Sword Art Online Calibur Review

As I am currently playing through the Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet game, I figured that I should finally go and wrap up one of the spin-off manga titles. This one shot is based on the mini Asgard arc and has always been known as a relatively weak story. Unfortunately the manga makes it even worse by adding in a ton of fan service so you can probably already tell how this review is going to end.

The manga starts off with Suguha letting Kirito know that some players have finally found out the location of the hidden sword Excalibur. The heroes had found it about a year earlier but because they were so slow the rest of the world caught up. Kirito has to form a group of 7 people in order to conquer this quest but it may prove more dangerous than expected. If the heroes don’t complete the mission quickly than the whole virtual game will turn from a happy fairy based one into an apocalyptic ice land. Fortunately Kirito is up to the task.

This is Sword Art Online so I should probably bring up the unfortunate fan service right away since we all know that it’s coming. The manga sets the tone for how this is going to play out right from the beginning as the very first panel on the first page is a fan service shot. The author even mentions at the end that he added more than usual. It is constant enough during the volume where it probably happens every chapter. Some of the scenes are totally made up for the manga and really don’t help the overall case. It really limits what the rest of the manga can hope to accomplish.

At least the general art looks pretty good. The characters are very detailed and this translates well into the fight scenes. The quality here is high so it’s too bad that this artist couldn’t have picked a better arc than this one. Of course, this manga also has to have a quick flashback to a certain scene in arc 2 just to fit that extra bit of fan service in. So, very solid art but it’s used for scenes that really don’t help the overall manga.

Fortunately Kirito is a pretty solid main character as per usual. He comes up with the plan to save the day and even uses a new skill that is game breaking. He is always surpassing his limits so it should really come as no surprise. Even when everyone tries to mess with Kirito like putting him on the spot by asking if he would pay for the meal, Kirito takes it in stride. He was happy to pay and comes across as a solid team player.

Klein unfortunately looks about as bad as ever. He is still a very desperate character who will try to ask out a computer program and he is also super weak. The guy doesn’t even work well as a comic relief character but he does help to make Kirito look even better. That always seems like the real reason Kirito keeps him around. Klein just can’t go one page without humiliating himself.

Sinon gets the biggest role from all of the heroines. Unfortunately the author uses it for the wrong reasons at times but at least her fight scenes are solid. Since her bow and arrow skills are double that of the usual max, her weapon is actually pretty overpowered. Her reaction times are likely second only to Kirito’s here so that is very useful as well. Considering that she has apparently had the account for a day (if I recall correctly) Sinon must have trained a great deal.

Leafa is around just to feel bad for the creatures getting destroyed by the other players but doesn’t do much beyond that. If anything she can be a little on the annoying side since she knows about the Asgard myths but conveniently forgets about them until right after the fight. Asuna, Lizbeth, and Silica don’t actually get to do anything. They are basically just here to fill up the party.

Then we have the main villain who is certainly a terrible character. He’s a very sketchy villain whose goals are terrible and so there is absolutely nothing to root for in his character. There is also the prisoner who has a big plot twist which does not help her character. That’s because her actions up until the plot twist are extremely manipulative and she was basically using the heroes. Certainly not a very nice thing to do if you ask me. Not that it would have been much better without the twist but the character was having too much fun with her role. The plot twist is pretty obvious but the manga does a good job with it since the characters are self aware about it. They all know the twist but decide to play along anyway. Even then they only play along because Klein essentially forced them into doing so.

I think the only positive change that the manga did was give Sinon an extended fight. At the very least I don’t recall that happening in the show. It’s not much, but it shows that the manga did something right. With the artist’s skills he/she should still do well in a future SAO manga provided they focus on fight scenes and not adding anything else that would be tragic for the manga’s score.

Overall, This was definitely not a good SAO volume and it doesn’t do this wounded franchise any wonders. It just continues to make the same mistakes that the franchise has always made. It had great fight scenes, but is bogged down by all of the fanservice. I’d recommend just sticking to the original Sword Art Online manga instead of checking this one out. You’ll thank me for it someday.

Overall 4/10


Strobe Edge Review

It’s time to look at a romance manga. Naturally that will cause some alarm bells to ring off and with good reason since it’s rare for romance to be handled well and especially when it’s the main focus of a whole series. However, you could make the case that because romance is the main plot of this series it may be given more attention and the author will do a better job of depicting it. Unfortunately, this isn’t true, but the manga does tackle some fairly interesting themes.

The manga follows a kid named Ninako who begins to like the most popular kid in the school, Ren. The problem is that he is already taken by a famous celebrity and they have been together for a very long time. This celebrity is the sister of Ninako’s childhood friend Daiki who liked Ninako, but she turned him down. Ninako decides that it wouldn’t be right to try and get Ren and Mayuka to break up just so she can get together with him so she tries to hide her feelings. Unfortunately this begins to take a bigger and bigger strain on her so should she forget about the moral side of this and just go for it? She has some tough decisions to make.

That’s the big topic that the manga spends time with. It’s a complicated issue that has a very simple answer. Yes, if the person that you like is taken then you shouldn’t make a move. That person should be considered out of limits and you have to completely lose those feelings before you get into trouble. It’s so incredibly selfish to sabotage a relationship just so that you can insert yourself into the empty spot. Yeah, it’s pretty tragic for Ninako here, but she’s just got to live with it. She gets advice from her friends on both sides. One suggests that if the relationship is so weak that it can be broken then it should be broken. That sounds like pretty bad advice if you ask me. It’s all just trying to justify this action. Ninako does a good job of showing restraint for a while, but unfortunately she does begin to break down by the end. I’ll still give her a thumbs up since it was Mayuka who forced her hand by breaking up with Ren, but that was also iffy.

Basically, Mayuka seemed to only break up with Ren because she figured he’d be happier with Ninako. So, now that she isn’t an option Ren is okay with being with her, but that should still make Ninako feel guilty the whole time. Ren and Mayuka would have likely been happy if not for her meddling. Mayuka also shouldn’t have conceded defeat so quickly. Then we’ve got a lot of other rebounding occurring at the school. After Daiki was rejected by Ninako he was accepted by one of her friends and they got together. Considering the short time span in between these two, it definitely doesn’t feel as genuine as it could be. Same with Ando going after Ninako and after getting rejected he quickly got together with someone else. It’s like the characters instantly move on to their second pick after getting rejected. Don’t the characters mind being the second pick?

There is definitely a lot of unrequited love in this series. It’s definitely an interesting theme for sure, but it didn’t have the right conclusion. What should have happened was Ninako realizing that she and Ren could never be together and deciding to instead just be friends. That way they would still hang out and she could enjoy their time again. The series would have had a bittersweet ending that way, but it would have been much better. Sometimes the friend zone is actually the best place to be since friendship is magic after all.

So yeah, Ninako is a solid Protagonist. She tends to have the right idea about how to handle the situations she’s in. Unfortunately, she is highly susceptible to peer pressure though and her friends often give her poor advice. She is also put into a lot of tough situations that keep on lowering her will power. Ninako’s resolve is good though and at the very least she doesn’t make any real moves on Ren until after the break up. She handles rejection better than the rest of the cast and while the ending is iffy on a lot of levels, the majority of it isn’t really her fault. Ren is the one who is the main culprit.
It’s just impossible to like Ren and even harder to sympathize with him. For starters, his friendship being broken with Ando was his fault. Ren allowed Ando’s girlfriend to get the jump on him and pull some moves before he broke away. Naturally Ando witnessed this and quickly stopped hanging out with Ren. I don’t even blame him because no matter how many times you explain that you were shocked and couldn’t move I wouldn’t believe it. Then Ren was with Mayuka for a long time, but still fell for Ninako. He wasn’t nearly as good as she was at holding in his feelings or not making it obvious in public. Naturally this wasn’t good for Mayuka especially since she was in a stressful period of trying to get her fashion gigs up and running. When Mayuka dumped Ren so he could be with Ninako, he should have kept on persisting that this wouldn’t happen. Perhaps if a few weeks or months had passed and Ren hadn’t gotten together with anyone then Mayuka would see that he was serious. Instead, he basically tried going after Ninako immediately which completely proved her to be correct. Ren is definitely the kind of guy that seems to play the field and while the manga tries to portray him as a really nice guy who always tries to make the right call, I wasn’t buying it. He causes at least 90% of the issues in the series.

Then we’ve got Daiki, the childhood friend. It’s a little sad for him at the start since the whole cast seems to think that he and Ninako are basically together. It’s what everyone expects and Ninako never really says anything to the contrary. As a result, when she rejects him it may seem kind of sudden, but that’s why you should never assume relationships. Of course, Daiki rebounded almost immediately so there went any possible sympathy you may have had for him. He’s also not a trust worthy friend to have as he admits to everyone that Mayuka is a celebrity and about her break up even though he was supposed to keep it under wraps. As a result, the full cast learned about this pretty quickly. Nah, Daiki’s not a quality character.

See, I would say that Ando is a good character since he’s certainly more fun than the others, but he has a lot of Captain Kirk tendencies. He gets around and has been with most of the girls at the school. He even has a reputation for that at school so if anyone wants a quick rebound they just meet up at his apartment. He tries to go away from that to be a more serious person, but completely regresses towards the middle when he’s in a slump. While he eventually gets out of that, you can’t help but wonder if he can stick to his resolve. He also goes for an instant rebound after Ninako dumps him and gets beat up in his only actual fight. Ando is very persistent, but overdoes it as Ninako really wants nothing to do with him.

Mayuka is a celebrity and Daiki’s sister so she plays a pretty big role in the series. However, while she is a solid character for a while, I don’t agree with how the plot ended. It seems to me like she ended up rejecting Ren just so he could end up with Ninako. I don’t really buy into the reasoning that her job got to be more important than him and that’s why she broke it off. She just felt like Ren was forcing himself to hang out with her which was unfortunately true. I guess it’s good to break up if you know that the person you’re with isn’t really into you and I should probably agree since I’m always against the rebound. Still, you should fight to stay with the person you like if that’s an option.

Sayuri is one of Ninako’s friends, but I’m not sure about how her plot line ended. See, it goes back to the rebound thing again as she’s going after the guy who liked Ninako but was rejected. Naturally they’re happy together now, but it’s just one of those things that I can’t get behind. She’s a nice enough person, but the romance probably should have been cut from the series and it would have benefited from it considerably. They could have kept the friend dynamic in place and it would have still worked. The series does try to pair up all of the big characters by the end, but that’s typically not a good thing.

Mao was probably the final main character to be introduced in the series. She does feel a little like a rather late inclusion to the series, but I guess she’s an okay character. Naturally she was shady in the past as she used Ando and basically made him become the isolated guy that he is today. She also managed to damage the bond between him and Ren for many years. There are some twists to this whole thing, but her betrayal does stand. Her redemption arc is decent I guess as she is certainly sincere but if you put yourself in Ando’s shoes it is really hard to just forgive and forget in this case. She’s not really my kind of character.

Most of the characters really weren’t all that good. They all were willing to go for quick rebounds so I have to blame both parties for that. I think that the only characters who didn’t go for a rebound were Ninako and Mayuka. They each picked just one person and stuck to that. I can’t be 100% about Mayuka in case there was a time skip at the end that I’m forgetting, but at the very least Ninako didn’t make that mistake. While she may have entertained the thought at times, she always knew that it would be the wrong decision and explained her correct reasoning on it. Rebounding just isn’t a good option at any time. Now you may wonder what the time frame is for the next relationship to not be a rebound, but it’s really hard to say. I’d say that it has to be at least a year or so, but that’s a very rough approximation.

The art is fairly good in the series. It’s less convoluted than some Shojo series, but isn’t nearly as crystal clear and colorful as others. I do think the author does a good job of not reusing too many panels the way that some slice of life/comedy titles tend to do. The chapters are easy to read and I’d give the art a pass. It’s not amazing, but it certainly isn’t bad either. It works well enough which is what counts. Strobe Edge’s atmosphere of light comedy which transitions to more serious drama works fairly well. At the very least, the manga never tries to get quite too serious and while sad, it doesn’t rub it in your face too much. With better writing or a different plot, this series probably could have went somewhere.
Overall, Strobe Edge is a romance series that tackles some important themes, but gives us the wrong answer to them. It’s like that movie about the two people who wanted to try and just be friends, but at the end lost and turned the whole message of the film upside down. The manga practically justifies all of the rebounds at the end and suggests that if your love is unrequited you either move on to someone else right away or sabotage the person that is in your way. Either way, it’s not exactly the answer I was looking for. It’s a pleasant enough series so it’s not hard to read or anything, but the romance isn’t good and since that’s the whole point of the series, its score was never going to be too high. If you don’t mind the romance or think you like this direction than you can probably add a few more stars to the series and check it out. At least the pacing is solid and it’s certainly better than some other romance titles like Vampire Knight, but you’re better off reading a more fun Shojo title like Sailor Moon.

Overall 3/10

Kingdom Hearts II Review

This is another manga where I got to start it a long time ago, but didn’t finish until recently. The manga needed a remake for the ending to finally make it to America. Well, it’s definitely a pretty fun adaption. It doesn’t do much to go above and beyond what it was given from the game, but still puts a good amount of effort into it, making this a solid manga to read whether you’ve played the game or not.

The plot actually begins with Roxas since due to the ending of Chain of Memories Sora is still out of commission. Roxas gets to enjoy a few days with his friends, but quickly finds out that his destiny is a sad one as he must fight his way to Sora only to give his body up and fade away as a Nobody once more. A Nobody is a character who is a literal shadow f the main body and while Roxas can keep his soul, he loses his heart. The process is rather intricate, but the long and short of it is that Roxas makes the hard decision to sacrifice his life. We then go back to Sora as he must lead Donald and Goofy on one last mission to take down the evil Organization XIII and save the world. The villains want to use Kingdom Hearts to open the gate between dimensions and I believe this will end up destroying everyone or swapping places with the Nobodies. It’s been a while so I’m not 100% concrete on the details. It doesn’t change the mission of the heroes though and Mickey/Riku, as well as many other fighters are doing their parts to stop the organization as well.

While the manga can’t get to every single world it does adapt as many of them as possible. As it’s the longest of the Kingdom Heart manga titles, I would expect no less. Kingdom Hearts 358 seemed rather long at last check though, so I’m only fairly certain that II is still the longest. It gives you a good amount of time to get used to the characters and see the universe as opposed to jumping from fight to fight like in many adaptions. Although, that is a really good tactic to use as well if we’re being honest. The manga is certainly a direct continuation to the others though so I would recommend checking them out before reading this one. I’m fairly certain that it will help you enjoy this one more.

The art isn’t bad. When the manga goes for its action scenes it can get quite detailed. Not in a convoluted way, but in a way that enhances the action. Sora’s rage mode is depicted well towards the climax when he believes that his friends were murdered. On the other side, the manga does rely a little too much on exaggerated facial expressions for the gags. A tense scene will suddenly turn into a comic relief moment at the drop of a hat. I think the game did a better job at separating the comedic and tense moments and never being too over the top with the comedy. While those artistic moments aren’t my thing, it’s not a case of the art being bad. It’s probably one of the better manga adaptions when it comes to art.

My only real negative with the series is what I mentioned in the art section right above this. The big jumps from comedy to serious to comedy again can be a bit jarring. I think the manga probably goes a little overboard on the comedy instead of being more subtle. Still, that’s basically it and when that’s your only negative you know that the title is pretty good. The series ends with a mild cliffhanger as the heroes are called away to the castle for some reason, but you could also interpret it as just the manga’s way of saying that a hero’s journey is never over. I barely count cliffhangers like that myself for this reason.

Sora is still a solid protagonist as always and I do like him more here than in the original Kingdom Hearts. Sora is a lot more confident in his abilities at this point in time and has proven himself on many occasions. He can definitely fight with the best of them now and his new costume is cool as well. His final team up battle with Riku is definitely a lot of fun and it’s a fight that the original Sora would probably have had a lot of trouble with. Riku’s role here is certainly not as shady as in the original game since by this point he has basically mastered the powers of light and dark. If you think about it, it makes sense that he would be one of the strongest characters in the series. It’s rare to wield both elements.

Most of Organization XIII shows up here and many meet their demise which basically closes this chapter of the series. They all have their own unique personalities which is good. The best member is probably Xehanort. He has a great design and can fight really well too. I also liked the member with the blue hair (Vexen I believe) and Axel isn’t bad either although he can be a little wishy washy. The group definitely has a lot of real characters in their ranks.

As far as the Disney characters are concerned, they all appear to be in character. Even though the crossover is mainly with the Disney characters, I admit that I look forward to the Final Fantasy ones more anyway. Unfortunately I don’t think they actually keep in the Cloud vs Sephiroth fight, but it’s possible that I just don’t remember it. It’s been a long time since I read the first few volumes of the series after all. It’s still hard to believe it went on for a full 9 volumes before being re released in the omnibus format. So while I don’t mention the Disney characters much, their inclusion definitely makes the series even more fun. Who doesn’t know the classic Disney characters like The Beauty and The Beast? While I can’t really take them seriously in a fight against the Organization characters, I suppose they’re tough enough for the Heartless. It’s always good to see a familiar face among the characters and hopefully for Kingdom Hearts III we finally get the big team up with all of the old Disney and FF characters for a big climactic battle.

Overall, This is definitely a fun manga. It’s got a good amount of action and a good cast of characters. I’d definitely recommend checking it out. It’s probably the best of the Kingdom Heart manga titles although Chain of Memories puts up a good fight. I always really liked that game/manga. It was short, but had a bunch of fights. It’s similar to the Battle Frontier in the Pokemon anime. Still, with the extra volumes Kingdom Hearts II definitely had more time for a lot to happen. Reading all of the different titles back to back would probably be fun. It’ll be tough for 358/2 to top this one, but I’m looking forward to seeing it try its best!

Overall 7/10

Fire Emblem Heroes: Heroes’ Everyday Lives

It’s been a little while since I read an anthology manga. The 4 Koma chapters seem reasonably entertaining and certainly better than other gag titles like Rock Lee. I’ll review it when they stop coming out with the chapters, but since each installment is only 1 page I get the feeling that this could last for quite a while. I’m waiting for Roy to show up at this point.

Overall 7/10

Kitchen Princess Review

It’s time for a classic Shojo title. I read most of this series a very long time ago, but never found the last 1-2 volumes. With the recent omnibus release, I was finally able to read the series from start to finish. It’s definitely a fun title and I’m always up for a cooking title. The characters are pretty reasonable and the romance isn’t too over the top. Also, romance in Shojo can be better than in Shonen at times although it’s certainly a case by case basis. The “mean character is actually” nice kind of plot doesn’t work very well, but at least Daichi isn’t constantly mocking Najika unlike some other titles. Well, lets take more of a look at this series.

Najika is the daughter of two famous cooks. Unfortunately, they didn’t last very long so she lives at an orphanage where she helps everyone out. She finally manages to make it into a very rich cooking school and aims to succeed so she can send money back home. Unfortunately, the kids there don’t take too kindly to a girl from the sticks being allowed into their prestigious school. Najika has to try and tune the bullies out, but it’s tough when she just wants to be friends with everyone. Fortunately, the student council president, Sora, is on her side. His brother Daichi is also fine with Najika although he doesn’t like to admit it. Their father is the principal though and he doesn’t like her at all. She must constantly prove herself if she wants to stay at the school, but she is up to the task. With her perfect cooking skills, she will literally change the social caste system of the school and show them all that anyone can be a great cook if they put their heart into it.

I’ve always thought that cooking competitions looked like a lot of fun. Normal cooking is hype as well of course, but once you make it competitive then the stakes really get high. You really have to give the contest your all or defeat is inevitable. The series has a few different cooking contests and they’re always fun. While Najika sometimes gets away with a win through means that don’t seem quite legitimate, (Her food has more heart) she is a great cook as shown throughout the series so it’s not as if she’s totally winning through a fluke. Also, lets keep in mind that some of the contests were rigged against her and she still found a way to put up a good fight. You definitely have to admire her dedication.

Najika is definitely a very nice heroine. Her perfect sense recall is definitely an ability that gives her an edge over the other cooks. I mean, think about it. If you’re facing someone who can perfectly recall any food that they’ve tasted in their life, not to mention foods that they have only heard someone else taste, then they are rarely going to lose. Najika doesn’t let it go to her head though and always tries her hardest for even the smallest of dishes. Her main weakness is that she isn’t very good at dealing with bullies. She gets emotionally hurt very quickly and it happens to her quite a few times during the series. She even goes into shock after one particularly painful experience and loses her sense of taste.

Najika has to overcome some fairly big hurdles throughout the series. Not all of the resolutions are very satisfying such as when she doesn’t do very well in a big contest where everyone was counting on her thanks to her condition. She also suffers physical injuries like when she injures her wrist. Still, Najika stays strong through it all and is a character that’s hard not to like. She’s certainly earnest, even if she is rather naive and slow to notice when someone is betraying her.

We’ve also got her mentor, Fujita. He’s probably the only character that I felt the manga dropped the ball on. We know from the start that there is something more to this guy than meets the eye. We later find out that he was a pretty big chef back in his day. Yet, this plot never actually goes anywhere. I understand that the series went down the “It’s time for the next generation to shine” route, but it’s still just a little odd that he never had a big moment. I thought for sure that he would have a quick cooking battle with Najika or something, but instead he just keeps on lazing around. I suppose he’s not a bad character, but a pointless one all the same. The series wouldn’t have really changed without him.

Akane serves as the first bully and ultimately Najika’s best friend. She is working towards being a model so naturally she has to be careful about what she eats. You’d think that this would make her quick friends with Najika and originally they were getting along, but then she notices that her best friend was quickly turning into Najika’s. Najika naturally didn’t notice though so that’s when Akane realized her true potential as a bully. From there her character flip flopped a bit as Najika would help her out and she’d be friends again..only to turn into a bully again. Eventually she became a permanent hero, but it took quite a while. You can’t help but feel bad for Akane though since she was always doomed to lose. Whenever you have the main character and the friend fighting over a guy, you know who will win. So much for the friend zone eh? Akane was certainly not as nice or as heroic as Najika, but she was a fun character all the same. I dare say that I may have liked her more than Najika to be honest. It’s close though but Akane’s troubles just seemed to be a lot tougher than Najika’s if you ask me.

Next up we have Sora. He’s the original guy to help Najika out. Sora was a really nice guy the whole time as well. While Daichi started out mildly antagonistic and too busy to really be bothered with Najika, Sora would put his many duties on hold to help her out. He was a great character and his plot line did have a decisive end. It’s probably not the one anyone wanted for him though but it was handled pretty well. Sometimes random stuff just happen after all. Some manga titles go overboard with the tragic elements, but as this story is usually quite light hearted, one tragic part won’t tip it over the edge. His romance plot was probably the only one that I’d say was handled really well in the series.

Then we have Daichi. He had a hard time living up to Sora’s reputation and I’m afraid he never could. He’s not quite as good as Sora at balancing his responsibilities and being around for Najika. Not to mention that you still can’t help but feel like he acts as a rebound. A rebound romance is when you start out by liking one person and after that is no longer possible you suddenly end up liking someone else. It feels like that person is simply a second round pick and that’s what I feel happened here. It’s why I definitely couldn’t get behind the romance with him and Najika. It hurts his character quite a bit, but both should be blamed equally for it. Daichi’s not a bad character, but I definitely liked Sora much more. At the very least Sora never upset Najika the way that Daichi did. Daichi was easily manipulated and tricked by the bullies while I don’t think Sora would have bought into the act so easily. Actually, I’m liking Daichi less and less as I think about the whole thing.

One character that had a bit of a personality shift was Daichi’s father. I would say that it was a complete 180 out of nowhere, but due to events that transpired during the series it is reasonable that he would change. If anything, it’s surprising that it didn’t happen sooner. He made for a good antagonist and while he is pretty ruthless, it’s not as if he’s extremely off the deep end. Depending on how you look at it he does indirectly murder someone by causing her to be overworked though. It’s a thin line that he walks, that’s for sure. He does a good job of hiding his dark side from the rest of the world. I can also give him credit for definitely making the series more enjoyable as well since he does a good job as the villain.

Finally, we have Seiya. He’s a transfer student who looks just like Sora which naturally causes a lot of tension among the main characters. It’s uncanny how identical they look, but Seiya’s personality is very different. He’s very aggressive and confident. Seiya believes that he is the best cook and his confidence makes sure that he wants to win fair and square. You can at least respect that part of his character. He definitely has quite a few unlikable characteristics, but he does make for a good rival. His romance plot is certainly the most rushed though. At least he becomes a nicer character in a much smoother transition than Akane. I was also glad that we had at least one main character who could cook on the same level as Najika. It would just be too easy if everyone else was so far beneath her.

The art is very clear so all of the food stands out. The Flan in particular has a pretty big role from all of the foods and it looks like the real thing. I like Flan quite a bit myself so it was nice to see it get a starring role. This manga is mainly about dessert so you don’t see too many real foods, but there are plenty of titles where those are featured so it’s no big loss. You’re certainly not likely to get confused during any of the scenes since this artist does a good job of making sure that none of the characters look too similar. The cast is actually fairly small so that also helps.

As I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t get behind most of the romance here. I’d list romance as one of the main genres, but it’s still not as frequent as it could have been. It just feels like most of the romances here are rebounds which is a little iffy. The series is at its best when it’s just focusing on the food aspect of the series. The competitions and striving to be the best. The series goes through its emotional phases, but mainly stays happy and has a good amount of replay value.

Overall, I’d recommend checking out Kitchen Princess. It’s a fun manga and you’ll get to see a bunch of cooking tips between the chapters. Najika is also a good hero who manages to stop the bullies without becoming one herself. She shows them the error of their ways and gradually becomes someone who gets along with everyone. Even the Principal who tries his best time and time again to get in her way ultimately appreciates her cooking. While it may not have the optimal ending, it’s a series that still hits enough of the right notes to be considered a success.

Overall 6/10

RWBY Review

It’s definitely pretty interesting to review the manga before the show right? Now that season 5 has ended I will start working on a RWBY review very soon. It’s going to be massive though so it won’t be up for a long time. The show rose out of nowhere and suddenly became one of the all time greats. Now you see the franchise everywhere so it makes sense that the manga has come to America. Unfortunately, it does feel a little like a cash grab, but it does give some of the earlier shorts some more context and even changes a few things for kicks. It’s a fun enough volume since I’m a huge fan of the franchise, but I still can’t call it a great manga. Perhaps we will get a new ongoing RWBY series soon which will work a little better.

The volume starts off with 4 individual stories. They each adapt the original RWBY character shorts. The Ruby one is naturally a lot of fun since it’s just her beating up the Grimm for an entire chapter. That’s still a very iconic RWBY short and the manga adapts it well. While I’m not a huge fan of the artwork, the artist does show up for the fight scenes. Weiss’ story also shows up and we learn that the giant Knight from her special was actually a suit of armor that a Grimm was possessing. It was a test to see if Weiss would be allowed to leave and she passed it with flying colors. It had more dialogue and more of a plot than the Ruby short so I would consider this chapter to be better.

Next up we had the Blake story. Adam doesn’t look quite as good as in the show since Blake needs to save him and in general he doesn’t look as skilled, but I’m used to most of the community not liking Adam. He’s still one of the best characters in RWBY, but more on that in the show review. It’s another fun story with a bunch of action. Finally we have the Yang chapter. It’s the best of the shorts and also the best prequel chapter here. It’s basically nonstop action with Yang beating everyone up and reminding us why she is the power hitter of the group. This all leads into the main arc for the manga volume.

Team JNPR is sent off on a mission to stop a giant Grimm and they leave early to show off. Team RWBY catches up to them and the teams take on the 8 Headed Dragon. It’s a pretty hype fight with a lot of teamwork and we’ve never really gotten to see all 8 heroes fight a big creature like this. We did have a similar fight in season 1 against two monsters though which is likely the approach the story was going for. It’s another solid action story and then it basically ends with a small tease for all the events that would happen in the show. The manga is essentially just a quick spinoff story so you can see the characters in a new situation and the prequels were adapted perhaps for any manga reader who didn’t watch the show. This way they would know who the characters are.

I do wonder if the manga was originally going to be one volume or not. It just seemed like it would be an ongoing title while reading it. The first 4 chapters set up the various characters and their subplots. Torchwick showed up a few times during the original story which felt like obvious foreshadowing as well. I feel like the author was either planning to start adapting the show again after the original story and it just didn’t happen or he was going to do his own thing. Either way, the ending was so abrupt that it just feels like something is missing. It’s a shame that it was only 1 volume because there are so many more scenes that could have been made. Since RWBY only gives us about 3-4 hours of content per year, there’s not a whole lot of time for bonus fights and extra plots. Having an ongoing manga/comic/anime series to run alongside it would be really cool. I guess this manga just isn’t the way that was going to happen.

Perhaps the artwork ended up hurting it a bit in the long run. The art is actually quite bad. Most of the characters are off model the whole time and their designs are not on point. Nobody really looks like how they should and the art is just rather cluttered. There doesn’t seem to have been a whole lot of effort put behind the manga. Again, I feel like this manga was really just made for some quick cash or to get more awareness out on the series. If it had been given real art then this could have ended up being known as one of the all time greats. Instead, it limits the series.

It’s still a good volume though and I don’t regret pre ordering it. What the series lacks in artwork it makes up for in fights. Every chapter has a bunch of action and the fights just don’t stop in this volume. The action just keeps on going and going as you would expect it too. The characters are still likable although that’s likely just because I know their personalities from the show. It’s not as if there is really any time for development in this volume before it just ends. It’s simply building off of the show’s legacy. There’s not too much more to say without regurgitating the same points over and over again.

At the end of the day, it’s just a fun manga. Maybe part of this was intentionally trying to recapture what made RWBY popular in the first place. It was just a series of shorts with great, tightly choreographed fight scenes. There wasn’t much of a plot, but the specials still had a lot of character. You could learn a lot from the characters by their design, facial expressions, and movements. They didn’t need dialogue and much in the same way, the manga doesn’t build on the characters. You just know that they mean business from the way that they fight while also having carefree attitudes outside of combat. The manga decided that you don’t need to know any more than that and just launches you into fights from there. Jaune fans will likely be saddened by the fact that he doesn’t do much here, but at least he got to appear. A bunch of characters couldn’t make it in before the volume ended.
Overall, Watching RWBY before reading this manga will allow you to enjoy it a lot more. If you haven’t seen RWBY, then I will still recommend this volume, but it’ll come off as extremely bland and rushed. Just look at the image above. You can see how much the manga foreshadowed, but I suppose it’s just an advertisement for the show. You’ll essentially not be reading this for the plot and you’ll just want to focus on the action. You may have some questions on what is happening and why it’s happening, but the book has a little guide at the beginning to help newcomers and at the end of the day you shouldn’t overthink it. The concept of a school training people to fight monsters is pretty basic and even if you don’t know the technicalities you should be able to get the manga’s drift. So, without the RWBY factor then you can drop this review one star. It’s still a positive score though and I eagerly await whatever RWBY product is next.

Overall 7/10

Handa Kun

It’s time for another spinoff although this one is a direct prequel. It’s about Handa back in his school days and as always he is having a tough time fitting in. As someone who was never the biggest fan of the village setting I can definitely see this one passing the main series. Of course, it will be a little limited in what it can do without causing issues in the main title, but there’s still a lot of room to explore here. I’ll have a review for the series when I finish it.

Overall 7/10

Magic Kaito

I’ve finally started the Detective Conan spinoff, Magic Kaito. This series follows the adventures of the mysterious Kaito Kid, except he isn’t as mysterious as he seems. I never cared all that much for him, but he’s actually a pretty bad character here. Still, the art is pretty solid and I’m hoping for some Conan appearances. It’s off to a decent start though and the fact that there are people here with actual powers is interesting. I’ll give it a review when the series finishes.

Overall 7/10

Accel World Review

Accel World has always been a series with a good premise. A fighting game with total VR is always something that I like to see and the combat designs are on point. However, The main character often holds the series back with how bad he is and that is likely always going to happen no matter the medium. Well, the manga decides to play out like an abridged version of the manga. It adapts a book, skips a book, adapts, etc. I can understand why they would skip an arc that was already animated and all but as a result the manga ends with an arc that doesn’t really have any fights. Ah well, it’s still a decent adaptation.

The series follows a kid named Haruyuki. He is down on his luck as everyone bullies him. He has two friends, Taku and Chiyu. The dynamic between the three of them has grown awkward as the other two got together. Fortunately for Haru it appears that Taku is evil so Haru will now be able to beat him up. Haruyuki also befriends the school club president Kuroyukihime who introduces him to the real vr game known as Brain Burst. Essentially you fight other players to get points and level up. With these points you can stop time in the real world and use it in all sorts of ways to get through life. The downside is that the pain you feel in the game is very real and you may be targeted in the real world by other players. Will Haruyuki be able to get through all of this or is it over for him?

Accel World does a good job of not feeling like a cash in when it comes to the art at least. It looks pretty sharp and the character designs are on point. The fight scenes look good as well so there was definitely some real effort put into it. It’s not even a case of the series starting out rocky and then hitting its stride as the first fights in volume 1 already look good. At most, the humans can look a little chibi at first, but the designs look more like the anime by the end. It naturally can’t look quite as impressive as the anime which really takes advantage of Silver Crow’s flight speed and all of the energy effects going on but the manga does a really good job regardless.

Another thing in the manga’s favor is that it adapted the short story from one of the Accel World novels where Haruyuki gets to meet up with Kirito. Kirito is definitely the fighter that I would put my money on, but Haru does a good job of keeping the fight close. Seeing as how both series are still ongoing I would definitely be up for a full crossover arc that continues across both series. Even if it’s just one novel from each that would make for a pretty epic story. The crossover chapters were certainly very intense and did a good job of giving Kirito his due respect. I think we both know who would win this fight.

One of the negatives for the series is Haruyuki. He’s still as unlikable as ever to the point where you feel it’s intentional. Most main characters just stumble into awkward situations while Haruyuki actually tries for them. He really can’t handle talking to most of the supporting characters and gets intimidated by everyone. He let’s dark power consume him with ease. There aren’t really any redeemable qualities about him and it’s just tough to have a main character like that.

At least the supporting cast is better. While Taku starts off as a very iffy character and it’s hard to go back from that, at least he ends up being an interesting character. A shame that he is stuck in a very slow avatar that basically never gets to win an important fight. Chiyu is another of the main supporting characters and she is good although Chiyu can be iffy at times. She practically states that she only went with Taku so as not to break up the band and once they split she seems to be flirting with Haru at times. It may just be her chipper attitude mixed with Haru always acting in the worst way possible for each exchange but you can’t help but feel that she was never interested in Taku. I didn’t agree with most of her decisions in the arc that was skipped, but since it was skipped it doesn’t even matter all that much.

On that note, it makes sense that the manga would have to skip parts because the pacing can be rather slow. Not in a dragged out way, but the manga really wants to be as detailed as the anime so each chapter won’t adapt a whole lot. This is one of those series that works best when you marathon it in volume format. I can barely believe that it was 8 whole volumes as it just feels a lot shorter, but it has been a very long time since I started the series so I suppose it makes sense. By skipping around, the manga could still adapt later parts while giving the early ones a lot of screen time as well.
Back to the characters. Kuroyukihime is a solid character and I’d say that she is still the best character in the series. She also happens to be one of the very strongest as she is at Level 9 and just needs one more level up to clear the game. Pretty impressive if you ask me. Her Black Lotus avatar is definitely a really cool one and at the moment she has yet to lose a serious fight although we’ve seen a few opponents who could give her a run for her money. She definitely helps the series out quite a bit.

Scarlet Rain also has a decently large role in the series. She’s a good fighter but when pretending to be Haru’s sister you have to wonder if she could have come up with a better plan. That one is extremely risky and if it was any other character who was a bit smarter it simply would have worked. The strategy probably would have worked just as well if she just cornered him after school and forced him into a battle. She was really just testing his combat abilities after all.

The Chrome Disaster armor/entity is as cool as ever. You definitely have to appreciate the design and since he works like a symbiotic it leaves a lot of potential for future arcs. I’d like to see him use the power more and try to master it since it would be really handy against the stronger villains in the series. It lets you use Override techniques a lot easier and can even heal so it doesn’t get much better than that.

The series does have a few hiccups as it falls into the trap of fan service. It’s not too excessive but present enough to be noted. What the series prefers to focus on is throwing Haruyuki in awkward positions that may not exactly be fan service moments but with his terrible reactions and everyone constantly flirting with him, it can be just as forced and unnecessary. Considering that Haruyuki seems to want to be with Kuroyukihime, you’d think that he could control his thoughts better with the others, but he just isn’t quite that good.

As the manga ends early you can’t help but think that we never really got to get to the “good” part. Not necessarily stuff from the novels but imagining that this manga wasn’t based on anything you would have to assume that these early volumes were building up to the 5 Kings actually appearing and Haruyuki eventually getting to fight them. A high level battle of that caliber would definitely be a blast to watch. There’s just so much left to do when the series ends but at least it’s not as if the title is only 3-4 volumes. 8’s not a bad number to end on and the series certainly still got to do a lot. I’m sure to an extent it’s not like the author had much of a choice on where to end it.

Overall, Accel World is a good action manga. The fights are good and the art also holds up well. It suffers from some fan service issues and an iffy main character which holds it back from being a considerably better title. It’s not a very long series so you’ll be through it pretty quick but it’ll be a fun read nonetheless. The ending may not feel too epic or climactic but that’s basically because the series had to come to an abrupt end. The author still did a good job of picking a decent place to end for those who don’t like cliffhangers. I would have liked it to end in the middle of a fight with the tag line “Read the book to find out what happens” myself but it is what it is. So I’d lightly recommend the title. I’d certainly be interested in seeing what someone who has not read the novels or seen the anime would think about it. It may feel pretty random but it’s still an action title so as long as you get engaged into the story then you’ll be fine. Who knows, maybe it’ll end up getting another manga series if we ever get another season or the light novels really take off in America.

Overall 7/10

Black Clover

This series got quite a lot of buzz. For the most part anyone I’ve met irl who reads the manga likes it a lot while online you see a lot of mockery. For better or worse I am getting a lot of Fairy Tail vibes from it. If it sticks to the early days of Fairy Tail then we’re fine though. In a way, it’s about guilds and magic quite a bit, but also dips into Naruto and Bleach kind of story beats as well. It’s really a mesh of a bunch of Shonen Tropes and that’s why it could end up being amazing or very forgettable. The supporting cast doesn’t seem to have too much potential, but the main character is pretty good and I’m liking the rival. Ideally that’s all you need. There’s a lot of potential here, but it can be used for good or bad. We’ll just have to see and I’ll have a review for the series when it finishes.

Overall 6/10