The Kazé editions invite us to discover Tokyo Shinobi Squad, short series in 3 volumes of two mangakas from Weekly Shonen Jump: Yuki Tanaka, Kento Matsuura. As a reminder, the Weekly Shonen Jump or Jump is an institution in Japan, a real incubator of talents and series that have become cult. This magazine has a unique function. It pre-publishes the first chapters of new series every week and analyzes the reactions of its readers. A series lacking in popularity will quickly disappear, after 6 months or even sooner. This is what happened to Toyko Shinobi Squadwhose editorial career in Jump came to an end. We would like to thank the Kazé editions for taking the risk of publishing the three volumes in French. After reading the 1 st , despite reservations about the content, the choice of the French publisher remains very consistent.
Tokyo Shinobi Squad : big trouble in neo Tokyo
2029 the Japanese government launches the “Galapagos” reform. The country opens up completely by connecting to the global hyperloop network. Inside, Japanese standards fade away in favor of the rules of hypermondialization. 20 years later, the report is bitter. The country is the prey of gangs. Endogenous and exogenous violence plagues the streets while political power sinks into disavowal. Symbol of this fall, Tokyo bears the inglorious title of “the most dangerous city in the world”.
In this urban chaos, the shinobi reappeared. Some serve crime, others put their talents at the service of justice. This is the case with Jin and his “Narumi” clan who roam the streets at night. During one of his missions, he comes to the aid of Enh, a young Thai boy with a valuable scroll. Jin decides to take him under his wing and integrate him into his clan because the young refugee has a much sought-after talent: his ability to memorize everything in a short time. Here he is, a full member of the team as missions follow one another against the most dangerous criminals and the most devious of misguided shinobi.
A story at the crossroads of genres
This first volume lays the foundations for a mood manga. Indeed, the authors are inspired by the codes, the narration specific to American comics. Tokyo 2049 is Gotham City, a dark city despite the neon lights, a cursed city on the verge of collapse. This opus sets up a very original atmosphere: a heaviness, a disillusion. Two worlds can be observed: that of the day when the appearances of serenity seem to be preserved; that of the night when the metropolis is delivered to the forces of darkness.
This atmosphere is coupled with a western side. The series is indeed eyeing both Cowboy Bebop and the films of Sergio Leone. The Narumi clan works as bounty hunters, mercenaries or bodyguards like the Bebop team. What differentiates them from the shadow clans is their code of honor, which they respect like the cowboy bebop heroes. This parallel with Watanabe's series is also found in the characterization of the characters: Jin the daredevil looks like Spike, the sensual Papillon evokes Faye Valentine. And as with Sergio Leone, the heroes have an easy answer, play with cynicism and do not shy away from violence.
The story finally combines two other influences: ninjas and the City Hunter spirit . Indeed, we are facing ninjas who wield the sword well, the shurikens but also special abilities (electricity, cold). This further accentuates the link with comics. The author thus borrows the format of City Hunter, with a procedural plot. The narration of this introductory volume in fact presents us with successive missions in the heart of the metropolis (recovering industrial secrets, protecting models). These seemingly unrelated adventures are resolved in a few chapters. A choice that fits well with the construction of the story but which may explain the fate of this series.
Tokyo Shinobi Squad of e action and immersion in Japan fears
Show enthusiasts will be delighted by this first volume. Indeed, the drawings are a real added value. Very appreciable indeed are the plates describing this neo-Tokyo with Gothamian verticality. Likewise, the artists took a neo-futuristic approach to Tokyo: cutting-edge technologies but no flying cars or floating houses. This reinforces the immersion in the story when the reader recognizes typical districts of Tokyo plunged into decay.
The fights effectively punctuate T okyo Shinobi Squad from the first to the last square. The manga is based on very well drawn, dynamic scenes, alternating wide shots and close-ups. The mix between ancestral techniques and "abilities" works wonderfully. The same fight transports you to Ghost of Tsushima and then to Naruto . The antagonists are also quickly building up which bodes well for epic head-to-head futures.
One of the interesting elements of this story is its social subtext. If the explanation of political chaos is done in a few boxes and is much too fast or even frustrating, elements arranged in the narration enrich the speech. The story is based on fears rooted in the Japanese unconscious: the fear of dissolving in globalization, the question of immigration and decline. The manga also addresses in this introduction the theme of interbreeding and its irruption in Japanese culture. We finally find the fear of the disappearance of Japan imagined here in the form of this urban chaos.
Tokyo Shinobi squad : a manga that arrives too late
An impression emerges at the end of the first act of the series; that of a story that lacks a little something. The universe on the one hand does not mark the reader enough. The elements are there, however: social discourse, the atmosphere, the mystique. But the authors do not deepen enough the intrigue, the societal explanation or even the origin of the powers.
The series also suffers from one of its qualities. She borrows from many registers and ultimately doesn't quite know what she is. She defines herself as a shonen who explores darker paths while remaining cool and funny. And the division of the narration into successive missions struggles to set a clearly assumed and defined tone.
We can also say that this series suffers from its themes, interesting but very present in the current world of manga. Discovery of power, underground crime, integration of a clan, ninja. These ideas are already at the heart of the intrigues of Naruto, My Hero Academia or Mission Yozakura family . Tokyo Shinobi squad therefore faces strong competition and does not yet manage to show its difference. This may explain its stop in Japan: it deals just well with ideas that its competitors have transcended.
At the end of this first volume, we have to recognize that we have the right to an honest work carried by very beautiful drawings and a desire to cross multiple genres. This introduction bodes well for a pleasant series if it is not original in its script. Tokyo Shinobi Squad would have known a different fate if it had been out at another time.