Ne0;lation 007-010 – Manga Review
Synopsis: A manga about tough guys and hackers? The classic combo! Let’s see how this unlikely team came together! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)
Warning: Spoilers to Follow:
10 Chapters in and Ne0;lation finally has some real personality. Chapter 7 introduces us to the series ongoing villain, Gevaudan, an over the top, all controlling villain who’s the true mastermind behind Lemming. Still, Ne0;lation seemed poised to remain one of Jump’s lesser titles, and I don’t think it will last long. (Really, it’s not looking good for any of the new 3, all currently rank below 10 in the readership listing.) The problem is Ne0;lation still contains a number of pervasive issues that’ll hound the series whether they get fixed, or not, at this point.
Chapter 8 is a good example of how poor the writing can be. The best series offer strong characterization. Luffy as a lead is memorable, same with Naruto, Goku, Light, etc. While some are more power fantasies for the reader than others, they usually contain a few well defined traits that make them who they are, and lovable all the same. The trouble is Ne0 isn’t that memorable a lead. Sure he’s got his hacker shtick, but he doesn’t have a lot of personality beyond a generally smug nature. The series only just begins injecting some personality into him, the way in which he gets frustrated that Gevaudan walked away with the upper hand, and what’s here still feels thin.
It doesn’t help that Ne0;lation sometimes writes more for the audience than the characters. Chapter 8 sees Gevaudan confront Ne0, threatening to kill him. Ne0 bluffs that he has footage of Gevaudan killing Lemming off, and Gevaudan concedes. But when Ne0 goes to catch Gevaudan in the local surveillance footage, we learn he has signal jammers, which he uses all the time to kill camera feeds. So he knew that Ne0 was lying. This development in and of itself is fine. It puts Gevaudan in a position of power. But the way in which it is written doesn’t make a lot of sense outside of the audience perspective. Gevaudan’s dialogue feels far more for the audience’s benefit that how he might speak knowing he’s still got the upper hand and is toying with Ne0. It’s things like that that keep Ne0 from feeling all that clever, even if the basic idea is sound. It’s all about execution.
From there Ne0;lation pulls back from the introduction of our big bad and into a battle with one of his lackeys. At the series start it seemed poised to be a duo-lead title. Ne0 and Daigo working as a team, one doing the hacking, the other the physical fighting. Yet we backed away from that idea very quickly and thus Daigo suffers as a character. Both he and the girl to join the team from the last arc barely have anything to do in Chapters 9 and 10. Instead the spotlight is given to this new Monk character, a former street racer who pulls in Ne0 to help with an evil street racer who’s taken things over.
Even if the Monk is fun, to jettison its supporting characters so quickly says that Ne0;lation is desperately still trying to find itself. My guess is the low rankings have our authors scrambling to save the series, doubling down on Ne0 as a lead, and trying out new villain types and supporting characters to shake things up. Notice here our racer villain is the classic manga villain type: tongue-lolling madman. He’s very maniacal and offers a lot more personality that previous baddies. Though it’s still falling back hard on established tropes.
Ultimately though I think Ne0’s inherent problems are going to get the series canned. You need compelling characters to make a series. You need lead characters who really jump from the page, and even Ne0 himself is pretty bland. In the end I think Ne0;lation will end up another victim of Jump’s harsh policies, and won’t get anywhere the time it would need to right itself, assuming it ever could. Comparatively Higuma and Chainsaw Man aren’t faring much better, suffering similar character issues that keep any of the three from really impressing audiences. The artist for Ne0 is fairly good however, and assuming his writing partner can up the game, I think the two could end up crafting a much better title in the future. Here’s hoping they get the chance.
That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on Ne0;lation in the comments below!
Ne0;lation is published as part of Shonen Jump.