Crash Bandicoot: Dance! De Jump! Na Daibouken Review

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It’s time to look at a Crash manga. I recently got the PS4 collection that came out and it was definitely fun. That being said, the title character actually wasn’t that good. He’s probably one of the worst title characters that you are ever gonna see at least from the iconic ones. That may set off some warning bells for the manga since naturally you will usually want to have a good main character for the story right? This one is a gag manga so to an extent it never had all that much promise. I can see why it was cancelled.

So the story starts off with Crash getting dumped as the heroine declares that she is grown up and ready to move on. Crash literally cries himself a winner and goes into depression. Fortunately that’s when Cortex shows up and decides to trick Crash into helping him conquer the world. He tells the lead that if he collects all 25 of the Power Crystals that the heroine will come back to him. Crash eagerly believes this and sets off with his buddy Aku Aku to collect them all. Is Cortex really being honest?

It may not matter because Cortex himself doesn’t know what he wants. The plan seems simple enough at face value. He’ll let Crash handle the dangerous work of going into the various mazes to grab the gems while he stays at home. However, Cortex also tries to destroy Crash several times which would wreck this entire plan right? I couldn’t really get what his motivation for such a thing would be. Perhaps he just couldn’t hold back his utter disdain for Crash? He even tries to eat the main character. Also, why bother showing up in person at all? That defeats the purpose of sending Crash in first because then Cortex is subjecting himself to the same level of danger. Not very smart for a supposed genius.

Another thing that holds the series back is the amount of filler inside. The heroes only collect 4 gems across 2 whole volumes. At that pace it would take a grand total of 13 volumes to get them all. Have you ever heard of such a long video game adaption? Most of the chapters are stand alone as well so it’s not like the series is using it as an elaborate set up. One chapter is about Crash turning tiny and basically messing with Cortex from the inside. The amount of crude humor here is definitely regrettable. It only got worse in the very next story where Crash gets hit in the head and reverts back to a baby. This one has Pac-Man (and the Ghostly Adventures) level of crude humor within it. If you could take Cortex seriously at all before this, you won’t after this chapter. Same goes for Crash naturally. It’s just a little jarring to see chapters like this which don’t have any bearing on the story whatsoever. I guess maybe this was meant to be a really long running series or something, but there’s no way it could have stayed alive so long with this level of quality.

As the issues keep piling on for this manga, the art is another one to add on. It’s just very busy and chaotic throughout. You will have a tough time seeing exactly what is happening on the page. It’s not the worst art I’ve ever seen, but certainly in the bottom half. I don’t think a lot of effort was put into it, but I can’t say that I am surprised either. It’s a gag manga so I’m guessing the art and the plot weren’t very important. All of the effort likely went into the gags so it’s a shame that even those weren’t funny.

Crash is accurate to the games though. Perhaps even more extreme though. Here he uses the Power Gems as a tooth and ear pick and really doesn’t care about saving the world at all. He barely even cares about collecting the gems seeing as how he puts it off so much. He wasted months just washing dishes because he was out of money. There’s also an annoying monkey character in one of the chapters who steals all of Aku Aku’s money and trolls Crash the whole time. I don’t sympathize with Crash at all to be honest, but once again this had nothing to really do with the plot.

The only good character here would be the professional jewel thief. He is also after the crystals so naturally this leads to him meeting up with Crash. Crash makes a fool out of himself as you would expect, but this treasure hunter takes the high road and decides not to rob Crash. Instead he will get the jewels his way and you have to appreciate the guy’s honor code. It is something that the rest of the cast in Crash seem to lack. Too bad he only appeared once as the guy would have elevated the series.

I wonder if the series would have been better if they never mentioned anything about getting the 25 Power Gems. After all, marketing the series more as a random slice of life would have been far more accurate and then the filler chapters would actually make sense. I guess it might be weird for Crash to be adventuring for no reason, but it could just be something superficial like trying to get muscles to impress the heroine. It is what it is though and at least having a mediocre manga is better than not having one at all.

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Overall, This Crash manga isn’t very well known and I can see why. I suppose it’s not any worse than the average gag manga, but with some of the others at least I like the characters more. Say what you will about Super Mario Kun, but it is a lot more entertaining just because the cast is able to sell it better. Mario and Luigi have a much better dynamic than Crash and Aku Aku ever will. When we have the big break up chapter between Crash and Aku Aku you can’t help but feel that Aku would be better off without the Bandicoot slowing him down. I guess it’ll be nice for Crash fans if we ever get the lost 3rd volume, but I can’t say that I would miss it. If you’re a big fan of the series then you should check it out. It’s not a terrible series or anything. I wouldn’t recommend it, but the series doesn’t do much wrong aside from just not being funny. At least there is some kind of plot happening even if it takes a break very often. If it ever returns, hopefully it is more focused.

Overall 5/10

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Spiral Alive Review

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It’s time to look at a prequel to one of the best mystery manga on the block, Spiral Alive. A long time ago I had read most of the series but then the last chapters took a few years to get scanned. I decided to re read the series from the beginning since there were quite a few gaps in my memory. This was definitely a good move since I forgot about 95% of the plot. It’s definitely a great series that I’d recommend as the cast is solid and the art is really good. Those are the solid foundations you need for a good series.

The series starts off as a typical school drama. Imari has been trying to get Shirou to notice her but it’s tough goings as she has to work up the nerve and whenever she does something happens which gets in her way. Months pass and she finally has a chance when a mysterious girl known as Yukine lets her know where he is. Unfortunately this girl is currently his girlfriend so Shirou has to turn Imari down. Imari is pretty upset of course since she was trolled so thoroughly but finding Yukine will be difficult since the girl is the lead suspect of a string of murders that have begun to occur. Shirou vows to stop her, but he will be in a race against time with the police as well as the world’s greatest detective Kiyotaka. There are also a bunch of third parties who aim to get involved as well. The series definitely changes quite a bit from the happy beginning.

Naturally as this is a prequel there are quite a few characters from the main series who show up. The main character even makes a cameo in the final chapter and the heroine also appears as a guest star two or three times. Most of them don’t get too large of a role except for a handful of the blade children who are always popping up. For reference, there exists a group of teenagers known as the Blade Children. They are all around the same age since that is when the period of experimentation was until it was stopped. Kiyotaka and the special ops have a list of all the Blade Children to ensure that they keep tabs on them. The sad fact of life for these children is that once they turn a certain age a trigger is unlocked which turns them into murder weapons. Effectively they are all sleeper agents and they know this, but are unable to stop it. One group seeks to destroy all of them before this happens, another group aims to save them and finally we have Kiyotaka’s group which just observes and steps in when things get messy. Given that he knows all about them anyway, a good number of the Blade Children work for Kiyotaka in exchange for safety.

There’s a lot more to all of this, but you get the general idea. Imari is the main character of the first bit of the series, but then the role switches to Kousuke. All of the characters are after Yukine because she holds within her the information on the missing Blade Children. There are a few who actually managed to keep their names out of the official database which is a huge concern for the government since just 2-3 would be enough to take down a whole country from the inside. (Yeah, I feel like this is hyperbole, but maybe they become that dangerous?) Kiyotaka is determined to get the list and this begins his long game of cat and mouse with Yukine. Yukine will have to stay sharp throughout though because Kiyotaka has yet to ever be defeated in a game of wits.

By this point you may be wondering who to root for. Well, it’s a tough call because none of the sides are objectively all that good. I suppose Shirou is probably the least shady and Imari is shady, but in a comical way to you can root for her. It’s hard to particularly root for Yukine or Kiyotaka. Lets get into some of the tough issues the manga presents and where I stand. Hint, I don’t side with Kiyotaka on anything.

One of the big situations that happened in the past is a Blade Child took Shirou hostage. She murdered a bunch of other people as well, but seemed sad about it. Shirou tried to help her and things were looking all right, but then Kiyotaka granted her permission to destroy herself so the girl did and Shirou held a grudge about it ever since. He wants to find his own answer so that he can tell Kiyotaka what other option there was that day. Unfortunately, the manga ends with Shirou seemingly believing that Kiyotaka may have made the right choice after all. Kiyotaka’s reasoning was that the girl was going to be destroyed as soon as she left the building anyway or would have done the same act at a later point so he simply let her go out peacefully.

Definitely a lot of justifying going on there, but I definitely couldn’t roll with it. Encouraging the girl to destroy herself there is never the right answer. The lives of the Blade Children may be tragic since they have a short life span and lose control of themselves, but as long as they live there is always a chance for a cure. Dying prematurely like that just destroys any possible hope that was left. As you can guess, Kiyotaka could never bounce back from this.
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Either way he was never going to though as the guy just isn’t likable. He knows everything and is always a step ahead of the rest, but always likes to act as if he isn’t very smart anyway. He jokes around a lot and likes to dress up as various animals. It’s heavily implied that he just does all of this because he is supremely bored from being right all the time so he may as well amuse himself. The series does go all out in trying to show that this guy is barely even human with how effectively he plays everyone. He starts his plans years in advance and they still turn out all right. The guy’s annoying and definitely not the kind of genius that you want on your side. Even the cops get fed up with him since the guy always does as he pleases.

You’ll feel bad for the other characters as well since they all try to out think him. Almost all of the Blade Children also possess above average intellect and so they make thorough plans of their own, but it always seems as if Kiyotaka is still in their heads somehow. From the Blade Children, the worst character is probably Kousuke. That’s not to say that he is a bad character, but he’s just a little more bland than the others. He is sent in as Kiyotaka’s right hand man (Totally not why I’m not a fan of the character of course) and he is dealing with his self esteem as the guy is always getting played. He also wants to get along with Ryoko but can’t stop himself from insulting her every time. I can’t say that I have too much sympathy for that kind of character so I was rooting for the inevitable friend zone. Kousuke can fight to a reasonable extent but even then the final fight is rather cheesy.

As for Ryoko, she is definitely a lot more reasonable than Kousuke. She has led a normal life so far despite being a blade child which is admirable since it appears like she was the only one able to do so. Her role wasn’t all that large, but she was a reasonable character. She did her best to foil Kiyotaka’s plans and seemed more heroic than the others. At the very least she wasn’t as interested in fighting as the others. Kanone was her polar opposite as he thoroughly enjoys taking down the human oppressors. He takes on a whole base on his own. His role here is strictly limited to a handful of cameos, but as he gets a big role in the main series that makes sense.

Now it’s time to look at the actual main character of the series. Imari almost feels out of place here with how energetic she is. Imari doesn’t care about thinking things through of all this Blade Children stuff. She just wants to defame Yukine so she can have Shirou all to herself. She goes to rather extreme measures for this like challenging Yukine to a death match and constantly trying to get Shirou to two time Yukine. While this could have been a little dicey if it was played more seriously, Imari’s comedic subplot ends up working really well. When she shows up at the end of the series it’s a pretty intense moment since she had been gone for a while. It would have been nice if she could have put up a better fight but technically she is only human so I guess this was accurate. Definitely a unique main character.

Shirou is also one of the main characters although his quest seems to get less screen time than the others. He wants to save Yukine and has the brains to achieve this plan but isn’t very strong. There are a few similarities to the main character of the other Spiral series here. Shirou is typically a little annoying though since he relies on others quite a lot considering that he makes a bunch of speeches about being a total loner. He is willing to lose himself in his journey and acknowledges that dying is a real threat, but takes no steps to protect himself. Even when some guys break in and hold him hostage the guy doesn’t really react. He’s rather bland in general so I’m definitely fine with him getting the shaft for the most part. I will give him some credit for staying loyal to Yukine though.

We can’t forget about her of course since the whole series really revolves around her and her quest. Yukine has begun murdering everyone yet leaving a lot of clues so she is playing the game both ways. Some of her actions are rather hard to rationalize, but the in universe reason seems to be that she was hoping someone would stop her which makes a little more sense than usual since the blade persona within her also has some control. Her backstory is certainly tragic and explains her quest for revenge pretty well. Naturally I was rooting for her in this case. Arresting the villain is the best move of course, but since all of the “heroes” were trying to protect the guy then I have to go with the vigilante. That’s another reason why the heroes are pretty annoying half the time since they aren’t actually interested in stopping the villains. Too much politics between the 3 groups so they all have diplomatic immunity, but just putting them all behind bars would be effective if you ask me.

Regardless of her reasons, Yukine is still firmly an antagonist of course. 2 wrongs don’t make a right and even if you root for the character trying for revenge of course they aren’t actually in the right. Yukine is definitely a compelling character though and I do like how she intentionally trolls Imari the whole time. She just makes life hard on the lead for no particular reason and admits that it is just for amusement. It’s nice to have the villain get a sense of humor.

Madoka is another one of the Blade Children and she gets along with Kiyotaka more than the others. They are actually friends and maybe that is because she seems to be the smartest of the group. She is seen as one of the best fighters as well and is a good all around character. Madoka tends to have a bit of a rivalry with Imari so their banter is fun. I’d say that Imari always has the edge though. Then we have Imari’s friend Moeki. (Possibly spelled as Moiki but the scanlation made the letter hard to see) Imari technically has another friend but that person never actually did anything so there’s no need to talk about her. Moeki didn’t do much either, but was always fun in her brief screen time. She was definitely the smart member of the trio and did a good job of keeping Imari in line. If any of the normal characters could keep up with the blade ones it would be her. Still, her role is very minor so don’t expect the character to do much. She’s just a low key hype character.

Finally we have Professor Sheffield who talks a good game, but seems out of his depth the entire time. Kiyotaka is always one step ahead of him and I believe you could even say the same for Yukine. His plan in the past backfired just as horribly as in the present. He does a lot of panicking and I can’t say that he was ever a likable character. He may not be threatening, but he does give the series a real villain to oppose so I guess that’s good.

The art is really good as you would expect from this series. A lot of thought and detail clearly went into it. The fight scenes are great as well when they show up. Naturally this is a series that is more about the dialogue and story than the fights, but we still do get a few of them. The art does a good job of keeping the exposition interesting and it’s never hard to follow. The writing is also quite solid so there is really nothing to hold this series back. There are no real negatives to be had here. Even the tragic backstory isn’t really gritty or anything as it’s mostly off screen and just handled as business per usual kind of thing. At most I do have an issue with nobody destroying arresting Kiyotaka or at least pointing out that his reasoning was wrong. In the end everyone basically agrees with him and it’s heavily implied that he got the last laugh. A shame, but of course the big villain couldn’t lose in the prequel.
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Overall, Spiral Alive is definitely a fun series. It’s certainly got a very intense plot that will keep you guessing all the way through. It does a good job of mixing together the light Imari plot with the more serious Yukine one. Everything here is high quality from the art to the writing and you’ll breeze through the volumes. It’s definitely best to read the main series first since this one spoils some things, but if you read this one first you’ll still understand what is happening. One day I’ll be sure to review the main series as it’s been a very long time since I’ve read that one.

Overall 8/10

Sword Art Online: Mother’s Rosario Review

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Time to look at another Sword Art Online manga. The last one didn’t go very well so of course you may be a little skeptical about this one. Fortunately this is adapting one of the better arcs of the series and the manga didn’t try to add any iffy scenes to mess with it. It’s a solid arc but also one of the more somber ones so prepare yourself for an SAO story like no other.

The series starts with Kirito and the crew hanging out at his (and Asuna’s) cabin. Kirito fell asleep of course and everyone else starts feeling sleepy as well. To stay awake, Lizbeth tells Asuna about a new swordsman who has been destroying opponents left and right. He goes by the name “Absolute Sword” and seems to be the strongest fighter ever. Even Kirito was (yeah right) soundly defeated by him. Asuna decides that she wants a crack at this fighter and heads over to fight him. The big twist is that Absolute Sword is a girl with the same first name as Asuna’s last name. Asuna puts up a good fight so Yuuki asks for her help in defeating a boss with Yuuki’s crew. Asuna is thrilled at the opportunity but will she be strong enough?

Meanwhile Asuna has human world troubles as well. Her Mother wants her to go to a different school since the current one is rather lackluster. Asuna doesn’t want this because she has already decided to support Kirito in her future path. Naturally this is very upsetting for the Mother since that doesn’t really even count as a career path. Asuna’s video game hobby has also started to turn into an obsession as she loses track of the time and starts to prefer being there than in the real world. Asuna’s Mom has to put an end to this, but how?

I already went into this for the anime version but I’ll quickly touch on the plot here as well. Asuna’s Mom is absolutely right here. The only chink in her argument of always looking out for Asuna is that she has set her up with potential marriage options one or two times. This seemingly goes against the rest of her message about being independent. Still, she has no problem with dropping that tactic when Asuna brings it up and I’m inclined to believe that Asuna had never expressed her disapproval for it before. Asuna seems like someone who won’t mention any objections to something in the moment and will just use it as ammo in the future which is definitely no good. Beyond that, Asuna is the one who is losing every argument. She could have brought up valid reasons for wanting to stay at a sub standard school but I wouldn’t say that hanging out with friends is one of them. The Mom was also willing to let her keep using the NerveGear but then Asuna started getting increasingly irresponsible with it so of course the Mom wouldn’t be a fan. So in the end, Asuna’s plot is definitely not as engaging as the Yuuki one.

As for Yuuki, she’s a fun character to add to the mix. It is good to finally have another high level fighter who can battle at Kirito’s level. At this point there really aren’t any heroes who can give him a good fight. At best Asuna can maybe be good for sparring practice, but with Yuuki Kirito can’t afford to hold back. Wanting to win one last big battle before going away is definitely a solid goal and one that I can get behind. The rest of her crew are fairly generic and not very memorable so I can’t say quite as much in their favor, but ultimately Yuuki is the only one who matters. They are just there to fill in the ranks. It’s a shame Yuuki doesn’t stick around since she would really give the main cast a boost.

Kirito mostly gets the shaft in this trilogy since it is all about Asuna and her development, but he still gets his share of hype moments. One such scene is when he rushes into the boss area and holds off hundreds of other players on his own. It’s an amazing scene that was extremely intense in all 3 mediums. (Book, Anime, Manga) It may not be Kirito’s adventure, but at the same time I am not surprised that he got the best scene in the adventure. His fight against Yuuki was a lot of fun as well of course and the series did a good job of playing up how smart Kirito was as well. He figured out Yuuki’s secret immediately and then even found out where she was in the real world all in a very short amount of time. It is almost scary just how good he is.
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As for Asuna, she is fairly good here. I never disliked Asuna before this as she was solid in Arc 1, didn’t do much in arcs 2-3, so she was about the same now as she was in the past. She had lost some confidence as you might expect thanks to recent events, but regains it by the end of this adventure. She is still a strong fighter and I have to agree with the peanut gallery that it was odd how Asuna went for a mage role instead of a front line fighter. It seems like she enjoys the latter a whole lot more. Yuuki gave Asuna a valuable lesson on how being polite and talking things out won’t always work so sometimes you have to just jump in and start fighting. The sky’s the limit from there.

The art looks fairly good here. It’s the character designs that are a little off. In particular Kirito and Asuna look a little chibi or maybe just younger than usual. Aside from that, the artist does a good job with the fight scenes and it doesn’t look like a cash in. The trilogy has quite a few different fights and they are all visually engaging. Unfortunately while the trilogy does manage to stick away from fanservice, we do get one such bath scene as even on its best day it appears that the series can’t play it straight here.

There’s not a whole lot to say here since this is basically identical to the anime version so in a sense I already reviewed this saga. As long as the medium did it justice then there is no reason why it would be weaker than the anime version. If anything the pacing is better here since you can read faster than characters can talk so the exposition goes by at a nice pace. We already understand that Yuuki’s situation is rather tragic so you don’t need to know a whole lot about it beyond that. It will be nice to see Asuna use the new combo that Yuuki gave her in one of the anime seasons someday. We have the movie, but that wasn’t exactly a one on one fight and I’d like to see it in more of a traditional combat setting.
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Overall, Mother’s Rosario is definitely the most serious of the SAO arcs. It’s certainly pretty sad to have a character who is doomed to die from the start since there’s no way that could end up being a happy ending. At least the series never tries to give you any false hope that she might survive as that would have made everything turn out badly. As it stands, Yuuki’s backstory is definitely very tragic but at least the trilogy handles it well. The series is actually light hearted for about 80% of the chapters and Yuuki isn’t too mopey about her future either. She takes it all in stride. I’d recommend checking out this manga, especially if you usually don’t like the series since this one takes it in a very different direction.

Overall 7/10

Beyblade Review

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Beyblade is a pretty iconic franchise and one that has gotten quite a few tv shows and manga over the years. I probably still have it ranked as the biggest anime franchise that I haven’t jumped into yet next to maybe pretty cure. It’s definitely a fun series with quite a lot of tournaments and matches going on. It’s not a particularly long manga but one that makes the most of its 14 volumes. Definitely a title that lived up to the hype.

The series follows a kid named Tyson as he journeys to become the greatest Beyblade player ever. The game of Beyblade has become incredibly popular across the planet because of how it made top spinning fun again. Of course the road to being the best won’t be easy and Tyson makes plenty of rivals along the way. There are also villains who plan to use the tops for their own nefarious plans. Looks like it’s time for the heroes to let it rip!

As you can probably guess, there are a bunch of tournaments over the course of the Beyblade series. Everyone wants to be the best after all so it makes sense that you have to win a lot to stay at the top. While some of the tournaments have 1 on 1 battles, Most of the series is about team tournaments. The main characters actually had a pretty stacked roster for a while since Tyson was with all of his rivals. Of course, the villains were also quite powerful. One of the more serious arcs involved a kid who tried to destroy everyone’s Beyblade to prove to his father that he was a strong fighter. That arc had a cheesy ending, but actual villains which was certainly hype. Surprisingly the later volumes played it straight with the tournaments, but of course that works for me.

The final arc of the series is…you guessed it! A huge tournament. Naturally this was the perfect way to end things off as Tyson got to fight with all of his rivals one last time. They all got new metals from the sponsor to make them even stronger as well. He seems rather shifty the whole time but in the end it turns out that he was just a normal guy. During the whole arc I was waiting for the inevitable twist that the guy was evil but surprisingly nothing like that happened. The tournament went on without a hitch. We even got a private battle between Tyson and Kai before it was over. I always like seeing two of the fighters go at it before it’s technically their turn to fight. It builds up the suspense. A good example of this is Lan vs Chaud in the NT Warrior anime as they fought in the streets. It’s especially good if you know that the final fight is not going to end or if it’s going to be interrupted somehow. Unfortunately this is the case for Beyblade.

While it’s not something that would affect the score of the series in the slightest, the ending did leave much to be desired. The final fight doesn’t actually get to happen and it just feels rushed in general. I’m cool with it ending abruptly but only after a winner is chosen. I think it’s safe to say that Tyson would have won here but I still wanted to actually see it. Stretching the series out to 20 volumes would have done wonders for it as 14 just feels too short. It’s all over in the blink of an eye. At least that shows how solid it is.

Meanwhile the series does something interesting with the bonus chapters at the end of each volume. Usually they are just comedic stories for most titles, but in Beyblade they are used to give development to Daichi. At first you just wonder why this kid is getting so much screen time but by the end you realize that it was all deserved. It leads to him showing up in the main series and made his appearance feel more like a crossover than just an ordinary new character. For the past volume we got a big time skip which is certainly a trope that many titles like to use. The only problem is that once again the fight was off screen instead of being shown. Off screen fights are one of the worst things that you can do so it should be avoided at all costs.

As Tyson is the main character I’ll talk about him first. He is definitely a solid lead who is always ready for a good fight. He knows that a good offense will take you far and is always trying to make his top faster. Tyson always makes sure to have fun while he plays as well and never loses sight of that. If someone tries to stop him from a match whether it be friend or foe. The scene where he tied up Daichi was definitely fun and challenging Kai before their match was also the right move. Tyson just has that enthusiasm and intensity that you want to see from a main character. He never backs down from a challenge.

Then we’ve got Daichi who is the main character of the backup stories and a supporting character in the main series. I was actually worried at first that he was going to beat Tyson but fortunately that was not the case. While I prefer Tyson to Daichi, both are still quality characters. Daichi really improved a lot considering that he didn’t have much to work with. His origin story was also the most grim while being surreal at the same time. His father gets crushed by a rock but with his dying breath urges Daichi to take up his Beyblade and fight. Considering that he is being crushed to death while still alive, the father took it in stride. Well he would be proud that Daichi ended up being one of the best players in the world.
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Then we have Kai who is the big rival of the series. He’s definitely an all star beyblader as well and really forces Tyson to keep on improving to match his pace. While you never really get the impression that he can beat Tyson, that doesn’t take away from his character. He still talks tough at every corner and can match Tyson yell for yell. Depending on how you interpret the ending maybe you can even say that he is the world champ although I would call that a stretch. Kai is always a step ahead of all the other rivals and the fact that he was able to learn Tyson’s ultimate attack so easily is pretty impressive.

Max is one of Tyson’s many rivals, but I could never take him quite as seriously as Kai. I guess I should say now that none of them were ever all that serious in comparison but maybe I’m setting the bar too high. As it stands, Max does have a pretty good defense so I suppose that I should acknowledge him as a good fighter. His defensive playstyle makes him a good counter to Tyson and he did make it very far in the tournament. Certainly farther than you may have expected.

Then there is Ray. He is another strong fighter who wants to be the champ. He does let the allure of power get to him quite a bit though as in his final fight you can barely even recognize the character. He only cares about winning, but fortunately Tyson snapped him out of it. Ray is skilled though and I may take him in a fight against Max. I’m sure it would be a close fight though.

We’ve also got Kenny who is the brains of the operation. Unfortunately he isn’t very good at the actual game though and you know how I feel about characters like that. It’s great that Tyson has someone around who can fix his top, but Kenny should really focus on improving his own skills first and foremost. That is ultimately how he will improve.

There are a bunch of other supporting characters of course, but I won’t really go into the rest. For some it’s because they’re too minor and for others it’s because its been a long time since I read the earlier volumes so I don’t remember them quite as well. As a result the series will have pretty good replay value if I ever read it again. One consistency that I always remember is how fun the series is though. Each volume had great pacing and never let up. It’s very easy to just pick up and read. There aren’t really any negatives to speak of here.

The art is rather standard but that doesn’t mean it’s bad at all. It’s not an elite title of anything like that but it is easy to follow the action. The character designs are on point as well. You can feel the intensity behind every play even if it never gets quite as exaggerated as in the TV show. I’m sure many people didn’t think a manga about tops could be this exciting but it just goes to show that anything is possible when tournaments are involved.
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Overall, Beyblade is definitely a great manga. It is one of those timeless classics that has just aged very well. You can’t help but get really excited while reading it. It’s easy to see why it became such a big sensation over the years and I look forward to seeing how the sequel stacks up. If you haven’t checked this manga out yet then I would definitely recommend fixing that. This is one title that you don’t want to miss.

Overall 8/10

Handa Kun Review

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It’s time to look at the prequel to Barakamon. It’s about Handa before he became Handa-San and was instead known as Handa-Kun. It’s definitely an interesting take on the franchise and with a whole different cast and setting you really could think of it as a whole different part of the franchise which could have lasted a while. The series didn’t get too many volumes but it was a fun ride.

The story follows around Handa back when he was in school. These were the days before he became a calligrapher and right now he is lacking in self confidence. His only friend Kawafuji mistakenly told Handa that nobody liked him and thanks to a bunch of tricky circumstances Handa has convinced himself that this is the case. Well, Handa has decided that this year he will make friends but things never seem to work out the way he had hoped. Perhaps this goal is impossible. Meanwhile, the rest of the school idolizes Handa and misinterprets his actions in a good way each time. The problem is that Handa never seems to notice then. A few select schoolmates band together as the Handa army to try and protect him at all costs. Can they succeed?

This series is a full comedy as opposed to Barakamon which mixes in some drama at times. Of course the school setting may have tipped you off to that. Comedy titles have to be careful how they use the jokes as some will just end up shouting themselves in the back like Assassination Classroom. Fortunately the jokes here are pretty solid. Mainly the humor comes from everyone taking every action in a way that was not intended. Handa may glare at someone and his army will take it as a cue to beat that person up while Handa dashes out of there since he doesn’t want to mess with the ruffians. While outlandish at times, the misinterpretations can usually make some kind of sense and the series is usually self aware about the ones that don’t. There is one character who acts as the straight man until he gets corrupted and while that person is never needed if you ask me, he wasn’t as bad as he could have been.

Handa can definitely hold his own series as he has proved before. He’s a nice guy who means well even if it doesn’t always end up working out for him. He is certainly naive to the extreme and definitely isn’t a people person, but Handa always tries hard which is what counts. His friend Kawafuji tries to get him to make the wrong move by not accepting the helmet at the end, but Handa sees through this. While the story can be tragic beneath the humor, Handa does ultimately get a happy ending.

The first member of Handa’s clique is a kid with glasses, Aizawa. Aizawa is a genius who scores really well in tests but realizes that it isn’t actually something to look at too deeply and memorized the names of everyone in the top 100. He never lets his guard down and is a natural fit as the leader of Handa’s group. He eggs everyone on and may be the most zealous member of the group. At the very least he never doubts Handa or his lifelong calling of being in the army either. He’s a pretty fun character.

The next member of the team is the ex thug Akane. He left school for a while and felt like he would always be doomed to be a delinquent until Handa showed up. Handa showed him the error of his ways and in return this guy became a solid bodyguard that Handa could count on. It is nice to have someone on the team who can actually fight so he is definitely a valuable member to have. He isn’t quite as fun as some of the other characters, but he is amusing all the same.

Then we have the fashion model Reo. Everyone always insults his looks but he aims to be the best someday. He definitely gets to become one of the main characters after he joins and does help the overall dynamic. Reo is probably be the weakest member of the group and doesn’t have as many running gags as the others though. His rivalry with White School was also the least interesting.
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Fake Handa is probably the supporting character who was really unneeded. I’d go as far as to say that he may have been my least favorite. It is a nice idea to have a character who looks just like Handa, but the fake teeth may have been a bit much. I get tha the problem with having an exact duplicate would be telling them apart at times, but I feel like the teeth ruins the gag. The gag is a huge part of this character so after all of that he really isn’t left with anything. Dash doesn’t get to do much either but he was never supposed to be a big character here. He just shows up occasionally for a race but that’s about it. He never joined Handa’s club either and really just sees himself as a quality rival. He’s a fun character to have and I just wish he could have gotten one last race.

Towards the end of the series we got introduced to two rival schools that compete with Handa’s group. First is the White school who has their own king like Handa. Unlike Handa, Asahi acknowledges his subjects and strives to be a perfect person that they can admire. Unfortunately, this also means that he has to endure a lot of pressure as he tries to keep up this act. It’s an act to the extent that it requires effort but for the most part he seems like a nice guy either way. Asahi’s entourage is also like a twisted version of the Handa army as they each have a similarity. The leader is easily the best member of the group as he gets some solid dialogue and a lot of good character moments but the other characters aren’t bad either. He made for a good rival in the series even if he was so late. The rival to the glasses kid was also pretty good although he was shown to certainly not be quite as smart as he just repeated what other characters would say.

Then we also had the Black School which was filled with a lot of hardened fighters who also liked to have a good time. They show up to stop Handa, but run into the white school in a confrontation that would certainly be worthy of a Shōnen title. They didn’t actually get much in the way of character compared to the others since they only got to appear for a chapter or 3 but they were solid in that brief amount of screen time.

Kawafuji is Handa’s main friend from Barakamon but he doesn’t look particularly good here. He is the main reason why things are so chaotic for Handa since the lead took his joking a little too seriously. He also tries to grab the crown at the end of the series even though he definitely didn’t deserve it. You can interpret the scene in a lot of ways like maybe he was just trying to get Handa to finally see what was going on, but to me it felt like he was seriously trying to make a play for the crown there. Not a great move and throughout the series it was hard to root for him. Maybe if he had gotten to appear more that would have helped his case.

Eraser is probably the most intense member of the group as she will actually go ahead and tie up anyone who even gets close to Handa. She definitely isn’t playing around and doesn’t even get involved with the comedy hijinx like the others. She is here to guard Handa, not to be his friend. There’s a big difference here compared to the others.

The Librarian Club President is one of the last characters to show up and her role is fairly small. It’s a happy yet tragic role which is always tough to balance. To get Handa’s attention she is convinced to start ordering a bunch of books instead of just the ones that Handa likes. Unfortunately this ended up backfiring because now everybody was using her library and Handa had to avoid it since he still believed that the whole school was out to get him at the time. That’s the tragic element but because of that the library became an overnight success so that helped her future which is a positive. This was also a great way to help her get over Handa.

The art is pretty solid as you would expect. All of the character designs are on point and it’s easy to read through the pages since they are never cluttered. It’s definitely top level stuff for sure. None of the characters look too similar until the final chapter’s time skip which is good since that’s probably the most annoying thing that a series can do. In theory it should always be easy not to make two characters appear to be twins unless it is plot related.
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Overall Handa-Kun is a fun title. You can really think of it as a mini series that supports the main one. It’s a prequel that actually makes sense to read before the main title and will make you appreciate the title even more as opposed to prequels like AoT Before The Fall which has nothing to do with anything. It shows us more of Handa’s past and why he generally had a tough time making friends. It goes to show just how much character development he has gotten over the years as now he can hold a conversation without a problem. It is too bad that he couldn’t see the school gang one last time though. While he did get a cameo on the island at the end, it just would have been fun to have seen how modern Handa would interact with them. With his newfound confidence and their maturity I’m sure it would have worked out well. I’d definitely recommend checking this series out. It’ll give you a good insight as to how school dynamics play out when you have gangs and celebrities in the same class. It’s also a good example of a comedy series that was actually really good.

Overall 7/10

Sword Art Online Calibur Review

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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

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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.
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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.
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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

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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.

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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

Kitchen Princess Review

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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.

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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

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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.
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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