First Impressions: Immortal Hounds (Manga – Volume 1)

Immortal Hounds has to be one of the goriest manga I have read in a while. Limbs fly everywhere as bullet fill bodies with gaping holes and blood splatters all over the floors and walls. The only thing with Immortal Hounds is that as the title suggests, nearly everyone is immortal. So even though characters might suffer multiple lethal wounds throughout  a chapter, within seconds they are “revived” leaving them in perfect condition. Wounds are healed leaving no trace that there ever was one to begin with. It’s a pretty handy ability for a society to have, if only everyone could do it.

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Published By: Vertical Comics

Story and Art By: Ryo Yasoachi

Being virtually immortal solves all kinds of pesky problems the normal world faces. If you ever become severely injured and disfigured, just kill yourself and go back to being good as new. Pesky flu got you feeling miserable and stuck in bed? Take a bullet to the dome and wake up a few seconds later full of energy and completely healthy. In this alternate world where death is never permanent, these are real things that happen on a daily basis. Health issues are virtually unheard of, because by simply reviving you can be back to your regular old self in seconds. The only thing that this ability doesn’t protect you from is old age, so a natural death is inevitable for everyone.

There is one other way someone can die though, and that is through a disease called Resurrection Deficiency Syndrome (RDS). If someone carries this disease, they can’t resurrect when killed. These people are called vectors in this world and are hunted down like animals for fear of the disease spreading to others, but the vectors are not alone. To help protect them are the escape artists, who help the vectors escape police and members of the Anti-Vector Task Force (a special unit hunting down the vectors). When an escape artist shows up though, you can expect bullets (and limbs) to fly.

The escape artist’s are apart of a secret organization that protect the vectors, and holy crap do they do a good job. The fly in on the scene from out of no where guns blazing, wounding everyone in sight that is a danger to the vector but ensuring that they don’t die (so they cannot trigger their resurrection and be back to normal). Not much information was given on the escape artist’s and the organization they work for in this first volume, leaving a lot to explore in future chapters. All we really know is that they are the ones who protect vectors and rescue them when the investigators are on their tail, as well as some other more spoilery things that are shown later on in the volume.

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So now that I have the general set-up for this manga covered, let’s move on to my thoughts. I really liked the pacing of this first volume, as it was always moving forward and showing off lots of action. It was able to give us enough information about the world to give us a decent understanding on how everything works without stalling out into long sections of dialogue. I also really liked the fighting scenes that involved the escape artist’s, as they were incredibly fun to read. The escape artists are insanely well equipped with weapons (almost to a comedic degree, such as a scene where she hauls out a rocket launcher while riding a car) making these scenes a blast to read through. Those who enjoy a nice and gory action series will also enjoy these scenes, since Yasoachi cuts no corners in making sure each of these scenes is full of blood and gore.

If I had one complaint about the first volume it would be that we really don’t get a good feel of many of the characters or their pasts. Right now, the main cast feel more like a bunch of cliches then unique and interesting characters. The main escape artist we follow is a typical “raised to be a killer” type of character. She is cold, calculating, and doesn’t show emotion very well. At work she expects everything to be done perfectly, and when she is fighting is a killing (or injuring in this case?) machine. The main detective we follow is a “cool guy with a grudge” often doing things off the books in order to get revenge on the vectors for killing his sister (she had caught RDS from one of them). A cop going after revenge isn’t very interesting or unique, so hopefully future chapters will expand a bit on his character. The final chapter of this volume hints at possibly showing us a more intimate and vulnerable side of these two characters, something that could be cool to see with characters of their nature. Whether or not that happens or not is yet to be seen by me as of yet.

In the end, I thought Immortal Hounds was a pretty fun read. It has lots of action that kept me interested from beginning to end. It’s nothing groundbreaking from what this first volume showed me, but you could do a lot worse for a new action series. It’s a fun read that doesn’t show signs of slowing down, so give it a shot and let me know what you thought of it.

Recommendation: Read It

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First Impression: Platinum End (Manga – Volume 1)

Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Ohba are back, and their new work looks like it is returning to their roots. For those who don’t recognize the names, you definitely have heard of their work before. They were the duo responsible for the little known manga called Death Note, and later went on to create the equally amazing Bakuman. The duo has some serious cred under their belt, so going into Platinum End I was expecting something great. Thankfully it seems like Platinum End is going to live up to those expectations.

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Publisher: Viz Media

Story By: Tsugumi Ohba

Art By: Takeshi Obata

Platinum end returns to Ohba’s and Obata’s darker roots, as it draws far more similarities to Death Note then it does Bakuman. It tells a story of a regular highschool kid given god-like abilities and how he goes about using them. The story sounds quite similar at first glance, but it doesn’t take long to see some of the major differences between what Platinum End will look at and what Death Note had done with its story.

Mirai Kakehashi is the main character of Platinum End, and like Light Yagami is a teenager given god-like powers to use as he so desires. Unlike Light Yagami though, Mirai grew up quite troubled and depressed as his parents were killed when he as young. This left Mirai under the care of his aunt and uncle who mistreated him constantly. So unlike the brilliant, confident Light Yagami that we saw in Death Note, Mirai is often depressed and unsure with himself. The story opens with him jumping off a building to commit suicide, showing us how deeply troubled Mirai really is.

This difference in character really comes to light when the characters are given their new powers. When Light finds the death note and figures out that it really works, it takes very little time for him to start his work on eliminating any targets that he deems as evil. Light makes it his mission to kill every criminal that threatens the peace of his planned utopia free of crime and conflict, and he does not hesitate to eliminate them. Mirai on the other hand is not certain about what he should do with his new found power. After accidentally killing someone he becomes depressed. He seems to value life pretty highly, even though he was so willing to take his own in the beginning of the volume. He isn’t only given the power to kill though, as he is also given the power of cupid, which is to make people fall in love with him for a certain amount of time, allowing him to control them. He doesn’t even want to use this power, even if it doesn’t really hurt anyone and it would just make something easier for him. Mirai seems to have pretty high morals and is unwilling to break his moral code for the sake of convenience.

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The main plot point driving the story is the fact that Mirai is not the only character who was given powers. In fact, 10 other people have been given the same powers as himself, some both while others just having one of the two powers. The reason why everyone were given these powers was because a guardian angel had chosen them to be the next candidate for god. That’s right, each of the characters that were chosen are potentially going to be chosen to take god’s place and rule over all in the heavens. There doesn’t seem to be any rules on how one should use their powers, and the candidates were hand picked by a group of angels (some almost randomly). It would make sense then that the thought of becoming god would get to someones head, which is what ends up happening to one of the candidates. Although his name has yet to be mentioned in the first volume, the man acts as a hero of justice as he uses his powers to fly around and take down criminals. If that sounds familiar, its because he is essentially the Light Yagami that the series was missing. Unlike Mirai, he does not place much value on a single life, as he is willing to freely kill someone if they are deemed a criminal (or evil) in his eyes. He also doesn’t mind taking out innocent people, as he has begun to hunt down the other candidates, hoping to be the last one standing and taking the position of god by default.

This first volume of Platinum End was a hell of a read from front to back. The pacing is well done so far, going from exciting moments where you are unsure what is going to happen next to slower moments where you get to look a bit deeper into Mirai’s thoughts and his past. So far I am totally on board with Ohba and Obata’s new series, and I cannot wait to see where it goes from here. The first volume also ended on a pretty big cliffhanger, making me eagerly wait to get my hands on the next volume. Platinum End is without a doubt worth jumping in on, even though it is still relatively new. If you like a good story and enjoyed a series like Death Note, Platinum End is without a doubt something you should be reading.

Recommendation: Read It

First Impression: Black Clover (Manga – Volume 1)

Black Clover has the makings of a typical battle shonen manga. Everything it does in the first volume checks off a box in the “how to make a battle shonen” checklist. Cool fantasy world? Check. Super powers and abilities that are fundamental to the fantasy worlds structure**? Check. Underdog main character who aims to become the strongest in the world? Check. Longtime friend who is also the main characters biggest rival? Check. Nearly everything Black Clover brings to the table has been done before, and its been done better. Does that mean Black Clover isn’t a worthwhile read though? That’s for you to decide, but my time with the first volume wasn’t as bad as you might think.

As I said above, Black Clover is a sterotypical battle shonen series that really sticks to the fundamentals laid out by its predecessors. I struggled to find an original idea in it, as it really doesn’t deviate from the norm or try anything new and exciting. If you were looking for a series full of fresh ideas and a unique story, I feel like Black Clover is going to let you down. If you don’t mind a more “by the books” shonen series though, there might just be enough here to warrant some of your time in checking it out.

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Publisher: VIZ Media

Story and Art By: Yuki Tabata

Black Clover is set in a land where magic exists and it has become an integral part of society there. People fight with magic, they use it to do menial chores and labor, it is something that the people there use everyday and interact with. Its not something groundbreaking by any means, but it serves as a cool setting to allow for awesome fights. Kind of like in Naruto or Bleach, everyone has a unique fighting style with their own special moves.

The fact that each character relies on special attacks was not the only aspect of Black Clover that I felt was borrowed from Naruto however. Asta, the main character if Black Clover, is an orphan. Asta is also unable to use magic of any kind, making him seem like he is the underdog of this story. Similarly, Naruto was very poor at using jutsu and controlling his chakra, which also made him seem to be the underdog of the series. The similarities continue as both end up with some sort of ultimate power that makes up for their lack of abilities, both characters have a strong headed personality and both refuse to give up and accept that they can’t make it too the top. Everything about Asta screams Naruto, and other characters such as Yuno all borrow their character traits from Naruto characters as well. When I said I struggled to find an original idea in this first volume, I really meant it.

Aside from its overwhelming use of common shonen tropes, my other gripe with the first volume of Black Clover was its pacing. The story moves at a break neck pace, constantly moving forward trying to get to its next cool fight scene. We really aren’t given much time to learn about the characters, the world they live in or past events that have shaped them to be who they are today.

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We are given very broad and quick looks into the world itself, as the beginning of the manga tells us that humans were almost killed off once by demons until the Wizard King came to save the day. Through character interactions throughout the volume we learn that there are noble and peasant classes in society, where the nobles are seen to have the better magic prowess. Other than that though, we know very little. We are not told of the demons that once threatened humanity and what happened during that time (other than the Wizard King saved everyone). We don’t have a sense of whether there are other countries outside of the kingdom the Wizard King established. Characters talk about wars and battles but never really talk about who they are fighting. There wasn’t enough time spent on building up this worlds lore to really get me invested in any of the conflicts that were happening.

As for the characters, we also don’t get to learn about much about them outside of a few pages of flashbacks showing us a new side of their personality. We know that Asta is hard working and will never give up on his dream of becoming the Wizard King because of the flashback showing him training incredibly hard until he is beat up and bruised (sound familiar to someone?). It’s literally just one page in chapter one though, so we don’t get to see all the hardships that he had to go through while training. Most everything we learn about the characters happens during the fight scenes, since the series seems to desperately put in as many as it could in this first volume.

In the end, Black Clover failed to impress with its first volume. There just isn’t any originality here and everything it does has been done better by other works. If you are out of battle shonen to read, you can do a lot worse than black clover. I liked some of the special moves used in the battles (even if they ended pretty abruptly with Asta just charging in there) and the idea that Asta’s new found power might be more than meets the eye is interesting. In the end it’s at best a luke-warm read, and at its worst outright boring.

 

Recommendation: Skip It

It’s My Blogiversary!

A whole year has passed since I first started atop the clouds as my personal blog to talk about manga, anime and games. A lot has happened since then, or in some instances (my blogs…) not much has happened. I thought it would be cool to look back at everything I have done on here in the past year.

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At first glance it probably seems like my blog is pretty much dedicated to manga! There is a reason for that. I generally have only been writing about things I want to talk about. Whether after doing something and I just want to share my thoughts on it or if I get the urge to write something so I just write about whatever I have been into recently. Either way, manga has been my go-to thing to do over this past year when I am not busy wasting away hours online. It just ended up being on my mind more-so than most things because of that.

So over the past year I have looked at 12 different manga series, some were better than others. Of the series I did a first impressions on, Food Wars is probably my current favorite of them. I am currently up-to-date on the latest chapters thanks to weekly shonen jump, and man does it get good. The story doesn’t really take many breaks, with each arc building on the last. Currently the story is in the middle of a heated rivalry between two different factions, and things just keep getting better. (Chapter 189)

Tokyo Ghoul has also been a great read so far. Kaneki is a fascinating character, as he is made out to be both incredibly powerful and weak. His human side is in constant internal conflict as his morals are constantly put to the test. Eating humans is obviously not something he want to do (whether done through “humane” practices or not) and he wishes to protect his friends while avoiding conflict with others (seen in his fight with Amon). At the same time his ghoul half is constantly craving flesh and to take over his body, unleashing unbelievable power at the expense of his sanity. Honestly, its one of the better manga I have read in a while, and could possibly end up in my all time favorites for sure.

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Nothing out of my first impressions has let me down yet, but I haven’t really been keeping up to date with most of them. I finished Prophecy, which turned out to be a pretty decent read. It was no Death Note, but the cat and mouse game played in the story was still fun to see unfold. The ending was a bit bitter-sweet for me. I didn’t like some of the later targets honestly, as they came off as just giant stereotypes rather than characters I should care about. They were there to serve one purpose really, which was to be giant ass-hats that I felt like were getting their just-desserts. The ending itself was kind of nice though (if not a bit predictable). It wrapped everything up nicely, and pretty much gave you an idea of how the characters lives were after the events of the story.

If I were to tell you to go and read just three of the series I looked at over the year though, it would have to be Food WarsTokyo Ghoul, and Claymore. Claymore’s ending was both cool as hell and anti-climatic at the same time. The concept on how they defeat Priscillia was awesome, and I didn’t expect it to happen like that. I honestly loved how it happened. What felt anti-climatic to me was the fact that the fight lasted no longer than any other fight in the series, it was actually shorter than some of the big ones. I would have loved if there was more back and forth, or if the warriors had to fight Priscillia for a bit longer before the trump card was played. I get why it all went down so fast (I am not going to talk about it because of heavy spoilers) but it would still have been cool to see more fighting. It also left a lot of open ends in the story that I doubt we will ever have addressed, but we will see.

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Hoestly, I’m a bit ashamed about how little I talked about anime on here. I didn’t really talk about much on here really, I really didn’t do a whole lot of blogging at all… but still there were so many shows I watched that I had some strong opinions on and I just sat on them. I may one day go back and try to re-formulate some of them, but I feel like the best time to talk about something is when it is in the spotlight and your opinions and feelings towards it are fresh. Not only will your arguments and points be that much clearer and stronger, other peoples thoughts and feelings towards it will also still be fresh making it a more interesting read for them. If there is one thing I will be doing a lot more of in the coming year, it will be talking about anime.

A Byte of Gaming

Much like anime, I didn’t talk too much about gaming in the past year. I started Game Bytes hoping I would do it at least on a monthly basis, talking about whatever game had really struck a chord with me recently. The only problem was that I didn’t do too much gaming through most of 2016. Whenever I did play games, it was a multiplayer game like Overwatch or Rainbow Six Siege which I spent way too much time playing.

My backlog has been growing over the past few years though so I have started to try and focus on getting through more games over the past month. I started Tokyo Mirage Sessions back in September, and though I have yet to beat it I am still having a blast with it. One of the better games on the Wii U, especially for those hungry for a fresh new JRPG. I have a funny feeling it is going to be one of the harder to find (and expensive) Wii U games in the coming years, so if you have yet to pick up your copy I would advise you do so now if you plan on checking it out.

Also, if you own a 3DS and are into fun little games (and Japanese stuff!) make sure you check out Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale on the eShop. There is not much to the game, as most of it is just dialogue and running around town. It gets the feel of an old and quite Japanese town down just right though, making it a pleasure to play. If you ever feel like playing a short and comfy game (especially over the holidays which are fast approaching) give it a shot.

All The Mumblings

I did a lot of more personal, random topic blogs over the year as well. During the holidays last year I participated in the 12 Days of Anime event that is held on Youtube every year by the anime community. I started off the first two days with videos, but quickly found it was too much work (especially with everything going on) and began just writing quick little blogs. I didn’t even finish the event sadly, missing the last two or three days of blogging. I plan on tackling it again this year, though this time I plan on doing all the hard work in advance so I am not last minute trying to put everything together.

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I also talked about a few music albums that I had been listening to over the year. There were many, many albums that I didn’t talk about that were released (or I had picked up) over the past year I might do a big “listen to these albums” type post at the end of the year. Maybe a top 5 or top 10 of 2016.

Looking Forward

Well, that’s it! As I said earlier, I didn’t do a whole lot of blogging in the past year. I hope to kind of fix that moving forward by creating a schedule for when I put out certain blogs. Obviously writing when I feel like it doesn’t really work, often just leading to one blog a month (and some of those blogs only coming out because I felt guilty that I had left my blog alone for so long…).

As of right now, the schedule I will be aiming for is one manga blog per week, on every Monday (Either a first impressions on a new series I picked up or a series review). I haven’t figured out how often I would like to write about other stuff, but I will be writing about anime and games randomly as I get through them. At the begging and end of each anime season I will probably be writing more about anime, and in the middle I may try and fill in the gaps with gaming blogs and other types of content (like more music blogs).

To those who read this, thanks for sticking around and checking out my blog! I hope it has helped you in some way, whether finding a new manga or game to play, or just to help pass by a few minutes of your boredom. It’s only going to be getting better from here, so if you like what you see make sure to pop back around in the future to check out whats new. Until next time, peace!