Seiji Tanaka – 001-003 – Manga Review

Synopsis: Nagato Tokioka is the ultimate slacker with zero future aspirations. But when Seiji Tanaka, a battle secretary, from the future, appears claiming that assassins from the future are planning to kill him, Tokioka’s future is about to change forever. (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)

Warning: Spoilers to Follow:

Review:

Seiji Tanaka wastes no time, diving right in with title character Seiji Tanaka traveling back to the past with just a pinch of dialogue letting us know exactly what the story is going to be about. From there we cut to comedy and it isn’t long before that single page vision of the future is directly addressed as Tanaka finds the younger Tokioka without a moments rest. Seiji Tanaka is basically a comedy terminator sort of affair, at least for its first two chapters, pitting Seiji and his wild brand of business based super attacks against a mystery assassin from the future.

What’s great about the opening is we waste no time. We cut a lot of potential fluff that could’ve been used to pad out Tokioka’s everyday life, and instead keep such sequences to a mere handful of panels/pages giving us all we need to know about Tokioka: With zero ambition he’s always putting everyone else first (or well, more like fun first.). The one issue with cutting so much potential side-character building is the manga then needs to switch gears later on, and flesh out its cast. But doing things this way lets us focus on the series’ immediate strengths, like its absurd battle component, and general comedic vibe, without forcing the manga to start building its legs for a longer run. That comes later.

Generally it’s a strong first chapter, but the one way in which the series is a bit of a let down is through its art. While gag/comedy manga tend to be less visually compelling than straight Shonen action titles like Academia or One Piece, Seiji Tanaka’s comedy is partially built upon reaction faces. Absurdly detailed, highly outrageous faces, that typically go against the rest of the manga’s art are a staple of some of the classic Manga comedies. So it’s important to nail that aspect if it’s going to be part of the appeal. Unfortunately Seiji Tanaka’s reaction faces are on the weaker end of the scale. Sometimes they work and other times are so lacking in detail they simply don’t feel outlandish enough, causing the visuals to produce at best a smile.

After a stellar first few pages, the 1st chapter slows down, becoming predictable in its humor as Seiji follows Tokioka in his day to day, interfering in his daily struggles with foolish ideas that Tokioka shoots down. Inbetween this generally weaker section is some heartfelt theme and character work as we get to understand Tokioka and the divide between the slacker him of now and the qualities he possess that will make him a future CEO.

In fact the 1st chapter’s climax is centered on this idea, and the emotional punch speaking to the classic fictional realization of the heartless CEO. It’s a little hyperbolic (though all the talk of struggling Walmart and Amazon employees in the news makes it seem far less fictional), but seeing as Tanaka is a gag manga it kinda gets away with it, making for a triumphant moment when Battle Secretary Tanaka takes the victory by completely obliterating our baddie, all while defending Tokioka’s character.

From there the 2nd chapter becomes an acceptable, but not amazing, continuation of an otherwise strong start. A staple between these two chapters is seeing the crazy business based super attacks Tanaka himself unleashes. It’s sandwiched between Tokioka’s more character focused journey, turning him from slacker and onto the path of his eventual CEO-hood. The one major problem with this is Tokioka’s journey feels like a completed one, meaning there isn’t much of anywhere for Tokioka to go as our lead hero. Thankfully, recognizing that Tokioka isn’t going to be a big draw, the manga introduces a quest to unite the individuals that help Tokioka build his future’s time travel business.

It becomes clear as in Chapter 3, used entirely to introduce our first main cast addition, that Tokioka will be a catalyst lead, like most Shonen heroes. His inspirational attitude bringing out the best in others. This is best showcased as Tokioka and Tanaka attempt to get Naoi Genda, a supposed robot/inventor genius, to join their team. Naoi Genda refuses to hear Tokioka out and the only way to get him to listen is through a robot battle. Tanaka, Tokioka and Akarin, a member of the robotics club and school ‘idol’, struggle against Naoi. But when Tokioka pushes Akarin with a bit of inspirational resolve we learn that Naoi isn’t in fact the individual meant to help Tokioka build his future company, but the talented Akarin herself, a hidden genius in her own right, and the true individual they’ve been searching for.

As far as Jump Start manga goes I think Seiji Tanaka is one of the stronger titles to have undergone the three chapter tease. If there’s any chance of a title joining the line up, I hope Seiji Tanaka gets it, as the series offers some fairly good comedy, if sometimes predictable, mixed with a fun setting and story. Hopefully as the series ages the author’s art will improve and its more visual gags will land harder with more detailed reaction faces and spectacular battle segments.

That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on Seiji Tanaka in the comments below!

Seiji Tanaka is published as a Jump Start in Shonen Jump.

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