shonen showdown

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...
AM: Naruto photo
AM: Naruto

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 683


Your face when redeemed
Jul 07
// Josh Tolentino
It's time now for a bit more Naruto, and to be honest, there's not all that much to say about the latest chapter despite the copious amounts of talking they do. And without a truly striking image to latch onto, the last week in Naruto ends up as yet more place-setting for the next set of steps in the fight, as well as another potentially infuriating hint-drop.

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.
Bleach photo
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?

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapters 678-679

Jun 08 // Josh Tolentino
Oh, Masashi Kishimoto, how many twists is enough? We let you replace Obito with the real Madara because it made sense to redeem the villain. Heel-face turns are a big part of Naruto's message, after all. We accepted the thing with the Ten-Tails and the God Tree since it was world-building texture, and didn't make a huge difference either way (at the time). We tolerated it when you went into the whole thing about Naruto and Sasuke being reincarnated versions of the Sage of Six Paths' kids because...well, while it made the whole theme of cyclical violence and breaking a karmic loop a bit too much on-the-nose, it still worked. We even shrugged through the bits with Madara manipulating the whole of Obito's reason for fighting because we know you really wanted to redeem that proto-Naruto of yours, and it's not like we could do anything about it. But Kaguya? Really? C'mon, SON! I'm not about to say you've crossed a line or anything, but this getting ridiculous. Final boss fights are compelling when the heroes (and by extension, the readers) can make a personal connection with the battle and the things at stake. That connection can come from different places. It could come from an intimate bond between the two people fighting (like the Hero and Jowy at the very end of Suikoden II), from the desire for justice or retribution for some personal affront (Sephiroth and Cloud in Final Fantasy VII), or even a more nebulous, ideological dispute (Persona 3 and 4). But this new thing, with Kaguya ganking poor Madara (didn't think I'd ever say that about the guy) and revealing grand plan to turn everyone hooked into the Infinite Tsukuyomi into White Zetsu minions? That's some Ultimecia/Yu Yevon-level bullsh*t right there. Not cool. Then again, it's not like Madara's grand plan was all that interesting either, considering that the Infinite Tsukuyomi is yet another one of those "everyone lives out their fondest wishes" virtual worlds, rather than what Madara claimed to bring about, which was supposedly a collective consciousness where everyone could understand each other, and so on.  Heck, even the Bizarro World posited by the beta version of Infinite Tsukuyomi in Naruto: Road to Ninja was more compelling, since it effectively answered a bunch of "what-if" questions in a reasonably interesting fashion. Ah, well. This is hardly the first fight show to suffer from a lack of interesting antagonists. Let's just hope the fight to come can make up for it, yes?  
AM: Naruto photo
The B*tch is Back
And now we move into the endgame. Wait. Didn't I just say that? I did! Well, this is getting us off to a good start, isn't it?


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.
AM: Bleach photo
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...

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...

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapters 675-677

May 26 // Josh Tolentino
For one thing, Naruto and Sasuke's new powers are dope as all hell. Just seeing him able to restore Kakashi's eye (his proper one, not Obito's Sharingan) is kind of crazy, as are his brand new set of mixed-element Rasenshuriken Tailed Beast Bombs, used in a ninja magic version of Missile Command against Madara's meteor shower. Sasuke's no slouch either, with a sweet, flying, winged Susano'o and that hot Rinnegan action, though I'm still not sure what the "moon" on his left palm does. I'm thinking it might play into the next phase of this final battle, which, if you've been following, has gone full darkest timeline. And I'm not kidding. Oh Madara, how evil are you? Let us count the ways! Revealing that Obito's entire character arc was a result of your manipulations is the ultimate dick move. Though his redemption was ultimately unexpected, the end goal was achieved: Both of Madara's Rinnegan are back, and the Moon Eye plan is well under way. Oh wait, forget that. Actually winning this fight might be the ultimate dick move, because...well, you did it. You hit the big red button, grew a third eye just like great great great great grandma used to have, and shined it all on the moon, dropping everyone who's not a main hero or already dead into an unending dream, to forever live in the Matrix while the God Tree feeds off their chakra. No, belay that. This thing right here? THAT was your most dickish move. No, I don't mean stabbing Sakura, though. She's a strong girl, she can take it. Your sin, Madara, was in being so goddamn overpowered that the one time, the ONE TIME she actually manages to get into the mix rather than stand around looking out of sorts, she ends up looking useless. Damn all you villains, making the main heroines look bad! What's with that?
Naruto Manga photo
Just as Keikaku
And here we are: At the endgame. In the words of an Xbox marketing campaign, it's time for Naruto to finish the fight. Of course, I've said that about seven times by now, but really, more than ever, it looks like the final battle against this most final of bosses has entered its final phase.

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!
Annotated Manga: Bleach photo
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...

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]
Shonen Showdown photo
Pincer attack!
Welcome to Shonen Showdown, the battlin' anime and manga recap that's graduated from Ninja Academy, and is now cleared to use proper dates in its titles! Check out that fully spelled-out glory! In honor of our new author...

Hunter x Hunter photo
Hunter x Hunter

Hunter x Hunter manga to resume


...again!
Apr 22
// Chris Walden
You know, I had a feeling we'd be getting this announcement soon, seeing as the Hunter x Hunter anime is creeping closer and closer to the final complete arc from the manga. If you're not clued up on what's been going on for ...

Shonen Showdown 4-20-2014

Apr 20 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 125 Pouf is a nasty piece of work, isn't he? I'm starting to wonder if he'll be the reason everything goes downhill. Well, further downhill. Leaving the room even though Gon told him not to move could have cost Komugi her life if he'd not kept his cool, which seems like something Pouf wouldn't want to be responsible. Even though the King order Pitou to heal her, Pouf doesn't seem particularly bothered that leaving could land him in hot water. Is he not worried about the King's reaction? He's acting like a loose cannon, which is definitely going to make the remaining fights even more interesting. Understandably, Pitou has to beg for forgiveness in Pouf's stead, but manages to get away with just a ten minute reduction on Komugi's healing time. The resulting internal monologue is a great example of how darn good the writing is on this show. It's not that we hear Pitou making decisions on what to do with Gon, but rather that we get to see all of the logic behind these decisions, and what's causing something to happen. Gon's perceptions are terrifying Pitou, which ultimately causes Pitou to commit to a fight to the death. Gon cannot be allowed to walk away for any reason else the Kings life is at risk, which is insane praise from Pitou. The King didn't feel at all threatened by Netero, but here we have Pitou worrying that Gon could take him out. Back in the Dragon Ball Z wasteland, the fight between Netero and the King rages on. As much as Netero is tossing the King about effortlessly, it doesn't seem like he's doing any visible damage to the guy. Even when the bodhisattva goes all Star Platinum on the King, pushing him into some underground tomb, he picks himself back up as if he were simply nudged down there. Perhaps Netero will need to get a bit more hands on to do any lasting damage, or perhaps this is how the King will begin to get the upper hand. Something that we haven't seen yet, because of just how little time we've spent observing this fight, is the King's impressive ability to learn. We already know how quickly he picked up board games, coming far enough to give Komugi a real test, but I think it's safe to assume that the same applies to fighting. He's already pretty strong, but I think it's safe to say that he's seen no combat experience up to this point. After all, he did find himself shocked that Pitou's head didn't fly off when he lashed out with his tail earlier in the series. We're back with these two in the next episode, and I think we're about to see the tables begin to turn. [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 359 This is it. The fateful day. We've read and seen quite a bit about the true reasons behind Itachi's massacre of the Uchiha, the incident that defined Sasuke's life from the beginning of the story, and almost to the present. But now that we're actually in a story that takes place during that time we've got a new chance to absorb some of that secret history, and the revelations could be surprising.  For one, this is the first time Naruto subverts its own villain tropes. Normally, practically everything bad that's ever happened could be traced back to either Madara Uchiha or Danzo, the two representations of everything that's wrong with ninja society. But here, for the extermination of the Uchiha, Madara was more an enabler, and Danzo was more an opportunistic parasite.  It's almost shocking to see this dark deal being one that Itachi made with the Third Hokage, rather than yet another rogue action by Danzo or a part of Madara's long-term plan. But I guess it shouldn't be surprising in an arc with some of the densest plotting I've ever seen out of Naruto, be it in manga or anime form. I almost regret that we'd practically have to consider this as "filler" by default, just because it came out on this show rather than in the pages. Here's to hoping that the powers that be do decide that all this is part of what actually went down way back when. [Be an ideal ninja on Crunchyroll!]   Manga Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 673 I've criticized Naruto of late for its circular, redundant plot development, but at least for this chapter, I'm glad that they're harping once again on the "Naruto is WAY powerful now" chestnut. Because oh man, Naruto is WAY powerful now. I know, I know, powerups are such a cliche, but that's one of the joys of reading these kinds of things. We know it's unrealistic, but for most it's part of why we sign up for it.  And it's great right now. Madara's finally getting what's coming to him, from a Naruto that's doing, at least temporarily, what we secretly hoped he'd be able to do: Finish the fight himself (or at least with his soul bro Sasuke).  The series has spent the whole time thus far establishing that even the most powerful people can't go it entirely alone, but for a brief moment in time, Naruto and his powerup subverts that trope. And then it reestablishes it by adding a corollary to that harmonious ideal: No one can go it alone, but with a friend you know and love, you can do anything.  Feels good, man. [Read the super saiyan turn in Weekly Shonen Jump]   Bleach chapter 577 Speaking of loving a power-up scene, that's all of Bleach today as what was called last week hits home this week. Kenpachi reveals his sword's true form and CUTS THE METEOR. Keep in mind this is a meteor that made everyone pause. Glemy may be the "V" in the Sternritter, but he can certainly make the "B" and everyone else wonder if he's got his head on straight. And tremble. Of course, against a dude like kenpachi, summoning something as cliche as a world-ending meteor is indeed the sign of a lack of imagination. An honestly, I don't know what else to say at this point, so I'll end on the frame we've waited for for years:
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Moe Moe Kyuu~n
Welcome to another weekly installment of Shonen Showdown, your everyday look at the latest in battle shows. This week we're catching up on the status of our favorite anime memes, and it appears that the evergreen "Moe Moe Kyu...

Shonen Showdown 4-12-2014

Apr 12 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 358 Well, now we're getting to the meaty stuff, in one of the meatiest filler arcs in Naruto history, and subsequently coming closer and closer to the "canon" of the show's beginning.  Even though the arc began with covering Kakashi's entrance to the ANBU corps, we're fully in bed now with exploring that other facet of the Leaf's history: the Uchiha. Here we're sticking with Itachi's time in the Leaf's shadowy underbelly. And it's way seedy. I especially like that the story is establishing the Uchiha as having legitimate grievances with the Leaf and by extension, the rest of the world. They're under constant suspicion even in peacetime, and largely because of Madara's actions (though as we know, this is yet another artifact of this whole Karmic conflict). Substitute the Uchiha for any other persecuted group in the real world and you can see why a few might go rogue. Most intriguing here is the expansion on the relationship between Shisui and Itachi, and the incidents that take place between the events we know and have seen in flashbacks (Read: They partially explain why Itachi never seemed to have time to hang out with Sasuke). They show how Shisui lost his eye, where Itachi upgraded his Sharingan, and why you can still continue to blame practically everything on Danzo. If this continues, we'll be able to peg 9/11 on that guy, mark my words. [Danzo did it on Crunchyroll] Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 124 You know, while I'm in two minds about how the show seems to be dragging its heels a little, I can appreciate just how much content we're getting out of the palace raid. We have so many little stories going on at once, and moving from Ikalgo's breakdown to this doesn't feel jarring, with both of them offering us plenty of fresh content. With the exception of a few episodes giving mini-recaps at the start, Hunter x Hunter seems to be doing a pretty good job of staying out of flashback hell.  After recharging his batteries (look out for the USB toys, coming soon!) Killua bumps into Palm. She's a little different to how we remember, as it seems that Neferpitou has 'customised' her with the Dr Blythe power. This means her crystal ball is now firmly lodged in her head, she has elbow-length gloves made of fish gills, and her hair has even been dyed black again for a finishing touch. What's more, it seems that her powers have also levelled up, as she's now Bayonetta.  Holy shit, Neferpitou. You sure know how to traumatise me. Body mods being performed against a persons will is a guaranteed ticket to NOPEville.  But hey, it's not all that bad. After beating a kid senseless, she manages to successful regain control of herself by way of sob story, so thanks Gon for going psycho, I guess? Boy, I sure can't wait to find out what he does when he realised Neferpitou isn't going to/can't do shit for Kite. Anyway, seeing Palm destroy one of Papillon's butterfly buds was pretty reassuring, and while she seems like she'll be extremely useful in the upcoming fights (remember, she was pretty much a non-combatant before her surgery) I can't help but feel Gon's still going to go nuts over it. That, or something even more horrible will happen to her as a result of these changes. I dunno, perhaps I'm just being pessimistic, especially when Pouf deemed her a 'failed experiment', which should indicate that we're in the clear. This means that while we've lost the fighting abilities of Knov, Smoker and Shoot, we've also gained Palm. Oh, and Menthunderbolt got an upgrade. And we haven't taken out any of the royal guard. WE GOT THIS.  [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Manga Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 671 I thought I was wrong when I predicted that Guy's final, Eighth-Gate suicide move would be a pun on his name, then was revealed to be the "Evening Elephant". So yeah, egg on my face. And then this chapter happened, and here we see the "Night Guy". I totally called it. I wish I hadn't. Of course, it works about as well as expected (Read: Didn't kill Madara), but it comes close enough that just seeing it happen, complete with hyper Inazuma Kick and Mortal Kombat-style X-ray damage is incredibly gratifying. One can really imagine just how much fun Madara is having with a Guy that can push him, and that's a sign that we're reading a really good fight. Of course, this manga is still called Naruto, so his and Sasuke's final upgrade - this time, a rather tame Sun and Moon on the palm (Get it? They're like light and darkness! Yin and Yang! It's duality!!!!!!!111) takes precedence, and Naruto doesn't waste any time in managing to keep a suicide move from getting to the "suicide" part. Now, are we ready to finish this fight? I sure am. [Read the last stand of Might Guy in Weekly Shonen Jump!]   Bleach chapter 576 Here we've got Glemy in full "Classic Japanese horror movie poster" mode, and I have to say it's fitting. Look at that little creep. As expected, Kenpachi's so powerful that the kid almost imagined himself being defeated, which is a no-no when your thoughts come to life. The solution, of course, is to create another life. But really, did he really have to go and declare that now that there are two of him, "The power of [his] imagination...is DOUBLED." I mean, it's f*cking IMAGINATION, you dunderheads! It's limitless by nature! In fact, if you have to say your imagination's power has "doubled", you're suffering from a lack of imagination, I'd wager. And he could be imagining anything! So what do we get from his double-sized imagination? A big ol' meteor. Whoop-dee-do. Hell, Madara did that last year, and Sephiroth was doing it in 1998. You disappoint, young Glemy. At least we got Kenpachi's sword's name out of this, and it's "Norazashi". Let's hope he doesn't kill himself trying to cut a burning space rock. [Imagine a more imaginative series in Weekly Shonen Jump]   One Piece Chapter 743 & 744   It took a while, but the Strawhats finally turned the tide. While the initial plan didn’t quite work, Usopp still managed to knockout Sugar and cause the toys to become human again. As you’d imagine, it causes quite the uproar on Dressrosa. Families reunited, soldiers reinstated, this is where the action really begins.  Kyros, now back to his one-legged human form, hops over and decapitates Doflamingo. While it somehow doesn’t kill him, at the very least we have a third-party character intent on wrecking the big bad. With the jump into the New World, I’d hope that we’d get other people doing some big stuff without Luffy and crew swooping in at the end for the save. I’m interested in seeing how it plays out.  I’m also loving the growing legend of Usopp. We all know that the guy is full of hot air, but the ways he keeps incidentally gaining followers is hysterical. Then again, it usually comes at the cost of painful injuries and heavy bleeding, so maybe he deserves it, I don’t know. This also keeps pointing at the larger potential army that Luffy is building for later confrontations with the other Yonko. Of course, the biggest news is that Sabo destroys the Colosseum ring and takes the Mera Mera Fruit. He scarfs it down and now has his adopted bro’s flame powers. It’s a fantastic way to bring Sabo back into the story and still give Luffy an older brother figure. Considering how easily Sabo wrecked the ring and knocked aside Burgess and Diamante, he’s probably as ridiculously strong as Ace, if not more. [Fuel the One Piece revolution over at Weekly Shonen Jump]
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Got chakra for days
Alright everyone, it's time for Shonen Showdown, the weekly fighting manga and anime recap that gets it, OK, we know about the whole duality thing in Naruto's themes. Gaawhhhd.  Anyway, we've got it all for you this fine...

Shoujo Showdown: Happiness Charge PreCure Episodes 5-6

Apr 07 // Brittany Vincent
Episode 5 Megumi and Hime are on their way to Megumi's house to eat pancakes, when they decide all of a sudden that it's a great idea to stop and do a bunch of good deeds. These deeds include impersonating a police officer to scare a child into properly disposing litter, and helping out a cute little doggie who's hurt. I'm all for helping the animal out, but changing into a police uniform to scare a little brat straight, when all he did was just drop a few bottles and wrappers on the ground, definitely seems like a bit much. Is that really what the PreCards should be used for?[Editor's Note: Britt, don't you know that Samurai Flamenco doesn't put up with litterers? Wait, wrong show....] Hey, far be it from me to judge, but that strikes me as a little ridiculous -- skating around on roller skates to return a lost little girl to her mother. The girls then happen upon a guy who wants to propose to his girlfriend too, but he doesn't quite know how to approach it, and they've even got that covered. Good Girl PreCures save the day for the entire first half of the episode. We do get to learn a little bit more about Hime as the episode wears on, namely the fact that the wish she wants to make after collecting enough PreCards involves her mother, who is sick. I hadn't gotten that impression thus far during the series, but apparently her mother is frail and weak, and Megumi just wants her to get better. Similarly, Hime wants to save her family and the rest of her kingdom. Both noble goals, and I'm honestly glad to have been given a little bit more information about why the girls are fighting beyond the typical "oh, the Saiarks are the bad guys and we have to" plot line. It added some much-needed depth, even if it was just an aside in the middle of the episode. Suddenly, Megumi's personality makes a lot more sense, as does Hime's inferiority complex. Still, Megumi's pretty bad when it comes to not seeing things that are right in front of her, so of course she falls victim to Hosshiwa's lame plan in which she acts like a damsel in distress who needs help. The day ends up being saved, but not until Cure Lovely and Cure Princess share a heartwarming moment about how great friendship is and how horribly Hosshiwa is treating people. Cure Lovely uses this super cool eye beam too. What does that feel like, laser beams shooting out of your eyes? It's gotta be a little uncomfortable. Ah, well. To the next episode! Episode 6 This series is hellbent on pumping out episodes that teach different lessons, and this one is no different. It starts with Hime being a picky little brat about the food that's prepared for her, which is to be expected I suppose (she's a princess after all), but the manner in which she treats Ribbon and company is pretty much deplorable. Who's around to whip PreCures into shape when they're spoiled brats? Ribbon and Hime get into a big fight just as Megumi comes over to hang out, and Megumi is just fine with the meal Ribbon cooked, as most anyone would be. I mean, it's free food you didn't have to cook, who cares if Hime didn't eat? She's not in danger of wasting away. Or is she? As she's out and about she meets up with Yuuko, begging her for candy. Typical. Yuuko brings Hime over to her place, and I was absolutely convinced at that point that we'd see the birth of a new PreCure this episode, but that unfortunately wasn't the case. Yuuko convinces Hime to make up with Ribbon for not eating the food, and this all turns into a huge Thing with a capital T that we know will be solved by the end of the episode, all over some rude comments about some food. I know this show is aimed at children, but even so ,I felt this misunderstanding to be a little ridiculous. While working with Yuuko at her family's store in return for the meal given to her, Hime learns the importance of cooking with love and taking pride in your work...that is, until a Saiark shows up and the two PreCures have to transform. I don't know about you, but I'm definitely ready for some new powers or something to surface. The fight at Oomori Lunch Store was a fairly standard one, but by the end of the episode it becomes obvious that Hime has learned her lesson and is becoming progressively less selfish and childish as the series goes on. I still find it a little weird that you have to rub Ribbon's nose for a PreCard to appear. It's kind of disconcerting, wouldn't you say?
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Magical errand-running
Helping others out is awesome, but getting caught up on PreCure is cool too. We're gonna get there yet. Here's another dose of Happiness Charge PreCure! I'm having a good time covering it. How's everyone else feeling about it?

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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Conveniently censored
Happy Monday, folks! It's time to get focused on fighting off the banality of the week with Shonen Showdown, the weekly recap that's using the title bar to conveniently censor the werewolf above! Don't look! It's a....comprom...

Shonen Showdown 3-29-2014

Mar 29 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 122 At last, it's the shiny bodhisattva! Which also means that old man Netero is finally getting to partake in fisticuffs, but let's hold off on that for now and get the Pouf segments out of the way. Pitou finally finishes telling Pouf where the King is, even though it must have been quite the speech if it took this long to finish it, allowing Pouf to separate his body without Gon knowing to chase after him. Does this mean Pitou is still going to be hostile, given that the King's location was explicitly mentioned, or is this just fear of Pouf? It seems intentional to me, what with the comment about Gon's eyes, but then what of Pitou's previous offer to save Kite? A lie? It's hardly out of the question! Pouf later bumps into the newly evolved Menthuwhatever and quizzes him on what his current actions are. Pouf definitely knows something is up, but with the royal guard starting to develop a little free thought, isn't this just a reflection of what the King is also going through? Wouldn't it then be Pouf that's the one that's differing from the other three? Not that he'd admit it, but I'd like to see what he'd do if found opposed. Pouf's psycho side is no doubt going to make another appearance soon. Now, the moment we've been waiting many episodes for! Netero has finally found that barren wasteland that hosted all of the Dragon Ball Z fights, giving those long arms of Netero's power plenty of room to stretch out. However, the King has some other ideas and sits down to talk things out. Holy shit you guys, Cell's brother is slowly turning human of all things. Granted, he still has some pretty awful views about wiping out the majority of the human race and forcing them to live in fear, but setting that aside he seems like a pretty decent bloke.  But let's face it, not even the kind-hearted Netero can have talks with the monster ant when they're ultimately going to break down and have them fighting to the death anyway, so it'd be better to crush him with the giant gold spirit statue instead. The King quickly shows that he's the real deal by getting hit by a few blows and coming out relatively unscathed and ready to offer talks again. However, it's Netero offering the King a chance to hear the name the Queen gave him on her deathbed that finally lures him into a fight. Why does he care for a name given to him by someone he essentially murdered? To feel more human? For some sense of purpose? Well, whatever it is, it's worth fighting for. Expect fireworks next time.  [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 356 The saga of Kinoe and Kakashi comes to a head as Kinoe rediscovers his loyalties, choosing to defy Danzo's orders and indirectly reveal just how kind of messed up the Root is as an organization. I mean, sure, every government needs its wetwork squad, but Danzo's demand of absolute loyalty not to the interests of the Leaf but to the Root - and himself as leader of the Root - really calls into question the quality of his service. But still, a newly disloyal former Root agent needs extraction, and it's up to Kakashi and his silly-masked friends to get it done and get Kinoe out. By the end of the affair I've realized why exactly I've found this latest filler arc so enjoyable. Simply put, this is Naruto at its most "ninja" since...well, forever. It's all here: Secret operations, assassinations, tests of loyalty and moral ambivalence. Masked fighters with strange skills and running in that weird way with your arms thrown back. Naruto isn't and has never been a true "ninja" story, but this story is perhaps the closest it's ever come to being one, and I can definitely appreciate that.   Pedro Cortes One Piece Episode 636 & 637   With the Colosseum match beginning, the first half of an episode is devoted entirely into introducing the various odd people fighting in the first block. Considering how many people were being tossed at readers in the manga, the anime has done a pretty good job giving these guys some sort of characterization. The action is looking pretty good thus far and expand from what was seen on the page, so I’m pretty pleased.  Back in the waiting area, Don Chinjao figures out that Luffy is the grandson of Garp and starts trying to get some good ol’ fashioned familial revenge. It’s interesting to see more of the Monkey family’s past deeds come to catch up with Luffy. [You can watch One Piece over at Funimation!]   Manga Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 670 While for Might Guy it might be time to die, Naruto meets his maker in a more literal sense. Yes, we do talk to Naruto's equivalent of God, the Sage of Six Paths, and learn yet more historical tidbits to establish Naruto's epic destiny. Yep, you read that right, an epic destiny. Hardly surprising considering that all through the series  we've heard rumblings about children of prophecy - first Nagato, then Minato, and now Naruto, and so on - but this is the first time I remember anyone getting quite so literal about the idea that the world history of Naruto as cyclical. Now, having Naruto revealed as some karmic reincarnation of Ashura, the guts-and-effort-driven second son of the Sage of Six Paths and ancestor to the Senju clan, feels a bit...off for the prevailing mood of the series. After all, you could make a pretty good case for the fact that having an epic destiny mandated by the karmic cycle does quite a bit to undermine the core message of Naruto and the guiding philosophy of Ashura himself - that people can't really get by all alone, and that things only happen when people can come to understand each other and work together to overcome adversity. But then again, Naruto himself was hardly a useless dropout. After all, he's child of the Fourth Hokage and a Jinchuriki, so it's not as if he's lacking for natural gifts. If anything, by that tack characters like Guy and Lee are a little closer to the Sage's ideal. But they're not nearly as photogenic, so I guess Naruto will have to do.   Bleach chapter 574 I guess it was too much for me to hope for, but I was sort of betting that Kenpachi could end the fight in this chapter. But that probably wouldn't be the best thing, either, since we've yet to see if he's even learned anything from his deadly training with Unohana. In the meantime, we're treated to more back-and-forth about just how Kenpachi is more powerful than even Glemy can imagine, up to and including messing with the loophole in Quincy "V"'s powers - that they require a bit of concentration to maintain. Getting surprised and pressed by Kenpachi's ridiculous strength has forced Glemy to forget about imagining Yachiru as a girl made of cookie-bones, thus undoing the effect. But we all knew that already, since it's not as if fighting people that can bend reality with their thoughts is a new thing. Heck, at this point the fight against A Certain Magical Index's Arelous Izzard had a bit more flair to it, since that battle put Touma at an actual disadvantage. I guess it says something about how overpowered Kenpachi is, that he's still got the upper hand against a guy who can make things happen with his mind.   Pedro Cortes One Piece Chapter 742 The truth behind Kyros being turned into the soldier toy is actually more depressing that I thought. After establishing a pretty good life with Scarlet and helping birth Rebecca, he ends up being forgotten and watching his wife die. Pretty damn dark. I’m seriously hoping that Oda lets Kyros at least get a couple of solid hits on Doflamingo. I mean, it’d be nice if he could take care of the whole fight, but lets be real here: Luffy will always be there to deliver (or take) the final blow in an arc. Back in normal time, Usopp shows growth by finally acting as the sniper of the Strawhats. None of this “Captain Usopp” nonsense. Unfortunately, he still loses. It’s a good thing that the Tatababasco is so insanely spicy that he freaks out Sugar. It looks like he succeeds in knocking her out, so hopefully that’s the turning point for the fight. I’ve also got to give it up to Oda for the best reaction shots yet. Usopp’s freakout and Sugar’s follow up killed me.  
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Advice ninjas!
Welcome to the latest edition of your weekly fight-show roundup, Shonen Showdown! And now it's time for your daily Mad Ninja Skillz™ Top Tip: You can't expect to intimidate anyone when you select the "Nervous Teddy Bea...

Shonen Showdown: Happiness Charge PreCure Episodes 3-4

Mar 25 // Brittany Vincent
Episode 3 Megumi and Hime are getting along swimmingly, and Blue bestows the Cure Lines upon them, tools for communication that they can only speak to each other on. He also warns the duo that no one can find out about their alter-egos, lest evil befall those close to them. You'd think common sense would prevail and you wouldn't even have to tell them not to go blabbing about their PreCure identities, but this is anime and sometimes common sense goes out the window. At least this'll give the duo a way to keep in touch, because every magical girl needs some sort of communicator, right? This episode finds Megumi struggling with keeping her secret identity concealed, which shouldn't be a problem for normal people, but given her propensity to overreact and overthink things, she's got quite the issue on her friends. Bratty childhood friend (and possible love interest?) Seiji overhears Megumi talking on her Cure Line to Hime and works it all out -- he's in the know, and it only took a single episode. That's got to be some sort of record. At least it's not like Sailor Moon, when Usagi couldn't deduce Tuxedo Mask's identity despite kissing him and interacting with him as well as Mamoru. [Editor's Note: Hey. Heeeeeey. Be careful when you talk about Usagi-sama.] There's a new Saiark terrorizing the town, and this time it's led by the prissy Hosshiwa, who wants to turn all the love and happiness in the vicinity into sweets for her to devour, because all the despair is so delicious to her. A bizarre candy land crops up as her Saiark rampages through, and this time Seiji happens upon the scene before the PreCures do. Surprisingly, he holds his own pretty well before succumbing to the monster's strength as he was destined to do, and Cure Princess and Cure Lovely have to step in to save him. Lovely's all fired up because of Seiji getting hurt, so she goes all out, even going so far as to be the first PreCure so far to use one of the PreCards in battle. She choose Cherry Flamenco, and the art style quickly changes to this awful, artificial-looking CG art style just like the credits at the end of the show. I'm not a huge fan, despite the colors and the smoothness of the animation. It just looks like I'm watching a Vocaloid or some such. At any rate, with the monster felled and Seiji out of trouble, it turns out Seiji didn't know about Megumi's PreCure status until right then, and his knowledge makes him useful enough to join the team. Blue officiates Seiji as a member and gives him his own Cure Line, while imparting one rule to the girls: PreCures musn't fall in love! Romantic tension in how many episodes? Episode 4 As our two PreCures settle into life together as partners and friends, it's decided that Hime should attend school with Megumi, which she thinks is the greatest idea ever when she realizes she can make friends there. She's all about some friendship, even though she's painfully shy when it comes down to introducing herself and actually meeting the kids at school who just wanna meet the cute new transfer student. Hime's pretty annoying in that regard. She talks a lot of game, but she never follows through. That's what this episode is actually about -- Hime's crippling shyness and desire for more friends, and the duality of her happy-go-lucky personality. I have to admit it's a little silly to watch Hime roll around in sadness when there's no reason for her to, especially when people just reach out to her at all times with friendly gestures and she clams up or runs away. It takes a run-in with a lonely teacher who thinks his students don't like him (weirdly, hiding out in a gym supply room) to turn the episode around, and as soon as you meet him you just know he's about to become instrumental in a Saiark transformation. When he does, Cure Princess takes center stage, and finally for once in the show so far shows some fighting spirit. It's about time. The catalyst? Thinking the school's going to be destroyed before she can befriend Yuuko or thank her for her kindness. Cure Princess single-handedly defeats the Saiark with the "power of friendship," or so it seems, and we get to check out another weird CG PreCard transformation that looks like it wouldn't be out of place in a video game or some sort of rhythm game. For all the fanfare, this was a really quick battle, but at the very least Princess seems to be demonstrating some combat prowess so she won't be completely useless in the future. That'd be pretty rad. With new PreCards acquired and a new friendship with Yuuko formed, maybe the third PreCure will be called upon soon!
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PreCures can't fall in love
It's another double dose of Happiness Charge PreCure as I get up to speed on the series for regular Shonen Showdown coverage! This week we're rapidly developing some characters and checking out some new PreCards. I'm ready for the third PreCure to make her appearance. How about you?

First Impressions: Happiness Charge PreCure! Episodes 1-2

Mar 24 // Brittany Vincent
I was wrong. Instead, I feel as though I've jumped into a series that's already in progress, with intricate plot threads intertwining into each other and a back story I feel I should have been reading up on. While I've made sense of it for the most part, I can't quite shake the feeling that having seen the previous series might help explaining some of the aspects I feel lost on. With that said, I've not actually done a "First Impressions" proper, so I'm doing a First Impressions mega-post, with plenty of PreCure goodness. I've prepared a novel here for you all, so I hope you're ready to wallow in happiness, love, and friendship. There's gonna be a whole lot of it floating around.  Episode 1 Cure Princess is a bumbling idiot who can't do much of anything right. On top of that, she's a crybaby. She just wants to make friends, or at least conquer one Saiark (enemies overrunning the world) by herself. As the story begins, she's already fighting a losing battle. While she's actually the princess of the Blue Sky Kingdom, Shirayuki Hime, she's also apparently sort of a klutz -- at least we can surmise from the first episode. Another PreCure, Cure Fortune, has to swoop in and save the day, but only after throwing some shade at Cure Princess. Apparently this not-so-awesome PreCure has been falling behind when it comes to saving the world, so she needs help. A lovely bishounen-san known as "Blue" bestows the ability to spawn a new PreCure upon Hime (I surmise it's her brother or love interest, perhaps?) and she's off to find someone to be her new best friend. Okay, well, she's going to toss the item given to her by Blue, and whomever it hits is just going to be her brand new B.F.F. Seriously.  That's where Megumi Aino (no, surprisingly I didn't say Minako) comes in. She means well, but her easygoing and fun-loving personality tend to get in the way of actually helping others. She's got the drive, however, and her smile's just as bright as her gorgeous pink hair. She's a huge PreCure fan, so when Hime meets up with her and "chooses" her to be her new friend and partner, she's ecstatic. When Cure Princess inevitably gets her butt kicked again by a Saiark, Megumi has to step in and transform at the end of the episode. Her moniker? Cure Lovely!  Though the events themselves of this episode were easy enough to follow, the beginning of the episode used to briefly expose the villain Queen Mirage wasn't exactly simple to understand. Jumping right into a battle didn't exactly help, either -- I wondered who all these established PreCures were and why they were fighting, but now that I've gone back to write these recaps in retrospect it makes much more sense now. It felt at first as if I was watching an incomplete episode, but after establishing a theme it became easier to get into. As an aside, Cure Princess has an insufferable voice actress, and I'm not so sure I want to listen to her every single week, but I'm a big fan of the theme song and the bright, eye-popping colors. I can't say the same about the lazy animation, but I suppose that's to be expected in a long-running series such as this one. All in all, I enjoyed the silliness and the decades-long transformation sequences, as well as the weird wrist device the PreCures use, especially when it involves rotating the dial like it's a rotary telephone. Not sure what's up with that, but I like it and I want to see more. I also want to see all the PreCures together and fighting something a lot more serious-looking than the Saiarks or the "gentlemanly" Namakeruda (whose name I had to find out from the Happiness Charge PreCure wiki.) Typical monster-of-the-day fare here, but I'm generally entertained. Maybe some more character or plot development awaits me with the next episode.  Episode 2 Much to Cure Princess's surprise, Cure Lovely seems to be pretty good at this butt-kicking business, for a newbie -- that is, until Cure Princess can't keep it together and prompts her partner to get out of what could end up being a sticky situation. Much to the general's (and my) surprise, the two book it out of there. It looks like Cure Princess' inability to believe in herself is hindering her when it comes to duking it out with Saiarks, so she heads over to Blue (who she calls "God") for further guidance, accusing him of lying when he told her that friends would be instrumental in improving and winning fights. Blue is the protector of the Earth apparently, and he explains to Cure Lovely what's up with those sunglasses-clad Saiarks who are terrorizing the planet. Basically, they're a bunch of jerks who want to wreak havoc on the human race. Keep it up, guys. That was all well and good, but I was excited to hear more about Queen Mirage and her dislike of all things lovey-dovey. We get to hear a little bit more about her as well as her kingdom. Turns out she's got a "guide" of her own like the PreCures do in Blue: Deep Mirror. When I look at Blue, I kind of wonder if he's genuinely a good guy with that creepy smile of his or if he's going to pull a Captain Aizen and actually be one of the enemies all this time. I think that's just reaching, since this show doesn't seem to be one that would use any kind of intricate plot devices, but a girl can dream, can't she? Two episodes in and we've already hit a snag where the heroine decides she's too overwhelmed by the responsibility placed on her and has to run away in a hissy fit, prompting everyone else to run after her to try to console her. She's been pretty useless so far, so I wouldn't mind if this suddenly became the Cure Lovely show instead. When Cure Princess has gone far enough and has found a place to sulk, Yuu comes by and offers her a special "honey candy" (probably foreshadowing a new PreCure, because I recognize her from the credits). Cure Lovely's gotta find Cure Princess too, so Megumi takes some "PreCards" given to her by Ribbon (the little fairy I keep forgetting the name of) and changes into the "Detective Coord" outfit. So that's what those little cards do. Megumi walks around in a ridiculous-looking detective outfit that recalls visions of Shugo Chara. [Editor's Note: I am honestly so confused right now.] When she finds Hime, the two share a heart to heart and decide to get back on the battlefield. With the Saiark felled and a renewed sense of growth as a team, the PreCures receive new PreCards and finally explain to us what those mean. They're a bunch of different outfits doled out in the form of trading cards, and when you fill up this special book, you receive one special wish. I wonder what that wish is going to end up being? And can I have special cards that allow me to dress up? I think I deserve them. 
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It's magically delicious!
I'm no stranger to magical girl anime, but I've never watched a PreCure series. I've always been interested, but once I sat down and started watching, the daunting task of sitting through 50+ episodes of each series no longer...

Shonen Showdown 3-22-2014

Mar 22 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 121 Every time we head back to Gon and his staring contest with Neferpitou, I wish that they'd just get on with it and fight. It's not really because I'm bored of what else is going on, but more because I want to see what happens when he flips out. We've already had a teaser (...a taser?) of Killua's crazy electric powers, and I'd be very surprised if Gon was still limited to his rock-paper-scissors attacks. His fight, whether it's with Neferpitou or Pouf, just can't happen soon enough. In the meantime, I'll settle for Gon's badass attitude.  Elsewhere, Big Red One has finally figured out what's up with this explosion business, and subsequently transforms into a child's worst nightmare. I mean, what is that thing? He's got a blade on his arm, which is fine. Standard fare for bad guys in fiction. But what's with that creepy face on his arm? It looks like it's chocking on a horse leg, and it has a mane made out of those creepy faces we saw when he exploded in his normal form. I don't know what the guy was smoking when he came up with this design, but I find it hard to believe that even the most crazy trip could make you come up with something like that. But with a grotesque form comes plenty of power, as he makes short work of the smoke clones, leaving Morel exhausted and completely unable to defend himself. At this point he's absolutely useless, what with his pipe having been stolen, but Gex does manage to sneak him away at the last moment. I say last moment like he got away unscathed, but Morel suffers a deep wound to his back, giving away their position even while invisible. Only Knuckle is in a position to do anything, but against the demon horse form? Yeah, not going to happen. Menthroopadoop gives Knuckle the option of sparing Morel's life in exchange for disabling APR. Seems he figured something was up, as we're informed shortly before this by the narrator that APR had only a few minutes before it made Mendoza go bankrupt, but Knuckle does something unbelievable and actually withdraws it, resetting any chance of winning and leaving this entire confrontation with no royal guard members taken down, while Morel and Shoot bleed out. Horse Nightmare might be heading to where the King is, while Knuckle and Meleoron regroup to go and fight who I assume will be Pouf. I hope that if he arrives at the King's fight, Netero kills him with comic ease. You know, just to really drive home how bad they were stomped in that fight.  [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Manga Pedro Cortes One Piece Chapter 741 What do we learn in this chapter? The Tontatta death rattle is "Pigya." Ouch. What's worse is that they keep thinking that Usopp will step in and save them. It's a good thing that the coward is shamed into manning up, because I don't know how many other Tontatta could be stepped on without risking extinction. Back in the castle, we get a quick flashback with Kyros. As is typical in these cases, he was a punk kid who worked his way up the ranks of the Colosseum. It's easy to see that Riku saw something positive in Kyros, but based off their initial meeting, it's hard to see from our end. I expect some sort of better showing next week, or at least how he met Rebecca's mother.    Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 669 Just in time to herald the 670th (!) chapter of everyone's favorite super-ninja manga, is what may well be the turning point in this battle against the final boss. Unfortunately, it might cost Might Guy his life, as the 8th Gate of Death does its work, turning him full Super Saiyan. He unleashes the Evening Elephant, which, as I anticipated, essentially punching the air so hard the force takes the shape of a massive elephant foot, increasing speed and impact with every blow. The result is worth it though, as we see the very first time Madara's been put on the back foot, unable to move, and thanks to a timely intervention from Kakashi, Gaara, and Minato, knocked out of his absolute Six-Path defensive bubble. It's almost sad that Guy can't win this on his own, but it's refreshing and exciting to see someone manage to lay the smack down on Madara's smug ass, just as Naruto wakes up. Now, can we get this ball rolling towards an epic conclusion, please?   Bleach chapter 573 Kenpachi's here, which basically means no one can push him. Really, we've never seen this tough sumbitch get pressed for real. Even in his most pitched battle, against Nnoitra back in the Hueco Mundo arc, he seemed more annoyed than desperate when he decided to use two hands. And now he's up against a kid with the most unsettling smile I've ever seen in Bleach. I know he's supposed to project that combination of boyish innocence and sinister presence, but the fact that his eyes are half-closed all the time, with that stupid open-mouth smile on his mug, makes him look like a creeper in training. Cut him up good, Kenpachi, he needs to go. Fortunately, it looks like this may yet go well for the Soul Reapers. Of course, this is, as we predicted, because Kenpachi is so effing strong that young Glemy Thoumeaux, Sternritter "V" (for "Visionary") can't possibly imagine his defeat. We'll see about that, but I'm thinking this will be a fairly safe bet.
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Neither grief nor pity!
It's time now for Shonen Showdown, the recap that doesn't want your pity or your mourning, for it is doing what it was always meant to do...recap battle anime and manga, and recap it hard. We've got a full house today with th...

Shonen Showdown 3-15-2014

Mar 15 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 120 This episode is kicked off by Morel smashing through Pouf's cocoon, after what seems like several episodes of mind games and over-analysis. While this isn't a huge deal in and of itself, the narrator does point out how this changes the course of the battle. On one hand, it allows Pouf to escape the smoke prison, as well as giving him the opportunity to steal Morel's pipe, but the narrator mentions that it also gives Morel an opportunity to help out Knuckle. It's a bad development in that Morel's power is severely limited, but it might have had more benefits than negatives.  But yes, after some taunting and other creepy actions from Pouf, Morel has his pipe stolen. Helping Knuckle may have been the best decision he makes, as while he only has a limited number of smoke clones remaining, we already understand that Methruchupachup was baiting Knuckle. If Morel hadn't have intervened, Knuckle could very well have died in this fight, but instead we're treated to a short flashback before Knuckle smacks the big guy while in the process of exploding. This is what he's been aiming for, but I'm unsure as to what that'll mean for the remaining fight. We also haven't checked back on the nen counter in a while, so who knows how high the interest is, and whether it's nearing the realm of usefulness. The rest of the episode seemed to be reserved for revelation after revelation. First off, we discover that Bizeff is alive, albeit it in a less than pristing state. It looks like he can't walk after getting trapped in rubble, but he manages to secure the help of...that one ant that was working with Leomon and Flutter. Lucky for Bizeff really, as we know that Wolfman is now following them. Thanks to Pouf's creepy ability, we also learn the fate of Palm, who seems to be stuck in a cocoon. Pouf's mention of something being "born soon" is quite horrifying, and I'm sure we'll see the full extent of what that means soon. In other news, if Pouf found all of this stuff so quick, why didn't Octodad use his satellite dragonflys while he was in Flutter's body to do something like this? Shoot also seems to have gone missing, and there's even a sense of dread while figuring out what could have happened to him. Did he get eaten? Was he taken somewhere? No, Knov stopped wimping out and actually did his job, saving his life. Not even Knuckle considered that, apparently. Hopefully this means he's joining the fight proper, and maybe he can even do something about Morel's pipe. I seem to remember he pulled the current one out of a portal for him earlier on in the series, so maybe he has surplus just in case. We finish up the episode with Pouf approaching Neferpitou, which was interesting mainly because of how panicked Pitou becomes. I can't wait for Gon to start fighting properly, because I think we're going to be in for quite the spectacle. [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 355 Though this week's episode takes place three years after the last one, it feels like it should be taking place long before it. Indeed, while both Yamato/Kinoe and Kakashi are well into their careers, Kinoe in particular acts like that whole thing with the smoke people and the thing he did where he literally tried to catch a girl's spirit as it ascended to heaven never happened.  Though he's now clearly friends with Kakashi, he's become sort of what Kakashi himself was like during the whole thing with Obito - the mission above all. Of course, that's what happens when Danzo is the guy that's running your mood-uplifting training montage, so perhaps it was inevitable. Then again, there'll be plenty of opportunities for Kinoe to change his ways - and eventually his codename - once he remembers that the reason he spends most of this episode trying to kill Kakashi is because Danzo wants a new eyeball. Seriously, dude, this is worse than that thing people do when they have interns go get a sandwich or pick up laundry. I can imagine what the Root office looks like: Danzo: "Hey new guy!" Kinoe: "Yeah, boss?' Danzo: "Get me some lunch, and by 'lunch', I mean 'kill this guy and take the Sharingan in his head, I need a new one'." Sigh. That's so Danzo.   Manga Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 668 Oh, man. Death flags aplenty fly in this chapter, and all are for a guy they call....Guy. As hinted at last week, we see the "red smoke" (given that the comic is in black-and-white, we'll just have to trust Kishimoto when he says it's red) of the Eighth Gate of Death, as Guy basically uses a One Thumb version of the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique on himself to funnel the chakra all the way through his circuits, enabling his final attack, the "Evening Elephant". First there was the Morning Peacock, which he used to defeat Kisame, then the Afternoon Tiger, which defeated Kisame even more, and now this. I'm hoping will be more complicated than "I punched him so hard elephants happened!", but if it's not, I'll still be happy, because Guy's good people. Just as well, it seems that Guy's dad is good people, too, and like his son, was a pioneering taijutsu ninja. And to contradict the "canon" established by filler, Guy's father also happens to be the Leaf's "Eternal Genin", forever stuck at low rank due to his lack of ability with other types of jutsu. If nothing else it's nice to see that the Leaf's standards for promotion have changed in the years since then, since obviously Guy made Jonin and Lee made Chunin as well. You CAN advance in life by doing what you're good at! Ah well. It was nice knowing you, Guy! Do some damage before you go! [Catch the latest Naruto chapters in Weekly Shonen Jump!]   Bleach chapter 572 Upon reflection, this latest set of chapters following young Yachiru and hapless Isane have, almost beat for beat, completely matched the last few chapters featuring Rukia so far. Let's look at it step-by-step: 1. Soul Reaper appears. 2. Sternritter appears, demonstrates/explains his power. 3. Soul Reaper kicks Sternritter's ass. 4. Psyche! Not really, Sternritter's actually way more powerful than first thought. Soul Reaper's in a pinch! 5. Rejoice, we've been rescued by a popular character! And that's exactly what has happened so far. This chapter combines steps 4 and 5, as Vanishing Point Gwenhael is revealed to be some kind of construct imagined into being by another Sternritter, Glemy (or "Guremi", but I'm sticking with Glemy because I want to believe it's a  Gundam reference), who seems to have read The Secret and taken it a tad too literally. Everything he can imagine comes true, including imagining if Yachiru's skeleton were made of crumbly cookies. If this guy weren't evil, he'd probably be a member of Ressha Sentai ToQger. Almost shockingly, Glemy seems to have already killed Kensei and Rose in their sleep, but any reader possessed of their mental faculties (or experience watching A Certain Magical Index) can see where the loophole in this. If he can imagine things into being, he can probably "unimagine" them as well.  Let's hope Kenpachi is of sound enough mind to get that part into his head. Oh, right. I forgot to mention that Kenpachi's back! And he looks no different! Well...whatever, man. I don't care if he doesn't look different, but I DO care about maybe seeing his bankai. C'mon Kubo! Don't let us down! [Vote for seeing Kenpachi's bankai with Weekly Shonen Jump!]
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All wooden up in here
Hello and welcome to Shonen Showdown, the weekly recap that--HAH! Got you! You thought you were gonna make this column late? You just delayed my clone! No one stops the recap train! We're up tonight with the latest workplace drama from Naruto, the latest child-abuse drama from Bleach, and a new dose of awesome from Hunter x Hunter, all tonight and ready!

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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Your face when
Hey there! It's time again for some sweet Shonen Showdown goodness, so put on your happy faces, everyone! Oh, maybe not that happy. OK, please take off your happy face now.  It's an extra full house this week, with ...

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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We lineart now
Welcome to this week's round of Shonen Showdown, the weekly anime and manga battlin' recap that's coming to you today courtesy of booting into Safe Mode! Aww yeah, core drivers, networking support, and nothing else, coming at...

Shonen Showdown 2-22-2014

Feb 22 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Pedro Cortes One Piece Episode 632 & 633 Franky and Luffy discuss Dofamingo’s obvious trap in the Colosseum, using Ace’s old Devil Fruit as the prize. Despite this, Franky encourages Luffy to try to win it back. When they get there, they see a toy soldier getting chased by the cops until it hops into the Colosseum. Luffy enters the tournament as “Lucy” and separates from Franky. While in the waiting room, a rather large gladiator tries to attack “Lucy,” but all that happens is that the big guy gets tossed onto his face. With that out of the way, the first of the four blocks begins. Meanwhile, Zoro and Sanji chase after the fairy that stole the katana, but Sanji gets distracted by a gorgeous Flamenco dancer named Violet. The beautiful lass gravitates to Sanji for help when a pair of soldiers appear, looking for her. He’s in love, she wants him to murder a guy. Hmm, smells like yet another trap. It’s fun whenever Oda drops a ton of weirdos into a story. The last time he did that was during the War of the Best, with all of the pirate crews assisting Whitebeard’s attack on Marineford. Here, these odd folk are looking to pound each other into twitching mounds of bleeding flesh. Considering the location in the New World, these guys are also pretty damn strong, which should bode well for entertaining skirmishes in the battle royal rounds. [You can watch One Piece over at Funimation!]   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 351 If there's anything in Naruto that's proven that there's still more to Naruto beyond what pretty much everyone is figuring is the end of the story, it'll be this latest arc. Kakashi's adventures as a member of the ANBU have proven so far to be a rather potent bit of content, expanding on the series' most enigmatic hero's complex past. One wonders how much they'll be able to milk out of stories focusing on, say, the adventures of Jiraiya, Tsunade and pre-villainy Orochimaru as the Legendary Three, or perhaps even of the chaotic period before the current ninja world was established by Hashirama. Much as I do desire the current Naruto story to end soon (and well), there's quite a bit of space for more stories that don't involve the titular character. That said, I suspect Masashi Kishimoto will be happy to move on once he's put a cap on the series that made him, and that's perfectly fine, too. But enough about the future, on to what happened a couple of days ago! It seems that the transition period between the Fourth Hokage's death and the Third's second regime was much less smooth than anyone could know, and even Danzo was practically in open rebellion, tasking a young Yamato and the rest of the Root with assassinating Hiruzen. At this point I have to wonder just what Danzo's worldview was. Obviously he's a power-hungry jerk, but, before the last couple of arcs it was at least implied that he did what he did for the greater good. Anyone not completely shut off from reality will recognize that even the most idealistic nations conduct messy "wetworks", so that's hardly surprising. At the same time the characterization of Danzo as hating Hiruzen's peace-nik ways seems a bit over-the-top, even for a guy who lies at the root of nearly every bad thing that's happened in the Naruto universe's recent past and present. If Madara's an unapolegetic sociopath, Danzo's motivations are quite a bit muddier at the moment. Our other takeaway for this episode is something that's just been revealed: Yamato at this young age...had normal-looking eyes. Will the rest of the arc finally put to rest the mystery of how Yamato lost his irises?! [Look for a teacher without freaky eyes on Crunchyroll!]   Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 117 This episode focused on the fight with Menthujabbawhatever, but before I talk about that, I want to throw a thumbs up in the direction of the author. Not only do we get a little information on what the Zoldyck family make of Killua's involvement in this fight, but we also finally get rid of the annoying Cheetahman by way of orbital laser. This demonstration of power from Killua's dad in what is seemingly no effort is another notch on the power scale that shows just how much trouble the hunters are in. However, does the Zoldyck lack of much concern come from knowing Killua is strong enough, or is this just their heartless assassin side coming through? Anyway, over to Knuckle and the big red guy. We pretty much bear witness to one of the most dangerous games of cat and mouse, while Shoot continues to crawl around in the hope he'll suddenly get the strength to fight again. Knuckle's strategy is to just let his crazy power to do the hard work, but at the rate we're going, that isn't going to be viable. There's no time to worry about that though, and so we get to see Knuckle's attempts at leading Menthusomething around the castle. Who'd have thought that so much stress would cause the guy to explode? I suppose this is the kind on leniency you get when we've been told that Menthudoopadoop is based on a 'mystical creature', but hey, I'm sure Knuckle will take it. It's neat seeing how his brain ticks when digesting this new information, and how he formulates a new plan around it, but credit to the big guy for thinking along the same lines. It's not going to be an easy fight at all. What's next? I think we're going to be seeing a fight rotation from now on. We've seen Gon and Killua in the previous episode, and it was Knuckle and Shoot this time, so I guess we're over to Morel and Pouf in the next episode. Or not, I guess, but I don't think we'll be heading to the fight with the King for a little while yet.  [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Manga Pedro Cortes One Piece Chapter 738 Whelp, looks like taking out Sugar is going to be harder than anybody thought. Trevor has got some strength behind his goo, forcing Robin, Usopp and the gnomes to rethink their strategy. Robin steps out and draws out Trevor to let the Tontatta attack the little girl. Unfortunately, she isn’t a pushover and manages to convert the initial wave of attackers into toys. She forces them to fight their buddies while she rings Trevor for help. Lucky for Robin, she had sent a clone made of flower petals, so the sticky-goop man grabs a nearby ship and tosses it at Sugar’s enclosure. Not very sane, but definitely a quick way to get at the attackers inside.   Josh Tolentino Bleach chapter 569 Wow. Well played, Tite Kubo. You got me. You win this one.  Last week I had little but harsh words for Bleach after Byakuya stepped in to pull Rukia's feet out of As Nodt's fear-fire. I lambasted the chapter as yet more Byakuya fanboying and was internet-raging over the continued snubbing of Bleach's best female character. Boy, was I wrong, and I am happy to be eating crow. This week's chapter puts me in my place and pretty much rebuts nearly all of my complaints with what is nothing less than calculated grace. The egg is definitely on my face this time. Was I complaining about As Nodt's freak form not being freaky enough? That's certainly taken care of. That's the grossest thing Bleach has revealed since Kurotsuchi's weird devil-baby Bankai. And was I complaining about too much Byakuya power-tripping? Yes, but this isn't even his final form bankai anymore. I just hope he'll be able to use it on someone this time, though I wonder who it'll be now that this is once again Rukia's fight. Yeah, I said it, this is Rukia's fight again. Her brother was just here to give her some encouragement, and what is a hero without a cheering section?  And  best of all, I was utterly wrong when I wailed that we'd never see Rukia's bankai now! Now we'll see "Hakka no Togame" next week, and it looks like a doozy. Well done, Bleach.    Naruto chapter 665 And here I thought Naruto was the hero of Naruto. But I guess it was really Obito after all. I kid, I kid. All the time the series has spent thus far recasting Obito in a redemptive light had to pay off at some point, and what better time for that to happen than when things are at their lowest point? Madara's right there, Black Zetsu has somehow swipped the Nine-Tails meant to save Naruto, and the combined efforts of Gaara, Kakashi, and even Sage Mode Minato (!) aren't enough to put a dent in the final boss. So of course now was the time for Naruto's words to get through to Tobi, and convince him to reverse the situation, retake his name, and maybe start kicking some bad dude butt. But not before Madara dumps yet more untold secrets about the hidden history of ninjas. Apparently the Sage of Six Paths' power was originally meant to connect people together mentally at the soul - once again indulging anime's fetish for villains whose ultimate goal is to subsume humankind into some kind of collective consciousness - and that the Tsuki no Me plan is designed to approximate that whole thing. Of course, this will fail, thanks to the fact that all villains who want to subsume humanity into a collective consciousness are missing the point of, well, society and civilization and living in the world (a core message of nearly every heroic anime and JRPG made this generation), so yeah, Madara's a bad dude. Now all we need is for Naruto and Sasuke to get the hell up, so we can move forward and end this.
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Battle of the century
It's that time on Saturday, people: The time to FIGHT! It's Shonen Showdown time! It's a week of epic reversals as Bleach makes us EAT last week's harsh judgment and Naruto turns a heel into (half a) face, while One...

Shonen Showdown 2-16-2014

Feb 16 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 116 There's really not that much I can say about this episode. The show didn't feel like it was dragging quite as much as previous episodes, but not a lot happened either. I remember being genuinely surprised that I was halfway through the episode when the show logo popped up, mainly because it seemed that we'd barely started. Anyway, most of the fights were recapped this week so that the focus could finally be moved to Gon and Killua's confrontation with Neferpitou, at long last. Unfortunately, it seems that there's not much action involved when the ant-cat is preoccupied with saving a human child.  Killua rationally approached the situation with consideration for Komugi. Gon wanted to just punch Neferpitou's face off. Neferpitou would be perfectly happy with Gon doing that, so long as the healing would continue. This, plus some screaming from Gon made up the episode. I'm not sure what to make of their agreement, though. As far as I can tell, Neferpitou would have fully restored Kite already if at all possible, so that they could continue to fight. Does that mean the fight will start after Komugi is in the clear, or will Neferpitou actually come good on the promise? We'll see, but I wouldn't trust a cat that could sever my jugular.  [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 350 It might just be me and my having watched a lot of tokusatsu shows over the years, but whenever a long-running show or manga hits a nice, round episode or chapter number - like today's 350th episode of Naruto Shippuden - I tend to assume that they'll attempt to "celebrate" in some way, either through some manner of special event, or even just coming up with a reason to give the show more budget this week than usual. And with Naruto Shippuden right in the middle of some past-filling filler, this would be just the occasion. Strangely enough, there something that amounts to a big "anniversary" reveal, this week, though it would only seem important if you care quite a bit about Kakashi. If you don't, this is filler like any other, though with some added interest thanks to being quasi-canonical. Here we continue with Kakashi's time in the ANBU division, and the opening months of the Fourth Hokage's term. Kakashi's gone full-killer in the interim, mastering Chidori and ignoring his rival. This goes swimmingly for the youth with nothing to live for, until he gets drafted into safeguarding Kushina during her pregnancy, then being pulled away on the day of Naruto's birth - and the day both Kushina and Minato died. After being spared a step-by-step recap of those events (thank goodness for small blessings), the big reveal here is actually in the power brokering that occurs in the wake of the Fourth's death, when the Third once again c*ckblocks Danzo's power-grab and takes up the reins of Hokage-hood until a fifth can emerge from the current batch of ninja (or until Naruto finds her fourteen years in the future).  The show wisely continues to characterize Danzo as a conniving, top-tier d-bag, so we're in no danger of sympathizing with his frustration, but the bombshell dropped here is the revelation at the end of the episode, showing Kakashi - and a young Yamato - working for Danzo as a member of the Root, Danzo's personal hit squad. The Root was the same organization that Sai belonged to, and dedicated to furthering the village's aims through the dick-est of moves. If that's an implication that Kakashi didn't start out as a supporter of the Third's second term, it'll be interesting to see what his time in the ANBU will do to change him from the angry youth of then to the laid-back adult of the present.  [Get stuck as a member of the Leaf's "Tea Party" faction on Crunchyroll!]   Manga Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 664 The tunnel of despair gets a tiny bit of light in it as Gaara and Sakura link up with Kakashi and Minato, planning to swap in the Yang half of the Nine-Tails' chakra to save Naruto's life. But that light's quickly dimmed by continued interference from Black Zetsu, which seems to have subsumed Obito's will entirely at this point, followed by the arrival of Madara himself, looking for his remaining Rinnegan. The catch is that we might have just witnessed the seeds of victory being planted in this low place. On his way to the field Madara ditched two of the remaining ninja tools of the Sage of Six Paths, leaving them to fall right in front of Team Guy. Tenten had been shown using one of the tools before (the Banana Fan), and they're killer in the right hands. How much you want to bet that they'll play a part in securing final victory for the alliance? Further, a mysterious figure currently stands over Sasuke's dying form. Who will we find when Karin and the rest of the Taka/Hebi crew arrive there? It's a bit late in the day to be introducing yet more new spoilers, so I'm inclined to wager that the new guy won't be entirely hostile.   Bleach chapter 568 You disappoint me, Bleach. This was supposed to be Rukia's time! Why'd you have to go and do that?! I suppose anyone could've seen it coming that this fight wasn't going to be over in a single round, but I'm still a bit miffed that As' Vollstandig, "Tartar Foras" is so...bland. I mean, he's the freak-guy, so that's to be expected, but looking like Evil Jesus and simply having an amped-up version of his standard fear power isn't very intimidating. Well, I suppose it is intimidating to an extent, considering it pretty much sets Rukia up for defeat*, but unlike Bambi's exploder-power and Mask's transition from Luchador to Superhero, it doesn't feel like much of a change. Certainly not on the level of a bankai or a Resurrecion. Color me disappoint. Speaking of that asterisk I planted last paragraph, this is where the rub is: Poor Rukia doesn't get to finish this fight on her own. Instead she gets saved by her brother. And that kind of sucks.  Sure, his intervention is sort of warranted. After all, As took his bankai and pretty much killed him. Plus, Byakuya HAD to enter by now if he wasn't going to participate in the final set of fights (which he'll never do for risk of upstaging Ichigo), so turning Rukia's fight into the Kuchiki siblings' fight was a logical move. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.  Now we'll never see Rukia's bankai! SO depressed!  
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Feeling the baby bump
It's time again for Shonen Showdown, the weekly fighting anime and manga roundup that's opting to use this week's header selection to anticipate the end result of many a successful Valentine's eve! How did your love-love...

Shonen Showdown 2-8-2014

Feb 08 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Pedro Cortes One Piece Episode 630 & 631 Woo, the Straw Hats make landfall on Dressrosa! After the usual tomfoolery, Law lays out the plan: Law, Usopp and Robin will hand off Caesar and head to an island called Green Bit while Nami, Brook, Chopper and Sanji protect Momonosuke and the Sunny…except that Luffy, Zoro, Franky, Sanji and Kinemon have wandered off into the beautiful Spanish-influenced town of Acacia. While they entered looking for tasty food, they immediately notice that toys are animated all over the city. We also get a quick peek at a purple-clad blind man wandering the streets and entering a restaurant that Luffy and company are eating in. The blind man starts up a helluva streak on roulette, leading to some thugs coming in for a bit of “regulation.” They con a ton of cash out of the guy by lying about the results. The old man eventually bets everything on a single bet and gets conned yet again, except this time Luffy comes and tells the truth. The thugs try to attack Luffy, but the old man steps in counters their moves. After some Zatoichi-style slashes, the old man walks away, slowly sheaths his blade and the punks collapse through the floor. While all this goes on, some fairies make off with the patron’s items, including one of Zoro’s swords. Zoro heads off in chase, followed by Sanji and Kinemon. While they head off on a wild goose chase, Luffy and Franky interrogate one of the punks. The guy has no pertinent info, but he directs them to th Corrida Colosseum, where higher-ranked members of Doflamingo’s family are currently preparing for a tournament, for which the prize is Ace’s old Devil Fruit. This, of course, get’s Luffy’s undivided attention, long enough for the episode to end.     Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 115 Wait, I thought Zeno flew off on Puff the Magic Dragon with the other two monsters? Apparently not, unless he's using some kind of weird magic, as he hangs around long enough to meet Gon and Killua before leaving the battle. Which was a little odd in itself, really, because it didn't seem like there was much point to him sticking about. Perhaps he just wanted to confirm the state Killua was in before leaving, but come on old timer, at least keep an eye on him. You can summon dragons, so you must still be somewhat useful. Meanwhile, Shoot is crawling around on the floor, bleeding profusely. He's had whatever's left of him saved by Knuckle, who couldn't help but throw himself into the fight. Things are not looking good for taking down the red devil, especially with Meleoron wandering off. Seriously, why did he wander off? An invisible Shoot might just be what we need to steal some useful limbs, rather than that single eyeball. We know that Knuckle is insane, but there's no way he's going to be able to win this fight without a little help. I just don't know where it's coming from unless Knov decides to grow a pair and get involved.  Speaking of Meleoron, just what is he doing? I'm having a hard time accepting that checking up on the others is more important than the Shoot and Knuckle fight, and if he was legitimately worried about Gon and Killua, why not go with them in the first place? I'm going to assume that, according to the plan, he's still meant to be on Knuckle's back, so he must have some kind of reason. Meanwhile his odourless deodorant has been picked up by Wolfman, and he almost allows himself to be attacked. As if the royal guard weren't enough! Also some stuff happens with Ikalgo but who really cares about that.  Finally. Finally we have Gon and Killua in the same room as Neferpitou. Hell, they're close enough that they can see Komugi, and fighting is probably going to happen now! Well, you know, assuming it doesn't take another episode to walk close enough to throw a punch. And another episode for backstory. Then a recap episode.  [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 349 These last few weeks have been pretty good as far as filler goes on Naruto, and we're treated to another story arc that might actually be worth watching, as the show flashes back to Kakashi's past, answering the question of just what he was doing after Obito and Rin died. As might be expected, the answer is "Near-suicidal self-hatred with a heavy helping of PTSD", which no one should have to go through, not even someone who's never shown his face below the eyes on camera. Speaking of which, it's been teased that Kakashi's face will be revealed soon, either here or in the manga. While that's nice and all, I can't imagine it'll be very dramatic. Unless he's got some kind of monster-mouth thing going like Mileena from Mortal Kombat. That would be kind of gross. Besides Kakashi moping and not being able to use his Chidori properly - which raises the question of just when he stopped calling his special move "Chidori" and switched to "Lightning Cutter" ("Raikiri") - due to some real Lady Macbeth-grade guilt, we're also treated to a look at the Namikaze household, and just how Minato, The Yellow Flash, got appointed as Fourth Hokage, especially when the Third was alive and well. As it turns out, the Third Ninja World War was something of an embarrassment to all involved (particularly the Hidden Stone, whose entire invasion attempt was halted by Minato alone), and the Third was stepping down to save the nation some face. Against Danzo's nomination of Orochimaru for Fourth Hokage (seriously, Danzo seems to be the cause of ALL the Naruto world's troubles), Hiruzen cites Minato's war hero status, and literally gets the nod to proceed with the nomination. Meanwhile we see Kushina acting the housewife and I have to say, she's kind of ruined.  You know how Naruto has this "Dattebayo!" catchphrase that's basically untranslatable, and most English attempts go with "Believe it!". Well, Naruto's mom takes things two steps further, feminizing it with "Dattebane!" and using it in every other sentence. Geez, even Naruto didn't do it that often, and it's annoying as all hell. Way to ruin things, anime! [See a young housewife get turned into a shadow of her former self on Crunchyroll!]   Manga Pedro Cortes One Piece Chapter 736 & 737 With the final participants gathered in the Colosseum ring, the rules are announced. The Mera-Mera Fruit is located on one of the bad-ass fighting fish circling the ring. The last person standing who can get fruit is the winner. The gong signaling the beginning of the fight goes off as Luffy, Zoro, Kinemon and Violet literally burst into the side of the royal palace. I get the first satisfied Mingo-freakout face, as he can’t figure out who took Luffy’s place at the Colosseum. The chapter ends with Lao G of the Diamante Army stopping the toy soldier and the fairies in the Factory and Luffy’s group running into Pika, another member of Doflamingo’s family of jerks. The big guy just tries to bring down the walls around the invaders, leaving their fate for another chapter. Most of the next chapter is spent on the battle in the Colosseum, with Sabo/Lucy showing off that he's quite a bit stronger than any of the other competitors calculated. We also close it out with the invasion team getting to Sugar's location in the Toy Factory. We watch her turn Cavendish into a toy, so we know that she's the centralized target. The little fairy Leo reveals an incredibly spicy grape that should knock the little girl out, removing her spell on all the toys in the kingdom.   Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 663  Once more Madara causes us to ask what the point of the entire fight with Obito was about (besides redemption-fueled padding, of course), as he takes in the now fully-powered Gedo Statue and becomes...a long-haired version of what Obito looked like when he took in the almost fully-powered Gedo Statue. At this point, this isn't like phases of a boss fight in a JRPG, where Sephiroth went from Bizarro Sephiroth to Safer Sephiroth to a Cameo In Kingdom Hearts Sephiroth. It's more like getting to the top of the final dungeon and then having to do a boss rush of every boss creature you fought on the way up. Sigh. Meanwhile, Sakura finally gives Naruto that kiss he's always wanted, though I suppose he wouldn't exactly be thrilled for the context to involve CPR as well as a chakra-powered heart massage. Poor dude. In any case, I did totally call it when I predicted that the "other half" of the Nine-Tails' power present in Minato would come into play at some point, and that point is now, as it'll replace the Nine-Tails power that was lost when Madara pulled it out of Naruto to fuel the statue. As for Killer Bee and the Eight-Tails, I figure they're both stuck in there, as he was in the combined Tailed Beast form when Madara did his magic. Perhaps the most surprising (or least surprising depending on how you read it) revelation of the week, however, is learning that Karin is an Uzumaki, perhaps one that's far more closely related to Naruto than anyone might realize, since she's able to do that crazy spirit-chain power that Kushina used to restrain the Nine-Tails when she was its Jinchuriki. Are Uzumaki people the only gingers in the Ninja World? Sure does look like it! [Check previous chapters for ginger ninjas in Weekly Shonen Jump!]   Bleach chapter 567 Bleach may have its problems, but I have to say that I'm thoroughly enjoying how this arc is finally giving a goodly number of people their due. Perhaps the one most of all shafted by the series' power dynamics has been Rukia, who is for the most part the main heroine of Bleach (sorry, Orihime fans, but it's true. You and Hinata fans can commiserate together). She's been stuck fighting freaks and not getting too many chances to use her power, but now she's finally giving 'em what for. And she's not even using a Bankai yet! Of course, the true nature of Sode no Shirayuki's power is based in a fundamental misunderstanding of thermodynamics, but let's not let things like science and commonsense physical laws get in the way of a thematically resonant victory. After all, the idea that you can't strike fear into the heart of someone who's already dead is kind of a really cool idea. Well-played, Rukia. I can't wait to see your actual bankai. Hopefully. [Don't pay any attention to the physics lessons you get on Weekly Shonen Jump]
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The kiss you always wanted to see
Welcome to the past-midnight edition of Shonen Showdown, your weekly roundup of anime and manga's most belligerent battle series! What's so different about the past-midnight edition and the usual one? Well, we've hot hot hot*...

Shonen Showdown 2-2-2014

Feb 02 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 348 The rather interesting flashback to Akatsuki's origins ends this week as everything falls into place, capping the chain of events that would turn Nagato, Yahiko, and Konan from youths with unusually deep voices (one of the pitfalls of casting for the character you have, not the character whose childhood you later see) to an invalid, a walking corpse, and a classy paper lady, respectively. Everything new to be revealed about the fall of Akatsuki was revealed last week, with things like Hanzo's being a nice guy, to Danzo's manipulation, to Obito's hand in all of this, but a few more interesting wrinkles are added to the pile, like what happened to Akatsuki's original members (Obito killed them to stop them from helping the trio), and the whole point behind doing that to Akatsuki in the first place (Nagato's Rinnegan needed to be reactivated much in the same way that Mangekyo Sharingan are). The real, unspoken purpose of this flashback, though, besides padding out time, is to reveal just how cyclical the dynamic of Naruto's story is. There's always an arrangement of kids, assembled in trios, with one "Naruto", one "Sasuke", and a third wheel (the "Sakura" if you will). It's more apparent in some cycles than others, but the themes of brotherhood and loss repeat over and over in nearly every generation. It hasn't been a good cycle, though, and if we're lucky, the manga will end just right, with the breaking of that unhealthy ninja cycle.   Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 114 The King, Netero and Zeno hop onto a magical dragon, which may or may not having something to do with Pouf's fairy dust. It seems they are travelling to a better place to fight, which seems awfully reminiscent of Dragon Ball Z and the key battles in that show. If you need to move to some convenient, barren wasteland in order to fight without holding back, you know you're in for a spectacle. Hopefully we don't end up seeing the King getting angry enough to hurl a giant energy ball at Earth. Zeno does seem a little like Vegeta, thinking about it, if we just forget about all the praise he gave for Netero.  Moving to our covert octopus, he's getting quizzed by some of the other chimera ants as to why he's shown up, and where his wings have ended up. Knowing a lot about the ants is an obvious bonus as it allows him to talk his way out of the confrontation, but he does make a vital slip-up. He refers to Leol as "Hagya-sama", something we know he doesn't like to be called based on a conversation from a few episodes ago. Ikalgo wouldn't know about this, so it's picked up by the two ants that were listening in on the conversation. I don't think he's getting out of this unscathed. Morel is also gearing up for his own fight, against the fabulous and emotional Pouf. It's not surprising to see Morel being overly cautious around his butterfly dust, especially as we already know that he can completely mesmerise people with it. Does this mean that Pouf has something even worse in store for this fight? If he's taking on a stronger form and Morel is still trying to hold his breath, how exactly is the fight going to play out? Morel has already demonstrated some interesting uses of his smoke ability, and I get the feeling we haven't seen the best of him, either. But for this episode at least, it's all about Shoot and Knuckle. Devilman has proved to be a formidable foe, especially so as the allies are running into trouble just ten seconds into the fight. Knuckle doesn't seem as nimble as Shoot, who himself isn't fast enough to dodge all of the attacks being launched against him, so can Devilman be overwhelmed with raw power? Shoot has an interesting opportunity in that he can now potentially turn invisible with Kecleon's help, so perhaps we'll see this fight progress better once he has stolen a few more of his eyes. [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Manga Josh Tolentino *Naruto is on break this week Bleach chapter 566 Having Renji take a nap just after he roasted a dude is kind of an awkward way to force a change of scenery, but it's as good as any other, and reintroduce us to Renji's next match, Nanana Najahkoop. This unfortunate racial caricature is the Sternritter "U" and a guy whose power might revolve around being able to observe his enemy in detail - something he was able to do in spades while Renji slept. Unless everyone's favorite jobber has some new trick to pull - and let's remember that he's already revealed his bankai - Renji's days could really be numbered. Of course, as soon as I say that, Bleach provides ample proof that it really isn't the type to let anyone who's not a villain die (sometimes not even then), as Rukia locates Isane and drops of Rose and Kensei. I'd bet my bankai that Kira is lying around there somewhere as well.  Speaking of Rukia fighting, why does she always get stuck dueling the freaks? In Hueco Mundo she had to fight Aaroniero Arruruerie, who was two heads in a jar on top of a giant tentacle monster that ate her first crush. Now she's got to deal with As Nodt, Sternritter "F" (for "Fear", imaginatively enough), and the guy who's come closest to offing Soul Society's biggest superstar, Byakuya Kuchiki.  Assuming this fight is meant for Rukia to handle and not a surprise intervention by her brother, this might be her biggest battle of the arc. After all, she hasn't made any other enemies this round. Hopefully Kubo will give her the chance to shine that she hasn't gotten in years, which is a disgrace for a character that's arguably Bleach's main heroine (though Orihime fans might disagree).
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Psyched for the kickoff
Hey everyone, ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL fighting Japanese cartoons and comics?! Yeah, that's the answer I wanna hear! It's time for Shonen Showdown, the most "super" bowl of hot action anime and manga you're gonna ...

Shonen Showdown 1-25-2014

Jan 25 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 112 & 113 You know, I'd make a terrible hunter. While everything is moving in slow motion and Shoot is crapping himself over the hentai-genre's worst nightmare, everyone was thinking about whether the Dragon Dive attack had killed Knuckle, and if he'd even reappear if that were to happen. Seriously, that didn't even occur to me. I was too busy appreciating just how awesome the Knuckle and Meleoron combo is. Can...can we get a Hunter x Hunter fighting game? Please? Back on topic. Knowing of Knuckle's prior experience and seeing his shock at just how strong Devilman is really puts this fight into perspective. It's going to get very interesting when Meleoron has to take a breath, especially with all those eyes watching. It was also really neat hearing Shoot's internal monologue on Gon, as his mere running up the stairs didn't seem like such a big deal until he explained the situation in detail. Gon's fighting mentality, likely a bloodlust urging him to tear Neferpitou limb from limb, forces Shoot to open his eyes and confront this fight as a new man. Skipping to the next episode, we see this causes him to start zooming around on one of his floating fists, even though he's never done it before and has a busted leg, just to distract Devilman long enough to give Morel his pipe back. I wasn't a massive fan of Shoot before, but his confidence and the completely unnecessary covering of an eye has certainly made me warm to him! Well, if you were still wondering what kind of influence Komugi was going to have on the fight, we now know. It seems like she was struck by one of the Dragon Dive...things, and she's not looking too good. It's hard to tell if she died to that attack or if she's just severely injured, and I think the answer to this will alter this next fight greatly. Just what would happen if Gon's upcoming fight with Pitou comes at the cost of Komugi's life because Pitou can't multi-task? If she's already dead, then I can fully expect the King to be completely unamused, and he'll stop at nothing to destroy Netero and Zeno. What did make me curious was Pitou's sudden tearing up when ordered to heal Komugi. Perhaps a little bit of human emotion cropping up from a past life? Frustration at being told not to fight?  Netero's decision to allow the two chimera ants to start care for Komugi was an honourable one, and quite correctly described as something they had to do to keep their cause. Pitou summoning Dr Blythe managed to freeze the two in place while the King strode past them without hesitating, but why? The show made it seem like Dr Blythe was the reason for this, but was it fear of the ability or of Pitou's sheer strength? It may also be the sheer realisation of what they've got themselves into, because they know that the King is going to be several times as strong as any of the royal guard. It's hard to say, especially when Netero batted Pitou away so effortlessly not so long ago. Ikalgo is pretty much doomed. Just going to put that out there. The wolf-man has pretty much figured out that something is wrong with how he could have got past Killua without being attacked, and considering this guy seems like a pretty tough customer, I don't think he'll be let off without some questioning. In Ikalgo's favour, he does have knowledge of the chimera ants and their names, so he'll certainly seem like the real Flutter, and he also has some combat ability, but enough to fight or get away from the wolf? I'm not so sure.  To round off the two episodes, we have Morel preparing his fight against a very emotional Pouf. Seriously, that butterfly has more than a few screws loose, and his obsession with the King is going to get him killed. I'm not sure that spraying around dust, whatever its properties are, will be enough to take down Morel, but I do think we'll have quite a good fight on our hands. If Pouf has the ability to change abilities, that's got to make for a great match-up, right? Oh yeah, assuming that the show doesn't crawl in slow motion for all of the next episode, we might see enough for Gon to meet with Neferpitou. Exciting! [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Pedro Cortes One Piece Episode 628 & 629 Luffy and Law put this awful filler arc to rest by plugging up their ears. Yep, that’s all it took to beat this chump. With that garbage tossed away, we go back into the proper story. The crew discovers that Doflamingo has abdicated his throne on Dressrosa, as well as his position as one of the Warlords. Also, Scratchman Apoo, Basil Hawkins and Eustass Kidd have formed a alliance, similar to the one Law and Luffy put together.  Understandably , the entire world is pretty surprised with the news. While arms dealers, Marine leaders and old faces reel, Law calls Doflamingo and irons out the Caesar trade-off.  However, Doflamingo has something up his sleeve: the Flare-Flare Devil Fruit. What better way to manipulate Luffy than put his late-brother’s Devil Fruit as the prize in a coliseum.  However, none of that is as important as the new opening! After two whole arcs of We Go, we finally get something new with Wake Up. The song is appropriately upbeat and has several quick cameos of characters we’ll be seeing soon enough. My favorite part? The continued support of my theory that Robin just doesn’t like underwear. Seriously, that sarong is damn near indecent!   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episodes 346 and 347 It's a double-whammy this week as Naruto Shippuden does the unlikely and deliver some genuinely engaging filler content. Yep, good filler! It's exactly the kind of filler you want: Content that fleshes out the world or plot you're invested in while revealing a few new details that enrich your impression of the characters. On the "fleshing out the world and plot" front, we get a few more lingering questions about Obito and Madara's relationship answered, like revelations clarifying just when Madara awakened his Rinnegan, and just what happened when Obito, posing as Madara, contacted Akatsuki for the first time. I've said it several times before, but episodes like this are why anime adaptations of stories you've already read can be valuable: they clue you in to details you might have missed the first time around. But aside from this, perhaps the most surprising developments from this round of filler is in character work, particularly for the original Akatsuki trio of Yahiko, Konan, and Nagato. We've already seen the beginnings of their stories, as told in flashback by Jiraiya, but these episodes (and next week's, from the looks of things) cover Akatsuki's early days as a vigilante group, defending the innocent against marauding ninja - but refusing as much as possible to kill, and negotiating "at any cost" (Yahiko's words).  Sure, we had the idea that Akatsuki was originally peaceful until Yahiko was killed by Hanzo (the Hidden Rain Village's leader), but the new details here reveal a new side to the guy we all thought was just a villain wearing a scuba mask: It turns out that he liked Akatsuki too, and was a dedicated pacifist. The notion that Hanzo was at the end a pacifist runs surprisingly counter to our previous impressions of him, as the legendary ninja that humiliated the Leaf Sannin and gave Mifune his scare and murdered Nagato and Konan's best friend. Of course, the heel conversion turns out to have been caused at least in part by Danzo, who lied about Akatsuki's motives to turn Hanzo against the youths, all for the sake of advancing the Leaf's position. Real dick, that Danzo.   Manga Pedro Cortes One Piece Chapter 734 & 735    The theme from these two chapters is that Doflamingo has no idea what the hell is going on. The cocky bastard pulls off a wondrously arrogant villain monologue that ranks up in the top 3 villain speeches in One Piece’s run. The thing is, he’s so utterly wrong. He mocks Riku about Viola, Rebecca, and the Strawhats’s mad plan to take him out. However, we all know that Luffy isn’t stuck in the colosseum, Franky is kicking ass outside of the Toy Factory, Robin and Usopp are already in the basement and Viola is about to let in Luffy, Zoro and Kinemon into the royal palace. Oh, and then Fujitora comes in and tells Doflamingo that his ultimate goal is to disband the Warlords. There’s no way this can end well for the feathered pirate, but who knows with that guy. Besides Doflamingo being off the mark, Rebecca ends up winning the final block by, what else, being really good at defending. It seems that Cavendish has a murderous alternate personality named Hakuba that flares up whenever he goes to sleep and what would you know, the guy has a narcoleptic fit during the match. However, Hakuba couldn’t penetrate Rebecca’s iron guard. Good thing too, because with her ridiculous armor, she would’ve been cut in half. There isn’t much of a pause, as the next chapter will start the final fight. Personally, I’m guessing that Lucy/Sabo will be coming out on top, if just so that Luffy’s other brother can get the Flare-Flare Fruit.   Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 662 The good guys have officially hit rock-bottom. The Tailed Beasts have all been sucked into the Gedo statue, Madara is still rampaging, someone dressed up in Tobi's original outfit and spouting Zetsu's curiosity about defecation is menacing the army (which is completely out of chakra), and the only intact undead Kage left is the Third. Oh, and did I mention that both Naruto and Sasuke are on the verge of death? The former is dying just like drained Jinchuriki do (Gaara was an exception and Bee was sucked into the statue alongside the Eight-Tails), and the latter just had a blade shoved through his heart. If there was ever a time for Shukaku and the Nine-Tails' secret instructions to Gaara to kick in, or for Orochimaru to finally join the battle, or Kakashi and Minato and Obito to act, now would be it, because things don't look like they can get any worse. But who cares about all that drivel, look at this thing above! Masashi Kishimoto drew some Naruto-themed fanart of Elysium, the Neil Blomkamp sci-fi movie that was known mainly for the cool robotic exoskeleton Matt Damon wore for much of the film. The above piece is exactly that, plus a ninja bit or two. Cool stuff!   Bleach chapter 565 This week Bleach slathers on another layer of backstory that I'm not entirely convinced was necessary, seeing as it ends up raising more questions than answers. We're treated to what basically amounts to the Quincy creation myth, which asserts that the Quincy King, aka Vandenreich leader Ywach, was once born as a completely disabled, yet lucid baby, possessed of the power to "lend out" bits of his soul to help people heal their ills. The gift caused ancient humans to worship him as a god (hence the "Ywach" name and thinly veiled allusions of Christianity). Also shown is the root of the Sternritter's abilities: They're specially chosen by Ywach himself and drink his blood to get their powers, via a special "Letter" inscribed onto their soul.That includes the latest Sternritter "A", Uryuu Ishida, whom Haschwalth isn't exactly trusting of.  Ywach's weird gift and ability to bestow powers lies at the core of the assertion that he's the "Father" of everyone with Quincy blood, up to and including Ichigo's mother, and possibly Ichigo himself. Of course, no gift given by a dude with such epic mutton chops comes without a catch, and the catch is kind of a doozy. As revealed, when Ywach heals or grants others powers, he gets to take it all back whenever he feels like it, or rather, gains all the power and experience of anyone he's "touched" when they die. Think a leech version of the Highlander central conflict and you've got it. This sort of explains the war, to an extent, as unless Ywach gets his soul bits back (with interest), he regresses to the same sense-deprived state he was born in. Not cool, which is why he's starting a war with Soul Society to gather more power and get all vampiric about things.
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An unexpected reference
Hello and welcome to the latest installement of Shonen Showdown, your weekly recap of the best in battle anime and manga! We've got the full cast in this week, with sweet double-dose recaps of One Piece, Naruto, and Hunt...

Shonen Showdown 1-18-2014

Jan 18 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 345 Wherein Obito nets a training montage, and we get acquainted with White Zetsu's general smarminess. Shame that he's bad guy, as he otherwise seems perfectly decent, if inordinately fixated on defecation and its myriad sensations. Well, to be fair, if I was an effectively immortal being made of clone cells from a ninja demigod, I suppose mortal concerns might be a point of curiosity. That said, unlike the fight between the Uchiha brothers and Kabuto, there's not a whole lot that was especially confusing about Obito's recovery, so much of it passes by without us learning much that's new, even from the perspective of someone that hasn't been keeping up with the manga. So yes, Obito trains himself back up to health, and flips the hell out when he sees Kakashi kill Rin in front of a dozen Mist ninja. If it wasn't clear from the manga, this is where Obito's sharingan (both of them) get upgraded to Mangekyo-level, though from the looks of things Kakashi either wasn't aware of the power or able to use it until the time of Naruto Shippuden, because a whole lot of battles from the original Naruto series would have gone quite differently had Kakashi been able/willing to use Kamui (see: Zabuza). It's worth noting that the scene of Obito wigging out and going all crazy with his new Wood-element powers is very well-animated by the standards of the show, so this might be where they've been allocating the monthly budget. Seeing the tricks in motion also makes Obito's new power seem all the more savage, to boot, especially compared with the more refined way other Wood users like Yamato and Hashirama typically used their power (Instant sculpture? Hyper-carpentry? Puh-lease). Anyway, next week, Obito swears to dispecl a world he no longer believes is real.   Manga Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 661 Whoops! How did that happen? After so many near-deaths in Bleach and knowing how substitution jutsu works in Naruto, the sight of someone getting stabbed is no longer the kind of thing anyone should be excited about, but manga will keep trying, I suppose. In any case, the process of Madara systematically dismantling every aspect of the Alliance's progress continues, as he sucks all the remaining Tailed Beasts into the Gedou statue, takes Hashirama and Tobirama off the board seemingly for good (he especially relishes the chance to off Tobirama, since it was he who killed Izuna, Madara's brother), and manages to plug Sasuke through the heart with his own sword. And all this without the benefit of immortality and using just one Rinnegan (the other is still apparently in dispute, with Kakashi and Minato attempting to prevent Zetsu from completely claiming Obito's body).  Talk about a final boss, eh? Speaking of Sasuke, the real truth of his motivations and the true cause of his change of heart are still unclear, made even more vague by his grim-dark personality. For the life of me I still can't tell if he's genuine about deciding to save the world after all, or if he's got something else in mind. Even extrapolating from Naruto's dominant themes to guess how this'll turn out still doesn't do much to illuminate this further. Then again, unpredictability is good in a genre this formulaic, but I was hoping it wouldn't be so frustrating. And this is still assuming that Naruto is actually coming to a definitive end! Oh geez, what if they're planning some kind of new time-skip? That might just be the worst.   Bleach chapter 564 Looking good there Renji! Once more Bleach affirms that the biggest, flashiest bankais are almost never the most powerful (unless you're running some kind of suicide mode like Komamura did) by distilling Renji's Hihiou Zabimaru from its weird giant snake monster form, which was clearly tailor-made to job for second-string villains, into the "Souou Zabimaru", a weapon whose concept sounds like it came out of my high school superhero sketchbook. Of course, this means it is an awesome concept, with a huge red-furred bone fist on the left hand (named "Hihiou" and the source of today's chapter title, "Red-Bristled Kings") and a combo snake-skull with a serrated arm-blade on the right hand (named "Orochiou"). Besides Bleach's current weapon-size philosophy, we've been clued in for some time that Renji's powers weren't complete. Heck, if I remember correctly, even Byakuya remarked on this back when Renji fought him during the Soul Society arc. It took Ichibei, who is apparently the guy that coined the name for pretty much everything in Soul Society, including "zanpakutou" to reveal Zabimaru's true name as a symbol of the sword's (now-complete) respect for Renji as a fighter. It's telling, too, that Souou Zabimaru, which means "Twin Serpent Tail Kings", bears a thematic resemblance to that one storyline from the anime where all the zanpakutou were given their own character designs. Zabimaru was represented by two siblings, one with a snake's tail, and another with a baboon's fur. Kubo himself helped conceptualize the arc, so one could even say that Renji's final form was a long time coming. And with Renji's arrival to the upper tier of non-jobbing competitors in Bleach's power-level pyramid, we must say goodbye to the most entertaining Bleach villain in years: Mask de Masculine. Though you will never truly die, seeing as you are powered by fandom, and I am a fan of yours (and also this is Bleach) it seems your battle is now over. Rest in peace, Mr. Luchador.    
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The ultimate question
Hello and welcome to this week's edition of Shonen Showdown, your weekly battle anime and manga recap that's been left to ponder the ultimate question: What does the need to poo feel like? Truly, an inquiry for the ages....

Shonen Showdown 1-12-2014

Jan 12 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 111 At long last, some fighting! By that, I mean that Netero threw a single punch, but it was a darn awesome punch. In fact, it was a pretty darn awesome episode all-up, with a little bit of everything thrown into the mix. Having a good portion of the episode dedicated to Zeno Zoldyck, the oldest member of the group of relentless assassins we've come to know pretty well, pouring out praise for Netero was quite impressive. You would think that he may consider him a rival and/or despise him, but the old man talks incredibly honestly, freely admitting the incredible strength he possesses, and how it's greater than his own. I'm sure this is just to give us a basis on which to judge Netero's strength, as we've not seen him do too much up until now, but it was a great aside from the fight at hand. To further tease us from the main event, we get to see a bit of backstory for Netero. After reaching his physical limit at the age of forty-something, he stood in a field for a few years, figures he needs to punch the air 10,000 times every day, and somehow becomes a fighting machine in the process. I knew Netero was a badass anyway, but that's just insane. I was curious to know where he found the time to eat while in that field, but the episode did a great job of showing all the different kinds of wildlife that were nearby while he did this. Poor buggers probably didn't see it coming. But anyway, back to the two old codgers riding a freakin' dragon into the enemy stronghold. Not only do they make Pouf flip his lid and fly back to his master, but check out that reaction from Neferpitou! She didn't go nearly that crazy when she first approached Kite all that time ago, so she can obviously sense that there'll be trouble. Hell, Netero completely outclassed her in the short confrontation they had, blasting her away with a simple (ha!) hand movement. The momentary battle was perfectly summarised with Pitou's view of the castle being overwhelmed by fireballs. Nothing short of amazing work there, grandpa! To top the episode off, we see the castle infiltrators getting caught by Menthuthuyoupi. Man, that name is silly. I'm just going to call him Devilman from here on, because I don't want to look that up each time and Youpi is too easy. The next episode can't come quick enough, but I think we're about to have a typical shounen 'shit hits the fan' moment. The good guys had a pretty good episode, so something terrible is bound to happen next episode. Oh, and while it's probably too late at this point, don't watch the episode preview.  [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Pedro Cortes One Piece Episode 627   The image should say it all. This is some pretty bad filler, guys. Some guy is pretty butthurt about friendship and wants to force people to follow him with Pet-Pet fruit. It’s awful and not even watching Luffy and Law duke it out can save it. The only nice thing I can say is that the animation was surprisingly good. There isn't much else to say really. Luffy and Law get rebellious, this joker tosses everybody in a cage, he forces a silly outfit on Chopper and then forces the guys to fight, ending with them getting launched out in the sea. Look, I know that they need to pad time, but One Piece has had much better filler than this. I’m hoping that this’ll be done by next week.    Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 344 Indeed, that's the general feeling of some of this arc, considering that we've been watching (or at least reading) roughly the same two groups of people battling it out for several months worth of chapters. But if nothing else, the thesis that Naruto's brand of storytelling really does benefit more from being animate is once again proven, as this episode handily starts on telling you just what happened to Obito and his current relationship with the true, currently undead Madara Uchiha in a much more efficient fashion. Indeed, though the constant flashbacks to the Kakashi Gaiden episodes, just to pad out the running time are irritating, they really do help to more or less spell everything out, reminding folks of details they may have missed in chapters long past, like where Madara got his substitute eyes, or why Obito even survived. That said, this development is still something of a stretch, regardless of the format it's delivered in. The whole conceit of setting Obito up as an accomplice rather than instigator feels like a bit of a cop-out to give him a chance at redemption and set up the more obviously evil bad guy to take the fall. On the other hand, Obito's motivations were irritatingly cheesy, and if he were the last antagonist to go, the story wouldn't be as thematically resonant, so in the end it'll probably be a worthwhile compromise.
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How we spent our vacation
It's the first Shonen Showdown of 2014! Hooray! And it's all anime, what with most of the manga taking their New Year's hiatus. But that's OK too, it'll give us time to meditate on the ideal state of filler content in our mod...

Shonen Showdown 12-29-2013

Dec 28 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 110 Aww man, and here I was thinking we were finally going to see the storming of the castle. Instead we end up getting stalled, with a whole bunch of minor asides taking up the episode, and there wasn't even any gungi playing. There was this bit with a crocodile, some shoe sniffing and a petrified old man, and while I'm sure there's a point to all of that, it did seem awfully like heel dragging. However, it did seem apparent that Palm probably isn't dead, as the old pervert doesn't know where she is. You'd think that the royal guard will have asked him what's up if they found another human in the castle, but as to where she is, who knows! Perhaps Croc will sniff her out. There's also some nonsense about changing Neferpitou's nen range because the King is irritated by it, which just seems a little too much like changing the rules at the last minute to give the hunter invaders a chance at dispersing themselves. Ehhh, whatever show! Let's get to ant smushing already! Killua being Killua, he does pick up on the possibility that things just aren't going to go as planned. He manages to predict that there is someone they aren't accounting for, but even he isn't going to figure out it's a young gungi player that the King has somehow taken a liking to. However, perhaps Palm, wherever she is, has seen that this has happened. We don't know where she is, and we don't know that the crystal ball is the only ability she holds either. But with our band of merry hunters and friendly ants ready to teleport into the castle, I think we're pretty much sorted for seeing some fighting next episode. You know, if you forget that the episode preview shows Netero and his freshly spoiled friend who'll be helping out in the fight. It's just going to be an episode about these two guys, isn't it? Ah well, perhaps we'll see what happens in the castle early next year! [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Manga Josh Tolentino Bleach chapter 563 Talk about ending the year on a bang! The most entertaining Bleach matchup in at least a hundred chapters* continues, as Mask is clearly too much of a man to be killed by being chopped in half. Heck, he's so much of a man that he puts himself back together mid-chop! You know the last guy to do that? Nobunaga. That's a historical fact**, so Mask is not only an awesome wrestling bad dude, but also a historical reference. Oh Kubo, you so deep. Also apparently immortal? James, who goes all T-1000 and turns himself into a hundred cheering fanboys from the scraps of flesh Renji leaves. Just goes to show that no matter how many fanboys you murder, a more will take their place. Of course, this is a fight Renji's supposed to win, but it looks like it won't be as much of a blowout as anticipated, since we see a tease of what looks to be Renji's upgraded bankai, which going by the vague image, seems to be a blade stuck to his arm, with a snake-skull gauntlet.  That makes a bit of sense. Bleach has always skewed towards the characters with the simplest, least flashy powers being strongest (or at least being the winners), and Hihio Zabimaru (that giant skeletal snake-thing) was always a bit too "jobby" to be a true victor - and Renji's match record shows, since he's lost nearly every big fight he's used it in. Next week, more details on Renji's upgrade if we're lucky. This gives me hope for seeing Rukia get a powerup, too. I wonder what her bankai would look like? *Yes, I checked. Chapter 463 is just one where Kenpachi chops a dude in half. Booo-ring. **You should really watch Hyouge Mono. Easily as exciting as Bleach, except with tea ceremonies.   Naruto chapter 660 On the one hand, this chapter's pretty good, and offers new insight into the relationship and history between Gaara and the One-Tails (aka Shukaku the Raccoon). On the other hand, besides the very last frame, little moves forward in terms of the fight's actual progress, and it lacks some good panels to capture. If nothing else, we learn the true origin of Gaara's Jinchuuriki seal, which is that modified "Ai" (love) character on his forehead. Turns out it was once a two-part seal on the previous Jinchuuriki's hands, the characters for "Heart" and "Receive" combined to make a stronger seal and tattooed on Gaara. The whole combination recalls the start of the war, when the Ninja Alliance came up with a new kanji to symbolize itself, and I wouldn't be surprised if Gaara designed the logo himself. Further, we learn that Shukaku's a big fat tsundere, which would be hot if he wasn't a gigantic raccoon monster made of sand.
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Bro, do you even Star?
Hey there, and welcome to the SUPERSTAR fighting anime and manga roundup, Shonen Showdown! And yeah, bro, we DO even Star! We Star so much that we brought you the last chapters of the latest big fights of 2013, with Naruto, B...

Shonen Showdown 12-23-2013

Dec 23 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 109 Nov, what happened to your hair? I've certainly heard those tales of your hair turning white with fright, but that's insane! The guy looks like he's gained a few years with that terrifying experience, and this was just by being in close proximity to Pouf. Who knows what he'd have been like had he experienced Neferpitou's En. He's well and truly out of the fight, so they better hope that relying on a bunch of ants and children actually pays off. It's pretty worrying that someone like Nov would be so quickly rendered useless just by being near the royal guard, as it's not hard to see that the same could happen to the rest of the hunters. Gon and Killua were hardly unaffected by Neferpitou coming so close. We don't see a great deal of Komugi and the King this time around, but we do see the King making arrangements for the frail girl's protection. His personality change is becoming more and more apparent as he spends his time with the gungi master, but what does this mean for the battle ahead? He doesn't seem to have lost his blood-lust, but Komugi seems to be being treated as a companion. She's going to be instrumental in the coming battle, but it's hard to tell if it's the hunters or the ants that will feel the brunt of it. Pouf seems like he'd dispatch the girl if he deems her a burden on the King, even at the cost of his own life. With Nov relegated to basic recon, he outdoes himself by noticing the giant butterfly glowing different colours in the sky. It seems that Pouf is hypnotising them, not to keep them in the same spot, but so they don't scatter once the ceremony begins. They may be scared for their lives, but I don't think they'd be willing to hang around once they start getting slaughtered. The hunters mention that it'll be good to prevent panic once they launch their attacks, but will having all these humans in one place really be a good idea? If the ceremony is delayed, it can surely continue at a later point if they're aren't going to be moving away from the King. Perhaps Nov will help out by moving them away while everyone is fighting? But with that, everyone is as prepared as they're going to be. Sure, Smoker is running on empty, Shoot is getting paranoid and apparently Killua is hiding a thing or two, but let's not sweat the small stuff! The fight is about to begin, but we haven't checked back with Netero in a long while. Will he be showing up late? Even if this band of merry men are going to be fighting with the royal guard, will the King really just sit by and let it happen? Here we go guys, we're about to squash some ants! [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 343 Well, I guess that answers my question.  Earlier on I was wondering how they'd be differentiating Tobi and Madara once the truth was revealed, considering how both characters spoke in the same voice, with the same voice actor in the role. Turns out that with the advent of this episode, they went all Occam's Razor on it, and did the obvious thing: Select a new voice actor for the job of playing unmasked Obito. And it works! Fancy that. I guess it's high time to start referring to Tobi as his proper identity of Obito Uchiha. No more complaining about spoilers, anime-only viewers! If you didn't get it this week, you may wish to work on your viewing comprehension. Seriously, though, they spent fully half the episode in a completely silent (but beautifully scored, I have to say) rerun of the "Kakashi Gaiden" mini-arc, which aired a couple of years ago and recounted the story of how Kakashi got his Sharingan. In case you're fuzzy on the details, Obito gave it to him after having exactly half of his body crushed by a rock.   Pedro Cortes One Piece Episode 622 - 626   As is the case with the end of major One Piece arcs, there are a few episodes worth of denouement. Law and Chopper work on fixing up the wounded kids and Marines while Sanji prepares food for a celebration. Brook knocks over the petrified Kin’emon, cracking the outside shell and revealing that he’s still alive under the surface, as are the multitude of lab assistants and Marines. After eating Sanji’s feast, the Marines depart with the kids to take them home.  Law and Smoker agree to depart without fighting while Doflamingo finds the still talking heads of Baby 5 and Buffalo. The Warlord talks to Law via Den Den Mushi and negotiates the return of the bodies of his subordinates and Caesar. All he needs to do is give up his position as a Warlord, opening him up to attack from the government. Clearly, Doflamingo isn’t pleased, so he swings his way over to Punk Hazard and picks a fight with Smoker to try and get some info. To put it lightly, it doesn’t go well for Smoker, but his butt gets saved by the timely reappearance of Aokiji, now a mere man instead of a general. Doflamingo decides that fighting a guy who can control ice in the middle of the snow isn’t such a great idea, so he leaves on Buffalo with Baby 5.   Aokiji drops some knowledge about potential threats to the military and leaves, comfortable knowing that Smoker isn’t dead. On the Sunny, Law goes into detail about SMILE and how Kaido is using it to create more Devil Fruit users. Law mentions that their next goal is Dressrosa, the kingdom run by Doflamingo, but they’re blown into the rough waters of a filler arc! Well, that’s a bit harsh, as it hasn’t any time to develop into anything good or bad…yet. Anyway, some strange guy named comes in and takes Caesar in the name of Doflamingo. Even stranger rabbit creatures similar to an old creature Chopper knows attack the Sunny and churn the waters, keeping the Strawhats from pursuing. Luffy, Chopper and Law depart in a sub and infiltrate Breed’s ship. They get attacked by a Haki-using sea creature, which happens to be another beastie from all the way back at Alabasta. It seems that little guy formed a pirate crew of sea monsters. That is, before Breed used his fruit power to enslave them. Unfortunately, Breed appears and does the same thing to Chopper, Luffy and Law when he ambushes them and forces them to fight each other.     Manga Josh Tolentino Bleach chapter 562 Hey, it's Rukia! Hi Rukia! Those are some nice ski goggles. But isn't it uncomfortable to wear them with your bangs on the insi- Oh, OK. Bye then, Rukia! This is Renji's chapter, and boy, he seems to have powered up by quite a measure, effortlessly trouncing Mask and acting the big "villain" all the way. It's funny that a gag villain has been one of the most compelling (or at least entertaining) characters of the arc so far, but ultimately, the job of a non-serious Bleach foe is to fall before designated opponents, and that's exactly the case here: Renji's got an upgrade and needs to be in a position to show it off, and Mask's tussle with Rose and Kensei is a convenient contrast of power levels.  Of course, the side effect of this is that recent chapters have completely drained all the dramatic impact from almost any injury, no matter how severe it looks. Just last week Rose survived having a star-shaped hole blown clean through his chest, and James, Mask's personal fanboy, could cheer his hero on despite not having a lower half. So forgive me, Bleach, if I have a bit of a yawn at your awesome frame showing Renji turning Mask into Darth Maul after the end of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, if you know what I mean.   Naruto chapter 659 Newly-restored Madara continues his work of rolling back pretty much all the progress the good guys have made this year, by getting back one of his Rinnegan (turns out Nagato's were just loaners) and wiping the floor with the rest of the contenders.  Seriously, he can knock a Tailed Beast around just by looking at it! Worse still, he brings back the giant Kaiju-sized Gedou statue, the one Choji worked so hard to Godzilla-fight and Obito worked so hard to bogart in his attempt to usurp control of the Ten-Tails' power. While there's no doubt that it's fun to see a villain that can chew the scenery as effectively as Madara, I'm still a tad bit cross that we went through all that beating Obito, Madara, and Obito and Madara together, only to have the final boss come and render all that effort moot.   Pedro Cortes One Piece Chapter 729 - 732   Law and Doflamingo’s fight is pretty one-sided, as the Warlord just mercilessly beats down on the doctor. With Law defeated, Doflamingo leaps into the city, specifically in front of the Colosseum.  He shoots Law in front of Luffy, only adding fuel to the Strawhats fire to take down Dressrosa. Fujitora’s appearance keeps Zoro and Kin’emon from saving Law and one of Big Mom’s ships appears near the Sunny. Doflamingo’s family, the Marines and Big Mom. Seems like rough odds, but that’s never stopped the Strawhats. Now if only Luffy were able to run around and contribute. Thing is, he’s stuck fighting in the tournament and can’t escape. Well, good thing that he gets some timely help from a figure who we don’t see, but it intimated to be Sabo. Yep, the kid who was another of Luffy’s brothers is back and he’s with Dragon’s Revolutionaries. The Strawhats and Revolutionaries versus Doflamingo’s family, the Marines and Big Mom? Now that sounds more fair. The toys begin their attack on the Toy House, sending Franky as a distraction above ground. Usopp and Robin made into the facility, particularly into a large harbor with dozens of ships in it.
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Choked up with heroism
Hello, everyone, and welcome to Shonen Showdown, your weekly roundup of all things things to do with the things we do - and what we do is recap your favorite battle anime and manga each week, no matter what gets stuck in...


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