katmic (Level 10)

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A couple of things come to mind reading this chapter of Fairy Tail. Firstly, is it really that simple to become a slayer? Because I thought one needed contact with an entity steeped in a specific element to gain control over its magical form.

Like a dragon slayer training under a dragon. And why bother? For what purpose did Deliora determine to gain slayer magic, a demon so powerful as to have laid to waste several cities, now cowering against a mere ice mage.

THE CHAPTER:

Gray Vs. Silver officially commences with Gray immediately pushed to his limits against a superior foe.

MY REVIEW:

A lot of action in this chapter and yet it felt a lot like set up for some breakthrough Gray will probably achieve in the coming week.

Not complaining, I liked this chapter, and the action was pretty well choreographed to display Gray’s full range of attacks. I appreciate Hiro’s attempt to make this battle about more than mere power levels.

Gray actually applied himself in displaying the dynamism of his magic, using ice make in various unique ways, from the Gatling guns to the giant hammer and the sword. Pretty impressive art as well.

I have always found Hiro’s art to peak when drawing Gray’s ice magic in action; as opposed to the various hazy panels that are Natsu’s dull battles. Maybe fire doesn’t translate as well on paper.

Whatever the case, I actually found myself entertained by this chapter. That isn’t to say that I am not still apprehensive about what is to come next. The fact that Deliora was so afraid of Gray as to resort to using slayer magic is nonsensical, seeing as not even Ur could match his capabilities.

More importantly, this is starting to mirror the Mardgeer situation; Deliora placed an entire village under ice with a single wave of his hand. Why is the fight against Gray still moving a this pace?

Not only should he have murdered Gray a long time ago, taking into account how helpless Gray is against him, but even if we are to believe that Deliora is more interested in causing more pain than actual killing, he spent most of this chapter standing about and letting Gray unleash a barrage of attacks against him.

As it is we have yet to see an actual fight between Silver and Gray. For pits sake Deliora froze the entire battlefield for no logical reason. Why worry about a few non ice projectiles if he could have simply placed Gray himself on ice.

+Predictions: Yes, Gray is going to master ice slayer magic; at the very least expect him to eat Deliora’s ice at some point, probably on Ur’s advice.

RATING: 6/10, yes pretty entertaining. Fairy Tail is best when it maintains an air of unpredictability, even though I am pretty sure I know how this is going to progress.

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You know you really like a story when a whole lot of nothing happens in a chapter and you find yourself none the less entertained. That is how I know that I like a book, that I can take so much enjoyment out of characters simply mingling and conversing.

So it’s official, I really like Noblesse.

THE CHAPTER:

Muzaka has disappeared and his absence breeds chaos among his subjects. Rather than engage with his pack upon his return, Muzaka turns his attention towards a

more interesting entity.

MY THOUGHTS:

Reading this chapter of Noblesse, I was reminded of just how much drama the manhwa tends to squeeze into its various scenes; and that isn’t a bad thing, because reading noblesse feels a lot like watching an anime, with the panels arranged to flow with with the same dynamic fashion as animated scenes.

I don’t if i am imagining it, or Rai is actually displaying all the emotion that I believe him to be bringing to the fro in his many silent posture.

Thinking on it, it seems like that was all that happened chapter in 328, Muzaka and Rai finally coming face to face, Muzaka proving to be every bit the cool Lord that Rai is.

Rather than waste panels on more comedic fun with Shion and crew, as brief as this chapter was it was an enjoyable peek behind the curtain, a chance to watch the initial sparks of friendship fly between these two current enemies, making mention of the underlying political tensions, the potential cause of future Noble/werewolf clashes.

+RATING: 7/10, it is not surprising how little happened; it is surprising how much I enjoyed the chapter none the less, especially the subtle comedic elements, this including Raskrea and Rai’s silent moments.

+HIGHLIGHTS: Rai and Muzaka’s meeting.

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I was anticipating this chapter and am not even sure why; it’s the typical rule of most manga that the end of a massive conflict is immediately followed by some downtime, though the purpose of this chapter revolved around that final revelation, which wasn’t much of a revelation truth be told.

THE CHAPTER:

The various species are glad for their free and begin to emerge from the shells. The magicians however express doubt over their victory and ask whether freedom and equality achieved were a worthy cause for the sacrifices they suffered.

MY THOUGHTS:

Magi is at its best when its asking all these difficult questions and giving few answers. There was hope in chapter 231, watching as the various species finally emerged from hiding and enjoyed the sun, free from the oppression of the orthodox magicians.

However there was also despair from the magicians that had fought for decades and centuries to bring equality to the other species, only to achieve their goal and lose their families as a consequence.

The first half of this chapter was dark; there was less doubt in Solomon’s leadership than I expected and more raw anger, with most of the magicians coming to accept the fact that Solomon wasn’t to blame.

He bounced back rather quickly, Solomon, putting his mind to the task of figuring out what David intended in massacring his friends and family and then gifting him with the stave.

Following previous revelations about David’s intentions to capture god, it was of little surprise what the crew discovered at the end. Yet one has to wonder what David had in mind.

I cannot even begin to ascertain where this story is going. We know David has foreknowledge of the future. Which means all his actions where intended for a very specific purpose and not merely meaningless violence.

And now we have Illah, stuck in another dimension, leaking magoi; this has to link back to the great Alma Toran disaster and what Al tharmen has in mind for the present world.

+Predictions- We can presume that the Father is Illah corrupted into a black rukh form, and is probably responsible for Alma Toran’s destruction. Solomon’s friend's are still on track to becoming Al Tharmen.

With this chapter I am now even more certain that Sheba will become Gyoukuen. She is clearly mesmerized by Illah whereas Solomon is curious. He’s probably going to find something that deems Illah in his current state too dangerous to be set free.

David will probably prove to be righteous, with his previous actions intended for the greater good, and in her attempts to set Illah free at all costs, even with the potential destruction of reality, Sheba will turn against Solomon.

And she did call Illah father after all, the same thing Al Tharmen called that black thing that fell out of the sky.

+RATING: 7/10, This Magi flashback is gearing up for quite the epic finale.

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CLAYMORE CHAPTER 151-152 REVIEW: SHARINGAN TERESA/ THE TRUE FORM OF HATE.

NOOOOOOO! Those words at the end of the chapter, I simply refuse to believe them. The end cannot be approaching.

The end of this arc maybe, but not of this great series. I want more, and I am willing to believe that the mangaka has a lot more in store for the manga. We cannot go out before seeing the dragons.

THE CHAPTERS:

Teresa hits the battlefield, challenging the former number 1s absorbed by Priscilla to show the pride of their ranks and challenge her in direct combat. Seemingly weakened from the internal rebellion, Priscilla’s hate for Teresa rises to the surface, granting her great power.

MY THOUGHTS:

It’s odd, I hated chapter 151 when I first read it last month; something about it seemed less than the usual Claymore quality. Reading it a second time though gave me pause and a chance to appreciate it for a great battle chapter in contrast to chapter 152.

Great chapters all round; I wanted to see Teresa in action, and these two chapters reminded me of the awe I first felt watching her in action against the Priscilla and Irene, shortly before her death.

I won’t call her a beast, but she is, defeating Cassandra even while faced with a rather odd fighting form and then standing up to chaos that is Priscilla.

Thinking about it though, chapter 152 shined largely due to the emotional aspects of the story, specifically Teresa’s attempts at gaining an understand of this new world and Clare’s friends, allowing them and us an opportunity to understand her place among the ghosts as she saw it.

Some of what she said was a little surprising'; I personally rarely give Yuma any thought and I will sometimes forget her existence; even when she makes an appearance I struggle to remember what she’s all about.

But it would make sense that Clare would find her most endearing, both having struggled with their weak ranking and stature. Surprisingly, I am found these conversations between Teresa and the ghosts quite fascinating to read, even more than the battle scenes, this including Raki’s account of his time with Isley.

Though, I think we all knew that Isley had changed his tune during his days with Raki, becoming less murderous villain and more fatherly figure to two interesting individuals.

Speaking of Isley, it has been eons since we last laid eyes upon those undead things that brought the so called Limitless Isley down; one needs to ask why the organization never considered launching those monsters (and even by Yoma/awakened being/abyssal one standards, those things are monsters) at the juggernaut that is Priscilla. That is a clash I would like to see.

+I thought Priscilla was all about Yoki reading, and that availed her all the advantage she needed against any and all opponents. But she showed superior brute strength as well, on top of speed and an ability to adapt new skills. One has to wonder what the greatest number 1 can truly do when unleashed.

+The art in these chapters lacked some of the finer details of typical claymore, precluding that Teresa/Cassandra fight, which was pretty amazing. I love the effort Norihiro Yagi pours into creating these intriguing claymore and their even more intriguing fighting styles.

RATING: 7/10, watching Teresa finally engage Priscilla was quite exciting, observing as she maintained her usual calm demeanor even in the face of Priscilla’s rage, executing the sorts of techniques others termed ‘special’ with little effort.

One cannot dispute the fact that this fight was simply destined, between the strongest claymore ever and the greatest awaken being in existence. This being Claymore I cannot even begin to guess who will come out on top.

Priscilla is already raging but Teresa is still taking things easy.

These last few chapters do beg the question though. Is Teresa actually Clare’s awakening? Because then one has to wonder if Teresa herself can actually awaken. And if she can’t, then that would be a shame.

Keeping Abyssal Teresa from us is like Bleach’s Zaraki Kenpachi never revealing this bankai (and knowing Kubo that is a possibility).

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I don’t know if it’s because of the amount of anime I have watched over the past few years, but very little impresses me these day. That’s not to say that every anime I come across is little more than garbage.

However one might say that I rarely flinch at anime that could be described as good, instead always on the look out for something that could be called great.

In other words, every once in a while, I want to be completely blown away, and it is probably because of how rarely I encounter true gems within anime that when I run into a masterpiece like Now and Then, Here and There, it so excessively impresses, to the point of shocking or even startling.

Maybe it’s because of the several months that have passed since I last watched a truly breathtaking anime series that Now and Then, Here and Now feels like one of the best written series I have ever watched.

THE PLOT:

Shu is a typical Japanese boy with an unbeatable, optimistic and determined attitude. However, after seeing a mysterious girl with strange eyes named Lala-Ru up on a smokestack, he is soon pulled into a strange desert world. soon comes discovering the true terrors of war, the brutality, torture, hunger, thirst, and child exploitation.

Determined to save Lala-Ru as well as his hard earned, and often reluctant, new friends from the insane dictator, Shu mu triumph against the insanity of the tyrannical Hamdo, even while trying to maintain his positive view of life in a difficult world.

MY REVIEW:

I find it difficult to refer to Now and Then as a masterpiece, mostly because it is a relatively simplistic story, compared to those more popular anime such as Death Note and FullMetal Alchemist Brotherhood.

A boy is snatched out of present day earth and thrust into a post apocalyptic future, where a manic tyrant is intent on using his flying fortress to unleash unholy hell upon the remnants of the planet.

A simple sci-fi series, one that plays out rather directly, the story moving from point A to point B as would be expected from a story that follows a young hero suddenly thrown into a dangerous world.

Yet Now and Then is anything but typical, and for two primary reasons:

+The story behind the story- on the surface, Now and Then is an adventure story chronicling Shu’s attempts at returning home, and hence initially presents as a considerably more innocent and lighthearted series.

However a closer look immediately reveals a darker underbelly. At its core Now and Then is a war story, that presents a picture of the uglier sides of conflict, sprinkled with heart ache and chaos.

Rather than a young adventurer afforded the opportunity to explore the new world, Shu is inducted into a military force under the hand of a wicked tyrant; and what follows is less fun and more child torture, more or less obliterating the already blurry line between good and evil.

There was something disturbing about listening to Hamdo, steeped in a disturbed psyche, put his second in command to the task of replenishing the dwindling military he had single handedly crippled.

That disturbance grew as it became clear the means through which the military fortress maintained its military might, essentially raiding villages and relieving them of their strong; even more disturbing to learn that there were less strong able bodied men waiting to go to war and more innocent male children, waiting to be inducted into a military force that meant to lay to waste all they had grown to love.

Even more disturbing to actually watch an army of soldiers descend upon a village and rather violently pillage it of all its children, the boys to be transformed into fighting machines, the girls utilized for the purposes of breeding.

And the chilling elements? The fact that the tyrannical army was little more than a menagerie of scared, confused and largely unwilling boys, themselves once torn out of their homes to fight in a war, a now, mere months to years later, turning their weapons against other innocents, and doing to other boys and girls what was done to them.

-Is Now and Then Dark? Yes, and in the most irritating manner; beyond the typical good Vs. evil, Now and Then creates quite the dilemma. Bad things happen. People die, but it is difficult to determine if justice is ever really done by the time the story wraps up.

Because that requires that those responsible for wreaking havoc, the villains, are punished; yet, in watching some of these events play out, the various characters rise and fall, you would be hard pressed to find a single reason within which to take joy.

Because it is that difficult to actually hate anyone; and I have always vocalized my hate for those myriads of anime and manga always too quick to redeem their villains, many of them usually hell-bent on selling to us some silly sob stories meant to somehow draw sympathy for their antagonists.

Most times, all that such plots elicit from me is irritation, at what seems to me to be an obvious attempt at insulting my intelligence.

Now and Then juggles its villains brilliantly, never interested in developing sappy backstories, but rather simply placing focus upon building strong characters supported by a pithy past, with each action complimented by a very rational understanding of the events that created some of the monsters in the anime.

Even watching some of the massacres playing out on the battlefield, one is forced to question the logic of the vengeance related plots that are perpetrated in some of the story arcs; watching some of these kids, on opposite sides of a divide, make war against each other, there is clearly no right or wrong, no rationale for either party to execute its desires, neither Hamdo’s forces needlessly burning villages to the ground, nor the rebel elements seeking to obliterate (in vengeance) an enemy merely continuing the cycle of hatred and violence perpetrated against.

And maybe that’s what drew me to this anime, the conflicting arguments it raises, almost simultaneously; with the rapidly shifting sides and tides, Now and Then makes for some of the quietest, yet most thrilling episodes I have watched in a while.

+The characters Behind the characters- yes, Now and Then begins as a lighthearted story that grows rather dark. But maybe that isn’t completely true; because, despite initial assumptions, this anime is no wolf’s rain.

Rather than an endless barrage of sadness, Now and Then preaches a message of hope, one that only proves endearing in the face of the amazing cast, a rather small character base that proves to be the most interesting I have encountered in a long while.

I have heard people speak of the inspiring elements of shonen anime and manga; and quite a few will speak of the messages of hope and triumph that shine through some of these stories.

But truth be told, I would choose Shu over Luffy any day of the week as far as lists of greatest anime and manga characters are concerned. I don’t even understand the excitement over listening to Luffy make some awesome speech in the face of overwhelming odds, possibly rising from an awe inspiring defeat.

Because really, as awesome as Luffy’s better moments are, it is difficult to cheer for any specific strength of will he seems to display against indomitable challenges. Even when faced with death and failure, one needs to question if Luffy has ever really felt despair.

I mean, I am sure he has; but is it truly inspiring watching him eventually overcome these hardships? Is it not expected, not because of One Piece being shonen, but because of the nature of Luffy’s life?

If you think about it, Luffy has everything going for him as far as action heroes go; and even in his darkest days, past victories against other seemingly overwhelming odds should give him the confidence he needs to overcome no matter the situations he faces. In fact I would be surprised if he actually failed to find the strength to rise following past victories.

This isn’t an attack against Luffy, merely an example of the typical anime and manga hero. And as epic as they might appear in their own right, I found Shu to stand above most of these characters.

Why? Well, because of how realistic Now and Then was; we are talking about a series devoid of overt supernatural elements (besides Lala-Ru), where heroes do not have the luxury of hidden powers and special skills, where the determination to protect your friends and nakama doesn’t stop them from being murdered right in front of your face.

Where children are children, weak and incapable, where even quickly mastered capabilities do not change the frailty of their little bodies; this is the world that Shu has to deal with, and watching the young boy undergo all manner of violence, witness the evil being perpetrated around, usually helpless to do much about it, yet maintain his positive demeanor, that is something I found intriguing.

It is one thing to spout speeches of hope when you are one unlocked power away from achieving victory. Shu has nothing. His words, his beliefs about pacifism and kindness and hope are tried and tested in the worst conditions.

And when he comes through to the other end, ever so determined to maintain his positive outlook, well, that is a message that doesn’t feel as cheap and forced as most anime tend to feel.

-Not that Shu completely carries the series on his shoulders, but rather his interactions with the various characters and the relationships he builds. More intriguing are the difficulties those persons around him undergo, and who do not have the benefit of a hope crafted by Shu’s peaceful upbringing.

You will love these characters, and hate them, then struggle with the sympathy the show is so brilliant at creating for some of its antagonists, throwing terms like hero and villains aside. Now and Then is populated with survivors; be it pitiful Nabuca, committing atrocities even while constantly muttering those words that Hamdo said to him the first time he was inducted into the army, that he would return home once the war ended, this goal driving him towards darker paths for a dream of future peace.

Or Boo, too young to understand the purpose of war, too ready to forgive and show mercy, ever at the hands of those comrades determined to transform him into a true machine of war, this being his only means of surviving the chaos to come.

And Sara, wisped away from America, like Shu dreaming of home, but staring at a bleak future, purposed for breeding Hamdo’s army. There couldn’t be a better cast of characters to manifest the brutality of war, each concealing several layers of depth.

+VERDICT: You know what, it is important to remember that Now and Then is dark, but not brutal; and that is a surprise, one that only cements the show’s quality in my eyes.

Anyone can create darkness and despair using blood and gore; just watch Afro Samurai or Berserk, and you are bound to flinch at the flying heads and pouring entrails.

I love the subtlety of Now and Then, whose core revolves around hinting at the messages beneath each action, every word of dialogue steeped in depth and revealing volumes about each character and situation.

Truth be told I was surprised about how miniscule the bloody elements were in the anime, most people simply dropping to the floor when shot, presenting little more than a little red dot in manifesting the results of gunfire.

And I like that; I have nothing against gore, but most anime and manga utilize blood for the aim of creating shock; a series that can bring across the darkness of its story without resorting to meaningless violence is a story I can get behind.

Released in 2001 and most definitely presenting a rather dated look, be it the animation or art, Now and Then, Here and There is none the less miles ahead of 99% of all the anime I have watched in the past two years.

That might sound like an exaggeration, but that is how impressed I am with this anime. And I expected to hate it. I can rarely stand to watch anime this old, mostly because I find the dated production values way too distracting, this not even taking into account the use of countless tropes, novel back then but considered clichés today.

Not Now and Then; the last anime I watched and liked, that was this old was Noir-not great but decent.

Now and Then is a must watch, for any anime fan, that is if you are interested in indulging in a simple yet intriguing story with endearing characters and a strangely positive message about the future.

+RATING: 10/10, certainly there were flaws, but most of them so negligible as to have no impact on what is essentially a masterpiece of an anime. Watching Now and Then, Here and There, I can understand what Hayao Miyazaki said recently, about the pithy anime of old, now replaced by what he generally described as meaningless fluff (only true to an extent).

Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku is a 13 episode that ran from October 1999 to January 2000, directed by Hakitaro Daichi (Kamisama Hajimemashita, Fruit Baskets) and written by Hideyuki kurata (HandXRed, Tokyo Ravens, The World God Only Knows, Hellsing OVA, Read or Die, Excel Saga).

HIGHLIGHS: Boo and Sarah, Abelia’s final moment with Hamdo, Shu and Lala-ru’s last sunset.

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