Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Weekly Shounen Sunday #1 (2018)

Happy New Year! For a new entry on my old blog comes the new year of Sunday --in November! Among other things we get a new TOC layout, a new preview page, and most importantly a brand new series! With all this newness you might be worried that things will change here on my little niche on the web, but new doesn't have to be scary! Let's head right into a new batch of Sunday goodness!!

Starting off the year with one's best foot forward is a wise idea, no? So of course it makes sense to open up 2018 with Mr. Shounen Sunday himself! Also on the cover is another fledgling Detective --Zeno, starring in the first chapter of his new serial, as well as Yokoyama with a new series of his own. It's written really tiny far too tiny in my opinion  on the cover, but Saike is also up for his 100th installment! There's a lot to talk about, but you know where we gotta start...

I actually think I prefer this TOC set up to 2017's if I'm to be really honest. It's much, much, much easier for me to read and translate though the "special features" are still seperate which is a little bit of a pain. I guess I can't win 'em all.

Tantei Xeno to Nanatsu no satsujin misshitsu by Kyouichi Natatsuki (Story) and Teppei Sugiyama (Art) (New series Color pages)
Detective Conan by Gosho Aoyama
Maiko-san chi no makanai-san by Aiko Koyama 
Major 2nd by Mitsuya Takeda
Amano Megumi Suki darake! by Nekoguchi
Komi-san wa komuyshou desu by Tomohito Oda
Hoankan Evans no uso ~Dead or Love~ by Mizuki Kuriyama
Saike Matashitemo by Tsubasa Fukuchi (color page)
Souboutei Kowasubeshi by Kazuhiro Fujita
Hatsukoi Zombie by Ryou Minenami
Dagashikashi by KOTOYAMA
Be Blues by Motoyuki Tanaka
K.O.I King of Idol by Tamaki Wakaki
Maoujo de Oyasumi by Kagiji Kumanomata
Hiiragi-sama wa jibun wo sagashiteru by Hiroyuki Nishimori
Tenshi to Akuto by Aya Hirakawa
Shinobi no by Rokuro Ogaki
Kyoukai no RINNE by Rumiko Takahashi
Zettai Karen Children by Takashi Shiina
Daiku no Hatou by Michiteru Kusaba
Tenshou no Quadrable by Takahiro Arai
Meteor Girl by Reach Ishiyama
Youkai Giga by Satsuki Satou
Tokachi Hitoribocchi Nouen by Yuuji Yokoyama (New series)

Not in this issue are the following:

Aozakura Bouei Daigakkou Monogatari

So we get two new series for the price of one --sort of. Yokoyama returns to the bottom of the magazine, and Zeno with all 71 of his pages (ahhhh I'm already having nightmares thinking of how I'm going to cover it, though it is pretty good I'd say)  Kind of turns the mag upside down. Saike having a color page grants him a temporary reprieve from the basement though sales of the new volume have been...worrying. Still he's probably got a little while to go --specifically sales of the new serializations before he really has to sweat. Rinne is lower than usual as well, and Conan's basically back in his throne if you don't count the new kid disrupting him for a week. All in all not far out of the norm for the lineup, though as new series are introduced and old ones are put to rest it'll be intriguing to see how things change. 

Now on display is Aoyama-sensei's poster for the 22nd Conan movie called "Zero's enforcer!" The tagline reads simply "So this is your truth...?" And while there are a few pages after this talking about Amuro, there's not really anything detailing the movie's plot which isn't surprising as the Conan anime staff is usually tight lipped on stuff like this. For anime buffs visiting the blog, here's a little tidbit that might prove interesting --The movie won't be helmed by any of the TV anime directors, rather it'll be helmed by Yuzuru Tachikawa who directed and wrote Death Parade, as well as was the creative director on Mob Psycho 100! I won't go too much into anime production as there are lots of resources out there that do the same and way better, but this is exciting because anime production is industry where who you get and the circles they run in can often shape up a staff, and considering Tachikawa's buddies run in Madhouse and Bones it wouldn't be surprising to think that this Conan movie will have some very inspired storyboarding! I can't wait to see it!

It's been a long while since I've covered a new serial. (Actually no it hasn't, since Shinobi no was not that long ago...) Though I don't think I've covered one of this much volume --72 pages of pure first chapter goodness. Or badness if you're me, but no I did like this debut. We start off a new serialization round with Detective Xeno so I've had the name wrong this entire time and the Seven Locked Murder rooms --the English title provided graciously by Kyouichi Nanatsuki and the art by Teppei Sugiyama. Nanatsuki is a sunday vet of sorts being the writer of two manga that have lasted a while in the magazine --Area D and ARMS. While Sugiyama seems to be a new but very talented ! Artist. What do these two have to offer? Find out more below! 

The story begins with a popular baseball player being murdered in a mega dome before millions of people, by what seems to be a giant pipe hurtling into him from above. The opening pages of the chapter spell out a detective's coda --Appear on the scene, get the attention of the masses, and declare that the culprit is among them, which is what Xeno does on the dual page color spread. Though as the pink haired lass points out on top it's pretty obvious that the killer is among the masses --a pretty nice way to play around with that detective series call and response I think. 

The narration runs down how we got here --Narasaki was preparing to strike out the opposing team on the third mound when a 2 meter spear like object came hurtling at him, ending his life. It'd have to be a heck of an accident so this is more likely than not a "killer" show set up by some unknown party. 

The narration is done from the girl's point of view, evidence of Xeno being a pretty well known guy though his reputation is well earned as will be explained momentarily. His name is actually Latin for "Strange object" and "stranger". So basically he's a bit out there. A year ago he was found collapsed at the side of a road covered in blood. When he was taken to a hospital and rested for a few days, the first thing he said upon awakening to his doctor was "Oh, you've murdered someone haven't you?" sending the entire hospital into a panic, leading to arrests. Xeno himself has no memory of who he is or where he came from, but after that huge incident and upon his release from the hospital, opened up a detective agency. 

And in just a year he's solved some cases I'd really like to hear more about, honestly, but they're sadly only mentioned in passing here. Cases such as the "Young lady substitute of  a huge conglomerate" case, or  the "Serial automaton doll disassembly" case and ah, let me not forget the "Kadath ambassador kidnapping" case. Xeno's been a busy guy over the last year. Meanwhile we're introduced to the girl who has a very unusual name --"Dzaka Ayla" (or Eila? I'm presenting it Japanese order because I'm unable to make heads or tails out of it. When I google the name in Japanese I mostly get "Ayla" for her first name, though the spelling is closer to "Eila", but I'll go with Ayla for now.). Ayla here is a second year in high school, and says that she's in a bit of a tight spot as she's carrying something with her and it would be problematic if it were to be investigated by the authorities on the scene. When the Police change the focus of their investigation for the culprit to the bathrooms Ayla decides that this is her chance to make a break for it. 

Ayla ditches her huge carrying case and runs, but a "helpful" elderly lady quickly gives it back to her, and it spills open to reveal drugs, yikes. Ayla protests and says these aren't hers, and as if things can't get worse, Xeno finds her. Though all is not what it seems --turns out they already have the information that the elderly lady was actually here to do a drug deal with a mysterious party and tried to ditch the goods once the murder happened, though she was quickly apprehended by the police on Xeno's order. 

Sugiyama's character art is a bit unrefined which tells me he might be a rookie, but what the art lacks, the storyboarding makes up for, like the sweeping side angle the top panel on the left is seen from, giving a view of the entire hallway as the elderly lady is escorted away protesting the whole time. Ayla's face on the bottom of the right is pretty well done too --I love me some cross hatching. Returning to the story, the detective in charge requests Ayla stay to make a statement, while commenting on the chaos of the situation. It's here (but not pictured) that Inspector Onikobe is insulted by Xeno after he reveals that his men have arrested 13 suspects in the bathroom area --Xeno says those people can't possibly be the culprit they're looking for. Before Onikobe can react to Xeno's commentary, the owner of the stadium demands to know about the Police's dragnet leaving the Inspector to explain things to him. Ayla and Xeno are now alone where the former asks about the investigation. Xeno says they'll only capture "small fry" like drug dealers and petty thugs --oh, and assassins like Ayla for example.  

What a twist! Ayla the assassin? That would explain why she really didn't want to be caught up in the Police's net, and why she was trying very hard to leave without being seen. Xeno explains his reasoning --although there were fingerprints on the drugs belonging to the lady from earlier, there were none of the sort on the gun meaning that it wasn't hers. He proposes that this gun belongs to an extraordinarily careful person, and that upon the murder occurring in the stadium, they would have tried to abandon the weapon and flee. Ayla plays dumb and asks if they found that assassin --when Xeno sprays her in the face with a solution that will detect traces of gunpowder smoke on hair and clothes, causing Ayla to freak out and reveal herself --too bad it was just water! Xeno's a crafty guy, but he might have bitten off more than he can chew as Ayla immediately concludes that Xeno's gonna have to die, and she'll be the one to kill him. 

To her surprise, Xeno suddenly says she "passes" something, and drags her along to the roof to do some more investigation. He then checks the openings of the stadium and the top floor for the mechanism used to kill the victim --after all it's not like one can aim something like this, right? Its when he taps his pen against a certain pole that he says that his investigation is complete. Once again these two pages are filled with interesting camera panning (if you can call it that) and distance shots from Sugiyama that are winning my heart. 

Ayla isn't one to pass up a chance to kill Xeno --apparently this is her first assassin job, and she's given a poison needle to use if her presence is detected during the course of this assignment....and it's effects are immediate. Ayla's about to use it on Xeno when he asks for her opinion on something. Why kill here, why kill now, why kill at all? 

Ayla figures it's because a criminal is a criminal but Xeno presses her on this interestingly constructed dual page spread --the biggest panel focusing on Xeno's eye. He wants to know from a "pro" criminal if only he knew this was her first job... why people decide to go down the path of villainy? Ayla snaps that he shouldn't act so arrogant --especially for a guy who's lost his memory! Xeno reveals that this is exactly why he must know --he has no memory and therefore does not understand humans --why do they commit crimes? What moves them to do so? Ah, I do believe we've found the central "focus" of this manga --it's one that's been done before, but I feel like with shounen manga in general, it's more about the execution than the plot itself, and so far Xeno's doing things just right to keep interest.

Suddenly things shift and the shutters at the top of the stadium begin to close, knocking Ayla and Xeno off their feet, and almost sending Xeno tumbling to the ground until Ayla against her baser instincts saves him. Or perhaps this is due to her baser instincts? One thing I particularly want to focus on is the last panel on the right page which has a sense of motion despite it being a static image. I don't think I've seen a motion blur employed so effectively before in a manga, so kudos to Suigyama for pulling it off. Nanatsuki's script is also notable here, as Xeno still wants to hear Ayla's opinion despite hanging precariously off a perch. She responds that assassins are all cowards who hate something about themselves and as such sneak around in hopes of killing that self hatred. It's an interesting thought and well said. 

Xeno claims he's figured out where the culprit was attacking from, and informs the police. However, before he goes off to do his deduction, he asks Ayla who her target was. She is reluctant to answer, so he concludes it's probably him, which is kind of an occupational hazard since he's often targeted for assassination attempts. What's great here is Xeno sort of waves this off and says "It'd be a little bit problematic for me if I were killed here." So he proposes that he hire her for some unseen angle instead...that we're not privy to as the scene changes to the owner's office where Xeno claims he'll reveal the trick behind the murder. 

Xeno reveals that the true criminal is in this room among them, and now things take on the form of a traditional whodunit, with the suspects all being lined up on the bottom of the left page --A bartender, Sugimoto, James Sloane, a baseball critic, the stadium's architect Shichiro Kai, and Naho Sano an actress who was engaged to the now deceased Narasaki. Xeno reveals that the dome itself is the murder weapon, and proceeds to describe how the murder went down, with Ayla serving as unwilling assistant. See, there are six "seals" that pull away at the top of the stadium so that the people watching can see the sky, and these seals have shutters that act as gears when it's opened up. Xeno has Ayla head up and put a spear like object into one of these shutters, and...

with the proper timing the spear like object can drop through all six of these seals through the shutter at high speed and if one knows where their target will be --for example on a baseball field as pitcher, can send a weapon of deadly destruction right at them, and then...stabbity. 

Everyone freaks out that Xeno would kill himself over making a point but he's okay, he managed to figure out the trajectory and stand slightly to the side of it. It's here that he reveals without much fanfare to my surprise that the killer is Sugimoto the bartender. Usually there's a longer sense of hype behind these, so it's unique for Xeno to just drop it like that, and even moreso for Sugimoto to essentially admit to it, though Xeno does have him cornered by pointing out he's the only one of the group who wasn't in his seat, and when everyone was freaking out about Xeno's "death" he let it slip that the object used in Narasaki's murder was "rebar", something only the police should know. 

Sugimoto reminds the group of an older baseball mound and a person named "Fuyuki" from five years ago. Narasaki and Fuyuki were young rivals of the same baseball team --two young aces with a bright future ahead of them. Until Fuyuki was made to retire five years ago due to an accident involving old lighting falling on him. Sugimoto however claims that this was no accident, as Narasaki knew the lights were in poor shape and apparently went around the neighborhood talking about how easy it would be to break them and injure someone heavily implying that this was his doing --his doing that robbed Fuyuki of his dream. Although it was Narasaki he killed, The owner who kept his mouth shut and went where the money took him as well as the critic who forgot him, the actress who was dating Fuyuki and dumped him once the gravy train had stopped, the architect who paved over the old stadium without a care for what it had done to Fuyuki, are all to blame in his eyes. The chance for revenge came in a mysterious letter detailing the new stadium as well as a remote control...and within Fuyuki burned the desire for vengeance. Turns out Sugimoto is Fuyuki --his face altered by an underground doctor and his chance coming when everyone gathered together. 

The inspector moves to apprehend Fuyuki, but with the remote he has, he's able to control the stadium dome, but what does he intend to do with this? Ayla comments that she's not sure if Xeno had planned for this in his deduction, or if it came as a surprise to him as well, but the last spear of revenge that rained down from the heavens found it's mark....

Upon Fuyuki --his revenge now complete and life forfeit.

Surprisingly or not, considering that she's probably the heroine of this work despite her shady choice of employment  Xeno lets Ayla go, but the latter informs him indirectly that she'll most likely be back to take his life at some point. It's then that Kai appears and congratulates Xeno on a job well done. Xeno says that he's not done yet as there's still a blind spot in this whole scenario -- who had told Fuyuki how to commit the crime in the first place? Who had told Narasaki about the lacking care of the stadium? These couldn't be "coincidences" which means someone set up this crime in advance somehow. He then insinuates Kai is involved with this somehow, as he is kind of in the center of this crime --and that there is a rumor of a master criminal out there who seeks to plan the perfect crime --all without dirtying their own hands. 

Kai comments that he's heard of this criminal as well --and refers to them as an "artist" of sorts, seeking as artists do the ultimate masterpiece, except their canvas is crime. This is what is meant by the "seven locked rooms" it's seven structures prepared in advance for murder, and those who are able to get them are granted with the possibility of committing the perfect crime. 

Kai asks Xeno if he intends to break through these doors, to which he responds that anything created by humans can be broken by humans. Kai then leaves quipping that if he's killed he'd like to have Xeno investigate the case --and the narration leads us to believe that the clash between the genius criminal and Xeno would begin, however...

The very next day, Kai is killed, in a locked room murder, ending the chapter. Based on first impressions alone, I really enjoyed this first chapter and can't wait to see what else Xeno has in store for us. Sugiyama's art takes a bit of getting used to, but the dramatic flair for storyboarding is there and definitely keeps things interesting. I'd have to say the biggest pleasant surprise is Ayla though --I'm really interested in knowing more about her, and how she fits into the scheme of things. At the very least I'll be covering the next two chapters, so I hope the pace will continue to be this brisk and much more will be revealed before the end of the "obligatory" coverage. 

Speaking of Detectives, Mr. Shounen Sunday has seen fit to allow his junior to lead up the magazine this week after a long vacation which is...apparently not over yet as he's taking next week off as well. I do have to wonder at this point if Aoyama is suffering some kind of mystery aliment as all of these breaks all of a sudden seem very strange. It's one thing if he's always been known for being kind of a non entity in the magazine but Conan has always had a pretty decent tempo of one case (three chapters) and then a break just for all of that to be ruined with some pretty bad timing too as this case which serves as fallout to Shinichi's discovery in Kyoto. Poor Heiji's been dragged into this situation as he was photographed with the thought-to-be-dead Shinichi and has to do damage control at his school, while Conan is left trying to figure out what to do in his own situation --suggeting that maybe they claim the Shinichi that "died" was a twin to the real one and...yeah, that's jut not going to work. Meanwhile the kids are still investigating the mysterious disappearance of their classmate and end up having to call Conan when the clues lead them to a dead end where they find a strange toy of a "drinking bird" and aren't sure how to proceed. Conan ends the chapter suggesting they take care of it by giving it water --a novel suggestion indeed, but we'll have to wait till the combined issues 3/4 to see how these two seemingly unrelated stories connect if they do at all. Hopefully this time Aoyama will be ready to go by then and won't need another extended vacation. 

Kyoto vacations have to come to an end at some point, and here we are with the end of Komi's. Katou and Sasaki both comment on how Komi exudes one type of aura from the outside, but deep down is actually kind of cute. As Komi nods off on the train, they hatch a plot to do a thing --(and wow look at Sasaki's face, she's essentially a culprit in Xeno and Conan.) 

The thing they decide to do is invite Tadano to sit with Komi by suggesting there's a bad person attacking her. It's such an awful plan, but the high five on the bottom panel to the left is so hilarious due to their earnestness. As the lovely people in the comments pointed out last week, Tadano's first name is "Hitohito" so the "H" from the end of that chapter is most likely him --so Komi did sort of confess she likes him, though the girls had more or less figured this out from their interactions. Though turnabout is fair play as Sasaki sits Katou beside the guy she likes leaving both girls in an inescapable situation. Weaponizing girl-talk huh, Sasaki? Smooth. In any case, Tadano takes the seat as asked and comments to himself how he's never seen Komi sleeping before....

D'aww you lucky guy, even if it is mostly coincidence. 

Komi wakes up almost immediately however and Tadano tries his best to play it off, but is actually internally freaking out at suddenly being touched as the huge textbox beside him says, poor guy. Komi asks how long she was asleep against him, and it wasn't long --maybe two or three minutes, and the two lapse into a conversation about their respective trips which is very cute. (Mostly cause Komi replies via notepad) and after all that Tadano asks (on right) if she had a good time, and Komi confirms she did with a small cute nod. I'm impressed with how fun this arc was without any drama involved, which goes to show how strong character writing can propel a series over melodramatics that often come with this genre. As I'll have a lot to cover next week, I can't say for sure if Komi will be on the lineup, but I'm glad I was able to bring the Kyoto trip in it's entirety to the blog as it was really rewarding. 

Evans returns with his 33rd exploit as the ringleader of the assassination plot appears seemingly bringing this whole ordeal to a head, except he then brings up a "B" pattern that neither Evans or Pheebs knows anything about, threatening to expose them. So Pheebs does the only thing she can think of in this situation --throws some lies into the mix to get everyone confused by accusing someone among these band of assassins of being a traitor. 

She accuses someone of feeding Evans information saying that things went far too smoothly for there not to be a collaborator. Evans comments on the side that Pheebs is being too reckless, but in all honesty there really isn't much else she can do to keep from being discovered. Her plan sees immediate effect as one of the group immediately accuses the rest of being a traitor and refuses to share the reward money with the others. Unfortunately turnabout really is fair play as the others turn on this guy accusing him of being the traitor, and then each other. There really isn't honor among theves (also I should point out their code names are instruments --Tambourine,  Saxophone, Tuba, Organ, and so on. It makes this whole thing even more ridiculous.) 

The fingers and guns are pointed at each of them until the revolving circle makes it's way back to Pheebs and they all realize she's the most suspicious of them all since after the trade off earlier in his house, she was the only one to come out unscathed. Everyone quickly agrees and Pheebs is right back in the hot seat she was trying to avoid, and worst yet Evans apparently is no where to be found! The leader of the group figures having one less person around to claim the cash ain't a bad thing and decides to shoot her down until...

Evans reveals himself and the two apprehend everyone and apparently putting an end to the assassination plot. Pheebs is grateful for Evans help but asks why he couldn't have come out a little sooner? Evans replies that he had to make sure he had his ducks in a row (but the truth is heroes always arrive late cause it makes them look cooler.) The splash text for the next chapter implies that Ted --Evans's assistant will have to deal with the assassination plot nearing him as well, so perhaps this arc isn't quite over. Either way this wasn't bad for Evans' first longer story not centered around getting a girl. Hopefully Kuriyama doesn't shy away from doing another soon. 

Here with his 100th chapter is my boy Saike! It'll probably be a long time before we see him this high up in the magazine again so lets celebrate! 100 chapters and 10 volumes means a lot to Fukuchi as I mentioned last week since this is his first series to get to either milestone since the first "Law of Ueki" series back in the mid 2000's. Fukuchi's been really estatic about it on twitter, though this bright spot has a dark underbelly --Saike's 10th volume is selling a little less on debut than it's past releases, and at 10 volumes, the only way Saike will do better is if it gets an anime which looks very unlikely at this point. At least it probably won't be immediately cancelled as we're starting a new serialization round, and less popular series are getting booted, but like a parent worries for their child, I worry about Saike's longevity. 

It's the 11th part (thanks for the clarification Shougakukan!) and the good guys  are looking for a lesser panda with the ability to grant abilities to others --it's Kuroda and Saike's group versus Johann's gang in a all out battle for supremacy. Except revealed last time was Calim who should have been brainwashed by Johann's close associate Will apparently has all of his free will intact! Why would he then choose to side with Johann? The reason is fairly simple, he views life as an RPG where he gets to hunt down monsters, and Hizu to him is just another quarry. --His 100th hunt to boot. (Nice not-at-all-subtle-nod there Fukuchi.) Admittedly I'm a little disappointed by Calim's motivation --I thought this might lead into a bigger revelation in the story, but it's a bit soon to count Fukuchi out. 

Calim has prepared for Hizu in every conceivable way --right down from using twin chains to hunt him down with. Oh, and it's not at all like he agrees with Johann's schemes to make a world where those with oracles aren't mistreated or anything like that, no way! It's just if he doesn't give the madman a hand, he'll lose his quarry and he can't have that, he just can't. It's here Calim reveals he is the son of an affluent french artist, and tied down by the rules of the rich and haughty. He ran away from home at 15 and it was around that time his oracle manifested and began to see himself as the main character of a more heroic story. He only joined with Yumewo because it allowed him more oracle holders to fight against, which brought him to Hizu and Saike (back in volume 3) so this is a continuation and conclusion of that grudge match --one that he seemingly ends.

Except Hizu gets back up --he reminds him of himself before meeting Saike. He validated his existence by how much fun he was having --and "fun" came from crushing other ability users. "You can still walk a new path, Calim" he says to his opponent. 

Calim is only confused and a little infuriated by Hizu's advice and surprisingly goes through on his threat to kill Hizu. However, Hizu one ups him in the surprise department by turning the steel balls into Styrofoam using his abilities, but by doing so has blinded himself with the solution that was inside, ouch. 

Hizu remembers how Saike had made him promise way back when that if he should be able to beat him, that he wouldn't use his abilities for wrongdoing --to hurt anyone ever again, though this time it's Hizu saying this to Calim. He then apologizes to Saike for losing the ability to use his "eyes" to help find ability users --and asks for permission to be selfish one last time asking if he's being a "hero" like Saike right now as he lands the final(?) blow on Calim. Of course I'm skeptical as to whether Hizu really will be blinded forever but at least for this arc he's probably out of the running. Granted, with an ability like Saike's it's probable he'll be back to normal soon, but I like that Fukuchi didn't try to deus-ex-machina his way out of this one --at least for now. It's a great start for Saike's first chapter of the new year --and especially good for a 100th chapter. 

Kaerikuro is also fighting for her friends in this smashing entry for Souboutei. Zanka's men are still under the house's control and while Kurenai is with Rokuro, that leaves the former shrine maiden to handle things on her own, and handle she does in this dual page spread. 

The soldiers aren't sure what to do with the wall she poses as she keeps them all from progressing any further. They turn to one of their own lurking in the back --Kabashima, who's been an observer to step in, and he comments that his hobby is taking down monsters like her with his blade, commencing their battle. 

There's not much for me to comment on here and after seventy one pages of Xeno I thank Fujita for being so merciful, so I can only comment on how he manages to make fighting seem so...graceful. Of course with as long as Fujita has been drawing manga, it goes without saying he has technique, but the panels above look more like an intricate dance than a fight, and I don't mean that at all as an insult. 

Kabashima draws Kaerikuro's blood with one of his strikes, but she's confident she'll easily be able to heal this using her divine powers. Kabashima seems unfazed by this development, simply pointing out that she's going to be ripped apart before long anyway This doesn't make any sense until well, that thing above pops out of a picture and does as Kabashima says it will. The damage Kaerikuro takes from this attack is far too much for her to recover from, and she begins to entertain the notion that this is the place where she'll die. 

It's good to see that even after Ushio and Tora, Fujita hasn't forgotten his deft touch in drawing the grotesque, though like the pages above, there's something elegant on the left page as Kaerikuro's life flashes before her eyes. We're not told what the thing assaulting her is adding to the sense of dread she's probably feeling --she's being killed by something she cannot identify which has to be terrifying as it is painful. Not only that, she's wondering in the moments before her seeming why she needed to come here so desperately just because Zanka had insisted on it, and if her life had any sort of meaning to begin with? Silently confused she thanks the high priestess for taking care of her up until now and resolves herself to death until...

Out of a painting pops a very familiar fa--er, back. 

There's just nothing I don't love about Takoha and his dynamic entries. Especially when he's the one guy in this manga who just says what's on his mind even when it's not cool or snappy or anything. He manages to dive in out of nowhere and save the girl with the quip "Dammit I hate this place, it's creepy!!" What does his appearance signify, and more importantly if he's here, where's Sakamaki? 

Dagashikashi picks up where the last left off with this "ladies time" arc. A shame no one has the foggiest idea of what to discuss at one of these. The silence is so heavy that Saya actually starts begging that they change the subject, hah. Hotaru won't let it drop because she believes in Saya for bringing it up in the first place much to her chagrin, and she starts to wonder what she can even say here, since Koko --the guy she crushes on seems to like Hotaru more anyway. Though wait, maybe this is an opportunity in disguise --she's not sure of how Hotaru feels about Koko, so perhaps she can find out? Meanwhile Hajime notices that after bringing up this topic of conversation, Saya keeps glancing over at Hotaru for some reason....and then something hits her and she suddenly announces she has to go, taking Koko's dad (who she has to remind that he is in fact not a woman) home with her. They leave and Hotaru seems to have figured out that Saya has something on her mind, and responds she likes anyone who enjoys snacks. So she "likes" everyone in the shop, therefore skillfully but unwittingly avoiding the question entirely. Meanwhile the thing that Hajime "got" is the birth of a misunderstanding --she figured Saya likes Koko, but misinterprets her glances at Hotaru to be a yuri affair on the side to which she asks Tou and Koko about much to their confusion. Things just got much more intersting around the shop, that's for sure. 

Maoujo returns with a comedy chapter so funny you'll die laughing. --Deadly unfunny jokes aside, this week's chapter is about the princess participating in gatherings in the demon world --one regarding something called a Mandoragora, the voice of which will cause anyone who hears it to drop dead. The demon king's adviser decides to opt out of the event as he feels like he's spending too much time with the princess and it's beginning to mess with him, but just as he resolves not to think about the princess unless he absolutely has to, demons report that she's...died. He revives her and yells that they're doing this far too much --apparently the adviser has been through this with her --that she should be more careful with her life as she is a hostage, but the princess can get some herbs from the area of which it lives so she's willing to take that risk. This is basically the premise of the chapter, the princess dies, and the advisory revives her, at one point she's like "Could you work a little faster? I'm kind of busy", heh. Eventually the deaths get more ridiculous like something involving magma (I'm not kidding.) Eventually the adviser asks why she's dying so much today, and we get a rare moment of candor between the two when the princess reveals she's only doing this because she feels like he's avoiding her, and she wants to fix that. Though it really is the truth, he is trying to avoid her, he assauges her feelings and promises not to do so anymore. 

Except it really does feel like she's just dying to mess with him. Though if the advisor suddenly starts hanging out with the princes often, then he'll look suspicious, so he asks the Succubus (now named "Sakkyun" to keep a buffer between the two and not leave him alone with her, adding to her already high list of traumas related to the sleepy princess. Rest well my tired liege! 

Tenshi and Akuto continues it's romantic endavors this week when Akuto asks Tenshi to accompany him shopping for the daycare kids he watches over as he has no idea what to get himself, while Shou continues to practice confessing her feelings to Akuto --though that's not going so well. Admittedly while I have no interest in romance, this chapter was pretty cute if the pages I selected for maximum adorableness doesn't make that clear. From trying on clothes to rings and buying pendants, it does seem as if their relationship is advancing to something at the very least. Akuto even starts to wonder about his feelings toward Tenshi to some extent, though he still seems pretty convinced that what he feels for her is admiration and nothing else. The next time preview suggests that the live triangle is going to face it's first trial next week --a predictable development, really. I do hope the series returns to it's roots sooner rather than later, personally. 

Shinobi no is up next and the text (not written by Ogaki himself, admittedly) says the series has reached the climax of this arc, seemingly implying there will be more while also implying this might be it. If it's confusing, welcome to the world of shounen magazine hype, hah. After their war of words last chapter, Pops and Yoshida's struggle seems to be done as Pops has the latter firmly under his grasp, and prepares to kill him. However, he thinks about this and realizes "death" is a reward for Yoshida, and opts for a different method of dealing with him, stopping his heart temporarily but not killing him. Pops then advises him in the few moments he has left of consciousnesses that he rethink how he wants to use his life. 

As he fades into unconsciousness, Yoshida really does reflect on the things he and Pops talked about, and resolves to himself if he does live through this, he'll be more like a shinobi. I feel like Ninja Yoshida would be terrifying for various reasons, but at least for now the mad dog (or tiger) has been put to sleep. The scene changes to Kaede who we haven't seen in a while --at least since she sent a letter to Abe detaling how things are going awry. She arrives at Abe's abode, where he allows her permission to enter. 

Kaede comes to make her report in person where things The smell of Camilla wafts through the room, and it's immediately clear that Abe did not read her initial report when he curses Perry for information he should already know. Abe promises to put his all into protecting Edo and asks Kaede to leave, but she doesn't quickly working together that something is very wrong here. Why did he get rid of her letter, without reading it, and why does the room reek of Camilla? Abe commends her for being so observant, but warns that being nosy can be a threat to one's life just as a dart pierces Kaede's neck paralyzing her. Things just got really bad. 

Abe reveals he's tired of the current state of the country --keeping it's borders shut from the outsiders to sustain some "facade" of peace. Why should he have to suffer alone in protecting the country when it would be much more prudent to hand it over to the foreigners who want it so badly? He then instructs Kaede to "rest" as she's worked far too hard. Sure, Edo will be razed to the ground, but this is all part of his plan, which is to say he knew all of this would happen from t he very start, and hiring Pops to assassinate Perry was simply him going through the motions. It'd be seen as him showing just how little power he has throwing an elderly shinobi at the problem. Whether he fails or succeeds in assassinating Perry, the embers of war would be lit anyway and he doesn't care as he feels this country is done for anyway. He does express some disappointment that Yoshida seemingly failed in his effort to talk to Perry, but that's how things go, supposedly. Kaede has been poisoned, but he made sure it was just enough to knock her out and not kill her as she can still be "useful". In her final moments of lucidity, Kaede wonders if Pops too was, he couldn't have been. The look in his eyes seemed genuine. She then pleads wordlessly with a man who has never met her to save Japan as she fades to black. Man, while translating this, I really did feel bad for Kaede who's frustrated to the point of tears at how she was duped by Abe. She hasn't been around long enough to have a real emotional impact on the plot, but something about the whole situation does make for good drama and understanding of how this whole about face must feel. 

Meanwhile Pops arrives in Perry's room and man if the scene of him standing in the shadows of the room silently as the commodore turns and regards him isn't the coolest thing in Sunday this week. Pops states his intention to slay Perry and while I'm pretty sure the two men don't understand each other's words, drawing each other's blades is enough of a worldwide gesture of menace that it needs no translation. Perry's ship hurtles to Edo as the stage for the final battle(?) has been set. This week's chapter did a wonderful job of amping the stakes though with Sunday advertising this as if it's the end of the line, I have to start thinking about what's next for Shinobi no after this arc...and if there is a next.

Rinne is up next and with it the acknowledgement of my predictions?! I had felt like this arc might be leading toward a finale, but how could I have possibly known I'd be right, and so soon?! Like a shinobi on a mission, the editorial staff just secretly, silently and without warning drops the information that Rinne is in fact set to end in three weeks!? There's been no indication other than the story feeling like it's wrapping up loose ends that it's ending so this came as a big surprise --first Hiiragi with 5 (now 4) weeks to go, and now Rinne which is apparently going to end a week before? Will there be much of Sunday left in 2018? The chapter starts off conspicuously enough with Rokumon going to see Rinne's mom about the letter he left apparently saying goodbye to Sakura. Rokumon asks her what he should do, and she recommends telling Sakura immediately, though because she happened to be nearby, she overhears the conversation anyway.  

Rinne's been working hard to track down the matching bracelet he gave Sakura, but with his Dad and the world of the beyond running interference he's had nothing but hardships the whole time. He finally catches up with his father just to have no choice but to break the present and proclaim out loud that he doesn't care about it. --Though he really meant that he doesn't care about his father's schemes for the bracelet, not that he doesn't care about the gift, which is what Sakura overheard. It's when Sakura thinks about what she heard later that night that she calmly comes to the conclusion that she might actually hate Rinne. Meanwhile because Rinne broke the device his father had --one Kain needed, he's forced to find the parts of it so it can be repaired, despite his desire to fix things with Sakura immediately --the time away only making things worse. 

As Sabato complains to his wife (and she clearly doesn't believe him) about Rinne's role in breaking the present, Sakura continues to think about her relationship with Rinne the next morning, realizing that aside from lending him money on occasion, they really don't have much else in common, so in all fairness it wouldn't be wrong --in fact it'd probably be for the best if they just didn't see each other anymore. That being said, she was genuinely happy and upset when she got the present from him and it was subsequently sold, but she convinces herself that Rinne only got it for her because it was cheap. So when Rinne finally shows up to explain himself, Sakura tells him not to worry about it, that she's fine now. Rinne is hesitant to drop it, but Sakura doesn't seem upset anymore and he's still in the middle of a job, so he does as she asks and heads off. Sakura waves good bye to him and specifically says "Sayonara" --a word one uses to say farewell to someone they don't intend to see ever again.

Still, Sakura finds herself thinking how....painful saying goodbye is. 

The black cats are looking for the lost figurehead of the machinery Rinne broke, and Rokumon finds it by happenstance, but Rinne isn't around when he goes to bring it to him. Meanwhile Ageha reveals that the stones he's seeking might be obtainable again  on the black market, and while Sakura said she's fine, Rinne still wants to do something for her. Meanwhile in class, Sakura's classmates notice she's not wearing her gift anymore and she claims she lost it, ending the chapter. They say things only get worse before they get better, and it certainly looks like that for Rinne and Sakura. The question now is how much worse can things get before they look up with only three chapters left? 

Daiku no Hatou returns after a planned week away though to my surprise it doesn't really touch upon any of the story elements it brought up before taking a break, rather only briefly touching upon Minato missing Nagiko in the airport, and a brief mention of his mother's unwillingness to talk about his father. To his credit he does think about heading back home and extending his stay, but the awkwardness of doing so --and not knowing where Nagiko is quickly sours him on the idea and he goes through with returning to the school. The rest of the chapter builds upon the idea of sailing and how Yachts sails capture the wind and sail on the waves.  (To save you a click, it's important to approach sailing on a 45 degree angle.)  Essentially it's Minato hitting the waves, which is an interesting thing to explore at this point in the series when it seems to be all but cancelled. I suppose with Rinne and Hiiragi on their way out. Kusaba feels a little more comfortable taking his time to wrap things up? It wouldn't be an unfair assumption I suppose, but I was expecting a bit more out of this chapter, admittedly. 

On that note Arai announced on twitter that Quadrable is in fact on it's final arc --or well that fans should enjoy the series until the end --something I doubt he'd say if the series had many more years to go, hm. Even if I were to assume something else, the soaring quadrable gathering together again at the last boss's castle leaves no doubt as to where the story is headed. Still it is wonderful to see the boys (and girl!) together again. Martinao doesn't even recognize Shun at first, she's grown up so much after a year. 

Mancio and Miguel have a tender moment just as Nobunaga leaves it to the boys to tell their former master that the most powerful man under the heavens has sent them here as his messengers. Turns out Nobunaga was actually a good guy (in this work anyway)! He and his group set out to deal with the monsters guarding the castle as the Quadrable heads into the castle to the final battle. 

Upon meeting up with their benefactor again, he reveals he has lead them here rather than leaving them under the impression that they have in fact pursued him. Miguel is ready to tear him a new one when he says it's their "emotions" that made them easy to play, but Mancio points out that it's the opposite, their emotion is what allowed them to rise to the occasion to meet him here and the very same emotions --will that will destroy his schemes. With a knowing smile it seems he's ready to take the group on, and the final battle begins in earnest next week! 

Meteor Girl is up next and the chapter begins with quite the eye opening statement. --Chihiro has been identified as the ring-leader and thus the enemy of humanity. Considering how things left off last week, it just seems the girl can't catch a break, even if her life has been pretty horrible until now, It goes to show that things can always get worse. 

Chihiro comes to after killing her father and after realizing what she's done can only laugh humorlessly about how her father died without ever loving her. It's actually really sad when one thinks about it. I do wish it were a little less sudden so the audience had more time for the developments to sink in, but Ishiyama is probably on a very short leash (although it's maybe longer than I thought with two older series ending soon?) Still, the main point here is Chihiro's going through an emotional gambit and after denial is...

Acceptance. Her Dad died hating her, and the best friend she had in Tetto is also no longer on her side, so what's a girl to do? Why, destroy the world of course! She takes the MG's that her father had stored away and using her abilities wakes them up to destroy the world that had taken so much from her.

Been a long time but Ryoko....ah, I made myself sad thinking of another Ryoko we haven't seen in a on the scene after seeing Chihiro on TV figuring that perhaps she might get a lead in regard to her lost sister Sachi. Tetto and the ladies with him try to get into the building but the men in black aren't allowing any civilians inside the building, even if it means giving them a jolt of juice via their electricity guns. 

Tetto is knocked down, but both Ikeyama and Hane are ready to scrap with the men in black if it comes down to it. The man in black who doubles as their teacher --Kawamoto pretty much says that they're unnecessary here as his buddies have already gone in and will take Chihiro down themselves. Well, that's the plan at any rate, but.... 

Sachi appears and she's got a gruesome souvenir. More likely than not she is one of the MG's Chihiro awakened in the lab, so a reunion that leads to a scrap is going to occur. It was a pretty straightforward chapter this week --the perfect set up fodder leading up for an undoubtedly bumpy ride as the showdowns commence. 

Today in the Youkai spotlight is the "Azuki arai" which means "bean washing", and as the name suggests, this is a youkai who takes great pleasure in washing red azuki beans while singing a song about eating humans. They may talk a good game, but when discovered they tend to amscray rather than facing up to the other species leaving them as a legend that is heard but rarely seen. This week features a young lady who's a bit clumsy in the kitchen so she figures washing beans might be more up her alley rather than handling knives, but she ends up spilling the beans (literally) leaving her at a loss until a Azuki arai appears and shows her how to wash her beans right. The Youkai asks her to listen to the difference in sound between when it washes beans and when she does, revealing that it speaks through the beans rather than with words. --Except she figures out how to do what it does almost immediately making all of it's struggles seem meaningless, hah. The girl is asked to return to her job inside and it's then that the Azuki arai reveals it's never once been able to actually eat azuki cause it's always washing them. The girl then offers to share her bounty with the youkai, striking up an odd but definitely very cute friendship. I do like it when Satou does offbeat chapters like this between yokai and humans --I'd even go as far as saying this might be the strongest of the chapters of this type! 

And probably bringing up the rear for the foreseeable future is Yokoyama's "Lonely Tokachi plantation". Essentially Yokoyama's editor says he should go to Tokachi, raise some raw materials and make the world's best curry to thank those who helped him with the unscientific laboratory. This week's chapter is about him going to Hokkaido and looking for a field to start his "plantation" on, (I might not have mentioned this, but Tokachi is a prefecture in Hokkaido), where he and his editor have a grand old time on the farm before it dawns on Yokoyama that if he's supposed to be looking for a field in Hokkaido, that he's going to have to, well....move there, and as someone who's  lived in Tokyo his whole life, that's a His editor pretty thoughtlessly agrees to this --that he's moving to Hokkaido, and so ends the first part of this gourmet(?) manga. As it is a new serial, I'll be covering the first three chapters, though I admittedly am not sure how I feel about it right now. Execution is going to be key with this --but I do feel like it could be a pretty educational manga depending on where Yokoyama plans on taking it. I have to wonder if it's autobiographical, however --as I have trouble believing they'd really yank him out of Tokyo and have him move to a different place entirely just for this manga.....

And with that the first issue of 2018 is a thing of the recent past, but there's no need to have new years blues, as we're only just getting started! Next week gives us Color pages for Dagashikashi (with an important annoucement for the anime, apparently!) And Megumi for her newest volume, as well as the new serial from the author of the manga "Claymore", Norihiro Yagi with Aridone in the blue sky or "Soukyuu no Aridone"! I should also mention that Shinobi no's blurb above mentions a final battle, but I'm thinking it might be just for this arc and not the series --though I'm not sure to be honest. We're still in 2017 IRL, but Sunday is on the cutting edge in 2018 an entire month early as is this little blog of mine! I hope you stylish people will stay ahead of the curve with me next week too!