By: Tomohide Hirao
Illustrator: Mizuki Yoda
Translator: Christine Dashiell
Release Date: Dec 10, 2018 to Apr 27, 2019
Publisher: Shonen Jump
Many manga come and go from the pages of Shonen Jump magazine. Some have decades long runs and become foundation works within the genre. Others find themselves canceled rather unceremoniously. At only 19 chapters, ne0;lation written by Tomohide Hirao and art by Mizuki Yoda is a manga that, I believe, was canceled too soon. What few reviews I’ve found on this newer addition to Shonen Jump rate it rather mediocrely – a manga that wasn’t terrible but didn’t keep their attention either.
My own feelings on ne0;lation are mixed as well. It is at once a manga very worthy of being read and that perhaps was never quite right for Shonen Jump.
The story itself focuses on two high schoolers. The first is Daigo Minai, a young man being raised by his sister after their parents passed away. The second is Neo, another high schooler and a prodigy at computer programming and hacking. Neo takes on local thugs not by using his fists like so many other shonen protagonists, but with cleverness and more than a little hacking.
The plot starts off strong. Daigo finds his sister and himself targets of thugs who their late father owed money. However, the amount and interest keep changing, and neither can afford to pay the fees. After a chance encounter, Neo decides to help. After this arc, the pacing slows and loses focus. There are some further adventures featuring new characters and more quick witted thinking from Neo. Yet, the manga takes on a distinct ‘monster of the week’ feel.
Finally, towards the end of its too-short run, the manga finds its footing again. Neo’s childhood is related over the course of a chapter or two. It is here that the pacing picks up, a fully realized new story arc is introduced, and, sadly, the manga was canceled. Just when real promise showed, the door was closed.
That said, I don’t think ne0;lation was a good fit for Shonen Jump. The manga felt much more like a seinen manga than shonen. While many shonen protagonists are high schoolers, these characters felt on the older end of high school. Both had been through circumstances that made them grow up quickly, and tend to make them feel older than they really are. There is less fantasy or sports in this, and certainly less large, bombastic fights. The antagonists are much more human and real-world than the big baddies of Shonen Jump titles like My Hero Academia. A different sort of audience would be drawn to ne0;lation, and not the ones that normally find themselves drawn to Shonen Jump.
I think that, given a second chance in a different magazine, ne0;lation would have a good run. It’s biggest flaw, unfortunately, was a mis-targeted audience. Yes, the pacing in several chapter was slow and unfocused, but this is the sort of growing pains that many manga go through towards the beginning of their runs.
Tomohide Hirao and Mizuki Yoda are names I will certainly be keeping an eye on in the future. And, just maybe, ne0;lation will one day find a home in another manga magazine.