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December 23, 2011

Bento Bako Bonus: One Piece 59 & Tenjo Tenge 4

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Written by: Drew
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[Greetings manga fans. Drew is once again taking over for me to review some titles I have passed on to him. I hope you all have a good Christmas and get some awesome otaku gifts! I’ve got the plague, which is why you were without a review this past Wednesday, and you may be without one on Monday, as well. I’ll see if I can manage a little something. Enjoy your holiday! -Kris]

One Piece volume 59
Publisher: Viz Media
Story and Art: Eiichiro Oda
Vintage: 2010 by Shueisha, December 2011 by Viz Meida

The 59th volume of One Piece wraps up the epic Paramount War where seemingly a billion characters are involved kicking the crap out each other in a storm of Pirate vs. Navy action.

[Volume 58 review.]

At the stunning end of the last volume, Luffy was about to save his brother Ace, when Ace suddenly was stabbed through the stomach by Akainu just when we thought Luffy succeeded. Well, the first chapter opens with, you guessed it, the death of Ace. No last minute saves here, Luffy has failed and Ace dies, causing Luffy to pass out in shock. Akainu rolls in to finish Luffy, but Whitebeard and others move in to save this brave soul, and then guess what? Whitebeard makes his last stand, and not just against the Navy, but the Blackbeard pirates who escaped the prison as it was wrecked during the battle. Whitebeard squares off against all of them, and in the process gets half his face blown off, followed by being rattled by hundreds of bullets, as Jimbei grabs Luffy and the others pitch in to help get him to safety. Blackbeard uses his power to steal power off the dead Whitebeard, making him an extremely powerful terror. The Navy divides and turns part of its attention against Blackbeard, and the other in trying to get the unconscious Luffy to kill him. Before we know it, everyone seems to be fighting again, and in all the chaos Red-Haired Shanks, the pirate who gave Luffy his straw hat as a boy, returns to oversee Luffy getting away on a submarine to safety. The Paramount War ends as the world celebrates, and Jimbei and friends take refuge on the Island of Woman thanks to Amazon Lily, who is in love with Luffy. A few days pass and Luffy comes to, going mad and dealing with the reality of Ace’s death, as he begins to have a flash back of the adventures he had as a small child with him and Ace as early kid-pirates.

One Piece is still awesome after all this time. For a few volumes the magic was slipping away a little bit, but the past few volumes have given the series a new lease on life almost. The biggest issue with this volume, or any volume of the Paramount War saga, is that the cast is huge on an epic scale beyond even Chinese historical dramas. It is incredibly easy to begin to be confused on who is who and what side they are on aside from a few characters. Also, Oda’s style of artwork, although at times amazing, is incredibly busy in this volume, making it easy as well to at times feel a bit lost. As much as this is a bad thing, it does work in a way of making you really feel like you are swept up in the middle of this huge hot mess of an epic war, which is exactly what the intense Paramount War is. Once we get beyond the war chapters, our minds can relax as Oda takes on a way less confusing and at times fairly emotional start to Luffy on the Island of Woman as he deals with not being able to save his brother and his flashbacks (and hey, kid Luffy is super cute looking, so it’s a blast to read those pages).

Overall, Oda has given us an awesome epic battle that was over-the-top in a good way, making us both sad and happy at the same time that the Paramount War saga wraps up here. I have the feeling One Piece may be entering a more adult tone in the upcoming stories as Luffy deals with Ace’s death, but Oda balances this out nicely with light-hearted kid Luffy and Ace flashbacks, blending together a nice mix.

Tenjo Tenge Full Contact Edition volume 4
Publisher: Viz Media
Story and Art: Oh! Great
Vintage: 2001 and 2002 by Shueisha in Japan, December 2011 by Viz Media

[Other Tenjo Tenge reviews; be warned, they’re from a completely different perspective. Where as Drew enjoys the series, I hated it, so it’s an entirely different opinion.]

The fourth volume of Viz’s Full Contact Edition of Tenjo Tenge rocks out, collecting both volumes 7 and 8 of the original run into one edition and completely uncut. At this point the series has begun to calm down from its excessive nudity and sex, although still there, but probably about 85% percent less when comparing back with the first volume or two, and this point has become mostly that good old male-oriented “everybody is beating the crap out of each other every chance they get” fighting manga.

The first part of the collection picks up right in the middle of the Imperial Martial Arts Tournament, where our characters’ school turns into a battle ground free-for-all so that the students can decide on which group/club of students will run the school. Maya and Mitsuomi are kicking the crap out of everyone at Todo Academy. However, very quickly tables turn and Fu comes for revenge on Shin. Him and his guards capture Maya and beat her up a bit, and finally Shin shows up and in typical fashion of him, looses it, killing his enemies and purposely hurting Mitsuomi when he shows up on purpose. A few days pass and Mitsuomi seems to be fine as the fighting starts up again. With Shin nowhere to be found at Todo, as he is away dealing with his personal demons, Mitsuomi leads the Juken club to victory and they become the rulers of the school. Again time passes within a page or two, and we get another big battle for who will lead the Juken club, Shin or Mitsuomi. The battle we have been waiting for begins, and for the most part Mitsuomi kicks the crap out of Shin. In a final move, Shin tries to kill him, but Kuzunoha blocks it with her self, damaging all her internal organs and killing her, in an attempt to get through to Shin. Shin, lost and embittered, takes one of her needles, ramming it through his ear and into the side of his head, to lock the two of them together in death.

The second half of the collection gets into Mitsuomi making his move. He kills off whoever he needs to, and takes over his family’s company. Disillusioned by the chaos which ensued at Todo with demons like Shin, he decides to rule Todo with an iron fist student council to put an end to all the warring, hence setting up the situation at present for the main characters Nagi and Bob, whom we haven’t seen in forever, since this flashback story to explain everything went on for over 4 volumes (not that it wasn’t interesting, just the longest flashback story ever for a fighting manga)! With the epic flashback done, we get back to the present as Maya and Mitsuomi are hunting down Aya, who has her dead brother’s demon sword, in fear she’ll turn out like Shin. Maya finds Aya and quickly nabs the sword as the boys show up. Nagi and Bob start to get into a little street tussle with Mitsuomi, but before things can get really rough, Maya steps in and stops it. The next day Aya and Maya start going at it as Aya trains to become stronger. After some duking it out, it is decided the current Juken club will train harder to take down the current council. Nagi and Aya go off to a run down looking house where Nagi’s true training should begin. Their trainers turn out to be Nagi’s Mom and old man Master Dogen, who was the catalyst behind Shin turning into a demon and ultimately his death. Nagi takes a moment to cool off, and then the two begin to face off against a volley of masked opponents who crucially unlock Nagi’s inner power to become a demon himself.

This volume is great. I mean yes, when you boil down as you can read from the above paragraphs, it’s pretty much one fight after another with a lot of dramatic dialog about one’s inner demons and kai being used so they can destroy their rivals in highly violent combat.  However, it is that same border-fantasy tone about cursed swords and demons that placed against a contemporary setting of a high school where it’s seemingly okay to have free-for-alls any where/any time on the school grounds, that make Tenjo Tenge so appealing and have its strong fan base both here and in Japan. Oh! Great’s combination of these elements, which usually all separated would seem run of the mill, and how he mixes them together, make this an addicting read to any fellow who zoned out in class or his office cubical and thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I found a demon sword today? The manga still has women with impossibly large breasts and lots of violence, but the latest volume is the most accessible thus far, keeping fans happy, and giving a chance to new readers or readers who didn’t like the first volume or two a great place to come in and check it out. That said, though, like Tough or Baron Gong Battle, Tenjo Tenge is still very much a “man’s manga” and is not something I’d define as a cross-gender story that will appeal to everyone. The writing at times can still seem a little middle-of-the-road, but Oh! Great’s artwork is what brings everything together in visual splendor.

Drew McCabe
drew@comicattack.net

Review copies provided by Viz Media.

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