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.
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…
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).
+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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
I almost didn’t bother reviewing this chapter Magi, if not for the second half that somewhat attempted to progress the story, beyond the comedic elements of Alibaba and crew.
Alibaba and Morgiana clear up their misunderstanding, with Alibaba coming across as a considerable embarrassment. Aladdin is visited by Yunan, Aladdin revealing that he had taught Morgiana how to use her household vessels as well as teaching her the Toran language. It is revealed that Sinbad is eavesdropping on their conversation.
Their conversation quickly turns sour, Aladdin realizing that the pair isn’t on the best of terms.
Finally it seems like Magi is taking strides to progress the plot; the first half of this chapter continued with the motif of the last two chapters, focusing on Alibaba’s little adventure, which proves somewhat humorous, with Mori admitting her lacking knowledge in the area of relationships. It seems the purpose of the scene though was to cement the loyalty Alibaba’s household held for him, the trio commending Alibaba for his honesty.
Clearly the entire scene was crafted with comedy in mind, yet it wasn’t completely wasteful, bringing Alibaba forth as a man that wears his heart on his sleeve, earning the respect of his household in the process.
The core of the chapter though lay in the second half, with Yunan’s emergence allowing us to finally see the hostility between the magi and Sinbad manifest. We had mostly speculated from their initial meeting during father’s defeat that Sinbad and Yunan had an unpleasant past. Sinbad was clearly not comfortable with the time Mori had spend with Yunan.
Yet even then they managed to remain fairly civil with each other. This chapter seems to highlight that hostility in a harsher light. We have known for a while that Sinbad had his unpleasant side, specifically the fact that he was partially depraved, his fairly underhanded tactics, be it using Alibaba, trying to acquire Aladdin’s wisdom, using the Koe empire princess’ feelings for him to manipulate her and so on; and i assumed that it was because of how far Sinbad was willing to go to safe guard Sindria that placed him on Yunan’s bad side.
Yet it seems like Yunan isn’t the hero he initially seemed; after all we know that whatever his actions say about him, Sinbad is, at his core, a hero, only doing what he thinks is best for his people; by outright calling him a villain, Sinbad might be trying to tell us that Yunan exceeds the ‘doing bad for a good reason’ mark.
We know from earlier Magi chapters, as well as the Adventures of Sinbad manga, that Yunan is responsible for creating the dungeons. Sinbd is the ultimate dungeon conqueror, leaving the like of even the mighty Kouen in the dust. Clearly any history that might exist between them is linked to the dungeons and what Yunan’s true purpose is in unleashing their power. For all we know Sinbad blames him for all the hell that has been unleashed by the vessels released from these dungeons.
Whatever the case i am quite excited to explore this relationship further. More importantly Alibaba is finally at Balbad, which means we can finally get into this new arc. I want to see Kouen and Sinbad talk.
+RATING:> 3/5, decent chapter, forebodes exciting things to come.
I initially thought that Sinbad was making very little progress in telling the story of its titular hero. Now that i think about it though, i cannot expect a story like this to barrel forward at break neck speed, not when its objective is to tell the story of how this legendary character rose to fame. I can understand where the author is coming from, allowing use a chance to view Sinbad both during times of epic adventure and simplistic fun, which is what these two chapters were largely about.
Following his escape from the empire, Sinbad finds himself adrift in an empty sea, void of food or fresh water; on the verge of death he encounters pipirika and her younger brother, fairly large persons from a tribe of somewhat gigantic people known as Imuchack. Sinbad learns of the rituals that precede one’s entrance into manhood, the process of attaining one’s name, through conquering the great rampaging unicorn, a prize Pipirika’s brother has yet to attain.
Tickled by the sense of adventure Sinbad decides to join into this family endeavor of maturity.
The thing about Sinbad is i still have no idea where the hell it is going, mostly because the manga is so recent; we know so little about Sinbad even with all we have seen in Magi, which is both good and bad. Good in that there is a sense of unpredictability with each new chapter, bad in that i have nothing exciting to look forward to.
Unlike chapter 13, 14 proved to be somewhat entertaining for what it was, mostly because Sinbad finally unleashed Baal. I don’t have as much of a problem with the direction this manga’s taking as i initially did; Sinbad’s story is one of adventure. Aladdin is all about saving the world; there are elements of fun and adventure of course, but the majority of the story centers around his mission as a Magi to safeguard humanity.
Sinbad doesn’t have any such ties, so yes it makes sense that we would spend two whole chapters watching him trying to catch a giant unicorn whale. Because technically this is what i expect him to do, sailing the seas and getting into all sorts of mischief before finally finding his destiny. While not particularly excited about the manga, Sinbad prototype has so far managed to set itself apart from Magi and its story.
There was a time where i was afraid that the two series would meld into each other, each seemingly a mirror of the other; but Sinbad has managed to stand out, separate in story and structure from Magi, which allows me to feel like i am actually reading a separate manga rather than a side story of Magi.
+RATING:>3/5, not bad, funny; let’s hope the next chapter is better.
Strange, 203 was another fairly comedic chapter, but one that i somehow managed to enjoy. Rather than immediately skipping to Balbad it seems the author has chosen to chronicle Alibaba’s story at a much slower pace, allowing use a glimpse at his steady progress, mentally and physically, with relation to the events around him.
If there is any purpose this chapter served, it was to further the relationship between Morgiana and Alibaba, what with Alibaba initially displaying depression over Olba and Toto’s relationship-specifically the fact that Olba had acquired a girl friend before him- Olba getting him to come to the realization that Mori might have some feelings for him, Aibaba and Mori finally having a ridiculous heart to heart within which Morgiana thought she was getting Alibaba’s promise to stay with her forever, while Alibaba thought Morgiana had just confessed her feelings to him, and that the two where now an item.
I think Alibaba is shaping up to be my favorite character, because this isn’t the sort of chapter i would enjoy, one that more or less does little to progress the story. Yet it was difficult to read it without smiling, especially at many of Alibaba’s absolutely hilarious reactions and facial expressions. There was that one scene that seemed to say quite a lot about Morgiana, that despite all they had been through she still felt insecure in her position, uncertain that, once they became the truly important people they were meant to be, Aladdin and Alibaba would have place for her by their side.
It was a funny and heart warming chapter. I hope the next chapter finally leaps into the action and gets this arc going, but i still enjoyed this chapter, slow paced, allowing for a more realistic take on the events of Magi; after all no one’s life can actually jump from one explosive event to another.