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First Look: Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin Chapter 1 Manga Review

4 min read
A misbehaving cop paired up with another new member of the force. A cute little girl, a tropical setting, what could go wrong?

There’s a lot going on in this strange cop dramedy, for better or worse.

Creative Staff
Art/Story: Ryuhei Tamura
Translation: Adrienna Beck
Lettering: Brandon Bovia

What They Say
Depth 1. Dolphin and Shark
Samejima is as tough as nails, but will he sea eye-to-eye with his new partner?!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Shonen Jump’s newest addition to the magazine is Shakunetsu no Nirai Kanai, which translated to “Red-Hot Nirai Kanai.” The chosen English title doesn’t attempt to tie into the mythology, overarching plot, or a clever reference. Instead, it gives it the title “Hard-Boiled Cop and Dolphin.” Not particularly inspired naming, that.

With a title like that, I thought we were getting the manga version of the 90’s version of the TV show Flipper. Dolphins solving crimes! Then the promo-art made me think maybe the little girl was a shape-shifting dolphin. Nope! Wrong again! So what exactly are we dealing with here?

First, there has been a lot of talk about the colossally poor timing of the release of this manga in the states. First, let’s talk about cops in Japan to put this in perspective since the first thing you’re gonna notice is that when our lead cop pulls his revolver (note, revolver) it is extremely obviously clipped to his body. Police in Japan, when they go armed, typically carried New Nambu M60 revolvers. When those ceased production Japan switched to other revolvers, but the truth remains that the cops are using very different guns than their American counterparts. This very fun article points out that in 2015 Japanese police discharged their weapons only six times!  That doesn’t mean the Japanese police and justice system doesn’t have its own problems. The Yakuza are a thing, sexism, corruption, and a judicial system that believes guilty until proven innocent. It does mean that a Japanese cop is never going to come out “guns blazing.”

Is Tamura tone-deaf to what is happening in America? Probably not, he was just simply thinking like a Japanese manga-ka who is only considering his domestic audience.

In fact, the lead in this story, Officer Boyle Samejima, is a cop who fancies himself an action hero. He talks and acts like a Hollywood detective and after yet another breach of protocol is shipped off to the literal ends of the earth. He is reassigned to Ogasuwara, which is technically part of Tokyo but is also 620 miles south of Tokyo…. in the middle of the ocean. The Bonin islands have an amazing, crazy history where the island shifted back and forth between western and eastern rule. It even has its own language which is a mix of Japanese, Hawaiian, and English. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unique flora and fauna.

The manga doesn’t start on a particularly serious note. When we’re introduced to Samejima’s new partner Umi her shirt pops open. Puns start flying fast and furious even as we’re told an intriguing story about a cult who worshipped a girl as a dolphin god. The girl who was raised by dolphins, we are told. Then we are introduced to Orpheus, Samejima’s new partner and everything goes off the rails. Two quick-to-shoot cops who take extreme (non-lethal) measures to solve or stop crimes that spend more time trying to justify their methods and nearly cause a larger incident when trying to apprehend a fender-bender hit-and-run.

Oh…. kay.

Tamaura’s artwork remains solid and the manga is attractive to look at. Beelzebub was generally well-received so the interest in this title is understandable. It’s just…. there’s a lot going on here and much of it feels like he watched too much Naked Gun, but not in a good way, more of an outdated way.

In Summary
This is a hard manga to pin down, but it certainly isn’t like anything else running in Jump right now. A unique setting with an intriguing plot involving a girl raised by dolphins and a small island police department far removed from the mainland. A misbehaving cop paired up with another new member of the force. A cute little girl, a tropical setting, what could go wrong? Well, Hard-boiled Cop and Dolphin isn’t interested in telling a serious story. It goes hard on the puns and the absurdism almost directly. The focus on cops bending the rules is a bitter pill for the American readers to swallow right now. I really like the plot hook of the missing cult, but man…. the weird twist is just at odds with everything else going on.

Content Grade: B –
Art Grade: A –
Text/Translation Grade: A –

Age Rating: Teen
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: June 26, 2020

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