Have I mentioned that I love comedy? Even comedy that’s based on cultural humor, that takes a moment for me to get because I need to read the translator’s note about why the joke is funny. Even jokes like that get at least a chuckle out of me. Of course a series that’s entirely made of jokes you need to be Japanese to understand probably won’t do all that well in a Western market, which is why it’s fortunate that Sket Dance doesn’t rely entirely on cultural humor.
Sket Dance, by Kenta Shinohara, has been running in Weekly Shounen Jump since 2007, and in 2009 it won the Shogakukan Manga Award for best shonen manga. It tells the story of the Sket Dan, a club dedicated to helping people out. The club only has three members, Bossun, the leader; Himeko, the former thug and only girl int he club; and Switch, the otaku in denial who only talks via a text synthesizer program, that translates what he types into sound.
While a lot of Sket Dance‘s humor is steeped in Japanese comedic flavors, there is enough for non-Japanese to enjoy. For example, during one storyline Bossun and Himeko end up switching bodies, and Shinohara plays through all the complications this would involve, ending with a storyline that is both hillarious and incredibly awkward.
Each of the main characters gets a flashback, detailing how they came to be at their lowest low, and how Bossun’s founding the Sket Dan influenced their lives. In true manga fashion, despite the humor of the rest of the series, the flashbacks are somewhat dark, and pretty depressing. Switch’s story in particular is not only heartbreaking, but also very clever. Not to give anything away, but there is a twist in that story that I not only didn’t see coming, but that I consider one of my favorite plot twists of all time.
Personally I think Sket Dance would make a great addition to Weekly Shounen Jump Alpha because right now the line up is action, action, action, action, action, and manga drawing/writing action. While I do like a good shounen fighter series, I love comedy too much to just be satisfied by nothing but action all the time. And Sket Dance is an established series, that would probably fit a little better into WSJA than Nisekoi might. As much as I love the latter, it still is too new to know how much longer it will continue serialization.