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

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Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet Review

Super
It’s always a little unfortunate when having a story mode isn’t a positive for a game. It’s not as if it’s bad enough to lower the score (Although it was close) but the game doesn’t benefit at all from having it. That being said, this is Super Hero Squad so you have to enter the game with reasonable expectations I suppose. I didn’t mind the show too much when I watched it although it is certainly one of Marvel’s weakest titles. I played the first game a while back so it was about time that I got to try out the sequel. It’s about as good, maybe slightly better. The gameplay is more diverse, but it doesn’t really do a whole lot to make a name for itself.

The plot is about how the Infinity Stones have surfaced. Iron-Man tells the Sqauddies that they cannot let the villains take them so they decide to collect them all. Unfortunately for them, Dr Doom and his army of henchmen are after them along with Loki and his cabal and even Thanos and the Skrulls. With 3 different factions after the stones, the heroes will have to keep their guard up at all time. They’re not too good at that though.

I mean, it is a comedy storyline since it’s in the Super Hero Squad universe so I never expected anything serious. That being said, the characters talk a lot during the game. I don’t mind this when it’s witty banter like in Spider-Man or Sonic, but when it’s these characters it just isn’t quite as fun. They all only seem to have 2-3 phrases as well so they end up repeating them over and over again. I think some more variety could have helped them out. The comedy is also pretty weak so the game won’t be getting any laughs out of you. The only scene that I actually thought was pretty fun was the final one where Thor puts on dancing boots and is forced to dance for everyone’s amusement. It was pretty mean of the others to just let that happen, but it is what it is.

The gameplay is your standard Ultimate Alliance/Lego style where it is mostly overhead as you dish out the pain. Each character has their standard punch and projectile. You can charge up these attacks and also use Ultimate Attacks when you have enough meter. The meter builds rather quickly so you can use the super attacks constantly. Button mashing your standard attack will work for just about the whole game as well since the enemies will just run into your attacks. It’s a pretty simple, but repetitive style since all of the enemies start to be the same after a while. I don’t really mind that per say as I love beat em ups and button mashing is one of my strengths.

What is annoying is that all of the bosses and big enemies have super armor so they hit you as you hit them. When your character is launched it takes a few seconds to get back up and the bosses also deal a lot of damage. You can expect to die a lot if you’re rushing through the bosses but it doesn’t count as actually losing unless both characters die at the same time. The A.I. is terrible so this may occur once in a while, but usually it’s not a big deal. So I like the actual combat for the minions, but the bosses weren’t really a lot of fun to beat up. I did enjoy getting a chance to spam my projectiles for such a long time though.

The game was clearly developed with co-op mode in mind. When playing single player there are some levels that just don’t work well. The ones where you have to shoot at objects approaching from the skies comes to mind. The A.I. couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn so you end up having to hit both sides on your own which gets really tricky. It made these levels tougher than they should have been. Same with parts where you have to use both character’s skills as the A.I. will follow you and forget what they’re supposed to do. It’s not really a problem if you choose to play co-op, but be warned if you’re a solo fighter.

The graphics aren’t bad even if they don’t look quite up to par with what you’d expect from a PS3 game. The character models look good enough and the level designs aren’t bad. It looks like a mobile game if I had to make a comparison so take that as you may. It’s acceptable while not being impressive. The soundtrack is less impressive as we get the classic theme song, but not much else. I wasn’t expecting much in this category to begin with though.

One part of the game that is pretty mild but annoying is that if a character is blocking your way, you can’t move. The A.I. has a habit of cornering you if you go into a tunnel so if you want to back out the only way is to switch to the other character and move him out of the way. It’s such a random little thing that you may have to do a double take at some points. Just one of those things that they probably should have picked up in quality control if they had been playing the game more.

The main campaign is 11 levels long and they vary in length. It’s not a very long game so I think you could reasonably complete it in around 5 hours or so. Perhaps a little less but the cutscenes do make a difference. The replay value here are the Challenges you can tackle and the large array of trophies available. I don’t imagine that this would be a very difficult game to Platinum if you were ever so inclined. There is certainly enough here to give the game some reasonable replay value.

Overall, Super Hero Squad was a little glitchy and the story wasn’t particularly engaging, but not everything can be Sonic Adventure 2 Battle right? I think the game could have used some more quality control, but it worked well enough. It had its issues, but I’d still say that it was a good game in the end. If it had dragged on too long that may have been an issue, but it didn’t happen. The gameplay is good and I did enjoy throwing everyone around with my special abilities. I think what makes this game seem a little worse than it is at times is how good most other games are. Comparatively speaking this game isn’t great, but if you look at the game on its own then it works pretty well. That’s a win in my book. So, buy this game if you want some classic Marvel action, but you should probably just grab Ultimate Alliance instead.

Overall 7/10

Star Trek Encounters Review

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It’s time to look at a game that I got a very long time ago. I found this one at an obscure Gamestop on a random day and thought it looked interesting enough. It’s not exactly what I expected and had a bit of a slow start due to the game not explaining things very well, but it picked up quite a bit as the game went on. It’s not the ideal Star Trek game but if you’re really just interested in the space aspect then this is certainly the game for you.

The story mode features 3-5 levels from each of the Star Trek shows. Classic, Enterprise, Voyager, Star Trek, Next Generation, and probably some others. There are also two final levels which crossover the whole franchise. Maybe more like 1 to be honest as the first one just sets the stage for the event. There’s not much of an actual plot as each mission or series of missions are essentially stand alone adventures. You get some text at the very beginning which tells you what is happening and mini cutscenes during the level. Only very small parts of the game have any real voice acting.

You figure out early on that you need to be playing this game for the gameplay and not the plot. You never get to see a single character as the ships are then only things on the screen. As I mentioned, the gameplay isn’t explained too well as it’s actually fairly complex and intricate. It’s an overhead airplane shooter. Of course you’re a spaceship and not a plane. You explore the universe, fight aliens, and help people out. You have your primary weapon which you can switch from two different options and your sub weapon. The sub weapon has around 6 options and some of them are not actually meant for combat like your tractor or energy fuel. They all serve a purpose though so you’ll want to know what they are when tackling a level. You can use R2 to target an enemy so that you can transport some of your crew aboard or to shut down their engine without destroying the ship. You can alter your ship’s stats during the level as well by putting more power into shields at the expense of weapons or vice versa. Throughout the game I always kept weapons and engines on maximum with shields and scanners on minimum. It’s just the best call for me as otherwise the weapons take a really long time to load up.

After you get the hang of the controls, the levels start to feel a lot easier. There is also the occasional race level which is a nice change of pace. When the Borg Queen attacks you are not strong enough to stop her so racing through a bunch of portals is your only way out. The races can be reasonably difficult as missing more than a few portals can be fatal and crashing into enemy ships is just as lethal. They were some of the most fun levels in the game as I do like racing quite a bit. The most tedious levels where the ones where you’d have to do the same thing multiple times like transporting bombs. Plus, I just don’t like having to protect things (Like the bomb) as I prefer to just fight and knock everyone out. It lets me just go all out.

So the difficulty is pretty reasonable and the game’s length isn’t bad. I could usually only complete 4-5 levels in one sitting and there were around 20 if I’m not mistaken. It should last you around 6-7 hours if I had to make a ballpark estimate. There are a lot of checkpoints throughout the levels and you have infinite lives so you don’t have to worry about replaying a large segment or anything like that. One unfortunate thing is that you cannot skip cutscenes. If you lost in a place where the cutscene is particularly long, you have to watch it over and over again.

The graphics for the game are pretty nice. They may not pop out at you quite as much as in the cover, but it’s aged really well for the PS2. The colorful levels towards the end like being in the pink monster were really intense and I liked the last level’s design as everything would keep spazzing out to show you that you were in a time loop. The soundtrack is quite bland though. I feel like there were only 2-3 songs that just kept repeating over and over again. None of them were catchy either so that’s a little disappointing.

There’s a little replay value here, but not much. You can try to find all of the collectibles which honestly weren’t that hard to find. I grabbed about 80-90% of them without even trying during the normal play through. Hopefully it tells you which levels have the rest though since it would take a while to go through all of the levels. I can’t imagine that the reward is really worth the time to be honest so it’s not something I would pursue. There is also Skirmish mode which sounds like endless fighting and multiplayer so that definitely helps the replay value quite a bit. It’s no Star Fox, but I can see you having some fun here.

On a final note I do have to say that the final level was a little anticlimactic. There wasn’t a final boss or anything which was a little disappointing and the level just ends. We were actually losing against the legion of enemy ships, but the time stream just ends up warping them away so everything is happy again. I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that a full win would have been a lot more satisfying than the villains simply being whisked away. The only true boss in the game was probably the Borg Queen which was handled well. The final level should have absolutely done the same thing.

Overall, Star Trek Encounters is a fun game. I really think it could have used more of a plot but at least the gameplay was solid. The final level was pretty epic as it was great to see all of the Starships from the Star Trek franchise team up. We may have only been all together for the final part of the level but it felt like a really good payoff. Since this was a crossover Star Trek game, I would have felt a little cheated if this didn’t happen. The game did a good job of including all of the iconic Star Trek enemies like the Klingons and the Borg as well so it had a nice attention to detail. I’d recommend checking the game out, I think you’ll like it more than you’d expect. You should play it straight through though as forgetting the controls can be fatal in a title like this one.

Overall 7/10

Seventh Son Review


It’s time to look at your classic fantasy adventure film. The chosen hero of legend who cannot be defeated has arrived to show the world his true power and end the reigning darkness. The story thinks it is a lot more emotional than it actually is and the problem here is that the main characters just don’t make for good leads. Ah well, I suppose the film tried its best, but it certainly won’t be surviving the test of time.

The film starts out with an evil Dragon witch by the name of Malkin wrecking everybody. She destroyed all of the famous knights and now Gregory is the only one left. He defeated her and she lay dormant for many years. Gregory used this time to go to his local bar and get drunk while his apprentice urged others not to fight him. Gregory has a history of murdering his opponents based on his apprentice’s desperation. A swordsman tries to get Gregory to save a little girl who is being possessed, but Gregory wants his beer instead and beats the guy up. It was definitely one of the saddest moments in the film since the guy was just trying to help. Gregory heads over and it turns out that Malkin is back. He defeats her again, but she murders his apprentice so Gregory heads over to a nearby shack and recruits Tom. Tom decides that he has to go since he’s been having dreams about this for a long time now and that means he can ignore logic. He heads out and is ready to take Malkin down.

Thing is, he meets up with another witch named Alice who claims that witches aren’t so bad. Tom agrees since he instantly sees the romantic implications of this and agrees to keep her a secret from Gregory. Knowing that this can’t go wrong and Gregory has been risking Tom’s life needlessly anyway, there’s no harm done. Will they be able to take Malkin and her army of hyped up generals down or is it all for naught? Time to find out!

So, as you can probably tell from the tone of the intro, I don’t like Gregory. He just comes off as a rather mean guy who is only a protagonist because he happens to be a decent fighter. He didn’t care about saving the girl and didn’t seem to care much when his old disciple died as his first line after that was to complain about the time he wasted on the kid. He’s also not very smart of just likes to lie as he constantly gives Tom the wrong advice (Like “Trolls are scared of water and won’t chase you to it”) throughout the movie. He’s also not even that strong as a classic net can beat him and once his scepter is gone he has no power. The guy is just very annoying throughout and also proves to be pretty gullible as he lets his feelings of love get in the way of his fighting. This works against him whenever Malkin shows up.

She likes to flirt with everyone and is quite successful at it. She ensnared Gregory and got his first disciple to lower his guard. Tom was too good for these tricks but since he was getting suckered by Alice the whole time, maybe the writers felt bad for him. I don’t really remember why Alice wants to rule the world, but I supose it’ll make things easier on witches since humans hunt them no matter where they go. She should have won the war pretty easily since the heroes can’t really fight and she can decimate whole cities. Her mistake was to recruit the only fighter capable of beating her as the 2nd in command and then targeting her daughter. I like to think that Malkin was trying to lose at this point. She had a cool costume and a pretty neat dragon form, but certainly lacked tactical awareness when on the battlefield. She should be overocnfident since she was supposed to be way stronger than the others, but I guess she wasn’t quite as powerful as we were all led to believe.

Tom isn’t a good main character. I knew this the second that he abandoned his family to join Gregory for no reason even after learning that all of Gregory’s understudies mysteriously die right after they join. Naturally, his Mom ended up dying after he left. She put up a pretty decent fight though and it was nice to see that she kept up her magical abilities. She actually took out the Kratos lookalike in one shot which was pretty impressive. A pity she couldn’t put up a better fight against the head honcho. Tom’s premonitions aren’t too useful either as they are always very vague and he ends up fainting after them. Even Gregory has to point this out. Tom has some basic skill with a sword, but he can’t hurt the villains with that so it’s all moot. His necklace is pretty handy since it can repel magical attacks and shoot out fire, but he never learns how to wield it. Honestly, he just can’t fight at this point so he’s very fortunate that the villains decide to destroy themselves.

Finally we have Alice, but she’s not a good heroine. Her romance with Tom is pretty bad from the start and despite all her tough bravado, she was almost murdered by random humans in her very first appearance. It wasn’t an impressive way to start out her career. She claimed to have visions as well but we never saw any so I’m not buying it. She is a littkle gullible as well to think that the villains would spare Tom if she asked nicely. She did good in grabbing the pendant back at one point when the villains were distracted, but quite a lot of luck had to be on her side to pull that off.

There were some other supporting characters like a troll that helped the main characters and Malkin’s army of monsters. The monster generals were actually pretty cool and had nice designs, but they were wasted. There was only about 30 minutes left in the film and they still hadn’t gotten to fight. As a result, most of them were effectively one shotted and the others lost to plot hax. One of them was a really powerful dragon hybrid who could use some good weapons, but he was goaded into turning human by Gregory and was then destroyed. Alice’s Mom was a pretty good villain, but the interactions between her and Alice felt weird the whole time. They didn’t interact like parent and child and more like strangers the whole time. The film tries to say that they are pretty close based on their actions and history though so it doesn’t add up. Alice’s Mom certainly came through when it counted though.

The fight scenes are definitely on point and hold up well. That’s one area where the film definitely doesn’t disappoint. I enjoyed Gregory’s fight with the Dragon and the clash of the two dragons as well. Mostly those were the only big fight scenes as the rest were chases and such. The special effects are pretty good. You can tell that the visual style is pretty engaging just from the posters. It’s quite telling that this film looked a whole lot more impressive than other titles like LOTR and World of Warcraft despite those being known as experts at the genre. I can’t say much for the soundtrack as it’s all fairly generic. I would have liked an extra good tune or two.

I think something that would have helped the film a lot would have been if the main characters were more likable. Gregory is consistently shown as borderline evil as he burns opponents alive and without remorse. He believes that you have to be as ruthless as they are to win and in the end he convinces Tom to follow suit. Tom even dresses in all black at the end to signify that he won’t show mercy anymore. It’s certainly not the typical message that you expect to see and it’s a tough world for all of the characters involved. If we ever got a sequel, I’m sure they would have to start reversing that a bit as I just don’t think it was the film’s intention to make Tom seem like a villain at the end. The lore around the film certainly has potential, it just needs to be crafted better.

The biggest negative here is certainly the romance. It’s pretty underdeveloped as expected and the characters just skip first base immediately. Fortunately, the film avoided animal violence, excessive violence/language, and the other tropes that you’d expect in a fantasy film. It did have one gross humor part where the characters eat some kind of squid thing, but it played it by the books for the most part. It’s because this film is more of a happy fantasy with lots of adventure than the more serious and dramatic style that others go for.

There aren’t any real deep messages about saving the environment or Oscar bait moments here. It’s just a classic fantasy adventure that tries to be a little cheesy and action packed throughout. I’d say that it succeeds for the most part. The characters all tend to act like jerks, but the fact that they’re so exaggerated just makes you want to root for the villains even more. It’s interesting how you find yourself rooting for the villains more in a film like this one than in those where the villains are the main characters. Either they’re just more convincing or since the film isn’t too violent, they don’t have a chance to go too far. The main villain destroys maybe 2 characters on screen. The body count isn’t as high as you’d expect despite the epic moment where all of the villains fly across the battlefield and attack Tom’s home. (Not it’s personal) The film just had enough epic moments like that to stay afloat. You can say that the film survives in spite of its characters as opposed to it being the other way around.

Overall, Seventh Son is one of those films that feels like it’s on 2X speed the whole time. The film rapidly goes from place to place and event to event without dwelling on the plot much. It seems like the writers wanted it to be a really long film, but were told they had a limited run time and then crammed everything in. Some scenes could have been explored more and we could have gotten more action scenes. Cutting out some of the romance would have definitely helped a great deal in that regard. The series borrows from pretty much every fantasy cliche in the book, but at least handles most of them reasonably well. It’s certainly an entertaining film as you’ll have fun mocking the characters quite a bit. It’s the kind of film you want to watch with friends to make wisecracks with. It had its faults, but I’d still call it a decently good film. It has a good degree of replay value since it avoided most of the usual negatives.

Overall 6/10

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Review


I’ve been a casual big My Little Pony fan for ages now, but I had yet to get into the Equestria Girls part of the franchise. When I saw that my library had ordered this comic I knew it was time to jump in. It’s a pretty fun spinoff from the main series. I definitely prefer the main title as you can argue that the whole point of My Little Pony is seeing the ponies show us values of friendship and harmony which we can then apply to everyday life. Seeing fellow humans use these messages can still be effective, but it loses the extra intensity that the main comics have since there are no dark overlords trying to murder everybody here.

There are really two main comics here. The first one deals with how the main characters met up and became friends in the first place. All of the ponies get a lot of screen time here, but Rarity may have looked the worst. So, Applejack has moved to the school and is hoping to make friends. Unfortunately her mean cousin is around and takes it upon herself to bully Applejack. Applejack tries her best to fit in with the “cool” crowd, but they won’t have any of it. Fortunately, Pinkie Pie has a plan to make everyone smile by cheering at the local soccer game. Rainbow Dash is too busy winning awards and stomping people into the dirt to help Applejack. Usually this is where Rarity would step up, but she enjoys the attention and decides to turn a blind eye to the bullies. Fluttershy would speak up, but she’s a little too intimidated by all of the other characters at the moment.

So, here’s why Rarity is probably the worst character of the story. She basically just ignores Applejack’s plight the whole time which felt a little out of character. Maybe it was the only way that the writers could get the story across, but it still felt a little iffy to be honest. She made the right call in the end though so I suppose that’s what counts. Rainbow Dash was probably the best character this time. Sure, she may have been a little overconfident, but lets face it, that’s why she’s such a great character. While the rest of the characters were getting messed up by the drama, Rainbow Dash was focusing on the win. Fluttershy was…Fluttershy. She was a little too nervous to confront the bullies, but at least she let them know that the dog was sick. That was definitely a good move. She’s a nice character, I just wish Fluttershy would put the others in their place a little more. Especially when they started subtly insulting her by calling her names like Flustershy or Flutterbye. She does quite a bit of crying in the story but it also shows that she has heart!

It’s always nice to see the characters meet up though so this was a great way to start the comic. I’m assuming they all know each other already in the movie then or this is some kind of alternate retelling of the origin. The bullies got put in their place, but surprisingly I don’t recall them being truly converted. I’ll assume that they turned good off screen since the heroes never leave anyone behind. They must all embrace friendship at some point.

The second tale is about the main characters hanging out with Sunset. She was shunned in Pony world and escaped to the human one so she can finally have some friends. (I’m pretending that I don’t know what happened in the main series. If you just read from this comic, this is the vibe you get) Twilight Sparkle has essentially banished Sunset to the human world so she can be a better person and must keep up a diary chronicling what happens each day. Sunset hasn’t gotten to enjoy the holidays since she had no friends, but Applejack and friends decide to help her out. After an intense Avengers esque scene where all of the friends are brought in to help with the party, they invite Sunset over. The party goes great, but then pictures of it start leaking out to the school and Applejack suspects that Sunset is guilty. Sunset pleads her case, but the main six will hear none of it. They are now getting bullied by the entire school and blame Sunset for it. Meanwhile Sunset is friendless once again, but has decided that she’s going to solve this case.

As you can probably guess, Sunset didn’t sell out her friends. Honestly that would have been quite the plot twist, but it’s probably a good thing that the comic didn’t go there. It may have been hard to have been a Sunset fan after something like that. She’s a pretty fun character and it’s cool to have one of the humans actually be a Pony. It seems like everyone knows, but she still tries to act like a human anyway as she quickly stops herself from saying phrases like “Everypony.” I’d probably just keep using it personally since it’s pretty unique and all, but I guess whatever works.

The rest of the main characters didn’t look quite as good this time around. They were a little quick to doubt one of their friends and Sunset’s denial should have been enough for them. Rainbow Dash’s battle against Fluttershy in the video game was pretty intense and I’m glad that Dash took the win. It was nice that Fluttershy was a little more pro-active in the game though and really got into it. The characters have definitely been through a lot by now so I’d expect some character development.

I could also sympathize with the villain of this story a bit since once again, Rarity was being a little iffy. The villain was clearly getting along pretty well with her friends so they could have let her stick around. I don’t think she would have gotten in the way or anything. The villain still made the wrong move, but at least it also reminded Rarity of an important message. I kind of wish they would have a letter at the end explaining the message for those who didn’t get it, but it’s clear enough so that shouldn’t be a problem.

As far as the art goes, it’s not amazing, but it’s pretty good. The character designs are all on point and the only part that is a little iffy are the tears. They end up creating large puddles which can be a bit much. The scenes of the characters all crying and still fighting each other were also intense. The best panel in the comic is definitely when Rainbow Dash tripped someone up and then jumped on his head as she passed him in the soccer game. A bit brutal sure, but this is Rainbow Dash we’re talking about. She’s always ready to go for the win.

The writing is also pretty solid. The whole point of the series is its 5 star writing after all so it doesn’t disappoint here. As mentioned earlier, my only gripe is that the Main 6 doubted Sunset a little too easily, but it does help you sympathize with her. It feels like everyone is always doubting her because of her past and it shows that even the main characters aren’t exempt from that. Still, she’ll stick around as one of the heroes and eventually they’ll all really accept her.

Now, there is one huge plot hole here that I have to address. Don’t be alarmed but I picked up on this instantly. (Humble brag) There is one scene where Rarity orders 16 pizza pies, but the stack looked a little too large so I decided to count them all. There were 17 pies that the character was holding. Where did the extra one come from? The quality checkers slacked off on that one a bit to be honest. It happens to the best of us though right?

Overall, This was a fun comic. Rainbow Dash was the MVP with Sunset being the runner up so Pinkie Pie lost out for a change, but she got a small role this time around. It’s too bad that Equestria Girls didn’t get its own ongoing like the main My Little Pony series. I’m sure that there are a bunch of stories that you can tell in this setting. Still, the main title is the one that I’m the most interested in so hopefully the library can get more volumes soon. If you’re a big fan of the franchise then you’ve gotta check this one out. If you’ve never taken the plunge before, then now’s a good time to start. You’ll be surprised at how much you enjoy My Little Pony during the adventure and one day you’ll be bold enough to call yourself a fan in public. Small steps first.

Overall 7/10

Dreamgirls Review

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It’s time for the first musical that I’ve seen in quite a while. I don’t think it’ll ever get old seeing people debate and fire comebacks through song instead of talking about it. It’s just an interesting way to make your comeback you know? It’s definitely not my kind of film and suffers from the usual problems that come with being a musical, but the film gave it a good effort and I suppose that’s what counts.

Effie, Deena, and a third girl have been trying to make it big for a long time now. They just haven’t gotten the chance to show that their singing abilities are the real deal. This changes when a slick car dealsman named Curtis tells them that he can get them a gig as Jimmy’s backup singers. Effie is worried that they’ll stay backup forever, but Curtis knows a way to shove Jimmy out of the picture at some point. Soon he gets them their own gig, but decides to slowly phase Effie out. Eventually he phases the third girl out as well and makes it all about Deena. Thing is….will Curtis also phase her out once Deena starts to decline in popularity? She’s going to have to do something and fast!

Usually this is where you’d chat with your friends to try and think about what you should do next. The problem is that all of the main characters are too busy keeping secrets from each other and playing the rebound game. There’s a lot to keep up with as Jimmy tries to use the moves on the main characters. 2 of them don’t fall for it, but then Curtis gets together with Effie. After he’s had his fun, Curtis moves on to Deena and while all of the characters know about this merry go round, none of them really care since they all think that they’re the special one. It leads to quite a lot of drama the whole time and so I can’t say that the romance was handled well. It felt really fake on all sides. Lets face it, if someone is cheating to be with you, then they’re also probably cheating on you. It’s an iron clad rule that has been around for generations and it doesn’t just go away in a flash. It was also hard to sympathize with any of the characters when they were betrayed because it was just so expected. They were all a little too easy as well as they basically skipped the dating phase.

As a result, none of the characters are all that good. Jimmy was bad from the start as he immediately tried to fool around with the main characters. He ended up getting into drugs and hitting the Game Over moment in life. Curtis may have been a fast talker, but you always knew that about him. It helped the audience not get tricked by his shenanigans and it was just annoying that none of the others could figure it out. He went from being manipulative to totally being a villain by the end. Deena was an all right main character as she stuck up for Effie for a while, but got pretty naive by the end. It turned out to be true that she was cheating with Curtis for a while so that’s certainly not very heroic of her. Curtis even admitted at one point that he had always loved her and not Effie so that should have rang some warning bells since he still stuck around long enough to have a kid. Deena made the right move in the end, but it took her a little too long.

Effie was also not so good. She wasn’t exactly blameless in this affair as she didn’t take moving to the back row very well instead of being happy for her friend. It’s also pretty understandable that a replacement would be hired for her during the Vegas New Year’s Celebration since she abruptly vanished and skipped all of the rehearsals. You can see why she was bitter, but surely she can see how the others had to move on. She was causing a bunch of problems. The song recorder that helped the gang was all right I suppose. He was a little slow on the draw as well, but ended up pretty well off. He didn’t agree with how his music was used at times, but he did get the money. Deena’s Mom was pretty fun considering that she didn’t appear much. I wouldn’t have minded her as more of a main character since she seemed to suspect that something was off from the start.

This isn’t usually much of a problem outside of some old black and white films, but I had a tough time telling each character apart once in a while. They all kept switching their wigs and then the film would constantly jump into the future by a few months or even years at time. It just made it hard to keep them all straight and that’s why I never even learned the third girl’s name. She technically had a reasonably sized role, but the characters never said it all that much since the focus was on the other two. This is why instead of coordinated costumes where everyone wears the same thing, you should always have something different.

There are a lot of songs as you’d expect. The beet for them is usually pretty catchy, but I can’t say that the lyrics were very good. They aren’t exactly something I’d play while at home. I’m not really a big music person to be honest, but when I play music it’s typically extremely epic anime/video game songs. If I play the occasional lyrical song, it’s typically one from those mediums. Instrumental is still the best bet as you get the cool beats without having to worry about the lyrics, but both sides can be good. I think this soundtrack could have been a little better considering that it was a musical, but ironically the fact that it was a musical meant that the music was very mainstream and not quite as epic as it could have been. Look up the Attack on Titan themes and you’ll see what I mean.

I also can’t say that I care much for the competitive/professional dancing that usually accompanies the music. If anything it just makes the music feel more objectionable as they’re trying to hook the audience on them rather than the music. It doesn’t feel quite as legitimite which is why I never bought into music videos. The audience certainly ate it up, but that’s also why you’ll attract a specific crowd based on what you sing and how you sing it.

Overall, Dreamgirls may have tried its best to be an intense musical with a lot of drama, but it didn’t work too well for me. Without likable characters or a stronger plot, you just can’t sing your way out of the tough situations. I do like how the characters banter with songs though as it was extended more than in most films and they had whole conversations. It just wasn’t enough to block out all of the drama and rebounds. I can’t really say that I’ve ever loved a live action musical film though so it’s possibly just a really hard genre to succeed in. Hopefully they can pull it off someday. They just need to take some cues from Frozen. Get some better songs, cut out the dances, and build a better plot. If you can get those aspects of the film together, then I think you’ll end up with a winner on your hands. By the way, if you’re wondering who the standout character of the film was, it was certainly the lawyer. I like how he just showed up out of nowhere and took down the main villain. He probably cost a lot of money, but it was well worth it since a lawyer can save you millions!

Overall 3/10

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

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy Review

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I don’t buy games on Day 1 too often. When I do it’s typically for a big franchise that I follow like Super Smash or Dragon Ball Z. If you asked me a few months ago if I’d buy Crash day 1, I probably would have chuckled. Crash always seemed fun enough, but I’ve never played any of his games so I couldn’t call myself a big fan. That being said, the collection got a lot of hype and just about everyone I talked too had also pre ordered it. I decided that I needed to see what the hype was all about. It’s not the greatest game of all time as I’ve heard some say, but it is definitely a very solid title. The fact that it is 3 games in 1 just makes this even more of a bargain!

Lets start with the first game. There isn’t much of a plot, but Cortex has decided to destroy the world. Crash must stop this mad scientist’s quest for power while he can. The problem is that Crash isn’t very smart so he just mindlessly runs around and beating people up. He’s a force of nature and fortunately he is acting on the side of the heroes. The 3 games have some similarities as they all have around 25 levels and in the same format. You have 5 worlds and each world has 5-6 levels. That’s where the similarities start to end. The first game is easily the hardest of the 3 and relies less on gimmicks than the others. All of the levels in the first game are classic platforming challenges in 2D and 3D.

One of the level styles is the overhead water ones. They were my favorite levels but they were admittedly the easiest as well. I found them to be pretty bearable as I jumped from platform to platform. There were also the boulder chase levels where you have to rely on your reaction times to jump when a pit appeared since you couldn’t see them. (You’re running towards the screen) Surprisingly, this is the one aspect where the sequels were a bit tougher..or maybe my reaction time just slowed down.

The meat and potatoes of this game are the sky levels where you have to get past crumbling bridges. Apparently you can cheese parts of the level by running on the rope, but I didn’t notice that so I had to beat them the old fashioned way. I must have gotten 30-40 game overs on this level style because I just couldn’t get past some of the obstacles. Finally completing them was always a very satisfying experience. There were quite a few levels that I just barely completed and can’t imagine going back anytime soon. The game is merciless with the difficulty and it’s no walk in the park. I usually would only beat 1 world every time I turned the game on because it wasn’t easy to beat them in large batches like the sequels.

The gameplay is simple as you just run, jump, and spin. It’s easy to know the controls, but the levels are still tricky because you have to be very precise. If you don’t time your jumps perfectly, then it’s game over for you. I have to give the game credit for never being unfair though. The challenges were tough, but they weren’t luck based or anything like that. The more you played the levels, the more you got used to the obstacles. Also, you would only have to restart the level so the penalty for dying wasn’t absolutely terrible or anything. It was an intense way to start the collection.

The sequel adds some more plot and cutscenes into the mix. Cortex has asked Crash for help because an asteroid is going to crash or some other villain is messing around. Anyway, he demands that Crash find all of the gems once again and gives them to him. Crash’s sister consistently warns Crash that the guy is lying, but Crash doesn’t seem to understand and after being threatened, gives them to Cortex. I may as well say it now, I don’t like Crash. He’s not smart and not endearing. He makes all of the wrong decisions time and time again. He’s just lucky that Cortex isn’t much of a villain either. He’s certainly no Eggman or dare I say even Bowser? At least Bowser was threatening for a time. Cortex is just a second rate Wily.

This game is noticeably easier than the first. I only got the game over screen a handful of times and in particular the first level of the final world. Part of why the game is easier is because they added a new dash mechanic similar to DK Tropical Freeze. You don’t have to be as precise with your jumps anymore because the dash grab can cheese almost any obstacle. All of the villains are slower now so it is easier to time when you should spin. The final boss takes this low difficulty to the extreme as you can beat him in about a minute. He literally can’t attack you so you just chase him down 3 times which is incredibly simple. I was shocked at how fast he went down. There was no final form though so I guess that was that.

The second title experiments with the game a little more as you get airship levels and other gameplay styles. This meant there was a little less time for the traditional Crash levels which plays a big part in why the game was easier. Although, the normal Crash levels have also been nerfed from the first game so it’s probably a moot point. While the first game may be more satisfying, I can safely say that the second one is better since it had more of an actual plot and I did like the gameplay variety.

Finally, we make it to the third game. This one ramps up the gameplay variety even more as you get racing levels, water racing, underwater submarine combat, Star Fox simulator, and then the occasional Crash level. This game easily has the fewest Crash levels which may be a little sad for gamers who had to wait until it came out back in the day but since this collection already had a bunch of those I was pretty content. This game is even easier and I only saw the Game Over screen once. Admittedly that was kind of my fault for underestimating the game. It got so easy that I allowed myself to get a bit sloppy for a while there.

The plot for this game is that Uka Uka has returned and is commanding Cortex to destroy Crash. They also halfheartedly try to trick Crash again, but don’t seem too committed to that as they flip flop around the issue. I doubt Crash figured that out anyway though. Despite the hype, I can’t say that I care much for the mask. I can’t really take him seriously and his design isn’t all that good. Honestly the Crash series needs a better supporting cast. Who knows, maybe I’ll like them more as I play more games though. There are definitely a bunch of others to get at some point right?

There is a lot of replay value here and that’s an understatement. Even after beating the three games, there are many collectibles to get in each. Obtaining the 3 Platinum Trophies in the game will also take a considerable amount of time. Games 2 and 3 are easy enough, but part of getting the Platinum in the first game involves completing all of the levels…without dying. That sounds pretty insane to me and I just can’t picture pulling that off without an incredible amount of work. I don’t think I want to spend quite that much time since the deaths will really get to me, but this is certainly great news for Crash fans. You’ll have a shiny trophy to prove that you’ve overcome all of the odds.

The graphics are pretty good and it is nice that the game completely redid them from the ground up. They have certainly modernized Crash and friends with the new designs. The soundtrack is also surprisingly catchy. Some of the themes are pretty memorable like the final boss tunes and some of the factory ones. Crash 1 certainly has the best array of songs, but they’re all pretty good in their own right.

I do have one big criticism with the game though…the unskippable cutscenes. You can’t skip the Gameover screen which is the saltiest part of the whole losing experience. You have to watch the Mask laugh at you a few times and there isn’t anything you can do about it. The cutscene isn’t incredibly long, but it is definitely long enough to make you wince and take a step back. It feels quite bad. You also can’t skip the opening credits to the game. Every time you boot it up you have to watch all of the logos fly by and the narrator try to hype the game up. I can understand doing that the first time, but I don’t want to have to watch it every time. That’s just a little too much product placement.

There are no other real negatives to the game, but I did find a glitch during one of the boss fights. If you hit the scientist who throws the bottles at you too soon, he’ll forget to drop the bottle and just stay in a permanent electrocuted position. You then have to get out of the game and retry. It’s a mild thing as you can easily beat the boss another way, but it felt like I was being punished for being too fast. Did the quality testers never see this because they weren’t fast enough to beat him that way? Not to toot my own horn or anything. I do like the fact that there is an auto save for the game active and that you can save at any time as well. It’s just a nice quality of life addition that makes the whole package better.

As for the bosses, most of them were pretty easy. The only challenging ones were in Game 1 as you’d expect. It took me a little to realize that I could jump on the first boss so that took a bit. Any boss that involved aerial combat was a breeze. The final boss in Game 1 was reasonably difficult since dodging the energy bolts was tricky. Game 2’s was easy as I mentioned and Game 3’s was also very simple. It wasn’t all that hard to dodge his attacks. There was a lot of variety in the bosses so the game did good on that front. Very rarely was a boss similar to a previous one.

So, how does Crash stand up next to the all time greats? Clearly he is no match for Mario or Sonic, that one’s a given. I’d also give Ratchet and Clank as well as Jak the edge. Crash does surpass Sly and Klonoa though. I think that’s roughly all of the main platformers. I’d mention Rayman, but I haven’t actually gotten to start that one yet. One of these days though, it’s just around the bend.

How do the 3 games stack up? Well, as I said Crash 2 is the best, then 3, and then 1. I do appreciate Crash 1’s challenge and difficulty of course, but you can see how the games got a little more polished after that. As I mentioned, I like how they shifted the gameplay a lot in the sequels. The first will always be a classic, but the addition of a plot is just too big of an advantage to miss either. I will say that the first does give you the most bang for your buck since you’ll be there a while.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend picking this game up. It’s quite a bargain considering that you’re getting 3 full games for the price of 1. They are all classics as well so it’s not like you’re getting Flip’s Twisted World or anything like that. They have a seal of quality on them with solid level designs. It’s an all around pleasant experience. The 2nd and 3rd games are great for relaxing as you can breeze through the levels with minimal effort which lets you enjoy the scenery more. Then the first game helps wake you up every day as you have to bring your A game to conquer it. I suppose I may buy the next collection day 1, (After all, the 3rd game does end with a cliffhanger!…even if you can’t take it seriously) but it likely won’t be an issue because I plan to buy the sequels way before such a collection comes out. Gamecube/PS2, here I come!

Overall 8/10

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

This Island Earth Review

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It’s time for a retro Sci-Fi movie. This one definitely had an interesting plot so I was ready to see if it could make it all the way to the end. The movie takes a different direction than what I had been anticipating though and while that still could have worked, I believe that the film lost its direction. The second half doesn’t live up to the promising beginning even if there are a lot of interesting themes at work. It ends up being a movie that is crammed by a bunch of plots and probably would have worked better as a full TV series or movie series. Still, it’s a pretty engaging watch and definitely one of the original alien stories.

The plot follows a pilot named Meacham who is also a super genius. He has been studying Atomic energy along with his partner and together they will make the world a better place. One day, he receives a bead of immense power and a guy on a computer screen tells him to get on a plane. It’s purely optional, but the alien blows up the table and nearly destroys the main characters before Meacham disconnects the TV. Meacham ignores the act of violence and decides to board the plane. It turns out that the “aliens” are actually normal people who all work in a big government facility. They have obtained the best geniuses from around the world and simply want to achieve everlasting peace…through Atomic Energy. Meacham notices how this could build the world’s greatest nuke and also notices how everyone is acting oddly. Maybe this paradise isn’t quite as pleasant as it appears to be.

From the start there is a lot of tension here. Have the humans been replaced by alien shapeshifters? What are they planning to do witih all of the Atomic energy? Are they even aliens or is it possible that they are simply very advanced people? You’ll be wondering about all of this and more as Meacham subtly looks around. He actually does a pretty good job of gathering intel and not being too obvious with what he’s doing. He probably should have guessed that the aliens could see through the walls since their tech can do just about anything, but I suppose it was a worthy attempt. By this point, Meacham decides to get a little more bold with his plans.

It turns out that it is aliens who are running the operation and they have resorted to brainwashing humans. The same would have happened to Meacham, Ruth, and Steve but the alien in charge of this branch believes that brainwashing defeats the purpose of getting the help from the humans. The aliens need them to come up with new innovations because their own planet is dying and they need Atomic energy to protect themselves. His suspicions prove to be accurate as the brainwashed scientists are no longer useful. Still, Meacham and the others aren’t fools so they decide not to help. They try a good escape effort, but are kidnapped and brought to the alien planet.

This is where the film maybe adds too many elements. There is a big intergalactic war going on and both sides appear to be pure evil. They sling meteors at each other and take over planets to defend themselves. The alien race that is attacking Earth have powerful guard robots to protect them. Fortunately, they don’t stand up to well to a good human thrashing. The designs were pretty neat though. Again, Meacham and the others made the right move in not trusting these aliens. They would have certainly been used and then thrown away. As it is, they were very close to being brainwashed. Some satisfying punches are thrown. Letting the alien help at the end was a little cheesy and I definitely think he was too far gone, but it was a decent attempt by the film at trying to make him likable.

Besides Meacham stealing the show rather easily with his dynamic performance and intense voice, the supporting cast wasn’t so bad. Steve seemed like a reasonable fellow even if his role wasn’t too big. He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to help the others so that speaks volumes about his character. Ruth is all right as well as she helps Steve trust Meacham and helps the team stay active. Unfortunately, she doesn’t do much after that besides getting into trouble with the aliens a few times. It would have been nice to have seen her use some of her genius to take down the robot since she is also supposed to be very smart.

Back to the robot, I wasn’t too impressed with it. While it may look cool, is it really that deadly if a human can deal so much damage to it? I was a little skeptical the whole time. Still, the overall effects were very impressive considering that this came out in the 50s. Honestly, it would hold up fairly well by the 70s standards as well. It has elements from Star Trek (The ships and the fights are almost identical, but on a lower budget) and even Star Wars with the big battles going on. I definitely got a little invested in the universe and could have had quite a lot of potential as a franchise. There’s just so much that they can do here.

Alas, it was just one film so they really had to pick and choose what they wanted to do. The best part of the film is still the beginning as it’s all very strange. You don’t know what’s happening, only that the whole situation is eerie. It felt like a Twilight Zone with the atmosphere being this way and it was just handled really smoothly. It reminds you of why the Sci-Fi genre is so popular in the first place, it can give you some really intense plots.

I think what puts this film over the edge is the strong writing. I’ve said this many times over, but you simply don’t see this level of writing nowadays. In modern films you either have to deal with some language or characters having annoying/quirky gimmicks to differentiate them. These films don’t bother with that as everyone just speaks matter of factly. All of the threats are said very politely and everyone is passive aggressive. They all talk to each other with a lot of respect, but still show a lot of emphasis depending on the situation. They may be nice, but they are still making a point. As such, the dialogue is pretty strong throughout.

Overall, This film was actually really interesting. It may not have lived up to its full potential and scored a 9, but it still did a lot of things right and nothing wrong. An animal appeared and actually lived to tell the tale for a change. They really should have considered a sequel where the aliens got to attack Earth or maybe the other side since the main ones were defeated. With their advanced technology maybe it would seem like a blowout or something, but I definitely think it could have worked. It’s easy to see why this film is apparently so well known (I had never heard of it until I watched the film to be honest) and it’s aged really well. I definitely recommend checking it out as it shows you how an alien film should be crafted, even if perhaps it is a lesson on how you probably shouldn’t execute it. At the very least, not so many plots when your run time is only in the ball park of 90 minutes. With Star Wars coming up soon, I’ll be able to get my next Sci-Fi kick provided we don’t stick with Luke’s plot for too long.

Overall 8/10