katmic (Level 10)

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The term hiatus usually refers to a temporary break in an anime or manga’s run (though in Hunter X Hunter’s case, that is more of a semi permanent break).

Hiatuses are an appropriate element in anime, even encouraged as an acceptable substitute for filler. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Not so with manga; few elements are as irritating about manga as hiatuses; and the reason is less about the anticipation that results and more to do with the story continuation issues that arise.

When I finally sat down to read Zetman a month or two ago, following its resumption after a more than three year hiatus, the first thing I took note of was the fact that I had absolutely no idea what the hell was going on.

And it took a few chapters and several guesses to find my place within the story and even that is an assumption on part. Chances are I only think I know what is happening.

It is probably for this reason that I can find some excitement over Otogi Matsuri’s return; it hasn’t even been more than a year since I caught up to its 66 chapters, and that was less than two months after it went on its break.

No, not excited; I am ecstatic about Otogi Matsuri’s return; and if you have read the manga then it should be clear the reason for the surprise. Dark offering, as it translates, couldn’t be more typical as far as shonen is considered.

If you wish to encounter true shonen in its raw essence, then look no further than Otogi Matsuri, a story that doesn’t even try to do anything really that new or different, but which more than exceeds at doing the same old thing better than most.

THE PLOT:

Yousuke is your average high school student, living peacefully in the town of Miyakono, until he accidentally breaks a shrine belonging to the Guardian of the South, the phoenix. He then unwillingly sacrifices his future, in return gaining the bow of the Suzaku. Now, to regain his life energy and protect the innocent people of Miyakono, he must battle against monsters called the Kenzoku using his new found power.

MY REVIEW:

If I were to use visual relations, I would compare Noblesse to a hand glider descending over verdant lands; most other manga and Manhwa are content to simply show us the glider, mostly from above but sometimes sneaking a shot from below.

Noblesse places you in the driver’s seat, allows you to almost feel the sensation of traversing through the air, the world blurring about you, the wind whipping your face silly.

Otogi Matsuri is keen to bring to your senses the impact of a devastating collision, its art that clean and striking in portraying what is a rather chaotic and disturbing world.

+STORY:

As mentioned above, Dark Offering doesn’t try to do anything overtly different; you have a fairly typical ancient betrayal turning into an ancient grudge morphing into an ancient evil that was then sealed away by four guardians.

Powerful guardians taking familiar forms such as Byakko, Suzaku, Seiryu and the like; and as would be expected, a fault in the seal, a threat regarding the Rukujou clan’s return and their bereaved, vengeful and somewhat justified rage makes for a union of four heroes who will sacrifice greatly to the four guardians to wield their power, standing to fight the approaching evil.

Okay, the element of sacrifice makes for surprisingly riveting reading, at least with regards to the depths of drama it sometimes infuses. But again far from riveting stuff.

Where Dark Offering manages to stand apart though is the way in which it actually tales its typical shonen story.

And this somewhat harks back to Gamaran; the manga wasn’t always the riveting samurai epic I perceive it to be today; and even after coming to an end, i wouldn’t place Gamaran within the same ranking as greats such as Samurai X.

Yet Gamaran managed to reach such incredible heights of entertainment because of its thrilling approach to the story.

MINOR SPOLIERS AHEAD: Considering its weak beginning i was surprised to find myself hooked to Gamaran within the first 15 chapters. The manga made efforts to create the setting for the core of its clashes in crafting the tournament that would choose the next great leader of the demon’s haunt.

And my expectations weren’t particularly out of this world; of course Gama would descend to the city as champion warrior to a leader in the making; of course he would briefly encounter many powerful foes. The final battles would approach steadily, Gama cutting his way through various unique enemies to achieve easy victory.

Admittedly the manga did a great job in stoking my expectations shortly after that. The opponents were more than strong. They were intimidating. And this wouldn’t be an all out brawl between the best of the best.

Rather the tournament intended to pit entire schools against one another; that allowed a sense of strategy to enter the equation as different schools began planning about who would fight who, when and how in a battle that would constitute multiple rounds, and in which victory would come to those schools that maintained the strength of their greatest fighters until the final round.

Immediately things were falling into a strange place because Gama’s school had long since lost its student save for one; Gama couldn’t possibly challenge entire schools in combat over a period of several rounds. And while my initial assumptions created images of our Hero obliterating entire schools per afternoon to get to their leaders, the manga had already proven mere chapters earlier that Gama was barely of equal skill to some of the lower ranked members of various schools.

This wasn’t a fair fight by any means; and certainly I was expecting Gama’s supernatural power up to come in future arcs, when we would learn of his demon half and whatnot. None the less I was on the edge of my seat with regards to the events to come.

Then we met the first school that would contend with out young hero, watched them plan their strategy, walk out the door to prepare for their oncoming challenge only to meet Gama, on their front porch, waiting, already on the offense.

This wasn’t a kid boasting of so much confidence as to walk into enemy territory on his own; Gama understood his own short comings and executed a rather flawed plan that, in catching his opponents by total surprise, would allow him to cut his enemy’s three top students down in a single move, immediately leveling the playing field and allowing him a chance to catch a win before the first round went underway and gravely turned the tide against him.

It was in those few pages that I went ‘Whooooooooooa’; that surprise, the understanding that Gamaran not only presented very grounded situations but avoided easy solutions to them. It was always refreshing knowing that Gama had a killer move in his pocket, one that could finish a difficult fight immediately, but which he couldn’t unleash due to a wounded ankle, bleeding stomach or whatever was impairing his physical abilities, forcing him to utilize less than effective skills and basic cunning to overcome.

This as opposed to all those Bleach conflicts that see the hero unleash an all powerful strike after two hours of health crippling punishment.

SPOILERS OVER

That is what this manga brings to table; if it must take you down a familiar road with familiar attractions, then it is going to blast through at 300MPH, making certain that you still get a kick out of it.

That is Otogi Matsuri in a nutshell; it doesn’t surprise as much as thrill. The story is slow at the start and doesn’t pick up until the supernatural elements begin to bleed into the public domain. I personally didn’t really get into it until 30 chapters in, during the so called Madara arc.

And thinking about, that was just about a giant rampaging snake; basically Anakonda but with intelligence. Yet it managed to ramp up the chaos to a point where excitement had to be my only reaction.

+CHARACTERS:

Otogi Matsuri fails miserably in the character section; take its cast out of the explosive nature of the Otogi Matsuri story and they aren’t really worth the attention.

Yousuke couldn’t be more cliché as far as shonen heroes are concerned; standing at the head of his crew, ready to sacrifice himself even while irritating voices moan about his selflessness.

And let’s not even bother with his school life, which is not only very reminiscent of Ichigo and Bleach but receives way too much unnecessary attention considering how irrelevant it is to the story.

Of course Yousuke is going to have to make awkward excuses to escape his friend's company to fight monsters. Of course he will have to protect his classmates from assaults occurring either as a coincidence or because of his presence even while keeping his friends oblivious of his role in the matter.

Of course their eventual discovery of his true identity will create more problems regarding his role than it actually solves; the romantic elements are a forced and badly executed element. Really, this is the reason I am not a great fan of high school settings for anime and manga stories. The plots, characters, everything is always the same; way too predictable for my tastes.

And then there is Irori, not quite your typical female heroine considering how young the master guardian wielder is. I am glad they avoided the cliché child prodigy angle, instead choosing to follow a more dramatic path with regards to Irori’s mastery over her powers.

Kenji is…a pretty intriguing character, the flaws of his past, the demons and decisions that chase him shaping the curses that make his heroic duties little more than a life threatening activity.

Thinking about it, Dark Offering’s cast is pretty decent; I mean, Enzo, the oldest of the bunch and their history teacher, has to be my favorite, especially this conniving ways, his determination to achieve victory no matter the cost, the enormous guilt he carries and the sacrifices he keeps making to keep his secrets hidden.

Okay, I am starting to think my negative perception of these characters largely comes down to Yousuke, who’s unfortunately very meh as far as main protagonists are concerned; but even Yousuke is fun to watch once the action begins.

The limitations of his Suzaku bow, restricting him to three arrows per hour means every battle, and I mean every battle, with him has to be strategic in nature. And it is a restrictions that persists throughout the various power ups, forcing this strategic approach to battle to persist through out even the most dangerous conflicts.

Okay, I have to admit; Otogi Matsuri has done more with its cast in a few 60 chapters that I was giving it credit for.

+ART:

If you seen one gorgeously drawn manga or manhwa, you have seen them all. That is what I used to think. Yet even today, I encounter new series whose aesthetic offerings still manage to impress me.

Otogi Matsuri is no different; it isn’t interesting because it avails the crispiest, cleanest and sharpest images in manga, even though the panels are pretty crisp. Rather Otogi Matsuri allows its unique narration to manifest through its art.

While it took the Madara arc to truly sell Otogi Matsuri to me, my curiosity was immediately piqued following the first demonic appearance in the first chapter. And truth be told I expected gross, grotesque and twisted designs.

Yet there was something even more ridiculously disturbing about watching a giant spider with the giant head of a vicious cat scuttling down the hill side.

Every thrilling chase, explosive battle and heart rending scream somehow resonates through each panel of the manga.

It is manga like Otogi Matsuri that deserve monthly releases; their work reflects the care and time injected into providing the perfect images.

+VERDICT:

No, this isn’t the greatest action, supernatural or shonen series in the world. It most likely wouldn’t make it into my top ten. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t that good.

It doesn’t do anything new, true; but it doesn’t do anything old either. Rather it does the old and familiar in a manner more explosive than most. In a way one need not bother investing in truly unique stories when mangaka like this have the guts to take something old and make it worth the read.

RATING: 8/10, the fact that Otogi Matsuri has resumed its run, and with a whopping four chapters for my consumption, has made my week.

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Buddy Complex had me worried at the start, mostly because it reminded me of Valrave the Liberator and I have nothing good to say about that show.

Thankfully Buddy Complex managed to rise above that particular image; though ‘rise above’ is too strong a statement to use with regards to this anime. Buddy Complex is commendable for being an entertaining mecha anime, nothing more, nothing less.

THE PLOT:

On the first day back after summer break, high-school student Aoba is attacked by a giant robot that appears out of the sky. As he's pursued through the city, his classmate Hina appears in a robot of her own. She rescues him, and tells him cryptically that "Dio is waiting for you", before she disappears. This begins Aoba's new life as the pilot of the Free Treaty Alliance against the Great Zogilia Republic.

MY REVIEW:

I am not the biggest mecha fan; not that I don’t enjoy watching giant robots doing combat on screen. But it can get pretty repetitive. Once you have seen one giant mech battle, you have technically seen them all.

Which is why I couldn’t see the Buddy Complex appeal when I first considered watching it. And I still don’t. Buddy Complex stands upon the base of pure entertainment value alone, in which the characters are inherently likeable and fun to watch but nothing more.

Aoba is an innocent boy that finds himself cast into a war seventy years in the future between two warring parties; he finds, to many a surprised persons, that he possesses the ability to utilize the newly invented coupling system better than any other pilot ever trained, allowing him to connect minds with a second pilot, combining strengths and knowledge to bring forth a new power.

Basically Pacific Rim within a world war context. And maybe that is all Buddy complex has to offer, a fun ride in which we get to follow Aoba’s exploits.

Stranded on a alien earth, he has to come to terms with his fate, the nonexistence of all he knew and the hostility of a seemingly evil foe. Along the way, he makes connections, with Dio, his coupling partner, and the various members of the Alliance he encounters.

If that sounds mildly entertaining, that is because it actually is; and that is the problem. Buddy complex never advances beyond this rather typical premise. The World war is a pretty bland affair, the political complications and conflicts that constitute the various battles proving to be quite boring.

Buddy complex plays out as a typically good vs. evil scenario, in which the Zogilia empire seems intent on ruling earth and an alliance of nations rises to stop them. I say ‘seems’ because very little effort is injected into explaining the purpose and reasons driving the different sides.

Zogilia is a fashioned in darkness, typically donning and armored in darker tones; its cast ever frowning or exuding a sense of negativity, that as opposed to the light surrounding the Alliance.

Certainly some effort is placed into actually fleshing the Zogilia force. Well, I say ‘fleshed out’, but all the anime does is allow us to meet these young men and women, does almost nothing to actually elucidate upon their role in the war, perspectives and reasoning.

+I don’t want to call Buddy Complex cliché, because it isn’t. It is a story that fails to be what it wants. And I believe it knows what it wants, unlike so many other failures, taking into account the way the plot develops.

The attempt to create a sense of personal conflict, to show that both warring parties are indeed human beings with personalities and goals and beliefs that they fight for just about fell flat. Zogilia wasn’t interesting enough, its soldiers just random faces that the author felt the need to name for purposes of depth.

Maybe if we knew a little more about this war than the shallow briefing we were provided near the start, but the anime more or less ignores the war as a whole. And truth be told Buddy Complex would be perfectly fine without all this complex and layered stuff; probably even better. It is the fact that it tried and failed to achieve its intended level of depth that the anime falters and loses a few points.

Buddy complex is the Dio and Aoba story. Their various conflicts were a source of entertainment, as was the coupling system and related elements. Though the conflicts between Cygnus and the higher ups over the coupling system seemed so silly and utterly forced.

Little reason was given for the Alliance choosing to ignore and even debase a weapon as powerful as the coupling system beyond a cheap attempt at creating conflict.

Same thing goes for the way the battles were staged, somewhat ridiculously and forced.

Every time Aoba needed to learn one thing or Dio wanted to prove another or a new mech or attack was in play, it was silly how a Zogilia attack would occur almost immediately after.

I couldn’t overlook the convenience; it was like the author intended to craft an engaging set of battles but couldn’t quite figure out how to lead into them. Considering all the talk about stealth and cloaking technology and secrecy, it felt like Zogilia could find the Alliance forces and ships anytime it felt like it.

+VERDICT:

I found it fascinating that the power ups behind Buddy Complex were essentially an interesting variation of the power of friendship common in most shonen series, in which the relationship between two individuals and its strength determined the levels of power achieved.

Now admittedly we have seen these settings before, where synchronization of some sort requires a specified level of compatibility on a mental or emotional level.

That being said most such scenarios occur between man and machine and are rarely a matter of two human beings combining metal prowess.

I can summarize Buddy Complex as such:

The Good:

The character interactions were pretty good and engaging.

Aoba was a decent hero, not too dumb as to ignore the obvious, never too unrealistically emotional, not so suddenly capable as to render better trained characters useless.

Certain characters received a healthy level of exposition and development, Dio most of all.

The Mecha battles were entertaining and never repetitive.

The Bad:

There were way too many coincidences, and that doesn’t even include the worm hole’s sudden appearance.

The antagonists were all forgettable, just random individuals with names we didn’t even need to know. All but Hina and her loyal pet.

Little effort is injected into explaining the war and the motives behind each party. I don’t need my antagonists to be deep and layered; I simply would have liked to know a little more of what Zogilia wanted.

All in all, an entertaining 13 episodes from Sunrise, worth the watch but nothing so impressive as to be mind blowing or even memorable. IN other words, if you choose not to watch Buddy Complex, you wouldn’t be missing much.

RATING: 6/10, not the best of mecha but not the worst. It would have worked better if not for the subtle attempt to inject depth, and the endless coincidental attacks.

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Wow, it feels like Magi gets heavier and heavier with each new week. And these two chapters continue the trend in telling what is ultimately a very depressing and very tragic story.

THE CHAPTERS:

Solomon consumes Illah and seeks to bring about a Utopia. However destiny rears its ugly head again as new conflict breaks out as a result of Solomon’s actions.

MY THOUGHTS:

There is a huge chasm between fighting for freedom and what the idiots in Magi do in these two chapters.

There is a popular saying about how absolute power corrupts; however someone needs to coin a saying about the ills of excess freedom.

The primary purpose behind the actions of Solomon and crew during this flash back has been to bring peace to the world, intertwined with allowing all the different species access to all the freedoms they desire.

What we have seen over the past few weeks is the systematically disastrous consequences of granting absolute freedom to a people that are probably not ready for it.

I am certain there is a lesson in there about human will and how it reacts after decades and centuries of subjugation. However it is difficult to feel any pity for the destruction that will face the populations of Alma Toran, most of whom more than deserve the destruction that will befall them in the next few weeks.

The entire Alma Toran arc has been about Solomon tiptoeing around the sensitivity of a collection of species undeserving of his aid or sympathy. And it is that fact that makes the events of these chapters so tragic, watching as everything Solomon worked for go up in flames, as the entirety of Alma Toran turns against the very individual suffering and perishing in sacrifice for his people’s freedom.

These two chapters didn’t as much create a conundrum with regards to the rights and wrongs of the situation, as they did damn Alma Toran as being completely unworthy of Solomon’s saving hand.

That raises questions about present day Magi; as chaotic as the times might seem to be, I don’t know if Aladdin really has anything to worry about . Not even the Kou empire is that depraved.

Or rather their actions seem to be guided by some twisted moral compass, this as opposed to those who would eventually become Al tharmen, who, for all intent and purpose, lose their sanity.

Call it falling into depravity or losing one’s way, their wasn’t the slightest light of sanity in any of the characters that took to rebellion in chapter 233.

Magi is presenting quite the dark and depressing situation. And I don’t know if I like it.

RATING: 8/10, Magi has done some pretty stellar work these last two weeks, even though the pacing is still a little off for my tastes. We are finally coming to the end of the flashback and these last two chapters provided quite a number of surprises with regards the roles of Solomon’s crew in Al Tharmen’s creation.

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Lots of drama in these two chapters of Noblesse. It has actually been a while since I was this excited about the Manhwa, even taking into account the previous two chapters. That is not to say that Noblesse has gotten boring in the past few weeks.

As I have mentioned before, the Manhwa merely fluctuates between levels of excitement, but never quite striking boredom. Maybe it’s the flash back. Because as much as we know about the Noblesse story so far, there is still so much left to uncover, especially following Muzaka’s emergence in the last arc.

THE CHAPTERS:

Muzaka’s world continues to grow more complicated, the werewolf finding his patience worn by the barbarism of his kind. As his respect and admiration for his new friend continues to grow, Muzaka has no one else to turn to but Cadis.

MY THOUGHTS:

SO much talking in these two chapters, so much tension. And let’s not forget the dramatic entrances. I don't know how much of chapters 331 and 332 were assigned to silent stares and one sided conversations but I loved every bit of it.

This isn’t quite Noblesse at its best; the manhwa excels greatly in the action arena. Yet Noblesse has the ability to do so much with so little.

The majority of these two chapters were devoted to Muzaka moving back and forth between his pack and Rai’s residence, doing lots of talking and growling and threatening, never quite finding the answer to his problem.

And there was more than enough thrilling moments to keep me glued to my screen throughout, probably because of all the tensions that were raised regarding Muzaka’s dilemma.

It is interesting considering the unique situation he finds himself in; as I saw it the argument came down to one simple fact. The werewolves want to slaughter and rule over humanity. Muzaka has no rational reason to stop them.

And to an extent Mudaka’s reasoning was quite sound. So the nobles have a strict policy against interfering in human affairs? So What? The werewolves live under a freer code, doing as they please, with no leash to hold them back from any of their desires. And the fact that they had left mankind alone for so long came down to simple interest. They didn’t want to snack on man before. Now they want to.

With these varying philosophies in play, there is no way the wolves and nobles can avoid conflict. The nobles don’t just hold humanity in high regard. They live to protect them. And with Mudaka and crew’s belligerent attitude towards their lesser cousins, Muzaka’s friendship with Rai seems ready to splinter even before it begins.

+Watching Muzaka and Rai’s friendship flourish is still proving amusing to no end, especially the constant surprise revealed in Rai’s expressions over the wonders of the world. The more we learn about Rai, the more tragic his character feels, especially in taking into account the reason he separates himself from his kin, which I presume has to do with the actions he believes he will have to take whenever the nobles run amok.

RATING: 9/10, these chapters were both amusing and entertaining, especially the tension surging through the wolf pack.

HIGHLIGHTS: Muzaka and Rai

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And here I was, thinking that Nanatsu no Taizai was proving too slow for me to read on a weekly basis. The only word I can use to describe these two chapters is ballistic. That is how good they were, discarding the niceties of the last few weeks and getting to the nitty gritty of the story.

THE CHAPTERS:

Ban’s arrival on the battle field seems to spell doom for Meliodas and his attempts to rescue Elizabeth. Hendricksen’s plans are waylaid by a worthy foe.

MY THOUGHTS:

Simple fact: I found these chapters exhilarating and it was quite a surprise, mostly because of how fast events progressed. The interactions between Ban and Meliodas were the most interesting, as subordinate attempted to kill master with the aim of reviving his great love.

And Meliodas was surprisingly cool with the entire setting, going so far as to offer Ban the opportunity to revive Elaine using his life once the entire fiasco with Hendricksen ended.

The chapters managed to keep the clash between the two sins entirely unpredictable, so much so that I was curious as to whether Ban would take Meliodas’ offer to take his life.

And when he did in the next chapter, I couldn’t help by smirk at the sudden dark turn of events. So much character development took place in these two chapters, the revelation regarding Meliodas demon side (though I highly doubt that it is that simple), Ban’s perspective on Meliodas and the hierarchy between them within the context of the seven deadly sins.

Hendricksen’s business almost took a back seat, if not for the events of that last panel, with father and son contending with Hendricksen’s demon might.

I love the turn the manga has taken in just two chapters, spiking the tension and making for an interesting story to come in the future.

It is worth mentioning that the art got a little untidy in several places, not quite confusing but not exactly pleasing to look at. The quality of the story does allow me to overlook the art, but only barely. Deadly sins is starting to remind me of Magi in that sense.

RATING: 8/10, that’s two points taken away for the lacking art. Elizabeth is still useless. I loved that one panel that has Ban asking what it is with princesses and getting kidnapped.

I cannot wait for the anime.

HIGHLIGHS: BAN AND MELIODAS. GRIAMORE.

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