katmic (Level 10)

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Wednesdays and Thursdays used to be all about Naruto, One Piece and Bleach; now that Naruto is gone, maybe Magi can fit into that blank spot, because this manga is simply on fire.

It was more than worth waiting another week to read these chapters back to back; why can’t more manga and manhwa series do stuff like this?

Shocking, entertaining, crazy. That is Magi.

THE CHAPTERS:
Hakuryuu and Judar’s confrontation with Arba turns chaotic as the witch brings her fury down against her son.

MY THOUGHTS:

These are the sorts of series I crave to read; where scrolling down to each new page fills me with deep anticipation regarding what is about to happen next.

These two chapters kept me at the edge of my seat, from panel to panel; and manga rarely does that, where the contents of each new panel are so enticing that simply sweeping your eyes from one side to the other becomes an adventure.

+Gyokuen.
Arba is a monster; that is all there is to it. And she’s as crazy as they come. I am always complaining about Ohtaka Shinobu’s art, but the amount of effort she clearly pours into Gyokuen’s creepy facial expressions is simply inspired. 

The power she displayed in this chapter cemented her as the one true villain of the Magi series, the apex of Al-Tharmen and eventual destroyer of the world, if events continue down their current course.

One needs to question how Hakuryuu and Judar defeated the demented woman. No, scratch that, do we even know that they defeated her?

Because at this point everything we have come to believe about the events that happened at the heart of the Kou empire came from Judar, who could be lying out of his teeth.

The idea that Gyokuen might have attained victory and could be controlling both Magi and King vessel is exciting and would elevate Magi to new heights of greatness.

Not that Magi isn’t epic enough as it is; shonen series today simply do not display the level of madness that Ohtaka managed to elicit from Gyokuen in two chapters. 

Great villains make great manga; and if Judar and Hakuryuu are great villains, then Gyokuen is something entirely superior. Next week cannot come fast enough.

I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. And I cannot get enough of Gyokuen; knowing her back story only sweetens the spirit of her current level of madness.

+Hakuryuu
Hakuryuu deserves his own series. The manner in which he continues to prove himself as a decisive ruler and determined seeker of justice for his father and brothers’ deaths places him in a class far apart from Alibaba.

Truth be told, I couldn’t care less about Alibaba.

Where Alibaba, the primary protagonist of the series, has basically spent the last 50 chapters changing loyalties and basing his strategies around who’s leadership he should fall under, Hakuryuu is taking charge, so much so that even those most loyal commanders and generals of Kouen are standing ready to serve him, moved to action by his determination and fervor.

Hakuryuu is everything a primary shonen protagonist should be, and what Alibaba clearly can never be. It is almost tragic, considering how far Alibaba has fallen.

+Judar
That the dark Magi is no longer the irritating little runt whose every action was driven by his need to satisfy his own dark desires is surprising; Judar keeps proving with each new chapter that he is clearly not the person he used to be.

He is a loyal servant and, dare I say friend, of Hakuryuu, willing to follow him to the very end and more than ready to support his goals with his life.

This is what has always set Fate/Zero apart in my eyes, its ability to elicit as much entertainment and intrigue from the villains as it did from its heroes, so much so that picking a side to support became a difficult endeavor.

As things stand today, I would be hard pressed to choose Aladdin and Alibaba over Judar and Hakuryuu, even considering the journey we have enjoyed with Aladdin and Alibaba over the last 200 chapters. 

Chapters 247 and 248 were largely battle oriented, and yet covered so much ground, providing a ton of character development even while showing off the true extent of Gyokuen’s magic.

RATING: 10/10, from Arba nearly tearing the palace apart with her magic to Hakuryuu introducing his fists to her face repeatedly in a most brutal manner, these chapters were among the best the series has produced all year.

That scene between Arba and Hakuryuu was…odd. I thought they were related.
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Chapters like this provide fair insight into the difficulties of writing manga on a weekly basis; with barely 20 pages to work with, there is an art to providing material on a weekly basis that is not only entertaining but which progresses the story.

Which somewhat explains One Piece’s relatively slow pace; there is no easy means of moving so many pieces at a go within so little space. A factor that Noblesse has proven, considering the relatively slow pace it adopted in arriving to this point.
THE CHAPTER:
Grui and Gaitan begin closing in on their target.

MY THOUGHTS:

The battle between Muzaka and his pursuers is inevitable; and chances are the writers of Noblesse intend to use that time to show us just how powerful the werewolf lord is.

And if Cromble is involved, then the chances are high that he will be spotting a few impressive upgrades, enough to make him a worth while threat to Rai.

That being said I am curious to see how Rael’s fight with the pair of hunters will unfold; the fact that they aren’t werewolves in the strictest sense suggest that we might be in for a few surprises.

The only way this arc can receive new life is if the next few chapters are explosive with action; either that or the story progresses in a previously unforeseen manner.

Because Noblesse really needs the boost, having sacrificed its edge in trying to move so many pieces into place at the same time.

For the first time in a long time, RK4 might play a bigger role than simply keeping the enemies at bay till Rai arrives; the Manhwa cannot afford to keep repeating the previous pattern.

There is only so much fighting and pathetic losing that the group can do before we finally begin expecting some meaningful deaths.

RATING: 6/10, Rael, as with most nobles, looks like he’s finally coming around to liking the humans.
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Nanatsu no Taizai remains in a state of uncertainty at the moment; in that it is difficult to determine exactly where this arc might be going.

With the threat of Hendricksen all but vanquished it would be nice if the manga gave a nod towards where it might be heading next.

THE CHAPTERS:
King is rejected by the Fairies. Ban is elevated to King. Trouble brews in the Kingdom.

MY THOUGHTS:

The mangaka acted appropriately by not dragging out the events of of the Fairy King’s Forest. Considering all that happened centuries ago, the idea that King’s own subjects would reject him makes sense.

But the ease with which they elevated Ban to the role of Fairy King was a little odd, this despite the fact that he seemingly revived the forest.

That being said, I wasn’t looking forward to the Ban VS. king Battle that was being hinted at, upon Ban’s elevation to the position of King. Something about the fight would have felt forced.

More importantly one would think that more would be required to acquire the position of Fairy King than a mere democratic agreement; after all King has Chestiefol, the representation of the so called Great Tree (Or is it Elder tree?). And his battle against Helbram proved the role the power of the tree played in bestowing Kingship to a fairy.

And the fact that the tree indeed chose King once more despite his past actions more or less cemented his role as fairy king; which reduces the events of these two chapters to little more than unnecessary drama.

Well, maybe not quite unnecessary, not with the miniscule amounts of character development the chapters provided; however as far as progressing the plot is concerned, not much happened in these two chapters that is worth considering, outside of Helbram’s return and the message he might have for his friend regarding Hendricksen’s defeat.

RATING: 6/10, Hawk continues to amuse, as always, sort of like Happy from Fairy Tail and Chopper from One Piece Combined.
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As has been repeatedly mentioned before, originality and complexity isn’t necessary in the production of great manga and anime. One need only spare a moment to consider Gurren laggan, an anime that was as basic and uncomplicated as they come, but which managed to entertain immensely. So much so that most people would consider the series to be one of the greatest anime ever made.

Entertainment; that is all an anime and manga series needs to do to accomplish its goal, entertain. 
Which is what Owari no Seraph purposes to do and partially achieves.

THE PLOT:
One day, a mysterious virus appeared on Earth which killed every infected human over the age of 13. At the same time, vampires emerged from the world's dark recesses and enslaved mankind.

Enter Hyakuya Yuuichirou, a young boy, who along with the rest of the children from his orphanage, are treated as livestock by the vampires.

Even in captivity, Yuuichirou dreams big. He dreams of killing vampires. He dreams of killing them all.
MY REVIEW:

It feels like an age since I last encountered a vampire story, both in anime and manga; and by vampire stories, I am talking about real vampires, that slink away from the sun and drink blood, not the red eyed fantastical/superhuman creatures present in many manga.

That isn’t to say that the typical vampire is scarce or anything in manga; in fact vampires are pretty common in manga, the problem being that the majority of them are shoujo. And even when dealing with shonen, most vampire manga have a tendency to promote the romance and shoujo elements over any action oriented plots or scares.

Considering the relative youth of Owari no Seraph, it is difficult to determine the exact nature of the vampire story it intends to tell, at least at the moment.

+What Worked?
Owari is shonen at its core; and it manages to entertain even with a paper thin plot. The action elements are abundant and the characters interesting enough for their interactions and plots to prove entertaining. 

Hyakuya and group aren’t going to win any ‘character of the year’ awards anytime soon, but the story structure none the less provides enough meat to compel you to care about their growth and future development, though not so much about where they came from.

And the villains? Decently vile. Nefarious and violent, uncompromising and unmerciful against their human prey, basically pretty easy to hate while maintaining that famous pretty boy vampire beauty and glow.

If Bleach is your cup of tea, with its unique weaponry and powerups, then Owari no Seraph will more than quench your thirst, with the demon weapons of the characters providing a wide range of abilities complimenting the fast paced and fairly interesting battles.

The core of the manga lies with its underlying mystery, specifically the origins of the current apocalyptic events, this including the virus that pushed the global population to near extinction and the origins of the supernatural creatures that call themselves vampires, as well as their demonic kin.

Only subtly touched upon are the family dynamics that drive Japan’s counter attack against their demonic enemies and the mysterious, and somewhat sinister intentions, of one of its greatest heroes, Ichinose Guren.

+WHAT (SORT OF) DIDN’T WORK?
I have said it before and I will say it again; you do not need an original concept to create a thrilling and entertaining manga; numerous manga today can get away with re-using clichéd concepts and plots, their successes coming from the author’s ability to weave a fresh story within the cliché, plots that almost present with a new nature despite making use of common tropes.

Unfortunately for Owari no Seraph, it completely fails in this regard; well, not completely. The initial plot, the deadly virus and the emergence of the vampire horde, could be described as being relatively unique.

That being said Owari no Seraph fails in the actual execution of its story. It is one thing to take inspiration from pre-existing manga. The Majority of Owari no Seraph’s story execution pretty much mirrors the thousands of anime and manga that came before, many of the chapters imitating story elements almost panel for panel and page for page.

Simply put, it can get irritating, especially when it seems like the mangaka is injecting almost no effort into separating his story from the masses that have come before, to the extent where I kept skipping whole pages for the ridiculous lack of originality.

Precluding the primary protagonists’ origins, which were a fairly tragic and entertaining read, the rest of the manga’s 20 or so chapters lack unpredictability.

Yuuichirou is the hero of his story.

So naturally he’s bald, brash, boastful and egotistical, quick to ignore authority and almost always getting his way by flouting the rules. The only thing holding this young, clearly inexperienced, genius back are the several adults that simply cannot comprehend his talent.

He wants to be the strongest, so naturally he gains quick possession of the highest class of demon weapons on his very first try, this despite the heavy risks to stronger, more experienced soldiers.

And his rival? Who else but an even smarter genius, one that stands superior to him in every way, but whom Yuuichirou obviously supersedes because of his main character mojo. Naturally their antagonistic behavior, there obvious dislike for each other supposedly conceals a strong bond between the pair, one that will continue to grow through out the series.

And his female companions? You could call them strong, enough to stand at the center of the plot in the beginning, except that with each passing chapter there relevance is slowly but steadily reduced to one of a romantic nature.

Hanoyori Sayuri mirrors Yuuichirou’s boastful nature, is considerably more brash and even angrier, all mannerisms that are obviously hiding some tragic past; she spends a considerable amount of time assaulting Yuu, both physically and verbally. Why, you might ask? Why else? She can’t suppress her growing feelings towards our hero without her antagonistic behavior, incited by the Yuu’s brash and bold actions in battle, this including that one time he risked his life to save her from a fatal blow-not particularly special an act in light of the fact that Yuu did the same thing for his other comrades.

Shinoa Hiragi is Yuu’s superior officer, and she’s always smiling; the same smile that will draw them closer together, specifically after that one moment he learns to see through it to the sad interior, which will apparently prove something about their relationship. 

Already she stands ready to discard all that she is, even now questioning the intentions of people she has known for most of her life, in favor on remaining by the side of the boy she hasn’t known for more than a few weeks.

And what can you expect from a shonen hero, but a dark uncontrollable side, the berserker kind of power that cannot separate friend from foe and with which Yuu is able to immediately overwhelm initially superior enemies.

If you’ve been reading manga long enough, you can probably guess what it takes to save him from this berserker state. 

Hugs.

Yes, an embrace, and our raging hero is immediately reduced to a remorseful warrior. And that isn’t even a spoiler. It’s basic shonen 101.

Owari doesn’t try to stand apart, it takes the typical shonen formula and runs with it, step by step.

VERDICT:
Hyakuka Mikaela, a somewhat important villain the series, has to be the worst thing in Owari no Seraph so far, with his presence doing more harm than good to the story.

With him in play, the series seems set to initiate some sort of irritating Naruto/Sasuke dynamic, with Yuu playing the role of Naruto in this regard and basically sacrificing all to save his friend, Mikaela, from the darkness.

Dragging out that particular plot is bound to force Owari no Seraph down less interesting and even more predictable paths.

None the less one would be hard pressed to argue against the relative quality of the manga, with the lack of an original structure and presence of predictable plots doing little more than making certain that Owari no Seraph will not be making any one’s “ Top 30” manga list.

With lengthy chapters (over 40 pages), great art and some decent demon/human/vampire action, Owari no Seraph is anything but boring. Nothing mind blowing but a passable casual read.

RATING: 6/10
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Whoa, I don’t know if there is a weekly manga quite like Magi. Seriously, reading these chapters reminded me a lot of One piece and Oda’s careful plotting, that seems to encompass a wide array of plot lines and characters.

Except that Magi proceeds at a far more rapid pace and gets so much more done within a single chapter than One Piece; in that regard one might call Magi the perfect One Piece/ Naruto blend.

THE CHAPTERS:
Judar and Hakuryuu launch their assault against Gyokuen and the capital of the empire.

MY THOUGHTS:
It is indeed a superior manga that can create villains whose perspectives are as interesting, if not more so, to follow as the protagonists; normally these last five chapters would have provided the perfect opportunity for me to grumble about how slow the series was progressing and the mangaka’s determination to keep us away from our heroes after months spent in Alma Toran.

Yet the rise of Hakuryuu is proving to be so much more intriguing than I would have expected.

+Hakuryuu
Hakuryuu is kind of like Agent Ward from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. As a hero he was kind of wimpy, boring and way too whiny about the bad hand life had dealt him.

As a villain, he’s so much more confident, powerful and showing an immovable determination to succeed no matter the consequences; it is the fact that he has knowingly chosen his dark path that sets him apart from so many typically misinformed and misguided shonen villains.

Watching as he refused to succumb to the soothing power of Kouen’s phenex, instead shrugging off the hell his brother had thrust upon him in his attempt to protect Gyokuen, and marching into the capital despite the overwhelming odds was, well, very impressive.

And that isn’t even taking into account the level of intelligence he displayed in seemingly debilitating Al-Tharmen and building his force from nothing up to a few hundred men in mere days.

All in all, the only way Hakuryuu can lose his bad ass status is if Alibaba talks him down; which will not happen, not with the level of determination he has displayed.

+JUDAR
I don’t think we have ever seen Judar so bloody happy; he smiles, and not in that disturbing and nefarious manner. The dark magi seems to genuinely have thrown his lot in with Hakuryuu, loyalty and all. And clearly he enjoys the company of the young prince, with the interactions between the two no different from what we have seen between Aladdin and Alibaba.

There can be no end to the power he will have amassed by the time he makes his move against Sinbad, considering the fact that he is receiving direct tutelage from Margomett himself, the most powerful repository of magical knowledge in the realm.

+KOUEN
Chapter 246 further blurred the line between Kouen and Sinbad; it wasn’t as much about Kouen torturing his brother to protect Gyokuen but how far he was willing to go to prevent civil war and the manner in which Hakuryuu present his brother’s actions.

Both Sinbad and Kouen and megalomaniacs determined to mold the world with their ideals, and using whatever means possible to achieve their goals.

To an extent Sinbad comes out ahead, because Kouen is willing to work with Al-Tharmen to bring piece to the world…which is exactly what Hakuryuu ends up doing at the end of his battle with Gyokuen, now that I think about. He chooses to use Al-Tharmen’s power to achieve his revenge, which makes one wonder if Hakuryuu isn’t simply following in his brother’s footsteps.

  Magi is doing a great job of creating a three way conflict between some really impressive anti heroes. To an extent Aladdin and Alibaba are coming off as considerably less interesting characters.

RATING: 7/10, Magi is really raving up the excitement with this upcoming battle with Gyokuen, though I honestly can’t wait to be done with the entire flash back so we can see what Hakuryuu does next.

He’s a bit of a wild card these day.
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