Mar 22, 2022
After having spent the last few months reading all of Akira Toriyama's manga, at least those available in english, it is clear that Jaco is an incredible refinement of over 30 years of Toriyama's career. Filled with nearly every previous trope that coats the pages of Manga Theater, and Toriyama's One-shots, Jaco manages to hit all the significant story beats from previous Toriyama works. Whether it is the "alien who needs money to refill his ship, and must partake in justice to earn the money" ala Cashman, the reparative mechanics of cars/ships from many works, the Ultraman style superhero designs, crotchety old men on islands,
or even Toriyama's 30+ year fear of failing to pick up women, Jaco seems to nail every significant previous event that came from Toriyama's smaller works. In a good way, usurping those past things and forming a much more succinct narrative, that firmly establishes Toriyama's style.
It is not just the outline of this work that is phenomenal, but the character's both design and personality. In a similar way to Goku, unable to grasp the peculiarities of civilized earth life, Jaco really has little understanding of human-earth culture. This serves to insert comedy into the story at various points, without needing to rely on some built up gag, that previous Toriyama "gag mangas" have suffered. Inserting that charm throughout the story, while building towards a more serious and ever increasingly precarious story, are masterfully woven together to keep the reading on the edge, wanting to turn the page. That feeling is quintessential to manga, and it is throughout that you feel the desire to learn more about Jaco, disconnected from the draw of the Dragonball universe. This is something previous Toriyama works have failed to escape. By clearly placing Jaco in the Galactic Patrol, and deciding to write the backstory to Goku with this manga, Toriyama in many ways frees Jaco from the annoyance of a Dragonball story.
This is on display with the reaction of the Dragonball fandom, and their misplaced understanding of the canonicity of Bardock. This may be a tangent, but often times fans will take authors approval of a piece of content as being the same thing for "fitting inside the author's universe"; something Dragonball fans have struggled with for decades. The problem here is that ultimately Toryiama, while deeply enjoyed Bardock: Father of Goku, says in his own quote that "he would never write it" thus striking down the technical canonicity of the work. This seems to have upset Dragonball fans, as their head-canon doesn't include this variation of events. However, as the anime has continued with Super, which has also included many moments of Jaco, the entire concept of a "multiverse" has broken what Dragonball fans can accept, so Jaco will historically slot right back into the fandom, as it should. If this initial lack of acceptance has killed Toriyama's willingness to revisit Jaco we will never know, but Super has certainly ran with that legacy.
Jaco is also the canonical introduction of another fanfavorite character, Bulma (as well as the Briefs family). The titular female character in this manga, Tights, is actually Bulma's older sister, which is something I absolutely LOVE. For me, the hallmark of the seriously great manga showing it's legacy is the intergenerational canon that tends to appear over decades of writing a truly fantastic universe. While there are those who may find this simple addition nothing but cheap fan-bait, the tie in to the introduction of Dragonball, and even one page of seeing Goku's grandfather again, is something that Toriyama really did not need to give us. Not only does Toriyama include Bulma, but actually serves to write more to her character backstory, presenting her as the main character genius she is rarely recognized as in Dragonball. It in no way takes away from anything Dragonball, and merely builds onto of a universe out of this manga genius's mind. In fact, I seriously enjoy the "intellectual power level" establishment of Bulma as an even greater genius than Omori himself, something often overlooked about the importance of Bulma's character.
For one is merely one volume, Jaco is a seriously excellent work that deserves a read for anyone who enjoys not just Dragonball, but great manga. The entire time you read Jaco, you are left not wanting to put it down, and craving to turn the next page. By truly capturing "Akira Toriyama" in a manga, Jaco has, in many ways, wrapped up Toriyama's legacy in the best way possible.
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