Bone Collection 001-003 – Manga Review

Synopsis: Grow a backbone and tap into your inner exorcist powers with this exciting new manga! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)

(Warning: Spoilers to Follow):

Review:

Bone Collection is the kind of new Jump title that banks hard on tropes, at least in it’s first chapter. From a main character that is the typical heart of gold, slightly pervy, and secretly super powerful shonen hero, to the very way this chapter introduces us to the narrative, Bone Collection feels wholly generic. It’s hoping to appeal to the staunch reader-base that absolutely loves shonen, or battle shonen more specifically, by offering up all the typical ideas that teenage boys are supposed to adore. If you’re new to shonen, it probably works. If you just love the formula, it probably works. If you’re a shonen reader looking for the genre to evolve? That’s where Bone Collection is likely to collapse on itself. That said, that’s only speaking on the first chapter. After that? Bone Collection almost completely changes its direction. Let’s Jump In!

 

The basic gist of the story is that Yokai exist and Exorcists are a well known profession that keeps the people of the world, presumably or it could just be Japan, safe. Already we’re off to a fairly generic start, using exposition to very quickly set the world’s stage so that we can jump right to the characters. This might be an okay approach if our lead wasn’t so typical.

We meet Kazami Jinai, a second-year high school student and exorcist. He’s a bit of a closet pervert and secretly, or not so secretly, seduced by women with an ample bosom. Kazami has to balance school life and his duties as an exorcist, particularly as he comes from a rather distinguished family in the business. Kazami hits a lot of typical tropes in the span of just a few pages, leaving him with not a single aspect to his personality that feels remarkable or memorable. It’s in this way that Bone Collection really is off to a rough start.

From there we learn that Kazami is unfortunately a horrible exorcist, incapable of using oh so many of the spells. He often has to be saved by childhood friend Rino Tendo, a far better exorcist than he is. But Kazami has one spell that no one else can do, one spell that would really show the world how powerful he is, except it’s forbidden to use. Again, all bog standard stuff, only spruced up with the series’ more frequent comedic tone but even what follows lacks originality.

After another failed stint as an exorcist, and wallowing away at the riverbank, Kazami ends up with a hot woman falling on top of him, appearing out of thin air from a Yokai portal. Kazami ends up befriending her, learning that she is a powerful Yokai. When the two end up attacked by another Yokai, Kazami sees the opportunity to use his forbidden spell, which allows him to use a Yokai’s powers for himself, and makes short work of the enemy. The girl, Gasha Dokuro, is actually a super powerful Yokai who seeks to become a human. As she insists that Kazami help him with her goal, going so far as to declare herself his fiance, his life is looking to get a whole lot more crazy.

What’s remarkable about Bone Collection isn’t anything in the first chapter. While perhaps more comedic than other battle shonen, we still get serious for the big fight, dramatic and heartfelt as we witness a dark flashback from Kazami’s childhood, and then some badassery to finish it all off as Kazami gets to show us how secretly awesome he is. That’s all typical, bog-standard, hum-drum, seen it before Shonen fare. What makes Bone Collection interesting however is what it decides to do after that. In a bizarre twist Bone Collection shifts from stock Battle Shonen into something much closer to a straight up gag manga. The story takes a hard shift with Gasha Dokuro explaining her backstory and roping Kazami into helping her become human. Here the manga suddenly turns itself much more so into the kind of story MoriKing is, one of the other new additions to Jump. It becomes a tale about how screwy Kazami’s life gets with Gasha Dokuro forcing her way in. Kazami’s family life gets turned upside down to the point that Kazami’s father gets into fist fights with Gasha, Kazami’s brother ends up having a secret fetish exposed and thus becomes Gasha’s obedient manservant, and even Rino Tendo, the childhood friend/other potential love interest, loses her mind, becoming a much sillier character simply at the thought of Kazami potentially becoming seduced by Gasha.

The whole thing becomes entirely comedic, and while the first chapter wasn’t without comedy, it didn’t feel so nearly universal. Here the comedy is so much more pronounced and frequent, with any battle aspects relegated to but a few panels, or turned into a outright silly brawls; like when Kazami summons a ‘svitch’ to control a robo-doll of Gasha to fight Rino Tendo. Those bad ass elements? Those darker ideas in the flashback? Gone. All comedy. All the time. It reminds me a lot of Chainsaw Man, which had an absolutely dark first chapter only to lean very hard into comedy right after that and totally upend the tone it had set for itself.

So what changed? Why the sudden shift? It can’t be because of reader feedback, Mangaka typically are working a chapter or two ahead of release, in case of sudden illness or an unexpected mishap that sets them behind. This means the shift really has to do with something behind the scenes. My guess is we’re looking at editorial interference. Either our Mangaka was asked to shift harder towards comedy, perhaps to more match his art style, which in truth isn’t very well suited to typical battle shonen, or perhaps this is a way of hedging bets. It’s possible that Shonen Jump Magazine isn’t quite sure what it wants from this manga yet and they’re waiting for reader feedback. Offer up a first chapter that feels like it’ll lead to more standard battle shonen fare, comedy included, and then offer up another couple more heavily comedic chapters and see which the audience ultimately rates higher. It also feels like MoriKing and Bone Collection are now being positioned against each other. Both manga follow the idea of a quirky individual coming into our lead’s life and shaking things up. While I think MoriKing is the better version of this idea, there’s no denying that once Gasha starts to meet everyone in Kazami’s life things really start to get turned upside down.

Ultimately though Bone Collection doesn’t work for me. I can see how audiences might enjoy the comedy, but it’s too loud and bordering on ‘random’ for me to really get sucked in. I think though it’ll be interesting to see what happens with this series over the next ten or so chapters. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it ‘genre-shift’ again before then, as Bone Collection feels like a manga that’s very much still feeling things out and hasn’t totally settled on what we should expect every week. It might end up stuffing in some battle shonen elements again, or some drama, more romance, who knows.

 

That’s it for this week! Let me know your thoughts on Bone Collection!

Bone Collection is published weekly in Shonen Jump.

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