You know of my love for comedy, and you know of my love for action. Now, finally a sweet, sweet combination of the two! Well, besides One Piece that is. Beelzebub is the story of Tatsumi Oga, a rotten delinquent who one day finds himself raising the son of the Great Demon Lord, who is destined to destroy the world. Oga is joined by Hilda, a demon wet nurse tasked with caring for the young demon lord, Beelzebub (or, Beel, for short). Not wanting to be responsible for destroying the world, Oga tries to pass the child off to any of the other thugs at his school, unfortunately none of them are as rotten as he is.
While One Piece is an action/adventure series with comedy, Beelzebub is a comedy series with a lot of action. The focus is on the humor, but that doesn’t stop manga-ka Ryuhei Tamura from focusing on action over comedy for extended periods of time. While this may be a downside when the focus of the manga is supposed to be the humor, but Tamura still manages to get around this by never faling into the cliches of action manga. Or at least he never subjects us to extended training scenes, so that’s appreciated.
At first Beelzebub didn’t strike me as something special. I enjoyed it quite a lot, but wasn’t necessarily blown away. The basic plot, at first, revolves around Oga challenging the top delinquents at his school, the Tohoushinki. It’s a basic plot, with some funny moments, up until he meets Aoi, the only female member of the Tohoushinki, and the second strongest. Let’s just say that the outcome of that confrontation is not what I expected, and it was ridiculous and funny enough that I was hooked on the series.
Eventually Tamura starts introducing an overarching plot to the story, and while that is somewhat the weakest part of the manga, the humor remains strong enough to make this one of the most satisfying manga to read on a week by week basis. Oga is one of the most intriguing male leads in any Jump property. He’s an amoral thug, except he cares about his friends (when he isn’t beating them up that is, and sometimes he beats them up because he cares). He’s a dense moron, except…well, yeah, he’s as dumb as a bag of rocks (much to Aoi’s distress). Except his stupidity isn’t crippling, and it never leads to any frustration, only comedy. In the past I’ve said that he’s basically what Ichigo Kurosaki should be like. A thug with a heart of gold, and a brain of stone, who still cares enough to risk his life to protect those important to him.
Around the mid-point of the series Oga more or less forgets about his goal to get rid of Beel, and he actually forms a bond with him. While it is touching to see how close he has grown to the literal hellspawn, it does mean that later chapters don’t quite have a driving goal behind them. But, overall the series is a great experience, and even if it doesn’t make it into Weekly Shounen Jump Alpha, I would at least like to be able to buy the collected volumes. I’m this close to just buying them in either German or French, and call it good.
Before I end this request, I should mention that I doubt this series will ever be licensed, at least unedited. While there is nothing NSFW in Beelzebub, Beel does have the habit of walking around naked. Having known kids that despise wearing clothing, I find this a realistic trait, but given the general watchdog nature of our culture, having a manga where one of the main characters is a naked baby might rub some people the wrong way, and get some negative publicity for Viz. It could possibly be fixed by editing clothing on, but that’s an entire other can of worms that I don’t think I want to open right now.