Big news this week, Nisekoi will be getting an anime. Perhaps a bit early, but I think we’ve got enough stories to cover several episodes, and at the very least this means Nisekoi isn’t going anywhere. It’s a big milestone for the series, considering how many new manga can’t last in Weekly Shonen Jump. Fingers crossed that the anime is well made and Nisekoi keeps going strong for however long Komi Naoshi wants.
Because of schedule conflicts the past two weeks I wasn’t able to get around to reviewing the latest manga chapters. Rather than have three reviews go up in close proximity to each other I decided it might be better to go ahead and combine them into one. To keep things simple I’ll be writing about the last three weeks’ together.
Nisekoi Ch. 076–078
Taking three weeks before commenting on any of the most recent chapters has actually worked to my advantage as far as Nisekoi is concerned. When Haru, Onodera’s younger sister, was first introduced I thought that she was the kind of character who was typically annoying but in this case was handled well enough in order to not be annoying. Three chapters later, I found that she was fine for two chapters, but in the third chapter she became quite infuriating. I blame most of this on the fact that she’s been the sole focus of this series for three chapters in a row, and I have not been able to read much of anything about any of the characters I’ve grown attached to.
Chapter 78 was particularly egregious in this regard because none of the other characters besides Raku makes anything but a token appearance. Granted, it was interesting to see the situation from the point of view of an outsider, but three chapters focusing on one character alone is a bit much—especially when that character is brand new to the series. Ultimately I think the biggest problem is that Haru has been around for most of a month and we haven’t seen any change in her. She’s just as frustrating as she was in the beginning. She has a few small moments, but after three weeks of putting up with her it’s not nearly enough. And of course, character development takes time, but I would prefer to have that time be split between chapters featuring the characters I already like.
Bleach Ch. 539-541
Bleach is an interesting example of a retcon that in a strange way is actually working. I had a lot of questions about the retcon in chapter 541, but ultimately I found those questions answered by the chapter itself. And granted, I don’t buy for a second that Kubo planned the reveal regarding Zangetsu any earlier than maybe a year or two ago. But he is able to manipulate his story well enough that the new elements slide into place where we didn’t even realize a piece was missing. Could the story have worked without that missing piece? Absolutely. But what we’ve learned the past three chapters fits well enough that it doesn’t disturb the overall story too much. And considering how low Bleach has dropped at times, even mediocre heights achieved later on seem better by comparison.
Ultimately, Bleach hasn’t been amazing or even great by any stretch of the imagination these past few weeks. But it’s been a lot better than it was during the climactic battle against Aizen, or even the Fullbringer arc, and sometimes when you’ve been hurt enough even the absence of more pain feels like kindness.
What I’m trying to say is that I think Bleach gave me Stockholm Syndrome. And speaking of Stockholm Syndrome…
Naruto Ch. 632-634
I think the biggest problem with the last three weeks is how it feels like we’ve gotten payoff we never deserved. Or the story is trying to elicit a response it hasn’t done the groundwork for. I admit that I enjoyed the combination attack in this week’s chapter. But I can’t help but imagine how much better this would be if more time had been spent actually redeeming Sasuke, rather than making him worse and worse before finally having him flip flop back to the side of good.
That continues to be the biggest problem I have with Naruto. Sasuke’s turn feels more forced than ever. This should have been a good moment because it’s been a long time coming. But rather I feel that, like his powers, Sasuke has once again been given something he did not work for. His eyes give him all his power, his natural aptitude gives him his fighting prowess. And the author just hands him his redemption without making Sasuke suffer for it. If someone turns bad, really bad, to the point where they’ve not only attempted murder, but actually succeeded on more than one occasion, then they need to work in order to redeem themselves in the eyes of the other characters. But when such a character has spent an inordinate amount of time making sure the readers were well and pissed at him, then he needs to work doubly hard to make any kind of redemption actually be satisfying. I for one continue to be of the opinion that Sasuke is an awful character who is made worse by the fact that he hasn’t had to work for any of the good that’s happened to him, and he’s as bland as bland can be.
Sai’s reappearance reminded me how much better a character he was. I just wish Kishimoto could actually see when he makes good characters and when he doesn’t. Ultimately, though, most of these chapters are about action and the action is a lot of fun. Even Sakura gets to do something. Which hardly seems like a fair trade. I’d rather she have been doing things the entire series. But even then she reverts back to her pre-time skip personality the moment she starts ignoring Naruto in favor of Sasuke. It’s a real shame to see a character that had grown so much in the early chapters after the time skip revert back to the infuriating character she was before.
But, as I said, Stockholm Syndrome, these chapters weren’t the worst this series has thrown at me. And some of the action really was awesome.
One-Punch Man Ch. 018-020
These three chapters emphasize that One-Punch Man isn’t just about comedy. It’s about great comedy and a world that is actually really interesting. The latest chapter especially emphasizes that the people in this series act like real people. Monsters constantly attacking? Time to move away. It stands out as a subtle bit of satire of the superhero genre while posing as world building. Even just the simple act of turning what should be an exciting adventure into the equivalent of a day job is hilarious in its own way. Not the funniest chapters of One-Punch Man, but still worth a read.
World Trigger Ch. 016-018
World Trigger manages to introduce some interesting elements, but ultimately it fails to engage. Those interesting elements should have been introduced more than a dozen chapters ago, at this point I can’t see the series surviving much longer. Characters are confusing, motivations are confusing, the whole conflict is confusing, and ultimately Jin is the most interesting character but with this cast that’s not hard.
Toriko Ch. 235-237
The amusing thing about these past three chapters of Toriko is that while a good chunk of it was action as normal, the other chunk made me really think about gender roles in manga. Were Komatsu a woman, there would be an outcry over the way he is treated in the story. He’s there to be saved by Toriko, there to give him strength. Since he’s a guy that’s an odd, yet new and interesting approach. If he were a woman it would be the same tired old trope. And while I’m amazed at how obvious the “Not Gay”s are in this series, I get a chuckle at the homoerotic subtext that refuses to be the sub in this relationship.
The fighting is pretty standard, but I was amazed how an entire chapter was dedicated to a new fighting technique for Toriko. That concept did not need that much space. Ultimately I feel that the fight is par for the course, and might be buying for time in a few places. But, events unfold that promise some much better chapters later on.
Cross Manage Ch. 035-037
If anyone doesn’t think this series is amazing then I’m afraid we might have to take a look at your “Can Recognize Amazing Entertainment” gland——don’t wiki this, just trust me, it’s a real gland. Not only are we left in the dark as to the outcome of this match, but in the latest chapter we get what is possibly one of the best scenes in any manga I’ve read in months. At first it may be confusing, but once you read over it you slowly start to get it. The confusion you felt at the awkward transition mirrored the confusion the characters felt as they noticed more and more people were looking away from where the ball was in play. Then the moment of horrified realization, emphasized by the perfect rendering of the expressions on the characters’ faces. It’s been a long time since anything in a manga sparked such an emotional reaction from me.
And then, once you’ve had a moment to sit back and take in what happened, an event that came out of nowhere, you realize that since chapter one this eventuality has been foreshadowed.
Though it does feel a bit like a desperate gambit to get people interested in the series. Because after what happened this chapter, there is no way the series could end within the next few weeks and actually be satisfactory. Before now a win or a lose could have led to a satisfying early conclusion. Kato could have played it safe, written in a way to end the series safely. Instead he decided to go for broke, give us an event that needs far more than just a few chapters to be concluded satisfactorily. I pray that the risk he took resonates with readers and we are able to see this series go on for many more chapters.
Dragon Ball Z Ch. 017-019
With these chapters the long training arc came and went. Ultimately I feel I can’t comment on them that well because they’ve been in my brain for so long I can’t really muster up any kind of initial reaction. Ultimately I’d have to say that these chapters are good, but not amazing. There’s a definite sense that were Dragon Ball Z being published today it probably wouldn’t last for very long. But, one can’t analyze it like that since this series has been around for so long that it’s unfair to comment on it as if it were a contemporary of current series. This was one of the series that a lot of shonen manga owes many elements to. And in a lot of cases they improve on those elements. But, in the end, I’m glad we finally get to the actual fight against the Saiyans—s lot faster than we would have gotten to it in the anime too.
One Piece Ch. 710-711
Chapter 710 of One Piece was okay. It wasn’t amazing, but it was at standard One Piece quality. After such a long break it was wonderful to finally get a new chapter. Chapter 711 (heh) on the other hand was a lot more fun. From the twist at the very end, to the scene with Zoro and the hint that maybe these toys aren’t quite what they seem. Or, Rebecca has a bit of an interesting kink. Either is possible really.
But the standout of this chapter was how little time it took for me to make a boob joke to myself after discovering that the name of the little people was “Tontattas”. Yes, I’m a terrible person, but I would like to point out that Oda decided to name them this after he had them climbing all over Robin, who I might add has been pinned to the ground with her…tontattas (sorry)…prominently displayed. I know there was no way for him to realize that both “ton” and “tattas” were a proper word and slang respectively, so let’s just call it an act of providence that provided us with the best unintentional pun in all of One Piece.
Also, is it just me, or does anyone else think that Oda might have macrophilia? First we have Aphelandra the amazon using her bossoms to block Luffy’s escape, then we have Luffy using Shirahoshi’s…great reefs…as a trampoline, and now we have Robin sewn to the ground in a scene reminiscent of a much sexier Gulliver’s Travels, while the Tontattas climb all around the inside of her dress. And that’s not even getting into all the other woman of larger size than normal. Or the fact that “normal size” is incredibly subjective in One Piece. Think I’m wrong? Discuss in the comments section. Let’s start the weirdest discussion this website has ever seen.
Rurouni Kenshin Final Chapter
What can I say? This project felt unnecessary, it messed with established material that was already good on its own. But in the end the worst crime is that apparently even a teenage girl can survive a sword through her chest as long as it misses her heart. Never mind the fact that she’d have bled to death by that point. AND she only managed to survive because the way her would-be assassin held his swords was stupid. I’m not sure if it’s some weirdly meta commentary about style over substance and practicality in manga, but Watsuki pointed out why his idea was stupid all on his own. At least this manga did one thing right, it made me realize that maybe I don’t want a sequel to Rurouni Kenshin like I thought I did. I dread how much more ridiculous an actual in canon sequel would get. Once you have a skinny business man lifting and firing a gattling gun you’ve got nowhere else to go but down.
I’d really only intended to put this off for two weeks, but it ended up being three. My schedule is a lot more hectic that I realized. I’ll be sure to keep these posts up to date, and hope that this momentary lapse in publication remains isolated to these past three weeks.
If you want to hear more, check out the Manga^3 Podcast Archives. Or go directly to the last three episodes, Episode 049 – May 27, 2013 – Why Hiramaru and Aoki’s Relationship Sucked | Toriko Vol. 5, Episode 050 – June 3, 2013 – When the Main Characters Sucks! | Toriko Vol. 6, and Episode 051 – June 10, 2013 – Why Doesn’t Oda Kill Characters? | Bakuman Vol. 1.
Manga Therapy saysJune 19, 2013 at 10:51 am
You bring up good points about Oda and his love for gigantic women. I still remember Robin’s attacks from Fishman Island. Her BIG LEGS.
Cross Manage doesn’t seem to be doing too well in Japan. Every week, I’ve seen it near the bottom. I wonder if this risk is what was needed.
Derek Bown saysJune 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm
I’m kind of amazed I never realized that about Oda before. But after this chapter it just clicked. I guess this week was just the most sexualized of all the “large” women so everything else just clicked into place.
Cross Manage and Barrage not doing well in Jump has made me question the tastes of the general Jump readership. What on earth do they want out of their manga? And what does Shueisha need to do to make sure they aren’t just constantly relying on their small number of big sellers.
Manga Therapy saysJune 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm
The general Jump readership in Japan right now seems to find solace in a combination of both subtle, over-the-top humor and characters that have a solid foundation. Assassination Classroom, Shokugeki no Soma, and PSI Saiki have been hitting top 5 a lot since their debuts last year.
In SDCC 2012, Shonen Jump said romantic comedies were the rage in Japan. That’s why Nisekoi is where it’s at today.
Shueisha just needs to find a battle manga that’s universal. The problem is that most fans will probably claim they’ve seen it all. I wonder if the artists aren’t well-versed enough in other areas to help support their creativity.
Manga Therapy saysJune 19, 2013 at 2:23 pm
Also, I think Shueisha is literally crapping themselves for rejecting Attack on Titan when Isayama submitted it to them before the title went to Kodansha.
Derek Bown saysJune 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm
Battle manga has definitely become an insular medium. Suddenly that “panty fight manga” from Bakuman is starting to make more and more sense. I’d almost think that perhaps what they need to do is do something a lot more realistic. They could still do overpowered characters, but I think if a manga-ka actually took the time to research martial arts and represent them more or less accurately then their series would have a big boost over other series.
I’m sure they’re regretting not taking Attack on Titan, but methinks they’d still say it’s too dark for their magazine. Or something like that. Either way, there’s a definite sense that the editors are far too prone to reject or cancel series.
Assassination Classroom and Shokugeki no Soma, while the latter probably won’t make it over here, are both excellent series. But they are a lot more over the top and funny. I guess there’s not much room for a sincere sports/romance manga like Cross Manage.
Jenn saysJune 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm
I was listening to your podcast about why characters suck, and how characters need a goal, and it clicked — that’s the problem I’ve had with World Trigger. No one has a real goal (except Yuma wants to meet his dad’s friend). Then I read Chapter 17, and got excited, thinking “Here it is!! Here is the GOAL! People they thought were dead are probably still alive and fighting in the Neighbors’ war! They have to go rescue them!!” And then I read chapter 18 and found out they decided to go with Internal Political Squabbles — HOW EXCITING!! (facepalm). I kept giving it chances, because I really liked the premise. But they spent too much time on world building and character introduction and didn’t have a plot or a reason for me to give a crap about anything.
One Punch Man and Cross Manage are my favorite WSJ series right now. Agreed that the scene where everyone is realizing Misora is hurt is brilliantly done. I don’t know how many times I re-read that sequence. If this series gets cancelled, I will just cry. (I loved Barrage too, sniff.)
As for Naruto, I wish everyone had been more — whatever Sauske, we’ll use your help right now because we need it, but we are going to have a serious discussion when this is all over. And then Sauske could have used this fight to start his redemption.
I had not heard that Shueisha had turned down AoT. If I had done that, I don’t think there would be enough alcohol in the world. I feel for whoever made that decision.
Derek Bown saysJune 19, 2013 at 4:21 pm
Someone listens to my podcast? I feel all self conscious now. :)
World Trigger is a prime example of why the main character shouting their goal to the heavens isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Or at the very least it’s showing that this new wave of manga authors trying to move away from that trope may not be on the right path. Or they just don’t have the skill required to write subtle character motivation. Either way, World Trigger sold itself as an action series, and now we get politics instead. And even the action isn’t all that great. I feel especially frustrated about this series because of how well documented my good opinion of the first chapter was.
I never really fell in love with Barrage as much. I liked it, a lot in fact, but for that series the writing was on the wall far too early, and later on I just couldn’t get invested no matter how good it got, because it was just too clear it wasn’t going anywhere. It was a good shonen action series, but by this point that apparently isn’t enough anymore.
I’d honestly stop reading Naruto if ranting about it weren’t so much fun. That series has hurt me. A lot.
For me my current favorites, if I haven’t made it obvious yet, are One Piece and Cross Manage. There are a lot of great series in the magazine, but those are my definite top two right now.
Jenn saysJune 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm
You have the best Sauske rants.
I don’t mind having a character’s motivation be revealed slowly, but I need to have some sort of confidence that the author will get to the point eventually. I can get that confidence in a variety of ways — for instance – are there some hints or foreshadowing? Have I read other works by this author such that I am willing to let things spin for a while b/c I like that person’s other works? Perhaps for someone early in their career, you really need to shout your goal out in the first chapter, because you need that structure and focus??
I just have this frustration with WT because I liked it so much at first, and I really wanted it to be good. It had such a good premise that you could do so many interesting things with. The world of WT is interesting. It’s the frustration you feel with a failure to reach potential.
Derek Bown saysJune 29, 2013 at 4:56 pm
How did I miss this comment? Sorry about that. :)
If you want good Sasuke rants I’d also recommend checking out Weekly Manga Recap on tgwtg.com. Sasuke rants are fun to make AND fun to listen to. :D
Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with subtlety, but it does become a problem when subtlety goes the wrong way and the author can’t actually pull through with it. We need that trust building moment between ourselves and the author, some kind of hint that it will pay off. Otherwise everyone will abandon it. I wouldn’t be reading this series if it weren’t in WSJ Online and I were doing a podcast about it. Heck, I don’t read Yugioh Zexal, so it’s not like I can’t just plain ignore a series in that magazine.
Yeah, WT feels like it could get good, if only it could reach the proper point. The problem is that where series like Takamagahara just ran out of time, World Trigger has been wasting all its valuable time doing absolutely nothing. Sure Takamagahara killed itself by doing the whole “we’re going to a special school” but I stand by the early chapters being great. I think it would have been a lot better had the author stuck around at the regular school rather than doing the typical “we’re going to a special school” garbage. But, that wasn’t a strong series to begin with, I just really liked what it was doing with its characters.
Roxanne saysJuly 2, 2013 at 2:29 am
I also agree your Naruto rants hit the nail on the head. I’m lucky my local library is buying the series because Naruto is a “keeper” series for me. (If I had a flair for fanfiction I would kill Sasuke but free verse poetry is more my niche when inspiration hits me over the head…) Thanks again for the summaries/commentary!
Derek Bown saysJuly 2, 2013 at 4:47 pm
You may not believe this, but I was really into Naruto at one point. Hence the reason for my hate after the great betrayal when the series just went to crap.
Roxanne saysJuly 3, 2013 at 1:18 pm
*in my comment I meant to type is NOT a “keeper” series….
I think I understand why you hate the series…Naruto had promise but something went hayhire along the way….