Manga of the Month: The Hunters Guild: Red Hood

The Hunters Guild: Red Hood by Yuki Kawaguchi

I remember a fascinating conversion I had when the online version of Shonen Jump was announced. There was a lot of discussion about what effects it would have on the manga industry and shonen manga but the most relevant point for this post is that English-speaking fans would see the true survival of the fittest battleground that the Japanese Shonen Jump is. Before that point, we mostly only got a curated list of the biggest hits with some occasional experiments with lesser titles from the magazine. But the new online initiative promised to simultaneously publish new titles in English and Japanese. This meant we would get to see dozens of new series and also learn how many of them barely get off the ground before the are canceled due to the highly competitive nature of the magazine. The Hunters Guild: Red Hood is a brilliant example of this.

The manga itself is fairly good. Not the best shonen action but it was enough to keep me reading every week with a decent amount of anticipation. But then it very clearly gets canceled in the middle of an arc and is forced to wrap up the entire series in a handful of chapters. Imagine George R. R. Martin being forced to wrap up A Song of Ice and Fire in five chapters after only finishing a third of A Clash of Kings was written. In the middle of the second major storyline, several big reveals are thrown down out of nowhere and then everything is forced into a cliff notes version of the last battle. The titular Red Hood’s backstory and the resolution of her character arc are dropped in a way that feels more like footnote than a story beat. Then ending feels like someone trying to pitch the concept in an elevator more than a proper telling. It feels like Yuki Kawaguchi had all of the major concepts they wanted to cover in the ending plotted out and was forced to summarize them in the final chapters of the manga.

If you want a masterpiece manga with a super satisfying conclusion then Red Hood is not for you. If you are interested in the inside baseball of the manga industry then the short read of The Hunters Guild: Red Hood is a valuable insight into the brutally harsh completion of Shonen Jump in a way that feels more concrete than the more fantastical Bakuman.

-Alain

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