Mega Man 11: The Gears of Fate Review

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It’s time to look at the one shot manga that was created to hype up the game. This one’s a little longer than the last one shot I reviewed as it’s around 20 pages. That’s a good thing since it allows for a fight and that’s one of the reasons why this artist has always been so solid. It’s nice to see Mega Man back in manga and it would be awesome if he could get a full length series again at some point. The character has had a great track record so far and I have no doubt that a sequel would fare just as well.

The story starts with Wily wrecking havoc on the world once more. This time his robots have been equipped with the Double Gear system so even Mega Man is basically helpless to stop them. Fortunately Dr. Light has one as well so he gives it to Mega Man. Still, he warns the robot that if he ever uses both gears at once he will probably die. Mega Man agrees not to use it unless necessary and hops into battle. He’ll have to go through Fuse Man though and this may be his most dangerous task yet.

The author perfectly gets across how serious of a threat this is. Since robots run the world in the future every time they turn evil it is a catastrophe. No matter how many times this may occur, there isn’t much that the humans can do since their whole economy depends on them. Fuse Man in particular is difficult to stop since he controls all electricity in the area and can turn it all off on a whim. The only way to stop his ability is to destroy him which also forces Mega Man to make some tough choices. At his core Mega Man is always a hero though and so he does what he can to find a better way.

The battle between Mega Man and Fuse Man is top notch as you would expect from this artist after the brilliant Megaman NT Warrior series. He does a good job of showing off Mega Man’s speed and then also keeping Fuse Man at a higher level. He did have to rush the ending a bit as Mega Man never quite gets past the speed advantage but secures the win anyway though. I assume that had he been given more time then the fight would have been even more satisfying. Still, the art was fantastic and the action was amazing. This manga already has a more interesting environment and atmosphere then the rest of the Mega Man series. Imagine if Mega Man 11 actually played out like this. Full disclaimer, I think Mega Man 11 looks like a lot of fun so no shots at it, but imagine it in the art style of something like Sonic Forces. That’s basically what this manga looks like and it works pretty well. I’d love to see a third person shooter for Mega Man at some point or even a beat em up. The lore of the universe would work pretty well around that, especially if we get a proper robot invasion kind of story.

Overall, Mega Man 11 is definitely a real page turner. The pacing is almost too good since the story ends so quickly and you are left wanting more. Hopefully the fan response to both the manga and the game is positive enough where the franchise gets completely revived and we see a whole lot of extra material. That would just be a lot of fun. If you haven’t checked this manga out yet then you definitely need to do so. It really shows you why Mega Man is still considered to be one of the most likable of the original video game icons and his character has stayed consistent through the years.

Overall 8/10

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Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Darkness Review

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It’s time to look at a one shot Pokemon Mystery Dungeon adventure. There is only so much that you can do in 15 pages of course so the writer has to really focus to get across a meaningful experience. There’s only so much that you can write about it as well so this will probably be a bit of a short review. It’s a fun enough story and gets you ready for the game, but there just isn’t much to it. At the end of the day it’s still Pokemon though and that brings with it a fun franchise tag.

The story starts off with a human waking up in the digital Pokemon world. He doesn’t know what is happening but doesn’t have too much time to think about it as another Pokemon shows up and lets him know that the world is in a bad place. Someone stole the time stone away from its shrine. Without it, Pokemon are slowly losing their reason and turning rabbid. If they don’t recover the stone soon then it’ll be curtains for the entire planet. Our hero can’t let that happen so he decides to save the world. Still, he may have to deal with a torublesome past if he ever does get back to his world.

I’ll give the story some kudos for making the main character’s backstory a little unexpected. I wasn’t really expecting one and just figured he would wake up and it was all a dream or something. (In the game. I don’t think the manga would end like that) Having a sob story at all should be interesting and it’ll at least give him a little more character than some of his predecessors. While that part of the plot is basically recycled from the last games, what is new is the fact that the time stone is in play here. As a main plot I think that’ll work pretty well. I do have to wonder how one Pokemon can steal it so easily and escape from the rest, but if the Pokemon are as trusting as I think they are, perhaps it was unguarded. They need to find a psychic Pokemon quickly if they want the stone back.

We’re also introduced to a villain team led by Weavile. It’s hard to say if they’re evil villains out to destroy the world or just petty thieves as we just see signs of the latter. Naturally they will still be bad guys, but at least the heroes won’t have to worry about them much yet. Weavile seems to make for a capable commander and leads his troops well. I may like him more than Gengar from the original manga at the moment. Again, these are really all just first impressions of course.

The art looks pretty good. The character designs are on point and the fight scene between the Pokemon was handled pretty well. It’s a shame that this couldn’t have been a full volume. I think it would have been a lot of fun. Naturally it’s no Adventures or Reburst but it would have been a solid adventure. Everything about the manga is on point so far so there were no weaknesses. The pacing is good and the characters have potential. The only character who seems a tad boring compared to the other main fighters is the lead’s sidekick and that guy is usually meant to not be very interesting.

Overall, Whether you’ve played the game yet or not this is a fun one shot to check out. It’ll only take you a few minutes to read as well so there’s no real reason not to check it out right? The manga is just waiting to be read and now you can finally do that. I definitely look forward to playing another one of the Mystery Dungeons one day. The first one was pretty solid and I’m assuming that the next ones will be just as good. After all, what beats actually playing as one of the Pokemon?

Overall 7/10

Honey and Clover Review

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There are some series where you immediately start to think that something was off. This is one of them and most of it all boils down to the art. Right from the beginning you can tell that it’s an unconventional art style and one that you automatically associate with a grittier title. It lets you know that this series will probably make some big mistakes and you wouldn’t be wrong. More on the art later.

The series has quite a few characters and plot lines. The general plot though is that there are a group of characters in a town. They all know each other through other people or directly and as such bonds have started to form. Takemoto is known as an average guy all the way through. He’s not bad at anything, but not good at anything either. One day an art prodigy known as Hagu shows up and Takemoto decides that he will be a better man. Then we are introduced to a ton of love triangles which all intersect to the point where everyone has a rival. Can they all end up as friends despite this or will their bonds be shattered?

So lets address the biggest problem right off the bat. Hagu is one of the main characters of interest as Takemoto, Morita, and Shuji all like her. The thing is, the manga always draws her to look like a little girl while everyone else is basically an adult. Takemoto was 19 and the others were older than him I believe. Hagu is around their age as well but never seems like it. I forgot in the series if it was ever stated that there is a reason why she doesn’t grow or if that’s just the art style but then the series goes a step further by making her act like a kid as well. Either way, it makes the romance hard to endure and every time it pops up you’ll end up cringing. Lets face it, it’s hard to do a good roamance at times, but even so it’s possible. This series just absolutely could not pull it off and the art destroyed any chance that it had. Hagu’s design just seems like a mistake and if the author wanted to go with this look, then she should have at least acted more mature.

I also can’t say that I liked Hagu as she made the wrong calls. So, this series also deals quite a lot with romance and the rebounds. Hagu actually does like one of the 3 characters, but she goes with a different one because he gives her the best chance at recovering her career. It’s portrayed as a good option, but that just seems fake then. She’s basically using the guy. We have several characters in the series who are totally fine with that, but it’s still not a quality romance. Even though drawing is her life, Hagu also has many different moments where she is unsure if that’s what she wants to do so I wonder if she has what it takes for the long haul.

Then another bad character is Mayama and his entire subplot. So, he has always liked Rika and has been stalking her for years. He looks through her browser history when she is gone and does a lot of crazy things inside her apartment when she’s not around. It’s all played off for humor, but the series does portray him as a rather warped individual who should be considered as more of an antagonist. Rika does lead him on and gives him one night stands to keep him entertained, but that’s no good either. Rika has a tragic past and just can’t cope with it at times. While she is still to blame, Mayama is just as guilty for ignoring this to his convenience. This was another romance that I could certainly not get behind and the guy was just a terrible character.

Then we have Takemoto who is also annoying. At one point he bails on everyone to drive around the country and re discover himself. Kind of a selfish thing to do if you think about it since he didn’t tell anyone where he was going and is gone for a very long time. When he comes back the first thing he does is confess to someone when he knows that she doesn’t like him. Fortunately she rejects him instead of playing along for a while like some other characters, but it didn’t help Takemoto’s case. Even by the end once she has made her decision he has a tough time letting her go.

The same thing is true for Yamada. She likes Mayama, but he has chosen Rika over her. So, Yamada decides to rebound with Nomiya, but even at the end of the series she can’t get over Mayama. Nomiya is fine with that, but that still means that he will just be the rebound. It’s not a very fun role and even if he doesn’t mind it, once again I can’t call this a quality romance. By the end of the series it felt like every character had to settle for the backup or being forever alone. Takemoto wanted Hagu and ended up with no one. Morita wanted Hagu and got no one. Hagu wanted Takemoto but got Shuji. Yamada wanted Mayama but got Nomiya. I guess Mayama and Shuji got their picks though.

Morita is another bad character. At least he is rather quirky and eccentric as he runs around doing his best to annoy everyone while getting rich. He actually is a genius and knows how to succeed which is good, but then he goes around causing trouble for everyone. Rather then talk to Hagu openly he runs around calling her a creature and doesn’t get serious until the final volume. It’s way too late by then if you think about it. As mentioned earlier Yamada is basically using Nomiya which doesn’t help her case. It’s fine if she can’t get over Mayama, but then just staying by yourself until the feeling has passed is the right choice.

Nomiya’s no good as he approaches Yamada once she is in a vurlnable state which basically just seems like it will help his odds. That’s not the heroic sacrifice play that I would have liked to have seen. At leas stay in the friend zone or something. Rika’s no good since she can’t make up her mind. She clearly likes Shuji more than Mayama, but ultimately needs Mayama for work so she makes compromises. She should have kicked him out once she found out about the shady stuff he was doing. Shuji’s also no good because his romance comes out of nowhere and he seems way too old to be honest. The guy’s been a teacher for a while so no matter how you slice it there is an age gap here.

Going back to the romance themes, one of the issues that the characters keep struggling with is the fact that they can’t get over their initial pick. At the end Takemoto gives a monologue wondering if it was all pointless or if it was a good thing. At the end he decides it was a good thing and finally moves on. He’s the only one who made the sensible choice in the end. See, if you fall for someone who’s taken or who simply doesn’t feel the same way, you don’t just keep pestering the person until they finally give a half hearted okay and get together with you as a last resort. You also don’t just use someone as a rebound while mentally picturing that you’re with the other person. No, the best thing to do is get over it as soon as possible and if that’s not working then create some distance. Eventually you’ll be over it and until then just bluff for a while and put on a tough face. Not letting the other person find out is the right thing to do because that will just put that person in an awkward position. The thing is, most of the cast is too selfish to go along with any of that and they all end up doing their own thing.

As mentioned, one of the reasons why this manga scored so low is due to the art. It just looks utterly terrible and is one of the worst art that I have ever seen for a manga. It’s not dead last, but it’s probably bottom 5. The art looks unfinished and everyone appears to be constantly blushing. That’s something you’d expect more from an anime which also doesn’t work. I’ve already mentioned the Hagu thing to death, but changing that would have certainly helped the score as well. The humor doesn’t work either since the characters are so unlikable. Even though the series is 10 volumes it definitely does drag for quite a bit. The commentary on romance in general was ambitious so I’ll give the series some props there, but it was just incorrect the whole time.
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Overall, Honey and Clover is a series that I highly advise staying away from. It’s just not a good series but you could probably guess that based off of the synopsis. If you like a lot of drama and romance then you may enjoy it, but if you don’t then you’ll know to stay away. I’m not a big fan of those two genres mixing myself so it’s not really a surprise that I didn’t like it. Still, I can certainly say that the series was a little worse than expected. It certainly would have been better as a romance comedy than a drama in this case as it takes itself way too seriously with all of the wrong choices. There is a lot of dialogue, but often times it is about nothing in particular. It’s just characters hanging out, but they aren’t saying anything exciting.

Overall 2/10

Noragami Stray Stories Review

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It’s time to look at the Noragami short stories volume that came out recently. It may get a follow up at some point but seeing as it has been several years I think it’s unlikely so I may as well write the review right? It’s not that good unfortunately as it’s an anthology series which is already difficult and it forgets most of what makes the main series good. It could have been better if it didn’t rely on fanservice for quite a few of the jokes as well.

Let’s start with the stories! One adventure starts off with a guy who is down on his luck so he has decided to jump off of the largest skyscraper in the world. He ends up calling the main character accidentally so Yato jumps off with him to listen to the story. This guy has been using up all of his money to please the whims of a girl he just met since she is broke. The problem is that he gave all of his money to this cause including rent and such. Now he has nothing. Yato helps set him straight and we find out that it was one of the gods messing with the poor chap. It was a bit of an unexpected twist but it makes the girl look pretty mean. Perhaps she didn’t realize I guess. It’s a decent story even if you can’t feel sympathetic to the guy who was wasting his money since he made his choice.

Another story has the main cast chilling at a cabin in the middle of nowhere but someone appears to be trying to assassinate Yato. Someone knocks him on the head with a blunt instrument, poisons him, etc. Of course the main character is a god so he can’t die through mortal means but this killer must be stopped! I think the villain gets off rather easy here as it was an aspiring writer who just wanted to see what murder was like. That’s an interesting justification but the guy should still be locked up if you ask me. Instead he is taken to an institute though so at least he’s not running around scot free. It’s definitely the most fun story here. While Yato is never in any danger or anything like that, it’s still pretty fun to see him try to figure out what’s happening.

Following up on that we have a story where Yato wants to join the main group of gods so he can get rich and famous. The problem is that none of the other gods like him. They have all either dealt with him before or just don’t see what he has to bring to the table. That’s when he decides to possess the main heroine to make it instead. This gets dangerously close to succeeding. It’s a fun story for the first half but you always end up feeling bad for the heroine when she is thrown into these scenes. Yato always crosses a line when he unexpectedly takes control of her like that. He needs to respect the boundaries.

In another story Yato is tricked by a clever fortune teller. The guy tricks Yato into giving away his secrets and then the guy “predicts” them in exchange for money. Yato decides to get revenge by turning the tables on him. It’s a fun enough story and maybe the best one in the batch. It was a little sad to see Yato get played like that but he evened the scoreboard before very long which was good. The guy doesn’t just crumble before a loss, he embraces it! Yato is certainly petty, but that’s part of what makes him such a fun character at times.

One of the shortest stories is when Yato’s sword finds out that he can actually apply to get a real job instead of just hanging around Yato all day. The lead tries to stop him at every turn, but at the end of the day it’s his sidekick’s decision to make. The kid decides to stay with Yato which is the smart thing to do since none of the other gods can be trusted of course, but at least he pretends to be tempted for a while to mess with Yato. Considering how much Yato messes with everyone all the time that is definitely a reasonable thing to do.

Finally we also have the story where someone appears to be stalking Yato. Naturally this is a little distressing to him for 2 reasons. 1 is that mere mortals can hardly even see him and then tend to forget about him entirely a few minutes later. The second is that tracking him should be nearly impossible since Yato is always teleporting around quite frequently. As a result he is quite terrified, but it turns out that the stalker is fairly harmless. Having an internet god makes sense with how big it is and it’s almost too bad that she’s not in the main series. Cyber powers can always be interesting.

The art is pretty solid as always which is good. All of the character models are on point and the art is clear so it’s easy to read. Noragami in general is pretty consistent in that regard. The only time the art tends to get tricky is when there’s a large scale action scene but naturally you won’t be seeing something like that here. It’s just consistent from start to finish.

At the end of the day your enjoyment of this series will largely depend on if you’ve read the main series. Without it you’ll have no reason to care about these characters and most of the gags are based on character traits that we know about the characters through their adventures. At the same time, as this is a pure comedy you won’t care for it either way if you mainly enjoy Noragami for the action scenes. The cast can lend itself well to comedy so a spinoff like this would have potential but the series has definitely got to curb the fanservice if it really wants to get ahead of the crowd.

Overall, The stories here are fairly entertaining but they are brought down by the fanservice that tends to show up. If the series had played it straight then it would have been a solid comedy one shot that I could recommend. As it stands I’d say that you should just read the main series instead. It has its share of issues as well but it has big fight scenes to distract from them. It’s still surprising in general that this series got a spinoff but the more the merrier right?

Overall 4/10

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

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