Sword Art Online – Re: Aincrad

It’s really nostalgic to be seeing the good ole Aincrad adventures one more time! This was definitely Sword Art Online at its peak and I’ve got really high hopes for this one. We’ll see if it delivers and of course I will have a review up as soon as the series is over. More Kirito action is always good!

Overall /10

D.N.Angel Review

I remember starting this manga well over a decade ago. It may have even been close to 20 years ago at this point so it’s been quite the journey. Well, after a long hiatus it finally came back and actually got an ending so I figured I’d take it back from the top and read all the way through. It’s a fun title but one where the plot is actually the least interesting part. I was just way more engaged with Daisuke’s day to day life and comedic hijinks compared to the actual story which is the only thing holding this one back a bit.

The story starts off by introducing us to Daisuke who lives in a house that’s a bit out of the ordinary. His Mom is always building a ton of traps for him to get through, some of which are quite lethal and he has to get around them to leave for school. This is because he is training in order to be the next in line to house the Phantom Thief Dark as part of the Niwa family tradition. See, Each man in the Niwa family eventually takes on the role and they have to go around stealing a lot of treasures. Typically they focus on stealing artwork from Hiwatori’s family throughout the ages.

Daisuke isn’t thrilled about this but there also isn’t really anything he can do to refuse. Dark just appears in his soul at one point and now it’s time to start the party. Whenever Daisuke’s heart rate speeds up, it triggers his transformation into Dark and then he won’t change back again until Dark’s heart speeds up or if he just chooses to cancel the transformation. This will be difficult for Daisuke since he has a crush on Risa. Will he be able to get close to her without his heart rate going crazy or is he doomed to be forever alone as long as Dark is here? Also, can he keep his double life a secret without any of his friends finding out?

There’s a whole lot of rules to the body swapping part and it keeps on changing as the series goes on so it’s really rough for Daisuke. He doesn’t even care about the whole stealing art thing and just wants to be a normal kid but his mom is super enthusiastic about it. She’s always encouraging Daisuke to steal the artwork and will even put up signs and notices for him to alert the authorities. This all must be done by the book after all and Dark puts in a notice so the cops have a fair chance to try and stop him. Daisuke’s dad doesn’t care as much and in fact he never got possessed by Dark back in the day but he does his best to help out. He makes up for his lack of physical abilities by being great at finding research and ancient scrolls to help the heroes out.

The end game for Daisuke is that Dark should eventually fade away and in the past that has happened if both Dark and his human host fall for the same girl. The issue this time is that they’ve fallen for different people this time as Daisuke likes Risa and Dark likes Riku. Both of them are twins and this complicates things because then Dark may never leave which would make things really difficult for Daisuke. Another wrinkle is that Risa likes Dark while Riku likes Daisuke. As this is a romance manga first and foremost, expect those pairings to change quite a bit as the adventure goes on.

Now you may be wondering, why would the rom-com moments beat the actual plot? Well, the story tends to be very repetitive when it happens. For example, one arc may have Daisuke fall into a painting where he is now in a what if universe where there’s another kid who likes Riku. Another time he’ll fall into a painting where he has to confront his confidence issues. Each arc tends to feel like a bit of a retread of the last one and the arcs can be a bit long. So it can just feel like nothing is really happening the whole time and you want to get back to the real world to move the story along. Typically you do get a lot of lore and sometimes you will get a new supporting character but that’s about it.

The arcs aren’t bad or anything but the just aren’t as interesting. It feels like the real world is where things are going on. As for the characters, I’d say we’ve got a reasonably solid cast here. As the main character, Daisuke definitely has to be strong enough to hold the story and I’d say that he pulls this off from an interest standpoint but he’s not really my kind of character. The guy isn’t very confident and gets pushed around throughout the whole series. He tends to be a little too forgiving even when someone is trying to murder him.

He can also be a little flip floppy. As mentioned earlier, he likes Risa at first but gradually changes to Riku. This is exactly what I would call a rebound romance since it was clear that Risa was not interested in him. The same is true of Dark who ends up switching sides so only Risa and Riku followed the person that they actually liked from start to finish. Daisuke is a nice guy and he will ultimately make the right calls in the end but I just wish he had more confidence. Even by the end of the series you can say that he still isn’t very confident yet so he hasn’t gotten the full amount of character development that Yugi got.

As for Dark, well I like his confidence but he is definitely more of a flirt. He’s fallen for many different girls and so as a result it’s hard to ever take his romances seriously. Does he really love Risa or is he just going to move on again? That’s how I always feel for characters like this. At least in a fight you can certainly count on him though. This series doesn’t have too many action scenes but Dark is consistently shown to be one of the more powerful fighters in the verse. He can definitely hold his own and then some.

Then there’s Risa who is my favorite member of the twins. Risa ultimately steps up when the going gets tough and she is also quicker to realize when something isn’t right. While Riku is still fumbling around and unsure of what’s going on, Risa is always 5 steps ahead and still making plans of her own. She doesn’t get discouraged as easily as Riku does and still looks out for her sister all the time. Risa plays a big role in at least one of the dream adventures and she comes across as being more understanding. She certainly takes more risks as well which isn’t always a good thing but it all tends to work out for her.

She just does all of the right things each time. Riku’s fun enough too though. She does her best to uncover the situation behind Daisuke always running off. She does suspect that he might be Dark but the whole concept of that is just so out there that she has a hard time convincing herself of that. In fairness to her it can be hard to believe but she needs to trust her eyes more like Risa. Risa ultimately just took a look at the facts and it added up so then she connected the dots. Riku takes a bit longer to get to her destination. Risa and Riku definitely end up working well as the two heroines though.

That said, while I have my issues with Daisuke and Dark, they do have a fun dynamic as well. Naturally they are complete contrasts to each other and Dark will occasionally try to be helpful. Sometimes he’s clearly just there to get in the way and make Daisuke feel bad but other times he’ll do his best to help the kid out. It just ends up being frustrating for both of them since only one person can use the body at once. That makes going out difficult on both of them, especially since the other is always watching so it can be a bit awkward.

Then you have Hiwatori who is a big detective and the latest in the lineage of the family that Dark robs from. Naturally that means that he is a very big character here and with Daisuke not always being very clever about hiding his secret, Hiwatori is always right on his tail. Hiwatori does have some honor so he won’t just attack Daisuke at school or anything like that. If not for that self imposed rule then Daisuke would have been really doomed.

I’m not really a fan of Hiwatori though. For starters the manga tries to build up a bit of a romance with him and Risa but it starts off way too late for it to work at all. He needs to stay in his lane there especially since he’s trying to destroy Dark and he knows how she feels about him. Hiwatori is the kind of guy who tends to follow orders most of the time and doesn’t question them. He is dealing with a lot as his alter ego Krad isn’t as nice as Dark. So you do feel bad for him and things rarely go his way. That said, he just doesn’t make the right choices most of the time and is certainly not someone that Daisuke can rely on. I don’t blame the mom for being really concerned whenever Hiwatori is around. I’d say he has earned that distrust from how he acts in the manga.

I never really ended up becoming a fan of that guy. His alter ego Krad doesn’t appear as often as you’d think. At first you would expect him to appear almost as much as Dark but that’s actually not the case. Krad makes the most of his brief amounts of screen time and is one of the only people who can actually fight Dark in close quarters combat but I still didn’t care for him much. His goal isn’t great at all and he just feels desperate since he knows that he can’t actually beat Dark in a fair fight. It’s impressive of Hiwatori to hold him back all the time but it’s also a bit of an anti feat for Krad.

After that we get into the art characters. So you’ve got Towa who I completely forgot from back in the day and she’s a nice enough supporting character. She knows a bit about the supernatural stuff going on in the series and can usually provide insight to the characters not trapped in the mirrors. Ultimately her function is more as a guide/informant than as a fighter but she adds to the dynamic reasonably well. The cast was really small without her there so she helps to round things out a bit.

Then we have Argentine who is the first big villain. The guy starts off rather whiny though and so he never got to be all that good. He just wants to be loved and all of that which is pretty deep for a painting, but in the end it’s never going to be one of the best character motivations for me. He tries to be helpful later on but I can’t really think of any really big moments where he contributed. He’s around a lot but just doesn’t do much of anything so that doesn’t help his case either.

Then you have Manisumea who ends up being one of the biggest threats in the series. I’ll give him props for having a painting arc with more personality than the others. Seeing Daisuke have to fight with a new kid for his romantic dreams and Risa actually getting her own plot was nice. None of that really helps Manisumea though who comes across as rather desperate. It seems like the only way for him to get his own identity in the real world is to replace Daisuke which is definitely a rough deal but I guess you gotta do what you gotta do. He’s less memorable than Argentine but I suppose he’s a better villain.

Outside of the paintings you’ve also got Saehara who is Daisuke’s best friend. The guy serves his role as the comic relief character but doesn’t actually do much beyond that. He’s a big Dark fan and also wants to catch him someday so the guy has spirit but you almost forget that he exists half the time. He just doesn’t tend to leave a big impression and I don’t think the series gives him a ton of screen time either way.

The final main character in the present is Hiwatori’s dad- Elmroot. So that guy is an interesting figure because the whole time you’re waiting for him to make some kind of grand move. You know it’s going to be really epic and then you see that the series is almost over and he hasn’t done anything yet. He’s a little more on the ruthless side compared to Hiwatori but ultimately he does have a pretty good backstory. By the end I thought he was an interesting character. Definitely an underused one without a doubt, but I was glad that he was around. It would have been nice if he could have met Daisuke’s Dad at some point though. I think that could have been a lot of fun with how different they are. Daisuke’s dad always had a lot of good moments even though they were low key. You’ve also got Wiz who does his best to help Daisuke out. He’s like a little winged rabbit who initially can’t talk or anything but can gradually talk a bit. This is perfect for helping Daisuke’s cover when he has to be in two places at once. He’s also Daisuke’s wings most of the time so yeah this little creature is absolutely a crucial member of the team and should not be overlooked!

Finally we get to the 3 flashback characters. Near the end of the series there was a quick mini arc about one of Daisuke’s predecessors and I thought it was handled pretty well. In fact you could probably say that it was the best arc out of the big story ones. So Taize was considered a rebel in the family and he refused to steal anything. He got along with Dark well enough but the issue was that Taize was also a big flirt and so he didn’t actually feel a special way about anyone. As a result Dark couldn’t come out. Well, one day Taize runs into a girl named Fukami who works for Yuu and that’s when his heart speeds up for the first time.

It’s a very dramatic story for sure with a lot of drama but the big 3 had a better dynamic than the main 3 in the present timeline. I think what helps a lot is how confident Taize is. He’s certainly not about to get pushed around here and he also has a lot of skills even without Dark stepping in. Taize ultimately worked on his own terms and left in much the same way. He was just a very interesting character through and through.

Fukami made for a good heroine as well. She was insecure about her voice and so initially she would only speak to Yuu. She only made an exception when Taize stole Yuu’s painting so that she could get it back. She succeeded in getting it back but Yuu was super petty and upset that she talked to someone else. Throughout it all Fukami always took the high ground and would even talk using paper after that so as not to upset Yuu. She was a very considerate person and I’m glad that things went well for her. A tragic ending would not have felt right there.

Finally there was Yuu and I didn’t care for him. You can see how the whole thing is tragic for him since he clearly liked Fukami a lot but basically lost her in an instant. I just lost my respect for him when he was upset at her about the whole thing. He only has himself to blame for not making a move and he needs to keep that in mind. From there it continued the eternal rivalry between the two families on an even more intense level. It was a nice way to see further into the rivalry and the arc was just really good.

Now after all of that you may be thinking, this review seems pretty negative eh? Can it actually achieve the positive score in the end? Wel, I’d say that this one is able to do it. It’s true that I wasn’t a huge fan of the characters or the story but I was always engaged with seeing what would happen next. The series is a good page turner and that’s because the dynamics are solid.

Dark and Daisuke always have a lot of fun conversations. Riku and Risa also have a nice bond going and the series is definitely at its best when it is focusing on the comedy. It has a lot of charm to it and the adventures are nice. In a way the stealing things element is just the backdrop for these school adventures. If you cut out the actual arcs of falling into a painting each time then the series would excel even more. Perhaps it would run the risk of being too low key but I think it could pull this off.

As for the artwork, it definitely changes a lot as you go through the series. It makes sense when you consider how long this series had to wait until the final arcs. There is something nice and retro about the original art but either way I would say it looks solid throughout the series. You can definitely follow along with no trouble at all. The character designs are all unique and at most you can just have trouble when Daisuke is turning into Dark sometimes. You aren’t always sure if he’s in the hybrid form, the faux form, or if he actually is Dark now. In fairness to the art though, sometimes the mystery is intentional by the manga since you aren’t supposed to know how it is. The transformation rules can be a little complicated as I said earlier.

Unfortunately I was not a big fan of the ending at all. I thought they kind of fumbled the ball there a bit. It reminds me of the ending for a series with a dynamic very similar to this one and it made the same mistake. When you’ve been together for so long and become best friends, you want both characters to be able to have a satisfying end. When that doesn’t happen then it just feels like a really big shame. Especially because the journey was so long. There is still more to like than to dislike here of course but a nice ending would have been a good cherry on top for the experience.

As for the romance, I touched on it a bit earlier but I wouldn’t call it particularly strong. Mainly because both characters are on their second choices in a sense. Not saying you can’t change your mind or anything but it’s always a bit of a trickier sell as opposed to going for the main pick. That’s when you can really get behind the romance and it all works out nicely. There’s no room for doubts or anything like that.

Overall, D.N.Angel is a good series. I’d say the best way to describe it is as a very peaceful manga. You can easily blitz through 20 chapters or more at a time because you are always eager to see what will be happening next. The story knows how to keep you at the edge of your seat even without any action as you wonder how Daisuke will get out of revealing his secret identity this time. The series just tends to stall a lot whenever it enters a story arc. While that may seem like it should be reversed, it is the slice of life moments that feel a lot more important. I think a better cast could have helped it turn around to the next level but if you’re looking for a solid romance type manga then this is still a good one to check out. The phantom thief element shakes things up a bit and there’s nothing really crazy here. This is the kind of title you could recommend to someone who hasn’t read much manga before and they’ll be able to follow along real easy.

Overall 6/10

Assassin’s Creed: Awakening Review

Assassin’s Creed is a series that I still can’t say I’m super familiar with but now I’ve watched the movie and read two of the manga titles (Haven’t finished the second yet) so slowly I’m becoming a bit of a veteran you could say. Typically manga based on another product don’t tend to have the best art and I’d say that’s true of this one too, but it’s good enough. It’s definitely better than the average adaption title at least and it makes for a fun read.

The story starts with Edward Kenway barely surviving as his pirate ship is downed. It’s a shame for him because he had been gearing up to be a great pirate with lots of influence but that’ll be tough now. He does come across a mysterious guy who is dying though and after evading the man’s last strike, Edward takes his gear. Edward now appears to me a member of the Assassin’s Creed but in doing so he has made enemies out of the rest of their members. Additionally while he sides with the pirates, they are slowly being outnumbered by the government and people who have defected from the pirates. Can he find out a way to thrive in this new non-pirate era?

Then in the present you have Masato who is living out these experiences through a fancy VR machine. The developers say it is a video game that will be released to the general public soon but the whole thing seems rather shady. The only reason Masato even agreed to this is because apparently his mother recommended him as a tester and his parents have been distant at best. Now maybe he can actually connect with her but part of him is still bitter so he’s not even sure what he really wants to do.

Of course it seems like the VR machine is always just a tool for the enemy to find out about the Creed’s secrets in the present. At least from what I’ve experienced so far that always seems to be the case. The two scientists don’t act too shady at least so it’s not super obvious but since Masato is already on edge that at least gives him a fighting chance in not just blindly obeying them. The way the machine works is also clever since Masato thinks he is the one actually in control, not realizing that he is just following a series of predetermined steps. Since in a way he becomes Edward during his play time, he naturally acts in the way that history ordained even if he doesn’t realize it.

I like that he actually did provide some nice criticism of it though. He makes for a solid main character and ultimately does get with the program pretty quickly. Partially because of how he’s always upset, Masato doesn’t trust anyone naturally. The ending of the manga is a bit abrupt in the present timeline as his father shows up but it does make for a pretty hype ending. We see exactly what Masato can do and exactly why the VR is a double edged sword for the villains.

On one hand, through the recordings they get to see exactly what happened through Masato’s eyes but on the other hand he retains the combat experience so eventually he will grow up to be one of the deadliest fighters. In a way it’s a shame that the manga ends so soon though because I think the most interesting aspect of the series would be seeing what is happening in the present. The old era with the pirates is decent and all but the scenes in the present have a lot more gravity to them because you really don’t know what will happen. It’s an open book and I’d like to see how the two factions are operating in the present with current tech. In theory it should be a lot harder for them to run around without causing attention.

Lets talk about the past though since that is still the majority of the series. We follow Edward Kenway and he’s not nearly as likable as Masato but he’s decent. The guy is a bit rough around the edges and certainly no hero but I do like his confidence. The guy is a quick learner and even becomes a true member of the Creed by mastering the fighting styles and trials. He’ll do whatever it takes to win and doesn’t shrink away from fights where he is outnumbered. A lot of the pirates end up taking the easy way out later on but not Edward, he just keeps at it.

Ultimately you feel like he will be captured at some point because the enemies of the pirates are just too vast but at least he’ll go down on his terms. Blackbeard also made for a fun ally who held his own in the fights. Edward doesn’t have too many friends that he can rely on so at least he had one there. While this plot gets more screen time tan the present, you still feel like you’re just at the tip of the iceberg with his adventures. I’m not sure if the manga adapts the whole game or not but I’m assuming that it does end early so this is more of a preview to get you hyped to play the game. I’d be really surprised if it ended on this note at least.

As I mentioned earlier, the art’s not bad. It’s actually a little better than I was expecting. The action scenes work out pretty well and the only times where you can feel the weakness a little tends to be in the character’s facial expression. They can be a bit shaky but the style itself works out well enough. You’ll be breezing through the pages either way so the art won’t be slowing you down there.

There’s not a ton you can do in two volumes but I would say the series did well with what it had. There surprisingly isn’t really any kind of supporting characters beyond the two developers and the father who appears at the end so if this kept on going I assume that a bunch of characters would show up. Then in the past I’d like to see more of the Assassins because I think the group has a lot of potential. There are clearly members whose skills match and even exceed that of Edward’s so they can give him a run for his money. Throw in the fact that the other faction should be just as strong and there’s a lot of lore to enjoy.

They’re both looking for a certain treasure that will apparently grant you a lot of power. I forget if it is knowledge of all things in the form of an apple or I might be mixing that up with a different title. Either way this is something that the Assassins have to protect and the villain group want to find. One group wants to maintain order while the other one wants chaos. Since neither one of the groups appear to be purely good, it would be interesting if the villains try to turn Edward at some point. I’m sure each group has a lot of dirt on the other and Edward’s nearly been murdered by both sides after all.

Ideally Edward needs to build up his own group of strong pirates to stop either side should they try to get in his way. It may be easier said than done though given how skilled they are. Most of the pirates seemed rather weak the whole time which is why they were so quick to side with the government. Speaking of which, the government would be a nice third party but something tells me they’ve been infiltrated by both sides anyway.

Overall, Awakening is a good manga but it’s one that ends as soon as it has begun. It almost feels like a cancelled manga in that sense where the adventure ends but there are so many open plot threads and lore to get into that it could have just kept going. Maybe one day it’ll get a sequel or something because manga onlies should still get a complete experience here. If you’re looking for a solid pirate manga then this is a good one to check out though. The action is almost nonstop as something is always happening and you should find the present plot to be very intriguing. The series knows how to keep the suspense high and right now I would say it’s the best Assassin’s Creed title as it is currently beating the other series I was reading. Of course, that could change depending on the other one’s final volume.

Overall 7/10

Saint Seiya: Next Dimension

I definitely have my share of issues with this series like the power levels making no sense and formally making Lost Canvas not canon but it’s still a great Saint Seiya story. It’s got all the action and fights you could want after all. I’ll have a review up for this series when it finishes someday.

Overall 8/10

Undead Unluck

Definitely one of the rougher starts for a Shonen Jump title although not in a violence kind of way. The series has started to tone down some more of the iffy elements as the series has gone on but one thing that’ll be hard to get away from is that the two main characters are really below average. This is a title that will live or die on the supporting cast. I’ll have a review up for the series when it’s over. If it can just double down on having a lot of cool fights with no time for much else then this can definitely hit the next level.

Overall 5/10

Star Wars: The Legends of Luke Skywalker Review

Anthologies usually aren’t my thing but I suppose it is a way for everyone to show off their stuff in how they would draw a Star Wars story. With Luke Skywalker being the main presence here, it’s a nice way to give him some more action. The guy is probably the most recognizable Star Wars character aside from Vader so it’s good that he gets some time to shine. The stories are solid and I would say this book is pretty good. Perhaps it could use some more action but I really don’t have anything negative to say about it.

The first story starts off with the Empire getting absolutely devastated by the rebels to the point where their Star Destroyer is blown up so the main character is forced to get on an escape pod. He’s near death right now and pretty scared because it seems like Luke Skywalker is the one who downed the ship. Fortunately a cloaked stranger appears and starts to drag him off. Perhaps not so fortunate though depending on what this guy is doing here. Throughout the story the guy begins to think that this could really be Luke Skywalker but why would he help out in the first place? The guy’s motto is that they are all Luke Skywalker and by the end the empire guy says this too as he rebels against the crooked villains.

It’s a solid way to start off the volume and shows just how big Luke has gotten. At this point in the verse he is considered to be more of a mantle than a person. He inspires the rebels to such an extent that they all believe they can be Luke Skywalker as opposed to just being ordinary joes. It’s rather inspiring and they even got an Empire soldier to join the cause as a result. Of course the Empire should be embarrassed at how easy they make it for someone to want to join the rebels. Interrogating their own people and torturing them for barely any reason? Not a good look when they claim to be the good guys. You’ll notice that nobody had names in this story to help show the main character’s transition from a random person to another Luke Skywalker.

Next up is a story about a droid named Zeta. He is a robot who works the mines and is pretty horrified at the rough treatment down there. Droids are worked to the bone until they melt or are discarded. All of them are controlled using chips so that they must obey these commands and there is really no hope in sight. Fortunately Luke Skywalker shows up and offers them a way out. Here we get to see the real Luke Skywalker who lives up to his legend as he saved almost everybody. He does whatever he can in the force and then some. It’s easy to see why the rebellion has got his back.

This story was certainly darker than the first as we got an inside look as to just what kinds of things the Empire is up too. They really do make life hard on the droids and the toughest part is that the robots are aware of this but can’t really do anything about it. They’re effectively being mind controlled every step of the way so that’s game over for them. If Luke hadn’t showed up they really had no other alternatives which is really a sobering thought.

Next up is much more of a lighthearted story. Princess Leia befriends an alien flea named Mote who is rather full of herself. She tends to talk very big and has no shortage of confidence which is always fun and so Leia asks if she can watch over Luke. This takes place during the famous intro where Luke breaks in and saves Leia from Jabba the Hut. Turns out that rather than the force being what led Luke to victory, it was Mote pretending to be the Force. Perhaps this is a bit of a retcon but it’s a fun enough one to consider.

Mote is a nice character and really shows that big things come in small packages. I wouldn’t say it’s quite as strong as the first two stories but perhaps they felt the volume was getting a little too dark so this would shake things up. Either way it was fun enough for what it was and we also got a little more action in this one since Luke had to fight his way out so that was handled really well.

Finally you have a story where a biologist gets a ride from Luke Skywalker but they are trapped inside a giant monster. This one ends the collection on a fitting note. See in the other stories Luke was more of a novice or at the very least he wasn’t super settled in as a Jedi Master yet. In this story that has changed as Luke is one with the force and really knows how to use his powers. He’s not afraid at all here no matter how dangerous things get. I liked to see this level of confidence even if he might be taking it too easy at times. While it’s true that they won’t disintegrate for many years, they’ll have to eat eventually right?

Still, the two get to learn a lot about the ruins, the Force, and the monster itself thanks to getting eaten. They are definitely glass half full kind of people that’s for sure because I think a great many characters would not have taken this so well at all. At the very least you typically feel like getting eaten is a very bad thing and not something that you sneeze at. There’s no action here so it’s a pure adventure story but an interesting one nonetheless. You don’t get to see the experienced Luke so often after all.

The art changes for each story of course but I wouldn’t say any of them are very solid. It’s all about average at best which tends to be the case for big franchise titles and anthologies. I guess maybe the big established artists always want to do their own volume so in the anthologies they naturally do not tend to look quite as high tier. They aren’t bad but definitely are not at the top levels.

The anthology lives or dies based on how much you enjoy each individual story. There is no ongoing plot after all so you can’t be waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel or a big cliffhanger. You have to enjoy each of the stories as they come in and they are good. I definitely thought the writing was satisfying. A little more action could have taken things to the next level but I suppose that’ll have to be for another collection.

Overall, This was a solid volume. The stories are all pretty self contained so there isn’t a ton to talk about but none of them are weak. They are quite varied and stay interesting for the whole duration. You’ll be finishing each story really quickly too that’s for sure. An ongoing plot will always win but you will walk away from this one feeling satisfied. Star Wars has definitely gotten quite a few manga as of late so the franchise is in good hands. If you want some good Luke Skywalker adventures then you’ve come to the right place.

Overall 6/10

Goodbye Eri Review

It’s time to look at a one shot that just came out recently and it’s a very interesting one. It gets rather meta to the point where it’s hard to interpret just how it ended although I’ll throw my take in there later on. The one shot is 200 pages long which is crazy but at the same time there are so many pages that are recycled or just don’t have art in them that I can see why it was so long. I’d say the ending goes a long way to making the story as it helped make this one real memorable. Even as I type this I’m still sorting out exactly how good it was in my head but by the end it’ll be clear.

So the story starts by introducing us to Yuta whose mother is terminally ill and will be dying soon. She has asked him to start recording her daily life and eventual death so that she can be remembered. Yuta does this but at the last second he doesn’t have the heart to record her death and storms out. Fast forward many years and he has decided to show the video at school but edited in a scene where the hospital explodes as she dies to make up for the fact that he doesn’t have the footage. The entire student body and faculty are furious at how he handled his mother’s death and he grows suicidal until he meets a lady named Eri.

Eri says that she liked his movie but that he wasn’t very professional in how he crafted it so she will train him to make a new one. They’ll meet every night and weekend to watch a bunch of movies at an abandoned building she hangs out at. Yuta agrees to do so and now he will be recording her but will this really give him peace and is she really just trying to help him out or does she have some kind of ulterior motive?

To be honest if she had an ulterior motive then Yuta was probably doomed from the start since he went along with her plans anyway. At its core this is a fairly emotional story about overcoming loss and grief while trying to restart your life. The story is self contained in this adventure so there is a beginning, middle, and ending. The cast is very small though with Yuta and Eri being the only real characters with a big role. Yuta’s father does get some solid scenes near the middle though which I thought were handled well. He comes across as a very understanding guy and one who made his share of mistakes but does his best to make things right.

So onto the positives, I thought Eri was a solid character. Whatever her reasons may have been, she did stop Yuta from taking his own life which is massive as a start. From there on she helped give him courage and drive to keep on going and find a new path. Even when she was sick she handled it well and ultimately was the kind of character who helped make a difference in the world. To combat that, I did not like Yuta. The explosion at the end of the video was fine enough, I can see how it would be a scandal but apparently that’s how he usually tends to end his videos. He likes putting a fantasy element in it.

My real issue with him is that he’s not a very classy guy. He throws in some crude humor here like filming himself using the bathroom. Really? That’s just taking things way too far and he’s also not very classy about the kinds of movie scenes that he likes. He’s so obvious about it that he even has to comment on those moments. So yeah Yuta’s not a very stand up guy and probably not someone that would be super easy to get along with. I think he could have toned down these parts of his personality. It’s probably to show how comfortable he is with Eri but it doesn’t make him look any better.

The story can be rather dark although you probably guessed that by the subject matter. Even towards the end we get some sad twists about the mother and it all plays into the theme of how people can be very different in real life than they are from the recordings. Even though Yuta is recording these characters himself, it is only a small part of who they really were and anyone can fake things in front of a camera. I thought the twist about the mother was a bit much tbh, particularly as it doesn’t directly impact Yuta all that much. It’s more of an effect for the reader at this point.

As for the artwork, it’s okay. It’s not one of the better art pieces that I’ve seen but it does the job. I’d consider it slightly below average but you always know what’s going on. It’s also partially the style as it’s trying to be very live action-esque which often does not translate quite as smoothly into manga. I also think you shouldn’t even strive to look as realistic as possible. There’s a fine line between coming close in a stylized way like One Punch Man and then just not being visually appealing.

Now I was mixed on how much I should put a spoiler warning for a one shot because either you’ve read it or you haven’t but I’ll throw it in just in case. Skip the next 5 paragraphs if you haven’t read the one shot because there are a lot of twists at the end. As I said earlier, the twists are what make the story after all so you probably don’t want to know them ahead of time or it’ll take part of the fun away. It is the kind of story that could change a bit when you know the twists though so either way you may want to re read parts of it.

Okay so in the end Yuta makes his new movie about Eri as he is able to film her all the way to her dying breath this time. The movie is received very well by the school this time and Yuta goes on to have a family and live a good life. The life has its ups and downs but then his family is in an accident one day and they all die so he is the last survivor now. He decides to take his own life once again and goes to where Eri used to hang out except she is still there and hasn’t aged a day. She mentions that she is a vampire and will never die but her brain resets so she had him create the video so she could remember her old life and never be sad anymore. This gives Yuta a new lease on life so he heads out…and then the building explodes.

So what does this mean? Was the entire adventure actually a part of his movie? If so, when did the movie start and was any of this actually real or was it a video the entire time? Did he actually blow up the building because he was that insane? There’s a lot of ways to read this and you could have fun bouncing it around in your head for a long while. To be honest this was probably going to be a 4 or a 5 without the twists at the end because it would have been relentlessly sad if Yuta survived all of that only for his whole family to have died. If he also died in the end the score would have been lowered even further without a doubt.

Instead, this actually ended things on a more positive note. Whether you think it’s real or not, it’s at least a little upbeat that he got to walk out and the explosion was a nice touch. Still, I’m not going to cop out on you here so I’m going to give you a real answer on how I interpreted this. I was on the fence about the two so real quick here was my runner up theory. At the end Yuta really did blow up the place so this way there would be fantasy in his story again. There really was no vampire (Is what he would rationalize in his head) and the ending would have been true from his story. It’s an interesting theory but I don’t think it’s right.

So what I think is that everything until he meets up with Eri is completely real. Yuta recorded his mother’s life and then he made a movie which was shunned by the school. He met up with Eri in the shed and they watched a ton of movies together. Eri got sick and then she died. This is the turning point. At this point Yuta started recording the extra scenes including the fake ending. The fantasy angle that he always talked about is why he added a vampire at the end and the big explosion. He didn’t actually grow up and have a family. That was all narration from him inside the film. So every scene after Eri dies is a part of the actual movie. It would be easy to fake his being older with special effects and since he discussed with Eri the whole film before hand, they would have filmed the scene in advance.

To me this makes the most sense. I feel like the constant mentions of his wanting to add a fantasy edge to it were all leading up to this. The strongest counter argument to this is how strongly you believe the narration that isn’t within the film panels. Alternately you could just say that the whole thing is a movie to be extra meta but I think doing that weakens the story as a whole. If nothing was real then it’s all a bit pointless. I also just don’t think that’s even a possibility. I’m sure there are a lot of other fun theories you could come up with after this one shot, but this is the one I stick to at least. Eri’s death was the final real scene here and the rest was within the film that everyone was watching. Of course if you play it straight and everything was real including the explosion at the building that would be a really intense way to go. It’s why I was torn on which option to go with and that ended up being my runner up.

Overall, Goodbye Eri is one of those stories teetering on the brink of total destruction and being a good story. I was even a bit stressed for it the whole time because it was hard to tell just how it was going. Fortunately the ending pulls through and in the end this would be a story that I would recommend. It’s sad without throwing this in your face the whole time and while none of the characters are particularly noteworthy, they all accomplish their tasks well enough. The writing is solid enough to hold this all together and so overall it holds its own. It’s long enough to be collected into volume format one day so I wonder if this would ever get printed over here. Who knows, maybe one day it’ll turn out that this was actually the pilot to an ongoing story.

Overall 6/10

Spy X Family

Spy X Family has proven to be quite the hit so far and it’s easy to see why. The setup is really quite solid and the characters are all a lot of fun so far. I definitely see this being a great light hearted adventure all the way through and hopefully it can keep up that energy for a long while. I’ll have a review up for the series as soon as it’s completed.

Overall 8/10

Black Clover SD – Asta’s Road to the Wizard King

Black Clover is one of the premier titles of our time so it’s fitting that it would have a comedy spinoff. That said, this one’s not all that great so far. The crude humor can be a bit much and takes away from the fun of the journey. I’m really early on at just one chapter in so far so we’ll see if this improves. I’ll have a review up for this series as soon as it is complete.

Overall 5/10