The Hunters Guild: Red Hood and getting Meta when you get the Axe

A while back, I signed myself up for a Viz subscription so that I could go back and read the My Hero Academia Manga from the beginning. In the time since then, I’ve kind of just not bothered to cancel it, so I’ve found myself reading a few other new manga that have been getting published on there.

Helping me discover series like Kaiju No. 8 and Hunter’s Guild: Red Hood, the latter of which recently got the dropped by Shonen Jump. Something I never actually realised until I saw a big old “The End” label at the end of the last chapter.

Hunter’s Guild: Red Hood was a fantasy action manga from Yuki Kawaguchi. The mangaka is a former assistant of Kohei Horikoshi of My Hero Academia fame, and it shows. Both in the character designs and Kawaguchi’s approach to action sequences, both artistically and the manner in which fights are choreographed and play out dramatically.

The world of Red Hood was a new take on the Grimm’s world of fairytales. We first meet Velou; a heroic young orphan whose tiny village is being plagued by werewolves. In a last desperate attempt to save themselves from the monsters, they contact the Hunter’s Guild, who in turn send Grimm, the titular Red Hood.

Together Velou and Grimm fend off the werewolves, which seem more like Lovecraftian monsters than lycanthropic humans. Only for the village to get mostly destroyed and the Mayor killed. Leaving Velou with little other option than to ask Grimm to let him join the Hunter’s guild. From there, we get a very shonen feeling story arc with Velou being introduced to the guild, meeting other characters and going through the motions of a harrowing training regime that culminates in a graduation exam.

It’s My Hero Academia, it’s Hunter x Hunter, It’s Shaman King and it’s Tower of God. Amongst countless other examples. Which is maybe one of the reasons the series got abruptly given the axe only after less than 20 chapters. It’s a shame too, because the series had a lot of potential. A great art style, fun characters and a depth of world building right from the beginning.

Here’s the thing though, a manga getting the axe is nothing new. It’s a super competitive industry and from I can tell, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for new mangaka to actually get their series to be taken seriously for the long haul. Normally, I wouldn’t really comment on a series like this getting the. boot, as much as I was enjoying it.

To his credit though, upon learning his manga was getting the axe, Kawaguchi decided to go all out and spend the final few chapters of his story giving a prolonged meta commentary on the absolute state of the industry, starting with one of the series first established villains busting into the story in progress and announcing that “The world is about to end”. Words that obviously had a deeper meaning than I realised the first time I read them.

Suddenly, the Mayor from Velou’s village his prior parent figure shows up and whisks Velou away into some sealed room where a mysterious figure writes in a book, a book that dictates the events of the world. A book that needs to be written in by a nominated member of the guild in order to continuously please a set of multidimensional Gods called “The Readers”. Stop me if you see where this is going.

The vast majority of the final three chapters of the manga are this writer telling Velou that if they don’t manage to write stories in the book, the Readers will simply put the an end to the entire world. But it’s not enough that they simply write in the book, they need to keep things spicy. In short, they need to good-ass shonen.

It’s so weird, because the writer really gets into the little details of their story writing process. Kawaguchi obviously commenting on what publishers like Jump want from their mangaka in order for them to keep their manga going. Making this character’s struggles and the pressures he feels the exact same as he, no doubt, was going through during this series’ short run.

The Mayor charging in and acting as this ultimate nihilistic force. Demanding the story come to an end. Stating that “the moment we took up the book… is the moment we failed.” It wonder if this character is a stand in for the publishers at jump and their casting aside of his story, or of Kawaguchi’s own feelings on all the care and effort he put into his manga and how it’s all amounted to nothing.

This character’s presence being the personification of a mangaka’s frustration and anger at the system and wanting to burn it all down in retaliation. It makes me wonder what his editor was thinking when he was giving him these pages leading up to release. Maybe it was all done in good fun rather than in any genuine malice.

After all, the conclusion of the story has Velou take up the book and gives a more hopeful account of the “world” coming to an end. He says that “I want this world to keep going. Yeah, a lot of people have messed with it… But everyone has their own path that they’ve walked to get this far.” He ends up killing the Mayor, announcing that he choses to live and continue his own story.

Which makes me think Kawaguchi might not have been as salty about the cancelation of his manga as a lot of Ani-tubers seem to think he was. The final line of the story being “Our fight is only just beginning”. Which I’d like to take as Kawaguchi’s statement that yeah, his initial stab at a manga might not have worked out for him, but he’s resolute to continue working and reach the peaks of his mentor Horikoshi.

I know it’s all there in metaphor, but I feel like his use of the word fight is probably apt in the industry he has chosen to work in. Being a Mangaka, like being any other creative in the entertainment industry is a struggle. Like all the stories of people moving to Hollywood in the U.S. to follow their dream of being an actor or a writer, becoming a successful Mangaka seems like a harsh and thankless road to walk.

Yeah, it always sucks when a manga gets the axe. I always personally get this sense of profound disappointment from a rushed manga ending to a story I was genuinely invested in, even more so than if the manga had abruptly just stopped. I would rather the story just stop one day than get a really rushed and slapped together finale.

However, I have mad respect for Kawaguchi and what he did with red Hood’s ending. Considering where he was in the current story arc, it would have been next to impossible for him to tie things up in any real way that wouldn’t have been a total mess. Going in the direction of the ultimate meta approach of just hanging a lantern on him getting cancelled actually feels like just about the best way he could have ended it to me.

I only wish more manga would just get weird like this and just let the writers do whatever the hell they wanted in their final chapters. It certainly would make for a more entertaining talking point to end on than the infamous rushed rom-com ending.

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