2015
10.09

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ll be adding Shadow’s entries later this weekend hopefully.

Asterisk War: The Academy City on the Water

...this show

****

Greetings all and welcome to the umpteenth edition of AR’s Anime Clusterfuck, in which we once again probe the dark crevice that is modern television anime and end up with something long and yucky! And what better way to start this off than yet ANOTHER show about magic schools and bitchy pink haired tsunderes!………goddammit.

So after the lamest apocalypse ever, a Nippon/Deutsch conglomerate has apparently taken over the world and created a series of dueling schools where students train to BRUTALLY MURDER EACH OTHER with lightsabers. Admittedly that sounds kinda cool, and the initial scene where a megane girl is left withering in a pool of her own blood by Rau Le Creuset shows some potential.

 …unfortunately that scene is only 30 seconds long and then we’re back to the adventures of Normal Guy as he gets into WACKY HIJINX!!!(tm) with a bunch of morally bereft ingenues wearing extremely tight miniskirts, mile high stockings, and gigantic bustiers. Our hero Ayato is just trying to solve the mystery of his older sister (that aforementioned megane) but, immediately failing at that, gets every female character to either fall for him, cut his willie off, or threaten him with a baseball bat with exposed nails (and that one’s his teacher!).

Every time I see a show like Asterisk War (and anyone who’s followed these Clusterfucks for a while knows I’ve seen a lot) I feel like I’ve hit rock bottom with this banal genre, and then the industry figures out a new way to somehow make them worse. In this case, it feels like the makers felt last year’s godawful Irregular at Magic High School was lacking in both tsunderes and IS-esque island utopias so they’ve grafted them on, given everything a shiny coat of cgi paint, and tried to pass it off as some new original property as opposed to what it is, another shitty adaptation of a paint-by-numbers light novel. Nice try A-1, you aren’t fooling anyone anymore with this crap. — Lord Dalek

 Second Opinion!

When I was your age, we could only imagine the crotch lines. And if that couldn’t suffice, we’d use MS Paint to draw them in.

Ring, ring, ring.

“Hello, this is the operator.”

“You have to help me. (heavy breathing) I’m in the middle of watching an anime—“

“Sir, this is for serious calls. If this is some kind of prank, I’m more than willing to redirect this to—“

“No, you don’t understand! The main character just peeped on a girl while she was changing and now she’s trying to kill him.”

“…oh, hot damn, you should’ve said so.”

“Yeah, I’m in one of those light novel anime where there’s magic, and there’s lightsabers, except they don’t call them lightsabers because they’re afraid of getting sued, and the main guy just grabbed the girl’s boob, and I’m so sc-sc-scared!”

“Okay, I can tell you’re indubitably fucked, but I’m not sure how calling me can help you out of this.”

“Please! Now the class president’s here and she’s got straps on her stockings and the giant boobles!”

“How giant?”

“Big as her head giant. And she’s walking down a CG hallway.”

“Oh dear God.”

“And now she just showed off her crotch lines!”

“I’m sorry, mister?”

“Marquis!”

“Mister Marquis, but I’ve seen multiple cases like this, and I’m afraid they’re nine times out of ten terminal.”

“No fucking way is this terminal. I need help right now, so give it to me!”

“Ain’t no way you can get out of a magic light novel anime. I could patch you to a suicide hotline if you think that could help.”

“Fuck that!”

(cat meows)

“Sir, I know you’re in a tough situation, but calm down your language. I’m trying my best.”

“You’re not the one watching this guy get talked down to by a pink-haired tsundere while they’re planning some global magic thing! (heavy breathing) And now they’re talking about how the pink haired girl’s the popular girl and… I can’t handle this! (sobbing noises)”

“Are you done?”

“And now one of them has a fucking scouter… (heavy breathing)”

“Marquis?”

“And another guy’s name is Lester McPhail. His fucking name is Lester McPhail and you can’t help me with this. (sobbing noises)” — Bloody Marquis

Aria The Scarlet Ammo AA

Don't worry Revy, you'll get season 3 right after KyoAni adapts more Full Metal Panic

Aria the Scarlet Ammo Double A is the latest in a trend of “take an old manga or light novel and make them guy” spinoff adaptations. Now, I have not watched the original Aria series, but from what I understand its just a haremshit series with a Shana clone, so I know I’m not missing much. Double A follows Akari Amamiya, a first year student of a paramilitary school that idolizes the titular Aria, for some reason. There is one problem however: Akari kinda sucks at everything. She’s an E-rank student with absolutely zero success in any of her tests, so she decides to request for a mentor to take her out of shitsville, and who better than to do that but her beloved Sempai? Surprisingly, Sempai actually notices her, and after a drawn out test that spirals out of controls, Aria agrees to mentor Akari…sort of.

One thing I can say about this anime is how surprisingly likable Aria is in this version. I was expecting her to act like your typical Shana clone in this version, but not once did I hear a “baka” or an “urusai!” come out of her mouth, hell, I don’t even remember her raising her voice outside of fight scenes. As a result, Aria comes across as a legitimately cool, even kind character who just happens to have a high-pitched voice, that you can actually see why someone would idolize her. I’m also a fan of the character designs (though Akari herself looks a bit too bland and moe), and the OP is one of the seasons best. If there’s one major flaw I can find, it’s that the animation isn’t that noteworthy, and the main character doesn’t do much for me, there are also a few buttshots sprinkled about that are just gratuitous and unnecessary. Nitpicks aside, Double A fine anime in an otherwise lackluster series. — Crimson Rynnec

Not an Opinion!

I was originally going to do a write up of this show but as you can see…

I personally feel this show speaks for itself. — Lord Dalek

Beautiful Bones -Sakurako’s Investigation-

Sponsored by ColGATE.

Columbo-style “how they did its” are always better than the traditional whodunits for me. They offer more insight instead of everything being defined by a single twist, making the detective really stretch their nerves in figuring out why a murder happens. And that’s what flows through this show’s veins, or specifically the bone marrow. After last season’s abysmal Ranpo Kitan, it’s nice to see a better-written mystery running. Instead of how haphazard that previous show’s view on criminology was, Sakurako knows its vision on forensics is weird, and mines that for intrigue rather than exploitation. The show doesn’t revel in the gore from crime scenes, but insists on thorough examination and an outward interest in the craft to get things done.

Instead of being unsubtle like using faceless masses to indicate the anonymity of today’s society, we get more nuanced approaches like fish-eye lens perspectives to illuminate this anime’s atmosphere. Yeah, the dead cat in the opening scene was a bit weird, but at least they didn’t try fetishizing it or anything just as unfortunate. This show knows that its subject matter is odd as it is and tries analyzing the nature of forensic anthropology, not as a job but as a hobby any eccentric could have. Through that, we see her character and all her flaws. A bit too early to call it a character study, but there’s some tics suggesting that. And I know there will be inevitable comparisons to that other series about a woman obsessed with bones, but I didn’t see much to link those two.

I don’t like Shotaro though. He’s a terrible point-of-view character whose narrations become redundancies as soon as he opens his mouth. The first few minutes of him prattling on about time ceasing to exist and the hatred of change were nothing but heartless navel-gazing. Even worse is that we have to rely on his descriptions of the city for a clue to his hometown. The animation certainly doesn’t show a stagnating town, but Shotaro has to say it three times in a row for us to apparently believe it. Furthermore, he makes a bad Watson. We can already sense what Sakurako does through her actions without him needlessly explaining, and his banter with her does more to interrupt topics than delving into them. He’s more obsessed with Alaskan shrimp than the promise of finding a murder. We’re meant to see Sakurako as inhuman and somewhat daft, when Shotaro’s the one with a few screws loose. If it weren’t for him, this show would be great. Though I’m sure the straight shota fans will dig his personality. — Bloody Marquis

 Chivalry of a Failed Knight (AKA “A Tale of Worst One”)

Congratulations 2009, you're off the hook.

I got nuttin.

WOW! I could have swore I just watched this show! OH WAIT… I DID. In fact, within five minutes of the first episode of Worst One, I was already considering the possibility of simply copying and pasting my write-up of Asterisk War, rewriting some names and presenting it as is. But that would put me on the same level as the writers of this steaming pile. Yes it seems we’ve finally reached the point where light novel adaptations have become nothing more than glorified volumes of Mad Libs. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen 2000.

The plot. BLAH BLAH BLAH MAGIC SCHOOL. BLAH BLAH BLAH GARY STU. BLAH BLAH BLAH RED HAIRED TSUNDERE. BLAH BLAH BLAH DICK HUNGRY HAREM. BLAH BLAH BLAH HE’S NOT REALLY “THE WORST ONE” BECAUSE STANDARDS ARE SKEWED. BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH YADDY YADDA ANTI-DENTITE. Well, glad to have that out of the way.

They say chivalry is dead. I wish Chivalry of a Failed Knight was dead. Alas. — Lord Dalek

Comet Lucifer

A Lame ass ripoff?

I'm the one asking the questions here mister!

I like Hayao Miyazaki. I like him a lot. His movies bring a degree of craftsman ship rarely seen in anime and his few tv works frequently elevated the el-cheapo standards of late-70s, early-80s product. So why am I bringing him up? Because Comet Lucifer desperately wants you to think its Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Even more so than in Yamakan’s legendary trainwreck Fractale from five years ago. Why set such lofty standards,  I do not know. Clearly 8bit had some cash to burn after Grisaia and this is their bid for legitimacy. If that’s the case, then its not a good one.

So in Generic Anime Fantasy Land #19503132, everybody wants rocks known as Giftanium for reasons known only to the writers of this series. However, noone wants these rocks more than our hero Shogo, a twerp who can’t tell if he’s cosplaying as Simon from Gurren Lagann or Amy from Gargantia. Because the plot dictates as such, he and his not-girlfriend Kaon end up falling down a really big hole in the center of  the local steampunk mining town where they discover more Giftanium and a comotose loli who floats into Shogo’s arms ala oh wait I already said this was trying to ripoff Laputa. But you know what else this is a ripoff of? Eureka Seven! There’s an evil empire out to get the Giftanium with their giant robots, however sleepy loli has the power to somehow magically generate robots to fight the other robots. Will Shogo and Kaon escape with their lives? TO BE CONTIN–ah screw it.

 I can’t exactly put my finger on what’s the problem with Comet Lucifer aside from the fact that it feels like a Frankenstein-style creation assembled from other, better works. The sequence of events leading to the episodes main act comes off as contrived, relying on too much coincidence as a way to avoid having to spend a whole second episode trying to get the two characters into the cave. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme and reason to this world either as people dress like either valley girls or 19th fops while driving hover Priuses. I find that distracting. On the other hand the mecha fight at the end looks pretty solid and the soundtrack is above average. That isn’t enough to make me want to come back though, so too bad. — Lord Dalek

Concrete Revolutio

Eat your vegetables, kids.

Well, this was one of the stupidest shows this season. I know I say that often, but it wasn’t the kind of stupid I just roll my eyes at or go to another window until the show finishes. It was a gripping kind of stupid. I probably spent half of the episode slack-jawed at everything going on. I thought I was watching a superhero anime, then it becomes magical girl thing, and then there’s a giant robot fight. This all happens as haphazardly as that last sentence. I’m trying to think of how all this can be stringed together into a single narrative, but then I remember the talking cloud and give up. If I could get away with it, I would just write, “This is fucking dumb” a hundred times and call that an entry.

And yet, it was kind of fun. I kept thinking how many Jack Kirby comics and 70s anime Seiji Mizushima and Sho Aikawa binged on before working on this. Everything in this episode screamed “Silver Age!” to me, about as unsubtle as the main character’s hair. It’s less like a show and more Studio Bones making a jumbled series of throwbacks. I almost want to say this show does to superheroes what Space Dandy did to raygun gothic. There are so many loving references and bizarre allusions that I can’t say the creators weren’t well read when going into this. But I can’t tell if it’s either a tribute or a parody to the genre.

Which frankly, is the show’s biggest flaw. It’s absolutely indecisive on what it wants to be, and there doesn’t feel like a main point that concentrates all of these scenes into a prime idea. I would be perfectly okay if it was just nothing but outlandish fight scenes, but then the show gets serious and acts like we were meant to view the preceding scenes without giggling. Beyond all the goofy animation lies tired ideas like superhuman prejudice and “who guards the guardians” nonsense that better writers have thoroughly buried into the ground. And even some of the jokes have lost their value a long time ago. So Kikko has a thing in her boobs that talks and makes her embarrassed. There’s nothing beyond that. It recreates the old days without thinking about the time that has since passed. If you’re going to take something old, say something new about it. Otherwise, you’re just fucking about and reminding people why we’ve moved past prior eras of works. I still think the show’s entertaining, but in spite of its writing than because of it.

Plus, it’s shiny. — Bloody Marquis

Dance With Devils

I no longer fear death.

Well, its finally happened. For once, I am speechless. Dance with Devils has rendered me mute. Is that so surprising? Of course not. This is a show that defies description. Oh sure, you could just peg it as this years installment in what has become an annual series of horrible otome game adaptations from the increasingly irrelevant studio Brains Base, but that’s just the beginning. This is a special kind of terrible. The kind that just doesn’t simply catalog itself in any particular fashion. The kind that makes you wonder how the hell do shows like this get made in the first place.

The plot of the show plays like a half gender flipped version of Suspiria. At yet another upper crust Euro-style Japanese prep school that only seems to exist in VNs and anime, we find young Ritsuka summoned by the student council (a group of bishies whose clothes seem to be falling off) for…some reason I don’t know. Apparantly they’re all demons looking for a missing Grimoire and Ritsuka’s family (including Mom who gets killed, and dorky cleric brother) may have something to do with. But our crack team of bishounen hellspawn are on the case! …as soon as they finish singing their song.

…wait singing?

….Song?

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Yes… Dance with Devils… is a musical! ……… I would have never guessed.

Its a bad one too. I’m not gonna lie, this is pretty terrible. There are three songs, one’s the evil cultist theme which is all evil and cultist and yeah whatever. Then we have the Ritsuka song! You remember “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast? Well this is the shitty version. It’s… it’s…so wonderful. And finally we have the introduce the evil rapist student council, which is kind of a red herring since its other people who are creepy rapists in this show. Hah I thought it was bad enough when the cast of Kamigami no Asobi tried singing their ed in bad rotoscope vision but this… this is something else.

So why watch Dance with Devils? I don’t know really. I guess its better than Diabolik Lovers? I mean that show is pretty blunt with how terrible it s while this is more “OH DEAR GOD YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!”-levels of rug pulling. Otherwise you’re better off watching a real musical, like Orgasmo! — Lord Dalek

Diabolik Lovers More,Blood

Love transcends peripheral vision.

So let me make an unpopular opinion here among the other reviewers: I get why people are attracted to Diabolik Lovers. Some people want to be treated cruelly in a form of sub/dom play. It doesn’t even have to be straight-up foreplay. Audiences could think an aggressive and violent man is alluring instead of alienating like I do. This is kind of like those attracted to Sean Connery from his old movies. He does morally objectionable things that wouldn’t fly in today’s world, but you like in spite—or perhaps because—of his vices. You can’t justify the Pussy Galore rape or the “Men come first, women come second” quote, but you recommend these movies anyway because you see good beyond those issues. Many rabid media junkies will often discover their own Sean Connery, and that’s what Diabolik Lovers fans go through when having to admit their fandom.

Not to say this is a defense of the show itself, since it’s still questionable. Everyone still treats Yui like shit. It still feels like we’re on step one as far as her relationship with the vampires go. They call her bitch and pancakes while threatening to drink her blood. What else is new? Only thing that tells you this isn’t the first season again is the entrance of the new characters, who also want to drink from Yui but are separate from the other guys for some reason. I guess the appeal in another season is that it gives you more dating options? People who weren’t sure about the previous series might be swayed by a blonde vampire choice instead of ginger, ginger with hat, shota, glasses, albino, and vague orange. Probably not, but I’m sure someone will be enchanted. — Bloody Marquis

Haikyuu! Second Season

Tsukishima, astutely commenting on the "humor" in this series.

Haikyu!’s first episode was one of my favorite premieres of last year’s spring anime season. I loved the characters, loved the concept, and everything about the production caught my interest. I eventually fell out of the show because of other commitments and interests, but I still really liked what I saw of it, and ended up deciding to keep up with the story through the manga instead since that was more convenient for me at the time. Suffice to say, if you were to ask me what my least favorite Weekly Shonen Jump manga to keep up with is these days, I’d answer Haikyu! 

No, you read that right.

Yes, Bleach exists and is perpetually shit, but at least it gets a reaction out of me most of the time. In contrast, I’ve found myself utterly bored with Haikyu!’s output this entire year. Which I really shouldn’t be, considering both of the matches depicted in the series this year have been big games with long-standing rivals. But somehow, the series can’t seem to make me give a damn about anything that happens in it anymore. And I was already having trouble doing that as it was before. My issues with Haikyu! as a series didn’t just start popping up with the recent game. I’ve found much of the series, particularly the first year’s worth of chapters, kind of a chore to read through. But the thing is, it’s not because the writing is particularly bad. Though, it isn’t very fantastic either. It’s just very average, and the beats of the narrative and character arcs are often very seen-this, seen-that. It really doesn’t help that the series tends to rip off crib on Kuroko’s Basketball’s storyline, and otherwise follows the general shonen sports manga formula and archetypes without any real deviations to the norm. The weak art and shitty shonen humor really don’t help my enjoyment of it any either.

At it’s best, I’ve found the series to be a decent read. But in a time where almost every series in Jump has been nothing short of excellent, with even more inconsistent series likeBlack Clover and Toriko still regularly experiencing incredible highs, Haikyu! stands out as woefully mediocre and subpar in comparison. Maybe I need to wait until the current game ends to re-read it, and I might like it better. But I haven’t had any trouble keeping up with other sports manga as they’ve been running and enjoying them, nor have my opinions of games I haven’t liked in those series ever been improved by reading them in one big chunk, so I’m doubtful.

So as you might guess, I’m very much meh on the Haikyu! manga. So trust me when I say that it’s anime adaptation is exceptional, and well worth any sports anime fans’ time. No, the anime doesn’t change the story or the characters any; they are presented the same as the are in the manga. But what it does do is enhance the story with great directing, excellent animation, a kick-ass OST, and nuanced voice acting that sells it exponentially better than the manga’s weak presentation ever possibly could. Sure, the humor still sucks and is painfully unfunny. Sure, the story is still kinda been-there, done-that. But the games have much more tension and thrill in them. The characters really come alive, and the skillful performances for them make me care about and invested in them all the more. Barely anything actually happens in the first episode of this season premiere, and yet, it moved by incredibly quickly, and I was engaged and entertained by the episode the entire way through.

The Haikyu! anime is a great, quality adaptation that actually improves upon it’s source material’s weaknesses, and as a result, is a better show for it. It shouldn’t be, but that’s a rarity these days. My two favorite manga currently running in Jump, Assassination Classroom and Food Wars!, were only given adaptations that were serviceable at their best, and much inferior to their source material at their worst. They both suffered from lackluster directing, animation, and pacing (and in the case of FW!, pointless fan-service) that would have made for far poorer shows if the manga they were based on aren’t as good as they are. And let’s not get started on Toei’s revolting bastardization that is the World Trigger anime, or Shaft’s pointlessly artsy Nisekoi anime, or the continued suckitude of the ongoing One Piece and (for some reason) Naruto Shippuden. Seriously, Shonen Jump and shonen series in general would have a way better reputation among anime critics if most of them weren’t regularly given adaptations that so ardently detract from their enjoyment.

Somehow, miraculously, Haikyu! has managed to receive the one of the few genuinely worthwhile ongoing anime adaptations for any Jump manga currently running or that has been run in the past 5 years, Gintama being the only other exception. I don’t know how it managed to get so lucky – in fact, it actually kinda bothers me – but hey, I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I liked the portions this season of Haikyu! will cover well enough in the manga, but I have a feeling I’ll enjoy them infinitely more in this anime adaptation. If you’re new to Haikyu!, this isn’t the worst place to get into it, but I don’t know why you wouldn’t just want to start at the beginning anyway; there isn’t that much of a backlog. For those already initiated with the property, this season looks to continue the level of excellence the first season had if not even better, and should continue to be a rewarding show for any fan of good sports anime. — Cartoon X

Heavy Object

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Project HO HO HO!

War… war never changes… until the day the Japanese government introduces giant bowling balls with a bajillion guns into the fray, then things get even more boring. Heavy Object is the cure for insomina, a potentially interesting idea mauled to death by bland writing, bland animation, and bland bland. Its an adaptation of a LN series by the blowhole responsible for the similarly halfassed Raildex franchise and animated by the bargain binners at JC Staff. Yayz???

So let’s get the big problem out of the way, this is another show that doddles in a vast miasma of technobabble and world building in place of honest to god narrative. The story is that there are Technodromes. They fire layzars. That’s about it. There are four characters, the pilot of a out-of-date Technodrome who wears skin tight latex and acts like a robot, two neredowells whose millitary garb looks like a bunch toilet papers glued together, and the typical big boobed army commander we’ve been getting since the late 90’s. That’s it. Nothing else happens.

So why watch Heavy Object? Honestly I don’t know. The only thing I got out of it was the comedy value of the show’s production committee and its awkward name (Project HO). You’re better off reading Sun Tzu while playing around with your old TMNT action figure playsets. I know it’ll be ten times more entertaining than this mess. — Lord Dalek

Kowabon

On the other hand, the bad frame rate actually makes sense for once.

Hey kids! Do ya like the movie Unfriended?!?

Do ya like the movie Paranormal Activitiy?!???

Do ya like the anime Flowers of Evil??????????!!?!!?!

Well I’ve got the perfect animu for you! Its called Kowabon!

Its only 2 1/2 minutes long!

I have nothing more to say about this! — Lord Dalek

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans

THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT.

... Gundam, everybody!

The last half decade has not been particularly kind to the Gundam franchise. In our country, its pretty much dead as a doornail no thanks to a licensing company that continues to make the same dumb mistakes they’ve been doing since thinking the original MSG would be a terrific follow-up to Gundam Wing in 2001. Meanwhile in Nippon, the last two television series were… to say the least… not well received. Ok, let me rephrase that, they were REALLY BADLY received. Gundam Age got the franchise banished to both TV Tokyo and late night. G-Reco was panned by just about everybody… including Tomino!…who directed it! But now this new wilderness period is coming to an end. Gundam’s back on TBS Sunday night prime time! And Sunrise has figured out Americans might like to… you know… stream a Gundam show that doesn’t have the words “Build Fighters” in the title and was made in the tens. What could possibly go wrong???

*Sees Mari Okada and Tatsuyuki Nagai from AnoHana being the staff of this show* …..yup, right back in the jungle again.

Iron-Blooded Orphans is kind of a bizarre pseudo-sequel to Gundam Wing. Gone are space colonies, instead are PMC companies on Mars run by Releena clones with impossibly permed hair. These PMC companies are staffed entirely by youths between the ages of 11 and 18 piloting robots while shirtless! Why shirtless? Because this show was made by and for fujoshi, that’s why. You can tell by the fact that our two main characters have impressive pecks but no nipples…its kinda creepy…moving on. We have two heroes in this show, I don’t know who they are, I kinda don’t care, their fat friend Biscuit has more development, this show is literally that uninteresting. There is a Gundam in this show but nobody uses it making this only the second time I’ve seen a Gundam not being used in the first episode of a Gundam tv series (Turn A of course didn’t even have a Gundam until episode 3!), then again I’m not sure Mari Okada is aware this is supposed to be a Gundam show. For all I know, this is actually some sort of sequel to Michiko and Hatchin because THEY’RE in the show for some reason (not kidding).

In all fairness though, this first installment of Iron-Blooded Orphans is not the worst pilot episode of a Gundam (hahaha Victory). The problem is it feels like the first episode of a Gundam show’s THIRD cour. The plot seems halfway over, the characters are way underdeveloped, the action way too fast, and the whole experience comes of as disorienting rather than entertaining. Remember the final two minutes of the first episode of 00 where they introduced like 20 new characters reacting to what just happened? Well imagine an entire episode that was like those last two minutes. That’s Iron-Blooded Orphans in a nutshell. — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

Crosses out "Heterosexual cannibal" for potential Gundam leads

I can’t tell if this was meant to be an attempt to be a real show or just a contractual obligation to pump out a Gundam series every few years, almost like ashcan copies. Oh boy, another mecha show about child soldiers caught in a war between Mars and Earth! Yes, that sounds a tad dismissive to what could potentially be a good show, but about everything in this show felt like standard Gundam tropes being passed around from father to son like some warped dynasty preventing the younger generation from thriving on their own. I remember when Bandai and Sunrise aired a remastered Seed and Seed Destiny when people grew tired of AGE, and while that was lazy, at least it was ingenuous. At least that was an upfront method to recycle previous elements instead of slapping a new name and animation on an old story and calling it a day.

I should probably pity Mari Okada. She must have been given so many notes and guidelines on how to make this a Gundam show that any original idea was shoved to the gutters. To her credit, at least I can follow the dialogue in contrast to the previous series. While they don’t act like human beings yet, it’s still a step up from “The world is not square!” I am waiting for the eventual “adults and their lies” melodrama though. But otherwise, it’s an average mecha episode that neither surprises nor excites. It’s there if you want to lie on your bed and focus on more important things like texting or cutting your toenails. — Bloody Marquis

One-Punch Man

We feel your pain.

The story of One-Punch Man is the stuff of mystery. Legend says that an anonymous individual named “One” created it as a web comic in 2009. That web comic was puerile, childish, and poorly drawn. But most importantly… it was fucking brilliant! A really bad fake shonen making fun of even worse REAL shonen was just what the doctor ordered in an age where nothing seems to have gotten past Dragon Ball and Hakusho. However an anime of One-Punch Man seems a bit counterintuitive. To me, the perfect adaption of One’s One-Punch Man would be a cheap live action version shot in someone’s garage with cardboard sets and homemade film burn sfx, preferably on 8mm and by Hideaki Anno. That’s what One-Punch Man is, its not a webmanga, its storyboards for somebody’s bad student film that they made in college.

But this isn’t an adaptation of that manga. Nope, its the redraw by the Eyeshield 21 guy that runs in “legitmate” *cough* publication Shonen Jump. ‘kay.

Well anyway, the plot is no different so it still feels like it was written by a two-year old (hey just like Axe Cop!). I will demonstrate! Once upon a time there was a man named Saitama. He was a salaryman. Then he wasn’t a salaryman. Then he got beat up by a Giant Enemy Crab. Then he went off to train. Then he lost his hair. Then he beat everybody up with one punch. Then he got bored. THE END. See that’s the joke. When your plotline is so utterly simplified, you get bored of it. Saitama is bored of being One-Punch Man. Bored of fighting an never ending assault of Toei reject mooks and Tsubaraya nobodies. Bored of saving the day multiple times per day and then not having money to buy milk at the corner store. Bored of the simple fact that all those old 80’s manga lied to him just like they probably lied to One himself. Its actually a really smart deconstruction and I’m afraid it probably goes way over the head of the slobbering masses who are just here for the sakuga,

Oh yeah, the sakuga. Well, its pretty sakuga, I’d say. I’ve seen some sakuga and this sakuga is one sakuga of a sakuga. SAAAAAA-KUUUUUUU-GAAAAAAAAAAA! Sock it to me sakuga. The only thing more sakuga than this sakuga is umami! Wait what?

So that’s about it, what else can I say? Oh yeah… 12 episodes. No Toonami. You lose. Bye Bye! — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

This was probably THE most anticipated anime of the fall season. For good reason, too. Even if you’ve never read the manga, you have to had come across gifs of the series at some point. Yusuke Murata’s artwork is out of this world, and the action sequences in the manga are among the very best in the entire comics medium. Scratch that, they arethe best. What other comic frequently boasts multiple page sequences in it that, taken together, move like key frames in an animated film? The timing, the use of perspective, the acting of the characters, and the rendering of the environments are all pitch-perfect. The One-Punch Man manga arguably has better animation than most anime out there already.

So any anime adaptation for the series had it’s work cut out for it and some. Skimp out on the production just a little bit, and people would just point to the manga as say it was better animated. In any other hands, I’d have been doubtful that anyone could pull it off right. But this is Madhouse we’re talking about. If nothing else, their productions have become notable for consistently featuring some of the best animation in the industry. They had the talent, the time, the skills, and the money to do a One-Punch Man anime right. So I was optimistic. I’ve been excited. Barring Lupin, which premiered a whole month early, One-Punch Man was the very first anime I made sure to watch this season. So, did it live up to expectations?

…Yes. Yes it did.

The premiere episode of the anime did not just meet my expectations, it exceeded them. There is no anime premiere out there, past or present, that boasts more visceral and energetic action scenes as One-Punch Man does in it’s first episode. That fight scene at the very end could already stand to be considered one of the very best fight scenes in any animated television series out there. If the series is already this impressive with small scenes like that one, I can’t imagine how incredible everything coming up will turn out. From a visual and animation standpoint, this is the most high-quality show out this season, possibly in years, or arguably ever.

But the show doesn’t just impress visually. I’d been wondering how the series would handle the early episodic chapters of the manga. They’re so short and episodic that stretching them out into their own episodes, or even half an episode, wouldn’t work without sacrificing some of the tension and momentum. The last thing a OPM anime needed was to be dragged out like your standard half-assed Toei or Pierrot production. But Madhouse found a way to combine all of these chapters and make them work as a coherent and cohesive narrative. The pacing and placing of the stories within the episode is perfect, and ends up reflecting a day in the life for our titular hero. The story is moved by learning about why Saitama wanted to be a hero, and his disillusionment with the career now that all his enemies go down with just one punch. Throughout the episode, he progressively reflects and ponders why he’s still even a hero when the thrill is gone, pondering existential questions to himself about his ennui. By the climax of the episode, when he seems to regain the thrill and passion he once had, you feel just as elated as he does. And you also feel just as disappointed when the illusion is broken, and he’s left empty once again.

Strong characters and themes are as essential a part of what makes OPM so good as the action sequences are. Saitama’s disillusionment with his life and job, both before and after he becomes a hero, is deeply relatable. At the same time, his interest in being a hero just for the fun of it betrays the fact that he genuinely does care about helping people and doing the right thing, making him both down-to-earth and admirable all in one. He’s an incredibly likable protagonist that still has personality and wit to him that makes him interesting, and that’s why we want to root for him, and to see him find a fight that’ll finally satisfy him. By weaving together all of the early chapters with a focus on establishing a rounded view of who Saitama is as a person and what makes him tick, the premiere adeptly introduces the “what makes a hero?” and “what does it mean to be strong?” thematic questions of the series in a subtle manner. And now, with Saitama’s character and the world of OPM thoroughly established, the series can continue keep up the momentum by getting into the first story arc of the season, and continue building upon it’s foundation from there.

If there’s anything to fault the anime for, it’s that the humor and individual frames of the series don’t “pop” with quite the same impact in the manga. The anime’s humor is as delightfully subdued as in the manga, letting moments speak for themselves with no cliche over-the-top overreactions to things. The manga just had slightly stronger timing and pacing when it came to the series’ humor, however, so these moments in the anime seem less laugh-out-loud funny than they were in the original. As far as the individual frames criticism goes, the best example is to compare the shots where the first monster Saitama goes up against attacks him and then Saitama defeating it side-by-side with their manga counterparts. The manga’s versions seem a lot more dynamic in their presentation than the anime does, and that has a lot to do with the differences in the composition and rendering of the scenes between the two. Still, these are minor things that won’t detract from your experience, especially if you haven’t read the manga. And personally, I always prefer adaptations that don’t try to shot-for-shot replicate the manga, even if the execution isn’t exactly as strong as it was in the original.

This has been a looooonnnnnggg “first impressions” write-up, but I’m pretty excited about this adaptation and dammit, you should be too. This is easily the best premiere of the season, and though there are a few other good shows in this fall crop, nothing else comes even close to it. Madhouse pulled out all the stops for the series’ first episode, and if they can keep up this level of quality and momentum throughout the entire season, OPM will no doubt end up regarded as THE best action-anime that’s ever been made, bar none. If you only have time to watch one anime this season, watch One-Punch Man. If you haven’t watched an anime in years and want to get back into the medium, watch One-Punch Man. Even if you don’t give a shit about anime at all, you should still watch One-Punch Man. If you like good anime, good animated series, or just good entertainment in general, you have absolutely no excuse not to watch One-Punch Man. — Cartoon X

Freedom Caucus Opinion!

A complete travesty. I’m not sure who or what in capitalist Japan allowed this Caucasian ubermensch fantasy be played out on television, but I will have no part in this! And extra phooey on them for having the decadent lobster be an enemy, like a meal served to the one-percent! Why, I never! — Jim Craquer

S&M Opinion!

I know this could sound a little dirty, but Saitama really, really reminds me of an uncut penis. I’m not just saying this to get a rise out of people (sorry, Jamal), but he definitely does look like an uncircumcised baby penis. I’m just putting that out there. Don’t mind One Punch Man himself, really. You know I love a man who’s a master with his hands. — Shaqueefah

Fucking Weeaboo Must Die! Opinion!

The proper title is Wanpanman, arigatougouzaimasuu. — Pascal the Otter

Opinión en El Tomate!

I’m too poor to afford Daisuki, so I couldn’t watch this show. Looks cool though, I guess. — Gringou-san

New York Oberserver Opinion!

Saitama is a great character, but his name sounds awkward in English, which is not the show’s first language, and in a mess called One Punch Man any English to be had makes no sense. But of course, nothing else in this turgid, incomprehensible disgrace makes any sense, either. At least Saitama is ravishing, which occasionally takes your mind off the Eastern gibberish that is going full tilt around her. — Rex Reed

Modern Gaming Journalism Opinion!

7/10. Too many punches — IGN

Some Random Hobo We Pulled off the Street Opinion!

Bitch, you’ve already made your damn mind up about whether to watch this show. You don’t need another two hundred words telling you if this is good. Now stop reading and watch fucking One Punch Man. — Bloody Marquis

Osomatsu-San

If you mumble, their ship name sounds like “Oberstein”.

I picked this anime on a whim, thinking it would just be some five-minute gag thing I could write a hundred words and quickly forget about. We all do that. We all find at least one of those shorts to fill our quota. That’s habitual laziness, the same kind that stopped me from researching this show beforehand. I had no expectations whatsoever; so imagine my reaction when this turned out to be Gintama. Really, it’s Gintama, with the same director and whatnot. It’s just as parodying and trollish as its predecessor (or successor since it’s a remake?). Even long after the episode’s ended; I’m at a loss for words as to what to say.

So let’s cut the bullshit and say that I liked it. Sure, there were too many fourth-wall breaking jokes that they became predictable, but I liked it. It’s an absurdist comedy that treats its competitors in the anime season with either disdain or whimsy, where even the cameos have much thought to them. I have to admit I legitimately believed the shoujo pandering skit was something they were going to keep for the rest of the show. I had no idea what was going to happen next, and the show twisted out that confusion for all it was worth. And to think, I first thought this show’s only joke would be that the six brothers all looked the same.

I’m sure somebody will look at all the references and think, “Ugh, this anime is only skin-deep references to recent anime and no jokes. Fuck this shit!” Well, fuck you too. This isn’t Seitokai no Ichizon. This ain’t part of Hayate the Combat Butler’s ilk. It gets to eat at the cool kid’s table with Gintama, Watamote, and Nichibros. I’m sure this is probably a delirious spell and I’ll likely hate the show from the second episode on. But for now, I appreciate these riffs. Hope to see what else this anime will mock. — Bloody Marquis

Peeping Life TV: Season 1??

Exclusive still from the upcoming Magic Mike spinoff starring Astro Boy.

As far as I can tell, this show consists entirely of creepy bargain basement marionette versions of classic anime characters bickering about stupid shit ad nauseam. As the disturbing 3D renders of Japan’s childhood favorites lifelessly meander about flapping their lips, telephone conversations between their bored voice actors are overlaid on top of the footage, instilling a sense of bewilderment and dread in the audience.

Clearly the writer (let us pray it’s not plural) was shooting for a combination of nostalgia and Tarantino-esque banter with this episode’s script, but the dialogue more closely resembles something culled from Nisio Isin’s long lost high school writing journal. Between drunk Astro Boy struggling with puberty while trying to get hip with the other kids and Black Jack arguing with another doctor about flu symptoms, you will probably fall asleep long before the ending credits roll. And it’s not like the production staff seem to think too highly of their work here, either; the question marks following “Season 1” are basically the show’s own confirmation that there will never be a second series (EDITOR’S NOTE: This is actually like the sixth season or something. Yes I am as surprised as you are. — LD).

But hey, at least the opening song is pretty cool, right? — Foggle

Utawarerumono: Itsuaware no Kamen

IT'S SO FLUFFY!

Under Water Ray Romano is a visual novel that came out way back in the early 2000’s, and got an anime in the mid-00’s. You may remember it as “that anime that had the guy with the mask and a bunch of people with animal ears.” Well, now it’s getting a new release, and that means a new anime adaptation. Since I have the most experience with this franchise (read: I played as Karura in Aquapazza, raged at the final boss until I beat it, and never touched the game again) I’ve taken it upon myself to review the first episode of The False Faces.

Our story begins with a nameless man in a hospital gown waking up in a snowfield. He wanders around aimlessly until he is attacked by wild monsters, and is subseqently saved by a girl named Kuon. Seeing as how he has nowhere else to go, he starts traveling with Kuon, whom subsequently names him “Haku” and acts as his guardian.

As a premiere, this first episode was ok. The music is good and soothing to listen to, the characters are likable enough, and the animation provided by White Fox is great. The problem here lies within the pacing, the episodes 24-minute runtime is dedicated to establishing Haku’s character (as well as Kuon’s, to a lesser extent), with some world-building thrown in. The gist of it is that Haku is physically weak and bad at mundane labor, but excels in tasks that make him use his brain. Now, this development is appreciated and everything, but all of this could’ve been explained in half the runtime, and instead the episode is padded out with tired gags (thouh I do have to give kudos for having the girl do the peeping this time). That being said, this world of characters with animal ears does seem interesting, and it at least entertained me enough to watch the next episode. False Faces does not seem to require you to have watched the previous anime to understand what’s going on, which is just as well since that was nearly a decade ago (though I’d imagine previous knowledge would help). I also recognized none of the characters that showd up this episode, making things even easier for newcomers. — Crimson Rynnec

Young Black Jack

I'll tell you who he's not...Black Jack!

Black Jack is most certainly the God of Manga’s most well-known and popular work after Astro Boy, arguably his best, and most certainly his most accessible. For those of you who aren’t up on your Tezuka, Black Jack is mostly episodic medical mystery drama thriller horror comedy…among other things. Very few of Tezuka’s series moves in and out of tones and genres as much as Black Jack does throughout it’s entire run, and that delightful balance of cartoonish goofiness and serious morality tales is part of what makes it so appealing and timeless. But the series’ biggest asset lies squarely on the strength of it’s title character, Black Jack himself. In my book, he’s the best character Tezuka ever conceived; a complex, enigmatic character who we never know what to expect from, but can be assured that somehow, someway, he’ll always manage to get the job done, and do the right thing.

Black Jack, like most great iconic characters, is simultaneously believable and unbelievable; you can picture him in just about any situation, but you can also imagine him being able to do just about anything. And that’s what makes him so awesome, and why people keep coming back to the character so frequently decades after the original manga concluded. Do you think Young Black Jack is the only spin-off of Black Jack out there? Ha! There are dozens, DOZENS, of them out there. However, I’ll admit that Young Black Jack is the first of them I’ve seen. It seemed an obvious watch for me when it was announced. I love Tezuka, and I love Black Jack, so I had to give any spin-off featuring the character at least a try. But probably the first give-away that this series wasn’t going to resemble the original very much was Black Jack’s character design. Apparently Akita Shoten and Tezuka Productions felt that Black Jack needed a more modern look for 2015, so they went ahead and made him a super sexy bishonen and added in some helping heaps of man-service for the ladies (Black Jack was always popular with the ladies). But the character re-design didn’t deter me. That’s just an cosmetic thing. Surely, Black Jack himself, and his stories, would be reminiscent of the original manga. And so I remained excited to see one of my favorite characters in a brand-spanking new anime.

So…who the hell is this guy and what the fuck did he do with Black Jack?

The man who appears in this anime, who has the gall to call himself Kuroo Hazama, is not Black Jack. And no, he’s not “Kuroo Hazama” either. Sure, he looks like him, he sounds like what he might sound like, but that’s all the resemblance there is between them. Personality-wise, the two are night and day, and in a way incongruous with the characterization established in the original manga. Young Black Jack is a quiet, stoic introvert who barely talks and never talks back, is friendly to people, trembles after he completes dangerous surgeries, and goes out of his way to help people in need. Black Jack is a over-confident, grumpy and loud, ill-tempered wise-ass who doesn’t give a shit about niceties and what people think about him and will hunt you down to the ends of the earth if you’ve done him wrong. And while he might be a medical genius, he isn’t nearly as godly omnipotent as Young Black Jack seems to be what with all his visions bullshit.

The very plot of this episode exposes everything wrong with this characterization of Black Jack, since the events depicted here would never go down the way they do if it had happened in the original manga. For one thing, Black Jack goes out of his way to offer help to someone in need. That is not how Black Jack operates. Yes, Black Jack helps people, but only those who approach him directly, and provide him with the proper compensation he demands of them. And if they refuse to pay up, he makes sure he gets what he owes one way or another, and is absolutely ruthless in his methods to do so. This guy? He approaches the family of the boy to offer them his help without any provocation. Sure, you might argue that it’s because the boy reminds him of his own situation, but Black Jack would at most only accept a job because of that, he wouldn’t actively pursue one, much less make it a freebie if he fails kind of deal.

But perhaps the most egregious mis-characterization happens at the very end. When the father of the boy refuses to pay what he promised Black Jack after the operation because of technical bullshit, he doesn’t explode in anger and swear to make the guy’s life hell like, you know, Black Jack would do. No, he just grimaces and lets the guy walk all over him, and then he gives away all the money he did earn to his drug-addict friend. That’s right, Black Jack gives away his money. To top it all off, he’s not even bothered by the fact he was gypped, but is instead angry because the guy sold short the value of his own son’s life. Not that Black Jack wouldn’t get bothered about that too, but he’d care way more about getting his fucking money, and rather than just think it to himself like a wuss, he would say something like that to the guy’s face in anger and to guilt-trip him.

Black Jack is a dynamic character with strengths and flaws and a strong personality that provokes a reaction from everyone he meets to some extreme. Young Black Jack is just some tortured nice-guy, gary-stu bishonen archetype, and significantly less interesting and entertaining as a result. The lack of dynamism is a weakness of the show in general. As I said before, the original Black Jack balanced various extremes of humor and drama. But Young Black Jack is markedly serious in tone, with no real humor or wackiness to speak of. It really feels like the show wants to have it’s cake and eat it too, what with all the Tezuka-style designs for minor characters and the promise of more Star System characters will show up in the near future  if the ending theme is any indication (I can’t tell if that long-haired swordsman in the opening is supposed to be Hyakkimaru or Dr. Kiriko, though). But the Tezuka-style character designs don’t mix with the more modern designs of Black Jack and others in the show, and that reflects much about the problems with it. This is not a bad show in of itself. But it’s not the wacky and dark, horrifying and hilarious series that people love. This interpretation of Kuroo Hazama is not the irritable, deceptively benevolent grump that people love. It’s not Black Jack.

It might be too early to dismiss the series entirely. It’s well made from a production standpoint, and the promise of various Star System characters making prominent appearances in future episodes should appeal to any hardcore Tezuka fan. Since this is the story of how Hazama becomes Black Jack, maybe his character will evolve into it’s more recognizable form as the series continues. If you’re not a fan of Tezuka, the show is just a serviceable medical drama, and I’d recommend you just read the original manga instead if you’re interested in the character. If you are a fan of Tezuka and Black Jack, then be warned that this is not either. It’s it’s own thing with characters that bear similarities to those in the God of Manga’s various series, positing an interpretation of the character and his history that differs greatly from it’s inspiration. It’s hardly a must-watch, but if you love Black Jack as much as I do and can appreciate the series a little more even just superficially because of that, chances are you’ll stick with it for better or worse. — Cartoon X

Second Opinion!

Finally... nipples!

So in the second anime starring Black Jack this season, I’m struck by how aged the storytelling feels. This definitely watches like an anime made in the 70s, inside and out, and for better and for worse. There are moments that feel really conservative for what was marketed as a modern re-imagining, like how a good deal of the episode spends time to demonize union strikers for wanting to be paid instead of helping patients. They care more about money than doing their jobs, while the only person besides Black Jack with a pro-active approach to saving lives is an intern. For a show that desperately attempts to portray Black Jack as a savior—crown of thorns and all—this dismissal of class struggles shot that in the foot. I could maybe understand this if it was a direct adaptation of Tezuka’s original manga, but this was instead based off a 2011 prequel, which should have a more enlightened view on the relationship between a hospital and its employees.

And that change in perspective shouldn’t sit well for Tezuka aficionados. While never outright radical, he always wrote with a progressive view in mind. This, on the other hand, felt socially backwards when compared to the original. Instead of being a troubled doctor who breaks free from the shackles of hospital politics, the Black Jack here is an appointed messiah who can do no wrong while everyone else squanders their talents. This series adores Black Jack, with shirtless scenes and last-minute medical successes to make him not a person but an idol. But this is a show that doesn’t have Pinoko or the more bizarre plotlines of the original, so these cuts to make a more grounded universe combined with Black Jack’s thinner personality make for a unsavory concoction. — Bloody Marquis

 

2015
10.03

I wake up after discussing my dissertation on why Earthbound is capitalist propaganda when my roommate bumps my head, telling me “Jim, you gotta watch this show called Steven Universe!” What the hell is a Steven Universe, I asked. Why should a masculine Greek name encompass all of existence? I made a quip about how Steven Universe is clearly controlling of Jane Galaxy or Fujiko Nebula. My roommate ignored me, opened up their self-made laptop, and showed me said Steven Universe. I was told I would love this because it has everything I admire about writing. How feminine characters can stand up against a patriarchy demanding of only one-sided worship. For a moment, I almost accepted this undergraduate undertaking.

Like hell.

I have read a myriad of articles explaining how this show opens up a new world of “ideas” for women, and I’m baffled. I’m truly baffled by how many idiots could take this slop at face value. Let me say this first, I do not hate Steven Universe for any apparent feminist undertones, because these themes are merely lip service. Steven Universe is not feminist, but a skin deep narrative meant to make male viewers feel better about themselves. It’s disingenuous, brainwashing, expecting you to take things at face value, and simply evil. I almost want to smack my roommate for introducing this series to me.

I could tolerate an animated narrative for not trying to delve into the feminist canon. I still have fond childhood memories of Kipper the dog and Seven Little Monsters, because they didn’t try to bite more than they could chew. Steven Universe does that, and blunders miserably because of it. Caucasian capitalist pro-war theist Rebecca Sugar twists feminism to suit her own despotic right-wing needs, tricking viewers into thinking it’s as simple as something out of a fortune cookie. If Rebecca Sugar thinks she can even comprehend feminism in that tiny head of hers, then a complete failure in the system has been detected by yours truly. Of course, I am more than appalled by the ten-minute format, and for Miss Sugar’s belief that bite-sized entertainment is more than enough to satisfy recollecting the lore of women’s sufferage. It is as toxic as when the pro-fascist Neo-Nazi movement thought bubblegum pop Prussian Blue songs could sway the white man into idolizing his own skin color. I demand a television series that doesn’t hold your hand like a child, but one that hits you as hard as a graduate school professor. I expect the works of Valerie Solanas, not the tired screeds of Debbie Schlussel.

Why has the feminist movement been easily tricked by a clear misogynist’s scheme, I wonder? I have seen people praise ethnic stereotypes like Garnet for apparent depth instead of disparaging her for being no more than a Magical Negro archetype given a spitshine. Garnet is not a character, let alone a woman. She is merely an avatar of two other characters sock puppeted to suit their whim, waving those Meat Beat Mania drumsticks like a mammy hankering for fried chicken. And the show never criticizes her puppeteers Ruby and/or Sapphire for masquerading as a dark-skinned woman to suit their needs. Has nobody else noticed this? That the one black character is a slave to two smaller welps? I’m shocked, simply shocked, that Steven Universe fanatics could think this is progressive and not several steps backwards.

Not just that, but how could anyone take this symbolism with a straight face? Peridot is meant as a cheap way to use the Illuminati as a scapegoat for capitalist problems. Cookie Cat is a celebration of American gluttony. Greg is a slam against the aspiring artist. Lars is written as a cheap satire of the underprivileged minimum wage worker. The list goes on, longer than any thought process that occurred within writing Steven Universe anyway. Maybe some thickhead will tell me I’m casting my own vision on these characters and that I should seek some perspective, but who could be fucking bothered about that?

Even more shameful than that is the gem aesthetic through the series. Pearl? Amethyst? Opal? I only see reminders of humanity’s greed for jewelry. A mere mention of these bring to mind the blood diamonds of Africa, and the process through watching this only sees this topic trivialized and bowdlerized into something fun and cutesy like your average Bratz doll. Why is a children’s cartoon telling children that blood diamonds are okay, that the abuse and murder of African children for mere baubles is not only acceptable but morally justified? Steven Universe fetishizes jewelry and makes it alluring instead of the horrifying symbol of why our world is a cesspool of slavery. We live in a world where even the most democratic third world countries are nothing but puppet states, and this is paraded in front of us like a bread and circuses spectacle?

Fuck off.

Mr. Jim Craquer is an esteemed scholar at Miskatonic University, having graduated cum laude and is expecting to be engaged in the doctorate program within the next few weeks. To contact him, call 785-273-0325 or go to his MySpace page.

2015
10.03

Bakuman is back! Kind of. Sorta of. Two prequel chapters will be run in this issue and the next, focusing on the two leads’ lives in middle school, before the start of the series. I’ll save my thoughts on it for it’s section proper, but I have to say, it’s nice to see Ohba and Obata collaborating again. As it is knowing that they’ll soon be working on a new ongoing series again for the first time since Bakuman ended three years ago! Yes, the acclaimed mangaka duo’s next work, Platinum End, is slated to begin serialization in Jump Square this November. It’s a given that the english Jump will pick it up. I mean, Gakkyu Hotei was quickly added to the regular lineup when it came out, and only Obata was involved with that, so there’s no reason why a series with both Ohba and Obata together wouldn’t get the same treatment, especially since as a monthly series, it’s easier for them to run it than adding another weekly series would be. As a fan of the duo, I’m of course interested in their newest series, and hope it lives up to the quality set by Death Note and Bakuman, if not surpasses them.

Outside of Platinum End, there isn’t much to really discuss in terms of news this week. Though, with the fall season of anime fast approaching, some Jump anime talk could be spared. It was recently announced the Assassination Classroom anime’s second season has been confirmed for the winter 2016 season, but everyone already figured that out a while back, so natch. Food Wars!‘s second season, however, has yet to be announced, but similarly, I have a feeling it’ll pop up during next year’s spring season. I’m definitely looking forward to both. Not as much as I’m looking forward to the One-Punch Man anime’s debut coming up, but certainly more so than I am about the second season of Haikyuu!, and waaaaaayyyyy more than Seraph of the End‘s. Bleargh. Dragon Ball Super should also hopefully pick up now that they’re finally polishing off the Battle of Gods storyline this week, and while the show has been rather pointless rehashing so far, the fact that it’s still Dragon Ball means that I still cling to the hope that it’ll eventually justify itself as at the very least a decent continuation for the story and characters I love.

But the anime adaption that probably interests me the most, oddly enough, is World Trigger‘s second season. Now, everything I’ve seen of the World Trigger anime is terrible, from the animation, the pacing, just everything besides the voice acting and music, and even those are only mediocre at best. But just on the grounds of it being an anime-only storyline does WT’s second season earn more of my interest than it should, if only because it will be telling stories with the characters not already seen in the manga. And while it could be dismissed as filler, it seems like Toei will be taking the series in a different direction through this new season, and I have to wonder how that’s going to play out. Whether or not I’m going to keep up with it is another thing entirely. At the very least, I’m glad Toei is keeping the anime going, if only because that will keep World Trigger definitively safe from cancellation for a long while yet, and considering how low it’s rankings have tended to be, that’s a relieving safeguard to have.

I’ll most likely contribute opinions on One-Punch Man, Haikyuu!!, Seraph of the End, and World Trigger for the upcoming Fall Clusterfuck. For now, though, let’s stop with the anime talk, and get on with some manga discussion! In this week’s issue, a guy emotionally tortures an innocent girl just for kicks, Szayel Aporro returns to berate Mayuri for having any sense of character depth, Marika’s mother is unsurprisingly unpersuaded by emotionally-driven platitudes and half-baked arguments, and something really important happens in Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V! Maybe! I think! All this and more, After the Jump!

Weekly Shonen Jump: 2015, Issue No. 43

Samon the Summoner chapter #1 – “Samon-kun Hates Me”

Making a comedy with a unabashedly villainous, horrible person as the protagonist isn’t impossible. Nor is it impossible to make such a character likable, or at least enjoyable. Series using horrible people doing horrible things to others to drive comedy mostly work because the characters are often portrayed as dysfunctional or pathetic, there’s something that feels understandable and relatable driving their behavior, and they get comeuppance for their misdeeds on a regular basis. This careful balancing of characterization is how series like It’s Always Sunny in Philedelphia and South Park, among others, even work in the first place. A series with a lead who does horrible things to nice people, but always comes on top, and we’re still supposed to like, just doesn’t work. You can’t get behind a character who’s entire goal in life is to make others suffer, and he’s always in control and everything in his life is perfect. That’s not a protagonist, that’s a villain. Not even a villain protagonist, but among the most contemptible villains you could characterize. As a protagonist, he’s be completely unsympathetic and unlikable, and consequently, it’ll be hard to like the series.

This is Samon the Summoner‘s biggest problem. The titular character has a somewhat amusing chipper personality while he’s doing the awful things he does that could work, but it doesn’t, and that’s because of his reasons and overall characterization. Samon doesn’t seem to have any real problems in his life, is never put in a position where he feels threatened or shows any weaknesses or loses control, and the only impetus for him to ruin Teshigawara’s life is that he dislikes how nice she is. He’s a Gary Stu villain protagonist, with an answer for every problem he’s faced with, even enemy demons. Even if he had a amicable personality and motivations he would be hard to like, so the fact that his only goal in this entire series is to break a genuinely good person into a terrible one and send them straight to hell really doesn’t do him any favors. To reference a classic Jump manga, Prince Baka from Level E had no redeeming qualities, and his only goal in life was to fuck with people, but he was presented as pathetic, and would get screwed over by the people he tried to mess with in karmic ways. The people surrounding him also didn’t just go along with his bullshit, and fought him every step of the way. Not to mention that characters like Captain Kraft had genuinely good chemistry with him for humor to bounce off of. But the victim in this series, the female lead, has no agency in the story, and the relationship she has with Samon isn’t funny, but disturbing.

The problem is confounded by the fact that Teshigawara is genuinely sympathetic. If she was also kind of a jerk, then I could see the story could working fairly well, sort of in the same vein as Good Luck Girl! But Teshigawara isn’t a bad person, in any way. Not to say she’s a complete goody-two shoes, but she does the right thing when she needs to. She’s kind to others no matter what other people think of them, or her for going out of her way to talk with them. She’s nice to people no matter how weird or mean they are to her. She really cares about other people’s well-being, and tries to spin a positive light on any negative circumstance she befalls. That’s admirable. She’s an admirable person. I’d enjoy reading a story that really focused on her trying to deal with Samon’s schemes to break her, in a battle of wits sort of way. But that’s not the way Samon the Summoner has been set up. Instead, the series presents Teshigawara as very passive towards Samon’s actions, completely at the mercy of his whims, even having to be rescued from him. She has no conceivable way to level the playing field against him; she’s been thoroughly victimized. For the series to work under it’s premise, she needs to be able to do something to get back at Samon, and undermine his attempts to mess with her. She needs to be the central protagonist, and have an active role in how the story turns out, rather than passively react to what Samon does in it.

Samon the Summoner has set itself up with a way in to becoming a battle manga with the whole demons coming after Samon subplot. Which not only tells me that it doesn’t have much faith in it’s concept, but that it really wants to stick with Samon as the protagonist of this series, rather than be it’s villain. Like I said, this concept can work, but only if Teshigawara is allowed to fight back. She needs to be on an equal playing field with Samon, and their relationship needs to have more of a back and forth dynamic, especially since Samon is always going to be so clearly in the wrong when Teshigawara will always have to be in the right (lest she fall into hell, and the series ends). I really wanted to like this concept; done right, and I could see it being very entertaining, and very funny. But the way things are now, it just doesn’t work. Samon in unlikable, Teshigawara is coded as the passive sidekick to the lead. While the hook of seeing whether Samon will make Teshigawara slip up and go to hell is interesting, it’s not going to be fun if every week shows Samon doing something mean-spirited to her and only gives up when her life gets threatened by some other monster, and she’s at the mercy of whatever he decides to do throughout the story.

I’m generally pretty lenient towards the Jump Starts. It takes a while for most series to really find their footing, so when it comes to reviewing their early chapters, I like to focus on what I think has a lot of potential, and what they are already excelling in. I’ve found the new series I’ve covered for these issue reviews so far to have all been pretty promising, with much I liked and appreciated about them, and so I’ve written very positively towards them. Samon the Summoner is the first new Jump Start in a while that I’m feeling very negatively towards, and writing very negatively about. But it’s not without some merit. I really do like Teshigawara as a character in of herself, and the reactions she has throughout the chapter and a lot of the dialogue in the series is a lot of fun and humorous in spirit. It certainly has more going for it than, say Lady Justice did, but Viz didn’t run that as a Jump Start (and good riddance). But on the whole, there’s just not a whole lot going for it, and it didn’t leave me looking forward to reading any more of it. The premise isn’t bad, so maybe it could somehow rehaul itself, and give Teshigawara more agency, and make Samon more fallible. But compared to the phenomenal first chapter Mononofu put out last week, as well as it’s strong follow up chapter this week, there’s just no comparison between the two in terms of quality. If either of them is going to survive in Jump in the longterm, much less be added to Viz’s lineup, I sincerely doubt it’ll be Samon the Summoner.

One Piece chapter #800 – “Sons’ Cups”

I had expected Luffy to turn down the offer of being the leader of a huge pirate fleet. He has always rejected being in a position of a lot of power and responsibility. He’s a free spirit, and his idea of the pirate king is to be the ultimate free man, the world his to explore and roam to his pleasure. As such, he’s never been after money or fame, and never seen the need to have a big crew (remember, at the beginning of the series he believed ten would be enough). He does what he wants when he wants because he wants to, and for no other reason. And he doesn’t want to be a big shot who’s giving orders to a jillion people and has to be responsible for an organization. So in the end, he rejects Bartholomew and co.’s offer to be their boss. Yet, at the same time, he’s always been keen on helping his friends out and calling on them to help him out in a jam. So Luffy doesn’t mind just a friendly alliance between the crews; he just doesn’t want it to be a very structured and systematic organization. But since everyone else is basically on the same page, the Straw Hats get their grand fleet whether Luffy wants to call it that or not.

Suffice to say, this is BIG. This development puts into context just why there was so much attention payed to these characters during the Dressrosa arc. They were all being built up for greater things outside this arc, and as honorary members of the Straw Hat crew. I had inklings of this as the arc was going on. Ever since we first saw Whitebeard’s fleet of ships in Marineford, the idea that the Straw Hats would one day command a force as big if not bigger than that was probably on the back of every fan’s mind. But to see it finally play out, especially in the way it has, is so incredibly satisfying. While there are some characters in this bunch I’m indifferent on, most of them are people who received a lot of focus and have been developed as fully realized characters. The idea that all of them will soon play a big role in future events, a great historic event as they claim, is incredibly exciting. Like the looming war with Kaido, this is yet another plotline in the series to look forward to seeing developed, and really sets the scale of future events and the series to greater heights.

All in all, you couldn’t ask for a better chapter to celebrate the series’ 800th chapter and the end of the Dressrosa arc. The big moments in the chapter were well complimented by great character moments, especially from Fujitora, that really make it feel like a huge milestone in the series has really been reached. Ever since the timseskip, OP has slowly been building it’s arcs back up to greater scales, and this chapter makes it clear that things are only going to get bigger from here on out. The future has never been more promising for the series, and I’ve got to raise a toast to Oda for that. Dressrosa may have been a trying arc to read through at times, but the payoff and ramifications of it have been absolutely brilliant. I don’t know what the series has in store next, but with the promise that something big will happen on the scale of Marineford sooner than later, there is plenty to be excited about. We’ve finally left Dressrosa behind, and are now in uncharted territory, but the thrill of adventure and looming danger has breathed new life and momentum into the series, and restored confidence that the next phase of the series will take it to even bigger and better places than it’s ever been before.

Toriko chapter #339 – “Midora vs. Joie!!”

This was a mostly battle-heavy chapter, focusing on the duel between Midora and Joie. As a fan of Midora, I loved how much he kicked ass in the chapter, and his cool responses to Joie’s taunts. Damn, I’m almost positive we aren’t going to see more of their fight, but I want to so bad. If there’s one thing about Toriko that I get miffed about these days, it’s the series’ tendency to switch between plot threads and characters so suddenly and without giving proper closure or follow-up to subplots in a timely enough matter. It hasn’t detracted from my enjoyment of the series as of late too much, but I know it has for others, and it does really frustrate me when we get something as engaging as the Midora and Joie conflict we have to switch gears and focus on something else.

But as strong as the Midora/Joie fight is, the switch-ups here are admittedly necessary and important. Though I’m not entirely keen on the idea Zaus is completely blameless since he was under Joie’s mind control this whole time, there is a precedent for it with Grinpatch that served to show that perhaps others had been manipulated in the same way. What Teppei plans to do with Joie’s golden tool is a mystery, but it’ll likely be essential in combating the threat of Acacia’s demon. Speaking of which, that’s the next biggest reveal in the chapter. The gourmet cell demon within Acacia has been revived, and it’s going to go after the full course and God itself. We see Acacia’s new form in this chapter, and holy shit does he look like a monster, and the way he rips to shreds a Blue Nitro, one of the strongest creatures on the planet, and proceeds to devours it in such a violent, animalistic way, is disturbing as heck. You don’t need to do anything more to sell me how big a threat Acacia is; the design and sheer intensity of his presence does well to characterize the danger and chaos it poses.

But interestingly enough, the demon might have a match in another, and it’s none other than the late Ichiryu’s gourmet cell demon, Don Slime. Wow. I did not see that coming, but it’s Jiji’s relationship and treatment of it makes a whole lot of sense now. But then, how did Don Slime come to be the ruler of Blue Grill What is his role in “the project?” The revelation of Don Slime’s origins poses even more questions about it’s motives and loyalties than ever before, and that makes me want to get back to the cooking festival to learn more about it. So much is going on in Toriko now that it’s getting a bit hard to keep track, but somehow, I can’t help but enjoy the craziness and unpredictability of it all. The series has been a wild ride as of late, and if this chapter is any indication, it’s about to become a whole lot wilder.

Mononofu chapter #2 – “Hanging Pawn”

It’s not easy to become good at something, much less become a professional at it. I played chess for many years, and I’ll tell you, it takes incredible amounts of dedication, practice, and skill to become good at it, much less become great at it. Confound this by the fact that, at the end of the day, very few can actually make a comfortable living as a professional chess player. The game can’t just be your hobby; it needs to be your life. You need to live and breathe it to get to the level of the best. I don’t know how professional shogi works, but I’m pretty confident it’s the same, if not stricter due to how isolated the game is in Japan, as opposed to chess’ international popularity and support.

Shinobu needed to learn that becoming a professional shogi player is easier said than done, and it’s a serious choice. There is not only fierce competition to get to the top, but it’s also incredibly selective, and there’s a time limit to how long you can take to get there. Yasukane has been working hard at it for over ten years, and he doesn’t have a lot of time left to make it to the next level. Shinobu might have a talent for the game with his tunnel vision, but if he wants to become pro, he needs to understand that he has to be truly obsessed with the game. He has to be prepared to stick with it for the long haul, even with no guarantee his efforts will be rewarded.

In an odd paradox, the connection between Yasukane and Shinobu is made both blatant and subtle. We get enough of a sense of what Yasukane’s background is, and what he’s had to endure in his life, to know that he can relate and really sympathize with Shinobu’s plight, which is why he is so worried about doing what’s best for him. But his background also puts into context his speech about how effort will eventually be rewarded, and why he was so passionate about proving that to Shinobu and helping him regain confidence in himself. Yasukane has clearly been in the same place Shinobu was once in his life, but persisted, and never gave up. While he’s faced many challenges, and still hasn’t succeeded, he firmly believes that in the end, his hard work will be rewarded, and wants to encourage others to meet their potential by lending a helping hand to them, which is likely why he became a tutor. It’s rather outstanding just how much there is to this character just two chapters in, and how compelling the connection between him and Shinobu is already. Comparing it to, say, the Aono/Kagura relationship in Best Blue, and this is on a whole other level of quality. Possibly because of how real the morals and situation feel in the way they are presented, but also just in terms of the depth of the characters and the relationship itself. It’s something that will surely be a big driving point for the series going forward, and a great mentor/student foundation for the series to have in general.

But Yasukane isn’t the only other character whose spotlight leads to some great moments. Keishi has quickly become a scene-stealer not only through his comedic antics, but also through his genuine interest in helping Shinobu out. Though most of the group discourages him because they know what a commitment training to be a professional shogi player is and don’t know if Shinobu has what it takes to make it, Keishi gives him a chance. He tests him by having play a game with him, and prove to him that he’s not just talk; that he does love the game, that it’s fun for him, even after multiple losses. And slowly but surely, the experience not only strengthens Shinobu’s resolve and love for the game, but reveals his strengths in the endgame, and his potential to be a great player. It’s something he not only wants to do, but he can do. He has a long road to go, and nobody lets him forget that. But the tone of the chapter is still very optimistic. Shinobu has a long road ahead of him, but I’m keen to see him grow on his journey, and feel the same about the series so far. Like Shinobu, it has a lot of potential to be great, and I just hope it has more chances to prove it. For now, we have at least another chapter to look forward to in this Jump Start run, and I’m eagerly looking forward to it.

Bleach chapter #643 – “Baby, Hold Your Hand 6 [Waiting for Love]”

I laughed out loud when Szayel Aporro just showed up out of nowhere. I mean, of all the characters Kubo could bring back, I certainly wasn’t expecting to see him again. The callback makes sense in of itself, though. I mean, it’s a bit of a stretch that Mayuri even remembered Szayel Aporro considering he was completely unfazed and unimpressed with anything he threw at him, but that conversation they had about a scientist aiming for perfection is actually relevant to the situation. Aporro thought he had made himself perfect through his science, but Mayuri scoffed at him, claiming that a scientist could never truly find perfection, that the idea of it was be meaningless. A scientist should always seek to better his work, to evolve his craft. Mayuri told Aporro that the thought of a perfect being, one that couldn’t evolve any further, disgusted him. However, as recently shown in his interactions with Nemu, it seems that Mayuri thought of her as his masterpiece, and found her perfect the way she is. So Aporro is mocking Mayuri for his hypocrisy. Though ultimately, it just reaffirms Mayuri’s resolve, and reminds him that as a scientist, he must take these setbacks as they are, and continue to move forward.

It’s a good moment, in theory. But honestly, the entire sequence is totally pointless. It’s trying to add more pathos and depth to Mayuri, but as we’ve discussed before, the entire relationship between Mayuri and Nemu just doesn’t work with the way Kubo has previously characterized them throughout the series. So instead, the entire scene feels like Kubo is trying to cover-up a continuity error in regards to Mayuri’s philosophy about his science, as well as shoehorn in an appearance by a previous character for fan-service, since this the final arc and whatnot.

I’m rather pissed off that Nemu is the one who died, and it wasn’t Mayuri. The latter having to make a sacrifice and passing the torch on to his daughter would have been much more effective in terms of giving the character legitimate pathos. But no, Nemu’s supposedly badass moment is completely made pointless by the beginning of the chapter and she gets killed off, meaning her character development was completely pointless too. I mean, sure, she’ll probably be revived by Mayuri since he saved her brain and whatnot, but that’ll probably be something we see in the epilogue for the series, so she won’t contribute anything else in this arc proper. What a load. At least she sorta does kill Pernida with it getting blown up because her body produces cells at an exponential rate.

Or some shit like that, I don’t know. It’s some overcomplicated bullshit Kubo pulled out of his ass, why should I give a fuck? At least this goddamn fight is over now, meaning there are less enemies to deal with, meaning the series is getting closer to ending. I really, really hope that the fights with the other Sternritter grunts don’t take so damn long to finish so we can get to fights with Haschwaltz, Uryu, and Ywach already. You know, the ones that will actually matter? God, let’s just move on to My Hero Academia already…

My Hero Academia chapter #59 – “Listen Up!! A Tale from the Past”

After the way last week ended, I wasn’t expecting this chapter to open up with such a delightful and hilarious sequence of comic relief. Mineta is a really fun take on the perverted character archetype, and works because of just how over-the-top and ineffectual he is. He’s in his own world of delusion, no one respect or takes him very seriously, and he always gets his comeuppances. For the moment, it works to make him an enjoyable character, if not really very likable, and while his antics could get annoying if overdone down the line, for now they provide welcome levity. And starting this chapter off with a strong bit of humor was definitely a good move on Horikoshi’s part, since it’s a very serious, heavy chapter the rest of the way, with a lot of implications to process and consider.

It seems some found the explanation of One For All’s origins confusing, but I thought it was pretty straightforward. Really, all you need to take from it is that the series is playing with the duality and an dynamic relationship between good and evil. They are mutually co-existent forces, one unable to exist without the other, born from and closely related to each other. The story of All For One and One For All is a pretty classic story of good vs evil. All for One was initially used to bring people together in a time where people had been torn apart. When it was abused and twisted for malicious means, a great force for good was created to counteract it. One For All was born out of one man’s desire to do the right thing and fight against injustice and oppression. It owes it’s existence solely as a consequence of All For One’s negative influence, even though it’s creation was in many respects a mistake. The fact the One For All is passed down generation in generation to always counterattack and defeat the former is symbolic of the never-ending fight for justice as well. All Might thought his generation took All For One down for good, but good and evil can never disappear. Both powers grew stronger over time, constantly at odds and in competition with each other to be dominant. The age of heroes has come about because, for a while, good had secured a victory over evil, suppressing and lessening it. But it was inevitable that it would return. Even if the current user dies, he will make sure to pass on his power to Shigaraki and have him be his successor. This is a battle that can never end or be won, and now, Midoriya must inherit that burden.

Midoriya doesn’t really seem to understand all the implications of what All Might has told him, but he has a strong sense of justice, and is willing to face the challenge head on. However, he trusts that All Might will be there by his side when that day comes. It’s become increasingly clear that All Might probably won’t. From the beginning, I assumed that as Midoriya mastered One For All, All Might would gradually lose the power himself. Now it seems that isn’t the only consequence of him passing on the power. While it hasn’t been confirmed yet, it’s heavily implied that All Might is slowly dying. By the time Midoriya has to stand up to All For One, he most likely will not still be around to support him. It may or may not have been the best decision to not tell Midoriya about this, but no doubt that decision will shake Midoriya’s resolve and confidence when the truth does finally come out, and the full weight of his responsibility becomes apparent to him.

While I’m expecting a buffer arc first, it’s clear that things will be soon become incredibly serious in MHA. While Midoriya and friends have faced dire and intense encounters with villains before, the storm of chaos and violence that is sure to follow with the formation of the League of Villains and Shigaraki and All For One’s scheme will no doubt seriously challenge the characters and the current era of peace the world is in. With a deepened goal, future conflict, and potential ramifications set in place, the series’ future has never looked brighter even though the story itself is becoming progressively darker. The situation in the series right now is a ticking time-bomb of tension, and I eagerly anticipate the moment it explodes, no matter how long the wait for it will take.

Bakuman age 13 

While more Bakuman chapters are a treat, I think most people would have preferred to see epilogue chapters as opposed to prequel ones. There were a lot of story threads and characters that didn’t really get much of a resolution in the final chapters, so it would have been nice to see some focus and give some closure to Fukuda, Hirumaru, and other members of the secondary cast. Of course, the reason these prequel chapters were commissioned in the first place was to promote the upcoming movie, so of course they’d prioritize focusing on the characters as they were before the movie, as opposed to how they were afterwards. But that’s not a bad thing. Those backstory chapters for Shishio that Watsuki made to promote the final Kenshin movie actually added to the character’s story, giving a lot more context and depth to his motivations and relationship with Yumi, in a way that actually enhanced my appreciation for the character.

That’s the value of these prequel chapters. While we don’t learn anything necessarily new about Takagi here, it’s interesting to actually see who he was before the series began, and what motivated him to become a manga writer. The Takagi we first see in Bakuman was very outgoing and pushy, very eagerly and passionately urging Mashiro to partner with him. Here, we see that he wasn’t always such a gung-ho guy. In middle school, Takagi was kind of quiet and detached from others. He wasn’t anti-social, but he didn’t really feel like he had any true friends either, and mostly kept to himself. He really didn’t put that much effort into school, kind of just easing by on his natural smarts, and mostly spent his middle school years in a daze, seriously thinking about what he wanted to do in life, and frustrated by his lack of progress in finding that something and working towards it. The way Takagi realizes he wants to be a manga artist isn’t really some big, inspiring event in his way, but rather a more natural epiphany about how he could marry his interests and his talents. It’s a bit childish the way Takagi immediately goes “hey, I can do this!,” but that’s exactly how kids are when they talk about what they want to be when they grow up. It really reflects how easy-going Takagi’s character was in early Bakuman, when he didn’t really know what he was getting into, and how much hard work it would actually entail. And in this way, the chapter makes a very welcome piece for the character, one that might not have been needed, but is still entertaining and substantial.

Beyond Takagi, there were some interesting moments with Iwase in the chapter. While we know she had a one-sided competitive relationship and romantic interest in him before, it’s revealing to see that she really used to be a very upright, meek girl who actually really admired Takagi and developed her crush on him almost from the start. There’s definitely a disconnect between how she’s presented here and was presented at the beginning of the series (from what I remember). Whereas she was full-on tsundere towards Takagi in early Bakuman, she’s much more friendly and soft-spoken around him here. While I don’t think we’ll see how she develops the personality she has later on, knowing the circumstances under which she and Takagi formed their opinions of each other does put their relationship in an interesting new context. The implication that Takagi was completely oblivious to Iwase’s interests with him, and dismissal of her as overly study-happy, also might present a reason why Iwase’s opinion on him became more bitter over time, as he repeated rejected her attempts to get to know her better. Iwase is one of poorer written characters in Bakuman, but this chapter does well in showing her in a new light that makes her somewhat more sympathetic and shows she was not always the obsessively competitive, mean-spirited person she became later on.

The most entertaining part of the chapter for me, though, was the two pages showing Hirumaru working his soul-crushing salesman job. Poor Hirumaru. He might have been lazy and incompetent, but he definitely didn’t live a very fun life before he became a mangaka, and I both felt and laughed at the guy’s world-weariness and desire to get his own porsche. Again, there’s nothing necessary or substantial about this scene. But it’s moments like this,  seeing the characters’ lives as they were before the series, that makes the chapter so entertaining, and a treat for Bakuman fans. Hopefully the second chapter continues to shed light on some other characters in as fun a manner, and keeps adding new and interesting facets to their backgrounds as well.

World Trigger chapter #116 – “Yuichi Jin: Part 9”

Osamu’s logic as to why he wanted Jin to join his team definitely shows his improved understanding of what he needs to do to better the team, and cover their weaknesses. Tamakoma-2 needs an agent with both the strength and experience needed to compete with the top B-ranked teams, and better compete and secure a place as an away team. Jin would fit their needs perfectly. Of course, Jin has other responsibilities, and if perhaps too powerful for him to be added to the team at this point, so he declines. He does of course hint that Osamu has another option right under his nose, and I think we can all guess who that is.

This is a rare showing of Jin’s more emotional side. We previously had hints that he felt responsible for what befell Tamakoma-2 in the invasion, but this is the first time we learn that his burden comes from the fact that he could’ve prevented a lot of damage done to the group, and having used Chika as a pawn to focus the invaders’ attention on her, and minimize damage to the city. He used Tamakoma-2 as part of his plan without their knowledge or consent, and Replica died and Osamu almost died because of his decision. But, as stated before, this was one of the better outcomes from the Invasion that he foresaw. It could’ve gone better, but it also could’ve gone far worse. In the end, Jin’s decision worked out, but that doesn’t assuage the personal guilt he feels for manipulating the team.

Of course, Osamu feels differently. Jin might have used them, but he’s also helped them. He knows Jin definitely cares about their well-being and interests, and he’s grateful for that. Even though Jin says he figures Osamu’d say that, it’s a rather nice touching character moment for him. Jin is usually presented as an in-control, unruffled tactician, but here we see some more shades of him without having him become over-emotional or behave in a uncharacteristic way. He probably wishes he could do more for Tamakoma-2 than he’s already doing, but as we see at the end of the chapter, he’s a part of something much bigger, something that requires his full investment and cooperation in.

Presumably, the next chapter should expand upon the nature of the Emergency Response Team, as well as bring Osamu closer to identifying the teammate Jin’s suggested. Contrary to what I had thought, it seems that the Rank Wars will continue a bit longer yet. However, the focus is likely going to move away from the matches themselves, and focus more on how Tamakoma-2 improves both as individuals and as a team in order to climb back to the top, and secure a spot on the away mission. It may take a while for everything to fall into place, but this is a new start for Tamakoma-2, a chance to re-invent themselves, and I’m eager to see their continued growth in the coming weeks.

Black Clover chapter #30 – “A New Rival”

I’d been wondering how the subplot with Charmy was going to pay off. In the previous arc, we learned quite a bit about Luck’s backstory and his character and abilities were fleshed out quite a bit, establishing him well as a likable protagonist with a clear character arc to be developed further in the story. I had assumed that Charmy would be given a similar amount of depth, in addition to her powers being shown off. Her shenanigans in the background of this arc, persistently pursuing the capital’s food, was serviceable comic relief, but it also seemed to be a slow build-up to her getting involved in the battle and more pertinent things being done with her then. If this chapter is really the climax of her subplot, and basically everything she’s going to do in this arc, then man, was it a baffling waste of time.

Charmy beating the witch would be more impressive if she was at full-power, and Yuno was at the end of his rope. But the witch was already severely weakened by Yuno, and really wouldn’t stand a chance against anyone with a decent amount of strength. And as a senior member of the Black Bulls, you’d have to assume that someone like her could have been dealt with by Charmy well-enough if she’d have been at full strength. So there’s nothing particularly “cool” or impressive about Charmy taking down an opponent that was essentially already defeated. The scene just doesn’t work in trying to build Charmy up as a strong mage, or even showing off how cool her powers are, because the threat isn’t credible, and danger posed wasn’t particularly serious.

It really doesn’t help that Charmy’s characterization continues to be so one-note and selfish. It was bad enough that she shirked her duties to help people in trouble to go off and eat grub, but the fact that she only reacts to an enemy when said food was threatened (not even the people who made the food, just the food itself), really doesn’t portray her in a particularly noble light. Unlike Luck, we haven’t learned any more about her through this arc other than “she really likes food;” she’s an extremely shallow character, and literally one in her characterization. Perhaps not unlikable, since there’s a certain amusing charm in just how much she seems to be in her own world, but the lack of dynamism and depth to her character doesn’t make me particularly interested in seeing more of her in the story. Especially if her crush on Yuno becomes a serious recurring thing. I just don’t think Black Clover is in a position to handle runners like that without it quickly becoming grating.

The rest of the chapter is entertaining enough, though it doesn’t offer anything more substantial than the first half either. I do appreciate friendly, encouraging rivals and authority figures as opposed to assholes, so I do like Fegoleon jumping into the battle because he thinks Asta has potential, and considers him a worthy rival for the title of Wizard King. It’s odd to me that he’s yet another member of the Vermillion clan to take a liking to Asta, after Mimosa and Leo, and it characterizes their family as a whole to be more open-minded and accepting of others than, say, Noelle’s family. I feel that a rivalry and contention between the two clans is inevitable, if it doesn’t already exist. While Charmy proved to be a poorly-developed character, the next chapter could develop Fegoleon as someone worth keeping an eye on and investing in, and another legitimate rival for Asta to aspire to surpass. I mean, just by presence alone, he’s certainly more interesting and credible as one than Leo, who we could really stand to learn a lot more about.

Overall, this chapter had it’s amusing bits, but the first half with Charmy was a poor payoff to that subplot and establishing the character, and reflects many of the weaknesses in Black Clover‘s storytelling so far. I do still find the series enjoyable to read and keep up with, but we’re 30 chapters in, and it has yet to reach a level that really brings it above the level of your average shonen battle series. I mean, Black Clover has been described by many to be the spiritual successor to Naruto, and indeed, there are many similarities between the two, and I think that’s a contributing factor as to why it’s been doing so well. But by this point in Naruto, the series was closing off the Zabuza arc, which had much more dynamic and fleshed out antagonists, stronger world-building, and greater character development for the central protagonists. Later arcs of Naruto might have soured the impact of those early arcs, but re-read through the Zabuza arc of Naruto and compare it to what we have from Black Clover so far, and the difference in quality is night and day.

Say what you will about how Naruto is overall, but that series started strong, and with the Zabuza arc, told a great multi-layered story with nuanced characters that showed depth and growth that really set the bar high for the rest of the series high. Black Clover simply has not reached that level of excellence yet. It might continue to take a while for the series to find it’s footing, and I really do think it has the right assets to become a great series. Right now, though, I don’t the series is adequately living up to the expectations or popularity it’s been given, and chapters like this one are really not doing it any favors.

Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma chapter #135 – “The Nakiri Family”

After the shocking climax of the last chapter, it was clear that big changes were in store for Totsuki. So it was a little surprising that, for the first half of the chapter, life at Totsuki seemed to be the same as before. However, this makes a lot of sense. If you try to implement radically changes right away, especially if you don’t have the trust of a lot of people first, you’ll get a bunch of discontents revolting against you and rejecting the system. Azami’s process is very slow and deliberate. He’ll change things slowly but surely, he’s in no hurry, and he really doesn’t need to be. For all intents and purposes he’s already won and in complete control, and it’s precisely because he’s so smugly self-confident that he can do as he pleases without the need for pretense or worrying about showing his hand too soon or too late. We only see what Azami wants us to see and know what Azami wants us to know, but even so, everything he’s said and done has been him being himself.

So while Azami might be a manipulative mastermind, he is nonetheless earnest and honest about what he wants to do, and what he says he’s going to do. And the first thing he’s going to do is reclaim his hold over Erina’s life. He removes her away from any other influences by banishing Senzaemon and firing Hisako, and keeping her isolated in her home, and Erina, conditioned to fear her father and obey his words, cannot muster up the courage to stand up for herself, to tell him to let Hisako stay with her, and to leave her be. He holds too strong a hold over her, and she can’t break free from it alone.

Which is no doubt why Senzaemon has appeared in front of Soma. There seems to be a reason why Senzaemon had Joichiro send him to Totsuki, and that reason could have been in anticipation of something like this happening. Probably because like Joichiro, Soma is an eccentric; his unique outlook and experimental style of cooking challenges the people he goes up against and makes them reevaluate and improve themselves both as people and chefs. Soma makes cooking for everyone to enjoy, Azami wants cooking to only be enjoyed by a privileged few. Their differing philosophies and personalities will no doubt soon clash, and Soma will likely be the spearhead in the reactive movement soon to follow once Azami starts going after those who don’t fit his program, which means essentially everyone at the Polar Star dorms, and Soma’s entire group of friends in general, are going to be at risk. What Senzaemon has to tell Soma will probably be essential to understanding the enemy he and his friends will soon have to challenge if they want to stay at Totsuki, and whatever it is, it’s no doubt going to add another layer of tension to an already ominous and intense calm before the storm.

Nisekoi chapter #186 – “Why?”

It was clear Marika had a very bitter, unloving relationship with her mother. This chapter shows that she was not unjustified in her grudge with her. Chika Tachibana is in many respects other-worldy; from her elaborate dress to her eerily youthful appearance, she could easily pass as a goddess or supernatural deity in another manga, or at very least a princess or queen. But it’s not her physical appearance that’s what’s truly unnerving about her. It’s her wholly nihilistic and passionless outlook on people and the world, in a manner that’d put even Spock on edge. Her emotionless face and strictly logic-driven arguments make her come across as almost robotic, most certainly cold. And as the conversation goes on, it’s becomes increasingly clear that she has no regard for Marika’s happiness, or really anyone’s. She’s going through the motions of what is expected of her as the leader of the Tachibana family, and imposing that will onto Marika for tradition’s sake and not their own. She is bereft of any emotion throughout the entire conversation, until the end, when Raku asks her what she thinks about Marika, a prompt which makes her cringe, annoyed.

It’s subtle, but that one bit of dialogue says so much about her beliefs and her goals. Marika’s mother is not just another mere selfish parent using her child for her own gain. On the contrary, she’s not doing what she does out of love or lack of it. She’s doing it because that’s the way things are, always have been, and must continue to be. Her happiness wasn’t and still isn’t important, and neither is Marika’s. She has given Marika more freedom than she had been given, which she thinks was more than generous as it is. She believes that promises must be kept, rules and traditions must be followed, and responsibility must be taken. And that’s what makes her so frightening; she is an empty person. She has nothing to gain and nothing to lose; nothing she cares about, loves, or lives for. She has been conditioned by her own upbringing to uphold a system for it’s sake alone. She is a robot, whose will is that but the extension of her clan, her existence and decisions influenced by the need for her line to continue. While she might not be scary or malicious in the traditional sense, the reason why Marika considers her a monster is abundantly clear. Human beings are driven by emotions, be it love, greed, or whatever. They have desire. Chika Tachibana displays none of these things. Her complete lack of emotion, passion, and desire in her decision making, in her thinking, in her way of life, makes her feel soulless. It makes her seem inhuman.

Under this context, it’s not hard to see why Marika is so outgoing and energetic, and so open about her feelings and emotions with people. The household she has lived in must have been horribly oppressive; sterile and emotionless. So in reaction to her mother’s lack of passion for life, Marika embraced it. She actively became the complete opposite of her mother in behavior and outlook. She took full advantage of every opportunity she was given to have fun, make friends, and pursue her own interests. Knowing that, inevitably, that freedom would be taken away from her, she chose to leave nothing on the table, and do everything she did with all that she had. It really puts Marika’s boldness and active pursuit of Raku in a wholly new context that redefines why and who she is, and gives her characterization another shade of depth that really separates her from other characters with the same archetype.

Raku really had no idea what he was getting into, or much of a plan to convince Chika to let Marika go free. He was driven by his guilt about being dishonest with Marika, and the desire to do what he thought was right as her friend. But as Chika points out, the Tachibana family has their way of doing things that has worked for them in the past and must be continued. Raku has no right to impose his value system on her just because he wants to feel less guilty about himself, and neither he or Marika have the right to interfere with the traditions and will of a clan that has persisted for generations. Raku tried to convince Chika to let Marika go based on cliche arguments that she’s a human being, that she should be happy. His rationales are based on emotions rather than logic, and that’s precisely why his attempts to get Chika to change her mind failed so badly. For her, rules, traditions, and responsibilities supersede frivolous things like happiness. She doesn’t think it’s important for one to be happy, for one to love or be loved. Her way of thinking is purely based in logic. Marika needs to be married off so the clan can continue and a new heir is raised. If Raku has no intention of marrying Marika and fulfilling that need, then he is of no use to that end, and his opinion and arguments hold little weight.

So the question is just what can Raku do now to help Marika. While I’m sure that they will somehow get through to Chika, I don’t think this conflict will end as it would typically considering her motivations are as selfless as they are selfish. In the end, I think it’ll be up to Marika to convince her mother that she doesn’t need to follow a system. That there’s more to life than just propagating the existence of her clan. That there’s value in being happy, in love and being loved. Somehow they need to get Chika to see why exactly it’d be worthwhile for Marika to be free to choose how she lives her life. Now that Marika’s escaped her chambers, she’s due for another clash of words with her mother sooner or later. Whether they’ll be able to convince her is uncertain, but at the very least I’m sure Marika’s not getting married off without a fight, and with Raku, Chitoge, and Tsugumi all captured, we’re no doubt due for both a jail-break and a wedding crashing sometime very soon.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V chapter #2 – “Yuto vs. Sawatari!”

I thought that because Arc-V was starting at the beginning that it’d be much easier to review than ZeXal, which I jumped in at the end of. However, we’re only two chapters in and I’m still feeling mighty confused about what exactly is going on. I understand what’s happening in this chapter. Yuto is a duelist allied with the supposed main character of the series, nicknamed “the phantom,” and he duels some employee of a presumably shady corporation who’s after him because he has some super special awesome secret power that makes him the “destiny factor,” and will determine the world’s future. Apparently, Yuto doesn’t have said power, because he can’t do a Pendulum Summons, which Yuya is supposed to be able to do. Which leads the question of why they thought he had any “special aura” about him to begin with. He’s a competent duelist, sure, but he’s clearly not a great one since Shingo start to overpower him by the end, and the implication is that Yuya will be able to cream the guy easily.

So I don’t know what the chapter really accomplishes in terms of establishing characters. It’s really hard to get a sense of Yuto’s personality in the duel, whereas Shingo’s pompousness and overconfidence gets much better characterized. We still don’t really know what’s at stake, what this “destiny factor” is, or even how the game is even played now, because it seems to have gotten shaken up yet again with all these new rules and bullshit. It’s hard to find the duels entertaining when things just seem to happen just because, and there aren’t consistent limitations to what players can do. So on both a character and action level, the chapter just reads extremely shallow.

Now that the actual main character of this series has finally shown up after two whole chapters, maybe we’ll finally get a legitimate explanation of the plot, rules of the world, and this variation of Duel Monsters, and the story will be easier to follow. Right now though, I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to take away from all of this. The only parts of the last two chapters that I’ve found particularly entertaining involved the comic relief supplied by the female lead, and that’s too basic, as well as too far and in between, to really get me to care about the story at all. Right now, Arc-V is feeling like a confusing slow-burn, and I like some clarification on what exactly it expects me to care about sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, this being a monthly series, I feel that’s going to take a long while yet.

Psyren chapter #3 – “Danger Zone”

This chapter continues a classic horror vibe that’s been characterizing the last few chapters of Psyren. Even going so far as to apply one of the genres most common cliches; a group of people ignoring a blatant warning to avoid danger, and suffering the consequences of their transgressions with their lives. In this particular circumstance, the way the characters act isn’t that stupid; their logic that they are supposed to head in the direction of the siren, and disbelief in monsters, especially after Ageha is unable to provide any evidence of them, is understandable. We, the readers, know Ageha is right and these people really should listen to him, but they don’t know what he does. They don’t even know him; there’s no reason for them to trust the word of some high school punk, especially when each of them is already at each others throats in their quest for the reward.

As the chapter progresses, we get very briefly a sense of what this group of characters wants to get out of the game, the simplicity of which raises a whole bunch of death flags. It becomes pretty clear that the greedy characters who are after the money are all probably going to die, as are the characters that flat-out laughed at Aghea for his claim there are monsters about. The omission of Asaga from the group’s inner thoughts sequence singles him out as a character who is probably going to end up having more complicated motivations to be explored in the story, if the emphasis placed on the scene of him calling Ageha a disappointment didn’t already.

In this way, the story arguably moves in a more predictable direction with this chapter. Through the implementation of a standard horror structure and tropes, a well-read reader will quickly be able to connect the dots in his brain, and kinda figure out that this is all going to go down badly for these people. Even down to the pathetic guy who just wants to go home being the first to get whacked off, there isn’t much in the way of surprises to this chapter compared to the first two. Though, the shock-value of the moment pathetic guy gets arrowed through the head sort of is in it’s suddenness and cruelty, though I feel the censorship of the scene robs some of it’s effectiveness, or at least damages it’s readability (it took me more than one glance at the panel to figure out exactly what happened to him).

The focus on the inevitable doom facing the troupe of characters is matched by the slight character development given to Sakurano, which provides the real meat of the chapter. The way she despairs when she finds out that these people are unknowingly marching to their doom, something she could have prevented, and her breakdown about how no one believes her and their deaths weren’t and aren’t her fault says a whole lot. She’s clearly been playing this game for a long time, and have seen many people die in front of her eyes, helpless to save them, and the guilt of that has weighed on her mind, and caused her to develop a split personality of sorts that manifests when she’s under a lot of stress. She’s been thoroughly broken down by this game, and this latest failure has really pushed her to the breaking point. Which is why Ageha’s trust in her, and his desire to help her change the outcome of the game, is made out to be a big deal. Sure, it’s not a remarkable moment for a shonen manga , but in terms of Sakurano’s character arc, the connection she starts to make with Ageha allows her to regain some composure, and a slightly renewed sense of hope, those these particular elements are left understated at the end of this chapter and will be developed into more complex forms as their relationship grows as the series progresses.

While the first two chapters of Psyren kept you guessing, this third chapter plays it a lot more safer, or at least more predictably. Still, that doesn’t make it a bad read. The real intrigue comes in the form of how Sakurano’s character is handled in the chapter, making you wonder how much exactly this poor girl has endured, and make you want to see Ageha vindicate her previous efforts to help people by succeeding in saving lives this time around. If Psyren had been run as a Jump Start back in the day, this would have provided a good cut-off point, since by this chapter we’ve gotten both leads’ motivations, and a sense of the dangers and stakes of the game, but are still left with a lot of mysteries left to know, and a situation we want to see resolved. I’d probably vote for it just on the strength of the lead two characters at this point, as by this point I’d be invested enough to want to see them come out alright at the end of their ordeal. The unique horror tone and mystery vibe of Psyren’s early chapters continues to stand out against other battle manga even now, and while the series’ beats start to become a little easier to figure out in this chapter, the narrative and characters are more than enough to keep it interesting and engaging, and make me want to read the next.

Final Thoughts:

This was a massive issue not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of the magnitude of what happened in each and every series in the issue. Not that all of it was great. Samon the Summoner made for a weak new Jump Start with it’s unlikable lead character and mishandled execution of it’s concept and the female lead. Bleach‘s attempts to give depth to Mayuri was completely unsatisfying and  just doesn’t work in any respect. Black Clover had a poor payoff to a poorly handled subplot about a poorly established character. Not to mention Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc V continues to be astoundingly incomprehensible. So that’s about 4 mediocre series this week; a third of the issue. But, that’s arguably counterbalanced by the sheer quality of everything else. Big things happened in pretty much every other series and chapter, with strong character moment and exciting plot developments all around. There isn’t even any real bad in this issue; just mediocre, and suffice to say, the good far outweighs it. All in all, this proved to be an exceptional, if not perfect, issue of WSJ. There’s a lot to look forward to in the next issue, the review of which will hopefully be done far sooner than this one did (it does have two less series in it, that’ll help).

Best Manga of the Week:

1. One Piece – A perfect way to close off the Dressrosa arc as well as make use of the series’ 800 chapter milestone. It’s a big moment worthy of such a big chapter, and really sets the pace and stage for even better things in store.

2. Mononofu – I continue to be impressed with the strong character writing in this series. I already find both Shinobu and Yasukane to be very compelling characters whose stories I actively want to see more of, and whose efforts I genuinely want to see rewarded. Even Gakkyu Hotei took longer for me to make so emotionally invested in it’s success, and that speaks to much potential I think this series truly has.

3. Food Wars! – The tension is thick as Azami slowly but surely sets the stage for his shakeup of Totsuki. Erina’s inability to disobey her father and keep Hisako by her side is as chilling as it is heartbreaking, and the revelation that Senzaemon was the one who led Soma to Totsuki leaves a lot of speculation as to why and for what purpose.

4. My Hero Academia – The backstory of One For All and All for One was even more interesting and dynamic than I had expected, and I love how the series is playing with the concept that great forces of good and evil are born of one another, and the struggle between the two is a never-ending battle that is passed down throughout generations and can never truly be won. The comedy bits with Mineta were a lot of fun too.

Line(s) of the Week:

Mineta: “Yaoyorozu’s boob-orozus!! Ashido’s sexy silhouette!! Hagakure’s floating panties!! Uraraka’s positively ooh la la body, and Asui’s surprisingly decent boooo-”

My Hero Academia

Panel(s) of the Week:

Page(s) of the Week:

And that does it for this issue! Ideally I’ll get the issue #44 review out before the weekend is up, but considering the amount of work I have to do for school, work, and on other projects, I can’t promise anything definite. I will say that no matter what I’m determined to get reviews out for every issue remaining this year. Which might not be much good if I get them out too late…but I find it good to set a goal like that, and it should be manageable if I get my work schedule on track. Anyway, until next time, look forward to the upcoming One-Punch Man anime, get hyped for Platinum End, and remember never to waste money on live-action film adaptions of shonen manga series (oh dear that live-action Attack on Titan movie…), and I’ll see you again after the jump!