Aw, Viz. What a nice Valentine’s Day gift! Awesome cover featuring Toriko, and it looks like Viz is now shuffling their manga series a bit. Well, not really shuffling as much as moving Toriko to the forefront thanks to the cover. So, if you haven’t heard yet about the Viz Media CND to Mangastream, read up what you can from both sides, then head to this interesting take on the aftermath: http://onepiecepodcast.com/blog/2012/02/12/the-war-on-manga/. There won’t be any commentary about it on this post because my thoughts are not reflective of Suupaa Kaizoku as a whole. That, and due to myself being a Shonen Jump Alpha subscriber, my feelings won’t be perceived as being as unbiased though try as I might. Feel free to post your feelings about this matter (and towards me, Dennis/Ichnob) personally in the comments or on Facebook. For now, on to the reviews!
Gourmet Santa – Fantastic shot of the Four Gourmet Kings, and there’s only one pet-peeve of mine which I’ll get to later. With this title, you can kind of tell it’s a filler-like chapter, but there is some actual canon story that is involved. In the IGO Biotope 1, Chief Mansom packs what looks like is the back of an 18-wheeler truck. Mansom is dressed in a Santa-like outfit. So you can tell where this is going. Zebra doesn’t show up (MY ONLY GRIPE!), but it’s revealed that he’s already fulfilled his prison release conditions. The rest of the group also dons their seasonal garb, and OH LOOK! It’s Rin! And she’s still got it bad for Toriko. Looks like it’s both Christmas and Valentine’s Day for her…though from what I hear, Christmas is very couples friendly in Japan. They split into four groups to deliver food to impoverished nations not part of the IGO member nations. It’s not every chapter you get to see everyone’s partner animals, too. Ricky and Terry got huge! Coco’s Crow and Sunny’s Mother Snake look roughly the same, big size as before. But with the Mother Snake, it’s hard to tell since the full body never really fits in a close panel. In a surprise twist, Mansom partners with Komatsu since Rin forces herself on–I mean to go with Toriko. The IGO are allowed to do this generous gift due to using Christmas as a disguise for their operation. And here is where we get some interesting story bits. See! It’s not just all filler. Toriko and the other Four Kings apparently were from very poor nations themselves. Ichiryu gets very serious about wanting to stop someone but it’s not revealed who (Midora). And there could be a very Komatsu-centric arc in the near future, as we get the first name drop of the Cooking Fest (what I’m hoping will be the Toriko equivalent of Iron Chef). I love how the author has Rin completely break the fourth wall with the line “I’m so HAPPY (to be back in the manga)!” And we see some new IGO technology development, where Rin unveils the capture level measuring device (that’s too long, so I’ll shorten it to CLMD for the rest of the post). Right now, they are only able to register capture levels of 100, but Rin hopes that once the CLMD is finalized, it could accurately read those higher than 100. She decides to test out the CLMD on Terry (it sort of acts like a frog tongue), but is very surprised to see the reading. Unfortunately, we don’t get to find out why. Damn you, Shimabukuro (author)! But we’ve now reached the literal heart of the chapter. Two kids on the brink of death by starvation, and Toriko arrives just in time to bring food and joy to those two and the rest of the village. Across the world, the others are able to drop off their goods, too. We end with Toriko’s promise to return next year, and the falling of flavored snow that only falls once every few decades. It was a pretty touching short story, mostly self-contained. I am looking forward to the developments that we’ll get from those tidbits in this chapter.
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A Gam of Whales – While “gam” makes sense, I know that “pod” is a more common term for a group of whales. But now you can add “gam” to your word of the day…or week until the next SJA issue. The cover story! This is a great two-for-one right here. Lola and the Risky Brothers are in Kiwi and Mozu’s bar, formerly owned by Blueno. And their familiarity with the Straw-hat crew definitely explains their friendly dispositions. Can’t wait to see the next cover stories. Will it be Iceburg? Franky Family? Michael and Hoichael? Don’t tell me the next few, those current in Japan, please. Well, looks like we get a bit of Nami fanservice along with a disturbing look at Chopper’s hygiene habits. Though, I do enjoy that Chopper thinks Nami’s shower tempo cloud looks like cotton candy. And for the first time, we get Sanji AND Brook peeking at Nami bathing. I’m not surprised at this gag, and it’s been a few years since it last happened (Luffy falling into the bath at Amazon Lily). Of course she retaliates at Sanji and Brook, but this is the exact opposite of Happiness Punch. We haven’t had the crew fish in a while, too. Man, I just realized how much I missed the mundane things the Straw-hat crew does. Usopp readies a special fishing hook. Zoro, Luffy, and Usopp all pick their respective fish to grab to pull them up and potentially eat. Being the captain, Luffy gets his choice and knocks one of them out. Usopp unveils Capture Star and… a new slingshot?! Don’t know if it’ll be used for attacking or if its just a special weapon on board the Thousand Sunny. Well, the caught fish ends up being bait for a bigger fish, which then repeats. I have to admit though, the first fish that Luffy knocks out looks hilarious (it does look like an old dude). Showing even more developed skill, Zoro unveils his 360 Pound Phoenix attack using only ONE SWORD! For those who don’t remember, he had to use three before his training. We get to see the aftermath of Nami’s attack on Sanji, but unfortunately we don’t get to see it on Brook (Sanji: Oda’s current favorite punching bag). Suddenly, a whirlpool current! The Whiteström, which Robin helpfully explains, and Nami seems to know about, too. Which she should…she’s the navigator. The return of one of my favorite Luffy gags: “So it’s like a magic warp zone.” Oh Luffy, we can’t explain anything scientific to you. They get dragged into the current, because the boys don’t want to cut the line for the fish. SUNNY DIZZY EYES! The stop and run into…Laboon? No, it’s not, but it’s a gam of island whales, all bearing similar head scars. Brook goes through a full cycle of emotions knowing that he’s closer to fulfilling his promies. It was nearly tear-jerking. I love the translation of “Bink’s Sake,” and the lyrics are very singable to those who know the anime tune. There’s a few spots where the meter is a little off and needs some funny reworking, but I applaud the effort at making it like this. Let’s hope Funimation does a similar good enough job when they eventually get there. With the help of Brook’s music, the whales guide them through the current, and help them surface a lot further than they anticipated, since their New World Log Pose is not pointing to the nearest island. Where they emerge, though, is some dangerous waters: stormy skies, strong winds, and a fiery ocean. NEW ISLAND TIME!
Decision and Joy – A lovely color page of Miho and chibi team Fukuda + Kaya. But more importantly…anime? Will they get it or won’t they? That’s the cliffhanger ending last week. Shujin and Saiko are still running off their euphoria from their meeting with Hattori, and even Kaya is kind of weirded out by their goofy grins. Ironically, she’s wearing a shirt that says “Make you happy,” which they kind of comment about how they’re happy because she’s cute. Back at Jump HQ, I don’t know how Nizuma got all those storyboards for Zombie*Gun so fast–OH WAIT! He’s a genius, in case you forgot. With both editors in somewhat of a standoff, we get a flashback to how Eiji made all those storyboards, complete with typical Nizuma antics and poses! Not wanting to lose to Ashirogi Muto, Nizuma cranks out page after page of original storyboards that are just for the anime. He’s able to create storyboards IN CONJUNCTION with the manga? Yup, genius. And as the other editors realize, the quality of the stories are great. Of course, the final decision comes down to Editor in Chief Heishi. Both Hattori and Yujiro are adamant that their respective artists need their series to become an anime. Heishi states that he’ll make his decision by the end of the month (look at how cool he looks adjusting his glasses). Hattori visits our duo, bringing the unfortunate news about Nizuma’s submission. The next day, both are feeling very glum, and it’s like the exact opposite of the opening of the chapter. Not even cute Kaya can cheer them up! But what’s this? Hattori visits suddenly, and he’s out of breath, too. He has news to tell them directly in person. ANIME! CONGRATULATIONS! STARTING SEPTEMBER 4! Wait…I thought Heishi was going to make his decision by the end of the month? It’s technically January 11 in Bakuman time. Oops, sorry. Let’s get back to CELEBRATIONS! TEARS OF JOY! I have to admit, my eyes were getting a little misty. They’re all so excited, and even Saiko nearly faints since he’s that much closer to marrying Miho. Hattori eventually reminds them that they have to gather themselves and focus on Reversi, stating that Heishi chose them because he wants their series to be one of the true signatures of Weekly Shonen Jump. Though, Heishi personally calls Nizuma at his studio detailing the reason why he didn’t choose Zombie*Gun: Nizuma is the better author currently, but with Ashirogi Muto finally getting an anime he hopes that they will soon be able to stand on equal ground, and that their future competing series will become the ideal future of Weekly Shonen Jump. Even more excited and determined, Nizuma grins at the prospect of the future. His passion for his manga burns even brighter. Well, now that Saiko’s primary goal is even closer to being completed, will Bakuman end soon? I sure hope not. There’s so many more plots to be resolved! And I’m glad the whole dangling of the anime carrot issue has been resolved, and very well if I might add. That was definitely a hurdle that they had to get over in order for their character growth.
Biju Mode – Finally in sync (not the band), Naruto goes into his Nine-tails chakra mode. But the situation is dire for Guy and Kakashi, as they’re about to take on five close-range Biju bombs! But Naruto is able to deflect them, literally in a flash. Kakashi even mistakes Naruto for the Fourth Hokage for a second. The other beasts attack, but the Nine-tails charges in to stop them. And now we finally get the full Biju mode for Naruto, which I must say looks really impressive. Though, I am a sucker for long coats (even if they’re made from energy/chakra). At the moment, Guy and Kakashi are safe within the Nine-tails chakra. Even B is impressed at Naruto’s new strength. At the moment, their link isn’t perfect, and that form will only last five minutes. The beast battle is a little tough to follow, so I’ll do the best I can. And to make it easier, I’m just going to call them by their tail numbers instead of their actual names. Nine-tails leaps into the air, catching the Three-tails and Seven-tails, then tossing the Three-tails to the ground. Nine-tails presses the Seven-tails into the ground nearly also crushing the Three-tails who rolls out of the way. Six-tails grabs one of the Nine-tails limbs (not tail), given the Three-tails a chance to counter-attack with the distraction. But Eight-tails stops the Three-tails, along with stopping a sneak attack by the Five-tails. Two-tails tries to attack Nine-tails from behind, but Nine-tails uses the Six-tails as a weapon and smashes it into the Two-tails. And after that brawl, Naruto discovers all the controller rods. Holy crap, that’s a lot of tails! Hope you’re less confused now! The tailed beasts controlled by Tobidara (you thought I wouldn’t get that in this week, did you!) form a combined Biju bomb, but Naruto in Nine-tails mode uses a Biju bomb of his own, though he’s never perfected it before. Yup, we’re ending on a DBZ-esqu blast attack cliffhanger. Man, figuring out all those tailed-beasts attacking was pretty confusing, but not impossible. Hope you had better luck figuring it out than I did the first read.
The Lost 3 – Apparently, Tsukishima is “the lost one” here. Losing his direction after Ginjo’s death, an injured Tsukishima wanders aimlessly. But Shishiwagara appears, finally finding Tsukishima. On the other hand, Jackie meets up with Yukio, and she no longer has her fullbring powers. She is a little melancholy about losing her powers, because she feels that it was the only thing that brought all of them together. But Yukio tells her to meet up with him after three years, when he’ll be able to increase the size of his company and be able to hire her and protect her. Ririka wakes up in Uruhara’s shop, her wounds seemingly healed (you know by whom). A crying Orihime is lying next to her. Ririka asks if she remembers Tsukishima. She doesn’t, implying that either his powers no longer have control of her, or that he is losing his powers due to dying. Speaking of, Tsukishima is being carried by Shishigawara, who in his final words, thanks him for being with him. Fullbring Arc/Rescue Ichigo’s Powers Arc end…I hope.
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The Kekkaishi Kuchiyose – Facing the army of undead, Rikuo asks Tsurara for his sword, which she doesn’t have. Apparently, he already gave it to him, and he didn’t realize he was carrying it. Before Rikuo could get an attack off, Itaku disposes of the immediate threat. Okay, I thought this gag was dumb and it made Rikuo look like an idiot. At least they discover who summoned the dead. But before they mount an attack, he performs the Kuchiyose ritual to stop their journey. He states that Seimie was able to control the dead easily, prompting Ryuji to deduce that he is of the Gokadoin! I was not expecting this type of enemy this early. Summoning more and more dead, he seals the protagonists in a barrier of undead. At least that explains the title of the chapter. “Kekkaishi” has been translated as “barrier master.” And if you have yet to read that manwha, please do. It’s a really good series. And “kuchiyose” is a ritual to summon the dead. So, this brings the title to “the master of the summoned dead barrier.” Mysterious figure then heads back to…a mountain of swords?! Holy crap. Yup, that’s Akifusa tediously forging Nenekirimaru. And all those swords were failed attempts. We’re introduced to Momoishi, who doesn’t do much other than give Akifusa some food. Oh, and she has these weird circle things in her hair. *shrug* But unfortunately for them, Taisei returns, and he knows of Akifusa’s plan to give the sword to a yokai. A battle between a Kekain and Gokadoin! Which holy order will triumph? Taisei pulls out an awesome looking scythe out of the ground. But Nenekirimaru is yet to be complete! Rikuo comes in at the last minute, having escaped the undead barrier. Not really a good introduction of Momoishi or Taisei, and Rikuo felt out of character to me at the beginning. Not that cool, aloof of his ancestors. Those few things irked me this week. Hopefully what’s missing from completing the Nenekirimaru isn’t something too much out of left field.