Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dragon Ball Vol. 9: Test of the All-Seeing Crone by Toriyama Akira

The Red Ribbon Army has been soundly defeated and to the shock of no one that knows that this series is longer than eight volumes. However, Goku's friends appear to not know that he's okay so they journey to Red Ribbon Army HQ with hopes of giving aid but the only thing they find is a quiet battleground where our favorite spikey-haired kid roams around free.

Of course, the narrative must go on as Master Toriyama still had to make his rent payment, but what story was there to tell next?

Surely, we remember that Upa's grandfather had been killed by the brutal Taopaipai and that Goku vowed to revive him. So that's where we start.

Only we all know it won't be so easy as the final dragon ball appears to have vanished completely off of the map. Not even Bulma's handy dandy dragon radar can find it.

It's at this time that Muten Roshi chooses to mention he has a sister that can divine the future and/or locate lost objects for them. The old Crone can even travel between this world and the afterlife.

Although Toriyama's storytelling style is such a joy it's sometimes frustrating for those of us that pay attention to detail. Think about all the big villains in future installments. If Uranai Baba could see the future then surely she'd know about things like the Saiyans and Cell and Majin Buu and stuff like that.

But since Toriyama didn't even know about that stuff when he wrote these chapters then neither did Uranai.

Uranai can find the dragon ball on her crystal ball, but she won't do it for free. Her condition is that they must fight in a tournament of her own and if they win then she will find the dragon ball. 

Kururin joined the L club immediately when he lost to a vampire guy that even Puar could defeat. Not to be outdone, Yamcha gets soundly defeated by a mummy-looking dude. 

So our hopes to find the last dragon ball fall to the hands of Son Goku as he must face the remaining fighters. 

Which, I mean, we all know how it turns out. Son Goku easily beats them all with the exception of the last mystery fighter. The last fighter is the only true challenge and almost beats Son Goku, but a bit of luck aids in Goku's last minute victory. 

And we get a nice sweet moment when Goku discovers that the mystery fighter is actually hiss deceased grandfather, Son Gohan.

With the tournament finished Uranai shows everyone the location of the dragon ball. 

It's moving in a car and headed toward their location. The vile Emperor Pilaf is at it again!

Anyway, that is this volume in a nutshell. I enjoyed this much more than the Red Ribbon stuff. Nice to get back to some fairly competitive fighting. 

Attack On Titan Vol. 19 by Isayama Hajime

So I've been rewatching The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya on the new blu-ray set and it looks stunning. Definitely worth the $100+ price tag since it includes both seasons and three spin-offs. I'm also watching it in "chronological" order this time and the experience is definitely interesting. I've also watched the Japanese version of Yu-Gi-Oh! (only the first episode so far) for the first time ever and that was interesting. 

But this is just about all of the anime I've got going on since I finished the Attack On Titan anime for the second time. Of course, I'm still playing Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle (both the JP and the Global versions for the moment) while I am impatiently waiting for Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 for the PS4 to be released October 25th. Game-wise, that is pretty much it. I've basically put other games like Attack On Titan, Digimon Cyber Sleuth, and Tales of Zestiria on hold for a bit. With so much of my energies going to two different versions of Dokkan Battle I am not sure I can play other games right now.

I am not really sure what blog entries I will be able to muster up in the coming days and months, but I have been trying to come up with a few ideas. I think you'll enjoy 'em.

In the meantime I suppose I should get on with this entry and then cry in a corner somewhere because I'm caught up with the series until volume 20 hits the market.

This volume brings us the very much long awaited rematch between the Survey Corps and the Armored Titan.

Of the titan villains I've long since thought that Reiner Braun was the most interesting. Even though Bertolt's Colossus Titan is the "face" of the series that we see on most merchandise it is Braun's Armored Titan that really compels much of the story forward. He has always seemed like the stronger of the two and the leader... at least until the Beast Titan showed up and schooled them.

By now we know that the Beast Titan is the true leader of the bunch.... as far as Reiner, Bertolt, and Annie are concerned. There could be someone above him for all we know, but from what we actually know the Beast is the true boss. Yet the Armored Titan represents everything about this series we've come to know. He's the enemy of humanity and all that good stuff. Basically he is the early Vegeta of this series.

So the fight between him and Eren is especially satisfying this time around. Of course, it might not have ended so well for the Survey Corps this time if not for the new (and incredibly convenient but bulky) weapons the Corps created.

But the deviant team of titans won't just let one of their own fall. The Beast Titan (quite literally) launches Bertolt into the scene of the battle to come to Reiner's aid when it looks like the Corps and Eren have managed to bring him down for the count.

Of course, before Bertolt enters the battle we get a flashback to Marco's death and the part that Reiner, Bertolt, and Annie had in it. I'm not sure that is was especially necessary at this point in the story, but it doesn't take away from the tension much.

Then the volume ends on a predictable cliffhanger. Bertolt Hoover has transformed into the Colossus Titan and seems ready to do battle and it looks like this might be just a bit more than Eren and the Survey Corps can handle.

Very exciting stuff. I'm curious to see if the Colossus Titan can actually fight and what will happen if he does.

Monday, September 19, 2016

My Favorite Anime-Related Possessions

It's no secret I love anime. When you run a blog and spend more money than seems wise on things like box sets and figures and phone apps about anime then it is pretty much a given that anime is a big part of life.

I own anime-related items. Lots of them. But they are not created equal. At least not to me. All of them have meaning, but I think everyone has certain things in their possession that just have either sentimental value or what have you that make them mean "more" and I am the same way. 

So I wanted to make a list of my favorite anime-related items. I'm talking about shirts and figures and all that good stuff. To me, blu-ray sets and DVD sets don't really have a big place in this list because I think most of them are pretty interchangeable with others. However, some will appear on this list.

And yes, I will try to include recent pics whenever possible. 

10) Digivolving Blackwargreymon - I loved Digimon when I was younger and my absolute favorite character on that show was Blackwargreymon. This guy actually digivolves from Blackagumon. So as a kid that loved both Transformers and Digimon I thought this figure was the absolute shit. The best of both worlds. I still have it proudly displayed on my anime shelf. I know there are better figures out there of this character. Some of them I can't even afford. But this is literally the only figure I've ever owned of this guy. I know he is dusty in the photo and I hate that, but I just haven't had time to dust lately.

9) IF Labs Fifth Form Cooler - Dragon Ball Z is my go-to anime. It probably always will be. I still have all of my figures from back in the day. Of course, over the time my tastes have refined a bit and S.H. Figuarts has really spoiled me, but there are a few figures I have that still stand the test of time. This awesome Cooler is one of them. Cooler is one of my favorite DBZ movie villains and his fifth form is one of the coolest transformations around. And this old IF Labs figure did him all kinds of justice. Just look at that detail.

8) Neon Genesis Evangelion Platinum Collection Box Set - This was one of the first anime series I purchased with my own paycheck. I also bought it at a time before it got way too expensive to justify buying. It is an awesome (but not for everyone) series and the collection is still fantastic. 

7) Time Wizard - I never played Yu-Gi-Oh! as a card game, but I did collect the cards. I have a ton of them. I loved the anime and I always grew excited when I got a card that was featured prominently on the anime. The Time Wizard may not be the most well known cards from the show, but I remember the awesome moment when Joey used it to create the Thousand Dragon. Of course, the real card is different than what was shown in the anime. It's actually quite a powerful (but risky) card. I love all of my Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, but I literally cannot take a picture of every single one. I have too many. So I will let the Time Wizard stand in for all of them. 

6) S.H. Figuarts Vegetto - The DBZ series may have taken a turn for the worse with the Majin Buu saga, but there were a few bright spots that still make it a worthy entry: Super Saiyan 3 Goku and Gotenks, Mystic Gohan, Buuhan, Majin Vegeta... and Vegetto. Honestly, I got this figure on a lark. He is not my favorite character, but Vegetto is still pretty badass and he was on sale at the time I purchased him from Crunchyroll. As you can see he is still in his case. When I have a better setup I will probably open him up. 

5) Gurren Lagann Limited Edition - Remember when I said I was glad I bought Evangelion before it got too expensive? Well, this series was an exception where I knew it was expensive as hell, but I bought it anyway. I think I spent $160 on it. Yeah, but it is an awesome series and the collection is pretty freaking sweet. 

4) Super Saiyan 2 Gohan Statue - I've had this figure so long I can't even remember when or where I got it. It is older than my Cooler, I think. The detail isn't quite on par with my Cooler, but it is still pretty good. I've had it displayed on my dresser ever since I got it. So we're talking about fifteen years of display. 

3) Survey Corps Jacket (Attack On Titan) - This is a old picture as the date with undoubtedly give away, but the jacket is still in fine form. This jacket is so comfortable and wearing it always gives me strength. I know that sounds weird, but that is just how it is. I also got this jacket before the English dub had even started airing. 

2) Tiffany Vollmer's Autographed Bulma Drawing - I've told this story on my blog before and shown the picture, but this still remains one of my favorite treasures. 

1) My manga - For the longest time I was not a fan of manga. I never read any and I never bought any. But then a switch clicked somewhere in my head. I've been slowly building my manga collection up from scratch. I am still not where I want to be with my collection, but I do have all of the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z manga.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Attack On Titan Vol. 18 by Isayama Hajime

It's crazy to think that the manga I am about to be caught up with is the manga I have been putting off for over a year. I knocked 16 and 17 out of the park with gusto and 18 went down quick, too. Now I am staring at the cover of volume 19 while checking the release date of the 20th volume it is looking like December of 2016.

So once I read volume 19 that will be all she wrote for a bit and I am mildly depressed right now. I am still going to keep a flame lit in my heart for this series after I finish volume 19, but I will need to read other manga again until that wonderful day in December. But ah, such is the life of the hardcore otaku.

Volume 18 begins with a trip to Instructor Keith Shadis, the hardass that taught the new recruits how to be real soldiers. In manga time it has only been a few months since Eren was trained by him, but in real life it has actually been a few years. So I wouldn't blame anyone if they can't remember who Keith Shadis is, either. I only did because I've been playing the video game and watching the series again. 

Our first chapter is actually a really good one because it details Keith's friendship with Grisha Yeager. In the last volume I was thinking about how I wanted more insight into Grisha's life and this chapter provided just a bit more of that. So I really liked it. We also learn more about Instructor Keith and that is neat. 

Our second chapter is a nice reflective moment where Commander Erwin Smith seems like the true standout. I've always liked Erwin, but he really does not get much character development in the series. Normally, he is just the face and tactician of the Survey Corps. However, there is a human being in there somewhere and what few glimpses we can get at him are really good moments. I just hope Erwin does not die. I'm not saying he will because I do not know, but I do know death flags when I see them. 

The final half of the volume is about the Survey Corps retaking of Wall Maria. Eren Yeager succeeds in using his hardened titan form to cover the hole in Wall Maria, but something is wrong. Armin and Erwin know that the enemy has to be nearby watching everything. They couldn't just let the Survey Corps come in and fix the wall and win. 

And they are right. Because just when it seems like it is time to pass the champagne the Armored and Beast Titans show up to spoil the party. 

It looks like we'll finally get that fight between the Armored Titan and Eren Yeager in volume 19.

Cliff. Hanger. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Attack On Titan Vol. 17 by Isayama Hajime

Bet you didn't expect to see me this soon, huh? That's because I am back, baby. I know my blog has become a desolate wasteland where no one travels anymore, but I suppose I missed it more than anything so I decided to bury it in the pet sematary and wait for some magic to happen. There might be no one else here but me, but I shall enjoy myself. 

Well, let's get to this volume.

The 17th volume of Attack On Titan continues to give us some much-needed story and character development. And some titan action, too. 

The strangely formed "King Titan" that Rod Reiss transformed into wasn't exactly what I expected it to be, but it made up for in sheer size what it lacked in appearance. The fight between Eren and the King Titan was less of a fight and more of a... tactical battle. Since the King Titan was so ridiculously sluggish but incredibly huge it could not really fight like the Female Titan could. 

So Eren had to work with the Survey Corps to sneak attack the huge thing while the queen-to-be Historia Reiss actually was the one that managed to get the killing blow. 

The entire confrontation took up the first half of this volume while the second half tells two very different stories. 

The third chapter sends us into the past of Kenny Ackerman and it shows us how he met Levi and taught Levi. For those of us that are Levi fans that chapter is certainly a great present. Although we get to see how Kenny fell in with the Reiss family as well. 

I will say that all of this talk about bloodlines and who can or can't have their memories changed by the Reiss family over the last two volumes has not only gotten more and more strange, but also more tedious. I mean, it is neat to know, but at this point I want the Survey Corps to go ahead and get their inevitable battles with the Armored and Colossus Titans started. Or at least tell us more about Grisha and how he discovered everything.

The fourth and final chapter basically shows us the aftermath of the whole Reiss family spectacle and some of the innovations made since defeating the King Titan. It is a nice and calm chapter that hopefully foreshadows and oncoming storm. 

The best part of this whole volume is the very end where we finally get to see the man who is the Beast Titan. And boy, did it look like he put a hurting on the Armored Titan.

OMG.... (Do people still say that anymore?)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Attack On Titan Vol. 16 by Isayama Hajime

It has been such a long time since I dished out the goods on some manga, hasn't it? Almost a freaking year! That isn't to say I haven't read anymore in that time because I have been reading the Prison School series and enjoying the hell out of it.

But until now I have kept my hands off any Attack On Titan manga until I could get at least a few issues I could read in quick succession. Unfortunately, my long wait has resulted in only four manga volumes being released in the West. Four. Wow, that is depressing.

This volume kicked some ass, though, by gum. Not sure about waiting a year to read it, but the volume made me feel instantly at home. I also took a fifteen minutes prior to skim some previous volumes to refresh my memory and that helped greatly.

Even though there hasn't been a lot of titan-fighting going on in the last few volumes there has been some legit political shenanigans going on. Nothing major. Just the Survey Corps basically overthrowing the current government.

Granted, these human confrontations haven't brought us any closer to Eren's basement or to taking down any of the other human-controlled titans, but they've been entertaining. There are no titan fights or epic Survey Corps titan takedowns in this volume, but that doesn't mean there aren't fireworks.

Instead we have the Corps trying to track down the captured Historia Reiss and Eren Yeager. They were captured by the diabolical "true king" Rod Reiss and Reiss's goal for his daughter Historia is to reclaim the "true power" of the Reiss family. 

And apparently that power is that of turning into a titan and killing motherfuckers. 

Eren spends pretty much the entire issue on his knees and in chains in some weird chamber that supposedly was built by other human-controlled titans. In front of him Historia is tempted by her father and if she gives in to her father's dark desires then she'll get to inject herself with some crazy titan-turning shit and eat Eren Yeager and take his powers. 

Rod Reiss also informs Eren that his father Grisha Yeager is a titan, too. In fact, Grisha is the one that wiped out the Reiss family with the exception of Rod and Historia. What's more is that Rod's entire family could turn into titans.

I remember when I started this series, both the anime and the manga, thinking that this series would be a simple man vs. monster fighting story. And for a while it was. Not much plot development was happening. Then when things started to hit the fan very few answers were given as to why. 

So the depth of this story has really hit a home run this time. We are finally getting some answers. Bombs are being dropped and they are insane. The puzzle pieces are finally falling into place. Fuck yes. I still don't know what the hell is in Eren's basement or who the Beast Titan is or where the Colossus, Armored, and Ymir Titans ran off to, but this volume at least gives us a glimpse of Grisha Yeager and why some of this is even happening in the first place.

And the cliffhanger that ends this volume is splendid. 

Sure, it is a bit over the top that just about everyone is a freaking titan now, but the story is getting more interesting so I don't care anymore. Onward to volume 17!