katmic (Level 10)

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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.

THE PLOT:>

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.

MY REVIEW:>

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.

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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.

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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.

WORTHY MENTIONS:

--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.

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Preparing a top ten protagonists list is a much harder task than a villains list, mostly because most protagonists stand at the centre of their series and, if one is that devoted or excited about a given anime or manga, it can be difficult to remain objective, to choose a hero because of the actions they performed in the year to make them that deserving, rather one’s personal adoration of a character.

And that is what i have tried to do, looking at this list, trying to determine just which character was really the most deserving of the title of top protagonist of 2013, as opposed to most awesome hero.

That being said i will not say that i achieved objectivity with this list, though i did try. Anyway, this is the list of greatest protagonists in anime and manga of 2013, at least as far as I am concerned:

1. HASHIRAMA SENJU (NARUTO MANGA)

Nothing less than a god among shinobi, a key component in Sasuke's supposed transformation, this including his actions alongside the current kage and shinobi to promote peace in the face of a great enemy. Is there a question with regards to who the biggest badass in manga has been this year? Precluding Madara of course.

2. EREN JEAGER (ATTACK ON TITAN ANIME)

While Attack on Titan is home to a cast of dazzling heroes, the anime bringing to life their hopes and struggles in a rather disturbing and violent light, there is something to be said about the odds Eren has contended with to acquire his position of importance in this struggle for survival, from his horrifying death at the hands of a titan to his miraculous and rather violent revival, to the hardships he endured under the hand of Levi and group, each time rising above to kick serious ass.

Eren personifies the typical shonen creed of never giving up like we haven’t seen in a while, the only member of his group to so bravely face the Titan assault on humanity with a glint of hope. Plus that final bout with the female titan was something to behold.

3. ITACHI UCHIHA (NARUTO)

It is difficult to talk about Itachi without fanboying over his awesomeness; this has been the year of the Uchiha if you think about it, and Itachi’s injection into the war turned a fairly average arc into something so much more, from his battle with Naruto, to his long awaited confrontation with Sasuke and final fight against Kabuto.

Anyone notice that every time Itachi opens his mouth, there is nothing but wisdom coming out; and the way he brought the innocence out of sasuke during their brief time together, that final moving episode that saw him finally exit from the world of the living on his own terms…Itachi rules, and that is my completely subjective opinion.

4. RAI (NOBLESSE MANHWA)

Noblesse wouldn’t be the awesome Manhwa it is without the presence of this noble hero; elegant, silent, Rai epitomizes the concept of absolute power, wielding the noblesse strength this year to levels yet to be imagined- tornadoes of blood? seriously?- yet showing a level of kindness and grace not many heroes can boast of.

Rai seems to have chosen 2013 to throw everything on the line for humanity, using an ability fueled by his own life force to unleash untold destruction to those that would harm his friends or any other member of the human race, quick to show his softer side, opening his arms even to those enemies that wished him ill, determined to find normalcy beyond his noble birth.

Also the only character on this list that can match Itachi blow for blow in the area of coolness and swag.

5. NARUTO UZUMAKI (NARUTO ANIME/MANGA)

I know, that’s a lot of Naruto characters on this list. But who can blame me, the series was on fire this year. With the prophecy of the hermit upon his shoulders Naruto has stood to pass the test of time, liberating the bijuu from the infamous tobito, uniting old enemies in the good fight against evil and standing at the front lines of the fourth great shinobi war; basically carrying the hope of humanity, reliving and surpassing his father’s legend and legacy… Uzumaki Naruto the true shinobi hero.

6. COMMANDER ERWIN (ATTACK ON TITAN MANGA)

While known as the man that stakes the lives of hundreds to save hundreds of thousands, seemingly a monster who so easily toys with human life, Erwin fights to see the day when humanity will strike back against the titans, losing an arm to fulfill this dream and really, the walled community's only hope of standing against their deadly foe. "One who cannot sacrifice anything cannot achieve anything"

7. SAITAMA (ONE PUNCH MAN MANGA)

SAITAMA is awesome. Considering that One Punch man is considered by many as the most idiotic manga of the year, it is difficult to understand the appeal of this crazy character unless you have had an opportunity to scroll through the mostly senseless pages of this manga.

Maybe it is Saitama’s…normalness, his lack of flashy persona, bold yet hilarious delivery of lines. I don’t know. Commending him on any heroic acts would be pointless though; after all they call him one punch man because he defeats all opponents with one punch.

8. KURAPIKA (HUNTERXHUNTER ANIME)

Thinking of Hunter X Hunter it is difficult to appreciate just how interesting a duo Gon and Killua have been to watch this year, that along side Hisoka, Kite and a whole host of interesting characters.

Yet it is Kurapika that somehow manages to stand above them all in 2013 and it is sad to learn that he doesn’t appear in the manga ever again, which means the Phantom troupe story line will not be resolved.

Whatever the case Kurapika was awesome this year in his role as crazed avenger, taking on phantom troupe, first singlehandedly and then as part of the Gon/Killua team during that hostage plan, ultimately placing his own life on the line to achieve the sort of impressive powers necessary to bring his arch foes down.

HXH this year saw Kurapika go to some really dark places and it is a shame we will not have the opportunity to bask in his presence again. I really must commend Togashi for his characters.

9. VIOLE/25TH BAAM (TOWER OF GOD MANHWA)

There is no denying the fact that Tower of God is one of the better manga series of the year, the story making constant leaps and bounds in its intriguing plot. What set Baam apart this year is the revival he perpetrated following previous tragedies as Fuge member Viole, no longer that meek child we met a few years back, but an immensely powerful shadow figure hidden behind a mysterious hood, seemingly taking out friend and foe in an attempt to achieve his dreams, clearly intent on crossing paths with the psychotic Rachel in the hope of resolving what i think he still believes was an accident.

Viole is the most transformative character of the year, undergoing unbelievable changes in order to confront his child hood friend. The way he balances his new duties with saving his old and new friends has made for some intense chapters in 2013.

10. SAJIN KOMAMURA (BLEACH MANGA)

Looking at Bleach in the past two years, it might seem difficult to pinpoint one particular character that has stood head and shoulder over all other combatants that have staked their lives to defeat the quincy invasion army.

But Komamura struck a nerve with me this year, probably the dullest and most uninteresting character in the entire series; yet Kubo has made a pattern out of redeeming his characters in this final arc and none has made a comeback as impressive as this wolf man.

It wasn’t merely the uniqueness of his power up but the heroic heart he displayed to us this year, the sacrifice he made to defend his home; really it would have been better if he had simply perished in battle rather than the fate he suffered.

WORTHY MENTION:

1. NEJI HYUGA (NARUTO MANGA)

Died protecting the hero of Konoha and the only hope for the survival of the shinobi world. What could be more heroic than that?

2. CAPTAIN LEVI (ATTACK ON TITAN ANIME)

Who didn’t nearly lose their head from excitement over that battle with the female Titan in the SNK anime? Truth be told i would have been happy to swap Eren for Levi if not for the fact that he hasn’t had as much presence, as much to do in the anime as Eren. That doesn’t detract from the force that is Levi.

3. AH GOU (FENG SHEN JI MANHWA)

The fellow's reliving his father's legacy, rising up to fight against the tyranny of the gods, invading the land of these supernatural beings to end humanity's long history of servitude to their kind, basically intent on changing the order of nature.

4. KEI KURONO (GANTZ)

Kei's record against humanity's greatest alien threats this year have set him apart as one of the planet's more impressive saviors.

5. JIN MORI ( THE GOD OF HIGH SCHOOL MANHWA)

Jin mori is strong, immensely powerful, not nearly as smart as he should be and kind at heart; basically the typical shonen hero, yet so much more as he struggles to overcome the supernatural system that governs his country and the world, this year defeating a wannabe god, learning of his heritage and, kind of like Ah Gou, invading the realm of the gods to reclaim his title of Monkey king.

6. MAOU SAMA (HATARAKOU MOU SAMA ANIME)

MAOU SAMAAAAAAA! Yes, this is totally subjective, on account of how much i love this anime. But maybe there is something to be said about a demon lord that has spent centuries killing and maiming and trying to dominate mankind finding himself in the human world and suddenly taking steps to protect its peace and quiet.

7. BLACKSTAR/MAKA/DEATH THE KID (SOUL EATER)

The adaption of Soul eater Not! irks me. Anyway the manga finally came to a close this year and these three heroes do deserve some credit for flyinh to the moon and facing off against the legend that is the Kishin.

As much as she annoys me, Maka gets all the credit here though; basically the weakest of them all, she had no business being on the battle field and even Kishin said so, not when standing besides a god like warrior in Black star and the new death god kid.

Yet she stood her ground and delivered the finishing blow, blackening the moon and bringing the soul eater nightmare to an end.

--

Whew, that was a long list, and that’s probably because there were that many heroes worth commending this year, even more than actually made it to this list. If this was a top 20 (which it almost was when i first compiled it, before choosing to trim it) i would have mentioned Iori from Gamaran for all the righteous murdering he’s been doing against his former master’s students.

Then there is Phantom Miria from Claymore and the leader ship skills she displayed this year in basically commanding an unwinnable battle against immensely powerful beings, amongst which included the invincible Priscilla and several crazy abyssal ones.

-Unohana finally revealed the beast in her in 2013 and gave her life in an attempt to awaken Zaraki, the second Kenpachi, the true saviour of Soul Society with the way things are going at the moment.

-Ganta in Dead man wonderland showed some mettle in somewhat redeeming his childhood friend and taking considerable punishment in an attempt to bring the red man’s reign of terror to an end.

And then there is Shion from The Breaker: New Waves, 2013 being the year he proved himself worthy of the title Gaju, even in the face of immense tragedies.

-Kite from Hunter X Hunter was a bad ass this year, not the side character i thought he would be but striking an emotional cord in his interactions with the kids, and giving his life to protect them, that and his disturbing revival.

-With regards to the SNK heroes i was primarily interested in what was accomplished by each character this year and Eren’s star really shined in the anime in 2013, especially the way he wrapped things up with the female titan. Eren is basically the cheerleader of the SNK world if you think about, because i don't think anyone else in the series truly believes they can win the war.

I am still kind of pissed off at the internet for spoiling the Neji death for me. That would have been one heck of a shocker for me as a Naruto anime viewer.

Tasha from Witch hunter is also probably worth mentioning.

This year has been quite good to heroes in anime and manga and we can only hope that 2014 proves to be just as epic and explosive.

Well, that is it from me. What heroes/protagonists rocked your world in 2013?

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In reading a number of Seinin titles these past few months, i have found myself somewhat surprised by the stark difference between seinen and shonen stories; i will not say that Seinin is a necessarily superior genre to shonen as many Otaku have been known to conclude.

Rather i am finding that Seinin titles offer a level of excitement in their plots that are mostly absent in Shonen titles, probably because of how dark some-most- of the series can get.

Ubel Blatt is as good as Seinin action fantasy manga can get, a series only rivalled by Vinland saga in telling a considerably violent yet deeply moving, well paced, well constructed story regarding the ravages of war and vengeance.

THE PLOT:>

When Wischtech threatened to invade the fiefs of Szaalanden, the Emperor dispatched fourteen youths. Of these, three perished during the journey and four turned against the empire and joined Wischtech in its campaign of conquest and destruction.

Seven Heroes halted the invasion to herald a time of prosperity, while the four Lances of Betrayal were supposedly defeated.

Two decades later, the Lances of Betrayal have reappeared and formed a bandit militia near the frontier fief Gormbark. With Wischtech emerging from its slumber and war threatening to engulf the empire, the seven heroes are called upon to return, unite and destroy their ancient enemy once more.

A man with black swords and a scar over his left eye slays an entire troop of the enemy militia and becomes as much an object of fear as of hope, his own past, motivations, and purpose remaining a mystery .

MY REVIEW:>

Ubel Blatt is a German term and stands for ‘Evil Blade’ a curious pair of words, most likely referring to the several hidden black blades within the right hand of the hero of this tale, but probably synonymous with the dark nature of the

tale, which tries to pin down the true nature of those that supposedly fight for justice in this manga, and how accurate it is to impute to them the term ‘hero’ in the face of the consequences of their actions.

Really Ubel Blatt, set in some parallel medieval German styled world, infused with elements of magic and fantasy achieves its success through the two perspectives from which it approaches its story.

On the one hand is the philosophical questions it sets about asking; the story of Ubel Blatt takes place in a tranquil empire, one that has known peace for decades; sure greed stands at the base of the structures of power, but the people know safety.

Corruption dogs every hierarchical system, but all are fed and all enjoy the considerably benefits of the world the emperor so casually controls. Yet even if the success of every civilized nation is measured by the peace, tranquillity and satisfaction enjoyed by its citizens, how justifiable is that peace if the core of its structure was built on lies, if the cost of a good meal and amicable environment was the blood of those that so heroically gave their lives for the scorn of the world.

Yet if one agrees, as most people would, that the continued peace of a populace supersedes any other concerns, how justifiable is it to pursue truth and justice, if the results of that truth would lead to untold destruction for many innocent lives.

That is where Ubel Blatt begins its journey in chronicling this amazing story, the hero of the story perpetrating what even he recognizes will lead to considerably harm to the general populace, yet continues to push forward anyway, choosing to prioritize revenge over the needs of those innocents around him.

While the manga makes considerable effort in trying to create a somewhat complex situation, contrasting the dark deeds of evil men with all the good they have accomplished decades later, it has a way of pushing these questions to the back, the hero, Koinzel largely disinterested in the idea of negative consequences resulting from his seemingly righteous quest.

Yet Ubel Blatt manages to create sympathy in this character, not portraying to the readers some bull headed fool that cannot see past his own rage. Indeed Koinzel understands what is at stake if he accomplishes his goal, and indeed he chooses to ignore these misgivings. But Ubel Blatt makes it easy to understand his perspective of things, making the situation that much more complex, in trying to determine which party in this conflict stand at the side of justice.

-Imagine the story of a boy, a master swordsman, placed at the head of a 14 man party, to lead this brave group of well trained men into battle against a dark enemy of the empire that wishes to destroy all life with unnatural technology.

Imagine a boy that must watch seven of his comrades fall to fear and despair halfway through the journey; this boy then choosing to respect the fallibility of his comrades, instead choosing to advance with six unwavering comrades, contending with a destructive enemy as the last line of defence for the empire, and defeating this enemy but losing three friends in the process.

Imagine this boy returns to his seven cowardly friends, only to find that, upon being pressed by guilt and the shame they would face once the truth was revealed, they had plotted evil, massacring this young boy and his three friends.

Then imagine that this boy is revived 20 years later, within the body of a moon elf, to learn that not only had his three fallen comrades-along with himself- been branded traitors, but that those seven that had betrayed him where now heroes, lords, ruling the lands of the empire, basically worshiped by billions.

It is only justifiable that this boy would rage, would swear to tear these seven idols off their thrones and murder them. So what if, in assaulting these heroes, he would be bringing chaos and catastrophe? So what if these seven had done great good in the past 20 years, bringing a peace that would fall with their demise?

What would it matter to this boy to protect a peace held together by the blood of his friends, for a people so ready to degrade the heroic names of his comrades?

-Ubel Blatt is a deep story, despite its action packed nature. Its dark, bloody and vengeful as it chronicles one man’s struggles to make sense of the new world he has been reborn into, at a time when an ancient technologically advanced enemy he once gave his all to defeat has re-emerged.

The manga is surprisingly character oriented; i say surprisingly because the one criticism i would aim its way is the scarce use it makes of its secondary characters, those strays that attach themselves to Ascherit, look beyond this title of ‘king killer’ the most hated man in the world, and appreciate the hero within.

As interesting as some of the back stories get, the story does little to infuse new characters into the intricacies of the primary plot. Sure they are assigned objectives and purposes to accomplish in the story, yet always feel somewhat distant, that precluding Ato.

I have to say that she is the one character that has surprised me most; initially quite irritating, doing little more than ranting on about her hate for Ascherit, then becoming a love sick puppy that followed him everywhere, i applaud the master/apprentice relationship that they created between these two, Ascherit finally drawing out the blade master in him, lost decades ago, and taking upon himself a student. And of course Ato’s character changes positively as she becomes this intriguing monster of a swordswoman, simply grateful to be accepted by Ascherit.

But i digress, yes Ubel Blatt doesn’t fully utilize its secondary characters; yet that doesn’t take away from the masterful way it matures its primary characters, specifically Koinzel and his seven sworn enemies.

-Taking a cursory look at Koinzel it is highly likely that all you are going to see is this dark avenger, determined to achieve his vengeance no matter the cost. And the series seems to suggest just as much initially. Yet as the story progresses, it is surprising the amount of growth Koinzel undergoes, especially in his personality, this being a character that appeared in the manga already moulded to execute his task.

The story does a brilliant job of showing his softer side; yes he is vengeful and yes he cuts his opponents up into little bloody pieces with little remorse. His hate for his seven sworn enemies is ostensible, yet so is his adoration.

He might have tasted betrayal of the worst kind at their hands, but as the story progresses, we are treated to a number of flash backs that detail Koinzel’s life as a gifted kid and the friendship he shared with all his comrades.

Indeed one of the most touching scenes in the manga is when Koinzel has his blade pointed at the head of an enemy he has been chasing down for the past few chapters (I won’t say who, spoilers) and yet he hesitates. This is a man that has, over ten or so chapters, descended into madness, committing atrocities on a massive scale, that man that so gleefully brought his blade down against Koinzel.

And yet as the man mumbles to himself, lost in insanity, not pleading but speaking cheerfully, chatting to Koinzel of the old days, mind having broken finally and stranded him in the past, all Koinzel can think of is that one conversation they shared on the hill, when the man shared his inner demons, his fears, the promise that he had Koinzel make to protect him in battle because he wasn’t all that powerful; basically Koinzel breaks down.

And over the course of several chapters it becomes abundantly clear that not killing his betrayers, walking away, would actually be the easier choice for Koinzel, the one he would have taken if not for the burden of the souls of his dead friends.

Really, it added a sense of tragedy to the series, that continues through out the manga, exploring the mental struggles our hero has to contend with. Which is why this manga fascinates me so, that the chaos the innocent civilians of the empire would face if he executes his vengeance doesn’t faze Koinzel, where it would other heroes and anti heroes. Yet the memories of his former friends is enough to pause his blade.

-Not that the series is all about brooding and questioning; Ubel Blatt is action packed, immensely, the action scenes accentuated Atoroji Shiono’s amazing art.

Sure the character designs are considerably generic, yet the background scenes are quite detailed, the action scenes fluid, violent, eye catching and strangely intriguing.

-Though no where else does the manga shine as it does during its war, which the series has a considerable number of. It isn’t just the scale…well actually it is the scale, because the manga has a way of actually bringing the ‘'massiveness’ of everything to the page.

I hate reading manga that chronicles epic wars and battles but has to tell you so, in other words it doesn’t translate the story efficiently to its panels. Ubel Blatt is brilliant in presenting the chaos of battle and war, of magic, of raging armies on horse backs and dragons, of super powered yet somewhat antiquated ships taking to the air; and the way the scenes allow the war to move, allowing readers to take in the entire picture of what is happening rather than simply honing in on the main characters; the current of battle and destruction just comes to life in its pages…Ubel Blatt is simply brilliant.

Yet that doesn’t make the series any less brilliant in the area of duels, that bout between Koinzel (i hate that name) and Ikfes proving to be one of the best i have seen in manga.

-You will literally find yourself at the edge of your seat as you read this manga, because Ubel Blatt is fast paced and fast moving, dragging you along epic chases and hard hitting sword duels, allowing you to feel each sword stroke and death cry. It is a manga worth the respect its receiving from the French, Ubel Blatt being one of the best selling manga is France.

-I should point out that this is a Seinin, which means it is quite graphic, be it with the violence, the gore, nudity and sex scenes.

-The series can get quite dark and has unsurprisingly few light moments; it can be quite tragic and quite moving, specifically with the drama between the many characters, though the focus lies primarily with Koinzel, the mystery of his rebirth, black swords and moon elf body.

RATING: 10/10, Ubel Blatt is one of the very best manga i have read this year; and it kind of sucks that it’s that good, because it is monthly, which i dislike, having released barely 5 or 6 chapters this year for whatever reason.

The idea of waiting for this story to progress irks me. But i will wait. If you like Seinin, specifically medieval styled stories, then this is the manga for you. Ubel Blatt, which has a lot of German themes with regards to name and designs, exists within the mould of series like Berserk and Vinland Saga.

HIGHLIGHTS: Ascheritt Vs. Ikfres, The war of the heroes arc, Balestar, Glenn…

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