Tokyo Shinobi Squad 010-013 – Manga Review

Synopsis: In a future lawless Tokyo, retribution is delivered by shinobi! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)

Warning: Spoilers to Follow:

Review:

Tokyo Shinobi Squad continues to suffer the same, major issue we discussed last time: A lack of compelling leads. Opportunity is squandered here that would’ve allowed us to at least feel a tease as to Jin’s softer side and perhaps paint him as someone with a tragic backstory, allowing us to see his deeper motivation for being the kind of upstanding hero he is. Let’s Jump in!

Chapters 10-12 finish the battle with Hyosui with plenty of crazy action that allows Kento Matsuura’s art to really shine and take center stage. That’s the one saving grace with these chapters: Matsuura’s art. It’s really a shame the story isn’t holding up, as Kento’s ability to make battles look stunning, even when I couldn’t give a flying pig’s ass for any of the combatants, is a truly gifted talent. I only hope once TSS is done Kento gets a story worthy of his art.

But the writing truly is weak. Jin and Papillon rush to save their clients and end up in one on one matches with Hyosui and his number one lackey. Jin becomes a true idiot during this as he allows Hyosui to set off the sprinkler system, not making a single attempt to shut off the flow of water. Considering we know Hyosui is an ice-based villain, and can lower the temperature of anything below freezing, you’d think depriving him of water to manipulate into ice might be Jin’s first step. But no, Jin allows him to get away with and becomes terribly beaten in the process. While Jin does ultimately win, it doesn’t make our hero look very smart, and a foolish lead, who lacks even charm, is not a good combination.

But what’s perhaps more frustrating is the missed opportunity to tease, even just a little bit, Jin’s backstory. Jin is backed up against the wall and Papillion gives the classic “he’s a hero and heroes don’t back down” speech just before Jin turns the tide. But rather than allow for a couple flashbacks to show what drives Jin, death of his family, failure to protect a friend, something that establishes why he’s such an upstanding, never backs down hero, this whole thing rings hollow. It hits all the right beats, but lacks all the emotion.

Even our arc only characters, Maki and her manager, barely get the page space needed to feel like they’ve had any kind of journey. Despite Maki admitting that she thinks of her manager as a father, nothing’s really changed by the end of the arc for either of them. It feels thin, although still more weighty than anything our actual main characters got. Heck Papillon also comes away totally overshadowed here, the chapter spending more time on Jin’s fight than her’s, with this having been a real chance to showcase just how bad ass she is. Right now Papillon is like much of the rest of Jin’s squad: Props to make Jin even more kickass.

The underlying problem is that Tokyo Shinobi Squad is wrapping its stories up too quickly. There’s something to be said for brevity, but at the same time if you trim things down too much there’s no time for the meat of the story: Characterization. If Tokyo Shinobi Squad is going to win over fans it needs to do one of two things: Either it needs to be so flipping cool people don’t care if it’s all superficial, or the characters need to be lovable. But if we never give each arc breathing room, a chance for revealing dialogue or pointed backstory, there’s never a chance to fall in love with Jin, Papillon or anyone else in their squad.

Sadly Chapter 13 doesn’t point to the series improving. Chapter 13 catapults us into another arc, with new characters abound, but hardly a hint of deeper story or characterization. Unless Tokyo Shinobi Squad does a sudden 180, I think this series is headed for cancellation sooner rather than later.

That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on Tokyo Shinobi Squad in the comments below!

Tokyo Shinobi Squad is published as part of Shonen Jump.

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