Magu-chan: God of Destruction 001-004 – Manga Review
Synopsis: Foolish lowly humans! A washed-up god of destruction finds the human world quite perplexing. (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)
(Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Shone Jump seems intent on finding a long-running, successful comedy manga. Magu-chan is not only one of several new comedy titles debuting over the past couple weeks, but the third title based on the comedy trope; Average Joe/Jill meets a crazy, otherworldly being who upends their normal life. Both Moriking and Bone Collection (to a lesser degree) fit that bill before Magu-chan. I think Shonen Jump is hedging bets, knowing they want at least one title like this, and seeing which ultimately wins out with its readership. That said, Magu-chan is probably best fit to survive this Battle Royale, dethroning Moriking, in my mind, as the funniest of the bunch. Not that Moriking is bad, I quite liked it, but Magu-chan displays a level of comedic growth that sells the series as something capable of generating laughs every week. Let’s Jump In!
If we only compared the first chapters, Moriking would still be top. Magu-chan’s start isn’t exactly stellar. It’s not bad, but it is slow, and it’s not actually until pages 21-22 that this fledgling manga starts to show its comedic worth. The first twenty pages are all about establishing the premise. We learn that Magu-chan was this horrific God of Destruction that was insanely close to achieving total power. However, a number of heroic individuals managed to stop him before his worshipers could finish the ritual, trapping Magu-chan in a crystal prism. 600 years pass and a quirky girl, named Ruru, living on her own away from her parents, stumbles upon Magu-chan’s prison while digging for clams. Accidentally breaking the prism, Magu-chan is released upon the world! Though that’s not such a bad thing as Magu-chan discovers his power has greatly diminished, and is now trapped in a tiny body no bigger than your average house cat.
It’s really only at this point that Magu-chan finds its comedic feet. Ruru brings Magu-chan home and introduces him to Natto, where his unique reaction to the dish sparks the series’ first big opportunity for laughs. From there it becomes about watching Magu-chan attempt to perform simply household chores and failing. Even then, the series isn’t wall to wall gags, and the back half of the first chapter is really more about building a thin, emotional core, to keep us invested in these two characters.
Magu-chan becomes one of those rare titles which improves tremendously after the first chapter. One thing I do really like about the first chapter is how expertly and subtly it weaves in groundwork for introducing two additional characters in its next immediate chapters. A lot of manga overload the first chapter with characters, giving us a full cast from Chapter 1. But then, despite having so many characters to work with already, throws in entirely new ones in the very next chapter! Since Magu-chan starts with just Ruru and Magu-chan, there’s room here to add in one or two more characters without it feeling like we’ve left others out to dry.
Chapter 2 is all about introducing Ren. Ren is very briefly seen/referred to in Chapter 1, as a classmate who warns Ruru about an impending Hurricane that forces her to return home and find Magu-chan getting blown away by the heavy winds. Here we learn that Ren is a little bit more than Ruru’s classmate: He’s the love struck young man who can’t quite work up the courage to ask Ruru out on a proper date. While Ruru is oblivious to these feelings, Magu-chan sees right through, in part because he’s started to read Shoujo manga. While both Ruru and Ren fill the similar role of ‘straight-man’ to Magu-chan’s absurdity, they do so in different ways. Ruru treats Magu much more like a pet, while Ren sees Magu-chan as the chaotic nuisance he is. Not only is this chapter then brimming with more comedy, but varied reactions to Magu’s absurdity, thanks to Ren’s involvement.
Chapter 3 then is all about introducing Naptaaku, another God of Destruction, hinted at in Chapter 1 when Magu notes that he’s ‘a’ God, rather than ‘the’ God of Destruction. Naptaaku fills another tropey role, that of a incompetent rival for Magu-chan to get the leg up on. It should be noted that Magu-chan isn’t all that original with its characters. Both Ren and Naptaaku fill fairly typical roles for these kinds of manga. But what Magu-chan is getting right is the character writing itself. The way events unfold, and how characters react here, helps to make both of them feel more unique than they perhaps really are, making it easier to fall in love with them and want to see more.
Chapter 4 then takes a break from introducing new characters, although there’s still room for more if it decides to buff the cast some more, and play with what it has so far. We’re treated to a story focused on Magu-chan accidentally eating all the pudding and feeling ‘guilty’ enough to go to the store by himself for more. Everyone gets a part here, Ruru treating Magu like he’s a disobedient pet, Magu trying to do human things and comically failing, Ren distrusting Magu for what he is, and Naptaaku getting trounced on by Magu. This combination of comedy makes Chapter 4 the best chapter yet, and really displays how well Magu-chan is shaping up.
Overall Magu-chan opens quite strong. Maybe the first chapter is a tad slower than some other comedy manga, but makes a good foundational piece, one that the author has done a superb job of building on chapter after chapter. I think Magu-chan is set for success and thus becomes one of the few Jump additions I’m actively crossing my fingers for, that Japanese readership will recognize how fun it is, and allow it to stay around for quite some time.
That’s it for this week! Let me know your own thoughts on Magu-chan!
Magu-chan: God of Destruction is published weekly in Shonen Jump.