Undead Unluck 014-017 – Manga Review

Synopsis: What happens when an unlucky girl meets an undead guy? Pure chaos! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)

(Warning: Spoilers to Follow):

Review:

Undead Unluck concludes its first major story arc as Andy, Shen and Fuuko do battle with Spoil, managing to defeat it while unleashing a whole separate threat; Andy himself! Chapters 14 through 17 are an interesting set, because not only do they close out our first real taste of what the series will be like week to week, but they also see our struggling author enter into what could be described as “panic mode,” where the series lets loose in order to try and suck waning readership back in. While the effort is admirable, and I think quite cool by Shonen standards, I’m dubious as to how successful Undead Unluck will be. That said the title does have a few real world circumstances on its ‘side’ to help stave off cancellation. Let’s Jump In!

Starting with Chapter 14, Andy, Shen and Fuuko manage to deduce enough of Spoil’s conditions in order to force the creature to change forms, upping its danger level. It’s here Spoil’s dialogue points to an even more epic narrative than we’ve been introduced to, with so much potential for additional twists and turns down the line. It’s teasing like this that makes me wish Undead Unluck hadn’t had such a uncomfortable start as to push readership away. To be fair however, Undead Unluck has done better in the past four weeks. Audience reaction seems to have stabilized, giving Undead Unluck a steady Rank 10 rating. It’s not fantastic, but it’s certainly not bottom of the barrel like other titles.

You can tell though that our poor author is very much on edge. Not only has the sexual assault comedy near totally disappeared, but whenever Fuuko has to use her body to activate her ability it’s on her terms, rather than someone else’s. But that’s not all. Previously Undead Unluck has allowed deducing people’s abilities to be a kind of game for the readers. Even till now Andy and Fuuko’s abilities have been discussed by the characters, but never clearly laid out. Chapter 15 however changes things. Shen does direct battle against Spoil’s second form. During this we get narrative exposition completely laying out Shen’s ability, as well as the conditions for its activation. It’s a noticeable change, and marks where I feel we move from a series proceeding as it would, to one desperate to win back audience interest.

Chapter 16 and 17 are where this shift really ramps up. In order to actually capture Spoil Andy is forced to remove the card stuck in his head. With this comes an insane boost in ability, a shift in personality, and a complete transformation in appearance. Our author has to be a Dragon Ball fan, because Andy transforms into a design that has to have taken some inspiration from Vegeta’s Super Saiyan 4 Form. From there the arc completely changes gears. Shen and Fuuko are attacked by Andy, whose new persona is anything but friendly. After Shen gets his ass kicked, the entire organization arrives. Chapter 17 then turns into a crazy display of everyone’s various abilities, offering audiences page after page jampacked with action. This doesn’t feel rushed in the same way as a series barreling towards an early conclusion, but rather a title desperate to show the audience a taste of future developments in hopes to renew interest. I still think Undead Unluck is in a tough position, with cancellation the more likely outcome for this manga. That said, Undead Unluck still has a lot of leeway, largely due to real world circumstances.

In any other time Undead Unluck would be lucky to see chapter 25. But not only is Jump struggling to beef back up its roster as popular title after title ends, we’re also seeing Covid interrupt and hinder Mangaka’s ability to produce chapters at the typical pace. Criticism of the industry’s inherently brutal scheduling aside, these two stacking events might be offering Undead Unluck a second chance to prove itself. While Jump has been axe happy in the past, eager to cancel any manga that aren’t an instant success, Jump seems to perhaps be reconsidering that stance.

It’s been a good bit now since Naruto and Bleach both ended, yet Jump hasn’t achieved that same level of success with any of its newer titles. Indeed One Piece remains the out and out face of Jump, with only Demon Slayer rivaling it as that title reached its climax. Jump’s quick to cut methodology hasn’t proved effective for some time, and there’s a number of titles in Jump now that seem to be holding around far longer than I would’ve suspected. It’s not to say that Jump has totally given up its axe happy ways, but it certainly seems like Jump is being forced to reconsider how brazenly it cancels titles one after another. With Covid now also making it so they can’t reliably get every title into each week’s issue, Jump is likely to be even less kill happy. You don’t want to cancel a title without being sure the next mangaka you pull in can actually deliver during these difficult times. Does that mean Jump isn’t going to axe anything till Covid is over? No. And that’s where Undead Unluck last buffer comes into play: It has titles doing far worse than it on a regular basis still.

Undead Unluck isn’t Jump’s worst title. In fact, it’s even ranking above a few mainstays, like Act-Age and Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs. While the mainstays are unlikely to be canceled just because of a rough patch, especially as Act-Age just got a stage play for 2022 announced, the other fledgling manga below Undead Unluck act as a solid buffer. Both Agravity Boys and Guardian of the Witch are floundering and are more likely to see cancellation before Undead Unluck. Jump isn’t likely to do a big round of cancellations at a time like this though, and that gives Undead Unluck some breathing room as other, lesser, titles get cut down first one after another.

That said, it’s only a reprieve. Our Author is playing a difficult game. With audiences still so soured from the first few chapters it’s likely near impossible to win people back over. The manga will always have started with sexual harassment as a gag, one now apparently found distasteful by Jump’s Japan readership. Even if the series rights itself later, it’s hard for people to recommend their friends start it, as convincing them to read it comes with such a significant caveat. I guess we’ll see in just a few weeks time whether Undead Unluck actually manages to turn it all around.

That’s it for this week! Let me know what your thoughts are on Undead Unluck!

Undead Unluck is published weekly in Shonen Jump.

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