Introducing the VIZ Originals One-Shots Program

VIZ Originals One-Shots aims to give aspiring mangaka a shot at making their dreams a reality!

So I went to the Viz website to look up when the second volume of Hirayasumi drops and stumbled upon the news that the manga publisher was launching a new project tiled the VIZ Originals One-Shots program created “for aspiring mangaka,” run by former Weekly Shonen Jump editor-in-chief Hisashi SASAKI!

I love manga and adore a good one-shot via manga. A one shot in manga is more commonly known as a single, sometimes standalone story. It is the manga equivalent of a short story and an excellent way for readers to get a feel for a manga creator’s storytelling and art style. The first one-shots in this new project–which are free to read–dropped this weekend on June 7th and I went on to read them and gave my thoughts below!

Minor and major spoilers may follow below

Looking up more information on the Viz website I learned:

“VIZ Originals One-Shots showcase aspiring mangaka working in English. You can read all-new stories by up-and-coming creators and be the first to read the hits of the future.

The program is led by renowned former Weekly Shonen Jump editor-in-chief Hisashi SASAKI! For the first time outside of Japan, the editor who helped bring to life some of manga’s greatest hits is lending his expertise to develop exciting new talent.

Select one-shots will be expanded into a series, so read and cheer for your favorite new manga! Check back monthly for new one-shots – only in VIZ Manga!”

Ancient Melody

Story and Art by Jonathan Lareva

Lettering by Mark McMurray

Ancient Melody is a treat as its world is perhaps my favorite in this batch of one-shots: Olan, a scrappy guy who lives in the slums below, dreams of visiting the cities that float in the sky above him. Along with the next one shot below, Skin & Bone, they are the longest entries. The creator pulled me into the world of Olan wanting a better life for himself (and loved one) and ends up with a crew of Troy the mechanic and Mina the talented musician. An airship to fix up is a proverbially vehicle to freedom and there is a lot of cool set pieces, characters, and objects (of course, I like Mina and I love the design of the guardian of the egg nest, etc.) that made this one first to reread for me. 

I also really appreciate the emotional depth to Ancient Melody as I liked the parallels of Mina and Olan’s characters of defining home and the absence of family in their lives. How the creator connected them both through a certain character long gone that was hinted at and later revealed was pretty endearing and moving.  This one-shot was evenly paced the whole way through, and I seriously hated to get to the end of it. The editor note for this entry made me ponder the influence of manga and how using that influence to create a story of a brown skinned boy dreaming of seeing new heights with fantastical elements makes for a thrilling ride. I could absolutely see more of this story but instead of chapter by chapter, I’d love to have a volume of it ready to read.

Skin & Bone

Story by Josh Tierney / Art by Valentin Serber

Lettering by Annaliese “Ace” Christman

Skin & Bone stands out for this fantastical and highly stylized artwork, and this one-shot carries big explosive energy throughout the entire work. In a world filled with the undead, a bounty hunter of this type of menace named Marr and a woman with mysterious powers team up. In just the first ten pages, readers get a glimpse of so much. We get the introduction of the main character, a bit of his origin story, the ally, the cute character, the backstory of the world, a lot of split panels of artwork, the chibi characters for comedic effect, and even a really neat little villainous character. This one-shot is one of the longer ones at fifty pages, and it is a visual feast for the eyes.

While Skin & Bone is incredibly busy–there’s a lot happening and really fast–this one shot feels the most ready to expand to into something more. I could see myself reading more of this story chapter by chapter. How the creative team of Tierney (co-creator and writer of World Piece), Serber and Christman worked the final battle and bookended some parts of the story truly had that Shonen Jump feel to it. One small criticism is that while I loved the dynamic of the bounty hunter and the mysterious woman who is hunting for something–I felt there could have been a tighter editing. I felt a few pages through the work dragged the story on. Overall: quickly paced, visually stimulating showing, here!

Cinematic Certitude

Story and Art by NAF

Lettering by Annaliese “Ace” Christman

With artwork being more or less the most realistic in this first batch of one-shot entries, Cinematic Certitude (seriously, what a title) carries the weight of being also the shortest, just barely over thirty pages. Perhaps the most impressive feat by the creator here is the way he crafted a near perfect story from start to finish with such a satisfying ending. The title of NAF’s work hints at the content: two soldiers sent on a dangerous search and rescue mission and their dialogue is funny, not too wordy, and points to a playful yet solid relationship between these two soldiers that makes me invested. 

I don’t know much about this world or much about these two men, yet the reveal of what they are hunting and the fun that they poke at each other colors the creator’s storytelling in a successful one-shot that nails all the familiar story beats. Other readers may have wanted a longer story or a chance to get to know more about the soldiers, the organization they belong to, and the world that they inhabit–I personally think this was a pretty good showing of how to break down a story–all three acts and give us a memorable ending. I would love to see NAF’s ability with other characters in this universe outside these two as he has proven to be able to write and create a tight ship, storytelling wise.

The Stranger

Story and Art by Liam Naughton

Lettering by Mark McMurray

Ahhh…….The Stranger. This one-shot is giving so much: story, artwork, tone that is dark, haunting, atmospheric, and mysterious. Invoking a more fantasy story in a more modern world, this one-shot follows Grace who goes home and re-enters the life of someone she once knew some five years later. Louise is the old friend Grace has returned to see, someone that she did not last meet on a positive note years ago. She is also the person who comes to need Grace’s help and protection upon her return.

Naughton’s work here strikes me as being influenced by manga (and media) of yesteryear. The Stranger seems to be bringing together neo-noir, science fiction, detective comics and so much more wrapped up in nearly thirty pages or so. There are pages that startle me, unsettle me, and make me think of what makes us humans–us. I love when one-shots get me thinking and questioning! This work made me as a reader think about why people quest and search for answers. Loneliness, desperation, curiosity, regret, purpose…The Stranger attempts to balance them all and is mostly successful and ends on such a philosophical, yet abrupt end.

About VIZ Originals One-Shots:

The One-Shots program is a showcase for aspiring manga creators, led by renowned former Weekly Shonen Jump editor-in-chief Hisashi SASAKI! The Viz website goes on to put out a call to action: “Whether you are an established creator with a new idea or are putting the finishing touches on your very first one-shot, if you are passionate about manga, we want to hear from you! Learn more about how to submit your work.”

Read all the one-shots from aspiring creators chosen as the first batch in this exciting new project here!

Read more about the VIZ Originals One-Shots Program and read Hisashi SASAKI’s thoughts on each selected entry on the Viz website!

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  • Carrie McClain is writer, editor and media scholar. Other times she's known as a Starfleet Communications Officer, Comics Auntie, and Golden Saucer Frequenter. Nowadays you can usually find her avoiding Truck-kun and forgetting her magical girl transformation device. She/Her

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