Welcome to this week's installment of Fighting Friday, the fight show recap that looks like it might go on for much longer than planned. I suppose it's for the best.
Head on in for recapping goodness.
[You can catch both Naruto and Bleach simulcasting on Crunchyroll. Bleach also airs on Adult Swim, with other episodes available via iTunes. DVD volumes are available at major retailers, published by VIZ media. One Piece episodes can be streamed on Hulu and FUNimation's official One Piece page.]
One Piece episode 468
It's pretty safe to say that for the next couple weeks we're going to predominately have fights. With Luffy pressing forward, the Marines step up their efforts to stop and/or capture him. Whitebeard easily fends off a volley of cannonballs and convinces Buggy and the escaped pirates to get involved in the fight. Outside of Marineford Whitebeard's forces see an opening to get into the main bay, but Whitebeard sees the trap that Sengoku had laid down. With Squard still AWOL, he tells another set of captains to attack the Marine ships instead of rushing the bay. Luffy and the Newkama's find themselves surrounded by Marines, but some help from Jimbei and Ivankov even out the odds.
The trio of heroes make their way toward the platform, but not before their stopped by Moria. Luffy and Ivankov continue their press while Jimbei stays behind and beats the hell out of Moria. A couple minutes later Tashigi and Smoker see that Luffy is coming up to them. Smoker and Luffy wrangle, leading to Smoker pinning Luffy down with his Sea-Stone Spear. Hancock comes to Luffy's rescue and kicks Smoker using her Haki. Meanwhile Ivankov tries to talk sense into Kuma, but Doflamingo reveals that the pirate known as Tyrant Kuma is dead.
I'm loving these fights. Things like Jimbei fighting Moria and Luffy taking on Smoker in the skies are done so much better animated than drawn. Another week, another great episode.
Naruto Shippuden episode 179
Since I skipped much of the filler in my mad rush to catch up with Naruto, I don't know if this was ever done before, but this episode (and the last few weeks' worth) have revealed an interesting treatment of filler content.
The typical shounen filler arc is usually just an extra, non-canon storyline shoehorned in between key points in the manga, designed to take up time and space to allow the manga breathing room to get ahead. It's common practice to disregard filler completely as simple padding. Filler characters come and go, new abilities are gained and then lost right before the "proper" manga-based arc starts up again.
That doesn't seem to have been the case over the last few weeks, though. These last few weeks have instead been focusing on expanding the canon of the past, adding detail to events come and gone, in this case the very beginnings of the original Naruto series.
Last week we watched Iruka overcome his issues with teaching Naruto, and this week we see that Kakashi has in fact been observing Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke for much longer than before he was officially assigned as their team leader. It all feels like a retake on old episodes that could, easily be incorporated into the official manga canon without much fuss.
While none of these events are key in any way to the main plot of Naruto as a manga or to the future events to be adapted from the source, they do reflect that a modicum of care was taken to actually fit this padding into the show's greater context without too much trouble.
Plus, the episode's also bookended by footage from the current story arc as well, increasing the chances that we might see the next set of key events actually animated.
Bleach episode 290
With Hisagi out of the way, Tousen and Komamura are free to have an intense philosophical question about the nature of justice. Komamura prefers justice-as-forgiveness and Tousen favors justice-as-retribution. Seems that that's been his objective the entire time, to get revenge on the Soul Reapers for a girl he liked getting killed in the service.
Manga readers will find that uncannily familiar, as Gin's recently-revealed motivations were almost exactly the same, except Gin joined up to get revenge on Aizen rather than Soul Reapers in general. Is there no one in Aizen's posse that does not lust for revenge?
Oh, and Komamura finally gets to injure someone strong (not that it has lasting effect), and Tousen turns into a huge furry bug-thing. Next week Tousen dies in a gruesome, but still somehow disappointing, fashion.
[Editor's Note: If you're only following the anime series, you might want to skip this section, as there will be spoilers. Naruto, One Piece and Bleach manga volumes are available for purchase via VIZ Media.]
[Currently the Naruto manga is on a one-week break.]
One Piece chapter 598
Do you hear that sound? That breeze-like wind rustling the leaves outside? That's the sigh of relief One Piece fans everywhere breathed when issue 598 finally hit the interwebs and it was worth the wait! We pick up two years after Luffy began his training with Rayleigh on Rusukaina. Hancock and a contingent of amazons pick up Luffy, who's in the process of grabbing his straw hat where he left it. Hancock suggests that she'd make a great bride to Luffy but gets rejected by the generally clueless rubber man.
Back at Shabaody, the newly crowned "Soul King" Brooke is preparing for his last live show, having become a rock star in the two years since he's seen his crew members.
The next crew member to land on Shabaody is Sanji, sporting better facial hair, a shifted hair cut and a desperate need to see some ladies after months on the Okama Island. The cross-dressers wish Sanji good-bye as he flips them off and goes in search from Nami-swan and Robin-chwan.
Foucs is shifted to a bar in the middle of the archipelago where a dude that looks nothing like Luffy is claiming his name with a bootleg-looking crew of "Strawhats." Nami (with longer hair and less clothing) is seated at the bar talking to the bartender about current events. It seems like the Marines moved their headquarters closer to the Red Line so they could keep a better eye on the Four Emperors. The fake Luffy tries to get Nami to sit with him, but she rejects the giant loser. The fake Nami tries to intimidate the real deal, but gets shot with a bullet that creates a bit of explosive flora and fauna in the bar. This introduces us to the new Usopp, looking buff and sporting a soul patch. Nami tackles him with a hug and drags him outside to prevent further incident, but not before she nails the fake crew with her new weather weapon she got on the sky island.
We go back to Sanji who is now in Rayleigh's ship coating shop. Turns out that Zoro was the first member to make it back, followed by Franky, then Nami, Usopp, Chopper, and Brooke. All that remain are Luffy and Robin, who is shown to be on the island, but pursued by an unseen foe.
Chopper is next up on the list. The poor gullible deer stumbles into the fake Zoro, Sanji and Robin thinking they're the real thing. The bootleg Strawhats realize it's the real Chopper and tell the fake Robin to ditch the pet they have and grab the Chopper. When busted-ass Robin goes to offer Chopper a cucumber, the people shadowing Robin grab...it...and stuff it into a bag and run off, leaving Chopper horrified and the real Robin relieved.
At the G1 Marine station they hear that the Strawhats are back on Shabaody and recruiting new members, making them exceedingly worried and ready to go back to the archipelago The chapter ends when the fake Luffy, on a rampage after Nami and Usopp embarrassed him, bumps into the real Luffy and tries to start some beef.
Oh man, I can feel the excitement! With the new character designs and the ongoing Whitebeard War in the anime it's a great time to be a One Piece fan. The new designs look great, especially Robin and Nami. I'm really digging Nami's longer hair and jeans look and Robin with the pulled back bangs and sarong is looking HOT. Can't wait for Megahouse to make some Portrait of Pirates
of these ladies ::hint hint nudge nudge:: The only two guys missing are Zoro and Franky. You can see photos of them on the spread this week, but it's not the same as seeing them interacting on the page. Franky looks like he's made himself even bigger after blowing up Vegapunk's lab, adding a buzz cut for added awesome. Zoro looks largely unchanged, except for a scar over his right eye. What I can't tell from the photo is if he still has left arm. The fabric looks loose like there's nothing there, so for his sake I hope he still has something there. It'd be hard to execute a three-sword-style technique without an arm.
Bleach chapter 422
That's just the beginning, though. Ichigo gets all thoughtful and wonders about Aizen's ultimate motivation, and as everyone shows up to be happy, he collapses in a screaming heap. Plot setup!
As you may have hoped (or feared), we may yet be in for a fair bit more Bleach. With Aizen dead/sealed, and Ichigo powerless, preparations are being made to return Karakura to the living world. Everyone who was fighting in Hueco Mundo and thus spared the indignity of being murdered by Aizen has returned, including Byakuya and Kenpachi, who come out of it looking all badass and undefeatable, conveniently sidestepping any attempts to show that they were potentially weaker than anyone. Oh, and Yammy dies, but there's a Hollow dog with him, so it's OK.
To be perfectly honest, I don't mind that Bleach is apparently long from over. Naruto broke itself into halves back with the Shippuden timeskip, and One Piece just completed its own big jump. Disregarding anime filler arcs as is customary, Bleach itself never time-skipped, besides some very brief lulls.
In a way, it's Bleach's lack of a time skip that is most surprising/infuriating/interesting about this new plot setup.
Why is that? The reason is that time skips represent major changes and development in the plot. After Naruto's time skip, the enemy was not Orochimaru, but Akatsuki. Who knows what will happen now that One Piece has made its jump? Bleach never had that. Once Aizen slicked his hair back (and long before, in retrospect), it was always about preparing for a big battle with him, without relent or respite.
But now that Aizen's gone, too many questions lie unanswered and background information still obscured. Who's this Soul Society King (a big computer)? Just what is Ichigo (a cyborg)? What does Kyoraku's bankai look like (a Dragon Ball Z character)? Are Halibel and Grimmjow still alive (probably)? What does Urahara know (who Batman really is)?
Obviously, that calls for another plot arc? A fight show doesn't leave questions unanswered. It's unnatural. Contrived and irritating, but unnatural. And ultimately, I can't really begrudge it for that. Besides, Bleach is one of those shows that's fun to make fun of, so its continuation is a blessing for this little feature.
However, this chapter is not without sin. As Naruto attempted with Kisame and Bleach attempted recently with Gin, perhaps the worst thing possible has happened, as Bleach, via Ichigo, has attempted to humanize Aizen.
They should have left it where it stood. Aizen was a power-hungry jerkface who had a beef with whatever huge computer rules Soul Society, and figured it would be better with him in charge.
But no. They couldn't leave it at that. Aizen just had to be some kind of misunderstood hero. Here's a one-sentence summary of what Ichigo thinks was Aizen's motivation.
"Boo-hoo, I'm so powerful, I think I'll become a god so someone with power enough to kill me will kill me and make me feel normal and not better than everyone else."
This was my reaction face:
Next week? Ichigo gets diagnosed and someone finishes sewing Hiyori back together.
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