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Sugoi Japan photo
Sugoi Japan

Sugoi Japan wants you to vote for your favorite anime and manga

and light novels and all that
Oct 02
// Jeff Chuang
Sugoi Japan is a publisher effort--by rounding up a bunch of the publishers and getting endorsements from some celebrities, maybe Japan can highlight some of the most engaging and popular anime, manga and light/entertainment ...
Garo photo

Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames' new trailer features more Makai Knight action

MAPPA has given us hope!
Sep 26
// Salvador G Rodiles
Right when I was starting to have some doubts about MAPPA's Garo anime, the show's newest trailer destroyed my main concerns. While the Makai Knights were moving too fast during the last video, the action sequences present i...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 596-597

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

Hajime no Ippo photo
Hajime no Ippo

Hajime no Ippo punches a PS3 trailer right into your gut

Just don't end up like Ashita no Joe
Sep 11
// Josh Tolentino
I've never been much into boxing. It always looked so painful to watch two dudes (or ladies) smack each other in the face, even if the faces being smacked weren't mine per se. That said, boxing fiction is rife with tales of ...
Five Star Stories photo
Five Star Stories

Five Star Stories manga is on its way

So much waiting
Sep 08
// Hiroko Yamamura
After a bit of a break, my all time favorite manga is finally due to get back into the swing of things. Momoru Nagano's epic manga series, Five Star Stories is kind of like my Game of Thrones. It's a series that I got into as...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapters 594-595

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

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 690

Sep 01 // Josh Tolentino
I, uh...I think they won. A triple-threat strike from Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke manage to land the sun and moon marks on Kaguya, sealing here away inside a giant rock the size of the moon, all over again. The tailed beasts are freed, and Team 7 is whisked to safety right before Kaguya's dimension collapses, where the Sage of Six Paths congratulates them on saving the world. And that's it, I guess. It's not that the win feels hollow. On the contrary, it's long overdue. And it ties up a loose end, in the form of Naruto going back to toss Black Zetsu, the little gremlin that basically started all this grief, into the maelstrom, preventing him from coming back for a sequel.  But it doesn't feel done yet. Not even in the way Bleach seemed to end way back when Ichigo beat the big bad...only to continue on past a time skip. In fact, things feel so incomplete at the moment that I'm not even fully convinced we're seeing the whole picture. It kind of feels like this particular scene: If you get my drift. But hey, it's just one chapter so far. We'll have to wait a few days to see how the rest of this pans out. It'd be nice if the series could top things off by the big "700", if you ask me, though.
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Welcome (again) to the second incarnation of this week's Annotated Manga for Naruto! It seems that some technical foulup wiped all the text from the recap while the watchers were looking the other way (or asleep). Never fear, though, for a good ninja always keeps a backup, and this is it. Apologies for the mixup!

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 593

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

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 592

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

Annotated Manga: Naruto 688

Aug 11 // Josh Tolentino
The history of Naruto's fighting has been one of improvisation rather than pure power. Combats occur in groups more often than not. Victory came from the interplay of differing power sets and techniques, backed up by the occasional trump card (or deus ex machina if you want to get harsh about it).  Even when characters powered up, they were more often than not finding new ways to circumvent limitations rather than merely upgrading.  That in mind, one might've expected the now Sharingan-free Kakashi to make himself useful in some new way, to get around his newfound handicap, perhaps by digging deep and finding some new variation on the one original thing he came up with before he got his Sharingan - the Chidori.  Then again, he only got his chidori working properly once equipped with Obito's left eye, so perhaps that was too much to ask of him at the level this fight's happening. Either way, Obito isn't having any of that, and is willing to come back from the goddamn afterlife to leave his last living friend a goodbye gift: a second Sharingan. Indeed, Obito's rationale for the post-mortem blessing was that Kakashi had earned his suffix ("of the Sharingan"), and as such deserved to serve as (eye) ball-carrier. Heck, he might even get to be Hokage, the ghost says. It's not like Naruto could take over the village at the ripe old age of 16, anyway. With a new Sharingan comes a host of proper Uchiha powers, including Susano'o and presumably all the greatest hits, like Kamui and whatever Obito's phasing ability was called. Incidentally, none of this upgrade translates down to Sakura, who is once again downgraded to "least powerful team member" status. Girl can't catch a break! Of course, with elevated power levels come raised stakes in the fight, and a full multi-element Rasen Shuriken barrage from Naruto is greeted with...a giant rabbit monster?  Now that's just weird, right? I was thinking we'd be past the Godzilla stage of this boss fight by now.
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Parting gifts
Though we did just bid goodbye to the fifth wheel in Team 7's Reunion of Destiny, we were still left with a lingering question: Without the former final boss, how would the leads stand up to a risen deity?  More particul...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 591

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

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 687

Aug 03 // Josh Tolentino
In all honesty, though, there isn't that much to say. Naruto's desire to become Hokage is once again confirmed, and the reformed villain says his thanks to the spunky kid that refused to give up on him. Kakashi is once more left alone, and worries about his usefulness now that his borrowed Sharingan is in the afterlife. The little sleeve-demon that seems to be the one pulling Kaguya's strings in the name of "his" love for mother gets to twist the knife, and that should probably suffice as a takeaway from the chapter. If I were to guess, now that Team 7 is completely on its own in this fight, it'll be time for the undead Hokages out in the real world to intervene, or for Kakashi to step up, dig deep, and more to contribute to the fight. In other news, it looks like there's a new Naruto movie coming soon. Titled The Last: Naruto the Movie, it looks to have involvement from Masashi Kishimoto, who last week previewed designs for what looks like an older, wiser Naruto. Trailer's below, courtesy of Saiyan Island: [embed]32921:4084:0[/embed] As for what it actually is, that's a mystery. I doubt they'd opt to actually end the plot of the manga in a movie, so an "alternate universe" angle seems to be in the cards.  
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All that remains
Well, that was sort of a long goodbye.  Obito meets his end this chapter, and thanks to the magic of conveniently slow death-curses, he gets a chance to say his goodbyes.

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 686

Jul 29 // Josh Tolentino
For a godlike being who may or may not be the creator of the world, Kaguya sure does seem out of sorts in her own final boss match. Why would she be affected so severely by her own heavy gravity dimension? And what the hell is a heavy gravity dimension, anyway? Ice world, Lava world, Desert world, I get, those are all vaguely linked to elemental chakra, but "heavy gravity"? Not on the chart, as far as I can tell. At least she's good at dissolving Naruto's clones...though still not good enough to see a bait-and-switch involving Naruto's telltale black sphere accessories. Not that I'm objecting. Naruto battles work best when one side isn't all-powerful, and Kishimoto has made a big point of making sure most fights turn into contests of maneuver and coordination rather than simple clashes of strength. I'm not opposed to a good ol' knock-down drag-out (I read Bleach, after all), but the Naruto insistence on slyness over slugfests ensures that any fight can turn and deliver a worthwhile killing off Obito once and for all. Yep! He's finally gone, intercepting a spear meant for Kakashi (which was in turn meant for Sasuke) and taking a hit for Naruto.  I was initially opposed to getting Obito a redemption. I still am, in principle, as the desire to give him an out drew this fight out for far longer than it needed to be. But redemption's a key theme in Naruto, so it's probably better that he got his out than for, say, Madara to get one. Still, he might really be gone now, leaving the task of ending this whole shebang down to Team 7 alone. Alone, at least, in the fight. Whatever the undead Hokages and the Sage of Six Paths' force ghost are up to may yet have an impact on what happens next. Wait a minute....weren't they trying to bring Madara back? Does that mean he'll be getting a redemptive exit as well? Dang.
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Riding into the sunset
And now it's time for everyone's favorite cowboy manga recap! Mosey on down to this 'ere ranch and let's get caught up in the tales of rootin'-est, tootin'-est cowboy that ever fought in the Fourth Ninja World War!

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 590

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

Annotated Manga: 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!
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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.
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Return of the Black (cat)
Y'know, when Urahara said that getting transport ready to take Ichigo and crew to the Royal Palace would take "a minute or sixty", he wasn't kidding. Or maybe he was kidding, since I took him about two weeks worth of chapters...

Annotated Manga: Bleach chapter 588

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

Annotated Manga: 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.
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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 G Rodiles
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 G Rodiles
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 G Rodiles
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.

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