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One Piece 604

November 14, 2010 4 comments
[scanlation by Binktopia]

Lackluster Jump cover, but the chapter cover page more than makes up for it.

Brook mistaking a whale for Laboon is funny enough, but Luffy correcting him by claiming it’s Whitebeard is even funnier.

Any worries over Caribou attacking pretty quickly are being assuaged by the appearance and reaction of Mohmoo. These circumstances are funny, and I appreciate that we aren’t diving into a serious battle right away, but reintroducing Hatchan might have been enough of a nod back to Arlong Park. That said, this the precursor to Fishman Island, after all, so I can’t criticize it for simply being a forced attempt at nostalgia.

It would be uncharacteristic of the Straw Hats to simply throw Caribou into the ocean, but I’m a bit disappointed they didn’t. Caribou isn’t a particularly interesting character so far.

Usopp serving as the crew’s lie-detector would be an amusing touch.

Trust him, he's a professional

Sanji kicking Caribou for ogling Nami leads to a comedy scene, but the kick itself should not be ignored. The fact that Sanji was able to make contact with a character who has claimed to be a Logia user means either that Sanji has developed Haki more than was perhaps expected of him at this point, or that Caribou was being deliberately vague, and he isn’t a Logia at all.

What is this, Bill Nye the Science Guy? I’m supposed to be reading about a glorious adventure into an amazing undersea world. Stop scientifically explaining away every last detail of the mysticism.

Magic everywhere in this bitch

At least all of Nami’s intelligent dialogue led to a great group punchline. Luffy judging things as “mysterious” truly never gets old, and he finally has company.

Caribou giving a warning to the Straw Hats to turn back makes me think that he may end up serving as a “guide” type of character instead of an antagonist. I could easily see him being frightened by a display of strength from Luffy, realizing he has no chance, and instead offering some guidance and advice to help push the Straw Hats forward into new territory, both figuratively and literally.

Ignoring unfunny catchphrases and jokes, the use of a Kraken here is actually a positive choice. It’s too early for the crew to get involved in a major battle against a particular antagonist, but a limited demonstration of their newfound strength against a neutral creature is a perfectly acceptable way to show a little action without requiring a major investment of time or future consequences. This also lends some credence to my thoughts regarding Caribou, as taming the Kraken would seem to be more than sufficient proof that he is outmatched.

Final Flash: The Caribou stuff is acceptable but not hugely engaging, and the explanation of climate and currents was too lengthy, but the Kraken seems like it will provide the first genuinely interesting plot element since the timeskip.

Weekly Power Rankings: 10/31 – 11/6

November 13, 2010 Leave a comment
Rank
Change
Series
Chapter
Score
1 Beelzebub 83 77.33%
2 Enigma 8 76.76%
3 +3 One Piece 602 76.76%
4 +1 Code:Breaker 111 75.22%
5 +3 Nurarihyon no Mago 129 75.08%
6 -3 Toriko 117 73.72%
7 +3 History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi 405 72.29%
8 -4 Hayate no Gotoku! 295 71.69%
9 Gamaran 71 71.12%
10 +3 Psyren 141 70.75%
11 +6 Bakuman 107 67.52%
12 +3 Fairy Tail 207-9 66.46%
13 +1 The World God Only Knows 120 65.85%
14 -3 Gintama 329 63.33%
15 +4 Defense Devil 72 63.30%
16 -9 Kekkaishi 61.66%
17 +4 Kimi no Iru Machi 111 59.36%
18 +4 GE ~ Good Ending 58 58.27%
19 -7 AR∀GO 43 58.06%
20 -4 Mahou Sensei Negima! 57.09%
21 -3 Air Gear 52.51%
22 -2 Naruto 50.03%
23 Kyoukai no Rin-ne 72 47.33%
24 Zettai Karen Children 237 36.31%
25 Hia Bleach 424 31.72%
26 -1 Katekyo Hitman Reborn! 312 24.46%
27 -1 MiXiM☆11 118 23.24%
28 -1 SWOT 17 16.61%

Weekly Power Rankings: 10/24 – 10/30

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment
Rank
Change
Series
Chapter
Score
1 Beelzebub 82 80.00%
2 +1 Enigma 7 76.39%
3 +3 Toriko 116 74.36%
4 -2 Hayate no Gotoku! 294 73.46%
5 +4 Code:Breaker 110 71.61%
6 +7 One Piece 601 71.09%
7 +1 Kekkaishi 327 70.21%
8 -4 Nurarihyon no Mago 128 69.51%
9 +1 Gamaran 70 68.31%
10 +2 History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi 404 68.24%
11 -4 Gintama 328 68.24%
12 -7 AR∀GO 42 68.05%
13 +1 Psyren 140 67.82%
14 +1 The World God Only Knows 119 67.22%
15 -4 Fairy Tail 206 65.95%
16 +1 Mahou Sensei Negima! 307 65.70%
17 -1 Bakuman 106 62.67%
18 +1 Air Gear 293 62.06%
19 +1 Defense Devil 71 60.98%
20 +1 Naruto 514 60.40%
21 -3 Kimi no Iru Machi 110 60.05%
22 +1 GE ~ Good Ending 57 50.49%
23 -1 Kyoukai no Rin-ne 71 48.45%
24 Zettai Karen Children 236 38.87%
25 Katekyo Hitman Reborn! 311 25.33%
26 MiXiM☆11 117 23.61%
27 Abs SWOT 16 16.17%

Hiatus: Bleach

Series Roundup: 10/31 – 11/6

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Mini-reviews for all the series without full individual posts.

Code:Breaker 110

[scanlation by ShinraTensei]

Sakurakouji’s comedy on the first page is totally unnecessary and ruins much of the suspense and interest built up from last week’s major cliffhanger.

Heike’s account of power users in the Meiji era is interesting. This series has answered some of the questions regarding characters and identities, but this is the first time it’s really delved into its own history. World-building is fundamental, and while this is very nice, it should probably have been addressed sooner.

The Emperor used to be terrifyingly strong. I can accept that he’s somehow contained in Ogami’s body now, but it’s a pity he’s lost all of his edge and become cute.

Heike has always had the power of light, but this is the first time I can recall him explicitly using certain aspects of such an ability, such as speed and refraction. He’s become a legitimate opponent.

Despite everything going on with Heike and the Emperor, Yukihina could have provided the most interesting moment in the chapter, but he is stopped right before the Emperor steps in and handles matters. I still want to know what those markings on Yukihina allow him to do.

Defense Devil 71

[scanlation by I Eat Manga]

The cover page depiction of the priest is pretty exciting, but is this really the time for more backstory? There is no plot to propel the series forward right now.

Father Selma had some pretty awful hair back when he was Kanto.

It’s great to see Elimona brought back in to the story in a more directly involved role. Certainly, it always seemed as though she had a part to play in the overall story, but I appreciate that we’re finally getting to see some of her behind-the-scenes dealings. Handing a second chance to Kanto is an interesting choice.

Little Idamaria is cute, and having her visibly being possessed by this legendary demon makes for a strong scene. Not only does this further raise questions about the motives of Elimona, but this is also enough to bring the entire story back to its main focus, provided that this flashback mini-arc is the last bit of sidetracking the plot takes.

GE ~ Good Ending 57-58

[scanlation by iMangaScans]

(57) Yuki stood up for herself! Stop the presses! Alert the internet!

It’s sad that Shou has to be the one to pull away from more-than-casual interaction from Seiji, but as long as someone is doing it, I’m satisfied.

“If I die […] please burn the porn magazines in my bag…”? You carry them around with you at all times? That’s dedication.

This surprisingly deep conversation is tarnished a little by our idiot protagonist trying to sound wise. No amount of false bravado or humility can make up for all his actions over the last several months.

Cue stereotypical romantic comedy situation. This time, at least, it involves the right people.

(58) Yuki’s fear of ghosts is an amusing trait that I wish we’d seen sooner.

Seiji trying desperately to be manly and climb up to the second floor is funny as well. This is a way that his stupidity can be applied in a positive manner.

Finally, a beautiful, rewarding, drama-free scene of romantic development between Yuki and Seiji. I can’t even complain that Yuki had to take the initiative, negating the chance for Seiji to finally grow a backbone, because Yuki’s expectation of a proper confession gives Seiji such an opportunity, yet with added incentive. I still worry that Seiji will be distracted by other girls along the way, but future concerns aside, this moment was excellent.

Katekyo Hitman Reborn! 313

[scanlation by I Eat Manga]

Further illustrating how terrible Amano’s idea of cliffhangers is, the Lambo/Rauji fight ends in the first four pages. Without the slightest hint of exaggeration, I can safely say that her style of twist-cliffhanger (showing the pose/form of an attack on the last page, only for it to connect in the following week’s chapter) is worse than Bleach twists. As pitiful as many Bleach twists have been, at least Kubo has had the decency to show actions in full within the same chapter.

As bad as these fights are proving to be, equally terrible is knowing that after every one, we have to suffer through another boring flashback. I cannot possibly overstate my disdain for Vongola Primo and constant references to him.

At least Lambo provided a decent line to end this fight. Tsuna really should be the “brother”-style of leader, instead of the dull, uncharacteristically suave leader he has been for a few arcs.

… no. I refuse to accept that Byakuran, the character at the root of the ruination of this series, is here. He was defeated, and has absolutely no reason to exist, not that he ever should have been conceived in the first place. Now, he’s back to interfere with the first arc after his own miserable one? No. This is practically grounds for dropping the series, and it certainly cements Reborn as one of the five worst series currently publishing.

Kimi no Iru Machi 111

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

I’m a bit tired of references to Antonio Inoki. They were amusing at first, but why not change the wrestler being referenced? It’s like calling every strong person Hulk Hogan.

I know the Japanese education system tends to push through masses of students in the same manner, but I find it a little naive of Haruto to immediately assume that Shiori is the same age he is.

Mishima deserves so much better than the drama she’ll inevitably receive thanks to the unnecessary plot interference of Shiori.

There exists such a thing as a “Hot Spring Circle.” If ever there was a reason to wish you had been born in Japan, I think that’s it.

Takashi is making this chapter irritating. He is a walking stereotype of “annoying buddy.”

Unsurprisingly to anyone but Haruto, apparently, Shiori is older than him. The brief explanation of her age in relation to her schooling year is actually rather interesting, as an attractive young woman with an active interest in studying makes for a decent character, but it’s not enough to redeem her from being the “wrong” choice girl, particularly because she was introduced far too late.

Wow. She’s pretty direct. I’ll give this character credit for one thing, at least: She is decisive, and decisiveness is a trait not often found in love interests in romance series.

Nurarihyon no Mago 129

[scanlation by ShinraTensei]

Seimei is reviving? This is so abrupt that I had to double-check to make sure I hadn’t missed a chapter. I suppose this cements how repetitive and subpar last chapter was.

Lovely imagery as the memories of Hagoromo Gitsune are displayed on the shattering fragments of the Nue’s shell. For all of the faults of the anime, this scene would adapt wonderfully to animation.

As expected, Hagoromo Gitsune is unable to strike the decisive blow, because of the flood of memories from her human side. While this is demeaning for Rikuo, it does help the long-term future of the series that he wasn’t strong enough to defeat her on his own, and that he will (presumably) only attain a circumstantial victory.

I still have no emotional attachment to any of the onmyouji except Yura. This far into the story, I don’t think there’s any rectifying that.

The conceptual design of the invocation of the Hagun is solid, but the overly-stylized skulls take away from the scene. They’re far more warped and comical than scary or impressive.

father?! Rihan is her father? That would make Rikuo her brother. Is this right? I’ve re-read it several times, and I keep reading it the same way, but it keeps seeming to be wrong. If that’s true, that’s an excellent shock.

SWOT 15

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

Perhaps a little MacGyver music will inspire us to overcome the challenge of reading this chapter. I could use an elaborate contraption, though.

Manabizaki is the worst tsundere ever, and the scene is made even worse by his hard-hatted lackey stating the painfully obvious in an internal thought bubble.

What the hell is this? Good Ending? SWOT can’t even stick to its own terrible storyline; it has to continue to try to steal ideas and themes from other series. Give it up, author; you’re getting canceled.

Pages and pages of woeful attempts at romantic comedy. This is painful.

After a brief interlude of the main plot of the entire story, we’re right back to harem idiocy. This chapter may not have been as overwhelmingly awful as chapter 14, but it was still thoroughly putrid. I genuinely cannot fathom how anyone can write a story this terrible.

Feel that one or more of these series should be getting full-review treatment each week? Show your support by participating in chapter discussion in comments. Actively-discussed series will be considered for full reviews.

Bakuman 108

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by I Eat Manga]

Is there anything more irritating than being around a couple fawning all over each other when you are single/longing/heartbroken? Mashiro’s anger is both comical and relatable to the average reader.

Very nice nod by Ohba to some non-Shueisha properties. As far as I’ve been aware, all earlier references to other manga have been references to other Shueisha properties, but Touch was Shogakukan and Ai to Makoto was Kodansha. Company loyalty is perfectly understandable, as is copyright safety, but a series about manga should definitely look at the entire range of series, not just at Shueisha.

Granted, Touch has been completed for a very long time, but considering how few Westerners have read it (in stark contrast to how many should read it), Kaya’s explanation of the plot is a little too comprehensive.

Anything else you'd like to spoil?

Even shoujo series are being referenced, and amidst these references is another cross-publisher nod, with a mention of Nodame Cantabile in the same breath as a few Shueisha titles. This set of references feels a little more overt, though; much in the same way anyone can tell when a line of dialogue in Family Guy has only been written to provide the setup for a cutaway joke, this (and some other) bunch of references feels a little gratuitous, as though its role isn’t to add any meaning or relevance, but rather to trigger a sense of familiarity in the reader.

Great comedy from Mashiro, as he tries to escape receiving help on the feminine perspective from Kaya.

Kaya, not exactly a typical woman

Looking at Hiramaru calms Takagi down? That’s completely bizarre, yet also completely hilarious.

“Miss Jumps” is a pretty great way to refer to Aoki and Iwase together. Thank you, Fukuda.

Finally, this incredible coincidence is being presented to the editor-in-chief. Thanks to some persuasion from Fukuda (whose passion hopefully means he will retake some of the spotlight soon), a quick alcohol- (and Aoki-) influenced decision by Hiramaru, and an unexpected appearance and prompt agreement from Arai-sensei, the editor-in-chief announces what was pretty obviously going to happen: “Super Leaders’ Fest” is now “Super Leaders’ Love Fest,” which sounds awkward no matter how many times you say it.

In keeping with the importance and grandeur of the moment, Mashiro goes so far as to call Azuki. Her response is shockingly direct, and her general willingness to help Mashiro by providing personal details and emotions is a pleasing sign of the strength of the Mashiro/Azuki relationship, regardless of the distance between them.

Final Flash: Good comedy, much-needed plot advancement, and some future plot setup that didn’t take time away from what is currently important. Solid chapter.

Beelzebub 83

November 10, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by CXC Scans]

Furuichi’s uncharacteristic seriousness is immediately tempered with some expected perversion, which leads to one of the best punchlines in weeks.

No one's stopping you from getting in the bed

There isn’t much to glean from En or his wet nurses. Behemoth is even tough to deal with for En, and it’s possible to summon a car.

What better way to break the tension between Oga and these ladies than by forcing Baby Beel to sing? Every awkward social situation should come with a baby, preferably of the demonic variety.

The horror of Eiffel 65 all over again

Does every lady in every series now solely exist to be kidnapped, taken hostage, or otherwise used as a pawn? Kunieda has been proven as a strong, independent, enjoyable character, and yet even she succumbs to being captured. Whether or not her captor, Hecatos, is an interesting character, it’s insulting that Kunieda has to lose dignity merely to introduce a new enemy.

Hecatos introduces the idea of human contractors, which paves the way not only for Kunieda to become involved more directly in the main plot, but also to reveal that characters we’ve already met have already had demonic association. Of course, this segues nicely back into the fight between Toujou, who is noticeably tired, and Izuma, who ends the chapter by unveiling his own demonic ability. This resolves the previously unanswered plot thread regarding the “demon lurking within the school” that Hilda had noticed, and it also puts Izuma in line for an extended stay in the story. Looking back, then, I find it unfortunate that the entire Oga vs. Miki arc, complete with several chapters of build-up to no payoff fight, served only as a precursor to Izuma. He can still be a good character, but the manner in which we were introduced to him was displeasing.

Final Flash: With the clearly superior comedy concentrated within a few pages, the drama of this chapter was a bit draining.

Beamcast – November 8

November 8, 2010 1 comment

[download link – 140min, 60mb]

In this week’s show:

News

Viz sells downloadable manga via iPad app
Viz announces online Shonen Jump supplement
Viz confirms Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, Psyren licenses
Leiji Matsumoto, Shigeru Mizuki earn government honors

New releases

[anime]
Tsubasa, RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season 2 Viridian Collection (DVD) $49.98

[manga]
Inuyasha (vol. 54) $9.99
Inuyasha – VIZBIG (vol. 5) $17.99
Maoh: Juvenile Remix (vol. 3) $9.99

Discussion / Weekly Poll
Last week’s results:

Which sport do you prefer seeing depicted in anime/manga?
1. Basketball (29%)
2. Boxing (24%)
3. Football / soccer (20%)
4. Baseball (16%)
5. Tennis (11%)

This week:
Which of these partially-scanlated series would you most like to see caught up?
(Cage of Eden, GTO: Shonan 14 Days, Hajimete no Aku, Kuroko no Basket, Onidere, Sket Dance, Yankee-kun to Megane-chan)

The Great Shonen Tier List
Characters added:

Perona (One Piece)
Kaguya Kimimaro (Naruto)
Lambo (Katekyo Hitman Reborn!)
Sakuragi Hanamichi (Slam Dunk)
Nagase Kaede (Mahou Sensei Negima!)
Jonathan Joestar (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)

This Week in Manga
0:25:38 – Sankarea 11
0:28:33 – Bleach 425
0:38:55 – One Piece 603
0:50:15 – Naruto 515
1:02:29 – Bakuman 108
1:06:30 – Beelzebub 83
1:12:58 – Fairy Tail 210
1:16:37 – Hayate no Gotoku! 295
1:20:40 – History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi 405
1:26:41 – AR∀GO 42
1:33:45 – The World God Only Knows 120
1:40:12 – Defense Devil 71
1:43:22 – Psyren 141-142
1:49:07 – Nurarihyon no Mago 129
1:53:37 – GE ~ Good Ending 57-58
1:57:56 – Kimi no Iru Machi 111
2:00:34 – SWOT 15
2:06:44 – Enigma 8
2:14:00 – Code:Breaker 110
2:16:04 – D.Gray-man 200
2:17:47 – Katekyo Hitman Reborn! 313

Chapters of the Week

Final Flash

Comments / questions / additions? Email the show.
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Credit: AnimeNewsNetwork

AR∀GO 42

November 7, 2010 2 comments
[scanlation by Trinity BAKumA]

Joe’s fury is palpable. Arai’s art style may be alternative, and could well be an acquired taste, but it conveys character emotion excellently.

If looks could kill (then Joe would be more relevant)

Coco was bright enough to detach the ‘D’ and ‘R’ keys from her laptop keyboard, which surely is intended to be a hint that “Dr.” Cloteaux is the perpetrator. Sadly, while such a clue is blatantly obvious to the audience, we have to wait for such a realization to strike the characters. I appreciate Coco’s intelligence and quick actions being discreetly praised, but it’s unfortunate that Arago isn’t quite sharp enough to catch on right away.

Poor Colo. Violence towards animals, especially towards animals that have been established as “good,” is an easy (if slightly cheap) way of establishing the antagonist responsible as malevolent.

Cloteaux is playing this entire scenario by the book. Disguise as a friendly, win trust, learn about the hero, kidnap the girl, lie in wait with a sinister plan. Not only is this entirely too straightforward, but Cloteaux is also showing his hand far too soon. I was ready for a year’s worth of chapters with Cloteaux deeply embedded as a friendly, establishing bonds of trust with the main cast and slowly manipulating his surroundings in his favor. Instead, he acts now, barely after having been introduced, and much too early for the main cast to feel any sense of betrayal. I’m immensely disappointed at such missed opportunities.

Arago not realizing Coco’s message is bad enough, but Joe doesn’t see the obvious clue either?

...

Joe does ultimately hit upon the correct answer, even if by whimsical chance. I really had higher expectations for his powers of deduction.

Arago being saddled with Joe at his side may prevent him from using Brionac, but it does allow for more dynamic character interaction. Of  course, there is always the possibility (or perhaps eventuality) that Joe will discover Arago’s ability.

Cloteaux’s newest golem is a particularly horrifying creation, and one that surely must require the use of Brionac for Arago and Joe even to stay alive. If that ends up being the case, I think this will be too soon, as well. Unless Arai is being pressured into certain plot choices from his publisher, I find this pacing rushed and these developments unfortunate.

Of the possible options stemming from a kidnapping storyline, Coco being fused with a golem might be the best available one, but that still doesn’t redeem this arc. Coco hasn’t had nearly enough time as an independent character to make this scene carry a strong impact. Instead, any potential character development is thus far being eschewed in favor of the cheap thrill of a damsel-in-distress plot.

Cloteaux: So evil, he implanted a Simon Says game into her

Final Flash: A saddening display of authorial mediocrity. Arai, you’re better than this.

Naruto 515

November 5, 2010 2 comments
[scanlation by Binktopia]

Not much of a Jump cover, it must be said, but the color page and chapter cover are markedly better.

Tsuchigumo carrying the entire turtle-island is the proper way to amaze the audience with his power and ability. It’s unfortunate that this wasn’t his first action after leaving the Kage Summit. That entire showdown with Deidara Mark II should never have happened.

Explaining Naruto’s thoughts in the introductory text blurb is no better than explaining plot in a narrative box. In fact, it might even be a bit worse, because at most, the introductory blurb is supposed to be a throwaway recap of what brought us to the beginning of the current chapter. Kishimoto has his strengths (art, creative concepts), but considering this alongside his recent over-reliance on thought bubbles, proper storytelling clearly isn’t one of them.

It’s incredible how disheartening the mere mention of Sasuke is. My will to continue reading this chapter has suddenly diminished.

Sasuke? Motoi does not approve.

An Aburame clan member appears! My will is restored. I realize that my hope for Shino to become a vital part of the cast will never come true, but his personality and his clan’s ability are so interesting that I can’t help but be excited to see any of them, even if I realize they’ll again be relegated to the background soon enough. As far as relevance to the story, I’m pleasantly surprised with the pace at which the war arc is moving forward. I don’t want a return to the unnecessarily rapid pacing from back around the Invasion of Pain arc, but Konoha finding out about Madara’s Zetsu army this soon after it was unveiled is a good choice.

Bee is right, Naruto; stacking blocks is considerably more important than returning to wait for Sasuke.

Do well and you'll graduate to Lego blocks

Despite a succession of wise decisions by Kabuto, Madara continues to focus all the credit on Orochimaru. I respect that Kabuto had to get his knowledge from somewhere, but this much focus on a supposedly deceased character implies that we haven’t seen the last of him, at least in some capacity. If that must be the case, I hope for something more imaginative than his consciousness overtaking Kabuto’s.

The frantic planning at the Kage Summit sets the tone properly for the impending war. That said, Gaara’s contribution to the proceedings is a little… misguided.

Fighting without fashion? Folly.

Gaara is an interesting choice of Commander General. I’m pleased that Kishimoto didn’t overly favor Konoha by putting Tsunade in charge of everything. With military divisions being formed on the basis of combat range or specialty, Gaara is a logical tactical choice; despite his other position as Division 4 (Long-Range) General, he is not exclusively a distance fighter, as his abilities can support the entire battle. I’m also pleased to see Kakashi in a position of importance, though Guy surely mustn’t enjoy being his subordinate.

Afternoon Tiger aftermath < being the lesser eternal rival

Temari and Shikamaru are logical choices for the long-range division, but Chouji’s inclusion in such a group is bizarre. Unless Kishimoto later provides some explanatory strategy (such as every group needing close-combat muscle in the event of an ambush), I can’t see any sensible reason why Chouji would be in this group. Surely, he’s been included because of his chemistry with Shikamaru. Speaking of Shikamaru, I’m a bit disappointed that he wasn’t given a leadership role. I have no particular complaints with those who have been chosen, but with so much emphasis having been placed on Shikamaru’s tactical brilliance, an outright position as Division General (instead of a proxy role under Gaara) would have made sense.

Kiba certainly is excited to go off to war. He is certainly a brash character, but I hope this arc is authored in an honest, horrifying way, enough to have characters such as Kiba come to shocking realizations about the senselessness and brutality of war. That’s not to say I’m hoping for meaningless character deaths, of course.

With this chapter building up excitement for the war arc so well, the last two pages come as an immense crushing blow. This isn’t a Mega Man game; Naruto and friends shouldn’t have to re-prove their superiority over previously defeated enemies right before the final boss. Also, while the overall idea of resurrecting old characters is bad enough, the choice of characters revived is even worse. Reviving Akatsuki is groan-inducing, given the growing sense of achievement and relief readers have felt as the series has progressed, but it’s also understandable; they were some of the most powerful characters in the history of the series. The Kages are the most sensible and least irritating of the bunch, because hearsay strength aside, they’re an unknown quantity. All that said, though, reviving characters like Zabuza and Kimimaro is heinous. They provide no creative edge to the storyline, no tactical benefit that couldn’t have been covered by introducing new characters or even by giving each Zetsu clone individual abilities. They have been brought back merely for a parade of nostalgia, for a self-congratulatory reminder by and for Kishimoto. I have lost some respect for this series and this author because of the end of this chapter.

Final Flash: Sasuke’s brief appearance aside, the chapter was admirably raising anticipation until a spectacularly awful train wreck of an ending. Expectations and excitement are decidedly gone.

Bleach 425

November 4, 2010 4 comments
[scanlation by Binktopia]

It’s official: Ichigo dreams about Renji. I can hear the fanfiction community in a stir already.

Great start to the chapter. This kind of comedy feels right at home with Kubo’s style. I’ve often said that I’d love for Bleach to be canceled and for Kubo to turn around and write a school comedy, but if he can just make this series take itself less seriously, the remaining few years will be satisfactory.

Any good day begins with attempted patricide

Ichigo became a mercenary? This is pretty funny stuff. Settling on the soccer club gives the story a great opportunity for more comedy. The further away we’re taken from huge swords and ridiculous plot twists, the better.

It’s even a pleasure to see Inoue, who, between being revered as an idol and exiting the school from the second story, has shown more charisma and likability than in all 424 previous chapters combined.

Her facial expression is the real punchline

Ichigo’s phone call, seemingly to Kisuke, could serve as the bridge back to Soul Society-related plot. I sincerely hope it doesn’t, and that whoever Ichigo (and Inoue and Tatsuki?) works for leads to new, more interesting responsibilities in the real world.

These punks blocking the gate provide exactly the kind of low-level conflict worth our time, and the way Ishida intervenes is a perfectly suitable combination of aggression and comedy. I don’t know what long-time Bleach fans make of this, but as someone disgusted with where the manga went over the last two or three years, I find this new direction (however temporary it might be) welcome and enjoyable.

Twist of the week

Final Flash: Easily the best Bleach chapter in years. My experience with post-Future Arc Reborn is keeping my excitement limited, as Kubo could drop a Hollow in the middle of all this at any time, but so far the timeskip has worked wonders.

One Piece 603

November 4, 2010 1 comment
[scanlation by Binktopia]

We’re off to Fishma– wait, still Sabaody? This whole chapter should be exploration and wonderment.

Granted, Caribou secretly being a Logia user and wanting to infiltrate the Straw Hat crew and destroy them from the inside is pretty interesting. Still, his passive introduction and grotesque character design make him look distinctly like a “stepping stone” villain, someone whose only purpose is to be a punching bag for our protagonists. If he was going to matter even this much, I wish Oda would have given him a more distinct look.

One page of Sentoumaru explaining how strong the Straw Hats are now is one page too many. Let’s get on with the adventure, please.

Rayleigh’s brief flashback reveals a pretty major piece of information: Luffy’s straw hat was originally Roger’s. On one hand, this is a nice little tie-in meant to make Luffy feel even more important and destined for greatness than he already did. On the other hand, I don’t want any Luffy/Roger similarities becoming reminiscent of the endless string of Vongola Primo tripe in Reborn. Compare your protagonist too often to a famed character in the past, and nothing your protagonist does will create any sense of achievement.

It took until the seventh page to focus on the Thousand Sunny. That’s not a good start.

Gorgeous art showcases the undersea world surrounding the ship, though apparently all this natural beauty isn’t as great the second time around.

Still the highlight of crew interaction

Sanji couldn’t even handle Nami moving? This new reaction to women is hilarious for now, but it could become stale over time. This character trait will need to evolve; hopefully, this scenario will mesh with the need for Sanji to resolve the question marks surrounding him since back in Enies Lobby, where his vehement refusal to kick a woman seemed to allude to some backstory waiting to be told.

Franky playing with his own retractable hair is pretty amusing.

Fun confirmed-robo

Silliness aside, Franky also has some pretty amazing information to reveal. Aside from Hachi, Duval, and the Flying Fish Rider, Sunny-go was ultimately protected by Bartholomew Kuma. Franky’s ensuing explanation cements what has been made pretty obvious already: That Kuma was secretly helping the Straw Hats escape. That confirmation is appreciated, but the highlight here is learning more specifics of Kuma’s modification, particularly his agreement with Dr. Vegapunk. The slow trickle of meaningful Kuma moments has not only helped solidify him as a good character, but it has now also provided impetus for the rest of the Straw Hat crew (besides Robin) to eventually meet with the Revolutionary Army.

Franky, staring into the future

We have yet to make it to Fishman Island, and Caribou and Coribou have caught up to the crew. This still feels a little early for the crew to engage in a major fight, and it would also be awkward for the crew to demolish someone in the middle of the ocean, so I hope that either a friendly acquaintance from Fishman Island (Jinbei? Caimie?) personally or indirectly interferes, or that Franky has a new ship modification to get them down to their destination in a hurry.

Final Flash: An unexpected choice of plot direction in Caribou does little to detract from an enjoyable chapter with some important revelations and some overdue adventuring.

Fairy Tail 207-209

November 4, 2010 1 comment
[scanlation by Binktopia]

Fairy Tail reviews return with a triple-chapter week mega-post! My anticipation and expectation is high for this series of chapters.

(207) We begin with Mest demystifying himself by trying to eat snow. Right out of the gate in such an important week, Mashima uses comedy to kill the tension (and, by association, interest) surrounding a character with limitless potential. His comedy moments are decently funny, but these character traits could either have been assigned to someone else, or saved for much later, when this character isn’t at the center of attention.

Comedy is well-covered, thanks. Be serious.

Mest and Wendy losing this early can’t be right. Regardless of any criticism I may have towards Mashima, he’s not foolish enough to build up a character this much only to swerve us this badly. Something is amiss.

As evidenced by Gray and Loke failing to remember any vital details about him, Mest is apparently a completely unknown quantity. A mystery element would add considerable excitement to this arc.

Poor Gazille. Certainly, he was the last person who would have wanted the “Quiet” route, even less so than Natsu. As far as a writing choice, though, having Gazille avoid fighting right now is the right decision. He needs the spotlight firmly on him for his next fight, instead of sharing it with others fighting around him.

Juvia lost?! What was the point in including her in the S-Class Exam, then? Mashima better have something major planned for her in this arc, or I’m going to be incensed. Well, I’ll be more incensed than I am now.

That's quite the understatement, Gray

Uh, Natsu, perhaps you missed the point of … well, this entire exam… but you already are challenging your fellow guild members to see who can become an S-Class mage. That’s the whole reason all of you are here. (Seriously, generic shonen hero statements are one thing, but this is a slap in the face.)

The last page unveils the major plot twist: Mest really isn’t who we’ve been made to think he is. We don’t really know who he is, but to an extent, we know who he isn’t. Also, we know he can make one hell of a creepy face. Incidentally, having Pantherlily be the character to figure things out is a nice touch, given both his association to Mystogan and the fact that he’s the last person to join Fairy Tail, meaning that if Mest is using some kind of manipulative magic, Pantherlily should be the least affected by it.

Fantastically scary

(208) Suddenly, Tenrou Island has become Little Garden.

I still don’t like Happy, but a comedic straight-man was definitely needed in the scene where Natsu interrogated the beast, and Happy duly delivered.

Halfway through, the chapter still hasn’t shaken the comedy focus. Fairy Tail is good at comedy, but an unprecedented triple-chapter week might not be the best time to get sidetracked from the main story. Incidentally, the Conan O’Brien “If They Mated”-esque concept of what Elfman and Evergreen’s baby would look like is nowhere near as funny as Mirajane’s head-in-hands reaction in the following panel.

World's unhappiest would-be aunt

In a twist that wouldn’t shock even a child whose first reading material is Fairy Tail, romantic tension is being developed between Elfman and Evergreen. The most insulting aspect of that plot cop-out is that, if predictable and unnecessary romantic development is all we’re set to gain from Elfman and Evergreen progressing in the exam, they might as well have lost instead of Juvia and Lisanna.

Emo kid is back, and he’s still on the verge of tears as he tries to get Elfman and Evergreen to run away. Sadly, those two don’t have the chance to prove their worth, as Natsu enters the scene from out of nowhere to save them from “Death Preying,” which is one of the most redundant names ever given to an ability.

Oh, nevermind. Emo kid isn’t on the verge of tears at all; he actually is crying.

Cheer up, genocidal terror

(209) It really is unfortunate that this whole “depressed character with an unwanted devastating power” storyline has been done enough already, because each individual aspect of this storyline is being handled well. Still, I can’t overlook obvious authorial laziness.

Emo kid has been waiting for Natsu to grow strong enough to kill him? Again, that’s tried-and-true at best. More interesting to me is the fact that Natsu has no idea who he is.

As unusual of a sacrificial lamb as a muffler is, any involvement in the storyline from Igneel is worthwhile. We’ve had to wait far too long for any advancement of this plot; I’m certainly not suggesting that Mashima should have had Natsu head directly for a reunion with Igneel without any adventures along the way, but entire arcs have gone by without even the mention of his name. This is a good sign.

Do you have any idea how few Targets exist in Earthland?

Mest is apparently aware of the existence of emo kid. His creepy face conveys mixed messages, however; it’s difficult to tell whether Mest is fearful or excited.

... or both fearful AND excited, perhaps?

Emo kid now has a name, but I don’t like “Zeref” as much as “emo kid.” I suppose I ought to let the manga speak for itself, though.

An airship full of baddies shows up, headed by a man named Hades. Could there possibly have been a more boring way to introduce the antagonists of this arc? Here is an airship, this guy is named Hades, this other guy is ugly, this narrative box says “Dark Guild.” Completely unimaginative.

As long as none of you are secretly Gérard

Final Flash: 207 was the standout of the three, but each chapter had some quality to it. That said, there was no incredible event or unified storyline that warranted a triple-chapter week. In that sense, then, this was a bit of a letdown.

Weekly Power Rankings: 10/17 – 10/23

November 3, 2010 Leave a comment
Rank
Change
Series
Chapter
Score
1 Beelzebub 81 80.00%
2 Hayate no Gotoku! 293 75.41%
3 +5 Enigma 6 72.82%
4 +2 Nurarihyon no Mago 127 72.67%
5 AR∀GO 41 72.29%
6 -2 Toriko 115 71.92%
7 +5 Gintama 327 70.29%
8 +2 Kekkaishi 326 69.13%
9 +5 Code:Breaker 109 67.52%
10 +3 Gamaran 69 66.54%
11 +5 Fairy Tail 205 65.39%
12 -1 History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi 403 64.91%
13 +7 One Piece 600 64.56%
14 -5 Psyren 139 64.24%
15 +3 The World God Only Knows 118 63.77%
16 -9 Bakuman 105 63.09%
17 Mahou Sensei Negima! 306 62.82%
18 -15 Kimi no Iru Machi 61.25%
19 -4 Air Gear 292 60.85%
20 -1 Defense Devil 70 58.08%
21 Naruto 513 56.25%
22 Kyoukai no Rin-ne 70 48.31%
23 GE ~ Good Ending 56 47.33%
24 Zettai Karen Children 235 38.18%
25 +2 Katekyo Hitman Reborn! 310 24.97%
26 MiXiM☆11 116 24.09%

Absent: SWOT
Hiatus: Bleach

Series Roundup: 10/24 – 10/30

November 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Mini-reviews for all the series without full individual posts.

Air Gear 293

[scanlation by SSA Scanlations]

I’d love to see more of the Air Gear world before ATs, or like this, more of the world as they’re just starting to discover them and everything associated with them.

Gazelle is a girl now? Seriously, what’s going on here? I’m sure Oh!Great has a direction he’s going with this, but constantly changing the identity of Gazelle without any real indication of plot connection is starting to become tiresome.

“Upside-down glowing ice cream cone” is the best description of Tokyo Tower ever. More relevant to the plot, Gazelle being a blank slate and serving as the world’s (or at least this part of the world’s) introduction to ATs is a nice touch.

This suddenly-revealed relationship is far too happy to last, unfortunately. Tragedy is poised to strike Kaito at the end of the chapter, but it’s safe to assume he’ll be saved, which perhaps directly leads to Gazelle’s demise… or turning into Lind? That part is still confusing. What an unfortunate time for a missed chapter next week.

Defense Devil 70

[scanlation by I Eat Manga]

Maybe it was conveyed or drawn in an awkward fashion, but Kucabara’s back-and-forth reaction to his watch being taken isn’t very good. Everyone falling asleep right after that is pretty funny, though.

The very moment of her first mention, Kucabara’s sister arrives, flying beside Jody. That’s a little too convenient.

She has a spell called Pyun-Pyun Bird. Combine that with her face, and I’m finding this character difficult to like already.

There’s an acceptable twist. Bird just being an illusion created by Kucabara’s late sister is far more interesting. The powerful magic she has and her invisibility to anyone but Kucabara still means that she’d be out of place in the main cast, so I hope she doesn’t stick around permanently, but she’s far more tolerable with this kind of bittersweet feeling to her.

Flashback, rainbow bridge, clock hands moving again, end of chapter. Is Defense Devil ever going to return to sensible, extended plot?

Donten Prism Solar Car 2

[scanlation by CXC Scans]

The unnecessarily convenient introduction of Professor Saeki effectively ruins all of the tension from the excellent first chapter. What a complete and immediate disappointment.

Saeki’s lofty speech about the lives and ambitions of students is made bizarre by the mention of the solar car as the path to the future. It’s still a bit early to lean on the crux of the series like this, given that this series is likely an introduction to solar cars for most of the audience.

The car accident provided the perfect opportunity to introduce a little romantic tension, as well as reintroducing some resentment via the destroyed bicycle. Instead, the author opted not only to have Shouta electrocuted, but also to have him talk to his dead father in his sleep? Ridiculous.

Freshly released from hospital, Shouta confirms that all chapter 1 tension is gone by repairing the solar car by himself. Surely, it was obvious that he’d eventually come around, but the second chapter is far too soon.

Junko’s insistence that this project is a responsibility could provide some much-needed drama. With all but the long-term goals from the first chapter resolved, there simply isn’t enough conflict to engage the reader.

Gamaran 69

[scanlation by Overload Scans]

This is a pretty comical conversation to be having with someone ostensibly related to the fearsome village where the Ogame school knows to train.

Rintaro is pretty jovial for a huge swordsman. However, his potential menace is revealed as his eyes are hidden from view when he comments on Gama’s intent to defeat Jinsuke.

The design of Juuren Village is immediately promising. That huge spire seems particularly menacing, and will likely play a major role in the upcoming training arc.

Sakura’s face is noticeably somber after the mention of Juuren being the location where the next Ogame head is chosen.

69 chapters in, and we finally meet the first woman in the series to be introduced as attractive: Rika. This is actually a positive; the fact that the author didn’t go out of his way to draw previous females in a more presentable fashion nicely evokes the era, as well as being a small victory for rightfully-empowered ordinary women everywhere.

Excellent emotion displayed by Gama, and even more pleasingly, the forced rest is completely skipped over, with the end of the chapter leading directly into the beginning of training.

GE ~ Good Ending 56

[scanlation by iMangaScans]

In addition to being one of the worst, most thoroughly inept romance protagonists of all time, Seiji is also the world’s worst Uno player, in that he fails to meet even the most basic requirement of playing the game.

A training camp arc in a romantic comedy only works in series with at least a halfhearted focus on its particular sport. For example, Suzuka could have pulled it off, because the two protagonists visibly participated in their sport. In Good Ending, tennis is an ignored backdrop at best, but more often a laughable extra.

The brief cooking comedy is welcome, but the positive interplay between Seiji and Yuki is frustratingly kept out of focus. Instead, the spotlight falls on Shou, who is saddened to notice the two having fun together. This author is absolutely infuriating.

Regardless of whether or not the window was open, how the hell would Shou think that Yuki overheard her express her love for Seiji? That’s another example of terrible writing.

Shou asking Yuki for help with Seiji is irritating, because of all of the drama it will inevitably bring, but Shou is at least a respectable character for being honest and brave with her feelings.

Katekyo Hitman Reborn! 312

[scanlation by Binktopia]

“Never refuse an invitation to get it on!!”? Are you coming on to me, Reborn?

This “Lightning vs. Stag Beetle” fight has been amended to a “Lightning vs. Earth Stag Beetle” fight. That’s at least a little more appropriate.

With lines like “I can make the very earth my ally,” I’ve finally figured out Reborn: It’s for kids. I don’t mean it’s aimed at a demographic of young adults and teens, as defined by its publication in a shonen magazine. I mean, it’s actually for small children. Eight year olds (… Dude). Think about it: If you were eight, stag beetles would still be cool and relevant to you, Rauji would be huge and imposing, and the line “I can make the very earth my ally” would be badass. Judged by typical shonen standards, Reborn is trash, but if you look at it as My First Shonen, it starts to make sense.

Lambo dials back on the motivation, so that he can obviously dial it back up later for yet another silly linear powerup.

Reborn (the character) finally plays a role for once. Why has he been ignored so much? He was such a huge reason why this series was so entertaining in its early days.

“Just now, I remembered how to use the Vongola Gear from my past memories.” Complete and utter drivel.

As bad as some other series can be (Bleach, MiXiM☆11), at least they have the decency to attempt cliffhangers properly, even if they often overdo it. A Reborn cliffhanger goes as far as showing the form of an attack, but then doesn’t actually show it striking at anything. Pitiful. Frankly, the most credit that I can give to this series anymore is that it’s making me run out of negative descriptors.

Nurarihyon no Mago 128

[scanlation by reddevilshn]

There’s another reference to the human side of Hagoromo Gitsune. This fight seems to be headed for a murky ending, sadly.

It’s pleasing to see that older characters aren’t being forgotten. Though his appearance is brief, Jami is a welcome sight.

The 13th has become annoyingly repetitive. We’re well aware by now that Rikuo and Yura must work together, and that the final blow must be struck with Nenekirimaru. Continuing to emphasize this point is a waste of space.

Yet another interruption in the fight from Hagoromo’s human side. We’ve had enough teases for this; it’s time to reveal what’s going on.

The pieces are all in place, but the first major action leading to the resolution of this fight will have to wait at least until next week, at which point the fight will need to end fairly soon. This battle just never felt quite right.

Psyren 140

[scanlation by Muda Scantrad]

Everyone being sent back is an odd choice, considering how little publishing life is left in the series. It does provide a truly painful scene, though, as all the kids are essentially left behind to die.

Being sent a year ahead of the previously established present is a good choice if the plot has time to unfold, but again, with a matter of weeks left to tell the end of the story, the author might have been better off ending the series with a climactic fight in the future.

The final arc is set: Find Present (+1 year) Miroku, probably fight him, kill Mithra. That’s a lot to fit in to a few weeks. I’m pleased that this series has a semblance of a chance to wrap up, but breakneck pacing isn’t much better than an abrupt ending.

SWOT 14

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

Speaking of series with only a few weeks left, if SWOT doesn’t get canceled before Psyren, I may just shut down the website completely. This week’s distraction is the Knight Rider theme song, because even David Hasselhoff commands more respect than Manabizaki… and because watching KITT jump over things is infinitely more entertaining than reading this.

A tsundere in the first panel is an appreciated warning about the forthcoming suck.

No, adding romantic comedy elements to your series is not going to help matters. You’re still going to get canceled, so you’re only watering down what little substance you have.

All the girls in the series worked at one café, and now Yamikura works at the one convenience store we’ve seen? Does this city only have three locations?

Ladies and gentlemen, the transition between pages 8 and 9 is, officially, The Single Worst Manga Moment of the Year. Granted, SWOT could yet trump itself in its remaining chapters, but it’s going to take some serious effort to top this. No matter how bad a manga may be, the single most fundamental aspect of a manga is using art to tell a story. By replacing visible action with speed lines, SWOT has failed to achieve even the simplest, most basic, most absolutely necessary concept in all of comics, let alone manga. Even Bleach chapter 396, Aizen’s infamous “everything was according to my plan” chapter (and my previous contender for Single Worst Manga Moment of the Year) at least managed to show characters performing actions. This is an affront to manga. This is unforgivably abominable. I rate each chapter of each series that I read on a scale of 1 to 10, and while chapters like Bleach 396 deservedly earned a 1 for culminating years of plot in a single putrid sentence, SWOT has set a new low. SWOT 14 earns a zero.

There isn’t much else to review. Some little kid is the leader atop Teppen. I’m not concerned about that. I’m concerned with people who actually enjoy reading this series. I don’t even mean that in an aggressive or confrontational way. I simply don’t understand how anyone can find this remotely legible on a recreational basis. I feel like observing you with binoculars from behind a massive steel fence, as though we are from completely different species. I want to learn from you. Please, someone, explain a single point of appeal presented in SWOT that hasn’t already been done exponentially better in another series.

Feel that one or more of these series should be getting full-review treatment each week? Show your support by participating in chapter discussion in comments. Actively-discussed series will be considered for full reviews.

Bakuman 107

November 3, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by SleepyFans]

What a strong proposition from Mashiro. While I still worry about the focus diverting away from a unified Ashirogi striving for their ultimate goal, I do appreciate that Mashiro is getting some compensatory treatment after the spotlight was so distinctly turned away from him for a while. That said, Mashiro developing enough skill as an author to contribute is one thing, but him developing enough skill to stand on his own as a solo mangaka would effectively ruin the point of Ashirogi Muto, at least from the standpoint of Mashiro and his desires.

Perhaps I won’t have to worry too long about whether Mashiro will overshadow Takagi as a writer, considering that his determination to spearhead the one-shot was apparently founded on pure confidence, without an actual idea to support it yet. That’s a suitably amateur way of acting, enough to keep Takagi firmly in the picture.

It feels like it’s been such a long time since we’ve actually seen Aoki in an actual scene, rather than in a small cutout panel. I love Weekly Aoki Ko and all of Hiramaru’s comical longing for her, but she deserves more attention than just that.

Aoki’s editor is absolutely right in not wanting her to write another romance, but a hybrid fantasy/romance could be the perfect style of manga for her to stand out enough to work her way back into the main cast.

Iwase is also doing a romance series? I hope something changes, as I’d hate for the two female mangaka to be generalized and gender stereotyped to such an extent.

No, if the middle of this chapter is any indication, I definitely don’t have to worry about Mashiro becoming an incredible author.

Creativity is hard

Mashiro’s walk carries a pretty listless and fairly depressing tone. Writer’s block and lack of inspiration are respectable problems, but Mashiro realizing that he has no particular interests or hobbies is a little sad, whether or not the scene is meant to convey such an emotion.

The relationship between Hiramaru and his editor has grown in a fascinatingly bizarre way, to the point where Hiramaru is almost the one in control, as he deliberately provokes the editor into offering him incentives for working hard. The editor still has enough grandiose plans up his sleeve to maintain the advantage for now, at least.

Like Inception, except incredibly shallow

Whoa. Is this the creepiest panel Obata has ever produced?

Do your worst, internet

The rapid exchange of panels, shifting between Mashiro and Eiji each explaining their ideas for the one-shot competition, is a brilliant idea executed to perfection. Seeing Eiji again is enough of a positive, but Mashiro’s contribution to this entire scene is so great that Eiji doesn’t completely steal the show. Wonderful end to the chapter, and the fact that everyone is coincidentally aiming to do romance one-shots is fantastic as well.

Final Flash: It’s amazing how great this series can be when highlighting the strengths of the established cast, rather than unnecessarily building up a new character far too late in the game. The lack of Shiratori and the interplay between the strongest characters in the series made for a refreshingly good chapter.