Tag Archives: Shonen Jump

Review: Zombie Powder Volume 1

Zombie Powder Volume 1
By Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
RRP: $7.99

Rating: ★★★★½

Somewhere in the desert are the 12 Rings of the Dead.  Anyone who can find all 12 can have the mysterious Zombie Powder, a substance that can raise the dead or give eternal life.  Those who seek the rings are called Powder Hunters.  One of these hunters is named Gamma Akutabi, a man with a metal hand, a 6-foot chainsaw and a price on his head.  He rolls into Blue Note seeking information on the rings when he runs into Elwood, a young down-on-his-luck pickpocket who is desperately trying to earn money to cure his sister’s heart condition.  Together, they set out to find the mysterious Rings of the Dead that can either give new life to Elwood’s sister, or make Gamma absolutely invincible.

This is the first manga series by the man that would later go on to give us Bleach, so you pretty much know what you’re in for.  He’s very clear about it at the beginning of the manga when he says “Mainly it’s all battles.  It’s completely OK to just read through it without thinking about anything.”  That’s a decent description, at least in part, but it’s not just battles, there’s a lot of great humor involved as well.  As soon as Gamma gets off the train in Blue Note, everyone comments at the fancy, well-dressed man… who gets his coat stuck in the door and gets dragged behind the train.  The story is no great shakes, it’s your generic quest story that’s been done to death in shonen stories.  Find the 12 Rings.  Find the Dragonballs.  You get the drift.  What makes it fun is all the comedy, especially the physical comedy, done to Gamma.  In their first meeting, Elwood slams Gamma’s head into the bar as he picks his pocket.  When Gamma stands up, there’s a fork stuck in his forehead that apparently, he doesn’t notice right away, although everyone else does.  That kind of sets the tone throughout the series.

If you’re looking for something that’s not too taxing mentally, but is still a fun roller coaster ride, give Zombie Powder a shot.  The story does get more interesting as you go on, but it’s the visual humor that really makes the ride worthwhile.

Beginnings and Endings

Five and a half years ago, Viz put out a sampler at the San Diego Comic Con for a new manga anthology; Shonen Jump. Anchored by Dragonball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh!, Shonen Jump introduced us to new titles such as Naruto, Shaman King and One Piece at only $20 for 12 issues. Ah…those were the days.

The December Issue featured some important milestones. Besides heralding in the 5thcover60_new1.jpg year of the magazine, it had the first Naruto story Masashi Kishimoto wrote. This Naruto and his world was very different from the one we know now. A “Proto-Naruto” is you will. Instead of being a ninja-in-training with the spirit of the 9-Tails Fox Spirit in him, Naruto is the son of the 9-Tails Fox. He has been raised by the last living warrior that fought his father, who is also a Yokai. Naruto has not been able to make any human friends, as he has been a mean-spirited trickster to them. The warrior sends Naruto from the mountain temple where they have been living, and tells him he can not return until he has made a human friend and brings him back to the mountain. The rest of the story is following Naruto as he makes his first journey into the outside world, one that is like ours in many ways.

I really enjoyed this story, and this version of Naruto. While I do like the Naruto he became, the 9-Tails fox Naruto was a lot of fun too. The two are very similar, except that the proto-Naruto didn’t have the stigma Naruto has. He bears no grudge, and has nothing to prove to anyone. It seemed if the story had continued it would have been about Proto-Naruto’s journey of discovery as he meets new people, makes friends, and presumably fight some foes. I really like stories like Dragonball by Akira Toriyama and O-Parts Hunter by Seishi Kishimoto (Masashi’s twin brother), which have the same premise. I would have enjoyed following the Proto-Naruto’s adventures. I’m glad Viz gave us this glance into Naruto’s past.

The other big feature in this issue was the final chapter of Yu-Gi-Oh!. While not completely serialized in the magazine, (the entire Duelist storyline was published in graphic novels only), it did run uninterrupted for the 5 years to end here. When Yu-Gi-Oh! was announced for the magazine, I immediately wrote it off. I’d only seen and heard about the Duelist storyline which is the one that animated. Imagine my surprise when I actually started reading it, and found the first arc to be really good! The stories and use of situations to come up with Shadow Games was really entertaining. I will gladly recommend the first 7 volumes of this series.

Admittedly, I wasn’t too happy with the sudden jump to Millenium World, but enough was explained about Duelists’ end that I could still follow along. Millenium World was also good, as it was spent mostly in the Ancient Egypt of “Other Yugi”‘s memory. The final battle of the series pits Yugi against “Other Yugi”, the pharaoh Atem. The Endgame would decide the fate of the Pharoah’s soul; to remain in the real world, or move on to the next. It was hard to chose who to root for in this story. I didn’t want Atem to leave. I liked him better than Yugi. I wanted him to remain undefeated. But at the same time, I wanted to see Atem move on as he should to the next world. It was a satisfying ending anyway. When it’s not only about the Duel Monsters game, Yu-Gi-Oh was a good story with a compelling plot and interesting characters. It’s worth the time to read it.

Other notes; The preview of Slam Dunk was nice, but I think I’m passing on this one. In Hikaru no Go, the pro test is finally over. The nail biting tension that the writer created was intense. It was an excellent read. This series is another must read. Bleach‘s second full issue gives us some background on Ichigo’s dad, and where Ichigo’s powers may have come from. I’m still not happy with it being moved to serialization… In One Piece, Luffy and the others are still on Drum Island, but that arc seems to be wrapping up. Yu Yu Hakusho has felt very tired to me lately. After the long fight tournament, it’s time to jump right into another fight. Fighting manga’s not my favorite. Yu Yu Hakusho has become a prine example of why. With Yu Gi Oh gone, we are left with GX. This series hasn’t done anything to endear itself to me. But it’s still better than Bobobo-bo-bobo. I don’t even want to think about that…

All in all, the December issue of Shonen Jump was a good one for not only the stories, but the milestones that it hit. Here’s hoping for another 5 years.

De-Evolution Explained

A few things I want to get off my chest first.

Viz–

Afros are for frogs and fists get their strength from the North Star and not nose hair. Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo must Gogogo-go Go-gogo!

Bleach may make your whites look good as new, but it’s not going to do the same for Shonen Jump. Recycling is for cans, bottles and newspapers, not manga!

I don’t know why, but these changes to Shonen Jump have really been bugging me. Why add these two titles? Why now? Bleach has been doing just fine on its own. It’s been making the USA Today Top 150. The only real logical reason to move it is to try to build Shonen Jump sales, if they are in fact slumping. (We don’t know SJ sales figures). And Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, I really can’t believe they had a huge amount of requests to add this to the magazine. Viz only put out one volume in 2005 (which you can’t even find on their website), and they’ve started it’s serialization at chapter 110? That doesn’t sound like a serious commitment to me. It really made me think. What was so special about these two titles? Then, it hit me. They’re both shown on Cartoon Network. With this realization, the changes suddenly made sense.

This is all about marketing. Anime showing on Cartoon Network has equated into better sales of manga, to the point that the effect has been given a name. The Cartoon Network Effect. Naruto and Bleach have seen the biggest boosts, shooting onto the USA Today Top 150 with each new volume. And here’s Viz, with a manga property that they seemingly couldn’t to get to go anywhere on its own, that suddenly has greater exposure through TV and DVD sales. The potential for sales was probably too great for them to ignore. Putting Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo in was probaby a cheaper way to get it out again and gauge reader reaction through their monthly polls. I really don’t think this manga would have made any kind of return without the anime being aired.

Bleach, on the other hand, was doing just fine before the anime, and has since exploded into a full merchandising property, like Naruto, Yu Gi Oh! and Dragonball Z. These heavy hitters launched Shonen Jump, and since, Dragonball Z graduated and finished, and Yu Gi Oh! is on the verge of ending, Viz needs another heavy hitter to keep driving the magazine. Bleach is the only title that fits this need right now. So, for the US version of Shonen Jump to continue to appear to be the home of “The World’s Greatest Manga”, Bleach had to be demoted. Now, Viz can put in more ads for other merchandising (such as toys, t-shirts and trading cards) and tie it more closely to the manga.

While I do understand companies want and need to succeed to survive, and that marketing is the best way to do that, it can also get out of hand. Inbreeding, no matter what medium only comes to no good. Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo probably had to join Shonen Jump to drum up any kind of readership, and even though I don’t like it, I can’t blame Viz for wanting to get something back from their investment. But Bleach didn’t need to join the magazine. It has done just fine on its own. It should have been left to keep standing.

What Shonen Jump really needs is new blood, a new property. There hasn’t been a new series in the magazine since Hikaru no Go (I don’t count Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, as it’s just an extension of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and nothing really new). It’s new blood that gets people excited. Look at the sister publication Shojo Beat. It’s had just as many changes, but it keeps getting infusions of new series, and in long run will probably out shine it’s older brother. She’s treading new ground and evolving while He’s going in circles and devolving.

Shonen Jump De-evolution Con’t

I‘m back and mostly recovered from SDCC. I was there for three days, Fri, Sat, and Sun, with my family, so I wasn’t able to hit all the panels, but I did get to go to a couple of manga related. We got to the convention center and through registration just in time for me to go to the Shonen Jump Panel, one I was looking forward to go to. Now, I’ve talked about my feelings on the changes for Shonen Jump so far here. For over a month now, Viz has been hyping the new title to be joining Shonen Jump, with Shaman King leaving, Naruto winding down to normal, and another title ending naturally. Anyone reading the magazine knew what the ending title was, Yu Gi Oh!. That was no big surprise. And Marc Weidenbaum, editor-in-chief of the magazine didn’t leave us in suspense about what the new title was going to be. As everyone has heard by now, it’s Bleach.

I was ambivalent about this announcement at first. I like Bleach. I think it’s a really fun title, and would be a good fit with the magazine. But the more I thought about it, the less of a good idea I found this to be. Yes, I know Bleach is getting close to catching up to the Japanese releases. Eight more as of June. With the current release schedule that’s still over a year away from catching up. Not a good reason to put it in the magazine, I think. If they really wanted to slow the releases down, they could go to a 3 or 4 month release schedule just as easily. I don’t take this as a good reason. The reason given at the panel was because readers has requested it. Well, readers request a lot of things, and they aren’t always good. Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo is a really good example.

No, what really bothered me the about this over-hyped announcement, is that it’s just recycling a Shonen Jump title already available. I was expecting something new! I was under the impression that the changing out of titles would be for something new and fresh, not something I’ve been reading for the last two years! And it’s not like they don’t have plenty of titles to choose from either. There were plenty of manga announced licensed just before and at SDCC. The Blue Dragon manga tie-in Ral Ω Grad would have been a much better choice I think. It’s been announced for a 2008 release with only two volumes out so far. They’re going to have to space out the releases anyway, may as well have a good reason to. And at least it’s NEW!

This change really feels like a veiled attempt to get more people subscribing to Shonen Jump. Bleach is enjoying a lot of popularity right now, with the anime, and toys coming out for it. It’s following the path that Naruto did. And getting two heavy hitters in the magazine is how Shonen Jump started, with Dragonball Z and Yu Gi Oh!. But this isn’t the way the get new readers in. What worked once may not work again. We need new titles to get excited about, not something we knew we’re going to get either way.

Evolution implies something new and different occuring to move forward. This is a big step backwards. There is nothing new or exciting with the change. If our ancient ancestors chose to just keep treading over the same territory instead of expanding out all over the world and evolving, you would not be reading this blog right now. Please, Shonen Jump! Start taking steps forward again!

Shonen Jump De-Evolution

Now, I really don’t mind the recent changes that were announced in the recent issue of Shonen Jump. This certainly isn’t the first time that a series has been taken out of the magazine to continue in graphic novels. Dragonball Z left after just over a year, and Yu-Gi-Oh! took out the “Duelist” arc to continue with the shorter “Millenium World” arc. I really didn’t mind these changes, since the series’ brought in only improved the magazine. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Hikaru no Go when it was first announced, but it turned out to be an excellent series. Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo is not. I’m sorry, I didn’t like this series from the preview chapter they ran a year or so ago, and after reading the latest chapter, I still don’t like it.

I really enjoyed Shonen Jump magazine because it would have entertaining, quality series, and of late, the only squabble I had was that there were so many running that I was only getting one chapter a month instead of my usual 2-3. Lately, it’s been Naruto, One Piece, Shaman King, Hikaru no Go, Yu Yu Hakusho, Yu-Gi-Oh! Millenium World, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, and Gintama (another series I *really* didn’t care for). That’s 8 series when it’s usually only 5! But Yu-Gi-Oh MW is nearly over and Gintama is temporary, just through the first volume. I was really looking forward to getting thing back to normal (except for the expanded Naruto, which I don’t mind). Instead, I lose a series that I REALLY liked and have to wait 6 months for any new chapters and get stuck with a series that just plain sucks. I’m sorry, there is just nothing funny about Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. It’s stupid characters doing stupid things using stupid jokes.

With the whole library that Viz has access to, this is the best they can come up with, a series that was already being sold as graphic novels? Were sales of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo so bad that they thought this would improve them? Sorry Viz, but just because more people are exposed to a series doesn’t mean they’re going to like it. I hope Viz come to their senses soon and gives us readers back good, quality stories instead of mindless drivel. I get enough of that on TV. I want my reading to be a step up from that, not a step down.