Toriko Manga Volumes 6-10 (Spoilers for vol. 1-5)

Toriko 08_Cover

Toriko 09_CoverAnime Reporter returns for five more courses of gourmet manga with Toriko volumes 6-10 (chapters 44-88).

When last we left Toriko and friends, at the end of volume 5 (Volumes 1-5 reviewed here), they were still facing off against the very, very deadly GT robots to see who would claim the rare and highly sought after jewel-meat of the regal mammoth. Volume 6 sees this story arc draw to a close and reveals much more about the gourmet cells alluded to in volume 5. The history of these cells and something about the nature of the powers they grant are revealed and the effect is to enrich Toriko’s world. What’s more, learning about the gourmet cells and their unique properties sheds some light on the incredible abilities some characters, including Toriko himself, have displayed up to this point.

Given that ToriToriko ako boasted phenomenal strength and resilience from the beginning of the series, there seemed to be little room for him to grow. However, in the true nature of manga and anime, he soon finds himself up against a variety of foes whose abilities outrank his and, as the nature of gourmet cells is revealed, we learn that Toriko’s current abilities are really just the beginning of where these marvellous cells can take him and he begins his own process of growth which will likely take him across the series.

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Upon first glance, Volume 7 of the series feels like something of a gap between major plot arcs, concerning Toriko and his companion battle wolf, Terry Cloth who escaped mention in our last review for fear of spoilers. Terry, the orphaned newborn, is already a ferocious fighter but following the regal mammoth arc, refuses to eat most of the food at Toriko’s disposal. Hearing rumours that the foods wild battle wolves would likely eat exists in the Gourmet World, far away from human civilisation, Toriko takes Terry into the true wilderness, far beyond what they experienced in the biospheres of earlier volumes. In truth, despite what feels like a rather flimsy starting point for the tale, Volume 7 contains some of the best action so far in the series, with wild beasties and terrain eager to kill the pair every step of the way for no reason other than to eat them. In this land, hunting for the food which has almost been dismissed as a food of myth, the BB Corn, Toriko and Terry will encounter not just a preposterously hostile environment, but also their first flesh and blood encounter with one of the Sous Chefs (or vice-head chefs) of Gourmet Corp (or Bishokukai in Japanese). This adversary, Grinpatch, has something of a mosquito motif and attacks mainly through the use of a giant straw which he reveals was actually harvested from the mouth of a Devil Mosquito. Using this, he unleashes a variety of long-range attacks which, coupled with the limitations of their surroundings, push Toriko’s Knife and Fork attacks to their limits. The story lapses just past the end of the volume and is ultimately a satisfying serving of intense Toriko action, also setting the scene quite nicely for the story arc that will take up volumes 8-10 and beyond.

Toriko 10_CoverVolume 8 sets the scene for the Century Soup arc which sees Toriko and Komatsu, hired by the mysterious old trillionaire Colonel Mokkoi, along with dozens of other gourmet hunters. Their mission: to venture to the frozen continent aptly named Ice Hell in order to retrieve the unsurpassed soup which appears only once every (you guessed it) one hundred years, when the ice thaws and the stock formed from many frozen, now extinct, ingredients, seeps into reach. Among the various gourmet hunters is Zonge, whom readers should remember as the loud, hairy barbarian from outside the puffer whale cave quite a few volumes back. We’re also treated to a few new characters in the form of Match, a member of the Gourmet Yakuza, organised criminals who nonetheless seem to serve some code of honour and Takimaru, one of the Gourmet Knights, an order of gourmet hunters who shun anything which isn’t found in nature, including medicine, food and technology. While these and many other gourmet hunters are in competition for the life-changing sum of money offered by Colonel Mokkoi, it soon becomes apparent that they’re not the only players in the game for Century Soup. Gourmet Corp has sent along a few Sous Chefs to make a bid for the legendary broth and, much more than Grinpatch, these chefs are fighting to win, in particular, Tommyrod, a beetle-winged powerhouse who takes Grinpatch’s insect theme to a true extreme. Capable of playing host to a great many eggs for giant insects, each with a devastating Capture Level of their own, Tommyrod can bring these eggs forth at will and send them into the world to do his bidding, meaning that Toriko’s brute force is rendered useless by the sheer number of sizeable insectoid foes.

Toriko 06_CoverThe first five volumes demonstrated that a manga dealing with the pursuit of food in a world obsessed with gourmet can be more than the silly premise suggests. Volumes 6-10 teach that this manga can have as much heart, humour, grit and action as anything else out there.

Toriko Volumes 6-10 and a great deal more are currently available from Viz Media. For more information, check out the Viz Media website, the Shonen Jump Toriko page and of course, stay with us here at Anime Reporter for more anime and manga reviews!

Toriko

 

Action:                                     8.5

Plot Development:                    8

Character Development:           7

Entertainment:                         7.5

World and Mythology:                9

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90% – Top Notch” - Toriko Volumes 6-10 manage to make a trip to find food for a fussy pet and a quest in search of some soup feel like the epic voyages of great legends. Toriko really comes into its own as a title and shows that it can stand head to head with the biggest and baddest of manga titans.

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Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan

Nura- Rise of the Yokai Clan 00 Title Screen

In days of old, people feared yokai. The one who stood at the helm and led the night parade of a hundred demons was known as the Supreme Commander of the yokai. They had another name for him, The Lord of Pandemonium, Nurarihyon. Nura- Rise of the Yokai Clan 01 Anime Reporter brushes up on its Japanese folklore for a look at Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan (Nurarihyon no Mago in Japanese), the complete first series. This anime is an adaptation of Hiroshi Shiibashi’s manga of the same name.

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Set in modern Japan, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is focused on Rikuo Nura (voiced by Blue Exorcist’s Jun Fukuyama in Japanese and Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic’s Ren Hakuryu in English), a twelve year-old boy from a powerful and respected family. He also happens to be ¼ yokai on his mother’s side of the family. For anyone unfamiliar with Japanese mythology, a yokai is a type of monster dedicated to mischief at the very least, possibly going as far as slaughter and destruction as well. Rikuo, a timid and well-meaning boy, also happens to be the third heir of the Nura clan, the next line to lead one of Japan’s largest yokai families. Rikuo’s demonic form comes out under the light of the moon but the rest of the time he lives as a normal human boy and he wants only to continue life as a human. This is made something of a struggle when several of his schoolmates set up a society devoted to hunting for yokai and investigating their sightings.

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The series’ main focus is in forcing Rikuo to choose between his human friends and his yokai family, though often he’ll choose somewhere in between. Many members of the Nura clan are hesitant to follow a mostly human boy, particularly one whose loyalties are so often in doubt. This pressure, expressed as the resentment of years, seems to evaporate for the most part after the first story arc. The second half of the series is focused on Rikuo leading the Nura clan against an all-out campaign from a rather more violent clan on the rise. Once again, Rikuo’s priorities are torn between protecting his clan and his classmates and it can’t help but feel that it would have been more satisfying to commit to one side or the other. Another complication arises from his new classmate Yura Keikain, (portrayed by Ai Maeda who voiced a young Cottonmouth in the anime sequence of Kill Bill Vol 1. in Japanese and Bleach’s Michelle Ruff in English). Yura has been raised her entire life to hunt and destroy yokai and has the ability to summon powerful creatures to help her fight against them. She also seems to have much more knowledge about different yokai than Rikuo himself. Nura- Rise of the Yokai Clan 10   Some of the series’ characterisation can feel a little inconsistent, with humans and yokai both being very much agreed that yokai are basically evil but Rikuo’s grandfather, the current head of the yokai clan, ultimately doing nothing more sinister than occasionally using his powers to steal candy. Other, lesser members of the clan are portrayed as comical or harmless, with the occasional high-ranking psychopath proving to be the exception rather than the rule. Notable members of the clan are Tsurara Oikawa (voiced by Fairy Tail’s Yui Horie in Japanese and Sword Art Online’s Cassandra Morris in English), an ice-wielding yokai who accompanies Rikuo to school as his bodyguard, disguised as a student, and Kubinashi, (voiced by Naruto Shippuuden’s Takahiro Sakurai in Japanese and Fairy Tail’s Todd Stone in English), a yokai resembling a regular youth, except that his head floats independently of his body and whose character remains much of a mystery to viewers besides this information. Nura- Rise of the Yokai Clan 09

Another notable member is Kejoro, a curvaceous maiden who looks like a traditionally dressed woman and can manipulate her hair to attack with. Kejoro feels lamentably like a token pair of breasts and never manages to achieve more characterisation throughout the series than having romantic interest in a man. Hopefully, Kejoro and Kubinashi will benefit from some exposition in the next series. Rikuo’s night-time yokai form is a more confident warrior with red eyes and a shock of white hair sticking out for a few feet to his left. This demonic form ultimately proves to be far more interesting a character than his placid human-self, though it’s downplayed for the purpose of sympathising with his dilemma. Nura- Rise of the Yokai Clan 07

The animation for the series is stellar, with the Blu Ray edition in particular standing out in terms of vivid colours and stunning character detail. Many of the different forms of yokai are rendered with great imagination and originality, truly giving depth and layers to both the mythology and the hierarchy of the yokai. The voice acting overall is great, with special praise having to go to Sam Riegel (who also voiced Mephisto Pheles in Blue Exorcist) for his English portrayal of Kiyotsugu, Rikuo’s classmate who’s obsessed with investigating yokai and whose inability to discover one right under his nose is a great source of humour.

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The first series of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan does a fine job of setting the scene for future storylines and creates a nice parallel with organised crime families. The second half of the series builds the tension nicely and should leave viewers eager to see the Nura clan taking on other yokai families in the future. We’ll just have to wait for series 2 to see how they fare!

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Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is available on DVD and Blu Ray from Manga entertainment. For more info, check out the Manga UK twitter page and stay with us here at Anime Reporter as we’ll be tackling the second series: Demon Capital, very soon.

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Characters:                  6.5

Action:                         7

Humour:                      7

Plot:                             8.5

Animation:                   9

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76% – “Worth a Look”- Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is a great start to a Godfather style tale of the reluctant heir to a crime family and the responsibilities he has to face to protect the ones he loves. Plus demons and stuff!

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Toriko Manga Volumes 1-5

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Anime Reporter goes back to the origins of Toriko, looking at the first five volumes (43 chapters) of the Shonen Jump manga series created by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro.

 

Toriko 01_CoverToriko takes place in a world firmly established in the Gourmet Age, a time when exquisite tastes and rare ingredients are valued well above all else. The world is split into two parts, the Human World, not unlike our own modern society, but overflowing with restaurants and markets devoted to fine delicacies. The Gourmet World is composed of expansive wilderness, inhospitable to most humans. The title character, Toriko, is a gourmet hunter, meaning that he’s not afraid to go to the most dangerous terrains and tackle the biggest beasties out there. And what beasties there are! From troll-kongs to devil pythons, the world is covered in bizarre and magnificent creatures, many of whom have developed an assortment of ways to kill entire platoons of soldiers in order to protect their own, more flavoursome, body parts. Gargantuan predators and docile delicacies abound and people are willing to pay Toriko fortunes to retrieve these tantalising treats.

Volume 1 starts off with Komatsu, a young and timid chef in a five-star restaurant. Komatsu accompanies Toriko on one of his jobs to retrieve a particularly nasty croc, a garara gator, a fiercesome behemoth that Komatsu has never seen up close before. Komatsu comes to serve as the reader’s guide through the world of Toriko, learning about the amazing things gourmet hunters experience as we do. Komatsu, used to the Gourmet Age as seen from his kitchen, is constantly caught off guard by the splendour and danger of the wide, wild world.

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Garara Gator

 

Toriko is well able to keep Komatsu safe, boasting incredible strength and resistance. Coming off somewhere between a muscular looking Luffy and blue-mullet boasting young Goku, Toriko loves to fight and, more than anything, to eat. Like many gourmet hunters, Toriko is on a quest to assemble his ideal meal by sampling all the rare foods that the world has to offer. Toriko’s endless appetite, a common attribute of many shonen characters, is actually a highly relevant part of the plot. His appetite is a large part of the driving force behind his journeys, with money being much less of a priority. The other significant factor behind his travels is his love of fighting, often characterised by the image of a giant, terrifying demon. Toriko is one of the four ‘Heavenly Kings’ a group of powerful warriors renowned and feared throughout the world.

Toriko 02_CoverVolume 2 of the series introduces Coco, another of the Heavenly Kings, with superb senses that allow him to make accurate predictions as well as attack with stunning accuracy. He also specialises in toxins, being immune to a great deal and even able to generate some nasty concoctions from his own body. Coco has retired from the gourmet hunter business but isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty either, assisting Toriko on quests with require a more subtle approach than Toriko’s brute strength.

With the world and setting nicely established, Volumes 3 to 5 deal with Toriko’s and Komatsu’s visit to Biotope 1, a huge island installation for the breeding of new, delicious species and all sorts of gourmet research and development. Toriko has been asked to hunt down and bring in a regal mammoth, a creature the size of a small mountain with exceptionally valuable meat. What makes this mission different is that Gourmet Corp, an international and illegal organisation which seeks to obtain power above all else, has designs on the mammoth too. Toriko, Komatsu as well as new supporting cast members Rin and Sunny.

Rin is a resident at Biotope 1 who uses her knowledge of pheromones to tranquilise or manipulate some of the beasts on the island and who also seems to have powerful affection for our leading man. Sunny is a powerful and shallow character, entirely concerned with beauty and boasting a rather interesting set of abilities. The fiends of Gourmet Corp have an edge though, boasting a few robotic sentinels to surpass even the Heavenly Kings.Toriko 05_Cover

Present throughout the series is a wonderful flow of characterisation and humour. The humour is clear not only from the characters and any jokes contained within the plot, but it’s also clear that the story was written with a bit of a smile when you see Toriko happily munching on bacon leaves or once you first encounter a butt bug. The series sets itself up with an expansive mythology to borrow from and does an excellent job of reconciling sci-fi with the idea of a world obsessed with food. Toriko feels not so far away from titles like One Piece and Naruto in terms of characters and settings and is well worth picking up for anyone who hasn’t come across it yet.

Toriko Volumes 1-5, and well beyond, are available from Viz Media. For more information, check out the Viz Media website, the Shonen Jump Toriko page and of course, stay with us here at Anime Reporter for more updates on Toriko and much more!

Action:                         8

World Building:           9

Characters:                  7.5

Originality:                  8

Humour:                      8.5

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82% -Appetising!Toriko volumes 1-5 are a fun and light introduction to an addictive new world, with hints at a darker and much more expansive plot lurking just around the corner. Dynamite stuff!

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Dragon Ball GT Part 2 (Part 1 Spoilers)

Dragon Ball GT 00 Title Screen

 

Anime Reporter dives for cover during our review of Dragon Ball GT: Part 2, the final episodes of one of anime’s most famous and popular franchises.

Dragon Ball GT 01 Goku Super Saiyan 4

 

When last we covered Dragon Ball GT (here), the earth was enslaved under the rule of Baby, the malevolent parasite who had taken over the minds of all of earth’s inhabitants, including many of the Z-fighters themselves and , worse still, Baby was fighting off Goku from inside Vegeta’s body. As we all remember from last time though, Goku himself was undergoing a brand new change, reaching a brand new level, Super Saiyan 4. This was a great and unexpected cliff-hanger for the first half of the series to finish on and the action continues from there.

Dragon Ball GT 02 Baby

While the fights are intense and much better paced than many of the conflicts of Dragon Ball Z, it should really be said that there are no breaks from the old formula. This formula can be neatly summed up in paraphrases from the villain’s point of view.

  • “Hahaha, I’m winning!”
  • “What? How are you still alive?”
  • “I will transform into my ultimate form! Now I’m unbeatable!” 
  • “What’s this? That’s impossible! You have an ultimate form too?!?”
  • “Despite your new powers I’m still winni… Wait? You weren’t really trying?!?”
  • “Curse you Goku!”

It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. Dragon Ball Z had always delivered precisely this type of battle shamelessly and, although the first half of GT had largely moved away from it in favour of a lighter tone and space adventures, by the conclusion of the Baby Saga, they’re truly borrowing from their old material again. To illustrate this point further, the next story arc is essentially Goku and the Z fighters against everyone that Goku ever defeated in Dragon Ball Z. The gates of hell open and all of Goku’s old foes descend upon the earth, determined to destroy Goku and all he holds dear. By this point, the Dragon Ball universe has seen Goku and many of the other Z-fighters escalate their power levels exponentially time and time again to the point that, given Goku’s abilities at the start of Dragon Ball Z, by the middle of GT, it almost seems ludicrous that he can set foot on the earth without cracking it in half. The fact that he continues to come across new foes who can match his power level without having encountered foes that could previously come close to his current state lessens the impact of his transformations and his progress over the series.

Dragon Ball GT 07 Z fighters

This is followed by a longer arc in which the dragon balls have broken from overuse. Seven evil dragons have emerged from the balls, bent on destroying the earth and perhaps, the entire universe. This arc again features a series of escalating battles which drag over too many episodes. If Part 1 felt like a super-sized return to the format of Dragon Bally, then Part 2 feels like an oscillation between reminiscing fondly about the events of Dragon Ball Z and trying to replicate them.

Dragon Ball GT 12 Shadow Shenron

Ultimately Dragon Ball GT matches the high points of anime violence and explosive action, but falls regrettably flat when it comes to originality, character development, or even plot. Fans of the series from the very beginning will find Dragon Ball GT’s conclusion to be like a fun weekend away with old friends but it’s probably not for everyone.

Dragon Ball GT 11 Goku Super Saiyan 4

Also available on the DVD collection is A Hero’s Legacy, a 45 minute feature about one of Goku’s descendants 100 years in the future. Goku’s descendant, Goku Jr, is a timid boy, not unlike young Gohan once upon a time though in his voice and appearance he more resembles his great-great grandfather. Goku Jr’s adventures are a nice and original tale, reminiscent of the innocence of Goku’s earliest escapades. This episode is essentially a prologue to the events of the very last episode, but it’s best to watch it after the series itself.

Dragon Ball GT Goku Jr

Dragon Ball GT is available on DVD from Manga Entertainment now.

For more information, check out the official Twitter (Manga UK): https://twitter.com/MangaUK

And the official Dragon Ball GT website: http://www.dragonballgt.com/

Dragon Ball GT 10 Goku Super Android 17

 

Action:                         9.5

Plot:                             6

Characterisation:          5.5

Originality:                  5.5

Nostalgia Factor:          8

Dragon Ball GT 16 z fighters

69% – One for the fans. Dragon Ball GT Part 2 is a nice way for fans of the series to take the adventure even further but it ultimately feels like less than it could have been.

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Death Note: Whose Side Are You On?

Dnote

Death Note is an amazing piece of manga/anime with high stakes and ever-escalating tension. Both sides have everything to lose and both play for keeps.

Who were you rooting for across the series? Who did you really, really want to see win the day?

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The Legend of Zelda Manga Collection

Legend of Zelda MangaCollection

Anime Reporter listens for the trademark music, opening a large treasure chest to hold the Legend of Zelda Manga Collection triumphantly into the air.

 

The Legend of Zelda is one of video game’s most popular franchises with its often innovative puzzle solving and hugely imaginative and expansive mythology. The games are generally focused on different versions of a young, light-haired boy/man in a green tunic and pointed hat, called Link in general, though typically renamed to suit each gamer’s preference. Most, but not all of the games also involve rescuing or assisting the eponymous princess, Zelda by overcoming various dungeons and foes. The series’ trademark is often paying careful attention to unique devices and powers in different games, whether magical musical instruments that can unlock doors or transport the user through time or garments that allow the wearer to change size or breathe underwater. The games are intelligent and heartfelt stories, with plenty of sword-swinging and explosions to boot. One jolting distinction between the games and every one of the manga volumes is that Link’s words are given for the first time, giving him a depth of personality that the games often glance over with facial expression. The story and art for every volume are provided by Akira Himekawa, a talented manga artist who is actually two women under one pseudonym.

The collection of ten manga volumes spans 8 of the series’ most iconic games

  • Ocarina of Time (2 volumes)
  • Majora’s Mask (1 volume)
  • Oracle of Seasons (1 volume)
  • Oracle of Ages (1 volume)
  • Four Swords (2 volumes)
  • The Minish Cap (1 volume)
  • A Link to the Past (1 volume)
  • Phantom Hourglass (1 volume)

 

Hero of Time – Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask

Ocarina_of_Time_Manga_Cover(Part_1)The first tale, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, (OoT), comes from what many consider to be the greatest game in the franchise, originally available on the N64 and very successfully translated to the Nintendo 3DS. The manga, much like the game, starts with a young boy living in Kokiri village, a settlement of immortal children in the depths of a magical forest. Without giving too much of the story away, the boy is sent on a sacred quest to free the kingdom of Hyrule from evil, venturing across the land and time itself. From the very beginning, Link’s personality and his relationships with the people he encounter feel rich and well developed. His friendship with his best friend Saria is given enough heart to feel true to the video game while his run-ins with various people across Hyrule are given additional exposition, fleshing out the world it was so easy to love in the game.

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One potential disappointment is that some relationships, particular with regard to a certain groovy Goron and a rather snobbish Zora are given no more time or emphasis than most of the other characters, so those relationships can feel a little glossed over. Dungeons and boss-fights are quick affairs, usually being resolved inside a few pages, which makes sense, given how lengthy and puzzle-filled some of those dungeons are. It’s much more satisfying in manga form to see link simply clash head on with a monster rather than spending three pages trying to figure out how to open a door by pushing blocks around. What’s more, the battles are bolstered by an additional emotional investment in the struggles, with one heart-bruising fight in particular testing Link’s spirit and resolve as much as his physical abilities. The tale holds true to the spirit of the game and the additional touches and character stories really only serve to make it more interesting and more heartfelt. The fight against evil and the nature of the trials and monsters Link faces feel perfectly organic and well balanced with humour and art reminiscent of the style of the game.

 

majoras-mask-manga coverThe Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask was also originally on the N64. While separate to the events of OoT, it follows on with the same incarnation of Link and it really is of great benefit to readers to have read OoT before moving on to this one. The art remains true to the style of OoT and there are many references to characters and events of the previous tale. While OoT took place in Hyrule, Majora’s Mask is based in the land of Termina, a small kingdom under the threat of a “little demon”, who’s causing a hell of a lot of trouble and may even bring about Termina’s destruction. The manga emphasises and elaborates on the similarities between the people of Hyrule and Termina in a way that the game never really touched upon. Like the earlier manga, character interactions are highlighted while dungeon-solving is downplayed.

A shorter game than OoT, Majora’s Mask incorporated a highly satisfying armada of time travel based side-quests, allowing players to relive the same three days over and over again but with brilliant mechanics designed to show drastic changes over those three days depending on different interactions the player had with people. This mechanic is shunted somewhat to the side in favour of a more linear storyline, though again, it’s something of a relief not to have to witness Link attempting to solve every subtle puzzle that was present through the game. A key difference between Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time is the use of masks which allowed Link to change into various forms with very different abilities and powers. The various powers and weapons present in the game are utilised and referenced well and each of the stories behind Link’s masks is fantastically portrayed.

The Hero of Time stories represent two of Zelda’s greatest arcs and are a truly strong foot to start the collection on.

Oracle Saga- Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages were both originally released for the Nintendo Gameboy. Designed to be played in any order, or indeed simultaneously, the games tell of two separate adventures, one concerned with the changing of the seasons and the effect this has on the land and therefore Link’s ability to navigate it, while the other deals with travelling between distant times, with actions that occur in the past having effects on the world of the present. It’s definitely worth noting that the manga volumes, unlike the games, were written with a specific order in mind.

Oracle of Seasons Manga Cover

Oracle of Seasons presents us with a new Link, growing up on a farm with his grandparents. Link, unsure of what he wants to do with his life, is sent to Hyrule to take the knight’s test in order to become a knight of the realm. Accidentally wandering into the wrong place, Link touches a strange marking of the Triforce (used in Zelda games as a symbol of the forces of Wisdom, Courage and Power and the emblem of the royal family) and wakes up in Holodrum, a land quite distant from Hyrule. Here, he meets Din, a beautiful dancer with a travelling troupe of performers. When Din is revealed to be the Oracle of Seasons and is kidnapped by the general of darkness, Onox, Link must overcome many powerful foes to free Din, while the seasons fall into chaos around him.

Oracle of Seasons has a cartoonier feel than the books in the Hero of Time stories, with talking animals abounding and even being significant plot details in the case of a boxing penguin and kangaroo. While this story arc does feel less epic in scale than OoT, there is a well-told tale of good vs. evil within its pages as an uncertain Link learns what it means to be a hero. The more innocent style of the story is matched well by the style of the illustrations, quite different to the rendering of the Hero of Time stories. One drawback is that the main device of the game, the ever changing seasons and the effect it has on Link’s journey, is scaled back somewhat in the manga, though there’s a good chance that the charm of the story and its characters will more than make up for this in reader’s minds.

Oracle_of_Ages_Manga_CoverOracle of Ages, unlike in the video games, is a direct sequel to Oracle of Seasons, where once again, Link is called to come to the rescue of yet another oracle, Nayru, this time under the threat of Veran, a shadowy being with the power to possess and control people. Controlling Nayru, the oracle of ages, Veran is able to travel to the past and begin erasing Link from history. Link must find a way to confront her in the past to repair the damage caused across history and ensure his own existence.

Darker than Seasons, Oracle of Ages is a fitting second half to the saga and, despite the similarities in the premise of the two stories, manages to feel fresh and very enjoyable.

 

The Oracle stories make for a well-wielded pair of tales and flesh out the adventures well beyond their 8-bit origins.

Four Swords

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords was originally for the Nintendo Game Cube and also playable on Gameboy Advance. The game focused on playing as four separate versions of Link and emphasised multiplayer combat and puzzle-solving.Four_Swords_Volume_1_manga_cover

Four Swords sees us again introduced to a new version of Link, this time a knight of Hyrule under his father’s command. Link is an impetuous youth, preferring to charge in headfirst rather than work as a team with the other knights. This attitude is put to the test when evil forces gather and a sinister shadowy version of Link brings chaos and destruction to Hyrule. Link is forced to draw the legendary Four Sword to defend Princess Zelda, his childhood friend. Upon drawing the sword, Link is split into four different bodies, distinguished only by the colours of their tunics (not easily, given the monochrome of manga) and their personality traits. Green, (presumably the original) is courageous and determined in his goals, Blue is hot-tempered and impatient, Red is timid and innocent in his world view and Violet is calm and logical. Each version of Link is initially against the idea of teamwork, but they soon find out that the Four Sword’s power is dependent on their being together and they most co-ordinate their quest to save Zelda.

Four_Swords_Volume_2_manga_coverThe game made excellent use of multiplayer game play, emphasising the use of different weapons and objects together and this aspect of the game is brought seamlessly into the narrative, with the focus on teamwork working beautifully. The illustrations again have their own style, not appearing quite as cartoony as in the Oracle series, though with plenty of the comic exaggeration which is the trademark of manga. As is typical throughout the collection, boss battles and dungeon treks are quick affairs, opting instead to focus on characterisation, embellishing somewhat on the narrative of the game, but to great effect. It’s a true pleasure to see the different versions of Link interacting together and their disagreements and quarrels are humourous without feeling overused.

 

Stretched across two volumes, the tale is expansive with feeling like a chore. A great blend of light humour, epic adventure and just enough heart to make you care. Truly fine manga.

The Minish Cap

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap was originally released for the Gameboy Advance and the plot was the setting for the events of Four Swords, though this has little impact on the manga version and Minish Cap doesn’t have to be read before it. As expected of the innovative Zelda series, Minish Cap employed a new device for exploring Hyrule: Shrinking down to the size of a thumb and exploring environments that are suddenly much more threatening and full of obstacles.The_Minish_Cap_Manga_Cover

Once again, Minish Cap presents us with new incarnation of Link, this time a young boy, eager to learn the ways of sword-fighting and close friends with Princess Zelda. When the annual Picori festival comes, celebrating the Picori, a race of tiny and charitable people said to be only visible to children, Link is disappointed to find out that he won’t be a part of the sword-fighting contest. When the sinister mage Vaati intervenes and unleashes a plague of demons upon the land and, worse still, turns Zelda to stone, Link is charged with repairing the Picori Blade, the only item capable of sealing away the evil forces once more. As a child and Zelda’s closest friend, Link is deemed to be the most appropriate candidate for the quest and leaves alone to travel the world. This is perhaps the weakest starting point for any of the series as a group of adults seem to have no problem in sending a child deemed unworthy of a sword-fighting contest into the wilderness suddenly filled with monsters. Although children are the only ones capable of seeing the Picori, it still feels like Link could have had a few guardians to help him on his way. Nonetheless, Link sets out on his quest and rather conveniently stumbles across a talking cap which allows him to change size and shrink down a more Picori-appropriate state.

Despite any weakness in the beginning of the story, Minish Cap is a warm and well developed tale, with the challenges and opportunities of Link’s new miniscule form conveyed in a humourous way which feels completely organic to the story itself. Link’s interactions with the many different Picori settlements is engaging and entertaining. The final confrontation with Vaati is one of the more humanizing conflicts within the collection and the overall adventure is a fun and refreshing read.

A Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is the third instalment of the franchise, was originally launched on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and remains one of the most iconic titles of the series to this day.

a-link-to-the-past-zelda-manga_coverThe plot is relatively straightforward for this tale, with Link traversing the land to seal away the evil of Ganon by freeing seven descendants of the sages who first imprisoned him. The illustrations for this volume take a distinct turn away from the light-hearted style of the previous arcs and take a more realistic approach. The story similarly moves away from humour, substituting it with darker tones and a greater emphasis on action. This version of Link lives with his uncle and across the tale discovers the answers to many questions about his own past.

A Link to the Past is a sterling example of not just a Zelda manga, but of action, adventure or even fairy tale genres in general. The graver tone and more seriously wielded storyline should keep any reader’s interest and it won’t be difficult to become emotionally invested in the characters or their exploits. The tale focuses on one of the most recognisable pieces of Zelda mythology: the triforce. Something of the origins of the eternal nemesis, Ganon, is revealed and in many ways this feels like the definitive Zelda story arc. Without mincing words, this is a great story and a great manga.

Phantom Hourglass

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass was launched for the Nintendo DS as a direct sequel to Wind Waker, a Zelda title for the Game Cube. In this manga, the events of Wind Waker are more or less ignored entirely, but this doesn’t really detract from the story itself.

Set largely on the seas, searching for the ghost pirate ship which kidnapped Tetra, this Link’s captain and the reincarnation of Princess Zelda. Link must Phantom_Hourglass_manga_coverteam up with Ciela, an amnesiac fairy and Linebeck, a cowardly, covetous sailor, to track down Tetra and rescue her from the cursed ship.

Overall, the humour and personality throughout this volume is phenomenal. Linebeck in particular provides a great balance of comic relief and characterisation. Link’s journeys and boss battles are scaled down, thankfully, as the actual game made travelling from point A to point B something of a chore. A Link to the Past is a tough act to follow in terms of heart and drama and Phantom Hourglass seems to choose not to try, instead embodying the comedy and animated style that was the hallmark of the game.

Final Thoughts

The Legend of Zelda manga collection comprises ten volumes of some of Nintendo’s most iconic games to date. Akira Himekawa does a superb job in matching the tone of each volume to its corresponding game in terms of characterisation, world-building, illustration and tone. There was clearly a lot of effort devoted to making sure that each tale would be able to introduce newcomers to the setting and its characters, while also providing all the winks and nods that existing fans of each game would expect.

A delightful gathering and reimagining of tales which won over millions of people in video game form, this manga collection is truly a treasure for fans of Zelda or manga or just great stories.

The Legend of Zelda Manga Collection is available from Viz Media.

For more info, check out the Viz Media website, the VIZ Media Twitter page and the official Zelda website.

Of course, don’t forget to stay with us here at Anime Reporter for more anime and manga updates!

Final Scores are calculated on an average for the overall series.

Plot:                            8

Entertainment:          8.5

Art:                             8.5

Action:                        9

Tone:                          9.5

Link

87% – “A True Treasure”

The Legend of Zelda Manga Collection is a rare example of storytelling at its finest, born out of one of video gaming’s true dynasties. Not worth missing.

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Posted in Manga, Manga Miniseries, Reviews

Sword Art Online Part 4

86% - Stunning!

SOA Title Screen

Anime Reporter journeys one more time to the world of Sword Art Online for part four of the series and the finale of Sword Art Online, (though a recent revelation that Sword Art Online II is in the pipeline has been causing some excitement around the Anime Reporter offices).

SAO 02 Kirito

 

If you haven’t seen parts 1-3, by all means, feel free to check out our earlier Sword Art Online reviews but be warned before venturing too far into this review: Here be spoilers.

Spoiler Alert

When last we left the world of Alfheim Online, Kirito and Leafa were racing to head off some Salamanders on the verge of a massacre of many innocent players, while Asuna, as we all surely recall, waits full of hope that Kirito will come to save her. Part 3 saw the action shift to a new world, where players can fly and cast magical spells. It also presented us with a ticking clock counting down the days Kirito had left to save Asuna. What it failed to give us somewhat was the tension and panic that Kirito probably should have felt. A few episodes felt more like Kirito touring around his new environment rather than focusing on the task at hand.

SAO 03

This is not the case with Part 4 of the series. Leading in to the season finale, Part 4 is driven in all aspects of the tale, with emotional breaks for Kirito in his struggle to save his love and also for his adopted sister who is unwittingly his companion Leafa in the virtual world, torn between her feelings for two different men, both of whom are actually Kirito. The action, once it starts up is a delightful frenzy of overkill barrages and a great deal of mid-air agility.

SAO 12 Kirito

In terms of Kirito, everything about these episodes hits all the right notes: action, emotion, drama and cool sci-fi protagonist bad-ass moments abound. Less satisfying are the female characters roles. Asuna, originally Kirito’s equal (at least) in battle is reduced to the role of prisoner, which is fine, up to a point as long as it serves the plot, though her status as a damsel in distress can feel overused by the final confrontation. There is also, a very regrettable and entirely unnecessary scene involving Asuna removes a lot of the subtlety of her new role as a ‘helpless female’. It’s enough to say that this scene involves tentacles to give most readers an idea of the scene. Kirito’s adopted sister, Suguha (Leafa) feels like her emotional struggle could have been given more time, though, as she only came into the series by Part 3, this feels like less of an oversight than Asuna.

Kirito does his Neo thing

Kirito does his Neo thing

The animation is more stunning than ever, with many scenes during the final confrontation feeling more like something cinematic than part of a series and the score is used masterfully to build up tension and get most viewers’ hearts really pumping during the final few episodes.

SAO 11 Leafa

 

Sword Art Online Part 4 is the adrenaline-filled, battle-hungry arc we were hoping Part 3 would be and more. The lack of characterisation seen in supporting characters would be more irritating if it wasn’t for the news that a new series is on its way. Hopefully Sword Art Online II will give these characters more room to grow.

SAO 06 Asuna

Sword Art Online is available on DVD and Bluray from Manga Entertainment from March 31st 2014.

For more info on upcoming releases, take a look at the official Twitter page (Manga Entertainment).

Also check out the Sword Art Online Facebook page

and the Sword Art Online Website,   

and of course, stay with us at Anime Reporter for more anime reviews and updates!

SAO 15 Recon

Action:                         9

Animation:                   9

Plot:                             8.5

Tension:                       10

Use of Characters:        6.5

SAO 18 Oberon Kirito

86% – Stunning! Sword Art Online is a fitting end to a great series and will leave most viewers hungry to come back for series 2. Excellent anime- this is how it’s done!

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Posted in Anime, Anime Series, Reviews
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