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Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 590

Jul 28 // Josh Tolentino
Once again I'm almost shocked to see such a quick turnaround on a character who'd be little more than an afterthought in any other Bleach arc. I'm not one to try too hard to get into creators' heads when I do my reading, but this whole storyline has been rife with turns that smack of Kubo trying to subvert the expectations and internal conventions Bleach has built up over the years, at least on the surface level. In that context, having Sternritter's "Z" get loads more play than the "E"-level, achingly cute (and now dead) Bambi seems to be one such move. Unfortunately, one pattern that Kubo hasn't quite broken with much is having some unfortunate humor at the expense of Gigi apparently being a dude in drag. If you read these recaps regularly you'll notice I've been harping on this point of late. Anime and Japanese culture being what it is, I'm not necessarily opposed to the occasional flamer joke, but something about Gigi's treatment rubs wrong. It's probably due to having Yumichika just out him like some weird "takes one to know one" sort of point, then treating the moment like a trigger to make Gigi go full-crazy. It's unpleasant, especially combined with some of the weirder porn-language innuendo they've got undead Bambi spouting now that she's a zombie with strangely shaded skin. But enough about that, let's talk about Kurotsuchi. It's funny how he used to be Creeper King #1, and in the years since has been reduced to mere comic relief. And they never did get around that subplot from oh-so-long-ago that seemed to be shipping Uryuu and Nemu.  Still, the man can pull out the cool toys, and those toys include some real blasts from the pasts: Yup, if I'm not mistaken, those are among the first Arrancar the Soul Reapers fought during the Hueco Mundo arc and the opening stages of the fight against Aizen. If nothing else I recognize the big dude on the left and the lady right of center. I wonder who else Kubo has all Frankenstein'd up in the next chapters?
AM: Bleach 590 photo
Lewder by the week
What is it with Quincy and creepers? I mean, every army has one or two creepy types, but it seems to me that when Ywach summoned all the "true" Quincy to his side the only place that had them was the madhouse.  Well, whatever the reason for the Sternritter's unusually high nutball quotient, it seems that Kubo is grooming young Giselle "Gigi" Gewelle for a top spot.

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 685

Jul 17 // Josh Tolentino
Team 7 United came out of the gate really kicking hard, and despite some superstar all-is-one talent in the assembled one-mother club of Kaguya FG (Future Goddess), the would-be world-remaker was placed on the back foot.  Thanks to key strategies from pinch hitter Uzumaki's Shadow Clone jutsu, the dimensional pitch was filled to the brim with attackers, midfielders and defenders, all hiding the easily-recognized fact that the real player was the one being orbited by all those weird, black, non-regulation footballs.  Eventually even Kaguya noticed this, after forcing a Naruto clone to take an unintentional flop and cover for the arrival of backup sweepers Sakura Haruno and Obito Uchiha, who came to the desert pitch ready to scope and locate the isolated striker. Not even acid strikes and chakra fatigue could stop the determined Sakura, who was very long left on the sidelines as team medic and occasional goalpost. She was once again a key player, and she wouldn't let the opportunity pass. Soon the fated duo was together once again, though with so many twists and turns in his lengthy career, it may be that Sasuke is no longer the rookie player he was before leaving Team 7 United for a darkness-tinged stint with HebiTaka Revolución. How with this very long game turn out? We don't know either!  Tune in next week for an issue of the Naruto recap that promises not to butcher inept futbol analogies!
AM: Naruto photo
Running for the goal
Welcome again to your weekly dose of Association Ninja Soccer coverage. In today's update from the Interdimensional Ninja Cup 2014, and top-tier striker, Sasuke Uchiha, is ninja-running at speed toward his goal! Will he make it? Or will humanity lose against the rabbit goddess in a crushing 7-1 final tally? Check out our detailed pitch analysis below!

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 589

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

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 588

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

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 684

Jul 10 // Josh Tolentino
And yet, here we are. I may have complained about last chapter's relatively lack of visual payoff, but while this chapter isn't as technically impressive as the best visuals Naruto has managed to put out over the years, it does have some pretty good shots and stuff that would incredible once represented in videogame or anime format. Like, for example, filling an entire dimension with your shadow clones and using them to gang-tackle an angry rabbit goddess. Despite being more powerful than any foe anyone's faced since pretty much the beginning of time, she's being pressed quite a bit. Heck, Madara was beaten half-dead by Guy's suicide run, but laughed it off. There could be other factors, at work, of course, like a mother's love. Kaguya doesn't seem to want to kill anyone outright, and had planned to absorb Naruto and Sasuke. Black Zetsu won't have it, naturally, and if Kishimoto's really devoted to dragging this battle to a phase beyond this, I'd put my money down on Black Zetsu being the final, for-good boss. After all, with Madara gone he (it?) is pretty much the last person (thing?) in the entire world with malice in his heart. Still, the plan goes off without a hitch, and now it's all down to Obito and Sakura to find Sasuke and bring him back in time to end the fight. And if there was ever a time for Sakura to either end things between them or rebuild that bridge, there's a chance we may get an executive decision in the eternal shipping war over Sakura's affections.* *For the record, I'm pro-Sakura x Naruto. They're better for each other.
AM: Naruto photo
What If Naruto Died?!
It's time to consider what would actually happen if the above panel was more a certainty than a bait-and-switch. What if Naruto died? Well, for one, we'd probably have to change the title to Obito or Sasuke or even Team 7 if they wanted to honor the whole crew. And then the ending would probably be pretty dark.

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 587

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

JoJo photo

Rejoice! Viz reveals their plans for JoJo: Battle Tendency

JoJo's back in full gear
Jul 07
// Salvador GRodiles
When Viz announced that at Anime Expo 2014 they're releasing JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 2: Battle Tendency in North America, I couldn't help but to rejoice over this matter. While we're aware that Battle Tendency's ge...
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.
PS Vita photo
PS Vita

Get ready to make great manga on your PS Vita

For the mangaka on the go!
Jul 01
// Hiroko Yamamura
Japanese game publisher Granzella announced intentions to bring out their manga making app for the Playstation Vita, Manga Ka Keru sometime this year. While there doesn't seem to be many details about the app, the Vita's mult...
Mangaka video photo
Mangaka video

Watch your favorite manga artist draw effortlessly

Now that's skills
Jul 01
// Hiroko Yamamura
I stumbled onto this year old video today, and was totally blown away by the amazing skills of some of my favorite mangaka. It's no question wether they can draw or not, but their ability to quickly deliver these lovely piec...
Attack on Titan photo
Attack on Titan

Captain Levi is featured on the cover of a ladies magazine

Contain your drool
Jul 01
// Hiroko Yamamura
Dusting master extraordinaire and Survey Cops killing machine, Captain Levi has been popping up in the most unlikely places lately, This time he's chilling on the cover of the ladies magazine, FRaU like it's nothing. Levi can...

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 682

Jun 29 // Josh Tolentino
But enough anticipation of videogames, let's look into how the boss fight's going. After those freaky silent tears from last chapter, Naruto reveals his trump card, the Reverse Harem jutsu: I'll give him 2 points for clever timing and (somewhat) progressive attitudes, but dock 1 point for assuming that all ladies just want to stare at hot dude abs (and for illustrating Sakura as falling for the trick). Really, it's almost as bad as a few weeks ago, when it was revealed that the Mizukage's fondest dream was to get married to some random dude (and it wasn't even Chojuro!). Grousing aside, though, the gag illustrates an important point, one spelled out by Naruto himself: If even Kaguya can be taken by surprise thanks to silly bullcrap like that, it just goes to show that there's more to the world than the supposed grand plan Black Zetsu's been advancing. To mangle some Billy Shakespeare: "There are more things in Heaven, Earth, and Ninja History, Kaguya, than is dreamt of in your dumb, contrived master plan." Also, it shows that Naruto, the manga, still retains that sense of humor, even with the world at stake, and reminds us that as bitter as some of the last few twists have tasted, there's still much to enjoy about this comic. But still, let's continue on the road to wrapping things up, because if Naruto doesn't end (either the whole series or this part of the larger arc) in the next year or so, the Fourth Ninja World War will have officially gone on longer than both actual World Wars. Really, it will.  And that's not an achievement one wants to one's name.
AM: Naruto photo
Momma goes both hot and cold
If there's been one advantage to having Kaguya be a truly "God"-type enemy for Naruto and Sasuke to throw down with, it's anticipating how effin' awesome everything is going to look when it all appears in an installment ...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 586

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

Terra Formars photo
Terra Formars

Roaches beware: Viz reveals Terra Formars' release date

Viz's getting ready to combat Mars' roach infestation
Jun 26
// Salvador GRodiles
As we're getting ready to say "farewell" to the month of June, Viz Media plans to release Terra Formars' first volume on July 15th. On top of that, Terra Formars' later volumes are getting the bi-monthly release treatment, wh...

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?

Viz Media photo
Viz Media

Rejoice: Viz reveals their plans for Anime Expo '14

Sailor Moon fans are in for some good news
Jun 18
// Salvador GRodiles
It was a glorious day when Viz Media announced that they licensed Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon Crystal. Now Viz’s planning an event for Anime Expo 2014 that’ll please Sailor Moon, Gargantia's fans. During the ...

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 680

Jun 16 // Josh Tolentino
Now that Kaguya has gone and accomplished the contradicting feats of simultaneously raising the stakes and reducing the audience's investment in them, all by simple virtue of her presence, the fight's taken on all the properties of a videogame last boss fight. Seriously, she even forces a transition to the "lava level" for some unfathomable reason.  The switch of venue also does another boss-fight thing: Isolate situation. With everyone else in the world incapacitated by the Infinite Tsukuyomi and the now-freed undead Hokages stuck elsewhere (and trying to find a way to help out), it's all up to Team 7 to beat JENOVA Kaguya and save the world. More accurately, it's up to Naruto and Sasuke, and their new powers and their increasingly manifest destiny. Sasuke knows it, and takes the time to remind Naruto that he shouldn't get distracted saving Kakashi and Sakura from being boiled alive. That's cold, and all, but if there's been any benefit at all to take away from Naruto's constant repetition of its core themes, it's that it takes very little doing to make that subtext resonate. For example, all Naruto had to do to justify his saving Kakashi and Sakura to Sasuke was to spout that old anime canard about his body "moving on its own", followed by a 2-panel flashback to the pair's fight against Haku (published almost fourteen years ago today). From then on, all that history, all those fights, all those chapters, and that decade-plus of keeping up with this ninja story week after week carried the weight of saying what was left unsaid. Combined with Naruto's expression, which practically screamed "No, I will take time out to save my friends, because that's who I am, that's who you used to be, and I'll bet that deep down, that's who you still are. And we'll win because of that." It'd be poignant if the manga itself were as aware of that fact as we, the readers are, because if it were, this boss fight probably wouldn't have needed to happen. And yet, here we are. Hopefully, at the end.
Naruto photo
Now THIS is a final boss fight. And if we're all lucky? It really is the FINAL boss fight.

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?

One Piece photo
One Piece

One Piece crosses 310M volumes sold

Oda celebrates with tonsil surgury
May 29
// Pedro Cortes
BREAKING NEWS: One Piece is pretty damn popular. Well, that might not be so breaking. It's been at the top of the shonen game for years, and now we have some numbers to back that up. With the 74th (!) volume selling four mil...

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.

Dragon Ball photo
Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball Z's Androids names revealed

These names rock. Or they're gems, I can't tell
May 06
// Pedro Cortes
Did you ever feel like you didn't know enough about the young, hip Androids 17 & 18 from Dragon Ball Z? Well, thanks to Akira Toriyama answering questions in a Q&A column, we finally know the names of our favorite and...
Bestsellers photo

The Bestsellers: Thermae Romae heats up Japan

The top charts for the week of May 3rd
May 03
// Brad Rice
Japan's love affair with bath houses proves to dominate once again, as Thermae Romae II takes second place in the Japanese box office, behind Disney powerhouse Frozen. The first Thermae Romae movie did incredibly we...
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Here are the 20 most popular manga

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

Shonen Showdown: April 26, 2014

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

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Watch Kaoru Mori draw a character better than you ever will

All of it by hand, no less
Apr 26
// Brad Rice
With a number of comics now produced by digital mediums, it's always nice to see when people work by hand. Kaoru Mori, creator of Emma and A Bride's Story, details the entire process in a six-video series. The first one, abo...
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The Bestsellers: KPP's new single rocks Japan

The top charts for the week of April 26th
Apr 26
// Brad Rice
Welcome to The Bestsellers List, where we highlight the bestselling music and movies in Japan, along with the best of the American manga sales each week. I think it's no surprise that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is back at the top of t...
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Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan sells over 30 million volumes of manga

That's a lot of dead villagers
Apr 25
// Pedro Cortes
According to the Oricon sales charts, the Attack on Titan manga series surpassed 30 million copies sold this last week. This comes right after the release of the series' 13th volume, which itself sold over a million copies. T...
Majimoji Rurumo photo
Majimoji Rurumo

Majimoji Rurumo to start granting wishes this summer

Your wish is my command!
Apr 24
// LB Bryant
For the last couple of months I've been enjoying the sports series Yowapeda. It's a solid mix of drama, sports action and comedy (though it's no Kuroko's Basketball). What I didn't know though is that the author of the origin...
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Hunter x Hunter

Hunter x Hunter manga to resume

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...

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