I sat down to write about this week’s fairy tail chapter. This came out instead, probably because there is nothing worth talking about in this week’s fairy tail chapter; not that it was bad, or even good; there was simply nothing in it that happened that is worth writing about, besides the fan service. I expect things to pick up in the next chapter.
Anyway, Hungry Joker is finally over. Pitiful, i say. All that potential, wasted, which leaves me wondering if i should bother with any new manga releases from shonen jump; after all, hungry joker isn’t the only new manga that was highly acclaimed by fans on the internet but which simply didn’t make the cut. Several others have fallen, some before hungry joker, some shortly after, and some expected to follow soon.
Maybe i shouldn’t rush into manga anymore. I have this rule where by i don’t watch a new TV series until it is at least ten episodes into its season, unless it has only 13 episodes in which case i wait until its first season ends before i begin watching it. Because it is around that time (sometimes i will wait till the fifteenth episode) that it is announced whether or not the series will have a second season. If i hear news of cancellation, i don’t bother. Why get so caught up in a show when it is only going to get cancelled. Which is why i didn’t bother with last resort after watching only two episodes, because Alcatraz, while not having the best finale, had none the less intrigued me enough to want to watch more and they cancelled it. So why bother.
I am going to apply this to new manga. If i had waited a few months to hear of Hungry joker’s impending doom, i would have avoided this frustration. None the less since it is over, i thought i would review it as a whole series.
THE PLOT: in case you don’t know…
Haji is a a young genius, spending his days in the lab, assisted by the intern chitose as he delves into the world of the supernatural, in an attempt to discover the truth behind his hidden past, of which he only remembers standing in a field surrounded by shining corpses as a masked figure in black robes smiles. Events pick up when Haiji is called to a similar scene to the one in his memories, with a the body of murdered man found in a random alley way, shining.
With the discovery that there is more truth to his addled mind’s memories than he assumed and further exploration into the black apple, Haiji is thrown into a new world of gods and god like humans. Eureka, of which his apple is one, are powerful tools that, once used/consumed, reveal the truth of God by granting the user great knowledge. For those geniuses of old such as Einstein and Pascal, the Eureka only revealed to them great knowledge. For special humans like Haiji with special bodies, the Eureka grant them great power with which they can combat the Mavro, black gods that seek only to toy with humanity for their pleasure before destroying them over and over again. But the use of Eureka isn’t without consequences as the gallons of blood Haiji is seen to regurgitate each time he consumes more of the apple to gain more of its power prove. None the less he vows to push ahead no matter the consequences in search for the answers he seeks. Who is he and why does he exist?
I am angry that this manga was treated as such. I love all sorts of manga but their is something about battle manga, that is mostly about heroes that fight again and again while getting stronger each time, that endears itself to me. it is the kind of entertainment that can pick me up no matter what my mood is because, even with complex stories, the purpose of each chapter is to entertain you as much as possible with mind blowing action, awesome power ups and insidious villains. I love shonen and specifically battle manga. But i have to wonder if it isn’t a dying breed of manga. When all the popular stuff ends what will come after.
I once spoke of what would replace the big three, but i never considered it seriously until now that there might be nothing to replace them. Maybe Japanese tastes are changing. Actually i will fault the Japanese for their shallow taste. I have come across some of the manga that was chosen over Hungry joker and while it wasn’t bad, a lot of it simply wasn’t on hungry joker’s level in terms of complexity.
What it did offer was very quick and immediate gratification, with instant revelations, power ups and fights. I have said it before that naruto and One peice would never have survived past ten chapters if they were released today. Like hungry joker these two series required a considerable amount of time to set up their worlds and rules before getting down to the point. New manga, most of what i have seen, doesn’t do that anymore because no one has the patience of that. Hungry joke felt rushed because it needed time to set up its world and to create new characters. That wasn’t acceptable i guess. Now i am getting a little irritated, probably because i have done this before, started a manga that i thought sounded interesting based on the synopsis and dropped it three chapters later because it was not gratifying me instantly.
So i guess the landscape of manga is changing . As otaku we are no longer patient, or willing to wait for a series to pick up to speed from a slow start. We want to be satiated instantly and that is leading us to miss out on some really good manga just because they like to take their time. Or maybe recent manga is very shallow, unwilling to create complexity because it doesn’t think we as otaku would stand by it. I get that it is shonen but it has been a while since mindlessly violent manga in which characters fought for the sake of fighting was popular.
Hungry joker is one casualty of this. I would rate the story with a perfect 5/5 not because of what it became but because of what it could have become. There was so much potential in the plot, so many places that Tabata could have gone, yet he was forced to make compromises and produce a shallow rushed story because of the fear of being cancelled. The world was interesting, with the Mavro who masqueraded as gods but whose story would have been an interesting one to explore. The characters were fun. Haiji was so clueless and stoic that everything that came out of his mouth was almost always funny depending who he was interacting with. He attracted people to himself the way Luffy does in one piece, collecting this conflicting and contrasting group of Eureka users each with their own failings beside which they were still willing to fight day in and day out to save humanity.
Each had a story that could have gone so far, possibly making them iconic characters in manga. But we will never see any of it, learn of Vivie’s life as the feared and loathed daughter of a rich family because of her eureka power, understand what Nils’ life was like in his former town and exactly who her grandmother was in the grand scheme of mavro Vs. humanity; then there is Haiji’s brother and the reason he did what he did to his sibling. We knew we would see Haiji change and become something other than what he was, and we see that at the end but again it doesn't make sense because we haven’t seen any of these so called bonds he speaks about.
I won’t even bother with the last chapter because it was so rushed. It irks me that we stopped after a one page time skip just as the invasion was about to begin; we didn’t even get to see the Mavro world. But tabata did his best to show us as much of his Hungry joker story as he could before time ran out. I can’t really complain. The first 15 chapters were all perfect, constantly building upon what they had created before and just entertaining the hell out of me.
Of course the action is one of the manga’s highlights, not only because of the unique nature of the powers but because of Tabata’s art. I found it nebulous and somewhat off the first time i read hungry joker. But five chapters in something changed. I began to see the uniqueness of each page, the idea of what Tabata was trying to do. Most mangaka might think that making a good manga comes down to the most detailed and impeccable art. i think it is all about bringing a new experience to the reader. Tabata did that. Every chapter detailed every battle as briefly as possible while keeping things fresh and eye catching. I will miss it.
Ultimately though, i might conclude that Tatabata might have been his own worst enemy. Sure he was being pressured with the idea of cancellation; but he was cancelled at chapter 24 not 2. Maybe if he had stuck to his guns and continued to write and draw the story exactly as he had planned it, with the exact kind of pacing he wished it to have, it would have thrived. Maybe it is because he rushed that he sealed his own fate. It might have been better to show us what he had in mind and hopefully some otaku out their might have been convinced that the series wasn’t the confused mess they believed it to be. Then again i might be saying that because i was just recently watching Bakuman and a similar situation happened in which mashiro and takagi had to choose between changing things up to hook readers and increase their rankings or sticking to their original pacing and seeing what happens.
I think Tabata made a mistake in letting the pressure get to him. But i might be wrong.
I am not sure who to blame, the readers or shonen jump? I will choose to blame the readers because shonen jump is a business that exists to make money. They had to make decisions based on what will increase profits, not to take leaps of faith. I will also blame Tabata for giving into pressure and messing up his own story. I can’t say i am optimistic about the future of manga. I am all for intricately plotted series with mature themes, but i love my battle manga. I want to be stunned by a cool move or have my jaw dropped by an unexpected defeat or victory. I love the excitement of a good battle manga as much as i love being blown away by a great story. Sometimes i can get both. Either way, this is the end and i am disappointed.
Story: 3/5, my rating after I managed to clear my mind of bias for a few seconds