katmic (Level 10)

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This chapter was one large flashback; and I actually expected to hate it. Because all chapter 242 did was basically tell us what we already knew and had known for several dozen to a hundred chapters.

However it would be accurate to say that all this served as a great reminder and somewhat placed things into perspective.

THE CHAPTER:
The Kou empire stands at the edge of war. As Alibaba makes for Balbad in an attempt to protect his home from the oncoming chaos, Hakuryu acquires the means to wage war on his brother and mother.

MY THOUGHTS:
Thinking about it, I have no idea what the hell I even read in this chapter; parts of chapter 242 were flashbacks. But there were parts I am not quite certain about, especially when taking into account what we learnt at the end of the summit about Hakuryuu’s actions thus far.

+The Good
So, Hakuryuu is making plans to kill Gyokuen? Because I thought she was already dead. And is Gyokuen even Hakuryuu’s mother. Because everything that we learnt in this chapter suggests that Gyokuen appeared on the scene rather mysteriously and long after Hakuryuu was born.

So, what the hell is going on here? I might be confusing my Magi facts.

On the one hand, Hakuryuu could have lied about killing Gyokuen in an effort to further his rebellion, and now he plans to turn that particular lie into truth. On the other hand, chapter 242 was largely about Hakuryuu telling us what happened, in which case that last panel could have been the moment, entire days to weeks ago, when Hakuryuu took Judar’s power and ended Gyokuen’s life.

I don’t exactly understand what I was reading. And maybe I am reading way too much into the chapter. Whatever the case, the information was somewhat educational.

Considering how long it has been since we first encountered Hakuryuu and his family, I think I can proceed with a clearer picture about the Kou empire, its origins and a fair portion of information about Hakuryuu’s siblings, most of whom I can barely remember, save for Kouen and his sister.

+The bad
If my memory wasn’t so vague about the Kou empire history, this chapter would have been more or less pointless, with several pages outlining what Hakuryuu told us a long time ago. As it was, very little story progression actually took place, save for that last bit with Judar.

Maybe we needed to get a clear picture about what was happening at the heart of the empire, but the chapter could have done that in two or three pages; more importantly, without clear knowledge of who is dead and who is alive, I don’t how much of this picture we actually got, outside of Hakuryuu’s reminiscing.
+What mattered?
I guess we now understand Hakuryuu a little better; hearing the news about his actions during the summit, it was easy to jump to conclusions that Hakuryuu had gone dark and whatnot.

The character we met in this chapter was subdued, less dark and more determined; which makes you wonder if there is really any point to the upcoming clash with Alibaba. Hakuryuu is bathed in dark rukh, but really he’s no more depraved than Sinbad, merely a king that will do what it takes to bring about his vision.

And it isn’t even a bad vision. The question now comes down to where Judar falls in the grand scheme of things and what his plans for the young king might be; if it simply comes down to Judar having chosen his king vessel, then Magi is going to climax towards a fight between all the kings.

And truth be told, I want Sinbad to come out on top. Whatever Aladdin has to say, he and Alibaba are idealists whose visions of the future are largely unattainable and unrealistic; rationally speaking, Sinbad stands the greatest chance of not only winning any battle that might arise, even against Hakuryuu and Judar, but as emperor he can actually bring about peace.

+Predictions: Whatever Judar says, Al-Tharmen is no one’s puppet; and clearly they are using Hakuryuu for a new agenda; whatever his original intentions, Hakuryuu will lose himself to the black rukh and I suspect Alibaba will be forced to put him down; or at least he will try until Aladdin stops him.

RATING: 6/10, I am a little divided on this one; at a glance it was engaging, but the more I think about it, the less substance I actually see
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  The first episode of Nanatsu no Taizai is finally out; and I have to say that it was impressive stuff. And having watched the episode shortly before reading this chapter, it was enjoyable finally applying voices and color to my reading experience. 

Colorful and energetic with decent voice acting, animation and music, I can see this 24 episode format working out so much better than the typical Naruto/One Piece/ Bleach approach.

THE CHAPTER:
Elizabeth awakens her right eye. The Holy Knights are rejuvenated once more and prepare to partake in a losing battle.

MY THOUGHTS:
Hawk is dead; I know, that is technically old news. But just as surprising as his death last week was the prospect of his return so soon after his demise, a resurrection that was nipped in the bud upon the revelation that Elizabeth had no power over the dead.

Once more, it isn’t the demise of a beloved character that has lent so much gravity to this chapter and the last, but rather the surprising nature of the manga’s choice of tragic hero.

Hawk is dead, and I found it poignant, the way the manga dangled the hope of his revival only to crush it, making for a biter sweet moment.

  The Seven Deadly Sins have risen once more to fight for the future of the kingdom, but at what cost; Hawk’s death was so sudden and surprising that it became easy to gloss over that one restriction to Elizabeth’s power.

The kingdom has suffered so many sacrifices since Hendy’s little war first begun, knights and warriors much braver than Hawk and whose demise I will admit to having forgotten, this including Dreyfus and Hauser.

The impact of a character’s death in manga is often driven by the reactions of those people that knew them best; deaths in anime and manga always resonate best through the faces of friends and family.

Which makes you wonder, who will moan for Dreyfus? Then again his last minute change of heart doesn’t quite place him in the same league as Hauser, who saw the light a long time ago, was willing to turn against his kith, fight for what was right, and now lies buried under the rubble.

+The good
Hendy continues to impress me; he doesn’t falter in this chapter, doesn’t waste time on boastful or provocative behaviors, a path most villains tend to follow in a not so subtle attempt to allow the heroes time to recover.

The man is an all powerful demon and he shows it. And the fact that the knights recognize that their predicament hasn’t changed only accentuates the tension.

+The Great
I cannot wait to watch Elizabeth develop into an integral part of the story; that aside though, I was somewhat apprehensive about watching her reverse pretty much all the carnage Hendy had unleashed over the last few chapters.

Which is exactly what didn’t happen; okay, maybe something akin to just that did happen. But it didn’t feel quite as cheap as I thought it would be and their were definite restrictions to her capabilities.
Important character or not, it would have been unfortunate if the chapter had diminished Hawk’s sacrifice by reviving him. This is one pig I am seeing in a whole new light at the present.

Watching the sins fight Hendricksen over the last few chapters, it would have been pretty easy to ruin the outcome by diminishing the effort the sins actually injected into the fight, what with their physical forms and abilities worn down from previous (and rather devastating) fights.

This chapter aimed to start afresh, to pit the sins, now fully revived, against Demon-god Hendricksen. And I cannot fault it for this approach, not with the epic battle I foresee playing out in the next chapter.

+The Not So Great
There isn’t much you can say about this chapter in terms of negatives; if I have to complain about anything, it isn’t what chapter 97 did, but what it didn’t do.

I would have loved to see Ban; I need to know what he’s up to, whether he is alive and how. Ban suddenly intrigues me so much more than any other Sin right now. I mean, he was split into two, so, it might be time to take that immortal business a little more seriously.

RATING: 8/10, Nanatsu no Taizai has been doing stellar work for the last four chapters. And there is a consistency to the art that has been absent for a while now. The panels are much prettier to look at and that aids the story.
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The last few chapters of Noblesse have been rather disparate, with several plots rising and falling with no distinguishable borders for arcs. Not that Noblesse needs the delineation of arcs to present a good story.

That being said it has been rather odd the way the series has been leaping about; and I guess the purpose lies with maintaining a level of suspense regarding the secrets of the past.
So I can’t complaint; but these three chapters seem to officially forebear the start of a brand new arc. The calm is finally at an end and the storm is here.

THE CHAPTERS:

Muzaka emerges momentarily to engage with his old friend Rai before returning to Cromble’s side. The wolves make their move, but against which enemy?

MY THOUGHTS:
The appearance of Grui and Gaitan falls within what I might call typical Noblesse story telling. That is what Noblesse essentially does, with the end of each arc allowing for a short calm within which we catch up with the lives of Shinwu and group, before the next batch of enemies is unleashed against the city, either a group of elite forces or a pair of exceptional foes.

The resulting events are also equally familiar, with the new foe encountering RK4, giving us quite the show before ultimately triumphing over the weak knights before Rai or Frankenstein finally emerges to deliver a devastating defeat in what tends to be a hilarious and satisfying manner.

Think Dragon Ball Z but so much more sophisticated; and it is a testament of Noblesse's quality that, despite how predictable it can be, the manhwa is none the less consistently entertaining.

Though I might be selling Noblesse a little short, especially taking into account the role Grui and Gaitan will play in the new arc. Typically each Noblesse arc plays out as a Rai and Frankenstein Vs. the Union experience, with victory over each pair or group of enemies only attracting a new pair or team of Union agents to the city, be it advanced mutations or increasingly high ranking elders.

This will be the first time the werewolves play a substantial role as Noblesse antagonist and one has to wonder if they are even that; after all, as agents of the wolves, their only interest should be Muzaka.

This removes Rai and his people from the equation, making this new arc a Werewolves Vs. Union Bonanza. The werewolves have no reason to pursue Rai, and even if they chose to, they know enough about Rai to understand  just how suicidal any such mission would be.

Unless Cromble isn’t operating with the Union anymore; unless Grui and Gaitan are Union forces making a move against Cromble and Rai. Then again one has to ask if there is even a Union left, what with their lord and most of their elders all but destroyed.

This time round Noblesse is choosing to utilize a much grander stage populated with more actors than usual; the question is how well the authors can maneuver the plot to make for rational yet compelling storytelling.   

RATING: 8/10, my only fear now is how badly Noblesse is going to misuse RK4; if there is one failing with Noblesse it is how terrible it utilizes its support cast; more or less the Dragon Ball effect, where those least special characters lose all relevance.

I lost hope of Noblesse finally doing something with Shinwu a long time ago.
HIGHLIGHTS: RK4 TRAINING.
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Strange, I didn’t think that the death of a pig could mean so much; I was kind of annoyed at the end of chapter 95, what with so little having actually happened and the chapter choosing to end on a somewhat forced cliffhanger.
But that was before I noticed that there was a chapter 96 already available for my consumption; and it made all the difference. Reading chapters 95 and 96 back to back makes the pair one of the best five minutes of Nanatsu no Taizai I have read in a while, if not ever.

THE CHAPTERS:

Hendricksen’s assault against the knights continues; and even with the assistance of the Deadly Sins, the tide takes a drastic turn against the only hope for the kingdom.

MY THOUGHTS:
You have to give the holy knights some credit for their work this week; they pretty much poured everything they had into the fight, mostly in vain but none the less an endeavor worth praising. 

With battle manga, the prospect of watching the most powerful elements of each side clash in awesome battle is always exciting; yet it is disturbing how so few manga and manhwa actually justify this excitement.
+The Good
It was only recently that I came to realize why I enjoy reading Deadly Sins and Magi so much more than most other manga, even when they aren’t likely rank at the top of my top ten manga list.

If Noblesse provides the art I can only dream of from other manga, Magi and Nanatsu no Taizai avail the sorts of stories other series seem incapable of displaying, mostly because they are willing to go to lengths that other series are typically unwilling explore.

This is how you do an all out battle royale between good and evil. And I hope you are paying attention, Kubo and Kishimoto.

If I have to read stories about an all powerful villain facing a collection of extraordinarily skilled opponents, the rules for success are pretty simple. I want to see the villain be all powerful. No endless chatting, no reminiscing, no uncharacteristic mercy, just simple destructive and unadulterated brutality.

More importantly I want to see a band of heroes fighting for their lives and actually showing it, basically throwing everything they have got at the villain and more. I don’t want to see protagonists with the advantage of numbers filing at the villain one at a time, or simply standing around watching as the action unfolds around a specific set of heroes.

Most importantly, no saving attacks till the last moment for drama’s sake; this is a fight for survival, and every earth shattering move counts. I think I have mentioned before that Bleach’s 300 odd chapters could have been reduced to 20 if Aizen had just gotten off his ass, fought and killed all his shiningami enemies by himself at the very start (with all of them already under the power of his zanpakutou, no one could have stood up to him) . Relying on Espada merely delayed the inevitable.

Nanatsu no Taizai, I respect your ability to not waste my time with dragging plots; watching Hendricksen smash his efforts against the knights, each of whom brought their all against his invincible form nearly simultaneously and with a clear intent to kill was entertaining stuff.

The stakes were high and the tension rose a few notches with each panel; it was interesting actually fearing for the lives of some of these characters, almost like I was reading a chapter of Claymore.
+The Great
So, Lord Hawk is dead. That was shockingly shocking and probably constitutes 20% of why I loved these two chapters so much. Here is the thing though; I wasn’t impressed by Hawk’s death (if he is dead) because a Deadly sins character died.

No, that would be a much bigger and possibly more epic deal. Rather it was the fact that Hawk, a pig, died that caught me off guard; and this isn’t to belittle his role in the manga but, really, Hawk isn’t exactly essential to the story.

And as such, that the mangaka would choose Hawk for the big heroic sacrifice role was unexpected; I had a long list of characters I foresaw leaping to Meliodas’ rescue when Hendricksen asked him who would stand up to save him.

And none of them was Hawk; he simply isn’t that important. And in any other manga I would have cried foul and accused the mangaka of weakness and an inability to kill off any characters of note when it really mattered.
Not here; I don’t get it, but this was actually sort of sad. It’s kind of like when the Going Merry went down in One Piece; not exactly the biggest deal, except it worked in the context of the story. I didn’t see it coming and, well, it really worked.
+The Awesome
ELIZABETH, YES. I have spent a lot of time complaining about Elizabeth largely because of how useless she is within the context of Deadly Sins and that might seem somewhat odd, seeing as most manga are populated with useless characters in mostly useless roles, doing largely nothing of note in their respective stories, and I make little noise about them.

But Elizabeth’s case is different because she is female; and I don’t remember the last time I saw an interesting female character in a shonen series. There is enough of the war left in Naruto for me to hopefully see Sakura do something of worth.

I am not the greatest fan of One Piece’s Nami; and precluding Erza, Robin is the first and only female character that comes to mind who is actually worth her salt. Not the strongest of the bunch but most definitely weighty in her role as a straw hat.

I don’t have as much patience for female characters in shonen who don’t do anything to aid the story’s progression because there are way too many female characters in anime and manga playing the exact same role.
However when it comes to Elizabeth, all I can say now is WOW. With the cliffhanger at the end of chapter 96, it is impossible to guess exactly where any of this is going; but even then, I am excited to see Elizabeth finally take her place as a crucial member of the sins.

She made these two chapters for me, especially the manner in which her true form was revealed, hidden behind what was assumed to be Meliodas’ rage.

And just how many forms does Chestiefol have; it’s like every time King shows up we are treated to a brand new attack. And Ban. WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS BAN? Because even among the freaks of the Seven Deadly Sins, Ban is a freak.
+The Not So Great
The scene between Hendricksen and Hawk was ridiculously slow; I mean really, every one had time to react, gasp, make a comment of some sort on the situation before Hendricksen’s attack actually struck. It almost ruined chapter 95 for me.

RATING: 10/10, I am so hyped for Nanatsu no Taizai right now; this is how shonen stories should climax. Oh and the art was pretty awesome, especially during the battle  scenes.

HIGHLIGHTS: Hawk Vs. Hendricksen, Elizabeth, Ban’s immortality.
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Chapters like this allow me to appreciate the important role great art can play in accentuating a story. Reading through chapter 94 I couldn’t help but dream of just how much more awesome some of these scenes could have been had I been reading Noblesse.

That isn’t to say that this chapter was terrible or lacking in any way; rather chapter 94, while being highly entertaining, chose to utilize an approach with its panels that would have worked best with a less messy style of art.

THE CHAPTER:

Hendricksen reveals the power of his new form to the kingdom. The Holy knights regiment, new and old, stands to oppose him, accompanied by the Seven Deadly Sins.

MY THOUGHTS:
Who knew Deadly sins could unleash so much carnage in such a short span of time? Because I didn’t. Hendricksen tore the Seven Deadly Sins and the knights a new one this week.

Chapter 94 was mostly battle oriented, a sensible approach considering what promises to be an information infused chapter next week. Following the clean, concise and somewhat strategic exchange of blows in the last two weeks, this week was Hendricksen simply presenting himself as the new threat to the kingdom.

Nothing new when it comes to shonen; before the final steps can be taken to save the world, the big bad villain always needs time to show his stuff and prove himself to be a threat worth fearing. That means tanking every gargantuan attack thrown his way and effortlessly schooling the heroes, which Hendricksen did with casual disinterest.

Entertaining stuff, especially the incorporation of different Holy Knights into the attack pattern; Nanatsu no Taizai almost always succeeds when reveling in its overpowered characters and their unique but overblown abilities.

+Highs
The carnage; I am reminded of the old days of Bleach, specifically during the Karakura town arc, when Aizen first emerged. This here, what Hendricksen is doing, is what I expected Aizen to do upon his arrival, to dispatch of enemies left and right instead of playing games.

Chapter 94 chooses to get right to the point and the bodies keep piling up, many times in the most surprising manner. Carnage best serves its purpose when you do not see it coming, as happened with Ban last week, and the various named Holy knights this week.

The action elements were superb as far as keeping the fight with Hendricksen entertaining is concerned.
+Lows
There is a scene that appears in a number of anime and manga; that moment where a girl sinks to her knees, weeping, crying about how sad she is for the many souls that are dying because of her, and how unwilling she is to allow such sacrifices to continue.

Seeing that scene play out with Elizabeth irritated me somewhat; I don’t want to say it was an unnecessary or repetitive and overused scene in anime and manga. I guess the panel only served to emphasize Elizabeth’s pointlessness to the series, a trait she hasn’t managed to break in 94 chapters.

Something about characters whining about how useless they are in a situation grates on my patience; even Lucy (Fairy Tail) managed to leave the damsel in distress mold behind. But not Elizabeth.

Then again if you consider Veronica’s ominous words, Elizabeth just might gain some importance to the story beyond simply acting as Meliodas’ driving force.
 
The art didn’t help the chapter; not that it was terrible. I would used the term Messy. And the panels were so inventive in creating the atmosphere of dread and despair, approaching many of the scenes from outside the action, allowing us to observe the chaos occur rather that put us in the driving scene.

The sort of stuff Noblesse does. Still, artistically Nanatsu no Taizai manages to rise above Magi.

RATING: 8/10, precluding the art this was a great chapter and I hope Deadly Sins maintains its dynamic approach to its panels.

HIGHLIGHTS: Holy knights Vs. Hendricksen. Hauser’s fate. I absolutely cannot wait for the anime. Maybe it can jog my memory. I cannot remember who Veronica is, the girl that appears in the last panel.
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