Warning! Spoilers ahead for Super Smartphone chapter 11!
The new Shonen Jump series Super Smartphone just explored a phenomenon that many people contend with on a regular basis with a supernatural spin.
Super Smartphone appears to be one of those series that continually innovates the use of its central theme. It features devices known as Googugu that can basically access a wealth of information, which normal people are restricted from. At first, writer Hiroki Tomisawa and illustrator Kentaro Hidano created the impression that the protagonist Kyu “Q” Sagurada would go on episodic adventures, using the Googugu to investigate unsolved crimes. Then, later chapters transformed these devices into more innocuous versions of the Death Note that mimicked the dynamic of those who owned the deadly notebooks as they tried to outsmart each other while being bound by certain rules. Now, Tomisawa and Hidano are looking at the Googugu from a real-world perspective by exploring the worst traits that this type of technology espouses and how it affects society.
In chapter 11, Q finally comes into contact with the first of his many adversaries who possess a Googugu, Norenashi Moura who is the least dangerous of his many foes. When Moura overpowers the oaf as planned, Q uses his intelligence to show that Moura has been getting played by his friends with the intent of convincing Moura to defect. Q accomplishes this by having Moura’s Googugu access a group chat with Moura’s friends that Moura himself is not a part of, and he sees how his so-called buddies are planning on betraying him to save themselves while laughing over the fact that he actually thinks they’re all friends. Moura, who has been literally buying their friendship by spending money that he steals on them, is gutted by what he reads and undergoes a rather disturbing mental breakdown by first throwing his super smartphone in tears before banging his head repeatedly on a nearby wall. Despite Shonen Jump’s new series being a surveillance nightmare, here, the titular super smartphone’s surveillance is used to reveal something dark.
Although the more pressing problems that smartphones create are derived from their ability to connect to the toxicity of social media, group chats were the digital precursors to these unhealthy environments. In real life, there is either a genuine fear among people that they are not really a part of a group, or these people are unaware of their status. These social dynamics usually involve multiple group chats. One chat includes everyone, and the other excludes the group’s pariah. Because of how smartphones work, the outcast will never find out about their exclusion unless someone gets careless. But Shonen Jump’s dark mystery series Super Smartphone introduces a new technology that can accomplish what normal smartphones can’t, and the series’ creators use it to delve into the aforementioned dynamic in a way which will tragically resonate with many readers.
Although it’s likely that Super Smartphone will pivot, it would be quite compelling if Tomisawa and Hidano decided to explore the other dark avenues of smartphone culture. For example, a real phenomenon that many people deal with is the fear of missing out (FOMO). Since it’s a much more pressing issue in today’s society than group texts, this manga collaboration has set the series up to deconstruct this dynamic from a new perspective. It’s always an effective literary tool to first start small and then build up to more complex ideas later on. This type of social phenomenon may be bleak, but if Shonen Jump’s Super Smartphone could give it a positive spin, their efforts could potentially help many young readers grapple with these very real problems – like the friendship that appears to be forming between Q and Moura.
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Super Smartphone is available now on Viz Media’s Shonen Jump app!