Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories Review

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It’s time for the next installment in the Kingdom Heart novels. This one covers the Chain of Memories game which was always a fun follow up to the original. The story was a lot more intense as you could say that the plot finally started here. This novel is quite a bit larger than the first as it has 2 Sora stories plus the Riku one. It clocks in at a clean 400 pages and makes for a pretty epic read from start to finish.

The first novel finished with Sora, Donald, and Goofy being split up from Riku and King Mickey as the latter stayed behind the door of Kingdom Hearts in order to shut it to save the world. Sora vowed to find them once more and Kairi stayed behind on the island. Unfortunately, something seems off. While the heroes were on a road, they suddenly find themselves at a castle and a mysterious individual warns that as they go through it, they will lose their memories. At the same time, they will gain new ones to replace the old memories that they have lost. Sora decides that they must press on and so the heroes continue.

You can definitely say that this is one of the toughest challenges that the heroes have encountered. What they don’t realize is that the castle is owned by Organization XIII. They are using a girl named Namine to rewrite Sora’s memories. She deletes his memories of Kairi and slowly inserts herself into them instead. She begins deleting his memories of his friends as well to the point where Sora begins to forget everything. This starts to cause some tension between the 3 heroes, but fortunately they’ve been through a lot so this doesn’t lead to any big split like in the first novel. Donald and Goofy know something is wrong, but their memories are being tampered with as well so it’s difficult to fight back. You can’t stop an opponent that you don’t even know you are fighting after all.

One of the challenges of the Castle is that Sora must revisit all of the worlds that he visited in the first novel. Admittedly, this part can be a little repetitious. Even more so since I just finished reading the first novel a few days ago. During each chapter, I would just look forward to the parts where he would leave the world and fight with the Organization XIII members. That and the new inner monologue were the most important parts. The actual worlds progressed in just about the same way as the first time around. That’s basically the point, but it doesn’t make those challenges too engaging.

Finally, Sora also has to watch out because the villains created a fake Riku to mess with his mind even further. Fortunately, Sora deals with this fairly well. He does suffer from a ton of self doubt in this novel but considering the circumstances, I suppose it makes sense. Sora’s definitely a great lead and acts as a real hero throughout these trials. Even when he finds out that Namine has been manipulating him, he decides to aid her since it wasn’t totally of her own volition and he claims that even if he never made the promise to protect her, the memory of it (Fake or otherwise) makes it real so he’ll live up to it. It’s an interesting concept and one that I can agree with. (As long as the fake promise wasn’t anything crazy) Donald and Goofy’s roles are a lot smaller here, but they’re good sidekicks to have around. They could maybe use more character at times, but as long as they don’t betray Sora or anything, we’re good.

The Riku story at the end takes place at the same time as Sora’s adventure although it ends after the first one. Since their main target is Sora, the Organization doesn’t bother to mess with Riku’s memories. They don’t even know that he has infiltrated the castle at first since everyone thought it would be impossible to escape from Kingdom Hearts. Riku spends most of the novel trying to fight off the darkness so he can be friends with Sora again, but this is a tough challenge. It’s one that becomes even more difficult once the Organization notices him. Surprisingly, he only gets about half of his own story though. Fake Riku (Replica) gets the other half as he tries to become a real person by destroying the original and taking down Sora.

I actually preferred the Riku story to the Sora one. Since Riku kept his memories, it made his experiences in the various planets feel fresh. After all, we never got to see him there originally so in that sense it was already new. Throw in the fact that Ansem, Maleficent and all of the other villains kept jumping in and the whole thing got even better. Also, as cool as Sora is, Riku’s even better. He’s the intense rival that every good series needs and he fills the role perfectly. Walking the path of light and dark is definitely only something he could do. It was also nice to see Mickey show up even if he didn’t do much til the end. As with most things in the series, it was still a little vague how they escaped and why Mickey has telepathic abilities, but we’ll roll with it. Part of the fun with the series is that the mysteries continue to grow, but the vague statements all amount to something by the end. Since I’ve already played the rest of the games, what they’re saying makes a lot of sense the whole time. I’m sure once I play Kingdom Hearts III there will be a lot of stuff that doesn’t make sense. That’s just how it goes.

Replica was also a decently good character. You can’t help but feel bad for him when the Organization forces him to have his memory wiped. At least he tries to stop them, but he was a little out of his league. The villains were also pretty good. There were quite a few of them and they all had different personalities. I do question the power levels though. The girl was able to detect Replica pretty easily, but then Sora was able to take her down for the count. I don’t think the difference in power should have been that great. At times, Sora also seems outmatched against the Organization while at other moments he seems to be out of their league. Whatever the case, it’s safe to say that he should be able to hold his own against them in Kingdom Harts III. By then he will have more than enough experience needed to take them down now…as a Keyblade Master!

Overall, This was a fun follow up to the first novel. It was definitely quite a bit more epic since the gang was already together and I really liked Castle Oblivion. The repetition in the worlds was maybe a little tiresome, but that was overshadowed by the increased amount of fights in the arc. I also felt like the fights had more stakes since Sora was up against sentient antagonists as opposed to normal heartless. I expect that the novel adaption of Kingdom Hearts II will be even better and will continue bringing up the series. If you haven’t read this one yet, I highly recommend it!

Overall 8/10

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Sword Art Online Ordinal Scale Review

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March has been off to a pretty intense start. Between my birthday and the release of Legend of Zelda Breath and the Wild, things were already going well. This got even better when I won free tickets to the big U.S. premiere of Ordinal Scale. Special Shoutout to Anime Girls NYC for letting me know about the contest in the first place. Winning it was pretty hype although it was still a tough call because it was on at the same time as a class I was supposed to be at. I thought long and hard about it, but missing out on this big event with free tickets would have been a shame so I played hooky and just skipped it. Characters do that on TV all the time right so missing one day shouldn’t be bad…hopefully! Well enough of that, time to talk about the film. It was great as expected and I dare say that it did a better job of getting the concept of virtual gaming better than the show did. Arc 1 of the first season is still the absolute greatest, but this movie has no second half to weigh it down.

This movie takes place after the first two seasons of the show. A new augmented reality game has launched called Ordinal Scale. After the tragic events of Sword Art Online and Gun Gale Online, people are fed up with virtual reality games. This new company took the opportunity to launch their augmented reality game since it is very different. I won’t go into how these genres are different since you can just Google that, but think Pokemon Go, but the more intricate version. You use the new system in every day life to get free coupons and to increase your score. The major boosts are obtained through boss fights and taking down minions. Kirito is sore that nobody is playing his favorite games anymore though so he pouts about it for the first chunk of the movie.

Kirito is so sore about this that he even takes the time to tell his friends that they’re playing games too much nowadays. After all, if you’re not playing his favorite games then you shouldn’t be playing at all. Kirito was such a jerk during the first part of the movie that it was actually pretty funny. He comes across as hypocritical and lying to his future wife’s face for super minor stuff also makes you shake your head. Now you may think that I’m not a Kirito fan based on this, but he’s actually my favorite character and I’m a big fan. His attitude and negative demeanor is part of what makes him endearing. Anyway, Kirito is forced to get on board when the game begins to get dangerous. Asuna is attacked and her memories of Sword Art Online are stolen. On a more minor note, the villain also broke Klein’s arm and injured a group of people, but Kirito’s more concerned about the Asuna situation. He must now get stronger in this game so he can beat up the villains and force them to return her memories. He may be a legend in the video game world, but can he do so well in the human realm? Time to find out!

Part of what makes this a little more challenging is the fact that Ordinal Scale is still in the real world. The illusions don’t change the fact that you have to physically move around and Kirito is supposedly out of shape. The film keeps on saying that, but he always looks like he’s in shape so Kirito’s just that good. He has a quick training montage and reminds us why he is the hero. It was great to see hardcore Kirito return for a little bit as he finally decided to go all out on the villains. It’s something that you don’t see from him quite as much now that he’s gotten a bit more mellow, but in his defense, the stakes have never been as high as they were in SAO. I’m sure the third season should change that once we finally adapt the next big arc.

The soundtrack in the film is easily 5 stars. There are a ton of great themes and I’ve already listened to the soundtrack on Youtube quite a few times. As I always say in my reviews, a good soundtrack can take a film to the next level. It’s safe to say that the film wouldn’t have been quite as exciting with a more laid back set of tunes. We get remixes from the show and even some tunes that seem to be grabbed directly from it. Coupled with the new tunes, it makes for a pretty unforgettable experience.

As always, the graphics are also excellent. The fight scenes really stand out and the choreography for the hand to hand fights are excellent. The best fight is naturally Kirito vs Eiji, but there were great moments all around. All of the fights were a blast with the colorful visuals and great sound effects. You could really hear every slice and clang and that’s part of what will always make going to the theater such fun. It’ll still be around at home of course, but your neighbors never let you turn the volume up quite as much as you would like. The solution is to live in a house of course, but I don’t think I’ll be moving anytime soon. Besides which, I’m just a city kid at heart anyway.

There are some plot elements I have to mention because they don’t make much sense. I’m not gonna go into too much detail on this, but Ordinal Scale just doesn’t work in practice. At least not the way that the film presented it. As one person pointed out on Youtube, one scene has a car turn into a bunch of barrels and later on we see the barrels get thrown around. That means that a car just got totaled and the poor owner is going to sue the game or a player bumped into the car and probably broke his back if we assume that it wasn’t enough to throw the car. There are many scenes like this throughout the film where you try and remember what the real world looked like the whole time. In a sense it almost feels like Boss Baby where the characters feel like they’re doing something intense, but it’s actually a lot less wide scale and epic than you are led to believe.

This may be true to an extent, but the line is heavily blurred. The characters are also immersed to the point where the whole landscape changes and they no longer know where they’re going. Also, their fake weapons seem to have an impact when they have their glasses on, but then it fades once they take it off. I guess you can just attribute this to the AR being that realistic, but it was also a little hard to swallow. Likewise, Eiji’s abilities were also a little intriguing. By the end we can basically just assume that the tech gave him super speed in real life which is pretty neat, but it should be extremely obvious to everyone in real time. At first it was treated like getting level ups in the game just gave you special abilities, but that wouldn’t make sense in context. What I’m trying to say in all of this is to not look at the context too hard as it falls apart under scrutiny.

The film’s around 2 hours, but definitely doesn’t feel like it. The adventure zips by in a snap which is obviously a good thing. It never drags on and it just a fun adventure from start to finish. I don’t have any real negatives here. I was worried that the film would have some fanservice since the show had a big problem with that, but it actually strayed away from that for the most part. There was definitely quite a bit of romance, but that usually goes hand in hand with the series. At least everyone wasn’t trying to get Kirito’s attention for once since he’s made it clear so many times that he’s taken.

I already talked about Kirito. He may not have sounded great, but he really is an excellent character. He’s a little petty at first, but every character has an off day. This was one of Asuna’s better depictions as she got really good at the game and it’s easy to see how she’s more comfortable in this real world setting than Kirito. He was never much of a people person after all. I would have been disappointed if Asuna had decided not to jump into the fray by the end and luckily the film didn’t go that route. She’s a fighter at heart so not including her in the climax would have been a mistake.

The rest of the group members are also around like Lisbeth, Klein, Leafa, and the others. They get decent roles and are around to try and get Kirito to enjoy the game more. They all pitch in and help when necessary. Sinon probably did the most noticeable damage to the boss which was nice since she is more powerful than the others. The fact that she is a long range fighter does make her a little vulnerable to the tougher bosses though. I still think it was a little odd how nobody really cared about what happened to Klein and why he didn’t tell them that Eiji could not be trusted. He didn’t lose his memory of being attacked after all so that was a little fishy. Ah well, that’s why he’s not the main character. As for the new characters in the film, they were all fairly decent. I can’t say that I cared much for the scientist, but I typically don’t care much for scientist characters anyway. At the very least, I could sympathize with his goal. He wanted to bring his daughter back even if it meant destroying the memories of many players and ultimately destroying them as well if necessary. Clearly he’s evil no matter what the justification is, but it’s certainly a better motive than just being psychotic. I’m always more on board with a plan to bring someone back to life because someone who’s special to you should mean more than the rest of the world. If you have to put the world in danger to save someone, then so be it.

The players also made it rather easy. The theater was laughing quite a lot when one of Klein’s friends noticed arrows that led to a dark alley. It’s basically the scenario that you hear about all the time on Reddit, but this guy walked in anyway because he saw a rare item. Lets just say that it did not end well for him. When are these guys going to learn that you shouldn’t go into a dark alley no matter what the reason? I can’t say that I liked Klein’s group at all though as they came off as desperate the whole time. I was rooting for the Sword Art Online monsters to take them down.

The pop idol Yuna is another one of the new characters. Her arc never really went anywhere though. She showed some interest in things beyond her programming which could have been interesting, but I guess the film didn’t have time to delve into it. She seemed like a nice enough person although I wonder if she knew that people were getting injured to deliver the crystals to her. She may not have been as innocent as she looked, but she can definitely sing. Finally, we have the main villain, Eiji. Eiji’s a classic arrogant villain who’s really confident in his abilities and loves picking on the weak. At first it seemed like he was just beating everyone up so he could get the crystals and it wasn’t anything personal, but this facade broke down a few times. Eiji definitely loves being the villain and his design was solid. The scenes with him and Kirito were definitely handled well and I’m glad that Kirito didn’t back down even when he was outmatched. That’s just not how Kirito rolls. I feel like Eiji should have put up more of a fight in his final scene, but I guess he was just too broken by then.

The surprise final boss was also great. I would have liked for that fight to be extended if anything, but they definitely fit in a bunch of action. Every character got to have a big moment in the end and there were a bunch of homages to the TV show. It was great to briefly see everyone and the movie really did do a good job of wrapping up everything from the shows. It was a good way to bridge the gap between this part and the next saga. This review was a little all over the place, but for a movie this hype it’s hard not to just start rambling as I move from section to section. It had a lot of powerful moments full of intensity and then also emotional moments as well. Kirito’s montage was excellent as I mentioned earlier and since it was personal now, I’m glad he threw everything at the mission. He even called in his favors with the government to get to the bottom of this.
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Overall, Ordinal Scale is definitely an excellent film. There was never a question about its greatness, only whether it gets an 8 or a 9. As I mentioned there aren’t any real negatives so that makes an 8 the minimum. At the same time, there are some stretches of time with no real action scenes so I’m trying to consider how a re watch of the film would go down. Honestly it is good enough for me to re watch it already so it definitely has a lot of replay value. The theater audience was also very lively which was a blast. The animation and soundtrack are top notch and the plot is good. The dialogue scenes were also solid since I do like the characters. I don’t want to take shots at Naruto too often, but it’s amazing just how much more enjoyable the cast of Sword Art Online is. Seeing them hang out at the mall is more interesting than seeing the Naruto characters fight at times which should be impossible. Of course, good directing does go a long way. Well, in the end I think the film is good enough to pull it off. It’ll join the great crowd of Resurrection F, Yugioh Dark Side of Dimensions, and more. After all, the film’s going to be even more awesome when I get to see the dubbed version of it! I look forward to seeing the series return someday and until then I may get around to reading the light novels. I highly recommend the film and keep your eye out for the Pac-Man scene. It was definitely a highlight moment as Sword Art Online acknowledges that people will still be playing the game no matter how high tech the industry gets. Pac-Man is timeless.

Overall 9/10

Attack on Titan: Lost Girls Review

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It’s time for another Attack on Titan novel! After that last one, I prepared myself for just about anything. This one splits into two very short stories which end up equaling a novel that is still 100 pages shorter than the last one. As such, it goes by fairly quick. On the other hand, it doesn’t stop the first story from severely holding the whole thing back for basically the same negatives as the last novel. Lets dive right in!

The first story is about Mikasa and how she first met Eren. It turns out that Eren was a lot meaner and more unlikable than we all remembered. Mikasa had been pretty bored at the time and only got to spend time with her parents on rainy days. One day, her doctor showed up and brought his kid along. Eren didn’t like to play with dolls and immediately started helping Mikasa break rules that she had never questioned. The two get to be friends, but Mikasa is always worried that one day Eren is going to go too far and anger the wrong people. This could end up being a fatal mistake.

At least Mikasa is a likable heroine here. She helped out around the house when her mother got sick and was always courteous to those around her. She stood up for Eren when he was getting bullied and didn’t give up even after he kept ditching her. Whether that was the right move or not if another story. Mikasa ultimately did grow up to be a very likable character as well as one of the best fighters in the series so she’s certainly never strayed from that path.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about Eren. He could be a likable main character at times in the anime although he ultimately dropped off quite a lot in the manga. In this book Eren is not even close to being a good character. He starts off very quiet and reserved and comes across as just very aggressive and mean whenever he talks to Mikasa. He compares her to a Chicken multiple times and even predicts that she will one day be destroyed. He picks fights with just about everyone and gets beaten up multiple times. Even though Mikasa is the one who helps him out of these situations, he refuses to visit her and spends all day hanging out with his new friend Armin. The way that Eren handled the situation was terrible. Whenever he appeared, you knew that Mikasa was going to feel sad again since that’s what Eren does best.

This series continues to enjoy upping the grittyness factor as much as it can and this story is riddled with it. For starters, a grown up beats up Eren for many, many pages. Keep in mind that Eren is only 9 years at the time and the beat down is very brutal and descriptive. It just keeps going on and on and on. This isn’t even the only time that Eren is beaten as a group of kids also took him out. It’s a scene that we really didn’t need in the volume, but it’s meant to show how corrupt the world is. Nobody is going to stop these guys and by the time the heroes investigate, the criminals are already dead via car crash.

There’s also a random magician who tries to get Mikasa to murder him and succeeds, but the twist is that it was a trick knife. The point of it was to show that ultimately anyone can be corrupted and convinced to murder someone. Before that, a mob ended up beating up Mikasa a bit by mistake as she was shoved to the ground and hit a few times. I believe that one aspect of the series which continues to bring these situations up is the overall locale. The slums are shown to be in extremely poor condition with people doing their business in the streets and the place just being in shambles. It makes for a lot of unnecessary details that don’t help the book, but just remind you of what a tough world the place is. Eren and the others will never get too much peace because they are defying the system. A bunch of people will die to the Titans and the other humans. It makes for a very somber piece.

Mikasa’s story was basically just a tale of grit and how you can’t trust anyone with the actual plot being on the backburner. The other story was about Annie which took place the day before she attempted to kidnap Eren. She needed her roommate to explain that she could not make it the next day but in exchange Annie was told to try and locate a missing person. The case is 10 days old with nobody actually looking so Annie would have a tough challenge ahead of her. Luckily, she is fairly determined and does have some time to burn.

This story was a considerable improvement over the last one. I’m always up for a good mystery. Some lingering elements of the Titan writing style remain as the areas continue to be described as being excruciatingly bad and it seems like everyone is either a drunk or a criminal in this world. Nonetheless, there is less time for grit and less opportunity for it since Annie does have her Titan powers and regenerative capabilities so she is never in any real danger. It really is handy to have powers like that right?

The end of the case may not be the most satisfying, but there were a sufficient amount of twists along the way and it was an interesting one. I liked how the rich father of the missing girl was actually smart for a change and was good at telling if someone was lying or not. It may not have helped him much in this scenario, but at least he wasn’t just oblivious to the whole thing. I’m a little skeptical about Annie transforming into Titan mode to take out the villains though. It’s not a question of whether it was necessary or not, but I feel like someone would notice even if the place was fairly deserted. It’s hard to miss the explosion and the light blast that hits the Titan to start the transformation right? I definitely wouldn’t mind a novel adaption of the actual mission to get Eren from Annie’s point of view. She’s a fun main character and has always been an interesting villain. Learning more about her background could help solve some mysteries in the long run.

There is a bit of an epilogue where Mikasa and Annie meet each other. I’m guessing it relates to the actual TV special/OVA content. It’s always cool to see veiled threats being hurled at each other and then the novel ends with Mikasa striking Annie down. Those two were certainly good rivals and if Annie ever breaks out of the ice that she’s in, I wouldn’t be too surprised if she ended up joining the heroes. It would make sense in a way as she was never too committed to the villains and seems like someone who could make a turnaround.

Overall, This novel had two very contrasting stories. On one hand, the first story was pretty terrible and had just about everything that’s wrong with the franchise as a whole. The second half was good and is certainly one of the better attack on Titan products, but still doesn’t exactly fall into great territory. Respectively, the first story would probably score a 2 while the second would get a 6. If we go halfway, then that’s around a 4 although the halves aren’t necessarily weighed equally. It’s like how a negative review always seems to hurt more than a positive one helps an item. In this case that’s the score that the novel gets though. I’d just advise to skip the Mikasa story when you get the volume and just read the Annie one. It’s still worth a purchase even if the book is a little small in that case. Alternately, buy the first Before The Fall novel. That one’s a solid story and easily had the least amount of grit from the Titan novels. I’m finally reading the last two part adventure for now and then the Titan novel marathon will be over. It was a good run even if the scores started to fade out. At least it’s always interesting to read, whether for good or bad.

Overall 4/10

Attack on Titan Kuklo Unbound Review

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After that last Titan novel, I was beginning to wonder what had happened to the franchise. It’s not exactly known for churning out quality content so was something changing here? Apparently not as this novel goes back to the Attack on Titan that I grew up with. Violent, Edgy, and Unfair. While the story is fairly engaging, the novel gets off to a very bad start and a scene near the middle reminds you that things will never turn out too well for the heroes. The place is just too corrupt.

This story takes place a few years after the last novel. The Titan who broke through the city last time ended up murdering someone, but her kid lived on. People began calling him the Titan’s son so he was sold into slavery and endured a rough life. He eventually escaped thanks to the help of Sharle and now calls himself Kuklo. He wants to join the Survey Corps so that he can murder the Titan who tried to eat him, but many obstacles stand in his way. Does this kid really think he can handle the pressures of the outside world?

Lets get into the basics of why this novel was just no good. First off, the start of the book is just way too dark. Kuklo is trapped in a cage for years and tortured the whole time. By the time Sharle is able to save him, it’s basically too late for his childhood. Attack on Titan does love its edge though and that continues in the next novel that I’ll be reviewing soon. It’s just not a fun way to start a novel and the staff behind Attack on Titan are just too obsessed with giving everyone tragic backstories. You can make a character have an emotional backstory without making it quite that bad.

The main bully through these years was a guy named Xavi. The novel doesn’t handle his plot very well either. For starters, he doesn’t really get any consequences for his actions as he just gets promoted higher and higher through the ranks. When Kuklo finally makes it to the army and finds Xavi, it doesn’t go over so well. Xavi’s flunkies hold Kuklo down while he gets beaten to unconsciousness once again. Keep in mind that these are the heroic soldiers that we’re supposed to be rooting for. Where were Kuklo’s friend and his boss? They were just watching and basically said that Kuklo was asking for it. There were dozens of witnesses, but they all just stood by and let it happen. Again, there’s no consequence for Xavi and Kuklo just has to endure the whole thing. The novel tries to paint the situation in a way where Kuklo was in the wrong there, but I’m not buying it.

This continues as Xavi sneaks into Kuklo’s locker and sabotages his equipment. This leads to Kuklo almost dying during a training exercise. His response to this? “It doesn’t matter” Kuklo was just happy that he lived through it and it helped him improve his balance. That’s okay, but he should have told the commanders about this so they could punish Xavi. Instead, Xavi is free to make another attempt on Kuklo’s life as he takes out a knife and tries to finish him off old school. Kuklo beats him again and decides not to mention it. Ultimately, Xavi somehow turns good and after nearly getting the whole team knocked off by going on a crazy charge against a titan…the others are cool with him. Kuklo’s even going to teach him how to fight.

It was definitely a very unsatisfying resolution to a poorly handled plot line. The less said about it the better. Still, Attack on Titan is a series that thrives on the notion that humans are just as bad as the Titans, if not worse. The manga has a lot of speeches about this were the characters are proud to be evil if it means that they can win. It’s easy to see why there are so many bad apples in the series, they’re encouraged to be like that from all of the speeches and pep talks.

While he may be lacking in common sense, Kuklo is a good main character. He still makes most of the good calls and does his best to help people out when they need it. While his goal for revenge may not be the most heroic out there, he is helping the cause in the end. His physical abilities are pretty impressive and while he is certainly not meta human at all, he’s one of the better fighters in the series by the end. A little training can definitely go a long way.

You already know my thoughts on Xavi so we can skip that. Sharle is a good heroine. While she almost made a pretty big mistake, she logically thought the situation through fairly quick and came to the right conclusion. Her dagger came in handy quite a few times during the novel. Another heroine appears towards the second half as the third main member in the Kuklo squad. She’s pretty tough and makes for a good training rival to Kuklo. While she isn’t as crazy about breaking the rules as he is, she isn’t a super stickler for the rules either. Once the main character gets into danger again, she brings the squad out to help. Cardina is a good ally as well, but one that tends to get on your nerves a lot. Not helping Kuklo against Xavi and the others was pretty bad. It was hard to get over that. Beyond that, he’s a good Yes Man type character as he goes along with whatever Kuklo is doing without too much resistance. He’s a little quicker on the uptake than Kuklo when it comes to government matters so it certainly is handy to have him around.

One thing I still like about these prequels is that the author makes it a point to say that the Titans don’t really bleed. Whenever you slice a limb off, only steam comes out. If the anime had followed this logic, season one could have easily been a 7. The novel is decently long at around 300 pages and that gives it time to include a lot of events. As you may know, the manga version of this is quite long. I’ve been reading it as well and can’t remember almost any events from the book. It’s either an incredibly loose adaption or that’s how much they’ve stretched it out. Either way, reading this book will save you a lot of time over reading the whole manga.

Surprisingly, Angel from the first volume doesn’t show up here. I thought he’d have some kind of big moment, but instead only the rival showed up. The rival looked pretty good as he openly defies authority and fears no one. I can certainly get behind that character and it’ll remind you why the last novel was more engaging. It easily had the superior cast. The two commanders here weren’t great either as they constantly put the heroes at risk for no other reason than to test their resolve. It’s no wonder the Survey Corps were disbanded for so long.

One thing that I have to note is that the Titans shouldn’t be seen as a huge threat anymore after this volume’s climax. Now that the heroes have finally mastered the Vertical Maneuvering Equipment and can slay Titans, that should have completely changed the dynamic of the series. In the main title, the Titans still outnumber them greatly and the heroes never make any strides, but it doesn’t make sense to me. If you’re taking them down so easily, it should be a simple matter to start reclaiming the Earth. That would stop once the Colossal and Armored Titans show up of course, but the normal ones shouldn’t be a threat at all. I dare say that the series could have ended with this novel if not for the super types.

Overall, Attack on Titan is a series that is usually doomed because it loves being grim dark way too much. It goes out of its way to show you how rough life is under these conditions because you have to worry about Titans as well as your fellow humans. It’s hard to root for either side when you know that the majority of the citizens are also pretty bad. While it’s an interesting read, the negatives are certainly large enough where it ends up making the novel bad in the end. I’d highly recommend reading the Before The Fall novel instead. At this rate, that one could end up being the best Attack on Titan novel. It’s just going to be hard for the series to top that one although I’m sure that they’ll try. I’ve still got more novels to go so things could change…possibly. It is cool that I’m finally reading more books though, it feels good!

Overall 3/10

Attack on Titan Before The Fall Review

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Attack on Titan is a series that I definitely am not much of a fan of. I’ve gone on record to remind people that it’s a series which could not live up to the hype and is riddled with flaws. The manga ranks among my least favorite titles and while the anime notched a 5, that is certainly low compared to most of the titles that I watched. Luckily, a franchise can always turn things around or at least get a good product into the mix somewhere. Attack on Titan managed to do that with this novel as it’s actually pretty decent. It’s still dark and violent, but in book format it’s just not quite as bad and books have always had this edge over other forms of media. It’s a fairly interesting tale, even if there isn’t much of an ending since it continues on into the next novel. (Would have been 2, but I got the fancy omnibus at the ready)

This book takes place before Eren’s adventures in the main manga. It’s a prequel that shows us how the humans first learned about the Titan’s weaknesses and it’s far back enough where the status quo may already be in place, but people still talk about the old days. If you want the true backstory, you’ll have to actually go and read the manga. The story follows Angel, an inventor who does his best to make weapons and equipment for the rest of the fighters. He has a friend who is in the corps and another one who is on the wall. The three of them look out for each other and Angel wants to eliminate the Titan threat so they can see the ocean someday. This is Titan though…so expect some major casualties sooner than later.

The main cast is relatively small so lets start with Angel. Angel’s a fairly good main character. He may not be as headstrong as someone like Ichigo, but he has his moments and definitely does get his shots in. He does his best to help out his friends and doesn’t stay paralyzed in fear of the Titans for very long. He becomes a more outspoken and dependable guy as the book goes on and he certainly spared no expense in working to eliminate the titans. It’ll be interesting to see him as a supporting character in the next volume since he had such a big role here, but time does go on and he has to get old eventually. While he may have made a mistake in judging the weak point of the Titans initially, Angel did a good job in noticing the general area at all. He can also be said to be one of the first humans to take down a Titan. He wasn’t literally the first as his friend also took one down and there may have been others in the past, but certainly not many.

Maria is the main heroine of the story and she’s a good character. She stays strong even after the Titans increase the body count. She’s certainly good at surviving and was encouraging for Angel to have around. She may not have been on board with some of his crazier stunts, but she came around. I’m glad that they also didn’t try pushing any kind of rebound romance here as they just stayed as close friends. Xenophon was essentially Angel’s rival. The novel makes sure to keep mentioning how they don’t get along, but I can’t say that I really understand why. They seemed to get along just fine whenever the two of them were on screen and their personalities don’t really clash. It’s hard to see why there would be any bad blood between them at all. I felt like the author maybe didn’t think this part through, but regardless, it’s good that they got along after that. None of them ended up being petty and suddenly turning evil or anything like that.

I also liked the general of the Survey Corps. Jorge is certainly a much better character than Erwin or the old Pixel guy from the main series. Maybe he also made some morally dubious choices at some point or other, but we don’t see any of that here so I like to think that Jorge didn’t cross that line. He certainly did a good job in the hand to hand fights and considering that Angel had a cool new weapon on deck, Jorge did quite fine. He kept his cool under pressure and also came out to help even when he wasn’t allowed too. Wars are won on the battlefield after all and someone had to make a move against the Titans.

One very interesting difference in this novel was that for the most part, Titans didn’t bleed. When they were slashed, smoke would simply come out from the wound healing back together so quickly. I think the only time there was some blood was when they were blowing up a titan to find out if he had any weak points. Titans didn’t feel any pain or seem to have much intelligence at all. It was certainly an interesting look at them, but I still would have felt iffy about the humans doing a lot of experiments on them like in the manga so I’m glad that didn’t happen.

While the novel is technically not all that long, it still seemed longer than the average light novel. Perhaps it was because the text was a little more dense with all of the terminology and plans as opposed to yelling out attack names and just slashing away at the villains. That…or I was just imagining things, some novels can just feel longer than others. I know for a fact that the Naruto novels seemed to be the smallest ones that I read, but that could be because those were related to Naruto so I was able to blast through them because I’m a big fan of the franchise…even if the first novel was a little dicey.

Overall, This novel was surprisingly good. It’s still the normal Attack on Titan fare in many respects, but in book format it just works so much better. After all, I do find the concept of Attack on Titan to be interesting and that’s why the anime actually wasn’t that bad. This book had an engaging plot and the characters were pretty reasonable. We didn’t have a lot of morally dubious characters or iffy moments where you have to remind yourself to root for the humans. There still were opposing factions and a lot of crazy guys running around, but they didn’t invade the main cast so that’s a good thing. I look forward to seeing what the sequel does with this and now that we’ll be catching up to the manga version, it’ll be neat to see how much of it I can recall. The next volume is double sized since it merges 2 and 3 so it may be a bit before that review pops up, but no worries…it’ll definitely be coming! It’s still pretty surreal to be reading about manga and anime characters in novel format, but it’s definitely a good feeling.

Overall 7/10

Sorcerous Stabber Orphen 2: Revenge Review

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It’s been a while, but it’s finally time to look at the sequel to the first Orphen show. Interestingly enough, this show took a dramatically different approach compared to the first one. While the first season was very dark, somber, and dramatic the entire time, this one shifts gears into a full on comedy. You can see what the writers were going for here though. In the first show, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to see the cast just hang out and have fun since there were always a lot of things at stake. With the world completely safe once more, it’s the perfect time to pit the cast in all kinds of wonky situations. For the most part, this works well, but some parts of the show really just make no sense. Plot points are brought up and then completely forgotten. It makes for an odd blend, but at the end of the day the show is fairly good. The first season definitely takes the win here as I did miss “hardcore” Orphen from the search for Azalie, but this title has a lot of great moments as well.

Orphen has been having a lot of strange dreams lately. He’s trapped in a cave and bad things always seem to happen. He’s chased by giants, laughed at by the unknown, or even attacked by monsters. The one constant is that whenever he wakes up, he finds the main heroine Cleao in his room to the dismay of both of them. The shenanigans continue for a while until a new character, Licorice shows up. She wants Orphen to come with her to the royal knighthood of honor chaps so that they can properly award him. Orphen refuses so she decides to follow him until he relents. The upside for Orphen is that she is backed financially by the group so now he can use her money and live a decent life instead of scraping for pennies.

Meanwhile, a Red Haired girl continues to follow them and plays the piano during the night. Her plot twist is really obvious and I guessed it as soon as she appeared, but for those who are not too familiar with the trope, it may take a little longer than that. There are also a lot of monsters which keep showing up and try to destroy Orphen from time to time. There seems to be a mastermind behind them, but who can it be? One thing’s for sure, Orphen and the others are not going to be getting a lot of rest this time!

As mentioned earlier, the show doesn’t really know where it’s going at times. Let’s take the first plot, where the two heroes keep waking up in the wrong room. This is never resolved. There is no actual reason for the characters to be sleep walking and if the show intended for this to be a pure comical subplot, then it was not handled well. During the entire show, you’re waiting for the revelation of what is causing this, but it wasn’t to be. We can’t forget Orphen’s dreams either. He gets them constantly and some of them are even used purely for comic relief and have no purpose. One of them does come true by the end, but what about the rest? Has Orphen’s imagination just started to run away with him in his old age? I dunno, it just felt pointless once again.

Finally, Orphen’s new magical symbols are also odd. As opposed to the first show where he could just send off a spell at will, we now get a visual of an odd looking circuit board. We can definitely assume that Orphen is drawing energy from this tech to use his magic. I had a theory going on for a while that this Orphen was a clone and that was going to be the big twist. That would have really been something and I think it could have been handled very epicly. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t to be I guess. It was purely an animation change that the show did for kicks. Gotta save the budget whenever possible right? There is certainly a decent amount of stock footage in this season.

That being said, the animation is reasonably good here. It hasn’t changed all that much from the first season, but it didn’t really need too. As it stands, everything looks to be on point. The fight scenes are always exciting and all of the character designs make sense. It’ll remind you of the classic 90’s days for sure. The soundtrack is pretty uninspiring, but we have 1 or 2 very catchy themes. The theme songs look pretty good animation-wise. I’d say that the first theme song of the original series is probably the best. As for the music of these intros, I’ll update this review with something on those once I listen to them again within the next day or two.

As mentioned earlier, most of the show is rather lighthearted and fairly aimless. While this may not sound good to the action readers in the room, it was rather nice to see the group just hang out and engage in witty banter. There are some shows where you never really get to see the heroes have fun like in DBZ so this is a welcome change. Let’s face it, Vegeta and Goku bickering could make for a lot of good episodes. This cast isn’t quite as dynamic, but they can do a good job so long as the two trolls and Orphen are the main focus. My favorite episode of this season actually wasn’t an action episode, but a comedy one instead.
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In this episode, Orphen gets cloned so that there are 4-5 other Orphens chasing him. Orphen even compliments this concept since the only one who can defeat him must be another him right? I can actually follow this train of logic. The fight scenes in this episode are a lot of fun and the dialogue is also rather strong. This episode simply could not be surpassed no matter how much plot they crammed into the final episodes. Some of those titles did put up a good fight, but none could match the brilliance of this event. If you thought that clone episodes couldn’t really be all that good, you’ll want to watch this one to reassess that statement.

The characters haven’t changed all that much since the first season as you’d expect. Orphen’s still the tough main character who is always ready to throw out some insults. He’s still a tough mage as well, but is portrayed as being a lot lower on the totem pole than usual. He is actually on the losing side of just about every serious fight in the series. He loses to all three of the main villains in one on one fights and ultimately only proves to be dependable against comic relief characters. I don’t think his fans will be too pleased at that part. I really thought that the writers didn’t give Orphen enough credit in this season. Maybe that will change if we ever get a season 3. He’s still a great lead though and I’d definitely say that he is the best character in the series.

I still have to give Volkan the runner up spot. He’s actually a really great comic relief character and puts most others to shame. He’s very consistent and never has a moment where you’re supposed to feel bad for him or respect his abilities. He plays the role of the comic relief guy right up until the end and that’s how it should be. He never loses his nerve and we’ll always see him try to make Orphen’s life more difficult. It would simply be odd if he ever switched from this tactic. I still don’t care for Dortin though. He doesn’t pull off the road nearly as well. His voice actor does a good job of giving him a very old/raspy voice, but that’s the only real positive for him. He really needs to get behind Volkan and help him out more against Orphen.

Majic is not nearly as terrible as he was in the first show, but there’s still little reason to root for him in this one. He’s still letting Orphen cheat his father out of a small fortune via the tuition when Majic isn’t actually learning anything. We had a whole episode about this and the moral was basically that Orphen is a terrible teacher, but Majic may as well continue to pay him out anyway. Not the greatest ending for Majic fans. He’ll have to really improve for me to like him more as a character.

As for Cleao, she’s still a good main heroine. It’s definitely fortunate for her that she has a super powerful dog in the form of Lucky. Even Orphen’s afraid of that little guy. She may not be able to fight all that much on her own and it can get old to see her quit the group so often, but at least she can be reasonable and her arguments with Orphen are always entertaining. Unlike Majic, she’s actually a very good supporting character who helps to push the show along. There are other characters from the first season who show up like Orphen’s child hood friend and the new leader of the spell castors, Azalie. Unfortunately, they don’t do a whole lot here and their roles aren’t great. You’d think that Azalie would get a lot of hype since she is one of the strongest mages in the world, but her quick cameos are just there to remind the fans that she exists. She doesn’t really get to do anything in the grand scheme of things. As for the child hood friend, his hobby of transforming into a superhero identity is still around, but beyond that he mostly spends his appearances getting beaten up or beating up on weaker monsters. There’s no real middle here and he can’t hold a candle to the stronger fighters. Neither can Orphen though so I suppose we couldn’t expect much more out of him.

Licorice is one of the newer characters and she gets a large role. Unfortunately, she is a pretty bad character. She wasn’t too bad at first as I didn’t mind her gimmick of always mentioning the Royal Knighthood. It could be catchy and she wasn’t bad. However, she started to get a lot worse once she started uncovering the truth behind her past. Suddenly, she would start getting very snippy with everyone and had a tendency of running off into the rain. She tried destroying herself 3 times or more and tended to get in the way of the heroes at all times. She lost any dignity she had by this point and ultimately the show would have been better off without her.

Erukarena is the final boss of the show and is an example of how you make a good final boss. She is a high above being who just so happens to look like a little girl. Don’t let her appearance fool you though, her powers are immense. She has super speed and a wide variety of spells to the point where she is able to take on McGregor and Orphen teaming up. They really don’t fare very well against her at all. She may look innocent, but takes great joy in making life tougher for everyone else. She may not have many goals or aspirations, but at least she makes sure that the heroes feel her sting. The design really worked well this time.

McGregor was the big villain for most of the series. (When he appeared anyway) He got to show off his skills quite a lot as he took Orphen down rather easily. He moves pretty fast for an old man. The show tries to make him a sympathetic character by the end as we find out a few plot twists about his past. It’s all pretty intriguing and while most of his decisions were good, it doesn’t really excuse the fact that he went off the deep end. Whatever the intentions may be, it doesn’t change the fact that McGregor was a complete villain by the end of all this. He was someone who needed to be taken down for the count. At least he made for a good villain though.

As far as the villains go, the final one is Flamesoul. Surprisingly, the show presented him as a greater magician than Orphen. The court room scene with Flamesoul interrogating Orphen was handled pretty well. He’s not the greatest of villains as he can be rather dramatic at times. He doesn’t know that Orphen was actually framed for murdering his mother so he seeks revenge throughout the series. He is definitely lucky to have an array of monsters to back him up, but he actually does a very good job. He came so close to completely getting his revenge here. I definitely liked him a little more than I thought I would by the end, but he does lose to the first two.

Finally, we have Esperanza. I would have liked her character more if she had stuck to playing the piano in the background. Instead, she gets a lot of development and is unsure of what she should do. Protecting Licorice is her main goal, but she also wants to take Orphen down which would be bad for Licorice emotionally. It’s definitely a tricky call either way as it will be tough for the two of them to get along. I also have to say that the kiss between her and Orphen felt very random and out of nowhere. That scene definitely had no real purpose if you think about it. Esperanza may have been mysterious, but unfortunately she was not a good character. I also happened to be playing Sword Art Online Lost Song at the same time as I watched this and that game had the very same twist as this title involving a mysterious red haired girl. It made the resolution to this plot that much more obvious.

Holding back this show from getting a complete 7 is that it did have a little more fanservice than it should have by the end. It’s nothing too drastic, but the little scenes here and there do add up. Most of the comedy episodes weren’t bad, but they were also pretty devoid of action, which widened the gap between this season and the first one. It was very close to matching the score, but in the end it just couldn’t pull it off. I’m sure that a season 3 would likely get the job done though.
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Overall, Revenge is a fitting title for this season as several characters have this motive over the course of the show. It’s not as fitting though when you find out that this season is mostly a comedy. The action scenes do look really good when they show up of course, but it does take quite a while for them to really get going. Once you’re in the climax, you get a glimpse of how epic the show could have been had it stuck to this genre. We do have the first season for that though. If you like the characters then you will still enjoy the show regardless as the comedy is handled rather well. Had some plot points actually ended or been removed entirely, the show would have been even better. As it stands, I’d certainly recommend this show. The franchise may appear to be about 95% dead, but there’s always a chance that we will get a movie or another show someday. Never stop hoping for that sequel!

Overall 6/10

Naruto: Kakashi’s Story Review

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I finally got around to finishing the first Naruto novel! Reading the next two should definitely not take as long so you can expect reviews to be published for those much quicker. Unfortunately, I can’t say that the Kakashi story sets them off on a high note. Crude Humor, large amounts of plot hax, and sketchy writing hold this one back from being a hit. I honestly wouldn’t really want to see this one animated unless some significant creative liberties were taken. That being said, the anime writers could be up to the task since I’m sure that they’d be tempted to change things anyway.

A long time has passed since the end of the Naruto manga and people are pressuring Kakashi to take on the mantle of Hokage. He doesn’t want to do this though since being Hokage is a large responsibility and he’ll be held accountable for everything. Nonetheless, the choice isn’t his and the whole village continues to pester him about it. To take his mind off of this, Kakashi goes to guard a large boat. It will be the first ever flying boat (Blimp basically) in the world. The builders want to use it to revolutionize travel, but at the expense of a whole industry which will result in thousands of people being out of business in the long run. That’s a bit of a heavy price to pay, but at the same time, innovation always replaces the old way of doing things. If people resisted change because of how it would affect the job market, many inventions would simply not exist at the moment.

However, the main villains of the novel aren’t pleased. Kakashi notices that someone has sneaked into the blimp and gives chase, only to find out that it is Might Guy. He really wanted to go for a ride so he snuck in, but unfortunately, so did the villains since there weren’t any real guards around by this point. The Leaf Anbu Black Ops are taken down instantly so Kakashi and Might Guy will have to save the hostages in the Blimp and defeat the Rogue Shinobi. Time is not on their side either as these guys aim to free their master from Hozuki Castle and the other neighboring lands ar weighing in on the conflict. If the Blimp isn’t back on the ground before it crosses the border…then it will be destroyed. Moreover, Tsunade wants Kakashi to destroy the Blimp if it gets to close and murder every last one of the passengers. Kakashi’s not a cold blooded killer like Tsunade so he aims to find another way.

This should be easy right? Kakashi is one of the strongest fighters in the Leaf so he can crush some random rogue ninja. Not to mention that Naruto’s just a phone call away. With his final form abilities, he can move at hypersonic speeds and virtually fly. He can use his arm extensions to gently force the Blimp down or simply grab all of the villains and then escort them all away. Well..the first moment of plot hax happens here as Tsunade forbids anyone from telling Naruto about this. In her defense, everyone else goes along with this terrible plan including Kakashi. All right, back to the Kakashi plan right?

Wrong I’m afraid. Kakashi decides to go for a frontal assault and walks up to the villains. Guess he forgot about the hostages right? The main villain destroys a handful of them and then breaks Kakashi’s fingers so he can’t pull off any real ninjutsus. To add even more injuries, his right hand woman freezes Kakashi’s chakra so he can’t do anything with his ninjutsu or he’ll freeze over. Rahyo is the leader of the villains by the way and Kahyo is the ice ninja. Kahyo’s abilities are fairly impressive as she just needs to make contact with someone once to freeze their chakra whenever she pleases. Rahyo is more generic as he can punch people with super strength.

Kakashi is at a disadvantage from the start because Kahyo already made contact with him at the very beginning of the book when she pretended to fall and Kakashi helped her up. Unfortunately, Kakashi was already out of character as he fell for her instantly. So much for professionalism. As for Rahyo, he should be easy to defeat, but Might Guy looks incredibly bad here. Due to his injuries at the end of the series, he is still not at full fighting strength and I guess he’s back to being around Chunin level or something. Plus, his motion sickness has gotten even worse and it is at Natsu levels of terrible now. At least Natsu has a good reason for it though, Might Guy should be able to pull himself together.

His fight scene with Rahyo is actually very bad and even involves puking as a distraction. Might Guy’s also the reason why Kakashi’s first plan went so badly as well. If he hadn’t been around or if he could have just went to sleep for a while, the novel would have been very different. He’s comic relief, but not the good kind and he just holds the book down. Kakashi’s plan to throw up later on to trick the villains was also gross and definitely a large stretch of disbelief. These two scenes are the main reason why the book couldn’t get a positive rating in the end.

The fight scenes were good when Might Guy wasn’t around at least. Naruto’s fight in the intro was fun and I’m glad that only his Shadow Clone was hit since Naruto should be able to easily fend off these villains. In his current state, he should never lose to anyone ever again. Only aliens would be acceptable like in the movies, otherwise it is just too much of a stretch. Kakashi vs Kahyo was brief, but good as well. Hopefully we’ll get more action in the next novels.

Finally, my last complaint with the novel is just the fact that all of the characters are terribly unlikable to the point where I have to say that they are out of character. Not literally every character as Naruto is good, but everyone else is simply unreasonable. Everyone taunting Kakashi at the end of the novel is simply mean spirited. Shikamaru wanting to see if Ino has the same reaction while in another body is a really crazy scene that has no place in the novel and just makes him look terrible. Tsunade comes across as incredibly ruthless. Deciding to execute an entire group of civilians just to avoid an international incident is quite bad. It’s no wonder why Kakashi knows that he now has to accept the title of Hokage. He can’t let someone as unfit to lead as Tsunade take charge.

As for the two villains, they both want revenge on the cruel society. It’s easy to see why, but they really do lose themselves in the mission. They claim to not want to indiscriminately murder people, but that’s what they do the entire film. Both of them show remorse by the end and Kahyo always seemed to have more of a heart than Rahyo, but the latter’s big turn around I could not buy at all. He was way too evil and too unrelenting for me to believe that he simply lost sight of his original goal. At least for Kahyo there was a lot of foreshadowing and she did help the kid who really needed it while Gahyo was just going to let him die. I suppose that it’s still good to see Gahyo turn good, it just felt forced is all.

Overall, Kakashi’s Story was a weak first installment, but it shows signs of promise for future novels. There is still a lot more that can be done in these stories although I wish that Naruto or Sasuke would get one. Those two can easily hold their own stories. The next book is Shikamaru’s and since he isn’t much of a fighter, I’ll assume that the villains are even weaker than these two as I think that they probably would have crushed him. So long as the characters aren’t all super annoying and unlikable, the next novel should definitely knock this one out of the park. No more puking on the villains either since that was sad. If you’re a big fan of the Naruto franchise, then this is probably a good story to check out to make sure that you know all of the mythos. That being said, you may just want to skip this story. You won’t miss much and it tries to make Blood Prison canon which makes all of the characters look even worse so it’s best that the movie doesn’t become canon. Naruto’s chapter is definitely the best one in the book so at least you’ll start off on a high note.

Overall 5/10

Sword Art Online Review

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Sword Art Online is one of those Mega titles that we shall never forget. For better or worse, it’s basically ingrained in society at this point. I started the franchise out with the anime before checking out the novels and then the manga. This actually doesn’t bode well for the manga since the designs are pretty different and I consider the anime to have the true ones. That being said, I like to think that I wouldn’t have been crazy about the art either way. It’s a decent take on the show, but I think it could have been better.

In case you are not familiar with the plot, I shall quickly explain it. Sword Art Online takes place in the future and virtual games are all the rage now. One in particular is called Sword Art Online and it is the first big MMORPG. Everyone is hyped and resident computer whiz Kirito decides to buy it. Suddenly, the players become trapped in the game and they can’t get out unless they complete the title. 2 years later, the story begins as Kirito must try to become the best. Can he really do it as a solo player or will he end up joining Asuna’s (Main heroine) group? Only time will tell!

The actual plot always sounds great no matter how many times I write or hear about it. You simply can’t beat a good sci-fi plot like this or not very easily. Being stuck inside of a video game is a concept that appeals to me in part because it sounds like it would be a fun experience in real life. (To an extent of course) I think that it might be a missed opportunity for the series that they quickly skipped the first two years, but we still get a lot of cool moments so it still works.

The main problem with the series is that the art isn’t very good. The characters just don’t look like themselves and it’s like they’re half chibi. If you’re going to make the characters tiny you’ve got to go all the way or leave them in their normal size. It can also be hard to follow some of the fight scenes although the art gets better as the series progresses in that respect. It’s still pretty below average though. It’s hard to say if I would have liked it more if I had read the manga before the anime or not, but it’ll just be one of life’s mysteries. Either way, I doubt that I would have called it anything above average.

The characters are pretty in character since a lot of the dialogue is almost word for word from the novels/anime. Kirito is still as hardcore and intense as ever. Aside from his unnecessary and disheartening one night stand, Kirito has proven that he has what it takes to be the main character. He doesn’t back down from a challenge and he’s pretty confident in his abilities. That’s why the art always gets me. He just does not look tough! He looks like a kid and his serious scenes just don’t come off as cool as they should this way. It’s not the character’s fault, but the art.

Asuna also makes for a good heroine. She’s probably in the top 3 highest leveled players in the game and her speed is certainly good. She is lacking in attack power as seen in the boss fight, but she always gives it 110%. The one night stand also hurts her character development, but luckily that’s pretty much the last that we’ll see of that. Klein is one of Kirito’s old pals (AKA, they met in the game for like 5 minutes) and he’s actually pretty decent. He’s a nice guy and he actually doesn’t hold it against Kirito that Kirito left to be a solo player. Klein ended up reaching a decently high level himself so it makes you wonder how things would have been if Kirito had stayed with the party. He’d probably be a little lower leveled, but Klein’s group would be higher leveled than they were. Ultimately, Kirito made the right decision, but who doesn’t like hypothetical situations.

The main villain naturally gets to appear since he locks them in the game, but don’t worry…he has plans for them! He’s a pretty good fighter even if he cheats sometimes, but he does fight with just his talent in the end so we know that he’s for real. He’s decently cool and easy to root for. They try to play him off as a sympathetic villain by the end, but it still doesn’t work considering how high the casualties were. You can’t really forget that, but he is still a pretty neat villain. His plan was also intriguing, but I think that the final boss would probably be too much for the heroes.

The speed at which this manga goes is very quick, which can be a good or bad thing. You really breeze through the arc since there are only two volumes and they have a whole lot to adapt. Some scenes are simply breezed over while others are long enough to essentially match their alternate (Novel/Anime) versions. The pacing works for this series although I wouldn’t have minded stretching it out to 3 volumes and extending some of the fights. You can never go wrong with longer fights since they just add to the overall epicness of the series.

In the end, there are to real negatives to this story aside from the one night stand. There’s also a dicey moment that doesn’t make a lot of sense where Asuna falls out of a portal and Kirito essentially panics. That was pretty sad, but at least it’s an extremely brief scene thanks to the pacing. Those two faults are there, but that’s not a whole lot so you may wonder why it didn’t crack the classic 7 rating. Well, the art keeps it from that. Art is more important in comics/manga than in any other medium except for maybe TV shows. (It’s just not typically an issue there) Bad art can overpower good writing just like bad gameplay can override graphics in a video game. That being said, it’s still a good manga, it just could have been even better.

Overall, it’s ironic that this version gets a higher score than the anime even though the anime does a much better job with arc 1. Ah well, it is still a pretty fun premise to play around with and the art may have taken away some of the enjoyment that I could have gotten from it, but there was still enough to go around. Kirito makes for a good main character and there are several fight scenes here. Since this is basically two volumes merged into one, it’s also a pretty nicely sized volume that should last you long enough to really be worth the value. I recommend it to anyone that wants to see a classic fantasy RPG or for anyone who wants to see a cool main character.

Overall 6/10

Accel World

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Now, I seen Accel World in three mediums. The anime is still the definitive version and the book will likely be more detailed, but the manga is pretty faithful thus far. The art is pretty easy to follow and get into. It’s pretty clear so it doesn’t seem like an early creation for the artist and it holds up well as a tie in. They wrecked Ash Roller’s design, but you can’t win everything. It’ll be fun to see the fight scenes that are coming up! I’ll have a review for the series up once it finishes…which could be a while.

Overall 6/10

Accel World

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I’ve only read the first book in the series, but it’s off to a decent start. Haruyuki is just as unlikable as in the TV show, but at least Silver Crow is (sometimes) decent enough to hold his own. I’m looking forward to seeing the fights escalate as things heat up in the plot. I shall have a review for this series when it finishes….so this could take a while!

Overall 7/10