Shonen Jump Newcomer Akane-banashi is an excellent new manga

Image of Akane standing on a five-panel mat, with Isso Arakawa.

Screenshots: Shonen dance

I started reading Akane-banashi because I don’t want to start a manga that’s hundreds of chapters long. I think I will be able to short sample a new series, cancel Shonen dance sub, and then back to handling my backlog of games. But Akane-banashi calms me down with expressive art, hilarious comedy, and eye-popping arcs. A few months later, read it again Akane-banashi still the main reason I still pay for that subtitle, and reading a new chapter (for free) every Sunday is my favorite part of the weekend.

Akane-banashi tells the story of Akane Osaki, a teenage girl who pursues a theatrical art form called rakugo. In rakugo, a performer tells humorous or dramatic stories using only their different body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. The artist has to embody every character in the story, and rakugo skits always have multiple characters involved.

Several years ago, Akane’s father was unexpectedly expelled from rakugo school, so she is pursuing rakugo professionally to get answers about her expulsion and to redeem her art in the public eye. Unfortunately, the man who destroyed her father’s career is also the most important figure in the entire rakugo world, so the stakes in making people laugh are extremely high.

Although the premise is emotionally heavy, Akane-banashi is a comedic series that really shines as it showcases the creator’s deep love for rakugo. The performances are super fun to read, as the artist paints fun exaggerated expressions that seem a bit out of place for the pretty and graceful performers. The lead actor in most works of fiction just needs to be pretty and charming. In the rakugo of Akane-banashithey also become lazy, arrogant and obnoxious.

Each performance transforms the artist into a whole new person, without the need for props or outside help. In one table, a rakugo performer is a cowardly old man and spends too much money. In another aspect, he is a strong and cunning wife. And the series feels easy to follow as manga tends to err on the side of over-narrating performances. If theater is a hoax, then Akane-banashiof rakugo is an honest hoax. The jokes are simple, but everyone in the joke.

I love re-reading Akane-banashi as a gentle palate cleanser for other shonen manga. Despite the general competitive atmosphere of the recent season, its sense of humor remains carefree without the spirit of evil or irritation. The characters respect each other, recognize the creative talents of others, and never put their competitors down. The stakes are still high, and I want Akane to impress all the adults who abandoned her for being young. But I’m having so much fun watching her grow as an artist, I don’t feel rushed to see her “winning” on scores.

This is a welcome change from most shonen manga, such as Demon Slayer, in which the protagonist practically self-destructs to gain the next level of power. I even had to stop reading casual manga like Bakuman because it only seems to favor burnout. Akane-banashi seduces you early, helps you slowly invest in the characters and uses its own impressive skills to draw you in.

The slower pace also extends to the way it structures the stories. Akane-banashi It often takes many chapters for a rakugo performance to reach its final end. The joke itself is not the problem. Instead, much of the drama comes from the narration of other characters in the audience.

Just like how a friend explains a sports game is often more interesting than the game itself, Akane-banashi shines as rakugo performers’ peers and colleagues scrutinize and analyze the theatrical decisions they make in their performance. That’s why it’s more enjoyable for some people to stream than to watch others despite playing the same game. Akane-banashi not just stubborn about withholding rakugo’s authenticity; it’s about making sure the audience has a good time.

I’m not the only one with a knack for shonen manga. The first episode of Akane-banashi to be praised by A piecefamous creator, Eiichiro Oda. And recently, director Hideaki Anno of Neon Genesis Evangelion join him in introducing the series to new readers. Akane-banashi is a newcomer to many shonen manga conventions, but it’s still a confident work and always seems to keep a stop in its plot.

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