Before Tabata created the all star manga title Black Clover, he had another manga which was quickly cancelled known as Hungry Joker. It was a very ambitious project with more of an “A Certain Magical Index” element to it as all powers are based on relics from different religions, cultures, and special events. There’s a lot that could have been done with this, but alas the series was cancelled really quickly.
The series starts off by introducing us to Haiji who is a genius. He has complete amnesia except he remembers waking up amidst a lot of fire and everyone was dead as well as glowing in an odd color. His only clue is an Apple that had one bite in it. He now works on crazy experiments with the apple along with his sidekick Toriiooji. (That’s a hard name to remember) She’s not crazy about this but a job’s a job so she puts up with it. Unfortunately Haiji can barely even be bothered to remember her name half the time which is rough. One day, a new corpse appears while glowing and just as Haiji starts to investigate this, he is attacked by a mysterious being who may not be of this world. Haiji is barely able to fight him off with his apple.
The villains belong to a group named Mavro and they hint/imply they are gods or possibly aliens from another planet. They don’t think humans deserve to use these supernatural powers and are going around the world to steal the relics. Haiji will have to work with the hero group known as White Joker in order to stop them but he’s not exactly a team player. Will he learn how to work well with this group or will they simply be overwhelmed by the villains?
Now why does this apple have powers? Well, it is explained that this is the apple that Isaac Newton drank the juice from when he learned about the science knowledge that made him famous. In this world, we learn that he only learned this knowledge because he drank from the apple. The apple itself is a divine relic and only the chosen are able to live through such an experience. If a normal person bites into such an object then he/she will die without a doubt. Well, fortunately Haiji is a chosen one and since he ate quite a lot of the apple, he is able to manipulate gravity. This ability is temporary so he has to take a bite out of the apple whenever he wants to use his powers more. It means that he is at a bit of a disadvantage in a long fight though so he has to try and take care of business quickly.
The pre arc was handled well. It was a good introduction to the characters and it even had some horror vibes to it. Hungry Joker’s first chapters all take place at night which helps for the atmosphere and the hospital scene with the nurse turning into a monster is like something straight out of D Gray Man. I don’t think you will be forgetting that anytime soon. Throw in the artwork which can be a bit rough at times and you have all the elements of a horror manga in here. That said, this manga is far from being a horror title but it has the kind of visuals that would give you pause. Once the plot starts to get going though it’s much more of a classic Shonen.
The first main arc has the heroes travel to a museum as one of the legendary artifacts is on display there. It appears to be a trap but Haiji points out that they can’t afford to be cautious on this. This is the arc where we first learn about White Joker and get quite a bit of information on the world at large. You could say it sets up a lot of what would be important for the future if the series had kept on going a bit more. We get some good fights and meet new characters so it’s a fun way to kick things off. The arc has a good mix of humor and action as it introduces Alan and Mira.
Alan’s a fairly unique character as he acts very gruff and tough like any good rival but on the inside he is extremely scared of everything. The guy is timid but can’t show it and I like this character type. Usually characters act like Shaggy Rogers with how afraid they are and everyone can notice this immediately. The fact that Alan hides this so well is incredibly impressive. Not many characters would be able to pull that off. I liked him right away.
As for Mira, she doesn’t get quite as much to do but she’s nice enough. She’s the brains of the group as she plans things through while Alan just acts. She’s always cheerful and adds a lot of energy to every scene. Mira isn’t really a big fighter like the others but she’s good as a support player and gives a lot of the info dumps in the series. She’s also key to getting Haiji to join the group.
In the next arc, the group heads to a village where a witch has seemingly thrown up a smokescreen around the place. Naturally this is a job for White Joker. This time Haiji is accompanied by one of the senior members known as Vivi. You can quickly see her as the inspiration for Noelle Silva as their personalities and abilities are rather similar. Vivi’s a lot of fun and has to be one of the most powerful members. She has super speed, strength, and every kind of ability you could want. She can blow her lid quite easily but considering how Haiji can be rather rude, you can see how this would occur. There isn’t actually a witch in this arc and it ends up having more of an emotional climax but it’s a decent follow up. The first adventure was more fun but this one introduced Vivi so it had more fun scenes.
The dungeon exploring feels like classic Black Clover but the villain is the weakest one in the series. His name is Dodomekis and effectively he wants to build a harem of maids. That’s one of the worst villain motivations you can have so you’ll be rolling your eyes at this guy when he’s on screen and will just be waiting for him to be taken out already.
Nils is the other big character introduced in this arc but I didn’t like him. He’s one of those characters who is always depressed and super nervous. He lets the townsfolk get to him and so he hasn’t really had a fun time. Things just don’t go well for him and his origin story is quite tragic. You feel bad for him but I don’t feel like he would really do anything for the team dynamic. He definitely won’t be having any solid banter or anything like that.
As we approach the end of the series, the heroes head to Austria next. After learning the truth behind Haiji’s origins, the heroes hope to learn more about his blood using the next artifact. This time they travel with another member of White Joker known as Lise. He’s a doctor who uses questionable methods to get his patients to loosen up. I can’t say I found him to be all that solid. He’s another support type rather than primarily being a fighter so the Joker org seems to have quite a few of those. Naturally the adventure is quickly turned into a battle as Mavro sends in their next fighter. This time Toriiooji has to step up to help out.
The villain here is decent. He calls himself god so we don’t get to learn his true name but he does seem quite formidable and leaves more of an impact compared to the previous villains. His laser abilities are useful and the fight goes on for quite a bit. It’s more of a low key arc compared to the others but the artwork is always great for fight scenes and that carries this adventure well enough.
So after this we just jump to the end of the series. The villains suddenly launch attacks on every country in the world, the heroes all get super forms that they obtained off screen, we get a big time skip, etc. You can tell that the series was cancelled by this point so the author was having a bit of fun. The “Hungry Joker” term is even used as the super form that everyone obtains. I can’t complain though, it was a really epic way to end things off. There are of course a lot of open plot lines and such still going on as the series ends, but it ends with a bang. Now lets talk about some of the other characters.
As a main character Haiji is decent. He really isn’t all that interesting though. As a scientist he is usually very absent minded when it comes to talking to the other characters. He’s only focused on discoveries and learning about his past which can make him appear rather selfish at times. Haiji’s not a very hot headed main character nor is he a comedic one or a nervous type. In a way I would say he’s one of the most unique Shonen Jump main characters. The closest personality to him I can think of is Muhyo from Muhyo and Roji. I think Haiji would have improved with more time but he just isn’t very interesting here.
His sidekick Toriiooji is also not great but she doesn’t get powers until we’re at the very end of the series which is an unfortunate coincidence for her. I’m confident she would have had more to do now that she could fight but it was just too little too late. By that point the series was already ending. She’s a loyal ally and will always do what she can but she just didn’t get any real big moments here.
Kild is the first villain to show up and fight Haiji. This was a good way to introduce these evil gods and it was a good fight. The downside of being the first villain is of course that this fighter is having a tough time against a main character who hasn’t fought before. Since Haiji is a genius I suppose you can let that slide a bit but the fight was rather even. Kild would have won I’m sure but the fight was abruptly ended. I liked Kild as a villain, he’s easily the most memorable one at the very least and I liked his confidence.
Rosary is one of the big villains but she doesn’t really get to fight much until the end. I like her confidence though and she certainly had a high position within the villain group. As such you can say that she definitely had ability far beyond most. Meanwhile Ragins is okay as a villain but there isn’t a lot to him. He puts up a good fight against the heroes and talks about destruction and all that but you will forget him really quickly. He’s not the kind of villain that leaves an impact on you and so he fades into obscurity right away.
Nasyasu is the leader of the villains and it turns out that he is Haiji’s brother so of course there is a lot of drama there. I liked him well enough. We don’t know a ton about his goals beyond the guy just being ultra evil but he has a good design and solid teleportation abilities. I could see a lot of good potential with battle scenes for him. I’m sure we’d also meet more villains if the series had kept on going.
It’s definitely a shame that the series was cancelled so quickly. It’s definitely one of the stronger titles that I’ve read among the cancelled lineup. The characters were good, the stories were fun, and the action scenes were epic. You can see so many elements from Black Clover in here so I’m glad the author was able to utilize these concepts again in a different franchise. So what would I have done to keep the series from being cancelled? Well, it’s tough since I didn’t think the series did a bad job leading up to everything.
The series was very episodic from the start so it seems like that may have been the issue given how quickly it ended. I guess what I would do different is after the museum arc, we cut straight to the first big war battle arc against the villains. Have them attack different parts of the world which allows us to meet more members from White Joker. This could help show how useful the group is and also introduce more characters to keep the readers engaged. The leaders of White Joker seem very suspicious but they don’t show up until the series is ending. Have them appear earlier and hopefully you hook readers that way. It’s no guarantee but I think it’s a good start. Those are my ideas.
As mentioned, the art is great here. The fight scenes are epic and they’re also quite long. The series wasn’t afraid to have big battles right out of the gate and that was a good move. The abilities are also fun as there is so much you can do with elemental attacks like gravity or concepts like sound. The heroes would have a lot of room to grow their abilities so the power management of the series was in a good place. It’s also just a fun read, you’ll be dashing through the series from chapter to chapter. There’s a lot of replay value to be had here. If we’re lucky then maybe some of these characters will show up in Black Clover as part of a crossover or something.
Overall, Hungry Joker is a series that I would definitely recommend. At the end of the day it’s a really good action story and a title that you won’t be forgetting any time soon. The art is good and while Haiji isn’t really a main character that I can get behind, the supporting cast is good enough to carry him. The series had a lot of potential so it’s sad to see it go but at least the author ends it in a way where maybe we could get a sequel someday. At the very least there are still a lot of open plots left out there.