Double Taisei 001-003 – Manga Review

Synopsis: A shogi manga with all the right pieces! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)

Warning: Spoilers to Follow:

Review:

In an effort to feel unique Double Taisei takes a decent, if worn story and adds a twist that takes things too far. Giving credit where credit is due, Double Taisei does manage to surprise the reader. Starting with Page 1, Double Taisei offers an in utero shot of our to-be leads still as infants. It’s weird, it’s bizarre, but sets up the twist to come. (Also, just as an aside, I’m sick of how unhelpful the above official synopses are.)

From there we meet a young man named Sei, who works the streets at night as a musician. He learns that his twin-brother, Tai, is on track to becoming a Pro-Shogi player. And not just a professional, but a famous one to boot. Snapping to Tai we learn that Sei also used to be deep into Shogi, but he and Tai haven’t played together for years now, Sei having given it up. Tai keeps journals of his day to share with his brother, and worries for his mother’s finance at being able to afford the membership fee for his Pro Advancement matches.

Up to this point the manga feels simple, yet compelling. The story of two brothers, one amazing at Shogi, the other who gave it up, and the effort of the first to suck their brother back into the game. I was all on board for this. Maybe it’s worn, maybe it’s tired, but coupled with the art and the solid pacing, it worked. What comes next however really limits Taisei’s audience.

Within the next two pages it’s made clear that Tai and Sei are not so much proper brothers, but split personalities. Tai goes to bed only to wake up as Sei (denoted by the change in hairstyle.) Couple this with the first page of the manga (to which I groaned when realizing its purpose.) the implication seems to be that the brothers ‘merged’ in the womb. Indeed the story brushes aside any criticism of mental health by asserting that these two truly are brothers, merely trapped inside one body.

This twist isn’t made any easier to swallow as Tai and Sei both come out as Day and Night personas, changing exactly as the sun sets or rises. It feels wholly contrived, and honestly not at all needed. But we’ll get to that. From the reintroduction of Sei the manga works to explain Tai and Sei’s history, and Sei’s frustration at existing as a Night personality, unable to compete in Shogi as he can only exist at Night, after the matches are done for the day.

After we’re treated to a lengthy sequence showing how Sei has tried to move on to new hobbies, and failed at each, we snap back to Tai’s next day. It turns out Tai has a plan to try and get his alt-personality brother back into the game– force his pro-match to extend into the night. Sei comes out and gets to play, with tears of joy flowing. It’s ultimately sweet, even if the twist is hard to swallow.

In order not to have everything resolve right away, Chapter 2 lets us know Sei lost due to lack of time (Pro matches are timed.) It’s also ruined his interest in Shogi again, making him too annoyed to bother playing another match: He hates being timed. This element is where the bizarre, alt-personality twist is no longer required. Take that out of the picture and you still have the same story. Instead of Sei being a night-time only personality just make it so the competitive nature gets to him: The time limits, the commentary, the judging of his more artful play style. It all still works and feels more compelling because you’re not asking the audience to swallow such an insane element.

But that’s not this story. Double Taisei continues, following Tai as he trounces his second Pro-Advancement opponent, Juso Haga, a guy who looks like he’s in the wrong manga. What’s so odd about Juso’s character is that the design for everyone else is so much more realistic or down-to-earth. Juso’s design screams for a much more absurd series and even with Taisei’s contrived aspects he still feels entirely out of place.

Haga getting trounced by Tai causes him to become obsessed with the boy, to the point it’s implied he accidentally pushes him down the stairs. This is where Double Taisei’s true main narrative (or at least first arc) begins. The Tai personality disappears because of the fall, leaving Sei in total control of the body. Not wanting to feel too dark, no one assumes Tai is dead, but rather merely resting. Through Chapter 3 Sei experiences Tai’s day life, and comes to the conclusion he needs to complete the Pro-Advancement exams for Tai, at least until he wakes again.

Again though, with the way things are going, the dual-personality angle is entirely unneeded. You could’ve had them as separate twins (Identical twins playing shogi is already a decent amount to swallow) with Tai getting injured, and Sei filling in for his brother. The dual-personality continues to feel contrived and wholly unnecessary.

All that said? Double Taisei reads like a dream. For all the trouble I give it for its central conceit the pacing is gold, and the art fantastic. Typically the weaker Jump additions are chores for me to get through. My interest flags, my reading speed wanes, and sometimes I have to reread pages because I just can’t get invested. Double Taisei however flowed by quickly. There’s some real talent from the author here, I only wish it didn’t come with such a contrived plot point.

I do also want to touch on the actual lack of Shogi in this title. Shogi plays similar to Chess, and as most top board game manga go you typically learn the ins and outs of the game. Hikaru no Go is an excellent example. Yet Double Taisei makes no effort. I’ve complained before with past Shogi manga, but I don’t think it’s as much of a problem in Double Taisei. One of the previous Shogi titles used a lot of surprise, clever tactics, but that meant little to readers with zero familiarity. Here, at least so far, Double Taisei only uses one tactic: Sei’s style of play in the one Pro-Match he’s competed in. The manga makes it easy to understand that Sei’s style is unconventional, unique, and easy to misread. You don’t need to know much about Shogi at all for that idea to come across and for that I think the series gets away with a lack of introduction to the ins and outs of Shogi. For now anyway. As we delve deeper there’s more and more necessity for greater understanding of Shogi tactics, and if Double Taisei doesn’t play it right that could become a real sticking point for whatever audience manages to overlook its most contrived elements.

That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on Double Taisei in the comments below!

Double Taisei is published as part of Shonen Jump.

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