A Silent Voice Review

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It’s time for one of the most mean spirited manga titles that I’ve ever read. Deadman Wonderland probably still takes the cake for being the meanest one around, but this one really tries to surpass it. Volumes 1-6 are all pretty dark/tragic and even half of 7 is still like that. We get a sort of happy ending, but the question you’ll be thinking the whole time is…was it all worth it? I’m afraid not so lets dive into this manga!

The manga follows the adventures of a bully named Shoya. He enjoyed his days as a delinquent and is upset when a deaf girl named Shoko is transferred to his class. Shoya decides to make her life as miserable as possible and the rest of the class including the teacher get in on the action. After enduring all of this bullying and even having Shoya rip her ear, Shoko is transferred out and fortunately her mother also threatened the school with legal action. This means that they need a scape goat so all of Shoya’s “friends” decide to turn on him. Likewise with the teacher of course so they beat him up a lot and even try to convince him to commit suicide.

Fast forward a few years. Shoya decides he’ll commit suicide after finally meeting up with Shoko again and apologizing. She has apparently forgiven him and he decides to keep on living so he’ll be her friend. The problem is that he still has a pretty bad image and Shoko hasn’t gotten over the incident as much as she claims. Her Mother naturally dislikes Shoya as well. Shoya’s old friends have mostly gotten over it but they know about his past and Shoya fears that they’ll tell his new friends about it. A lot of drama happens and by the end of it, you’ll be shaking your head.

Okay, the manga’s whole problem really just stems into the meanness of it all. You see the classic theme of someone doing something really mean or evil and then receiving a judgment just as brutal which is supposed to make you feel good. The problem is that two wrongs don’t equal a right so it just makes the whole thing feel dark. A good example of course is Sword Art Online Fairy Dance. (You can use SAO for just about any hypothetical if I’m being honest) After the main villain was messing around with Asuna and tormenting Kirito, you’re supposed to cheer when Kirito decides to very slowly and painfully execute him one piece at a time. The problem is that you’re not cheering because it is still super painful. You don’t feel bad for the villain, but you didn’t want the hero to stoop to the same level. (Attack on Titan has this same problem) You want a quick resolution. Unfortunately, this manga’s whole message is about how “You’ll get yours!” and the villains all get some intense payback at some point or other. That is, unless they’re being used for another message like how they’re misunderstood.

The series starts with Shoya thinking about ending himself and then moving on to Shoko. Finally once all of the characters are broken and have been publicly humiliated, then they can all move on. Honestly, Shoko’s depression is probably where the series really jumped the ship although the beginning was incredibly rough as well. It’s impossible to like Shoya after the start. He just went way too far in the bullying phase to the point where you absolutely cannot buy into his redemption arc. The ear rip felt especially painful and he does physically punch Shoko. That’s one of the big lines that you don’t cross and he went through with it almost immediately. Shoya also seems to make the wrong move in just about every scenario, every time. He’s just incredibly annoying and the fact that he is the main character certainly doesn’t help matters either. If he’s not blowing up at his friends or having a martyr complex then he’s typically having confidence issues or being in a coma.

Shoko is a decent heroine except for the fact that she is way too forgiving of everyone. She basically gets along with Shoya immediately and puts the whole thing behind her. Honestly she should have told him to get lost when he showed up again. Otherwise, it’s nice of her to forgive him, but then to move on to being best friends and then more than that almost immediately? No, no I can’t see that happening. It was an incredibly poor romance that I just couldn’t take from start to finish.

Naoka is the other heroine. She actually liked being a bully and is mean to everyone throughout the series. She decides to change her ways because of Shoya, but never actually changes. She still talks bad about everyone and while it is supposed to be endearing, you have to wonder how much she has actually changed. She is quick to hit everyone and definitely causes a lot of drama. The one quality she has that is quite good is how she gets over everything pretty quick. The rest of the characters are constantly making mountains of molehills while she just forgets about it all the next day and is back to normal. It may be a little iffy as she’ll just stir up more chaos, but it beats the alternative.

Miki is a character that I think the author didn’t know what to do with. She was one of the big bullies in the first volume, but always denies this and blames others. She purposely tells everyone that Shoya was the big bully and gets everyone to retreat from him again. (He helped quite a lot though) She lies to everyone and is generally very fake throughout the whole series. The issue is that nobody calls her out on this and she effectively gets away with everything by the end. I’m glad the series didn’t go overboard with the payback on her, but she didn’t even get a slap on the wrist. She got away completely scot free and since I didn’t like her at all, that was annoying. If the author never meant for her to be one of the main villains, then he/she should read the series again.

Miyoka was the only character who was nice to Shoko at the start. Unfortunately, since she is the nice character she is also the timid one and a single insult caused her to stop coming to classes. She now wants to be a model but is very self conscious of her looks. Naturally the others are ready with the insults. She can be a little annoying as well and while it’s great that she got along with Shoko as well, I’d be a little sore with how quickly she ran off. She’s not a dependable friend that you can count on.

Yuzuru is probably the only real good character. She made it her mission to beat up the bullies who messed with Shoko back in the day, but unfortunately she was too young to really track them all down. Still, she managed to grow up as a tom boy to protect her sister as best she could and even took up whole hobbies like taking pictures of dead things to try and get Shoko to distance herself away from thoughts of suicide. Her only iffy moment is probably not stepping in to help Shoko when she was getting beaten up by Naoka. I can see why she was upset since Shoko tried to jump off a roof, but you still can’t let one of the old bullies beat your sister up. Isn’t that the whole reason for why she got strong in the first place?

Tomohiro is Shoya’s first friend at the new school. He’s a nice guy and all. He may not have any friends and pretends that he does all the time, but he gives Shoya someone to talk too. He has his iffy moments for sure but the series would have been a lot darker without him. I’d say that he’s really here just to lighten the mood. I’m not so much a fan of him as he just beats most of the other cast by default. His movie gets tragically panned though which was another moment where the manga decided to just be really depressing again. I mean really..was it necessary to also have the critics mock each and every one of them for the movie? The heroes quickly acted as if they didn’t care, but couldn’t they have had at least one happy ending as a team? It’s like the author didn’t want any of them to have something nice happen for a change.

Satoshi is the final main character and he’s the anti bully guy who shows up to subtly threaten Shoya the whole series. It’s actually portrayed as a bad thing that he’s against bullies. The scene were he throws away everyone’s backpacks honestly didn’t seem like a big deal to me since those actually were bullies. Him throwing water at the teachers and going overboard after that was a bit much though. Again, it’s a little hard to have him come back into the fold so easily again. It’s great to be against bullies, but he came off as a rather violent guy himself and I didn’t get the whole subplot about how he loves kids. This character should honestly have just not shown up.

Shoko’s Mom is another character who should have been good, but they went overboard with how mean she is. Are you honestly telling me that she would have an objection with Shoko using sign language at the table? She wants Shoko to be tough so I understand the haircut. That was fine since Shoko was clearly not defending herself so the Mom had to do it for her, but breaking her confidence at home as well was just random. I give her some props for deciding to beat up the bully who was attacking Shoko though. That was easily her best scene.

The art was below average. It tries for a very gritty down to earth feel which sets the vibe in rather quickly. In a sense that’s a good thing as the art is atmospheric but since it’s a dark and gloomy atmosphere it doesn’t really help matters. I just couldn’t get into the art and while it’s clearly not the worst I’ve seen, it’s quite low in the charts. Since this is a “realistic” manga there is also an unfortunate amount of language. This will always depend on who is translating it of course, but unfortunately the original one decided to add quite a bit. It’s just another unnecessary addition.

At the end of the day, the manga’s issue is that it’s just very moody and depressing the whole time. It’s not fun to read. You’ll keep reading until the end and you’ll be reasonably invested, but then every volume has another tragic scene within it. The amount of times someone is beaten up or bullies is uncanny in this series. If the series wanted to be good, the first volume should have been shorter and the bullying should have been less intense. We shouldn’t have had Shoko suddenly break down by the end and we certainly shouldn’t have had to have Shoko get beaten up yet again.

Also, why did the blond kid just randomly show up a few times? Considering that he beat up Shoya, stole his shoes, and bullies him quite extensively for a while…why does Shoya have to patch things up? I don’t get how nobody acts like the other kid did anything wrong. He was just as bad as Shoya and also got away scot free. The most annoying thing is that he’s apparently still friends with some of Shoya’s old contacts so while I guess they are cool with Shoya now, they’re not sorry enough to actually regret it.

I’m trying to think of some positives for the series…but it’s hard. When a series leaves such a bad taste in your mouth, it sours the whole experience. The scenes were they’re all having fun can be good except that they instantly go sideways and you always know that something is going to happen. It’s just inevitable but I suppose you should savor those scenes while you can.

Overall, This series was pretty brutal. It started out on a really low note, got semi decent for a bit and then crashed again. I also didn’t like the ending, but what else is new right? It’s essentially inevitable after a while because if you don’t like the characters and aren’t engaged by them, then there’s not much that the ending can do to change that. You’re just way too annoyed by everyone by that point. Manga should always be fun and enjoyable to read throughout. They can go through rough patches and have serious themes of course as just about all of them do, but it should still be a pleasant experience. You can’t use that phrase to describe this manga. I’d highly advise checking something else out instead. If you want a good realistic manga title to read, how about Zodiac P.I.? It has some supernatural elements, but is mostly down to Earth and is up beat despite some rather serious cases.

Overall 3/10

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Fairy Tail Review

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It’s time to review another really long running manga. Unfortunately, this one is a far cry from the brilliance of Bleach. It’s almost the polar reverse if we’re being honest. While Fairy Tail originally wasn’t half bad, it slowly devolved into pure fanservice which completely overrode all of the positives. In an alternate dimension, Fairy Tail could have been an awesome manga series with action scenes that were up there with the best of them. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be and it ended as one of the biggest train wrecks in manga history!

You know, since Fairy Tail always put fanservice over plot, I’ll do the same thing and discuss this big negative before I even get into the synopsis. Lets face it, if you know Fairy Tail, you only know about it because of the fanservice. Its entire reputation is built on it and that’s why it has such a negative fan following. I’ pretty glad to see that since the series absolutely deserves it. As I mentioned, it didn’t have much fanservice at first. The series played it straight. Then sometime around the tournament arc or maybe a bit sooner, it just started being more and more frequent. Characters were constantly getting stripped or even strip tortured for added grimace effect. It just got quite extreme to the point where you couldn’t go a single chapter without some kind of fanservice moment. By the end I knew that it was so much that no positive could over ride it. For the majority of the final arc and then some, the series was guaranteed a 1. It didn’t matter how great the climax could have been, its fate was sealed. The climax wasn’t even good anyway so that did not help matters.

So the general plot of the series is that there are various guilds. They’re essentially teams of bounty hunters who accept requests to beat monsters, stop robbers, and other day to day stuff for a reward. The main group is Fairy Tail as you might imagine and they are known as a pretty crazy group who will take on any mission. They are legendary as everyone knows them and yet they apparently are still outgunned by all of the big groups. Fortunately, Fairy Tail has one thing that the other groups do not possess- Friendship! Natsu and friends will use this overwhelming advantage to completely dominate the opposition.

There are a bunch of arcs and plots throughout the series but we’ll just look at a few of them. The first really big arc was the Phantom Lord one. The gang arrived home only to find out that their Guild had been destroyed and their teammates were completely beaten up. Natsu and the others decided to take the other guild down as payback and that led to a bit brawl between the guilds. Phantom Lord built himself a pretty strong team so stopping him was no easy task. This was slightly before the fanservice started getting too bad if I’m remembering right so it was a decently solid arc.

Edolas was an interesting arc since the heroes found themselves in a parallel dimension where they all had doppelgangers. That’s always been a pretty classic setup so I was all for that. The other dimension didn’t really have magic and everyone was super weak so I think they dropped the ball on that one quite a bit. The Promotion trial arc was also pretty solid since a bunch of enemies showed up to interrupt this big festival and it was the first time we got to see big guns like Gildarts and the other big shots get in on the action. The Grand Magic Games was a similar arc as the team decided to enter a big tournament to test their skills and restore Fairy Tail’s honor. The arc may have taken itself a little too seriously at times as they were all humiliated and didn’t take it well, but who actually likes losing anyway right? The battles were pretty fierce, but the arc was very fanservicey which hurt. All of the arcs suffer from this by the end so take it as a given.

Then we would finally enter the final two big arcs. The first one had the big demons come from Zeref’s book to try and destroy the heroes. All of these villains were extremely tough so defeating them wasn’t easy. By this point we started to see old characters show up to help out and it became more of a big crossover title. This arc was easily one of the most epic ones with high stakes. Finally you had the big war arc. Zeref decides to destroy everyone once and for all which makes for a very explosive arc. Every character in the series joins up so it gets quite chaotic. A very intense way to end the series even if the author seemed not to care anymore by this point. The hype and epic scenes really added up here. I can’t really say what my favorite arc is, but it’d probably be one of the early ones. Maybe the promotion exam.

Surprisingly, friendship is actually a big part of the manga. It leads to a bunch of plot holes as well though. See, the heroes are constantly put up against opponents who vastly outrank them. They are stronger, faster, and have better abilities. Rather than have the characters train and stuff, they simply just harness the power of friendship and win. It happens on many, many occasions. Erza had all of her bones broken during one fight, but with the power of friendship she jumped up and broke a meteor anyway. The villains get so moved during the fights that they either turn good or literally destroy themselves. Almost no villain stays evil by the end of the series and they manage to turn over a new leaf. That part is fun even if it is a little hard to swallow. Some of these guys were so pure evil that when they smile and talk about friendship it’s hard to take seriously. Like are these guys really buying into the whole ordeal so enthusiastically or are they messing with everyone?

At one point people made a bingo board for the final arc because of over the top it all was. Just about everything came true except for Happy saving everyone at the end. I admit that Fairy Tail was usually pretty funny even if it was certainly unintentional. Don’t expect any character to die either. Characters get the death flags constantly but always manage to survive. If they die it is usually just for a few chapters and then it is quickly reversed. The manga is always very dramatic, but the stakes rarely feel too real. The biggest cop out was when Natsu had to make a decision between being a dragon, human, or demon and basically just didn’t decide because he had friendship on his side. The friendship was enough to cure him so he could be all 3 if he wanted too. That was a little hard to buy and that’s just one example of many. Still, the series does take itself seriously, it’s just that it’s hard to believe the writing sometimes. It’s just pretty bad a lot of the time.

At least the art is really good. I mean, that’s actually kind of bad considering that the series uses it for all of the wrong reasons, but at least it also makes the fight scenes look really good. It’s a shame because it actually is high tier art. It really helps you feel the energy blasts and physical attacks from the various characters. It worked quite smoothly and it also helps you remember the characters right away. The author did a good job of not reusing character designs.

Natsu is your classic protagonist who is always up for a fight and tries to be heroic. The main problem with him is that he takes the worst qualities from characters like Luffy and Goku without getting enough of their positive ones. He’s not very smart and is quick to give the OK to Happy’s crazy schemes. He doesn’t mind using Lucy if it’ll help the mission and his motion sickness causes him to be a comic relief character quite a lot. He does have his serious moments too of course and they are handled rather well. Breaking into Sting’s base and taking on the boss was one of the most intense moments in the series. Still, Natsu could be far better. He never really escapes his generic self and while you can root for him in a fight, he’s just not in the same ballpark as someone like Ichigo or Goku. I do like the fact that he has fire abilities though since a lot of protagonists actually don’t have that. His super forms are all pretty sharp as well and I suppose I can get behind the fact that he makes some good friendship speeches during his fights.
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Happy is Natsu’s sidekick and one of the weaker characters in the series. He’s always messing with Lucy and trying to get her into very suspect schemes just for the thrills. He seems to just like irritating her so he’s not in the same vein as someone like Master Roshi, but it’s all still very extreme so I just didn’t like him at all. By the time he tries to get serious it is way too late and he can’t even fight so it’s not like he is ever very helpful.

Lucy is the main heroine. She’s a nice enough person, but Lucy definitely puts up with way too much harassment from the rest of the cast. It seems like everyone is after her at times and unfortunately she barely even feels like a character at times since the series uses her for fanservice so often. Theoretically that shouldn’t affect her personality but since she never makes a real effort to tell everyone to back off I have to say that she is just not strong willed enough to be likable. Lucy also can’t really fight, but she can summon spirits which help her in combat. The ability is quite limited though so she can’t really compete as the series goes on.

Lets talk about the better supporting characters for a minute. Erza is one of the best in the series and was known as one of the stronger characters from the start. She managed to stay ahead of Natsu and Gray for a very long time which is quite impressive. She is a master swordswoman with incredible stamina and defense. She can endure a lot of injuries like getting all of her bones broken and probably takes more punishment than any of the others. She has a variety of different swords and armors which grant her different abilities. Erza is always eager for a fight and managed to make a difference in all of the arcs. She never got overshadowed even at the very end.

My favorite character in the whole series is definitely Gray as he manages to edge out Erza and Acnologia for that spot. He’s an ice type user so as you’d guess he is Natsu’s rival. He is always fighting with Natsu as they exchange insults and all, but it’s in good fun. Gray’s gimmick of constantly taking off his shirt could have been dicey, but it was handled fairly well. (As well as that kind of plot can be handled I suppose) He does have a habit of trying to use his suicide ice attack which destroys him and the opponent, but since this is Fairy Tail it never works out for him. Gray probably gets a little too desperate at times, but he does always try to make sure he protects his friends. He gets a lot of really hype moments and just really stole the show. If anything, I wish he could have fought a little more in the final arc. He never actually got to match up against Acnologia which is a huge missed opportunity if you ask me.

Gajeel is another rival to Natsu, but one that I couldn’t take seriously. For starters, he was completely evil when he was in the other guild, but “turned good” in the blink of an eye and nobody seemed to care. He strung up some of Natsu’s friends crucifixion style at their base, but it was yesterday’s news. I wasn’t thrilled at how quickly he became one of the gang with comic relief moments and everything. From there, I just never felt like he caught up to Natsu either or that he was even in the same ballpark. I suppose he is meant to be, but I just wasn’t seeing it. From Natsu’s rivals (Gray, Sting, etc) he is definitely the weakest one. He has metal powers so he can make himself more durable and it can also be used as a projectile. It’s not a bad power to have.

Juvia is one of the main heroines of the series and she is a water type user. Her attacks are quite potent as you’d expect since she can drown her opponents and affect the weather itself. Once she is a hero she doesn’t get to fight quite as much, but Juvia is always around. She’s another character who is always willing to make the tough calls to help someone out and really helps Gray out in some of his tougher battles.

Wendy is one of the legendary dragon slayers like Natsu and Gajeel. She looks like a kid because she never got her growth spurt which leads to her always getting annoyed at everyone for pointing this out. She’s typically a chipper character though who is always upbeat and willing to find a peaceful solution to a problem. She has wind powers and more importantly she can heal injuries as well. There are very few healers in the series so the others are lucky to have her. She got a Super Saiyan esque form towards the end of the series which was immensely valuable and helped her catch up to the others in the power department. Like Natsu, Wendy has a partner named Carla. Carla is much better than Happy as she actually does a good job of being a partner by offering sound battle strategies and tips to Wendy. She is also a lot more serious and would have absolutely down voted all of Happy’s plans if he tried them on Wendy.

Mavis is the original leader of Fairy Tail and quite a historic figure in the series. She gets a lot of hype, but can’t really fight. Technically she is dead (Frozen solid so maybe not totally dead) before the series even starts, but she is effectively immortalized as a spirit. She comes and goes as she pleases and still retains her illusion magic. It’s pretty powerful stuff and since she is the best tactician in the series the heroes use her plans quite a bit. I just wish she could have had more offensive magic. She’s a fun character and partially thanks to her well done spinoff manga, I can say that she is one of the better characters in the series.
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Makarov is the current leader of Fairy Tail. He retires pretty often if you ask me, but usually finds himself back in the chair at some point or other. He can be annoying at times as he follows the rules quite a lot. He is definitely ready for a fight when one of the team is kidnapped, but on the whole he is too laid back. He rarely gets into fights and he has one of the worst fights in the final arc. He gets to go up against nameless minions. How impressive for the group leader eh? I expect better from this guy. He is seen as one of the strongest members and all, but I was never too impressed with him. It helps that I never liked the whole “I can turn into a giant!” ability. He could have used more speed if you ask me.

Hades is one of the first big villains. He’s fairly generic as far as personality goes, but I suppose he was all right. He had a decent design I guess and he did give us a good fight scene. He was very overshadowed by the villains who would arrive later on, but as a first big boss he wasn’t bad. He reminded me of Zabuza in the sense that it was the first time the kids got to fight a boss on the level of their sensei. This is almost the same situation as the team has to fight someone who is on par with Makarov. With a name like Hades, you certainly do expect great things.

Zeref is the big villain of the whole series. He seems to show up in every arc as he says ominous things and walk away. He’s the big mastermind behind just about everything and his ability is fierce. Everything around him dies. If he is standing next to you, then you’ll just suddenly die. If you have a strong life force it’ll happen a little slower as you accelerate through the years, but there is just no defense against it aside from the power of friendship. Zeref essentially wants someone to destroy him because otherwise he’ll end up destroying the world. It’s actually a pretty tragic plot if you think about it as Zeref keeps on creating extremely powerful demons and weapons, but none of them are strong enough to defeat him. The strongest of these monsters are Natsu and the Book of END demons, but even they are too weak. Only Acnologia stands a chance and by then Zeref has given up. Instead, his big plan is to become all powerful so he can go back in time and destroy himself so he’ll never have had the chance to hurt so many people. At the same time, Natsu and friends can’t let this happen because then their current memories would disappear. Also, no matter the reason, they can’t just let him die that way. Zeref’s definitely still a villain through and through as his plan involves destroying a ton of people even if he plans to bring them back someday. He did a good job of avoiding people for decades, but I suppose he couldn’t hide out forever. It really is a sad existence.

Laxus is one of the big hype members of Fairy Tail. He has electric abilities and his status got to his head at one point so he became one of the big antagonists of the series. He doesn’t do much after turning good, but he’s a reasonably solid character I suppose. The betrayal still felt so random at the beginning. This is one of those characters that I think the author could have done a little more with to be honest. Same with Gildarts. Gildarts is known as the strongest Fairy Tail member and he got some insane hype. Then he only got a small handful of battles during the series and none of them were against the big threats. His fight against August was fairly good I suppose, but even then he was basically losing. I don’t think he ever quite lived up to his own hype and that’s the problem about waiting so long to have the character to anything. Enough’s enough after a while and the extra hype just starts to get you worried about when the character will actually do anything. Gildarts is also a big flirt who is irresponsible the whole time so that also hurt my opinion of him quite a lot. He’s a bad character.

Mirajane is a Fairy Tail member who can turn into a demon. She’s usually a really nice person, but gets a lot meaner and more aggressive once she transforms. Her demon modes are pretty cool and each of them come with cool stat upgrades. She’s a character who never got a lot of screen time compared to the main characters, but she actually did well when she got a chance. I can’t really recall her losing a major fight. She was likely defeated at some point, but for the most part she did a great job of always coming through when it counted.

Jellal is one of the mysterious figures of the series. He starts out kind of evil as he wants revenge on everybody and eventually becomes an anti hero before becoming a total hero. He also has an alternate universe version of himself that starts out as a hero. He’s a reasonable character for the most part although his romance with Erza is pretty bad from the start. He was also another character who was lost in the shuffle as he assembled a big team of hype characters for the final arc, but they were all taken out off screen. He likes to work alone so that he didn’t cause any trouble for the heroes, but it felt like he never really accomplished anything. He did his best to stop Acnologia and bought a little time, but it didn’t really help much. His super speed Meteor attack and the ones that he can shoot make him a fairly powerful opponent so he’s got that going for him. I also thought he had a pretty good design. While he’s not the best of characters, I didn’t really mind him as a rival.
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Cana is the drunk of Fairy Tail and that’s her main character. She doesn’t do much besides that for most of the series. She helps out in the fight against August and has a big moment near the end where she learns some of the Ancient Fairy magic, but boy does she get the shaft in this series. I’m pretty okay with that since her running gag of fanservice with Lucy was pretty bad and she never has on much of a costume to begin with. She did help the series give us a lot of “It’s Miller Time” moments though so there’s that.

Elfman is probably the blandest member of Fairy Tail and it’s easy to forget that he exists. His whole character is that he’s really strong, but also a nice guy deep down. He comes through for his friends and basically manages to beat much stronger opponents just because he believes in friendship. Sure, you could say the same for many characters, but he’s just so weak that it’s really hard to take him seriously. He stretches the credibility of the moment every time he appears and I just never ended up liking him at all. He doesn’t even have any real bad qualities, there just isn’t anything cool about him.

Jose was a big villain of one of the early arcs, but I can’t really remember him much. What I do remember I can’t really differentiate from Hades so there’s not much to say about this guy. I can’t even say if I like him or not, but if you’re called the Phantom Lord you’ve got to be good right? Cobra is one of the dragon slayers, but not only does he not get a lot of hype, but he never seemed particularly powerful next to the others. He’s such a minor character that I forgot he even existed for a while. He technically has some decent stats and all, but the other slayers are just in another league and he doesn’t get to do much against Acnologia. The series practically breaks the third wall with him as he states that he also has friends to protect, but doesn’t even get a flashback. Meanwhile the rest of the characters are talking about friendship and we’ve seen their bonds throughout the whole series. It’s kind of sad for Cobra.

Ultear is a pretty good villain. She gets into quite a few fights with Gray thanks to their backstory. She’s pretty confident at all times and is capable in a fight. She can control time and even unlock the true abilities that a person possesses within them. This makes her a good fighter as well as a good support member to have at the ready. Her jump from villain to hero was more believable than most of the others and was also handled a lot smoother. Meredy is another strong warrior who can link two people’s senses. This is unfortunately an ability that rarely guarantees victory as it just brings about mutual destruction. If one person feels pain than so does the other so it becomes a battle of who is more durable. The injuries are also linked and this makes for a battle that both combatants won’t enjoy. Honestly, it’s a power that I’d never want to have to be honest, but it’s nice to have when you’re a hero. There are so many great applications for it like being able to feel like you’re eating two different things at once.

Mard Geer was one of the strongest villains in the entire series. Gray and Natsu had to team up to take him on and even then they were just barely able to overpower him. He had a pretty fun personality and his arrogance made the battle more enjoyable. He has thorn abilities so he can hit you with plants and then his demon mode made him a very fierce physical fighter. It had a nice design and just felt like a final boss. In that respect, only Zeref and Acnologia could match him which makes sense since they were the only two big bosses after him.

Kyoka is one of the big members of the END Demons, but she’s not a good villain. She likes torturing her opponents and revels in the pain that she causes. It makes for a terrible sequence with Erza that was one of the low points of the series. She can fight decently well aside from all of that and had a decent design, but just doesn’t make for a good villain. It’s not like you ever end up hoping for her fight to come. Jackal was a good villain though. He was essentially the vanguard of his villain grouip as he attacked first and took on Natsu in an epic fight. While he was seemingly nerfed later on, it was a very impressive opening scene. It started the arc out with a bang and may have been one of the first big fights of the series. He reminded me of Grimmjow a little and I was definitely impressed with him throughout. He was a surprise hit.

Silver is Gray’s father and appears out of nowhere towards the end of the series. There are a lot of plot twists during that fight, but suffice it to say, Silver made for a good villain. His reasoning by the end was pretty wonky, but I suppose when you have everyone jumping from villain to hero, some of the occasions will end up being a little sketchy. This was one of those, but as long as we get the fight I’m good.

Finally we’ve made it to Acnologia, the big bad of the series. You knew he was serious from the start when he managed to take out the whole cast in a single shot. They only survived thanks to a bunch of convenient things occurring at the same time. The characters never quite got up to his level and Acnologia was just in another class. He was able to take on all of the Dragon Slayers teaming up without any effort at all. His conversion to the good side was probably the most cheesy though. He went from talking about bathing in blood and murdering everyone to friendship in the very next chapter. He also ended up going down in one punch which was extremely plot haxy. I think the author just made him way too strong and didn’t think about what to do afterwards. This is a running theme throughout the series. Acnologia is definitely the best villain in Fairy Tail despite this and you always knew that things were going to get real when he showed up.
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August is one of the big fighters in the final arc. He gets a lot of hype and is strong enough to even take on Gildarts. That being said, he has one of the worst ends as he ends up destroying himself. He had a slightly better reason than Irene at least as he finally learned who his mother was and had to destroy himself to stop his spell from destroying the planet. He didn’t completely turn good or anything like that, but it was a good enough reason for him to stop the attack. It was just completely anticlimactic and not how you want to see a big villain go down.

Irene is Erza’s mother and another villain who got a bunch of hype. She was easily overwhelming both Wendy and Erza during the fight. Unfortunately, she also ended up destroying herself instead of finishing the job. She saw the power of friendship and was inspired so she had to end her wicked ways. This is one of the main reasons why the final arc became a joke. If the villains are all destroying themselves or any other villains in their path…then what’s even the point? The heroes couldn’t stop them and the author had to choose one of the worst ways to end it. Irene’s origin story is also unnecessarily dark to the extreme.

Larcade was an okay villain. He never really gets to fight Natsu which is unfortunate, but he has a pretty good fight with Sting. There are a lot of plot hax with his fight but that’s to be expected. His powers are also pretty iffy as he can essentially make you feel great joy to the max during a fight which makes you distracted and unable to fight. It’s a pretty creepy power to be honest but fortunately it wouldn’t work on many main characters due to its limitation. I didn’t really mind him as I liked the lore and his character design, but the power was certainly a let down.

Serena is another big villain who has the power of 8 Dragon Slayers. I actually mixed him up with Larcade quite a bit because their character designs are way too similar. He couldn’t live up to the hype too well since he had the misfortune of going up against Acnologia, but the series did make it clear that he was a formidable threat. I believe that the main Fairy Tail squad of Natsu and friends would have certainly had a lot of trouble with him and maybe they would have even been defeated. For what it’s worth I did think he was a pretty good villain.

Brandish is able to alter the size of her opponents and herself. These kinds of abilities are usually not seen as a threat so kudos to Fairy Tail for using it in a way where she was able to be one of the big threats. It loses that credit almost instantly though as she quickly becomes an ally who is extremely weak and can’t even stand up to her subordinates. Ah well, I suppose the series made an attempt. Invel is essentially Zeref’s right hand man although his role isn’t nearly as big as you might expect. It’s a fairly small role and I don’t recall him doing anything of importance. His ice abilities are certainly powerful though as he was able to give Gray a good fight. Not just anybody can pull off such a feast. Invel may be a little generic as a tactician, but he performs the role well so I have no complaints.

Ajeel is a sand user who is incredibly powerful as he had the upper hand against Natsu and Erza. Having sand abilities always seemed pretty useful to me since they are so versatile and Ajeel supports that argument. It’s just really tough to even land a hit on him thanks to his impressive speed. He was one of the first guys to fight in the final arc and you can draw a lot of similarities between him and Jackal.

Lyon was one of Gray’s original rivals. He never quite kept up though so he doesn’t do much for the second half of the series. His ice abilities are solid, but after a while everyone’s ice abilities just feel more or less like the same thing. Lyon needed some kind of edge to surpass the others and he just never got it. Sting was one of Natsu’s rivals and he did a better job of staying relevant. At the very least, he was around to help against Mad Geer and while he started out antagonistic, he eventually became one of the allies. His turn around wasn’t too cheesy as he never seemed all that ruthless and he was very strong. The scene where he almost took on the whole Fairy Tail squad at once was hype. Too bad the power of friendship brought him to his knees without a single punch being thrown. Sting may never get to surpass Natsu, but I can respect his abilities.

Rogue is essentially Sting’s counter part. Instead of light blasts he uses the shadows. He’s slightly weaker than Sting, but still a really powerful warrior in his own right. The two fighters can even combine their powers to make themselves even stronger. He never had as much personality though and can be hard to trust since his future self ended up turning evil at some point. No worries, his present self will not go down that dark path.

There are several dragons in the series, but Igneel is the only one who really got a role. As far as mentor figures go, I was never too impressed with him. He had a pretty decent fight with Acnologia and he is certainly strong, but he stayed away from the action for way too long. The whole series you’re wondering when he’s going to do something and it takes him too long. I wasn’t too satisfied with the reason for why all of the dragons seemingly died many years ago either. It was an odd decision and the many plot twists that followed made the situation more complicated than necessary.
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Minerva is a skilled fighter who started out as one of the meanest Sabertooth members, but eventually grew to be an ally. She was able to get between Natsu and Jiemma which is no small feat and consistently hid her abilities until the time was right. In close quarters combat she proved to be a match for Kagura and Erza as well so throw in her projectiles and you really have a versatile fighter on your hands. She made for a pretty good villain. Jiemma is a fairly minor villain in comparison, but he gave us one of the most epic batch of fight scenes in the manga so that was cool. As a character he is definitely pretty bad though and is just another “Everyone needs to be strong!” character as he values power above all else. Too bad he didn’t realize that three of his subordinates had already surpassed him.

That was a bunch of characters, but in a series this long that is to be expected right? It managed to get over 60 volumes of course so that was plenty of time for a bunch of different arcs. You really get used to all of the characters during that stretch of time as well. It may be a meme to say that you read Fairy Tail for the plot, but honestly it was pretty good. As I mentioned, there were a ton of really hype moments. Take away the fanservice and this is easily a 9 star manga title. The art was downright amazing and one of the best in the business. The fact that Natsu is a close up fighter makes his fights more engaging since they’re like those that you find in Reborn!. I always like seeing a character who can move at super speeds and virtually fly by the end. It’s a lot more fun than projectile fighters even if their battles can be fun as well.

Since you get used to the characters and there is a lot of foreshadowing for some villains, it also makes the payoff seem that much more grand. After seeing Zeref get hyped up for over 50 volumes, it was really cool to see him fight at last. There are also so many volumes that it lends itself well to a re read since I can barely even remember most of the early arcs to be honest. The tournament and the final arc are easily the most memorable ones to me. Even considering the fact that plot hax was constant and that the villains all kept turning good or destroying themselves, it was easy to stay invested in the story. While it could be cheesy, the whole power of friendship thing was just a lot of fun.

The author built up a very detailed universe with cool power standings and a lot of guilds all over the place. By the end of the series, there were enough pieces on the board to properly do a good invasion arc. You can’t really pull something like that off without being a series that has run for at least 40 volumes. It’s why Naruto and Bleach were able to do it so well since they had also developed everyone by then. One Piece did a reasonably sized one as well in Marineford, but much smaller in scope. That’s a series that could certainly do a big war arc and I’d love to see that be the finale. Hopefully they make the power levels a bit better for those though so there’s less plot hax.

That’s what really makes the manga so disappointing. It’s one thing for a title like Black Bird to sink its own grave because even if you take away the terrible romance and such, the series wasn’t going to be very good anyway. I doubt it would even reach a 5. So to have a series that is actually really good with a lot of effort behind it get completely destroyed because of all the fanservice, now that’s a tragic shame. Especially since it had such a modest beginning. What’s done is done though.

Finally, how was the ending? Well, it’s basically what you’d expect. It goes with a generic time skip, we get pairings for just about everyone (Romance always was a priority for the series) and you probably could have accurately predicted the ending quite a while ago. It’s not as bad as it could have been honestly. It was a fitting way to end and I’m sure that nobody is really going to be walking about it. People will remember the series, but the ending has nothing that will really wow you.

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Overall, It’s really a shame, but Fairy Tail dug its own grave. There was just no way the manga could redeem itself. It prioritized fanservice and that led to its destruction. I certainly can’t recommend this manga since there are plenty of epic titles that don’t resort to such tricks. Stick to classic titles like Dragon Ball Z or Bleach if you want a lot of epic scenes without the negatives that surround Fairy Tail. You’ll be all the better for it and if necessary, there are Fairy Tail spinoffs like the Mavis one which are better than the main title. This one can just fade from our memories.

Overall 1/10

Tegami Bachi Review

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Tegami Bachi is one of those titles that took a big risk as it has a very original plot. It’s about mailmen who deliver letters in an apocalyptic world where giant monsters run wild. Nobody dares leave their house because of these monsters and there really isn’t an army or police to speak of. The Mailmen are known as the last defense and their method of attacking the monsters is to use guns that are fueled by their hearts and the hearts of others. As such, the mail that they deliver carries the feelings of the person who wrote them and that is what allows them to fight the monsters. Otherwise, they have to use their own heart and if they use too much, they’ll die as well.

The series follows a kid named Lag. He cries a lot and isn’t really as tough as you’d expect a mailman to be. That being said, being a mailman has always been his dream ever since he saw one in person a while back. He soon finds out that the group may not be as heroic as the stories say and everyone has an agenda. He also learns the startling truth that the Sun is actually being powered by humans around the world. They are kidnapped and fed into the Sun to keep it bright. The hearts that the Mailmen are using also seem to have permanent effects on the humans so while they are helping the world….they’re dooming its inhabitants at the same time. There are others who know this and call themselves the Revolutionary army. At first I thought they were trying to black out the Sun, but they just went crazy at the end so I’ll assume that they are Twitch commentors. It seems like a simple solution though right? Just blow up the Sun. The Problem is that the embodiment of the Sun is actually Lag’s mother, who was kidnapped and forced to be the vessel. Lag can try to save her and keep the Sun alive, murdering millions in the process, or save the humans but end up destroying his Mom. Alternately he can do nothing and the Mom will turn into a giant monster and destroy the Earth on her own. He has some tough calls to make.

Honestly, one of the reasons why the series wasn’t very good is that the characters just aren’t very interesting. Lag is our protagonist, but it’s hard to like the guy. He spends over half of the series crying. It becomes such a huge part of his character that it’s how he is recognized by the others. After he spent a year training in the wilderness, everyone thought he was an imposter because he didn’t cry anymore. Honestly, that could have saved his character if it didn’t only happen for the final 2 volumes. He essentially sealed off his emotions in exchange for great powers. It was so complete that he couldn’t even shed a tear when his sister died. Was it really worth the power? Well, it gave him enough of a boost where he was able to take down the evil Insect Queen so I suppose, but I can see why the others would be completely alienated. Especially since Lag had absolutely no intention of cluing any of the others in. So, I liked Lag in the final 2 volumes, but considering that the series was a full 20, it was wayyyy too late for any of that.

His Dingo (Essentially it means partner in this series) is Niche. She has an unfortunate habit of constantly taking her pants off since she doesn’t like them and it’s one of those running gags that was never funny even at the start. I do like the fact that Niche has actual powers. She can use her hair as a barrier or as a means of attack so she doesn’t have to worry about carrying mail around. She even has a pet although she claims it is just in case she gets hungry. Again…not a very funny joke. Niche just wasn’t all that likable. She’s all right at best and is a slight improvement over Lag, but not a big one.

Gauche is one of those intriguing characters. He starts out as a great character. He’s the expert that everybody looks up to and manages to stay rather mysterious as well. Then he decided to betray everyone and joined the villain organization…then he became a hero again. By the end he has decided to stick to the path of the hero but he sure did flip flop a lot. He also lost his memories in the process so so much for that. He was a pretty good villain and I suppose he is still one of the most interesting characters in the series, but I wondered what the point of his role was.

Zazie is sort of like a sub rival. He’s a fairly good fighter, but a considerable step below Gauche. He is fairly confident and likes to talk a big game, but his weakness is that his shots lack power so he can’t take down the bigger monsters. He also looks up to Jiggy Pepper a lot. Jiggy gets a considerable amount of hype, but he never actually does much. He only appears once in a while and while it seems like he is a pretty good Letter Bee (Mailman) he just can’t be bothered to help out. You’d think with the fate of the world at stake that he’d make more of an effort.

Connor is Lag’s best friend. He’s the comic relief, overweight member of the Letter Bee police. He can’t really fight much, but he likes eating so that’s what motivates him. He’ll eat anything at any time of the day so I suppose you have to admire the dedication. That being said, it doesn’t really make him a compelling character.

Largo is one of the main leaders of the Letter Bee and naturally he also ended up being a big traitor. As with Gauche though, he seemed rather conflicted about this so after sticking with the villains for a while, he decided to become a hero again. I suppose it’s lightly hinted that he only joined to trick the villains into heading for the final boss room to provide more hearts for the heroes. He also got a really rushed/dark origin story as we find out that his Mom was experimented on and his Dad was a villain. It really had nothing to do with anything, just like this character as a whole.

Roda is Gauche’s Dingo and it’s nice to see one who really knows what she is doing. The obvious parallels between her combat ability and Gauche’s vs the pair of Lag and Niche makes you wish the series would consider trading main characters. Roda is definitely pretty good and is a little more committed to being heroic. Then there’s also Lawrence who is the main leader of the villains. Thing is, since the villains had no plan, I have to put most of the blame on this guy. Whatever he was trying to do didn’t work so clearly he should have thought it through more.
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We also meet the Head Letter Bee at the very end of the series. Essentially he went insane upon finding out that the government was using massive amounts of slaves to fuel the Sun and went crazy. Instead of trying to save them, he decided to help since “what’s done is done.” After reminding us of how he is still evil, he decided to run away, but under the guise of a giant teddy bear. Even though he ran off he still has enough authority to boss around the whole cast. He claims that he has transcended gender as well so he only talks with hearts now. I also don’t know what point this character had, but that’s a running theme in the series.

When you really break this series down, you realize that the story had a really good premise. It really could and should have been a great series. One issue is that there are no real fight scenes. Every action scene is just the main characters firing their guns and hoping for the best. The monsters never really fight back or do anything. They are portrayed as being completley mindless. The final Insect which hovers over the whole sun seems to be as abstract as it is physical. It barely matters since it is taken down in one shot as well. I’m all for mindless monsters attacking, but then that’s why you also need humanoid opponents. However, the villains never directly fought the heroes because they were too busy.

At least the art is pretty decent. It’s not great or anything, but it works well for the somber atmosphere that the series is going for. The characters can look rather similar at times which is a little iffy, but it’s not too bad or anything. Unfortunately, the series does have some fanservice at times. It’s nothing too frequent, but there is some actual nudity in it. The volumes may blur it out as I don’t remember coming across it although a panel in the final two volumes may have had a moment like it, but fortunately it seems like a stain got in the way. Basically stuff like this only happens when Niche’s sister is in town, but that’s still pretty terrible. I am reviewing the title from the volumes that I read though which is why I’m not bumping it down to an instant 0. If you decide to read it online though, be warned. There aren’t a lot of positives to go around as it is so it’s tougher to fight the negatives.

The plot is fairly confusing like Pandora Hearts, but it isn’t interesting in the way that Hearts was. You’re never interested in learning more about Letter Bee because there isn’t much more to learn. Even if you re read the series, it’s not as if you missed a whole lot. It’s just that it doesn’t really make a lot of sense anyway. Here’s one big issue with the series, at the end they say that they can only send one person to the capital to stop the giant monster. Why? The whole world is going to end anyway so why not send everybody? After a lot of drama, they decide to send 2 Letter Bees, but then the whole cast follows them anyway. There was never any reason whatsoever not to send the whole gang in. While they’re bickering and wasting time on side missions to decide who is worthy to go, whole cities are being wiped off of the planet. Yes, the aliens can take out whole cities in a single flash from the Sun but nobody seems to care. Even the manga doesn’t really treat it like a big deal. It’s just a city after all.

This is just one example of how the author didn’t think things through. I also think that he went too far in making every character act like a villain. I know many titles like to make the government evil, but you need to have some good characters. The only two groups are the evil government who kidnaps and tortures its subjects for no real reason and the terrorists who want to either take control of the Sun or blow it up. No matter who you pick, they don’t have your best interests at heart. There was no reason to go to this extreme. The government could have been shady without being evil. Did the Sun really have to be Lag’s Mom so he would be forced to destroy her in the end? Of course, it’s seen as more like he was setting her free, but it’s still rather dark.

Even the ending is rather dark to be honest. I won’t spoil that since it would be a bit much, but part of the whole point of the final journey was to try and save everyone. That’s the whole reason why Lag sacrificed his emotions and tried to get stronger. Unfortunately while it wasn’t futile, the body count was pretty high by the end. Some characters won’t even be thrilled to get their hearts back because they have already lost everyone they cared about. Nobody’s bringing the various cities back. The ending’s a little vague on a certain character, but I’d say that he’s probably dead. It tries to be an inspirational ending, but I certainly wouldn’t call it one. It’s not a classic time skip though so I’ll give it that.

If only the series could have done more with its premise instead of worrying about a terribly conceived plot. I like the idea of people being unable to travel anymore so they have to rely on messages for communication. It’s retro and still gets the apocalyptic feel across. Mailmen being the ones to travel is a nice exaggeration of what really goes on as the famous saying that Mailmen deliver no matter how the weather is. It’s a fun concept and could have made for a really good series. It could have tackled some other themes like if they should deliver messages from villains and the like since they shouldn’t read it, but can read emotions so they typically know what kind of message it is. This was all far too nuanced for Letter Bee though so it simply wasn’t to be.
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Overall, Letter Bee’s not a very fun series. It’s too bad as the series was trying to get back on track by the end. Lag’s new personality was certainly a positive although the Teddy Bear at the end and all of the random twists didn’t help matters. Lag’s friend was going to sacrifice her whole city even though Lag said he had a plan just because she could. (Her plan didn’t work anyway) The series never really seems all that dark except it just is. The manga just doesn’t portray the events as being too serious. There’s not a lot of action and the cast is rather weak. There aren’t a bunch of negatives though so that’s a good thing but they weren’t needed when there isn’t much positive to fight it off. There isn’t much reason to ever revisit the series, but I suppose if you want a title with mailmen and giant monsters, then this one’s a good pick for you. That’s rather specific, but it’s the best I got.

Overall 4/10

Bleach Review

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It’s time to take a look at Bleach. “Y You don’t just mention one of the greats like that.” That’s true. This is one of the greatest titles of all time. Honestly, Bleach didn’t make it to the top as smoothly as something like DBZ, It made more mistakes than Hitman Reborn, and it never got as intense as Megaman NT Warrior. That being said, the series kept on persevering as it churned out chapter after chapter. The pros always ended up outweighing the cons and it easily had some of the best action scenes in any title out there. That’s why it’s good to be a really long manga because as long as the negatives don’t show up constantly, they’ll eventually be swept away by all of the good scenes in the series. With only 4 real arcs, Bleach had time to develop all of them and give us a bunch of fights.

The basic premise of the series is that Ichigo Kurosaki one day sees monsters attack his home and quickly moves to stop them. He gains the abilities of a Soul Reaper by accidentally stealing Rukia’s. She tells him that it is now his duty to slay the evil demons known as Hollows and Ichigo agrees…to an extent. The first real arc starts when Rukia is kidnapped by her superiors and they decide to execute her for allowing a human to obtain her powers. This all seems rather crooked so Ichigo decides to go rescue her along with some friends that he made along the way. Still, can he really beat these Captains of the Soul Society who have been training and honing their skills for multiple centuries? It’ll be tough, but Ichigo is as brave as they come!

As there are a ton of characters throughout the series. I’ll mainly be talking about them as they arrive. So for example, I’ll now discuss all of the characters who were in Arc 1. We gotta start with Ichigo of course. He’s a very aggressive character who is always eager for a fight and very quickly became one of my favorite protagonists. He doesn’t dwell on things as much as other leads and just jumps into battle. He takes what his friends say at face value and doesn’t even fall for the usual mind games where the villains try to make him doubt the Soul Society. He gets stronger and stronger with each arc and eventually became the ultimate hybrid fighter. His Bankai has an excellent design and is still my favorite in the series. The original is certainly the best although all of the versions were pretty cool. His Hollowfication is also a very cool ability and it was handled perfectly. I would have liked to have seen it more in Arc 4, but it got a lot of screen time in the first two arcs so that was pretty satisfying.

I think one of the things that separates him from Naruto and Luffy is that he is a lot more serious. The others tend to have comic relief moments even during big fights or just have more displays of not looking all that smart. Ichigo’s not exactly a genius or anything like that, but he certainly doesn’t let his opponents know that and Ichigo always has a good bluff going on. He takes on all opponents even if he is outmatched and generally finds a way to come out on top. He adapts in battle well and just comes across as a really heroic guy. He is certainly one of the big reasons why the series was so good.

Rukia is arguably the main heroine. It’s between her and Orihime, but I’d argue that Rukia certainly appears more and gets a bigger role. She fights with ice abilities and gradually moves up the ranks of the Soul Society. I’d probably hold a bit of a grudge against them if I was her considering that they tried to murder her in the first arc, but she got over it surprisingly well. She’s a nice enough character and I’m glad that she decided to help Ichigo even though it meant defying orders. He would clearly do the same for her and has done so in the past. She was a consistent character throughout the series and was probably the most enjoyable member of the main supporting cast.

Next up is Orihime and unfortunately I can’t really say that she was a great character. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a nice enough person. I just feel like she didn’t stand up for herself enough. The whole series hyped up the fact that she is a reality warper who can reject events. This power has unlimited possibilities, but she only uses it a handful of times in the series and mostly just gets kidnapped, defeated, or mind controlled by the enemies. She never makes a decision to step up and fight for herself. It was a little disappointing because I had been expecting her to make a big move like that. I feel like the author never let her get a real role beyond being the damsel in distress so there just wasn’t much to like about her.

Chad is another one of Ichigo’s friends and his arms can turn into cannon arms which increase his attack power quite a lot. While his stats are still human in nature, his attack strength is enough to hurt even the strongest of enemies. It makes him a bit of a glass cannon. Ultimately he can’t really compete by the second half of the series or even after Arc 1 really. He’s a nice enough guy though, but I lost a lot of respect for him in Arc 3. Going behind Ichigo’s back and joining a really shady organization was pretty suspect. Doubting Ichigo because of his new friend was also iffy and Orihime should be blamed as well. Yeah, mind control’s tough, but if Byakuya could see through it and said that he would be on Ichigo’s side even despite his memories….then how could they not do the same? Their bonds with Ichigo should be far stronger than that. I do have to admit that Bleach had a bit of a weaker supporting cast than the average Shonen, at least from the main main cast. I’m only counting Ichigo’s inner circle of friends with that statement. Most of them cracked by the end.
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The biggest character to flop was Uryu. He started out as a weak rival who Ichigo surpassed almost instantly and then helped out during the next few arcs. He wasn’t mind controlled so that was good. Unfortunately, he decided to become a big traitor in the final arc and there was no turning back from that. I knew from the start that he would have some kind of big justification but that it wouldn’t matter in the slightest. It turns out that his reason for betraying everyone was more pitiful than I could have imagined. It would have made more sense to have attacked with Ichigo and friends instead of trying to murder them several times. Uryu had the help of a great deal of plot hax throughout the final arc and every scene with him was just incredibly annoying. He’s easily one of the most unlikable characters in the series by the end and you have to question just how weak the bonds were to the guy. If he can betray everyone so easily, then maybe he was never really much of a friend in the first place.

Zaraki is one of the big Captains of Soul Society and one of my personal favorite characters. He really enjoys a fight and likes to charge straight in. That doesn’t work too well against some of the more overpowered villains, but I certainly like the confidence. At one point he was my favorite character. While he was surpassed by Grimmjow, Byakuya, and Ichigo, he still remains as one of the more likable ones. He may not have looked too tough in Arc 1 since Ichigo was able to take him on, you could argue that this was plot hax or that the author hadn’t really thought the power levels through yet. Regardless, he began to look much better from there and did particularly well in Arc 3 and shined a bit in Arc 2 as well.

Byakuya is another Captain and the polar opposite of Zaraki. He’s always very calm and collected during his fights. Instead of charging in, his abilities are made for long-middle range combat as he assaults you with thousands of flower petals. He’s known as one of the more powerful Captains and potentially the strongest although the series tries to convince you that the title goes to Shunsui or Yamamoto. I was hoping to see more of him in the final arc but the cast was so big by then that everyone only got to have 1 or 2 big fights. As it is, I’m satisfied that he at least got one big fight in every arc. He really did well for himself throughout the series.

Hitsugaya is one of the youngest Captains and as such he is a little weaker than the others. Like Rukia he has ice powers and he has made it his mission to protect Momo. He gets into a rage a little easier than the others as supposedly he is still too young to control his emotions. (Not that I buy this much as all of the Captains lose control once in a while) He gets a lot of screen time so you’ll see him a lot. I liked the character well enough, he’s not my favorite character, but still beats quite a lot of them. He’s in the upper echelon at any rate. His Bankai needs some work though. I never found it to be particularly useful or strong.

Ichimaru is one of the 3 evil Captains. No worries, he has a sob story to explain why he did what he did and I didn’t buy it at all. I didn’t like him as a villain or as a “hero.” I did like the fact that he actually lied about his Bankai’s ability though. Seriously, more characters should do that as everyone takes what their opponent says at face value. A lot of people make fun of the series because the villains always explain their abilities to the heroes. Some of them would be quite dangerous if they didn’t explain it because you just couldn’t figure it out. At the very least Ichimaru is certainly one of the smartest villains. I don’t like the character, but he made for a good opponent.

If you want an unlikable villain who doesn’t even make for a good antagonist, look no further than Tousen. He is another one of the Evil Captains who fights by erasing your 5 senses while you’re within his bankai. It doesn’t work out so well for him though so then he gains the ability to turn into a fly. His whole character’s personality is meant to show that he’s a very rotten person who tries to make everyone feel as bad as possible. The series doesn’t even try to make him a likable character and it’s just hinted that his sense of justice was corrupt from the start. His fans were likely disappointed by this since the fact that he lasted over 40 volumes hinted that he would get to do something big. It just never happened.

The final one of the evil captains is Aizen. He’s the mastermind behind all of Arc 2 and gets more hype than almost any other character in manga history. He’s an incredible character and I’m always tempted to put him in as my favorite character in the series. Grimmjow has that spot wrapped up and I think it’s safe to say that Ichigo has the number 2 spot, but Aizen is 3rd. He basically planned out the entire series and used everybody. Even as a normal Captain he had already surpassed the rest and then he got to evolve into a higher level being. His illusion abilities ensured that he was 100% unbeatable. Only plot hax could help Ichigo at that point. It was just a great moment and Aizen became a DBZ level being. He has quite a few of the best moments of the series and breaking his glasses was one of them. It’s amazing how quickly his design can change. His fight scene against all of the Captains and Visored is also one of the best in manga history.

What really makes Aizen great is his incredible overconfidence throughout the series. He is always smug and knows that the events are all happening according to his plans. He doesn’t get to do much beyond Arc 2, but that was really all that he needed to be considered as one of the best Shonen Jump villains. You’ll see why he is so great once you read Bleach. He just had everything that you could possibly want in a villain, Power, and Personality. He was a very pragmatic character.

Back to the heroic captains, next up is Komomura. He’s probably one of the weakest Captains as his Bankai makes a bigger version of himself. The problem is that it’s slow and that makes injuring it easier. Komomura also takes in all of the damage that his avatar takes which makes it one that is ill suited for combat. He’s a very by the books character which is a huge red flag and it makes using him so much easier for the villains. I never got around to liking him and I have to say that the character’s ending in the series was pretty sad.
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Shunsui is supposedly the Captain with the most potential and possibly the strongest current one. He is always bored during fights so he rarely ever tries. He prefers to just flirt around the whole time and comes across as a rather unlikable guy who just holds everyone back. I never actually got around to liking him and he’s definitely one of my least favorite Captains. His attacks involve games so they can change for every fight. It’s the kind of ability that can easily backfire if you ask me.

Another captain is Ukitake and he is almost always sick so he rarely gets to fight. I didn’t care much for him either. He got some random plot twists at the end and got a little relevant, but I couldn’t take him seriously by that point. I never saw anything that suggested he was worthy of the Captain title. Yamamoto is the leader and he has fire abilities. He is one of the most corrupt members of the Soul Society and decides that people should be executed for no real reason. Honestly I was rooting for Yhwach during their big battle. Yamamoto seemed to be in the wrong the whole time. The fire attacks aren’t bad, but we didn’t get to see Yamamoto fight much. He made for a decent villain, but the fact that he was allied with the “heroes” made it a little more difficult to look at him without cringing. Nothing worse than having an army of potential heroes, but then seeing that they’re being led by the biggest villain of all.

Rangiku is Hitsugaya’s second in command. Her sword can turn into smoke which is pretty useful. She’s a decent fighter even if she can’t compete with the higher members. None of the lieutenants can really fight at such a high level anyway so it’s to be expected. Unfortunately she is mainly used for fanservice so it’s hard to take her seriously. Momo is another helper but she spends most of the series getting tricked. She never actually gets to have a serious fight and her best moments were missed due to an illusion. Depending on when the illusion started, she was able to fight several Captains at once though so that was cool.

Renji gets a pretty big role like Rukia and serves as one of the main supporting characters of the series. His sword can stretch and turn into a dragon that attacks opponents. It’s another Bankai that is filled with weaknesses so Renji has to rely on fundamentals to win. He’s not a bad character. His personality may be a little weak at times as you wonder what it even is, but he’s someone that you can count on. He gets quite a few fights, but usually ends up losing them. He’s decently strong, but just not strong enough.

Hisagi and Ikkaku are other generals who get a reasonable role. Ikkaku is decently good as he also loves a good fight. He ends up holding back a little too often though even if it means losing a fight. That character trait of his can be really annoying. Hisagi is pretty bland so it’s hard to ever get around to liking him, but he’s still not bad. I think he could just use some more character development. Finally from the main generals we also have Yachiru. She’s a fun companion to have and is always helping Zaraki out. The plot takes some intriguing turns with her and while they may be a little suspect, it doesn’t change the fact that she was one of the more likable generals. She was able to help fight off one of the big Quincy opponents and there was always a lot of potential for what the author could do with her character.

Grand Fisher is the only pre arc villain that I need to talk about. In theory he should have been a major deal because he murdered Ichigo’s Mom and is what started him on this path. In the actual manga he felt a little more like a footnote though and is mainly memorable because he got his own OVA and then later returned briefly in the Hueco Mundo arc. (Which I have no idea what Kubo was thinking there since it was such a small cameo. He’s a pretty decent villain I suppose even if he doesn’t always fight fair. He’ll use any means in order to win. He’s not really my kind of enemy, but he’s not bad either. He certainly had a more menacing design than most of the other villains.

Lets quickly talk about the comic relief squad. Keigo is Ichigo’s main friend and he’s annoying. Orihime’s friend is Tatsuki and she’s a little better as she knows how to fight and is always ready to give Orihime a pep talk. Next up is Chizuru and this is where things start to go downhill. She just can’t hold her own scenes at all and definitely wasn’t needed in the manga. I can’t think of a single scene where she contributed. Then there’s also Kon. He’s a pretty pointless character if you ask me and one with a terrible personality. The verdict is out and I have to say that the human friends were absolutely terrible. Tatsuki is the only bearable one and even then she’s not all that memorable. Ichigo also has two sisters who get some mild hype and all, but never actually get to do anything. The series had hinted that the plot would go somewhere, but it was another red herring. Fortunately, the humans don’t appear much since Ichigo is never actually home.
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Back to the soul society characters, we have Yoruichi. Unfortunately she is used for fanservice at all time and is a flirt by nature, but she does have some good fight scenes. Unlike the rest of the characters, she fights with athletics and hand to hand combat rather than use a weapon. She is similar to Chad in this respect except she is actually powerful and can fight with Captain level opponents. Yoruichi serves as a mentor to Ichigo as well. Overall she’s a fun enough character to have around and it would have been neat if she could have had some more fights. Her Arc 4 fight didn’t feel real since the series kind of messed it up a bit.

Soi Fon is another ninja and unlike Yoruichi, she didn’t defect from the Soul Society. (Wrong move) She can be a little too obsessed with Yoruichi, but at least she is also overconfident which is always a very nice trait to have. She can hold her own in a fight reasonably well which allows her to get past the fact that she has one of the worst Bankai abilities. Just about everyone can dodge a bullet that moves in a straight line after all. Her general is pretty bad though so she has to hold the fort for her division.

Mayuri is easily the most evil of all the Captains. It’s played for humor to a large extent which seriously doesn’t work and it’s going to come as no surprise that I do not like Mayuri at all. Few things are worse than villains who stay in the company of the good guys and get to wear that flag at the end of the day. Mayuri would have been better if he was a pure villain and joined the Espada or something. Otherwise his emotional moments don’t work at all and basically any fight that he was in felt like a waste by the end. Unfortunately he did get a bit of a big role in the series. His assistant is Nemu and she’s nice enough. She has to put up with quite a lot throughout the series. Nemu gets a really random power up at the end of the series which was nice as it skyrocketed her power level even if it didn’t make all that much sense. She’ll give you a good fight or two, but overall doesn’t appear very much.

Urahara is one of the mysterious ex captains of Soul Society. You don’t find out why he had to go on the run for quite a while, but I didn’t like him at all. He’s one of those classic comic relief characters who only acts serious once in a while and by then it’s way too late. It’s impossible to take him seriously in the slightest and grates on your nerves constantly. You can go for about a dozen volumes or more without seeing him at times though so that works for me. Finally we have Unohana. She is a mysterious Captain who only gets one fight during the entire series. It involves a pretty sharp change in her personality and I wish we could have seen her actually fight a villain. The way she gets written out of the series is like something out of Fairy Tail’s last arc and doesn’t make much sense. Why didn’t she help during Arc 2? She didn’t really have a great excuse for that considering that the worlds were at stake and this is a character who just took too long to live up to the hype.

It’s pretty nostalgic to go through the first arc because you can see how the art and the characters have changed. It was a great way to get the series started because the plot was simple so you just got to see everyone fight each other. This helped to build character dynamics and such for the future arcs. Ichigo got really strong in a short period of time so this helped the fight scenes since it meant that the author could really go all out. The pacing was on point and while it had lower highs than Arcs 2 and 4, it probably had the fewest lows. It’s a very consistent arc.

Next up was the Hueco Mundo arc. You can split it up into multiple arcs but for the sake of the review it’s just one big one. It starts immediately after the first arc as Aizen turns out to be a traitor. It’s a pretty amazing way to end the arc and I have to admit that the anime handled it perfectly. Seeing Aizen handle everyone with ease was some good foreshadowing for what you can expect in this arc. Aizen has kidnapped Orihime and now commands all of the Hollows. He lives in their domain which is known as Hueco Mundo. He commands 10 Espada, which are Ultimate Hollows that are now sentient and humanoid. Ichigo heads over there to rescue her along with his friends and several members of the Soul Society. The battle also takes place in the human world as the rest of the Captains do battle with Aizen and the Espada that he took with him. Will Ichigo be able to defeat the Hueco Mundo members and return to Earth in time or is it all over? This arc is the best part of the series so you won’t want to miss a beat here!

Lets dive into the Espada. Stark is number 1, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that he is the strongest. Grimmjow, Ulquiorra, and possibly Harribel all seemed a little more impressive. I’d possibly stretch it and mention Nnoitra, but I do think he’d have a problem with all of the potentials. Stark is a pretty laid back guy which makes for a reasonable villain. He thinks things out strategically so you don’t have to worry about him panicking and falling into traps. He did a good job of understanding Shunsui’s complicated bankai and countering it. He certainly put up a very good fight.
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Baraggan is another high ranking Espada and anything that he touches crumbles into dust. It’s actually a very useful ability since he can also emit dust that damages the opponent. You can’t get anywhere close to him as a result or you’ll be in mortal danger. He used to be the king of Hueco Mundo as well so he is used to calling the shots. You almost couldn’t help but feel bad for him when Aizen showed up because his whole life was flipped upside down in an instant. There just wasn’t really anything he could do at that point.

Harribel is a fun water type Espada whose abilities are straight forward. She is fast and can attack from long range with her water towers. She was actually doing well in her fight and may have even claimed victory if Aizen had not stepped in. I can see why her fans wouldn’t be too satisfied with how her story ended. It was even more disheartening when she showed up in the final arc. Honestly there was no point there since she only appeared for one panel and was then never brought up again. It was a rather disappointing return, but the same for Grimmjow as well. Most of these characters just shouldn’t have returned in the final arc if they weren’t going to do anything. Being cancelled isn’t much of an excuse either since Kubo had a bunch of time.

Grimmjow is the best character in the series and I liked him right from the start. He’s a headstrong Espada who decided to challenge Ichigo right from the start. He doesn’t have any fancy powers and just overwhelms his opponents with pure speed and power. He doesn’t like to take orders from anyone and that even includes the mighty Aizen. He gets quite a few good rounds against Ichigo and I would probably consider him to be the 2nd strongest Espada at the very least. I just don’t think any of the Captains would have lasted very long against him.

Nnoitra is another powerful fighter. I don’t think he could have beaten Grimmjow if the latter hadn’t been so weakened, but he does live up to his rank rather well. He’s another close combat fighter who makes use of his extra arms in battle. His durability is so high that even Zaraki’s slices had a hard time of actually piercing him. His personality may leave something to be desired, but you can’t really ask for a better match up for Zaraki. Power vs Defense, a classic standoff.

Ulquiorra is the only Espada who is likely stronger than Grimmjow. He has two resurrection forms which increase his strength exponentially. Considering that he was overpowering Ichigo in his base form, the two power ups just made the difference even more drastic. He was a very likable villain and certainly one of the best in the series. He also gave us some of the best moments in the series. It’s almost a shame that he didn’t return in the final arc, but since everyone who did show up looked pretty bad…it’s probably for the best.

Nel is a former Espada who ended up being turned into a kid. Now she fights on the side of the heroes and can change back into her adult form once in a while. She’s a pretty fun fighter. I think her role could have been a little bigger as she never ended up actually winning a big fight since the effects didn’t last long enough. She did come through for the team when it counted though as she bought enough time for Ichigo to regroup and for Zaraki to arrive.

Yammy is the 0 rank Espada so he is technically pretty tough. The trouble for him is the fact that raw size and power are basically the only things that are on his side here. He doesn’t have much speed so his opponents can speed blitz him all day. Surprisingly, he did have some of the best fights in the series though. His first fight with Ichigo and Yoruichi was a lot of fun and then his rematch with Ichigo was one of the most epic moments in the whole series. Ichigo was making a big speech and he still managed to stop him. He ended up being a more well rounded character than I had expected.
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Aaroniero is definitely the weakest member of the Espada. He isn’t even remotely tough and can only win battles through mind games. It’s quite telling that some of the Espada subordinates seem like they’d put up a better fight. Naturally Aaroniero is supposed to be one of the main thinkers of the group. He needed to be since he can’t fight, but he doesn’t even have any engaging dialogue so he completely struck out. Just as underwhelming is Zommari. He’s the most boring member of the group as he barely has any personality. He has a lot of eyes which can paralyze his opponent. He’s also supposed to be very fast, but Zommari’s not even the fastest so it’s not a huge asset. I think Kubo was running out of ideas by now so he just had to slap some Espada ideas together.

Szayelaporro is the final Espada and he’s another thinker. His abilities are pretty overpowered since he can destroy your bones by destroying little stick figures of yourself. Classic Voodoo abilities. He is countered by Mayuri in the end who can move his bones and take them out anyway. It was an odd explanation for what ended up being a very twisted battle. Certainly one that wasn’t my cup of tea. There’s nothing to really like about this guy but I’ll give him some props for being another smart villain. He was pretty well prepared.

Isshin is Ichigo’s Dad and he got a lot of hype during the series. Unfortunately he is comic relief for most of it and only gets serious a handful of times. It’s hard to even say how strong he is since his only real fight was a decisive loss against Aizen. The series may make the case that he is a little stronger than Ichigo, but was then surpassed by the Final Getsuga mode. This is another one of those times where the author went a little too far in trying to make Isshin unlikable the whole time. There’s just no way you can like him after all of his early scenes. Sure, he’s stronger now, but just because he’s strong doesn’t mean that he is actually a good character now. Uryu’s Dad also gets a lot of hype, but doesn’t actually get to do anything which is even more mind boggling. He’s better than Isshin, but you also couldn’t say what his personality is.

Enter the Visored. Shinji is the leader but he’s pretty annoying the whole time. His ability to alter your senses is pretty good, but it is effectively a weaker version of Aizen’s illusions. I bet Shinji wishes he had gone for a lethal slice right away instead of messing around eh? Shinji’s the kind of guy who likes to be vague and just annoy you for a while. He gets a lot of hype, but it’s mostly all unfounded when you consider that he doesn’t really win any fights. Hiyori is the only other member to really get a role. She talks a good game and yells at Ichigo quite a bit. She is reasonably strong, but Ichigo surpasses her pretty quickly.

We should also talk about Zangetsu and Hichigo. The series is pretty vague about them for a while and there are a bunch of twists. Ultimately, Hichigo is Zangetsu and just didn’t want Ichigo to know that so they could train a little harder. It was a pretty good twist since admittedly I like Hichigo a lot more anyway. The person that Ichigo thought was Zangetsu was actually just a shadow of Yhwach which was…interesting I suppose. I can’t say that I ever cared for him so that’s fine, but Hichigo should have appeared more. The filler seasons in the anime gave him some extra fights and I suppose the manga gave him an ample amount of screen time. He was just a blast!

This arc was easily the height of Bleach and one of the best arcs in manga history. This is where introducing all of the Captains in Arc 1 paid off. We got to see them go up against this new team of Espada. Ichigo got to use his newfound abilities against the Espada and gradually grew stronger during the adventure. The climax in Hueco Mundo with Ichigo taking on Ulquiorra was spectacular and yet it was topped with the Aizen battle against the whole cast. Just when you thought the arc was at its height, it would raise the ceiling once again. Most of the villains were really strong as well so it was fun to imagine hypothetical fights and see who really should win. Could Ulquiorra beat Aizen? Could Grimmjow beat Stark? Just about any fight was on the table. This series pulled off the villain round table meeting cliche to perfection and you really can’t help but give the series some props for doing such a good job.

After that big arc, the manga decided to finally let the heroes rest a bit with a mini arc. Ichigo has lost his powers after pouring everything he had into defeating Aizen and is now a normal human again. The problem is that he can’t even see Hollows anymore so he certainly can’t protect anyone. He decides to gain his powers again as a group called Xcution decides to help him, but they turn out to be traitors and steal his powers. They mind control his friends as well but fortunately the Soul Society returns to aid Ichigo. With his strength restored, Ichigo may just have what it takes to come out of this battle on top.

Tsukishima is really the standout character of the Xcution group. He serves as the main antagonist for the most part and his abilities are really useful. If he hits you with his sword even once, then he can insert himself into your memories. This causes you to believe him to be an ally. If he strikes your weapon then he’ll be its friend as well and will know what it can do in advance. Add in his super speed and technique and you have a very formidable adversary. He was a lot of fun and had a really good fight with Byakuya in the end. I was reasonably satisfied with how they countered his ability as well. Without him the arc wouldn’t have been nearly as hype.
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Riruka is probably the nicest member of the group, but she’s still evil for most of it as she knows about the sinister plan. It’s another “appearances can be deceptive” kind of moment. She may not be the strongest opponent in combat and her fight scene wasn’t even all that serious, but she’s all right I guess. Not really a bad character, but not one that you can take seriously. At least she had more of a role than Giriko though. He is a bar tender who can turn into a really strong monster. He goes down in a single hit though and barely gets any lines at all so he’s completely forgettable. He’s only worth mentioning because I thought the character had a lot of potential until that moment. Talk about giving a character the short end of the stick eh?

Jackie was one of the first members to fight and I actually did like her. Her Dirty Boots ability was fun and there certainly aren’t many fighters who use their legs instead of hands. I mean, I’m sure hardcore anime fans could probably name a bunch, but it’s still considerably less than fist fighters. She was able to give Ichigo a good fight even if he was weakened at the time and she was just a fun fighter to have around. It’s too bad she never really got to do much after this arc, but all of Xcution basically vanished.

Ginjo is the big mastermind behind the group and his plan was pretty bold. He had to actually lose his memories for it to work which is clearly risky because of all the variables that it brings. He became a bit of a generic villain once he turned evil with a lot of yelling, but at least the foreshadowing was always there. Honestly if I was Ichigo, I would have suspected something was up after he slashed his eyes. Seriously that was going way too far for a simple training exercise. Ginjo’s super form was really cool though and the plan to steal Ichigo’s powers was certainly one that could have a lot of payoff. Due to his low screen time compared to Aizen and Ywach I can’t say that he’s quite as cool as those two and it would be hard to make it up there anyway (At least Aizen would be unobtainable anyway) but I did like him. Ginjo was a serious threat and worked really well as the main villain.

Moe didn’t do a whole lot next to the other members since he barely appeared until he got his powers, but I did like his fight with Ikkaku. It may have been a little cheesy, but it was reasonable. His luck based abilities are certainly fun to have even if I’d never want that to be my super power. It’s one that can really come in handy if you’re very lucky. He’s the kind of lackey who was created just to have a good fight and not really to become an actual character. Yukio can send people into a video game which is pretty neat. Naturally that power is pretty much a crutch though as he can’t fight at all if you get past that. Once you’re in the game he is pretty OP, but it’s definitely not a very combat ready kind of technique. He was okay I guess, but not too memorable or exciting to watch. I wouldn’t have minded if he was replaced with another character.

This was a fun enough arc. While it is probably the weakest one in the series, it did a good job in the few volumes that it had. It was certainly more low key than the others, but depowering Ichigo was a nice way to bring back some classic hand to hand kind of battles. Ichigo’s fight with Jackie was fun as despite being a more low tier event, captured the early Shonen feel that the series no longer had. Instead of watching two city busters going at it, it was more of a street level affair. While some of Ichigo’s friends fell into the gutter in this arc, it was worth it to see Ichigo mess up the XCution group with both his newfound powers and his restored ones.

Finally we enter the last arc. The Quincy have decided to rule the world and destroy the Soul Society. They actually did not go extinct as we were told and have been hiding in a shadow dimension all these years. They have decided to strike now and their target is the Soul Society’s leader, the Soul King. They have amassed a large army and are poised to take the win. Ichigo hurries over to help, but his friend Uryu has joined the other side. This leads to a lot of tension and it appears that Ichigo is also a quincy in addition to his Shinigami and Hollow forms. He has to come to terms with this and save the world, but it’ll be his toughest fight yet.

Yhwach is the big bad of this arc and Kubo did his best to make him the most threatening villain yet. His plan was so detailed that he knew everything that would happen in the next 1000 years including Aizen’s whole plan. If you take that into account then that makes this villain one of the most brilliant masterminds in history. He’s pretty strong as well and has a good design so I can roll with this. He may be a tad bit generic next to the others and the fact that he is omnipotent and all powerful may have been a bit much. After all, that basically confirmed early on that plot hax would be necessary to defeat him right? Still, he gave us some pretty good fights and his design was on point.
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Bazz B is essentially this arc’s version of Grimmjow. He just has a little less personality and doesn’t get as big of a role as Grimmjow. His abilities are impressive though as he was defeating Hitsugaya with minimal effort and at least tried to defy the villains after he was portrayed. He’s probably my favorite Quincy villain even if he can’t match up to most of the Arc 2 guys. He made the arc more fun.

BG 9 wasn’t really a big villain, but he had a really cool design. He also put up a really good fight against Soi Fon and could have been a major villain if the higher ups weren’t so impatient. It was a bit of a running gag that the Quincies ended up destroying as many of their members as the heroes. It’s why you shouldn’t work for villains, you’ll always end up getting back stabbed. As Nodt is another villain with a creepy design and his fights against Rukia and Byakuya were pretty intense. The author has always shown that he is pretty good at drawing horror designs as well as action and it worked out pretty well in this case. As Nodt was definitely a powerful Quincy.

Mask is one of those villains who I feel is created just to irritate the fans so I have to admit that I became a big fan. He’s just so out of place next to the other villains as he loves having a good time and boasting about his strength. He was also incredibly strong and lasted quite a while during the series. It must have had some of the most negative reception in all of Bleach week after week but he pressed on. I was rooting for him the whole time and so it was good that he put up such a fight.

Askin is one of the big Quincy generals and he was a fun character. His poison abilities are quite formidable and he wasn’t quite as loud or aggressive as the other characters. It worked well as a contrast and he sure did a lot of damage to the heroes before finally being taken down for the count. His design also reminded me of Aizen the whole time even if they don’t necessarily look all that alike. It may have been the cunning disposition. There was also the Thor homage by the name of Gerard. He was a fun character who had a similar personality as Zaraki. He just wants a good fight and is always eager to jump into a brawl. His damage reflection/absorption ability was pretty handy and I was glad to have another straight forward fighter. While guys like Askin are great because they’re exceptions to the rule, there’s always room for another brawler.

Pernida is the Hand of the Soul King or something like that. He was completely insane so it was hard to believe anything at the moment. His nerve attacks were pretty interesting even if they also felt rather weird. I guess you have to make use of the attacks you develop right? He wasn’t my favorite villain, but he was pretty tough. Gremmy is a reality warper who should have been 100% invincible but plot hax led to his defeat. He could literally do anything that he believed he could, but decided to squander this ability by making comets and portals instead of just instantly destroying his opponents. In the hands of a more confident character like Grimmjow or Ichigo, this ability would have really been something else.

Lille is another hype fighter from the Quincy and he is a long range specialist. His bullets can hit opponents from anywhere even if they miss. It’s a fun ability to have, but his super form is even better, the arrival of the Chicken. It was one of the funniest parts in the whole series and I just love how it was executed. It may not have been intentional, but cmon…can we really take this villain seriously after such a transformation? He was really powerful anyway so you just can’t let appearances deceive you. It was certainly one of the most fun power ups in Shonen Jump.

Jugram is the right hand main of Yhwach and his powers are pretty good. He becomes omnipotent and all powerful at night when his master is asleep. Otherwise, his abilities revolve around balance so he can reflect all damage that he has taken to his opponent. Naturally this leads to him fighting an opponent with the exact same ability which was the perfect loophole against him. I don’t actually like Jugram and he messed up so many times when it would have been easy to squash Uryu’s plans and stop the heroes. You don’t have many excuses when you’re all powerful. Still, the infinite fight of swapping damage was fun enough.
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Bambietta and her posse were interesting. I didn’t care for her partners much since they were typically a little more disturbing than anything, but I liked Bambietta’s can do spirit. She was always ready for a fight and her explosives were quite handy. It’s like Bakugo’s ability from Hero Academia but a little more potent. She didn’t get to appear as much as I would have liked, but she did well with what she was given.

We also can’t forget Squad 0 and the Soul King. The Soul King was a big joke and lived up to his One Above All reputation. He may be all powerful, but he can’t talk or even move so it is easy for villains to take him down. I can see why Aizen wanted to terminate him right from the get go. The guy is the ultimate definition of a figure head and can’t actually do much. Meanwhile, Squad 0 got a ton of hype and supposedly they could beat the Captains with ease. Their hype may have been intense, but that didn’t stop them from getting destroyed pretty easily by Yhwach’s squad. The funny thing was that you knew Squad 0 was doomed from the start despite the hype and that’s what made it all the funnier. They were also pretty corrupt and evil much like the actual Soul Society so it’s not like you even felt bad for them.

Arc 4 was definitely a mixed bag. On one hand it had a lot of hype moments like always. The silent chapter of Ichigo noticing the ruined Soul Society was handled incredibly well and there is just something about being the last arc that helps to draw you in. At this point in the series, Ichigo is already so powerful so when the new villains come into the picture you can’t help but get excited at the battles that are coming up. The fights delivered as always. On the negative side, it feels like the author started to give up a little here. Some of the villains felt very random like the Mask guy. The Chicken power up came out of nowhere and the random characters got so much screen time that in the end Yhwach didn’t actually get to have the big climactic fight that everyone was waiting for. The series ended very abruptly without tying up many loose ends. A lot of plot lines the fandom will just have to end on their own with a bunch of theories.

The ending is also pretty lackluster as it’s about as generic as you can get. We have a big timeskip as always with the next generation possibly being even stronger than the last one. It’s just not all that inspired at all and we certainly could have done a little better than that. The final arc also started going for more creepy factor effects which were okay in some aspects, but didn’t work in others. The villain who was actually a guy and constantly smelled of something vile was just a little over the top.

By now you get why I like the series a lot. There’s constant action and a lot of powerful fighters. The author does a great job of delivering hype for all of the battles and the trash talking among the characters was beautiful. You never knew what to expect and constantly powering up and explaining your abilities to the enemy was a fun trope by the end. The series could also be unintentionally hilarious which is the main reason that I like reading the chapters and then checking out the feedback. It was so negative at the end with everyone poking fun at it, but that just made Bleach all the more enjoyable.

There are some considerable negatives with the series though. First of all, there is a degree of fanservice here. It’s nothing major as it is pretty much forgotten for all of the climaxes. It really only pops up occasionally when characters like Yoruichi, Chizuru, or Rangiku show up. It’s enough where it can be noticeable. There is also the creepy factor like when a villain essentially forces one of the heroes to give birth to him as a form of regeneration or other moments where shady things seem to happen. Bleach is definitely darker than some of the other Shonen titles like Naruto and One Piece. It doesn’t go too far for the most part and as I mentioned, it is 74 volumes so the positives typically outweigh these negatives considerably. I’m sure you could fill in 69 volumes with the positives and leave the other 5 for the negatives or some similar fashion. If the series had been shorter or the negatives more frequent then it would have lowered the series regardless.

One thing that was always a very strong aspect of Bleach was the artwork. It is easily one of the best series of all time in that regard as the simple, but smooth art style makes it easy to follow the action. The author is also able to raise the stakes in various scenes by applying more ink. The only series that is really ahead of Bleach would be One Punch Man. I dare say that Bleach is the second best series after that and the author really put in the work. I don’t know if I could have enjoyed the series quite as much if the art had been a step down. The high quality of the art is what really allows you to appreciate the manga to its full potential.

With a title like this, there is just so much to say, but where to start right? I mainly spent time on the cast, but through that I also explained why I like the series so much. I’m a huge action fan through and through. You don’t get to see huge titles like this one too often anymore where you get to enjoy the cast for over a decade with an array of fights at every corner. I suppose that what makes this title elite is simply that it lasted so long without seriously jumping the shark or losing sight of the genre. Imagine how awesome it would have been if DBZ had lasted this long? A large part of Bleach’s success also has to come down to Ichigo being the main character. A title is only as good as its lead after all. Hopefully Arc 4 of Bleach gets animated someday because that’ll help it be more memorable. Part of why its section is the smallest is that since it was so rushed a lot of villains weren’t iconic. If they’re in the anime, that’ll help their influence quite a bit and hopefully it can expand upon some of the things that were skipped.
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Overall, Bleach is definitely a legendary series and one of the most famous ones of all time. I’m glad that it had such a long run. It would have been great if it could have kept on going a while longer, but at 70+ it is hard to actually say that you weren’t satisfied with it. I’d definitely recommend jumping on board with the series and marathoning it would certainly be a blast. I got to do that with Prince of Tennis when I first started it and I have to say that it is one positive of discovering a series so late. Of course, sticking with a series while it’s live is also awesome since you see the audience talk back after every chapter. With Bleach and Naruto gone, I do have to admit that Shonen Jump is a shell of its former self. Still, as the current titles get longer and longer, perhaps we will eventually get a new Bleach. Hero Academia can be the new Naruto in a sense, but I don’t think there is anything that has gotten close to matching Bleach’s spot yet. It left big shoes to fill but I’m sure something can rise up to it eventually.

Overall 9/10

Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You! Review

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It’s time for a one shot manga that helps get you ready for the latest Pokemon movie. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that one get dubbed since it’s going to bring back all of the old Pokemon nostalgia. The manga takes the interesting choice of making it a flashback that Alola Ash is having. It would sure be some twist if the movie is just a dream that Ash is having, but fans would certainly not like that. It’s a fun enough story and does what it can with the 20 pages that it was allotted.

Lets start with the story in the current timeline. Ash is still a little too happy and comic relief esque in the new region if you ask me. He doesn’t have a lot of time for his shenanigans, but still manages to get consistently wrecked by the Totem guardian. It seems like these Pokemon are effectively the gym leaders of the region. Still, Pikachu doesn’t go down so easily and manages to take the opponent down in one hit. This is how I picture every fight with Pikachu to go down by the way as he isn’t known as one of the strongest Pokemon of all time for nothing. He’s in a whole other league and has certainly been trained long enough to be ready for this. I’m not sure about the whole Z move thing that the heroes spam nowadays though. The pose isn’t really necessary and seems like it’ll just leave you open during a fight. I also don’t think Pikachu should even need it.

In the flashback, the chapter plays it pretty straight regarding Ash’s origin. He wakes up real late and after struggling to get out of bed finds out that all of the Pokemon have already been taken. Pikachu is still here though so Ash decides to take him, but the Thunder Mouse doesn’t like Pokeballs. Honestly, I can totally understand the sentiment since it takes away your freedom. Ash allows this since he doesn’t have much of a choice and picks a fight with a Spearow by accident. Ash gets wrecked again, but fortunately Pikachu saves him just like in the modern day timeline. Pikachu was always the MVP of the Pokemon anime and it’s good to be reminded of this. Where would we be now without the little guy eh? It’s a fun story and while they didn’t change anything, it’s been a while since I’ve seen this so that’s cool. I definitely wouldn’t mind a faithful manga adaption of the anime that follows Ash and pals. That would have a lot of potential.

The art is all right. You can tell that this is a tie in as it isn’t anything all that special or detailed. The characters are easily recognizable and the art is simple which helps with the fights. That’s about all that I can say for it though. It just doesn’t feel like there was a whole lot of effort behind it. I have a feeling that this chapter was churned out really quick to make it in time fr the movie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and I’m glad that we have it, but I always feel like they should at least make this into a full volume as opposed to just one chapter.

Overall, If you’re a big Pokemon fan then you should check this out. It’s a good way to get you hyped for the movie. It’s essentially your standard Pokemon story so it’s not going to change your world or anything, but just seeing the familiar faces and environment again should be enough. I’m ready for a big Pokemon manga as the Adventure chapters only come out once in a while and most of the other titles are either finished or in the same boat. I want a weekly Pokemon manga that I can look forward to every week. Considering how popular the franchise is, I’m surprised that we don’t have one yet. Ah well, maybe one day.

Overall 7/10

Toriko Review

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It’s time to look at one of the more recent Shonen Jump titles. Toriko got pretty big in its prime and arguably became known as one of Shonen Jump’s top 3 ongoing titles. It even got to play a role in a crossover episode featuring Luffy and Goku as well. The series has a fairly unique premise and I like the focus on food. That being said, the premise is also what ends up hurting it quite a lot as there is a considerable amount of animal violence and the series took a long while to actually get any traction going. I wouldn’t call this one a success although it had one of the best Shonen Jump climaxes of all time. At least it ended with a bang!

The story follows Toriko, a legendary Gourmet hunter. He is known as one of the very best and has taken down just about every animal out there. Gourmet Hunters hunt down food but a lot of that food comes from animals of course. Alternately, they find things like rare honey in volcanoes and underwater foods. It’s a rough job. Komatsu is a local cook and he wants to be the greatest cook in the world. When Toriko offers to take him around as a cooking partner, Komatsu leaps at the chance. The two of them go on many adventures and bond by the end. They’ll have to deal with significant gourmet threats though like Midora, Aliens, and Starjun. Whatever happens though, they’re ready for it!

Lets get this out of the way. One of the huge problems with Toriko is the nonstop action violence. It’s a series about hunting animals after all so you can bet that the series does this constantly. A positive score was out of the question right away from this, but at least the series played its cards right to at least get itself a spot at the middle of the rankings. That will have to do I suppose. The animal stuff is such a downer though.

It’s a shame because the series ends on such a high note. The last arc is essentially just nonstop fights involving all of the big characters of the series. The 8 Kings, Midora, Toriko, Starjun, Jiro, The Nitro, etc. Everyone gets a piece of the pie and here is where the 40-50 volumes of hyping up the characters all paid off. It was everything that I could want in a climax and it could possibly be the best one for a Shonen. It may not have necessarily been my favorite cast, but it was just so ambitious and it was almost half a year of nonstop epicness. The main series that could rival this one would be Reborn! as that also had a really epic climax.

Unlike Reborn! Toriko wasn’t consistent up until that part though. A lot of the arcs actually weren’t that great. We had a whole arc about trying to steal someone’s balls after all. I mean that literally by the way and the series reveled in weird plots like that. The humor can also be gross as part of the plot was that they had to…well I’m not even going to go there. Just remember that the hunters will eat anything. One of the big plot points of the series is that eating rare foods makes the main characters stronger. Their hair sticks up and they get on edge while yelling a lot. These people take their food seriously and practically explode every time as we’ll have whole pages of them barely being able to stay conscious from the pure joy of it all. It’s all so extreme that you have to wonder how they’d react to a good slice of pizza. The main characters also have demons inside of them which like food and take control sometimes. Toriko’s even turn real at times and show up to help. It’s fairly meta, but the author never actually finishes this plot up. I guess it’s up to the fans to pick up the pieces.

The Century Soup arc was probably the first time where the villains finally popped up and it felt like a plot was brewing. That one was handled well. I also enjoyed the 4 vs 4 Beasts arc as Toriko and friends fought some giant monsters that were actually all part of the same monster. Of course, the stronger heroes could have ended those arc in an instant if they wanted too, but I suppose they just wanted to see how Toriko would handle it.

By the end of the series, I like how the author tried to cram in as many feats as possible. I feel like he was making it as exaggerated as possible on purpose just to try and show up the other titles. Characters surviving millions of years going by in an instant, breaking planets and going massively FTL? These feats basically start to throw them ahead of DBZ with ease, but it all feels too easy. It also invites a lot of plot hax by the end though with the inclusion of Neo who can eat anything and Food Luck.

Food Luck is basically a plot button that allows any character to survive any situation because they were destined too. Food Luck can nullify attacks and nullify attacks which makes it very handy to use and it has no limits. It can run out, but that just depends on how lucky you are. I could have done without this part to be honest.
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The series is pretty good about not having much fanservice. It’s pretty much nonexistent for the most part. Even when we get some tired tropes like Toriko getting turned into a girl, it’s not played up too much. This is good since the series already has more than enough problems at its plate (See what I did there?) without adding any more. Take away the animal violence and this would be an easy 8. Take away a lot of the gross humor and it could jump up to a 9. It has enough positives and epic scenes to pull it off, but to be a 9 you certainly can’t have a bunch of negatives either.

Lets talk about the characters. There are quite a lot of important ones so this section is going to be very long. Toriko is the main character and he’s a fairly good one although he can be annoying at times. It’s a little hard to hold the fact that he’s a hunter against him and he makes sure to eat whatever he hunts….but it does make it hard to like the guy. He also prioritizes eating over everything which can be extreme. At one point the world is literally being destroyed around him, but he doesn’t care since he’s going to have a feast. He takes the most annoying traits from Goku and Luffy and places them together. Granted, he does have a lot of hype moments as well and can be serious when necessary. He’s the kind of charismatic guy that would be easy to be friends with, but would be a lot harder to be with long term. He does put everyone in danger constantly. Going on a journey with him like Komatsu did for several years would be way too stressful. As it stands, he’s not the best main character. He’s good enough where he doesn’t hold the series back, but just isn’t downright great. By the way, Toriko’s powers are effectively that he’s really strong. He can use his muscles for incredible punches and even turns them into projectiles. It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.

Komatsu is the main sidekick and unfortunately I can’t really say that he is a likable character. He is very annoying at all times. He can’t fight, but he has a lot of food luck so he can survive just about anything. His knife is so sharp that it can cut foods so well that they are ready centuries ahead of when they’re supposed too. He gets a lot of hype for sure, but it’s like having Usopp as a main character. It just doesn’t work and to be honest, I prefer Usopp. I dunno, Komatsu isn’t very funny and he’s certainly not all that useful. It’s good that Toriko and friends have a cook of course, but they’re cool with eating things raw so they probably would have survived anyway. I was actually waiting for Komatsu to get a super form or something, but it never happened. Ah well, that’s the way it goes I suppose.

Sunny is another one of the 4 Kings along with Toriko. His hair is his special ability as it can turn into a fairly unbreakable barrier or be used as a very versatile attack. His hairs can move at incredible speeds after all so they are difficult to properly evade or block. Add to that the fact that he has monster strength and speed like every other character and you have a tough contender. I’d consider him to be the 2nd most dangerous member in the group. He’s a decent character. His gimmick about not liking ugly things and avoiding them isn’t half bad. It’s one that I can get behind at any rate and I wouldn’t say that it’s overplayed.

Zebra gets a lot of hype and is supposed to be the strongest of the 4 Kings. I dunno, for some reason I just couldn’t buy into it. It was hard to ever really consider Zebra as a threat either since Toriko always appeared to be even stronger than him. His sound abilities are nice though as Zebra can make barriers with them or let his voice travel across large areas to help others out. It has a lot of versatile applications to the ability to be sure. He’s not a bad character, but he just ends up lagging behind the others.

Coco is the final member and he is arguably the weakest. He makes up for this with his useful poison abilities that get around the whole strength angle. After all, it doesn’t matter how strong or weak you are against him. If you’re in range of his poison you’ll be dropping dead very quickly. It’s a very handy ability and it surprisingly continues to work even towards the end of the series. Naturally it can’t do anything against the 8 Beasts or any of the final bosses, but it serves Coco well in just about all of his fights. He’s a nice enough guy.
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Rin is the main heroine, but she surprisingly doesn’t appear much at all. You know that she is the main heroine based on the ending and she is always going after Toriko, but she rarely ever contributes to the plot. I don’t even know why the author added her at all. Maybe just to have some kind of romance just to tick off the box. Regardless she has to be one of the most bland heroines out there and I was not a fan.

Ichiryu was a great character and ended up being one of the best in the series. He’s also one of the strongest characters without a doubt as he was able to hold his own against opponents like Midora without even using his spirit animal. In this universe that’s essentially like going into a battle without any weapons or special abilities. His physical abilities and stats were insanely off the charts. His Minority World ability is what makes him even more dangerous as it reverses anything. This allows him to fly by reversing gravity and he can make a full recovery from any injury by reversing it. Moreover, he can reverse the injury over to his opponent and this ability has absolutely no limits. Ichiryu can reverse anything, life, a battle’s outcome, etc. He only ends up losing because he fights someone who also has Minority World so it’s a battle of who can reverse at the last possible instant. The series got pretty high tier for sure and again it’s worth mentioning that Ichiryu fought without his monster the whole time and never ended up getting serious. He’s a pretty stand up guy even if he didn’t take the stakes seriously enough.

Starjun is another one of the big villains of the series. Gradually he becomes more of a rival though and he works as one a lot better than Zebra. He is actually a threat for a while. Naturally he starts to get surpassed once he stops being a full villain, but that always seems to happen. His flame abilities are good and beyond that his physical abilities are on par with Toriko. He’s a pretty solid character and is probably the second best villain. I’m glad he got to have a final with of his own as many of the supporting characters weren’t so lucky. Starjun earned his.

Grinpatch is a bloodsucking villain who is pretty strong. One good hit from his straw and you’ll be missing a fatal amount of blood. It’s a very unique weapon since I can’t think of anyone else who uses straws. That being said, it’s a little tough to take the power seriously. Grinpatch is super tough so underestimate him at your own peril, but he wasn’t exactly my favorite villain. Especially since his ability was usually used for animal violence scenes.

Tommyrod is one of the first big villains to show up in Toriko. He attacks using a lot of bugs and sort of is a bug as well. It made for a very intense fight between him and Toriko and he later fought Sunny as well I believe. I don’t care much for his powers since using insects means that some will always be injured in the process. His personality is fine though and he’s an interesting villain. He’s certainly lethal and quite memorable. I also liked his design and the super forms that came with him. The series was always particularly strong in the villains department.

The Nitro started off as a one time villain monster, but gradually we learned of a secret Illuminati version of them. There are 8 and they essentially want to roast the planet. Given the heavy influence on food in this series it was definitely a fitting plan. Most of them never ended up getting much in the way of personality and it’s one of those cases where the anime would need to flesh them out a bit more. That being said, they made for really good villains. I liked the designs and these guys were immensely powerful. It was just their bad luck that they had to go up against Jiro. They may have had a good shot against Toriko, fighting all 8 of them probably would have been too much for him.
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Midora is my favorite character in the whole series. He’s just awesome and the character kept on getting cooler and cooler as the series went on. He’s one of the big villains, but he never really gets to fight Toriko. That part was interesting as the two just don’t cross paths much. He ends up holding a larger group against the Nitro monsters and turns his attention to them. He definitely has the saddest origin story from the cast. While he is a villain, he’s not being evil just to get a good meal like Acacia or doing it just to rile everyone up like Joie. It’s all about getting people to appreciate good food and if they won’t do so willingly, he’ll have to destroy them. His ability is also very similar to Bass.exe’s which is an extra bonus. He can copy any ability after seeing it or being hit by it. He is virtually invincible and really cannot be defeated. Of course nothing is absolute in a series like Toriko. Midora just stole the show and it’s amazing how much character development he got. You could argue that he was the main cast at the end of the series instead of Toriko. He got fight after fight after fight.

Chiyo was one of the big villains in Toriko before the final arcs. She may be an old lady, but she can certainly fight. She had an epic battle with Setsuno and she is certainly very aggressive. Her fighting style reovlves around continuous attacks and simply overpowering her opponents. She’s incredibly powerful and a very cool enemy. Setsuno is essentially her heroic counterpart. The two of them are extremely similar, but Setsuno has the slight edge in combat. Who would have thought that two old ladies would give us such amazing fights. A third old timer is Chin Chinchin who can’t quite compete with the other two, but he never goes down without a fight. His battle with Chiyo was definitely very emotional even if you probably could guess the outcome from the beginning.

Froese didn’t get to appear much as she died prior to the series beginning, but her legacy plays a huge role throughout the series. Her death was a sad one and it set quite a few characters off on their paths. She believed that once everyone had a good meal, all war and strife would end. The problem is that some didn’t appreciate her cooking and Midora made it his mission to strike them all down. Her body wouldn’t be able to rest either as she ended up being possessed by Joie. Joie is one of the major villains in the series and she is incredibly powerful. She has a significant amount of food luck and also has a jar that can capture virtually any opponent. She is skilled at using mind games to aid her position as well. Her design was good and she always had a lot of confidence. Joie is definitely a fun villain and is certainly one of the most sinister ones in the whole series. Of course, provoking the characters who can ruin planets and solar systems with ease probably wasn’t a good idea in the end.

Tengu Brunch isn’t a major character, but he got a surprising amount of screen time at the end so I figured he was worth mentioning. He has some thunder abilities. He never really gets to use them in combat, but it’s still useful I guess. I dunno why this character was created to be honest. Takimaru is a nice character. He’s a young Gourmet Knight who does his best to gain more experience and become a useful part of the organization. He’s pretty genuine and also knows how to fight. The guy never became one of my favorite characters or anything, but I didn’t mind him.

Match was a gangster of sorts and he keeps to himself. He really just cares about protecting his friends and colleagues and isn’t the kind of guy who goes out of his way to save the world. I actually liked him a lot, but I can see why he was written out of the series by the end. There just wasn’t any way he could compete with all of these ultra powerful characters who kept popping up by the end. It’s just something that inevitably happens after a while when you’re only human. Still, he did a good job while his power level was still high enough to make a difference.

Melk is very skilled at repairing weapons. She gets a fairly small role, but was influential in helping Komatsu. We also got to see Melk The First who is incredibly strong, but not too smart and got lost for a very long time. The fact that he can also whisper is a little strange. The two were fun characters though so it would have been nice if they could have actually gotten to fight a little. I suppose it just wasn’t to be this time though, but the fact that they were memorable already puts them above a lot of other characters.

Teppei was one of the stronger heroes until he got brainwashed. Then he attempted to destroy Komatsu and invited Toriko’s wrath. His abilities are quite impressive as he can stun characters with a single hit and even held his own against Toriko. I didn’t care for a certain twist he got about the whole mind control thing though. Perhaps it would make some more sense next time I read it, but the plan seemed extremely risky and not all that smart. He made for a much better villain than a hero I’ll admit though. He was a good threat.
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Lets talk about the 8 Kings. These are the animals who rule the world at the moment and their abilities are incredibly overpowered. They get so much hype that they don’t get a serious fight until the very end of the series. Whenever Toriko challenges one, he typically loses in one hit. It’s definitely pretty humbling for him. The Monkey King gets the largest role from all of the Kings as he gets a whole arc to himself. He can throw rocks around the planet in a second and has a lot of crazy physical feats like that. He doesn’t need any special abilities because of this as he overwhelms all opponents with his pure power. He even has a true form which makes him even stronger.

The Horse King is another big one and her power is so great that she developed a special ability out of it. Just by breathing she can generate a whole ecosystem. If she breaths in, then all the oxygen is sucked out of the area and everyone dies in an instant. By breathing out she can rip people in half as she even ripped Toriko in two and can blow the planet up as well. It’s fun how comically overpowered these guys are. There’s also the Dragon King who can harness extra dimensions into one energy blast which can destroy multiple planets in a single shot and still have enough momentum to keep on going. The blast is instantaneous so it is virtually impossible to dodge. The Wolf King can uses its senses to find out everything about you from it and can also mess with your soul. Aside from that its strength and speed are uncanny as per usual.

The Bird King can use shadows to trap you in them next to a fake sun so you boil to death. Beyond that it is also crazy strong. The Snake King is so large that it covers the entire planet yet it is also faster than the speed of light. It can destroy you before your mind knows it is destroyed. This is one of the more overpowered opponents once again. The Deer King may be the strongest of the 8 Kings. It can activate a back channel when its opponent is near. It’s larger than an island so the range is pretty good. It can then speed time up so that millions of years pass by every second for its opponent which means that unless you are totally immortal you’ll die instantly. Even if you are immortal you’ll be weakened from not having eaten or drank anything in that time. It is immune to its effect of course and will attack in the meantime. Finally, we have the Whale King. This one is supposed to be the strongest and I suppose it does have a good ability. Anything near it dies instantly. It’s an automatic ability and one that has no counter. Of course, the multi planet buster laser from the dragon king was able to take him on so I guess striking from afar is your best bet. Still, get anywhere near the huge Moon sized whale and you’re doomed!

Acacia is essentially the final boss of the series and he gets a lot of hype. He taught Jiro, Midora, Ichiryu, and the others after all. One common theme of the series is that the older you are the stronger you’ll be. Toriko and friends are actually quite young so they start the series at the bottom. Then you have guys like Setsuno and Chinchin and higher up are Ichiryu, Jiro, and Midora. Then at the top is Acacia. The series goes out of its way to make the guy as unlikable as possible as he’s extremely mean and gives negative twist after twist. He definitely got a lot of hate at that point and it’s hard to be a fan of this guy. He’s definitely a very powerful figure and has some great battles, but I can’t really say that I like the guy. There were a ton of twists back and forth, but ultimately he was just a little too far gone for me. He had some cool super forms though.

Neo is the monster inside of Acacia and his whole purpose is to eat. His very existence is only there to consume things. Think Galactus but on a larger scale. He plans to eat all of reality and gets stronger with each thing that he eats. He is virtually unstoppable and takes on an onslaught of attacks from the 8 Kings. Neo isn’t made to be sympathetic or anything which is certainly good since I wouldn’t be able to buy it. Sadly his scenes almost always involve animal violence. I would have preferred for Acacia to have just been the main villain so we wouldn’t need Neo, but the latter ended up being the real threat. It also involves the Nitro’s real mission that also doesn’t stop them from being villains. Murder billions to save trillions. I dunno, at that point you’re still murdering so many people that it becomes moot.

Jiro is one of the strongest characters of the series and a good ally to have. From the big 3 he is my least favorite, but that’s more of a compliment to Ichiryu and Midora then it is a slight against him. Jiro gets a lot of hype and delivers on it with his great fight against the Nitro. He also puts up a good fight against Acacia and Neo. His “knocking” ability is essentially like Ki in DBZ or Haki in One Piece. He can punch something which “knocks” it out of existence or knocks it into place. It effectively paralyzes opponents and is almost impossible to recover from. His true form is also very intense.
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Zongeh is the comic relief character of the series, but he didn’t work very well. King from One Punch Man and Hercule from DBZ are two examples of characters who actually served their roles quite nicely. The problem with Zongeh is that he is never funny and also never contributes to the plot. The other two characters actually have their moments and help out when possible. This guy’s just wasting pages whenever he appears and I don’t think the author used him very well.

Terry, Kiss, Quinn are monsters that the main characters use. Terry is the only one who ever gets personality though. Toriko bonds with him near the beginning of the series and Terry really grows by the end and got to be very powerful. I like him a lot and he’s definitely one of the best characters in the series, but I was also sad to see him since the villains naturally go after him quite a bit. Terry is destined to grow up as one of the strongest animals so that is definitely nice, but I’m glad we didn’t get to have too many fights with him. That would have been a little brutal to watch. Terry really is awesome though and I have to say that the name is actually amazing.

I do enjoy Toriko’s art. It feels like Dragon Ball Z a lot of the time. The fights are really intense and the character designs are simple, but effective. It’s always easy to understand everything on the page in an instant and that’s a real credit to the series. I’d consider the art to be very high tier and it helped make the climax that much more exciting. It affects the whole series.

I should warn you that the manga can be incredibly violent though. Throughout the series it is a lot more intense than the average Shonen and gets to Hunter X Hunter levels with people getting ripped apart constantly. The characters are also cannibals for the most part so the final battles involve eating each other. Especially since Neo is the big villain and that’s his whole thing. He eats quite a few characters by the time it’s all over. Tommyrod’s fight with Toriko is certainly brutal and basically any fight with Midora. After all, one of Midora’s big attacks is that he stabs you repeatedly with his tongue. This can also lead to some rather gross characters like Neo. He gets more and more deranged as he fights and just looks like a lot of bumps. While the characters are always bleeding and being filled with holes, the simplistic style of the manga helps it not get too graphic. It’s definitely a full step over something like Bleach, but I definitely wouldn’t say we’re at the point of something like Berserk yet. The anime did a real good job of toning this down considerably while still keeping the fights epic so that’s another alternative for you. If they did the same for the animal violence then I have a feeling I’ll certainly like that version more. Of course, that’d be a review for another day if I ever start that show. So just bear this in mind, the series is pretty intense and that helps it complete its image as a retro Shonen. From the character developments to the fight scenes, it’s like a return to the more brutal days of Shonen Jump.

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Overall, Toriko was a fun manga although it ended up shooting itself in the foot far too often. In the end, a manga about hunting animals is never going to go very far. They should have played up the natural ingredients part and have the heroes just go after foods like Jello and such. That would have been a lot safer. The series inevitably started going after animals less as the plot began and humanoids appeared anyway. The series should have just accelerated the early stuff. After all, when the series got intense, boy did it go all the way. It’s one of the most hype titles I have ever read. It’s really exhilarating. Despite that, I can’t really recommend it all that much. You’ll be better off with just about any other Shonen Jump title. This one’s just pretty weak and as a whole it wasn’t constructed as well as most of the others. I do appreciate the author’s attention to detail though and how he planned everything out. It was very ambitious and there were certainly a lot of concepts thrown around. Ultimately, it just couldn’t pull enough of them off.

Overall 5/10

Ultimo Review

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Ultimo is one of those manga titles where the concept should write itself. Giant robots running around fighting each other should be pretty awesome. Add in a cosmic threat and you’re set. Unfortunately, the manga gets unnecessarily complex, throws in time travel which really hurts the story and just goes in a lot of odd directions. As a result, it wasted a bunch of time so then when it was effectively cancelled it had to rush everything to the end. The ending is very original and will remind you a lot of Madoka Rebellion, but it’s not exactly the ending that many of us were hoping for. It’s just a very odd story.

Yamato is a guy who is fairly down on his luck. He is always caught in awkward situations by his friends and he can’t work up the nerve to talk to Sayama…especially after these incidents. One day he notices a robotic kid called Ultimo or Ulti for short. Ultimo seems to be an antique, but he randomly wakes up one day and takes on a giant robot named Vice in the middle of the street. Both of them are severely damaged, but then Yamato finds out that he is Ultimo’s master. There is apparently a war going on between Doji (That’s the official robot name) of good and evil. I believe there are 12 total with 6 on each side. A mysterious being named Dustan created these Doji so he could see once and for all which side will ultimately emerge victorious. Yamato doesn’t totally understand all of this, but he can’t let the Earth be destroyed so along with Ultimo he gets to work on stopping these guys.

That plot actually isn’t half bad. The first few volumes were pretty good as well as Yamato gradually meets his allies and enemies. The fights are good and I thought the series would be fun. Then the Rune plot happens which I’ll delve into later. Then the low point of the series happened…the time travel. Time travel is typically a really good thing, but this one completely wrecked it. Yamato gets taken to early Japan where we find out he was a Yakuza or something. Every character is doomed to infinite reincarnation by Dunstan and the heroes and villains were deadlocked there. Not only is this a complete waste of time that doesn’t go anywhere, but it is immensely boring.

Yamato finally makes it back to the present, but he arrived too soon so we have to relive a few fights and action scenes again. They’re a little different of course, but not enough so that it really matters. Also, Yamato has control over time so he can just rewind it whenever something happens that he doesn’t like. As a result, it was a little hard to get interested in the plot. That and the fact that the rest of the cast weren’t too interesting despite their overpowered abilities.

Lets talk about the characters. Yamato is the lead and I suppose he isn’t too bad. He’s not quite as tough as you’d imagine despite his punkish design, but he does his best. He learns the abilities after a little while and is then able to fight with the best of them. From there on he did good and at least he always shut Rune down. He does have a tendency to get kidnapped and placed into awkward positions though. Ultimo is a better character even if he can be a little confusing. He is meant to be the ultimate hero, but is actually the shadiest of them all. He lets rage consume him quite a lot and acts like Optimus Prime in the Michael Bay movies. He just wants to completely eradicate all evil and is consumed by this desire. He starts to turn evil during the middle of the series although Yamato has a talk with him about that. He can be real intense, but that’s part of why I like Ultimo. He’s a cool hero and I like the confidence that he has. He may not be too strong without an operator, but shows that he still has a nice degree of skill. The series did a good job of showing why he deserves to be the lead.
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K is the human operator of Vice, the ultimate villain counterpart to Ultimo. Unfortunately, he is a really bad character. He just likes eating instant ramen and is always being ordered around by Vice. He’s a total comic relief character, but is also pure evil. It’s a really weird combo and I’m not totally sure what they were going for with his character. Either way, I don’t think it really worked. I did like Vice though. He had a really good design and at times he reminded me of Bass. He’s naturally not as cool as the latter, but he is definitely in my top 3 favorite characters of the series. He super forms are all really good and he was a very persistent enemy. Vice just kept getting back up over and over again for as many times as needed. He was one guy that would never give up and also didn’t like being a pawn which was a good motivation for trying to go after Dunstan. Too bad that guy was just a little too strong.

Rune is one of the characters that makes the series a little dicey. After Yamato got to experience his original self along with everyone else since they are endlessly reincarnated, Rune also kept her memories. The problem for her is that she was reincarnated into a male body this time, but still wants Yamato to herself. So her female soul is literally trapped in a male body. I don’t think we needed this plot and I know that I definitely didn’t want it included. It gets a lot of screen time and creates some awkward situations that have nothing to do with the plot. I never cared for Rune as a hero, but she isn’t much better as a villain either. This is Jealousy

Dunstan is the big villain of the series but he is comically overpowered. He is made to look just like Stan Lee which is pretty interesting since the guy helped to write this series. He has the powers of all 12 Doji and can use them all at once. The guy can alter time as a result and his physical stats are off the charts. The main cast can’t do anything against him even if they all team up. It’s a rather odd twist to the whole thing since that means their goal of stopping him is unattainable from the start. Either they’ll have to win him over to their side which is possible since he claims to be impartial, but that would also mean that he wouldn’t pay for his crimes. It is a direct result of Dunstan’s actions that a ton of people died after all. Alternately, they can fight him, but they’re doomed. Despite the fact that Dunstan is probably too strong, he makes for a pretty fun villain. He rarely ever gets to appear, but he seems like a nice enough guy. That’s probably meant to help us not look at him in a poor light which doesn’t work, but I’m at least glad that he is a likable villain.
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Musashi is a space cop who travels time. He sounds a lot cooler than he actually is. Despite running through time, he doesn’t really seem to have a clear idea of what to do and he’s also not that tough. He looks good during his initial appearance, but fades into the background after that. We did see a brief glimpse of the future I believe which was fun, but the series could have done more with him. However, like the rest of the humans, he was ditched by the end. His Doji Sophia is pretty useful since she can mess with the 5 senses and even affect the 6th one. It’s hard to hit anything when she’s around since she’ll have you seeing double or everything in reverse. It’s a great ability to have for sure but since every Doji has great abilities it doesn’t necessarily mean that she is the best.

Sayama is the main heroine and it’s definitely hard to get a read on her. She acts nice enough at first but seems less innocent and oblivious than most. She has a pretty big twist at the end and gets some good fight scenes. Her motivations may not make a lot of sense at times, but she seemed like a reasonable character. The twist actually works pretty well if you ask me and makes her more of a deep character, she’s no longer just here for the school scenes.

I keep mentioning how strong the Doji are so lets quickly talk about their abilities. Here are the hero abilities. First off you already know Ultimos. He has complete control of time. This allows him to weave in and out to the past and future to dodge attacks. Unlike other series this does not create alternate dimensions so it can be spammed as much as you like. Unfortunately, Yamato is typically distracted and rarely uses it. When he does, Ultimo is unbeatable which is why he commands the hero group. Service is also a powerful hero. She can manipulate a Doji’s power which includes the time stop. She can simply nullify its abilities along with any other. In a sense, she could be the ultimate fighter as long as she can defeat the enemy. Some of the villains are still more powerful than her even without their abilities after all. Regula’s ability is complete memory manipulation. It can erase all of your memories in an instant and replace them with others. Since he is a hero he doesn’t do this, but you can see how it would be useful in a fight. If your opponent forgets how to fight and thinks you are now an ally, then the match is already won. There are some counters to this though like the emotion Doji as a person can fight with their emotions rather than memories. Pardonner is a healer that can heal any injury in an instant. It can also place illusions within the soul of your mind so that it fools all 5 senses. He’s a great support fighter as he can keep healing all of his allies at any time. Slow has the classic Fate Alteration ability. She can simply alter fate so that an attack which landed actually missed. Altering fate has no real limits, but it takes up a lot of energy so Slow can’t afford to have a long drawn out battle. It’s really hard to counter this, but if you keep attacking without letting up, Slow can run out of energy. Of course, your fate could be to miss and stab yourself by mistake. Finally we have Goge. He manipulates emotions to prevent you from battling or to make you erratic. It’s very similar to the memory manipulation so getting hit by both at the same time would be intense. It’s another very valuable ability to have.

Okay, those were the heroes. Did you memorize all of the abilities? They’re all extremely great and overpowered so the villains have to have really good powers to match. Fortunately they do so lets dive right into them. Vice is the leader so he’s got some good powers. He can steal and copy an opponent Doji ability so he can potentially gather any. He has incredible speed and power and can fire omnidirectional spikes that hit in all directions and can also block any attack. His overall ability is called incompetence which is absolute destruction, but the ability is rather vague and even the wiki doesn’t seem to totally know what it means. Taking it at face value, maybe his opponents will be unable to use their full strength since they’ll be incompetent. Desir is another ability nullification type who can shut down all abilities in decently sized radius. This includes allies though and Ultimo’s time travel seems to be immune. It doesn’t seem as useful as the hero version. Edile has super strength. It’s actually pretty laughable next to everyone else since all Doji have a measure of super strength. Lets move on. Avaro can duplicate himself. He claims that he can fill the whole planet with copies of himself but take that claim lightly. It’s not a bad ability, but not great either. Paresse has a lot of spikes to stab people with. It’s another really weak villain. Wait…the villains must have some good members right? Rage has electrical abilities and was even able to overwhelm Ultimo in a fight. It may not sound very impressive on its own, but I suppose manipulating electricity always has a lot of uses. He can move with that level of speed after all and since the Doji are all robots in a sense, his attacks can be super effective. Jealousy can read the hearts of his opponents. This allows him to know what they will do next with 100% accuracy. This is actually a very good power since it is effectively knowing the future and unlike the mind reading strategy where a character can fight without thinking, your heart always knows what’s up. Finally, Orgullo has fire abilities. Eh…that’s not too impressive although I like fire.
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After writing all of those powers down I think it’s safe to say that the heroes should have a massive advantage. However, they end up dying most of the time so Yamato has to retry the battle. It’s like a video game in that sense. The villains surprisingly have better teamwork at times and it is easier to power up their Doji. That’s because it’s easy to be evil while it’s hard to be good. That’s actually a pretty interesting concept that they decided to tackle and it was actually handled relatively well.

The whole series has a lot of discussion on good vs evil. The characters try to blur the lines between these two and even Yamato starts to be unsure of whether or not there is really a good side. He starts to think that everyone is part good and part evil which is probably the wrong conclusion to have. It’s hard for anyone to switch sides for this reason. The heroes are still trying to destroy the villains after all rather than taking them hostage and they’re doing it all effectively because Dunstan is forcing them into this situation. It’s definitely pretty interesting and the fact that Ultimo keeps acting evil doesn’t help matters. I believe more in the rationale that there is a clear line between good and evil and that line isn’t hard to see. I believe that’s a superhero quote that I saw in a recent article, possibly by Destroyer14 but I can’t remember which.

Now the ending is certainly one that we should talk about. There are some spoilers….to put it lightly, in this paragraph so skip now if you don’t want to see. Are you out? Here we go! In the end, Dunstan wins. Yamato got all of the heroes and villains to unite, but Dunstan just one shotted them all and laughed a bit. He then rewinded time so everyone was still alive and decided to try it in a different setting. He’s going to continue the games, but this time with everyone being friends and we’ll see how it turns out. Yamato can finally hang out with Sayama so he doesn’t seem to care. It’s very similar to Madoka Rebellion where Homura won in the end and everyone is content to live in her world. The difference being that most of them didn’t know about it there. Yamato certainly realizes it here and I believe Sayama does as well. It’s possible that the others did have their memories wiped though. It’s just a very odd and somewhat depressing ending based on how you look at it. Dunstan showed that his power is leagues above the rest of the cast so they never even had a prayer of beating him. The fact that the character looks exactly like Stan Lee is also interesting. He effectively wrote himself into the series as the strongest being ever. Stay humble.

The manga can get a little crazy, but one thing it is good at is bringing in a lot of nonstop action. You can make a lot of comparisons to the Bayformers movies, but this one is certainly better than those. The plot just takes a backburner at times as we get fight after fight and then the plot is given through exposition as opposed to actually telling us about it. Honestly without the time travel nonsense which basically introduced the Rune plot (Since she wouldn’t have regained her memories without them) this series could have actually been real good. It’s futile to look at hypotheticals like that, but interesting to think about nonetheless.
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The fact that each of the characters are so powerful and made to be unbeatable also helps make the series a little more entertaining. I still think the heroes should win and having time control is way too overpowered for Yamato, but that helps us bring in the plot hax. Also, the power levels matter a little more since virtually anyone can beat another in one hit. It just depends on who strikes first. Yamato limiting his own power reminds me of Angelic Layer which I’ll talk more about when I get to that review. I suppose it would be too easy otherwise though as Yamato could just stop time and finish everyone off.

Each Ultimo was already strong so the introduction of the God Ultimo forms and then their second modes was cool as well. They just kept on getting stronger and stronger to the point of no return. Again, it’s a shame that parts of the manga were so weak like the characters (I basically liked all of the Doji, but none of the humans were particularly good. If I had to pick a favorite human it would probably be Musashi or Yamato, but that’s not saying much) and the time travel since otherwise parts of it felt like Hunter X Hunter level writing. There was a lot of strategy during the fights to counter the abilities and a lot of potential for directions which the series could go in. Since it was a full war of 7 vs 7 and players could keep on changing sides there were just so many interesting variables.

I’m glad that the pre arc phase ended early on though. As I mentioned, most of the human characters aren’t so good. There are a bunch of them running around, but most are either unlikable, bland, or forgettable. The last two are similar I suppose. The school friends never actually contributed anything and the heroic Doji owners made it hard to root for them at times. One thing I like is how everyone is bloated with self importance as they never give Yamato straight answers, but while amusing, that doesn’t help make them likable. The villains aren’t either although they’re not supposed to be. As I mentioned, you’re really reading this for the action and feats more than anything else.

The art is really good for the most part. The characters look good and I like the designs of the Doji. Their ultimate modes look quite good as well and you can tell that the artist has a lot of experience. What does bring the art down a bit though is the fact that it gets a little too chaotic during the fight scenes. Each page gets very cluttered to the point where it is hard to follow the fight scenes. You will need to spend a long time with some panels to actually see anything. One positive is that each volume takes a lot longer, but I feel like the fights could have been scaled better. I think the author had a problem with showing the scale of the fights while still making them small enough to fit in the actual scene. The trick to that is messing with the background, but I am sure it is difficult. In the end this lowered the art’s ranking overall, but most scenes still look good.
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Overall, It really has been a long time since I read the series. I read volume one almost a decade ago and all of the volumes were separated by very long waits. It took ages to finally read the final volume so you can imagine that my recollection on the early parts is rather iffy. It’s definitely better to read something like this in a marathon batch like with Pandora Hearts. I remember not enjoying it all that much more than I remember why I didn’t enjoy it much. That’s the tricky part since other parts of my memory seem to remember the series being rather dynamic and interesting. I think it’s probably because the concept was cooler than the execution so I still think about what it could have been. For all I know there could be animal violence scenes that I’m forgetting or a bunch of hype moments that I can’t remember. It’s a tricky case and I may re read it someday, but certainly not in the near future. What I can say is that if you’re looking for a mecha series with fighters who are comically overpowered then this may be the title for you. It gets chaotic, but that helps it feel like a summer blockbuster. On the other hand, most action titles just handle all aspects of themselves better than this one does. You’d be better off reading DBZ, Kenshin, Black Cat, or any of those other titles. I’d slightly recommend this one and the positives are a little better than the negatives, at least as far as I can recall. It’s certainly nostalgic looking at this title since it’s been such a long time, too bad it never got an anime. At the very least I’m sure the visuals would have been really cool.

Overall 6/10

Psyren Review

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It’s time for a pretty fun manga that went under the radar and had to hurry to a rushed conclusion. It’s a shame, but I can see how people never gave it a chance. Personally, I always thought it was a manga about competitive hip hop dancing. I don’t know why, but it just looked like one thanks to a screencap on Mangastream. I didn’t learn better until I got to read a few volumes from the library. It’s a series that takes a few different twists compared to your average Shonen and the series was very ambitious. Unfortunately, it just couldn’t last long enough to unleash its full potential.

The main character is Ageha and he’s your average Bully hunter for hire. He takes out the bullies as long as you can pay him. One day he notices Anamiya getting bullied by a few other girls and saves her wallet. She dashes off, but not before asking him for help. The next day she goes missing and the town goes on full alert. Ageha decides to call the number of a mysterious card that he received and solves its puzzle so he can get some answers. The next thing he knows, he is whisked away to a desolate world that is overrun by monsters. Anamiya is here, but with a completely different personality as she is very cold and antagonistic to the rest of the characters. Still, she needs Ageha to help her clear the game. If you die in the game you die in real life!

There are a few rules. One: They just have to live through it. Two: Clear the daily missions. Three: Tell nobody. As long as they follow those 3 rules, they will be allowed to leave the game in peace. Of course, this is difficult since there are monsters everywhere as well as an evil organization that is bent on taking over the Earth through any means necessary. Fortunately, this world amps up everyone’s natural psychic abilities and you can gradually learn how to use it for combat. Along the way, a kid Ageha used to bully, a rockstar, and a random joe are brought to the world as well. Technically, a bunch of people are brought in, but the rest are all slaughtered almost instantly by the monsters. Hey, you can’t save em all right?
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At first the manga plays out like a survival horror. The humans have no business fighting giant monsters and basically just have to run and hide. Anamiya is the only one who can fight them and even she can’t take on too many of them at once. If the series had stayed like this, it could have certainly gone for an Attack on Titan vibe. Honestly, it could have maybe worked, but I’m glad the manga shifted gears into full action instead. Once the characters all got powers and the monsters were phased out in place of humanoid opponents, the manga truly began to excel.

It plays out a lot like Hueco Mundo in Bleach. The heroes get in really large scale battles against the enemies. The series jumps between the present and the future a lot. As you’d probably expect, the future has all of the best scenes and fights. The technology doesn’t really change this time, but everyone is just a lot stronger so the visuals are more spectacular. This series really knew how to draw your attention the whole time. Lets quickly go through a bunch of the characters.

First up is Ageha. He’s a good protagonist even if he definitely doesn’t care about being a hero. Lets move past his childhood where he was apparently a bit of a bully. He does act like your typical main character for a while as he tries to save everyone and does his best to complete the game. What separates him from most is how absolutely ruthless Ageha is. He’s totally on board with destroying any opponent who gets in his way. Some of the villains comment on this as Ageha will go for a kill shot right off the bat. Given the stakes and all, it’s easy to see why, but not something that all main characters will go for. He embraces his dark abilities from the start and never enters into a self doubt phase. All of these elements together make him a very engaging lead. You can draw a lot of similarities to Yusuke Urameshi.

Amamiya is the main heroine and she was always rather odd. We find out the reason why by the end as she has a split personality. One side of her is very shy and timid while the other is aggressive and outgoing. She starts to lose control of her other personality by the end, but eventually gets it back. You could say that the two sides of her made a truce to share the body and each gets a turn now. It’s an intriguing concept anyway. For the most part, the more aggressive one is naturally better although the flirting can be a bit much. I’m glad that Anamiya can fight, but she’s just not a very charismatic heroine.

The same can be said for the big rival of the series. That is Asaga and he is probably the most soulless rival I’ve ever seen in a series. He barely even counts as a rival since he is never in Ageha’s league to begin with. He has a lot of brute strength and that’s how he wields his psychic powers. He just has no real personality though besides possibly liking the main heroine. Ageha’s gravity abilities are both stronger and more versatile. There’s just nothing Asaga can contribute to a fight and he was basically written out of the series for a while as he had some adventures on the alien planet by himself.

Next up is a character whose development never really got to end. Oboro is a famous pop star who got into the game and began to excel. He can heal others which is incredibly useful and his abilities began to morph into disintegration. He can also heal others too well which results in them merging with other monsters and dying. The series was really hinting that he was going to turn evil and he was beginning to fit into the rival role. Then…the series just ended and he never really got to have any closure. I think he barely even got a final fight if he did at all. I did think the character had a lot of promise though and he was probably the best supporting member.

Kirisaki’s essentially the scaredy cat of the group. Every series seems to need one and he fits the bill. His ability is that he can sense the future as long as he is in danger and this allows him to dodge any traps. Think of it like a very good Spider Sense and you get the general idea. This isn’t the kind of character that I’m typically a fan of though so I’ll have to give him a thumbs down.

Now lets talk about some of the villains. Miroku is the big villain in the series and he’s certainly a strong fighter. He doesn’t have a whole lot of personality and can come across as generic, but I’d say that he’s good enough. His design’s not bad. Grana is the strongest member of the main villain group so he’s second only to Miroku for most of the series. He’s sort of like Zaraki from Bleach and I like his personality. He’s always itching for a fight and he can dish it out as well as he takes it. That makes for a pretty good villain if you ask me. Unfortunately, as the story goes with most of these characters, he didn’t get to do a whole lot.

Junas was one of the most impressive villains. He went up against quite a few of the main characters and kept on rolling. His design is on point and he made good use of his abilities. WISE was very fortunate to have him on their side. There’s not much to say about Uranus. He’s another member of the group who puts up a good fight, but doesn’t get nearly as much screen time as Junas. Finally we’re up to a villain who did get a lot to do. Dholaki was probably Ageha’s first real challenge and the guy kept coming back for more. He would train and learn new abilities to stay relevant. He had a good work ethic for a villain. Shiner was another member of the group and he also got a good role. I’d say that he was maybe a little nerfed by the end of the fight, but he did a good job weakening the heroes.

Mithra is basically the real final boss. She’s a very imposing entity and her true form helps increase the stakes of the series. I definitely think just about all big action titles should end with a big cosmic being suddenly showing up. It makes the final battle really feel like a final stand as opposed to just another fight against the bad guys. Mithra didn’t appear all that much, but she is memorable.

Yusaka is technically a pretty minor villain as he doesn’t appear much, but he was a pretty critical traitor against the heroes so he was memorable. He takes down a lot of humans in a rather brutal action scene and proves to be a lethal opponent. He’s not really my kind of villain, but he made for a good fight scene. While his design isn’t as impressive as most of the villains, it makes sense since he is basically just a human.
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There was a group of kids in the future who were the last defenders of humanity. They were a pretty fun bunch and all of them got some good screen time. Frederica is a fire expert who’s extremely confident and she always managed to live up to the hype. I’m not sure I’d call her the strongest member despite her boasts, but she’s definitely fun to have around. She’s effectively the leader of the team. Marie is the nicest member of the team which also happens to mean that she is basically the weakest. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really a fan of hers. She’s not a bad character, but rarely seemed to help out all that much. She did contribute of course, but I would have liked to have seen more action from her.

Kyle looks up to Ageha and pretty much modeled his fighting style after him. Kyle’s a hand to hand specialist who attacks with incredible power. I’d say that he is the most powerful member of the group and he sure did a good job whenever he would appear. He definitely grew a lot from his days as a kid. Shao probably got one of the best fight scenes in the series as he fights with strategy as well as power. He’s about as strong as Kyle and really helps the group have an edge over the villains. Every time you get a strong fighter like that, it really helps everyone’s odds. He’s rather quiet, but it’s not about confidence. It’s simply a choice in his case and he lets his actions speak for him.

Nemesis Q was more annoying than helpful. I still don’t understand what the point was of calling everyone to the game world, but destroying them if they told anyone. By the end of the series we learn that she is basically stuck in a wheelchair and just gets her thrills out of mocking Ageha. She got some kind of origin story, but it still seems like the best plan would just have been to tell the heroes what was going on. They could have changed the past a whole lot easier if they knew the details.

Matsuri was one of the only players who ever got out of the game alive. As such, she knows about it, but isn’t really allowed back. She can still help in the real world though. Her abilities are potent, but not quite as deadly as most of the main characters. She essentially got surpassed by everyone as the series went on, but did well in the mentor role. Kagetora is her friend and essentially a bodyguard who also got some psychic abilities. He handles psychic crime in the real world, but has a tendency to get in a little over his head at times. His regeneration ability at the end is really handy though since it fits in with his constant aggression.

Tatsuo is a friend of Asaga’s who got stuck in the game. In the real world he was super frail, but he was able to excel in this other world as a hybrid monster. At first he is evil from the experience, but gradually learns to accept the situation and becomes a hero. He’s a fairly decent character, but one that still just feels more like a trope than an individual. Asuka is Ageha’s father and he actually shows up to fight by the end of the series. His ability has a lot of drawbacks and can’t be used for too long, but it’s very powerful. He is one of the only characters in the series who is able to use a certain burning/ascendence which amps up all of his stats. The series may not have explained too much about why he knows so much about the psychic wars and all, but it was nice to see him help out. He’s not a very nice guy at times though so that hurts his likability.

So the character cast is fairly decent. I like Ageha and the Actor worked fairly well as a shady rival. I don’t think the author initially planned for that subplot to just end like it did, but you never know. The rest of the heroes were rather weak compared to most titles though, but fortunately the villains held their own. They were all pretty cool for the most part even if I started to mix them up. It’s important that Ageha was good since if the main character had also only been standard, it might have had more of an effect on the series. What helped to compensate for this was the solid artwork throughout. The artist has a nice clear style that works well with the series. It’s also nice since Ageha’s powers could have easily turned into something very wavy and chaotic. With a lesser artist It would have been easy to get lost during the action scenes.

The series could get pretty intense like the massacre inside the government base. You couldn’t help but feel bad for the government the whole time since they were just so out of their league but they kept on trying anyway. At the very least, you have to admire their commitment. We even got the cops involved at one point as they try to arrest Ageha, that was fun. There’s a lot to like in this series which is why it’s a shame that it never hit 20 volumes.
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Overall, Psyren is a fun action series. It won’t go down as an all star like Dragon Ball Z or Kenshin, but I’d say that it did a really good job. The idea of fighting in the future is always a good one. Reborn! probably did the best job with it, but many titles have pulled it off. The action was large in scale and Ageha readily embracing his dark abilities was nice as well. It’s a shame that the series ended so suddenly since it still had quite a lot of potential left in it. Sometimes we just don’t get to see it all though. That’s just the way it goes. I’d definitely recommend checking this manga out. It’s pretty epic and I’m confident you’ll like it if action is your genre of choice.

Overall 8/10

Nisekoi Review

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It’s time to review a very different manga series. Seriously, it’s not one that you’d have expected me to read. It’s my first complete harem manga. There are some titles that can act a bit like a harem at times like Sword Art Online, but this is a full blown one with comedy hi-jinx around every corner and a lot of situations that will make you suspend your disbelief. So I can’t say that I had high hopes for this series at all. Luckily it plays up the comedy angle first and foremost. There isn’t a great deal of fanservice here as it’s pretty mild for the most part. There are some tricky moments though and it’s certainly not perfect, but it’s likely the best adaptation of this genre. I can’t imagine another one handling it quite as well.

The protagonist is Raku and he is the heir to a local Yakuza organization. He doesn’t want to lead the group though as his passion is to be a civil servant who lives in a very fair and balanced way. It’s an honorable aspiration and the gang members don’t mind this as they figure that he’ll grow bored and decide to lead the gang in the end anyway. His life changes forever when a girl named Chitoge moves into town. She is in a very similar situation and her gang does not get along with Raku’s at all. The two gangs decide to form a peace treaty by convincing Chitoge and Raku to pretend to be dating. Only the top executive of each gang knows that it is fake so the rest believe that it is legitimate and do their best not to get into fights. Naturally, this has serious social repercussions for both characters since they have to keep the act going 24/7. Raku was hoping to live a normal high school life and Chitoge wanted a great start to her school year, but neither were to be.

Quite a few more complications would enter the fray though. The main characters are all in the same class and it just so happens that most of them know Raku in some way or other from the past. Onodera was one of Raku’s best friends back in the day and Raku secretly admires her. Unfortunately for him, the Chitoge situation has shut the door on any hopes for him since he is officially taken and Chitoge has to find a way around that as well. Her best friend Ruri has decided that overcoming your rivals is necessary in a case like this and tries to push the two of them together. Meanwhile, Chitoge has a bodyguard named Tsugami who is forced to come to class as well to protect her mistress. She believes that Raku is not fit to protect Chitoge but gradually realizes that he is tougher than he looks. A rich transfer student also shows up who is a pre-arranged fiance for Raku. This hurts his reputation even more and she is the most overt with her constant advances towards Raku. Not to be out done, a transfer teacher also shows up named Yui. She grew up with Raku as she learned how to be an effective mob boss and then went her own way. Well, now she is also back to claim Raku. Finally, we also have Onodera’s younger sister. She doesn’t want to get in Onodera’s way but that becomes more difficult as her friend tries to push her into some tricky situations.

So, we’ve got quite the cast and you can see how this is clearly a harem title. There are 6 different girls going after Raku and he has to try to stop all of their advances while he chooses one over the others. While the reverse harem title Gentleman’s Alliance (I believe that’s the right name) did a cop-out by having the heroine choose 2 guys to alternate with, I can safely say that there is none here. The series wraps up with each girl getting her own story arc and one by one Raku completely rejects them tournament style. It’s pretty interesting and at least he was direct about the whole thing. Of course, the series is 25 volumes long and those arcs don’t really start til around volume 19. The first 18 are for good ole comedy shenanigans along with a plot about Raku’s pendant. See, he has this pendent which can only be opened by a girl that he promised to marry when he was a kid. The problem is that from the 7 girls, 4-5 of them have their own keys. They can’t try them out either since Raku conveniently breaks his pendent. Oh well, they’ve got a lot of time to figure it out right?
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For a story like this, the two most important aspects are the characters and the writing. Those two things are handled pretty well and the art also helps a lot. You may notice that all of the pictures in this review are from the same fight. That’s because the art for this fight was just so good and it came out of nowhere. This was the only serious fight in the whole series or at least the only one that was of a decent length. It shows what the series could have been like if the author had decided to pursue Nisekoi as an action series. It would have had quite a lot of potential. The art is consistently good throughout and I’d consider it to be fairly high end even counting all other manga titles.

If there’s any part of the art that’s weak, it’s that parts of it can seem recycled. So that’s not a quality thing, but just a byproduct of the genre. It’s something that you tend to see in comedy titles a lot since the characters always have exaggerated expressions. You’ll see what I mean if you flip through a volume. The characters make the same faces constantly. You can’t go through a single chapter without someone yelling or panicking. At least not until you’re in the climax of the series. The overreactions can definitely get old pretty quick.

All right, lets talk about the characters. First off is Raku, our lead. He’s a nice guy who wants to help everyone out, but just has a lot of natural charm so everyone wants to hang out with him. Raku does his best not to lead anyone on and is pretty oblivious to the situation as you probably would expect. I can’t say that I’m really a fan of Raku though. While he handles most of the situations fairly well, he can also make them worse at times. Other times he’s a little slow on the uptake and tends to insult other characters at inopportune times. He calls Chitoge a gorilla as a joke while she calls him a bean sprout, but often times Raku will use this insult quite randomly and it makes you wonder what he was thinking.

Chitoge is the main heroine and one of the better characters. She’s probably my second favorite behind Tsugami. Chitoge is outgoing and does her best to make a lot of friends during her school days. She helped to bring the whole gang together and is always ready to help the others out like Raku. She’s pretty selfless as well and tries not to get in the way of the other character’s goals. Chitoge can also fight to a mild extent which helps quite a bit as well. Next up is Onodera, one of the other major characters of the series. Unfortunately, I was never a fan of hers. She’s a really shy character who has a hard time talking to Raku and her friends often have to push her into action. She means well though and is also a very nice character, but the shy character type has never been my favorite. Just about all of my favorite characters are outgoing or have generally tough personalities. I feel like it makes the character more interesting.

Next up is the worst character in the series, Shu. This character had no point being in the series and it feels like he is just here to make Raku look even better. After all, Raku is heroic, noble, and treats everyone with respect. Shu flirts with everyone and is always thinking very sketchy thoughts as he tries to get everyone into sticky situations. His romance plot was also the worst since it basically exonerated everything he does. The series ends with him refusing to change his ways and his partner just deciding that she can live with that. It’s just terrible all around and I’d wince whenever he was on screen. Bad things were always sure to follow.
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Ruri is Onodera’s friend so she never really counted as one of the people interested in Raku. Things get tricky for a second, but her bond with Onodera is a lot stronger and another guy ends up appearing for her. Ruri was a pretty decent character until her romance plot started wrapping up. The series kept hinting at it whenever she would appear, but I just hoped that the title wouldn’t go down that route. Unfortunately it did and Ruri got the worst pairing possible. Anyway, she’s a nice friend who helped Onodera a lot, but the latter was just too timid to really make use of the assistance.

Another supporting character is Claude. He doesn’t like Raku and constantly makes plans to humiliate the kid or get some dirt on him that could be used as blackmail. Naturally he’ll never find any dirt on the perfect main character though and most of his plans backfire because his subordinate Tsugami breaks it by mistake. Claude gets a pretty decent action scene towards the end and he is one of the best characters. While he is really bias against Raku, he does ultimately mean well since he just wants to protect Chitoge. He makes his share of mistakes, but I can sympathize with this guy.

Back to the main characters, we have Chitoge’s bodyguard up next. Tsugami was the best character by a long shot as she’s a great fighter and makes all of the right choices. She puts her feelings behind Chitoge’s happiness and safety consistently. She can be a little too naive at times to be honest and the series really exaggerates this character trait of hers, but when it comes to being a bodyguard she is prepared for every contingency. She saves the day on multiple occasions and Raku definitely wouldn’t have lasted so long without her. She gave the series quite a few of its best scenes so it’s safe to say that the manga as a whole would have dropped without her as well.

Tachibana’s personality is one that you probably wouldn’t assume would work well but she’s actually one of the better characters. She’s the most direct and upfront about her plans for the future and she lets Raku know about this constantly. It’s a little refreshing when you compare her to everyone else who constantly ducks the questions with the classic “Don’t get the wrong idea!” lines. Her story is probably the most tragic of the bunch, but it has a fairly happy ending. Tachibana also did have the absolute best arc of the series so that was pretty cool. She also came out to help in the last part of the final arc. I’d place her as the third best character and she definitely made the series a whole lot livelier.

Honda is Tachibana’s bodyguard. She isn’t quite as skilled as Tsugami, but she comes close. The images that I’ve attached in the review are of her fighting Tsugami so you can see how she put up a really good fight. That being said, I definitely don’t like Honda. She is the opposite of Tsugami who knows when to disobey an order and where her priorities lie. Honda follows the orders no matter what and is very strict when it comes to the rules. This leads to her making a lot of the wrong choices throughout.

Haru is Onodera’s sister. She wasn’t a bad character, but I can’t say that she really added anything to the series either. You could cut her out and nothing would really change. Haru starts out as the most antagonistic character to Raku, but gradually warms up to him since he’s such a nice guy. She knows that Onodera is trying for him though and steps aside which is pretty self less of her. She wants to be a pro baker but goes through many adversities along the way. I was glad for that subplot though because I do like seeing snacks. I could use a good Chocolate Chip Cookie myself right about now.
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Finally we have Yui. She is the leader of a gang and used to live at Raku’s gang base when she was a kid. She doesn’t have any family left so she looks to Raku as a brother. We get a pretty iffy subplot where her admiration morphs into something else, but by the end they agree that this would be a mistake so they keep the status quo as it is. It’s certainly a weird dynamic when you have her as the teacher though. Fortunately she got out of the arranged marriage thing so now she has time to rethink about what she wants to do. She was also a little unnecessary to the series and didn’t bring much to the table. I think I prefer Haru so the question is who was the worst heroine….her or Onodera? I’m probably going to give Onodera the slight edge here, but it’s reasonably close.

There are a few other supporting characters of course. Chitoge’s Mom shows up a few times during the series and she’s a good character. She lets her business get in the way of family time for a while, but Raku shows her how to balance it so she can hang out with Onodera more. The gang leaders show up a few times like Raku’s Dad, but they never really do much. There are ninja, classmates, friends of friends, and more characters but we covered all of the major ones.

This goes without saying, but one of the negatives of the series is the fanservice. It’s not all that excessive or frequent, but it is around enough where it still needs to be addressed. It’s an issue that most titles just can’t seem to get away from completely. Another issue is naturally the constant romance. As I mentioned earlier, the series is at its best during the normal adventures where the characters are just having fun and hanging out. The cast is actually better than some of the Shonen action casts. Perhaps it’s because we see them hang out more so getting used to the characters happens a lot quicker than when they are fighting and we don’t get to see the development for a while. Titles like DBZ throw that theory out of the water though.
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The romance is handled well for what it is. I’d say that it’s probably better than most main stream films in that regard. The characters don’t immediately get to the next level for no reason and it’s not like a CW show where you’re rebounding from one character to the next. Since Raku is unsure about what to do for most of the series, he makes sure not to actually get together with anybody. Of course, he has to pretend to be with Chitoge, but he keeps it in pretend mode.

Since a great deal of chapters are standalone, it also stands to reason that for all of the hits there are some misses as well. For example, pretty much any chapter where all of the heroines drink a love potion and decide to chase Raku are fairly weak. On the other side, pretty much any athletic competition…or simply any competition at all are typically a lot of fun. Since the series is so long, the cast gets to go on quite a lot of adventures so pretty much every kind of situation happens. We get haunted houses, School against School competitions, trips to other states, island survival tests, etc.

I read most of the series in batches of 2-4 volumes so I can also safely say that the series is a page turner. It never gets remotely boring and I think that can be accredited equally to the interesting cast and the exceptional art. Both really help to complement each other for any series really. If a series has bad art, then it’ll be hard to marathon no matter how engaging the plot is. It was just fortunate to have both factors in its favor.

I wasn’t a big fan of the ending, but what else is new? Manga rarely have satisfying endings for me and this one had a big time skip as per usual. My main issue with it was the heroine’s final decision after being selected by the main character. It’s a choice that seems to happen a little more often now and I still don’t really get the logic behind it. It dampens what is otherwise a happy ending. There are also a few random pairings that I’m pretty iffy at, but the ending certainly could have been a whole lot worse.

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Overall, Nisekoi is a pretty fun series. If I were to rate the series based just on how enjoyable it is, it would easily get an 8. However, just being fun isn’t enough to get a high ranking since I still do have to count the negatives. It’s in the same boat as Medaka Box although less extreme in both the positives and negatives. The author definitely did a really good job of mixing up the various arcs by the end and giving each character time to shine. All of the main characters got a lot of development through the series. I can safely say that Nisekoi was a lot better than I had anticipated. At least now if anyone asks me to recommend a good romance series I can bring this one up. Tsubasa is probably still my go to example though since it was pretty much perfect, but this one can definitely be seen as more of a traditional romance. Now I can only hope that it really does get a battle spinoff manga someday.

Overall 6/10

Mobilize!! Pokemon Ranger Review

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You may remember that I started this series about a month ago. I ended up finishing it about a day or two later, but I didn’t get a chance to put up the review til now. It’s only 12 chapters long so it makes for a very fast read. The chapters are also small so it’s considerably shorter than the average manga volume. It basically adapts the first game, but think of it as an abridged version.

A Pokemon Ranger wants to be the very best. He’s at a pretty low rank at the moment, but his heart’s in the right place. He completes several missions and then becomes aware of a new danger lurking over the horizon. They are essentially the anti Pokemon Rangers as they use their capture nodes to control Pokemon and bring them over to the dark side. Is there anything that our young hero can do to stop them? Luckily he is not alone as he has two main comrades who help him when they feel like it. They are far more experienced so typically they’re busy on other tasks.

Grabbing this series was pretty tough since Deviantart is really the only place that has it all. It’s so obscure that websites even say that it has 12 volumes as opposed to chapters. I suppose the chapters may have been called volumes or something, but I think that’s just because it was labeled that way on the site. I read it all in one batch and I’m glad that I did because finding it again would be a bit of a hassle. It’s mostly due to the fact that the site doesn’t load well and the same goes for the pages so it takes a while. That’s the main reason why I didn’t go back to grab the names. You don’t really need them here anyway since the personalities are what’s important.

The main hero isn’t bad. He’s a nice kid who is very determined. In effect, he’s a generic Shonen kind of character who doesn’t have a whole lot going for him. Luckily, he’s just got a lot of natural skills and Pokemon just want to work with him. He’s courageous and can definitely hold his own story. His more experienced partner is a good character as well. As I mentioned earlier, she doesn’t get a whole lot to do though. For the most part, she pitches in once in a while along with the boss, but it’s all up to the main character. Without him everyone would have been doomed anyway.

The art is a little basic, but it works just fine. It’s certainly clear at the very least so you always know what is happening. It’s nothing that’ll win awards, but it gets the job done. With each chapter being so short, I imagine that the artist had a lot of time to make sure that each page looked just right. As this story is essentially a one shot, you don’t really need to know anything about Pokemon to jump in and enjoy this one. The title gives you the basic premise and explains what is happening.

I played the first Pokemon Ranger game a while back. It’s been a while, but I’d say that the volume felt pretty faithful for what is adapted. Either that or the pre-arc and the main villain were just very similar. One thing that was a little sudden was how the main character jumped from around rank 1 all the way to the max in the final chapter. I guess he did save the world and all, but it seemed a little sudden and out of left field. Well, at least he can boldly proclaim how he got to his goal a lot faster than most other heroes. It didn’t take him almost 6 years to be the Hokage or 10+ years to finally unlock Super Saiyan 4.

Overall, This is a nice little title. It’s a bit of a fluff piece as you’ll read and enjoy it, but then never come back to the title. There isn’t really a need to ever re read this piece, but it’s still good. It didn’t really make any mistakes and it was just a pleasant little tale to read. There’s a lot you can do with the Pokemon universe and I’d like to see more manga titles like this. A longer one would be nice as well, but this is better than nothing. I’d recommend checking it out if you can find it. Maybe it’ll convince you to buy the game since that’s the whole point of this. I aim to buy the next few titles at some point, but it could be a while.

Overall 7/10