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Kekkaishi 331

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by A-Team]

Nura is completely dominating the rank-and-file Urakai. Her control powers are so completely overwhelming that not even the sea snakes are having any effect on her ogres, and even the non-ogre allies are getting visibly affected.  Despite Tokine going down last chapter, this series always does a good job of having and showing off strong female characters. Her ogres casually knocking out guys and stacking them in a heap underscores just how much she’s steamrolling.

An ordinary Wednesday at the office

Granted, the ones Nura has been taking out have been small fries. The bigwigs are out for blood now, bringing tons of Colossus-sized firepower to bear. It will be difficult to deal with that crowd without the chance to instantly drop mind-control snakes all over.

Looks like said bigwigs are going to be a job for Shichiro. That makes sense, given that his powers are somewhat more suited for quick assassination than anyone else in the group. Raijin definitely seems to have thought out the group’s strategy. The only member of the group who doesn’t seem to have a specifically defined role is Shiromi. He is thus relegated to the minor role of slicing Kurokabuto into pieces.

Somehow the most boring job of the group

It’s fascinating how politics are entering into this battle. Raijin’s specific order to confirm the death of Meian carries a nominal logic behind it, but is at the same time pretty clearly a part of her scheme to have Nura replace him as Urakai head after the dust settles. The best planners never stop, and Raijin is really earning her stripes in that category.

Cut to Masamori, who is having trouble finding Nichinaga. Apparently, his original plan was to follow where the snakes were coming from, which might have worked had Nichinaga not lost Haruka, who, as it turns out, actually was his power source. It could be interesting if he remains in this depleted state, forced to rely on his one remaining loyal minion, Ichigo, for protection. Given how bent he sees on finding the traitors, though, I doubt this will end without him getting his hands on at least one of them.

Final Flash: Good to know that the subtle manipulations of Urakai politics aren’t stopped by a little thing like a full-scale war.

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Kekkaishi 330

[scanlation by A-Team]

Well, the entire first half of this chapter is just one very elaborate charge-up scene for Nura. She takes in lots of energy from her demons and gets younger. Not really much to comment on there, so let’s move on, shall we?

The activation of the larger kekkai was significantly more notable. Containing the battle damage is one thing, but being able to see the sea snakes is a huge edge versus Nichinaga’s forces. This does a whole lot to make up for the fact that the Yagyou aren’t involved in the active battle this time around; at least they are being extremely effective as support. Also interesting is the fact that we now have proof that Zekkai isn’t the only effective in-universe sea snake counter.

Just a little bit

The battle starts with a full-out charge, which merits a few pages of dialogue-free action to give a sense of the situation. Good atmosphere, but again, very little to comment on there, and it doesn’t help that most of the combatants are nameless demons and minor Urakai members.

The focus eventually shifts to Masamori who is presumably coming close to a character defining moment, but we’ll have to wait at least one more chapter to get any serious action out of him.

Final Flash: An okay chapter, but not an exceptional one. It mainly got a lot of less important moments out of the way.

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.

Kekkaishi 328

November 17, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by A-Team]

Kekkaishi’s getting the Shonen Sunday cover for once. Excellent.

Shichiro and Raijin are up in the sky, sporting some sweet new banchou-style outfits. Also, talk about a large-scale kickoff to the festivities. The giant storm that they whip up should certainly be some effective camouflage, which is kind of a necessity given the nature of what’s about to start. Certainly, any storm large enough to cause school closures will keep normal people from noticing large scale paranormal warfare.

Free at last

Surprisingly, our cool new outfits get a bit more exposition. Apparently they’re what Raijin and Shichiro’s father used to wear. The way this comes up in conversation is a reminder that Shichiro still has outstanding family issues of his own, as do most of the side-characters in this series. This little chat doesn’t exactly add much to the plot at hand, but it does continue to contribute to the richness of character background that this series thrives on.

Cut away to the Yagyou, who are prepping for the support role they’ll have to play in the upcoming battle. This is probably one of the last times we’ll get to see Sen, and he seems more committed now than ever to the background role of information gatherer. Given his abilities, it was the job that most suited him; his acceptance of that is a sure sign that he’s matured.

Especially compared to a certain someone

In rather ironic contrast with his squad, Masamori does actually have a critical role on the front lines, and he’s visibly feeling it. For a long time, he actually was the strongest character that we knew, before others such as Shichiro and Mrs. Sumimura started showing up. Once he wasn’t the strongest, we saw increasingly visible signs of an inferiority complex. All of this buildup gives his excitement at having finally gained a chance at the spotlight completely understandable.

Pressure he's always wanted, that is

The plan Zerogou mentioned last chapter is revealed: Suigetsu and Nichinaga’s companion girls are in hiding, stored away in a magic room that will presumably be quite difficult to find. Nichinaga is as pissed as we’ve ever seen him. At least as far as psychological warfare goes, Zerogou’s plan seems to have worked excellently.

Final Flash: We got see a couple of nice moments from the allied forces, and Zerogou chose the correct way to hurt Nichinaga.

Kekkaishi 327

[scanlation by A-Team]

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

Making it a little hard to concentrate

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

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

Cue up the Mother 3 love theme

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

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

It's important to put ranks in Bluff

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

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

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

Kekkaishi 326

[scanlation by Binktopia]

Tokine’s dive to the center of the earth continues. She’s still using the Kekkai for makeshift stairs rather than just freefalling, a cautious approach that makes perfect sense in light of how much Mahora’s power has been built up.

As Tokine closes in on the center, we’re treated to a bunch of appropriately otherworldly imagery. When she actually reaches him, she wastes no time waking him up. Typical no-nonsense Tokine.

Interesting negotiating tactic

Well, Mahora’s awake now. Diplomacy commences with all the necessary formalities, and Mahora immediately responds by spearing her through the chest with a mass of shadow. This is a pretty neat development. I certainly wasn’t expecting the negotiations to be any kind of easy, but there’s no way Tokine’s done now. How exactly she copes with this will be an interesting measure of her training while she was out of the main story.

Spearing for a spearing

Leaving off at that ideal cliffhanger, the focus switches to Shichiro, whose land god makes a passing comment to the effect that whatever Mahora just did was significant. This is more reaffirmation that land gods are interconnected somehow.

Yoshimori’s mom shows up to ask Shichiro for help with the sealing. Interesting banter between the two, but most of it is just her continuing to to be supremely confident. As little as we’ve seen of her, she feels like an overpowered character already.

Either extremely powerful or extremely arrogant

We come back to Tokine fairly early. I was expecting to have to wait until the next chapter to see more of her.

… not that I mind at all. The panels that depict Tokine sliding out of a skewer are on the high end of fantastic. Her power-up, Utsusemi, is full-on intangibility, something that goes such a long way towards legitimizing her as a capable diplomat. She now has the technique necessary to stand against the worst of demons, nicely complimenting the levelheadedness she’s always had. Without there being some specific limit on how long or how much she can use this one, I sense a significant shift in her Tier List position.

Final Flash: Awesome Tokine chapter, period. Her character was lagging behind Yoshimori’s in power for the longest time. Here, she survives a situation that would likely have killed him, perfectly reestablishing her as a relevant character.

Kekkaishi 325

[scanlation by Binktopia]

Tokine chapter coming up. After being mostly absent for half a year, it’s about time.

Since this Shinyuuichi is, for all intents and purposes, the “ultimate” one, it makes sense that it’s as vast as it seems. Should make it easy for Tokine to evade any pursuit from Oumi’s people.

Tokine’s conversation with Yuugami shows she’s still as serious about her Kekkaishi job as ever. Makes me wonder exactly what she’ll do if if the lord is sealed.

Being able to read a Shinyuuichi isn’t a very flashy power, but it fits Tokine’s analytical style.

Oops, she’s been found! One of the most effective ways to escape any guard is the ability to phase through solid walls. The guard is appropriately flummoxed.

Snake never had it this easy

This guard does seem to have some tricks up his sleeve, using his pipe to conjure up a whole bunch of hunting birds. The subsequent series of panels of Tokine repeatedly escaping is a fun one.

When the guard catches up, he seems to have an offer for Tokine. Apparently he’s one of the many pawns Oumi brought in unwillingly, and is eager to get out.

She finds out that Mahora is directly beneath the tree she encountered earlier. Interestingly, though, she keeps the exit location she was asking for to herself, promising to tell him once she’s done with Mahora. Yoshimori would have told the guy straight off – her not doing so is another indication that she still knows when to reserve trust.

Suddenly there’s a whole lot of intimacy between Zerogou and Suigetsu. I don’t remember these characters being significantly close before.

Either an embracing pose or a kidnapping one

Zerogou seems to be the latest addition to a list of characters with his own separate agenda. This conflict is going to contain a ton of separate plotlines whenever it starts in full.

We leave off with Tokine diving towards a structure that looks a lot like Uro’s bed did way back when. Meeting with Mahora is imminent.

Final Flash: Tokine’s first limelight chapter in a while was well populated by moments reaffirming the type of character she is.  More than anything, though, this was a prelude to negotiating with Mahora.