The writing is on the wall for Stealth Symphony; after 11 chapters, this series has remained near the bottom of Shonen Jump’s popularity polls. These two chapters seem to be a desperate effort by the author to save the series through a series of big reveals and much needed character expansion of both Jig and the numerous characters at V&V.
The first major arc of this series, the conflict between Jig’s Cyborg Soldier School and his friends at V&V over the rescue of kidnapped test subjects, ended in exciting fashion with the unexpected involvement of the Assassin Guild, but the final defeat of the villainous mermaid Wavess was startlingly dark. The sight of Wavess being pulled into a dimensional equivalent of hell is quite gruesome, and clashes with the more lighthearted tone this series previously had. However, there are much larger concerns at hand.
One of the main problems of the series becomes evident as the fight ends and chapter 11 continues. While the world of Stealth Symphony has been significantly expanded, little to no background has been given to any of the characters besides Jig. The design of many of these characters has been intriguing, but design alone can only go so far to generate reader investment. The introduction of the police chief Veronica does not help matters; for a series relying so much on colorful character design, Veronica’s busty dominatrix look is a sad cliche. As if the author himself has noticed the stagnant character development of this series, he reveals the most ominous twist yet, that the apparently naive and innocent Jig had killed 28 people in his village with his Heirloom. More hints are given towards a darker side to Jig in chapter 12, along with a large number of significant revelations.
The first of these revelations, and certainly the most amusing, is that the character who resembles a fantasy ninja is actually from an alternate universe very similar to that of Naruto. This fourth wall-breaking revelation is brilliant, and exactly the sort of character building that the author needs to attempt with the other characters. This single page effectively creates interest for a character where there was none, a venture attempted several more times in this chapter: the demon-like Alice has an inferiority complex, the withdrawn cyborg Colt expresses his subconscious emotions through his robot dogs, and the V&V Chief Mimerond is a famous dragon slayer. This flurry of character building can only be read as a last-ditch attempt by the author to generate reader interest before cancellation, but for the most part it succeeds.
The end of the chapter indicates that Alice will be the subject of the next arc, and additional character focus is a promising new narrative direction. Unfortunately, the characters that suffer for this are Troma and Jig, the very characters who need the most exposure. While Troma has been given an interesting personality, even an invisible dragon is sadly easy to overlook in a world with alternate universe ninjas and psychotic mermaids. At the very least, Jig has become engaging as a mysterious and unsettling part of his character has begun to emerge.
Stealth Symphony continues to be an entertaining, enjoyable, and colorful series to read, but has not seemed to picked up much popularity among readers. Hopefully, a renewed focus on the characters and a progressively less generic protagonist can help the series avoid premature cancellation. Shonen Jump needs a series as unabashedly fun as this one, as more and more series are relying on grim and gritty art styles and characters. With any luck, this series can reach its potential by chapter 20, as World Trigger did, and be given a chance to expand on its imaginative setting.
Final Flash: A barrage of exposition and a renewed focus on the characters might not be enough to save this series, but it makes for two highly entertaining chapters.