There’s a topic that I feel might need to be addressed, and while I do talk about it on this week’s episode of Manga^3, I think it wouldn’t be out of place to at least take a few lines to talk about it here. As you all know, Weekly Shonen Jump has started publishing chapters simultaneously with Japan. So, some may wonder why exactly scanlation sites seem to have the next set of chapters up just two days after WSJ is published. Some may think that we have been lied to—that in fact we are not actually simultaneous. After having to explain why this is not the case to a friend, I figured I should put this information out there where others can see it.
The fact of the matter is that scanlation sites get their hands on the chapters well before they are actually released in Japan. There is no way for VIZ, or anyone, to publish those chapters you see on the scanlation sites until next Monday because they have not been legally released.
I know the old excuse, “I read scanlations because how else am I going to get these chapters?” And I’m not about to pass a judgement call on whether one should or should not read scanlated manga. In my personal opinion the most important thing is that the creators get paid for their efforts.
Where this excuse stops working is when it morphs into, “I’m paying for WSJ, but those new chapters are right there, nobody will care if I read them now.” That becomes problematic because, well, people will care. Those chapters should not have been released yet. The paying Japanese audience has not even had a chance to read them yet. This goes beyond providing manga that has no other outlet, and goes straight into outright stealing intelectual property before it has been officially released.
I assume most of you would not watch a low quality leak of a movie before it has even hit theaters, so please, do the same for manga, and no matter how tempting it may be to read those scanlated chapters, please wait for the official release wherever such a release is possible. After all, the more success WSJ has in its digital format, the more likely other companies might be to attempt something similar. You want to read Fairy Tail day and date as it is released in Japan? Let the publishers know that you are willing to pay the money for an official digital magazine. And for those series that are being published in WSJ, please show your support by reading them only as they become officially available.
And that took a lot longer than I thought, but it’s an issue that needed to be addressed. There is literally no way for us to get chapters legally faster than they are being published in Japan. So please, have some patience, and enjoy your manga.
Toriko Ch. 219
While I would have preferred to see more of the cooking competition, after this chapter I find myself at least pleasantly resigned to seeing this war play out. The chapter sets up the standard one-on-one fights we’ve come to expect in shounen series, while managing to pull off several excellent scenes. I still question the motives behind this attack. While I can imagine that it’s the easiest place to kidnap cooks since they are all gathered in one place, it does seem like the hardest place to kidnap cooks since they are all gathered in one place and to a man they are all supreme badasses. I doubt this is the final battle, or even the lead in to said final battle, so I expect we can’t do much more than sit back and wait to see what the ultimate goal is here.
One Piece Ch. 696
I sometimes feel bad for how much praise I lather on One Piece. But then I remember that One Piece has done everything it can to deserve said praise. It’s not One Piece‘s fault that the other manga can’t keep up. That being said, while I know this series isn’t for everyone, I still stand by the assertion that even a slow chapter like this, with little to no action, is the crown jewel of WSJ. Anyone who hasn’t put the time into reading this series is doing themselves a serious disfavor.
There are plenty of entertaining moments throughout the chapter, and they are executed in such a way that I even forgive Oda once again for not actually killing off any of the characters he apparently killed during the arc. We get a great pair of scenes for Sanji and for Nami, with Sanji actually reminding us that people wasting food is one of his berserk buttons. And Nami’s scene where she is talking about Tashigi and reminiscing about her own mother is a great character piece in a cast that at times does run the risk of stagnating.
While I do love this series, it does constantly run the risk of Luffy’s crew becoming irrelevant. Especially in recent arcs the focus has been on new characters, rather than developing those that we have become comfortable with. Everything past the Shabaody arc has demonstrated that Oda may be growing tired of using the same cast constantly, as I can easily see him removing the crew from the story as him using a chance to play around with some new characters. I hope this is not the case, and that we get some deeper scenes with the crew, and not just a constant barrage of “Look how powerful they are now”.
See, I can be harsh even with my favorite series. And speaking of harsh…
Naruto Ch. 617
I’ve made no secret that Naruto is not exactly one of my favorite series. And it wasn’t until recently that I found out why this is. A friend and I were discussing overarching plots in manga, and whether it’s better for a series to just have them go on adventures, or if they need an overarching goal even if the resolution of said goal won’t happen for decades.
It was because of this discussion that I finally figured out why I haven’t been nearly as excited about Naruto as I once was. The simple matter of the fact is that when I started reading, Naruto had one goal, namely to become Hokage so that people would accept him. If you strip away the part about becoming Hokage, we are left with the desire for people to accept him. And the best parts of the series were Naruto fighting against the perception that he is a screwup. For me that was the driving force of the narrative.
Unfortunately that goal can’t be stretched out too long without becoming stale. And with the Invasion of Pein arc Naruto finally achieved his goal. He is not yet Hokage, but he has been accepted and admired by his entire village. For me that was the climax I had been waiting for.
And then the series kept going. Granted Naruto still needs to bring Sasuke back, but I neither care about that plot, nor do I think it would have been very out of place had it been addressed and concluded right after the Pein arc. The problem is that Kishimoto introduced many elements that need to be resolved. Without those elements the series could have been completed satisfactorily with the defeat of Pein. Since that point the series has felt like it has been meandering, and most of the events that I have not cared for have happened during the period after said arc. The last time I was really excited about Naruto was just before and during that arc. Since then the series has been lacking a clear goal that I’ve yet to care about, all because what I perceived as the ultimate goal has already been accomplished.
Oh yes, and why was Sakura missing from this chapter? I know a lot of people don’t like her, but I’ve actually liked her character arc through the series. If she’s been completely dropped from the series—and do remember that she used to be the female lead for the series—then I honestly can’t say that Naruto is still the series I once loved. I know a lot of people are enjoying the current arc, and while it is big and epic, it is still missing every single element that I ever loved about the series, leaving it feeling stale beyond belief and not nearly close to something that I would feel comfortable recommending to anyone with similar tastes to mine.
And here I started this part of the column, with the intention of being nicer this week. But I’m afraid that might not be possible until Naruto gives me a reason to start liking it again. And the chances of that are slim considering my complaints for the series.
Nisekoi Ch. 59
In the hands of a good writer, give me single chapter stories any day. And even when Nisekoi branches out into longer stories, there is still plenty for me to enjoy. I thought that when Chitoge realized her feelings for Rakku the series would start to go downhill, since my favorite part of the series was the uncertainty of who Rakku would be with. Even though Chitoge has almost certainly been decided as being the girl he will fall in love with, I still find myself entertained week by week.
Chitoge’s mother is the typical scary mother, but somehow Nisekoi manages to take common tropes in romantic comedies and make them feel fresh. While I do question Chitoge’s father, given how young his wife is, I find myself not thinking about potential squicky relationships by how terrified he is of her. Nisekoi always manages to put me in a good mood.
One Punch Man Ch. 2
I was a bit surprised that this series is going through from chapter one onward rather than skipping to the most recent. And I applaud the editorial staff for making this decision. One of the biggest weaknesses with publishing weekly series is that there is no feasible way to publish everything that has happened since the first chapter to the most recent. But since One Punch Man is a monthly series there is plenty of time to play catch up.
This was the chapter that had the biggest effect on me. If nothing else, the gruesome way in which Saitama dispatches the crustacean monster stands out as being both incredibly nasty and the most effective way to defeat a monster.
While we don’t get anything on Saitama’s training, I love the straightforward approach this manga is taking to telling its story. Rather than wasting time, everything important about his backstory is taken care of in a single chapter.
Bleach Ch. 524
Did anyone else get the image of Kenpachi pinning for Unohana throughout the rest of the series? I can’t help but imagine him thinking, “Please notice me, Senpai” and the image made me enjoy this chapter a lot more than I probably should have.
To be fair, this was a pretty good chapter. Bleach has always lacked a clear overarching goal, so I’ve grown used to the meandering feeling I get from series that don’t have a clear final goal. So it’s best to enjoy each arc on its own, and each chapter on its own. Which is why it’s a shame that not much happens chapter to chapter.
I enjoyed the fight, though I have to question how exactly just fighting is supposed to teach Kenpachi to use two hands. I suppose Unohana needs to beat it into him? Either way, Kenpachi and Unohana have been favorites of mine for a while, and even though I don’t quite like this development from Unohana I have to admit it is the most interesting thing she’s done in the entire manga.
Cross Manage Ch. 18
I think this chapter solidifies the idea that it isn’t about the sport. Cross Manage is entirely a shoujo manga disguised as a shounen manga. And I quite like it for that. Sure I would love to see some hot-blooded shounen sports action, but there’s a place for manga like this. The question is how long that place will remain open.
Hayami manages to be an endearing, entertaining character, despite being the rival love interest. it feels more real that she is perfectly likable, and not an antagonist at all, compared to series where all love rivals are scheming shrews. It certainly makes for a much more entertaining manga.
I like Dragonball Z, I really do. The anime version may be infamous in its execution, but the manga really was something special. I won’t say it’s my favorite of all time, but it’s pretty high up there. That being said, getting a new Toriyama manga, even if it is just a one-shot is special. Unfortunately I can’t say that it was necessarily anything groundbreaking. It was essentially more Toriyama, which works perfectly well for anyone who wanted nothing but to wax nostalgic, but for anyone looking for something as groundbreaking as Dragonball was, chances are this one-shot will come off as a bit of a disappointment.
Its biggest downside is the fact that a lot of Toriyama’s weaknesses shine through. The villain of the story, for example, emphasizes that Toriyama was not exactly one for nuanced villains. He created great characters, but his villains never really got beyond the “I have power so I will mess things up” stage. In such a short format we get that essence distilled so far that it exposes flaws in prior villains Toriyama has written.
Despite that major flaw in the story, I have to say that I would have most definitely read this had it been turned into a series. While ending a one-shot or a failed manga run by saying “there were more adventures but I won’t tell them to you” is a trope I’m not entirely fond of, I have to say that I believe Toriyama would have spun an interesting web out of the premise. On its own it’s more of the same, but it’s overall a good same, so I can’t complain about anything else.