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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.

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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.