Mission: Yozakura Family 015-017 – Manga Review
Synopsis: Romance! A crazy, overprotective brother! And… Spies?! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)
(Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Yozakura Family is in a spot of trouble. We’re 17 chapters in and the rankings still aren’t looking so hot. The series now seems to consistently sit around 10-11 in the Jump readership order. While not awful, it’s not a great position to be in, and one that speaks to a lukewarm, almost apathetic appreciation of the series from Jump’s Japanese readership. If things don’t change course, and soon, Yozakura could become truly stuck in this spot, and worst case, see its ratings tank further. It’s why we see Chapters 15 through 17 shift in terms of what the series seeks to offer. We abandon the one off spy missions in favor of tying the romantic elements of the series back in. What we get is a succession of chapters focused on ‘romantic rivals’ who’re eager to possess either Taiyo, or more often Mutsumi, for themselves. Both characters introduced ooze with ‘over the top’ and ‘manic charisma,’ traits that sit as perhaps even more outlandish and bombastic than any character introduced previously. Let’s Jump In!
Starting with Chapter 15 Taiyo and Mutsumi’s rooftop lunch is interrupted by a surprise attack. Their assailant? Ayaka Kirisaki, the Man-Hunter spy. Ayaka is pretty much the very definition of a Yandere, absolutely enchanted with Taiyo to the point where she wants nothing more than to end his life by her own hands. What follows is a fairly predictable string of attempts to kill Taiyo. It’s not altogether terrible, and like most of this series has been, remains generally entertaining, but Ayaka’s persona is the most crazed of any character we’ve met previously, lacking an ounce of subtlety. It’s a strong shift from the types of characters we’ve been offered up to now and I can’t help but see it as an attempt to try and pull readership back in.
You can kinda tell though that our author, Hitsuji Gondaira, is flying by the seat of his pants here. Ayaka is dangerous, out and out, and when a fellow assassin attempts to off her at the end of the chapter it makes little sense for Mutsumi and Taiyo to save her life. Comedy can often get away with nonsensical developments, purely because the absurdity makes us laugh, but the attempt at a heartfelt, typical shonen speech “But I couldn’t stand by and let someone who said they liked Taiyo die” doesn’t make much sense. It makes sense when Goku does it to Vegeta say, because all he cares about is fighting, yet Mutsumi and Taiyo haven’t been shown to put others ahead of their own self-preservation, and this selfless act feels entirely counter to the mission of protecting Mutsumi from her enemies. The series only sorta gets away with it because Ayaka quickly becomes a non-threat, becoming totally enamored with Mutsumi instead of Taiyo, making for an ‘ends justify the means’ cap off that feels like thin justification for the series’ real goal: Keep Ayaka open as a possible returning character.
Chapter 16 and 17 also seek to hammer home this new direction/focus. Here we’re introduced to who we must presume is Taiyo’s main ‘romantic rival’ Asuka Hatoda. Asuka is a toy company/criminal consulting firm President, the type of character oozing with money and power, self-assurance, arrogance, and delusions of grandeur.He’s just as insane as Ayaka, also possessing a boisterous and flamboyant personality. In fact I’d almost say that the two characters aren’t different enough to justify keeping both. Both are very over the top, absurd, and totally obsessed with Mutsumi. Both bring a manic energy, and while they’re not totally the same, introducing one after the another further convinces me that this is an attempt to pull in readership again by making the manga more bombastic, comedy wise, than it’s been before.
But to be fair Asuka isn’t a copy of Ayaka. They may give the series the same energy but the approach to it is different. Asuka is a man of gadgets, using his intense wealth to create an arsenal of toys and weapons that make him a frustrating match up for Taiyo. Unfortunately for as versatile as his gadgets are, the comedy showcased here is very limited. Chapter 16 hinges on Asuka’s self-assurance and gadgets. It’s a decent introduction, but also a tad forgettable. Chapter 17 is where the series really struggles. With his second outing you’d hope Asuka would prove his value as a reoccurring character. Unfortunately he becomes stuck between his gadget gag and another angle: His ability to buy people off. What follows is a physical endurance test that sees Taiyo and Asuka go head to head. Asuka cheats at every turn, either through his gadgets or by buying the instructor and classmates off. The chapter vacillates between the two, but even together this limited range of goofs isn’t enough to truly carry a whole chapter. This makes Chapter 17 a moderately enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable outing.
Ultimately it’s looking a lot like Yozakura Family is another series that began with potential, but has floundered in subsequent outings. Each family member we’ve met has felt too thin, lacking the depth needed to make them compelling characters worthy of popping up again and again. New introductions to the cast are equally as one note, leaving me to wonder; how long Yozakura can go on like this before it gets the axe? Jump is pretty lenient with comedy, often letting gag manga keep going even when the rankings are just kinda ‘meh.’ But Yozakura isn’t a true gag manga and those tend to have a sharper axe hanging overhead. Personally I don’t think Hitsuji Gondaira has the chops to improve the series further, meaning its future is now dependent on how the readership reacts to these periodic attempts to inject new life into the story. I will say his chances of hanging around are greater since Yozakura has some pretty solid art and bursts of attractive character design, two visual elements that always let the candle burn a little longer for series that just can’t quite manage to catch on.
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.