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This week Shonen Jump launched one of its most anticipated new series of the season: Takeru Hokazono’s contemporary Yakuza/Fantasy swordsman series Kagurabachi. But while it’s already making big waves after just one chapter, the manga has become an altogether stranger hit online.
One of three titles selected by the legendary manga magazine as part of its “Jump Nextwave” initiative—manga chosen by the magazine as winners of its Tezuka Award, with the chance to headline its latest wave of main manga serials—Kagurabachi follows a young man named Chihiro. The self-serious apprentice of his legendary swordsmith father, Chihiro finds himself wielding one of his father’s magical katana seeking justice and revenge against the Korogumi, a Yakuza family with ties to a mysterious sorcerer at the heart of Chiriro’s quest.
The first chapter, which released this past Sunday, has all the makings of a shonen hit. Chihiro’s got a simple but effective character design, even if he is a bit of a generic edgy protagonist so far. The swordplay is over-the-top but still readable and restrained, the action, while heightened and bloody, is similarly clean—gory, but more stylistically than viscerally. It’s a strong start even for a fairly typical battle shonen series premise, and Hokazono’s crisp artwork shows a lot of promise for when Kagurabachi inevitably dips into its more supernatural undercurrents. So perhaps the buzz that saw the series propel up the ranks of publisher Shuiesha’s MangaPlus site this week, over the likes of veritable hits like Spy x Family, Dragon Ball Super, Boruto, and more to entrench itself in the top 10—as of writing, it’s currently ranked seventh—is unsurprising.
What is surprising is that Kagurabachi has taken on a life of its own on social media in the wake of its release. While the buzz around the manga itself is largely earned, in the run up to release—and now amplified by resurgent interest with chapter one arriving—Kagurabachi has found itself the face of an ironic meme campaign heralding the manga as the best thing since presumably-katana-sliced bread. Known as “Kagurabachi glazing,” the sensation sees people brashly declare the manga as an inheritor to the likes of One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach as one of the “Big Three,” or proselytizing Chihiro as the greatest manga protagonist around, in the hopes of viral success among online anime circles.
But while that facet of Kagurabachi glazing might just seem like typical social media braggadocio and fandom overhype, where the memery has gone truly wild is the establishment of a faux-franchise universe for the series. People are making covers for Kagurabachi video game adaptations, mocking up fake screenshots from an anime adaptation and imagining moments from the story that don’t even exist yet. Kagurabachi has become, in some ways, the manga equivalent of Goncharov (1973) last year—a shared fiction meets shitposting meme that is so far wilder and sillier than what the actual manga itself has presented in its debut.
It’s hard to say whether or not Kagurabachi will live up to the buzz yet—artificially inflated or otherwise—given we have so little of the story Hokazono has planned actually in front of us yet. But its peculiar, memetic face of the anime and manga fall season in spite of that at least has people interested in seeing what the actual fuss is about.
Kagurabachi’s first chapter is available to read for free digitally through the Shonen Jump Weekly app and online at Viz Media.
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