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.

History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi 408

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by aegon-rokudo and FANtomCore]

Pretty tame cover page compared to what we’ve been getting. That’s an up note for this chapter, right? There’s at least one. I can approach the rest of the chapter knowing that. The bit of exposition we’re given for how they got out of a U.S. army base fits with the things we’ve seen before. Ryouzanpaku calling in favors from all over the world is nothing new.

Well, it’s been a while now, but I still feel as though Apachai should be dead. I love the character, he’s definitely my favorite of the masters. However, I cannot accept the fact that we were so built up towards his death, and now seeing him struggling on the airplane while gravely wounded just seems like salt being rubbed into the wound. The comedy of Akisame being a miracle doctor is normally welcomed when he’s resurrecting Kenichi from some training from hell, but in this context I can’t find it funny.

Kenichi himself is still a good character, and it was funny to see him try to get up and then collapse because he was told that he was badly injured. His fight with Koukin was good, and historically I like the post-fight cooldowns Kenichi has been given. It’s slightly ruined this time with the interplay between Kenichi and Apachai, and I definitely have some issues with using Apachai’s “final words” as a joke on the fact that he’s still alive.

Thank you, Overly Obvious Girl!

I should note that the fanservice this chapter has been completely and utterly acceptable. It’s still there, but only because the females of HSDK are fanservice by their very nature. There’s no gratuitous amounts of chest showing, no downright blatant camera angles, no torn clothing. This time, it isn’t just because there are no females present. They’re present, and not being used for it. Despite everything that’s happened with the plot, I find myself somewhat fond of this chapter for this reason alone.

The sub-plot going along with Niijima finding that data is pretty interesting. We’re approaching the main plot to the story here, and the war with Yami seems to be developing as well. I think we’re overdue for meeting some more members of Yomi, the satsujinken disciple division. Also way past due is finding out more about Miu’s father. All we know now is that he killed her mother, and that he seems to be a  silhouette. His disciple is one of the more interesting disciples we’ve met, which is undoubtedly on purpose. There’s so much we should be finding out, that any plot advancement is welcome.

Niijima is more taxing than a knee to the ribs

Hermit shows up, which is interesting, given he’s now a member of Yomi. Niijima is on to him, but not enough for anything to come out into the open just yet. I like the idea of him sticking around the main group of good guys while secretly being in the enemy group, it adds an element of suspense to everything.

With little left to say, the Elder timely moves everyone out to give Kenichi rest, and when he wakes up, surprise. Suddenly police cars are everywhere, and Ryouzanpaku is taped off. Shocking twist!

He just read chapter 407

Final Flash: An okay chapter with acceptable levels of fanservice, but still severely hurting from coming off last chapter.

Mahou Sensei Negima! 309

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Animum Mutare]

Negi is still completely out of the action for now, so much so that he’s a hindrance to their plan. They’re going to have to get him capable of moving, or else even when they succeed, they’d have to drag him out of the place. The plot lends itself to some good comedy, and it’s nice to see Chamo still carrying the ranking list of who likes Negi the most. I’d like to point out that if girls who like Negi would help the healing, literally having all of the class excepting two or three girls would definitely speed things up.

That list grows exponentially

Yue has learned quite a lot during her stay in the magical world, and she’s become fairly capable. Her idea makes a lot of sense and is pretty creative, while solving what did seem like a major problem. That aside, I’m still not sure how I feel about the plan as a whole. Fate doesn’t seem like the kind of enemy that you can just sneak past, and that anti-magical field seems like it should extend more than far enough for him to have a healthy amount of time to trash everyone in the party. That is assuming, of course, that Negi stays comatose, which he won’t.

I’m not sure I like the idea of the whole “no one dies” thing. Sure, it is Negima, so I’m not expecting Fate to off a bunch of cute girls from the class. Do we need to be explicitly told that no one will die, they’ll just be sent to dream world? I don’t think so. It somewhat subtracts from the gravity of the situation. I guess it is enough to know that if they fail and are sent to the dream world, the erase of the magical world would be pretty much guaranteed, which means the failure of Negi’s plan, whatever it may have been.

Fate being literally face to face with the group is a very intense moment. True to his character, he must have sensed that something was up, because he randomly attacks the area our heroes are on. The frantic escape resulting from the attack, and the scale of the destruction caused by an offhand attack at nothing but a feeling, do a great job of showing off what a villain Fate is. There’s a very good reason all the battle-capable party members don’t just team up and fight him, and that reason is that they would very likely just be annihilated. Natsumi’s hat flying off her head as she collapses, and the resulting desperate grab by Kotarou, are just more examples of how well the tension of the moment is being done.

Tastes like haute couture

Natsumi’s resolve as she walks straight towards Fate is perhaps the best moment of courage we’ve seen in a while. For a series like Negima, which has so many super-powered fighters, it sure is ironic how the most heroic moments often result from the most normal characters. Nodoka, who was an introverted bookworm, stealing the staff of the lifemaker and using it against Dynamis. Chisame, a normal girl with no battle potential, being the driving force behind the magical hurricane of destruction that is Negi these days. Now Natsumi, who has no real way of protecting herself, leading the entire group directly into the reaches of the most powerful enemy they’ve faced. These “normal girls” are anything but, and the series would sorely miss them if they left.

Next week is the grand finale of the plan. How will it work for the main party? Hopefully we get the action-packed climax that we’ve been looking forward to for so many chapters.

Final Flash: A good chapter, but it still basically felt like setup. Hopefully we’ve gotten all the preparation out of the way, and next chapter can go straight into the meat of the climax.

Hayate no Gotoku! 297

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by [C]hán]

The opening pages are building up a feeling of tension for Nagi meeting Luka, which is understandable from the reader’s perspective as we now know who Luka is. I can’t help but feel a little bit of Nagi’s tension myself, for her this is the author whose works she has been such a fan of. Also, after the page actually showing us Luka’s manga, I feel like a fan myself. This is such an awesome idea, while at the same time being hilarious. Nagi’s perspective on the manga is perhaps slightly different than my own, but no less valid.

A tale of love and loss

Man, Chiharu sure is stringing Nagi along as to Luka’s identity. She’s having a lot of fun, and it’s fun to watch Nagi getting more and more fed up with the small tidbits she’s being fed about this mystery author. Of course, not so long ago, it was us in that position, having only received a name and the same phrase a few times (“She’s a girl that closely resembles Hayate”) and just as ready to have her revealed. I do appreciate having been told before Chiharu’s teasing, because otherwise we’d be getting teased, too.

The interactions between Luka and Hayate are still funny, and they’re even funnier when you have to constantly make yourself see things in the story’s setting: Luka still thinks Hayate is a girl. Luka’s dedication to her job despite being seriously injured already goes a way towards making her an endearing character. She obviously cares a lot about her fans, and isn’t willing to miss the concert despite having a pretty good reason. She’s a hard worker, but I think we expected that given her resemblance to Hayate.

Because she can take it. Because she's not our hero.

Finally, all the buildup the whole chapter for Nagi culminates on the final few pages, when Chiharu brings Nagi into the concert. Luka is standing onstage in full idol gear with the lights shining down on her, and Nagi is staring up at her awestruck, with the internal monologue boxes relating her thoughts to us. It’s a huge moment of impact, and after going through the Athena arc, you can’t help but think that this is something that will affect the course of our story for many chapters to come. Nagi thinks Luka looks like a god, and it must seem that way from her perspective. I have to wonder if maybe Nagi will want to try and become an idol.

Final Flash: A good chapter with less than normal amounts of comedy, but that only served to enforce the feeling of the serious moment at the very end.

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.

Kekkaishi 329

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

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

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

She needs more than a cup of coffee

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

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

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

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

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

Are we there yet? And so on...

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

Weekly Power Rankings: 11/14 – 11/20

November 27, 2010 Leave a comment
Rank
Change
Series
Chapter
Score
1 +5 Psyren 143 80.06%
2 +2 Beelzebub 85 78.08%
3 -2 Enigma 10 77.33%
4 -2 One Piece 604 77.33%
5 +3 Nurarihyon no Mago 131 76.35%
6 +1 Hayate no Gotoku! 297 74.85%
7 +2 The World God Only Knows 122 73.87%
8 +3 Bakuman 109 73.04%
9 +3 Fairy Tail 211 72.18%
10 +4 Defense Devil 74 68.95%
11 +2 Kekkaishi 329 66.50%
12 -9 Code:Breaker 65.30%
13 -3 History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi 407 64.35%
14 -9 Gamaran 64.09%
15 +3 Mahou Sensei Negima! 309 60.43%
16 Toriko 118 59.80%
17 +2 Air Gear 295 56.25%
18 +4 Bleach 426 56.05%
19 -4 GE ~ Good Ending 60 55.40%
20 -3 Kimi no Iru Machi 113 53.29%
21 -1 Naruto 516 50.87%
22 +1 Kyoukai no Rin-ne 74 45.91%
23 -2 AR∀GO 45 42.24%
24 Zettai Karen Children 27.88%
25 Katekyo Hitman Reborn! 314 25.28%
26 MiXiM☆11 120 20.00%
27 SWOT 19 15.15%

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.

Beamcast Special – November 25

November 25, 2010 2 comments

[download link – 22min, 9mb]

This special edition of Beamcast is exclusively focused on The Great Shonen Tier List!

Characters added:
Mr. 2 Bon Clay (One Piece)
Kankurou (Naruto)
Kurapika (Hunter x Hunter)
Alphonse Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist)
Inugami Kotarou (Mahou Sensei Negima!)
Utsumi Seiji (GE ~ Good Ending)

Character re-tiered:
Minami “Ikki” Itsuki (Air Gear)

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.

Beamcast – November 22

November 22, 2010 1 comment

[download link – 184min, 77mb]

In this week’s huge double-show:

News
SWOT canceled
Fake Hunter x Hunter return information
37 manga publishers to launch North American manga portal
New Shueisha magazine: Saikyou Jump
Air Gear vol. 31 bundled with anime DVD
One Piece vol. 60 sells over 2 million in 4 days
Negima‘s Akamatsu plans free site for out-of-print manga
Dragon Ball SD spinoff manga
One Piece, Toriko 3D film trailers streamed; themes by Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

Licensing announcements
VIZ: Tenjou Tenge (unedited, 2-in-1 omnibus)
Tokyopop: The Sacred Blacksmith

Non-shonen news
Starz making live-action adaptation of Noir
“Nonexistent youth” bill to be resubmitted
4Kids reports net loss of $9.8 million in 3Q 2010
Zac Efron not starring in Akira
Satoshi Kon’s last film resumes production

Discussion / Weekly Poll
Last week’s results:

Which of these partially-scanlated series would you most like to see caught up?
1. Cage of Eden / GTO: Shonan 14 Days / Sket Dance (19%) (tie)
4. Yankee-kun to Megane-chan (18%)
5. Kuroko no Basket (13%)
6. Onidere (7%)
7. Hajimete no Aku (4%)

This week:
Which of these sidekick characters is your favorite?
Al (Fullmetal Alchemist), Don Patch (Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo), Furuichi (Beelzebub), Komatsu (Toriko), Koutarou (Mahou Sensei Negima!), Krillin (Dragon Ball), Shinpachi (Gintama), Zenkichi (Medaka Box)

This Week in Manga
0:17:14 – Soul Eater 80
0:22:19 – Donten Prism Solar Car 3
0:25:19 – Kure-nai 35-36
0:29:27 – One Piece 604
0:37:40 – Naruto 516-517
0:46:59 – Bleach 426-427
0:52:09 – Bakuman 109-110
0:58:19 – Beelzebub 84-86
1:06:29 – Fairy Tail 211-212
1:10:55 – Hayate no Gotoku! 296-297
1:16:50 – Kekkaishi 328
1:21:15 – History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi 406-407
1:31:42 – AR∀GO 43-45
1:38:17 – Toriko 117-118
1:43:24 – Gamaran 70-71
1:46:38 – The World God Only Knows 121-122
1:55:52 – Defense Devil 72-73
1:57:59 – Mahou Sensei Negima! 308-309
2:05:01 – Nurarihyon no Mago 130-132
2:16:03 – Zettai Karen Children 237-238
2:24:15 – GE ~ Good Ending 59
2:27:59 – Kimi no Iru Machi 112-113
2:34:06 – Enigma 9-10
2:42:07 – SWOT 16-17
2:47:07 – Moon Walker LTD.
2:51:36 – Kintoki
2:56:20 – Gate 7 – 1 (new series!)
2:58:04 – Air Gear 294-295
2:59:26 – Code:Breaker 111
3:00:39 – Katekyo Hitman Reborn! 314-315

Chapters of the Week

Final Flash

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Credit: AnimeNewsNetwork

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.