Tag: Viz Media

Manga Review: “Case Closed” Volume 57

Originally written for WatchPlayRead.com

Case Closed Volume 57 focuses on a first grader named Conan Edogawa. He was a high school detective prodigy named Jimmy Kudo before he was forced to drink an experimental poison by a couple of criminals from a criminal organization. Unknown to the criminals, the poison that was supposed to kill Jimmy shrunk him down to his first grade self instead. To hide his identity, he takes on the name of Conan Edogawa, and goes to live with his friend Ran her and father, Richard.

Case Closed Volume 57

Written by: Gosho Aoyama
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 12, 2016

Volume 57 primarily focuses on a character named Eisuke Hondo, a relatively new transfer student at Ran’s high school who has befriended Ran and Conan. Eisuke is searching for his missing older sister, who looks a lot like a star reporter named Rena Mizunashi. Conan’s been working on this case behind the scenes with Jodie, someone he knows from the FBI.

As I read the various sections of the volume that focused on this story, it was interesting to see just how much more complicated the mystery ended up getting. Compared to many of the mysteries that Conan finds himself involved in, this one is much more complex. It also appears that this case has a connection with the organization that tried to kill Jimmy with the experimental poison. As someone who’s been following this series for a while, seeing a mystery with a connection to Conan’s overarching story is very welcome. I can only hope that maybe this mystery will start making some progress on Conan’s search for the organization to try to find an antidote and return to his regular self.

However, Eisuke’s story also includes a murder mystery that’s not directly related to his storyline. As usual, Conan is around and is able to piece together the truth. Even though the murder isn’t directly related to Eisuke’s storyline, the setup for this mystery is important because it corroborates something Eisuke has said in connection to his search for his missing sister.

But there are also some stories included in Case Closed Volume 57 that have absolutely nothing to do with Eisuke. The first one sees Conan and the Detective Boys at a television studio, where they meet a “shock rocker” character and stumble upon a murder mystery. Satan Onizuka, the “shock rocker” introduced in this story, kind of makes me think of artists such as Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson, since he relies on facial makeup and a goth persona for his image. This mystery included some interesting elements to help identify the culprit, such as paper cranes and mirrors. Unlike most of the cases that Conan solves, the reader gets to see what actually happened before Conan learns about it. So the interest for this case is seeing how Conan figures out who the culprit is.

There’s also a light-hearted story featuring Richard, who’s trying not to be found by someone. But the people looking for him seem to always track him down, which forces Richard to keep fleeing. Admittedly, it’s not really much of a mystery, but it does provide some comic relief before returning to Eisuke’s storyline. With how serious most of this volume is, a light-hearted comedic story is a welcome change of pace.

Even with how long Aoyama has been writing and drawing the Case Closed series, he still manages to deliver drawings that include a noticeable amount of detail. While there may have been some slight modifications to character designs over the years, it’s nowhere near as noticeable at this point when compared to other manga series that have run at least this long, if not longer.

Case Closed Volume 57 will be enjoyed by longtime readers of the series. The series as a whole will likely be of interest to readers who are fans of the mystery genre, whether or not they’re already manga readers.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

Manga Review: “Kimi ni Todoke (From Me to You)” Volume 23

Originally written for WatchPlayRead.com

Kimi ni Todoke (From Me to You) Volume 23 focuses on Sawako Kuronuma, a high school girl who was a loner due to her looks. Her life changed after meeting Shota Kazehaya, the most popular boy in class. Over time, they progress from being friends to being a couple.

Kimi ni Todoke (From Me to You) Volume 23

Written by: Karuho Shiina
Publisher: Shueisha
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 5, 2016

Even though Sawako and Shota both appear in Volume 23, they aren’t the main focus of the story. Instead, this volume tells the story of Sawako’s friend, Ayane Yano. She and her boyfriend, Kento Miura, are having problems.

Volume 23 sees Ayane wrestling with her feelings. Does she want to go to the same school as Kento for college, or does she want to go to the school that she really had her sights on? This topic alone makes conversation between the two of them rather difficult. The tension that begins with this topic continues to build over the course of the volume. As a reader, I could feel the tension and awkwardness between these two characters as I saw their interactions.

This volume is also very emotional, especially when it comes to Ayane. She finds herself thinking that she’s not a good person for how she’s treated Kento and starts feeling bad about herself. It’s during a visit with Sawako that she hears encouraging words and realizes what it is that she needs to do. But her decision brings about strong emotions, both from Ayane and Kento.

Kimi ni Todoke (From Me to You) Volume 23 is full of the drama of teenage love, but it’s not saccharine or forced. The depiction of the tension between Ayane and Kento is realistic, and I actually found myself feeling a little sorry for these two characters by the end of the volume.

When it comes to the art, I thought that Shiina was more minimal with it than I’ve seen in previous volumes. But considering the drama and tension that’s taking place in Volume 23, this minimal approach actually works for the mood that’s being conveyed.

Fans of the series will appreciate seeing the plot progression for Ayane and Kento in Kimi ni Todoke (From Me to You) Volume 23, but may also be disappointed in the outcome if they had been shipping this particular couple. Even though what happens to this couple may not be what some readers hoped for, I think this was the most realistic way to evolve their relationship. But if you’ve been following Kimi ni Todoke (From Me to You), then you won’t want to miss reading Volume 23.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

Anime DVD Review: Naruto Shippuden Set 24

Naruto Shippuden Set 24 includes episodes 297-309 of the series on two DVDs. Audio options available for the set are the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Naruto Shippuden Set 24

Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: November 10, 2015

Set 24 continues the story of the Fourth Great Ninja War, and immediately opens with the battle between Gaara and the reanimated version of his father. The first episode in the set goes into a little more backstory for Gaara, and the viewer finally learns the truth about certain things that had been said in Gaara’s flashbacks from the first Naruto anime. I really enjoyed this particular episode, and to me, it was the best one to appear in this set.

Naruto also has a fateful encounter with a reanimated Itachi Uchiha. Important revelations and events happen during the two episodes that feature this part of the story, and this helped to make this my second favorite thing to see while watching the episodes included in this set.

The next six episodes continue to progress the story of the Fourth Great Ninja War. This includes the reanimation of the Sound Ninja Four, who are out for revenge against the Leaf Shinobi who defeated them during the original Naruto anime. The rematch is interesting, and the stakes are even higher than they were originally. I thought this was a great nod to the series’ past, and the pacing for this battle was perfect.

There are also two episodes that see a reanimated Hayate Gekko having to attack his Leaf Village comrades and encountering his lover, Yugao. These episodes provided some great backstory for Yugao, and also allowed the viewer to see what had happened behind the scenes in the original series that ultimately led up to Hayate’s death. These two episodes would be my third favorite thing to see while watching this set.

There’s an episode that shows Neji and Hinata in the middle of a battle, and Hinata reminisces about something that would have taken place during the first Naruto series. While this was a nice story, it was obviously filler material. And to be honest, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for Hinata to be remembering this event in the middle of a battle because you’d think she’d want to focus on the fighting that’s going on around her instead.

The final episode in the set is very obvious filler material. Naruto appears on the battlefield and recognizes a reanimated samurai, which leads into a flashback of how Naruto met this man. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t finish in this episode, so Set 25 will be continuing with this flashback. But not only is this obvious filler, this story also ignores things that have been established in canon material that was seen earlier on in Naruto Shippuden. By far, this episode was my least favorite on this set, and I’m not looking forward to continuing this particular story when I’m able to watch Set 25.

Naruto Shippuden Set 24 isn’t a bad release when it comes to the episodes, but there are a couple of things that weaken it a little. If the Neji and Hinata flashback and the final episode on the set hadn’t been included, I would have said that this was a very strong release. But the emotional aspects for the Gaara and Yugao storylines do help to make up for those weaknesses to some extent.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, there are five bonus features. First are the storyboards for a section of Episode 297, “A Father’s Hope, A Mother’s Love” (but on the disc, the storyboards are mislabeled as being from Episode 277). Next is the art gallery, which includes six pages of line art of the new characters that were introduced in this set. Next, there are “clean” versions of both of the openings and both of the endings that appeared on the episodes in this set.  There are three versions of the clean openings and endings included: a version without any text, a version with English subtitles, and a version with Romaji subtitles. There are also English credits, along with trailers for other properties that VIZ Media was promoting at the time this set was released.

Naruto Shippuden Set 24 is worth it for the Gaara, Itachi, and Yugao stories. You can skip the Hinata flashback and the final episode on the set and not really miss out on anything.

Manga Review: “Requiem of the Rose King” Volume Three

Originally written for WatchPlayRead.com

Requiem of the Rose King Volume 3 is based on two of William Shakespeare’s works: Henry VI and Richard III. This series follows Henry and Richard as they experience the Wars of the Roses.

Requiem of the Rose King Volume 3

Written by: Aya Kanno
Publisher: Akita Publishing Co., Ltd.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 12, 2016

Volume 3 has a strong focus on Edward York, who has now become King of England. Politics and lust play an important role in his storyline, since he has fallen for Elizabeth Woodville even though arrangements are being made for him to marry Princess Bona of France. When Edward secretly marries Elizabeth and proclaims her queen, this causes some serious damage to England’s relations with France. On top of all of this, Edward is blissfully unaware that Elizabeth is plotting to destroy Edward and help the Lancasters reclaim the throne. By the end of this volume, every indication seems to be pointing toward conflict or war becoming an important part of the story due to Edward’s lapse of judgment.

Meanwhile, Richard has another chance meeting with Henry, and the two of them spend time together. Henry, who doesn’t seem to entirely clue in to Richard’s secret, appears to be falling in love. But this realization is torture to the pious Henry.

Requiem of the Rose King Volume 3 is making it even clearer that this will ultimately be a love story, especially when Henry’s son rescues Richard and Richard believes that it’s Henry. Henry’s son, Edward, later sees the two of them together and becomes extremely jealous. So now Richard is even more tortured than ever, and this seems to be setting more of a stage for awkward family relationships between the House of York and the House of Lancaster.

As a reader, there were moments where I wished I could somehow jump into the story and stop characters from doing stupid things. This happened a lot with King Edward, since he made several bad choices when it comes to Elizabeth. He doesn’t seem to care that his actions will anger King Louis of France, and he is so blinded by Elizabeth to notice her actions behind the scenes. I expect to see Edward’s downfall coming sooner rather than later in this series.

With Volume 3, Requiem of the Rose King continues to build on the intrigue and deception taking place amongst the noble families in medieval times. Kanno has found the right balance between politics, love, and action to tell a story that readers become captivated by and want to continue reading. Readers who enjoy historical fiction will likely have an appreciation for Requiem of the Rose King Volume 3. However, they will have to get used to the fact that many of the male characters have been given a “bishonen” (beautiful boy) look, as well as the fact that Kanno is playing it fast and loose with historical accuracy in order to write the story that she wants to tell.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

Manga Review: “Twin Star Exorcists” Volume Three

Originally written for WatchPlayRead.com

Twin Star Exorcists Volume 3 focuses on two teenage exorcists named Rokuro and Benio. They are the “Twin Star Exorcists” who are fated to marry each other and give birth to a prophesied child.

Twin Star Exorcists Volume 3

Written by: Yoshiaki Sukeno
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 5, 2016

Volume 3 begins with Benio’s reaction to learning the truth about how her older twin brother was killed, and this is compounded by Rokuro learning something about Benio. Rokuro doesn’t take this well, and is in pretty bad shape emotionally after this confrontation. With Rokuro skipping school, it’s not surprising that his childhood friend, Mayura, becomes worried about him.

Mayura runs into her father, who is also Rokuro’s mentor, Seigen. Unfortunately, it’s not a happy reunion, and the tension that comes forth during this scene becomes important for a scene that happens a little later in Twin Star Exorcists Volume 3.

After Mayura and Seigen’s scene, much of Volume 3 includes more revelations for both Rokuro and Benio, and each one increases the intensity of the emotional punch to the gut. But things really become emotional when Mayura is turned into a monster and it appears that her own father will have to kill her.

For a Shonen Jump title, Twin Star Exorcists Volume 3 has a much stronger emotional impact than I would have expected from a title being aimed at a teen male audience. But these emotional impacts have to take place in order for characters like Rokuro and Benio to develop and progress. While I wouldn’t say that these two characters are close friends by the end of the volume, they don’t seem to absolutely hate and loathe each other anymore, either.

The ending of this volume makes it clear that the action isn’t over yet, and that the emotional impact will be continuing in Volume 4. In fact, the fate of one of the characters is still unknown at the end of the volume, so what their fate ultimately ends up being will make a very strong impact on the progression of the characters and their story.

When it comes to the art, there isn’t much here to make it stand out from other similar manga series. But there are some well-drawn close-up panels of characters’ facial expressions. For example, on page 14, there’s a great drawing of Rokuro’s reaction right after his confrontation with Benio and Seigen.

Twin Star Exorcists shows a lot of potential, and I think that the series will appeal to manga readers who enjoy supernatural stories featuring characters who are still in junior high school. Readers who follow this series won’t want to miss Twin Star Exorcists Volume 3, in order to find out what happens between Rokuro and Benio and to learn what information is revealed about the characters and the world that they inhabit.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

Manga Review: “Blue Exorcist” Volume 14

Originally written for WatchPlayRead.com

Blue Exorcist Volume 14 focuses on Rin Okumura and his classmates, who are students at True Cross Academy training to become Exorcists. They are trying to rescue Izumo, who is in the hands of Professor Gedoin.

Blue Exorcist Volume 14

Written by: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Shueisha
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 5, 2016

Volume 14 continues with Rin and the others trying to fight against the zombies as they’re split up from each other. We get to see Shiemi and Ryuji fight against their respective zombies, but Ryuji receives more focus than Shiemi. The reason Ryuji’s fight takes longer is the fact that there are a couple of flashbacks included. As a reader, I appreciated the flashbacks because they helped to provide some more backstory for Ryuji. Also, it’s thanks to these flashbacks that Ryuji realizes what he needs to do in order to defeat the zombie. We don’t get to see any further zombie fights, though, because Rin uses a Satan Bomb to free everyone from their cages. But they’re not out of danger, since Professor Gedoin sends Shima out to face them.

Much of the rest of Blue Exorcist Volume 14 focuses on the confrontation with Shima as Gedoin is preparing to launch his experiment with Izumo. It all leads up to a very exciting climax for this particular story arc. Without providing spoilers, I will say that something very surprising happens that turns the tide of the final confrontation in the protagonists’ favor.

While Volume 14 provides some character development for Ryuji early on, the second half of the volume provides a lot of development for Izumo. I really liked how Kato intercut Izumo’s thoughts during the experiment, leading her to realize that she really does think of Rin and the others as her friends. This idea is reinforced to her as Rin and his classmates do whatever they can to try to save Izumo from Gedoin.

Even though the climax of this story arc takes place in Volume 14, it’s obvious from the way it ends that there are still some issues that will have to be resolved over the course of Volume 15. And I expect that Izumo and the aftermath of what has happened to her during this story arc will play an important role in the next volume.

Kato’s art style continues to captivate the reader. There’s just something about the way the characters are drawn that grabs the reader’s attention. Kato’s style is instantly recognizable, and I have as of yet to see any other manga artist come close to replicating it. I also have to admit that for the art, this particular volume also includes a couple of impressive looking explosions.

Readers who follow and enjoy the series will definitely want to read Blue Exorcist Volume 14. There’s plenty of action, and the story arc takes a major step forward by the end of it. Fans of Blue Exorcist will not want to miss this volume, because they’ll want to find out what happens to Izumo, Rin, and the others.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

Manga Review: “One-Punch Man” Volume Four

Originally written for WatchPlayRead.com

One-Punch Man Volume 4 is about Saitama, a superhero who can defeat an opponent with just one punch. His disciple is Genos, a cyborg out for revenge against another cyborg that killed his family. Both Saitama and Genos are now members of the Hero Association.

One-Punch Man Volume 4

Written by: ONE
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 5, 2016

Volume 4 begins with a giant meteor that’s expected to hit City Z and destroy it. Even though all of the Class-S heroes have been summoned, Genos is the only one to try to do something about the situation. This first story also introduces two other Class-S heroes, Bang and Metal Knight, who either don’t do anything about the threat or are only there for their own selfish reasons. As we see later in the volume, Bang is actually rather respectable. The only reason he doesn’t do anything about the meteor is that he feels it’s impossible to stop it. But Metal Knight, on the other hand, shows that even though he’s a hero, he only truly cares about himself. Of course, I think it can be guessed who ultimately saves the day.

Even though Saitama accomplishes impressive feats and moves up Class-C rank quickly, there are those who believe he’s taking credit for work done by Class-S heroes in order to bolster his name. This leads to a confrontation with two other heroes, Tank-Top Tiger and Tank-Top Black Hole. These two brothers go to any lengths to try to discredit Saitama, but Saitama’s reaction to what they do is rather surprising.

The final story in One-Punch Man Volume 4 involves monsters known as the Clan of the Seafolk, who are trying to take over the Earth. Saitama easily takes care of the first member that arrives, but when more and more appear on the surface, other heroes are trying to battle them. This story introduces three more heroes: Stinger, Lightning Max, and Puri-Puri Prisoner. The writer is trying to portray the obviously gay Puri-Puri Prisoner as comic relief, but the portrayal for this character could potentially offend readers.

This story also sees the return of Speed-o’-Sound Sonic, and the reader gets to see the backstory for when he was sent to prison after being captured in Volume 3. This backstory is important, because it shows how both he and Puri-Puri Prisoner escaped from the prison in order to be part of the action in this story.

Volume 4 spends time introducing new characters, and it also starts increasing the absurdity of the villains that Saitama and the others have to face. Outside of the portrayal of Puri-Puri Prisoner, the humor in this volume is rather amusing. However, the scene of the Tank-Top brothers giving Saitama a hard time shows that the series is capable of being serious when the story calls for it.

If you’ve read and enjoyed the previous three volumes of the series, then you should also be able to appreciate One-Punch Man Volume 4. It has just the right combination of humor and action that readers have come to expect from the series, and the newly introduced heroes seem like they could potentially add new directions and storytelling layers.

The reviewer received a review copy from VIZ Media