If you haven’t read this manga yet, you should!

Have you heard about One Operation Joker? If you’re a manga fan active on Japanese Twitter, you might know all about it. It’s a Japanese manga about DC’s Joker serialized in the weekly manga anthology magazine Morning that had a moment in the Japanese social media spotlight when it went viral not too long ago. It’s written by Satoshi Miyakawa and illustrated by Keisuke Gotoh, and has even been officially approved by DC Comics in the U.S.!

If that’s not enough to convince you to give it a try, take the word of our Japanese-language reporter Ahiru Neko, who’s here to say, “Read it! Read it now!” That moment in the social media spotlight was not enough time to highlight the story’s true magnificence, he says. He especially recommends it to parents raising young children. “You won’t regret reading it!”

In Japanese, the term wanope/”one operation” refers to a single parent taking on all child-rearing responsibilities. Operation Joker, which currently has two manga volumes out, is a story about the DC villain and superhero, the Joker and Batman. Through an accident, Batman is transformed into a baby, and in a strange turn of events, the Joker decides to raise Baby Bruce into a hero of justice all by himself.

If you’re a Batman fan or know anything about the Joker, you’re probably thinking, “What the heck?” but that’s the actual story of the manga. Against the backdrop of a super high-crime Gotham City, the Joker struggles with everyday parenting issues like accidentally buying the wrong diaper size, trying to figure out how to put a sleeping baby down without waking it up, and flipping out when they get hurt at daycare.

That the Joker, Batman’s most notorious enemy, would succumb to the everyday troubles of parenthood is ridiculous. Still, that gap between the Joker we’re familiar with and Dad Joker is what makes this manga so funny. The addition of clever little Japanese Easter eggs here and there–like a Gotham City branch of the popular department store and supermarket Ito Yokado, or the mention of a mysteriously Anpan Man-like character known as Cherry Pie Man, are also making readers fall in love with the series.

Ahiru Neko and his wife, who have a daughter just around the age of Baby Batman in the manga, became fans of One Operation Joker together, united in their experience of parenthood as they are. To be frank, they’d never thought that they would ever sympathize with the Joker, and never about parenting, but that’s just what this manga does to you. It’s so relatable you can’t help but love it!

In fact, it was thanks to the manga’s realistic and fresh depiction of parenting that this manga went viral on social media. It probably also got a lot of attention because the first chapter is available to read for free online in Japanese. But Ahiru Neko can’t help but wonder…how many people read beyond that first free chapter? Or even beyond the first volume? If you haven’t…you need to read more, he says, because, according to Ahiru Neko the story really gets going in Volume 2!

Volume 1 depicts the Joker’s struggles with being a parent; as he stumbles about trying to learn how to take care of a baby, he also jokes around and doesn’t take it too seriously. By Volume 2, however, he’s gotten the hang of being a single dad, and that’s where we really get to see his fatherly side (yes, even the Joker has a fatherly side!).

And as the Joker becomes more parent-like, so too does Baby Bruce grow. In Volume 1, Baby Bruce plays more of a supporting role, a character used to draw out the conflicts for the Joker. But as the story progresses, Baby Batman transforms from being just a side character into a Super Justice Baby. Plus, he’s absolutely adorable. I mean, shouldn’t that tiny Batman hat be illegal?

In the second volume Baby Bruce has grown from an infant to a toddler. He’s walking and going to daycare, and though he can’t speak yet, he’s developed his own method of communication, like how he puffs out his cheeks when he’s happy. The bond he develops with the Joker as he grows up is also extremely touching. In fact, there was one scene in Chapter 15 that made Ahiru Neko cry. It hasn’t been published in a collected volume yet, so we won’t spoil what it was. You’ll just have to read it to find out (hint: Dads especially should read it!).

In conclusion, One Operation Joker is a comedy manga that anyone can enjoy, even if you have no interest in or knowledge of Batman or the Joker. Ahiru Neko, for example, isn’t a Batman fan and he absolutely loves this manga. Parents, in particular, will appreciate the realistic depiction of child-rearing, but anyone will find amusement in the Joker’s grumbling and bumbling attempts at fatherhood and the way he dotes on the too-cute Baby Bruce. In Ahiru Neko’s opinion, this could be the most precious manga in the world at the moment.

Sadly, it looks like it doesn’t have an English-language translation yet, so if you can’t read Japanese, you might have to wait a bit before it comes out. But since we can look forward to simultaneous digital publications of Shonen Jump manga starting next year, maybe we can hope that Morning will jump on the bandwagon, too?

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[ Read in Japanese ]