Monday, November 29, 2010

Anime Reviews: Fairy Tail Episode 56 - Dead Grand Prix

Natsu makes his way back to Erza with Happy, Charle, and Wendy when Hibiki contacts him telepathically.  Hibiki, uses his magic computer to download a map into Natsu's head, to guide him to Erza.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Anime Reviews: Bakuman Episode 9 - Regrets and Understanding

This time the recap of the previous episode has a theme playing behind it.  Looks like they're experimenting with the recaps.  Which is fine by me, I like seeing something new every time.  I've also been noticing that the music has been improving.  Can't say much just yet, but overall it's looking pretty good.  The recap ends with Takagi punching Ishizawa, when the opening theme song starts playing, the love ballad working wonderfully against the image of Takagi ground pounding the kid.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Anime Reviews: Fairy Tail Episode 55 - The Girl and the Ghost

Natsu and Gray are surrounded by the dark guild Naked Mummy, the guys from episode 51, whose two guild leaders both call each other the older brother.  It gets old.  Fast.  Fortunately Natsu and Gray echo my sentiments, and beat the snot out of the annoying minor characters.  Good.  Because the next episode that features them gets an automatic failing grade.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Anime Reviews: Bakuman Episode 8 - Anxiety and Expectations

The recap continues from the last scene of last episode.  The actual recap section is fairly short, and then continues on with new material.  Eiji wants the authority to end a series as motivation.  The editor in chief tells him to ask again when he is the most popular author in Jack.  I like this kind of recap better, it actually gives the viewer motivation to watch the whole thing, rather than skip over it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

NaNoWriMo: Day 15

I think I'm finally getting the hang of how to get myself motivated to write. Watching an episode of Bakuman before starting definitely helps. But what helps even more is when I get motivated to write by thinking of a cool scene. So from now on what I need to do is have fifteen minutes or so to think about what I'm going to write in the next immediate scene, and then go from there. It flows so much more easily that way. May not be the best, but it flows so much more easily.

It's been a while since I last wrote, lack of motivation played a big role. But now I'm back, and going to finish this darn book if it kills me!

Today I wrote 1,054 words. Not quite up to snuff, but more than my last few attempts, and definitely enough to make me feel good about myself. now I just need to be sure to do the same thing tomorrow.

And expect a few more reviews soon. They'll be later than this chronologically, because for some reason I'm obsessive compulsive like this, and want to keep everything in planned order. Oh well, as soon as I'm caught up I'll be able to fix the ordering.

And now, have your excerpt.

We sat in the ruined chambers, waiting, none of use making eye contact. I did look up when more Jarv slavers appeared at the door, this time armed with heavier weaponry. They made a sweep of the room, saw us sufficiently cowed, and then proceeded to load us into the ship.
There is a reason we don’t resist. Even the physically strongest among the slaves can’t stand up to their weaponry. And if we did steal their weapons, they would do us no good. The plasma rifles and pistols were specifically designed for Jarv use. It would be like a Tiger trying to take on an army with an assault rifle.
And see you tomorrow.

Anime Reviews: Fairy Tail Episode 54 - Sky Maiden

Brain reveals that Wendy is the Maiden of the sky, but offers no other explanation before he kidnaps Wendy, along with Happy who tries to save her.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Anime Reviews: Bakuman Episode 7 - Tears and Tears

The recap at the beginning of this episode is longer than the past six episodes, and I think we're entering the phase of the show where the story will advance enough to the point that a recap of the past episode will be needed.  Granted it's not really necessary if you're like me right now, and are behind and watching multiple episodes in one go.  But for someone that watches it weekly it'll probably come in handy.  Still, I'm not a huge fan of episode recaps.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Manga Reviews: Naruto Volume 10

I was going to complain about the fights still going on for a third volume, but to be honest, the fights are the most interesting part of this manga, so I don't think anyone could complain.  Or if they would complain the excessive fights won't be the only part they complain about. 

The battle between Lee and Gaara starts off poorly for Lee, as he is unable to penetrate Gaara's sand defense.  Sakura wonders why Lee doesn't use ninjutsu to attack from a distance, and Guy reveals that it isn't that Lee won't use ninjutsu, but that he can't use ninjutsu.  However, instead of being a weakness, Guy claims that this is Lee's biggest strength.  He calls out to Lee and tells him to remove them.  Lee then proceeds to remove a pair of ridiculously heavy weights from his legs.

As expected, dropping the weights allows Lee to move at superhuman speeds, and almost get through Gaara's defenses, and actually landing a few blows on him.  Guy explains how Lee's inability to use ninjutsu or genjutsu, allowed him to focus on taijutsu, making him unbeatable when it comes to the purely physical aspects of combat. 

Lee's attacks crack the layer of sand that Gaara wears directly against his skin as an armor, and it is clear that Gaara is loosing control of his blood-lust.  As illustrated in the illustration that will haunt my nightmares.

Lee uses the Fordward Lotus technique, and for a moment it looks like he's beaten Gaara.  But the Gaara he was fighting is just an empty shell that Gaara slipped out of.  Lee turns around to find himself facing a pissed off Gaara, who is loosing control of his inner demon.  If that weren't bad enough, the Lotus technique damaged Lee's body, to the point where he starts to have trouble moving. 

Guy flashbacks to when he first met Lee.  Lee was a failure much like Naruto, except that in many ways he was even more incompetent.  When Lee is unable to get strong enough to beat Neji, even though he trains four times harder than him, Guy tells him that while he may not be a genius at genjutsu, ninjutsu, or even really taijutsu, he is a genius at something much more important.  He is a genius of hard work. 

Remembering this gives Lee the strength he needs to keep fighting, knowing that Guy is standing on the sidelines, cheering him on.  So, am I the only person who thinks that Lee would have been the better pick for protagonist?

Lee uses the reverse lotus, a technique that allows him to override his limits, by opening several of the eight gates, points along the chakra network of a human body that limits how much chakra is allowed to flow, in order to keep the body from damaging itself.  Consider it like this, the human mind places mental limits on ourselves that keep us from using the full power that human muscles can use.  From what I've heard the muscles in a single human arm are strong enough to lift several tons, which is where you hear the stories of adrenaline allowing people to lift insane amounts of weight to help someone trapped under them.  The muscles are capable of producing that much power, but the tendons and bones can't stand the stress.  The eight gates are the same concept, only magic. 

Lee beats the crap out of Gaara, but at the very end Gaara turns his gourd into sand and traps Lee's left arm and leg, crushing them into uselessness.  Before Gaara can finish him off, Guy stops his attack, defending Lee.  By all accounts Lee should have won, but Kishimoto likes him some one trick, overpowered ponies.  Get used to it, it's going to happen a lot.

After the fight the medics take Lee away, while telling Guy that with the amount of damage Lee took, there is no way he could become a Ninja again. 

The fight between Choji and Dosu is anticlimax in its purest form.  Not much to say but that Dosu is a strong fighter, and Choji is kind of useless right now.

With that the fights come to an end, and the plot continues.  Which means I actually have to put some effort into this now.  Oh well.  Not really a good idea to be writing this so late at night, but I really, really need to get this done.  Ah heck, it won't even ever be on the front page with how late I am. 

What follows is far too much talking.  I really want them to get back to fights, but I really, really don't have the focus I need to be able to read all of this now.  If it were interesting walls of text that would be another matter.  Volume 10 is essentially where at this moment I feel that I've lost interest in the series. 
Like I mention, I might continue these, but right now I see little point in continuing to review this series.  Especially when I hardly see the point in reading any more of it. 

Well, I hope you enjoyed these, because I've decided to take a break from my comedic Naruto reviews.  Sure I could keep doing these until I reach the timeskip, but as it is that would be adding too much work over what will be the course of my winter semester.  So instead I'm going to focus on reviewing more recent manga, in order to hopefully get some kind of deal set up with publishers so they send me review copies of manga I might otherwise not read.  Broadening my horizons might be good for me.

As it is, the Naruto manga at my local library isn't going anywhere, and hoarding all the volumes I intended to review right now is going to get a little ridiculous.  So instead I'm going to put it aside for now, and pick them up when I have more free time, and possibly fewer weekly anime series that I review.  Starting in January I'll be watching and reviewing the Beelzebub anime, so look forward to that. 

I'll probably pick these Naruto reviews up during the summer, depending on if I stay around home.  If I travel there's no way I'm going to have several volumes of Naruto checked out, just waiting to trap me with late fees. 

I'm considering trying something like this with other series, such as Bleach, or One Piece.  The Bleach reviews are a lot less likely, considering that I'm not as fond of the series as I once was.  One Piece is, and always will be, my favorite series, so eventually I will want to write reviews for the entire series.  Including all the manga and anime DVDs.  Despite the fact that such an undertaking will take forever to do.  Chances are I'll have to play around with whatever my schedule is at the time.  As it stands I have a ton of reviews already lined up, and it isn't like there's ever going to be a shortage of reviews, whether I decide to continue to write Naruto reviews, or start up with One Piece reviews. 

Before I do any of this though I intend to write reviews for the entire Fairy Tail manga series, considering that at the moment there are only twelve volumes released, and once I do that I can add it to the list of series I review when new volumes are released.  Chances are that I'll be changing up the format for any reviews for old series that I do.  I've had fun with these Naruto reviews, but I'd like for the rest of my reviews to be more professional.  Anime reviews are a more likely source of comedic reviews from me at the moment, while manga will get a more serious approach.

So, I hope those of you that have enjoyed my Naruto reviews, please enjoy the rest of my work.  My number one goal for this blog is to entertain, and maybe educate just a little bit.  I may get behind on reviews, especially when I have a lot of school work.  And my planning is more ambitious than my motivation most of the time.  Heck, come January I'll have a review posted five out of seven days of the week.  Really need to reconsider that.  Guess the problem is that I just like to have a large variety in what I write about.  So I need to set apart a day for book reviews, a day for manga reviews, and then however many days for my anime reviews. 

Eventually though the series that I watch will come to an end.  Bakuman is actually going to end its first season this spring, though it has a second season coming out in the fall.  Which should free up a day for me.  I'll probably end up filling that day with something or other.  I do know that I have a shelf full of anime that needs reviewing.  And not episode by episode reviews, which would just be insane, but reviews of entire series, which I've been wanting to do for a while.  Before I was distracted by my brilliant idea to review multiple series on a weekly basis.  Just watch, Fairy Tail is going to end up going forever.  And because I'm too stubborn to quit, I'll be there every week, reviewing each and every new episode.

Sorry for those of you that didn't really want to read this, even if nobody reads it because it isn't going to stick around the main page for long, but I had to do a little bit of mind cleaning, to sort out what I intend to do with my blog.  And if you can't stand reading huge walls of text online, it's good for you, so stop complaining.  It's not like you're being forced to read anything scholarly.

If you liked my review, Buy the Manga Here: Naruto - Volume 10

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Manga Reviews: Naruto Volume 9

Sakura and Ino's fight continues from the previous volume, with Ino using her mind control to get Sakura to surrender the fight.  This of course makes no sense, since everyone knows that it isn't Sakura surrendering, and fights would be very simple indeed if one was allowed to surrender for their opponent.  Though I guess it's more the fact that Sakura is at Ino's mercy and it isn't like she could put up a fight.

"Holy crap that's hot!"

But fight Sakura does.  Or, more accurately, Inner Sakura fights.  Which begs the question as to what Inner Sakura really is, but that's never really answered, and the whole idea is abandoned like the Ninja Info Cards.  Though I guess it's her true self, her true feelings, manifested?  Which would make sense that she doesn't show up later, considering that Sakura is truer to herself later on.  Sort of.


Sakura manages to drive Ino from her mind, and the two manage to get one last punch in each, before both collapse.

They just beat each other unconscious, I think you kind of do need the medical team.

The next fight is TenTen vs Temari, and the former literally gets her ass handed to her off-screen. 

R.I.P: TenTen's Screen-Time.

Oh, and Sakura and Ino fight about Sasuke, because we so wanted to read about that.

This is what girls do all the time, right?  Fight over boys?

The next fight is Shikamaru vs. Kin, the girl from the sound trio.  Her kind of lame in comparison to the other two.  She uses bells attached to needles to distract her opponent, and then throws more needles at them when they are turned around.  Problem is needles aren't exactly the most deadly projectile weapon out there.  Maybe if she used poison coated needles it would be a different matter, but she just uses needles, and Shikamaru isn't exactly mortally wounded by them.  So he uses his shadow to knock her unconscious against the wall.

Naruto fights Kiba next, and I'm suddenly reminded that this manga does have a main character.  He hasn't done anything recently, so I think you can forgive me for forgetting.  That's the trouble of trying to juggle a large cast like this in a manga, the focus shifts away from the main character far too often.  Even if the main character isn't all that interesting, focus should always be on them, rather than switching around between other characters.

Unless that side character is Lee.  I demand more screen-time for Lee!

Naruto does a lot better than people expected, using illusions and doppelgangers to trick Kiba.  As far as fights go, it's definitely one of the high points of this volume.  Like I've said before, Kishimoto knows what he's doing when it comes to fights.  If he were a bit better at everything else then this manga would deserve all the praise it gets.

Naruto's tactics are really fun to read, combining trickery with a level of ingenuity he hasn't shown before.  Though I could do without the diagrams explaining what is going on.  Then again, this manga was written for an audience slightly younger than me.  Who knows, maybe they need them to keep track of what's going on?

Of course the fight is marred by the slap stick humor, but again, younger audience.

As Kiba is being carted off by the medics he tells Hinata that if she faces against Gara she should forfeit immediately.  And if she is paired against Neji she should also forfeit.  So of course the next fight is her vs Neji.  Neji tells her to forfeit, saying that she isn't fit to be a ninja, or a leader. Hinata doesn't want to forfeit, because she's been trying to improve herself, but Neji claims that nobody can change how they are born.

I really, really, really like the scene between Neji and Hinata.  The way he picks her apart mentally is well put together and drawn.  The emotions of the scene are conveyed excellently.  Hinata is about to give up, but Naruto supports her, and she is able to get her courage back.  Hinata puts up a good fight, in what is a beautifully drawn sequence of martial arts.  But Neji is better than her, and completely thrashes her.

Now, the Naruto fight was fun to read, but it's at this point that I'm really enjoying this volume.  The Neji/Hinata fight is a great climax for the book, it ties in the necessary back story into the fight, without breaking the flow of the action too severely.  It easily draws even a passive reader into it, and exciting them for the next volume.  Whether Kishimoto manages to capitalize on that will bear examination in the next review. 

But that's not all, after Hinata falls to Neji, Kishimoto ends the volume with one final chapter, that begins the fight between Gaara and Lee.  Of course he baits us into thinking that it'll be Chouji fighting Gaara, which gets a chuckle out of me because the panel arrangement is much better and effectively builds up the joke.  Well done Kishimoto.

This volume got progressively better towards the end.  Kishimoto tied in more than just fighting into the fights, and made some pretty important character development part of the combat.  Even though this wouldn't be a good starting point for anyone new to the series, then again none of the volumes besides volume one are good starting points, I'm going to have to say that volume nine is easily one of my favorites out of the bunch, for both the Naruto fight, and Hinata's fight.  I'll definitely make picking this one up a priority (though it will have to wait in line till I get caught up in Fairy Tail and One Piece).

If there is one Naruto volume you pick up, make it this one.

If you liked my review, Buy the Manga Here: Naruto - Volume 9

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Manga Reviews: Naruto Volume 8

Having realized that there is no way anyone would read these reviews to see if they want to buy the manga, I've decided to make these be more about the parody and making fun of the series. And what better time to do so than now, at the start of a nice big stretch of nothing but fights.  So far Kishimoto hasn't disappointed with his fights, so let's see if he's left me any openings to make fun of.

They open the scrolls, revealing a summoning spell.  Iruka appears in a puff of smoke and tells them that they just barely made it in time.  He warns them to take it easy during the third part of the exams, focusing on Naruto and telling him that he worries about him.  Naruto says that ever since he got his headband he was no longer a student, and that for all his faults he's still a full fledged shinobi.  Iruka remembers how he'd been concerned about them taking the exam, and realizes that his concerns were unwarranted, and that Kakashi has a better idea of what they are capable of.

Elsewhere the Hokage and Anko are debating Orochimaru's motives for showing up during the exam.  The Hokage deduces what Anko had already heard from the horse's mouth, that Orochimaru is there for Sasuke.  They decide to continue the exam, while keeping a close eye on Orochimaru's movements.

Less than half of the contestants who passed the first part of the exam remain, but Anko is surprised that so many passed. 

To truly be badass, one must tempt wardrobe malfunction.

There are several panels that establish the mindset of the rapidly growing cast of characters, that could have easily been cut down.  I think it's at this point that Kishimoto tries make his story more interesting by introducing a larger cast of characters.  Overall it works, as the supporting cast is one of Naruto's strengths.  Too bad he realizes that juggling a large cast takes away panel time from the main characters, and cuts a lot of them more or less out of the story later on.  Even major events involving side characters only get token attention.

What's been said cannot be unsaid, but it sure as hell can be ignored.

I don't even like shipping, but I can still tell that was a dick move Kishimoto.  Oh well, sucks to be Hinata.  Actually, it sucks to be a minor character in Naruto period.  If it's not Hinata being shafted by Kishimoto, then it's Rock Lee shafting himself.  Guess those two have the most in common here.  Hmmm...


The Hokage explains that the entire purpose of the exams is for them to be a miniature war between all the different Shinobi nations, the purpose being a political way of avoiding conflict, and securing economic security for the victorious nation.  Though I don't know why he bothers, since none of the dunderheads get it anyway.

Maybe because you're a freaking Ninja, and it's your job!?

Long story short, before they move on to the actual third exam they have to have preliminaries to eliminate the excessive participants.  Which means, Fights!  Lots and lots of fights!  But, since this is Shonen we're reading, I can't exactly complain about that.  That'd be like going to see a Shyamalan movie and complaining about how crappy it is.

So the real question is not if the fights go on for way too long, since that's a guarantee, but whether they're actually interesting to read.  Well, I read through this at least once, so they can't be completely horrible, can they? 

First off, I think I need to point something out that bugged me rereading this.  Namely Hayate's introduction.  Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against his character, but the way he appears bugs me, because it's something I've noticed Kishimoto do before, and it doesn't make any sense.

Note the speed-lines in the upper left panel.  Hayate has obviously just teleported, or moved very, very fast, and appeared kneeling down like that.  What's bugging me is that prior to this page there is no indication of any movement.  Naruto, Kiba and Neji react to something, but we don't have any indication as to what it is until after their reaction.  Sequentially it makes no sense.  The lay out is completely out of order.  It's a small annoyance, but I've been noticing that panel layout isn't Kishimoto's strength.

Hayate explains that because there are visiting dignitaries watching the final exam, they have to keep the final exam "Intense, tight, and fast-moving."  In other words it's all about the showmanship.  Apparently putting on spectacles is part of Ninja curriculum in this world.  Makes sense I guess, considering they removed the "dress discreetly" portion.

OMG!! He's a ninja, and he wears Orange!!!!!!11!1!!

And he sparkles!!! He must die!!!!

They are given the option to drop out, and Kabuto takes it.  Anko mentions to the Hokage how Kabuto was an orphan that their ninja brought back from a village they destroyed.  This sets up the possibility of Kabuto being a spy.  Which is then steamrolled in a most amateurish way, as Kabuto not only blatantly thinks about how he's a spy for Orochimaru, and how he hates Konoha...

Mission accomplished, retard.

But he even goes so far as to talk to his team member about how they work for Orochimaru.  There isn't even any indication that they're trying to whisper.  They're just standing there, talking about what should be kept secret from the ninja surrounding them.  Some of which are standing RIGHT NEXT TO THEM!

That isn't even the worst part.  It's just plain sloppy storytelling.  While it was pretty obvious beforehand that Kabuto isn't a good guy, it still could have made for a decent review if handled properly.  Instead everything is dumped right there in the open, with no attempt for any kind of dramatic tension.

Sasuke's mark is bugging him, making him even more short tempered than before.  Now nothing drastic happens here, but we do see some seeds planted as to why I think Sasuke fangirls are all insane.  I won't go into detail about this yet, but let's just say that Sasuke isn't exactly prince charming here.  And he won't be getting any better. 

Actually, now that I think about it, there's something off about the relationship dynamics in Team Seven overall.  Sakura is obsessed with Sasuke, to the point of uselessness, Sasuke is self centered and the bane of my existence, and Naruto is completely clueless.  Heck, at this point their relationships are so bad that it's a miracle they want Sasuke back in the first place. 

The first fight matches Sasuke against Yoroi, Kabuto's team mate.  And good lord, before the fight even starts we have to get reactions from every minor character present.  I've also noticed something strange about the Viz translations.  Now I don't know much Japanese, and not nearly enough to be functional at all, but I do know English.  And right now I'm seeing that Viz is going out of their way to say everything in the most convoluted and complicated manner possible.  They're very wordy basically.

After a few more panels of all the other characters, Kishimoto really wants us to remember them, doesn't he?  And the fight starts.  I'll be honest, it's pretty decent.  Yoroi's power is to drain chakra, forcing Sasuke into a position where he has to rely on the curse mark if he wants to win.  It allows for proper tension, which is a must for any dramatic situation, even fights.  Especially fights.  Sasuke remembers his fight with Rock Lee, and realizes how he can win the fight.

He's not bad, but he's no Rock Lee.

To Sasuke's credit, when the curse mark threatens to take him over he does resist.  Too bad he didn't keep it up later on.  Using Rock Lee's technique Sasuke takes out Yoroi.  And Orochimaru couldn't be more excited.

And he wonders why people call him a pedophile...

The next fight Zaku, the guy with hands that blow, aka/ the professor, and Shino, the bug guy, face off.  The fight is interspersed with scenes of a confrontation between Kakashi and Orochimaru.  Overall the page layouts are quite good, and well put together.  I have to give Kishimoto credit for this one.

The third fight is Kankuro against Kabuto's other team mate.  It's a quick, but fun fight.  All the fights have been fun so far, with Kishimoto showing the foresight not to have them stretch out for too long.  Though there are a lot of fights to get through yet...

The fourth fight is Ino vs Sakura.


Before the fight starts we get a flashback (sigh), of a class Sakura and Ino took when they were younger, teaching supplementary lessons for the Kunoichi.  They used to be friends, which begs the question as to why they hate each other now.  Commence bitching between the two girls, and hellloooo Kishimoto's biggest weakness.  Writing women.  I know it's meant to come across as a rivalry, but really all I'm getting is petty bickering out of the two.  Apparently they don't realize that they can be rivals without hating each others guts. 

Anyway, Ino sets a trap for Sakura and catches her in a mind substitution technique.  Now, despite for all the fights, this volume was pretty good.  Actually, it's good because of the fights.  For its flaws the fights are really entertaining, and move at a good pace.  Characterization may not be Kishimoto's strength, but he's great at fights.  There are some undeniable flaws in the general quality of the manga, but nothing that can't be fixed with practice.  Overall a decent read, but nothing stellar.  It's got good fights, but characters are as weak as ever.

If you liked my review, Buy the Manga Here: Naruto - Volume 8

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Book Reviews: Death Masks

I've been tearing through these books, so expect a review a week until I've caught up to the end of the series. There's a reason I'm going through these books so fast. They. Are. Amazing! This one especially so, as it not only introduces some great characters and villains, while at the same time setting up some excellent plot threads for later.

The stakes are high as Harry is attacked by some of Johnny Marcone's, the Chicago Crime Lord, goons in an attempt to assassinate him. At the same time a high ranking member of the Red Court is in town to challenge him to a duel. If things weren't bad enough, the Shroud of Turin has been stolen, and Harry is hired by the Church to track it down. Unfortunately a breed of deadly fallen angels are after the shroud as well, and won't hesitate to take out anyone who is involved. Fortunately Harry has some help. Some divine help.

Continuing in the mystery novel tradition that Summer Knight set up, Death Masks is as fast paced as its predecessors. So far I have to consider this one my favorite.

The driving force of any novel, besides the protagonist, is the villains. Good villains, whether they be complete monsters, or redeemable extremists with good hearts, engage the reader into the conflict. If a villain is goofy then the tension lowers. If the villains kill without remorse, the tension is raised. If the main character can't defeat the villains one on one, then the tension goes through the roof.

This is what Death Masks is like. As with the previous books, Harry faces threats that he can't face one on one. In this case there are two threats, the demonic Fallen, and the ancient Vampire Lord Ortega. Harry has to not only defeat Ortega in a duel, which by all accounts Ortega is the clear favorite to win, but he also has to avoid the Denarians, twenty demons, one of which has enough power to shrug off Harry's magic and completely destroy him.

Michael, who makes a return for this book, along with two other Knights of the Cross, asks Harry to give up on searching for the shroud, on account of the danger the Denarians pose. Of course Harry doesn't listen.

Susan returns for this book, and even though she's more interesting than before, by a little bit, I have to say she hasn't recovered from my initial impression of her. She's going through her own character arc, but frankly she just doesn't appeal to me as a character. I think part of the problem is that when it comes to romance in fiction I like to see it as payoff after a great deal of development. It's why I am somewhat of a shipper (trying not to be, it's an unhealthy habit) for series where there isn't any romance in the first place. I see two characters who work well together, and whose relationship is not based around romance, but could be. For me a romantic relationship in fiction needs the right development, and a lot of series I read have plenty of development between characters, even if it isn't romantic. The relationship between Harry and Susan lacks that development. From pretty much her first introduction she was there as a romantic interest, and until now failed to get developed as a proper character.

Death Masks develops Susan's character some more, but for me it comes across as too little too late.

On the other hand there is some spectacular development for Johnny Marcone. I won't give anything away, but not only is he amusing in this book, while at the same time posing as both a threat and ally, but his reason for involvement in the theft of the Shroud of Turin blew me away at the end of the book. Marcone, evil though he may be, is a fully developed character who I could easily see transposed into the Batman universe, known for its complex and layered villains.

As far as the ending is concerned, let me tell you, it is pretty spectacular. The main threads of the book are resolved, but at the same time new ones are laid bare. The book ends with a sense of foreboding, and the events from Death Masks will continue to bear repercussions, much in the same way that the war started in Grave Peril.

Old characters are explored in more depth, new characters are introduced. Along with chilling villains, several clever plot twists, and a climax that, while silly, would be amazing to see rendered on the big screen.

If you haven't read this book, go read it. After reading all the other books first. Dresden Files is a series that won't disappoint.

If you liked my review, Buy the Book Here:
Death Masks (Hardcover)
Death Masks (Paperback)
Death Masks (Kindle Edition)
Death Masks (Audiobook)

NaNoWriMo: Day 9

Today was a better day. Got some stuff done for the blog, and at the same time I had a surge of energy, and was in the right mood to get some writing done. Granted I didn't get that much done, but I had broken the initial trouble zone that I face when I write, so I need to figure out how to employ this every time I write and find ways to get the awkward, crappy moments that face each writing session out of the way. So far I'm thinking of either finding ways to put me in the writing mood, or to force the rough section of my writing time out of the way with something unimportant. Like maybe a fanfiction or what not. Either way, I got some writing done today, only 453 words. But I wrote something, and even if it's only a little bit, I'm slowly starting to understand how I work. Soon I'll be able to get myself to do writing earlier in the day if I figure out how to manipulate my mood properly.

Now have an excerpt, and be sated.

Wonderful. That was all I needed. If there was one thing Monopods were, it was strong. Monopods were predators, not the kind of predator humans are, or were in the past, that rely on weapons and outsmarting their prey. Monopod arms were perfectly capable of capturing their prey and imobilizing it while they stuffed it down their gullets. And if the prey was larger than them, which I wasn’t, they had no difficulty tearing it to edible pieces. While I was strong by human standards, working most of your life in a mine will do that to you, as well as give you terrible back pains let me tell you, I had neither the distance required in this small space, nor the high powered rifle it would take to take them down in a fight.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Anime Reviews: Fairy Tail Episode 53 - Oracion Seis Appears!

First thing I noticed this episode was the new music playing during the recap of the previous episode. All I can say is that this arc is that judging from the music alone this arc is going to be amazing. If everything else is up to par, then we will not be disappointed in the slightest.

Wendy introduces herself as the representative of Caitshelter, along with her talking cat, Charle. This was a fun little surprise, as it's the first time we see another cat like Happy. Happy is of course smitten by the only other girl of his species he's ever met.

The first part of the episode is a bit slow, but entertaining, as the characters all get to know each other, and go over the plan and background information for the mission. The Blue Pegasus team turn out to be the intelligence portion of the alliance, as they brief the other three teams about the Oracion Seis, and Nirvana. Unfortunately they don't know what Nirvana is meant to do, other than that it is powerful magic.

Hibiki gives a run down of all the members of the Oracion Seis, and if you pay attention you'll notice that only specific characters respond to the pictures of specific Oracion Seis. I wonder if this will be in any way significant?

Yes. Yes it will.

The plan is to fight in pairs at least, since they outnumber the Oracion Seis, and aren't entirely sure how powerful they are. Then, once the enemy's base of operation is discovered they will bomb it from the sky with the magical bomber, Pegasus.

Natsu of course rushes off on his own, leaving his team to chase after him, Lucy sobbing all the while because experience has taught her that this can only end badly.

All the younger mages rush off, leaving Ichiya and Jura behind. Ichiya reveals himself to be a fake, and takes out Jura with a sneak attack. Angel of the Oracion Seis appears, and reveals that they now know the alliance's plan.

The rest of the group reach the Woodsea.

Aka/ A Forest.

And Natsu falls off a cliff. The bomber is shot down from the sky, and the Oracion Seis appear.

What happens next is a beautifully animated fight, as the alliance get their asses kicked in a fluid display of animation. Erza gets poisoned, and Brain is about to finish them off, when he notices Wendy, and recognizes her.

And then the episode ends. Never have I been more enraged by a cliffhanger!

While it started off slow, I have to say this episode really sold me on this arc, and the anime in general with the animation in the fight scene alone. Too often do fighting anime rely on shoddy animation to pad for time. Fairy Tail does none of that, providing fluidity that is almost movie quality. Of course there are the common limitations of a weekly animated series, but to see them put the extra effort into their work really fills me with confidence that whether it continues or ends this season, Fairy Tail is one of the higher quality action adventure anime series out there.

I give this episode a solid:


If you liked my review, Watch the Episode Here!

NaNoWriMo: Day 8

Nothing to report really. Still having trouble not being distracted by other work, including school work. That and laziness. However, it is incredibly embarrassing for me to post that I didn't get anything done here, so I think I'm on to something. I might even continue posting updates on my work here after NaNoWriMo is done. Or, maybe I'll do a weekly word count kind of thing. Either way, making myself accountable like this is a good way to get myself working again. Downside being that it isn't really doing enough to get me working as much. Probably has to do with me not actually planning my week out. I better get on that tomorrow.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Anime Reviews: Bakuman Episode 6 - Carrot and Stick

On their way to Shonen Jack Takagi talks about his past a bit, and his family. A good scene, that gives Takagi's motivation for wanting to become a mangaka. When they get to Yueisha, a parody of Shueisha, they fill out a form at the reception desk, with Takagi acting nervous.

They meet with Hattori, and editor at Shonen Jack, and I can't help but think that this is where the show will really start getting good. After Hattori reads the manga, the narrator reads the manga, and we see panels from the manga itself, giving a summary of the manga.

I really like this because unlike in the manga, where we only heard the basic idea of their manga but never saw the story itself, we actually get to see that Takagi and Mashiro aren't half bad. The story itself is interesting, the premise is intriguing, and while there are interesting parts, overall the execution is only so-so. Which I think was on purpose, to show that while they have good ideas, they aren't quite up to par with what they'd need to get published.

Hattori critiques their story, but asks them to bring their next manuscript to him. He gives them his business card.

Mashiro wonders whether they can trust Hattori, and it isn't until Hattori mentions it being a gamble, something Mashiro's uncle always used to say, does he think he can trust him. Hattori decides to submit their one shot to the magazine's monthly prize, and later he is talking to another editor about how he thinks that the two of them have potential. He even goes so far as to claim that they'll beat Nizuma in just three years.

The protagonist has spoken, so it must be true!

It's strange, this episode has the most happening in it out of the entire series, and yet I don't have as much to summarize. I really loved Takagi's back story. From what I know about Japan (and everything I know about Japane I've learned through anime), it seems like parents pushing their children to succeed is fairly common, and it gives him a good motivation for wanting to follow his own dreams.

The scene with Hattori was great, mostly because of how the anime surprised me with how much further it goes than the manga. Because it has the space, due to the slow pace of this show, it can do what the manga couldn't and show more than tell. Based on this episode alone I can tell that this is going to be a really fun anime. It may have a slow start, and perhaps it lost a few people that were originally interested, but if you are reading these reviews and were one of those people that dropped Bakuman because of the pacing, I highly recommend giving it a shot to this episode at least. If you like what you see here, chances are you'll like the rest of the anime.

And here's a little bit of trivia, for those of you that have read the second volume of the manga (review forthcoming) and have seen Hattori's original design, will be interested to know that apparently his design was inspired by Ryuk from Death Note (you know, that manga and anime neither Ohba nor Obata will let us forget they wrote). Talk about best character design recycle ever! Kinda makes me wonder if Ryuk would recycle as well into other franchises?

I guess this qualifies as Rule 36?

I think that's a No.

For actually showing the story of their manga, and surpassing my expectations, I'm giving this episode a solid: