It’s hard to forget any of the promotional images for this series when it was first starting out. Who wouldn’t have fun with a manga about a tough dolphin right? It didn’t last super long but then again, 40+ chapters is fairly good for a modern Jump title that’s cancelled, feels like they usually don’t last quite so long nowadays. It allows the series to explore its premise fairly well at least.
The series starts off with Samejima taking down a crook but he took big risks in doing so and gets demoted. I have to agree with the demotion to be honest since pointing a gun at someone who has a hostage is going beyond just being a bit reckless. So Samejima is sent to a small island in the middle of nowhere that’s a bit off. One of their leutenants is a buff dolphin, there’s a kid here who was rescued from a cult but kept her super powers, and there are sea animal hybrids going around and causing trouble. Will Samejima’s police training be enough to keep him safe?
It is interesting how to the rest of the world, there are no such things as supernatural creatures and all that. Samejima knew about the cult kidnapping for example but like everyone else he just thought they were crazy. Since the island is so far away from everything (Not even a cell signal in sight) it also makes sense that people wouldn’t learn about these events. I thought the author did a good job of crafting this scenario carefully in such a way where nobody would suspect anything. This was good execution.
Initially you have intro type stories that aren’t really connected but let you get used to the cast. For example we have a one shot story with a few guys riding a car without a license and they basically antagonize the cops until they get shut down by Samejima and Orpheus (The Dolphin). Granted I’m not sure if the main character is right about it not being legal to film a cop on public property. I mean, it’s a made up island so you could say the rules are a bit different but I think it was still a part of Japan. Might be overthinking it though and either way these guys were crooks for speeding, driving without a license and then nearly running someone over.
Another intro case that would end up being important for later was the first confrontation with more of a supernatural fighter. Granted, it has a comedic end but you have a guy who is part octopus that is blowing a lot of buildings up in the town. Every part of him is explosive and so trying to hack him to bits isn’t a great way to try and take him down. Orpheus and Samejima have to reluctantly use some teamwork here.
The villain just wanted pollution to stop but blowing up towns isn’t quite the way to go about it. This was also the introduction to Chako’s (the kid) wish granting abilities which are quite powerful. Whenever a series introduces a power that activates just by thinking about it, well you can bet that this character will be a real powerhouse. She’s just young enough where it isn’t dangerous at this point but all you would need is one time skip for her to either be the world’s greatest hero or most dangerous villain.
The series is mostly good about not having much fanservice but it is definitely present which is unfortunate. There’s a whole chapter about everyone trying to take advantage of the main heroine Umi including even Samejima. What’s even the point of that chapter? It’s certainly a good way to lose momentum and her gimmick of having the shirt rip whenever she salutes will make you cringe. Again, the series isn’t too constant with this or anything but it really limits the overall potential of the title.
The first real arc starts with two powerful hybrid bounty hunters known as Kaji and Hanma showing up. They are here to kidnap Chako on behalf of the cult. As these two both have powers, Samejima will have to step up if he wants to protect her. It was a solid mini arc and had the first true fights of the series. There was some good back and forth here and if this was added sooner in the story I think the series could have launched with a really solid start right off the gate. By the end of the mini arc you have these bounty hunters turning good though which is a bit too quick if you ask me but I can give it a pass since it means they can show up as heroic rivals later on.
Next up was a more serious case where people keep dying near the local dolphin pool. The victims are always missing an arm as well. The cops are naturally called in and this arc taps into the mystery angle a bit as you have some a main suspect in the coach and have to decide if he is the murderer or if it’s someone else. With super powered animal fighters on the loose it’s hard to rule anything out. It’s a bit of a step down from the last arc but it isn’t bad. It introduces some pretty important characters and does further the cult plot by the end. The ending twists get a little too convoluted for its own good though to the point where it’s hard to buy the twists at one point. The coach looks bad no matter how you slice it.
There’s a quick mini arc about the characters moving into a mansion where a rich guy tries to throw them out. It’s a way to go back into the comedy realm a bit with some other short stories before the final arc of the series. So there are 7 legendary artifacts in the world apparently and the cult wants to secure these items at any cost to the point where they have called up all of their big members including the main villain himself. The girl who turned traitor in the last arc is there and so the main characters unite to enter the underwater cave. We also get introduced to a whole new group of fighters known as Squad 7 who are apparently the most skilled police officers around. They’re more like the FBI or CIA. Can the heroes stop this cult once and for all?
This arc felt like the biggest one and while I have a feeling it would have played out a lot differently if it wasn’t cancelled, I thought the author was able to wrap everything up really well. At most the giant dolphin made of water at the end may have felt a little out of the blue but all in all it was a fun way to end the series. While it had a rocky start, I did think the series quickly got better the more it went along. This is an example of a series that is better when it was focusing on action rather than comedy. The series just wasn’t very funny which isn’t a good thing for a comedic based title.
Before going into it further, lets take a look at the cast. As the main character Samejima is decent. He’s a hot head who always just dives into a problem and I like to see that kind of enthusiasm. He may not have any super powers but he can still fight with the best of them. The series is part comedy after all so it’s not all that unlikely to even see him trading blows with the more powerful villains. The fact that he doesn’t follow protocol comes in handy more than a few times. While the other cops are unable to move due to other departments showing up, he doesn’t care and just dives in. He does tend to suffer from some of the jokes like being too distracted by Umi though.
Umi is a nice enough main heroine but the series really just uses her as the token fanservice character most of the time. She really doesn’t have a lot of plot importance beyond that and ends up being the only main character who can’t fight at all. That’s a shame because it also leaves her out of all the big story arcs. I’d have liked for the series to have given her some kind of ability to fight with the others. Well, Umi means well at least, not like she’s a bad character or anything.
Chako is the main kid that all of the villains are after so she gets a big role. That said, she’s a very young kid so it’s not like she can really fight or anything like that. Her wishing abilities are really just a way for the plot to go on. Not much to say about her as a character due to this. I will say that her powers can seem a bit inconsistent at times but since it is used seriously at times and as a gag at others, I guess that is to be expected. By the end of the series we do learn the full story behind her kidnapping though.
Orpheus is a big character and really the selling point for a lot of people. That said, I thought Samejima was a lot more interesting. Orpheus’ main character is that he wants Chako to see him as the main parental figure but she’s taken to Samejima so he is always jealous. That is a large chunk of his scenes in the comedy stories. When it comes to the action parts he does have some good fights though and even a tragic backstory. Much like Korosensei from Assassination Classroom, I much prefer him before his transformation into a dolphin.
Still, he’s okay, just not a standout character to me. He does have super strength and a good fist technique so that’s handy in the battles. Next is Seira, a mermaid girl who appears in a few stories. Initially she seems like someone who’s just a little careless with how she comes close to marrying a normal human who would surely drown underwater. As the series goes on we learn more about her though and she even plays a bit of a critical role by the end. She was solid by that point.
Kaji is one of the early villains who turned good. There isn’t a ton to him beyond potential since he didn’t do a lot but he made for a good villain. At the end of the day he’s a villain with an honor code and it wasn’t hard to turn him. The guy has a distinct character design too. He has a partner in Hanma who is a solid fighter as well but he doesn’t do much in comparison.
Yukari is one of the main characters from the dolphin pool murder case and her character arc goes in a very unexpected direction. She ends up being one of the best villains for sure. She uses the arm artifact well and has one of the best feats in the series when she splits the ocean in two so everyone can walk to the cave. As a villain she has a lot of confidence and doesn’t even get intimidated by Poseidon himself. Now that’s some serious ability on her part.
Jura was her colleague but unfortunately as a hero she doesn’t get any power ups so there isn’t really anything she can do to help out here. It would have been nice if the series could have done something to allow them to have a proper fight. Jura’s a fun character though, she’s up beat and always ready to tackle the next obstacle. She stuck up for Yukari and was a really good friend throughout.
As the leader of the cult, Kamuro gets a big role by the end. I can’t say I’m a fan though. He’s one of those guys who is a comic relief perv as a “good guy” and while he gets serious when he is evil, it’s hard to know if his personality is still on the up and up as a result. Was it all an act? The guy is also a bit out of his depth with these relics as he is surprised at how the first one looks. His backstory is certainly very tragic but I don’t really understand how he went off the deep end.
The idea was that he would infiltrate the villains and then take down the organization from the inside. Instead he effectively just became the leader and kept it moving. His goal at the end is really not good and one of those classic “I’ll destroy almost everything but it’s for good reasons” Ultimately since he became evil because his willpower wasn’t strong enough, I was never going to be a big fan of Kamuro.
Okiura is effectively Kamuro’s right hand woman. She finds out a lot of intel and helps him that way but she isn’t much of a fighter so she doesn’t leave an impact. She’s helpful to the villain cause but there isn’t a whole lot to say about her. I think if the series had kept going we likely would have seen her play a bigger role or at least that’s the vibe I got.
Tome shows up really late in the series but she immediately becomes a fun character. As the leader of Squad 7 she is quite powerful in combat. She has an underwater martial art style that seems to be heavily based off of Attack on Titan. It’s how the whole squad fights too so it’s like the survey corps. They use water pressure to zip all over the place as they strike at their enemies. Tome is the most powerful of the group though and it shows. She gets a few fights in the arc and would have been a fun supporting character for future events.
We meet Chako’s Mom in the flashbacks to the origin of the dolphin cop and how this all happened. Her name’s Yae. Yae was a nice character thrown into a tough situation but I do feel like she kept on making the wrong calls. Getting involved in the cult, having a kid while at the cult only made the situation worse. Eventually it was too much for her and she split. Now there’s a bit more context to that but I’d say she got in over her head and this ended up costing her as well as Chako quite a lot. There was also starting to be a bit of a triangle between her, Kamuro, and the Dolphin which wasn’t really needed.
Finally we have Poseidon who would have almost certainly been the end game boss. He can possess Chako and it seems like each relic would have made him stronger. When he possesses Chako she can actually fight rather well so I can only imagine how strong he would be in his own body. The series has a bit of fun at his expense though like when he gets his powers zapped by the cave though. Not his best look and doesn’t exactly make him someone to be feared as the big villain. Always a tough part when trying to balance the serious action and more comedic elements for a series like this.
So, what would I have done differently to keep this from being cancelled? Well, as I mentioned, the series started off a bit slow and didn’t get really good until the action started to come in. That was over halfway through the series I would say. What I’d have done is have the villains attack a lot sooner. Maybe have them send in normal hitmen at first which would give Samejima a good reason to be able to keep up at first and as he learns more about the island we start to see those tough meta humans. It would be a slow ascent up the power levels.
Now, I guess the author wanted to make a comedy manga initially but the novelty of just having the cop be a dolphin isn’t enough. Throw in Chako and you’ve got a Yotsuba vibe going but it’s hard to keep all of those elements together. The initial stories that were stand alone just weren’t all that funny as I mentioned. If you tone down the fanservice or the characters acting iffy then you would have some potential but even the stories without any of that could be a bit dull. Like Chako breaking a vase and then the characters scramble to find the truth. The humor style seems to be the absurd type where something crazy happens and most characters take it in stride while Samejima panics. Not the most effective way to go about this.
So the short answer for me is to throw in the plot a lot earlier along with the fights. The author was able to easily transition this into a full action series which was a lot of fun. I can only imagine that going in that direction right from the jump would have done a whole lot to improve the series. At the end of the day I would still call this a pretty good title but of course I have the benefit of being able to marathon through it. I’m sure it feels a lot different going through it weekly. I would say to maybe remove Chako but that would change the whole core of the series and for my anti cancellation plans I try to not suggest anything that would make the series completely different.
The art is very solid as you would expect. I would go as far as to say it’s excellent. The action scenes have a lot of detail and the character designs are each distinctive. It just strengthens the case of why the series is at its strongest with the action. It allows you to read the series real easily without a doubt since it’s all so clear. Definitely a strong aspect for the series. While I didn’t find it funny most of the time, the writing for the series parts were good. The idea of having a cult as the villain organization is interesting. You don’t really see that a whole lot.
Overall, The Hard Boiled Cop and Dolphin is a good title that will quickly be forgotten amidst a sea of titles that are just better. I would call it a fun series and one I would recommend to anyone but I’m not shocked that it was cancelled. Naturally I wish it could have just kept going and maybe been the next big thing though. As long as a series is good (6 or higher) then I’d like it to crack 50 volumes and continue to surpass its limits. There may not have been any witty banter/solid buddycop dynamics with the Dolphin (It sounds way more natural than using his real name) and Samejima but the action would cover for that no doubt.