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History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi 408

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by aegon-rokudo and FANtomCore]

Pretty tame cover page compared to what we’ve been getting. That’s an up note for this chapter, right? There’s at least one. I can approach the rest of the chapter knowing that. The bit of exposition we’re given for how they got out of a U.S. army base fits with the things we’ve seen before. Ryouzanpaku calling in favors from all over the world is nothing new.

Well, it’s been a while now, but I still feel as though Apachai should be dead. I love the character, he’s definitely my favorite of the masters. However, I cannot accept the fact that we were so built up towards his death, and now seeing him struggling on the airplane while gravely wounded just seems like salt being rubbed into the wound. The comedy of Akisame being a miracle doctor is normally welcomed when he’s resurrecting Kenichi from some training from hell, but in this context I can’t find it funny.

Kenichi himself is still a good character, and it was funny to see him try to get up and then collapse because he was told that he was badly injured. His fight with Koukin was good, and historically I like the post-fight cooldowns Kenichi has been given. It’s slightly ruined this time with the interplay between Kenichi and Apachai, and I definitely have some issues with using Apachai’s “final words” as a joke on the fact that he’s still alive.

Thank you, Overly Obvious Girl!

I should note that the fanservice this chapter has been completely and utterly acceptable. It’s still there, but only because the females of HSDK are fanservice by their very nature. There’s no gratuitous amounts of chest showing, no downright blatant camera angles, no torn clothing. This time, it isn’t just because there are no females present. They’re present, and not being used for it. Despite everything that’s happened with the plot, I find myself somewhat fond of this chapter for this reason alone.

The sub-plot going along with Niijima finding that data is pretty interesting. We’re approaching the main plot to the story here, and the war with Yami seems to be developing as well. I think we’re overdue for meeting some more members of Yomi, the satsujinken disciple division. Also way past due is finding out more about Miu’s father. All we know now is that he killed her mother, and that he seems to be a  silhouette. His disciple is one of the more interesting disciples we’ve met, which is undoubtedly on purpose. There’s so much we should be finding out, that any plot advancement is welcome.

Niijima is more taxing than a knee to the ribs

Hermit shows up, which is interesting, given he’s now a member of Yomi. Niijima is on to him, but not enough for anything to come out into the open just yet. I like the idea of him sticking around the main group of good guys while secretly being in the enemy group, it adds an element of suspense to everything.

With little left to say, the Elder timely moves everyone out to give Kenichi rest, and when he wakes up, surprise. Suddenly police cars are everywhere, and Ryouzanpaku is taped off. Shocking twist!

He just read chapter 407

Final Flash: An okay chapter with acceptable levels of fanservice, but still severely hurting from coming off last chapter.

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Mahou Sensei Negima! 309

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Animum Mutare]

Negi is still completely out of the action for now, so much so that he’s a hindrance to their plan. They’re going to have to get him capable of moving, or else even when they succeed, they’d have to drag him out of the place. The plot lends itself to some good comedy, and it’s nice to see Chamo still carrying the ranking list of who likes Negi the most. I’d like to point out that if girls who like Negi would help the healing, literally having all of the class excepting two or three girls would definitely speed things up.

That list grows exponentially

Yue has learned quite a lot during her stay in the magical world, and she’s become fairly capable. Her idea makes a lot of sense and is pretty creative, while solving what did seem like a major problem. That aside, I’m still not sure how I feel about the plan as a whole. Fate doesn’t seem like the kind of enemy that you can just sneak past, and that anti-magical field seems like it should extend more than far enough for him to have a healthy amount of time to trash everyone in the party. That is assuming, of course, that Negi stays comatose, which he won’t.

I’m not sure I like the idea of the whole “no one dies” thing. Sure, it is Negima, so I’m not expecting Fate to off a bunch of cute girls from the class. Do we need to be explicitly told that no one will die, they’ll just be sent to dream world? I don’t think so. It somewhat subtracts from the gravity of the situation. I guess it is enough to know that if they fail and are sent to the dream world, the erase of the magical world would be pretty much guaranteed, which means the failure of Negi’s plan, whatever it may have been.

Fate being literally face to face with the group is a very intense moment. True to his character, he must have sensed that something was up, because he randomly attacks the area our heroes are on. The frantic escape resulting from the attack, and the scale of the destruction caused by an offhand attack at nothing but a feeling, do a great job of showing off what a villain Fate is. There’s a very good reason all the battle-capable party members don’t just team up and fight him, and that reason is that they would very likely just be annihilated. Natsumi’s hat flying off her head as she collapses, and the resulting desperate grab by Kotarou, are just more examples of how well the tension of the moment is being done.

Tastes like haute couture

Natsumi’s resolve as she walks straight towards Fate is perhaps the best moment of courage we’ve seen in a while. For a series like Negima, which has so many super-powered fighters, it sure is ironic how the most heroic moments often result from the most normal characters. Nodoka, who was an introverted bookworm, stealing the staff of the lifemaker and using it against Dynamis. Chisame, a normal girl with no battle potential, being the driving force behind the magical hurricane of destruction that is Negi these days. Now Natsumi, who has no real way of protecting herself, leading the entire group directly into the reaches of the most powerful enemy they’ve faced. These “normal girls” are anything but, and the series would sorely miss them if they left.

Next week is the grand finale of the plan. How will it work for the main party? Hopefully we get the action-packed climax that we’ve been looking forward to for so many chapters.

Final Flash: A good chapter, but it still basically felt like setup. Hopefully we’ve gotten all the preparation out of the way, and next chapter can go straight into the meat of the climax.

Hayate no Gotoku! 297

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by [C]hán]

The opening pages are building up a feeling of tension for Nagi meeting Luka, which is understandable from the reader’s perspective as we now know who Luka is. I can’t help but feel a little bit of Nagi’s tension myself, for her this is the author whose works she has been such a fan of. Also, after the page actually showing us Luka’s manga, I feel like a fan myself. This is such an awesome idea, while at the same time being hilarious. Nagi’s perspective on the manga is perhaps slightly different than my own, but no less valid.

A tale of love and loss

Man, Chiharu sure is stringing Nagi along as to Luka’s identity. She’s having a lot of fun, and it’s fun to watch Nagi getting more and more fed up with the small tidbits she’s being fed about this mystery author. Of course, not so long ago, it was us in that position, having only received a name and the same phrase a few times (“She’s a girl that closely resembles Hayate”) and just as ready to have her revealed. I do appreciate having been told before Chiharu’s teasing, because otherwise we’d be getting teased, too.

The interactions between Luka and Hayate are still funny, and they’re even funnier when you have to constantly make yourself see things in the story’s setting: Luka still thinks Hayate is a girl. Luka’s dedication to her job despite being seriously injured already goes a way towards making her an endearing character. She obviously cares a lot about her fans, and isn’t willing to miss the concert despite having a pretty good reason. She’s a hard worker, but I think we expected that given her resemblance to Hayate.

Because she can take it. Because she's not our hero.

Finally, all the buildup the whole chapter for Nagi culminates on the final few pages, when Chiharu brings Nagi into the concert. Luka is standing onstage in full idol gear with the lights shining down on her, and Nagi is staring up at her awestruck, with the internal monologue boxes relating her thoughts to us. It’s a huge moment of impact, and after going through the Athena arc, you can’t help but think that this is something that will affect the course of our story for many chapters to come. Nagi thinks Luka looks like a god, and it must seem that way from her perspective. I have to wonder if maybe Nagi will want to try and become an idol.

Final Flash: A good chapter with less than normal amounts of comedy, but that only served to enforce the feeling of the serious moment at the very end.

History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi 407

November 21, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Binktopia]

Not a very convincing start of the chapter. Miu herself is not a bad character. She’s capable and fairly intelligent, and has proven that up to this point she’s at least on par with Kenichi as a fighter. In fact, the last time they fought, she was still considerably stronger than Kenichi. That said, having her serve as nothing but base fanservice cheapens her character beyond belief. It’s a bad omen for the rest of the chapter.

Forget that, what about our eyes?

The scenes with Apachai continue to be powerful, particularly with the way the point of view is being done. The shot of Apachai standing like a giant, his massive back presented to us, really gives you a feel of the enormity of the character. The parting words between Apachai and Agaard are fitting and welcome, just a confirmation of the victory that the Katsujinken has won. It’s time for Apachai to go.

What follows is the most unwelcome page I’ve ever read. I had my worries when Sakaki showed up while Apachai was still standing, but when Ma and Akisame show up, they’re confirmed. Apachai isn’t dead. He’s going to be fine. Every single bit of emotional impact we’ve received from everything going on has essentially been for nothing. A complete victory for the side of good, because with the two medically trained masters present, I have no doubt Apachai will be fine.

I can’t even begin to stress how much of a disappointment this chapter was. HSDK had the chance to do something real with the plot, something that would introduce a new element to the story, and change things forever. Instead, it opted for the easy way out of the situation. Nothing has changed, and in the bargain, pages upon pages of “death scenes” have been made ridiculous and embarrassing. Shigure shows up and there’s some more ridiculous fanservice, but I couldn’t even be bothered to find it offensive at this point. Something like fanservice couldn’t possibly be as insulting as having the past five chapters made meaningless.

Better female character than what we're stuck with

Final Flash: This chapter was utter garbage by default. I’m completely disappointed in it, and I don’t know what the series going to have to do for me to enjoy it with no reservations. Every step forward is followed by two steps back.

Mahou Sensei Negima! 308

November 21, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Animum Mutare]

Negi is still out, but the girls have a plan. I have to say I like that this is being followed through, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the girls handle the fact that they’ve basically lost the core of their plans. That said, it’s almost sure that Negi will need to come back to fight with Fate. The fight has been hyped too much at this point, and the arc conclusion just wouldn’t feel right if Negi was left out of it.

This chapter is basically going to work like a little summary of events so far, and the current statuses of enemies and allies alike, framed by the characters using the exposition to fill each other in, of course. It is a little helpful at this point, admittedly. With as many girls as Negima brings into this, we need reminders of who is still fighting, and the two enemies left by Fate’s side.

Diagrams - Deceiving Evil 101

Plan B is being laid out by the remainder of the force with Negi, and it isn’t unacceptable. The girls know they can’t go head-to-head with Fate without Negi there, so they opt for a stealth route to just snatch both the key and Asuna and run away. Sadly, the plan feels like it’s doomed to fail from the very beginning, just from the virtue of knowing that in a series like Negima, this kind of thing isn’t going to be pulled off. After all, that would mean there’s no fight with Fate, which by now is a certainty.

Everyone has their own clearly defined roles for this, further enforcing the idea this is some kind of carefully formed RPG-style party. There’s the steal group to sneak in and grab Asuna, the long range tactical group to grab the key from a distance, and the decoy/battle group to draw attention away from the others. It’s well thought out, and an indication that all of these girls had a place in the group since before they were given Pactios.

Doomsday Device calibration is a must

We’re left with a single page of Fate, and a very cryptic comment. Exactly who are they planning to resurrect? My only guess would be the Mage of the Beginning, who Nagi Springfield defeated back in his confrontation with this group.

Final Flash: Decent setup chapter, but solely setup with a little bit of summary.

Hayate no Gotoku! 296

November 21, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by [C]hán]

This chapter is definitely starting off on the right foot. Hayate naturally wants to get Luka to a hospital right away, and if that blood leaking everywhere is any indication, she probably needs to be taken there. However, she’s pretty against being taken to one, and you don’t have to guess why for very long before it’s revealed. It’s probably exactly the reason you’re thinking.

Should move to Canada

I’m easily seeing the parallels between Hayate and Luka now. She has no money, and she’s driven to get to her job right now at the expense of her own well-being. If you rewind the series back to the beginning, Hayate was in a very similar situation. He was saved by Nagi taking him in as a butler, but sadly, Luka has received no such luck.

The gags this chapter have been hilarious. Luka struggling to get to work while passing out from blood loss, and Hayate playing a perfect comedic straight man while cross-dressing as a maid. Joking aside, or maybe at the forefront, Hayate sure does work quickly. Luka is already becoming an admirer, despite the fact that Hayate is the reason she’s now seriously injured and in danger of being late for work.

Your heart is already broken

A brief respite from comedy as Housen shows up, examining the remnants of the battle between Invincible Maid Star Hayate and her robot. This serious plot has been promising, but I hope we actually learn something soon. Who is Housen working for/with, and why are they so desperate to get the picture of the mysterious “28th” from Hayate?

Luka, of course, is being carried to her destination by Hayate, because neither of them had tax fare. Suddenly, we’re reminded Luka still believes Hayate is a girl! This is going to lend itself to some great comedy later on, as we know Luka is far from gone. Nagi is still planning to meet her soon.

What kind of twist ending is this? Luka has dragged Hayate off into the bushes after he asked her for a change of clothes. Despite the ridiculousness of the situation, I can’t help but wonder what sort of wardrobe she has in store for Hayate. Perhaps the mascot outfit?

Final Flash: Great comedy between Luka and Hayate, and Housen is as mysterious and intriguing as ever.

History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi 406

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Binktopia]

I don’t think Apachai has ever looked more imposing or dangerous than he does now. The eyes are being used to showcase his current state, and they’re blazing with light. Consider this “fight” over before it has begun, folks.

Protector of Children

The whole dialogue about how Apachai gained his strength, and the small flashback, were both handled very well. Not only did Apachai have the strength to disable Agaard for two whole days without killing him, but he has enough left to defend his disciple to the very end. Very well done, and if anyone had any doubts remaining about who came out on top in the fight between masters, this should settle it.

Once again an excellent use of white space, breaking through the sword and through the weapon user’s face, also. This page and the one following it relate force through artwork, something which is tough to do well. You can feel the impact of the blow, and you can tell that the force is something out of this world.

Out of nowhere, four straight pages of some of the most gratuitous fanservice I’ve seen in Kenichi, and that’s saying something. I don’t understand what’s happening, and at this point I really hope this is an issue introduced by the editorial staff and not the mangaka. I understand that sex sells, but this is cheapening key moments of plot and distracting from the focus of the story. I want to be able to recommend Kenichi to people without an asterisk commenting on the fanservice.

I had to separate myself from those pages so I could appreciate the final page of the chapter, but it does its job well. No one following this manga wants to see Apachai go, but his exit has been handled exceptionally well, and at this point I would consider it an insult for him to survive this storyline. Based on what respect I have for Matsuena-sensei, I take this as his farewell, and it is fitting.

Heart-wrenchingly delicious

Final Flash: A well-handled end for a beloved character, marred by a few pages of very shameless fanservice.