Show-ha Shoten !: first impressions of Obata’s new manga

Takeshi Obata returns to drawing for Shueisha, in tandem with a novice, with Show-ha Shoten !, a manga about the art of stand-up comedy

The stand-up comedy has a solid and varied tradition in the West. From the politically committed monologues of the Americans George Carlin and Bill Hicks, to the local and popular Zelig and Colorado Cafè, comedy can go anywhere, and touch any topic.

In Japan it is no different, but at the same time, as with all things, it is. With Show-ha Shoten! we will have the opportunity to discover what is hidden behind the stage of the cabaret.

The name of Takeshi Obata inevitably stands out in this project. For this time, the sensei will not draw a story written by the colleague Tsugumi Oba, but will work alongside a novice in the Shueisha house, Akinari Asakura.

The work will be serialized on Jump SQ., a monthly magazine of Shueisha, but, thanks to MangaPlus, from all over the world we can follow the adventure – both that of the characters and that of the authors – in real time. At the moment, the first two chapters have been released simultaneously.

Show-ha Shoten !: first impressions of Obata's new manga

Let’s get to know the protagonists of Show-ha Shoten!

The manga opens with a memory from the past: the young man Shijima Anemichi must say goodbye to a peer who is about to move. The girl asks him if, to ease the tension, Anemichi can say something funny. But the boy, clearly shy and awkward, is unable to say a word, bringing down a sad curtain on that farewell.

Since then, Anemichi has decided to dedicate his life to the study of comedy, to entertain, so that it will never happen again to remain silent. He achieves excellent results on the radio and online, but his shyness remains, preventing him from facing a real stage.

Yes, many comedians are successful as a couple. Here comes the scene then Tayo Higashikata, an extroverted and loose schoolmate, perhaps too much. His talent with the public is undermined by poor organizational skills. Fate will bring the two together for a participation in the school show at the last minute, where they will have their first success.

Show-ha Shoten !: first impressions of Obata's new manga

The show must go on?

The first thing audiences focus on, with Show-ha Shoten! is the name of Obata and his drawing work. The tribute to Death Note in the first chapter could not miss. Unavoidable? Perhaps, but it is not certain that a work cannot be strong enough to stand on its own legs. But let’s go in order.

Let’s talk, of course, about Obata’s drawings: given the very different context compared to titles like Death Note and Platinum End, the sensei has adapted his style into a much softer and more relaxed form. This is something to be considered for judgment, but regardless of this, the trait still appears subdued compared to the standards we are used to.

Comparison with cannot be avoided either Bakuman!, another title that narrates the rise of two young people in a new profession, revealing all the secrets along the way. In fact, the two titles are very similar; however, where Bakuman’s argument is undoubtedly of interest to readers, in the case of Show-ha Shoten we are in more exotic territory. In other words, getting audiences hooked on the profession of comedian could be a much more difficult task, and already Bakuman had divided the fans of the iconic writing duo Oba-Obata.

Show-ha Shoten! He follows in a pedestrian way the classics of the genre, indeed immediately putting on the plate the deep motivations of the protagonists. Of original, apart from the argument, there is practically nothing. As was the case for Bakuman, the profession is not the subject but the object of the story, so the parts on stage are very simple and in themselves do not represent an example of excellent comedy: they are only functional to the story.

The manga, as it is, gives few certainties and raises many unknowns. Will it really be an interesting journey? Can an opera with comedy at its center work, but in which you don’t laugh so much? We can only hope that Asakura has a good grasp of the “comedic timing” that she can quickly get to the bar, the turning point, before the show gets boring.