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Wow, that escalated quickly. We’ve had a few surprising changes in the plot during Nanatsu no Taizai's one hundred chapter run, yet chapter 112 produced what might be the first true twist in the manga, at least character wise.

+THE CHAPTER:
Gowther’s search for love throws him into conflict with Diane.
+MY THOUGHTS:

Yeah, No, I really didn’t see that coming.

This entire chapter was a thrilling read. Why? Well, because I expected this ruse to run on for a little longer.

Most of us probably suspected that Gowther was messing with Guila’s memories, but I didn’t think anyone would find out so quickly. 

More importantly, I didn’t think Gowther would reveal the truth so easily and casually.

No, even more importantly, I didn’t think Gowther would actually do this, twist Guila and Zeal’s memories for his own somewhat warped purposes.

I was expecting one of those major shonen manga moments where Gowther would reveal his master plan to unravel Dreyfus’ treachery, or maybe mention something about being mind controlled.

I don’t know; but Gowther went full blown psycho faster than I was computing these events; then he was facing a furious Diane who, having only recently recovered her memories of King, couldn’t stomach the idea of Gowther twisting the memories of others against their will, no matter how desperate and miserable they might have been, instantly turning her rage against her comrade.

And you might wonder if Diane can actually go all out against a fellow Sin. But I don’t think that is even a valid question.

If this was King we were talking about, Meliodas, Elizabeth, Hawk, Ban even, we might see some internal conflict rising within her during this battle.

Yet I don’t think we have seen anything to suggest that Diane and Gowther where particularly close; heck, none of them knew what he looked like beneath his armor. Which sort of throws out the question of how far Diane is willing to go.

And am thinking she’s going to have to let loose; to an extent, I am almost scared for her life. Remember, we don’t really know what the hell Gowther is, or what he’s made of. And considering the damage he’s sustained and survived, and the psychotic nature of his personality, Gowther might be laying the foundations for his death in the next few chapters.

He doesn’t even need to kill Diane; he just has to put her out of commission in some way, maybe break a leg or two before immediately fleeing, because King would murder him.


RATING: 9/10. A week or two ago, this manga was buzzing with excitement about the newly awakened demons. And now Gowther’s stolen the show.
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The attraction of this tournament arc is the effort the mangaka is actually placing into making the various challenges and races fun; which rarely happens in shonen manga, where the majority of tournament arcs come down to simplistic one on one battles between various opponents.

+THE CHAPTERS
Midoriya finds himself at the center of a row between Todoroki and Bakugou as both heroes in training turn their vengeance eyes towards All Might’s Heir.

As the second challenge approaches, alliances a made and lines are drawn in the sand.

+MY THOUGHTS
My initial presumption was that this arc would act as a base from which future events, arcs and villains would emerge, which is what happens in  every shonen battle manga tournament arc.

Innocuous as events might seem, there is always something going on the background, some nefarious plan waiting to emerge from beneath at some crucial point during the tournament.

But I don’t know if we  need to worry about that with Boku no Hero ; it isn’t simply because the mangaka is placing some effort into turning the challenges into truly entertaining events.

There is a fair amount of character development emerging, specifically with regards to the different members of class 1-A, the development of their quirks and the relationships between them, which have either cracked under the strain or grown stronger.

Beneath all the explosions, one cannot ignore the world building that is happening, specifically with introduction of the Hero support department (men and women that basically create the gadgets and suits which heroes use), the mechanics of selling one’s brand, the role of side kicks and so on and so forth.

Granted, all that the mangaka has done is to give a mention to some of these aspects of his world; and whether the Boku no Hero universe can finally come together into a comprehensive thing will depend on his ability to further develop all these aspects.

-Midoriya
I am really liking the central protagonist of the Boku no hero story; besides turning his ability into a liability and hence creating some stakes in each battle, there is something to be said about the current approach of having Midoriya basically make headway through the tournament without having to rely on this powers.

It makes for a better story, with a hero that might be the strongest of them all but who has to rely on his wits because of the backlash of his quirk; the popularity he attracts as a result is also believable, even in light of the numerous powerful names that surround him.

-Hatsumi Mei
This girl has the makings of a great character; and that has nothing to do with any actions she took in her first two chapters. As a member of the support department, whose only goal is to sell her gadgets to the highest bidder, she opens up a lot of plots that the story could pursue, and this isn’t even taking into account her enthusiastic personality.

-Team Midoriya
This really felt like it was a thing a few chapters back, like Midoriya was finally gravitating towards a small group of people around whom his future would be based; that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore as everyone of Midoriya’s friends begins to display an interest in succeeding on their own, outside of his shadow and, hence, his team.

Except for Uraraka, who’s probably the only hero in training that is actually there to make friends; she is a fun little character, though.

-Todoroki and Bakugou
The reason Boku no Hero is working so well at the moment is the effort its placing into developing numerous power houses at once, many of whom have no other interest but to overcome one another.

Which in a way removes Midoriya from the central role as that one essential character that holds everything together, even while making his trials so much more difficult, what with so many powerful foes turning their gaze upon him.

RATING: 7/10, here’s the thing about Boku no Hero. It is a really fun read, and it doesn’t require complex story telling, great art or amazing action to actually entertain.

Hero of the Week: Midoriya, there is no getting over how he ultimately overcame his restrictions in the final race, especially when facing Bakugou and Todoroki.

Loser of the Week: Kirishima; he’s way too obsessed with Bakugou as his only ticket to victory.
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If the recent interview with Nakaba Suzuki is to be believed, then Nanatsu no Taizai has only completed about one third of its journey.

The gist of the interview was that, when developing his story, Suzuki, author of the Nanatsu no Taizai manga, had a total of three major arcs in mind, of which the first, The Holy Knights Arc, ended with chapter 100.

Which sort puts things into perspective, that everything we have read in the past 100 chapters, every single mini arc was purposed towards setting up the villainy of the Holly Knights with the aim of culminating in an all out battle in the capital.

IN that regard chapter 101 essentially marked the beginning of the manga’s second arc, essentially titled The Demon Clan arc by Suzuki; and if the mangaka chooses to follow the route of previous trends and this second major arc completes its run over a hundred chapters, then we can safely predict that chapter 300 will mark the finale of the Nanatsu no Taizai manga series.

Though Suzuki didn’t rule out pursuing one or two additional stories, depending on how his three arcs are received.

+Chapter 111- A Man’s Say
Set up chapters rarely entertain and that is because they are typically focused on setting up the pieces that will eventually become the meat of the story.

Chapter 111 was actually pretty entertaining as another set up chapter, mostly because it actually sought to execute some decent character development, some of which was more disturbing than expected.

+Ban and Jericho
It is difficult to decipher where Ban’s head is right now, and what his intentions might be; because, for all this talk of raising Elaine, we still have no idea how he intends to do it.

He left the Deadly Sins, which means he has no intention of taking the easy way out and killing Meliodas to achieve his goals; there is a reason Suzuki chose to approach his second arc in such a manner, basically casting Ban away from his comrades and sticking Jericho alongside him.

This has to be more than a play at a romance oriented story line; Ban’s story in 2015 is a mystery I cannot wait to decipher.

I was actually surprised at how well he took Jericho’s comments about Elaine; I expected a more explosive reaction.

+King and Diane
Pairings do not interest me, yet King and Diane’s relationship is somewhat intriguing to follow; and something tells me Suzuki is pushing these two towards some tragic circumstances.

Chapter 111 succeeded in doing what so many manga series pace so terribly. Where other series tend to draw this particular situation out, Suzuki chose to immediately put Diane and King on the same page, this eliminating numerous chapters and panels in the future wasted on plots that would drag as a result of misunderstandings and miscommunication.

+Merlin
Merlin is coming off as the unofficial father or mother figure of the crew, the way everyone runs to her to solve even their most basic problems; and I am not just talking about the way Diane was crying to Merlin about bringing King back.

More importantly, she reciprocates this perception of her, rarely dismissive of her friend’s problems and seemingly always ready to offer a solution to any and all ailments. This is drastically contrasting to the cold calculating woman that was referenced in earlier chapters of The Seven Deadly Sins, specifically with regards to her role in the banishment and imprisonment of the Deadly Sins.

+Gowther
I don’t want to say that Gowther is evil, but there is a disturbing aura about him; who is he exactly?

We know he is neither a demon nor a fairy (Meliodas and King would know). And it is highly unlikely that he is of the goddess clan, yet we know that he isn’t human.

Merlin offers him the solution to reacquiring his fabled armor and he seemingly and secretly rejects her assistance; and how can we not cast some doubt over his relationship with Guila?

What are the chances that he’s brainwashing her with his arrows of light? The man doesn’t understand emotions, as we were reminded in the most recent episode of Nanatsu no Taizai. So it is unlikely that he sought Guila.

And even if he did, then…I don’t know what to think of Gowther, besides the fact that he’s up to no good.

+The Ten Commandments
So we have a name for them, the hand selected disciples of the Demon King, and clearly Meliodas’ worst nightmare.

I don’t think any of us needs to take a guess at what exactly Meliodas lost, and what he is seeking to take back with Merlin’s help. If he’s preparing for battle then he needs his sacred treasure.

This new arc hasn’t quite picked up pace, but I don’t think I mind it taking its time.
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2014 was somewhat tame in terms of anime; sure, there were some decent releases, but nothing really exploded on screen like in previous years.

That isn't a bad thing, but sometimes, as an otaku, it is nice to have that one anime which is so thrilling to watch that you cannot wait to devour every last episode in your possession.

Manga never disappoints; every new year has a star or two that shines above the rest, whether new or old. And in 2014 the Big Three were fairly popular talking points for different reasons- Naruto for its finale and Bleach for what some people viewed as a leap in quality, others as a continued slump in this final arc.

The One Piece conversation however didn't change much, with the same old issue arising no matter the forum you frequent: the decline of One Piece.

For most One Piece fans, discussions of One Piece declining are just bitterness and jealousy manifesting from manga fans that simply cannot help but whine about the popularity of a manga they cannot stand in light of poorer performances from their own favorite titles.

Yet, being a mild One Piece fan myself, I don’t think this issue should be dismissed so casually, especially in light of recent sales figures.

And I have chosen to use Naruto and Attack on Titan to answer this question.

So, Is One Piece Declining in Popularity?

Well, a better question is:

+DOES IT MATTER?
Whether or not we are willing to admit it, the simple answer is: yes. It is a naturally reaction of the typical individual; if you like something, you want everyone else to like it just as much, or at least so much more than what someone else likes and which you aren’t very keen on.

Practically it doesn’t matter; if One Piece suddenly dropped to the bottom of the sales list in 2015, I highly doubt that would compel any fan of the Manga to actually drop One Piece, not unless the only reason they read it was to keep up with popular trends in the industry.

Technically, people do care how well their favorite series are doing.

And that leads back to the primary question of this post: Is One Piece Declining in Popularity? Has this emperor of Manga began to witness its last days at the top?

The simple answer is YES and NO, and I will argue these two points briefly by contrasting One Piece against Naruto and SNK.

+ONE PIECE VS ATTACK ON TITAN
Let’s look at this practically; has One Piece began its decline? Take away all the bias and all the figures seem to be pointing towards a resounding YES.

Think about this; all the hullabaloo revolving around 2014’s Top 30 Manga List seemed to emanate from the fact that One Piece had somehow come out ahead and continued to reign even over Attack on Titan as the biggest manga in the world.

But let’s be realistic here; One Piece might have sold more copies in 2014 than any other manga but it isn’t reigning over Attack on Titan, not when both of them sold approximately 11 Million copies.

The 200,000 copies that One Piece sold more than AOT allowed the manga to maintain its top position, but One Piece hardly destroyed the competition.

In which case you could argue that both titles tied in the top place, more or less, right? Well, not quite.

An interesting point to note; Attack on Titan sold 13 Million copies in 2013, which means a drop of 2 Million between those two years.

A damning decline, right? Not really, not in comparison to One Piece which sold roughly 18 Million copies in 2013.Yes, 18 Million, that is a drop of 7 Million copies in sales. Yes, 7 BLOODY MILLION copies.

You might be wondering why this topic, all this talk about One Piece finally falling, will not die.

Well, no one would be talking about it if both AOT and One Piece were only separated by 200,000 copies but still managed to squeeze out 20 Million copies each; even 15 million copies would have been an acceptable drop.

7 MILLION! Say what you want about the fickle nature of otaku, you cannot ignore that drop in figures.

So, YES, One Piece is most definitely declining in popularity. And this is in comparison to Tokyo Ghoul which leaped forward by a whopping 5 Million copies, skipping from number 23 to 3 on the table.

When it comes to retaining its crown at the top, One Piece should be worried. If we are talking about the real winners of 2014, that would have to be Attack on Titan followed by Tokyo Ghoul and then One Piece.

+ONE PIECE VS. NARUTO
Study Naruto over the last few years and the first thing you notice is the manga rarely falls out of the top five ranked titles of each year; more important however are its figures.

Naruto is one of the more stable series on this list, sometimes hitting 6 Million and even 7 Million but mainly standing around the 5 Million mark. Its position on the list might change but that is largely due to series either rising or falling around it.

Naruto itself rarely undergoes drastic changes.

And why is that? After all, as so many otaku like to phrase it on the internet, Naruto has been ‘Shit’ for a very long time. So who buys the volumes?

Well, it’s simple really.

Kishimoto has, for several years now, been writing specifically for his fans, and those fans like what he’s been creating; it is odd that so many people would raise their voices to complain about the direction Naruto has taken over the last five years, only for Kishimoto to continue along his pre-determined story, with no attempt to make any major alterations (that we know of).

And why would he? For all the complaints, Naruto is still pretty popular; Kishimoto has always known the Naruto story he’s always wanted to tell, and those people that have continued to purchase Naruto over the last four years, they like what Naruto has become.

They are what one would call true Naruto fans; they would have continued to purchase those Naruto volumes had the manga continued for another ten years. And that’s because that so called ‘shit’ is what they like. Kishimoto found his core fan base a few years ago and he hooked them, those few million people that were ready to stick with him till the end.

And how does that apply to One Piece? Naruto is the future that One Piece is eventually going to become.

Consider how One Piece came to reign over the manga industry. How exactly did that explosion of popularity happen? Someone is most likely going to say something about One Piece’s consistently quality story line.

And I would disagree. Here’s why One Piece became the best selling manga in history: Hype.

There was a point in time during the latter stages of the Sabody Archipelago arc when the One Piece hype train first began picking up; that point where One Piece became that hushed whisper no manga reader could avoid.

Then the story hit Impel Down and the Hype train picked up tremendous speed; by the time Marine Ford came around, One Piece was on fire; it was that manga trend you simply had to try your hand at if only to figure out what all the fuss was about.

And that is when a massive portion of new readers made the jump to One Piece; we are talking about otaku who had consistently refused to give Oda’s masterpiece a chance finally giving in, flicking through these massive arcs and becoming immediate converts to a manga that proved to be everything everyone said it would be and more.

You can follow this trend with Attack on Titan, a flea of a manga that became a giant simply because of hype; the difference here, though, is Attack on Titan can actually sustain its hype.

Fans jumped onboard because of the cool action complimented by the shocking gore and unpredictability of the story; and that is what we have been getting from Shingeki no Kyojin for the last few years.

That is what we can expect the manga to keep generating for the foreseeable future; Attack on Titan is here to stay, and who knows what will happen when the second anime season premiers in 2016.

You cannot say the same thing for One Piece; the Marineford crowd came bursting out of One Piece’s greatest arc expecting Oda to not only maintain that pace but possibly even build upon the scope.

What they instead got was a very mediocre fish man island; Punk Hazard picked up the pace but even the few highlights didn’t make the arc anything special, and the current Dressrossa arc might boast some really explosive moments, but it also had some of the slowest chapters in a while.

Observe this trend and a rational pattern emerges; you have a new horde of One Piece fans, largely enamored by three of One Piece’s greatest arcs, exiting the Marionford story, expecting Marioneford2.0 at the other end.

Oda doesn’t deliver in this regard, and they start to slip away one by one.

It might not make sense if you consider the fact that these three arcs, including Fishman Island, where largely decent during their run; why would a few dissatisfying chapters and some slow pacing alienate so many people?

And the answer is simple: it wouldn’t, if they were One Piece fans; except that this isn’t a crowd of One Piece fans that I am talking about, but Marineford fans.

So, the question: Is One Piece declining?

Well, technically, No. Rather the chaff is simply falling away, those persons for whom the highs of One Piece were Marineford and Impel down. It is these buyers for whom the current One Piece has become an unworthy investment. This same crowd is simply waiting for the next big One Piece arc to arrive to jump on board once more.

+CONCLUSION
Let me just say that the One Piece anime hasn't done any favors for the manga; as so many people have suggested, we need to get Madhouse on this project.

One Piece is just at its halfway point; and as it progresses, it is going to fluctuate, with different arcs attracting fans in the millions, while others might alienate an even bigger number.

Eventually it is bound to create that core fan base, for whom One Piece is perfect as it is and who will stick with the show for the next 10 to 20 years.

You cannot really predict where One Piece will eventually stabilize; it might be at 2 Million; it might be at 30 Million. One thing’s for sure.

Nothing lasts forever and no king can remain unchallenged.

One Piece will be dethroned, eventually; and that should be a good thing, because by the time a new manga takes that top spot, it will have proven its worth in terms of quality characters and storytelling, hopefully in a manner that blows One Piece out of the water.

And that can only work in the favor of us manga fans who only want to read great manga stories.
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Episode 13 of Nanatsu no Taizai felt rushed, and it also left a few things from the manga out, tidbits that would have made the story so much better.

I mean, Meliodas’ rampage felt so much more visceral in the manga; and the fact that Helbrum stood his ground in the face of such a demonic onslaught only made things better, as opposed to his absolute defeat in the anime.

An 8/10 episode none the less; though something tells me that this season of Nanatsu no Taizai might be the only one we will ever get; at the current pace, they should wrap up the first 100 chapters by episode 25, which is a shame.  

THE CHAPTERS:
Dreyfus’ plan is complete; demons arise and prepare to unleash holy hell upon Camelot; Elizabeth and Diane reminisce about their feelings for King and Meliodas.

MY THOUGHTS:
A recent review of Nanatsu no Taizai that I came across made a fairly solid defense for Elizabeth that I had never given much consideration.

I mean, it wouldn’t be fair to call Elizabeth a bad character, yet she is none the less irrelevant; granted, the fact that she doesn’t have special combat abilities makes her irrelevance work so much better than someone like Lucy (Fairy Tail).

However this particular reviewer made an important point about Elizabeth’s role in the story so far, specifically the fact that, where it not for her, the Seven Deadly Sins probably wouldn’t have reunited, at least no in time to face the current threat.

Which makes you wonder about her role in the future of the series, now that the Sins have all but found each other, and she doesn’t bring anything of particular use to the team.

-The Seven Deadly Sins
These two chapters seem to suggest that this new saga might be Nanatsu no Taizai’s own Tartaros arc, where the stakes suddenly ratchet up to levels higher than we have ever seen them and the destruction comes to encompass a vast portion of the Deadly Sins world.

Think about it; this might be the very first time that the sins have faced actual danger since the manga began. Nanatsu no Taizai began with a team of protagonists that was already too strong for their story, with the tension in each arc focusing upon handicapping each Sin so much so that their respective foes could pose an actual threat.

At their strongest, there isn’t a villain that has been introduced so far who could defeat the sins in a fair fight; not even against Hendricksen where the Sins fighting at their very best (those pesky weapons are still missing) and even then, when completely unrestrained for the very first time, they managed to satisfactorily school the demon, that is until he began cheating.

These demons, these villains, this is the threat we have been waiting for since the manga begun, with an enemy so strong that we might actually have to worry about the safety of our heroes.

-The Five Races
It is difficult to determine whether the author of Nanatsu no Taizai has the entirety of his story mapped out; if he does (because he could be making this stuff up as he goes), it is interesting to note that the ranks of the Seven Deadly Sins seem to include fighters from all the five major races mentioned by the raised demons.

And one has to wonder if the term ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ is more than a whimsical title created by the king, and whether these seven ladies and gentlemen might not actually exist to play a greater role in the Deadly Sins world, possibly as protectors. 

What are the chances that seven individuals so uniquely skilled and talented as these would come together within the same team, this including a giantess, a demon (possibly) and what might be a goddess. And who knows what Gowther is.

The Nanatsu no Taizai story is starting to come together into something of truly epic proportions.

-The Demon Clan
For once I want someone in manga and anime to cast a resurrection/unsealing spell that works to full effect; it isn’t just Fairy Tail, which promised us a return of dragons during the Daimatou Embou arc, only to restrict the plot to seven fairly tame lizards, that keeps using this plot.

Not that I am complaining about the state of things; this has to be the most threatening set of villains the series has ever created.

However the resurrection of an entire demon clan (and I mean demons in the hundreds and thousands) would have made for more dramatic story telling.

As things stands the whole ‘seven demons VS The Seven Deadly Sins’ seems a little two convenient; sort of like how the fairy tail team only had five or six dragon slayers on hand, so naturally the plot was manipulated so that only five or six dragons would escape from the gate.

-Hauser/Gilthunder/Griamore
I am really hoping that these three get their own arc in the coming months. It is always a joy reading manga that take the time to catapult their side characters into essential roles within the story.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the King’s prophecy was actually referring to Hauser, Gilthunder and Griamore as the three heroes who would stand between Camelot and its demonic enemy, and that one or all of them will strike the final blow.

I am also not ruling out the possibility of one of these three dying.

-Diane/Elizabeth
Romance in shonen manga rarely works for me, and often does little more than distract from the primary story; not so with Nanatsu no Taizai which, I think, is progressing steadily and appropriately when it comes to developing the bonds and connections between its protagonists.

In comparison with a manga like Fairy Tail, whose protagonists continue to stagnate in an indefinite limbo with regards to the specifics of their relationships with female characters like Juvia and Lucy, Nanatsu no Taizai wasted no time in tackling this matter and in a very non-comedic manner, with Elizabeth finally admitting her feelings for Meliodas, feelings that, to an extent, are justifieds.

Strictly speaking though, I would be surprised if Meliodas were to reciprocate Elizabeth’s love, mostly because we have never observed anything romantic in the way he interacts with her. I am yet to be sold on any relationship that might blossom.

And truth be told, if I was to take an interest in these pairings, Diana and King are much more appealing than Meliodas and Elizabeth, especially taking into account the history of their friendship.

-Hawk
I am becoming more convinced with each new chapter that all those bits where Hawk is spoken of as the most powerful of the Sins are less comedic and more predictive. After all why the hell would Ban refer to the little pig as ‘master’.

It would be the sort of twist that would blow my mind.
RATING: 8/10
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