The season of new manga series debuting in Shonen Jump continues. After several series were recently canceled Shonen Jump has replenished their offerings with Jun Kirarazaka’s Do Retry, Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki’s Tenmaku Cinema, and Tadatoshi Fujimaki’s Kill Blue. Each one has tackled the shonen and slice-of-life genres heavily featured in Shonen Jump magazine in their own way. Now Kota Kawae, who appears to be a new mangaka, is debuting their new series: Nue’s Exorcist, also known as Nue no Onmyōji in Japan. How will this series begin? Let’s find out with Nue’s Exorcist Chapter 1.
Writer and Artist: Kota Kawae
Letterer: Eve Grandt
Gakuro Yajima, a high school kid whose father was killed by a spirit does everything in his power to stop negative energy around him, even allowing himself to be bullied, meets a spirit named Nue.
Nue reveals she is a spirit who has been sealed in Gakuro’s school for 60 years and he is the first human to find her room in the school. Nue goes on to reveal that evil spirits feed on human negativity to increase their numbers and when a group of them combines they become visible to humans.
Nue offers her powers to Gakuro to help fight the spirits, but he turns the offer down.
When he returns to class Gakuro sees Zenno, his classmate, acting as a human shield so his classmates can escape from a spirit. Seeing this Gakuro works up the courage to help Zenno.
Seeing this Nue provides Gakuro with some of her power to fight the spirit. Gakuro uses his new spirit powers to create a sword that destroys the spirit. End of chapter.
Comparisons to Tite Kubo’s Bleach and Yellow Tanabe’s Kekkaishi are comparisons that immediately come to mind when reading Nue’s Exorcist Chapter 1. Those aren’t bad comparisons to have. Though given the way things went with this first chapter Kota Kawae still has some story refinement to go.
More so than other recent debuting manga Nue’s Exorcist Chapter 1 read like a pilot one-shot rather than an extended first chapter. The world is very focused on getting a general concept of Gakuro Yajima’s school being special because of Nue and the evil spirits inhabiting it. But the introduction is rushed in a way that it is not clear how widespread the evil spirits are. We do not know if it’s just in the school or elsewhere. That is mostly due to the way Kawae has Nue explain the concept of spirits to Gakuro and how that lines up with Gakuro’s father’s death.
That said, Kawae makes up for this stumble with how Nue, the spirit sealed in Gakuro’s school, is portrayed. There is no doubt that Kawae was leaning into Nue being a dream waifu character. Everything from the way she talks and acts, especially her gamer habits, shows this. Though Kawae does make sure Nue character introduction isn’t limited to just that. Nue is by far the character we learn most about. That adds to how she is the immediate standout of Nue’s Exorcist even with Gakuro being the series lead we follow most in this first chapter.
Speaking of Gakuro Yajima, his introduction is a mixed bag. This is mostly on how Kawae goes about Gakuro’s development in this first chapter. Kawae going against the trend of making Gakuro witnessing his father’s death be something that makes him want to avoid conflict to the point of letting himself be bullied rather than becoming stronger is not a normal shonen lead intro. This difference in attitude is certainly a welcome change.
Where Gakuro’s character doesn’t fully connect is where he has more of the stereotypical shonen lead moments of going from coward to act of bravery. The way this was paced out with the flashback of his father’s sacrifice years early was just odd. The biggest problem with this is how often Kawae went back to the same flashback scene in one or two panels throughout Nue Exorcist Chapter 1. Kawae went to this well too many times for the way the flashback gave Gakuro the needed push to not hit as intended.
Kawae should’ve had save this flashback to only happen twice, once with a one-panel tease and a second time that is a more extended flashback of several panels in one or two pages. This in turn would’ve made Gakuro’s act of bravery much more effective. With how things turned out Zenno, Gakuro’s friend, had better development from a heroes end of things
In terms of artwork, Kawae’s style was solid. Kawae certainly made sure to pay a lot of attention to making sure Nue’s design was a standout immediately. She has the most detail out of all the characters. When we do get action at the end of this chapter Kawae shows the potential in delivering big set pieces in the future. Though it would’ve added to the story if Kawae teased Gakuro’s black mark as having a special element to it rather than just being there to make him have something unique from his classmates.
Nue’s Exorcist Chapter 1 checks all the boxes of setting up a new manga series. There is nothing done here that we haven’t seen before from a story or hook for the world. With a foundation now set Kota Kawae now needs to develop the long-term potential of this series. If not it could be lost in a lot of other long-running manga series that are telling stories with spirit world elements in Shonen Jump’s current offering.
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10