7 Star TV Shows, Reviews, TV Show Reviews, TV Shows

Hunter X Hunter (2011) Review


All right it’s time to look at the second anime adaption of the Hunter X Hunter show. The original anime ended quite early as the OVAs had to continue the arcs and even then it didn’t make it all the way. Since the manga is still going this series wasn’t able to finish either, but this time it did make it through the Chimera and Election arcs so it’s getting closer and closer. The series has a lot of dynamic scenes and has some of the best strategic battles in all of Shounen Jump. While the series has a few jump the shark episodes in the Chimera arc the series is still solid as a whole.

The world of HXH centers around professional hunters. In this world this is the most lucrative position as you can get rich just for selling your license. Of course if you went to all the trouble of passing the exam it is very unlikely that you would ever do such a thing. The hunters keep their licenses as a matter of pride and serve as body guards or go on quests. The options are endless. There are quite a few main characters who each have their own goals and ambitions which lead to the various story arcs. Unlike most other series you can get arcs where the main characters shift more than once. Otherwise I think the only other series I can think of where this happened is Naruto where Sasuke got his own arc. Potentially Dr. Stone will count as well if the other guy ever gets his own arc.

The first arc follows Gon in his quest to become a hunter. He is finally old enough to take the Exam and dashes on over. He meets up with a few other applicants known as Killua, Kurapika, and Leorio. The tests are quite rigorous though as you have to go through a forest of death, run for miles, escape a death zone, and then engage in one on one battles with other fighters. This won’t be easy, but Gon has trained quite a lot to be in shape so he would be ready for this. Unfortunately for him this happens to be the exam where a villain has entered the ring as well. His name is Hisoka and his goal is to cause quite a lot of chaos.

It’s a pretty good introduction to the series. We get to meet the main cast and there’s even a tournament. While the Chunin Exams from Naruto do still take the cake for this format you can see how similar these two are. Adding Hisoka into the mix also adds a good level of tension. It would have been interesting to have had Killua and Hisoka meet up early on here, but realistically that probably would not have gone well for the kid. At this point Hisoka already had nen which means he is effectively invincible here.

The next big arc was the Heavens Arena which is another big tournament. Now this arc isn’t very large compared to the others, but it’s a lot of fun. Gon and Killua learn about nen which will be crucial later on and Gon gets to have his rematch with Hisoka. That’s basically his motivation here and Killua works to keep everyone out of Gon’s hair. I don’t think this arc is remembered quite as well as some of the others, but it was another solid way to build more character development. I’ll also take any excuse to have a bunch of extra fights. HXH does a lot of “about to fight, but then doesn’t” moments so it was nice to enjoy these days while you could when every fight did happen.

Next up is the arc considered to be the best in the series and I would agree with that. Yorknew brings Kurapika into the center stage this time. His goal in life is to destroy the Spiders since they murdered his entire clan. It’s his whole reason for becoming a professional hunter and he never lost sight of this goal. This is his chance to take them down, but these guys are world class threats for a good reason. It won’t be easy for Kurapika to bump them off. Meanwhile Gon and Killua wander into the fray, but at their current level they sometimes prove to be more of a liability than a help. We also get the government involved and a bunch of other characters.

Yorknew is just a very packed arc with cool moments around every corner. Kurapika vs Uvogin is still a very iconic fight and seeing Chrollo take on Killua’s father and grand father was epic as well. At this point in the series there are also a lot of fun dream match-ups. For example while Killua may not have much nen yet he still does have a lot of strength and speed. Would he have been able to at least take one of them down if Gon wasn’t around? Kurapika also did good in taking on Uvogin, but would he be able to take down the others? Most of the Spiders have fairly broken abilities so in a sense Uvogin was the easiest to beat because he’s all about strength. His strength was certainly crazy though.

Then we have Greed Island which is more of a peaceful arc in comparison. Gon and Killua enter a video game to find Gon’s father an instead they wind up stuck in the video game. To escape they have to clear it, but in the meanwhile there are a bunch of bombers running around in there as well. Their goal is to clear the game first and they’re willing to murder all of the other players to get their way. They don’t appear to be quite as tough as the Spiders, but the ability to blow someone up with a single point of contact is always helpful. The arc is fun enough and we meet more characters like Biscuit. It’s never quite able to capture the same level of energy and excitement as the earlier arcs though.

Next is the Chimera Ant arc which was certainly anticipated because it had never been animated before. It’s the author’s shot at a DBZ type arc. If you’ve noticed each of the arcs seem to switch genres time and time again. Well this arc focuses more on power levels and the whole alien invasion even makes it part horror. This arc is very long and it feels like the longest in the series although I don’t know if that’s accurate. Basically these insect creatures have taken over a kingdom. They are slowly growing more and more powerful as well as intelligent because of the humans they eat. When they eat someone with nen they start to grow nen as well. The government is trying to hide this, but as a result the situation is quickly growing out of hand. Hunters are sent in to handle this. Gon and Killua will have to prove themselves against professional hunters as well if they want to make the cut. This time they will need to master Nen and have special abilities to help out.

This arc gives the heroes the biggest power upgrades they’ve ever gotten in the series. That’s why it’s a shame that neither Gon or Killua have really gotten to fight after this arc. Not only have they likely surpassed Kurapika now but they’re possibly Spider/Pro hunter level at this point. I’d say certainly since they were taking on Ants that the pros were having a lot of trouble with. There are a ton of fights in this arc and the heroes even have to split up at one point to take down a lot of enemies. That’s why it’s a shame that this is ultimately the arc that really holds the series back. On the one hand, it’s easily the most epic arc in the series. It has a lot of the best battles and the set-up is really solid. This is basically an alien invasion and it’s the most ambitious arc yet. We even see the Hunter association chairman Netero fight for once.

What hurts this arc is how the violence steps up and also covers animals. The insects murder a bunch of animals in this arc. They take down kids and in general the arc gets really dark. We even have a human villain out of nowhere who is basically doing trafficking amidst the chaos in a plot that has no point. The author also started to get a little more experimental around this point so we get an episode about nothing much as a guy with a terrible past is wondering what’s going on. He had an abusive father or something and while I’m sure the episode tied in to something, it feels like half an hour of nothing. The new characters here weren’t all hits so when they get a lot of focus it takes away from the main characters.

That’s why this arc is a mixed bag. It has the largest amount of great moments and the animation is also stunning. The Nen affects and how they affect everyone is handled very well. One character ages many years in an instant which is a dramatic but effective way or showing just how fierce these enemies are. After all, the heroes know that if they’re caught then they’ll definitely be dead. Put it this way, this arc would get the lowest score in the series at a 4 or a 5. Everything just adds up, but it is the most interesting arc. It does get the same atmosphere you’d expect from something like Attack on Titan or Fate/Zero which always does keep you engaged from start to finish. It’s just a shame that usually in creating that atmosphere the series usually has to go into some pretty dark places. You could take away those scenes and the arc would be fantastic. It’s rare to get a series to such an interesting place with so many pieces so you always hope it’ll be the next big thing.

Finally we have the Election arc. This one is more of a return to form as it feels like the first arcs. The Hunter Association is going to pick a new chairman and naturally there are a lot of candidates to choose from. They’ve all got their own motives and agendas so the people have to vote carefully. There are a lot of rules here to prevent anyone from being chosen too easily and I always enjoy this complexity. In the sub-plot Killua has to go back home to rescue another family member and then try to help out Gon. This leads to a lot of chase scenes and clashes of brawn and brain. It’s a pretty fun adventure arc and a nice little adventure to cap off the anime. You definitely feel how there are a ton of loose ends left, but hopefully the manga ends someday so we can get a sequel show. There’s almost no point in making another season yet because there isn’t a ton of content available at the moment.

So lets look at the characters. Gon is our lead here and he certainly goes through a lot of development. He’s a pretty happy kid at first, but as the series goes on we see more of his serious side. I dare say that he showed glimpses of being a little unhinged near the beginning though. All good main characters get upset when their friends are put in danger or threatened and Gon’s no exception. However, mix that in with his stubborn nature to never back down and he completely loses it. Gon tends to lose himself in his emotions which is good for building up his Nen, but it does mean he’ll often do anything for a quick boost of power. He gets the job done, but by the end he does tend to push people away.

Then you have Killua who sort of has the reverse character arc of Gon. At first he’s a deadly assassin who has a hard time fitting in. Eventually he learns to believe in teamwork more and even talks about friendship. He makes some close bonds with Gon and the others and really has come a long way from when he first started. He gets a lot of character development and is the best ally you can ask for. He’s always got your back and balances out his impressive fighting abilities with a strategic mind. Killua’s my favorite character in the series.

Then you have Kurapika who is also a big focus in the series. His origin story is similar to Sasuke’s and his goal of revenge is certainly the same. He’s put everything on the line to stop the spiders including giving himself an ability that is only useful against them. As a result he’s permanently limited himself against any other kind of enemy. He’s the smartest of the main characters and rarely lets his emotions get the better of him. It’s a shame that he misses the final half of the series because he’s a very interesting character. Well if the next arc ever gets animated he’ll be the main character of that one.

Then we have Leorio who quickly gets left in the dust by the other characters. He used to be reasonably skilled, but he never learned a lot of Nen so he quickly fell out of the picture. Nen is something that you absolutely need to have or you just won’t stand a chance as the series goes on. He was never as serious or determined as the other characters though so maybe it’s for the best that he was written out. He can be a fun character, but you won’t really miss him while he’s gone.

Hisoka is one of the biggest villains in the series. He’s a constant thorn in the heroes’ path and the guy’s talents also ensure that it is hard to get past him. He’s incredibly powerful and right now it’s hard to say who in the series could really beat him. He’s at least around the level of the leader Chrollo and that would put him at the very top. His obsession with Gon can border on being a character wrecking trait, but so long as that never goes anywhere dicey we should be good. He’s definitely a wild card for all characters in the series.

As for the Spiders, Chrollo is their experienced leader. His ability to copy other powers is always something really hard to defend against. Mix that in with the fact that he is a tactical genius (Isn’t everyone in this series a genius?) and you’ve got a solid threat. One thing that makes the Spiders especially dangerous is the fact that they’re all reluctant friends and will go to war to help one of their own. They’re a unit so mess with one of them and you mess with all of them. Feitan is one of the stronger members of the group. He’s pretty quiet but beneath that are the abilities of the strongest member of the group. Next to Chrollo I just can’t see anyone else challenging him in a fight. Feitan is incredibly fast and strong and his heat abilities mean that escape is basically impossible.

Machi is the most enjoyable member of the group. She has a lot of fun while doing her job and while that doesn’t take away from her being evil, she’s just a nice contrast to the others. Her thin wires are also a tough ability to fight against for sure. It won’t be an easy match for any of the other Spiders against her. Nobunaga hasn’t done much yet and his abilities are pretty straight forward. If you get close to him then he’ll slice you to ribbons. That being said, just because the technique is simple doesn’t mean that beating him will be easy. His idea to get Gon and Killua to join the Spiders was interesting, but quite far fetched so I guess he doesn’t mind going for long shot plans.

Shalnark is probably the most cheerful member of the group though. He just likes hanging out with the group and seems to think of them as just a group of people hanging out. His ability to mind control people is definitely a scary ability to fight though. You never know when you’ll actually be taking on an ally. Then there is Shizuku who is one of the more inexperienced members of the group. Her vacuum does most of the work but her physical strength is in the higher end from the Spider members. All she needs is one good hit to possibly win a fight. She’s one of my least favorite Spider members but she’s not bad. Her personality just doesn’t click with me.

Uvogin is a fun member. He’s all about beating people with raw strength. The guy did allow himself to get captured pretty quick which didn’t work out well for him, but he always knew that the other Spiders would come to help him out. Had he fought almost anyone other than Kurapika in Yorknew he would probably still be around. He certainly had the best fight out of all the Spiders. As for other villains, Illumi is another big name in the series. He’s always messing with Killua and it can be hard to tell what his ultimate goal is. I believe it is just to break Killua down so he recognizes Illumi as his boss and everything else is to get to that point. He certainly doesn’t want anyone murdering Killua before that happens and is willing to fight for him. I’ts a pretty twisted state of affairs. He does seem pretty powerful so I hope he fights someday.

Genthru is the big villain from Greed Island. He’s probably one of the pettier villains though. He just wants a lot of money and to blow people up along the way. There isn’t much to him beyond that. He’s an okay villain, but not one you will remember. Biscuit left a much bigger impact in that arc and she was a fun coach to have. I do feel like she was surpassed in strength pretty quickly though. I don’t think she would be able to hold her own so well if she were to return.

As for the ants, Meruem is their leader so he should go first. He’s like a DBZ character who was thrown into HXH. He’s way too strong for everybody else. Even when he isn’t fighting seriously he’s able to handle the strongest hunter of them all. I like hie design and skill set. He gets a big character arc with a Go player. Mereum started out as a total villain, but was quickly getting redeemed. He’s an interesting character and by the end of the arc it’s quite telling that you’re almost rooting for his side over the humans.

His three generals were also great. Youpi is the weakest of the group (In terms of personality) He starts out as one of those guys who only wants to fight, but quickly begins to learn strategy. He actually outsmarts the heroes a few times which was cool and his final form would have been really tough to deal with in a fight. Pouf is the strategist of the group. He may not be as strong as the other two, but his abilities ensure that it is difficult to trap him. His voice actor did an excellent job with the character. He’s just a lot of fun whenever he is on screen. Finally we have Pitou who I consider to be the strongest of the 3. She took down Kite like it was nothing and was brave enough to make a move on Netero. If not for power level stuff and overthinking she should have been able to take everyone down.

As a quick aside, that’s another issue with the second half of the Chimera arc. I think the author wrote the heroes into too big of a hole. They were heavily outnumbered already and then he added the 3 generals who were stronger than all of the Hunters. There was no way they were going to mount a real comeback here and it shows. The heroes were so far out of their depth that the arc basically got cancelled and had a sudden ending that was not satisfying in the slightest. The power levels had just started to get out of hand so maybe it was a good idea to suddenly stop it, but as a result there are a ton of battles that should have happened, but ultimately didn’t. It was a very anti climactic end to the arc considering how much build up there was. I think the arc could have used another 20 or so episodes which would have been enough to cash-in on all the anticipation built up throughout the saga.

Ikalgo is a chimera who gets a big role as he eventually joins the heroes. He means well and while the guy was a total villain initially, his redemption arc is handled quite well. Ikalgo contributes quite a lot during the arc and while he may not be the strongest guy on the block, he is pretty sneaky. Then you’ve got Cheetu who is just a fun villain. He’s incredibly fast so it’s hard to tag him and he causes a lot of damage. If anything it’s just too bad that we couldn’t see him fight a bit more. It’s hard to really see anyone taking him down in a straight fight. He can destroy most opponents before they even notice he is around. Cheetu also continued to improve more and more as he developed new powers mid-fight. Rammot’s role isn’t nearly as big but he’s also a fun villain. The guy was really the first Nen chimera. Of course that means he isn’t quite ready to take on any of the commanders, but he still gives a good fight. I think his design is what really made him interesting. It’s a cool hybrid type look.

Then we’ve got Netero. This guy likes trolling everyone and by the time he is ready to act in the Chimera war it’s a little too late. The guy is definitely powerful and is probably still one of the strongest characters in the series. He couldn’t quite match up to Mereum but otherwise there are probably just a handful of characters who could give him a good fight. I wasn’t a big fan of his, but he beats most other old mentor type characters. As for Ging, he’s definitely one of the worst parents you’ll see around. He still has no good reason for ditching Gon and his wife. The guy just likes adventures and doesn’t want any responsibility that comes along with it. I want to see him fight because the guy gets to much hype, but at this rate it’ll be a long time before that ever happens.

A real standout character was Pariston. He really stole the show in the election arc. The guy has a charismatic presence so it’s easy to see why he was a front runner to be the next chairman. He destroys the opposing arguments with ease and is always one step ahead of the other characters. Everything goes according to his plans and it’s safe to say that he is still in control. I wonder if he’ll ever get a big role again, but even if he does not he left a great impression. Morel is a pro hunter who can manipulate smoke. He’s a very calm and calculated guy who knows not to bite off more than he can chew. He’s definitely a solid ally to have around and was a fun supporting character. His partner Knov may have cracked, but I liked that guy a lot as well. Ultimately he wasn’t able to press on with the rest of the heroes, but he was inches close to death. His older design also worked pretty well. It was really surreal to see that.

Knuckle is like an old school brawler character from an 80s anime. His power is pretty good because unless you have broken levels of Nen it’ll seal you off very quickly. Calling his attack Bankruptcy was also pretty neat. I do think Killua surpassed him a while back though and at this point Gon should be able to take him down. The guy was a good coach though and he was always nice to the local animals. In comparison Shoot never left as much of an impact. He did fight hard to the end though. Even while dying he wanted Knuckle to continue the fight. It’s always good to have that level of determination in battle.

Then there is Palm who is an odd heroine. She’s very unhinged and is always throwing threats around. Fortunately the heroes are tough enough where they don’t need to worry too much, but she is not an ally you’d want to have on hand. She wasn’t really my kind of character. Then you have Kite who is nice enough. He seems a lot more reasonable than Ging at any rate. He wasn’t terribly interesting either, but I did like his weapon. It’s pretty unique and the fact that even he doesn’t know what it’ll do next makes it a very interesting weapon to see in action.

Zeno is Killua’s grandfather and we can see why he was such a big threat back in the day. Even now he has some powerful moves and the fight with Chrollo was a lot of fun. We also saw what a large range his attack had in the Chimera arc. Pretty much everyone got affected by that. Then Silva is also a powerful fighter. We haven’t seen a whole lot of him either (Such is the fate of many characters in this series) but you can tell that he is the real deal. Killua’s family is just stacked with great fighters. Just take a look at Alluka. Alluka has never even trained before, but was born with a great ability to grant wishes. There is no wish that Alluka can’t feasibly grant in some way or another. I wouldn’t want to have that ability since I couldn’t grant my own wishes though. Seems like a big downside to me.

This likely won’t come as a surprise but the animation is definitely top notch. The colors are very strong and the battle animations are smooth. Everything about the shows looks quite modern. It’s got that sleek new look while still having a good color contrast for the dark nen abilities. Meanwhile the soundtrack is great as well. It’s a shame that my favorite track was never officially released but you’ll hear it quite a few times like when Killua fought the darts guy. There are many other great themes that you’ll be hearing as you go through the series as well.

One big factor in why the show is so good is the writing. Every character is written to be pretty intelligent and three dimensional. The narrator in the chimera arc also adds to the hype by building up each scene. A good narrator goes a long way and this guy definitely succeeded. The play by play enhanced each of the scenes as opposed to slowing things down too much.

Overall, Hunter X Hunter is definitely a fun show. If you’re looking for a good action/adventure anime then this is the one to check out. In some ways it is still one of the most ambitious titles out there. The mind games are incredible and the universe built around the characters is very interesting. There are so many complexities and various characters running around that the series could last for many years even without all the breaks. Once you watch this show you’ll likely want to go read the manga to see what happens next. It may have had a rough patch with the Chimera arc, but the series is long enough where it was able to survive this. Just dive in and enjoy the ride.

Overall 7/10

Manga

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba


Demon Slayer is definitely a title that’s been making a lot of waves lately. The fire fight in the forest sure got popular and in general it seems to have hit the mainstream. The manga’s off to a good start, the art style may not be great but I’ve only read the first volume so far so we’ll see how well it improves. I’ll have a review up for the series once it finishes.

Overall 6/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Kuroko’s Basketball Review


I haven’t read a whole lot of sport titles before now so it’s always good to start a new one. Kuroko’s Basketball was getting a ton of hype back in the day and I can definitely say that it is well deserved. I don’t see this one being surpassed as the definitive Basketball title. That means that for sports we now have definitive titles for Tennis, (Prince of Tennis) Football, (Eyeshield 21) and Basketball. (Kuroko’s Basketball) While I have read titles for other sports I am hesitant to say that any of the others are the definitive versions yet. I think Whistle does have a strong case for Soccer though. Kuroko’s Basketball is definitely an excellent title either way and one that I highly recommend.

The series starts off by introducing us to the concept of the Miracle Generation. This was a legendary group of Basketball players who were seen as invincible throughout middle school. However, they disbanded after that with every member going to a different high school. One such member is named Kuroko and he decides to finally re-enter Basketball. He ends up getting on a team that has been pretty good over the last few years while at the same time not being in the same league as the top high schools. He figures this is a pretty good time to step out of the shadow of the more experienced members and finally prove himself. The other main character is Kagami who comes from America. He doesn’t know much about the Miracle Generation and doesn’t really care anyway. He just wants to be the best and leading this high school to the championship is his chance to test his skills. Can Kuroko and Kagami raise the school to new heights?

Kuroko may be one of the miracle generation but in terms of shooting ability he is easily the weakest member of the team. That’s because his specialty is passing and he focused on this completely to the point where he became the best passer of all time. It’s also an interesting trade off because his vanish passes only work because of his lack of talent. He is able to erase his presence on the court and to everyone else it’s like he appears out of thin air. If he were to get better at the game then he wouldn’t be able to pull this off since people would notice him. The whole plot is actually handled extremely well.

Throughout the series you wonder why he doesn’t just practice more to work on his shooting. Of course getting better isn’t that easy, but he’s got a super supportive team so it makes sense. The answer is pretty obvious, but still delivered well and makes for a good twist. It’s something you know in the back of your head, but it still comes across as a surprise which in my mind means the execution was spot on. It’s a little tough for Kuroko since he is not able to get back at the other members directly, but through Kagami he is able to get wins and that’s the big picture goal anyway.

Kagami is basically sharing the main character status with Kuroko and is a really good lead. He’s more of a classic main character type who is always ready for a game and strives to be the best. He’s super competitive and is filled with confidence. I think he plays a large part in why the manga is so good. In general the cast is pretty strong in this series, but even among them Kagami is one of the standout characters. His duels with Aomine in particular are really solid and I’m also glad that he doesn’t back down even when the villains decide to get physical. One such moment is when he steps up to the main villain and manages to dodge the stab attempt from point blank range. Without Kagami the team would be doomed and he brings the fiery energy that you need on the team.

He also gets quite a few arcs during the series as well. As the best player he naturally has a lot of unique burdens on himself as well. One is that if he is losing the 1 on 1 battle the whole team loses motivation and he knows it. That adds a lot of extra stress. Another part is where it starts to get to his head and he just wants to beat the whole team on his own. I think the tough part there is that there’s some truth to this approach. If he doesn’t take on the whole team then they may lose, but at the same time it stops the other players from growing. There isn’t really an easy answer here. Still, ultimately he recognizes his status as the ace while also being a team player.

Hyuga is one of the main members of the team and effectively he serves as the captain. His deal is that he’s usually nice, but sometimes a switch gets flipped and he becomes super rude which also makes him a better shot. It’s an unique dynamic although I never really became a fan of his. He’s pretty useful since he can land the 3 point shots consistently and keeps the team together. Hyuga is the “mostly” calm mind you need on the team to keep everyone balanced even if it doesn’t allow him to become one of the more exciting characters.

Izuki is the eagle eye of the team who has his eye on the ball at all times. He’s good at landing the steals, but in comparison to the other members I wouldn’t say his role is massive. You do feel his presence though and as most of the characters get a rival on different teams, Izuki does have his big moments. Izuki’s a very balanced member of the team and I’d say that he rounds out the cast pretty well. He’s a fun character.

Kiyoshi joins the cast a little later on, but makes a good difference once he is in. He’s a good bodyguard that the team needed and definitely goes through quite a lot. I dare say that he has the most painful journey from all of the heroes and certainly experienced loss more as well. He’s another solid character and while he never became the all star, he keeps up with Kagami a lot better than anyone else on the team.

Riko is the team coach and has a special ability where she can look at everyone’s stats. It’s a fun enough ability although it never becomes too handy. The reason for this is because even when she knows that their team is outclassed it doesn’t seem to matter much. She just tells them to play harder, but almost never goes into the strategy of it. Her more useful skill is the accelerated healing which allows a player to go back in even after surpassing his limits. That one’s definitely real handy.

Then we have the other members of the miracle generation. First up is Kise who is the copycat of the group. He can learn and stela anyone’s finisher move and use it against them. He’s probably the least intimidating member of the OP players, but by the end of the series he’s definitely top 3. I’d still put Aomine and Akashi above him, but I think he could take down any of the others. He’s easily one of my favorite antagonists and is a good rival character. He seems to have the quickest growth out of the main characters so in a sequel I could see him claiming the top spot.

Midorima is another top member and his big skill is that he can hit 3 point shots from any range with 100% accuracy. In theory I feel like that should make him the most deadly member, but I suppose you need the all around skills to really succeed. The other members just tend to overwhelm him with pure power. Perhaps if this was a 1 on 1 he would have better luck but at the same time the others would probably steal the ball a lot. Midorima is fun, but not nearly as solid as the other big villains.

Aomine is my favorite character in the series and really steals the show in every scene he’s in. He’s the original rival but somehow manages to still be one of the strongest characters in the series. By the end he is arguably the third strongest Basketball player still and I like to think that he could still beat Kagami and Akashi. He really knows how to go into the Zone which basically becomes a mandatory skill by the end of the series. Without his coaching Kagami definitely wouldn’t have been ready for the end. His plot is also the most sympathetic since he got so good that the games became boring and nobody wanted to even play with him. It’s tough being the best and naturally he took that to mean that maybe he should stop practicing. That does make sense to stop growing stronger and the fact that Aomine is still one of the best shows just how dangerously good he is.

Murasakibara probably gets the least amount of screen time from the miracle generation. He’s also got the worst attitude of the group and doesn’t even enjoy Basketball the way that the others do. The gang shows him the light here, but he really only played basketball because he was so good at it. He’s really tall which helps a lot for fundamentals and from there his natural skills just helped him jump to victory. I can’t say that I ever became a fan of his. I was definitely rooting for Akashi when they had their big fight. Murasakibara’s skills are the real deal, but in a series where you have so many great characters he just can’t keep up.

Akashi is the main villain of the series so you can definitely guess that his ability is going to be more OP than the others. For the most part the series tries to stay reasonably realistic. Even the various super powers like the vanish throw try to at least throw some logic into the mix to explain how Kuroko is able to accomplish such a feat. I dare say that the author barely tried with Akashi’s though. He’s got 2 personalities and with a glance he can knock you to the ground. Then he is also able to see through all techniques and is pretty close to unstoppable. He does make for a good villain though and is another figure who was ultimately overcome by the pressure that was placed on him. You definitely need a villain like him around to make the game more exciting even if he isn’t quite as cool as Kise or Aomine. The dual identity thing reminded me of Sensui though and was handled pretty well.

Koganei steps up to the plate towards the end of the series for the main characters. He’s not terribly talented, but he does have a big drive to win. This helps make up for the talent and win or lose he always tries his best. He even went up against the main villain and while you knew he was doomed from the start it was a pretty worthy effort. I also liked the idea of getting him in the mix. Even if you aren’t amazing in general every game is different so being able to do some damage makes sense. I could see him getting more of a role in a sequel.

Takao is a fun character from one of the opposing squads. Similar to how Kuroko has Kagami in his corner, most of the other Miracle Generation fighters have a second in command as well. Takao is good at blocking Kuroko’s surprise passes and is definitely a very competent player in his own right. He may not be on the level of the Miracle Generation, but he can hold his own. Imayoshi is one of the craftier opponents. He’s always got a plan and knows when to take a support role instead of trying to be one of the main characters. This guy helps fill out the team pretty well.

Then you’ve got Himuro who used to be rivals with Kagami back in the day. That made his team pretty unique in that it had two members who were able to keep up with the main guy. That being said, I didn’t like him nearly as much as the other players. I feel like the issue with him is that he loses the mental game the whole time. He blows up at his old coach and throughout his game with Kagami he feels pretty petty. If he was able to bring in a good fight without doing all the extra tricks then that’d be good, but otherwise you just feel like he isn’t quite dedicated enough for this level yet.

Now it’s time to look at the rest of Akashi’s team. Unlike the others every member of his group is a heavy hitter. First up is Reo, an intimidating three point shooter. He doesn’t miss and has a variety of moves which makes it very difficult to block or evade his shots. He’s definitely not one of the more interesting villains, but he makes for a good rival. Then you’ve got Kotaro who is able to dribble very quickly. It’s definitely a less impressive ability than most, but it does mean that stealing the ball from him is really hard. Moreover, he is actually able to even overwhelm Kagami with this ability briefly which is no small feat. Usually the backup members don’t get to mess with Kagami, but this guy welcomed the challenge.

Then you have Nebuya who is the power hitter of the group. He is able to hold his own physically against Kiyoshi and if we’re being honest he is definitely stronger than that guy. In a one on one fight he won’t be losing to him and his raw power also makes it difficult for Kagami to stop him as well. The guy has a lot of pride in his play and is definitely one of the more enjoyable members of the group. Finally you have Mayuzumi. He’s not very interested in Basketball but is manipulated by Akashi into joining the fray anyway. He wants to be a good player in his own right, but Akashi’s plan is for him to effectively be just like Kuroko. The cost of this would be that he can never stand out though so you can see why he wouldn’t want that to be the case.

There are definitely more characters of course, but these are the main standouts so check out the manga to take a look at the ones I skipped. It’s an excellent read from start to finish. One factor that really helps is how good the artwork looks. The artist is really able to illustrate just how intense these games get. All of the characters are drawn consistently and the art only gets better and better as the series goes on. While there are a small handful of characters who look a little too similar the artist does a good job of differentiating the characters otherwise.

One of the best parts of the series is when we’re first introduced to “The Zone” as well as when Kagami is first able to enter it. It’s a pretty great super form that makes the game even more intense. It also has solid limitations like only being able to use it for a few minutes to prevent this from being completely broken. The way it is implemented is pretty fair if you ask me. It’s naturally also veering away from the more realistic aspects of the other series, but that’s fine.

I think another impressive part of the series is just how much time is spent on the court while still developing the characters. The only other series I’ve seen with such an amazing balance would be Prince of Tennis and while that is still my favorite sport title, I would have to admit that this one has the stronger supporting cast. It’s actually fairly tough to make all of the main characters likable. Even titles like Black Clover and DBZ run into some trouble there. You can’t make every character great, but since on the field the main 5 characters will constantly be around it was important that the series made sure they were good.

One thing that I’m sure everyone was waiting to see from the start was how the Miracle Generation used to be. Honestly it would make for a fun prequel, but as it is we did see some of their wins through flashbacks near the end of the series. They are every bit as overwhelming as you would expect and are absolutely merciless. It makes sense that they wanted to split up after that since it’s a lot more fun to fight people on the same level than to just steamroll everyone in your path.

Overall, Kuroko’s Basketball is definitely a great title to read. It works both as an amazing sports title as well as a great story of comradery. The basketball games are pretty long so there’s a lot of time for proper character development and team adaption during the games. There’s a lot to love about this title and there are really no negatives. Whenever the next volume would arrive I’d dash through the whole thing. The series never has any slow moments and if anything it’s all just gone too quickly. I highly recommend checking this title out. You’ll definitely be glad that you took the plunge. Now I’m ready to read the quick sequel, it’ll be fun to see the characters one last time.

Overall 9/10

Reviews, TV Show Reviews, TV Shows

Phi Brain: Puzzle of God: The Orpheus Order Review


It’s time to take a look at season 2 of Phi Brain. The first season was definitely a rock solid show. We got a bunch of great puzzles and in general it was a pretty unique show. I haven’t seen many like it so it was good to have the title return. While season 2 does retread some ground from the first season it’s definitely a great follow up. It’s not quite as good as the first season of course, but the quality is very close to that of the original.

The season also does start off with a bang. Kaito and the rest of the Phi Brains are hanging out at school when they are challenged by a new villain group. They call themselves the Orpheus Order and right off the bat they challenge the heroes to a group battle. Kaito and Gammon can handle themselves well enough but can the rest hold their own? The leader of the Orpheus Order is named Freecell (Or is he the leader?) and he seems to have some ties to Kaito from the past. Kaito doesn’t remember this guy or the promise he supposedly made. Either way Kaito has to stop these guys, but the Orpheus Order is more expansive than they can imagine. Kaito may need to call on his old friends from the POG for assistance.

I always like it when the villains make a move right away. Why bother waiting 20+ episodes to appear when you can storm the hero stronghold in under 10 minutes? It’s really impressive just how quickly they move. I also really like the idea of a team battle. It’s basically a 5 on 5 match as everyone plays a square related game. It’d be even cooler to have everyone moving at once, but logistically that’d probably be a nightmare so this makes sense. It’s still super tense because even if Kaito wins his round there is no guarantee that the whole team will win.

One advantage the season immediately has over the last one is that Kaito isn’t sidelined for every other puzzle. In season 1 there kept being a ton of different circumstances that would keep him out of a fight. First we had Cubik come out with something that prevented Kaito’s brain from activating, then he went through an emotional breakdown where he forgot how to do puzzles, etc. There were so many episodes where Kaito could have solved the puzzle easily but then something happened and he had a hard time. Here the only times Kaito is having a difficult experience solving the puzzle is because his opponent is that good. In season 1 a lot of the puzzles were 1 player, most of the ones in season 2 are vs puzzles so you’re actively fighting someone. It makes a huge difference on how you go about solving it this way. Even Nonoha gets to duel in one puzzle which was definitely interesting. Her photographic memory unfortunately isn’t too helpful in most cases, but she always tries which is good.

The Orpheus Order has quite a few members so lets quickly talk about them. First up is Freecell who serves as the main antagonist here. He blames Kaito for the death of his mother, but gradually we learn more and more about his full backstory. He makes for a good villain, but typically he’s at his best when Kaito isn’t around. For example, his confrontation with Klondike is his best scene. It’s awesome and one of the best moments in the whole show. When he’s with Kaito he gets a little more delusional and in some ways is just Rook 2.0. Overall I did think he made for a pretty great villain though. He may not have been the most original villain in the series, but the execution was on point. If anything it’s too bad we didn’t get to see him fight more. I wanted to see his new powers in action.

Then we have Pinochle who is definitely the worst of the group. He’s the kind of guy who goes for mindgames and intimidation right off the bat, but can’t pull it off. As a result he seems more like a try hard and never becomes all that interesting. It’s a shame since he gets some of the most development out of the characters. Next is Mizerka who also isn’t too great, but she’s a step up from Pinochle. She needs to have a use and so that probably makes her the most loyal out of all the members. So long as the leader gives her a task she is happy to complete it. Her character is tied pretty closely to Melancholy so you can probably expect that things don’t go too well for her. She also tends to get psyched out by Ana as Mizerka takes everything very seriously.

Next up is Doubt and since he’s Gammon’s rival you can imagine that he’s pretty solid. (For the most part all of the Orpheus Order members have a natural rival) He can fight which is handy and he always struck me as the strongest main member behind Freecell. By the end of the series it is strongly implied that this isn’t the case. Things actually get pretty dicey for Doubt in general in the second half. Still, I liked his confidence and as the tough guy of the group he served in his role pretty well. It took a while for me to realize that his name was literally “Doubt” though.

Then we have Melancholy who is pretty young compared to the other characters. Still, that isn’t to say that her talent is lacking in any way next to the others. She’s always confident and sarcastic aside from her final scene. I don’t think she really got any closure compared to the rest of the group so it’s a shame that Melancholy couldn’t have gotten one more puzzle battle. Likewise, Whist gets a lot of hype throughout but ultimately doesn’t really get to do anything at the end. He does have a lot of hype moments in between, but at the end of the day he didn’t have the breakout duel that you’d expect. The butler from season 1 was definitely more impressive in that regard.

Klondike is the head of the Orpheus Order so you definitely expect a lot out of him. His role is pretty small, but definitely very powerful. He instantly became one of my favorite villains in the series. The guy’s so good at puzzles that he reached Kaito’s level during his first time even trying one out. The guy’s potential is nearly limitless. He’s another character that I would have liked to spend more time with. I suppose there are just too many characters for them all to keep on appearing, but it’d be nice if he could appear again. I suspect this was probably it for him.

That wraps up the new villains here. Well, we have Ana’s sister, but she really didn’t add anything to the show. I didn’t even realize Ana still needed a backstory although I suppose maybe it was hinted in season 1? She has her big moment at the end of course, but for the most part she’s pretty forgettable. We do see the return of an old villain from the POG arc. I won’t say who, but his role here is pretty fun. Despite the fact that this guy is always whining, he can apparently fight as he actually takes down Doubt. It was definitely intense to see him again even if I don’t really get why the villains humored him for so long anyway. I suppose testing the villains’ loyalty and Kaito’s progression is always good, but I feel like there were other ways to do this.

Rook and Bishop may be on a quest to destroy all the puzzles of fools, but they do take the time to quickly show up here when Kaito is in trouble. Bishop never really gets to duel, but Rook has some nice moments. His tag team duel with Kaito was definitely pretty cool. It’s always fun seeing the old villain show up as more of a rival in the present. It’s a nice character development moment. It would have been nice to see Rook fight with Freecell, but I think that may have ultimately been too much for him. The other POG members show up, but only the celebrity member really gets to do anything. The rest just panic a whole lot.

From the supporting characters, Tamaki probably gets the biggest role. She has to step in as student body president and naturally the villains make a move. The season is long enough where there are several sections in the plot. At one point what the villains would do is go around mind controlling people. Tamaki ends up being one of those targets. Jikukawa as well, although his was a lot more epic. It made for an excellent cliffhanger when he showed up and challenged Kaito. The guy always had an interesting history as he was close to being a Phi Brain, but decided not to do so. I guess this was his chance to test all of that. I do think his plan to put on the ring was a little sloppy, but it all worked out in the end which is what counts.

From the Phi Brain children they mostly just get a role in the first half of the season. By the end they aren’t really able to help out at all and just stay on the sidelines. Ana’s role near the beginning is to annoy Mizerka and of course the whole thing with her sister. Cubik is heavily involved with trying to figure out how the rings work and Gammon tries to teach Doubt a lesson for involving his sister. They’re all pretty consistent with how they were in the first season. In that respect, Gammon’s the only disappointing one here just because he had such a big role in season 1. He was Kaito’s rival while now he is treated more like an underling. It’s clear that they are no longer on the same level. I suppose it was inevitable to an extent but it’s still a shame.

Nonoha still gets a big role of course as she is always ready to support Kaito. She also helps get Freecell to sort through his emotions in time for the final boss. She’s definitely an integral part of the story. Finally we have Kaito. As always he’s definitely a great main character. He doesn’t really suffer from the same levels of doubt he had in season 1. The mindgames still shake him up a bit from time to time, but for the most part he’s gotten past all of that. He’s now in a spot where he can just enjoy puzzles again. He’s definitely a fun main character and his aggressive nature towards solving puzzles has served him well. I’m glad he chose to do the puzzles without the armlet as well. In season 1 he basically surpassed it so that would have felt like a step back.

Naturally the soundtrack is still great as we have a lot of old themes that return. I do miss the classic samba type music that played though. I don’t even know what style of music it was, maybe Mexican? It fit really well for the tombs, but I guess with the change of scenery for season 2 the directors thought it wouldn’t be a good fit. Still, on the whole we get the rest of the epic tunes. Then for the animation it’s pretty consistent with season 1. The visuals are still nice and shiny. It doesn’t stand out too much in particular, but it all looks good I’d say. Most of these puzzles aren’t exactly made to look super flashy anyway.

I think one difference here compared to the first season which does hurt a bit is that it’s more up and down. I feel like season 1 was consistently excellent with high stakes while this one could fluctuate. At its best the hype moments were even better than season 1’s. The Klondike duel, Jikukawa turning evil, the big duels with Freecell, Rook jumping in, etc. These are all show stopping moments with how amazing they are. At the same time, then we have the episodes that feel like they’re just trying to buy time. These include moments like: Ana’s sister, Tamaki turning evil, the puzzle adventures on the island, etc. Not to say that any of these episodes are bad. They just feel like filler thrown in the middle to buy some for the villains to make another serious move. Since season 1’s episodes were mostly all introducing the characters and getting us to know them even the “filler” felt important. It’s a perk that season 1 has which is supposed to be countered by the fact that season 2 can just jump right in. It’s a good balance and as I mentioned before, the seasons are still very close.

Overall, Season 2 is definitely quite solid. I do like the idea of a villain group of geniuses. We do get some cop outs in terms of the whole group being Phi Brains, but the higher ups still delivered with the fights. Phi Brain will continue to succeed as long as they keep thinking of fun puzzles. Season 1’s were still more creative, but this season definitely had enough hype scenes to match 1. I look forward to seeing how season 3 stacks up. Who can possibly challenge Kaito and friends now right? Maybe there’ll be a super Armlet of Orpheus or something like that.

Overall 8/10

Reviews, TV Show Reviews, TV Shows

My Hero Academia Season 3 Review


It’s time to look at the third season of My Hero Academy. This is the best one yet and finally adapts my favorite arc of the series, the Bakugou rescue arc. Now granted, I consider this arc to start when the villains arrive in the forest and that it doesn’t conclude until after the All Might vs One For All fight. That may not officially be the case as it’s possible that these are actually 3 different arcs. If that is the case…well, it’s still my favorite chunk at any rate.

This season pretty much starts with that plot right off the bat. The heroes have gone to a secluded mountain to train since the villains keep infiltrating the school. The problem is that there still seems to be a mole within the school so this tactic doesn’t fare any better than the last one. The villains have arrived once again and aim to injure as many of the students as possible in order to further weaken trust in the heroes. Can Deku and the others stop these guys despite the professional heroes getting in their way at every turn?

It’s a great arc because there’s a lot of action right from the start and it never stops. Even though Deku and a few other select students have fought with real villains before, most of the class still isn’t ready for this. There are those who can fight and those who have to flee. It’s pretty tense all around and as expected Deku steps up to the plate. His fight with Muscular is quite epic and certainly one of the better fights. It does ultimately end up getting beat out by the All Might fight, but it certainly won’t be forgotten. It’s also always fun to see larger scale free for all fights as there are a bunch of villains and heroes in the area so it’s always hard to tell what’s going to happen next.

This also leads to one of Bakugou’s best scenes as he refuses to be tainted by the villains and prepares to fight them all off. The series has managed to completely avoid the trope of the rival turning evil and I’m glad to see him staying strong. That classic trope can be used really well and has been in many occasions but sometimes it’s nice to see the tough rival stay heroic throughout it all. While he didn’t stand much of a chance, Bakugou certainly wasn’t doing half bad for himself. His powers are pretty well equipped for a group fight, I like to think that he would have done some damage before going down.

Finally that leads to the big climax where we finally get to see All Might take on One For All. It’s definitely a battle that lived up to the hype. We’ve been waiting to see this match up since season 1 after all. All Might is as strong as a person can get and One For All has as many powers as he could find. It’s the ole quality vs quantity debate and as always the latter does tend to look quite impressive. I think it’s a case by case basis but I’m inclined to go for the latter at times myself. Still, it’s a very even match up.

I guess that leads to the only tough part for the season which is the fact that you really can’t top that. The fight almost should have been the final part of the season. Instead we get the start of the next arc right after it. The students are back to training and now they are going to meet some of the senior students. I’ll give the author some credit here, no matter how big the arc, he always brings the students back to the training grounds right afterwards. Even if it may seem a little anticlimactic, it’s consistent. It’s also not as if it gets boring or anything, you may just have a tough time taking the school seriously after a while. The series still tries to paint the other students as also being on roughly the same level and all, but you can’t help but feel that Deku and the rest of the strike squad have completely left them in the dust. Nothing beats real life experience after all.

The animation is basically the same as the last season. It’s very polished and all of the colors are very vibrant. It really looks like a new anime and I don’t think the animators took any shortcuts. It all feels like it’s at the level where the series should be right now. It’s actually fun to take a look at season 1 and you’ll see how the animation has really improved. It’s not something that you’ll notice week to week but it’s more noticeable if you look at it from such a big time gap. There are also a few new themes here including one that plays for the big All Might fight. It’s definitely a great track and continues the series on a high note there as well. None of the openings are quite able to beat the first one as of yet with the music, but the final opening of the season probably has the best visuals yet. With the next season bringing a lot of fights with it I’m also expecting a lot of fun visuals there as well.

Most of the characters are unchanged so I’ll mainly talk about the ones who had a big role here for better or worse. While most characters look pretty good here, I’m afraid that Ida was not one of them. In the last season he had his big run in with Stain which unfortunately gave him the wrong lesson. He now believes that the law is absolute and he has to obey it without question. While this is portrayed as being the right attitude for the most part I disagree with it as much now as I did back in the manga. It’s the same issue as in the movie. Ida is willing to let people’s lives be in danger as long as the rules are followed. As the students are now technically allowed to engage villains even in self defense, he believes they should stay at the hospital while the pros try to rescue Bakugou. It just shows where the limits of his friendship are and the others should definitely remember that. He spends the whole arc grumbling and holding everyone back. So, this is where I stopped liking Ida completely and he never managed to make it back. His character appears to be irrevocably ruined.

Meanwhile Deku is at his best here. He refuses to simply wait and quickly decides to go along with the others to save Bakugou. For something like this you can’t just wait and I’m glad that he went with the others. Deciding to go definitely helps show me which characters to root for in the future. It also certainly was good that the heroes went as things would have likely gotten very messy without them. Deku and Bakugou certainly stole the show in this arc. Meanwhile other characters like Kirishima and Todoroki continue to look good. They’re both around to help as needed and continue to keep up with the others in terms of ability. Others are doomed from the start with their quirks and will need to try and find a way around them.

This is also All for One’s big debut for the most part as he finally gets a role. He’s definitely a fun villain to have. He doesn’t waste much time trying to get the audience to sympathize with him. He just wants to throw the world into chaos and is going to do whatever he can for that purpose. He’s the complete opposite of All Might’s symbol of hope for the heroes. He sparks confidence in the villains. While he will likely be on the sidelines for quite a while, I wouldn’t be surprised if he returns at some point. Unlike All Might you get the feeling that he’s still got a lot more energy in the tank and probably has some contingency plans to put himself in a good spot.

Tomura’s allies also get some more screen time here. Dabi gets to use his blue flames and he seems like one of the stronger villains. He was even able to get the jump on Eraserhead. Then we have Toga whose shape shifting abilities are incredibly useful. The split personality guy definitely seems more crazy than being a real threat, but I guess just having him around will help a bit. We also get a tease on the villain for the next arc. This gangster is just as tough as he appears and his group will be appearing quite a lot in the next season. We also can’t forget about Muscular who is pretty much everything you could want in a villain. He’s very powerful and he’s got a lot to prove. The guy has a lot of determination and while he isn’t anything more than just a villain, he perfectly achieves his role in the story. He’s a real fun villain. My favorite one in the series will finally be showing up in the next season.

Mirio also appears at the very end. He gets a lot of hype and as he is a third year student you can see how he should be very skilled. His powers are a lot of fun and he definitely outshines the other students with ease. He seems like a fun character. I’m going to restrain myself on talking about the next season for him. I should only judge him on how he appears here after all. While I can’t say that I’m hyped for the next season it makes the ending to this one that much better. It got in as much as it could without going too far and holding the season back and that’s a very good thing.

As always the writing is top notch. As I mentioned, the season ends on a much calmer note than the first half as it’s about being at the school festival with class B and trying to save civilians. It’s fun to see the guy who voiced Kirito play a role as one of the new students. It’s a shame that we won’t be seeing more of him. It also makes sense that the author would throw the heroes in some missions like this one rather than classic beat the villain type ones since class A would be way overqualified here. There’s just no way that the others could keep up. That’s why I feel bad for Deku at times though. It’s tough to be constantly holding back around everyone. He’s just almost too strong.

Of course, we do get the big rematch between Bakugou and Deku in this season which really shows off my point to its fullest extent. Bakugou is very strong and aside from Deku I think he’s probably the strongest student in their class right now. The problem for Deku is that he has to try and keep up with Bakugou’s speed and power without going too far above it and actually hurting him. I remember in the manga a lot of people thought he would accidentally cause a serious injury to Bakugou by being goaded into using too much power at once. Fortunately that didn’t happen but that’s why win or lose it is definitely tough for Deku. Once everyone else begins to catch up to his level then it’ll be easier for him to fight normally.


Overall, This was definitely an epic season of My Hero Academy. As always the series continues to be super interesting and the world around the characters is just so vast and well developed. I also don’t think this season shall be surpassed since the next arc is my least favorite of the series. I don’t doubt that the anime will do the best it can with the adaption, but when the source material is no good then there is only so much you can do. Still, once it gets past that hump then we’ll be back in business. Although, we’ve only really had one true arc since then so we’ll have to see where it goes from there. As this is season 3 I’m thinking by now you’re either watching My Hero or not. If you aren’t, I guess you could start with season 3 but it probably won’t feel quite as much fun as it would be if you start with season 1 instead. This series does have a pretty tight continuity after all. As long as the production values continue to stay at this high level I don’t see MHA’s popularity declining anytime soon.

Overall 8/10

Manga

Astra Lost in Space


This is definitely a fairly obscure manga. It’s off to a reasonable start. I wouldn’t say that it is particularly exciting compared to most of the other big titles but it’s not bad either. I think the manga just needs its stride and then it can go to the next level. The question is whether it will find that stride in time. I’ll have a review for the series up when I have finished it.

Overall 6/10

TV Shows

Black Clover


Well, I have started the Black Clover anime alongside the Toonami viewers. It had a pretty solid start with the first episode. The animation and music appear to be on point and as the series goes on we should get many more fights and characters added to the mix. It’ll be a while before this series finishes, but I shall have a review up when it does.

Overall 7/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Psyren Review

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

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

There are a few rules. One: They just have to live through it. Two: Clear the daily missions. Three: Tell nobody. As long as they follow those 3 rules, they will be allowed to leave the game in peace. Of course, this is difficult since there are monsters everywhere as well as an evil organization that is bent on taking over the Earth through any means necessary. Fortunately, this world amps up everyone’s natural psychic abilities and you can gradually learn how to use it for combat. Along the way, a kid Ageha used to bully, a rockstar, and a random joe are brought to the world as well. Technically, a bunch of people are brought in, but the rest are all slaughtered almost instantly by the monsters. Hey, you can’t save em all right?

At first the manga plays out like a survival horror. The humans have no business fighting giant monsters and basically just have to run and hide. Anamiya is the only one who can fight them and even she can’t take on too many of them at once. If the series had stayed like this, it could have certainly gone for an Attack on Titan vibe. Honestly, it could have maybe worked, but I’m glad the manga shifted gears into full action instead. Once the characters all got powers and the monsters were phased out in place of humanoid opponents, the manga truly began to excel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yusaka is technically a pretty minor villain as he doesn’t appear much, but he was a pretty critical traitor against the heroes so he was memorable. He takes down a lot of humans in a rather brutal action scene and proves to be a lethal opponent. He’s not really my kind of villain, but he made for a good fight scene. While his design isn’t as impressive as most of the villains, it makes sense since he is basically just a human.

There was a group of kids in the future who were the last defenders of humanity. They were a pretty fun bunch and all of them got some good screen time. Frederica is a fire expert who’s extremely confident and she always managed to live up to the hype. I’m not sure I’d call her the strongest member despite her boasts, but she’s definitely fun to have around. She’s effectively the leader of the team. Marie is the nicest member of the team which also happens to mean that she is basically the weakest. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really a fan of hers. She’s not a bad character, but rarely seemed to help out all that much. She did contribute of course, but I would have liked to have seen more action from her.

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

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

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

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

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

The series could get pretty intense like the massacre inside the government base. You couldn’t help but feel bad for the government the whole time since they were just so out of their league but they kept on trying anyway. At the very least, you have to admire their commitment. We even got the cops involved at one point as they try to arrest Ageha, that was fun. There’s a lot to like in this series which is why it’s a shame that it never hit 20 volumes.

Overall, Psyren is a fun action series. It won’t go down as an all star like Dragon Ball Z or Kenshin, but I’d say that it did a really good job. The idea of fighting in the future is always a good one. Reborn! probably did the best job with it, but many titles have pulled it off. The action was large in scale and Ageha readily embracing his dark abilities was nice as well. It’s a shame that the series ended so suddenly since it still had quite a lot of potential left in it. Sometimes we just don’t get to see it all though. That’s just the way it goes. I’d definitely recommend checking this manga out. It’s pretty epic and I’m confident you’ll like it if action is your genre of choice.

Overall 8/10

Manga

Yugioh Arc V

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This Yugioh manga may have succeeded in making the most changes out of all its predecessors. I’m always glad to see it have a brand new plot since it makes the manga more exciting. That being said, I don’t really like the new personality they gave Shay. While the manga doesn’t look to be as exciting as the anime, it’s very early on and is a solid title regardless. After all, Yugioh duels in any context are awesome! I shall have a review for this series once it finishes.

Overall 7/10