katmic (Level 10)

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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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The avatar franchise has come quite a long way, from a little known cartoon on Nickelodeon to a terrible live action adaption and finally the sequel that will most likely bring its life on the screen, big and small to an end.

Season 4 of The Legend of Korra is just around the corner, and I for one cannot help but admit to being excited for what is the first time ever for another season. I don’t know if it is quite a shame that Season 4 will be last Season of Legend of Korra though.

The series hasn’t had the strongest run, at least not with its first two seasons.

+FOUR REASONS LEGEND OF KORRA SEASON 3 WORKED.

Objectively speaking, season 1 of Korra was decent stuff if approached as a typical cartoon/anime series; unfortunately that is exactly what Korra has never been.

As Successor to The Last Air Bender, Korra had large shoes to fill and it failed to do so spectacularly, season 1 lacking in the energy and excitement of the first season of Aang, while season 2 completely dropped the ball, weaving a messy tale with numerous unnecessary episodes, scenes and plots.

With that in mind, I initially doubted my positive opinion of Season 3; after all, once you hit the bottom in entertainment, you can only go up, and Korra wasn’t going to get any worse.

But analyzing it objectively, Korra season 3 was great stuff, even by Last Air Bender standards, and I impute its success to four primary reasons, namely:
+Korra.
Let’s get a couple of things straight about Korra

I didn’t approach this series expecting an Aang clone. I certainly didn’t expect a level headed, highly intelligent or even completely rational avatar from the new series, not from a 15 year old.

That being said, Korra’s age and place as a teenage girl in the avatar world doesn’t excuse the sheer stupidity her character was written to display over the first two seasons.

And this business of Avatar wisdom doesn’t make a lick of sense to me, specifically the common excuse that this is some next level intellectual ability that Aang possessed but which Korra lacked.

I am not asking for ancient wisdom complimented by vastly superhuman thought processes; I expected basic intelligence and common sense from Korra and for the first two seasons she was little more than an idiot with special powers that UNWITTINGLY AIDED her enemies rather than foiling them.

The rationale of a 12 year old boy with less than a year’s training showing greater wisdom that a 15 year old that has been trained as avatar since birth needs to be explained to me. There is no excuse for the first two seasons of Korra. She wasn’t just dumb. She was downright irritating to watch in some places.

And it almost feels like someone finally stepped up to reign her character in with this last season, producing a fairly level headed avatar that didn’t needlessly divert the plot from its primary  course through idiotic decisions and irrelevant side stories.

Not to say that Korra was anything special this season; she wasn’t exactly the star of the show; her display of growth was none the less commendable. A waste, that we didn’t start like this, because Korra would be a far more intriguing character to follow by now. She single handedly ruined season 2, then somehow saved season 3, at least in my eyes.
+The Antagonists.
The world of Avatar: The Last Air Bender thrived because of its rich cast of heroes, anti-heroes and villains. Legend of Korra particularly struggled in the villain arena, and more so in season 2, once more because of Korra.
It is difficult to respect villains whose master plans and schemes depended heavily upon Korra making decisions that weren’t just wrong but downright nonsensical. We’ve seen Aang go off the rails, but for most of Season 2 it felt like Korra wasn’t exactly doing much thinking.

In learning that the Order of the Red Lotus would lead the charge as key antagonists for season 3, I expected a villainous version of the White Lotus seen in Last Air Bender. These guys weren’t nearly as impressive as far as abilities were concerned.

None the less this has to be the series’ most impressive cast of antagonists so far, imposing an actual level of threat worth worrying over throughout the season. Let’s face it, powerful as her opponents might have been in earlier seasons, we have yet to see villains that are as intriguing in Korra as The Red Lotus even while endowed with the strength to actually stand up against Korra in a fair fight.

How i have longed for the old days of Avatar, when the mere appearance of Azula immediately raised the stakes, and the mission became more about escaping her crazy wrath than accomplishing any goals.
Korra simply hasn’t boasted that same level of threat in a very long while, and while the Red Lotus didn’t quite invoke the same sense of danger as say Firelord Ozai or the original combustion man, they turned this season into one hell of a ride.
+The Supporting cast.
Say what you will about the original team avatar, say that all the complaints surrounding team Korra amount to excess nostalgia (which might be true).

You cannot deny the fact that Korra hasn’t produced characters as interesting as Toph, Iroh, Zuko, Sokka and Katara. And these guys weren’t merely sources of great action either.
Last Air Bender made comprehensive use of each of Aang’s friends, injecting them organically into the series and effortlessly utilizing them to further the story.

Exactly what Legend of Korra has never done; for two seasons now, it has been the Korra show (what is her second name, anyway?) and that would have been fine had the series not bothered to insert Mako, Bolin and the rest into the story.

For two seasons these guys haven’t had a thing to do in the series; for all intent and purpose, you could have eliminated any one of them from the show and not only would Legend of Korra not have suffered for it, it would have made Seasons 1 and 2 so much better, allowing for a more compact story to unfold.
This failure to use them effectively has actually hurt the series as a whole so much more than Korra’s weird characterization.

I didn’t enter this series asking for a return of my favorite characters in new bodies; and i certainly didn’t expect the new cast to replace them. That is never going to happen.

I simply wanted interesting, entertaining characters to follow; the common comparison between Bolin and Sokka revolves around their comedic abilities, not taking into account the fact that even without bending abilities, Sokka was an integral part of the original story while Bolin might as well be a lamp for all this importance to the show.
So when season 3 rolls out and begins actively engaging most, if not all, of Korra’s friends into her tale and in a meaningful way, what else can I do but nod my head in approval? Finally, a story that can attempt to expand its talents and utilize all its tools effectively.
+The action.
Anyone remember the first season of Last Air Bender? All those duels between Zuko and Aang, so many intricate movements blurring by so fast that you had to take a moment, rewind and watch the whole thing again.
That is what first got me into Avatar, the sleek strikes, compact moves and destructive elements being unleashed in all sorts of unique forms. I can’t say that we didn’t get clean well animated action in Korra, but most of the first two seasons produced some rather dull fights.

Again, this comes back to the fact that Korra is a sequel; on its own, these would have been pretty impressive fight sequences; in comparison to Last Air Bender, let’s just say that I kept waiting for my jaw to drop but that didn’t happen.

Let me put it this way. I watched episodes of the Last Air Bender whose plots were somewhat uninteresting, but which none the less left me highly excited merely because of the awesome fight scenes.

And I don’t know what the hell changed with Korra this season. Maybe it was the addition of the Red Lotus and the new air benders. But Korra has never been this explosive a series in terms of the action.
I was surprised at how clean and increasingly complex the fights became, alongside the interesting use of bending. This is what I want from my Legend of Korra, not men and women throwing elements at each other aimlessly, but skilled individuals deploying powerful martial arts moves whose consequence happens to be the movement of the elements.
-Conclusion:
The Legend of Korra season 3 is the sequel The Last Air Bender has been waiting for. This is the sequel Aang deserves, and truth be told I am not exactly happy about that. 

We are already here, at the end of the Korra journey, which makes this last season feel almost like a waste. This should have been the first season of Korra. Had that been the case, had the series began with such momentum, can you imagine where The Legend of Korra would be right now?
Avatar fans would be whispering about it with the same level of reverence normally reserved for the third season of Last Air Bender. It might be more accurate to blame Nickelodean here. The 12 episode run probably didn’t allow for much space to maneuver.

With the fourth season just around the corner, the question becomes whether  The Legend of Korra can pull of a series finale on the level of Sozin’s Comet ( a finale that can contend with many of the best anime and manga finales).
Considering the quality of season 3, I actually have some hope in Korra.
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JUDAR IS HERE! I didn’t think an event as simple as that would make this Magi chapter so much more exciting, but it did, and it has something to do with finally lifting the Alma Toran Arc atmosphere that has been hanging over Magi for the last two chapters.

THE CHAPTER:

Confronted with the truth, Aladdin attempts to bring Sinbad and Kouen into an alliance within which the focus would be to end Al Tharmen’s hold over the Kou empire. But as the egos of these two powerful men rise to overshadow their common sense, an unlikely element emerges on the scene.

MY THOUGHTS:
It’s been two chapters since we existed the Alma Toran arc, however it wasn’t until this chapter that Magi felt like it had finally left the dreary atmosphere of Alma Toran and Solomon behind.

We are finally back into the typical Magi pace and I cannot remember the last time I was this excited about a Magi chapter; yes, Alma Toran had its moments, but at best I was intrigued. At worst I was bored, but never excited.
This is finally Magi like I remember it, with all the awesome characters we’ve been following since the beginning; something about the interactions worked for me this week, specifically Sinbad and Kouen.

NO action to speak of in this battle manga and yet Magi still manages to entertain; this is the Magi that I remember, the one that could do no wrong. 

-Sinbad and Politics
Chapter 239 was all about the political maneuverings; watching Sinbad basically play the summit like a fiddle, turning the world (more or less) against the Kou empire by playing the Al Tharmen card while at the same time extending a helping hand was priceless.

This is the Sinbad I remember, if not a tiny bit more untrustworthy that before; scheming and conniving, unwilling to work with Kouen, even less willing to lose Aladdin and Alibaba’s trust by looking power hungry, then going for the next best thing: forcing Kouen into a position where he would either have to be the one to refuse the offer for peace (thereby absolving Sinbad of all blame with regards to the failure of Aladdin’s treaty), or forcing the peace treaty through but with Sindria at the top.

Yes, I most definitely enjoyed these sneaky machinations; and Kouen’s own response to these games was surprisingly and amusingly frank, his very visible dislike for Sinbad, willingness to use Al Tharmen to achieve his goals, basically equating his ideals to Solomon’s own dreams.

Good stuff this week; I forgot how good Magi could be after the last four months of Alma Toran. And Aladdin could only watch helplessly. The world is going to burn and not even with his father’s wisdom can he prevent it.

-Alibaba- A primary protagonist no more.
Poor Alibaba; it’s like with each new arc, Alibaba loses more and more of his previous importance, and even his deal with Kouen has fallen at the wayside. With Kouen no longer interested in Aladdin or the former prince we need not bother questioning whether Alibaba would go so far as to betray his friends and Sinbad for Kouen’s deal to hand Balbad over to him.

Thinking about it, quite a lot happened this week, from Sinbad’s scheming, Kouen’s revelations about the state of affairs of his house, the exploration of Alibaba’s unimportance in the grand scheme of things, Aladdin’s helplessness, the conflict between Kou and Sindria’s various houses, and finally Judar.

-Judar
What could Judar have in mind for the summit? Something tells me that Hakuryuu isn’t far behind. And now that they have the dark rukh of the medium, is there anything stopping them from laying everything and everyone to waste.
Are we going to see an all out brawl between the summit members and the dark Magi? Because both Kou and Sindria couldn’t be more helpless. And even with their individual attributes and emergency plans in play, someone is dying.

I know it cannot be Sinbad, but there are a lot of popular characters within his house that just might bite the dust next week.

With Hakuryuu by his side, there is no way Judar is fighting for Gyokuen; where he to act in a hostile manner against Sinbad and Kou, that would complicate an already complicated war against Al Tharmen.

+RATING: 8/10, this was good. My zeal for Magi is returning once more. I was fighting to maintain interest in Magi during the flashback. Not so with chapter 239
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