Since I'm a little behind in reviews on various anime and manga, I'm going to just combine it all into one entry.
Since I'll be covering a lot of anime, I'll list the ones I'll be covering so readers can just use a ctrl+F to find the anime/manga they want to read about.
Mahou Sensei Negima, Bakuman, Hunter x Hunter, Hayate the Combat Butler, Detective Conan, Cardfight Vanguard, Zero no Tsukaima Final, Area no Kishi.
First, Mahou Sensei Negima
The last three chapters have come out in the past three weeks. The series is now officially over, with 355 chapters, and I have to say, I had mixed feelings about the ending at first. There are still some loose ends (characters, like Lord of the Grave) back in the Magical World that weren't properly wrapped up, and we never do find out who exactly Negi fell in love with.
However, the latter is also a positive point as well. Because of all the possible matches for Negi (I, myself, am a Negi/Asuna fan), it was probably for the best that the ending was left open-ended for the fans to decide.
I'd like to know how Negi managed to save his father and break the cycle of the Lifemaker (though, it's most likely because of his plan to colonize Mars, making the intentions of the Lifemaker unnecessary, as well as Asuna's involvement in all of it), but it's just one of those things that happened, and it's cool that it did happen.
The series started off as a harem-like series, and mid-way through, it was proposed to change to the standard shounen pattern (I forget who was the one that encouraged that; I believe it was the editors). For a manga that was changed from skirt-flipping to life and death fights while still keeping in the element of magic, and not blowing it to epic proportions and insane power levels...
It was actually done very well. I do enjoy Negima Neo more, since in that version, Negi remains more of an actual spellcaster instead of a magical warrior...but the original version, this version, also has some great merits. Excellent series overall, and people shouldn't be intimidated by its "ecchi" rating.
Really, I've seen worse in Ranma 1/2, and another anime that was mislabeled. This is tame...I'd give this more of a rating for teens 16+ than an overall ecchi rating.
Also considering the split in interests in the series, and how much development went into the characters...maintaining a group of characters that exceeds six is difficult. This one had over 31 (plus Negi) from the school alone, plus those like Fate that joined in from the MM arc.
In just 355 chapters, all of these characters were well developed, the plot was well thought out and executed, and each arc's ending felt satisfactory. I do wish that there was a little more development from the MM arc, but everything else actually worked well. It wasn't dragged out and prolonged, and ended in a positive way where it seems to be up to the fans on whom they think Negi should be with.
A manga about two guys trying to become mangaka, then a manga about two guys trying to turn their manga into an anime? Sounds sort of dull and stupid, right? This is actually a pretty good series. It has its dull moments, but for the most part, it's interesting.
Lately, the two protagonists have been preparing for their anime debut, while the girlfriend of the main character will be auditioning to be the voice actor for the lead role. Because of an accidental leak, the relationship between the two characters was made public, and in response, they were still going to carry out the audition as usual since the protagonist was sure she could get the part on her own ability.
However, the producer has another idea: To make the auditions public, and let the people vote over the internet on who they want as the lead.
Frankly, I think this is the DUMBEST thing I've ever heard, and if I was the mangaka, I'd never allow it. Yes, I'd believe in the abilities of my friends and loved ones if I thought they could do it, but doing it the way the producer wants is just turning it into a popularity contest.
I've had the unfortunate experience(s) of being a contestant in competitions that should have been based on talent, but wound up as personality competitions. Geeks and nerds didn't get the votes because they weren't in the "popular" crowd. It becomes "who is more popular" rather than "who has more talent".
At the end of the recent chapter (170), I was shaking my head and muttering "idiot". Maybe it works to help advance the plot, but on a personal level, I didn't enjoy this chapter at all.
Third, Hunter x Hunter
Now, here's a mixed bag. When I first picked up HxH, it was in 2002, and I started to read the manga around the end of the anime series (before GI), it was a great series. Then, the Ant arc rolls around, and it becomes a lot more gruesome than ever before. Yes, the things with the bomber in GI was pretty nasty, but it didn't hold a candle to the Ant arc.
Now, at first, the Ant arc wasn't that bad; it was just gruesome. However, when the year-long hiatus ended, and I picked up the series again, it was like an entirely different series.
The Ant arc went into a lot of politics, and metaphors...introducing all these different characters...but most of all, it had a lot of politics attached to it. I think it had some politics from the start, but they weren't the focus of it.
However, the next arc can be appropriately called the Election/Alluka arc. It's a split arc, and though there have been instances in the past where two different situations occurred in a single arc, it would all tie in together somewhere in the middle and the end, as well as unite the characters.
This arc had two completely unrelated things happening (with Leorio in the middle as an attempted bridge to connect them): A dull election that was basically mind games padded with blocks of text, and the situation with the Zouldyke family and Alluka as Kilua attempted to save Gon.
The first meeting between Gon and Ging was unsatisfactory, and yes, there was another meeting, but that one introduced this "outside", which, by the way it was explained, could mean anything from another layer of the world, a parallel plane, or outer space.
Frankly, the HxH world had such intrigue that none of the above is needed. The Ants being aliens? It would have been a lot more interesting if they were creatures from the planet, itself. The world of the Hunters is a secretive and extensive one; unlike YYH, where most of the plots came because of the activity of demons (who reside in the Demon World), all of the HxH plots came from the known world...
...except the Ants, who apparently came from the "outside".
The latest chapter, 339, was "silence". It had a little bit of exposition in Ging talking, which sadly explained nor clarified anything about the "outside", then went into a relief from the blocks of text that the series had become as of late.
Although I'm relieved that this was the method chosen to resolve the unanswered questions left over from the Election/Alluka arc (and even a couple from the Ant arc), some of the situations needed explanations.
The first example is the ratfox pretending to be Gotoh (the coin butler). Why is he doing it? As a favor to Gon, whom he met during the Hunter exam? How did Canary contact him, or was it something that the entire Zouldyke family (or at least the father and grandfather) knows about? It's for Kilua's sake, so he can enjoy his time with Alluka without thinking that his actions got someone that's more of a father to him than his real father killed, but that part really needed some words.
Also, it's great Kurapika is going down his own path and all, but this is such a huge character difference. I've been keeping up with HxH 2011 (anime), and seeing him then compared to how he is now...it's like a completely different person.
Yea, he's walking through the underworld, down the dark path of revenge and sorrow, and if he was in the middle of a dangerous mission, I could understand that beingn the reason for not answering his phone for a friend.
However, to just let it ring and ring...I would like to see a couple panels of him going through his voicemail. I can only imagine what Leorio left him.
There are multiple directions the manga can go in, now. I hope that, whatever comes next, is more along the lines of the "old" HxH and not this "new" HxH.
Hayate the Combat Butler
No complaints. It's back from a hiatus, and is bringing on the gags. It's a gag manga to begin with, though I wish that there would be SOME serious moments. Any serious moments in this series is typically interrupted by a gag of some sort. There was that one saga that was more serious, and I think it would be nice to see more of those sorts of things, but it's still going at a decent pace.
However, it's great for light reading, so I can't really complain. It's difficult to keep track of all the characters at times, and some of them are lacking depth still, but otherwise, it's still keeping to its framework.
Is the series over, yet?
Great, we've gotten a couple more people that could possibly be this "Bourbon" person, but frankly, even if we find out who Bourbon is, that hardly helps in wrapping it all up. Sure, I suppose that finding out Bourbon's identity can help Conan track the BO, but he even has the boss' email, and that hasn't helped him any.
It sounds like this next case is going to be another mini-case. Frankly, I've had enough of them. I like mysteries; particularly cozy mysteries, which is what DC is. However, I (and other fans) just want to see a freaking ending to this series already.
I can understand how that one case where Vermouth contacted Bourbon at the end could be related to the plot, but I'd like to see some sort of conclusion and confirmation for the long-running theories rather than the Daily Case.
Heck, with how popular DC is, I'm sure Aoyama-sensei can even make a "Files of Conan Edogawa" or something like that if he really wants to continue with these mini-mysteries that have no ties what-so-ever to the overall plot.
I'd like to see if my theory on Sera's identity is confirmed, and if Bourbon is who I think it is. I'd like to see further development with Shuichi, and find out what Kir has been up to (cause, really, when was the last time we saw her? When she was forced to shoot Shuichi, wasn't it?).
The parts with the BO are few and far in between to the point where it's getting difficult to keep track of how they've been moving. Unless I go re-read the series and start some sort of "BO Journal", it's frustratingly difficult to remember where the plot is between these mini-cases that have no relation to said plot.
Not to mention that there hasn't been anything on Ran and Shinichi's relationship since the London case, which is now quite far behind us.
The characters and everything have developed nicely, and the movies have been interesting, but the series needs to focus on the main plot already and stop teasing us. Dragging it out is great for merchandising, but 15+ years is long enough for a series.
Moving onto the anime, Cardfight Vanguard
Was it really necessary to drag Misaki's fight out for two episodes? Once Kamui lost, we ALL knew that Misaki was going to win even before the fight started. Why? Because it had been building up to a showdown between Ren and Aichi, and the only way for that to happen is if either Kamui or Misaki lost their match.
Since Misaki lost her previous matchup against the same person, plot dictated that it was Kamui who was going to lose (especially since this anime has been cruel to the characters trying to redeem themselves or win to make it up to someone) and Misaki was going to win.
It was nice that we finally got to see Asaka's background (and unrequited love) as well, but we were thrown more unnecessary flashbacks in episode 62 (most recent episode) on Kai's battle with Ren before the finals.
It are these flashbacks drawing out episodes that are getting annoying, not to mention that, since it was a given that Misaki was going to win, the fight was drawn out in two episodes. All of that footage wasn't necessary to let us see that Asaka fell in love with Ren, same with the theatrics.
The fight finally concluded near the end of the episode running time, and Misaki, unsurprisingly, emerged the victor. Now, it's up to Aichi, who doesn't seem to want to use Psyqualia against Ren.
Dark vs Light, the final showdown. Though, there's definitely going to be something after the battle ends, since there was that hint of foreshadowing back in...what episode was it? When Ren's transformation was explained, along with the formation of their Foo Fighters team.
In any case, we saw some white-haired person that watched Ren as he played against others using Psyqualia. Most likely, this is "that person" that PSY often refers to. It will be nice to finally see where all of this is leading, and who exactly PSY is, and what exactly Psyqualia is.
Though, the showdown between Ren and Aichi should also be an interesting match...so long as they don't pump it full of flashbacks to stall for time.
Zero no Tsukaima Final
Another 16+ series, but it reminds me so much of the old days of Ranma at a time when I was getting tired of seeing cliche and poorly written script after another, so I got into the series and followed the seasons up until this most recent and still in production one.
What's nice about it isn't just the nostalgic feel of a Ranma/Akane relationship, but also that each arc/season is between 12-13 episodes long, containing both serious episodes and gag episodes within it.
The characters are nicely developed, though there are some times when a nice headdesk would do when Louise refuses to listen to Saito and walks off AGAIN, just to be nearly captured (or actually kidnapped)...AGAIN.
To be honest, I'm a Saito/Tifa fan. The parallel between Saito and Louise's relationship to that of Ranma and Akane's was interesting at first, but I expected some sort of growth on Louise's part to at least start to let Saito explain rather than just blasting him with an explosion spell.
By the second season, that part of the relationship caused more eye rolling than entertainment, and is the reason why I didn't give any of the seasons a complete five stars.
The final has been an interesting build, wrapping up some loose ends from the third season and throwing us right into the action within the first three episodes. Last week, we found out that the new rune on Saito's chest drains his life force each time he uses it, and there's an evil ancient dragon that broke out of its slumber and is threatening the world.
Episode ten, the most recent episode, showed the demise of Delf (I'm not going to try and spell the entire thing), the intelligent (and slightly smart-mouthed) sword that Saito has been using since the first season.
I thought, at first, that Delf was merely going to break in half. However, he was completely obliterated. Then, with the death of another character, and Saito's life force being drained...this episode has been one of the most serious ones since the latter part of the first season.
From the preview to the next episode, it appears as if the final battle will be wrapped up shortly, but that means that the focus will be on the aftermath. Hopefully, this anime will continue to live up to expectations.
The manga version of this anime is even more interesting and engaging than the anime version (and honestly, I like the manga version a little better), but I haven't been able to find further than the first season of the anime in manga form.
Area no Kishi
Or, Knight in the Area. This is a soccer anime, and to be quite honest, the only soccer anime I've liked since Whistle.
Yes, I've seen other soccer animes, like Captain Tsubasa, but I didn't much care for them.
AnK creates lovable characters, and like in Whistle, a female lead that isn't some helpless girl or random manager of a soccer club/team. In fact, she's better than a lot of the male characters and helps the main protagonist, Kakeru, a lot.
The start was interesting and a bit rocky, as well as very sad. I think there should have been a little more focus on the death of a certain character than there was, as well as the surgery that saved Kakeru, but otherwise, it's doing alright.
A soccer anime is difficult, because it deals with over 11 characters. In this case, the FC and SC teams combined after the exhibition match that would normally have decided which club would represent the school, and so there's an even larger cast of characters.
Yet, there are characters that stand out, and we still know a good amount of the other characters that make up the team.
Another plus to this anime is that the plot really starts when Kakeru enters high school, so it's not like in a year or two there will be a new cast of characters as he switches from Junior High to High.
It also features a protagonist who is neither a genius nor a dunce at what he does. He's not like his older brother, who was a soccer genius, nor is he like the protagonist of Whistle (Shou), who had to work twice as hard as everyone else because though he liked soccer, he was horrible at it.
Makes for interesting character development and growth. He's moving at his own pace, which is neither too far ahead nor too far behind.
As for the soccer action, itself, it's managed to keep things fairly realistic. I say "fairly", because even at a high school level, you don't see many people performing bicycle kicks like that. The feints and passing, yes, but some of the more elaborate moves are things that even the pros don't often do.
It's also extremely unrealistic for a single person to break through the other team's defenses. Not just the defense line, but the offensive line as well on occasion. Now and then, it is possible...I recall games from my primary school days where there were occasions where I had to get the ball past 2-3 people and score, but most of the time, there was still passing involved to help out.
Those are things that can be overlooked, as again, they do happen occasionally when you get a really good or strong player in their proper position (or, coupled with an opposing team that makes a lot of mistakes). Other moves they do are correct and can be done, and still makes it exciting to watch.
All in all, I'd recommend this anime to soccer fans and fans of sports anime.
There's also Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai; not a bad anime, but the beginning is confusing and strange, and other parts of it are disturbing and dull.
As for Fairy Tail...if they're going to get to the plot, I'd like to see them actually get to it. Though, Ultear's method of stopping Jellal from revealing himself was quite funny, I'll admit. Otherwise, it needs to pick up the pace and narrow the characters down a bit more; there are too many to keep track of, even if a good amount of them are characters we've seen before.
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