katmic (Level 10)

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This chapter reminded me of the good old days of Bleach, before Aizen got tiresome, back when he was still the enigmatic villain the exact nature of whose goals and interests were shrouded in mystery.

All you needed to know about Aizen back then was that he wasn’t completely evil, merely focused upon achieving his goal. A better example might be Fate/Zero, where the exact nature of every conflict chose to ignore the good vs. evil cliché, instead presenting an amoral cast driven by there own personal interests.

My point, Magi is doing everything right in presenting the perfect villain for the series’ heroes.

THE CHAPTERS:
Judar and Hakuryuu embark upon the journey to kill Gyokuen.

MY THOUGHTS:

So we are most definitely in the past; this has to be a flashback of sorts, showing us the events that took place while Aladdin and group partook in their summit; I guess it makes sense, showing us exactly what happened and how Hakuryuu gained the power the defeat his mother rather than allowing speculation to thrive.

+The Good
I wrote a Blog Post a short while ago, giving my take on what it took to create a great villain; and I explained my disinterest in the complex villains of today, the excess of whiny child like antagonists with what had become cliché sad back stories, most of which where intended to attract sympathy to characters that were completely undeserving of pity.

Basically I lamented about the lack of true villains in the anime and manga, those bad guys that were truly bad, and who could truly pose a threat without the risk of them breaking down at the end of the arc; except that Magi, in these two chapters, showed that it is actually possible to create dark villains that are as sympathetic as they are threatening and engaging. 

Hakuryuu and Judar combine two facets of the common villain, coming off as both tragic and sympathetic even while operating in a dark persona driven only by evil.

Having fallen into depravity, Hakuryuu falls into the category of villains that are more or less evil for the sake of being evil.

Because, with a mind driven by dark rukh, Hakuryuu is now acting on instinct, and will commit evil with no remorse or thought, no different from the typical mindlessly evil villain.

Except this is a path that Hakuryuu chose to follow, having counted the cost, realized what he would lose by falling into depravity and choosing to take the plunge.

And that is what makes Hakuryuu and Judar better  than almost any other pair of villains in shonen; they are aware. They are not driven by an uncontrollable lust for blood or vengeance. There are no dark forces deceiving them into following their dark path, or at least there weren’t.

There is a cleverness in the manga’s choice of Djinn in this situation, with Belial allowing both young men an opportunity to fully scrutinize their souls, during which they saw the dark path before them, understood what it offered, admitted that the path of light indeed offered true hope and peace, and still chose to sink into the shadows of their dreams.

They will destroy the world not because they are misguided or unknowing; rather they understand the big picture, better than even Aladdin, and yet they choose to continue in their depravity. These are the sorts of villains I like, the type that are not likely to get talked off the ledge by the heroes when the final battle comes.

+The Bad.
This isn’t bad per say, merely a less flattering consideration, at least with regards to Alibaba; as the primary protagonist of the series, Alibaba is quickly becoming irrelevant and obsolete, far too quick and willing to follow anyone that will promise to save his friends and his home rather than taking any actual definitive action.

And considering the fact that Hakuryuu ranked far below Alibaba as far as interesting characters go in the past, he has come a long way in the time it has taken Alibaba to shift alliances haphazardly.

But maybe that is simply great story telling on the mangaka’s part, showing Alibaba’s failures before finally allowing him to rise.

+RATING: 8/10, both of these chapters were great and provided some insight into the minds of Hakuryuu and Judar, especially the hate they carry and unwillingness to forgive Al-tharmen for the role the group played in creating their miserable lives.

It makes you wonder whether Judar spent so much time pursuing Sinbad because he was simply lonely and wished to share his depravity with someone; because now that he has his king vessel, he no longer shows any interest in Sinbad.

I can’t figure out how Aladdin and his group are going to figure into the coming conflict; as a dark king vessel, Hakuryuu’s only interest is still destroying Al-Tharmen and all they stand for. Which means that the big villains of the story are about to fight. Not a very bad thing for the rest of the world.
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Episode 4 of Nanatsu No Taizai was all about Ban; the Diana stuff was cool, specifically getting to learn about her relationship with Meliodas, but the antagonists were lame. And then Ban appeared and stole the show at the end, just as the episode came to a close.

THE CHAPTER:
With Hendricksen defeated, the kingdom begins to rebuild.

MY THOUGHTS:

Chapter 100; it’s been quite the journey, or at least it feels like it, when you consider how far the story has come, from Meliodas’ arrival in the first chapter to the subsequent appearance of the rest of the sins and the adventures that followed.

This is quite a milestone in any manga, the one hundredth chapter of the series. And as far as finales go, it wasn’t entirely unimpressive, if only in doing what most series do when they bring their heroes together to look back at their triumphs and losses.

-Hawk
I want to say that I don’t know how to feel about Hawk’s revival; but, truth be told, I don’t think it even matters that much. The impact of Hawk’s death emerged from the fact that Hawk was so unimportant a character that his elevation to sacrificial hero was surprising.

And to that extent, his return from the grave did little more than return him to the same old unimportant role.

That being said, his revival makes no sense whatsoever; the last few panels seem to suggest that Elizabeth is responsible for bringing the tiny pig back to life, the same Elizabeth who declared, mere chapters back, that she didn’t have the power to return what was already dead, merely heal existing life. 

So what happened here? This might be foreshadowing on the manga’s part, possibly regarding Hawk’s role as one of the sins; chances are there is a crucial reason behind his revival, either that or Elizabeth is going to have to pay a price for his revival.

-The Holy knights
It is difficult to believe that the knights would receive redemption so immediately; powerful as Hendricksen was, it is unlikely that he alone drove the Holy war agenda. After a decade of planning, there has to be remnants of his seeds among the holy knights, those that either whole heartedly supported his goals or spent so much time steeped in his madness that they can see no way back.

I doubt this conflict within the kingdom is over, especially taking into account the role the demon clan must have played in Hendricksen’s turn to the dark.

-Elizabeth
I don’t know what to make of Elizabeth; at this point she could play one of many roles in the series. Right now, i am leaning towards Elizabeth becoming some unstoppable evil in the coming chapters.

Which is believable if you take into account her role as the so called Apostle of the Goddess Clan, the same clan whose voices ordered Ban to kill Meliodas; these two primary protagonists are heading towards an interesting collision course.

And Merlin’s back, which makes you wonder if she has left Arthur’s side permanently.

Every few chapters we learn a little bit more about Gowther, just enough to wet our appetites and make us want to know more. This chapter seemed to hint at some kind of close relationship between him and Merlin.

+Thinking on it, no, I don’t think bringing Hawk back was a good idea. It ruined the mood of the chapter, especially following Ban’s speech about how every one he knows eventually leaves him. Then again I have been hearing rumors about Hawk’s ability to reincarnate, something about a side chapter.

I am grateful that the mangaka didn’t resort to nakama power to bring this arc to an end; considering how powerful Hendrickson was, I was momentarily afraid that we might have to go down that route.

RATING: 7/10, basically what you would expect from the end of an arc. Something tells me that this will be the last time we see Elizabeth, at least in any major capacity; those last words spoke of the end of a story.

And that is what happened in this chapter; the story that began in the first chapter, when Elizabeth ventured out to find the sins has come to an end; which means she will soon be parting ways with the group in order to focus on her duties as princess.

Which isn’t a bad thing as it will allow the series to explore new territory.
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I have never had the most positive opinion of Dragon Ball Z. My experience with the series was initially restricted to the first 16 episodes of Vegeta’s invasion of earth, at which point I somewhat lost interest.

Backtracking for no particular reason (that I can remember), I encountered Dragon Ball, Toriyama’s original series, and loved its quirkiness enough to give its sequel another go; I went as far as the Freeza saga before finally calling its quits.

Before today, my thoughts on Dragon ball as a franchise (precluding the original Dragon Ball) pretty much aligned with those of the numerous DBZ haters the internet has been known to produce, most of whom cannot stand its exaggerated tropes.

Again, that was before today, before I actually saw Dragon Ball Kai, a series that just might have transformed my entire outlook on Akira Toriyama’s story, so much so that it somehow compelled me to take a closer look at Fairy Tail.

DRAGON BALL KAI
My first encounter with Dragon Ball Kai began with Gohan and his journey to school upon the back of his nimbus cloud. I knew something was terribly wrong almost immediately.

It wasn’t just the quirkiness of watching Gohan bring justice to the streets in his silly Saiyaman costume but the miraculous and rather casual return of the twice (thrice?) dead Goku and even the manner in which the confrontation with Babiddi and his minions played out.

Basically every thought I had ever had about just how campy, cheesy and cliché’ Dragonball Z could become seemed to manifest in the 17 or so episodes of Dragonball Kai I watched.

And it was awesome; a reaction that my brain couldn’t quite explain and which, even now, I can’t help but presume might have been a fluke on the part of this specific set of episodes.

+THE PLOT:
Fighters from all around the world are summoned to partake in a test of skill and strength in the World Martial Arts Tournament; when an ancient and malevolent evil threatens the world, the strongest among them all will rise to defend their home against the dark machinations of a power hungry sorcerer.

+REVIEW:
I don’t know if that plot description does this series justice, at least as far as the episodes I watched are concerned; because, to an extent, Kai had so much more going for it than that particular synopsis describes, even while doing so little in the same breath.

-The characters
DB Kai’s characters single handedly sold the show to me; I know the series is just DBZ re-mastered but I do not remember enjoying the DBZ cast this much in my original encounter with the universe.

Kai’s cast is energetic and full of life, bringing less depth of story and more fun and excitement. I was especially taken by Trunks and Goten, whose rivalry was an interesting and light hearted take upon the conflict between their fathers.

Mr. Satan was infinitely humorous, not only in his show of cowardice but the various interactions he had with his daughter Videl and her new comrades; and Gohan, I was caught a little off guard by his age, seeing as the last time I saw him, he was off training with Picollo in preparation for Vegeta’s arrival, and doing more crying than actual fighting.

Considering his curret power and age, one does question the decision to bring Goku back to the fold; with the younger cast finally burgeoning and having come into their own, it would have made more sense to bury the past and all its heroes, making way for the new generation (like most shonen tries to do).

And any nostalgia among fans that cannot see a dragonball  universe without Goku could have been easily satiated with Goten, a Goku facsimile if there ever was one and the perfect opportunity to inject the innocence of DragonBall back into the aging series.

None the less I can’t complain, because even Goku’s presence aided rather than harmed this arc.

-The Story
‘What Story?"’ is what I would have said about Dragon Ball in the past, and speaking truthfully that hasn’t changed. That is what my brain is struggling to reconcile about Dragon Ball Kai.

The majority of the elements that this show uses I have spent considerable time complaining about and raging against in various other anime; these tropes, the cheesy execution of plots, the somewhat messy pacing, I should have been screaming (at least internally) at Dragon Ball Kai as I watched it.

And my brain struggled to remind me of how much I hated this sort of story execution in other anime, how many manga had irritated me by telling the exact sort of story that was playing out in Dragon Ball Kai.

And maybe there is a genius element to all this, a secret technique to presenting this material in a way that, rather than infuriate, immensely entertained me. I can’t even compare Kai to the original DBZ because I didn’t watch this arc in the original format.

Which means I cannot quite determine if Dragon Ball Kai actually does something different from original, or if this arc was just as entertaining in the original Dragon Ball Z.

Whatever case, the arc promised a fun filled story told within the setting of explosive battles at a tournament, followed by the arrival of an ancient evil, and it managed to entertain in every way.

The actual battles were engaging and the conversations revealed enough snippets of information to provide an idea of previous story lines and arcs that might prove relevant at the present.

-The action
You cannot talk about Dragon Ball without mentioning the action; and for a series as old as this, it is surprising just how dynamic and not stale the action is.

One of the reasons that tend to attract me to Naruto is the series’ unique collection of action scenes, usually so much more than a punch/kick/punch/kick approach. Probably because their fairly unreliable levels of durability (at least in comparison to One Piece and Bleach), fight scenes in Naruto are typically dynamic primarily because of the caution each character injects into his or her actions on the battlefield.

And in a series where a kunai to the throat can bring even the strongest enemies to their knees, it makes sense that the fights would progress fairly slowly, with each step planned, well thought out and executed with thorough forethought. 

Dragon Ball Kai reminded me of Naruto, not on its pacing but the variations that it infused within each fight scene; for a series this old, I expected several minutes worth of characters blurring about each other, and throwing endless flurries of invisible fists and kicks at each other.

As such it was surprising how almost grounded the fighting was, at least within the tournament setting, the moves varying with the passing of time, making even the long winded battles worth watching.

Again, I cannot tell if this is the effect of Dragon Ball Kai or if the original series actually got his good. Whatever the case, I could watch these aliens beat the daylights out of each other all day.

And did I mention how awesome Trunks and Goten were.

+VERDICT:
Dragon Ball Kai is fun, and it is the fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously that makes this arc work so well. Yes, it is silly to an extent, yet the show chooses to not only accept but utilize that silliness to great effect.

Dragon Ball Kai, or at least his arc, is the sort of show you can watch on a lazy Saturday, where nothing particular piques you interest and you simply wish to immerse yourself in a little bit of light fun.

+RATING: 8/10, I am still in awe. The idea that I could enjoy Dragon Ball Kai this much still baffles me. Again, I am not quite certain if it is this arc in particular that is simply that entertaining, or if the rest of the series maintains this same quality of fun.

Barely halfway through this saga, I cannot rule out the possibility of finding disappointment once I finally push through the rest of the arc, Here’s to hopping that the series maintains this same quality.

And who knows. I just might decide to backtrack and catch up on the entire series, starting from the Frieza finale onwards.

THE FAIRY TAIL COMPARISON
IN the few short years that I have been reading and watching Fairy Tail, it never crossed my mind to juxtapose Fairy Tail against Dragon Ball regarding any of its incarnations; not only because my experience with Dragon Ball was limited, but the two series, well, they don’t really have anything in common outside of basic shonen tropes.

Dragon Ball Kai didn’t change that perspective; what it did was allow me to understand the potential that lay within Fairy Tail’s structure, or rather all it could be.

Don’t get me wrong; while I am not as big a Fairy Tail Fan as I once was, I have reached a place where I can appreciate it, where the story telling decisions made do not infuriate me quite as much.

That being said, I cannot ignore the manga’s many flaws. Simply put, Fairy Tail doesn’t know what it should be, or even wants to be; straying back and forth between light hearted tones and very dark concepts, I have been accused before of failing to appreciate the story for what it is: simplistic, comedic, action packed and Ecci.

And the claim is this: if I could only understand the fact that Fairy Tail wasn’t the dark and heavy series I want it to be, I would enjoy it. 

To an extent that is true, but the fault for any confusion on my part with regards to the sort of manga I am reading falls solely on the shoulders of Hiro Mashima; I take Fairy Tail more seriously than it deserves because that is the tone the story has always presented mostly dark and only breaking out the fun and happy stuff at the end of its arcs.

As I was watching Dragonball Kai I couldn’t help but think of Fairy Tail. Because Kai knows what it is, or should be, and makes optimum use of its assets. People like to make excuses for really bad entertainment; think of all those movies that want us to believe they are terrible on purpose, just so they can qualify for the ‘So bad they are good’ Category.

Dragon Ball Kai isn’t bad per say; but it is campy and very cheesy, the sort of cheesiness that so many tried to convince me was intentional and which I disputed as desperate excuses until today.

Clearly Toriyama knew what he was doing, because Kai spends more time making fun of itself than I thought possible. There is a perfect balance between the dark and light elements. And at no point does the story get so serious that you forget what Dragon Ball is meant to be.

This is what Fairy Tail should be; if its so determined to follow its lighthearted side, then why not stick to it, play the strengths that a story within such a genre affords, the way Kai does its thing.

Kai doesn’t as much narrate its story as it does simply play with the plots, throwing characters about, the result being a surprisingly fun filled experience. At the end of the day Kai makes it so it doesn’t matter how its arcs unfold, how the various battles finish or who wins at the end. 

It is all about the journey. And in that regard it can get away with all the ludicrous power-ups it wishes to invent. Because, at the end of the day, the focus on creating a fun filled experience is never lost.

Fairy Tail is a somewhat dark and action packed shonen series that wants to do lighthearted comedy and ecci; and in that regard it fails, because it creates expectations for plot progressions down the sort of murky paths that never payoff the way they should.

It would benefit from not taking itself too seriously. While it isn’t quite terrible, despite having some terrible moments (Because she’s Erza? Really Hiro?) Fairy Tail could truly come into its own, become a true contender for the top spot if only it was less of an overly emotional series, dark and action packed, yet sort of comedic and silly, and instead truly embraced its light and fun side.
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Episode 3 of Nanatsu no Taizai portends some pretty great stuff for the series; I mean, just look at that animation. While not quite perfect, I can see the series maintaining Hunter X Hunter level consistency, not only in storytelling but artistic quality.

In which case we just might have stumbled upon the perfect replacement for HXH. Diana is exactly the way I expected her to be, down to her uncharacteristically small voice. And Gilthunder is pretty intimidating for a foe.

Knowing what I know now in the manga makes his actions earlier on in the series so much more interesting to watch, especially taking into account what he had to go through to fight Meliodas.

Speaking of Meliodas, his actions in Episode 3 more or less mimicked his solution to Hendricksen in this week’s chapter, which was basically taking the beating of his life in order to achieve some clever goal. The sins are coming together so much faster than I remember. 

It shouldn’t be too long before my favorite sins, King and Ban, finally emerge.

THE CHAPTER:
The end is here; Meliodas makes a final near fatal move to stop his god-like foe.

MY THOUGHTS:

That was anti-climatic; not Meliodas and Hendy. Elizabeth, it’s been a while (three or four chapters) since she last featured in any substantial manner; which normally wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen for a character.

Except I was pretty hyped about her actually doing something to bring Hendricksen down; so, basically, she transforms, acquires some fancy eye tattoos and now she’s content to just sit back and watch Meliodas take all that punishment?

I am not complaining per say, I am still happy that Elizabeth is going to start playing an important role in events; however I wish they had built upon the momentum of her awakening.

-The Nanatsu No Taizai Story
If Deadly Sins wasn’t a mere 99 chapters old I would have already began talking about the end by now. The story began with a kingdom in peril, the seven deadly sins scattered and hunted for a crime they didn’t commit, and the figures responsible for forcing them into this defensive position planning to execute some nefarious plot even as they enjoyed the adorations of the people.

At the present the Seven Deadly Sins have more or less united (save for Merlin). The Kingdom has or will recognize their role as heroes in protecting them from Hendricksen. The rot within the Holy knights order has been all but extinguished, especially with Dreyfus’ demise.

And we now find ourselves facing the root of all evil in the kingdom; Hendricksen, the one who either started it all or chose to continue in perpetrating an evil plot.

Upon his defeat, which should be soon, Deadly Sins will have wrapped up a large chunk of its story; and that makes one wonder: What’s next?

-The Future
With the deadly sins story all but explored, it might be time to take a step back and delve deeper into the lives of each sin. We have met the fairies, or at least learnt enough about them to have met their kind. We now understand how King ended up on Meliodas’ team.

The focus should then logically turn to the giantess Diana; where did she come from? What happened to her people, and what circumstances brought her to Meliodas?

And then there is Ban’s crazy immortality and whatever secrets Merlin is keeping about the day she helped Hendricksen and Dreyfus frame the Sins. We haven’t even began to scratch the surface of the mystery that is Gowther. Who is he? Better yet what is he? And can he even die?

We learnt a while back that, before coming to the kingdom, Meliodas served under another king and protected a different land. Then things went very wrong. That is a story I can’t wait to delve into.

  Nanatsu no Taizai is far from over. I don’t think we have even began to explore the world of this manga. At the very least, Deadly Sins should last another 100 chapters.

RATING: 6/10, awesome fight.
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These 25 pages flew by so fast, and it wasn’t because I found the material to be all that engaging. In fact it was the opposite. Chapter 342 didn’t strive to do anything new. And if this is the author’s attempt at taking things easy and showing a gradual development in character and abilities, he or she needs to stop.

THE CHAPTER:
Everyone wants to get stronger. Rai reminisces about Muzaka’s last words.

MY THOUGHTS:
Oh who am I kidding, this chapter wasn’t slow. It was boring. No, it was slow and boring, not really worth waiting for over 7 days. The problems that appeared two chapters ago seemed to re-emerge worse than ever this week.

+The Good
There was nothing great or even marginally entertaining about chapter 342. Even the art couldn’t sell me this stale and repetitive material. This being the first manga series and chapter I read in a given week, if Noblesse is portending what is to be expected of upcoming chapters in the next few days I might as well prepare myself for some disappointment.

Okay, fine, M21 looked pretty decent in his new form; you can never fault Noblesse for its art.

+The Bad
Everything. This chapter took 4 pages worth of material and dragged it out over 25 pages; it got quickly irritating watching many of the characters in this chapter basically go round and round in their arguments, repeating themselves over and over again without saying much.

Maybe it is simply the lack of elegance of Manhwa that shined through Noblesse, that tendency by most Manhwa to basically butcher the structure of their dialogue; because Regis’ conversation with Gejutel lasted way too long, and neither noble was actually saying anything new.

And then there was all that panel time wasted on internal dialogue and conversations and wishes about getting stronger. I know this is shonen, but I get irritated when series such as this repeat themes and ideas we have encountered several times before.

Seriously, this chapter didn’t do anything.

RATING: 3/10, I didn’t think it possible, that I would encounter a Noblesse chapter so devoid of excitement and intrigue that it would bore me; Noblesse chapter 342 actually bored me.
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