Higanjima (Manga) Volume 4 Review

Plot: Akira and Atsushi have finally reunited, and he reluctantly agrees to go help save Ken. They take advantage of the night of the full moon, when they’re not permitted to feed and aren’t as active. During their mission, Atsushi conveys valuable information about the vampires.

The vampires were all once human. The vampirism is actually a kind of virus that is passed through blood. They’re damned to be vampires forever, but there’s an even worse fate.

They need to drink human blood in order to stave off an even worse transformation – turning into a crazed monster called a devil.

Akira, Atsushi and the others have the bad luck of coming across a devil during their rescue mission. While they manage to save Ken, they cannot escape the devil. Even worse, the master of the island, Miyaki, has found them. He has mind control powers that they refer to as Psychic Jack, and he can control the devils all he wants.

However, his sights are truly set on Atsushi, whom he’s finally able to grab ahold of a brainwash. He sics Atsushi on Akira and in an effort to stop the fighting Yuki gets stabbed.

Breakdown: This volume amps up the stakes (lolpuns) even more as we learn that the vampires aren’t even what the group really needs to worry about, which is good because they were getting killed a little too easily for it to really be the main threat, no matter if they were slaughtering others.

Now we learn that the vampires can turn into devils, which are much more of a threat and much harder to kill. They need to prevent the vampires from becoming devils, but there’s the catch that they need human blood as a sort of medicine in order to stop it.

But that’s not the concern once we get down to it. The main concern is the devil before them and Miyaki. I assume Miyaki is our big baddie, and he seems fairly interesting so far. The fact that he’s a vampire with mind-control powers isn’t really new, but it’s pretty neat. Plus, he already turned Atsushi against them and even dealt a possibly fatal blow to Yuki.

This volume definitely amped up the action, though I’m sad Atsushi might be a mind-controlled puppet for however long. I like his character, so I’d rather him actually be….ya know…a character.

I’m excited to find out how they get themselves out of this one, if they even can.

Rating: 8/10


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Analyzing the Criticized: Sakura Haruno (Naruto) Part 3 – Chapters 201-300 – Starting to Blossom

See Part One Here

See Part Two Here

Chapters 201-220 (Kiba and Shikamaru’s Battles + Kimimaro Appears + The Sand Siblings Arrive + Naruto and Sasuke’s Battle Starts + The Beginning of the Full Story of Sasuke’s Past)

I can’t believe we’re starting off on such a blasé note, but I have nothing really to discuss here since Sakura is in a grand total of zero chapters in this section. She appears very rarely and very briefly in flashbacks of Naruto’s to remind him of his promise to her and she’s just there in a lot of his flashbacks of Sasuke in general, but present-time Sakura is not shown at all. Ever. Not once.

But you know who does come back and even fights? Rock friggin’ Lee.

Not only did he accept an insanely dangerous surgery with a high mortality rate, not only did he survive it like a damn boss, but the same day as the surgery he’s rushing out to help with the mission to retrieve Sasuke because Rock. Lee. Is. Awesome.

And even though he still needs assistance from Gaara (always loved this brief but poignant team up) he was able to hold his ground fairly well against one of Orochimaru’s strongest, in terms of powers anyway, associates. (Kimimaro’s story is sad, but his powers freak me out)

Let me repeat that. Rock Lee, who was essentially crippled when Naruto and the others left for their mission just that morning, had surgery to fix his body, survived it and was out helping with that same mission almost immediately after the surgery was over.

Meanwhile, Sakura is literally nowhere to be found.

Maybe she’s practicing her apple peeling skills.

I’m not blaming her for not also rushing out the door to help behind everyone’s backs because she understands that she’d be more of a liability than an asset in this circumstance, but we can at least get a brief scene with her doing…something. ANYTHING.

I will note something funny, though. The entirety of the second chapter cluster, a whole 100 chapters, not a one had a chapter title card pic including Sakura even though she was at least in a decent amount of those chapters. In this section alone, she’s in two chapter title cards. Granted, one of them shows her from very far away, but she’s at least there. Yes, in the 20 chapter section where she’s in all of, being generous, ten panels, and that’s only in flashback, she’s in two chapter title cards. *shrug*

Maybe they want to remind us that she exists. I mean, even Tenten got one and we haven’t seen her in so long I’m starting to think she was a figment of my imagination.

But hey, Shikamaru gets his sexist ass saved and then some by Temari, who completely dominates the battle.

Kiba’s battle was a little boring, to be honest. I never really connected with Kiba that much, outside of his relationship with Akamaru (and that’s probably born of my love of animals, particularly dogs) Kiba’s always been kinda obnoxious to me, nor is he very interesting as a character (He’s basically a more abrasive and possibly less mature Naruto with little in terms of decent backstory and motivations. The fact that Naruto has a lot of fox traits while Kiba has a lot of wolf/dog traits doesn’t help this comparison) and he’s just not all that impressive in this battle. It was badass of him to stab himself to hurt Ukon, who had merged with his body, but that’s about it.

Shikamaru’s fights are always entertaining simply because of the incredibly clever ways he manages to defeat his enemies. Even though he needed Temari to finish off Tayuya, the match as a whole was very entertaining.

Chapters 221-240 (Sasuke’s Full Backstory – Naruto and Sasuke’s Fight – The Aftermath and Naruto’s Departure – Start of Kakashi Chronicles)

This is a pretty inappropriate chapter title card for the chapter where Sasuke’s family and clan get slaughtered…..I’m not making a joke. This is the title card they used for this part. What the hell?

Obviously, almost none of this section involves Sakura since so much of it is taken up by Sasuke’s backstory and Naruto and Sasuke’s battle. Surprisingly, she’s not even brought up much, if at all, in the emotional pleas and flashbacks the two have. She’s barely present in the background.

Sakura finally appears when Naruto and the other Genin who were on the mission get brought back home to the hospital for medical care. At first, she believes Sasuke has been brought back, but she soon learns about the group’s failure in returning Sasuke after she overhears Shikamaru and Naruto talking through the hospital room door. Sakura initially puts on a smile and tries to push through her disappointment and despair, but Naruto asserts that he will keep his promise, as his ninja way states, and he’ll bring Sasuke back home no matter what.

Driven by Naruto’s resolve, Sakura decides to FINALLY take some initiative in her ninja training and asks Tsunade if she’ll take her on as her apprentice, which she accepts.

After a three month time skip to allow everyone ample time to recover and get their ducks in a row for their futures while Naruto’s off training, we see Sakura has a talent for medical jutsu. She healed a fish!

I’m not making a jab at her – fish need care too. Have a heart, guys.

Tsunade even points out that she hasn’t seen someone with such talent and promise in medical jutsu since Shizune.

……Also, let me just get this off my chest – it does bug me that most prominent medical-nin are girls – or, more to the point, that most girls are medical-nin. Tsunade did make the very good suggestion to have at least one medical-nin included in squads or brought along with squads when they have missions, but that pretty much makes it seem like if there’s a girl in the squad, she’s the healer. And considering I can’t think of any squads that have more than one girl in it…..yeah. The girl=support thing has always been a pet peeve of mine.

I’m not badmouthing medical jutsu, it allows you to do some pretty fantastic things as we’ll see soon enough, nor am I ignoring that male medical-nin exist (Kabuto was the first medical-nin we ever met) but considering the relatively poor treatment of women in this series as it is, it only serves to irk me more that the new role of most of the girls will be medical related.

Sakura becomes the healer of Team 7. Ino becomes the healer of her squad. Rin was the healer in her squad. Karin is the healer in her team. Tsunade was the healer in her squad. And even though she’s not specifically a healer, Hinata will also learn some medical jutsu, which she is able to learn rather quickly due to Hyuga techniques requiring such precise chakra control.

The only prominent Konoha girl who never develops skills in medical jutsu is Tenten, and that’s not for lack of trying. She idolized Tsunade and wanted to be a medical-nin, she just never had talent for it. Poor Tenten. So overlooked and mishandled that you even fail at becoming an annoying stereotype.

I’m not saying this is a hard and fast rule. There are several female characters who also don’t utilize medical jutsu like Temari, Kurenai, Anko and even Kushina, but it is a trend and it is still annoying.

And that’s the end of Part One of Naruto. There is more to this section, but it goes into the backstory of Kakashi. I’ll save any notes about that for the next section.

Chapters 241-260 (The Rest of the Kakashi Chronicles + The Start of Part Two + Reprise of the Bell Test + Gaara’s Battle with Deidara and Capture + The Start of the Mission to Save Gaara)

Alright, so since Sakura isn’t in the Kakashi Chronicle chapters, obviously, I thought I’d try to draw some parallels between Team 7 and Team Minato. Parallels have already been made as a whole by others, but I’ll try to focus on Sakura’s parallel specifically.

First of all, even though the other two look very different from Naruto and Sasuke, Rin looks strikingly similar to Sakura, in my opinion. Maybe it’s just the haircut and the fact that we can’t see her hair color in this black and white manga, but she looks very similar to Sakura.

Rin is much more useful to her team even in these handful of chapters than Sakura probably ever has so far, and I’m pretty sure they’re the same age here. She’s a skilled medical-nin who patches up her teammates, Kakashi and Obito, when they get hurt, which was a few times in this side story (Am I going to get in trouble for calling this a side story when it’s so important to future events?) She also performs a rather complex eye transplant right in the middle of the battlefield on two people who stay completely conscious through the whole thing and neither seems to experience pain during the procedure…..Wow.

However, she doesn’t seem to have really any battle prowess, and, guess what? She ends up getting kidnapped and needs saving.

The main reason I even decided to start drawing comparisons between Team 7 and Team Minato is because of the love triangle….angle. Obito is a screw up who is in love with Rin, but Rin is in love with dark and stern Kakashi, who has never given her the time of day. Sound familiar?

To her credit, Rin is nowhere near as Kakashi-crazy as Sakura is Sasuke-crazy, in fact until she outright blurts out her love confession to Kakashi near the end, you can barely tell she has a thing for him, but still.

What annoys me a bit more in Rin’s particular situation is how her love confession is handled. After Obito dies slowly and horribly right in front of both of them, half his body crushed by a boulder, sacrificing his life to save his friends, giving his sharingan to Kakashi, telling Kakashi specifically to take care of Rin for him, Kakashi tells Rin that Obito loved her (since he could never admit it before his death and probably to treasure her life enough to honor his wishes and leave before they get slammed by a group of enemy ninja.) Rin basically doesn’t even react to this information and stubbornly tries to stay with Kakashi and basically die with him because she loves Kakashi.

Yeah, Rin basically spit on Obito’s dying wish and love for her so she could needlessly die with Kakashi. The way the whole scene was structured was just terrible, at least in regards to the light it puts Rin in. It was basically “Let me protect you because Obito loved you and his dying wish was for me to protect you!” “Yeah, well, I love you so I’m staying and dying! Nyehh!”

Onto the Part Two of the main story – Sakura’s a Chunin now, yay!

Our first sighting of Sakura is more or less her reacting to how much Naruto has grown. It actually kinda seems like Sakura’s smitten for a few pages because she blushes several times and even makes flirty expressions. This is reverted back to same old, same old when Naruto breaks his new maturity for a minute to attempt to show off a newer, sexier version of the Sexy no Jutsu to Konohamaru.

I really love that our first venture into Part Two is a revisiting of the bell test. As you’ll recall, I criticized Sakura quite a bit for her role in the first bell test. She pretty much fretted about Sasuke, tried to impress Sasuke to no avail and then ended up fainting from a Genjutsu that made it seem like Sasuke was severely wounded.

Sakura’s performance in that test was almost laughably bad. To be fair, Naruto’s was similarly terrible, but at least he was making honest efforts. I can’t even remember a moment when Sakura made a play for the bells.

This time, Sakura’s visibly impressed with Naruto’s initial strikes, but when she realizes Kakashi’s coming for her next, she quickly assesses her surroundings and correctly surmises that he’s dug down below her. Which means we get our first glimpse into Sakura’s new abilities. That of which being Hulk-Smashing the ever-loving hell out of everything.

A single punch from Sakura can now cause massive craters, something Kakashi experiences firsthand as he cowers under a pile of rocks after barely evading her strike. I really love that Sakura’s new abilities manifest themselves into both massive explosions of raw power like this and extremely precise abilities that she’ll display later on with medical jutsu. They took a really awesome route with her power and it fits perfectly with her specific talent being chakra control.

Kakashi mentions Sakura’s affinity for Genjutsu again, whatever, and thinks to himself that she certainly shows potential to be even more skilled than Tsunade.

But Sakura’s growth reflection in the bell test doesn’t end there. In the bell test two and a half years ago, none of the trio were working together. They were all trying to gun for the bells on their own. Sakura would try to work with Sasuke, but her focus was more on gushing over him or trying to impress him. Sasuke saw Sakura as a liability and Naruto was too bullheaded to do anything but rush out on his own without thinking. Sakura basically wished for Naruto’s failure in the test or, at the very least, enjoyed watching him screw up.

Here, Sakura and Naruto are sticking together and working alongside each other. Not only that, but Naruto comes up with a final plan that actually sounds really silly, but Sakura doesn’t think to mock him about it for a second. Instead, she thinks it through, and realizes that, even if it’s silly, it could very well work – and it does. There’s a method to Naruto’s goofiness sometimes, even if he’s still a doofus on occasion, and Sakura realizes that. She respects Naruto as a teammate much more now than she did back then. Likewise, Naruto earns this respect by showing that he’s more mature, serious and focused, even if he’s still Naruto at heart.

Later on, after the battle with Deidara and Gaara’s kidnapping, as Sakura and the others are traveling to Sunagakure, Sakura reveals that she’s been snooping around and secretly reading private reports in Tsunade’s office for the past two and a half years. She explains that she now knows everything Naruto and Kakashi know about their current situation, which absolutely floored me.

This confirms that Sakura did not, in fact, know the details that Naruto and Kakashi knew about Sasuke’s situation with Orochimaru, Itachi and the Akatsuki, and, apparently, no one thought to ever actually clue her in all this time. She had to sneak around and read private reports instead when there is absolutely 100% no reason to keep this information from her considering how involved she is with Sasuke and Naruto, how much she already knows about the situation and her drive to return Sasuke to Konoha.

Do they really have such little trust in Sakura’s resolve as a ninja, even now that she’s clearly more mature and focused, that no one ever thought to explain this shit to her? Not even right before they sent her on a mission against other Akatsuki members?! That is ludicrous!

At least Sakura ends the chapter proclaiming that she’ll be the one to protect Sasuke and Naruto this time – but her mileage may vary.

For now, she’ll settle on saving Kankuro’s life.

Once we get to Sunagakure, Sakura quickly saves Kankuro’s life by removing poison from his system with her own chakra, which is pretty baller. She can’t get all of it and he’ll need additional treatment, but her medical skills were well beyond that of Chiyo, a very experienced medical-nin, and it’s clear that both she and Naruto are impressed with Sakura.

Later on, she even expertly crafts a medicine to help combat the effects of the residual poison.

Our first look at Sakura’s actual battle prowess is a bit…..disappointing, though I suppose it’s understandable. Itachi confronts the group, and while Naruto and Kakashi try to fight off Itachi, he actually knocks both Sakura and Chiyo to the ground so quickly that Naruto and Kakashi don’t even notice until they look behind them.

Yup, Sakura didn’t even get to throw a punch before she’s flat on her face.

Now, I’m giving Sakura a good deal of leeway for this for two reasons; 1) It’s Itachi. No one would ever expect, no matter how much Sakura has improved, that Sakura would be able to successfully fend off Itachi. 2) Naruto and Kakashi are both having trouble simply trying to keep up with him, so it’s understandable for him to get off a cheap shot.

Later, Sakura breaks Naruto free of a Genjutsu that Itachi had trapped him in, and he was unable to release it himself because he wasn’t skilled enough to break it. Chiyo did help her, but I’m giving Sakura the points here.

Chapters 261 – 280 (The Battle Against Sasori + Pursuing/Battling Deidara)

Sakura cries again, but I’m giving her another pass because she’s just learned that any jinchuriki that has its biju taken out of them will surely die, meaning Naruto will be killed if he’s captured by the Akatsuki.

Sakura uses her Hulk smash to break the giant boulder in front of the entryway to the room where Gaara’s being held.

Before we start the battle with Sasori, can I just say that it’s very nonsensical to split up the group and take your only two medical-nin and pit them against an extremely powerful enemy? Especially when you’re pursuing a near-dead or fully dead Kazekage who would need immediate medical attention?

In her battle against Sasori, Sakura pulls off some really impressive evasive maneuvers and breaks through Hiruko’s hard shell with her hulk smash. Then she does more impressive evasive maneuvers and barely escapes harm time and again …..buuuuuuuuuuuuuutttttttttttttttttt.

I can’t give her credit for most of this because Chiyo was controlling her body like a puppet. Even though Sakura was likely the one doing the Hulk smashing, I still have to take points off here.

She finally starts taking the initiative for herself when she’s trapped in a cloud of poison gas. She’s able to trigger a paper bomb on her belt, allowing her to dissipate the poison and allow her to break away. While this was kinda badass, it was also, as Chiyo pointed out, very reckless. I can’t really ding her too much here because it was either take a chance with the bomb or get poisoned to death.

Sakura then makes a big tough declaration that is supposed to be intimidating and show how much she’s grown, but all it really does for me is show how immature she still is. A true, mature, shinobi doesn’t bother with such grandstanding…especially when her role in the battle so far has been mostly playing Pinocchio and blowing herself up. She’s yelling at the top of her lungs, she’s making rather vicious threats to him (because she was triggered by him mentioning Orochimaru, which made her think back to Sasuke) and she’s obviously puffing out her chest more than she’s earned so far.

This little speech is made even more laughable when Sasori basically ignores her and throws a ton of kunai at her, which she needs to be saved from by Chiyo and her puppets because Sakura’s an idiot who would rather blather on about how much she’s going to kick Sasori’s ass than pay attention in battle.

Later, she’s targeted by Sasori again and Chiyo needs to use her puppets to save her….again…

Then they’re attacked again, and Chiyo uses her puppet to save Sakura…..again…..*cough*

But then, hip hip hooray, when Chiyo is out of puppets and down an arm, it seems like Sakura finally has to step up and take Sasori on by herself……Well…Kinda.

Sakura does step up. She refuses to leave even when Chiyo, again, tells her to flee since Sasori is too powerful and dangerous. However, instead of defending Chiyo and fighting on her own two feet, she tells Chiyo to use her as a puppet again….

This time, it’s not quite the same. Since Chiyo’s arm is gone, she can’t control all of Sakura’s body like she did before, but, still, a majority is still being puppeteered. Sakura pretty much just has full control over one of her arms, meaning yet again Sakura stands there like an idiot as something is about to hit her so Chiyo can yank her strings and pull her away and Sakura can Hulk-smash another projectile.

I really don’t understand why Sakura is having such difficulty evading shit in this battle on her own. Logically, it makes even less sense than when she was younger. She should have much more battle experience by now that would allow her be better at evading.

Not only that, but her training in honing her chakra at specific points in her body should also make her insanely good at evasion since all she’d have to do is focus it into her feet and either launch herself up or zoom off in literally any other direction. Remember, she was skilled at honing her chakra evenly into her feet near the start of Part One before she ever met Tsunade. Remember? One of literally two times where she proved to be more skilled at least in some area above both Sasuke and Naruto, for like a second? Climbing the tree?

Note that they still show the strings, implying that Sakura is being controlled here as the projectile misses her.

I was about to say that maybe she’s just standing there gawking at whatever attacks are about to hit her because of Chiyo’s chakra strings making her unable to move but:

1) There have been numerous instances of her gawking and nearly getting killed without the strings on her.

2) She has been shown to be able to move with the strings on her. See: Hulk -smash

Chiyo is impressed with Sakura’s next attack to break one of Sasori’s projectiles, claiming she’s quickly been able to predict Sasori’s offensive patterns. She also goes so far as to say she ‘never dreamed she’d be so good.’…Okie dokie, Granny. Dial it back a little.

We get a flashback to Sakura’s training with Tsunade. She asks Sakura why medics should never have their first focus be offense. Sakura immediately, and somewhat obnoxiously, explains in a textbook-like manner that medic ninja are meant to be support. They’re always meant to be providing aid, not fighting.

Tsunade declares that answer to be incorrect. Medical-nin are meant to treat the wounded, yes. But the reason they should never focus on combat first is because it puts their lives in danger. If they die, there’s no one to treat the wounded.

Now this is all well and good, but Tsunade mentions something else – something that directly contradicts everything I’ve been writing for this section.

Tsunade says one of the most important skills for a medical-nin to focus on…..is evasion.

……..I don’t get it. Sakura has been a deer in headlights for most of this fight, needing Chiyo to pull her away from danger or her block her from it numerous times. The one time she actually got away from danger herself, she didn’t evade it, she Hulk-smashed it away.

Not to mention that Sakura’s also completely disregarding that entire lesson from the ground up with her declarations that she’s going to make Sasori scream and she’ll kick his ass and yadda yadda.

But enough criticizing Sakura for the moment because her next move is indeed all hers and is very intelligent. Sakura is poisoned by the iron sand and topples over. Sasori’s about to finish them both off, but Sakura gets up and saves Chiyo. She had secretly made two and a half doses of antidote when she treated Kankuro. She gave one to him and saved the other two for the mission in case they faced off against Sasori. She kept it hidden from Sasori because she wanted him to use his trump cards before revealing that she had something to combat the poison. Why she kept it secret from Chiyo, I have no idea.

The catch is the antidote isn’t so much an antidote as it is a temporary treatment. It will null the effects for two and a half minutes, but after that the poison will start affecting her system again.

She heals Chiyo’s wounded hand, but at this point Sakura’s already at her limit. (Chiyo also mentions that Sakura’s been using chakra to dodge, but, again, that doesn’t really match what we’ve been seeing.) With what little chakra she has left, Sakura heals the worst of her wounds and prepares to take on Sasori. He’s impressed that she was able to make any sort of medicine that can combat his poison since even he needs to consult ratio charts to make suitable antidotes for it.

Sasori, wanting to end the battle quickly, uses some giant mass of needles to attack Sakura once more. Even with Chiyo helping, Sakura’s unable to evade all of the needles – the poisoned needles, and she ends up with a bunch of deep cuts all over her.

Another assault from Sasori delivers a stomach wound to Sakura, but his real target is Chiyo. Sakura manages to grab a reel of some kind of cord coming out of his stomach to pull him away and Hulk smash him to pieces.

However, he’s a puppet so he just pieces himself back together again.

Unbelievable – she literally hit him about two and a half inches away from his clearly marked weak spot….

Chiyo kinda takes the spotlight now since Sakura’s reached her time limit with the antidote and Chiyo is now breaking out an army of puppets, as is Sasori. To Sakura’s credit, though, she’s still not backing down.

Sakura, in conjunction with a sealing puppet-esque tool Chiyo gives her, ‘seals’ Sasori so he can’t move his puppets, but she throws it at an empty puppet. The real Sasori attacks Chiyo with a sword, but Sakura jumps in the way and takes the hit to her stomach. She’s able to heal the wound a bit even with the sword inside her, which is impressive, and her gripping the sword allows Chiyo to have the opening to hit Sasori’s weak spot. The totally well-hidden not completely obvious weak spot under that giant-ass insignia panel on his chest that completely stands out and has no purpose other than to be a beacon that says ‘THIS IS MY WEAK SPOT’ to his enemies.

Chiyo also saves Sakura’s life by injecting her with the last vial of antidote, which is a problem because Chiyo was also poisoned in that battle. That’s not really good enough, however, because Sakura falls and starts to die because of her wounds from the sword, which is weird because she was specifically healing the wound around the sword, but maybe the wound was too dire. Chiyo saves her life by healing her while also pulling out the sword.

However, even THAT’S not good enough, so Chiyo uses a jutsu she invented – a life-transferrence technique that is so powerful it can bring the dead back to life, but only if the user sacrifices their life. Since Sakura wasn’t actually dead when she did the technique, Chiyo doesn’t die. Sakura gets up and pointlessly punches Sasori in the face….It’s pointless because he’s basically already dead anyway and he’s a puppet so he doesn’t feel pain. It’s not like she crushed his head with a Hulk-smash, she just regularly punched him in the face.

Even Sasori points out how pointless and wasteful of her energy it was to do that…and…well..yeah. Chiyo’s nearly on death’s door trying to revive you, Sakura. Why would you waste any energy to slap a puppet and lecture him? Your mission doesn’t end with Sasori’s death. Chiyo needs your help. And what if Naruto or Kakashi need you for medical aid later? Gaara certainly will. Save your energy, you dingleberry.

My issue with this battle has always been that it feels like Sakura’s merely an assistant here. That is way better than her being useless and watching from the sidelines, but it’s still frustrating. This is her first actual battle since the time skip – this is our first chance to really test out her skills in the field after actually training and working her ass off to improve and she’s mostly just following Chiyo’s lead and being foolish.

Between her irrational behavior here and Naruto continuously losing his temper throughout this whole mission, to the point where he’s frequently acquiring Kyuubi features on his face, I feel like backwards character development has actually occurred over the past two and a half years.

Not to mention that Sasori and Chiyo have their own storyline going on, which obviously makes this battle more about them and less about her. It always seems like Sasori is more focused on Chiyo as his main enemy than Sakura.

Granted, both Chiyo and Sasori take the time out to point out how impressive Sakura is being (in inner monologue) but usually it feels like they’re being too impressed. Usually. Sometimes, there are moments when the awe is called for, like realizing Sakura could make a medicine to treat the effects of Sasori’s poison without having any of his charts or knowing the exact makeup of it. Most of the other instances of this, however, felt really exaggerated.

It’s just disappointing, because this is the one Sakura battle that actually sticks out in my mind in Part Two and they didn’t even let her have the full spotlight….they gave her a flashlight with cheap batteries.

I will, of course, give credit where credit is due here. This is certainly the most impressive Sakura has been in the entire series. She’s getting to actually fight, she’s making some really smart decisions and she saved Chiyo’s life a couple of times…..but…I feel like Sakura wasn’t really needed here that much.

If Sakura just gave Chiyo the antidote vials and let her fight the battle, Chiyo probably would’ve been fine on her own. The only part of the battle Chiyo most likely couldn’t have done on her own is destroy Hiruko’s shell. That’s about it. Sakura was otherwise a good meat shield to get Sasori to use up his energy. There were also numerous points where her presence was actually a little detrimental, such as Chiyo getting injured, losing her arm and using more chakra than was necessary in order to help Sakura.

Again, I’m not saying she was useless in this battle – of course she wasn’t. She did much more than she ever did in any battle in Part One, but, as a whole, it’s disappointing as Sakura’s premiere battle in Part Two. There was never a point where she really wowed me. And nearly any time where she was very impressive is offset by instances of her making poor decisions or being rash.

I almost feel like this battle originally was written for just Chiyo and Sasori but they realized they didn’t want such a massive section of the start of Part Two to focus on two characters we barely know. So they hastily wrote a role for Sakura to play here – and a good chunk of it was literally Sakura being a puppet for Chiyo.

I also don’t appreciate the fact that not only was Sakura saved numerous times over the course of this section, even if Chiyo acts like she wasn’t (??) but in the end, she nearly died and had to be saved again, technically twice since Chiyo gave over her antidote when she needed it, and this time it was nearly at the cost of Chiyo’s life.

In addition, in my opinion, this self-sacrifice was pretty needless. Why didn’t she just Hulk-smash Sasori to pieces to stop the attack instead of acting as a human shield? It wouldn’t have killed Sasori, unless she knew to hit his giant weak spot button, but it would’ve halted his attack.

Why did we need to see Chiyo’s life-transferrence technique at this stage anyway? It didn’t actually kill her and she’s just going to do it again in a chapter or two. It would have been more badass if Sakura removed the sword herself and completed her own healing, which she was already in the process of doing.

Sakura deserves all the credit in the world for not leaving when prompted, several times, and standing her ground to help Chiyo and succeed in their mission. She had her moments here, but I’m just disappointed that our first venture with her on a mission after the time skip is a two on one battle where she gets a few cool moments peppered throughout a lot of the same old Sakura stuff.

Later, when Sakura and Chiyo meet back up with Naruto and Kakashi, Sakura can’t heal Gaara – his condition is either too grave or he’s already dead. I’m not blaming Sakura for being unable to do this as I doubt any medical-nin, probably even Tsunade, would be able to treat him at this point. Plus, she’s very drained of chakra. Chiyo offers her life to save his instead.

In a surprising moment, she actually tells Sakura that, in the future, she shouldn’t risk her life to help a dying granny like her. Which…yeah, I guess I agree a little – as I said there were better options than jumping in front of that sword – but if she hadn’t saved Chiyo, Gaara would be dead for good. So, save those old grannies, Sakura. Just be a bit more careful about it next time. Chiyo praises her abilities and her spirit and tells her that she definitely has it in her to surpass her master.

Can I just take the time out to say it continues to baffle me how hypocritical people are in the Naruto universe? Two and a half years ago, Gaara was treated as nothing but a monster – someone everyone, even his father, wanted dead. It was understandable for him to become Kazekage in that time, even if that is a stretch, but for everyone in the village to be so fangirly/boy-y about him…it’s just….a little irritating.

For contrast and fairness, they did have one of the government officials act like Gaara wasn’t worth saving because he was just a monster, but still.

It’s more understandable when Naruto’s drowning in fans later on, considering he becomes a war hero, but the fact that most people don’t apologize for how they treated either Gaara or Naruto really bothers me. Because it’s like Naruto and Gaara were required to work their asses off to earn the respect of their peers when all they did to not have it at the start was exist.

Chapters 281-300 (Returning to Konoha + Introducing Yamato and Sai to Team 7 + A New Mission – Deceiving Orochimaru and Kabuto + Naruto Going Insane in Four-Tails Mode)

Gonna point out how adorable it is that Gaara nudged Naruto’s hand for a handshake by manipulating some sand around it. Seriously, I had to stop reading for a second – that was so sweet.

Sakura is put on the same level as Shizune in regards to them being the two people Tsunade trusts most explicitly.

Anyone else feel really bad for Shino when Naruto recognizes Kiba, Choji and Hinata but not him?

I find it very…interesting that Naruto seems way more offended and threatened by Sai’s inclusion on the team as Sasuke’s replacement than Sakura is. It’s strange. Naruto is literally yelling out how much cooler Sasuke is than Sai and I feel like, if the panels didn’t show the characters, I’d be mistakenly attributing his dialogue to Sakura. Meanwhile, Sakura is teasing Naruto about it, trying to cheer him up on the situation.

After Sai insults Sasuke with some….err…well…truth (He IS a traitor who turned his back on everything to pursue power.) I was about to give Sakura heaping mounds of props because it seemed like they were going to have Sakura be the most mature and level-headed one here. Considering Sai’s insulting Sasuke right now and tensions are high with Sai seemingly taking Sasuke’s place, I was looking to the sky to see if the heavens had opened and bestowed upon me a wonderful moment of proof that Sakura’s a mature ninja who can put aside such personal feelings and keep her team focused on the mission – reflecting those two and a half years of hard work and change.

PBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB…..No.

Sakura does step between Naruto and Sai when it seems like Naruto might actually start a fight with Sai. She calmly apologizes for Naruto’s behavior and explains that, even though Naruto doesn’t know Sai very well yet, it’s no excuse to judge him so harshly.

………..Then she punches Sai square in the face, knocking him several feet backward and with a scary face she says ‘I don’t care if you forgive me.’ Blah blah blah you don’t know Sasuke blah blah I won’t hold back next time blah.

Seriously, what the hell is up with the wishy washy maturity levels Sakura and Naruto are displaying since we entered Part Two? Is it understandable that Naruto doesn’t trust Sai? Sure. He’s an identity-less wack-a-doo who attacked Naruto before they even met. Is it understandable that Naruto’s uncomfortable with someone taking Sasuke’s place, even temporarily? Definitely.

Is it understandable that Naruto’s yelling out at that top of his lungs that they don’t need another member since the fourth member of their squad is Sasuke and this “loser” will never be Sasuke or anything close to him? No.

It’s especially stupid that Sakura’s like ‘Naruto barely knows you, but that’s not an excuse for him to to judge you.’ and then immediately follows that up with judging Sai herself, even though she barely knows him either. It’s like they’re trying to be badass by covering up immaturity by even worse immaturity and that’s just dumb.

“But, Twix, they’re just teenagers! You can’t expect them to be emotionally stable!” Agreed. Leeway where leeway is appropriate, BUT, like I’ve mentioned before, there’s only so much leeway I can give in that regard given the world they live in.

Children in the Naruto universe, particularly when they’re ninjas, are expected to grow up faster than children in our world would. Children as young as twelve, sometimes younger like with Kakashi and Itachi, are sent on life-threatening missions all the time. They are treated as if they’re still students, and they are, but they’re also full-fledged ninja and are, technically, comrades in arms with Chunin and Jonin, who commonly aren’t even that much older than they are.

For example, Shikamaru is now a Chunin (and so is Sakura) who is proctoring the Chunin exams and taking squads out on missions as team leader – and he has been doing that since he was 12. Temari is a Jonin who is basically acting as an ambassador between Suna and Konoha. And lest we forget that Gaara is the flippin’ Kazekage whose maturity and emotional stability has grown so much in just two and a half years that you almost wouldn’t recognize him.

Sakura and Naruto have both been given special attention and direct individual training by two of the Sannin for the past two and a half years and, if anything, it’s like they reverted in maturity half of the time.

Now Naruto is badmouthing Sai’s art for no reason. I think we’ve reached a point where I can comfortably say Naruto can go fuck himself. What’s the matter? The series can’t reach its angst and attitude quota without Sasuke so now Naruto has to pick up the slack? At least Sakura is being nice about it now and showing a legitimate interest in his art and life (when she discovers the picture of Sai’s brother.)

By the by, I’m not defending Sai’s behavior. He may be emotionless, but he’s been a dick so far.

Sakura does show more restraint after Naruto says he’ll team up with Sai if it helps them bring Sasuke back. She’s about to punch Sai again after he showed more insensitivity towards their relationship with Sasuke, but she acknowledges that he can’t help them to the best of his abilities if he’s injured via Hulk-smash.

Aaaannnnnnddddd…..Sakura’s knocked out by hitting her head on the bridge right as the battle between them and Orochimaru and Kabuto starts. *sigh*

Not only that, but Naruto’s loss of control over the Kyuubi causes the bridge they’re on to collapse and Sakura’s unconscious body falls off of it. She’s saved by Yamato, though.

After Sakura wakes up, the next thing she does, after some conversation with Yamato, is confirm to Kabuto Sasori’s fate….because why not give the enemy more intel for no reason? (Seriously, if they thought Sasori was still alive, Konoha might have been able to use that to their advantage somehow. It’s not much, but think before you speak, Sakura.)

Then she gets pulled away from an attack by Naruto from Yamato.

Realizing Naruto’s current condition, Sakura rushes towards him and tells him she’ll save Sasuke so he doesn’t have to keep suffering in the Kyuubi form…which, while noble….is also really, really, REALLY dumb. It’s been made clear that Naruto has no control over himself right now – as evidenced by the massive amounts of destruction and nearly turning Sakura and Yamato into shish kabobs – but she still decides to rush right towards him. Of course, Yamato needs to save her from Naruto’s wrath and, of course, she gets wounded anyway.

Again, you’re perfectly utilizing Tsunade’s training advice of trying not to get wounded or killed as much as humanly possible because the team needs their medic, Sakura. Just perfect.

To her credit, she does ask Yamato if he can teach her the jutsu used to pacify Naruto. She’s seemingly biologically unable to do so so, however, since he has the First Hokage’s cells inside of him and they’re the only ones that can utilize the jutsu. Due to her wounds, she also suffers from pain while trying to heal Naruto, but does her duty anyway.

This exchange was sweet but also a little irritating.

Sakura: “The only things I can ever do for Naruto…are these little things.” I really thought the point of the last two and a half years was to allow you to grow outside of that box, so nice to see you’re still in it. /sarcasm

Again, It’s good that she at least acknowledges that she has these shortcomings but we’re only a little bit into Part Two and we’re right back to ‘I can’t do much to help.’ Giving her some big credit, though, she is healing Naruto pretty quickly from the wounds he received from his four-tailed state, and from what Jiraiya said about the first time he transformed that far, his wounds must have been pretty severe. Considering they really need Naruto on this mission, getting him back on his feet is no easy…well….feat.

It’s just a bit disheartening knowing that her biggest obstacle as a character is trying to keep up with Naruto and Sasuke and she really just…can’t and never will. She takes two steps forward and they take an airplane to the next country.

Yamato: “It doesn’t matter whether the things you do for him are large or small…what matters is how much you care about Naruto.” Realistically, he’s right. From a narrative standpoint….eeehhhhh.

Someone’s ship teasing the NaruSaku fans…

Sakura lies to Naruto about the damage caused by him since he doesn’t remember doing it. I don’t really feel strongly either way about this. It’s understandable that she’d lie since he’d probably feel like garbage about what he did, especially considering Sakura got wounded by him, and there’s no real benefit to telling him, at least not now.

Because Sakura’s wound was caused by the Kyuubi’s chakra, Sakura is unable to heal it fully and it basically acts like an acid or poison, so she’s a wounded duck for now and they need to stop their pursuit to let her rest.

No big note to end this entry on besides Sakura reading Sai’s picture book and getting a sneak peak at Sasuke.

————————————–

A lot of stuff happened in this entry, and it was quite the roller coaster of progress in Sakura’s character.

On the other hand….

As I pointed out, Sakura does show a lot of growth after the time skip. She’s more mature, she’s developed many useful skills, and she’s become a medical-nin with abilities that have already surpassed much more experienced shinobi in her field. I may have my qualms with the battle itself and her role in it, but Sakura also faced down an Akatsuki member when, last we saw of her in battle, she couldn’t even take on the Genin-level Sound-nin or even friggin’ Ino without being laid out at the end.

She’s Hulk-smashing shit, she’s eager to learn and even though she still does cry numerous times throughout this entry, she’s not bawling at the drop of a hat or simply staying on the sidelines anymore. She’s also grown as a ninja in regards to her teamwork with Naruto. As shown in the bell test with Kakashi, she gives his ideas, even seemingly goofy ones, more credit than she would have in the past and she’s working with him not against him. She’s no longer snickering at his failures or hoping for his downfall.

That being said, the improvement is not as sharp as I’d like.

She’s being very impulsive and illogical, especially where Sasuke is concerned. She’s screaming threats at her enemies, she’s punching her comrades, and she’s ignoring Tsunade’s guidance to stay reserved and defensive in order to stay alive and well to treat her teammates if need be. I can’t count how many times she suddenly flung herself into danger unnecessarily.

Her position as a medical-nin also basically means she’s now solidified as being the one teammate who will always need to be protected and never put on the front lines unless absolutely necessary, and that’s a little irritating – made all the more irritating considering there were already many times where Sakura needed to be rescued or otherwise protected by her teammates.

I know it seems like I’m being contradictory for dinging her on rushing into danger while also dinging her for needing to be saved just as much as she used to back in Part One, but the thing is a good medical ninja – or just a good ninja in general – needs to find a balance between being effective in offense, defense and evasion.

The one time where it seemed like she did find this balance, kinda anyway, was when Sasori stabbed her. She healed herself while she was being stabbed and kept him in place that way, but 1) She shouldn’t have allowed herself to get stabbed in the first place, there were better options, and 2) this technically didn’t matter as she ended up on the brink of death afterwards anyway. Maybe this did give Chiyo the opening to cut through his weak point, but I think Hulk-smashing him in the right spot would’ve have achieved the same aim.

Speaking of the battle with Sasori, that was a really confusing and lackluster battle debut of time skipped Sakura. She was used as a puppet for a good chunk of it, which is disappointing, but Sasori and Chiyo seem really impressed with what she was doing. Chiyo praises her for having good evasion when I thought for certain Sakura was being pulled by Chiyo most of the time. They always made a point to draw the chakra strings, so I’m doubly confused.

She definitely Hulk-smashed on her own, which was good. She also had the forethought to make three antidotes and bring two with her in case they ran into Sasori, which was very smart. She had the skills and knowledge to save Kankuro from the poison when no one in Suna could, including Chiyo, which is really impressive.

Later on, she also healed Naruto from a fairly terrible state after he reverted back from four-tails, which was impressive, even if Yamato wants to leave him behind after being mostly healed (He’s still very weak and falling over.)

This entry really has been a massive mixed bag for Sakura, but the highs were higher and the lows weren’t quite as low. I’m certainly thankful for the development Sakura has gotten, but I can’t help but feel they’re still holding back on making her really astound me. Plus, even though Sasuke is not present for most of this chapter cluster to outshine her, Naruto still is. Hell, Gaara still is, for that matter. It’s hard to be truly floored by Sakura’s Hulk-smashes and medical prowess when Gaara’s guarding an entire village with his sand while fighting an Akatsuki member by himself and Naruto is leveling a 1000 foot radius with his Kyuubi powers and nearly killing Kabuto and Orochimaru without thinking.

Speaking of Sasuke, this was the first cluster where we were completely free of Sasuke, barring a bit at the end. Meaning, we finally get to see Sakura fully without Sasuke’s direct influence. I can’t help but wonder where Sakura would be right now had Sasuke not left the village. She still had a drive to better herself, but she wasn’t doing anything with it. She was doting on Sasuke and stagnating like a puddle in an alleyway.

With Sasuke gone, she’s become an apprentice to a Sannin, she’s become an incredible medical-nin on her way to surpassing Tsunade, she’s….kinda matured….And the only reason I say ‘Kinda’ there is because, even though she has shown a lot of mental and emotional growth, she’s at her worst, maturity-wise, in Part Two when Sasuke is involved. Sakura’s making rash decisions and calling out a frickin’ Akatsuki member with loud threats? Happened because he mentioned Orochimaru, which implied Sasuke. Sakura socks her teammate so hard he flies several feet backward? Happened because he badmouthed Sasuke.

Then again, while Sasuke’s influence was hindering her, he is technically responsible for her growth, in a way, too. Afterall, she’s mainly doing all of this so she can bring Sasuke back home. And once Sasuke’s back, I’m not sure she continues improving beyond what she had already achieved. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

I’m actually pretty bummed we’re moving out of this chapter cluster because Sasuke is definitely returning in the next one, and I’m very worried it will result in more backwards development for Sakura. I’m not saying she’d gush over him like she used to, I’m almost certain she wouldn’t, but I do fear that she’d be paralyzed with pre-time-skip-Sakura uselessness if she came into contact with him. I’m pretty sure she never throws a punch in his direction over the entirety of the manga, so, whenever he’ll be the enemy, she’ll most certainly be a passive party. I definitely know some very questionable things will happen in this regard, but let’s save that for next time.

Speaking of next time, there’s a whole lot going on in the next cluster, but how much Sakura actually has to do over the following 100 chapters, considering the very wide focus, is up in the air. Hopefully, we have some great things to look forward to with her, though. If she’s not still not wowing me, maybe she can at least get some spotlight and growth.


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Digimon Adventure V-Tamer (Manga) Volume 9 (FINALE) + Full Manga Review

Plot: Taichi and Zero’s battle against Neo and Arkadimon is reaching a peak. Thanks to the data Hideto and Omegamon gained from Arkadimon, Zero manages to dodge the Dot Matrix attack several times, draining Arkadimon of its energy and giving Zero an edge. However, Neo isn’t done yet. He uses the power of the Digimental to evolve Arkadimon into its Super Ultimate form, which can use an even more powerful version of the Dot Matrix called the God Matrix.

Zero valiantly sacrifices himself in an effort to save his friends, but just when all hope seems lost, Zero’s ability to overwrite his lost data causes him to reform into the amazing Alforce V-dramon!

Able to rewrite his destroyed data even faster and shield himself from impending attacks, Alforce V-dramon, with the help and support of Taichi, gains the upper-hand yet again.

Incredibly angered by yet another miracle Taichi and Zero pulled off, Neo yells in rage at these ‘bugs’ seeing as them as nothing but accidents that he wants to wipe clear from the world – so people like Rei will never suffer from another horrific ever again.

Upon hearing Neo’s words, the group tries to convince him that this isn’t the way to stop terrible events like that from happening. Rei also admits that her devastation after the accident wasn’t because she lost the ability to walk – it was because Neo changed so much after it happened.

After Rei nearly sacrifices herself to get Neo to come to his senses, Arkadimon suddenly reverts back to Ultimate form. Neo’s will to fight seems to have waned, but the battle’s not over yet.

Arkadimon suddenly speaks and reveals that it’s actually Demon, having finally been able to retake the Digimon’s body after being absorbed by him. The combined version of Arkadimon and Demon proves to be too much for Zero, and Demon moves on to his true plan – opening a portal to the real world and causing mass chaos by infecting them with his Dark Virus. With them out of the way, both the real world and the Digital World will be his to command.

In a last-ditch effort to save both worlds, Taichi grabs the Digimental and uses it to turn Alforce V-Dramon into his Future form! Powered by the support of Taichi and his friends and fueled by the light of the future of both worlds, Zero strikes down Demon, destroying Arkadimon once and for all.

With Arkadimon defeated and Neo stood down, Taichi and Zero bid farewell to the Digital World and all of their friends so they can return to the real world.

Taichi meets up with Sigma, now without his mask, Mari, Hideto, Rei and even Neo as they enter another Digimon tournament…..only for Taichi to be turned away when Zero is, yet again, not recognized as an official Digimon, thus making him ineligible to enter.

Neo declares himself unfit to be a true Tamer unless he defeats Taichi, making them friendly rivals. When Neo wins the tournament, he, Taichi and the rest of the group link up for more Digimon battles as they head for the bright future Zero and Taichi set them on.

Breakdown: Going into the final volume, I was worried about a couple of things.

1) How they’d deal with redeeming Neo, and 2) How they’d manage to defeat Arkadimon.

In regards to the latter, it was a bit on the predictable side, particularly with Zero’s sudden evolution, but it was well-written and exciting. Plus, Alforce V-Dramon is too awesome. I’m so disappointed we only got him for a few chapters.

I won’t lie, I was tearing up when Zero seemingly sacrificed himself to save the others. I pretty much knew he wouldn’t be gone for good, but that scene really got me.

The reveal that Arkadimon was taken over by Demon was….not really as predictable, and it did save Demon from being merely a footnote villain, but I feel like there wasn’t enough written into Demon for his reveal to really be all that grand. He’s about as generic as his name.

His motivations are that he’s tired of Digimon being subservient to humans despite their massive powers. He plans on taking over the Digital World with his power and taking over the real world with his Dark Virus that will manipulate everyone’s emotions and cause chaos.

It’s a far cry from the plans Neo had of just flatout destroying both worlds and making a new one.

Speaking of Neo, we have to address the Elephantmon in the room – How is Neo going to be redeemed?

I’ve said a few times now that Neo’s pretty much gone beyond the point of redemption in my eyes. He’s been so malicious and horrible to pretty much everyone, including Rei and Hideto, that any redemption for him would feel cheap.

And I wasn’t wrong.

Neo’s redemption is in the ‘reveal’ that he’s been doing all of this to create a utopia, or Arcadia, so accidents like the one that robbed Rei of her ability to walk would never happen again.

*deep sigh*

He has said several times that he didn’t even so much care about that anymore. He just wanted power and to destroy both worlds. He’s even been a dick to Rei in the meantime to achieve this, and yet his motivation circles back around to his deep love of his sister and his guilt for her condition. How does that work?

Not only that, but they imply that Demon was manipulating him the whole time with the Dark Virus, amplifying his emotions and making him so ridiculously evil, which really feels like the bigger cop-out.

I feel it’s very appropriate to compare this plight with that of Ken from Adventure 02.

Ken was a tyrant. He wanted all of the Digital World under his control and every Digimon his slave. When the Chosen Children showed up, he didn’t care who he hurt, human or Digimon alike, or even if he’d end up killing Digimon or people. He just wanted power and control. Sometimes, he just wanted to see others suffer.

In a lot of ways, it was difficult to see redemption for Ken too. However, they did a pretty good job with it. He didn’t see Digimon as living, breathing creatures – he just saw them as data. He didn’t see the Digital World as a real world – he saw it as an escape; a computer program he could run off into and do whatever he pleased.

This falls apart when he starts putting the lives of other people in peril, however, especially in that episode where he pretty much made a game out of tormenting Daisuke over saving one of his friends or watching them all die.

However, you might say that’s due to madness because of his intense self-loathing over feelings of guilt with the death of his brother, Sam. It’s even possible that, given he believes the Digital World is just a game and nothing that happens there is real, that the lives of the others aren’t really in actual danger, but that’s extremely muddy territory.

Still, no matter what he believed, those actions are things he’d have to make up for, which he did. He paid for it in the loss of Wormmon, his partner, the realization that all of the pain and suffering he was causing in the Digital World was real and not a computer simulation, falling into such deep mental shock that he was essentially in a comatose state for several days, haunted by terrible memories of his past, and gets a massive tongue lashing by the reborn Digimon in Primary Village who had felt the sting of his whip firsthand. He even took it upon himself to start taking down the Dark Towers and making amends to the Digimon, no matter how harsh the scorn was from both them and the Chosen Children.

He also eventually joined the other Chosen Children to help save the Digital World time and again.

Even though it is later revealed that Ken also has something amplifying his dark feelings with the Dark Seed, that didn’t really matter. He still took responsibility for what he did and what he was. He accepted the mistakes he made and worked towards making up for them and being a better person.

Neo, however, doesn’t go through the same suffering. Despite doing as much damage if not worse in this manga, his redemption amounts to him just getting a dose of reality from Rei talking to him about never giving up and her nearly getting herself killed (or killing herself? It’s never really made clear) to talk sense into him. He just suddenly realizes that he was wrong and joins the good guys.

This is an actual page.

Neo doesn’t suffer at all. Sure, he beats himself up a little for Rei’s accident, but his drive is moreso trying to wipe the possibility of tragic accidents from the world. If he sees what happened as truly an accident, he’s not guilting himself too much.

He also doesn’t own up to all of the pain and suffering he caused, both for people and Digimon. He yells when he realizes he’s been stealing the futures of others for his own means, but it only lasts about three panels.

He never feels guilt for destroying Piemon, treating Greymon like garbage and deleting him, deleting him again as MetalGreymon after he suffered so much to come back from death just to be of use to Neo, nearly destroying Omegamon, any of the other Digimon he destroyed to feed Arkadimon, wanting Arkadimon to use a slower version of the Dot Matrix so Zero and Taichi will suffer more during Zero’s death, he never apologizes for hurting the other kids or saying the terrible things he’s said – he just frowns and saves Taichi from falling off a cliff.

Never is there a moment of actual suffering or repentance. He doesn’t even stick around in the Digital World to help rebuild the place or make amends to the Digimon. He leaves for the real world and calls it a day.

There is one moment where Taichi and the others meet up before he departs for the real world, and they explain that Neo was too ashamed of what he had done to face them so he left without them….which is about 1000x worse. Ken not only went back and faced his mistakes, he actively went into the Digital World to fix things and make up for what he had done, as much as he was able to anyway.

Neo’s such a bitch he wouldn’t even look everyone in the eye? He just lolnoped out of there and never looked back?

He did all of those terrible things and never even apologized to anyone for it. Back in the real world, Neo is just another one of the group now, even back with the friends he betrayed. The only thing he says is that he can’t be a real Tamer unless he defeats Taichi…..which is basically looping back around to his beginning motivations, only seemingly not malicious this time.

Another way they balk out on Neo’s evilness is through the Digimental. It’s only meant to activate with someone’s pure heart, so they were shocked to find that Neo could use it. Hispure feelings of wanting to make a utopia for Rei was what fueled it…..

Pile the influence of Demon on top of that and I guess we’re just supposed to accept that Neo’s actually a good guy and not expect him to have consequences for his actions. Bull. Shit.

He was an asshole seemingly even before he came to the Digital World, hence why Rei started becoming miserable. Even before her accident, he was a jerk. Remember when he told Hideto to just delete Wargs and Melgs because they were seen as weak in his eyes?

He also knew from the beginning that the Digital World and Digimon were real, but he didn’t care. In addition, his drive during the first few volumes was to be the best Tamer, then it evolved into him wanting to destroy both the real and Digital Worlds. I’m not sure how much Demon’s influence counts here, but I can’t imagine it’s much.

The overall battle was really great, though. Taichi and Zero’s interactions were amazing, and I love that their faith in each other never wavered for a second. They are a team of legends.

The absolute ending was good. I was bracing myself for Zero to die due to the effects of the Ancient coding within him, but I guess Zero’s going to live a long life now. I was at least expecting him and Taichi to need to part ways after everything was said and done, but I forgot that they can communicate through his v-pet device.

I was a bit upset that Piemon or at least a Digi-Egg for him was never recovered. Poor Sigma.

It’s a tad annoying that Zero STILL isn’t recognized by official sources and thus Taichi can’t enter tournaments, but he has friends to battle with whenever he wants and all he really needs is Zero by his side.

Overall Manga Breakdown: As a whole, I really enjoyed this manga. I think it’s a great read for both Digimon fans and non-fans alike. The pacing is a bit fast, but nothing too break-neck. They do slow down every now and again when it matters.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Taichi and Zero. I’d definitely rank them pretty high on my list of favorite Tamer/Chosen Children/Digimon pairings. Taichi and Zero don’t really change much over the course of the series, but that doesn’t really matter. Character growth isn’t always a necessity, and I don’t think it was needed too much here. They definitely teach each other to not be so hot-headed and when to take things seriously.

Taichi and Zero pull a lot of wins out of their asses just because friendship and determination and what have you. Even Neo calls out these ‘miracles.’ I feel like this was more of a problem in the first half of the series since the second half, while still having plenty of these moments, has many more moments where they’re down and out or on the ropes. In addition, they make it clear that it’s not just Taichi and Zero winning these fights – without everyone else helping out in their own ways, hardly any of Taichi and Zero’s battles would’ve been won.

Some of the battles were really intense and creative. I especially enjoyed Taichi and Zero vs. Sigma and Peimon and the battle with Hideto and Omegamon. Despite the emotional moment getting to me, I don’t think the final battle with Arkadimon topped either, so that was a bit disappointing in that regard.

I came to really like all of the side characters, barring maybe Mari. Sigma in particular had a great story, and he’s adorable in the real world.

I loved the bonus chapters that allowed them to crossover with the anime characters in nearly all seasons. That was a fun little addition. I didn’t much care for the poop chapter, though….

My main problem really does lie with Neo as our main villain. He just wasn’t handled well at all. He was made ridiculously over-evil then we’re pretty much made to just forget every horrible thing he did and forgive him when he never even says he’s sorry for what he did just because he felt bad that his sister was paralyzed (but might be cured some day?)

The influence of Demon being a factor is way too weak for me to consider it a significant issue, and the role of Rei almost seems like a hasty mid-way rewrite since most of his motivation at the start was proving he was better than Taichi. He never thought about Rei back then.

Demon also wasn’t a compelling villain, especially as a final baddie. He’s just an evil power-hungry dude. The fact that he returned was a decent twist, but his motivations and goals are way too weak (much weaker and less interesting than Neo’s, anyway.)

Volume Rating: 8/10

Overall Manga Rating Average: 8/10

Recommended Audience: There’s much more blood in this series than you’d normally see in Digimon, particularly with the Digimon themselves as Digimon typically aren’t supposed to bleed, really. There’s even some stuff that might constitute as gore. There’s no real swearing, nudity or sex. It doesn’t really get any worse in the final volume, and considering I’ve kept it at 8+ for most of the run, I think it’s safe to leave it that way for the entire series.


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Digimon Adventure V-Tamer (Manga) Volume 8 Review

Plot: Taichi and Zero finally go head to head with Neo and Arkadimon, but even though Zero looks like he might be able to topple the powerhouse Digimon, Arkadimon retaliates with a new trick of its own – the Dot Matrix; an ability that allows it to turn energy into data and absorb it. Arkadimon destroys Zero’s arm, then his wing and finally skewers him through the chest.

Zero starts dissolving into binary code, and they rush him to Holy Angemon Castle to see if they can save him. Holy Angemon, Leomon, Hideto and Omegamon and other powerful Digimon decide to evolve and confront Neo and Arkadimon.

Meanwhile, Zero is somehow managing to fight off being completely destroyed, but he’s losing strength quickly. The other Digimon from the area, many that Zero and Taichi have helped over their time in the Digital World, give their energy to Zero to help him fight.

Omegamon nearly destroys himself trying to attack Arkadimon. He’s unsuccessful in damaging him, but it wasn’t a total loss. The Dot Matrix was an invisible attack and no one could see where it was coming from. Omegamon’s attack allowed them to finally see that the attack was coming from Arkadimon’s torso.

Zero manages to get himself back to full strength with the help of all of the Digimon, and he and Taichi rev up to take on Neo and Arkadimon one more time. But, will it be enough?

Breakdown: The big battle is here, and it’s pretty good so far. I didn’t expect Zero to be down for the count in this volume, but we only have one more volume left so maybe I should’ve expected them to be down and out at least once this time around.

The Dot Matrix is a terrifying ability for a Digimon to have. Zero was only able to survive, supposedly, because he was an Ancient type and could hold his code together while the other Digimon gave him energy to recover. However, if it hit another Digimon in a vital area, they’d certainly be dead. And since Arkadimon absorbs the data, they wouldn’t be able to come back.

The scene where the Digimon give their energy to Zero to help him recover was very touching, and Omegamon nearly sacrificing himself was also emotional, even though he really didn’t die. We finally have some small moments where Neo seems like he might be caught off-guard, but he ultimately comes out on top time and again with that dumbass cocky grin on his face.

Neo’s falling further and further away from any sort of chance at legit salvation in my eyes, and that chance was already insanely slim. Wanna know the real reason why Zero had the opportunity to recover? Because Neo told Arkadimon to purposely use a slower version of the Dot Matrix to have Zero slowly vanish so both him and Taichi will suffer longer. Screw this guy so hard.

We also have another bonus chapter, this time with Taichi teaming up with Ryo.

If you don’t know who Ryo is, I don’t blame you. For a quick refresher for purely Digimon anime fans, he’s the guy that suddenly gets introduced in Tamers when the kids go to the Digital World. The one that basically becomes Rika’s love interest kinda?

He’s not purely a one-off random character, though. He’s actually a pretty popular character due to his prominence in the Wonderswan game series for Digimon.

Wonderswan and Wonderswan Colors were basically Game Boy Advanced right before Game Boy Advanced was a thing. They were released by Bandai in 1999 and were the last pieces of hardware to be created by game and gaming hardware designer Gunpei Yokoi before his death. They were never released in America, possibly due to oversaturation of the market at the time in regards to gaming consoles, and only a handful of the games, like Final Fantasy, Gundam titles and Digimon games were released in English.

Even in Japan, the handheld console just couldn’t compete with Nintendo (Which is a little ironic because Yokoi designed the original Game Boy) and Bandai not only stopped production on both devices in 2003, but they also bowed out of the console wars altogether.

The Digimon games created for the Wonderswan crossed over with Adventure, 02 and Tamers, the last of which Ryo also made a long-standing cameo in, so technically Ryo is the only character to be canon in all three original Digimon series. I should note that this does NOT mean all of the Digimon series take place in the same canon. From all I’ve gathered so far, it seems like the most logical conclusion is that all of the Digimon series take place in different dimensions – Ryo just has the ability to jump through dimensions.

Ryo, like Taichi, is rather hotheaded and confident while also being heroic and proud. Because their personalities are so similar, when Ryo enters their dimension, he gets along quite well with Taichi but quickly gets into a ‘Who will save whom?’ contest with him. Their hotheadedness somehow weakens the enemy Digimon they were fighting, and before they can even start an actual battle the Digimon is somehow vanquished by their pride.

I was really underwhelmed by this bonus chapter. There was no nice lesson to learn, the story wasn’t interesting, the resolution is bullshit, quite frankly, and it was just boring. They bring up Tamers in this chapter but don’t take the opportunity to bring in any of the Tamers. I never played any of the Wonderswan games, and I never cared much for Ryo in Tamers, so I was pretty divorced from this plot as it was, but what they did with it was less than I expected.

All in all this was a good, but not fantastic volume. We’ve only got one more volume to go through, so here’s hoping we have an amazing finale!

Rating: 7.5/10


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Animating Halloween: Higanjima Volume 3 (Manga) Review

Plot: Akira and the others have made it to Higanjima, but they don’t even get to shore before they’re attacked by the vampires. Unlike what Rei said about their only being a few, the island is basically littered with nothing but vampires. The ambush them on the boat and take them prisoner. Rei, however, escapes into the wilderness.

The group learns that the vampires don’t just suck all of your blood at once. They have a special chair prepared for their victims where they sit naked, are force-fed nutrients and water and get bitten for as long as possible on a regular basis until their bodies can’t stand anymore and they die.

Akira and the others sit in horror for several days, hearing the screams of some of the other people they had brought with them to island as their blood is drained away. They begin to turn on each other out of fear, hunger and thirst. The vampires mock and taunt them regularly, frustrating them even further.

Ken seemingly sacrifices himself to allow Akira and the others the opportunity to escape, stating he can take two to three months on the chair, trusting that Akira and the other survivors will come rescue him when they have the chance.

Once they get out, they split up to escape the vampires, and Akira attempts to find his brother in hopes of getting his help.

Breakdown: So, in the end of volume two, I kinda thought to myself…. ‘These guys have to have a real….plan, right? Their plan can’t just be ‘arrive on the vampire island with a bunch of randos. Not tell them what’s going on at this island and hope for the best.’ right?….Right?’ Nope, that was their plan.

Granted, Rei lied about how many vampires there were, but still. And the fact that they didn’t tell any of these people, not only making them completely useless as backup but also making them, essentially, giant snacks for the vampires….Why? You might as well have given all of these poor people red shirts.

Not to mention that, for added measure, they make sure to plow it in your face that two of these people, fresh out of high school, are engaged to be married. Gee, I wonder if they’ll live.

The best part of this volume is when Akira, Ken and the others are going crazy while waiting in their little prison. They have nothing but screams and wails to listen to, and there’s the impending wait to get on ‘the seat’ that is terrifying them all at every minute. They eventually start turning on each other and even throw poor Pon to the vampires as their next sacrifice to ‘the seat.’

Ken volunteers to take his place, however, both sacrificing himself and giving the others an opportunity to escape by staging an attack and getting the key loose from the guard. He states he’ll survive for two to three months, much longer than the week or so the others tend to live, all so they can regroup and rescue him.

Atsushi comes back a bit in this volume, but only teased at the very end. However, it seems he likely will team up with Akira in the next volume. How that will go, I don’t know.

This volume was also very….gross. And they made it a point to point out the grossness. We learn in this volume that the vampire’s bite makes you go numb and all of your bodily fluids involuntarily spew out as a result, everything from tears to drool to pee. They never don’t focus on the peeing. They also add in pooping in this volume, because there’s no bathroom in that prison cell, and show us that ‘the seat’ has a hole in the bottom for waste. Lovely.

There’s a lot of good buildup and tension in this volume, and I nearly wanted to smack them for trying to sacrifice Pon. I mean, yes, he is the most scared of them all and he is, arguably, the most useless, but he’s also the most relatable, to be honest.

Yuki’s barely even in this volume, relegated to about one shot of pleading for Ken to not sacrifice himself.

The end of the volume is a big question mark as the entire group is split up, no one really knows how long Ken will last or even if he will survive, and we have no clue how Atsushi and Akira will interact after two years of being apart.

All in all, this was a good, but slightly stupid and gross, volume of Higanjima. I greatly look forward to volume four.

Rating: 8/10


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Boku wa Imouto ni Koi wo Suru Volume 7 (Manga) Review

Plot: Filler, talking dogs, a dog propositioning Yori, more filler.

Oh and possible gang rape. I should mention that.

Breakdown: The first chapter has little happening in it. Like I mentioned at the tail end of volume six, Yano kisses Iku while she’s sleeping, because we haven’t had enough sexual assault in this series. She was dreaming of Yori kissing her, but she doesn’t find out that Yano was kissing her in real life.

We also get some odd scenes with their dogs. Inu-Yori growls at Yano for kissing Iku and then bites him, then Inu-Iku smacks Inu-Yori to avenge Yano, then Inu-Yori is kissing Inu-Iku….it’s really strange.

Yano meets up with Yori later that night at his gas station job and admits straight out to Yori that he kissed Iku while she was sleeping. He rightfully attempts to kick his ass, but stops himself because he knows he’s more in the wrong given what he’s done…..Oh….Oh! He’s growing as a person! Quick! Someone document this! We may never get another chance!

He then also says he’s in the wrong for loving Iku at all because he knows he can’t give her the type of future she deserves. You’ve already kinda been over this revelation in the past, but yes, keep going with this.

The next chapter starts with………Inu-Iku…..sexually propositioning Human!Yori?…The first frame is Inu-Iku laying flat with her butt towards Yori, then she lifts her butt up towards him and shakes her ass, then she turns around and her eyes are all sparkly…then Yori kisses Inu-Iku while calling her Iku…..

…I don’t know what to do with this…..

I’m sparing you from the actual image, though. You’re welcome.

Yano tries to convince Yori to come back home since, without him around, he feels free to keep pawing at Iku. He also wants to ‘steal Iku from (him) fair and square.’ We get fanservice yaoi prodding by having a near-kiss with Yano and Yori since Yano tries to give back the kiss he gave to Iku to Yori. *shrug* I’d ship it. Better the two of them be together so they can sexually assault each other than letting them loose onto innocent people.

Yano reveals that he brought Iku with him to receive Yori’s kiss properly. They’re about to reunite when Yano stops them and tells them to solidify an alibi before doing anything. Iku agrees and calls home only to have Yori, for some dumbass reason, start distracting her by kissing and licking her fingers. I thought you were trying desperately to keep your relationship a secret, especially from your parents, yet you’re almost purposely sabotaging her alibi while on the phone with your father. What is wrong with you?

Yano, seeing that Iku is breaking, grabs the phone from her and talks to her father. He explains that he’s with her, apologizes for keeping her out late and begs that he let him stay with Iku for the night.

Her father, quite shockingly, agrees, as long as he promises not to do anything indecent or irresponsible. Because teenage boys are so trustworthy to keep promises about not doing questionable things with teenage girls, especially ones as naive as Iku. Father of the goddamn year.

Not that he knows this, but she’s spending the night with two guys who have sexually assaulted her in some way. Fun.

Yano gets off the phone and pauses when he sees Yori’s somber face. He admits that he’s always wanted to say those same things to their father. He says he wants to be Yano, able to admit these things aloud without judgment or prejudice. Yano claims he wants to be Yori, since he’s the one Iku really wants.

Yano leaves, and Yori and Iku kiss, reminding each other that the last time they talked they said the next time they’d meet they’d make love.

Chapter 38 is actually not bad given the interlude. Yori and Iku try to have sex, but Yori is increasingly nervous. He even asks if they can turn the lights off, though Iku refuses because she wants to see Yori’s ‘cute face.’ Yano has the hotel room next door so he can hear them, and he is even able to see them a little through the open window.

It’s actually a little sad. The poor guy has to listen to and see the girl he seemingly loves having sex with her brother, and even Inu-Yori and Inu-Iku are getting lovey-duvey right in front of him.

If he wasn’t so creepy, I might actually feel emotion right now.

The dean reports to Yori’s parents about the fact that he’s out past curfew now and previously had an incident where he brought a girl from another school into his dorm room. Their mother is quite worried, even though their father tells her that Iku’s with Yano…which, shouldn’t sate her worries either way, but still. She’s obviously concerned her children are squeaking bed springs together.

The next morning, Yano gets them up and finds that they actually didn’t have sex. Yori was so nervous, he only got some of their clothes off and then chickened out at the last second. This is kinda weird. I can’t imagine Yori being nervous just because they haven’t seen each other in so long. Is he reluctant to keep banging the bongos with her when he knows they can never be together? Is this….more character growth? What is happening!?

They bid farewell at the train station, but this time Iku begs Yori to come with them. Yori pushes her on the train and tells her he can never go back because she’s his sister. Yori tearfully watches the train depart.

The next chapter is uneventful and kinda boring. Yori is getting heat from the school for his behavior, and right before he’s about to be punished, Iku and Yano show back up at his dorm. They got off at the first stop on the train and doubled back because Iku wanted to be with Yori.

Yori gets his punishment – one day’s worth of being grounded to his dorm…..You all are so strict….Have mercy on the poor guy….

Tomoka has a spy now who ratted out Yori. His name’s Ogura and they treat him like I should know him, but I don’t. Is he Yori’s roommate? I forget.

Iku and Yano disguise themselves as students and wander the grounds because they’re stupid. They instantly bump into both Tomoka and Yori. Tomoka catches up with Yano, admitting she knows of their incestuous relationship and has been trying to sabotage it. Yano slaps her for calling Iku stupid, even though he agrees with her. *shrug*

Yori takes this opportunity of Iku being in their school uniform to announce her as his girlfriend, which could go wrong in so many ways I’d go braindead from facepalming.

The next chapter…acts as if the previous chapter end didn’t happen because now we’re back home with Iku. I guess this is….a special chapter or something. I didn’t catch it at first, but…okay. Shouldn’t you put special chapters at the end of a volume?

She’s being chewed out by her mother for outrageous phone bills since she won’t stop calling Yori. Iku can’t say that Yori’s the one she’s calling (even though that number should appear on the bill) but her mother tells her to cut her bill in half or they’ll cancel her contract.

I have a better idea. Make her pay for the phone bill. She had a job…once….If you want to make her self-sufficient, make her pay for her own phone bill.

So….there was a…very odd…addition to this chapter…

The dogs can talk.

Yeah….that’s a thing that’s happening. Okay, let me clarify – the dogs don’t “talk,” but they do have inner monologue that we can read and it’s played off just like normal dialogue. They ‘speak’ in thickly lined text boxes that are footnoted by a pawprint. They make observations about the situation going on around them while also talking to each other.

I have absolutely no idea why this is a thing. Why is this even slightly necessary besides maybe to spoon-feed the audience implied emotions? Inu-Yori sees Iku crying over Yori not being able to talk to her as much. He claims people die of loneliness and he’s worried Iku will die. He restates this later on too.

Can they seriously not just get the emotional impact out enough through the art and dialogue? Do they really need a cute little dog claiming his master will die of loneliness for us to understand that she’s really really sad?

Yori calls her and Iku explains what their mother said. She also reveals that she got zero points on her latest exam, because of course she did. Even stereotypical ‘stupid’ thug characters usually at least get a handful of points on tests. Hell, you could probably get a few by just blindly guessing, but Iku’s a unique butterfly of a person in that she just doesn’t try and has the IQ of used underwear.

I know I keep bringing this up, but I really can’t understand the appeal of this girl. She’s stupid (several characters even flatout say so, including Yano and Yori) she’s lazy, she cries at the drop of a hat, she’s irresponsible, she’s codependent to the point of a crippling handicap, she’s naive as hell, she has absolutely no skills and she has no desires in life outside of seeing Yori. The only positive things you can say about her are that she’s nice and pretty, and if that’s not lazy character writing in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

I love how he gives her an out and tries to say she probably fell asleep after writing her name, but she has to go the extra mile and confirm what an idiot she is by saying she did a lot of thinking but couldn’t do any of it.

Yori calls and tells her later that he’ll be able to visit for a day during the summer holiday. They’re going to a summer festival, and Yano is tagging along, but when they get there, Yori calls and says rain has made travel on the bullet train impossible so he can’t visit.

Yano and Iku have a pretty good time at the festival, but Yano pulls her aside and tells her that she’s obviously holding back her tears for his sake and feels insulted that she can’t show that side of her around him. She says she’s not doing it for his sake, but she knows if she starts crying she won’t be able to stop.

Suddenly, Yori appears. He caught a different train, putting him off schedule for over 12 hours, but managed to catch her at the festival. They start kissing in the tree line, and Yano grumbles as he walks off by himself.

The last chapter of the volume starts off with a completely unnecessary recap of everything that’s happened in the manga up until this point. When we reach present time, we learn that the slap wasn’t the end of the confrontation with Tomoka.

After she was slapped, she called Yano an idiot and instantly cried out. She claimed that Yano was a stalker from her previous school and now he’s dressed up in their uniform and followed her to her current school to harass her even more. Fellow students drag him away, even threatening to have him arrested. All Yano can do is laugh and commend her for setting a trap he so easily fell into as Tomoka looks on with a smile.

Ogura shows back up to talk to Tomoka about it and she uses her feminine wiles to coerce him into finding Yori and telling him to meet with her. She claims Yano and Yori are friends, and wants to ask him a question about the situation.

As he leaves to do just that, Tomoka looks back with a smirk, verbally expressing how much enjoyment she gets out of manipulating men. She is working the villain angle so hard I’m waiting for thunderclaps whenever she appears. Wasn’t there a point where she was a nice character or am I imagining things?

Meanwhile, Yori and Iku take advantage of the ruckus caused by Yano and Tomoka to have some time alone. Yori tries to kiss Iku since she looks cute in her disguise glasses. Even though he asks permission, he doesn’t wait to get it. Even Iku, surprisingly, points out that she never said ‘okay.’

He brings Iku to his dorm room and he’s about to…Hmm what’s a super clever innuendo for this?….Uhm….do an oral report on Iku’s southern hemisphere.

Ogura interrupts them and calls Yori out of the room. He tells Iku, who’s concealed by the curtain on his bed, to hide herself until he gets back. She’s a loyal puppy about it (Not my words. They put the puppy ears and tail on her and everything) until Tomoka enters the room. She knows Iku’s in there….and….

Okay, so if there was any doubt Tomoka’s a full-on villain now, let me dash it – she recruits a bunch of guys from school….and brings them into the room. The cliffhanger of the volume implies that Iku’s about to be raped by these guys and she can’t make a peep about it because she’ll be betraying Yori’s command to stay quiet and, additionally, Tomoka will tell her parents about their relationship.

…..Yup.

That volume went from zero to holy shit real quick. Seriously, I was just about to write off this whole volume as being basically filler. What really happens in 99% of it? More Yori and Iku fluff and making out, Yano feeling like crap because he can’t stop babysitting a girl who’s boning her brother, their mother yells at Iku for a high phone bill, the dogs talk for whatever reason, but not really, then BOOM the start of a gang rape.

Tomoka is just pathological at this point. Blackmailing Yori was high-level bitch stuff, but smiling as she’s about to blackmail Iku into getting gang raped? What the unholy fuck?

What does Tomoka even hope to gain at this point? Is she really so messed up in the head that she believes she still has a shot with Yori? Because, oh yeah, getting his sister/lover gang raped (She never said Iku couldn’t tell Yori about it) will no doubt put her in his good graces.

Or is she resigned and fueled by a sick desire for vengeance on the person she believe stole Yori from her? Because from the very beginning their relationship was built on a lie. She knew she was just being used as a sex doll in place of the person Yori really liked and she seemingly had no issue with this. Was the fact that this person was his sister the thing that made her fly off the rails?

Even if she was angry at that, this is going too far for her character. Then again, you could argue that, since she was blackmailing Yori before and had every intention on coercing him into sex through that blackmail, that she was fine with rape even that early on.

I don’t know what they could possibly do to her character in future volumes to make her pay for these horrible acts. How would they even get her to stop? She seems like she’s getting some sort of sick pleasure out of it now. Don’t say this series doesn’t have character development because Tomoka has somehow edged out both Hair-Sniff McRape and Molester Sexualassaultberg.

————————————–

Outside of that final moment, this whole volume is nothing but filler. Nothing was gained, nothing was lost, even the consequences for Yori’s actions with Iku are laughably minor. He’s grounded to his dorm room for one day. Just one. His parents are notified, but who cares? He doesn’t live with them anymore.

It doesn’t even negatively affect his social status. Wanna know why? Because Yori was right. The student body is mostly just impressed that Yori’s getting some tail. Ogura is annoyed by him, but who cares about Ogura? If he is Yori’s roommate, he’s been an annoying little shit since day one. Yori was curt to him upon greeting and I guess that was enough to continuously rat him out. Snitches get stitches, and then they get bitches. Have fun with Tomoka, Ogura.

Iku seems like she gets into more trouble for sneaking around, and even that’s unrealistically lenient. ‘Oh sure, Yano, you can have a sleepover with my teenage daughter. I totally trust that there won’t be any genital interaction on this innocent get-together.’

Next time….we find out what happens next….Sorry, I feel super awkward saying something like ‘Next time, is Iku really about to get gang raped? What will this mean for her incestuous relationship with her brother?’


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Animating Halloween: Higanjima Volume 2 (Manga) Review

Plot: Akira and the others have barely managed to escape from the vampire with their lives intact. The mysterious woman, named Rei Aoyama, helped them escape by using herself as bait. While Ken was bitten, the effects of vampirism don’t spread unless some of the vampire’s blood gets into the victim’s system; leaving him weak but alive and human.

Rei explains later that she came on a mission to save her mother and sister. The village she hails from is filled with monsters. She tried to recruit a team of people from the mainland to help kill them all and save her two sisters, but they were a small group and inevitably failed. As an example, Rei’s second sister was crucified.

Now, she seeks to recruit Akira and even bigger group to take them down and save her sister.

Ken is infuriated and itching to kill the monsters, so he agrees to go. Akira wants to save his brother, who is likely still alive on the island, so he agrees. Yuki wants to protect Ken, so she goes, and everyone else decides to follow in order to help Akira find his brother. The group also decides to recruit as many people from school to help them, under the guise of a graduation trip.

They have about 30 people altogether, but are split into two groups when they reach the boat. Can they survive the monsters on Higanjima, and can Akira find his brother once more?

Breakdown: This was very much a volume to segue us into the main story of what’s happening on Higanjima. Outside of Ken getting bitten, them killing a vampire and Akira seemingly have prophetic visions maybe, the rest is backstory and preparing for the trip.

Rei is quite the interesting character. She does seem at least partway genuine, and I’m rooting for her to really be a good guy, but the fog is far from being lifted around her.

Ken becomes even more abrasive and violent after he gets bitten. He’s not turning into a vampire, he’s just angry that he got bit in front of everyone (and peed his pants in process) so he’s being extra pushy about everything.

Akira doesn’t do much this volume besides have a vision/hallucination that was only a little helpful and he guides us through detecting when Rei is lying, at least much as her tells can offer.

Yuki is still fairly useless, but she does adamantly insist on going to the island and even brings her archery gear to help kill the monsters. Ken even literally kicked her off the bus and she still insisted on going. Good for her. Bad Ken, but good for her.

Not much else left to say about this volume, so let’s see what the island has in store for us next time.

Rating: 7.5/10


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Animating Halloween: Higanjima Volume 1 (Manga) Review

Plot: Akira’s brother, Atsushi, went missing two years ago. A mysterious seductress informs Akira that she found Atsushi’s license on her island. Unable to ignore this revelation, he agrees to go with her, but there’s much more to this woman than meets the eye. Vampiric beings roam the world in the shadows, and Akira and his friends have managed to get tangled up with them. Where is Atsushi and what does he have to do with this strange woman and her vampire associate?

Breakdown: This manga is kinda interesting so far, but not with anything involving the vampires, really. We see Atsushi is actually a kind of vampire hunter now, but why he vanished and why he doesn’t contact his family is never revealed.

We don’t see much of Atsushi, though, so we have to connect more with Akira for now. He’s a difficult person to like. Ever since Atsushi went missing, every adult in Akira’s life has started putting their expectations on him, and he has trouble living up to them. He’s very smart, but he is seen as lazy and simply inferior to Atsushi, which weighs on him heavily.

Outside of that, he’s deeply in love (or lust?) with his friend, Yuki, who is currently dating his good friend, Ken. He has incredibly graphic visions or hallucinations of her masturbating quite frequently, and even though he pleasures himself to these visions sometimes, he feels he’s more haunted by them above all because he can’t have Yuki.

When he meets this woman, she acts as a sort of emotional and physical outlet for him, even though it’s really not clear whether they’ve had sex or not.

It’s also hard to get a grasp on Akira’s relationship to his brother. He cares enough to pursue leads as to his whereabouts, but we don’t get much insight with either brother as to what they truly mean to the other.

Yuki herself is rather blah. She’s….I can’t even think of a descriptor….she’s…nice? She hasn’t been characterized much so far, so it’s difficult to get a lock on why Akira loves her so much.

Ken is a bit of a wild card. He screws around with Yuki even though he knows Akira loves her (another of their friends is in love with Yuki too. What is it with this woman?) but he still encourages him and is a really good friend to him otherwise.

The art is depressing, if that makes any sense. It’s nicely detailed, but it’s also very dark and the more negative emotions are highlighted most.

Rating: 7/10

Recommended Audience: There’s some fairly graphic gore, and the scenes with the hallucination Yuki might as well be full hentai. 17+


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Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01 Volume 7 (Manga) Review

Plot: Neo nearly kills Omegamon while trying to take down the Aliases, but both Hideto and Omegamon manage to escape to tell Taichi what’s been going on.

Meanwhile, the other Aliases, now imprisoned by Neo, give Rei a chip with Arkadimon’s data on it. If Zero and Taichi can use that data, they’ll might have the advantage they need to win.

After Hideto and Omegamon reach Taichi and relay their information, they set off. On their way, they run into the fierce Callismon, a Digimon Neo made from some of Arkadimon’s power. Callismon has set out to stop Rei and bring her back to the castle, but Taichi and Zero save her, showing off Zero’s new powers after his newest data overwrite.

Taichi and Zero leave an unconscious Rei in the hands of Gabo as they set off towards the castle and stop Neo once and for all.

Breakdown: I’ll be honest, this volume’s a bit boring. Not much really happens in it. Callismon is such an obvious speed bump. He’s there to solidify some of Zero’s new power and that’s about it.

Rei never gives the chip to Taichi because she’s unconscious, and we learn that Zero should never use Dragon Impulse again for fear of a more massive and possibly fatal data overwrite.

We also learn that Neo can create Digimon, but it’s too little too late for that revelation, is it not? The final showdown’s coming up very soon, and even Neo himself outright states that Callismon was essentially an experiment. He only had a small amount of Arkadimon’s power, and he was using him to see how powerful Taichi and Zero really were.

One last minor story element is solidifying that Neo really doesn’t seem to give a crap about Rei or making a world for her to walk in – he just wants both worlds under his thumb for himself. We already knew that, but there is 100% no signs of remorse or caring in his face. It’s just the same cocky smirk he always has no matter who’s talking to him or what they’re saying.

Even Ken faltered in his expressions and speech when he was challenged in such a way. If they try for a redemption with Neo, they’re going to have to work incredibly hard for me to believe it.

Other than that, we have another bonus chapter, this time with Digimon Frontier’s Takuya!….Which means they skipped Tamers…..feh.

I guess understand why they skipped Tamers, because it’s not set in the Digital World, but they do go there in later episodes. You could write something to make it work.

The bonus chapter is the best thing in the volume. Even though I’m not a huge fan of Frontier, it was nice to see the generations come together….though that does raise a metri ton of questions in canon.

Takuya is upset at Kouji for taking the last hit in a battle where he did most of the damage (and loot distribution is complete BS when it comes to last hits.) Kouji cooly brushes him off and explains that he hates attitudes like his. Takuya goes off to pout only to be transported by a Jijimon into a weird parallel Digital World that is being ruled by an evil Metamorphmon, who can copy any Digimon’s data and transform into it, restoring its power to full when it does.

Jijimon summoned two saviors, Taichi and Takuya, to save them. Takuya, at first, thought that Taichi’s and Zero’s fighting arrangement was terrible. Why have a tamer and a Digimon when you can be the Digimon and fight on your own? He thinks Spirit Evolution is much better since you rely on your own strength to fight.

Takuya runs into battle headfirst and doesn’t listen to a thing Taichi and Zero are trying to tell him about teamwork. He gets in the way of their strategy by not even trying to listen and, after getting their asses kicked, he berates Taichi for not being able to handle his Digimon. He then tells him to let him do everything.

Metamorphmon returns, and Taichi and Zero run into battle since Takuya is too wounded. Zero, as a Digimon, has a faster recovery rate. As Takuya watches them battle, he realizes that they have a lot of advantages as a team. Taichi can see things that Zero can’t, and they can communicate strategies that work on Taichi’s keen eye and his tactical instinct and Zero’s power and trust in his partner.

Takuya thinks back to the earlier battle with Kouji and realizes that it was better for Kouji to take the final hit because he wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings and could’ve been attacked without warning. Kouji was trying to have his back, and he saw it as taking the spotlight in a battle when battling isn’t about being the strongest or getting attention.

Takuya overcomes his injuries for the time being and Spirit Evolves to help Taichi and Zero. Utilizing their strategies and trusting them as teammates, they manage to take down Metamorphmon, but it’s not that simple. He tries to copy Vritramon, but Takuya devolves. Since Metamorphmon can’t copy humans, he seems stuck. He tries to copy AeroVeedramon, but he Dragon Impulses his ass before he’s able to complete the copy.

With the threat defeated, Taichi, Zero and Takuya return to their proper worlds having learned that there are many styles of fighting, but fighting in a team without teamwork never wins.

I really like how this story played out, and it’s a great way to address the criticisms Frontier had in not having partner Digimon. This chapter isn’t saying one or the other is best, but that relying on your friends for help and support to protect you and achieve victory is always best.

I think Takuya may be a little OOC, but I’m not sure I know Frontier enough to say that. Also, they just said that Dragon Impulse was way too dangerous to ever use again, yet here Zero is using it without a thought. I get that this is probably non-canon, but still.

Rating: 7.5/10

Next time, we’ll finally see Neo vs. Taichi. How can they hope to take down Arkadimon?

Recommended Audience: Nothing worse than usual. 8+


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Enigma (Manga) Review

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: Haiba Sumio has a mysterious power – the dream diary. He’ll fall into a slumber and suddenly start writing in his diary. When he awakes, he finds that the words he’s written in his sleep are actually a prediction of the future, and his predictions always come true.

One day, he gets a prediction that his mother will be whisked away by a mysterious force, and the prediction comes to pass. Before he can figure out what happened, he and seven other individuals are kidnapped and taken to a vacant alternate version of their school. A strange being, signified only by a skull with a backwards jaw, named Enigma, tells them that they’re all trapped and they cannot get out unless they succeed in an e-test – a series of several challenges that, when completed, grant the group one of seven passwords to leave the school.

The e-test lasts for 72 hours. Anyone who doesn’t have a password in the allotted time will be trapped in the school forever.

Breakdown: I found Enigma while searching for survival game manga. I have a particular interest in stories like that and this added several elements that changed the structure quite a bit. Most notably, this series includes the aspect of ‘talents’ which are unique powers each participant has.

I really liked this twist because most of the participants either didn’t know they had a talent or they kept it a secret, allowing the reader to learn with the group as to what talents they had. Not only do they all have individual talents but the e-test was created in such a manner that each challenge could be solved by utilizing the talents of each subject – sometimes just one person’s talent was needed and other times they all needed to work together.

It’s a rather brilliant and unique approach to this type of story, especially considering that many of the participants have powers that aren’t your typical abilities. Sumio’s future prediction is rather cut and dry, but some of the other powers include a magic sentient scar that can detach itself from the user and ‘rewind’ things to certain times, the ability to enter and manipulate 2D worlds like photos and videos, and the power to transfer their consciousness into a super-strong, super-light cartoon-y police mascot.

Not only do you have the mystery of what their talents are, but you also wonder what their prizes are going to be. Enigma gives each participant a card listing a prize that they’ll win should they beat the e-test. Sumio’s, for example, is getting his mother back. The prizes of the other players are slowly revealed as their stories are given.

I was very much invested in this story…..for the first half.

Something that raised a red flag for me going into this manga was how long it was. I got to about chapter 20 when I realized there was more than 30 chapters left and the e-test was nearing completion. What could they possibly do to extend it for so long?

A lot. A lot of….stuff.

Let’s start with the reveal of Shigeru’s talent. Shigeru is Sumio’s childhood friend and kinda-ish love interest. Her talent isn’t revealed or even really hinted at until the very end. Spoilers: Her talent is actually the future prediction and all along it was working in tandem with Sumio’s real talent, which is telepathy. Whenever she’d have a vision, Sumio would zonk out, I guess, then telepathically transcribe the event, for some reason. Also, he’d include a childishly drawn picture with it and it’s revealed that….It’s…Shigeru’s younger self….drawing…it. I dunno.

Somehow, someway, Sumio never realized he could read minds, even though he was close friends with a mute person and could understand what he was ‘saying.’

Also, Shigeru never realized she could predict the future all this time.

Also, also, after this is revealed, Sumio starts reading peoples minds with his cell phone….and the cell phone’s UI tells him which people can telepathically connect with him and who is in range of his powers….End of spoilers.

But that’s just the tip of this insanely contrived iceberg.

Enigma was secretly Kirio, an old friend of Shigeru and Sumio who had never been seen or mentioned until about two chapters before his reveal. The skull is actually real….and magic. It’s a magic wish-granting, reality-bending skull. Enigma, which is actually a title given to the current owner of the skull, was using the e-test to find a new owner of the skull since it brings him nothing but misery.

However, even that’s a misdirect because it’s revealed that finding a new owner for the skull was really a ploy to draw out another talent-user, a being known as Cannibal. He’s made out to be scary given his character design and the fact that he eats people’s bones, but his fright factor is diminished immensely by the fact that, in order to do this, he….somehow….turns the bones…..into little human-shaped….pies….And the people don’t even really die when this happens. They turn into wiggling lumps of flesh that all get instantly dumped into convenient trash bags while their….essence or real forms lie in coffins in a literal room within Cannibal’s stomach while they’re all slowly digested in the most non-graphic way ever.

You ever have one of those moments where you don’t truly process how ridiculous something is until you write it out?

Drawing out Cannibal results in another e-test-like game on a train, but this time only three new characters are introduced – all of which are suspected to secretly be Cannibal. You have a really skeevy girl named Mao who clings to all of the boys, a gentlemen with his head encased in a safe and a literal serial killer. Not lying, he’s a serial killer. He happily murders little children.

You never learn of the talents of any of these people and such talents never factor into the game, which is getting an ever-diminishing amount of tickets at each stop, forcing the players to leave behind one person at each location.

Along for the ride is the only other member of the original cast to be part of this new game, class president and resident justice advocate, Matsurigi, somehow.

There is a decent mystery in figuring out who Cannibal is because all three of the new people are jerks to some degree, but it’s also very suspicious that Matsurigi is even on this train.

I’ll spare you the details of the rest of the story, partly because it’s just way too much to go over and partly because it’s near impossible to do it without spoilers everywhere.

The end result is….a lot of exposition being thrown around in nearly every chapter, a hell of lot of insane coincidences and an ending that is both baffling in how confusing and overly complicated it is while simultaneously being one of the most quick and clean endings ever.

I went from a cool supernatural power-based survival game, one that focuses more on building friendships and actually surviving instead of shock deaths, anger and never-ending suspicion no less, to spending almost every chapter being confused and wondering why this manga is continuing as long as it is. The second e-test was almost entirely pointless, in my opinion, and I just could not care at all about any plot involving that skull.

The manga has a wide range of fairly unique characters, with my favorites being Aru and Moto. I loved that everyone got their own unique backstories that melded with their talents quite well. However, like a lot of ensemble series with colorful casts, the main character is fairly dull.

Sumio is a very nice guy that damn near everyone loves. His only real flaw seems to be that he’s a bit of a skirt chaser, even though this is nearly gone by the midpoint of the series.

The entire group relies on him and his dream diary a lot to get through the e-test. Enigma even points this out at the end of the game. In the second e-test, most of the original cast is MIA and the only talent shown, for the most part, is Sumio’s telepathy.

Everyone does come back together near the end, but scarcely are their unique talents used again, and the focus remains on Sumio throughout the entire story. In fact, in the ‘true end’ chapter, the whole story is dedicated to the group following some very strange and insanely convenient ‘seven wonders of the school’ ghost story in order to find and remember Sumio….who was just…hanging out in the auditorium.

I don’t dislike Sumio at all, don’t get me wrong – he’s very noble and brave and is always working to help people – but when you have such a large cast of interesting characters, it irritates me when the most boring one of the group ends up being the main focus.

Speaking of boring, Shigeru is a perfect match for Sumio in that regard. Shigeru is the quintessential love interest. She’s childhood friends with Sumio, she’s very nice, she gets kidnapped more than once and she’s kinda useless until the very end.

Also, her prize might be a little on the ‘oh my god, are you kidding me’ side. Spoilers: Her prize is for her and Sumio to reunite with their old friend, Kirio. And…it’s kinda implied that she wanted this because Sumio started paying less attention to her after Kirio left and she thought if Kirio came back, Sumio would pine after her. Between that and the fact that her power is linked to crying, she’s a real feminist icon. End of spoilers.

Like Sumio, I didn’t seriously dislike Shigeru, although I will admit I definitely dislike her more than Sumio. She just didn’t interest me very much. She doesn’t have an interesting story. She is literally just there for most of the series, being useful only a few times before she’s kidnapped and removed from the story for about 70% of the second act.

The art in this series has its ups and downs. It’s fairly well-detailed and some characters have memorable designs, but wow, Sumio’s hair is one of my most hated hair designs ever. It gets better as the manga goes on, but the fact remains that it’s an oddly coiffed green afro. At least the manga’s in black and white so you rarely see the green, but just the design was driving me mad in the first handful of chapters.

Bottomline: I can’t bring myself to say I genuinely disliked this manga because I did connect with several characters (I love Aru most of all) and some of their stories and powers were really well-constructed. There were numerous nail-biting and heartwarming moments, and the story, as a whole, could be really creative. The aspect and integration of the talents and prizes were very well-done and incredibly interesting.

However, I also can’t deny that the second act is just a big cluster of convenience and so many sudden exposition dumps that it was actually getting difficult to keep up with it half the time. I really believe that the story should’ve ended just a few chapters or so after the e-test was over. Everything involving that dumb skull just seemed tacked on and ridiculously contrived. I can see where they were coming from and how everything interconnected, but it was a really long road to follow and it just wasn’t worth it, in my opinion.

The absolute or ‘true’ ending quickly cleaned everything up in such a squeaky clean manner. I’m all for happy endings, believe me, but there’s such a thing as going too far with it.

Additional Information and Notes: Engima was written and illustrated by Kenji Sakaki, and it was published in Shueisha.

Year: 2010-2011

Volumes: 7

Recommended Audience: This is a little tricky. Some people do die in this manga, but, for the most part, it’s tame. There are some graphic-ish images, but they’re usually off-panel or quick. Cannibal’s shtick should be incredibly dark and made specifically for shock deaths and gore, but considering the goofy nature of his powers, what with turning people into cute little pies and the eaten people not actually dying, I can’t say he’s a big offender either.

The serial killer I mentioned earlier gets some questionable-ish scenes and dialogue, especially when he’s talking about his past crimes, but that’s also not that bad.

There’s no nudity and only a tiny bit of harsh language.

13+


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