I read manga. I read a lot of manga. And I mean A LOT. While I can’t seem to keep up with many anime per season and end up dropping most of what I start, with manga I’m up to reading about 60 currently-running series and that number will probably increase as I get more into the extensive list of stuff I’ve long had on my backlog.
And now, it’s finally time for manga to put my passion for manga into a dedicated and focused blogging effort. I’ve often thought about writing something for the AR blog outside of occasional contributions to the seasonal clusterfucks and the Top 30 Anime/Manga Story Arcs list, but for some reason I never thought of doing this until Foggle PM-d me about the idea. Now, I know that many popular manga are released on a weekly basis, and that with some series it might be better to discuss them per chapter rather than in clusters. However, there are just too many series that update in a particular week for me to write about them all in a meaningful manner, and I’m not experienced with blogging on a weekly basis as it is. I do have plans to cover some series weekly in the future, but for now most will only be covered in these monthly roundups.
If you haven’t caught my drift yet, what I’m saying is that every month I will recap the newest manga chapters from currently-running series that I’ve read and try to say something meaningful about them. The series that I’ll cover will range from the most mainstream of battle-shonen to an assortment of obscure titles that you might never even have heard of before. Not everything I’m covering will be stuff I like, or stuff you’ll like. But, if nothing else, they will be stuff in the world of manga that are worth talking about, be it because they are incredibly popular, criminally underrated, or just series with potential that might be met or squandered. If you want a brief overview of what my preferences in modern manga generally look like, you can take a look at this list, where I named what my favorite currently running manga were last year, and that should give you the jist of what I appreciate and look for in the stuff I read.
To start this off let’s dive back into 2014 and cover all the the manga chapters that were released last December, which I didn’t find time to cover on the forums for certain reasons. Each series will be listed in alphabetical order, and at the end of the roundup I will give my overall thoughts on the month as a whole and list off a few things in particular I really liked in it. Going forward I plan to post these roundups the saturday of the week a particular month ends. Because this is the inaugural post of what will hopefully be a regular thing, I’m going overboard with this one and covering essentially all of the series that I read that were updated in December, give or take a few that I either dropped or didn’t feel like mentioning. In the future, I will likely cut down on the amount and only cover around 10 to 20 different series, mostly the ones I feel are most worth talking about.
I’m going to list which series I will be covering in these roundups beforehand so that people can better skip around to the series they are interested in hearing about without missing anything they might also be interested in. With that said, in this first edition of Cartoon X’s Monthly Manga Roundup, I will be taking a look at the following:
• A Bride’s Story chapters #42-43
• Assassination Classroom chapters #110-114
• Attack on Titan chapter #64
• Billy Bat chapters #130-132
• Black Butler chapter #100
• Bleach chapters #608-611
• Detective Conan chapter #913
• Fairy Tail chapters #411-413
• Fairy Tail Zero chapter #6
• Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma chapters #97-101
• Fuuka chapters #42-44
• Gintama chapters #521-524
• GTO: Paradise Lost chapter #17
• Hinomaru Zumo chapters #11-14
• Joshi Kausei chapters #25-26
• Magi chapters #249-251
• Magi: Adventure of Sinbad chapters #43-45
• My Hero Academia chapters #17-25
• Nisekoi chapters #149-153
• One Piece chapters #770-772
• One-Punch Man chapters #40.1-41
• Orange chapter #17
• Silver Spoon chapter #108
• Space Brothers chapter #241
• The Heroic Legend of Arslan chapter #18
• The Seven Deadly Sins chapters #106-108
• Toriko chapters #304-307
• WataMote chapter #70
• World Trigger chapters #85-87
• Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches chapters #137-139
As you can see, we have quite a bit to get through, and I think I’ve spent enough time explaining all the “whys” and the “whats.” So let’s get right to it and take a look at last month’s manga, starting with…
A Bride’s Story chapters #42-43:
Re-reading these chapters of A Bride’s Story made what this story arc is getting at finally all click together in my mind, so I’m going to take the time to discuss that before I hone in on these chapters proper. When Anis’ story started earlier this year, I didn’t know what to make of it. Was Kaoru Mori trying to tell a story of a woman seeking an escape from her seclusion with the outside world, and finding it through a friend she could confide in? Or was it really about a young woman who, so unsatisfied with her docile life and the lack of attention given to her by her husband, forming an intimate connection with another woman to satisfy needs that she wasn’t receiving?
To put it more simply, I was on the fence as to whether this would be a love story in traditional terms or a love story in a more unconventional sense. Previous A Bride’s Story arcs have seen young women searching for and finding love with a potential partner, with marriage as the goal. In addition, many of the previous bride’s and their families were shown to believe that the only way they could receive a happy and satisfying life is to be married. Which until this arc seemed to be perfectly justified, since all the previous bride’s were happy once they found someone to love or share their love with.
But unlike Amir, Talas, and the twins, Anis’ story differs in that when we are first introduced to her she is already married. There are no visible problems with her life. Her husband treats her well, he has a good status in the community, is incredibly wealthy, and despite the fact he could easily take more wives besides Anis, he has not and devotes all attention to her, and they conceived a healthy child together. By all accounts, Anis is a lucky woman. Yet, despite having a life or luxury and privilege that many would be envious of, she is unhappy.
My misconception about how the concept of a “sister-bride” worked in this culture probably lead me astray when thinking of her story at first. Especially since the images Mori used to describe the concept seemed to carry undertones that portrayed it as something…”more” than a mere friendship. That more being…well, I think you can guess what just about everyone was speculating when that particular chapter came out. When you get down to it, though, marriage itself is something beyond just a mere friendship. We’ve come to understand it as a union between two people who pledge to spend their lives together and share their most intimate moments. But A Bride’s Story is set in a time and place where marriage is shown as foremost an arrangement between families for some financial or political advantage, the functional purpose ultimately outweighing the emotional interest between the two to be wed. While Anis and her husband have been shown to talk often with each other and be on good terms, they don’t seem to be particularly close. And besides him, the only other contact she had was her servant, Maafe who, while show to be friendly and supportive, didn’t seem to be very close to her either.
So though Anis’ marriage provides her with much wealth and a comfortable life it seems to have secluded her from the outside world as well as other people. That’s why the “sister-bride” union provides an outlet for her to satisfy her desire for someone she can truly be intimate with. The fact that Maafe once told her that every woman needed a sister-bride and the behavior of the various woman towards the concept, it seems to be a union that is both equally functional AND personal, driven not any economic or family concerns, but simply the need for a really close friend. Which is no doubt why the characters take the union of sister-brides as seriously as they might an actual marriage. It’s an arrangement between two women to become as close as actual sisters would, and partners who will be there to support and confide in each other as deeply and intimately as a married couple ideally should. Anis, whose only companions to spend her days with had been birds and cats, finally has another human being to talk and do things with, and someone who has promised to always be there for her. She is not in love with Shirin, romantically, as some might have though. Rather, she loves Shirin on a level as deep as any romance, but it’s still just a friendship. It’s a relationship no driven by any practical or sexual needs; it is wholly emotional, purely personal.
Which, finally, brings me to the developments in these chapters. With Shirin’s husband dead and her finances dwindle and her chances or remarrying anyone slim to none, Anis makes a huge sacrifice is pushing her husband to take her on as a second wife. After all, she will essentially be sharing her husband with another woman, and all that might entail. She was considered lucky to be one of the few in this society married to a wealthy man and not have to endure that. Her husband admits to her that the only reason he hadn’t taken another wife before now is because he felt he would upset her by doing so. And she admits that, in any other circumstance, she couldn’t bear it. But since it’s for Shirin, her best friend, and someone she vowed to always be there for, she is confident that she can make it work and be happy.
Not to say Anis doesn’t seem to show any second thoughts, and this change in her lifestyle will certainly beget tension at some point. However, I feel that whatever jealousy might arise in Anis won’t be because she is sharing her husband with another woman, but rather the fact she will be sharing her best friend with the same man, something which she didn’t really think about before making her request. Anis’ relationship with Shirin seems to mean more to her than it does to the latter, and Shirin seemed much closer to her husband as Anis is to hers, seemingly still in a wistful mood even after all the time as passed. It’s possible that Anis’ husband will fill an emotional void for Shirin that Anis might not be capable of, and their relationship might become inadvertently closer than her sister-hood.
Then again, I could see the opposite happening as well. Anis’ husband has been shown to be rather aloof but still quite concerned with how much time she has been spending at the baths and with Shirin. If Anis and Shirin’s relationship becomes closer than his relationship with Anis, I could see him becoming rather envious and distrustful of the women, which may lead to some unpleasant things. There’s a good case for him being very protective of Anis. Smith even noted that he never got to chance to meet her, nor did her husband ever attempt to introduce her to him. Anis’ general seclusion from the outside world seems like a very deliberate effort on his part. He might be worried that Anis may lose interest in him, cheat on him, whatever, but there is the sense that he just wants to keep her to himself.
Whatever might happen down the line, I came out of these chapters with the definite understanding that Anis’ affection for Shirin is not, and was never, romantic, but based on a strong friendship that filled a void in her life. But while the series ended this year on a sweet, beautiful moment of re-assurrence between the two women, that relationship will no doubt be tested as her story continues forward. I’ve given my speculations, and now it just remains to be seen which avenue Mori will take. Or, perhaps she’ll throw a curve-ball and move the story in a direction I didn’t anticipate. It wouldn’t be the first time. As far as this year goes, though, I’ve really come to love Anis’ character and story. I only hope that it ends well for her.
Assassination Classroom chapters #110-114:
You know how most people are confused at first as to what Nagisa’s gender is at first? The series has been self-aware of his gender-ambiguous appearance and has brought it up and had fun with it on several occasions before. But now, Matsui has given us an in-story explanation as to exactly why Nagisa looks the way he does. And damn, is it ever fucked up…
While Nagisa’s character arc is pretty much the focus in this set of chapters, there’s really so much to talk about in these chapters that I can’t bear to limit myself to that topic alone. So let’s address some other revelations in these chapters first. Specifically, the fact that there will be apparently less individual assassins going after Korosensei as a join operation comprised of various nations are working on a final assassination project, which is being built right in Kunigagoka itself under the cover of a housing construction. Another factor entering the mix is Shiro potentially having plans for the currently incapacitated God of Death. I don’t know what “truth” he might know about the guy, since I thought we already heard his backstory, but regardless it’s a pretty ominous statement, and indicates that Shiro and the God of Death will be working together in their future appearances.
The schedule for these joint operations to occur on March 3rd, which is four months away in the series’ timeline. While I don’t know if Matsui might slow the story down or not, if it keeps going at it’s current pace then I could potentially see these developments coming into play at the end of this year or the beginning of the next. The main thing to take away from the sequence, though, is that Matsui seems to have a plan for the ending of the series, and consequently, plans for many of the characters going forward. Which brings us to Nagisa.
I admit that I was initially disappointed with the way Nagisa’s interest in becoming a professional assassin was resolved. However, it’s not as if Matsui got cold feet with the development, as the way it would be resolved was established. When the characters were addressing the God of Death’s motivations in being an assassin, they noted that the way he turned out was influenced by who he met and the factors that guided him into a destructive direction, when he could have used his skills for the benefit of others. In the “God of Death” arc Nagisa, like the God of Death in his youth, was influenced by the skill of a powerful assassin, and similarly thought of going down that path because there was nothing else he felt he could do. The difference is the “God of Death” didn’t have anyone to tell him to think about his decision more carefully, or to think about what he could really best use his skill set for. Nagisa, on the other hand, has Korosensei. And while he respects Nagisa’s judgement and doesn’t discourage him from taking that path, he does ask him to really think about why he has his talents, and then what and for you he should use them for, and then consult him again. While the end result is, of course, Nagisa’s decision to do what the typical shonen hero always vows and use his skills to help protect the people he cares about, it makes sense in the context of his character and from what we can surmise about his upbringing and relationship with the most influential authority figure in his life before Korosensei, his mother.
Irina and the God of Death’s backstories both played with the idea that the way people turn out in life is shaped by their surroundings and by the people around them in their formative years. The same can be applied to most of the students and teachers in Class E, before and after Korosensei came around. Nakamura’s backstory, for instance, shows that she was influenced to change the way she behaved out of her desire to better fit in with her peers. However, while she, Irina, God of Death, and a few other characters all willingly made a choice to behave a certain way and became the way they did as a consequence of that decision, Nagisa’s upbringing differed in that he was never given a choice to become anything other than what was expected of him. He is a victim of his mother trying to relive her life vicariously through him, using him as a means to achieve the successes and goals she never could in life. She’s mapped out his entire life, from what schools he will go to, to what job he will have. And because in her childhood her parents always forced her to study and never was taught anything about fashion, she’s decided not to make that same mistake with her daughter and get her to do everything she wasn’t able to do in her youth like trying on dresses and gowns and all sorts of girly things. She doesn’t have a daughter. She doesn’t mind.
…Like I said, Nagisa’s appearance and personality have now been explained as something that was deliberately cultivated since his early childhood. He was physically and emotionally abused into doing things he didn’t want to do and even to look and behave the way he does. That’s fucked up. Nagisa’s upbringing and family life has very uncomfortable and unpleasant implications, made all the more so because of how it strikes with a tangible reality. While her behavior is exaggerated, the way Nagisa’s mother treats her son as an avatar for the life she always wanted for herself is how some parents in real life treat their kids. It’s a touch that makes Nagisa’s character arc more vivid and believable than you’d see from most shonen series, and it’s a big part why his ultimate decision to not become an assassin made sense to me.
Nagisa compares the way his mother lives through him to a “new game+” feature in video games where the players’ skills and knowledge from the first play through is carried over into the second, which allows them to be more successful in the new play through and reach a “better ending.” Beyond the apt comparison, the very fact that Nagisa does not consider himself a player but a character being forced through predetermined events reinforces his passive nature and self-depreciating outlook on himself. The fact his mother seems to have repeatedly physically and verbally abused him since his early childhood if he so much as voiced an opinion running counter to her own is a very dark explanation for his plain looks and the quiet, obedient, and observant behavior he demonstrated since the very beginning of the manga and has only over time been able to slowly break out of. He’s been conditioned to not speak out, not stand out, to observe the mood and intentions of his mother by interpreting her facial expressions and body language, and to not develop any traits or qualities not approved by his mother. I’m immediately reminded of the scene in the first chapter/episode where he unquestioningly goes along with Terasaka’s plan to use him as a suicide bomber in an assassination attempt. Though understated, Nagisa’s relationship and experiences with his mother had made him afraid to upset people by going against what is expected of him, so he simply did what he was told to the best of his ability. His time in Class E under Korosensei’s tutelage, however, have given him new-found confidence in himself and personal interests he wants to explore. He now wants to be in charge of his future rather than have it be decided for him.
That said, having for most of his life been discouraged from thinking for himself and not thinking about what he really wanted to do in life, he didn’t know how to process his own feelings on the subject. He saw the God of Death do incredible things with skills he knew he could also hone, and thought to himself that just had to be it, and there wasn’t another outlet for him to use those skills. When he and his mother are attacked by the assassin after Korosensei, his mother is finally put into a vulnerable position, and he is able to rationalize things more clearly. How he developed his talents, how he was able to use those talents while in Class E, and the results of those talents. In protecting his mother against the assassin, he was able to see that he could use those talents for something other than assassination. From this perspective, the way he reached this conclusion was believable and in-line with the issues he was being bothered by and the obstacle he needed to overcome. The fact it is accentuated with the moment he finally stands up to his mother, and starts to take an active role in their relationship at home, just makes it all the more satisfying.
When I look back at my thoughts on the first few chapters of the series, I recall thinking of Nagisa as a rather boring protagonist, and I know many who start out on the series felt the same. However, as the story has progressed I’ve found myself increasingly endeared to him and his development, and these chapters have not only reinforced my appreciation of him but perhaps even doubled it. They’ve made going back and seeing his portrayal and growth since the beginning of the series take on new meaning and layers that I couldn’t have ever have guessed, and overall just makes me excited to see how he’ll continue to evolve as a character in the future. With such a phenomenal set of chapters based in strong character development and coming as the denouement of one heck of an arc, my only concern after reading all of this was that the series might coast with some inconsequential chapters for a while before getting back to business. However, after taking a look at chapter #115, it seems that I won’t need to worry about that after all.
Attack on Titan chapter #64:
In a way, Kenny’s subordinates parallel the protagonists in how they were motivated to do what they do and how they’ve rationalized it. All of them joined the organizations they did either because they had a purpose or because they wanted to find a purpose. It was a way of striking back against a world permeated by a constant fear of death, a way to give their lives value in a place where most humans are confined to leave limited, endangered existences. Since it’s something they’ve devoted themselves to for a good part of their lives and what has kept them going, they can’t have second thoughts or start believing things will not work out for them in the end. They will continue to put their lives on the line for the dream they believe in, since without it, they wouldn’t have a reason to live in the first place.
This idea is unfortunately undermined by the fact that the protagonists are portrayed mostly in the right and the antagonist are portrayed as almost entirely in the wrong, but at least these mooks are kinda sympathetic. During their scuffle with Levi’s group I honestly did root for them a little bit and felt kind of bad they were kind of totally outclassed. But at least our heroes didn’t get out of it totally unscathed, since Hange isn’t looking too hot. Nothing serious, I’m sure, but hey, it’s something. I remember how the series set-up this “anyone can die” atmosphere at the beginning, but you know, that has never held through for it’s run as a whole. The only characters that have ever died since the beginning chapters are nameless fodder or minor characters no one really gives a shit about. The important characters always get off pretty easy. So sure, she might look super injured, but I have a feeling that Hange will be in tip-top shape again sooner rather than later.
As far as the Reiss family stuff goes, I suspect the reason that no one has ever disclosed any information about the secrets of the world is rooted in some dark reality about it that’s going to come up as a twist at some point. Otherwise, Reiss’ true ill-intentions in having Historia consume Eren is fairly transparent and I can imagine he simply wants that knowledge to manipulate things and gain power for himself (probably becoming the “true king” Kenny mentions at the end of the chapter). If it’s true that only a Reiss can use the true power of the titans, I wonder how that information is going to ultimately be disclosed, since I doubt the series is bold enough to have Historia actually devour Eren. To be honest, the most interesting thing in the chapter for me was the last page where Kenny the Ripper zips down next to Reiss and Historia and is all like “wait, you mean I can’t just eat Eren and become the king myself? Aw man…..” I just love the expression on his face when he’s says that, like he’s almost about to bawl because he’s so bummed out. It made me laugh the first time I saw it. But anyways, I guess we know what Kenny’s motivation was now. Kewl. I’m guessing we’ll learn more about him in the next chapter, which might be a nice detour from all the convoluted jabber about the Reiss family we’ve been focusing on for the past few months.
Billy Bat chapters #130-132:
Whenever the series focuses on the government agency or whatever they are I get a bit confused at first, because I honestly don’t remember all their names very well. Regardless, the conversation between Morehouse and the other agent serves the purpose of acquainting them with Timmy’s comic (which is, just a reminder, the one that predicts 9/11 and has an Osama Bin Laden-expy in it), explaining why they didn’t attempt to rub off Kevin Goodman, and establishing them looking into both Timmy’s background and identity while also setting up some possible tension between the two men. The biggest revelation in the scene comes at the end, where scientist-guy barges in and divulges his theory that the numbers written on the scroll may indicate the location of the “true” Billy Bat. The one that is neither white or black.
Which does change my perception of the Bat’s nature up until this point, since I’ve assumed the white bat was the “evil” one and the black bat was the “good” one. This seems to indicate both those bats are not the correct bat that’s been working closely with most of the artists we’ve seen in the past, and in particular, the bat Kevin Goodman’s been working with must have been this neutral bat all along. This same bat is also the one we’ve seen in the “Billy Bat room” and the one that has been unable to contact anyone except for Jackie for certain reasons. The question remains exactly how were the other Billy Bat’s manifested and what are their true goals, an answer I’m not expecting to learn anytime particularly soon.
Moving on, it’s nice to see that Audrey hasn’t taken after her father after all, and in the end did compromise on crediting Timmy for his work. While she’s a shrewd businesswoman, she has an eye for quality and gives Kevin respect that “Chuck” never gave Chuck. Of course, much like Kevin, Timmy also doesn’t draw for the sake of fame or money but because he simply wants to draw Billy Bat. But while his passion for his craft is genuine, whether he is actually a genuine Billy Bat author remains questionable. If he was a chosen Billy Bat author the Bat should be able to communicate with him, but as we’ve seen he hasn’t. All the same, from our perspective, we know that Timmy’s comic predicts and depicts a certain event that happened and caused a consequence that seems worthy of the alarm Billy and other characters have shown to be afraid of.
However, this may very well be not the catastrophic event that Billy is trying to prevent and that the characters need to stop, and could simply be a red-hearing, which wouldn’t surprise me. It could turn out be that Timmy’s comic just happens to depict people, story, and imagery that evokes 9/11, but he isn’t actually predicting it. For an IRL example, in the “Stardust Crusaders” arc of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure one panel in Boingo’s predictions book just happened to have the numbers 911 and a plane flying by a cactus that looks very similar to a tower. Timmy’s comic may just be that sort of bizarre coincidence; a story which ends up mirroring something that happened in real life later on. In this case, Timmy’s comic mirrors the events on a admittedly vivid and eerily detailed level, but it could still just have all been fiction that he simply thought up, not an event he’s foreseen.
Of course, one of the false Billy Bat’s may be speaking with Timmy and feeding him info so my theory could very well prove incorrect. Still, I’d like to think his cryptic warning is not prophetic, but simply intuition. From what we’ve come to know of Timmy, he’s a good kid that’s gone through some rough times, and he’s just bummed about a lot of the misfortunes in the world, and it’s no wonder why he’s so keen on donating all his earnings to charity. And considering the timeframe, I don’t think he needs to be a prophet to feel the world is heading in a bad place. Of course, as Morehouse succinctly put it, if the event happens then it was a prophecy. However, they can prevent Timmy’s prediction from happening, then it would never have happened in the first place, and hence wouldn’t have been prophetic. Whether or not Timmy is an actual prophet or not might rest on if they will be able to figure out and stop what Timmy has drawn from actually happening.
In the meantime, though, we get to see Yamashita come back to the story and reunite with Jackie after decades! I guess the Bat really is grasping at straws if he’s desperate enough to drag the man half way across the world on the smidgen of a chance he’d get Jackie to finally get off her ass and seek out Kevin Goodman asap. Whatever the Bat wants Jackie to tell Kevin is likely to be crucial information that will either confirm or deny Timmy’s qualities as a prophet and whatever what he’s drawn is the the threat they need to be stopping. And considering both are in the same vicinity at the moment, one can only hope they are able to meet before it’s too late to know.
Black Butler chapter #100:
I’ve noticed a lot of series have trouble handling milestone chapters very well. Most tend to just mention them in the opening spread before continuing on as normal while others attempt to do something big an epic worthy of the occasion regardless of whether it’s in pace and flows with the rest of the story. As far as being a celebratory chapter that sticks to the main action but still commemorates the occasion goes, this chapter of Black Butler is actually a pretty well-done installment. There’s no big revelations or anything super flashy, but it was a engaging read with fast, cool action that reflected well on all of the protagonists involved. It was nice to see every member of the Phantomhive staff each get their own small moment of awesome in the chapter and show off their stuff, which is something we don’t get to see often since they tend to be relegated to comic relief most of the time. Yet, at the same time the chapter doesn’t neglect Ciel and Sebastian and shows them do pretty cool things to, even ending the chapter off on a neat moment from the latter. I’ll admit, I just really like it when the Phantomhive staff actually get to do cool and interesting things in the series (their fights with those Circus troupe members was easily the highlight of that arc, imo), so the chapter immediately got a lot of points with me for that alone. But I also like the set of pages devoted to Finny, exploring his backstory and why he’s loyal to Ciel. His relationship with him has been established strongly before within this arc, so it’s nice to see it expanded on and mesh well with the other action going on.
While there’s nothing much I can really dig into or analyze about in this chapter, that certainly doesn’t mean I didn’t find it to be a surprisingly good read. It provided a strong balance of fan-service for longtime readers, well-done action scenes, character development, and plot progression. And as far as milestone chapters go, it was definitely one of the better ones I’ve seen in a considerably long time. Admittedly, the most recent ones I’ve read were the soul-crushingly bad Toriko chapter #300, Fairy Tail chapter #400, Bleach chapter #600, and Naruto chapter #700, so praising it for essentially not being shit might not be as much of a compliment as I’d have intended. But hey, a good chapter is a good chapter, no matter what the number is. This was a good chapter. And I’m happy to read a good chapter of a series than a bad one any day.
Bleach chapters #608-611:
I'm reading Bleach. I'm already there.
The only thing of value to be taken away from the fight between Ywach and Hyousobe, other than the fact Kubo must have spent a small fortune paying for all the ink he used on the thing, is that Ywach is apparently omniscient and he’s finally awakened his true powers. The only reason this even matters is that it sets up that he’s even stronger than he was before. Before he was on even footing with Hyousobe, who is presumably the strongest Captain in all of Seiretei, but with these new powers he wiped the guy out without a sweat. Now Ichigo defeating him is a much bigger deal, since this means that the other Squad Zero captains can’t do the job anymore, presumably.
It’s a standard and expected development, but it makes the tedium of the Ywach and Hyousobe fight more maddeningly inane and pointless than it already felt like. As much as the series seems to get closer and closer to ending, it seems content to keep wasting our time with pointless fights with of no significant importance. Essentially the only development in the story of Bleach in 2014 was Ichigo combing back from the Soul King’s Palace and learning Uryu’s on Ywach’s side, then Ywach and pals going to the Soul King’s Palace, and Ichigo and co. chasing after them. That’s really it. Everything else was just fight after fight after fight. Even Naruto at least had a lot happen last year. Sure, it was godawful, but at least it was of substance something that Bleach simply lacks.
I assume that Ichigo’s companions are going to have to fight Ywach’s goons now that all of Sqaud Zero has been taken out. I’m not sure how Kubo seriously expects us to believe Chad of all people can put up a fight that lasts more than 2 consecutive seconds, but I guess we’ll see. Grimmjow and the full bringers will probably show up to bail them out if things get rough. God, it’s been like two years since they were teased right? I’m half expecting them to not show up at all at this point, or show up after the entire arc is over and be like “hey, we’re here now! Herp-de-derp!” or something.
Beyond my speculations, I’ll note that it’s really dumb how Kubo used this convoluted means to revive Hyousobe when Orihime has the power to literally bring people back from the dead. Then again, that would require Kubo to actually have Orihime do something besides provide awful fanserivce and unfunny comic relief, and we can’t have that dan nabbit! Also,Ywach stabbed the Soul King. Wow, you suck at this whole “stopping the villain” thing, Ichigo. I don’t expect the Soul King is going to go out so easily and there’s surely going to be a whole lot more nonsense involved, but hey, at least we finally know what the damn bastard looks like all these years. And from the look of him, I guess Aizen was closer to becoming god than we thought. And to think we all laughed at the ol’ butterfly man way back when.
Detective Conan chapter #913:
Well, you do have that giant scar....
Is Conan just going to suspect every one-eyed stocky man of being Rum now? Dude is getting seriously paranoid. Well, if this Kuroda guy doesn’t turn out to be a red herring, then at least the story is moving forward at a good rate. And no, I don’t think Inspector Kansuke being Rum is much of a possibility, considering what we know about his character. But on the subject, I like seeing Kansuke and Morofushi again since they don’t show up too often (the last time was, what, the Red Woman case?), and hopefully they get to do a lot in this case. As far as the case itself goes, I don’t know much to make of it yet beyond the fact that the key to solving it will probably be rooted in the history/myths surrounding the japanese historical figures mentioned in this chapter, which should be interesting to see. The case seems like just a means to continue the mystery surrounding the identity of Rum more than anything, so I’d hope something comes out of it that develops that plot point further.
Fairy Tail chapters #411-413:
...Why, Hiro? Why?
Seriously, what the fuck, Mashima? Just when I think you couldn’t be any sleazier, you surprise me with just how low you’re eager to sink. Only Fairy Tail can produce a mere COVER PAGE so infantile and offensive that it genuinely makes me ill to look at it. I think the worst part is knowing that loads of pervy little pre-teens in Japan actually wrote something in that world bubble and probably fapped themselves asleep to it immediately after. Mashima should just quit writing shonen and make hentai instead. I’m sure everyone would be much happier that way.
Anyway, I guess I should talk about the actual chapters, huh? Actually, the chapter that cover page was attached to wasn’t really all that bad. Mashima pulled a good fake-out with Natsu and Gray’s strategy to take out Mard Geer and the action was well-drawn. I also appreciated that, FOR ONCE, Natsu DIDN’T beat the big bad of the arc all by himself, but Gray did. Which felt appropriate, considering the focus he’s had in this arc and what he was fighting for. Previously, Natsu has beaten the main villain in essentially every arc, not because he was the one who had to or only could, but really just because he’s the main character. It still pisses me off to no end that he took out Jellal in the “Tower of Heaven” arc when that was Erza’s arc and she had the deepest grudge to vent, for example. So this was a welcome change of pace.
The Face bombs being blown up by all the dragons swooping in like the eagles in LOTR to save the day was super lame, though, but I expected it ever since Igneel showed up. The explanation as to why they were in their Dragon Slayers’ bodies is sorta interesting, in that apparently Dragon Slayers can become actual dragons…somehow. I mean, they said Acnologia was once a human, so I’m assuming there is some means of transformation, I guess probably something negative and bad since Acnologia is supposed to be the ultimate evil and shit. Well, second after Zeref, who coincidentally shows up again at the end of the chapter to take his book back. For the guy who’s supposed to be the main villain of the series, he certainly doesn’t show up a whole lot. Or do anything, really. Well, at least December wasn’t a terrible month of Fairy Tail overall. Can’t say the same for January…but we’ll talk about all of that bullshit next time.
Fairy Tail Zero chapter #6:
Mavis and friends go to Magnolia town. The Blue Skull guild has taken over the town and they are your standard one-dimensional asshole villains. So Mavis and friends fight the Blue Skull guild. They lose. They run away. And that’s basically the chapter in a nutshell. The only thing of note is that this is the first time Mavis hasn’t been able to outwit an opponent using her illusions. I assume this will probably lead her to develop new techniques in order to put up more of a fight in the future. Beyond that I couldn’t take away much from the chapter outside of the fact it’s a “heroes lose, meet someone who makes them stronger, comes back and wins” kind of setup. We’ll see if this goes anywhere I wouldn’t expect.
Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma chapters #97-101:
This tournament arc has lasted for over 50+ chapters now, essentially over half of the series so far, but now we’ve finally come to the final match. Most of the month was dedicated to Soma’s competitors, Kurokiba and Hayama, and their dishes. Hayama is not given much emotional weight going into this showdown, beyond wanting to utterly crush Kurokiba for his arrogance, and kept mostly sidelined outside of his presentation chapters. Kurokiba, on the other hand, does have something he wants to really prove beyond simply beating Hayama, and is further explored as a character. While we’ve seen previous glimpses of his past and background before, the brief flashback shown in these chapters show how he ended up becoming Alice’s servant, and how he honed and improved his cooking skills from his contests with her. His dish in the finals reflects both the refinement of his cooking and his savage personality.
In contrast, Hayama’s dish shows off his culinary ability and skill level, turning what is commonly considered an appetizer into a full-fledged entree. He shows that he is more than just a guy who knows how many spices to add to something, but rather a chef who has a thorough understanding of flavor and fragrance and how to use refined techniques to elevate something light and simple like carpaccio into an utterly satisfying and delicious dish. Kurokiba’s cooking is direct and inspires to evoke an animalistic appetite in the people he serves. Hayama’s cooking is more controlled and focused. The series makes the comparison of Hayama as an experienced lancer relying on his skill and Kurokiba as a rash swordsman relying on his power. Both are capable in their field, but between the two, Hayama’s carefulness and near-perfect approach to his dishes wins out.
Soma does not have equal experience preparing fish, much less saucy, than Hayama and Kurokiba so of course he’s comparatively disadvantaged. In spite of this, he posses many attributes that have helped him create a dish that rivaled them in quality. The first, of course, is his creativity. Since he did not have an eye for picking out fresh fish, he tested various means to bring out their flavor to the best level. Using skills he’s observed and learned from others as a guide, he came up with a unique solution to his problem and played with the method he developed until he reached a level he was satisfied with. This has essentially been how Soma’s succeeded over more specialized or skilled opponents in previous shokugekis and matches in the series before. It’s no surprise to see it applied here again, especially since this is the climax of the series’ first long arc, but it’s none the less satisfying to see his personality as a chef come through for him.
But the other factor Soma has going is his surprise factor. Just when you think you’ve figured him out, he pulls a fast one on you and creates a dish you didn’t think he could possibly pull off. The end of these chapters is essentially a fake-out reflecting that element of his character. First he lowered the judges expectations, only to entice them with the mysterious sauce he plans to add to the dish in order to evolve it to a whole other level. The series always knows how to make me interested in seeing how Soma makes his dishes so outstanding time and time again, so of course it’s a rather intriguing cliffhanger.
Do I think Soma will win this competition? I’m not sure. He is the main character, of course, and winning is necessary for him to take a spot in the top 10 and challenge the other top chefs at Tootsuki. However, in terms of ability, between the three Hayama seems to have demonstrated more skill and knowledge for him to deserve the honor. I’m not sure if the series will go that route, especially since it would mean that Soma has been beaten by Hayama twice in a row (a rarity in any type of shonen manga – the only example I can think of is Luffy’s losses to Crocodile in One Piece), but it feels like the appropriate direction for the series to take. Even if Soma does lose, the experience he’s gained from the tournament has been to his benefit, and the council has taken more notice of him. He might move up in the ranks more slowly than he’d like, but he’s still making a lot of progress, and improving his skills with every challenge thrown his way.
Fuuka chapters #42-44:
...the eyes of someone who doesn't want his series to get cancelled!
These were an interesting set of chapters. Each one focused on one of the main characters – Sara, Mikasa, and Kazuya – and how they’ve moved on with their lives after Fuuka’s death. Sara has joined up with another band and started to open up to people more. Mikasa has given up on his rebellious phase and returned home, subject to the whims of his father, who aims to groom him into a respectable heir. Kazuya has returned to track and training in order to make a prospective college track team. In Sara and Kazuya’s cases, it seems they’ve moved on with their lives just fine and could continue to be happy where they are, while Mikasa is clearly just tired after the whole ordeal, and returns to live a safe, constricted lifestyle at the cost of his individuality and personal interests. However, the one thing they all have in common is a certain wistfulness for their band days. Those were a fun time in all of their lives, and they can’t help but wonder what could have happened if things didn’t so abruptly crash they way they did.
But nostalgia and fond memories and not enough for them to risk everything to get back in a band that has no future, which is why they’ve gone down divergent paths to begin with. Hence why they all turn Yuu down when he tries to make them come back. They’ve all made plans for their futures, whether they are happy with them or not. Yuu needs to prove that they need to be together, and that there is potential to be tapped if they were to return. Yuu’s determination in this endeavor reminds me of the late Fuuka’s when she was the one active in creating the band in the first place. In many ways, he’s made up for her absence by taken up her optimism and dedication and making it a part of himself. But whereas Fuuka always thought of things in the moment, Yuu is actually looking to the future. He knows the risks involved, which is why he tries so desperately to convince the others it’ll be worthwhile. He is steadfast in doing what Fuuka couldn’t do to honor her memory, and have their band become the “legend” that Fuuka always dreamed in could be.
While this regrouping portion of the story has moved a bit too fast, for the time spent on it it’s developed a lot of interesting stuff that’s added to the characters meaningfully and given us insight on what they have to gain and to lose if they were to become a band once again. I’d wish the story would move at a slower pace than this to give more time building up their comeback, but what was presented here was pretty strong stuff regardless.
Gintama chapters #521-524:
To be honest, a lot of parts in these chapters concerning the fact the Tendoshuu was manipulating the Kihetai and the shogun assassination plot this whole time was somewhat hard to follow since there are whole chucks of Gintama chapters I haven’t read. As such, I don’t feel able to comment on those parts as much I’d like. Shigeshige standing up to them and saying that he will not step down as shogun in favor of Nobunobu was a cool moment, as was his resolve that they will be the last shoguns ever. Which makes his poisoning by one of his once-loyal retainers before he is able to do anything and ultimately dying peacefully after a tender moment with his unaware sister all the more tragic. As dark as the times are right now, I have a feeling that Nobunobu and his masters will get what’s coming to them soon enough in the future.
The highlight of these chapters for me, though, was Takasugi stabbing Oboro in the right eye and telling him he better remember whether it was Gintoki or his face he last saw because if one of them drops dead the other will definitely send him to hell. That was a kickass moment of karma right there. Overall, this arc was pretty fucking spectacular amazing and made me want to finally finish reading through the backlog of chapters I haven’t read yet so that I’m up to speed on everything going on in the story. At a time when the other big long-running Jump series are meh or worse, Gintama kicked all their asses last year and then some, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it continues to do so in this one as well. And I’m so happy that a new anime season is coming in April, because the “Shogun Assassination” arc is going to be HYPE is animated form.
GTO: Paradise Lost chapter #17:
I’ve said it before, but the whole “Sadako was actually a pretty girl all along thing” is a dumb as fuck message and a poor contrivance to show asshole idol boy the error of his ways. It’s a case of “pretty women can’t be bad people,” used to make Sadako more sympathetic and idol boy look like more of an asshole. It’s lame and makes for an inane and cliche desolation to this whole arc that’s utterly unimpressive. Onizuka’s “scenario” to teach idol boy how much of a douche he was is also just really convoluted and ridiculous. Even for a “worst case scenario” and a GTO reformation lesson, it’s far too over the top and happens much too fast for it to be believable that the idiot learned his lesson. And the idea he completely changed the way he behaved after this incident and became a good and humble person just furthers to break any suspension of disbelief, since the series is trying to get us to sympathize with a guy who, even after his standard GTO sob backstory, is just not sympathetic or likable in any respect. And to top it all off with the end-of-the-chapter reveal that Sadako has moved on from the Samurai group and now apparently has a crush on Onizuka and wants to marry him, presumably just because he was the only person we’ve seen who wasn’t a total dick to her and told her she was pretty and shit, is just another layer of stupidity upon an already moronic jumble of ridiculous cliche shit that I’m just completely at a loss at how the GTO franchise has fallen this far.
Look, Fujisawa, I get it that GTO is your money-maker and you need to milk it by bringing it back every now and again. But first off you made this series stray from it’s roots by centering it around Onizuka teaching an class inexplicably full of well-known and popular idols, something that was somehow never mentioned as existing at Holy Forest Academy in any of the previous series before, and then you make the students’ problems unrelatable or repetitive of stories we’ve already seen, and try to get us to care about characters with little personality or awful personalities. And to add insult to injury, the way you’ve resolved this arc has dumbed the series down with messages and plot developments even most modern kid-coms much less shonen series have more intelligence than to execute. I can only imagine that this failure of a sequel is going to get even more repetitive and questionably written from here on out, and it makes me wonder whether I really want to stick around and see one of my all time favorite characters in anime and manga party to such insufferable drivel. But since I’m writing about this shit for the blog now, at least I have both an outlet and a reason to vent my frustrations on it into something constructive and hopefully entertaining, something this series certainly isn’t by any stretch of the imagination.
Hinomaru Zumo chapters #11-14:
It makes sense, that even though Hinomaru had an impressive and intense bout with Munechika, that he would be so exhausted afterwards that he wouldn’t be able to continue fighting. Not to mention that Yuuma and Oozeki, already at disadvantage against Kawato High in experience and skill, wouldn’t be able to defeat their opponents, something that certainly wasn’t helped thanks to them being distracted by their concern for Hinomaru’s well-being on their minds.
Hinomaru realizes this and blames himself for shacking their behavior before they entered their matches, especially since they fought so hard up to that point to help him reach the top even though they themselves were not ready to participate against this level of competition in the first place. But Yuuma and Oozeki blame themselves for what happened. They feel that if only they could have remained focused, and at least one of them won their match, they could have advanced at least another round farther. They feel they let him down after he pushed himself to his limits in his match with Munechika. But that doesn’t deter them. They want to push again, and work even harder now to help Hinomaru reach the top. And Hinomaru, hearing this, realizes that his goal is no longer just his, but theirs. They will reach the top and become the best high school sumo wrestlers in Japan together. This makes for a great scene of reflection, resolve, and unity that ends this first major tournament, short as it was, on a high note, and makes me excited to see the further development of these characters both individually and as a team as the story progresses.
Moving on, the introduction of another rival character in Kuzesousuke is for the course as far as shonen sports manga go. He is exemplary of one of those cool-natured aloof characters like Sendo in Slam Dunk, who are incredibly skilled and formidable contrary to what their behavior might suggest. However, this character is interesting in that he’s one of those rare rivals who has no accomplishments on record to boast. His character background is that he is the son of a formidable wrestler who has trained his son since early childhood, but because he is so skilled he has been forbidden by him to participate in any official competitions. However, after seeing Hinomaru and Munechika’s bout, and being told off by one of his close friends as to he is content with his complacency, he is motivated to finally demonstrate his strength in the ring and go up against his promising adversaries. A novel set-up for a rival character that I haven’t seen used often in the genre, and one that makes me curious to see how his story develops as well.
Of course, every shonen sports manga needs at least 5 people to make up the main characters’ team plus a manager to be the obligatory female character so the whole shebang isn’t a sausage fest. That’s just how these series roll. Hinomaru, however, has only three people on his team and no manager to speak of so we’ll have to see how the series’ manage to recruit these remaining essential characters to their roster. Unfortunately Hinomaru is off to the bad start with his soup stand at the culture festival, going up against such smashing attractions such as the 2-D maid cafe and whatnot. Not to mention he has to deal with the bitchiest vice-student student council in existence, Reina, who I’m certain will end up becoming the manager for the Sumo Club because he was in the character spread for the first chapter next to the trio but SSHH!!! Seriously, though, she is so haughty and up-her-own-ass mean that she makes Odagiri in her first appearances in Yamada-kun look like a humble lass. My favorite moment in these chapters is when she volunteers to be a judge for a match just in order to screw over Hinomaru and call his loss. I have to wonder how the mangaka expects us to like this character in the future.
Luckily, Hinomaru does meet someone pleasant by name of Chihiro, a tough as nails mixed martial artist aiming for the top with a similar personality and drive to Hinomaru himself. Which, of course, means they have to fight each other! But though Hinomaru aims to promote the sumo club through their battle, he doesn’t underestimate Chihiro at all. He respects his power and skill, and wants to demonstrate the worth of sumo to him as much as the spectators. Which is why he proposes that Chihiro fights following the rules and style of wresting while he follows the rules and style of Sumo, a situation that would seemingly place Hinomaru at a disadvantage since Chihiro has more options to defeat Hinomaru than the latter does vice-versa. But Hinomaru packs a wallop of awesome when he smacks Chihiro down to the floor within seconds of their first clash, a move that, if he were being judged by the rules of sumo, would mean he would already have lost the match. Aw yeah. You can just tell from Chihiro’s wild eyes, pulsing veins, and crooked smirk in that last panel that shit is about to go DOWN! Considering how awesome the series managed to make Hinomaru and Munechika’s match so cool despite this series being so young, I can’t help but expect a similar level of kick-assery to be displayed in this one too.
I apologize for a lot of this write-up coming off more of a summary than an analysis, but this is some exciting stuff just on a pure entertainment level. Hinomaru Zumo has shown a good balance of likable characters, solid story development, and engaging action and these chapters have cemented my high expectations for it in the future. The shonen sports manga game might be kind of stale right now, but it’s doing it’s best to add some new life into it, and so far, I think it’s succeeding.
Joshi Kausei chapters #25-26:
I really liked the first of these two chapters because drawing on dew-covered windows is something I’ve done in my boredom and no doubt a lot of other people have as well. Especially in a group of friends, drawing some various silly things and comments, and being discovered and embarrassed about it. It’s one of those true-to-life kind of chapters that I find appealing and amusing, which is appropriate for these kinds of “healing” series as they are known. The second of these chapters was less successful, if only because I have never purchased a hot canned beverage from a vending machine before at a train station while waiting for my ride, but the ending bit was kind of cute. Joshi Kausei is not a series I think I can talk about often since it’s very much just cute slice-of-life antics in a rare wordless manga format, but I wanted something to round this off to an even 30, so, there you go. Still, it’s a fun series, and these were enjoyable chapters, and two of it’s stronger efforts as of late to boot.
Magi chapters #249-251:
You can’t really expect me to believe that this is the end of Gyokuen, do you? After we went through that whole flashback showing how she fucked the world up and how manipulative and bat-shit insane she is? Yeah, not buying it. She’s going to make a comeback. I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but it’s going to happen. I just know it.
In any case, the meat of these chapters was the fight between Hakuryu and Gyokuen. And while I might not have particularly enjoyed how Hakuryu’s turn to the dark side and the chapters leading up to this point have been executed….holy shit was this fucking amazing. Ohtaka outdid herself with her artwork here, infusing the characters with this wild, mad intensity and instability that even Soul Eater would be proud of. Not only was it intense, it was effin brutal to boot. At one point Hakuryu fucking takes a bite out his mother’s fucking neck and rips a chuck of the bitch’s flesh right off! Damn, son! That was fucking amazing. Chapter #249, you are an 11/10 chapter. Where is season three of the anime dammit? A-1, stop what you’re doing right now and get on animating this shit – STAT!
…Or so I would say if I was completely pleased with these chapters. Unfortunately, though, all of the great stuff is sorta brought down by how afterwards we have to focus on Hakuryu continuing to be an irrational douche now. Ever since he was brought back into the story his actions and words have made it feel like he’s devolved into a rather one-dimensional and cartoonishly evil caricature of his former self, which is not really the direction I was hoping to see from him. At least Judar points out that his sense of justice has become warped and hypo-critical, and he’s just looking for an outlet to direct his long pent-up rage against the world, moving on from replacing Gyokouen with Kouen and then after Kouen someone else in a never-ending cycle. I like the concept of this, and it fits the progression of Hakuryuu’s character arc. I just wish the execution of it had been something better than basically making him go “herr derr I hate everything and I want to kill everybody now” in those dungeon chapters two months back. Even Sasuke had a longer and more believable progression into his misguided idiocy than that.
Still, the tension building towards an inevitable civil war over the Kou Empire between Hakuryuu and Kouen’s factions is enjoyable, as is seeing Alibaba and Aladdin taking the initiative to reason with their old friend in a way they only can as a third party, even if the outcome might be something they’ll regret. Perhaps the meeting between Alibaba and Hakuryuu will show that the latter hasn’t become completely unreasonable, and demonstrates he may even show he has a more understandable and sympathetic perspective towards the situation than just “no you are wrong everyone is my enemy and I will kill them all wahhh?” Well…hopefully.
Magi: Adventure of Sinbad chapters #43-45:
Sinbad curb-stomped the Knight King into submission and essentially intimidates him into making Sasan one of his trading partners. How heroic! But it allows Mistoras to do as he pleases and travel with Sinbad and co. as a representative of Sasan and he even gets an apology from his father! Despite basically trying to kill his son, it looks like he isn’t an uptight and awful father after all (could’ve fooled me). Of course Mistoras’ younger brother Spartos (aka the kid who somehow becomes one of Sinbad’s eight generals in the future) is all like “wahh wahh don’t leave me oni-chan you are being so mean you don’t like me wahh wahh” but Mistoras is basically like “don’t worry lil’ dude, I’m just bringing ya down clown, and we’ll TOTALLY see each other again so ya just gots to stay cool and in school until yer ready ta hang brah” and goes off on his merry way. Of course, considering Mistoras is nowhere to be seen in Magi and all the blatant foreshadowing that something bad might happen to him I’ll take a guess that our new friend here isn’t long for the page.
Other than that, we get some fine world-building what with it turning out that the “god of Sasan” is basically just Solomon and their religion is based on the memories of Alma Torran. Also, Sinbad basically shows he was no less ruthless in trying to get people to do what he wanted as a kid than he is in the present. Consistent fellow. I like that. With his new and equally perverted companion in tow, Sinbad and friends are now heading to Artemia, the all-female country that little girl eight general who’s name I can’t remember is from. Will they gain new allies and possibly get laid while they’re at it? Knowing Sinbad…probably.
My Hero Academia chapters #17-25:
Well, this series certainly didn’t waste any time to get into some serious action. There is so much that happened in these chapters that I can’t possibly talk about it all at length, so let’s get down to just the basic things to take away from them. The whole infiltration arc not only introduced a desperate situation that forced the students to gain confidence and take initiative against professional villains out for blood, but managed to set up and establish a larger expanded cast than the core four of Midoriya, Urakaka, Iida, and Bakugou. All Might’s stand against the villains despite his depleting strength and lack of time made for a tense and interesting battle of attrition and wit, with Midoriya’s act of courage giving All Might precious seconds that may very well have saved his life. It was a harsh but good growing experience for all the heroes in training involved and with the expanded cast better established, the series has more relationships and dynamics to play with as the story moves forward.
This new sports festival arc seems like a natural way to further this. All the characters can show off their strengths and weaknesses and pitted off against each other they can be further developed or expanded upon. As is already the case, with new characters introduced and things for them being set-up along the established characters. But the highlight of this arc so far is Midoriya’s efforts to prove himself to the crowd and spectators that he is a hero to look out for. With his trademark tenacity and willingness to take risks in order to get himself out there and keep up with the rest, All Might hopes to establish him as successor in the new generation with a bang. And though he is worried about his disadvantages compared to the rest of the competition, he finds the confidence he needs and the means to use what he’s learned and make creative and smart decisions in order to bridge the gap in ability, taking people by surprise as a dark horse in the race. Whether he can successfully win or rank at a high place remains to seen, but as far as making himself known and telling the world “here I am,” I’d say he’s doing a swell job of it.
Nisekoi chapters #149-153:
Nisekoi is one of those series I don’t know how or why I started reading, but just sorta did, and since it takes more effort to ignore it than to just skim through it I just casually keep up with it. That said, the set-up to this whole school trip arc was actually a kind of funny chapter in execution, with seemingly everyone ending up in the same group and being all happy about it…until they notice Raku isn’t, and he is in fact in a different group of all men who proceed to pick on him for being surrounded by as many ladies as he is. Komi’s art just sells the entire scene, and the panel where the gang reacts to the fact Raku isn’t in the group is just so inexplicably amusing to me. That’s the one thing notable about this series – the art. It single handedly makes this thing a bearable read because it elevates the often tepid and tired jokes into something much more enjoyable than it really should be. But there’s not much to say about these chapters outside of that observation. They basically amount to each chapter being centered around Raku’s interactions with one of the girls as the school trip goes on. There were amusing bits here and there, but otherwise nothing that I haven’t seen a zillion other times from the shonen rom-com or harem genres, and it all ultimately made for harmless but forgettable light reading.
One Piece chapters #770-772:
We are finally getting to the end of the fights with the executives of the Donquioxte family. It seems that Oda has decided to devote each chapter to showing one character defeat one executive for the next few weeks. These characters being, oddly enough, not the Straw Hats themselves, but the supporting characters that were introduced in this arc. Chapter #770 shows the Elbaf giant Harudjin defeat Vise, chapter #771 sees Sai take out Lao G (and become engaged to Baby 5), and chapter #772 finds Delinger cut down by a reawakened Hakuba. Of course, other stuff is happening in these chapters too. Zoro continues his fight with Pica, Luffy his against Belamy, Kyros his with Trebol, and Bartholomew and Cavendish theirs with Gladius, but the aforementioned were the major events that came out of this set of chapters and progressed the story.
As nice as it is to see the major villains of this arc finally start to get taken down, these chapters aren’t completely successful in their endeavor. A common problem with this arc is the OCD story structure of the chapters where we flip back to numerous plot threads and characters in the course of a single chapter, only devoting a few pages (if even that) to one at a time before moving to the next. Chapters #770 and #772 suffer from this problem, cramming in scenes from the various different battles in between the main action that is presumably the focus of the chapter, and the resulting mess weakens the impact of the event. Which isn’t helped by the fact that the characters who are given the task of taking out these villains aren’t the most developed of the bunch. I barely remember anything about Harudjin, and while I know Hakuba is just Cavendish’s alter ego, it has only appeared in the series once before, in a brief flashback explaining something that happened off-screen no less, and in this chapter it just abruptly returns with little fanfare and build up. As such, it’s hard to invest in these moments on a character level since we don’t know enough about these characters to care they’ve had this moment of triumph. While I assume they will continue to be important in the grand scheme of things, I’d rather these victories and focus have gone to more established characters than them. And beyond that, for all the cutaways to them, barely anything really progresses on the tangential plot threads shown in the chapters, if anything has at all. It makes switching to them feel pointless, and it probably would’ve been better served to see these things in larger chunks, than in little bits at a time like they are.
However, my criticisms only apply to chapters #770 and #772. Chapter #771 actually does what I’d prefer and not only focuses on just one situation for the majority of the chapter, but characters who have been reasonably built up during the arc and we know quite well. Sai and Don Chinjao have had major and memorable roles in the early portion of this arc and as the arc has progressed we’ve gotten a solid understanding of their motivations, relationships with each other, and what is on the line for them. This chapter shows off Sai’s character especially in how he scolds the desperate Baby 5, stands up to his furious grandfather, and defeats the seemingly indomitable Lao G. In addition, the chapter ends up relinquishing of authority between the Happou navy between generations. Don Chinjao, bested by his son after the latter realizes the full power of his bujaogen, hands over the title of Don of the Happou navy to him. This has been something that has been built up since the coliseum, where Chinjao’s plan was to help Sai advance to the finals to show his strength, and then hand over authority of the navy to him. So this moment makes for a strong payoff on both a plot and character level, and the moment where Sai tells the defeated Lao G, who previously knocked out the former Don Chinjao, to call him “Don” a strong moment. Add together some nice character bits with Baby 5 showing how her desire to be of service to others is built out of a fear of abandonment that ties in with what we’ve learned about her since her very first appearance, and you get a really great chapter that recalls ones that One Piece produced at it’s peak.
As the “Dressrosa” arc draws to a close, I’d hope we see more chapters as well-executed as #772 than we do the other two put out last month. There is still time for this arc to conclude on a powerful note that makes up for the various inconsistencies and chaotic pacing that’s pervaded it. However, the only way this will happen is if Oda stops trying to do too much in one chapter, and instead concentrates at one thing at a time and spends more time of the events that are the most important to see and move the story forward. There is a reason the phrase “less is more” exists, and it’s telling how the most successful outing between these chapters was the one that exemplified the term the most closely.
One-Punch Man chapters #40.1-41:
Well now, this Garou fellow is an interesting new antagonist. Someone who as a child saw the nature of justice always triumphing over evil as not just boring, but unfair, because he recognized that villains work just as hard to succeed in their endeavors as heroes do. Realizing that the heroes will always win simply because the are the most popular and strongest characters, he decided to become so strong himself that he’d be a villain who’ll never lose. But he didn’t want to become just your run of the mill crook, someone who could be stopped, he wanted to become a monster; a creature that incomprehensibly powerful, frightening, and dangerous. And he’s sure made himself know in one hell of a way, taking out an entire room of baddies as well as curb stomping two high-ranking A-class agents like they were nothing. He’s not arrogant though, as he seems to want to avoid taking on any S-class heroes for the moment, yet at the same time he believes he’ll be able to get even stronger than he is in only six months time. And who is his target when he does? King.
Man, it’s a good thing the guy is buddy-buddy with Saitama, otherwise he’d be totally screwed. Though with that said, I have to wonder if Garou will give him a run for his money? Though the paths they took are different, both were inspired to become the strongest and be the best, and they could almost be seen as parallels in some ways. It’d be hilarious if Garou’s training methods turn out to be exactly like Saitama’s. It’d also be cool to see another human being give Saitama a tough fight, since the closest he’s ever gotten to one was with Boros, and even then, he was holding back.
In the meantime, it’s nice to see that Saitama is being acknowledged as an exceptional hero by the higher-ups and the public, having risen in rank and possibly even earned some fans. Though he isn’t out for glory and is apathetic to this fact, it makes me glad to see his efforts and good deeds be rewarded. Of course, the attention he’s receiving has it’s downsides. Not only is Speed of Sound Sonic gunning for his head again, but he has to deal with the #1 of the B-class heroes, Blizzard of Hell, trying to intimidate him into joining her faction lest he give up any chance of moving higher in the Heroes Association. Of course Saitama doesn’t care about any of that bullshit (I love how he doesn’t even know who she is at first and when they tell him that she’s the #1 B-Class he’s like “oh, okay, good job! So?” Classic Saitama moment right there). Being a hero isn’t about ranks or hierarchies for him, it’s about doing what’s right. It doesn’t matter what rank he is or whether Blizzard’s faction will give him hell, he’s just going to continue doing what he’s doing because that’s just what a hero does. It helps that he has the power to make that happen. Oh, Blizzard, you have no idea just WHO you’re messing with…
Orange chapter #17:
If Kakeru knew how Naho felt about him, and Naho knew how he felt about her, would he have lived? If they had became a couple instead of distancing themselves from each other, could that have significantly altered the course of his future. Suwa’s regrets being the only one who knew, and how he chose to hide this knowledge until after Kakeru died, something he’s never forgiven himself for. He feels he betrayed Kakeru, stole Naho from him, and may have inadvertently caused his death. The conversation he has with the gang is somewhat telling. They all admit that if they knew Kakeru’s circumstances, they would unquestionably root for him instead of Suwa. Yet Naho says that even if Kakeru had lived she would have still married Suwa. A sweet sentiment, but I can’t help but wonder how sincere she is when saying that. I don’t doubt she is happy married to Suwa since they were always good and close friends who cared for each other, but she has to have wondered “what if?” What could’ve been if she and Kakeru had only confessed their feelings to one another when they had the chance. That’s why the letters are so important. They might not be able to change their future, since that’s a reality set in stone, and they have to be at peace with that. But they’ve been given the opportunity to do everything they couldn’t do in another timeline; a second chance to leave no regrets and create a future where Kakeru is still alive. And perhaps even one where Naho might be married to him.
The tone of Naho’s letters still feels ambiguous to me in terms of whether or not she wants young Naho to get together with Kakeru. The core feelings that come across is that she regrets all the mistakes she made with him during their time together and how they could’ve helped him if they only did certain things differently. It seems like she’s viewing him from the perspective of a long lost friend rather than someone she hasn’t gotten over, but that’s only just so far. There’s always the chance she digs into a certain mindset, and tells her past self to go for him. Suwa’s letters are far less ambiguous. He feels guilty for not helping his friend find happiness with the girl he loves, and urges his past self to try and make a future where Naho and Kakeru are happy with each other. And young Kakeru agrees with him. Despite how he feels towards her, he is determined to no tell her and distract her away from Kakeru, to not interfere in their relationship as his future counterpart did. The letters have taught all of them how precious their time is. How precious every moment is. How one small act can radically change the future for better or worse. Kakeru believes that if he never tells Naho how he feels she’ll end up with Kakeru as she would have if Kakeru never died in the first place. But he doesn’t seem to realize that by keeping his feelings to himself, he’s not even giving her to option to chose. He might escape the regret of never helping the two people he cared about most in the world know how they feel about each other, but in it’s place he’ll be creating a new one. The regret of never telling Naho he loves her, and by it, erasing a different future that could’ve been.
Silver Spoon chapter #108:
Hachiken has never been the best horse rider, so it’s to be expected that he would make the mistakes he did. But though he moved slowly and made a lot of blunders, he proved fun to watch, and people appreciated his leisurely pace. He might not have done particularly well, but at least he fun doing it. It presents a sense of satisfying finality to Hachiken’s development in his relationship with horses and as a member of the equestrian club, and the fact that there’s still more opportunities for him to improve after this makes it all the more so.
Speaking of satisfying, I was ecstatic to revisit Komaba and see what he’s up to these days. Taking a slow but sure path to his dream, he’s working his ass off in jobs where he can put his great strength to use, and making friends and progress along the way. And I cannot describe just how wonderful the moment where he gets that text from Hachiken, and goes “YEAAAAAHHHH!” in triumph, ecstatic for the success for his friends. Though they are miles apart, the friendships they’ve made are as strong as ever. To be honest, I almost wanted to yell out “YEAAAHHH!” when I found out exactly what he was happy out with him. It’s just so wonderful to see, after years of hard work and dedication, that Mikage’s passion for horses and love of riding has paid off and clinched the Equestrian Club’s entry in the Equestrian Koshien. It’s a great moment that is shared by all three characters, and a moment of victory that feels well-earned after all the hardships and struggles they’ve faced working towards their respective dreams. Silver Spoon always knows how to inspire and entertain me in a way few other currently-running can, and this chapter was a wonderful way for it to end the year on.
Space Brothers chapter #241:
Mutta is finally in space. It took many years and a lot of hard work and luck, but he’s finally achieved the dream he’s held since his childhood. Now he and Hibito truly are…space brothers. There’s not much I can say about this chapter. It’s not so much the contents that matter so much as the moment. It’s about the emotions and seeing the character succeed in something he’s been working towards since the very beginning of the story. It’s about reflecting on all it took to get to this point and seeing all the friends he’s made congratulate him for his triumph. Everyone reading this series, when they get to this chapter, will feel the same sensation. Satisfaction. And for all the weight behind it, this has got to be the most satisfying moment in the series so far.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan chapter #18:
So, how did ex-masked man know that Narsus was a third-rate painter? Has he ever seen any of his paintings before? Sure, he’s right on the money, but that doesn’t mean he should just assume things things about the man. What a rude fellow.
Anyway, it’s neat that ex-masked man’s mask wasn’t just for show and he was actually covering up an actual horrific scar and stuff. The fact that neither Daryun or Narsus recognized him means that he’s someone they don’t have a history with, which makes it all the more curious as to who he is and what his true intentions are. Otherwise not much else to this chapter. I guess I can note that the end of it has Arslan re-encountering some Lusitatnian solider who recognizes his face, while I for the life of me could’t recognize his because it looks like a generic Arakawa character face. It was only when I noticed the caption that explained he was Etoile, the soldier boy Arslan interacted with way back in the beginning of the series that I was like “oh, yeah, I vaguely know this guy,” but yeah, there was that. Not sure where this encounter will lead, but it’s interesting to see this character show up again and it might have some neat ramifications down the line.
The Seven Deadly Sins chapters #106-108:
The whole “I OBJECT” thing was kind of awkward since apparently Meliodas is referencing not what he thinks but how some people in the crowd feel about the Sins being rewarded for their efforts. It’s made even more confusing by the fact that the people who step up to challenge the Sins don’t even have complaints about them but just want to see how strong they are for themselves. Sure, there’s the idea that only those three are being honest and there are others who are hiding how the feel in the background, but it’s strange and execution and pointless overall since these characters amount to nothing but push how strong Meliodas is…which we already know. And by the way, WHY does this series need power levels? What does it add to this story? It feels like an unnecessary element and distraction, and even if it is a throw-away concept that’ll be limited to just these chapters the fact it was introduced at all really bugged me.
The mystery towards Dreyfus’ actions seems to lean towards him being replaced or taken over by some sort of demonic force. There is just a huge disconnect between his behavior before his battle with Hendricksen and afterwards, which leads me to believe that something sinister started manipulating his body after he was taken out, and nobody noticed because theory were distracted by all the chaos. Gil, Hasuer, and Griamor’s investigation seems to be leaning towards that revelation.The fact he seems to boast a demonic scar now where he hadn’t one before certainly helps support my hypothesis.
Now, I can’t say I expected Hendricksen to return. I thought his defeat in the last arc was final and he was dead and gone. But no, he’s alive and even a bit remorseful for what he’s done, shedding tears at the sight of his old friend. I think it’s pretty clear from the chapter that he has been manipulated by some force for a while now. Considering how he treated so many people, including the original Dreyfus, for all those years before, it’s both a bit sad and a bit satisfying for him to be misguided into doing the bidding of an evil he’ll probably regret messing with. If he isn’t immediately killed off by the demons he’s about the revive, I can see him getting redeemed at some point down the line. This arc is off to a rocky start, but there’s promising stuff to look forward to, and I’d hope that the series starts hitting the mark more once it finishes all this set-up.
Toriko chapters #304-307:
Yeah, I'm just as baffled as the rest of you.
Chapter #304 is, without a doubt, one of the worst chapters of manga I read last year. At least on a personal level, because it was a breaking point for me with Toriko as it’s been lately. It is not just infuriating, but it’s flat-out bullshit through and through. It was bad enough that Shimabukuro used the whole “oh shit the main characters are getting fucking slaughtered this is so badass amiright?” schtick again, which got old over Heracles cut Toriko in half in the last arc. But then he has to go and give the most unbelievable, incomprehensibly bizarre and inane explanation as for why they’ve all survived. Oh sure, of course Coco just happened to prepare a poison doll that looked exactly like Zebra before hand just in case but not do it for anyone else…because! He’s totally a mind-reader and knew that Zebra would be the most in danger. And then he goes on to explain that Bambina was just “playing” with them and did all the things he did in the span of ONE BLINK. And that Sunny was spared any brutality because he happened to blink at just the right moment that the Monkey King thought “oh, we’re playing hide and seek now” and went off on his merry way.
Uh…WHAT? It’s just…so convoluted and flat out stupid that it utterly ruins any of my ability to take the desperation the characters are facing seriously. They make this big deal of how they need to rise up and play against Bambina again with their renewed coura-no sorry, “appetite,” and I’m like “so what?” There is no weight to any of the violence or events that have happened in Toriko ever since they’ve entered the Gourmet World. And now they are doing a fucking training arc, when the whole point of the timseskip (which started at the beginning of last year), was that they had become strong enough to face most threats in the Gourmet World during that time? After accomplishing nothing of value or requiring any real effort or doing anything that really felt earned with the level of strength they had? Yes, I know that they aren’t becoming physically stronger or anything and just learning a specialty skill, but it’s still utterly baffling.
The pacing is far too fast, there is no tension to anything that’s happening, there is no character development, and there are so many convoluted plot elements in play that it’s hard for me to really enjoy recent Toriko chapters anymore. And that hurts me, because it was so great the two years before. Hell, it was still really good for the first 2/3rds of last year! But in the last four months, something happened and it took a massive dive in quality and things have only gotten worse since. I’d like to believe things can be salvaged in the rest of the arc and in the future, but I’ve had experience with other series who fell into similar states many times before and never returned to form, so I just can’t muster much optimism. It’s a shame. Toriko was one of the most consistently entertaining weekly manga I’ve been reading ever since I first started up on it. Now it’s meh as fuck and I read most of its chapters these days with a sad little sigh, wondering just where things went wrong, and disappointed in all the potential that’s been lost.
WataMote chapter #70:
Despite her supposed efforts to become popular with other people, Tomoko still finds herself doing most things alone. This is something she’s self-conscious about, and as much as she might look down on other people she ultimately would prefer to be in a crowd rather than to be by her lonesome. Even if she doesn’t interact with anyone else, the very fact that other people are there is actually of comfort to her. She doesn’t want to be alone. Yet, because of how she behaves and how she thinks, she is unable to reach out and befriend anyone and really be a part of a group. This school trip arc is interesting in that it presumably is going to force Tomoko to try and not only become a part of a group but lead it. It’s something I can already tell she’s going to fail at, but it would be nice if she is at least able to make some progress in her ability to interact with other people nonetheless.
World Trigger chapters #85-87:
Osamu's mother is best character.
I enjoyed how Osamu went in front of the press and told them plain and simply he is not a hero. He is not perfect, not everything he does is going to be perfect or even for the best, but he will do what he thinks is right in the moment and stand by his decisions. And as for the lives that were captured he will take responsibility for retrieving them himself, because that is not only the right thing to do, but the obvious one. The conviction Osamu shows while standing up to these pestering reporters is commendable, and shows how he’s matured in his reasoning and in his self-confidence.
That Kido is able to spin his words against the reporters even further and announce Border is able to invade the Neighbor worlds. Even better is how, when the reporters protest the idea of going into them out of danger, he retorts by asking if they are saying they’d rather leave them behind and forget about them, exposing their hypocritical mentality and penchant to play the blame game or raise concerns without addressing alternative solutions. It speaks to Kido’s craftiness that he is able to use Osamu to spin the negative criticism Border has been facing after the Invasion incident into something positive and more satiable to the reporters. His meeting with Osamu seems to indicate that he’s willing to take a neutral stance on his group for now, having recognized Yuuma’s usefulness as a soldier and gaining some respect for Osamu after his actions in the Invasion and his speech. However, there’s still a tension to the scene that gives off a distrustful vibe to him. He’s someone who’ll be keeping the team on their toes, and’ll have to be continue to be careful around in the future.
After the long “Invasion” arc, it’s a bit jarring to return to the Rank Wars. I’d honestly prefer the series just push it’s momentum and have the gang start preparing to enter the Neighbor worlds, but I suppose this is something that needs to be resolved onscreen considering all the build-up it had. While I’m not big on tournament arcs, this has a unique execution since for one it’s very much a teamwork based system of battles that involve the entire team in a battle-royale combat against other competitors. There’s a lot more strategy and planning to battles in this series that make it stand out compared to it’s contemporaries, and it’s nice to see this strength of the series continue to be in play here. And with the team going to be facing up against many of their rivals in Border as this arc goes on, I’m pretty interested in seeing how it continues to play out.
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches chapters #137-139:
I have to wonder why is it that Takuma’s group of witches can use their abilities through different means than just a kiss like the previous witches used. Even more curious is why Yamada can’t use the abilities he copies from them in the same way as them, and still has to kiss people in order to use the powers. The obvious reason is that Yoshikawa just wants Yamada to get into situations requiring him to kiss people all the time, but there is a lot of mystery behind the nature of these witches that I’m curious to see explained down the line.
I’ve been disappointed that Shiraishi hasn’t been much of a presence in the story as of late, but the fact that the Chess Club has plans for her seems to indicate she’ll be important to one of their plans down the line. I have some ideas as to how, but I’d rather play the waiting game and see where things go. But it’s always nice to see Yamada show how much he cares about her, and be a badass while doing it to boot. I really like their relationship and hope we can see it from two sides again sooner rather than later.
The core thing to take away from this chapter is the Chess Club’s plan to take the president’s seat. Ichijo’s power provokes discontent and jealousy from people, and they’ve directed several of these people’s ill feelings against the current Student Council. Then Miura’s power puts other factions of people under his suggestion, allowing him to direct their actions subconsciously, see things from their perspective, and perform reconnaissance to learn what people are thinking and doing without the Student Council ever catching wind. It’s a two-fold plan to create a support base that will oust Miyamura from his seat and instate Ichijo in his place, with the other members of the current council falling soot in favor of the other members of the Chess Club, eventually giving them the resources and means to initiate the Witch ceremony. It’s a formidable plan that’s going to take a lot of careful planning and sneakiness to undermine, and with even former friends like Ohtsuka suddenly being manipulated against them, they are definitely in for a tough fight.
December 2014 Manga Round-up – Final Thoughts:
Manga of the Month: Assassination Classroom
Best of the Rest: A Bride’s Story, Billy Bat, Gintama, & My Hero Academia
Chapter of the Month: Gintama chapter #524 – “Farewell, Pal”
Worst Manga of the Month: Bleach
Worst of the Rest: Fairy Tail, GTO: Paradise Lost, & Toriko
Worst Chapter of the Month: Toriko chapter #304 – “Seed of Courage”
Line of the Month: “These reporters…all deserve to be beaten with a stick” (Osamu’s mother, World Trigger chapter #85).
Panel(s) of the Month:
Page(s) of the Month:
….And done! Phew! Yeah, I’m definitely making this thing shorter next time. Anyways, overall December was a good month of manga. The typical series that suck continued to suck and certain series were rather disappointing, but just about everything else was quite entertaining and fun reads. All in all a solid month to close off what was overall a very solid year of manga, and I’m hoping for an even better year in 2015. We’ll see how that pans out starting with the January 2015 edition of this manga roundup, which, if things work out, will be up next Saturday or Sunday and not three weeks late! In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed reading this recap and didn’t completely hate all of my opinions, and hope to see you again to look at all the audacity, hilarity, badassery, idiocy, and insanity the world of manga has to offer!