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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.

Enigma 13

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by CXC Scans]

Looks like Kurisu’s just lost one of his key advantages: exclusive knowledge of the password. Whatever on Earth it is that “Q-510” means, Haiba now knows that it’s a password, courtesy of his new improved diary. Speaking of the improved diary, there’s an unclear point as to what exactly it does. In the last chapter, it was clearly Haiba’s hand making the modifications. However, here it seems that the picture is moving on its own. I’m assuming for now that it’s just Haiba’s hand modifying the picture, but better word choice there would have saved some confusion.

Even if Haiba does have the password now, it won’t help him in dealing with Kurisu, at least not directly. He comes up with quite a strategy to provoke Kurisu into pursuit, pretending his power-up allows him to communicate with the main group. It’s relatively common for a character to use a power-up to escape a dangerous situation. It’s considerably rarer for someone to receive a limited power-up and bluff his way to victory, as Haiba does here. Kurisu being a smart, cautious villain ensures the plan’s success, at least as far as keeping him in the picture for now. You know a bluff is good when the main character compliments himself on the plan.

Gloating is always allowed

Kurisu still controls the whole world of the picture, though not to godlike degrees, otherwise Haiba would just be dead. He can still turn a stick into a fully functional katana, though. It works for a mystery-series chase scene. Kurisu himself is actually much less scary than the picture world, which, in a perfectly rigid state, keeps Haiba from any kind of safe haven. Potential weapons can’t be moved, potential hiding places have doors stuck shut, and he’s still being chased by a guy a foot taller than him wielding a katana.

A very visible difference in height

Now locked inside of a supermarket, Haiba and Kurisu begin their game of cat-and-mouse. At least, they would have, had Haiba not immediately and loudly begged the future diary to evolve. That’s not the most savvy decision from someone who knows he’s outgunned.

Haiba’s pleas to his diary don’t seem to have been in vain. He foresaw Kurisu’s attack, and seems to have a counterattack plan involving a cell phone and the password written in blood on the wall. This should be good.

Final Flash: Bluffing is a main character’s best friend, something Sakaki Kenji fully comprehends.

Toriko 120

December 11, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Hi Wa Mata Noboru]

Musings from Melk II on the brilliance and dedication shown by Komatsu’s knife are quickly interrupted by Komatsu’s other other knife (if you know what I mean), though sheathed. Meat-print underwear is, well… at least it’s not a meat-banana hammock. Oh, and he has knife-print undies too, though somehow I doubt wearing those would have flustered Melk II less.

He's the fanservice character, alright

Melk II, now alone, is thinking back to Komatsu’s naked body and blushing. Those who had theories about it being a woman under those bandages are gathering more and more evidence in their favor. Still, knowing this series, it could as easily be just Komatsu’s inherent cuteness.

Awkward underwear moments now out of the way, we’re back to Toriko, who has now reached a heavy enough gravity level that the blood circulation in his body is getting messed up, forcing more blood into his legs and making him anemic. As always, great attention to physical detail by Shimabukuro. Taking Komatsu’s knife along definitely seems to have been a good idea, as it manages to stab Toriko out of a half-conscious state.

The explanation of how Toriko’s body evolves to overcome gravity more than makes up for the “science” behind the higher gravity of the Gourmet World. The average reader is almost certain not to know this, but without electromagnetic forces within the human body, people would be ripped apart by differential gravitational forces from the Earth, as would the moon if it came within 2.9 Earth radii of Earth. Naturally, in order to overcome the increased differential force that comes with extra gravity, Toriko’s cells just need to vibrate faster, generating additional em force. Not only that, he starts rolling instead of walking to conserve energy. Being a human pinball is more painful, sure, but definitely takes less energy than the piston-like motion of walking. Superb physics.

Even without Komatsu actually being there, his knife, when dropped, leads to a treasure trove of rare but easily-killed ingredient crabs. Talk about a phenomenally lucky character. Not very lucky, though, for the Ruby Crabs, who just became Toriko’s next meal.

Like pirate treasure, but more delicious

Speaking of luck, Komatsu has now managed to have a walk-in bath scene in a series with formerly only 2 (now 3) female characters. Melk II is a woman, for anyone who didn’t see this coming. The “put on some clothes” line being reused, this time by Komatsu, is a nice bit of boomerang comedy.

Normally, that surprise goes the other way

Now fully charged from cannibalizing an entire ruby crab colony, Toriko readies himself to confront the minotaur beast we saw last chapter. Get ready for an entertaining fight.

Final Flash: Excellent chapter, and not just for the Komatsu/Melk comedy. Good to know this series actually cares about its physics.

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.

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.

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.

Naruto 517-518

November 26, 2010 6 comments
[scanlation by Binktopia]

(517) Who the hell is this guy? Why am I supposed to care about him? Why would Kishimoto start such an important arc by focusing on a complete nobody? This is ludicrous.

At least he’s part of Kankurou’s group, so we get to see a couple familiar faces (as Sai is also part of this division), but if the focus really must be away from more relevant character, I’d much rather be looking at Kankurou or Sai directly, rather than having them as supporting characters to this new guy.

Best job description ever

Kankurou is displaying solid leadership early on in this arc. This kind of detailed minutia, including delegation and tactical planning, is fascinating in most war settings. I can only hope Kishimoto continues this trend.

Anko has been defeated already. I think it’s finally safe to write off her as a complete waste of a character. No, Kabuto was never going to lose to her, or to anyone this early in the arc, but the insult is not that she lost to Kabuto, but that she was up against him at all.

Furthermore, the plan of the Allied Shinobi Forces is ridiculous. Capturing Kabuto simply won’t happen, unless he allows himself to be captured as a ruse, and using illusion techniques on him to trick him into ending Impure World Resurrection is prone to certain failure.

As expected, seeing Deidara and Sasori on the battlefield is tiresome and rehashed. Having new opponents for them is nowhere near refreshing enough to compensate for the fact that we’ve seen the entire extent of them as characters, whether in terms of abilities or personality.

Our awkward chapter protagonist does offer some decent insight into the reality of war, realizing that there is no time to grieve over fallen comrades. That’s a good understanding to reach, but it would be much nicer to read through the eyes of any other character.

Almost like this is out of a manga or something

Sai’s brother?! That’s the last straw. Shin has only ever been shown in extremely brief flashback images. I doubt he’s even had dialogue prior to this chapter. There is absolutely no excuse for including him among the resurrected characters. Kishimoto has completely devalued himself as an author by striving for such a neat and tidy storyline, where every character has a perfect opponent. This is pathetic.

Also pathetic is the last panel of the last page. This character has only just been introduced, and now his decision to stand up and fight is supposed to carry weight? Not a chance. What a rubbish chapter.

(518) Please tell me that we won’t have to suffer through each “good guy” appealing to his resurrected former friend/family member/mentor/etc to “snap out of it” because “it’s me!” Seeing Sai do so immediately weakens him as a character. Everyone in the Allied Shinobi Forces is aware of the Impure World Resurrection technique at this point, so there’s no excuse for this.

Omoi’s “trick” was to slash in another direction. A character is being praised for turning around. Please kill Omoi. This is unbearable.

You can say that last part again... and again...

Finally getting to see Kankurou fight seriously with the Sasori puppet could redeem this battle somewhat.

Kankurou’s ace up the sleeve always seems to be having more puppets than the opponent realizes.

Once again, Deidara and Sasori are getting far too much of the spotlight. Not only is Impure World Resurrection ruining any chance of the arc being good, but it’s also precluding the possibility of new villains being introduced, or even existing ones getting a suitable amount of exposition. Sai’s big moment of anger means nothing, because he’s fighting characters who shouldn’t exist.

Good art, meaningless situation

Perhaps the only thing worse than every character having to meet his/her perfect opponent is having such a face-off be resolved peacefully. Sai’s brother being freed from established constraints through the power of love is sickening.

… well, okay, no. It’s not fair to say that that would be the “only thing worse.” Seeing Sasuke again would be worse than that.

Kankurou barely gets to show off, and the battle is over. That’s just insulting. Even considering the idiocy of the resurrected characters, the very least Kishimoto could have done was give all the time wasted on Omoi to Kankurou. Horrible.

Final Flash: If this opening action is to be any indication, this is going to be an overwhelming disappointment of an arc.

Bleach 427-428 (plus special chapter)

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Binktopia]

(427) I’m still put off by everyone’s uniforms looking like they’re sewn from white noise.

In a turn both unsurprising and unfortunate, Ishida silently admits to himself that Ichigo still has an aura reminiscent of Reiatsu, though he should have none. There has been no doubt that the series would soon leave behind lighthearted school life and return to Soul Society-style action, but this still feels too soon. The last few chapters have taken huge positive strides away from the dull, uncreative “one-up” action of the last few years, and there’s still plenty of life left in this kind of a plot line.

The cover page is Inoue licking frosting off of her face? Come on, Kubo. Leave fanservice to the harem series.

Not all food is bad, though; that ramen looks delicious.

Top that, Toriko. ... no, seriously, please do. I'm hungry.

Ichigo’s possessiveness towards his “break room” is a great little moment of comedy.

Ikumi’s flushed stutter over being called “sis” is cute. She brings excellent levity to this series.

This Lucci-lookalike is after information on Ichigo’s dad. That’s pretty depressing, as it’s exactly the kind of storyline to being out the unpleasantly serious side of Ichigo, as well as just generally adding angst to the overall plot. The less drama this series presents, the better.

Ichigo “shouldn’t know a thing about [his] family,” no less. I can’t help but let out a long, exasperated sigh. Here comes the tedium.

I come from CP9 bearing gifts of 'boring'

As if this situation wasn’t serious enough, Karin is at Urahara’s shop, with a completely dour look on her face. I was ready for her to be a part of the main plot, but I was hoping for something a bit more cheerful.

(428) The color pages are rather unimpressive. There’s a rough, sloppy quality to them that just isn’t pleasing to the eye.

Between Izumi supporting her own chest with crossed arms in the last chapter, and gracelessly leaning over the table in this one, it’s becoming exceedingly clear that her primary function is “doujin fodder.” The point has been made, Kubo; please back off a little.

Yes, we noticed. Go pander to Rule 34 somewhere else.

Mr. would-be Lucci urges Ichigo to go to Urahara’s shop, and ominously hints that Ichigo will see something amusing there. Deliberately vague characters like this are so frustrating. If this character knows everything that’s going on, what’s so impossibly difficult about merely letting Ichigo in on the secret? Instead, the protagonist has to be sent off on a wild goose chase. This instance is just one of an endless string of intentionally vague characters, so I don’t blame Kubo any more than other authors for pulling this stunt, but given how ineffective this trick is, I also don’t blame him any less.

Introducing new characters by merely saying their name is a surefire way to lose my interest. Riruka and Kutsuzawa could yet turn out to be decent, but there’s nothing exciting about their names, so why highlight their introduction so heavily?

Then again, they might not turn out to be too decent, if their opening dialogue is any indication. What a predictable exchange.

Is Kutsuzawa going to end up being the brother of the mustached man working at Urahara’s shop? Everyone knows mustaches are a genetic trait, after all.

Urahara’s cheerful tone is unbelievably irritating when there’s an obvious serious subtext being avoided. If he was just a cheerful character, I wouldn’t mind, but the whole “smiling face, serious personality” persona has not only been done before, but it’s been done considerably better.

Karin’s short response to the mention of her brother could belie some feelings of resentment, which could provide an opportunity for character growth. Unfortunately, it also provides an opportunity for considerable drama.

"Every day, he protected me from horizontal lines."

On the other hand, Karin shows some admirable determination, in deciding that it’s “her turn” to take care of Ichigo. I cannot overstate how much I hope she develops enough to be able to do so, rather than serve as yet another damsel in distress.

After another insipid “how much do you really know?!” remark, fake-Lucci finally introduces himself as Kuugo Ginjou, and the chapter abruptly ends, despite a notable lack of content.

(Hell Arc special chapter) What’s with the first page of this chapter? Is Kubo offering me options for background of the week?

Oh boy, Espada. We certainly didn’t get enough of them for years.

Szayel’s interrogation of this new character is a little bizarre.

What, is this Hell not Hispanic enough for you?

I can’t appropriately describe how hilarious I find Shuren’s underlings. I’ve sat here for minutes trying to write punchlines severe enough for how poor those character designs are, but no one-liner can possibly do them justice. How utterly laughable.

After a complete non-fight, Shuren teases the plot of the movie by alluding to Ichigo being required to open the gate of Hell. As if I needed a reason to avoid a Bleach movie, this has cemented that I’ll keep my distance.

Final Flash: A rather lackluster series of chapters. The canon story is heading in a fairly dull direction, but it’s still passable; it’s certainly average at worst. The bonus chapter, while substandard, can’t be judged too harshly, as it is entirely a movie tie-in.

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.

Enigma 10

November 21, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by CXC Scans]

The group’s back together again, which makes the absence of the mascot guy all the more conspicuous. It is fairly weird that he left the infirmary, given the obvious danger of going out alone.

Using narrative boxes to skip an exposition scene is perfectly acceptable by itself, and thankfully we don’t miss Hiina and Shigeru’s reactions to the truth about the shadow. Those facial expressions are a nice transition out of the first narrative. The second narrative, which is just Haiba speculating about stuff, is less necessary.

Haiba holding onto all three passwords seems like a bad move. It’s understandable given his de facto leader status, but still, leaving all the passwords with Mr. Trusting makes the odds of them getting stolen pretty darn high.

It’s time for the reveal, set to an appropriately ominous tone. When the mask comes off, it’s quickly clear why he was wearing it for as long as he was. Turns out Mizusawa is in fact Kurisu Ryou, the guy with the creepy smile from the first password photo. He’s a flirtatious bishonen, too; I did not see that coming.

The comedy surrounding Mizusawa/Kurisu would be much funnier if this wasn’t a mystery series. Seriously, it’s hard to enjoy a character being extravagant when you know there’s going to be a serious catch somewhere in his story. That said, if this manga does get into a lighter arc or intermezzo after the e-test, scenes like this may well be worth it.

The rivalry over the harem begins

Ryou’s explanation of how Enigma was supposedly mistaken seems extremely fishy. Although it is conceptually possible for someone to avoid revealing themselves simply out of nervousness, in a head-games/mystery series like this one, that’s very unlikely to be the actual reason. On the other hand, Kurisu floating the theory that his mistaken identity was a deliberate choice by Enigma meant to create group conflict, given how little we know about Enigma, does at least raise reasonable doubt.

What uncertainty is raised, though, is not nearly enough to quell said infighting. Takemaru vocally challenging Kurisu is a fairly obvious development, given that he operates on the opposite side of the trust spectrum as Haiba. More interestingly, Haiba sticking up for Kurisu leads to actual punches thrown. The tension between those two was there from the beginning, and to have it reappear here leaves a lot of ways for this plot to play out.

Going bad cop on the good cop

While Takemaru may have left the group, Hiina and Moto following him once again precludes the possibility of the party being picked off one by one. This series seems to be actively avoiding that particular cliché, so far to great effect.

No points for figuring out that Ryou had some sort of ulterior motive. However, rather than something to do with the larger Enigma/shadow plot, it’s just the selfish desire to escape at the expense of the group. Of the available options, that was one of the better choices.

Final Flash: Ryou’s proper introduction, while not itself a fantastic scene, does provide a good starting point for the next mini-arc.

Toriko 117

November 16, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Hi Wa Mata Noboru]

It looks like this isn’t the real Melk after all. The title page definitely seems to indicate that the real Melk is in fact super-buff like Toriko was expecting.

Toriko’s explanation of how he deduced that this Melk was fake is another reaffirmation that, while Komatsu may be better at observing ingredients, Toriko is no slouch in the brains department. The size thing wasn’t exactly easy to miss, but it’s pretty impressive that he didn’t just chalk up Melk’s youth to Gourmet Cell magic (as I did at first).

The shocking truth is that this Melk is the second generation disciple of the previous one. That’s not too surprising, really. Given that Melk knives have still been coming out without anybody noting a drop in quality, somebody had to have been doing it in the first generation’s stead.

Having finished the Century Soup continues to pay dividends for everyone’s favorite midget chef. It’s good to know this widespread recognition isn’t changing his personality at all. Classic impressed-by-everything Komatsu is one of the main linchpins that makes this series fun.

Some handle fame more smoothly than others

Komatsu’s knife taking three years to finish due to order backlogs is the kind of obstacle this series overcomes regularly enough. That segment is worth nothing aside from a quick Komatsu facial gag. Much more interesting is the notice Melk II takes in the blade of Komatsu’s old knife. We know Komatsu’s been handling his knife well, and this is just another way of indicating how impressive of a chef he is.

Melk I has been away hunting for the stardust for six years, and now Toriko’s going to go retrieve him and the stardust in exchange for getting Komatsu’s knife faster. That neatly wraps up the three main plots of this arc: finding old Melk, finding the stardust, and getting Komatsu’s knife. Given the fact that this arc is very marginally relevant to the main plot, I appreciate that it’s going to be handled with appropriate brevity.

We close by introducing a new environment: the Heavy Hole, a super-gravity cavern. Considering that Toriko recently dealt with something similar in the gourmet world’s enhanced gravity and got his tail whipped, he’s going to have to step up his game just to get to the bottom. As a side note, the sequence of panels with the dinosaur struggling to get up is a pretty effective way to show off truly crushing amounts of gravity. Not only can’t he get up, he’s actually sinking into solid rock. That’s an appropriately intimidating introduction.

Should have done more Pilates

Final Flash: Heavily an exposition chapter, but the Heavy Hole looks promising.