For years, the pages of manga magazine Shonen Jump have been dominated by "Golden Trios." Golden Trio is a common term for a series where the core cast is three, usually magical or powerful, characters. For a long time, it's been impossible to open up the magazine without finding at least one series using this trope, and it continues to this day in the likes of Jujutsu Kaisen. However, recently, the trend has shifted, and now the pages of Shonen Jump are filled with series based around superpowered odd couples. This includes series like Undead Unluck, Phantom Seer and Witch Watch.
It isn't hard to see why this format is so appealing for creators, as it can go in so many directions and work within many different genres. An odd couple setup could lead to fast-paced comedy or even romance with plenty of romantic tension between the main duo. On top of this, having two characters rather than three means that both members get more focus time, making it easier to dive into their backstories, allowing audiences to get to know them better.
Undead Unluck uses the format in a particularly unique way. It starts with Fuuko Izumo, a girl with the power to give bad luck to anyone she touches, trying to jump off a bridge. However, before she can, Andy, an essentially immortal man, kidnaps her, hoping that he can use her powers to finally die. Instantly, this puts the pair at odds, as Andy desperately tries to touch Fuuko so he can inherit her curse. Alas, Andy quickly learns that Fuuko's power only works well when love is involved, so he has to try and befriend her. And, when a shadowy organization starts hunting the pair, they are forced to work together, despite the weirdness between them.
Witch Watch uses a similar setup but in reverse, with the girl trying to get the boy to love her. Morihito Otogi is a student with a secret: despite looking human, he is actually an ogre. However, when Morihito's father leaves on a business trip, he is forced to move in with his childhood friend, Nico Wakatsuki. Nico has just finished her witch training, and she plans to make Morihito her familiar. This is because she has had a crush on him since childhood and hopes that this could bring them together so that love can blossom.
What follows is a lot of romantic comedy as the pair fight beasts and clean up messes made by Nico's magic, all while Nico tries to win the heart of the boy she loves, despite not being very good at it. This awkward pairing is more gentle than the one in Undead Unluck, but it features similar beats as Morihito tries to keep Nico's advances at bay.
The short-lived Phantom Seer also featured an awkward duo pairing but not one born out of romance. Riku is a girl with a sixth sense who wants to help people whenever she can. One day, she meets Iori, a shaman who informs her that her power attracts horrible Phantoms. Because of this, Iori is forced to protect Riku from the Phantoms. However, Iori's self-centered and lazy attitude frequently puts the pair at odds. This friction between Iori's desire to be a regular boy and Riku's desire to be helpful often causes them to clash. But gradually, they start to open up to one another, especially when Iori admits that he thinks Riku can help him get something he has wanted for a long time. Alas, this manga's early cancellation means that we'll never see where the relationship was planned to end up, which is a true shame.
The superpowered odd couple can clearly take many forms and allows writers to put their own unique spin on the concept. From comedy to romance, the setup can work with any genre, and the streamlined central cast means that the audience gets time to truly learn about and empathize with both members of the duo. Because of this, the superpowered odd couple format will likely dominate the pages of Shonen Jump for many years to come.