Ziga 001-002 – Manga Review

Synopsis: Ko Hachigane is plagued by a reoccurring nightmare. In it a gigantic, horrific monster thrashes through the city. To Ko, this is little more than a minor nuisance, that is until he’s visited by one Tenshiro Banno, head of a secret agency. Tenshiro explains to Ko that his nightmare is no mere dream. The monster exists and Ko is needed to help stop it, before his dreams, in reality premonitions, come to pass.

Warning: Spoilers to Follow:

Review:

Like Noah’s Notes, Ziga also opens uneven, although readily finds its footing. We’re introduced to Ko Hachigane, a typical meek shonen lead, down on himself with a childhood crush/friend to help pick his fragile ego back up. As introductions go, Ziga gets quite exposition heavy.

But at first we start by following Ko in his day to day, learning about his dynamic with his mother, his best friend/crush Amagi, and his social status at school. The manga introduces the idea that there’s something unique about Ko, showcasing his incredible running ability, artistic talent and the way those abilities affect him among his peers. They’re important plot points since they tie into the supernatural ability angle Ziga will eventually work with. It’s a modest and workable introduction, one Ziga chooses to undermine with an overly lengthy bout of extreme exposition.

I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t a wet dream.

As if worried to let its more supernatural/sci-fi/fantasy concepts linger too long in the background, Ko is approached by Tenshiro Banno. While Tenshiro’s inclusion here is important, we need to know that Ko’s dream is, in reality, a premonition of the monster to come, we don’t need the heavy exposition we do get covering Ko’s latent supernatural abilities. Instead of leaving it at Ko’s prophetic dreams being Tenshiro’s reason for approaching him, which is already more wordy than it needs to be, we switch gears as one of Tenshiro’s soldiers aims a gun at Ko. It’s all part of a test to see how strong Ko’s “flash waves” are, the jargon term for what gives Ko his precognitive abilities. It feels abrupt, heavy-handed, awkward and actually completely unnecessary as we’ll come to find. I’d argue the story would flow so much better if Tenshiro and Ko’s meeting ended at an interest in his precognitive abilities and we saved the “Flash Waves” talk for later.

Ziga doesn’t immediately right itself from this awkward introduction. We first have to get through a ho-hum character beat, flashing back to how Amagi managed to convince our fragile hero that if you don’t try you’ll never succeed. But after the explanation of how flash waves are providing Ko with surprise physical and mental talent, it feels unearned and false. More like a platitude than a truly sincere message.

Surely we could come up with a cooler name than “Flash Waves.”

But once we’re past that and Ko has another horrifying vision, we get into where Ziga shines. The monster attacks and things heat up. The art does the action justice, the turn of events are horrifying, at least for shonen anyway, and the story doesn’t pull any punches as things go just about as bad as they could possibly go.

Chapter 2 doesn’t let up on this either, focusing on the aftermath of the attack, the effect it has upon Ko, and the building actions of Tenshiro’s secret organization, A.D.R.A. It’s here that we see a more natural introduction of Ko’s “Flash Wave” abilities, visualized through his usage of a special, powerful and destructive weapon only individuals with these powers can use. With a little rewriting you could even imagine a Chapter 2 that negates any need for the lengthy Flash Wave exposition from Chapter 1.

It’s also what you can do when you have a superhuman wave length ability thingamabob that makes things come easy to you.

Of the three Jump Starts, Ziga is undoubtedly the most interesting. The most well constructed is still Kaizen, but in terms of an ongoing narrative that has me wanting more, Ziga wins hands down. If it can just be more like the back half of Chapter 1, and Chapter 2, Ziga could turn out to be a long-lasting shonen title and one I’d ache to see added to the Western line up.

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

Ziga is published as a Jump Start in Shonen Jump.

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