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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.

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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.

AR∀GO 40

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Trinity BAKumA]

I’m still thrilled at the prospect of Cloteaux, the Black Horseman, being embedded within the group of perceived friendlies.

The exchange between Arago and Cloteaux doesn’t seem to have alerted Arago, who could stand to be a bit more discerning about who to trust.

Cloteaux staring intently at Coco potentially indicates a motive of his involving her. Kidnapping is the obvious choice, as it’s someone close enough to Arago that Cloteaux could threaten to bring Brionac closer, but it’s also such an obvious choice that it would be a little unimaginative of an otherwise creative author to rely on such a crutch.

Hello there, shonen hero. You’re looking dangerously like Tsuna in this shot, complete with Dying Will Flame. Cut back on that a little, would you?

As long as it isn't Reverse Resolve

Seth’s explanation, understanding, and coaching of the Brionac power makes me think Arago is going to be considerably stronger not too long from now. That’s exciting news for those of you who follow The Great Shonen Tier List, but it’s also somewhat worrisome, as much of the charm of Arago’s battles comes from the clever application of the limited Brionac ability. AR∀GO is not at all a generic shonen battle series, and the writing could suffer greatly if Arago becomes too much like a stereotypical overpowered shonen hero.

Not all shonen characters should have beam attacks

For being coy about his motives and his status in relation to Arago, Seth sure is proactively analytical about Arago. Granted, this is giving him an opportunity to learn about the power he’s chasing after, but it’s still amusing to see a character as intentionally distant as Seth drawing up detailed diagrams.

Arago is getting a named finishing move? What is this, Gintama?

Cloteaux’s new golem is appropriately fearsome, and it certainly makes an instant impact, ripping Arago to shreds. This will surely be a test of the regeneration ability of Brionac, and it’s enough of a dire and urgent situation to put Brionac to the ultimate test, especially considering how worn out Arago is from training.

Final Flash: Interesting insight on Brionac, great Seth moments, and a good villain, but a little too close to formulaic shonen for this series.

AR∀GO 36

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by Trinity BAKumA]

This is a vastly different style of fight than Arago has had in the past. It’s no Ippo, but the focus on speed and precision provides interesting contrast to simple reliance on the Brionac power.

Arago bore the brunt of the werewolf’s finishing blow? This is some supreme confidence he’s showing in his regenerative abilities.

… and evidently, given that he just regenerated his entire left arm from bone and limp flesh, he was right in doing so. Whether the power itself has improved or Arago is simply more adept at using it, Brionac is more impressive now than it ever has been.

Notable sign of improvement

Underneath the pelt was “just some normal old guy.” On one hand, I appreciate that the focus remained on the pelt, since that myth has proven extremely interesting. On the other hand, it’s a slight disappointment that this plot is entirely self-contained, rather than linking to any larger premise, whether or not that would involve Patchman.

So, according to Seth and what little I know of nutritional science, Brionac and the wolf pelt are similar because they’re both like supernatural caffeine?

Final Flash: Ultimately, this arc (and particularly this chapter) served to provide some insight into the nature of Arago as a character, but little else. It was enjoyable, but the conclusion of this mini-arc feels strongly of missed opportunities.

Series Roundup: 9/12 – 9/18

September 19, 2010 12 comments

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

Air Gear 287

[scanlation by SSA Scanlations]

Beautiful color page. This is a perfect example of quality art and a tiny bit of fanservice easily trumping over-the-top gratuitous fanservice.

Ringo has every reason to feel like she’s at fault about this. Regardless of where the blame lies, though, Ikki’s Regalia must be repaired quickly, or else not only will he be unable to win his fight, but also the plot will be unable to progress.

This is mostly setup after setup for each fight. I suppose it’s acceptable as a way to refresh the audience’s memory, after six weeks of no Air Gear.

Ikki demonstrates some strong leadership qualities by getting everyone back on track. Between the Regalia hunt and the various battles, the next few chapters should be exciting.

AR∀GO 35

[scanlation by Trinity BAKumA]

Cute cover page.

Interesting nod by Arai towards boxers, and lightweight boxers specifically. It’s true that this training should help Arago’s evasiveness.

I’ve finally figured out the secret behind the worst arc of Hajime no Ippo: Woli had Brionac.

The reactions from Rio, Coco, and Seth to Arago’s request are as funny as they are vastly different.

Captain Tsubasa now? This is an oddly sports-themed chapter.

Arago’s idea of a duel (and the werewolf’s immediate acceptance) is fascinating. The two-page spread of them exchanging blows is great, as well.

Code:Breaker 104

[scanlation by ShinraTensei]

Not that I could put a face to the name, but Dekasugi going missing right after Yuuki drops the hint points to Code:Revenger having been closely watching everything all along.

Ogami’s new flame is incredibly powerful and far more versatile than the first flame. It’s also more bizarrely supernatural, perhaps even spiritual.

Once again, Ogami’s unique sense of justice, where he continues to quietly burden himself with others’ problems, is enjoyable to read.

Yuuki is obviously torn over having to fight Ogami, but chooses to turn to his trump card, in the form of some pills in his collar. I hope Yuuki doesn’t die in all of this action.

Defense Devil 64

[scanlation by I Eat Manga]

Kucabara’s focus on pacifism is a bit out of place. He has been established as a “good” character, but this feels more like time-wasting than personality establishment.

Several pages later, and Kucabara has exactly the same stance. It’s taking far too long for anything to happen.

His brilliant plan was to shoot out the lights? That’s a bit childish.

The naive devils throw the “soccer” field into chaos, and Kucabara drops in like Batman to save Idamaria. Sadly, the spurt of action at the end of the chapter doesn’t redeem the time wasted at the beginning.

Enigma 1

[scanlation by CXC Scans]

Love to see a brand new series get scanned right away. I hope CXC will keep up with this one.

The main character has a “Dream Diary” that predicts the future. A future diary. In Japanese, one would call that a Mirai Nikki.

Sumio’s flirting is a decently enjoyable character trait, but not one that stands out too greatly.

The skull with the reversed jawbone is an appropriately scary symbol. Good design.

The way Sumio’s mother panics provides some intrigue as to exactly why Sumio saw the symbol.

Sumio’s larger panel poses are too generic.

Sumio and six others wake up in a gymnasium, unable to exit or contact the outside world. Then, the Enigme symbol appears on a screen and gives them an objective. So, this series isn’t just Mirai Nikki; it’s also Gantz. Wonderful.

Based on only one chapter, this series has far more potential than recent Jump newcomers (Lock On!, Yotsuya, SWOT, etc.), but its success will depend entirely on the execution of the premise introduced in this chapter. Sadly, the two major concepts the series is built on are far too derivative of other, existing series.

GE ~ Good Ending 50

[scanlation by iMangaScans]

Yuki’s farewell smile to her mother and attendant is creepy as hell.

Evidently Yuki’s family is aware of whatever horrible business went down between Yuki and Touru. I appreciate him being unwelcome there; I don’t appreciate the focus being on him running around trying to find her. This series needs less drama.

This bald guy being on a Koushien-bound baseball team comes out of nowhere. How odd.

Oonuma finally snapped at Seiji! That’s exactly what needed to happen. Finally, a little positive progress.

Never mind. It’s all undone by some ludicrous fireworks and a statement that reflects just how right Oonuma was about Seiji’s superficial kindness. Seriously though, fireworks?! Fireworks.

fireworks.

Kure-nai 34

[scanlation by JAC Scans]

It’s finally sinking in to Shinkurou that Kirihiko is an assassin. To be fair, she’s right in pointing out that she said that when they first met.

She stabbed him, with no effect. Is she taking it easy on him, or is has his Houdzuki training again rendered him impervious to blade attacks?

Interesting competition proposed by Kirihiko. It’ll be good to see how Shinkurou reacts to her when she’s in a killing mindset.

I can’t accept Yuuno’s explanation of the manner in which Kirihiko cut Shinkurou. A time-delayed cut? This makes absolutely no sense.

Strangely comedic ending. Saving someone from suicide does not tend to immediately lead into a job offer.

Hayate no Gotoku! 288

[scanlation by reddevilshn]

Nagi’s “plans” are hilarious. Her obliviousness is always great, but she’s so certain here that she can succeed.

Excellent meta comedy! The Jump joke is apt, and the Sunday praise is fun.

Ashibashi-sensei may have been a completely minor character, but he was very funny in his limited role as the author of the successful series “This or That Depresses Me,” which clearly does not parody any real life series whatsoever. He should provide great interaction with aspiring mangaka Nagi.

Brilliant punchline from Ashibashi, and an even better reaction from Hayate and the girls. What a funny chapter.

I love that Ayumu had no idea how successful Ashibashi was.

Mahou Sensei Negima! 302

[scanlation by reddevilshn]

Excellent detail in Akamatsu’s drawing of the various magic attacks.

Negi is trying to be everywhere at once. He should rely on the girls more. He’s obviously far more powerful than any of them, but they’re far from incompetent.

Dragonfolk? I thought it was Demonfolk. The Dragonzord joke is catching on… sadly.

Nodoka is ridiculous. Time manipulation is one of the most potentially broken powers in any setting, and she just crashes into the user. Wasn’t she supposed to be the shy one?

Very nice affirmation of the girls’ abilities over the final pages.

Nurarihyon no Mago 122

[scanlation by ShinraTensei]

Multiple ways to perform Matoi should eventually both solidify Rikuo as a seriously strong protagonist, and also keep the more prominent members of the Hyakki Yakou involved in the main plot. This technique is a fantastic idea.

Kidoumaru is a legitimately strong enemy with some good techniques of his own. Ouka is impressive.

Kurotabou’s pride is nice to see. Rikuo really has grown considerably since the beginning of the series.

Beautiful full-page art of Rikuo using the new variation of Matoi.

Rikuo is wearing Kurotabou in a far more literal sense than his previous uses of Matoi. Does this mean Rikuo will become the type of character who routinely uses other characters’ powers? While this version of Matoi is interesting, I hope Rikuo doesn’t rely on it too much. Members of the Hyakki Yakou need to stand out on their own, rather than be relegated to pure supporting roles for Rikuo.

Psyren 134

[scanlation by Keishou Scans]

“Now, the battle between Matsuri and Grana–!!” … and two pages later, we switch focus to Kagetora. Amusing.

Kagetora has always been fun to watch fight, but he’s even more interesting here in the future, surrounded by those with flashier abilities.

Back to Matsuri/Grana, and this fight is far more of an exchange of psychic abilities. Grana’s admittance that Matsuri has more battle sense is what keeps this fight balanced and interesting.

Ageha and Amamiya chase after Miroku, and the chapter ends. Some fun fighting, but not too much plot progression.

Zettai Karen Children 230

[scanlation by JS Scans]

Great omake page. Of course Hanzo is a Naruto fan. … oh, pardon me. Maruto.

Kiritsubo’s overprotective nature has grown tiresome.

Hanzo’s Naruto fandom extends within the chapter! He even has the Mangekyou Sharingan. Good comedy.

I’m pretty sure the shirt worn by the character on the last page is intended to represent a browser’s Refresh function. The shirt says “F5” (the keyboard shortcut for Refresh), and has circular arrows above and below the lettering. Amusing. That said, the comedy of this chapter far outweighs the attempt at engaging serious plot.

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.

Series Roundup: 9/5 – 9/11

September 9, 2010 1 comment

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

AR∀GO 34

[scanlation by Trinity BAKumA]

Great action in the fight between Arago and the werewolf. Arai’s art style makes even speed lines feel new and interesting.

The werewolf has regeneration similar to Arago’s Brionac and unbelievable speed and strength. Arago defeat is unsurprising, but the process reveals two interesting notes: the seam in the werewolf’s fur, and the fact that the werewolf didn’t kill Arago.

Joe reveals a variation on the now commonly-accepted werewolf legend, and his version is absolutely fascinating. This is a brilliant writing choice.

Code:Breaker 103

[scanlation by ShinraTensei]

This is becoming bizarrely metaphysical. Granted, this series isn’t restricted by any sense of realism, but Ogami entering “the hell of darkness within [his] heart” is still jarring.

The physical incarnation of the Emperor is disappointing. Even if this form is supposed to be a weaker, limited version of the character, this character type is overdone.

After a rather cliché test, Ogami is granted the second of seven flames. Suddenly, Flame of Recca comparisons are completely appropriate. Ogami’s use of Belphegor of the Dark is interesting and well-drawn, though.

Gamaran 62

[scanlation by helz0ne]

Iori seeming like he’s in control of his situation while at a numerical disadvantage makes some sense, as he’s been established as an incredibly strong swordsman, but seeing the same poise from Ranmaru is unusual.

Wow. Ranmaru’s killing blow this time is at least as brutal as his last one. Jinno serving as the setup for it is a little disappointing, because it does little to explain Ranmaru’s confidence, but the scene is still strong.

If the teaser is true, Gama vs. Ranmaru should be thrilling.

Hayate no Gotoku! 287

[scanlation by reddevilshn]

Hugging someone of the opposite sex is the universal symbol for “I’m here to rent a room.”

Why does “Gundam” need to be censored in text bubbles if the word is left intact on the box?

After a series of individually amusing jokes, “She was quickly kicked out” is a great punchline.

The mystery girl was behind the fireworks incident after all, but the name Housen Yozora doesn’t ring a bell, and her motives aren’t yet obvious. Interesting.

Kekkaishi 319-320

[scanlation by A-Team]

(319) Lovely atmosphere as Masamori is led towards the castle.

Hazama certainly is demanding, but his sudden meeting with Masamori finally helps to tie his actions directly to Yoshimori’s. Also, it’s interesting to see Masamori simultaneously shot down in comparison to Yoshimori, yet also reinforced as important because of his own particular skills and connections.

(320) A little too much time is spent on Shichiro remarking on events. If so many interesting things are happening, the author would be better served just showings those events directly.

Raijin may have ended up being introduced as a seemingly devious woman, but she has both the power to legitimize herself and superior connections than Masamori, considering her ability to bring Nura into the fold. Also, her claim that Masamori is to defeat the founder is an intriguing one.

Mahou Sensei Negima! 300-301

[scanlations by reddevilshn: 300 | 301]

(300) After so much preparation and so many chapters of diversion and side characters, it’s fun to see Negi himself firing off some of his devastating magic.

No matter how impressed Anya is by Negi’s display of power, I can’t accept her statement that he could be as strong as his father.

Haunting panel at the bottom of page 13. The stark lack of background combines well with Negi chasing after his barely-visible father.

Unusual timing for Asuna to be so moved by Negi’s determination. Nothing has been accomplished yet.

(301) It’s difficult to reconcile the serious side of Dynamis with the one that jokes with his young female subordinates.

Very little to comment on, as this chapter is mostly setup for the next fight for Negi’s group. The bit with Koutarou’s covert group is amusing, at least.

Nurarihyon no Mago 121

[scanlation by ShinraTensei]

Rikuo’s reasoning is perfectly befitting of someone in his leadership role. Great speech, and an excellent full page pose.

Beautiful art as Kidoumaru invokes Rajoumon.

Kidoumaru being able to prevent Tsurara and Rikuo using Matoi presents interesting complications for that ability in the future. Even if Rikuo presumably wins this fight, he’ll certainly fight tougher opponents in the future. Rikuo could stand to adapt a new way to use Matoi, such as perhaps being able to use the fear from his Hyakki Yakou through the markings on his back, rather than needing his followers to physically cast their fear on him in person.

Kurotabou and Kubinashi are a welcome sight. They should provide some interesting complexity to the fight next week.

SWOT 9

[scanlation by Red Hawk Scanlations]

The fighting maniac’s special move is called “Chaos.” Was he not generically counter-culture enough already?

“Pray that Manabizaki will defeat this monster” is the kind of senseless, idealistic comment from an onlooker that I would expect from someone watching Ichigo fighting in Bleach. That scenario is already bad enough, but at least Bleach has the publishing length to back up such a statement. Why should the audience be invested in the fate of a one-dimensional protagonist in a series that hasn’t yet reached double digit chapters?

Manabizaki’s opponent suddenly has glowing hands. I wasn’t aware it was possible for a series to “jump the shark” within 9 chapters, but I am ready to declare that SWOT has not only done so, but that it also holds absolutely no reading value.

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 15

[chapter link]

Honestly, I didn’t expect the old man to be good. Maybe that was just me.

Don’t get hit by the arrowhead, Joe! You’ll gain a Stand!

P6, top panel: What a panel. Excellently drawn.

Ooh, I do believe we have some Doppel action. Good to see, he’s quite an interesting character.

Tons of background on leprechauns.

Joe has history with Patchman! Flashback time.

Final Flash: I suppose chapter 15 is acceptable for a side character flashback.