Zipman!! 009-014 – Manga Review (Sort of)
Synopsis: Zip up and kick robot butt! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)
(Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Zipman is a manga in its death throws. Over the course of just five chapters the series has moved from a relatively contained arc where fellow classmates and love interest Cheena were taken hostage, to a city ending battle between our leads, Kaname and Koshiro, with Koshiro captured and now brainwashed into working for the big bad. There’s no doubt that Zipman has been axed and we have but one or two chapters to go before its presence in Jump is but history. There isn’t much point to talking about a manga about to be axed, as Jump’s insistence on a rushed conclusion means the entire thing is a mess. Instead I’d like to highlight this as an example to the downside of Jump’s “it better be a success at launch” approach.
Jump is known for its ruthlessness. If a series isn’t doing at least moderately well then it’s sent to the trash heap. So many manga have ended this way, canned within 15 chapters, maybe a little over 25 if they’re lucky. This ruthless approach is what has kept Jump running for decades now, trimming titles that weren’t grabbing readers immediately so that they could find something that would. While series cancelled 50 to 100 chapters in likely got a fair shake under this system, given a good one to two year run to try and impress, I’d argue anything cancelled earlier than chapter 30 is being done a disservice.
Not every story is going to be a success out of the gate. Some take time to build and I’d argue that Zipman, with its mechanics of new techniques gained via equipment, a burgeoning love triangle between the two brothers and the woman they both love, a mysterious enemy group, and other, more minor elements, were something that needed to grow and ferment a bit before readers would truly get sucked in. But Jump’s obsession with instant success kills chances for series like this to eventually impress and, I’ll also argue, kills creativity.
I’ve seen a lot of recent sentiment that Jump is struggling these days. One Piece is a juggernaut, and while the magazine has a couple other strong successes, Academia, Haikyuu, Black Clover, there isn’t too much left beyond that. While the magazine isn’t in immediate danger, I do think Jump is responsible for the tight spot it now finds itself in. But being so kill happy with its new titles, chopping and chopping and chopping, it’s pushing out creativity in favor of hitting all the same tropes over and over again. It’s why so many shonen, successful and not, are literally packed to the brim with similar characters, ideas, and such. By being so kill happy, never allowing series like Zipman to even try and find their footing, you end up with authors and editors aiming squarely for whats been proven to work. So you hit the same tropes again and again because you know they’re tried and tested. You hit on similar battle concepts, ideas, story progression, because you know they work. You throw infinitely growing casts at the wall because you know if you offer up even just crazy designs with the thinnest of personality then readers will go ham for it.
The problem with that narrow approach is that readers get bored. They don’t always know why. If you haven’t studied creative writing, or attempted some yourself, you likely don’t think about any of this. You don’t think about how similar these titles are, how often the same tropes come up, etc. You just get bored. Maybe you grandfather in One Piece, or Academia, or what have you, and let a series slide on presenting the same ideas over and over again, but the next series that comes along you just can’t get into. There’s differences between each of these series, sure, they’re not all carbon copies, but by always returning to the well of tried and true it requires authors to be that much more creative, that much more able to slip in their personal style from the get go, while adhering to formula and tropes, effectively trying to give the old a new shine. This approach has diminishing returns, and Jump can only dodge away from this problem for so long.
Overall Zipman is a series that, I think, never got a fair chance. Would it have been a success? I don’t know, in my last review I was pretty critical, noting that the series seemed to be moving too fast, and this is, in my opinion, before the order to axe came down. Almost two weeks ago I speculated that maybe Jump was moving away from its axe happy nature, allowing room for Agravity Boys, a title I don’t think has the potential to improve, a chance to capture audiences past when it would’ve likely been axed. Yeah that didn’t pan out. But I think all these new titles, irrespective of my thoughts on Agravity Boys, deserve a longer, guaranteed shot. Let them flub around for 20 chapters to try and find their footing, even if they never do. It’ll also give these mangaka more experience, and probably make their next attempt, if they still weren’t able to succeed, even better. Only after chapter 20 should a series be reworked towards cancellation. Let those first twenty stand as a best attempt and let 21 through 30 act as the rushed ending. We know Jump is capable of this, since they keep bankrolling the failure that is Samurai 8. If Kishimoto can fart around for 40+ chapters, in a title no one seems to want, the least you can do is let the newbies futz around for half that as they learn the ropes.
That’s it for this week! Let me know what your thoughts are on Zipman!
Zipman!! is published weekly in Shonen Jump.