Manga Review: “Tiger & Bunny” Volume Eight

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Tiger & Bunny Volume 8 shows what happens to Wild Tiger and the other heroes as they try to stop Jake Martinez from taking over Stern Bild.

Tiger & Bunny Volume 8

Written by: Mizuki Sakakibara
Publisher: Kadokawa Shoten
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: November 10, 2015

Volume 8 has a strong emphasis on Wild Tiger and Barnaby as they try to extract information about Jake out of a NEXT that has sided with him but is now reconsidering his decision. But this leads to a confrontation with Jake, with Barnaby wanting revenge for the death of his parents. The fight between Jake and the two heroes shows a different side to Barnaby, and it gives Wild Tiger something to think about. During this section of the story, the reader also learns what happened to Rock Bison, since that had been left hanging at the end of Volume 7.

Meanwhile, Doc Saito figures out how to stop Kriem’s bears and exosuits, and the heroes who are available are sent out to plant jamming devices around Stern Bild. This part of the story leads to Blue Rose, Fire Emblem, and Dragon Kid being sent out to go after an armored vehicle which is believed to have a fleeing Jake Martinez in it. This pursuit of the armored vehicle, along with Wild Tiger and Barnaby’s fight with Jake, are the main times that action and superhero powers appear in this volume.

Tiger & Bunny Volume 8 continues to deviate from the anime series, and the most interesting deviation here is getting to see Jake Martinez have a flashback to his childhood. The flashback gave the reader insight into Jake as a character, and it helps to explain his motivations for what he’s been doing. I thought this was a nice touch, since the anime never addressed Jake’s backstory at all. When I watched the anime, I just had to assume that Jake was simply an evil person trying to antagonize Stern Bild for fun. The backstory presented for Jake in the manga almost makes him a sympathetic character.

The manga continues taking basic elements from the Tiger & Bunny anime but presents them in a different way. At first, I wasn’t entirely happy with the changes that were made, but at this point, I find I can better appreciate what the manga author is trying to do with the story. It may not be exactly the same as what was presented in the anime, but it’s still recognizable as Tiger & Bunny to readers who are already familiar with the series.

Even though the story may have evolved and changed from the anime, I appreciate that the art in Tiger & Bunny Volume 8 continues trying to remain as faithful as it can to the anime’s character designs. In some respects, it seems like there’s not quite as much detail being used in the art now compared to earlier volumes, but the change in quality doesn’t distract the reader too much from the story that they’re reading.

Readers who have read and enjoyed the previous volumes of the series should appreciate what they see in Tiger & Bunny Volume 8, especially the backstory that is provided for Jake Martinez.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

Manga Review: “One Piece” Volume 76

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One Piece Volume 76 focuses on Monkey D. Luffy and his pirate crew, the Straw Hats. They are currently in Dressrosa, trying to save the people from Doflamingo, a pirate who took over the throne of the country and rules the country like a tyrant.

One Piece Volume 76

Written by: Eiichiro Oda
Publisher: Shueisha
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: November 3, 2015

Volume 76 continues to follow Luffy and his crew as they try to help the people of Dressrosa. But this task has been complicated by Doflamingo placing a bounty on them, so some of the people they’re trying to become obstacles as they try to capture Luffy and the others for the bounty. And the birdcage that Doflamingo has created around Dressrosa also poses a threat as it starts to shrink.

One of the biggest issues with this volume, though, is how much the story moves around to various characters at different locations. Unfortunately, the jumping around takes place in each and every chapter in the volume, which can make a reader feel a little disoriented and lost at times. Usually, just as the story is getting going at one location, Oda suddenly shifts to a different location to continue someone else’s story. There’s a good overarching story here, but I wish Oda was willing to spend longer periods of time in one place before moving to another character at another location.

One storyline that gets a bit of focus is sprinkled throughout One Piece Volume 76, and that’s the Tontattas trying to figure out what happened to Princess Mansherry after they discover that they had been lied to in regards to her health and where she is. But their quest to find her ends up tying in with another plot point that’s taking place at the same time. The Tontattas are cute and little, and the reader can’t help wanting to follow their story.

Luffy and Trafalgar Law also receive some focus in this volume as well, especially once the two of them come face to face with Doflamingo and some of his cronies. But just as it looks like a fight between these two and a couple of Doflamingo’s officers is about to start, the story makes a very sudden change of pace.

At this point in One Piece Volume 76, we begin getting a flashback that provides backstory for Trafalgar Law. Not only does this flashback provide some important information to help the reader to get to know Law better, it also provides a much needed break from all of the frantic jumping around that takes place over the course of this volume. Unfortunately, the flashback doesn’t conclude at the end of this volume, so it’ll be continuing in Volume 77.

Even though the story may jump around a lot, I believe that readers who have been following this series will still enjoy seeing how the overarching story progresses in One Piece Volume 76.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

Manga Review: “My Hero Academia” Volume Two

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My Hero Academia Volume 2 focuses on Izuki Midoriya, a boy who was born without a mutation known as a “Quirk.” He dreams of becoming a superhero, but needs a “Quirk” to become one. A chance meeting with a hero named All Might allows him to gain a “Quirk” and pass the entrance exam for U.A. High School.

My Hero Academia Volume 2

Written by: Kohei Horikoshi
Publisher: Shueisha
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: November 3, 2015

Volume 2 sees Izuku and his classmates at U.A. High begin battle training. For their first exercise, Izuku finds himself paired up with Uraraka, who he still has trouble saying two words to since he has a hard time talking to girls. But during the course of the exercise, he finds he can talk to her. This change for Izuki seems to be establishing a friendship between him and Uraraka. In their exercise, they have to go up against Ida and Bakugo. Bakugo’s still smarting from what he saw from Izuku at the entrance exam, and he swears that he will beat the kid he used to bully.

As part of the training exercise, we get to see flashbacks of Bakugo and Izuku as kids, which help to better define the conflict between these two characters. The flashbacks don’t excuse Bakugo’s past and current behavior, but the reader can better understand where he’s coming from.

But the training exercise doesn’t go as Bakugo expected. It’s not surprising how Bakugo reacts, especially when Izuku tries to talk to him about it later. It’s safe to say that the antagonism between these two characters won’t be going away any time soon.

My Hero Academia Volume 2 also introduces The Villains Alliance, a group of villains who seem poised to serve as the main antagonists for the heroes and the heroes in training. They interrupt another training session for Izuku’s class, expecting All Might to be there. During the fights that take place here, we get to see a couple of the teachers in action, as well as the students trying to do what they can against some of the lower level grunts from The Villains Alliance. The battles against these villains has started to show a little more of some of Izuku’s classmates that had basically been background characters up to this point.

Volume 2 is a strong continuation from where Volume 1 had left off. While the manga is still in its establishing phase, it has done this in a way that’s interesting to read and starts to progress the overarching story. I expect that the next volume will continue to establish some of the characters, but start increasing the action that’s taking place in the story.

Readers who enjoyed the first volume of this series should give My Hero Academia Volume 2 a chance. They will likely appreciate how the story progresses, as well as the character development that takes place in this volume.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

Anime Blu-ray Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 7

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Ranma 1/2 Set 7 includes episodes 139-161 of the series in their original Japanese airing order. For this final set, there was only episode that appeared in a different spot than it did in the original DVD release. This Blu-ray set uses the original Japanese title cards for the episodes instead of the ones created for the English dub. Audio options for the episodes include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Ranma 1/2 Set 7

English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: September 8, 2015

Ranma 1/2 Set 7 primarily includes filler episodes, although there are a small handful of episodes that are part of the canon material from the original manga source material. Many of the filler episodes focus on bringing back characters that had small appearances in earlier episodes. These characters included the Jusenkyo Guide, the ghost cat, Madame St. Paul, Picolet Chardin, Sentaro Daimonji, Tsubasa Kurenai, and the frog hermit. There were also some filler episodes that didn’t feature these characters, but they were rather strange. But the strangest filler episode in this set would be the one where girl-type Ranma ends up going on a “date” with an old man having an out-of-body experience.

To me, the best episodes in this set are the final two, where Ranma’s mother is introduced and the mayhem that her sudden arrival causes. It’s disappointing that the anime ended with her introduction, since I know she shows up more in later volumes of the manga. I first saw these episodes before reading the manga, but even back then I felt cheated because it didn’t seem right to introduce a character like Ranma’s mother and then end the series. My least favorite part of the final episode is how it ends with Akane and Ranma saying goodbye to the audience.

This Blu-ray release includes remastered high definition video straight from the Japanese Blu-ray masters. Overall, the remastering looks decent on the set, although I did notice a couple of minor errors in the subtitles.

There are a total of five bonus features that appear on Ranma 1/2 Set 7. The first one is a featurette titled, “We Love Ranma Part 8 – We Love Rumiko Takahashi.” This featurette includes interviews with anime industry professionals, voice actors, cosplayers, a superfan, and even a fashion designer. All of the people included in this featurette spend their time thanking Rumiko Takahashi for creating Ranma 1/2. It’s probably one of the better “We Love Ranma” featurettes that I’ve seen in a while.

“Next Episode Previews” is a continuous piece that includes all of the next episode previews that aired with the episodes that appear on Ranma 1/2 Set 7. I’m at such a loss as to why these were included as a bonus feature, since the next episode previews already appear on the set at the end of their respective episodes.

The “Clean Opening” includes a textless version of the opening that appears on Ranma 1/2 Set 7, and “Clean Ending” includes a textless version of the ending that appears on the set. Trailers are also included as a bonus feature.

This Blu-ray edition also comes with a 32-page booklet. The booklet opens with a “What Happened Thus Far” write-up that summarizes what happened in the episodes that appeared on Ranma 1/2 Set 6. The majority of the booklet provides a brief summary and screen shot for each episode, as well as production credits for the original release of the series and the credits for those involved with this Blu-ray release. The booklet’s glossy pages look nice, but they’re a little slippery for holding when you’re reading it. But it’s still a nice booklet and I’m glad to see that it was included. The set also comes with an art card that has a picture of boy-type Ranma and Genma in panda form.

The box that the Blu-ray case, booklet, and art card come in looks nice and is sturdy. The back of the box that gives a description of the product is actually something you take off of the box after you unwrap it.

While most of the episodes in Ranma 1/2 Set 7 are among the weakest in the series, I would still recommend it to Ranma 1/2 collectors who want to own the entire series on Blu-ray. VIZ Media’s sets are, by far, the best way to get a hold of the series on Blu-ray. Otherwise, you have to pay an arm and a leg to import the Japanese Blu-rays, which use the exact same masters that are used on VIZ’s domestic release.

Manga Review: “Idol Dreams” Volume One

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Idol Dreams Volume 1 focuses on a 31-year-old office worker named Chikage Deguchi. She feels she’s lost touch with her femininity and that she’s missed her chances at love and success.

Idol Dreams Volume 1

Written by: Arina Tanemura
Publisher: Hakusensha
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: November 3, 2015

Volume 1 sees Chikage being bullied at work, yet looking forward to her class reunion. She hopes a guy named Haru will be there, because he had confessed feelings for her at graduation and she’s had lingering feelings for him all these years. Unfortunately, another classmate says something embarrassing about Chikage in front of Haru, and she runs off, embarrassed.

From here, things go from bad to worse. Chikage overhears her co-workers calling her a loser behind her back, and she discovers that Haru and the classmate that embarrassed her at the reunion have started dating. Chikage decides she wants to die and tries drowning herself in a nearby river, but she’s rescued by Tokita, another classmate.

When Chikage explains her problems to Tokita and wishes that she was 15 again, he says he can help her. Tokita works for a pharmaceutical company, and that the company had been working on a drug they had to stop research on. This drug has rejuvenation side effects, and Tokita believes it could actually make Chikage younger. He offers to let her take it, and explains that it only works for five or six hours. She agrees to be a research subject, and it turns out the drug makes her look like she’s 15 again.

Unfortunately, this leads the now 15-year-old Chikage to be mistaken for a model, and she ends up working alongside a male teen idol named Hibiki. As luck would have it, Hibiki has a strong physical resemblance to Haru back when he was 15. Chikage, who goes by the name of Akari when she’s 15 years old, starts a career in show business. The first volume culminates with her opening up for Hibiki’s band, Valentine.

Since Idol Dreams is a shojo manga, there’s obviously going to be romance involved. Chikage has her feelings for Haru, and we learn that Tokita had a crush on Chikage back in school but never confessed to her. Even though Tokita has a girlfriend, it’s blatantly clear to the reader that Tokita still has feelings for Chikage. And it looks like Hibiki may be starting to become interested in Chikage when she’s the 15-year-old Akari. It appears that there could be quite a convoluted love triangle to come out of this story, and it’ll be interesting to see where Tanemura takes it.

In her author’s note, Tanemura describes Idol Dreams as a “magical girl manga for adults,” and I can see where this description would come from. While it’s not a true “magical girl” story, Chikage still goes through a transformation that changes who she is with medicine instead of with magic. After reading Idol Dreams Volume 1, I think there’s a lot of potential for this story concept, and I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen with Chikage and how she will cope with the two very different lives that she’s now living.

When it comes to the art, Tanemura relies on tropes that are commonly associated with shojo manga, such as “bishonen” (beautiful boy) male characters, patterned screen tones, and cute teen female characters. But even though she relies on these tropes, Tanemura still finds a way to make them visually interesting and stand out a little more from the generic shojo manga titles that I’ve read. It also helps that the story captivates the reader enough that it’s easier to overlook the tropes that appear in the art.

I think that Idol Dreams Volume 1 will have a strong appeal to the stereotypical shojo manga reader, even with the female lead being 31 years old. But the fact that this series features an older female protagonist gives it the potential to appeal to slightly older female manga readers, since they will be able to relate to what Chikage goes through as an adult.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

Manga Review: “Kiss of the Rose Princess” Volume Seven

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Kiss of the Rose Princess Volume 7 focuses on Anise Yamamoto, a girl who learns that she is the Rose Princess. Four boys at her school serve her as her Rose Knights. Together, they must deal with the fake Rose Princess and the fake Rose Knights as they try to locate the Arcana Cards.

Kiss of the Rose Princess Volume 7

Written by: Aya Shouoto
Publisher: Kadokawa Shoten
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: November 3, 2015

Volume 7 opens with Anise and the Rose Knights attending the Academy Foundation gala. As part of the story, Shouoto decided to have Seiran disguise as a girl in order to bring in some comic relief. This humor early on in the volume was actually needed, since the story became more serious as it progressed.

But the plot takes a turn when Yocto crashes the gala and Mutsuki does something unexpected. Mutsuki’s action ends up serving as a harbinger for an important event that happens later in the volume. The story becomes even more surprising for Anise when Itsushi returns and makes a confession to her and the Rose Knights. And if that wasn’t enough, Anise is shocked when Idel comes to her to ask for help with Yako. Anise’s decision about Idel’s request is the catalyst for what happens right at the end of the volume.

As Volume 7 progresses, there are several revelations, and plot points begin coming together. With these revelations and plot point, it feels as if the story is working at reaching its climax and conclusion. To be honest, the story of Kiss of the Rose Princess Volume 7, as well as the series as a whole, hasn’t progressed as I expected it to. There’s actually been less emphasis on looking for the Arcana Cards than I thought there would be when they were introduced back in Volume 3. But maybe that’s not so bad, because I’ve been more interested in the interactions between the characters.

One of the best things to come out of this volume is the fact that Anise is being more decisive. She seems to finally be accepting the fact that she is the Rose Princess and is willing to do whatever she can that is within her power. I’m sure there’s going to a final confrontation with her father, and that Anise’s newfound confidence and decisiveness will help her triumph over him in the end. But her confidence could be shaken if she learns the true identity of the fake Rose Princess, and I’m hoping that this potential plot point will appear sooner rather than later.

Readers who have been following the series from the beginning should find themselves on the edge of their seats as the plot twists and turns take place in Kiss of the Rose Princess Volume 7. This is another volume with a cliffhanger ending that will make fans impatient about having to wait for Volume 8 in order to find out what will happen.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

Manga Review: “Bleach” Volume 65

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Bleach Volume 65 continues to focus on the battle between the Soul Reapers and the Quincies.

Bleach Volume 65

Written by: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Shueisha
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: November 3, 2015

Volume 65 sees the continuation of the battle taking place in the Soul Society between the Soul Reapers and the Quincies. Much of the volume focuses on Candice Catnipp, Liltotto Lamperd, Meninas Mcallon, and Giselle Gewelle as they fight against some of the protagonists. But the unexpected arrival of Ichigo starts to turn the tide in the fight with these Quincies.

But the unexpected arrivals don’t end with Ichigo. Several other characters suddenly enter into this part of the story, but the one that affects Ichigo the most is Uryu. You can see the anguish Ichigo feels when he discovers that Uryu is fighting alongside the Quincies. While Ichigo and Uryu may have had their differences in the past, Ichigo still saw Uryu as a friend. I suspect that there’s going to be more of a focus on Ichigo and Uryu at some point in a future volume of Bleach.

For the antagonists, the arrival of Kurotsuchi becomes problematic when he brings along some unexpected allies to help fight against the Quincies. But Giselle has the power to turn dead people into zombies, and this ability creates issues for the Soul Reapers when they see several people they have worked and fought alongside with resurrected as zombies. Not surprisingly, this causes some of the normally brash and battle ready Soul Reapers to hesitate. This emotional conflict for the Soul Reapers is quite understandable and realistic.

There’s one section in this volume that was included for comic relief, but in some respects, it almost feels like it’s out of place. The scene in question has to do with a dress Orihime is wearing and Ichigo’s reaction to it. While the volume needed some kind of comic relief, this scene sticks out like a sore thumb a little too much since it’s the only instance of humor that appears. Maybe it would have felt like it fit in better if there had been some way to incorporate another brief humorous scene.

When it comes to the art, there’s a lot of action scenes included in Bleach Volume 65. Unfortunately, it feels like Kubo has started using this as an excuse to cut corners on the details for all of the panels, not just the ones featuring the action. Kubo had included so much detail in the earlier volumes of Bleach, so these less detailed drawings are on the disappointing side. To me, I think the volume would probably have been a little more interesting to read if the images were more visually appealing.

But if you’re willing to look past the lower quality of the art, then you might be able to enjoy Bleach Volume 65. I can only truly recommend this volume to long-time fans of Bleach who are still interested in following what happens to Ichigo and the others.

The reviewer received a review copy from VIZ Media