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Hello again. While the site remains on indefinite hiatus, an issue requires reverting to the old hosting. All data from the newer site has been saved, but will be inaccessible so long as the hiatus continues. There is no definite plan to return, nor to close permanently.

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Naruto 519-521

December 21, 2010 4 comments
[scanlation by Binktopia]

(519) I thought Sasori’s defeat was pretty clear and settled last chapter. I don’t really find this bit of closure necessary.

As if Impure World Resurrection hasn’t done enough damage to this series already, it’s now revealed that Kabuto’s control over his zombie army is limited by their “inner feelings.” If Kishimoto is going to resort to such a game-changing storyline as a technique that revives half the cast, he should at least have the decency to stick to his guns and make the technique perform as expected. This is almost like a sheepish apology.

Least appropriate "love conquers all" timing ever

I appreciate the scene with Kabuto and Madara, which hints at the back-and-forth nature as each vies for power over the other, but I would much prefer if this relationship was expressed through actions rather than yet more internal monologue, which has been far too evident in Naruto lately. You are not authoring Death Note, Kishimoto; this is shonen action, so show some action.

Finally, after years of waiting, it’s time for Naruto to learn to turn into the Kyuubi. It’s going to be really strange to see the protagonist in such a form. Hopefully, it’ll be reserved for extreme circumstances, because otherwise the series could get pretty boring as our hero Godzilla-rampages through everything. Also, why focus on a new form when Naruto still hasn’t perfected the Yellow Flash technique? Teleportation seems far more devastating to me than a power increase.

Furthermore, didn’t Naruto just go through a training arc? The focus of the series may have shifted elsewhere, but the last major actions of Naruto were fighting the Kyuubi within himself and stacking blocks. This is his third consecutive training arc without any fighting in between. (His brief attempt against Kisame doesn’t count as legitimate action.)

All the diagrammed explanation of chakra exchange is fairly uninteresting, but Naruto attempting the Tailed Beast Bomb and making himself throw up as a result is pretty funny.

Fatality

Fortunately, the Tailed Beast Bomb turns out to be extremely similar to the Rasengan, meaning this training arc is practically guaranteed not to last too long. That’s a huge relief.

(520) Seeing Naruto’s new chakra-laden character design in full color doesn’t much help to rectify how much it looks like plumbing.

There is a "plumber's snake" / Sasuke joke to be made here

The first page teaser says “A next-to-impossible training goal!!” Really? When was that established? Don’t over-dramatize something straightforward.

Seeing Anko reduced to this is depressing. As I’ve made clear, she’s never been a particularly important character, but she was given a storyline relating to a hugely important character, decent powers, and a strong personality. It’s immensely frustrating that she was in the hands of Kishimoto, who seems completely unable to write a good female character.

Rather than the direct confrontation I was hoping for in the last chapter, we’re presented with a pseudo-diplomatic standoff between Madara and Kabuto. This may not be the action I requested, but it’s at least superior to further internal monologue.

It’s interesting that Madara snapped the neck of one of Danzou’s lapdogs. That is far from the style of violence used throughout this series.

This explanation by Kabuto of Impure World Resurrection is taking far too long. This feels like the kind of content that an anime adaptation would create to fill time. Knowing how the technique works is useful, but we don’t need this many pages of explanation.

As usual, the technology level of the Naruto universe baffles me.

Leave him alone, he's playing Ye Olde Rez

Kabuto’s chapter-ending declaration, if true, is profoundly ridiculous. This technique has single-handedly made this series boring.

(521) Great cover page, but Zabuza should never have been reintroduced.

The coy exchange between Madara and Kabuto finally finishes this week, at least for now. It might have been too early for these two to face off, but Kabuto’s character is suffering with each chapter that he continues to be involved with the lifeless Madara.

The extra point is good

A volcano of men just erupted.

… that’s the last sentence I ever expected to type. It’s eerily factual, too.

There are no sexual overtones to this. None.

It’s so depressing to see characters like Kiba and Shino relegated to a fraction of a page each. It’s no coincidence that the arcs in this series that featured such characters far more prominently, such as the Chuunin Exam and the Sasuke Retrieval Arc, were the most exciting. These characters deserve more attention, and they certainly deserve said attention more than who is ultimately destined to receive it.

Without a sliver of surprise, Zabuza meets with Kakashi. Of all the legitimate complaints against this arc, the sense of inevitability in the fight pairings is the most upsetting. Weekly manga is all about the perpetual sense of excitement, as readers wonder what will happen next. Deliberately eliminating that sense of expectation is a fatal mistake.

Final Flash: What could have been a brilliant arc has thus far been presented as aimless and predictable. I’m finding it tough to maintain interest.

Bleach 429-430

December 14, 2010 2 comments
[scanlation by Binktopia]

(429) That’s a little too uncomfortably tsundere, Ichigo.

Run, Lucci. I think he likes you.

With Karin having already established her relevance in this arc, Yuzu stakes her own claim, by… revealing a good test score. Actually, if she is to be involved in any real capacity, I’d prefer for her to stay cheerful, at least on the surface. Bleach is at its worst when all its characters are intensely angst-ridden, so even if Yuzu follows up her spirited boasting with a moment of concern, her initial cheerfulness is hugely appreciated.

Also, she is just adorable

This business with Inoue and Ishida sensing some disturbance in Ichigo’s Force is treading a fine line as Kubo attempts to sensibly reestablish Ichigo as a dominant protagonist. Despite major character flaws and poor storyline choices involving her in the past, I really hope for Orihime to get the bulk of the focus here. The rivalry between Ichigo and Ishida is best suited to playful, comedic school scenes; their relationship in serious scenes is too distant, sometimes inappropriately sarcastic, and it always drags the story down. Granted, Orihime has made more than her fair share of negative contributions to the story, but her character is multi-faceted enough to be appropriate in both comedic and dramatic scenes, and she seems to be the better option to transition the main group back to serious plot.

On a completely different note, what the hell is wrong with the art lately? Non-backgrounds and white space-attacks aside, post-timeskip Bleach chapters have looked like they were fashioned from static.

xrhrxhhrxhhrhxrCAN'T HEAR YOUR SHIRTxcxhhrhxhr

So much for Inoue being the impetus for Ichigo to take action. Instead, Uryuu had to go and get his arm blown off. For all my criticism and wariness about the inevitable return to serious plot, I have to say that I’m pleased with the layout of the last two pages of this chapter. The panel structure and the dichotomy between the situations of Ichigo and Ishida was handled effectively. I can only offer so much praise, though, because that purported business card bears a slogan that is laughably juvenile. It doesn’t look like much of a business card, either, actually. It looks more like a credit card.

Good credit limit, brutal interest rate

(430) These first couple pages of Orihime swooning over her fantasy version of Ichigo are very amusing and outright enjoyable, but that enjoyment is short-lived, as she must return her thoughts to more serious matters. Kubo clearly has the comic timing, fashion sense, style, and suitably interesting character quirks to put together a good (likely romantic- or school-) comedy series. It’s such a pity he’s doing this instead.

Uh… just because Ichigo didn’t come to dinner immediately does not mean he must be masturbating. I just want to put that out there.

Who's the perverted one, again?

The reappearance of Ryuuken would seem to reaffirm the importance of Isshin in this arc, as well as perhaps that entire older generation. Even if more characters aren’t involved, though, the rivalry between Ryuuken and Isshin is enough to propel the story forward at this point. Bringing him back into the fold was a good choice.

Introducing a substance similar to (yet decidedly different from) Reiatsu may feel like a pretty cheap attempt at variety, but that introduction is redeemed by Ryuuken’s excellent direct approach. For once, the audience isn’t being led around with vague allusions and half-truths; Ryuuken is calmly, even bluntly stating the facts, and furthermore offering his own reasonable hypotheses as to who is responsible for harming Ishida and what can be expected in the near future. His straightforward demeanor is exactly what this scene required.

Analyzing Ryuuken’s hypothesis itself, it would be immensely pleasing for this arc to center around the core group of human characters. The mere mention of Chad is promising, as he has never gotten development remotely befitting of a character as comparatively interesting as he is. Hopefully, the focus will remain on him, along with Ichigo, Inoue, Ishida, and the Kurosaki family, rather than involving too many new faces or Soul Society rehashes.

Ichigo struggling with an overwhelming sense of powerlessness is enjoyable to watch, not in a sadistic way, but as a character examination. Unfortunately, we’re treated only to a handful of panels highlighting this internal strife before he decides to rely on the aid of a complete stranger. I understand the notion that Ichigo is desperate to save his friends, and that he’s prepared to do anything for that cause, but I feel that he was far too quick to turn to the Xcution business card. Whether this is a criticism of Ichigo’s weakness as a character or Kubo’s weakness as an author, I’m not entirely certain. Perhaps both are to blame.

Noblesse Oblige

Final Flash: While I’m still far from thrilled at the prospect of dramatic plot, this transition has been handled about as well as it could have. Ryuuken’s appearance and dialogue was the standout section from this two-chapter stretch.

Zettai Karen Children 241

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by JS Scans]

Feather’s arrival prompts a quick heel kick from Momiji, and one coordinated bathroom trip by the two of them sets up a quick strategy meeting for both sides. Each conversation reveals something meaningful. In the case of the guys’ talk, we get a glimpse into Sakaki’s opinion on women as a pro flirt. He makes a good foil to Minamoto’s complete and total innocence on the subject.

Spoken like a veteran wingman

The girls’ conversation yields an alliance with the goal of dividing the guys between them, and reveals that Momiji was only after Sakaki from the beginning. For once a female in this series is romantically after someone who’s not Minamoto. Momiji being attracted to Sakaki makes a lot of sense, and does a fair bit to legitimize him. Despite occasional flashes of extreme competence, he has appeared a bit too much on promo art relative to his importance in-series. This a good chance for him to do something relevant to the current plot, and which adds a layer of depth to Momiji in the process.

Getting kidnapped by way of the floor, Minamoto immediately falls into helpless mode as Feather drops him onto a bed in the director’s office. I still don’t like Feather in this role. Unlike scenes with Hyoubu, where the rivalry dynamic keeps them on an even keel, he’s kind of just at Feather’s mercy here. The scene featuring Sakaki and Momiji is better handled; it’s nice to see characters acting like professionals in this sort of stereotypical romantic comedy situation… or, in one case, pretending to act like one.

It is still a romantic comedy

That shot of the kids at the end makes things really interesting. Them simultaneously cuing in on Minamoto’s distress is quite a sight, and ensures that what follows will be appropriately zany. Overreactions in situations like this are a strong point of ZKC as a manga.

Final Flash: Romance with a savvy partner is uncharted territory for Sakaki, but being raped is hardly a new thing for Minamoto. Overall, much more promising than last chapter.

SWOT 20 (end)

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment

It's finally over.

Enigma 13

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by CXC Scans]

Looks like Kurisu’s just lost one of his key advantages: exclusive knowledge of the password. Whatever on Earth it is that “Q-510” means, Haiba now knows that it’s a password, courtesy of his new improved diary. Speaking of the improved diary, there’s an unclear point as to what exactly it does. In the last chapter, it was clearly Haiba’s hand making the modifications. However, here it seems that the picture is moving on its own. I’m assuming for now that it’s just Haiba’s hand modifying the picture, but better word choice there would have saved some confusion.

Even if Haiba does have the password now, it won’t help him in dealing with Kurisu, at least not directly. He comes up with quite a strategy to provoke Kurisu into pursuit, pretending his power-up allows him to communicate with the main group. It’s relatively common for a character to use a power-up to escape a dangerous situation. It’s considerably rarer for someone to receive a limited power-up and bluff his way to victory, as Haiba does here. Kurisu being a smart, cautious villain ensures the plan’s success, at least as far as keeping him in the picture for now. You know a bluff is good when the main character compliments himself on the plan.

Gloating is always allowed

Kurisu still controls the whole world of the picture, though not to godlike degrees, otherwise Haiba would just be dead. He can still turn a stick into a fully functional katana, though. It works for a mystery-series chase scene. Kurisu himself is actually much less scary than the picture world, which, in a perfectly rigid state, keeps Haiba from any kind of safe haven. Potential weapons can’t be moved, potential hiding places have doors stuck shut, and he’s still being chased by a guy a foot taller than him wielding a katana.

A very visible difference in height

Now locked inside of a supermarket, Haiba and Kurisu begin their game of cat-and-mouse. At least, they would have, had Haiba not immediately and loudly begged the future diary to evolve. That’s not the most savvy decision from someone who knows he’s outgunned.

Haiba’s pleas to his diary don’t seem to have been in vain. He foresaw Kurisu’s attack, and seems to have a counterattack plan involving a cell phone and the password written in blood on the wall. This should be good.

Final Flash: Bluffing is a main character’s best friend, something Sakaki Kenji fully comprehends.

Kekkaishi 331

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by A-Team]

Nura is completely dominating the rank-and-file Urakai. Her control powers are so completely overwhelming that not even the sea snakes are having any effect on her ogres, and even the non-ogre allies are getting visibly affected.  Despite Tokine going down last chapter, this series always does a good job of having and showing off strong female characters. Her ogres casually knocking out guys and stacking them in a heap underscores just how much she’s steamrolling.

An ordinary Wednesday at the office

Granted, the ones Nura has been taking out have been small fries. The bigwigs are out for blood now, bringing tons of Colossus-sized firepower to bear. It will be difficult to deal with that crowd without the chance to instantly drop mind-control snakes all over.

Looks like said bigwigs are going to be a job for Shichiro. That makes sense, given that his powers are somewhat more suited for quick assassination than anyone else in the group. Raijin definitely seems to have thought out the group’s strategy. The only member of the group who doesn’t seem to have a specifically defined role is Shiromi. He is thus relegated to the minor role of slicing Kurokabuto into pieces.

Somehow the most boring job of the group

It’s fascinating how politics are entering into this battle. Raijin’s specific order to confirm the death of Meian carries a nominal logic behind it, but is at the same time pretty clearly a part of her scheme to have Nura replace him as Urakai head after the dust settles. The best planners never stop, and Raijin is really earning her stripes in that category.

Cut to Masamori, who is having trouble finding Nichinaga. Apparently, his original plan was to follow where the snakes were coming from, which might have worked had Nichinaga not lost Haruka, who, as it turns out, actually was his power source. It could be interesting if he remains in this depleted state, forced to rely on his one remaining loyal minion, Ichigo, for protection. Given how bent he sees on finding the traitors, though, I doubt this will end without him getting his hands on at least one of them.

Final Flash: Good to know that the subtle manipulations of Urakai politics aren’t stopped by a little thing like a full-scale war.