It’s time for the next big Jump manga…or at least it could have been in a different timeline. Alas, I can see why this one didn’t last very long. It’s a comedic manga that tries to have some action elements but ends up succeeding at neither. I’ve certainly read way funnier titles in Jump like Reborn! and have read numerous better action ones. The issue with trying to be two things is that you will often fail at both and so Moriking didn’t stand much of a chance from the start.
The story starts with a kid named Shota getting all excited because he’s finally getting a bug of his own. Shota is obsessed with insects of any kind. His sister Shoko is not very excited about this but she does her best to be as supportive as possible. Well, the insect hatches…into a grown up dude named Moriking. He explains that he is one of the King candidates to rule the insect kingdom. Others will appear to fight him for the throne. He still has the same life expectancy as a normal beetle though and will die when Autumn ends. Shota is psyched to have such a cool beetle while Shoko has a hard time believing this. None of this seems natural. Cue the comedy shenanigans!
This is a comedy first and foremost. We do get some action scenes as the series goes on but you still won’t be mixing up the genres. Trust me on this, it’s still clear what the focus here is throughout. The series is 35 chapters long and I would say around 30 of those are comedy chapters. So having 5 action ones wouldn’t change the main genre for me. Unfortunately the series just isn’t that funny which is a really big issue for a comedy manga. In fact, you could say that it’s an absolutely massive issue.
The issue here is that the comedy is very limited. The main gag is the fact that Moriking is a bug and yet nobody seems to care. He goes to school, helps the police, etc. All the while he still keeps some beetle characteristics. The only one who seems to care is Shoko who constantly yells about this. She’s always asking everyone why they’re just playing along. She is the straight man to every joke and this same template of “Moriking does something crazy. Nobody reacts. Shoko yells about nobody reacting” over and over and over again. This is really the extent of the series humor for 90% of its runtime.
Unfortunately that has always been one of my least favorite styles of humor. A reaction to a non reaction just isn’t very funny to me. I like quick dialogue, meta humor, cool homages, etc. This humor just doesn’t do much for me. Ah well, a series can still be good without being funny right? Well…yes but this one doesn’t quite make it. The other humor it uses is that Moriking is always stripping. As a bug he doesn’t want to be stifled by clothes after all and the main villain feels the same way.
Every page censors them by having a leaf block them or steam and things like that but it gets old quickly. In Fairy Tail the gag with Gray works rather well in part because he doesn’t know why it happens and Fairy Tail’s dialogue and writing is just leagues beyond Moriking. In Moriking it feels like they’re just trying to get a cheap laugh and it is not working. The cast isn’t quite strong enough in this short series to get by it either.
Now there is something good I can say about the series. The art is very good. Each page is very clear and the characters have dynamic designs that really stand out. I can give a lot of praise in this arena and the action scenes are also on point. This is important because towards the end of the series we get a lot of homages to famous jump moments like Ichigo using Bankai and Goku’s Spirit Bomb against Kid Buu. The artist here is able to recreate the scenes really well so you immediately know what the reference is. That is something Moriking does well.
Likewise, I can also say that the action scenes are handled well when they happen. The first “arc” of Moriking is really about day to day adventures as each King appears one by one. Only the final king gets a serious fight where we have Morking give it his all. In that battle the stakes are very real and so is the battle. You’ll be very satisfied with how it all plays out. Then in the final arc as we take this global, we see some more battles which are also drawn really well. I’m fully convinced that the series would have been immensely better had it gone for an action angle from the start.
As for the cast, well two of the main characters are kids who can’t fight and that doesn’t bode well. That’s a bit more natural for a comedy manga but even then they feel too you. You have Shota as the lead and he’s just a little kid who always wanted a bug. He cries when he doesn’t get his way and is easily impressed by everything. There just isn’t anything to really like about him. He gets in the way more than he actually helps. If he could assist Moriking in any way that would be different, but he can’t.
Shoko is an improvement but not a big one. She is obsessed with getting a boyfriend but despite being the most popular and beautiful girl in school (Or so she says) Shoko has not had any luck yet. Worse is the fact that everyone thinks she is dating Moriking now. Shoko’s whole role in the series is to panic during every chapter which means you won’t be getting a lot of great scenes out of her. She holds herself back more times than not. By the end of the series she is a bit more accepting of Moriking but even then you can bet that she will be panicking a lot.
How about Moriking himself? Well, he’s certainly better than the kids but I still wouldn’t say he is great. He has good ambitions on being the king and helping the Earth stay peaceful but he doesn’t know his own limits. He faints from having a single glass of water and fails his only case as a detective. Of course this is all for gags and all that but it still doesn’t help his character. He has some good serious moments but I wouldn’t say he is a very memorable main character or one that I would like all that much as long as the series went down this route. He’s super oblivious and doesn’t realize why clothes are important, etc. These are a combination of character traits that don’t work very well for him.
At the very least, he is strong though. Moriking is able to defeat just about anyone who gets in his way. Then we have the first King, Oka who is a praying mantis. The character names get a bit confusing as we have an Oka, Oki, Oga, etc. Why do the names have to be so similar? Well, Oka is the nicest member of the Kings so as you can guess she is the weakest. She can barely fight and turns good almost immediately since she realizes that she has no shot at becoming the king. I guess she’s not bad, but there isn’t a whole lot to her personality. Being nice is really the only character that she has.
We then meet a weak bug named Ko who worked for the mysterious final king but got booted out of there. He can’t fight and he’s always really nervous but Moriking allows this guy to serve as his retainer. It was a nice gesture by Moriking but don’t expect this guy to be very helpful at all. He monitors the Moricave and helps out around the house but that’s pretty much the extent of what he does. It’s handy that he has super speed but he never really uses it. The guy is just way too nervous for me to find him likable.
Next up is Sakura, the next door neighbor. She’s a human like Shota but her thing is that she has a king for a pet as well in Oki. She’s nice enough and wants to be a good friend to Shota. There is some mild hintings at a future romance here but both of these kids are way too young for that so it’s not a real concern. She’s okay I guess but again, no real reason to remember or like her much. She’s less annoying than Shota but that’s about it.
As for her bug Oki, well that guy’s fun. He’s the first serious rival that Moriking gets and they appear evenly matched initially. Once Oki turns good right away the power dynamic changes though and Moriking is shown to be far stronger. You kind of knew this would happen eventually though so it’s not a huge surprise. It’s just sad that Oki starts to be more of a comic relief character who is kicked around by everybody. He’s afraid of ghosts and gets slapped around in his final arc fight. Too bad since I thought he had a lot of potential. By default he’s one of the better characters in the series but it isn’t saying a whole lot.
Then you have Mio the hornet who is the next member of the King candidates. She is ultra popular and part of her ability is that everyone pretty much wants to serve her. It’s like she was born to be a queen and in fact she was. I like her enthusiasm and everything but while she was serious for a few pages, she is immediately crushed by Moriking over and over again to the point where her attempts at victory as reduced to one panel gags. She is just completely out of her league which is just too bad. Still, I would say she is easily better than some of the other characters.
Then we have the best character in the series: Oga. So he’s the main villain of the first arc. He’s a villain who is very confident in both his abilities and his dream to make the world a better place. In that respect he’s given far more credit and props than any of the other villains in the series. He’s not some random gag character and his entire climax fight against Moriking is played very seriously. His abilities are the real deal and he still appears as a strong fighter when he returns later on in the series. He may have been humbled but he put up a good fight first. The battle with their various Zoro references was fun.
Finally, there’s the final boss of the final arc. Hercules is a villain who is extremely powerful to the point where Moriking was even getting wrecked. While most of the final arc ended up being a joke, at least this guy was given a proper send off. It’s also telling that he could have beaten Moriking almost immediately but ended up holding back long enough for the speech to buy Moriking some time to turn the tables. He had a good design and while he didn’t have enough time to develop much of a personality, at least he was someone you wouldn’t soon forget.
That covers the cast here and as you can see, it was one of the weaker ones. I’ve really talked about why the series was probably cancelled in my eyes, so what would I have done differently to stop it? Well, I think you have to go with the action a bit sooner. The comedy was not working so once the first king appeared as a joke, I would have made the others more serious. Lean into the part where each King gets 2 minions a little more and have them fight. I feel like this aspect was dropped immediately.
The series was at its best when Moriking and the others had to storm the villain’s base. Now that was a fun part and we got a lot of action scenes which is always good. If the whole series was like that then it would have hit the ground running. I would age up the kids a bit so they could potentially fight down the road. They could gain insect abilities or something like that. If the ratings were better then the final arc involving the world tournament could have been stretched out so instead of it just being around 7 chapters, it could have been a full arc. A big tournament like this should not be rushed so much.
With those changes/improvements I think Moriking would have been in a really good spot. I would have found it to be a lot more interesting at least. Slice of life gag manga just aren’t as fun as full adventures with a concrete storyline behind them. At the most I’ll say that the ending was okay in some ways. It involves memory aspects that I don’t like and one part makes no sense, but I can give it props in one way. Lets just say it involves the whole lifespan of how these characters will all die in about a month or so. That seemed a bit drastic especially if you want this to be a long running manga so it’s good to remove that as soon as possible.
Manga like this can be the saddest to read though because it had potential. At least with titles like Go Go Monster, Black Bird, or Black Butler, they never had a chance from early on. With Moriking, you can see flashes of excellence now and again. When the series is taking itself serious it is quite good. Moriking shows that it can unironically be a solid battle manga. Having excellent artwork is the first step to this and then battles are next. As you can see in the next screenshot, you can have serious moments of planning and things like that. It’s just that every time we get close to a moment like this, it turns into a gag and ruins everything. I may be singing a different tune if the series was good at writing gags, but it just wasn’t.
Overall, Moriking may have had some potential, but it didn’t live up to it. It just wasn’t funny and as a comedy manga that’s a huge strike against the series. The action scenes were good but they were few and far between. You can find romance manga with better developed characters and funnier humor. All of these strikes against the series proved to be fatal. I wouldn’t call this a good manga and while it does enough to not be negative, it ends up staying right in the middle. The crazy thing is if the manga had ended with the first king arc, you’d never have known it was cancelled. It would have had a normal ending. I knew something was up when a whole new villain group and tournament was announced with 7 chapters left though. That was a huge red flag and I feel like by that point the author must have had some idea that things weren’t going well. Starting a new arc like that was bold. I would advise skipping this manga in the end. It’s a fairly painless read, it’s not like it will stick out in a bad way or anything. If you have a few hours you can just go for it, but there are so many better manga to read. I’d advise you to find one of those titles and check that out instead.