It’s great to read manga series like Beelzebub, the kind that, after a few weeks’ break, can return with such a bang, only portending great things for this year.
Everything we read last year seemed to suggest that the manga had began winding down, and this chapter further cements this possibility, that battle lines are finally being drawn on all sides, humanity is finally waking up to the presence of demons, and demon kind has finally come to a precipice of change.
I am excited to see where this arc and future stories lead; Manga like Fairy tail could really learn a thing or two about how to write an arc that so explosively details the forces of good and evil clashing in violent battle.
The stakes have never been higher.
THE CHAPTER: With Kunieda and Furuichi cornered by the shadows, the pillars of behemoth descend, choosing Furuichi as their contractee, to carry out their will in battle.
Takamiya and Nasu make attempts to prevent Fuju’s advancement in the face of a secret plan to bring his tyrannical intentions to an end.
Oga’s retreat is cut short by Satan’s power.
Beelzebub had a few less than stellar moments in 2013, debilitating the momentum of one of its stronger arcs with some luck lustre material; the finale of the America arc however did more than simply make up for these failures, the manga taking leaps and bounds in its attempts to bring the Oga/Solomon company conflict to a head, the mysterious establishment’s insidious intentions beginning to rise to the surface.
As far as basic battle shonen series go Beelzebub is proving to be one of the stronger series of the year, at least within these first few days of the year, this chapter allowing us a glimpse of just how dire Solomon company’s mistake was in pushing for a result they held no power to control.
I guess what has allowed the last three chapters of Beelzebub to shine, basically the pinnacle of the manga so far, is how far they have gone in showing us Fuji’s power, the lengths to which he’s willing to go to completely dominate Ishiyama.
I will admit to being somewhat surprised, learning that the mysterious fellow controlling the shadows wasn’t Fuji’s disciple but Lord Satan himself, Fuji’s demon. You cannot fully appreciate the impact of this revelation unless you understand the context within which it was made, that the one person Oga and team could have collided with during their retreat was a demon of such reputation as to make Lucifer quake.
-I am beyond ecstatic to find out how this conflict plays out. The stakes really have never been higher. Having watched Takamiya bring Ishiyama’s power to its knees with a few cracked knuckles, there is something about watching him fall to Fuji’s most casual assaults that brings the threat level home, that Nasu, who struck fear in the hearts of those that once threatened Oga’s pseudo rule, would appear so powerless to contend with this force…the last chapter said it accurately, FUJI IS JUST A MONSTER.
-Is this the best arc yet? Even superior to the New Saint Ishiyama arc which had me on tenterhooks? By far. Maybe its just me but i like following shonen series that know how to properly tip the scales against their heroes, creating an enemy that can truly test the protagonists’ mettle, shatter it and start scratching at the scraps at the bottom.
RATING: 5/5, with Oga out of action, probably the best part of the chapter was watching what might be Furuichi’s moment. ‘The one was meant to rule…’ that’s what the pillars said.
Have i mentioned just how epic this arc is turning out to be?
Maybe the title didn’t really make it all that clear but NOBLESSE IS AWESOME. And i know, nothing really life changing happened, not in these two chapters, not in any dramatic fashion, not in terms of any deep philosophical character scarring manner.
No, this is a battle manga and as far as battle manga go, Noblesse stands up their with the best of them, more or less unrivalled at the moment; and i know, some Breaker fans just got irked. But i haven’t read Breaker in a while so i cannot comment.
And since i don’t read Naruto or One piece or SNK (the only rivals i can think of at the moment that, as battle manga, might challenge Noblesse) Noblesse is undoubtedly the best battle manga out there at the moment.
It is only those that haven’t been following this series from the beginning that will fail to get a kick out of this arc (then again maybe i am too quick to pronounce judgement, since i am yet to read this week’s Magi, or even Beelzebub which has been nothing short of amazing these past few weeks).
THE CHAPTERS- quickly wrapped things up with Roctis, whose daughter fled but not before unleashing Muzaka, the ancient werewolf lord, from his tank.
Muzaka unleashed his power against Rai who, assigning Frankenstein the task of protecting the children, continued to defend against the overwhelming strength. The two squared off, Rai revealing to Muzaka that his memories were frozen centuries ago, at the moment of their last battle, Muzaka paying these remarks little heed and continuing his assault against his oldest friend, that is until Rai’s ring broke.
My excitement over Noblesse is such that i am taking extra care to think about what i am going to write in this review, otherwise i might end up ranting on and on for several pages on end.
Looking at both chapters critically, it wouldn’t be wrong in saying that nothing really happened, most events having little impact on the story. Ignes proved herself the greedy little brat she has always been, interested in little more than the soul weapon she had inherited from her father, or so she thinks (boy, will she lose it if Roctis managed to take it to the grave). The kids remained unconscious as usual (the series really needs to find these guys something to do beyond their usual damsel in distress role). Frankenstein was discarded by his master, well, not discarded but simply prevented from doing what he wanted to do most, fight in Rai’s place, who continued to wantonly burn life force.
The werewolves learnt of their master’s presence, revealing to us that they thought him long dead, which was sort of interesting. Then they retreated, leaving Muzaka to battle Rai, the best part of both chapters.
That last panel in chapter 311 had me squirming in excitement to find out what would happen next. The last panel of this chapter 322 had me scratching my hair out in frustration; that is how irritatingly impatient i am to see this battle through to the end.
We now know that Muzaka is Rai’s oldest friend, also a werewolf lord. We still don’t know where the werewolves used to hang out.
It’s possible Muzaka is as old as Rai, possibly a noblesse himself for the werewolf race, which would mean that this battle’s about to take a mind boggling turn. The pair spoke of an unknown object as old, if not older, than them, that they seemingly fought over.
The last memory Muzaka has is his battle with Rai, which makes me ten times more curious about what really happened 820 years ago. We know Rai isn’t walking away from his unharmed, if Frankenstein is to be believed and its Muzaka that put his master into a state that forced to undergo his centuries old sleep.
Yet i cannot wait to see what Rai becomes when fully unleashed. NEXT WEEK’S CHAPTER IS GOING TO BE CRAZY.
Let me make it clear from the get go that i am a Sword art Online fan. In saying that Log Horizon was actually better than SAO, someone accused me of bias, following some comments i made somewhere against the hype for SAO.
But looking at everything i have said everywhere about SAO, i have only ever complained about how the quality of the show dipped after the first part. That doesn’t make the show terrible, merely average.
If i was ranking anime in this genre, SAO would most likely rank as number 1; well maybe number 2 because i thought Btooom! was better. But Btooom isn’t exactly within the same vain as SAO, not when you consider that the characters weren’t actually inserted into a game, but where transported to an island in the real world that mirrored the game.
In that case SAO comes out on top, with Accel world a close second (in some cases superior because it was consistent from beginning to end; which is actually its only failing. It made no attempts to improve in the second half).
Anway, Log Horizon, now the best MMORPG based anime i have watched so far.
By its eleventh expansion pack, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Elder Tale has become a global success, having a following of millions of players. During the release of its twelfth expansion pack: Novasphere Pioneers, thirty thousand Japanese gamers that were logged on at the time of the update suddenly find themselves transported into Eder Tale in the form of their in-game avatars. In the midst of the event, a socially awkward gamer called Shiroe along with his friends Naotsugu and Akatsuki decide to team up to face this new reality.
Looking at both series, it shouldn’t difficult to determine why Log Horizon stands as the superior story.
STORY: LH proceeds as more of a mystery than SAO, because we never actually find out, or have yet to find out why or how the adventures came to enter Elder tale, as opposed to SAO and the straightforward reasoning behind the gamers’ imprisonment.
Most people have expressed irritation over the logic of the villain’s actions, his claim to have forgotten the reasoning behind SAO somehow cheapening its results. I am in the camp that cared little about this particular element, more interested in how crappy the SAO (the actual game) finale played out.
LH allows for a grander adventure to play out, one that allows an actual story to develop beyond the random action packed quests that the SAO story followed.
There is an attempt in LH to create a story that builds the elder tale world, that allows us a glimpse into life as it progresses, with new characters acclimating to new realities, interacting with NPCs and native Elder Tale elements, which are given a life of their own, the result being a lively and grounded world.
SAO felt way too virtual, and less than grounded, each episode following the protagonist traversing from one random location to another, making no attempt to follow a cohesive story. The result of this narrative best impacted SAO’s world building.
WORLD BUILDING: This was sorely missing from SAO, whose sword art Online universe was as virtual as any game would be, unable to convey the logic of a real existence. This is as opposed to LH, which allows its characters to interact with theElder tale world as they would earth, allowing us to watch characters as they build new lives, set down roots that become part and parcel of the entire story.
In other words while the SAO world felt fleeting and brief, LH is as much about Elder tale as it is the people loving in it. We know cities, places, are watching them undergo change via the guiding hand of the adventurers, enjoying the chance to watch new societies come into being. As i said LH is less about random quests and more of home creation.
The fact that Log Horizon adventurers are forced to deal with NPCs carefully, to treaty with them, lest these natives stop giving them quests which then make it impossible to acquire new items adds a deeper dynamic to LH.
CHARACTERS: Have i mentioned how much i dislike she who must now not be named? When SAO decided to exclude all other characters in favour of focusing on Kirito and his lady friend, the series began to dive.
LH cannot be faulted for misusing its characters, as the show is actually less about the primary character (who’s also a professional gamer, one of the best in fact, just like Kirito) and more about the secondary characters struggling to build a life in Elder tale.
SAO is about a bunch of gamers trying to beat the game and escape. Gamers in LH have no idea how they got to Elder tale, have no idea how to escape and can’t even beat the game because it is politics convincing the now life like NPCs to cooperate and offer to them new quests.
Isn’t it obvious just why Log Horizon would prove to be more intriguing story telling, that Shiroe’s goal isn’t to achieve the highest level, acquire the strongest sword, beat the game, but to form a guild, create society, allow organization to thrive in a city running amok, to gather the strongest and bind them through law and create a semblance of government.
Basically LH is about world building; that allows plots to revolve around character development, which the series does so brilliantly, not only following the progress of the more powerful characters and the life changing decisions they are making, but allowing us a glimpse into the lives of less capable gamers, the rookies as they try to discover the new world and rise a few levels higher, not for victory’s sake but because it is the only way to survive..
SAO is about Kirito the wondering warrior. LH has the sense to allow the story to progress with all of its dozen or so core characters in mind, each playing a role in the series’ development. It would be accurate to suggest that Log Horizon has a support cast while Sword Art Online doesn’t, not really.
ACTION: Not much to say about that, clearly SAO thrived on this element, more action packed than LH, the story largely revolving around Kirito’s badassery as the dual sword wielding loner.
LH is decent enough, but its action is driven by the story behind each battle. Watching Tohya assault a cave of monsters was largely about watching this little boy, his sister, Minora and a host of other kids finally face off against their first quest, alone, learning to fend for themselves and watching their amateur abilities and personalities clash terribly. LH knows what works.
Except for one incident, SAO was content to follow Kirito and equally powerful comrades cut down one monster after another. Maybe i just like watching anime that has the will to forget its primary protagonists in favor of weaker seemingly less important individuals, if only for a few episodes.
ART: Both series come out ahead here, similar actually in artistic presentation, both in terms of worlds and magical usage.
ANIMATION: Saying that Log Horizon has decent animation wouldn’t matter, not in the face of SAO’s brilliant animation, crisp, clearly and fluid; admittedly one of its finer points.
MUSIC: Meh! is what i will say for both series. One might give SAO the upper hand, and indeed it had superior scores, yet nothing so mind blowing as to affect its comparison with Log Horizon.
PRIMARY PROTAGONISTS: If i said Shiroe over Kirito, most people would probably throw a fit. Yet i do prefer the strategist Shiroe, calm, controlled, far sighted, over broody, myopic loner Kirito
Verdict: Looking at it carefully, SAO stands above Log Horizon only in the superficial elements which don’t really matter. Log Horizon knows how to tell a great story, the magical and gaming elements merely a tool utilized in developing great characters.
At the end of the day Log Horizon is more of an adventure story than Sword Art Online which is little more than a series of quests punctuated by lots of soapy drama.
RATING: 7/10, this at 12 episodes, who knows how the story will change with the passing of time.
I want to commend Mother keeper for these two chapters; i still don’t know if this is all a problem of translation, but at the very least reading chapters 42 and 43 didn’t give me the sort of migraine i usually get from dealing with Mother keeper.
Despite a few hiccups here and there, both chapters were largely coherent. Putting that aside though we didn’t really get that much content, which actually makes sense if you take into account the fact that both chapters were roughly 15 pages each, quite disappointing.
--Here’s what happened. In the last chapter Torukisu arrived in time to foil Lint’s assault. In the first few pages of chapter 42 Torukisu zips about, avoiding gun fire both from the soldiers and Lint’s robots, that is until a rocket fired by Ricalna nearly puts him down.
Ricalna descends to the battle field, advises Lint to retreat and provide back up to the other fallen Cherub stations, while he, Ricalna, ends Torikisu’s schemes. All that within the first 8 or so pages, at which point the rest of both chapters is wasted on dialogue between Ricalna and Lint, the matter of Ricalna’s trust worthiness proving to be quite a thorn.
Truth be told it wasn’t particularly intriguing material to read, Lint suspecting Ricalna’s involvement in the assault, and then Jim making a nonsensical argument that somehow placed Ricalna in the clear.
We also catch a glimpse of Graham and Ricalna’s sister, preparing to join the assault; somewhat intriguing but largely achieving nothing.
Seriously these chapters accomplished nothing whatsoever, and everything said in both chapters Lint had already put to Ricalna during the graveyard scene a few chapters back. All 42 and 43 did was rehash this conversation, largely wasting limited space.
I will admit to questioning Graham’s motive. At this point the rebel leader is coming of as nothing more than a petty criminal, leading a bunch of self entitled brats unwilling to accept the wealth and health enjoyed by others.
There is that suspicious rocket Sayla noticed being snuck into the city, which makes you wonder if mass murder is really beyond Graham’s conscious.
--The manga needs to pick up speed because these chapters were badly structured and largely unnecessary. Here’s to hoping the Ricalna/Torukisu clash makes up for them, because their first clash was pretty impressive.
RATING: 2/5, at least the art was decent.
A few weeks ago i might have been able to make a pretty strong argument about the central importance of a story to a manga over any aesthetic elements; in other words the art matters little so long as the story and characters are awesome.
Then i tried to read Attack on Titan, just out of curiosity, and dumped it two chapters in. That is how bad this manga is; not average, not passable, but down right terrible. Truth be told if not for the anime, i don’t think 90% of otaku raving about Shingeki no Kyojin would have ever known of its existence.
And unless they intend on proceeding with the series in the anime, i don’t think i will bother following its progress in the manga. That’s how bad it is. Seriously though, why the hell is SNK monthly in the first place; because by the time i am willing to wait four weeks for a manga chapter, its because i know great effort is being placed into creating some breath taking art works. What’s SNK’s excuse?
What’s that got to do with anything? Well, for one thing i am forced to admit that art is indeed a crucial element of great manga. More importantly that is what this blog post is about, looking at the Manga and Manhwa that i thought were most aesthetically pleasing to read in 2013.
Now i suppose this least will be somewhat restricted as it only takes into account what we have read, which largely consists of shonen/seinen action series; yet i believe those are the best kinds of manga and manhwa through which to judge one’s artistic abilities.
Anyone-maybe not anyone-can produce beautifully drawn manga about high school kids struggling with daily life in a slice of life genre; it’s a totally different ball game trying to depict great gods partaking in epic battles.
Anyway, the top ten best drawn manga of the year as i saw them are as such:
1. VINLAND SAGA (MAKOTO YUKIMURA)-
Vinland saga is a masterpiece in so many ways, not only in its story telling but the art, the series containing the most vivid images i came across in all the manga i read in 2013.
Most manga try to tell stories; not all of them can do so purely through art as Vinland saga will do, the facial expressions of its characters considerably unique, the environment rich and dynamic, each scene infused with the sort of violent life that the Vinland saga story tells.
I like reading manga and being able to recognise characters even without their favorite sword clanking behind them or that special scarf they always wear; and Vinland saga is surprisingly good at creating characters that are distinct not only mentally but physically.
One would think that a series like Feng Shen Ji would automatically top a list like this; and while it is indeed more beautiful than Vinland saga, it fails to achieve the life and mobility of this series.
Vinland saga is without a doubt the most impressively drawn manga of 2013. No competition in fact, at least as far as i am concerned.
2. THE BREAKER: NEW WAVES (PARK JIN-HWAN)-
Noblesse should have taken this spot, if i wasn’t being objective. Yet if i am to consider all matters at hand, it is difficult to deny just what this manga does without the advantage of color that Noblesse has.
If we are looking at this topic purely from the angle of action, Breaker is only challenged by Vinland saga. The fact is the action in Vinland saga is so beautifully drawn its scary.
Yet placing it aside nothing comes close to the madness of breaker, which not only presents to the readers amazingly sharp backgrounds, but makes the bone breaking, flesh tearing moves in the series so vivid they seem to pop off the page.
Truth is Breaker will rise even a step further than Vinland, if only considering how explosive the series’ battles can be, the way each fist seems to tear out of its panel, each explosion so….explosive. Basically what Breaker has mastered is the art of creating IMPACT in its fights, without sacrificing the detail of its characters and their surroundings.
3. NOBLESSE (LEE GWANG-SU)-
I won’t deny it, i am a little crazy about Noblesse, have been for the past three or four months since i began reading it; yet i can’t say i hype it for no reason, as Noblesse has some of the best art i have ever seen, largely because of how eye popping the colors are with regards to the action scenes and the amazing abilities displayed.
Noblesse does what makes Manga and Manhwa so great, allowing one scene to flow into another so organically, each strike, dive, swipe sinuous as to seem real, always easy to follow and to marvel at.
And that doesn’t take into account just how amazing the unique capabilities displayed in the Manhwa look, the richness of the blood and the glowing eyes of the nobles as they so elegantly do their thing. Noblesse is a must read if only to marvel at its artistic successes.
4. THE GOD OF HIGH SCHOOL (PARK YONG-JE)-
This was probably the first Manhwa to blow me away-well, maybe the second after Veritas which i read years earlier. Really looking specifically at the action scenes, specifically the martial arts, GOH is only inches behind Breaker in the masterful way it presents its art.
Looking at both series it is difficult to determine which is the superior work; because as amazing as Breaker is in displaying impact in its fights, it is nowhere near as inventive as GOH is in allowing us a glimpse into the intricacies of Martial arts.
And maybe that could be described as the crux of GOH’s success, its ability to base its story around real martial arts techniques and methods-The breaker taking a more mythical theme- which should prove difficult to adapt, bringing complex martial arts forms to the page.
GOH however benefits from the inventiveness of its author, the means through which he displays each move and strike, or really a sequence of moves so fast as to fuse into one, like nothing i have seen anyway.
Truly GOH is inspired artistically; admittedly in terms of color its rather simplistic, the detail within the images nothing to gasp over, certainly not within Noblesse’s league. Its backgrounds and even martial arts scenes aren’t nearly as vivid as those of Breaker or Vinland saga, but that doesn’t take anything away from this amazing series.
5. NARUTO (MASASHI KISHIMOTO)-
Since i have made it abundantly clear what i think about Naruto-basically my favorite series of all time, without a doubt- this might seem a bit biased; except its difficult to deny the true skill that Kishimoto possesses in displaying some of the most amazing yet most complex structures of battle in manga-and the fact that i didn’t place this at number 1 proves that i am being objective.
2013 has been Kishimoto’s year to really bring forth the grandness and epicness of the naruto universe, the images that much sharper and the message that much easier to translate, making for an absolutely brilliant story.
6. FENG SHEN JI (TANG CHI FAI)-
It seems a little crazy, placing a Manhwa like Feng Shen Ji so low on this list. If you haven’t read Feng Shen Ji, trust me when i say you will be hard pressed to find a manga so beautifully drawn. Even i couldn’t ignore it, despite my reservations over its execution.
Sure the Manhwa is AMAZING aesthetically. However its also a little stiff for my taste; also arranged a lot like a western comic book, with speech bubbles crisscrossing all over the place. And as such the panels simply do not flow as they would normally do in any given manga or Manhwa.
Basically i am not entirely impressed with the structure, and the battle scenes are simply too immobile for my tastes. Yet that doesn’t take away from how alluring the series is to read, how beautiful the colors are blended to make some impressive landscapes, the uniquely designed characters, the attractive attacks and impressive looking techniques, many of them so epic and so grand in scale yet so powerfully presented.
Simply put Feng Shen Ji is the best drawn series i have ever read-well, Vinland saga would probably be superior if its was colored. It simply suffers in several places in the static manner of its execution and story telling.
7. SUN KEN ROCK (MUJIK PARK AKA BOICHI)-
There isn’t much i can say about Sun ken Rock, mostly because it isn’t the most intriguing story i have ever read. As with most Manhwa i have read-precluding two or three titles- its overly simplistic, be it dialogue or narration, in a manner than just turns me away.
Yet i cannot deny how brilliantly drawn this Manhwa is, the shading so masterfully applied as to perfectly translate to page the brutality of the story; i specifically appreciate the presentation of the characters, the uniqueness and ‘heftiness’ of their features.
I don’t know if i would recommend Sun Ken Rock as a story, but its art is certainly something to gawk at.
8. DEADMAN WONDERLAND (KONDOU KAZUMA)-
It really irritated me that just as i began to read this manga-having just given up on the return of the anime adaptation-it suddenly ended. Though maybe it wasn’t that sudden, considering how events were progressing.
Deadman wonderland has always been rather aesthetically pleasing and 2013 was no different, this manga bringing to life the rather violent world of the deadman wonderland theme park with clean, sharp and pleasing images.
It wasn’t just the impressively presented surroundings that did it for me this year, as they were being torn apart, but the expressive nature of each character’s face, the bloody format of each unique power and ability so convincingly presented even without the luxury of color. A tragic story so vividly constructed.
9. ONE PUNCH MAN (MURATA YUUSUKE)-
Any first time reader of one punch man will quickly dismiss it for its rather tame look; and they would be right, because One punch man would be number two on this list if it could only be a little more consistent.
But i don’t think this is a failing on the author’s part, merely his choice with regards to the level of effort he chooses to apply to each chapter. Because when he determines to let loose, to truly show to use what he can do, One punch man becomes amazing.
And most of the time it’s quite good; because if you pay close enough attention, you will realize just how detailed and impressive some very basic and tame looking scenes really are.
But the best parts of One punch man, like that 20 page chapter that was nothing more than 1 second of a battle between two combatants, the initial strikes unleashed by either side; those portions of the manga make you want to scream, at the unnaturally realistic looking yet uncolored images, at the fluidity of the events playing out in each panel, the vividness of each character, explosion, beam of light…
Some sequences in one punch man are so skilfully drawn they are basically only awaiting animation to begin moving.
10. AREA D (YANG KYUNG-IL)-
I don’t know if i have said it before, but i am not a fan of Area D. It’s been a while since i actually read it, since August 2013 or somewhere along those lines; so maybe it might have undergone a few changes.
But last time i read it, the story didn’t impress me, in fact seeming somewhat too rushed for my tastes. That doesn’t change the fact that the author knows what he’s doing when he draws his characters and the impressive presentation of their generic yet uniquely displayed abilities.
Area D is indeed worth reading if only to admire how sharp and attractively the story is displayed, if a little lacking in detail and over all presentation.
--WITCH HUNTER (CHO JUNG-MAN)-
I have said it before, that Witch Hunter, kind of like GOH actually, sets its self apart not through the clarity and sharpness but uniqueness of its art; each character is designed, expressed, curved, in way i haven’t really seen anywhere else, and this always translates into some amazing action scenes, always sinuous and gorgeously presented.
--TERRA FORMARS (TACHIBANA KENICHI)-
Terra formers is in the same category as Feng Shen Ji, another series so brilliantly drawn it should stand at the very top of this list; yet the way the story is translated by the art is somewhat…lacking. I find myself incapable of being impressed by what i have seen.
Then again i only read five chapters of the series before i dropped. Truth be told this is rather subjective opinion. I will say that that artistically, Terra Formars is what i thought the Attack on Titan manga would look like.
I think its the great art that makes this manga so bloody disturbing in some places, or maybe its the cockroaches-which i am not a big fan of.
--BE BORN AGAIN (LEE CHANG-JUN)-
Relatively recent manga, still showing little more than potential but worth reading considering the efforts the mangaka injects into making this story as visually stunning as possible.
And that’s it from me with regards to what we thought of as the best drawn manga and manhwa series of 2013. What were yours?
N:B-Bleach probably deserves a mention. Kubo is nothing if not unique in his artistic approach to the manga.