2016
04.26

Episode 5: The Shadow Ninja Clan – The Mystery of the Hokage!!

Kurei Mansion Arc

Chapters adapted:  Volume 2, Chapters 18 and 19

 

Welcome back to the fun, friends! Let’s continue on seeing how the adaption of Flame of Recca compares to the original!

After messing up a character’s introduction so badly he almost seems like a different person, episode 5 appears to get things back on track again. Once again this episode starts off rather promising.

We start in school where Recca’s teacher is off on maternity leave, leaving him with a substitute teacher, Mr. Tatesako, who is a ninja freak just like Recca. They bond pretty quickly until Recca casually mentions the Hokage Clan. This is enough for Mr. Tatesako to think something is special about Recca so he invites him over for some research on this secret ninja clan.

The only difference with the original version is how Recca is shown in different subjects how much he cares about them. It’s a short little scene that was endearing and really made it show how much of an impact Mr. Tatesako’s arrival really meant for him. But the anime trims this stuff anyway, so it was expected to be cut at this point.

This is the lightest in tone the anime has been so far, and it really shows. But the manga was a bit more comical about the situation, showing more of Recca’s aforementioned school habits before introducing us to Mr. Tatesako proper and Recca did not bring up the Hokage clan at all. Still, compared to all the deviations the anime has made so far, the fact that this episode is so close to the original so far both in story and tone is a very promising sign even if it isn’t quite up to the level it should be.

It is also nice to see bright colors for the first time in a long time. Other than the scene in the amusement park in the last episode, it has been rare seeing any in the anime.

Both versions also feature a short news segment on a man named Mori Koran, a big time Chairman of a large company who donates to charity and all sorts of noble causes. He’s a bit odd looking, but there’s definitely more to him than meets the eye.

But next we have the first real divergence from the manga: Domon and Fuko tag along with Recca and Yanagi to see their teacher at his place. Now, there really isn’t any reason for them to come along: they don’t really care about ninja stuff and usually prefer to leave Recca and Yanagi alone, but at this point following the manga is as rare as Anime Recca winning a fight without a fluke so a slight deviation like this is digestible.

Compared to turning Mikagami into a psychopathic serial murderer, any changes here are a really a drop in the bucket.

At least, for now.

They reach Mr. Tatesako’s residence to what might be the single most pointless change in the adaption so far. In the anime, Mr. Tatesako is well off and lives at a large shrine with tons of ninja paraphernalia at his fingertips. He lives in this large place alone with his wife. How he can afford this as a substitute teacher isn’t ever explained. In the manga, he is poor since he is only a substitute teacher and hoping his research on the Hokage Clan will finally pay off so his wife and he can finally live a little better off.

Tatesako's place in the Manga

Tatesako's place in the Anime

This change might not make any sense now, but the second half of the episode will make it all clear as to why they changed this seemingly innocuous detail.

Recca pairs off with Mr. Tatesako as they go off to discuss the Hokage Clan and Yanagi takes off with his wife (yep, he’s married!) to get some food for the group. In the manga they go eventually go grocery shopping; in the anime they stick around in the kitchen the whole time. The weather begins to go south outside in both versions.

Mr. Tatesako explains the history of the Hokage Clan, a group that created madogu as mystical artifacts that could give them powers and abilities. This made them a highly feared clan among all the others. It turns out Kagehoshi’s shadow abilities come from a madogu, and both Mikagami’s Ensui and Fuko’s Fujin are madogu as well. All these elements are tied together, though it is not clear yet how.

The Hokage Clan were even flame masters, something Recca almost assuredly is becoming. Whoever this group was, they were certainly something else. But what does all this have to do with Recca?

They go on speculating as to what all this means when the power goes out.

Now, I’m at a loss as to describe what happens next. The same basic event happens in both the manga and anime, but the execution is so wildly different that I will have to describe them separately in full. This means I will first describe what happens in the manga version followed by the anime when I reach the end.

Keep in mind, the end result is the same for both and several things happen in both, but they are otherwise entirely different encounters. The staff of the anime must have figured Anzai couldn’t write a good fight scene.

Anyway, here it goes.

 

Manga

The power goes out and two strangers show up outside their apartment. Their target is Mr. Tatesako for the obvious reason that he has the only known scroll of the madogu. The younger of the pair even has one of the madogu listed on the scroll earlier.

The kid enters the apartment, uninvited, saying he’s here to kidnap Mr. Tatesako, and Recca scolds him for playing “games” and messing around with strangers. The boy sucker punches Recca with his weapon and sends him across the room. Mr. Tatesako identifies the weapon as the Kogon Anki, one of the madogu on the scroll, which he just used to sneak attack Recca.

Recca jumps out to hit him back, but finds himself paralyzed and unable to move. It turns out the kid’s partner, Mokuren, used aconite to paralyze Recca so he wouldn’t fight back. He is apparently a master of plants. The pair takes the also paralyzed Mr. Tatesako and leaves the apartment as Recca is frozen helplessly. The two successfully completed their mission to retrieve the only one who knows about madogu without anybody getting hurt.

But then the unexpected happens.

Outside, Mrs. Tatesako and Yanagi return from the store horrified at the sight of the kidnapping. Before the kid can stop Mokuren, he leaps into action, plant limbs and roots sprouting from his body and stabs Mrs. Tatesako quite gruesomely. It’s quite the unexpected moment and happened too fast for anyone there to react. Yanagi screams at the sight which leads Recca to burst through the poison and crash through the upper floor window down to the street.

He sucker punches (well, kicks) Mokuren square in the head, landing a critical hit, but before he can capitalize the kid hits him on the back of the head, knocking him square out. Turns out Recca cut himself with a knife to break out of the trance and the boy marvels at his tenacity. Recca is nothing if not tenacious.

They notice that Yanagi matches a description of some rumors of a healer girl, so they take her with Mr. Tatesako as Recca is left unconscious in the rain. This Kurei freak has not only captured his target, but the bonus of Yanagi as well! Recca might be out of his depth here in the middle of events he just doesn’t understand.

His last words are to mutter hopelessly for his princess as he fades away.

And that is the end of volume 2.

 

Anime

While the manga’s versions of the events are more dramatic and unexpected, the anime takes a bit more of a confrontational and obvious route. The reason the staff changed the setting from a small apartment into a shrine was to get a small fight scene to happen.

And what a clunker of a fight scene it is.

The kid introduces himself as Kaoru Koganei and proceeds to dominate Recca in a fight. It isn’t even close. Recca is clearly outmatched on every level as the anime has to show us on a constant basis. After getting bounced around like a moron, he is paralyzed just as he is in the manga.

The only difference is that Mokuren wanders away when he hears a woman’s voice and stabs Mrs. Tatesako through the sliding door out of the room. Outside the room, Yanagi screams while Recca still remains frozen in place. Koganei does nothing at all but watch as this farce plays out despite clearly not approving. But he’snot done yet! This is the reason why Fuko and Domon were put into this episode where they shouldn’t have been—it was in order for them to get beat up.

Mokuren proceeds to take both Domon and Fuko out in one hit and readies to butcher Fuko when Koganei cuts him with Kogon Anki and forces him to stop. Why he waited so long to act is a question that no one will answer. Mokuren finally complies and they take Yanagi, their actual target, and Mr. Tatesako out with them. Boy, what a lucky coincidence he was there with them, huh? Not like he would have been far easier to track down than a random schoolgirl who might have a power that might not even exist or anything.

Everyone was beaten in one hit. Are you kidding me.

After far too long a pause, Recca finally breaks free of being paralyzed and chases after them. He sucker punches Mokuren (actually gives him a Hurricanrana after tripping him . . . I don’t know why he does this either) and takes him out in one hit while he goes straight to Yanagi and not like, you know, capitalizing on the surprise attack or anything. Koganei once again simply watches it happen.

When I said the earlier fight was a clunker, this part is just nonsensical. They both saw him coming yet neither could stop him despite easily being able to stop him seconds earlier. And if Recca could do this earlier, uh, why didn’t he? And didn’t Fuko almost kill him a few episodes ago? How is she beaten so easily? Why doesn’t she even use Fujin? If Mokuren is so easily beatable then why was he able to beat Fuko and Domon within a second? It doesn’t compute.

That’s right, this guy took out both Domon and Fuko in one hit, both of whom Recca has trouble beating, and then Recca beats Mokuren in a single hit. There is no consistency here at all.

Stupidly taking his eyes off both Mokuren and Koganei, he runs to Yanagi to make a dramatic speech for some reason instead of  calling the police or helping her. He watches Koganei sprint up to him from about twenty feet away and stands unmoving as he flips over Recca and hits him in the back of the head to knock him out in a single hit. Even with plenty of time to spare, he still manages to embarrass himself. Anime Recca never fails to disappoint!

So, really, this episode is so eager to get to the shonen battling that it crammed it into this episode where it had no place. What was originally a pair of fun chapters capped off by a shocking and dramatic ending was turned into a long battle scene that lasted much too long and made every single character except Koganei look like a chump. Of course this is actually inaccurate to the source material as Koganei is not a powerhouse character but one known for strategy, speed, and quick reflexes, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that the mystique of the situation is entirely lost here to be replaced with pointless fight scenes.

But that is where this episode ends. After all that mess, the end of the episode is much the same as the manga with Recca slipping into slumber.

In the original version, the tenseness came from the unknown. Even after Mokuren and Koganei’s entrance, we are still not sure how strong or weak they are or what they can fully do and yet they managed to best our hero. But the anime makes it blatant how strong they are off the bat (while giving Mokuren a total glass jaw in the process, which is inaccurate to the character, in a sense) and sucking the drama out of the situation. Throwing in Fuko and Domon to make the enemies look stronger and to give the pair shallow motivation for the next episode, was totally unneeded and only manages to make them look as incompetent as Anime Recca does.

This episode was not a disaster on the scale of what was done to Mikagami in the last two episodes, or the sucking out of the humor of the other episodes, but the inability for the staff to let a dramatic encounter stick without turning it into a typical shonen battle scene sucked a lot of what made these chapters so good in the manga right out.

See, Flame of Recca, despite what the anime wants to tell you, was actually a lot of fun as an action adventure story. The cast dynamic, the humor, the drama and suspense, the adventure and lore, and, yes, the battles and fights, are all what make it such a fun series as a whole. It’s every piece that makes it work. The Flame of Recca anime is dead set on removing everything but the fighting and are turning the series into a one note story in the process.

While the plot’s events are more or less the same, the execution is undeniably weaker than the manga. The fact of the matter is that not a single change from Nobuyuki Anzai’s original story to this anime has been for the better yet making me wonder what exactly the staff was thinking of here. It’s starting to become obvious why this anime didn’t last.

We are at the beginning of the first arc in the series, and it is already starting off on a bad foot. This does not bode well for the rest of it.

2016
04.22

Guten tag, my working-class brethren. May you insist on taking a bite of our Eastern Animation First Impressions, yes?

Ace Attorney (Turnabout Courtroom)

Turnabout Laziness

AUTHOR‘S NOTE: The Phoenix Wright franchise is notorious for its rather overzealous NA localization which transplanted the series from a Near Future Tokyo to a magical fantasy land version of Los Angeles where World War II never occurred. Although Crunchyroll does provide subs with the US names spliced in, I watched it with the original Japanese names and as such I will be using those to avoid confusion. 

Whelp, it only took 15 years but Turnabout Courtroom has finally hit the tubes. You’d think it would have gone quicker as this is a pretty beloved franchise in Japan (and a completely inexplicable one in North America), but nevertheless…

Well anyway, if you’ve played the opening case of the original Phoenix Wright, then you already know the basics. Rookie lawyer Ryuichi Naruhodo, recently hired by the Ayasato Law Agency, takes on as his first case the defense of his perennially unlucky friend Masashi Yahari. Unlike the game however, we already know who the killer is, its the sleazy newspaper dealer that Auchi, the prosecuting lawyer, has brought in as his star witness. So what becomes a whodunnit turns into a Columbo-esque how catch em.

The problem with Ace Attorney is the same problem Danganronpa had, it’s slavish adherence to the source material makes it feel less like of a show and more as someone’s lets  play of the game. There’s nothing in this that stretches beyond what you would do in the course of playing Chapter 1 of the game, and that really means we don’t get any development for the characters beyond what we’ve already known. The best video game to anime adaptations at least TRY to do something with the source material but not Ace Attorney. If Naruhodo started the series as kinda dumb and idealistic there’s nothing here to suggest why he’s that dumb and idealistic (and probably won’t be until we start adapting the third game). This laziness also translates to the look of the show with bargain bin CGI and overall flat static animation. After the high quality of Erased last season, its really disappointing to see A-1 revert to being their usual lazy selves.

You really are just better off playing the video games. At least there’s some fun to be had. — Lord Dalek

Second Trial

Wonder what those drawings are...?

Based on a series of popular video games, Ace Attorney should have been the surprise hit of the season, but right now it’s looking at being the most disappointing. The CG and animation is low rent and much of the direction is taken directly from the games. The music doesn’t touch the soundtrack from the games either. On the other hand as a fan of the games I do enjoy the added bits of life between the courtroom scenes and additional character quirks added. But it’s really not enough to make up for how little care is put into the total package.

The first episode is based on the first case of the first game. It’s a tutorial case and quite the easy one, and it shows here. It’s not one that really shows off what makes the series so popular, and it was probably not the best starter case for the series here. That said, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than fans of the games enjoying this, which is a shame. This should have been the thing to bring the series to a wider audience and, if this episode is any indication, that’s probably not going to happen.

If you’re a fan of the games, watch it for novelty’s sake. If not, just go play the games instead. There isn’t much reason to tune in otherwise. — Spark of Spirit

Verdict Un-Reached

So as someone who has never played any of the games (not yet, anyway) I guess you could say I came in with a clean slate for judging (heh) this anime. And…yeah. It wasn’t to great. Putting aside the subpar animation, the whole episode feels padded, and while I can see why they’d want to stay true to the games, they could at least make the effort to expand upon the setting. Maybe show more of the courtroom, or some of the other aspects of the system. Stuff you normally wouldn’t see in the game. Maybe it’s just this episode, but this just seems like a very dry adaption done without much love.
I still want to play the games, though

dramatic pointing finger/10 — Shadow Gentleman

Bakuon!!

Some say that her pantsu was laced by NASA, and to pull it off would be like destroying the Eighth wonder of the world. All we know is she's called The Stig!

“Tonight on the Clusterfuck. A little girl drinks coffee! Another little girl makes motorcycle noises! And oh damn, just look at that other girl’s eyebrows!

“Welcome to the Clusterfuck, where we’re going to talk about a lovely little Japanimation show by the name of Bakuon!! So loud that they need two exclamation points just so those Japanese can lift up their heads for once and see what the fuss is about.”

“Yes, up until now, the biking genre in anime was occupied by boys’ fare such as Yowamushi Pedal. But this time, we’re proving these teeny tiny bicycles aren’t just for brats in spats.”

“Brats in spats, Hammond?”

“Yes, brats in spats. What do you think I mean, Jeremy?”

“You know everybody in bloody Scotland Yard’s been probing the BBC for boy-buggering, so I’ve been thinking—“

“Is this really where you want to go?”

“Well, of course not. Not in front of Chief Kiddy-Diddler James May here.”

“Oh, fuck off!”

“I don’t know. I’ve heard of your recent visits to the Elm Guest House, and I can’t help but wonder. So to make my point brief, have you?”

“…I’m not going to fucking answer that.”

[Jeremy gyrates his crotch as if he were plowing someone from behind, while Richard just looks away from the camera and wonders when death will come]

“I hate you.”

“I know! At least you don’t have to be the bike in this schoolgirl show and yap on about men’s crotches on your face. I think the sheer girth would crush little Hammond here.”

“Come on! My face can handle more than—um.”

“All in front of the camera, Hammond! What’s been said can’t be unsaid!”

[Close up on Richard’s embarrassed face]

“Poor Hammond, blushing like one of the schoolgirls on this little program! Maybe soon, you can graduate to a big boy bike if you quit acting so mopey!”

“It’s shit like this that got you fired, Jeremy.”

“Ooh! It’s Captain Slow on the beat!”

“Just focus on the damn show, Jeremy!”

“What’s there to talk about? Little girls on big bikes, and I’m pretty sure one of them was Chinese, but that opens up yet another disastrous kettle waiting to scald.”

“Well I liked it!”

“You like land rovers, Hammond. Who cares what you like?”

[James May stares at audience and drools, knowing that peace from this madness is a sham. Craving death, but unable to die, James May eventually stopped thinking]

— Michael Gambon

Vroom, vroom, lap two

...Where is your face, exactly?

You know, I read the manga for Bakuon!! a couple years ago and kinda enjoyed it at the start. After about ten chapters though, I remember it devolving into painfully boring SOL shenanigans, dropped it, and haven’t looked back since. So I went into this episode thinking I’d come out writing a scathingly negative review, because by all appearances Bakuon!! is yet another variant on the “cute girls doing cute things” genre of moe, except it’s using motorcycles as it’s gimmick instead of music like K-On! And you can definitely make the comparisons; 4 girls in a fledging club, one of which is a genki girl who’s super enthusiastic about her hobby, another a rich girl with poor taste, the obligatory mature one, and of course, the naïve noob who’s just getting into it. In fact, Hane is virtually the same character as K-On!’s Yui in personality (bland, dumb, boob obsession), background (no parents and a more mature and responsible younger sister), and even her character design is a total rip-off! So you should totally write this series off as another boring otaku-pandering moeshit show right?

…Probably. But to it’s credit, at least this show actually tries to make jokes.

I went into this show expecting to hate it beginning to end. Even though I remembered liking the manga at the first, it’s been so long since I dropped it that I couldn’t recall why I even bothered reading it. But this episode made me remember. This series actually does stuff with it’s concept. This first episode is fast-paced, introducing all the main characters and giving them entertaining characterization in an effective and efficient manner. The plot might not be particularly interesting, but at least there is one, and we see the main character improving as a cyclist in a believable way. While the characters might be moe archetypes, they are probably the most tolerable you can make them, and their quirks help give them a little more personality than your typical cookie-cutter cut-out.

But above all else, what makes this show more fun to watch than other moe shows is that it actually has a personality. This show has weird idiosyncrasies, be it characters quoting John F. Kennedy to make a speech about why all bikers have equal rights, to a sentient telepathic training motorbike who equates her job to that of a strippers and gives the main character riding advice by equating riding a bike to fucking a guy. These moments are so bizarre and out-of-left field that I can’t help but enjoy their absurdity, and the way the show uses its random and raunchy humor to punch up it’s story makes for a consistently engaging experience. There was no point in which I was bored or cringing at the episode, which might be damming with faint praise, but is still more than I can say for K-On! and it’s ilk.

The show’s production values are average, but effective. While perhaps not as polished looking as a KyoAni show, TMS still does some great and expressive character animation here, and there some particularly smart shots and transitions that I really appreciated. The eclectic OST is also a major plus, combining wonder-inspiring orchestral music with hard-rock and sweet jazz. In particular, the show’s knack for using its music for comedic effect really helps embellish the quality of it’s gags. While not an outstanding production, it’s clear the people working on this show are trying to make it as entertaining as possible for a broader audience than just otaku.

I do still have my reservations about the show devolving into another K-On! clone based on what I read of the manga, so I can’t really recommend it per se. But at the same time, I can’t in good conscience say I didn’t enjoy watching this episode either. If you don’t like these kind of “cute girls doing cute things” moe shows, then this is an easy skip. But if you had to watch one, there are far worse you could try. Hop on and take it for a ride. — LumRanmaYasha

Wrong way, lap three!

Footage of the Stig's Japanese cousin in their daily life

As long as I can remember, I’ve had an appreciation of motorcycles. Everything about this vehicle just screams “cool” in a way that most others fail to do. From its simple yet evocative design, to the personalized aspect and dangerous allure, the motorcycle has become a symbol to tough guys/gals, loners, drifters, edgelords, delinquents, and insect themed masked wearing guys in spandex everywhere, and watching a show like Bakuon makes me want to go out and ride a motorbike myself. Unfortunately since me riding a motorbike would be a horrible idea for a number of reasons, I’ll do the 7th best thing and write about Bakuon!! instead.

Bakuon (with two exclamation points) is the latest adaptation of a cute girls slice-of-life manga with a gimmick, with said gimmick being very obvious if you read the above paragraph, animated by TMS (who are no strangers to awesome motorcycles themselves).

Bakuon follows Hane, a bicycle riding newbie to motorcycles, and Onsa, a bed-headed motorcycle nerd, as they join a motorcycle club whose only member is Top Gear’s The Stig. In her introduction to the world of bikers, Hane meets more peculiar characters such as a Suzuki brand fangirl Rin, and a talking motorcycle at the driving school that complains about men (don’t ask). The first episode starts off pretty chill at first, with a lot of educational information about motorcycles sprinkled in, but soon takes a turn for the weird with talking motorcycles, death threats over motorcycle brand preferences, and paraphrasing quotes from dead presidents. It’s actually these elements, combined with the creators passion for motorcycles, that makes Bakuon such a fun watch, the motorcycles aren’t just used as a backdrop, but are the main driving force (no pun intended) of the show, which makes it quite enjoyable for motorcycle enthusiasts and newbies alike, and fans of SoL in general will also find plenty to like here with a quirky cast that plays off each other well. The OST was also a pleasant surprise, being filled with Joe Satriani-style guitar tracks that fit the shows them rather well. With its snappy humour and broad appeal, Bakuon is one of the best shows to come out this season, so check it out, especially if you like motorcycles. — CrimsonRynnec

Bungo Stray Dogs

Bunghole Stray Dogs

There are some anime directors whose style is so distinct that one can’t help but notice it. Takuya Igarashi is one such individual. Above everything else, Bungo Stray Dogs is characterized by the quirks frequently utilized in his previous works like Soul Eater and Ouran High School Host Club, especially in regard to his comedic tropes. Text boxes expressing a character’s inner thoughts? Check. Action balloons that provide a close up on a character’s super-deformed face? Check. Simplified character expressions where eyes and mouths become circular or angular, exaggerated, and often jut out of their face? Check. Musical cues like “ding” or “pop” to punctuate a comedic beat? Check. Visual gags like arrows to point out the location of characters or objects? Check. Hell, the scene where the characters are fixating on a wooden beam in a restaurant and the way an arrow keeps pointing it out in every shot is blatantly reminiscent of the vase scene from the first episode of Ouran!

This show is Igarashi to it’s core, to the point scenes like that feel like they’re just ripping off his previous work. While not inherently bad, the problem is that the show’s content doesn’t quite lend itself to his obtuse and visual gag-heavy style of humor, and so it often falls flat. This is especially true of the beginning of the episode, where the main character’s serious monologue of self-loathing jarringly shifts to melodramatic comedy about him being unwilling to steal from increasingly absurd groups of people. The two scenes don’t blend together, instead creating a tonal confusion that remains for the rest of the episode. While everyone’s sense of humor is different, I found most of the humor in BSD either too subdued or inappropriately timed to laugh at. Igarashi’s style of humor distracts from the show’s content rather than embellishing it like it ideally would, and I have to imagine the series would be better off if it downplayed the humor in future episodes.

The show is similar to previous Bones shows outside of just the humor. While not sharing the same character designers, the show’s designs look like a cross between Blood Blockade Battlefront and Soul Eater. The environments are brilliantly colored in monochrome hues, be it the reddish-orange sunset of the beginning scene at the bridge, or the blue-ish purple color of the nighttime scene, making it perhaps the most visually gorgeous show to come out of the season. The show borrows aesthetic sensibilities from Blood Blockade Battlefront in how it introduces the characters, arranges shots, and the visual quirk of a text-card to announce a character’s attack. Overall, its a incredibly well-made production, and while it lacks the spectacle that makes Blood Blockade Battlefront’s premiere so impressive, it’s character animation, color sensibilities, and environments are still technically impressive.

You’ve probably noticed I’ve spent a lot of time discussing the director’s style and the show’s production qualities, but not much about the show’s story or content. Honestly, the plot is probably the weakest and least interesting aspect about this show. Sure, the show’s gimmick of naming it’s characters after modernist Japanese literary figures and their abilities after one of their seminal works is novel (pun intended). But since I’m an uncultured American who has never heard of or read these authors, the relevance, if there is any, is lost on me. The gimmick feels about as important to the show as Nobunagun’s appropriation of world-famous historical figures: a means to give the characters a unifying motif and theme to their names and abilities, but nothing critically significant. The show could use concepts and make allusions to the works of the writers the characters are based on for thematic purposes. Though, considering how tailored to current mainstream tastes it is, I’m not holding my breath on the show being that ambitious.

Outside of the show’s gimmick, there isn’t anything else particularly unique about it. This first episode is basically the pilot of Blood Blockade Battlefront without the interesting world, characterization, and madcap insanity that made that series so unique. The characters aren’t bad in of themselves, but they’re also pretty archetypal, and the show’s inability to make them funny hurts their likability. I don’t have any complaints about the story, necessarily, other than the show really hammers in how Atshushi was kicked out of his orphanage and is alone and constantly penniless, repeating the same flashback scene no less than five times in the whole episode. After a certain point, it’s easy to stop sympathizing with Atshushi and become frustrated that he doesn’t just grow a pair and stop whining about how miserable he is. And while BBB’s Leo wasn’t the most interesting character out of the gate, he still was a proactive character in the series’ pilot, whereas Atshushi does little more than be the confused everyman initiated into a group of freaks, seemingly out of pity rather than by any merit of his own. There’s not a whole lot here to really get us invested or interested in these characters, despite the series’ attempts to make us find them charming or sympathetic.

This was one of the most anticipated shows of the season, and not simply because of word of mouth within the western anime community. There was a lot of press and merchandizing promoting the series almost every week up to this premiere. It was because of all this attention and Bones’ pedigree that I decided to watch it, to see what about it warranted such marketing buzz. After watching it, I can see why. This show is clearly expected to be a hit, particularly with the fujoshi audience, and has been tailored towards mainstream tastes in every facet of it’s production. Otaku will appreciate the show’s fluid animation and pronounced visual style, while fujoshi will eat up the cute boys and their “touching” relationships and the “cute” humor. What results is a very well-made show that has all the makings of a commercial success, but bears so much similarities with previous shows made by Bones and its director that it doesn’t quite have a personality of it’s own beyond it’s superficial gimmick. The show has promise, and could definitely find it’s footing and individuality as it continues, but right now it feels a little too rote and familiar to leave a memorable impression. — LumRanmaYasha

Big Order

It's better than bad. It's good.

Okay, let’s get the easy joke out of the way first. I was expecting an anime about a guy who bought an inordinate amount of burgers at his local WacDonalds. And whenever he finished his demand, the cashier would reply with, “Damn, girlfriend. That is one… Big Order” before crashing into the credits. I would’ve been happy with that. Hell, I would’ve preferred that. But here’s what sucks about anime. When anime stops giving a shit, it doesn’t go that route and do fucking whatever. An anime that has reached the point where it cannot give a shit will instead steal from other anime and pretend it’s working hard to unfold a master story. And I hate that. If you don’t give a shit anymore, why put up the façade that you do care about your work? Sometimes, an accountant who just steals from his fellow workers won’t be as good or nearly as helpful as the accountant who brings a used coloring book and files tax exemptions for your phantom third limb. At least with that fucker, you can potentially have a good time even while knowing it’ll all go to shit in the end. But in Big Order, you can’t have that guy. You’re stuck with the guy who has no imagination in his chaos, instead slapping two animes together without figuring why those anime worked and saying, “Ta-da! I have made a new anime! You may bow.” And I don’t give a fuck that Big Order was a manga first, because anime can fix that shit. A director could’ve read the volumes and went, “Oh, this sounds rather rubbish to me. Time to do some rewriting.”

But that didn’t happen. None of that happened. As an alternative, the creator and studio that gave us Mirai Nikki is giving us… more Mirai Nikki. It’s not even just inspired by or based on its predecessor. Characters are just retraced and given different color clothes, then thrown back into their old roles like nothing happened. Want more Yuno? You got more Yuno! Want more Yuki? You gots a lot more Yuki! Missed Murmur? Here’s your Murmur! Think the whole cellphone thing was dumb after a few episodes? Well, we replaced them with some motherfucking Vento Aureo Stands that put their users into godmode! Before you tell me I’m getting too mad over this, skim through the manga chapters and see those Vento Aureo Stands. Literally just ripped right from Part 5 like Bruno Buccellati is some public domain character any fucker can use to their heart’s content. Try and tell me I’m wrong, guys. Try and fucking tell me that I’m fucking wrong.

And it doesn’t end there at all. See, this motherfucker named Eiji, when he was a kid, he wished for world domination just because he got too hooked into his fucking Toei superhero show. But some goddamn fairy took him seriously and was like “Poof! Here you go!” Suddenly, entire world goes to hell, almost all adults are dead, everyone’s sad, everyone’s scheming, bleh. Eiji also gets a sick little sister too, because he wished for that too. For ten years, Eiji just walks around wondering all the shit, acting exactly like fucking Yuki because the Mirai Nikki guy forgot he wasn’t writing Mirai Nikki, before deciding “Fuck it, I’ll conquer the entire world with my Stand!” while this other girl with a Stand tries to kill him, fails, then gets ambiguously raped. That’s the entire episode there. Have fun. I’m done.

Fuck, I could use a big order of burgers right now. — Bloody Marquis

Crane Game Girls

Basically the jist of my review if you're too lazy to read it

Many questions ran through my mind during the five minutes I spent watching this. Do they really need anime to promote skill cranes now? Do skill cranes still exist? Do people still go to arcades? Why is this show’s mascot as gorilla? Will otaku really watch anything with idols in it? Is there a point in actually critiquing this show?

Well, I know the answer to that last one, and surprise surprise, it’s an emphatic no. This is a poorly-animated five-minute commercial for skill cranes, nothing more and nothing less. The most interesting thing about it is that it’s Japanese broadcast is paired with a 16-minute live-action segment featuring the show’s seiyuus playing arcade games. Why Crunchyroll decided to stream the animated segment of what’s basically an infomercial is anyone’s guess, but your time would easily be better spent actually playing a skill crane than watching this. — LumRanmaYasha

Endride

Wikihow: How to accept your death

Ever watch a movie just because it had a decent looking poster? And then immediately regretted it within the first few minutes because you realized it had boring, badly acted characters, a cliche-ridden plot, and didn’t even have the decency to be so bad it’s good? And on top of that, everyone in the theater was really loud and annoying and gave it high ratings after only one scene? That’s Endride for you.

Popcorn on the theater floor/10 — Shadow Gentleman

Flying Witch

The Wrath of Daikon.

Flying Witch is a show with two problems. The first is the most pressing, it has literally nothing for me to make sport of with some snarky joke laden review. For once I am literally at a loss as to what to write about here. The show is just that average and harmless. The other problem is it has the rather unfortunate problem of raising comparisons with that OTHER anime about rural witches coming to town. You know the one, that movie the Princess Mononoke guy made. Well in its quest to not be anything like Kiki’s Delivery Service but not doing anything of note otherwise, I’m left with another bland forgettable JC Staff show with rampant cgi cars and not much else. But I guess that’s what you get when your most pressing plot point involves whether or not the main character can pull some sort of scary raddish monster out of the ground. Now what the fuck was that? — Lord Dalek

My Thumbs Hurt, But Here’s an Opinion

My face while watching this show.

To call Flying Witch “slow-paced” would be an understatement. It is most certainly a “healing”/iyashikei show, and is about as low-key and lackadaisical as those tend to be. It’s less concerned by getting you to one location to another or making you laugh than immersing you into it’s world and the experience. No better example of this can I think of then the opening minute and a half, which is spent simply showing the main character get off her train and board a bus. This sequence doesn’t tell us anything about the character or story, but rather sets the pace and tone of the show, building atmosphere.

In many respects, the attention paid to establishing the environments, mood, and humanistic character interactions feels very Miyazaki-esque, particularly when the supernatural elements kick in and the show starts creating more of a sense of wonder. In fact, the show feels sort of like a more mature, but less enthusiastic version of Kiki’s Delivery Service, with a little bit of the down to earth and wonder-eyed charm of Yotsuba&! thrown in, especially when concerning the little girl Chinatsu’s naïve and childish thoughts and reactions. The character interactions are very subdued and about as natural-sounding as anime can possibly get, and the character animation is subtle but expressive. The grounded atmosphere actually allows for some successful humor based in the show’s more incongruous and odder elements like the mandrake sequence that closes the episode, through it’s never laugh-out loud funny. But again, that’s not what is the show is trying to do, so the humor more accentuates the slice-of-life experience than ever really becoming a focal point.

As a “healing” anime, Flying Witch wants to immerse you in it’s world by presenting one close to our own but with some supernatural eccentricities. It’s not trying to be anything more than “pleasant,” and it’s successful in that respect. While not a show that will make you excited to watch it every week, it has enough charm to warrant watching if you’re in the mood for light-hearted and atmospheric entertainment. — LumRanmaYasha

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto

This literally brings new meaning to "on the seat of your pants".

The first shot of this show is literally a 90 second sequence of three delinquents passing a volleyball around and complaining about a certain classmate until the fat one manages to miss the next spike and they all moan about how useless they are. It is framed entirely in a static long distance shot with the three participants not directly facing us and off in the bottom right corner. It is easily the best pre-opening title teaser I have seen all season. So who are these three undistinguished gentlemen complaining about? Why its Sakamoto! The uber debonaire transfer student who makes the girls swoon and the guys… uh…. swoon….yeah.  In case you haven’t guessed this a boy’s love josei show. Its also based off a 4-koma, so instead of a full plot, we have a series of vignettes. In the first, those three nogoodnicks attempt to turn Sakamoto into a pervert and end up getting the tables turned on them through a blazing fire and interpretive dance. In the second, another classmate, this one a former fashion model, attempts to destroy Sakamoto only to get stripped to his undies in a bizarre incident involving a yellowjacket. In each installment, Sakamoto only ends looking even more faaaaaaaaaaaaabulous and our “villains” only want to ride his sausage train even more.

Now boys love shows are not my cup of tea by any stretch but HYH?IS wins the day in the end because its pretty damn funny. Between all the one-upmanship and Sakamoto’s rediculous good looks and absurd special techniques, the jokes rarely if ever falter. In fact, they get funnier and funnier as they go along. Furthermore I just can’t help but dig the obvious influence JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has had on this series. What with all the posing, on screen text, and yare yare’s, you’d think this is actually Part IX in disguise. Yes JoJo has been incredibly influential on various manga and anime but I don’t think its been this blatant (outside of maybe No Game No Life from a few years ago) as it is here.

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto isn’t the kind of show you watch looking for something with emotional heft. It is about as lightweight as they come, and that’s perfectly fine. After dreck like HUNDRED and Kabaneri, we all need a debonair super absurd high schooler in our lives don’t we? Of course we do. — Lord Dalek

Evangelist Opinion

Sakamoto is so lovely, he can prevent a Birdemic sequel from happening.

Have you heard of my African-American Compadre Sakamoto? He is a very clever man, complete with a myriad of skills and virtues meant to incapacitate even the most loathsome of Neanderthals. Some may take a glance upon his show’s description and find it boring. “A perfect protagonist? Pshaw. I’ve seen enough Medaka Box and Mahouka to see how that can be foiled.” Well you sir must drench your head in the sweat of cows in heat, for you are a fool. A fool, I say! All your credentials be shamed and torn off your vest for that grievance! Those protagonists are bores because they are men, while Sakamoto is a God. Can a man swordfight with a bee? Can a mortal perform a dance-off with a fire? And win? In Sakamoto’s realm, perfection is not a sin but an aspiration. To be graced by his presence means being blessed by a million Dalai Lamas. Do not fear his tasks! Do not fear his powers! For while Sakamoto is above this world, he contains more modesty than your septuagenarian nun. A mere everyman could entertain for a few minutes, but a Sakamoto can rouse millions for an eternity!

Also, he’s like Mary Poppins. And Mary Poppins is cool. So therefore, Sakamoto is cool.
— Bloody Marquis

Catholic Opinion

Looks like Josuke wasn't the only illegitimate member of the Joestar family

HYH?IS sounds like a one-joke premise that would get really old really fast on paper, but as always, execution is everything. This series isn’t kidding around when it boasts every move Sakamoto makes is “cool, cooler, coolest.” Sakamoto is indeed one cool customer, unfazed by any situation and with a solution for everything. He shows no concern for what others think of him, or grudges for anything they try to do with him, and ultimately everyone who tries to bully him ends up with a big man crush for the guy. While his insanely perfect and collected personality runs into borderline gary-stu territory, he’s so darn charismatic and creative in how he deals with every problem that comes his way that you can’t help but love him. Like the characters in the show, you watch in awe and wonder trying to guess what Sakamoto is thinking and what he will do. The show hooks you in by making the viewer an active participant, intently trying to figure out his enigmatic personality. In doing so, the show repeatedly surprises you when Sakamoto responds in more over the top and clever ways to increasingly ridiculous circumstances, making for a consistently engaging and surprisingly hilarious romp.

While Sakamoto is an effective character, in the wrong hands the gags might still miss the mark. Luckily, this show is helmed by veteran comedy director Shinji Takamatsu, who has previously worked on some of anime’s most beloved comedies, such as Gintama and School Rumble. In fact, you can see a lot of Gintama-influence in Sakamoto, from the way characters love to over-explain and over-react to everything that happens, think up elaborate and crazy plans, and technical details like how scenes are framed and staged. Perhaps the most blatant influence is the repeated use of a shot featuring looped animation of the three bullies playing volleyball seen throughout the episode, which functions identically to Gintama’s infamous Yorozuya house establishing shot where the main characters will have often have long, extended conversations set to a still image with no interruptions or cut-aways. You think this device would get old, but every time the series mixes it up just a little to make it endearingly hilarious, and Sakamoto’s version is no exception.

Sakamoto may not necessarily be a laugh-out loud comedy, but it’s nonetheless a creatively inspired and polished production that is as endearingly cool as it’s title character. While this premise might not last for a long-term or character-driven series, in the hands of a seasoned comedy director like Takamatsu I’m confident that the show will be a hoot from beginning to end. — LumRanmaYasha

Methodist Opinion

Until the sun dies.

What in the world was that? I just watched a bunch of dudes fall into bromance with the dude they were trying to embarrass. This same dude saves a bird in a thunderstorm by drifting through the skies Mary Poppin style and landing unharmed, no worse for wear. This is Sakamoto, and it’s quite the strange show.

It’s the type of humor that takes a normal situation, blows it up gradually to comedic levels and then lets the air out of it for the punchline. It doesn’t meander, but is rather sharp in what it sets out to do, even to the point of lingering on shots for comedic effect. This is not the type of comedy one sees come around every season.

In a world where comedies are either loud and obnoxious with lots of boobs, flesh, and lewd jokes, it is quite strange to see a show this relaxed and measured with its pacing with such a focus on character humor. It comes as no surprise Shinji Takamatsu (School Rumble, Gintama) is directing this considering his penchant for character based humor, though the first episode is not quite perfect. The characters have not formed yet, and most will probably detest or get jarred from its slower pace, not to mention that it has a very specific type of humor that will not appeal to everybody. As a first episode, however, it does tell you off the bat if this type of comedy is your bag or not.

Personally, this reviewer was pleasantly surprised. I haven’t enjoyed a pure comedy anime in a long while, never mind one with such odd character specific gags, and deliberate pacing. The soundtrack and voice-work are both exceptional, however, and might be worth sitting through if the comedy is not your thing. All in all, Sakamoto is a pleasant surprise. — Spark of Spirit

HUNDRED

Witty Caption.

If you’ve been following along with our clusterfucks, you are probably starting to notice that Japan is… completely out of ideas. For example, pretty much every season I have done one of these for has had a show with both battles and schools. Battles in schools, battles outside of schools, battles for schools, and schools for battles. All these came out of the mire that was the abominable Infinite Stratos, and all of them suck eggs. They’re also based off cheap and lazy light novel TP that sells for some reason so why stop something that’s a proven success in Akihabara? To that end I give you… HUNDRED!

Whelp what do we got here? Chicks with incredibly big boobs and tighter than skin tight spandex fight each other to the death because battle school anime. Check. Normal guy who looks like Kirito. Check. Silly character names that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Gundam show. Check (even has a Char!). Sinister dark past clearly lifted from Attack on Titan or that shitty God Eater show from last year. Check. Random cat girl maids. Check. Some goofy terminology for super combat ability (its the title). Check. Personal would be sex slave for main protagonist. Check. Screwdriver hair tsundere. Check. Getting challenged to a duel on your first day of school. Check. Accidental perverts. Check. Some imouto from that other imouto show (pick one). Check. That nagging feeling I’m watching a watered down version of Freezing. Check.

Clearly Hundred is not just a catchy title, its a reference to the sheer number of shows that have been chopped up to produce it not unlike cheap beef jerky. The only thing missing is the possibility that the white haired girltrapthing is a robot or that they’re all stuck in a video game or vampires. ALWAYS VAMPIRES. — Lord Dalek

Hundred and second opinion

It’s Infinite Stratos. — Bloody Marquis

JoJo 4 buttons and confused

ABAJ

I mean, I do not know why. You’ve lost your mind, or to see it. In 75 minutes, you feel good the program is (possessions, but speaking as you dare, but not all chapters to be called). You know, this is how the same attitude in the same time a man, which is not all bad in dogs and robots, and the two appear in the same seat and stop. However, for some reason, if you ignore treatment chemicals and decided to use it as a reason to prepare for it, I think.

The lack of personal interest forearc in the world is despite the sincerity of incentives of irregularities could have another case of diamond is not suitable. He is a bad dog, turtle release, but this show? He is almost better treatment and the tortoise? Animal bodies and clothes? How can nurture dolphins? L ‘last time you saw? If this is the first time in my jealousy. River Floods introduce JoJo, drowning, near which were placed in the madness. If your lungs honey compatible with a full English breakfast or something. You see, what the hell is that, in many cases, but it would be a laugh. Kars my first hands of the Nazis and their commander scissors. A line that can not be returned to the practice of ‘other circumstances. As long as you know that your life is truly God, and his love of young smiling faces have changed. If there is fat, but not seem to fall in children. He will continue to be. I promise. — The Fucking Strong

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable

No it makes you look like Doraemon.

When last we left those wacky Joestars: Jotaro Kujo used cheat codes to beat up DIO; Joseph came back from the dead because Weird Al Yankovic; DIO went from being undead to dead dead; Holly vanished from our story to go get a shitty haircut; and everybody immediately forgot about Pucci and lived happily ever after.

OR DO THEY?!?!

Because at last… Part IV Diamond is Not Crash/Unbreakable/Something Something Duwang I don’t know! The second longest (and Araki’s personal favorite) saga of everybody’s favorite descent into nonsensical insanity/Shokotan fever dream JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure . Crappy hair! Pink Floyd!! David Bowie!!! I caaaann’t waaaaaiiit!

THE PLOT: In what was then the near future year of 1999, now super famous marine biologist Jotaro is sent to Morioh Town, M Prefecture on a twofold mission. A: contact Grandpa’s recently discovered bastard son Josuke Higashikata about his cut of the family inheritance and B: investigate a mysterious figure who appears in several of Joseph’s spirit photographs. Instead he gets in fights about stupid haircuts, gets his latest awesome hat ruined, and has to partner up with Josuke to find a stand that crawls into various people’s noses!

Already Diamond is Unbreakable’s premiere is a better episode overall than Stardust Crusaders’ from two years ago. Its a lot more fast paced and a lot more entertaining with less info dumps and more punching. Visually the show seems to have gone even more stylized this year with Morioh Town constantly under a strange yellow sky and with colorful mostly western influenced architecture. For some reason, everyone’s favorite JoJo character, the shouty angry narrator guy, does not seem to have made the jump from Part 3 though, and I already miss him.

Unequivocally this will be the best show of the season. I see no reason to be under the impression that anything could top it. — Lord Dalek

Opinion of Two

Severed hands are a delicious part of a balanced and nutritious breakfast.

To think, once upon a time the only way for an English-reader to experience the fan-favorite Diamond is Unbreakable were second-hand translations made by two Chinese students for their English final, which they apparently and rightfully failed. Now what was once a rite of passage for JoJo’s fans has been rendered mute thanks to recent better quality translations, and of course, this brand spanking new anime adaption.

Part IV immediately distinguishes itself as a unique entry in the JoJo’s saga by giving us a glimpse of a normal morning in the homely late 90’s town of Morioh. And in JoJo’s fashion, apparent normalcy takes a sudden bizarre turn as it turns out someone is having their breakfast with a lady’s freshly severed hand for a side, before transitioning to the title in a horror movie-style homage. In contrast to the gothic horror drama of Part I, the high-stakes adventure of Part II, and the world-traveling gallivanting of Part III, Part IV is a slice-of-life murder mystery, and these first two minutes immediately inform viewers of this distinction. Alongside this into are several easter eggs and foreshadowing for later storylines and characters sprinkled throughout the episode, and David Pro’s love for this property once again shines through in their ability to use these to enhance the production and entertain both casual and hardcore fans alike.

Part IV is more laid back than it’s predecessors, and the relatively low-key nature of the premiere reflects this. Not to say there isn’t a whole lot of punching going on: the fight between Jotaro and Josuke satisfies that kick aplenty. But the goal of the premiere isn’t to rush to the meatier parts of the story, but properly establish the characters and setting and distinguish them from what has come before. While Josuke borrows some characteristics from his predecessors, such as Johnathan’s politeness, Joseph’s punk heart of gold, and Jotaro’s knack for punching things good, his introduction combines these traits with goofy quirks that characterize him as possibly more bizarre than his predecessors. By the time he flips his shit over someone dissing his hair, deforms a bully’s face, and heals an injured turtle all at the same time, most people should be fully aboard him as our new protagonist. For those who still need a little more time, Jotaro returns and slips into his new mentor role effortlessly, and his stoic demeanor and straight-man role makes him much more entertaining as supporting character than back when he was the central protagonist.

But perhaps just as much as the characters, Part IV is known for it’s unique setting. DiU is the only part of JoJo’s that is set in just one location for it’s entire run, and the sense of small-town community and quaint suburbia that builds up throughout the series makes it one of the most fun and memorable environments in the entire series. Knowing this, the anime has rendered Morioh-cho with wholly distinct western-inspired architecture, brought to life with soft and gaudy technicolor, and unusual quirks like golden-yellow skies and blue grass. It’s a brilliant aesthetic choice, giving the environment a character of it’s own, and this helps distinguish the show in look, tone, and feel from the parts that came before.

Diamond Is Unbreakable continues the typical excellence David Pro consistently brings to this franchise. The animation has been enhanced, but it’s still the unconventional style, over-the-top theatrics, colorful visual and verbal language, and kickass soundtrack that make this anime franchise so distinct and entertaining whether you’re a fan of the original manga or not. Fans new and old have been anticipating this premiere for a long time, and once again, David Pro doesn’t disappoint, giving us what will surely be the best show of the spring. Don’t get a feeling so complicated, my friends. This is a lovely Duwang. –LumRanmaYasha

Life, the Universe, the Third Opinion

You all know the routine by now, unless you’ve been living on a secluded island for the past several years and have not kept up to date with the JJBA anime adaptations thus far (in which case, get on that shit, now). What has kept this age-old, still currently ongoing franchise, relevant for nearly three decades so far is that each new iteration manages to retain the entertainment value that kept all of its predecessors so enjoyable, while simultaneously feeling completely different from anything that came before it. This is managed by tackling a new genre and theme with each major story arc in the time-line, thus each new story feels fresh and interesting. Part 1 (Phantom Blood) was Gothic Horror. Part 2 (Battle Tendency) was like a tribute to 1930’s adventure film serials and popular 80’s franchises like Indiana Jones, mixed in with some action clearly inspired by its contemporary competition such as Fist of the North Star. Part 3 (Stardust Crusaders) was a world-spanning adventure and quest-style story. Every part up to this point has tried to top the previous one by being bigger in scope. In a clever move, Araki managed to subvert reader expectations back in the 90’s by scaling things back to a much more intimate and contained story-line with Diamond is Unbreakable, taking part in just one city. The theme here is that of a murder suspense thriller, combined with aspects other city-based shonen action manga that were running around the same time, such as Yu Yu Hakusho.

We start off with one of our main supporting characters, Koichi Hirose, running into the main protagonist of the last series, Jotaro Kujo, and shortly thereafter they both encounter our new main character, Josuke Higashikata. Right off the bat we establish how great the cast for this series will be. Koichi admittedly doesn’t get much to do here, but he at least manages to come off as a likable friend to Josuke in this premiere. Meanwhile, Jotaro, who I’ve honestly felt was a pain in the ass, and easily the least likable main character of a JoJo’s series going by last season, is immediately a lot more down-to-earth and tolerable when serving the role of supporting character in this series. What’s more is that he manages to do so without either being nerfed or downgraded in his role, much like Joseph unfortunately was when he was relegated to a supporting cast member going from Battle Tendency into Stardust Crusaders. Finally, we have our main character, Josuke, who instantly became my second favorite JoJo after part 2’s Joseph. He manages to combine the best aspects of his predecessors (Jonathan’s kindness and humbleness, Joseph’s cleverness, and Jotaro’s toughness in cases when he’s angered) while still feeling like his own unique character.

The concept of Stands also makes its return from last season, and while Jotaro’s Crazy Diamond is not nearly one of the most unique or inventive abilities out there, it still stands (no pun intended) as a much more interesting and creative power than Jotaro’s boring Star Platinum, which amounted to no more than being strong and having fast reflexes….like every other normal shonen protagonist ever. Crazy Diamon already shows off some interesting uses in this episode by revealing that rather than Josuke beating up his opponents with brute force, he can instead break apart and reform matter, allowing him to use his ability to both heal his friends and wreck his enemies’ shit.

As for the plot….well, plot hasn’t really mattered much in Jo Jo since Stardust Crusaders. Clearly the set-up is that of another villain-of-the week show, and depending on which parts you prefer over others could be either a good or bad thing for you. While Jotaro does come to meet Josuke not just out of the matter of his family inheritance, but also to enlist his help in solving a current dilemma in his city, the episode doesn’t reveal that much about it at this point. All we know is that someone has been creating new Stand users within the city, and the result has led to several less respectable users running amok and abusing their powers around the area. Additionally, Joseph’s Hermit Purple ability has picked up something disturbing, detecting the presence of someone truly dangerous lurking within the confines of Josuke’s home town. On the one hand, not even having the main villain revealed in the first episode might give off the impression that this series is aimless and won’t be focusing too much on having a strong, compelling narrative. And that’s absolutely true. On the other hand, if you take the series at face value and enjoy it for what it is, none of that will matter in the slightest, because JoJo’s has always been a series about having fun first and worrying about conflict later, and perhaps no part of the franchise embodies this concept better than Diamond is Unbreakable. — Ensatsu-ken

So Long and Thanks for the Fourth Opinion

I could probably not even bother with this review since everyone will probably watch this anyway. But hey, why not? The fact of the matter is that this most recent part of the long-running JoJo franchise is a fan favorite and coming after the most popular part of the series, so it has a lot to live up to.
Does it live up to the hype?

To say it didn’t would be a lie, because David Production has clearly put much care and thought into this adaption. The art style is fresh, the music feels very small town, and the direction is as sharp as the other parts only with a new ambition to find large scope in small surroundings. Even the animation feels more alive.

The first episode is just like the other parts of the series. The new characters are introduced and we learn just what they are made of. This season is much different than the other three parts in that we do not know anything about what is going on right now except some scary people have stands and they have come to Josuke’s town to do it harm. It’s a very simple set up, but it’s good background for introducing the characters and seeing their unique world.

JoJo fans should feel right at home here. Newcomers? Well, they can slide in without too much trouble, but really should consider starting with the first part. Part of the fun of JJBA is seeing how the history of the Joestars changes with the ages. Seeing how we got from Jonathan to Josuke is part of what makes this franchise so fun. — Spark of Spirit

Mostly Harmless Fifth Opinion

12 years after beating up a an elderly gay man for sending him shirtless selfies, Jotaro “Free Willy” Kujo returns to Japan to get into a fist fight with his grandfather’s lovechild and tell him he has stupid hair. After discovering his true heritage, the Joey Joe the Fourth, Johnny Suede, is drawn into a unusual journey with the world’s shortest high school student and a screaming ghost covered in hearts.

So JoJo is back. Not much to say. Part 4 is a fan favorite, and tied with Zealander Tendency as my second favorite part after Jesus Christ Superstar. After experimenting with the idea of Stands throughout Part 3, Araki brings on a new wave of creative and unexpected powers that lend themselves to some of the best fights in shonen history. Part 4 will also bring us one of the best casts in JoJo, some of which can be seen in the first episode. Josuke is like an amalgamation of traits from the previous three JoJos, Koichi’s stature and (current) normality make a great contrast to everyone else, and Jotaro honestly works better as a supporting character then the focus. The music is excellent (though I was holding out for Build Me Up Buttercup being the new ending), and once again David brings us a colorful, loud, and faithful adaption. While I could go on sucking David’s dick, I do have my complaints. The new art style, while not all around terriable, has it’s weak parts. Mainly the noses. Or lack thereof. I’m still rather said about some the recasting (seriously, Hatano was perfect, what the fuck David?). And naturally, we don’t get the opening or the ending until the second episode. But overall JoJo is again the best kid on the block, and always the all star.

啊/10 — Shadow Gentleman

Joker Game

The weeaboo in his natural habit.

Joker Game’s synopsis intrigued me with the promise of a snappy historical spy escapade. But contrary to my expectations, this show is most decidedly not a martini-flavored jaunt. Nah, the fun here isn’t from sleuthing or infiltrations, but in a game of wits played by people all much to eager to stab each other in the back. Set near the beginnings of World War II, Joker Game is as cynical a show as they come. Nationalism and pride in serving one’s country are laughed off by every character except our supposed protagonist, Sakuma, who holds steadfast to his belief in honor and justice. Yeeeaaahhh…turns out his teammates don’t take too kindly to some greenhorn mucking about on their turf. A naïve and honorable man like Sakuma is nothing but an eyesore in their world, and by the end of the episode it’s game over and nighty-night for this poor sap. But hey, at least he’s gonna die the honorable death he believes in, eh?

This show is based off a series of novels, and it shows in the literary feel of this first episode. It’s a very talky, thinky affair, methodically paced with more subdued characterization and natural-sounding dialogue than most other anime. Not to mention the show makes a conscious decision to introduce us to it’s world through the eyes of a strawman. Despite first appearances, it becomes quickly apparent that Sakuma doesn’t represent the show’s point of view. His role in this episode is to be the obligatory viewpoint character; an audience surrogate as we meet this gang of freaks and learn their obtuse ideology and modus operandi. The members of D Agency are loyal to themselves alone, scoffing at concepts of friendship and patriotism, and putting their lives on the line for the sake of duty. For someone as stubbornly loyal and moral as Sakuma, simply thinking that Japan could ever lose the war is treasonous, and how the show contrasts the D Agency’s philosophy with that of Sakuma’s platitudes characterize them as having a more fully formed and self-aware world view than the latter, which is what ultimately leads to his demise.

While the show does a great job of setting the stage for a great psychological battle of wits between an eclectic group of super spies, characterization takes a backseat for the most part. Only Yuki, Miyoshi, and Sakuma really get to be explored as characters here, and the latter is pretty much a blank slate designed to show us how the game works. That said, Colonel Yuki’s jaded world-view and wry wit make him stand out as the most interesting character of the lot, while Miyoshi is an enjoyably slimy and smug son-of-bitch who takes delicious pleasure in setting up and screwing over Sakuma. Other characters fall into the background and aren’t particularly memorable, but since this episode was more of a prologue and about establishing the concept and tone of the series, this should hopefully be remedied in future episodes.

Production I.G. can always be counted on to deliver solid visuals and quality animation, and this show is no exception. It’s beautifully and purposefully shot, and every framing and pacing decision right down to the final harrowing scene when Sakuma realizes he’s done fucked up brilliantly played. The music incorporates time-appropriate jazz and Japanese folk tracks, while also conventional thriller music that suits the mood well. The performances are top notch and manage to make the characters feel believable, though some over-the-top ones do slip in, particularly in the case of the American spy John Gordon, who yells in engrish and speaks very slow, exaggerated japanese during his appearances. But overall, this is an incredibly well-made show, and knowing I.G this quality should remain consistent throughout the show’s run.

Joker Game is certainly the most thought-provoking show to come out of the season so far, even though it’s more likely to use it’s political and philosophical musings as a backdrop for it’s psychological mind-games than genuine thematic exploration. Still, it’s an appreciably unique surprise in a season whose best material has been strictly battle-shonen, and a breath of fresh air as a mature and intelligent psychological thriller. Some people are feeling uncomfortable about where the show will go because of it’s setting, worrying about supposed right-wing nationalism underlying its intentions. Honestly, I don’t get the fuss. If anything, this episode makes it clear that the characters don’t give a damn about their country or any political agenda besides their own self-satisfaction. The members of D Agency are in it for the thrill of the game, and to be the last man standing no matter who or what they have to betray to get there, and we’re here to enjoy the ride. — LumRanmaYasha

Cyclone Game

To be perfectly honest, while I usually tend to do a little bit of research on an upcoming anime series before I check it out, I decided to pick this one up on a whim just based on the promotional art for it (I did also know that it’s based on a series of novels, as well, but that’s about it). So, I had no real expectations for its quality, neither good nor bad, and wanted to judge this premiere on its own merits, based on how good of a job it did at both setting up the shows premise and engaging me in its story and characters enough to keep watching it. After an initial viewing, I can at least say that it was a solid effort at peaking my interest.

Going by what I picked up in this opening episode, Joker Game is set in Pre-World War II Japan, and follows the exploits of eight specially selected spies serving under a highly classified branch of the Japanese government’s aptly named “D Agency.” So, it’s a spy and espionage series; a genre which has always been something ripe with potential for good suspense and tension. To some extent, we get aspects of what I love about such thrillers in this premiere. It’s also fair to say that since this episode is titled “Joker Game Part I,” we can probably assume that it’ll at least take another episode for the show to fully get its viewers acquainted with its plot and characters. Since I gave this season’s MHA a pass due to the same circumstances, it would be very hypocritical of me to hold anything against Joker Game for doing the same. However, having noted that, it bares mentioning that while I’m sold on the concept of this show (or at least what I perceive it to be at this point), and while the episode does a good job of highlighting the sorts of mind games that will presumably be present in greater doses as the series continues, the episode itself does little to actually make me understand where exactly this show is heading. Yes, we have a clear concept, but the way the episode is structured makes that very concept get muddled between a string of seemingly unrelated events.

When the episode starts, we get an opening narration from who I can only assume for now is the main character, explaining that he is among eight elite citizens who have undergone a rigorous training process in order to be selected as spies for this Japanese agency. Then we cut to Agent Sakuma being invited to play a card game with his fellow agents, only to realize by the end that he’s been cheated, with all of them having been in on it. They then reveal to him that the game which they were really playing with him was “The Joker Game,” in which they take part in a façade, setting up a game within a game. The game of cards on the surface is the distraction, while the real game for them was to hide the fact that they had ulterior motives, and Sakuma’s objective to win was to realize that he was playing another game entirely. Of course he fails and is educated in the process. His Lieutenant then brings up how this concept is exactly what has been used to take advantage of Japan’s naive international representatives in past years. On the one hand, this is a very intriguing concept, and was easily the highlight of the episode for me. A spy series about political and international scandals is right up my alley. Yet, when the episode makes it seem like this is the next step, we cut to the third act of this premiere, in which the agency is tasked with arresting a suspected American spy. Sakuma argues that they can’t just go against the law, even if they are working in secret, and first must acquire proof of the suspect’s activities. At first his team seemingly complies with this, until the episode ends and it is revealed that he was never intended to find any evidence and was instead set-up to take a fall.

By this point, I was still intrigued, but also utterly confused. What was the point of that third act? What could D Agency possibly gain from setting up Sakuma? What happened to the mission that the Lieutenant brought up earlier about protecting the countries information from international political parties? What is the greater purpose and ultimate objective of D Agency in the first place? My lack of understanding of these things could easily just be because I’m admittedly kind of an idiot and can easily miss key details in complex plots. However, I suspect that tighter pacing and a more smoothly constructed narrative could have made things much more clear for me in the first place. What I’m getting at is that Joker Game has succeeded so far in presenting me with good ideas and interesting situations, but it has not yet presented me with a clear driving force to follow through it all.

While I already mentioned that I should most likely watch the next few episodes to be fair to the show, one key factor which I can’t just let slide at this point is the lack of a compelling cast of characters. Even this would of course take time to build up, but the series lacks any single character which I am currently invested in to any degree, either positively or negatively. Even MHA gave us clear reasons to identify and sympathize with Midoriya’s circumstances and ambitions, despite only adapting half of the first chapter from the manga. In this case our protagonist Sakuma seems to mean well, but that’s literally all that I know about him. The rest of the cast similarly lacks much distinct personality outside of the conniving and calculating Lieutenant of the program. There is just something a bit too cold and detached about these characters, and while that makes perfect sense within the context of who they are and their roles in the story, it leaves me as a viewer with nobody to really sympathize with nor any outcomes to be invested in. Some subtle or nuanced characterization strewn about, or even some cleverly integrated exposition on Sakuma or his “fellow” agents’ backstories (and it’s rare that I’d ever directly ask for that) may have been beneficial here.

Even considering my initial issues, which in all honesty could end up turning out to be misplaced in the long run, the series does still do its job of setting up an interesting period piece genre story. I can safely say that I’ll at least be sticking around for the next few episodes to see if they go anywhere worthwhile. — Ensatsu-ken

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Yasuomi Umetsu called. He wants his girl back.

From the director, writer, OP singer, and broadcaster that gave you Guilty Crown, comes Attack on Titan on Trains. I remember when there was brouhaha over Osomatsu breaching Japanese copyright law with its parodies, and I wasn’t sure how they couldn’t get away with that when this show can exist. Other knockoffs are subtler than this. Even Ratatoing had the dignity to paint its mice a different color. Then I glanced at the credits and saw Studio Wit’s name, meaning they’re ripping off themselves. Maybe because Attack on Titan doesn’t have enough chapters left to adapt. Possibly, they’re banking on a winning formula as all studios content with their golden goose often do. Perhaps they got bored. I don’t know. But some death of creativity occurred for this series to grant upon us steampunk zombies. I don’t want to be one of those pissants who complain about their overuse in fiction, but it’s hard to deny when looking at them. Like oh, it’s just zombies. Zombies with super-strength. Zombies that can conduct trains. Oh my.

I could go on about how trains were the pioneers of technology at the time, and how advances of technology can be overlapped with the potential ruination of humanity. Or I can discuss how the main character hanging himself in order to save his own life’s a Christ metaphor or some other didactic shit like that. But given this show’s pedigree, I have little faith that these analyses could vindicate this episode’s more inane or derivative moments. Should I really expect anything great from the writer of Valvrave, for God’s sake? It’s witless, brainless, and often more satisfied with itself than it should be. Sure, the animation looks nice and the character designs are well crafted, but I expect that from someone like Tetsuro Araki. Great directing is an expectation I have for him, even if the last show of his I really liked was Death Note. So in short, it’s dumb, will probably be a literal trainwreck, but I’m sure most of this audience already knows that and gleefully waiting for when this show fulfills the madness of its predecessors. — Bloody Marquis

Night of the Living Second Opinions

Attack on Copyright

From the director of Attack on Titan comes…Attack on Titan. With trains. Yeah…this show blatantly rips off AoT in many respects. A stubbornly self-righteous protagonist, zombie-like monsters that devour people, a city walled away from the monster-infested outside world, scouts who venture outside the walls to scout and get supplies, a corrupt military, etc… Heck, they even have the 3-D maneuver gear! And the episode pretty much mirrors the plot of the first episode of AoT: something goes horribly wrong, the monsters attack, city is destroyed, and the protagonist is without a home and plans to fight back. And as evidenced in the screenshot above, several shots are ripped wholesale from AoT too. Kabaneri is so shamelessly trying to ride Titan’s coattails that it should by all accounts be nothing more than an infuriating, meritless mess.

Yet…it’s arguably one of the best premieres of the season.

While Kabaneri does take a lot of ideas and imagery from Titan, it has a distinct steampunk style and the characters have much different personalities. Whereas Eren was driven by anger and a yearning for revenge, Ikoma wants to survive and learn, and speaks out against the superstition and mistrust people have with one another. He’s also more of an inventor than a fighter, and in this respect his character feels more like a combination of Armin and Hange, which at the very least distinctly sets him apart from Eren as a lead. Neither of the female leads Mumei or Ayame seem reminiscent of Mikasa or other AoT characters in any respect, and while they don’t receive a whole lot of focus here, they are made intriguing through their potential character arcs and backgrounds. While the world and premise of Kabaneri can’t really be said to be all the different from AoT, the characters are different enough that the story starts to move in a different direction by the end of the episode, and leaves plenty to be explored and expanded on.

The real success of Kabaneri, though, is perhaps it’s immaculate sense of pace and tension. The series starts off running with a high-octane and suspenseful action scene that quickly establishes the tone and atmosphere the series is going for, while also being an exciting way to introduce the world and characters. The show slows down in the scenes that follow to help us understand where who the main characters are, their goals and affiliations, and their relationships to and within their society. By the time the episode is ready to let shit hit the fan, we know enough about the characters and the stakes to feel the desperation and tension in the chaos, ensuing fights, and the climactic moment where Ikoma successfully prevents himself from being infected by the Kabare virus. The show is consistently engaging beginning to end, and while the exact same sentiments can be said of Titan’s premiere, it still successfully immerses the viewer in it’s world and storyline with it’s over the top insanity and theatrics that it’s readily forgiven and one can simply enjoy the ride.

Perhaps the reason Kabeneri works as opposed to other Titan clones is that it’s a personal pet-project of director Tetsuro Araki, filled with all the tropes and ideas he loves. The result may be a show that has blatant similarities to the most popular anime of the last five years, but one that is decidedly not a rip-off. Araki isn’t trying to imitate, but rather personalize. This show has a distinct creative vision and passion, less driven by commercial interests and more in Araki’s desire to make his own take on the Attack on Titan concept. And there’s some great talent helping him. As expected of Wit studio, the show boasts great production values, and the always fantastic Hiroyuki Sawano provides an immaculate score. The only cause for alarm may be writer Ichiro Okouchi, who previously wrote shows such as Code Geass and Valvrave which…yeah, may not be the best sign of things to come. For the moment, though, there’s nothing that sticks out as offensively dumb or unbearable about the show, so maybe we’ll get lucky and this show won’t be marred by the same problems those two were.

Ultimately, Kabaneri is far from the smartest or most original show, but it makes up for it in how unabashedly and shamelessly over the top and melodramatic it is. It’s pure popcorn fun with cinematic quality animation, gorgeous colors and shading, intense action, larger-than-life characters, and a bombastic musical score. If you get past the fact so much is borrowed from AoT, there’s a highly entertaining show here that I’d definitely recommend checking out. All aboard the steampunk zombie-splattering train! — LumRanmaYasha

Shaun of the Third Opinion

My face when watching Kabaneri.

Kabeneri of the Iron Fortress is the latest anime by Studio Wit. It’s Attack on Titan, but with zombies and trains.

What? You were expecting an actual write-up? What’s there to say about something that’s such a blatant attempt to slake people’s thirst for more Attack on Titan without actually being Attack on Titan? I guess I can talk about how tryhard it was at being bleak; there was this scene where the Survey Corps stand-ins accuse a guy of being a zombie infectee because he has a scratch, they’re about to shoot him when he runs away before the main character intervenes and tells him they already have a method to discern whether one has been infected or via locking them up and seeing if they turn, the MC gets beaten by the samurai corps for showing common sense and then proceed to shoot the supposed infectee, who dies on the spot, thus proving he wasn’t an infectee. The survey corps don’t even bat an eyelash. Now, I realize the idea behind this scene is that “the world has gone to shit and you can’t take any chances”, but the execution just makes everyone look like such incompetent, unlikable douchebags that you wonder how humanity has even survived the first wave of the apocalypse. What else is there to say? Maybe let’s take a look at all the wonderful, colourful cast in this apocalyptic show;
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
That was quick! I guess the show was so focused on making things bleak and hopeless as possible, it forgot to have have likable, interesting, or cool characters to balance that out, silly Wit. laugh track So is there anything good about this show? Well, if nothing else, the director (same as Attack on Titan’s, no surprise) knows how to pull of scenes of carnage and bloodshed really well, the climax of the episode felt suitably tense despite me not caring about anyone enough to be affected by it. Another good thing about Kabaneri is the world itself, the Japanese industrial setting is an interesting backdrop for a post apocalyptic world, throughout the episode I was more interested in the setting and how everything worked than what the characters were doing. Kabaneri’s not necessarily a bad show, but it is a bland one, which in some ways is arguably worse. — CrimsonRynnec

Kiznaiver

Mari Okada anime.

So this is the other Trigger thing this season (for information on Luluco, that 5 minute thing that basically had one good gag and that was it, scroll down). The one they actually promoted. The one they actually spent honest to god money on. The one we’re supposed to care about. Well last week, instead of a proper first episode, they aired a behind the scenes special, and I didn’t care about that one bit so lets see how the REAL show goes down!

Young Katsuhira (who looks like what you get if the trap from No.6 and the trap from Karnival got together and produced something that wasn’t a trap) has been a punching bag for bullies craving his lunch money for several years. Things change when he’s rescued by a pink-hared Kamina clone. Despite this, Katsuhira doesn’t care. You see, he cannot feel pain…at all.  This lack of any sensation as well as self-worth has made him a morose twat. The plot gets even more confusing when he is given a lecture in Judeo-Christian values and how they apply to anime character personality stereotypes by Azura from Fire Emblem F–I MEAN taciturn mystery girl Sonozaki which ends in him getting pushed down a flight of stairs and sneaking a peak at her panties. This is apparently all part of a sinister plan to link the pain he would normally suffer to a sextet of characters who all exhibit one of Sonozaki’s Seven Deadly Anime Sins each, which all end in them getting some sort of superpowers because… I don’t know, anime!

Midway through Kiznaiver, it seemed to me that this was basically Trigger’s tribute to the anime of that great year… 2011. It kinda starts like Madoka! The characters are all super annoying and super cliched like Monogatari! They all live in an island utopia that’s actually a secret facility to study superpowers like Raildex! So and so, yackity shmackity! And like most of that greeeeat 2011 anime, it starts off really really badly. The plot is hard to follow, you don’t like any of the characters who are all pretty underdeveloped anyway, the acting is pretty one note,  you are left feeling confused and modestly annoyed, and its all written by Mari Okada because OF COURSE IT IS. I mean when even characters in the show say “This is boring, I’m leaving”, a clever moment on paper admittedly, it only serves as a self-commentary why this show is boring and you probably wish you had something better to do than watch it.

Oh yeah, the title of next week’s episode is literally a sentence, because why not? That’s the Trigger way! — Lord Dalek

Polkadot Panties

This is a show where Kamina sits on a guy to make him pay back the money he stole from some sociopathic kid who can’t feel anything. Then said kid falls down some stairs while learning about the Cardinal sins, except nothing that is described resembles the Cardinal sins, but who’s counting? Then something about sharing the pain by giving it to everyone, even though it’s not sharing the pain but multiplying it. I hate this show and I hate you. — BloodyMarquis

Blue Striped Panties

Just once, I want an anime character to have horn-rimmed glasses instead of those bottom rimmed ones.

Let’s talk about “suspension of disbelief.” To remind you, dear reader, this is the notion that, should a writer be able to insert enough humanity into their story, the reader will be able to overlook the more nonsensical elements of the narrative. This is the reason why we’re fine with stories about humans with superpowers, animals that can converse in human speech, etc. In some ways, suspension of disbelief is one of the first hurdles a story must overcome, because if a story is unable to make you “believe” what is occurring, then it leaves itself open to much greater scrutiny. And greater scrutiny means an audience less likely to forgive any of the bullshit the writer throws their way. I guess what I’m trying to get here is that Kiznaiver has failed to made me suspend my disbelief. And so it’s time to throw its bullshit right back at it.

Okay, let’s talk plot. It’s Sense8. It’s bloody, goddamn Sense8. I didn’t like Sense8. If you liked Sense8, then you can stop reading, because then this show is completely and unapologetically for those who enjoy that. I couldn’t get behind Sense8 myself, but you know what? At least the idea that all these people were connected felt like it made some sense in that universe. I didn’t watch much, it seemed to be a sort of dormant power that can awaken in some chosen individuals. I dig that. It’s a bit nonsensical, but I can believe that. Science bullshit about how these people share pain and how they are an experiment that will lead to world peace. No. First, the whole connecting these people together thing. From what I can tell, this happened in about a day’s time. You can’t do that shit in a day. First of all, you gotta create a sensory map that only deals with nociception. Considering that you want to do the entire human body, good luck with that shit and figuring out how to separate it fully from other sensations such as pleasure, much less creating a network of transmitters and transceivers. Forgoing the magic science, the core idea is stupid. “We hurt others because we don’t understand the pain of others.” No. Just no. We still hurt others even if we know how being hurt in that way feels. I would still punch someone in the face, even though I’ve been punched in the face myself. Just because I will feel the exact physical pain that someone is feeling in that moment isn’t may not make me stop an aggressive action. Maybe it could, but depending on who I am, maybe it won’t. And even forgoing THAT, we still have the aftermath of “world peace”: everyone in the world feels the same pain. Oops, little Klaus just broke his leg. Oh my, college student Hai got hit by a truck. Whoops, old man Hector just had another heart attack. Enacting this plan on a global scale just means ensuring that mankind is subjected to eternal pain and suffering to the point where someone, I don’t know, might try and do the noble thing and end that living hell for all of us. “KABOOM!” scream the nukes as they fulfill their mission of ending human civilization.

Onto characters…oi, are you seeing that bastard up there? That’s Kamina with glasses and a dye job. The main cast of characters very much feel like recolors of previous Trigger and Gainax characters, and that isn’t a good thing. I’m not going to claim to be a master at character design; I’ve been spending the past month trying to draw a Chinese-American teenager for a webcomic, and for love of God, the biggest stride I’ve made so far is giving her bloody arm bands and combat boots. But surely the minds at Trigger can put their heads together and come up with something a bit new that didn’t have me thinking that I’m watching some bizarre AU where the cast of Tenga Toppa Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill go to high school together. And personality-wise, none of them are all that interesting. The Yoko Littner clone has caught my eye, but that’s mostly out of her weird devotion to stick by the main protagonist, who is an emotionless twat that can’t feel pain. Everyone else is just your standard suave douchebag, emotionally closed-off bitch, manic pixie girl, boastful here, etc. If they look like that one anime character you saw in that other show, then guess what? They are that one character you saw in another show. And to sidetrack back to the plot again, if emotionless twat can’t feel pain, why can the others feel it when he gets hit? Is it just a psychological thing on his part? And that girl who kidnapped all these fools said that everyone being able to feel his pain saved his life after she pushed him down a flight of stairs. How? The second episode clearly establishes that it is only the sensation that is shared, not the actual injury. And despite what the plot summary says, it really seems like the sensation isn’t diluted by being shared; it maintains its initial sting. WHAT NOW, MARI OKADA?!?!? I’M FINDING YER BLOODY PLOTHOLES!!! YOU’VE FUCKED UP, NOW!!!

Ahem. I suppose praise can be given to the art of the show. It’s the kind quality that you expect from a studio with a pedigree like Trigger, and from director Hiroshi Kobayashi in particular. Beautiful backgrounds and nice, kinetic animation. You know the drill. The music is nothing special, but it manages to set the mood for any given scene, so it delivers what it needs to. My only qualms come from the writing and character design. I would probably have less searing hate for the setup if the characters were remotely interesting. But they aren’t. They are all characters that I’ve seen time and time again, and nothing about their interactions or the execution of the story makes me feel anything for them. It manages to turn a show that I thought would have at least be decent but instead turns it into crap. In regards to the old running gag of “[insert thing here] has saved anime”, I’d almost put it in the camp of programming that is killing the industry. But I won’t for two reasons: it is an original property, not an adaptation, and it isn’t YET ANOTHER BLOODY MAGICAL HIGH SCHOOL LIKE HUNDRED AND—

(Editor’s Note: Rac has been taken to the white room, where he will remain for the next week. Hopefully, a steady diet of Ed, Edd n Eddy reruns and Electric Light Orchestra tracks will help him relax. We now return you to your regularly scheduled clusterfuck.) — RacattackForce

Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear

Upon reading the description of Kuma Miko, I was prepared to make a joke that apparently Japan has a huge We Bear Bears fanbase and has elected to write a 50 Shades of Grey style fanfic about Grizz and Chloe just to annoy us American prudes. Upon watching it… well…

My work here is done. — Lord Dalek

MACROSS Δ

VAPE NATION

So, all pretenses have been dropped, huh? I won’t pretend to have a vast knowledge of the Macross franchise, as I’ve only watched the original 1982 series “Super Dimension Fortress Macross” and the 1984 film retelling of said series, “Macross: Do You Remember Love?” But when watching both those installments a few years back, I found myself enamored by the fact that humans won less because of luck or cunning, but because we had culture and the enemy didn’t. It took the one thing that humans can lord above all other species on our planet and made that the defining factor in our win against an otherworldly menace. It was a cool approach to the whole alien invasion thing that helped make the world feel all the more real…so of course Macross Delta had to go “Screw it” and literally weaponize music itself.

Don’t misunderstand me. Macross Delta is a fine show. It has an intriguing premise going for it, what with a strange virus going around that turns people into feral monsters, setting up a nice little mystery that can be answered down the line. The characters, though admittedly just barebones archetypes at the moment, are fun to watch, have clear potential for growth, and feel like the type of protagonists you’d want for a franchise like this. And each fight is a bleedin’ dance concert, with strobe lights and bright colours all over the battlefield, turning war into a true spectacle – something also lays down some groundwork for some potentially deep commentary if they want to go that route. It’s one of the few shows of the Spring 2016 season that I can say can be enjoyed in the manner the writer and directors meant for it to be. I’m just disappointed that the undertone of music being a weapon has become an overtone of music being a weapon. While turning the latest Top 40 tracks into an actual weapon is a legitimately logical conclusion considering everything that has happened in this universe (Macross boasts a pretty simple A→B→C timeline), it still feels strange seeing that the military just straight-up put idols in mechs.

And that leads to the show’s biggest sticking point: if you can’t at the very least tolerate J-Pop, avoid this show. That advice goes for the whole franchise, but especially here. All our main characters are military as of episode two. The military is full of idols. These idols will sing. And your ears will bleed. On the flipside, if you can’t get enough of J-Pop, then…you’ll probably like it. I’m more of J-Rock guy, myself. Next Macross installment needs some Asian Kung-Fu Generation, you feel me? — RacattackForce

Mayoiga

At least he's not called Pink Pineapple.

It’s Okada time, business-snatches! She’s done card games! She’s done aliens! She’s done Lupin! What else can she do now to twist your brain and make you wish she wasn’t writing half the anime every season? By listing off the names of at least thirty characters while they’re all going on a bus trip to something that is very obviously a cult.

Maybe it’s me being stupid again, but I couldn’t tell what was going on. Is it a horror? Will it just be one of those Danganronpa-esque survival stories? Why is there a kid named Freezing Judgeness? Why did all of the kids join what is heavily implied to be either a suicide cult or a secret prison? Why do they start singing about hippopotamuses as if this is all good-hearted fun? It’s interesting to have all these questions brewing in the first episode, but the inquiries are generated less from the show’s tricks and more because you’re annoyed and wonder when somebody sane is going to start talking for once. If Okada wanted to capture the feeling of being trapped in a bus full of crazies you never want to meet again once this trip ends, she aced it there. But since this will be at least 12 weeks long, you’re expected to sympathize with these freaks. Bond with them, if you will. You just want it to end all right now if the alternative means spending eternity with these buffoons.

There will occasionally be a moment when one of the characters like the bus drivers says what’s on my mind, but then he’s drowned out by the rampaging insanity of the troupe he’s driving. I’m not sure exactly what happened in Mari Okada’s life to constantly make these bildungsromans that could only equate to a real teenager’s life if massive blows to the head were involved. It’s like how writers have flash cards to figure out what to write, but all of hers have the words “troubled teenager with ambiguous brain damage” written on them. But in a bittersweet way, I’m glad. I’m glad that she can fill that genre. If the powers that be were willing, Makoto Uezu would take her place and regale us with coming-of-age fables with the tenacity of Ranpo Kitan. Or Toshiki Inoue could creep out of his Ushio and Tora crypt to add more reasons to despise young love. So keep fighting the good fight, Okada. Even if your writing sucks, it could be worse. Much, much worse.

On the other hand, this show is the second-best comedy. So watch it for that. — Bloody Marquis

My Hero Academia

But is it what you've been waiting for?

I don’t think FUNimation has EVER promoted a new simulcast as hard as they have MHA. They announced it a month in advance of it’s premiere date and ran ads on every anime website you could think of (and some you wouldn’t). They made multiple trailers, even going so far as to make character-specific promo videos, for way more characters than will probably even be relevant in the series’ first cour. To top it all off, they ran a four-hour pre-show before the premiere on Twitch from 1am-5am, which I did not stay up for because I like sleep. One has to wonder whether FUNi’s been pushing this show so hard because they knew it was one of the most anticipated shows of the season, or they did it because they wanted to make it THE most anticipated show of the season. Let’s face it, besides MHA, FUNi has jack shit else this season and they know it. Plus, with the pedigree of Bones, the brand of Shonen Jump, and the popularity of superheroes behind it, MHA had the potential to be a smash hit just like One-Punch Man was last fall. So, the question remains, is the MHA anime the masterpiece FUNi and fans have been hoping for?

Well, it has all the makings of a good show, and should prove reasonably successful. That said, the first episode isn’t likely to stir buzz off the bat like previous super hits such as Attack on Titan and One-Punch Man did. I contribute this to the decision to only adapt the first half of the first chapter. While the endpoint of the episode isn’t a bad one, it also delays the actual conclusion to Midoriya’s character arc as presented in the episode. The way this episode ends instead asks the question of whether Midoriya can be a hero without powers, whereas if the full chapter was adapted in it’s entirety, that would’ve already been answered.

The problem with simply asking the question and not answering it, in this case, is that Midoriya isn’t a particularly proactive protagonist in this episode. The only example of him being heroic is him trying and failing to stand up for a bullied kid at the beginning of the episode. That scene isn’t a particularly effective demonstration of his altruistic character, however, because the way he’s trembling and croaking up as he’s doing it makes it feel like he’s reluctantly sticking up for the kid, and is afraid of getting hurt. The fact that we don’t see him try and fight back when the bullies attack him, or later when he’s being ridiculed in school, characterizes him as spineless and weak-willed, which aren’t particular admirable traits in a protagonist. In general, there is not enough done with Midoriya in the episode to make him really likable. Sympathetic, sure; life’s given him a raw deal in the most ridiculous way. But while one can appreciate his ambition to be a hero and frustration at not having the talent and power to do so, but most of the episode’s runtime is spent establishing this and seeing him mope about it. As a consequence, he strikes the audience as a dreamer, but not a doer. While one might be naturally inclined to root for the underdog, said underdog still needs to try and earn that support by persevering despite the odds. Midoriya simply isn’t given enough to do here, and so there isn’t much to make him genuinely endearing. And while that’s immediately going to be addressed in the next episode, I feel the anime could’ve still done a better job presenting his character in a more effective way.

Starting off with a weaker character foundation really huts because MHA’s production isn’t the most impressive. It’s Bones, so obviously it looks, sounds, and moves well enough. But compared to some of their recent work like Noragami and Blood Blockade Battlefront, it’s rarely ever above average. The show does incredibly well with the two fluid and exciting fight scenes that begin and end the episode, but they aren’t on the same level as the eye-popping visual spectacles found in the premiere episodes of those aforementioned shows. Outside of the fight scenes, the show plays it safe with the general character animation, even employing limited animation for more mundane scenes. Not that there aren’t notable exceptions: the character acting on young Midoriya in his flashback weaves between subtle and exaggerated seamlessly, and the scene where he excitedly shakes back and forth in his chair waiting for All-Might’s debut video to play with such an earnest and goofy expression on his face was genuinely inspired and made me laugh out loud. But there’s sill nothing mind-blowing or technically outstanding about the show’s animation or fighting scenes thus far, which may make it easily overshadowed by more action-packed battle-shonen and other Bones shows.

The show’s music is surprisingly underwhelming. The OST is appropriately bombastic and heroic-sounding, but fails to leave much of an impression and is rather forgettable. The exception is All Might’s theme, which definitely stands out and really fits the bigger-than-life nature of the character himself. The opening and ending themes are a shamefully missed opportunity to pay tribute to classic hero show themes, instead using some tepid and generic j-pop and employing conventional anime OP & ED tropes. They’re not bad, but they don’t help give the show a distinct identity like the best shows do, nor do they do an adequate job of getting one pumped to watch it. Considering the music was one of the most praised aspects about the previews, I was surprised to find it so run-of-the-mill, but perhaps they’re saving the stronger tracks in the OST for future episodes.

I’ve heaped upon a lot of harsh criticism upon this adaption, but this really isn’t a bad premiere. In fact, it’s a pretty good one. My complaints aside, it’s colorful, fun and funny, and has enjoyable characterization and a creative world. Still, MHA is a show with a lot of hype and expectations behind it. The manga it’s based on is one of the rising stars of Weekly Shonen Jump, with the potential to fill the void Naruto left and become one of the magazine’s pillars. Even famous mangaka like Eiichiro Oda and Masashi Kishimoto themselves believe this, and have openly praised and shown their support for the series. And FUNi clearly expects this show to be a big hit considering all the effort they’ve put into making people know it exists. But while a perfectly faithful adaption, I’m worried MHA’s premiere episode just doesn’t leave quite a strong enough impression. Obviously, I know where the series is going and the heights it’ll reach in it’s storytelling and character development, but I’m judging the anime for what it is right now, and comparing it to other mainstream hits of the last few years because that’s what it’s producers and licensors want it to be. In this respect, I don’t feel the MHA anime is as good as it could be, and will reach the heights that it’s producers and manga fans want it to. But keep watching. So long as the anime doesn’t pull a FMA or Blue Exorcist and continues to follow the manga faithfully, the show will become super soon enough. — LumRanmaYasha

Less TL;DR. More Dalek Bitching

This was a very ass-ential capture I had to take.

And now time for this season’s installment of overhyped Shonen Shit. Apparently Ass Class ain’t cutting it no more and Madhouse hates us too much to make more One Punch (THOSE BAAAAAAAASTARDS!!!!) so instead we have this thing from Bones. Already I’m tingling with excitement! FAIL ME! FAIL ME MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRR-actually so far its pretty good. I’m not going to lie, I was expecting a bland battle school series akin to Naruto and instead I got this wacky over the top bizarro shonen of intentionally bad animation (come on man, its Bones, IT HAS TO BE INTENTIONAL), awkward camera angles, grunty voice actors, and Yuuki Kaji abuse. I’ll take it!

So in a world where Syndrome got his way and now virtually everybody is super (and thus noone is), violent crimes are on the rise and so are costumed vigilantes. So many in fact that becoming a superhero is now the #1 employment choice for today’s youth and their so-called “quirks”. This is good news for our jackass rival character Katsuki and absolutely terrible news for our poor schlub loser protagonist Deku. You see 20% of the population has no super powers to speak of, and Deku (much like normal guy from the now-shit canned World Trigger) has to make like Batman. Either that or kill himself. Whichever comes first. Heck I think that giant slime monster has the solution to your little problem there Deku. Yeah, that’s the ticket… just get tentacle raped to death there… its not like some over power super hero will come and save-OH HEY ITS KEN FROM SFV I MEAN ALL MIGHT!!! See Deku, now you have something worth living for. Here, have a Tokyo Ghoul mask and 12 more episodes!

I was legitimately expecting absolute bupkiss from My Hero Academia. I knew nothing of the series other than some rather uninspiring promotional art, and the fact that it’s currently the Weekly Shonen Jump flavor of the month. This could mean its great like One-Punch or flaming dreck like World Trigger (seriously it got cancelled for sumo wrestling! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!). Amazingly though, in this case its the former, and I’m so very, very pleased. The only dread I have is if this show pulls a Ow no Blech-sorcist and legitmately turns into that crappy school show it seems to be advertising. The preview happily suggests otherwise but I’ve been fooled before. DON’T LET ME DOWN LIKE YOU DID WITH SPACE DANDY BONES. DON’T DO IT. — Lord Dalek

Threeps

Midoriya Izuku is practically the definition of a comic book nerd. He adores anything and everything having to do with superheroes, collects every piece of merchandise that he can possibly find, and flat-out models his life ideologies after his favorite heroes as his role-models. The thing is, he is a comic book fan without there actually being any comic books. Enter the world of My Hero Academia, where in the relatively near future, human evolution has progressed to a point where roughly 80% of the population are bestowed with supernatural abilities, and superheroes and villains are a dime a dozen, to the point where super powers have become a profitable commodity and the act of being a hero is a government-enforced career. The most prominent of these figures is the world’s greatest hero and Midoriya’s idol, All Might, who he one day hopes to live up to. Unfortunately for our protagonist, though, he falls into that bottom 20% of nobodies, doomed to forever admire his betters on the sidelines. However, Midoriya isn’t content with just being a fan, and plans to make it big in the world of heroes with or without any “quirks” (this world’s name for super powers) to his name. And before he can even think about entering a prestigious hero academy to initiate his training, he must first overcome the obstacle of his long-time rival/bully Bakugo, a bratty punk gifted with a powerful explosion-quirk who looks down on anyone weaker than himself, and especially someone like Midoriya who aspires to achieve greatness despite possessing nothing of worth in Bakugo’s eyes. How will Midoriya even have a chance of succeeding down his chosen path given all of the harsh obstacles stacked against him?

At face-value, here we have the premiere of a show within absolutely nothing original to offer, or so it would seem. After all, it’s yet another anime adaptation of a Weekly Shonen Jump action manga (something we seemingly have in endless supply as it is), and the concept feels like it has ripped part of itself from other popular Jump franchises such as Naruto (except replacing ninjas with superheroes, as is the modern craze around the world these days). The other part of it’s identity almost feels like it’s flat-out stealing the concept of satirizing many aspects of the modern superhero genre in Japan straight from the much-beloved Tiger & Bunny from a few years prior. You could even attribute some of this show’s make-up to taking influence from popular American comic books of a similar nature, notably two DC series in the form of Young Justice and Teen Titans.

The thing is, all of that is “technically” true. Astonishingly enough, though (at least for anyone who hasn’t already been keeping up with the insanely popular, currently-running manga serialization), the result is not by any means the Frankenstein’s-Monster-Style mess that one would probably expect from such a hodgepodge of already used ideas being crammed into one pot. Instead, Studio Bones’ anime adaptation of Kohei Horikoshi’s fan-favorite love-letter to all things superheroes showcases the promise of a great stand-alone series. It manages to stay on the better side of the line separating a brilliant homage with its own unique elements from something a lot more cash-grabby that capitalizes on what’s popular. You can see from this premiere alone that this series very wisely avoids two big mistakes that most anime in this genre tend to make: one is that it clearly is not in danger of taking itself far too seriously for its own good, and is willing to have fun with its concept, and the second is that as an adaptation, it pays a lot of careful attention to pacing and utilizing good film-making, first and foremost, over just trying to be a glorified motion-comic version of the manga.

On the first point, the director wisely chose to adapt only half of the first chapter of the manga for the premiere, rather than rushing through it to get straight to the action. Considering how densely packed with story the debut issue is, this is a wise decision, and at no point does the episode ever feel deliberately slow or mundane. On the second point, clear effort is put into the animation and voice-acting of each character, with the two main leads, Midoriya and Bakugou, clearly having distinct styles of movement and speaking to not only highlight who they are as characters, but to purposefully contrast a key conflict in their ideologies, which you can tell as a viewer from these attributes alone, even though we haven’t touched on that aspect of the series by this point. And this is just from a clever use of basic techniques such as framing and coloring, along with other subtler nuances to complement the more outspoken and over-the-top nature of the show on the surface level. The animation itself is actually a little bit below the typical standards of a contemporary show produced by Bones, but it’s how the staff uses what they have to work with that counts. While the premiere episode is by no means a masterpiece in and of itself, and probably won’t hook new viewers right away, it succeeds at setting up an interesting show through easily relate-able characters and strong world-building.

Definitely give this show a shot if you are either a fan of good shonen series, superhero comics/shows/movies, or both. — Ensatsu-ken

Fourps

My Hero Academia is the most recent series from Weekly Shonen Jump to have a decent amount of hype behind it leading into this anime adaption. Those that might not keep up with the weekly manga anthology might not understand the hype behind it, or why its fans tend to run the spectrum from 80s and 90s Golden Age fans to more recent One Piece and Naruto fans. It’s a bit of a puzzler, really. The first episode, gorgeously adapted by Studio Bones, tells the classic tale of a wannabe hero who has no chance to be a hero, and ends just as out main character, Izuku Midoriya, meets his lifelong idol to confirm if someone like him, a weakling and nobody, can really become one.

This episode, however, is mostly introduction. Newer viewers might be a bit confused as to how this series gathered its strange fanbase so quickly. For those who have read ahead in the manga, looking back and seeing Midoriya and Bakugo like this is quite eye-opening to how well Kohei Horikoshi well eventually develop his characters though to new viewers they might not realize if it is worth sticking around for yet. The episode also only covers half the first chapter, which might surprise those who have never read the manga since Horikoshi’s pace is so brisk.

However, even with this introduction, it’s very clear there is something special here that might not be so obvious at first. Those that have only checked out the anime will be well-advised to stick around and see just where the hype comes from. Fans of action and adventure are well advised to check this show out. Next week can’t come soon enough. — Spark of Spirit

Greg Fipes

It’s a strange thing, Japan doing superheroes. But it’s been done well before, and this is shaping up to be another case. While the recently hugely successful Uno-Puñetazo Hombre was more of a parody of many shonen and superhero narrative elements, MHA impressed them with a refreshing glee. We’ve got ourselves a real underdog hero. And I mean that he is a real underdog: a powerless wimp in a world where being “normal” has become abnormal. But he’s got a dream to be a hero, like no one ever was, and damn it, you really want to see him succeed. The story flows surprisingly smoothly, and Bones has done a fantastic job capturing the excitement and facial expressions of the original manga art. Sure, it gets sappy at times, but this is such a beautiful, happy, enjoyable show I can’t help wanting to see it succeed.

Sunshine Superman/10 — Shadow Gentleman

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal Season III

Les Cousins Dangerous.

Two years ago, I watched the first episode of PGSMC season 1 for the Summer Clusterfuck. Overall I thought it was an ok reboot and was looking forward (albeit with trepidation) as to where Toei was going to go with the show. It wasn’t the best start but I had some enthusiasm.

…that enthusiasm did not last…like at all.

Sailor Moon Crystal did the exact opposite of what it was supposed to do. Instead of capitalizing on long time fans’s nostalgia for the original show by giving them a far better adaptation of the manga, it managed to piss everybody who watched it off and made them even MORE nostalgic for the 90’s show. Yeah the 90s show with shit animation, endless monster of the week plots, and plot holes that are so massive you could lose a semi in them. So now its back to the drawing board for Season “3” (apparently Black Moon was the second season despite no mention of that being made at the time). Gone is the original production team off to make more seasons of Precure and Gatchaman Crowds. Instead we have a new bunch of showrunners trying to clean up the mess their predecessors made. Do they suceeed? Welllll…..

Lets start with the story itself. Its the Infinity Arc which kinda sorta served as the inspiration for fan favorite season Sailor Moon S. I say “kinda sorta” because (as with R and Super S) director Kunihiko Ikuhara frequently deviates from the story material that Naoko Takeuchi had planned (doesn’t help that the manga was several months behind the anime at this point). As such, viewers without any previous knowledge of the the manga may feel like we’ve jumped ahead 30 episodes as Chibi-usa, Diana, Setsunna Meioh, and even Hotaru Tomoe are already present. It does however start the same way with troubling visions had by Rei (shared here with Mamoru and Hotaru). In fact this version doesn’t waste any time, establishing Haruka and Michiru not as shadowy figures lurking in the background but as the world’s greatest trap and “his” girlfriend. But then suddenly black space blobs called Reversions appear, not to steal pure heart crystals but just be black blobs that must be destroyed. This is all the work of the mysterious Pharaoh 90 (yet ANOTHER character who didn’t show up in S until very late, so late in fact that he’s actually not even in the show) and his subordinate, the slinky red head Kaorinite and stems from the Mugen Academy. Time to investigate the shit out of this eh girls?

Now to the good. They actually did try to address some of the problems with the original series. Hated those crappy cgi transformation sequences? Guess what, its all 2D again! Hated those awful willowy character designs? Guess what, Usagi gained weight! Hated the fact that the Sailors in Crystal barely emoted? Guess what! They still don’t!…but they’re improving. As for the bad, well although its nice that those awful CGI transformations are no more, it still doesn’t fix the other problem with them, that they chew up what feels like five minutes of a 24-minute show. Voice acting remains consistant which means creepy annoying grandma Kotono Mitsuishi as Usagi. And although the plotline is running much much faster than in the old series, there doesn’t seem to be any real motivation to the plot (something I feel we could have had if they hadn’t wasted 5 minutes on a damn henshin). Still its a two parter and that might be addressed in two weeks (oh yeah still two week waits for episodes, dammit). Yes the knives are fully out for Crystal this time, but maybe it’ll add up to something. –Lord Dalek


Sailor Twopiter

Jumping over two seasons of mediocrity

Sailor Moon Crystal returns with a big chip on it’s shoulder. Highly anticipated when it was first announced, the poor animation, quality-control, and pacing have made it’s first two seasons universally maligned by fans and critics alike. Beyond the meme-spawning quality slipups, the series also suffered from slavishly following Takeuchi’s manga with few changes made to improve the story and cater it to a modern audience. It certainly didn’t help that the Dark Kingdom arc that begins the series is painfully boring in the original manga to begin with, and crappy CGI-animation, uninspired directing, unmemorable music, and monotone voice acting just made the experience intolerable.

Still, the show did one thing right, and that was make Sailor Moon relevant and profitable again. Merchandise sales for the series were excellent in Japan and the long-awaited home video release of the series overseas led to a resurgence in the international fandom as well. So now Toei’s hoping to keep the gravy train going by making more Crystal to remind people that Sailor Moon exists so they can sell more products and make more moolah. Everybody wins! Well, the fans don’t, but as we all know by now, Toei doesn’t really care about them, right?

Well, maybe they do. Because like with the current arc of Dragon Ball Super, it seems like Toei’s responded to fans’ complaints and have made an effort to address them. For one thing, they got the person in charge of fixing all the off model animation from the first two seasons for the home video releases to direct this season. While Chiaki Kon’s track record as a director is very hit and miss in terms of the content of her shows, she’s easily a better choice for the job than the guy who had previously only directed One Piece and Pretty Cure crap. Most of the staff has been overhauled, and this new talent is clearly more capable than their predecessors. While not outstanding, the animation is on-point in the episode and well-done during the fight scene towards the end. They ditched the awful CGI transformation sequences and have replaced them with infinitely better looking traditionally animated ones. None of the characters go horribly off-model, and they are even allowed to emote a little!

Speaking of, that’s another improvement made to this premiere. The first chapter of the arc has been halved, and while most of the episode is devoted to exposition, it also allows for more character moments and humor that were sorely missing from the first two seasons. Additionally, the characters are finally allowed to have more of a personality, especially in the cases of Makoto and Minako, whose love-struck fawning over Haruka felt very reminiscent of gags from the original anime and was the highlight of the episode for me. I’d like to think these improvements are a sign that the staff cares more about representing the property and telling the story well this time around, and are not just going through the motions like how the first two seasons did.

Sure, this might be preemptive and the show could go to crap again, but all signs seem to point to Toei finally getting their shit together and making this show with at least a shred of competency this time. Infinity is a well-beloved arc, perhaps the best arc in the entire series, so it’d be wonderful if they can do it justice and make a new animated version of it that tells the story effectively and endearingly. I remain skeptical Toei has changed for the better, but between this and the Champa arc of Dragon Ball Super, they might finally be doing right by their marquee properties and giving them the treatment they…well, they still deserve better. But at least they’re enjoyable, and I’m willing to settle for that. — LumRanmaYasha

Sailor Threenus

Aw, once again I’m “””treated”””” to another deplorable Toei serving. At this point there’s no real reason to talk about deep inhale Crystal.

Once again the awful animation and character designs coupled with the dragged out pace has made this a snore fest from the get go. And it’s only going to stay that way, just like those fucking Toonami threads on Toonzone!. There ghost towns! GHOST TOWNS PEOPLE! WAKE UP! Everybody was soon exited to have Hiatus X Hiatus on Toonami, but where’s everybody now? Oh, that’s right, probably falling asleep from how boring watching HxH on a weekly basis is! These shonentards couldn’t get a series that would actually work for Toonami, like oh I don’t know…MAGI!?! Come on! I mean, I don’t even watch Toonami and I know how STUPID this whole thing is. AND IF PASCHAL TRIES TO

Editor’s Note: The rest of the article was cut due to it’s incomprehensibility, violation of federal law, and focus on dead forums no one cares about. Thank you for understanding. Also, this was all Shadow’s doing. I had nothing to do with this. I could have stopped it though, but I didn’t.

Shut up, Marquis. — TheFilthyPhalek

5/7

RIN-NE Season 2

Yeah, I'm shocked that you got a second season too!

Whereas most Rumiko Takahashi series are love it or hate it affairs, Rin-ne is that one work of hers where everyone, even the people who like it, will admit is just okay. Because of a lack of a fervent fanbase or hatedom, it’s easily the least popular series of hers and the first season went by last year without garnering much attention from most anime viewers in the west. ANN actually stopped covering it because of lack of interest, and also because the reviewer was becoming frustrated that the romance wasn’t going anywhere. Wow, the romance stalling in a Rumiko Takahashi show? Why, I NEVER would’ve guessed…

Anyways, while the series might not be very popular over here, in Japan it did well enough in the ratings to warrant another season, which for a Takahashi-tard like myself was pleasantly surprising news. Rin-ne might not be as clever or hilarious as Urusei or Ranma, but it still has the slapstick, non-sequiturs, love of Japanese folklore, and wacky and eccentric ensemble cast that make her series so appealing to me. And on that note, this season is going to be even better than the first, because a bunch of the series’ best supporting characters are finally going to be introduced. Renge! Shoma! Left & Right! The cats! Boy oh boy, them cats. I fucking love the cats; they’re all hilarious. Case in point, the season premiere introduces Oboro, Ageha’s cat. Oboro is as vain and self-centered as his master, and the slapstick shenanigans the two get into trying to mess with each other for the pettiest of reasons is just delightful. In general, the new additions the show is going to add this season are only going to improve and diversify the level of character interactions on display and the humor elicited from playing off the characters’ various eccentricities. In this way the series manages to stay fresh pretty consistently, even if conceptually it’s never as inspired as Takahashi’s previous series. There are exceptions though, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing those animated. Especially the Black Cat Ranking Exam. That might even rank as one of my favorite comedic storylines Takahashi’s ever written. Again, anything with the cats is fucking golden.

This is probably the most “personal” review I’ve written for the Clusterfuck since I’m solely commenting based on own tastes and not discussing any technical or objective merits or whatever. But hey, what else is there to say about that, other then the show is technically competent in it’s production and translates the material into animation well. Really, you probably already know if you’re going to watch this show or not if you saw the first season. If you haven’t, well, the series isn’t continuity heavy so you could jump in here and you’ll pick up the premise and characters pretty quickly. But considering this one of the few Takahashi shows that isn’t hundreds of episodes long (yet), you might as well start at the beginning since it won’t take you very long to catch up. Rin-ne continues to be an enjoyably understated comedy that’s definitely toned down compared to the mangaka’s previous works, but still has enough fun characters and creativity to make for an amusing watch. Obviously, I’m shamelessly biased towards Rumiko Takahashi stuff considering my username is “LumRanmaYasha” and all, but this really is an enjoyable show that I think more people ought to give a chance. Either way, I’m glad the show is back, and I look forward to seeing some of my favorite characters and storylines from the manga  animated. I hope they get to Matsugo. He’s faaabulous~! — LumRanmaYasha

Shonen Ashibe GO! GO! Goma-chan

Looks like Super Lovers wasn't the only yaoi incest show coming out this season...

Goma-chan tells a heartwarming story about a young boy and his little white seal, who he rescues after a tragic oil spill near the arctic coast and tries to rehabilitate by putting seaweed on it’s head and raising him as a human boy. Actually, it just falls out a truck outside his house and he keeps it as a pet because it’s cute, but hey, it’s just as ridiculous a premise! But yeah, Goma-chan is a show for little kids that throws all logic out the window to get itself moving as quickly as possible. Obviously, the titular baby seal Goma is the star attraction here, since he’s who the producers of this show are clearly hoping to profit off merchandising. While Goma is undeniably cute, he also has no real character to speak of, just cooing “pew pew” and acting adowable every now and again. But Ashibe and his family are fun enough to offset this, and the way Goma is used as a prop for gags ends up being successfully amusing.

The show has many similarities to Shin Chan, not just because of it’s character designs, but also in how the main four kids basically mirror Shin and his friends. Yuma is a reluctant sceptic who thinks he’s more mature than anyone else just like Kazama, Mao is a strange quiet kid just like Bo, and Sakata is a spineless crybaby with a rotten personality just like Masao, though this show’s version is a bully rather than the one being bullied. While Ashibe isn’t as crude as Shin, he’s just as eccentric, and the show is ostensibly about him and his dysfunctional family. With all these similarities, I’d dare say Goma-chan was just a shameless Shin Chan rip-off with a gimmick tacked on to hide the fact!

…Except for the fact that this show is actually a remake of a classic 90’s anime that was based on a manga made in the late 80’s, both of which predate Shin Chan by a good many years. So, if anything…Shin Chan ripped IT off.

Well, the similarities are superficial at best. While this show might share archetypes from Shin-chan, content-wise it’s more silly and irreverent than cynical and satirical. This is a light-hearted 9-minute children’s series that isn’t likely to make any adult viewer laugh out loud, but can still put a smile on your face thanks to the childish goofiness of it’s premise and gags. While it’s probably not goma knock most people out, I personally will be more than happy to goma down every Tuesday afternoon.

Also, I don’t care what anyone says – “Goma move” is the best ED this season. I’m goma watch it again right now! — LumRanmaYasha

Shounen Maid

WHY IS THIS A THING IN 2016?!?

Hey remember that one time Foggle made us watch that really crappy hentai where the orphan kid got used as a picnic table for some rich rapist creep?

…that was better than this.

 Space Patrol Luluco

My thoughts exactly.

Wow that love affair with Studio Trigger sure did end quickly didn’t it? If it wasn’t for Little Witch Academia 2, every guy I know would have declared Kill la Kill a fluke and completely thrown them under the bus for not living up to that success and after the abominable Inou-Battle and Ninja Slayer I don’t blame ’em. But lo! This season we have not one but TWO shows by the wayward house that Imaishi built, and unlike Kizunaiver, this one actually IS directed by Imaishi!

…its also only five minutes long and appears to have a budget only slightly better than Ninja Slayer’s. Oh god…

Well anyway, Luluco is a precocious 13 year old who lives in a Japanese city where humans and space aliens coexist publicly and peacefully. However. after her dad accidentally gets frozen solid after eating some sort of space pill, she’s forced to get a job in the Space Patrol (led by an Inferno Cop clone with Kamina shades) to cover the costs of putting him back together again. Said job involves contorting herself into a large gun to blow evil (and actually not so evil) doers away with extreme prejudice because… comedy!

Well I laughed once which I guess is something, because most of the “humor” in Luluco is just annoying. The abbreviated run time is just too manic to tell a reasonably logical story and the five cent animation just sticks out like a sore thumb. We are left ultimately with noise and confusion. A waste. — Lord Dalek

Las Segunda Opiniones

As has Trigger's two-year rut of mediocrity!

Studio Trigger broke a lot of trust when they played an unwelcome April Fools joke on fans with Ninja Slayer last year. After the atrociously uninspired Inou Battle, people had hoped that was simply a buffer series made as a necessity to fund their next pet project. Ninja Slayer’s previews looked so cool and dynamic that everyone was convinced that it would be hands down the best anime of Spring 2015. Then it came out and turned out to be a poor man’s Inferno Cop. While Inferno Cop worked thanks to it’s short episode length and tongue-in-cheek humor, Ninja Slayer was a weekly 11-minute slog that was ostensibly a parody but lacked the comedic timing and wit necessary to make it entertaining for more than a select subset of fans who enjoyed its novelty. After that fiasco, every anime critic and fan wrote off Trigger for good and never expected anything remotely inspired or unironically entertaining to ever come out of the studio again.

But now, a year after Ninja Slayer, and two years after the end of Kill la Kill, Trigger has finally produced another tv anime with the heart and creativity they were once known for. What Luluco lacks in budget it makes up for with director Hiroyuki Imaishi’s trademark wit and quirkiness. Whereas Ninja Slayer was as monotonous as mid-00’s [adult swim] cartoon, everything is constantly moving in Luluco. Gags and slapstick are dropped in quick procession with fast-cuts to punctuate the comedic timing and keep viewers’ attention always on the screen. Characters move sliding in every which way about the screen and speak in non-sequiturs. The world is colorful and filled with a delightfully diverse range of human and alien character designs that feel reminiscent of Sushio’s cartoony and expressive character designs for Kill la Kill, even though they are done by ex-Gainax animator and friend of Imaishi, Yusuke Yoshigake. If Imaishi’s shows had a consistent look and feel, this show captures the essence, and is what I think most people have wanted Trigger shows to look and sound like since Kill la Kill.

I’d be lying if I said I found this premiere laugh-out-loud hilarious, but I still found it a refreshing and pleasant surprise regardless. This show feels like it’s being made by people who are having fun making it, a sensation that has been sorely lacking in Trigger’s shows since the end of Kill la Kill. Its world is filled with creativity and the characters are endearingly energetic. While some might scoff at it’s 8-minute runtime, it’s really the perfect length for the series, allowing it to explore weird, abstract premises without them overstaying their welcome. If you’re expecting something with kickass action and social commentary like Kill la Kill or incredibly fluid and dynamic animation like Little Witch Academia, you might be disappointed, because this show is clearly more of wacky comedy with a bare-bones animation budget. But if you enjoy Imaishi’s quirky comedic sensibilities, visual style, and penchant for randomness, and are looking for an enjoyable short series to put a goofy grin on your face for a few minutes, I absolutely recommend trying this out. Luluco is the Inferno Cop/Space Dandy mash-up we never knew we wanted, and is emblematic of the kind of the show Trigger really should be making more of. — LumRanmaYasha

The Please Trigger, Focus on This Instead of Kiznaiver Opinion

SHOUT OUT TO THE ABORTION CLINICS <3 FETUS CHRIST

If you’ve found this blog, then you surely don’t need me to explain who the hell Hiroyuki Imaishi is. And as such, you’ll know what I mean when I say that Space Patrol Luluco is “An Imaishi joint”. You’ll instantly know just what you’ll be getting yourself into should you choose to watch this short-form series. But let’s say for the sake of argument that you don’t know the director of such works as Dead Leaves, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, and Kill la Kill. As a geek whose bulk of animation knowledge spans the Americas and Europe, thus leaving most things Japan to his colleagues, Hiroyuki Imaishi is one of the few Japanese television animation directors whose name I’ve committed to memory because his style is so instantly recognizable. When watching something by the co-founder of Trigger, you can expect to find frantic animation with expert staging, the mundane made weird and the weird made insane, and perhaps some juvenile axioms masking some interesting commentary. Or just plain juvenile humour. Depends on what he’s feeling that day. In any case, “Imaishi = Silly, Fun Nonsense” is basically all you need to know, and is basically all that Space Patrol Luluco is. The comedy comes fast, the world is bizarre, the small budget is made-up for in style, and the opening titles have some damn catchy music. The basic idea of “average girl becomes part of a space patrol” is all the setup needed to fuel moments as quiet as Luluco thinking about her feelings for AΩ Nova or as spontaneous as her turning into a giant gun during an exam. And as a gag series that you watch eight minutes a pop, there isn’t any need for major expansion on this premise or an in-depth exploration of the world, though the audience is given a few explanations about how Luluco’s hometown ultimately became residence for both humans and extraterrestrials. Space Patrol Luluco is purely a fun cartoon that walks in to make you chuckle for a bit, then lets you go on your merry way while instilling a bizarre urge to play Mighty Switch Force…because seriously, am I the only one getting some WayForward vibes from this anime!? I can’t be right!? I just can’t!! — RacattackForce

Super Lovers

Copyright © 2016 The Huffington Post

Tragedy struck Crunchyroll when a nation-wide boycott happened to protest the streaming of “Super Lovers”, a boizu rabu-type show. “I didn’t want my animes to be tainted by such homosexual filth!” one protester said. “I’m okay if it’s lesbians who get caught up in underage incestuous antics, but when it’s men I just turn on my inner Fred Phelps and protest their existence!” Others offered more constructive criticism, as another protester said, “I don’t approve of a show teaching grown men to groom their little brothers. Anime fans are too impressionable and could possibly use this as ammo to groom and eventually molest their own younger male family members. And this is coming from a life-long fan of Papa to Kiss in the Dark.” Despite most anime fans’ inability to rape and molest children due to evolutionary ridges in their skull structure, many protestors are worried this show will act as a mental trigger within their bodies, causing them to go mad and put their sexual organ within anything nearby that even resembles a small child, like a used raccoon.

Looking for the other side to this story, we rammed through Crunchyroll offices to get an answer. However, CEO Kun Gao refused to comment on this situation, instead wanting to focus his endeavors on goading Youtubers to whore out his streaming service. Series director Shinji Ishihira offered his piece on the debacle, but none of us know how to read moon runes so whatever.

Esteemed critic Marron Fartin’ obliged to offer his opinion without warning, suggesting that this show “will open new gateways for the average anime fan, showing them that it’s okay to jack off to guys while denying that you’re anything but straight. Besides, the manga starts to suck once Ren grows up.” Other esteemed critic going by the alias Jacques Assless Chaps argued that we should not heed concern to this controversy, as this will all blow over since “Studio Deen does not know how to draw hot guys.” Yet another esteemed critic who wished to remain anonymous lamented that shows like these are produced while “none of Shimaji’s work will ever see an anime adaptation.” The debate regarding this show’s artistic merit rages on, while freelance doorknob-licker Bloody Marquis retorted the previous critics’ claims with “The fuck was with the Pomeranian? There was a Pomeranian in Dance with Devils too. What’s the deal with that? Are Pomeranians just the new symbol of romance? Like, what the fuck?”

Terra Formars 3: Return of the Revenge: With a Vengeance

Season 1 designs vs Season 2 designs. I know, right?

Terraformers is not an anime I enjoy for it’s plot, characters, animation, soundtrack, narrative structure, or strangely offensive looking antagonists. Well, I do, but not in a legitimate sense. Most of the show is just people being killed by insects in increasingly horrific ways while they cry about their dead girlfriends. The characters are still flat, and everything just kind of happens with very little explanation. What Attack on Roach Pillar Men does fulfill is my need for horribly censored gore and stupidly over the top attempts at drama, and it doesn’t disappoint. The plot isn’t worth discussing, because it’s the same plot Terraformers always has: people go to Mars to fight bug guys, bug guys corner and kill most of them, survivors plot to fight them again. Rinse, rewind, and repeat for another cour and we got ourselves a weekly dose of guilty pleaser. So if you want a good stupid anime in the vain of classic 80s OVAs, then this is the anime for you!

Chiseled insect abs/10 — Shadow Gentleman

Tonkatsu DJ Agetaro

Dis show be askin' da hard questions, dawg!

So apparently cooking and DJ-ing are the same thing because they both involve working to some sort of rhythm. But if that’s the case isn’t everyone is qualified to be a DJ since most jobs involve making repetitive noise or moving to a rhythm in some way? I do not approve of this cultural appropriation of the sacred art of DJ-ing by these groove-less fast-food conglomerates. Well, I might have been able to overlook it if the show legit dropped some sick beats, but it’s music is lame as fuck. Also, what’s up with dubbing over the DJ’s English slang with grammatically correct Japanese? Bad enough that they have the DJ speaking in such broken English in the first place. Oh Japan, you and your horribly insensitive stereotypes of black people. Anyways, if you want a really rocking show about a DJ, I’d suggest you watch Major Lazer over this snore-fest. Seriously, that shit is tight! — LumRanmaYasha

Twin Star Exorcists

Blah Exorcist.

I need to add a new entry to my anime drinking game: “Take a shot every time the first episode starts in a burning building or generally enflamed area”. Example… just two days ago I watched HUNDRED, a shallow piece of regurgitated LN trash that started in a burning city. Now I watch Twin Star Exorcists, a shallow piece of Jump Square trash that starts on a battlefield engulfed in flames. It’s like the latest permutation of Madoka’s “Bad End as Bad Dream” thing. What does have anything to do with anything? Beats me but it sure looks sexily apocalyptic!

So in a world that is, and I quote… “stained with sins and KEGARE but worth fighting for” (whatever the hell KEGARE is), we are introduced to tsundere bitch Benio and average unlucky shlub Rokuro. Benio is some sort of super exorcist who opens dimensional holes to a world of blood of guts, and Rokuro just sucks and has bad teeth. Well actually he only just started sucking recently, two years ago Rokuro was a better exorcist than Benio but then one of those Tragedy of Vashtarl type things happened with all the blood and guts and the screaming and the yelling and the Bill Cosby-ing. Actually little of this important. The characters just seem to wander from location to location while shitty dubstep plays. This is not helped by the awful pacing that makes me feel like I’ve  just skiped through 2-3 manga chapters and still can’t  be paid to care.

In the end, Twin Star Exorcists is just another one of those post-Titan feaux-edgy shounen adaptations. The kind where tons of red paint makes you want to feel like a bad ass but lines like “If you die..you don’t get to eat ohagi anymore.” just make you an ass. Nothing short of a waste. Skip. — Lord Dalek

Apathetic Opinion

Soushite, anta-tachi wa Sousei no Onmyouji desu!

I tried watching this episode from beginning to end, but blanked out. I just can’t care about that. Even most of the notes I wrote for this episode were just “Meh” jotted down a dozen times. So instead of caring enough to focus on that, I watched Ip Man 3. That’s a cool movie about Bruce Lee’s teacher having to maintain the dignity of his Wing Chun martial arts all while fighting Mike Tyson. I admit I was mostly watching the film just to see the fight between him and Donnie Yen, but Ip Man 3 transcends that expectation through invigorating direction seldom seen in martial arts movies. While not as good as the previous two Ip Mans, Ip Man 3 offers a simultaneously melancholy yet hopeful take on China’s relationship with traditional combat. Instead of watching this anime, I strongly suggest you all watch the Ip Man trilogy. They’re all pretty cool movies with inventive fight scenes and stunning cinematography, even if they all have the plot of Rocky IV. — Bloody Marquis

Sympathetic Opinion

Clearly the most compelling argument to stop someone from killing themselves.

Pierrot’s track record with their popular shonen and seinin action properties hasn’t been impressive these last few years. Besides stubbornly dragging out Naruto Shippuden for over a year and a half since the manga’s conclusion, they also fucked up Tokyo Ghoul, one of the most popular manga currently-running, by rushing though the manga’s story, diverging, and creating their own weird abstract storyline with increasingly uglier aesthetics. The trailers for TSE didn’t look any more promising, to say the least. The character designs were off model, the colors were gaudy, and the animation was unrefined. By all means, TSE looked like it was going to be another poorly made adaption of a shonen action manga, marred by the Pierrot’s trademark poor pacing and production values.

But surprisingly…there seems to be actual effort put into the show’s presentation! The animation is of sound quality and is impressive during action sequences, and the show does a good job distinguishing the human and Kegare worlds by using distinct color schemes. The pacing is on-point, spending half the episode introducing us to the titular Twin Stars individually before pairing them together for the second half. Unnecessary scenes have been cut from the manga to improve the flow of the story, with changes like downplaying unimportant tertiary characters and introducing supporting character Mayura earlier creating a more streamlined continuity that will benefit the show down the line. It seems like genuine thought and care was put into presenting the world, characters, and story in a compelling and effective manner. While one might find the show’s premise and archetypes tired and typical of the supernatural battle shonen subgenre, the stylistic choices director Taguchi Tomohisa makes, such as introducing characters with monochrome freeze-frames and the use of slow-motion and cross cuts during Benio’s fighting scenes makes the overall presentation more memorable and distinct than it’s by-the-numbers plotline might’ve otherwise.

I reviewed the first chapter of the Twin Star Exorcists manga back when Shonen Jump previewed it last year, and what I said about TSE’s story back then still applies to this premiere. While not a terribly original premise, the contrasting personalities and philosophies of the two leads provides the series an intriguing relationship, and a means to explore these characters in a compelling manner. I’ve since caught up with the manga, and while the series never really breaks from it’s shonen tropes and trappings, it’s at it’s best when focusing on the relationship and correlative character development of it’s lead characters. The decision to add more scenes to establish and explore Benio’s character before she meets Rokuro indicates that the director understands that the series is at it’s best when it’s focused on the two in equal spades and together, rather than primarily through Rokuro’s perspective as is often the case in the manga. It’s an appreciable change that enhances the quality of the material by establishing both characters and their perspectives as equally important. The stronger foundation provided for the relationship here amongst other changes to the source material shows the staff has an acute understanding of it’s strengths, and will take advantage of them to make an effective and superior adaption.

While not the most impressive entry in the genre, TSE’s inspired production and unique central relationship help make it more than just another uninspired psuedo-edgy shonen ghost-buster. It’s nice to see Pierrot put effort into one of their action shows again, and while perhaps not the best new shonen action show to come out of the season, it’s still a solid and enjoyable entry worth checking out. — LumRanmaYasha

Ushio & Tora: 2nd Season

In which Ushio's hopes and dreams are literally shattered

Our favorite hyperactive kid and his snarky tiger pal not named Calvin and/or Hobbes are finally back! And while the new opening might not be as metal as the first, the show hasn’t lost any momentum whatsoever, diving headfirst into a whole new arc and dunking our heroes into troubled waters. Not only has everyone lost their memories of our titular pair, but the entire Koumei Sect has been turned to stone, their demon friends have become their enemies, and Mayuko’s been kidnapped in order to be sacrificed to create a new Beast Spear. So much plot happens in this 24-minute episode that it’s remarkable the audience ever gets a chance to breathe, but lo and behold, the series slows down just enough for a few key scenes of heartwarming character moments. The friendships between Ushio & Tora, Ushio & Asako, and Asako & Mayuko are all tangibly affecting and endearing, and founding the stakes on the characters’ relationships with their friends brings a thematic cohesiveness to the plot and leads to some satisfying character development. The show steps so naturally back into the pace of things here that it feels like it never even left.

I’m rarely this short with my Clusterfuck reviews, but really, what else is there to say? Ushio & Tora continues to be a fresh and fun shonen adventure, and this final cour looks to be some of it’s best material yet. The production quality has even improved since where the show last left off, with several scenes in the episode boasting some charming character animation that add so much vitality to these characters and the world they inhabit. Nishimura’s expertise as a director shine through in his pacing and shot compositions, and the opening sequence showing Hakumen no Mono’s backstory in particular is a good microcosm for his skillful ability to tell an effective and compelling story in a short amount of time. While not an ideal place for newcomers to jump in, there’s no doubt fans of the first season will have a lot to look forward to in the weeks ahead. — LumRanmaYasha

Second Gear

When you're too poor to afford Maruchan

One of the surprise hits of the 2015 Summer/Fall season really came out of nowhere. The first season of Ushio & Tora was classic 90s shonen at its best filtered through MAPPA and Satoshi Nishimura’s careful adaption of the material at a very brisk pacing. The original manga by Kazuhiro Fujita ran 33 volumes and this anime will end this season with a total of 39 episodes and the staff is making use of every moment. The odd part, is that you can’t really tell.

The advantage to a series like Ushio & Tora being so old (it started in 1990 and ended in 1996) is that it predated almost every modern cliché in the genre. You’re not going to see the main character go through training arcs, have 20 point IQ, or fight villain after villain as the story stands still. For 26 episodes the show has charged forward, every seemingly throwaway character and episode coming back around again which makes it a joy to watch.

On the other hand, this means the second season is really for fans that have kept up. It’s not a starting point for new watchers. This season will contain only 13 episodes to the first season’s 26 and will close up the story. The first episode features some gorgeous direction and high octane direction, typical of the Ushio & Tora style, but if you don’t know these characters yet I’d say you’re missing out.

If you prefer the genre back when it was a more pure experience of action and adventure, you really can’t go wrong with Ushio & Tora. But you should start with the first season. — Spark of Spirit

5-14-4-21-20-! 8-15-3-8 8-5-3-8-!

2016
04.19

Episode 4: Labyrinth of Mirrors – The Flame of Death!!

Chapters adapted:  Volume 2, Chapters 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17

 

Last time we left off in Flame of Recca, our hero, Recca, was nearly sliced into pieces in the middle of the park by an angry teenager but was saved because his girlfriend who was able to hear his voice from across town. It was quite the mess of an episode. It also ended in mid-scene, so we need to dive right in here just like the anime does.

And with that, let’s get started.

Mikagami has finished dicing up Recca when Yanagi shows up. He decides to leave because Yanagi looks like his sister, though he still promises to make Recca pay . . . for something he almost certainly didn’t do. Recca feels humiliated by this turn of events and decides to mope about because he lost a fight.

Again, the story cuts to a bunch of figures talking about a girl who can heal. They know this due to the construction site incident back in episode 1. This means the writer knowingly rewrote the way Recca and Yanagi met in order for this to make sense. This change makes Yanagi a target for something that happens later which actually makes the event more coincidental and less believable, but we’ll save that for when we get there. It also reveals something about the past which is not something that shows up for a long time in the manga making me wonder if the writers behind this anime ever had any intention to adapt more than half of it.

What this episode does have is a lot of Recca moping about because he lost to Mikagami. It wasn’t that he failed to protect her or that the sword dude is crazy and should probably be committed or turned into the cops. No, it was that he lost a fight. In fact, that’s all Domon and Fuko seem to care about in regards to his out of character depression. It’s quite a shallow reason to be depressed since Recca is an awful fighter in the anime.

They take him to see Yanagi at the pre-school (the kids also hate her stories, unlike in the manga), the very place cut from the last episode, to try to cheer him up. Yanagi then suggests all four of them going to the amusement park and Mikagami is still watching them creepily from above. He doesn’t understand why Recca has no injuries and declares him dangerous.

The irony burns like acid

Now, chapter 13 in the manga is portrayed a bit different. For one, though Recca is intentionally avoiding Yanagi and making her upset, he is clearly torn up about it, too. In fact, his own reactions vary from comical to those of one with a guilty conscience. He doesn’t care at all that he lost a fight; he’s more concerned about Yanagi and how he could fail her.

One of the more humorous elements of the chapter includes attempts to find out what is bothering him from random students (whom the anime never shows) and even Fuko and Domon.

Yanagi wanted to invite Recca to the amusement park, but obviously that is no longer happening so she decides to rip them up. But instead Mikagami shows up to try and cheer her up and volunteers to go with her instead. This is how Yanagi and Mikagami end up in the amusement park as opposed to how they get there in the anime.

As opposed to the outright psycho he is in the anime, Mikagami actually feels guilty for what he’s doing to the two of them, stating that he hates himself for being this way and getting in the way of others’ happiness. He projects his failure to protect his sister on Yanagi, and refuses to let her get hurt by hanging around Recca. While he may be misguided, Mikagami is not an altogether bad guy here. He may still be confused, but he’s not an outright monster. He’s just going about it all wrong.

Fuko and Domon approach Recca and help beat some sense into him. Since they are his friends, they talk it out while he lets out his frustrations which helps Recca come around to understanding that he can’t just give up on Yanagi for what might happen. It turns out he might have not been taking his duty seriously enough, since his new found resolve sends him out to the amusement park after Yanagi. Fuko and Domon do not go with them to the park like in the anime, instead they show up later.

And that is where the anime and manga merge again. So, back to the anime.

At the amusement park, Recca still continues to be an absolute bore and Yanagi tries her best to cheer him up. While she goes to get juice for the four of them, Mikagami shows up and takes her to the hall of mirrors, essentially kidnapping her. These are not the actions of someone with all their marbles in one place.

He explains why he is hunting after Recca, and that is because our hero is apparently hiding something. For some reason, Mikagami is still riding on the hunch that because Recca knows about madogu he must have had a hand in murdering his sister when the flame-user was eight years old. Yes, he’s still this stupid. There is no reason to believe this is what Recca is like.

Recca, of course, just happens to be walking by the hall of mirrors when Yanagi yells out in disbelief despite moments ago refusing to even get up to look for her. No explanation as to why he didn’t think to go after her. Domon and Fuko have already split, leaving Recca alone to see what the problem is.

He gets over his depression instantly and asks forgiveness from Yanagi for being such a bore for less than ten minutes of screen time. Well, so much for that. Back to the status quo.

Mikagami and Recca meet in the hall of mirrors, and the fight begins again.

Recca shows up in the anime

Recca shows up in the manga

In the manga, chapter 14 especially, Mikagami and Yanagi actually have a pretty good time at the park until she accidently calls him Recca after Mikagami gives her an ice cream cone. It’s a bit of a shock to them but confirms what they both already know. It is Recca that should be there. Mikagami notices Recca’s arrival and shuffles Yanagi off to the hall of mirrors to make sure she doesn’t see him. Inside is where he reveals what Anime Mikagami has been whining about for two episodes—that his sister has died and that Yanagi looks just like her. He doesn’t want her to suffer the same fate as his sister. The labyrinth of mirrors is actually closed, which is why no one shows up to bother them in the manga. Nothing similar is stated in the anime, which opens up so many questions.

Kagehoshi sends Recca a mysterious hint to go to the very spot Mikagami and Yanagi are in, which is how he knows to go there. Much less coincidental than the anime and shows that this was not in Kagehoshi’s plans. Remember, unlike Anime Kagehoshi, this one is not bipolar and actually has a coherent idea of what she’s doing.

Meanwhile, Mikagami reveals his past and states that he lives only for revenge. But unlike the anime, that actually has nothing to do with the current issue, so it’s only lightly touched upon. He also doesn’t blame Recca for any of these events, because he isn’t a moron like Anime Mikagami. The worst thing Mikagami does, which hints at how screwed up he is, is to cut off Yanagi’s long hair to make it short like his sister. That doesn’t happen in the anime, which is funny because it’s about the only creepy thing Anime Mikagami doesn’t do.

To her credit, Yanagi doesn’t freak out, but calmly responds to Mikagami telling him he has issues and needs to deal with them, but she won’t be a replacement for his sister. She might seem childish, but she isn’t so easily spooked which is interesting to see from her.

Then as Recca calls out, she responds, and Recca enters in the most awesome way he can. The fight then re-converges back to where it is in the anime.

Recca’s flames set off the fire alarm which ends up powering Mikagami’s sword. Recca fires three bursts of flames that Mikagami deflects. Well, he misses the last one which crashes into a bunch of mirrors and shatters the glass before Yanagi. How Recca’s flame grew so much more powerful in a single episode is never addressed except to say that Recca apparently used his explosives with his flames, though the direction for the scene is hard to understand. Recca jumps in the way and protects her from being cut up. One of the few comedic moments left from manga includes him comically pulling shards of glass out of his body.

It must be mentioned that not only is Mikagami not hurt at all, but somehow Recca slipped around him to get in the way of the results of his own attack and protecting Yanagi. In the manga, it was clear he slipped around him, but their location in the anime makes it hard to understand how he got to where he was.

Domon and Fuko arrive inside . . . somehow knowing they are there and decide to help out. But this being one of those shonen anime, Recca rejects their help and decides to take down Mikagami on his own. This never happens in the manga where Fuko and Domon don’t show up until the fight is over.

They fight up close for a while, Recca not getting in a single hit, and he ends up punching mirrors because he lost track of the psycho. It’s kind of embarrassing to be Recca in this fight. Mikagami then spin kicks Recca’s face into a wall of mirrors.

Anime Recca is the worst fighter of all time.

Of course, just as Fuko and Domon move to help Recca, Kagehoshi shows up and steps on their shadows to freeze them in place. This is not a power she has in the manga. In fact, neither Fuko nor Domon show up here. They are only arriving in the amusement park now, and Kagehoshi is still talking to Yanagi about plot important details elsewhere. The anime makes them into an audience, cutting out all the other material, for whatever reason.

Meanwhile, Recca ends up nearly losing his head, but thanks to stepping on a piece of glass ends up accidentally sliding out of the way of an attack. Talk about no skill and stupid luck. He continues to punch glass at an embarrassing rate and still lands no hits on Mikagami.

For a quick summary of how the manga differs, well, the fire alarm doesn’t go off, which means it isn’t powering Mikagami’s sword. Like before, it is most likely a simple water bottle that powers Ensui, since (future manga spoiler) Ensui’s strength depends on the amount of water Mikagami uses which is why this fight isn’t quite as one-sided as in the anime.

No, Recca actually hurts Mikagami and hits him pretty good in the manga—the two even take the fight away from Yanagi to avoid her getting hurt, almost as if they care about her.

Kagehoshi shows up to see Yanagi and reveals that maybe she isn’t so bad after all. She understands why both Recca and Mikagami are fighting so hard and doesn’t want Yanagi to worry about it. A bit different since Kagehoshi doesn’t appear to hate everyone like Anime Kagehoshi does.

In fact, she continues to talk to Yanagi while the fight between the two goes on elsewhere. It’s a nice breather from the action and lets other characters take center stage for a while. It’s a lot quicker in the manga, leading up back to the conclusion of the fight in the anime.

In the anime, he makes a bet that he will defeat the psycho with two more uses of his flames. It is more accurate to say that he can only use it two more times before he runs out, but of course Anime Recca can’t ever outsmart anyone like in the manga so Anime Mikagami has to figure this out ahead of time. The first flame glides along the side of the mirrors, spraying glass everywhere (of which only one actually cuts Mikagami lightly on the cheek, of course), and uses his substitution trick to fool the psycho into attacking a mirror falling from above. Only difference in the manga is that Mikagami gets pretty cut up from this attack, which should probably happen since there’s exploding glass all over the place.

Recca’s final attack is a flaming punch that he attacks with from behind. Mikagami blocks it with Ensui, but it is no use. Recca’s flames turn Ensui’s water into steam and he hits the psycho full on with the flame punch sending him flying backwards into a remaining mirror. The fight is over.

Mikagami’s glass jaw is a bit embarrassing considering the amount of hits Recca took, not to mention that he still thinks this kid was involved in killing his sister seven years ago. Despite all this, the psycho’s ambivalence about getting beat up is a bit strange. Somehow because Recca didn’t kill him after his defeat he now thinks Recca was not involved in killing his sister, though that again is a pretty random conclusion to jump to. But it is already established that Anime Mikagami is a dimwitted psychopath so that’s probably in character for him.

Finally, Kagehoshi reveals the reason she put Recca in all this danger to “increase his power” (originally it was to test his competency, but we all know Anime Recca would not pass that test) in order to deal with another flame user out there.

And using a flame power for like a week should be enough to beat a master, right?

In the manga, we do not know who this is, though the anime has already given far too many hints about it for it to not be obvious who she’s talking about. Recca also cuts Mikagami’s hair in revenge of what he did to Yanagi’s hair. Their score is now settled in the manga. Mikagami might have issues, but they amicably go their separate ways.

In the anime, Kagehoshi continues on. She reveals the kicker that the killer of Mikagami’s sister is in the mysterious group. So why she manipulated the psycho who almost murdered Recca is finally made clear, even if it is completely ridiculous. If it wasn’t for Yanagi’s Recca-sense an episode ago, Recca would be dead. This was a pretty stupid plan for Anime Kagehoshi. It’s surprising that she didn’t just beat Anime Yanagi into a coma in order to prevent her from getting help in the park like she did in the battle with Fuko– after all, that was to prevent her interference at the time, wasn’t it? If she didn’t want Recca dead, then why didn’t she jump in at the park? Recca was almost murdered, after all. Yeah, Anime Kagehoshi’s plans make no sense.

Mikagami will have none of this, because, well, he doesn’t owe the woman who manipulated him into almost killing an innocent anything. Instead he taunts Recca saying he won’t have enough power to defend Yanagi when the time comes. Recca shrugs him off and says that if he fails to save her, he will take his own life. It’s a bit over the top, but Recca takes his duty seriously though in the manga he proves his seriousness over and over where Anime Recca can’t back anything he says up. Mikagami announces that he won’t have to take his life, because he’ll do it for him. Then he walks away.

Recca collapses on the floor, which means it is healing time. Yanagi’s time to shine. Now here’s where I have to point something out.

Yanagi cuts open her own hand with a piece of glass in order to put her blood against Recca’s blood. Why does she do this? Because this is the only way for her to heal internal injuries like the ones Recca has.

Did you get that?

Remember back in the first episode, when Recca was crushes by pipes and bleeding through his mouth internally? Do you remember Yanagi cutting herself in order to heal Recca’s crushed organs then? No? That’s probably because she CAN’T heal those types of injuries any other way than this. It’s established right here that she can only heal internal injuries this way. This means Recca’s injuries in episode 1, which put him into a coma, could not have been healed. Which means it should have killed him.

So why did the anime writer do this and create a plot-hole that wasn’t in the manga?

Who knows, but it sure is aggravating that they can’t get the main heroine’s powers right when in the manga it was pretty straightforward.

This is when Fuko and Domon (who really might as well not even be here in the anime) learn that Yanagi has healing powers. Behind them no one seems to notice Kagehoshi crying as she reveals in her inner monologue that Recca is her son.

She disappears to reveal that behind her yet someone else is watching them and disappears. Where are all these people coming from and how come the general public or the police have yet to show up to see the chaos in the mirror maze? It’s a total mystery. Turns out this guy was working for the creepy guy from earlier and confirms to him that Yanagi definitely does have healing powers. Why he doesn’t report Kagehoshi or Recca’s powers, or Ensui, is, of course, not explained at all.

The episode then explains that Yanagi is now their target as the creeper in the mask decides he will be the one to find the girl with healing.

Another big difference is that in the manga we see inside Recca’s dream instead of Kagehoshi just outright saying everything in her inner monologue. This is where Recca sees the events from 400 years ago shown in the first episode. A woman named Kagero, suspiciously looking like Kagehoshi, has a son named Recca whom she promises will be a great ninja. The audience discovers with Recca exactly who Kagehoshi is.

In the manga there is no mysterious individual watching from the shadows (sneaking up behind Kagehoshi of all people) and nothing gets reported to anyone. The reason why is because Yanagi is not the target of this mysterious individual and no one is following her. Target of what, you might be asking? Well, that will have to wait until next time when we begin the first proper arc of Flame of Recca. As of now, this is the end of episode 4.

And that is the end of the introduction of Flame of Recca. The first four episodes adapt the first 17(!) chapters of Flame of Recca, skipping much character building and story beats outside of the fighting. In fact, the only thing adapted were the general events of certain fights—everything else was stripped from the story. We are heading into the first real arc next episode and we don’t really know much about our main characters because the anime went out of its way not to show us anything and in the process made the events feel more hollow than they should have been.

But the anime is still young. There are still 38 more episodes of anime to go. Surely they have to get back on track eventually, right?

Well, we’ll see.

Until next time!

2016
04.14

Episode 3: The Water Swordsman – The Fang of Revenge!!

Chapters adapted: Volume 1, Chapters 8 and 9; Volume 2, Chapters 11 and 12

Chapters skipped: Volume 2, Chapter 10

 

Here we are back in the fray again! When we last left off in Flame of Recca, episode 2 clumsily adapted 5 chapters of manga material while removing much of the fun and left us on a cliffhanger. After a poorly paced second episode we jump straight back into the action with episode three. Sure the last episode might have missed much from the manga, but how does this episode fare? It couldn’t be any worse, surely.

Right?

Well . . .

My competent hero!

The first scene of this episode is Fuko blowing Recca away with one hit. In the manga, Recca unleashing his flames (that he is well equipped with) changed the trajectory of the fight and brought it to a quick end. In the anime, the flames barely make any difference. It continues on for literally half this episode. This does not bode well for the adaption.

Kagehoshi also informs Fuko that she and Recca are now “at the same level” despite Recca originally having years of experience in the manga. This obviously again a case of the anime raising stakes that didn’t need to be raised by making Recca incompetent for seemingly no other reason.

The first time Recca uses his flame against Fuko in the anime

The first time Recca uses his flame against Fuko in the manga

The fight drags on a bit longer in the anime until Recca finally puts Fuko on the ropes by cracking the gem in the middle of Fuko’s Fujin. Instead of waking her up, it makes Fuko desperate and she whips up a tornado to surround herself from attackers that cuts off the outside world from her. Her air is running low and she will probably kill herself unless she is stopped, at least, according to Kagehoshi.

Domon attempts to uselessly charge into it multiple times, unable to break through. Unlike the manga, he doesn’t declare his love of Fuko via a humorous conversation but of desperately letting out his feelings as he charges into the wall of wind over and over. It’s a bit of a pointless scene, really. Eventually Recca convinces him to stop.

They figure out the best way to get inside is to go over the top through the center and Domon launches Recca up through the air and down into it. He uses his flames to destroy the gem . . . and burn off Fuko’s clothes.

Hey, this is ’90s shonen. It was almost a requirement.

The only real difference from the manga here is Recca’s competence and experience allows him to quickly end the fight with his flame and put Fuko on the defensive as soon as he uses it. Domon also doesn’t charge into it like an idiot and the manga counts down the two minutes to Fuko’s last breath. It’s comparatively quicker in the original version and much better paced.

The group declares victory, and attempts to rub it in Kagehoshi’s face.

Kagehoshi explains that she was the one that sent Recca forward into that portal from 400 years ago then she disappears into the night. But not before stabbing herself to reveal that she cannot die. It looks like the group is up against an immortal! Not only did she nearly succeed in outright murdering Recca, Yanagi, and Fuko so far, but she apparently has something to do with that scene from the first episode!

Of course the anime is jumping the gun here. The reveal in the manga isn’t quite this expositional; in fact the only thing she reveals to Recca is the ONE thing she doesn’t reveal in the anime. But then, we already knew she was the one who put him in the portal because it was spoiled in the first few seconds of the first episode. She only hints at being Recca’s family, but says nothing about 400 years ago because it hasn’t been brought up yet. This makes the scene later when Recca asks his father about his mother make a bit more narrative sense in the original version.

A big loss in all this, in my opinion, is Yanagi’s personality. In the manga her joking around brings Fuko back down to earth and lightens the mood quite a bit with all of them. Yanagi in the anime might as well not even be there. She does nothing and says very little. Then again, no one really does much outside of the fight. The comedy is almost entirely gutted. These little character moments are cut from the anime which doesn’t bode well for future episodes.

Finally this long, drawn-out battle the anime stretched out is over and things can go back to normal, right?

Mikagami apparently watches schools at night for no reason

Well, no. Because apparently someone was watching their battle the whole time from the shadows. Could this be who this episode is named after? We better hope so because we’ve spent half this episode still resolving the previous problem.

Here I have to take a pause to note the missing manga material.

The very first chapter of volume 2 is cut entirely from the anime adaption. Which is funny considering the image at chapter’s end is the final shot in the ending credits of the show. It was cut because it’s a pure character building chapter involving bonding between Recca, Yanagi, Fuko, and Domon, that makes them seem more like normal high schoolers and is an otherwise enjoyable chapter.

They sit around and make jokes, shoot the breeze, and have fun with each other. These character moments give the times the story goes serious more punch since you start to feel like you know these characters instead of them just being stock placements for non-stop fights. Cutting this chapter from the anime entirely was a mistake.

Fuko (and Recca) have great taste

Look familiar?

The end of the chapter also features the first appearance of Mikagami who was sought out by Kagehoshi to test Recca by using Yanagi’s similarity to his dead sister to provoke him. This is entirely different in the anime.

In the anime his motivation is, well, poorly written and muddled. In the manga, his motivation is protecting the one thing he has left of the only person he has ever loved. Big difference.

So after skipping much manga material we are back in line with the anime with the official reveal of popular character Tokiya Mikagami with a different hair and eye color in the second half of the episode. Yes, this episode is that jarring that it introduces a new story halfway through the episode. He introduces himself to Recca, without, uh, saying his name, out of the blue and tells him to . . . nothing, really. What Mikagami’s motivation is remains unclear because he says almost nothing at all.

In a scene not in the manga, Mikagami goes to a park at sunset and drains the water from the fountain into his strange artifact which sharpens into a sword of water. Why he does this at all is not explained, though Kagehoshi catches up and recognizes that the artifact (madogu) is called Ensui and it is a sword made purely of water. Unlike in the manga, these two have never met before, and it is Kagehoshi who recruits him to attack Recca by lying to him. It’s a very badly thought out lie, assuming Mikagami did not see the entire fight at the school, but a lot of things in this episode are badly thought out.

You see, Mikagami’s sister was brutally murdered seven years ago and he’s been trying to find the killer since. Even though he ignores Kagehoshi, he is determined to go and find Recca because he knows about madogu. Or is it?

No, he goes after Recca for an intensely stupid reason.

Anime Mikagami is an idiot

You didn’t read that wrong.

He accuses Recca of being involved in his sister’s murder from seven years ago (yes, really) and then Recca, for no particular reason, starts attacking Mikagami unprovoked. Yanagi looks kind of like Mikagami’s sister, but that really doesn’t explain anything as to what Mikagami is even doing there. The two get into a fist fight that eventually spills out into a battle between Recca’s flames and Mikagami’s water sword.

Not one bit of this scene makes coherent sense. It’s already an incredible leap to assume if Recca knows about madogu that he knows something about his sister’s murder, but this is supposed to be one of the smartest characters in the series. He thinks an eight year old was involved in his sister’s murder. This is unbelievably dumb.

Recca is soundly beaten, in case you forgot this was the Recca anime, and howls out in pain. Yanagi hears this with her Recca sense from miles away, again, for some reason, and comes running out to meet the two of them. Somehow seeing Mikagami once from a distance earlier in the morning was enough for her to know that he’s a bad guy that wants to hurt Recca and she thinks he’s after him. Again, for some reason.

Chapter 11 and 12 from the manga were horribly mangled in translation here. Yanagi is stripped of even more character as it was here in the manga that we saw her at work in a preschool showing off her stories to the kids. Recca helps out and they bond further. Mikagami approaches after Recca leaves and insults the wannabe ninja a good deal, provoking him into a fight where Mikagami’s experience overwhelms Recca and he leaves him beaten telling him to leave Yanagi alone because his recklessness is endangering her.

That’s it. No threats of death, no murder attempts, no stupid leaps of logic. Just an encounter that leaves Recca beaten in the one place it matters: his duty.

Yanagi also shows up to find Recca because she is only about two streets away and heard him yelling in pain. Interesting that she was so tuned into his voice, though it makes more sense than it did in the anime of her knowing halfway across town of what was actually occuring–here she doesn’t even know he’s been attacked. She finds Recca beaten in the parking lot and heals him back to consciousness. She does not meet Mikagami once in this encounter. Actually, she hasn’t met him at all yet. The chapter ends with Recca saying Yanagi should stay away from him because he attracts such dangerous characters and he can’t protect her.

That is not what happens in the anime.

In the anime, Mikagami cuts Recca up like a Christmas goose without mercy and readies to murder him before Yanagi arrives to tell him to stop. Good thing she has Recca-sense or else Recca would have died for no real reason. Anime Mikagami is not only a dolt, he’s a complete psychopath. Looking like Mikagami’s sister is enough to get the sword user to stop from outright murdering Recca in the middle of the park. She runs right by him to check on Recca.

And that’s where the episode ends. No explanation, no resolution, just the end of a sloppy and poorly justified fight. Actually, we don’t even know if that’s the end of it. It just stops and goes to the next episode preview. Talk about one mess of an episode.

Here’s the thing—NONE of this happens in the manga. None of it. Kagehoshi doesn’t need to manipulate Mikagami to do her work for her for a dumb reason because she already knows about his dead sister. Mikagami isn’t waiting outside the school watching this fight despite having no reason for being there. Yanagi isn’t totally pointless to the story like she is in this episode. Mikagami is also not stupid enough to believe 15 year old Recca Hanabishi could have had a hand in killing his sister 7 years ago for reasons anyone smart enough to know basic math should understand. Mikagami is also not a psycho that wantonly goes around slashing people with his sword for poorly deduced reasons.

While the rest of the changes in the anime could be forgiven up to now, this is by far the worst and most poorly thought out episode in the anime so far. It not only takes away Mikagami’s character, it makes him look like a moron in the process. Fans must have been absolutely puzzled by everything in this episode back in the day.

There’s little chance of the humorous moments involving his character remaining intact, since most of them have been gutted for everyone else. This anime is much too serious and desperate to strip the character from the series. This might change in future episodes, but so far, it is not getting any better as an adaption.

And that is it for this episode. We got very little plot progression, much altering and excising from the manga, and everything made worse from the original without question.

Here’s hoping the next episode succeeds better than this one as an adaption, because there is much to make up for here.

Until next time!

They seriously put this scene in the credits, but cut this chapter out of the anime. Good going, Pierrot!

2016
04.11

Sorry for posting this so late, but ho boy, this was a monster to write up. There were eleven series in this issue, and I had to balance writing this while also doing a bunch of Clusterfuck reviews AND finish all of the far more important schoolwork I needed to get done. So, forgive me if I keep the introduction short this time and we just dive right into things, okay? Besides, if you want to know my thoughts on all the Jump anime adaptions that came out this season, the Clusterfuck should be out soon enough, and I’ll probably talk a lot about the MHA anime in particular on the next episode of my Manga Mavericks podcast.

Anyways, in this week’s issue, Jack gets smacked, Yaoyorozu talks economics, and Korosensei lucks out at the races. Also, gasp, could it be? Osamu was actually useful in a fight? Huzzah! Oh, what a joyous day to be a member of the Unofficial Osamu Fanclub! All this and more, After the Jump!

Weekly Shonen Jump: 2016, Issue No. 18

One Piece chapter #821 – “Understood”

While taking Jack out so unceremoniously feels like it should be labeled an anti-climax, it’s just so surprising that it turns around and becomes awesome. This guy has been built up throughout this entire arc and has dealt massive damage to Zou and it’s people. It’s only fitting, then, that Zou itself is the one to take him out. It’s such sweet karma, and the irony of a mammoth-man being swatted aside by an elephant only adds to how satisfyingly appropriate it is. I’m really glad Oda went this route. For one thing, it allows us to learn more about Zou, or rather Zunesha, and learn a little about its past. Who Zunesha really is, and what crime it committed, are intriguing mysteries that will no doubt tie into the greater lore about the Void Century, the ponyglyphs, and the One Piece. It also spares us the arc from digressing into another “Straw Hats saves town from pirates” story, allowing the series to continue its forward momentum and dive into the more interesting and pressing conflicts with Kaido and Big Mom.

If you didn’t think Momonosuke was going to be a big deal before, he’s most certainly confirmed to be now. He has a power even Luffy doesn’t have – the ability to respond to beings like Zunesha and give them orders. Luffy being able to hear Zunesha but unable to talk to it is similar to how he could hear the Sea Kings back in the Fishman Island arc but wasn’t able to communicate with them. In fact, Mononosuke is very similar to Shirahoshi in that regard, in both have this unique ability to communicate and control legendary creatures. We know why Shirahoshi has her power; she’s the ancient weapon, Poseidon. So could this mean that Mononosuke is the last remaining ancient weapon, Uranus? Perhaps, but I have to wonder why Oda would make two of the ancient weapons human beings. After all, Pluton is a ship, so I feel that Uranus should similarly be something different in form than the other ancient weapons. Considering Mononosuke’s line about traveling with Roger, I have a feeling that there’s more to the guy than we’ve been led to know, and he’s something even more important than even the ancient weapons. Regardless, this chapter pretty emphatically declares “HOLY SHIT MOMONOSUKE IS A BIG DEAL YOU GUYS” in big, flashing neon letters, and it’s going to be both interesting and frustrating trying to figure out exactly what his deal is.

But the surprises don’t stop there. Damn, that last panel! Even on a Den-Den Mushi, I’d recognize those keyboard teeth and his signature “Appa pa pa” laugh anywhere. Yes, it looks like Scratchman Apoo is alive and well and in league with Kaido. Considering the last time we saw him he and his fellow Supernova partners Kid and Hawkins were staring the man down, I think it’s safe to assume they’ve allied with Kaido as well. With Jack supposedly taken out, will Apoo now go after the Straw Hats for revenge on Kaido’s behalf? Looks like both halves of the crew are going to have to deal with Supernovas in addition to Yonkou, and those are some pretty exciting circumstances. Every chapter Oda has just been raising the stakes and making things crazier and crazier, and every new development has just been golden. Now, let’s have Luffy make good on his word and take off to Big Mom’s, eh? Seriously, considering this is supposed to be the “year of Sanji,” there’s been surprisingly been little Sanji in it so far, and while I’ve been loving all the world-building and changes in the status quo, I think it’s time to start focusing on the guy, y’know?

 My Hero Academia chapter #85 – “Nothing but Fools”

Public opinion of heroes has become more negative in light of the villain attacks. It’s gotten to the point where Midoriya’s mom questions whether Midoriya should even be going to U.A. anymore. But it makes sense why people feel that way. The recent villain attack was the third time students from U.A. got tangled up in a life-or-death with villains. One time was already too much, but there’s something clearly wrong with U.A.’s security and safe-guards if they’ve run into this problem three times, and Bakugo’s kidnapping was a major disaster that doesn’t speak well of their ability to protect their students. Of course, we know that U.A. is doing the best they can but there are things out of their control, but any public or government institution would be criticized and doubted after experiencing the same problem and scandal several times. The lack of faith in U.A. is going to cause public inquiry into their practices, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the government begins an investigation on them and starts monitoring their activities more closely.

But a hero fights for what he believes is right no matter what the public thinks of him. Midoriya doesn’t mind how dangerous things get, because in receiving All Might’s power he was given the ability and the responsibility to fight for what’s right and for the sake of others. Uraraka has the wrong idea when she decries the rescue team’s efforts because Bakugo wouldn’t want them to. If they can help Bakugo, they have to, no matter what he wants or thinks, because that’s simply what heroes do. That might be selfish, but it’s a selfishness born of selflessness. There’s a difference between heroism and self-righteousness. Heroism is altruistic, born of a desire to help others in danger and in need. The rescue team isn’t out for revenge or to fight the League of Villains, but to stealthily and covertly retrieve him from under their noses. While there are some hot-headed members in the party, and things will inevitably go wrong, the presence of Ida and Yaoyorozu gives the group tactical and level-headed perspectives to keep the group in line and focused on their goals. They do not care about satisfying some shattered pride or avenging a defeat, but only in rescuing their friend from a dangerous situation.

Contrast with the League of Villains, whose members are all driven by their selfish wants or ideals. Shigaraki prattles on about how the public sucks for criticizing heroes even though they’re just doing their job, and Spinner condemns heroes for fighting for glory and money instead of altruism. Both claim to want to make the world a better place, but what they really want is a world that conforms to their worldview, and gratifies their perspective. Shigaraki says it himself – “he loves to win.” He’s trying to undermine the system he feels has oppressed him, and drag everyone down with him in a spiral of mistrust and violence. But unlike Spinner, who at least is on a pretentious moral crusade, he doesn’t have any grand, worldly intentions. As Bakugo puts it, all he wants to do is “cause trouble” for the sake of satisfying his own butthurt ego.

So where does Bakugo fit into all this? Well, he sure as hell isn’t going to side with these posers. Bakugo hasn’t just always wanted to be a hero, he wants to be THE hero. Like Midoriya, he wants to be just like All Might. In fact, the excited way he sways back and forth watching All Might as a child mirrors what Midoriya was seen doing in the first chapter/episode. For different reasons, mind you. Midoriya admires how All Might pushes himself to protect people in need, but Bakugo admires how he keeps fighting in the face of adversity and despite impossible odds.  The reason Bakugo is so often frustrated with Midoriya is because he wants to be the hero, the best hero, but Midoriya has consistently taken attention away from him with his triumphs.

In this way, he is similar to Shigaraki, in that he does want the attention and glory that comes from being a hero more than he cares about helping people. But at the same time, he would never stoop so low as Shigaraki to get that attention. For one thing, Bakugo does care about other people’s safety, as shown when he dissuaded Midoriya from going after him after seeing what condition he was in, so he isn’t completely selfish. But moreover, what Bakugo loves most is facing impossible odds. He literally smiles in the face of adversity. His idea of being a hero is overcoming impossible odds in a flashy, triumphant way. There’s no glory in being a villain. Bakugo isn’t out for blood, nor is he hungry to fight, but he does wants people to recognize his capabilities and praise his accomplishments. He’s very direct about what he wants, and lets his actions speak louder than words. Shigaraki’s crusade has nothing to offer him because he doesn’t feel oppressed by the hero system. Rather, the fact he has to work harder to get recognized just motivates him and makes him appreciate those like All Might all the more.

Things in MHA just keep getting more intense, but this chapter also offered some enjoyable comedy to balance out the seriousness of the rest of the chapter. Some strong character development was presented for Bakugo here that contrasts him with Midoriya in interesting ways, and the reveal that Shigaraki is his father adds another layer of intrigue and tension to the circumstances. After this chapter, it’s clear Bakugo isn’t going to turn traitor, leaving it all the more curious as to what the villains plan to do with him now. The danger has only increased for him and the rescue team, and it’ll be interesting to see how all of this will blow up as the arc progresses.

 Food Wars! chapter #161 – “Dueling Performance”

I said last week that the conflict between Soma and Azami wasn’t particular compelling because of how generally indifferent the former has been towards the latter’s machinations. While he won’t stand for Central threatening his friends and home, he holds no grudge and has no reason to actively oppose their plans. He doesn’t approve and isn’t pleased with their methods, sure, but he accepts it all the same. Soma isn’t willing to align with the system, but he doesn’t mind working within it either. Compared to Alice, who has an emotional incentive and drive in seeing Azami and Central fall, Soma seems less like an active rebel and more like someone unwittingly a part of a crusade he holds no investment in.

Since Alice and Erina have more of a personal stake in seeing Azami and Central fall from a character and thematic standpoint, Soma really needs a different rival to spur him into action against Central’s regime. Tsukasa seems to be the perfect characters for the job. Not only does his shaky lack of confidence contrast with Soma’s self-assured bluntness, but they both mutually respect each other, and Tsukasa holds a title Soma aims to claim. There’s more to connect these characters together as rivals than there is between Soma and Azami. Considering Soma’s character is driven by his desire to become a better chef, and the frustration he felt after his loss to Hayama, Soma becoming a target or losing a match to Tsukasa would give him more drive to challenge the Council and Elite Ten then anything Azami could do.

This chapter addresses a criticism I’ve had of Soma’s stake in the arc and shifts his role into a more effective direction. Plus, it opens up new avenues in which to explore Tsukasa’s character. Since he’s the first seat, we know his skills must be on another level than the other student chefs at Totsuki, and while we’ve seen him at work, we may now see how that translates in a more competitive setting. Moreover, it still remains a mystery as to why Tsukasa allied with Azami and what his goals are. If the series contrasts differing philosophies on cooking between Soma and Tsukasa, it can also create more tangible thematic stakes to accentuate the storyline. Really, there’s a lot of potential with this development and where it may go, and no matter what Soma’s response to Tsukasa prompt is, it’ll should no doubt prove eventful.

Blue Exorcist chapter #78 – “It’s All Right if I Don’t Go Back”

 

Shura has always been an enigmatic character, but has put up a front of maturity and confidence. But as this arc has shown, Shura is in fact very emotionally underdeveloped, and unsure of herself and her purpose in life. We’ve always known she had a connection with Fujimoto, but these last few chapters have shown that more than a teacher he was really a father figure to her, and without out she would’ve never had the life, opportunities, or friendships she now has. Shura believes that she needs to live for a purpose, but when she’s about to die, she’s reminded of what Fujimoto once told her, and ponders if she can live for the sake of living. Shura has always lived for the sake of serving others, but now she’s starting to realize she can live for herself, and her own happiness.

Shura’s daughterly relationship with Fujimoto also characterizes her relationships with Rin and Yukio as sisterly, which has been reflected in their various character interactions throughout the series. But it also makes it more than fitting that they are the ones who will help Shura and set her free from the fate imposed on her. All three owe a great debt to their “father,” Fujimoto, and are bonded in their connection and relationship with him. In a way, all three of them are family, and just as Shura can rely on her memories of Fujimoto to give her strength and the will to live, she can count of Rin and Yukio to help her no matter how far they must push themselves to do so.

This chapter provided an excellent exploration of Shura as a character and provided her meaningful development, but it also boasts some great action in the fight with Hachiro, as well as some humorous comedic bits involving Rin repeatedly falling prey to Hachiro’s hypnosis. Moreover, the arrival of Shima is suspicious, considering his ambiguous loyalties. Did Mephisto really send him as backup, or does he have other intentions in mind? This arc is heating up even as it approaches it’s climax, and next month’s chapter should prove both emotionally satisfying and intriguingly plotted.

Toriko chapter #365 – “The Wolf Child!!”

 

This chapter can be summed up in four simple words: Jiro is a badass. He stomps through his fight with the Nitro in this chapter, knocking back everything they throw at him. The man is more of a monster than the actual monsters, and know we finally know why. It turns out not only has Jiro had a history of hunting Nitro, but he was originally raised by the Wolf King Guiness. This explains just where Jiro’s vast reserves of strength come from, and why he was always so at home in the Gourmet World. And much like other old, powerful characters in manga, Jiro’s strongest form is him at the peak of his health and youth.

It’s astonishing to see a young Jiro at the end of the chapter, but it’s clear that this form is different than when we’ve seen him in his younger days. His skin tone is darker, his hair is silkier, and he has cold, black eyes with white pupils. It’s a menacing, ominous appearance, one that feels more suited for a villain than a protagonist. Then again, the same can be said of Setsuno, who looks absolutely ghastly when we see her using her full power in this chapter. In the Toriko world, the more powerful you are the scarier you look, regardless of whether or not you’re good or bad.

While not providing a lot to analyze, this chapter provides the visceral action and intense visual that set Toriko fights apart from other contemporary Shonen Jump series. It’s an exciting and jaw-dropping fight to read from beginning to end, the reveals accentuating the visual spectacle on display. With Jiro now ready to go all out, and the Nitro pushed to use their last resort, no doubt some real shit’s going to go down next week, and I for one can’t wait to see what mayhem unfolds.

Bleach chapter #668 – “Bigger, Faster, Stronger”

 

Kubo pleasantly subverted my expectations by not taking Kenpachi out of the fight, but using his mistakes against Gerard to segue into further character development. Gerard is actually a pretty suitable opponent for Kenpachi. They are both simple-minded and battle-happy, getting immersed in the thrill of the fight and refusing anyone who dares interfere. With the added complication of having to avoid damaging Gerard’s sword, this is a fight that deigns to push an already exhausted Kenpachi to his mental and physical limits, and the fact he instinctively ditches his eyepatch soon after it heats up is proof of that.

The most important moment in the chapter is the ending reveal. Yachiru has been conspicuously absent from the series ever since the fight with Gremmy. In fact, the minute Kenpachi activated his shikai was the moment she disappeared. The chapter’s ending reveal finally explains why, implying that Yachiryu is in fact Kenpachi’s zanpakuto sword spirit. Not, this naturally brings forth many questions, such as why other people can see Yachiru, how she could physically hurt and fight people, and all the various details about how she and Kenpachi first met and her backstory. I don’t remember everything there is to know about Yachiru, so I’m not sure if this twist makes narrative sense or not.

Still, from a character standpoint, this is a pretty big deal for Kenpachi’s development. Yachiru has been the one person who Kenpachi consistently shows concern and affection for, and she in turn has been his biggest supporter and the one who understands him best. Previously, Kenpachi couldn’t activate his shikai because he didn’t take the time to bond with his sword, but that changed after his death match with Unohana pushed him to his limits and helped him forge a deeper connection with it. Now, the fight with Gerard has once again pushed Kenpachi to his limits, and because of the circumstances, his zanpakuto has seen it fight to let him activate bankai. Yachiru being revealed as his zanpakuto spirit adds the subtext that his zanpakuto had always believed in his abilities and cared about him, but he wasn’t able to use its full potential because he had only ever believed in his own strength. Now, he values and respects how important his zanpakuto is to him and that they are equal partners, so it’s appropriate that it turns out that the person who’s always been closest to him and his zanpakuto were always one and the same, but he was so self-centered that he never realized it.

I have no idea if Kubo intended this twist to carry that subtext or he just pulled it out of his ass because he thought it was cool, but it works in this case. Moreover, it’s refreshing to see Kenpachi not be victimized to build up how powerful a villain is, but genuinely grow as a character through the fight itself. Now, it’d be even better if the fight with Gerard had some actual tension or suspense, but at least the stakes are palpable. Ultimately, the chapter provides genuinely meaningful commentary on Kenpachi’s character development, and it should be satisfying to finally see his long-awaited bankai come next week.

Nisekoi chapter #212 – “Bye-Bye”

 

I was disappointed that the series didn’t create a rift between Chitoge and Onodera like I thought it would, but Chitoge learning that Onodera loved Raku still lead to some heartbreaking and meaningful development for her. Chitoge loves both Raku and Onodera equally, so her confusion and distress on what she should do is palpable, and Komi illustrates her emotions in this chapter really well. I particularly love how several times throughout the chapter Komi shows Chitoge’s emotional volatility by simply changing the contour of her mouth between two successive panels. Even without seeing her face, just this minute change in how her mouth is drawn lends how devastated Chitoge is to the imagination, and the blank panels showing nothing but her inner thoughts are a good reflection of the dark place she’s in. Eventually, these pitch black panels are infected by white, and becomes completely white when she finally comes to terms with the fact that Raku and Onodera are both in love with each other, and she needs to get out of the way. Her final, melancholy smile after she tells Raku to treat Onodera well is incredibly pitiable, betraying her sadness, but also affirming her resolve to run away. Both these depictions of her mouth and these monochrome monologue panels compliment the frustration and confusion Chitoge feels, showing her emotional vulnerability, as well as effectively describing how her feelings change from the beginning to end.

There’s a lot of other great artistic and character moments to pick out in this chapter that really sell Chitoge’s emotional distress and arc. I don’t have time to thoroughly did into them here, but the panel showing Chitoge’s reaction to learning Raku is in love with Onodera has a brilliantly warped fish-eye perspective on the background. It’s a great visual illustration to show how Chitoge’s mind and world has been warped and confused, depicting the stress and adrenaline she’s feeling and what causes her to flee from the scene. Moreover, I love the way the lines on the floor all direct towards Chitoge, placing her at the center of attention, yet her size in the panel also shows how small she’s feeling at the moment. Komi’s art in this chapter just adds so much character and emotional heft to Chitoge’s plight, doing a remarkable job describing her feelings visually and not simply through words.

The treatment of Chitoge’s reaction and decision in this chapter makes it simultaneously satisfying and heartbreaking. Satisfying because this is such a big emotional moment that the series has been building up for most of it’s run, but heartbreaking because you can’t help but sympathize and pity Chitoge’s circumstances. Of course, Chitoge never learned that Raku also liked her, so there is an element of misunderstanding that can be so often frustrating in romance series, but here it’s employed well and has an immutable influence on a character arc. What happened to Chitoge, and where she went after saying goodbye to Raku, is anyone’s guess. But considering the set-up here, I have to imagine that Raku will eventually go after her and she will be the one he chooses in the end. Which is predictable, but then again, it always is with a romance series. It’s not about who Raku ends up with, it’s about the character development that drives the romance. After the way Chitoge’s feelings and character arc were depicted here, one can only hope Raku and Onodera will get similarly strong and fitting character development and emotional resolution as the series enters its endgame.

World Trigger chapter #138 – “Tamakoma-2: Part 9”

 

Osamu’s and Chika’s training have paid off. Through successfully employing the spider and shooting lead bullets in tandem, Tamakoma-2 has seriously crippled Katori squad. They’ve learned from their defeat, and now know that they’re at their best when working as a team, and that means complimenting each other’s strengths. Yuma is still their ace, employing high-speed and high-power attacks. Osamu’s spider provides defense and an obstacle for their opponents, while also giving Yuma a shield and foothold for his attacks. Chika also takes advantage of the confusion of the spider to snipe at opponents and bag them down with the lead bullets, which limits their range of emotion by weighing them down or making whatever body part she shoots unmovable. Tamakoma-2 has thusly created an effective strategy to trap and knock off their opponents, and while they weren’t able to score off any points in their scuffle with Katori squad, they’ve cemented themselves as a formidable threat that their opponents have to stray on their guard against.

While Tamakoma-2 is more functional as a team than ever, Katori squad is quickly falling apart. Katori’s plan to take out Yuma failed, and jumping headfirst into the spider cost her teammate’s arm. Now the team is riled up and at each other’s throats, and with their firepower reduced, it’s going to be an uphill battle for them. Meanwhile, Kakizaki squad has made use of the battle between Tamakoma-2 and Katori to regroup, and have likely prepared a plan of action to exploit the weaknesses of both their opponents. Even though Tamakoma-2 has improved, they’ve lost the element of surprise by revealing their new techniques in the scuffle with Katori, and neither of their opponents are going to fall for the same tricks twice. While I don’t expect Tamakoma-2 to lose here, it’s still going to be a hard-fought battle to the last, and I’m excited to see how it’ll unfold.

Assassination Classroom: Side Story chapter #1 – “Time to Come Home”

 

Ass Class is back for a four-chapter side-story about what kind of shenanigans Korosensei was up to when he wasn’t teaching class. While nothing new is necessarily revealed about his character here, outside of superficial things like where he lived and what his living conditions were like, it’s refreshing to see humor characterize the character and series again after the heavy and tear-jerking affair of it’s final arc. And while inconsequential to the main story, this chapter was an absolute delight. There are some great gags involving Korosensei’s squalid living conditions, money-grubbing schemes, and unabashed perversion, and as always, any visual gags involving the character are effortlessly hilarious. The framing device of a group of assassins discussing Korosensei’s home life and becoming increasingly exasperated by his non-threatening and pathetic lifestyle has a great payoff at the chapter’s end, showing that as far as goofballs go, Korosensei is truly in a league of his own.  All in all, a hilarious chapter start to finish. While I’m more keen on seeing what Matsui’s next work will be like, this side-story looks like a pleasant experience for fans of the series, and I’m grateful for one last adventure with Korosensei before we have to wave goodbye to him for good.

Black Clover chapter #56 – “Three-Leaf Salute”

 

Black Clover really surprised me this week in how it handled the fallout of this traitor subplot. Fist, the Purple Pumpkin commander wasn’t just a red herring, but actually did aid the Midnight Sun by kidnapping and selling the country’s barrier mages to them, which is how they were able to invade the capital a while ago. But even more importantly, one of the knights present has been impersonated by a member of the Midnight Sun this whole time, meaning there was certainly foul play afoot to turn suspicion away from the real traitor in their midst, which I’m still fully convinced is Vangeance. If I had to guess, it was probably the Wizard King’s assistant Marx, since he was the one who performed the memory interrogation magic and as a member of the Midnight Sun would already know of the Purple Pumpkin commander’s shady dealings with their group. Still, his copy power adds a complication and adds a rift of mistrust between the group. Anyone of them could be impersonated by him at any time, and they’d be none the wiser. There are more enemies within the capitol than the protagonists are aware, and that’s no doubt going to lead to some dangerous business down the line.

Julius knows this, which is why he entrusts the job of recovering the remaining magic stones to the Black Bulls. More than anyone, he knows that he can trust Yami because of their history together. The relationship between Yami and Julius is really fascinating and reveals more layers to both their characters. We’ve seen Yami extend his hands out to outcasts like Luck and Gauche in flashbacks before, and now we know what inspires him to do this. Julius was the only one who ever saw potential in Yami and didn’t treat him like an outcast because of his race and strange abilities. He trusted him and was interested in him as a person when no one else did.

Now, Yami has seen fit to reach out to others who’ve been abandoned like he once was, because he knows they have potential to do great things as well. He wants to prove that Julius’s generosity and trust in him wasn’t unfounded and wants to use his power to do right by him, which makes him perhaps the most loyal retainer Julius has. Furthermore, the parallels drawn between Yami and Julius and Asta and Yami are really sweet. Yami inducted Asta into the Black Bulls because he believed in his potential the same way Julius once believed in him. While he never betrays his emotions, you can see the determination in Yami’s eyes when he takes up Julius’ request and feel that he truly believes in what he says to Asta, making him know that there’s more than one person who believes and expects great things from him, reinforcing his role as his mentor. These are some great character moments from Yami, adding new layers to his character that should prove fascinating to explore in the series going forward.

But Yami isn’t the only one who gets some great character development in this chapter. While Gauche still clings to his stubborn pride, he thanks the Sister for looking out for Marie, and admits he’s glad that she’s alive, showing he’s finally willing to open up to people besides Marie and Yami. In more comedic affairs, Rebecca decides to step up her game in her efforts to seduce Asta, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she at some point joins the Magic Knights to be able to fight along Asta and compete with Noelle. Whatever he role, though, it leads to a pretty funny gag at the end of the chapter involving Gauche getting ready to kill Asta after Marie expresses an interest in kissing him as well, which was a fun note to end the chapter on. I gotta say, I’m really looking forward to the quest for these magic stones. These should prove to be classic adventure and dungeon-exploring arcs that we haven’t seen in the series for a good while, and it’ll be fun to see how the series handles it’s water dungeon in particular. Black Clover‘s moving in a very promising direction and I’m keen on how the adventure unfolds next.

Seraph of the End chapter #44 – “A Drive Along Death’s Shoreline”

You know, I had written a bunch about this month’s Seraph of the End, but my computer crashed and I lost all I wrote and I can’t be damned to write all of it back up again. So here’s the most important takeaways from the chapter. Ferid and Crowley have an interesting relationship. They put up a pretense of being friends, but it’s clear there’s still an underlying antagonism in their character interactions. The cause of which is probably the fact that Ferid was the one who turned Crowley into a vampire and killed all of his friends 800 years ago. Now, however, they hang out a bunch and are partners in crime. I’m curious to delve deeper in their history with one another and how they supposedly went from enemies to tolerating each others existence.

At the same time, I buy their friendship way more than I do the main characters’. Though they spout friendship speeches so often that even Fairy Tail would tell them to shut up, none of the characters have any particular chemistry or a compelling co-dependence on one another, with the exception of Yu and Mika. So when they say they can get through anything because they’re friends or some shit, it feels like a cliche used without justification, and grates on my nerves.

Speaking of grating, Yu. I don’t know how he keeps getting stupider every chapter, but he does. I get that he’s an optimist, but his total obliviousness and dismissal of the consequences of turning into a demon because it’ll make him more like Mika, or believing that Guren is still a good person because he cried once, is incredibly frustrating. If the characters don’t feel pressured by what’s at stake, why should the reader? But I will give the series credit for having him actually think about the connections between Guren, Ferid, and the Seraph project instead of just dismissing the possibility of foul play for bullshit emotional reasons, and decide it would be best to question Ferid to learn the truth. While it’s still annoying that he doesn’t feel as emotionally frustrated as he ought to be considering the circumstances, it’s appreciable that he actually addresses the problem and comes up with a reasonable and logical solution.

Anyway, the chapter ends with Crowley cutting up Mitsuba, who I don’t care about because she hasn’t done anything notable recently and has a generic tsundere personality. It would be amusing that after their big speech about how they’re friendship will help them pull through a bunch of them getting wiped out by Crowley, but that’s probably too ironic and mean-spirited for Seraph of the End. A shame. Anyways, I’m actually interested in next month’s chapter if only because I like Crowley and I’m looking forward to him putting the beat-down on Yu and pals. That’s going to be sooooo cathartic~!

Final Thoughts:

You know what, I’m tried, and I wrote a lot about anime and manga this week, so I’ll have to keep this short too. But seriously, really great issue. Pretty much every series moved their stories forward with intriguing new plot or character developments. If there was a unifying theme to the character development, I’d say it’s maturity. Several characters showed physical or emotional growth in these chapters, from Bakugo denouncing Shigaraki’s hypocrisy and affirming his belief in heroism, Shura realizing she needs to start living for herself instead or other people, Kenpachi being able to use Banaki after forging a more intimate and personal relationship with his zanpakuto, Chitoge coming to terms that her best friends are in love with each other and respectfully bowing out for the sake of their happiness, Osamu and Chika improving as combatants thanks to their training, Yami’s behavior has being informed by Julius’s influence and mentorship, etc. Really, a very strong issue in terms of characterization and character moments, which made it hard to pick who my MVP for this week would be. Easily one of the best issues of the year so far, and bodes well for these series for the rest of April and beyond.

Best Manga of the Week:

1. My Hero Academia – Great character moments for several characters, fun humor, intriguing development for the public’s growing mistrust of U.A., and of course, Bakugo calling out Shigaraki for his shit, affirming that he’s is and always will be a hero at heart, and the reveal that Shigaraki is his father. A dense chapter with so much to unpack and comment on, and definitely my favorite of this week’s offerings.

2. One Piece – A thoroughly satisfying chapter that poses big questions about Zunesha’s past and Momonosuke’s extraordinary powers. Not to mention the stinger implying an alliance between the Kid-Hawkins-Apoo alliance and Kaido, which can only adds another exciting and dangerous complication to the Straw Hats’ conflict with the Yonkou.

3. Nisekoi – I actually didn’t rank this on the survey after I first read the issue, but the more I thought about it, the more I loved the way Komi’s artwork in this chapter accentuates and describes so much of Chitoge’s emotions and her character arc. It’s a really tragic and heartbreaking chapter for her character, and even though the story beats suggest that Raku will go after her and get with her in the end, it’s still a very emotionally satisfying chapter and a strong direction to take the series’ final arc in.

4. Blue Exorcist – I don’t think my review for this month’s chapter described just how strongly written I felt this chapter was. It provided great character development for Shura, as well as commenting on her relationship with Fujimoto and Rin and Yukio in an interesting familial light. Not to mention the artwork was incredibly strong, with the way Hachiro’s true form is rendered a real sight to behold. It’s also packed with great humor, and the intervention of Shima adds another unexpected element to the fight that will no doubt tie back into the larger conflict with the Illuminati. Really great chapter from the series this month and I’m excited to see how this arc will resolve come the next.

Character(s) of the Week:

There were SO many characters who had great showings this week that it took me a while to decide on who I’d go with. Ultimately, I went with a character who I’ve generally not been keen on, but who really impressed me and I found interesting to analyze this week, and that character is none other than…

Bakugo (My Hero Academia)

For the longest time, I felt Bakugo fit into that angry brash rival stereotype that I generally didn’t care for. But this chapter finally made what underlines his behavior and personality really click with me, and in a way that now makes him genuinely fascinating to me. In many ways, Bakugo wants to be a hero for the wrong reasons; for the fame and the glory. But he’s not simple-minded, and is self-aware about what he wants and why he wants to achieve these goals. He was inspired to be a hero because he admired how All Might would fight against impossible odds, and the thrill of that excites him. He doesn’t smile during fights because he enjoys battle, but as a physical representation of how he wants to smile in the face of adversity. Which doesn’t mean he’s overconfident or cocky. Just look at the image above. Despite what he’s saying, and the big grin on his face, a single sweat drop betrays the pressure and nervousness he feels in this situation. Bakugo is a more emotionally complex and volatile character than he appears on the surface, and his actions in this chapter reveal much about why he behaves and thinks the way he does.

Line(s) of the Week:

“B-but that would be against the rules! If I used my quirk willy-nilly like that, then the circulation of goods would…right! One citizen shouldn’t abuse their power to affect…the economy!”
– Momo Yaoyorozu (My Hero Academia)

Panel(s) of the Week:

Page(s) of the Week:

Well, that does it for this issue! Until next time, enjoy the Spring anime season, get hyped for Hunter X Hunter’s Toonami debut, and refrain from using your powers to affect the economy, and I’ll see you again After the Jump!

2016
04.01

It’s been a while, huh? No, this is no April Fools. The artist formerly known as Cartoon X is back and raring to review manga on here again. I never intended to take such a long hiatus from After the Jump, much less AR, but school and life kept me busy so hey, what could I do? There’s been several times I’ve hoped to jump back in, but I’ve just never found the time necessary to until now. Still, it’s a timely return. Not only does April see the premieres of several highly anticipated Shonen Jump anime adaptions, including My Hero Academia, as featured on this week’s cover, but there’s also a whole bunch of stuff coming to the magazine throughout April. The four-part Assassination Classroom side-story chapters, a new Naruto one-shot and the debut of the Boruto manga, not to mention the long-awaited return of Hunter X Hunter: April is packed with exciting new things debuting issue after issue. Add on top of that how strong a lot of series have been going lately, and now seems like as good a time as ever to jump back in and continue with these issue reviews.

While I haven’t written about Jump in a while, I’ve still been writing about manga elsewhere. I currently write weekly simulpub chapter reviews for new chapters of Fairy Tail, The Seven Deadly Sins, and Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches over at All-Comic.com, so if you prefer Weekly Shonen Magazine’s stuff to Jump’s head on over there and check those out. Also worth nothing is that I’ve also started a manga podcast on All-Comic called Manga Mavericks, in which me and my co-host Colton Solem from Life Lessons: The Gintama Mangacast run down the latest in manga industry news, and comment on topics pertinent to the western manga fandom. We’ve done about five episodes now, and I feel we’re starting to hit our stride, so if you like listening to manga podcasts feel free to check those out sometime as well.

But enough shilling, let’s start reviewing! While this week’s short issue length allowed me to cover these series to my usual level of depth, I’ll probably have to keep them briefer for at least the next few weeks simply out of time constraints. That said, every chapter this issue had a facet worth talking and thinking about, and it was satisfying just to write about these series again after such a long time. So without further ado, let’s get to it. In this week of Jump, a porcupine wants a hug, the Don doggone dies, and Raku loses in a character popularity poll to someone who isn’t even from his series. Who says Nisekoi isn’t hilarious? All this and more, After the Jump!

Weekly Shonen Jump: 2016, Issue No. 17

 

My Hero Academia chapter # 84 – “From Ida to Midoriya”

The title of this chapter directly calls back to chapter #53 – “From Todoroki to Ida,” when Todoroki came to Ida’s aid and made him realize just how foolhardy his revenge was and that he lost sight to what makes a real hero. Todoroki took that lesson to heart, and he now takes it upon himself to stop his friends from making the same mistakes he did. Midoriya and co.’s attempts to rescue Bakugo on their own is a dangerous act of vigilantism no better than what Ida once did. Their actions will have ramifications of U.A. whether they mean them to or not, and if they get hurt, especially if Midoriya gets hurt, that might be the end for them as a hero. Moreover, it’s simply selfish to put themselves at risk. Ida feels betrayed and frustrated that Midoriya is so adamant about rescuing Bakugo that he’s ignoring the effect his actions will have on the people closest to him.

It’s only natural he feels this way. He made the same mistakes once, and now the friends that helped him see the error of his ways are falling down the same path, and he feels powerless to stop them. Ida might be even more frustrated than Midoriya and Todoroki that Bakugo was kidnapped because he wasn’t there to help his friends when they needed him. But as pathetic as he’s feeling, he’s not letting his emotions persuade him into doing something reckless. He knows he needs to act as the voice of reason and stop his friends from their suicide mission. Which is why he’s surprised, and a little relieved, when he learns that their plans are covert. It’s still vigilantism, but at least they aren’t out for revenge, but to recover.

Even though Midoriya’s resolve to rescue Bakugo is based in emotion, it’s coming from a heroic propensity, not a personal grudge. These characters know better, and are not simply retreading the same mistakes Ida made in the Stain arc. They know their limitations, and responsibilities, and are doing their best under those constraints to help a friend in need. As heroes do. Of course, it’s still nice that Ida is tagging along to keep a watchful eye. Not only is he redeeming himself from his crusade against Stain, and his inability to help during the villain assault, but he is level-headed enough to help the team strategically and keep everyone else from making risky and reckless decisions in the emotional heat of things. It’s a good place to take his character, and as you might guess from how I’ve spent three paragraphs talking about it, Ida’s character development here is easily the strongest and most satisfying aspect of this chapter.

On the flipside, the most unsuccessful aspect about it is yet another reinforcement that Midoriya is supposedly going to cripple himself if he overexerts himself too much. How many times have people had this conversation with him? It seems like he has to get lectured like this after every arc, but there’s yet to be any consequences because the series keeps pushing back what his breaking point is. Only a short while ago, it was said that 100% of All Might’s power would destroy him. But not only did he surpass that limit in a flight-or-fight response while saving Kota, but in spite of his arms being beaten and battered, he was still able to move and influence the outcomes of many fights right afterwards. It’s one thing for a hero to push himself past his limits and pain to help others, that’s admirable, but it’s a whole other for the series to state there will be consequences for doing so and then simply ignoring and delaying them. So, it’s going to take three or four more times using his full power for his ligaments to break? Fine, fair enough. But we better start seeing Midoriya become impaired because he’s over exerting himself, because right now it feels like he can tear his body to a bloody pulp and still be raring to go.

While I do have misgivings about the lack of consequences for Midoriya, there’s still plenty else good about this chapter that counteracts it. For one thing, it’s great to see a underutilized character like Kirishima finally get some more characterization and be a central focal character in an arc. Even more satisfying is seeing Yaoyarozu get to join in, following up on the character development given to her during the final exams and her actions in the last arc. I know the characters plan to avoid fights, and it’d be interesting if they manage that, but in the event things fall apart and they do have to fight, hopefully they’ll get some ones to themselves. Bakugo gets a great moment here, telling Shigaraki to shove it and refusing his offer to join his team. It’s a relief to see that Bakugo is resolved to be a hero and isn’t being tempted to go rogue, especially since the premise of this arc is so similar to Naruto’s “Sasuke Retrieval” arc otherwise. Not that the arc’s foundation is necessarily weaker for being so similar to that, but it’s good to see a more variations on it all the same since comparison’s are nonetheless going to be made. With both Midoriya’s group and an elite lineup of heroes poised to infiltrate the villains’ headquarters, and promises of a “greater incident” to come, there’s a lot of promise and potential in the upcoming arc and with MHA’s hot-streak it should prove a unique experience to be sure.

Bleach chapter #667 – “Bigger, Louder, Stronger”

 

For someone considered one of the five variables that pose a threat to Ywach’s plans, Kenpachi has been less than impressive in this arc. Yeah, he finally unlocked his Shikai and whatever, but he’s also lost every fight he’s been in, with the sole exception of Gremmy, which was not only the worst fight in the arc so far, but maybe even Bleach as a whole, and that’s really saying something. While Kenpachi’s fans like his “kill first, ask questions later” attitude, that mentality has repeatedly screwed him over fight after fight this arc, here being no exception. What’s infuriating is not only doesn’t he learn from his mistakes, but he doesn’t consider the consequences of his actions, being so foolhardy to just keep cutting up Gerard when that only makes him stronger and threatens to crush Soul Society if he ever slips. Kubo keeps trying to make Kenpachi out as some kind of badass, but instead, he just makes him look like an idiot. For however strong the character supposedly is, it means nothing when we see him consistently lose because he makes bad decisions that he could’ve easily avoided.

With both Kenpachi and Byakuya facing off with a giant opponent, this fight feels like the Yammy fight that we never saw. Except Hitsugaya’s here, and Byakuya isn’t doing jack shit. But hey, if these characters pooled their strength and each contributed to the fight, that might be satisfying. But if Kenpachi just takes a fall here so that Hitsugaya and Byakuya look better in comparison when they take out Gerard, well, that’d be in line with how all the other fights with Ywach’s elite squad have gone at least. There really isn’t much else to say here. The fight itself is very non-descript, and very uninteresting visually in spite of all the slashing going on. One thing to note is that Gerard might have an “eye for an eye” thing going on, where whenever his opponent chips or damages his sword his opponent is hurt in turn. That definitely makes the challenge harder for the protagonists, so hopefully we won’t see them follow Kenpachi’s example and actually use their brains to beat Gerard instead of just hitting things good and seeing what happens.

Toriko chapter #364 – “A Thought!!”

 

Don Slime’s supernova explosion is given a lot of buildup, and rightfully so. It’s a kamikaze move, planning to take Neo out with him. This is supposed to be the Don’s shining moment, a bittersweet victory, but going out on his own terms and no regrets. The panel where the move flashes, and moves through the clouds, almost makes it feel like the Don is ascending to heaven, to reunite with Ichiryu once more in death. That image also characterizes how big and how powerful the move it is. The flash goes through the clouds and peeks out the top of the earth, expanding still, and perhaps would’ve grown even further until…it pops. It’s an anti-climax, but an effectively jarring one. Contrary to the build-up, things do not go as Don Slime planned nor as the reader might’ve predicted.

Neo didn’t simply block supernova or diffuse it with one of his own. He ate it.

This turn of events causes the Don to reflect on his reunion with Ichiryu in the Spirit World. Ichiryu’s attitude about his death and the impending crises is fascinating, to say the least. Ichiryu refuses to come back to life on the fundamental principle that the dead shouldn’t. Death is a part of a longer journey of the soul, where it’s reborn into new forms, creating stronger people over the course of millennia. Ichiryu’s life may have been brief when compared to the grand scheme of this cycle of evolution, but he believes that he died when he did for a reason, and for the benefit of the next generation. Ichiryu refuses the Don’s plea out of this existential philosophy, and it’s perfectly in line with not only his character, but the series’ themes of equating appetite with humans’ ambition to improve and better themselves in search of both hedonistic and spiritual fulfillment. Ichiryu sees Neo as a necessary development in this process of evolution. The fight between him and Toriko’s generation will be an experience that, while harrowing, will help humanity become stronger, perhaps taking to the stars to seek out other worlds like the ones Neo and the Nitro come from. Ichiryu is looking at this bigger picture, and as someone who’s already had his chance to affect the lives of others and is satisfied with his accomplishments, sees no need to intervene in the course of things further. At the same time, he exudes a sort of confidence that humanity will survive their encounter with Neo. He believes in Toriko’s generation, and that this encounter will answer questions long asked.

The philosophical conversation between Ichiryu and the Don is a brilliant way not only to give a sense of closure between the two characters for the reader, but to reestablish the series’ central theme and the real weight behind the battle with Neo. Not only does this reinforce that yeah, Neo’s fucking scary, but it also reinforces Ichiryu’s statement about Neo and its appetite being otherworldly. It’s not just because he’s an alien: even the Nitro say that he’s different from them.  Rather, his appetite is so extreme, so bottomless, that he seems like almost a godlike or demonic creature, and given his appearance probably the latter. Considering Neo threatens to consume the entire universe, he’s certainly a harbinger of doom and a threat beyond the likes of any mortal man to extinguish. Neo was already a mysterious creature, but with the narrative giving him a thematic backing, he feels even more intriguing and dangerous than before. Even if you don’t find his design “scary,” I’d say the true horror is the potential ramifications Acacia’s cruel personality and Neo’s unquenchable appetite might have, and on that level Neo is one of the scariest antagonists I’ve seen in a shonen series in recent memory.

While those points alone make this an incredible chapter, perhaps the most affecting aspect about it is the Don’s reaction to Neo devouring the supernova, and his untimely demise. This is the first time we’ve seen the proud and mighty Don actually shake in fear. For a character like Don Slime to actually be afraid is a big deal: these circumstances are equivalent to Vegeta’s emotional breakdown after seeing how ineffectual his strongest attacks were against Freeza’s final form in Dragon Ball. It doesn’t just build up the villain, but it breaks down the hero. The placement of the flash-back couldn’t have been more appropriate. Not only does it get behind what this arc and Neo as a character is really about, but it makes the switch back to the Don being eaten alive by Neo all the more horrifying. It’s a powerful image, Neo stuffing his face full of the Don’s face while he’s clinging to him, helpless, trying desperately to figure out just what he is while Neo demands he “scream…scream” in his blood-splattered face. And as the Don slowly realizes with what Neo is, and becomes aware of his own impending death, his eyes grow wider and wider in fear, until finally, a Blue Nitro stabs him in the back, which finally causes him to scream in pain to Neo’s delight as he’s finally devoured whole.

Every time I’ve read this sequence, my mouth is agape in horror. It’s such a chilling death because of how it squashes on such a lovable and strong-willed character’s pride, forcing him to cry in pain, give into fear, just like his opponent wants. This is how you do a shocking death right. While unsatisfying and horrifying for someone who loves the character, it feels like an organic part of the story and is based on previously established characterization. Moreover, there’s a point to it. Not only does it make sense for the Don to lose here to give Toriko and his team a chance against the monster, but it’s the first really tangible expression of Neo’s power and capabilities. Yes, we know what he has and can done, but we’re detached from those incidents since they didn’t involve characters or concepts we cared about. Here, we’ve grown to know and care about the Don both because of his personality and his touching relationship with Ichiryu; he’s a character we want to see more of, and even if he lost here, still expected to. So this death, the first significant death of a protagonists in the series since Ichiryu’s, is incredibly effective in making us invested in seeing Neo’s demise. There needs to be vindication for Don Slime’s efforts, and it’s going to make his eventual beat down all the more satisfying because of them.

The shocks don’t stop with Slime, however. It looks like Neo’s going after Jiro next, and from the looks of him, Jiro’s become more of a monster than the Nitro themselves. As much as I’m afraid for Jiro’s life, I’m incredibly pumped to see that fight go down. The raw, primal energy of this chapter capture Toriko’s propensity for great, visceral action, while the philosophical and thematic purposes undermining it give a welcome depth to the bloody brawls. Pretty much everything involving Neo and Don Slime has done well to bring Toriko back to form these past few weeks, and here’s hoping the upcoming fight between Jiro and Neo will keep its momentum going.

Nisekoi chapter #211 – “Night of Falling Stars”

"Whoa!" indeed, Raku

Let’s address the elephant in the room: not only did Raku not make the top 10 in the character poll, but he lost to Elraine, the female lead of the mangaka’s previous series Double Arts. That is incredibly amusing, and I’ve seen a lot of people who dislike Nisekoi but liked Double Arts feel vindicated by this. But people who read a harem series more often than not are reading it for the girls, not the guy, so despite Raku being the de faction main character him ranking lower than Elraine doesn’t say anything about one series being better or more popular than another (especially since Elraine has only 4% of the votes Chitoge has anyway).

That said, it does show how weak of a character Raku is. The least interesting character in a harem series always tends to be the male lead because he’s supposed to be a non-threatening blank slate that allows the male reader to invest in the fantasy of multiple girls having the hots for them. The problem with Raku is that he simply doesn’t have much of a personality. Sure, he’s nice, but that’s it. He’s not interesting enough to carry a chapter of the series without one of the girls co-staring, or at the very least Shu. More frustrating is that Raku generally doesn’t have any agency in the narrative. He spends most of the series’ runtime oblivious to the fact multiple girls are crushing on him, doesn’t confess his feelings to Onodera, and doesn’t realize he’s starting to like Chitoge. That changed last year thanks to the Yui Confession arc, after which Raku finally became an active character, taking responsibility by turning both Yui and Marika down, but rescuing the latter from her arranged marriage all the same. Finally, he also came to realize that he loved both Chitoge and Onodera, and became resolved to choose one before the end of the school year. These arcs, alongside the Chitoge moving arc from earlier in the year, are the few times Raku is given an actual character, much less feels like the main character of his series, and because of that the audience was actually able to be invested in his efforts.

Since then, however, Raku has once again slipped back into obliviousness. While both Tsugumi and Haru’s character arcs were resolved well, the fact that they came to terms with their feelings for him without him ever knowing they had any is frustrating and weakens the agency the character had built up throughout last year. Now, for a third time, a character has confessed to Raku without him knowing. If Onodera’s feelings for Raku are resolved the same way as Tsugumi and Haru’s, without him aware or involved in the decision, then it’ll really weaken Raku’s character arc and weaken the satisfaction of the final hookup.

That isn’t to say I didn’t like the chapter or confession scene. On the contrary, the chapter works because on the strength of Chitoge and Onodera’s character arcs, and how their relationship pays off in the final scene. The meteor shower that inspires Onodera’s confession is an awe-worthy, romantic moment, with the falling stars reflecting in Onodera’s shining eyes as she gazes at them awestruck and in wonder. It’s incredibly satisfying to see the shy, demure Onodoera then finally let her feelings out, even if Raku doesn’t hear them. What’s even more satisfying is that Chitoge finally learns that Onodera loves Raku. I said long ago that when Chitoge and Onodera realize that they both love Raku, that will test their friendship and force them to make a difficult decision. As the beginning of this chapter shows, Chitoge values Onodera as a friend as much as she does Raku, and the way she reacts, her eyes going white with shock and disbelief, shows just how taxed her mind is at this revelation. Forget Raku making his decision: the tested friendship between Chitoge and Onodera is going to be the real crux of this arc. While the end result probably won’t be heartbreak, it’s still going to be the most personal, and emotionally turbulent conflict between two characters in the series yet, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where it leads in the chapters ahead.

World Trigger chapter #137 – “Katori Squad”

 

The Rank Wars resume as we see Tamakoma-2 prepare for their match against Kakizaki and Katori squads. It’s always interesting when World Trigger takes the time to develop Tamakoma’s opponents and show that they have as much at stake in these matches as our protagonists do. Of course, it’s very rarely feasible to give every member of an opposing team fully fleshed out characters (Nasu squad might be the only one of Tamakoma’s opponents where every member was explored in detail before the fight began), so the series generally chooses one or two characters to focus on and that’s true here. Only Kakizaki himself is given any notable personality or motivation among the members of his squad, frustrated that his team is as low as it is and desiring to win despite knowing what’s at stake for Tamakoma-2. A simple characterization, but enough to make us sympathetic for the character and give some purpose to the team’s involvement.

Whereas Kakizaki displays confidence and optimism despite his team’s standings, Katori is pessimistic and fatalistic. Not only can she not be bothered to participate in team strategy meetings, or care about who her opponents are, but she is completely unemotional and uninvested in the upcoming fight, instead playing around on her phone. But when her teammate Wakamura calls her out for her wishy-washy behavior and quitting streak, it strikes a nerve. We learn that despite being talented, Katori has lost heart in ever breaking down the barrier that separates her and the best, giving up because trying to push forward requires too much effort with no guarantee of success.

But as Wakamura points out, Katori isn’t weak because she isn’t capable, but because she doesn’t try. She and her team could reach A-Rank if she were to put in more effort, and give her all, but the problem is she’s doesn’t want to work hard. The reason she’s flip-flopped between so many positions is because she wants to be the best at something without having to work for it. She wants things to simply come easy and naturally to her: to rise in the ranks without having to strain herself too much. She’s invested enough to the point she’s frustrated that she’s lost, but at the same time, she’s runs away from something the moment it starts getting too difficult or she starts losing. It’s an interesting characterization, and while one might dislike Katori’s lazy attitude, they can also sympathize with the frustration she has not only because she keeps losing, but because she lets herself keep giving up, afraid to go the extra mile and truly get invested in something and risk the heartbreak of losing again and again.

Compared to Kakizaki, there are more multitudes to Katori’s personality and background explored here that make her a much more fully realized character in about the same amount of pages. Which might be why the chapter ends by jumping right into a confrontation with her and Yuma, trying to win the match single-handedly to get her teammates off her back. Despite only knowing this character for a couple of pages, I find her story interesting and compelling enough to want to see her do well in her fight with Yuma, even knowing that the story necessitates her losing here. One thing I like about the Rank Wars is that it’s introduced many new supporting characters in a compelling and natural way, building them up for long-term character arcs and future roles in the story going forward. The recent invasion arc payed off on characters established in the Rank Wars in satisfying ways, and hopefully the same will be true of Kakizaki, Katori, and their squads here. While I am getting a little impatient for the series for Tamakoma-2 to pass the Rank Wars, the series still finds ways to make these matches compelling and interesting enough that I’m still thoroughly invested in them, and I can’t wait to see how the fight between Katori and Yuma plays out in next week’s chapter.

Food Wars! chapter #160 – “Alice’s Feelings”

 

For the longest time, Erina’s discomfort hanging around the perpetually peppy Alice seemed like a part of her generally distant character.  Now we learn that Erina’s awkwardness around her cousin isn’t because she can’t take a joke or deal with someone so hyperactive, but because she still can’t forgive herself for the pain she caused her due to not responding to her letter when they were children. Over the course of the series, Erina’s coldness towards people has been broken down and she’s become more comfortable expressing her feelings and socializing with others. As a consequence, it’s also made her regret things she’s done to people she cared about in the past. In the Stagiare arc, she realized that she had undervalued how much Arato’s friendship meant to her. And after Alice rescued her from Azami’s mansion, she started to feel a similar guilt for not trying to repair the bond between them, even though they were once so close.

Alice, however, never forgot what happened back then. But she also never blamed Erina in the first place. She knew that Azami was the reason that Erina never sent her any replies, and kept her walled away from her and the rest of the outside world, and she isn’t going to let it happen again. The relationship between Erina and Alice is incredibly moving. The small flashback we get of Alice writing letter after letter, checking her mailbox repeatedly for replies that never came, even in the rain, and the grainy panel depicting a young Azami seen from her perspective, tells us everything we need to know about how hurt Alice cared about Erina as a kid and how much she resents Azami for what he did. Even though her “I hate you” is rendered more comically than dramatically, the following declaration that she won’t let him have his way with her cousin and school anymore is still a powerful and resonant character moment, and one of the strongest acts of defiance against Azami yet.

It’s the effect her declaration has on Azami and Erina both that’s the most profound. Erina, of course, finally realizes that Alice has always been on her side and is truly there for her. Now that Erina is emotionally open and she knows that Alice holds nothing against her, these cousins can finally rekindle the strong friendship they once had. While that adds a lot of heart to the chapter, the meat is perhaps Azami’s reaction to all this. Never before have we seen him this frustrated and annoyed that one of his plans has gone awry. He took Eizan’s defeat in stride, and even when he found out that Soma’s father was his beloved senpai, he was more amused than anything else, musing about what Senzaemon’s scheme was. Here, though, he’s taken aback when Alice says she hates him, and is biting is thumb in frustration after withdrawing from the stadium. It’s clear that he sees Alice as more of a threat to his machinations than Soma, especially in the effect she might have undoing all the brainwashing and conditioning he’s imparted on her over the years. Considering his reaction, I think Senzaemon went to the wrong person for help. Soma is indifferent to helping Erina specifically, but Alice has been consistently proactive in helping her, and unlike Soma, Azami actually feels threatened by her endeavors.

This was such a strong character showing for Alice and powerful characterization of her and Erina’s relationship that I really hope it stays a focal point of the arc going forward. There’s much more compelling motivation and tension in Alice’s efforts to take Azami down then there is with Soma’s perpetual indifference, and it’d be nice if she or Erina could at least be the Law to his Luffy and become the secondary protagonist of the arc. As it stands, Alice has elicited more frustration in Azami than Soma’s escapades have, so here’s hoping her character arc develops further from here on out.

Black Clover chapter #55 – “The Captains and the Peasant Boy”

 

The Golden Dawn’s commander Vangeance seemed so obviously in league with the Midnight Sun that the series basically had to fake us out here or run the risk of being predictable. Unfortunately, this twist doesn’t have much bite considering that Poizot was only introduced in the previous chapter, and there hasn’t been enough time spent building him up as a shady or unpleasant character for us to really be surprised by it. In fact, all of Poizot’s characterization is dumped within a few brief exchanges this chapter, and his inner monologue reveals that while he is indeed corrupt and cowardly, his motivations do not correlate with clearly those of the Midnight Sun, and his denial of being involved with them and being set up is likely the truth. So, really, one can read between the lines and the detail that Vangeance doesn’t attack Poizot when all the other captains do, and being the one to suggest that he’s under mind control, to confirm that yes, William Vangeance in cahoots with the Golden Dawn and has set up Poizot to take a fall to keep his secret safe. That’s where this is going, and I’ll be surprised if I’m wrong about this.

I suppose that does raise questions as to how Vangeance was able to frame him considering the King’s assistant’s memory exchange magic is supposed to be absolute. Considering his line about mind control, he might be able to manipulate the thoughts of others subconsciously without them even realizing it, sort of like Tsukishima from Bleach. That might explain some things about why he can be so transparently shady but few question him; he’s gained their trust by imparting false memories about his efforts and accomplishments into their minds. This is all speculation of course, but considering that he’s so clearly trying to keep his abilities under wraps and takes no action whatsoever when Poizot’s supposed betrayal comes to light, it’s hard not to suspect he’s manipulating the entire scene. With how suspicious he is I wouldn’t be surprised if he just turns out to be Licht hiding his identity under a mask, but even that would be too obvious and contrived for Black Clover. Maybe.

While the series’ attempts to misdirect the reader’s attention away from Vangeance as the conspirator doesn’t work, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad chapter. It’s an enjoyable popcorn read thanks to it’s action beats, with the various Captains and Asta getting some neat shots in on Poizot as he attempts to flee. Admittedly, this all seems like an excuse to just show off what Rill can do, since we haven’t seen his abilities before, and make him and Asta friends. You know, for a supposed underdog who’s supposed to be looked down upon, Asta sure has a lot of friends in high places, huh? The series is undermining Asta’s underdog status faster than Naruto did for it’s title character. That would be find if Asta was still way below everyone’s level in strength, but the powerful shot he lands on Poizot, a captain, doesn’t really help his case. Sure, he’s in awe of the captain’s abilities and insane quirks, but that doesn’t really give us a good enough indication of the difference in power between him and them. We need Asta to lose against an opponent that a captain fights much more easily, which we almost got with Yami vs. Licht…only for Asta to land the finishing blow in the end. I’ve said it before, but Asta really needs to start losing against people who are supposed to be stronger than him, because right now he feels so overpowered that I wouldn’t be surprised if he gave One-Punch Man’s Saitama a run for his money.

Like I said, this chapter can be enjoyed because of how well-drawn the action is, but the more I start thinking about it critically, the more flaws I see in the execution of this twist, the characterization of Vangeance, and Asta’s capabilities. I’m curious as to where the plot with Poizot will lead, and where that will take the conflict with the Midnight Sun, but the way this chapter gets us there just doesn’t leave me as invested in the story as I’d ideally like to be.

One-Punch Man chapter #58, Part 2 – “Only You”

 

The fight between Metal Bat and Garo and Garo’s character development was so compelling that moving away from it makes this chapter feel underwhelming in comparison. Especially because this is really a set-up chapter, building up the crises at hand by showing the Monster Association’s operatives engage in fights with heroes in multiple cities.  The brief glimpses we see of various heroes fighting and falling against these foes definitely shows that the Heroes Association is in deep water here. Then again, the heroes losing are A-Class and below, and outside of a few exceptions like Saitama, Amai Mask, and Blizzard, we generally don’t see heroes below S-Class win battles anyway. Narratively, it’s still a big deal that a bunch of monsters that are threat-level demon and higher are attacking cities and putting lives at risk, but since we aren’t being shown any regular characters struggling in a fight yet, there’s not a whole lot of tension in the situation either.

What’s more interesting is simply the designs of the villains themselves. They range like genuinely cool and threatening, like the Vietcong-dressed Gorilla, to ridiculous like multiple-eyed Squid, to downright hilarious like the giant porcupine man holding a “free hugs” sign. I want to see fights with all of these character, and I hope they we get some good ones out of them. Hopefully some supporting characters can get in on the action with these fights and show off their stuff, because they’d all be down in one hit if Saitama took them on. Actually, maybe he’d have trouble punching the Porcupine man because of his prickles. Holy shit I totally want to see that fight now! It’ll be such a wasted opportunity if they don’t do it.

Most of the new monsters introduced in the chapter aren’t really given much character to back their admittedly amazing concepts, but we do learn more about Rhino Wrestler and Phoenix Man. Both are being set up as two of the bigger threats within the Monster Association, with Rhino Wrestler being a power-hungry fighter obsessed with fighting powerful heroes and increasing his threat level, and Phoenix Man being the brains of the operation, perhaps the man in charge himself. Phoenix Man in particular is interesting both as the strategist of the group, and because of the respect he commands from both Rhino Wrestler and Centichoro, who both follow his orders unquestioningly. Considering monsters respect strength above all else, something tells me Phoenix Man has more than a little bit of strength to back up his smarts, and I have to wonder if whether a fight between him and Garo wouldn’t have been as one-sided as one might’ve assumed. In any case, it’s great to have a new set of recurring villains in the series who are clearly going to be back with bigger plans in store. With the committee member’s kid kidnapped and Centichoro retreating, you just know that Metal Bat is going to go after them with a vengeance, and that’s something I’m really hoping to see sooner than later.

However, it’s time to return our focus on our titular One-Punch Man. In case you forgot, he’s impersonated Charanko to compete in an underground tournament, and it looks like it’s finally time for it to begin. I can’t imagine Saitama finding an actual challenge in his fights, but if nothing else seeing how this subplot ties in with the bigger picture and the battle between the Heroes and Monsters associations is going to be intriguing to see develop. While this chapter was set-up, it did its job while still providing fun bits of comedy and refined characterization for previously established antagonists, and that’s very welcomed. That being said, I do kinda hope that Saitama isn’t segregated from the main conflict for too long, and we can see him square off with the Monster Association and Garo directly sooner rather than later. Those guys are in need of a beating, and only Saitama can give them the comeuppance they deserve.

 Final Thoughts:

This was a very satisfying issue on the whole. I enjoyed all of these chapters on my first read through, and while I developed a lot of problems with Bleach and Black Clover when I started to think about them critically, they are still enjoyable enough reads on an action level that it doesn’t bring the issue down too much. While certainly not the strongest issue Jump’s had recently, it’s still a solid one, and with the significant developments occurring in several series this week it made a great place to resume these reviews. That, and the fact there were only 8 series in the issue this week, which disappointed me as a reader, but was a relief to me as a writer and made a nice ease in back into the groove of writing in this format again. Normally I’d try and close off the final thoughts with a summary of the correlating themes in the issue, but there wasn’t much that tied these chapters together structurally or thematically. Each series is at a different point in their story right now, with some conflicts concluding, and new ones just beginning. That just makes seeing where these series will go in the coming weeks all the more interesting to think about, and hopefully I’ll be able to keep pace with these at least through the rest of the month (baby steps, y’know).

Best Manga of the Week:

1. Toriko – Considering this was the chapter I wrote the most about this issue, it’s probably no surprise that Toriko was far an away my favorite chapter of the week. I don’t know what it says about the series lately that it’s been at it’s best when it’s not focusing on Toriko himself, but everything involving Don Slime and Neo has been absolutely brilliant these past few weeks and this chapter was no exception. With a death that’s shocking and horrifying in all the best ways, and an intriguing philosophical musings and basis for Neo’s character, this chapter taps into the kind of primal and raw intensity that often makes Toriko so good while having just the right amount of substance to give it thematic and dramatic weight. The series is really starting to get back in form and I’m hoping the fight between Don Slime and Neo was the turning point it needed to finally get it back to a more engaging and consistent level of quality.

2. Food Wars! -Alice and Erina’s relationship provides a compelling emotional center to the arc that it previously lacked. Not only do Alice and Erina grow as characters here, but we finally see Azami frustrated that one of his machinations hasn’t gone his way, his cool and calculated facade starting to crack. Overall, this chapter provides some really strong character moments and character development, and caps off the Kurokiba-Rentaro match is a satisfying way that certifiably changes the dynamic between Central and Soma’s resistance to tenser levels.

3. My Hero Academia – A smartly played set-up for a rescue arc, with some well-written trope aversions and a particularly strong character showing for Ida. Whatever the “greater incident to come” is, with so many factors and big players involved, there’s no doubt it’ll prove to be a game-changer for the series.

4. World Trigger – Katori’s goldbricker and pessimistic personality makes her a unique rival for Tamakoma-2 and a compelling character in her own right. Once again, the series has done a good job in setting this match apart from previous ones which makes the continuation of the Rank Wars more palatable, and me eager to see how the fight between Yuma and Katori will play out.

Character(s) of the Week:

This is a new element I’m adding to the issue reviews, in part inspired by Weekly Manga Recap’s new tradition of naming their favorite characters of the week at the end of their episodes. There were a lot of good choices offered this week, from Ida to Ichiryu to Kotori. But the character I was most impressed by, and who wins the honor of being the first ever character of the week for After the Jump, is none other than…

Alice Nakiri (Food Wars!)

This week provided Alice with probably her strongest and most compelling moment in the series yet. Her generous and determined character and love for Erina are explored well here, and the moment where she tells Azami she won’t let him have his way anymore is perhaps the most satisfying moment in the entire issue. Not to mention her being the first character in the series to make Azami wince and worried earns her major badass points. I’ve said it before, but her reasons for wanting to take down Azami are so much more personal and compelling than Soma’s that I’d like to see the series put equal emphasis on their relationship and efforts to undermine Azami’s administration as much as it does Soma’s. For the time being, though, I’m still more than satisfied by everything she said and accomplished in the chapter, which unquestionably cements her my first ever favorite character of the week.

Line(s) of the Week:

“What’s wrong, Marika? You look pale. Did the artist forget to color you?”
– Chitoge Kirisaki (Nisekoi)

Panel(s) of the Week:

Page(s) of the Week:

And that does it for this issue! It was a lot of fun to finally write about these series again, and I hope I can continue to do so uninterrupted for a good while, especially through the course of the next few months. But hey, que sera sera! So until next time, say farewell to winter, hello to the spring, take roll call, traverse the orange road, and binge through all the 40+ new anime that are coming out this season, and I’ll see you again after the jump!