Book Review: Bleach Volume 70 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 70 by Tite Kubo

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 70 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, a pair of Quincies have chosen different sides of the conflict, and Kenpachi gets another fight.

Character: The pattern continues. The characters we fell in love with get very little development or attention. Meanwhile, two characters we never knew up until this volume get an entire life story that doesn’t matter because the fight ends predictably. I credit Kubo with developing the newer characters, but I can’t get behind a simple interlude volume with characters who don’t have a real impact on the current narrative. We do get to see Kenpachi, and honestly I would read this saga for his arc alone, but I’d try to find a list of volumes featuring him and skip the rest.

Exposition: This volume strangely broke with tradition in a not so good way. That life story really feels jammed in the middle of the action like someone suddenly remembered they left the oven on and stopping everything to take care of it right then and there. It doesn’t feel well outlined. While the exposition is interesting in and of itself, it feels rushed and out of place.

Worldbuilding: I will say this is interesting. If I can step away from my frustration with the lack of real progress with the main characters, I can appreciate how deep the Quincy world is. This volume gives a bit to that. I’d actually have thought highly of this if the fight didn’t (in a spoiler way) undercut the effort made to make the characters sympathetic.

Dialogue: This is probably better than most actually, but that’s because of the relationship between these two characters. It’s like watching X-Men: First Class. We get this real great broken friendship that’s soon followed by a lot of bad. I scratch my head because they did one thing really well, but the rest was just not up to par.

Description: Epic fight scenes from Kenpachi are always cool to watch. The fight as a whole is well choreographed. This is always an upside to manga.

Overall: It’s another “could have been” volume that is somewhat more enjoyable for the short term even if the ending is frustrating. It’s one of the better fights though, so if that’s why you read Bleach, then you’ll like this volume.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 69 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 69 by Tite Kubo

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 69 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, the soul king is dead, Kyoraku has asked a traitor for help. Ichigo is making his move, and now, now we see where someone has been all this time.

Character: This is one of those frustrating volumes where there is this “big” reveal that doesn’t feel as big as it should. First, anyone even reading this series of reviews should probably be wondering where “this” character has been the whole time. A main member of the cast has been absent, and no on has thought to wonder where he was? Then when the reveal happens, we get another shrug, and the characters march forward as if plot is the only thing that matters. It’s unfortunate. Where Naruto vs Sasuke was one (even now) of the most epic fights in the whole series (I personally think the first fight was better), this “betrayal” is so glossed over it makes it horribly obvious that it’s a feint.

Exposition: As is typical in stories, a lighter volume (last issue) is followed by one with heavier exposition. It’s not anything remotely near excessive, but if you read one after the other, you’ll feel the slow down. This is just the natural ebb and flow of a plot building up to the climax.

Worldbuilding: I guess I’m not done bashing the bad character development. Let’s assume I’m going to turn someone to the dark side. Why on earth would I take such a person and then immediately promote him to heir to my kingdom? We have this supposedly genius character who just up and says, “Hey there! I know I screwed your family and friends over, but why don’t you come work for me, and I’ll go ahead and put you right next to me. That way I’ll be nice and shocked when you inevitably (and anticlimactically) betray me.” Said character shrugs (because that’s how everyone in this series reacts to plot twists) and says, “Well … if you um … wanna make it that easy; I suppose.” Why this is here is because the worldbuilding we’ve seen indicates Yhwach is epic. First off, he doesn’t appear to be anywhere remotely in need of an heir. Second, if he just wanted one, there is no effort to show that side of him in his character (above) or the culture of the Quincies.

Dialogue: Honestly, that lame plot reveal tainted everything in this volume. It’s like Kubo had the greatest outline ever and then got too tired to put any effort into writing it. I know that’s harsh to say, but it neds to be said. The dialogue is almost a series of monologues explaining what’s going on to the reader as if we can’t see the pictures. But at least those are cool to look at.

Description: See above. Great art. But art without compelling characters only holds up for so long.

Overall: I admit that I’m going to become progressively more hostile each time I see what could have been just an amazing scene ruined by what feels like unsympathetic storytelling. I’ve read a few posts indicating Kubo didn’t really “want” to write this second arc, but why do it if you’re not going to put in the effort? Volumes like this, where they have so much lost potential, are evidence of this rumor. If you know more, I’d be glad to hear it in the comments below. The fights are still masterful. In fact, I argue these fights were the standard before Demon Slayer (the new standard entirely). But those fights that I think about were great because of their meaning. These fights don’t have that same impact. They’re just battles without motivation. That’s not enough for me.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 68 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 68 by Tite Kubo

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 68 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Yhwach has murdered the soul king, and everything (literally) starts falling apart. All seems lost until Ukitake’s secret offers some hope. Kyoraku also has a plan, but that plan involves a terrifying enemy.

Character: There are a few moments here where we learn about Ukitake and Kyoraku. As per my frustration with this, the characters we’ve really had a lot of time with sort of fall off, but these two do have a nice arc that really builds their sympathy. They shine in this volume for different reasons. You learn why Ukitake always seems so sickly, and you learn just how clever and driven Kyoraku really is.

Exposition: This volume was probably lighter in this area than others. I think the dialogue still carried the bulk of the expository weight here, but given how it wasn’t spoken bravado during a fight, it felt fresh.

Worldbuilding: This volume expands the soul society. We finally see how everything sort of comes together as it relates to the monarchy (or more accurately the religion) of this world. It gets a bit tough to explain without spoilers. Still, this volume is a bit of a gem because it gave us this broader level, and it’s sort of the payoff for people reading this arc.

Dialogue: Again, because the things being discussed here aren’t the finer aspects of a character’s power or how they cleverly outfought the enemy, it feels fresh. There’s still a lot of conversation offering the history of the soul king. The thing is, in this case, it’s not so bad because we’re talking about old data. There aren’t a lot of ways to provide historical information. If you know a few, please feel free to say so in the comments below.

Description: This was interesting because we were seeing new places and new things. Most Shonen stuff is going to have epic fight scenes with awesome moves. The trick with this volume was that we see the world in a different way. Also, the world is crumbling, and that illustration is pretty cool.

Overall: This volume stands out because it has some nice character arc, and the world is expanded. I don’t know that it was done the best way, but it’s still cool information that lets us consider the history of this world more. I have the first light novel, and I mean to get to it at some point, but what interest me is this how this world is built around this concept, and that at least has me curious.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 67 by Tite Kubo

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 67 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, the assault on Soul Society continues, and the big guns are out in full force. Hyosube, Squad Zero’s Leader, might just force Yhwach to display his power again.

Character: Like I said, whatever middling effort was made to develop characters in this arc is all gone. It’s all about swinging swords now, which isn’t terrible. It’s just not as awesome as it could have been because I don’t care about the characters as much as I could.

Exposition: This was par for the course. The upside to manga is we get to literally show in the the show vs tell range. We’re not immune to certain things (see below), but the visuals do a lot for storytelling.

Worldbuilding: Squad Zero has been around for a few volumes now, but this is when we get to see them in action. The down side is the purpose they serve. Without anything but reputation to work with, we’re left pretty dissatisfied with how that reputation fairs against the “big bad” the author is trying to make more threatening. It’s one thing to watch one of the captains go down because we’ve seen them beat others before, but then they were used as fodder against Aizen. Now these guys come along, and we don’t get any of the fight. It’s like old school WWE, when they’d bring in someone who looks tough, but he’s just another guy the current push character runs over. It lacks power if we’ve never seen those guys throw down and win.

Dialogue: Behold! Look at how awesome my power is! I can do amazing things! See how amazing that is. Yhwach, “Psst.” Character leans in. Yhwach, “I’m the big threat of the fight.” Other guy, “Oh, right! Sorry. Falls down defeated.” I’m not kidding. That’s just about accurate in terms of dialogue here.

Description: Now as bad as the dialogue is sometimes (and it’s much worse when we don’t have any developmental dialogue so to speak), this fight was cool to see on the pages. The power was wicked interesting. So it’s a trade off that maybe doesn’t need to exist, but it felt a little fair to me.

Overall: This volume had one of the better fights, and that says something. I don’t think any volumes compare to the Aizen saga at all, but this one was cool. It also sets the table for some worldbuilding in the next volume.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 66 by Tite Kubo 

Book Review: Bleach Volume 66 by Tite Kubo 

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 66 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, things get stranger as the tide turns for the worst. Heroes have become zombified enemies, and Yhwach, the king of Quincies, has made his move toward the Soul Society’s royal palace. Can Squad Zero stop him?

Character: This volume is a continuation of the ramp up we’ve been expecting. There was more lost opportunity here. One would think seeing one of your best friends turned into a zombi would have more of an impact on the characters. I’m not saying there isn’t any reaction, but I think the reaction was pretty lack luster.

Exposition: I don’t think there were any surprises here. The more action-oriented volumes tend to have a quicker pace. Most of the panels were devoted to cool moves and dialogue.

Worldbuilding: This volume teases at some of the more impressive wolrdbuilding that is to come. We don’t get the payoff, but there’s nice foreshadowing here that lets us anticipate what’s to come.

Dialogue: I think there’s a bit more development in this volume than normal, but it’s not that significant. Most of it follows the typical, “Behold my master plan,” and “No one dares take us on,” sort of boasting we expect to see.

Description: The art is still pretty awesome here. Most fight scenes should be. We do get some scope here as well. Some of the panels looked pretty iconic in the moment. I have to word it that way because this arc has a nasty habit of making something look tragic or awesome and then undercuts it in a future volume.

Overall: Even with the fighting, this volume feels like a set-up volume. We’re watching the undercard or the early night stuff, and we’re about to get into the main fights. That’s not to say that some of the other battles weren’t cool. The Captain Commander fight was pretty epic, and I loved Ken’s fight too. We just know that there are bigger things coming, and this volume alludes to that.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

A 3-Star Review For Betrayed!

A 3-Star Review For Betrayed!

Greetings all,

I love it when I get to share reviews. I was pleased to find this three-star review for Betrayed on Amazon the other day.

This review brought up a major struggle I had with the book. The pace of the events left me in this strange position. I needed to keep thing moving within the timeline of actual events, but that made it very difficult to delve into the characters the way I wanted. I had always planned to give other characters time in the limelight, and I do the same in Discovered. However, that made it challenging to give characters the attention I wanted.

So this is a fair review that identifies something I felt conflicted over. I’m still proud of Betrayed, and I know there are those who loved it, but I can completely understand that it might be the least emotionally impactful story. Discovered will be (by far) the longest book. We meet several new characters, two of whom have POV chapters. Kira gets her turn after Dom had his in the previous book. I hope this doesn’t mean that Dom’s story will be diminished. I’m very excited to get this First Draft done and to Alpha Readers, who I hope will help me make sure the conclusion is as satisfying as it can be.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 65 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 65 by Tite Kubo

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 65 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Kenpachi is fighting for his life, and Ichigo has just made it to the battle. His opponents, while odd, wield an even stranger power, and it could mean the end for the Soul Society.

Character: The stage is fairly established by this point. On one hand, all the wonderful opportunities for character development are gone. On the other hand, the ones that were there were (for the most part) wasted. However, now that the big push has started and the final objective has been revealed, we can sit back and enjoy the action. For those of you who only read/watch Bleach for that, then you’ve been getting what you want since the beginning. For guys like me, I feel like the fights that were happening weren’t as great as they could have been if we cared more about the characters or the consequences of those fights.

Exposition: This is pretty standard with regard to what it has been. We get a bit more information, but we’re really just learning about abilities and watching things unfold at this point.

Worldbuilding: This has other news in regard to the Soul King, which is probably the coolest worldbuilding aspect of this second saga. We also see how that fits in with the Quincies plans.

Dialogue: Again we have more of the people boasting and such, but that’s par for the course. There is some dialogue I remember that gives us a bit more insight. We also learn about the Quncies leader based on some of his conversation, so this volume might be a little stronger than others.

Description: This volume’s art was a bit more impressive in a manner of speaking because it had much more in the way of scope. There was so much going on. Depicting that much chaos must have been a feat for the artist to accomplish.

Overall: I remembered this particular fight (or at least these opponents), so it’s pretty memorable. There are some pretty epic moments coming up, and this volume sort of kicks off that whole sequence.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 64 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 64 by Tite Kubo

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 64 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, The battle with the Quincies is gaining momentum, and both sides are suffering losses. Now it’s time for Yachiru to take center stage.

Character: This volume in a somewhat convoluted way reveals Yachiru’s deepest secret. Frankly, I needed a YouTube video to really figure it out, but I’ve never claimed to be the smartest man. What’s obvious without the video assistance is still pretty epic. It starts off in an adorable creepy way and then gets more awesome by the moment. Also, we get to see the results of Ken’s training, and that’s cool too. I’ll admit I had to review this volume, but I’m glad I did. This volume is one of the better ones because the payoff matches the plot reveal.

Exposition: This volume just has your typical monologuing that so common in manga, but I somehow find it even more endearing when the monologuing is a character freaking out about how scary another character is. At least, I give that sort of stuff a pass. This volume harkens back to some of the less annoying fillers we’ve seen throughout Bleach, only it’s cannon and plot relevant.

Worldbuilding: We’ve had tiny, tiny hints in other volumes about certain aspects of this lore that I can’t even name without spoiling stuff. What I’ll say is this aspect of the magic system is every bit as touching as it is (sort of) heartbreaking.

Dialogue: Yes, we have more of the typical boasting, but this dialogue actually rivals that of other volumes here. It’s on the higher spectrum because it delves into the character through the dialogue, what is said and how characters say it.

Description: I’m not sure if this is just coincidence, but the art here is pretty epic. Maybe the artist sort of laid back for the previous volume to get ready for this one. I suppose it could be possible. I’ll note again that I went back and looked. I remembered the big reveal; I just thought it was later in the series. This might be one of my favorite fights an plot arcs in this war. If I end up watching the anime, I’m going to be excited to see this part.

Overall: This is one of the more frustrating things about the series. The main characters seem sort of glossed over, but some of the more notable side characters have some of the most epic scenes and moments in the series. Honestly, if I only knew about this fight and what it promised in terms of lore and worldbuilding, I’d read the whole series just for this.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 63 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 63 by Tite Kubo

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 63 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Several captains are struggling against a single foe, but Renji enters the contest with an intent to change it all.

Character: I don’t honestly remember much about this volume. So it’s sort of unfair to judge. My lack of remembrance is good in that it wasn’t so bad that I remember it. However, it can’t have been that great because I don’t remember anything about it. I put this here because usually when I fail to remember something, it’s because the characters didn’t do much. I remember the captains being the victims of the, “we need these bad guys to be scary” syndrome, which is common in manga, but that’s about it.

Exposition: Another example of what happens when a book isn’t memorable is that however MEH it may be, it didn’t drag on with exposition. I’m inferring that the bulk of this volume was fighting, and I usually do a good job of remembering matches. This means that most of the volume was fight scene that, while possibly entertaining, wasn’t memorable.

Worldbuilding: One thing I do remember is the hint regarding the Quincy king’s power. This sort of revealed a few key pieces. That tidbit was actually pretty nice foreshadowing. We get a tidbit here, and then as the reveal plays out, we come to understand how this arc truly connects all the way back to the beginning.

Dialogue: This was likely typical boasting.

Description: This is probably the most negative part. You see, if I can’t remember any part of it, it means there wasn’t a single panel that stood out in my mind. That’s not great if you’re a manga.

Overall: I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember any portion of this. I didn’t have the energy to go back and review it just to refresh my mind. Maybe if I saw a panel or two, I’d remember where this was in the sequence of events, but as it stands, I’m pretty much at a loss until Squad 0 shows up. This volume sort of exemplifies what I’m getting at with some stories. At a certain point, everything blends together. The enemy can only get “so” strong. The “clever turnaround” can only happen so many times. Once the pattern gets too repetitive, the individual fights lose their unique standing. It’s weird because Naruto went more than 70 volumes, and I can still remember pretty much every fight. But part of that is because the cast had more weight. Here, aside from Rukia and her brother, the other characters don’t get much. There was the character from the last arc, and that was cool, but this manga just didn’t have much.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

An Interesting Development In My Marketing

An Interesting Development In My Marketing

Greetings all,

So I actually just finished another round of key-wording, which is where I collect new key words and use them to generate campaigns, and while I was doing so, I got notifications about my adds for Caught.

Here’s what the email said:

The following ads are non-compliant to creative acceptance policies :

  • Your ad titled “Caught: Book One of the Oneiros Log” no longer complies with our current Creative Acceptance Policies. Specifically for the following reasons:
    • Your ad contains content that is not allowed for advertising. Please ensure your ad does not contain any excessive violence or gore.
      The ASIN that needs to be corrected Is B01N9N5TUS.

After some research, I’ve come to learn that Caught does indeed violate that policy because the entire book involves some of that content.

The strange thing to me is that the horror genre is sort of based in violence. Still, after I think about it for a bit, I am more and more OK with it. Fans of the horror genre in general are going to find what they’re looking for (as with other forms of content). I would argue the Caught is rather tame in comparison, however, I do accept that there is blood and violence, so it should be restricted.

Then I went to study further, and I’m actually very happy with what Amazon is doing to protect people from content that may not be appropriate for all audiences. So I simply have to focus my efforts on my other projects.

I’ll have to see how this development will affect my sales. On one hand, I’ll save on clicks, so I wonder if I’ll actually end up helping my ACOS. On the other, Caught was one of my better selling books, and I fear this development might affect those sales.

Either way, I support this decision by Amazon. I am completely OK with any measure a company makes to guard against people accidentally getting to content they don’t want.

So I thought I’d mention this as I track sales over the next three months.

Thanks for reading,

Matt