Manga - The Other White Meat

Editor's Note: Tom is rapidly trying to climb the ranks here at Omnicomic and as such has suggested a weekly anime/manga recap. His column will run on Thursday afternoons, and while a quick calendar check will show today to be Friday he was so eager to get started that he whipped up something for this week. Enjoy. Since we here at Omnicomic are always into new things, I’ve been granted permission to go ahead and introduce one of my big interests of late…the anime manga craze. Starting with this column I will be doing weekly reviews and recaps of the Bleach and Naruto mangas (meaning you anime watchers on Cartoon Network should probably stay away). Occasionally I’ll also highlight some lesser known series that I come across just to guide you fancy manga/anime fans towards what you may find interesting. So…what better way to start then by introducing you in a MASSIVELY condensed way to the series up to this point and the major storyline arcs that have taken place. Read on for more in a medium that I have really come to love. Let’s begin with Bleach. The main character of Bleach is a young teenager named Ichigo Kurosaki. He (and a number of his friends and family members) has the ability to see and communicate with spirits; a high school tough guy with some special abilities. One day he meets a Shinigami (Soul Reaper/Death God) who is shocked that he can see her. Her name is Rukia Kuchiki, and she quickly becomes one of the main characters and Ichigo’s quasi romance interest. Of course we are talking about 16 year old characters here (in Ichigo's case, I'm still not sure how old the Shinigami are. I think like 1,000 but they act like they are moving on...) so the whole romance arc is only hinted at throughout the series and we are left to wonder for the most part what might be going on. While trying to defeat evil spirits (known as hollows) she is injured and in order to protect his family she transfers her powers to Ichigo. He is immediately transformed into a formidable Shinigami and proceeds to do those duties while going to school. The first arc consists of Ichigo developing his powers and the introduction of a host of characters. Rukia is brought back to Soul Society to atone for her crimes, as apparently transferring Shinigami powers to a human is forbidden and Ichigo trains with his friends Orihime Inoue, Yasutora “Chad” Sado and Uryu Ishida to rescue her. He also trains with Kisuke Urahara, an exiled former captain of the Shinigami for the journey and eventually fights pretty much half the soul society en route to rescuing Rukia. He forms tenuous friendships with a number of the Shinigami and continues to basically save their butts for the foreseeable future. In the end of the story arc the major villains are revealed to be former Shinigami Captains Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tosen, led by Sosuke Aizen. Eventually these three retreat from soul society to collect powerful hollows to fight the Shinigami. The current arc, which seems to be winding to a close, involves the kidnapping from the real world of Ichigo’s friend Inoue and the subsequent efforts to both rescue her and fight Aizen’s growing army. Many more powerful hollows, hollow-shinigami hybrids and abilities of the Shinigami are revealed and currently in the manga what appears to be the final epic showdown between the Shinigami and Aizen is taking place. While this series lost steam for a while for me, things have really picked up as of late. Currently, Ichigo is trapped in Hueco Mundo after battling there and rescuing Inoue as many of his allies battle Aizen in the real world. The series has been running since 2001 so this is about the best the series can be summed up in a short series of paragraphs. I will try to fill in the backstory for many of the main characters during their appearances in the manga as I sum things up from week to week. Naruto is a series that has been running regularly since 1999, and so much has happened that I’m not even going to bother trying to sum it all up. The show is based in a world where large secret ninja villages dominate the world and battle each other for power. At the center of this power struggle are individuals known as Jinchuuriki, as they have sealed within them nine demonic forces that are among the most powerful in the world. One of these carriers is a young boy named Naruto. He is the son of a great ninja of the village of Konoha. Naruto has grown from an annoying little kid to become a hero of the village by battling both other Jinchuuriki who threaten the village and defeating other incredibly powerful foes. Through his training he has mastered the sage techniques of his mentor and adopted father Jiraiya and has truly become a ninja worthy of respect. His counterpoint is his best-friend (although the relationship seems to be one-sided at times) Uchiha Sasuke, a member of a fated clan that has one of the most powerful abilities in the world. The adventures of these groups have led them to fight against powerful enemies such as Orochimaru, an exiled ninja of Konoha whose goal is to obtain all Jutsu in the world, Nagato, the name of the figurehead leader of a revolutionary group named Akatsuki, and Uchiha Madara, the current main villain and true force behind Akasuki. The latest happenings are that Sasuke fought with the five Kages, or leaders of the villages (essentially the five strongest ninja in the world arguably), to a stalemate. Naruto is struggling with the path of revenge and hatred that Sasuke has been lost in. The village of Konoha is in ruins (again…seriously, it happens a lot) and Uchiha Madara has made the proclamation that he is hereby starting The Fourth Great Ninja War and declared war on all the great nations. Currently this series is my favorite of the two as the characters are developed a little more fully, important characters actually DIE (after all no one has the power to make them magically reappear here…well sort of), and the battles are more varied and there is always a new Jutsu, or ninjitsu technique, to be shown off. The action in this manga has been fast and furious, the characters really entertaining, and the fights full of twists and turns. Much like with Bleach, I will try to fill in some backstory of main characters as they play a role, and I have most certainly skipped over many, but I will pick things up from the declaration of war. If you are interested I would definitely recommend picking up the current anime episodes that are on DVD in stores or looking for the latest volumes of the manga in bookstores to read the story on your own. Naruto is actually titled Naruto Shippuden in the new episodes. If you have NEVER read the manga or watched the anime I would probably recommend that you start there. If you manage to get all caught up and feel like learning more about the history of the characters, go ahead and pick up Naruto as well. For you comic fans out there who have shied away from the manga/anime world for one reason or another, give this a read and you may find that these and other series are something you could really enjoy. The writing is very good, the stories have great twists, there are no other titles you have to buy to keep up with the entire x-universe of characters, and the art and battles are really well depicted. That’s all for now, stay tuned for next week when we’ll begin to simply review the manga. While Naruto is actually in a great place to start, Bleach is mid-endgame battle and will probably require a lot more background information from week to week. See you then!