The World God Only Knows 123

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

Chihiro seems to be responding less favorably to Keima’s conquest plan than Ayumi did. At the very least, she’s putting in a fair bit of effort to shrug it off, to increasingly less polite degrees. Indeed, Keima appears to have done less well with her than with Ayumi, but he still seems to think he did well enough.

The Haqua/Keima partnership continues to be fraught with physical abuse. Haqua isn’t missing any chances to be violently tsundere. She really pulls no punches (or footstomps, in this case).

Whether or not the “corrected-misunderstanding” kiss is in fact the best way to finish off a dating-sim, a point which could be debated to no end, it is probably the best that could be made of the current scenario. Keima certainly seems to think it is; his impassioned speech-making on the subject is fun as usual, and opens the way for a fantastic bit of straight-manning by Haqua. Her snarky reactions to Keima’s lecture are an excellent example of a type of entertainment we miss out on with Elsee being Keima’s only partner. I really hope Haqua sticks around after this arc is over.

Buzzkilling for fun and profit

Now that Keima’s dealt with the two girls known to be in the gray area, he moves on to the real challenging ones, starting with Tsukiyo. For all the confidence he had with Ayumi and Chihiro, he’s immediately thrown off balance by Tsukiyo’s appearance and trademark distant personality, hesitating to start saying his lines. Seaking of good deadpan moments, Tsukiyo’s immediate response to said lines takes the cake.

Of course, Keima’s not immediately giving up on Tsukiyo. Instead, he follows her out to the roof, eventually cuing in on the fact that she’s putting the carpet back out again. That could be just another piece of evidence that she is one of those who forgot, but kudos to our hero for noticing.

Ayumi’s arrival on the rooptop triggers an amusing sequence of events. In his desperation to not turn his 4 love triangle conquest plan into a dodecagon plan, he ducks behind the couch and somehow manages to still peg Tsukiyo as in the gray area, before pulling off an ingenious escape from Ayumi… all while hiding under a blanket.

This guy regularly outdoes Solid Snake

Next up on the gauntlet of girls Keima has been running: Shiori, the library assistant. It really has been a while since we’ve seen her. I wonder if she’s learned to talk normally in the interim.

Final Flash: Happy to know that Shiori’s up next, but also sad that, with Elsee being absent, her scene will involve no fire trucks.

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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.