Moriarty the Patriot Vols 1 and 2

Moriarty the Patriot Volume 1 by Ryosuke Takeuchi and Hikaru Miyoshi

I was intrigued by the concept of Moriarty the Patriot, because I was curious how the manga would flip Moriarty from being the antagonist into being the protagonist of his own story. It turns out that Moriarty has an intrinsically sympathetic goal – full scale class warfare! This first volume details how the evil mastermind Moriarty is adopted into a family of nobles, with a slightly sociopathic older brother named Albert who is determined to wage war against the nobility with the benefit of his younger brother’s genius.

The chapters in this first volume often involve an episodic approach to plot, with Moriarty intervening in the lives of people who’ve been taken advantage of by so-called nobility. His focus on revenge is certainly satisfying, and by the end of the volume, he’s surrounded himself with a core group of companions who are similarly bent on striking back against the British class system.

Moriarty the Patriot Volume 2 Ryosuke Takeuchi and Hikaru Miyoshi

I found this second volume a little less interesting because it had more of the expected story beats that I’d assume would show up in a Holmes adaptation. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more Moriarty in this volume. Here the reader sees Takeuchi’s version of Holmes meet Watson and figure out how to deal with his landlady Mrs Hudson. While it was enjoyable, there wasn’t as much dramatic tension because other than his lower class affectation, Holmes is pretty much what one would expect. As Holmes hurdles into his next case, I’m curious to see if he’s going to be at odds with Moriarty once more, and I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen when they start clashing over cases involving spectacularly murdered noblemen.

Chainsaw Man, Vol 1

Chainsaw Man Volume 1 by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Monster or demon hunting manga is a fairly common shonen manga scenario, but Chainsaw Man keeps it fresh, thanks to the introduction of chainsaws!? Actually Denji starts out in such a difficult situation, it is hard not to sympathize with him. He’s sold off some of his organs like his eye and he struggles every day to piece together a meager living from monster hunting, helped out by his pet demon dog Pochita who manages to look adorable despite having a chainsaw for a nose. Denji dreams of the day that he’ll have enough money to actually put jam on the slice of bread that makes up most of his meals, but it wouldn’t be the first volume of a shonen manga if there weren’t some powered up surprises in store for the hero.

There’s a level of off-kilter humor in Chainsaw Man that I find endearing. I found Denji heading into the woods to cut trees with his dog’s chainsaw nose extremely amusing. When Denji tells Pochita that if anything happens to him, the demon is free to take over his body and live his best life, his dog unexpectedly answers saying “I’ll give you my heart, in exchange show me your dreams.” Denji wakes up with his wounds from a recent attack healed, and a chainsaw pull sticking out of his chest. In some illustrated action sequences that show an impressive command of body horror, Denji cuts his way out of a pile of demons do to his sudden ability to manifest chainsaws on the top of his head and one of his arms. An attractive girl accompanied by additional agents suddenly appears and gives him a hug and introduces herself as a devil hunter for public safety. Makita offers him the choice to be slain as a demon or live as her pet, and she’s willing to provide incredibly yummy breakfasts.

Denji has difficulty integrating into his new Public Safety Demon Hunter squad, with some altercations with a new rival, and some funny slice of live scenes that showcase his unending devotion to jam at breakfast. There’s also plenty of juvenile humor as once Denji has the basics of food and shelter secured he promptly decides that his next mission in life is to touch some boobs. Overall, I found the monster fighting, buckets of gore, and humor in Chainsaw Man plenty amusing. Denji is an incredibly damaged but potentially powerful hero, so I’m definitely intrigued by seeing him chainsaw his way through further adventures.

Jujutsu Kaisen, Vol. 1

Jujutsu Kaisen Volume 1 by Gege Akutami

Fending off supernatural threats is a shonen staple, so how does Jujutsu Kaisen stack up? It very much felt like an early effort from a mangaka, which it is, but the first volume has a few flashes of humor and a central premise that is both disgusting and entertaining.

jujutsu kaisen volume 1

Yuji Itadori is a teenager who enjoys hanging out with the occult club despite his superhuman strength and speed. He’s being targeted for his athletic abilities by the track coach, but manages to maintain his new supernatural hobby by winning a bet about his shot put abilities. Megumi Fushiguro, a student from another school with actual occult abilities, is investigating the presence of a cursed object when he encounters Yuji and his new friends. It turns out that the occult club has gotten their hands on an artifact that is actually quite cursed, and Yuji and Megumi have to team up to save his friends from demonic destruction. Along the way, Yuji casually eats a demonic finger in order to get cursed energy to fend off the evil spirits. This ends up giving Yuji a semi-manageable case of spirit possession, but also makes him useful to demon hunters because he’s basically a walking container for cursed objects, as long as he eats them. There’s a particular demon who is the source of the cursed digits, and Yuji is going to join a team hunting down the relics of the evil Sakuna.

The art throughout this volume is serviceable but a bit rough, there’s little mobility in the characters’ facial expressions and while the action scenes are easy to follow they’d be a lot more entertaining with some shifts in perspective or more dynamic paneling. I’m curious to see if the art improves more as the series continues to develop. The demons do look appropriately freaky and scary.

Yuji’s motivations for fighting demons are introduced with a lack of subtly. Then again, I guess one does not expect delicately and subtle plot points from a Shonen Jump manga. There were a few moments that I thought were hilarious enough to be engaging. When Yuji is figuring out how many digits he is going to have to consume, the total number is high due to a surprising reason which is tossed off in casual conversation. I also enjoyed Yuji’s low-key approach to performing dramatic physical feats. The end of the volume sets up the new occult fighting team and their sparsely populated high school that has a curriculum dedicated to fighting evil, and it’ll be interesting to see how that develops. Ultimately this first volume reminded me that sometimes one has to give a manga two volumes before deciding to follow a series or not, and that is what I’ll be doing with Jujutsu Kaisen.

Dr. Stone, Vols 5 and 6

Dr. Stone Volumes 5 and 6 by Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi

Dr. Stone’s science-infused shonen post-apocalyptic story continues to be amusing. The fifth volume works through the shonen staple of a tournament fight in order to decide the chieftain of the small village that Senku intends to use to build his Kingdom of Science. There are opportunities to expound on the benefits of optics in battle, both for improving eyesight and setting things on fire. The tournament doesn’t last overly long though, and Senku turns his attention back to manufacturing basic antibiotics in order to save the life of Kohaku’s sister.

Dr Stone 6

I was glad to see this series take more of a detour into the backstory of the event where everyone turned into stone, with an appearance by Senku’s father who was an astronaut. The decisions he made up in space during the event ended up ensuring that Senku would find allies once he woke up. The contrast between a crew of castaway astronauts living in Senku’s past and building the idea of oral traditions with Senku’s contemporary science-based approach was interesting. The looming possibility of conflict between Senku’s Kingdom of Science and Tsukasa’s growing empire continues, as a raiding party attacks and Senku’s allies narrowly escape. Boichi’s art is always dynamic, but I particularly enjoyed the scenes in this volume where a poisonous wind is portrayed as a terrifying giant looming over the landscape. Occasionally seeing the characters portrayed as tiny against the immense backdrop of nature just brings to home how difficult it is to cobble together a society with only a few resources.

I’m still getting more impatient for another appearance by Taiju, but I’m hoping as Senku and Tsubasa race towards an epic confrontation he shows up again. This is still a fun series because I never know what type of invention will be featured next, and Senku’s cerebral enthusiasm makes him an entertaining shonen protagonist for anyone wanting a slightly different slant on fight scenes.

Dr Stone, Vol. 2

Dr. Stone Volume 2 by Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi

The second volume of Dr. Stone featured fewer scenes of crazy science action, but it did spend a more time on world building and setting up the conflict between the friends Senku and Taiju and newly revived but reactionary classmate Tsukasa. Senku is determined to push technology forward by manufacturing gunpowder, in order to give his group an advantage. The gunpowder sets off a plume of smoke which is answered by another smoke signal, indicating that the teenagers might not be alone in their post-apocalyptic world where everyone has been turned into stone.

Dr Stone 2

There was a flashback chapter showing Senku, Taiju, and Yuzuriha when they were young and pursuing Senku’s childhood dreams of rocketry. It was nice to see a glimpse of this mini friend group as little kids, and it played in well to how they work together to survive a hostile environment. Taiju and Yuzuriha have to figure out how to rescue their mad scientist friend, and we also get a glimpse of what Senku went through on his own, when he was the only human to wake up. There’s still plenty of dynamic science action in Boichi’s art, and while the second volume was a little less entertaining for me than the first simply because I was no longer as diverted by the initial premise of the manga, I’m curious to see how the conflict between Senku and Tsukasa is going to play out over the long term.

Female characters who exist mainly to be decorative and supportive is one of my shonen pet peeves, and at the end of this volume Dr. Stone seems to be heading in that direction. I’m not sure if all the genuinely enjoyable yelling about paleolithic science will be enough to offset those sort of plot developments, but I’ve liked the series so far.