New Manga Review - Jiangshi X

It's been a hot minute since I tackled one of the new manga in shonen jump but when I saw Jiangshi X pop up in the list I knew I had to give it at least one chapter. I don't talk about this as often on the podcast, but I am a much bigger fan of horror movies than I am of anime and it is from that world that I am most familiar with jiangshi. 

For those who don't know, jiangshi are the legendary Chinese hopping vampires. At night they hop around with their arms outstretched searching for victims to drain their precious qi. There is a whole subgenre of jiangshi movies out there, and they're great. If you have never seen it, I highly recommend "Mr. Vampire." 

I was a little surprised to see a manga that was so heavily inspired by Chinese mythology. I know this isn't exactly new ground, after all Dragonball is probably the most famous manga of all time and it is inspired by A Journey to the West. Still, it's a break from the recent norm. It's almost enough of a break from the norm for me to forgive the premise of a team of three teenagers (including one cool guy, one eccentric rival, and one nerd) who fight demons. Almost.

Yes, we're doing that again. I do wish we could get away from this standard set up that has taken hold of shonen manga in recent years, but there are a few other factors that give me hope for this series. The first is that the references to Chinese myth and magic seem to be much more deeply rooted in the manga than in something like Dragonball. The main characters are Daoshi, or "Masters of the Tao." Daoshi in real life were monks and priests, and the main characters in this manga are warrior monks who utilize meditation, Chinese alchemy, and perhaps most importantly the Tao in their battles against the forces of evil.

This is when I started to think that this series might have some potential. I don't know how much the author plans to lean into the philosophical themes of Taoism, but I am very much here for it if they choose to. I very much like the idea of a character having power because they have brought themselves into alignment with the universe. I would love to see a return to themes of mastering spirit and body that were central in martial arts traditions before we all got obsessed with the UFC. Other shonen manga have touched on this, but didn't really know how to make it work and resorted to having the characters channel righteous anger and smash heavy rocks. 

Finally, let's talk about the art. I love the art. 

Y'all remember backgrounds? We got them. Creepy monsters? Got those too.

A series of complicated hand signs that unleash qi blasts? You better believe we got them!

Like with all of these early manga reviews, we only have one chapter. We have to keep in mind that most manga drift a good ways from their original premise. I can't promise this will be the next great shonen battler, but I am more personally excited about this one than I have been for any of the others that I have reviewed recently. I recommend checking it out, and I'll be keeping my eye on it. 


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