Monday, November 30, 2015

Tower of God S2 Ep. 178

So not only can Buelsar willing remove his 'only disappears when he dies Hell in a Cell' himself, apparently anyone with enough power can break through it themselves too. That probably means that Buelsar isn't dead, unfortunately. Angel is defeated, but survives when Boro Boro snaps Ehwa back to her senses.

Once again Baam has made a huge power jump, and we get a flashback to when he was training with the God of Guardians to unlock his true potential. Baam lays down some philosophy about how he's discovered that everyone he's met in the tower who aims to stand above others is ultimately only running from something themselves. The 'True Power' he converses with apparently proves this right shortly after when we get a shot of a huge sphere of power completely overshadowing him. Ok.

I'm guessing that this is going to be a contrast between Baam and Zahard... perhaps Zahard was once like Baam but made the opposite decision and ended up corrupted. I wonder what it is that Zahard fears if that's the case.

I liked the scene with Ehwa more, as I think the philosophy of being afraid of your own power so that you can control it without hurting others revealed in Ehwa's flashback is more sensible. Maybe this one just hit me closer to home. Boro Boro's dialog when she was trying to calm Ehwa seemed more out of place, although I guess it sparked the flashback which helped her return to her senses.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

One Piece 808: Duke Inuarashi

Jack as a mammoth zoan is probably confirmed (he may be an artificial zoan, though). Him being Kaido's underling is definitely confirmed now. Sheepshead referred to him as being one of the three calamities, which makes me wonder if the calamities are Kaido's strongest underlings (possibly including Kaido himself?) or just three beings generally known for their destructiveness regardless of affiliation. Probably the former, if I had to guess. I wonder if X Drake is one of these calamities?

So the Gifters group are probably made up of artificial zoans, but is Sheepshead the strongest of the group? Being that he was beaten by Sanji with relative ease, this army of 500 zoans Kaido has doesn't seem like much of a threat anymore if so. There's also a Pleasures group, whose only purpose seemed to be to get crushed by random Mink civilians and show off their Electro power.

Oda has been introducing us to a lot of minor characters ever since the start of this arc, such as Sicilian and the whale forest guardians. Given Sicilian is only one of three musketeers working under Inuarashi while Nekomamushi is likely to have his own elite guard, it seems like this is going to continue. Hopefully this is because they're going to play an important role later, but given that we just had something similar happen when loads of characters were introduced for Dressrosa it has me concerned.

I still can't tell what the conflict of this arc is going to be; I just hope that whatever happens is actually important to the Kaido story Oda's been building up. I don't want to see a lengthy contrived conflict pop up just for the sake of giving the crew something to do on Zou when the plot could be moving on instead.

UQ Holder 103: Protect or be Protected?

Really not a fan of this chapter. Everything that I was afraid of last time ended up happening. Despite this universe being chock full of powerful action girls, Kuroumaru makes it pretty clear that becoming female has severely weakened her. She implies that it's mostly that she's not used to moving in that body... but in that case wouldn't becoming male have the same problem since she was genderless before? At the end, (s)he ends up winning by either forcing him/herself back to her/his original state, or into a male form. I assumed the change was permanent when it was revealed a few chapters ago, but I guess I was proven wrong.

Honestly, Kuroumaru transforming back disappoints me. Him finally falling into a gender seemed like it was going to be a serious change after his condition was hinted at ~80 chapters ago, but now we're right back into the status quo. At the end Kuroumaru even tells us that his feelings for Touta haven't changed, which makes me worry that all the development he was building up over the last few chapters is now moot. At least we know that he's decided he would rather fight beside Touta than be protected by him.

On the bright side, the action scenes in this chapter were pretty interesting to look at. Too bad it ended so quickly once Kuroumaru changed. As I thought last chapter, for all his hype immortal hunter Chao seems to only exist as an embodiment of the worf effect. I had higher hopes for Asura Tu, but he just decided to leave rather anti-climatically. A shame, as I was really hoping that this encounter would lead us out of the recent harem stuff into a more serious plotline.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tower of God S2 Ep. 177

Ah, so we're doing the 'developing minor characters right before they die' cliché. I really should have seen this coming a mile away as soon as I thought Moontari was going to get a real fight sequence... unfortunately I didn't. Bero Bero's fate seems pretty bleak too, but we still haven't seen all of her sugar rush powers so maybe that will be her saving grace. Maybe she'll end up fighting Buelsar in Moontari's place, although right now Baam seems to be going up against him. So much for conserving energy... Moontari probably would have been better off if he just let Baam duo that fight with him.

Angel too seems to be getting beaten, but since she's been one of the most prominent characters on the villain's team I still kind of feel like she has a decent chance of surviving this somehow - of course the flashbacks she just got don't really help her case. It helps that Ehwa doesn't seem like the type to outright kill people, but that is also dependent on how much control she has of her new powers and how pissed off she is at her teammates' deaths.

Ehwa's new flame powers certainly look flashy, probably some of the series' best art, but I don't see how its really different from her earlier powers besides being more powerful. I guess it completely engulfs her in a flaming aura (is that the first time she's done that?) and allows her to fly. Her completely calm appearance is a pretty stark contrast to the raging flames which I liked.

So I guess there was another way to release the chains than killing Buelsar after all, if he's asking Baam to hurry this fight so he can get past. He's such a liar.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

One Piece 807: 10 Days Ago

Not much really happened in this chapter.

Still no idea what's up with Sanji. Oda seems to be quite fond of drawing plot revelations out lately, such as having the samurai agree to tell the Strawhats everything going with them once they reach the top of Zou and then having them repeatedly fall back down. I guess Oda wants to tell us everything in a certain order for maximum dramatic effect, but the ways he's doing so to make that happen just feels contrived. He didn't even give a reason for not telling us about Sanji - he just skipped that conversation and then had the characters talk ambiguously about it so the reader won't find out. The fact that Oda is acting like this, though, makes me partially predict that it's going to be something comedic. We see Brook again in this chapter, and Momosuke is mentioned, although no Ceasar Clown (and obviously no Sanji).

We got a flashback to how the crew evaded the Big Mom pirates, which I wasn't expecting but was glad to see. I think the relative ease at which half the strawhat crew were able to escape a Yonkou's flagship makes the Big Mom pirates look a little weak, although I suppose if she herself had made an appearance it may have turned out much differently.

It's hard to predict what the conflict of this arc will end up being at this point, but the two most likely contenders will either be the samurai or Zou's King of Night Nekomamushi. Possibly the King of Day Inuarashi and he will have some disagreement concerning the visitors to the island, and Nekomamushi might attempt to attack the strawhats. Or the samurai arrive and one or both of the kings will attempt to take their revenge on them, thus forcing the strawhats to intervene.

Is Jack a Mammoth Ancient Zoan? That would be pretty cool.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Onepunch-Man (Original) Chapter 104 Review

For those of you reading the redrawn version of Onepunch-Man by Murata, I should warn you that this is a review of the original Onepunch-Man comic by ONE which is much further ahead. So, if you continue reading, be wary of spoilers.

Saitama and Tatsumaki continue their battle throughout this chapter, rampaging across the country and stampeding into the stories of various side characters as they do so. We start with the introduction of the A-Class rank 34 hero Feather who is fighting to save his lover from N City's notorious Iron Fist gang headed by the A-class criminal Big Iron (none of whom we've ever heard of before). Just as Feather is about to have the heroic second wind to the biggest fight of his life, Saitama and Tatsumaki come crashing in, completely clueless, and offhandedly obliterate the gang. Afterwards, Feather justifiably decides to repress this memory.

We get reappearances of Metal Bat, one of my favorite S-rank heroes, and Speed of Sonic as well in similar circumstances, completely played for comedy. It was nice to see these two again, considering that Metal Bat hasn't been seen since the Alien Arc and Sonic since early in the Garou Arc, even though it doesn't seem likely they'll play much of a role any time soon.

ONE has been introducing a lot of A-rank heroes ever since the start of this arc, which I am pretty iffy about considering that the strongest three of A-class (excluding Sweet Mask) were shown to be pathetically weak compared to an S-rank towards the end of the Garou Arc. I have a hard time understanding just how useful these A-classes can be - even in this arc they've been pretty thoroughly humiliated (such as A-rank 35 hero Air being one-shotted by a severely weakened Evil Natural Water). It makes me wonder if ONE is just introducing them for the sake of filling out A-class when there are more plot centric things he could be using those panels for. However, since some of them, like Air, Butterfly DX, Chain'n'toad, and Forte, have been consistently appearing throughout this arc it does make me more confident that he has some plan in mind for them. Still, there were already plenty of A-rank heroes introduced before this arc,and reusing them probably would have been simpler than creating a whole bunch of new ones (although I suppose many of them might still be hospitalized after being hunted by Garou).

Finally, the battle between Saitama and Tatsumaki comes to an end, and Saitama, despite never going on the offensive at all, clearly has the upperhand. It's revealed, however, that Tatsumaki is still injured from her fights in the Garou arc (understandable since it was only a few days ago chronologically), but absolutely can't stand the thought of losing. When Saitama offers to postpone their fight until she's recovered, she smiles and happily agrees to see him later. Psyche!

At the end we return to Fubuki, who has agreed to Tatsumaki's demands by disbanding her group. It's likely that she's mainly doing this to protect them from her sister, but I don't think her subordinates are going to just let this be either.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

UQ Holder 102: Koroumaru's Date

The big reveal hinted at last week was cut short thanks to a robotic replica of Kuroumaru built by Ikkuu, which frames the girlified Kuroumaru as a relative of his/hers. Kuroumaru then lures Touta into a sightseeing date, though of course Touta remains as clueless as ever. I just hope, however this arc ends up, Touta at least comes to acknowledge Kuroumaru's feelings instead of remaining completely indifferent about it.

What I thought was going to be an uninteresting chapter was certainly spiced up at the end with the reappearance of Xinzqai the immortal hunter. While I think the guy is cool, after Touta's training I'm not sure if he can really be considered much of a threat anymore.

The six armed man behind Xinzqai we've also seen before; Asura Tu of Ala Alba and likely one of Fate's subordinates. Interestingly, there was also a six armed man in similar attire and wielding similar weapons fighting as a part of Kaede's team in the 2015 Mahora tournament footage we saw back in chapter 64. The fact that Asura is a part of Ala Alba just as Kaede was back in Negima makes me wonder if he's related to her former teammate? His skin tone and hair color is a lot like Ku Fei's too, whom the older man lost to in that footage, so maybe he's their son/grandson?

At the end Kuroumaru is brought to her knees by Asura's attack and realizes that she's being overpowered. Maybe this will make her rethink becoming female, desiring strength in order to fight by Touta's side as a friend rather than a lover. Still, there are tons of incredibly powerful females in this verse (and Kuroumaru is already extremely similar, in abilities, appearance, and personality, to Negima's Setsuna, who was arguably one of the strongest), so I can't see 'wanting to be strong' as being a significant reason for Kuroumaru to become male.


Seriously, though, am I the only one who has seen a huge similarity between Kuroumaru and Setsuna ever since the former's introduction? I know a few chapters ago we had a cameo from a kid who is practically Setsuna's clone, but the wing imagery that has occasionally accompanied Kuroumaru's appearance makes me wonder if they might be distantly related. I may well be wrong, but I am suspicious that Kuroumaru's Yatagarasu (meaning three-legged crow) tribe and the crow demons Setsuna was rejected from for having white wings may be one and the same. If she has the same condition as Kuroumaru, then that might put a new spin on her relationship with Konoka too.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fairy Tail 462: Battlefield

All mages guilds in the nation of Bosco have been eliminated. No idea how Warren was able to tell that - the capabilities of his Telepathy magic seem rather ill-defined and have turned him into little more than an exposition device. Whatever, I don't care about him anyways.

We get shots of the various guilds heading to confront the enemy forces in different directions (for some reason walking, and together despite the different guilds likely based in different parts of the country). Then we decide which Fairy Tail members are going to back up which side. I could have lived without this chapter, Mashima could have easily just had the guilds show up on the battlefield instead of spending time telling us who is going where. At the end of the chapter we see Natsu heading straight for Zeref... like he stands a chance.

I think the guild's strategy of ignoring the western front because it's moving slow is kind of stupid. Knowing that Zeref is there should make them even more concerned about it, not less. Maybe they're moving slow now, but once Zeref realizes that most of Fairy Tail forces have dispersed it would be idiotic of him not to rush in and take Fairy Heart while they're weakened.

We see Brandish being kept prisoner, but we don't get any new information from her, so that scene wasn't really necessary either. Marin Hollow is still out in the town and planning to rescue Brandish. Kind of a dumb move for Lucy/Cana to not capture him as well after defeating him. Maybe he got blown away by the Sandstorm?

My Hero Academia 67: Scratching the Veneer

So I was wrong about my prediction in the last review - instead of 2-3 more chapters everything got wrapped up in just 1 more. This was to the detriment of all the matches we saw in this chapter - Iida and Ojiro only got half a page which consisted of little more than the hero praising them for passing. Hagakure and Shouji got even less, just two panels showing them standing in their arena as its announced that they've passed, and then a comment from Midoriya that their match was something like a game of hide and seek. Of the rest, it seems like we skipped over the most important scene in No. 13 vs. Aoyama and Uraraka, as it just sort of cuts to her having forced him to the ground and handcuffed him - although I enjoyed what we did see. Mineta's match was better - at first I thought he just got lucky in pinning Midnight in place, but after rereading I suppose he actually has pretty decent aim. That was probably the most satisfying of the matches. I am disappointed, and really hope that these scenes we've skipped over indeed get expanded on in the anime.

Team Ashido and Team Kirishima don't make it in time which means, if what was implied earlier on is true, they won't be joining the rest of the class at the forest lodge. If my intuition is right (and it was wrong recently, so I wouldn't give it too much merit) and the lodge turns out to be a big arc, then this might be Kouhei's way of reducing the cast herd a bit. Unless they decide to sneak out of summer school or something. Despite being really interesting, My Hero Academia has been moving at lightning pace since early on and, while I don't that's been entirely a bad thing, I think the series would benefit from slowing down its pacing for an important, dramatic arc. That's what I'm hoping for at least, but I don't find it especially likely.

The villain alliance gets another scene which involves them being joined by new recruits (although, knowing Shigaraki, he may well reject them for daring to mention Stain), giving credence to my theory that the next arc will somehow involve the alliance. Judging from the picture he has of Midoriya, I would guess that he's going to have them hunt down the kid as a test. I don't think Kouhei would give us a simple rehash of the USJ arc where the villains randomly show up and start brawling, so I'm really interested to see what he has in store.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tower of God S2 Ep. 176

In order to help Baam conserve his energy for the fight with Hoaquin, his teammate Moontari goes up against Buelsar while, further above, Ehwa continues her battle with Angel.

Although I think he looks pretty cool, and he definitely has some skill judging from the fact that he can use Reverse Flow Control and that he was shown to have defeated Ran, if Buelsar is at the same level as his brother Varagarv I have a hard time imagining that he stands a chance. Perhaps if  Bero Bero joined in. My complaints from the previous chapter still stand though - if this was a character from the Season 1 cast, even a minor one like the knight guy, that we'd stuck with and seen develop then I think I would care more to see him putting his life on the line in a fight like this. I get that Moontari is probably leagues stronger than any of the minor cast from Season 1 and the higher we go the stronger the enemies we face, but they could probably still train to similar levels even if they will always be leagues below Baam and company.

I'm glad that it seems like we're going to get a decent fight scene that doesn't involve one of the A-listers (heck, even Rak hasn't really done much in quite some time), but I think there are better candidates among the new Hell Train regulars (Boro, Aka Williams, Sachi Faker) to get their own fight scenes. That said, I thought Moontari was pretty awesome here, so he gets a pass. I hope Baam really doesn't step in.

Buelsar's 'Hell in a Cage' seems like an oddly specific ability, kind of like a hatsu from Hunter x Hunter. Are the chains permanently conjured? Are there random locations somewhere in the tower where he summoned the chains and didn't die in whatever fight he was in, thus leaving the chains there forever? Did he not also just cut himself off from his teammate? Assuming there's really no other way to pass, then this is bringing up a death flag for Buelsar. I thought it was a bit early into the arc for Hoaquin's teammates to start kicking the bucket (although I'm sure Hoaquin will still claim the lead in this game), and am happy that SIU seems to be proving me otherwise. Reducing the number of characters running around is a good thing in my book.

Angel kills Hongjo to prove how evil she is and prompts a shounen power up from Ehwa. Pretty cliché stuff, but I'm interested to see that unfold. Guess it will have to wait until next week.

My gripes aside, I thought this was a pretty good chapter.

One Piece Volume 76 Review

One Piece Volume 76: Just Keep Going

Contained Chapters: 

  • Chapter 753: Battle
  • Chapter 754: Making Acquaintance
  • Chapter 755: A Man's World
  • Chapter 756: The Fourth Step
  • Chapter 757: Trump Card
  • Chapter 758: Just Keep Going
  • Chapter 759: Secret Plan
  • Chapter 760: The Same Bet
  • Chapter 761: The Op-Op Fruit
  • Chapter 762: The White Town
  • Chapter 763: Declaration of Humanity

The volume title 'Just Keep Going' is very fitting for the first half of the volume, which is almost all set up involving the characters continuing their charge for the palace to take down Doflamingo. Aside from a few of the less notable gladiators getting taken out rather easily by Dellinger, only one named character is really defeated in the first half. We get some scenes from ongoing battles, such as Franky vs. Senor Pink and Zolo vs. Pica, and we get an idea of who will be involved in other battles, but for the most part it seemed like Oda was putting everything into place before the real action can start. Much like the last chapter, there were several points along the journey to the palace where characters on Luffy's side stayed behind to allow Luffy and co. to continue forward (some characters stay behind to fight the Donquixote Family on the second step, others stay behind the third step, and a couple more on the fourth - pretty standard shounen stuff). By the time what's left of the party does reach Doflamingo's palace, it's been cut down to a mere two fighters. 

The highlight of the first half is probably the return of Sugar, and Usopp somehow managing to accomplish a 'Go on Without Me' spiel despite being kilometers away from Luffy at the time. Unlike the rest of these battles that are left hanging, this one actually receives some resolution and, after Usopp's anticlimactic victory in their last encounter, I actually found it pretty satisfying. 

In the latter half of the volume, Round 3 with Doflamingo finally kicks off but is quickly interrupted as we get a look into the Donquixote Family's past. I think there's better ways for lengthy flashbacks to be framed than right in the middle of climatic fight scenes, but as far as contents go this is pretty interesting stuff. Seeing how the family operated back in the day was definitely engaging, and - while the flashback is still only halfway through - the feud between the family and Law that motivated this entire story arc is starting to take shape.

As much as I love it... I still have to think that it would've had a much better impact if it had happened earlier on, Either after Law's capture, or sometime between then and when the final charge for the palace started. Instead, the volume continually builds up towards a series of climatic action scenes throughout this volume and the last, finally gives us a taste of what we've been promised when Luffy reaches Doffy... and then completely halts everything so Oda can explain why all of this is happening and give us more reasons to care. The major flashbacks in the CP9 saga both had the feel of dramatic intermissions, and the latter served to hype us up before the Strawhats went up against their opponents in CP9; we didn't get into the real action and then pause it. I'm not saying that this flashback, once it's concluded, won't get us more excited for the fight scene, but my problem is all of the set up Oda fed us in the first half of the volume was already building up our anticipation. By cutting away from that action, at least in my experience, it makes the audience lose some of that initial hype when showing it at an earlier point could have complimented it. Anyways, I've ranted enough about that.

Overall, the first half of this volume feels like Oda is setting all his pieces in place for the final battle between the heroes and the Donquixote Family. The obligatory flashback that takes up most of the second half might feel intrusive at first, but its contents are interesting enough to make you happily forget that. I'd say that, with everyone now matched up against their respective opponents, this long running arc seems like its ready to be sped towards a conclusion... but there's a lot of fight scenes that have been set up which we've still only seen a tiny bit of. Either a lot of them are going to get brushed under the rug, or this arc still has a ways to go.

My Rating: 6/10

((Just to note, while I obviously am up to date with the weekly release if you look at my chapter reviews, as this is a volume review I've tried to avoid spoilers for anyone that might be reading only in this way.))

Friday, November 13, 2015

Fairy Tail 461: For Whose Sake is That Parfum?

Wahl turns out to have a lot more up his sleeve than I first expected and the Thunder God Tribe get taken out in their attempt to save Ichiya. Unfortunately, it seems they'll be out of commission for the rest or at least most of this arc, much like with Tartaros.

I wonder how Ichiya realized the attack was coming and managed to mobilize the ship so quickly; I guess he was listening in on Fairy Tail's telepathic connection. The fact that the ship has the ability to broadcast speech all throughout Fiore seems like it should be fairly advanced magic and makes me wonder why they even had such a feature installed in the first place.

I wasn't expecting it to be done in this way, but I think everyone knew that the other guilds would be lending a hand in the upcoming battle. It seems awfully befuddling that Fairy Tail didn't contact the other guilds themselves when it should have been obvious that they wouldn't hesitate to lend a hand (and that they would need the support if they wanted to stand a chance). Ever since Alvarez was first introduced by describing how many mage guilds it has in comparison to Ishgar, it seemed obvious that it was going to involve other guilds as well.

Tower of God S2 Ep. 175

A late review, but I don't have much to say.

I'm glad to finally see more from Yihwa/Ehwa after she's spent so many chapters doing very little. Yes, she got her time in the limelight against Cassano along with Wangnan, but that didn't last long. It seems hopeless for Prince, Miseng, and Akraptor, but she might actually get her own fight scene soon.

For the matter where is Cassano? I don't think he's really done anything since boarding the Hell Train, and he's supposed to be the entire reason the heroes came there in the first place. I really dislike the Jedi robes Hoaquin's team are all wearing, they make it a pain to differentiate each team member. I'm not even sure how many people are on his team at this point; it seems like there's a lot of characters on that side that sort of disappeared between arcs. What ever happened to Michael, Apple, and Traveller? I think the Traveller might still be with them, but he's wearing that robe so I can't tell. Overall, there's too many characters on either side for me to keep track of, and so many of them I don't care about.

A prime example are the two travelling with Ehwa, Bero Bero and Pompidou (had to look up their names). They've been recurring background characters for awhile, just doing their own thing until they got mixed into the fray and suddenly started receiving focus. While I don't mind that happening in and of itself, with SIU it happens much to often - almost always to the detriment of existing characters. In the next arc, if they don't disappear altogether, the same thing will probably happen to them. I just wish the series would stick with the characters it already has and develop them instead of overhauling the supporting cast every arc.

Maybe if they'd stuck with the characters that passed 2f at the end of Season 1, even the background ones, and developed them over time instead of constantly changing up the cast, I would care a lot more about what is going on in this arc. Team Tangsooyook from the start of Season 2 seemed like they were heading in this direction, but even they have been shafted by the constant influx of new characters many of whom are much stronger (and thus more important) than them.

*Sigh* I still fondly remember the time when Akraptor and Horyang went toe to toe with Viole in a Mêlée à Trois back at the start of the season, but now Horyang is unconscious in a hospital some 8 floors below where the cast is now while Akraptor is stuck in a cage.

My Hero Academia 66: Midoriya's Class Observational Record

Apologies for the delayed release of this review.

So Bakugou and Midoriya are brought to Recovery Girl's office to recover, and since Midoriya is still conscious he asks to stay and watch his classmates' complete their tests. I think that would be some sort of policy breach, since this is the End of Term exam and all, but evidently not as she agrees. I like it though, as it fits well into Midoriya's character and it gives an in-story excuse to view the rest of the class.

Knowing Kouhei, I was sure that we were going to see how the entire class handled their tests, but I was expecting just a page or two for the secondary characters similar to what happened in the Sports Festival tournament. It's now looking like each pair from this point on is going to get around 1/2 to 1/3 of a chapter dedicated to them; which I'm not complaining about. I was partially hoping that the upcoming anime would stretch out the scenes we see nothing or very little of as filler (like Iida vs. Thorn Girl in the Sports festival, where we only heard him describe how he won). They can still do that though, however, given the manga's fast pacing.

Tsuyu and Tokoyami both placed very high in the recent popularity poll, so it's not surprising to see the two of them place third. They handle themselves pretty well, and both Midoriya and Recovery Girl note them as being very skilled. I just want to take a moment to say how awesome Ectoplasm is, both in quirk and in appearance; probably my favorite Pro Hero right now sans All Might. I do think the way the two ending up winning could have been portrayed a little better; the fast pacing hurt the scene in my opinion and just made Ectoplasm look negligent. This is one of those scenes that I hope gets expanded on in the anime.

We see Ashido and Kaminari being played with like the principal. I don't know if he's a Pro Hero, but I love the mouse guy too. He always seemed kind of random to me, but Recovery Girl's comment about him being toyed with by humans completely turned the character around in my mind. The way he messes with the two from above using construction equipment to alter their surroundings brings to mind imagery of a lab mouse in a maze. I wonder if he was once an ordinary mouse, that somehow obtained a quirk through experimentation? I would love to see some backstory for him in the future.

Next we have Present Mic testing Jirou and Kouda in a forest area. Both are secondary characters (as far as the class goes), and Kouda is one of the rare few who we still know next to nothing about. The author seems to have realized that and remedied it by giving him arguably the biggest focus in this scene. We had an offhand mention of his quirk a few chapters ago, but its only here that it actually comes into play. We even get a brief flashback from him as he learns to overcome a crippling phobia he has. I did like how this test ended up concluding.

I expect to spend 2-3 more chapters following the rest of the class' tests before moving on. Looking back at the chapter where the pairs were announced, it seems like the remaining matches are:

  • The Principal vs. Ashido and Kaminari
  • No. 13 vs. Aoyama and Uraraka 
    • I imagine this one will be on the longer side, as we still need to see the results of Uraraka's training Battle Hero Gunhead in the Field Training Arc. 
  • Midnight vs. Sero and Mineta
    • As I recall, Sero is out of commission from Midnight's quirk. Given that Mineta appears at the end of this chapter, I'm guessing the next one is likely to involve them.
  • Snipe vs. Hagakure and Shouji
    • Shouji is another character who has mostly been in the background; but I personally think of him as one of the class' best. If not in this arc, I really want to see him have a chance to shine.
  • Cementoss vs. Satou and Kirishima
    • Satou is probably tied with Kouda for being the least developed of any character in 1-A. We don't even know his quirk. I'm expecting this match to play out a lot like Jirou and Kouda's.
  • Power Loader vs. Iida and Ojiro
    • Power Loader is like Ectoplasm in that he's a hero that we know exactly nothing about (as far as I recall, at least). Hoping to see Iida in action soon so he can showcase some of his character development from the last arc.

I'm hoping that all of this development is setting up for something big. Everyone who passes this test is supposed to be heading to a forest lodge over summer break, and, given how the series usually alternates between school activities and real villain combat, it's likely that something is going to go wrong. 

On a side note, my order of My Hero Academia Volume 2 has come in this morning, along with One Piece 76, Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer 3-4, and Hunter x Hunter 17 (a missing number in my collection). I haven't gotten around to rereading Volume 1, but I do plan to do that before I review Volume 2.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

UQ Holder 101: Kuroumaru-Kun's Cares

A few chapters ago I said I was concerned that Kuroumaru, after admitting his feelings, would continue another 100 chapters without any real development, and it seems that Akamatsu is proving me wrong. Although I don't care much for the Kuroumaru/Touta ship, I'm glad to see that the former is finally getting some character development. It still completely revolves around Touta and that shows no signs of changing, but I'll take it.

The genderless-until-teens attribute of Kuroumaru's tribe we've known about for 80+ chapters is finally coming to a head, and his interest in Touta seems to have officially made him (now her I guess) female. Since (s)he clearly identified as male early on in the series I was partially hoping that this would stick, but deep down I always knew that Kuroumaru would end up a girl. Akamatsu is known for his work in harem/fanservice mangas, and if he had the chance to make more female characters I was sure he would go for it (even if this technically wasn't a harem series until a few chapters ago). Still, if this is what it takes for Kuroumaru to finally be fleshed out then I'm completely for it.

Apparently Kuromaru doesn't actually get a choice in what gender she becomes as I previously thought, but rather it naturally develops from her mental state. So if she likes a boy then she'll become a girl and vice-versa. It seems clear that the changes are past the point of no return now, with Akamatsu really driving home the point by putting a picture her in girl's clothing as the cover image and dressing her in a sundress in the actual chapter.

Kirie vows to help foster Kuroumaru's relationship with Touta despite obviously having the hots for him as well. So it seems clear that we're going to get an arc about her coming to terms with her feelings for him in the future too. I actually didn't mind her attraction to him in the past because it was always in the background and kind of funny, but I hope every female character's development doesn't revolve around how they like Touta. Even Yukihime seems like she's going to go in that direction (and I still stand behind my prediction that she's probably going to be the winner of the harem in the end, if any winner is revealed at all).

Despite all this, I just don't get why everyone is suddenly longing for Touta. Kuromaru gives us an explanation as to what she finds appealing in him, and - other than pulling her out of a life of immortal hunting for a tribe of people who thought of her as trash way back in the first volume - everything else just comes off as Marty Stu-ish to me. Even the one thing I can agree with I find a bit distasteful because of how simply cliche that whole encounter was. Touta's relationship with past-Evangaline I liked, even if it felt a bit fast-paced, and Kirie's attraction to him always came off as a little girl with a crush, but Mizore's came completely out of left field. Shinobu, while obviously liking him, has had so little impact that I barely even notice her presence. Maybe in the future these latter two will get more focus, but for now their only purpose seems to be to fill out the harem in my eyes.

The thing is, I could totally see why all the girls in Negima crushed after Negi. Many started it jokingly because he was smart/cute, but when it became clear just how immense of a hardworker he was it started to become a serious attraction. While obviously played up (because harem manga), the class' interest in him, for the most part, actually made sense to me. Not to mention that Negi's obliviousness was well-excused there due to him being both a child and their teacher, and when it became undeniable he actually struggled to not hurt their feelings. In contrast, Touta just has a harem dumped on him for being super talented and cool, and he's such an airhead that he doesn't get the message even when someone confesses to his face. I really hope he grows out of this in the future.

The end of this chapter makes it seem likely that this is going to happen, at least in regards to Kuroumaru, so I'm really interested to see where this goes.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

One Piece 806: Right Belly Fortress

It seems we're doing a repeat of the From the Decks of the World cover story. Probably better than devoting pages in the actual story to showcasing everyone's reactions as Oda has done in the past, but I don't think really all that much is likely to have changed from the last time. Maybe this will be shorter than the previous one, or maybe it will unveil details the last one didn't get to show. I still would have liked to see something about other characters introduced since - give us an arc about the misadventures of one of Luffy's new subordinate crews for instance.

The weird rain that Sanji's group encountered a few chapters ago turns out to be seawater spat out by the elephant's trunk - which I think was pretty obvious. I like the detail Oda goes into explaining how the Mink civilization works.

So Jack came to Zou looking for someone - possibly a Mink. And apparently he's dead from the battle we last saw him preparing to enter. But, of course, no body was found, so the laws of shounen dictate that he's still out there somewhere. Still no confirmation that he's with Kaido either, though I still think it's likely.

I wonder if Kaido himself is a mink - it might explain those strange horns of his, and it could possibly relate to the Zou elephant's apparent immortality. Could Jack have been looking for Kaido? There are several horned characters in the story as well - Caeser Clown and the butler Merry from what I recall. Could they possibly have some mink blood?

The relationship of Law's crew to Zou has been explained through Bepo, but there's still some unknown links we don't know of. What was the samurai's goal in traveling to Zou? Why were the people Sanji's group fought back in 795 reportedly looking for samurai? Were they Minks (having been riding the same kind of crocodile as Wanda, some having devil-like horns, and weird animal-like powers) or Kaido/Jack's men? Why did Kin'emon react negatively upon hearing Kaido's name way back before Dressrosa. And why are the samurai being so secretive about this? They said they were going to come clean upon reaching the top of Zou, but being the troll that he is it seems that Oda's going to be making a running gag out of them getting knocked down before they can climb all the way down.

If I had to guess, the Sheepshead person Sanji took out is in fact working for Kaido, horn ability he uses is either the result of a Paramecia horn fruit or an artificial zoan.

After freaking ages, our crew is finally reunited. Almost. Sanji, Brook, Momonosuke, and Caesar (if you can really count the last two) are still nowhere to be seen. And apparently something's up with Sanji, but Oda dickishly cleverly ends the chapter mid-sentence. Is it related to the Only Alive message on his wanted poster? It's pretty much impossible that he's dead, but it might be that the characters believe he is.

Right now I'm thinking that Zou might turn out to be a fairly short arc - right now there just doesn't seem to be any real conflict that's necessarily tied to the island. If Jack doesn't show up out of nowhere, then we might get another 5-20 chapters of exposition/flashbacks before the crew decides to set sail for some reason that will be revealed in that time (right now, looking like it will be due to Sanji). We'll probably get some explanation of the Mink's Electro power too, and maybe there will be some sort of short training/trial of strength arc where the crew is pitted against Zou's warriors (Oda has to be introducing them for some reason). I really hope they're not just being introduced here to be another group in Luffy's army of subordinates.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Fairy Tail 459-460: Double Chapter

Fairy Tail 459: Weakness
Fairy Tail 460: Pegasus Descends

Natsu saves Erza, who soon passes out as would be expected. I should note that since my last review I've recalled that the reason Erza didn't use her Wind Armor/Water Sword earlier was that Marin was negating her requip for most of the fight (though she was using it just fine at the start of the fight). I'm not particularly satisfied with that explanation considering that Marin was on the other side of the city and the size of a toothpick at the time. His power is very OP for a B villain, and Fairy Tail is immensely lucky Brandish weakened him. Still, it's a better explanation than I previously thought, so that's good.

The pollen kicked up by Ajeel's sandstorm sends Brandish into a sneezing fit and gives a chance to easily take her out. Pretty darn lucky as well, but I guess not everything has to go wrong for the heroes in a story.

Wahl shows up with some mechanical soldiers designed to counter Gray, Juvia, and the Strauss Siblings and then decides to leave. Kind of a dumb move considering how obvious the counter to this is - he could have at least made like ten of them for each of the five targets; but maybe the magic is limited to just one per person.

He confronts the Thunder God Tribe, and when their eye magics fail to have an effect on him he reveals himself as a machine too. Makes me wonder why he was disguising himself as human to begin with considering that he decides to transform at pretty much the drop of a hat. I kind of prefered his old appearance, but I guess both of his transformations are more shounen in appearance.

I did like Ichiya as comedic relief here as well.

While it had really cool art, the climax of this battle showcases a recurring problem I have with Fairy Tail battles - oneshots abound. The villain is utterly crushing the heroes, until they either have a friendship power up or pull out a new power and claim victory in a single big panel exactly like the one at the end of chapter 460. The other Thunder Gods oneshot their opponents too once they decide to switch, which was disappointing to me as I wanted to see more of them. Whatever, I guess they are C-listers. Although it does seem likely that Wahl will recover somehow soon, it doesn't make his easy defeat here after powering up any more forgivable.

Tower of God S2 Ep.174

Hoaquin is upset at Rachel's weakness and vows to not let her participate anymore. No way it will end just like that, though; there's definitely something up with Rachel. If I had to guess, she's aiming for the Slayer Candidate position. I'm interested to see if Rachel will survive this arc and cement herself as an antagonist - there's still clearly a lot we don't know about her, Baam has been chasing after her without success practically the entire season. I don't want this arc to end with things just going back to how they were. We still know very little about FUG, except that they seem to be literally responsible for every bad thing the heroes encounter. Yuri's presence, after not having been around Baam since the first few chapters, seems promising, but this happened before at the end of Season 1 and they ended up not meeting.

Then again, I absolutely loved the end of Season 1, so if SIU can pull off a similar feat here I would be glad.

We get some other cutaway scenes that I don't think were wholly necessary. Yuri comments about Kun having shown some skill in the last chapter, notes that the conductor doesn't seem to have much time, and one of them says they should continue watching. Kun is sitting while his team is celebrating contemplating things we already know. I'm sure he's foreshadowing that Vicente is planning to betray Wangnan's group (seriously, he's been suspicious as heck ever since easily forgiving Wangnan for backstabbing him), but I still think it could have been done in a way that actually gives us more information. Prince's group gets a scene where they recap the fact that, yes, they've just been stuck in a cage for a month doing nothing. So much for those three's (Akraptor, Miseng, Prince) big badass introduction in beating the Mirotic Guardian just a bit earlier in this arc; once again they seemed doomed to becoming fodder. I still have some hope for Wangnan, but the rest I can't see actually truly mattering again. They mention seeing something and then the scene cuts away. Basically these three scenes only served to assure that something deeper is going on, but don't try to give us anything really substantive.

Even though this isn't the typical shounen, right now it sure feels like a pretty cliche tournament arc where we get boring cutaways of characters commenting or talking between every fight but not actually doing anything.

Second stage kicks off in an enormous, labyrinth-like engine called 'The 74th Motor Section'. The name is weird as heck and kind of sucks the drama out of the scene, but I get the intention. Its supposed to be an enormous engine for the Hell Train that doubles as a battle stage, and the Hell Train is so huge that apparently there are at least 74.

We get an explanation of the rules for the second game 'Transferring the Sweetfish'. The part about splitting into teams and navigating the labyrinth to the core is pretty straightforward, but the Dallar aspect really starts to get confusing. They can steal Dallars by fighting with the enemy, use 15 dallars to lock doors and avoid fighting, but the part about the amount of Dallars doubling or even quadrupling I'm not sure about. Maybe I'm missing something. Only Kun seems to have the multiplier applied, and it only multiplies the sum of his teammate's dallars. I guess because he's the only one with more than 10?

Overall, I'm a bit conflicted over the Dallar Show game in general. Keeping track of who has what seems like it could bog down the narrative, and so far it doesn't actually seem like it's really necessary. Without the Dallars it would be a be a simple labyrinth run which I guess SIU doesn't like doing, but by adding them we now have to keep track of who has what and what they can afford to do. Except, in my mind, SIU clearly knew that what he gave out in the preceding chapters wasn't enough to make things interesting, so he added the complicated 'doubling, tripling, quadrupling' system. I think there are much simpler ways he could have gone about this. Not that I dislike the concept completely; I once ran a roleplay with a similar challenge called 'Points Game' that I remember fondly.

This whole chapter was set up, so we'll see how the action unfolds next time. I'm not expecting Baam's team to maintain their lead for long.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

UQ Holder 100: Intimate Exchange

More harem developments that I don't really care much about. With both another nude scene and another bath scene both in this chapter, it brings to mind the last arc of Negima which I felt really tried to both bring back and ramp up the fanservice as if to make up for the very long and serious magical world arc. I'm not really a fan, and was hoping we'd have something more plot heavy for the big 100th chapter.

Notably, Kuroumaru briefly thought about how right it felt when he was protecting Touta. Maybe he'll have some development sooner than I thought.

At the end Yukihime ended up inadvertently performing the 'back scrubbing ritual', which to me is a sign that Akamatsu is really aiming to push that ship. The previous arc has already given her the biggest leg to stand on amongst the harem, even if she's already rejected the notion. Although, I'm wondering if we'll yet again have the series end without it ever being resolved.

And Santa's just sitting there relaxing. When can he matter again? Why aren't there any girls fawning over him?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer Volume 1-2

I was first introduced to Mizukami Satoshi's work through Spirit Circle which I greatly enjoyed. I heard good things about his other work, Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, and decided to buy the first volume (actually the first two, since they're released in English in two volume omnibuses).

Even just two volumes in, I found myself greatly enjoying this manga. Many long running series like this really take their time to get into gear, and this series too clearly had a lot that needed to be set up - it's even admitted at the end of the second volume the entire story up to this point was merely a prologue to the true story - but I feel that the author managed to achieve a good balance. Rather than introducing us to the world, he spent almost all of the two volumes introducing us to the characters and allowing us to really come to love them. The result is that we still know very little - Who is the Mage? Why is he trying to destroy the world? What exactly are the Beast Knights that are trying to stop him, and why do they say that this has all happened before? What happens when the characters dream? Really, almost nothing about the setting and threat we are facing has been answered.

But, the author has succeeded beautifully in making me want to find out. The setting, so far, doesn't seem to be anything especially groundbreaking for an action/adventure manga - it's the characters, their developments, and their relationships where this series truly shines. If you're looking for a shounen series filled with obligatory fight scenes and flashy superpowers, then this might not be for you as characters spend a lot more time out of combat than it. When the fights do happen, they are definitely a treat, but I found myself enjoying watching the characters as they went about their lives - going on dates, a night of drinking, celebrating birthdays, or going to visit ailing family members - just as much.

Each volume within the Omnibus loosely follows its own self-contained plot which gives finishing each half a sense of satisfaction; although Volume 1 doesn't have quite as strong a finish as Volume 2 did. With a character integral to Volume 2 (actually named in the volume's title... the Dog Knight) being introduced rather suddenly at the end of Volume 1, I would say the two halves fit very well together.

Said character, Hangetsu, (or rather, his abilities) annoyed me at first, completely exemplifying the Always Someone Better trope despite not even using his Dog Knight powers; but Volume 2 did a good job of warming me up to him. Aside from everything related to the Princess, Beast Knights, and the Mage, this manga's setting seemed fairly grounded in reality; so to see him effortlessly defeating people capable of sending large cars flying long distances was rather jarring. I would expect to see something like that in a series like One Piece where Charles Atlas powers are commonplace, I wasn't expecting it here after how big a deal was made of normal people not standing a chance against the golems. Another character made a big deal out of Hangetsu being famous for his strength, so that helped alleviate it, but I still wasn't satisfied with the explanation behind it ("he practices ancient martial arts, so obviously he's strong"). Maybe this will be expanded on later, though, so this isn't a judgement I can make just yet.

The two main characters were a breath of fresh air. Yuuhi's reluctance to accept the call, while done fairly commonly in series like these, was fun to see. His commitment to that decision is admirable (after all, what do they really expect a normal person to be able to do against a planet-sized superweapon, and even the power he receives as the Lizard Knight isn't good for much more than flipping skirts), and, when he inevitably does come around, his partner Noi is appropriately horrified at his reasoning. I've read numerous other series with similar antisocial, jerkish lead characters; a pet peeve of mine is when this is never elaborated on and they are portrayed as jerks just for the sake of being jerks. I am glad that Yuuhi did not fall into this pitfall - much of the first volume is spent exploring the reason for how he has become who he is today and his struggle to break free of that. Sometimes I prefer big character development arcs to be saved for a bit later in a longer series, otherwise the character will either end up stagnating afterwards or else the author will continually have to raise the bar in order to keep him/her interesting, but I'm glad we got this out of the way right off the bat.

The female lead, Samidare, was kept fairly mysterious in the first volume, though her childish simple-mindedness was something that set her apart from the lead characters of other series. I expected her to be the typical hotheaded shounen idiot hero at first, as she definitely shows elements of one, but she too has been portrayed in a way that keeps her from mixing too deeply into that group. Her backstory was explored a little more in the second volume (though there's still much to know), and like Yuuhi it made her character more understandable although she hasn't experienced much development yet.

So far, I definitely have to recommend this series, and I can't wait to read the next pair of volumes.