Category: Manga


While Elfen Lied the anime (which I’ve only seen an episode and a half of because I couldn’t bring myself to watch it when there was any possibility that another person would enter the room) was eventually brought to the states and even given a proper dub, there has never been an officially licensed version of the Elfen Lied manga brought to the U.S. If you read the manga (and have a basic grasp of America’s sad past in regards to obscenity laws), you might understand why no publisher would want to take that sort of risk. I know I feel like I say this after every volume, but Elfen Lied keeps finding ways to up the “incredibly fucked up” factor and I’ve seriously determined that Lynn Okamoto is in serious need of psychological counseling because no emotionally sound mind could come up with this kind of shit. Yet, I still enjoy his depravity so I’m probably wrong in the head because I found this story of racism, xenophobia, and isolation to be endlessly compelling and one of the most deeply psychological anime/manga this side of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

A government SWAT team led by Dr. Nousou and her brainwashed squad of three clones of Lucy arrive at the Maple Inn completely busting down one of the doors. Despite being thrown up against the wall by one of the clones vectors, Nyu never transforms into Lucy and simply can’t understand what is going on. It isn’t until Kohta interferes and gets shot in the back that Lucy finally awakens, grows out her horns to be at bunny-esque proportions, and goes H.A.M. on every living bad guy in the room. She just cuts one of the Diclonius straight up in half which forces the remaining survivors of her initial attack to retreat. They think they can stay out of Lucy’s range and run away, but she knocks a motherfucking helicopter out of the sky and throws it at Dr. Nousou. The two remaining clones try to hold it up and Lucy just decapitates one of them. The last tricks Lucy by making it look like she’s sacrificed her own life to die with Nousou under the helicopter but she really forced a hole in the bottom for them to hide in til the fight was over. However, the clone that Lucy chopped in half was actually Mariko (Kurama’s daughter) and in her last breath she used her vectors to break one of Lucy’s mega-horns (and another government agent shot off the other one reducing her back to Nyu). Kurama shows up at the Maple Inn and drags off the lifeless corpse of Marika as his mind completely snaps. We learn a little more of Lucy’s backstory where after she went on the killing spree that ended with the murder of Kohta’s family, she kept killing random civilians around the town giving in to her evil side until a little girl she befriended nearly dragged her out of her funk. However, the little girl had an abuse father which the little girl murdered and as the girl and Lucy tried to hide, the government agency (which was tracking Lucy) showed up and shot (and killed) Lucy’s new friend permanently cementing her transition to the dark side.

While I forgot to mention that Kohta survived being shot, the incident (and seeing one of the clones cut in half) forced him to recall what Lucy did all those years ago and now he has sworn revenge on her. The inn is destroyed and everyone is living with Yuka’s family, except for Nana whose Yuka’s mother doesn’t trust because of her horns. Nana goes off to the beach to help feed a homeless man that Mayu had been taking care of. It turns out that man is Kurama, who completely rejects Nana in favor of his lifeless corpse of a daughter. Nana momentarily succumbs to the darkness inside her but then the scene fades away and we only see her later cradling the potentially still alive Kurama in the forest back to her regular kind self. Nyu is being held hostage (and naked) by Director Kakuzawa in his irradiated pond which is also the grave of a million deformed diclonius baby as his people attempted to breed their perfect savior. He is going to rape and impregnate Lucy so that he can be the new God of the new Diclonius race and overthrow humanity. However, Nyu finally snaps at the last moment and without becoming Lucy gains vector powers of her own which (with the possible, ambiguous help of Kakuzawa’s daughter Anna) are now stories tall. Also, Nousou took the brain control chip off of the remaining clone which immediately decapitated her and is now likely on a murderous rampage around Kurakama.

If you were to judge a volume of Elfen Lied by the number of times that I used the word “fuck” as some part of an exclamatory phrase or “jesus christ” in a similar manner, it would be pretty difficult to top this one. There is something brutal and absoluteyl disturbing happening every 10 pages or so (sometimes even more often). If this isn’t the most graphically violent volume of the series yet, I have no clue what would be. Yet, there is so much more going on than just a wee bit of the old ultra violence (to quote A Clockwork Orange). We got deep, deep insight into why Lucy hates Kurama so much (killed her last real friend). We know why any harm coming to Kohta instantly sends Nyu into full-blown crazy Lucy mode (she honestly wants to repent for what she did). We got some more look into Nana’s deep-seated rejection issues and the incident that may have finally sent her off the deep end. Kohta has finally remembered what happened when he was a child which means any possibility of a happy ending at the Maple Inn with the whole group together is completely impossible. Kakuzawa proved that he was one of the most sadistic and evil villains I’ve ever encountered as he tortured and taunted the innocent and defenseless Nyu, knowing full well that she wasn’t Lucy. This volume provided everything that makes Elfen Lied great and deeply unsettling.

I really want to play Mass Effect 3 a little bit tonight before I go to bed (even though I have tomorrow off, I have to spend the first part of it working because there was some serious miscommunication at work) so I’m going to draw this review to a close. There are only two volumes of Elfen Lied left. It’s 19 chapters I believe. I can’t believe I’m finally so close to being done with reading this entire series. The only other manga series I’ve read from beginning to end was Death Note (which was way before I started this blog though it is on my shortlist of things I want to review but more likely the anime which I’ve never watched all the way through despite owning it in the entirety). Considering that I’m basically only a fifth of the way through Bleach, it will be a long before I ever finish it (if I ever actually finish it). It’s cool to know that this is a franchise I’m actually going to get the all the way through. I’m actually thinking of replacing this once I’ve finished it with the Neil Gaiman’s Sandman books which I actually own physical copies of at home (and that I’ve been meaning to reread for a long time now). Actually, that’s totally what I’m going to do. Now, I’m very excited.

Final Score: A-

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I just want to clear something up right away before there’s any confusion. I’ve been giving the Bleach manga the exact same score that I just gave to the German art-house film Faraway, So Close! and I want to make sure that there’s no confusion as to whether I actually think these are equal pieces of art. Obviously, that film is of far more substantive value and engages me at a more appreciable intellectual level than Bleach could ever hope to accomplish. It is without question a better piece of art. It’s in its own league compared to Bleach. However (and this statement applies to all of the reviews I do so let it be your guide for understanding how my scoring system works), Faraway, So Close! also overreaches itself intellectually and doesn’t hit at the same kind of gut, visceral level as better art house films (like its predecessor Wings of Desire). I hold serious movies to much higher standards than I do a manga series that is explicitly for children. Faraway, So Close! demands your critical attention so it gets it (for better or worse). If a work is meant to be taken seriously intellectually, that’s how I approach it critically. If a work is simply meant to enjoy it, then a significant portion of its grade will be based on how much I was able to enjoy it. Bleach is a fairly enjoyable shonen fighting series and succeeds at its goal. Faraway, So Close! is an almost-great film that ultimately misses its goal but remains a beautiful film. Hence, they both get “B”s. That’s the end of my rant on my grading process.

We finally discover exactly what Kukaku Shiba’s plan is to get the Ryoka into the seireitei. She’s going to use a massive cannon to shoot them over the seireitei‘s walls. However, there is an invisible forcefield around the walls and the ryoka have to learn how to focus their kido (spiritual energy) into a specially designed sphere that will allow them to pass through the forcefield (rather than explode on impact). Everyone but Ichigo picks up the trick quickly enough although when he finally learns how to do it, his massive kido nearly destroys the practice space until he figures out how to decrease it to manageable levels. While all of this is going down, the thirteen captains of the Soul Society are holding a meeting to determine the fate of Gin Ichimaru for allowing the ryoka to escape alive. He tries to play dumb, but it’s obvious that what he did was a grave offense to the other captains and that he knows more than he’s letting on. Their meeting is interrupted however by an alarm declaring intruders in the seireitei (which I’m assuming we’re supposed to think means the ryoka but I have a suspicion that there are other forces at play). When it’s finally time to shoot the ryoka over the seireitei, things are going according to plan until the group actually hits the barrier where their shield dissolves and the group is split into four parties and shot in separate directions into the seireitei. The four groups are 1) Ichigo and Ganju, 2) Orihime and Uryu, 3) Chad, and 4) Yoruichi (with Chad having basically sacrificed his ability to be with the group to make sure Orihime and Uryu were together).

Once everybody lands, no one is in any immediate danger except for Ganju and Ichigo. Chad causes an enormous crater but finds shelter in a tree before any shinigami can arrive at the scene. Uryu and Orihime have shelter and no one suspects Yoruichi of being anything since he’s a cat. However, the second they land Ichigo and Ganju are greeted by two members of the eleventh squad, Ikkaku Madarame and Yumichika Ayasegawa. Ganju knows that he’s outclassed and runs away (while being chased by Yumichika). His story in the volume ends with him being cornered at a massive pit where Yumichika offers him to either by his sword or to fall to his death in the pit. Ichigo chooses to stay and fight Ikkaku. They draw first blood simultaneously with both striking a blow on the other. However, Ikkaku reveals that he hasn’t shown his zanpakuto‘s named shenkai form yet which is a spear that also funcftions as a nunchuk spear thing (and is the coolest shenkai yet). He proceeds to beat the holy hell out of Ichigo until he slices open Ichigo’s arm which brings out Ichigo’s survival instinct and he turns the tables on Ikkaku and appears to kill him when Ikkaku turns down an offer to surrender after being critically wounded.

This paragraph of analysis will mostly be me talking about the anime (which was four episodes for this volume instead of the normal two or three which is part of why it took me so long to find the time to watch it all. I can read an entire volume in an hour. It takes nearly two to watch four episodes of the show so it came down to finding the free time) and things that I thought were cool in terms of changes/stylistic differences and some new things I don’t like. I really don’t like the new opening theme song that started on episode 26 or the video that was used for it. It just made the show seem like way more of a conventional shonen fighting anime and it lacked the quirky urban fantasy aesthetic that I found so appealing about the beginning of the show. I know that the series is going to continue moving further and further away from the things that I loved about it though so I need to hurry up and get over it or just give up on the program. There were a lot of things in the final episode of the anime that I watched that weren’t in the manga but I’m assuming that most of it was just the anime editing in parts of the rest of theryoka’s story that we won’t see until volume 11 so that Ichigo wasn’t one of the only characters that we kept seeing. Also, I did appreciate the way that the fights are easier to follow in the anime because sometimes I think Tite Kubo makes exactly what’s happening in the fight scenes a little too vague and it’s hard to get why someone went from suddenly winning to losing.

I could go on this whole rant about how tired I’m starting to get of this whole “Ichigo gets his ass kicked and then miraculously gets much stronger” narrative device that Bleach seems hell bent on using or the way that no one else in the ryoka has done anything remotely useful since they awakened to their spirit powers (which seems like ages and ages ago). I think I might have spoiled something for myself on wikipedia where Uryu actually does do some fighting next volume which is good because I think Ichigo is a cool dude and a serious bad-ass but I like the other people in his nakama just as much as him. Also, Tite Kubo really needs to slow down on introducing so many new characters. I know I’ve made this complaint before but it got out of hand this volume. There’s just a never-ending stream of new people to learn about and there’s not enough substance to their character for them to stick in my mind for the less than a few pages they are on at any given time even though they could become more important down the road.

Final Score: B

A couple of volumes back, I decided to start taking critical notes during my reviews of Bleach mostly so I could leave specific bookmarks on what I thought were great pages from the book to use as pictures in these posts. The opportunity to remark on things that immediately struck me as intriguing also helped the posts become a little more focused, but a quick read through of my notes from say the last volume of Bleach reveals me mostly reveling in whatever feat of bad-assery that Ichigo had just accomplished or trying to keep track of the endless supply of new characters that Tite Kubo was introducing to the series. I decided to start taking notes on Elfen Lied as well, and a read through of those notes are a “little” different. Some variation of “what the fuck” or “holy fuck” or any other expletive seems to be the most common phrase because Elfen Lied continues to reveal new depths of twisted and depraved cruelty in its villains. Like, seriously, Elfen Lied requires a special kind of immunity to disturbing material to even attempt to read it and I’m really depressed about the fact that I’m apparently so desensitized that I can make it through this story (even though it leaves me battered and bruised when I’m done).

When Bando managed to scare away the Unknown Man last volume, the peace at the Maple Inn was shattered the second that Yuka, Kohta, and Nyu showed up at the house. Without hesitation, Bando tried to shoot Nyu which caused her self-preservation mechanisms to kick in and she became Lucy again for the first time in months. Out of respect for Kohta from Lucy and for Mayu from Bando, Bando and Lucy decide to take their fight to the beach (where the Unknown Man fled). We finally know why Bando’s been cleaning the beach all of these months. It’s so there’s nothing that Lucy’s vectors could throw at him. However, despite all of his traps and planning, his pistol still isn’t strong enough to pierce Lucy’s vectors outside of her kill range. The Unknown Man tries to stop Bando from killing Lucy but Lucy just rips his head off for his trouble. Despite her strength, Bando is able to get the drop on Lucy but Mayu shows up to stop him from killing her. Lucy tries to kill Mayu and Bando throws her out of the way and sacrifices his life to save Mayu’s (and shoots and wounds Lucy in the process). Lucy flees to the woods to heal, and Nana vows that she’ll kill Lucy now even if she’s just Nyu the next time she sees her. When Lucy reverts to being Nyu in the forest, she stumbles across Mayu and Nana at the temple/gazebo thing where Nana finally tells Mayu the truth about Lucy. A heartbroken and confused Nyu wanders around the woods trying to make sense of her existence when she finally returns to Nana to confront her. Nana nearly kills Nyu but because Nana is the most innocent of all of the Diclonius she can’t bring herself to harm the defenseless Nyu. Things aren’t safe though because A) Nyu heard the evil diclonius inner voice that Lucy heard as a child and also B ) the volume ends with the government busting into the Maple Inn with four clones of Lucy that are under their complete control.

It finally struck me how similar the government agency in this series is supposed to be the Nazis, specifically with regards to both the Holocaust and their horrific medical experimentation. Just, my god. In order to craft the four clones of Lucy (that can be ordered to stab themselves in the heart and mutilate themselves however their masters see fit just to prove that they are controllable), Director Kakuzawa and a new scientist named Nousou (who bears a remarkable resemblance to Lucy) have been breeding Diclonius with the sole intention of harvesting their spinal cords (which of course we’re forced to see an assembly line with spines on them. *shudder*). So not only are their Diclonius whose entire pitiful existence is one miserable experiment after another (i.e. shooting lead balls at them to chart the growth of their vectors or being forced to live in eternal agony just to serve as a living Diclonius radar), their are Diclonius who are only born to be grown to be harvested like cattle. It’s some fucked up shit. And I really don’t know (or at this point want to know) where Lynn Okamoto is getting his inspiration for this series. On that note though, the scene where Bando is dying and reflecting on what he did to save Mayu’s life was heartbreaking and almost brought a tear to my eye.

I’m going to keep this review short just because I have to review the last disc of Season 2 of Mad Men (have I ever mentioned how much I hate Betty Draper), and then at some point today, I would like to watch Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 which is the next movie in my instant queue from Netflix. After that I want to finally get around to starting the first season of Angel for review on this blog (it’s been ages since I finished Buffy). I am so excited to be watching Angel. I know a ton of people who think it’s a far superior program to Buffy, and since I know that it’s a darker and more mature counterpart to Whedon’s breakthrough program, I’ll likely be prone to agreeing. Anyways, there are only three volumes of Elfen Lied left (which equates to something like 25 chapters). I can’t believe I’m so close to the finish line but it’s nice to know that I’m close to the end of the horrifying and scarring journey that has been Elfen Lied. I’ll probably be back in WV by the time I’m done and I don’t know whether I’ll pick up another manga to read when I’m done with this or go back to normal books since I’ll actually have access to my library of books again.

Final Score: B+

 

It blows my mind that I’ve now read 79 issues of Bleach, and I’m still so microscopically behind in the overall plot of the series. The last issue to be published in Japan was #490 to put this into perspective. Now, if I maintain the momentum I’m at (which is reading 79 issues in a little over a month), I could theoretically catch up with the manga in about six and a half months. I don’t really see that happening because there’s not even a guarantee that I’ll still be this invested in the story a month from now. Our heroes have finally reached the Soul Society, and for better or worse, Bleach has officially become a very different comic from the quirky urban fantasy that I was unironically enjoying when I first began this series. I can already see how it’s becoming a more standard shonen series. The universe is still intriguing so I don’t care too much (though having watched the professionally translated anime as I’m reading the shoddily fan-translated manga, I’m growing tired of how shitty the translation work is in the version of the manga I read), but I can definitely see where this jarring transition rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Also, Tite Kubo keeps introducing an endless stream of new characters without giving any of these newbies a chance to really develop which is becoming semi-distracting.

Ichigo, Uryu, Orihime, Chad, and Yoruichi (from now on, this group will be referred to the “Ryoka” because that is the term in-universe for people who enter soul society without being cleansed by a shinigami) make it through the portal between the regular world and Soul Society by the skin of their teeth. However, their first test in Soul Society comes the second they land in the slums of Soul Society where the newest souls live. When they try to enter the Seireitei (the inner circle of Soul Society where the shinigami live), a massive wall appears along with a giant named Jidanbo who challenges Ichigo to a duel. Ichigo easily dispatches the giant (he spent five straight days training with Uruhara after he learned the name of his zanpakuto and has gotten immensely stronger), but a far more serious threat immediately emerges. The shinigami captain who was taunting Byakuya Kuchiki last volume (about the execution of Rukia), Gin Ichimaru, appears and slices off the giant’s arm (who was letting Ichigo and his nakama as respect for defeating him). He is preparing to execute the defenseless giant when Ichigo steps in to protect the honor of a man he just defeated. However, despite his zanpakuto being about as big as a dagger, Ichimaru easily defeats Ichigo and the door to Soul Society shuts behind them.

Ichigo’s decision to risk his life in order to protect Jidanbo earns the Ryoka the respect of the souls living in this section of Soul Society, including Shibata, the little boy whose spirit had inhabited the parakeet way back in the beginning of the series. Ichimaru’s arrival (and the re-closing of the gate) means that the security near the gate will be even tighter than before and the Ryoka will need another way into the seireitei. Yoruichi (who seems to know everyone in Soul Society) investigates the slums trying to find a person named Kukaku Shiba. As they’re investigating Kukaku’s whereabouts, a young man on a boar arrives (along with henchmen who are also riding boards) named Ganju Shiba that hates shinigami even more than Uryu did. He picks a fight with Ichigo and they fight roughly to a draw (and we learn that Ichigo is a pretty decent martial artist even when he doesn’t have his sword). However, the clock rings 9 and Ganju retreats under mysterious circumstances. The Ryoka is finally able to find Kukaku Shiba, who lives out in the middle of the Soul Society countryside in a house with a pair of giant fists holding a banner and a massive “chimney” behind it. It turns out that Kukaku Shiba is a woman (and a bad-ass one at that). She agrees to help the Ryoka get into the seireitei on the condition that they bring her brother along as a guide. Of course, the brother turns out to be Ganju and Ichigo and Ganju resume their fight (which Kukaku violently stops). And we finally learn her plan to get them into the seireitei. She’s going to shoot them in with a giant cannon.

This volume presents a bit of a conundrum. A lot of the material was really cool. We learned more about the hierarchy of the Soul Society. Specifically, we know about the fuedal Japan caste system that separates the shinigami from the regular souls (and also that Rukia and Renji both came from the lower castes originally. Also, we see the darker sides of Soul Society. Even in death, you aren’t reunited with your family which means that the things Ichigo and Rukia told Shibata when they cleansed him weren’t true (though you always got the idea during those scenes that Rukia was holding something back). You learn that the souls in the slums have a very low opinion of shinigami and that some people, like Ganju, don’t think that any of them are good. We know a little bit more about the process that is going to be used to execute Rukia, and through the introduction of a character named Aizen (whose true nature has been ruined for me by being roughly ten years late to this particular dance), we get hints that Rukia’s execution is certainly not normal and that someone may be pulling the strings to make it happen. However, for all of this cool stuff, the plot has gotten too complicated without becoming more substantive to back it all up. There were many, many new named characters introduced this volume, and to be honest, none of them really struck me as particularly interesting or compelling. I’d say Ichimaru was pretty bad-ass but he was introduced last volume. I’ve read where Tite Kubo just introduces new characters when he has writer’s block, and that unfortunately just means there could be dozens and dozens of flat and one-dimensional characters before I know it.

I’m going to stop now because I have to review an excellent German film, Wings of Desire, that I just finished and I want to have the energy to give that my full attention. Anyways, I’m still willing to put my time into Bleach and I don’t think that the quality has dropped in. Actually, besides the way that Tite Kubo introduced a million characters without really saying anything about them, my only complaint about this volume was the way that the other members of the Ryoka whose names aren’t Ichigo contributed jack squat to the proceedings. I like ensemble pieces, and by giving Ichigo a nakama of friends with super-powers, I thought that’s what Bleach was doing. If they all just sit around and watch Ichigo do bad-ass things and don’t commit any acts of bad-assery themselves, it’s not very entertaining. One man heroics get stale. I hope the rest of the Ryoka have their time to shine.

Final Score: B

Elfen Lied: Vol. 8

Why am I reading this series? I’m essentially volunteering to need massive amounts of brain bleach before I’m finished with Elfen Lied. Yet, after every detour I make into the far more family-friendly (and significantly less fucked-up) Bleach (didn’t even realize the joke I accidentally set up there), I always return to Elfen Lied like a woman suffering from battered-wife syndrome. The story at the heart of Elfen Lied is fantastic but there’s something wrong with me for voluntarily reading a story that I know is going to wind up as fucked up as this one, and in ways that I didn’t even think were possible, this particular volume of Elfen Lied really upped the “fucked up” quotient. I mean, Jesus H. Christ! Lynn Okamoto, what the hell is wrong with you? What is wrong with me since I’m still reading this whole damn thing? I’ve been reading this series since April 3 (when I first reviewed Vol. 1) which makes it a month now that I keep returning to the dark and depraved and horrifying universe that Okamoto has crafted. Still, it’s one of the most engaging (if not necessarily enjoyable) manga series that I’ve ever read so I’m in til the end.

Six months have passed since the beginning of Vol. 8 and the end of the Vol. 7. Women are becoming pregnant with horned babies en masse thanks to Kakuzawa releasing the Vector Virus over Tokyo, and it will only be a matter of months before waves of Diclonius are born into an unprepared populace. Back at the Maple Inn, our group has settled into a normal return and in the wake of Lucy losing her horns, Nyu hasn’t experienced a personality shift since. In fact, she has completely learned to speak like a normal human being and has forgotten most of her actions when she first arrived in Kohta and Yuka’s life (even though she still has an occasional uncontrollabe urge to grab someone’s breast). At the government facility, Director Kakuzawa has been biding his time since the explosion to try and find Lucy so his plan for world domination can come to fruition. It turns out that the “God” of Diclonius beneath the pond is actually his daughter, Anna, who he’s turned into a mutant with a brain 100 times the size of that of a normal person. However, she’s now forced to live in the amniotic sac of the pond for the rest of her existence. Her heightened brain power gives her the ability to (mostly) accurately predict the future based on patterns and human nature. Based on her information, Kakuzawa truly believes that he can uproot humanity in less than a year as long as he can get his hands on Lucy, a task he assigns to Professor Kakuzawa’s (his son) female assistant, Arakawa, and an unknown man in a cowboy hat who can easily be described as possibly the most monstrous person in this series yet.

In their own ways, both Arakawa and the Unknown Man stumble upon the Kaede nakama. Arakawa is the one who actually runs into Lucy (as Nyu) with Yuka and Kohta at the university though they are able to escape before Arakawa can capture Lucy. There is little damage done (so far) there as they get away and Arakawa doesn’t know who they are (though she puts bad ideas in Nyu’s head about what all Diclonius are like). However, shit really hits the fan when the Unknown Man uses a Diclonius (#28) that he’s placed in perpetual agony (and it’s implied he raped her) to locate any Diclonius in the Kamakura area. Of course, you can’t find Nyu with it because she doesn’t have her powers any more (though there are signs that her horns are growing back). But, it can still find Nana, and the Unknown Man shows up at the Maple Inn when just Nana and Mayu are home. He shoots Nana (twice!) with a crossbow gun that shoots spiked balls that secrete an unimaginably painful neurotoxin to disable Nana’s vectors and then he proceeds to attempt to rape Mayu. Mayu is able to fight him off long enough to call Bando who shows up fights the Unknown Man away (though he escapes). However, at that moment, Bando’s mortal enemy, Lucy, walks in the front door with Kohta and Yuka.

I thought the show had really explored the depths of despicable villains (even when it turned some of them like Bando and Karuma into both villains and heroes [or at least considerably less evil people than the main big bads]). I was wrong. For a dude that doesn’t even have a name at the moment (I’m calling him the Unknown Man for lack of a better name), the Unknown Man is the most effective and bat-shit crazy/evil villain yet. Sadism is the name of the game, and he doesn’t even have the excuse that the Diclonius have (which is that all of the people around them are torturing them and trying to kill them). This guy just seems to take a sick delight in causing as much pain and suffering as he possibly can. The scene where he’s trying to rape Mayu and she’s running away was some of the harshest material of the whole series. I nearly couldn’t finish it because I knew there was a serious probability that he’d succeed in his f***ed up plans. I love the way that the series plays ping-pong with who the villains are because even though Bando just saved Mayu’s life, there’s a serious probability that he’s now going to try and kill her and everyone else in the Maple Inn to get a shot at Lucy.

I could write more but for some reason, my heart really isn’t in my writing right now. I’m returning to WV in two weeks from tomorrow, and I’m not looking forward to it. I’ve just got this empty feeling in my chest that I associate with when I came back to WV after I spent the summer in Italy. I’ve actually got something to work towards in life now so hopefully it will keep me from falling into the same dark depths of depression I landed in when I returned from Florence, but I know it’s still a possibility. Anyways, I just need to do something not mentally exhausting today because I’m just feeling sad. I’m really not ready to go back home.

Final Score: A-

I have something sort of embarrassing to admit. While I’ve been watching/reading Bleach and Elfen Lied (as well as reviewing them on here), I’ve been reading Naruto off and on (I can’t sit through the anime. I just can’t do it). Even when the adventures/villains in Naruto are cool in that “appeals to my inner child” kind of way, the series suffers from one absolutely major problem that I had to stop reading the books because it bothered me so much. Generally speaking, most anime do a good job of introducing new powers for the heroes. The series quickly establishes a set number of superpowers that our protagonists may have and through training or duress (but in those situations, the powers have been alluded to in the past like becoming a Super Saiyan) they gain others. Villains can suddenly gain new powers but that’s for plot twist value. In Naruto, it seemed like four or five new abilities were introduced in every single fight like the author was just pulling the universe’s rules out of his ass. It really bothered me and thankfully,Bleach has managed to not fall prey to that anime shortcoming (though Ichigo’s status as a “determinator” is still pretty ridiculous).

The last volume ended with Uruhara’s assistant Tessai severing Ichigo’s soul chain saying that the only way he can become ashinigami (and now not become a Hollow) is to forcibly regain his soul power in the short time he has left before his transformation. Put under a binding spell, Ichigo is dropped into a massive pit with three days to get his powers back. We see some quick scenes where Chad and Orihime are being trained (in far less “life-and-death” stakes) by the talking cat Yoruichi (I’m just going to assume there’s a story there) to awaken their own spiritual powers at will rather than under moments of great duress. Similarly, back in the Soul Society, we learn that (as Rukia predicted) she is to be executed in 25 days, most likely at the request of her brother Byakuya (though that isn’t made clear). We meet to other members of the Soul Society hierarchy. One’s name is Gin Ichimaru (I think) and Kenpachi Ziraki. I just looked it up. They are captains of different divisions (like Byakuya). Ziraki taunts Byakuya about Rukia’s fate but the incredibly swift (and I’m assuming powerful) Gin stops their from being any potential violence. Back in Uruhara’s shop/training area, the 72 hours come and go and Ichigo makes no progress in regaining his powers. As the last of his soul chain is devoured, he begins to transform into a hollow and Tessai decides it’s time to kill Ichigo before he becomes what one would assume would be an absurdly powerful Hollow.

While Ichigo’s body is becoming covered in the Hollow “material” (?), he begins to have a vision of a strange man in a cape in a world of boxes. The man tries to tell him his name but Ichigo is unable to hear it. Suddenly, the world begins to dissolve around Ichigo and the man implores him to find the box with his shinigami powers (at which point Ichigo remembers Ishida’s story about how shinigami‘s soul ribbons are red). Ichigo finds the hilt of his zanpakuto (though not the blade). In  a massive explosion, he destroys the giant implement Tessai was going to use to kill him and emerges out of the pit in his shinigami robe. He also has a Hollow mask on but with one quick bash of his sword’s hilt, Ichigo is back to his normal bad-ass self. He passes his second test and now must do his third and final one which is to knock the hat off of Uruhara’s head who draws his own zanpakuto (which means he’s hiding something about himself). Uruhara nearly kills Ichigo when Ichigo sees his zanpakuto‘s spirit again and finally learns the swords name, zangetsu. It becomes a massive sword whose type I can’t really name and Ichigo easily (in one swing) knocks off Uruhara’s hat (and would have killed Uruhara if he hadn’t put up a shield). Seven days later (after Chad, Orihime, and Ichigo all say goodbye to their families), they return to Uruhara’s shop one last time (along with Uryu) to finally enter Soul Society. Uruhara has created a massive portal but he gives them a dire warning. They only have four minutes to make it through. Any more and they’ll be stuck between the world’s forever and thus they head out with Yoruichi as their guide.

Once again, Bleach continues to expand the mythology of the series and I still enjoy it. It hasn’t become overly complicated but it also isn’t mind-numbingly simple like say the mythology of DBZ. The way that their weapons are apparently sentient spiritual beings reminds me at least a little bit of Soul Eater (though those weapons were straight up people. Kind of. I never really understood how the hell that all worked). And while it still bothers me that it took Ichigo simply learning his sword’s name to quickly overpower Uruhara (who is perhaps the “Big Good” of the series to the “Big Bad” that is [for now] Byakuya), at least it was a suitably bad-ass moment. And while I can’t make up my mind whether or not his current zanpakuto (when it’s named) looks cooler than the sword when it was unnamed, I definitely know that Renji’s flail-sword was much more bad-ass. However, the art-work (on the show especially cause it had color) where we see Ichigo with both the soul reaper stuff and the Hollow mask with all of the bandages flowing off of him cause of Tessai’s spell was one of the best drawn scenes from the series so far. It really sold how bad ass that whole moment was.

I could probably write a little bit more but I still have to review Glee from last night plus do my “Song of the Day” post so I’ll draw my rantings about Bleach to a close. We began the Soul Society arc the second that Rukia ran away from Ichigo’s house and three volumes later, I’m still enjoying this story. Maybe things will change when we actually reach the Soul Society, but I’ve even enjoyed the scenes that I’ve read that have occurred there. There’s this interesting feudal Japan thing going on that lends it an air of mystery (at least to me as a non-Japanese person), and there are certainly bad guys and good guys in the group. The series teased us that Renji was the real psycho of his duo but we’re quickly learning that title (of villain if not psycho) goes to Byakuya, and that there might be people within the Soul Society that are even worse than him. Tite Kubo keeps crafting a really cool world and as long as this world remains interesting and I keep learning awesome new things about it, I’ll keep giving this series my attention.

Final Score: B

 

Elfen Lied: Vol. 7

I’m starting to conclude that Lynn Okamoto is like the Japanese George R. R. Martin. He’s just the kind of person that can take an almost sadistic pleasure in torturing the hell out of the characters in his works. It makes for an expertly crafted story because at any given moment, you don’t know what could possibly go wrong for the heroes. No catastrophe is off the table (as the manga certainly proved this volume). However, much like Martin, it almost makes me want to not get attached to any of the characters because even if they aren’t killed off in brutal ways, he’s liable to make them do something so reprehensible that you could never feel anything positive for them ever again. This particular volume finds us hurtling into the home stretch of the series (only 37 chapters left) and a major cataclysm has struck the universe of the franchise. I have no clue what Okamoto can do now to up the dramatic tension of the series other than instigate a full blown apocalypse (which he laid the seeds for this volume). Still, Elfen Lied continues to prove to me once again that it is is the most disturbing and almost inherently “wrong” series I’ve ever read. And that’s why I love it.

The last volume ended with Kurama revealing to Nana that he was Mariko’s father and the cruel twist of fate that led to Mariko’s birth as a Diclonius as well as the inhumane things Kurama had allowed to be done to her since she was born. We discover that Kurama tried to kill Mariko as soon as she was born but his dying wife in her last moments begged him to let her live. So he sent her off to the institution. I’m guessing the wife would have preferred Mariko to die if she had known the fate she’d have for the next five years. While Kurama and Nana face off against a truly genocidal Mariko (who is deflecting artillery shells like they’re flies), Director Kakuzawa reveals his plans to Shirakawa to release the vector virus over all of Tokyo to slowly begin infecting the entire world. Shirakawa had tried to stop him but much like with Ozymandias in Watchmen, the plan has already been implemented before he reveals his grand scheme. During the fight against Mariko, you see the rocket carrying the virus explode over Tokyo. Eventually Lucy shows up as Nyu. Kurama and Mariko put aside their differences momentarily to stop Lucy. Kurama shoots Nyu which awakens Lucy. She begins to destroy Mariko. However, Mariko uses the bombs inside her body to take out Lucy. Lucy decapitates Mariko but the bombs explode and Lucy’s horns are destroyed which is supposed to permanently leave her in the state as Nyu.

Despite Kurama having the original run as the series’ Big Bad, that most assuredly goes to Director Kakuzawa now (who believes that he has the god-like power to control whatever birthed the lebensborn in the first place). We learned a lot more about Kurama this volume from what led him down the villainous path he’s currently on (along side things we learned last volume), and just why he was able to form such a tight bond with Nana but he could never love his own daughter. The scenes where Kurama kept trying to kill his own daughter (kind of/sort of for her own good) even while he was trying to reconcile with her were just heartbreaking. Even at the end though, having seen what a monster he can occasionally be, Nana has gone from having daughterly affection for Kurama to wanting to be his wife. I’m kind of hoping that was a mistranslation of the manga because otherwise this series managed to top itself yet again in the fucked up department (since she’s like 12). I don’t think Kurama really reciprocates though. I was honestly shocked that he let Nana take care of the de-horned Lucy. He wanted to kill Nyu but Nana convinced him not to so maybe even Kurama is beginning to soften. The scene where Director Kakuzawa molested Shirakawa was always incredibly disturbing. This series doesn’t hold back whatsoever.

I’ll keep this one short because I didn’t get to do the three movies last night that I wanted to (only one, Cyrano de Bergerac) because my French roommate has family in this weekend. They’re sleeping in his room and he’s sleeping in the living room. My TV is in the living room and I wasn’t able to watch any TV. I just wound up watching Bonnaroo videos from last year on Youtube the rest of the evening after my roommate came back home and took control of the living room. So my next film which I’ll start as soon as I’m done with this is The Butcher Boy. Plus, I’ll still be doing my Song of the Day post. Plus, I only have one episode left of the second disc of the second season of Mad Men as well as one episode left of the first season of Community. So, possibly I could end up doing four more posts for the blog today. I’m perfectly okay with that scenario. I just wish I could watch Game of Thrones tonight. I won’t get to watch it tomorrow because I’m seeing the Shins at Terminal 5! Tomorrow is going to be awesome. So, forget that last complaint about Game of Thrones.

Final Score: B+

While I’m still sick and feeling especially miserable, I think I’m finally feeling well enough to try and catch up on all of the blogging I’ve let fall behind this week. It’s kind of gotten a little bit on the ridiculous side. Still, no one wants to read something that I wrote when the sinus pressure in my head was making me feel so buzzed that I felt like my head could detach itself from my body and float away at any second (actually, maybe people would want to read that). One of the posts that I’ve been meaning to write since about Tuesday was my review of the seventh volume of Bleach (only 45 more volumes to go!…)which is what I would describe as the beginning of the infamous Soul Society arc whose ability to generate anger in the anime community only seems to be matched by the interminable length of the Namek arc in Dragon Ball Z (something like a good 90 episodes) and the 85 straight episodes of filler between the end of the Naruto story and the beginning of Naruto Shippuden. I can already see where this show is laying groundwork for future problems, but they haven’t arrived yet and I’m honestly still intrigued by the world that Tite Kubo continues to craft around the Bleach story.

The last volume ended with two soul reapers, Renji Abari and Byakuya Kuchiki (Rukia’s brother), arriving on Earth to arrest Rukia for the crime of letting a human steal her powers and to kill Ichigo. First, Uryu shows up to try and save Rukia but he quickly gets incapacitated by Renji. Renji is about to finish Uryu off when Ichigo arrives (who learns that Rukia is missing because she had tied Kon behind the toilet to keep him from spilling the beans). While Renji is initially nervous at how massive Ichigo’s zanpakuto is (the size of a zanpakuto is directly related to the spirit power of its wielder), he quickly discovers that Ichigo has no real control over his power and doesn’t even know the name of his zanpakuto (whatever that means). Basically, Ichigo is just releasing all of this power without even realizing it and without any control over what he’s doing, he might as well be wielding a massive stick. Renji evokes the name of his zanpakuto which transforms itself into a massive flail/sword hybrid. It’s pretty cool looking. He nearly kills Ichigo with it. Just when he’s preparing to deliver the lethal blow to Ichigo, Ichigo experiences the same kind of massive power surge he had when he fought the Menos Grande. His wounds begin to heal and then even with his basic, unnamed zanpakuto, he turns the tide of the battle and nearly defeats Renji. However, before he can win the fight, Byakuya intervenes, moving so fast that neither Ichigo or Renji realize he’s attacked Ichigo until Ichigo has collapsed in a pool of his own blood. At this point, Rukia agrees to go to the Soul Society in order to spare the life of Ichigo whose soul power and shinigami powers have all been robbed by his nearly fatal blow from Byakuya.

Before Ichigo dies from his wounds, he is rescued by Kisuke Uruhara who continues to prove that there is far more to this man than meets the eye. Uruhara takes Ichigo back to his shop to tend his wounds (with what I’m going to call magic pills for lack of any explanation as to how they miraculously cured him) and explains to him that if he wants to rescue Rukia, he’ll have to let Uruhara train him (for ten days) before he attempts to enter the Soul Society to save her. Chad and Orihime are also being trained (by talking cat Yoruichi) and though they want Uryu to train alongside them, he refuses, instead opting to open a mysterious box for his own private training. Ichigo goes down to a massive cavern beneath Uruhara’s shop for his training where Uruhara forces his spirit out of its body. Ichigo is no longer a shinigami so he’s just a normal ghost, with a spirit chain connecting him to his body and none of his superhuman powers (or his sword). Ichigo’s first test is to fight the little girl that works at Uruhara’s store, Ururu. Ururu is powerful enough to take on full-fledged shinigami and if she hits Ichigo, it would kill him. Still, during the fight, Ichigo’s survival instincts kick in which allow him to summon back the speed he needs to tap into his spiritual power though he still can’t be a shinigami. Then, Uruhara has his assistant sever Ichigo’s spirit chain. It is is slowly receding back to his chest and when it reaches the end, Ichigo will become a Hollow. That’s how long he has to figure out how to get his shinigami form back.

I would complain some more about how much I hate this whole “Ichigo gets his ass kicked and then suddenly goes Super-Saiyan” trope that is quickly becoming the heart of the fighting scenes of this series (seriously, he’s like Vegeta. He gets the hell knocked out of him until he just explodes on everyone. Well, Vegeta meets Goku), but that whole moment where he tapped into his power again led to him getting completely annihilated so I’ll let it slide. Bleach is great about doing this one thing very well. Ichigo became uber-powerful and destroyed the Menos Grande (well injured it and made it retreat anyways). So, when he started to “no sell” Renji’s attacks and just obliterate Renji’s defenses, you just assumed that’s how that scene was going to end. He was going to fight off these shinigami for now. And then Byakuya stepped in and it wasn’t even a fight. I’ve got to give it to Tite Kubo to have Ichigo just completely “job” a fight like that (sorry for all of the pro wrestling terminology here) to Byakuya. It wasn’t even a fight. Byakuya just destroyed Ichigo. In Dragon Ball Z, there were fights where the lower-level Z fighters would just eviscerated, but it almost never happened where the the Saiyans didn’t even at least put up a fight before losing. So, I like that I know there will be plenty of fights where Ichigo just doesn’t stand a chance.

I could probably write a little bit more about how I enjoyed the way that the training scenes have both subverted and played straight the tropes of shonen training moments, but I still have to write about Glee (one of the best episodes of the season), a concert write-up for work (The Boxer Rebellion), and I also have to do a write-up for an interview for work that I should have done this week but I’ve been too sick. Plus, I just realized that I’ve had the same three movies at home from Netflix for like two months now and I need to watch them so I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth from that company. It’s kind of ridiculous just how far behind I’ve allowed myself to fall there. I’ve been busy with work (which makes me not want to do a ton of writing when I’m home), plus I’ve been playing a lot of Xenoblade Chronicles lately. Like a ton. I think I’m already close to the 30 hour mark in the game (and hilariously not very far in the actual main story for that many hours). So, let’s just say that despite my concerns about where the story could be going, I’m still really into Bleach and I hope it stays that way for a while.

Final Score: B

Elfen Lied: Vol. 6

Well, that’s what I get for observing that the last volume of Elfen Lied was a bit tame to previous entries in the series. Much as I expected, Lynn Okamoto decided to up the disturbing factor of the series, and while it still isn’t as psychologically scarring as the volume where we discovered Lucy/Nyu’s backstory with Kohta, we’re getting an idea for just how sadistic and sociopathic the evil government agency in this series is (are they with the government though? I can’t really tell. I just know they are bat shit insane and genocidal). Also, while the series did an excellent job of making you fear the diclonii at the beginning of the story, we’re really starting to learn just what it is that is maybe pushing them to being such omnicidal maniacs in the first place and that their destructive/murderous tendencies are perhaps the fault of humanity. We’ve reached the halfway point of this story, and while it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that I’ll wind up giving up on Bleach at some point in the future (though I’m still enjoying it so it won’t happen soon), I can’t see myself turning stopping Elfen Lied until I draw this epic tale to a close.

If there’s one thing that this series is starting to do that I find irritating is make us think that Lucy’s powers are going to suddenly awaken (and have her go on a massive killing spree) only for it to be a false alarm. this volume doesn’t quite do that (like say last time) because Lucy manages to wake up, finds herself being taken care of by Kohta and Yuka, and forces her Nyu personality back. It’s almost like she’s combining Nyu and Lucy though because suddenly Nyu is miraculously capable of many more words than she was before. She’s becoming more intelligent (which means when she’s hurt, she’s liable to do all sorts of damage if she ever realizes the full extent of her powers). Nana feels guilty for attacking Nyu because while Nyu might share the same body as Lucy, they’re obviously different people. Nana is easily the most empathetic person in the Diclonius race (until she ends up getting pissed off later). She apologizes to Kohta and Nyu and is welcomed back into the Kaede residence. That house is quickly becoming full. This peaceful turn of events quickly takes a turn for a worse though when Director Kakuzawa reveals that he knew that Karuma would let Nana escape and he sics Karuma’s biological daughter Mariko (who’s an incredibly powerful Diclonius) on both Lucy and Nana. Mariko is so powerful that they’ve installed explosives throughout her body as an insurance policy should she get out of control. Since they blow up one of her arms the second she’s let loose and tries to kill everyone around her (even though this girl is like five), the explosives aren’t a blufff. She runs into Nana on the beach and while she starts to kick Nana’s ass at first, when she insults Karuma, Nana’s inner Lucy-style pure evil side awakes and she turns the tide against Mariko. She’s about to kill Mariko when Karuma arrives and we learn just how he came to be infected with the Vector Virus and the origins of the agency’s program to study the Diclonius.

Those scenes where they were performing the experiments on the diclonius children (who all began to be born at around the same time. Sounds like someone was intentionally trying to impregnate women or this was caused by Lucy suddenly infecting a large number of people at once without realizing the consequences) were very, very difficult to read. Watching the scientists shoot the children in the face with lead balls at increasing velocities to test the strength of their vectors was just cruel in the sort of way that you’d expect the Nazis to behave. Although it’s interesting to learn that even though Karuma felt terrible about what was happening (which is why he eventually befriended Nana because one of the diclonius that had to be put down bore a great resemblance to her), he didn’t actively do anything to stop it. While he’s meant to be a sympathetic villain, he’s still quite a bit of a bastard. And he only appears somewhat likeable in comparison to the real psychos that are Bando (who’s softened some as well) and Director Kakuzawa (who wants to destroy humanity). It also seems that Director Kakuzawa believes that over the course of one year, he could completely destroy humanity and prop himself up as a God to the new Diclonius. I’m really interested to see just how he thinks he can accomplish that.

I could probably write more (I think I use some variation of this phrase in 80% of my posts on here) but I still have to write my “Song of the Day” post and Glee is coming on at 8. This week’s episode is a Whitney Houston tribute which means it will either be brilliant or completely terrible. I really hope it’s the former because ever since it came back from it’s winter hiatus, the show’s been sort of struggling to find traction. Still, I may have a friend coming over to watch the episode with me and it’s always easier to enjoy Glee when you have company to laugh at all of the absurdity of the show. The cast members can’t seem to stop tweeting about which is also either a good or a bad sign. The sugary-sweetness of Glee will definitely make for a strange contrast with the bloody, over-the-top violence of Elfen Lied.

Final Score: B+

I have a headache and my entire body aches plus I’m running on very little sleep, so I’m probably going to try to keep my blogging to a minimum today. I still have to do my Game of Thrones post for last night’s episode as well as my “Song of the Day” post (which I’ve fortunately already picked out). However, after I finish this Bleach review (which I’m going to try and keep short) as well as those two, I’m putting the computer down and probably just falling asleep for 12 hours. I’m mildly concerned that I’m coming down with the flu or something because I have a slight tickle in the back of my throat and literally a couple minutes ago, one of my ears started to hurt a little bit. I actually did physically exertive work at the office today so I’m just praying I’ve worn myself out really bad and that I’m not really sick. Either way, I need to get this Bleach review done. Without question, it’s easy to say that this particular volume of Bleach will be a turning point for the series (for better or worse) and many of the events herein will have long-lasting consequences down the road.

After their fights with Hollows that awoke their spiritual powers, Chad and Orihime learn from Uruhara that their contact with Ichigo allowed them to tap into their natural spirit powers. They don’t have much time to chat though because Ichigo and Uryu’s duel is drawing far more Hollows than Uryu had anticipated and things only get worse when a giant Hollow rips apart the fabric of space/time and emerges. This Godzilla sized Hollow is known as a Menos Grande, a type of Hollow so powerful that only elite shinigami have a chance of defeating it. Ichigo goes in head-first without a plan cause he’s a hot-blooded shonen hero archetype (think Goku but not quite as naive) and proceeds to get flicked away. Even Uryu’s spirit bow can’t dent it. However, Uryu learns that by touching Ichigo he can magnify the size of his bow greatly. Before they can use that plan to attack Menos Grande, it readies a massive beam weapon and for reasons I don’t really understand Ichigo charges the Hollow again taking the blast full in the face. This suddenly causes his power level (Spirit power or whatever the in-universe term is. I just hear Radditz yelling IT’S OVER 9000!!!) to increase drastically and Ichigo is able to not only withstand the attack but wound the Menos Grande enough for it to return to Hueco Mundo (whatever that is). Ichigo collapses because expelling that much spiritual energy is nearly destroying his body and Uryu (his rival) nearly sacrifices himself to help Ichigo release the energy in a safe manner. Days later, things have returned to normal in Karakura town when suddenly Rukia runs away only to be confronted by two Soul Reapers, Renji Abari and her brother Byakuya Kuchiki, who have been sent to capture her for the crime of transferring her powers to a human (and to also kill Ichigo).

So here were the things I really dug about this volume. Once again, we got an idea of the darker side of the Soul Society. We saw it through the death of Uryu’s grandfather, who wanted to finally bring peace between the Quincy and shinigami but was simply left to die when he was attacked by Hollows. We also meet the almost comically evil Renji Abari who seems to take way too much pleasure in hunting down one of his former comrades (and I’m desperately trying to bite my tongue about how he behaves in the last episode of the anime which I’m assuming occurs in the next volume). While Renji and Byakuya are the only two shinigami we’ve met in the manga besides Rukia, we also met another one earlier in the anime (during Memories in the Rain) that wasn’t much more sympathetic than Renji (though he eventually decided to spare Rukia). I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. This series strong suit lies in the way that it subverts your expectations of a shonen fantasy manga. When the series eventually becomes more conventional (and therefore more predictable), it’s going to lose some of that magic that makes me capable of enjoying something that is as clearly meant for young teenagers (at most) as this franchise.

I have one last thing to say before I go watch Game of Thrones (apparently last night’s episode was really messed up. Can’t wait!). This was the volume where we finally start to see the writing become plagued with Ichigo doing something stupid but getting away with it because he’s just so naturally powerful. I don’t like those kinds of shonen heroes. Edward Elric and L are great shonen protagonists because they use their brains more than their brawn. I just really don’t buy into those whole “gets by by pure force of will alone” plot devices and I know that Ichigo lives and breathes on them. Now that Uryu is sort of one of the good guys now (and we’ve learned more about his tragic backstory), I’m already beginning to find him to be a little more interesting than Ichigo which is definitely not the way that you want your protagonist to be thought of.

Final Score: B