One Piece – Volume 13

The very cover of One Piece’s thirteenth volume filled me with skepticism. Emphasizing a balloon-shaped Luffy and the Baroque Works baddies, it seemed to promise a volume filled with meaningless battles, where Luffy’s buddies fight inconsequential enemies while Luffy sleeps off his meal. “Luffy is incapacitated” has already become something of a warning sign in this manga – though Oda’s art is strong, the tactical interplay of One Piece’s fights can’t really aspire to the heights of something like Hunter x Hunter, meaning its battle scenes are less likely to be rewarding for their own sake. And after a volume dedicated largely to One Piece’s actual specialties (discovery! adventure!), a volume of empty fighting seemed like a bit of a letdown.

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One Piece – Volume 15

One Piece’s fifteenth volume offers a rich sampling of pretty much everything that makes this manga great. After a couple of Baroque Works-focused volumes that were frankly a little below par for the series, the team’s exit from Little Garden and subsequent steps offer action, comedy, and even some smaller character-building moments. One Piece may be at its best when fully embodying a spirit of adventure, but volume fifteen demonstrates it’s entirely comfortable operating within any number of dramatic and genre modes.

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My Hero Academia, Volume 9 – Review

My Hero Academia somehow managed to step it up from its consistently excellent execution to a whole new tier this volume. Midoriya and his classmates’ battle against the League of Villains’ new allies is a thrill from start to finish, offering some of the most unique clashes and astonishing visual spectacles yet. This manga cannot be stopped.

You can check out my full review over at ANN.

One Piece – Volume 12

Look, I’ve spent eleven straight volumes offering staid, craft-oriented critiques of One Piece. I’ve discussed key structural decisions, the composition of action setpieces, Oda’s evolving visual repertoire, and all manner of other theoretically interesting facets of comic design. I have been very good about trying to ensure you generous supporters get your money’s worth out of these writeups, and that they aren’t simply the style of fan-gushing you can find on basically any forum.

With all that in mind, I think I’ve earned the right to say HOLY SHIT THIS VOLUME’S JOURNEY INTO THE GRAND LINE IS SO FUCKING COOL.

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A Bride’s Story, Volume 8 – Review

It’s time to return to A Bride’s Story, with breakout star Pariya taking the lead in a volume that demonstrates even prestigious arthouse projects can be as moe as anything in the goddamn universe. Pariya’s “oh god I’m terrible at everything oh god oh god” personality makes her feel endearingly universal, and this volume’s depiction of the village’s recovery offers plenty more of its unique culture-study pleasures. This sure is a darn good manga.

You can check out my full review over at ANN.

One Piece – Volume 11

At last, the moment has arrived! After nearly a full volume of Luffy slowly drowning, the Luffy-Arlong battle begins in earnest this volume. I’ve discussed before how the fundamental assumptions of One Piece make it awkwardly inevitable that Luffy finds himself tied up for long stretches of fights. The fact that Luffy’s power adheres to cartoon logic as opposed power level logic is one of One Piece’s most distinctive features – but it also means that it’s tough for him to share the stage, or for his fights to maintain tension for long. The simple fact is, nobody in One Piece has yet managed to test the limits of Luffy’s very silly strength. And so it goes with poor, doomed Arlong.

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My Monster Secret, Volume 5 – Review

My Monster Secret finally gains some ambition in its fifth volume, offering two large-scale narratives that demonstrate this story actually has some legs, Having already read the sixth volume, I know this isn’t a permanent shift for the manga, but it’s still nice to see a story with generally episodic priorities demonstrate it can handle some more dramatically ambitious stuff well. And Mikan has very surprisingly turned out to be one of my favorite characters here, occupying the role of “girl who obviously should win” in a lesser harem. I say “lesser harem” because in this case, the two leads actually are great together, and I’d be happy to see them get together. My Monster Secret is just a positive time all around.

You can check out my full review over at ANN.

One Piece – Volume 10

At last, it’s time for One Piece’s triumphant return! After far too many days/weeks/months of dilly-dallying, we’re back on the One Piece train with the second volume of the fabled Arlong Park arc. Nami’s backstory, the powers of her crew, and Arlong’s menace all rolled into one explosive manga adventure. And after all this time away, I have to say that… this volume is maybe a bit of a letdown.

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My Monster Secret, Volume 4 – Review

Today I return to that reliable harem staple, My Monster Secret. This volume wasn’t as entertaining as previous ones, but part of that partially comes down to structural issues inherent in the genre, and other parts come down to the fact that the author actually does seem to be trying to improve. Having already read the fifth volume, it seems like this is just a temporary stumbling block, so I’m not terribly worried. Keep on keeping on, Asahi!

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below.

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UQ Holder, Volume 9 – Review

We’re back in the training arc mines with today’s UQ Holder, but at least this volume gave me a chance to roughly cover the manga’s trajectory to date. UQ Holder is perhaps more interesting as a dramatic problem to solve than an actual story, with “how do you make a compelling shounen drama when your hero’s already an extremely powerful immortal” its central puzzle. The manga’s solutions to that puzzle are inconsistent, but it sure is fun to talk about!

You can check out my full review over at ANN.