Ne0;lation: What Does It Mean to be a “Jump Hero”?

Ne0;lation is a manga which is basically Death Note with hackers (well, “cracker” is the right term, but…you don’t want to confuse a manga character with something else). However, in saying that, I think Death Note’s legacy opened up a conundrum – what is the quintessential Jump hero?

Back when Death Note was around, people thought it caused a stir because it was discussing such brutal themes in a manga for young boys. Now that Jump is letting in “anti-Jump” characters, such as the selfish yet talented hacker Arata One (the star of Ne0;lation) into its ranks, Death Note’s legacy becomes all too apparent – so long as you can pit bad guys against badder guys, you can still promote friendship, hard work and victory in a roundabout way.

What do I mean by this? Well, let’s look at Daigo, One’s delinquent-seeming companion. Despite his reputation, he’s a very “friendship, hard work and victory” guy, up to and loving the only family he has left – his sister Mizuho. By placing this epitome of what used to be Jump’s style up against One himself, Ne0;lation proves the world is changing through the internet and while we can hold on to the things that worked in the past, something’s gotta give if you want to live in the internet age.

I think an interesting contrast would be Tetsuya Kuroko and Taiga Kagami from Kuroko no Basuke. Although the manga itself promotes friendship and hard work the old way, having the double team be the stars emphasises teamwork in order to achieve victory is “the right way to play the Jump game”. Sure, the Generation of Miracles was a “team” in name, but they sure turned the “victory” – as Jump knew it – on its own head by winning easily, effortlessly and without much thought.

Then go to one of the biggest proponents for the Jump slogan – Luffy of One Piece. People bash him and his ilk for running on “the power of nakama” (to put it short), but that’s what Jump was when the series began and so Luffy continues to represent his particular set of morals regarding that Jump slogan, even if it is a particularly traditional interpretation (and by “traditional”, I mean in relation to Jump Starts – the 90s really weren’t so long ago).

Context: For those who don’t know, Jump Starts are when Shonen Jump runs the first 3 chapters of a new series at the same time as Japan. Since Jump switched over to its new archiving system due to Manga Plus, it’s hard to know what will happen to the system in the future, but some of the hottest Jump properties, such as Promised Neverland and Dr Stone, have come out of it.

The Jump Starts the magazine has run in the past few years are exciting because Naruto and Bleach have left the equation but Boku no Hero Academia is getting more conservative while Black Clover got passed over to some degree or other by fandom consciousness, thus creating a vacuum in which literally anything, by virtue of being in the running, could pick up the mantle of being big. The Promised Neverland has probably – arguably – hit that label, but it, like Death Note, works because it doesn’t run for too long and is predicated on surprise.

Just to bring this full-circle, I want to list out how Arata uses friendship, hard work and victory in his series (of course, if you’ve never seen the series, now would be a good time to avert your eyes):

  • friendship – Arata’s friendship with Tobari kickstarts his career as a morally ambiguous cracker. Although the main trio (the one girl, Daigo and Arata) aren’t friends yet, if the series runs long enough you can see them coming closer in this way (although probably not enough to ship – sorry, all you fudanshi and fujoshi out there!).
  • hard work – Now, here’s where the idea of a Jump hero gets thwarted the most. Daigo believes in hard work and puts in hard work, but the job of a hacker being what it is, Arata doesn’t. By calling himself a “genius”, Arata entitles himself to not do hard work, instead getting Daigo to put in the hard yards because the latter is an emotionally-driven dude. You could argue Daigo is the reason why Ne0;lation exists – he’s so Jump and he’s the Watson to Arata’s Holmes (so to speak) that Arata can get away with what he wants, hard work be damned.
  • victory – By giving hacking physical forms (such as the street racing storyline) and having characters melt down in exaggerated ways once they’re beaten (see the Lemming storyline), victory can be found in multiple dimensions.

So, over to you. If you read Ne0;lation, do you think it’s any good? If you don’t, do you think the concept of Jump Starts is a good thing?

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