2015
07.31

Can I just say that I was so bummed that we didn’t get a Assassination Classroom or Straighten Up! announcement at the end of the issue? With both a Jump Start and Jump Back ending in this issue, it would have been the perfect time to debut a new series in the next. Assassination Classroom has become one of Viz’s most successful manga in sales this year, and next week’s chapter is the 150th; it would have been the perfect time to add it into the lineup. As for Straighten Up!, the rankings have shown it’s pretty popular and will probably stay for the long haul. I know it’s not a very action-y series, but it feels like a waste to not capitalize on a promising new debut that they’ve already given a trial run. From the tone of this week’s Shonen Jump podcast, it doesn’t seem like there’s any plans to add Best Blue in in the foreseeable future either. I’ll be very disappointed if it proves to be another hit in the rankings and they still don’t decide to run it, especially since so many people have been hoping that it would be the vanguard for more sports series being run in the english Jump.

As a side-note, the presence of Twin Star Exorcists in this issue reminds me I still need to catch up on Blue Exorcist and Seraph of the End so I can properly review them for this series. They’ll be back in the issue after next, so I have a lot to read…and I’m not looking forward to that, honestly. But hey, I’m the one who wants these to be thorough full-issue reviews, so I’ll make good on that. I really hope we don’t get more monthlies added in, though. With the exception of Blood Blockade Battlefront (which Viz didn’t license), most of Jump Square’s popular output that I’ve seen is really mediocre and far below the quality level that WSJ has had these days. I might have to shank someone if they decide to add in D. Gray-man into Jump, now that it’s back and all. But maybe their disastrous experience running Hunter X Hunter last year has made them wary to run an erratically published series again.

Well, enough postulating, we’ve got manga to review! In this week of Jump, Bulma flashes an old man, Mayuri gets on everyone’s nerves, and Tamakoma squad celebrate what are probably the most depressing birthday AND the most unromantic Valentine’s Day ever, both in a row! All this and more, After the Jump!

Weekly Shonen Jump: 2015, Issue No. 35

My Hero Academia chapter #52 – “Hero Killer Stain vs. U.A. Students”

Midoriya is truly cut out for the hero business. He has great deductive skills with a keen eye for detail, makes quick rational judgements about the best course of action, sets up contingency plans in case things don’t turn out the way he wants, and above all else, has a lot of heart and determination to help people in need. His one weakness as a hero is his inability to control his power well without hurting himself, but he makes up for that with good judgement as to when and how he should use for the best effect. He makes up for his lack of power with his way of using it. Essentially, he encapsulates what Stain’s ideal of a hero should be.

And you can tell that Stain was incredibly happy about that. Seriously, he gave such a creepy, elated grin after Midoriya declared he would help Ida whether he wanted it or not, and when he saw Midoriya in action in their brief fight. This was the kind of hero he wants more of; honest, selfless, and determined. Not out for glory or personal gain, but someone who fights for the sake of those in need. Which is exactly why he decides to spare him after he wins the fight. He might not be the strongest hero, but he proved he wasn’t just talk, but the real deal. He’s not someone masquerading as a hero; he genuinely IS one.

That difference in attitude in why Stain respects Midoriya but no qualms trying to kill Ida. Midoriya is thinking about rescuing both him and the other injured hero; not defeating Stain or avenging Ida, just saving his life. When Ida confronted Stain, it wasn’t to help the other hero that was being attacked by him, but to get revenge for his brother. Even now, Ida is focused on getting revenge, telling Midoriya that he shouldn’t interfere because “this has nothing to do with [him].” Ida has made this encounter with Stain something personal, and in doing that, has strayed from what his objective as a hero should be. Ida wants to defeat Stain to satisfy his own frustrations that the man he looked up to the most was crippled; he doesn’t care so much that Stain is dangerous and hurting other people so much as he’s angry that he hurt someone close to him. He doesn’t want bring Stain to justice so much as he wants to punish him for hurting someone he knows personally. That isn’t heroism, but vigilantism. He’s ignoring the rules of the law and his priorities as a hero in engaging Stain for his own personal agenda. Through this mindset, he ignored the needs of the people around him and the innocent people he should be protecting. And in this chapter he’s so intoxicated by his desire and his pride that he refuses help from his friend, even though there’s absolutely no way he can win on his own in this situation. Ida is a well-meaning person, but his recent decisions have been beyond selfish, in contrast to Midoriya’s effortless selflessness. That is not what makes a hero, and that is why, despite both him and Midoriya being generally good people, Stain has marked him unworthy of his hero status.

Todoroki’s arrival at the end of the chapter was surprising, but only because I forgot that he was working under Endeavor. The latter’s appearance in the last chapter was clever foreshadowing that Todoroki would also get involved with this situation. It also makes more sense for him to arrive to Midoriya’s aid than Endeavor; the latter is vain and out to oust All Might from his no. 1 hero status, after all. Given that he strong-armed a woman to marry him just because he liked her powers and wanted to breed a strong successor, I wouldn’t put it past him to embrace a chance to sabotage his rival’s protege. But Todoroki is Midoriya’s friend, and given his power and proximity to their location, it should’ve been obvious that he’d be the most likely person he’d ask to give him some back-up.

Todoroki’s arrival throws an interesting swerve in all this, not just in terms of turning the tide of the fight, but also in how Stain will react to him and the message Ida will take from this experience. Todoroki’s goals as a hero were originally selfish as well; he wanted to outdo his father by never using the power of fire he inherited from him, and just use the ice powers he inherited from his mother. The tournament shook him up and made him reconsider if that was really the right thing to do or not, and also made him realize in order to better understand what kind of hero he wants to be, he needed to reconnect with his mother and come to a better understanding of who he is and who he wants to be. When he attacks Stain in this chapter, he uses both of his powers, together. So I take that to mean that he has matured and embraced both sides of himself; the rebellious goal he once had, the desire to become a hero in a way that would spite his father,  has been reconsidered. Todoroki may no longer be thinking of being a hero for the sake of getting revenge on his his father, but rather, because he genuinely wants to be one. Which presents a pretty close parallel to Ida’s current situation, as his desire to be a hero is currently motivated more by getting revenge on behalf of a family member than by altruism and passion for the job. How his encounter with Stain will go down, and how Stain will interpret his actions and character, will be quite interesting in to what extent it’ll confirm the growth of Todoroki as both a hero and a person, and his example may serve to help Ida realize he needs to change his mindset before his desire for revenge leads him down a self-destructive path, one that would surely not make his brother proud.

Before we move on, you might be wondering who I voted for in the character poll. I was debating between Stain and Todoroki, as I find both extremely well-crafted and realized. While Stain has been a fascinating character to analyze and see in action these last couple weeks, my vote ultimately went to Todoroki, whose character arc felt the most ambitious and well-developed out of all the main protagonists so far, and whose presence, back-story, and emotional growth really made the latter stretch of the Sports Festival arc for me. Out of all the main characters, his story is the one I’ve gotten the most invested in and interested in seeing develop and grow, which is why I’m ecstatic to see him make a return, and hopefully learn about what went down between him and his mother, and what his goals and convictions are from here on out.

Remember to vote for your favorite MHA character in this week’s survey while you still can! The english Jump doesn’t do these very often, so it’s a treat when an opportunity like this comes around. I’ll be curious to see how the results will differ between the english and japanese polls.

Best Blue chapter #3 – “Tournament”

It makes sense to show that how Aono has improved thanks to his training by having him be victorious in his first competitive swimming race. Especially one that’s just a “for-fun” tournament, and isn’t anything too major to make him out to be overly successful. While he does beat a national-level athlete in this chapter, the hilariously vain “Master” Onaga, this is an all-levels event and he’s the only competitor who was that skilled. We haven’t been introduced to the rest of who Aono’s teammates in the competitive swimming club will be, and the standard skill level for members in that club. Though he’s at the national level, it’s implied that Onaga is a bit of a fool and probably not one of the best swimmers among his group. As such, Aono’s victory doesn’t go too far to make him out to be overly prodigious, but still highly skilled and on par with other nationally-ranked high school swimmers, making it a triumphant moment for the character without blowing the series’ load in terms of power-relativity too quickly.

Beyond showing how Aono has improved and his relative speed and skill level to other swimmers, this chapter also gives him with two potential rivals. One is the aforementioned Onagai, who seems to be sort of a gag antagonist for the moment. The other is the more enigmatic Oshiro,  whose relationship with Kagura indicates he’s probably a big deal and a great swimmer. Of course, Oshiro may be a rival for Kagura rather than Aono, but whatever the case it’s clear that the character’s role will be competitive and important going forward. This chapter ultimately serves as a confidence builder for Aono, as he can now see how much he’s improved and stacks up to others his age, and builds the character up so when he encounters his next big roadblock, we can grasp how much harder he’d have to work to get even better from his current level. If I have any complaint about how that’s shown, it’s that the art doesn’t quite sell it. The big panel that shows Aono’s push is a bit confusing to understand at first, and the smaller panels that show how much faster Aono is than everybody else aren’t grand enough to drive the point home and give enough sense of the speed and scale of the event. The chapter really should have devoted a few more pages to the actual race than it did to the character introductions and character-building.

Still, I quite liked all that character-building, and the fact there were a lot of great humorous moments sprinkled into the chapter made it a positively infectious and enjoyable read, that I managed to like even better each time I’ve re-read it. The series really does have a good foundation and good characters going for it, and with just a bit more oomph and excitement added to the swimming scenes, it’ll make for a really excellent and refreshing new entry in the shonen sports genre. Which is why I would really like to read more of it in the english Jump, and why I hope that people have been ranking it in the weekly surveys in strong numbers these past few weeks. The english Jump hasn’t regularly run a sports manga in over two years, and it’s about time that finally changed.

Nisekoi chapter #179 – “Order”

And what do you know, this chapter confirms exactly what I talked about last week! Sure, Yui is not going to be moving away or getting engaged to someone new (just yet), but the point is she’s moving on with her life. She got up the courage to threaten her relationships with her friends and family by admitting her feelings to Raku, she got rejected, she’s accepted that rejection, and now life moves on. She made clear what she wants her relationship with Raku to be now that everything’s in the open, and has decided to support him when he figures out who exactly he likes. She’s talked things over with Chitoge, offering her advice, and in the process has actually deepened their friendship. She reunited and reconnected with old friends, and is pursuing a new social life. She’s found a new place to live, and plans to find someone new when she’s ready. She hasn’t disappeared from the story or the characters’ lives completely, but her role and relationships with them has changed. More importantly, she is also no longer confined and defined by her relationship with that circle of characters. Her conversation with Night in the end of the chapter says it all; she has taken control of the direction she will lead her life in. She has become a fully-realized person who plans to move forward with her life. She has become truly independent. She is now truly an adult.

The ramifications of her decision has affected other characters. From seeing Yui’s example in be honest with her feelings, Raku realizes that he too must make more an effort to understand his and make a decision about them quickly. He feels especially obligated to do it for Marika’s sake; knowing that she truly loves him, but also knowing that he doesn’t love her in the same way, and he owes it to her to be upfront and tell her that. And since she’s no longer a rival but still a mentor, Chitoge can rely on Yui as a confidant to help talk about issues she can’t share with her other friends and Raku, as well as someone to give her advice in pursuing a relationship with Raku. In a way, Yui’ll be for Chitoge what Miyamoto is for Onodera, except not as aggressive in manipulating situations to get them together.

This was a story arc directly about getting the courage to challenge the status quo. Yui’s reservations about telling Raku about her feelings were driven by fears that doing so will negatively affect her relationships and friendships with the other characters. She didn’t want to change because she, essentially, didn’t want to risk giving up a good thing – a consistent, comfortable life with the people she loved. But one’s life does not and should not stay the same forever. People change. People grow up. People grow apart. And Yui , clinging to a love for someone who she was scared wouldn’t feel the same way, would not be able to move on with her life if she didn’t confess to Raku. And after she did, contrary to what she had thought, it wasn’t the end of everything. Raku still wanted to be a brother to her. Chitoge still wanted to be a friend to her. Instead of destroying relationships, she renewed them, and made them even stronger. And in expanding her life past Raku and the circle of people around him, she opened up new possibilities for her social and personal lives. She didn’t lose the connections she had; she replaced them with new ones. Having let go of her childhood, she’s finally ready to enter a new stage in her life and see where it takes her. Now it’s time for the other characters in the series to follow her example. And judging by the effect Yui’s confession has had in conjunction with previous developments, I’m pretty confident they will.

Bleach chapter #636 – “Sensitive Monster”

I share Mayuri’s frustration. Seriously, he might be fight-crazy, but Kenpachi should know better than to blindly attack an enemy whose power he doesn’t understand head-on. He’s played it smart in a fight before – his battle with Tosen, anyone? But no, he acts like an idiot and loses an arm. As if losing an arm means anything in Bleach. Kenpachi usually just fights with one arm anyway so it’s not that big a deal as it is. But then he goes and slashes at the quincy again, and wouldn’t you know it, his entire body starts twisting and convulsing around itself just like his arm did! Anyone with common sense would’ve seen that coming. But of course, Bleach characters don’t have common sense. Except for Mayuri. The mass-murdering sadistic mad scientist whose responsible for horrible atrocities and genocide of the quincies. The unarguably most evil “protagonist” in Bleach is the only one with brains enough to not blindly attack something he doesn’t understand.

Though, that’s only because being Mayuri, he already understands everything. Mayuri is hax. He is the king of asspulls and easy victories and his fights are always about seeing what horrible thing he’ll do to his opponent rather than a tense life-or-death situation where we care about his survival. Just by looking at him, Mayuri has already perfectly deduced his enemies’ power and found a way to inflict terrible pain on him and kill him. And he does it all by himself. Seriously, they should just have Mayuri fight Ywach. Forget Ichigo and Aizen, he’s clearly the most powerful character in this entire series.

This chapter played out exactly how I expected to based on last week. Mayuri easily gets the upper hand on his opponent, and Kenpachi is shafted after losing stupidly and being made to look like a complete idiot. What was the point of building up Kenpachi to be an important asset to the Soul Society when he keeps getting his ass handed to him by dumb gimmicky villains despite his power-up? He became exhausted by fighting fucking Gremmy and then got curbstomped by the female Quincy quartet, and now he lost so bad to this new villain whose name I don’t know at all because he made the stupidest mistake he possibly could. Once again, this is a running example of how Kubo utterly wastes his characters and his build-up and the character arcs he makes for them are absolutely pointless. Kenpachi hasn’t learned anything from his experiences, and it’s not reflected in his battle-strength either. I would appreciate it if he at least got to fight someone that was discernibly strong in a non-abstract way (unlike his last two opponents) so that we get a legitimate pay-off to the whole Kenpachi subplot, but I think we all know that that’s far too much to expect from Kubo at this point. Instead, I see Mayuri cleaning up whatshisname next chapter and the series moving on to another uninteresting battle, but hey, at least this fight was still leagues better than the one with Gremmy.

World Trigger chapter #110 – “Haruaki Azuma”

Wow, I was completely off the mark about Yuiga. He really is just a mediocre agent who happens to be in the best team. The reason why? Nepotism! Well, Border is a military organization after all; I’m not surprised that there’s a case like this. And the way they handled it, Yuiga was put in the best team purposefully. The rest of the members are so skilled in what they do that his weaknesses don’t hinder them too much and he’s consistently reminded and humbled by the fact he’s so outclassed. As stated, he might be an A-Class, but just in name-only. When push comes to shove, his inadequacies will be exposed and endanger him on the battlefield, and he’ll either be forced to improve himself or accept a demotion.

Still, despite being a joke compared to the rest of Tachikawa squad, Yuiga is still a more skilled fighter than Osamu. The point Izumi was trying to make in having Osamu try and best him 100 times in a fight was to show him he’s not yet on the level to master composite shots. However, by training with someone only slightly above his level, Osamu was able to learn how to get more hits of off his opponents, and become more experienced pulling it off. His improvement is reflected in how, at the start of his matches with Yuiga, his record was one in five wins, and by the end, it had increased to one in four. That’s a five percent increase in efficiency, and in a close battle of attrition, being five percent more accurate counts for a lot. He might’ve had the most unromantic Valentine’s Day ever, but with the experience he’s gained fighting against Yuiga, Osamu is in a much stronger position to help his team than he was before.

Speaking of occasions, Chika had to have one of the most depressing and uneventful birthdays I’ve ever seen. No party, no cake, hell, nobody even knew or remembered it until Chika just casually mentioned it to her teammates. And instead of being a happy occasion, it was a stressful and melancholy one because Chika was depressed about exposing the fact she can’t shoot people to their next opponents, and team having to have a serious discussion of what their strategy should be to make up for that, taking extra precaution to keep her hidden. Poor Chika. Like Yuma says, though, it’d be interesting if she’s able to throw their opponents for a loop by overcoming her fear of shooting people and striking back when they come after her, but it remains to be seen if her preparatory training has helped with that.

This next match will definitely come down to the respective teams endurance and strategic prowess. Azuma squad took this into account in selecting the cityscape stage; they know that they don’t have the range for a firefight, so they chose a location that would limit their enemies abilities to best utilize their weapons. Their goal is to take down each of their enemies in two-on-one close quarters fights. Tamakoma squad’s problem going into this match is that they are highly reliant on Yuma to score points, while Osamu and Chika provide back up. Now, each member of the team will need to be able to hold their own without their teammates’ help. Considering they were preparing for a teamwork-based fight, this throws a serious wrench in Tamakoma’s strategy, and with the large and complicated scale of the battlefield and the unusual winter-themed weather conditions, they are now at a huge disadvantage right from the start. Yuma might be able to hold his own against most people, but taking on Kagegura, Ninomiya, and Azuma by himself might be too much for him. With Osamu’s recent training, he should be better equipped to hold his own against multiple opponents, but his inexperience with fighting directly and lack of endurance will inevitably cause him to make risky mistakes. Chika is the one most threatened by facing an opponent on her own due to her inability to shoot people, and the only way she’ll be able to survive this match is if she finally overcomes that phobia. This should prove to be Tamakoma squad’s most desperate and difficult fight yet, and they’ll have to find creative means to not only endure, but win against the three best B-Rank teams in all of Border.

Toriko chapter #332 – “Chaco’s Situation!!”

For the devious air they were presented with in previous chapters, the 10-Shell chefs are humorously goofy and chill. They don’t seem villainous nor do they seem to have anything to hide. There’s no cryptic dialogue or tense conversation or talk of master plans or schemes. These guys just seem like a group of friends hanging out for each other while waiting to participate in a fun competition. If they aren’t a part of the larger conspiracy behind Blue Grill, then it’ll be interesting to see whether they’ll eventually ally with the protagonists to change it. If they are antagonists, though, then their casual attitude makes them pretty refreshing and a lot different compared to enemies faced in Toriko before. If nothing else, it seems like the cooking match between the 10-shell and human world chefs is going to be more a competition of respected peers and two characters you can like and support than an antagonistic confrontation, and that’s something I’m really looking forward to.

While the 10-shell chefs might not have sinister intentions, I’m not sure about Don Slime. Sure, he’s friends with Jiji, but he might be holding secrets from him too. After all, he’s the one whose orchestrated this match between the chefs because he’s interested in their skills. It might not be wrong to assume he wants to see what they are capable of for a reason, and that reason might prove to be exploitative of our heroes. And with the discussion the 10-shell chefs had about how one soul is worth the same as another no matter the age, and the fact Jiji specifically mentions that the Don doesn’t have a body for now, I have a feeling I know what might happen to Chaco’s body after his soul is sold…

Moreover, we learn about what caused the class divide and cruel discrimination in Blue Grill. The residents of Blue Grill are actually all descended from former slaves of the Blue Nitro, who bred them to maximize the best of their gourmet cells. The elite class of Blue Grill are descended from those who have the best gourmet cells, and the lower class is formed by those who weren’t able to perfectly adapt to them and have noticeable defects and disabilities. Because these people aren’t useful for the cooking-focused economy of Blue Grill, they’ve been treated as sub-human, denied human rights, and pretty much enslaved, their souls forcibly taken from their bodies and replaced with superior ones. Those who have their souls replaced are forced into endless labor on “The Project.” We haven’t seen a really dark culture like this in Toriko before, and it’s interesting in terms of seeing both the consequences of the Blue Nitro’s lasting influence on human culture and in potentially presenting a Magnostadt-type of situation where the people in charge of Blue Grill now might now be evil people, but extremely prejudiced. What’s even more interesting to me is how Komatsu is going to rescue Chaco, and exactly who the old man explaining the situation to him really is. There’s a lot of threads going on in this arc; a fun competition on one hand and a darker mystery on the other. How they both manage to complement and tie into each other will be quite interesting to see.

If I have one concern about what’s coming next, it’s that we don’t really know the chefs participating in the match with the 10-shells very well. We only have really seen Nono and Yuda in action before, but the other three have been very minor characters who haven’t had a lot of focus or screen-time, and I honestly can’t remember them too well. I’m still thinking that Chiyo and Chin Chin will come back and join the match, so two of them could be replaced, but while I’m excited to see a cooking competition in Toriko I’m worried that it’s really going to need exceptionally excellent execution if Shimabukuro is going to pull it off with characters we really only barely know.

Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma chapter #128 – “Blindside”

Wow, Kuga is such an asshole! The way he tells Soma to just pack up his under-selling cart and scram with that shit-eating grin on his face is just such a swarmy, mean-spirited thing to do. I love Kuga’s personality. He’s always so upbeat and peepy about everything he says, even in his beat-downs and jeers. If a normal antagonist were to say the things he does in most other series, I would have dismissed him as one-dimensional stock bully. But the way Kuga goes about doing things, how he says things, and the way he behaves normally just adds a lot of depth and fun to the character and his interactions with Soma. He’s often hilarious, and enjoyable in his mean-spiritedness, whereas with lesser characterization he’d have just been obnoxious.

Week after week we’ve seen Kuga always have the upper hand over Soma and constantly rubbing it in his face. And it’s because of all of this build-up, all of the tension and suspense as to whether Soma can outsell Kuga and wipe that damn smug smirk off of his face, that makes this chapter so, so unbelievably satisfying. Doubly so because the way Soma does it completely plays to his strengths, but in a way that totally surprises and surpasses our expectations. Soma’s always been about taking a dish and going one step further with it by using his inventiveness and creativity. He loves to experiment with food, and the results are dishes that no one else could possibly think of. Yet, at the same time, he’s not self-indulgent with his creations. He caters them to his customers’ tastes and their needs. In the past few days, Soma has gotten valuable feedback about what his customers want and what they would like to see more of. He’s had time to contemplate what the strengths of his cooking is and what the weaknesses of Kuga’s are. Because for as successful as Kuga is, his booth is not completely perfect. Soma’s going to take advantage of what his lacks, and I and guess what a good part of that is. Really, Soma says it himself. Sure, Kuga might know the Culture Festival game better than him and have more connections and resources. Sure, he’s far more experienced in sichuan cooking. However, Soma is more experienced in running an actual food business and dealing first-hand with real customers. As far as running a real restaurant goes, he’s ten years Kuga’s better.

The look on Kuga’s face when he says that is just amazing. In the ten chapters we’ve known him, we have not seen him frown even once. But here he gives the most serious, furious glare you can possibly imagine. It is the most angry and the most solemn we’ve ever seen a character in this series be, especially in response to Soma’s witty remarks. As well he should, as Soma hasn’t merely just dissed Kuga; he’s thrown all the insults he threw right back at him with a thousand times the gall and the balls. And he did it with a smile. Aw. Snap. We’ve never known Soma to hold a grudge, but boy howdy, how cathartic that remark must’ve been for him. It’s a sure sign of his confidence that his dish truly has what it takes to crush Kuga’s lead, and I can’t wait to see him make Kuga eat his words and knock him down a peg more.

Black Clover chapter #23 – “The Distinguished Service Ceremony”

I expected these nobles to all be rude and disdainful of Asta and Yuno because of their poor upbringing. I was expecting that the series would pick out one of these guys to be like “hey, come off it, be chill to these peeps brah,” but I guess they are all just kind of stuck-up rich folks. Which while cliche is one of those more true-to-life cliches so you can’t really fault the series for that. My biggest complaint is really I’m not sure which of these characters are the most important to keep an eye on. We get introduced to all of them in a lengthy description of who they are, their rank, and hints about their powers and personalities in a couple page sequence at the beginning of the chapter, but that doesn’t tell much about how important they’ll be relative to each other. I’m guessing by his screentime in this chapter and his rank in the Golden Dawn that Alecdora will be Asta and Yuno’s most important rival of this bunch, and I’m sure Noelle will have her chance to show up her awful, mean family down the line, but the rest of these guys? I’m not sure how they are going to fit in to the overall narrative as of yet.

But while I don’t know what to make of all these new characters I do really like the core of this chapter. I like how Asta doesn’t care one bit about what the elite knights think of him and just decides to enjoy himself. But then he overhears Alecdora talk smack about Yuno and he stops eating and just stares at him. Then, when Mimosa and Klaus try to stand up for their friends, and end up being chastised and made fun as a consequence, he shows a worried from of concern. And then, when all three of Noelle’s siblings gang up on her in a continuous beat-down, calling her an embarrassment, a disgrace, and a failure for just taking pride in who she is and the one accomplishment she’s had, Asta becomes increasingly more and more furious, and when they finally hurt Noelle so much that she tries to run away from the party, crying, he can’t take it anymore and angrily calls them out as the vain assholes they really are, showing them up by easily dispelling Alecdora’s sand magic, and telling them that they won’t silence him, and no matter what they might say now, he’ll shut them when he becomes the Wizard King.

This is the kind of rush of resolve you can only get in a shonen manga. The way the scene just builds up the irritation and anger of Asta until he lashes out is insanely effective in selling each moment in what is honestly not that novel a moment on the surface. We’ve seen scenes where the underdog hero yells his resolve at people who look down at him before. But part of what makes it work here is that Asta reacts not in response to what people are saying about him, but what people are saying about his friends. It’s a basic trait for a shonen hero to care about his friends, but the extent and passion Asta shows in defending them is genuinely endearing, and gives a great aura of cool to the moment where he dispels Alecdora’s technique and makes them pay attention and listen to what he’s saying. It’s the kind of “fuck yeah” moment of awesome that make manga like this as fun as they are, and is a more interesting way to make Asta a character you really want to see succeed. And while I still feel there needs to be a little more to his character, Asta has been a character I’m becoming increasingly more invested in, and one I’m starting to really care about, and chapters like this help a lot. I’m rooting for Asta just like I’m rooting for this series; I want both to be successful, to pile up merit and prove their worth. This series still needs a bit more work to set it apart from other series in it’s genre, but the heart of a great series is here, and that’s good enough to keep my blood rushing for the moment.

Twin Star Exorcists chapter #1 – “Rokuro and Benio”

I was not expecting them to run a special preview chapter in this issue, so this was quite a surprise. Though maybe not a surprise I found welcome; at least, not at first. I admit that I’ve developed a bit of disinterest in supernatural monster-fighting battle manga over the years. Ever since Bleach became big it seems to have become a prevalent sub-genre with many popular entries, but I’ve seen very few that were particularly appealing to me, or I thought of as any good, really. And with a name like Twin Star Exorcists, I was half-expecting this series to be some kind of spin-off of Blue Exorcist, which I don’t really care for, so I had a bit of an unfair bias against this from the start. That said, this is not related to Blue Exorcist in any way or form beyond the fact that they are both about, well, exorcists. This series has a different approach and a different focus it’s going for, and there’s a whole slew of things that I actually found both good and not so good about this first installment.

Since the series is focused on fighting demons (well, “kegare” as the series calls them, but they’re basically the same thing), it’s a good thing it’s able to sell the horror and danger of the creatures very well. The exorcism scene that begins the chapter does well to characterize the pain and fear that goes into them and the designs of the Kegare themselves are fittingly sinister and creepy-looking. Both lead characters are basic but have enjoyable personalities. The male lead, Rokuro, feels like a normal kid rather than a carboard shonen protagonist, and he has some good bits of dialogue and his quirks, including spontaneously changing what his goal in life is and his overly emotional reactions to things, coming across as more endearing than obnoxious. The female lead, Benio, is actually a lot of fun. She has a quiet, stoic character, but often expresses her emotions in these really exaggerated faces that I found really amusing. She’s a bit stand-offish and rude, but has a recognizably immature and child-like side to her just like Rokuro, which makes them good contrasts as well as compliments to one another.

The one thing they both have in common is sharing a tragic angsty backstory – the same tragic angsty backstory, as it turns out – involving their entire exorcism dorm getting massacred by Kegare when they were young. The interesting about this is not the backstory itself but how it’s affected their personalities and outlook on exorcism as a career, and how different they are. Rokuro came out of the experience wanting to escape from the pain and horrors he saw by living a normal life, shunning that world despite the skill he had for it. But Benio became hardened by the experience, and she resolved to never let that kind of tragedy ever happen again, pursuing a dream of destroying all of the Kegare. It’s an interesting depiction of how two people who underwent the same experience might take a different meaning from it and how that influences their lives and who they are as people. Of course, Rokuro ultimately decides to tap into his exorcism powers and save Benio towards the end of the chapter, but he still has a different outlook on his powers. He sees them as a curse; a binding obligation to fight the Kegare, at the cost of living the comfortable, normal life that he’d rather have. Benio, on the other hand, thinks of such power as a blessing, and the means to do a greater good for the benefit of other people. As a fighting manga, the series is successfully intense and cool-looking with it’s action scenes, but I think it’s real strength as shown in this chapter lies in this conflict of ideologies about the value of their career and purpose of their lives shared by the two leads, and the friction they’ll have coping with these different outlooks and conflicting personalities while working together.

How these two end up rubbing off on one another and how their relationship grows is the big drawing point of this manga more than anything else it has to offer, and it’s because of how interesting their dynamic is that’s going to make me come back to this series and try to catch up to it down the line. Hmm, perhaps I’m not as “meh” about this debut than I had thought? Well, there are a lot of basic “edgy” shonen tropes and plot elements in this chapter that I wasn’t big on, particularly the grim backstory. I don’t find the side-characters very interesting or amusing. In fact, they are kind of distracting and I hope their role is downplayed in the future. The action is effective and well-drawn but not remarkable or anything all that special. Again, it’s Rokuro and Benio who make this debut chapter as strong as it is. They have an interesting dynamic, enjoyable personalities, and are characters I want to see develop as partners and teammates. They have more interesting characterization and stories to make me care about them miles more than I ever could about those of their Jump Square contemporaries Seraph of the End and Blue Exorcist, and I gotta give it props for that. So yeah, I’d have to call this debut chapter successful. It made me interested in a manga from a sub-genre I’ve long been burned out on, and really got me invested in it’s lead characters enough to make me want to see what happens to them next. I didn’t love it, but it got my attention. I’m interested in checking out more. Who knows? With the right execution, this might prove to be the best monster-fighting shonen to come out in a long, long time.

Dragon Ball chapter #4 – “They Call Him…the Turtle Hermit!”

So we’ve come to the end of Dragon Ball‘s Jump Back run. A good stopping point too, ending right after the introduction of Roshi and Goku receiving his iconic flying cloud, Kinto’un,  as well as another one of the series’ most infamous early out-there scenes. As I said before, it was really clever of Toriyama to have the “no balls” scene come back as a consequential part of the story, helping Bulma’s procure another dragon ball, though at a “cost” she didn’t quite realize in the moment. It’s just a funny running subplot to have pay off over the course of three chapters the way it did. Content-wise though, it is a bit of an objectionable scene in the fact that Master Roshi, an old man, is getting a nosebleed from viewing the private parts of a teenage girl after he solicits her to show him her panties. This is something that probably wasn’t a big deal for japanese readers, but would cause parents over here to flip out and never let their kids touch the series again if this was a mainstream children’s comic. I’m actually surprised with how popular DB is that no one’s raised a stink about content like this in early DB in the States before, outside of a few library bannings and whatnot. But beyond that, just as far as how we see perceive the characters, Bulma’s willingness to show her panties combined with the scene from the first chapter where she was willing to let Goku cop a feel sorta presents her as a little loose with her sexuality, and Master Roshi comes across as, well, a sexual predator. Now, I am a 100% sure that Toriyama didn’t consider or intend these connotations when he wrote this chapter. This is just how things are in gag manga; it’s fiction, meant for laughs, and harmless fun. And it takes a certain skill for someone to make these scenes still feel like harmless fun for readers from other cultures without most people feeling uncomfortable about them on their first read. That speaks of how both the tone of early DB works in it’s favor, and how good Toriyama is with characterization and comedic timing to land these jokes and make us like these characters.

Onto the subject of Master Roshi, last week I said that I wasn’t sure if Toriyama intended him to have as big a role as he did later on, and this chapter lends a lot of credence to the theory he didn’t. Of note is that there is not a single indication in this chapter that he is a wise and skilled martial artist, despite it being one of the defining characteristics of the character outside of his pervertedness in the pre-Z days. What’s more, his interactions with Goku and Bulma seem purposefully episodic; he was just a weird guy they happened to randomly meet on their travels who happened to have a dragon ball and a magic cloud. He served his role in the story, and then he was gone. And that fits into the spontaneous adventure vibe early DB was going for. The very next chapter saw Goku fight a shape-shifting pig, after all. The scene with Master Roshi might’ve been some reference to Journey to the West or some other bit of Toriyama randomness. If that’s the case, the fact that Toriyama was able to take what was supposed to be a one-off gag character and make him into a fully realized member of the supporting cast is pretty extraordinary, especially since he takes uses all the aspects of Roshi’s personality and character introduced here, such as his connections to mystic artifacts, and simply expands on them to flesh out his history and persona. Also of note is the indication that Roshi’s lived as long as he has because he’s been granted immortality by a phoenix, which is a good explanation as any as to how he’s lived over 300 years.

The Kinto’un scenes are another good bit of character building. The fact that Goku is the only one fit to ride it gives us a good indicator of his moral compass. Not so much that he’s a completely righteous person; after all, it’s not like the cloud is screening out only bad people. The cloud allows only the most pure of heart to ride. Goku, as established before, is naive and untainted by either strong ethical or unethical thoughts. Rather, he is a decidedly neutral creature who does what he does because he wants to, not strictly at the expense or benefit of others. In essence, Goku is pure of heart because he’s not motivated by thoughts that can be categorized as either good or evil, but simply his own. It’s another layer to Goku’s character, adding credence to the notion that he isn’t a hero because he actively tries to do good for good’s sake, but because helping people is something he just instinctively and casually does.

If nothing else, re-reading and analyzing these early chapters have shown a lot of interesting metatextual and contextual interpretations of the characters, world, and success of the series. Everything that makes these characters great, this world great, and makes Dragon Ball great is laid forward from the very beginning and the series only becomes richer and deeper with every subsequent chapter. There is a reason that Dragon Ball continues to be one of anime/manga’s most popular and enduring series. There is an effortless, flawless quality to it. It feels fully realized from the start, even though you and I both know that Toriyama made this shit up as he went along. Simply put, Dragon Ball has a kind of magic, irresistible quality to it that makes it hard for almost anyone who properly reads the series to not find something to like about it. Note that I say read, not watch. While iconic in it’s own right, the anime adaptions of the manga just don’t capture the kinetic quality that pervades Toriyama’s epic from panel to panel, page to page, chapter to chapter, beginning to end. It’s lightning-in-a-bottle. There have been many series that have been inspired by Dragon Ball and have tried to surpass it, but that’s a battle they can’t win. Because no one can manufacture something like Dragon Ball. It’s a product of it’s creator, it’s influences, it’s audience, and it’s time. Reading these chapters again from a critical lends just confirms that for me. The only one who can write and draw Dragon Ball is Akira Toriyama. And on that note, re-visiting the series these last few weeks have made me even more pumped to go see The Resurrection of ‘F’ next week! I’ve been waiting the whole summer for it, and since Toriyama wrote the story himself, I’m fully confident that it’ll be a good time and a worthy continuation of Dragon Ball‘s never-ending story.

With Dragon Ball‘s Jump Back run done, I have to speculate on what they’ll choose next. It’d be cool if they pick Dr. Slump as the follow-up, tying into the Toriyama manga bundles they’ve been selling these last few weeks. It so overlooked and unappreciated compared to DB that it could always use more exposure. Plus, it’d personally be a heck of a lot of fun for me to write about, even though it’s gag-manga nature might make it a bit more challenging to pick apart.

Final Thoughts:

This was about as good a week as last, if not a bit better. I found a lot to enjoy about pretty much every chapter with the obvious exception of Bleach. Twin Star Exorcists didn’t blow my socks off, but it was surprisingly more interesting than I has expected. Outside of Food Wars!, I didn’t get the same amount of excitement out of these chapters as I would have in a truly great week; they were really good, but not quite great. Still, it was a strong output. If there was an underlying theme between all these chapters, it was probably surprising expectations. Soma’s new pasta/mappo tofu fusion dish, Todoroki’s big damn heroes moment, Yui not actually getting engaged, Aono placing first in his first swimming competition, Tamakoma being put in a environment they didn’t prepare for, Asta denouncing the elite knights…you get the idea. There was at least one unexpected aspect or moment to just about every chapter in this issue. And they were fun surprises, which made for some fun reads. It’s nice when you don’t really know what to expect from a series, and can enjoy the fact that no matter how much you speculate you won’t be able to predict exactly how things will turn out. It keeps things interesting, and it’s stuff like this that keeps me coming back to all of these series.

Best Manga of the Week:

1. Food Wars! –Both MHA and Food Wars! were really strong this issue, so it choosing which I’d rank first gave me a bit of pause. Ultimately, I felt that Food Wars! offered a meatier and more fulfilling outing with a great combination of story and character development alongside it’s trademark humor. But what really clinched it’s #1 spot for me was the page where Soma disses Kuga. Everything about that page; Soma’s pose and confident smile, to Kuga’s hyper-realistic scowl, made it an effin’ sweet moment of awesome and elicited a physical “fuck yeah” reaction out of me the first time I read it. It’s been a while since it’s been #1 since other series have been super great lately, but FW! finally wins the spot again this week, and if next week’s chapter is just as strong, will probably be in the top spot next time as well.

2. My Hero Academia – This was a really action-heavy chapter, but it was a really cool one. Midoriya showed the progress he’s made in harnessing One-For-All and applied his trademark strategic wit to go toe to toe with Stain in a surprisingly successful effort. He was ultimately subdued because of Stain’s quirk, but he succeeded in what he set out to do; buy time until reinforcement arrive. And the arrival of Todoroki promises that his efforts will be justly rewarded. With great action and chock full of cool thematic concepts and implications about characters and their development, MHA continues it’s recent hot streak of A-grade chapters.

3. Nisekoi – Not as emotionally powerful as recent chapters, but still featuring exceptionally potent character development and full of genuinely touching scenes and moments. With the status-quo slowly and surely breaking at the seams, Nisekoi really impressed me with this arc and I can’t wait to see where Komi takes the story next.

4. World Trigger – Now, before you say anything, I have been putting Best Blue as 4th when I’ve submitted the actual surveys these past three weeks. I’ve been supporting the effort to get in a new sports manga in Jump. But these reviews don’t necessarily feature the original order of how I ranked them on the survey, and besides, my opinions often change the more I think about the chapters. Ultimately, while I thought Best Blue had a good outing and I ranked it on the survey, I really did like this week’s World Trigger better. It was a really interesting chapter to think about in terms of how Tamakoma’s strategy and Azuma’s strategy’s conflict, the growth each member of Tamakoma squad needed to adapt to their next match, and other small bits of character development and downtime. It was a strong lead-up chapter for the final match of the Rank Wars, and it got me really excited at the possibilities and difficulties facing Tamakoma in it. And with how great the match against Nasu and Suzunari squad was, I more than hyped to see what WT has in store with this one.

Line(s) of the Week:

Bulma: “Hey, why does a ‘Turtle Hermit’ have a magic cloud? I mean, where’s the logic?”
Master Roshi: “Deal with it.”

Dragon Ball

Panel(s) of the Week:

Page(s) of the Week:

And that’s that for this issue! So until next time, meet some new people, try some new food, and don’t show your undies to any strange old men, and I’ll see you again after the jump!

2015
07.26

Contrary to what I had said previously, in terms of actual page count this issue wasn’t really that much longer than last week’s. However, the return of Nisekoi and World Trigger has upped the series count to ten, and these are all fairly substantial, so I still had to write a lot more. I certainly don’t mind, as this was a surprising issue in more ways than one. Though that also made it more time-consuming to talk about, which is why I wasn’t able to get this out on Tuesday (on top of dealing with other pesky real-world obligations). I’ll just give fair warning and say in coming weeks, specifically in the fall, you should expect these to come out later in the week (probably on fridays), rather than on Tuesdays like I’d ideally want them out. Reason being that all my classes next semester are between Tuesday and Thursday, and these take more than a day to write, especially since Jump doesn’t come out until around 12:30 in the afternoon most of the time. Might be a but pre-mature to mention this since there’s still a few weeks of summer left, but hey, I needed something to ramble about for the prologue.

On that subject, as I had previously mentioned, Barnes and Noble had a buy 2-get-1 free manga promotion going on all last week. They conveniently forgot to mention in their initial press release that you COULD purchase the stuff online, so I ended up going to the store and unnecessarily more for stuff at store prices. Quite annoying. But hey, they were offering a free Viz manga sampler at the stores, among posters and stuff, which was pretty neat. The only Jump series in it is My Hero Academia, but hey, it’s a free manga sampler. It was worth a flip-though and there were some series that caught my eye to check out sometime in the future. If this write-up had come out earlier, then I would’ve advised you to visit the stores and check out the stuff yourself, but unfortunately that ship has sailed. Oh well, there’s always next time.

Anyways, enough about print manga, let’s talk about some digital! In this week of Jump, a creepy old man tries to throw up in Komatsu’s mouth, Soma and Sadatsuka begin a very dangerous friendship (for those around them), and Raku has to, gasp, make an actual decision in his romantic life!?!?! Who could’ve seen THAT coming! All this and more, After the Jump!

Weekly Shonen Jump: 2015, Issue No. 34

Nisekoi chapter #178 – “Growing Up”

I find it strange that Viz gave the Nisekoi the cover for this week’s issue, but used a picture that doesn’t relate to the contents of this week’s chapter, and features characters that are completely absent in it. I know they choose random pictures when they don’t use the japanese covers, but usually they do a better job of getting a picture that’s at least fitting or general enough to relate to the series in the issue.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to say about this chapter. How to best describe what works about it. Because I know that the series’ detractors and pessimists are still skeptical about whether the development given here will stick. Romantic comedy manga are notorious for being dragged out and often repetitive, dedicated to maintaining the status quo for as long as possible. This isn’t anything new; just go all the way back to Nisekoi‘s  80’s Jump equivalent, Kimagure Orange Road, which had arguably more “filler” in it’s story than Nisekoi does (though it did have less characters and had ended 20 chapters shorter than where Nisekoi is now, but I digress). Because these series are often static for long periods of time, people start to get frustrated with them, and many lose interest or turn on them. It doesn’t help if the situations and comedy in the series are standard fare, which Nisekoi, in spite of Komi’s strengths as an artist, often is. So at this point, people are no doubt going to take any semblance of forward plot progression with a grain of salt. If the plot hasn’t moved meaningfully in the last 50 or so chapters, than why should I believe that it’s going to now? It’s not like Nisekoi has lost stream in it’s popularity either; it tends to rank in the middle, which is pretty good considering Jump is chock-full of hits these days, and it had a second season made for it’s anime recently with a third no doubt on the way. This series has enough steam going to run for years more.

As such, I understand why some people are too burned to trust that this series is going places. It’s hard to tell with romantic comedies, especially since the story can end at any time once the characters finally wise up and realize that they love each other. But it’s not this chapter by itself that is moving the story in a new direction. Rather, this is a pivotal installment of  a recent string of story arcs that have, slowly and subtly, been shaping the direction of character arcs and relationships in the series, presumably towards it’s endgame. The Chitoge going home storyline, the christmas date with Onodera, the island misadventure with Marika, and now this arranged marriage story arc with Yui; these last few arcs in Nisekoi have noticeably and purposefully focused on Raku being forced to seriously examine his relationships with all his love interests, and develop their characters as well as the underlying story of the locket. All of these arcs have been presented in quick succession since the beginning of this year, and so far the series has not yet devolved into more filler (with the exception of a certain chapter last month that showed Nisekoi at it’s least inspired, but you could consider that one last bit of levity before all this serious stuff hit).

It’s true that the status-quo was not changed in any of these arcs, but that wasn’t their purpose. They served to develop characters and get them to start taking their relationships more seriously. Through the course of these arcs, Raku has had to contemplate just what the women around him mean to him, and exactly who he’s in love with. No, he hasn’t figured it out yet. At least, on the surface. It’s clear that he’s in denial, and that he’s becoming ever more self-aware about it. And as the pressure to make a decision and do right by the feelings of other mounts on him, he recognizes that he has to think about his relationships seriously, and understand how he really feels, and who he really loves. And the final push to get him to accept that came in this chapter. It came because of Yui’s confession.

For the first time, Raku was forced to make a decision about his romantic life under time-sensitive pressure. There was no stalling, and no way out that wouldn’t force him to either commit or end to a relationship. Either he says he loves Yui or marries her, or says he doesn’t and she leaves his life to be married to someone else. Yui made her feelings towards him perfectly clear with no ambiguity. Raku had to think about if he felt the same way, and accept that he just doesn’t, and find a way to break it to her without hurting her feelings. Before, when Shuu asked him whether Chitoge or Onodera more, he was able to weasel his way out of giving  genuine answer. None of that was going to fly this time. He had to be honest and direct. He had to finally man up and say “no” to a yes or no question. And he has to live with the consequences of that decision.

Some people feel that the series will cop-out on Yui’s arranged marriage and she’ll still continue to be their teacher. Maybe, but the thing is, that wouldn’t restore things to the status quo. The events of this chapter are irreversible. Yui made the fact that she loved Raku as a man perfectly clear to Raku, and Raku made the fact that he only sees her as a sister-figure perfectly clear to her. They know how the other sees them and feels about them. Yui’s accepted this and has decided to move on. But while she might still be able to treat Raku like a brother, Raku is going to have a harder time treating her like a sister now that he has been forced to think about her in another light. They’ll do their best to continue to treat each other as they had before, but their relationship fundamentally can’t ever be the same as it once was. Especially since Yui kissed Raku at the end of the chapter. Come on; if someone you thought of only as a sister went and did that, you’d be awkward around them for a long time. Raku and Yui have reached a level of intimacy about each other’s feelings that’ll make it hard for them to see each other the same way.

I don’t care for Nisekoi when it’s dealing in traditional romantic comedy harem antics. I’ve seen them done leagues better in more creative comedies, and Nisekoi‘s only strength when it comes to those is it’s art and comedic timing, not cleverness. However, I’ve noticed that Komi does have talent for writing genuinely compelling drama; the storylines involving Shuu’s crush on his teacher and Ruri’s visit to her grandfather being two of the series’ strongest examples. As this year has gone on, I’ve noticed that Komi has finally decided to apply his strengths to serious arcs involving the main characters, and move this story and these characters closer to making decisions about their relationships and come to mutual understandings. This chapter provides a resolution as status-quo changing as they come, and a pivotal moment in Raku’s character arc. How the consequences of Yui’s departure will affect Chitoge, Onodera, Tsumugi, and Marika remain to be seen, but considering Yui’s declaration to Chitoge, this will likely force them to step up their game and make similarly tough choices in admitting their feelings as she did. Nisekoi is at it’s best when it’s focused on it’s story and characters and does something meaningful with them, and with the momentum it’s built throughout the year in this regard, I feel confident in expecting that we’ll see the story continue to move forward as the year continues and ends, with little or no filler in between. The carefree, irresponsible adolescence of Nisekoi is over. It’s time to grow up.

You know what, though? Beyond even all of that, this was just an emotionally resonant chapter. After spending the chapter focusing on Raku dealing with his doubts and worries about what to say to Yui, and how she’ll respond, she comes in to his room, lies next to him in bed, and both he and the reader learn more intimately about her feelings. She talks about what Raku meant to her when she was a child, and her own self-doubts as to whether she really loved Raku or was just clinging to the only family she had. In confessing her feelings, however, she has realized that both those feelings were true, and while she has to let go of one, she doesn’t regret it, because it’s helped her to grow. And, in an act to finally give closure to those lingering feelings, she throws a sheet over Raku’s face, and gives him a kiss through it goodbye. It’s a powerful, moving scene; a more effective and well put-together moment of emotional closure than expected for who has arguably been one of the most underutilized of Raku’s love interests. I take this chapter as a key moment for this series on a contextual level, but even on it’s own, it works as a piece of well-written and touching romantic drama. And as a fan of well-written romantic drama, I couldn’t be more impressed or pleased. After a long stretch of indifference, Nisekoi has become a series I genuinely look forward to and am excited to read each week, and I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here.

One Piece chapter #794 – “Sabo’s Adventure”

One of the most important developments of this arc was the revelation that Sabo was alive. It was twist that should’ve been an incredibly emotional and memorable moment, but was executed in such a underwhelming, ho-hum manner that it didn’t shock, wow, or resonate. There’s a couple of reasons why the scene of Sabo’s reveal wasn’t very impressive. It was a moment that wasn’t separated as special within the chaos and confusion of the arc. There was no build up to it within the arc before Sabo met with Luffy again; possibly the biggest error of all, since the impact should’ve come from Luffy’s emotional response to knowing his brother was alive at the same time as the reader. Instead, Sabo meeting with Luffy in obscured guise was the only set-up for his reveal, so everyone could guess and call it when Oda finally went “yeah, Sabo’s alive!” The moment wasn’t a surprise, it wasn’t very memorable, and there was little emotion to the fact Luffy had reunited with him and he ate Ace’s devil fruit. It was a total misstep of a character reveal about on par, dare I say it, the return of Grimmjow in Bleach. Sure, that’s an arguably less effective twist, but only because that series dragged it out so much that people stopped caring. Sabo’s reveal is way more consequential and important to OP than Grimmjow was to Bleach, and the fact that it didn’t resonate any stronger is a huge blemish on OP’s overall narrative.

Because the reveal of Sabo was lost in the chaos of the rest of the Dressora arc, questions about how Sabo survived, where he’s been, and why he hadn’t reunited with Luffy and Ace sooner was left unaddressed. This chapter sees Oda trying to answer all these lingering plot threads, and while the result makes sense, it’s also annoying cliche and predictable. Sabo survived because Dragon saved him. Wow, what a shocker! Sabo suffered amnesia for a decade before Ace’s death jogged his memory back. How convenient! To be fair, the two pages building up how Ace’s death flooded Sabo with memories, causing him to suffer a mental breakdown, were very well done and carried some some palpable emotion to it. The circumstances are just so blasé, though. The memory-loss stuff is the most convenient and basic way to hand-wave why Sabo didn’t bother showing up until now; I’d have expected Oda to give him more of an interesting backstory, more of interest to what he’s done in these past few years. But apparently, nothing big or momentous happened to him between losing his memory and getting it back. There’s nothing added to his character, no new threads revealed or elements to his character explored. It’s just as wasteful as the mishandling of his reveal was.

The second half of the chapter is devoted to expanding on Sabo’s reunion with Luffy…and it’s shockingly somehow makes it less emotional and impressive that it originally was. It also doesn’t say or do anything that justifies the pages spent on it; the point was that Luffy recognized Sabo and agreed to let him have the Flame-Flame fruit. We already inferred that from how events played out in the arc, so what was the point of showing this extended sequence long after the fact? If this scene had occurred in it’s proper place, after proper build up to Sabo’s return through the course of the arc, it might have worked. If it had been shown earlier, around the time Sabo ate the fruit, it might have worked. But it doesn’t work now that the arc is over with and the fact that Sabo’s back is old-hat. There was no need and there was no point, and that bugs me, because usually there’s nothing in a OP chapter, stuffed as they are these days, that has no point. Oda tends to pack this chapter with a lot going on that moves the story forward. This chapter doesn’t move the story forward. All this chapter accomplishes is filling in some gaps about where Sabo’s been, and all that amounts to is uneventful information that could’ve been spent in only a couple of pages rather than a full chapter. Honestly, it feels like filler.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt that way about a recent OP chapter; the chapter that was literally just spent on Gyats announcing that Luffy beat Doflamingo seemed equally wasteful. It’s not like either of those chapters are necessarily bad, and there are moments in this chapter that sorta work. But the combination of giving Sabo and uninteresting backstory and explanation for his absence in the story, and the repetition of previously established information really annoys me. Probably more so because last week I was so excited to see what will come next for the series, and the horizons beyond Dressrosa, but I still don’t think this chapter was as well-done as it could’ve been and necessary in the grand scheme of things. It’s a disappointing stumble for the series’ forward momentum and my excitement for it, but at the same time, I recognize that Oda might’ve felt obligated to give Sabo his own chapter in recognition of his newfound popularity and importance. And with that obligation out of the way, I hope to see the series take a step forward next week, and build up the next big arc of One Piece. One that I hope will be more fulfilling and consistent than the Dressrosa arc has been as a whole.

Black Clover chapter #22 – “Assembly at the Royal Capital”

Mmm, not really a fan of the romantic triangle brewing between Asta, Noelle, and Mimosa. It’s not like I can’t see why the latter two might have grown feelings for him, especially Noelle. Dumb as he might be, he’s passionate, kind, and loyal, and the fact he does have a pretty ripped bod for a kid his stature doesn’t hurt things too. I’m just not big on romantic subplots in battle shonen, especially ones that don’t gradually start and develop naturally after a good period of time, rather than be shoved near the start of a series like this. Few writers in the genre can write it well and most of the time it amounts to just annoying and irritating distractions to the story or a degradation of female protagonists’ character arcs to simply revolve around their status as love interests. I don’t know how Tabata will handle any future romantic subplots, but I’m hoping they won’t be the focus of Noelle and Mimosa’s character arcs in the future.

That’s such a small aspect of the chapter, in any case. The core involves Asta and Yuno meeting the Wizard King, who inspires their resolve and introduces them to potential new rivals in their quest for the throne. I liked the key takeaway of the chapter; the advice the Wizard King gives to Asta and Yuno about what quality the Wizard King should have. Rather than it be something cliché and lame like heart and believing or yourself or some bullshit, the Wizard King tells them the single most important thing in order to take his position is results, results, results. They have to show they are capable of accomplishing notable feats and build a reputation for themselves if they want a chance at it, and the one who shows the most merit will be the one who inherits the position. I like that; that’s a respectable, sensible message that actually applies to the real-world. You don’t get anywhere unless you work hard and show that you’re skilled at your craft, and people recognize and acknowledge your abilities. Fuck friendship; results is where it’s at!

Beyond that, there are a few details about Asta and Yuno’s new abilities expanded on here that I’m grateful for. One is that Asta’s new, slender sword is something that he can summon from his book, and it actually absorbs magical power. The reason Asta is able to wield it is precisely because he has no magic to begin with. I fear it might end up being overpowered if no checks are placed on it, but it makes for a cool new weapon. Yuno’s power is more interesting, as apparently the fairy-thing that helped him defeat Mars was Sylph, a wind spirit who’s a part of a group of magical beings called the four great attributes. We don’t know anything more about these creatures, but it’s a development that I’m looking forward to see expanded upon. Especially since Asta will probably ally with a great attribute of his own. With the introduction of new rivals and powers to be fleshed out, there’s a lot to be intrigued about in Black Clover right now. The series’ first major arc was solid enough, but I’m curious to see how the series will evolve from here.

My Hero Academia chapter #51 – “No, Knock It Off, Ida”

Wow, Hand-Face guy really has no clue, does he? I discussed last week how he and Stain have fundamentally different goals in killing heroes; Stain wants to weed out the pretenders and Hand-Face wants anarchy. Turns out, though, that Hand-Face isn’t even a pure anarchic who wants destruction for destruction’s sake. Nah, turns out he’s just out for attention. He wants to make a name for himself; to be established as someone to be feared, and through that fear, respected.  He claims that he disagrees with Stain’s methodology, but perhaps he’s just jealous of him. Stain’s accomplished more than he ever has and has earned the reputation of being a hero-killer. People know him, and people are afraid of him. But no one gives a shit about Hand-Face guy. He didn’t team up with him because they shared a similar task; rather, he wanted to compete with him on the same stage. He wants to use his Nomu to cause more destruction and death than Stain, overshadowing him in popular consciousness. Deep down, he’s not a villain because he has a legitimate ideological motive, but rather, because he wants fame and notoriety.

That’s all well and good for Hand-Face guy, but even if his Nomu kill more people he still won’t beat Stain because Stain isn’t competing with him and doesn’t give a shit about whether he’s infamous or not. Stain is motivated by his ideology; he believes that heroes should be truly virtuous and selfless, and in an age where heroes have become a commercialized part of every day life, he’s become irritated and disillusioned with those who take up the mantle. Stain goes after and kills heroes who don’t reflect his ideal image of what a hero should be; by getting rid of the posers, he hopes to inspire the return of true heroism. He has a warped perception of what a hero should be, in that he seems intolerant of the humanistic aspect of them. He doesn’t tolerate any form of weakness, both in strength or morality, ignoring the fact that heroes are still human beings at the end of the day and have the same weaknesses as any person would. It’s the fact that in spite of those adversities, these people are able to do right by others and fight for the greater good that makes them true heroes, but Stain clearly disagrees. That’s probably why he attacked Ingenium, despite his respectable reputation; he might have done a lot of good, but he still didn’t perfectly embody what a hero is to Stain. Stain’s ideology is strict and twisted to the point that very few heroes actually meet his standards, and a good chunk of the people he’ll target if he continues to run loose will probably be people like Ingenium more so than the truly corrupt. In short, Stain is the worst kind of psychopath; one who is convinced that everything he does is right and for the greater good of the world.

I really, really wish we could’ve had more of a fight and discussion between Stain and Ida. Both characters bring up great points about the other, Stain noting Ida’s selfishness in seeking revenge being an unheroic trait, and Ida’s that Stain still hurt another human being who was doing a lot of good for his community. It would’ve been nice to dig deeper into the characters, and have Ida come to a realization that his actions were misguided and uncharacteristic for the person and hero he wants to be, but I’m sure they’ll be more development on that front in subsequent chapters. For the moment, though, Midoriya’s come charging in to take on Stain himself. He hasn’t mastered One For All enough to be able to take him down, but he should be able to save Ida’s life. Though, considering the foreshadowing of previous chapters, Ida might still suffer the consequences of his actions through other means.

Rather than Midoriya fending off Stain by himself, I have a feeling that Endeavor will be thrown into the mix and take on Stain himself in a chapter or two, considering part of this chapter builds up his arrival. I hope that happens, because that would be an incredibly fascinating fight. Endeavor is a vain, power-hungry narcissist who prioritizes his reputation and legacy over helping others;  he represents everything Stain absolutely loathes about modern day heroes and is trying to purge. Even though Stain is probably not as powerful as Endeavor, the clash of powers and ideals between the two would be an undoubtedly heated conflict in more ways than one, and the possibility excites me. Of course, this is all conjecture. Next week Midoriya’s taking on Stain, and if we receive the same level of intensity and exciting visuals that this chapter offered, then we’re bound to see one hell of a fight.

Best Blue chapter #2 – “Hellish Training”

Sometimes a simple story can be the most effective, even if that simple story feels a bit familiar. This chapter of Best Blue doesn’t do anything necessarily unique in terms of the story it tells. Numerous sports manga have done the hardass trainer putting his trainee under a grueling regimen, but it turns out he truly has his best interests at heart and that inspires the trainee to work even harder. Best Blue doesn’t do this any differently, but it does it well. It knows just the right panels to emphasize, the right places to get a laugh, and the right moments to emphasize for emotional impact. We don’t learn anything necessarily new about either Aono or Kagura in the chapter, but they are presented as likable and their dialogue, thoughts, and actions are understandable if not exactly realistic. You get a good sense of the pressure and difficulty the training is having on Aono as much as you do the dedication Kagura has to making him into a great swimmer. The beats of the chapter are predictable, but it never feels boring. I saw the ending coming a mile away, but I still found it rather sweet and inspiring. While it’s basic at it’s core, it’s still effective as a whole.

In the grand scheme of things, this chapter may have been unnecessary, and the series could’ve just skipped ahead to when Aono entered High School. However, it’s purposeful in expanding on the connection between these characters and what they see in each other. Kagura is Aono’s idol; he respects and looks up to him as the kind of swimmer he wants to be. Kagura sees in Aono his older self, and because of that, he’s dedicated to giving Aono all the opportunities and skills he can offer him in order to help him become a great swimmer. He remembers the excitement and elation he felt when all the hard work and training he put into his passion paid off, and he wants Aono to experience that one day as well. There’s a bond of trust and camaraderie between the two that feels a bit more personal than a lot of master/student relationships usually start out as, and it’s clear that the relationship between these two is what will drive the manga forward. While the series is still has a ways to go in terms of defining a distinct identity for itself, I look forward to seeing it mature as a story as much as Kagura is looking forward to seeing Aono grow as a swimmer.

Toriko chapter #331 – “The Odd Mask!!”

So, it turns out Love really has had her soul switched with a spirit from the Back Channel, who is currently inhabiting her body. But it seems that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the gang has to submit to some soul-switching in order to join some mysterious “project.” Though I say that, considering the shadiness of the business and the fact lil’ Chaco’s gotten his soul outright stolen, I suspect foul play is afoot. Blue Grill’s got a dark side, both metaphorically and literally.

As I suspected, Komatsu’s role in this arc is going to be separate from the rest of the chefs. While they compete against the Ten-Shell chefs, he’ll be trying to rescue Chaco and uncover and expose the dark underbelly of Blue Grill. We haven’t had a two-faced town kind of arc in Toriko yet (whereas most One Piece arcs seem to amount to this), and the fact that Komatsu is presumably going solo against a big conspiracy is really cool. Komatsu hasn’t had this kind of focus in a long time, and the fact that he’s not a fighter will make the suspense and danger facing him all the greater. With all the ghosts and creepy masked people and stuff, I’m expecting that this arc is going to be characterized by A LOT of eerie horror.

And boy oh boy, was this chapter eerie as fuck! Even out of context, that above image should make you go “WTF?” From the very beginning when Komatsu follows Chaco to his home in the slums, to the very end with the revelation that Chaco’s been spirited away to have his soul sold, there’s a pervasive uncomfortableness in this chapter, one that climaxes with Komatsu’s probably meaningful dream sequence. It’s pretty clear that something is wrong about Blue Grill. The circumstances surrounding the employment of Chaco’s mom, why Lala had her soul switched, the reasons why the chefs have to compete in a cooking test and then participate in “The Project”…it’s all extremely suspicious. This arc is building up one hell of a conspiracy, and I can’t wait to see it explored and exposed.

World Trigger chapter #109 – “Masata Kageura”

Well, it turns out I was only partially on the mark about Kagegura’s Side Effect allowing him to read minds. Rather, it’s something they’ve labeled as “emotional perception.” He doesn’t know exactly what’s in people’s minds, but he can interpret how they feel about him. Emotions have different sensations that he can physically feel, and negative emotions positively sting. When people think ill of him too much, he gets irritated, and lashes out, which causes some problems and injuries for those foolish enough to get on his bad side. Of course, it also doesn’t do him any favors in terms of his career path, as he’s frequently chastised and punished for his outbursts. Kagegura’s as strong as any A-Class, but he’s been demoted to B, and is in the process of working his way back to the top.

Last week I mentioned that Kagegura and Yuma seemed to be have interesting parallels, and this chapter hammers that home. Like Yuma, Kagegura keeps his real emotions under a facade, though in contrast to Yuma’s carefree attitude, Kagegura is irritable. Both of them have powers that let them discover the true natures of people under their own guises; Yuma can see when people are lying to him, and Kagegura can feel how people think of them. Both have A-Class level skill and strength, but are working to help their teammates progress through the ranks. Ko is right; they’ve got a lot in common. Whether it’ll be a friendship or a rivalry that blossoms through their common ground remains to be seen, but it’ll make the inevitable fight between them possibly the most even-matched Yuma’s ever had, and possibly his most interesting as well.

If Kagegura seems like he should be higher ranked, Tachikawa Squad’s Yuiga seems like he should be way lower. Seemingly the butt-monkey of his team, he’s apparently the weakest among the A-Class as well, making it a bit odd that he’s a member of it’s strongest team. But he’s clearly a character with a lot more to him than meets the eye, considering that Osamu has to take him on a beat him 100 times in order to learn composite shots from Izumi. Osamu’s been told to focus on breaking down his enemies’ defenses as his means of scoring points by himself, and that’s what Izumi seems to want to test him on before he lets him evolve his skills to the next level. So my guess is that Izumi might be a weak attacker, but he’s one skilled ass defender. One who’s extremely hard to get points off of. If that’s his schtick, then you better believe Osamu’s got his work cut out for him. 100 wins already doesn’t sound easy, but it’ll probably be even harder than he currently realizes.

Bleach chapter #635 – “Hooded Enigma”

I could make an easy “Bleach is boring as shit” joke out of that image, but to this chapter’s credit, it did have a bunch of stuff going on in it. Stupid, head-bashingly asinine stuff, mind you, but hey, that’s still better than padded fluff. Now, remember last week how I commented that it was kind of dumb that Bazz B was built up as an important anti-villain when his backstory and fight with Jugo served only to emphasize the latter’s character and diminish his relevance? Which made his character thoroughly pointless to invest in or care about? Thing is with Bazz B, while he himself wasn’t as important as his screen-time suggested he would be, his heel-turn and fight with Jugo was at least purposeful in developing the latter’s character and moved the story forward. Now, as for the other quincies who were out for Ywach’s head, Lillioto and Giselle? Guess what – they’ve been utterly curbstomped by Ywach! In a battle we didn’t see, and didn’t do anything that added to the story! So…WHAT. WAS. THE. POINT. KUBO? Why the hell did you bother having these character’s survive Ywach’s genocide if you weren’t going to do anything with them? Three pages. You only show the tail end of their fight with Ywach, and it’s three fucking pages that starts out with a dumb ironic commentary from Lillioto. Even Ywach was like “Welp, that was sure filler. Imma go back to sleep/twiddle my thumbs until Ichigo finally shows up now.” There was nothing gained from having those characters survive. There was absolutely no point to building up their revenge on Ywach. The only Quincy who really needed to survive was Bazz B, because he’s the only one who’s heel-turn amounted to anything resembling substance. Kubo’s stuffed this series with so many characters he just doesn’t know what to do with them, so pretty much every plot thread involving a character that isn’t Ichigo ultimately ends up being an absolute waste of time.

Oh, but Kubo doesn’t just give us one example of how he wastes his characters in this chapter! Ohhhhhh no, he has a lot of work to do to dwindle the numbers down so that Ichigo can fight Ywach mano y mano with no help whatsoever. Like Grimmjow. Remember Grimmjow? Remember how Kubo teased his return for like three years and when he was finally revealed that, yes, “he’s back!”, it was the most underwhelming shit ever? But hey, at least we might get a cool fight out of-NOPE! Ask Le Nakk Le Stupid Name knocked him out with poison like a punk. …Wow. Just…wow. Grimmjow’s return was so worth it, amirite? HAHAHA…fuck you Kubo. Seriously, I didn’t give a shit about Grimmjow even back during the Hueco Mundo arc, but he clearly had fans who wanted to see him get into one last badass brawl. Sure, I know he’s probably going to bounce back from this poisoning and return to the fight, but to immediately have his first fight since his return be resolved with him losing, by way of getting poisoned from an enemy who just ran away from him the entire time, is just insulting. Grimmjow might not deserve better, but his fans sure do.

And it’s not just Grimmjow who’s getting the shaft, it’s…well, pretty much everyone. Even the villains. Like, Thor-expy guy doesn’t have anyone to fight and yells bemoaning the fact. It’d be hilarious if no one bothers fighting him until Ywach is already beat. Meanwhile, all the ancillary Soul Reapers are getting picked off one-by-one by sniper dude because people keep falling behind the rest of the group. Why nobody seems to notice or care that their comrades are missing is suspect…but then again, this is the fucking Gotei 13, the most incompetent military organization ever conceived in a shonen series, so I guess it’s par for the course. So of course sniper dude takes out Hisagi and we’re supposed to go “oh no, not HISAGI!” You know, the guy who was really popular with fangirls for some reason so he had an inexplicably expanded role in the Fake Karakura arc and ended up killing Tosen? Yeah, I dunno, could you maybe choose a different punching bag? Hisagi’s already got screwed so many times this arc he’s basically become the series’ Yamcha. Oh wait no, sorry, that’s still Chad. So I guess I’d have to call him…the Tenshinhan? Nah, even though he become increasingly irrelevant, Tenshinhan at least had his cool moments all the way up to the Buu saga. He still had some dignity to him even as Super Buu one-shotted him. Hisagi? He literally got mind-controlled by the power of love from a fat hippie with heart-shaped shades and a stupid beard. There’s just no bouncing back into relevancy after that. Still, the fact that Kubo took a character that was actually developed and had a major role in defeating one of the series’ major villains and turned him into someone who only exists in order to show how tough his villains are is super dumb. There are no cool characters in Bleach anymore; just pieces of meat to be hacked away at for Kubo’s pleasure, and the reader’s disgust.

And so the chapter ends with Kenpachi’s arm getting crushed by another baddie. Kenpachi, the guy who was built up to be one of Soul Society’s most powerful and important assets in this war, has already been crippled. Again. Oh god, could this fight possibly end up as bad as the one with Gremmy? No, Mayuri is with him, so chances are Kenpachi is going to get shafted for no reason so Mayuri’s bullshit can win the fight just like how all Mayuri fights go. Teamwork be dammed, the man has science! So yeah, I already know how this fight’s going to do, so hopefully it gets over with quickly, Kubo culls the herd, and we start focusing on stuff that actually matters again. Because let’s face it; most of the characters in Bleach exist solely to pad out the series with fights, which is why Kubo treats them as so disposable. The characters themselves don’t matter, so much as how “cool” their powers are and how useful they are in providing “cool” fights. It’s too bad that Kubo can’t be bothered to actually give them good ones.

Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma chapter #127 – “Moonlight Whispers”

Considering how both Soma and Sadatsuka take pleasure in testing out their bizarre concoctions on poor unsuspecting victims, it’s a shocker that they hadn’t met and became friends sooner. Regardless, a magnificently malevolent friendship has now been born, and I can’t wait to the consequences of it after their inevitable team-up.

Turns out I was partially right about Soma’s scheme! Man, I was partially right about a lot of things this week. Go me! Anyway, Soma’s been hauling his cart around the campus to sell his buns like I suspected. Except he’s not actually selling them so much as giving them away; it’s a free promotion and taste-testing deal. He can raise interest in his stand from potential repeat customers and learn what kinds of food to cater to specific tastes. Thanks to suggestions, Soma came up with a second entree for customers who’d rather eat something lighter – a thin-cut noodle dish, which helped him sell a lot more tickets than he had the day before. However, it seems that this strategy is still not enough. Soma’s pork buns are kind of an abstract food in japanese public consciousness. In that, nobody’s knows how they’d like it or what they’d taste like until they tried one. But Kuga’s sichuan cooking is much more common and easy to get and idea of, taste-wise. So in order to truly compete, Soma needs to think up a dish that has a lot of visual impact and is easy to understand.

This is the problem the Shiomi Seminar is facing too. So far, Alice has been thinking up of flashy, extravagant things they could make. She prioritized her creative impulse to experiment rather than considering the needs of her customers. But Hayama’s pointed out that their customer base in on the cheap end, and that something so pricey and complex isn’t something they’d want. Much like Soma, Alice and co. have to think up a dish that properly suits their customers needs – something that is simple, recognizable, and affordable – if they hope to compete.

While the Shiomi Seminar is still figuring what dish they should make, Soma’s realized he needs to go back to square one and take Kuga on his own turf – Mappo Tofu. Erina might’ve said that his wasn’t on the level of Kuga’s before, but thing about the Yukihara-style of cooking is that it’s always evolving, and Soma’s figured out just how to take his take on the dish to the next level. He’s going to be losing sleep over perfecting it, and I’m going to losing sleep wondering what he’s going to try. Food Wars! always knows just how to spice up an arc, and it’s cliffhangers are unfailingly irresistible. Every week I say the same thing to myself about this series – next week can’t come soon enough.

Oh, and every bit with Sadatsuka with just amazing in this chapter. I was seriously tempted to post pics of all of them and put ’em up…but then I’d just be transplanting the entire chapter, pretty much.

Dragon Ball chapter #3 – “Sea Monkeys”

With the lead characters and the basic details of the world established, Toriyama takes the next step in developing them. Part of this involves expanding on Goku’s naivety and moral compass; really, the simplicity of his character. His misunderstanding of honorifics and belief that Bulma had turned into a turtle are very silly jokes, but subconsciously inform the reader that Goku isn’t well educated and thinks about things in a very literal and straightforward way. We see that he’s a pretty nice fellow who trusts people easy and gladly helps those in need, since he doesn’t hesitate to offer Turtle help when he finds out he needs to return to the sea. The encounter with the Bear-thief shows he’s pretty no-nonsense and fearless, and uses his speed and wit to quickly subdue opponents. Through the quick succession of these moments in the chapter, we get an even more rounded sense of who Goku is as a person, and with the information and background we’ve learned about him in the previous two chapters, his character has been completely established and accessible for the reader to invest in.

One of the most notable aspects shown about Goku’s character in this chapter is the idea that he’s not a really a goody two-shoes hero. Even though he saves Turtle, he also seriously consider eating him after hearing that his meat might taste good, only changing his mind when Turtle manages to convince him otherwise. This is a small, but revealing little detail. True, Turtle is, well, a turtle, but he’s also a sentient creature that Goku had befriended. While Goku might be quick to help people, but he is also quicker to submit to his whims and personal interests, prioritizing them over the safety and best interests of those around him. It’s an aspect to his character that becomes more consequential and damaging in later arcs where people’s lives and the fate of the earth are on the line, and it’s neat to see the seeds of it shown here.

While the chapter is mainly useful in characterizing Goku, it does also begin to expand the world of the series a bit more with the introduction of Master Roshi at the tail end. It’s unclear whether Toriyama originally intended Roshi to be as major a character in the series as he ended up being, but in of himself, his existence presents a sense of randomness to the world and throws the readers expectations into wack. After all, I don’t think any first-time readers of the series had expected Turtle’s “reward” to be an old-man. Toriyama sprinkles in these surprises to keep the reader engaged, but also keep what he can do with the world loose and flexible to fit his interests. This versatility is how the series was able to change into something radically different from it’s beginning to it’s end, and plays a large part in how Toriyama was able to keep it fresh for over a decade. This is a light chapter for analysis, but it provokes a lot of interesting meta-textual musings looking at it from a retrospective perspective. If the series was being run as a Jump Start today, this would have been the last preview chapter, and just based on what I had seen from the first three chapters, I definitely would’ve voted it high up in the survey.

Final Thoughts:

Not quite as strong an issue as last week as a whole, since One Piece was lame and Bleach was, well, Bleach, but the chapters that were good were really good, many really great. Nisekoi and World Trigger made good on welcome returns, and Food Wars! and My Hero Academia have some serious momentum going. If I had to define a theme between the chapters in the issue, it’s maturity. Many chapters in this issue see a character who’s about to embrace the next step of their personal growth, be it Yui being ready to move on from Raku, to Ida getting a wake-up call from Stain about vigilantism versus heroism. They don’t have a much deeper connection between them than that, but it’s still something to consider. Otherwise, these chapters are about possibilities; both the potential that can be reached by hard work and dedication, the dangers that lurk in unfamiliar surroundings, and the depths to which Bleach will sink in failing to provide half-way decent entertainment. But enough postulating about tenuous thematic connections that may or may not exist. Let’s review what the cream of the crop of this issue was, shall we?…

Best Manga of the Week:

1. Nisekoi – With strong character development, a long welcome and irreversible shake-up to the status-quo, and a genuinely moving emotional payoff, Nisekoi had the best chapter of the issue, hands down. People might be skeptical that the series is going places after it had been stuck in a rut for so long, but I’ve noticed the signs and I’ve played this game with long-running romance manga before. I have a good feeling that Nisekoi isn’t about to take another detour, but go all the way in a single burst. And right now, I’m enjoying the ride.

2. Food Wars! – Excellent character bits and a turn of events in Soma’s strategy to outsell Kuga, with Alice getting some interesting character growth as well in the b-story. Not to mention that Sadatsuka was an absolutel scene-stealer with all her moments in this chapter, and the newfound friendship she has with Soma excites me with all it’s macabre possibilities. It might not have the flash of a shokugeki chapter, but it’s got a whole lot of substance to rival one in entertainment value. A winner on all fronts.

3. My Hero Academia – While I was hoping for just a little more of a fight and discussion between Ida and Stain, the ideas expressed in the chapter are still a ton of fun to think about and apply to each characters’ motivations and potential arcs, and Stain continues to be a brilliantly-construed and fascinating villain. The art and action in this chapter also delivered just the right amount of thrill and hype, getting me pumped to see Midoriya take on Stain with Ida in next week’s installment.

4. Toriko – Enigmatic, unsettling, and at one point disturbing, this was one heck of a chapter to characterize this arc and the dark side of the cooking paradise of Blue Grill. The conspiracy laid out here is full of sinister mystery, and I’m extremely excited by the potential of Komatsu tackling it on his own as his fellow chefs engage in a cooking showdown like no other with the 10-Shell chefs. No chapter in this issue left me more intrigued by what might happen next than Toriko‘s did, and it’s a promising sign for an increasingly promising arc.

Line(s) of the Week:

Kagura: “Make sure he doesn’t slack off on training and studying. To ward off all the bad omens, throw away all the porn under his bed.”

Best Blue

Panel(s) of the Week:

Page(s) of the Week:

And that does it for this week’s issue! Hopefully the next one will be up on time. Well, until then, try not to get pelted by poison balls, eaten by anthropomorphic bears, or get your soul sold to spooky masked men, and I’ll see you again after the jump!

2015
07.21

More poses than JoJo's

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Yeah….I know… I’m late. Fucking Clusterfuck taken up all my free time, I’m tellin ya. Whelp, back to Crowds.

Last time on Crowds…nothing happened (sur-prise, sur-priiiiiiiiise). This time on Crowds… Something happened!…but not much.

Give death a chance!

Introducing our new villain, Rizumu Suzuki, a medical student who also received the CROWDS note from presumably Berg-Katze (don’t rule out Gelsadra just yet) but didn’t use it fearing its awesome potential if abused. But then Rui proceeded to do so for the benefit of humanity, and that really ticked Suzuki off because hairless apes aren’t supposed to have that power and now must be destroyed to make room for homo superior or some other nonsense. To that end he formed VAPE, the pseudo-revival of the Neo-One Hundred out to save the world through mass terrorism via The Red Crowds. The funny thing about this is I just watched “Kingsman: The Secret Service” a couple days ago and this really resembles the plan of Valentine right down to the sinister usage of cell phones. The one difference is Suzuki isn’t nearly as cool as Samuel L. Jackson. All he’s got is a stupid face mask that makes him look like Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul albeit with red hair. One must wonder if the delay Crowds insight had from last year was meant to cover for the perceived allusions to that other show…because it didn’t work.

Hello Sailor!

MEANWHILE IN STUPIDVILLE…. Because Sugane’s too busy trying avoid openly coming out of the closet, newbie Tsubasa has to get a new mentor…The Creature! *shudder* The trio of The Creature, Tsubasa, and “Gergergergergerusadra!” hop a bullet train and head for Tokyo as a publicity event at a shoping mall has been scheduled to welcome the latest Gatchaman. The one problem is Tsubasa still hasn’t figured out the Bird Go! thing and makes an utter fool of herself on national television. To make matters worse, the Red Crowds proceed to show up and wreck all sorts of shit. Unable to transform, Tsubasa only succeeds in breaking her grandma’s leg. Way to go Genius. But that’s ok! She’s going to get a strict dressing down from Creature-Chan right?

…goddammit Hajime.

This is a bit of an improvement on episode 1 and I attribute that to the mall fight, its actually pretty well done for the most part and shows clearly how crap Tsubasa is as a Gatchaman. Presumably she’ll finally figure out how to transform over the course of the series and I suspect that will be providing most of the dramatic drive. As for Suzuki…well…he’s ok. I’d say he’s more interesting as a villain than Katze because he’s cool and calculating where as Katze was basically just an escapee from Time Bokan at times. Whether or not he gets any better as a character though remains to be seen though. Overall, compared to around this time last season when it was the sour milk episode, its a modest improvement.

OF COURSHE!

But that mask still looks stupid. 6/10.

 

2015
07.18

Classroom Crisis

Dem rocket boosters don't grow on trees ya know!!!!

Classroom Crisis seems like its been beamed in from the late 90’s. Specifically the post-Evangelion boom years when everything old seemed new again and a nostalgia fueled retro revival started gaining lots of steam. Said boom of course later petered out and thus we’ve spent the last decade making “anime is saved!/doomed” jokes because of the vicious cycle the industry has been engulfed in. But back in those days, we’d take a candy colored exercise in shonen silliness with an open hand and a smile on our faces. Now, we take everything at face value and thus what I take away from Classroom Crisis is a simple fact: its forgettable.

So what’s the problem? Well lets start with the story. Its a mishmash of the “motley crew of quirky teens saves the universe”-show (ie: Nadesico) and the “civil servants have to save the world on a budget”-show (ie: Daiguard). In a distant future where mankind has colonized Mars but still drives Prius-C’s, the megaconglomorate Kirishina Corproration runs basically all forms of government and commerce. One such field is the school system where students are basically junior employees tasked in developing tech for the aerospace industry. However this also means said school has to use said tech to perform daredevil space missions when disaster strikes. Said disaster being that one time the new transfer student gets take hostage by evil proletarians! Also the transfer student is their boss apparently because we need awkward comedy in this show!

If this story sounds weak then possibly the execution could save it right? Wrong! The characters are all pretty flat, falling into basic archetypes of the space adventure and school comedy genres. So generic are they that you could literally swap anyone for another character from an older, different show. The animation by A-1 spinoff Lay-Duce is serviceable but still par for the course. It seems like Aniplex shows need to have this house style to their shows where everything’s very flat looking with sharp lines except when it comes to animating cars which are all CGI for some reason. Classroom Crisis continues this “great” tradition which probably explains why ufotable isn’t working for them this season.

So yeah Classroom Crisis just pretty much comes off as anime by numbers. If you want a really, really, REALLY generic show that feels like a fugitive from 1997 this might be up your alley. Otherwise, skip it. — Lord Dalek

Death Note (2015)

Yagami Light-Stick


It amuses me how Death Note has become a generational tale, branching from a manga into films, anime, musicals, and now a live-action drama. And this isn’t hard to understand. Death Note is ultimately about how good intentions like justice can be turned into something unforgivable; the ubiquitous story about how absolute power corrupts absolutely. Light Yagami starts out not as a force of evil or a public menace, but as an upstanding student simply disgusted with the malice going on throughout the world. Anyone with a mix of curiosity and a desire to do good would have done what Light initially did, but he didn’t stop there. He kept going and going, killing as many people as he could with the Death Note. Names were written down like they were numbers on a spreadsheet, making a human’s life worth as much as a few seconds of scribbling. Acts of murder literally become marks on a checklist, indicating how blind justice could truly be.

So I’m interested in how this story must be told again and again like the annual regurgitation of A Christmas Carol. And like some adaptations of the Dickensian morality play, liberties are taken. What amuses more than it should have was how many changes were introduced for this drama. Instead of a brilliant student with seemingly no roadblocks to a good future, everyman issues bog down the Light here. He lives in a broken household, with his mother long dead and his father too invested in work to pay attention. His daily life languishes thanks to bullies and part-time jobs. There’s even something in the beginning that you would never see the original Light do, where he goes to a Misa-Misa concert. This drama portrays a Light, who for a brief moment, looks up to Misa Amane. He’s not a paragon of apparent excellence, but an underdog.

Light doesn’t even want to use the Death Note at first. Ryuk has to coerce him multiple times before he becomes Kira. Instead of wanting to become justice, Light is forced into it. While the manga, the anime, and the movies show how the average person could become a serial killer out of mere curiosity, this iteration suggests malice exists because there’s no other choice. I know it’s meant to paint Light as more sympathetic, as someone who only became Kira to support the ones he loved and to wash away his myriad of personal problems, but we’re not meant to sympathize with Light. We’re supposed to be horrified at how many a high school student could kill if given the power. Any sympathy towards him should only amount to pity at how it’s too late for him to go back, not out of how Light’s supposed to be a cosmic plaything. He’s supposed to be the puppet master. The adaptors didn’t need to make Light an everyman because he was already one. Forcing him into the role just dilutes the character and makes him feel like a dime a dozen. By making Light a victim of circumstance, he loses that godliness. He’s just an efficient serial killer instead of one with an inborn god complex, none of which are helped by his actor.

Instead, it’s L who relishes in grandeur. The L in this universe has an expansive wardrobe and a decorated lair. It’s like seeing Keaton Batman turn into Kilmer Batman. And by the way, L gets a brief shirtless scene if you want to know whom this drama is truly aimed towards. While trying to add shades and layers can be appreciated, more is less. This isn’t the L from the source material; this is L as how his fangirls want him to be. It’s L if your only idea of who he was came from a fan instead of a writer, with any flaws meant to make him more appealing rather than complicated. He’s the L you could take your parents to see without getting embarrassed. The perspective is tilted, meant for us to like the main characters more than the previous adaptations wanted us to. To put it bluntly, it makes them less cool.

Yeah, I’m complaining about a shonen manga adaptation being dumbed down. And to be fair, the original has its own problems worth writing an essay over. But if stories are going to be updated for the modern age, they have to be done without sacrificing what made the precursor work. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong. Perhaps the show will find its own feet and grow much better after a rough premiere. The changes might suggest the creators know what they’re doing and will play with the story to make it more refreshing for old Death Note fans. But if a wimp Light and a pretty L are all that’s to be settled for, I could pass. — Bloody Marquis

 GOD EATER

JAAAAAAAAAAAAAEEEEEEEEEEEEEGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR!

Last season we chided Seraph of the End (AKA that stupid show with the vampires) for basically being Attack on Titan with vampires.  However, I kinda feel that’s a bit of an unfair statement now because the show was ultimately more of a rip-off of various Shin Megami Tensei games (specifically the Devil Summoner and Persona subfranchises) than being just a straight-up ripoff of Titan. GOD EATER, on the other hand, is literally just Attack on Titan made by ufotable. Giant walls? CHECK. Giant monsters? CHECK. Insane overzealous nationalism? CHECK. Angsty jerk protagonist who will likely be voiced by Bryce Pappenbrook in the dub? Oh double check and mate suckah. The only thing missing is Revo’s over the top Wagner metal. Instead we get the guys who do the Free OPs (not like I’m complaining, its a decent OP) and it’s just not the same.

So what is the show about? You know what? I literally have no idea! What I have been able to deduce so far is that A: its apparently the distant future, B: kaijuu roam the post apocalyptic landscape, C: an elite band of soldiers with a distinctive logo emblazoned on the back of their coats exterminate the monsters using high tech weaponry called God-Arcs, and D: our “hero” Lenka wants to kill all the Tit-er…Amagamis because why the hell not? All of this is delivered in a style that is akin to walking 75 minutes into a movie that is only 100 minutes long. We don’t know anything about our main character. We don’t know why he’s fighting monsters. And we don’t know why everbody says he’s a Newty-wait…this is Gundam now? Goddammit.

Now, initially I was under the impression that this was a tie-in for a Light Novel due to its visual style (seriously all the characters in this show look like they’ve just jumped off a book cover) and all that backstory was contained in said volumes, but it turns out this is actually based off some video game series. GODS EATER BURST apparently came out for the PSP in this country five years ago. I’ve never heard of it, and frankly even if it did offer all the necessary back story to make the trainwreck I just watched some sense, I just don’t care.

GOD EATER is not quite the worst show of the season. It has its animation going for it at least as ufotable once again does a beautiful job with all their Nasu moniez. That said, there is literally nothing else to recommend about it and in a season that’s already given us Monster Musume and Chaos Dragon, that is literally the kiss of death. — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

God Eater is based on a series of Monster Hunter-style videogames that started on the PSP. The setting and plot can basically be described as “Attack on Titan set in the future with better monsters and cooler weapons”. Monsters called Aragami have infested the earth, combatting these monstrosities is an organization called Fenrir and their group of Aragami Hunters, the titular “God Eaters”. Each God Eater is armed with a giant sword or gun called “God Arcs” designed to kill Aragmi and eat their “cores”. Our story follows Lenka, a rookie God Eater that hasn’t seen combat yet, having failed most of his training sessions. He is introduced by his friend, Kota, to the engineer Lika, whom has built a new generation God Arc which Lenka promptly takes up to help with his training. However, when Aragami break through one of the walls (yeah yeah, Titan and all that), Lenka goes against orders and takes his new God Arc into combat, where promptly gets his ass kicked. Fortunately he is rescued by a squad of badasses lead by Lindow, a hero among God Eaters.

Having an interest in the series despite never having played an entry (due to not having any of the systems the games are on), I was interested in this adaptation, especially since I enjoyed the one-shot OVA released a few years ago. At first I was disappointed that Ufotable went with a male protagonist (in the games you can choose the gender and appearance of your character, ala Monster Hunter), but I can safely say that despite these personal gripes, God Eater: The Animation has a solid start. One could say that God Eater takes too much from the wildly popular Attack on Titan, but personally, God Eaters futuristic setting, better (if somewhat generic) designed monsters, and overall aesthetic appeals to me much more. Yeah, the over-the-top costumes and weapons may not be practical, but I’ve always placed value on style as much as substance, and I’ll take stylish “cool” looking designs over boring “practical” designs anyday. I can write entire essays on how important style is to me, but I’ll save that for another time.

For me, what puts God Eater above Attack on Titan is its lack of self-indulgence. Absent is the over-bearing, try hard attempts at being “dark” and “mature” by presenting character deaths and over-abundant angsting. Instead God Eater shows that, yes, the situation is dire, and mankind is just as much to blame on the current state its world as the Aragami are, but there is always a glimmer of hope, a chance to fight back and survive for a better tomorrow.  This is shown most clearly in the action-packed climax of the episode where Lindow and his team rescue Lenka and an injured comrade, all while cracking jokes and enjoying a smoke (yeah, Lindow’s kinda a badass), and culminates with Lenka saving a civilian from certain death, a sequence that would be unheard of in most post-apocalyptic shows.

As always, ufotable’s animation is great, and the rocking soundtrack gets you pumped up for some great action. The episode could get a little exposition heavy at times, but it was nowhere near as obnoxious as Rokka’s was. Also surprising was the lack of franchise poster-girl Alisa, which on the bright side possibly means that the anime won’t be pandering to the fanboys. God Eater is easily the bright spot in an otherwise dry and cloudy season. If you wanted Attack on Titan with less angst and more ass-kicking, check it out. If you’re a fan of the games, then you’re probably already checking it out. — Crimson Rynnec

Himouto! Umaru-Chan

At last, creature, you show your true form!

16-year old Umaru Doma is the perfect high-school student. A beautiful, kind, smart, athletic girl whom despite her popularity, remains humble. A textbook model citizen…until she gets home, where Umaru reveals herself to be an annoying, lazy, rotten, spoiled-brat of a child, much to the chagrin of her older brother, Taihei. Such is the plot of Himouto Umaru-chan.
As you can probably tell, Umaru-chan spits in the face of most imouto shows by painting Umaru as exactly what most little sisters actually are: annoying brats. The show mostly follows Taihei’s POV as he has to deal with his little sister whining, complaining, and yelling until she gets her way while using her cute charms to get any onlookers to sympathize with her and demonize her brother. Imagine Umaru as an unholy fusion of Angelica Pickles and Dee-Dee from Dexter’s Laboratory, and you’ve basically got the picture. Umaru isn’t some sick little girl or some delicate flower who plays upon the audience’s sympathy, she’s just a rotten child, this is where most of the shows humour comes from, and to the anime’s credit; it actually works. Anyone with a younger sibling can probably relate to Taihei’s predicament, and those without younger siblings can laugh while they thank the heavens that they’re an only child. That being said, Himouto Umaru-chan can easily wear out its joke pretty quick, but considering just how tired the little-sister trope is in anime, you may find enjoyment in its pissing on the trope regardless. I’d say it’s worth watching at least one episode, especially if you’re tired of heartstring-tugging little sister characters being portrayed in a positive light. — Crimson Rynnec

Pillow Boys

….kill…me….

Shhh! Dayah hear dat? That’s the sound of the spotted fujobait in it’s natural habitat. Now this particular specimen appears to have an uncommon birth defect, most likely caused by his dad fucking a sheep. Notice the swirled hair. This usually taken as a sign that the creature is not, in fact, human, and can be treated as such. It’s pink garnets help further mask it’s masculinity, allowing for a nice non-threatening appearance. The dead look in it’s eyes reflects images of it’s past onto us. We can see the long, painful life it has lived. The horrors it has seen. The abuse it’s been put through by hundreds of horny, creepy females. The only humane option is to put it out of it’s misery, son. Here’s a rifle. — Shadow Gentleman

School-Live!

Gakkou Gurashi (or School-Live! for you normal folk out there) begins as your typical anime comedy, where protagonist Shauna Takeya, an ordinary high school student with no direction in her life who lives with her roommates, Edo Ebisuzawa and Peeto. After a string of bad events, culminating with her love interest, Rizzu Wakaba, breaking up with her, Shauna drowns her sorrows at her favorite pub, the Weenuchestah, with Edo at her side. However, Peeto calls Shauna out on her behaviour, and tells her to sort her life out. Unfortunately for our hero, a zombie apocalypse has broken out (isn’t that just rotten luck), after dealing with a few zombies, Shauna and Edo come up with a plan: take Peeto’s car, go to Shauna’s mum’s house, kill her zombie-fied step-dad, Feeruppu, grab Rizzu, go to the Weenuchestah, have a nice cold drink, and wait for this whole thing to blow over.

Despite my general dislike of zombie stories (with a few exceptions) I really enjoyed this anime. Gakkou Gurashi is a solid horror-comedy, with laugh out loud jokes and an effective cast, with some surprisingly emotional moments. This is easily one of summer’s better offerings, especially with the use of Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” as the ED. Definitely recommended, especially for horror-comedy lovers. — Crimson Rynnec

Snow White with the Red Hair

No Dwarves, no fucks given.

It’s a dime-a-dozen story. Heard it a million times before, Ray. Some unlucky punk thinks they can just get away with selling meth likes it’s no big deal, like they don’t got a care in the world and they’re the goddamn candy man sprinkling the world with crystalized sunshine. But the world isn’t a candy store, Ray. That got shut down a long time ago. Where am I supposed to buy my Mallo Cups now, Ray!? Anyway, the deal is some broad named Shirayuki has been passing as a “””herbalist””” (read: meth cooker) known as “The Red Menace”. But being the candy man doesn’t pay too well. That’s why the candy store shut down. So she catches the eye of some rich prick and has to become his “””concubine””” (read: sex servant). So after a bunch of boring scenes of talking and more talking, she gets saved by this charming guy whose probably her pimp now or something, I don’t know. It’s all one big damn mess, Ray, one big fucking mess. Just another stain on the melted Mallo Cup we call life. Now help clean it up, Ray, I want my marshmallow chocolate fix! — Semyon Gentleman

Second Opinion!

Wow what a great idea! In this show, Waltrude S. Weiss is forced to quit her job as the local chemisty pro when Prince Güstav Fring wants a cut of her finest Red Phosphorous! After going on the lamb, she bumps into Jerzy PinkZen and his zany crew Skinny Pietro and The Badger Man! Watch as Waltrude changes her name to Shiroyukihimeisenberg and starts peddling meth on the streets of Mahogaqurque! Be amazed when PinkZen and Güsfring duel for the keys to the special Italian cart made by the Craftsman Winnebago! Scream in terror when Der Ermentraüt pays a visit to Waltrude’s cousin Henk Schraader’s villa! Be on the edge of your seats when, in order to dodge the gendarmes, Waltrude and Jerzy are forced to contact their magistrate Saulvatore!.  All of this and more in this epic show from Bones!

P.S. I’m really interested in the English Dub of this show. I wonder if they could get that guy who played Dr. Nanbu in Eagle Riders. He just seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. — Waldorf Q. Banderstack XII

Venus Project: Climax

Gotta keep up with Bankruptcylvania!

Hey kids! Ya like Aikats-nowaitofcourseyoudon’t. Ya like Giant Robots? Ya like explosions? Ya like idol singers?!? Well this show that’s got em all!…and then fails to deliver! Venus Project: Climax is the biggest cocktease of Summer 2015. A show that give you so many elements to work with and then fails to produce any of them and watching it felt like several plots for other several other idol shows/robot shows/SOL crap. Actually you know what, I blame the SOL crap. It was the most predominate thing about this waste of time that seemed to be wasting my time.

Well lets get it over with, in a world where Love Live! was too damn popular for its own good and now the fate of the universe depends on idol competitions where said idol’s skills and spirits are represented by giant robot fights, young Eriko wants to be the Rookie Queen!…but first she has to have food thrown in her face, have fun with creepy orphans, get smacked around by her bed ridden Coach Ota-clone mentor, and be annoyed by her co-workers. But then! She makes it to the stage and…episode over.

Wow.,..that was quick.

Venus Project desperately wants to be a more male-oriented Aikatsu. Like Aikatsu its based off a card based video game with weird virtual reality components that make me wanna vomit. Unlike Aikatsu (and I would like to point out that this is first and probably only time I will ever say something positive in relation to Aikatsu), it doesn’t know how to tell a story to save its life. Ichigo may be a ditz but she’s pretty well developed across the first episode of that crap. Eriko? I still have know idea what she’s trying to achieve other than ego padding and slapping that dirty Ruskie idol back to Pooris-snicker-excuse me-Pooris-chuffle-POORISTAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA FUCKING POORISTAN! WAS THAT IN THE ORIGINAL TRACK??? IS FUNI JUST TROLLING THIS SHIT?!? I MEAN REALLY!!! WHAT THE FUCK????

So when’s the next episode coming out? A month from now? HAHAHA forget it! Go back to Pooristan you el-cheapo knockoff! — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

Venus Project is an idol show where idols dress in fabulous outfits and summon mecha-stands to engage in hot-blooded battles…for all of 4-minutes. The rest of the episode is dedicated to generic anime protagonist #349830 as she hangs out with Togo from Yuuki Yuuna and eats a bunch of good because anime protag, and has sexual fantasies about a girl from Pooristan. Honestly I don’t really care, because the first few minutes were such a gigantic cocktease, the rest of the anime just left me cold. That being said, the mecha-stands do seem to be playing an actual part in the show, as most of the episode is the protagonist preparing to enter some sort of idol contest/tournament thing, where we meet our supposed main cast. So despite a bad first impression, Venus Project could turn itself around depending on how future episodes pan out. — Crimson Rynnec

2015
07.14

It feels like a long, long time since we’ve had an issue that didn’t go over 200 pages, but here we are. Because of various circumstances, neither World Trigger, Nisekoi, or One-Punch Man were in this week’s issue, leaving the total series count to be below double digits for the first time in ages. If there wasn’t a Jump Start debuting or a Jump Back being run, this issue would have only been 6 series full and less than 130 pages! Not that I’m complaining, necessarily. More content does not mean more quality, and that’s true of the opposite as well. Despite being half as long as last week’s issue, this one was easily better, sporting a strong set of chapters from nearly every series. Besides, these take a lot of time to write, and since I’ve got a busy week before me, I’m relieved to have an issue that I can read and review more quickly than usual.

But since I do have more time than usual, I’ll briefly comment on some Jump-relevant stuff. I didn’t manage to write about it for the Clusterfuck, but I think Dragon Ball Super is a super disappointment. A re-telling of the movies with more filler and less impressive animation? Come on, Toei, who wanted that?! That first episode should’ve promised us an exciting adventure, side-splitting humor, and some friggin’ epic action; we want something new, not slow set-up and re-treads! But as lame as the premiere was, I haven’t written off the show just yet. The second episode was a lot more fun than the premiere, for the sheer humor value of seeing Vegeta out of his element and going shopping and being on a party boat. Sure, they didn’t go nearly as far as they should’ve with it, but I appreciated the set-up of it being a callback to Vegeta’s promise to Trunks before the Tenkaichi Budokai and a lot of the more subtle character moments for him in the episode. Him acting so super tsundere about the whole thing was rather adorable too. It’s not the greatest of stuff, but it was more fun and hit better character interaction and development beats than Goten and Trunks trying to find a good present for Videl did in the first episode. In any case, it looks like we’ll be getting to Bulma’s birthday party in this week’s episode, and it’s been stated Goku and Beerus will fight in episode 5, so hopefully this “Battle of Gods” arc ends by the sixth episode and we move on to the stuff involving the new villain, Shanpa.

On the subject of Dragon Ball, Viz currently has some good deals for getting digital copies of Toriyama’s various manga on their website, which includes a couple of bundles for DB. I’ve got the whole thing in print myself and don’t want to double dip, but for those of who who don’t have much of the series or a lot of dough and just want to read the manga with good translations (the fan translations are awful…), then I’d say it’s a good investment. The best deal, though, is the one for the criminally under-appreciated Dr. Slump (Toriyama’s first series in case you don’t know), which you can buy the entirety of for only $36! That’s two bucks a volume! Needless to say, I immediately bought the bundle and couldn’t be happier about it, since the price for collecting all the print volumes is at least three times as much at the cheapest. Dr. Slump got some scanlations for it recently out of nowhere (so did Astro Boy and Galaxy Express 999, to my surprise), but you just can’t beat the Viz translations for how sharply they replicate Toriyama’s humor, much less the page quality of their digital releases. If you’re interested in checking out what is easily Toriyama’s funniest, most creative series as well as the one that best reflects his qualities and strengths as a mangaka, not to mention just one of the greatest comedy manga ever made, then the bundle is more than worth the price.

And on the subject of manga deals and sales, I’ll briefly mention, in case you don’t know, that B&N has expanded their Graphic Novel and Manga sections to double their size to reflect the customer demand and profitability of the medium. This is great news for comics fans, though having visited my local B&N recently, it has come at the cost of some less popular titles no longer being offered in-store, but c’est la vie. Notably, two of the highest selling manga titles B&N highlighted are Jump titles. One of them is, of course, Naruto, but the second? Assassination Classroom. I’m not surprised it’s doing exceptionally well, since volumes of the series have been doing very well on the NYT Top Selling Manga list every week, but it being the second most lucrative Jump manga for B&N and Viz this year and one of their best sellers is a big surprise, pleasantly so for me. Much like how Food Wars!‘s success in print led to it being added to Viz’s Jump late last year, I’m hoping this’ll eventually lead Viz to add it soon as well. I don’t need it in to read or discuss it, but it still would be more convenient to write about it as part of this series, and a greatly appreciated addition since it and Food Wars! are pretty much my favorite things in Jump right now, and among my favorite currently-running shonen series in general, behind Silver Spoon and Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. It’d just make Jump even more enticing a service, in my opinion. The only thing is that they are so full up right now that they might have to wait until something ends, and considering everything they’ve already got is doing so well in the rankings and popularity, who knows how long that will be? Ah well, I can always hope.

For now, though, I’ll cut the chit-chat and get on with the issue review. In this week’s Jump, Free! the manga makes a splash, the most important reveal ever happens in Bleach, and Goku finds out through first-hand experience that women don’t got balls. All this and more, After the Jump! 

Weekly Shonen Jump: 2015, Issue No. 33

Best Blue chapter #1 – “Quality of a Swimmer”

Shonen sports manga these days all tend to feature a protagonist who is either unskilled or at a disadvantage (often because of height) in his sport of choice, but so extremely passionate that he convinces those around him to give him a chance and, sure enough, he gets better and shows his stuff. Best Blue isn’t much different. The odds stacked against him in this first chapter are almost exactly the same as those Hinata of Haikyuu!! and Hinomaru of Hinomaru Sumo faced in their respective manga; a lack of people interested in their sport, a lack of people to hence train with, and a lack of natural talent. Okay, the last one didn’t apply to Hinomaru, but you get the drift. Best Blue doesn’t play with any conventions with it’s main lead that recent sports manga haven’t repeatedly emphasized. The character himself is perfectly likable; he’s passionate and optimistic, making him easy to get behind. The fact that he doesn’t spout shonen platitudes, overreact, and behaves about as mature as a high school kid would already makes me like him way more than Hinata, though at the same time doesn’t have nearly as interesting a personality, the confidence, nor the depth that makes Hinomaru such a great character either. He’s a character I’m interested in following, but there isn’t anything to him that I haven’t seen before or is necessarily special, and that will need to be rectified at some point down the line.

But while the characters aren’t out of the ordinary, that doesn’t make them or the character interactions in this chapter fall flat. On the contrary, this first chapter succeeds in having really likable, reasonable characters, while avoiding annoying archetypes like unrealistically mean and one-dimensional bullies or assholes. Instead, the focus of the chapter is on the relationship between wannabe competitive swimmer Aono and former swimming ace now lifeguard Kagura. It’s very much a believable, compelling story, as weeks of hard work finally impress Kagura and make him want to help the kid pursue his dreams. There isn’t anything unrealistic or convenient about the set-up; Aono doesn’t even get close to the goal Kagura sets for him even after putting hours of work and effort into the task. Things like fatigue, the need for proper form, and the importance of natural talent are addressed; the chapter makes it clear that just trying hard isn’t enough. The only reason that Aono is even as good as he is comes from the fact that for six years he relentlessly and diligently practiced his swimming. Even so, he only could get so good, and go so far without proper instruction and competition. But, it’s not his talent, but the fact he never gave up that endears Kagura. Aono practiced swimming on his own for six years despite not having any opportunities to exploit or anything to train for. He did it alone. He just did it because he loved swimming. It’s that kind of drive that reignites Kagura’s passion as a swimmer and makes him want to get back in the water himself. A competitive swimmer has to persevere alone no matter how tough it is to keep pushing forward through the water. Aono never stopped reaching his hand out towards his dream, even though no one was there to extend a hand back. Until now.

The artwork in the series compliments the writing; neat, polished, and effective. There is only one brief scene of competitive swimming, but it’s enough to convey the intensity, the exhaustion, and the exhilaration felt by the characters in the moment. Overall, this first chapter is an excellent blend of a solid premise, character writing, and the kind of passion you can only get from a shonen sports manga. On the surface, it hits all the tropes and cliches you’d expect from a modern day Jump sports manga. But after diving deeper into it, I’d say there’s a lot it’s doing right and has to offer. I really enjoyed reading this debut chapter. In fact, I might call it the strongest debut chapter for a Jump Start yet. I’m quite interested in seeing it developed, and hope it succeeds. Viz’s Jump hasn’t run a sports manga regularly since Cross Manage ended, and this could make a fun and refreshing representation for the genre in the service. Here’s hoping that the next chapter goes swimmingly!

One Piece chapter #793 – “Tiger and Dog”

This arc has gone on so long that I kinda forgot something about Doflamingo; he’s a pretty fucking big deal in the world of One Piece. He wasn’t just the maniacal monarch of Dressrosa; in fact, that’s probably the least important thing about him. He was a criminal mastermind who had his hands in many underground organizations of various trades of significant social, political, and economic importance. He supplied weapons to countries that allowed them to support wars; both as aggressors and as defenders. He supplied man-made devil fruits to fuel Kaido’s army. He was the cornerstone of the Shichibukai, and was arguably their strongest and most loyal member after the brainwashed Kuma.  He occupied a special place in the power hierarchy of the World Government, being a link between the Tenryubito, the Marines, the Shichibukai, all the way down to low-level pirates, thugs, and civilians. He was a jack of all trades, and a master of them as well. The level of influence he extended was as far-reaching and important to maintaining the order and balance of the world as Whitebeard was. And now it’s all come crashing down.

The fallout for Doflamingo’s defeat is far-reaching and massive. We learn so much in this chapter, it’s astonishing. Doflamingo was under orders from the Tenryubito, who even the World Government’s leaders don’t dare mess with. The scandal of Dressrosa has put trust in the Marines in a precarious position. The status of the Shichibukai has been put under public scrutiny. Wars are forced to end. The pirates who made deals with Joker for SAD and Devil Fruits now have nothing. Kaido has lost SMILE and the source of his devil fruit user army, vital sources of his influence. The alliance of Kidd, Hawkins, and Appo are now going to take advantage of this chaotic state of affairs to go after Shanks. And to top it all off, somebody’s meeting with Uroge, X Drake has allied with Kaido, and, shockingly, Aokiji has teamed up with Blackbeard. The entire world’s been thrown into chaos again, the power structure previously established after the Paramount War is already collapsing, and the ramifications are going to be immediate.

And once again, the Straw Hats have made themselves dangerous new enemies. Frustrated pirates gypped out of SAD are out for revenge. Capone is gunning to capture Ceaser. Fujitora is prepared to hunt them down. And most dangerously of all, they’ve drawn the fury of Kaido, and he will go after them. Of course, the latter is what Luffy and Law wanted in the first place, but he’s no longer their only enemy. Now they’re going to have to deal with Fujitora, Capone, and let’s not forget that Big Mom has a vendetta against the Straw Hats as well; will they be able to handle it? Of course, the allies they’ve made in Dressrosa might add to their alliance, but considering how massive the size of Kaido’s fleet is, even they might not be enough.

But while these developments are fascinating in their implications, the heart of this chapter is really in Fujitora’s fuck you to the World Government’s style of justice. That’s the whole basis for the name of the chapter; Fujitora (tiger) clashing ideals with Akainu (dog). Like Smoker, Fujitora believes justice lies in honor, truth, and integrity; it can’t be twisted or compromised to fit an agenda. It’s about doing right by people. Akainu thinks differently; his justice is about power, laws, and order. His idea of justice is doing right by the World Government. Fujitora wants to help people without regard to bureaucracy, but Akainu wants to preserve the image of the World Government as a global peace-making force. If the truth sullies that image, what is the truth needs to be changed in the public eye. For Akainu, justice serves only to enforce the World Government’s agenda and serve the interests of those in power. However, Fujitora is in a position of considerable power himself. He takes advantage of his rank to expose the WG’s hypocrisy in turning a blind eye to Doflamingo’s evils, and prevent a cover-up of the Dressrosa affair in the same manner as in Alabasta. In doing so, he managed to avenge Smoker and right a justice he always regretted he couldn’t. That’s pretty awesome. Fujitora is pretty awesome, and he has been throughout this entire arc even if his maneuverings in it were often obscured by bigger events and characters around him. And now he’s going after Luffy and Law as the head into war with Kaido as another faction and factor to add to the chaos. He’s a likable, honorable man, making him a strong foil and adversary for the pirate alliance, as well as perhaps a protagonist in his own right. The role he’ll play in the endeavor against Kaido will no doubt be an integral one.

Wow did this chapter got me pumped for whatever the next arc is going to be. It’s made me really optimistic about the direction of the series after a long time. Then again, I felt this way after Punk Hazard ended too and ended up disappointed, but there’s just so much potential and cool stuff here that I can’t not be hopeful for something truly on the level of the Paramount War on the horizon. Please don’t let me down again, Oda.

Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma chapter #126 – “Booth Battle Strategy Session”

You never know quite what to expect in Food Wars!, even when you think you do. A large part of that comes from the fact that there is no “power-hierarchy” in the series; the skill level of the chef does not always mean that that chef will always win or be on top. Which makes sense, since they are cooks. Cooks don’t have power-levels, and that’s what makes the competitions in the series all the more unpredictable, because the underdog always has a chance to win, and the man on top doesn’t always win. Soma, Hayama, and Kurokiba were all finalists in the Fall Classic and the cream of the crop of the first year students, and yet, they all were totally crushed in sales during the first day of the Moon Festival. On the other hand, the 1st seat of the Student Council and presumably the final opponent of the arc, Tsukasa, is only the #5 most successful student in his group, and Erina, who holds the lowest rank in the Council, is currently beating him as the #2. Both the Aldini brothers and the Donburi Bowl society did extremely well, and they didn’t make it very fall in the Fall Classic themselves. True, some of Soma’s competitors in this arc aren’t gunning for being top in sales rather than improving their cooking skills. That might explain why some of the Council Seats, like Tsukasa and Isshiki, are ranking relatively low compared to their reputations. However, it all just goes to show that there is no set limitations for any characters in Food Wars!; previous rivals are still formidable opponents even after being defeated, and matches with them will always have a strong amount of tension. All of these characters are highly skilled chefs, and any of them could beat the other in a competition that they were more suited for and skilled at.

Of course, it also means that those considered elite, like Kuga, are not at an unreachable level as well. Soma came at the bottom on the first day, but he went up 5 places on the second. We don’t know exactly what his strategy entails, but it seems to be a combination of building up a mystique as well as slowly but surely adding in new dishes. From his conversation with Erina, it’s clear that Soma doesn’t care about outselling Kuga. Remember, his goal was to steal all his customers away from him with his own chinese cooking, not to attract more customers or sell more food overall. Soma’s approach is a slow and steady one that will gradually achieve the results he wants; so long as he attracts all of Kuga’s customers away from him once during the entire Moon Festival, he’s won. It could very well take until the end for it to happen, but sooner or later whatever he’s doing is going to pay off an earn him a #1 spot for the day.

My current hypothesis is that Soma is going around the campus after-hours to sell food to hungry departing customers. This would make sense considering the endings of both this chapter and the next, showing Soma leaving his spot on campus and moving the cart elsewhere, as well as the fact that Tadokoro notices that they should have had more food left over than they did. Because these sales are happening after-hours, they aren’t reflected in the tallies each day. In this way, Soma is secretly amassing a lot of tickets in secret as well as spreading interest in his food and encouraging repeat customers to come during regular hours. All of this eventually building up to Soma attracting more customers than Kuga on the final day of the Festival, as well as having outsold him as well, the latter just being icing on the cake and not even necessary for achieving victory. The only thing that throws me for a loop is who Soma was meeting with in the middle of the night, and what that key he gave him is for. The way it’s staged, I’m not sure if it’s someone in the Polar Star dorm or someone outside, but perhaps that key is for the cart? Could Soma be having someone lug that cart around campus all night long? Just when I think I have it figured out, another mystery factor enters the picture, and I’m eager to know what it is and how it’ll come into play

Alice’s plan might be something similar to Soma’s, but I have a feeling she’ll pull the Shiomi Seminar out of the red precisely because of how spontaneous her booth is. While Alice, Kurokiba, and Hayama make a dysfunctional team right now, the more they work together and get a better sense of what they are doing, the easier it’ll be for them to adapt and make the best use of their resources. Like Soma, they might be at the bottom now, but I see their booth gradually picking up more steam as the Festival continues forward.

This is an awesome chapter for plot development, but the humor was top-notch too. Pretty much every page had some joke or bit of silliness that put a smile on my face. I think my favorite aspect about characters reacting to Soma being in the red is that they are more concerned about Megumi being expelled than they are him. The bit where Erina tries to console Megumi after she scolds Soma and the Shimoi Seminar group for making light of the Fall Classic with their poor results was a nice character moment and sign she’s softened up considerably. Erina’s interactions with Soma also continue to be fairly friendly and constructive, as she shows genuine concern and interest in his success. With the heavy emphasis placed on their relationship in this arc, I’d like to think that a team-up match between them isn’t too far off down the line, and it would be cool to see them cooking together for once, especially since they are both each other’s main rival. For the moment, though, I’m just excited speculating how Soma and the Shiomi Seminar’s plans will come into fruition.

Toriko chapter #330 – “Enounter & Showdown!!”

Despite being a series about food, we’ve never really had a cooking competition in Toriko. Sure, the Cooking Festival promised us matches between the top chefs of the human world, but then the Bishokukai invaded before the first match even got started and put an end to that. So, I’m excited at the prospects here. This is very much an arc for Komatsu and the various secondary characters of Toriko to shine, and a lot of them are the cream of the cooking crop. I can only guess, given the focus put on them, that Chiyo, Chin Chin, Aimaru, and Yuda will join Komatsu as competitors. Though that’s assuming that Komatsu will compete; since he’s separated from the group right now, he might get involved in a different story thread, leaving another character to fill his spot. Perhaps Nono will be given a chance to finally show her stuff; after all, she isn’t Setsuno’s assistant for nothing.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about this chapter other than to speculate about what’s coming next. The information given about the food spirits and the Back Channel is intriguing, but nothing deeper than that. I’m curious as to how the little boy Komatsu has befriended and his strange talisman will fall into play. For the purpose of this chapter he exists just to tell Komatsu about the 5 Ten-Shell Chefs of Blue Grill, but Toriko doesn’t often introduce minor characters that don’t do anything at some point in an arc, so there might be more to him than meets the eye. Komatsu was also being eyed by a food spirit, so where that will lead is something I’m curious about too.

I guess the big question on everyone’s mind, though, is whether Warden Love has actually gotten possessed by a food spirit, or the person they encountered in this chapter was just a food spirit that just happened to look similar to her. I’m expecting the latter, since I don’t remember actually seeing Love in any of the group shots in recent chapters, but she might have gone to the Gourmet World with another team and made the mistake of going into the Back Channel without the proper cooking skills like mentioned in this chapter. If that’s the case, it would make a good illustration of the consequences of going into it ill-prepared and put more weight on the line in proving they’re capable in the fight with the 10-Shell chefs. Not that it really needs it. The appeal of these matches is simple enough; seeing long-neglected secondary characters and Komatsu show their mettle in an epic cooking contest. That’s plenty awesome as is, and it has me excited. These next few chapters should be a nice break from the formula of the last two arcs, and Toriko‘s normal style of over-the-top fist-fighting, energy-blasting combat, and I have a feeling it’s going to be quite a treat to read.

Black Clover chapter #21 – “Destruction and Salvation”

Lots of things are “destroyed” and “saved” in this chapter. Obviously, the temple is destroyed and both Asta and Mars are saved, but I mean on a deeper level. Destroyed is the prejudice the captain held for Yuno and Asta because of their poor upbringing, as is Mars’ distrust of people shattered by being rescued by his captain and remembering a detail to his past he had long forgotten. As a result, his soul finds salvation, and he’s finally able to move on and mature as a person. This isn’t deep stuff, but it’s an interesting direction to take. I like that Yuno’s captain is ashamed of how he treated him and Asta and apologizes, indicating a more amicable relationship and character growth between them. And I appreciate Mars’ character being developed and a potential character arc set out for him. It’s clear that Lotus and Mars will return sometime down the line, either as enemies or allies, and it’ll be interesting to see what Asta and Mars’ next interaction will represent for the development of both of their characters.

It is rather odd that Mars just forgot that his friend saved his life before, but I suppose the trauma of killing her pushed that memory back far into the recesses of his mind. It’s a bit cliche in some respects, but it’s a detail that does set his backstory apart from just being a copy of Zabuza’s. Besides, his character is going through a much different direction. He isn’t going to have a redemptive arc, but rather an arc of emotional growth and becoming able to trust and believe in people. In a lot of ways, that’s kind of similar to another Naruto character, Gaara, but the specifics are different enough that I doubt few are going to accuse Tabata of mimicking that as they have done with the Zabuza connection in chapters previous.

There were some small bits in this chapter that I really liked that don’t have to do with anything really thematic. One was how Tabata mirrored both Asta and Mars awakenings with respective close-up panels, both at the bottom of their page. It was a cool touch. I also found everyone’s reactions to the captain apologizing to Yuno to be hilarious, particularly Noelle’s weird square-mouth face. I don’t know why, but whenever I see that image, I can’t help but chuckle. Tabata is pretty adept at making amusing faces. His writing is pretty decent right now too. The series has been steadily improving, a few missteps and missed opportunities aside, and is starting to find ways to set itself apart from it’s predecessors. It still needs to do a lot more to really standout, but this arc was a major step forward, and I’m optimistic it’ll reach a level of quality justifying it’s early popularity.

Bleach chapter #634 – “friend 4”

This week’s chapter features possibly the most important reveal in Bleach ever. Yes, it’s even more astonishing than the Aizen twist or the return of Grimmjow! What is it, you ask? Why, it’s what we’ve all been waiting for. After over one hundred chapters, we finally learn Bazz B’s full name! Get ready – are you sitting down? Sit down. Okay. Prepare yourself now. This is going to BLOW… you away.  Okay. Here it is. Drum roll please. All right. Here we go. This is going to BLOW… your mind. Okay. No more stalling now. Here it is. Bazz B’s full name is…..Bazzard Black.

….

….

….Why did even I bother making a joke about that? It’s too easy and too lame, I know. But it’s such a dumb as fuck name and a pointless detail to make a big deal of. The fact that Kubo tries to make it seem important and give emphasis to Jugo’s feelings in the fight, even though he yells it with the most stoic expression ever on his face, is amusingly worthless. It’s stuff like this you have to talk about in Bleach chapters most of the time these, days, because Kubo does so little else of interest with the series on a per chapter basis.

Still, I wish I had thought more about the contents of last week’s chapter, because I’ve since realized how hypocritical and self-pitying Bazz B’s point of view in this flashback is. Bazz B said he wanted to kill Ywach, so where did his resentment that Jugo was considered better than him come from? What did that matter to him? If anything, he should have been elated that Jugo was going to get so close to Ywach; it would’ve given them ample opportunities to enact their revenge. Yet, for some reason he’s pissed off that Jugo’s stronger than him and forgets that he wanted to kill Ywach in the first place. Or, at least, it became second priority to him. And why? Because he’s prideful? Bazz B’s “friendship” with Jugo seemed to only be born out of pity and self-interest on his part. He considered him a minion; someone lesser and inferior to him. If he thought of him as a true partner and really cared more about killing Ywach rather than being acknowledged for power, there shouldn’t have been any rift between them. But no, Bazz B gets pissed off at Jugo just because Ywach chooses him as his second in command and ignores him, and in lashing out against him, he effectively broke their friendship and their partnership and made Jugo become the loyal devotee of Ywach he is today. Bazz B, for some reason, suddenly became obsessed with winning against Jugo, and really only out of spite. For a backstory that was seemingly designed to make Bazz B sympathetic, it had pretty much the opposite effect. The backstory tells us that Bazz B is a dumb, hypocritical jerk with an inferiority complex; hardly a likable or tragic fellow.

If this backstory did anything right, it was making Jugo a more rounded, interesting character; showing his motivations and why he might be loyal to Ywach. It actually makes him a bit likable too, as we see him not lift a finger against Bazz B even though the latter tried to attack him constantly, and he even protected him against other Sternritters who wanted to kill him. Even after all the shit Bazz B said and did to him, he still cared about his friend all the way until the very end. Maybe Bazz B realized this. Maybe he recognized, right before he died, that his anger was misplaced and he was a fool to treat someone who considered him a friend the way he did. Too little, too late. Bazz B reaped what he sowed, and I’m happy to see him get his comeuppance.

To be fair to Kubo, I think that that was the point of the backstory in the first place. It wasn’t about Bazz B so much as it was about Jugo. After all, he’s the actual important character between them, and the one who’s had much more of a role to play in this entire arc. The emphasis on Jugo has me a little curious as to what his endgame really is. What I’m expecting will happen is the reveal that he never really gave up on killing Ywach; rather, he became devoted to a deep undercover strategy to gain Ywach’s trust and then off him at an opportune moment. It’d essentially be a repeat of what Gin’s relationship to Aizen was, but it’s not like Kubo is afraid of repeating himself or anything. It’d probably pan out the same way too, but hey, it’d give this character something more meaningful to do, at least. With this battle finally over, I’d like to move on to something more interesting and effective in getting this arc over with. Let’s hope that the various other battles with Ywach’s remaining subordinates don’t take nearly as long each so we can get to the final battle between Ywach and Ichigo before the end of the year.

As as side-note, one thing I genuinely liked about the battle between Bazz B and Jugo was how Bazz sets up his ultimate attack and fires it at Jugo in a two-page spread, and then on the very next page Jugo’s just side-stepped it and cut Bazz down in a single, small panel on the top of the page. It drives home the point of how insignificant Bazz B really is, and always was, very nicely, and was actually a clever bit of writing on Kubo’s part.

My Hero Academia chapter #50 – “Kill ‘Em Dead”

It’s interesting that MHA currently has two villains that seem to do similar things, but their reasons for doing so is completely different. Even though he only comments about it in a snide remark, Hand-face’s completely right that he and Stain have fundamentally different goals in tracking down and slaughtering heroes. Hand-face simply hates heroes and wants to kill and cause destruction. But Stain isn’t just killing for killing’s sake. Stain wants to weed out those who are only pretending to be heroes; the one’s obsessed with fame and money rather than helping people. Hand-face criticizes how the crime-rate in the cities where Stain goes have all actually gone down as a sign of his failings, that he’s breeding heroes rather than killing them. But that seems to be what he really wants. He wants “real” heroes to prosper; he’s only after the fakes and phonies. He doesn’t want crime and chaos to take control; he wants to weed it out of those who claim to fight for justice but really just fight for their own selfish interests. Hand-face doesn’t really seem to get that, and I have a feeling that their lack of understanding will lead to a break in their partnership sooner rather than later.

The reason why Stain is killing heroes is important, because it’s the reason why he ultimately decides to kill Ida. When Ida first attacked him, it would have been an easy matter for Stain to have taken him out then and there, but he made sure to only knock off his mask and ask him what his intentions were first. It seemed he wasn’t going to go after Ida because of his age, and he told him to leave. It was only after he noticed Ida was out for revenge, and Ida went and did a bombastic, self-indulgent speech that Stain said he was going to kill him. Hand-face would have just killed Ida then and there, but Stain kills only certain people. And now Ida’s landed on his list.

Perhaps Blue Jeanist should’ve recruited Ida as well, because he’s got just as much of a lesson to learn as Bakugo does. The only reason he went to Hosu was to find and get revenge on Stain. That’s not what a hero does. A hero doesn’t have the right to arrest or punish criminals; a hero fights for what’s right and to help people. But Ida’s not fighting for anyone else right now, not even his brother. He’s only fighting to satisfy his own sense of pride. In pursuing revenge, he’s overstepped his bounds and has done against what a hero fundamentally should be. And if all the foreshadowing has meant anything, he’s going to realize that the hard way.

Dragon Ball chapter #2 – “No Balls!”

Ah, the infamous “No Balls!” chapter. That scene at the end is probably among the few famous Dragon Ball moments that has nothing to do with fighting. It’s also a good example Dr. Slump‘s style of innocent dirty humor influencing the tone of these early chapters, alongside the preceding tail scene. It’s more memorable because of how out-there it is for the series, since it never goes that far again after a certain scene with Master Roshi coming up, than it is really all that funny in of itself, but you got to give Toriyama credit for not having it be just a throwaway joke and have it have a role in the plot later on, as well as inspire a running gag that pops up every now and again in the rest of the arc. The comedic timing and layout of the panels on the page is also just pitch perfect, and shows just how adept and skilled Toriyama really is as a sequential artist.

This chapter does a whole lot to build up both the world of Dragon Ball as well as further develop the characters of both Goku and Bulma. We learn that the world has exceptionally advanced technology thanks to the existence of the “Hoi-Poi” capsules, but from the interior of the house we see that the way people live as far is pretty normal (though still strange for Goku). We learn that Goku really does have a monkey tail, and that that’s abnormal, indicating that Goku is special in more way than we might have first realized. We also learn that Goku doesn’t have any parents to speak of and was only raised by his grandfather, adding to the mystique of his origins, but also justifying why he’s as naive a hick as he is. We find out what kinds of things he’d normally eat, we learn his age, and Bulma’s as well, and we also find out that Bulma is a high-schooler on her summer vacation and are given a time-limit as to when they need to collect all 7 balls.

All of this might just seem like straightforward exposition, but that’s why this chapter is brilliant. It flows so cleanly as a series of conversations and interactions between Goku and Bulma that you forget that nothing is really happening, but you absorb all the information and enjoy the ride and payoff to the chapter all the same. It’s the kind of subtle, masterful combination of great humor, art, pacing and writing that makes almost every chapter of the series, even the ones where characters aren’t doing much, so effective, and few other mangaka can pull it off in quite as well as Toriyama can. Unlike some other battle manga, Dragon Ball doesn’t out slow and get good over time. It starts out good from the onset, and only gets better as Toriyama gets a better sense of his characters and what he wants to do, quickly moving the series away from the shadow of Dr. Slump and into it’s own thing.

Final Thoughts:

This should’ve been the issue I came back on. It may have been short, but every chapter was strong in it’s own right. Yes, even Bleach, if only because it intentionally had something interesting to think about and analyze on a character level and did what it was meant to do well. Not that it was a genuinely good chapter, but it was as good as Bleach gets these days so I appreciated it. The rest of the chapters were genuinely great, and showed many of these series at the top of their game. I was very pleased, and I hope for another strong turnout next week.

Best Manga of the Week:

1. Food Wars! – A great combination of fun character moments, great humor, and the continuation of the mystique behind Soma’s scheme. It was the chapter I had the most fun reading this week, and it’s got me wildly guessing as to what Soma’s up to, and where the series is going next.

2. One Piece – An excellent look at the ramifications of Doflamingo’s defeat upon the One Piece world at large, featuring the development of some major plotlines sure to influence the upcoming arc and have lasting ramifications on the series as a whole. Not to mention the clash of words between Fujitora and Akainu did a lot to strengthen the former’s character, as well as establish him as a man to keep an eye on as the series continues.

3. My Hero Academia – I’m surprised we got to this point so quickly, but the ideas expressed here make it all the more intense and interesting. The battle between Stain and Ida will not be a pretty one, and I can’t wait to read it.

4. Best Blue – A strong opening debut for a new sports manga with much potential and promise. It might not be the most original entry in the genre, but it’s got it’s heart in the right place and strong artwork and likable characters to back it up. I’m hoping for some good things from this series, since we’ve been long overdue for the addition of a good sports manga in Viz’s Jump since Cross Manage ended two years ago, and this could fit the bill nicely.

Line(s) of the Week:

Bulma: “Guys have…? No, no, they can’t….! But…it’s not like I’ve really seen a guy’s naked butt before…I knew they had something in front, but…”

Dragon Ball

Panel(s) of the Week:

Page(s) of the Week:

And that does it for this issue! Next week should feature the return of World Trigger and Nisekoi and another good ol’ 200+ page issue to review. Until then, play some J-Stars, try to bear with Super, and make a trip to your local B&N to score some deals, and I’ll see you again after the jump!

2015
07.09

FROM HELL'S HEART I STAB AT THEE.

Once upon a time there was a show called Gatchaman Crowds. It was terribad. I blogged it. I hated myself afterwards. When it ended, I hoped to never see it again. And for a while it seemed like that was that. The show got meh ratings, did meh business, and annoyed more people than made fans (and those who did like it, hated it by the end anyway). We moved on, Crowds just seemed to go away.

…but apparently meh was good enough for the sinister forces of Tatsunoko so here it is again!….fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

I feel the need... THE NEED. TO HURL.

So last time on Crowds (and by that I mean the OVA director’s cut), The Hajime Creature kinda…raped Katze. No seriously, she stuffed him into her boobs in an oddly orgasmic scene that has to be seen to be believed (despite said episode being omitted from Sentai’s blu-ray release, oh yeah you’re gonna get this after Akame Ga Kill ends Bronamis, just you wait). The awkwardly titled “insight Crowds Gatchaman” picks up a year later with three separate incidents occuring in the background:

1. The upcoming election for PM of Japan (yeah remember that useless guy from last season? Well he kinda wants to keep his job) which is going to be decided on the social media network GALAX.

2. The appearance of evil “Red CROWDS” that are putting doubt on the CROWDS system after the Neo-Hundered incident

and 3. The arrival of a new space alien.

Ha ha ha... Crowds is "pretty"... *facepalm*

#1 and #2 are mostly covered in Episode #0….wait? Episode #0? Yes! There’s an Episode Zero! Its an eleven minute quickee in which the Gatchaman team (namely The Creature and its crossdressing sidekick Rui) rescue said narcoleptic dingbat PM from the evil CROWDS who have hijacked F-14 Tomcats! Yeah that sounds cool and all but then Rui just makes short work of them making the whole exercise a non-event. Well much like every action scene in Crowds it was fun while it lasted I guess. But, of course, you’re not interested in that. You want your precious happy time with Nakamura’s waifu, The Creature! And so we begin Gatchaman Crowds Insight proper with the arrival of the Bride of the Creature, one Miss  Tsubasa Misudachi who is basically just The Creature except 90% less autistic and somehow 50% more annoying. Wait… how could you be more annoying than The Creature? Didn’t you listen to that dub?!?!…oh wait O.D. was more annoying in the dub…fuck.

I'm Grump-tsutsu.

Well anyway BOTC has a short fuse and its only after the news media starts pelting her with questions after her J.J. Robinson induced dayplanner handjob (one must wonder how that went for Jo and Sugane, seriously) that she Bird Goes through sheer output of rage. I guess that makes her better than The Creature (“baaaaaaaaaard gooooou???”) but considering how the production team could never get past the first episode in terms of character development last season, I doubt will get any more development for this one beyond “compulsive hothead” or “Not-Hajime”. Its to be expected really, I gave up hope long ago.

Try as you might Tsubasa. Noone can escape JJ's busy hands.

What else do I have to complain about this week? Hmmm… hmmm…. oh yeah the new space alien… In Season 1 Crowds gave us a Berg-Katze who didn’t resemble Berg-Katze whatsoever. So naturally we follow this with a Gel-Sadra that doesn’t resemble Gel-Sadra whatsoever. TRIVIA TIME! Since the 1979 team Gatchaman II never got a proper release here in the states (oh it did show up with a Saban massacre dub as Eagle Riders, but we only talk about that when it comes to the embarrassing work history of Bryan Cranston), let me explain that Gel-Sadra was basically just the same character as Berg-Katze except with Boobs. But here….

…she’s that loli from GATE but with red skin, lovely!

…She can also generate emoticons over people’s heads! Fuck this shit and its only been episode 1!

Oooh that's mean!

Nothing happened in this episode, absolutely nothing! Hell more happened in the first episode of season 1 than there was in this and I gave that a 1/5 back when we used to do numerical ratings in the Clusterfucks (ah the good ol days). I therefore can only give this something more fitting. ZERO WITH AN EXCLAMATION POINT/5

2015
07.09

Actually, I Am…

...that's not how water sports work.

Ok, first things first. What the hell is with the title of this show? I know this is supposed to be a literal translation of the Japanese title but I thought this was supposed to be called “My Monster Secret” not “Actually, I Am…” . That’s the name of the original manga right? Goddammit Sentai, next time chose the title that DOESN’T SOUND STUPID outside of the original nihongo.

Well now that that rant is out of the way, how is the show? Fairly decent, surprisingly. It doesn’t rewrite the book on the standard high school supernatural rom com to any degree that shows like DxD have done in the past, but it doesn’t really make me wanna claw my eyes out like a certain OTHER show with a similar subject did earlier this week. That’s a big improvement if anything.

So what’s the story? Well its pretty damn simple. Sad sack shlub Kuromine has the hots for the emotionally distant Shiragami but, due to his own sense of worthless predictability, can’t quite make it to first base. Finally he is goaded in confessing his love to the wallflower but there’s one small problem. Shiragami is…kind of a…vampire…

Whoops!

Yeah, pretty standard plot there. It only works because the two leads are actually likable (yes, a Natsuki Hanae character who is actually likable. Top that Matsuoka!) for the most part, and some of the jokes elicit a few chuckles. Maybe I’m feeling deprived after some of the more horrible shows I’ve viewed in the last few days but this was enough to make me feel somewhat more chipper. — Lord Dalek

Aquarion Logos

Whelp... its Aquarion.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In regards to reviewing this show, we at Thaumatropy were unable to find a writer to take on the task. The reasons for the unavilability of a Aquarion Logos review is as follows…

I’m already doing twenty shows, I’m not doing this shit. — Shadow Gentleman

I’m already blogging Crowds! I can’t do anymore! — Lord Dalek

They’re fighting Kanji! I’m out! — Bloody Marquis

 This is too ridiculous, even for me. — Crimson Rynnec

Words have failed the characters. And they have also failed me. — Foggle

[Could not be reached for comment] — Mahoumagica

[Sounds of a porpoise in heat] — DarkSydePhivator

Can we go back to watching J-Dramas yet? — RacattackForce

Bikini Warriors

Oh honey... she's not wearing anything!

From the hot springs, big and bouncy,
like “Pillars” of fatty sacks they got great ass
and keep on jiggling
Ruse the enemy, with your mammaries
Let’s see you catch these nasty felons,
with your big ol melons,
These swim suits you wear, barley contain dat wicked booty
give them all a smile, show of your goodies
Keeping on swaying left and right, moving not a bit too fast
so the they can get a great view of your rocking legs, tits and ass
Keep on fighting on, even when you get an inch from your tiny thong
Like Bikini Strings, fall of like Bikini Tops
watch these sexy girlies as the hop and flip and flop
to keep this show on air, you’ll have to flash your derrière and forget
those delicious honkers

meh pretty fun 10/10 IGN AOTY — Shadow Gentleman

Second Opinon!

The fabric of the bra embraced
Burn it high and make a miracle happen
We have to be half-naked
The faraway lingerie we promised to each other
BIKINI FANTASY!!   Yes, only dreams
are the strings of the bra that no one can steal.
SAINT Strippa!!   cute girls are all…
SAINT Strippa!!   …the sexy women of tomorrow.   oh yeah
SAINT Strippa!!  Like the hooker…
SAINT Sripper!!   …unfasten your bra-straps now! — Crimson Rynnec

Castle Town Dandelion

Countless Germans died for this food, Akane.

I had to take a full night off in between watching and writing this show because—as I have been informed—I was in an incoherent frothing rage from the actions and characters hiding in this series. People who should be in high school were doing things expected of children unable to wipe themselves. Grand concepts like democracy and oligarchy were glued together into a horrible Orwellian society, where cameras are everywhere and acts of public embarrassment were the accepted means of societal ascension. Another show would use these ideas for dark lampoon, but the closest to a joke is one girl complaining that everyone can now see her panties thanks to the proliferation of CCTV.

Perhaps it’s a satire on how we’re more obsessed with the lewdness of the elite instead of our own problems, where our civilization is fueled solely through our royalty’s personal lives and issues, no matter how inane. It could be like how modern society is obsessed with the Kardashian dynasty, and how the public is more obsessed over the second eldest daughter’s behind than the tangled government corruption we have all over our world. Is this all meant to be a cruel tragicomedy, where brother and sister must fight amongst another to satisfy the common people’s amusement? Does the director suggest that the modern princes and princesses are no better than mere jesters thanks to the advancement of technology and the decay of private freedoms?

Then I remember this is based off a 4-koma, the family members have super powers, and the patriarch wears his crown even while eating dinner among his estranged family. This isn’t meant to challenge our beliefs in kings and conquerors, but made to make us giggle at the girl showing off her panties when using her power of flight. We’re also allowed to make lewd assumptions as to whether or not the eldest brother is romantically involved with one of his sisters, but not his brothers, because that would be too homosexual for this show’s palate. We are expected to laugh at how one of the children only has powers over statistics instead of a real super-ability, along with the apparent inability for any of the girls to wear pants if they are so fearful of their hindquarters observed. But I cannot feel laughter from these events. I can only express abject horror, and a refusal to not look too far into what probably has as many layers as the new season of Working. But I must look into silly gag anime, for it is my, no, our duty as anime bloggers to discover the horrors that lie within goofy cartoons expressly made for manchildren. — Bloody Marquis

Second Opinion!

"And Ann B. Davis as Akane"

Meet Akane. She’s your normal, everyday girl. But there’s just one problem…well, 8 of them to be exact. And when you’ve got 8 siblings, things can get a little crazy.

Whooooa!

But that’s not all. They’re all royalty!

Say whaaa?

And only to make things worse, they’re part of the wildest *guitar riff*, craziest *honking noise*, most totally outrageous reality show ever!

But being a reality TV star isn’t all bad…when you have SUPERPOWERS!

Shut. Up.

And when you’ve got powers like Pepsiman and Gold Experience, and King Jim Bob for a dad, sibling rivalries can get pretty crazy!

*shot of Akane’s panties showing because this is anime and girls don’t wear pants yah dingus*

O. M. G.

Catch the Duggar Bunch, Mondays at 7e/6c, only on Disney Channel.

*laugh track*/10 — Shadow Gentleman

Chaos Dragon

It's like Don't Look Now!...but shit.

The first thing one notices while watching Chaos Dragon is how butt ugly it is. All the characters, instead of the usual big ass circles we’ve come to expect from every anime ever, have these gaunt pentagonal eyes that rarely appear on model. Once you get past that though comes the other problem: the show itself. In case you’re not aware by now, this is based off a series of  books which were in turn adapted from a D&D campaign played by several well known LN writers including Kinoko (“Fate”) Nasu, Ryogo (“Baccano!”) Narita, and Gen (Every great anime in the last five years) Urobuchi. And in the great Lodoss tradition, said campaign had enough background stories to create several novels which in turn have  been animated here. Unlike Lodoss though, Chaos Dragon is a steaming turd that has been drenched in gasoline with a lit match on standby

The plot: in another magical fantasy world at war with itself, the small island nation of Nil Kamui (aka Japan) has been invaded by evil foreigners from Kouran (aka China), while neighboring nation Donatia (aka…I don’t know… America I guess) just sits on their hands and defends their own settlements. To make matters worse, the local guardian deity of the land “Red Dragon” has apparently gone cuckoo for cocoa puffs and is attacking all three factions indistinctly. Meanwhile, the true king of the land (gender ambiguous shota Ibuki) is busy wallowing in his own worthlessness at the local Whorephanage and not willing to you know… do… something.

However this idylic/worthless existence shattered when Kyube–I mean… THE RED DRAGON choses him to become a magical girl!…by forcing him to kill his sister/girlfriend/idk in cold blood. Why? Because the writers clearly feel that Ibuki needs to tap that fine cat girl ass instead…seriously? What is he? 11? There are some other characters, they’re forgettable. Moving on…

What is absolutely crippling to Chaos Dragon is that the cast is completely unlikable. If Ibuki is supposed to be some sort of tragic character then I’m not feeling it. He goes from being a whiny dick to an overpowered whiny dick because this show can’t tell if its Madoka or Guilty Crown by the end. True this could be explained away by the simple fact that its a very,very, VERY busy first episode but I’m not feeling that generous. You got to give me somebody to root for and this dumbass brat in a silly hat ain’t it. Really the only reason to watch Chaos Dragon is the animation itself. Its really, really good, about on par with ufotable’s work on the Fate franchise (maybe they got Nasu moniez too), but does it really matter? Hell no. Screw this crap. — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

Chaos Dragon is an anime based on a tabletop RPG created by Makoto Sanda, and loosely adapted from a session played by Gen Urobuchi, Kinoko Nasu, and Ryohgo Narita that was first serialized into a web novel a couple years back. Surely since this is based of an RPG, you’d think the anime would follow the adventures of Nasu, Narita, and Urobuchi’s (who’s character is a cute girl in this adaptation for some reason, not that I’m complaining) RP characters and the wacky hijinks that ensue, right?
Ha ha ha-WRONG!

Instead, Chaos Dragon follows the adventures of Ibuki (who is sadly neither the rocker girl from Danganronpa, or the ninja from Street Fighter) and his angular eyed friends as they are swept up in a conflict between two countries. Amid the turmoil, our shota protagonist makes a pact with the Red Dragon, the ruling deity of the island of his homeland Nil Kamui (which is totally not supposed to be Japan) to fight against the invading army, and become king to regain his island’s independence, or something. For an anime based a tabletop RPG there is hardly any adventuring, or anything I imagine that makes RP’ing fun, but there are hell of a lot angular eyed characters in costumes so ridiculous it’d make the cast of Code Geass blush. If you were expecting a spiritual sucessor to Record of the Lodoss War, then you’ll be disappointed, but if you wanted medieval Code Geass/Guilty Crown/Aldnoah Zero, then this is for you. Otherwise you’re better off either waiting for the fan-translations of the web novels, or having your own RPG sessions and making stories based on those. — Crimson Rynnec

Durarara!!x2 Ten

Hang on. I have to join this Scoype call.

The second half of the second season premieres with the sheer bravado of seeing Izaya lying on his hospital bed for the entire episode. Any other show, and it would be visual melatonin. Imagine the thought of sitting through twenty minutes of the Ranpo Kitan kid in a hospital, and you’d be asleep as soon as the mental image popped up. But it works here since we get to see Izaya in a unique position. Thanks to the events from last arc, he’s now a sitting duck at the hospital, monitored by detectives and the like. It isn’t just like taking a fish out of water, but more like throwing a fish into a mound of salt and watching the chunks clog up the gills. And while he still has that shit-eating grin, you can tell Izaya’s not feeling too hot. He now has to wait, even beg, for someone to eventually attack him now that he can’t provoke. You get the feeling he misses Shizuo at points.

This theme was explored earlier this season, where everyone had a hotpot party while Izaya sat alone in his office. It built the idea that the worst thing that could happen to him was to be alone and ignored, as if all these attempts to mess with people’s lives was just his calling card. Without that, his life doesn’t have meaning. No hobbies or life choices could satisfy Izaya more than the joy of getting a rise out of the common folk, and he starves when taken away from that. He resorts to prank calling Shinra just to scrap the barrel. It makes me think solitary confinement would be Izaya’s view of a personal hell. He loves humanity the same way a comedian loves their audience. You take that away, and you just get a loon yelling at air.

Meanwhile, everyone else is taking the peace in stride. It’s almost so peaceful that characters are free to talk to others they’ve only just met. Aoba befriends Shinra and Celty. Shinra’s dad meets up with Namie’s uncle. We get all of these new connections lining up in preparation for what’s to come. However, I do hope this arc won’t always be like this. We only got Shizuo and Celty doing bit parts while less interesting people shared the spotlight. It feels endemic from last arc, where the newly introduced characters (except Vorona and Ruri) just didn’t have the right spark compared to their first season brethren. I’m hoping this cour could shake things up more, as well as getting better animation than last time. Watching the last storyline was like trying to read the first draft of Tintin and Alph-Art. — Bloody Marquis

Second Opinion!

When even Izaya is bored of Durarara!!, you know things aren't going well.

When I first watched this episode, I had just gotten home after a 20+ hour flight from India back to the States and was utterly exhausted, and within the first four minutes of the episode I fell right asleep. Later, I watched the episode properly, and though I didn’t fall asleep, I felt like it. The novelty of Durarara!! has worn thin for me. The first cour of x2 was a disappointing disaster. Despite cramming 4 volumes of content into 12 episodes, the show felt slow, meandering tedious to watch, and so little felt actually accomplished. Most of the best moments in the last cour of Durarara!! for me came exclusively from Mikado’s character arc and Rocchi and Kyohei’s bro-rivalry, but those where only two plot lines of several the last cour juggled. Very few events in the last season have stuck in my memory, whereas there are plenty of scenes from the first season that I still remember, and it’s been years since I last watched that! Not to mention that the animation of x2 is a massive downgrade. Not only were the characters often off-model, there were some episodes were they seemed to only animate key-frames! That’s just embarrassing. But for whatever faults the first cour of x2 had, at least it ended interestingly. Verona’s pretty fucked, Mikado’s gone to the dark side, and the always-smug, always-winning Izaya Orihara got his ass fucking stabbed! Holy shit! So shit’s going to really start going down now, right?

No. Not really.

I mean, we see some glimpses in the episode of some pretty freaky things going on, like Namie trying to knife Mika, but mostly, this episode was primarily about Izaya being bored and docking around waiting for something interesting to happen. It’s sort of funny seeing just how pathetic and desperate Izaya is for attention, and his crazy rant at the end is a lot of fun, but it would have worked better if the show went farther in showing what makes Izaya tick and have some fun taking him down a notch. Instead, we switch back and forth with various other plotlines and characters. There’s an inordinate amount of time focused on Rio for some reason, lots of reused footage and flashbacks to remind us what happened in the last episode in case you forgot or something, Shinra and Celty going on a date, and set-up for other subplots that will probably happen this cour. After a while these scenes feel repetitive, rote, and a bit unnecessary. I know this is Durarara!!’s style of storytelling, but I’d rather the show have focused this episode more squarely on Izaya, and maybe expanding on Celty and Shinra’s date. Because apparently, the latter ends up involving vampire priestesses and werewolves. I really hope that isn’t just a throwaway line and we actually see that at some point.

All in all, while hardly a bad episode, it’s a meandering premiere, with a mixed ratio of interesting scenes and boring ones. I hope the stuff about Izaya’s need for attention gets brought up again, because otherwise this episode might as well be filler. If x2 turned you off from Durarara!!, this episode won’t change your mind, but if you’re still interested in the show, you can expect more of the same from the last season, both the good and the bad. — CartoonX

Dragonball Super

Watch out for snakes!

How does one review a show like Dragonball Super? The problem a writer like me faces is that the Dragonball franchise has become such a key part of anime in our pop culture lexicon that its pretty much critic proof. Of course a lot of this is from 90’s kid nostalgia. You know, the kind of person who will buy anything that gives ’em ye olde “feels”. I can understand that. I remember watching DBZ when it was in its original once weekly syndication run with Samurai Pizza Cats. I fondly remember all those nights of watching reruns of DBZ on Cartoon Network at 12:30 AM (…oh all right it was actually 9:30, I had satellite) and then on Toonami. It was just part of a way of life that we cherish.

…the problem is I’m almost 30 and that was 20 years ago.

I grew up. However, judging by their etiquette at certain other forums (translation: RICHARD EISENBEIS), DBZ/Toonami fans clearly have not. Hence… DBSuper, which somehow managed to have the single worst series opener of the entire franchise. Congratulations GT, you’re off the hook at last!

There is no narrative here. There is no structure whatsoever. There are no characters of note and nothing happens. It is the most blatant piece of filler I’ve seen in many a moon and this is supposed to be a brand new series without the need of filler. I can only deduce this is because it is supposed to be some sort of advertisement for the film Battle of Gods judging from the F-Plot with Beerus blowing up planets. The problem is…that already came out TWO. FUCKING. YEARS. AGO. Nobody cares anymore Toriyama, you’ve already moved onto Frieza. Doesn’t help that the F-plot is just sorta shoved into the back. Most of the episode has Goten and Trunks getting into MORE WACKY HIJINX!!!!(tm) involving silly snakes and magic pond water. Then Mr. Satan gives Son Goku a bazillion dollars to hush him up over that whole Majin Buu thing from 1995. And then…credits. To say I feel I wasted 23 minutes of my life watching this might be the understatement of the century, but then I remember that dumb OVA from a couple years ago featuring Vegeta’s lameass brother and it all balances out.

So what the hell do I write about Super? It didn’t give me anything…like…at all. Basically if you’re desperate for a nostalgic hard-on over 90s Shonen Jump stupidity, you’re better off watching Ushio and Tora. At least SOMETHING happened in that show! (“These pretzels are making me thirsty!”/5) — Lord Dalek

Gangsta.

Stranger Danger and the Danger Rangers.

Oh boy, this is the hardest kind of episode to talk about. I don’t really want to sound to negative here, but I’ll just have to say it: this was pretty boring.

I know I shouldn’t let my expectations fool me, but from the previews (and the kick-ass opening) I was expecting a action packed journey through the criminal underworld of Whocaresia. While this first episode does seem to be that kind of show, it falls short in several areas. The makings for a interesting show are here, but nothing is really used in way that generates interest. The basic plot is stretched very thin, with tedious exposition and people sitting around talking feeling in the gaps of where meaningful progression could have been instead. The characters are just kind of there, nothing about them really makes you want to be invested in them or care about there plights. Just the “prostitute with abusive pimp” plot that’s a dime a dozen in these types of shows. The actions scenes, though lackluster, are easily the most entraining parts of the episode.

While I’ll give it credit for being different and arguably more ”mature” then the rest of same old same old we see these days, Gangsta still falls short where it counts. — Shadow Gentleman

I will hug her and pet her and squeeze her and call her George.

Hey, remember Jormungand? Remember Black Lagoon? Remember the shows about the space cowboys? Remember how you watched those anime because they had guns and shit? Well here is another of that genre that you have been partaking in for the last year or decade or lifetime or reincarnation cycle. Anime surpasses Buddhism, you know. This show has boobs and swords and guns and the thing that makes the people go splurt like they just sprayed tomato juice all over the bricks. That last part is fun. Let us have more of that in more animes like these. If you liked the Black of the Lagoon, you will probably like this show of the Japanese origins, wot wot?

Seriously, half of the characters look like tracings from other works. I could have sworn that was a male Balalaika in the episode. Not trying to insinuate it’s ripping off Black Lagoon or anything though, because it’s not going for that. This show’s has more quiet moments to make the loud ones stand out, like one scene will have Cody in his car chilling while the next will have a swordfight with blood gushing everywhere. Sure, it’s slow at points, and it doesn’t offer much in terms of intrigue just yet, but it’s fun to watch. Like with a show called “Gangsta”, what else am I supposed to expect?

Gangsta feels like candy for the senses. The soundtrack has finesse, like something you’d want to hear when walking through the city. And it goes great with the visceral animation, something I haven’t seen done well from Manglobe in ages. It looks off at points, but it goes well with the organized crime aesthetic. Plus, this show has Nick. Nick is the best if only because of his accent. I loved watching him cut guys apart and speaking like he was in the middle of gargling. I know people are going to think he’s a stupid character because of the “deaf swordsman” thing, but screw them. He’s like a play on the Zatoichi archetype, even though I’m not sure how clouding your hearing instead of your vision could enhance your abilities. Maybe it allows you more focus due to lack of noise or something to that effect?  — Bloody Marquis

Third Opinion!

Sorry, but you wont get my money until you give me a legitimately entertaining show.

These kind of gritty crime action anime tend to emphasize over the top, stylish action and waste no time in hooking viewers with a bang of an opener. Gangsta, curiously, has decided it wants to be a slow burn. The show downplays the action and instead focuses on a pretty bog standard saving a prostitute from an abusive pimp plot. It hits all the expected beats of such a story with no real twists or unique flavor, save for a pretty cool scene at the end where the deaf “dog-tag” Nic threatens a cop in garbled speech. The action in the premiere is not very impressive or memorable, the violence and bloodshed involved hardly being atypical of your typical action seinin. Both main characters have a kind of chemistry and relationship that rings a bit too similar of other gun-toting action bros; Spike and Jet, Lupin and Jigen, Train and Sven, etc. The show takes a lot of aspects of other series, but it hasn’t quite made them it’s own yet, which might make it feel a bit too derivative for some.

Still, the deliberate pacing and direction in this series manages to keep my interest. There are some choice shots and nice, subtle acting in both the animation and the performances. The tone is very mature; not in the obnoxious “let’s have lot’s of frivolous violence and sex for shock value” but the actual kind – handling adult subject matter in a tasteful way. I can appreciate the more low-key, relaxed tone of the show for now, and I’m sure based on what I’ve heard that there will be some more impressive action set pieces and stronger plot lines in future episodes. The show has a good character foundation and a decent production, and I can see it being one of the most rewarding shows to watch these season when everything’s said and done. — CartoonX

Gatchaman Crowds insight

Ohhhhh that's our Hajime! *Audience Applause*

HEY EVERYBODY! HAJIME HERE! LONG TIME NO SU I’M HERE TO TALK ‘BOUT MY SHOW GATCHAMAN CROWDS INSIGHT, THE WONDERFUL SEQUEL TO MY GRAND DEBUT LAST SEASON—if you haven’t watched it yet, you probably have worse learning difficulties than me—WHERE I SAVED THE WORLD BY SHOVING KATSE-SAN DOWN MY TATAS! I CAN STILL FEEL HIM RUMBLING N’ TUMBLING IN MY CHEST, BUT THE MORE HE STRUGGLES THE MORE HE GETS SUCKED IN. HAHAHASU

NOW I WANT TO MAKE IT CLEAR TO ALL NAYSAYERS WHO THOUGHT THE FIRST SEASON WAS MUY TRISTE—get it? Because Paiman’s serving margaritas—THE WRITERS GAVE ME A NEW FRIEND, AND A LITTLE NATIVE AMERICAN GIRL TO ADOPT! THEY KEEP TELLING ME SHE’S A REDSKINNED ALIEN, BUT THAT’S RUDE AND PROBLEMATIC AND RACIST AND I WON’T LET THAT IN MY MIND PALACE-SU! HER NAME IS GELSADRA AND SHE IS THE CUTEST THING! WE GATCHAMEN HAVE TO MAKE SURE SHE DOESN’T WET THE CARPET THOUGH, SO I THREATEN TO USE MY SCISSORS ON HER INDIGENOUS LADY PARTS! I KNOW THAT SOUNDS CRUEL, BUT SPARE THE ROD, SPOIL THE CHILD-SU~! WHEN IT COMES TO CHILDREARING, ALWAYS REMEMBER TO DIY! THE POWER DRILL WORKS THE BEST!

THE WRITERS ASKED ME TO EXPLAIN THE PLOT, BUT I FORGOT BECAUSE WHEN THEY WERE EXPLAINING IT TO ME I STARED AT A BUG FOR FIVE HOURS AND THOUGHT IT WAS THEM!

SO ANYWAYS, WATCH MY SHOW! IT’S CALLED INSIGHT CUZ IT’LL GIVE YOU LOTS OF INSIGHT INTO WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING IN THE PAST TWO YEARS—mostly not sleeping and writing sullen death threats in all my day planners, if you haven’t gotten a death threat from me, you will soon—AND WILL BRING YOU BACK TO ALL MY FRIENDS LIKE BLONDIE AND PANDA AND SMOKEY GUY AND LIL’ STRIPPER. HOPE TO SEE YOU THEN-SU~! — Ichinose Hajiiiiii-mesu

Dalek Opinion!

What you’re expecting me to write about this shit here? Go read Crowds-Sourcing instead… — Lord Dalek

GATE: The Self-Defense Force Goes to Another World

Somewhere Taro Yoko is facepalming.

NieR the Animation.

Almost two years ago, there was an anime called Outbreak Company. It was the story of how the fate of both Japan and a silly fantasy land rested on one NEET and his body pillows. Personally I thought it sucked but as I’ve been routinely reminded/annoyed by a certain mentally unstable one-time stalker of mine, apparently SOMEBODY liked it.

Well good news for you, creepy stalker! Even though Outbreak Company itself is neeeever going to get a proper second season, somebody at Aniplex decided to go ahead and make one anyway!…sorta. I give you GATE! The story of how the fate of two worlds rests on one NEET and his doujinshi collection! But unlike its quasi-prototype, this is a violent war story filled with rape, rape, more rape, pillage, tons of explosions, and even MOOOOORE rape!

…or at least that’s what I’ve been told. I was honestly expecting this grotesque thing that would cause me to want to slit my wrists more than Cross Ange did, but that…didn’t happen. Frankly nothing happened in Episode 1, its just about this boring guy who becomes a hero when his beloved Comiket gets interrupted by an invading hoard of mongols, orcs, and dragons. In that way, it reminds me of that first episode of Sword Art where it seemed like it might be actually watchable before all that bullshit with Sachi and Silica and the tentacle plant made you rethink that. Totally expecting Mister Type Moon Fan #1590316 to start getting into some skirts pretty soon.

So GATE really is just…average at this point. Very, very average. I don’t even know what to say about it since it made very little impression on me. Oh don’t worry, this is probably going to be the worst show of Summer 2015 if the early buzz is any indication but right now? Meh… — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

If only the dangers of freemium gaming were this show's main plot.

So, it’s good that the protagonist is in his thirties, right? Even though it’s still another alternate universe fantasy deal, and he’s as otaku as they come, doesn’t his age make everything better? It makes his weird interaction with that blue-haired little girl all the creepier, but at least he’s not a teenager! Aren’t you having fun with your adult generic shonen protagonist? Especially your adult generic shonen protagonist who’s the Japanese Self Defense Force despite being a dirty otaku? What’s the deal with that? I heard his reason about how he needed something to pay off his urges, but since when did being a soldier pay that much over other jobs? Does the JSDF pay more than your usual army? Somebody tell me in the comments if the salaries make being a lieutenant worth more than being a salary slave.

But the show doesn’t care about that detail. It’s just an excuse to give Youji some hand-to-hand combat experience. What the show cares more about is the political furor going on now that there’s a gate to a fantasy world. Instead of hearing about what the public says, let’s hear what the Prime Minister has to yap about! And he instantly brands a wild dragon attack as terrorism despite the word hard to apply when you’re facing up against Spartans, dragons, pigmen, and orcs with no as of yet understandable motive. Why are we bringing up the Prime Minister’s word and terrorism on a force devoid from reality unless they’re supposed to be a metaphor for… oh. Oh.

This is an analogue for immigration, isn’t it? And the focus on Japanese soldiers being cool is meant to be… oh dear. Perhaps this is just me looking at things the wrong way. Maybe *looks at chapters from the manga* Oh… It’s like if there was a Japanese Roland Emmerich and he decided to make Japanese Independence Day. And that means the main character is like Japanese Jeff Goldblum. Does that make the one elf girl in the opening Japanese Will Smith? I know these are stupid questions, but these are my comfort zone when you have to talk about a show this nationalist on your platter. On the bright side, it doesn’t have Tatsuya Shiba levels of warped ideals yet. Maybe it won’t go that path. Maybe it will just even out to be an average fantasy show. Yeah… Hope you like your weekly helpings of Nippon Banzai. — Bloody Marquis

Hetalia: The World Twinkle

Why?

What, they’ve made even more of Hetalia? Aren’t people sick of it yet? Clearly not, since the series still seems to rake in the moolah both in Japan and oversees thanks to giddy teenage fangirls buying shit-tons of it’s merchandise. I used to be a fan of the series back when it first came out, when it’s style of comedy was fresh and fun and FUNi’s english dub helped give it an edge to it’s satire that made it even funnier. But with every episode of the subsequent season the series got less creative and less clever and the dub tried too hard to overcompensate with it’s edgy humor to the point where none of the jokes in either version worked at all. The last time I tried watching the show was when the third season was first being simulcast, and I didn’t even finish watching the first episode of it before bowing out. The show had become unbearably boring and repetitive by that point, and I couldn’t bother with it any more.

Yet still, the series remains as popular in the anime fandom as it ever has, and as profitable as ever too, and the franchise will no doubt be milked dry for years and years to come. The show clearly has no dignity left; it knows that it’s diehard fans will continue to watch it no matter what it does, so it doesn’t even try to be funny any more. If you want proof that the series is creatively bankrupt, then all you have to do is watch this new season’s first episode. What does Hetalia decide to do in it’s first episode after two years? A gimmick episode where all the characters are cats. What do they do with this premise? Absolutely nothing. The only “joke” in the episode is merely the fact that everyone are chibi cats and address each other as “Italy-Cat” and “Germany-Cat” and such. Outside of that, the fact that they are cats isn’t even important. They could have done the same sketches with the characters as they normally are and they would work just the same. So what was the point? Cats are cute? Cute cats in cute situations are automatically funny? Isn’t the whole appeal of the show is cute boys doing cute things, with random history references thrown in, already? How is making the characters cats even relevant to that?

None of these questions matter. Why? Because the people who still like Hetalia don’t care. They’ll watch this and go “aw, Germany-Cat is so adowable” and eat it up. But I am not so easily amused by cuteness. This episode was only five minutes long, and yet it was so tedious to watch that it felt like 5 times the length. But, I realize the show is just not for me. Hetalia is to fujoshi what K-On and it’s ilk are to male otaku, except with more shipping. If cuteness for cuteness’ sake is your thing, then Hetalia might still be entertaining for you. But anyone who is not a teenage girl will likely find nothing of value or interest in this newest iteration, and should just spend their time elsewhere, preferably watching something that actually tries to tell a joke. — CartoonX

Million Doll

And I shouldn't have watched this show, but we all make mistakes, don't we?

Why did I watch this? Idol anime are never good. Of course this wouldn’t be good. I had though that since the premise involved a girl otaku trying to help out an idol group that’d  help make it better than most in this sub genre, but of course it didn’t. This is an 8-minute anime. There is no effort put into it. The animation is minimal, when there is any at all. The plot is barely there. The characters are terrible. The main leads are two otaku and a trio of idols. That’s all we really learn about them. The female otaku is kind of stuck-up, apparently a hikkikomori, and a self-important blogger who promotes uses her forum-networking to promote her friends. Despite her good intentions, she is not likable. The male otaku is a creepy fanboy who goes to idol concerts and yells at them to marry him. Somehow, one idol chick he heckles finds him amusing and likes him, even though she should be creeped out and filing a restraining order. Obviously, he is not likable. We don’t learn anything about the idols. One of them is a friend of the female otaku and another is a friend of the male one. That connection will probably lead them to meet each other and work together to help their friends at some point later on, I guess. They don’t have any personality, though, so who cares? And after giving us nothing to get invested in after 7 minutes, the show ends with a skit teaching viewers about “otaku terms” to help viewers “help you enjoy Million Doll more!” “You better appreciate it!” the male otaku says. Well I don’t appreciate it. Who would appreciate it? The only people who are going to bother watching this shit in the first place are otaku. You know, people who’d probably already know these terms. To be fair, I didn’t, but I’m also not a weaboo, so I don’t care. Anyway, this show is another terrible idol anime. It might not have fan service or anything abominable, content-wise, but it’s boring, half-assed, and has does absolutely nothing to give you a good time at any point during it’s run-time. It might not be the worst idol anime out there, but it still proves the rule. — CartoonX

Monster Musume

*dropped*

0:00 — ………………………………………………….

They made a fucking show out of this.

They MADE. A. FUCKING. SHOW. OUT. OF. THIS.

0:30 — No.

0:35 — No.

0:40 — Nope.

1:00 — Do not want.

1:30 — Do not want.

2:00 — DO. NOT. WANT.

3:00 — No. No. I can’t even make it past the teaser. I can’t. I just… no.

*dropped*

ONE HOUR LATER…

*resumed*

TITLES: Wow this is the cheapest opening I’ve seen since… what was the last Gainax show again?

5:00 — NOPE.

5:20 — NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

*dropped*

ONE HOUR LATER…

*resumed*

6:00 — Dear god there’s seventeen more minutes of this left… @_@

6:13 — If I had a .gif of this, it would represent my mental state at the moment.

6:53 — Monster Musume! Its True Blood…but stupider.

7:47 — Random Dragon Warrior reference is random

9:01 — So he gets arrested if he tries to have sex with the nympho………………HAREM SHOW!

9:10 — I am…literally struggling to get through this. It is a battle.

11:10 — Awww, the sensitive side of Monster Musume… hurl.

11:59 — Wow she broke his willy… k.

13:00 — Ok halfway through this… I can make it.

13:20 — …………….NOPE.

*dropped*

ONE HOUR LATER…

*resumed*

13:21 — I feel like Taylor Kitsch right now.

14:05 — siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh

14:59 — No no no stop ple-oh thank god.

15:38 — Instead of laughs, there are only groans. So many groans.

16:30 — Lol dumbass racists. And that chick is black!

17:00 — of course they had to go to a love hotel. OF. FUCKING. COURSE.

17:30 — NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

*dropped*

ONE HOUR LATER…

*resumed*

17:32 — Ok Joel, you can make it, you can do this, you have seen faaaaar worse than Monster Musume….

18:12 — NO! I WILL PERSEVERE! I WILL SURVIVE THIS TRASH IF IT KILLS ME!

19:20 — Why do they have censor bleeps in anime now? Considering all the other language they DON’T censor.

20:00 — Thank god we’re almost done.

21:12 — NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*dropp–oh wait its over. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew, thank god. — Lord Dalek

Okusama ga Seitokaichou!

I condom her actions.

Her fang could probably bust one of those condoms.

Well finally, someone decided to cut the fat off of an ecchi anime and make it the 8 minutes it deserves. And I suppose I should be happy nipples exist in this show’s universe. As well as condoms. It’s nice to know that characters are capable of something lewder than holding hands here. Show still feels too long despite being a third of the length of everything else. They probably could have just cut it to ten seconds of the guy sucking the girl’s breast and called it a day. Yeah, why even make your anime in minute-long segments. Maybe this anime would sell better if it was sold in webm form. The audience for this show probably wants it to finish quickly as much as they themselves can. — Bloody Marquis

Overlord

"That is my fetish." -- @FoggleAR, 2015

Overlord joins the family of anime adapted from fictional MMO-based Light Novels. However, unlike Sword Art Online or its ilk, Overlord takes a slightly different approach to the “trapped in an MMO” concept. Our story follows Momonga, a player of the once popular long-running MMO Yggdrassil. When Yggdrassil is about to shut down its servers, Momonga logs in for the last time to reminisce about all the good times he and his guild had in the game. Alone with only his NPC servants as company, Momonga decides to wait until the servers shut down before logging off, however,  when the clock hits midnight, not only do the servers seemingly stay on, but it turns out Momonga can’t log out or access the console at all! In a plot twist that would surprise only M. Night Shamalayn, it turns out the world of Yggdrassil has become real, and its NPC are now living breathing creatures. Momonga decides to adjust to this new reality and figure out all that he can do.

Overlord is a somewhat refreshing take on the “trapped in a videogame” concept, starting with making its protagonist look like a character you’d actually expect people to play in an MMO. It also has a sense that the author has actually played MMO’s before, which makes any scene talking about game mechanics sound plausible, as opposed to SAO’s nonsense. Overlord’s tone has a toung-in-cheek air about it, and with its characters and premise, it almost feels like a long-lost Nippon-Ichi game. Outside of a few problematic elements typical of LN’s (which is fortunately not being brushed over in-universe) Overlord is an enjoyable anime, and between the dissapointment that was Rokka, and the train-wreck that is Chaos Dragon, this is easily one of the better shows to premiere in an otherwise mediocre season. — Crimson Rynnec

Second Opinion!

This is the most emotion you're gonna get from this guy.

It would be so very easy to dismiss Overlord as “Lich Art Online” due to both its rather bony protagonist, and the fact that its yet another in the growing stable of “Trapped in a MMO”-shows that have popped up like gophers in the wake of SAO’s massive (and completely unwarranted) success. The difference here is that Overlord tries to take the Log Horizon approach of having to apply RPG mechanics and structure to a situation that has now become your real life. I actually like this methodology and think its a much better approach to this kind of story than SAO’s “play an VRMMO to save the world/your girlfriend/her purity/etc.” bullshit (also reiterates the fact that Mamare Touno actually plays MMOs and Reki Kawahara clearly does not). However, in this case, there’s one small problem.

It’s…not…very good.

Once you get past the “AW YEAH SKELETON!!!”-factor, Lord Momonaga is an incredibly underdeveloped character. Unlike, say Shiroe from Log Horizon, he seems cold and distant and we don’t really know anything about him other than he was overleveled in the game and, now that he’s stuck in it, doesn’t seem to really care about getting out. Another part of the reason why Log Horizon worked so well was it had a clever sense of humor about its increasingly bleak situation. Not so here, there was about much liveliness as a funeral at times. That doesn’t give me any incentive to come back.

I guess I feel spoiled when it comes to this new mini genre. If .hack and Log Horizon represent the gold standard and SAO, the bottom of barrel then Overlord is right smack in the middle. It doesn’t do enough wrong to be a truly miserable sludge but it sure as hell doesn’t do enough good to warrant repeat viewings. Oh well… — Lord Dalek

Third Opinion!

You can't blame Momonga, 'cause he always has a boner.

 Maybe I should go to Japan and write my own “trapped in a video game” series. It would be simple. I’ll fly on a plane while pretending to be someone’s luggage, create a pseudonym, write grammatically incorrect Japanese with barely any Kanji in it, and boom, instant bestseller on the Oricon book charts! Yukio Mishima can go roll in his grave while I become a revolutionary of Japanese literature. It makes you wonder what Mishima would have said about light novels. Besides him, it would be nice to know the thoughts of old authors on the modern trends. On the other hand, Murasaki Shikibu would probably appreciate LNs.

I don’t know if she could appreciate Overlord though. This episode was unpleasant the same way a bullet to the stomach is mildly painful. I could list all of the unfavorable comparisons to SAO or Log Horizon right now, but let me point my ire to Madhouse. These character designs and animation are some of the worst this season, and this season already has multiple atrocities that will make you yearn for a scalpel. Some of the main characters are just one layer of color shading away from being Bleach protagonists. Just take a picture from Overlord, give it to casual anime fans, and ask them what show it comes from. And feel your dreams crumble when they mistake Madhouse for Pierrot. Except Pierrot possibly could have done this better. The fight scenes are bland as toast, with awful frames per second exacerbating the ocular cancer. Maybe I could give Madhouse the benefit of the doubt and blame FUNi for delivering a bad stream, but sharing the blame won’t make things any better. Not even any riffing could improve this episode. Anyone willing to try will be left witless by the end.

But who cares? You’re just going to watch this only because of Albedo. And if you’re depraved enough, you’ll probably watch this for the twins. It’ll be just like watching hentai filled with tons of putrid-looking men and only one semi-attractive woman. And it’s okay, because some people like to make endurance matches out of their supposed entertainment. It’s the only way they can keep sane. — Bloody Marquis

Ranpo Mysteries: Game of Laplace

No you can't do it doggy style

Sit and Be Fit!

Oooook, stop me if you’ve heard this one before… There’s this new show on airing late nights on Fuji Television licensed by Funi. Its made by Lerche, directed by HIM, and set in a school, and the main protagonist is a boy but he looks like a gir–wait…Assassination Classroom? Nope. This is Ranpo Mysteries! An anthology based off of the shonen detective stories of Ranpo Edogawa (the inspiration for Detective Conan’s surname as well as a major influence on Kindaichi Case Files), in a way this show seems to be more of a thowback to an earlier era of animu when Boogiepops were phantoms and Lil Sluggers were agents that caused paranoia. Of course this show isn’t anywhere near those in terms of quality (to be expected, considering how derivative it is), however its opening installment is surprisingly entertaining fulfilling what little expectations the name “Seiji Kishi” now represents for modern anime.

So in a world apparently ruled by gradient gray blobs that resemble humanoids, young trap Kobayashi awakens one day with a bloody hacksaw in his hand and the headless corpse of his teacher bound in a Vishnu pose five feet away. Things get more confusing when he and his sidekick Hashiba run into teen private dick Akechi, a too cool for school asshole who lives in a love hotel and spins 45s while playing SimCity 2000. Apparently Kobayashi is being framed for this crime but there’s a twist, sensei was actually a serial killer with a perverse addiction to turning his victims into….furniture.

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, its that kind of show.

There’s also a clearly mentally ill fujoshi who takes over as teacher that might as well be Shokotan, and some random hardboiled cops. Yeah who cares about them. This is noitaminA, and if those josei demand shotacon they’re gonna get their shotacon goddammit! Outside of that there’s not much to say. Really the main attraction to the show is that grand guignol horror content that comes with a show involving chairs made out of corpses. That almost makes me interested in coming back, but then again I also said the same thing about Dinglerumpus and everybody knows how THAT turned out. Fool me once Seiji Kishi, fool me twice… — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

That panda's one of the few guys in this show allowed to have an actual character design.

An anime named after Rampo Edogawa sounds like something that would surprise me, up until I see the first few minutes and realize “No. No, sir. I won’t enjoy this.” I know first impressions shouldn’t cast a shadow on the whole, but there was something uneven, almost sterile about this directing. Even when the animation tried to become odd, it felt phoned in. I wondered who could do such a thing, until I saw the credits and recognized our old friend the Sage Quiche marking yet another disappointing entry in his large filmography. I’m not too sure how the Sage Quiche keeps getting work despite being a one-man DEEN. Frankly, I don’t want to know under the assumption some sort of blackmail is afoot. But whatever the case, Noitamina gets to have another placeholder to remind people they still exist.

And don’t try to argue this is anything more than a placeholder once you get to the CGI jukebox. While there are certain quirks here and there other directors wouldn’t add, they have the same amount of ambition Ed Wood did when he thought up Bride of the Monster. Like there’s a semblance of a good idea around here, but there’s no structure to make it into anything other than a half-baked daydream. To understand the laws and boundaries in this show require a different, probably primitive mindset than one is used to. Maybe the entire scene where the main character chases after a butterfly is supposed to deep instead of lazy. Perhaps the faceless masses that take up a quarter of the screen aren’t merely conspicuous attempts to save on the animation budget. And possibly, I am supposed to believe the cops want to arrest an effeminate teenage boy on suspicions of murder despite any evidence connecting the two being sketchy at best.

When you combine all of that without anything gluing them together, the show continues to have this hazy, toneless feel to it. Elements are drawn and discarded as if someone submitted the writers’ brainstorming session as a script instead of an actual draft. What should be gruesome acts of crime are depicted with aloofness, like they don’t deserve to be mentioned in lieu of the edgy detective contemplating some more. It’s meant to show how dreary the world is that not even murder affects the main cast, but it just creates even more apathy, resulting in a twenty-minute trudge that’s neither entertaining nor fun to mock.  — Bloody Marquis

Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers

Whatever you say Artie...

Fantasy anime are now becoming so dime a dozen that I can literally no longer tell the differences between what I just watched and anything else that aired this season. Was Rokka the show about the Otaku who joined the military to bang wizard lolis?… or the one where  the cast of Bladedance fight the Bugrom?… or the one where Gen Urobuchi is a loli?…

Oh, oh, I remember, this is the one where that Adol Christin lookalike in a desperate need of a haircut hangs out with a rabbit girl and nothing happens! Yup that’s the ticket!

So yeah… Rokka, or as we called it last year “The Seven Deadly Sins”. I am not kidding, just take The Seven Deadly Sins, move it from Not-Europe to Not-Tenochitlan, and make the main protagonist a boring shonen braggart and you’ve got Rokka! Seriously…why the hell would you ripoff The Seven Deadly Sins, that shit was already a ripoff of Fairy Tail, which was already a ripoff of One Piece, which was already a ripoff of Dragon Ba-AND SO ON AND SO ON AND SO ON. Hell I can’t even remember what happened in the pilot, it was just that blah.

It says something when you fail to make more of an impression than GATE, but this show… it just found a way, and that was even with a recap in the middle. Yes the first episode was a recap of itself. Haven’t seen something like that since Transformers Armada. I think we’re done here. — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

Based on a series of Light Novels with really awesome covers, Rokka has your average fantasy setup. Six heroes are chosen by fate to defeat an ancient evil that has been awakened. However, a twist occurs when the heroes gather and find out they have one extra hero. Suspecting one of them may be a traitor, the heroes of fate must fight, not only against the Demon God, but also one of thier own. Such is the premise given by most anime sites. Unfortunately, the first episode is mostly filled with padding and exposition, despite a strong start. Our hero, a young man claiming himself to be the strongest, is thrown in prison after interrupting a holy tournament. He spends most of his time rotting away in his cell until he turns out to be one of the chosen heroes, and is subsequently rescued by a fellow chosen hero. Something that should’ve taken five minutes ends up taking a whole chunk of the episode due to poor pacing, and viewers are left to tune in to the second episode to see the real plot begin. Needless to say, this was a pretty disappointing first episode. There are some good points to all this, the setup and world-building is there, and the series has a lot of potential, it just needs to find its footing. If Overlord was a long-lost Nippon Ichi game, Rokka Braves of the Six Flowers is a Tales of game that Square Enix somehow got their grubby little hands on. Don’t knock it out just yet, but wait a few episodes before diving into this one. — Crimson Rynnec

Symphogear GX

Huh, a new Symphogear this season? Guess I’ll review the premiere then. I’m not really expecting anything out this show since I hear the previous seasons were apparently bad. It’ll probably be yet another forgettable magical gi-

10/10. Anime of the season. Everyone who said this show was bad should not be trusted. — Crimson Rynnec

Ushio and Tora

Glorious 90's art style.

Now here’s a franchise I’d never thought I’d see again. Ushio and Tora was one of the first anime I ever completely watched, back in the good old days of on-demand anime that were all terrible. Going back to such an old series feels strange. I have to wonder why it was picked to get a full adaption now, seeing as how it sticks out like a radical 90s thumb in the modern anime landscape.

While I’ll don’t want to compare this first episode to the OVA since they’re basically the same, I should note that the episode does skip some scenes. While this does keep the pace fast, it also misses a chance to better flesh out the supporting characters that were just introduced. The characters themselves are pretty basic, nothing really stands out, but they also have room for improvement. The most interesting aspect of the plot is the relationship between Ushio and Tora  (duh). Watching these two learn to despise each other slightly less should make for a somewhat entertaining dynamic.

That’s what I’d call this show, “somewhat entertaining”. It has potential, but could just as easily fall into the trap of being another mostly forgotten fighting shonen. Only time will tell. Unless you read the manga.

Also, best OP of the season, hands down. — Shadow Gentleman

Second Opinion!

Someone call child protective services.

It’s a bit odd that someone’s dug this series up for an adaption after all this time. Sure, this year is the 25th anniversary of the manga and all, but if anniversaries were all it took to get an old property adapted into a new anime then we’d be flooded with remakes every season. The Parasyte anime last year was a part of a multi-media mass marketing effort headed by Toho to make money off the property now that the film rights had been snatched back from New Line Cinema. Really, the anime was made just to promote the films. Ushio and Tora doesn’t have anything else related to it down the pipes besides this anime. No films, no new manga, nothing. So what I’m guessing is that Mappa saw how successful Hunter X Hunter was for Madhouse and wanted in on the long-running shonen action game. Or someone working there might just a huge fanboy of the series and wanted to make an anime adaption of one of his favorite manga. I wouldn’t be surprised if either was true.

I’ve never read the manga or watched the OVA series, but based on the first episode it’s pretty obvious that Ushio and Tora is just a straightforward 90’s supernatural shonen battle series. Everything about it screams the 90’s, from the rough angular designs, to the distinctive Shonen Sunday-style of humor of that time. The relationship between Ushio and Tora and how it plays out in this first episode is almost exactly like the beginning of InuYasha, though that series came out 5 years after Ushio and Tora so if anything it’s the ripoff. Ushio is your standard teenage shonen protagonist, though being from the 90s he’s thankfully not as “hurr durr friendship is sugoi I eat lotsu me so quirky” like the worst examples from nowadays and has a bit more personality. The girls and the father don’t leave much of an impression. One girl is a tsundere, the other is playful and nice, and the father is irresponsible, and that’s all you need to know about them. Tora is by far the best character in this episode. The contrasts between his malicious desires and his ineffectual attempts to threaten Tora and convince him to free him make for great comedy, and he boasts a brilliantly flexible design, capable of being both convincingly menacing at some times and adorably cute and funny at others. Tora single-handedly gives the show a personality that distinguishes it from others of it’s ilk, making it worth bothering with.

Some people seem to find the designs and storytelling style outdated, and they are. However, it is precisely because they’re outdated that makes the show stand out amongst the samey-ness and moe-ness of modern anime. It gives the show an edge and flavor to it that just feels different, and that goes a long way in making it worthwhile. Though, really, it’s the quality of the production that really elevates this material. The animation, pacing, and direction is all spot on and it’s clear the people working on this knows how to make an exciting fighting series. There might not be much in the way of substance, but this show knows what it is and knows what it’s viewers want. It’s reflected in how adrenaline-pumping and rocking the opening is. It knows you fast-paced over the top fuck yeah action, and it gives you exactly that. It knows you don’t want to deal with the episodic supernatural school problems bullshit, so it’s Final Act-ing this bitch and condensing 33 volumes of content into 39 episodes, keeping only the most plot-relevant and action-heavy parts. The appeal of this show is to see some good old fashioned shonen fighting antics. And with the way it’s been executed here, I have good confidence that it will succeed in being an entertaining and fun take on that, and with JoJo’s gone for a still indeterminate period of time, this fills the void for a good fighting anime on my fridays quite nicely. — CartoonX

Wakako-Zake

I think she wants to eat me.

There are plenty of over the top anime about cooking and eating, but not a lot about the quiet pleasures of savoring good food. Wakako-Zake, despite being a short anime, captures the pleasures of enjoying food you like the way you like after a long, hard day. Since each episode is only a two-minute short, Wakako-Zake really only has enough time for one joke per episode, and probably only variations on the same kind of joke every time. However, what works about it is that it taps into feelings and expresses emotions that feel very real. Savoring food you like in a certain way, trying to bond over food, and being annoyed when you don’t have something you enjoy the way you like it. I can get behind these sentiments. I can get behind the middle-class, middle-aged melancholy and the idea of taking simple pleasures in what you can (I’m not even 20, mind you, but I do feel like this sometimes). Short anime are hit and miss because there’s not enough time to really get to know characters or any really elaborate humor or story to develop, but this is one of the more successful ones I’ve seen in recent memory. Whether or not you’ll enjoy it will probably come down to how much you can relate to the situations the main protagonist get into and the emotions she feels while enjoying food, but if you do, it’s a nice, refreshing palate-cleanser. – -CartoonX

2015
07.07

I haven’t stopped I’m still doing these! I’m really sorry that I didn’t put out issue reviews these last three weeks, especially since I only just started doing them. I’m afraid that the combination of extremely long issues, more important priorities and responsibilities to my work and my family, and being overseas with no access to my Vizmanga account or decent enough internet to load a single page of manga in less than ten minutes kind of made my ability to put them out pretty low. A shame, too, since that means I missed out on commenting on some fairly pivotal chapters for a good many series, the Saint Seiya “Jump Back,” and the fantastic one-shot chapter, Foile À Deux. But now I’ve returned; renewed and ready to keep these up! So let’s get back to business. In this week of Jump, Yui grows a pair, Fujitora prostrates himself, and Bulma pees her pants. All this and more, After the Jump!

Weekly Shonen Jump: 2015, Issue No. 32

One-Punch Man chapter #47 – “Bananas”

Garo claims he’s a monster, and his actions, strength, and cruelty certainly justifies that label. But according to Mumen Rider, Garo is still a human. Obviously, he is. He was born a human being. He is human in every biological aspect. But that’s not what Mumen is taking about. Mumen believes that Garo, deep down, still has humanity. He has a conscience, he has sympathy, is capable of kindness, and every other thing a human being is capable of. Which presents an interesting social question. Would you consider murders and psychopaths like Garo still human beings, despite the horrible, unforgivable things they’ve done? Or in committing their atrocities, have they relinquished the rights they had as human beings, and purged themselves of humanity. There exist people in real life, including many a serial killer, who take gleeful joy in their sadism, with warped minds and mentality that they use to justify their crimes, to which they show no remorse to. These people are horrifying, showing no guilt for what they’ve done, or any concern for the rights and happiness of anyone besides themselves. Is that fundamentally against what a human being should be? Are those deviating from normal human behavior and social ethics fundamentally monsters by definition? Are these people, who look human, and have the same basics needs as humans, really a different sort of creature? We might draw the conclusion that a true monster cannot be defined by appearances, but rather, by his state of mind. For instance, few would disagree that Naoki Urasawa’s titular Monster was anything but, and he was, by all accounts, a friendly, handsome young man. What constitutes a monster in a human being lies not in the appearance, the personality, or even the actions of a person, but rather, the character of his very soul.

We know why Garo does what he does, and it’s not just because he likes to kill. He was angry at an injustice and inequality he saw in the treatment of so-called monsters, that good always defeated evil as a rule. So he’s made it a personal mission to correct this; to be a villain that will never fall to a hero. And as heroes so callously kill the monsters they fight, he will hunt and slaughter all the heroes in his way. He goes after strong heroes to show how powerful he is. For Garo, strength is power. And in becoming the strongest creature on earth, his cause will have to be recognized as just. Yet as cruel and ruthless as he is, Garo, by the very nature of having an agenda based on pride rather than pleasure, shows a very human mind and set of aspirations. He wants recognition. Though warped, he wants a kind of justice. He understands and has human ideals. He behaves and thinks in a human way. That’s probably what Mumen recognizes. Garo might have the strength of a beast, but he has the mind of a man. That mind can be reached out to, and it can be reasoned with. He might be a monster now, but he can change back.

The chapter gives us the idea that Garo’s strength is not purely physical, but rather, stems from his mastery of the techniques he honed under Silverfang’s tutelage. Saitama has generally fought opponents who use pure power to dominate their opponents; such as the Deep Sea King. What makes Garo more deadly than someone like, say, Boros, is the calculating precision and efficiency of his power and technique; the seamless combination of brain and brawn. That’s what has Saitama particularly intrigued. Boros was able to force Saitama to use more than one punch, but Garo, with his refined skills as a martial artist, may be the first to offer him a real challenge. This arc will likely be defined through addressing the question of Garo’s humanity, and whether he is capable of being a true monster or whether he’ll cling to his vestiges of humanity, and fall back on them. Saitama has been shown befriending many an unlikely character throughout the series through his good nature and awe-inspiring strength, and Garo respects strength, if nothing else.The inevitable confrontation between Saitama and Garo will be a clash of physical strength, but I have a feeling it will be resolved by Saitama’s strength of character instead.

Seraph of the End chapter #35 – “Traitorous Allies”

I hadn’t read a single chapter of Seraph of the End before the anime came out. And until this issue came out, I still hadn’t. While I was more optimistic about the series based on the premiere than some others, hearsay (or more specifically, the Thaumatropy commentaries) have informed me that the series is what I expected it would turn out to be; a try-hard edgy shonen that uses it’s superficial edges to mask it’s unoriginality with shock value and novelties. That said, for the purposes of this review series, I will actually catch up the series so I can criticize it properly, as I will with Blue Exorcist as well. So what did I think of this chapter of Seraph of the End?

…This was really fucking dumb. I might not know all these characters’ names or histories, but I get the central idea of what’s going on in this chapter, and it’s a case of shonen ideology not reflecting practical common sense. Mikaela may be Yu’s “family,” but he is still their enemy, does not care about the fate of human beings, and was going going to kill whoever he need to in order to reclaim Yu. This isn’t a person worth protecting, much less giving one of your most valuable soldiers to. The idea behind it is that because Yu considers him family, that makes him a part of their family. Except he doesn’t think so, and he doesn’t give a shit about whether you live or die. And it’s a really bad idea of giving one of your strongest people over to your enemy, especially when you are trying to execute a time-sensitive tactical retreat before your enemy catches up to and slaughters you. And disobeying orders, fracturing your ranks, and causing confusion and delays in a military operation just for a misguided sense of responsibility to someone you have none towards? Yeah, this is why you shouldn’t make a military where a bulk of your key officers are unbelievably idealistic teenagers who must have read many too many a shonen manga.

Mikaela was affected by their act of kindness and their “family” nonsense, so he’s probably going to ally himself with them and bail their asses out from getting slaughtered by the vampire armada next chapter. That would justify their actions in this chapter, I suppose, but if shonen cliches didn’t dictate that kind of thing has to happen, then this would be an unforgivably self-destructive mistake which would call for the dishonorable discharge of all involved. Assuming they didn’t get wiped out first, which with this team, if this series was seinen and not shonen, would seem very, very likely.

Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring chapter #10 – “Reflected in Those Eyes”

This mini-series has been ostensibly focused on Sarada trying to understand who she is as a person before she began a new phase in her life. Defined by the insecurity she’s felt towards her abnormal family situation, she tried to define her identity as a person by understanding what kind of people her parents are, and what she means to them. Sarada was uncertain of her place in the world; whether the family she had was truly her own, and whether the ideal image she had about her parents was really true. If that ideal wasn’t reality, what would that make her, and what would the life she’s lived up until now have meant? Sarada, really, was a confused, frightened child, desperate to know that she had a family that was there for her, loved her, and would always support her, a measure of confidence she needed to finally embrace the new phase of life set before her. Sarada’s mission to find her father was ultimately a mission to understand herself.

The reality Sarada found wasn’t what she hoped for. Her father was not a warm, inviting figure like Naruto, but distant and aloof. The mother who raised her turned out not to be related to her by blood, which puts the marital status between her parents in question. Despite this heavy, life-changing news, Naruto has helped Sarada reconsider the bonds between her parents and herself. Sakura might not have been related to Sarada by blood, but she still raised her as her own, with the same care and love any mother would. So what does it matter that she didn’t give birth to her? She’s still, in every other purpose and meaning, her mother’s daughter. As for her father, she might not know him very well, and he might not be the best parental figure, but she’s accepted the fact that his blood does run in her veins, and that he does care for her and her mother. Sarada may never have the kind of family life she’s always yearned, but she’s made peace with that. There’s still a place she can call home, a place that was always her home, and there’s still a person who loves her and she loves in turn.

With this understanding, Sarada has finally stopped over thinking the imperfect aspects of her life, and has focused on what really matters to her. Her conversation with Boruto at the end of the chapter highlights how her way of thinking about her life has changed. In the first chapter of the mini-series, she expressed indifference and reluctance towards becoming a shinobi. She didn’t understand the value of the career, or what she wanted to do with her life. Her experiences finding her father, becoming closer to her parents and Naruto, and seeing them in action has helped give her people to aspire to be, and a goal to aspire for. She’s found her shinobi way; to protect the people and home she cares about. And she’s decided that the best way to do this is to become Hokage.

This entire mini-series has been about the development of Sarada as she matured from a child into an adult, as well as showing how Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura have matured as adults and dealt with the responsibilities of parenthood. Shin and his clone children serviced just as an extreme negative parallel to their respective relationships. Much like both Naruto and Sasuke’s careless treatment of their children have alienated them towards them in some ways, so has Shin and his clone children. Like how Boruto, Sarada, and Cho Cho have shown disillusionment and rebellious behavior towards their fathers, Shin’s clones turned on him. In his example, though, his kids didn’t simply lash out or continue to silently resent him. No, the tension between them built up to the extent that they flat out try to kill Shin. Despite the extremity, it’s a reaction that was just as inevitable as Boruto painting on the Hokage faces or Sarada’s emotional breakdown; in a way, the message of this mini-series seems to be that all kids at some point will come into conflict with their parents, the consequences of which reflecting whatever influence and decisions those parents made for their kids as both examples of adulthood and authority figures. Sarada, in her volatile emotional state, might have done something just as brash as the Shin clones if Naruto didn’t substitute himself as a parental authority to guide her and remind her of what was really important.  This mini-series showcases the importance of strong parental guidance and a moral influence for children, as well as stable family life that attends to a child’s needs. Otherwise, the relationships between children and their families may become fractured, and their emotional development unstable, and self-destructive.

I don’t think that the revelation that Sakura really is Sarada’s biological mother weakens any of this mini-series’ themes. For one thing, the twist, as it is, is so obvious I don’t know why anybody would complain or be surprised. You don’t really think Sasuke is enough of a ladies man to two-time two hard-headed violent broads, much less have an illegitimate child, do you? He isn’t Joseph Joestar. More to the point, Sarada’s matured and made her decision as to what she wants to be and do with her life before she learned this. It doesn’t change the strength of character arc, though I do regret it’s another example of Kishimoto’s reluctance to have his characters suffer or be “bad” people as a result of their own moral failings, rather than outside influences. It’s a weakness to his writing he really needs to fix whenever he finally makes his next long-running manga. It does also strike me as both creepy and contrived that Karin just happens to keep Sakura’s umbilical cord in her desk. Who does that? Why would you do that? There’s no logical reason, so it serves as just an excuse to cause a misunderstanding. And of course, one can’t forget this whole ordeal wouldn’t have happened if either Sakura or Shizune had just explained to Sarada the circumstances regarding her birth clearly, instead of being so vague and avoiding the topic. I can sort of understand that Sakura has poor communication skills and Shizune wouldn’t want to tell Sarada something that her mother wouldn’t be comfortable with her knowing, but this whole mini-series wouldn’t exist if either of them had been smart enough to assuage Sarada’s insecurities immediately instead of letting them linger. This kind of idiocy is especially compounded by the fact that the circumstances of Sarada’s birth are not a big  deal at all. There’s no logical reason why they shouldn’t have told Sarada, and that weakness in the premise of the mini-series does weaken it, and I can understand why a few people wouldn’t be able to get past that to enjoy it’s good points.

Despite these problems, the core themes of this mini-series were still very well executed overall, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. And as promotion for the Boruto movie, it’s pretty brilliant. The mini-series downplayed Boruto’s presence and importance, but still showed enough of him to set up what his character is like and what will be his character arc will be. By developing Sarada’s character arc here, Kishimoto can focus specifically and efficiently on Boruto’s development in the film. What we’ve learned about him indicates that he’s in very much the same situation as Sarada was at the beginning of this mini-series; in a rebellious, disillusioned state of mind. Boruto’s dismissal of the value of the Hokage mirrors Sarada’s of shinobi at the beginning of the mini-series, and like her, this clearly stems from some heavy daddy issues he’s dealing with.

To be honest, this mini-series actually has made me really interested in watching the Boruto movie now, to see how this character arc will play out, and how the relationship between Boruto and his father might change. Yes, I know that Boruto will finally come to respect his father in the film and whatever, duh. But I don’t just care about what the destination is, but what the journey there will entail. In the final few years of the manga, any appreciation I had for Naruto the franchise was transformed into to loathing. However, I recognize good writing when I see it, and though there are flaws to it, this mini-series was well-written on the whole. I really appreciated Sarada’s character arc, as well as the themes underlying the series and how succinctly and effectively they were developed in such a short amount of time. The fact that it’s made me actually want to check out the Boruto movie, something I had absolutely no interest in when it was first announced, speaks to it’s strengths as both a stand-alone product and as an installment as part of the larger Naruto franchise.

The name Naruto has become a dirty word in recent years, but I’ve come to think that being a Naruto series doesn’t have to be synonymous with bad entertainment. Only the years will tell whether this newfound optimism of mine towards the franchise will be reflected in more genuinely good stories and series set in the Naruto universe, but I’d like to think there will. There’s many a franchise whose original series is now considered in poor respect, but has a newer iteration that is much acclaimed. The Naruto universe and characters are as flexible and suited for new stories as much as the Dragon Ball universe is, and it’d be a shame if it was wasted on mediocre products. For the time being, though, I’m happy to have just enjoyed this mini-series in spite of what it’s associated with, and hope that Kishimoto produces more work of this or higher quality as he finally moves on from this franchise and continues his career.

Nisekoi chapter #177 – “Remembering”

Out of all of Raku’s harem, Yui is perhaps the most underutilized, underdeveloped, and kind of a blank slate. Her entire character has been defined exclusively how nice and joyous she is, and the fact that she’s older than the rest of the girls and hence an “adult.” In most harem manga, that character would be simply just that – the nice, older girl. However, Komi is now challenging her character, whether she can feasibly cling to her kind, non-competitive nature if she really wants a relationship with Raku. Yui doesn’t want to endanger her friendships with the other girls, and interfere with their attempts to progress their relationships with him. But she can no longer be passive. She has to make a decision, and she has to do it now.

Both Yui and Marika don’t have much time left as far as becoming a couple with Raku goes. Yui needs to fulfill her duties as don and get married ASAP, and Marika is kinda dying. Marika, however, knows this, and perhaps because of that, has never hid her feelings for Raku and has always been the most aggressive, competitive, and active in trying to progress her relationship with him, something that only now has Raku seriously thinking of her as more as just a friend. Yui, on the other hand, hides her feelings and is content to just let things happen as they happen, and was about to even now if Marika didn’t hit her with a hard dose of reality. Yui is too afraid to do anything bold precisely because she doesn’t want to endanger the status quo. She’d rather things stay the same for as long as possible, in order to delay making an actual effort or decision of her own to win Raku’s heart and put her friendships with the other girls at risk.

It’s obvious why Marika, who also doesn’t have the luxury of time, would be so pissed off about that. Marika has dealt with her ticking clock by doing as much as possible, and as bold as possible, to get Raku to notice her. Yui’s passivity isn’t helping anyone, but just doing a disservice to herself. Rather than just being kind, Yui is really just afraid of taking a risk. She’s afraid of having her feelings rejected, and her friendships broken. She’s afraid of change, and really, of having to grow up. But, perhaps as a sign of her maturity, once she realizes this, and recognizes that she truly does love Raku as a man and not like a sibling, she does it. She crosses the point of no return. She tells Raku she loves him, not as a friend, not as a sister, but as a woman.

Assuming the beginning of the next chapter doesn’t go back on this and have her say that she’s just joking or something, this is a pretty pivotal development. As a romantic interest, Yui hasn’t done much or made much of a mark, but her influence and example will make Raku wake up and realize he has to decide who he really likes before it’s too late, and make the other girls start to be more aggressive against each other in winning his heart. Like Yui, they will need to risk their friendships and the status quo for love. There is no going back once they do, and things won’t be the same after, and they have to make peace with that. Komi has deliberately made sure plot and character development in this manga throughout the course of the year, and I have a feeling that he’s not going to suddenly revert it back to it’s episodic rom-com status anytime soon. I could be wrong of course, but I’m taking this chapter as a declaration that Nisekoi will be going places, and have a take on it’s genre that shonen rom-coms usually don’t dare to do. I’m not expecting Chitoge and Onodera to get into a cat fight or anything, but these characters are going to have their relationships with each other tested in more ways than one, and above all else, like Yui, they’re going to have to finally grow up.

Bleach chapter #633 – “Friend III”

This backstory would have been more effective if the relationship between Bazz B or Jugo had been foreshadowed and developed more consistently (or at all, really) over the course of this arc rather than in just this last month of chapters. On it’s own, it’s hardly a bad flashback, as it does establish a history between the two, develop their motivations, and show how Jugo became Ywach’s right-hand man in a succinct and clear manner. Sure, the chronology of the events presents certain contradictions with previously established information, but I’ve come to expect that kind of lack of continuity from Bleach, and I don’t really care about those small details enough to complain about it. It’s just hard to care about the events presented in this chapter because these characters are so secondary. I didn’t care about Bazz B going into the flashback, and that hasn’t changed coming out of it. Still, I do appreciate Kubo giving these characters some development and pathos so that this fight isn’t weightless. As far as Bleach goes, this is competent writing, something Bleach doesn’t generally have nowadays. I can’t say it’s good, because it doesn’t succeed in getting me invested in this fight, but it’s serves it’s purpose well and I can’t fault it for that.

World Trigger chapter #108 – “Yuzuru Ema”

Yuzuru Ema’s connection to the supposed traitor Hatohara delves further into the intrigue as to why she and Chika’s brother betrayed Border and escaped to the Neighbor world. Especially since there’s a reason presented for why she would do that not based in greed as many previously been thought. Hatohara, like Chika, is a very skilled sniper, but was reluctant to shoot people, and hence was not assigned to an away team by the top brass. No doubt that her motivations in doing what she did sprung from her desire to go to the Border world without fear of repercussions or consequences. While this is an interesting thread to be explored later on, the revelation that Hatohara is the same kind of sniper as Chika opens up a possibility that Chika can still fight on equal terms with her enemies and be effective at her job in spite of her reluctance to shoot people. That isn’t to say she shouldn’t try to overcome her weakness, especially since her next match is against Hatohara’s protege, but it does seem to indicate there’s another option and style of combat for Chika to adopt and hone going forward in the series, the nature of which I’m interested in seeing elaborated upon.

Whereas Chika will be head to head with a fellow sniper who thinks the same way as her, Yuma himself has gained a counterpart and rival in the form of Kagegura. Much like Yuma, Kagegura is an unpredictable wild card with unmeasured potential, above average combat skills, and a heightened sense of awareness. I admit that the angry-crazy character archetype is one I’m not particularly a fan of, but as a contrast to the calm and methodical Yuma, he should work very well. There isn’t too much to pick apart about his character, or the potential comparisons between the two yet, other than he might have some sort of mind-reading power as a compliment to Yuma’s truth-seeing one. Overall, this was a light setup chapter with intriguing developments, and it’s unfortunate the series will be absent yet again next week. I swear, these constant breaks are hurting the series’ narrative momentum, and unlike One Piece, it isn’t doing well enough in Jump or commercially to be unaffected by it. I really hope Ashihara becomes healthier soon. Perhaps I should contact Annaliese Christman to see about sending him a care package. I’m not a member of the Unofficial Osamu fan club for nothing, after all.

Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma chapter #125 – “The Moon Festival”

I thought that Soma would compete against Kuga by using a sweet chinese dish to combat Kuga’s spiciness. He would lure Kuga’s customers towards him by offering them an opposite extreme; a soothing food to numb the violent, pungent taste of Kuga’s sichuan. It seems I was wrong about that. Soma’s Black Pepper Buns lure customers in with the novelty and impress them with their juiciness. It’s still a very spicy dish though. Maybe not as spicy as Kuga’s dish, and different enough in taste than it, but rather than a dish that takes advantage of what customers might want after having Kuga’s dish, it’s still directly competing in the same niche as it. That’s a big part of why Soma isn’t having a lot of success right now. Both he and Kuga are offering the same kind of meal, but Kuga has a reputation. People tend to stick with what they are familiar, what they know they will like, and what they know is good. Kuga is a respected name in the cooking world, but Soma is only barely recognized for his skills outside of Totsuki. As high quality as Soma’s food might be, it means nothing if he can’t draw people to his booth.

I know Soma has some kind of plan, but I’m not sure what. Before this chapter, I had assumed that this would play out like with the breakfast buffet competition in the Camp arc, where he met his quota by leeching off of Erina’s customers. That’s not working for him here, as we’ve seen, so he has to have something else in mind. Him moving the booth away at the end of the chapter might indicate that he plans to operate in different areas of the Culture Festival on each day, but that probably can’t be since everyone had to secure permits in order to operate in a specific area of the institute. Is he going to plan some sort of marketing stunt to boost interest in his booth? Is he going to overhaul it’s appearance, perhaps sell something else? I can’t tell where this is going at all, and that has me pretty excited for whatever’s gonna go down next week.

My Hero Academia chapter #49 – “Midoriya and Shigaraki”

It’s an odd coincidence how One-Punch Man and My Hero Academia have been dealing with similar topics and issues lately. Just a few issues ago both series had a chapter involving naming heroes in the same issue, and the chapters in this issue highlight the similarities between OPM’s Garo and MHA’s Stain. Both are fervent, psychopathic mass-murders who want to destroy the status quo and cause social upheaval. Both hate heroes and want to prove the might of villains. Both would consider themselves monsters, and gleefully purge anyone they’d consider weak or undesirable. Compared to Garo, Stain is a less interesting character to me, partially because we really don’t know why he thinks the way he does, how he came to be, and his relationships to and with other characters, all of which has already been established with Garo. Still, he’s just as intriguing conceptually, and is a greater threat than within the universe of his series than Garo really is in his. Not to mention that allying with the hand-face villain (who’s name I still can’t remember) bolsters his danger factor.

It looks like my suspicions about why Ida chose the internship he did were correct; he’s taken it upon himself to go after Stain and take him out. The foreshadowing of previous chapters indicates he’s not in a sound enough state of mind to carefully and rationally hunt him down, and something unfortunate is going to happen as a consequence. What that consequence will be is up in the air, but I have a feeling that someone is going to get hurt as a result of Ida’s crusade, and it’s not going to be Stain.

Black Clover chapter #20 – “One Instant”

This chapter is a hard one to talk about. Partly because it’s a very action heavy chapter, but mostly because I’m a bit confused on what exactly happened. Tabata surprised me by having Asta’s new power-up not succeed in taking down Mars, and giving Yuno a chance to shine by having him get a new power and finally taking Mars out. I’m just not certain of what, exactly, that power is. From the way the chapter reads, Yuno’s desire to save Asta’s life summons a fairy who stops Mars’ attack and then mind-blasts him into the wall. Okay. So what is that fairy? Who is that fairy? It seems that the writing from the scroll Yuno read earlier, which has now been transplanted into his book. Similarly, Asta’s new sword also seems to have turned into and object he can summon from his spell book as well. My question is; how did they gain these new powers? What allowed them to access them, use them, and what are the boundaries of their strengths and limitations? The way they’ve been presented in the story, they seemed to have come out of nowhere, and come across as the usual kind of asspull shonen power-up. This distracts me from the otherwise awesome imagery and action in the chapter. I hope that the series takes some time to answer these questions, and put limits on what Asta and Yuno can do, and establish exactly how both of them can and will get stronger as the series continues. This chapter was a decent conclusion to the battle with Mars on an action level, but things progressed a little too quickly with too little explained to really work for me on a story or character one, and that’s a shame.

One Piece chapter #792 – “On Hands and Knees”

We’ve begun the post-climax wrap up chapters for this arc, and so far it’s rather by the numbers and basic. I suppose Sabo burning Burgess’ ass for taunting him about Ace’s death was kind of neat. But King Riku’s refusal to take back his throne rings way too much of Gan Fall refusing to become God again in Skypeia. And that’s really all I have to say about those parts of the chapter. There isn’t anything behind them I feel is worth analysis or strikes me as interesting, so what else can I say about them? I am interested in seeing the ramifications of the world knowing about the fall of Dressrosa and Doflamingo, the scandal of Fujitora apologizing on the behalf of the government to Riku, and how the big powers will take action against the Law/Luffy alliance. So let’s hope we see that stuff soon and leave Dressroa as soon as possible. One Piece has stayed here far too long.

Blue Exorcist chapter #69 – “A High Level Conference”

Ho boy, I’m going to have to catch up on this series in order to talk about it, because I don’t get the context for anything talked about in this chapter. I get the jist of affairs. Basically the Illuminati are trying to open the gate to the underworld to let a bunch of demons out like in the Chapter Black arc of Yu Yu Hakusho. Also, the head brass of the Knights of the True Cross want to find who I assume was a former antagonist and have him help them in their research on the Illuminati’s zombie soldiers. Shaggy hair guy wants to be assigned to the japanese branch in order to get closer to uncovering the secret of the Illuminati and keep watch over Mephisto. Yukio is being a broody bitch and wants to become stronger to protect his older brother and whatever. I can’t analyze or really understand the weight and importance of any of this because I haven’t read more than the first few chapters of the series. I’m committed to doing full issue reviews, so I want to talk about every series in the issue, and I guess the only way to really do that for this and Seraph of the End is to catch up on them. I’ll see if I can do that by next month.

Dragon Ball chapter #1 – “Bloomers and the Monkey King”

Ha, I totally called that Jump would do Dragon Ball as it’s next Jump Back to coincide with the release of Super and the U.S. theatrical release of The Resurrection of ‘F’. Reading this first chapter, you’ll see how Toriyama’s writing is still more in-line with Dr. Slump‘s style than the tone and feel Dragon Ball would adopt later on. The dialogue is more jokey, and the humor more childish and gag-based. However, the Journey to the West influence and setting is strong and gives the series a strong adventure vibe right off the bat, as well as quickly establish the feel and potential of the world. Both Goku and Bulma are rather simple characters, and feel a bit derivative of characters from Dr. Slump. Goku’s naivety and obliviousness makes him sort of a male version of Arale, and Bulma’s snark and wit makes her pretty much a more bratty Akane. Ostensibly, the series still feels like a Toriyama comedy, and though the action sequences in the chapter are well-done, they aren’t as elaborate or detailed as what Toriyama would do in the series much later. If you showed this first chapter to someone who was only aware of the Z half of the series, they probably wouldn’t believe that this is how one of the most influential, popular, and profitable anime/manga franchises began. Still, all the fun and qualities that make Dragon Ball such a great comic are still evident from this early chapter, and while I’ve reread Dragon Ball a zillion times before, I’m always up for re-visiting it again.

Final Thoughts:

I’d like to have come back on stronger material. This wasn’t a particularly strong issue. Most of the chapters felt really brief and short on content, making them a bit unsatisfying to read. There are surely more interesting things to come in subsequent chapters of these series, but you can surmise by how little I had to say for a lot of these chapters how few of this week’s offerings genuinely impressed and stuck with me.

Best Manga of the Week:

1. Nisekoi – Does it reflect positively or negatively on the issue when Nisekoi is the best series of the week? Either way, it doesn’t matter, because Nisekoi was genuinely great this week. Among all the chapters in the issue, it had the most effective character development, emotional intensity, and a pivotal, potentially status quo-changing moment for the series to close it off. It was easily the chapter I enjoyed reading the most this issue, and the chapter that had me looking the most forward to what happened in it’s series next.

2. World Trigger – Though not as dense as recent chapters, the expansion of the mystery surrounding the traitors, giving a potential motive for the actions of Hatohara, and comparing her style of combat with Chika’s and giving her a new rival in her protege, Yuzuru was all intriguing. And while his archetype isn’t one I tend to be fond of, Kagegura does have a rather memorable introduction and I like the contrasts between him and Yuma.

3. One-Punch Man – OPM chapters tend to be short and action-heavy, but this one was a rare slower chapter for the series, effectively building up a potential character arc for Garo that was really fun to think about and analyze. I wish there was just a little more content to this week’s installment, but everything we did get here made for a great read.

4. Naruto – I’d have put this higher if the ending didn’t have too many conveniences and cop-outs for my taste. But overall, I really did enjoy this Naruto mini-series, and a lot of aspects to this ending, particularly in regards to Sarada’s character arc. It was a breath of fresh air to read some good Naruto material for a change after so many years of trite shit.

Line(s) of the Week:

Goku: “Why would I want to see your dirty butt?”
Bulma: “My butt is not dirty!”

Dragon Ball

Panel(s) of the Week:

Page(s) of the Week:

Welp, that does it for this issue. Hopefully I can get these out regularly and on time from now on. Until next week, enjoy whatever’s good in the summer anime season, throw a weeb party with your friends, and remember to reserve your tickets for The Resurrection of ‘F’ before they sell out, and I’ll see you again after the jump!