Category Archives: Manga

Further Thoughts – Yona of the Dawn

I wanted to jot down a few further thoughts on Yona, since I had a chance to review the dub, and I wanted to mention a few things in a bit more depth about the manga.

The dub is serviceable, but most of the characters didn’t feel great in their roles. Gija is a major exception, as his voice actor absolutely nails his bug-related freakouts, but others like Jaeha don’t have any transition between their comedy portions and their regular voices, which made Jaeha sound more monotone than his Japanese voice. Or there are odd moments like Yun using his obviously male voice when talking to Yona during a period when he’s disguising himself as a girl—and none of the other girls figure this out until so much later it feels really stupid. In addition his attempts to sound feminine are still gravelly.

As an added annoyance, this disk is the first anime I’ve watched that didn’t allow me to put subtitles on when I was watching the English, which is how I prefer to view dubs. That allows me to more easily evaluate where the dub changed the script, or catch lines that might be muttered or in the background.

Jeno/Zeno is still my favorite. (Looks like he’s officially Jeno, but it sounds like Zeno in the Japanese, and we already have Jaeha, so I prefer Zeno.) His little “we can totally storm the castle” speech in the last ep is the first big hint that he’s more than he appears—why the massive amount of confidence when he’s previously described himself as basically powerless?

And when the manga finally shows his ability in chapters 99-100, Zeno demonstrates he could probably storm the entire castle by himself. And win.

**MANGA SPOILERS**

I love how Zeno’s backstory is basically: the other three dragons never let him fight because he was weak, and then when they got old and retired, he went out and did everything by himself. He’s unkillable but not invincible, as Shin-Ah demonstrates by tying him up. So despite having massive powers, he doesn’t unbalance the plot because his personality isn’t suited for fighting, and because in order to trigger those powers he’s first got to take deadly levels of injury.

I adore his initial battle, as his ineffectual resistance slowly transforms into complete invincibility. And all his friends are shell-shocked from the moment he first gets stabbed through the heart . . . and he’ll take way more damage than that before he’s done. One of my favorite frames is the panel after he’s been stabbed multiple times, dismembered, and beheaded, and is standing there with ruined clothes but a whole body and taunting the enemy: “What will you do? Unlike you, I have no limits. I can go on fighting for hundreds of years. Come at me. I have all the time in the world.”

And then they find out that he’s not only unkillable, but after a certain point he can’t even take injuries anymore, and they’re now fighting a dragon just as ferocious as Gija and Jaeha combined.

It really is a shame it’s going to take so long to get volumes 17-18 in English.

I like how the dragons are becoming more and more a group of friends. Zeno admits the original four never really meshed that well, as the thread of competitiveness disrupted the sense of being a team. But the current group demonstrates again and again their willingness to support each other, which is perhaps a reflection of Yona being weak where King Hiryuu was strong. Yona can’t pull her own weight in fights the way he did. And Zeno isn’t volunteering to hurt himself as long as the other three canĀ  handle things without his help, but if the situation calls for it, he’ll cheerfully offer to undergo hideous pain because he knows he can take it.

I also like how the manga has generally moved towards longer plot arcs. Su-won turns his attention to the surrounding kingdoms, and Yona for one reason or another is in the middle of things, which means plenty of time to explore the other nations. It raises some interesting questions about Su-won’s ultimate goal, as his short-term aspirations are building up Kouka and reducing his neighbors so they won’t face external threats. He doesn’t seem like he wants to invade, so I do wonder what he’ll get up to once the last neighbor has either submitted or lost a war with him.

At any rate, it’s a shame that the anime doesn’t look likely to go any farther. The plot continues to improve, the characters have a lot of interesting revelations, and the surprises keep on coming.

God Eater 2: Rage Burst (PS4/Vita)

The modern world has crumbled under the onslaught of a new life form, dubbed Aragami. These creatures rise and eat everything, and cannot be stopped except by artificially-created Aragami modified to be weapons. These God Arcs are wielded by humans synced to them, the God Eaters. You play a user-defined protagonist who just tested positive for compatibility for your own God Arc.

I bought this game almost by accident. I hadn’t really heard of it, and all the comparisons to Monster Hunter left me doubtful if I would enjoy it. But it had some Tales crossover appeal (some God Eater costumes and monsters appeared in Zestiria, and some Zestiria costumes were a day one bonus for God Eater), and the combat didn’t look too bad. I ended up getting the game and quickly fell in love.

The gameplay is really fast-paced. You have a home base where you can talk to other characters, craft or buy things, or accept missions. Once you’ve chosen a mission, you can leave, and you’ll be deposited on the field. The Aragami aren’t trying to hide from you, and will show up on your map, so it’s generally very quick to get into the action. And for about the first half of the plot, the individual missions are pretty fast to complete. Later in the game, partially due to the increased number of enemies, it started taking longer, but an average mission could still be 10-15 minutes.

If multiplayer is more your thing, then the game does have a multiplayer mode. I don’t really care for multiplayer and never tried it, but it does give the option of doing the more difficult missions with real people instead of the NPCs. That said, those NPCs are really good at staying alive (although the ones with shields tend to be better than the ones with only guns, as those characters can’t block). They may not melee half as well as you, but they can resurrect you and heal you, and it was very rare for them to die more often than I did.

The God Arcs have spoiled me for weapons from other games. Your single weapon transforms between shield, gun, and melee weapon of choice. You have three types of shield, four types of gun, and six types of melee weapon. Although you can’t switch equipment mid-mission, you can switch between missions. I really enjoy the ability to switch between short range and long range attacks on the fly. Your melee attacks charge an energy meter used to fire your gun, so battles are generally an initial volley (or for the blast gun, you can stockpile the meter) followed by some melee where you can drop a bullet or three every time you’ve got enough for another shot.

The game provides a number of bullets but you can also customize your own. This isn’t well explained in the game, but plenty of recipes exist online, or you can modify the bullets provided by the game and test them in the bullet editor before bringing them out on the field.

Although bullets tend to deal more overall damage, melee has its own tricks in the form of Blood Arts, which can modify various aspects of your attack to be more powerful. A well-aimed Blood Art can easily do as much damage as most bullets.

It’s also trivial to switch between weapon types, as you can craft an appropriate level of equipment and the Blood Arts (or Blood Bullets, for a gun) will level more rapidly against powerful enemies. So it only takes a small number of missions to get to a comparable level with at least one Blood Art on a new weapon type.

The crafting system has a good amount of depth, but also some shortcuts. You have a list of craftable weapons, and anything less than rank 15 can be upgraded to an eventual rank 15 form. Many of the upgrades aren’t available to craft directly, but upgrading will allow you to carry over the previous form’s skills, and it’s generally cheaper than crafting directly. So old weapons can be made useful again for less than the cost of a new one. If you don’t have a certain material required to craft or upgrade, every mission has some form of Ticket in its reward list. These tickets can be crafted into just about any material, which drastically cuts down on the requirement to farm. At worst, you’ll just have to redo a mission with the appropriate ticket reward instead of worrying about getting a rare drop. (Now, the menus could absolutely stand to be broken up better so you don’t have to scroll so far, but if that’s the worst I can say about it I’m still very happy.)

Clothing can also be crafted. Thankfully, this is cosmetic only, so you can dress your protagonist however you please. And although I hated a lot of the female outfits, I could still find a large number of combinations I liked. (Some NPCs have additional outfits, but sadly will only wear them during missions.)

The plot has good moments. I love the setting: a post-apocalypse world full of broken buildings haunted by monsters. I liked the plot, as generally the story comes in pretty small portions between missions. So even the slower or more generic parts tended to go quickly. Although one twist in particular left me torn between admiring that they went there and irritated at what it meant for my mission teams. There’s also the ability to watch any previous cutscene via the big monitor in Fenrir or the terminal in your room in the Far East.

Gilbert is my favorite character. He’s not as childish or enthusiastic as Nana or Romeo, but his reserve tends to break down in battles (he has some amusing lines on the field. Just try passing him a bullet or pay attention when the Aragami runs away). Out of battle, he’s highly conscious of the responsibility and danger of being a God Eater; his experiences in his former unit earned him the nickname Fragging Gil. He’s also not easy to fool–I particularly liked what he did in a confrontation in chapter 14. I also liked Julius and Tatsumi (I like responsible leader-types).

The music is generally excellent as well. They range from sweeping orchestral themes to quiet piano melodies to more of a rock style. Missions often allow you to choose background music (sometimes the plot missions won’t, but if you replay them you can pick whatever you want). As a nice bonus, once you reach rank 15, the jukebox unlocks, so the out-of-battle music can be entirely your choice (including no music).

I have very few criticisms of the game. This was originally designed for the Vita and it shows in a few ways. The battle arenas are a good size, but can get repetitive since new fields are few and far between until the end, but the glut of new fields there tends to be recolors of the same layout. And the out of battle areas are a few tiny rooms in your headquarters. I wish some of the menus (especially material crafting) had a better layout to avoid the enormous amount of scrolling required when you have the full list of endgame craftable items. And I wish certain monsters showed more in individual missions so I don’t have to keep playing a string of survival missions just to fight them.

Overall, this is the kind of game that exactly suits me as someone who likes anime-styled action games with some deep RPG mechanics (which is obvious when I consider that the only other game that even comes close in playtime for me is Tales of Graces and that was with multiple playthroughs). I don’t remember what my hour count was when I first beat the plot, but I’ve been taking it slowly and although I’ve run out of story, I still have the various extra missions and challenge missions I’m working through. Currently I’m around 175 hours in and still having a blast. I’ve changed weapon types a few times and am still working on mastering all the skills, building an ultimate set of equipment, and so on. It is more than possible to beat this game in a fraction of that time, if you’re just looking to rush to the end. If you like the Tales games, or are simply looking for a fast-paced action game, I would highly recommend checking this out. I would also suggest getting the Day One edition, as it includes God Eater Resurrection (a remake of the first game with some updated mechanics) for free.

07-Ghost (manga)

Title: 07-Ghost
Volumes: 1-17 (Complete)

Ten years ago, war broke out between the Barsburg Empire and the Raggs kingdom. Teito Klein, orphaned by this event, had been pressed into service as a battle sklave for Barsburg, which made him less than popular at the military academy he attends. However, one other boy, Mikage, persists in being his friend, which leads to trouble for both of them when Teito unexpectedly runs across someone from his dimmest memories . . .

It’s hard to give a decent summary of this, because so much of the story revolves around who Teito is, what he does (and doesn’t) remember and why, and how those memories influence him to make the journey he ultimately takes. I liked it a lot as a fantasy. There’s a lot to be said for a story that spans 17 volumes but knows from the beginning where it wants to go, and doesn’t detour at all along the way. As a story, the focus on playing up possibly-romantic relationships between guys unfortunately takes away from some of the more complex relationships that are trying to develop.

I liked the layers of mystery. Teito hasn’t forgotten his origins because he was very young (about four) when everything happened, but also because his memories were deliberately locked away from him. Even that young, what he knew was dangerous. Even now, remembering the wrong thing at the wrong time could ruin everything.

And the world itself has layers. On the purely human level, the Barsburg Empire has all but wiped out the kingdom of Raggs, and they’re eager to move in on what remains. But a large part of the story is also about spiritual matters. The King of Heaven allows every soul to choose three wishes for which to live its life, and once those three are fulfilled, the soul returns to him. However, evil forces offer to grant those wishes in exchange for the soul—and they are working to lay the foundation for the return of Verloren, the god of death. Seven “ghosts” were assigned from heaven to help keep Verloren imprisoned, and Verloren’s body and soul were separately sealed. But he’s working out a plan for revival.

In the beginning, when everything is just starting to unfold, it can feel a bit random. Ayanami remains a good villain, but the Black Hawks in his group struggle to feel meaningful for a long time. I liked how Mikage—and his admonition to Teito against revenge—form a key part of Teito’s struggle, up to the very end. Teito dearly wants to honor his best friend’s wishes, but at the same time, he’s human. He wants justice for all the evil that Ayanami inflicted, as well as revenge for all the pain and suffering.

I don’t really care for the hinting at homosexual relationships in the story (especially with Frau, because he’s got to be twice Teito’s age), but as the hints stay relatively subtle it didn’t subtract much from the story for me.

The ending is really good. It had a bit more epilogue than I expected, which was nice, and it tied everything up in a surprising yet satisfying way. Which is even better considering the major twist that happened not long before that which subverted a lot of my expectations for how the series was going to turn out. I liked how characters that could have been one-offs like some of the Oaks turn into crucial players. I liked the history of the seven ghosts and how Teito has to untangle some of the things that went drastically wrong for each of them.

Overall this is a pretty good fantasy that takes a few volumes to really dig in. It’s not somethingĀ  I would consider top-tier like Fullmetal Alchemist or Kekkaishi, but it does a good job building a solid story with a number of surprises. I rate this series Recommended.

(Apologies for the glut of posts. I’ve been watching/reading some things over the past season but I don’t like to review them until I’m finished, as I would prefer to look at the overall story than just one episode or a few chapters of manga.)

Assassination Classroom

The students in class 3-E are the outcasts, the rejects, the troublemakers. No one expects them to succeed. Which is why it’s all the more puzzling when an alien creature who blew a huge hole through the moon insists on teaching their class. The creature further claims he’ll destroy the earth in exactly a year—so this year’s classroom, in addition to the usual subjects, is secretly and intensely focusing on a single goal: kill the teacher.

To be honest, although I’d heard a lot of people reviewing this series positively, it took a while for it to grab me. The early episodes feel like they’re all over the place. For a show that’s supposed to be about class 3-E, the beginning spends a lot of time on teachers, outside assassins, and so on that has little to do with the students. And the students are so beaten down by their position that even this highly unusual assignment can fail to make them interesting. The way episodes were often two different stories each told in about ten minutes didn’t help keep my interest. Also, the show would tend to really emphasize something, like the split between class E and the other four classes, then totally forget about it for quite a few episodes, which gave the early pacing especially a jerky feel.

But I kept going because it was okay, if not an instant favorite, and was very pleased with how everything turns out. The long arcs that comprise the end of the first season and the end of the series were much more what I had been hoping to see, as the class pushes themselves to use all their newfound skills in serious situations. I also liked some of the smaller moments scattered around, such as the baseball game, Nagisa’s trick against his new PE teacher, and the Nagisa-versus-Karma fight (well, the whole paintball episode was amusing, but that fight made it one of my favorites).

For the characters, the demure and girlish Nagisa, who narrates much of the story, ties with Karma for my favorites. Nagisa’s not one to stand out most of the time. He’s average at most things, but where other students start showing talents for brawling or sharpshooting, he’s got talents much more in line with actual assassins. He can read situations and react appropriately, which is often creatively. And when he goes for the kill, he goes for the throat. Yet he is still a kid, and sometimes despite having the right instincts, he’s just up against someone too good for him. His backstory was also extremely good, surprising me with reasons for things like his long hair and his personality.

But Nagisa tends to be highly entertaining or drawing in short bursts. Karma is the series-long selling point for me.

Karma is the kid who, when told on his suspension about the new teacher, remarks: “Oh? I’ve always wanted to kill a teacher.” He’s unflappable, smart, and always smiling—usually while doing some vicious prank or needling with words designed to provoke a fight. The uses he finds for wasabi had me in tears because I was laughing so hard. I’m not sure how this goes in English, because I have a sub-only subscription, but this show is worth watching in Japanese to get the full context of how he’ll use English against English-speakers to taunt them. Basically, whenever Karma gets a particularly devilish smile, I knew I was in for a good time.

The other class members get a fair amount of focus, as do the other teachers. I liked what happened with Asano from the main campus, and how stereotypes don’t control more minor characters like him. (It’s also funny how his basic arrogance hasn’t really changed, despite everything . . . and I wish there was some bonus content showcasing him and Karma going head-to-head when they’re older.)

I really liked the ending. It’s a solid ending that ties up everything for the students and the teachers. After all the drama, we get to see the graduation, and even a bit of what happens next. And although it closes many things, it’s the openness that’s really appealing. You can see these students are now people living out their dreams to the full—taking everything they’ve learned in sometimes surprising ways to tackle the challenge of an adult world. Although I’d LOVE for Nagisa to have a bonus half-episode or so going into more detail, because his looks the most amusing, his final visual is a powerful statement of how much what he learned shaped who he is.

All in all, even though I didn’t care for everything about how the story was told, I overall had a blast. The story has its laughs, but also its heartaches, and it ends as a love letter to the teachers and mentors who have had an unforgettable impact on their students’ lives. I rate this series Highly Recommended.

My Hero Academia

In a world where 80% of the population has some Quirk granting a supernatural ability, real life has come to resemble a comic. Villains prowl the streets, and heros rise up to stop them. Izuku Midoriya wants nothing more than to be a hero, but he’s one of the few Quirkless. Undeterred, he’s set his sights on the most prestigious hero-training high school: UA. Then an encounter with the greatest hero, All Might, gives him an unexpected chance to live out his dream.

I’ve always been fond of superpowers, and My Hero Academia gleefully portrays a huge variety. From augment quirks like the ability to harden one’s body to the ability to manipulate elements like ice and fire to the more alien-looking who sport extra limbs or animal-like features, Quirks can be pretty much anything. Which is not to say all of them are particularly useful, especially for those who want to become heros.

With such a huge percentage of the population sporting some type of power, heros have somewhat supplanted the police when it comes to managing crime. Most of the villains they deal with are low-level criminals, and some heros choose to focus more on rescue operations than crime-fighting. Either way, heros tend to be celebrities, and none more so than All Might. His trademark smile and catchphrase—combined with a staggering amount of physical strength—has made him the top hero.

I really liked what the series does with All Might. He’s traditionally heroic, with a strong sense of justice, but he can also be goofy. His larger-than-life public persona hides a wrecked, weakened man failing from an old injury. I liked his brutal honesty telling Izuku that attempting to be a hero without power was pretty much impossible, and pointing him towards the police as an alternative if he wants to still help people out. I liked that he can admit when he makes mistakes (although I still don’t think he was wrong pointing out that what Izuku can do against superpowered villains is going to be severely limited without some ability of his own). It’s also interesting that for all his greatness (and he is great in a lot of ways), All Might isn’t perfect, and he has his own areas to grow. The strong teacher-student relationship between the him and Izuku, which in many ways is also a father-son dynamic, lends a touching depth to the story.

Because Izuku does end up with a Quirk after all: he inherits All Might’s powers.

From there Izuku must struggle to master the insanely powerful Quirk he now possesses, because although he now has the power to be the hero he always dreamed, the Quirk is in many ways too much for him. So he ends up trying to solve most of his problems without using his Quirk, as using it will break whatever part of his body he tried to strengthen. Izuku is an interesting lead because he frequently shows his thinking is going in a totally different direction than one might expect. He’s a long-term planner, and his hero-worship gave him a vast knowledge of various Quirks and fighting styles. But even beyond that, as he quickly demonstrates in the initial chapters, he’s humble, and inclined to believe better of others than himself. He also understands that he’s starting from the bottom in many ways, and that drives him to work incredibly hard to try to catch up.

In addition to Izuku, the story digs into many of the other students that share his class. The most prominent is Bakugo, someone Izuku has known since they were little, and whose strong Quirk has left him with a mountain-sized ego and a vengeful attitude. But it’s the little nuances to his character that make him such a fun one to follow. Bakugo’s always been the best—but at UA, all the students are the best of the best, and he’s in the odd situation of not only having peers but being outclassed. And despite his looks and attitude proclaiming him a delinquent, he works just as hard as Izuku and refuses to do anything that might get in the way of him becoming the top hero. (Amusingly, one chapter reveals he’s actually got higher grades than Izuku: he may be hot-tempered and short-sighted, but he’s NOT stupid. Which will get very interesting if he manages to put the pieces together about Izuku’s transformation.)

The class, teachers, and villains who round out the cast are also interesting for the most part, though for the sake of length I’ll avoid talking about all of them. Aizawa, Izuku’s homeroom teacher, is one of my favorites. His Quirk is the ability to erase other people’s Quirks (which seems incredibly useful for a teacher at this kind of school, although he rarely has to use it on the students). Although he’s scruffy and disinterested in those without potential, he cares just as much for his students as All Might, and goes to tremendous lengths to protect them from evil.

All in all, if you’ve read or watched any shounen manga or anime you should have a good idea what you’re in for: lots of high-octane fights, a massive cast, interesting powers, and an epic story slowly unfolding through the various smaller challenges the characters must face. As of this post, the anime just finished its 13-episode run, which was my initial introduction to the series. It was hard to stop after episode 13 so I got caught up on the manga in the meantime; the anime is a faithful adaptation, though it’s only gotten through a relatively small part of the chapters released to date. But season 2 is coming! I rate this series Highly Recommended.

Kekkaishi (manga)

This covers the entire manga, which spans 35 volumes.

Fourteen-year-old Yoshimori is a Kekkaishi—a particular kind of ability-user whose powers mostly revolve around making kekkai (box-shaped barriers). For 400 years his family has been charged with protecting the sacred site of Karasumori. It just so happens to be where his school is built. But during the night, when evil spirits known as ayakashi prowl, the school grounds become his hunting ground. He and his neighbor, Tokine, must prevent ayakashi from entering Karasumori and remaining there, because the ayakashi absorb the land’s power and can become unstoppable if left unchecked

First, it’s a real shame the anime stopped where it did. The good thing is that the anime ended on a major plot arc finale, so it wrapped up decently well. The bad thing is that there’s a whole lot of other great plot arcs that never got animated, and would have greatly benefited from being animated. After the anime’s conclusion, there’s a bunch of one-shot stories but it quickly turns into the plot that will drive the series to its end.

The Urakai is having serious issues internally, which are magnified by the series of incidents where persons unknown are murdering land gods and stealing their power. Karasumori has also been increasingly unstable, thus bringing it to the attention of those who feel the Urakai should take a direct hand in managing it. Yoshimori and Tokine are now going head-to-head with various people in the organization who want Karasumori for their own interests—and it’s not nearly as simple as wiping out ayakashi night after night.

Yoshimori’s plan to permanently seal Karasumori takes on increasing significance as its current seal is becoming less and less effective.There’s also an interesting amount of backstory about how Karasumori came to be; the truth behind the various lies Yoshimori has always believed regarding the site, the founder, and the Legitimate Successor; the history of the Urakai and various shady characters who have stuck around since then.

The second half of the series is definitely darker than the first. Yoshimori has such a little-kid attitude about a lot of things in the beginning, but soon the weight of hard choices and complex situations drive him to a more brooding mindset. It does make a lot of sense in context (what would have been totally out of place would have been him continuing to stay mindlessly optimistic when his whole world is crumbling around him), but I can see where it might throw some people off. Masamori also has a huge focus in the latter part of the series, as it is his insight into the Urakai that balances the otherwise random events Yoshimori keeps getting dragged into.

The end is bittersweet—a lot of things have been lost, both Yoshimori and Tokine have changed and grown, and life won’t be what it used to be. But in many ways it’s such a solid ending, with the hope of tomorrow just beginning to dawn over the sorrow of yesterday. And, it has to be said, the series actually ends, and ends well. I rate the series Highly Recommended.