It seems these days we see a new Shōnen series debuting on a nearly weekly basis. It’s gotten a little tricky even to try out the new stuff. After all, you only have so much time in one day to read manga. You want to make sure it’s something you’re going to enjoy. Lucky for you, dear reader, my head is filled with 90% Shōnen content and 10% terrible puns. I’m here to help you figure out which Shōnen title is the next you should Jump on (see what I mean about the puns?). Up for your consideration, this time round is Zipman!!, a brand new series featuring epic mecha action, awesome brotherly passion and… zippers!?! How does that work? Read on to find out, and see if Zipman!! is worth reading!
Zippers. A pretty handy piece of technology, right? Used to bring things together. A fusion, if you will. It’s fitting then, that a manga that features so many zips is itself a fusion of a lot of different concepts and ideas into one neat, zipped up package. For example, the fusion of robots/mecha and Tokusatsu-style superhero costumes which make up the suits we see in Zipman!! Each of the suits we’ve seen so far has unique, eye-catching designs. If you’re anything like me, they’re what grabbed your attention for this series at first glance. Yusaku Shibata sure knows how to draw some cool designs, for characters both in and out of their suits. His chunky yet smooth aesthetic makes his suit design pop, and they evoke the feel of classic Saturday morning cartoons. Making each chapter a fun and breezy read every week.
He also isn’t afraid to show his influences either. As I mentioned, these suits, and the ideology behind those wearing them share a lot of similarities with the famous suited heroes of Tokusatsu shows such as Kamen Rider and Ultraman. We see this directly with Jackman, the Watchdog of Justice and star of the Jackman TV show. Conveying that Saturday morning cartoon vibe. It also happens to be the thing that zips all our main cast of characters together, conveniently enough.
Hurry up, Devil-Gorilla
Our Protagonist, Kaname Tatara, has a bit of a… strong personality. He is an extremely passionate fan of Jackman. So much that we first meet him in chapter one, auditioning for the role of Jackman for a new series. Unfortunately, his scary face makes him more suitable for a villainous role. That doesn’t stop him from embodying Jackman’s heroic ideals in nearly every aspect of his life. He isn’t afraid to put others before himself (as we see when he helps out pretty much every school club with his insane athleticism.) He’s’ a bit of a try-hard, but it becomes endearing as the story progresses. When he’s not thinking about the Watchdog of Justice he’s got two other people on his mind. The first of which being…
Koshiro Tatara is Kaname’s dearly departed brother. It seems where Kaname got the brawn Koshiro got the brains in this dynamic duo. A genius mechanical prodigy and owner of Robotics company Steel-X. We learn most of the current facts about Koshiro from outside sources. Strangely enough, his brother Kaname doesn’t seem all too shook up about losing his brother. He just seems disappointed that his rival is gone before he was able to defeat him. (Bit of an odd one, that Kaname.)
See, it turns out that Kaname wasn’t the only big fan of Jackman. As back in the day Koshiro used to watch it right alongside him. While that brought them closer together, their real rivalry started when they both happened to fall for the same girl. This event starting their grand battle against each other to win her heart. So, just a couple of Shōnen knuckleheads then. But what about that girl?
Cheena has probably received the least page-time of this core cast, but she’s definitely my favourite. A gutsy girl with a lot of heart, she meets the brothers at an early age. Herself a fan of Jackman, the three quickly bonded, and while the brothers battled it out in their elaborate contests to make her smile, she just seemed happy to be with her friends.
It appears that Koshiro’s untimely passing has hit her the hardest. She wants to keep those good memories of him alive. To the extent that when troubling evidence turns up connecting Koshiro’s company to bad news. Cheena becomes determined to start her own investigation to ensure Steel X’s reputation is untarnished. It seems she’s more concerned about it than that blockhead Kaname, anyway. You’d think after losing a brother that he was close to Kaname would have more on his mind than jealousy that he wasn’t able to beat his rival over Cheena’s smile, right? Well, as it turns out there’s a little bit more to unpack (unzip?) from that.
In a series of increasingly outlandish events emerging from the giant robot attack mentioned above, Kaname encounters a giant suit stylized after Jackman. Still, the bizarre part is when Koshiro’s voice starts coming out of it! It turns out the suit mysteriously attacked Koshiro in his company and somehow absorbed his consciousness within it, leaving his regular body brain-dead. While the world believes he’s gone, Koshiro is determined to find the perpetrator and put a stop to any more robot attacks.
He begrudgingly teams up with Kaname (who he’s awarded the clunky nickname Devil-Gorilla) to utilize his muscle in the Jackman suit while he handles the brains of the operation. Think of Ed and Al from Fullmetal Alchemist, but with both of them crammed into Al’s armour. They keep it secret from Cheena to keep her safe from any future robot attacks. But with her investigating these events so closely who is to say how long that secret will last?
As you can imagine with all this talk of suits and giant robots, this is an action-orientated manga. As much as I enjoy the characters so far, this series is at it’s best when the robot fists are flying (literally, in the case of Kaname’s Jack Rocket attack). The suits are gloriously mecha, with their unique design flairs and weapons to match the suit wearer. However, what I’m interested in is how this zip technology works.
In the first proper battle against two suits we see the Jackman suit utilize a giant Ziphead as an “expansion part” that when combined with the suit creates a Zip Form Fusion power up. In this case, a giant rocket-powered fist! So how does that work, huh? Is the suit going to get it’s new moves through Zipheads obtained from rival suits? What are the limitations of these expansion parts? Why the fascination with zippers!?! I think all of this is being left intentionally vague for the sake of fast-tracking to the giant robot battles, but I do hope we get more insight into the tech soon.
Another topic we’re left in the dark about is the antagonist group. We’ve seen Jackman take on a few zip-powered foes so far, and they all seem to be connected to a mysterious Zipdown club. Just how many members are in this club and who they remain largely a mystery (outside of a hilarious and potentially copyright claim-inducing panel). They appear to have been gifted their suits by someone higher up in the club (presumably it’s chairman) to tear down society. It’s clear they want that lousy do-gooder Jackman off the playing field.
Apparently, the chairman of this club has enough power that they can utilize “Soul Transfer Technology”, something that would benefit Jackman significantly. It’s clear that’s the end goal/final boss of this series, but I’m hoping we don’t revert to a simple “Monster of the Week” formula to get there, though I suppose in a way that would also reflect the Saturday morning cartoon feel and Tokusatsu style. There is lots of potential to be sure. I just hope Shibata can zip it all up into a tight and coherent story!
Is Zipman worth reading?
So far so good, is all I can say for now. We’ve got a little over one volume worth of chapters to dig into. The awesome robot action, coupled with that nice blend of Saturday morning cartoon feel and classic Shōnen rivalry, keep me invested on a week to week basis. Although the robot action is doing a lot of the heavy lifting, considering how rare it is to find mecha in a Shōnen title these days.
I’m hoping Shibata can give us a little more explanation on all these dang zippers and deliver without falling back too hard on tropes. In particular, I’m keen to see how he handles Cheena. I think her character is excellent so far, so I’m hoping she doesn’t get regulated to the constant damsel in distress for Jackman to save. Ideally, she can get in on the hero action as well, as we’ve already seen she’s got the guts of a hero!
If you want to zip up some action for yourself, and see is Zipman worth reading? The first three chapters of Zipman!! are available to read FOR FREE on the Viz media website and are well worth checking out. Additionally, members of Shonen Jump can read all the currently released chapters of Zipman!! for a price less than an actual zipper!! Unless you can buy cheaper zippers than the ones I can find around here!