the big discovery did not necessarily shock me because of these hints, it was still disturbing to see when it happened.
All in all I found The Gods Lie quite an amazing read. It’s hard to go into detail about such a short series without trying to spoil anything, but I hope I was at least able to convey some of the feelings I had as I read through it. Perhaps a more in depth (and spoilery) discussion is at hand in the future… For now though, just know that The Gods Lie is certainly worth the read.
Reccomendation: Read It
Immortal Hounds has to be one of the goriest manga I have read in a while. Limbs fly everywhere as bullet fill bodies with gaping holes and blood splatters all over the floors and walls. The only thing with Immortal Hounds is that as the title suggests, nearly everyone is immortal. So even though characters might suffer multiple lethal wounds throughout a chapter, within seconds they are “revived” leaving them in perfect condition. Wounds are healed leaving no trace that there ever was one to begin with. It’s a pretty handy ability for a society to have, if only everyone could do it.
Published By: Vertical Comics
Story and Art By: Ryo Yasoachi
Being virtually immortal solves all kinds of pesky problems the normal world faces. If you ever become severely injured and disfigured, just kill yourself and go back to being good as new. Pesky flu got you feeling miserable and stuck in bed? Take a bullet to the dome and wake up a few seconds later full of energy and completely healthy. In this alternate world where death is never permanent, these are real things that happen on a daily basis. Health issues are virtually unheard of, because by simply reviving you can be back to your regular old self in seconds. The only thing that this ability doesn’t protect you from is old age, so a natural death is inevitable for everyone.
There is one other way someone can die though, and that is through a disease called Resurrection Deficiency Syndrome (RDS). If someone carries this disease, they can’t resurrect when killed. These people are called vectors in this world and are hunted down like animals for fear of the disease spreading to others, but the vectors are not alone. To help protect them are the escape artists, who help the vectors escape police and members of the Anti-Vector Task Force (a special unit hunting down the vectors). When an escape artist shows up though, you can expect bullets (and limbs) to fly.
The escape artist’s are apart of a secret organization that protect the vectors, and holy crap do they do a good job. The fly in on the scene from out of no where guns blazing, wounding everyone in sight that is a danger to the vector but ensuring that they don’t die (so they cannot trigger their resurrection and be back to normal). Not much information was given on the escape artist’s and the organization they work for in this first volume, leaving a lot to explore in future chapters. All we really know is that they are the ones who protect vectors and rescue them when the investigators are on their tail, as well as some other more spoilery things that are shown later on in the volume.
So now that I have the general set-up for this manga covered, let’s move on to my thoughts. I really liked the pacing of this first volume, as it was always moving forward and showing off lots of action. It was able to give us enough information about the world to give us a decent understanding on how everything works without stalling out into long sections of dialogue. I also really liked the fighting scenes that involved the escape artist’s, as they were incredibly fun to read. The escape artists are insanely well equipped with weapons (almost to a comedic degree, such as a scene where she hauls out a rocket launcher while riding a car) making these scenes a blast to read through. Those who enjoy a nice and gory action series will also enjoy these scenes, since Yasoachi cuts no corners in making sure each of these scenes is full of blood and gore.
If I had one complaint about the first volume it would be that we really don’t get a good feel of many of the characters or their pasts. Right now, the main cast feel more like a bunch of cliches then unique and interesting characters. The main escape artist we follow is a typical “raised to be a killer” type of character. She is cold, calculating, and doesn’t show emotion very well. At work she expects everything to be done perfectly, and when she is fighting is a killing (or injuring in this case?) machine. The main detective we follow is a “cool guy with a grudge” often doing things off the books in order to get revenge on the vectors for killing his sister (she had caught RDS from one of them). A cop going after revenge isn’t very interesting or unique, so hopefully future chapters will expand a bit on his character. The final chapter of this volume hints at possibly showing us a more intimate and vulnerable side of these two characters, something that could be cool to see with characters of their nature. Whether or not that happens or not is yet to be seen by me as of yet.
In the end, I thought Immortal Hounds was a pretty fun read. It has lots of action that kept me interested from beginning to end. It’s nothing groundbreaking from what this first volume showed me, but you could do a lot worse for a new action series. It’s a fun read that doesn’t show signs of slowing down, so give it a shot and let me know what you thought of it.
Recommendation: Read It
Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Ohba are back, and their new work looks like it is returning to their roots. For those who don’t recognize the names, you definitely have heard of their work before. They were the duo responsible for the little known manga called Death Note, and later went on to create the equally amazing Bakuman. The duo has some serious cred under their belt, so going into Platinum End I was expecting something great. Thankfully it seems like Platinum End is going to live up to those expectations.
Publisher: Viz Media
Story By: Tsugumi Ohba
Art By: Takeshi Obata
Platinum end returns to Ohba’s and Obata’s darker roots, as it draws far more similarities to Death Note then it does Bakuman. It tells a story of a regular highschool kid given god-like abilities and how he goes about using them. The story sounds quite similar at first glance, but it doesn’t take long to see some of the major differences between what Platinum End will look at and what Death Note had done with its story.
Mirai Kakehashi is the main character of Platinum End, and like Light Yagami is a teenager given god-like powers to use as he so desires. Unlike Light Yagami though, Mirai grew up quite troubled and depressed as his parents were killed when he as young. This left Mirai under the care of his aunt and uncle who mistreated him constantly. So unlike the brilliant, confident Light Yagami that we saw in Death Note, Mirai is often depressed and unsure with himself. The story opens with him jumping off a building to commit suicide, showing us how deeply troubled Mirai really is.
This difference in character really comes to light when the characters are given their new powers. When Light finds the death note and figures out that it really works, it takes very little time for him to start his work on eliminating any targets that he deems as evil. Light makes it his mission to kill every criminal that threatens the peace of his planned utopia free of crime and conflict, and he does not hesitate to eliminate them. Mirai on the other hand is not certain about what he should do with his new found power. After accidentally killing someone he becomes depressed. He seems to value life pretty highly, even though he was so willing to take his own in the beginning of the volume. He isn’t only given the power to kill though, as he is also given the power of cupid, which is to make people fall in love with him for a certain amount of time, allowing him to control them. He doesn’t even want to use this power, even if it doesn’t really hurt anyone and it would just make something easier for him. Mirai seems to have pretty high morals and is unwilling to break his moral code for the sake of convenience.
The main plot point driving the story is the fact that Mirai is not the only character who was given powers. In fact, 10 other people have been given the same powers as himself, some both while others just having one of the two powers. The reason why everyone were given these powers was because a guardian angel had chosen them to be the next candidate for god. That’s right, each of the characters that were chosen are potentially going to be chosen to take god’s place and rule over all in the heavens. There doesn’t seem to be any rules on how one should use their powers, and the candidates were hand picked by a group of angels (some almost randomly). It would make sense then that the thought of becoming god would get to someones head, which is what ends up happening to one of the candidates. Although his name has yet to be mentioned in the first volume, the man acts as a hero of justice as he uses his powers to fly around and take down criminals. If that sounds familiar, its because he is essentially the Light Yagami that the series was missing. Unlike Mirai, he does not place much value on a single life, as he is willing to freely kill someone if they are deemed a criminal (or evil) in his eyes. He also doesn’t mind taking out innocent people, as he has begun to hunt down the other candidates, hoping to be the last one standing and taking the position of god by default.
This first volume of Platinum End was a hell of a read from front to back. The pacing is well done so far, going from exciting moments where you are unsure what is going to happen next to slower moments where you get to look a bit deeper into Mirai’s thoughts and his past. So far I am totally on board with Ohba and Obata’s new series, and I cannot wait to see where it goes from here. The first volume also ended on a pretty big cliffhanger, making me eagerly wait to get my hands on the next volume. Platinum End is without a doubt worth jumping in on, even though it is still relatively new. If you like a good story and enjoyed a series like Death Note, Platinum End is without a doubt something you should be reading.
Recommendation: Read It
Black Clover has the makings of a typical battle shonen manga. Everything it does in the first volume checks off a box in the “how to make a battle shonen” checklist. Cool fantasy world? Check. Super powers and abilities that are fundamental to the fantasy worlds structure**? Check. Underdog main character who aims to become the strongest in the world? Check. Longtime friend who is also the main characters biggest rival? Check. Nearly everything Black Clover brings to the table has been done before, and its been done better. Does that mean Black Clover isn’t a worthwhile read though? That’s for you to decide, but my time with the first volume wasn’t as bad as you might think.
As I said above, Black Clover is a sterotypical battle shonen series that really sticks to the fundamentals laid out by its predecessors. I struggled to find an original idea in it, as it really doesn’t deviate from the norm or try anything new and exciting. If you were looking for a series full of fresh ideas and a unique story, I feel like Black Clover is going to let you down. If you don’t mind a more “by the books” shonen series though, there might just be enough here to warrant some of your time in checking it out.
Publisher: VIZ Media
Story and Art By: Yuki Tabata
Black Clover is set in a land where magic exists and it has become an integral part of society there. People fight with magic, they use it to do menial chores and labor, it is something that the people there use everyday and interact with. Its not something groundbreaking by any means, but it serves as a cool setting to allow for awesome fights. Kind of like in Naruto or Bleach, everyone has a unique fighting style with their own special moves.
The fact that each character relies on special attacks was not the only aspect of Black Clover that I felt was borrowed from Naruto however. Asta, the main character if Black Clover, is an orphan. Asta is also unable to use magic of any kind, making him seem like he is the underdog of this story. Similarly, Naruto was very poor at using jutsu and controlling his chakra, which also made him seem to be the underdog of the series. The similarities continue as both end up with some sort of ultimate power that makes up for their lack of abilities, both characters have a strong headed personality and both refuse to give up and accept that they can’t make it too the top. Everything about Asta screams Naruto, and other characters such as Yuno all borrow their character traits from Naruto characters as well. When I said I struggled to find an original idea in this first volume, I really meant it.
Aside from its overwhelming use of common shonen tropes, my other gripe with the first volume of Black Clover was its pacing. The story moves at a break neck pace, constantly moving forward trying to get to its next cool fight scene. We really aren’t given much time to learn about the characters, the world they live in or past events that have shaped them to be who they are today.
We are given very broad and quick looks into the world itself, as the beginning of the manga tells us that humans were almost killed off once by demons until the Wizard King came to save the day. Through character interactions throughout the volume we learn that there are noble and peasant classes in society, where the nobles are seen to have the better magic prowess. Other than that though, we know very little. We are not told of the demons that once threatened humanity and what happened during that time (other than the Wizard King saved everyone). We don’t have a sense of whether there are other countries outside of the kingdom the Wizard King established. Characters talk about wars and battles but never really talk about who they are fighting. There wasn’t enough time spent on building up this worlds lore to really get me invested in any of the conflicts that were happening.
As for the characters, we also don’t get to learn about much about them outside of a few pages of flashbacks showing us a new side of their personality. We know that Asta is hard working and will never give up on his dream of becoming the Wizard King because of the flashback showing him training incredibly hard until he is beat up and bruised (sound familiar to someone?). It’s literally just one page in chapter one though, so we don’t get to see all the hardships that he had to go through while training. Most everything we learn about the characters happens during the fight scenes, since the series seems to desperately put in as many as it could in this first volume.
In the end, Black Clover failed to impress with its first volume. There just isn’t any originality here and everything it does has been done better by other works. If you are out of battle shonen to read, you can do a lot worse than black clover. I liked some of the special moves used in the battles (even if they ended pretty abruptly with Asta just charging in there) and the idea that Asta’s new found power might be more than meets the eye is interesting. In the end it’s at best a luke-warm read, and at its worst outright boring.
Recommendation: Skip It