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The fight with Hysteria continues this volume and it isn’t looking good. While I am still a little disappointed that we still don’t know anything about Clare, this chapter was much more interesting than the last. It’s still mainly about the fight, but a few panels of character interaction are interjected between the action, which helps to make the chapter feel more varied. Also I really like how much Deneve has matured since the beginning. She seems to have finally accepted her inability to save her family and being a defensive type as well as her inability to save her fellow Claymores (War in the North) as she gives Miria a much needed wake up speech pertaining to Miria’s desire to want to save everyone. I always liked Devene, so it’s nice to see her maturing through the story and taking on important roles both in the plot on the field of battle. :)

Also, I really like how Yagi doesn’t rely on just powers or an unexpected power-ups for his characters to win fights and this chapter really highlights that as the remaining warriors are pretty much unable to take on Hysteria. Instead, it seems Miria has some sort of plan pertaining to the other two Abyssal Ones that are duking it out a short distance away. It’s a lot harder to keep making such intricate fights, so I am always so impressed by how dedicated he is to his story and his craft. It would be so much easier to just give one of the warriors some unexpected power up and be done with it.

No deus ex machina here. Yagi does it the hard way. Characters actually use their wits and known powers to survive

I’m looking forward to see what kind of plan Miria has next month. :)

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Final Arc it seems. Some mysterious figures too. New enemies perhaps? The blond one looks familiar though...

Bleach is back this week and with a few colour pages too! I feel they were kind of wasted for the most part as half of the coloured pages just showed buildings or speech bubbles. The above chapter cover is nice though. The blond guy in the background reminds me of someone, but I can’t quite put my finger on who. Anyways, I was disappointed with this week’s chapter. I guess I was expecting a bit more since Bleach took 3 weeks off, but this chapter was pretty meh. Perhaps these two new shinigami will actually have a purpose and this chapter isn’t a waste, but going by a very recent example (hello Ichigo’s boss lady), I’m going to remain skeptical. Normally I wouldn’t have minded being introduced to new characters, but these two remind me too much of previous characters from the manga. The girl, Shino, is pretty much Hiyori (albeit looks nothing like her): violent, pushy, overconfident but with no real reason to be as she’s an average/below average fighter. The boy, Yuki, reminds me strongly of Hanataro and although Hanataro had his own special idiosyncrasies, Yuki’s overall personality still strongly resembles his own: easily scared and pushed around, lacks his own opinion, will only fight when he really has to, etc. So it’s a little disappointing that new characters are introduced that so strongly resemble other characters. Shino, in particular, feels a bit overdone as we already had two rather pushy ladies in the last arc: Riruka and Ikumi.

And that’s about all that happens this chapter. We get introduced to these two new characters, who are taking over Shinigami duties in Karakura, and Ichigo saves their asses in the end. Ok, granted, there is some foreshadowing going on. Hollows seem to be appearing too frequently and we have the title saying something about a “Holy War” and then the end gives us this little tidbit:

Man these villains sure love to lurk in the shadows.

“Final Arc: The Thousand-Year Blood War”. So it seems we know two things now. This is the final arc and it’s going to deal with a blood feud. Between who? Well logically, given the previous hints and the fact that there are two main spirit “races” in Bleach, I would say it’s pretty safe to say it’s going to be between Shinigami and Hollows. Not to mention, back in the Aizen/Hueco Mundo arc, Hollows were painted a bit more sympathetically and the question of whether Shinigami killing them was right was sort of brought up and then quickly swept under the rug. It would definitely be cool if Kubo actually answered this question and that this point (back in Hueco Mundo) was actually a bit of foreshadowing. Here’s hoping next chapter picks up the slack!

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Definitely one of the weaker chapters. There are interesting things happening, to be sure, but it’s more a prelude to what’s to come, so the actual chapter itself isn’t as interesting, but rather, it promises us things are going to start getting interesting. For one thing, once the dragon is down, we meet a pair of legs that proceed to run away. Who do they belong to? And why was this man so adamant about not being caught by the Shichibukai? Furthermore, why did he think the Shichibukai would be coming for him? And then there is the thing that happens on the Thousand Sunny at the end:

These guys unleashed sleeping gas on the Sunny to capture some pirates, but what for?

This raises so many questions: Who are these guys? Who is M/Master? Why does this Master want/need people? How did these people know the Thousand Sunny was there? Were they they ones who sent the distress call? The ending definitely leaves you hanging and as usual, I’m eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

With that said, I was a little disappointed that Robin didn’t do anything this chapter. I know, I know, I said I wouldn’t hold my breath, but I can’t help it. Everyone else fought the Dragon, even Usopp helped by doing support work, which just made me feel more cheated. Robin’s devil fruit powers have so much potential, especially the small teases of it that we have seen post timeskip. I’m always sad with how little Oda uses her because she could easily be on par with the Monster trio. Hell, her whole past demands that Robin be battle ready. She had to fight off people going after her bounty and survive in the criminal underworld. Her being a fighting powerhouse makes sense and what little Oda has shown, just confirms that her powers are very versatile. So I’m really disappointed that he has kept her in the background as a mid-tier fighter. :( Well, here’s hoping Oda decides to show her off more. He did bring her along with Luffy and Zoro, so I can hope, right? (;___;)

Even Usopp lends a hand in the fight against the Dragon, leaving Robin to be the only member that does not contribute.