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Manga Reviews

The Promised Neverland Volume 5 Review

“This is what we thought could never happen.”

The Promised Neverland features an overarching story with a terrible, previously revealed underlying secret. Best to start reading with volume 1.

Here we go. In several ways this volume is the payoff to everything that’s come thus far. The buildup has been excellent and the developments and twists feel earned and natural.

There’s been real, noticeable growth of a main character, with another slowly learning about limits and different points of view. The layering and way different story threads are interwoven is really masterfully done. Story progression continues to be surprising and clever while still arising logically.

This is another fantastic volume, and sets up significant new story threads going forward to boot. It’ll be interesting to see if it can keep up the level of quality and suspense with the shift in focus, but the signs are certainly good thus far.

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Manga Reviews

The Promised Neverland Volume 4 Review

“I’ll destroy… the plan mom has in mind.”

The Promised Neverland features an overarching story with a terrible, previously revealed underlying secret. Best to start reading with volume 1.

Mom’s not playing around anymore, and the big cliffhanger from last volume has major consequences as the core group of children are faced with decisions and threats they don’t agree on how to deal with.

There’s a lot in this volume that’s been built to since the beginning, with the start of payoffs to long running threads and a number of big twists. Incredible use of flashbacks gives new meaning to old scenes, and the all out battle of wits between the children and mom has real consequences. This volume is simply fantastic, and ends with another intriguing cliffhanger as the first major arc of the manga seems to be reaching its climax.

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Manga Reviews

The Promised Neverland Volume 3 Review

“Do you think what they told us is the truth?”

The Promised Neverland features an overarching story with a terrible, previously revealed underlying secret. Best to start reading with volume 1.

Emma and her compatriots continue slowly building their escape plan, hampered at every turn by their “mother” and Sister Krone, who each have their own goals and agendas. There’s a real sense of moving forward while maximizing the slowly escalating tension. There’s significant time spent with “secondary” characters, and Krone’s maneuvering in particular becomes a main focus. As I’ve mentioned previously I’m extremely impressed with the way the characters are all extremely intelligent without being infallible, and the constant efforts of them all to outthink each other is one of the manga’s best points.

It all adds even more layers to everything that’s happening and begins to show real consequences for the choices being made, including various levels of palpable threat. The gradual world building and major gambits and moves in this volume heighten the impact of the unfolding mysteries and lead to a huge cliffhanger. Strong third volume with a ton of important developments and even more intriguing plot lines set up for the future.

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Manga Reviews

The Promised Neverland Volume 2 Review

“And Emma… your weakness is being naive.”

The Promised Neverland features an overarching story with a terrible, previously revealed underlying secret. Best to start reading with volume 1.

This volume builds off the revelations of the first as the children start to formulate plans and decide how best to proceed. Themes of appearances vs reality and the ongoing impacts of choices each character needs to make are escalating and nicely interwoven. Krone provides a good third “side” and adds interesting new context and complications to everyone’s maneuvering. To complicate things further, Emma and her compatriots must deal with the possibility of a traitor in their midst in the wake of bringing others into the fold.

One of the things I like most about this manga is how smart everyone is without being infallible. And on the flip side, how they can be wrong or make small missteps without acting foolish. It’s a hard aspect to balance properly, and so far author Shirai is doing an excellent job of it.

Good followup volume overall continues to build a complex web of characters and agendas while keep a real sense of dread and tension pervasive.

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Manga Reviews

The Promised Neverland Volume 1 Review

“The true colors of reality…”

Eleven year old Emma lives a happy and idyllic life as one of the oldest orphans at Grace Field House under the supervision of a loving caretaker… paying no mind to the rigorous daily tests, identification numbers on everyone’s necks, or surrounding wall with a locked entrance gate they are forbidden to venture beyond.

I only had the barest inkling of what to expect from this going in, and certainly wasn’t quite prepared for what awaited me. The first chapter sets the stage in excellent fashion, both feeling like it spends enough time introducing the status quo and getting into the gruesome details of what the story is really about fast.

I won’t get into specific spoilers, but fair warning: this is a dark, tense read. Grace Field House becomes the scene of a cat and mouse game, wonderfully engaged in by smart, differing agents acting with a variety of goals and agendas. It already stands out among its genre (something awful lurking underneath a seemingly perfect life), as the layers and levels at play even throughout just this first volume are impressive and intriguing.

The art is intentionally exaggerated often, which works sometimes to increase the impact and eeriness of certain situations but feels extremely odd and jarring at others. Hopefully it’ll even out a bit in future volumes.

There are moments of info dumping, but given the nature of the story it’s somewhat unavoidable and done well enough. Several characters are trying to plan several steps ahead and outthink each other covertly, and the author does a great job of balancing this and the ways in which they interact with / run afoul of each other.

Strong start overall for this creepy, layered manga.

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Manga Reviews

Girl’s Last Tour Manga Review

” Even if it’s meaningless… sometimes, nice things happen.”

Tales of two girls and a small tank climbing what’s left of civilization, and there isn’t much…

I’ll be sharing thoughts on the entire series (volumes 1-6) as a whole here, but it will be kept as spoiler free as possible.

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Girls’ Last Tour is a dystopian slice of life story, following a gradual journey through the remains of a futuristic world gone to ruin. I found it atmospheric and engaging, being drawn in bit by bit as our protagonists make their way.

It could have been something very different, and while I enjoyed this for what it was I certainly understand if some readers wanted something different. This is rather light for a post-apocalyptic tale in many respects, and more about Chito and Yuuri’s wandering and the occasional philosophical question than their survival in a harsh landscape or other natural directions the story easily could have veered into.

There are a lot of questions left unanswered, particularly about the world before it collapsed and the particulars of the collapse itself. To be honest not much of anything is explained, and I’m not sure the sparse tantalizing clues presented add up to much of a whole. But while they would have been nice to have those details are in some sense beyond the point of the story, and I found the slowly unfolding themes, ruminations, and details that were present interesting enough.

Girl’s Last Tour admittedly had more potential lurking beneath it than what was realized, but for me it was a compelling, great little read overall regardless.

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Anime Art Comics Manga Video Games Wrestling

Beautiful Dreams 3: More Art of Juri the Dreamer

It’s been a year and change since my last spotlight on the work of my favorite artist, and I’d like to share and talk about more of her incredible work and some of the inspirations behind the pieces. See Beautiful Dreams and Beautiful Dreams 2 for more about Juri H. Chinchilla’s art, including past pieces I’ll be mentioning in this write up.

 

 

Juri’s Personal Sketch Cards (PSCs) have been a great opportunity to request particular subjects and design elements. One of the more unique requests I’ve made was a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, and I adored it so much that I’ve followed up with several more since. Juri’s done an AMAZING job depicting these previously unfamiliar to her subjects and these are in many ways the pride of my entire art collection. See Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 2 for more about the above works featuring WWE’s reigning Smackdown Women’s Champion Asuka, Sendai Girls’ phenomenal high flyer Dash Chisako, and the recently retired Happy Maker Aoi Kizuki.

 

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Misaki Ohata PSC by Juri H. Chinchilla.

 

Another favorite of mine also retired in 2018, and Juri’s strikingly posed Misaki Ohata with a wonderful background of venue lights is a great keepsake.

 

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Reika Saiki PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

Tokyo Joshi Pro’s Reika Saiki is known as the “Muscle Idol,” and all aspects of her strength and charisma as a wrestler, idol, and body builder are gloriously highlighted in Juri’s drawing.

 

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Mitsuru Konno PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

The last wrestler in this batch was also the first of all. Juri’s first rendition of Mitsuru Konno from Gatoh Move for me featured a great action pose capturing and combining Mitsuru’s strength, determination, grace, and beauty in a remarkable rendition. Equally wonderful is Juri’s quite different recent depiction, featuring Mitsuru in her newer wrestling outfit with a palpable sense of celebration and excitement captured.

With the exception of Dash doing her trademark frog splash, I didn’t specify poses and the layouts, details, and way Juri captured each subject are just wonderful. I couldn’t be happier with how these all turned out.

 

 

Juri’s work have are as diverse in creation method as they can be in subject matter. I’ve added a pair of wonderful paintings of hers to my collection, including a striking abstract and an atmospheric, haunting image of night in Rainy Gotham.

Another unique piece is Aquatica, which shows off Juri’s wonderful use of color in a gorgeous image of an original character.

 

 

As always Juri’s work for Perna Studios‘ high quality card sets is pitch perfect for the subject matter. I was lucky enough to get some Artist Proofs (APs)  from her for their most recent sets. For Witchcraft, I requested a female grim reaper from several artists, and I adore the delicate yet powerful feel Juri brought to her version. In the past I got a witch from Juri with some amazing ravens, so loved the idea of getting Celtic goddess Morrigan for her Classic Mythology III metal AP. Rounding out this group is a graceful moonlight scene featuring my favorite Greek goddess, Artemis, with just a touch of lurking menace as she hunts.

 

A very different Morrigan was part of one of the Personal Sketch Cards I got previously from Juri, an incredible depiction of the Darkstalkers character with her “sister” Lilith. Morrigan’s an old favorite and one of my most played fighting game characters ever, so I was thrilled to add this larger, equally amazingly done drawing of her to my collection.

 

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Continuing the video game theme are three new PSCs from some of my favorite game series. Makoto from Persona 5 joins my previous PSC of Elizabeth from the third game in that series, with a bold red background complimenting the deep blues of the other card. The wonderful balance of a sense of motion while still posing is a wonderful touch not only in the two Persona cards, but also accentuates Juri’s drawings of Fire Emblem’s Tharja, and Valkyria Chronicles 4’s Riley, as well as the Bombshells version of DC’s Raven and Clare from the manga/anime Claymore. Finally for this time around is a beautiful depiction of two of Juri’s original characters. The cards are all excellent and unique works showcasing Juri’s attention to detail and mastery of color in their own different ways

 

 

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page. I hope to continue to follow and collect her wonderous creations for a long time to come. 🙂

 

 

 

Categories
Manga Reviews

After Hours Volume 3 Review

“This is a scene that will only ever exist here… and we made it ourselves!”

Past some major concerns and milestones and seemingly comfortable, Emi and Kei’s focus shifts to preparing for their dream event.

 

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This is the final installment of After Hours, and it serves as a fitting endcap to the story of Emi and Kei’s romance all in all. The rave event was extremely well done, with things progressing well and retaining the feel of the previous volumes I adored so much.

However towards the end things felt more constructed, which is understandable but one of the wonders of this tale was how natural and real things felt. A recurring theme in manga I don’t care for is used and it starts to feel like the characters are acting in certain ways to serve the story, instead of the story arising from their personalities and actions. There were a couple of points where I felt the characters had easier outs than what they actually did/said, and the emotions and motivations behind those choices weren’t as well developed or explained as in the previous volumes.

That said, a third of this volume being a slight step down from the lofty heights of the rest of the series still leaves this as a great read overall. In my review of volume 2 I said this short manga was becoming something special, and that opinion stands in retrospect.

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Art Manga Wrestling

Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 2

In Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art I talked about the the wrestling centric work of Rob Schamberger. Here, in addition to featuring more from Rob, I’d also like to spotlight another artist who specializes in wrestling related creations as well as an artist readers of this blog will be well familiar with who has entered the realm of drawing professional wrestlers as the result of commission requests from me. 😉

 

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A mix of originals and prints of Rob Schamberger’s striking work.

 

WWE’s Asuka (formerly Kana) is a longtime favorite of mine, and was the subject of first wrestling related commission request I ever made (top left above). She has remained central to collection (and will come up again later), particularly in terms of Rob’s wonderful mixed media creations which generally start with a framework from a photo of the subject and grow from there via Rob’s creativity, expert techniques, and incredible use of color. I’ve also added an original painting (as well as signed print) of current NXT Women’s Champion and Stardom alumni Kairi Sane (formerly Kairi Hojo) that nicely capture the unique presence and charisma of the Pirate Princess.

 

More information about Rob’s art can be found on his website.

 

 

 

As I mentioned in Beautiful Dreams and Beautiful Dreams 2, I’ve been a fan of Juri H Chinchilla’s amazing art for several years and have been fortunate enough to develop a nice collection of her work.

One of the more unique requests I made among a plethora of video game and anime characters was a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, Mitsuru Konno from Gatoh Move. I thought Juri’s style would be perfect for this and it came out far beyond my high expectations. I specified only the subject here, and I adore the incredible way Juri captured and combined Mitsuru’s strength, determination, grace, and beauty in her remarkable hand drawn rendition. From there I got even more excited about having her draw more wrestlers. Asuka of course was on the list, and Juri wonderfully depicted her striking presence and style.

Aoi Kizuki is a personal favorite of mine who recently retired, so Juri’s fantastic rendition of her will be a treasured momento of a wrestler who will be greatly missed. The little details, like the patterns and textures on both Aoi’s and Asuka’s outfits and the highlighting use of metallics really make these incredible works come to life.

 

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Dash Chisako PSC by Juri H. Chinchilla.

 

Sendai Girl’s Dash Chisako is my favorite high flyer in all of wrestling, and I’m amazed and ecstatic with how perfectly Juri captured Dash mid flight performing her trademark frog splash. Having Dash performing one of her flying moves is the most specific I got with any of my wrestler requests for Juri, and she absolutely knocked it out of the park. The likeness, colors, sense of motion, etc are all pitch perfect.

 

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page.

 

 

 

Shining Wizard Designs is another artist who specializes in depictions of wrestlers, in this case wonderfully stark, hyper realistic black and white ink drawings he regularly shares on social media. I adore the striking assortment of pieces of his I’ve gotten, and have been lucky enough to get a few of them signed by the wrestlers. In addition to excellent versions of the previously mentioned Asuka and Dash, SWD drew the reigning Wave Pro Tag Team Champions Bossy to Mammy (Marvelous’ rising star Mio Momono and Wave veteran Yumi Ohka) as well as Ice Ribbon’s MMA trained rookies Team DATE (Hana, Nao, Nori, and Karen) for me.

Aoi isn’t the only wrestler I follow retiring this year, so in tribute I commissioned a combination piece featuring Aoi, Wave’s Mika Iida, and Tokyo Joshi Pro’s Maho Kurone, as well as a stand alone piece of Wave’s Misaki Ohata (who will retire in December) doing one of her gorgeous flying cross bodies. Of course later even more retirements were announced, which gives subjects for the future I suppose. 😉 I will miss all of these wrestlers greatly but wish them the best.

 

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Gatoh Move (Mitsuru Konno, Sayaka Obihiro, Emi Sakura, and Riho) by Shining Wizard Designs.

 

Finally, I had a piece done featuring some of the core members of Gatoh Move, a small, wonderful company run by the incredible Emi Sakura. In addition to Emi and Mitsuru (from Juri’s work above), Gatoh’s ace Riho and lynchpin Sayaka Obihiro are also pictured. I’m extremely happy with SWD’s work and greatly appreciate the opportunity to get these done.

 

More information about Shining Wizard Designs art can be found on Twitter.

 

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Thanks again to all three of these artists for their impressive creations.

Categories
Manga Reviews

Kindaichi Case Files Volume 5 Review

Each case in this manga is a stand alone mystery, and we are still fairly early in the series. So while reading in order will be better to understand the recurring characters, it’s not necessary to enjoy the individual stories.

Hajime Kindaichi is tricked into qualifying for a treasure hunt on an isolated island, thinking his family is in financial trouble. The reward soon becomes the furthest thing from his mind when the fortune seekers find themselves trapped on the island with a murderer.

 

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The Kindaichi Case Files manga continues to be somewhat formulaic in that each case is set up in classical mystery style. We get some set up, meet potential victims/suspects, something bad happens and away we go. The fun with this series is the way pieces of the story combine and the fact that Kindaichi’s adventures are always pretty distinct, interesting, and clever. Treasure Isle gives us a particularly weird cast of characters with diverse reactions to what’s happening. This mystery felt different than the others, which is always nice in a genre where things can get repetitive. I really liked the twists in this one and the way it all came together. As always while some plot details will remain obscured until spelled out there are clues throughout and the main mystery is solvable.

One of the best volumes yet. Highly recommended.