Shonen manga protagonists encompass a wide spectrum of personalities, from icy geniuses to jerks with a heart of gold to nice guys simply trying their best. But sometimes, you just want a complete idiot who bumbles into situations and somehow comes out on top. Whether it’s Monkey D. Luffy or Naruto Uzumaki, these doofuses lend their stories a lot of charm, making everyone else mostly exasperated by their antics before eventually being won over by them.
Shonen Jump’s new manga Ayashimon, which began weekly drops back in November, perfectly understands this. Its teen protagonist, Maruo Kaido, has dreamt of being a manga protagonist since he was a child, and trained his body from a young age to be as strong as possible. Bored that his dreams have since failed to manifest, fate finally seems to go his way after he saves a young girl named Urara, landing him in the world of Ayashimon (or yokai, a class of supernatural monsters in Japanese folklore) and its Yakuza underworld. With the various crime families fighting for control of Shinjuku, Urara wants to regain control of her dead father’s crime syndicate to bring it all down—and needs Maruo’s freakish strength to bulldoze her way to the top.
Similar to Choujin X, the blend of modern Japan and the supernaturally grotesque leads to some interesting visual work. After his feudal Japan-set Hell’s Paradise, creator Yuji Kaku’s journey into the present day means the Ayashimon mostly consist of gangsters in suits with freaky heads or hands. Nothing has yet to truly top the fight in Chapter Two between Maruo and a yokai twice his size (it’s like something out of a video game), but it’s early enough that the book’s got plenty of opportunities to outdo itself in the future.
Currently five chapters in, the manga has found a nice groove in its storytelling as Maruo slowly becomes informed of—and overwhelmed by—the deluge of Ayashimon knowledge Urara and other yokai reveal to him. It’s a fun odd-couple pairing as she openly points him like a ballistic missile towards anyone in their way, and he gleefully follows along if it means a fight’s on the way. They’re both fully aware that they’re using each other, but it remains to be seen if this will generate any tension, given all of their respective cards are already on the table.
Currently, the highlight of the book is its comedy. A supernatural crime story it may be, but there are a lot of funny moments here that really land, thanks to Maruo being comically overpowered. The flashbacks to the chaotic aftermath in the early days of his strength never get old, and the art really comes alive when it uses the punchline of Maruo smashing someone into oblivion. While it may be lacking in other spots, it’s that infectiously dumb energy that makes Ayashimon worth reading to the end of the year and beyond.