Double Taisei 004-010 – Manga Review
Synopsis: A shogi manga with all the right pieces! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)
Warning: Spoilers to Follow:
Double Taisei keeps the twists rolling, never allowing a development to linger on too long by itself. Unfortunately, Double Taisei doesn’t quite know how to handle its Shogi elements, failing to dribble in enough knowledge so that non-shogi players can understand things. The series remains at its best when focused on character’s inner turmoil, but that continues to be overshadowed by the series’ overtly contrived nature. Let’s jump in.
Chapters 4 through 10 see tons of twists and a new character introduction, keeping the series moving at a brisk pace. Oddly though the whole Haga pushed Tai plot gets brought up, and then soundly forgotten moments later. Haga approaches Sei, believing he’s Tai, and reveals to him that he pushed Tai down the stairs, but nothing comes of this, with Sei moving on from it after a brief altercation. The series even seems to totally forget about it for the next half dozen chapters. It’s weird because it feels like a big moment. Heck there’s a teasing scene right after, as if meant to foreshadow greater developments later on. Trouble is its hard to talk about because the scene offers so little to go on, such meager substance, that you could be forgiven for even forgetting those four panels existed. Whatever they’re about it’s not brought up again at least through Chapter 10.
Instead we center on Sei’s inner-turmoil, brought about by having his complex and unique Shogi play style challenged in actual play. For as much as the series talks up Sei’s shogi as being “too advanced,” we find he’s got a lot of niggling flaws that keep him from being a solid and dependable player. In fact, the series basically reverses the roles Tai and Sei had, with it now positing that Tai is the superior player. This feels like a sudden retcon to try and paint Sei as more of an underdog (Maybe because the series is ranking demonstrably poorly in Japan?)
The contrived nature of the story only becomes more heavy-handed as we learn that Tai and Sei have switched day and night cycles, with Tai appearing at night now, rather than remaining comatose. While it keeps Tai in the story, it also reminds audiences of Double Taisei’s biggest and hardest pill to swallow: The contrived day/night cycle split personality. Keeping that in the audiences’ mind is a bad call, as its the greatest hurdle one has to overcome to appreciate the rest underneath.
The chapters focused on pushing Sei further into the pursuit of Shogi, playing for himself rather than for his brother, are where the series shines. Chapter 6 acting as a notable example. But the highs don’t last long, as Double Taisei fails to make its Shogi concepts land on two separate occasions. Chapter 4 talks of Sei’s Shogi being ‘too advanced’ but with no understanding of the game the significance falls flat. Chapter 7 also sees Tai explaining the brilliance of Sei’s Shogi, but the scene again fails short for the same reasons. Chapter 7 matters a little less, since it’s part of a gag, but it remains a persistent problem if Double Taisei plans to make the game have any deeper meaning to the narrative.
Thankfully in Chapter 9 we see some Shogi explanation that actually makes sense, and allows the audience to understand what’s so impressive and different about Sei’s gameplay. Better late than never, right? This explanation comes in the middle of Sei’s match up against a new character, Izumi. Failing to abandon its more contrived elements, it turns out Sei already met Izumi during his night time undertakings. Izumi also exhibits an extraordinary ability by playing Shogi while blindfolded, because he exhibits such sensitive hearing he can tell which piece was used. It’s here that it becomes clear that, for better or worse, Double Taisei is going to make use of absurd, out there elements the whole way through.
Izumi gets plenty of focus through Chapters 7 to 10, dripping in a tragic backstory that never quite connects, and character introspection that feels thin and unengaging. I think it’s largely due to just how prominent the contrivance is with this story. The more contrived a story is, the more difficult it is to take seriously. Most fiction works on some contrivance, but the more prominent and obvious it is the more likely it is that the audience won’t be able to embrace the characters, feeling like the whole thing is too outlandish and absurd to take seriously.
Ultimately ten chapters in and I think Double Taisei has little hope of recovery. It wants to be an emotional manga, built upon introspection and character drama. But the backbone of the story is too contrived, too absurd to take seriously. It’s built in so deeply that there’s no way to salvage the story and send it in a new direction, as series will often do if readership is flagging. That’s just not an option here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Double Taisei finds itself canned before it can even reach Chapter 20.
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.