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Shonen Jump’s Hidden Gems

We’ve seen a lot of long running manga series end this year. Promised Neverland, Kimetsu no Yaiba, and Haikyuu!!! have all reached or will shortly reach their conclusions. These series were tentpole weekly entries for Shonen Jump, and have all received well deserved praise for their storytelling and art. But, even with these series winding down, there is still a lot to love about Shonen Jump!

SPY x FAMILY

SpyxFamily

This is such a simple and entertaining premise, but it delivers big when it comes to charm and heart. The story revolves around a phony family, where each member leads a double life. Loid Forger is secretly a spy trying to prevent a cold war from becoming hot while masquerading as a therapist. Yor Forger is an office worker by day, and master assassin by night. Anya Forger looks like a normal kid, but she can actually read minds. As the three of them balance the pressures of their double lives, they also find time to coalesce as a family. While the tension is driven mostly in keeping their double lives a secret from each other, the three main characters also interact with a supporting cast of memorable, and sometimes wacky, side characters as well.

At this point, the story is mostly cute and fun episodes with no sign of changing the status quo. It will be interesting to see if the author intends to increase the stakes, or maintain the lighthearted approach. The story is still young, but there is a lot of potential for this story to become a world-building powerhouse, as well as deliver plenty of laughs and heartwarming moments.

CHAINSAW MAN

Denji x Makima

This story centers on a teenage boy and his chainsaw demon dog, as they hunt and kills monsters to make ends meet. Unfortunately for our hero, he is dumb, and gets killed almost immediately. His demon dog offers him a chance at new life, though, as a host for the Chainsaw Demon. Thus is born Denji, the Chainsaw Man. Denji’s life’s goal is to win the love and affection of Makima, a girl whose true nature may be much darker than anyone really knows, but whose face is sweeter than honey. Along the way, the side characters will get mowed down while demonic forces gather for goals we cannot fathom.

This story delivers a striking mix of western, eastern, and Lovecraftian horror visuals alongside a funny coming-of-age tale of a boy trying to impress a girl. You root for Denji to win, not because he is particularly cool, but because, if he can get to second base, then anyone can. If there is one lesson to learn from Chainsaw Man, it’s that you can never trust a pretty face.

UNDEAD UNLUCK

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At first, I dismissed this story as being too out there. A man who cannot be killed teaming up with the world’s unluckiest girl so that he can finally die didn’t seem like something I could really get into. But, what I didn’t see in the first couple chapters has become clear: there is a lot of potential here. There is a world of “negators,” people who are blessed with weird abilities that result from cancelling common every day physics, and other supernatural beings that are unleashed on the world as God’s punishment for disobedience. The main guy, Andy, is the negator Undead, and so he cannot be killed. Fuuko, the main girl, is the negator Unluck, and physical contact with her has disastrous results. The join an organization of other Negators, such as Unjustice and Untruth, to carry out a host of tasks to prevent God’s wrath from pouring down on earth.

This is not a series for kids. There is a lot of physical interaction between Andy and Fuuko, and they don’t always (hardly ever, really) wear clothes. But the characters are charming, the action is zany, and the magic of Negators is a fascinating concept. Hopefully, there are plenty of cards left up the sleeves of this series because it has been fun in the early part of this series. If they play it well, it could become a staple of Shonen Jump.

MASHLE: MAGIC AND MUSCLES

Mashle

This series was initially intended as a spoof of Harry Potter, but like One Punch Man, has taken on a life of its own. The story follows Mash Vandead, a physical prodigy in a world dominated by magicians. He has a penchant for eating cream puffs and lifting weights. While other students display varying degrees of magical ability, he has none. So, when the time comes for him to attend magic high school, he has to rely on his physical abilities alone to get him past all of the magic tests and tournaments. His calm demeanor amidst the magic battles lends itself to some hilariously absurd moments.

If you’re a fan of magician-centered stories, Mashle may be up your Diagon Alley. I enjoy it for the cream puffs!

As always, you can find these and many other series at http://www.viz.com/shonenjump.

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