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Kekkaishi 330

[scanlation by A-Team]

Well, the entire first half of this chapter is just one very elaborate charge-up scene for Nura. She takes in lots of energy from her demons and gets younger. Not really much to comment on there, so let’s move on, shall we?

The activation of the larger kekkai was significantly more notable. Containing the battle damage is one thing, but being able to see the sea snakes is a huge edge versus Nichinaga’s forces. This does a whole lot to make up for the fact that the Yagyou aren’t involved in the active battle this time around; at least they are being extremely effective as support. Also interesting is the fact that we now have proof that Zekkai isn’t the only effective in-universe sea snake counter.

Just a little bit

The battle starts with a full-out charge, which merits a few pages of dialogue-free action to give a sense of the situation. Good atmosphere, but again, very little to comment on there, and it doesn’t help that most of the combatants are nameless demons and minor Urakai members.

The focus eventually shifts to Masamori who is presumably coming close to a character defining moment, but we’ll have to wait at least one more chapter to get any serious action out of him.

Final Flash: An okay chapter, but not an exceptional one. It mainly got a lot of less important moments out of the way.

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The World God Only Knows 123

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

Chihiro seems to be responding less favorably to Keima’s conquest plan than Ayumi did. At the very least, she’s putting in a fair bit of effort to shrug it off, to increasingly less polite degrees. Indeed, Keima appears to have done less well with her than with Ayumi, but he still seems to think he did well enough.

The Haqua/Keima partnership continues to be fraught with physical abuse. Haqua isn’t missing any chances to be violently tsundere. She really pulls no punches (or footstomps, in this case).

Whether or not the “corrected-misunderstanding” kiss is in fact the best way to finish off a dating-sim, a point which could be debated to no end, it is probably the best that could be made of the current scenario. Keima certainly seems to think it is; his impassioned speech-making on the subject is fun as usual, and opens the way for a fantastic bit of straight-manning by Haqua. Her snarky reactions to Keima’s lecture are an excellent example of a type of entertainment we miss out on with Elsee being Keima’s only partner. I really hope Haqua sticks around after this arc is over.

Buzzkilling for fun and profit

Now that Keima’s dealt with the two girls known to be in the gray area, he moves on to the real challenging ones, starting with Tsukiyo. For all the confidence he had with Ayumi and Chihiro, he’s immediately thrown off balance by Tsukiyo’s appearance and trademark distant personality, hesitating to start saying his lines. Seaking of good deadpan moments, Tsukiyo’s immediate response to said lines takes the cake.

Of course, Keima’s not immediately giving up on Tsukiyo. Instead, he follows her out to the roof, eventually cuing in on the fact that she’s putting the carpet back out again. That could be just another piece of evidence that she is one of those who forgot, but kudos to our hero for noticing.

Ayumi’s arrival on the rooptop triggers an amusing sequence of events. In his desperation to not turn his 4 love triangle conquest plan into a dodecagon plan, he ducks behind the couch and somehow manages to still peg Tsukiyo as in the gray area, before pulling off an ingenious escape from Ayumi… all while hiding under a blanket.

This guy regularly outdoes Solid Snake

Next up on the gauntlet of girls Keima has been running: Shiori, the library assistant. It really has been a while since we’ve seen her. I wonder if she’s learned to talk normally in the interim.

Final Flash: Happy to know that Shiori’s up next, but also sad that, with Elsee being absent, her scene will involve no fire trucks.

Enigma 12

[scanlation by CXC Scans]

Kurisu just barely avoids the generic evil hostage-taker mold by actually having a legit use for Shigeru; she’s going to get out too, but it’ll be as bait for any traps Enigma has set up around the exit. Given the built-to-kill design of the password games thus far, it’s a legitimate possibility. Even if the current hostage situation blows over, the possibility of traps on the exit cannot be overlooked.

Haiba arrives in the other computer lab, and quickly discovers his powers of observation could use some work. Hiina, the actual smart one, quickly notices that Sudou is wearing a necktie in the drawing, something that is clearly absurd. A fairly obvious detail in hindsight, and it ties into another neat little use of Moto’s power. Another obvious villain flag for Kurisu; he isn’t actually in class 2-C, and seems to be mysteriously absent from the yearbooks. I do love how Hiina’s invisible hand keeps getting used to grab Moto by the jersey – great minor comedy.

Give this man a hand, folks!

Interesting tidbits result from Shigeru’s first attempt to enter a password. Most importantly, one can only make one try at a password. Presumably, that’s just to prevent brute-forcing your way out, but the entry instructions seem oddly specific, to the extent that there’s probably a hidden catch somewhere in them. One possibility is that each password only works for a specific person, which would make escaping really tricky.

Unfortunately, we’re stopped short of seeing Shigeru enter the password as the rescue squad arrives. It’s a little unclear as to exactly how Kurisu evades capture, considering there is exactly one exit, in the direction his pursuers are coming from. Maybe he got off on a higher floor, but that detail could have been made clearer.

In pursuit of the guy with the photograph-based power, Haiba enters the photography lab. Let’s be fair, he doesn’t actually know Kurisu’s power yet, but he is surely screwed. Let the nightmares commence.

More creepy grabbing hands

Now trapped in a flat world where Kurisu is, in his own words, “King,” Haiba’s power undergoes another evolution. Predicting the future while awake is a big step forward. This is still moving fast, but this series seems to be working well at a fast pace, so no complaints.

Final Flash: Our protagonist keeps on getting spiffier powers. Hopefully they stay limited, as it would be a shame to see him breeze through upcoming challenges.

Enigma 11

[scanlation by CXC Scans]

A USB-drive-based password seemed so simple when we first saw it. Too bad the computers don’t have power. This comes as more of a surprise in a manga than I expect it would in an anime; black and white color schemes make it difficult to tell when the lights are out.

Kurisu plays his game pretty smoothly. He splits up the party, then interrogates Sumio about his ability while pretending to have a regular conversation. He can’t be just an amateur, thrust unwittingly into the e-test and just trying to get out of the school alive. The theory of him being a deliberate plant seems a bit more plausible now.

There is exactly no way on earth that Shigeru doesn’t have some kind of power. Her not knowing about it means she’s likely to find out soon. In the meanwhile, Sumio will just have to protect her by… protecting her. That part is a little unclear. I doubt the dream diary as it now stands could be used to deliberately protect one person, as it’s been said before that Sumio can’t exactly use it at will.

That diary is .45 caliber

Never mind, it seems like there is a way to bring out the dream diary as needed. It’s just that that method is a bit painful for Sumio. Improvised mop weapons are always a winner.

The results of the prediction are interesting, though given Kurisu’s declaration that he was going to use Sumio’s diary power against him, there’s a notable probability that this reading is false somehow.

Just as planned

Yep, Kurisu had it all planned out, and altered the prediction to get Sumio out of the picture. Now it’s just him and designated hostage Shigeru, and he’s ready to make his break for it. His power, the unimaginatively named “Flat”, is another neat addition to the series’ repertoire. The power to enter and use the contents of flat surfaces can certainly be useful in more mundane settings, in a school building containing thousands of books with millions of pictures inside, it’s virtually story-breaking. Dinosaurs, anyone?

Final Flash: Kurisu is shaping up to be a good villain already. Now that he has a private password and a hostage, this arc can only get better.

Toriko 119

[scanlation by Hi Wa Mata Noboru]

I have no idea what the natural orientation of Balbamoth heads is supposed to be, but I’m sure it’s not pretty. Toriko’s evidently disturbed a scorpion’s nest full of them, as they’re crawling out from alcoves everywhere.

Romance on the battlefield

The heavy gravity does handicap Toriko at the start of the fight, but he gradually compensates for his sluggish movements through a combination of careful observation and fighting experience. This analysis-based fighting style has been more characteristic of Toriko, despite his power-oriented moveset.

Just after Toriko gets used to dodging, the next challenge appears: a massive pile-on of Balbamoths. The panel with them all leaping feels part Lord of the Rings, part Eyeshield 21, and is certainly a lively one. How Toriko reacts to this situation is even more of a pleasent surprise; I don’t think I’ve seen him pull off 360 degree defense before. That’s a novel use for the fork.

Just don't fumble the ball, Sena

In true Toriko fashion, the Balbamoths were just scrap food for an even larger beast. I have to wonder what that crab-minotaur creature’s Capture Level is.

We shift back to Melk and Komatsu, who introduces a few more sharpening tricks, including the gradient whetstone, a 3-in-1 sharpening stone. It almost seems like something out of an infomercial. With all the inferiority Melk II keeps expressing in comparing himself to the original, I’m expecting something impressive when we finally meet the master. Maybe he can sharpen a boulder or something.

Oh boy, hot springs. We are setting ourselves up for some bromantic cuddling once Toriko gets back, aren’t we? The idea of Toriko having a hot springs episode is as hilarious as it is odd.

Sexy, sexy manservice

Final Flash: Toriko’s still fighting like a veteran, not at all relying on raw power to get him through the Heavy Hole. That’s quite encouraging.

Kekkaishi 329

November 28, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by A-Team]

The big bonsai tree is evidently experiencing a bit of a growth spurt, presumably a sign that Tokine’s ongoing negotiation with Mahora has yet to produce interest on his part.

Mahora’s attacks have certainly gotten more intense, or at least thicker, over the chapter for which this front has been on the back burner. Things have clearly been escalating without much in the way of resolution, which is visibly bad for Tokine, given the time and stamina limits imposed on her by the usage of Utsusemi. What’s worse, she’s already got dark bags under her eyes, which would seem to hint at her already being near that limit.

She needs more than a cup of coffee

This is unexpected; forget worsening, the negotiations are just flat out breaking down. Tokine has resorted to threats and begging, and Mahora’s attacks have essentially become an ocean of darkness. Watching Tokine gradually losing her cool, despite still being intangible, gives a great sense of the magnitude of her situation.

The way the deep ocean motif of Mahora’s attacks transitioned into Tokine being swallowed up was excellently done, a bit more so than the fact that Tokine seems to have “lost.” It is something of a surprise to see Tokine consumed by the torrent this quickly, and a minor disappointment. Mind you, there’s no guarantee that this is the last of her; she could still be following a plan. Still, even if this were the end of the negotiations, there is an important factor which makes this an acceptable twist: in order for Yoshimori to accomplish his priority of protecting Tokine, she did need to be in danger in the first place. Being able to truly save Tokine is something he deserves to be able to do in the endgame.

Oddly, a scene of the noncombat members of the Sumimura and Yukimura houses doesn’t include Shigemori or Tokiko. It seems as if they’re going to be involved in the ensuing action which, given their ability levels, is a foregone conclusion. It would have been nice to see some hint before now, but it very clearly sets them up for an appearance later down the road. I have no idea when or where, but they’ll be there somewhere.

Masamori’s observations on Nichinaga and Haruka, the girl who might be his power source, ring true, given what we’ve seen of Nichinaga’s uncharacteristically emotional reaction to Zerogou spiriting Haruka away. Watching characters formulate theories about things we, the readers, know already produces an interesting dynamic. The mustache guy does remind Masa to go for the kill as opposed to seeking a non-lethal means of victory, but given his past actions, somehow I doubt Masa is a character that needs reminding.

The interaction between Yoshimori and Chuushinmaru very quickly gets serious when Yoshi reveals the truth of Chuushinmaru’s seclusion and vast power. The reaction to this should be quite something.

Are we there yet? And so on...

Final Flash: The focus seems to be squarely on Yoshimori now. Sad to see Tokine go, but the main character needs a chance to show his stuff.

Toriko 118

November 25, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Hi Wa Mata Noboru]

Melk II sure knows how to keep up appearances. What better way to have people assume you’re a muscled badass than to keep a Vampire Kong named Pochiko as a delivery pet.

Excellent sky-squid deterrent

Another flashback reveals that Komatsu actually chose to stay behind, opting to watch Melk work rather than go down the Heavy Hole with Toriko. This feels a little bit inconsistent with what’s been recently established, that both Komatsu and Toriko need each other to handle these more dangerous environments, and is frankly a bit disappointing.

To be fair, Toriko’s need for Komatsu is not being totally ignored; Toriko taking Komatsu’s knife and consciously acting with extreme caution is at least an acknowledgment of their partnership. Still, for their first arc since officially teaming up to feature Komatsu staying at some other guy’s house is something of a waste of potential.

At least we are getting some worthwhile exposition about knife sharpening the world of Toriko. When Melk starts getting knives out to sharpen them, we get a few mentions of the famous chefs who own them. More to the point, though, our artisan also mentions that he (or she – that point is still up in the air) makes a point of knowing what sort of person the user of a knife is before sharpening it. The whole dynamic of tailoring knives to the chef versus simply making good knives is a fascinating sidebar, and goes a long way towards establishing sharpening as a legitimate craft.

Maybe it's just a sign of your own artistic touch

With the serious part of Melk’s development done, now we move on to the more superpowered side. Apparently, knives in this world having .001 mm flaws in them, which is a standard manufacturing error in real life, is a significant problem. Melk glows while sharpening out said chinks with supersonic speed. Why not? It’s Toriko, after all.

In the end, it really does have to get back to Toriko, who is getting adjusted to the high gravity just in time for the native beasts of the Heavy Hole to begin noticing him. Be ready for an upcoming fight chapter.

Final Flash: Really just a world-building chapter, showcasing other chefs and the contrast between the first and second Melk’s approaches to sharpening.