The darker side to Jig’s personality is thrown at the readers in a flood of flashbacks and dark imagery as Stealth Symphony begins what may be its final arc. The recent revelations that Jig not only represses his frequent acts of violence, but is also being turned into a dragon by his cyborg wings, are intriguing but handled in a puzzling way. These plot twists were obviously intended to be revealed much later on in the series, and were likely only introduced now in an attempt to fend off cancellation. To introduce them only 16 chapters in, however, throws the pacing and tone of the series into disarray. For example, Jig’s orphanage director has been foreshadowed as a final villain for some time, but her sudden narrative importance feels rushed and ill-prepared. Given proper time and development, the director could well have been a villain on par with Ren Gyokuen from Magi. Unfortunately, she has made her first appearance in what will likely be the final arc with next to no buildup or establishment, limiting the potential for her character.
The change in tone this series has taken in recent weeks has come to a head in chapter 16. In order to create some character depth for Jig and emotional stakes for the story, the author has sacrificed what has been the greatest strength of Stealth Symphony, its witty humor and sense of fun, by instead focusing on brutal violence and Jig’s psychological turmoil. The primary problem is that this darker side to Jig should have been hinted at much earlier in the series, so that chapters 1 and 16 wouldn’t feel so dissonant. Instead, in order to create a satisfying end to the story, the author has been forced to make Stealth Symphony into a completely different series than how it began.
This is not to say that this chapter fails completely. On the contrary, some of the imagery introduced is quite effective and atypical of a shonen series, bringing to mind the style of other unique works such as Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro. The true story behind the death of Jig’s family and the genesis of his psychological trauma, even if a bit rushed, is emotionally powerful. Additionally, the converging of numerous character threads around Jig builds appropriate tension and anticipation for the events to come, be they personal or apocalyptic. Curiously, the only characters who have suspected nothing about Jig are the characters of any narrative importance, as numerous minor characters have revealed their knowledge in recent chapters.
While Stealth Symphony hasn’t completely ruined itself in recent chapters, the sacrifices it has made and the hints of what could have been are disappointing. The recent brief snippets of the retaliation ability of Jig’s wings, the catching a bullet in chapter 15 and deflecting arson in chapter 16, are fascinating uses of a somewhat cliché ability. The creativity the author has shown in this series is uncommon, and hopefully upcoming chapters will showcase more of the action, and even the humor, that he has done so well.
Final Flash: A mixed effort of rushed introductions, drastic tonal shifts, but some effective imagery highlight what might be the beginning of the end of Stealth Symphony.