Zero’s Tea Time

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This latest spinoff to the Detective Conan series is pretty fun. It’s definitely a more slice of life type series than the others with no actual villains or anything, but it’s a pretty good look at the inner workings of Zero’s life. The guy is definitely pretty busy. I’ll have a review for the series when it finishes, but I imagine that this could be a long while from now.

Overall 7/10

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Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

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It’s time to look at Solo, A Star Wars Story. It’s certainly been getting quite a lot of mixed reception and a lower box office report than its creators had been hoping for, but it’s still a fairly good movie. It’s nothing great or even all that original but it executes the fairly basic plot well so that’s good enough for me. I was definitely hoping to see more Lightsabers and Force usage though.

The film starts off with Han and Qi’ra hanging out on a rather tough planet. The inhabitants all have to work for a large worm which is naturally no fun. Han decides to escape but Qi’ra hesitates too much and is left behind. Han swears to come back for her someday after he gets a ship so he can fly back to the planet. A few years pass and now he is close. He just has to help a few bandits steal some cargo to pay for the ride. Does he have what it takes to accomplish this?

Now, I know there were quite a few people who weren’t hyped for this film because Han’s voice seemed rather whiny and not quite like a young Harrison Ford would act. Well, I think he does a good job. The voice may be a little hard to take seriously for a while but as long as you don’t look at him as Ford and just focus on the character then it works well enough. Han gets a good role in this film and does certainly get his credit when it comes to his piloting skills. Han also doesn’t shy away from a fight or a game of cards and is always thinking up a plan. He is a well rounded character but one whose plans don’t work out as much as he would like. Often times I would argue that it isn’t really his fault when they fail though. I’d take him over Luke Skywalker any day and considering that he is an ordinary person with no Force abilities, Han deals a lot of damage in all of his fights. Even in his skirmish with Chewy he put up an impressive fight.

Then we have Beckett who is the leader of the rebels in this film. They aren’t to be confused with the official Rebels group. They are just people trying to make a difference for themselves as they grab lots of money. Beckett embodies this creed quite well as he doesn’t trust anyone and basically confirms that nobody should trust him either. All he cares about is the money and that part is rather impressive at least. He is very straightforward about what he is doing. Beckett also nearly finishes off Han when they first meet by calling his bluff.

Qi’ra is definitely an interesting character. You will probably have a good guess as to where her character arc will go as soon as she reappears as the lieutenant to the main villain. Good that she escaped in one piece of course, she must be pretty skilled at surviving. She’s a solid character who knows how to fight and that’s always a good ally to have. How you feel about her will certainly depend on what you think of her final choices. Again, they were expected so it doesn’t really hit you as hard as it otherwise would have, but it does hurt Qi’ra’s chances of being one of the best characters. A certain scene where she decides to confront someone with a sucker hit at the end did feel a little forced. The only reason this would make sense is if she really wanted to land the finishing blow herself for personal reasons as otherwise the guy was already going to lose. Her decisions seem to leave her in a pretty bad spot for the sequel as well so hopefully she has a plan for that.

Chewy gets a large role of course and he’s all right as per usual. He gets in a lot of roars and does his best to help out. He is around a lot but there isn’t really much to say about him besides the fact that he is the Chewy we all grew up with. I’m still waiting for his fight with Kylo Ren by the way. Of course we can’t forget about Lando. He has always been a big part of the Han mythos ever since he appeared in the original films and we learned that they had a history. Considering how their partnership plays out here I’m not too surprised that he wanted to get even with Han. It just turned out to be in a very serious way. Meanwhile the main villain is okay but strikes you as one of those guys who is basically all talk. Once it actually comes time to fight he goes down fairly quick. I would have liked for him to have looked a little more impressive during the big fight for sure. His weapon was pretty neat though so that was good.

The visual effects for the film are pretty good as you would expect. As this is an older film (in the timeline) there aren’t a lot of energy weapons being used so the film can’t show off its visuals as much as it could have. Still, what we did see was nice and smooth so I’d say that it was all on point. There isn’t much of a soundtrack though. It would have been nice if they could have used the tune from the first trailer. I thought that one was really solid.

I’d say that the writing was also pretty good. The comedy didn’t usually feel forced and the witty banter lived up to what it should be for a Han film. I won’t say that it was amazing but it was maybe a little better than expected and that’s always a good thing. It helps that the film had so many confident characters to play off of each other. Pretty much all of the characters talk a good game until put in their place.

Overall, Han is a solid film. It has a fun cast of characters and a lot of action to keep the pacing pretty tight. The plot evolves as the film goes on so it doesn’t stay stagnant. Really the only thing to say against it is that the movie can be very by the numbers. At times you can definitely imagine seeing scenes very similar to what you are watching and the plot twists are pretty telegraphed so there aren’t any real surprises. Well, as long as the film executed the plots well then it’s fine if we’ve seen them before and I think the film does a good job with that. I’d recommend checking it out at some point.

AaOverall 7/10

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Review

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It’s time to take a look at the Crystal Chronicles. Final Fantasy has had a lot of different game lines over the years and they all seem to perform fairly well. You’ve got Tactics, Chocobo, Crystal Chronicles, The Rhythym music games, and the main line. By completing this game I have finally been introduced to another segment of the series but it certainly pales in comparison to the classic style.

There isn’t much of a plot in this game but I’ll give you the general premise. You start out by picking what kind of job you want to have and in turn what kind of creature you are. After that you travel with a little circus troupe as you purify the world of Miasma. To do this you must go to each area and take a drop from the Legendary tree. You get to the tree automatically by clearing the level and beating the boss. Eventually you will be able to reach the final stage where you must successfully defeat numerous phases of a final boss until you save the world. There are a bunch of subplots and lore that you will run across over the course of the game as you meet with new people. It’s luck based on when you encounter them so just keep running back and forth in the overworld until this happens. One such plot is a black knight who is going around beating people up. From what I could gather, the big boss known as Raem has been eating his memories which is making him go crazy. There’s also a mysterious little fellow who is always lying and stealing whenever he is around. Most of this is filler as you can guess. You never even get to fight the Black Knight even though he is mentioned and hyped up quite a lot.

The gameplay is that of a 3D action title. You hit opponents with your sword/staff or fire off some magic bolts at them in real time. This also means that you can dodge their counter attacks. By all accounts this should be a real good decision on the game’s part since who doesn’t like fighting in real time? Well, it is good but not all that great. Your hits never feel like they have a lot of weight behind them. It’s a more limited version of the .Hack style. Still, it works well enough in the game and nothing is more satisfying than walking into a room with a bunch of enemies and still managing to pick them all off. Divide and Conquer is crucial here.

I think what really hurts this game at times is how much the multiplayer aspect of the game is stressed. You’re meant to play this with a few others as everyone takes a different occupation and you go through the world. You can do this on your own but then it’s like playing the game 4 times over. You also better make sure your allies are as strong as you since the game stacks the difficulty up accordingly for each player. I played solo and can assure you that it took a lot of grinding to get through the final boss. I had to bear virtually every level twice and a few levels for a 3rd time before I finally got strong enough win. Part of the reason why it takes so long is because it doesn’t go by a traditional level up system like most Final Fantasy titles. Instead you obtain artifacts at the end of each level and you choose which one to keep. This will give you a +1,+3 for one specific stat. There are 3 stats in the game, Attack, Defense, and Magic. Alternately sometimes you can choose to get another heart or another command slot which is essentially a quick select for spells and Phoenix Downs. I highly recommend the latter 2 so unless it’s vs a +5 or something then it’s the best bet. You can’t get any artifact twice so only replay each level a few times. Eventually there will be no artifacts left so you’ll be wasting your time. You only get a new memory from each area once every 3 years so you could replay it for equipment, but it’s usually best to do both in one shot so switch up the areas as best you can.

Also, the equipment is very important here aside from the artifacts so try to get yourself a master class weapon and at least a Mythril level Defense & Belt. That’s like getting multiple upgrades so it will save you a lot of time. Getting to the final boss only took around 10 hours, but it took around 5 more hours to get to a level where I could beat him. As it so happens with many RPG games like this one, by the time I grinded high enough to beat him it seems like I went overboard so I didn’t even have to use any of my Phoenix Downs. I ended with about 20 extra, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry right? The bosses can be tricky so you just want to figure out what the best approach is. The game isn’t very straight forward so sometimes it will be handy to look online to see what you need to do. For example you need to use Cure on the memories in the final level to unlock your super attacks and the minions only respawn in the second last phase if you beat both so just take down one of them. Be warned in the final phase that you can accidentally heal the boss with your cures so definitely try to avoid that.

I dare say that the game’s biggest weakness here is the plot. You can make a case for the terrible level up system as well of course, but you really expect a dynamic plot from Final Fantasy. Sure, we get little cutscenes before each level as a narrator talks about how great the places used to be, but it’s just all very dull and boring. The actual characters have no personality and everyone is just going through the motions. There is never a sense of danger at all and the game simply isn’t cinematic, but at the same time it isn’t colorful like a Nintendo game either. It’s like playing a game full of exposition with nothing ever coming out of it. If you look really hard at the mini cutscenes and optional side quests then sure you’ll probably understand the lore, but there’s still nothing epic about it. I want a real plot, whether it be a slice of life one like in Sword Art Online or an end of the world adventure like Sonic The Hedgehog 2006. At least give me something.

There is a good amount of content here so I can’t really critique the game on that aspect. You can keep playing this game for a very long time if you want to get all of the artifacts. Especially since you won’t know what the level’s mission is until you beat it and that affects which artifacts you get. If you want to see the mission then you need to get your GBA ready and connect to the game. Again, they put too much of an emphasis on this connection part if you ask me. If the game had decided to be a little more self contained then I really think that it would have ended up being a whole lot better. Instead it just limits itself. I can’t see myself going back to the game for any of this, but if you really enjoyed the experience then go for it.

The graphics aren’t very good, but it’s mainly because of the artistic direction that the game went in than with the actual effort. The character designs are on the chibi design and none of the creatures look particularly threatening aside from the final boss. At least that guy seems pretty intense and it’s a monster design that is memorable. Unfortunately the soundtrack isn’t particularly good either. I can’t think of a single good theme in the game and that’s really a bad sign. Final Fantasy is known for its stellar soundtracks so I was actually rather surprised that this one didn’t hold up so well.

Overall, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles really wasn’t for me. The gameplay isn’t bad, but I did have an issue with the level up system and the sheer amount of grinding to beat the game. I’m not usually opposed to grinding, but when your upgrades depend on luck and the game doesn’t tell you much then it can be rather annoying. It becomes a bit of a chore to play the game once you enter the end game as even the old levels get buffed to the point where the enemies are stronger than the ones in the final dungeon. Throw in the fact that the plot was so weak and there isn’t much reason to play this RPG. If you want a good action game then check out Legend of Zelda. If you want a big plot experience then play a main Final Fantasy title. There’s just no room for the Crystal Chronicles and I’m hoping that the Wii game is a little more fun.

Overall 5/10

Handa Kun Review

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It’s time to look at the prequel to Barakamon. It’s about Handa before he became Handa-San and was instead known as Handa-Kun. It’s definitely an interesting take on the franchise and with a whole different cast and setting you really could think of it as a whole different part of the franchise which could have lasted a while. The series didn’t get too many volumes but it was a fun ride.

The story follows around Handa back when he was in school. These were the days before he became a calligrapher and right now he is lacking in self confidence. His only friend Kawafuji mistakenly told Handa that nobody liked him and thanks to a bunch of tricky circumstances Handa has convinced himself that this is the case. Well, Handa has decided that this year he will make friends but things never seem to work out the way he had hoped. Perhaps this goal is impossible. Meanwhile, the rest of the school idolizes Handa and misinterprets his actions in a good way each time. The problem is that Handa never seems to notice then. A few select schoolmates band together as the Handa army to try and protect him at all costs. Can they succeed?

This series is a full comedy as opposed to Barakamon which mixes in some drama at times. Of course the school setting may have tipped you off to that. Comedy titles have to be careful how they use the jokes as some will just end up shouting themselves in the back like Assassination Classroom. Fortunately the jokes here are pretty solid. Mainly the humor comes from everyone taking every action in a way that was not intended. Handa may glare at someone and his army will take it as a cue to beat that person up while Handa dashes out of there since he doesn’t want to mess with the ruffians. While outlandish at times, the misinterpretations can usually make some kind of sense and the series is usually self aware about the ones that don’t. There is one character who acts as the straight man until he gets corrupted and while that person is never needed if you ask me, he wasn’t as bad as he could have been.

Handa can definitely hold his own series as he has proved before. He’s a nice guy who means well even if it doesn’t always end up working out for him. He is certainly naive to the extreme and definitely isn’t a people person, but Handa always tries hard which is what counts. His friend Kawafuji tries to get him to make the wrong move by not accepting the helmet at the end, but Handa sees through this. While the story can be tragic beneath the humor, Handa does ultimately get a happy ending.

The first member of Handa’s clique is a kid with glasses, Aizawa. Aizawa is a genius who scores really well in tests but realizes that it isn’t actually something to look at too deeply and memorized the names of everyone in the top 100. He never lets his guard down and is a natural fit as the leader of Handa’s group. He eggs everyone on and may be the most zealous member of the group. At the very least he never doubts Handa or his lifelong calling of being in the army either. He’s a pretty fun character.

The next member of the team is the ex thug Akane. He left school for a while and felt like he would always be doomed to be a delinquent until Handa showed up. Handa showed him the error of his ways and in return this guy became a solid bodyguard that Handa could count on. It is nice to have someone on the team who can actually fight so he is definitely a valuable member to have. He isn’t quite as fun as some of the other characters, but he is amusing all the same.

Then we have the fashion model Reo. Everyone always insults his looks but he aims to be the best someday. He definitely gets to become one of the main characters after he joins and does help the overall dynamic. Reo is probably be the weakest member of the group and doesn’t have as many running gags as the others though. His rivalry with White School was also the least interesting.
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Fake Handa is probably the supporting character who was really unneeded. I’d go as far as to say that he may have been my least favorite. It is a nice idea to have a character who looks just like Handa, but the fake teeth may have been a bit much. I get tha the problem with having an exact duplicate would be telling them apart at times, but I feel like the teeth ruins the gag. The gag is a huge part of this character so after all of that he really isn’t left with anything. Dash doesn’t get to do much either but he was never supposed to be a big character here. He just shows up occasionally for a race but that’s about it. He never joined Handa’s club either and really just sees himself as a quality rival. He’s a fun character to have and I just wish he could have gotten one last race.

Towards the end of the series we got introduced to two rival schools that compete with Handa’s group. First is the White school who has their own king like Handa. Unlike Handa, Asahi acknowledges his subjects and strives to be a perfect person that they can admire. Unfortunately, this also means that he has to endure a lot of pressure as he tries to keep up this act. It’s an act to the extent that it requires effort but for the most part he seems like a nice guy either way. Asahi’s entourage is also like a twisted version of the Handa army as they each have a similarity. The leader is easily the best member of the group as he gets some solid dialogue and a lot of good character moments but the other characters aren’t bad either. He made for a good rival in the series even if he was so late. The rival to the glasses kid was also pretty good although he was shown to certainly not be quite as smart as he just repeated what other characters would say.

Then we also had the Black School which was filled with a lot of hardened fighters who also liked to have a good time. They show up to stop Handa, but run into the white school in a confrontation that would certainly be worthy of a Shōnen title. They didn’t actually get much in the way of character compared to the others since they only got to appear for a chapter or 3 but they were solid in that brief amount of screen time.

Kawafuji is Handa’s main friend from Barakamon but he doesn’t look particularly good here. He is the main reason why things are so chaotic for Handa since the lead took his joking a little too seriously. He also tries to grab the crown at the end of the series even though he definitely didn’t deserve it. You can interpret the scene in a lot of ways like maybe he was just trying to get Handa to finally see what was going on, but to me it felt like he was seriously trying to make a play for the crown there. Not a great move and throughout the series it was hard to root for him. Maybe if he had gotten to appear more that would have helped his case.

Eraser is probably the most intense member of the group as she will actually go ahead and tie up anyone who even gets close to Handa. She definitely isn’t playing around and doesn’t even get involved with the comedy hijinx like the others. She is here to guard Handa, not to be his friend. There’s a big difference here compared to the others.

The Librarian Club President is one of the last characters to show up and her role is fairly small. It’s a happy yet tragic role which is always tough to balance. To get Handa’s attention she is convinced to start ordering a bunch of books instead of just the ones that Handa likes. Unfortunately this ended up backfiring because now everybody was using her library and Handa had to avoid it since he still believed that the whole school was out to get him at the time. That’s the tragic element but because of that the library became an overnight success so that helped her future which is a positive. This was also a great way to help her get over Handa.

The art is pretty solid as you would expect. All of the character designs are on point and it’s easy to read through the pages since they are never cluttered. It’s definitely top level stuff for sure. None of the characters look too similar until the final chapter’s time skip which is good since that’s probably the most annoying thing that a series can do. In theory it should always be easy not to make two characters appear to be twins unless it is plot related.
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Overall Handa-Kun is a fun title. You can really think of it as a mini series that supports the main one. It’s a prequel that actually makes sense to read before the main title and will make you appreciate the title even more as opposed to prequels like AoT Before The Fall which has nothing to do with anything. It shows us more of Handa’s past and why he generally had a tough time making friends. It goes to show just how much character development he has gotten over the years as now he can hold a conversation without a problem. It is too bad that he couldn’t see the school gang one last time though. While he did get a cameo on the island at the end, it just would have been fun to have seen how modern Handa would interact with them. With his newfound confidence and their maturity I’m sure it would have worked out well. I’d definitely recommend checking this series out. It’ll give you a good insight as to how school dynamics play out when you have gangs and celebrities in the same class. It’s also a good example of a comedy series that was actually really good.

Overall 7/10

Sword Art Online Calibur Review

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As I am currently playing through the Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet game, I figured that I should finally go and wrap up one of the spin-off manga titles. This one shot is based on the mini Asgard arc and has always been known as a relatively weak story. Unfortunately the manga makes it even worse by adding in a ton of fan service so you can probably already tell how this review is going to end.

The manga starts off with Suguha letting Kirito know that some players have finally found out the location of the hidden sword Excalibur. The heroes had found it about a year earlier but because they were so slow the rest of the world caught up. Kirito has to form a group of 7 people in order to conquer this quest but it may prove more dangerous than expected. If the heroes don’t complete the mission quickly than the whole virtual game will turn from a happy fairy based one into an apocalyptic ice land. Fortunately Kirito is up to the task.

This is Sword Art Online so I should probably bring up the unfortunate fan service right away since we all know that it’s coming. The manga sets the tone for how this is going to play out right from the beginning as the very first panel on the first page is a fan service shot. The author even mentions at the end that he added more than usual. It is constant enough during the volume where it probably happens every chapter. Some of the scenes are totally made up for the manga and really don’t help the overall case. It really limits what the rest of the manga can hope to accomplish.

At least the general art looks pretty good. The characters are very detailed and this translates well into the fight scenes. The quality here is high so it’s too bad that this artist couldn’t have picked a better arc than this one. Of course, this manga also has to have a quick flashback to a certain scene in arc 2 just to fit that extra bit of fan service in. So, very solid art but it’s used for scenes that really don’t help the overall manga.

Fortunately Kirito is a pretty solid main character as per usual. He comes up with the plan to save the day and even uses a new skill that is game breaking. He is always surpassing his limits so it should really come as no surprise. Even when everyone tries to mess with Kirito like putting him on the spot by asking if he would pay for the meal, Kirito takes it in stride. He was happy to pay and comes across as a solid team player.

Klein unfortunately looks about as bad as ever. He is still a very desperate character who will try to ask out a computer program and he is also super weak. The guy doesn’t even work well as a comic relief character but he does help to make Kirito look even better. That always seems like the real reason Kirito keeps him around. Klein just can’t go one page without humiliating himself.

Sinon gets the biggest role from all of the heroines. Unfortunately the author uses it for the wrong reasons at times but at least her fight scenes are solid. Since her bow and arrow skills are double that of the usual max, her weapon is actually pretty overpowered. Her reaction times are likely second only to Kirito’s here so that is very useful as well. Considering that she has apparently had the account for a day (if I recall correctly) Sinon must have trained a great deal.

Leafa is around just to feel bad for the creatures getting destroyed by the other players but doesn’t do much beyond that. If anything she can be a little on the annoying side since she knows about the Asgard myths but conveniently forgets about them until right after the fight. Asuna, Lizbeth, and Silica don’t actually get to do anything. They are basically just here to fill up the party.

Then we have the main villain who is certainly a terrible character. He’s a very sketchy villain whose goals are terrible and so there is absolutely nothing to root for in his character. There is also the prisoner who has a big plot twist which does not help her character. That’s because her actions up until the plot twist are extremely manipulative and she was basically using the heroes. Certainly not a very nice thing to do if you ask me. Not that it would have been much better without the twist but the character was having too much fun with her role. The plot twist is pretty obvious but the manga does a good job with it since the characters are self aware about it. They all know the twist but decide to play along anyway. Even then they only play along because Klein essentially forced them into doing so.

I think the only positive change that the manga did was give Sinon an extended fight. At the very least I don’t recall that happening in the show. It’s not much, but it shows that the manga did something right. With the artist’s skills he/she should still do well in a future SAO manga provided they focus on fight scenes and not adding anything else that would be tragic for the manga’s score.

Overall, This was definitely not a good SAO volume and it doesn’t do this wounded franchise any wonders. It just continues to make the same mistakes that the franchise has always made. It had great fight scenes, but is bogged down by all of the fanservice. I’d recommend just sticking to the original Sword Art Online manga instead of checking this one out. You’ll thank me for it someday.

Overall 4/10

RWBY Review

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It’s definitely pretty interesting to review the manga before the show right? Now that season 5 has ended I will start working on a RWBY review very soon. It’s going to be massive though so it won’t be up for a long time. The show rose out of nowhere and suddenly became one of the all time greats. Now you see the franchise everywhere so it makes sense that the manga has come to America. Unfortunately, it does feel a little like a cash grab, but it does give some of the earlier shorts some more context and even changes a few things for kicks. It’s a fun enough volume since I’m a huge fan of the franchise, but I still can’t call it a great manga. Perhaps we will get a new ongoing RWBY series soon which will work a little better.

The volume starts off with 4 individual stories. They each adapt the original RWBY character shorts. The Ruby one is naturally a lot of fun since it’s just her beating up the Grimm for an entire chapter. That’s still a very iconic RWBY short and the manga adapts it well. While I’m not a huge fan of the artwork, the artist does show up for the fight scenes. Weiss’ story also shows up and we learn that the giant Knight from her special was actually a suit of armor that a Grimm was possessing. It was a test to see if Weiss would be allowed to leave and she passed it with flying colors. It had more dialogue and more of a plot than the Ruby short so I would consider this chapter to be better.

Next up we had the Blake story. Adam doesn’t look quite as good as in the show since Blake needs to save him and in general he doesn’t look as skilled, but I’m used to most of the community not liking Adam. He’s still one of the best characters in RWBY, but more on that in the show review. It’s another fun story with a bunch of action. Finally we have the Yang chapter. It’s the best of the shorts and also the best prequel chapter here. It’s basically nonstop action with Yang beating everyone up and reminding us why she is the power hitter of the group. This all leads into the main arc for the manga volume.

Team JNPR is sent off on a mission to stop a giant Grimm and they leave early to show off. Team RWBY catches up to them and the teams take on the 8 Headed Dragon. It’s a pretty hype fight with a lot of teamwork and we’ve never really gotten to see all 8 heroes fight a big creature like this. We did have a similar fight in season 1 against two monsters though which is likely the approach the story was going for. It’s another solid action story and then it basically ends with a small tease for all the events that would happen in the show. The manga is essentially just a quick spinoff story so you can see the characters in a new situation and the prequels were adapted perhaps for any manga reader who didn’t watch the show. This way they would know who the characters are.

I do wonder if the manga was originally going to be one volume or not. It just seemed like it would be an ongoing title while reading it. The first 4 chapters set up the various characters and their subplots. Torchwick showed up a few times during the original story which felt like obvious foreshadowing as well. I feel like the author was either planning to start adapting the show again after the original story and it just didn’t happen or he was going to do his own thing. Either way, the ending was so abrupt that it just feels like something is missing. It’s a shame that it was only 1 volume because there are so many more scenes that could have been made. Since RWBY only gives us about 3-4 hours of content per year, there’s not a whole lot of time for bonus fights and extra plots. Having an ongoing manga/comic/anime series to run alongside it would be really cool. I guess this manga just isn’t the way that was going to happen.

Perhaps the artwork ended up hurting it a bit in the long run. The art is actually quite bad. Most of the characters are off model the whole time and their designs are not on point. Nobody really looks like how they should and the art is just rather cluttered. There doesn’t seem to have been a whole lot of effort put behind the manga. Again, I feel like this manga was really just made for some quick cash or to get more awareness out on the series. If it had been given real art then this could have ended up being known as one of the all time greats. Instead, it limits the series.

It’s still a good volume though and I don’t regret pre ordering it. What the series lacks in artwork it makes up for in fights. Every chapter has a bunch of action and the fights just don’t stop in this volume. The action just keeps on going and going as you would expect it too. The characters are still likable although that’s likely just because I know their personalities from the show. It’s not as if there is really any time for development in this volume before it just ends. It’s simply building off of the show’s legacy. There’s not too much more to say without regurgitating the same points over and over again.

At the end of the day, it’s just a fun manga. Maybe part of this was intentionally trying to recapture what made RWBY popular in the first place. It was just a series of shorts with great, tightly choreographed fight scenes. There wasn’t much of a plot, but the specials still had a lot of character. You could learn a lot from the characters by their design, facial expressions, and movements. They didn’t need dialogue and much in the same way, the manga doesn’t build on the characters. You just know that they mean business from the way that they fight while also having carefree attitudes outside of combat. The manga decided that you don’t need to know any more than that and just launches you into fights from there. Jaune fans will likely be saddened by the fact that he doesn’t do much here, but at least he got to appear. A bunch of characters couldn’t make it in before the volume ended.
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Overall, Watching RWBY before reading this manga will allow you to enjoy it a lot more. If you haven’t seen RWBY, then I will still recommend this volume, but it’ll come off as extremely bland and rushed. Just look at the image above. You can see how much the manga foreshadowed, but I suppose it’s just an advertisement for the show. You’ll essentially not be reading this for the plot and you’ll just want to focus on the action. You may have some questions on what is happening and why it’s happening, but the book has a little guide at the beginning to help newcomers and at the end of the day you shouldn’t overthink it. The concept of a school training people to fight monsters is pretty basic and even if you don’t know the technicalities you should be able to get the manga’s drift. So, without the RWBY factor then you can drop this review one star. It’s still a positive score though and I eagerly await whatever RWBY product is next.

Overall 7/10

Handa Kun

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It’s time for another spinoff although this one is a direct prequel. It’s about Handa back in his school days and as always he is having a tough time fitting in. As someone who was never the biggest fan of the village setting I can definitely see this one passing the main series. Of course, it will be a little limited in what it can do without causing issues in the main title, but there’s still a lot of room to explore here. I’ll have a review for the series when I finish it.

Overall 7/10

My Little Pony: Legends of Magic Volume 1 Review

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My Little Pony has always been one of those franchises that most people judge instantly. It seems like a show for little kids with happy creatures that you can’t take seriously. It is a kids show, but one that’s well written and has a lot of quality episodes. As I’m about halfway through season 1, I can finally consider myself a part of the fandom. Now I’ve gotten to read another MLP comic and I’d certainly say that this is a good one although I definitely found myself missing the Main 6. There are 6 stories and each one is a self contained adventure although the series is hinting at some kind of plot getting ready to develop with the scholar who is reading the stories.

The first comic is a story about Princess Celestia and Luna from their Pony days. Celestia apparently was still a bully even back in her youth and picks on Luna a lot. She reminds Luna of her previous failures and points out that she will never be proficient in magic. Luna tries to show Celestia that she is wrong and opens up a portal, but it takes Luna away to a dangerous place. Celestia goes along with the Wizard to save her, but it’s a treacherous journey and her power alone may not be enough to win. It’s a pretty fun way to start the comic although it solidifies the fact that I will never become a Celestia fan. She’s just so mean throughout the comic to the extent where it’s hard to believe that she becomes one of the Princesses. It’s easy to see how Luna turned evil for a little while if she had to put up with this every day. I’ve always been a Luna fan so I’m glad she finally gets her due respect in the modern episodes. Her magic eventually did become more impressive than Celestia’s.

Our next story takes us to good ole Rockhoof, a legend among his people. He was a Pony who stood up for what’s right and defeated many powerful adversaries in his day. This story takes place after the legend most are familiar with and he is invited to join the army. He does, but gradually begins to put on a lot of weight as his fans take him to many dinners. He is then too weak to defend the kingdom from a powerful monster and begins to wonder if friendship isn’t magic. The other characters confirm this so he goes back to his rigorous training and makes it in time to stop the giant monster on his own. He finally realizes that hanging out with friends is all right, but at the end of the day you can only count on yourself. It’s a pretty reasonable story and while I would have liked a fight as opposed to words being enough to stop the monster, it’s a resolution that I can get behind. I’d like to see Rockhoof show up in the present at some point.

The next story was quite a bit weaker than the first two. There once lived an old nanny who liked to traverse the wilderness. One night, she noticed that a kingdom was being attacked by animals and no work was getting done. She decided to broker a treaty between the two which is fortunate since Luna had been sent out to deal with the threats. Not officially, but Luna noticed unlike all of the others and would have certainly beaten the animals on her own. Instead, friendship prevailed and Luna altered the Kingdom’s plans so that it wouldn’t interfere with the wildlife. Even back then Luna was a more benevolent ruler than Celestia. The story wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite as exciting or action packed as the first two. The old lady also didn’t make for as good a main character as the other ponies.

Following that adventure was the original Wonderbolts as they struggled against a Tornado. This tornado was going to rip through the lives of many griffins, but the Ponies were declined access across the border. The Griffins wanted to deal with the problem themselves so the Pony commander decides to let them all die. The other Wonderbolts can’t agree this and quit so they can help out without causing a big war between the two species. It’s a pretty noble gesture and I always knew the ponies had it in them. The commander looks pretty bad, but don’t they always? It’s a good adventure even if it’s not the most interesting one. Again, it’s a comic without any of the old characters so you do miss them quite a bit. Rockhoof’s story pulled it off, but it is a difficult thing to do for sure.

On the next adventure we meet our first Egyptian pony. She was known as one of the wisest ponies in all of Equestria and she solved all of her problems without the need for violence. A pretty impressive feat when you consider how unruly and dangerous most of Equestria was. One day her kingdom was being attacked by a large snake so she decides to deal with the issue. She’s a pretty great main character and a step up over the last two stories. She may even be the best main character in the book. It’s a fun enough story and who doesn’t like seeing a giant monster show up? This is one character who would definitely fit right in with the Main 6 if she ever met them. A pacifist is always welcome in Ponyville and especially one with Twilight Sparkle’s intelligence.

Finally, the last story was about a bunch of Pony zombies. This may seem a little out of place in the happy world of My Little Pony, but again, you can’t let looks deceive you. A wandering healer happened to be passing by and decides to cure the Ponies. Unfortunately they aren’t too grateful and make fun of her one liners. Ah well, everyone’s a critic these days. The hero didn’t have a whole lot of personality this time around, but she seemed nice enough. Someone you would want to have in your corner at any rate.

So this was a good batch of My Little Pony stories. It’s always good to expand the universe so having a whole comic series dedicated to this is pretty clever. That being said, the main plot could easily overshadow the stories if the series isn’t careful. It ends in a cliffhanger with the kid trying to find Twilight so that could be intense if it’s played straight. I don’t like that guy, but I guess he didn’t really do anything wrong in the comic so I have to cut him some slack.

As always the writing is solid. These stories could easily have been boring or simply bad if we had a bunch of crude humor and bad characters to bring the story down. Fortunately this wasn’t the case as everything was on point instead. The stories were able to develop naturally and at worst some parts would just be a little rushed since all of the stories had to end rather quickly. They never drag on though and most of the characters seemed pretty reasonable. If you’re going to make a trade paperback about new ponies, they’ve got to be good and the comics did good there.

Unfortunately, the art isn’t very good though. In fact it’s actually pretty bad at different points. It comes across like a cash in although I’m sure they put a lot of effort into the comics. The art just feels unfinished which is a little regrettable. It’s still clear though and you always know what is happening so it’s far from the worst case scenario. It’s nothing that would seriously hurt the score or anything like that. Hopefully it does improve as the series goes on the artist gets more used to the characters.

Overall, I’d recommend checking out this graphic novel. It may not have the Main 6 and can feel like filler at times, but the stories are good. It’s a pleasant enough read and you’ll find yourself blasting through the pages. I would even say that it does beat the main ongoing comic so that’s definitely pretty impressive for a spinoff. Hopefully the library gets more MLP adventures soon so I can check them out. In the meantime I can be satisfied knowing that I’ve learned more about the world and its history.

Overall 7/10

Sonic Forces: Speed Battle Review

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It’s time for the latest app game that I decided to check out. Given that Sonic Forces was basically hype confirmed I was thrilled to hear about the mobile app. On the surface Sonic Forces is just another free runner so there’s nothing really special about it. Sonic already does have a free runner game when you think about it and that one has many more levels and characters. At the same time, I’ve never played any of those before so it all felt fresh to me. It’s definitely a fun game but one with diminishing returns unlike Pokémon Go which only gets more enjoyable as you level up. It’s a fun game but one that won’t last for very long.

There is only one mode, free run. If you were hoping for 1V1 battles or mini games/a story then you’re out of luck. Every race brings 4 random racers together and you race for the goal. 1st Place will give you around 10 trophies and it typically takes 500 to level up. As you can see it takes a lot of races to level up towards the end and especially when you are fighting tougher opponents who won’t let you take 1st. You start out with 2 stages to play on and as you level up you unlock better stages and better rewards. The rewards are the points you get towards unlocking a specific character. It’s randomized and the characters are divided into rarity tiers so you’ll see how eventually you will have far more cards for characters like Sonic than Metal Sonic for example. Since this is the only mode in the game you will want to really enjoy it.

The game suffered from bad connection errors for a little while but eventually it was able to fix itself. Now there are no issues with the gameplay which is certainly good since that is the entire game in a nutshell. There is definitely a lot of skill involved as you jump over obstacles and slide under others. You want to optimize your run and figure out the fastest way to clear a level. Given that you will be playing the stages very often, that shouldn’t be hard at all.

There are three different levels in the game. The first is your user level. Upgrading this will help you with rings and your special attacks will be stronger. You get the exp for it by leveling upyour characters. Second is your online level, this is what gets you the better loot boxes and allows you to play more stages. You level this up by winning battles online. Finally there are the individual character levels. You beef these up by getting their cards from treasure chests. They amplify the character’s abilities by a small amount but it’s enough to rip the scales your way. As far as I can tell each character has 16 levels total. I can’t confirm that of course as I don’t have anyone who is over level 8 but it’s based on a little guide they have in the game on what you unlock with each level. I’m sure the exp requirement skyrockets by the end so only the most serious of players, or the ones who pay a bunch will reach that point.

The graphics are really sharp. The character models are really well done and the backgrounds are a blast. It at least does feel like a lot of effort went into the graphics. I also enjoy the music but it’s just the one theme which can be a bit repetitive at times. It’s the inspirational version of the main Sonic Forces theme so it’s fitting for any fast paced race I’d say. They should definitely add more themes in as you level up though. Each stage should honestly have its own theme and I can’t even see how that would be tough to implement. Shouldn’t they just grab the songs they need from Sega and put it in?

There’s definitely a lot of replay value to the point where it’s infinite but how fun is this replay value? After all, there’s no point if you’re not going to try and collect everything. As I alluded to in the intro, the game slowly loses the joy that it had from the start. I think the biggest detractor is how you will actually lose points once you level up if you get 3rd or 4th which is unfortunate since the competition does get a lot stronger do it will be tough to get in the top 2 after a while. The sheer repetition of playing the same level over and over again will get to you. If you think about it, most mobile games effectively have you doing the same things over and over again but they cleverly mask this or the gameplay is so fun that it doesn’t even matter. You can say that Pokémon Go is incredibly repetitive but at least it is also a blast at the same time. That’s not to say that this game isn’t fun though. I think it’s the kind of game that is best in small doses. Just play a few races every day and you’re set. I’ll give it some props for being lenient on how long you can play as well. Some games have an energy meter so you can only play a certain amount each day. Fire Emblem has that but it’s so lenient that it barely ever matters. Forces limits how many chests you can get in a day, but that’s all. You can keep playing to your heart’s content.

Overall, Speed Battle is a good app. I think it’s definitely a title that you can have fun with for a little while. I don’t think you will enjoy it quite as much if you’ve played any other free runner though as then this one won’t even feel fresh from the start. Even aside from the fact that there isn’t much variety in the gameplay, I’d at least like for the rewards to be more reasonable. You’d have to win hundreds of races to get to one of the higher levels and I just can’t see myself doing that. It would be such a large time commitment and at the end of the day these apps are fun for playing a little here and there. Not for big play sessions. I’d recommend checking this game out as it is free and all so there’s really nothing to lose but don’t expect the game to hold you over for very long. That’s just the kind of game it is and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is a lot of missed opportunities here though. (No Infinite?)

Overall 7/10

Rurouni Kenshin Side Story: The Ex-Con Ashitaro Review

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It’s time to take a look at the 2 chapter oneshot sequel to Kenshin that came out. This serves as a set up to the ongoing sequel coming out so you definitely want to check it out to stay current. It’s a pretty fun series and the two chapters really go by quickly. It starts off with two prisoners being released. One guy is named Ashitaro and he was arrested for dining and dashing. The other guy is Aran and I forgot exactly why he was arrested but they got him for years. A mysterious girl shows up when they are released and claims that Ashitaro has her treasure. They used to both work for the same villain organization but Ashitaro ran off. He claims not to know anything, but it could be the sword that he buried a while back. Aran decides to help Ashitaro out in retrieving the sword and living a normal life after prison, but are these two fighters strong enough to take on a villain organization?

Since Ashitaro is the lead here and will likely have a big role in the actual series, it is imperative that he is a likable character. I think he’s pretty good at any rate. He reminds me of Tyson’s counter protagonist in the Beyblade manga. Ashitaro is a pretty good fighter but he’s also rather basic and doesn’t really think about anything. He just likes having a good fight and can dish it out with the rest of uis. Second to none is food for him though. He’ll eat anything and isn’t picky. He’s certainly no Kenshin, but he is the real deal when it comes to using a sword. I’ll definitely be glad to see him return.

His partner Aran is a lot less impressive. For starters, Aran can’t even fight. That brings up a lot of red flags right from the start. I also can’t say I care too much about his half American heritage and hopefully it’s not a big plot line. I guess it could lead to something cool if it turns out that his American relatives want to take him back by force or he’s related to the villains but we don’t really need the human sidekick right now. He could certainly be much more annoying than he actually is though so I’ll stay content with that for now. The writing is sharp as always which really makes a difference for characters like this.

There aren’t really any other big characters at the moment. I suspect that the girl may become a big character at some point, but we’ll see. The one shot villains here are fairly generic, but serve their roles well. I have to give some props to the first villain for still being able to talk even with a sword through his head. That guy definitely has nerves of steel. The other villain with the oil weapon was pretty strong as well, at least when put up against the main characters. I’m looking forward to seeing how much fun the real big villains are.

If you were worried about not seeing Kenshin or the rest of the old cast, don’t worry about it. They show up briefly and Kenshin definitely has a great role. It’s nice to know how much time has passed since the end of the main series and it is mentioned here. It hasn’t been too long of a gap so fortunately everyone should still be able to fight at a high level. The ending shows us that the whole cast is getting ready to go to Hokkaido so that’s sure to be a pretty epic arc. I’m expecting a lot of big things there.

The art is exceptional, but that almost goes without saying. I’ve really missed the Kenshin style. The action has a lot of depth and the speed lines really make it look extra impressive. The action scenes were great and as I mentioned the writing is pretty sharp. I can easily see the sequel being a top tier threat to all of the other manga titles once it actually comes out or is scanned.

While Ashitaro’s sword is cool, I think he’s going to need another one almost immediately. In the story it is bent out of shape and badly burned so unless he makes this some really unique combo starter where the shape actually helps him, I can’t see the big villains being very threatened by the kid. I could also see him getting it repaired and if so, Kenshin’s master needs to appear. He never got much closure so this could definitely help. I wouldn’t mind if the sequel also has a brief timeskip so that we can gloss over that part and also have Aran learn some fighting off screen. Then the series will be set.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out. After all these years, we finally have Kenshin back in business. Hopefully the series really lasts for a long while and that it doesn’t jump the shark. Sequels don’t always have the best of reps, but I think this one is going to be one of the best sequels on the block. Hopefully these chapters come out with volume one once the series is licensed so fans don’t have to try and track these chapters down. How I see it, the set up/prequel to the sequel should always be included.

Overall 8/10