Dec 21, 2018
This story is a goddamn mess. Now, Narita is known for writing complicated, chaotic stories with loads and loads of characters and nonetheless making it work, but whereas Baccano, for example, manages to flow well and smoothly integrate all its disparate plot threads and characters into one coherent whole, Stealth Symphony just kinda... doesn't.
The art is fine, quite good even. It didn’t blow me away or anything, but hell, it looked like what you’d expect from a Jump manga. Some of the character designs were great, as inventive and appealing as the characters themselves, I don’t know if you’d credit Narita or Amano for that,
but props to whoever it was. Some of the panels later on hit really hard, which is one of the most important parts of a shounen manga imo, that ability to impart a feeling of weight and emotion through the artwork. The paneling itself though is just strange, especially early on. They use way too many panels, and in ways that don’t flow all that well, which really screws up the pacing of the fights and contributes to the larger pacing issues that plague the series. I think a lot of this can be chalked up to Narita’s inexperience with the medium, which brings me to my next point.
Narita clearly was not prepared to work in the manga medium generally or with Jump specifically. This manifests most obviously in the aforementioned pacing issues. The first half of the story is basically just your average shounen manga introductory chapters and first arc, with relatively slow pacing and a mediocre plotline that nonetheless shows promise and foreshadows neat things to come, the second half is a mad, chaotic dash through all the remaining content once Narita realized they were going to be canned. Every twist he had been saving for the entire rest of the series gets jammed into those ten chapters, reveals which should’ve been gradually built up to and hinted at throughout the series are just casually thrown out there, things we should’ve learned directly through experiencing them ourselves are unceremoniously exposited about (without even any real visual accompaniment), foreshadowed characters whose entrances or first fights should have been grand just kind of show up, and fights that should have been monumental get offpaneled.
Of course, you’ve seen the number on this review, and I’m not the type to be afraid of giving a score below a 5, so you know that this is actually a positive review. In spite of all the things I just wrote I would still recommend giving this thing a read if it seems interesting to you or if you’re a fan of Narita’s other work, it is only twenty chapters after all. The characters are just as fun and interesting as those in Narita’s other stories, and though we don’t get much time with them they’re still a joy to watch interact. And though the reveals are obviously not built up to as much as they should have been, they’re still genuinely good twists, and seeing them all play out in rapid succession is quite an experience. The actual ending itself is particularly shocking, and acts as a good finale to such a wild ride.
If Stealth Symphony had been given 3 or 4 times as many chapters to work with to flesh out the setting and characters, and to build up to all those reveals and actually show all the cool fights that go down, I think it genuinely would’ve been a great manga. Unfortunately we don’t live in that timeline, so we’ll have to settle for this, which, for what it’s worth, is a fine way to kill half an evening, assuming you have nothing better to do (like perhaps checking out some of Narita’s other works).
What did you think of this review?