One-Punch Man by Yusuke Murata (One)

Since all the cool kids were doing it, I thought I’d finally get around to checking out One-Punch Man.

I read the first volume and I sort of feel like my review could be summed up by this (web) comic strip from Questionable Content: “I can’t tell if it’s a brilliant deconstruction of shounen anime tropes or just garbage.”

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Yeah, it’s pretty brilliant parody.  I mean, I guess.  I don’t fail to see the humor in a guy who “over trained” and can now defeat all his enemies with one punch. I kind of even adore that he got into hero-ing for “fun,” (although the author seems to change his mind about this backstory and there is, at least, some sense that Saitama has a well-honed sense of justice that go him into hero-ing even earlier.)

But, will the joke sustain me?

Eh, I’m not sure.

This is where I get into arguments with people who try to tell me that the best comic book superhero movie of all time was “The Incredibles.”  Yes, it’s a good movie.  But, to say that “The Incredibles,” which is intended as a send-up, a parody,  is the best superhero movie  is to actually discount what I LIKE about superheroes, and to only enjoy the ways in which people make fun of superhero tropes.

I feel very similarly about shounen.

I know it’s cheesy. I know it’s melodramatic.  I know that so many of the fights are unrealistic and drawn out and could just be over if someone would just Do The Thing (or if the villains weren’t quite so OP, too.)

But, okay, one of my favorite themes is good conquering evil–and part of that story is always how HARD good has to fight to win.

I dunno.  Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood for this.  Probably it’s better consumed as an anime, even though it was the web comic that went viral.

The robot is cute, though. I now at least understand the copious amounts of fan art of him. And I do kind of love this art style when it crops up:

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So, I don’t know. I guess I’m going to go against the grain here and say, “whatever.” Have fun with it, kids. I’ll just enjoy your fan art instead of canon, k?

Ao no Exorcist 87 -“Embryo” – Kazue Katou

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This title page is pretty fascinating.  It’s obviously Shiemi (Plant Girl)… who otherwise has a seemingly minor roll in the current chapter.  God, I love Katou-sensei!

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The chapter actually continues the conversation in the bath with Mephisto, Light, and Bon.   We find out that after the Blue Night, Lucifer took some of the research (the elixir, specifically) from the secret clone project and kept working on it.  Mephisto remarks tat he thinks it’s kind of amazing Lucifer managed to get the information all on his own and that he suspects a traitor.

Light has this to say…

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And does make a compelling case that it would make sense considering Mephisto used his time powers to keep a section of the secret project in existence in an alternate universe/timeline.  Mephisto is also very cagey (though vehemently denies knowing anything about) the existence of the missing Dr. Neuhaus.

Mephisto pressures Light to give up on that line of questioning. Light goes along with it, wanting to know who among the higher-ups knows about all this. We find out Angel is a survivor of the Blue Night, but remembers nothing.  The only Arc Knight involved was some guy with a monocle named Drac Dragulescu, who–if I’m supposed to remember anything about him, I don’t.  We find out he died under an alias, so maybe he’s a dead (pardon the pun) end.

When the bell rings at midnight, Mephisto says ‘times up’ and the boys are kicked out of the bath.

Light takes off and who do they run into but Angel, himself.  They have a humorous exchange in which Angel can’t believe that Light doesn’t stink for once and gives all the credit to his new apprentice, Bon. This scene is entirely played for laughs, but I was weirdly unsettled by it. I think it unnerved me because so far, everyone Light and Bon have met, completely ignore Bon, like he isn’t even there.

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Look at this. Dude even remember’s Bon’s name.

Creepy.

At the Paladin Headquarters Light goes to see Azazel, an entombed Grigori.  (Normally, I have all of this Biblical reference stuff, but I did not know that Grigori were a thing.  Here’s  what the Internet tells me about them: “The Grigori, (also known as The Watchers) The mysterious eighth order of angels, the gentle Grigori were created by God to be Earthly shepherds of the first humans.”)

Bon later calls Azazel one of the ba’al, but I assume he’s just using the Hebrew here, generally meaning ‘lord,’ and not Ba’al in specific.

There’s some discussion about where the ba’al reside. Apparently,  some live in Hell (aka Gehenna) but three “emperors” are here:

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Then we meet the watcher and get additional information that he’s a substitute nephillim (who takes on Azazel’s form in an emergency) because Azazel’s line died out.

Or…. did they?

Because when Light goes up to see what remains of Azazel (he refused a body and so returned to an elemental state,) Light calls Azazel “gramps”

Then we get a very dramatic scene of Shiemi (Plant Girl) waiting through the rain for dawn.

After that, we flash to Academy and everyone gathering at the steps talking about winter break. Seems everyone is skipping it to stay at school, Christmas is Rin and Yukio’s birthday and everyone shares theirs and discusses how they skipped it.  Shiemi rallies everyone to the idea of a joint birthday party… while dropping the bomb that she’s decided she isn’t going to be an exorcist after all.

Something is going on here and I’m deeply worried.  I think with the title and everything we learned here, Shiemi is going to be set up as one of the clones.  I do think she looks an awful lot like Lucifer (frankly, I think Angel does, too, but whatever.)  So…

I guess this is a wait and see game.

I continue to be impressed with Blue Exorcist.  How about you?  Thoughts?

Ao no Exorcist/Blue Exorcist #86

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The latest Ao no Exorcist #86 by Katou Kazue is out… kinda. I had to find a downloadable version because there’s something wonky with MangaPanda’s link. Mangastream doesn’t seem to have it yet, and my other usual places are also mysteriously corrupted.

Could it be…… SATAN??

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Before I get too far into my review, I have to say that Blue Exorcist currently gets my vote for some of the very best in shounen manga being written.  I think I have a new-found girl-crush on Katou-sensei.

Big time.

So, okay, when last we left our intrepid heroes–in this case Bon and Lightning, they had just discovered the cloning facility that existed in the pocket alternate universe in the basement of the Holy Cross Academy. Not only that, but the clones were specifically ones of the eight demon kings.

As Light says:

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Yep, pretty damn evil.

Mephisto, having been spying on them this whole time, ‘natch, does one of his weird-a$$ spells that lands our boys, naked (because why not?) in the bath, back in our time and space. There was some other action with the containers exploding and Light doing one of his “and et cetera” spells, but, honestly, I don’t think much of what happened in that scene was terribly important–other than the general suspicion that some of these clones are people we KNOW, for certain Amamon.

Back in the bath, the boys are treated to a history lesson… which I f*cking loved.

In it, we learn that demons are kind of just a concept. But, as humans developed, their edges began to be noticed, and eventually they were able to become incarnate by possession.  There was a war in heaven (as it were) about whether or not humans were useful, Lucifer being in the “nope” camp, and Mephisto being “yep.”

Which… let me take a moment to lay down a little cautionary tale. I’m not sure we should believe Mephisto here, this is literally a COMPLETE REVERSAL of what Lucifer’s name means. Lucifer is often understood to be translated as “bringer of the dawn” or “light bearer” (or “morning star,” but that’s a whole other thing,) and there are plenty of apocryphal ideas out there in which Lucifer is a knowledge bringer, an illuminator–that it’s THAT kind of ‘light’ he bears.  Of course, in his guise as the snake in the garden of Eden, Lucifer is the one who gave us “the knowledge of good and evil.”

I think it’s also telling here, that sensei chose to draw this “knowledge” as a flame (could it look more like a falling angel, too? And who was the first of the fallen? “How you have fallen from heaven, oh, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” [Isaiah 14:12] ):

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Mephistopheles, meanwhile, is translated as “plasterer of LIES.”

Just sayin’

So… back to the story.

I guess the war gets kind of resolved, but a problem remains: demons burn through bodies like fire through paper.  The stronger you are, the faster you degenerate.  And, it’s horrible and painful and Lucifer is sick of it. He’s in so much pain that he thinks it’s a grand idea to just let go–become an idea again. Only problem is that expelling that much energy at once is an extinction-level event. For ALL of us.

The other demon kings are not so keen.

Mephisto, in particular, uses his forked, silver tongue to convince his brother that cloning is a better deal.  So, yeah, here’s the confirmation Light was looking for: all this “pretty damn evil” stuff was done under the aegis of Holy Cross Academy.

Then we lead up to my girl-crush moment….

We find out that Katou-sensei ACTUALLY UNDERSTANDS CLONING BETTER THAN MOST SCIENCE FICTION AUTHORS.

I’m, OFFICIALLY, in love.

She points out through Mephisto’s narration that cloning doesn’t f*cking make perfect copies. Turns out, that’s not how it works. So all this effort into cloning isn’t enough. The bodies have to be enhanced and altered through horrific experiments.  Finally, a few start to take, specifically Amamon’s.  But, Lucifer is still a big problem.

One day… (and I bet you can guess just about how long ago)… the perfect vessel was born.

Unfortunately, another soul gets there first.

Mephisto describes it as the essence of Gehenna… which kids, you all understand, is the Jewish analog to Hell.  It’s Light who puts it together, I think, and realizes… could it be…. SATAN?

Yes.

Yes, it *is* Satan.  Satan stole Lucifer’s body-double.

And, thus, began the road that led to the Blue Night.

Bon has some kind of epiphany here at the end of the chapter that I have to admit I don’t quite understand. It may be that he’s finally realizing that the poor Okumura brothers have been given way too much credit for causing the massive clusterf*ck that is the Blue Night… or I missed something critical about their involvement that Bon pieced together but didn’t quite spell out for us.

If you think you have it figured out, please tell me.

My other moment of deep appreciation for Blue Exorcist actually falls to the translators. I don’t know if the scan I read came direct from Viz Media or if it was a fan scanlation, but whoever translated  the kanji for “half-breed” to “nephilim” is a f*cking genius and I love you and your apocryphal Biblical scholarship! I think, technically, the singular is ‘naphil’ but no one but me and three other people would ever recognize that, so good on YOU, translator-person, for realizing that 9 out of 10 people have likely heard the word ‘nephilim’ and know that it refers to the offspring of demons/fallen angels. (Elohim, one of the names of God in Hebrew, is actually plural. Think on that for two seconds.)

But, okay, enough of my Biblical geekery.

What’d you all think?

Shirasunamura by Imai Kami

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“Ringu” rip-off anyone?

Actually, the premise of Shirasunamura isn’t necessarily a bad one.  The story follows antisocial Oogami, who is a full-time exorcist/”god undertaker” and part-time detective.  His only friend is his ghost-sword, Kazari.

It could have been passably interesting, especially since I was kind of amused by how Oogami really, really would rather be a detective but he keeps getting pulled away from his passion to fight vengeful spirits.

Unfortunately, the execution is some kind of hot mess.

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I found Shirasunamura by pressing the ‘surprise me’ button on MangaPanda again.

According to Baka-Updates, there are 10 volumes of this manga in Japan.  Six chapters have been scanted.  So, this is another one that cuts off abruptly… which in this case is probably just as well.

The whole thing felt like a rip-off of things we’ve seen before.  There’s all that stuff that reminded me of “The Ring.” (which is clearly intentional since there’s an image of everyone watching that movie at the start.) So maybe I could forgive that, especially since there’s a wonderfully rendered spooky truck driver scene near the end of chapter one,  but the whole thing reads like someone thought that what Bleach needed was more panty shots and less substance.  Because like every shounen in the history of shounen supernatural adventures our hero has a sentient sword (who appears as a middle/high school girl, complete with short-skirted uniform, which is handy for those up the skirt eye-view panels).  Plus, any time there’s some battle, he calls out ridiculous sounding super-powers and spits up buckets of blood.

So, there’s that.  Add to that WILDLY inconsistent art.  Our hero looks like an 80s reject with a terminal case of yaoi hands.

On the same page we can go from that overly cartoony, mis-proportioned miss-mash to almost photographically rendered art:

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Whoa! Artistic whiplash!

I read all six chapters, though, because…  because… actually, I don’t know why I kept reading.  Maybe I was hopeful there would be a quick resolution?

I was kind of intrigued when we find out Oogami is actually ranked 88th, and is considered extremely expendable by the Undertaker’s Headquarters. But, that was obviously going to be part of his main character arc: Must. Get. STRONGER!

Frankly, there weren’t enough of those moments to hook me.  It’s kind of an amusing train wreck, though. If you’re interested in checking it out, you can find it here: http://www.mangapanda.com/shirasunamura

I will probably return to yaoi after this…

Ao no Exorcist/Blue Exorcist #83

The newest chapter is out! Go get it: http://www.mangapanda.com/ao-no-exorcist/83.

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This chapter begins exactly where the previous one left off: with the arrival of Amaimon. He struts up to Rin, shoving Shiemi (Plant Girl) aside.

We get a flashback from Shiemi’s p.o.v. that helps remind readers like me, who have forgotten who even Amaimon is and why he’s calling Shiemi his ‘bride’ (chapter 13).  He continues to act like he has control over her, but she’s having none of it.  In fact, her confrontation with him is the impetus for her to ‘come out,’ as it were.  She finally confesses that she’s determined to become an exorcist.

Amaimon continues to be a a$$hole-bully, by saying “Then Die” (which is sort of interesting since one assumes, wearing the school’s uniform would mean he’s also an exorcist-in-training?)  But, Shiemi’s heart-felt declaration of intent causes Rin to be able to shake himself from his rejection daze and stop Amaimon’s blow.

In typical bully fashion when his blows do no damage to Rin, he basically says, ‘well, I’d love to murder you now, but I promised my big brother I’d be a good student, so I guess it will have to wait.’

Then we have a lovely moment where the two would-be-paramours have a lovely exchange where Rin, the ever giving, decent one, shouts out to Shiemi, “Hey, we’re still friends, okay?” And Shiemi accepts with a blush and a “Yes, let’s do our best!”

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What I love about this scene is that Rin’s friends are still standing thereby him, ready to take him out for a cheering-up meal, and Shiemi gets to be her own woman, too.  This is the kind of romantic subplot in a shounen manga that I can really appreciate.

Just as everyone starts heading off to class, Suguro/Bon gets a text from his mentor, Light. The two of them have been doing some extra-curiculuar investigation into “The Blue Night”  They end up at the place that Rin and Yukio were raised, the Southern Cross Boy’s Monastery. When one of their targets, Mr. Misumi, doesn’t want to talk about why he transferred to the monastery things get ugly. Light tempts to torture a confession out of Mr. Misumi, until Bon interferes.  Light acts like Bon’s interference was all part of the plan, but the whole scene made me uneasy.

Apparently, however, it had a similar effect on Mr. Misumi who decides to confess.  He starts to tell our heroes something about how he’d been in something called “Section 13” which has Light looking freaked out… and then this happens:

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Death literally shows up. There’s an awesome image of Death (Kin of Time!) breaking a complex looking hour glass type thing that then causes Mr. Misumi to fall over dead on the spot.

Light notices something on Mr. Misumi’s neck that he calls, “A contract of Morinath.” Turns out Light has no clue about Section 13, but he figures this contract thing is a connection to an elixir for immortality and thus is a connection to the Illuminati.

Bon gives us this face:

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Crap. That puts me at odds with Pink-Haired Shima!

Also note the blue flame like flash in Light’s eye.

So…. things are getting complicated and divisive and I’m deeply worried about my precious cinnamon bun, Bon.  He’s clearly willing to stop anything that goes over his moral line, but I worry that he’s going to already be way too deep in by the time everything comes to whatever head it’s building to and he’s going to end up in a very bad place.

Meanwhile, I have no idea what Mephisto Pheles is thinking letting Amaimon out to cause trouble at the True Cross Academy.  But, I kind of literally trust none of the Satan spawn except for Rin and Yukio (and I worry about them, half the time too!)

Ao no Exorcist/Blue Exorcist continues to impress me. Katō-sensei may be one of my favorite mangaka, currently.  I thought she deftly handled the interpersonal stuff, and is masterfully keeping me in suspense/on the edge about the storyline/plot.  Also, some of her art is downright creepy.  The image of Death breaking the hourglass with their scythe is the stuff of nightmares–and very… mystical.  I love when you get a sense that there are even some things that are freaky to practiced exorcists like Light.

Anyway, I’m still deeply hooked.

Your thoughts?

Shingeki no Kyojin #86 “The Day”

Finally, the secret of Eren’s basement is being revealed.

So, if you’ve been following Attack on Titan/Shingeki no Kyojin up to this point, you’re going to want to read this chapter for sure: http://mangastream.com/r/attack_on_titan/086/3727/1

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When I first saw this opening set of panels I thought: what, wait…. seriously?

The kids’ mother admonishes them further not to ever go outside the walls.  Given that this was Attack on Titan/Shingeki no Kyojin, I was thinking, okay, maybe we’ll see the wall of Maria.  But, no the wall looked like this:

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The dirigibles, the people on the streets of the town calling the kids “filthy-blooded brats,” the officers at the air ship landing site who ask for “papers’ and then mete out cruel punishment/murder… yeah, if I wasn’t SUPPOSED to think Jews in World War II, Isayama-sensei really kind of screwed up.

But it turns out the Grisha and Fay are not Jews, they’re something called an “Elden.”

Of course the kids go over the wall and of course they’re found and punished.  It seems, at first like maybe Grisha has taken the brunt of it, but no.  Just to underscore how evil these guys are, we discover Fay was never returned home, but brutally killed.

When Fay is found dead by the riverside and the police come to Grisha’s house we get the whole backstory from Grisha’s dad in the form of “re-education.” Turns out, Eldens are Shifters or are in some other way related to the first Titan, Ymir.  (Presumably, not the Ymir we know, as in the “Dancing Titan,” but some previous Ymir.)

There’s some very mystical stuff about how the Titans came to be. Apparently, the first Titan “made a deal with the devil,” like, literally.

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What’s with the apple, lady? Why always with the apples??

Apparently, the Elden used the power of the Titan to take over the continent and generally wreck havoc–genocide, land grabs, the usual power-hungry greed stuff.

There was some way in which Ymir split her soul into nine parts after she died, and then things get a bit murkier.  There’s some kind of civil war that happens. The motivations, beyond greed, aren’t clear, but somehow, someone manages to “gain control” of seven out of the nine Titans.  King Fritz (same surname as Ymir) escapes to the island of Paradis and builds “three layers of walls around them for protection.”

With that one line we now know both where we are (on the island) and how it is that the Titans got inside the walls in the first place.  This also explains Connie’s mom and the overabundance of Titans in the “now;” everyone there is an Elden/descendant of a Shifter.

But Grisha’s family was part of group of Eldens that got left behind on the Marleyan mainland.  They’re unprotected by their king and so have to live in fear, inside a ghetto, etc.

The story progresses and our hero grows up, becomes a doctor like his father, and then meets a guy in the resistance movement.  This part of the story is all pretty sympathetic because who in their right minds would root for the Nazis Marlyans? Especially after Grisha finds “ancient” documents (provided by their insider informant named ‘Owl’) that appear to imply that the Eldens weren’t entirely motivated by greed, but may also have helped bring technology to all the people, Marlyans and Eldens alike. Of course, Grisha can’t actually read Hebrew the ancient texts, but he figures the pictures make it obvious.

The mysterious ‘Owl,’ then sends them a magic princess, in the form of a woman named Dina Fritz–yep, as in King Fritz.  Instantly Eren, er… Grisha falls in love with her and they  have a plot coupon, er… a kid.

More years pass and we find out that King Fritz is not just a coward, but apparently a narc, because somehow the Marlyians figure out that the Eldens are up to something and now are demanding tribute in the form of child soldiers from each of the ghettos.  Grisha apparently thinks this is a perfect time to cash in his plot coupon, only he comes up a dollar short when the little bumpkin has a bad case of Stockholm syndrome and turns in his own parents.

Dun-dun-DAH cliffhanger!

What do I think about this?  I’m not sure. I mean, I’m glad we’re getting some answers, but so far they’re uninteresting. I rather adore that the first Titan appears to be a random woman (Norse?), but the critical thing that’s missing for me is motivation.  I get the apple imagery.  This is the Titan’s “Eve.” But, even the mythical Eve was motivated by something. She wanted the fruit of knowledge which God had forbidden humans to eat.  It was called the fruit of knowledge because it was clearly sentience, the thing that separated us from our fellow animals, the revelation that we were “naked,” causing Eve to invent clothing, which is the same as tool-making, in my personal opinion. No other animal wears clothes.

So, okay, my personal take on the Biblical Eve aside, there’s not even some obscure line like “the fruit of knowledge” to give us any reason why Ymir wanted ‘The Power of the Titan.’ Her descendants use it for boring reasons–to kill people and take their stuff–but why did she go to the trouble to seek out ‘the Devil’?

And the imagery is flipped. She’s giving the Devil an apple, the fruit of knowledge and in exchange becomes naked… and, more bestial (?)  I mean, yeah, that works, but I’m still left with the question of why? How did Ymir come in possession of the “apple” that she could give it away, and, even if it’s all just a giant metaphor, it still seems to be a big thing (pardon the pun) to have given away for the ability to become some hybrid cross between The Hulk and Giant Man.

There are armed soldiers around her when she’s first depicted in her Titan form, but it’s not clear what they do, only that after she dies and splits her power, things go to the sh*tter.

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They have spears… and what? Are they Romans?

I don’t know.  I’m glad to be getting some of this information to puzzle out, but the story, itself, is continuing to disappoint me.  I don’t feel any closer to understanding the WHY of any of this.

Maybe Isayama-sensei isn’t going to give it to me, either.  I mean, I suspect this is all were going to get in terms of a history lesson of the origin of Titans and that’s hugely disappointing because it kind of literally tells us nothing: a woman got the power, people used it badly, the end.

Okay, I guess there are a lot of things in the world that are just this stupid.  “Some guys over there wanted the stuff people had in another place and so atrocities were committed and people are still angry about it,” pretty much sums up a lot of the conflicts in the real world.  But, I kind of feel like the point of fiction is to make sense of it all.  To plumb the depths of WHY people do what they do.

And we’re still getting none of that.  Nothing I find terribly interesting, at any rate.  Weirdly, it wouldn’t have taken much. If Isayama-sensei had added just even a hint of a personal story to Ymir, even something cliche, like, “In revenge for a son lost at war….” or something, I would been less annoyed by this whole backstory, I think.  Maybe we’re just supposed to assume something interesting motivated her.  Maybe Isayama-sensei left it blank intentionally to avoid the cliche, but in doing so, it has left me hollow.  Why should I care for the Eldens other than the extremely obvious and broadly painted connection to the horrific discrimination against the Jews?

That’s probably the other part of this. It’s not that I’m some kind of freak and I wouldn’t sympathize with the holocaust, it’s that I sympathize AUTOMATICALLY.  It’s an easy ‘A’ when you play the Nazi card.  You make someone look or act like Nazis in an obvious way–oh, yeah, I get it, I’m for whatever they’re against, no matter what. Nazis are never good guys.  You put someone in a Nazi uniform and you push them off a cliff in a movie and I cheer. I never have to know anything more about that character, ever, because killing Nazis is always something to celebrate, full stop.

But that’s super lazy in terms of writing, unless you’re writing about actual Nazis.  It’s like reaching for the lowest hanging fruit.  No effort has to be made to show motivations when there are Nazis on screen (just push ’em off the cliff!)  Isayama-sensei took a giant brush of black and painted everything black or white and destroyed any potential shades of gray as soon as he went there in terms of imagery and language.

So, having Ymir’s original motivation might have helped. If I knew what she wanted, what STARTED all this, what forced the Marleyians into the role of complete evil, it might have added a little depth to this.

But so far, nope.

We’ll see what the next chapter gives us next month.

Your thoughts?

Blue Exorcist / Ao no Exorcist #82

Blue Exorcist is out!  Blue Exorcist is out!  Go go it, it’s SUPER ADORABLE. http://www.mangareader.net/ao-no-exorcist/82

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I’m going to just say it now.  Kazue Katō is currently the only reason not to despise Weekly Shounen Jump, since her manga, Ao no Exorcist is published in JUMP+. She is also currently one of my all time favorite mangaka, hands down.

Look, boys, chapter 82 is how you do this whole ‘shipping’ thing with a light hand.

You guys KNOW how angry I get when people spray ‘no homo’ on a thing.  This was so not that, even though we see Rin and Shiemi (plant girl) awkwardly ask each other out.

So, why am I not mad?  I literally think it’s the awkwardness and real-life-moment-ness of this whole chapter that saves it from feeling like an author’s attempt to shout: OKAY SO I GAVE YOU SICKOS THAT BATH SCENE WITH THE BROTHERS AT THE INN BUT OMG THESE CHARACTERS ARE STRAIGHT–SUPER, SUPER-DUPER STRAIGHT-SO STAY AWAY! HANDS OFF!

I mean, look at this:

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This is so… adorable. I loved how the girls are listening in from around the corner and are like ‘crap, now we’re stuck in the bathroom!’ and ‘when did this even happen?’ (Chapter 73, I believe.)  I also love that, this whole ten chapters, Rin’s love confession has been hanging there, mostly forgotten by the readers, only to resurface like this, very naturally and very… high school.

This whole chapter is charmingly reminiscent of being a teenager.  I love, LOVED that Izumo (fox girl) instantly invites herself over for a sleepover so she can get the scoop AND, more importantly, bring over a stack of shoujo manga so that Shiemi can “learn about love.”

Can I just say? This is almost literally how I was taught about love.  When I asked my mother for romance advice, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Read some romance novels.”

So, maybe this seems ridiculous, but people do think this way!  (And, you know, I turned out a lesbian, so…)

But, the scene, while cute, also does a lot of plot work.  We are reminded that Shiemi’s grandmother doesn’t want her to be an exorcist because it’s dangerous–and we get moment after moment that re-illustrates how lonely and sheltered Shiemi was before going to the True Cross Order.  Then, we get this funky dream sequence, where we first see Shiemi coming up out of the ground, like, maybe, her origins aren’t entirely human, but, instead very Elemental:

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Of course, this is also a lovely sexual metaphor… his TAIL is even visible….

And, then… this whole thing makes Sheimi realize something important about herself.  Even though she desperately wants to catch up, to be like everyone else, she’s not ready for romance. She’s not ready to date.

Then we get this amazing/awkward moment… the anti-shoujo un-confession:

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(The boys watching from the steps made me super-happy, too. I also really loved that as this whole embarrassment is going down gray-haired Miwa’s like, “dang, better make the dinner reservation now–dude is gonna need cheering up.” They’re like so, so gay, while being  the best wingmen, ever!)

The chapter ends on a dramatic (and theme appropriate!) cliffhanger– with the return of this guy (who I had to look up) who says that Shiemi is his BRIDE:

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In case, like me, you’ve forgotten, this guy is Amaimon, a demon king, known as the King of the Earth. I think that last bit is significant and I bet that we’re going to learn in the next up-coming chapters that Sheimi is … well, not as human as she’s seemed so far.  She really spent a lot of time in this chapter trying to be a “proper human,” and between that and the dream, I feel like we’re being set up quite nicely for a big reveal about her nature.

All I can say?

I’m all in. Ao no Exorcist pretty much has all of what remains of my shattered, shounen heart.