First Impressions- Stealth Symphony

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Stealth Symphony is the 3rd of the 4 new series recently added to Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan and in many ways it was the most anticipated which is why Viz Media was so quick to add it to the English lineup of the magazine. With the story being helmed by Ryohgo Narita of Durarara and Baccano fame the manga has quite the pedigree to live up to and the first chapter generally succeeds in showing it’s potential.

The story kicks off when main character Jig travels to Jinbo-cho a city filled with elves, dwarves and other kinds of magical beings. His goal is to remove a curse he recieved when he got sick as a kid and was forced to recieve it in order to save his life. Since it apparently makes him a disaster magnet and he almost causes a big one on the beginning of the chapter he decides to get bodyguard protection so that he can prevent himself from hurting others with his powers. It’s around then that we’re introduced to the other main character Troma who is invisible save for a mask and becomes Jig’s bodyguard for the duration of the chapter. It’s soon revealed that Jig’s accident in the beginning of the chapter was no accident and that he’s being targeted which sets off a rather cruel plot twist that will likely be what drives the story from here on out.

Those familar with Narita’s works will immediately recognize that the one thing that stands out as being different here is that the protagonist of the story is clearly defined where as Baccano and Durarara functioned off more of an ensemble cast (though there’s still plenty of time for it to go down that route later on) and the first chapter is devoted to his story though it also helps us to dive into one of the other main characters as well. Jig comes across as pretty likeable so far and though his motivations are a bit cliche at first the ending to the chapter suggests his development may go in an atypical direction for a Jump protagonist. The other lead character Troma is the that seems to have the most potential for something cool between the two though since his invisibility is played with in a pretty unique way since he feels as hollow on the inside as he does on the outside so it’ll be interesting to see where his character is eventually taken.

The artwork for the series is also pretty fantastic as artist Amano Youchi delivers on his speciality in that area and the designs look very detailed for a weekly series though it feels a bit similar to Takeshi Obata’s (Death Note) artwork so hopefully it evolves a bit. The setting also looks as though it could lead to some pretty cool setups as the concept of a city filled with magical beings and dragon artifacts could make for some interesting world building.

Overall the series is off to a strong start and though it feels a bit different than Narita’s usual style it has the potential to live up to his other works and could be the kind of series Jump needs right now.

 

Available through Viz’s Weekly Shonen Jump Digital Magazine

Review- My Bride is a Mermaid: Laughing Under the Sea

 Review- My Bride is a Mermaid: Laughing Under the Sea

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My Bride is A Mermaid is a 26 episode series animated by Gonzo and AIC. The production values of the show are pretty standard though the opening song “Romantic Summer” is fairly catchy. It’s helmed by Seiji Kishi who’s been more recently known for his work on video game adaptions such as Persona 4: The Animation and Devil Survivor 2: The Animation, but before he worked on those he was best known for directing comedies and it definently shows here.

The premise of the show kicks off when main character Nagasumi goes to the sea for vacation and ends up getting his life saved by a mermaid named Sun when he almost drowns. However because he saw Sun in her mermaid form he’s forced into marrying her or else he’ll be killed by mermaid law. Did we mention she happens to belong to a mermaid yakuza family?

mermaid1                                               Meet the in-laws

 

This is where the insanity begins. Despite initially having appearance of a magical girlfriend show the show quickly makes it apparent that it’s a pure comedy and it functions by being as off the wall as possible. Nagasumi is constantly forced to avoid the crazy antics of his yakuza father-in-law who’s out to prevent him from marrying his precious daughter and must dodge everything from miniature assassins to weird looking fish men.  The series constantly escalates in its absurdity and constantly throws out parodies and increasingly bizarre situations in an effort get some laughs. The series isn’t afraid to occasionally laugh at itself though alongside the audience as makes a note to be self aware every now and then as it plays with typical harem clichés.

The hilarity of the series is supported largely by its cast of quirky characters. Nagasumi initially comes across as a typical harem lead but quickly demonstrates that he can be as weird as the rest of the cast members and just as much of a ham. Female lead Sun generally stays a bit more true to the magical girlfriend archetype but the show plays it straight enough to make her as funny as the rest of the cast when it matters. The harem side of the characters include pop idol Lunar who has a two-faced personality and is Sun’s self proclaimed rivalval, childhood friend Mawari who wants to enforce discipline but largely fails at it and Akeno a strange swordswoman who generally isn’t as funny as the rest of the cast due to generally being stoic but occasionally breaks character to acknowledge the weridness of a situation. On the other side of the cast spectrum lies Sun’s crazy yakuza family and it’s associates which include a doll sized assassin with a water machine gun and a blatant homage of the Terminator.

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                                                        “I’ll be back”

Though the series is largely out for laughs there is some occasional drama which is where some of the problems with the series lie. Though the series can occasionally be heartwarming with some of its more serious moments (and occasionally touching even when it’s joking around) it sometimes struggles with developing its characters. This is especially true of the mini-arc in episodes 12 and 13 where Lunar’s character arc comes to a head and inferiority complex towards Sun results in her confessing her love to Nagasumi only for the show to later act as though the confession never happened and to seem as though she learned nothing from the experience. Additionally though the other girls are occasionally given the spotlight they don’t progress very much either and the finale (which the last few minutes of must be seen to be believed) is kicked off by a situation that feels pretty forced and features Nagasumi acting extremely out of character in the beginning in order to achieve the desired result.

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                                                 Kenshiro would be proud

Of course though it has some problems its comedy generally makes up for it as it chugs along at lightspeed and rarely leaves you time to dwell on its flaws. The series may not be particularly deep but at the end of the day it’s out to make you laugh and will stop at nothing to make that happen. If you’re looking for a good comedy series this is definitely worthwhile.

Overall:  7.8/10

Available on Hulu, Netlix and Funimation.com