Hey there, and welcome to Shonen Showdown, the weekly recap that's making such a goofy, overjoyed expression for two reasons:
Read on below for more about the both of those reasons, as well as our customary recaps of the latest in Bleach, Hunter x Hunter, and One Piece!
Hunter x Hunter Episode 57
Looks like the plan was changed after Pakunoda reveals that she knows that Kurapika is the chain user, though it doesn't seem to have done her much good in the long run either. She ends up with a broken arm, face and now she's doing the walk of shame to go try and rescue her leader. Certainly seems that Kurapika knew what he was doing, but as expected he's gone a little loopy after actually capturing the boss.
Targeting Pakunoda certainly seems like it was the right idea originally, anyway. After Kurapika gives her orders and pretty much forces her to do whatever he feels like, she goes all Death Note and starts calculating and over-calculating every little thing, even getting caught up on how she didn't find out Kurapika's identity from Gon and Killua earlier on. We even got flying words on screen, so you know she was deep in thought.
Kurapika can claim at least two successes for now. The first is that he managed to make the Troupe act exactly as he wanted. The other is that Pakunoda is in such a terrible position that she seems defeated before she even starts fighting. Of course, we know that she's given Nobunaga and Koltopi details about Kurapika's appearance, but as far as they know, she can't do that. I feel this will lead to a slip up in the future, but at this rate they only have to deal with these three, plus the leader (as Kurapika took his wig off, which was incredibly dumb) to throw the Troupe off again. Easier said than done, no doubt.
Good to see Leorio actually being useful though, even if it might have got him killed on another day. What I am finding interesting is that the Phantom Troupe are starting to look more and more human. There are the flashbacks, as well as the fact that they all care somewhat about losing members, which is why I'm sure that there is more too it than I think we're being let onto. But maaaan, how good have these last few episodes been? The minimalist fight scenes even came back, and I'll fight you if you disagree that they aren't anything short of awesome.
[Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]
One Piece Episode 573 - 575
With the Fishman Island arc wrapped up, I wonder if One Piece will go directly into the Punk Hazard arc or go the filler route. One Piece is paced fairly well week to week, so one chapter can work well as an entire episode where most other shows would feel stretched out and forced. If done right, the timing can still work well in the shows favor so they don't catch up. Then again, some fillers now would be much better than a ton of fillers later.
The crew spends most of the next episode looking for a giant fish to eat and end up getting into some trouble. They get pulled into an underwater whirlpool and are sent miles away from their initial headings. They bump into a group of whales, who give them a ride to the surface. When they get up top, they get some first hand experience with the Red Line's rather diverse weather conditions.
After surviving some pretty awful surprises, we get a bit of filler involving a tiny girl eating and drinking everything in the Sunny's stores. That tiny girl (who originally was a giant) ate the Mini-Mini fruit, so a dip in the ocean makes her easy to handle. When she comes to, she says her name is Lily and she fell onto the Sunny while stuck in a bottle at sea. She's looking for her father, the legendary giant Panz Fry, a cook that steals in order to feed the starving. Unfortunately, he's been arrested and is being taken to Impel Down. Since it hits close to home to Luffy and the other Strawhats, the agree to help the little gal. It's as good as any excuse for filler, though I'm not so sure about the "Neo-Navy" antagonists. They're looking kind of lame right from the start.
I'm interested in the long prospects of Luffy's feud with Big Mam. He isn't even completely in the New World and he's already managed to piss off one of the strongest factions in the world. While the manga is currently exploring some of the Marine's dirty laundry, I can't wait to see how the Strawhats will deal with pirates of that caliber. I'm wondering if that's when Madame Sharley's vision into the future will come true, as I'm sure that Mam won't be too happy with Fishman Island's turn toward the Strawhats.
[Head over to FUNimation to stream One Piece!]
Naruto Shippuden episode 290 and 291
Oh boy, new filler arc!
By the way, that's genuine anticipation I'm expressing, because with two episodes under the belt, this "Chikara" arc - which by the way is the first arc I've ever seen in a shonen anime, canon or filler, that was given a specific title - seems like good material out of the usual mold for Naruto. The direction, plot, animation and style all are quite distinct from what we've seen in the canonical episodes.
The animation looks great, and seems almost in line with the last several OP sequences in motion and tone, though some obvious shortcuts were taken during production, and the CG looks pretty cheap (but not offensively so). In fact, it's even opting for more in the realm of violent. Action scenes fall more along "PG" lines than Naruto's typical "G"-rated stock in trade. Ironically, this brings the anime closer to the level of violence in the source manga, rather than toning it down as is the usual case. Sakura actually punches peoples' heads off, and civilians are slaughtered on camera (though this is no Blood-C, don't be crazy). Also, Hidan fights Yamato naked. More on that in a bit
There's also a certain sophistication in the storytelling here as well. Techniques are used that actually border on subtle. Devices like in medias res setups, a certain lack of overt exposition, a relationship subplot between two of the new characters, and more. Now, don't get me wrong, Naruto hasn't suddenly morphed into Hyouge Mono or some other actual for-grownups fare, but after watching literally hundreds of episodes of this and Bleach, there's something a little bit different about this arc, and that difference isn't entirely unwelcome.
As to how relevant this is to Naruto at large, it probably won't be. Apparently set prior to the war, Naruto, Sakura, Sai and Yamato head off to a village inside a weird cylindrical canyon that's sacred. The canyon, being extremely sacred, is called "The Hole". They use the English words (like in Kamen Rider Fourze), so you know it's important. Unfortunately, Kabuto got there first, and slaughtered everyone in his attempts to perfect the Zombie Jutsu. Also, he resurrected Hidan, which I find weird because as far as I understood that particular battle, Hidan never actually died, and was just left in pieces at the bottom of a hole. Now he's here as a zombie ninja, alongside zombie Deidara to serve as current-event fodder to link up the filler with the canon.
In any case, nearly everything that happens here is automatically a moot point, considering how the manga's been going. Its destiny is to be less than a blip in the radar, though I can't help but declare that it's looking to be quite a pretty, watchable, and so far unique blip nonetheless.
[Catch the blip if you can on Crunchyroll]
One Piece Chapter 689 & 690
As if we needed another reason to hate Caesar's guts, he taunts Brownbeard as he orders his men to fire and kill the mutated pirate. Once again, Brownbeard is saved by Luffy, who pops in and nails the asshole clown. In a bout of villainous monologuing, we find out that the SAD helps create man-made Zoan Devil Fruits to sell to the highest bidder. That would explain the massive financial backing that Ceasar has gotten from Donquixote/Joker. Luffy doesn't really care about all that, relying on a solid punch to Ceasar's face to get his feelings across.
In other parts of the lab, Shinokuni has almost filled the entire building, leaving a small area for the Strawhats to escape. In the SAD production room, Vergo defeats Smoker, but it isn't what it seems. Their fight gave Law enough time to get his heart and jam it back in his own body. With his effective use of Haki, Law is able to cut through Vergo and piss off Donquixote at the same time. Impressive work from the doctor of death.
As this arc is slowly finishing up, I think it's clear that this was more of a world building arc than anything else. Much in the same way that the Davy Back fight set up Robin's backstory and her capture at the hands of CP9, the conflict with Caesar is setting up what's been going on in the struggle between pirates and the Marines. One of the Four Emperors has been building an army of Zoan-types that will certainly cause destruction. We all know that the Marines aren't going to let something like that slide, so it's bound to start another huge conflict that will make the Whitebeard war look like play time at the beach. When people discover the identity of Joker, things are not going to be pretty, believe you me!
Fairy Tail Chapters 306~310
Woo, I'm back from vacation! That means it's time to keep up with Fairy Tail again...
So, in the time since Grey whooped Rufus, we found out that Minerva is manipulating Sting (I think that Lecter isn't actually alive, personally... she's such a horrible person). The games are still on, but the rest of the chapters basically focused on Natsu and co.
I spent a lot of the time reading up to 310 raging at the fact that no spirits had come to Lucy's aid yet. I don't like it when writers use that as a way to get out of plot holes but then don't repeat it later. Lucy can summon more than one spirit and she's had some come to aid her even without the key, so what gives?
It wasn't until finally at the end here that Loki and Horo came in and resolved a few different issues in one fell swoop. Loki came with all 12 keys + Lucy's miscellaneous. Horo came and saved Arcadios, who was ready to die in a fire (literally, in a lava pit) for Lucy, and then they all fought back against one of the executors.
Of course, they won, and they need to escape the hell palace and talk to the princess now, who is still being all waffle-y over the fact that she sent them down to their doom. But I wonder, was she planning on them defeating the wolves? Maybe it was her plan, to see if Fairy Tail could overcome the executioners. I guess we'll find out whenever they get back.
I'm interested in the rest of the fights. I figure that Juvia, Erza, Laxus and Gajeel will spank the other guys pretty good, so there's no point in really guessing there -- even Minerva said it. Fairy Tail has *feelings* and that's where they win. The big one is.. how much drama will we get to that end? I'm looking forward to the end of this arc and finally a fresh start to new adventures. It's hard to believe we're getting close to the end, though it doesn't feel like it'll stop any time soon between the eclipse project and the upcoming fights.
Finally, I've got to mention here I am so happy to see that everyone's individual strengths were spotlit, including Wendy's. She's usually a good support mage, but she really pulled out her claws for this last fight. There was some good weight on Mirajane's fight as well, as she explains that power is responsibility. It's always great when she pulls out her Satan Soul, though. Cheers!
Naruto chapter 611
You know those times when a single frame can capture everything about a chapter? This is one of those times.
It's pretty great. There's a symbolic weight to having Naruto stand there, still wearing his Leaf-symbol headband, in his signature jutsu pose, while everyone else in the entire ninja world (except the rest of the Kages, notably) stands behind him, all wearing that Shinobi Alliance insignia.
It's very much a "this is how far we've come" sort of panel. Everything really has been leading up to this, and to be frank, I'll be sorely disappointed if Naruto finds a way to not end once all this is said and done.
Bleach chapter 518
You know those times when a single frame can capture everything about a chapter? This is one of those times.
Damn it, Bleach! Why you gotta make me hate myself for liking you?!
The guy in the center there is Ganju Shiba. You'll be forgiven if you don't know who he is, because if you've only been keeping up with the manga, you literally have not seen hide nor hair of him or his one-armed sexy sister Kukaku since 2005.
Here are some other things that happened around the time Ganju was a character worth noting (and even then, barely):
- North Korea announced its possession of nuclear weapons
- George W. Bush began his 2nd term as US President
- Pope John Paul II died
- Syria withdrew from Lebanon
- Pluto was still a full-fledged planet
And that's not even counting everything that happened since Ganju left the stage!
But now he's back! And if this is a development that excites you, I wish you the greatest fortune, because you're probably some kind of Buddha or saint that can never, ever be angered by petty human concerns.
Oh, also all the Fullbringers that were defeated are alive. AND they're training up alongside Ganju to take part in the final battle!
Actually, I'm not as angry about the Fullbringers. It makes sense, given that Soul Society is where people go when they die. Also, I always did feel that they got the shaft, so if they get a last hurrah in the final fight, then all the better.
Lastly, off-panel profanity on the Hueco Mundo side of events implies that Grimmjow is back, as well. That's cool, because if anyone was popular enough to warrant a comeback, it was him.
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