Chaos Dragon: Sekiryuu Seneki – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: Based on the fantasy role-playing fiction collaboration of five notable character designers, Chaos Dragon follows Ibuki, the crown prince and now un-risen king of the conquered island country of Nil Kamui, which has seen its guardian Red Dragon go mad while stuck in the middle of a bloody battle between two greater powers.

Ibuki is initially resigned to his fate and that of his country, but when he and his freind Mashiro are caught in the middle of a battle between Nil Kamui rebels and Kouran military convoy that bears the “Dragon Eye”, with which they intend to control the Red Dragon. A Kouran general gravely wounds Mashiro.

Taking refuge in a chapel, Ibuki agrees to be the “Child of Contract” for the Red Dragon that has possessed him, but in order for that privilege, he must take Mashiro’s life. Mashiro willingly gives it up, and Ibuki becomes strong enough to fight against the general who initially cut her.

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Why I’m giving it the lowest rating I’ve given so far this Summer: Believe me, with its creative pedigree, I wanted this to be good. Heck, it still could be good…down the road. But I won’t mince words: This first episode was disappointing. Chaos Dragon indicated in its first outing that it may not quite add up to the sum of its parts, and that even a collaboration of character design elites can lay an egg. Nothing is certain in the world of anime.

Perhaps most egregious about Chaos is that the character design wasn’t actually anything special, and at this point in the season, if a show isn’t special in some way beyond who made it, I can’t squander my precious viewing hours. Perhaps CD is a bit unlucky that I’m watching it so late, but nothing about it felt as compelling as the shows I’ve already watched, and most of it was all too familiar.

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Let’s start with the very first shot: a pretty neat looking little 3D CGI scene. Yet, all the camera did was fly past a few stationary characters. Worse, by the episode’s end, nothing more interesting-looking ever popped up.

In fact, the first half was a bit of a snooze, packed with characters spouting unnatural exposition about where they are and what’s going on. I was reminded more than once of Shingeki no Bahamut, if only because I was remembering how much better in every way its first episode was.

The portrayal of the eeeeeevil Kourans didn’t do the show any favors; of course we’re going to side with the meek pint-sized white-haired kid over such buffoons. And yet, when the big battle in the city streets breaks out, the show seems intent on cutting away just when it seems like something interesting is going to happen.

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All the awkward pacing, cutting, and clunky action and dialogue made the wounding, then eventually finishing off of Mashiro, a lot less impactful and surprising than it could have been, sad and unfortunate as it was.

The Red Dragon within Ibuki robotically belts out his lines with distortion that sounds like he’s standing in front of a fan, and even once he’s lent his strength to Ibuki, a fight against the big stupid-looking general starts, but we don’t get to see how it goes; the episode wanders off again.

This episode ends by crossing the image of Machiro off a group shot that’s mostly still in shadow, suggesting more sacrifices are in store for Ibuki. Meanwhile, I was mentally crossing this show off my list. This season is already too strong and its execution was too weak to justify sticking with it.

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Bakuman 2 – 25 (Fin)

The manuscript for the first chapter of Perfect Crime Club is ready, but Hattori believes the character names and design needs work, as does the title of the manga itself. Ashirogi Muto misses the New Years party to perfect their work, as does Fukuda with a motorcycle shonen one shot that will appear in the same issue. Ashirogi meet their new assistants, Orihara, Moriya, and Shriatori; the latter two get into a debate about why to draw manga.

Takagi finally comes up with the name PCP (Perfect Crime Party), and the team belts out the first chapter. It takes first place in Jack by a landslide, earning more votes than either CROW or +Natural’s first chapters, an encouraging start. Mashiro shows the rankings to his uncle’s grave, but the real challenge has only begun, as the chief editor vows to cancel PCP if it can’t consistently keep up with CROW or +Natural.

First, lets get this out of the way: PCP (the drug) must not be a bug problem in Japan, otherwise, Hattori or someone else would surely have discouraged the use of that particular acronym to title anew manga. That said, this second season was going to end on one of two notes: either PCP took first place, or it didn’t. Victory or defeat. Hope or despair. Thankfully, it took first place, as it was meant to do. What we didn’t expect was for it to win by such a large margin. Nobody did; not even the setback-fatigued authors.

The battle has only begun. The competition is stiffer than ever, with two Niizuma Eiji drawn mangas, one of which is written by a girl who considers Takagi and now Hattori her nemeses. Hell hath no fury and all that. Not to mention Fukuda, who has a much more straightforward mainstream manga about motorcycles that the kids will love.

They also have to contend with a chief editor who is still not happy about Ashirogi quitting Tanto, and even more unhappy that he was rebuked in the vote to allow PCP’s serialization. Moritaka Mashiro is a step closer to making his dreams come true, and PCP has the makings of an anime…but there’s still at least a third season’s worth of tribulations to contend with before that happens. He sure hasn’t made it easy for himself.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 24

The editors in the serialization meeting change their votes one by one until the chief is the only one to vote against it, and Ashirogi Muto’s Perfect Crime Club is approved for serialization. After recieving the news and being congratulated by Team Fukuda, Mashiro finds a USB in the slice of cake Miho made for him, on which is a recording of her singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

The news also comes down that Hattori and Miura will switch places, so Hattori will continue to be Ashirogi’s editor, while Miura takes on Iwase, who is none to happy. After hearing about the initial losing vote to Niizuma, Mashiro decides that Takagi will only give him scripts without layout, so he can better utilize his own imagination. Takagi agrees, and they prepare the first chapter.

Ah, for once, another Ashirogi Muto defeat is turned around at the last minute (or rather, the first minute of this episode), and in an unlikely adaptation of “12 Angry Men” (seven in this case). they get their shot. It’s almost as if the editors had forgotten about the readers and put Ashirogi Muto’s fate in their own hands, rather than those readers, which would have been totally unfair.

But getting those initial doubters to come around will require revision to Perfect Crime Club: enter Hattori, who immediately makes an impact with Ashirogi before officially taking the reins from Miura (who is also impressed with his authors’ professionalism.) When Takagi tells Hattori Mashiro is “saying crazy things”, we worry momentarily, but the drama is quickly dispelled once he explains himself. The ball is in their court.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 23

Miura reads Ashirogi’s manuscript for Perfect Crime Club. While at first he finds its crimes petty, the realistic art and serious tone draw him in. He believes it will be a hit. While at any other serialization meeting, it would easily pass, the editors have to determine whether it will be able to beat Crow and +Natural, right now. Their deliberations go on a long time, as Mashiro has a Christmas get-together with Takagi and Kaya. The resulting vote at the meeting is tied 3-3, and the Chief editor with the tie-breaking vote. He believes it’s good, but not enough to win. With the final vote 4-3, Perfect Crime Club will not be serialized by Jack.

Bakuman is full of foolish promises. The idea that Mashiro and Miho cannot possibly be together unless they achieve their dreams is getting to be a major problem. Huge chunks of their youth have been spent away from each other. Yes, they love each other, but the idealism of their promise is starting to strain credulity. Case in point: Takagi and Kaya have Mashiro over for their first Christmas as a married couple. Why isn’t Miho there? Because of that silly promise, made when they were still kids. We know this issue has been covered exhaustively and they both seem to be committed to keeping the promise, but these constant drawbacks make the dreams they seek to achieve seem more like mirages; impossible to ever reach. Time will tell, we guess.

That’s beause of another dumb promise: to create a manga that can defeat Niizuma Eiji, or leave Jack for good. Ashirogi Muto has been through the pressure cooker enough; there was no need to gamble themselves into a corner. We held out hope Perfect Crime Club, which is the most original and best-thought-out manga Ashirogi’s created to date – would at least be given a shot to compete, but the Chief Editor took their gamble to mean that they the editors – and they alone, not the readers – would be the arbitors of the manga’s fate. With that, it seems like Ashirogi Muto’s Jack days are finished, unless Hattroi and Miura have any other tricks up their sleeve.


Rating : 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 22

Hattori advises Ashirogi Muto to play to their strengths: Takagi should try to find “serious humor”, which Ashirogi could enliven with his serious art. A clear direction fires them up, but coming up with a storyboard proves difficult, so Takagi suggests he and Mashiro tail Hattori in secret for a day. They witness him go about his business, learn new and unexpected things, and get further encouraged. After their adventure, Takagi knows what he wants to do: a ‘perfect crime’ manga. They swap Kaya’s present for Miho with an identical one to further experience the thrill and accomplishment of pulling small crimes off. They whip up a storyboard and deliver it to Miura…

After quite a few failures in a row and their careers on the line, finally a little optimism and excitement. Hattori’s “serious humor” advice really caused a light to go off in Takagi’s head. Both he and Mashiro are certain this is their best idea yet. We especially like how Takagi makes sure they’re on the right track by literally acting out the idea by tailing Hattori, then making the ol’ switcheroo. The whole episode was brimming with positive energy and discovery.

There are lots of nice touches: Takagi and Mashiro finally find out about Hattori’s “Iwase Problem”, when she meets him in a restaurant in a come-hither outfit – that Takagi has his back to her is an even better touch. We also like that Aoki and Kaya remain in touch, and how Aoki innocently leaks that it’s Ashirogi’s last chance. A concerned Kaya calls Miho, but rather than feel betrayed for Mashiro keeping something from her, she takes the high road and tells Kaya to chill out and believe in them. The dress-for-drawing swap was also pretty romantic. Of course, next week, we can expect this Perfect Crime Club manga


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 21

As Tanto winds down, Ashirogi Muto struggle to find a new idea, until Miura suggests they bring back Money & Intelligence, but add “Appearence” to make it KTM. Takagi is fired up and has loads of ideas, butwhen they submit the manuscript for serialization, it fails. Rather than improve KTM, Miura orders them to do a mainstream fantasy in the vein of One Piece, but the resulting manuscript doesn’t even make it to the serialization meeting. Miura arrives with Hattori, who wants to help in anyway he can. Meanwhile, Iwase reiterates her ‘interest’ in him, and he gives her a set amount of time to win his heart.

When we learned there’d be three serialization meetings, we imagined three episodes in which Mashiro and Takagi come up with three manga ideas, and naturally the first and second would be rejected. But things went faster than we expected, with them breezing through two manga concepts in one week, leaving them with one more shot: if they fail again, they’re through with Jack. One annoyance of this series is how it’s paced: earlier in the first season, an episode would only cover a day or two – now weeks can pass with nary a label to indicate it.

Pacing aside, clearly there’s plenty more material to come – there’s a third season coming later this year – and that makes us wonder, just how long is Ashirogi Muto going to continue these cycles of small victories followed by failures. When will they finaly surpass Niizuma Eiji, like Hattori and others believe they can? As viewers, we’re starting to get a little antsy. Is Bakuman merely stringing us along, or will there be some eventual gratification? We know, for one thing, Mashiro’s goal of getting an anime with Miho voicing it is still a long way off, and their marriage with it. So until then Bakuman has to make a case for itself. Something good’s gotta happen.


Rating: 3

Bakuman 2 – 20

Tanto’s rank is steady, but low, and Takagi is nearing the limit of his jokes, pulling all-nighters days before his wedding to no avail. At his and Kaya’s wedding reception, Mashiro confronts Hattori to tell him straight up whether Tanto is good; he says it isn’t. The final straw is when Niizuma calls Ashirogi Muto his rivals on live TV. Both Takagi and Mashiro ask the chief editor if they can quit Tanto and work on something that will surpass Niizuma – if they can’t, their Jack days are over.

First Trap got cancelled. They liked it, but the rankings fell to far. Now with Tanto, the rankings aren’t falling enough to risk cancellation, and it’s important to Jack as a kids’ manga – but both Takagi and Mashiro feel it’s holding them back. While it may seem unwise to put so much faith in the opinions of a few peers – in this case, Niizuma and Hattori – the way they see it, they would rather try and fail to surpass Niizuma with everything they’ve got rather than continue to dabble in obscurity. If they truly have the talent and it’s a matter of proper utilization, then Tanto has to go.

It’s a big gamble, because, well, what if they truly can never surpass Niizuma, and burn themselves out in the attempt? They’re already known as “troublemakers” in the industry, and there’s apparently no better publication to be in than Jack, so they’re really limiting their options. But continuing to eke out Tanto would be limiting them even further. Would Mashiro really be okay marrying Miho after getting a late night anime deal like Hiramaru? I doubt it. He wants the primetime, and he wants to be the best. And so they roll the dice.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 19

Meeting her father so he can ask him permission to marry Kaya, Takagi learns that her father was best friends with Mashiro’s uncle Nobu. After meeting with both Takagi and Mashiro, he gives his approval. At the Jack party that night, all eyes are on Iwase and Niizuma, further firing up Ashirogi. Natural+ gets of online buzz and on its first day Jack is sold out everywhere and it hits first place. When the next issue comes out, Tanto #1 only gets fifth, then descends from there, levelling out below both of Niizuma’s manga. At their new flat, Takagi and Kaya are visited by Iwase, who comes to ‘congratulate’ them, then suddenly names Hattori as her next ‘interest’. Niizuma stops reading Tanto, apparently bored with it.

It’s a mixed bag this week, with good news, bad news, and some serious coincidences. This anime program would have you believe, for instance, that Kaya’s dad was best friends with Mashiro’s uncle who pined for the mother of Kaya’s best friend Miho, who Mashiro has promised to marry. Small world, yeah? But while it’s good news that Takagi and Kaya can finally tie the knot (I guess Takagi’s parents are dead, or something), there’s still the matter of making a living with manga, and Hattori, Niizuma, and Iwase aren’t making it easy.

In fact, Ashirogi is shown no mercy whatsoever, as the cool indie Natural+ screams past their comparitively childish gag manga, which Iwase says proves Takagi doesn’t have talent anymore and therefore she doesn’t love him – because that’s what loves all about AMARITE? Hinamaru even has his Otters 11 turned into an anime, albeit a late night one, while Crow already has one and Aoki’s manga has a shot at adaptation too. With all the mounting hardships, Takagi is even finding it hard to come up with ideas, never good when you’re already behind. And apparently their manga is so uninspiring, Niizuma, their #1 fan, has stopped reading. Really not good. This week almost seemed like piling on.


Rating: 3.5

Car Cameo: In front of the venue for the Shounen Jack party
sit a trio of stately Toyota Crown Majestas.

Bakuman 2 – 18

The good news: a revised Tanto passed muster and will be serialized, so Mashiro has a Christmas present for Miho and Takagi and Kaya can now move forward with their marriage plans. The bad: Akina Aiko and Niizuma’s manga +Natural is also serialized, and will be published the week before Tanto, putting Takagi in direct competition with Iwase. Fukuda gathers everyone together to talk with Niizuma. This includes Iwase, who has no intention for sharing her opinions with other authors. Niizuma dismisses everyone’s concerns as whining, and they should focus on making manga that’s better than his.

Bakuman finally gives Ashirogi Muto something to celebrate, only to sour their jubilation with the knowledge that not only is Iwase, at this point THE WORST HUMAN BEING IN THE WORLD, will be competing with their manga, but Niizuma has heartily agreed to lend his all-but-unbeatable art to her story. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially when Iwase does her best to live up to her all-caps title by subtly taunting Takagi. This girl is seriously messed up, and in this case I think Niizuma is being a little too simple-minded by working with her on a whim. Yeah, we know he likes to draw, but enabling a budding psychopath is a bridge too far.We can only hope Iwase won’t turn dangerous if things don’t go her way. For his part, Takagi warns her nothing she can do will change his and Kaya’s plans.

Beyond all that unpleasantness, it was good to see the whole gang (save Nakai) back together, thanks to Fukuda of course. Niizuma’s comparison to Iwase as Aoki two years ago was not only a funny observation, but also underscored how much Aoki has grown as a person and how pathetic Iwase is right now. Niizuma was on a roll this week, urging everyone to lay off him for taking on two simultaneous serializations. While we fault him for giving legitimacy to Iwase’s vendetta (which goes way beyond a friendly rivalry), we can’t fault him for this. If they don’t like it, they need to make better manga.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 10

As Mashiro, Takagi and Miyoshi balance studying for college entrance exams with coming up with ideas for their next work. Mashiro wants to do a cautious one-shot first to test the waters, and he wants to maintain the harsh/serious tone of previous works, but Miura clashes with him on both counts, wanting a gag manga manuscript for serialization. Ashirogi goes over his head and submits a work in the monthly amateur contest. Hattori helps mediate the warring sides until they reach a mutually acceptable deal.

After spending so much time with Shady Detective TRAP, we had almost forgotten that it wasn’t the end-all, be-all work that would make or break Mashiro’s dreams. When things don’t work out, as they didn’t with TRAP, you move one. You have to…so they do. But things don’t start out smoothly, as Mashiro feels deep in his gut that Miura is just…wrong. So wrong. The thing is, artists need to trust and listen to their editors, or else they can’t work together.

A compromise is found after leaping over his head: whereby Ashirogi Muto can’t win the monthly contest, but they’ll be able to compete. Even if it does well, they’ll have to wait for the next serialization meeting for a final decision from Jack, so they have to give the gag manga – Hitman 10 – their all. From the little that we saw it looks like it has a nice contrast going between a harsh, gritty style and a story loaded with gags, owing to the scenario’s farfetchedness. At this point though, we have no idea what their next serialized piece will be. TRAP’s demise taught us nothing is ever certain in this business.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 06

Mashiro is rushed to hospital, where it’s determined he requires liver surgery, which will require two weeks of prep and three months of recovery. It seems inevitable that TRAP will be put on hiatus, which may be a death sentence so early in circulation. Mashiro is determined to continue drawing from his hospital bed. Takagi tries to get Miho to convince him to rest, but instead Mashiro convinces her that he can keep drawing, and she backs him up.

We’ll be honest: we were a bit surprised this turned out to be a health problem requiring surgery, rather than a simple matter of exhaustion and malnutrition. But those two things can cause the other if one is careless. It seems awfully sudden, especially at such a damned inopportune time (Renly can relate), but…shit happens; usually suddenly. We’re just a little disappointed, because there was already enough drama without one of the guys getting sick and unable to draw in a show…about drawing. At any rate, if you can tell how popular you are by the number of people who visit you in the hospital, Mashiro is a popular guy indeed.

While we admire Mashiro’s moxie, pushing his body (and his well-placed trust and love of Miho) right to the edge, we don’t see how this can end well, judging from the final moments, in which Miho throws common sense and logic out the window and Stands By Her Man. This scene escapes farce due entirely to Miho’s totally earnest and powerful performance, which totally sells it for us. We saw an entirely new side of her, a new level of Mashiro Determination (which borders on dickishness), and the start of a new, more chapter in their relationship.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 05

After their seventh chapter drops to 13th in the rankings, Takagi plans on stepping up his game by adding some lightheartedness. Even before the revisions come into effect, TRAP begins a surge from ninth for chapter eight to sixth for chapter ten, then a tie for third with Crow, finally challenging Niizuma. Miho is getting more and more anime roles, and Miura gets TRAP the color cover for their 20th chapter, plus an edition of 100,000 for their first volume. But as they continue to succeed, Mashiro is getting thinner and not sleeping, which culminates in his collapse.

First of all, Miho got a voice role in SKET DANCE? Sweet! Time is moving faster now, and this series continues to pull no punches when it comes to setbacks potentially fatal to Mashiro and Miho’s dream, But with TRAP enjoying consistently high rankings, their first volume getting printed, a team that’s happy and in synch, and the fan mail pouring in, this newest setback is a much more basic one: Mashiro’s health. He knew going into this that balancing school with the manga was not going to be easy, but three hours of sleep most nights and none on others simply isn’t going to cut it, especially when he’s not eating.

Now that Takagi is in a writing groove (and Kaya is basically his personal assistant), he’s under a lot less stress. The amount of labor Mashiro puts out easily eclipses Takagi’s, as is exhibited by his always working while Takagi and Kaya are hanging around. But this industry won’t let Mashiro take a break, and if he does it will be seen as weakness and an inability to cut it. He’s not alone in this; Hiramaru is pissing blood, after all. But I’d hate to see The Dream be taken down by something as simple as eating and sleeping. So the question is, how is he going to get better without interrupting school or TRAP?


Rating: 4

Bakuman 2 – 04

TRAP drops from third to eigth to ninth, worrying both Mashiro and Takagi. Takahama confirms their suspicion that Miura can be overoptimistic at times, and when another manga that kept sliding is cancelled, panic nearly sets in. Back at the editors’ office, Miura gets five different opinions by five other editors, and is initially unsure on how to proceed, but he ultimately warns against big changes to the manga. Mashrio agrees, feeling Takagi’s position hints of desperation. They’re all convinced that TRAP needs to be loud and proud about being a decent mystery, which sets it apart on Jack.

This week doesn’t let us forget that Ashirugi Muto aren’t out of the woods just because they’re serialized. One bad week could spell cancellation; there’s a crapload of manga waiting in line to be published. Case in point: both Fukuda and Nakai/Aoki’s manga are approved for serialization – on the same day. The pressure is truly on for TRAP. This episode was a quick succession of splashes of cold water, and also exposed not only the inexperience of the still very young author and artist, but the relatively green editor Miura as well.

Being inundated with multiple contradicting possible courses of action is always going to happen. Someone who’s good will take the course that is closest to matching what their gut instinct is telling them. One cannot operate without instinct in this industry – take Hiramaru: he’s loathing drawing a manuscript every week; he has all the talent and instincts, but the motivation and passion are lacking. Niizuma is pretty much pure instinct, an unsullied natural talent. Nakai and Fukuda have kept themselves going with hard work determination, and of course luck, like Takagi and Mashiro. What they really need next week is a jump in the rankings: something to reignite their confidence.


Rating: 3.5