Bleach: No Breathes From Hell Review

Bleach has always been known as one of the greatest manga series of all time. Whether you’re looking for a quality action series, a deep look at the supernatural, or just want a cast of fun character then Bleach would be the place you turned to. It was the best member of “The Big 3” but had nothing ongoing once it ended. Well, this one shot seems to spell good things for the future of the franchise so I’m pretty hyped. The title may not sound quite right and fan translations switch it up a bit but I’ll go with the official translation on this one. Interestingly Viz cuts out the mention at the end that this is the Hell Arc which is in the other versions. It’s part of why I’m 100% confident this is starting a new arc since the raw seems to use that term but only time will tell I suppose.

It picks up well after the end of the series. Ichigo has become an editor now and is trying to support his friend’s cafe when he gets a call from Renji. The Soul Society is holding a barbaric ritual where they slaughter some Hollows at a specified place in honor of the fallen Ukitake. Ichigo points out that this seems suspect at best but decides to tag along. Pretty much all of the big shots will be there and so it’ll be a fun way to catch up with his old friends. What Ichigo doesn’t realize is that there is more to this ritual than it may seem at first glance.

It’s hard to talk about plot much beyond that because unlike a stand alone one shot, this one is meant to lead up to a new series/arc or at least it plays out that way. A good chunk of the chapter is about the supporting character chatting as we see a lot of new and old faces. Things are going pretty well in the Soul Society but can peace ever last? Then we learn the dark secrets about this ritual.

See, since Soul Society is completely corrupt, whenever a Captain dies in battle, they hold this ritual to send him to hell. Granted, most of them don’t actually know that this is happening but I’m not surprised that the Soul Society implemented this. The World Government, Hidden Leaf Village, and Soul Society are all corrupt but you could easily make the case that the Soul Society is the biggest culprit of the 3 in terms of being caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

They torture and run live experiments on their prisoners of war, they murder their own people, they have aristocratic families who have literally paid off the justice system and sweep murders under the rug, They intentionally segregate the world into an area for the rich and one for the poor, etc. The Soul Society are consistently portrayed as evil if you ask me, but the main thing is that they aren’t as bad as the Hollows which is why you’re supposed to root for them. They were even going to seal Ichigo away at the end of Bleach after all so you can’t trust these guys.

So when this chapter brought in more twists about them I can’t say that I was surprised. It was the natural conclusion to their overall actions. Still, since it is now coming to the forefront I would like to see some change within the system itself. There’s a lot of potential here for an arc in Hell. It also seems like things may be dicey for the Captains. As the one shot explains it, all Hollows go into Hell of course but beyond that, any Soul Reaper with the power of a Vice Captain or higher that dies goes in there are well. So the Hollows likely outnumber the Soul Reapers since they are going to have a lot of Espada and Vasto Lords in there. I’m pretty excited for those fights once Ichigo steps in.

Unlike some series endings, Ichigo didn’t lose any of his power at the end of Bleach. It seems like he’s back to having one sword but I wouldn’t assume that makes him weaker. So when he goes into Hell I’m expecting him to take some big names. He’s definitely not going to take this lying down. The one shot ends with a pretty direct cliffhanger so I’m hoping we get a formal announcement soon. There’s just so much to look forward to.

The chapter itself doesn’t have much fighting since this is mainly set up. We do get a quick skirmish though and I was glad that Ichigo was able to hold his own. Renji got speedblitzed but when is he not getting wrecked right? It made sense that he would go down rather quickly because that’s how it always is with him. There’s a reason why Renji hasn’t really risen up the ranks much. If the villains were able to beat Ichigo then I’d be a little more doubtful since that would be a huge power jump. A weakened Ichigo after fighting 4 Espada fights back to back was Captain level in Arc 2 so right now he should be stronger than the combined might of Soul Society.

The art is pretty good as always. Kubo always had top tier talent in that area and it really looks like he has not missed a beat. The writing was solid and the whole chapter really flew by in the blink of an eye. It’ll take a long while to get used to all of the new characters’ names though. The cast was already considerably large and it looks like that will continue with this series.

Ichigo and Renji’s kids haven’t done a whole lot yet. I expect them to get decent roles but it does look like the grown ups will still be the main characters and I’m definitely all for that. Let these guys grow up a bit more first and then I think they will be ready for the main spotlight. Until that time they can just wait it out on the sidelines. There’s nothing wrong with being on the bench after all.

Overall, It’s good to have Bleach back. Not just for the memes and “We’re back guys!!” posts everywhere but because the series was just a blast. If this new series/continuation can keep on going with the consistency of the original series then I’d say we’ve got nothing to worry about. I suppose it’s a good time to relive your favorite fights as we gear up for this.

Overall 8/10

Spirit Photographer Saburo Kono Review

It’s time to look at a one shot that recently came out from the Promised Neverland author. In theory if it does well enough then this will get picked up for a whole series. I can already see the kind of vibe they’re going for so this would be something like Neuro or Hell Girl. Based on how the first chapter goes I’m sure we’ll have quite a few tragedies occurring here on the regular before we transition into the more antagonistic spirits. I can’t say that it grabbed me though. This isn’t a series I’d be particularly interested in but due to the anthology format it is going for some volumes would likely be better than others.

The story here is about a boy named Sota who has been rather depressed as of late. His next door neighbors are always moving out every few months because of a ghost that supposedly resides there. One day a suspicious guy named Saburo shows up while Sota’s mother is out. He says he is a photographer and forces Sota to accompany him to the haunted apartment. He then has Sota give him the full history of the place which is basically that a lady used to live there until she committed suicide. Sota asks why he’s needed anyway and that’s when the ghost shows up. It is the lady and for some reason she is after Sota.

This is just a one shot so I feel like there’s no such things as spoilers. Either you read it or you didn’t. So if you haven’t then skip the next few paragraphs or just go and read it before reading the review. Not much point in reviewing a one shot but skipping the plot right? So here’s the plot twist. Sota tried committing suicide so the lady stopped him but ended up slipping due to the rain and fell out of her apartment. Sota then kept quiet and let everyone believe she simply tripped. The ghost was just the lady saying she didn’t blame him so Saburo took a picture and she moved on. See, Saburo is a spirit photographer so he takes pictures of the spirits when they get to finish their business. He makes it a point to say that he’s not an exorcist so he doesn’t handle evil spirits or anything like that. I think this already implies that they will appear soon. I have a few problems with the story though.

The first is rather superficial but I feel like Saburo will need some work before he becomes the main character here. Granted, if this is like Hell Girl then he will show up in every story but won’t really be the main character. Still, the dynamic doesn’t work as well. He is portrayed as very shady and he did completely force the kid to go to the haunted hallway under the implied threat of violence. This is going to be our main character? The guy’s design and actions scream villain. You can certainly have a character like this to subvert expectations but I really don’t see him working well as the lead. Certainly he has less charisma than almost any other lead I’ve seen. Seriously, read chapter 1 of almost any other manga and I bet they’re a better character. So he needs work.

Next, the whole anthology string of tragedies isn’t going to work for me either. So we’re already starting with a indirect murder/suicide attempt? The whole thing’s pretty tragic for the lady who was just trying to help out. It doesn’t do wonders for Sota. He’s just a kid of course and I expect he would never appear again but this just isn’t a strong first chapter. Aside from being tragic there just isn’t much to this. There’s no big incentive to keep on watching because the premise itself just isn’t very interesting. What helps Hell Girl out a bit is that she acts as the punisher and sees that vengeance is carried out. Now, that’s a series that I doubt would get high marks if I reviewed it because of how dark things get, but at least it’s an interesting angle. Then Neuro quickly went full on action which was exciting at least.

There’s no way to guess how this one would progress so I can only go off the pilot. Suffice it to say, this is not a pilot that would really get me interested. There’s not a whole lot more to say beyond that. I wouldn’t say the art is particularly good but it’s basically the same as the Promised Neverland so if you liked the art there then you should be good here. It works well enough for the horror atmosphere I suppose but it doesn’t flow as smoothly as a lot of the other titles on the block. I imagine the author will continue to improve as the series goes on though.

Overall, We’ll see if this ends up becoming a series. I’m not really pulling for it, but if it happens it happens. It’s not like it’ll be a bad thing if it does, but I’m hoping for more action type titles. A lot of the other recent jump titles look more interesting so I’d be hoping that those continue to go strongly. Pilots usually end up being quite different than the actual series though so we’ll see how it’s restructured. My personal recommendation to the author would be to change the main character’s design and for the camera stories either go for more of a Yotsuba type of adventure with the spirits or have Saburo take a more active role in the adventures rather than scaring people for kicks. If you start out with smaller cases first that would make sense. Due to the nature of unfinished business though, I imagine a lot of the would turn out rather dark like this.

Overall 5/10

Hunter X Hunter: The Last Mission Review

It’s time to look at the final HXH movie. The first one was definitely pretty fun and it was nice to see Killua take the lead. This one has a more traditional plot and more action and does pass the first film for me. I do think there are some missed opportunities here but the teasing for fights that don’t end up happening is pretty accurate to the show I suppose.

The film starts with Gon and Killua heading to the battle tower to cheer on their friend Zushi as he prepares to fight his way to the top. They meet up with Biscuit and Zushi’s trainer and the fights have apparently attracted a lot of top players as well. The royalty that Kurapika has been assigned to protect is also in the audience so naturally he has accompanied her and even Hisoka and Netero have decided to come and watch. Everything appears to be going well and nobody would dare attack with so many big shots but Leorio finds out that this is not the case. On his way to the tower he is taken down by a group of villains and then they take control of the tower. Netero is being restrained on the top floor and everyone else is being held hostage. Gon, Killua, and Kurapika are the tower’s last hope now.

Right away this movie definitely feels more on the high budget side than the last one. I think the animators definitely enjoyed the first scene of Gon dashing around and grabbing the balloon. It seemed like an animation showcase kind of moment and the colors are definitely extra bright. As a result of the smooth animation Gon and Killua also look a bit younger than usual, but they are kids so this does make sense. I definitely enjoyed the animation here and it really does stick out for the fight scenes. They’re nice and fast which is always a good thing to have.
There may not be as many fight scenes as I would like but Gon and Killua’s teamup was excellently done and the climax with the main villain was also pretty solid. It’s a clash of energy for the most part and seeing Gon in a movie exclusive form was neat as well. The villains are fortunate that this wasn’t late Chimera arc or Killua could have definitely ended them all with his Godspeed.

There aren’t really any themes here that didn’t show up in the show at some point. The show themes work pretty well though and we get to see multiple endings too. The themes work well for the scenes and are definitely solid. The film goes by pretty quick and the pacing is definitely solid. It does lead me to the film’s only weakness though and that is how the film ends before a lot of the characters actually get to do anything.

Now, this may be intentional as the series is known for teasing the fans, but the movie brings a lot of characters here to not actually do anything. Hisoka, Biscuit, and Zushi’s teacher are big examples of this. Hisoka shows up to make a lot of threats and talk tough, but by the end he is having fun just being a coach of sorts and decides not to take any direct action. Surely the film could have added one more member of the group whose purpose was to get eliminated by him right? Biscuit and the teacher can also fight so it was a bit iffy to see them just stay as hostages and not do anything. They fight some random minions at the end, but that doesn’t really count for anything. It’s not the kind of thing that ultimately hurts the film’s score, but I think the film would have been even better if they could have done something.

Meanwhile, at this point in the game Killua and Gon are way ahead of Kurapika and Leorio and I’d say that the film does acknowledge this. Kurapika’s abilities are pretty versatile, but because of the conditions he has placed he is only really deadly against the spiders. The bulk of his abilities don’t work on other enemies so at that point he has to rely on his pure hand to hand skills. He does a good job all things considered and healing is important as well, but he wouldn’t have a chance against the stronger villains. Tactics are still his strongest suit though and it was good to see him figure out to get to the control room right away. That being said, his strength against Uvogin was pretty good and I believe that wasn’t part of the chains so if he still has that level of ability I think he could have done better in the fight.

Leorio definitely doesn’t look great here. At first when he mentions his nen I thought we were going to see him actually fight, but in the end all he gets to do is block. He still helped out in his own way, but I was waiting for him to do more. He still looked better than Netero though. Netero’s fans should not be pleased as he gets caught in a really basic trap and spends the whole film being helpless. Even when he finally gets ready to fight all he can manage is a stand still. I think he was pretty nerfed in this adventure if I’m being honest and I was expecting more out of him. For all his tough talk you’d think that Gon surpassed him here.

Meanwhile Gon is definitely still pretty obsessive like in the Ant arc. He gets pretty intense about never forgiving the villains once they attack Netero and fights with a vengeance the whole time. He’s quick to embrace the darkness to try and save the others. His quick determination to do whatever it takes is good and it’s something he embodies more than a lot of the other Shonen leads. At the same time he’s also a lot more selfish and once he gets a goal he is fine with ditching his friends to accomplish it. Turning over to the darkness should have destroyed him if he was anyone but the main character. While I don’t think he thought all of this over too well, he definitely did good in a fight.

Killua is the true star as expected though. While Gon surpassed him temporarily with his real conditions mode, Killua has always been a step ahead for the most part and the film does a good job of showing this. While Gon is definitely stronger, Killua does have the speed advantage which is really useful in a fight. I felt like he could have beaten the villain pretty quickly if not for the location and the fact that the villain was only fighting with Gon for the most part. He was basically ignoring Killua the whole time. Killua is definitely the perfect ally to have around as well since he’ll do his best to protect everyone the whole time.

As for the villains, they’re not a bad bunch. While the film does give them an origin story it was pretty brief. The main villain Jed is definitely the best one. His dark powers are cool and he had a pretty solid plan. The fact that he can fight Netero on even ground is definitely not something to be taken lightly and he was holding the heroes at bay pretty well. The kid who dies early on didn’t really get to do anything so I can’t say much about her.

The other villain who got the most development here would be Geki. He likes a good fight and is one of the more honorable villains. He’s definitely got legitimate strength and does a good job hanging in there during his big fight. Zushi definitely didn’t stand a chance against this guy even without his fancy powers. Shura is more of a tactical villain, but he definitely has some moves as well. While not as cool as Geki he does round out the villain group pretty well.

Overall, The Last Mission is definitely a solid HXH film. It definitely feels a lot more like a classic Shonen Jump film than the last one. Getting everyone together and then bringing in the big fights is all you really need to have a quality experience. I do think the film should have given the characters more to do though. I’m also extremely skeptical that all of the floor masters would lose to these guys, dart or no dart. They should all have crazy nen abilities of their own and part of the point of Hunter X Hunter is that you never know what to expect before you fight. At least one of them should have had an ability that would have won the battle. While you might have to suspend some disbelief for the power levels, I’d argue that this is the case for most anime films. It’s a fun ride through and through so I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

Overall 8/10

Cross Game Review

It’s time to throw a baseball review into the mix. Cross Game is really the only manga about baseball that I’ve read and it’s pretty fun. You don’t need to worry because the actual sport gets a lot of screen time and that’s how it should be in a sports manga. It doesn’t take itself quite as seriously as many of the other sports manga that I’ve read. Prince of Tennis, Slam Dunk, Whistle, etc. They were all pretty serious and Eyeshield 21 still managed to keep the stakes a little higher than Cross Game. Does Cross Game’s attempt at mixing Baseball and humor work? It’s time to find out!

The plot for the first part of the series is mainly about Ko as he learns what it means to be a great pitcher. He becomes pretty close to Wakaba and things are going pretty well. She wants him to win the big tournament so Ko’s going to make sure that he does this. After all, who doesn’t want to become the world champ for that age division? (Actually, this part is only 1 volume. I thought that it was around half of the series for some reason, but it’s a lot shorter than I thought. Well, I guess Wakaba and the early adventures with Ko were very memorable then!)

The plot for the rest of the series is more or less the same. Ko still needs to become the best pitcher that he can be, but the pressure’s really on now. It’s less fun and games and Ko can’t let down his guard for a second! His team has gotten a lot more talented and Azuma has helped to make their offense a contender as well. If Ko’s ever going to make it to Koshien, it’s going to be in this tournament. It’s do or die and there is no going back now!

Ko is an intriguing main character. He’s definitely pretty unique compared to most other leads like Naruto, Allen Walker, Goku, etc. He doesn’t want to be the very best Baseball player because he loves the game so much. (Although he really does love Baseball) He needs to throw an extremely fast pitch to impress Aoba and he needs to make it to win the final tournament to fulfill a promise that he made to Wakaba. So, unlike most other leads, the stakes are very high from the beginning. After all, he can’t make it to the big tournament once he graduates from the school so he only has 2-3 tries to make it all the way. Because of this, Ko continues to train hard day in and day out. He tries to keep the atmosphere light, but he can never be quite as chipper as his teammates on the inside.

He ends up being a pretty likable main character. He can joke around a lot, but it’s mostly to keep team morale up and to put up a solid front. He does also get into the romance subplot for the majority of the series and that can be a distraction from his pitching. Luckily, he’s still pretty good. Ultimately, he’s a nice guy and Ko is serious about winning at Koshien. He exercises vigorously every day and he never loses sight of his goals.

Aoba is arguably the main heroine. I would say she is since she’s around for both parts of the series and she’s especially important in the second half. She has a rivalry with Ko in the sense that they are both pitchers. Aoba gave up her dream eventually since girl teams became harder to find, but she still took the time to practice and trade techniques with Ko. Aoba definitely played a big part in how Ko became such a great player since he learned from her stance and technique. Aoba mostly resides in the role of game manager as she finds out a player’s strengths and weaknesses. She’s typically pretty gruff with Ko and the two of them keep up their rivalry for the whole series. Both of them were pretty close to Wakaba, which likely helps in this regard. Aoba challenged Ko to pitch a 100 mph fastball back when they were kids and that helped to jump start the whole series. She’s a pretty good character and probably one of the best members of the cast. (Who else could knock out a criminal by throwing a baseball from a moving train?)

Akaishi is one of the main characters and he’s a good person. He becomes a catcher to help Ko fulfill Wakaba’s final wish and he does a pretty good job of it. He does fall into the whole romance angle a lot easier than the other characters, but he manages to resist it for the most part. He hasn’t totally gotten away from it, but he tries. He’s one of the few characters who knows how personal the Baseball games are for Ko and he’s always someone that he can count on. His role never becomes as large as it could be though.

Azuma is probably the best batter in the series. He starts out as Ko’s biggest rival since one hit can make or break the game for Ko depending on the situation. Azuma always has a chance to hit a home run so he shouldn’t be underestimated. He ends up joining Ko’s group for the second part of the series, which makes their team almost unbeatable. He likes Aoba, which can cause tension between him and Ko. It’s a professional rivalry though so they don’t spend their time trading insults or trying to back stab each other like you may expect from a movie or something. They both do their best to reach their goals without trying to sabotage the other. They’ll let the playing do the talking! Ko badly needed a rival in this series so it was good to have Azuma on board. He’s a decent character. I don’t care for the romance part too much of course, but at least he’s a good player and he definitely doesn’t mess around. (Unlike Senda)

Senda is the main source of comic relief in this series. He flirts a lot and he seems to think that he’s actually a great baseball player. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The heroes don’t even try to humor him most of the time. Things never end well for Senda, but he stays pretty chipper about the whole situation. I definitely wouldn’t mind if he wasn’t in the series though since we don’t need more flirts. At least he never does anything really drastic though so I can let him slide for the most part. His comic relief stays classy and that’s always a good thing.

Wakaba is one of the big players in this manga. Her story is definitely one of the more emotional ones, but she was pretty optimistic through it all. She was a nice person and she definitely helped Ko to excel. She doesn’t really play Baseball, but she’s still pretty influential to the series in other ways. Her name probably pops up more than all of the other characters. As with most of the other characters, Wakaba was a good addition to the series.

An intriguing plot point develops when a girl named Akane moves into town. She looks exactly like Wakaba and the same goes for her mannerisms. The similarities are uncanny and this can definitely be dicey for the main characters. It also helps to provide the Wakaba plot with some closure, but it’s safe to say that she wasn’t quite as good as Wakaba. They were a little too similar so you end up thinking of Akane as a poor substitute for the real deal. That being said, Akane doesn’t do anything wrong and she’s still a pretty good character. I definitely prefer Wakaba though.

As you can see, Cross Game has a pretty good cast of characters. Senda can be a little annoying and the same goes for a certain truck driver, but nearly all of the other characters are pretty good. If there was a character who could have been a lot better, it would be the coach. He’s very old and wise, but he’s just not as enthusiastic as the other coaches from your average sports manga. I would take the coach from Whistle any day. Being able to play is also a key factor and that’s something that this coach really can’t do. He has an assistant as well, but she never really gets a role in the story. There are definitely other members of the team that I could mention as well, but they’re mostly just here to fill in the ranks. I will say that the coach of the main rival team was a lot better than our coach. He was pretty sinister and he’s an antagonist, but he has personality. He really took the games seriously and he always got upset when his team loss. It’s what you would expect from a real coach and the (not so) subtle insults from him are a nice change of pace from the polite cast of characters. His shades also add an extra dimension of coolness for his character.

The art is very clear and easy to read. An argument can be made that it is a little too basic, but for a Baseball manga maybe that’s okay. It doesn’t look bad and you can always tell what’s happening. I won’t deny that a more intense looking art style like Prince of Tennis or Eyeshield 21 may have helped the series a little more, but the artwork here fits the tone. One problem that I have with it is actually the number of reused facial expressions and panels in the series. It seems like the author can only draw a handful of different facial expressions so every member of the cast gets to try them out. There are whole panels that look exactly the same and the dialogue is only subtly changed. I’m sure that it saves the author time, but maybe it’s intentional. Some of the gags rely on the fact that the panels are the time so maybe it’s a mix of saving time and allowing the panels there for joke reasons. The series has a lot of comedy undertones so it’s always possible.

Cross Game is certainly more emotional than the other series based off of a sport. It also manages to balance other genres like comedy and romance while giving the Baseball games a lot of screentime. It’s a little tricky to do all of that and I wouldn’t have minded if they cut down on the romance and comedy a little more. Keeping it as a Baseball themed story with some drama would have been interesting. The romance was just a ltitle too much of a focus. The rival likes the main heroine and the main character is conflicted since he sort of likes the heroine, but he also likes someone else. He can try to move on, but is it the right choice? There’s also tension because the catcher liked one of the main characters and we can’t forget about Senda. Essentially, all of the main players liked someone so there was always some kind of romance plot in the air. It’s handled in seriousness sometimes or just played for laughs. The series jumps from both genres a whole lot so it can be hard to tell at times. It is what it is though and Cross Game did a decently good job considering. If you’re going to have romance then at least do it in a professional manner and that’s what the series did. They didn’t waste time with random fanservice scenes and the series should be proud of itself. It managed to jump past a hole that most other series fall into quite a few times. The series got close to 20 volumes, which is pretty impressive. As with Bakuman, the series goes by in a flash and it’s hard to imagine that it went on for so long.

So, how does it stack up against the other sport manga? Well, I may have already hinted that it’s not quite as intense as some of the others, but let’s be direct about it. Cross Game isn’t quite as good as Whistle, Prince of Tennis, Eyeshield 21 or Slam Dunk yet. (Granted that I’ve only read one volume of Slam Dunk, but I thought that the start wasn’t bad) I prefer those series because they are a lot more fast paced and the sport action is really intense. They feel like Shonen Jump titles and they can even hold their own against battle manga like Naruto and Bleach. Cross Game just isn’t that kind of title and it doesn’t try to be. It’s still a pretty fun read though and it’s more about the overall experience than the excitement. You won’t get a rush from reading it, but you’ll still enjoy the experience. It’s a manga that leaves you feeling happy and that is definitely a good thing for any title.

Overall, Cross Game is definitely a fun read. From start to finish, it’s an enjoyable experience and it’s something that you could recommend to anyone. The story is very accessible so it’s something that the mainstream crowd could enjoy as well. (Provided that you like Baseball) The characters were all fleshed out and it’s a fairly deep experience for a Baseball manga. The story never drags out either and I definitely wouldn’t have minded if the author had continued for another 5-15 volumes. I do think that the artist could be lazy with the dozens of reused facial expressions and panels, but it may have just been an artistic choice that didn’t go over very well with me. There aren’t a whole bunch of characters in the story since you don’t get to really meet a lot of the opponents, but that’s all right. As long as the main characters are solid, then that’s really all that we need. I definitely recommend checking this series out!

Overall 6/10