The State of Shonen Jump in May 2021

Updated: Jan 19

Manga is such a niche genre, especially in regard to Weekly Shonen Jump. The moment a series starts to show even a hint of a decline in readership, boom, it gets canned.

And because of this, it’s always important to check out whatever good manga there’s going around at the moment to make sure one that you might like doesn’t get prematurely cancelled. And that’s the point of this post.

Currently, Shonen Jump magazine publishes 20 different series every week, each one being completely different to the last. And in this post, I’m gonna go through all the ones that I think are worth talking about to give you an idea of which manga are worth reading and which ones you might like.

Before I get into the list, I want to quickly go over how I like to categorize each manga in Shonen Jump. First are the Big Boys, these are the manga that are Jump front runners, they’ve been serialized for a while now and even have popular anime adaptations. Currently there are five Big Boys: One Piece, My Hero Academia, Black Clover, Dr. Stone and Jujutsu Kaisen.

Then we have the Middle Boys, these are manga that have run longer than most without being cancelled and seem to be going places. Right now, these include: Mashle: Magic and Muscle, Undead Unluck and Mission: Yokazura Family.

And lastly, we have the newbies which comprise the remaining catalogue of Shonen Jump and I think the title says it all. They’re relatively new manga that still have to prove that they’re good enough for Jump.

For the sake of variety, I’m not gonna talk about One Piece or My Hero Academia in specific because both of these are already really popular, and I can’t really say much else about them that I haven’t said already.

Also, as of writing this, the last Jump issue to come out was the double issue #21/#22, so all of the opinions expressed in this post are from everything up to this point.

The Elusive Samurai by Yusei Matsui

Current number of Chapters: 14

I don’t think I’ve ever dropped a manga chapter half-way through. I mean, it takes so little to read a chapter that even if I’m not having fun, I almost always at the very least finish it. But The Elusive Samurai changed that.

The first chapter of this manga is so confusing, so poorly paneled, and the plot happens so fast that I’m only thirty pages in and I’m already completely lost. When it first came out, I heavily disliked it and didn’t even bother finishing the first chapter. I thought it wouldn’t take long for the series to drop in readership over the confusing plot and would soon be cancelled.

However, to my shock, The Elusive Samurai became one of the most popular and successful Jump series in a long time. Consistently reaching top 5 in the rankings. Heck, on one week in particular, it was number one. Granted, One Piece, My Hero Academia and Jujutsu Kaisen were all absent that week, but it still beat out the other two big boys Black Clover and Dr. Stone in terms of sheer popularity.

And after a few weeks, I begrudgingly decided to give the series a second chance to see if I can understand were all the hype is coming from. And you know what, reading it from a fresh point of view, I actually really like it and it might actually be my favorite newbie series currently in serialization.

In its core, The Elusive Samurai is a story tailor made for the Japanese. It takes place in 1333 and follows the tale of a young samurai who was heir to his father’s throne before his dad’s rival killed his entire family and exiled him. Now, he must overcome his shortcomings and kill the man who assassinated his father and take back his rightful place.

There are a lot of references to various aspects of how Japan was at the time and the manga also explores a lot of both modern and ancient Japanese culture, couple this with how complicated and confusing the story can be, and I can start to understand why I didn’t like it in my first go around and why many westerners feel the same way.

However, if you pay the attention that it needs and look past all the elements you might not understand. What you have is an extremely compelling coming of age story with a distinct Japanese setting and a lot of grotesque and beautifully paneled action sequences that you won’t soon forget. The characters are great, the story is hard to follow but still very engaging and overall, I definitely understand why this series is so popular.

Of course, the manga is only a handful of chapters in, but I’m already extremely invested in the story of Hojo Toriyuki. His quest to perfectly balance his skills of running away with his fighting skills make for a lot of compelling arcs, especially when he faces enemies from his past.

Each of the side-characters have enough depth to them for them to feel like actual characters even though we’ve barely known them for long. And the way the series builds up to Hojo’s big character moments is extremely satisfying and really makes me want to root for the guy.

I definitely recommend this one but be warned that you’re going to need to pay a lot of attention in order to fully understand the story and not get lost.

Nine Dragon’s Ball Parade: Story by: Mikiyasu Kamada, Art by Ashibi Fukui

Current Number of Chapters: 11

Baseball! Now, I want to clarify that my knowledge of the sport only goes as far as Super Mario Sluggers on the Nintendo Wii. But I feel like I can still give a good critique on a series I find slightly problematic.

Nine Dragon’s Ball Parade is the classic sport underdog story. Like Space Jam or the Benchwarmers if you know what that is.

It’s about this guy who trains for a long time to get into this elite baseball team, only to fail miserably and lose his spot on the team. But then, another one of the really good players from the playouts asks him if he wants to form a different elite baseball team to take out the ones that rejected him. And so, the tale of the underdogs begins.

This story starts off really promising, there’s a lot of great set-up and interesting long-term potential that can come from an underdog series like this, kind of reminds me of Naruto in some respects. Currently, the characters are trying to find recruits for their baseball team, and this type of recruitment arcs are really compelling to me cause we get to meet and get to know a lot of interesting characters in succession, similar to the East Blue arc from One Piece.

However, after keeping up with this series for eleven chapters, I’m starting to see a few cracks in an otherwise promising simple concept.

First of all, the art-style. It’s not a bad art-style by any means, but boy is it weak, especially in comparison to its other Jump peers. It’s hard to put my finger in it exactly, though it has to do with the simplicity of it all, an art-style so simplistic that a lot of expression is lost. It feels like every page is giving off the exact same vibe or expression while never being able to truly fluctuate. It’s not to say that the simplicity itself is bad, it’s just not very expressive.

A good comparison of this simplicity done better can be seen in something like early One Piece. In these pages, Oda also uses a very simplistic and cartoony art-style, but each page feels so expressive and filled with life, with this art-style, you can feel the sadness, anger, happiness, laughter coming from the characters. And this is because the people in Oda’s world are currently moving their faces and bodies, giving off a different vibe depending on which point in the story they are. But in Nine Dragon’s, it feels like the story is just always happy, the characters simply don’t have much facial expressions, which makes the more dramatic moments feel less intense. And details like these hit me like a brick whenever I read a chapter every week.

On top of that, the most recent arc relating to a character called Subaki really made the series drag for me and went on for much longer than it should have. There just aren’t any really interesting character here and the ones that were compelling have taken a backseat. Which made me question whether the writer has an actual plan for how this story is going to go.

And this is being reflected in the rankings, Nine Dragon’s Ball Parade has been consistently at the bottom of the reader base since it started and unless it starts to pick up, I don’t see it going up.

I still think the series has a lot of potential so I wouldn’t completely discard it yet. But at the rate it’s going, it needs to pick it’s slack back up quick in order to survive the Jump axing session and earn my proper recommendation. So, for now, I’m staying cautiously optimistic.

Mashle: Magic and Muscle by Hajime Komoto

Current Number of Chapters: 60

This might be one of the dumbest and most unoriginal concepts for a story that somehow managed to workout.

Mashle: Magic and Muscle is the story of Mash Burndead, a magic-less man who was born into a society of wizards, were anybody who can’t use magic is executed.

Even though he shouldn’t exist, Mash was taken in by a caring old man who hid him from the rest of society. Until one day they’re discovered and the only way that Mash can stay alive is to graduate from Hogwarts.

Okay, to start off, like I mentioned earlier, one of the things that you’ll immediately notice about this manga is its lack of originality. The world that it takes place in is a clear knock-off of Harry Potter and the twist to make it somewhat more original (being the fact that Mash can’t use magic, and instead, relies on his herculean muscles) is ripped straight out of Fist of the North Star.

Most chapters in the first half of the series will follow Mash as he achieves impossible feat after impossible feat using his muscles instead of magic and then seeing the shocked faces of everyone around him.

This type of premise has been done to death many times in the past, and it’s definitely been done better with manga like: Dragon Ball, One Piece and Yu-gi-oh!

But, even with this, the story does have a charm to it. Yes, it can get a little repetitive, and yes, it is very unoriginal, but seeing all the completely ludicrous and ridiculous ways that Mash breaks reality to achieve these impossible feats never really stops being funny. Plus, there’s constant new characters introduced to keep things fresh and each one is surprisingly compelling. Having their own unique personalities, motives, and backstories that all add something new to the table that doesn’t feel forced or annoying.

On top of all this, half-way through, the series takes a pretty unexpected turn that somehow managed to take the manga in new and interesting directions. I’m not gonna spoil it, but from a certain point onward, things start to feel more original, there’s more depth to the characters, there’s more of an immediate goal and Mash feels like he’s getting an actual challenge.

The whole thing is actually really entertaining and even before the twist, the episodic-like structure was really fun to read through.

If there’s anything I could complain about the manga it would have to be the paneling. It’s not bad, but it sure is repetitive. There are so many occasions were the characters are talking and the mangaka uses the exact same drawing of the characters back and forth while they’re dialoguing. I get that it’s to save time, but it really takes me out of the story, it makes me realize that I’m reading a manga and I’m not part of the universe.

But overall, if you want a fun comedy with compelling characters, then I definitely recommend this one.

i tell c by Kazusa Inaoka

Current number of Chapters: 13

What the fuck is this manga? Out of all the Shonen Jump manga I’ve read in my life i tell c is by far one of the most bizarre and structurally perplexing manga I’ve read in a long time and not in a good way.

Well okay, it’s not all bad. The series actually has a pretty strong first chapter and an interesting enough premise. The story follows this girl called Aioi, a police investigator who falls in love with the perpetrators that she investigates and arrests. And because she’s so in love with them, she knows everything about the perpetrators and that means she’s really good at stalking, catching, and eventually sending them to prison.

Like I mentioned before, the first chapter is actually quite good, most of it is from the perspective of the murderer of the case as he’s questioned by the police, hiding evidence, and avoiding anything that might incriminate him. For the whole thing, Aioi is portrayed as this dark figure who basically works as the red-herring of this case only for it to be revealed at the end that it was actually the protagonist.

As a one and done short story like manga, this would have worked fine. But it doesn’t take long after the first chapter for i tell c to nosedive to the side of a fucking cliff.

Simply put, the gimmick of having a detective fall in love with the criminals just does not get better the second time around. Very quickly to you realize that the writer has absolutely no idea where the story is going to go and is just trying to make something work with his very restrictive and honestly lame premise.

And he tries all kinds of things to try and make it more interesting, at one point the final boss-esc villain of the series just randomly shows up and then leaves for no reason, one of the main characters of the manga dies extremely early on. Heck, the entire thing pretty much did a massive soft-reboot in chapter 11 that changed everything while somehow managing to not change anything at all.

None of the characters are particularly interesting or relatable. Most of them are just crazy and the ones that aren’t are just boring from a lack of development. And while the art-style is okay, it doesn’t really bring things together or do interesting with the art. Not to mention that the detective element that attracted me to the story to begin with is thrown out the window almost immediately.

In the state it’s in right now, the manga is a dumpster fire of a story that just has no idea what it wants to be. And this is being reflected in the rankings as i tell c is consistently reaching the bottom three alongside Nine Dragon’s Ball Parade.

I don’t wanna be a pessimist and say that the series is as good as cancelled, but in the state it’s in now, I cannot recommend it and I don’t think it’ll take long for Jump to feel the same way.

Blue Box by Kouji Miura

Current number of Chapters: 3

Shonen Jump is usually known for being a magazine filled with series of muscular men screaming and hitting each other with big, exaggerated power moves. But in the manga scene, that’s far from the case and Blue Box is an excellent example of that.

This is by far the most Shojo-like manga in Jump right now. The story follows a badminton player that falls in love with a basketball girl that’s way out of his league and all the witty romantic issues that arise from this.

The story is entirely predictable and has all the tropes of your average anime-romantic-comedy. But I kind of like it because of this.

It’s a very feel good manga, the art-style is so detailed yet so clean and beautiful I could probably look at it for hours. And while the story is something you’ve probably seen before already, it’s still so cute that you want to keep reading to see if the two love-interests finally get together. The whole thing just makes me feel good about myself, not to mention that it serves as a nice calm break from all the pain and terror currently going on in One Piece and My Hero Academia.

However, even though I do enjoy a lot of these aspects. The manga is still a generic romantic-comedy with not much new to bring to the table. And after only three chapters, I’m starting to feel it drag slightly. There’s just not a lot you can do long-term with such a simple concept, and the tropes are starting to become less cute and more annoying.

I still think it has promise, but it’s hard to tell whether this will actually become something worthwhile or if the author will fuck it up, and I can see it going both ways. Nevertheless, it’s still too early to tell so what its fate is, so I would stay cautiously optimistic.

Candy Flurry: Story by Ippon Takegushi Art by Santa Mitarashi

Current number of Chapters: 2

I wanna say straight up that I’m definitely not much of a sweets guy, and this manga doesn’t help.

Candy Flurry takes place in a world where people who eat a specific kind of candy gain powers dependent on which candy, they eat, turning them into sweet-users. And the powers these people gain is so huge that a certain lollipop-user managed to destroy Tokyo with their sweet-powers.

In its core, the story follows a high-school girl who has the powers of a lollipop-user but claims that she isn’t the one who destroyed Tokyo, but that can’t be because there’s only one of each type of sweet-user. So, her quest to prove her innocence start.

Okay, to start, the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of this manga is the Whole Cake Island arc from One Piece (god I talk about this series a lot). In fact, the candy and sweet-users power system is a borderline knock-off of the Devil Fruits from One Piece. However, I guess it’s different enough for me to call it an homage instead considering the fact that the abilities themselves vary heavily.

But even with that, I still think that there are a lot of problems with just the first two chapters of the manga, elements that really leave a sour taste in my mouth. There are two main aspects of the story: the characters and the sweet-users power system.

Starting with the power/fighting system, I just think the sweet-users are way to gimmicky and simply doesn’t give you much room to be creative with them. Taking the Devil Fruits for comparison, in One Piece, there’s a lot you can do with them, there’s a Devil Fruit that turns you into rubber, there’s a Devil Fruit that gives you the abilities of a certain animal, there’s a Devil Fruit that gives you access to a real-world debug menu, heck, there’s an entire category of Devil Fruits dedicated to just candy.

It works in One Piece because you have a lot of options, but when you restrict yourself to just sweets, things get very restrictive very fast. And it makes it so that the fights get repetitive and uninteresting cause you can only take the gimmick so far. Even though it sounds weird, there just isn’t much you can do fighting-wise with a giant lollipop or giant donuts to make the physical conflict exciting to watch.

And in terms of the story and characters, there’s simply just not much to it, the characters are entirely superficial. While the main girl has some development to her, there just isn’t much for you to latch onto especially with how little the story makes you feel empathy for her. And then you have the main guy who is just the most annoying character that adds nothing to the plot and is only there to have long expository dialogue with the protagonist.

At the point, the manga is in right now, after only two chapters, I’m already uninterested as to what happens to the characters.

Once again, I don’t want to be a pessimist and say that the story doesn’t work and needs to be cancelled, but it really needs to improve in a lot of aspects. In my opinion, this manga will probably have the same fate as Build King and Zip-man, stories that had gimmicky power systems that didn’t know what to do with them and had no strong story and characters to give the manga life.

It’s still too early to tell, but as of now, I’ll say I’m cautiously pessimistic.

In this post, I talked about all the manga I had things to say about or I just wanted to talk about. But of course, this is far from the complete profile of all the Shonen Jump manga currently publishing.

A few months from now, I might come back to this topic and talk about the series I didn’t mention here or give updates on manga I did talk about. But if you’re interested, here’s my tier list of all the currently running Shonen Jump manga:

Must Read: One Piece, My Hero Academia

Recommended: The Elusive Samurai, Mashle: Magic and Muscle, Sakamoto Days

Cautiously Optimistic: Blue Box, Nine Dragon’s Ball Parade

Cautiously Pessimistic: Candy Flurry

Not a bad Read, but not a very good one either: Witch Watch

Not Recommended: i tell c

Haven’t read/caught up to: Black Clover, Dr. Stone, Jujutsu Kaisen, Me and Robocco, Magu-chan God of Destruction, Mission Yokazura Family, Undead Unluck, Hard-boiled Cop and Dolphin, High School Family, Ayakashi Triangle

Thank you for reading all the way to the end of the post! If you liked what you read, then make sure to subscribe to The Lechuga newsletter or follow the Instagram account @the_lechuga_adrian to get notified of new posts.

Are there any Shonen Jump manga you have opinions on? Make sure to let me know in the comments!

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