Category Archives: Awesome

First Thoughts on Final Impressions: Deadman Wonderland

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So Here we are at the end of yet another manga, this time it’s the so-good-yet-you-didn’t-know-about-it-until-someone-told-you-about-it story Deadman Wonderland.  When I first started reading this manga back in 2011 I was initially drawn in by the cool art style and the unapologetic use of violence and gore; then I stayed when I kept being introduced the truly unique characters that this manga seems to have in spades and before I knew it DW was a permanent fixture in my manga viewing rosters.

I think that’s what really makes DW special to me, even though at its core it is a seinen gore-fest it still feels like the authors are trying to tell a character driven story (by making the characters as messed up as possible). Guys like Crow who have machismo just practically squirting out of every orifice you wouldn’t expect to have a crippling complex with women; or director Tamaki who’s a controlling asshole sadist with overblown fantasies not because he’s a cookie-cutter evil dude but because he’s a God-damned OTAKU! And don’t get me started on Minatsuki’s crazy ass…

Though the story of Ganta’s journey through Deadman Wonderland is essentially a short one, DW has some lengthy and somewhat varied story arcs as the Director and other villains place the Deadmen in new and horrifying trials throughout the course of the series. DW’s Story arcs were forgettable not because they were necessarily bad or confusing but really simply because they acted primarily as staging devices for showing off new characters or adding some back story to the old ones, which in turn made everything else going on around these interesting personalities kind of stale by comparison. Perhaps the best thing you could day about the story arcs was that they flowed neatly from one section to the next without clogging up the narrative, though there are a few hiccups just after the midpoint where the story just kinds of abruptly drops things in order to get to the penultimate chapters, all in all I found myself satisfied and jonesin’ for some more Crow and Ganta action (no not like THAT!……though it works out pretty well).

In conclusion DW ended the way it began, weaving a basic and slightly contrived tale around some very dynamic and complex characters. Anyone who’s a fan of in-your-face action, stylish ultra-violence, cool characters and even a little romance can find something to like in Deadman Wonderland. It’s definitely a solid B+ in my book for now.

Welcome Back Review: The Breaker

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Back again for the first time! OA here with my first ever comic review; today I’ll be covering the shounen martial arts epic The Breaker!

Our hero: the “Nine Abs Dragon”

Now before I begin I’ll just briefly explain some things for those of you who may be unfamiliar with this particular genre of printed media. The Breaker is manhwa which means that it is a comic of Korean origin (comparable to Japanese manga and Chinese manhua), so naturally there are some cultural differences; substituting sensei for suensengnim and getting used to terms like jashik and the honorific –hyung are among some of the minor adjustments that the readers will have to make. Of course, if you’re familiar with Korean culture (or just an avid manhwa reader) then these things should not be a problem and even then the barrier to entry is really quite small anyway so anyone can enjoy this series regardless of their ability to find Seoul on a map. Ok, review time!

From the creative team of Geuk-Jin Jeon (writer) and Jin-Hwan Park (Illustrator) The Breaker’s story starts off as pretty standard shōnen fare when our wimpy-but-determined bully bait male high school student Shi-Woon Yi discovers a secret about the new teacher at his school Chun-Woo Han; as it turns out that Chun Woo is basically the homoerotic love-child of Kenshiro from fist of the North Star and Ryu from Street Fighter.

After witnessing his erstwhile goofball teacher dispatch a group of thugs in an alleyway and then later save his life by bounding off the side of a building and demolishing a car without breaking a sweat Shi-Woon begins to realize that there may be more to this wisecracking playboy of a teacher than meets the eye. So here’s the thing, within the dangerous world of martial arts (referred to in this series as Murim) Chun-Woo is known as the deadly and powerful Goomoonryoung (lit. “Nine Arts Dragon”): master of nine of the deadliest martial arts in the world. Now naïve little Shi-Woon, who clearly has no idea of the concept of personal safety, confronts Chun-Woo and begs him to become his martial arts teacher which, after a series of several hilarious incidents, Chun-Woo agrees to if only to put an end to Shi-Woon’s constant pestering and get back to his usual routine of Lupin III-esque debauchery.

He’s about to show her the secret art of “Long Wang”

All is not perfect in the world of advanced martial arts training however, as Shi-Woon -unsurprisingly- learns that he lacks the physical endurance to undergo the training and so a great deal of the first several chapters is actually spent following Shi-Woon’s progress. Now, if this prospect doesn’t strike you as exciting worry not dear reader because these tame developmental scenes involving Shi-Woon are juxtaposed by awesome fight scenes as Chun-Woo encounters several people from his past such as the way-too-sexy medical martial arts expert and love interest Shi-Ho Lee (yes you read that right “She Ho”) as well as other members of the secret martial arts organization Murim as they investigate the murder of an influential martial arts master.

Shi-Ho Lee and her Kung Fu cleavage

As Chun-Woo and his comrades stave off the advances of these increasingly powerful assassins while trying to uncover the conspiracy, the reader is treated to some of the most excitingly choreographed fight scenes in contemporary manga/manhwa to date. While most action series in this format tend to focus on individual strikes and place emphasis on impact alone, the fights in The Breaker have a fluidity to them that feels very natural and still manages to keep the breakneck pace of a Hong Kong action movie scene. Granted, the martial arts displayed in The Breaker are a bit on the outrageous side, but it by no mean disrupts the sensitive balance between the suspension of disbelief and the adherence to known physical limitations required of action comic readers. What this means is that seeing a man punch through solid concrete is more likely to illicit a “Wow, I wish I could do it like him!” response as opposed to the dreaded “WTF!? How can ANYONE do that!? ” response that seems to plague modern shōnen media nowadays.

NOTHEFACENOTHEFACENOTTHEFAC-OOOHHH!

Another credit to this comic comes in the form of its well-timed and light hearted humour-provided mostly by the lascivious and wolfish escapades of Chun-Woo and the doe-eyed, puppy dog like innocence of Shi-Woon-which helps to ease the tension of the otherwise drawn out set pieces that make up a large majority of the plot . The cast is filled with interesting and imaginative characters that never feel cardboard or insipid even if they seem to be, for the most part, solely motivated by their overarching desire to kick the ever-living crap out of the protagonist. Very often characters (especially adversaries) are given brief but sufficient exposition in introductory scenes and their personalities are put on display long before their martial arts skills are; which in my book makes me appreciate them a lot more than your average cannon fodder supporting characters. In fact, I might venture to say that among the characters introduced in this series Chun-Woo may come off as one of the least interesting ones given his pre-established archetype as the ‘lone-wolf-martial-arts-master-who-has-turned-his-back-on-his-dark-past-after-a-traumatic-experience-and-now-hides-behind-a-poorly-constructed-façade-of-an-average-Joe-with-no-interest-whatsoever-in-troublesome-things-but-can-turn-into-a-monster-at-the-drop-of-a-hat’. Yeah okay, hey Chun-Woo, Himura Kenshin just called, he wants his life back! Obvious character models notwithstanding, the main cast of Chun-Woo, Shi-Woon and the oh-so seductive Shi-Ho all have excellent chemistry and work just as well as separate entities, each with their own unique mannerisms and motivations and a multitude of marvelous martial arts magic tricks that make their machinations all the more memorable.

Sidestep! Circle Strafe! Spot Dodge!

There is a lot to be said about a shōnen title that DOESN’T feel like a steady and formulaic progression of foreshadowing, fighting and trickling plot progression that repeats itself so often that you can time your damn watch by it; thankfully though, The Breaker is not one such series. The plot moves along like an unbroken sequence with a series of well tied together set-pieces that make minor divergences from the story now and then only to return to the main plot seamlessly at just the right points. It reminds me of a river with streams that branch off briefly to snake their way through the woodlands only to return to the main body once again; The Breaker seems to cover the goings on of its characters in a way that is mildly reminiscent of Baccano! or Durarara!, though certainly not as complex or delicately balanced as them it is still admirable nonetheless.
Yes The Breaker is pretty good but it certainly isn’t perfect. I will say first of all that, in much the same way it was difficult for me when watching Yu-Gi-Oh to believe that the whole world gave that much of a crap about a children’s card game, the idea of a secret organization comprised of martial artists as an analogue of the Illuminati was a bit of a stretch for me, especially considering that most of them were never really explicitly or implicitly stated to be involved in white-collar crime or even politics. I mean, am I supposed to believe that all the people in the world who know how to throw a roundhouse kick have the world securely in their muscular, concrete-pulverizing hands? A secret society where everyone is Chuck Norris seems a little far-fetched….awesome yes, but far-fetched.

Notice how unfazed the old guy in panel two is after seeing the carnage taking place onscreen. That’s because he was doing that at six…

Another minor hang up for me is the art style, while I understand and appreciate the gritty look that is applied to the fight scenes to make them feel more hectic and visceral, the artist has a tendency to rely too heavily on that style sometimes (even in non-action moments, though those are rare) and even though the drawings in general are excellent (especially when it comes to the ladies) I feel like I can do without wondering if I’m looking at the manga through a Frank Miller filter. I suppose I’m just spoiled from seeing action comic art the caliber of Vagabond, Tenjho Tenge and SunKen Rock….oh well.

I think I just walked into the wrong comic O_O…….*backs away slowly*

One final caveat (though this should be minor for most experienced comic readers) is the downright absurd resilience of the so-called wimpy male lead Shi-Woon. Now, to his credit he does show realistic and gradual improvement in his stamina and constitution and he even becomes refreshingly more confident and courageous with each successive chapter. Shi-Woon does get a little help from resident Medical expert Shi-Ho early in the manga with a remedy that is quite literally a ‘miracle weenie cure’ *snicker*, but for the most part Shi-Woon seems to get by solely on his Shōnen Jump protagonist-level endurance – I’m talking Bleach, One Piece, Naruto and Fairy Tail kind of endurance here people – to the point where standing up and fighting after being knocked unconscious and suffering from bone breaking injuries becomes a normal occurrence. Tying such incredible feats to an abnormally high level of Ki alone seems to be pushing the boundaries a bit, but even this is acceptable within the realm of the story. For as The Breaker-and it’s equally good sequel The Breaker: New Waves-stresses over and over again, Ki is king and all warriors are its faithful subjects.

Shi-Woon goes Nine-Tails/ Hollow Mask/ Kaio Ken x 10

For its intense fight scenes, engaging story, likeable characters and over-the-top techniques. I give The Breaker my solid recommendation with a B (B- if you prefer a more dialogue and intrigue heavy comic or a B+ if you’re a big fan of Hong Kong action flicks). For those of you who are interested in similar works I also recommend another manhwa called Veritas as well as the amazing SunKen Rock.

That’s his “Me Gusta” face…

Thank you so much for reading (or in the very least skimming over the words and ogling the pictures ^_^). Please comment if you like, comment if you don’t, comment even if you have ‘no comment’ (total comment paradox); just let me know what you think! So, until next time…

Aspire towards Nirvana, fellow manga readers!

Naruto 522: Kabuto’s Gambit

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This chapter was certainly geared towards the long-time readers of Naruto, or in the very least the readers who show a particular interest in the extended lore of the Naruto Universe. We have the return of old enemies Zabuza and Haku, as well as a few other interesting surprises.

 

Ahh, sweet nostalgia

We can see now that Kabuto’s reasons for attacking the otherwise uninteresting and totally untalented kunoichi Mitarashi Anko was simply so that he could extract from her more of his former masters impressive chakra in order to strengthen the Edo Tensei. Quite frankly I have to say that as far as talent and “genius” goes in this series Orochimaru continues to impress me to this very day, more so than even Itachi or Kakashi. When it has been several months after a character’s “official” death and that character’s deeds are still being revealed as extraordinary and groundbreaking, that is something special. When even death does nothing to stem the tide of a character’s influence on the happenings of the present truly, truly that character is something amazing! Oro’s body of work stands as a testament to his abilities which prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was and still is a consummate Shinobi genius, regardless of his ethics or beliefs. Kabuto’s totally riding his coattails though -_-#.

 

Damn, Akno got KabutOWNED!

 

I’m keeping my eye on you Hizashi Hyuga…

Now, I liked this chapter because personally it brought me full circle. What with seeing Haku and Zabuza reunited-and it feels so GOOD-so to speak, and then witnessing them perform exceptionally even in today’s world of space-time altering jutsus and DBZ-level techniques. It’s gonna be quite a shame-though, in Zabuza’s case fitting, poetic even- to see them turned into mindless tools of killing.

 

Bitches don’t know ’bout my special ninja skills yo, SLASH!

 

Haku is as gentle as I remember him. Nice.

The pic that spawned a thousand yaoi slashfics…

Time for round two Kakashi…

Isn’t this what you wanted Zabuza?

It was also a treat to see more of the ninja world opening up to reveal such interesting characters as Gari, a former team mate of Deidara’s and member of Al Quaeda the “Explosion Corps”, and the inexplicable scorch element user from Sand.

 

They don’t look so tough…

FIIIIYAAHHHHHHHH!!!!

Falcon………………..PAWNCH!!!!!

A team of immortal kekkei genkai users is formidable enough even with experienced ninjas like Guy and Kakashi on the team but where kabuto truly shows his-or is it oro’s-tactical genius is when he swiftly summons up some extra muscle in the form of none other than the legendary Seven Swordsmen of the Mist!

 

It’s the Wu-Tang clan of the Ninja world!

I was very very pleased with this turn of events because as a Naruto fanboy, my incessant desire to nitpick and obsess over small details and inconsistencies has made the dearth of information on the Seven Swordsmen a thorn in my side from the moment I first heard of them several years ago when I started following the manga. Excellent work Kishimoto-sensei! Now all you need to do is tie up the loose end of Sharingan supposedly being a genetic offshoot of the Byakugan even though it has been explicitly stated that the Sharingan seems to precede the very leaf Village itself long before  the first appearance of any Hyuga clan members. CONTINUITY RAGE!!! But I digress, awesome chapter with a nice lead in to what is shaping up to be an epic battle.

Aspire towards Nirvana, fellow manga readers! Until next time!

P.S. Jugo and Suigetsu pulled a Shawshank redemption on us and are off to get ice cream or go see a movie or some such unimportant nonsense. Whoopee -_-.