The Best, Worst, and Skeeviest Summer Manga to Shonen Jump Into

Many contenders to the empty shonen throne cropped up this summer.

A lot of people have been talking about the future of Shonen Jump now that big-name series like Kimetsu no Yaiba, The Promised Neverland, and Haikyuu have ended. Fortunately, it seems Shonen Jump has been stocking up for the famine. Sleeper hits like Chainsaw Man and Spy x Family are gaining momentum. And new series have been launching at a furious pace since December of last year — 14 so far, or nearly one every two weeks. Two have already been canceled, but out of the remaining 12, are any really fit successors to those that came before them? Let’s run them down and find out, in order of oldest to newest!

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Agravity Boys

Summary: Humanity is destroyed in a nuclear war — and the boys on the colony ship bound for ⍺-Jumbro might be the only survivors. But between the higher being toying with them and their own teenage hormones, can they really handle the responsibility?

Here’s the litmus test for Agravity Boys: it is very much the kind of thing you’d expect from four actual teen boys, meaning it’s preoccupied with sex (including some transphobic jokes, unfortunately), occasionally scatological (there’s a running joke about one character’s hemorrhoids), and generally very dumb. If this sounds off-putting to you, you will probably not enjoy Agravity Boys. If it doesn’t, though, there’s a solid manga somewhere in there. Juvenile or not, it can be genuinely funny, and the art’s quite nice to look at. The characters are rather one-note, but at the end of the day, it’s a gag series. Psychological acuity would probably only hurt it.

Undead Unluck

Summary: Fuuko Izumo is cursed with a body that brings catastrophic bad luck to anyone who touches her. But for :Andy” — cursed with an inability to die — her power is his lucky break! Together, they’re bringing down the biggest stroke of unluck the world’s ever seen!

I adore this series. Not unconditionally, of course. The art is no better than adequate, and it can be uncomfortably grope-y, especially in the first few chapters. Putting that aside, Undead Unluck might be one of the most intriguing, well-constructed shonen action series I’ve seen in a long time. The powers are simple, highly specific, and used in creative ways reminiscent of Hunter x Hunter or Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. It’s not just a question of who punches harder. The mechanics of the world are complex and fascinating, unfolding in ways that are both surprising and make perfect sense. The characters are nuanced and charming, their relationships believable. If this doesn’t get an anime, I’ll be surprised; if it doesn’t run to its intended ending, I’ll be heartbroken.

Mashle: Magic and Muscles

Summary: Mash Vandead is born without magic in a world where magic is everything. What he does have: muscles. Now he’s aiming to flex on society by succeeding at magic school and becoming god’s chosen!

It’s bad… Okay, I should probably go into a bit more detail than that. The premise could be funny in theory, but in practice, the series has one joke and it doesn’t even tell it well. Mash has the personality of a potato. The setting makes no sense. The art is middling to poor (its wobbliness occasionally sells reaction shots in a way reminiscent of Mob Psycho 100, but for the most part, it’s visually unimpressive and uninteresting). Even the gimmick isn’t that different from Jump’s own Black Clover. There is truly nothing to recommend it.

Moriking

Summary: When the rhinoceros beetle larva raised by Shota Aikawa hatches into a gorgeous man claiming to be King of the Insects, it’s Shota’s sister Shoko who finds her life thrown into chaos as human insects start to swarm!

There are a few solid gag series in the new crop of Shonen Jump, and Moriking was the first of the batch. There’s not much to say about it, other than that it’s good. The art is simple and cute, the sense of humor is very deadpan, just letting the absurdity play out for us to watch, and the cast is sympathetic and likeable enough to laugh with rather than at. All in all, a good showing.

Bone Collection

Summary: Kazami Jinai is an exorcist with no powers other than the forbidden Yokai Spell, which borrows the strength of yokai. Paira is an SSS-Rank yokai who wants him to use up her powers so she can become human. Together, they’ll turn the exorcist world upside-down!

I like this one more than it probably deserves. It’s ecchi (sort of) but in a very old-fashioned sort of way; the scenarios are suggestive, and it can be kind of sexist in that typical Shonen Jump way, but the camera itself is never especially leery. The art’s charmingly squishy, but able to pull out some decent action when necessary. The powers themselves are fairly interesting and creative, too. Nothing special, but good enough for what it’s trying to do.

Oh… and the way they draw tity has a really nice, realistic weight to it. What can I say? I’m weak and gay and that is not a given in Shonen Jump.

Time Paradox Ghostwriter

Summary: Teppei Sasaki is a struggling manga artist desperate to get a series in Shonen Jump when a miracle happens — he gets his hands on an issue from 10 years in the future, featuring the beginning of the most brilliant manga he’s ever seen! He decides to copy it and pass it off as his, but is that really alright?

This one’s interesting. It’s got a killer premise: unique, intriguing, and full of potential. The art’s detailed and evocative. The character writing is sharp, with a focus on Teppei’s insecurity and sense of inadequacy. The problem is that it’s aimless. For the first seven or so chapters, I couldn’t shake the sense that it hadn’t yet gotten to the crux of the story. There was one beautiful moment where I thought the real story was finally going to begin… only to be let down as it immediately began spinning its wheels again.

I’m really hoping this one pulls itself together and manages to deliver on some of its own potential. It’s nice to see something so different from the usual Action, Comedy, and Action-Comedy that make up the majority of Shonen Jump manga. But I wouldn’t be even a little surprised if Time Paradox Ghostwriter got itself canceled first.

Ayakashi Triangle

Summary: Suzu Kanade possesses a power irresistible to yokai. Her childhood friend, exorcist Matsuri Kazamaki, barely manages to seal the powerful yokai Shirogane before he consumes her, but in the process, Matsuri’s turned into a girl! Is befriending Shirogane the only way for him to go back?

It’s ecchi. Sometimes, that’s all you need to know. It’s not awful. The characters are charming enough; it’s pleasant to look at (even if the anatomy is questionable at times). But it’s leery by definition, and Matsuri’s gender-swap is pure fetish material rather than having anything interesting to say about gender or sexuality. Do you want to see a close-up shot of a high school boy-turned-girl’s fundoshi? If so, I guess Ayakashi Triangle has you covered. But you’d probably be better off with some actual hentai.

Magu-chan: God of Destruction

Summary: Elder god Magu Menueku finally breaks free from 600 years in a sealing crystal, but his powers are all gone! Can he make the girl who saves him, Ruru, into his minion? Or will she make him her friend first?

Magu-chan is my personal favorite out of the gag series. Sure, the art isn’t the best. But it’s charming and warm-hearted, with a solid focus on Ruru’s genuine affection and sympathy for Magu and his enthusiastically disastrous attempts to win her over via displays of prowess like “destroying a hurricane” or “vacuuming the house.” Powerful, ostensibly evil beings put in mundane situations is always a recipe for success in my book.

Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin

Summary: Boyle Samejima is a maverick cop who doesn’t play by the rules — which is why he’s transferred from Tokyo to the southernmost island of Japan. But rather than jaywalkers, he’s stuck dealing with… a girl raised by a dolphin cult and bipedal fish-people!?

This is mesmerizingly weird. I have no idea where it’s going. Will it be episodic, focusing on dealing with the aquatic criminal of the week, or have an overarching plot focusing on figuring out how to stop the rise of ocean crime in the first place? The series is still too new to say. But either way, I’m feeling it. Even beyond the fascinating and bizarre premise, it’s funny, with a deadpan sense of humor that comes from nonchalantly terrible puns and applying cliche buddy cop tropes to a bipedal dolphin man. I don’t know how much staying power it’ll have, but if it can keep its current level of energy, we might have a solid action-comedy series.

Me & Roboco

Summary: Bondo Taira wants a robot maid more than anything, but instead of an adorable android, the one he finds himself with is buff, incompetent, and as confusing as she is confused! Who or what is Roboco? No one knows, but Bondo’s life just got a lot more interesting!

As far as gag manga go, this is bordering on flatout absurdism. Roboco herself is a source of endless chaos — between her clumsy attempts at being a maid and her gag-loaded body — but the rest of the cast isn’t far behind. Bondo’s mom is always seen carrying a kitchen knife, no matter what she’s doing; his friends(?) are simultaneously bullies and extremely nice. They come over to harass him and bring cream puffs. It’s that kind of series. The characters still manage to be likeable, though, mostly because they all mean so well.

The art’s cute. It’s simple in a cartoonish, retro way, but able to pull out the detail when necessary. Whether it’s funny is a matter of taste. It tends to overexplain the joke, if that’s a turn-off for you. But it’s definitely worth a shot if it seems like your thing.

Kaiju No. 8

Summary: Kafka Hibino has always wanted to fight kaiju, but he’s stuck on cleanup duty after failing the defense force exams. When he’s suddenly turned into a kaiju himself, will it be his last chance at his dream, or will he be the next target?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: yes, this is very reminiscent of Attack on Titan. For what it’s worth, “use the power of your enemy against them, while earning the trust of those who fear you’ll turn on them” is a classic Shonen Jump action trope. Out of current series alone, Chainsaw Man and Jujutsu Kaisen (maybe even Bone Collection) could also be described that way. But Attack on Titan is still the obvious touchstone. Combine that with an opening arc very reminiscent of the entrance exams in My Hero Academia, and Kaiju No. 8 starts to look a bit derivative.

It’s Shonen Jump, though. It’s all some degree of derivative. What matters is how well it’s executed — and Kaiju No. 8 executes pretty damn well. Kafka is in his 30s, which is both a nice change from the usual teenagers and a way to really sell his desperation not to be caught in a dead-end job for the rest of his life. The monster designs and the art are also solid. The characters are likeable and, against all odds, it is not actually skeevy towards women! Maybe it’s not such generic Shonen Jump after all.

GHOST REAPER GIRL

Summary: C-List actress Chloe Love is irresistible to evil spirits. Lucky for her, Ghost Reaper Kai Iod’s job is to clean them up, and he’s her biggest (read: only) fan! With her as vessel and him as familiar, they’re putting on a live-action sequel to Chloe’s late-night action flop Ghost Reaper Girl!

This is better than it has any right to be. Yes, it can be a bit skeevy… Kai is partially into Chloe because she looks like a teenager despite being almost 30. Not to mention her battle outfit (courtesy of him) is revealing and impractical. Even so, the camera itself never leers at her, and Chloe is not only very much an adult, she’s tough as nails and has no time for Kai’s pervy antics. The art’s lovely, though the contrast between the semi-realistic world and the hyper-cartoony ghosts (they all look a bit like Slimer from Ghostbusters) is distracting. I’m hesitant to pass judgement with only two chapters out, but so far, Ghost Reaper Girl looks like a solid action series with a great lead.

Whether you’re looking for action, comedy, or boobs, there should be something for you in the new crop of Shonen Jump series. If you’re looking for anything else… Well, this might not be the magazine for you.

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