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February 10, 2018 Leave a comment

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.

SWOT 20 (end)

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment

It's finally over.

Beamcast Hiatus

December 12, 2010 4 comments

Due to some major, unavoidable issues, Beamcast will be on hiatus through December, and possibly through the first week of January. We apologize for the inconvenience, but we also hope that such a break will allow us to focus more on written content and the evolution of the Shonen Beam website.

Rest assured, despite the use of the word “hiatus,” none of us are lazing around playing Dragon Quest. We will return as promptly as possible with the best content we can provide. We eagerly look forward to our next recording session, which will likely be a major 2010 retrospective episode. Our attention now turns to regular site features such as reviews, Power Rankings, and articles, as well as exciting new ideas which will be announced as soon as they are ready.

Thank you for your understanding, and you’ll hear from us again soon. Happy holidays.

Categories: Website News Tags:

One Piece 606

December 8, 2010 1 comment
[scanlation by Binktopia]

It’s reassuring to see that, for as intelligent as he is and for how much he’s grown, Chopper still has enough moments of overpowering naivete as to make him resemble the sheltered little reindeer-boy we met so long ago. How he finds it acceptable to attempt to interact with a deep sea creature is beyond guessing.

Unlike Nami, Brook actually functions fairly well as our science correspondent, given his tendency to use brief snippets of correct information only as passing remarks en route to talking about himself being a skeleton. It’s a silly little throwaway joke, but this type of information conveyance is much more effective than Nami’s barrage of facts.

Just when it seems Caribou has the chance to make a stand and come off as a decent (if still minor) villain, his internal monologue reveals his desire to sneak into the girls’ room. With that, any shred of credibility he had left has gone. Frankly, though, I don’t find that much of a disappointment. Even if he does turn out to have Logia abilities, his current personality isn’t suited towards making him even a mid-card villain.

Of course, Caribou himself is still under the impression that he is menacing, and while his thoughts turn to more nefarious acts, Franky’s slow approach and subsequent containment of the barrel housing Caribou is a great comedic foil to the would-be antagonist. Interestingly, while not directly addressing the issue, this series of panels serves as the best evidence to date that Caribou is a Logia. The way he has manipulated his fairly large frame into a barrel would likely be impossible without the ability to restructure his body. If this does turn out to be true, then the nonchalant attitude shown by the crew towards Caribou is a strong indication of just how far and how powerful the Straw Hats have grown. Previously, only Luffy had managed to defeat Logia users, and even then, victory in each instance required some kind of natural counter. Franky’s assessment of the situation might be correct, in that Caribou hindered his own plan by being an idiot, but the mere fact that Franky (who is by no means at the top of the Straw Hat hierarchy) was able to so calmly analyze the situation and deal with it quickly is representative of major evolution in the strength of the crew.

… and naturally, this serious analysis of battle savvy and character progression is immediately followed by Morse Code nipples.

Can't wait until he greets an approaching ship like this

Despite the apparent mastery of undersea biology and general science demonstrated by the crew in the last few chapters, they somehow manage to fall into an incredibly obvious trap set by a huge angler fish. It’s hard for anything underwater to be cliché, given that it’s not the most common of settings, but this comes pretty close, and as such is difficult to reconcile with the recent National Geographic-like dialogue.

The acorn-headed Umibouzu is a unique find that truly helps to set the tone of just how grand this adventure is. Beyond the folklore charm, an Umibouzu would seem to be a major enough creature for its existence to be accepted knowledge throughout the world. However, only Usopp (and perhaps the silent Robin) is able to identify the creature, indicating not only fear but also surprise, which reaffirms the sense that the voyage to Fishman Island is perilous and rarely attempted. These aren’t exactly “uncharted waters,” but they’re unknown enough to instill appropriate feelings of discovery and wonderment to the crew, and by proxy, the audience.

On the other hand, the Flying Dutchman isn’t particularly impressive or exciting. It’s odd to say such a thing about a ghost ship, but Brook and Thriller Bark have given One Piece all the undead flavor it needs for years to come. Any more introductions of ghouls, zombies, or the like will only lessen the major impact of Brook’s role.

Ho hum, a legendary ghost ship

I don’t have any particularly colorful language with which to describe the intervention of the Kraken. A gigantic squid-beast delivered a right straight punch to a mythical sea-person. That’s colorful enough.

Quite unsurprisingly, Luffy delivered on his intent to tame the Kraken, and he even had the decency to do it off-screen, so the audience can later learn about Luffy’s new abilities in a more serious scenario. Vows of revenge, reunion reactions, and imminent eruption round out the chapter.

Final Flash: Some truly interesting setting establishment is somewhat hindered by a lack of a real driving force behind the plot. Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable adventure.

One Piece 605

December 1, 2010 1 comment
[scanlation by Binktopia]

Apparently Usopp has been away from Luffy too long, because a question like “Are you nuts?!” is rather unnecessary when directed at Luffy. The answer is pretty obvious.

Caribou is pretty much cementing himself as a minor character with lines of internal monologue that convey his bewilderment at the actions of the Straw Hat crew. He’s obviously in way over his head.

Wonderful deadpan comedy

Barefoot Coating is an interesting idea, and a nice contribution from Caribou, but this scenario is highly reminiscent of the early stages of the Jaya (and subsequent Skypiea) arc, when the same Monster Trio traveled underwater in individual “suits.” The material of the protective outfit may be different, but the setup is largely the same.

The conversation between Usopp and Caribou is unusual. Usopp clearly understands Caribou’s message, but Caribou’s dialogue is inside of a thought bubble, not a speech bubble. Is this intended to indicate hushed whispers from Caribou, or does Usopp have the innate ability to understand another liar?

I’m still not sold on the character’s altered design, but Franky Rocket Launcher is a pretty useful move. The Straw Hats were fairly limited in their long-range options, with only Usopp providing consistent quality from a distance. Franky seems to have evolved into a more complete fighter.

Chopper’s use of the Rumble Ball reveals another improved version of his original forms, this time showing off his huge Guard Point self. There’s no telling whether part of Chopper’s timeskip improvements will include new forms, but I’m satisfied with tweaked versions of what he already had.

Meanwhile, Robin demonstrates a little of her improvement, with Manos Gigantes. This isn’t unimpressive, and it certainly has potential for dealing with giants or large-human opponents, but it’s not the most creative addition to her arsenal. I often wonder if Oda ever feels written into a corner with Robin’s ability, given how easily it can be overpowered; as a result, she often feels deliberately underpowered, as though Oda is actively preventing her from being too strong compared to the rest of the crew. I’m not saying I’d like to see Robin evolve too much, as some potential uses of her power would be far too strong (entire cloned bodies, a mecha-like giant version of herself, etc.), but it’s difficult to see her use her powers without thinking that Oda is treading a fine line.

Better than Manos: the Hands of Fate... which says very little

Luffy’s Gear Third is at least familiar, though the Color of Armaments Hardening is going to take time to get used to, and Zoro once again displays his propensity (and talent) for cutting things, but the real shining star of this sequence is Sanji, whose Blue Walk grants him incredible speed despite being underwater. I hope to see his newfound speed more clearly defined in his next fight.

That clothed shark will certainly carry some significance, and is another candidate to serve as guide to Fishman Island, but there simply isn’t enough evidence to properly theorize about that yet.

The large panel illustrating the Deep Sea is stunning, and it marks the first time that this young arc has felt like a true One Piece adventure. With 3,000 still left to go, I’m finally suitably excited about the environment and setting of this trip.

Speaking of excited

Final Flash: As expected, the Kraken was a good way for the crew to demonstrate some new abilities without investing serious time into establishing even a minor villain. Good chapter.