Friday, January 31, 2014

2013 in Manga

2013 posts continue!
Yay. Basically here I'm gonna look at all the manga that I follow, and how I think they did in the last year.

You can see 2011 here and 2012 here.

Assassination Classroom
I started reading this series, which started in 2012. The majority of the series has been in this year, and I've been really impressed with it. The premise is hilarious, the art is fantastic, the pacing is brisk and the morals are about as solid and interesting as shonen jump gets. In this year, we started seeing the common transition of shonen series into longer and longer arcs. This is sort of problematic for a series with a goal as singular as killing Koro-sensei. Like, if every arc is just "they did all this prep work to assassinate him, and then it failed", it would be pretty lame. They wisely mix it up with more school-oriented arcs, focusing on individual characters, etc. The Koro-sensei element, omnipresent in all these situations, keeps the story's individual charm. The latest arc, still not completed, where Koro-sensei goes into his useless "absolute defense" mode was therefore a huge twist, but also sort of eliminated what made this series so great in the first place, making it the most generic battle manga-y it's ever been. But even then it's still one of the most unique and polished shonen series running, so, I can't complain too much. S+

Okay, so, we got one chapter this year. One. Only one. Now, should I give a good score because the chapter itself was pretty cool, beautiful art, crazy monster battles, etc... or should I give it a bad score just on the principle that we only got a measly 20 pages in the entire year? Argh. Well, the new arc looks interesting, I guess. B-

Okay, so Bleach wasn't really too bad this year. Basically we got the ending of the first war, Ichigo having yet another training arc, and then the second wave of the war. Well, I dunno. I actually kinda liked a bunch of the new characters they introduced, some of them were entertaining and Kubo's character art hasn't really fallen off. Most of the twists were pretty silly, especially the whole deal of the captains losing their bankai, then getting it back, etc, etc. Ichigo's adventures with Unit 0 were actually pretty fun, those characters were entertaining, at least. Bleach is always going to be back and forth type battles floating in a white void where people say "you have yet to see my true power" a lot, so... this is about as much as I can hope for, I guess. C+

Fairy Tail
This year we had the big finale to the Magic Olympics or whatever, the strange mini-arc with the frozen village, and the start of the Tartaros arc, which is looking like it might be a pretty end-game arc. Fairy Tail's problems in the past have always been around a weirdly scattered focus, where they just throw around stuff like time travel or alternate worlds without really any foresight or repercussions. This year was a lot more grounded in that sense. Well, the finale of the Magic Games had all of that and more but whatever, it was exciting at least, even if it was stupidly insane. I thought the frozen village arc was basically Fairy Tail back in good form - the characters have an adventure, there's some fun fights, there's some connection with previous and forthcoming arcs, basically everything I could want. The Tartaros Arc is looking interesting, too - I like the looks of a lot of the characters introduced, and they seem more varied in what sort of stuff is going to be happening, like, what environments and stuff. It's good to see an arc with major endgame-type implications right off the bat, too, instead of just throwing in "oh and dragons" or "oh and Zeref" near the end. B+

It's Not My Fault That I'm Not Popular
WataMote reached new heights of POPULARITY this year, with a major anime, a spinoff manga, and 19 new chapters. Fantastic! Good job Tomoko! The authors have kept the series fresh with new elements like her former "friend" from the spinoff, her potentially new actual friend, or the aggressive homeroom teacher. Of course, any new element is just a new way for Tomoko to despair. The appeal of reading the series is all about the dreadful anticipation of those horrible moments, wondering how she'll manage to screw up. In that regard, the more familiar the series becomes, the more dreadful your anticipation can be. I can't wait to see what torture awaits her in the coming years! S+

Medaka Box
This ended around April this year, I think. I guess it was what I was looking for in the series... I dunno, it seems so long ago that I was reading this, I almost forgot entirely that it had ended this year. We got the final showdown with Iihiko, who I still found a really entertaining villain. Then like, a bunch of crazy stuff happened, a lot of it we didn't get to see, and then there was the just absolutely crazy over the top sentimentality of the flower run goodbye... I gotta say, it was actually pretty touching. I'm not usually one for unequivocally happy everyone gets what they want endings, but in shonen series I think it's alright. It's all about the duration that you've been reading the series, the familiarity you've gotten with the characters, and the payoff for that can become super satisfying just by having the characters be super satisfied. Medaka Box, for all its metaness, ran the typical path of shonens, starting with a fairly unique premise and becoming a more and more outlandish and generic and being more and more about battles, ultimately ending an arc or two too late. However, the metaness, sharp art, completely bizarre twists and endearing characters kept it above the mark for shonen. So hooray, I guess. A

I'm reading my summary of Naruto from last year and I'm amazed at just how little has happened since, and how all of it has been bad. First off was the whole travesty of the Sasuke arc, where he switches sides yet again based on hearing a very boring flashback. Actually the flashback I think was probably the best part of the whole year, just because it was generic and uninteresting instead of just being stupid. After that, it's just been 8 months of all out war. Random good guys keep dying totally anticlimactically for basically no reason. The only effective technique is talk no jutsu, as always. Everything else works for half a chapter and then stops. Everything looks really stupid, too. All the big monsters are ugly as sin and move really awkwardly. Obito's awakened form looked dumb too. Man, everything was bad this year. Pointless and annoying and just totally nauseatingly bad. Allow me to lament yet again how what was once a rich and vibrant exciting story of ninjas has now become shouting half-baked philosophy, shooting energy beams, and summoning ugly Godzillas to shoot energy beams, over and over and over. F-

One Piece
How can I even begin to talk about Dressrosa? It's like if Eines Lobby and Water 7 were the same island, and both arcs were happening simultaneously, and every character was previously established. Do you remember how exciting it would be if there was just one shichibukai or vice admiral or whatever running around on an island? Now we've got... well, trying to name everyone relevant on Dressrosa is becoming almost a running joke in threads on /a/, it's so impossible. Punk Hazard suffered a bit from over-extension, where so many plot elements were being introduced and resolved so quickly that it often seemed anticlimactic or disorienting. Already Dressrosa's pacing is much improved, bringing in new elements more steadily and allowing all the plots some breathing room. Any memory-manipulation plot is bound to be confusing, and the sheer number of factions is as staggering as it is hype, but he's doing a good job focusing down the stories and really setting up some amazing events. It's a bit worrying, as there's no element out of the dozens that feels like it's been wholly resolved yet, so Oda's really setting himself up for an insanely difficult 2014. However, that setting up has been simply amazing, a great year of fights, adventure, comedy, tragedy... basically One Piece in top form as one of the greatest shonens of all time. ***

The World God Only Knows
Ugh, I dunno man. Did you realize that we spent this entire year stuck in the past? I mean people were complaining about the length of the Goddesses arc, but that at least had a clear goal and end point. This plot is getting really convoluted, lemme try to understand it here for a second... to defeat Vintage, this evil organization trying to bring back Old Hell, Keima had to awaken the Goddesses stuck in the girls. Okay, he did that, and they beat up Vintage. Then he went back in time for some reason, like, he had to prevent Vintage from, uh, something. But now there's a new organization, Satyr, that's doing stuff... and Dokou is also his homeroom teacher from that time line... uhh... there's been violence and action scenes and weird time travel convolutions... The closest thing to a conquest was Kaori, who was a pretty great character, and Tenri and Dokou were great too... so he can do characters still fine, he can still make them charming and cute, but I don't think all this exposition and action suits him. Like, the pacing is weird, and there's never that great sense of escalation and tension because it's really unclear what's at stake, or what his overall goals are. Still, the characters and art go a long way. B-

Miracle in newsprint Yotsuba had only four chapters this year, but they were very good chapters. The "Sandpit" and "Night" chapters are the sort of slices of childhood minutiae that feel almost dreamlike in their nostalgia, a sort of idealized nostalgia that I think feels nostalgic even for people who never experienced that situation. "Sticks and Stuff" was great in showing Yotsuba's interests from the camping arc carrying over. Oh and yeah, that camping arc finale, I think that was the high point in the series. I really feel like it could have ended with that chapter and it would have been a satisfying ending, but I'm also sure glad it didn't. ***

I guess that's it
Wait, really? I think I missed some. Anyways this was late enough as is so we'll leave it here.

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