katmic (Level 10)

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The thing about shonen battle manga is the fact that, well, they revolve largely around fighting, gaining new power ups and defeating stronger opponents with each new conflict.

Not a bad thing; but without some diversity it can get quite tiresome, this being the reason why I struggle to appreciate manga that fail to diversify in their concepts, rarely ever introducing actual stories, instead favoring relentless battles.

Good thing this is a Manhwa rather than a manga, because Noblesse seems to have finally found its stride after three or so largely boring chapters.

THE CHAPTER:

Tao, Takeo and M-21 struggle to overcome the advantage possessed by the elder wolf, soon finding themselves struggling for survival against impossible odds.

MY THOUGHTS:

SO, clearly I enjoyed this chapter more than the last one, even though both were largely the same, focused around fighting. But I guess it would be a fallacy to compare this chapter to last week’s, not when you consider the simple fact that there was some attempt at executing character development in chapter 322.

Admittedly, I like M-21 more than most, and it was an interesting experience, being reminded of the character’s less than rosy past, those sad moments that saw him lose everything he ever cared for around him, from friends to colleagues.

RK4 is a fairly weak force and it is nothing new, watching them take quite the beating; what was interesting was watching Tao and Takeo basically sacrifice themselves for allow M-21 an opportunity to escape. Clearly an ostensible sign of how deep rooted there bonds have become, from a frosty relationship resulting from previous violent encounters, to a brotherhood of heroes determined to give their lives for Rai’s well being.

If there is one thing nearly as commendable about Noblesse as the art is the well paced character development it always finds the time to perform in transforming the darkness of some of its villains into some of the better protagonists of the series.

And who hasn’t been waiting for this moment, when M-21 and crew finally come into their own, no longer desperate for Rai’s assistance in dealing with their various conflicts.

RATING: 6/10, surprisingly entertaining.

HIGHLIGHTS: M-21’s final transformation.

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I can’t believe i hesitated so long to read stealth symphony; because if I had only paid some heed to the manga’s description, specifically its authors, I would have approached it with increasing eagerness.

I LOVE AMANO YOUICHI. Okay, fine, I had no idea who he was until a few day ago; But do you know what I do love? Akaboshi-Ibun Suikoden. If it was within my power, I would have some very unpleasant words with whichever shonen jump executive chose to cancel what was quickly proving to be one brilliant shonen series.

With only 24 chapters in the manga, I still can’t believe someone failed to see the potential in Akaboshi, and Amano Youichi was that masterful artist that brought it to life.

SO, that most important question: should you bother with stealth Symphony? Well, if dropping Youichi’s name didn’t convince you to at the very least give this manga a few minutes of your time, then how about Ryohgo Narita, stealth symphony’s writer.

Yes, that Ryohgo Narita, author of Baccano! and Durarara!. Admittedly I never really got into Bacanno, but Durarara was one brilliantly written anime; bringing these two geniuses under a single roof seems to portend greatness in Stealth Symphony’s future. Not that that translates into immediate results at the present.

THE PLOT:

In a world where elves, dwarves, and invisible dragons live in harmony inside a metropolitan city, Sieg Kumonuma sets out to find someone or something that can remove the curse that he carries on his back. As he attempts to survive in Jinbou-chou, a city filled with fantastic secrets and organizations, he encounters many powerful individuals who quickly determine to either destroy or save him. Will Sieg be able to discover the true secret of his curse, or will it lead him to his own demise?

MY REVIEW:

Stealth symphony doesn’t have the greatest of starts; not that it is bad per say, but really it doesn’t provide any meat for me to sink my teeth into. Then again it is only 12 chapters in, and I can remember my first impression of Naruto. And while I considered dumping it for its juvenile plot during its initial run, it now ranks as my favorite anime and manga.

So yes, Stealth symphony still has the space to try and impress me. The plot may not be the most original (and really, what is these days?) but it is unique in its own way. You have a boy who, through circumstances early on in his life, was cursed with a tool that, in protecting him, endangered the lives of all those around him.

And in trying to locate a solution to his predicament, Sieg hones in on Jinbou-chou, a city that once stood at the center of a great battle that saw the tyrannical race of dragons banished to the moon, not only saving earth but leaving behind a city infused with magic and magical creatures, from elves to dwarves and the like.

There are clear attempts at creating a sensible goal in introducing to Sieg the true nature of his curse/wings, these being a class B legacy, legacies being objects of power left behind by the dragons and which, whether bought or found, granted their wielders great power.

So where does that leave us? Sieg learning that an A class legacy has the power to release him of his wings; only they cost a fortune, more than a fortune, more like enough money to buy a country (the exact terms used in the manga).

Not terrible setting, giving us a hero with a simple goal, using his none existent skills (but great power) to find work in a magical city well paying enough to earn him an A class legacy, along the way meeting all manner of wacky creatures, from the security organization V&V to the assassins guild.

Again, fairly interesting yet simple plot to follow. SO the problem? The characters. They are all pretty dull, and I can’t even call that a complaint because it is too early in the manga for any of them to acquire any worth while development.

Yet, something’s missing. Certainly it is a little too early to judge; but I love reading manga whose characters draw me in week in and week out; and at this point in time where an intriguing plot is none existent, these characters are doing little to interest me.

The cast is fairly…basic, from mysterious director to cool ninja guy, awesome assassin dude, young kid that isn’t really young and who harbors great power and a sadistic persona and so on and so forth; nothing interesting that it can draw me back each week.

The characters would be forgivable if the various plots and mini arcs weren’t so banal and somewhat typical.

But again, this manga is only 12 chapters in; and I can remember despising the idiocy of Soul Eater the first time I watched. Only later did it occur to me the effort being injected into first introducing the characters during those initial episodes, then allowing the real story to kick into gear several episodes later.

That doesn’t excuse Stealth symphony’s unimaginative means of introducing its cast. I will probably stick around for another 10 or 15 chapters to better gauge the quality of the manga before thinking of giving up. Knowing the names behind it does encourage me to persevere.

RATING: So far this is mostly a 4/10, though with the hint that the dragons will be returning after their 100 year exile, there is hope for better chapters.

And the art is pretty amazing, clear and coherent.

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I don’t know what it is about manga this week and story progression; because while everything I am encountering so far has delivered in the action arena, I find myself unsatisfied by the stories told so far; truth be told this has less to do with this week’s particular chapters and more with the previous chapters of Noblesse and Nanatsu no Taizai, each of which has spent quite a while prioritizing action over story progression.

And it can become difficult to complain about Noblesse’ failings, especially with the quality of its art it consistently presents in its action packed panels, though I am finally at place where I must protest.

+THE CHAPTER:

The Lord collides with the elders, while M21 tries his hand out at contending with a true werewolf.

+MY THOUGHTS:

It is certainly true that these days I try to keep the chapter descriptions as brief and spoiler free as possible; yet it does astound me when a chapter description fits into a single line, without any attempts on my part to summarize the plot in question.

That is literally all that happened; and unlike with Nanatsu no Taizai I am not complaining, because this Manhwa is simply superbly drawn, so much so that every new chapter of little more than action always finds a way to entertain me.

But that doesn’t say anything about the story, which, I wish, would start rapidly progressing; because it feels like we have stagnated since Rai and crew clashed with Muzaka and left the island. I get it, there is only so much that can be done in a single chapter, but Noblesse isn’t allowing me to experience the same level of satisfaction I encountered when I first read the Manhwa.

I don’t even remember when RK4 first went into battle, it can’t be last chapter because that was all about Karias; but I have seen this too many times in the past to care, the group entering training to achieve greater power, to prove themselves useful to Rai, encountering a strong opponent, showing what they have learnt and getting their asses royally kicked.

Kind of reminds of Dragon Ball Z in which the Z warriors would spend the year training to defeat a foe that would wipe the floor with them almost instantly.

I am calling this the Fairy Tail syndrome, what Noblesse has been doing in the past 100 chapters, basically teasing some actual development for RK-4 but having them contribute almost nothing; and to think each of them were considered true threats when they first emerged in the beginning of the manga.

On the plus side, and I have already said this, I cannot get enough of this art, and the way the battles are arranged, choreographed and presented, allowing the speed and impact to come through, simply awesome.

+RATING: 6/10, this was little better than Nanatsu no Taizai, merely a tad bit more exciting.

+HIGHLIGHTS: RASKREA

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Nanatsu no Taizai can sometimes prove to be a difficult manga to follow on a weekly basis; and it has nothing to do with how satisfactory the various individual chapters can be, because the manga is fairly consistently action packed, delivering thrilling pages each and every week.

Yet there is something to be said about the amount of action in any given Nanatsu no Taizai chapter; because the mangaka clearly knows how to pack as much action as he can into each weekly collection of 21 pages, keeping the fights fast paced by cramming as much action into each panel as is humanly possible.

But it could be argued that the amount of action presented stifles actual story progression, of which we get very little in a number of recent chapters. Admittedly the manga avoids Bleach’s pitfalls, which can sometimes prove to be too brief for one’s liking, with Kubo wasting so many panels on irrelevant shots (which Bleach is actually famous for) instead of moving his various plots along.

Bleach’s failures are considerably greater because with Kubo even the fight can stagnate, with only one event (sometimes even less than that) occurring in each chapter and creating a feeling of waste. And by one event, I mean reading a chapter in which a character swings his sword once in all 21 pages to deliver a devastating attack and that’s it, the rest of the panels (usually coming before this final scene) wasted on various shots of the battle field and lengthy stares.

Anyway, The Seven Deadly Sins; Arthur and Meliodas finally meet and are now standing side by side, fighting against Hendricksen and Gilthuder. We learnt something important about Gil in the last few chapters, something about his being related to someone very important, I can’t remember.

Either way I was far from moved by chapter 76; honestly the King/Diana stuff was so much more interesting than this. Sure it was great action but nothing really happened, besides the revelation that Elizabeth’s sister, Margaret, was actually being incarcerated of her own free will- which doesn’t interest me much.

At this point Hawk’s story might prove to be a much more interesting plot than the Hendricksen/Meliodas brawl.

+RATING: 4/10, not a bad chapter, only I wasn’t greatly entertained.

+HIGHLIGHTS: GREAT LORD HAWK

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So this is what Fairy Tail feels like when Hiro injects some effort into providing some character development; overall I would say, not bad. Not bad, rather than simply good because this is after all nothing but setup, setup that can go very bad depending on how Hiro chooses to approach the next chapter.

THE CHAPTERS:

Tartaros’ leader Mardgeer activates Alegria, which swallows all the fairies but for Lucy; and while it rampages, Lucy makes her stand against the Tartaros horde, standing as the last man against an impending disaster, with only her spirits for backup.

MY THOUGHTS:

I cannot help it; I know what Fairy Tail is and clearly the key to enjoying it lies in accepting its fun and light hearted side. But I have spent so many years treating it as something so much more serious that I cannot change that mindset now.

Which means I am going to continue holding the manga to much higher standards than is necessary.

That being said, these were two considerably kick ass chapters, portending what could be a massive amount of character development for Lucy.

YES, LUCY, OF ALL PEOPLE. Then again it makes all the sense in the world. Most of us Fairy Tail fans have a pretty uniform view of Lucy as an annoying, completely useless Sakura-esq character. Then again Sakura brings so much more to the Naruto world than Lucy does to Fairy Tail.

And this has nothing to do with her battle prowess; overall Lucy serves absolutely no purpose to Fairy Tail as a guild, and suddenly the fate of the guild and Foire lies in her hands. Is that really a good thing or more bad storytelling on Hiro’s part?

Because this follows what is fast becoming a trend with Hiro, ever since Wendy acquired dragon force; he is clearly taking steps to pour some purpose and power into his female characters, attempting to push them to the fro with Erza.

And that isn’t a bad thing; Lucy is in terrible need of development, only surpassed by Natsu as far as unbelievably underdeveloped characters are concerned (strange that Oda can make that work, because on a whole Luffy hasn’t changed much since his first appearance, precluding a power up or two. Only he still works as a character. Not so for Natsu, afflicted by the sorts of problems you find with heroes that come into play at the beginning of a series, fully formed, with little to learn from the world).

At some point during this arc I envision Natsu standing at Hell’s doors and taking on everything else that Tartaros still has to offer, including END, and obliterating them. And chances are I will fume about the pointlessness of Fairy Tail. Except I will probably keep pushing forward with the series, because Natsu is a power house.

Lucy is a different case. If she stands against the entire Tartaros and comes out unscathed, utterly defeating her enemies, Fairy Tail will have reached new levels of idiocy. Because it makes absolutely no sense (And please Hiro, no Laxus making a sudden appearance, miraculously healed from his last battle; or Jella, who should be in no condition to fight).

Which is why the success or failure of this move will largely depend on what Hiro has in mind; because If this was any other series, this situation would be something to anticipate. Lucy as the last fairy tail survivor and standing by herself against Tartaros creates hope, to finally see her rise and prove herself worthy of the guild’s name.

But only if Hiro executes this part of the story right. Yes, Lucy can completely defeat Tartaros and it can be awesome, but only if Hiro doesn’t throw logic out the window and actually provides a credible solution to the Tartaros threat.

-Chapter 383 was a perfect example of Hiro allowing Lucy the chance to kick some ass, displaying her agility and durability in weathering the power of three spirit summons. Can she pull it off though, defeat Tartaros by all her lonesome?

And what is Lumen Histoire, the so called light or darkness of Fairy Tail?

What can Hiro do to create an outstanding battle royale for Lucy in the coming chapters?

Hiro’s art has been awesome for the past few chapters.

RATING: 6/10, if Hiro expects me to believe that Lucy can perform Urano Metria even after having so much of her magic sapped by three summons, then I am going to be disappointed. Because that is one ability that could give her the edge.

Wait, no, wait, we are forgetting Hiro’s pattern with such situations, having Lucy contend with opponents stronger than her, get her ass kicked, take loads of punishment and holding on until Natsu comes to the rescue. Somehow that sounds even worse than Lucy pulling off a Nakama power win.

Speaking of Sakura I really hope she gets the chance to prove herself before this war is over; the Sasori fight was a VERY LONG TIME AGO.

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