Hikaru Nakamura’s Saint Young Men is an absurd concept executed hilariously. The idea of pairing Jesus of Nazareth with Gautama Buddha as roommates in a small Japanese apartment is as goofy as it sounds and the series completely commits to this bit. As a newcomer to this series I wasn’t sure how it would feel jumping twelve volumes in; however, after a chapter or two I was immediately drawn into Nakamura’s world. It won me over with its consistent wit and endearing characters, making for a wholly delightful reading experience.
Saint Young Men Vol. 12 collects chapters 81-88 of the ongoing manga. Each chapter is very much its own story making for a more episodic reading experience. We follow Jesus and Buddha as they go furniture shopping, visit a hair salon, and go stargazing among many adventures with their supporting cast. Here lies one of the most creative aspects of the series: Nakamura’s ability find humanity amidst the sacred.
At each story’s core lies something everyone can relate to. Whether it’s struggling to justify overpriced furniture, the fear of getting a bad hair cut, or finding a new hobby with a friend, Nakamura’s characters come across as incredibly relatable and endearing. This in turn creates a charming series that immediately draws one into the daily lives of these characters. She then steeps these tales in their respective religious contexts for added characterization and humor.
Nakamura exercises enough knowledge of each tradition to fully steep her stories in them and poke fun while not coming off as blasphemous. With a series using two of the world’s foremost religious figures, Saint Young Men could all too easily fall into habit of mocking each faith. However, the series treats the religious history behind its characters with fairness and deftly weaves them into humorous situations.
Unfortunately Saint Young Men does not escape the inherent limitation of a comedy series: not every single joke lands. Though this does come down to each individual’s personal taste, not every setup or punchline will work. Despite this, even the chapters’ whose premises might not immediately appeal carry the series’ charm and wit that still make them enjoyable.
The art here is consistent and serves the plot well. While it certainly doesn’t make any leaps or bounds in the world of sequential storytelling, the art delivers the story in an engaging and clear manner. Many of the tales rely on physical comedy bits that work really well. Nakamura’s clear style sells these moments and pulls them off effortlessly.
Saint Young Men Vol. 12 makes for a fantastic read. The character’s are endearing and Nakamura’s style of humor makes for some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Her art style doesn’t push any boundaries but instead contributes a solid visual flow. If anyone is looking for a solid slice-of-life/comedy manga, I cannot recommend this series enough.
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