Medaka Box is the Best MangaPosted: May 21, 2012
I have been reading quite a bit of manga these past few months. It’s much more accessible than anime – not just because I can read anytime on my phone, but because I don’t have to dedicate ~22 minutes of my time to anime. I can stop at any time (or so I’ve come to fool myself into believing), and I get a lot more story for the time spent. After all, when you can animate twenty pages of manga into ten to twenty minutes of anime, it’s obvious which one has more bang for the buck.
I’ve read such things like Bokurano, Kaoksokdeyih Hitman Reborn, Katsu, Deadman Wonderland, Ao no Exorcist, Freezing, Nurarhihriahyun no Mago, Kuroko no Basket, etc. I’ve pretty much caught up on every manga in Shounen Jump except Naruto and the eyebrow one. But through all of this, I’ve found that my favorite one is Medaka Box, a mediocre manga where nothing, from the characters to the premise to the setting, stands out.
One Piece is arguably the most popular manga in the world. Its rampant popularity can be attributed to three core aspects: the characters, the consistency, and THE HEART. I apologize for the thinly veiled joke, but that’s what One Piece really has. Oda gives the series the childhood feeling of adventure that you won’t find anywhere else. Each chapter keeps you guessing. Each chapter makes you want to read the next. And to keep it up for 650 chapters over fifteen years requires a very special kind of talent.
And to top it off, One Piece is surprisingly consistent. It’s as if Oda planned it all out way back in the 90s. Each arc has the perfect length and none of the many arcs drags on too long or cuts off too early. Even the beginning is well executed. There’s no painful transition from slice-of-life comedy to battle shounen (like in Reborn and many other manga). Luffy meets Zoro and leaves the safety of his home island before chapter ten.
But back to Medaka Box…
For the first few dozen chapters of Medaka Box, Medaka and Zenkichi and the other council members are doing daily activities. And then, suddenly, the manga makes a 360 degree turn and walks away (ha ha). But unlike Reborn, where I was wondering why the author bothered to write over seventy chapters of crappy slice-of-life when he could have jumped straight into the battle manga business, Medaka Box’s transition is not painful.
Here’s where you can see Medaka Box’s heart. When I read it, I think that the author (Nisio Isin, by the way) does whatever the hell he wants… and it works.
You can see this in the popularity polls. The first popularity poll results were standard. Medaka, the title character, won over childhood friend Zenkichi by a slight margin. But the second one wasn’t even a contest. There were almost four times as many votes for Misogi as for the runner-up, Medaka.
And Misogi still doesn’t have a major role in the story. After his Minus arc was over, Misogi faded away into obscurity and has become nothing more than part of the background now. Furthermore, Mr. #6 (Zenkichi) is getting a larger role in recent chapters even though nobody likes him, he hasn’t had much time to shine, and he possesses very few battle skills.
Okay, so maybe this isn’t a convincing argument.
But to anybody who has read Medaka Box, I hope you know what I’m talking about. Remember the time a few months ago when the Not Equals arc ended? Remember how it ended? Yeah, “LIFE IS EPIC.”
Who expected that? The enemy is literally invincible. She has trillions of skills, each as powerful as Medaka’s one skill, and she could single-handedly defeat any of the characters introduced so far. And the conclusion of the arc comes around like this? Well, damn. Damn.
Neither Nisio Isin nor the readers of the manga may know in what direction Medaka Box is headed, but it sure is enjoyable to read.