katmic (Level 10)

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Aah, i wish Magi would pick up the pace; set up chapters like this, as good as they might be, leave me drastically unsatisfied. I understand the necessity of setting the stage for the showdown that is inevitably going to occur, but i have been waiting to see Kouen for several chapters now.

207 was largely tame, doing little more than shedding light on the true face of Balbad, once rebellious and violent yet proud and willful, now broken, the Kou empire further degrading the state of the kingdom through its legalization of slavery. And as with every society we have encountered in the manga so far, operating under a strict caste system, cruelty has began to creep into the hearts of the people, those less than fortunate forced to bow and bend both physically and emotionally; while those wielding greater power tread upon them, proud in the strength they hold and status of their households.

IN a way this couldn’t have turned out better for Alibaba, who displayed considerable displeasure at the thought of Balbad marching forward into prosperity without the guidance of his hand. Now he can approach his future with a goal in mind; Balbad is clearly in need of him, and now he gets to play the great hero. Though i don’t see his people standing up to back his call.

After all even Hassan seemed resigned to his new post. Really whatever we might have figured before there is no denying it now, the fact that the Kou empire is indeed the villain of the story and must be stopped at all costs. The question now is what is going to happen between Alibaba and Kouen, the two finally meeting at the end.

It does irk me a bit, the amount of time spent on this portion of the arc, seeing as this was supposed to be a short detour, Alibaba stopping off to lead Kouen to the meeting place. That is what i assumed would be the primary focus of this arc, Sinbad and Kouen’s meeting. But it seems like the Balbad portion of the story still has some life left in it.

Maybe this is for the best, as Magi is largely unpredictable at this point in time. It depends on whether all these detours will pay off satisfactorily, which this series always does.

RATING: 3/5

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ANIME

1. Black Butler- i won’t lie, season 2 of this show is utter crap….okay maybe not crap, but it is proving to be quite a disappointment, more confusing than enlightening, doing little more than rehashing the structure of the first season. Here i was excited about how the series would continue after the somewhat tragic death of its lead character

RATING: 1/5, with everything i have seen in the 7 episodes i have watched, this series’ first season was its peak. It should have quite their and then. And how the heck is everyone that died in the last season suddenly back to the life?

2. Arata Kangatari- A waste of an anime as far as i am concerned, which is surprising considering how interesting the concept initially seemed, following the story of Arata, a miserable high school kid that takes the place of his double in a parallel universe. Unfortunately for him, despite taking the role of a sho, one empowered to access the power of a god sealed within an ancient weapon, the world that this modern day Arata enters is one of hostility, the Shinsho, the 13 disciples of some powerful princess, having murdered their master and pinned it on the original

Arata hours before he fled into modern day Japan.

More a story of survival than anything, Arata having to contend with the title of most hated man in a world he doesn’t know, hunted by all that live, Kangatari is a wildly disappointing series, its lead character ridiculously annoying and constantly whining, the support cast largely unoriginal, and some of the dullest fights i have seen all year.

This one mean looking Shinsho named Arachi does stand out a bit, but only in his role as a rampaging Shinsho, proving to be considerably nonsensical in his determination to seek revenge, one of those ‘i hate myself so much i must blame everyone else for my problems’ characters that anime has been prone to creating this year.

RATING: 0/5, not worth watching; this show literally has no saving elements. I was done with it once Kadokawi entered the mix, and i should have quit their and then because the finale was atrocious.

3. Asura Cryin- i have no idea why i am still watching this anime. Actually i am not, not any more, which is somewhat odd since i decided to quit at episode 8, the exact time when the Asura cryin was finally introduced, the purpose for which this show was named; it is because of how dull this how has proven, its characters too whiny for my taste, that i didn’t bother sticking around long enough to figure out what’s so special about the mech.

RATING: 1/5, again this show has some irritatingly whiny characters, especially the lead and his female ghost of a stalker, really all the females in this show irritate me, all of them so cliché it’s like i am watching every single anime i have ever come across all rolled into one.

4. Blazeblue- wow, i have no idea why so much of this year’s anime has proven to be such a disappointment. Here is where i should spend a few lines giving a brief description this show, specifically what it’s about; except i can’t. Seven episodes in i have absolutely no idea what the hell i am even watching. You have some guy with a giant sword running around, fighting anyone and everyone, almost always losing before a powerful rabbit eared lady appears to transport him to a handy doctor.

You then have all these other ambiguous characters with increasingly ambiguous powers and weapons, constantly spouting a whole load of nonsense about the past, present and future, ALWAYS MAKING ABSOLUTELY NOT EFFORT TO EXPLAIN ANY OF IT. Seriously, seven episodes in, i have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on.

RATING: –2/5, yes this anime is that infuriating, its characters all that pointless. And how is it that the main character Ragna is so feared, yet he always gets his ass kicked.

5. Senyuu- Unbelievable, this five minute episode anime is the only descent thing i have watched all week. Basically a demon lord defeated ages ago emerges to unleash his demon horde against humanity. The hero that defeated him centuries back is now dead, so it falls to his descendant to rise up and stop the demon lord. Only there are about 10,000 individuals in possession of the blood of this great hero.

All 10,000 are unleashed upon the world, with the tag hero, to fight against the Demon lord and prove themselves the one and true savior. Surely one of them is bound to succeed.

Yes, this is a comedy and a descent one, despite being so short.

RATING: 3/5.

HIGHLIGHTS: I am not particularly a fun of shoujo; which is why i surprised myself when i turned to Shinrei Tantei Yakumo for entertainment, an anime i dropped after two episodes a long while back; that is how bad the anime i watched this week has been.

MANGA

Finally, some sanity. If there is one thing that can be said about manga, its that there is always something explosive to read somewhere, and you don’t even have to look that hard.

1.Claymore- CLAYMORE IS AWESOME, and i don’t know if i have said that enough times. I only wish it would make the leap from monthly to weekly; the story would benefit greatly. I am always surprised by how much the series gets done in each chapter. The ten chapters i read this week continued the struggle between Priscilla, the ghosts and the ancient male awakened beings, these battles growing increasingly erratic with each flipped page.

And Priscilla…wow, this character is nothing short of a monster, specifically with the revelation about her true power. I always wondered how Priscilla could take so much damage, so much of her body literally torn away until only mere scraps remained, only for her to emerge stronger and victorious. These chapters finally explained it, that Priscilla didn’t regenerate as other Abyssal ones did. Rather she could create matter, and basically recreated her body each time it was destroyed, which makes that last scene, with all the ghosts, remnants of the last generation, gathered to fight her, all the more perilous.

Saying that the next chapters are going to be epic is nothing short of an understatement. We have received so much from Claymore this year, watching as awakened beings, claymores and Abyssal ones, young and old, rose and fell in quick succession. Even the destroyer finally fell this year. Now only Priscilla still stands; and with the results of this battle it seems we will finally wrap this arc up, that started with Miria storming the organization. Soon we should be heading off the island. And i for one cannot wait to see the dragons.

RATING: 5/5, nothing short of brilliant. And Clarice; i appreciated the way her death was handled; always known for her status as a failed experiment, never truly merging with her yoma, the new number 47 finally found purpose, going down protecting Rabona and bringing Miata back to Sanity. It was sad, the crude nature of her death; she literally blew away, like dust. It’s been a while since we saw Clare as infuriated as she was when she arrived on the scene as Priscilla struck Raki down.

2. Ubel Blatt- Wow, that is all i can say with this manga; just wow. That is how good it has become and as i approach the finishing line, i dread reaching chapter 117, because something tells me Ubel Blatt is monthly, probably longer, and it might be a while before i come across another chapter. Not since Vinland saga have i come across a manga as thrilling as this, yet displaying such a dark and brutal tone; Ubel blatt is a riot to read, the crazy nature of its battles, its surprisingly good art (gets better with time) its absolutely warped villains and heroes.

Watching Koinzel marching down the warpath, determined to achieve his revenge despite the knowledge that it would plunge the world into darkness, the way the war of heroes has turned once great warriors into conniving villains, all the for sake of a throne allows Ubel Blatt to shine in a way few others series do. I don’t know when i stopped reading this manga for the sake of passing the time; probably when Elseria was walking through the streets of the city, trying to find hope in the possibility that her soldier’s might pull off a miracle and beat back the reinforcements of Balestar’s invading forces hours after doing the impossible and defeating the first wave; then Balestar’s new ship descended from the heavens, armed with a weapon so powerful it was laying the city to waste.

Then mere moments later the clouds parted to reveal a battalion of soldiers riding dragons, approaching the city, hell bent on wiping it off the face of the map for what the mad Balestar saw as insubordination. And all Elseria and her soldiers could do was look at the sky as there doom approached. Even Koinzel seemed somewhat outmatched.

RATING: 5/5, anyone reading this manga cannot tell they saw that big revelation at the end of Balestar’s invasion coming, because i didn’t. Also Ato was just a badass during the invasion, no longer the little runt we met several chapters back following Koinzell like a lost puppy ( i really don’t like that name, Koinzell).

3. The God of High school- I finally got back into reading this manhwa, which proved to be quite interesting following the chaos of the last arc and Jin Mori’s activation as the monkey king. This week i caught up on Jin’s story, Jin mori’s grandfather, his initial encounter with his grandson and the grand battles his team fought in the north.

I don’t know how comfortable i am with the revelation about Jin mori’s identity; it kind of makes all the coming battles a little uninteresting. We are basically dealing with a god, there is no chance of him losing; and it makes things a little bit unfair for his support cast. I like stories that allow all characters involved to undergo equal growth, or at least as equal as can be; not dragon ball Z type situations where Goku keeps climbing to the stars while the likes of Krillin vegetate in the background.

RATING: 4/5, i learned what we have all always known,that Jin Tae is an awesome monster of a Taekwondo master. And now we know he cut his own arm off.

4 Tower of God- Another manhwa i had taken a break from, but which i managed to slip back into with little hassle, the story continuing to progress along the tournament theme, Viole struggling to balance keeping the Fug happy while trying to keep his friends safe from his new friends’ rather manic manner of doing things, all the while still trying to hide the fact that he is indeed alive.

While i like Tower of God it can get a bit convoluted, specifically the structure of its tournaments, and the rather strange rules that govern them.

RATING: 4/5, i really cannot wait for Viole/Baam and Rachel to meet. Someone needs to bury that girl.

5. Noblesse- Little happened in Noblesse this week, though that didn’t make it any less entertaining. Frankenstein and Elder 9 are going at it. And the werewolves have entered the action. Frankenstein has a way of making every scene he appears in that much more interesting to follow.

RATING: 4/5

6. Magi: The Labyrinth of magic- it took a while but we are finally in Balbadd, and i for one cannot wait for Kouen to enter the picture. I am curious to learn of the Kou emperor’s intentions. I say Kou emperor but it is his mother who’s in charge last time i checked; we are yet to find out what happened in the empire after father was defeated. Did the queen mother, also a magi from Solomon’s era retreat with Al Tharmen, or is she still lurking around, using the empire and its power to meet the needs of her master.

Whatever she is up to, i suspect hakuryuu will be striking soon, and with a vengeance, seeing as he now has possession of all the dark rukh unleashed during the battle.

RATING: 4/5

7.Beelzebub- I initially thought we had come to the end of this arc, Oga finally finding Iris, Beel’s mom explaining the cause of her actions against the underworld, the spat she had with her husband, the actions the demon king took in response to his wife’s departure-sending their son to destroy the world- and Iris’ actions in using the Solomon Company to prevent her husband’s intentions.

Thinking about it though, just because the reaper was defeated doesn’t mean the company will let Iris go; only she can control the deadly sins, which makes her vital to their plans. The question is where Oga is going to go next, having given Beel back to Iris in those heartwarming last few pages. A delinquent without a demon is just a thug these days in Ishiyama, which counts him out of the upcoming chaos, the battles for the fate of the underworld.

RATING: 4/5, decent chapter; i loved seeing baby Beel’s rage when his mother was struck down. When are we going to explore the Fuji storyline? They have spent too much time talking about him. I want to see him now.

I am still considerably skeptical about fairy tail, so much so that i cannot bring myself to fall into the trap of getting excited about this week’s set up chapter. Maybe it is too early to despair though; i mean Erza rarely disappoints, and with MiraJane in the mix, Hiro is going to have to try really hard to disappoint me.

HIGHLIGHTS: All of you Raki haters cannot tell me you didn’t stand up to cheer when this runt actually stood his ground against Priscilla, a monster than many an awakened being had fled from. And Clare’s expression upon arriving was priceless. If Raki dies Clare is done for, because i don’t think anyone will stop her from awakening and losing herself in her lust for revenge.

That Ubel Blatt revelation about Glen shocked me; i can’t even begin to figure out how he pulled that off. Then again from what we have seen so far, he is the only level headed hero left around. The battle between Koinzel and his unknowing successor was awesome, especially when the young lad finally successfully unleashed the black wing against Koinzell, who couldn’t help but be proud, like he was fulfilling his promise to an old friend. The tale about the lances of betrayal has to be the saddest thing i have read in manga this year.

Anyway my week in manga was pretty exciting, not so much with regards to anime. What was yours like?

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…i am somewhat surprised that i managed to sit down long enough to write this review. Reviewing anime or manga is hard, or at least it has been a pain for the last few days, since Friday to be precise. After several minutes at the keyboard i couldn’t even gather the strength to review Beelzebub, or write any of the other posts i wanted to make.
Why? What else but Fairy tail. It wasn't until i read last week’s chapter that i realized just how seriously i took fairy tail; quite stupid of me, considering what the series has delivered in the last few arcs. Yet i was that irritated by that last chapter, so much so that i lost interest in this little hobby of mine.
BUT SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? …I am losing focus here, which is why i didn’t bother writing anything these past few days, what with fairy tail constantly occupying my thoughts whenever i thought of picking up a manga chapter to pass the time. I haven’t bothered reviewing fairy tail for the last two or three weeks, precisely because i was waiting for this chapter to blow me away, enough to pour all the last chapters into this one review, and yet…anyway, Magi; i can’t tell if these two chapters were released today or i simply missed 205 last week.
Whatever the case at least this arc is finally beginning to advance.
THE PLOT:>
Yunan and Sinbad display hostility towards each other. Aladdin learns of the true threat of the current age and the danger the presence of so many great kings portends. Alibaba learns of the two faces of the new Balbad.

MY REVIEW:>
Alibaba acted pretty much the way i expected him to, keeping a brave front yet clearly rattled by the progress that Balbad had made without him. 206 built a pretty interesting image of Balbad under its new masters. On the one hand no one could deny the prosperity brought about by Kou, the clean streets, large buildings, food, health, money.
On the other hand though, not only where they transforming Balbad into the image of any other Kou city with its architecture and design, they were also launching a surreptitious assault against the city, in exchange for food, health and order, stripping away all independence, removing from those citizens of Balbad any semblance of choice through the introduction of a fairly tame cast system designed to systematically eradicate self will.
It was quite jarring listening to Alibaba’s two friends, Zaylad quick to praise the peace of the new order, its color coded cast system and mechanism of predetermining the economic fate of its citizens, Hassan, her husband, then later expressing dismay at the erasure of all thoughts of hope and dreams, recognizing a vegetative element beginning to creep into the psyches of his fellow men.
Sinbad answered one facet of the reason he hated Yunan, the fact that he unleashed the dungeons upon the world. Prototype is likely to reveal the swathes of suffering under which Sinbad existed as a result of the dungeons. But i suspect there is more to it. We can now safely assume though that Yunan and Judal aren’t friends, what with Yunan spending his time sinking all the dungeons that Judal raises; which explains why the Kou empire isn’t armed with an army of vessel holders.
Whatever Yunan said to Sinbad he clearly agrees with a portion of the blame assigned to him, if he would go so far as to undo the dungeons created by Judal. Yunan did reveal quite a lot with his lecture regarding the king vessel. Aladdin’s initial foray into the open world elicited a lot of surprise, many unable to fathom his existence, what with Judal and the rest already running around.
I didn’t give it much though back then but it makes some sense now. Each magi comes forth to choose a king, a human born to wield the magi’s power to shape the world as he would wish it. That, according to Yunan, is as it has always been. Yet the current era is chock full of Magi, each with a chosen king; there is an even greater number of kings running around, massively powerful beings with great will, commanding great followers, each of whom is determined to change the world to mirror their vision.
Clearly there will be war, as only one king may paint the world in his or her colors. Which places the series in an interesting place. Clearly their will be a clash between these chosen kings, and only one may rise to the top. Which means Alibaba and Sinbad will rise to opposing ends. That isn’t something i am happy with. I like Sinbad and any attempt to portray him in a bad light doesn’t work for me. That isn’t to say that the story won’t be for the better if Sinbad proves to be less that honorable. It will be, i just will not cheer for Sinbad’s fall.
And i suspect that to be an eventuality, mostly because of something Yunan said; that Sinbad disturbs him. He is too perfect, as a symbol of the true king, honorable, immensely powerful, charismatic, a leader in every right. Yunan, and Aladdin, basically made Sinbad out to be the perfect hero; the fact that this doesn’t sit well with Yunan must mean something. I just hope it isn’t something bad for sinbad.

RATING: 4/5, decent chapters. It’s interesting to learn that Magi that die reincarnate as new people, only that Yunan has died 9 times and returned as himself. The emergence of so many kings must lead back to Al Tharmen and their plans for the future.

Related to: Aladdin ,

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Everything i have seen so far seems to forebode a pretty dark future for manga, because all the Manhwa that i have come across so far, no matter the genre, seems to stand a notch hire than most manga that i have read, at least in terms of quality, both art and story. Though it would be safe to say that Manhwa’s biggest selling point is its superb art, clearly unmatched by an manga i have seen so far; which does actually prove itself problematic to some Manhwa, seemingly too concerned with art to place any considerable thought into the quality of a story.

THE PLOT:>

820 years after entering his slumber, Cadis Etrama Di Raizel, creature of the night, noble among nobles, awakens to a world wholly transformed and different from the realm he once inhabited; separated from his kind, convalescing from an eight century old tragedy, Rai ventures into a city darkened by human ambition, the infestation of vampires the least of threats as an ancient coalition of human knowledge takes giant yet deadly strides to achieve the power only privy to those of noble blood, those that have always stood above humanity, once reaching out a protective hand towards their lesser cousins, but no more…

MY REVIEW:>

There are so many reasons why this is the best Manhwa i have ever come across, okay maybe second to The Breaker: New Waves, but other than that Noblesse stands at the very top of the Manhwa mountain, for a myriad of reasons, but all of which do not really matter as much as this one fact; this manhwa is thrilling as heck.

Do you know those manga series you read that seemingly take you on a wild ride, a crazy roll coaster of breath taking ups and downs, each somehow more awes striking than the next? That is what noblesse is, but times ten.

Honestly, i am not even sure what is so great about this manhwa, or rather it isn’t anything i can quantify. For a shonen series there is a disturbing sophistication to it; yes purely shonen battle manga, yet considerably dramatic where necessary and heartfelt, the fluid art only accentuating the brilliance of the story.

+Premise- vampires; these are the waters that the series initially seems to swim in, a world of ghouls and monsters, vampires and hunters. Yet no so, the story doing what all manga and manhwa does, twisting a traditional and fictionally rational concept into something vastly superior, this story following the conflict between humanity and those that it once worshiped; though not really a conflict, at least not on both sides.

Once the nobles watched over humanity, their honor behooving them never to interfere in their petty quarrels, yet obliged to provide assistance and safety whenever the weak creatures where threatened. If there is a central message in this story it is pride, this particular failing nursing envy in a human race that saw nobility not as benevolent protector but as an enemy, a being to be envied; and thus strived to rise, committing horrible atrocities to grant their bodies power, their urge to reach the heights of nobility surpassing any mercy and humaneness they should have displayed.

War, that is what the comprehensive story of this manhwa feels like sometimes, each new chapter allowing us a glimpse into the fold of the Union, masterful in crafting hideous creatures from the flesh of men to display their superiority, moving strings in the shadows, manipulating sovereign nations in an effort to take from the masters of the world their rightful place.

Noblesse is shonen and does little to hide this fact, the battles particularly wild but each designed to further the plot, allowing one a glimpse into the secrets of the past, which one could call the anchor of the show. Rai wakes up from a 820 year long sleep, and all that follows his awakening is a consequences of those mysterious events that took place in Lukedonia centuries back, those movers and shakers that dared raise their hand against their lord, his lord and status quo and the ripples that were cast into the future as a result. Yet i do not think the premise of this story-which by the way isn’t the vampire story it is promises to be, casting these legendary creatures aside as experimental failures, instead raising the status of darker monsters- would be worth the hype without the characters.

+Characters- Noblesse is solely driven by its characters….scratch that, Noblesse is solely driven by the presence of Rai, noblesse as he is termed, the most awesome protagonist i have had the pleasure of encountering this year (okay, maybe second to Eren Jaeger); any sophistication this manhwa displays is mostly attributed to this one character: handsome, alluring, mostly mute, yet so…deep, elegant and powerful, deluging every panel with drastic amounts of drama and sophistication with his every brief appearance.

Not that he stands alone in the spotlight (yes he does), because rather than massively large and aimless, noblesse is endowed with a reasonably sized cast, each character playing a practical in the story, each visibly supporting a specific pillar of the plot. The villains are cruel, and manic when they need to be, their powers growingly increasingly hazardous with each new chapter, yet only serving to allow our heroes to evolve, displaying meteoric levels of courage and bravery in the face of danger.

As i have mentioned before, the mark of a great cast is its ability to deliver contentment and satisfaction outside action heavy plots; in other words any cast of any anime, manga or manhwa that can keep you entertained just by interacting for several scenes on end has captured that special ‘X’ factor that allows series to rise to greatness. And noblesse has that; be it M-21 and his broodiness or Regis pushing the pomp of nobility aside to cook, there is not end to the awesomeness these characters can unleash in any scene so long as they are together-kind of remind me of the straw hats, but better (straw hats do no have Rai- seriously i have not come across a cooler protagonist, not even in breaker).

Rating: 10/10

+Action- the show thrives in the action section, literally inundating its arcs with explosive yet entertaining fights, never onceboring, never excessive or elongated, always just the right length to allow the characters to shine on both sides, through conversation, reminiscing the secret past and almost always bringing to light new secrets that usually confound the conflict; yet it isn’t the fighting itself, not the powers or transformations that stand out, but the characters, the depth of relationship revealed within, the camaraderie or hate, specifically in the case of Frankenstein, so powerful yet so subservient to Rai, displaying extreme levels of violence against any that might show the slightest of slights against this master, be it a threatening action or a harsh word.

I should also point out just how funny it is, surprising just how humorous the most violent of scenes can seem 9which actually goes to highlight how awesome Frankenstein himself is).

Rating: 10/10, AMAZING.

+Art- It is official, Lee Gwang Su is the best artist i have ever come across in manga and manhwa, noblesse vastly superior even to Feng shen ji; that claim might see somewhat erroneous if you have read Feng shen ji, yet i have made my thoughts on its art clear; impressive as it is, it is way too plane, too unimaginative. Noblesse is a superbly drawn series, the colors designed to perfectly match the scenes, the action scenes so fluid as to rise to the level of God of high school, sometimes surpassing even it; their is a movement within each panel, like the images were words, so intricately describing to you the logic of each and every scene within each battle, all in one image; and as i have said it before, i love manga that is easy to read, action scenes that do not need me to squint, to study the entire page to figure out what is happening in this one panel.

Rating: 10/10, actually more like 20/10; in comparison to what i have read so far, Noblesse truly is superior, even to my favorite, claymore. If nothing else the means through which the powers, thrown, unleashed, poured, are displayed will wow you. Simply put, reading Noblesse is pleasant.

Verdict: No, i cannot decide whether Noblesse stands above or below Breaker, because both of them are incredible manhwa, with incredible stories of hardship and regret, with amazing characters; though Rai most definitely stands above Shion as a primary protagonist. Noblesse is a must read, one of those manhwa/manga that must feature on any otaku’s reading list, or even none otaku. Because Noblesse is, in many places, basically a comic; that is how well drawn and colored it is. Any criticisms i can think of are limited to the characters, specifically the same old human characters playing the same old role of victim. If only Noblesse would assign them some actual roles to play.

RATING: Perfect 10/10, higher if possible. Each new arc has managed to raise the stakes, revealing so much about the Noblesse world, yet so inundated with story that there is always more to tell as the story progresses, more to reveal, more awe striking battles, more character surprises and betrayals, more, more, more, more…why haven’t you read this yet? Seriously, why not? There isn’t a more elegant manhwa or a more elegant cast of characters. And did i mention how funny Noblesse is?

-Noblesse is a web comic written by Son Jae Ho, illustrated by Lee Gwang Su and has been running since December 2007.

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It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that the quality of an anime or manga series is determined as much by the villain as it is by the hero; and truth be told some of the best series i have ever come across have had some of the best villains, which got me thinking. What is a good villain? Or rather what constitutes a great villain in any given manga or anime.

Well, truth be told i am not particularly sure, this being a topic i will give greater thought to at a later date. While pondering on the subject though one random and rather idle day at work last week, i started thinking about villains as they had been portrayed in anime and manga so far, and what elements best stood out in the best series that i had encountered, which had best endeared me to them. I came to a very simple conclusion, which i will highlight at the end. But first these are the villains that anime and manga has strived to present to us for as long as i have been watching anime and reading manga.

They can be divided into two primary categories, namely:

+Complex villains

+Evil villains

As described above, it is my belief that the assignment ‘villain’ doesn’t necessary make a given character evil or really that bad.

N:B: The images inserted below represent just some of my favorite villains; they aren’t actually representations of the complaints they are neighboring.

+Complex Villains-

I enjoy watching series with complicated plots, with winding twists and turns, stories that are as unpredictable as they are riveting. As such it might come as somewhat of a surprise that i would express abhorrence for complex villains in series. Okay maybe i do not abhor them but they have become somewhat of an irritation to me, and that’s because THEY ARE EVERYWHERE.

Here is the thing, i enjoy following the exploits of the odd complex villain once in a while but it feels like that is all there in anime and manga these days. I have heard the criticism, that anime and manga is filled with way too many straight forward characters, evil for the sake of being evil, with no particularly intriguing back story or objective. And while i would have joined in the chorus for anime dating back to the 90s, 80s and so on, such claims about anime today leave me chuckling and wondering; where exactly are these simplistic villains that they are speaking of? Because they aren’t in anything i have watched or read recently.

There is such a thing as too complicated; and today’s anime and manga stories have turned complex characterization into clichés. I have come across ridiculously silly and fluffy anime series that, halfway into the series, suddenly become so heavy, introducing dense and dark back stories to initially cheery characters, the result being somewhat discordant story, these new characterization simply failing to jell with the tone of the show.

+And the fact that so many of them do it pisses me off, three primary irritations arising:

-Distinctness- the over complication of villain characterization is turning what should have been intriguing villains into perfect copies of each other. I don’t know how but modern anime has managed to transform complexity into a trope, an irritating cliché making the rounds through some of my favorite series. Anytime a new villain rolls onto the scene, if you are anything like me you will roll your eyes at his supposed vileness, waiting for the moment we learn of his dark past, the parents that abandoned him, the uncle that sold him into slavery, a disingenuous description of how spending his childhood crawling through the mud turned him into a monster.

And they are almost always children, both as the victims and eventual monster than emerges. 99% of these complex characters are all exactly the same manifestation of the same sob story. I will use Bleach as the most common example of this, with all the villains almost always mirroring each other’s motives as well as the supposedly tragic pasts that molded them. I think i have groused enough about how almost every arrancar and Espada in the series needed a flash back of their sad lives before they perished.

-Insipid finales- Why do all these series with complex villains end the same way, with the villain on his knees, weeping as he reminisces on the tragic past that brought him to his current status. There is a consistent lack of unpredictability, because i can always see it coming, that ten minute lull in the action, when the hero finally closes the emotional gap with his foe, reaches out to the villain empathetically, the entire fiasco ending in a hug or something similarly mushy, all forgiven, or the hero forced to kill the villain but through a mist of tears, suddenly sympathetic to his plight. It irritates me to no end.

--Where i can sometimes ignore the lack of distinct yet complex villains and silly finales, nothing irritates me as much as the way these series seeming depend on a rather false sense of sadness to mask their lack of quality. A complex villain isn’t truly complex unless their back stories are not only fraught with difficulty but awe strikingly tragic. While that in itself doesn’t bother me, what does is the way these series attempt to force this dark atmosphere to emerge, like they are not simply trying to chronicle the tragic past of a character, but trying to beat you over the head with it, again and again until you really understand how sad it was.

Character A cannot simply find themselves homeless; they have to be literally dragged through the mud or find refuge in a pig sty before you can truly appreciate how bad A had it. It all starts to feel really…fake, sometimes bordering on silly. I get that adults can show considerable violence towards little kids. But in which world are 7 or 8 bulky males going to surround a fallen 7 year old before continuously stumping down upon and kicking them senseless like a pack of dogs? These series will go to silly levels to force you to feel a sadness that is more often than not absent.

I am one of those otaku that will get quickly irritated by overly weepy anime and manga stories and characters, mostly because they always fall into this category, feigning what seems to me to be a false sense of sadness, clearly trying to draw unearned emotional engagement from the audience. Again i go back to bleach, with so many (previously vile) villains going down confessing some dark secret, Ichigo mopping over them before having to put them out of their misery.

+Now i can appreciate what some of these creators are going for in trying to craft such overly complex characters (and sometimes it really can get too convoluted), yet most are dogged by the same problems:

-Believability-The idea of complex villains is to create a negative character that does terrible things but which the audience can none the less relate to on some level. The problem with most anime and manga i have across is it does a poor job of brining the message across. 90% of the series that attempt to convert me to the villain’s point of view leave me somewhat amused; many of you must have come across these sorts of shows, that leave you asking ,’ Really? You expect me to believe that someone would commit genocide because of that?”

Few other things irritate me as much as a series failing to successfully explain to me why a villain is who he is or does what he does.

And this is usually where they start beating you over the head with their message, clearly unable to justify how rough the villain had it, which seemingly forces them to portray his or her past in increasingly darker tones. This goes back to the point i made above, where a three second assault with an open hand transforms into three minutes of the villain receiving brutal abuse from seemingly possessed adults during his childhood.

I don’t like watching a series or reading a manga and walking away frustrated; that’s what these sorts of series with complex characters do for me.

-Morality- Now sometimes even when the series does such a great job of breaking the complex villain down, it fails to matter. The point of flash backs and back stories is to progress the story or morph it in one way or another; understanding that the reason Frieza destroyed entire galaxies worth of planets was because of some ill that was done to him, some cruel act meted out of his parents, doesn’t change the fact that he committed a heinous crime, and the story will progress towards his inevitable demise, no matter how pitiful his plight might be.

There has to be a purpose to complicating a villain, a payoff of sorts that will allow the story to progress in a different direction. Learning that Itachi in Naruto had committed genocide on the word of his superiors actually made all the difference to the story. Had they done the same for Frieza (strange we didn’t get a lengthy back story) he would have still ended up fighting Goku on an exploding planet.

+Don’t get me wrong i am not advocating against complex villains in anime and manga. I have come across anime and manga with complex villains and characters that have been done quite well, with well narrated back stories, with just enough intertwining plots to become riveting, making few attempts to shove their messages down your throat, but simply presenting the story and allowing you to interpret it as you might wish. Series like Full metal alchemist managed to pull complex villains like Father off (actually making him and Wrath quite pitiful) without seeming like they were flailing their hands through out the series in confusion.

My argument is that most series fail to execute complex characters appropriately, turning what was an interesting plot into an overused tool. This reminds me of the argument many made against the Man of Steel movie, most of these complaints actually aimed at Christopher Nolan, that everything super hero movie is taking an unnecessarily dark turn in the motif of the Dark Knight (which isn’t something i mind actually).

+Evil villains-

Now i call them evil villains because they are just that, evil; well, they bad or at least antagonists in the story. Maybe its just me but i feel like that has become a scarce element in many manga and anime series, villains that are actually…villainous. I call what has been happening in anime and manga in the last several yeas the Magneto complex.

Magneto is a character from the X-men universe, a mutant activist of sorts promoting mutant kind the best way he can. Again maybe its me but i have never really seen Magneto as a villain, maybe not an anti hero but a guy that is doing what he can for his race the best way he knows how to. And it feels like every villain i come across is nothing more than a whiny Magneto facsimile.

In fact i would say that there aren’t many actual villains left in anime. Because every villain these days has good intentions, every villain is a lost soul that needs to be saved; every demon or warlock has a good heart hidden beneath his fangs, every thug an innocuous intention gone wrong.

Basically all villains of this day and age are anti heroes taking things too far. What happened to villains that were actually…bad? I am talking about good old dark Vs. light stories that so many people are quick to disparage but which can manifest as much quality in story telling as the most complex of plots.

It is more than possible to craft a cast of villainous ‘evil and vile as they come’ characters within a great story and intriguing plot. I am not advocating for the sorts of aimless villains we used to see during the earlier days of anime, evil for the sake of it all, with not particular reasoning behind seeking the earth’s destruction.

I just want villains that are villains, that will not be talked down, that do not need some dark and tragic past to explain why they do what they do, that present the sort of threat that will not be eradicated through a little therapy. Most people have very negative impressions of basic good Vs. evil stories in anime and manga, never realizing how exhilarating they can be.

Just look at Last Air bender; most people zero in on the intricate plotting of morally conflicted characters and the decisions they have to make in trying to describe Avatar as a complex anime series with a deep story, not realizing that last air bender is as basic a Good Vs. Evil story as they can get; you have an evil fire lord reeking havoc on the land and a young avatar that must stop him. A story as straight forward as that, with a villain that was as evil as they can get proves that you can create riveting stories in anime and manga without resorting to creating convoluted back stories for an increasingly complicated villain.

+I don’t know if i got my point across but i will conclude as such; i am as big a fan of complicated stories with complex villains as any other otaku out there. But its become too much, with every anime and manga choosing to follow this same path instead of branching out into something different. As awesome as Johan (Monster) might be to appreciate, sometimes a little Vegeta goes a long way in making things a little more exciting.

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