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Manga Contest photo
Manga Contest

Do you have what it takes to get published in Weekly Shonen Magazine?

Sounds like a rad opportunity
Oct 18
// Salvador G Rodiles
For a good while, I've always been behind the idea of contests that let people get the chance to get their stories published if they win. Speaking of which, the Comic Website MediBang is teaming up with the folks at Weekly Sh...
Yo-Kai Watch photo
Yo-Kai Watch

Impressions: Yo-kai Watch Manga Vol. 1 and 2

A Spooky Adventure
Dec 24
// Christian Chiok
Ever since the first game released in Japan back in 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS, the Yo-kai Watch franchise has captivated the entire Japanese population. While the manga was published a few months before the game officially re...

Final Impressions: Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma

Oct 07 // Nick Valdez
Leading into the finale, the Autumn Election preliminaries were nearly over. Group B finished their turn and Alice Nakiri, Arato Hisako, Takumi Aldini, and Megumi Tadakoro are the first four to advance to the actual competition. When we last left Group A, Ryo Kurokiba made his mark by taking first place with 93 points and the rest of the Polar Star dorm, while good, struggled to reach that height. At episode's end Akira Hayama stepped up to serve his dish,  weird curry souffle looking thing that spewed all sorts of tantalizing scents when punctured (that he called a "fragrance bomb"). And with the finale, we learn why it's so effective. Thanks to a mix of holy basil and yogurt (to balance out its pungent nature) his curry throws the judges for a loop. After some reaction shenanigans, they give his dish 94 points, with two of the judges giving a max score of 20 (it's important to note the spread was 18/20/18/20/18). But right as Akira was celebrating his win, Soma revealed that he too worked on a "fragrance bomb" type of meal.  Learning from his past losses and mistakes (such as losing to his Dad a few episodes back and nearly failing the buffet task with his omelets during the boot camp), Soma slyly combines the two efforts as a way to get back at his past self. Serving curry rice inside of an omelette pocket, he's managed to learn all about spice from the few days he learned about curry from Akira. Like how Akira balanced his spice with yogurt, Soma made a mango chutney in order to give it a bit of sweetness. Unfortunately, the dish wasn't enough to earn the top spot and Soma nets 93 points. But three of the judges rated his dish higher than Akira's, however (so it's 19/18/19/18/19) thus deepening their rivalry. That brings Group A to a close, and seven students are confirmed for the finals. Then the kids all celebrate, though Soma vows to work harder in order to claim victory. There's an eighth student to be revealed later (though the episode doesn't say this), and he's such a huge part of the semifinals, I'm sure they're saving his reveal for the next season. If there is one.  Although I had a lot of fun with the series overall, I'm pretty worried about the future of the show. Community members MSJ and RoboYuji pointed out that my complaint of cutting everything short was unfounded, and I'll admit that I didn't consider that the show would need filler in order to give the manga time to get further ahead. I'd hate to see what a filler arc would like since the official filler here (whatever the heck the "Karaage Wars" was) was pretty garbage. But since the manga has gone far past the Autumn Elections already (and has a more natural endpoint) it feels like we've been shafted since we're cut off before the actual fun of the show starts. But then again, that's just me being greedy. I just like the premise so much, I wanted more of it. I mean, what's the point of having two completely different title sequences if you're going to cut it off now?  There are bigger elements at play here since the show most likely didn't have the biggest audience (and a sequel season rests entirely with secondary sales), it's been rife with budget problems from the get go (as lots of shortcuts were taken with the animation and sound design was particularly spotty early on), but the property's so much fun. It just feels like Food Wars is ending right when it hit its groove.  But given my biggest problem with Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma was there wasn't enough of it, I guess it wasn't so bad after all. 
Final Food Wars  photo
"Happy to serve!"
I first found Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma through manga. Although I fell out of touch with the anime for several years, I've been periodically reading manga through that time. One of my favorites turned out to be Food W...

Annotated Anime: Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma episodes 21-23

Sep 29 // Nick Valdez
Episode 21 After waking up from his brief nap teased at the end of last episode, Souma reveals he's been cooking some kind of rice and spice dish, but that's all we really see before the episode cuts to Group B and Tadakoro. As the crowd begins to turn on her due to her nervous demeanor, she pulls out her cout de grace, a difficult monkfish she showfully butchers. She learned how to cut it back home in order to help her family, and seeing them here in support has given her the confidence to nail it. But the brunt of this episode was devoted to the fierce rivalry between Erina Nakiri's aide, Arato, and her creepy stalker introduced two episodes ago, Nao. The judges in Group B have been especially tough as no chef has gotten over 20 points, but Nao and her super smelly laksa and kusaya curry manages to get 84 points (resulting in the header image). But Arato, with her focus in medicinal herbs and spices, manages a healthy curry which cleanses the judges of all previous flavors and basically got the taste of Nao's curry out of their mouths. She scores 92 points as the episode's close draws attention to the Aldini brothers.  It's a shame the show's going to end soon because I'm loving the anime's adaptation of the reactions. They're the best thing from the manga, but seeing them play out on screen adds an entirely new level.  Episode 22 As we join Group A's proceedings, Miyoko Hojo (the character who hates Tadakoro for relying on men and feels she needs to be stronger than all the men in order to succeed in the field) has started things off with a strong Chinese and pineapple infused curry and nets 87 points, Polar Star Dorm resident Yuki nets 86 points for her wild game curry, but then the Aldini brothers take the stage. Both present Italian inspired dishes with the younger Aldini, Isami serving a curry calzone scoring 87 and the older Aldini, Takumi serves a pasta curry and gets 90 points thanks to his putting cheese inside the pasta noodles. then Alica Nakiri blows the judges away (and shows her chops) with her science cooking as her deconstructed curry gets a hefty 95 points. Then, finally, we have the best girl Tadakoro. After everyone hilariously forgot about her, she serves the result of her hard work and love of her town, monkfish dobu-jiru curry.  Tadakoro manages to score 88 points (earning her new rival Hojo's respect) and earns her place in the top eight along with Alice Nakiri, Hisako Arato, and Takumi Aldini. Yay Tadakoro! Episode 23 We're back in Group A as the judges continue giving low scores (with some giving no score at all). But Ryo Kurokiba, Alice's aide with his shifting personality, manages to break that rhythm with a lobster and cognac curry (which he tells the main judge to slurp like a savage, hilariously) and 96 points. But none of the other chefs let that get to them as Polar Star residents Ryoko, Marui, and Ibusaki all net 86 and 88 points respectively with their dishes as Nikumi gets 86 with her meat don (which she's crafted thanks to her early shokugeki with Souma). But as the episode draws to a close, the arguably strongest student (since we really haven't seen his skills yet) Akira heads up to serve his dish and directly challenges Souma with his taste. As Souma begins to eat, he realizes there's a delicious scent pouring out.  Well, that's it. The final episode is up next and this is what I mean about terrible sequel series. Now we're stuck here until Food Wars 2 or something like that comes out. Hopefully it's gotten enough support overseas to warrant a second season. But until then, I totally recommend the manga. It's pretty good. But this show's been pretty entertaining in its own right (and I'll get into that with the final impressions after I see the last episode), and I can't help but love the exaggerated world. I hope there's more. 
Annotated Food Wars! photo
Sexy curry
I hate how some shonen series are handled. If a shonen manga doesn't have the audience or allotted budget of a big Shonen Jump property like One Piece or Gintama, then its anime adaptation is doomed to "seasons." Instead of c...

J-Stars Victory photo
J-Stars Victory

J-Stars Victory Vs+ releases early for EU and Australia

The Testosterone Game
Jun 27
// Anthony Redgrave
Weekly Shonen Jump is one of the biggest manga umbrellas in the industry, collecting some of the biggest franchises like; Dragon Ball, One Piece, Bleach, Naruto, and Gintama. Their ventures from the black and white weeklies ...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 694

May 26 // Anthony Redgrave
From last week's episode, Luffy and the tag alongs are still fighting the giant soldier nutcrackers that seem to be invincible. All the gum gum attacks and blade of beauty slashes can't seem to keep these monstrosities down. And that might be partially because the girl with the Toy Devil Fruit has regained consciousness. There is an excellent scene where she is presented sausages by long nosed henchmen despite her new found fear for 'stick shaped' things. Its funny because One Piece's 'red shirts' are almost always generically drawn characters and never have a defining feature like a long nose but they all seem to have congregated around Sugar in that one moment.    Robin's jump squad are ambushed by Gladius who is able to bring down Robin and Bartolomeo but Rebecca escapes to the Level 4 with Law's key. Unfortunately Law is stuck on Level 3 so we have to wait even longer before Law can stop whining like a bitch and become useful. Finally, things are starting to be set up for some great fights as Robin orders Luffy's group to continue so she and the Straw Hat fanboy take on Gladius and the rest of the nutcrackers. Again not much happens in terms of plot in this episode but there are a lot of set ups for future instalments. I can't wait to see Usopp display his god like sniper ability since its always so damn rare and team up fights are always great to see. Even though it was filler, the team up fight with Sanji and Usopp against the ice skating couple is still a personal favourite.
One Piece photo
Are we still in Dressrosa?
The Dressrosa arc had the potential to be one of my favourite arcs. The main bad guy was the enigmatic Donquixote Doflamingo, it carried on from Punk Hazard so we got to have more Law, and Dressrosa is a great locat...

Annotated Anime: One Piece 693

May 20 // Anthony Redgrave
Luffy, Law, Kyros, and Cavendish head towards the Palace while the rest of the Gladiators fend off Doflamingo's executives and their lackeys Zoro fights off Pica allowing Bartolomeo, Robin, and Rebecca to rendezvous with Luffy's group as they have the key to Law's sea prism cuffs Sabo duels Fujitora to prevent his pursuit of Luffy Usopp does nothing with King Riku and Violet The Sunny Protection Squad and Sanji still haven't been seen since episode 662 Kin'emon finally finds his samurai friend Kanjuro Franky busts into the SMILE factory but still has to deal with Senor Pinkand There was a new intro. Nothing particularly catchy or memorable  This episode picks up with Luffy's group taking out the extremely creepy toy soldiers on the third level. These guys would look menacing since they are giant, move abnormally, and appear from the fog but Luffy and the others defeat them with such ease that there isn't much tension. In fact they have a Legolas/ Gimili style competition to see how many they can take down which Luffy ends up winning much to Cavendish's chagrin. Kin'emon meets up with Usopp and King Riku with his new samurai friend Kanjuro in tow. Kanjuro has the same ability as Sai from Naruto except he is a Samurai not a Ninja (can draw things that then come to life). This guy is great. He's another good source of comic relief that prevents One Piece from taking itself too seriously. Although having a giant calligraphy brush with a Katana handle is really weird.  After outsmarting Senor Pink, Franky gains access to the SMILE factory but is instantly met with opposition in the form of Kyuin, the manager. She is a big masked woman that wields a hoover because even in One Piece they conform to gendered stereotypes. Through some affectionate means Franky subdues Kyuin and turns his attention to Senor Pink. They talk about being Hard Boiled as the tramps swoon. I don't quite get it but I assume its a concept I'll understand once I have grown more than 2 chest hairs. I was really enjoying this arc at first but its beginning to lose traction. The pace has slowed down to the point the plot is barely moving even though they are finally making their way to fighting Doflamingo. I hope they focus on Zoro's fight against Pica soon or explore Law's backstory that was hinted at earlier. 
One Piece photo
Ah~ So Hard Boiled!
Yo ho ho! Ensign Redgrave back on the helm to deliver the SS Japanator through the Grand Line safely and to document the adventures of the Straw Hat Crew. I've been MIA for a while so I'll summarise the missing 9 episodes in bullet points. 

Annotated Anime: One Piece 684

Mar 15 // Anthony Redgrave
It turns out I was semi-correct in Luffy's escape from Pica's raging fist, he blew himself up into a balloon and used the air to propel himself and Law to safety. Finding Zoro and making a horrible joke about being 'hanged' they continue towards the palace. Along the way they encounter our favourite attention seeking pirate Cabbage Cavendish. He has had a change of heart and no longer wants to kill Luffy. Instead he returns Law's white cap and announces he will be the one to kill Doflamingo to obtain the undivided attention of the media. This annoys Luffy to no end as his desire to kick Doflamingo's ass is greater due to owing Rebecca for lunch. The gladiatorial get together doesn't end there as most contestants gather at Luffy's location, all proclaiming they will kill Doflamingo as gratitude for Usopp freeing them when they were toys. Much to Luffy's chargrin, he proceeds towards the palace with his new entourage. As they approach Pica, the group gets the attention of the stone behemoth by mocking his voice. Pica delivers another island shaking blow towards the gladiators but is stopped by the combined power of Chinjao and King Elizabello II.  Not a very plot moving episode this week but at least we got to see some good ol' One Piece humour. That's what I really enjoy about One Piece at the end of the day. It has some amazing lore and can get really serious as the arc starts to climax, but it still knows when to lighten the mood with wacky villains or having the main characters goof off.
One Piece photo
Let's all be friends!
Over the past few weeks, I've been re-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender with a friend. He enjoys the characters, setting, martial arts, and story because Avatar is a really good show. But the last two episodes we've seen; T...

One Piece photo
One Piece

Shonen Showdown: One Piece Episodes 647 - 653

Shark to the head
Jul 16
// Pedro Cortes
As we’re in the thick of a pretty serious arc, the pace for One Piece has slowed to a crawl. Not only that, but there are so many different things going on that it’s taking forever for major plot points to deal wi...
One Piece photo
One Piece

Annotated Anime: One Piece 643-647

Things are getting heated in Dressrosa
Jun 03
// Pedro Cortes
Phew, I've been gone for a while. That means that you guys haven't gotten your proper dose of One Piece in weeks. That's a bloody shame, and I'm here to fix you guys right up. Thing is, in terms of major plot developments, th...

Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 1

May 06 // Karen Mead
Ranma 1/2 DVD Set 1 Publisher: Viz Media Release Date: March 25, 2014 MSRP: $44.82 Ranma Saotome is a talented martial artist with a very peculiar curse; when doused with cold water, he changes sex and becomes a curvy red-haired girl. His father, cursed in a similar manner to become a giant panda, has arranged for him to be married to young Akane Tendo so that he can one day take over the Tendo School of Anything Goes Martial Arts. However, Akane is a tomboy who has no interest in marrying a boy, let alone a boy who turns into a girl, and Ranma just wants to get his curse removed...or so he says. Such is the beginning of one of the most beloved anime rom-coms of all time. Needless to say, many other characters vie for the affections of Ranma and Akane respectively (sometimes simultaneously), and plenty of other characters magically turn into stuff when they get wet, and mayhem ensues. Literally rinse and repeat. I expected to spend a portion of this review talking about whether the animation from a show originally broadcast in 1989 "holds up," in today's parlance. Instead, a curious thing happened; though I knew it couldn't be true, when I began watching it really seemed to me like the visuals in Ranma 1/2 were actually better than current fare. How could that possibly be? The colors are often dull, the character designs simple, and the technology at work was primitive compared to the tools that animators have at their disposal these days. So how is it that I find Ranma 1/2 more visually appealing than 90% of the anime I see today? What I eventually realized was that it wasn't that the animation was particularly fluid, but that everything was consistent and well-storyboarded. Too often in modern anime, the focus is split between action scenes (where the studios sink most of their money) and static talking-head scenes that exist to provide info dumps and save money. In Ranma 1/2, that distinction doesn't seem to exist; even seemingly mundane scenes feature a fair amount of movement. Characters are constantly doing acrobatics, throwing things, jumping out of windows, changing into animals, etc. The overall effect can feel a bit like Looney Tunes at times, but what it means is that the show is full of motion. The world of Ranma Saotome and the Tendo sisters feels vibrant and alive, and that more than makes up for the dated animation techniques and frequent lack of detail. Maybe I'm crazy, but it feels so much more like a finished product than a lot of what we see today; I really wish shows still looked like this. Plus, despite the fact that modern anime has tried to turn cute into a science, I honestly find Akana and Ranma much cuter than most characters these days. The story doesn't fare quite as well from a modern perspective. In fact, if you're a viewer who likes to look at things through the lens of gender politics, you will have an absolute field day with this show. There's no denying that Ranma 1/2 is sexist; one of the first things anyone says to Akane on the show is that if she keeps up being such a tomboy, she'll never find herself a husband. Ranma frequently opines that having to be a girl at times is "humiliating," yet claims his female version is better than Akane since girl-type Ranma has bigger breasts. In fact, Ranma is frequently downright brutal to his future bride; when he's not getting on her case for being unfeminine, he's lording his superior martial arts skills over her. Akane spends much of the series violently angry, and it's for good reason. Some viewers are bound to be turned off by these things, and that's fair. However, personally I don't see it that way; to me, complaining about sexism in Ranma 1/2 is kind of like watching an episode of I Love Lucy from the 1950s and complaining that Ricky orders Lucy around too much. It is sexist, but I think you need to take it in the context of its time and place, and also realize that the show subverts its own apparent sexism at times. After all, if Akane is supposedly so unattractive to boys due to her tomboy ways, why are virtually all the guys on the show head-over-heels in love with her? The show is actually more sexist on the surface than it is deep down where it matters, if that makes any sense. There's a lot of talk that "Boys are like this, girls are like this," but the characters themselves really don't practice what they preach. Furthermore, whatever misgivings some might have about the overall arc of the story, there's no denying that Ranma 1/2 is king when it comes to physical comedy. It's the little touches, like Akane's father diving for cover right before she decks Ranma with a table, that make the jokes work. Granted, the humor does get repetitive fairly quickly -- and there seem to be an awful lot of full buckets of water just hanging around for no reason -- but still, the show has a ton of great visual gags up its sleeve. At its best, the over-the-top martial arts action reaches a level of absurdity that's kind of genius. The martial arts rhythmic gymnastics competition featured in this volume is one such incident, and martial arts-figure skating isn't far behind. And even when the action isn't that riveting, Akane is such a likable character that it's just fun looking in on her daily life. There're also plenty of supporting and minor characters who each bring their own brand of humor, quite successfully. You really can't go wrong with either language track here; despite the occasional awkwardness that plagues all early English anime dubs, I think the English cast for Ranma 1/2 really threw themselves into this in a way that's all too rare. Particular standouts are Myriam Sirois, who makes for a feisty but good-hearted Akane, and Angela Costain, who's delightfully acerbic as Akane's manipulative sister Nabiki Tendo. I'm also rather fond of Sarah Strange as male Ranma, since she seems to have a gift for making Ranma seem nice even when he's saying awful things to Akane that you want to slap him for. This release is light on extras; the only thing on offer here besides trailers is a brief featurette filmed at NYCC 2013, featuring some Ranma cosplayers. It's a nice idea in theory, but the whole thing is maybe two minutes long, so it shouldn't effect anyone's purchasing decision. Personally I think the episodes themselves are worth the purchase, but it would have been nice if there was at least some bonus art or something; I'm hopeful that future volumes might have more to offer. Ranma 1/2 may not be for everyone; it calls back to a lot of sexist stereotypes, it's often juvenile in its humor, and even during the first season, can start to feel repetitive. However, at its best it's a riotous blend of over-the-top, well-choreographed martial arts action with many lovable characters and jokes to spare. If that sounds like something you might enjoy, no one does it better than this. 9.0 – Exceptional. One of the best things its genre has ever produced. Its example will be copied or taken into account by almost anything that follows it.  
Ranma 1/2 photo
Anything Goes in this comedy classic
The wacky ensemble comedy of Ranma 1/2 occupies an interesting niche in Western anime fandom. The show wasn't likely to be someone's "first anime," in the way that contemporaries Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z generally w...

Manga photo

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...
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure photo
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

You can't even handle these JoJo Rubik's Cubes

I know I can't handle them
Apr 26
// Brittany Vincent
I'm no good with Rubik's Cubes, but these JoJo's Bizarre Adventure cubes aren't meant to be played with anyway. Megahouse's "JoJo’s Bizarre Cube Part 1: Phantom Blood” and “JoJo’s Bizarre Cube Part 2: ...

First Impressions: Haikyu!!

Apr 10 // Karen Mead
First, let's get this out of the way "Haikyu!! puts the Jump in Shonen Jump!" There, now you can say you heard it at Jtor first. The premise of this show is that red-haired Hinata loves volleyball, even though he's a bit short. How much does he love volleyball? Imagine how much you love your favorite thing -- be it chocolate fudge cake, walking your golden retriever, or snuggling under a warm blanket with your significant other on a cold night. Well, no matter how much you love that thing, you only love it maybe half as much as Hinata loves spiking volleyballs. Hinata loves spiking volleyballs so much that it arguably crosses the line into mental illness, but hey; to each his own. In fact, Hinata loves volleyball so much that he doesn't let minor details like "My school doesn't even have a boys volleyball team," get in his way. Eventually, a bunch of friends take pity on him (and it is pity) and join together to form a quasi-team, even though they really can't play, and enter a competition -- only to matched up with the tournament favorites in their first match. Serious-business setter Tobio can't believe his school has to play such a sucky team, but he's in for a surprise from Hinata; his reaction to the spunky spiker oscillates between "I hope you die in a fire" and "WHERE have you been all my life!?" and the classic love/hate rivalry is firmly established without a hitch. Of course, this set-up is filled with common sports anime devices: the underdog hero with a huge heart, the snooty rival, the contrast of playing for the love of the game versus playing for glory, etc. But it's not completely rote; for one thing, I appreciated the fact that the old "Just try hard enough and you can win at everything!" trope was trashed pretty much immediately. Plus, Hinata and Tobio's relationship seems to be advancing much faster than usual -- I was expecting it to take 12 episodes before Tobio would even give Hinata the time of day, but one episode in and their rivalry is already well established. The only problem is that I really don't find volleyball that interesting. The show did give me a more favorable impression of it, but my interest level in the sport was at zero, so knocking the score up by +5 didn't really help much. Plus, with the continuing Yowapeda and now Baby Steps, I'm kind of at my maximum level of sports anime consumption -- and Baby Steps, while not as high quality in many respects, has the advantage because tennis is one of the only sports I'm really familiar with. With everything else about the show being really solid, I think the deciding factor for a lot of viewers is going to be whether or not they like volleyball, or if they'd rather watch an anime that covers a different sport; there's certainly enough to choose from these days. Still, if unlike me, you're actually in the market for another athletic anime to round out your viewing schedule, you won't do much better than Haikyu!! It's one of those rare shows that I feel very comfortable recommending, even though I doubt I'll be watching much further.
Haikyu!! photo
Jump like you mean it
If we were ranking these new shows based on animation quality alone, Haikyu!! would be king of the mountain; out of everything I've seen so far this season, only the first episode Captain Earth has better animation...may...

A Look @ Fairy Tail Volume 33 & 34

Feb 05 // Pedro Cortes
Fairy Tail Volume 33 & 34Creator: Hiro MashimaTranslated by: William FlanaganPublisher: Kodansha ComicsMSRP: $10.99 Physical / $7.99 DigitalReleased: 12/3/2013 (Vol. 33) & 1/7/2014 (Vol. 34) At this point in this large, multi-part arc, Fairy Tail is desperately behind in the Grand Magical Games. In order to stand a chance at reclaiming their place as the strongest guild, they’ll need some points and fast. That means more one-on-one fights. Now, typically this is where my eyes would start rolling. In most shonen franchises, the tournament setup is used when the creator is either stalling for time or is out of ideas. It’s a good excuse to have your characters stick around in one place and have flashy fights. This time around, the tournament conceit actually makes sense in the story and doesn’t feel out-of-place. After all of the heavy hitters disappearing for seven years, it would make sense that Fairy Tail’s reputation would take a hit and they would do anything to bring the guild back to its former glory. Thus taking us to the slate of fights across these two volumes. We’ve got a good combination of gag-based battles and serious, story-altering tussles. The Elfman/Bacchus fight manages to combine both to great effect. For one, it legitimizes Elfman, who I feel has gotten short shrift thought the entire story. Two, it forces Quatro Cerberus to change their name to Quatro Puppy. Childish, yes, but psychologically devastating. For other good, serious battles, the Kagura/Yukino and Laxus/Alexi fights need to be mentioned. The Kagura/Yukino fight adds fuel to the Saber Tooth/Fairy Tail conflict when Yukino gets the boot for losing and the Laxus/Alexi fight is just impressive, as Laxus takes on the entirety of Raven Tail and comes out on top. Speaking of Saber Tooth/Fairy Tail conflict, the biggest highlight for me across both of these volumes is Natsu’s solo-attack on a guild. It’s a mark of the fire wizard’s physical fortitude that he stood toe-to-toe with the Saber Tooth headmaster and his belief in camaraderie. One of Fairy Tail’s strengths is the bonds of friendship and family that the members of Natsu’s guild form with each other and that chapter encapsulates it. The final pages of volume 34 take things a step further, when Minerva beats Lucy within an inch of her life. With things getting more personal, it’ll be interesting to see how those conflicts become more heated as the Games get further along. My only gripe with these volumes has to be the mysterious references to Eclipse. Knowing what happens later, the way things are depicted is a bit misleading and leads to some confusion later on. Fairy Tail is at its weakest whenever Mashima relies on big doomsday devices and the later arc swerve is the result of either sloppy storytelling or poor planning. Like a lot of things in fiction, problems could have been prevented if things were presented in a succinct fashion. Oh well. Everything else in these volumes should please long-time readers.
Fairy Tail photo
Fights everywhere you turn
Before we take a look at the latest volumes of Fairy Tail, let’s take a look at where we’re at in the story. The members of Fairy Tail are in the midst of the Grand Magic Games. Held to determine which guild is th...

NS:UNS Revolution photo
NS:UNS Revolution

Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution features old Kages

Including Papa Gaara and Papa A
Jan 21
// Chris Walden
You know, the current Naruto arc is an absolute gold mine for CyberConnect2, as it's allowing them access to so many new and interesting characters. They've already boasted that the roster in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja ...
Hunter x Hunter x P&D photo
Hunter x Hunter x P&D

Hunter x Hunter invades Puzzle & Dragons

Pretty sure it's my turn soon.
Dec 09
// Chris Walden
Puzzle & Dragons continues to show its dominance of the Japanese casual game scene with yet another collaboration, this time recruiting the help of some young and talented hunters. Killua and Kurapika of Hunter x Hunter f...
HxH: -The Last Mission- photo
HxH: -The Last Mission-

Hunter x Hunter: -The Last Mission- gets a teaser trailer

There's something familiar about the guy with the knife...
Nov 22
// Chris Walden
You know, considering the premise for Hunter x Hunter: The Phantom Rouge was actually pretty good, it was even more of a shame that the film turned out to be such a let down. I mean, it wasn't awful or anything, but it reall...
Toriko simulcast photo
Toriko simulcast

Get your NOM on with Toriko over at Crunchyroll

Unfortunately, Toriko won't teach you anything about cooking
Nov 15
// Kristina Pino
As if Crunchyroll didn't already pretty much cover all our bases with their streaming anime titles, they've just announced that Toriko will be joining the library. For now, it's set to simulcast on Mondays at 10:00 a.m. PST s...
Blue Exorcist The Movie photo
Blue Exorcist The Movie

Aniplex to release Blue Exorcist The Movie on Blu-ray

Everything you wanted
Sep 28
// Kristina Pino
Aniplex have just announced that Blue Exorcist The Movie is not only coming to home video, but you'll be able to enjoy it in glorious Blu-ray format if you choose to buy the limited box set edition. It includes the film in bo...
HxH: -The Last Mission- photo
HxH: -The Last Mission-

Second Hunter x Hunter movie has a teaser trailer

Jan! Ken! Wait, it's over?
Aug 19
// Chris Walden
Oh, how I do love me some Hunter x Hunter. However, the somewhat promising Phantom Rouge movie of last year really didn't sate the appetites of fans waiting for some great, new material. However, there's some hope that the s...

Shonen Showdown 7-30-2013

Jul 30 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Pedro Cortes One Piece Episode 606 The Straw Hats go further into Caesar's lab while the Marines try to fight one of Vegapunk's dragons. The Marines are get stuck in a worse situation when the dragon leaves (to harass the Straw Hats, no less) and is replaced by Vergo. The crooked vice admiral starts mowing down the G-5 Marines. Tashigi is on the verge of death, but Sanji Sky-Walks in and kicks Vergo in the face. The music played while landing that kick? Amazing.   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 322 Now there's the Naruto we know and love. THAT is where all the money went. Studio Pierrot's been spending all this filler-time husbanding its resources to make the battlefield debut of Madara Uchiha - the real one, hit like a double meteor, down to the literal double-meteor that plasters the poor Tsuchikage. This latest episode shows off the advantage of animation as Madara chops his way through the ninja army like a refugee from Dynasty Warriors. Hell, for all the mayhem he causes, he'd be a shoo-in for a cameo role in Sengoku Basara. Wow. Now that would be something to consider. Sengoku Basara 5 - now featuring JUMP all-stars! [Watch balls meteors touch on Crunchyroll!]    Manga Pedro Cortes One Piece Chapter 715 The C-Block battle royal continues, intruducing another set of fighters that will ultimately get their butts kicked. The only guy of import is a bounty hunger named Jean the Robber, as he manages to steal "Lucy's" helmet, nearly exposing Luffy to the masses at the coliseum. Don Qinjiao dashes at Luffy to attack, ending the chapter. Oh, and we're on break next week, so it'll be a bit before we can polish off this fight. Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 640 After the developments of the last few chapters I worried that Obito would end up being morphed by his Jinchuriki transformation into the kind of mindless boss-monster creature that only really exists for the sub-characters to kill off-panel while the protagonists do one-on-one duels with the main antagonist (see: Yammy Rialgo from Bleach), but thankfully, this chapter shows the man pretty much just snapping out of that funk, and integrating into a Jinchuriki proper and the spitting image of the Sage of Six Paths, complete with Magatama motif and Shinto-Buddhist imagery: Yeah, look at that guy. Jerk even turned his weird shadow-stigmata into a priest-staff. That said, I think I may have lost the plot at this point regarding Obito's goal. After all, the original plan was for Madara to become the Ten-Tails' Jinchuriki, then reflect his eye off the moon and trap the world into a Matrix-like illusionary utopia. What's Obito going to do now that he's bogarted the ultimate weapon? Now that most everyone seems to be in final-form mode, let's hope we get some much-needed exposition to move it all along towards the final conclusion.  
Shonen Showdown photo
The little voice in your head
Welcome to the latest installment of Shonen Showdown, the battle recap that sprang, fully-formed and grown, straight from the heads of its creators, just like Athena of Greek myth. Turns out that the whole process of that bir...

Good Loser Kumagawa photo
Good Loser Kumagawa

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Farewell Medaka Box, you were crazy as hell.
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// Elliot Gay
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Fairy Tail ending

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Woe! Woe!
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My pun is bad and I feel bad.
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One last dying wish granted.
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Review: One Piece: Pirate Warriors

Nov 02 // Bob Muir
One Piece: Pirate Warriors (PlayStation 3)Developer: Koei Tecmo/Omega ForcePublisher: Namco BandaiReleased: September 25, 2012 MSRP: $49.99 After eating the Gum-Gum Fruit, one of many types of Devil Fruit, Monkey D. Luffy gains the ability to stretch his body like rubber, but at the cost of never being able to swim again. Not letting his handicap deter him, he sets off to sail the seas, finding adventure and gathering a crew. His ultimate goal: to traverse the Grand Line (the most challenging section of the ocean), find the legendary pirate Gold Roger's treasure One Piece, and become the Pirate King. Along the way, Luffy must overcome rival pirates, government-sponsored privateers, shadowy organizations, and ultimately the full might of the Marines. Pirate Warriors follows Luffy from his early adventures in the East Blue all the way to the massive Battle of Marineford, spanning more than a decade of a story that is still only halfway done. As might be expected, adapting the source material into a playable form necessitates massive cuts, and so the game tries to focus on the important fights and events. This is both a blessing and a curse. [embed]27176:1796[/embed] Part of the appeal of a long-running story like One Piece is having a chance to get to know the characters and understand their place in the growing story. While many arcs feel somewhat self-contained due to the nature of traveling from island to island, the arcs often introduce a new crewmate, develop characters, allow background machinations, and generally move the overall story. So when the aforementioned Battle of Marineford occurs, readers understand the weight of the events and why they matter. Combined with the exuberance and earnestness that creator Eiichiro Oda puts into his work, it's easy to become attached to the characters and cheer them on through increasing adversity. There is almost none of that build-up present in Pirate Warriors. The story is a disjointed mess, merely "best of" moments that will only truly make sense to someone who is already familiar with the manga. The majority of the game is told from a flashback occurring at the recent start of the manga's post-timeskip second half, within which the crew flashes back to even earlier events. None of the crew questions why three of them weren't important enough to get a flashback to their introduction story, and apparently no one at Namco Bandai questioned this awkward presentation. Any detailed explanation of characters or the world around them are relegated to a glossary. Chapters open and close with a narrated text dump trying to explain what has happened since the last chapter and what the ramifications of the chapter you just played were. Many cutscenes are presented in manga panels with voiceover, which feels lazy and barely serviceable when the fully animated cutscenes are so visually thrilling. Of course, because there is no overall narrative context, non-fans have much less reason to get emotionally invested with these moments. All that will register is that the guy made out of rubber blows up a ludicrously-sized giant fist to fight a leopard man who can shoot lasers from his finger. That being said, Pirate Warriors features many attention-grabbing moments, such as a guy made out of rubber using a giant fist to punch a laser-shooting leopard man. The story bits that the game adapts may be disjointed, but these moments were chosen for being some of the best, most important parts of the manga. The game manages to capture the spirited tone of the source material. Unlike the sometimes slow and stiff One Piece anime, playing Pirate Warriors felt true to the manic energy of the manga. The core of the game is what you'd expect from Dynasty Warriors -- various combos using square and triangle -- but the attacks are punchy and satisfying, even though there's little challenge in taking out a crowd of enemies. There is also a dash button for dodging attacks that can be mixed into a combo to halt counterattacks and speed up combat even further. Attacking or taking damage builds a meter for crowd-clearing special attacks, which are rarely necessary but feel quite good to mix into combat due to how snappy they feel. Some of the unlockable special moves power-up a character for a time, making you feel like a god on the battlefield. Often a crewmate will be nearby fighting, however, they inflict such small damage that you can't count on them for more than distracting enemies. Instead, it's better to tell one of them to follow Luffy, who gains the ability to summon them for a crew strike after performing the appropriate combo. Crew strikes feel somewhat superfluous, but they're useful for preventing enemies from counterattacking. The combat can be a lot of dumb fun, so it's a shame that the camera tries its best to hinder combat whenever possible. It is content to swing wildly and offer the worst view whenever close to a wall. Adjusting the camera feels flighty and loose, while hitting L1 to center it behind Luffy is not always the best choice. Pirate Warriors attempts to fix this when it matters by allowing you to lock-on to certain powerful enemies with a press of R3, but this is awkward and doesn't help aim attacks. In fact, getting near the wall even while locked on still creates confusion. I'm pretty surprised that a game would be saddled with such a poor camera in 2012. The primary mode is the Main Log, a story mode which follows Luffy, with another character occasionally stepping in for specific fights. Main Log features three types of stages. Musou is a typical Dynasty Warriors kind of stage, pitting you against hordes of enemies, plus a boss fight. Capturing territories is incentivized, requiring enough kills in an area before that location's leader can be challenged for control. Stronger baddies will show up from time to time, usually signaling a mission to beat them or capture a specific territory. Though the game promises that missions have a great outcome on how the stage plays out, they only make a difference in the Battle of Marineford. Otherwise, the reward consists of a character being available to follow Luffy or activating a support ability to stun the enemies in a territory. Another type of stage, boss, is simply a couple boss fights back to back. These encounters are generally more involved than the ones found in the musou stages thanks to plenty of cutscenes filled with quick-time events. QTEs are never a great design choice, but since the pop up so naturally, it's hard to complain in the heat of the moment when it feels like your button presses still make a difference. While this isn't the most flattering comparison, if you were able to enjoy the QTEs in Asura's Wrath by focusing on the crazy events on-screen, you'll probably enjoy these too -- they do an excellent job of keeping the boss fight's energy going. Unfortunately, outside of the cutscenes, boss fights can quickly become frustrating. Most bosses have eaten their own Devil Fruit, granting them powers such as separating body limbs, summoning a hydra made of poison, or even turning into an element like sand or light. It's these element-based enemies that are the most frustrating. According to the rules of One Piece, their bodies are actually made of this element, meaning that they can turn into it at a moment's notice, letting attacks pass right through them. This means your in-progress combos are often going to whiff, leaving you open to a punishing counterattack. The only defense becomes alternating square and X to dash back and forth, getting a light punch in here and there, while fighting the camera to stay focused on your opponent. It slows down what would otherwise be a dynamic fight. The third stage type, action, is all about platforming using Luffy's rubber abilities, with intermittent enemies and a boss at the end tossed in for good measure. Calling it "platforming" is generous, considering that jumping, hitting, dodging, and grabbing the environment occurs via QTEs. Beyond extremely light puzzle elements, traversing an environment practically feels on-rails. This can be exciting at the right moments -- the Battle of Marineford comes to mind -- but more often made me wish that the engine supported greater free movement. It doesn't help that Luffy does the same canned animation every time he has a "Eureka!" moment for creating new ways to use his stretchy body to move around. The game often struggles to maintain its lively pace, a problem that occurs in all three kinds of stages. When surrounded by enemies, bouncing through an action stage, or participating in exciting cutscenes, Pirate Warriors is a thrill. But the moment things slow down, be it from running to find more enemies, searching for the right path across a gap, or feebly chipping away at a boss's health, things begin to drag, and suddenly your engagement drops. Overlooking the game's button-mashing gameplay and imitation platforming is only possible thanks to the euphoria created by the enthusiastic pace. When the adrenaline rush wears off -- and it inevitably will -- your actions suddenly feel repetitive and dull. All that said, when Pirate Warriors is on, it's on, and part of that comes from its presentation. The game is scored with a lively jazz/rock soundtrack, and while I wouldn't call it memorable, it fits the mood of the game perfectly. Similarly, the cel-shaded characters don't possess the most complex graphics, but they're appealing and well animated, translating Oda's unique character designs far better than the anime does. Little touches like the cartoony way enemy soldiers run away with their hands flailing in the air are well appreciated. Sometimes there's a slight disconnect with the background graphics, which fall between bland cel-shading and overly-detailed (yet still styled) realism, but it's nothing too jarring. Slowdown is almost unheard of, with scenes running smooth no matter how many enemies are surrounding you. Not to sound too snobby, but I'm so happy to see the Japanese dub present -- and not just because there's also no English dub. The Japanese voices do a wonderful job at shouting excitedly and screaming melodramatically, getting your blood pumping to mash more buttons. Admittedly, an English dub would have been a good option to have, particularly now that FUNimation is dubbing One Piece instead of 4Kids. But since FUNimation's localization is far behind the Japanese episodes, it would have required a lot of advanced casting for characters that wouldn't appear for dozens of episodes, not to mention the added cost that might have made localizing Pirate Warriors too expensive. There is a nitpick about the dub however, and that concerns the need to read the subtitles to understand the characters. It's not a problem in the cutscenes, but when characters talk during gameplay, it can be difficult to switch your attention between reading subtitles and monitoring the action. In addition, the subtitles will often disappear while performing platforming moves -- perhaps appearing for only a second -- making it impossible to know what was just said. Little of the chatter is terribly important, usually amounting to trash talk, so it doesn't affect progress; still, it is something that wouldn't be an issue if the game had an English dub (or if we all understood Japanese). Progressing through the Main Log opens chapters in Another Log, as well as two boss-rush challenges. Another Log puts the focus on the 12 characters other than Luffy, who all offer unique movesets and playstyles. The characters only have chapters for where they actually appear in the story, but it's possible to use a character in any other character's chapters, with that chapter's official character filling a support role. These are all musou stages, and many of the chapters are nearly identical, especially those of Luffy's crewmates. As Luffy's first crewmate, Zoro gets seven chapters that the other seven crewmates share, while two additional chapters are shared between the remaining four characters. They're a fun distraction, but due to the lack of story, there's little reason to play through them all. It would have been much more interesting for Another Log to offer exclusive fights or events not shown in the Main Log. Since Another Log isn't full of story cutscenes that show changing conditions, it is here that the game can most often react too slowly to your actions. I can't count the number of times I would capture a territory, notice that a powerful enemy had just appeared, or receive the support of another character, only to be told about it half a minute later, as though it had just occurred. It made me wonder whether another powerful enemy had appeared or if it was referring to the one I had already killed off, and with the camera being so unhelpful, I never knew if I was going to get smacked with a strong attack out of nowhere. It was particularly jarring to be fighting a strong enemy, only to be interrupted mid-combo by a stock cutscene introducing that enemy to the battlefield. The chapters in Another Log are available for play in both online and offline co-op, though offline co-op should be avoided at all costs. If the camera was unwieldy in single-player, it is almost unusable in splitscreen. Like many old Game Boy games, screen real estate is sacrificed to allow for full-sized characters, meaning you're almost always unaware that an enemy is charging up a big attack unless they're right in front of you. And even then, the frequent pop-ups explaining the latest mission take up more space. The map has been shrunk and placed twice on the screen when one regular sized map in the middle would suffice. Offline co-op just reeks of a throw-away mode, so it's surprising that teaming up with another player online can be quite fun, even if it just makes the normally easy stages even easier. Every mode also makes use of collectible coins, which offer stat boosts to characters when properly equipped. Coins are gained by killing certain enemies, killing enemies without getting hit, capturing some territories, and opening rare treasure chests. Combining three related coins will cancel out the coins' normal stat boosts and create a team skill that may reduce flinching or increase attack strength when health is low, among other effects. Because the coins are based on characters or items from One Piece, it may be hard for a non-fan to discover team skills without fully understanding what three coins have in common. Even as a fan, I was frustrated to not be able to activate certain team skills due to a missing coin, as the coin distribution is near-random, with little chance to acquire a complete set without heavy grinding. The stat boosts and team skill effects have little impact on gameplay, so it's not a huge concern that acquiring coins is tedious, but it does make the entire system seem superfluous, as if it was only put in place to reference minutia. One Piece: Pirate Warriors ultimately isn't that different from what I expected of a Dynasty Warriors game. The combat is simplistic, and despite the bubbly tempo, there are many parts that could have used more polish or consideration. Fans may decry the complete ignorance of two major arcs (Skypiea and Thriller Bark), as well as the small number of worthwhile non-Luffy fights. And yet, I can't say that I didn't have quite a bit of stupid fun with it. When the shouting characters, weird attacks, and strange enemies come together, Pirate Warriors excels at silly yet awesome spectacle. Just don't expect any depth or lasting appeal once the glow has faded. 6.5 -- Alright (6s may be slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.)
Yo-ho-ho he took a bite of Gum-Gum
I've never really paid attention to Dynasty Warriors, as Chinese history usually isn't something that grabs my attention. Besides, I didn't think that I was missing much more than a whole lot of button mashing. Then Namc...

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