Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Weekly Manga Update: July 27, 2010

Hey guys, going to try something new with my blog. I want to try a weekly blog in addition to my spontaneous stuff, so I can try to make this a site people check regularly. Then maybe I can spruce it up with some designs or something. Anyway, I wanted to try something weekly, and a few fans suggested a weekly manga recap. I had thought about doing the same, so I’m going to give it a try, so please, if you have any feedback let me know.

Now if I do this as a series I want to shoot for releasing it on Monday/Tuesday so I can get all the new chapters in before the week refreshes, so one chapter per week, but since this is the first of the series I figure I’ll explain a bit about where the series have been going to give you my overall impression. So let’s begin.

One Piece Chapter 593 – After the great war ended the story slowed down, but this was for the better. We got the really good Luffy/Ace flashback, and after that ended I was ready to get back to the story, and thank the gods we’re back to the Straw Hats. It’s been tough to manage the past year or so without any Straw Hats beyond Luffy. Just their brief chapter focuses have been golden like Sanji denying his bounty poster and Franky blowing up the lab. I remembered almost instantly why I loved these characters so, though I am curious how they’ll all get together. I mean Robin, Nami, Chopper, and maybe Sanji just need to travel there, but Zoro still has to pass the baboons, Brooke’s a hostage, Usopp has to figure out a way off the island, and Franky is in a whole heap of trouble. I wonder if we’ll get small mini arcs for these characters, but somehow I doubt it.

Still 593 was a great multi-focus chapter. We got some hints at things to come like Crocodile going to the New World, and images of Dragon (who’s design I’m really starting to dig), but the cliff hanger is what really intrigues me. Buggy gets a message from the government directly, so does this mean Buggy is going to be offered a job as a Warlord? Makes sense considering the Warlords are down four members. Blackbeard, Moria, and Jinbei are gone, plus Hancock’s alliance has to be questioned. Also what’s with Kuma meeting Shaky? Is he truly all gone? Anyway, this was a good chapter of One Piece. Not great, but we’re still accepting the aftermath of the big war and slowly pulling together for the next arc.

Bleach Chapter 413 – I’m really bored of Bleach. This Aizen all out war arc just needs to die, and die freaking hard. I’m tired of Aizen and his constant burying of the cast. I get it: Aizen is unbeatable. I don’t need to see this dude completely destroy the entire freaking cast. See the problem with Aizen is that he’s too strong. At this point Aizen had managed to defeat the majority of the captains from the Soul Society, and he did it without exerting himself. He then took the supreme, ultimate, super special attacks from Isshin, Urahara, and Yorichi, and walked it off. He’s effectively crushed every possible threat, and continues to belittle what remains of the cast every chance he can. What this means to me, is that Aizen is, simply put, unbeatable. He didn’t just beat the Soul Society, he fucking crushed them. He defeated them so handedly that not even his clothes have a scar to prove he was in a real battle. What could possibly beat him at this point? I’m not just going to accept that Ichigo will obtain some new power that will suddenly surpass Aizen. That’s just ridiculous. Even considering Ichigo’s skill, it’s generally assumed that he was on par or weaker than most of the Soul Society captains at his current level, so one power bonus shouldn’t put him on a level that the combined might of the Soul Society couldn’t beat.

As for Chapter 413 itself, it was another throwaway chapter. I’ve forgotten much of what happened behind the slight hint that Gin will betray Aizen. So Aizen will kill Gin? Yeah, like Aizen totally needs that push. Bleach is in a complete garbage low point right now. If you don’t believe me, then ask yourself why this battle started, and see how long it takes you to remember it.

Naruto Chapter 503 – Naruto’s recent chapters have all been about this massive flashback regarding how the Kyubi came to be in Naruto and the history of his parents, and I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been too bad. Beyond the extremely awkward chapter where Naruto talked about how bangable his mom was, this has been relatively good, or at least, it hasn’t been wall bangingly bad. The only problem I have is that the suspense is low since this is a flashback that we all know about. The minor details are a mystery, but we know that the fourth hokage died to put the Nine-Tailes inside baby Naruto. The rest is just explanation. It’s not bad mind you, just no very suspenseful. More interesting however is that Naruto is now about to become in control of the Demon Fox, and that’s something I can get on board with. Say what you will about Naruto, but it’s not fucking around with its plot points. Itachi v Sasuke is long in the books, Orochimaru is dead and gone (for the most part), and now Naruto is overcoming the last weakness he has. Either this means Naruto is coming to an end, or some new plot elements will need to be introduced, but still I really dig progress. Not a bad chapter at all.

Beelzebub Chapter 70 – For all those who don’t read Beelzebub, I really suggest you do because this is quickly becoming one of my favorite manga. Few titles manage to make me laugh as hard as Beelzebub does on such a consistent basis, and the mangka knows how to tell an interesting story without making it feel overly serious. For those curious, it’s the story of Oga, a delinquent who recently comes in contact with the new demon prince of Hell, Beelzebub. Beelzebub is attaching himself to Oga and granting him part of his power, but the catch is that Beelzebub is a mere infant. So far the manga has mostly been about Oga beating up other delinquents, though they did make a quick appearance in the Demon World for a moment if I recall. The cast is hilarious, and Oga himself breaks the typical shonen mold. You hear delinquent and think “oh great, another misunderstood bully”, but Oga is actually a pretty big douche. He’s just so funny and straightforward that you can’t help but love him.

The recent chapter was another great one. I’m curious to see how they turn this volleyball match into a real epic encounter, but more so I have to note that I nearly pissed myself laughing at the last panel. Oga superkicking the ball, and immediately everyone calls foul on it. Again, it’s shonen awesome, but unlike series like Prince of Tennis, they don’t try to make it serious. I love Beelzebub, and I recommend you give it a try.

Katekyo Hitman Reborn Chapter 299 – Reborn is a strange title for me. At points I hate it. It can become such overwhelming shonen stereotypical slop that I want to drop it, and I come rather close to doing so, and yet sometimes the manga shows an amazing amount of depth and maturity that reminds me why I read it. For every time I see the series try to force animal companions and motorcycles on us, I’m reminded of a chapter that left me speechless. One of the more recent ones came after Yamato was attacked and put in intensive care. The next chapter was dedicated to the ramifications of this, and how Tsuna has to make a decision on the inheritance ceremony. Even though he wants nothing more than to run away from his duties, he decides to undergo the ceremony so that the rest of his friends don’t become targets. Following that we get the revelation that the Shimon family were the villains all along (cue deadpan surprise), and Enma manages to curbstomp the guardians single-handedly. This is why I love Reborn. I love manga where a villain will absolutely demolish the main heroes so that I can root for them to succeed. These chapters have made the Shimon family a threat, and I’m curious to see how they win. Really quite excellent chapters… with the exception of Julie kidnapping Chrome. Don’t get me wrong, I like that he took a guardian. It’s so vile, and really places weight on Tsuna’s training since now another guardian’s life depends on him, but it’s the fact it was Chrome that bothers me. The girl is already on the short end of the stick as far as being a guardian. She’s accomplished almost nothing on her own, and her abilities (beyond being retarded) really aren’t that intimidating. If anyone was going to benefit from massive training it was going to be her, but instead she’s going to be a damsel in distress for everyone to save. Also Julie kidnapped her for date… he does realize she’s thirteen right? Kinda creepy…

Anyway the recent chapter actually really sucked. The Vongola rings were destroyed, and this means that basically our heroes have no weapons to battle Shimon with. This is pretty tense, but then out of the blue some random fucker appears who just happens to have a way to not only repair the rings, but make them stronger. This is silly in and of itself, but it’s the random dude that bothers me more. I mean essentially he just appears with a solution to their problem. I’m going to call him Dues Ex Fail from now on because he really brought down the tension in this arc. Still, obligatory training chapters await, so hopefully they don’t decide they need jetpacks, lightsabers, and children’s card games to beat their opponent. Amano is really bad at that stuff.

Toriko Chapter 103 – So after the epic battle in Ice Hell, Toriko healed up and we’re now on the start of a new hunt for the H20 Salad. I really don’t like salads (clearly), but this arc will likely get me started on craving lettuce. The big thing to note this chapter was that Toriko tried to ask Komamatsu to be his cook, but for some reason this is a question on the same level of asking a highschool date to go steady with you, because Toriko stumbles over his words and eventually just dodges the question. So weird, and with oddly sexual undertones, but still Toriko is about to start something epic, so no complaints.

Bakuman Chapter 95 – I love Bakuman, and the series really never dips too far in quality for me. The current arc where PCP tries to beat Natural + and Crow has been interesting, but I like the subtle stuff, like showing how Eiji has the ability to tell a story without any dialogue, and how their one assistants new manga is basically Pheonix Wright. I’m loving the storyline so far, and curious to see next chapter. Overall, a very fine chapter.

Fairy Tail Chapter 194 – I hate Fairy Tail, I really do. I can’t explain why I honestly read it anymore. I hate most of the cast. Erza will always be one of my most hated manga characters. Wendy is a disturbing amount of bland loli I don’t want. Natsu is Luffy but without the excitement, and Gazelle is a pale imitation of Vegeta. Hell, the dude basically is Vegeta, but I still dig his fighting style, so I’ll tolerate it. Anyway, this other world arc has been more obnoxious than anything else, but it should be almost over. The recent chapter put an end to one of the blandest villains in history. Seriously, did that King even have a name? I guess he was the big bad of this arc, but I honestly don’t know. If it means this arc is over then I am all over it, but there’s still an over the top poorly paced “emotional” moment that Hiro needs to do like when he ripped off One Piece after the Luxus arc, or when Wendy’s guild just spontaneously died. Fairy Tail eats. This newest chapter wasn’t god awful, but it’s still lacking.

So everyone, that’s been the last week in manga. I’ll try to condense my thoughts next week since this is more of a test than anything. If you enjoyed reading this, please leave a comment below with any suggestions you might have for next week. Until then, Namaste!

Monday, July 26, 2010

D&D Log: Session 10

It’s that time again kids; time for a D&D update! Man last night was a blast full of enough blunders and crowning moments of awesome to fill an entire TVTropes page. Let’s get started, but be warned friends, this is going to be a long one even though I’m abridging it.

So our first destination was inside the Black Library itself as we rushed to catch up with Esgalion (I had his name wrong before) before he could reach the Word of Morgana, however we came to our first obstacle of the night: a pit trap. We debated about how to cross it, and I’ll admit, I got a little bit annoyed. We spend way too long debating plans, and from here on out if we come across an obstacle like this, I’ll just go with the first plan that sounds sensible. I really am starting to detest the bickering between figuring out a plan when all of them sound about as good. Anyway, I can’t really tell you what our plan was because in the end we all passed the pit only to fall into a second trap which dropped us down a chute into a new chamber where we had to fight… OURSELVES!

Actually, we fought… THE SMOKE MONSTER! Even more terrifying. And since people complained, I limited my LOST references, but since this is my blog I’ll use them all here: “Quick, somebody find a magic cork and pull it! That’s the only way to remove their powers!” “Everybody stare into the smoke but don’t think about what a douchebag you are.” “Anybody got any white ash?” “Hurry, someone construct a sonic fence!” “Don’t admit you’re not sorry for what you did!” “Watch out for trees!” “If I recall Mr. Eko beat it by staring into it, so everybody roll Concentration checks!” “We have to make it to Dharama-ville, we’ll be safe there!”

Okay, I’m good. Anyway, we actually found shadowy versions of ourselves that appeared in some attempt to take over our bodies, kinda like that one season of Yu-Gi-Oh where they were stuck in the virtual world. What’s that? Too many nerd references? Alright, I’ll be good. So we began the epic battle against ourselves, or as I like to call it: The Battle of Many Blunders. I’m sure somebody can go back and count, but this battle probably had about nine or ten blunders. It a very humorous exchange Viktor attacked and botched. The botch table said he over-extended and he would get attacked. His mirror image attacked… and botched. There’s something hilarious about the two entities botching in unison. Bad news for Darstine though as the poor girl went the entire night on a bad streak. In the first encounter alone he rolled three 1s… in a row. He botched his initiative and his first two attacks, and his luck really didn’t get any better. Then more botches came, including a hilarious “Vicious Mockery” botch. Garret’s Shade called Garret sexy. Nice.

Eventually we wore down our spirits until only Garret and Darstine’s remained, but before we could finish them off they vanished saying they wouldn’t fail. I get the feeling they might still be lurking around, but I’ll debate that later. Anyway we came to a crossroads, but the party picked the right door and we entered an enormous room surrounded by portals of glowing glyphs. Colonel Vane went to investigate the portals when all of the sudden monsters started to pour out of the glyphs. Mechanical constructs they were. Warforged I think. Either way, these guys were intense. Colonel Vane, as a Defender, managed to hold his own, but these guys possessed a dangerous ability where they would vomit on anyone that attacked them in melee. Remember that only Juliet, Grae, and Garret have an effective ranged strategy, and that Grae was in melee due to a low supply of arrows. So basically our team got thrashed. Viktor’s bad rolls continued, and spent the battle as a meat shield absorbing blows while Juliet rained down artillery. I actually had a rather sexy set of rolls throughout the night complimented by my ability to “GAGOOSH GAGOOSH!” I killed two on my own, but managed to do enough damage to be in contention for battle MVP along with Vane and Viktor (even if the latter’s sole contribution was being devoured).

However the battle again, went rather poorly for most of our members. Darstine took the worst, and throughout the battle took ridiculous shots until she was KO’d, and came rather close to death. A few more damage points, and Darstine would have been no more. Grae didn’t go unconscious, but he did almost greet death. He spent the battle flirting with death, and Viktor, as I said, barely managed to stay on his feet. Without Juliet raining down burst damage and Lord Vane playing effectively, this battle could have easily gone south.

So after the machines were dismantled we were left with nothing but an enormous statue of Morgana towering over us. And yes, for the majority of the battle we all worried it would come alive and attack us, but thankfully it did not. Instead Juliet managed to spot a secret entrance behind the statue, and Grae attempted to scale the statue. However he was too fat, and the statue broke spilling hot oil all over everything except Juliet and… somehow Grae. I don’t understand that one, but s’well. So we climb into the secret entrance to find a ritual chamber with a big golden pedestal in the center of the room surrounded by a mosaic depicting Morgana leading her forces of vermin covered minions into battle. I instantly remembered Varreketh, the Lord of Vermin we defeated back in “We were fighting like men” time, and I wonder if there’s a connection. We still don’t know what the purpose of that portal was, unless it was all an entertaining side quest. Either way we debated about what to do as we were now at a dead end with a few routes left to explore, but we ultimately decided to check the platform to see where it went. With that we were whisked away to a new chamber, and an epic encounter.

We all appeared in a massive chamber with a pyramid in the center, and to our surprise we spotted Esgalion climbing the side of the pyramid towards an enormous coffin sitting at the top. Now it was time for our showdown—our revenge, and we attacked! However the portal split us up (random chance on a d6 for where we would start), and we had a very sizable difference to make up just to reach the pyramid. Vitkor was first up, and the only one lucky enough to get started on the teleporter closest to the pyramid. With a double move action point move (triple move), he managed to reach Esgalion, but the high elf was not impressed and summoned a small army of skeletons to keep us busy while he obtained the Word of Morgana. Now I am honestly surprised we won this battle, because this was a freaking difficult encounter. For everytime we’ve said “that wasn’t too hard”, we were promptly shut the fuck up. Even with our Dailies this battle was tough. Each Phantom Knight was +10 to attack and did about 1d8 + 3 damage, plus they fought in pairs for the most part. We all tried to occupy them, but even excluding Esgalion they outnumbered us bad.

Special mention has to go to Esgalion himself who threw out big damage like it was nothing. I’m honestly not sure how Viktor stayed standing after the damage he took. Props to the Russian. So Esgalion came closer to the top, and Colonel Vane was adamant about not letting him get the book, so he leapt on top of the coffin stop him. Esgalion brandished a ring with the marking of a ram on it, and with a single attack, hurled Lord Vane off the pyramid, and down thirty feet. The attack nearly killed Vane who went into the negatives soon after. I mean it sucked, but at the same time it was really epic to just kinda force push Colonel Vane off a pyramid, and Garret was just as kind. He got up to the pyramind’s peak, activated a power, hit, and then tossed Esgalion off the pyramid. Viktor followed, and the fight continued. Esgalion managed to his Viktor with an illusionary attack that caused him to hallucinate scarabs swarming and devouring him, and confident in his victory the high elf returned to his “destiny” of getting the Word of Morgana, but Viktor got his opportunity attack. With one roll Viktor redeemed every poop roll he made earlier in the night. Critical. 37 damage. With a single swing Viktor cleaved Esgalion’s head clean off, and our revenge was complete.

The remaining Skeletons/Phantom Knights didn’t last much longer, but the toll it took on us all was clear. Grae was out cold (stabilized, but out cold). Vane was up, but barely. The rest of us were all bloodied, and had expended all of our encounter powers and dailies. We were absolute wrecks. But, still we had work to do: looting. Yes, we looted Esgalion’s body clean. Lord Vane took his ring and broadsword. Garrett took his magical armor. I took his head. Yeah, I was adamant going into this fight that we’d use Esgalion to prove our innocence one way or another, so this will have to do. After that we opened the coffin to find Morgana’s corpse. Well, that’s what we thought it was, but before we grabbed her book I questioned did it look like a natural corpse, and it wasn’t. This shit was a Lich, but there was no time to debate as Darstine swiped the Word of Morgana only to have the Lich waken and grab her by the throat. Now the undead form of Morgana towered above us, hissing and demanding her book back. We had apparently woken her slumber, and now she would take over the world (OF COURSE!). However we quickly realized that a medallion we took from Esgalion was her phylactery, and we quickly had to destroy it. That however, didn’t work out so well, as Vane botched his own attack. This gave Morgana a chance to attack, and cue us shitting our pants at this part. Morgana had a +20 to attack, and her attack blasted Viktor almost to death. Still Vane redeemed himself by shattering the phylactery on his next turn, and Morgana, the all powerful witch, was turned to ash.

The energy released in the explosion of the attack sent Grae, Vane, and Viktor flying, and knocked Viktor out and brought Grae closer to death. Even worse it knocked out one of the pillars of the cavern, and the whole place began to crumble. If we didn’t escape now, we’d die, so we snatched up what we could from Morgana’s coffin, and fled back into the teleporter before Morgana’s tomb crumbled around us. We reappeared back in the mosaic chamber, our party devastated. Viktor and Grae are out. The rest of us are barely standing. Some of us may be carrying wounds we’ll never recover from. Yet we all couldn’t help but grin as not only did we just complete one of the most epic encounters ever, but we were the ones with the Word of Morgana in our hands.

So that’s where we stopped, and the entire session lasted almost seven hours. Twas a long one, but totally worth it. We accomplished a lot, but most importantly we got the Word of Morgana which means we’re a step closer to clearing our names and saving the King. What happens next week will be a mystery. We definitely need to think up a way into Sarmanath, but I’ve got several. More than that we need to know what’s in the Word of Morgana, and what needs to be done to save the King. We’re one step closer, but we’re still not there yet. Still, this victory means a lot to us, and I think this group is ready for a nice, long rest.

I hope you enjoyed everyone. Leave a comment below, especially if you have any suggestions. Curious to see what the viewers think we should do.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

War Against Scanlations: The Aftermath

It’s the end of an era you could say. Today is the first day in the countdown to the end of OneManga.com. Visit the website and you’ll get a message regarding the site removing its scans starting next week. Expect Jump titles to be the first to go, and what remains (if anything) to be a shriveled husk that barely resembles the former site. It’s the major victory that manga companies were looking for when they announced they would team up to shut down scanlation hosting websites. I’ve been relatively quiet, at least publicly, regarding my feelings on the topic, but I figure people might be curious, or hell maybe I just want to rant.

The “War Against Scanlations” as I’ve dubbed this event can be called a success if you want. The two biggest sites, MangaFox and OneManga are shutting down and removing their big name titles. OneManga seems to suggest that it will be removing most if not all titles, and MangaFox is only good for your obscure shojo romance titles. You know, stuff no one reads anyway.

I jest, but this was the intended goal of this manga coalition. They wanted to shut down OneManga and MangaFox specifically, and they’ve now succeeded. A slew of manga sites are still up, but none of them have the library and popularity of OneManga, so Mission Accomplished right? I don’t know if you can really call this a success. In fact I don’t really know what a victory for the manga companies really is. What they’ve done is essentially remove the ease of getting manga for free online, but only temporarily, and only in the most obvious way. I can still think of about five different sites that I could visit for manga, and I’m positive there are a dozen others out there. Granted they won’t have the same library as OneManga and MangaFox, or the same ease of navigation, but I can visit them for most of the same stuff. In addition if I really need my fix I can still always visit the scanlation websites themselves. To my knowledge the scanlators themselves haven’t been targeting meaning you can always directly download the newest chapters right from the source.

But we all know this don’t we? Napster was shut down but that didn’t stop music pirating. Do any of us really believe that we won’t be able to get manga on the internet any more? No. This is the internet, and getting stuff for free is a way of life here. So is it still Mission Accomplished? Is shutting down One Manga an accomplishment when five or six other sites lie in wait to become the new premiere site for reading manga? Yes and no.

On one hand this is victory in name only. In the end unless this increases the sales of English manga then you can’t say you “won” anything. You take down the big name manga site and people will be confused. Make things harder to find, and some of the lazier people will stop trying, but not trying and buying English manga are two very different things. In the end the thing that matters the most is sales, and whether or not this does anything.

Let me come out and say that yes I read scanlated manga, as though it weren’t obvious. I love reading series online, but that doesn’t mean I only see manga as a free source. I support the official release, and when I say I support it I do. I own 26 volumes of One Piece, around 20 volumes of Bleach, 5 volumes of Air Gear, 12 volumes of Beet, 13 volumes of GetBackers, the entire Deathnote series, the first few volumes of 20th Century Boys and Pluto, and other assorted volumes of a wide range of series. I’m also friends with another manga reader who owns hundreds of manga that collectively total into the thousands who shares his manga with me. I don’t read manga and not support the source. That’s a very horrid thing to do, but you might notice my collection is incomplete. I have 26 volumes of One Piece, but the American release is well into the 50s (I want to say 54 but I might be wrong). 54 volumes? I’m barely half way there, but I’m slowly adding more to my collection. I say slowly because manga is an expensive hobby to have. A very expensive hobby.

Four years ago manga was cheaper to buy, and came out slower. A Shonen Jump title cost about $8 a volume and came out every three or so months. Now volumes come out about every month or so and cost $10 a piece. I won’t complain about manga coming out faster because now it makes following the English release an actual viable option at least for popular Jump titles, but the price increase hits hard. I don’t want to bore you all with math, but I want to emphasis just how expensive this is as a hobby. Let’s say One Piece is at 54 volumes. That’s 28 additional volumes I need to purchase at $10 a pop, so $280 before taxes. Now One Piece isn’t the only Jump series I follow, and ideally I’d love to own the entire Eyeshield 21 series as well. Currently there are 33 volumes of the series out, and four more to come before the series closes, so that’s another $330, so with two Jump series that’s about $610. I also want to catch up on 20th Century Boys and Pluto. Now there are 11 volumes of 20th Century Boys out and 8 volumes of Pluto. A volume of each of those series costs about $13, so that’s about $273. So for those four series I would be looking at $883 or about $936 after taxes. That’s to catch up just on the series I’ve already read and want to support. I honestly don’t know if I make that much disposable income in a year, so you can see the problem.

In addition that’s only if I purchase those series. I’ve already read 20th Century Boys, Pluto, and Eyeshield 21 thanks to OneManga, and I’m caught up with One Piece. What if I wanted to try a new series? Manga, like all mediums, should be about expanding your horizons, but I’ve already established that manga is a very expensive hobby. How often is someone really going to be willing to spend $30 or $40 dollars to see if they’ll enjoy a manga? See, it’s often impossible to judge the quality of a manga just by its first volume, and often many manga require twenty or thirty chapters before they really sell you on the plot. Heck, most manga make it about twenty chapters before they’re canceled, so there’s always the risk in buying into a series that will just get canceled before you know it. What I’m trying to say is that the smaller series are really going to be hurt here. Back when I only read manga in their English release I purchased Flame of Recca as I wanted to try something new. I purchased eight volumes of the series before I recognized it for the no-thrills, wasted potential, crap-shack of a plot that it was. I kept having hope that it would get better, and it didn’t. I spent $80 on the series, and that was when I was a teenager so almost all of my income was disposable. Now I’m in my early twenties working a job to pay my rent and take care of my mother, and spending hundreds on a series I may not enjoy is just not a risk I’m willing to take.

Now I’m not complaining about having to buy manga. That’s a fact of life, and it’s not the only expensive hobby out there. In addition no one is saying I have to buy those manga all at once, and spreading those series over years can make the total go down drastically. After all, it’s a collectible just like many other medium. However my problem lies in the smaller series. The fact of the matter is, that these series are just too expensive to risk, and there’s no way to really curb that beyond having a friend buy it first assuming they’re in a better financial situation. I can’t wait six months to buy this manga used, or wait til it comes out on DVD to rent it for a buck. A manga is about $10 today, and it’ll be about $10 four years from now… maybe more considering how the economy goes.

Now I have a ton of series I would love to purchase if they see an American release like Liar Game, Steel Ball Run, Break Blade, Zippy Ziggy, and Beezlebub, but I only know I enjoy those series because I’ve read a good majority of them through scanlation sites. In addition even though the big name manga sites are gone, is there any doubt in your mind that by next Saturday you’ll be able to find the newest editions of One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach? The big series will never disappear. There are entire communities built around those titles, so it’s impossible to think they can ever be lost. However the smaller series without established fanbases? Those are the ones people will stop reading. Those are the ones that’ll be forgotten, and that really sucks.

I’m not complaining because I hate spending money. I can find reviews, or take a risk on a new manga if I really want to, but in the end the series that really suffer from this are those small series. People won’t take a risk on them, and now some of the best series out there will be completely ignored. Many might never see a conclusion in their English release. Heck, Zatch Bell was only a volume or so away from completion before the company pulled the plug on the series, so without finding and reading the scans online how would anyone finish the series? Or what about a series like Double Arts? It was a Shonen Jump title that got canceled after 21 chapters. There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that it’ll ever see an English release, so what happens to a story like that? And what about the American Shonen Jump? In Japan a series gets exposure in Jump so that its popularity can be established. American Jump doesn’t feature any chapters of Toriko or Bakuman, so what about them? They have to solely rely on fans who already know about the series.

I worry about the medium. Manga is a great medium and some of my favorite stories ever are told in it. This “War Against Scanlations” will ultimately hut the medium if nothing is done. Now I’m not an idiot. I understand 100% that these companies are losing money because of scanlations, and they have every right to want people to purchase their stuff. I agree with this. That’s why I support the manga I really love. However I fear for the medium. There are hundreds upon hundreds of manga series out there all ranging the spectrum from good to bad, but manga doesn’t have the same support that other mediums have. It’s a lot easier to pick out a potentially great movie or video game than it is to pick a hidden gem of a manga. And that’s if said manga even gets translated.

However I want to play the role of the optimist. I want to say that in the end our community will thrive and become stronger than ever. Maybe more companies will be put forward to review series and volumes. Maybe an entire new system will be implemented to help give previews to smaller series. Maybe companies will start to use cheaper paper or find new ways to cut the price of manga. Maybe manga publishers will utilize a method of viewing translated versions of the most recent Japanese chapters on their websites, or a way to digitally distribute manga that can help curb the expensive cost of producing physical volumes. Maybe, just maybe this will all be for the better, and if so I hope I can be a part of it, because I don’t think I could stand watching the manga industry fail.

Monday, July 19, 2010

D&D Log: Session 9

It’s Monday, so you know what that means everyone! … It means back to work and school with you all. *whip crack*

It also means that it’s time for another D&D related recap, cause I know you all love them so much. Alright, no real updates to say other than this is the first official session where Paw is no longer in the campaign. So let’s go!

Alright, we start off back on the ship about to pull into the docks at Vrimar when the captain notices that there are soldiers on the docks dressed in the royal armor of Sarmanath. To my expectations words has traveled quickly, and we are all wanted. It appeared we would be in danger of being caught when Grae asked the captain if he would stow us away. For 25 gold he’d allow us to clean the… less desirable parts of his ship, and most of the group jumped at that opportunity. However, Juliet is a Druid so she said “eff that” and Wild Shaped into a shark and swam to shore. Viktor also removed his armor and swam to shore. So unlike those suckers, we kept our 25 gold. In truth it was a better plan than we expected since the captain actually learned about our bounties. Garrett alone is worth 1,000 gold pieces, Viktor 750, and the rest of us 500 (I broke out of jail. I really thought I deserved more. I feel like Chopper looking at his wimpy bounty) with the exception of Colonel Vane. Oh right, I forgot to mention that Lord Vane’s Swordmage son was retconned into joining us. Ta-da!

So after we arrived in Vrimar we stayed there for only a hot second before we left to head east to the Black Swamp Salt Marsh. We set off on our path, and after about a day or so of travel we turned in for the night. However… Wild Goblins Appeared! Yes, we were attacked in the middle of the night, but thankfully Lord Commander Juliet was alert enough to wake the party up so we didn’t get too slaughtered. We managed to slay all but one of the goblins and a bat and narrowly avoided having our stuff stolen Good thing too. Imagine how crappy we’d look as the champions of destiny, and our magic astrolabe got stolen by a handful of goblins who probably tried to eat the darn thing afterwards. Anyway, we survived the battle, and the next morning set off , but we now faced a more treacherous situation: a running river. Yes, once again the Dethklok of D&D groups can squash a goddess, but face us off against any form of natural obstacle and we will be stopped in our tracks.

In our defense our plan wasn’t entirely stupid. My goal was to use pikes or something that would be nailed into the ground with a rope attached. The other rope would be tied around Juliet who would swim across and nail the other end on the other end of the river. Then everyone would swim across holding the rope all Legends of the Hidden Temple style. It wasn’t a bad idea, and I stick to that belief, but we failed to have anything to nail these items into the ground with, so wasted idea. Eventually Juliet found a good fording location and we just walked across. However Grae and Garrett managed to be klutzes and fall, with Garrett actually losing his longsword and shield in the water. Garrett has all the bad luck out of combat. Think about it. At the celebration party in Sarmanath he was put into the extremely awkward position with Elena that Grae managed to French kiss him out of, then in the tower outside of Ihestas he set off that ridiculous trap that pretty much slapped him around a hallway. Then when we’re all prisoners Garrett gets to be the first one they torture. And now when we attempt to ford the river, Garrett is the only one who biffs and loses his stuff. Talk about bad luck. If he weren’t such a DM headache you’d have to feel sorry for the guy.

Anyway, we cross the river, the hills, and then enter the Black Swamp Salt Marsh where the Black Library, and hopefully the Word of Morgana, still exists. We come upon a single tree branch acting as a bridge to the next patch of land, and Darstine offered to cross it being the sexy stealthy bitch she is. Unfortunately we are dumbasses and never thought that the waters could be filled with monsters, and in a flash we were surrounded by crocodiles. Oh snap! However it wasn’t all that bad in the end, and we managed to avoid really getting messed up by the encounter. For example, all of us were bitten by the crocodiles with the warning that if remained grabbed by them for a turn then we’d hurt. I think throughout the battle three of us were grabbed, and all us managed to escape the grab before we could suffer the effects. Actually, truth be told, we’ve been pretty fortunate about this sort of thing for a while. I don’t know if we’re a well built party, extremely lucky, or the encounters are just too easy, but we manage to avoid many of the horrid effects Spoony throws at us, but you’ll really see that later. Anyway, after the battle I leveled up (Viktor and Garrett leveled up after the goblin fight), so DING level 3! My Encounter power I picked up wasn’t all that interesting (It’s a Close Burst 5, but targets creatures so it’s insanely situational) but I retrained my Level 2 feat Vicious Advantage to Multiclass in Shaman.

Okay real quick explanation for those who don’t understand, multiclassing is when you take certain parts of another class and use them. In previous additions (or at least 3.5, I don’t remember about prior versions) you multiclassed by taking a “level” in another class. So at 5th level a character could be a 5th level Barbarian, but at 6th level he takes a level in Fighter to get some new options. That was back when D&D had set powers and abilities gained at a level. With 4E your level up is customized to such a degrees that taking “levels” doesn’t work. Instead you use a feat instead, and then you get a slightly nerfed version of another class’ class feature. In my situation I multiclassed into Shaman, meaning I got three powers. One was Spirit Companion, so I can summon a spirit animal. Next was my spirit animal’s special ability which is normally an At-Will, but in the case of multiclassing, becomes an Encounter Power. Finally I get another power called Speak with Spirits that is normally an Encounter, but is now a Daily. So, in short, by removing a feat I’d never gotten to use, I now have the ability to summon animal spirits and two additional effects. In both in and out of combat I can use this, so I was really happy to level. So everybody, welcome Pidgeotto, Juliet’s new Spirit Companion!

Yes, Pidgeotto. I’m a nerd, but eff you all I’m rolling with it. Okay, so moving along we stumbled upon a large castle that looked to have been ruined with time, but we could hear the beating of drums going on inside, so it certainly wasn’t as abandoned as it looked. We scouted the area out and found two entrances. One was through a shattered portcullis at the front of the castle, and the second was a shattered breach in the wall that looked to be in repair. We figured the shattered breach was our way in for a surprise attack, but as Grae investigated he managed to set off a fiendishly clever trap. Our element of surprise was completely lost, and now we alerted the enemy to our exact location where we then found ourselves surrounded by an army that doubled our size. It was time, FOR EPIC MUSIC!!!

Truth be told this really was an epic fight. About a dozen guards, plus an ogre of some kind, plus a mage. That’s a battle right there, with the odds firmly against us. It was ass whopping time. So our battle began, and the minion guards managed to lay on the hurt. 4 damage might not seem like a lot, but imagine it from six guards at once all focused on one character. It adds up. Luckily we managed to clear the guards out slowly, and Garrett used his daily which allowed all of us to shift one square if we were within 5 squares of an enemy who died, so by killing minions we managed to destroy Spoony’s terrain advantage. This was just one part of the “Fuck you Spoony” encounter that this became. Soon our group managed to pour into castle so we could rescue Grae since the schmuck ran right into and obviously got pulverized. I think you can really pinpoint the “fuck you”-ness of the battle when Viktor attacked Hiatha the Befouled (the mage). As an immediate reaction she was allowed to teleport away, or rather she would have if not for Pidgeotto. See my Spirit Companion’s encounter power means that whenever a creature adjacent to my bird leaves the square without shifting I get an attack against Will. If I hit, the action is immediately denied, and the creature must use a new action to carry out the ability, so with my hit I managed to deny the teleportation. KRACK KAW!!! I love Pidgeotto so much.

Anyone, the crap feast really piled on as we systematically eliminated all of the guards (except Bob, but I’ll come back to him), leaving only Ursula the ogre, and Hiatha. Colonel Vane marked Ursula, and Viktor marked Hiatha. For those unaware, marking is a mechanic any class can use, but Defenders have a very special mark. It just so happens that both Fighters and Assault Swordmages have ones that allow them attacks if they betray the mark. So this meant Hiatha could only attack Viktor, and Ursula could only attack Vane. Lame. Then I managed (just managed mind you) to hit both Hiatha and Ursula with Faerie Fire meaning Ursula and Hiatha granted combat advantage, and were slowed. Then Grae hit Ursula with his daily that slowed the creature and then caused it to bleed out 5 points of damage each turn, and then Juliet hit with Storm Spike that made it so if Ursula didn’t move more than two squares each turn she’d take an addition four damage, but since she was slowed that was physically impossible.

So let’s sum this up. Ursula is an enormous ogre, however the mark against her meant that she could only attack the group’s Jedi without having said Jedi teleport in and attack should the attacks hit. In addition she was under the effect of my Daily which made her slowed, and grant combat advantage with the added 3d6+5 damage waiting for her once she saved. In addition Grae hit her with his Daily that also slowed her, dealt big damage, and caused an ongoing 5 damage each round until she saved. In addition to that, I hit her with my At-Will Storm Spike to deal damage that will also deal even more damage if the creature can’t move more than two squares which is an impossibility since it’s currently slowed due to TWO SEPARATE EFFECTS. And that’s not including any of the same shit we did to Hiatha. Spoony hated us. All in good fun mind you, but any time he tried something, we denied it, or restricted it, and eventually his threatening ogre was just desperately trying to anything he could that wouldn’t provoke some effect, all the while just accepting the natural 9 damage he was going to take each round. Ah… that’s why I like playing a Controller. In fact you can define why I love playing a Controller by the Pidgeotto teleport stop above. Being able to say “No” when the DM tries to do something is just so much fun.

Now I mentioned this all without talking about Bob the Great Minion. See, in 4E D&D there is a monster type known as “minions”. Minions are monsters that lack most abilities and have only 1 HP, but make up for it in sheer numbers. They’re cannon fodder basically. You throw waves of them at the players, and they’ll take a hit and die. That’s all there is to them. So one hit no matter what will kill them (well, 99% of the time at least). Anyway, most of the minions were dead when Hiatha used a power that gave all of her allies 4 Temp HP and +2 to attack, so for the first time a minion had more than 1 HP! Sure the first attack one took killed him, but to our surprise Darstine attacked a minion and hit for 4 damage. That meant that maybe for the first time ever, a minion managed to survive an attack. This grand warrior was henceforth known as Bob, and Bob was a dreamer! He had aspirations of being the best, and an interesting backstory! He had to afterall, he was Bob the Minion That Lived! Unfortunately Darstine killed him next turn, but still, the legend of Bob will never die.

Speaking of which that makes another D&D meme we’ve created. Let’s add Bob the Minion That Lived to list of such noble memes as “We were fighting like men”, Bosco the Adventurer, “Are we on fire”, Onion Rings, and Juliet gets raped by everything. We are the Dethklok of D&D groups.

Anyway, just as a note before the big battle against Ursula and the elves (should have mentioned they were elves above but… meh too much backspacing), we found out Escalean is here, also searching for the Word of Morgana. He fled further into the library (this is the Black Library for those that haven’t guessed), so now we must chase after him! That’s how our next session will start, and trust me if Escalean is alone then we are really going to have fun with him if we can catch him. So in total our session went over very well. I’m really looking forward to next session, and I must give Spoony special thanks. Not only does he put up and take our beatdowns in stride, but he’s telling a really interesting story, so kudos to him. Well thanks for reading friends, and I ask if you enjoyed this article just comment below. I do love the comments ever so much. Until next time brave adventurers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

D&D Log: Session 8

Hey everyone, it is Rollo T here to once again tell you all about our hilarious D&D related exploits!

First and foremost though I should state that after the session Paw announced he was done with D&D, so after we NPCed Andraste for this session, it’s likely that nice session he’ll either be put on a bus, or Joe will take over. I’ll get to that later.

Anyway we started off our adventure focusing on Juliet, Garrett, and Viktor back in their prison escaping adventure. To our relief it turns out our equipment was in the torture chamber so thankfully, we were all at full combat ability. That was especially a relief to me since a Druid can’t do crap without an implement. I was close to trying to turn rat bones and shit into a totem. Dangerously close. Anyway, with the words that our escape “lied through the tombs” still on the head, I wanted to try finding a way to the tombs, and down a hallway was separate path that jutted sharply downwards and was blocked by a steel door. I mean come on, how could that not be the tombs? Juliet helped guide Garrett across the chamber blindfolded (didn’t want him to see the carnage of all the bodies he massacred while Super Satan), and he read a plague on the door stating it was the tomb of the Stargazer King. Tomb! Escape! Huzzah! BUT WAIT!

… the door was locked.

That’s how it goes with us isn’t it? Moments earlier we manage to slay a dragon made of pure amber, but now a rusty door is impeding our progress more than any dragon could. Our first attempt to muscle the door down failed, but Viktor picked up a torture device (he’s our little S&M soldier) and pried it open. Inside was a tomb, and the moment we stepped inside two stone dragon statues came to life to attack the intruders. It’s here that I want to say I rolled a natural 20 for luck prior to playing, and I never really had a bad roll this session. While Garrett and Viktor struggled, Juliet thrived and almost single handedly defeated the two monsters. Seriously, she owned. I contemplated changing my name to Lord Commander Juliet after that battle. Still might. It’s awesome to see a Controller as effective as they can be once they actually hit. Placing enemies in a lose/lose situation is awesome.

Anyway, after the battle we opened the tomb, and I expected to see a way out of the dungeon, but instead the crashing waves and rushing winds we heard coming from inside the tomb were actually being produced by an astrolabe found inside the tomb. We could tell the artifact as magical, but as it were we no longer had an avenue of escape. Our escape lied “through the tombs”, and there was nowhere to go from the tombs. We were trapped, and I personally didn’t want to add Royal Grave Robbery to our list of crimes including King Slaying. I do believe that we can redeem ourselves for the blame we have of killing the king, and I didn’t want to add a legitimate crime (and a rather severe one at that) to our problems. However Viktor decided to swipe the astrolabe, and the moment he did we found ourselves whisked away. When one moment we were trying to escape a castle, the next we were now standing in space, staring at an old man who methodically turned the steering wheel atop his ship. We approached him, and the intriguing old man told us that he was the Wheelmaster who steered time. He noted that our group wasn’t complete, and in a snap of his fingers appeared Andraste, Darstine, and Grae. He told us all that we stood at the crossroads of a great destiny, and that each of us were chosen by destiny to be heroes. I really wanted to give a “I don’t believe in destiny” LOST reference, but I didn’t figure Spoony watched the show enough to respond “Yes you do, you just don’t know it yet”.

Nerd references aside, the Wheelmaster allowed us three questions, and I stupidly said, “Do we all get three questions, or is three total?” Rookie mistake number 1. Thankfully the Wheelmaster wasn’t there to screw us over, so he didn’t count that against us. In total we could ask three questions.

Question 1: How can Garrett remove his curse? The answer was vague, but it sounds like he’ll need to close the connection he has with the Scorpion Queen. We don’t have a direct answer, but we have clues to follow at the very least.

Question 2: How can we save the King? Seek out the “Word of Morgana”. Sweet, plothook.

Now for our third question I realized after asking that I should have asked about bringing back Lord Vane, but I didn’t. Instead I wanted to focus on making sure we could escape, and thus:

Question 3: How do we escape the castle? The Wheelmaster asked where we wanted to go, and I remembered Logwyn as being a city of knowledge from early on in the campaign. I figured it would be a good a place as any to start our search for Garrett’s cure and the Word of Morgana. And boosh, in a flash we were teleported into a fountain inside the library of Logwyn. And yes, I stupidly asked someone where I could find a library. I missed the part were Spoony mentioned we were inside one.

Anyway, we managed to get an audience with librarian Selman, and we asked him about the Words of Morgana. We received a load of exposition regarding Morgana who was the Queen of the Feywild who at one time amassed a collection of books regarding dark magic. Eventually she was stricken down and her library lost, but it appears that the Witch Queen is seeking to take her place. To find the Word of Morgana it appears that we may have to find the “Black Library” which is supposedly buried in a swamp. How we’ll find it, I don’t know, but it’s my number one lead. The fact is we’re considered king murderers or at least Juliet, Viktor, and Garrett are, meaning that we can expect to have an entire kingdom searching for us. The number one thing we need to do is find a way to save the King, and clear our names.

We also learned of a fountain that is “rumored” to exist at the source of a river just under the Unholy Woods, you know that forest just north of the Lava Plains and the Obsidian Fortress. Due south of the Mountains of Unending Pain, Death, and Rape, and the Bubblegum Meadows. Okay the last two are fake, but I’m really not looking forward to adventuring in that general direction. However this fountain could potentially cure Garrett of his curse, but how willing his goddess will be at letting him remove the curse is another important factor.

Anyway, we left Logwyn the next morning and traveled south to a port town where we would then travel to Kwenesh and from there, hopefully, the Black Library. There we had Viktor’s awesome Streetwise check net us passage to where we needed to go without much of a problem. Some of us paid to go on board, and others (Garrett, Viktor, and Grae) stayed behind to do shopping. Grae’s Streetwise check to find a bag turned out a whopping 2 with his +1 modifier, so Spoony set Grae up with a small encounter. Several men tried to convince him to join their crew, but Grae screamed for help… but it was like totally a manly scream or something like that. Anyway, Grae and group killed most of the thugs, but two started to run away. Spoony gave the group the option of chasing after them, but they took so long debating that in the end they escaped. The group, just points away from leveling up (well, for at least three of us) boarded the boat, and at that point we stopped for the night.

Next session will involve Spoony trying to get Joe back into the campaign one way or another. Perhaps he’ll play Lord Vane’s son, or perhaps he’ll play Andraste, but the session ended regarding trying to figure out how to get Joe into the next session. Overall the session was short. We started playing around 6 and we called it a night before 9. Still we got a lot done… in theory. As it is we have a goal, though how to accomplish it is not going to be an easy task. How to get to this Black Library is doing to be a trial of its own, and there’s no guarantee we’re even strong enough to enter. In addition time has passed, and before long we wouldn’t be surprised to see bounties out on our heads. The next sessions are going to be very interesting, and I’m pumped to find out what’s going to happen next. Until next time adventurers!