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
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.