A bit late, but not three weeks late. I count that as progress. What I don’t count as progress, or at least not major progress, is the headliner chapter for this week’s issue. But, let’s dive straight into it shall we?
Naruto Ch. 635
I’m a bit conflicted about this week’s chapter of Naruto. On the one hand it’s good for the story that this isn’t Sasuke’s ultimate redemption. One of the biggest promises made by the series was that in the end Naruto and Sasuke would have a final showdown. It’s hard to do that satisfactorily if Sasuke were redeemed the way we thought he had been. At the same time I’m glad that Sakura hasn’t fallen back into her old habits with the return of Sasuke. The fact that she’s clearly lying to herself about being glad that he’s back is interesting, and promising for her character development, something that I’ve felt has been missing from this series for the past several years.
On the other hand, this chapter isn’t all that great. It’s confusing, some of the art is just weird, and the mood shift is so drastic I tend to focus on that more than I do on how promising these developments are for the series as a whole. If I had anything to say about Naruto—and I do in fact have a lot to say about it, but if we were to narrow what I was to say down to one thing—it would be that this series has been clumsy. It’s been clumsy for many years, ever since the start of the Kage summit.
In the early years this was a great series, but it didn’t take long for certain problems to start cropping up. The series was still enjoyable all the way past the timeskip, and even beyond the timeskip in places. But the attack of Pein against Konoha, and the disappointing way that Kishimoto handled characters like Hinata (which has not been redeemed in the slightest by these past few chapters) were monumental in forming my decision that this series isn’t that great. And that’s not to speak of the years wasted following Sasuke as he does absolutely no growing and all his powers are just given to him by virtue of his ancestry and by necessity of the plot.
But these past few years, and I do mean years, that we’ve been focusing on the Ninja War have been atrocious. Even when the focus is put on characters I want to read more about, it’s been done so clumsily that I can’t see anything this series does as just another bid for time. We all know Naruto won’t be cancelled. Kishimoto knows this, and judging by the quality of his manga at the moment I’d say that while he has an ending in mind he’s stretching it as far as possible. Why? I can’t say. But I’ve got the sneaking suspicion that somewhere in the line, whether it be Kishimoto himself or the editorial department, someone has been sacrificing quality in favor of more money. After all, they’re clearly scared about Bleach and Naruto ending. With two of the big three gone and only one replacement, what does their magazine have? And thus they sacrifice quality and we’re left with manga that we used to know and love but now wish would just go away.
It’s kind of like The Simpsons in that regard.
Oh, and let’s not forget the infantile character interaction between Karin, Suigetsu, and Orochimaru. I think I don’t even need to comment on that one, it speaks for itself. But I will say that I think Kishimoto has either lost his sense of humor or is writing to a much lower age group than he thinks he actually is.
One-Punch Man Ch. 020.2
I absolutely love the way Murata draws gadgets in this series. First it was Sonic’s exploding Shuriken, and now it’s Golden Ball’s slingshot. He keeps drawing things that I really, really want. With this chapter we get a look into what the monsters as well as the heroes think about Saitama’s neighborhood. Nobody quite knows what’s going on, but he’s risen to the level of an urban legend. And somehow, even though we know Saitama is the good guy, even though most of the time he’s drawn so plainly, somehow he still manages to be the focus of the most terrifying panel of the chapter. And we still get to see that One can write jokes about Saitama’s power level without growing stale. Though there is a slight hint of, “Okay, we get it” with the overall concept, but in the end I find myself just enjoying this series.
World Trigger Ch. 019
I normally don’t let art quirks bug me. But I’ve had enough. The duck faces from Yuma were bad enough, but now we have ANOTHER character whose thing is making duck faces! Is this Ashihara’s concept of the height of comedy? People making duck faces? The kid who writes axe cop would tell this guy, “Dude, come on, it’s not that funny.” The thing about World Trigger is that Ashihara has a lot of good ideas, and he is skilled enough to pull off some nifty scene transitions. The problem is that he isn’t quite skilled enough to bring across ALL of his ideas properly. Sure having a Capybara in his series is kickass, but so what? Without the skill to tell a coherent story, and the wisdom to stick to conventional tropes where necessary (such as actually bothering to give your characters motivation), then all the clever ideas and moments of talent won’t amount to much. I don’t see this series going anywhere, but I think we can expect Ashihara’s next work, or event he next after that, to be something to look forward to. As long as he can recognize his failings and work to adjust them. If he can’t do that, then I don’t expect much from him.
Bleach Ch. 542
The interesting thing about Bleach is that sometimes it will clearly contradict itself, but then after just a moment of thought the answer will present itself. Sure Kubo had said that Kyouraku and Ukitake were the only ones with double Zanpakuto, and sure he broke that with Hisagi, but when Ichigo gets his double Zanpakuto it works because at the time Kyouraku and Ukitake were the only two that had double Zanpakuto. And it makes sense for Ichigo to have two blades like that, considering that we’re going with the idea of his powers being split between his Hollow plus Soul Reaper powers and his Quincy powers. Though with all these redesigns I feel that Kubo has lost the iconic look that so many people associated with his series. And by this point I think a lot of people will be turned off by the constant design changes. Here’s hoping that Kubo can end Bleach soon and then move on to design his next series.
Nisekoi Ch. 079
Not only do we finally move away from Haru, but we focus on one of my favorite characters, Tsugumi. The main draw this chapter is getting some more backstory, developing Tsugumi in a very needed way, considering she’s the odd one out from the childhood promise group. While it may feel like any development between her and Raku is wasted space since it’s clear who he will end up with, I still feel that the journey more than makes up for knowing the destination. And of course we get to see Onodera at the very end for the final punchline.
Cross Manage Ch. 038
If this series gets cancelled I will lose all hope in the youth of Japan. I know that at it’s hard to appreciate literary and artistic quality at a young age, what with all the media aimed at you being all vampires and kissing and stuff (I don’t know, I don’t pay much attention to YA anymore). But it takes a special level of dense not to get why this series needs to keep going. It’s a comedy, it’s a character piece, it’s a surprisingly great sports manga, AND it’s a drama! What more could anyone want? The only thing missing is a battle for galactic peace or something. Granted the sensitivity of this series may be a bit more shoujo, but considering that most of my issues with shoujo lie with the art styles and the focus entirely on romance, I consider Cross Manage to be the series that takes the good from shoujo and wraps it in a familiar shounen package. With Misora’s injury all the heavy drama from the first chapter comes back, but this time we’ve had thirty-seven chapters to get to know the characters. Combine this with Kaito’s raw skill for drama and suddenly this series keeps getting more and more compelling. I still don’t know how it end, but now we have an added dilema on top of the possibility of losing the game.
Toriko Ch. 238
Well, if Cross Manage didn’t give you the raw violence you wanted, then here’s Toriko to the rescue. While the past few chapters have been a bit too much violence with little more substance, I think that this chapter was really aided by the addition of the visualization powers. Essentially we get to go far more violent than either Toriko or Starjun could survive, allowing for the most brutal fight this series has seen in a while, or that Jump has ever seen. And of course it’s supplemented by the fact that they all really are taking major damage. Not much substance as far as the story or characterization is concerned, but it had plenty of well drafted violence. And sometimes that’s just what we’re in the mood for.
Dragon Ball Z Ch. 020
Finally we move from the training arc to the actual battle. While the training didn’t take nearly as long as it would have in the anime, stretched into weekly segments it took long enough. But, even though we don’t get that much fighting this chapter, it clearly shows why so many remember this series so fondly, and why it’s considered a classic shonen battle manga. The action is just well rendered and badass. The story behind this manga may not be the strongest, but there’s a reason it’s the strongest in fight scenes.
Just as a reminder, for any newcomers, I haven’t been reviewing Yugioh Zexal mostly because there is no way I could have fairly represented it. Most of my comments would have been along the lines of, “Card games are dumb, I don’t get this series.” It doesn’t help that I haven’t been reading it from the beginning, and really the only way I could have is if I’d either bought the digital volumes or pirated the series. Neither of which I feel inclined to do for the latest incarnation of a series I haven’t followed since season two of the anime.
And for this week’s question, would you like me to spend more time discussing the specific events of the chapters, which would include spoilers, or do you prefer my relatively spoiler free format that focuses entirely on discussion? My theory is that anyone reading this has either read the chapters and wants another opinion, or they’re deciding whether to read it and won’t appreciate spoilers. Let me know in the comments which you think would work better.
If you want to hear more, check out the Manga^3 Podcast Archives. Or go directly to the last week’s episode, Episode 052 – June 17, 2013 – The Top Five Sexiest Manga Characters | Fairy Tail Vol. 7.