Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Covering Sunday November Edition

Late, but only sorta sorry is this month's Sunday covers! Hah by now most of these are out, but maybe seeing these here will help people decide on what they'd like to buy? Tis almost the season after all. 

First off is Birdmen's 11th volume! This is pretty straightforward --as most covers featuring a single character rather than a scene or something else are, but Tanabe's use of color --or lack of it really makes it pop! I also really like the logo for the series --it's just as visually striking as Barbara here --who has a great design as well. 

A volume away from 40 is Rinne! Takahashi is one who has very distinct character designs as well and I think that shows here in this cover.  Her name being in pink actually lends a sense of visual unity as well as symmetry with the logo and volume #. Interesting that Rinne himself isn't on the cover though --in fact Sakura isn't either. I'm curious as to what chapters this volume covers as I'm sure I talked about some of them and it might explain why the main characters aren't here. Other than that, I think Takahashi does do a good job of distinguishing her characters even if they do look a little samey.

Volume 2 of Reach Ishyama's horror manga is pretty tame when compared to the first. While it's not like the first volume with Chihiro on it screamed "Oh the horror manga!" it at least had a strong impact visually. Sadly this one doesn't as much, but what it does have is a wonderful sense of color and composition. I think as I write about covers I'm finding that I prefer ones like this that are scenes out of the manga rather than being a character striking a pose or a group lineup. Ishiyama has managed to do both here though, and pulled it off wonderfully.

Speaking of ensemble covers, Magi bids farewell with one of all the major characters in the series all together in a group photo. Interesting choice for a final volume though not particularly novel --not that there's anything wrong with this! We're saying goodbye to these characters after all, so it's nice to see all of them in the same place. There's a lot of energy in the layout and I really like that Ohtaka nails the volume # placement right there in the middle at a modest size. We'll miss you Aladdin --you and all of your friends.

Ahh Wakaki, I really wish you'd tackle things I'm interested in because your art is so cute, this cover being no exception. I feel like I might have seen this somewhere before --probably an advertisement for the release I suppose. It might have been nice for the whole cover to have the blue boxes at the bottom cover the whole thing if I'm to be honest, but other than that minor quibble, this is an excellent cover with a wonderful use of color. (I just wish I had more interest in idols...)

Holy wow, I didn't realize Be Blues was at 29 volumes. It makes the fact that it has no anime all that much more baffling really. Is the series really going to go it's entire career without any case, it's a simple cover with no frills --you gotta get in there to see Tanaka's wonderful artwork yourself. That being said, I do wish the blue (hurrr) strip weren't obscurring the artwork. I feel like a clean version of this would make for a wonderful poster. Maybe I should track down Tanaka's twitter and see if he offers clean versions like Fukuchi does? Speaking of which..

Not quite up there with the masterwork that was volume 9, but still really good in it's own right is Saike (Psych's?) 10th volume. I'm waiting for the digital release to start properly translating this, but maybe if people want it I can talk about the volume extras (if applicable?) here? Just hit me up in the comments if you're interested in that sort of thing. That being said, I do sort of which I could get my hands on a physical copy cause I'm sure the colors are more vibrant in person! The reference to the villain's oracle in this volume is also a neat touch so it doesn't feel like a random "just because" sort of thing. I like that Fukuchi even takes a bow out and has his name very small on the side --this is volume 10, so you should know who he is by now, so allowing the art to do the talking is a good choice on his part.

Almost appropriately for it's run ending soon in WSS is Hiiragi's 6th volume. As I mentioned on the post for issue #52, I do really wish I had been reading this series from the start so I could tell you more about it. This lass looks really cute with her content expression as she plays with her long hair. The BG is similar in color to K.O.I's but I like what Nishimori did here a bit more with the white being diluted a bit by the bubbles in the BG. I'm assuming 7 volumes is going to tell the complete story of Hiiragi, so maybe I'll scoop all of them up and do a sort of catch up thing with the series via the blog? Hmm....

Last but not least is Quadrable! I really like Arai's artwork -it's polished but has an air of "roughness" to it --probably thanks to his crosshatching and the colorization he uses for Miguel. His weapon pointing straight at us as it glides off the cover is a nice touch as well as his "ready to fight" pose. It's also nice --and a bit of my aesthetic when an author includes a translation of the series title, even when these give us such meme worthy names as "Attack on Titan". I do wish Arai hadn't stuffed the title in that yellow box though. Might have been better to just have it on the map in the BG --though I like the font size he used. 

And that's it for November! Next month gives us another Evans, Shinobi and Zettai among other things. Hope you'll be here for it! 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Weekly Shounen Sunday #52

It's the last Sunday (magazine) of the year, and while I'd like to, there's no rest for the weary! It's a pretty strong issue this week as well (though the last few have been remarkably good) so let's kick the beat into high gear!

On the cover are Keyakizaka 46! Megumi is on top celebrating her 100th chapter, and Wakabi Asyama's oneshot is also prominently featured. There's a lot going on in this final issue of 2017 and I'd be remiss not to try and talk about what I can!

But first the TOC!

Amano Megumi Suki darake! by Nekoguchi (Lead color pages)
Souboutei Kowasubeshi by Kazuhiro Fujita
Hoankan Evans no Uso ~Dead or Love~ by Mizuki Kuriyama
Major 2nd by Takuya Mitsuda
Aozakura Bouei daigakkou monogatari by Hiraku Nikaido
Tenshi & Akuto!! by Aya Hirakawa
Kyoukai no RINNE by Rumiko Takahashi
Maoujou de Oyasumi by Kagiji Kumanomata
Tenshou no Quadrable by Takahiro Arai (Color page)
Komi-san wa komushou Desu by Tomohito Oda
Shinobi no by Rokurou Ogaki
Dagashikashi by KOTOYAMA
Birdmen by Yellow Tanabe (Color page/Monthly)
Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san by Aiko Koyama
Hatsukoi Zombie by Ryou Minenami
Be Blues by Motoyuki Tanaka
Kanojo no umitate nama tamago by Chihiro Kurachi (Final part)
Dootan wa Shibouchuu by Wakabi Asayama (oneshot)
K.O.I King of Idol by Tamaki Wakaki
Saike matashitemo by Tsubasa Fukuchi
Hiiragi-sama wa jibun wo sagashiteru by Hiroyuki Nishimori
Meteor Girl by Reach Ishiyama
Youkai Giga by Satsuki Satou

Not in this issue are the following:

Detective Conan
Zettai Karen Children 
Daiku no Hatou

Saiiiiike why are you like this. You're almost at 100 chapters....though you tumble to the basement the night before the event. It breaks my heart it does. Though it's clear to me in some respects that the TOC --as I've always said is more of a "Hey let's promote this" type of thing than it is a strict formula for deciding popularity --though there is an element of that too, don't get me wrong. Quadrable soaring up due to it's color page has really jerked the bottom bunch around a bit, and while K.O.I seems to be bringing in the sales, there's a disparity between that and what the editor/fans think of it. Hm. Not surprisingly Megumi takes the top, and most of the usual suspects are behind her, though I'm surprised to see Souboutei so high, though it was an incredibly good chapter so I don't disagree. 

Right at the start of the issue we're given big news in the form of three new series and two returning vets! As I mentioned way back, Kyouichi Nanatsuki and Teppei Sugiyama will start a series named "Tantei Zeno to Nanatsu satsujin misshitsu" ...wait, the name sorta changed! It was Tantei Nemo before. I guess someone didn't like the name? In any case this series will start in the very next issue! Norihiro Yagi's new series "Soukyuu no Ariadone" or "Ariadone of the blue skies" will start in the issue after that #2 of 2018. The series will be of the fantasy genre and feature a boy --Rashil who has a special dream and goes on a journey after meeting a girl on a fateful day. The third series "Mari Glave/Grave(?) by Hidnori Yamaji will begin in the combined issues of 3/4 and is about what seems to be a wandering priest in a world taken over by the devil and the people he meets. All three series sound really interesting and I can't wait! Also, Kenjirou Hata who brought Sunday Hayate, and Shun Matsuena who was the man behind Kenichi the Mighiest Deciple and more recently Tokiwa Kitareri! will be back with new series --though the dates and names of these works are currently unknown. The advert above does say "this winter" So I'd assume these series could start anywhere between December to March --and of course I'll be covering them all for their inaugural three chapters --with more depending on whether they interest me or not. Still new blood in Sunday is always fun to see. 

The war of the three kingdoms video game just got a little bit of Sunday support in the form of Jinbee, Hotaru and Keiichiro/Hiiragi! I don't know much about this aside from it's a cellphone game, but having more Sunday collaborations is never a bad thing. Jinbee will be on board from November 22nd to the 28th, Hotaru from the 29th to December 5th, and Keiichiro/Hiiragi will take over from the 6th to the 14th. If you've got the game, give 'em a download!

Conan is on his way back, and WSS has seen fit to prepare a path with some interesting news! On the left, Heiji has been confirmed to be receiving a boxset of his own! Though, don't get too excited, they're simply theme sets made up of episodes about him rather than new material. Still, if you're a Heiji fan (and I am!) it might be worth supporting your boy by picking this up! On the right, Sunday is revealing that a poster illustration and information of Conan's newest movie will be appearing in issue 1 of 2018, in addition to the first chapter of the current arc being available for free online for those who want to review. 

 Keyakizaka 46 is here with some pretty impressive photo shoots. Oddly from these pics they're not referred to by individual names, but as a group so I really can't do the usual breakdown I provide, so for now just enjoy the pictures of cute girls. You're welcome. 

With quite a fetching aestetic for the color page, Megumi flutters into her 100th chapter like a cherry blossom on a warm breeze. To think this started off in Sunday Super and became so popular that it moved to the weekly magazine where it flourishes even today...I may not personally be the biggest fan of romcoms, but I do like that Megumi understands what it is and who is reading it, so it boldly sticks to it's brand so to speak, and even underneath all of the fanservice it really is a cute little series, though again there's a lot of fanservice to sort through. 

The story for this chapter is simple enough that I can sum it up in these four images. (Don't get me wrong, the simplicity is part of Megumi's charm!) Her old friend from middle school --Natsu Hatsuki (or Nacchan for short) is transferring over to her high school much to Megumi's delight. She looks at the younger girl --Nacchan as a little sister and looks forward to hanging out with her until she realizes that time with Nacchan will cut into time with Ma-kun. Megumi then has a mini crisis of loyalties, right down to the trope of the devil and angel sides of her warring in her mind over what to do about this conundrum. Luckily for her, at least for now while Nacchan is happy to have her big sis around, she can't hang out --or specifically in this case walk home from school with Megumi due to a previous engagement near where she lives, freeing her up for Ma-kun who's doesn't understand himself why he's so happy about this development. See? Straightforward, simple and most importantly easy to write. Megumi shows that a series doesn't have to be overly complex to be interesting as long as it knows what it wants to achieve. It helps that Nekoguchi's art is cute (I really like Nacchan's design on the third pic on the left, for example) and the panelwork really easy to follow. Here's hoping we'll be celebrating year three of Megumi next year! 

At the top of it's game and nearly the top of the TOC is Souboutei! Just when the situation was looking dire for Rokurou last week, he turns the tables on us --and more importantly Shino the alien parasite in his body. Shino had gone in to his body looking for his "bravery", and when she thought she had the upper hand against the boy by controlling his body she was in for a surprise when instead Rokurou reveals he has complete control of his faculties turning her conquest into a self made prison in his body with him as the warden. 

Rokurou comments that Shino came into his body looking for "bravery" but the truth is he doesn't have anything like that. Rather, he has anger which is apparently an emotion that Shino can't control, his anger and Shino's helplessness are represented visually by the former's elongated flaming fist as he comments that he's going to kill her while she's in his body using the nitroglycerin that she so fears. He may not have "bravery" in the form she's looking, but he has determination and the rage against the Souboutei to destroy it even if it ends him in the process! 

Shino's caught and hoisted by her aqueous petard. She's held down inside Rokurou's body by his mental willpower, while on the outside he's ready to end both of their lives by ingesting nitroglycerin directly. I love the range of expressions this kid has as he warns the "Souboutei" not to underestimate children. He may not have bravery, but he sure as heck has determination. Shino tries to escape but the final panel of these two pages shows that Rokurou is not in a forgiving mood. 

Just as he's about to drink down the toxic tincture, Kurenai runs interference. She is his older sister after all! She too has a brilliant range of expressions as she yells at her brother for thinking the only choice he has to defeat their enemy is to sacrifice himself.  The page isn't included here, but Kurenai summons her inner Takoha by pleading with her brother not to lose to his past 'self" --a lecture he gave her when they had first met. Bravery isn't giving up, or allowing the past to hold you down, it's facing that past and proceeding in spite of it! A very shounen message delivered with Fujita's visual prowess --that's why he's been in the business so long and thrives. 

Shino knows that talking is a free action however and slips out of Rokurou's body as his sister lectures him. She doesn't get far however, as Rokurou reacts quickly by throwing nitroglycerin on her, granting the solidity that Kurenai needs to cut her down with spiritually powered short swords. Is this enough to defeat Shino and grant the siblings revenge for their father? I don't know but what a chapter! A perfect way to end (Sunday)'s 2017, and maybe even my favorite chapter of the arc on both a visual and writing level.  

Rokurou isn't the only one cheating death in Sunday this week as Evans participates in his own assassination. Although the only thing that "died" last week was his porno collection. It's great on the left page above Evans is this close to taking a life himself as penance for his poor erotic book collection. Though he manages to reign himself in and capture the man in his house by roping him up and tossing him into a room, leaving no-one the wiser when Pheebs drags his "lifeless" corpse out of the house and declares the plan a success after "robbing" his house for further proof. 

Evans and Pheebs are hoping to find out the puppet master behind this scheme by hanging around for their appearance with Evan's body, which means there's a bit of downtime as they wait. It's then that Pheebs decides to go through the things she "stole" from Evans house. In that pile of stuff, she finds a book --one that causes Evans' blood to run cold. He took notes of his father's teachings back when he was a child, and they're all in that handy-dandy notebook! The narration says that rather than the assassination, Pheebs looking into the book will kill him, haha. Pheebs is curious but hesitates to look inside, as she assumes there are deep, dark secrets within. The other baddies gathered don't seem interested in the book at first, but one comments that Evans's secrets can probably be sold on the black market for a high price which sparks a search for more of it. 

Probably what this series does best is how misunderstandings from the best of intentions turn up the worst of results. Pheebs thinks she's being helpful by burning the book so that the other criminals don't get it, but poor Evans....that leaves him without his father's lessons. Though he's not the only one at a loss as the man who might be behind this insidious plot appears and demands that everyone respond with a previously agreed on password indicating there's something known as a "B pattern" one of which our heroes clearly know nothing about. Will they be exposed as fakes? Next issue...!!

When we left Nari and Akuto, the latter was in the middle of a seeming confession of his feelings toward the former, and it's quite the passionate thing indeed. Akuto says that everything he's done up until now was so that he could be here where he is now --at her side. It's all he's ever wanted is to stand side by side with her....

As a voice actor. Hah, it's what I figured. This isn't a romantic confession as much as it is an impassioned declaration of a friend-zoned nature. That being said, with Akuto's general attitude of superiority to everyone, the fact that he does have this desire to be with Nari (albeit in a extremely platonic way), is a sign of development on his part? He cites seeing her perform for the first time and realizing how powerful her range is and how it's influenced him until now. For better or worse, Nari's presence in his life has changed him, though perhaps not in the way she was hoping.  

That being said, while Akuto isn't feeling the love tonight...or any time else for that matter, it doesn't change how Nari herself feels. She's in love with him, and there's no backing away from those feelings as seen in this fluffy two page spread. These light dips into shoujo manga-like spreads are unique upon the series in this magazine and a welcome change of pace. Especially when Hirakawa executes them so well. 

Meanwhile while talking with a co-worker, Shou comes to the realization that if she loves Akuto, she's going to need to make that clear to him or gamble with losing her chance for good. The series is moving into harem territory which does depress me somewhat, but I won't count a good Akuto out. I'm not completely heartless though, and hope Shou finds luck in the New Year, though it's not gonna be be easy. 

Tsubasa, Sakura, and Annette look into a crystal ball for Rinne's whereabouts at the star of this chapter and find instead that the waves of the river leading to the land of the dead are coiling around and something white is being produced from them.  --which they can't make heads or tails out of. It might have something to do with the (not pictured) Damashigami company employees getting their hands on Sabato's device from last week's chapter to make noodles, but that's not made explicitly clear, until a little later when their noodles pop up out of the stream, hah. Meanwhile Renge is quite pleased with herself, using her last exploit to take down the Damashigami, and thinking of how she'll be able to see Kain again. 

Rinne wants that device back --the river sanzu water creation device, but Renge has no idea where it is now --and it won't work without the stone that came from Rinne's bracelet anyway so there' sno point in looking for it now that the stone is broken. Rinne can't have this! Without that stone Sakura will go on hating him although she's already mostly gotten over that, so he goes back to where they found the stones just to find that it's been sealed off by Kain and his fellow shinigami, leaving Rinne once again out of luck. 

Meanwhile Sabato gets the device back from his henchmen, and figures he can get his plan back on track by getting another stone --the one Sakura has! He's easily able to swoop in and steal it from her, but his son is in hot pursuit. Sakura spies Rinne and his Dad, and follows them relieved to find that Rinne is okay, but...

During the ensuing battle, Rinne destroys the stone, to keep his father from misusing it! The deadbeat Dad whines at his son asking if that wasn't some kind of precious gift? To which Rinne replies that it doesn't matter....which is the part Sakura hears if her expression at the bottom is of any indication. One step forward, two steps back. 

It's a gathering of heroes in this week of Quadrable as it manages to climb a little higher on the TOC this week with a color page commemorating it's second volume. Mancio and Martinao were in the middle of a fight against each other over the last two weeks I wasn't able to cover the series, one that comes to an end this week with Martinao using his ability to go straight into Mancio's heart and settle things directly with him. With their faith in each other restored, the boys head out to sea once again on a little raft headed to Europe where they meet up with Nobunaga of all people! Nobunaga is willing to give the boys a lift to their location, and not a moment too late as the newly dubbed Julian and Miguel are in the midst of combat against monsters in the quarter of the "Final Night" king's place where their final battle awaits. The two are grossly outnumbered and outclassed however...

The brothers in arms are united with one heck of an entrance --on a giant sword crashing into the castle! Though with this turn of events, and the side text indicating the decisive battle is coming up, there's almost no doubt that the Soaring Quadrable is rushing to an early ending. I'm a bit suprised they're still advertising new volumes with color pages at this point when the series is all but done for ...I suppose it might have something to do with Arai's veteran status.

After a day of funtimes, Komi and her friends come to relax in their room in this return to form for the series --two chapters adding up to the normal 18 pages for a WSS chapter. This week features Sasaki and Katou playing a mental game of chess against each other as Katou tries to get Sasaki to admit that she was the yo-yo weilding savior from a few weeks back. Oda (not that one) even goes out of his way to illustrate the board and talk about the moves of each character as the game rages on, but Sasaki's stubbornness wins out in the end --sort of. She won't admit she's their savior because of a trauma in her youth in regard to being a girl who likes yo-yos. Though at the same time, she doesn't want to hide behind her embarrassment forever, so...

She settles for a sort of happy medium and says she'll put on a Yo-Yo performance for the group, becoming something of a masked "Yo-Yo" demon. Gotta say I wasn't expecting a bit of development for Sasaki done in such a hilarious way. Though that's not all this week! 

When girls get together for a sleepover there's gotta be a bit of girls talk --the topic of which is often boys! Katou and Sasaki are interested in knowing who Komi has a crush on --although they're all but sure and for good reason that she's got eyes for Tadano, getting her to admit this is more difficult than one would think. In the end, they ask her to at least write first letter of her potential boyfriend's name, and it's...."H"? Which sounds like "ecchi" in Japanese or "pervert" but I'm not sure if that's the joke Oda (not that one) is going for. Maybe it's just the vagueness of the confession that's meant to be funny. I'm not sure if "H"-san's identity will be revealed next week but for now that's all we're getting out of Komi. 

Surprising revelations continue in this week's Shinobi no as well as the chapter begins with a scene with a boy being repremanded by taking his eyes off his studies for even the moment it takes to swat a fly away from his face. The man who hits him says that he is the man who will shoulder all of Japan --calling him Torajirou. The next page is back in the present where Yoshida reveals that this child may in fact be him --as he agrees with his uncle that he is the man who will lead Japan, and some left-behind-by-the-times shinobi isn't going to tell him any different! It's Yoshida vs Sawamura and only one man can win!

I love after that boast, Pops is like "Yeah, I could care less about you being a genius or an idiot, but please look in a mirror (at your face on fire.)." Yoshida doesn't take that cue and instead attacks Pops with a gun, claiming the culture and values of the country are rotting away, and if he doesn't do anything who will? Pops figures out Yoshida from this boast of his and asks him if he knows what characters make up the kanji --Chinese character for "shinobi". Which is an interesting lesson of it's own. The top of the kanji character "忍" is a blade, and the bottom is "heart". So a literal heart underneath a sword. Or as pops puts it "separating your heart from your blade." Yoshida starts the spiel of "we're not so different" due to them dedicating themselves to their work, but Pops quickly rebukes --they are not to be compared. If anything in his eyes, they're direct opposites. 

A Shinobi is supposed to separate his heart from his blade, but it says nothing about abandoning said "heart". The true essence of a shinobi is strength and a righteous heart. Yoshida isn't phased and prepares to shoot him down, but Pops reveals he's already taken care of his gun some time before --an obvious bluff to allow the smoke bomb behind him to do it's illusory thing. 

The incident with the fly and a giant ogre like version of his uncle are the first things on Yoshida's mind as he slips into an illusory stupor. It seems that moment from his childhood has left a major impact on his growth. 

The giant faceless version of his uncle implores "Torajiro" to strive further, harder as he is the man who's fate it is to carry all of Japan upon his back. He cannot turn back and swat off that fly for a second time. I do hope we'll get more on this uncle, 'cause it's clear his influence is the reason Yoshida is the way he is now. 

Pops brings him out of his illusion world with a fist to the face, and reminds him that it's up to a person himself whether they're cursed or not. The chapter ends with Pops saying the country that Yoshida wants to change is the one he's spilled blood to protect. This clash of wills starting off on a non-violent(-ish) note was a surprise to me, and while I appreciated getting into Yoshida's head for a little bit, it's weird Pops went out of his way to try and convince Yoshida that he's right in what he's doing, rather than going for the quick kill? I'm supposing this was all to heighten tension, but I have to wonder if this choice will reflect poorly on pops 

Komi's not the only one featuring girls talk this week. Dagashikashi picks up from the previous chapter, where Hotaru's wish to have girls talk leads the group to wonder just what is needed to facilitate such a thing? Cake is a suggestion that is floated by the group, and Saya's got them covered with milk cake candies for them to eat. So now that the snacks have been served, it's to the next order of business ---what do they talk about during a girls gathering like this? 

Saya once again is a bat when she begrudgingly suggests "love" as a topic, which brings the meeting to a standstill. No one was prepared for this possibility...! What kind of discussions will come out of this? Though, hey, like Komi before it I guess it's clear who some people like --so this is more about the execution than the topic itself --something I'm sure KOTOYAMA will nail. 

Birdmen has a color page for it's newest volume, and also a sort of turn for the series --now that they've gathered all of the people needed for their upcoming battle, the group sends a relay message out to the world --to others like themselves who have been turned into winged crusaders for justice. 

In short they invite those who have wings like they do to come and discuss the future with them --a future for those like them, created by those who have the same wings they do. They intend to use the powers they have to decide upon where they will take their futures and how to use their powers. There is only one chance for those who want to join them to come now and join this group effort for the future forward. 

The forces around the world who have been chosen by those wings react one after another, ending with this final page --until next month of a person who is brought to their knees by the voices of the birdmen. I really like that shadow forming wings that Tanabe uses to foreshadow a significant movement in the story --I wouldnt' say so much that it's coming to an end or anything mostly because I'm really not reading this series like I should but it does seem like the characters who have been on the defensive for some time are taking the offensive and that will undoubtedly be met with new issues and developments that we'll see next year in the fifth and sixth combined issues. 

The final part of Kurachi's oneshot is here, and it starts off with a recap of what we know appropriately enough. People and birds coexist in this world where humanity is becoming extinct. Though that doesn't matter right now to Ken who is under the impression that the peacock girl he's fallen for --Miwako might have been unfaithful to him --after all she's laid an egg and since he hasn't done anything to her, it can't possibly be his kid, so there's no other explanation for what's going on, right? Is what he's thinking until he hears a familiar voice yelling. 

Miwako is being attacked by cats, and while she should be big enough to deal with this on her own --she's seized by fear and cannot move. --She's still got a bird's instincts, and cats are their natural enemies. Ken is able to scare the cats away and save his lady-friend, but is still feeling hurt by her seeming betrayal. Except, that egg wasn't the normal "child birthing one" but an unfertilized one --eggs that all female birds lay when they get to a certain age. So Miwako isn't a cheater! Isn't that good for you Ken? 

Things get weird again though --Miwako offers to let Ken eat her egg which --sounds pretty dirty. Ken is surprised that he can even do such a thing, as the first part of the final chapter comes to an end. To the second part! 

There isn't really much to speak of in the final part, Ken and Miwako say their apologizes and it seems their relationship is back on the right track, and she lays another egg for him despite her embarrassment that he eats and says is really good. It'd be really kind of cute if it weren't really weird, which I suppose is what Kurachi-sensei was going for. Admittedly Miwako patting Ken on the back at the end out of embarrassed glee is precious, so I'll give this story that much. All-in-all I'm not sure what to make of this short serial. Kurachi's art is pretty good for a beginner, and the writing is weird in a delightful sense, though sometimes in a just plain weird sense. The side text seems to imply that Kurachi will be back with another work so that's something to look forward to --I'd really like to get a better sense of their writing. Speaking of second chances, follow me below to...

Wakabi Asayama is up next with their return to the magazine after the oneshot "Death Kama *kiri" --this time trading bugs for birds in the form of a "phoenix" that looks more like the extinct "Dodo", and trading the short form for a proper 40 + page oneshot. Welcome to "Dootan wa shibou chuu" a title of which I'm still not sure how to translate.  How does Asayama do with a second chance? Let's have a look! We're introduced right away to the protagonist Louis Mauriat who's examining some counterfeit money.  --Here in Bacchus city, counterfeit money and bad luck run rampant as Louis does his thing. He's on a train when he runs into a strange bird that promptly eats his lunch. As if to add insult to injury a group of people bully Louis and he ends up dangling precariously from the back of the train. Like I said, bad luck and counterfeits. 

It's looking bad for Louis but good for Asayama's art --look at the angle and panel-work around that train on the left page, I'm already enamored with the work put in to make the danger to Louis palatable. In any case the bird from earlier --speaks?? And with some deference says it'll step in and save the unlucky boy as he did save it from starvation, and as chaos reigns over this bird that can talk and looks like a circus reject, no one asks the big question --how is this weird bird going to save him? 

Ah, nevermind. The bird just sorta dies, and that's it. 

The bird is dead but the passengers of the train drop some pertinent info in their insults to Louis --how could he let the bird die and continue to live as the son of a serial killer? Seems the week before his father Guy Mauriat was apprehended as a heinous criminal and in a shoot out was gunned down by the police ending his criminal acts. Louis looks on in anger at the news report as a familiar voice asks about his father --the weird bird from earlier is actually alive?? It's name is Dootan, and it's a phoenix. --Or to be more exact, it is a blessed bird without the ability to "die". 

Dootan summons flames to revive itself, though isn't limited to the flames it's body produces --it can use any fire to revive itself. That's great and all, but what the heck is Dootan doing here of all places? The bird seems to be obsessed with "death" and how people suffer (and the expressions they have) as they die. Wow, edgy much? When Louis doesn't share it's enthusiasm for dying and suffering, Dootan is aghast, remarking that life is a once in a lifetime thing and he shouldn't go thinking his life has any special meaning. What he's most interested in is a face willed with lingering attachments --an expression of pure fear in the face of death. 

Dotan's going on and on about his weird hobbies as Louis tries to leave, but then the bird asks if the boy has the ability to get him some sweets? After all he did save his life --and the search for good food brings them to the house of the mayor. --Mr. Bacchus himself. Unfortunately even though Louis wants to pay Dootan back, they're in the wrong place, and all he has is fake money. Dootan won't take no for an answer, and Louis figures he's got no choice but to help a bird out but asks that he not stand out too much --before getting hit by a car and dying. It's there that the Baccus family --father and son appear, but they're making so much noise they don't realize Dootan's predicament much to Louis's luck, but then he overhears the mayor talking about his father --if only he had some money he might not have ended up the way he did....but what does that mean?

Bacchus and his group intend to destroy the evidence in their forest home the next day, so Louis takes this chance to head out there himself --where Dootan has already found something interesting in a stylin' page on the left. Louis makes it to the house first and investigates to find what might be related to his father, but Bacchus arrives early putting him in a tight spot.  --Turns out Dootan is more canary than phoenix, and pretty much leaked the entire plan to Bacchus which is why the date for destroying the evidence was moved up by a few hours. 

With no choice but to keep moving, Louis and Dootan head further into the estate and find a counterfeit money creation plant. Turns out Louis's dad, --Guy had stumbled upon the plant by coincidence, and was killed for this discovery. After that it was a simple matter to throw money at the problem and fabricate the truth so that Guy looked guilty by association --after all he was a poor man with nothing to lose so believing that he robbed and killed five people would be simple enough with the right influence. Bacchus on the other hand figures he can just burn the old house/headquarters. After all the stupid people of the city won't know any better if this place went up in flames, right? A heinous plan by a heinous plan. 

The house goes up in flames --while Dootan will be fine, Louis is in trouble. It's here that he apologizes to his Dad --he often complained about how poor they were, and how they couldn't even afford the simplest pleasures. Yet, in retrospect it seemed like those days of abject poverty were the best ones --and he wishes that he had realized that back when it really mattered. Now in the moments where it looks like it's all going to end he realizes the simplest truths that are the hardest to see. 

Louis is ready to go on a roaring rampage of revenge, but Bacchus asks a pertenent question --who will believe the son of a serial killer!? Louis realizes this and is about to give up the fight --after all without his father and with his reputation on his back there isn't much to live for is there?  

I admit I don't know much of Asayama's resume before these two oneshots, but the artwork on these two pages are incredible with the elemental effects, and Dootan's suddenly dour expression as it comments on how while it takes joy at watching people die, there's nothing interesting about watching those who have given up on living without discovering the reason why life is precious --why they were born. The panel work is especially good on the right page as well as Dootan tells Louis, that those who see the phoenix are bound to find happiness, but in reality people were born to seek their own happiness --so he should be more attached to living! 

Dootan then sacrifices itself to create a huge flame, in an impressive show of artistry from Asayama.

Louis acts fast and reveals that Bacchus had a stash of money hidden at this location, and using Dootan's flame reveals his counterfeiting plan for all to see, bringing the corrupt mayor down once and for all.  

It's some time later that Dootan finds Louis and proposes to take him home. Asayama shows those tearful chops again on the final page as Louis asks Dootan if he'll be happy for now on? Dootan replies that it has no idea since Louis was smiling in the face of death for a moment there, so it's hard to tell. I'd definetly say that this oneshot was a much better showing of Asayama's skills --maybe even something they could serialize with a bit of work. I'm most interested in seeing them come back for more --and at the end of the chapter it's implied they will be back, so that could be sooner rather than later. The story itself is pretty standard fare, but the execution was well above what I was expecting! I hope my translation helped in bringing Asayama's world to English speaking audiences for a second time! 

Saike bids farewell to the double digit set with his 99th take --though the side text is more commemorating it's tenth volume now out in stores. Ten volumes doesn't seem like anything special, but when one considers that post Ueki's first outing, Fukuchi hasn't had a series to surpass seven volumes, it all makes sense. The manga world is harsh and unforgiving so for Shougakukan to give him a schedule that he's clearly thriving under is a blessing in and of itself. 

This week is about Hizu --the tall, taciturn muscle of Saike's team. I think what I like most about the characterizations Fukuchi has in this series it's how they embrace shounen norms while slightly subverting them --obviously not purposely so, but enough that Fukuchi's unique personality shows. Like Saike is a smart kid, but unlike many shounen manga he's not physically strong and relies on Ana and Hizu to be his envoy. I've spoken before about how Ana looking like the lone flower of the group due to the way she dresses, but being more likely to punch a guy in the face than to rely on the boys, and now Hizu --who's dedication to Saike is interesting in that he seems like the type not to get too involved in anything unless it personally interests him. He's also the only character so far to get a little more than glancing backstory (volume 3) so I've been interested in seeing more of him. This week he's up with Shinonome and Minagishi as they spot Hi, and go after him. Hizu is also one to say exactly what is on his mind --including how useless he thinks Minegishi's ability is (though it is pretty cool --he controls plants and can use them as spy cameras of a sort, though they can't see through buildings.) 

It's here that Fukuchi surprises me by providing a little bit of context behind Minegishi and Shinonome's friendship --back before they were involved with Kuroda, an injury made it impossible for the baseball loving Shinonome to go pro, and he --like Louis above in Dootan, wondered if there's a point of living if he can't do what he loves. It's here that Minegishi quips that there are flowers that thrive without blooming --and he too can thrive even if he can't bloom into something beautiful! Shinonome looks back fondly on this memory while Minegishi finds it embarrassing --it's that small bit of character development that does way  more I think than a overblown flashback. I also like that it's completely unnecessary to the chapter's plot but Fukuchi included it anyway so that we'd better understand these characters despite them not being protagonists. 

They don't get far however, as a familiar set of chains grab onto Hizu and drag him back --bringing him face to face with Calim the JRPG loving henchman of Kuroda/Johann. Hizu's none too pleased to have a reunion with him after their last fight in volume 3 ended with him being soundly beaten, but it does provide him a chance for revenge.

However, somehow Calim was able to get info on Hizu's fight with Wang Chiu in (volume 5) and learned his ability to turn things into Styrofoam doesn't work on liquids,  so he had a ball filled with sulphuric acid prepared and swings it around with impunity, leaving Hizu at a loss for what to do. Calim then takes great joy in quoting his favorite RPGs as he batters Hizu around without resistance --however it's in this that he realizes something is off. 

Calim is enjoying the battle waaaaay too much for someone who's been brainwashed. Does this mean in fact that he is not brainwashed, and is acting on his own free will? If so, then why is he here and what is his ultimate aim if he's not on the side of Johann and Will? I've said it before that one thing Fukuchi is good at is taking what seems to be totally irrelevant and making it into foreshadowing, and now you can see it for yourself....! This is a twist I didn't see coming in this arc and a great way to bring in a new year next week! 

I really wish I had covered this series more than I had up until this point --but here we are on the final five chapters of Hiiragi-sama. The series had been implying (from the bits I've read here and there) that it's on it's final arc for a while, so this isn't surprising --especially with the advent of new serials. Sadly I hadn't been following it from the start and quickly got lost when I started the blog, as such there really wasn't much I could say about the series --but I promise you all that I will cover the final chapter the best I can when it comes a long in a few weeks. 

Fukuchi surprised me with backstory this week in Saike, and now Ishiyama has seen to do the same in MG this week with Chihiro's past being on display --her parents were both scientists, and little Chihiro wanted to help them the best she could, but Daddy dearest wasn't having any of it as seen on the left. Her mother would reassure her that her father was just stressed from overwork and really does love the two of them --hence him working so hard, but in the end it's her mother who dies from overwork. 

Wanting to give her father a piece of her mind after her mother's death, Chihiro marches over to him, but finds....Dad is just as torn up over the loss of his beloved wife as she is. Father and daughter then work together to live on in the memory of their lost loved one --Dad doubling down on his research, and Chihiro helping the best she can, until the day where....

He comes and says he can bring her mother back --from the sky? It was then that Chihiro comments that she saw her father smile for the first time in ages. This is all sounding scarily familiar isn't it? In the present, Dad asks daughter to follow him, donning his familiar white laboratory coat. The bottom panel of Chihiro's big smile almost makes one forget that she's actually a villain of sorts. Also it's a sign that Ishiyama has gotten used to the weekly schedule enough that little scenes like this get that extra polish. 

Chihiro's comments as she comes into the room filled with MG's are interesting --that they all look like ordinary girls --similar to her. So wait, the MG's are actually created by Chihiro's Dad? but to what end? Well, for now Dad simply asks daughter about her current celebrity status and what that means for his immediate future. 

--Straight up asking "Are you here to kill me"? Which surprisingly Chihiro denies. She's still that cute daughter who wants to help her Daddy with his work. He's working on MG's in secret, and she feels that he shouldn't have to do that any longer which is why she's taken these actions. Her Dad rebukes her and then asks why...why did it have to be Chihiro who was resurrected, and not her mother like he wanted? 

To add salt into her wounds --her Dad reveals she's not his child but a child of a man her mom had married before him, and he had always viewed her as a nuisance. Not that this excuses any of Chihiro's actions, but hearing this does invoke just a smidgen of pity for the poor girl. She simply wants to help her father --but now has been told essentially she's unnecessary and unwanted. Meanwhile Tetto, Hane and Ikeyama have arrived at the HQ, and while Tetto wants to rush right in, Hane holds him back and for good reason --something falls from the top of the tower....the body of the CEO or well, Chihiro's Dad.

And now Chihiro has no family, no home, and ostensibly has lost Tetto, her best friend as well. She's been a force of nature this whole time --and that's when she thought she was being helpful. What now will the girl who has lost everything do? 

To my surprise we got two chapters of Kuro in a row, and weirdly enough the little youkai has barely had any role in either one! This week is the long awaited meeting of Makoto and Kuro's master, and it's as awkward as it is cute. There isn't much to speak of on the Youkai front, but Master makes a move and finally asks Makoto to officially be his girlfriend. Does this mean that Kuro's story is coming to a close? I don't know, but I'm positive next week will be a youkai story unless Satou sees fit to embarrass me again. So we're on the hook yet again, but it's a hook so good, I think! 

And thus ends 2017 in the world of Shounen Sunday. I'd really like to thank you all for sticking with me from issue #7 to issue #52 like this! Uh, no, I'm not leaving, don't worry. I'll be back here next week with issue one at hopefully the same time, and very much the same network! In the next issue, Conan takes the cover and with him brings news of his 2018 theatrical outing, Saike gets a center color page for his 100th chapter, Yokoyama returns with "Tokaichi Hitoribocchi nouen" or "Lonely Tokaichi plantation", and another new series --Tantei Zeno to Nanatsu no satsujin no misshitsu" begins in sunday, bringing us the winter lineup in earnest! 2018 starts off on a hot note even in the winter and you can bet I'll bring the goods! See you then, and happy new year!