All posts by Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is the writer and reviewer for the manga blog, Manga Xanadu. She also keeps a personal blog at Fangirl Xanadu, and a writing blog at Muse of Xanadu. She contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. As the mother of two teen daughters, she needs all the escape she can get, which reading and writing about manga gives her.

Oresama Teacher Volume 4

Troublemaking student council chairman Hanabusa thinks the best way to solve the problem of two similar clubs at school is to have them fight to the death! Actually, the losers just have to disband their club. But a silly club rivalry quickly gets out of hand when Mafuyu is kidnapped by the enemy!

By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
ISBN: ISBN: 1-4215-3866-0
Rating: ★★½☆☆

Oresama Teacher succeeds in turning out another uneven volume. A fun chapter is sandwiched between two less-interesting ones. Even though the first chapter does have some good moments, they aren’t enough to tip the balance completely.

Mafuyu and Hasakaya, as the new formed “Public Morals” Club goes up against the Yojimbo Club, as their charters claim to do the same thing. This chapter sees the return of Nastuo-Mafuyu, as she tries to get Hakasaya to learn to dodge hits in a fight. While I didn’t care very much for these chapters, they did have their moments. Hakasaya and Nastuo-Mafuyu have a good heart-to-heart talk, and Mafuyu comes to understand Hakasaya better. It was nice to see Hakasaya show that he cares about Mafuyu, even if it means doing something dumb. But that’s what we expect from the good guys, right?

Yuto, the second from Mafuyu’s old gang comes to visit Mafuyu and deliver some treats made by them. He meets up with Hakasaya and the Bancho, and they try to find Mafuyu, and consequently miss each other for pretty much the entire story. What was really funny was the misunderstandings that went on between Yuto and Hakasaya and Bancho over who Mafuyu really was. Yuto has all of his memories of Mafuyu (slightly rose-tinted) as a demon fighter, while Hakasaya and Bancho think of her as a weak girl. The chapters were funny and the best of the chapter.

The volume ends with Takeomi needed to blow off steam from work, and drags Mafuyu off to the beach with him. This chapter felt rather odd to me. If this is supposed to be a teacher/student relationship story, it’s going at it in a really strange way. Takeomi and Mafuyu looked more like friends, or even siblings. I didn’t feel any kind of connection between them beyond their past. I’m still not sure what to think about Mafuyu’s missing memories of Takeomi.

I’m still teetering on the fence with this series. It has shown it can be a really funny series, but only if it can keep the focus on the students and their relationships. I still really enjoy Mafuyu and Hakasaya’s relations, and Bancho needs more page time with Mafuyu. I still detest Takeomi. He still doesn’t seem to have a good reason to become a teacher. He’s still too much of a delinquent to be an interesting character for me. The other “villains” in this series, such as the Student Council President is the same. So, the good and bad points of Oresama Teacher are about even at this point, but it’s still not a series I want to keep or re-read.

Manga Wrap-Up Week Two: Rurouni Kenshin

Week two ends on a better note than last week. After so much talk, I finally finished reading Rurouni Kenshin. I can’t really say I cared much for the last arc. I liked all the flashback scenes and Watsuki did a good job of balancing it’s telling with the present. But there was so much fighting, and lot of it seemed pointless. The big battle with Enishi and his “allies” was just to show how powerful everyone had grown over the series. And the battle against the 4 Stars felt like it was just filler. The ending did tie up everything nicely. I liked that everyone went their separate ways, following their own paths instead of staying together in Tokyo. I was glad to see some hope for resolution for Enishi as well. That is one of the things I liked about the series overall. There was feeling of hope and redemption all the way through the series. Kenshin never gave up one anyone, and redemption was always in reach, if one chose to reach for it.

The ending did have a cliché feeling to it, especially with Kenshin and Kaoru’s son Kenji being such a crybaby, mama’s boy, the exact opposite of Kenshin. It wasn’t bad, it just felt meh. But I like Watsuki’s suggestion for a sequel even less. I would rather like to see Kenji and Yahiko and Tsubame’s son fighting together as buddies but competitive rather than against each other.

Overall, Rurouni Kenshin is a great series and really deserves the praise it has gotten. I think the first volumes and the Tokyo arc are the strongest of the series. At least, they are the volumes I enjoyed the most. The light humor was more prevalent in these volumes. I don’t mind the darker elements that were introduced as the series progressed, especially since the series still ended on a happy note, but I do like the lighter elements more.

  • Rurouni Kenshin Volume 21-28

Next up, I’ll be starting the Tokyopop series Bizenghast volume 1-7. I’ve only read the first volume of this series, and it was several years ago, so I’ll be starting back at the beginning.

Oresama Teacher Volume 3

Mafuyu is heading home for the weekend to get some much-needed TLC. But neither her mom nor her hometown seem to be in the mood for a warm welcome. Trying to walk off the weird feelings, Mafuyu and some of her old East High comrades are caught in a trap set by the gang from West High! Can she help her former friends without compromising her fresh start?

By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
ISBN: 1-4215-3865-2
Rating: ★★★☆☆

The progress that was starting to be made in volume 2 gets eroded away at by a couple of manga tropes. The volume ends up being uneven as a good beginning is weighed down by a meh end.

This volume starts out by giving us a glimpse at Mafuyu’s past when she goes home for the weekend and meets up with her old gang. They are caught up in a rivalry with another school over turf. We meet Mafuyu’s former second and third, who are now the bancho and second. I liked Kohei, the current bancho. He really looks up to Mafuyu, but not quite the idolizing that Hayasaka does. He might even have feelings for her. Yuto, Kohei’s second, I didn’t care for quite as much. He a total masochist, always putting himself into positions to get hit by Mafuyu, and fantasizing about it. I found his character just a little too stereotypical.

The whole story with the gang was good. The boys push Mafuyu away as they prepare for a big fight, and she has to come to terms with the fact that they have moved on and don’t need her anymore. I liked that the gang was still fumbling some as they filled the whole Mafuyu left, and that the reason they pushed her away wasn’t just to stand on their own. Kohei’s inability to express his feelings for Mafuyu was just as responsible. The scene at the train station at the end was sweet.

Sadly, the rest of the volume couldn’t keep up with the beginning. The volume ends with two stories featuring Takeomi and introduces another new character, Student Council President Miyabi. Takeomi’s story is a big shojo trope, with Mafuyu discovering that he is her next door neighbor. The story really could have done without this. I didn’t like Miyabi either. He almost ties with Takeomi in my dislike for him. There is nothing interesting about him. He’s about as cliché as you can get, being the son of the School President, enjoying being evil, and has a “power” to dazzle anyone into becoming his slave. I really found his “power” to be outrageous, and not really fitting with rest of the series.

I was starting to feel good about Oresama Teacher after volume 2 and really hoped it could keep up the momentum. But the second half of this volume really puts on the brakes and has me thinking I may have been right after the first volume, and the second was just a fluke. I’ll give the series one more volume to convince me.

Manga Wrap-Up: Week One

“Manga wrap-up, manga wrap-up
Let’s finish up these series
Manga wrap-up, manga wrap-up
Cause there’s no more room in here!”

“Manga wrap-up, manga wrap-up
Let’s finish up these series
Manga wrap-up, manga wrap-up
Cause there’s no more room in here!”

“Cause there’s no more room in here!”

Hey! Welcome to my first post of the new year chronicling my attempt to catch up on all the titles I’ve fallen behind on and may even give away! I even have a theme song! (Bronies will recognize the tune. I blame my youngest daughter for its creation. 🙂 ) Anyway, this first week didn’t go quite the way I had planned, but that should come as no surprise.

I started 2012 by preparing for the January Manga Movable Feast. This month features the works of Usamaru Furuya. I’ve been saving Genkaku Picasso for this and finally read volume 1. I will have to get 2-3 now. I really liked it. Too bad it’s not available digitally, but at only 3 volumes it won’t be so hard to fit on the shelf. I hadn’t planned on reading Furuya’s version of No Longer Human from Vertical, but I decided it wouldn’t hurt to check out the first volume. I flew through that one, as well as volume 2. I really didn’t think I would like it, as I don’t care much for “classics”, this one was a compelling read, and well worth the time.

Also not on the long-term reading list, but still a volume I’ve had for several months, I read volume 4 of Degenki Daisy. It s a series I like, but since it’s available digitally, I’m going to move it over to that realm as a space saver. I’m not sure how much of a re-read it will be, so going digital with it is probably the best option. Volume 4 will be my last physical copy. If Viz has another good sale, I’ll probably replace 1-4 as well.

It took me until Friday night to finally get into the pile I want to work on. I picked up Rurouni Kenshin, but it had been soooo long since I read it, I wasn’t sure what volume I had stopped on. I know I had finished the Kyoto arc and was starting on the final. I ended up re-reading volumes 18 and 19 before determining volume 20 is where I want to start. I finally got to that Saturday afternoon.

I knew this was going to be a long, uphill battle. With so many other books to distract me, it might be harder than I anticipated to get through this pile. But I am determined to do it. As my new theme song says, there is no more space. So, the final tally for the week is:

  • No Longer Human v1-2
  • Genkaku Picasso v1
  • Degenki Daisy v4
  • Rurouni Kenshin v18-20

Check back next week to see how far I get with Kenshin. Only 7 more to go, in this series.

Looking Ahead to 2012

Looking back over 2011, I realize it didn’t quite turn out as I had intended it. RL seriously intruded on my blogging and reviewing, though I have tried to at least update once a week. My company’s move to a new computer system not only took up a lot of time, but sucked a lot of life out of me. (BTW, if you ever hear the word ‘Oracle’ at your company, run away. Very fast. Or stock up on alcohol. I’ve heard that helps a lot.) I even missed this blog turning 4 in November! That’s how out of it I was!

With all of that behind me, I know look ahead to 2012, and my plans for the new year. In my last anniversary post, I said I was going to donate some of the manga I wasn’t reading anymore to my local library. In the last week of 2011, I finally did it. I took 71 volumes to the children/teen librarian after communicating my wishes. A look at the library’s graphic novel collection showed that it really needed some help. I took over mostly completed series’ or one shots, so that there wouldn’t be gaps of hangings. The only exceptions to this were Detective Conan/Case Closed and Ranma 1/2, of which I had the first 5 volumes of, and the first volume of Twilight. If Twilight proves popular (yeah, if), I’ll try to see about getting the second volume for them. It was still hard for me to do this, even after I had made up my mind, put the books in a separate book and even put the box by my desk. Even now, I feel pangs of regret, even though I know the title I gave away are things I won’t read again. It’s hard to be a packrat/collector.

In order to continue to reduce my manga collection, I have to really start to read more. I have several completed titles that I’ve read most, half, a few volumes or even none of! I’m making it a goal this year to get through these titles and see more of them go to the library. It should come as no surprise that most of these are shonen titles. I finding I’m not as enthusiastic about shonen as I was 10 years ago. There are exceptions of course, such as One Piece, but reading the latest Shonen Jump made me realize how much I didn’t care about the story or characters in most of them. I’m kind of glad Viz went digital with Shonen Jump. Now I can read them with out having piles of magazines cluttering up my house. In order to help me keep up on this, I’m going to keep track of the titles I read here, and maybe even do a short review consisting of a couple of lines if the mood hits me.

And speaking of digital, I will be trying to get more manga that way, at least as much as the publishers will allow me. I’m going to rant now for a few lines (paragraphs). I want to support publishers and their move to the digital realm. Digital manga is great, doesn’t take up shelf space and on the right devices, can actually look as good as print. The problem is that publishers AREN’T making their digital manga as available as their print. Viz, Yen, and new comer Kodansha are keeping their manga on mostly proprietary devices. iOS devices still get the preferential treatment, and recently both Viz and Yen put manga on Barnes and Nobles Nook tablets. Yet they continue to ignore Android. Just over Christmas, 1.3 million android devices were activated. Do they really think it’s a good business plan to continue to ignore this market? Yes, they give lip service to Android, saying they’re “working on it”, but I’m really tired of that excuse. Just as I’m tired of “Android is difficult to program for.” Sorry, that doesn’t cut it any more. Nook tablets and readers are Android based. If they can make their manga for those devices, they can make it regular Android devices. I want to be a legal buyer of manga, but right now, the aggregators and scanlators hold the Android market. How is that helping their cause? And if they give the excuse of the Japanese publishers are keeping them from going it, and then Jmanga gets an Android app out before them, then they should just hang their heads in shame. Both the US and Japanese publishers who are limiting the readership.

And before anyone says I should vote with wallet and not support the publishers, let me say I AM. I will not buckle under and buy the hardware they are putting their manga on. Content should never be limited to a hardware platform, and yet that is EXACTLY what all the manga publishers are doing. If you don’t buy this other company’s hardware, you can’t have our books. That’s not the way to expand readership. That’s how you limit it to an elite few, and I don’t believe books should ever be limited to one group over another.

And while I’m ranting, Jmanga, GET SOME VOLUME 2s OR MORE UP! It’s nice that you are getting titles up, but there have been hardly any second volumes go up since the site started. I’m not going just keep getting the first volumes of titles if there is no hope of the titles continuing! Yen Press, even if you do finally put your manga out on a platform I can read, I’M NOT PAYING $8.99 FOR THEM! I wouldn’t pay Jmanga that much, what makes you think I’ll pay you that? And Square Enix…just get over yourself. Did anyone notice your site was down and unavailable? No? That should tell you something. Alright, I’m done.

I’m looking forward to a more productive year here at Manga Xanadu. And while I do feel a little prideful at the size of manga collection, logistically it’s not feasible for me to have over 1000 volumes (which I probably had at one point this year). I’m hoping for more manageable shelves, and to fill more digital shelves. This will also hopefully mean more content for this blog. I hope you’ll continue to follow me into the new year.

BTW, little known fact. 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar wasn’t originally meant to mean the end of the world. It was supposed to be when the Maya, who are actually beings from the star Arcturus in the Pleiades cluster, will return to earth via their “galactic synchronization beams” and transform reality. So, no worries about the world ending. 🙂 (Source: Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries; Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology by Kenneth L. Feder, 1990 edition.)

 

Oresama Teacher Volume 2

Mafuyu’s plan to be an ordinary student seems to be working out so far. She’s got a friend (Hayasaka) and a plan to join a totally normal school club (crafts). But homeroom teacher Mr. Takaomi has something different in mind—he wants Mafuyu to take down the notorious leader of the campus gang!

By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

I really didn’t care for the first volume of Oresama Teacher. While it had its moments, I thought they weren’t enough to overcome the parts I didn’t like. But I went ahead and checked out a few more volumes. I started to see some potential in volume 2 as the story revolved more around Mafuyu and Hayasaka.

I really enjoyed this second volume, which came as a big surprise to me. I was expecting to see more of Takaomi abusing Mafuyu, but Takaomi was just a side character.  Instead there was more interaction between Mafuyu and Hayasaka, and the introduction of Kyoutaro, the school Bancho. Hayasaka and Mafuyu’s search for a club to join so they could avoid Takaomi was funny. I loved the Craft club, which was filled with Macho men who looked straight of Fist of the North Star or Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. I know it’s becoming cliché, but I couldn’t stop laughing at seeing the big, muscular men embroidering and making stuffed animals. Their pressuring to get Hayasaka to join, who turned out to be surprisingly good at embroidery just made that chapter one of the best in this series so far.

Kyoutaro was amusing too. He acts tough and loves to fight, but has a soft side. He loves a children’s show, Nekomata and it self-titled main character. The day Mafuyu spends with Kyoutaro was just a lot of fun to read. The reveal at the end of the chapter was great and has a lot of potential for the future.

Hayasaka’s denseness knows no bounds. He searches for Usa-chanman and eventually figures out that she is Mafuyu, but is easily tricked out of it again. His denseness might annoy me, if he wasn’t such a great match for Mafuyu. But now Mafuyu has a good reason to keep her identity a secret from him. She wants to be friends, not idolized by Hayasaka because of her fighting ability. So she has to keep it a secret. This means then that she has to come up with another disguise, a boy named Natsuo, who Hayasaka treats as peer instead of an idol. I liked this second disguise. Mafuyu looks better as Natsuo than as herself!

I still dislike Takaomi. While his scenes are kept to a minimum this volume, his plan for Mafuyu is revealed and it’s typical of a low-life punk. He intends to use Mafuyu and Hanasaka to help him win a bet with the School President. So he’s still complete slime, but with less of his slimy trail in the title and the addition of the Bancho actually got me feeling more upbeat about Oresama Teacher. I just might change my mind about it.

Manga Guide to the Universe

Explore our solar system, the Milky Way, and faraway galaxies with your intrepid heroines, Gloria, Kanna, and Yamane, in The Manga Guide To The Universe. Together, you’ll search out the universe’s greatest mysteries: dark matter, cosmic expansion, and the big bang itself. As you rocket across the night sky, you’ll learn about modern astrophysics and astronomy, as well as the classical findings and theories on which they’re built. You’ll even learn why some scientists believe finding extraterrestrial life is inevitable!

Continue reading Manga Guide to the Universe

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Volume 5

Rikuo has successfully defended his classmates from the vicious Inugami’s mad-dog attack. But that battle is just a hint of what’s to come. The sinister Tamazuki has remained in his human form so far, but now he’s unleashing his true form: a ferocious yokai leading the 88 Demons of Shikoku, a disciplined demon horde hell-bent on taking the Nura clan out. With Nurarihyon missing, Rikuo must step up as a warrior and a leader.

By Hiroshi Shiibashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Action
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

Rikuo really starts to step up as under-boss in this volume. With his grandfather, the Nurarihyon, gone, it’s up to him to defend the Nura territory. He finally shows some initiative when he sends Gozumaru and Mezomaru to infiltrate a Shikoku yokai gathering to gather intelligence. And he acts on that intelligence by taking the fight to Tamazuki rather than waiting for him and his forces to attack the Nura Main house. He’s pretty impressive in his night form during this fight until he gets blindsided, literally.

This battle with Tamazuki really shows the cycle of the generations within the Yokai clans. Tamazuki is ambitious and hungers for power, just as his father, Inugamigyobu once was, reaching out into Nura territory, while Rikuo considers creating a new 100 demon parade rather than working so hard to keep his Grandfather’s retainers together. Both young yokai can be seen as walking in their predecessor’s footsteps, while still making their own mark.

This volume of Nura was better in terms of moving the plot forward. It isn’t just about Rikuo having to deal with some threat and having his Night Form save the day. There is a confrontation between Tamazuki and Rikuo, but it and the events that lead up to it carry some weight. Yukki-Onna might even prove to be worth something more than a maiden-in-distress, though I don’t’ think I’ll hold my breath on that one.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan continues to be a series that I don’t mind reading online for free (as part of a Shonen Jump subscription), but it still hasn’t shown itself to be a series worth keeping on the shelf.

Dark Water

Inspired by the Japanese thriller, these pages hold the macabre tales of a mother’s psychological torment in a rundown apartment complex, another man’s terror upon the open sea, and a message from a watery grave. A haunting will begin, and these people will learn that no one is safe from the mysteries that lie within the murky depths of Dark Water.

Written by Koji Suzuki; Art by Meimu
Publisher: Dark Horse
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Horror
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★½☆☆

I picked up Dark Water, expecting another single story adaptation of a novel by Koji Suzuki. This impression is really emphasized by the cover text that claims it’s the book that inspired the “major motion picture.” So I was really surprised when I discovered it was only the first story of four that “inspired” the movie. A movie that was decent, and didn’t need a Hollywood adaptation that couldn’t improve on it any.

I was actually kind of disappointed when I discovered that Dark Water was just a short story, and not a full novel like The Ring. I really enjoyed the manga adaptation of that novel, and was hoping for another experience like that. While “Dark Water” was a tighter read, it wasn’t as interesting or scary as the longer movie. It really needed more disturbing moments to make what happened hit home. It’s not a bad story, but a few more scenes could have made it better.

Of the remaining three stories, the only one with a good “creepy” factor was “Island Cruise”. It did a good job of balancing the supernatural with the non-believer, who must hold on to his non-belief at all costs, or be literally dragged down into the water. “Adrift” was the shortest and left me scratching my head about what happens in it. I’ve read it several times now, and while I think I get the idea Suzuki was trying to get across, it was lost in the manga adaptation. “Forest Beneath the Waves” really doesn’t have anything dark or scary about it. It’s a story about a son connecting to a father he never knew through the place where the father died. This story really doesn’t seem to fit in a volume that is otherwise filled with menaces coming from the water.

Dark Water isn’t a title that will keep you up at night or make you wary of taking a bath. It’s isn’t dark so much as it is murky. It wants to drag you to the bottom, but instead ends up losing its way. I really can’t recommend this book to anyone but Koji Suzuki fans.

PR: Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha Covered

I’ve been a fan of Shonen Jump ever since it came out in 2002 (technically), and still have every single issue. I admit I have mixed feelings about this move to digital. The good: don’t have to store all those magazines anymore. The bad: can’t just pick it up and read it anywhere. But, I’ll stick with this first year of digital and see if I can keep up.

Continue reading PR: Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha Covered

The Ring Volumes 0-3

Somewhere in Japan there’s a cabin in which you might watch a program that will change your life…in fact, it will take your life. She will take your life. She calls out from the afterlife, from the dark bottom of a forgotten well. And if she calls you, one week is all you have left to find the answer to her curse.

The Ring Volume 0-3
Written by Koji Suzuki, Hiroshi Takahashi; Sakura Mizuki
Art by Meimu, Misao Inagaki; Sakura Mizuki
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Horror
Price: $12.95
Rating: ★★★½☆

In the late 90s to early 2000s, Japanese horror, also known as J-horror was really popular in the US, and the title to start it all was The Ring. Based on a novel, the original movie was so popular, it was remade with American actors for wide release. Of course, publishers were ready to cash in on the action with releases of manga adaptations of the novels and/or movies.

The Ring series starts off with a great creepy premise, but seems to lose steam with each volume. The first volume is a nice and thick and stays true to the novel. This first story was more compelling and didn’t make Dr. Ikuma into the villain the movies did. It has a good pace and makes the feeling of time running out seem real. The first volume was a great read, and I would recommend it even if you’ve seen the movie.

The Ring 2 follows the plot of the movie instead of the book, and isn’t nearly as compelling as first story. It recaps the first movie before replacing the lead with Takayama’s assistant Takano as she tries to stop Sadako from taking over Yoichi, Takayama and Asakawa’s son. The story doesn’t have the same creepy feeling and the art just looks bad at times. Birthday is a prequel that continues to follow the movie’s plot line and shows Sadako’s life just before she died. It’s sad but not really creepy. Spiral is an adaptation of the novel sequel of The Ring, and takes Sadako’s story in a more scientific direction. The idea behind the replication is interesting, but the overall story wasn’t.

The big problem all three of these volumes had was the constant re-telling, and re-writing of the original Ring story. The first third of The Ring 2 is a compacted retelling of the movie version of the story. Spiral completely ignores most the original characters of The Ring to tell it’s own version of Sadako’s story, and The Ring 0 goes with another modified version of the movie. All these different versions of the same story got confusing and really monotonous after the second version.

The Ring is a good, suspenseful manga, but keep your reading to the original. The rest really don’t add much to the overall story, and will leave you scratching your head more than worrying about that static-filled TV.

One Piece Volume 46-50

When the Straw Hats encounter a mysterious barrel on the open sea, little do they know that it’s a trap. Losing control of their ship, they’re steered toward Thriller Bark.  Any rational sailor would think twice before going ashore on an island full of zombies. But with Luffy at the helm, the Straw Hats are in for a scare as they become the targets of the dreaded Gecko Moria!

By Eiichiro Oda
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Action
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

After the long and emotionally draining Water Seven arc, Thriller Bark makes for some spooky fun with zombies, ghosts and a talking skeleton. But the story feels drawn out and really seems to drag on, as does the bittersweet background story for Brook. It feels more like a filler arc and an excuse to throw in some Zombies.

The Thriller Bark story arc starts out as a light-hearted story filled with lots of humor. Luffy is excited at the prospect of seeing ghosts and is inviting Brook, a walking talking skeleton to join the crew without knowing anything about him. The gags really run amok when the Straw Hats reach Thriller Bark itself, with Nami, Usopp and Chopper seeing zombies one minute and then gone the next. And the arrival of Luffy, Zolo, Sanji, Robin and Frankie is funny as they first tame a Cerberus-like zombie and then beat up all the zombies that pop out of the graveyard, and leaving them stick out of their graves, feet first. Oda does a really good job in the beginning of creating a spooky atmosphere with zombies popping out of pictures and stuffed animal heads on the wall coming to life.

The fun doesn’t stop there. Usopp gets a great spotlight in this arc, as his super-pessimistic attitude is finally shown to have a use. When faced with the Ghost Princess Perona and her negative energy ghosts, Usopp is invincible, since he already has such a low opinion of himself, he can’t be brought down any further. His battle with her was the best of the volume. The giant zombie Oars running around talking and acting like Luffy was pretty funny too.

All this humor is overshadowed by Brooks and the padding of the story to stretch it out. Thriller Bark is supposed to take place in the course of a single night, but it goes on for 5 volumes! It’s too long and too much is going on. The entire plotline with Absalom and Nami was clichéd and got boring fast. In arcs such as Alabasta and Waters Seven, the battles that each Straw Hat was in was entertaining. But they really weren’t in this arc. Brook’s background story wasn’t just tragic, it was downright depressing. While Robin’s back story, which was shown before Brook’s, was really tragic, there was still a ray of hope with Robin trying to continue the work of the Ohara clan. But there isn’t any feeling like that with Brook. The more your see of his story, the more down you feel. There doesn’t ever seem to be a light at the end, even when he joins the Straw Hats. It’s more like relief that such a dark period is over, and after all the humor the arc started out with, the darkness of Brook’s back story just doesn’t feel right.

The arc redeems itself at the end with a return to World Government story line. Kuma, another Warlord of the Sea comes to check on Moria, and possibly kill Luffy. But the Straw Hat’s loyalty and Zolo’s belief in Luffy saves him. The scenes with Kuma only increases my curiosity about the World Government and what their true motives are.

The Thriller Bark story arc has a good beginning and good ending, but too much filler going on in-between. This is still a good arc, with lots of great scenes for the characters. It just would have been better if it had been pared down. Three volumes would have been just right.