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Bleach photo

Bleach live action teaser trailer promises some big sword action

Death and Strawberry
Jul 07
// Red Veron
We finally get to see a teaser trailer of the upcoming live action adaptation of Bleach after news of production and filming late last year. This live action adaptation is directed by Shinsuke Sato, who directed the live act...

Japanator Unboxing: Loot Anime - Blade

Dec 10 // Red Veron
Loot Anime is a monthly mystery subscription box featuring items related to your favorite anime and manga. There will be 4-6 items with each box, about $60+ in retail value, licensed, and most are exclusive to Loot Anime. If you are interested in signing up for next month's themed box for next month, use the code "JAPANATOR" for $3 off first your order at Loot Anime!  
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A Cut Above
When I found out that one of my favorite anime was to be one of the featured goodies in this month's Loot Anime, I was beyond hyped and was super excited when it arrived in my mailbox. The lovely folks over at Loot Anime HQ ...

Japanator Unboxing: Loot Anime - Demi-Human

Oct 06 // Red Veron
The anime and manga featured in this month's "Demi-Human" Loot Anime box are One Punch Man, Tokyo Ghoul, Twin Star Exorcists, and Bleach. Check the video above for a guide to the items in the latest Loot Anime and check out the gallery below for some close up pictures of the items! Loot Anime is a monthly mystery subscription box featuring items related to your favorite anime and manga. There will be 4-6 items with each box, about $60+ in retail value, licensed, and most are exclusive to Loot Anime. If you are interested in signing up for next month's "Delicious" themed box for next month, use the code "JAPANATOR" for $3 off first your order at Loot Anime!
Japanator Unboxing photo
Less than Human, More than a Monster
The latest box of anime goodies from Loot Anime just smashed its way to my mailbox and it is all about "those part human, part something else entirely". Loot Anime's latest theme comes to us just at the right time of the yea...

Long Lines and Good Times: A Visit to Jump Festa 2016

Dec 23 // Josh Tolentino
Long Lines and Good Times: A Visit to Jump Festa 2016 As my alarm clock goes off at 6:00 am, I'm abruptly taken away from the dream I was in; attending one of the biggest anime expositions in Japan: Jump Festa. “Today's the first day of Jump Festa! I need to grab the train to Chiba now or I'll be late!” I exclaimed. And so, my journey began. But before I continue, I'll briefly go over what Jump Festa is. Since 1999, Shueisha, the creators of the famous Jump magazines, sponsored the event Jump Festa to focus solely on anime, manga, games, merchandise, and alike. In addition, many manga artists also attend the event and have panels along with Q&A sessions. It's difficult to find data revealing the number of attendees for each year of Jump Festa, however, the latest one reported by Mantan-web revealed attendance figures of 145,000 for 2014 – 11,000 more than in 2013 and a bigger attendance size than AnimeJapan. Assuming the trend continued this year, this year's event could have up to 167,000 fans through the doors. Jump Festa having an admission price of just $0.00 (yes, free), definitely adds to those rapid growth prospects. Now that the introduction is out of the way, we can now move on to Jump Festa 2016. As I sprint out the kitchen with a piece of toast in my mouth (I'm in Japan; I had to!), I catch the JR Yamanote Line at Ueno Station to Tokyo Station, then transfer to the JR Keiyo Line to Kaihin-Makuhari Station. After a two-hour journey (which includes the delays I had on the train), I finally arrive at Makuhari Messe, the venue where Jump Festa has been held for over a decade. [embed]34622:5287:0[/embed] “You've got to be kidding me.” I thought as I looked at the excessive lines (yes, that's plural!) leading to the entrance. A little over an hour later, and somehow being able to guide myself towards the front, I was finally in – but then, there were more lines, and it didn't look like an exhibition hall at all. That's when I realized I actually entered the Jump Festa sale zone, where they sell original goods and limited edition items. The area was huge and attendees were separated by groups. Each group was set for a specific anime or manga series, which included the limited edition goods. However, those groups also had lines. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a glimpse of them due to the overwhelming amount of people. Interestingly enough, none of the items were on display, instead, attendees were given a piece of paper which noted what was offered (photos of the items weren't on the page; some booths in the exhibition hall displayed photos towards the front or back of the line, though). I attempted to tell staff that I simply wanted to see what they offered, and snap a few photos, but they weren't keen on such. Plus, how would I be able to shoot photos? Unless they were going to bring me to where they actually had the inventory. That wasn't going to happen. Nonetheless, I ventured to find the exhibition hall. Thankfully, I saw Naruto Uzumaki & Sakura Haruno roaming the convention; they were kind enough to lead me to the exhibit hall, where we parted off with a “Dattebayo!” Due to the overwhelming volume of people who lined up for special events, panels, and screenings, I wasn't able to attend any of them. However, it wasn't a problem. My favorite part about any convention is the exhibit hall, I believe it's the heart of it all and either makes or breaks the experience. Most of my time was spent in the exhibit hall, booths, and cosplay corners. Attending an anime convention that's 100% Japanese, 0% English is quite the challenge. But it's the challenge that makes the overall experience an adventure. Jump Festa held an atmosphere that no other convention in America, at least, the ones I've been to, have been able to achieve. As you walk pass the Jump gallery and witness the artworks of recognizable manga artists, such as Tite Kubo, Kazue Kato, and Shun Saek, it becomes surreal. As you look around, you hear the Japanese language flowing in every direction, every piece of content written in hiragana and kanji; you realize that the amazing cosplay you've always thought were semi-fake on Facebook are actually legit as you witness great cosplayers roam the halls. At some point, it finally hits you that you're at the heart of all the original stories, artworks, manga and anime that has captivated you from an early age – that's a special experience and not one that can easily be replicated. Wandering around, I found myself in a new area and was thrilled. “Is that Kakashi-sensei? No way, is that Super Saiyan 4 Goku?! I must've entered the anime zone!” I thought, in excitement. To be frank, it was the dedicated cosplay area. While it's true that I've been to quite a few conventions and am used to cosplay, I'm not exactly accustomed to seeing a lot of high-quality ones, nonetheless gathered in one area. The cosplayers did not only resemble the characters but captured their personality as well. For those who didn't exactly resemble said character, it was just as good because the detail put into their cosplay was clearly shown. The highlight my time there - and my personal favorite cosplay -moment was witnessing a senior in a wheelchair. I noticed that he had some sort of outfit and questioned if he was cosplaying. As I approached him, it was clear that he was cosplaying Akainu of One Piece. It was a special thing to see. Even though he's a senior and must use a wheelchair to get around, he didn't allow his circumstances to limit him from having fun, enjoying life, and preparing his cosplay outfit as the days led to Jump Festa. “Sumimasen. Shashin desu ka?” (Excuse me. May I take a photo?) I asked. The young man who was helping the senior looked surprised, as if no one had asked to take a photo. The senior smiled and nodded his head. As he slowly got up from his wheelchair, he adjusted his cosplay jacket and looked straight into the camera, full of character. After the shot, he was all smiles. He definitely has my respect; it's my favorite shot of the entire event because there's a story behind it. As I walked away, it became clear that it wasn't always about taking photos of the “best cosplayers”, but creating memories of the event and showing all the cosplayers who participated that they're appreciated, just as the senior. It can make all the difference. Just a few of those "unrecognized" cosplayers are in the gallery below. One of the main focus points for Jump Festa was the 20th anniversary of Yu-Gi-Oh! along with the movie, Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side of Dimensions. But it wasn't just a promotion, it was actually fun. Booths were set up for attendees to have their photo taken and be placed on a Yu-Gi-Oh! card with either Yugi or Kaiba (free of charge). Some areas were dedicated to one-on-one dueling while others pit two teams of five against each other using huge cards as props (similar to the giant chess set). Attendees were also able to get their picture taken, sign their names, and have it displayed in the theatrical version of the movie's ending credits. Large showcases of cards were up for display, along with a Blue-Eyes White Dragon card cosplay. Another cool setup was the special play area for attendees, which included a mini trampoline, a slide, and small ball pool. Many of the booths interacted with the attendees and provided activities, such as Bandai Namco, Square Enix, and PlayStation that let attendees play demo versions of upcoming games, including One Piece: Burning Blood, Dragon Quest Builders, and Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4. Toho animation held an informative booth, explaining the artwork and how they process the animation. Bandai also held a small musical performance. And, of course, a dedicated area was made for all things Street Fighter. However, I must admit, I was surprised by the lack of non-Japanese fans at Jump Festa. The majority were Japanese, with hardly any westerners in sight. Given that Jump Festa is also a free event, I was baffled. Perhaps it's because Jump Festa isn't really promoted overseas, or at least not to the English-speaking audience. Last year when I was in Japan around the same time, I didn't even hear about Jump Festa. I only discovered it because I was actively searching for anime conventions in Japan for the winter season. I appreciated the fact that throughout the event, the same atmosphere, energy, and hype was still felt, all the way to its final hours. As the event came to a close, I smiled, filled with joy, and looked through the photos I took to recapture the moments. As I took the JR back to Ueno Station, I saw dozens of people on the train with Jump bags. Even though we all didn't know each other, it was our common interest in Jump that brought us together to have a great experience, and that was special. Despite the long lines and lack of English, Jump Festa was an incredible event. They really delivered; the exhibition hall and cosplay area was definitely the heart of the event and were great. The atmosphere, energy, appreciation, and the vibe of being in the home country of Japanese pop culture is a unique experience that cannot be experienced elsewhere. If you ever have the chance to make it to Jump Festa, I'd definitely recommend it. If not, see if you can make it to AnimeJapan, which is held annually in March at Tokyo Big Sight. I'm sure it'll be great as well. What are your thoughts on Jump Festa? Did you attend this year's show, or would you like to see it come to your country? Let us know in the comments, along with your own thoughts on Shonen Jump. For my part, even after the event I found myself learning new things: A number of cosplayers there fans of Tokyo Ghoul, and now I've just got to check out what they were jazzed up enough to dress up for! P.S.: Finally, if there are any Japanator readers in the Tokyo area who's interested in some Jump Festa merchandise, let us know, as well. I came upon quite a bit of swag that I'd love to give away, including manga, stickers, cards, buttons, and other promotional items. Here's a photo of it all:   [embed]34622:5287:0[/embed]
Jump Festa 2015 photo
An event for the best of Shonen Jump
Editor's Note: If you're in Japan and a manga fan, Christmas comes early each year, as Jump Festa, Shueisha's celebration of all things Shonen JUMP, takes place shortly before the big day, promoting manga, anime, video g...

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A Daily Dose of Music: Old School Thursdays

It's been 10 years?
Apr 09
// Hiroko Yamamura
You know you're Old School when you think of Bleach as new school anime. Can you believe it's been 10 years since Okinawa Japan's Orange Range's hit single Asterisk graced the opening of Bleach? 10 years? I know the anime wa...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapters 610-613

Feb 01 // Josh Tolentino
Of course, "movement" and "things happening" doesn't always have to equate to people getting punched or cut, and in these chapters, we not only see what passes as an explanation of big boss Ywach's powers (but no explanation of his Mutton Chops, sadly), but also the death and rebirth of Ichibei, leader of the Royal Guard. Oh, and the Soul King gets stabbed, too. But first things first: Ichibei, namer of names in Soul Societ and a guy who gets to define what's what when it comes to powers, gets himself blown the hell up. Why? Even six weeks on, I'm not entirely sure. Ywach's power as the "Almighty" Quincy seems to be some kind of omniscience, an ability to know pretty much everything with his eyes "closed", and even more than everything now that they're "open". In this case "open" eyes mean revealing that they're really really weird. Like, with four pupils, each poking their way into the whites like he's The Undertaker. He's a literal "four-eyes" (or rather, with two sets, an "eight-eyes"), though not nearly as nerdy as the moniker might imply. I'm not sure how knowing all that would necessarily equate to the monk getting blown up, but with references to "raw power" being made, I'll just assume it's because he's too much for it. That fits the Bleach pattern, in any case. Interestingly, the Soul King also seems to have himself a set of extra pupils as well. Months ago, when his eyes were first shown, I had thought the extra pupils were just dark, and that he had the "star-shaped eyes" thing going that Nia from Gurren Lagann had. I was wrong, and the implications of that seem to be that, alongside Ywach addressing the King as "Father", Quincy and Soul Reapers are far more closely related than anyone suspected. Remember back when they just used to be the guys that used bows? Ah, youth. Speaking of youth, all our favorite protagonists, the humans (hah!) finally come face to face with Ywach, after getting a quick briefing from the suddenly resurrected Ichibei. As for how he got back to the land of the sorta-not-dead (I just now remembered that Soul Society is technically the afterlife), just calling his name does the job. It's like he's a Kamen Rider or something! And reinforcements are on the way. The remaining Captains, as well as Rukia and Renji, are gathering with Urahara to make their way up to the Royal Palace, now that the fight's over on the ground. Hopefully the humans will be able to put up a credible fight before they arrive to steal the show again.
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A Long Time Coming
While it's been at least six weeks since the last time we checked in with Bleach, various publishing breaks and delays have given us just four-odd chapters to work with, and given the pace Bleach tends to move at, it fee...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapters 607-609

Dec 14 // Josh Tolentino
But let's talk about that "visual language" thing I mentioned first. Kubo's always loved high contrast. It's not a matter of so-called "laziness" that Bleach has become known for being a series that "hates" having to draw backgrounds and scenery, but that to its creator, a blank white or black expanse is the most beautiful background one can imagine. The lastest engagement, between Quincy god-king Ywach and Royal Guard Captain Ichibei Hyousube, has expressed Kubo's love of contrast in a fashion about as close to its logical extreme as ever. Considering that the true "logical extreme" of Kubo's art style would probably be a giant poster of a yin-yang, that's pretty close. All the components of a Bleach-style battle (at least, the ones not involving Ichigo) are on display here, and with three full chapters devoted to the throwdown between the two highest-ranked combatants in the series to date, the general structure of Kubo-format combat is much more clear here than usual. And the takeaway? Bleach hates even matches. It's always a see-saw with these guys, and for the last sixty-odd pages, the weight has been on the side of the mad monk. At every turn Ichibei's been laying the smack down on his Quincy counterpart, and looking crazier and crazier doing it. The scale of the attacks are immense, all giant hands and feet, with monk and buddhist motifs to suit the burly fellow's stature. For the most part, Ywach is completely unable to counter, sitting there and taking it, with a dash of trash talk. It's almost enough to believe that Ywach's being pushed, here, but that other component of a Bleach fight - fact that any early victory is a virtual guarantee of defeat - rears its head quickly enough, as Ichibei deploys his sword-brush, Ichimonji, and its Bankai (or "Shinuchi" as its original name was), Shirafude. Even here, the theme is black-on-white. The Soul Reaper, who wears a white cloak over black kimono, unveils a weapon that splashes ink like he was accenting a Street Fighter trailer, with the power to blot out the name - and thus the qualities - of anything it touches. On the other side is the Quincy, whose letter is "A" for "Almighty" (with a chuuni-style double reading for "Omniscient"), wearing his black cloak over a white western-style coat , who puts his power in his name. It's all very much on-the-nose, and in classic Bleach fashion, the most powerful of the "good guys" (the ones that are destined to lose, at any rate) are ones that look most "evil". Ichibei looks more and more monstrous in his hubris, and even his power set implies a sort of corruption. Ichimonji's ability to "blacken" things and Ichibei's control over the color "black" speaks to idiomatic expressions about pollution, of converting untruth into truth, and (literally) overwriting that which is "true" (Ywach's power and identity) with falsehood ("renaming" Ywach into a mere "Ant").  Of course, that's what a dude with power over names does, but messing around with meaning like that pretty much puts the bad guy back on top of the coolness pedestal. In Bleach's world, real winners don't have to mess around with the parameters of the match. And as if on cue, Ywach quits messing around, revealing the meaning of his "A", and, in Aizen-esque fashion, claiming that he's foreseen all of this. The echoes of his fight with Yamamoto are almost palpable this time around, but even if the fight was ultimately unproductive, Ywach made a good show of looking like he'd been put on the ropes. Now we'll see the stuff the Quincy leader's made of, and hopefully set the stage for the true heroes to start doing what they do (which is win for realsies).
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Doesn't matter if you're black or white
Longtime readers of Bleach will note that this "final" arc of the series - scare quotes here because you can never trust a Jump manga to end on time - has featured a number of breaks from author Tite Kubo's established p...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapters 605-606

Nov 20 // Josh Tolentino
Seeing that the elder monk Ichibei Hyousube is most definitely not the protagonist of this manga, the smart money goes to the big boss, Quincy king Ywach. That doesn't mean the top Soul Reaper has to just lie down and take it, though, and their exchange is striking. As the fellow who put a name to everything in Soul Society, and likely moonlighter as a fighter in Sengoku Basara, Hyousube's monk-themed attacks and powers are suitably literary, as befits a man whose job it is to encompass things in words. Of course, the fact that we know about his ability to "cut" the essence of anything by thwacking its "name" with his big ol' calligraphy brush, means he's made a key mistake: He's explained his powers. Having this happen so early is pretty much a death sentence. Of course, that's hardly the point when all he needs to do is put up a good fight, so it'll all work out in the end. As for Ywach, well, getting the "name" of his arms cut in half doesn't seem to be affecting his mood much, so we can count on him getting the upper hand sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, we check in with faces old and new. Commander Kyouraku, who may or may not still be missing an eye after a much earlier tussle with the late Robert Accutrone, has a vague conversation with the long-absent Ukitake, who we last saw recovering from the battle against...Aizen?! Wow, it has been a while. Anyway, the lines spoken imply some other force may be at work now that the Quincy have made it to the Royal Palace. Elsewhere, Urahara sets the stage for the Visored - it's been even longer since we last saw them - to follow Ichigo and crew up to the Royal Palace, as well as introducing Yuushiro Shihoin, younger sister to Yoruichi. She's got a package to deliver to dear big sister, and it looks like it might help at some future point in Ichigo and crew's fight. Let's just hope they get there in time.  
Bleach photo
Talk To The Buddhist Palm
It's the moment you've been waiting for, Bleach fans. It's all come to this...a big fight between two senior citizens, an epic battle of who has the most magnificent facial hair and the saltiest opinions about kids today. Which grandpa will win?

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 604

Nov 11 // Josh Tolentino
The results aren't pretty, especially if you like seeing your characters without holes blasted through their torsos.  Nimaiya Ohetsu, who did oh so very well last time around, is stuck at the mercy of the newly revived elite four, who partake of Ywach's redistribution to come back to life. They even have proper angel wings now, with feathers and all, so you know stuff's about to hit the fan. And in this story arc's new tradition of overexplaining powers, we gain insight into the capabilities of Lille Barro, "The X-Axis", whose power is best explained as "OMG IT'S LAZER RAILGUN". Really, it is. He doesn't shoot bullets, but simply pierces everything on a line between him and his target with his...I guess it really is a gun-arm. Which leaves Ywach to take on the big monk dude Ichibei Hyousube, who's come up with the true name of everything in Soul Society. We'll have to wait until next round to see how unnecessarily complex his abilities are. Meanwhile, the most potentially intriguing plot point sits back down below, where the more characterful Quincies aren't about to take the bogarting of their powers lying down. Unless this is another red herring that'll see these folks facedown in the dirt after an unseen defeat (again), we may see them pick a different side when the final fight comes around.  
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Wings n' things
When last we checked in with Bleach, Quincy big boss and mutton chop aficionado Ywach had pulled a real jerk move by regifting a whole buttload of power from his Sternritter on the ground. The intended destination of this "take from the poor, give to the rich" approach to group dynamics was clear enough, and in this chapter, we deal with the repercussions. 

Annotated Manga: Bleach 603

Oct 29 // Josh Tolentino
Instead, it seems to be more capturing the feelings of Liltotto, as Ywach extends a less-than-helping hand to the Sternritter left behind in Soul Society, only to drain them all and use their power to revive the elite four. I suppose you could make the argument that from Ywach's perspective, all Quincy power extends from him, which makes it his to take back as he sees fit. Either way, it's kind of a dick move, considering that the Sternritter are still fighting. Well, not anymore, I guess. Besides this scene, which seems to remove Liltotto, Bazz-B, Nanana, the newly-named Accutrone (the Colonel Sanders-lookin' dude who shot Kyouraku in the eye) from the field, we also get a quick update on the other Sternritter. Candice, Meninas, and Pepe are all out as well, and most likely dead. On the Soul Reaper side, all we see is Renji, looking little worse for the wear. If the big fight is now all up at the Royal Palace, one can only wonder if Kubo will see fit to bring the remaining (and still popular) Captains and Vice-Captains up to tussle at some point.  
AM: Bleach photo
What, indeed
This week seems to be one for short recaps, but where one recap this week was short because very little needed to be said that wasn't conveyed in a single panel, this week's installment of Bleach left me desperately wishing that the chapter title, "What The Hell" were a more apt descriptor of what actually went on in the pages.

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapters 598-600

Oct 10 // Josh Tolentino
To be perfectly honest, it's not much of a battle...yet. As per Bleach tradition, we're still in the trash-talk stages of the combat. There's much to be said along the lines of "When did I say THIS was the extent of my power?" from both sides. On the side of Ywach and his escorts, it was natural to expact that Bleach would saveYwach, Haschwald, and Uryuu to fight Ichigo and his crew, still in transit. This would leave the Royal Guard without an opponent, but it looks like Ywach's shadow has ample accomodations for Ywach's elite Sternritter, as well as the twin-tongued freak Nianzol "The Wind" Weizol. Nianzol squares off against Senjumaru Shutara, the Great Weaver and part-time spider-lady. It seems to me that Royal Guard members are selected for more than their fighting prowess, as Senjumaru's got some mad sewing skillz, able to booby-trap Nianzol's uniform while he's still wearing it. Though that goofy-eyed look might have made her job easier. The folks who definitely aren't easy, though, are Ywach's top four Sternritter. They also confirm by their existence, that the actual placement of your letter doesn't really matter as far as power levels go, at least not for letters besides the "A and B" used by Ywach, Haschwald, and Uryuu. Heck, in the elite four we've got an "M", Gerard "The Miracle" Valkyrie, the "X", held by the hilariously haired sniper, Lille "X-Axis" Barro, the "Death-dealing" Askin Nakk Levarr, who happened to be promoted in from the lower-ranked Sternritter, but is so very normal-looking that he's probably the strongest of the bunch. Bringing up the creep factor is "The Compulsory", Pernide Parnkjas, who wears a hood and has glowing eyes that make him look like he's cosplaying a Final Fantasy Black Mage. The Miracle and The X-Axis make short work of Senjumaru's minions, even putting a whole through her haid and leaving one of the creepiest corpses Bleach has yet seen. But of course, that's all a ruse, thanks to Senjumaru's apparent tapestry talents. The rest of the Royal Guard then arrive, setting the first fight with Oetsu, inventor of the Zanpakuto and a dude who keeps his swords in an aquarium. It's pretty cool seeing the top tier of power operate, though considering that any given Royal Guard member is said to outmatch the entire Gotei 13, their actions have felt somewhat "small" of late. But of course, the real fight has only just begun, and we can at least look forward to that.
AM: Bleach photo
Breaking Wind
Since Ywach and his party of Quincy butt-kickers have entered the Soul King's palace itself, we shift focus. Now Bleach is all about the battle between the aforementioned and the Royal Guard, who are (allegedly) above all others when it comes to all things Soul Reaper.

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 596-597

Sep 21 // Josh Tolentino
Case in point, Pepe "The Love" Waccabrada, whose Vollstandig super-form is that of a naked, hairy, dark-skinned Santa Claus-Putti hybrid, the image of which may or may not be kind of racist (I'm still trying to decide).  Not only does he look gross, he also just tried to kill his fellow Sternritter in a bid to gain sole glory. Of course, it doesn't quite work out, though he manages to land a good sucker punch on Liltotto Lampered. He and Giselle get theirs, of course, and that's thanks to the freak-in-chief and his magic drugs. Apparently shooting up Giselle's mind-controlled "zombies" with Kurotsuchi's special stash brings them under the Captain of the 12th's jurisdiction, putting the controlled in (sort-of) friendly hands.  Heck, not even Pepe's "Love" can reach the Soul Reapers' hearts, because, according to Kurotsuchi, his zombies "don't know what love is". Which immediately made me think of this:  [embed]33047:4197:0[/embed] Ah, such is the dilemma of the zombie. Following that mildly conclusive update, we check in with the Soul King's court, where the Royal Guard - any one of whom is allegedly more powerful than all the other 13 squads combined - is getting punked hard by Ywach. Kirinji, the dude with the hot spring fetish and epic pompadour, can't land a hit on Ywach, though the mustachioed baddie isn't even trying to dodge. Same deal when Shutara - the top-tier tailor that gave Ichigo, Rukia, Byakuya, and Renji their turbans and capes - has her harem of sword-wielding minions take a slice. And as it turns out, the thing turning away all the strikes was a secret Sternritter, Nianzol Weizol, whose "W" stands for "The Wind". I guess we can guess what his gimmick is.
AM: Bleach photo
What Is Love?
The continuing freak-off that is the Vandenreich army persists in the latest installments of Bleach, as if we weren't yet sure who the good guys were in this fight. Of course, being not-a-freak has never been an especially te...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapters 594-595

Sep 06 // Josh Tolentino
The stakes, in this case, are a revelation of just how busy Giselle has been "recruiting" zombies for the fight. Now she's got Kensei, Rose, and Rangiku all up and in Kurotsuchi's face, just as he was about to start experimenting on his captive Hitsugaya. It's almost as if Kubo wanted to poke a bit of fun at a hoary old Bleach cliche: No one dies until they're given a funeral. And it's true. Heck, I used to call that particular cliche "No one dies until we see the body", but even that doesn't take, considering how dead-looking people can get without having to be subbed out.  As you may remember, Kensei and Rose were last seen having their asses handed to them by Mask de Masculine, the most fun of the Quincy Sternritter. They were implied to be killed as collateral damage during Kenpachi's duel with that "V" kid who did the meteor thing. But they're not dead. Just mind-slaved by Gigi, who at this point has gone missing. In the meantime, we're also introduced to another freakshow, Pepe "The Love" Waccabrada, who can control the minds of whomever his heart-shaped beam attacks strike.  The "L" Sternritter might have had a tough time, though. He's fighting Byakuya, after all. not even brainwashed young bloods with weird "69" tattoos on their cheeks can tip the balance that far. Plus, Byakuya's grown even stronger, what with all that hanging out around the Royal Guards and getting his sword fixed and a sweet fez fitted. He's even taken out three more Sternitter before the fight's even begun proper, once again leaving us with the strangely durable duo of the girl with the super-strength and the one whose lips detach and eat things all gross-like. Which, of course, is when Pepe himself delivers the twist: He plans to kill everyone and take the credit. Stopping him are...Giselle's remaining zombies? What? That actually makes sense, considering how thoroughly the series has evidenced the fact that all these Quincies are jerks who are really into in-fighting. Advantage Soul Reapers, I guess.
Bleach photo
Triple Threat
Now that we've reached this latest stage in Bleach's Quincy v. Soul Reaper freak-off, I'm pretty glad to see that Tite Kubo still has a good handle on how to escalate a fight. Because there's nothing quite like raising the stakes.

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 593

Aug 24 // Josh Tolentino
Perhaps it's because we're actually seeing a fight between major characters for the first time in a while. Or maybe it's thanks to the weeklong break Bleach took. Either way, seeing Captain Kurotsuchi duke it out with the "zombified" Hitsugaya is quite the thing to watch, and stands as a sterling example of classic Bleach fight escalation. Now, if only it weren't totally biting the "Izanami" sequence from Naruto... I am of course being facetious with that accusation, but it's hard not to notice the similarities at play between Kurotsuchi's sure-win gimmick and Itachi's use of Izanami to trap Kabuto in a hell of his own making. In the latter case, Kabuto was forced by Izanami to relive a time-loop until he found the genuine resolve to change himself and face his issues. In Bleach's case, it's one of Kurotsuchi's fancy new drugs, one that forces Hitsugaya to loop back whenever he wins the fight. It's a real dastard of a ploy, and perfectly suited to Kurotsuchi, since he's demonstrated before that he can make drugs to alter a person's perception of time, but perhaps its timing is just unfortunate in this case. It doesn't help that he ruins all the drama by over-explaining things in totally unnecessary detail. No, Kubo, we don't need to know how the side-effects of too much looping with the drug paralyzes one's sense of balance for exactly 30 seconds. The only important thing to know is that the chilly young prodigy is now at our resident freak's mercy. That kind of unnecessary jawing is why I had to qualify my comments about Bleach "looking good" to absolutely not include the writing or plotting. But still, it's fun to look at, innit?
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A true Storm of Swords
Bleach is lookin' good, if you don't mind my saying.  I don't mean that by the state of its plot or the quality of its writing, but I do think that this last chapter has put out surprisingly striking visuals, a strong contrast to the relatively lackluster panels of the last few weeks.

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 592

Aug 13 // Josh Tolentino
It's kind of funny. I always bang on about how Komamura was a top-class jobber in the Soul Reaper ranks all the way until he sacrificed his furry butt to take down Bambi, but young Toshiro has nearly as bad of a record. The Captain of the 10th's performance breakdown is quite dismal, and he'd be pretty much where Komamura is were it not for a handful of victories against an Arrancar flunky, a punk kid Fullbringer, and Tia Halibel. Beyond that, his history is one of either being defeated, run through, or almost killing someone a friend. But now the frosty boy's back, and like in the case of Komamura, it takes being turned "traitor" to give the guy a taste of success. Too bad his comeback has to come at the expense of Ikkaku, Yumichika, and that poor burly man's health. Such is the way of things. If nothing else, though, it looks like Kurotuschi may well be ready to take the field directly for the first time in quite a while. And of course, he does it FOR SCIENCE!
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The cutting edge
When last we left the latest melee on Bleach's order of battle, Captain Kurotsuchi's revived Arrancar seemed to have GiGi Gewelle and her zombie troops in the bag.  That is, until she brought out her trump card, a "zombie" Captain Hitsugaya, who was last seen half-dead following a tussle with Bazz-B and Cang Du. Will the frozen prince live up to his reputation as a (now-posthumous) prodigy?

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 591

Aug 03 // Josh Tolentino
Of course, if you're a longtime Bleach reader, you already know that to be true, at least as far as the rule goes that almost nobody is ever "ended", as in killed in this big, dumb manga. So long as you don't see the actual body, you can never count a Bleach combatant - especially not a heroic or even anti-heroic one - as dead. At least Naruto had the decency to bring its "dead" characters back as zombies rather than simply letting them recover off-panel. And now, even Bleach is trying out that particular angle, pitting GiGi's mind-controlled "zombie" Soul Reapers against Kurotsuchi's apparently resurrected Arrancar, whose names I can't even be bothered to look up. Look, all I know is that they made up some of the first fights the cast and co. had against Arrancar. And for a bunch of Z-listers, they acquit themselves well. Even the hyper-masculine dude (I really shouldn't have said I was OK with the occasional "flamer joke" last time) that Yumichika managed to kill manages to take down zombie Bambietta, who not long ago couldn't be beaten by any less than Komamura mounting a suicide attack. But I was getting to a bit about "not seeing the body", wasn't I? Remember whose body we didn't end up seeing recently? I was referring to this guy's. Actually, I think it's cute that GiGi went so far as to dress undead Hitsugaya up in a Quincy uniform.  Of course, we should remember that her "zombification" technique doesn't require a Soul Reaper to be actually dead to work (though Quincies need to be), so chances are good that someone may be able to snap the frozen princeling out of his strangely tan stupor before long.
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Zombie-on-zombie violence
This week's chapter of Bleach is all about endings. Not about the ending, of course, but about the endings of the fights that much up this big, dumb manga, and how they can, on occasion, not be the end.

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 590

Jul 28 // Josh Tolentino
Once again I'm almost shocked to see such a quick turnaround on a character who'd be little more than an afterthought in any other Bleach arc. I'm not one to try too hard to get into creators' heads when I do my reading, but this whole storyline has been rife with turns that smack of Kubo trying to subvert the expectations and internal conventions Bleach has built up over the years, at least on the surface level. In that context, having Sternritter's "Z" get loads more play than the "E"-level, achingly cute (and now dead) Bambi seems to be one such move. Unfortunately, one pattern that Kubo hasn't quite broken with much is having some unfortunate humor at the expense of Gigi apparently being a dude in drag. If you read these recaps regularly you'll notice I've been harping on this point of late. Anime and Japanese culture being what it is, I'm not necessarily opposed to the occasional flamer joke, but something about Gigi's treatment rubs wrong. It's probably due to having Yumichika just out him like some weird "takes one to know one" sort of point, then treating the moment like a trigger to make Gigi go full-crazy. It's unpleasant, especially combined with some of the weirder porn-language innuendo they've got undead Bambi spouting now that she's a zombie with strangely shaded skin. But enough about that, let's talk about Kurotsuchi. It's funny how he used to be Creeper King #1, and in the years since has been reduced to mere comic relief. And they never did get around that subplot from oh-so-long-ago that seemed to be shipping Uryuu and Nemu.  Still, the man can pull out the cool toys, and those toys include some real blasts from the pasts: Yup, if I'm not mistaken, those are among the first Arrancar the Soul Reapers fought during the Hueco Mundo arc and the opening stages of the fight against Aizen. If nothing else I recognize the big dude on the left and the lady right of center. I wonder who else Kubo has all Frankenstein'd up in the next chapters?
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Lewder by the week
What is it with Quincy and creepers? I mean, every army has one or two creepy types, but it seems to me that when Ywach summoned all the "true" Quincy to his side the only place that had them was the madhouse.  Well, whatever the reason for the Sternritter's unusually high nutball quotient, it seems that Kubo is grooming young Giselle "Gigi" Gewelle for a top spot.

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 589

Jul 17 // Josh Tolentino
But first, in another sign that Kubo is somehow anticipating both the complaints and desires of his readers, he addresses the, uhh..."two big issues" confronting the arrival of Orihime onto the field. I'm talking about her cleavage, of course, and the ridiculous outfit she wore to show it off. Last time I asked if that was some kind of joke...and it was! Specifically, it was all Urahara's idea! Bleach and its creator are more clever than we give them credit for, methinks. But on the other hand, Orihime doesn't actually change out of the offending garment, so between than and other comedic missteps this chapter I guess it still balances in favor of the "Bleach is dumb crap" camp. But enough about that, look who's back! I really missed Yoruichi, who we haven't seen in real action since she got creamed fighting Aizen. Of course, she's limited to being a glorified delivery girl with conspicuously exposed underoos this time, but the fact that we see her at all bodes well for getting her some action sooner or later. Speaking of action... Ikkaku and Yumichika continue facing off against Giselle and the zombified Bambietta, who in a frankly shocking twist, is confirmed to be dead. And yes, that is the shocking twist, not this weird, inappropriate harping on whether or not Giselle's actually a dude. Why they keep poking at that open wound in progressivism is beyond my foreign sensibilities. Returning to Bambi's apparent death (by Giselle's hand, no less), I'm genuinely surprised by the move, given that Kubo's typically taken a softer hand when depicting the fates of his cuter female characters. And let me tell you, Bambi was one of the cutest.  Think about it. Riruka was the only member of Xcution to get away unscathed, neither of Aizen's female Arrancar groupies were permanently killed off, Hiyori was the first Bleach hero character to get cut in half and still made it through that last battle, and the fates of Tier Halibel, Nel, and a number of other well-rendered ladies have been left deliberately vague. But confirming that Bambi is indeed dead and under the control of Giselle, a character that any captain would've crushed instantly in an earlier arc is a new step. Well, it's not an entirely new step, seeing as Giselle's the creepy member of the Sternritter the good guys have fought so far (As Nodt aside), so naturally, resident Soul Reaper Creeper Kurotsuchi and his so-lazy-you-don't-even-have-to-shade-it outfit are called up to set this match going. We'll have to see if he's learned anything new since the last time he did some fighting.
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Return of the Black (cat)
Y'know, when Urahara said that getting transport ready to take Ichigo and crew to the Royal Palace would take "a minute or sixty", he wasn't kidding. Or maybe he was kidding, since I took him about two weeks worth of chapters...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 588

Jul 11 // Josh Tolentino
Part of the reason for that is standard spoiler-avoidance. Our recaps are more about commentary than synopsis. After all, it's more likely than not that anyone wanting to read a Bleach recap has likely already read the chapter in question, and going over it blow-by-blow would be a waste of time and space. The other reason, of course, is that not a lot "happens" in a given chapter of Bleach.a To crib a western comics term, Bleach is a very "decompressed" series, and lends a lot of its space to giving individual moments gravitas at the expense of the "eventfulness" of a given installment. Decompression isn't inherently a bad thing. Between the packed-to-bursting panels of the 1960s Silver Age newspaper strips to modern books printed with the intention of future collation into trade paperbacks and tankoubon volumes, it's all about space management, and the ideal approach is different for every story. Being decompressed works for Bleach, in my opinion, because I've noticed that for a series with such a low density of "plot" in every chapter, I'm never lacking for panels to capture for the recap. Compare that to the times I've struggled to find something, anything to grab that would make a decent header for the Naruto recap, Kubo Tite is a reliable provider when it comes to eye-candy.  Even now, where only two real events of consequence occur (plus one really icky event of negative social value), there's a wealth of visual information to pull just from the poses. Like where Tenjiro "Hot Springs Biker Punk" Kirinji faces off against Ywach, Haschwald and Uryuu, you can get all the details you need about the first stages of this fight without needing to read a word. Hell, you can even predict how it'll go, given that Tenjiro just challenged the final boss without the benefit of being the hero. Smart money's on him being dead by month's end.  The next event of consequence is the return of Bambietta Basterbine, Sternritter "E", great hat-wearer, and the cutest Quincy girl you ever did see. That is, until she got her ass kicked in service of finally giving Komamura a win, and now she seems to be dead, a zombie meat-puppet for Sternritter "Z", Giselle Gewelle. She's facing off against Ikkaku and Yumichika, and here's where we get to the icky moment I mentioned above. Apparently Yumichika's style sense is so strong that he can smell dudes a mile away, and it seems that Giselle is one such person. Why, exactly, any of that matters, is beyond me, and outing a trans character as some kind of shocking twist is unpleasant, to say the least. Oh, manga!  Ah well, maybe next week we can get past this and start fighting or something.
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A brilliant 'do
I was reading through a bunch of my old recaps for Bleach - reading your old writing is a great way to make sure you don't get too full of yourself - and realized that I spend a lot of time talking about Bleach in generalities, rather than tackling the specifics of a given chapter or episode. Let's do that again for a bit, shall we?

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 587

Jul 07 // Josh Tolentino
Let's make no bones about it: Bleach has been deadly serious for most of the last few months of stories. That "seriousness" is "deadly" in the sense that all these people saying Big Important Things mostly murder the sense of fun and remind us that a fight manga's strong point usually doesn't lie in writing and dialog.   Thankfully, though, Uryuu's departure from the scene has given Ichigo an opportunity to mope about his best friend turning coat (Really? They've barely spoken in a decade of chapters!), but thankfully Chad and Orihime are back to give him moral support, almost as if that's all they've really been good for most of the time. Naturally, he snaps out of it and does that hero thing where he declares that he'll do a thing, and then the rest of the story from here on in is about how no one can stop him from doing said thing. Speaking of funny stuff, how about Orihime's outfit? That has to be a joke, right? I mean, Kubo makes a point of using Bleach as a platform for his fashion-design ambitions! Seriously, at least the women from Dragon's Crown have an excuse, in that they're a bald-faced sendup of classic fantasy pulp art. Sigh. But hey, I'm talking about Bleach's sense of humor, which implies I was referring to some deliberately funny moments. And to be fair, there are a couple, mostly in Renji and Rukia's interaction with the Bazz-B of the Burner Fingers. Indeed, given that Bazz had a thing for Renji's hilarious eyebrows, they'd have been best buds had Renji had been nice enough to put compliment before insult. Oh well, at least we get to see a Burner Finger 4 in action, and that's cool, too.
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Lifting more than just busts
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Not a whole lot happens in any single chapter of Bleach. Oftentimes a given 16-20 page installment is little more than the next few steps in a fight, which can, at times, prove a ch...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 586

Jun 28 // Josh Tolentino
Of course, I'm qualifying my statement here, since I used "should really be" in the first sentence. Clearly, I've implied that it isn't quite there, and for me, that's definitely the case. I mean, sure, I can appreciate a good badass action pose, and this chapter's full of them, from Bazz-B and his gangsta Quincy crossbow to the fact that we're seeing both Hisagi and Yumichika, two characters who I really wouldn't mind seeing achieve Bankai sometime.  They're certainly going to need it, seeing as they're fighting six-on-eight, and even low-end Sternritter like Candace and the girls can give top-flight Soul Reapers a run for their reiatsu. But going back to my caveat about this chapter, we see a repeat of one of Bleach's worst dramatic habits: the scene where Ichigo yells someone's name as they turn away from him. In this case the turncoat is Uryuu, who steps in to bar Ichigo from reaching Ywach and ending the war prematurely.  What kind of scene am I talking about? It's a familiar cliche of Bleach and dates back all the way to the first set of stories. You know what I'm getting at! It's those scenes where Ichigo is surprised and horrified to see someone he trusted turning they're back on him, and asks them why. They answer with some cryptic phrase and attempt to warn him off, only to have him interrupt with the equivalent of "I'm asking you a question!". Of course, the question is never answered and the person in question turns away, leaving him to yell their names at their back in despair. It happened way back when Rukia left for Soul Society, and happened again with a range of characters, even up to villain-tier and beyond.  Am I nitpicking? Sure I am, but there's not that much else to contemplate, outside of the common traits all invisible brawls take. Hopefully we'll this whole thing snowball into an ending, sometime.
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Lineup of justice
This latest chapter of Bleach should really be a celebration of Tite Kubo's mastery of "badass" moments, and in some ways it is. The Soul Reapers have rallied, and in unintentional homage to the tokusatsu tropes tha...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapters 584-585

Jun 20 // Josh Tolentino
I find it somewhat strange to continue seeing the quartet of Bambi's groupies still in the fight, long after they had the misfortune of being on the mound when Ichigo finally stepped up to the plate. Really, at any other time in Bleach's history, or even in most other fight show fiction, characters of their caliber would've been wiped out, fodder to demonstrate the sheer puissance of whoever needed showing off at the time. Not even their own treacherous comrades can get rid of them! Bazz-B, the guy supposedly even stronger than the late, great General Yamamoto, went so far as to put a burner finger through the four girls in an attempt to Bogart the fight, but that wasn't enough to keep them from trying to snatch the glory of being first to get chopped up by the lead character.  And what a chopping session it would've been, since Bazz and the girls were joined by local DJ Nanana Najakoop, a floating dude named Pepe, and the gun-wielding evil Colonel Sanders fellow credited with taking Captain Kyoraku's eye.  But of course, it wasn't to be, as Bleach has never had much interest in the kinds of group fights that make up the likes of Naruto and others. Kubo's in it for the duel, and much as his brainchild's made a point of bucking tradition in this final arc, hot one-on-one action is the soul of this comic. Which, of course, brings us to the hilarious new plot twist designed to put Ichigo on the path to the final boss while setting up pretty much everyone for a duel of their own. What plot twist, you ask? Well, if nothing else, it's a twist that answers a couple of nagging questions, but these questions aren't the sort of thing one clarifies at a time like this. I mean, did we really need to know what the King's Key is? Actually, yes, we did, given that it was the thing Aizen was planning to nab for himself all those years ago. Turns out the key was..Ichigo. Or rather, the fancy duds he was wearing when he arrived on the scene. It seems the King's Key only responds to Reapers in the Soul King's Royal Guard. It's a smart plan, considering that the Royal Guard almost never leaves the King's side, but it's also kind of a boondoggle. Y'see, we make a big fuss over Ichigo's new threads and Kubo's continuing ambition to use his series as a platform for his fashion industry ambitions. It just so happens, though, that Ywach and his Quincies were doing roughly the same thing. Why? Because in a factoid that really should've been telegraphed better, clothes tailored by the Royal Guard contain their essense, and getting him to come down here was all part of the master plan. After all, the passage of Ichigo would blow open all manner of doors to the  Palance, and keeping them unlocked for an hour and a half. So now we've got the stakes, the venue, and the opponent (Ywach himself, with Haschwald and Uryuu folllowing. I think we'v got ourselves a final boss fight, folks.
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The gang's all here
I've got to hand it to the Sternritter: Though we've barely known any of them for more than a panel or two, they do make quite the powerful impression. That said, it's high time we spent these last portions of Bleach in the company of badasses we're more familiar with, yes?

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A Daily Dose of Music: Old School Thursdays

No stopping the Soul Reapers
Jun 12
// Hiroko Yamamura
It's been a while, but I sure am excited to you on another trip down memory lane. This week we head back a good decade to the year 2004. It seems weird to think of 2004 as a decade ago, but time sure does have a way to get a...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapters 582-583

Jun 08 // Josh Tolentino
To be fair, it's not like Bambi's groupies were especially uninteresting opponents. Kubo's always had a knack for making compelling female side characters - an irony given his seeming inability to grant his most important lady leads a level of agency appropriate to their heroine status. Let's not overdo it, though: Candace, Liltotto, Meninas, and Giselle are one-note cliches, but the thing with fight series like this is that it's better to be a fun, memorably executed archetype than a wasted opportunity, and the stories of Rukia and Orihime are practically defined by neglect at this point. But enough griping about characters that aren't even present this week (which is yet more evidence of the problem, by the way), let's talk about Ichigo being cool. Yeah, he's pretty damn cool, though his new duds are quite underwhelming. They're exactly the same as his old duds, except with a bandolier to hold his new swords, a funny thing considering that he was rarely drawn without his hand on Zangetsu anyway. I have to say I liked his previous duds, which looked exactly the same as his old dudes (and these new duds), except with those Fullbringer-esque strappy bits undergirding the standard Soul Reaper uniform. Of course, this is Bleach we're talking about, and Ichigo, to boot, so the uniform's nothin'. The true measure of our man will have to come around whenever he decides to show off his Bankai. That moment may be a while yet in coming, though, for despite a good showing from Bambi's groupies, Ichigo's clearly far out of their league, knocking them around barefisted even after Candace popped her Vollstandig power-up mode. Then again, the only thing that seemed to get stronger after she hit it was the stink of her dialog. I mean, really? Bragging about how you can "sextuple-wield" lightning bolts followed by no visible evidence of six lightning bolts? You done goofed, Kubo. That was a bad line, even for you. But what am I even doing, whining about a bad line or two and over-praising a cute group of mooks, when the most important event in Bleach history has just occurred?! Yes, the most IMPORTANT event. ICHIGO KUROSAKI DEMONSTRATED A NEW ATTACK Anyone who's kept up with Bleach will know how momentous that is, considering that in the decade-plus of Bleach's existence, its hero has only ever, ever known a single attack. The Getsuga Tenshou has been the bread and butter of Ichigo's fighting style since before it even had a name, and the funny bit is that it isn't even an original creation! Isshin, Ichigo's father, used it regularly! And despite all of Ichigo's many changes to power set - learning Zangetsu's name, gaining a Bankai, becoming Visored, losing his powers, dredging up a Fullbringer secret stash, rejoining the Soul Reapers, and everything, he's only ever used the trusty old Getsuga. But now he's got a new thing, courtesy of his dual-wielding. And it's....a cross-shaped Getsuga. Uh...yeah. OK, it's not much, but it's something, and finally, finally, we got something new, right? And besides, if we're considering a double Rasengan from Naruto as a valid variation, we've got to consider this one, too. Man, now I really can't wait to see what Ichigo'll have to offer in Bankai mode! *Yes, he used something called "Mugetsu" to beat Aizen, but I don't count that as a "new attack" since it was effectively a suicide move, and the internet is telling me that it was more an extension of the "Final Getsuga Tensho" anyway. So there.
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Return of the Mack
The Mack is back, and by "Mack" we mean, "The Strawberry", because Bleach is once again graced by the presence of its lead character. It makes for quite the entrance, as Kenpachi, the one guy in this series nobody e...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapters 579-581

May 22 // Josh Tolentino
If there's anything I've liked about this latest Bleach arc, it's that Kubo Tite seems fully aware that this is his baby's last hurrah. And like a 2nd-term President, he's been taking that "lame duck" period as an opportunity to do quite a bit of experimentation, fulfilling both the expectations of his audience and turning some of Bleach's most common cliches on their heads. Also, Glemy turned out to be an actual brain-in-a-jar. And I'd have thought only that Espada guy with the unpronounceable name would be the one! Plus, he's been throwing in some long-awaited promises, most recently seeing Kenpachi's bankai. And what a bankai it was. Have you ever wanted to see someone kicking a meteor's ass? That just happened. Have you ever wanted to see what would happen when a guy tries to imagine himself in Kenpachi's shoes? Lemme tell you, it wasn't pretty. Perhaps most importantly, have you ever wanted to see someone beating Kenpachi? Because that actually happened. And they did it on-panel to boot, rather than via that shock-frame showing that one Sternritter that mimics people copying Ywach.  To add insult to injury, everyone's favorite Hulk-equivalent was beaten not by Worf-ing against the final boss or a Kaiju-sized monstrosity like Yammy, but by Bambietta Basterbine's groupies. Yes, that gaggle of four girls that make Harribel's entourage look like a bunch of blushing bridesmaids. To think, the strongest guy in the 13 squads taken down by Quincies V, G, P T, and Z. With "V" being the late Glemy, the four other letters are claimed by Lilotto Lamperd, Meninas McAllen, Candice Catnip, and Giselle Gewelle, in that order. Unlike most groupie characters, though, these four seem capable of pulling their weight (compared, at least, to the Espada's Fraccion or your average vice-captain Soul Reaper). That said, their powers vary in creativity, with Meninas' "Power" and Candice's "Thunder" being exactly as implied. Lilotto's face-distorting cannibalism (aptly called "Gluttony") is appropriately unsettling, though I have to say Giselle's "Zombie" power, which mind-controls anyone she bleeds on, is a bit too similar to As Nodt's spit-based fear ability. Either way, seeing this quartet floor the man before he even got a chance to remove his eyepatch is a supreme indignity! Then again, that opens the floor for a check-in with some of the other good guys, with Shinji, Omaeda, an unconscious Soifon, and Momo (who you may know as Aizen and Hitsugaya's girlfriend) facing off against Bazz-B, the Burner Finger Boy. But none of that matters, really. Why? Because Ichigo's back, that's why. C'mon dual-wielding! Show these fake-Nazi punks what for!
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Face-melting fury
Welcome to the next evolution of our Shonen Showdown fight show recap! In case you haven't noticed, we at Japanator have sunsetted the Annotated Anime Roundup, and honored every show we cover with its own, solo post. Our reca...

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Here are the 20 most popular manga

Confirmed: Pirates beat assassins
May 02
// Pedro Cortes
Last week on a post about the Attack on Titan manga reaching 30 million volumes sold, I wondered what the numbers were for other popular series. Several days later, Mangazenken posts which are the top 20 manga series based on...

Shonen Showdown: April 26, 2014

Apr 26 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 126 It's kind of a shame that we don't get to see Netero using his bodhisattva ability against any opponents before the King, because it's really hard to gauge just how strong it is. I mean, I'm pretty sure it'd annihilate most opponents and that the King is an exception, but I think I'd like to have seen one of the chimera ant commanders try to fight him while he was meditating in the middle of nowhere before this fight. That way we'd get a true sense of just how tough the King is. The battle seems very one-sided, with Netero not allowing the King to land a blow, but all of those Gungi games with Komugi seem to be helping him form a strategy while this is happening. Several episodes ago when the King is just starting to learn Gungi, the narrator mentioned that it would be Komugi that great affects the upcoming battle. Obviously she hasn't directly influenced it, at least not yet, but the King has definitely changed because of her. It's hard to say what the battle would have been like without Komugi's involvement, because the King would still have been tough as nails to inflict damage upon, but I find it hard to believe that he'd formulate strategies in the same way, even with ample time to do so. The King calculates the exact moment he is able to strike, taking Netero's leg. This is pretty much the beginning of the end, as now the King is aware that there is a viable strategy, and considering that Netero isn't consciously making biased decisions, it's going to happen again. And it does. The King takes one of Netero's arms, perhaps on the assumption that it would put him out of the fight, what with Netero seemingly having to place his hands together in order to launch an attack. While this is not the case, it does force him to use his strongest attack, the so-called Zero Hand, using a Buddha to creep up behind the King that fires a giant laser out of his face. By the looks of it, this laser seems to be fuelled by some kind of life force, because in the aftermath we see Netero looking like he's aged a good fifty years. Even his wounds have reopened, presumably because he no longer has the strength to force them closed. Now, I think there have been mixed opinions on the conclusion of this fight. Is it cheap that Netero stops his own heart, triggering an explosion due to a bomb that was presumably concealed within his own body? In my opinion, no, it wasn't. In fact, I think it's the perfect way for this fight to have ended. The King calls out his own bloodline and evolutionary abilities at the end of this fight, saying that he was not alone in reaching his position of King, and the strength that comes with it. It's this statement that makes it perfect, as the King, now known by his name of Meruem, disregards the evolution of the human species. Netero was also the product of thousands of years of evolution, both in his appearance and ability, as well as scientific achievement. The fact that we can produce technology such as explosives is proof of how far we've come, and so it is the perfect way for this clash of species to come to an end. Judging by the preview, we're in for a fun episode on Tuesday. Something that still bothers me is Meruem's lack of using a nen ability, and for that reason I believe he's not dead, even if he's not in any shape to fight after this explosion. It's hard to tell how strong this bomb is in comparison to the Buddha beam, after all. [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 360 As Kakashi's story closes in on the actual events of Naruto we're seeing  a more granular examination of his character. Now that he's out of the ANBU, gone is the true "ninja-ness" of the affair, which is disappointing, but inevitable. He's a teacher now, after all. That's not the end of it, though, as we see how Kakashi earned his formidable reputation, feared by all as the kind of Jonin Leader that sends everyone back to the Academy. That's how Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke saw him, and today's episode highlights why. In a way, it also explains why you really don't want to get a teacher that's into self-loathing.  Y'see, if they hate themselves for, say, indirectly leading his two best friends to their deaths, they tend to project onto you in an attempt to keep you from making the same mistakes. Them working out their PTSD means tough times for your unfortunate butt. But Kakashi wasn't always a hard-ass, so the episode takes care to show how his tough love does produce some positive results, though at the same time a favorable contrast to Guy's method is also drawn, showing that everyone's got a style, and the dedication eventually shines through. It's a nice moment, though I'd have liked to see how characters like Asuma and Kurenai trained their squads of Genin to get the full spread. Next week, Kakashi begins preparing for the biggest task of his life: Training the protagonists.   Pedro Cortes One Piece Episode 640 &641   As is normal for the start of a One Piece arc, the Strawhats split up to have their own adventures. It makes for some difficulties in pace management, as trying to juggle all these stories can be a pain. The issues for the next ten episodes or so will be bouncing between the colosseum and the rest of the crew. With Luffy’s block about to start, I expect there’ll be most of an episode spent getting the action completed, followed by cutaways for a few weeks. Most of these episodes is spent introducing the Tontatta, or the “fairies” of Dressrosa, both on Green Bit and the main island proper. You know that they’ll feature heavily in the future, as their grudge with the Don Quixote is pretty hefty.   Sanji also gets some heavy lifting, as he deals with Violet’s betrayal. We’ve always known his soft spot with women, but actually having it pan out is a surprise. It also adds another possible wrinkle into the inner workings of the Don Quixote family. It’s also surprising to see just how deep the Strawhats have fallen into Doflamingo’s trap. With her help, Sanji should be able to start getting the rest of the crew out of trouble. Well, everybody but Law. I think he’s in for some trouble.  Also, I think the Tontatta just said that Robin doesn’t wear underwear. Oh my.   Manga Pedro Cortes One Piece Chapter 744 - 745   These chapters waste no time with the awesome stuff. First and foremost, Sabo grabs the Mera-Mera Fruit and eats it, inheriting Ace’s fire powers. Second, we actually see him out of the Lucy outfit and…well, he looks like you’d expect, just older. Oh, and Koala comes back, which pleases me greatly. I’m hoping we see more out of her. Second, the legend of Usopp continues. The more this guy gets worshiped, the harder I laugh. The freed pirates cheer their savior, as he’s being held up by a giant.  Usopp’s reaction? The wounded sniper just wants to be put down, only the words he barely gets out makes him look even more awesome to the assembled masses. Such is the legend of Usopp.   The real trouble starts when Pika appears and grabs Doflamingo’s body. The separated head starts talking about activating the ‘birdcage.’ No, he’s not talking about showing the citizens of Dressrosa the famous Robin Williams and Nathan Lane flick of the same name, he’s talking about activating a technique that forces the citizens of Dressrosa to kill Doflamingo, kill one of his enemies or face death themselves. To make it even more amusing, Pika pulls the island and factory up into the air, further away from the heroes. I think this firmly establishes the beginning of the third act.  I’m loving this arc so far. Everything since the timeskip has been leading to this confrontation with Doflamingo. He’s surpassed Crocodile in terms of sheer dickery, as his manipulation of the island and the removal of the royal family is beyond even what the sand guy did in Alabasta. On top of that, Doflamingo is a bloody genius, so this should make things even more difficult to settle.  It’s a good time to be One Piece fan, that’s for sure.   Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 674 Finally. Both heroes are now on the field, and Madara's pressed. Oh sure, he was pressed when Guy was practically killing himself to get a hit in, but now we're actually tasting some desperation in the final boss' actions. Of course, if I was fighting two guys, one with black lightning and the other able to summon up any flavor of Rasengan he likes, I'd be pretty worried, too. Plus, Sasuke's got a Rinnegan, now, and can read Madara's big secret: That there's another Madara flitting around, invisibly blocking and absorbing the worst attacks. It's yet another pluck on the harp of "Duality", since Madara's "Limbo" attack splits himself and his shadow, ensuring practical invulnerability to anyone that doesn't have a Rinnegan. That's done with, now, and the Big Bad is sweating. Enough to actually cut and run in an attempt to complete his Rinnegan set. Of course, doing that involves poking the crap out of Kakashi's Sharingan and teleporting himself into Obito's space to, y'know, dig out that left eye and murder Sakura. If there were a good time for heroic intervention, now would be it.   Bleach chapter 578 Kenpachi is a badass. Is there really anything else left to say? His sword's even bigger, and his power level is so crazy that a dude whose imagination is theoretically unlimited can't even imagine how strong he is. Of course, said dude kind of fails at being imaginative, so that might count as a handicap of sorts, but suffice it to say that Kenpachi is a badass.  In fact, he's so much of a badass that young Glemy literally cannot handle imagining what it's like to be as strong as Kenpachi is. And that's how he dies. He imagines being as strong as Kenpachi, and basically collapses under his own power. It's a twist on how Touma beat Areolus Izzard from A Certain Magical Index, but they work on basically the same principle: To defeat someone whose thoughts can be made into reality, force them to think of themselves being beaten - or force them to think of something they can't beat. Y'know, like asking a robot what love is.  Heh, that would've been a cool way to beat Glemy: Force him to contemplate the nature of love. Or this: [embed]32410:3876:0[/embed]
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Shonen Showdown 4-7-2014

Apr 07 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 123 Welfin's Missile Man ability is absolutely brutal. Every shot of those millipede legs was like a gut punch, even though I don't really consider myself a squeamish guy, but I suppose seeing insects burst out of someone's head is certainly near the top of the gross-ometer. You've got to hand it to Octodad though, because he goes beyond the call of duty in this instance and completely turns the tables on Welfin. It was also pretty amusing to see that Welfin is actually a coward, even with a power like that.  I'm not entirely convinced that Ikalgo knew that asking Welfin about his human life would help towards killing off the millipedes, but it definitely raises a few more questions for us. Seeing as Ikalgo was the one to raise the question, does this mean that he is also aware of who he once was? Could he be someone important? Part of me wants to make a baseless assumption that he's the archer hunter we saw die early on, but I hardly think projectile weaponry is proof of that. Even so, it could mean that we do see that guy later on, and perhaps even the past identities of the other ants. Will there be more ants like Colt that may be allowed to live after this arc concludes? Unfortunately, there's not a lot more to this episode as most of it was Ikalgo and Welfin talking. However, we do get to see where Palm has been kept, and she's definitely going to be all over the next episode. The episode preview certainly had some interesting footage of what we're about to see (read: spoilers), but even so, it's neat to finally get that loose thread resolved. Sure, it sucks that we aren't going back to the King or Gon, but at least what's going on is interesting. I'm just hoping that we don't drag this out any more than it currently is, just because we're nearing the end of the source material.   [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 357 I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm really liking this new turn for Naruto Shippuden. The focus on Kakashi and his time in the ANBU has resulted in more genuinely "ninja" moments in the narrative than there have been in years of the manga. I suppose it would be fitting that about the guy who would most exemplify the traditional image of a ninja in Naruto's world would be the last major cast member left who dresses even remotely like an actual ninja (insofar as ninja have a dress code anyway). But it's here, it's queer (for a Naruto story, anyway), and I'm happy to be watching it. With Kino/Tenzo's personal issues settled (and his voice actor reverted to Rikiya "Coyote Starrk" Koyama), the story shifts focus to the last actual ANBU member to make Naruto world history: Itachi Uchiha. At this point in the flashback, he's an 11-year-old wunderkind with a voice way too deep for his age or appearance, but he's got the makings of a great black-ops type. Even Danzo sees it, which is a real red flag when it comes to Naruto storylines, but for n ow we can just say that he's good at his job. In fact, the way things are going, we may be seeing more of Itachi, as this chronicle of the ANBU's doings shifts to the events surrounding the Uchiha massacre, which we all know set Sasuke's life on its path for the main story. Manga Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 671 Speaking of the "main story" that I mentioned in the Shippuden recap, this particular tale gets itself a new wrinkle as Naruto continues his conversation with the Sage of Six Paths, who pretty much turns Naruto world history into a ninja-themed, peculiarly Japanese, peculiarly "anime" rendition of The Matrix and its greater mythology. I'm not kidding, this old dude is basically a good guy version of The Architect, though sadly he lacks that "Evil Colonel Sanders" vibe. Maybe I'll go into that in a future piece, but for now, let's just say I like Naruto's version of the Matrix story better. Anyway, the voice of (ninja) god gets further into the details about the true purpose of Ninshuu, and why the Infinite Tsukuyomi continues to be a bad idea (Hint: It's like The Matrix) for pretty much everyone. But of course, we all sort of knew that part, so the real takeaway here is the surprising revelation that at the same time as he's been telling Naruto what's what (using the simplest words he can), the old Sage's been having this very talk - or at least some version of it - with none other than Sasuke. Of course, since this manga is called Naruto, we don't actually see that side of the conversation. Hmm...if "Naruto talking to the Sage" was akin "Neo meeting The Architect", maybe Sasuke's conversation was closer to "Harry Potter meeting Dumbledore at King's Cross Station", or something unforgivably nerdy like that.  Either way, exactly what resolution Sasuke has come to at the same time as Naruto remains a mystery for now, and possibly a source of tension for whatever comes after they beat Madara for good.   Bleach chapter 575 It's funny, but the least interesting thing about recapping Bleach is trying to recap the fights themselves. Thing is, so little happens in a narrative sense during exchanges that take up these mid-fight chapters, and yet it wouldn't be right of us just to post entire pages and say "This part looked pretty cool". As a result, I end up doing that thing I do when I don't have anything useful to say, which is talk about what it's like to recap a show or manga in more general terms, like right now, where I opened this recap talking about how boring it is to recap a Bleach chapter mid-fight. But hey, at least Kenpachi managed to tease a smile out of young Glemy here, and it's somehow even creepier than that dead-eyed stare he had before. Good going, Ken-chan!
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Shonen Showdown 3-9-2014

Mar 09 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 119 Hell yeah, super saiyan Killua! You know, the brief period at the beginning of the episode where Killua is laying into Menthorpepark might be the most shonen this show has been thus far. Sudden power up that allows him to move at lightning (sorry) speeds, crazy hair and even a ranged weapon. Even the time limit reeks of shonen shows, albeit this is Meleoron and his breath holding rather than a limit on Killua's power. Anyway, this fight was an insane teaser of what's to come, and the fact that Killua was happy to leave him on his own may give us a hint about how powered up Gon is. Awesome fight over, it's time to spend the episode with Octodad. I mentioned a little while ago that I didn't care at all for this little aside from the main fights, but he did a pretty good job selling his situation. He proves to be far smarter than he seems at first, and I think he's confrontation with Killua is the only reason he ever seemed like any other ant. He completely outwits Clawitzer, if you forget the one fumble when he assumed he couldn't break out of the elevator. Ah well, not even I considered that at the end of the last episode! Our time with Ikalgo also raises another point; we've yet to see a chimera ant besides the Elite 4 kill another chimera ant. Meleoron and that one guy who defected early on certainly haven't, and Ikalgo seems to have only killed humans, and even then this was via a host body. He's never killed anyone himself, and he's put in a situation where he has to kill one of his own kind. It's not that surprising that he would hesitate, because really, Clawitzer is just doing what he's told. It's in their nature to obey commands from higher up. Even though it would be of benefit to the humans he is working with, he can't bring himself to kill one of his own.  We're heading back to Morel and his super-exciting stand-off with the bagworm. Looks like we're going to be getting even more familiar shonen scenes, as Pouf seems to be copying Cell from Dragon Ball Z if that episode preview is anything to go by. Hyperbolic Time Chamber anyone? [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Pedro Cortes One Piece Episode 634 & 635   This section of the Dressrosa arc is fairly slow, as it has to introduce a ton of characters. We get some more backstory with the extravagant Cavendish, the introduction of the buxom gladiator Rebecca and the proper reveal of Fujitora, the blind Admiral that we met earlier. The only event of note from episode 634 was Fujitora sending out the Marines toward Green Bit, i.e. the island where Law is supposed to handover Caesar to Doflamingo. Well, you could also include Bellamy’s reintroduction, but that’s spread into 635. Episode 635 fares better narratively, as we see more of what’s going on around the island. Law’s team preps to hit up Green Bit, Zoro chases after (and catches!) his sword, Kinemon searches for his samurai buddy, Sanji’s lovely date, Nami’s team protecting the Sunny and we end back at the colosseum. Again, nothing major, but at least we see what else is going on with the other characters. It seems easier on a page to split people up and have them working on different activities, but it comes across as choppy when you watch it on screen. Oh well. At the very least, we get a solid glimpse at Bartolomeo, who’s easily my favorite new character in this arc. Why? well, you’ll have wait until the tournament gets further on to find out. [You can watch One Piece over at Funimation!]   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episodes 353 and 354 We've got a hot double-banger of Naruto Shippuden this week, for whatever reason, and it makes for good effect, tying off this mini-arc and cementing the current filler season as one primarily concerned with Kakashi and young Yamato (née Kinoe) , with a side order of Danzo and more about when and how Orochimaru got into the position he was in when the core Naruto plot started - namely founding and leading the Hidden Sound village with his squad of freakshow mutant ninjas. Speaking of freakshows, the Iburi clan and their ability to turn into smoke owe it all to Orochimaru, leading to some well-directed (if clearly budget-conscious) fight scenes between Kakashi and Goto, an Iburi clansman and the anime version of Mortal Kombat's Smoke. Kinoe, now calling himself Tenzo, escapes with Yukimi, who can for whatever reason use her power to completely possess people and control their bodies, and she employs it to eat tons of food for free. A girl after my own heart, that one. But things are not meant to be, and a group of ninja that can turn into smoke would be far too convenient for a number of events in the main plot, so Orochimaru makes a deadly return, and acts so utterly evil that it's a hilarious contrast to the reformed Orochimaru we're seeing in the current manga chapters.  After a rather poignant scene with Kinoe literally attempting to catch blowing smoke with his wood (that doesn't sound right somehow), we end more or less back where we started, except for some new humanity injected into Kinoe's character. If I were in charge, I'd have this development somehow pay off when the actual manga checks in with Yamato, who was, last we checked, embedded in a gigantic tree. Will he be, like Anko, another unmourned casualty of the Fourth Great Ninja War?   Manga Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 667 Today's turning of the tide is brought to you by Izanami! Izanami! The ultimate rehab program! Izanami! You can't get out of it until you're a better person! Literally! And it works, apparently, because Kabuto's seen the light and is focused mainly on healing Sasuke, while Guy, Kakashi, and Minato struggle to hold off Madara while Obito and Sakura get Naruto fixed up.  Perhaps the great draw here is seeing Guy cut loose with all the powers his unique style can conjure up, though I feel it's kind of weak that Madara seems fully aware of Guy's spectrum of abilities, even up to the point that he's aware of Guy's "Seventh Gate" transformation, which boils his sweat so hot it glows like a blue aura. That's something that fatally undermined Kisame's attempts to defend against guy in their final fight, but I was hoping that the Leaf's Blue Beast could come up with something that Madara wouldn't genuinely expect, even with all the "plot armor" a final boss character is equipped with. Of course, the next chapter seems to tease the opening of the Eighth Gate, which as far as we know, is basically a suicide mode. Will Guy join Neji on the memorial plaque ones everything's said and done?   Bleach chapter 571 More and more it feels like these final arcs of Bleach are about scratching persistent itches and addressing longstanding questions or even granting long-held wishes. I mean, look at it. We've seen Komamura finally kick some ass, Renji finally not job like the jobber king he is, and Rukia gets some of what she's due, with a bankai and everything. Heck, look further back and we even see Kenpachi hear something out of his sword! And now we deal with Yachiru. Forever Kenpachi's shoulder ornament and the obligatory "powerful tiny child" of Bleach's hero lineup, Yachiru's never lifted a finger in combat, yet managed to make Second-in-Command of Soul Society's strongest squad. She's gotta have something, and Sternritter "V", Gwenhael of the Vanishing, is the guy who will proof that theory. Of course, Bleach's obligatory jabbering is in store, and apologies to Kubo if this sounds harsh, but dude, we've seen people that can turn invisible before, in other media. IT'S NOT A NEW THING. Wasting half your chapter explaining this freaky old guy's power like it was the most complicated three-phase process in the world is not an efficient use of the reader's time and attention. Sure, I guess there's a twist in there, that his Third-Stage power makes him invisible to your memories as well, but seriously. At least we make a new friend this chapter. Everyone, meet Yachiru Kusajishi's creepy-adorable Shikai, "Sanpo Kenjuu". Now cut that weird dude up thrice!   Pedro Cortes One Piece Chapter 739 & 740 The real ish hits the fan in the Factory. First, Trevor gets incredibly pissed after being tricked and tosses a massive duck toward the central pillar. Strange, but oddly par for the course in One Piece. Trevor proceeds to blow up the little guys, forcing Usopp and Robin to lead the attack on Sugar. However, we find out that the toy soldier that’s been leading this rebellion is Kyros, the legendary gladiator and interestingly enough, Rebecca’s father.  Now it makes sense why everybody wants the toy soldier to be the one who defeats Doflamingo, as it’ll end up being a national matter as opposed to an international incident involving outside pirates. I imagine this is what could’ve happened back at Alabasta, but Crocodile ended up being too powerful for Vivi to deal with on her own. I expect the same thing to happen here, only Law might end up getting dragged into the final encounter. Elsewhere in Dressrosa, Zoro stays behind to fight Pika, which should be a good fight for him. This’ll be a solid challenge for him, unlike his last two major encounters on Fishman Island and Punk Hazard. Luffy and Violet press on and help Kyros out of a jam Gladius. They pull themselves up a floor and they are assisted by the costumed arrival of Kinemon. The samurai dresses up like Doflamingo, which fools Gladius into stopping his pursuit.  Anyway, Robin nearly gets Sugar to swallow the spicy fruit, but gets turned into a toy via one of her limb extensions. It’s interesting to see that working to her detriment for once. Now the only one left to save everybody (the toy soldier, Franky, Luffy, the entire revolution) is Usopp…who chickens out and runs away. Oh, Usopp, I’m disappointed. I’m hoping we’ll see the return of a certain masked hero to help him out of his cowardice.  
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Shonen Showdown 3-2-2014

Mar 02 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 118 You know, I don't care for Ikalgo's search and rescue one bit. It's not even that Ikalgo's a bad character or anything, it's just that with all of this life-or-death fighting going on, I'm finding it hard to really get interested in having him search for one of the more annoying characters this show has offered us. Palm has had her moments, don't get me wrong, but let's just follow her advice and stop the search. Better yet, find a way to take over the body of Clawitzer.  Speaking of which, Clawitzer absolutely wrecks Ikalgo's corpse-body and promptly gets himself stuck in the death elevator. I'm not sure what exactly Ikalgo has in mind, but perhaps it does involve body snatching? I've no idea how he could even figure this situation out without having the lift destroy the other guy's body, but it would be a pretty good disguise to use against the wolf man. What's more, he already knows about Leomon's nickname, so he shouldn't slip up again.  But hey, we soon find ourselves back in Knuckle's company and GOD DAMN IT SHOW DON'T YOU DARE KILL HIM OFF. It was a nice touch to get all of that monologue as he approached Mentholcigarettes after seemingly provoking him into his explosive form. I also love how quick his commentary turns from his thoughts and feelings on Shoot, to essentially conceding to death with the big red guy winding a punch at him.  Not to worry though, because Killua enters the battle with a surprise thunderbolt, allowing Knuckle to pull off eight consecutive hits while the ant stands there completely dumbfounded. Now, what I want to know is why Knuckle immediately ran away to take Shoot to a hospital. What about his power? Did those punches cause Menthropeadope to go bankrupt? Or is he just confident in Killua's strength?  [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 352 Naruto Shippuden was pretty smart to spend its filler time exploring Kakashi's life, because I have to say, it's probably the most interesting filler arc in quite a while, not least because it's giving us an adventure that we can fit into the larger picture of Naruto's ninja world, rather than weightless escapades of your more typical filler involving the likes of Naruto and the key story characters.  The best part about this time focusing on Kakashi's time in the ANBU is that it's not just Kakashi's story alone. Two weeks ago it was Minato's story, focusing on how the Fourth Hokage entered - and tragically left - high office, and last week it was Hiruzen and Danzo's story, detailing the shadowed maneuvers and near-betrayals that opened the Third Hokage's second term. This week the story focuses on Yamato or rather, Kinoe - or is it Tenzo? Anyway, the young Wood-element ninja and future kohai to Kakashi's senpai as he clears a path for Orochimaru, just recently (and violently) banished from the Leaf, his human experimentation exposed. Yamato's execution of Danzo and Orochimaru's contingency plans brings to light a weird new hidden village, full of people half made of smoke, cowering in a cave system for fear of being dispersed by an errant breeze. And according to one young girl, Yamato was one of them - as Tenzo, her brother. But clearly, being subject to horrifying medical trials is a classic path to amnesia, and Yamato retains no knowledge of his path. For that matter, he doesn't even retain a set of normal-looking eyes. Hopefully this'll be the trigger point that'll turn him from Orochimaru's flunky into the eager subordinate/mentor that looked after Naruto in the early days of Shippuden.   Manga Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 666 It's fitting that this week's chapter of Naruto bears the Number of The Beast, because it's a "beast" of a chapter, and seems to symbolize the point at which the fight finally turned against Madara. I'm sure a few fans might be feeling miffed that the people responsible for shifting the balance at this point are decidedly not named in the title of the manga, but if nothing else, Naruto's always made a big deal about how even the strongest characters can't accomplish very much on their own. The only exception to this rule has been the Sage of Six Paths, and for all intents and purposes both of the characters who've wielded that power as individuals have been either evil or misguided, and nothing refutes a personal philosophy like being cast as the villain in the story. Speaking of being cast as the villain, Obito's come to his senses and is finally ready to set things right, wrenching back some control of the Tailed Beasts' powers from Madara and hooking up with his old buddy Kakashi to demonstrate to Madara just how badass Obito's Sharingan can be when used as a pair. There's also a welcome bit of levity in this chapter as Naruto once again indulges in its fetish for diagram-assisted combat tactics, and reveals that Madara's mental diagrams are drawn in archaic, ink-brush style rather than the more modern abstractions of contemporary ninja mental diagrams. It's a cute touch. Bleach chapter 570 You know how anime characters lose all color when they're shocked, stunned or dumbfounded? How they turn from full-color cartoon to monochrome, unshaded line art? Well, in this chapter of Bleach young Rukia looks how I feel right now, as I type this recap from the safety of Safe Mode in the wake of a catastrophic hardware failure. Always back up your data, kids! It might save your livelihood! But enough about me, let's talk about Rukia's Bankai, which is pure badass. Actually, it's more than that, because look at it. She's gone completely lineart! As if Tite Kubo weren't already pilloried for being "too lazy to draw backgrounds", now the man is "too lazy to shade".  I kid, I kid, it looks brilliant. And what it does is quite striking, even when freezing freakshows into white polar powder. There's also an interesting thematic connection here, as it's worth noting that Hakka no Togame changes Rukia's entire appearance, giving her new clothes to wear and remaking her into the spitting image of her own sword's personified form. Man, all of a sudden Hitsugaya seems completely outclassed in the "having a cool ice form" department. Hakka no Togame is also supremely risky, seeing as Rukia literally starts cracking up if she can't defrost in a controlled manner. That said, I doubt that'll really matter, because if Bleach lives up to type, we might not see it used again before Ichigo arrives to win at everything.
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