Friday, January 2, 2009
Attacking the 2 giants: Reviews on Bleach and Naruto AND Hunter X Hunter
So, the two most popular mangas are also the two most popular shounen manga of the day. They are Naruto and Bleach, the DBZ and YYH of the 2000's. In fact, that's what they are: replacements of two great shounen anime/manga from the 90's (and they match up perfectly. DBZ=Naruto, YYH=Bleach). Afterall, DBZ was #1 and YYH was #2 in the 90's.
Disclaimer: Now Naruto and Bleach are both fine manga and anime. If you do not agree with me on anything, just comment a logical argument, don't cuss or bring any point arguements in. I am willing to debate and I could clearly be wrong. In fact, I have so much respect that I gave them their own section on special abilities in my review!
Oh Naruto! I congradulate you greatly (Despite 'hating' you for a reason I will talk about later)! You BEAT DBZ in my eyes; you are better I feel.
Naruto is about a flamboyant ninja with a trouble past (like most) who wants to Hokage. A reasonable story except...he does nothing. He doesn't even gain any ranks (he isn't even a chunnin) and makes no effort to gain position. But can you blame him? Every time he does something, he is attacked by a new opponent. That is the fatal flaw of Naruto: the way the author progresses the series is always the same: throw Naruto into a new battle. The enemies are fairly unique but there is no character growth (no, no. There isn't. I know what you THINK is character growth, but that's not what I am talking about. I am not talking about interpersonal relationships, I am talking intrapersonal). He does not change from one battle to another, his motto is to follow the way of the ninja. He gains no experience from battle to battle (I am not talking techniques, I am talking that he does not change his ideals or refine them). Reason is: the battles have no meaning behind them. His ideology is never challenged: he can always gets get stronger and his motto (his way of the ninja) will always be true. His way of the ninja, if I recall, is just that persistance is strength. An enemy NEEDS to challenge that (even if Naruto ends up correct) sometime or there will be NO growth in Naruto. Of course this is only one way Naruto needs to grow. Pretty much, the only conflict is physical but the best manga have a deeper meaning behind them. Rurouni Kenshin: can he really change the world without removing those people who seem "unredeemable'; can he really cleanse himself and not revert to his old self; and can he change the nation without killing. YYH: Can Yusuke beat Sensui who shows that humans shouldn't be redeemed? Negima: Can Negi beat Chao is seems to be doing the right thing (she believes that if commiting an act that causes a few problems but prevents future and greater evil, that minor act should be commited).
-Nothing interesting. All the stereotypical positions are filled. I'll give you another example! Worthless female role: Sakura (This is a modern thing, older shounen manga didn't have this). Entire rival/friend: Sasuke (Vegata, Griffith). Pervent teacher: Jiraya (DBZ has one, the turtle dude). Large breasted woman with powers: Tsunade. Also minor characters are pointless and get pointless enemies just to pretend the minor characters are important and getting stronger (though I do like one or two of them, but they will NEVER be important).
-Already mentioned but there is no progress to Naruto's goal. Apparently all he has to do is wait until all strong ninja challenge him and beat them down one by one. He doesn't even have to hunt them down anymore! Also, the number of characters dying is hilarious. He might become hokage by process of elimination.
Characters II: 4
-I don't feel anything when the characters die. Reason: I have no reason to. I have not connected to them for a long time. Some characters are interesting but it doesn't matter. The author is dependant on readers who just want to see explosion and are willing to close their eyes to story and good characterization. Honestly, the death of the characters is an overdone plot device. You want to know why they are dying? It's simple: author doesn't know what to do with them and can't improve them. She kills a main once or twice just to hide this, but I've seen this plenty enough to recognize this.
-Another fault. Naruto is just intense situation after intense situation. Author needs to put some chapters where everything settles down and characters have a downtime. Also, there should only be a few super intense situations per 100 chapters, not a billion. Not all scenes have to be super intense, just interesting. Also, there is no cause or effect. You could mix up the plot and there would no problem. Chuunin exams could happen before the Haku saga and the Akatsuki problem could have been done after the Haku incident (barring obvious plot problems, but the point is that each saga doesn't cause the next).
-Fine for the most part.
DBZ comparision: 6
-People disliked DBZ for its long fight scenes. Naruto improved on this for the most part. Too bad the Sasuke vs Itachi fight was terrible. It was long, drawn out, and hard to follow. Otherwise, Naruto has a better story and some interesting characters. But that's it. In 10 years, another shounen manga will come and be the new 'cool'. It will probably improve on one element but be exactly the same as Naruto. Isn't Naruto's Kyuubi form just Naruto going super saiyan?
Bonus review: Special ability: Uh, the jutsus are unique and interesting for the most part. But too many kage bushins and that ball of air doesn't really do much for ya Naruto. Sasuke learns cool things. Whoever that smart kid with the shadow moves is...he is a GOOD character (Shiki or something) who makes use appropriately of his ability. His logic comes straight from another anime (a bit from HXH but there is another source) but its done uniquelly enough. Special ability to pretty good. Score: 7
Overall review in comparision to DBZ: 6-7
Overall review (in all manga sense): 5
Final thoughts: People need to see that Naruto isn't super or the best. But feel free to enjoy it, it is an interesting manga and anime. But don't become ignorant to the other great manga and anime. It seems to be an ok manga to reread if you really liked it the first time. Actually, in the anime, there are some pretty intense times: Chuunin exams are a great example.
Sorry Bleach, but you are being compared to YYH. In that manner, you fail :( though you are an acceptable manga.
Summary (words with paratheticals can be substituted for the italicized word)
The story follows Ichigo (Yusuke) who can see ghosts and helps ghosts. He is told by Rukia (Botan) that he is the new Grim Reaper (Spirit Detective) of Soul Society (Spirit World). He is aided by an ugly worthless muscle guy called Chad (Kuwabara),
-What story? I mean, YYH didn't have one but it was clear that Yusuke's only task was to solve cases even if he didn't have a goal in life. What's Ichigo doing? Sure, I skipped a few episodes in the beginning (I was bored) but I see him having no goal nor is he a real shinigami. He just floats through his life killing demons through a stereotypical manner. First he saves Rukia from the Soul Society and now he saves Orohime from the Mundo. Sounds like saving two damsels in distress while an excuse to explore new places. It would get a one (since I don't know what the main character wants) if I wasn't nice and looked for redeemable story qualities.Aizen's plot is kinda interesting but exactly the same the same as Akatsuki's. His team of Espada IS Akatsuki and the Ten Swords from RK. Think: there are 10 Espada (Which means swords). Shishio's group is called Ten Swords, coincidence? It gets a 2 because I am nice and feel the Aizen plot was good enough to save it from a dismal 1. If a reader wants to tell me what Bleach's story, please tell me.
-Uh, I'll be nice. Bleach makes up its lack of a point with some good characters. It has the stereotypical roles of course, like worthless minor characters. It has a useless female character (YYH didn't have this, so this is a loss for when I compare it to YYH later): Orohime. People tell me she IS useful because she has the mad haxxor ability of reversing time. Eh, no...That's just your silly attempt to justify the story, even you know she is pointless. Her ability isn't even interesting, and even though it could have potential(!) (in the right hands), it won't have use. Usually I hate wasted potential but I don't care since I know its just another attempt to make a minor character seem important. They do the same thing in Naruto by making them fight useless enemies. In Fact, Bleach does it too! Chad, the archer dude, and Orohime's battles all don't matter or interest me. Now, the good characters. Rukia is a nice character though she sucks too because she isn't super interesting. Pretty much, you can force yourself to love her or you can force yourself to analyze her and see that she isn't interesting. I do both: I agree with her lovers and her haters. But I pick her over Orohime, the dumb large breasted broad who isn't even attractive.
Characters II: Same Score
-Too many large breasted woman. That's Bleach's excuse for fan service. The women have no point (author acts like he/she isn't sexist by adding women but they don't have any point) and might seem strong but no one cares. And those generals in Soul Society? Boring and pointless. Ok, I will stop hacking characters and say positives now! Gein was a great character, though he might have been a better character if he WASN'T a bad guy who joins Aizen, you know, to throw off the ice midget general. But I guess its fine that he actually is a bad guy, though he doesn't do enough. That Ice Midget (Hitsuguaya or whatever) is cool too but he should be beating the Espada with more ease. I don't like overpowered characters that don't have to struggle but the Espada don't feel important to be strong. Aizen is an interesting character (he should have kept the glasses and hair do) but I knew he was going to be bad from spoilers. Uh, he should make his move soon (he did I know, but...do something maybe himself?). Yorichi (the black cat that becomes a purple haired lady) was cool...AS A CAT! She disappoints me as a female and as a character. She and Rukia redeems the females in the manga but the cat and her should have been different characters. Oh yea, that hat dude that didn't come? The one who trained Ichigo and acts like a pimp. He is cool, funny, and perhaps the best character. But I liked the original character from a series I no longer remember. Same character design, personality, similar backstory (makes a mistake that causes a main character be targetted) but was a bit more interesting. I also like that Shiny Head from the violent team (13th?) though he has disappointed me with his pointless battles and disappearance of his personality. The pink haired lieutanent (same team) also was interesting and funny but really serves no purpose anymore. Back to attacking characters: Espada. WHY! No one WANTS Bleach to go on forever. It would have been better had Gein, Blindy, and Aizen been the only enemies. Of course, Gein will redeem himself (predictable but I want that to happen, since that makes sense character wise and in a literary sense). Actually, Gein might not redeem himself and die a villain (because the author might go that way) and that will be a BAD idea. Unless something happens otherwise, that will be a really bad idea.
Scene: from 6-7 to almost zero.
In the words of slowpoke (4chan reference) "Hey guys, what's up?". The answer is: Fighting. ALWAYS FIGHTING. What for? Who knows. In fact, its been WAY too long since there HASN'T been a fight that I don't remember what Aizen is doing! Too many fight scenes and too much force to be intense. There needs to be more breaks to give readers a break. If there is change in mood, we can't tell which parts should be interesting and tense and which one are just cool. Its been one long fight scene for too long...
-Cool be worked on. This a problem with Naruto too: Too much wasted space. Author wastes so much space and drags things out. Look at Negima! So much story jammed into one page, now that's good story telling!
Comparison to YYH: 3
I get it that Yusuke had no goal or overall challenge. But he kinda did against Sensui which challenges humanity. Bleach has no such thing. For the most part, YYH is the same as Bleach in terms of...well, everything. The generals of Bleach are just minor characters that fans liked and are being dragged back...just like the opponents in the Dark Tournmanet (Rinku, Chu, etc). Vizens or arrancarr are ripped off: Yusuke is resurrected like a demon too (Ichigo just as a hollow). By combining human and demon (or human and hollow), you are stronger. Too bad YYH doesn't follow the stereotypical shounen too much: most characters (even Kuwabara kinda, he was funny too) has a point. But Bleach has no useful characters and has the newly stereotypical useless female ( and Chad doesn't have the charm or humor of Kuwabara). There is nothing to say...Yu Yu Hakusho was more interesting and Bleach has only hooked me a few times.
Bonus review: Special ability: A sword that is unique and has a close connection to its wielder. Done before but I like the idea. Too bad the abilities of the sword usually stink. Bleach should steal some from Negima, the artifacts there are REALLY good and unique. Bankai's are even worse, especially Ichigo's. Speed...great >.> No body carries. That guy with the bankai that breaks his sword is interesting and that Raiki (whatever his name is: close friend of Rukia) has an ok one with the snake sword. There is potential but they NEED to reach for it. Score: 5. GO FOR THE GOLD!
Overall review (YYH as comparision): 2-4
Overall review: 2-4
Final thoughts: Eh, I'd pick Naruto over Bleach. There is no point in watching/ reading Bleach other than for Gein and occasionally Rukia. The other interesting characters have disappointed me (Ice Midget hasn't quite but he shouldn't struggle against nobodies). Feel free to enjoy it if you honestly see something good in it. It is a humorous story time to time. I think it has really low rereadability. I always wondered that..You die in 'Human World' and you go to Soul Society.. You die in Soul Society and you die again?
Final Thoughts on Modern Shounen: Naruto and Bleach are part of the eerie new stereotypical shounen. They improve a little bit on their predesscor but fail short in other ways. Naruto would be the better of the two except:
Hunter X Hunter:
Naruto stole so much from this series. This by the same author of YYH so it doesn't fall into the modern shounen stereotypes though it has weaknesses. But in comparision to Naruto:
-One of the main character is out for revenge since someone killed his entire clan but him(who have red eyes that look like the sharigan).
-The hunter exam is EXACTLY the same as the chunnin exam but more interesting (Hunter X Hunter came before Naruto)
-main character wants to be the best hunter (ninja anybody?) in the world
-same age as naruto before time jump
-the fact that everyone has an element they are closely related to (Narut0 is wind) and they way to test for it is EXACTLY the same. One uses water and a leaf and other a paper (which changes the same way the leaf does).
So, Naruto loses to Hunter X Hunter. Now just for a review of that too.
I'll do this quickly. Kid goes through a test to become a hunter and to find his father who was the best hunter (just like Naruto's dad was a Hokage, the strongest ninja). He meets 3 unique people and he passes easily. The story is great and progressive until the newest saga: the ant saga (which has a shameless ripoff of Cell).
-Terrible but the author isn't feeling great and he's lazy. But it's not terrible all the time.
-There is a main point and there is a good cycle so that we are not always hyped up. By taking breaks from the fighting, we are ready to be excited when the next great moment arrives. This is the CORRECT way to make shounen: not all scenes should be super tense or readers have nothing to compare it to and get bored. HXH just doesn't make fast enough progress and current saga is too slow and pointless. Also, there are many missing subplots. Example: Looking for the father, where is lighting midget (he's a main character, I just don't remember his name)'s brother, and what is the rest of the hunter exam?
The characters are fine and unique. Too bad two main ones have been gone for too long. There is only one stereotype: strongest ally is some old dude who doesn't look it. Jin (I think that's his name) is a fine character and his friend (Ko- I forget) is kinda like Hiei but his ability and backstory is unique so its just character design. He is characterized appropriately. There is a gay clown that I keep telling myself that he is NOT a gay clown. It works occasionally. He is also interesting. There is a main bad guy group (like espada, ten swords, and akatsuki) which is made of 10 members i believe. They are fairly unique and have redeeming qualities. Not 2-D like espada (only grimmjaw was good, rest was made up crap). Akatsuki is a good comparision but the main bad guys (Phantom Bridge I believe) seem to be good and cool sometimes too!
Very good! Not only is the story and characters unique, scenes are set up correctly (I mentioned this under story). Also, there are lots of plot twists (gah, I switched story and scenes it would seem). Example: the head of the bad guys (looks like Sensui) is actually attacked 2nd and pretty much defeated! Now taht's a good story twist. Its a great story.
Overall (versus other shounen): 9
Overall (against all manga/anime): 8
Final thoughts: I would recommend this over all the other shounen manga (though Negima is slightly better). I can't imagine it has high rereadability since it's those surprise twists and turns that made it good. If you know waht they are, it can't be super amazing.
END THOUGHTS FOR ALL: Bleach and Naruto are overrated and aren't really improvement of the predesscor. They are fine and I was being overly critical on purpose (there is plenty I like in both) Hunter X Hunter should be more popular though the current saga sucks. Hunter X Hunter is one of the better shounen manga.