I’m From Japan 001-003 – Manga Review
Synopsis: Tokio Abiko is a transfer student from Yamagata Prefecture. He’s rough, he’s tough and he wants to beat up the strongest kid in school and earn the respect that he and Yamagata Prefecture deserve! But he soon makes an unlikely friend who accepts everyone no matter where they’re from- and his name is Japan! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)
Warning: Spoilers to Follow:
I’m From Japan is a step above Teenage Renaissance! David, but that really isn’t saying much. Starting on the surface I’m From Japan’s art is rough. Shonen Jump sold this as a battle manga, but it clearly has more of a gag manga feel. Part of that’s due to the more often than not sub-par art that also at times feels more shoujo-esque than shonen. But most gag manga aren’t lookers, and what counts is the writing. Sadly I’m From Japan is way more uneven than clever.
I’m From Japan’s central joke is that Japan’s skills are based on moves/abilities that hearken back to what each Prefecture of Japan is known for. This means every combat move he has is some kind of goof. That well of humor runs dry pretty quickly, and isn’t at all aided by a lack of variety in the structure of each chapter. Chapter 1 largely plays out as Tokio Abiko attends his first day at his new school, meets the crazy guy, Japan, and gradually learns that Japan is an okay bloke, who actually sees Abiko’s home prefecture, Yamagata, as a worthwhile and respectable place. We even get our starter villain, Masurao Kikuchi, a Tokyo elitist, solidly dealt with by Japan using a Yamagata inspired move.
What’s presented in Chapter 1 is awfully wordy, mostly overwritten, but otherwise an ‘okay’ start. We get the basics, its pretty standard, but for the most part works. What’s especially troubling is that Chapter 2 is really just Chapter 1 again. Sure Abiko is now Japan’s buddy, and the two befriend a new character, but the general flow is almost entirely the same. This new character, Hide, also has a complex about his hometown, similar to as Abiko did in Chapter 1. Initially Japan’s overly friendly nature turns him away, much as it did Abiko. When he’s attacked by our starter villain, Masurao, Japan jumps in and saves the day with yet another move inspired by this new character’s home Prefecture.
It’s only with Chapter 3 that we see the manga has other avenues of comedy, although the structure remains similar. Instead of an out and out fight, this culminate in Japan helping a new character win a race to prove his Prefecture, known for building grade A motorcycles, is worthy of respect. This is where the manga gets more random than funny however, as the motorcycle used in the race are drawn with this wild gag style that makes it look like anything but a motorcycle. Then it randomly evolves into an actual bike? And eventually the chapter ends with everyone as friends riding a fleet of these altogether strange vehicles.
So while Teenage Renaissance! David remains the out and out bottom of the barrel we’ve seen in the Jump Start’s yet, I’m From Japan isn’t too much better. Combined these two make me reevaluate my grading scale and some of the Jump Start’s I’ve been less impressed with previously look like Award-winning Manga by comparison now. In some ways however, lukewarm titles are the best fit for Jump Starts, as I don’t find myself disappointed we won’t be seeing anymore of either title.
That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on I’m From Japan in the comments below!
I’m From Japan is published as a Jump Start in Shonen Jump.