2015
01.31

Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re me), Aldnoah.Zero decided to take this week easy on its viewers, so this review will be quite short, as not much happened.

Luckily enough, Aldnoah did not hit a new low today, as the show took time to reintroduce Yuki, Inaho’s sister, and Marito, the best girl of Aldnoah‘s 1st season. Marito now suffers from a new form of post-traumatic stress disorder, in which the brain deliberately triggers distressing imagery when facing danger, even though he’s apparently gotten over it – or so the show tells us. I don’t know, it’s not very good with dialogue and I’m terrible at guessing. Essentially, this is used to show off how amazing Inaho is, as he subdues a Vers Kataphrakt from 40,000 miles away while in space via his amazing robot eye when Marito is under pressure, because that’s what the plot calls for, I guess.

Slaine has now taken to wearing a Count suit, in honour of his totally-cool-and-not-malicious deceased “father” Saazbaum. He drives around in his pimped-out Tharsis, impressing his fellow Count ho’s and swooning his aide Harklight, like they were out of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Slaine has suddenly transformed from the somewhat-shy but determined young man he was in previous episodes into an unstoppable Terran-hating machine for no decent reason, apart from the obvious reason of ‘plot!’. Saazbaum calling Slaine his son ten minutes before his death in the previous episode does not constitute character development.

Honestly, nothing really happened this episode. There seems to be a lot of Count’s that bear an uncanny physical resemblance to Cruhteo, and Cruhteo hasn’t popped up yet, and it is inevitable that he does, since everyone else lived. Lemrina still has the worst hair possible in anime. Inaho is a terrible and boring character who manages to save the day because he is Takayama’s saviour when it comes to advancing the plot. It appears the only thing this episode is meant to do is reintroduce Marito and change Slaine’s character. It could have been done more convincingly, to be completely honest. Also, Aldnoah.Zero, we’ve noticed your little literary references as episode titles. It doesn’t make you better nor does it make you smart.

Here’s hoping that next week offers more to discuss than boredom, Gary Stu-ness and mind-numbingly dumb CG usage.

2015
01.27
GoBusters

Something bust out!

This season has been about as bypolar as they come, fluctuating from dizzying highs (Rolling Girls, Yatterman Night, and Death Parade) to soul crushing lows (World Break, Fafnir, Absolute Duo, Testament of Sister New Devil, ETC ETC ETC) with very little in between.  Happily though we’re all done with this season and won’t have to do another Clusterfuck article for another three months right? WRONG! Debuting three weeks late is ISUCA, a show based off a manga nobody cares about and made by everybody’s favorite provider of horrid cheesecake ARMS. Oh god, this is already looking bad and I haven’t talked about the show yet have I?

Well lets start off by discussing this show’s incredible sense of originality!

.

………

………………………

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah ISUCA is literally 20 other shows. I should know, I counted! In this episode, a normal guy gets dragged into a war involving evil demon beasts by a bitchy tsundere who shoots human centipedes with a bow and arrow. Eventually they meet a twintailed fox girl and the major female characters both have their clothes explode of their chests revealing nice shiny white censorbars. The plot is already so threadbare and cliche that one wonders how the hell would the writers stretch it to 24 minutes. The answer… ripoffs. Lots and lots of ripoffs. The episode starts like the most blatant clone of Parasyte I’ve ever seen, before mutating into a bizarre mashup of Raildex and Fate/Stay Night, then finally showing its truest and most repulsive form. ISUCA is literally just a reskinning of everybody’s favorite early 200os anime…Inuyasha. Annoying characters, weird mythology monsters, things that get shot with arrows, it’s all here, back again to remind you why the original show was so horrible in the first place. The only difference is its a fox girl instead of a dog boy, but hell the creators of this show even bind her to a tree with an arrow. THEY ARE LITTERALY NOT TRYING TO BE SUBTLE WITH THIS HACKNEYED CHICANERY OF THEIRS!

In a season that has already made me wanna vomit so many times, ISUCA isn’t just the bottom of the barrel, its so far beneath the barrel that it exists closer to the Earth’s core. Recommended only to two year olds, and they’d probably be bored by it. -123456789/decimal points — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

Well it worked for Monogatari.

Charlie Craplin

Isuca. Isuca…Isuca………Isuca.

For the first time in my time watching anime, I’m speechless. I don’t think it is humanly possible to put into coherent speech patterns just how bad this is, but let me try anyway. As our good Lord Dalek-dono said, this season as some of the lowest lows yet. And under the bottom of the barrel, snuggled next to garbage, is Isuca. Isucka successfully passes all the criteria on the industry-approved Horrible Anime Cliches (H.A.C.) check list. The is a by-the-numbers rip off, combining demon hunting and haremtastic high school “shennigans”. Our fearless hero has literally no personality: he’s just there to (often lewdly) stumble upon supernatural situations and get the shit beat out of him. That’s all I remember about him. Our fearless heroine doesn’t fair much better. Not only is she the subject of some of the most face palm worthy “”fanservise””* to ever grace Nippon airwaves, her personality is basically just “Kagome McBitchpants”. McBitchpants doesn’t have much going for her either, and I can’t remember anything about these characters. I don’t remember any interesting scenes or shots. I don’t remember any important plot points. This show manages to be so excruciatingly boring, and yet so horrifically bad, simultaneous, that breaks new ground in just how bad something can be. If Rolling Girls represents everything the Japanese animation industry has done right these last few years, then Isuca is everything wrong with it rolled into one three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich, with arsenic sauce. — TheShadowGentleman

* Extra quotations added for emphases.

2015
01.27

In a surprise departure from its usual (and increasingly annoying) format, Lesbear Storm spends this week’s episode on trying to explain what the fuck is going on in this show. To no surprise, it does so in an incredibly silly roundabout way, because I am beginning to believe even Ikuni doesn’t know what the fuck is going on in Yurikuma Arashi and is expecting us to just buy into symbolism.

 

Eeeek.

Lulu as depicted by Margaret Keene

So in a magical fairy kingdom ruled by humanoid creatures with fuzzy bearears and paw gloves, a spoiled princess is loved by all until the explosion of the Planet Kumalia causes the birth of her brother, the new prince. Faster than you can ask about wanting to build a snowman, our princess is abandoned and forgotten, locked in her room with her only visitor being the source of her ire, the Prince. The Prince just wants to love his sister, but the sister only has the desire to put him in a cardboard box and kick ‘im off a cliff to his death…which she does…multiple times. Not gonna lie, this part’s actually pretty funny.

THE SEXY WAY SHABADADU

CANNOT UNSEE.

Well anyway, despite being lost in the jungle, eaten alive by a Final Fantasy IV boss, and incinerated by volcanic lava, the Prince always comes back bearing (HAH!) a jar of honey. The Princess in return throws the honey away in recycled animation. This continues until the Prince drops dead via a bee sting sustained from acquiring said honey, leaving our princess the victor. And what does our princess do? Why sulk even more! She slaps some suitors (played by the Judgmens) around and embraces her own personal guilt over being unable to return her brother’s love through her own vanity. Then one night, a mysterious stranger appears with the jar of honey to return to the Princess. This stranger says she’s a criminal bear and is going to cross a giant wall in order to find someone she lost, the princess asks the stranger to come with her also hoping to find the same thing bringing us to the present day. You see that princess? That was Lulu, and the stranger is Ginko! As for Kureha, she spends the episode throwing porridge on the floor and ordering the other two to get out of her pink Psycho house….yeah not much happened this week in the main plot.

He bearly escaped!

Boxing Day!

On one hand, this episode is absolutely necessary as it gives some (admittedly bizarre) backstory for Lulu and Ginko. The problem with this though is it creates some annoying continuity errors. In the first episode, it’s stated that the humans built their giant wall of extinction after Kumaria exploded, triggering the mass bear mutation. THIS episode suggests that the mutation had already occured, meaning even more fantastical forces are at play here, or it could just be the fairy tale nature of this episode and the presence of an unreliable narrator (Life Sexy, who also gets thrown into a box and kicked off a cliff by Lulu). Also the idea that Ginko and Lulu are here for reasons other than eating lolis was not made clear early on. I suppose you could go back to the previous three episodes and rewatch them with that in mind but I’m lazy and stupid and demand some sense of logic applied to my beat-over-the-head-style symbolism. OH MY! LULU GOT STUNG BY DESIRE! THERE’S A BEE CIRCLING HER! BEES STING AND MAKE HONEY! HONEY IS THE PROMISE KISS! LULU WILL NOT KILL BUT LOVE INSTEAD THROUGH THE STING OF DESIRE! WHAT THE FUCK AM I TALKING ABOUT?!?

Nice try Ikuni...

SYMBOLISM SHOCK!

As for the main story (what little of it we get this week), its nice to finally have an episode where Kureha does not have a confrontation with a BOTW on the roof, fall down the same flight of stairs (they do use that animation this week, abeit with Lulu instead), and gets licked. Maybe this is Ikuni’s way of admitting the original concept of the show was unsustainable and from this point forward we’ll be exploring the releationship of the Ginko-Lulu-Kureha trio. Considering this show doesn’t have next episode previews, that’s hard to say if we won’t revert back to the formula next week, but at least Yurikuma Arashi took at least one step away from becoming stagnant.

2015
01.25

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:

Uh, okay...

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:

...Really?

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:

...Apparently!

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!

2015
01.24

I feel like a broken record. Every time I say Aldnoah.Zero has reached a new low, the next episode manages to make that low even lower. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

This episode opens up with a chess game between Inaho and Magbaredge ripped straight out of Terror in Resonance, and Magbaredge uses this to place Inaho into a squadron to attack the Vers Empire in a later assignment. However, the show surprisingly takes time to explain its retcon and make the choice less hazy – Inaho not only survived his near-death experience due to his kiss with Ass-hime (which somehow passed on the Aldnoah gene), but also the princess’s blood splashed onto his face after Saazbaum popped a cap in her ass in episode 13. The show does not make it clear how the blood increased the amount of Aldnoah cells in his body – it appears he didn’t swallow the blood, or have it dribble down his nose. It’s not likely that the blood was absorbed by his skin pores, either. It’s just another weak excuse to back-up a retcon that didn’t need to exist.

In a way, this episode is just too similar to last week’s episode. It follows the same structure of narrative – talky first-half, action-packed second half, revelations galore mixed in-between. In this episode, instead of the baffling kiss between Slaine and Lemrina, we have Saazbaum declaring Slaine his newly adopted son – despite the fact that Slaine shot him five times in the chest and crippled his leg at the conclusion of episode 13, and that Saazbaum was just menacing and completely detrimental to Slaine’s cause. Slaine agrees with his new father’s choice until the United Forces of Earth attack their stronghold, and Inaho and Slaine clash in a battle of Jesus-like wits. I’m pretty sure giant mecha’s can’t activate bullet time to dodge attacks, but it is Aldnoah.Zero, so logic does not apply. Inaho manages to outwit Saazbaum once again with the help of Inko – resident useless character until they are useful for the betterment of the protagonist – but, in a completely surprising and not totally foreseen twist of fate, Slaine lands the final blow via something we can only call ‘magic’, or really stupid coincidence. A trap he laid for Inaho instead caught Saazbaum during his moment of weakness, and in retaliation for his attempted murder of the princess, Slaine allows his not-father to die. Again.

This forced attempt at melodrama and father-son drama comes off as petty and with nothing to back it up. You could just say Slaine was pretending to go along with Saazbaum, but why would Slaine actually mourn the loss of his new-found ‘father’ after killing him, and go on to avenge his memory, even when it was his trap that landed the final blow? This is a baffling direction to go with Slaine’s character. Saazbaum did nothing throughout the run of the 1st season than keep on trying to assassinate Ass-hime, and when Inaho tried to kill Saazbaum in episode 13, what did Slaine do? Save Saazbaum’s life. Saazbaum made his plans perfectly clear to Slaine, and when he actually succeeded in his goal of murdering the Princess (or so we thought at the time), what did Slaine do again? Save his life after shooting him, and align himself with his army for the next nineteen months, even though he could have left him to bleed out for killing the woman he loves. The characters in Aldnoah.Zero, sans Marito, were never 3-dimensional, but they could have made clear and coherent choices. Saazbaum’s death in this episode does nothing to tug heartstrings or invoke an emotional response, it exists merely as a plot point.

This all feels like filler or a catalyst for an more terrible plot to replace the non-plot we have now. Again, you could also say that Slaine was just trying to keep Ass-hime alive by being a count of the Vers Empire, but couldn’t he have done his duty elsewhere? If Inaho didn’t survive the fucking point-blank shot to his head, Slaine could have aligned himself with the United Forces of Earth to keep Asseylum alive. It would be better than causing shitty drama for the sake of plot escalation. What did Saazbaum do for the 3 episodes he was included in? Nothing. He simply exists in memory to give Slaine a motivation that could have be found elsewhere, and through less stupid methods than being adopted by your crush’s attempted murderer. This conflict between Inaho and Slaine ignited since the moronic decision at the end of episode 7 feels so forced, that it’s almost an expectation the two partner up for the greater good at the end.

The plot-line isn’t the only thing wrong with Toll for the Brave. The CG looks like it was ripped out a 3DO game, and looks visibly worse than last week. The music is still too good for this show, and every character looks like they have bed-head. Unsurprisingly, Inaho continues to be mecha-Jesus. God save me, this show literally can’t get any worse, can it?

2015
01.21
Lick it good.

Yummy!-kuma Arashi

Love Bullet Yurikuma Arashi (literally “Girls-lovebear Storm”) is perhaps the ultimate Kunihiko Ikuhara experience. Everything he has made in the last 20 years has been building up to this. Sailor Moon’s monster-of-the-week format; Utena’s abstract art and delicate cathedral like aesthetics (complete with spiral staircases); Penguindrum’s pursuit of survival against the threat of utter annihilation; it’s all here, and in ridiculously OTT quantities. Because of this, its almost a borderline self-parody of Ikuni works since we’ve come to expect all of this from Ikuni and yet are constantly getting smacked in the head by it here. Why then should we watch this? What makes this so special that Funi felt it necessary to make it part of their mass-shopping spree of title licenses this season?

Well let us begin with the story…or at least what little of it there is (not a surprise really as Ikuni was never the best with plots). HERE THERE BE SPOILERS FOLKS!

You said it Missy Narrator!

I haven't seen mass murder this adorable since Watership Down!

In the near future or maybe an alternate history, the planet Kumalia blew up sending fragments all over the universe but mostly the Earth. This has had an extremely negative on the worlds bear population which now seeks to eat every human they can find, which in this case means Japanese lolis, since men apparently do not exist in the Yuribear universe save for three characters we will discuss later. To protect themselves from the bear menace, the government has built the Wall of Extinction, a giant pink thing that apparently does…something…I honestly don’t know…Ikuni!

HOWEVER!

You'll be seeing this a lot...

The bears have figured a way around the giant wall through some unexplained magic power. They’ve transformed themselves into humans and infiltrated one of the human schools, which is of course all-girl, because loli tastes good I guess. Our story focuses initially on two of them, Ginko Yurishiro and Lulu Yurigasaki but later episodes show they were beaten there by two other hubears: Mitsuko Yurizono and Konomi Yurikawa. As you can see, there is a bit of a naming convention here but it only extends to the bears at the moment. The known human characters by comparison have names that don’t go Yuri- etc. This is clearly meant to be an intended sign by Ikuni.

Cue Blumenkranz

So why are these bears here? Well they all want to eat one girl, Kureha Tsubaki. A modestly attractive lass, Tsubaki gets dragged into the mess when KUMA SHOCK! Her lover, Suzumika Izumono, ends up being the first victim of the bears and their hunger for loli flesh. This will not stand, and Tsubaki returns to her home (which happens to be the Psycho House painted pink) where she proceeds to shoot the same statues of bears with her rifle over and over again because reused animation. But then, an eerie phonecall draws her to the roof of the school where she encounters that weeks assailant before a PS1 level cgi effect kicks her into easily the most bizarre and out of place moment in the show, the court of extinction. This is where the aforementioned male characters exist, the aptly named “Judgemens” Lifecrazy, Lifesexy, and Life…beauty (seriously Ikuni you missed the perfect opportunity to make a TLC joke, Gatoh would have done it). Basically they grill Ginko and Lulu about why they want to be Yuri intead of Kuma before saying “Go be yuri!” and letting them link honey off of a white lily that is suspended over Tsubaki’s naked comatose body…which somehow has magic powers to reset the universe or something.

...mow mow.

That's not a subtitle...its a caption,

This is all in the first episode. Its also the next two. Ikuni frequently has a problem with sticking to rigid story conventions but its really bad here. Basically the format of Yurikuma Arashi goes down like this…

  1. An announcement of bear attacks. (*KUMA SHOCK!*).
  2. The revelation of this episode’s “bear-of-the-week”
  3. Tsubaki goes off to pout at her house/fire guns
  4. Mysterious phone call animation (its the same every week)
  5. Encounter with a bear on the roof
  6. Extinction Court
  7. Ginko and Lulu turn into crazy cosplayers.
  8. …..MAGIC!!!!

There are some differences though. Various clues are sprinkled around the episodes as to what the hell is exactly going on here and by episode 3, Tsubaki comes out of her coma during number 7 but still the formula remains largely intact. What we do get though is there are tons of bears at this school all competing to either devour her whole (Konomi, who wants to chow down on Tsubaki after she gets jilted by her ex-lover Mitsuko) or advance to second base (Mitsuko, who reveals that she is the one who ate Izumono in order to take over as Tsubaki’s new lover). In all of this, Lulu and Ginko surprisingly don’t do much, instead acting as visibly annoyed observers on the periphery while various other bears get in their way. Its like Utena if Utena didn’t do shit and instead it was the Anthy show for whatever reason.

The gun is good, the penis is...non-existant.

"I just wanted some Sugar Crisp but nooooooooooooo...."

The repetitive nature of the show is also not helped by the sheer metric ton of reused animation. This is a problem with Ikuni dating back to his days making Sailor Moon at Toei, when budgets weren’t so much tight as non-existant (seriously anybody who tells you Sailor Moon ever had good animation is either a moron, a fanboy, a nostalgia beer-goggles wearer, or an ANN writer). However, he’s surprisingly never gotten over it despite there being less episodes here and a studio with a couple more dollars involved. Episode 2 is arguably the worst in this regard since it at times feels like a clip show of the first episode. That’s not artistry, its laziness.

Kill Bear Vol. 1

My baby shot me down.

So what is the allure of Yurikuma? Frankly, I have no idea. The show is only really good for the initial WTF factor and once you have to actually watch it seriously, it kinda settles down and falls apart in the process. I’m sure somebody will like this show for various reasons I cannot figure out, in which case more power to you, but for me, this is gonna be a rather short attention span series.

They litterally do this every episode.

Lord Dalek Declined!

 

2015
01.19

Despite the freezing rain that was pouring down over the city just after the new year began, I ultimately decided to drag my ass from the North Bronx down to the Village to watch “Song of the Sea,” despite not eating anything that day. Due to some issues with the train, I ended up missing the 2:30pm showing — though I forgot how to get to IFC Center anyway — so I resolved to spend my time at the Hudson Park Library to regain my bearings and wait for the 4:30pm showing. While there, I ended up reading a manhua about suicidal depression that I first came across back in 2010, and thinking about how to strike a bond with the Engenni-speaking grandmother that just entered my life. I walked out over an hour later, back into the rain, to the art house theater to buy a ticket for the film. I waited in a line of children and adults for half-an-hour before the theater door opened and we could take our seats. Ultimately, the reason why I’m telling you all this is so you can understand my mindset going in. I was cold, hungry, and a little sad as the theater lights dimmed and the movie started playing. By the time the movie ended ninety minutes later, I was still hungry, but the coldness and sadness had been replaced by both a physical and emotional warmth that made me glad to have gone out that day. That’s “Song of the Sea” in a nutshell: a legitimately heartwarming film that aims to, if only for a second, ease and take your mind off of the emotional baggage you came to it with. Even if you have to walk ten blocks back to the train in the freezing rain afterwards.

Somebody's unimpressed...

Similar to The Secret of Kells, Tomm Moore’s previous film, Song of the Sea finds its roots in Celtic folklore, with a look at the human/seal polymorphs that are selkies this time around. In particular, the story follows a boy named Ben and his mute younger sister Saoirse, the latter of which is a selkie, as they find themselves traveling the Irish countryside to bring life back to the folktales of old. But while Kells had a more uplifting message about pursuing your dreams and aspirations, Sea‘s story of a young boy and his sister showcases the more melancholic themes of loss and grief. A husband grieves for his lost love, while his son channels his sadness into disgust and accusatory blame towards his sister. Mothers look on in sadness at their depressed sons, while an ancient spirit lives in blissful ignorance of the memories that he had loss. But despite all the melancholy, there are several moments throughout where you’ll find yourself smiling at the proceedings. There is a slow, calm progression between the emotional states that the film guides the audience through, so it never feels jarring to have a nice laugh or chuckle minutes after a tense or saddening scene. And notice that I said calm, because Song of the Sea is a very relaxed film, especially in comparison to children’s entertainment here in the Western hemisphere. When so many films strive to be loud and upfront about every aspect of themselves, there is a relief that comes with seeing a piece of cinema where “quiet moments” that allow the audience to think and take in the atmosphere aren’t a rare occurrence.

This ain't E.T. and you aren't on a bike kid.

Song of the Sea utilizes watercolour backgrounds and simple, clean line art to develop an aesthetic that not only is a lovely thing to see in motion on the silver screen, but also feels like a natural evolution from the instantly recognizable medieval Celtic-inspired art of Moore’s previous opus. Kells was a story that was told through the stained glass windows of an old Catholic cathedral, while Sea feels as if it is being told through the art of a young artist’s sketchpad or a children’s storybook. Working hand-in-hand with this beautiful feel are the ethereal melodies made by French composer Bruno Coulais, whose prolific work has graced Henry Selick’s Coraline and the aforementioned The Secret of Kells. Listening to the soundtrack is akin to strolling through a dreamlike landscape, with the wind instruments and such acting as their own character to emphasize the emotion of even the more relaxed scenes. There is equal strength in the art, writing, and music that I just cannot help but to admire and wish was present in other critical darlings such as Disney’s Frozen. Combine all that with commendable beliefs that Moore has surrounding children’s media, and even if I wasn’t in love with this film, it would still have my respect as a work whose producers acknowledge the effect that programming like this can have on young minds.

Do the heimlich!

At this point, we all know that Song of the Sea has received an Oscar nomination along with a lineup of other impressive films to make what is probably the strongest Best Animated Feature list in the category’s history. It doesn’t mean much since, let’s face it, Hollywood treats the medium as a red-headed stepchild of film and automatically votes Disney or Pixar when it can. But it is still nice to know that a movie I enjoyed so much is getting some major recognition. Ben and Saoirse’s story was a lovely piece of storytelling that shows not only the continued strength of traditional 2D animation, but also the power and intrigue of looking back at the folklore and myths of old.

2015
01.17

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, Aldnoah.Zero (wait for it) gets worse. This is not a surprise in the slightest. The time for praise has passed, the era of criticism is upon us. Buckle up.

Aldnoah.Zero 2nd Season is littered with plot-holes from here-on out, as compared to the little plot-hole rips the 1st season tried so very hard to ignore. One scene from the 1st season of Aldnoah.Zero completely contradicts a scene from this episode – the scene in question is Slaine’s revival at the hands of Asseylum. Ass-hime, as a member of the Vers royal family, contains the power of Aldnoah, something weaved carefully into their DNA. As Ass-hime performs CPR on the unconscious Slaine, shouldn’t the power of Aldnoah transfer from her to him via saliva, just like it did with Inaho and Ass-hime when he was reviving her? Suddenly, the surprise other Vers princess, Lemrina Vers Envers (the half-sister of Asseylum Vers Allusia that was never even mentioned in the 1st season), blesses Slaine with the power of Aldnoah in this episode to conveniently power his Kataphrakt, the Tharsis. Not only does this plot-hole leave the viewer confused, why wasn’t Lemrina mentioned at all in the 1st season if she is this important in this season? It wasn’t convenient, that’s why – it wasn’t convenient because it would leave the stupid plot-twist of Asseylum being in a coma untwisted right at the start of the show. Also, her character was probably never designed before the 2nd season began production – Lemrina was never shown in the 1st season’s promotional art.

Nothing of extreme importance was shown in this episode, apart from Slaine realizing his lover(?) Inaho had somehow survived a bullet to the skull, which was right at the end of the episode to create suspense for the next thrilling installment! He only realizes this due to Inaho still being silly and using an orange Kataphrakt, somehow ignoring the fact that he became infamous due to his acts in the orange robot nineteen months prior. Wouldn’t using a different-coloured Kataphrakt help hide your identity? At least spray-paint it beige, like the rest of your Kataphrakt squadron. At least the reason Inaho recognizing Slaine made sense – finding out the history and ownership of the Tharsis. The power of Aldnoah has not really been explained well throughout the show’s run, despite the fact it is the series’ namesake – Aldnoah.Zero. The zero part means nothing, while the Aldnoah part could mean something – but the show just simply uses the ability to power ships and robots, nothing else. The quality that Aldnoah can save a person’s life is poorly explained, and how Aldnoah can be transferred from a Martian to a Terran is terribly explained as well.

The character treatment of the show is questionable too. Inko, Inaho’s best friend(?), is reduced to a tsundere, which isn’t much of an insult because she didn’t have much character or purpose in the show at all. Rayet Areash, the dark horse of the original season alongside Marito (her attempted murder of Asseylum, even thought it was without warrant, is why), is wasted, and now may as well serve as a female character only included due to her gender. Marito is nowhere to be seen. If he has died, why did everyone else survive? Why would the show kill of its only interesting, almost 3-dimensional character, even if he only was used to provide a backstory for Saazbaum’s wife and therefore, his motive? Why am I asking so many questions? Answer me, Aldnoah.Zero. Answer me. Promise me Marito shall return. Also, promise me you’ll explain why Lemrina hates her lineage and genetic prowess soon.

The animation and CG of this episode is startling in comparison to how decent the original season looked. The CG lingers on PS1 FMV quality at times, and sometimes the facial expressions of the characters look weird and off-putting. The OP and ED of this season seems much less palatable than the OP and ED of the first season did – and I do hate to repeat myself, but Eir Aoi’s song GENESIS just doesn’t sound nice. I also hate to repeat the fact that Black Song, her song for Drakengard 3, is by miles her best song. Listen to that instead. The OP, &Z by HiroyukiSawano[nzK]:mizuki, does not match the original duo song’s A/Z and aLIEz in any way. The ED art also looks like it is bad fan-art given a watercolour filter. The show repeatedly tries to ram the conflict between Inaho and Slaine down our throats, despite the fact they have literally only met twice in person – and Inaho’s reason for striking Slaine down after their joint-attack against [insert Vers Kataphrakt here] in episode 7 has no decent motive behind it. The conflict just feels forced. This entire show feels forced. The 2nd season feels completely different from the already bad 1st season – just like how Evangelion 3.0 feels completely different to 1.0 and 2.0. Change can be good, but not when change is unnecessary and can survive without it. Anime is often a victim to this.

It appears that the Kataphrakts join and launch together in a similar fashion to how the Gardes of Knights of Sidonia do. Speaking of which, I recommend anyone reading this (if there is anyone out there) to watch Knights of Sidonia, an actual breath of fresh air to the mecha genre. Aldnoah.Zero may as well be a big advertisement for good mecha shows, especially Sidonia.

Go watch it. It’s on Netflix. Treat yourself, you deserve it.

2015
01.14

Absolute Duo

Yeah, that's the same face I made when I watched Yuri Kuma Arashi!

New year, new season, new clusterfuck! Will we see any real improvement over last year’s fresh supply of flaming crap? Sadly no, as Absolute Duo feels like a sloppy seconds of all that went wrong in 2014. Magic school? CHECK. Weird girls from made-up European countries? CHECK. Yoshitsugu Matsuoka? CHEEEEEEECK. Well I sure picked a winner?!? DOUBLE CHECK AND MATE SUCKAH!

In Jolly Old England (at least I think it is, Big Ben makes an appearance in the first two minutes), there is a school for magic where A: the entrance exam is to smack the shit out of the person sitting next to you, B: the headmaster is clearly Kuroneko after she went insane due to Kirinosuke, C: your home room teacher is an insane maid/Playboy bunny hybrid, and D: there is no D. Our Generic Yoshitsugu Matsuoka Protagonist (GYMP) is the rather unfortunately named Thor, a well mannered boy from Japan who has come to this school to learn how to use his soul generated magic weaponry for good. Problem being said weaponry is a shield instead of a sword making him something of a…wait for it…irregular at this magic high school! AHAHAHAHAHAHA godIhatethisseasonalready.

Meanwhile there’s also a white haired girl with no personality named Julie he’s been pared to be his soulmate. They end up bunking together and drinking tea and that’s the episode. No really that’s it. Even less happens in this than both Mahouka and Trinity Seven. Not sure how that worked.

Absolute Duo’s main defining characteristic is it doesn’t have one. This show is as generic as generic gets which is utterly unsurprising due to its increasingly banal magic school genre. Seriously, we had like 10 of these in the last two years. And to various degrees, they all sucked, save for Magi: The Kingdom of Magic which isn’t a magic school show as much as it is a battle shonen which had one arc set a magic school. This show falls squarely in the middle. Its not nearly as insufferable as Mahouka or Magical Warfare, but it also doesn’t even remotely try to do anything with its concept ala Witchcraft Works. It just is. It exists but doesn’t do anything to justify its existence. In a way, that’s kinda worse. At least Unbreakable Machine Doll had its sheer annoyance factor make it distinctive (THIS IS NOT A POSITIVE). Absolute Duo?…nothing. Absolutely nothing. — Lord Dalek

Aldnoah.Zero 2nd Season

BETRAYAL!!!!!

In a perfect world, I would be excited for another cour of Aldnoah.Zero. In a perfect world, Gen Urobuchi would have delivered on his promise of an old school style giant robot show that still managed to bring new ideas to the table. In a perfect world, we’re not in Iraq, the Republicans did not win the Senate and lost the House last November, the College Football Playoff was a thing from 13 years ago, and I can find Tim’s Cascade Hot Jalapeno Potato Chips at my local Kroger.

Alas, this is not a perfect world and Aldnoah.Zero is still utter shit.

I tried, oh lord did I try to like season one, but no. Once Cruhteo started whipping and Slaine started shooting, there was no salvation. In a year where the Urobucher’s reputation was kicked down a couple of notches (Kamen Rider Gaim excepted), A.Z was arguably the worst of the lot, if only because Urobuchi sorta worked on it (as opposed to how Tow Ubokata fucked over Psycho-Pass 2) and Ei Aoki clearly did. But that doesn’t matter now, none of that matters. We have arrived at season two, no hope necessary, this show is irredeemably awful and the gloves are coming off.

So where were we? Oh yeah. Nobody died! That whole kill-em-all ending? Thrown right out the window. Saucebomb was only mostly dead, Eggy’s back with robot eyes because why the hell not, and Slaine now has his precious Asseylum stored away in a cryogenic tube which he spends every night fingering himself looking at. I wish was making this up. I wish… Otherwise, its been 19 months and the crew of Space Battleship Otomamay (now reduced to the ones we don’t remember + crazy strangler girl) are soaking up the sun at the beach. But suddenly a mean old VERS Kataphrakt with freezing powers appears and makes their beach party into a snowman building competition in t-minus! Since every other Earth millitary guy has been awful to date, who could be the only one to show up and save the day but…OH FUCK HIM FUCK HIM WITH AN WHISK!

What’s left to say? There is no light at the end of this tunnel. Only the unintentional comedy keeps me going. Will the last fried egg please turn out the light. — Lord Dalek

Assassination Classroom

Touch, sweet touch

The most notable moment of the first episode of AssClass for me was the lengthy conversation I had with Mahou in regards to the confusion we had over the gender of the main protagonist. This, my friends, is Nagisa.

Believe it or not that’s actually a guy!….somehow. It was literally the only thing we got from watching this 24 minute exercise in drab shonenshit tedium. Way to go Kishi, you somehow managed to distract us from the rest of your shitty show by posing difficult questions we did not want to answer.

As for the rest of Assassination Classroom, well its all about the Sensei. He is literally the only interesting character in the show and it makes me wonder why the show should be about trying to kill KoroSensei rather then KoroSensei trying to kill everybody else. The problem is that concept would simply turn the show into Battle Royale and everybody would simply complain to Shonen Jump that this is a blatant ripoff instead of a “subtle” one. Frankly I’ll take entertainment over attempts to protect “originality” any day thank you very much.

So what does one say about Assassination Classroom? Nothing. It is about as lame as the lamest anime Shonen Jump has produced and boy howdy was that lame. Already have I forgotten what I watched about it. In fact I no longer even remember what I just typed. — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

Yusei Matsui’s Assassination Classroom was virtually an overnight success when it started serialization in Weekly Shonen Jump in 2012. In fact, it is easily one of it’s most popular currently running titles, regularly competing with One Piece for the #1 spot in the magazine and a mainstay in the top 5, not to mention being one of the highest selling manga in general for the last two years, which are no small feats. No doubt you’ve heard of the series before, or you’ve at least seen Korosensei’s smiling face somewhere while surfing the internet. So the question is – does this anime live up to the hype?

I’d say “no,” myself. However, don’t get the wrong idea here. I’ll tell you right now that I am a fan of this series. In fact, right now I’d say it is one of two currently-running weekly manga that I look the most forward to reading every week, alongside Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches (which will be getting an anime adaption this spring). That said, most shonen series take a while to pick up steam and Assassination Classroom is no exception. That isn’t to say it started at a low point and made me go “why the hell is this popular?,” like how I found The Seven Deadly Sins for the first three volumes. Rather, despite the weird premise, it plays out as a pretty straightforward “unorthodox teacher helps troubled students” and “friendship and teamwork rah rah rah” series for a while and wasn’t particularly hilarious or interesting in the execution of that. Eventually when the series moves away from that and more plot threads start getting set up and some of the characters start getting development the series picks up a lot of steam, and by the time the “Island Time” arc ended I was pretty much sold on the series, but the early stuff is still a slow burn. That makes going back and watching this first episode after reading the superb “God of Death” arc for the past four months kind of jarring for me. Especially seeing things like Nagisa being kind of a whiny pushover and Terasaka being a jerk-ass bully, it just makes me go “wow, this series has come a long way, huh?”

But enough about the manga, we’re here to talk about the anime adaption right? Well, this first episode is a pretty straightforward adaption of the first chapter of the manga and the set-up is pretty simple. It’s also just one of those first episodes with a lot of exposition that’s honestly kind of boring outside of a moment or two. I can also see some people going “why?” at some things like the fact the government is letting a class 9th graders deal with killing a monster that blew up the bloody moon and such, but it’s something you just have to go “fuck it” and see where it’s going with it. What makes Assassination Classroom‘s premise interesting, and probably what drew a lot of people to it, is that first, it’s essentially about kids trying to kill their teacher. Who didn’t ever fantasize about doing that at some point in their childhood? Second, it’s a light commentary on the japanese education system. As cartoonishly mean-spirited as the teachers and other students came across here, the idea behind Class E and the general treatment of the subject is actually decent satire for a shonen series, and as it goes on more interesting things are played with it.

The third and probably the most important factor to AC’s popularity is, clearly, Korosensei himself. His smiling yellow face and small beady eyes, frolicking tentacles, playful attitude, and a spot-on performance by Jun Fukuyama is easily the most entertaining thing in this first episode. Korosensei is just a fun character in general and what helped keep me reading through the early chapters of the series. The fact that he plays both the villain and the mentor figure to the students also makes for an interesting dynamic. He is both the one who is looking out the most for them and pushing them to do and be their best, while at the same time he’s threatening to blow up the planet and kill their families if they rub him the wrong way, and they only have a year to off the guy before he delivers on his threat. Of course, as a villain Korosensei is fairly transparent. It’s pretty obvious that his real goal is to help out the students of Class E and the whole blowing up the moon thing was just a means to an end in order to do that. No, this isn’t something that’s been revealed in later chapters of the manga or anything, this is just the obvious observation I made the first time I read the first chapter and comes off no less obvious in this first episode. Not to say the flashback scene weakens the effectiveness of him as a character, but it’s something you just instinctively go “yeah, I know where this is going” when you see it.

Production-wise this turned out better than you might think of a Seiji Kishi-directed anime. I don’t have anything against the man myself, since I’ve barely seen any of his stuff besides Carnival Phantasm (which I quite liked), but I watched a few episodes of that Hamatora show he did last year, which was pretty shitty looking among other things, and the bits I have seen of some of his other stuff like Daganronpa didn’t look all that hot either. AC looks pretty decent though, with nice color design and staging and stuff, much better than I thought it would from the previews. What’s really lacking is the super stiff and obvious minimal as possible animation, which is really a drag to see at times. The OST is pretty forgettable too. I suppose the opening does kinda stick out, but mostly in a “what the hell am I watching?” kind of way more than anything else (I generally like it when the main characters of a series sing the opening/ending themes, though).

Overall the presentation isn’t particularly good or bad, but it works all right. I said before I don’t think AC lives up to it’s hype, and that’s because for as popular and hyped as it is, if you were to just judge it by this first episode it doesn’t seem all that special. Still, this is a competently made adaption and I have no doubt the series is going to pick up more fans and popularity because of it. Considering the first volume of the manga has stayed in the New York Times best selling manga list for 4 weeks now, I have a pretty good feeling that Korosensei is about to take the american anime fandom by storm, if not the world.  Some people will probably just be bored for the first few episodes while the series is still in it’s “Korosensei helps a kid find what they are good at” phase and might as well skip it, but most will probably like the series just fine as it is, and only better as it goes on. — Cartoon X

Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!

His reaction to the glasses kid.

Well that was boring. I expected something far sillier, and only got people discussing the ingredients to make Japanese stew. Half of the episode is “Chikuwabu is the element of Oden” and “Chikuwabu is nothing on its own”, and while I know what they’re getting at by using the food as allegory, this show spends too much time and feels as meandering as hearing Araragi speak. Maybe it’s a cultural divide because I had to google the ingredient names, but this makes 5-minute scenes feel like half an episode. I just get constant re-iterations on food, and how to make such food, and why the food won’t be complete without special care. People predicted that anime fans would be mad over the magical boys part, but I suspect they’ll be more annoyed by the culinary allusions. They even fight a food monster themed around their Chikuwabu discussion, and it’s not exactly poetry for their discussions to drift into that. I expected more wit from the School Rumble guy.

I get the sense (and from looking at the show’s pedigree) that it wants to be witty and subversive, but that all falls apart because it’s 2015. Clichés like calling out your attacks and doing Sailor Moon poses have been called out for years. Do you think you’re the first ever show to acknowledge how stupid magical girl shows can be? It’s like those books that pretend to be breaking story conventions when they’re guilty of even more clichés than the series they’re parodying. Maybe this show would’ve been an interesting shock to the status quo of magical girl shows in 2002 at the latest. The tropes it mocks are ones that even PreCure barely touches nowadays. The average episode of Aikatsu has more self-awareness of its genre than this. When the show has little in the way of humor other than “Wouldn’t it be funny if guys wore dresses?”, it feels quaint. That’s what I can say for this show. It’s quaint. — Bloody Marquis

Second Opinion!

I don’t know what to make of this show. I didn’t even know this was a show until at least a week ago, and only three days ago I was informed it was to start broadcasting this season. I would have prefered it stay in the dark until it developed an identity, because Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! was a big dump of dull.

You see, a magical boy show is something the anime industry has neglected. It’s a idea that could be well handeled if exploited correctly. However, Adorable Secondary Ground Protection Organisation LUST! or whatever it was called doesn’t blend well, nor does it bode well for its future. It appears to be a show aware of its premise, and tries to be satirical with it, but ends up failing due to not being able to properly convey this self-identity awareness – simply discussing how stupid the power of love sounds does not equal satire. In the end, it just falls into place with any other typical magical boy/girl show. I’d like this idea if it was placed into more capable hands.

I don’t know what to write about this show, either. It left a bland taste in my mouth, and when the episode finished, I completely forgot that I had watched it. This is not helped by the fact the show isn’t very pleasing to the eye. It appears to be the show production studio Diomedea put the least effort into, considering they are producing three shows this season along with LOVE! (Kantai Collection: KanColle, Unlimited Fafnir, and World Break being the other shows). The character designs are normal. The music is normal. I hate to say it, but this show is normal, and with such bland normality, comes forgetableness. Can this show pull itself together? Who knows, but I hope they stop talking about chikuwabu and the significance of it, because the introduction to the episode made me feel like I was watching the latest installment of Monogatari. Chikuwabugatari.

I think this show tries to use shock value to create humour. ‘Seeing a male high-school student in a magical boy outfit should create laughs, right?’ is probably a thought the writer of the show had in his head. Watching a pink wombat with a croaky voice discuss the powers of love isn’t as funny as I would like. They didn’t even make the wombat look cute. Some dude has skin-coloured eyes, too. I’m so disappointed with this show now.

Also, why the hell are Nagisa Hazuki and Utena Tenjou in this show?  Utena deserved better. — Mahou Shounen

Death Parade

I'm the goddamn Batman!!!

…well that was a thing.

Death Parade is probably the most anticipated show of the season, and for once, it doesn’t actually disappoint! This show is absolutely ridiculous, teetering precariously between uncomfortable social commentary and sick and twisted black comedy. Its as if somebody at Madhouse spent the entire night watching the old Amicus Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror movies from the 70s and went “Hey! Lets make THIS into an anime.” And yes I am well aware of the source material this was derived from, a one off short from two years ago where a couple of guys played a game of pool to the death, but I couldn’t remember for the life of me what it was about (no thanks to Trigger) so… NYAH!

Here’s the plot. Play darts or you die! Nah that’s too simple. A pair of newlyweds find themselves in Quindecim, a creepy bar run by a taciturn man with no memory of how they got there. The reason for their purpose here, to play a game of death. The winner gets to leave, the loser hung out back in a meat locker (not kidding!). As the episode progresses, we get to learn a little more about our couple and the secrets of their past which of course seriously influences the course of the game. And if you’ve seen one of the aforementioned Amicus horror flicks then you can guess where this is going. The two are actually already dead and the game decides who gets to go to heaven or hell…or does it?

Death Parade is an anthology show so there’s really no point in trying to get aquainted with the characters. Instead its all about the atmosphere and that atmosphere is nothing but uncomfort and dread. Madhouse nails it perfectly and it really gets you into the show, especially coming off a very strange and almost comedic opening that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the show at all (doesn’t make it any less awesome though). For once, I’m actually interested in where a show is going to go this season.  Good for you Madhouse! — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

Death Parade is another step in the right direction for Madhouse, after the dark years of the company suffering with a case of ‘bad anime production’. With Parasyte: the maxim and Death Parade in hand, and many promising shows in the future announced, can Madhouse fully redeem itself and enter the inevitable Madhouse Renaissance?

Based off the 2013 Anime Mirai short Death Billiards (also animated by Madhouse), Death Parade maintains the original concept of a death game and introduces new games such as darts (as featured in this episode) to the table. In this installment, a newly-married couple arrives at the bar Queen Dequim, the setting of the show, and they meet the enigmatic bartender and main protagonist, Dequim. Dequim is a silent, serious man who oversees the Death Games and ultimately decides their winner in secret. As the couple play to be freed, terrible secrets emerge as the game reaches its climax.

Death Parade is a stylish-looking show, with an interesting colour palate full of moody and dark colours and unique, alluring character designs. Its simple plot is easy to follow, but its straightforward approach is its greatest strength in regards to its story; the show is in complete control of itself, and knows what it is trying to be, giving off a good first impression. Dequim is a cryptic and curious individual, and the show would be in great service to explain more about him later in the series. It appears Death Parade will be a episodic-type series, but with some plot carrying on from episode to episode.

The show without a doubt has the best opening of the season, Flyers by Bradio. The fun feel of the song coupled with energetic animation provides the best introduction to the show, even if the show itself isn’t happy-go-lucky. With the setting of the show being a bar featuring bar games, the music is smooth and full of jazz tracks. This helps improve the mood of the show, making it more atmospheric and similar to a bar in the real world. The animation is handled well, staying on-model throughout the entire episode with more fluid and energetic animation used as the condition of the human characters, Takashi and Machiko, decreases with their breaking psyche.

There is not a lot to say about Death Parade without spoiling it; it is one of the best shows of the Winter 2015 season, a season plagued by mediocre anime. It is highly recommended. — Mahou in the Hole

Dog Days”

Chinky SueMe

It’s a dark terror that has haunted me for over two years. Dog Days was about as derivative as you could get but it wasn’t the worst thing 2011 can and did offer. The following year’s Dog Days’ on the other hand was a shameless pile of the most awkward trashy fanservice ever devised by human hands and just the mention of it triggers my gag reflex. And then… the announcement of a third season in 2013…oh god. But then, nothing came of it! A whole year went by with no sign of Dog Days 3 and then another! It seemed like Masaki Tsuzuki had finally lost interest in his product and was ready to move. Alas October came and Dog Days” was finally anounced. Oh god why….

Well let’s get this over with. When we last left bland idiot git Shinku Izumi, he spent a rather uneventful summer in Flognard with his not-girlfriend Becky and annoying bitch cousin Nanami which ended with a lot of creepers and not much else. Three months later, they’re back again but not before a freak bolt of lightning sends Shinku and Nanami off course to the Dragon Forest instead of Biscotti and Gallette respectively. So instead of dealing with the usual losers, our pair of erstewhile heroes has to deal with new jerk Sharu and a slew of dinosaurs. How will they survive?!?

One does not expect quality from the Dog Days franchise so I was honestly surprised to have what could be considered a return to “form” for it. Oh it’s still not good at all but after the nightmare fuel that was Dash, its nice to see Masami Tsuzuki is at least TRYING this season to do something with his lameass Final Fantasy fanwank. Apparently those two years off did help stew some ideas around that black hole of quality. Does that mean anything though? No not really. Soon or later we’re going to get back to the usual waste of Shinku getting shoved into Yukikaze’s rack, or Nanami stroking Leonmitcheli’s erogenous zones, or those damn tentacles *shudder*. In which case, I will not be the last to say “See I told you so!” — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

Dalek requested I legitimately put time and effort into writing about the first episode of this series (pfft!), presumably because it’s one of his favorites or something. Doing so is certainly better than the alternative of dressing up as Shinku and twerking to the theme tune for him, so I suppose I’m happy to oblige.

Everything about this show is pain. The visuals, writing, voice acting, even the fucking title are horrendous. Dog Days Double Dash, eh? I didn’t realize this was a Mario Kart spinoff. I suppose the music is alright, but its general competence is made up for by some of the most obnoxious character designs I’ve ever seen. Nearly everyone has little tails that wag to and fro, candy-colored hair, and the sweetest demeanor imaginable, and it’s all about as sickening as supposed cutesy anime gets. And yet, though the first half of this episode tries to be quote kawaii unquote, I’VE SEEN THE TENTACLE RAPE TRANSFORMATION SEQUENCE FROM SEASON 2, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS. NOTHING WILL EVER BE ADORABLE AGAIN.

Ahem. As far as I can tell, most of the main characters are named after food, except for the protagonist, who is named after that thing you wash your hands in. Everyone calls him “Shinku” in the episode proper, but we all know that’s to help him cover the shame he feels over his birth name, Sink. It’s good that there will always be someone nearby to help clean up when this show causes me to vomit uncontrollably, at least.

I’ve come to the conclusion that, after this episode, I’ve seen enough anime. I will never watch or blog about it again. Dog Days” has completely killed my love for the medium. — Foggle

Addendum!

But for real, sorry that my entries for this season’s clusterfuck are so short and insubstantial. I’ve been tired/busy/sick/depressed/other worthless excuses as of late and thus haven’t really had the chance to write much recently. Oh, and Dog Days sucks, but this episode wasn’t that terrible, and was still better than the entirety of the previous two seasons.

Fafner Exodus

So, uh, if Xebec actually made a second season of Fafner, that means the long-awaited Nadesico season 2 can’t be far behind, right? …Right? — Foggle

Gourmet Girl Graffiti

Oooooooh maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-mi!

Ladies and gentlemen, the unholy union of modern anime has finally come upon us. In this corner: Studio SHAFT and director Akiyuki Shinbo, makers of increasingly annoying excursions into godawful style over increasingly disgusting substance. In the other: scriptwriter Mari Okada, purveyor of trite SOL crap and assorted regurgitated fantasy tropes that go nowhere. Truly this will be hell on Earth and there shall be no survivors.

TWENTY THREE MINUTES LATER…

…its not that bad. Hell, Koufuku Graffiti may end up being the most “normal” thing SHAFT has produced in years. I suspect that Okada seems to have reined in Shinbo’s weirdness for the better, and while that might not produce anything not destined to join Mekakucity Actors and Sasami-san@Gabaranai in the SHAFT obscurity bin, it at least makes this show actually WATCHABLE for once.

The plot: moeblobs eat food. …well that was quick. Oh okay, they also ORGASM after eating food because that’s what every moeblob does now when its faced with a mindblowing inarizushi. There’s also something about parental conflicts created by sudden pushes into vegetarianism but that’s window dressing, this show is all about the foodporn. And as Japanese foodporn goes, Graffiti is lodged square in the middle, somewhere inbetween the two extremes of Iron Chef and full-on Tampopo. In typical Okada fashion, this show wants you to think its a yuri but only goes so far before jumping back, so instead of food and uncomfortable underage shoujo-ai, its just food. And I’ll take that. No questions asked.

Now where does that leave Shinbo being Shinbo? Well outside of the prerequisite SHAFT tilts and unmoving plaid/polka dots, the typical SHAFTiness has been considerably reined in. The animation is pretty decent this time and not some conceptual art project ala Monogatari. We’re not forced to read mounds of on-screen text that make no sense and there is not one bit of SHAFT wind. In the end, this could easily have been made by some other studio for once! If that’s a compliment, I don’t know what is. — Lord Dalek

The Idol M@ster Cinderella Girls

It seems to be a running trend throughout the Winter 2015 anime season to think the shows released during the season don’t leave its viewer with long-lasting thoughts or impressions. This running trend has ground, and it always will. This season is one of the weakest in recent years. THE iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls helps support this, by providing a show so full of boredom it sapped my life energy.

This is my first exposure to THE iDOLM@ASTER, and I’d really like it to be the last. I was not very impressed by this episode, as it was dreadfully boring and dull to watch. The idol genre is known for being quite grading to experience, and this is no exception. The animation is standard, the character designs distracting and unappealing, the plot….was there a plot? I think so. I can’t remember. The music is very lovely on the ears though, thanks to MONACA’s musical capabilities.

THE iDOLM@STER is probably a series with a very weird and niche demographic – people who help 15-year old girls become idols, whilst their producer is stern and creepy and follows potential idols around. For me, it was exhausting to watch. For its target demographic, it’s a dream come true.

Just don’t let the glass slipper break while it’s on your foot, making it bleed like no tomorrow. There is no rest for the strong, after all. — m@HOUM@STER

JoJo’s Ludicrous Excursion Part 3: Sunsand Champions Part 2: Arabian Fights

The Death of Anime

I’ve always been weary of the JoJo’s series. A blatant Pokemon ripoff to the core (Iggy is obviously a Sandshrew clone and Jotaro clearly rips off that one monkey thing that kept beating up Ash), with way too much flamboyant manliness for it’s own good, JoJo has become the cancer killing anime and dragging people away from the glorious 90s cartoon master race. The hacks that make this doesn’t even have the dignity to put cute girls in short skirts for us to fap to as we ignore the show itself. Of the one and a half episodes I’ve watched, neither has shown the promise of developing a deep and layered plot. I still don’t fully understand how they travel on those dotted lines on the map. It pails in comparison to similar shows, such as Cow and Chicken or Sonny With A Chance. But I thought that clip from the series final that I saw on Youtube, in which Jotaro smashes some rocks, was the perfect way to end the series.

So I have to ask, why continue? What is the point? Who cares about a Hey Arnold! character farting on people’s faces or this blind African singer? JoJo’s Oddball Vacation worked better when it was contained to just one season. Stretching it out like the shitty shounen it is just makes it worse. And of course the music just gets more and more awful. They couldn’t even get the ending theme right. Like everyone else, I was expecting Demi Lovato’s “Get Back” to be the new ending theme, and like everyone I was incredibly disappointed. Really, “JoJo’s Abnormal Road Trip Part 9 or something” is just a waste of time. I’ve got to check Demi’s Twitter again anyway. — DarkSydePhivator

Second Opinion!

David, you magnificent trolls. Posing/10. — ShadowGentleman

KanColle

There's no way that can be considered suitable fuel for a military vessel.

Based on a wildly popular online card game. Kantai Collection (or Kancolle for short) is about girls that are anthropomorphic reincarnations of World War II battleships fighting demonic sea-monster thingies, and they do this by having guns and missle launchers straped on to them.

Holy fucking shit that is awesome.

Unfortunately instead of focusing on this, the anime chooses to follow newbie shipgirl Fubuki, who has quite possibly the blandest character design I’ve seen from this show, and her slice-of-life antics with her sisters-in-arms, and swooning over her sempai, Akagi (who probably would’ve been a much better protagonist). The SoL segments weren’t necessarily bad, in fact they even had a few good moments for yuri fans such as myself, but I’m much more interested in the “cute anime girls fighting sea-monsters” thing. One could say that the focus on a newcomer character is to introduce the world and characters to non-fans…except that the anime apparently assumes that the viewer is already familiar with the franchise and its characters, thus rendering it as mostly padding for newcomers. The battles, while enjoyable, felt a little too slow-paced and suffered from some poor music direction, one can only hope this was because it was just an introductory episode, and not indicative of what the show will be for its entire run.

Despite all these flaws, I really enjoyed this first episode, despite having not played the card game (though I am interested in checking it out, especially after watching this). Most of the character designs are nice, the OST is pleasant, and the battles are fun. The biggest plus for Kancolle so far (outside of its ridiculously awesome premise) is the animation,  it’s pretty damn easy to tell that the of the three Diomeda shows airing this season, the bulk of their budget went into this show, the show just looks really great and is easily one of the best looking shows of the season, shoddy looking CGI notwithstanding. Sadly it seems I’m in the minority when it comes to liking the Kancolle anime as a non-fan, but whatever. If you like ridiculous premises, yuri undertones, and moe anthropomorphications, then check this out, if not, then you’re probably candy ass.

Also, there are arrows that transform into planes piloted by chibi’s. If that’s not the coolest thing ever then I don’t know what to say to you. — Rynnec

Second Opinion!

After watching the first episode, there are three criteria I assume you must fulfill to enjoy this show:

1) Do you know what KanColle is?
2) Do you care?
3) Have you ever intentionally read a doujin based on it?

If you answered “yes” to all three of these questions, you’ll probably like the anime adaptation. If not, well… you could do worse, I guess. — Foggle

Kuroko’s Basketball Season 3

Don't lie, this is what you're watching for.

If you got excited watching Kuroko play with his balls on both previous occasions, I’m sure you’ll still find it invigorating the third time around. — Foggle

Maria the Virgin Witch

Only reason to watch this show.

Bandai Channel aired this on their website a day before the TV airing, and I can see why they would. Not as like a special sneak peak at their new hit show or any of that nonsense, but like how Nickelodeon shoved Korra into streaming. This show is not something that demands a grand entrance, but one that warrants a quiet exit out of the fire escape. And without the context, it would seem sad. After all, this is Goro Taniguchi’s return to directing after a few years of storyboard slumming. For all of the faults in a show of his that I shan’t name, he was a director that could prove to entertain any viewer. Even if his ideas were stupid, he could pull them off into something interestingly dumb rather than just plain idiocy. S-CRY-ed was really dumb, but I liked watching it all those years ago.

This, however? I like swords-and-sorcery fantasy and all, but this was boring. It only had two seconds of any fantasy before going back to writing more suited for The Waltons. About the only interesting thing in this show is that the main character likes to sleep in the nude. I could compliment this anime and say that it can be decently animated at times, while plodding at the worst moments. I could say that even with all of the boorish storytelling, this is an anime that you could watch as background noise and not feel any discomfort. But then, they reveal how this is an analogue for Joan of Arc’s life, and I think “Really?” You’re going to commit to that, when the knights in this show are as active as Space Invaders? Just tell me when the Gilles de Rais counterpart shows up so I can pretend I’m watching The Caster Show. — Bloody Marquis

The Rolling Girls

Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water.

There are shows and then there’s this show. Its not even a show, its an experience. Its not even an experience really, its a way of life. Its not even an even… It is what it is and what it is is The Rolling Girls. Easily the most bloody insane 24 minutes of animation you’re likely to see in the Winter 2015 season, only Death Parade comes close and even that reins itself in by the end. Rolling Girls by comparison is nothing but sheer energy and joy. When it ends you feel emotionally drained, as if a little brightness in your soul has been snuffed out, just like finding out all your They Might Be Giants LPs are now scratched and don’t play anymore. The Rolling Girls is the true birdhouse in your soul.

So what’s it about? Well I don’t really know. Hell I don’t think Wit Studio knows. They just figured “Fuck it, we’re going to be stuck making Attack on Titan for the rest of our lives, lets out-trigger Trigger!” And on that day, the story of weird mafia prefectorial battles featuring Kamen Rider/Sentai wannabes and Satsuki Kiryuuin clones brandishing giant clothes pins was born. Apparently this also involves girls on motorbikes but this weeks episode mostly focused on competitive ramen eating and random acts of amusement park rollercoaster terrorism. This is what the Rolling Girls is, its not for mere mortals like myself to comprehend. You cannot define it by any form of human concept.

So the question dear reader obviously poses is “Should I watch The Rolling Girls?” Well in the words of a black man in a snakeskin trenchcoat, noone can be told what The Rolling Girls really is and you have to see it for yourself. The difference being that this is already 10x better than any flick the Wachowski siblings have spewed out in the 15 years since Neo bent backwards. And perhaps far more inspiring as well! — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

So Joseph Joestar walks into a bar high on LSD and ends up having drunken sex with Ryuko Matoi. The resulting child is raised by Samurai Flamenco, befriends Space Sheriff Shaider, and goes to Amagi Brillent Park. This show is that child. This show is every anime I’ve liked in recent times shoved into one show. This show is amazing. — ShadowGentleman

Saekano -How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend-

Shows who believe that making fun of shows with certain aspects makes them better or more enjoyable are the worst kinds of anime out there. Saekano: How To Raise a Boring Girlfriend makes this mistake within its very first minute, and it goes downhill from there. By explaining the things wrong with modern-day anime and then doing the exact thing it was mocking is not only hypocritical, but painfully unamusing. Saekano is not your comedy anime this season, and it never will be. A-1 Pictures has raised a boring anime.

The show follows a group of friends who take part in a doujin circle – in this opening episode, the team are scouting for areas and scenarios for their Winter Comiket game. Hijinks ensue, such as ping pong and hot river fanservice. That’s the entire episode. Fun, huh?

I honestly don’t have a lot to say about this show, mostly because it was too boring to register a thought beyond ‘wow, this is boring’. The show flaunts around fanservice like an incentive to keep watching it, whilst the character designs look too boring to be seen as different. The characters themselves are boring, too. Every aspect regarding this show’s existence is too mundane, too dull, and again, too boring. Boring really sums it up, so the title lives up to itself in one regard. Also, Utaha Kasumigaoka looks Sayumi Takahashi from Inou-Battle, a show which also tried too hard to be seen as something it’s not.  Why do some anime try too hard?

That’s all I got. Saekano is dull, uninspired and unintelligent. Stay away. — Maehouno

Shonen Hollywood -Holly Stage for 50-

I seriously wish I couldn't.

Shounen Hollywood? Shit, man, if I wanted to watch an idol show, I’d… stop and think very hard about what had happened in my life to make me legitimately consider doing so. — Foggle

Tantei Opera Milky Holmes TD

Quite.

As a recent long term Sherlock Holmes, I was rather worried about viewing this particular Japanese illustrated moving picture. This is understandable, given the Japanese races’ perchance for taking respectable literary works and transforming them into escapist reveries populated by prepubescent females. I must very relived to discover that this story dealt not with pedophilic flights of fancy, but instead with the often overlooked problems facing werewolves in future society. Our dear Holmes had managed to preserve himself into the distant future, where he set it upon himself to continue his duty. Like any good Holmes series, nothing is ever quite what it seems. The case I witnessed started with a run-of-the-mill lover’s quarrel soon develops into something more: a man who is transformed into a hideous beast by his own experiments. Never have I seen such an emotional merry-go-round, juggling the concepts of love, faithfulness, humanity, and and questioning one’s very being with great ease. This may not only be one of the best renditions of the Holmes mythos in recent years (surely better then that dreadful production starring the dragon and the elf), but one of the best pieces of entertainment currently available. I give it my highest recommendation. — Timothy Bourbon Belmonte III

The Testament of Sister New Devil

...you wish.

You ever have that feeling of Deja Vu? That sensation that you’ve watched a show 20 times in the last year already? Well that’s this show. Testament of Sister New Devil is yet another europhane bag of Ecchi trash from the TNK-wannabes at IMS, but one that’s completely biodegradable and made out of 99.999999999% recycled materials! The character designs are borderline retraces from other shows. The plot is clearly derived from either some random light novel generator or an edition of Mad Libs. The music is the clinical definition of “background”. There is literally nothing to say about it because I’ve already written or said the same thing about shows like Bladedance and DxD which this show is so desperate to ape, but try I must…

Ok so there’s this normal guy and his dad is getting remarried. That means normal guy has to spend time with his new stepsister and her, oddly unrelated, live-in help. But this being anime SHOCK! sister is actually the daughter of some demon lord and the live-in help is actually some lame Disgaea reject! Their attempts at brainwashing normal guy go horribly awry when it turns out he’s actually the descendent of god warriors or something! What kind of wacky hijinx will ensue between these three?!? (cue the music)

This show is the pits. If it was slightly more revolting or at least tried to have a sense of humor about itself, I might have had SOMETHING to write about. As it stands, Testament is the essence of tedium. It only exists to be part of your hazy memory as you wait for something else to come on like that boat girls on waterskis thing. And in that regard it is probably the most representative example of the anime industry in general now. Sorry Shirobako, you are no longer pertinent. — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH- yeah, no. — Foggle

Unlimited Fafnir

For those who aren’t up on their Wagnerian opera (or at least its greatest “fanfic”, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings), let’s have a history lesson. In Das Rheingold, Fafnir is the name of a giant who (along with his brother Fassolt) is shammed into building Valhalla by Wotan with the promise of receiving the apple maiden Freya as his payment. After renegging on the deal, Wotan instead provides the two giants with a huge pile of lucre he has aquired from the dwarves of Nibelheim. However there’s one small trinket missing, a (or rather THE) Ring that the evil dwarf Albrecht has forged out of the Rheingold that makes other due his bidding. When Wotan is forced to relinquish it as well, the two giants fight each other for it with Fafnir ultimately killing Fassolt. In the end, he uses The Ring to transform into a dragon and then spends Die Walkure chilling out in his cave with his huge stash o’cash before finally getting what’s coming to him by way of Siegfried and his recently reforged sword Nortung.

….what does this have anything to do with Unlimited Fafnir? Well in typical light novel Ring Cycle obsession, not much outside of weirdly appropriated window dressing. In this show, 25 years ago, dragons began to attack the earth before vanishing without a trace. 23 years later, the dragons return, however their first appearance has had a lingering effect on the population. Children known as “D”, all having tatoos in the shape of a wing, and all sporting the same magic powers as the dragons are beginning to pop up in the world. The funny thing is, they’re all girls (and tsunderes to boot) except for one… and he’s a GYMP… goddammit this is just Absolute Duo again isn’t it?

I can’t believe it, this is the same goddamn show I watched last Tuesday except with more stupid technobable and 100% more dubst-OH GOD ITS MAHOUKA TOO NOW ISN’T IT?!?! Yeah anime is so far out of ideas that the well has already gone dry for the stupid magic school genre and its only been around for about five years. Obviously this is Diomedea’s way of scoring a cheap quick cash-in before that tract gets drained but the milkshake’s already been drunk. No shits were given by I for this shit. — Lord Dalek

World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman

Have you seen Unlimited Fafnir? Yes? Then you’ve seen World Break. — Foggle

Yatterman Night

Ya got bubbles in ya tailpipe!

Yatterman Night begins with a rather charming scene featuring the utter obliteration of the human race leaving a scarred wasteland and a moon now reshapen to look like a creepy skull!…oh dear. Yes friends, Tatsunoko’s clearly gone off the deep end once again in order to “celebrate” the “anniversary” of one its beloved properties! In this case, its the endlessly regurgitated monstrosity that is Time Bokan, a quote-unquote classic metaseries whose existance is only known to various oldfags, Mike Toole, and Pokemon trivia masters. For the record, I have watched Time Bokan and found its the clinical definition of godawful, no wonder why Tatsunoko hasn’t been leaping at the prospect of letting Sentai dub it (as opposed to their awesomely terrible/terribly awesome Gatchaman dub). Yatterman Night should therefore naturally be an update of the second and most popular (to the point that its the only one Japan remembers) Time Bokan series, which is a bit strange because we already HAD that 7 years ago. And for what its worth, Yatterman 2008 completely thrashes the original show in both humor and quality control. As for this show, well its sort of the midpoint between those two other weird Tatsunoko updates, Casshern Sins and Gatchaman Crowds in that it basically radically updates/distorts an old 70s shonen anime for better or worse. There are, however, two differences…

A. The original Yatterman (or the 2008 remake at least) is still acknowledged canon in this series

and

B. This show’s actually good!

No I am not kidding. After two failed attempts bogged down by abstract weirdness/Kenji Nakamura not giving a shit, its refreshing to see Tatsunoko finally make one of their dark preversion seqmakes work. For one, the animation is incredibly pleasing on the eyes. The character designs, while nothing to write home about, don’t look like either stained glass windows or bad fan art. The backgrounds capture the barren and lifeless world the Doronbo gang has been cast out into better than endless flat deserts and rocks. And it seems quite a bit of money has been thrown at the framerate keeping it fairly fluid. But more to the point, Yatterman Night basically does what anybody whose watched the original Yatterman has been thinking for years, Gan-chan and Ai were bigger dicks than Doronjo, Tonzura, and Boyacky combined therefore THEY should be the villains. And in this show they are, or at least their descendents are, the exact chronology of how long this is set after the original show is never stated but it appears a few centuries have past, at least.

As for the characters, an 9-year-old Doronjo, fairly clean shaven Boyacky, and pumped-up Tonzura…well if this was written like previous Tatsunoko updates, I would be complaining about how they were either a bunch of whiny cyphers or utterly useless, but not this Doronbo gang. They have personalities, their backstory is appropriately tragic, they want revenge for a reason. And you’re rooting for them. I could never say that about Hajime, oh lord no.

In many ways Yatterman Night feels like the show I wished I was blogging two years ago with Gatchaman Crowds. One only hopes they don’t hit me with crushing disappointment sooner rather than later. — Lord Dalek

Yurikuma Arashi

Quentin Tarantino’s Brother Bear

I wonder if this is the director’s statement against a certain show, one where humans also defend themselves against creatures that can transform into humans by building a wall as a barrier. Maybe it’s a message on how ridiculous the premise is when you replace one look with another, turning an apocalyptic setting into a 70s shojo wonderland, though I can’t help but think teddy bears with blurry eyes are no more silly as a satire than the genuine product could deliver. Perhaps this is all a test on one’s perception of seriousness. Can scenes like a court case retain their gravity when the judge and jury all wear bear mittens and bear ears?

But I don’t expect an answer on that, or anything. Given the creator’s pedigree, I just expect more lesbians. There will be so much subtext that on-screen scissoring would look quaint. You could show this at a gay pride festival, and the audience will give odd looks. Try it in a few months when parade season starts. I dare you. It would drive the men in Divine costumes in shame, unable to come up with something as garish in their lifetimes as what Ikuhara can make in a fortnight. Even when it’s not about lesbians, this episode is so noisy. There’s so much talking and repeated phrases, a second of no dialogue probably seems like complete anathema to the production staff. It’s a constant barrage of the senses without shame, without question, and without apology.

One thing I really love about Ikuhara is that ability to create elaborate and downright stupid scenes without any hint of self-awareness to them. Any other creator would do Yuri Bear Storm with either a snarky remark or a shameful reliance on censors to hide the really naughty bits. Ikuhara, however, doesn’t care about that. There’s nothing tongue-in-cheek to his work. When he does something stupid, it’s not with a wink but with a burlesque dance. He doesn’t care if making girls lick another girl’s orchid on her groin will lower or raise BD sales. He just does it because it tickles his fetishes. It’s the same reason why the entire car scene from Adolescence of Utena happened, or the Survival Strategy. Although, I suppose that’s why it takes him years at a time to make an anime. — Bloody Marquis

Second Opinion!

Only Toonami

Yuri Bear Storm is the latest anime by Kunihiko Ikuhara of Revolutionary Girl Utena fame. The plot, as it were, takes place in a pseudo post-apocalyptic (?) earth after a meteor storm caused by the destruction of a planet named Kumaria caused the bears on earth to become violent and attack humans. Fearing for their lives, humanity built a giant wall between them and the bears to prevent further attack, however, two bears named Giriko and Lulu disguise themselves as humans and enroll in one of their schools to feast on their homo-sapien snacks. Our story follows Kureha Tsubaki, a girl who has a strong hatred for bears and practices killing them in her spare time. Soon after Giriko and Lulu transfer, tragedy strikes when Kureha’s girlfriend becomes a victim of a bear attack.

This show is weird, to put it mildly. Being a single-cour, Ikuhara has opted to go straight into mindscrew territory, with some erotic imagery thrown in for good measure. That being said, I am liking this anime so far, and am very curious to see where it goes, everything about this show is just so bizarre that I can’t help but be drawn to it. It may seem weird on the surface, but naturally theories behind the meaning of the shows plot have already popped, and given the directors track record, I wouldn’t be surprised if these theories turned out to be legit. If you like mindscrew anime and Ikuhara’s previous works, then this will be your show of the season. — Rynnec

Third Opinion!

We have reached a point of no return. My opinions regarding Lily Bear Storm cannot be expressed in words, a thing I thought not possible. Laughter, surprise, me shouting ‘what the hell?!’ and more laughter accurately sum up my experience of Lily Bear Storm, both episodes 1 and 2. It’s a bear shock, and you have to watch it. That is all. — Mahou SHOCK

One Hundred And Twenty-Ninth Opinion!

This installment of the clusterfuck is rather unique and requires a different kind of article… — Lord Dalek

2015
01.11

There was once a time where I liked and appreciated Aldnoah.Zero. That time has since passed, and new feelings have emerged to replace this, such as deep self-loathing, extreme embarrassment and undeniable shame.

With the 1st season’s ending, the show ended on a climatic and somewhat unexpected note – Slaine murdering Inaho after Saazbaum murdered Asseylum. However, the hilarious nature of that ending has since been intensified with this latest episode of ‘Katsuhiko Takayama should stick to writing shota hentai’, aka “This Side of Paradise”, the glamorous return of one of last year’s most disappointing shows.

Nineteen months after her apparent murder, Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia announces her wish for her fellow Martians to murder the Terran population of Earth. Slaine Troyard has since aligned with Saazbaum, Inaho Kaizuka is nowhere to be seen, and the rest of the United Forces of Earth are wasting time until their next assault against the Vers Empire. This quaint atmosphere is ruined by the appearance of a Kataphrakt with the power to turn the environment into pure ice, and a new Vers princess being introduced – a princess who hates the power of Aldnoah flowing through her veins. Unfortunately, various plot twists regarding these new events can be guessed before the show has chance to tell the viewers, and even then, spoiling your plot twists right at the start of your show can have a detrimental effect to both pacing and mystery.

As you can guess, our favourite little egg, Inaho, has survived a bullet to the skull, and so has Asseylum! As a result of this, Inaho now has a robotic eye, and Ass-hime is stuck in cryogenic status, with Slaine Floeard as her romantic Mr. Freeze. This twist to the 1st season’s ending comes off as insulting, but also unintentionally comical. The survival of Ass-hime will probably have no proper explanation, and if it does, no intellectual or understandable explanation that only makes sense to those who completely ignore common sense – and there lies our confusion and humour. However, through Inaho performing CPR on Ass-hime while she was unconscious after being strangled by pink-haired not-Martian (Rayet Areash), he has inherited the power of Aldnoah and managed to survive before surgery was performed on him. I honestly don’t know how that works either. Was it her spit, her blood, or some random semen? Shouldn’t the bullet Slaine shot at him rupture through his eye and through his brain?

Aldnoah.Zero had a promising start, thanks to the participation of Gen Urobuchi, a writer famed for his interesting take on genres. The ending of the 1st season tried so hard to copy that trope Urobuchi had become famous for; and for a while, it almost succeeded. With the announcement the show was split-cour, and when advertisements featuring Asseylum and Inaho started to emerge, the love for the ending slowly faded and was replaced with contempt. The 2nd season would benefit if Inaho stayed dead, and instead focused on Slaine, who was abused in the 1st season, whilst Inaho was fellated without rhyme or reason. Inaho was never an interesting character, and even though he actually begins to show emotion in this episode, it was utterly startling how people could relate or emote to his character, and chances are nothing will change in this season in regards to my opinion of him.

Aldnoah.Zero 2nd Season will not ruin the show; the show ruined itself the moment Urobuchi left. Regardless of its director (Ei Aoki of Fate/Zero fame) or composer (Hiroyuki Sawano of Guilty Crown and Attack on Titan fame), Aldnoah.Zero needs a utter miracle to be redeemed. That, or nineteen months of sitting in the corner and thinking about the naughty things it has done.

Also, the best thing about the 1st season – Kalafina’s OP named heavenly blue – has vanished, replaced by fellow Aniplex artist Eir Aoi. The disappointments continue to mount on top of each other. This show left me feeling cold. — Aldnoah.Mahou