katmic (Level 10)

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Howard Shore’s The Return of the King is one of my favorite pieces of music to listen to. While not the masterpiece most other people would call better known orchestral tracks from more famous composers, this particular piece seems to encompass everything that is The Lord of the Rings: the mystique and ethereal essence of the epic world of middle earth.

Rather than the flow of the violins and cellos, it is the flute that really gets me, that one instrument that creeps in suddenly and takes what was already a magnificent piece of orchestral music to new heights, this probably being the reason why the Concerning Hobbit track stand out so much in my mind, most of which is played via flute.

And the relevance to Witch Hunter? The Manhwa reminds me of The Lord of the Rings symphony, specifically the “Return of the King’ track. Witch hunter elicits the same level of mystique and epicness I have come to expect from my favorite symphony, only without the flute.

And by that I mean the manhwa walks the fine line between ordinary and shonen masterpiece, juggling all the balls of a great story telling but never quite stepping into story territory of greatness, in a way stranding itself with the title of almost ordinary.

THE PLOT:

Witches suddenly declare war against humans, causing two-thirds of the world to fall apart. They summon monsters called "Supporters" and devastate human residences... but why?

Survivors gather people with the power to combat the witches and called them Witch Hunters! Tasha Godspell is one of the strongest witch hunters, nicknamed "The Marksman" along with his "Jack-O-Lantern" looking Supporter. He fights the witches but cannot really bring himself to hate them...

MY REVIEW:

Witch Hunter was one of the first seven manga I ever read and it is probably for this reason that the series intrigues me so; however, where many of its plots and twists seemed innovative at that time, my current experience with manga has allowed me to approach it with a new perspective.

+THE STORY: I spoke of witch hunter as lacking the proverbial flute, that one element to elevate it to greatness. But maybe that has more to do with the author’s lacking planning skills than anything.

Witch Hunter is a thrilling tale of magic and epic battles. It tells of a world that once knew piece before the witches declared war on humanity. The title of witch primarily imputed to the females, the only gender capable of safely manipulating the mana that their hats-the very tools that would entice them into the supernatural realm-grant them, women and girls from all over the world answer the call of magic and are driven to wage war against mankind king under the auspices of the four great witches of the East, West, North and South.

Standing to oppose them are the witch hunters, human beings accessing witch like powers through special items and artifacts, granted the mandate to hunt these vile creatures and their supporters- special entities that serve witches- and to bring peace to the world.

However everything is not as it seems among the witches and their alliances. One witch hunter, Tasha, the magic marksman, fights to defeat man’s deadliest enemy; yet the fate of his sister, Aria, a witch seduced by magic in the past, prevents him from hating them or taking their lives. Witchhunter follows his path, his attempts to save his sister, understand the story being the woman that taught him mana manipulation-the White witch- and the secrets that his supporter, Halloween holds.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call witch hunter the pinnacle of shonen; it has that much potential. The cast of witches is massive, each with a story to tell and a dark addiction to magic. The witch hunters are just as intriguing and no clash between these two parties is every the same, revealing new powers, pasts and magical forms.

Recent arcs, further unveiling the scope of the witch hunter world, specifically the introduction of Great Britain, the Knights of the round table and their connection to Tasha’s Guinevere, have only served to expand an already expansive world.

Little effort is spared in unlocking the tales of each new character the story brings into Tasha’s fold, the most impressive of which has to be Xing (if that is indeed Xing, I keep confusing the three).

With dynamic battle scenes and an evolving story, there is no end to the series’ potential.

Except so much of it feels wasted, the reason being the mangaka’s clear confusion over his own story.

It is difficult to tell exactly where Witch Hunter is going, and that is largely because the author himself has no idea, having admitted a while back that he was basically coming up with the story as he went along.

Maybe One Piece and Naruto have spoiled me; but there is something entertaining about reading a manga with a purpose, whose story has a fairly specific plan, allowing for better cohesion than Witch Hunter achieves with its various arcs. And the confusion that result is unfortunately evident.

RATING: 6/10

+THE CHARACTERS: Witch Hunter both rises and falls with its characters. The cast is massive and the manhwa does a brilliant job of availing appropriate screen time to most, if not all characters, taking the time to place focus upon even those characters that have no notable relevance.

That being said the witches tend to blend into each other, not only because of their designs but personality. It feels like we are constantly met with the same old ‘beautiful but cold, harsh and cruel’ girls intent on causing chaos with little purpose in mind-making it very easy to hate them.

The fact that we are more than a hundred chapters in and the series is yet to reveal its many secrets, especially the purpose behind the Witch’s war does not help a manhwa with a monthly release. Tasha, Xing and Taras are some of the most well rounded characters I have seen in shonen. The witches however seem to fall by the way side, even Verette, who gets more screen time that most.

RATING:6/10

+THE ART: Witch Hunter is a Manhwa and as such boasts better art than most other manga you will ever encounter. That being said, Witch Hunter is extraordinary even when compared to other Manhwa, not only possessing clean designs and sharp drawings but allowing the dynamism of each character and explosiveness of each scene to shine through.

The best way to describe Cho Jung-man’s artistic capabilities is this; he has the ability to create atmosphere better than most other series.

RATING: 10/10

+VERDICT:

Witch Hunter is great, that much I will admit, highly entertainment. It is a must read for anyone with a love of shonen; the characters entertaining to follow, the action scenes explosive and the story fast paced, providing thrilling twists and turns at every turn.

The best arcs will keep you glued to the manhwa for several hours on end, while the worst are still worth the read. That being said, Witch Hunter could be so much more.

It is a would-be shonen masterpiece that keeps failing to achieve its full potential because there is no plan directing its path and that is bound to hurt it in the long run.

The manhwa is yet to disappoint me in any egregious manner, yet I foresee some disasters in its future if the author doesn’t craft a cogent purpose behind the entire Witch Hunter plot.

And the Manhwa could benefit from a weekly release.

RATING: 8/10, the manhwa has a tendency to time jump, progressing in the present in one chapter, leaping to the future in the next chapter and then utilizing the chapter after that to reveal the details of what happened.

This might prove confusing to some people. I know there where moments where I kept thinking I had skipped a few chapters.

HIGHLIGHTS: The Xing (Lee) flashback arc (best written flashback in a manhwa or manga ever), Halloween’s development, the clash between WH and the Bai Long empire.

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There is a part of me that couldn’t really take seriously the tension Nanatsu no Taizai seemed determined to inject into the final panels of chapter 86; maybe it’s because Ban has been gone for so long that I more or less forgot about him.

I don’t want to call this a cheap attempt on the mangaka’s part to elevate the sense of danger, but that is what it looks like.

THE CHAPTERS:

The victory Meliodas and crew attained seemingly shatters as Hendricksen makes his final move. It is just as Merlin returns to her new master’s side, taking her immense strength with her, that the scourge of the demon blood is loosed against the kingdom’s wounded remnants.

MY THOUGHTS:

Maybe I am leaping to conclusions a little too quickly; I mean, what do we really know about the sins? Is it that difficult to believe that Ban would betray Meliodas for Elaine’s sake? Has Ban actually done anything to prove himself too honorable to commit such treacherous acts?

No, not really; I still do not buy that last panel though, and suspect that the next chapter is going to focus around Ban’s fight with Hendricksen. It should prove to be quite interesting, considering Ban’s immortality and all.

Then again it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to suggest that Meliodas probably only managed to permanently scar Ban the immortal because of his demonic aspects; chances are Ban doesn’t have the advantage of immortality as he would expect against Hendricksen, in which case next chapter might take an interesting turn.

I don’t think anyone is going to take the berserker new generation threat seriously, not with the team that has been assembled at the palace; if the sins are smart they will let Gowther end the battle in one go, allowing everyone else to focus their efforts upon stopping Hendricksen.

I don’t know if I was that impressed with the way in which Dreyfus so easily broke down; even with Gilthunder’s revelation about the envy that drove him to kill his father I expected him to put up more of a fight that he did. Instead he simply crumbled like a child.

The art was a little off in a number of panels these past two weeks.

RATING: 7/10, Chapter 85 was pretty slow, very uninteresting but things picked up the pace with chapter 86; with Arthur’s offer to Meliodas accepted, I can take a guess at where the story is going to go in the next arc. Even with all these revelations coming to light one chapter after another, Nanatsu no Taizai still has a lot of story to tell.

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That is it. This has to be the last time I read Noblesse, at least until next month. Then again that is what I said two weeks ago, except I broke and simply couldn’t wait to see what was happening with this slowly burgeoning back story.

This is what I love about Noblesse. Most manga have good moments and bad moments. Naruto will publish an odd chapter once in a while, while One Piece might drastically slow its story down over a few weeks.

Noblesse just moves from one level of excitement to another, never really hitting levels so low as to be considered bad, merely not as exciting in some places as it is in others.

But ‘not as exciting’ still means exciting to a degree. Bleach needs to be read in bulk because barely anything happens on a weekly basis. Noblesse needs to be read in bulk because it is that good and waiting can become irritating.

THE CHAPTERS:

Muzaka finds himself weighing human freedoms against the the desires of his people as the werewolves and nobles approach imminent conflict.

MY THOUGHTS:

I know, I have already said it more times than is necessary; BUT NOBLESSE IS SIMPLY GORGEOUS.

Some of these panels look like they were included just for drama’s sake, and I can’t complain; and I am specifically referring to that dramatic entrance Muzaka made.

Maybe that is Noblesse’s strength; it views itself as an anime and thus includes all those tiny little details only present with anime.

Noblesse is one of those really rare Manhwa that manages to combine both great art and interesting story telling, as opposed to most other Manhwa that seem almost obsessed with pristine art at the detriment of the story.

This is only the second Noblesse flashback in the manhwa’s run and it is doing a brilliant job of fleshing out the Noblesse world, steadily and at its own pace but without crawling like Magi, providing revelations and character development but without dwelling endlessly on irrelevant elements again like Magi.

Even with the fact that the pair haven’t shared more than a few panels together, one can already sense the relationship between Muzaka and Rai begin to develop. What makes this flashback so interesting to watch is how little we know of anything related to it.

We understood the relationship between Frankenstein and Rai before we had the opportunity to see it develop in the first flashback; and that was a treat because we knew so little of Lukedonia.

In this case, We didn’t even know Muzaka existed; but Frankenstein named him in the situation that brought Rai to the edge of death. That is intriguing. Noblesse has dealt with almost every facet of this ancient incident, with Rai facing against, confronting and even judging all those nobles that betrayed their people and one and only Noblesse.

And that had me believing that we had put the matter to rest. But have we really? Sure we know the nobles who were involved in the incident. Most if not all have been dealt with- and all were surprisingly repentant.

But outside of knowing who was involved, we don’t actually know what happened or who did what. And that is what makes Muzaka’s flashback so intriguing to read.

I cannot even fathom how the werewolf Lord’s path intertwined with the noble traitors. There is still so much to know before we arrive at that point that pits Rai against Muzaka

+VERDICT: Thinking about it, the conflict between Rai and Muzaka is a little easier to predict; clearly the traitorous nobles are going to use him to execute their uprising. We know the conflict within Lukedonia stemmed from their attempts at entering man’s affairs and even ruling over them. Which is exactly what Muduke has been doing for a few decades now.

It wouldn’t surprise me if both groups of nobles and werewolves were in bed together.

And it isn’t even that difficult to see why Muzaka would treat Rai in such a hostile manner. The Lord of Lukedonia is clearly a calm rational man that will approach the werewolf situation with care as it develops.

Rai on the other hand isn’t going to approach human deaths on a large scale so calmly; where he to encounter werewolves murdering humans, he would obliterate them and on a similarly massive scale. Even where it proves justified, I don’t see Muzaka taking this lying down.

+RATING: 10/10, this story is unfolding nicely. And clearly the pair behind the Manhwa know what they are doing. SO few manga are ever so well paced.

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I tend to relate anime and manga to their titles, using these normally short descriptors to take a guess at the nature of the story that is awaiting me. Darwin’s game isn’t giving away much, though with the content witnessed so far, one can presume that it revolves around the concept of evolution and man’s ascendance or something in that vain.

THE PLOT:

Sudo Kaname receives a message from good friend Kyoda, asking for his immediate assistance. Kyoda would disappear soon after that, stranding Kaname with a proposal from a mysterious app known as Darwin’s game.

When he flippantly chooses to engage with the it, Darwin’s game proves to be anything but fun instead throwing Kaname into a world of murder and mayhem, in which the streets of his world are colored with the blood of the desperate on the daily basis, various combatants around the world seeking to engage in battle and take each other’s lives for financial gain.

As the police cracks down on these mysterious incidents, slowly beginning to piece together the pattern within a random set of supposed deaths, Kaname must face a difficult decision: kill, earn points and get rich, or run, hide and await the oncoming death that results from failure.

Whatever the outcome, Darwin’s game wins.

MY REVIEW:

I didn’t expect to make it past the first chapter of Darwin’s game. Why? Because it’s called Darwin’s game, and truth be told I have had it with anime and manga about young individuals disappearing into a virtual world to enjoy a great adventure

What drew me towards Btooom! was the anime’s choice to to approach its story from the reverse, engineering gaming mechanisms within the real world rather that thrusting its characters into a gaming environment.

IN that regard, I was more than ready to give Darwin’s game a chance once I realized that I would be utilizing gaming elements within the real world, rather than running away to a virtual realm.

The plot is actually quite similar to the T.V series Chosen in which a lawyer finds a box at his front door one random morning, containing a gun and the picture of the man he would have to find and kill within two days, lest bad things happen to his family, even while he evaded the eye of those other individuals who had received similar boxes but with his photograph in it.

Chosen created a moral dilemma in its approach; you have all these normal people going around murdering each other, but with little choice in the matter, what with most having to make the difficult decision, choosing between the life of a random stranger and that of their own kin and kith.

Darwin’s game isn’t quite as deeply layered and focuses largely around the financial rewards involved with mastering the game; but it does introduce the same level of thrill, in a character that must quickly adapt to the new threat in his life and make some difficult decisions especially regarding his blood thirsty pursuers.

Darwin’s Game revolves around a Kill or be killed concept, allowing players to challenge each other for points, each battle- whose initiation immediately teleports a player to their target-only ending either after one player kills the other or the time runs out, at which point that individual considered to be on the losing side is eliminated by the game (pixelated, it’s actually more gruesome than it sounds).

Earned points can be used to activate one’s seal, a special gift availed to each player upon their entrance into the game (categorized in classes), make purchases of special items or be converted into cash to be withdrawn from an ATM.

As such it is only those most murderous individuals that are availed the opportunity to enjoy immense wealth and all of life’s pleasures.

+VERDICT:

Ten chapters in, the manga continues along what might be termed as the introduction arc, bringing our hero Kaname into situations through which he-and us- may come to understand the Darwin’s game world.

With the cast still restricted to the bare minimum, the manga is none the less commendable for its pretty strong start, entertaining purely through Kaname’s induction experience into the game, that and the detectives slowly coming to the knowledge of the vast amount of bloody deaths that might be occurring in the shadows.

With minimal character evolution and world building at this point in time-as would be expected from the first ten chapters of a manga- Darwin’s Game is progressing successful; the art is gorgeous, the dialogue informative and the pacing appropriate.

Whether Darwin’s Game matures into a true gem remains to be seen; for now however, the manga is more than worth the read.

+RATING: 7/10, I can see a future with Darwin’s Game, though that all depends on how the series progresses.

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Anyone that keeps suggesting that originality has ceased to be, that there is no such thing as a truly unique anime and manga clearly hasn’t taken the time to actually look into the various anime and manga series on offer.

I don’t think I have encountered a series as unique as Shinazu no Ryouken in a long time, a concept that, more than simply flipping a few well known scripts over, actually attempts to tell a creative and different story.

Admittedly this might come down to my own ignorance in the realm of anime and manga; that being said though Shinazu no Ryouken is proving to be my favorite new manga of 2014.

THE PLOT:

In an immortal world, in which the power of resurrection has granted the human race complete control over death, a single enemy occupies the various law enforcement agencies and governments of the world; that abomination of nature, fiend amongst fiends, known as the mortal man.

MY REVIEW:

Where it to ever make the leap from manga to anime, Immortal hounds stands as that one series likely to repeat Attack on Titan’s explosive popularity.

The premise is rather odd and presents a world in which humanity controls a power known as resurrection which allows man to return to life from any and all fatal injuries, free of all previous ailments; the ability is presented as a natural attribute of humanity and one that has changed the world as we know it.

Most of us have encountered various manga tackling the true nature of death and its place in the world. I don’t think I have encountered a story that tackles what it would mean to humanity where death to be removed from the equation (not merely postponed in some intermediate undead format but completely removed).

And Immortal hounds does just that. One of the very first scenes in the manga introduces to us some random girl; bedridden, struggling with the flu, she is driven to the very edge of her endurance and asks her boyfriend to shoot her. And he does just that, a bullet to the head.

And with that most natural of human traits in this universe, she revived without the slightest traces of injury, the very flow of time seemingly having reversed, returning human flesh and blood to what it was, only free of all previous physical and mental ailments.

And that, my friends, is the key to physical wellness in the world of Immortal hounds; are you sick of that irritating rash? Jab a pencil through your eye and you will revive seconds later, free of unrelenting skin ailments. And how about that headache? A walk into traffic will bring your immediate relief.

If there is one task this new series accomplishes, it is building a vivid image of this new and rather strange world, where death is just that pesky thing that no one pays any attention to.

And the enemy? RDS, Resurrection Deficiency Syndrome, an infection that strips one of their ability to resurrect and hence makes them susceptible to death; more importantly though are those individuals that stand as its carriers, these being that tiny portion of humanity that does not have the ability to resurrect, a strange mutation whose very existence must be eliminated immediately lest they blemish the perfection of humanity.

Immortal Hounds chronicles the lives of a special unit charged with locating and arresting mortal humans for execution; it is upon the shoulders of these fine men and women that the future of immortal mankind lies, sometimes supported by the UN.

And mortal man? Theirs is a miserable life; hunted merely because they exist even while contending with the difficulties of a world that knows no sickness or death. The world of the mortal man in Immortal hounds is prone to a million dangers, where many mortals fall to diseases as common as the cold. After all, where humanity is immortal, what purpose is there in training medical professionals, building hospitals or investing in a pharmaceutical industry.

And the escape artiest? Hero to mortal man, bane to law enforcement, using her destructive skills to guide the frightened to safety, where they have the choice of escaping to secret sanctuaries or gaining immortality for themselves, usually by utilizing their position as RDS carriers to bring harm to the immortal and in return earn points.

+VERDICTI:

Have I mentioned just how brilliant the art in this manga is? Well let me say it then, Immortal Hounds is gorgeous, better drawn than any manga I have encountered in 2014.

Beyond the aesthetics each chapter of Immortal hounds is an action packed bonanza, punctuated by poignant conversations about what it truly means to be human; you can also expect a diverse cast, with unique and easily recognizable characters.

The plot portends so much potential, especially taking into account all the mysteries surrounding the world of Immortal hounds. The same question always echoes through each chapter.

Mortal man and Immortal man, one of these is an abomination, not of this earth; and the key to achieving a semblance of peace lies with understanding the origins of the world as it is known and the abomination that is running amok through it.

One can expect violence and a modicum of gore, expected in a world of immortals. Barely 15 chapters long, this manga is more than worth the read.

Focusing primarily upon the escape artiest Rin, aka Windchime, Kenzaki, leader of the Anti vector (mortal humans) squad and his sister’s former lover, Immortal hounds is described as Seinen, Mystery, tragedy

+RATING: 8/10, I am already anticipating the next chapter.

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