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Jaco the Galactic Patrolman (Manga)


There were already hints that Akira Toriyama’s new short series, Jaco the Galactic Patrolman (Ginga Patorōru Jako), would have some sort of connection with Dragon Ball before it even launched. Comments from the author told us to scale back our expectations, but there was no denying the excitement. Week in and week out theories flew back and forth about how the two series might be connected.

Was Omori in cahoots with — or actually was — Dr. Gero? Did Jaco have any connection with Ginyu? Was Jaco sent to Earth to prevent a particular Saiyan invasion? Was all of this reading into it too much?

Simply having a consistent new series from Akira Toriyama should have been exciting enough, but did the story’s conclusion bring enough to the Dragon World?

And Holy Hell, how about that Dragon Ball Minus…?

Quick Details:

Originally Published: Weekly Shōnen Jump 2013 #33-44
Publisher: Shueisha & Viz
MSRP: WEEKLY: ¥240 (average) & $0.99 each | PRINT: ¥475 & ¥980 each

NOTE: This review is slightly different from others in that it covers multiple specific releases, including…

  • The original Japanese Weekly Shōnen Jump print publication from Shueisha
  • The original English Weekly Shonen Jump digital publication from Viz
  • The Japanese print publication of Dragon Ball Minus within the collected edition of Jaco the Galactic Patrolman from Shueisha
  • The English digital publication of Dragon Ball Minus within Weekly Shonen Jump from Viz

Review of this manga was in part made possible by your donations. If you are interested in contributing to the site, please visit our “Donate” page.

Review By: Mike LaBrie (VegettoEX)

In addition to its print publication in Japan via the pages of Weekly Shōnen Jump, Viz also brought Jaco to the English-speaking world digitally via their own Weekly Shonen Jump. Chapters were read in English and spot-checked back against the original Japanese. Overall, the translation is incredibly faithful and accurate.

As of review publication, the complete series is available in Japan via the print Weekly Shōnen Jump issues as well as a collected edition. While initially available via Viz’s individual, digital issues of Weekly Shonen Jump, these back-issues are no longer available for purchase. Viz will release their collected edition in January 2015.

The Story:

Jaco the Galactic Patrolman tells the story of Jaco, a “Super Elite” member of the 38-member patrol force overseen by a galactic king. After being distracted, Jaco crash lands on Earth on an island inhabited Omori, an old man with a somewhat-mysterious past.

It seems that Omori lost his wife in an accident that involved some sort of time machine, and the government is now looking to take the island back from him. When they run into a young girl named Tights, everyone’s fates become intertwined with more mystery, intrigue, and explosions, along with a good mix of posing and deadpan humor.

Presentation:

Jaco the Galatic Patrolman looks and feels like an Akira Toriyama work through-and-through, which means it has all the incomprehensible magic along with the expected pitfalls.

The overall style fits in with Toriyama’s “modern” art: lots of short/thin characters, a little bit of shading now that he has fully moved to digital, and the occasional great-looking action shot.

The various side/background/incidental characters all have the standard Toriyama charm, but none of them particularly stand out in terms of memorable design. Even recurring side characters such as Katayude are so basic as to be pretty indistinguishable from any other random character. Them all being standard “human” characters adds to this, but as recent as 2010’s Kintoki, some of the henchman at least stood out a little bit.

Jaco is easily the most interesting character to look at, which seems odd considering his flat features. This is likely why Toriyama has him striking poses so often, and while he only barely ever smiles (which are more smirks than anything else), we do occasionally get some great facial expressions out of him.

Considering her family, it is no surprise to see Tights go through several great wardrobe changes throughout the short series. She seems to accessorize quite well between her head-wear, necklaces, and coats!

With Jaco never changing his (naked?!) appearance, it is great to see Toriyama give Tights and even Omori (with his scarf, proper city clothes, etc.) a little extra attention-to-detail. Omori in particular is drawn very intricately with expressive wrinkles and heavy eyes.

Jaco has a few stand-out panels, but it does feel like a severely-and-perhaps-over-polished final product. The characters carry it far more than its art, and thankfully they are a pretty fun group to be around.

Content:

As mentioned earlier, Toriyama set the stage a little bit with his comment for the first chapter, noting:

The content has a bit of a dated feel, but if you read to the end, you’ll understand why.

So what does “dated” mean? Does it refer to his older Dr. Slump writing style with a looser story and jokes driving the dialog? Does it refer to the timeframe of the story, and therefore fuel the flames of Dragon Ball tie-in anticipation?

Well, it turns out it is a little of both.

Many fans have noted that while Jaco does indeed sprinkle the jokes, it is not quite as dense as Dr. Slump was. That is a fair assessment, but to me, it felt appropriate for what Jaco was trying to do. It was not a straight-up comedy, but it was certainly not a straight-up action series.

Then again, does that mean Jaco has a bit of an identity crisis? Toriyama is — self-admittedly — not particularly one for deep stories. In an English-language exclusive comment printed alongside the first chapter, Toriyama flat-out stated:

Unfortunately, this series won’t have much flashy action like Dragon Ball did. But that doesn’t mean it will have a beautifully deep plot either. Light, goofy and happy! That’s what my manga is all about.

So yes, Jaco walks the line between Toriyama’s two most famous series, but in the process does manage to carve out a bit of its own identity. It will probably never make its way onto anyone’s “Top 10 Manga of All Time” lists, but you can feel the fun that Toriyama is having with the series, something we are treated to not nearly often enough. That is special in and of itself.

The world of Jaco feels real and fully imagined. As with Dragon Ball, it is definitely “Earth” but it hard to pin a point in the “real world” that it might take place — of course, the way the story wraps up explains that pretty well enough to understand why.

Jaco himself is very reminiscent of the titular Neko Majin characters: mostly self-centered, occasionally oblivious to his surroundings, insanely strong, and a blunt, funny straight-man to a (generally) non-existent sidekick. He is a wonderful new addition to the world, and it is hard to imagine a pantheon of Toriyama characters without him!

In eleven chapters, Jaco has a little bit of everything: action, comedy, and drama. Despite the underlying story being about the fate of the world, it ends up being a pretty endearing personal tale with a fun trio of characters.

Extra Stuff & Dragon Ball Minus

While it will not be available in English until January 2015, Shueisha released their collected edition of Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, in a somewhat surprising move, in two editions: a tankōbon-sized regular edition, and a kanzenban-sized “Super Elite” edition.

The former is everything you would expect from a standard manga release. If you are willing to spend just a couple extra bucks, however, the “Super Elite” edition is worth the upgrade. The paper quality and print style is everything you know from Dragon Ball‘s own run of the kanzenban release, and it will fit in nicely right there next to your existing book collection. The two bonus trinkets are themselves not really worth the extra money, so think of it as buying a kanzenban and getting a keychain and pin for free:

The real bonus, however, is Dragon Ball Minus.

Far more than the rest of Jaco, it is wholly necessary to set the stage for how Dragon Ball Minus — included as a final, “bonus” chapter in the collected edition — fits into the story-telling over the years.

The character of Bardock was developed by a team at Toei Animation with initial character designs by Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru. Akira Toriyama contributed revisions and slight renamings, but otherwise did not participate in the creative process. The Bardock TV special (A Final, Solitary Battle) originally aired 17 October 1990. Toriyama has remarked on several occasions that he enjoyed the special very much, and ended up incorporating Bardock into the manga for two panels in Chapter 307. His approval dates back as early as comments in 1991’s Dragon Ball Z Anime Special Vol. 2 in which he noted that he cried, again in 1995’s Daizenshuu #6, and as recently as 2011’s “Special Selection” DVD.

It was like a reverse of the Trunks bonus material, where the story was originally in the manga and then expanded upon in a TV special. In this case, Bardock was original to the anime, and rather than having his story expanded upon, Toriyama reduced it down to just a few key points in the manga. The story shown of Goku’s age as a baby and the process of him being sent off to Earth were never explicitly shown as such in the original manga, and were only shown that way (and often expanded upon) in anime-only material, with the only exception being Raditz remembering/imagining Kakarrot as a baby in Chapter 195. Toriyama’s depiction of certain characters in the “+1” chapter of Jaco the Galactic Patrolman along with the entirety of Dragon Ball Minus are clear indications that, even with prior approval and enjoyment, Toriyama was not holding himself to playing nice with any previously-told stories by anyone other than himself.

This is hardly the first example of Toriyama ignoring anime content, with the most obvious being the introduction of Dr. Gero later in the series with zero mention of the anime’s story of Dr. Frappe and his creation of the artificial humans for the Red Ribbon Army.

What makes this so different is likely the amount of time that has passed (nearly 25 years), the recent reinforcement of Bardock’s story from supplemental media (specifically video games and Episode of Bardock), and more than anything else, Toriyama’s own stamp of approval on the previous story.

There is so much baggage here that, in order to begin even remotely thinking about Dragon Ball Minus in any sort of critical way, everything relating to Bardock has to be mentally separated, compartmentalized, and accepted for what it is. As we like to say often here at Kanzenshuu: “It’s a state of being. It just is.”

Phew. So is Dragon Ball Minus any good?!

Eh.

There is just not that compelling a story here. In fact, there is barely a story at all. The rest of Jaco is already a tale we did not necessarily “need” to know, and this is pushing it even further. Did we really need to know who Goku’s mother was? Did it need to be spelled out to us that perhaps he inherited his gentle nature from somewhere? From the breakneck speed of this chapter, do we even know anything about them beyond these surface-level traits, anyway?

That all being said, as hard as we all try to take the advice of separating Anime!Bardock from NewToriyamaManga!Bardock… it really is impossible, isn’t it? What makes this so different is that Bardock was never Toriyama’s creation to begin with. Whereas you can feel the authorial control and full understanding of the characters in things like Battle of Gods (where Goku is so Goku that people who have not read the manga fail to even recognize him as the actual Goku!), here in Dragon Ball Minus it almost feels like a step below even Naho Ooishi’s take on the characters. How insulting is that, and how pompous must you be to say you know better than the author himself? To infer that Toriyama’s own take on his own world is… “wrong”…?!

The only thing that feels “right” in the entire chapter is the legitimate Jaco material at the very end. We love Toriyama for who he is and the genius way in which he can tell simple stories, but everything shown here with Bardock and Gine is just beyond trite. The best serious stories Toriyama told in Dragon Ball were the ones in which he inadvertently found himself written into a corner. Toriyama excels at writing his way out of tough situations (and specifically, doing so over time), just as Goku excels at finding the best way out of a pinch. When Toriyama purposefully sets out to tell a serious story, as he did here in Dragon Ball Minus, it falls flat.

Final Thoughts:

It cannot be overstated that Akira Toriyama wrote a Dragon Ball prequel (!!!). Taken on its own, Jaco is one thing, but understanding how it fits into the larger Dragon World has its own implications. Fans may take issue with aspects that appear to contradict “common knowledge” about how, for example, certain characters should look or appear for their age, but it is equally important to note that pretty much nothing shown in Jaco — including Dragon Ball Minus — directly contradicts anything that Akira Toriyama himself personally wrote or drew in the original Dragon Ball comic. If you want Jaco to fit in, it sure can, and does a pretty gosh darn great job at it.

Those looking for a Toriyama story — and know what to expect from one — are in for a treat. As our own Julian noted back on our podcast review of the series, Jaco’s greatest accomplishment is also his greatest failure: by missing his opportunity to complete his mission, he inadvertently saves the world. This almost-anticlimactic bit of resolution and humor is Toriyama to a tee.

Jaco is not a story that ever needed to be told, but it adds enough to the world and is cute the whole way through. You can feel the author having fun in every single chapter, and you will have a smile on your face right there with him. In my book, that is a “win”.

You might just want to conveniently happen to skip over most of Dragon Ball Minus.

Jaco the Galactic Patrolman was written and drawn by Akira Toriyama and published in the 2013 #33-44 issues of Weekly Shōnen Jump, published in Japanese by Shueisha and in English by Viz.

Purchase This Item:

With the exception of Dragon Ball Minus in Weekly Shonen Jump 2014 #19 (linked below), Jaco the Galactic Patrolman is no longer available for purchase in English, but will be released both digitally and in print by Viz in January 2015. The Japanese collected edition is available in both regular and “Super Elite” versions.