Otaku Corner: Tenjho Tenge Vol. 2

Tenjho Tenge heats up in second volume of action

Brandon-2012-cutoutWelcome back to another installment of Otaku Corner. This time, we’re going back to school, which means we’re enrolling again at the renowned Todo Academy where students learn the three basics: Reading, writing and ass-kicking (yes, I said ass-kicking.) So, grab your backpacks, bento lunches and your grappling gear because it’s time to check in with the Juken Club in the latest installment of Tenjho Tenge Volume 02: The Battle Bowl.

Based on the manga series by Oh! Great and released by Geneon Entertainment (USA), Tenjho Tenge follows the story of Soichiro Nagi and Bob Makihara (aka the Knuckle Bombs), who plan to add Todo Academy to their list of conquered territory. Their plan quickly falls apart when they meet Aya and Maya Natsume, members of the Juken Club, which stands against the student Executive Council. After altercations with the council, Soichiro and Bob join Aya and Maya along with Masataka Takayanagi to fight the council, unaware that they are now locked in a 400-year battle that has yet to be resolved.

Tenjou Tenge Vol. 2

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

During golden week (Japanese May holiday), the Juken Club begins their training to prepare for future attacks from the Executive Council. At this time, Maya has a great idea to go bowling to give the club a break from training. Unfortunately, the council makes immediate plans to send their forces led by its most terrifying members to crush the Juken Cub for good. In three episodes, the Juken Club are separated from each other facing off the council’s most feared “executioners,” who consist of vice chairman Emi “The Black Blade” Isuzu, who hates Maya with INTENSE passion; Shirō “The Last Samurai” Tagami, who gives Aya a major battle; and, Koji “Saga Mask” Sagara, who challenges Soichiro for free passage into the rest of the bowling alley.

Meanwhile, Bob and Masataka deal some serious damage to the Council’s army while protecting Bob’s girlfriend, Chiaki Kounoike. After their separate victories, the Juken Club looked as if they were going to escape a vicious gauntlet, until the Council’s president shows up ready to deal his own brand of justice.

After watching this volume of Tenjho Tenge, I felt that although the battles were drawn out, they still kept the action intact. I personally like the way episodes were written to give the Juken members a chance to test their new skills while allowing the backstory of the executioners to come full circle, showing the reasons why they fight for the council so much. You’ll still get the usual fan service moments, but the stage is set for future episodes that will deepen the story line. Also, adding more punch for the dollar, three new series coming from Geneon and the non-title ending made me feel that I was not getting a case of buyer’s remorse. Geneon USA and Bang Zoom! Entertainment deserve credit as well with a smooth English adaptation and translation as well as having excellent voice acting from Steve Staley (Soichro), Wendee Lee (Maya) Stephanie Sheh (Aya), Johnny Yong Bosch (Masataka) and Jamison Price (Bob). Credit also goes to Kate Higgins, Paul St. Peter and Dave Mallow for their respective roles of Emi, Tagami and Sagara.

Tenjho Tenge continues to keep its successful blend of school drama with intense martial arts action that puts the series in a class by itself. Will the Juken Club survive the wrath of the Council’s president? Keep it here in Otaku Corner to find out.

Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner: The All-New Tenchi Muyo Vol. 5

Tenchi Vol. 5 provides enjoyable escapades

Brandon-2012-cutoutTenchi, Tenchi, Tenchi. As a college-aged otaku, I remember when Tenchi and company graced Cartoon Network’s airwaves in 2000 when I had my first experience with harem anime, a kind of compromise that gave Toonami’s male and female viewers what they wanted without sacrificing the focus of that block. A young high school guy loved by an alien space pirate, two alien princesses, a mad-yet-chibi-sized genius and a tanned space detective that would give Inspector Gadget a serious run for his money, plus new daily chances for adventure? I was sold. Now an older and more mature otaku, I look back on my love for Tenchi and thought “Yeah, it’s that time for Otaku Corner to experience Tenchi Muyo once more.”
Written and drawn by Hitoshi Okuda and published by Viz Media, Point and Shoot has Tenchi, Ryoko, Ayaka, Sasami, Washu and Mihoshi doing their usual: having fun while at the same time getting themselves out of some crazy mishap. This starts with celebrating Mamemaki (traditional Japanese demon-fighting ceremony), during which whoever hits Tenchi dressed up as a demon is boss for a day. Ryoko goes all out to win (let’s say she has deep plans for Tenchi), and nearly destroys home and occupants alike. This ends with Sasami winning for the sake of world peace.

Next, the gang finds out that Sasami has a special guardian assigned to her by the King of Jurai and must help her remain in Sasami’s grade level. Also, the gang gets a little exercise in babysitting thanks to a mishap that

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involves a variety of books, a photo album of Tenchi at age 3, bio-medical equipment from outer space, and Mihoshi’s clumsiness. Her clumsiness results in the running of pint-sized Tenchis that must be caught before permanent damage is done to Tenchi and the frail fabric of time and space. Ryoko gets some focus in the last two chapters as she is taught a lesson in moderate drinking by Tsunami (Sasami’s protective spirit), who also awards her with a year’s supply of sake for helping with expenses and dueling with a self-proclaimed “king of revolving sushi.” She wins by using slight-of-hand tactics but ultimately must undertake a fishing expedition outside of Japan for three months or until the next volume.

Point and Shoot continues the same Tenchi formula used in previous manga editions and the anime: great story and artwork with a mix of comedy and learning crucial life lessons. As always, Okuda-san never skips a beat or overuses his characters in scenes to gain attention. To me, that’s always a sign of great animators, comic artists and writers who know how to get the reader’s attention without being too focused on selling x number of volumes in a series. Viz Media gets credit as always since they stayed true to Tenchi Muyo, thanks to the excellent work of English adaptation and translation from Fred Burke and Lillian Olsen. Credit should also go to Shaenon Garrity for taking the helm of series editor.

She shows that Tenchi is a major staple in her anime experience and presents strong female lead characters who are not present during the early days of manga and anime.

The All-New Tenchi Muyo! Volume 5: Point and Shoot is another piece of manga goodness that hits all the right chords without being too serious. Any veteran otaku or budding novice SHOULD have this manga and its anime counterparts in their collection or at least watch and read a few volumes. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a dessert date with a fellow connoisseur during which carrot cake will be consumed. Don’t judge me.

Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner: Robotech Remastered Vol. 2

Robotech Remastered Vol. 2 continues classic trend

Brandon-2012-cutoutWelcome back to another installment of Otaku Corner. Instead of manga reviews this time, we’re going to the movies to relax with another review of the space anime series Robotech. Robotech is considered by most anime aficionados as one of the great space anime series not only because of its groundbreaking mecha designs, but also because of its universal appeal in presenting various issues in the backdrop of war.

As an anime viewer, I give high praise to series like Robotech that can keep action and comedic elements while presenting mature subject matter to its audience. Robotech Remastered: The Macross Saga, Vol. 2 continues this trend.

When we last left the Earth battleship SDF-1, Rick Hunter, Lisa Hayes and their companions Ben Dixon and Max Sterling were captured by Zentradi forces seeking to obtain knowledge of the energy source known as protoculture. However, they were able to escape back to the SDF-1 and returned to a hero’s welcome, which caused Rick to have feelings for Lynn-Minmei and Lisa that were more than friendship. At this time, the battle fortress was able to land on Earth and was ordered by the United Earth Government to prohibit the civilians of Macross City from leaving the ship.

Robotech Remastered Vol 2-fixed

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As the battle between aliens and Micronians continued, life aboard the SDF-1 did became more normal with the release of the first martial arts movie filmed on the ship. This begins to bring Rick and Lisa closer, and also catches the eye of Miriya, a Zentradi ace pilot who was reduced to Micronian size to get revenge against Max, who unknowingly defeated her twice. Elsewhere, Lynn-Minmei faces a dilemma of her own when Lynn-Kyle asks for her hand in marriage. Despite being at war, the SDF-1 and its inhabitants still face battles, battles that require different strategies to fight.

Robotech Vol. 2 has kept the mixture of action, comedy and mature subject matter together. You will become emotional when you see Claudia Grant’s and Rick’s simultaneous grief at Roy’s death. At the same time, a funny moment comes when the three Zentradi spies Bron, Rico and Konda travel back to the Zentradi fleet and reveal various smuggled objects such as a refrigerator and become street vendors sharing and trading their loot with other Zentradi soldiers.

There is plenty of action with the SDF-1, and the Veritech fighters mix it up with Zentradi ships in a way that will make viewers feel as if they have front-row seats in an intergalactic dog fight. The voice acting is top-notch since Robotech has launched the careers of voiceactors such as Tony Oliver, Barbra Goodson, Richard Epcar, Robert Axelrod and Dan Green to name a few. Overall, Robotech Vol. 2 is a great way to spend a lazy weekend, rain or shine, with a classic anime that will never get old.

Robotech is a masterpiece. I say this despite other great anime space series such as Gundam that are more well-known; Robotech is in a class by itself with a good mix that does not dumb down its audience. Producer Carl Macek left the world with a classic series that continues to be relevant and will remain for years to come. I encourage you, fellow otaku, to pick up this series.

Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner: Death Note Vol. 7

Death Note Vol. 7 digs deeper with shocking results

Brandon-2012-cutoutWelcome to Otaku Corner, the spot of The Strip where we bring you the finest manga and anime. I’m continuing my review of the series “Death Note,” the mystery/supernatural manga of geniuses Light Yagami and L, the legendary detective. When Light finds the death note dropped in the human world by a shingami named Ryuk, he uses it to kill off criminals, hoping to create a crime-free world. When criminals worldwide begin to drop dead, L (Ryuzaki) is called in to find the murder known as “Kira” (Light).

Written by Tsugumi Ohba, drawn by Takeshi Obuta and published by VIZ Media, Death Note Volume 7 continues where the previous volume ended with Light, Ryuzaki and the rest of the task force finally capturing Kyosuke Higuchi, the latest Kira. Upon recovering the death note, Light regains his memories as the original Kira allowing him to continue his main goal: killing L.

Using a hidden piece of the death note placed in his watch, Light — without anyone watching — kills Higuchi, thus focusing his attention to L. In the next set of pages, Light shows how far he is willing to use not only his “girlfriend” Misa Amane and her shinigami Rem, but also to have Ryuk write two fake rules about using the death note. Sensing that there are two fake rules, Ryuzaki attempts to have another country test the fake rules, but he and Watari are killed by Rem, who is also killed because of her actions that allowed Misa to live longer. Before his death, L erases all of the investigative data on the task force computers, but Light is able to recover the information, allowing him to kill Ryuzaki’s associates Aiber and Wedy as well as the remaining members of the Yosuba group who were involved in the Kira killings. Light, during this time, plays the roles of Kira and L while joining the NPA’s Intelligence section, securing his position as murderer and law officer.

Unknown to Light, however, L’s proteges have begun to avenge their fallen mentor. One of them, Near, gathered enough

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

evidence to convince the U.S. government to set up a Kira investigation unit known as SPK. The other, known as Mello, joins up with a major mafia organization to acquire the death note and to also become No. 1 over Near. While Light is enjoying his long-awaited victory, Mello has taken the NPA director hostage and when the director is killed, Mello orders his henchmen to kidnap Light’s sister Saiyu. When Saiyu goes missing, Light deals with two new adversaries who are determined to destroy Kira at any cost.

Death Note continues to be a smash hit, thanks to its perfect mix of mystery, horror and supernatural elements. I guarantee that you will be in complete awe as you witness Light’s complete transformation from a young man who hates evil to a murderer who will kill anyone in his way to create his perfect world. L, while not entirely evil, did himself justice despite his willingness to test the death note among other questionable tactics to solve the case, leaving a legacy for his heirs to fight one of the greatest evils ever known. Viz Media also gets credit as well, as Alexis Kirsch performed excellently with handling translation and adaptation writing duties.

Death Note Volume 7 left me feeling sad and happy about its continuation. Although I’m pleased that the story will continue with new plot twists and nonstop action, I’m saddened that a great main character has fallen at such an early point in the series. Yet, I am confident that he will be avenged thanks to the efforts of his proteges. Keep reading Otaku Corner for more reviews of Death Note as its second act begins. RIP Ryuzaki and Watari. You WILL be avenged.

 

Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner: Tokyo Tribes

Gang warfare takes over Tokyo’s streets

Brandon-2012-cutoutWelcome to another of Otaku Corner, GI’s own little spot of The Strip where we bring you the finest manga and anime this side of the gaming world. I’m sharing a great series that led the recent pop culture marriage of Japanese manga art and American urban hip-hop into a worldwide phenomenon, Tokyo Tribes. Tokyo Tribes has set the stage for great titles like “Samurai Champloo” and “Afro Samurai” to gain their well-deserved popularity.

Created by Santa Inoue and published by Tokyopop, Tokyo Tribes Volume one follows the exploits of four “tribes” or gangs, who dominate sections of Tokyo’s most known locales as a result of a peace truce established after riots nearly destroyed the city. The series focuses on Kai, second in charge of the Musashinokuni Saru, and Mera, head of the Bukuro Wu-Ronz. They were once friends but are now mortal enemies because of the untimely death of Mera’s girlfriend for which Kai is blamed. This hatred is reignited when three Saru Shibuya members are killed in Bukuro by the Wu-Ronz.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Hearing the news, Kai wants payback, but wisely follows the advice of Tera, Saru’s leader, to not act. Meanwhile, the Wu-Ronz head to Musashinokuni on illegal errands requested by their benefactors. Along the way, they instigate battle with the Shinjuku Hands by injuring one of their members. Not knowing that the Wu-Ronz are in town, Kai takes Tera to the local train station and while buying food at a local burger joint, Tera is attacked by Mera. Tera survives, but instead of getting medical help, Tera goes after Kai along with two other Saru members, Hashem and Steno, to stop him from chasing Mera. The manga ends with Kai and Mera facing each other before a rooftop battle.

Readers will not be disappointed with Volume one. As an original work, it’s main theme of urban life in Tokyo is a refreshing approach from the picture-perfect images presented in other manga. Inoue-san, fusing hip-hop and manga, also pays homage to R&B artists Mary J. Blige and Anthony Hamilton, who have a huge following in Japan. Tokyopop deserves credit as publisher Stuart Levy, translator Alexis Kirsch and adaptation writer David Walker stuck with the theme of Japanese edge and hip-hop charm instead of imitating other series for sales.

Tokyo Tribes is the first manga to ignite the destined mash up of hip-hop and comic art in modern media. Its storyline will hook you and leave you wanting more. Will Saru survive the flames that will erupt in Tokyo? Keep reading Otaku Corner to find out.

Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner: Onimusha: Night of Genesis

Capcom manga continues Onimusha saga

Brandon-2012-cutoutWelcome back to Otaku Corner, where we bring you the finest anime and manga this side of the Northern Hemisphere. Previously, I reviewed the first installment of Capcom’s samurai adventure series Onimusha. It did not take long for a manga adaptation to not only tie-in the series, but also to present new characters in the recent Onimusha game, Dawn of Dreams. This adaptation is “Onimusha: Night of Genesis.”

Written and drawn by Mitsuru Ohsaki and published by Udon Comics, “Night of Genesis” follows two new Onimusha warriors who are destined to face the notorious genma forces, but for different reasons. At the beginning of the first chapter, Hideyasu Yuki and Jubei-Akane Yagyu face off with each other. As the manga goes on, these warriors discover that while they have different adversaries to battle, they awaken the awesome power inside them that would not only destroy their respective foes, but also would remove the even greater threat of the genma destroying Japan and the world.

Night of Genesis” is a radical take on the Onimusha series that remains loyal to the games’ storyline. While reading, I

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

found that although the character’s back stories and relevant elements of Japanese history are entwined, Oshaki-san took great care to keep these elements from overlapping. This is important since fans of certain games discover that when their favorite title and characters appear in graphic novels, very little or none of the game’s story remains as the main story. I also give credit to Udon Comics’ team of Gala Ferrire and Jim Zubkavich, whose English adaptation maintained understanding of the manga’s plot; and Mike Youngberg, whose translations were helpful, especially when sword-fighting techniques needed explanation. Overall, Onimusha fans and otaku looking for a good samurai manga won’t be disappointed.

Onimusha: Night of Genesis is the first official tie-in to a gaming series that really does not disappoint its fans. This goes to show that with great stories and comic art, transitions of video games to comic format can be a successful formula if all involved parties focus on quality not quantity. Udon did it, and you can, too, Capcom. I’m looking at you, Kenzo Tsujimoto.

Brandon Beatty is editor at large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner: Tenchi Muyo Vol. 3

Dark Washu is draw in third volume of Tenchi Muyo

Brandon-2012-cutoutWelcome back to The Strip’s little section specifically made for great anime and manga, “Otaku Corner.” I know everyone’s getting back into the swing of things (school, work, college), but this is also a great time to enjoy a great manga series that has it all: comedy, action, adventure, cute female leads. One of my favorite series has all of those things including a main character that is a lucky man to have four beautiful women living in the same house. Tenchi Masaki and his gang of lovely women star in more great adventures in Volume 3 of the “All New Tenchi Muyo: Dark Washu.”

Written and drawn by Hitoshi Okuda and published by Viz Media, Dark Washu is the continuation of the last story in “Tenchi Muyo: Doom Time,” in which Washu Hakubi’s most powerful invention, the “black crystal,” designed as the perfect security system, was taken over by the evil Dr. Clay. Tenchi and company fought the black crystal who copied the real Washu. Despite winning the decisive battle, the dark crystal returns to exact vengeance: It becomes Washu vs. Washu, which takes up the entire third volume.

Fellow otaku, despite this smackdown of genius against genius, this is truly great work Tenchi Muyo Vol 3worthy of any Tenchi fan with no punches pulled on every page, complementing the well-thought out plotline and artwork. It was also great to see Tenchi’s father and grandfather make brief cameos, as it is rare to see them in manga form.

The battles also have their moments of heart tugging. When Tenchi and company rally to assist Washu in the final moments of the battle, Dr. Clay is vanquished for good and Dark Washu is rebuilt as a new character and Washu’s new lab assistant, Tama. The bonus story with Ryo-oh-ki facing the battle of the bulge, which has its own mix of cuteness and comedy, is also enjoyable. Viz Media also deserves credit for keeping Tenchi Muyo fun to read, thanks to the team of adaptation writer Freed Burke and translator Lillian Olsen, who remained on task. Tenchi is fun and action-packed minus the regular clichés.

The All-New Tenchi Muyo: Dark Washu is a great manga to read to celebrate the end of summer with a good mix of action, adventure and comedy. Now I have to take care of a craving for carrot cake, which makes me wonder am I becoming like Ryo-oh-ki?

Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner: Death Note Vol. 6

Light learns a few lessons while wheeling and dealing in Death Note Vol. 6

Brandon-2012-cutoutWelcome back for another edition of Otaku Corner! As all of you know, this is my little corner of GI where I bring you the best in manga and anime that will keep you entertained and free from having reader’s remorse in time and money spent.

I’m continuing the most epic battle of wits mixed with a splash of ethics and a good pinch of the supernatural. We’re following up with Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba and drawn by Takeshi Obata.

Death Note volume six continues the story of Light Yagami, a high school genius who obtains a Death Note, a notebook belong to the death god Ryuk. With the Death Note and Ryuk, Light vows to rid the world of crime. However, when criminals worldwide began to die in record time, the ICPO calls in L, a legendary detective to bring in the serial killer. With L closing in each day, how long will Light be able to retain his noble goal and his life?

In volume six subtitled “Give and Take,” the task force was able to determine that Death Note Vol 6 coverthe new “Kira” has been working to commit murders among the Japanese business community that not only benefit himself, but also the Yosuba Group. However, there is debate among the task force members about the methods of capture, which causes a brief rift. Light and Ryuzaki decide to use Misa to further gain information on the current Kira and the seven Yosuba members’ plans. During an interview to become a Yosuba spokesperson, Misa was briefly reunited with her Death Note’s shinigami, Rem, who tells Misa not only about Light being the real Kira, but also reveals the current Kira: Higuchi.

Upon learning that Higuchi was the third Kira, Misa pretends to go on date with Higuchi while secretly recording him stating that he was behind the recent killings of Yosuba’s rivals and regular criminals. As a result, Ryuzaki plans to use Sakura TV to trap Higuchi using Matsuda as bait. When Higuchi discovers that Matsuda is still alive, he sets off a high-speed chase throughout Tokyo, while at the same time trying to kill Mastuda. In the end, Higuchi fails miserably as the task force and a small contingent of police officers led by Aizawa and Ide trap Higuchi, which leads to major changes for all of the main characters in the next volume.

Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large for Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email atbrandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner: Tenjho Tenge Vol. 1

Don’t miss a great fighter anime in Tenjho Tenge

Brandon-2012-cutoutWelcome back, readers, to another edition of Otaku Corner. I know that most of you wanted to get back to the battle between Ryuzaki and Light in “Death Note,” but in this edition, I think we all need to take a mental nap from that EPIC battle. For now, let’s take a break from an EPIC game of cat and mouse and enjoy a nice high school anime filled with romance, comedy, and yes, my fellow fighting otaku, plenty of beat downs. Grab some popcorn, get your other favorite anime-viewing snacks and refreshments together and kick back for the first volume of Tenjho Tenge (Heaven and Earth).

Based on the worldwide smash manga series originally appearing in Shuiesha’s V Jump”comics by Oh! Great, and produced by Geneon Entertainment, Tenjho Tenge focuses on 15-year olds Souichiro Nagi and “Bob” Makihara (aka the Knuckle Bombs) who are newly enrolled students at Todou Academy with plans of conquest as they did with their previous schools. However they soon discover that Todou is not some ordinary Japanese high school, but is really a school that was founded to teach and preserve various martial arts. After DESTROYING the senior class, Souichiro and Bob are single-handedly defeated by Maya Natsume, captain of the Juken club and her second-in-command Masataka Takayanagi. Souichiro is then hunted down by Maya’s sister, Aya, Tenjho Tenge dvd coverwho instantly falls in love with Souichiro because of a Natsume woman’s tradition. This sets off events in which the Juken Club is involved in a decades-old feud.

The first four episodes have a strong background story, especially with Souichiro after he was defeated by Masataka Takayanagi that reminds him that losing is never an option. In between the romance and chase of Souichiro by Aya, we learn more about the sisters Natsume who are strong willed but have their own unique abilities. Here’s a heads up: Tenjho Tenge nearly goes beyond the standards of fan service with the panty shots, views of the Natsume sisters’ breasts and the usual tough guy talk and battles that will make its viewers think it’s a cross of Fist of the North Star and Battle Royale but in an acceptable viewing format.

Besides the four episodes, the DVD includes, in addition to upcoming Geneon titles, clean openings and closings with the two main songs. I especially enjoyed having Lyndsey listen to TT’s opening song EVERY episode (yes, my evil plan did work. Editor’s note: No, it didn’t. He thinks it did. That opening — Bomb-a-Head — is one of the worst songs I have ever heard). I want to commend Geneon Entertainment’s U.S. branch for producing and dubbing alongside BangZoom! Entertainment and for choosing the great cast that included Johnny Yong Bosch, Stephanie Sheh (Bleach) and Wendee Lee (Cowboy Bebop) playing their respective roles. In short, Tenjho Tenge Volume 1 gets a 4.

Tenjho Tenge is, without doubt, a mix of all anime high school dramas , but with more kick. I’m very excited that this series will re-release its awesomeness soon thanks to the good folks of Discotek Media since Geneon USA is no longer in business. But for good laughs, martial arts action, high school romance (minus the overused clichés) and fan service, TT is good for you. Now to give the HBJ group their new official theme song, Bomb-a-Head.

Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large for Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner #12: Death Note Vol. 5

Death Note heats up in Vol. 5

Brandon Beatty, editor-at-large

Hello readers, and welcome back to “Otaku Corner,” the section of GI that covers quality anime and manga series for those who deserve the best in Japanese animation. Thus, with this great expectation, our motto is “For the otaku, by the otaku!” (patent pending). I’m continuing our coverage of the worldwide smash manga series Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba, illustrated by Takeshi Obata and English adapted by Viz Media LLC.

Before I get into the review, I want to give those who have not yet read the manga a quick summary of the story plot: Death Note is the story of Light Yagami, a top student with immeasurable prospects who suffers from an extreme case of boredom. That changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook of death dropped by a shinigami (Japanese god of death) named Ryuk. Any human’s name written in said notebook dies, and after a few uses on known and would be criminals, Light vows to use the Death Note to rid humanity of evil. However, Light’s work does not go unnoticed by law enforcement authorities who, in turn, send world-renowned detective L to stop Light aka Kira.

In volume five of Death Note, Light and L (aka Ryuzaki) are playing masterful-yet-blistering mind games via TV, hidden cameras, police officers and even on a college campus! These actions ultimately led Light and his cohort (yet disposable girlfriend) Misa Amane to be confined by Ryuzaki in separate locations. After weeks in confinement, Light was able to dispose of the Death Note and his memories of using it. As a result, Ryuzaki forces Light’s father, Soichiro who is head of the Kira Task Force to perform a final test of Light’s and Misa’s innocence, which resulted in Soichiro performing a mock execution that not only clear Light and Misa, but also continued the partnership of Light and Ryuzaki. Later on Ryuzaki and company established a new base of operations ( largely bankrolled by Ryuzaki), that with new resources leads the task force to find that Kira has returned; only, this time he’s using his powers to the benefit of the Yosuba Group, an multinational business group.

However, this victorious gain is not without setbacks as Aizawa leaves to return to the NPA because of a disagreement with Ryuzaki, and Matsuda’s near death forces the task force to form a new plan. Fortunately, clear heads prevail, and at the end, readers are introduced to the Kira Eight, a group of men who work for Yosuba who are  dedicated to destroying anyone (including their own members) who would stand in their way to obtain absolute power. This is seen at the very end when one of their members is “sacked,” meaning that poor individual is another victim of Kira.

Fans of Death Note will not be disappointed in the new arc as it forces the main characters to again join forces against Kira in a new persona: Greed. As I continued reading, I realized that these eight men are after power and are determined to use Kira to achieve these goals, instead of simply joining forces to use their combined talents to be a success. Obata-san has again performed the skillful combination of plot and philosophy, this time adding in a mix of corporate corruption. The usual supporting cast of Ryuk and Rem (Misa’s shinigami) make their appearances but do not endanger the new plot, coming in only when absolutely needed. Obata-san’s drawings continue to succeed in keeping the plot fresh, especially when presenting the Kira Eight where one of the men truly has the appearance of a demon. I have, so far, in reading this series, not been disappointed as every new volume has without fail brought the elements of ethics and mystery without being silly. I also would be wrong in not giving Viz Media their lion’s share of the credit, thanks in part to the great translation and adaptation of Alexis Kirsch and the Shonen Jump graphic novel team. This again proves that Viz was the right choice in unleashing Death Note upon the U.S.

Will the Kira Eight prevail? How long will Ryuzaki and Light continue their “alliance?” Will the Death Note claim more lives? And, will Misa succeed in wrapping Light around her little finger? The answers to these burning questions and more are coming in the future of Otaku Corner.

Brandon Beatty is editor at large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com