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History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi 406

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Binktopia]

I don’t think Apachai has ever looked more imposing or dangerous than he does now. The eyes are being used to showcase his current state, and they’re blazing with light. Consider this “fight” over before it has begun, folks.

Protector of Children

The whole dialogue about how Apachai gained his strength, and the small flashback, were both handled very well. Not only did Apachai have the strength to disable Agaard for two whole days without killing him, but he has enough left to defend his disciple to the very end. Very well done, and if anyone had any doubts remaining about who came out on top in the fight between masters, this should settle it.

Once again an excellent use of white space, breaking through the sword and through the weapon user’s face, also. This page and the one following it relate force through artwork, something which is tough to do well. You can feel the impact of the blow, and you can tell that the force is something out of this world.

Out of nowhere, four straight pages of some of the most gratuitous fanservice I’ve seen in Kenichi, and that’s saying something. I don’t understand what’s happening, and at this point I really hope this is an issue introduced by the editorial staff and not the mangaka. I understand that sex sells, but this is cheapening key moments of plot and distracting from the focus of the story. I want to be able to recommend Kenichi to people without an asterisk commenting on the fanservice.

I had to separate myself from those pages so I could appreciate the final page of the chapter, but it does its job well. No one following this manga wants to see Apachai go, but his exit has been handled exceptionally well, and at this point I would consider it an insult for him to survive this storyline. Based on what respect I have for Matsuena-sensei, I take this as his farewell, and it is fitting.

Heart-wrenchingly delicious

Final Flash: A well-handled end for a beloved character, marred by a few pages of very shameless fanservice.

Hayate no Gotoku! 295

November 12, 2010 1 comment
[scanlation by reddevilshn]

Luca not having any money draws an immediate parallel to Hayate in my mind. When I realized it did so, I had to laugh a little to myself, that I could associate something like poverty to a character. Perhaps wherever she needs to get to in a hurry is a job? That would seem pretty appropriate.

Nagi has no idea what to make, but she wants to do something original? So that means her previous works we’ve seen are things she doesn’t consider original. I’m interested, to say the least. Her offhand comment about Maria being a weird maid was pretty funny in her current company.

Hayate no Gaijin 4-koma

Hata Kenjiro is definitely not out of touch with the mainstream comedy of today’s internet. He’s put a few things in this chapter that are obvious shout-outs to 2ch- and 4chan-type internet culture. They’re not out of place in a comedy series like Hayate, which makes so many references and in-jokes.

Hayate’s fight with the robot is handled pretty well, in that there’s one page where I felt like I was reading a magical girl series. Maybe the attack names help. Hayate quickly realizes things are getting out of hand, and moves the fight elsewhere. It should be noted that Hayate doesn’t really do action except in these small flashes, but they are well done. By no means do I ever want this to turn into a battle series.

He manages to settle it in a timely manner, but Luca being hurt tosses an interesting event into this. I’m not at all against it; we’re getting a direct encounter so soon. I just hope Luca also resembles Hayate in her ability to take abuse.

Useful without any editing

Final Flash: Great comedy as always with excellent references. Next chapter, I hope we get a conscious Luca talking to Hayate.

Zettai Karen Children 237

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by JS Scans]

After the Phantom Portrait arc, we’re due for some comedy, which Muscle Okamarov the ambassador is certain to provide. It was quite a shock when we first learned that he was actually a hyper-competent diplomat. Only now does it become obvious as to why: the Japanese foreign ministry has exactly no female diplomats.

Better diplomacy through gay chicken

Meanwhile, at school, a fall down the stairs results in an accidental kiss between Hanai and Touno, the perennial non-couple. Mio sees and tells everyone, leading to a quite entertaining lunch conversation among the main group. Kaoru is kind of expected to want all the juicy details. However, delusional fujoshi Patty taking the story as yet more evidence that Kagari and Touno are a gay couple is a nice sidenote gag.

Shiho, level-headed as always, understands what actually happened. Thus, the focus turns from kissing at school to other scandalous romantic moments, specifically all those times the kids came on to Minamoto. Now a bit older and wiser, they realize how disastrous their early attempts at romance could have been.  This is another instance of the reflective part of this manga; I love the way it sets up early situations with the kids acting immature and ties it in with their current growth.

We can’t get too serious here. Any reflection by Kaoru on deeds past wouldn’t be complete without a wild delusion or two.

Not pictured: a realistic Minamoto

Tying back with the beginning of this chapter, the Children have now been charged with trying to get leverage over Muscle by getting Momiji to defect. This is interesting, considering Momiji is probably the most relevant character about which we know nothing.

Final Flash: This was a fresh-feeling introduction to an arc featuring a proven comedy character and a totally unknown quantity. Very promising.

Series Roundup: 10/31 – 11/6

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment

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

Code:Breaker 110

[scanlation by ShinraTensei]

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

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

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

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

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

Defense Devil 71

[scanlation by I Eat Manga]

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

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

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

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

GE ~ Good Ending 57-58

[scanlation by iMangaScans]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katekyo Hitman Reborn! 313

[scanlation by I Eat Manga]

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

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

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

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

Kimi no Iru Machi 111

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nurarihyon no Mago 129

[scanlation by ShinraTensei]

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

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

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

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

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

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

SWOT 15

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

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

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

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

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

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

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

The World God Only Knows 121

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

I love the job Haqua is doing filling in for Elsie. Her disguise is flawless, except for the fact that she gets questions right in math class.

Specially mentioning Akari now is a bit odd. It is true that Keima still doesn’t know her true identity, but she does feel a little out of place when talking about the other conquests. While her arc was an interesting one to read, it seems more out of place in hindsight.

Akari’s also eliminated from consideration by virtue of the now-defined borderline: only girls Keima could plausibly encounter in a regular school day could have goddesses. This category includes Chihiro and Ayumi, as well as Shiori (the library girl), Tsukiyo (the doll girl), and Yui (the body-swap rich girl). Chihiro and Ayumi are fairly obvious at this point, but as for which of the other three are going to be in there, I can’t be sure; all of them feel equally important at this juncture.

The montage of girls who have been systematically been eliminated from the plot disappointingly includes some very interesting ones, particularly Sumire and Nanaka. At least they earned a mention.

Seriously, the shop could have been a sweet hangout spot

Of course, knowing where the goddesses are is exactly half the problem. The key point of this search is that they have to be dragged out from hiding. I expect this necessity of the arc to shift Keima’s focus from analysis to action.

Haqua’s sleeping over? Excellent. The evolving chemistry between her and Keima as partners is becoming increasingly fun to watch as she gets more and more dragged along by him.

The mention of Kanon is being used a lot to prompt serious mood swings. I do get that Keima regrets what happened, but there’s a limit to how much that point needs to be hammered home. We could do with a little less of that at this point.

Haqua’s shower was a fairly obvious setup for what happened next: an oblivious Keima walking in on her. While this situation is as old as it comes, the author still gets props for avoiding the pitfalls Kimi no Iru Machi has encountered of late by not stuffing the shower scene with full frontal. He gets even more props, however, for this:

A sound effect to define the decade

Haqua provides a typical Tsundere reaction, prompting a peculiar statement from Keima. Now he’s going to be a demon? Does that mean he’s going to start acting like a Black Rainbow protagonist? The impact of this statement is only magnified by the fact that he delivers it buck naked. Gotta love this guy.

Final Flash: Serious development at the end aside, this chapter got good results out of deepening the chemistry between Keima and Haqua.

The World God Only Knows 120

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

The search for the goddesses continues, taking us all the way to a neighboring university town.

I never get tired of being reminded about just how awesome Keima has managed to be. 16 conquests is quite an achievement, though it does make the task at hand somewhat more difficult.

It's not him, it's that sex pistol of a PFP

Meeting up with the wrestling-obsessed teacher again brings back some fond memories of earlier, less-serious arcs. It’s a fun set of memories, and seeing Haqua forced into the role of fake girlfriend is a nice bonus dose of cute.

Keima’s mention of the boundary line and subsequent interaction with Jun does seem to disqualify most of the girls we haven’t seen since their conquest. It is somewhat intuitive that the ones we’ve seen nothing of are going to continue to be less relevant, as they’d be much harder to integrate into the main plot. Still, it’s too bad we won’t get to see the ramen shop girl again.

Another check with Minami, the underclassman in swimming club, confirms Keima’s theory that only girls close to him are possible goddess-holders. Also worth mentioning: Keima is acting like more of a bona fide playboy in this scene, matching his current public image. His confidence with normal girls seems to have increased significantly since he started doing conquests.

I would pour hot coffee on this face

Keima’s attitude on the rooftop is a jolting moment of character introspection. He still has the conflicting emotions over getting Kanon involved in things hanging over his head; add to that mix the realization that the conquests he put so much effort into were so easily erased, and it makes for one terrific effort by Wakaki Tamiki to put a dent in his confidence.

Final Flash: Nice to see girls from prior arcs, but I will miss the girls who were not (and will probably not be) shown.

AR∀GO 42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi 405

November 3, 2010 1 comment
[scanlation by Binktopia]

Kenichi has won, but everyone present is so worn out and beaten up that every fighter is just laying on the ground. That is, everyone is down until the entrance of the same Weapon Division Yami member that we saw in the arc to save Freya’s grandfather, the staff-master. Kenichi had a scrape with him in the past, and it looks like he’s about to test himself against a master class again.

Exhibit A: How to trigger your own death flag

This guy is an evil bastard, and he’s going to get the stuffing knocked out of him very soon.

A hugely appropriate and well-done response from Kenichi. The whole page is used to great effect in displaying his anger. Again with the intense eyes, as well. Matsuena definitely has a trademark.

Agaard Jum Sai is doing his best to protect Kenichi, even though Apachai’s finishing blow has left him unable to even lift a finger for 48 hours. We know not everyone in Yami is outright evil, some of them merely believe martial arts are the art of killing. Agaard seems to be one of the “good guys” on the “bad guys” side.

The scenes of Kenichi fighting while Agaard yells orders give credence to the theory that if Apachai has died the final death, Kenichi could have already found a new Muay Thai teacher. Agaard tossing the pebble with his mouth is a final desperate act to save a disciple, but it doesn’t look like it will save Kenichi. All of the sudden, the ground splits open. Who’s here to the rescue?

This hand of mine glows with an awesome power

All jokes aside, the final two pages of this chapter are nothing less than the two most impactful moments I’ve ever read within this series. I was stunned, excited, and a whole mix of other emotions as I finished this. Next week can’t come quickly enough.

Final Flash: Pure excellence, regardless of the fact it presents a possibility that Apachai could be able to recover.

Hayate no Gotoku! 294

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

We’re promised action straight from the start, and then shown an excellent cover page. Isumi has always been one of the funniest characters the series has; her expressions are perfect.

Nagi is going to war with a popular doujinshi circle artist. It should be an interesting story, seeing whether or not she can write a passionate manga that will draw in people. It also gives her a great reason to keep working at making her own unique brand of manga, without which the series wouldn’t feel right. Her blank look as she asks what she just agreed to is priceless.

You're on, I -- wait, what?

The whole discussion about burning spirit is great, and it segues directly into Luca overhearing everything Nagi says. Bonds are being forged between the two characters before they’ve even formally met, and Luca just keeps getting more interesting. Her flashback to selling Chiharu her manga is drawing some serious parallels between herself and Nagi.

Hayate is in trouble, in a few separate ways (not the least of which is cross-dressing in the middle of a cosplay event). The robot is starting a fight, and Hayate is in true Hayate form when he makes the battle seem like a play.

Hayate is male, we promise you

Next week we have the trap-maid vs. robot battle, which I’m sure sounds as dull to you as it does to me. That’s the kind of thing you see happening in every manga at least once a month. I suppose I can look forward to it at least a little.

Final Flash: Good comedy and quick setup, and we’re building tension for the identity of the “28th.”

Series Roundup: 10/24 – 10/30

November 3, 2010 Leave a comment

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

Air Gear 293

[scanlation by SSA Scanlations]

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

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

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

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

Defense Devil 70

[scanlation by I Eat Manga]

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

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

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

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

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

Donten Prism Solar Car 2

[scanlation by CXC Scans]

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

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

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

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

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

Gamaran 69

[scanlation by Overload Scans]

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

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

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

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

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

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

GE ~ Good Ending 56

[scanlation by iMangaScans]

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

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

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

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

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

Katekyo Hitman Reborn! 312

[scanlation by Binktopia]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nurarihyon no Mago 128

[scanlation by reddevilshn]

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

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

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

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

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

Psyren 140

[scanlation by Muda Scantrad]

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

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

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

SWOT 14

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AR∀GO 41

November 3, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Trinity BAKumA]

Even if Arago is right to claim to be in trouble, the fact that his regeneration has kept him alive through this barrage is hugely impressive.

Arago’s insistence on staying out of the line of fire despite his Brionac powers is a comforting sentiment. This series would suffer immensely if Brionac evolved to the point where Arago could eschew clever tactics and trickery in favor of brute force. Some series work well with conventional shonen stereotypes, but AR∀GO would not be one of them.

The scene played out over only a half a page, but Arago refusing to fire Brionac in a manner that would kill a human has the potential to be a series-defining moment. Arago has always intended to protect humans, but this fact was never highlighted as intensely as this moment. Another more directly threatening moment could force Arago to reassert his refusal to use Brionac on humans, which would inevitably draw comparisons to pacifist protagonists such as Vash the Stampede and Kenshin, not that such comparisons necessarily would be unwelcome.

In stark contrast to the earlier reassurance provided by the explicit limitation of the regeneration ability of Brionac, the ability to fire beams is disappointing. The strength of this series lies in its exploration and adaptation of various myths and legends. This alternative feel has been complemented by the low-key Brionac power, which has somewhat resembled a Stand from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, in that it’s been shown as a limited power used in situational and insightful ways, rather than as a linearly-upgraded, Dragon Ball-style power. If Brionac continues to evolve down such a path, I can’t help but worry that Brionac would be overpowered for the subtleties of the legends AR∀GO explores, which could lead to Arai seeking balance by changing the overall feel of the series to a more traditional shonen style. Hopefully this is an isolated incident, but I admit to being wary.

Please, leave the shonen beams to the professionals

The next day, Cloteaux is noticeably absent from the investigation proceedings, and Coco is unreachable. After the disappointment of Brionac-beams, this is a pivotal moment. If Coco has been kidnapped for the purposes of a straightforward “damsel in distress” plot line, this series will have made major strides in an unwanted direction. On the other hand, if Arai defies expectations and uses Coco’s disappearance as an opportunity to establish her as a self-sufficient character, or at least varies a kidnapping scenario by having Coco actually suffer in some capacity at the hands of Cloteaux, then AR∀GO will still retain its unique feel compared to its shonen contemporaries.

Final Flash: Still an enjoyable chapter, but one that presents far too many unpleasant possibilities for the future.

Zettai Karen Children 236

[scanlation by JS Scans]

Supplement’s back, thankfully.

It seems last chapter was not the end of the Phantom Portrait arc, despite several indications that it was. Instead, we kick off with a curtain call for the play. Likely this chapter is going to be a wrap-up one for the arc.

The truce between Fujiko and Hyoubu continues for now, but that doesn’t stop them from baiting each other. Despite subtle hints that Hyoubu is becoming more open-minded towards normals and the government, it’s nice to see he can still banter like an antagonist. While I still expect him to change more significantly in the long run, last chapter was enough of a personality shift for a while.

Minamoto, being still in the dark about Hyoubu’s hidden agenda, compliments him for coming just to see the kids’ play. It seems like Hyoubu is going to slip under the radar this time, which is all the more promising. That said, his reaction when he realizes he just got a compliment from Minamoto is great.

It's not like I agree with your principles or anything

Kaoru kind of knows that Hyoubu did something, but has no idea what. Her intuition could do with a little more elaboration. Knowing vaguely that something happened doesn’t do anything much here other than give Hyoubu another opportunity to knee-combo Minamoto.

Yuuri seems to be building up a library of memories and souvenirs, the latest being her costume from the play. It’s fairly insignificant by itself, but if it becomes a thing, it could be used to flesh out her character whenever Phantom Daughter reemerges.

Last of all, the mascot characters, the most disparate pair in terms of relevance. Seriously, Feather is a plot-central timestream-hopping super-esper, while Momotarou is Hyoubu’s telepathic flying squirrel.

Because you're a squirrel

Apparently Feather’s obligation to change the past didn’t come into things today. Given how broken she’s been shown to be, it’s probably good for the plot that she’s not involved in every little thing. That statement she makes at the end, though, the one about things that Hyoubu let happen, is cryptic and could be referring to either his backstory or something yet to occur.

Final Flash: The Phantom Portrait arc ended without another major upheaval, which is probably for the best.

Kekkaishi 327

[scanlation by A-Team]

Mahora keeps wordlessly lashing out, and Tokine keeps phasing out. This interplay oddly reminds me of the relationship between Grineed and his assistant from Beet the Vandel Buster; this dynamic, with the powerful one pounding away while the invincible one tries to calm him down, feels quite similar. In any event, Tokine definitely seems to be showing a bit of stress despite her invulnerability as Mahora continues to throw wild attacks at her.

Making it a little hard to concentrate

I do like the way this confrontation is being set up as a mental battle of attrition, with Tokine trying to avoid snapping until Mahora decides to stop attacking and listen to her. This kind of struggle fits her character quite nicely.

In the course of trying to persuade Mahora, Tokine’s arguments turn towards Karasumori, and her thoughts turn towards her late father. Going virtually unmentioned for 300 chapters or so, the way her emotions are shown at the bottom of page 8 is absolutely perfect. One of the ways that Kekkaishi really hooked me was its unique approach to showcasing grief; it’s never something Tanabe hits you over the head with, and it’s rarely at the forefront of anything, but that makes moments like these so greatly impactful.

Cue up the Mother 3 love theme

Souji’s back up and about. Far more interesting than that, though, is Zerogou, coming to him with a job offer and making a roundabout allusion, which Souji misses, to a coup d’état. He’s clearly attempting to overthrow, or at least stop, Nichinaga. How he plans to do so should be interesting.

Prisoner #536’s transparent attempt to get away from Ichigou is a nice little bit of light comedy. I did not expect he’d be this fun when he was introduced two chapters ago.

It's important to put ranks in Bluff

Tokine’s continued speeches are getting a reaction from Mahora. Unfortunately for her, he’s not talking, but rather bringing to bear a raging tempest that gets felt by every powerful character in the Shinyuuichi. You have to wonder if she gets found out because of the tangible commotion her negotiations are causing.

Nichinaga waking up to find himself alone has the potential to go in very interesting directions. He may be a strong villain, but his ability is entirely people-dependent; all he himself can do is brainwash, which is meaningless without subordinates to play with.

Final Flash: This chapter continued to deliver with Tokine, and introduced an interesting new element with Zerogou’s plan.

The World God Only Knows 119

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

Oh, it’s that one Gokult lady again. I would like to see more of Haqua’s partner. As an old-school dating-sim buff, the concept of a buddy who operates on the town-map system of the 90s is immensely promising. That said, Gokult lady will likely stay as a side character for a while yet.

Just as Elsee is taking Kanon’s place using a magic disguise, Haqua now is using magic to disguise herself as Elsee. Now all we need is Kanon to sub in for Haqua once this whole cursed dagger thing clears up, and the cycle will be complete.

Not that it would ever fool these eyes

Haqua wastes no time getting tsundere on Keima. That routine could do with a little more variety, but I think that them being partners for the duration of the arc is a good opportunity to take the chemistry beyond that of a standard tsundere relationship.

The logic behind deducing where the other goddesses are is vintage Keima. It still seems he has some deeper reason as well, but he continues to cite games as his number one precedent for pattern-recognition. Good to know that part of him is still as strong as ever.

Kanon’s public confession seems to have had wide-ranging consequences. Now the whole school knows, and the fans are raging. Fortunately, Keima seems to have integrated even this into his grand master plan.

Possibly the lamest protest group ever

We’ve been getting really mixed signals from Chihiro. She’s been ambiguous about remembering things whenever asked directly, but her actions, both passively and now actively taking an interest in Keima, suggest she does remember. I would not mind her being a significant cast member at all. That said, hopefully the ambiguous “Does she remember me or not?” teases will all be settled by the end of the dance festival.

Haqua is definitely a more interesting sounding board for Keima’s explanations than Elsee. The exposition of Keima’s plan was made way funnier by her deadpan comments afterward. This is the kind of chemistry I was hoping for.

The makings of a perfect partnership

Ayumi seems to be acting more aggressively towards Keima as well. She is another prominent and enjoyable character, but her and Chihiro both having goddesses would be a bit of a reach. It would be kind of lazy, just going with characters who have gotten the most post-conquest screen time, and would leave little room for potentially interesting but less prominent characters to play a role.

Keima’s final internal monologue of the chapter is yet another bold statement, but it differentiates itself from other similar statements made in the past in that it’s made with him lying upside down against the wall. Classic.

Final Flash: This chapter had some decently entertaining moments, and did its part to advance the arc forward.

Series Roundup: 10/17 – 10/23

October 27, 2010 Leave a comment

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

Air Gear 291-292

[scanlation by SSA Scanlations]

(291) Just in case you weren’t convinced that this is a bizarre arc, Kaito utters the phrase “Even if you’ve trained your balls […]”

Kaito’s cigarette trick is a nice touch on its own, and Lind knowing to take over control of the body and not interfere shows another facet of the relationship between Kaito and this multi-persona character.

Apparently Lind is Gazelle? That’s interesting, but it’s also just the same cliffhanger/twist as last week.

(292) This proposed trade is a neat idea, but Lind shutting it down might be for the best. Arthur and Shalott are decent characters, but we’ve been away from the main group for too long.

I’m curious about this Gazelle concept, but with the pacing already stretched because of all the individual fights going on, this is not at all a great time for a flashback. This could have been saved for after this entire arc.

Code:Breaker 108-109

[scanlation by ShinraTensei]

(108) The opening pages of post-mystery explanation are slightly tedious, but Aoba being revealed as the Code:Revenger is a good enough twist to reclaim my interest. Great two-page spread artwork of Aoba’s glare.

Ogami using Belphegor to no effect shows that Aoba isn’t using any abilities. This is a great writing choice; this series has become entirely about special powers, to the point that a character being this strong on innate power is a pleasant surprise.

Aoba reveals a hint of her motivation, saying that Ogami took her beloved away from her. The One, perhaps?

(109) Heike’s introduction might finally lead to some serious development. He’s been hinted as having his own motives ever since he was introduced, but the plot has yet to focus on him intently.

Aoba’s leg submission on Ogami is another clever touch, and Ogami’s attempt to counter it leads to losing his power. Finally, Sakurakouji’s intervention prompts a pained expression on Aoba’s face. In its entirety, this is a fantastic exchange, and a great way to establish Aoba as a meaningful character.

Interesting aside about Toki. His presence has been sorely missed recently.

Wonderful series of pages to wrap up the chapter. Heike’s role as one of the founders of Eden (whatever that is – we need some more information about that), as well as his age, finally gives his character enough material to stand out. These were a great couple of chapters.

Defense Devil 69

[scanlation by I Eat Manga]

Judging from the opening pages, it seems this chapter is yet another diversion from the main storyline. A Shugarl chapter should be more acceptable than last week’s fanservice, at least.

That said, Shugarl does serve as quality female fanservice, apparently. His female onlookers are amusing.

Jupiter’s nightmare is suitably scary for a series that doesn’t focus much on horror.

Attempting to intervene on Jupiter’s behalf is an effective way to solidify Shugarl as a “good” character. I suppose that was necessary development, but this still felt like an oddly detached chapter.

Donten Prism Solar Car 1

[scanlation by CXC Scans]

Immediate impression of this series: Great art, as was to be expected from Murata. Also, the use of narrative boxes to quickly establish the protagonist is much appreciated in a monthly series. Also, the protagonist himself is an interesting character, with a good backstory, character design, and traits.

What a unique scenario presented by the first conflict in this series. Building a solar car is (to my knowledge) completely unprecedented shonen plot, and Kaneda’s displeasure with these students coming into his everyday life should make for interesting relationship development for many chapters to come.

Whether he’s justified or not, Kaneda is being a jerk to the engineering students. That fact alone makes him far more dynamic than most protagonists through one chapter.

It’s a pity this is a monthly series, rather than weekly, because the first chapter was about as engaging as it could have been. I’m already looking forward to next month.

Gamaran 67-68

[scanlation by Overload Scans]

(67) It’s been long enough since we’ve had a break from serious action that I’d forgotten that this series is capable of good comedy.

These two idiots are boasting in front of the absolute last person in this series to mess around with. They’d be better off joking around with Jinsuke than challenging Iori.

Juuren Village? Sounds like a training arc. That wasn’t too hard to see coming, though.

(68) Of course some folks from Juuren Village just happen to be wondering about the Ogame school. How convenient.

Interesting note about Ranmaru becoming Naoyoshi’s bodyguard. That, combined with Ranmaru’s conversation with an aggressive Kai, sets up the long-term possibility of Ranmaru having his own motives independent from Jinsuke’s vision, despite all the emphasis placed on Ranmaru’s loyalty in this chapter.

Great little scene of Naoyoshi having a crisis of conscience regarding helping his mother versus remaining loyal to Gama. So far, despite the Grand Tournament of Unabara ending, Naoyoshi is still getting necessary spotlight and development.

A foreign ninja girl attacks the Ogame group? This is the most out of place character design yet shown in the series, so Juuren Village is already looking to be a change of pace.

GE ~ Good Ending 55

[scanlation by iMangaScans]

Pages and pages of aggravation. I can’t quantify how much I’d rather be reading a series about Eri or Izumi.

Errand boy Seiji crashes into a girl at the photo lab. The absolute last thing this series needed was another harem member, and yet this series is terrible enough that such a meeting already cements this girl as a love interest.

The mixup between Seiji and the mystery girl means each character’s photos land in the wrong hands, and some professional photographers get a look at Seiji’s pictures. As uninteresting and unrelated to existing plot as this is, perhaps it will lead to Seiji finding something to do as a career, which would satisfy his self-imposed requirement for dating Yuki. Maybe this could lead to something positive.

Katekyo Hitman Reborn! 311

[scanlation by Binktopia]

It’s depressing that Amano feels the need to explain the concept of the 10-year bazooka. That’s yet another sign of how far downhill this series has gone; if Reborn! was still as good as it used to be, Lambo would have been featured prominently in fun roles all along.

Rauji is a huge stag beetle. Ridiculous.

Lambo’s “pride” is pretty comical. Even in 15-year old form, he’s still the most enjoyable character in the series.

Oh so coincidentally, Lambo’s weapon gives him horns. Horns vs. jaws. Yawn.

An entire chapter wasted on putting on a helmet. Even Lambo can’t redeem this.

SWOT 13

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

This week’s SWOT despair-saving TV theme is the intro to CHiPs. Help me, Erik Estrada.

Of course Yamikura can use Resolve already. He’s been off-screen. That’s all it takes in bad shonen.

Yamikura was able to defeat the sophomore in a matter of pages. I know this series is on the verge of cancellation (thankfully), but that’s still criminal.

Wonderful, a moody eyepatch character. Thanks for reminding us that no matter how bad it was, Lock On! was still indescribably superior to this garbage.

What the hell? Discounting the overall idiocy of the last page, look at Manabizaki’s teeth. It’s obvious the author can’t write worth a damn, but at least have the decency to draw properly.

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