Black Torch, Vol. 1

By Tsuyoshi Takaki. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Jump Square. Released in North America by Viz. Translated by Toshikazu Aizawa and Colin Leigh.

A lot of the first volume of this new Jump series looks like a prologue, because in a sense it is. In fact, I’d argue that it might have worked better if it were done as a flashback after a few chapters featuring the titular special unit that our hero ends up getting drafted into. As it is, I enjoyed this volume but I’m left a bit dissatisfied as it feels like the story hasn’t quite started yet. There is a bit going on here to make folks want to read more, though. Jiro is somewhat standard Jump style, but “can talk to animals and is also a ninja” is a pretty good starting point, even if he does end the first chapter with a giant hole in his chest. There’s also Ichika, who manages to deal with a “I hate people who belittle me because I’m a woman scene” with her dignity mostly intact, which always pleases me.

We not only have ninjas here but also Mononokes, which seems to be sort of animal demons. Jiro rescues a small cat who turns out to be one of these, and also the only one in the series to date who’s not evil. Unfortunately, when you team up with the one “not evil” monster, you get hard looks from the team hired to take out monsters, which includes grumpy Ichika and her boss, the Captain Gotoh-esque Shiba. They’re the Oniwabanshu of legendary historical fame, now busy being bodyguards and also hunting down these monsters, which have recently popped back up. After a mostly deadly fight, Jiro and Rago are now fused, so he’s something of a trouble spot. That said, he’s pretty good in a fight, and has mononoke powers while still fighting for goodness and niceness, so he’s allowed to join the new team.

There are apparently two more team members we haven’t met, and as I indicated before, I think this feels more like “Part 1 of 2” than other Jump series of this sort. I like Ichika, despite her “I need to properly emphasize my rack for the readers” costume (which is even lampshaded). She seems to be the daughter of a ninja clan family who’s been dealing with “but you’re a girl” her entire life, and it’s made her a big angry and reluctant to accept help. Needless to say, the moment she mentions this, she’s put in a situation where she’s in dire straits and needs help. That said, she shows she’s a damn good fighter, and gets in the final blow, so I think it was pretty well handled. I suspect these two will be the lead “couple”, but I also expect any romance will be about 10th on the list of things this manga wants to do. It’s here to kick ass and take names, not flirt it up.

Add it all up and you have a decent first volume, and one I’d recommend to fans of things like Blue Exorcist. I look forward to the next volume, which should show what the series will actually be doing going forward.

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  1. I read it, but kind of forgot about it pretty quickly. I think it has potential, but it also wasn’t very grabbing. Shame it’s coming out at the same time as Dr. Stone and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, two first vols that I found much more instantly grabbing for me. Right now, Black Torch isn’t totally off the table, but I’m not sold either.

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