Golem Hearts 001 – Manga Review

Synopsis: There exists a world where human society is dependent upon Golems, man made creatures used for all sorts of tasks. To create these labor bearers the job of Golem Arcanist is needed. Lemmeck is one such individual. He’s a down on his luck Golem Arcanist. His abilities are uneven, and that constantly gets him into all kinds of trouble. But one day he crafts a Golem unlike any other, Noah, who looks like a boy and can talk all the same. Only trouble is Noah is as big a screw up as Lemmeck! But this duo of screw ups can pull it together when the absolute need arises.

Warning: Spoilers to Follow:

Review:

If Lycopene is the weakest of these three latest Jump Starts, and Full Drive the out and out strongest– Golem Hearts is the most mediocre. It exudes promise and potential, but doesn’t quite live up to it here, only making promises that things will get more interesting later on.

We open with Lemmeck, our screw up Golem Arcanist, attempting to craft a new golem and surprising himself with the end result. We quickly snap to introducing the world of Golem Hearts, a society built upon the use of Golems as manual labor. They’re used for everything from chimney repair to cooking. With just a couple pages of exposition under our belts Noah, a plucky eager to help boy, is introduced. He’s a screw up though and everything he touches ends up going wrong.

Noah’s priorities in this conversation are all screwed up.

The same goes for Lemmeck, as we return to him for a more proper introduction. He’s called into repairs someone’s golem, but only ends up making things worse. This is where Golem Hearts really doesn’t hold together. Narrative questions start to pop up that signal how much the story is giving way to the need to introduce the readership to its world. Everyone here knows Lemmeck is a screw up, so why ever hire him to fix your golem in the first place? This scene exists purely to ensure that readers come to understand Lemmeck’s lot in life but damages the series’ attempt to craft a believable world.

As Lemmeck is chased out of town for causing even more problems, Noah shows up to try and help. Since the golem that was meant to carry boxes to the harbor is damaged, Noah offers to do it. But the villagers fear he’ll just make a mess of things, as he normally does, and shoo him away. It’s here the manga connects the dots, whether you did or not, and explains that Noah is a unique golem with the persona and appearance of a boy.

It’s like watching Dennis the menace except he’s oblivious.

Neither Noah or Lemmeck feel all that special as characters. If anything they both feel like One Piece minor character rejects and remind me a lot of the Chopper introduction arc, with the whacky screw up doctor. Indeed the whole manga has this One Piece-light feel to it. Down trodden, wacky characters, with an effort to inject some emotional heart into the story. But none of it quite lands, nor feels as clever as early One Piece.

We spend a couple pages reaffirming Lemmeck’s position in the town as a quack and Noah as the go-getter golem boy. Wanting people to accept his master as a respected arcanist, Noah heads out in the middle of the night. It’s here we get our major conflict, as Noah moves the shipping boxes mentioned from before in the dead of night. But a rogue shows up by boat and breaks into the cargo. The next day Noah finds himself accused of ruining the goods himself.

After a harrowing confrontation with the angry villagers, Noah is left depressed and we’re treated to a heart to heart scene between him and Lemmeck. It’s probably the strongest sequence offered in this premiere chapter, offering a glimpse at the series’ emotional core. It’s here it feels most like One Piece as it tries to pull at the reader’s heart strings.

Surely there was a less destructive way to prove this.

From there we find the villagers turning on Lemmeck, asking him to dismantle Noah. Lemmeck refuses, equating Noah to being that of his own son. The emotions run high, but it doesn’t last long as the thief from the night before kidnaps two of the village’s children. Why you ask? Well Golem Hearts never really goes into it. Heck it doesn’t even bother to explain why the thief has a, apparently, military quality golem. It’s unanswered questions like this that give the manga a ‘half-baked’ feel, as if it needed one or two more drafts to iron things out.

As the villagers are unable to save the children their last ditch hopes get pinned on the very people they mocked and hated before. Lemmeck and Noah jump into action and in the classic shonen style, become all too brief bad asses. They subdue the evil thief/child kidnapper and all is well. Of course, as expected, they’re still screw ups in the end, but lovably so.

Wait long enough and I’m sure someone will make you that blow up golem doll you’re pinning for.

It’s a thoroughly mediocre story. As I said earlier it feels a lot like an off-brand One Piece backstory for some arc-only character who won’t be continuing on with the crew. It doesn’t help that the art, while competent, feels a bit stilted. The only thing that keeps me more positive than negative on Golem Hearts is the tease at the end of the chapter that something will happen to Lemmeck. One Piece is at its best when it’s balancing comedy in between heart-rending drama. Golem Hearts needs a bit more of that to off-set the rest of the flaws in its uneven narrative.

However, if only one title has even the slimmest of hope of getting added to the U.S. Shonen Jump line up, I feel like Golem Hearts would have to improve tremendously between chapters two and three for it to stand up to Full Drive’s incredible opening.

That’s it for today. Please let me know what your thoughts on Golem Hearts in the comments below!

Golem Hearts is published weekly as a Jump Start in Shonen Jump.

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