Manga Review: J #2


  • Jesus

Authors: Kyoichi Nanatsuki & Yoshihide Fujiwara

Manga genre: Seinen

Number of volumes: 7 (bunko edition)

Still in print: …not exactly

Angela here! No, this isn’t an error. We have a break in our normal transmission to bring you Manga Review: J #2, this time written by me. This particular title breaks more than one rule in this review series – not only is it not in English, I’m not entirely sure it’s still in print in Japanese. It is, however, still commonly available from Amazon.jp (including kindle edition), BookOff and other second hand bookstores in Japan, so if you can read a little Japanese… Well.
This is one of those series that I would just love to see officially translated.
“Jesus” is not the story of the son of God – if anything it’s more the opposite. It’s the story of a mercenary, an assassin, true name unknown but commonly called Jesus because that’s what people tend to gasp out when they see him coming for them.

“Je… Jesus!”

The story opens with Jesus faking his own death, taking on the identity of a conveniently recently deceased doppelganger to stay hidden. He’s stolen a tonne of cocaine from an international crime syndicate and hidden it compacted into the form of some school blackboards. Can you see where this is going? When the blackboards accidentally get installed in an actual school, Jesus takes on the identity of a nerdy history teacher named Fujisawa Shingo (names all in Japanese order) in order to protect his investment – not to mention the students in his new school.
This is a surprisingly sophisticated story – there are considerably more shades of grey than you might expect. Main characters get strong story arcs and there are no easy answers, pat conclusions or justifications offered. Humour (occasionally dark, often silly, especially as Jesus struggles with the role of high school teacher) lightens the heavier moments, but there’s no getting away from the fact that this a story in which people do bad things and can – and do – die.

They’re just replicas, honest!

Drawn in the 90s, the art is in a style that has fallen out of favour and eyes more accustomed to the clean anime-esque lines of the past decade may find it takes some time to get used to. However, if you like manga like Crying Freeman, Sanctuary or Lady Snowblood, you’ll appreciate this.
There are some fairly obvious challenges to getting a story like this translated starting from the title and going downhill from there. From the outset it would appear that Jesus fully intends to sell on the cocaine, and simply retire on the proceeds. Without giving away the story, however, I will say that both his motivations and his intentions are considerably more complex than that.
Author Kyoichi Nanatsuki also likes his weapons, and will often describe them in loving, rather unnecessary detail. This is proper boys-own stuff and, if you’re not a gun-geek, occasionally annoying. If you are, however, it may be a plus? In any case it *does* fit with the main character’s personality. A mercenary is going to know – and care about – his weapons after all.

This entire page is about the gun.

 

The parts I really love about this manga lie primarily in the character details. There’s the bartender of the underworld drinking hole Nest of Geese, getting increasingly alarmed by the number of apparently random civilians following Jesus in. Or the cheerfully naive nun who runs Jesus’ school, not noticing that her staff are being slowly replaced by assassins.

The main antagonist is Misaki Kaoru, a mid-level boss in ’24’, the criminal group smarting from Jesus’s theft of their cocaine. Gloriously confident in his own masculinity, he happily struts about in a power suit, heels, long hair, fluttery eyelashes and oh-so-sparkly earings. For the first few volumes, it’s not entirely obvious if he is in fact male – and comments on his sexuality are met with just a smirk.

Yes, this is a man.

His main hench, in contrast, is the tall, androgynous sniper Midou Manami (also quite fond of power suits) known – unwillingly – as Tora (“Tiger”). She leads me on to my other love of this series – strong female characters, with their own character development. Tora herself has a back story of some proportion – she has reason for what she is and does. Other female characters are equally well developed, from the determined schoolgirl trying to get her best friend back on track, to the cheeky journalist trying to use Jesus to get a scoop on the bad guys.

“As expected. You really are a ‘wolf’, Fujisawa Shingo!”

Even the romantic maiden-in-distress character, naive teacher Mizutani Sayuri, finds her own strength in the course of the story completely independently of her relationship with Jesus.
So there we have it. A review for something you can’t read in English, can’t easily get and will probably never be licensed. On the plus side, the world of this story is extended into a number of other Manga. If I’ve sparked your interest, you may want to go look for ‘Until Death Do Us Part’ by Hiroshi Takashige, which is available in English and features cameos by Jesus and his cohort, as well as characters from another series by the authors of Jesus, ‘Yami no Aegis’.