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Kekkaishi 326

[scanlation by Binktopia]

Tokine’s dive to the center of the earth continues. She’s still using the Kekkai for makeshift stairs rather than just freefalling, a cautious approach that makes perfect sense in light of how much Mahora’s power has been built up.

As Tokine closes in on the center, we’re treated to a bunch of appropriately otherworldly imagery. When she actually reaches him, she wastes no time waking him up. Typical no-nonsense Tokine.

Interesting negotiating tactic

Well, Mahora’s awake now. Diplomacy commences with all the necessary formalities, and Mahora immediately responds by spearing her through the chest with a mass of shadow. This is a pretty neat development. I certainly wasn’t expecting the negotiations to be any kind of easy, but there’s no way Tokine’s done now. How exactly she copes with this will be an interesting measure of her training while she was out of the main story.

Spearing for a spearing

Leaving off at that ideal cliffhanger, the focus switches to Shichiro, whose land god makes a passing comment to the effect that whatever Mahora just did was significant. This is more reaffirmation that land gods are interconnected somehow.

Yoshimori’s mom shows up to ask Shichiro for help with the sealing. Interesting banter between the two, but most of it is just her continuing to to be supremely confident. As little as we’ve seen of her, she feels like an overpowered character already.

Either extremely powerful or extremely arrogant

We come back to Tokine fairly early. I was expecting to have to wait until the next chapter to see more of her.

… not that I mind at all. The panels that depict Tokine sliding out of a skewer are on the high end of fantastic. Her power-up, Utsusemi, is full-on intangibility, something that goes such a long way towards legitimizing her as a capable diplomat. She now has the technique necessary to stand against the worst of demons, nicely complimenting the levelheadedness she’s always had. Without there being some specific limit on how long or how much she can use this one, I sense a significant shift in her Tier List position.

Final Flash: Awesome Tokine chapter, period. Her character was lagging behind Yoshimori’s in power for the longest time. Here, she survives a situation that would likely have killed him, perfectly reestablishing her as a relevant character.

The World God Only Knows 118

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

So the item the Vintage agent dropped was more than just an accessory. The goddess detector should make the whole festival arc go much quicker.

… unless the author introduces some other constraint, like the goddesses being warned off.

Six goddesses, leaving four more. That’s a bit more than I expected. I wonder if all of them are in girls we’ve already met. Also, if I remember my Roman mythology correctly, four of those names are of male goddesses. That probably doesn’t mean anything, though, seeing as Apollo is one of the aforementioned.

Slash Diana being a part of the festival arc. Just as well, she would probably be more of a hindrance in that case anyway, and she might as well be hiding while the other goddesses are. Anyway, Keima has much more important things in mind right now.

Perfectly executed mood transition

Elsee, of all people, is going to being playing the role of Kanon to make sure she’s not missed. Stellar comedy, and good use of the fact that Elsee is a fan of Kanon’s music. Firetruck-themed concerts, anyone?

All it takes to change Elsee into Kanon is a new haircut. I was expecting Wakaki to at least recolor her hair. Guess Kanon’s staffers are just going to overlook that somehow. That bugs me a bit.

Nevermind, Haqua cast an optical illusion spell invisible to the readers. That’s still kinda lame. Oh well, magic is magic.

Next in the line of characters being removed from the main plot: Keima’s mom. Fortunately, this one is both plot-independent and totally hilarious.

Lest mom wonder why a stabbed girl is on her couch

This leaves room for some quality time (read: shipteasing) between Haqua and Keima. This is exactly as much setup as the dance festival needs. Start the main arc now, please.

Final Flash: Very funny moments in this chapter, and the setup part of this arc should now be 100% done.

Kekkaishi 325

[scanlation by Binktopia]

Tokine chapter coming up. After being mostly absent for half a year, it’s about time.

Since this Shinyuuichi is, for all intents and purposes, the “ultimate” one, it makes sense that it’s as vast as it seems. Should make it easy for Tokine to evade any pursuit from Oumi’s people.

Tokine’s conversation with Yuugami shows she’s still as serious about her Kekkaishi job as ever. Makes me wonder exactly what she’ll do if if the lord is sealed.

Being able to read a Shinyuuichi isn’t a very flashy power, but it fits Tokine’s analytical style.

Oops, she’s been found! One of the most effective ways to escape any guard is the ability to phase through solid walls. The guard is appropriately flummoxed.

Snake never had it this easy

This guard does seem to have some tricks up his sleeve, using his pipe to conjure up a whole bunch of hunting birds. The subsequent series of panels of Tokine repeatedly escaping is a fun one.

When the guard catches up, he seems to have an offer for Tokine. Apparently he’s one of the many pawns Oumi brought in unwillingly, and is eager to get out.

She finds out that Mahora is directly beneath the tree she encountered earlier. Interestingly, though, she keeps the exit location she was asking for to herself, promising to tell him once she’s done with Mahora. Yoshimori would have told the guy straight off – her not doing so is another indication that she still knows when to reserve trust.

Suddenly there’s a whole lot of intimacy between Zerogou and Suigetsu. I don’t remember these characters being significantly close before.

Either an embracing pose or a kidnapping one

Zerogou seems to be the latest addition to a list of characters with his own separate agenda. This conflict is going to contain a ton of separate plotlines whenever it starts in full.

We leave off with Tokine diving towards a structure that looks a lot like Uro’s bed did way back when. Meeting with Mahora is imminent.

Final Flash: Tokine’s first limelight chapter in a while was well populated by moments reaffirming the type of character she is.  More than anything, though, this was a prelude to negotiating with Mahora.

Toriko 115

[scanlation by Hi Wa Mata Noboru]

Rumors about Melk build him up as too much of a manly badass beforehand. There has to be some other aspect to his character.  That said, each of the steps up his mountain are personally carved man-height stairs, so he’s definitely your average Toriko character.

Komatsu does his own speculating as to Melk’s true identity. We’ll see soon enough whether he or Toriko is more on the mark.

Planes cannot be used as an effective means of travel in this world while giant squids patrol the sky. Why did the engineers of this world even bother to invent them?

More of an air-travel deterrent than bag fees

Capture level 15 beasts indicate the danger of this mission is, at least for now, way below the difficulty of Vegetable Sky. Just as well. There won’t be a cucumber at the end of this one to de-age Komatsu, after all.

Melk’s done a good job of scaring the animals from ever coming close to his workshop. Clearly his intimidation-aura projects pretty far out, confirmed by the depiction of Toriko’s face being pseudo-cut by selfsame intimidation.

Hello again, Match

Melk makes a show of his power by scaling a live animal, though imperfectly, from a distance using a knife that’s far from the sharpest he can make. Yeah, he’s a power character. Interestingly, aside from being an obvious bishie, he seems to have a character design based on a cross between a Sashimi chef and a blacksmith.

Final Flash: Made it to Melk’s place quickly enough. Now let’s see what he has to say about Komatsu’s new knife.

The World God Only Knows 117

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

I believe we already knew the story of old/new Hell. Doesn’t mean much to tell it again here.

The dark mass surrounding Kanon’s wound was indeed darkness from a curse rather than blood, meaning she’s alive, although in a coma for now.

This series is definitely dialing up the serious tone, what with Keima slumped behind the chair/computer setup in his bedroom, for once not playing galge. Regret for not noticing Kanon earlier evidently hit him pretty hard.

Maybe the floor is just more comfortable

Attempts to pull the cursed dagger out from Kanon’s body are met with predictable failure. They’ll need more magical power than one goddess can provide, evidently.

Vintage is confirmed as the organization in charge of being bad guys. I guess this series was going to get one for the sake of plot, and I’m less dubious about said plot after the whole 3-chapter stretch re-introducing Kanon, but villains for this type of series could stand to be a bit less overtly wicked.

So there is confirmed to be a double agent somewhere in the New Hell squad. Probably won’t be any of the three we’ve seen thus far, though.

Hey there, Keima. After sulking about for half a chapter, our main character has regained his calculating approach to problem-solving. He does still play the cool, logical type fairly well.

Because she hasn't been cleaved in two, and this isn't Bleach

So our time limit is one week, conveniently enough time to fit in the dance festival goddess-hunting Keima was going to do anyway. Maybe it’s just me, but Keima’s bold declaration just comes down to reaffirming what he was going to do anyway.

Final Flash: Okay chapter, but all we really got was a little bit of new information. Expect the dance festival to be a bit darker-toned with Kanon hanging over Keima’s head.

Enigma 6

[scanlation by CXC Scans]

Escaping through the ventilation shaft? Not in this manga.

Sakaki Kenji must not be a fan of that cliché

Hiina’s hand was unable to stop a ceiling fan. This is unequivocally a good thing. Too many fight-capable characters can fill a mystery-puzzle manga with more plotholes than you can shake a stick at. Limited, specific powers offer the opportunity for significantly more writing depth.

Haiba falls back under, then finds the last piece in the ceiling fan. There was indeed trickery at work here. The fact that this room was basically designed as an unwinnable puzzle suggests Enigma (or someone, anyway) has a penchant for watching the participants squirm while having an obvious solution right before their eyes. This brings the possibility of a torture-maniac type villain all the more likely.

Haiba’s way of stopping the ceiling fan – wrapping his jacket around his arm for a cushion – is a believable one. Hiina proves herself useful one more time in stretching to grab the final piece. Game clear.

This series definitely has a love triangle brewing. Works for me, I guess. Hiina is interesting enough, and Shigeru is a character who fits a fairly standard childhood friend role (for now, anyway).

It feels a little bit soon for Haiba’s power to be evolving. His current dream diary power is useful enough in the e-test without having to give him anything extra this arc. Obviously we can expect the power to evolve at some point, and the hint here makes it fairly clear as to how.

Maybe the improved foresight on Haiba’s part is just an offset to balance the fact that he’s now flaunting polka dots. That sweater will take some getting used to.

Good time to balance the puzzle-solving with the events of the outside world. Naturally, their attempts to reach the people walking around outside fail; it’s never that easy. There are people there though, which, as Haiba points out, is big. Eventually, people will be using this school. Unless the characters are somehow intangible, they should be able to communicate then.

… not if the people in question are already “infected” by shadows, though. Pretty shocking page, that. Either this world isn’t the real one or Matsurigi is not the shadow’s first victim. Creepy.

You don't want him picking your kids up from school

The girls are taking a well-deserved rest. This other diary entry now opens the door to showcase the remaining two male characters, and to get a better look at what’s happening to Matsurigi. What it does not open the door to is having the girls kidnapped while they sleep.

Final Flash: Getting the last puzzle piece was cleverly handled, and the revelation in the latter half was a creepy one.

Zettai Karen Children 234

[scanlation by JS Scans]

So ends the saga of Yo’s impending death. Apparently Feather is broken enough to change the future in totally irrelevant ways as well.

I don’t usually have a problem with Shiina’s characters looking too similar, but Yuuri on page 3 looks exactly like Kaoru. Don’t tell me she’s also Feather. Fortunately, she starts looking normal come next page.

Yuuri falling off the roof of a building with a hole blasted through her chest places her fairly high on the list of fatal injuries accrued. It also shows Hyoubu is still willing to kill people off, which we haven’t seen much lately.

The brief flashback showing Yuuri’s past starts by revealing she was a test-tube baby, and that she knew that at an early age. This does an alright job of giving her another set of believable issues, as opposed to the fact that she didn’t have a proper mom, which has been done before and carries less impact.

So now Yuuri’s life is legitimately flashing before her eyes. This is exactly the kind of moment I wanted to see from this arc. The three pages that mix close-ups of her coughing up blood and slamming into the ground with memories of time spent with Kaoru are short, but deliver very solid emotional impact. The ragdoll-style way her body is drawn on page 13 is a fitting cap to end this fight sequence.

Sad way to go

Nai teleports in…

… and is immediately shut down by Momiji. Hanzo also attacks, but gets oneshotted by Magi. Say what you want about the majority of Pandra’s staff, but those two are the no-nonsense pair, nicely complementing the serious tone for this arc.

Ninja this, Maruto fanboy!

So Yuuri died in Hyoubu’s illusion and fell into unconstructed dreamspace. A little bit of a disappointment given how good the “death” scene was. This means my overall impression of this arc still hinges on what exactly Hyoubu’s got planned.

Final Flash: Good emotional chapter for Yuuri’s flashback, and the fight has been taken care of. I’m really curious to see the happy ending for the play to which Yuuri alluded.

Enigma 5

[scanlation by CXC Scans]

We last left our heroes in a deathtrap of a gym shower. Gym showers are hazards in more ways than one, but not all of them try to drown you.

So we’re hunting not only puzzle pieces, but transparent ones. So they then start finding them by touch, and naturally, the girl with the stretchy third hand can do that exponentially faster. That is a pretty legitimate way to make Hiina the key to winning this scenario.

Needles, your haystack days are numbered

Also, nice quick realization by Sumio that Hiina has and is using a power. He didn’t know earlier, so a little reaction, exactly what is shown, is about right.

Of course their allies can’t open the door. That would spoil the fun of this puzzle having a time limit. Not sure why they don’t just smash a hole in the glass, but maybe the door is more solid than that. Anyway, I’d much rather see legitimate nick-of-time puzzle solving.

The shadow hunting people down apparently both has a personality and is not the only player in this game, referencing another who will “consume” Matsurigi, who incidentally seems to be covered in shadows. Also, he seems to know Matsurigi, his first victim. This provides fuel for too many interesting theories to list here.

Dark matter says hello

That water gets harder to search the higher the level is accurate, and also proof that the author paid attention in math class. Yet another nice touch in a series full of them.

Backstory time, it would seem. Her parents both slept around a bit, rather than just one. The hand was seemingly either developed as a direct response to bullying attempts, but even the way it was used, lifting a wallet from her bag and putting it back in the owner’s stuff, is atypical enough to get the Law of Ueki junkie in me even more excited over the skill sets these characters have.

Hiina wants ‘bonds’ out of this game. That’s a pretty abstract goal, but it does open up the possibility of setting up a long-term plot with her as one of the main party.

Haiba seems set to deliver those bonds of friendship as well, lifting her out of the water as it overtakes her head in a typical shonen hero moment.

Exactly 1 piece still missing. No bets as to it being on the ceiling.

Final Flash: This was a solidly enjoyable chapter for the puzzle hunt and did a good start forming the framework of the larger mystery surrounding the e-test.

Toriko 114

[scanlation by Hi Wa Mata Noboru]

Ichigohan translates wonderfully into Strawberrice. That is such a convenient cross-language portmanteau.

This food would be even more notable if not for the fact that Komatsu was getting tears (and snot) of joy all over it. Bromance much?

Truth be told, the more I think about it, the less I mind the increased levels Toriko and Komatsu’s relationship as taken. Given that he’s going to have to have Toriko’s protection throughout the Gourmet World, it makes sense that they would become closer friends. Plus, it’s a funny way for the author to give Komatsu another reason to worry himself silly about nothing.

Sani having been behind Komatsu being behind Jiro coming to rescue Toriko is not totally unanticipated, given the aloof attitude he took in their conversation earlier, despite knowing how bad of a blender the Gourmet World was. He is the type of guy to take a subtle approach to things like that.

And, eating. Wouldn’t be an action-free Toriko chapter without it.

Fruit snacks for men

The meat banana, immature jokes aside, looks delectable. Toriko does all food well, but there’s something special about the way the meat in this series is drawn that makes me even hungrier.

More affirmation of Torikomatsu’s combo status is interrupted by Komatsu’s knife being broken by a reader submission. Speaking of reasons for Komatsu to freak out…

Shock so strong it won't fit into an ordinary speech bubble

This brings us very naturally to a Komatsu “power-up,” a souped-up kitchen knife, that is totally character-appropriate. Nice.

Final Flash: The nature of the arc coming up is a good indication that Komtsu’s going to be back in the plot for a while. Personally couldn’t be happier about that.