Mission: Yozakura Family 004-010 – Manga Review

Synopsis: Romance! A crazy, overprotective brother! And… Spies?! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)

(Warning: Spoilers to Follow):

Review:

Mission: Yozakura Family stumbles with Chapters 4 through 8, catapulting the series into a multi-chapter narrative that feels like the cliff notes version of a far more epic tale. Let’s Jump In! While Taiyo had been developing quite quickly in the last chapter, Chapter 4 opens with Taiyo now far and above the levels of an average human. I have mixed feelings on just how quickly Taiyo has improved. Typically, in series with a protagonist going through training, there’s a long period of time where they’re bumbling and useless compared to everyone else, so it’s nice to skip over what’s fairly predictable. On the other hand that kind of slower progression would’ve offered ample opportunity to flesh out the rest of Mutsumi’s overly protective Assassin family. I wish we’d achieved some kind of middle ground, with maybe a couple more chapters of Taiyo bumbling through training before we see him portrayed as so shockingly capable.

In another surprise shift, Mission: Yozakura Family jumps into a multi-chapter narrative, seeing Taiyo captured by Hanawa The Courier in an effort to lure out Mutsumi, his actual target. What follows is Taiyo working with Kyoichiro to retrieve Mutsumi. We jettison the rest of the family, who only appear again at the climax, making it feel like a near complete waste of those characters. Why do it like this? Why jettison your extended cast before they’ve been fleshed out? Usually when a manga suddenly shifts directions it’s to try and adjust for flagging readership. The trouble with that explanation here is that Yozakura’s shift to a mini-arc is too early to have reader feedback influence the process. I actually wonder if this was an editorial decision. Perhaps worried that audiences might lose interest without an example for where the series is headed, they pushed this narrative through early to give readers a sense of what to expect the further we go and that’s easier to accomplish with a more limited cast.

Whatever the case, this mini-arc feels rushed. It’s clear they didn’t want this to drag on too long, as each chapter jumps ahead in the narrative. Chapter 4 sees the introduction of a new and troublesome character, Ritsu Katai, a very strict (temporary?) replacement vice principal for Mutsumi’s brother. Her job, unknowingly, is to take Mutsumi’s family ring and allow a secret baddie to copy all its security codes. Chapter 5 snaps to Taiyo already having been captured. As he makes his escape he meets his captor, Hanawa the Courier, who’s taken Taiyo solely to force Mutsumi to give herself up in order to protect him. Chapter 5 ends with Taiyo agreeing to be trained by Kyoichiro in order to rescue Mutsumi, only for Chapter 6 to reveal training is instead on the go and in the field. The story’s need to rush through things introduces some incredible convenience that allows for our heroes to save Mutsumi far faster than you’d expect. Taiyo abandons the mission in favor of saving a kidnapped girl, who just happens to know what vehicle Mutsumi was carted off in, turning Taiyo’s morally correct, if troubled choice, into the out and out correct answer.

Chapter 7 and 8 then cover the rescue of Mutsumi, seeing the whole family pop in ever so briefly to take Hanawa and his whole crew out. Taiyo gets to kick some ass but the whole story feels like the manga compilation of an arc that originally went for much longer. It’s this weird, rushed feeling that keeps me from praising these chapters. Nothing here is bad, but it doesn’t feel as tight as the manga’s earlier efforts.

Chapters 9 and 10 right the pace a bit. Chapter 9 focuses on introducing a new character, Hotokeyama, a police detective that seeks to test Taiyo’s ability to stay cool under pressure, as Hotokeyama actually works to cover up incidents for the Yozakura family. Despite a sort of “return to formula” where Taiyo finds his budding spy and assassin skills tested, it feels odd to introduce yet another new character when we still have the whole Yozakura family waiting in the wings for proper page time. It makes me wonder if the Yozakura family is going to be utilized as a slow-burn, where we’ll get a chapter or two focused on one member, a bunch of stories that cut out the rest of the family, and then come back to play around with another. The problem I have with this is that it seems foolish to have introduced so many characters in the first chapter, only to sideline them for so long. Instead it might’ve made more sense to introduce one or two members beyond Kyoichiro, let it be known that the Yozakura Family has way more family members, and then give them cameos like in Chapter 7 and 8, allowing for proper introductions down the line.

Chapter 10 at least finally lets us get to know Shinzo, the gun-loving nut of the family. Of the bunch Chapter 10 is probably the best, allowing us a one off story that allows this character to take center stage and for us to appreciate his dynamic of ‘strong with a gun, and a baby without one.’

Overall my feeling is that Yozakura Family has stumbled since its introduction. My suspicion is it’s a case of ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ with potential editorial decisions getting in the way of an otherwise interesting set up. Hopefully the series can find a better balance between letting us get to know the rest of the Yozakura family and attempts to kidnap Mutsumi. Mini-Arcs like Hanawa the Courier might be okay, but only if we tie them to fleshing out additional cast members, rather than jettisoning them entirely.

That’s it for this week! Let me know what your thoughts are on Mission: Yozakura Family in the comments below.

Mission: Yozakura Family is published weekly in Shonen Jump.

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