As many of you have noticed, recent weeks have missed the consistent ‘two reviews a week’ schedule. This is due to my increased workload in real life. It isn’t the first time extra work reared its menacing gaze, but in the past, I had a stock of reviews to tap into (the manga reviews were the last time). Sadly, my stock has run dry.
I don’t want to reduce the schedule to one review per week, nor do I want lower my standards to rush through series and churn out reviews for the sake of it. My problem is time. I simply don’t have the free time to watch enough anime – watch it properly. Writing the reviews is no strain at all, but it’s difficult to speed up a series without compromise.
So, what’s changing?
For the next couple of months, the schedule will be as follows:
Anime review on Sundays, as normal.
Mid-week will still have reviews where possible (anime or manga), but also anime related articles when I don’t have the time for a review.
No long anime until I have time again – focus is on movies and 13-episode series, maybe a 26-episode one, if lucky.
I’ve wanted to do some non-review content for a while now, so this is a good opportunity. Many readers have asked for my favourite anime, which I haven’t thought about in years. Before I list my current favourites though, I want to recall my favourites as they were before I started this site. It will be interesting to see how the list has changed since.
Thank you for bearing with me and I hope to have you around for many reviews in future.
The further you read, the less engaging it becomes.
Sexual content with no purpose.
Ken is a young Japanese guy in love with a Korean girl. When she moves back to Korea to become a policewoman – “Officer” – to become a policewoman-officer, he follows her with designs of becoming a policeman-officer, but through circumstances too ridiculous to comprehend, he finds himself as the leader of a gang.
After reading this hilarious setup, I thought I was in for a great time with Sun-ken Rock. Then it settled into its core, the meat of the story, which is a series of repetitive arcs (with no end in sight) of Ken being an idiot, stumbling across someone – usually a woman – mid-abuse/rape, calling the gang, and getting in a fight. Rape? Sounds serious. Except that the comedy undermines any chance of taking such a subject seriously. And it’s not as though Sun-ken Rock handles this humour with the genius skill of South Park, raising an interesting point through the unusual choice of comedy, which is a shame because the comedy is good when not breaking a serious scene.
If you’re here for main element – action – prepare for disappointment. Sun-ken Rock’s action looks nice (the artist put all his effort in these 2-page spreads), but is repetitive and the characters are too stupid to enjoy.
By the way, the plot about Ken and the Korean girl is superfluous with how little importance the author placed on it. Sun-ken Rock is not a good manhwa. How did it receive 25 volumes…? I should become a detective to find out.
Art – Medium
The action shots look great, while the rest is so-so. Most female characters have the same design.
Story – Low
A boy with a crush on a girl follows her to Korea to join the police, but becomes a gang leader by accident instead. Sun-ken Rock suffers from repetitive story arcs and shallow characters. Even its one selling point – comedy – doesn’t mesh with the serious, particularly in relation to sex.
Recommendation: Skip it. Whether manga or manhwa, the action genre isn’t empty enough to require you dig this deep in the slush pile to find a worthwhile series. Go for The Breaker over Sun-ken Rock any day.
(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)
So messy is the storytelling and structure in The Cain Saga that the conflict comes from finding scene transitions rather than the characters. Imagine you are watching a conversation scene in a film, camera cutting back and forth between close up of two characters, and suddenly it cuts mid-conversation to a funeral. Is this funeral a part of the conversation? Have we started a new scene? Yes…no! Not sure…
It’s a shame The Cain Saga suffers from such a glaring issue, for it could have been great. The Cain Saga is the story of Earl Cain Hargreaves, a wealthy heir exploring his family history of lies, secrets, and treachery told through a series of short stories.
Are these stories any good? Mmmyeah…ish. The ideas are fine, but as said earlier, the structuring makes it a chore to read. The dialogue is similarly disjointed. At times, it feels as though each character is talking for a different scene.
As I am trying to decipher yet another scene transition, I find myself wondering what made me add this manga to my collection many months ago. It must have been the genre. I love Gothic fiction, a rarity in anime and manga, so it was nice to find some. Sadly, it wasn’t what I had hoped. The search continues.
Art – Medium
Detailed art – possibly even too detailed. Without colour to highlight details, the art regularly looks like a mess, which is a pity.
Story – Medium
An aristocrat delves into his family’s history filled with secrets and lies. It’s a shame poor structure and muddled scenes make The Cain Saga a chore to read.
Recommendation: Try it. If you can stomach the messy art and storytelling, The Cain Saga has interesting Gothic short stories to tell, different from your typical manga.
The Breaker follows Shi-Woon, a downtrodden student, and his womanising martial arts teacher in hiding, Han. In the story’s opening, Shi-Woon is a victim of severe bullying at the hands of classmates. These one-dimensional bullies found in every Karate Kid-type story made me groan, but when Han tells Shi-Woon he is bullied because he’s a piece of shit, I laughed (see first image below). You don’t expect the master to tell the apprentice he’s trash. My opinion changed thereafter.
Han is the best character here and, in my opinion, the true protagonist since he has the most page time and conflict focus. His combination of goofball during downtime and serious when needed makes every scene with him a joy. He’s a martial arts master in hiding from several high-end gangs he’s peeved off in the past and he sees potential in Shi-Woon to become something great. The sexy Shiho, a master in Ki healing, joins them soon. She and Han play well off each other, particularly in regards to the sexual humour.
Having the underdog learn from a master to win a series of fights is nothing new and I would say oversaturates action manga. However, The Breaker executes it at the top tier, so don’t let past slush get in the way here. For one, there’s more psychology to Shi-Woon than your usual underdog. The author made an effort to explain why he is mentally and physically weak at the start, developing him in a believable way from there.
The Breaker also deviates from the formula with the inclusion of these gangs, which takes the story into a more Ki-powered mafia direction. Having more than a string of fights prevents the story from growing stale. Don’t misunderstand – action is still the focus, but there’s enough around the action to elevate it from the slush pile.
As for the action itself, it has all you expect – trash talk, comebacks, punches that knock the soul out of your gut, blood pouring over one eye, supernatural strength, and despicable villains. I preferred the comedy sections, but wasn’t disappointed either when it switched to action.
Art – High
I love The Breaker’s art style and character designs – Shiho is gorgeous. Panels aren’t cluttered and the action sequences have clarity often lacking in action manga/manhwa.
Story – High
A bullied student learns to pick himself off the ground when his school teacher turns out to be a martial arts master in hiding. Taking the Karate Kid formula as a baseline, The Breaker adds supernatural martial arts, sex appeal, humour, and plenty of opponents to defeat.
Recommendation: A must for action fans. The Breaker’s great characters balanced in comedy and action make this an engaging read to the end. If you only want to read one martial arts series, The Breaker should probably be it.
I don’t remember how Tetsuwan Girl got onto my manga list. The art doesn’t catch my eye, the premise reeks of strawmen, and nothing about it would make me pause while scrolling down the endless manga database. How did this get here…?
Tetsuwan Girl is about the start of women’s baseball in Japan and its players after WW2. In typical fashion of sports fiction, the team consists of the usual suspects of character types – the tough one, the butch one, the quiet one, etc. However, where good sports fiction will have this trait as the mere surface with depth underneath, Tetsuwan Girl stays at the surface. None of these women strays outside of their one note.
Take the protagonist. The author didn’t allow her to show natural toughness. Instead, her scenes feel like a reality show where the producer tells the “star” to act tough in front of the camera, manufacturing conflict for the dumb audience. They’ll even have some passing stranger pretend that he has a problem with women living to spice it up. I’d be more convinced this was real if Godzilla stomped onto the stadium.
The antagonists are worse. Each is a strawman setup to allow the protagonist to win effortlessly through some horrendous dialogue. The confrontations are so bad that I couldn’t take the struggle seriously. Did people really struggle for women’s baseball after the war? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t believe it after reading this. If it were real, Tetsuwan Girl’s conflict wouldn’t be so fake.
Art – Low
The art looks rough, unfinished, the draft stages of a painting. Every character has this peer-into-your-soul stare. Creepy.
Story – Very Low
A woman joins the first professional women’s baseball team in Japan after WW2. Flat characters, rubbish antagonists, and no direction make Tetsuwan Girl a mind-draining experience.
Recommendation: Avoid it. Tetsuwan Girl feels as fake as Jerry Springer but without the absurdity to make it entertaining.