Digging into Maddness (or I finally finished the Soul Eater Manga): my White Whale

Soul Eater, the anime series about scythe miester Maka and her scythe-human hybrid partner Soul and her band of monster hunting friends, was one of my most influential anime series. It’s haunted aesthetic, great fights, animation, and fun characters made a giant impact on my teenage years. It was a series I watched three times in a row back on YouTube when companies would post whole episodes for free in an early streaming attempt. It was a series I loved but learned later was lacking due to wrapping up with an anime-original conclusion. That made me seek out the manga to find the truth only to be confronted with an insanely accurate adaption. This shocked stall made me sit on the manga, stuck at vol 9, always wondering what the future was like. What was different? How did it change what I thought was a pretty solid ending. After more than a decade of wondering I finally found out… and it’s amazing.

It feels important to say that I never felt unsatisfied watching Soul Eater. Despite, now clearly, only hinting at much more interesting ideas and story concepts, they all felt beyond the bounds of our characters. Kind of what Hunter x Hunter does, but unintentionally. Sure, Maka and the rest grow and change. Maka, the daughter of a human and a weapon, awakening both sides of her parentage to help win the day, is crucial to the series. But so is Black Star and Kid’s arc, though they are basically deeply compressed versions of what the manga does. My point is that the anime was so set and focused around the core team and their missions that all the expanded lore felt like just that. Lore. Not important or necessary, just flavor text. Unfortunately it will be hard to go back to the series knowing so much of what I know.

The odd thing is that even with this expanded information the broad strokes of what the anime covers and what the manga explores feels relatively small on the larger plot. Both series are consistent until Crona, non-binary (I assume. They call them a he, but has always clearly been non-binary. Though that does lead to… you know what, they’ll get their own section) child to the witch Medusa, turns on the DWMA and corrupts Stein further before leaving. In the anime they turn themselves in near immediately while in the manga they split and then a DWMA investigator, JB, is killed when he gets too close to the truth. In that divergent point it feels like more should happen, and it does in the details but not the broad strokes.

In the broad strokes, the DWMA take on Arachnophobe by attacking their castle, then end up having a final battle with the Kishin, master of Madness. In that fight Death the Kid unlocks his full potential, along with Black Star getting to go all out. Finally, Maka has a realization and beats the Kishin. That describes both series pretty well. It seems like Ohkuba gave his rough sketch for the rest of the series and Bones did what they could. Except for all the specifics (so that’s what the book of Eibon is, and I finally get to see Kilik do stuff!) and important character beats that surround the series main idea: order vs madness.

Every character arc revolves around the idea of order: the modern systems, perfection, symmetry, and balance; versus the discordant, erratic, and isolating nature of madness (and paranoia). If this were a longer form piece (like a whole book on this series) I would dig into every character, but even just a cursory look at our lead Maka and Soul prove the point. Maka, the bookish and strong willed meister has deepseated issues when it comes to her father cheating and mother getting a divorce (the fact we don’t see the mother at all feels like a mistake in both). She is compassionate, but scared of being weak. She is physically the weakest of the group and through her struggles must realize that it’s okay not be strong because you have others around. In her worst moments she feels useless and has nothing to contribute but when paired with Soul she has power. Meanwhile Soul, the too cool for school musician, has his own fears and madness about not being good enough. He comes from a line of musicians and chose to run away instead of face that linage. To prove his path a different way. But with Maka he learns his music doesn’t have to measure up as long as it reaches people.

This same examination can be done for Kid and Black Star. Kid, a symmetry obsessed grim reaper jr, must learn how to find balance in the imbalance. He is interesting to compare to Black Star because of how similar their arcs are. Black Star, often disparagingly called a Naruto Clone (which he is not. Naruto is brash and loud in hopes he gets himself to believe it. Black Star does believe it and wants the world to see) wants to be the strongest person around and will go to every length in order to achieve that goal. In both cases they give into madness and must be snapped back into seeing rationally. They both have more supportive and stable weapons. Kid using twin guns Liz and Patty, while Black has the multi-tool Tsubaki.

I might be more of a story guy, but even outside of that, if you come purely for the action, the series has that too. Though not as intricate as the anime, the manga is incredibly dynamic and readable (like the action is not the story). The choreography is stellar. Every fight feels fair and well planned out. The multiple page fight scenes flow so well. With panel work that gives enough detail to give a picture in your mind while also having enough connecting tissue to form a bigger fight. The moments of more classic “anime” style fights with overblown powers that come out of nowhere never impact the current battle to feel cheap. They often come out of character revelations and declarations. The big power surges also aren’t how they win. Instead they often give the edge enough to either talk down the foe to an extent, or use another method of magic in order to win. It never relies on pure power to win but soul (pun kind of intended). This doesn’t mean there aren’t epic as hell moments that makes me sad the anime never got to adapt.

It is hard to deny that the manga isn’t a better story. It’s themes and characters are even more fleshed out, along with an even more intriquet world and setting. But if I were to say there is one character failed by the series it is Crona.

Crona, description given above, was the character I never liked the most but did feel the most attachment too. They were always nervous, unsure what to do in most situations, and was terribly awkward. This came from their incredibly abusive upbringing under Medusa. They literally could not understand others but where able to when Maka finally resonated with their soul. From there the arc is the same, but Crona is made much more redemptive and immediately in the show than manga. In the show they realize how dumb it was to listen to Medusa and go over to the DWMA side and help take down their mother. It might be read as too easy, but you also shouldn’t assume the arc was done. They’re still a teenager with room to grow. Crona in the manga is the long game. Finding Crona and bringing them back is Maka’s main goal for the rest of the series. Unfortunately Crona is not treated nearly as well.

For much of the book they are just absent. Never checked back in with, only mentioned. When they are finally seen they have been so wholly corrupted by Medsua that they’ve become a single minded monster with incredible power and broken psyche. A psyche that gets worse when he ends up killing his mother in the best single chapter or a manga, probably ever. A kid so starved for affection that when they are given some by the person who believed in them only to constantly abuse them that they kill her and decide to try and absorb everything. It makes the possible reading of non-binary problematic by saying they’re monsters. Of course they do come around eventually and act as sort of the soul of humanity realizing what they must do in order to purge madness. That is a unique idea that would have worked better if they were more prominent in the middle chunk of the book.

Though what I often used that time they were absent focusing on was Ohkuba’s growth and maturity as an author. The early parts of the book were incredibly crass. Nudity and sexual innuendo abound. It’s not bad, but felt juvenile. So it was neat to see himself push that from the book or reincorporate those ideas in fresh ways that, by the end, when the old sex-comedy bits return they feel fresh and more mature in a way. The joke was not just about seeing girls naked or touching boobs, but how the characters relationship change to those events. It’s subtle but almost secretly genius.

It is also hard not to want Bones to do a FMA Brotherhood and come back to remake the whole series or adapt the bits they missed. Not just for the fights they could do justice too with even better animation skills, but because music becomes such an integral part of the story that getting to hear what the composer would do with the musical ideas would be a joy to hear and see. It’s a great series that I am glad I finally got to read to completion. But the lingering thought I have is not just how good the book is, but how artistic and bold it feels in comparison to Fire Force. I like what I have read and seen of Fire Force (vol 13 or 14 and the first season), the Fire-demon fighting manga, but it also feels less styalized and bold. Kind of just standard. That could change. He could keep evolving as an artist, but even if it is good it won’t carry the weight this massive series has in my soul.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!

A Volume-by-Volume Checkin of Eden Zero: Volume 9

Volume 8, which feels like it either just came out or I was far later and getting to than I realized, was fine. It was both better than some of the good stuff in Fairy Tail I read, but didn’t have the energy that book did. It seemed like Mashima was just going along with the flow. That was also the end of a long, for this series, story and that could have been the cause as well. This volume can be a whole new start for him. A fresh change that can really get the juices flowing.

Taking place shortly after the end of the previous volume, the Edens Zero crew is recovering and learning about Rebecca’s Ether Gear. After an accident cause Rebecca to pass out, she wakes up to discover Shiki and the rest of the ground team have gone to attack Drakken Joe before they strike them. This leads to multiple assaults, the Shining Stars revealing their true power, and one on one fights worn Drakken’s elite guard.

Though it seems strange to just jump right into another big showdown arc, the pacing does feel like it matches the adventure space-serial vibe the book is going for. Maybe having the inciting incident happen off screen when Rebecca is asleep, then revealed as a flashback later is a very over complicated method of tell the story, but also makes up so little of it. The only real issue this book has when it comes to stacking up against the previous is tht it jumps from a villain owning a planet-city to a villain owning spaceship-planet-city. Same exact setup and everything.

So far, though, the details have made the difference. Mainly the sets of fights, powers, and characters getting the spotlight. Firstly, the Shooting Stars back on the Eden Zero finally get some development and are shown as useful in combat, and have their own hobbies. The team healer, Sister, who is also a sadomasochistic/BDSM-torturer is a fun gag, and Witch being able to use multiple powers is fun. Secondly, onthe spaceship, the battles have so far been more inventive thanks to the powers of the villains. Having someone who can control water and make people turn into puddles when they cry is neat, a quick sniper showdown across the city feels different, and we finally get a brief space battle. None of these fights are ones that Shiki can just punch real good. He might use that power, but they seem to require more analysis and skill than that.

The character who gets the most focus emotionally is Pino, the fifth star (I think, it’s been so long), and emp andriod who meets her abuser outside of the planet. If you recall, I certainly didn’t, Pino was on a planet sent back 50 years in its past, she escaped along with Weisz, but the future selves exist out in the present. They run into the present, older, version of the villain from that arc. Pino is rightfully freaked out, but this older version of the man has clearly mellowed and wasn’t involved with any of those crimes against Pino. This is only a brief, and not focused on element, of the volume. But it is present and clearly building to something.

The rest of the arc seems to be building and circling back around to the early intrigue stuff around the adventure guild and the guy in charge. It reminds us that Drakken signed up to work with the man in charge, Noah, and is after the Eden Zero. They also clarify that they needed the Four Stars of the Demon King not because they were literal locks for a door, but because put together they were so powerful that breaching outside they cosmos would be easier with them.

This volume still has problems. Rebecca is captured again. Even if she wasn’t captured recently, it still feels like she’s often captured every arc. That is also more disappointing because she is being setup to be incredibly important to the universe. Strong powers, possible visions of the future, etc, but then she is always easily beaten to be captured and talked to. The other issue is how flat the book still feels. Despite having cool powers and supposedly being fast pace, which it is only because it doesn’t take long to read a chapter, the book isn’t dynamic. Every panel is the most straightforward way to convey information, and none of the art is anything more than standard. It works, but when much more dynamic and energized work like Jujutsu Kaisen is out there, it can’t compare.

It is hard to see where the book is going. It has an overarching goal it is working too, but seems to be going at its own, almost casual pace, to get us there that trying to call where it is going to go feels impossible. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but also not a good thing. Maybe more will be revealed when this book hits the double digit mark.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!

The THIRD best thing Disney+ Can Do (A look at Heroman)

Since the release of Disney+ they have done a total of two good things, both of which I covered. The first is making the forgotten X-Men Evolution available in full for all. The second is releasing a version of Hamilton for everyone… with the service. But there is a third thing they can do: dub and release Heroman.

Oh, you don’t know what Heroman is? Well strap in!

Heroman, an anime series created by Bones studio, of FMA, Soul Eater, and My Hero Academiafame and along with other great series, associated with Stan Lee’s Pow Entertianment is everything that combination sounds like it would be.

The series is a mix between a classic Marvel ongoing drama and boy and his dog (if the dog is a giant robot) story. When a school teacher sends a radio signal into space it gets the attention of an insectoid race of conquerors who found their next watering hole. When they arrive they create a storm that awakens best-boy and resident protagonist, Joey Jones’s newest animatronic figure into a Hulk-sized hero. With his new hero he teams up with teacher, Mr Denton, friend Psy, a love-interest Lina to help save he world once the aliens, called Skruggs, land. Of course everything gets more complicated when tech-billionaires, high school jocks, and government bureaucracies get in the way of saving the world.

The series feels like an early progenitor of what future series like My Hero Academia would become. It’s an exceedingly earnest series through and through, and that’s where the fun comes from, but feel superhero inspired all the same. However, instead of being an X-Men a-like, it’s closer to an Iron Man, Hulk, or Spider-Man series.

The series feels closer in pacing and structure to those above series (also, does it bug, no pun intended, that Spider-Man is hyphenated while Iron Man is not), and a closer comic pacing in general. Each episode focuses on overcoming a specific challenge, a related character arc attached to that challenge, and a longer story running throughout all of that. It’s 26 episode run is also reminiscent of conics in that way, since most runs on books only last around 20 issues anyway.

It’s pacing is not the only comic book element about it. The flowing nature of the series, as it weaves through different arc types, villains, and structures is all very comic book. Starting with a weighty and dramatic alien invasion, to a mad scientist story that focuses on character drama, to smaller one offs like an island infected by monster vines, or a kidnapping plot by the remnants of the aliens, to its final conclusion with everything coming to a head, and tease that being a hero is never over. It all screams comic book.

Just because it screams comic book doesn’t make it good. The characters are what bring the whole story to life, and how those characters are both archetypes and subversions of said archetypes weaved into one. Joey is the prime example of this. He is the all too earnest and eager kid thrust with great power. Instead of a Peter Parker arc where he learns to use his power for good, he already knows it needs to be used for good, but doesn’t know what that means. Thankfully evil aliens show up to make that an easy solution, but following that he remains steadfast in his conviction to help people even if messes with his personal life from time to time.

The changes and evolutions don’t stop with him. Lina, the love interest, though a cheerleader is not a typical love interest. She starts outwardly interested in timid Joey and throughout the series grows to have a deeper interest in him because of his good heart and bravery. She is also far feistier than she looks, leading to great moments. Similarly, Psy, Joey’s best friend is a jock who was injured in a football injury, but charges into battle all the same, and acts like a realist. There is also their teacher-friends Prof. Denton and Ms Collins, along with Joey’s sister Holly, and Agent Hughes from the NIA. Each one has a little more under the hood, and are revealed to be far more thoughtful than first expectation seem. All of them led with amazingly striking character designs.

The show isn’t perfect. Though it is still gorgeous, it’s age is showing in some places. Mostly with the use of CG vehicles. The comic pacing is also hindered by the overly-long initial invasion arc, and a reliance on new powers coming too easily. The powers are centered around Joey’s resolve, but they do feel contrived at times. Even those problems don’t hinder the great, earnest time this show brings forth.

It’s a great series. So what? Many shows are great and don’t need to be on Disney+. Same with stuff created by Stan Lee. He did an entire series with DC about reimagining their big characters. Doesn’t mean they need to be on Disney+. So what sets this apart? It was supposed to air on Disney XD!

https://youtu.be/WgEjAeaO5tc

The series was planned to be dubbed and aired on Disney XD, with many different dubbing houses across Asia and America creating pilots to test, but none of them making it further in development than test dubs. It’s unclear why they did not move forward, but it is a shame because it feels so much like a show perfect for Disney.

On top of that, there is precedent for it. On Disney + sits the Avengers anime series. Marvel’s Future Avengers or Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers. Was a sub only anime series done by Toei and released on Disney XD only in Southwest Asia was in a similar boat as Heroman, but was ported over to Disney+. This shows they can get the rights to a work only named after a Marvel series, let alone a series created by the father of the Marvel universe. It screaming out to be taken just like that was and dubbed!

Additionally, the series needs more anime options. I know that might seem odd considering it’s for all Disney properties. But, considering even the most normie streaming services like HBO Max and Amazon Prime also have anime to some degree. That makes it all the stranger Disney, one of the most massive conglomerates doesn’t. It’s also fairly child-friendly which would work out well too. And if a scene is not it can often be edited either in dialogue or physically remove to match. I wouldn’t love that, but it would make some sense.

In th writing of this it was revealed that Marvel got the rights to make an Ultraman comic. Ultraman being one of the longest running tokusatsu series in Japan, is getting a Marvel comic adaption. That’s breaking news. It reminds me of the days when the Transformers and GI Joe were all part of the same universe as well. It’s. Far more interesting direction, especially is Ultraman stays as an Avenger or something. And that, that is what I want for Heroman. The characters, designs, and story transcend the barrier or location and could be something just as fun and exciting for people over here, and give them a true, perfect hero.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!

FOGO

FOMO – the fear of missing out, has become such a ubiquitous part of the vernacular that it has gone into being editable for new scenarios. I have come up with one of my own: FOGO – the fear of going off-the-rails (cause I want that to work real bad)

So much of the best media inevitably gets bad at some point. That does not mean everyone will agree, but a general consensus comes out and says it gets bad. Just ask fan of Game of Thrones or Star Wars. In both of those cases there is a general idea of when people stopped liking them or found them lacking (for more Star Wars as an example of how that might not be nearly as true as we think go read The Enjoyment Gap. It’s good). I never watched Game of Thrones, and I think Star Wars has always been kind mediocre so those are bad examples. A better example is the last season and moreso last episode of Breaking Bad.

Breaking Bad is a good show. It is one of the few TV shows that feels like reading an excellent novel. Unfortunately it hit a road block after season 4. It had to find a way for Walt to lose and make it believable. To me it doesn’t succeed at that. It introduces too many new characters that feel far less interesting, compelling, and just plain dumb that Walt losing feels like a stretch. The best example of this is the use of the biker gang. They are just such bland stereotypes that it makes the previous villains look incompetent and Walt an idiot. I think the biker gang is supposed to contrast the previous groups by being openly criminal about their activities, and how hiding and fighting for a normal life has made Walt a weaker person than someone in his position should be, but that’s not really explored. Also, leaving a vital clue out in the toilet as reading material is too easy. But that’s not the real moment that killed the show for me. It was how they dealt with Walt’s death.

Walt has always been a bad guy. That’s clear from season two. He’s doing crime for himself and no one else. Therefore it makes sense for him to die at the end. Crime does not pay after all. The way they accomplished that though is lacking. He ends up dying from a self inflicted gun shot wound to the side after setting up a remote activated mini-gun… I’ll say that again “a remote activated mini-gun.” Because, you know, Walt always used guns to solve his problems before. However, what makes this worse for me is that there was such an easy solution… use the explosive rocks from season one. When he made his literally explosive villain debut he used science and his brain. Bringing that back would have felt more like Walt at the end, and it could even be he calculated wrong and killed himself in the process. It would double up on the hubris theme it is going for.

Okay, maybe Breaking Bad is not a good example because it feels like missed opportunities, not getting bad. Dexter, then! Dexter is a much better example.

Dexter goes down hill pretty immediately at the start of season six. The world feels less alive. The villains get magically less compelling, and the drama feels far more calculated to feel desperate than it truly is. They too even miss opportunities for the allure of easier stories. The characters also feel like shells of themselves or do not make coherent choices or communicate that these wrong choices are supposed to be bad and out of character. However, it does one thing right. It gets what the whole show has been about: Dexter needs to be alone in order to keep everyone he cares about safe. None of the supporting elements are there. The writing, etc, but it gets the show.

There are also numerous examples from the dozens of Netflix series that had one story to tell but got more episodes so they had to come up with more stories. Stuff like Daredevil, Jesssica Jones, 13 Reasons Why (I assume), Marco Polo (remember that show? It was pretty good, right? The second season was not, though). The thing those shows, and the two I talked in more detail about above, the reason they got bad for lack of a better word is that they backed themselves into a corner.

That backing into a corner is what many saw happened to Star Wars. The Last Jedi, for good and ill, gave the series a status quo that was hard to come back from. Any direction, even the Duel of the Fates script, had to contend with in an impossible way. The way Rise of Skywalker handled it certinally left much to be desired by fans. It had no easy solution. Hence, backed into a corner and had got cut up on its way out, like most series.

This all leads me to the series that I have fears about. All I have ever mentioned are pieces of media that we can look back on. But new stuff is made every day, and it could go bad. There are many new series I like. Teenage Bounty Hunters. Umbrella Academy, the Good Place (yeah, it’s over, but i don’t know how it ended so it could still be bad in my mind), Brooklyn 99 (it is a real classy move of them to scrap everything once the protests hit. That team really cares about their product), One Piece, and My Hero Academia. But out of those one stands out.

I refrain from calling currently running media my favorite because of this reason. But, I must concede that My Hero Academia is my favorite manga. It mixes the love of superheroes with Shonen storytelling so well that it feels natural. It gets my love of X-Men, but gives me a consistently good story to go back to. All of that said however, every time I pick up a new volume I am terrified. It’s still in the early 20 volume range. Classic failures like Bleach and Naruto didn’t get bad until far into that run. Only that’s not what makes me upset. What terrifies me is that I won’t know it. I mean the current villain-focused arc is not the most compelling, and is hard to tell what the inevitable aim of it all is, but it still has a good focus on the characters.

That. The focus on the characters is what I keep coming back to with all the series and movies that have gone bad. Walt isn’t Walt F the end. Dexter might be Dexter, but the rest of the cast still isn’t. Similar thing to Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Star Wars for some people. Those people stop acting like who they should be. That’s the death nail for so many. It’s not just being backed into a corner. It’s about realizing why the character is in that corner and how they would get out.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!

A Volume-by-Volume Checkin of Eden Zero: Volume 8

Eden Zero continues to be an incredibly strange series to try and cover as someone who reads not just a lot of manga, but many books, and watches a ton of shows and movies, and track progress in a creators work by how they’ve evolved, changed, or stagnated. All of this amounts to me see Eden Zero as both the pinnacle of what Hiro Mashima can do as an author, but think it’s come too late.

To frame this, this volumes marks the end of the current arc to find the last of the four androids that helped the previous demon king, Valkyrie. Shiki and company beat Kurenai, the despotic queen of the planet and mother to crew member Homura, free the planet from her control, and outrun a conflict with pirate Drakken. This comes at the price of finding out Valkyrie is dead, depressing her sisters and letting them find their humanity.

Why this is so interesting is because it feels like all the emotions Mashima often concentrated on to solve problems have finally been put into proper use. Everything around Homura and Valkyrie is incredibly strong. Mashima gets the idea of found family, the power sacrifice can have on the people helped by it, and what duty’s children have to their parents at the end. That all works as intended.

Rebecca even gets interesting stuff to do in this volume. Well one interesting thing, but that is still some progress. During a fight with one of the side characters in the arc, an otaku, she realizes all the tests they faced a couple volumes back were foreshadowing for their current tests. This somehow unlocks her own powers of super speed and jumping to become Leaper… yeah, that’s the name. It’s kind of dumb and makes me think of lepper, but that’s it. The outcome might be silly, and her outfit she wears in the fight, but the revelation is interesting and one of those strong chicken-and-the-egg scenarios. If it was planned out then that’s interesting, but if it was by accident that too makes it also just as compelling. It turns a possible trope of his writing into an element of the series.

Unfortunately that is where the niceties end. Not because it is bad, but because it feels tired. The rest of the story, and looking back, what the whole story felt like, was just that it was tired. It has these fun ideas but is forced or forces itself into needing to complete the less compelling ideas because it’s tradition.

Reading Shiki’s final fight against Madame Kurenai and her robot did not feel exhilarating in the way it was supposed to. Maybe it wasn’t, but when I think of more compelling fights earlier into Fairy Tail that is a problem. This comes back to how odd it often is for a manga author to have multiple series. It’s not-uncommon, but most have a defined series that takes off and makes them. It is not common for an author as successful as Mashima to complete a series like Fairy Tail and jump then into a new series. That’s not bad necessarily. It’s praiseworthy that he’s not sitting on his laurels, but the impact of jumping headlong in makes it seem either like a rebound book or he has burn out and is just working on with his evolving instincts.

I couple be totally wrong about this, that’s fair. However most panels and pages do not have life to them. They are far more workman than anything passionate. The lack of consistent backgrounds, dull group shots, and underwhelming splash pages do not hit the way they should even as the narrative work in those pages is good, or at least fine. Passable. A solid C+.

Reading this I was often comparing it with Black Clover. Though they have nothing in common other than medium, Black Clover has that same devil (literally in both cases)- May care attitude to the world. It is focused more on drawing cool ideas that also work to expand the world, but feel like it directed by artistic passion all the same. The difference is that Black Clover bleeds passion. Even as the story as the characters are dull stereotypes the passion in getting to draw for Shōnen Jump is palpable. Eden Zero doesn’t have that. It’s just flying on auto-Pilot.

Behind the scenes I was about to stop covering the manga. Not because it bored me, but because I didn’t get much from it. The series could go on for another 60 volumes after all. Plus, checking up on its releases felt like more work than I got out of it. But, following do-diligence, I found out volume 9 comes out in a few weeks. It seems fair, then, that I follow it up to where I took Fsiry Tail, volume 12. Maybe it could improve on these faults. Maybe the passion would soon flood the page as Mashima gets to expand the universe further, or maybe I’ll get the same tipid “yeah, it’s fine. I can’t see it being anyone’s favorite, but it’s a 6/10.” Only time will tell.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!

Black Clover & The Power of Mediocrity

The following covers the first 9 volumes of the manga/52 episodes of the anime (the water temple arc because that’s what Hulu has available).

Black Clover feels like a series perfectly engineered to be someone’s first Shonen. It’s premise is the mix of all the then popular Shonen series. A spunky, short protagonist with special powers that makes him underestimated by everyone like Naruto, along with a more competent rival (which My Hero Academia also does), a loose magic system that allows the author to create any scenario they want like Fair Tail, and lofty goals to be the best there ever was, like well, One Piece, Naruto, My Hero Academia, Pokémon, Bakuman… I could go on forever (there already seems to be a problem in that goal considering the position Asta wants to be Wizard King, yet there is a king above him who rules the land. Seems extra complicated, but maybe it goes places I’m not aware of yet).

That makes it sound like a bad thing, and it would be if the author Yuki Tabata doesn’t clearly have a passion and joy for what he is drawing. What he’s drawing is a manga that follows a boy named Asta. Asta was born without magic in a world full of it but has the dream of being the Wizard King. This is easier said than done considering his childhood best friend, Yuno, turns out to be a magical prodigy. This does not dissuade Asta, however, he works hard to join the magical knights just in time for sinister threats to arise and make their move.

It’s nice to enjoy a series that is just simple fun. It is not perfect by any means. In fact, many of its flaws are very apparent, but the whole show has a solid, quick pace, that allows all of the bigger issues to kind of slide by on your way through. This is most evident in the Magic Knight trials and how magic works in the univese.

The Magic Knight tests/trials are the world’s attempt to show how one is recruited by showing off a mage’s power and abilities. It’s a very simple process of having one of the leaders of a Magic Knight band like you and want you to be part of their team. It’s incredibly straightforward and easy to understand. Just like the magic system.

Shonen is well known for its magic systems. Nen from HunterxHunter, alchemy from FMA, and devil fruit from One Piece are all intriquet, complex system that play off of each other in interesting ways. The magic books in Black Clover do not. It seems like when you are of age you get a book and that’s your magic. There is some additional work like flying on a broom or the like, but overall that is it. There isn’t any way to gauge power, or say that certain powers have weaknesses or anything. It’s just straightforward and that’s not bad.

For an example of what I mean it’s best to look at Dragon Ball Z. I know that sounds crazy. Looking at an outright Shonen classic in comparison to, what might be, a flash in the pan series. But it’s pertinent. Dragon Ball Z has a power level system, but doesn’t have unique powers overall. Everyone can kind of do the same thing, or they have a single gimmick that separates them. Most fights are not as strategic. It’s just straightforward. Black Clover is similar. That straightforward approach allows the series to just list off elements and move on. It doesn’t need to waist time explaining how every detail works because it doesn’t matter. That’s not the story the author wants to tell. It wants to be quick and satisfying. It accomplishes that.

But here is where the disclaimer about how far this is talking about comes in because I can see that changing for the worse. Since everything is simple that allows for expedited action. However, at the end of volume 9 Asta is crippled and said that he might be done fighting and they come up with a plan to help him. I haven’t read to see how that goes, but healing him or solving major problems too easily is where many manga (and all stories) fall short. In simple fights it is easy to just wave magic away as being very emotionally connected and quick, but when it comes to solving large character issues that takes it too far.

For an example of that it is best to look at My Hero Academia. In that series Deku also gets a similar prognosis. He might lose his arms if he keeps overextending himself. With that information he doesn’t look for a way out he looks for a new solution. His solution is using his legs more to fight. It’s a simple, yet brilliant solution to his problem that uses the established mechanics to do it. Black Clover doesn’t have that yet. Doesn’t mean it won’t, but going with accessibility over complex leads to those kind of outcomes.

Now I say all of this, but I really mean the manga. The anime on the other hand…

Anime adaptations have really entered a golden age around 2012-2014 with FMA Brotherhood, Hunter x Hunter, and My Hero Academia. Those are all incredibly faithful, evenly paced (with the start of FMAB as a noteble exception) high quality experiences of those stories. That makes it all the more painful when watching the first handful of episodes of Black Clover and being both bored and annoyed.

The biggest issue is how both the sub and dub are terrible. Asta being the main culprit, but everyone kind of suck. The reason Asta sticks out however is the fact his dialogue is mostly screaming. That is a problem in the manga too, but you can skim that to get to the good stuff. In the show you just get earful after earful of it that makes it unbearable. On top of that they say characters names, technically right, but wrong to me. Asta is (A-sta) to me, not (Ah-sta). Similar ones I got to were Fuegoleon (Fuego-Leon) not (Fue-gole-on), or Nozel as (Nozzel) not (No-zel). I’m sure all of these are technically correct. I just hate them personally.

Though, I can overlook a not great dub of sub of a show if the story is enjoyable. Despite being the same story everything is dragged out so much. They make every single chapter an episode almost. Adding details that are not relevant all along the way. The only changes (they could have always been there, but I forgot) is seeing the woman with the three brothers early on, and why we don’t see Noelle at the Trials. There could be more changes to flesh out the narrative that are fine but take away from how snappy the story is on its own.

An argument for that is to spend more time with the characters. That is a fine enough reason. They are all pretty flat. Simple ideals and motivations, but very understandable, and likable enough to root for. However extending scenes, or adding scenes that don’t convey any more about a character than has already been shown on the page is unnecessary.

Though, now that I think about it, it reminds me more of the problem with Warrior Nun. Warrior Nun dragged because it spent time where it did not need to. Black Clover does the same, but the manga has the benefit of being at the reader’s pace. The anime does not. The anime must hit every note and then some to fill out the running time and make it additionally satisfying. Just like Warrior Nun however, since none of its ideas are really new spending time on them is kind of a waste since it’s predictable. But since the manga is at a reader’s pace that makes it easy to move past any section the reader doesn’t care about as much.

I feel like there is a world where I could find Black Clover incredibly insufferable. In fact there is one. It’s called the anime, but I’m referring really to the manga. It is shallow, has no new ideas or things to say, and feels like it is drawn and conveyed with so much heart that I don’t care. It feels like the direction Fairy Tail could have taken. Instead of holding more closely to a One Piece type of storytelling, Black Clover is going it’s own way, and can do so with ease because of its simplistic setting, characters, and magic. It is generic as Hell, but also a lot of fun.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!

I’m Selling Stuff!

This is a wierd post, huh? Not something I usually do at all.

Anyway…

My eBay Link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013

I am moving and in that process am trying to sell some of my media to clear space. This is not a cry for help or financial support (but it won’t hurt) because I am fine in that regard. Instead this is just a signal boost to see if anyone would like what I am selling.

Included in the link/ what I am selling:

Collections/runs of comics in single issues (I still bought the trade for many of these so don’t ask why I did both because I have no answer).

A few manga collections

Card sets (Keyforge and CAH)

That is it for now. More stuff will be posted once I determine what all I want to sell, and how it want to sell it (I mean I just have so, so, so, so – seriously a lot- of Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards and a healthy portion of Magic TG cards). On top of that will be movie collections, TV series and more.

Here is the link again: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013. I want to repeat that this is not for financial support, and if you don’t want to buy anything I won’t like you any less.

Also: if you do want to buy something and contact me saying that you are a reader of the blog I will give you a discount on any of the stuff you order!

(And because it’s tradition)

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!j

A Volume-by-Volume Checkin of Edens Zero: Volume 7

This has been a long time waiting to come, the return to looking at Edens Zero by Hiro Mashima.

The previous volume was a fun enough, and pretty self contained romp as the crew grew and learned more about Homura and search for her master, Valkyrie, the last connection to the old Demon King. Volume 7 picks up with Shiki and Homura being punished for using violence to stop a crime and are sent to a mine where they must harvest metal to send to the ruler of the planets Madame Kurenai. Meanwhile Rebecca must find them and save them from their fate.

This feels at once like filler to just throw in concepts, and also incredibly important but not focused on. The story focuses on Shiki and Rebecca adapting to the labor force, being kidnapped, fight off a giant creature made of diamond and then learn information, but it also has Rebecca doing shenanigans to find them like dress up as a magical girl, or find a guy who can steal anything within a certain range, all while Madame Kurenai is doing something shady. Manic is not quite the correct term, but it jumps around and does not feel consistent.

The eventual payoff for all this, and how it manages to be a back door into still focusing on Homura and her life is neat. It also adds an interesting snag in the overarching plan of finding the four androids the old Demon King had, and ends with a possibly cool intro to the next volume, but overall feels like it could be more streamlined.

Artistically it is consistent. There is still many simplified backgrounds, or just blank white voids that are passable. The black diamond creature they fight is quite impressive in just how alien it is. The closest comparison is the Demagorgon from Stranger Things, but worse. Also, the flashback with Valkyrie has some fun powers shown off, but not amazing fights.

The fact this arc is still going is surprising, but so is the big twist that is thrown in to shake it all up. There is no doubt that it will not be nearly as satisfying as it could be since every character over-uses words like “friendship,” but it could still manage to be enjoyable.

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!

A Volume-by-Volume Checkin with Edens Zero: Volume 6

The first five volumes of Edens Zero, the new manga by Hary Mashima, were fine. They were a good enough starting point for a series and gave plenty of potential. They also had plenty of worrying signs. Both elements made me interested to continue and see where this space trip takes us.

Volume 6 picks up with the ship in need of repair, a reaffirmation to find the last of the old Demon King’s crew mates, and teacher to Shiki’s current crew mate, Valkyrie. Pinot, their robot companion comes to realization she wants to be human, and it’s presented that space pirate, Elise Crimson has a mole in her operations that’s trying to do something. Meanwhile the NPC killing dork from last issue goes and meets crime boss Drakken Joe to get revenge for losing to the Edens Zero crew.

This volume picks up quite a bit in terms of quality. The universe remains one fleshed out enough to allow Mashima to draw whatever he wants. He uses that power to draw some fan service. None of it is too overbearing as it has been in the previous volumes, but it still does nothing for me. Even beyond that the character models are still really solid. New characters are pretty interesting looking. Some, like the ruler of a casino planet don’t have a lot of character yet, but could be interesting. Meanwhile villains like Drakken Joe are still pretty flat. The best of it though is development for Homura, student of Valkyrie, and samurai of the Eden Zero. Her character quirk of thinking out loud gets good character dimension that makes it come from something in her, and works.

In fact most of the volume works. The crew go to meet the narrator of the story, a time oracle, to get the information on Valkyrie. They fight some fun characters, get the information, run into a captain from another galaxy that has something mysterious going on, and end on a casino planet. It’s tight. Has a full narrative to feel complete, but sets up some interesting threads.

The art also is consistent. None of it is awe inspiring or fantastic, but every panel is consistent and has a sense of weight and awe in space exploration. The backgrounds are present and do the job, and the only character copying is with the previously setup Drakken Joe who looks like the steel dragon guy whose name is eluding me from Fairy Tail.

The issues with this volume are not issues present in the volume itself, but because it is part of a larger narrative. It’s threads it is building on and crafting could all be for (k)not. That’s why I am usually against doing volume, chapter, or episode reviews. There is often not enough information to give a solid, definitive take on what is presented. This has a singular story that works, but it could all come apart. So, overall, it has definitely made steps to reach its potential, but still has that ability to slip up.

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!

Should They have Made My Hero Academia: Two Heroes an anime filler arc?

My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising is hitting the US theaters in a couple days. I decided to go back and watch the teams first film, Two Heroes, to review. The problem is that upon rewatching it something else hit me. It should have just been a filler arc in the anime.

This drive came from how standard the whole affair is. The film is a side story set before the start of the third season, on the cusp of summer break the students go to I-Island, an island where all the biggest hero tech is made. Criminals storm the opening event and it’s up to the students of 1-A to save the day and find out what really is happening. It also fleshes out All Might’s history with a side kick he had in America who is now a big tech producer. It’s not that any of this can’t be cinematic. It’s just not present in a cinematic way.

The movie doesn’t look substantially higher quality than the show itself. That could be high praise for how quality the series is, but instead it is a double edge sword. The show looks great, but the movie looks like it was made on the same budget and time. I am sure there are some scenes and moments that would be outside what the show can do, maybe the opening in America, or the ending fight with the villain, but the rest of the film does not have that high quality. It suffers from issues most TV anime have. Not all the faces are well drawn in, and most characters don’t move a whole lot. That’s passable in the series because that is standard. However, when you have high quality works coming out by other studios it doesn’t cut the mustard in the same way. In the end what it feels like I am describing is a filler arc.

That is normal. Most Shonen Jump anime films are just side stories where the characters hang out and we get a shorter narrative about other characters. None of these were ever cannon until the recent Dragon Ball film trilogy of Battle of Gods to Broly. The latest One Piece films also feel more substantial, but with not being caught up it is harder to tell. This is all to say that Two Heroes is in the majority storytelling wise. Animation wise it can vary. Some anime films like the mid release One Piece and early Dragon Ball Z have high quality animation that looks stellar. Others, like the Inu Yasha films are closer to the quality of Two Heroes. In the end however, Two Heroes feels like a filler arc, and I think it should have been one.

This might sound blasphemous. Anime fans hate filler. From the dreaded dozens of episodes stuck on an exploding Namek that is supposed to be destroyed in minutes, or Naruto and company trying to de-mask Kakashi only to find out he has a second mask under his first one. Filler is dull and hated. However that is not always the case. The events in the One Piece anime after the Straw Hats escape Skypeia only to end up in a navy base is beloved. I personally really enjoy the Bleach arc where all the spirits inside their swords break free and they must fight them. Those both felt like an actual mixup of formula, and added to the mythos.

Now, My Hero Academia the anime stood out because of is its seasonal release schedule not requiring filler to be produced. That’s not accurate however. My Hero Academia did have filler. When the students went on their work study and we spend an entire episode with Asui and the seal guy as they fight crab villains is filler. The start of the third season had an episode that acted more as a primer and reintroduction to class 1-A before sending them away to the training camp in the mountains. Then this film is set up by a filler episode that literally stops the plot to tell us another adventure that ends in All Might getting the invitation to I Island. So My Hero Academia is not a stranger to filler.

The film, though a side story, does feel substantial. We learn more about All Might and his history, something Deku needs. We get another one of One For All’s schemes that helps build to the climax between All Might and One for All in season 3. Finally it helps give Deku the idea to protect his arms from the recoil of using All For One. Those things might not be well fleshed out, but could have been expanded if it went four or six episodes over a 90 minute film.

Even with all of that said it could still have ended up as a bog standard story. In other words it would still be below My Hero Academia’s standards.

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Submit to the suggestion box: TowerCityMedia@gmail.com!