katmic (Level 10)

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I have never had the most positive opinion of Dragon Ball Z. My experience with the series was initially restricted to the first 16 episodes of Vegeta’s invasion of earth, at which point I somewhat lost interest.

Backtracking for no particular reason (that I can remember), I encountered Dragon Ball, Toriyama’s original series, and loved its quirkiness enough to give its sequel another go; I went as far as the Freeza saga before finally calling its quits.

Before today, my thoughts on Dragon ball as a franchise (precluding the original Dragon Ball) pretty much aligned with those of the numerous DBZ haters the internet has been known to produce, most of whom cannot stand its exaggerated tropes.

Again, that was before today, before I actually saw Dragon Ball Kai, a series that just might have transformed my entire outlook on Akira Toriyama’s story, so much so that it somehow compelled me to take a closer look at Fairy Tail.

DRAGON BALL KAI
My first encounter with Dragon Ball Kai began with Gohan and his journey to school upon the back of his nimbus cloud. I knew something was terribly wrong almost immediately.

It wasn’t just the quirkiness of watching Gohan bring justice to the streets in his silly Saiyaman costume but the miraculous and rather casual return of the twice (thrice?) dead Goku and even the manner in which the confrontation with Babiddi and his minions played out.

Basically every thought I had ever had about just how campy, cheesy and cliché’ Dragonball Z could become seemed to manifest in the 17 or so episodes of Dragonball Kai I watched.

And it was awesome; a reaction that my brain couldn’t quite explain and which, even now, I can’t help but presume might have been a fluke on the part of this specific set of episodes.

+THE PLOT:
Fighters from all around the world are summoned to partake in a test of skill and strength in the World Martial Arts Tournament; when an ancient and malevolent evil threatens the world, the strongest among them all will rise to defend their home against the dark machinations of a power hungry sorcerer.

+REVIEW:
I don’t know if that plot description does this series justice, at least as far as the episodes I watched are concerned; because, to an extent, Kai had so much more going for it than that particular synopsis describes, even while doing so little in the same breath.

-The characters
DB Kai’s characters single handedly sold the show to me; I know the series is just DBZ re-mastered but I do not remember enjoying the DBZ cast this much in my original encounter with the universe.

Kai’s cast is energetic and full of life, bringing less depth of story and more fun and excitement. I was especially taken by Trunks and Goten, whose rivalry was an interesting and light hearted take upon the conflict between their fathers.

Mr. Satan was infinitely humorous, not only in his show of cowardice but the various interactions he had with his daughter Videl and her new comrades; and Gohan, I was caught a little off guard by his age, seeing as the last time I saw him, he was off training with Picollo in preparation for Vegeta’s arrival, and doing more crying than actual fighting.

Considering his curret power and age, one does question the decision to bring Goku back to the fold; with the younger cast finally burgeoning and having come into their own, it would have made more sense to bury the past and all its heroes, making way for the new generation (like most shonen tries to do).

And any nostalgia among fans that cannot see a dragonball  universe without Goku could have been easily satiated with Goten, a Goku facsimile if there ever was one and the perfect opportunity to inject the innocence of DragonBall back into the aging series.

None the less I can’t complain, because even Goku’s presence aided rather than harmed this arc.

-The Story
‘What Story?"’ is what I would have said about Dragon Ball in the past, and speaking truthfully that hasn’t changed. That is what my brain is struggling to reconcile about Dragon Ball Kai.

The majority of the elements that this show uses I have spent considerable time complaining about and raging against in various other anime; these tropes, the cheesy execution of plots, the somewhat messy pacing, I should have been screaming (at least internally) at Dragon Ball Kai as I watched it.

And my brain struggled to remind me of how much I hated this sort of story execution in other anime, how many manga had irritated me by telling the exact sort of story that was playing out in Dragon Ball Kai.

And maybe there is a genius element to all this, a secret technique to presenting this material in a way that, rather than infuriate, immensely entertained me. I can’t even compare Kai to the original DBZ because I didn’t watch this arc in the original format.

Which means I cannot quite determine if Dragon Ball Kai actually does something different from original, or if this arc was just as entertaining in the original Dragon Ball Z.

Whatever case, the arc promised a fun filled story told within the setting of explosive battles at a tournament, followed by the arrival of an ancient evil, and it managed to entertain in every way.

The actual battles were engaging and the conversations revealed enough snippets of information to provide an idea of previous story lines and arcs that might prove relevant at the present.

-The action
You cannot talk about Dragon Ball without mentioning the action; and for a series as old as this, it is surprising just how dynamic and not stale the action is.

One of the reasons that tend to attract me to Naruto is the series’ unique collection of action scenes, usually so much more than a punch/kick/punch/kick approach. Probably because their fairly unreliable levels of durability (at least in comparison to One Piece and Bleach), fight scenes in Naruto are typically dynamic primarily because of the caution each character injects into his or her actions on the battlefield.

And in a series where a kunai to the throat can bring even the strongest enemies to their knees, it makes sense that the fights would progress fairly slowly, with each step planned, well thought out and executed with thorough forethought. 

Dragon Ball Kai reminded me of Naruto, not on its pacing but the variations that it infused within each fight scene; for a series this old, I expected several minutes worth of characters blurring about each other, and throwing endless flurries of invisible fists and kicks at each other.

As such it was surprising how almost grounded the fighting was, at least within the tournament setting, the moves varying with the passing of time, making even the long winded battles worth watching.

Again, I cannot tell if this is the effect of Dragon Ball Kai or if the original series actually got his good. Whatever the case, I could watch these aliens beat the daylights out of each other all day.

And did I mention how awesome Trunks and Goten were.

+VERDICT:
Dragon Ball Kai is fun, and it is the fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously that makes this arc work so well. Yes, it is silly to an extent, yet the show chooses to not only accept but utilize that silliness to great effect.

Dragon Ball Kai, or at least his arc, is the sort of show you can watch on a lazy Saturday, where nothing particular piques you interest and you simply wish to immerse yourself in a little bit of light fun.

+RATING: 8/10, I am still in awe. The idea that I could enjoy Dragon Ball Kai this much still baffles me. Again, I am not quite certain if it is this arc in particular that is simply that entertaining, or if the rest of the series maintains this same quality of fun.

Barely halfway through this saga, I cannot rule out the possibility of finding disappointment once I finally push through the rest of the arc, Here’s to hopping that the series maintains this same quality.

And who knows. I just might decide to backtrack and catch up on the entire series, starting from the Frieza finale onwards.

THE FAIRY TAIL COMPARISON
IN the few short years that I have been reading and watching Fairy Tail, it never crossed my mind to juxtapose Fairy Tail against Dragon Ball regarding any of its incarnations; not only because my experience with Dragon Ball was limited, but the two series, well, they don’t really have anything in common outside of basic shonen tropes.

Dragon Ball Kai didn’t change that perspective; what it did was allow me to understand the potential that lay within Fairy Tail’s structure, or rather all it could be.

Don’t get me wrong; while I am not as big a Fairy Tail Fan as I once was, I have reached a place where I can appreciate it, where the story telling decisions made do not infuriate me quite as much.

That being said, I cannot ignore the manga’s many flaws. Simply put, Fairy Tail doesn’t know what it should be, or even wants to be; straying back and forth between light hearted tones and very dark concepts, I have been accused before of failing to appreciate the story for what it is: simplistic, comedic, action packed and Ecci.

And the claim is this: if I could only understand the fact that Fairy Tail wasn’t the dark and heavy series I want it to be, I would enjoy it. 

To an extent that is true, but the fault for any confusion on my part with regards to the sort of manga I am reading falls solely on the shoulders of Hiro Mashima; I take Fairy Tail more seriously than it deserves because that is the tone the story has always presented mostly dark and only breaking out the fun and happy stuff at the end of its arcs.

As I was watching Dragonball Kai I couldn’t help but think of Fairy Tail. Because Kai knows what it is, or should be, and makes optimum use of its assets. People like to make excuses for really bad entertainment; think of all those movies that want us to believe they are terrible on purpose, just so they can qualify for the ‘So bad they are good’ Category.

Dragon Ball Kai isn’t bad per say; but it is campy and very cheesy, the sort of cheesiness that so many tried to convince me was intentional and which I disputed as desperate excuses until today.

Clearly Toriyama knew what he was doing, because Kai spends more time making fun of itself than I thought possible. There is a perfect balance between the dark and light elements. And at no point does the story get so serious that you forget what Dragon Ball is meant to be.

This is what Fairy Tail should be; if its so determined to follow its lighthearted side, then why not stick to it, play the strengths that a story within such a genre affords, the way Kai does its thing.

Kai doesn’t as much narrate its story as it does simply play with the plots, throwing characters about, the result being a surprisingly fun filled experience. At the end of the day Kai makes it so it doesn’t matter how its arcs unfold, how the various battles finish or who wins at the end. 

It is all about the journey. And in that regard it can get away with all the ludicrous power-ups it wishes to invent. Because, at the end of the day, the focus on creating a fun filled experience is never lost.

Fairy Tail is a somewhat dark and action packed shonen series that wants to do lighthearted comedy and ecci; and in that regard it fails, because it creates expectations for plot progressions down the sort of murky paths that never payoff the way they should.

It would benefit from not taking itself too seriously. While it isn’t quite terrible, despite having some terrible moments (Because she’s Erza? Really Hiro?) Fairy Tail could truly come into its own, become a true contender for the top spot if only it was less of an overly emotional series, dark and action packed, yet sort of comedic and silly, and instead truly embraced its light and fun side.
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Episode 3 of Nanatsu no Taizai portends some pretty great stuff for the series; I mean, just look at that animation. While not quite perfect, I can see the series maintaining Hunter X Hunter level consistency, not only in storytelling but artistic quality.

In which case we just might have stumbled upon the perfect replacement for HXH. Diana is exactly the way I expected her to be, down to her uncharacteristically small voice. And Gilthunder is pretty intimidating for a foe.

Knowing what I know now in the manga makes his actions earlier on in the series so much more interesting to watch, especially taking into account what he had to go through to fight Meliodas.

Speaking of Meliodas, his actions in Episode 3 more or less mimicked his solution to Hendricksen in this week’s chapter, which was basically taking the beating of his life in order to achieve some clever goal. The sins are coming together so much faster than I remember. 

It shouldn’t be too long before my favorite sins, King and Ban, finally emerge.

THE CHAPTER:
The end is here; Meliodas makes a final near fatal move to stop his god-like foe.

MY THOUGHTS:

That was anti-climatic; not Meliodas and Hendy. Elizabeth, it’s been a while (three or four chapters) since she last featured in any substantial manner; which normally wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen for a character.

Except I was pretty hyped about her actually doing something to bring Hendricksen down; so, basically, she transforms, acquires some fancy eye tattoos and now she’s content to just sit back and watch Meliodas take all that punishment?

I am not complaining per say, I am still happy that Elizabeth is going to start playing an important role in events; however I wish they had built upon the momentum of her awakening.

-The Nanatsu No Taizai Story
If Deadly Sins wasn’t a mere 99 chapters old I would have already began talking about the end by now. The story began with a kingdom in peril, the seven deadly sins scattered and hunted for a crime they didn’t commit, and the figures responsible for forcing them into this defensive position planning to execute some nefarious plot even as they enjoyed the adorations of the people.

At the present the Seven Deadly Sins have more or less united (save for Merlin). The Kingdom has or will recognize their role as heroes in protecting them from Hendricksen. The rot within the Holy knights order has been all but extinguished, especially with Dreyfus’ demise.

And we now find ourselves facing the root of all evil in the kingdom; Hendricksen, the one who either started it all or chose to continue in perpetrating an evil plot.

Upon his defeat, which should be soon, Deadly Sins will have wrapped up a large chunk of its story; and that makes one wonder: What’s next?

-The Future
With the deadly sins story all but explored, it might be time to take a step back and delve deeper into the lives of each sin. We have met the fairies, or at least learnt enough about them to have met their kind. We now understand how King ended up on Meliodas’ team.

The focus should then logically turn to the giantess Diana; where did she come from? What happened to her people, and what circumstances brought her to Meliodas?

And then there is Ban’s crazy immortality and whatever secrets Merlin is keeping about the day she helped Hendricksen and Dreyfus frame the Sins. We haven’t even began to scratch the surface of the mystery that is Gowther. Who is he? Better yet what is he? And can he even die?

We learnt a while back that, before coming to the kingdom, Meliodas served under another king and protected a different land. Then things went very wrong. That is a story I can’t wait to delve into.

  Nanatsu no Taizai is far from over. I don’t think we have even began to explore the world of this manga. At the very least, Deadly Sins should last another 100 chapters.

RATING: 6/10, awesome fight.
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These 25 pages flew by so fast, and it wasn’t because I found the material to be all that engaging. In fact it was the opposite. Chapter 342 didn’t strive to do anything new. And if this is the author’s attempt at taking things easy and showing a gradual development in character and abilities, he or she needs to stop.

THE CHAPTER:
Everyone wants to get stronger. Rai reminisces about Muzaka’s last words.

MY THOUGHTS:
Oh who am I kidding, this chapter wasn’t slow. It was boring. No, it was slow and boring, not really worth waiting for over 7 days. The problems that appeared two chapters ago seemed to re-emerge worse than ever this week.

+The Good
There was nothing great or even marginally entertaining about chapter 342. Even the art couldn’t sell me this stale and repetitive material. This being the first manga series and chapter I read in a given week, if Noblesse is portending what is to be expected of upcoming chapters in the next few days I might as well prepare myself for some disappointment.

Okay, fine, M21 looked pretty decent in his new form; you can never fault Noblesse for its art.

+The Bad
Everything. This chapter took 4 pages worth of material and dragged it out over 25 pages; it got quickly irritating watching many of the characters in this chapter basically go round and round in their arguments, repeating themselves over and over again without saying much.

Maybe it is simply the lack of elegance of Manhwa that shined through Noblesse, that tendency by most Manhwa to basically butcher the structure of their dialogue; because Regis’ conversation with Gejutel lasted way too long, and neither noble was actually saying anything new.

And then there was all that panel time wasted on internal dialogue and conversations and wishes about getting stronger. I know this is shonen, but I get irritated when series such as this repeat themes and ideas we have encountered several times before.

Seriously, this chapter didn’t do anything.

RATING: 3/10, I didn’t think it possible, that I would encounter a Noblesse chapter so devoid of excitement and intrigue that it would bore me; Noblesse chapter 342 actually bored me.
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Is there really anything to Noblesse beyond its gorgeous art?

Yes, there is a lot more to Noblesse than the impressive looking panels, chief amongst which are the great characters. But here’s the thing; if the art was all Noblesse had to offer, I would probably still read it.

Chapter 341 was just, wow. I don’t know what the heck the authors have going for them that no one else does, but Manhwa shouldn’t look this good. With the way the action scenes played out in the latest chapter of Noblesse I might as well have been watching the anime, one page at a time.

THE CHAPTERS:
Lunark and Keitan face off against the newcomers as both teams gear up to undertake their mission to capture Muzaka. RK4 continues its grueling training, that much more determined to protect their master from his own power.

MY THOUGHTS:
I love shonen manga, especially action oriented shonen manga, and Noblesse is like an overdose of shonen battle manga. The action sequences just get better with each new chapter and arc. Thinking on it, if Noblesse ever gets animated it just might end up losing this quality of art.
+The Good
Noblesse is great when its goofy, especially when it is smattering these funny elements in between the serious moments. Truth be told that is one area where the series can get campy, whenever the story gets too serious and rather clumsily attempts to display the suffering of its characters, especially for one another that results.

The last two chapters, these two chapters and the next few chapters are most likely going stick with the training; and I don’t mind, shonen gets good when allowing us to see just what our heroes must go through to get stronger.

IN Noblesse’ case its mind crushing pain as Takeo and group expose themselves to the dark spear and its soul and body consuming abilities, even as M21 confronts Karius in a fight to the death.

Where the scenes in the lab with Frankenstein managed to remain light, allowing our heroes’ personalities to shine through their anguish, M-21’s material took a more serious tone, specifically regarding M-21’s willingness to suffer for the sake of his comrades.
Again, typical shonen tropes that I none the less love reading within the Noblesse context.
+The Great
Okay I can’t emphasize enough just how great chapter 341 looked; the Noblesse secret lies, not in its crisp clean lines and backgrounds, but the way it infuses atmosphere into its scenes through subtle yet dramatic elements.

It makes for a more animated result, and Noblesse felt like it was running on all cylinders with that last chapter, especially the way it represented fluidity and motion.
+What mattered?
Well, nothing. And that is my problem. Chapter 340 was a whole load of unnecessary and very circular conversations; with characters wasting several panels saying absolutely nothing. This was most ostensible with the werewolves, with several their boisterous words and egotistical replies.

If not for Takeo’s funny scenes chapter 340 would have been a total waste; and actually it was, because the chapter felt long and yet nothing whatsoever happened, or at least not anything of note.

Chapter 341 was an action fest, so that’s something. The panels tried to remain relevant to the training theme, so much so that none of the 24 pages felt wasted, which is good. As far as story progression is concerned, M-21 has finally transformed, which means we might be done with this training business very soon.

And he looks a lot like Muzaka.

RATING: 6/10, I could have done without chapter 340; even as a means of introducing new villains, that was a lot of wasted words.
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So, that’s it then, Clamore is done. Having waited for more than a week, putting off reading this manga for as long as possible, I don’t know if the finale was quite what I expected. 

And I doubt an extra two or three chapters would have changed the outcome by much. Whatever the case, this is the end of an era, what with so many series coming to an end so close to one another.

THE CHAPTER:
With Priscilla defeated, Teresa and Clare share their final words. With the organization now fallen, the remnants of the silver eyed warriors raise their claymore to cleanse the land of Yoma once and for all, in hopes of finding some piece after.

MY THOUGHTS:
But is it really? The end of an Era? Considering the number of cancellation news we have received in the last two months, most of which has been almost immediately rebuffed by rumors of sequels and continuations for popular titles like Tokyo Ghoul and Kuroko’s Basket, can we really truly presume this to be the end of Claymore?

Because it wouldn’t surprise me to hear of a continuation to the series in the works a month or two from now, even though the final page of the chapter clearly suggested that fans of Claymore should start looking forward to the mangaka’s next work.

After a decade or so of Claymore, I can understand the fatigue that comes with drawing the same manga day in, day out for so long, and whatever need might arise to seek out something new. But then again this is claymore. 155 chapters in early a decade is a drop in the ocean compared to most other shonen manga series.

And even if he chose to pour another 155 chapters out for us fans, we could hardly accuse the mangaka of stretching the story.
-THE END.
Satisfying? Not quite. This is how stories in manga end, with friends, family and even enemies exchanging final words of goodbye. I certainly wouldn’t compare Claymore chapter 155 to Beelzebub’s weird final chapter (although considering the series, it was sort of appropriate).

None the less chapter 155 wasn’t the most exciting or entertaining chapter of the series and frankly I expected more. I guess every manga finale aims to produce some sort of heart warming conclusion, which chapter 155 more or less tried to provide.

But…whether it was simply rushed, whether Priscilla’s end wasn’t given the consideration it deserved, whether the series could have taken the time to show us the impact the death of Priscilla and the organization has had on the island, chapter 155 will not go down in history as a noteworthy finale, not in comparison to rivals like Deadman Wonderland.
-MUST IT END?
After the events of this chapter, my answer isn’t quite a resounding ‘NO’. Certainly there is so much story that Claymore could explore with just as much thrill and excitement; however the presence of entertaining plots doesn’t mean Claymore must explore them.

The young claymore in the final panels made a point I hadn’t quite given much thought; they told the man with the dark glasses that the war with the dragons wasn’t their fight, and they had no obligations to fight and die for people and lands they didn’t know.

In which case, yes, it must end; an all out battle against the so called dragons wouldn’t be Claymore in the sense that we know it, but something else all together. As such, maybe it would be asking too much to expect the mangaka to delve into a brand new story.

Because that is exactly what would happen if we ventured across the water; it would be the equivalent of Claymore making a brand new start.

Not that I would complain; but this is more than a fair place for the series to end.

-THE FUTURE.
It would be fun exploring the claymore world in a short prologue, a few chapters to just lay out the future as it might progress, the status of the various characters and whatnot.

Two or three chapters is all it would take to satisfactorily conclude the series. And I am still holding out hope for an anime adaptation.

RATING: 6/10, as far as manga finales go, I am really not going to remember this one.
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