If you’re a Shonen Jump fan, then you might’ve noticed that they seem to have a hit-or-miss relationship with their new manga. Most of the time, it’s a miss for various reasons. Sometimes though, they get a hit that leaves you eager for more from the mangaka. I do believe that Gokurakugai by Yuto Sano qualifies as one of those hits. Here’s why:

Gokurakugai: Details

Gokurakugai is a new supernatural horror action comedy-drama Shonen Jump manga by equally as new mangaka Yuto Sano. This new manga actually began life as a one-shot manga titled Gokurakugai Sanban-doori no Ken (極楽街三番通の件, “The Gokuraku District’s Third Avenue Incident”). Apparently, the reception to it was so good that Shueisha immediately told Sano to make it into a manga series. Hence, our new Shonen Jump manga. In fact, despite how new this manga series is, it already has a tankōbon volume out in Japan that was released on November 4, 2022, with another one scheduled for release on April 4, 2023. Unfortunately, there’s no word of a NA release for the manga volumes yet. We’ll just have to wait for that news later.

As you might have guessed: Shueisha is the publisher of Gokurakugai in Japan. They published this manga under their Jump Comics SQ imprint in the magazine Jump Square. Viz Media is the one publishing this manga online in the NA region.

Gokurakugai made its NA debut on March 2, 2023. You can read it online for free on Shonen Jump at Viz Media. All save for Ch. 4, which requires you to have a paid subscription to access it in the Shonen Jump vault. Because for some reason, Viz Media decided to release 6 chapters all at once, and lock the middlemost chapter into the vault. Oh well. At least the next chapter of this manga is going to release on April 3, 2023. So if you became a fan after only reading the first 3 chapters as I did, then you won’t have long to wait.

Why Does This Manga Get a Spotlight?

'Gokurakugai" Vol. 1 Japanese cover art.
This doesn’t quite look like a shonen manga, and I’m loving it because of that.

Everything about Gokurakugai is great. I mean it. Every aspect of it is amazing. The story is about par for the course for a shonen manga, being a weird cross of Bleach, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Gintama; but the way Yuto Sano uses those tropes in this manga makes it seem fresh and exciting. The characters though really make the whole story come alive, with a cast of quirky and lovable characters, which includes the 2 main characters: Ms. Tao and Alma. Their character dynamic almost comes off as mother and child (or possibly owner and pet), making their interactions adorable and endearing. Add in the gorgeous artwork (aside from some clearly unfinished sketches in Ch. 3), and you can see why I’m raving about this manga. You would never be able to tell that this is Yuto Sano’s first-ever manga.

Yuto Sano author avatar.
You can tell by Yuto Sano’s author avatar that they really loves showing off their highly detailed art style.

Yes, that’s right. Gokurakugai is Yuto Sano’s first proper manga series. They’ve written one-shot manga before, with the first being the rather oddball Love Soldier Caroline back on August 31, 2016, and their most recent one-shot before Gokurakugai Sanban-doori no Ken being Lawless Kid on April 22, 2019. Based on the quality of Gokurakugai, you would never think that this is Sano’s first manga, and yet it is.

The best analogy here is a new mangaka showing up at the publisher with their first manga, asking if it was okay. The publisher ends up being blown away by the manga, and starts shoving money at the mangaka, saying “Take it! Take it all! Just give me more of this!”. It’s rather amazing for essentially a first-time mangaka, and a sign that Yuto Sano is one of the great ones. I suspect that even after Gokurakugai, we’ll be following their future work with great interest.

The Saiyuki Connection?

'Gensomaden Saiyuki' key art.
Only Saiyuki fans will get what I mean.

You know how I mention that the characters of Gokurakugai were part of its charm? Well, it’s also the relationships between the characters. Both the character archetypes and the relationships might be familiar to fans of Saiyuki by Kazuya Minekura. The mother-child relationship between Ms. Tao and Alma seems pretty similar to Sanzo’s father-child relationship with Goku. They even fit similar character archetypes. Ms. Tao is a chain-smoking gun-wielding mature warrior just like Sanzo, while Alma’s innocently childish and ever-hungry nature reminds one of Goku’s love of anything remotely edible and delicious.

As far as I can find out though, Yuto Sano has no relationship with Saiyuki or Kazuya Minekura. Sano has never worked under Minekura as an assistant, nor have they ever collaborated on anything as far as I know. So either Sano is just a huge fan of Saiyuki and wanted to have elements of it in their story, or this is just a big coincidence. Really, we have no evidence either way. So take my speculation with a grain of salt unless we at THS do happen to hear anything official about it later.