Book Review: Bleach Volume 62 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 62 by Tite Kubo

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 62 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, the renown captains are without their most powerful tool, and it’s making the battle against the Quincy army look grim. Can they hold on until someone comes up with a solution?

Character: This is one of the more interesting turns in the battle. Before this arc, characters were pretty fast and loose with their Bankai, and so it seemed that they relied on them pretty heavily. Taking that away from the characters showed us more and revealed some of their resolve. I’ve probably been pretty negative about this arc as a whole (and I’ve made my reasons clear as I made my complaints), but this was a plot twist I enjoyed. As much as I liked the idea, I wish they’d have shown more. We got some decent character development here, but we could have had a lot more.

Exposition: This volume was probably a bit heavier than the others in terms of exposition through dialogue. This is because the author has to set the terms this plot twist creates. Yeah, it slowed the pace a bit, but this entire volume was sort of a setting of the table so to speak. It’s probably not the manga you can’t put down, but it isn’t any different than any other volume of any other manga where pieces are being set for a new push or prep us for a new fight.

Worldbuilding: I have normally been praising or at least complementing the world building of this particular arc (if for no other reason than it provided data that filled in some gaps for us). Here I thought we had this great chance to really explore how characters react or how they are affected by this loss, and I don’t feel like I got what I wanted there. It’s a minor gripe in this regard, but it sort of demonstrates the overall point. There is so much lost opportunity here, and there has been lost opportunity. Most of that lost opportunity was in regard to character, but not in this case.

Dialogue: Most of the dialogue in this volume was spoken exposition, so it’s sort of draining to get through, but that tends to be par for the course in manga.

Description: The art here is as good as it normally is when there isn’t much action to speak of, which is to say it isn’t bad, but there isn’t much to do but look at panels, most of which display characters talking or pontificating. So it’s not very dynamic.

Overall: I liked the idea of taking Bankai away from the main characters, but I wish there was more consequence. It sort of felt like a hold plot, where the main characters are waiting to spring their trap or make their move, but it lacked the tension an arc like that needs, which is probably why this arc falls flat for me.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 61 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 61 by Tite Kubo
The cover for this volume was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 61 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Ichigo has learned the dark truth about his family. He’s learned his friend Uryu is working with the enemy. Now, he must face the truth about the friend he’s thought he’s had from the beginning, his own Zanpakuto.

Character: Honestly, I think a part of me got more fulfillment out of this particular revelation than the others, and that’s unfortunate. The other secret was far more relevant, but because this one focused on the character and had an actual consequence, it stuck with me more. We learn more about Zengetsu, and that information then affects (improves) the bond Ichigo has with him. This is what plot reveals are supposed to do. As a result, this volume moved a bit better than the others for me.

Exposition: Sure, the dialogue in this is laden with exposition, but that’s common (even I do it more than I’d like). This story moves pretty well, but it’s much more information based than action based, so there are those who will feel this issue drags down a touch. I wouldn’t argue with them if they read Bleach for the cool fights.

Worldbuilding: This issue expands the Vanenreich. It also has to build on the lore of the characters, finally helping people (if they didn’t already have it figured out) understand why Ichigo is seemingly so much more powerful than anyone else (there is an actual plot explanation). For those who had it figured out already, this is another reason why this volume might drag a bit for them.

Dialogue: I was probably hard on Volume 60 (but I don’t really think that). But if you read both 60 and 61, I’d like you to take a close look at how each conversations impact Ichigo. Which one affects him more? Which one alters how he thinks or fights? Which one causes him to question his role in the battle. The one you’re thinking of? That’s the plot reveal that was more significant. If you’re a person looking to study the craft of writing, studying that aspect of these two volumes is probably a great case study.

Description: I’m pretty sure this is the volume I’m thinking it is (I binge read them all in a matter of two or three days). If so, this has one of the more memorable panels in all of Bleach. Granted, this panel I’m thinking of harkens back to three other specific panels (therefore showing the progression of Goku’s Super Sa—errr Ichigo’s growth in power). Ok, that last tangental thought might come off as a bit snide, but I didn’t mean it that way. Again, I affirm that all great fighting anime (and Bleach is one of them) follow a very similar formula. The panel I’m thinking of (or panels as it may be) is just another example of that.

Overall: While I was still committed to reading for the sake of finishing the series, I affirm that this volume was stronger than its predecessor. There’s a nice mix of data and progression. The plot takes shape and has an impact on the characters as they go through the plot points. It’s probably not on my top five favorite volumes (I’m looking for the cool fights), but it does expand the scope of the story from “Quick, get to the next fight!” to a story that feels more immersive and interesting.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

My Top Three Reads for 2021!

My Top Three Reads for 2021!

Greetings all!

If you’ve followed my blog for more than a year, then you’ll know that each year around January, I briefly go over the three best books I’ve read in 2021. Now, these might not be top books of the year as a whole, but they are the best of what I read in that twelve-month period.

According to my Goodreads profile, I read at least 44 books in 2021. I have to say at least because I read a ton of manga, and not all of it is registered in Goodreads. I also read a few books more than once, which counts in my opinion. Now I get that manga are short, but it sure feels good to have a high number on the page. In my defense, I read relentlessly. But I read the Bible mostly, and that’s not the sort of book you read in a day. Then there is my love of epic fantasy, which isn’t as long or demanding as the Bible, but those books are thick!

So today I looked at my Goodreads page and put in a lot of thought. To be honest, it wasn’t very hard to identify the top three, but it was very difficult to rank those in an order I thought I could stand behind. Still, I did my best! Here’s my list.

#3 Demon Slayer by Koytoharu Gotouge: I’ve rewatched Dragonball and started watching Baruto again. I’ve rewatched some episodes of Bleach, and it hasn’t been that long since I finished Naruto for the second time. I believe this, and you can @me all you want: Demon Slayer is the best manga ever.

Why number three? I’ll explain more in future numbers, but it’s not because it isn’t a good story. The characters are so charming, sympathetic, and proactive. The action is awesome. The plot is complete AND concise (key point for the “best manga ever” argument). You can find my review for Volume 23 right here.

#2 Devotions from Psalms and Proverbs by C.H. Spurgeon: This is where things get a little hard to explain. So there are great, amazing stories. Stories you might read again and again, but not every day. Two of my top three reads were books I’d read more than once (including this one.) When I last reviewed this book, I felt bad because it was hard to focus. Then I realized something, I just love this book because it’s like a series of little pick-me-ups. I listen to it when I need help falling asleep. I listen to it when I don’t know what other Christian books to read next. This is the sort of book one keeps on a nightstand and picks up when he needs to be picked up. I came very close to putting this as number one for that reason. So because I couldn’t figure out where to put it, I put it here in the middle. For those of you who are Christian, I really think you should try this out. It’s a great book for perspective, encouragement, rebuke, conviction, and hope. Sure, the Bible is the best source for all of those things, but hearing Spurgeon speak about Psalms and Proverbs is pretty darn good, and a tad bit less overwhelming.

#1 Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson: I promise you that every year I read this book, it will likely be my favorite book. Believe it or not, this is the first time it appears on any of my lists since I started back in 2016, but that’s because there was another Stormlight book on the list, and I felt like it would be cheating to put two on a yearly list. Also, it takes me a long time to get through all the books in that series. There may be a rival or two (for instance, I intent to read the entire Wheel of Time saga here in a while (got a few Sanderson and Dresden books to get through first). Here is the most recent review or reaction I posted about it. I think this book is still the standard by which the Stormlight Archives will be measured. This is where all the best of each character is on display, and while I hold out hope that Book 5 will surpass it, I acknowledge that it has some big shoes to fill.

So that’s my list. Do you have one for the year? Let me know in the comments below. If it’s a post, I’d be happy to reblog it and share it for you. Until then . . .

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 60 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 60 by Tite Kubo

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 60 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Isshin, Ichigo’s father, is in the middle of one fight when a new combatant, someone from his past, appears. The fight isn’t what matters; the secrets that it reveals are far more important.

The cover image for this manga was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Character: So we get this huge secret reveals (one which some may find rather anticlimactic), and this news has zero impact on the character, which is my ultimate problem with these later volumes. Here we have all these piece of “shocking” news, and the characters just sort of shrug and move on. In writing, the news isn’t shocking in and of itself. What matters is the impact the information has on the characters. Sure you can have a character remain the same after one shock, and that might show the character’s resolve and stability, but this is the second time in as many arcs that Ichigo had this big reveal moment, and he just sort of plugs along. It doesn’t expand his ability. It doesn’t develop his character. It doesn’t make him question his motives. It just feels unsatisfying for there to be no consequence to what should be a huge plot reveal (even if it’s sort of haphazardly given).

Exposition: The good news is that manga never have the problem of too much exposition. They’re just fundamentally designed to avoid it. The art and action sequences take over, and so we don’t need thousands of words of exposition because we can just see what’s happening. That doesn’t prevent using dialogue to vomit data, but that’s a different issue.

Worldbuilding: I can’t really tell you what we learn, but the non-spoiler version is that the secret I promise in the summary expands the universe to a degree. It gives us some valued back-story as well. At least the back story is interesting and cool. My frustration was that the back story should have been far more impactful than it was.

Dialogue: So years ago, there was this movie. In this movie, during what’s already a pretty cool fight scene, there was a lull in the fight, during which the villain uttered words that have been misquoted ever since. So other writers got it into their heads that all great plot reveals should be done during fight scenes. But that’s not true! It’s impossible! Ok, so it’s not impossible, but it’s also not the only way to do it. Also, that particular “shocking revelation” had an impact on the main character that altered his life and changed how he fought through the rest of the series. So if you’ve looked at all your options for your great plot reveal, and it turns out, the best way to drop this bomb on readers and main characters alike is during a big fight, then at least be sure that the information does more than tell readers what happened. It should change how characters see things.

Description: I can’t remember a single panel from this volume. I read the add copy, and I honestly had trouble remembering the plot other than, “Oh, it’s the plot reveal!” This doesn’t mean the art is bad unless you equate “good” with “memorable.” A lot of the art in Bleach is super awesome and memorable (one of those is coming up). It’s not not as amazing in this particular volume.

Overall: On one hand, this is the volume that made me pick up the series again after I’d quit mid-way through the Fullbringer arc. I thought, “Wow! That’s really got to make for some great story.” I wanted to see how it ended, but at this point in the series, I was more committed to finishing out of determination than desire to see what happened next. This volume should have been what took the story in a powerful dimension that made the fights more than just visual spectacles. Will I watch the anime? Probably … eventually, but I would have had the same level of enjoyment if a friend had just sat down and described it. Of course, that would have made me pick it up and read it. Then I would have been much more upset. The fights are cool, but they aren’t compelling.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 59 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 59 by Tite Kubo
The cover for this manga was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

PERSONAL NOTE: My new graphic novel Hazel is out right now, and I’d be honored if you considered picking up a copy!

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 59 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Ichigo has faced loss before. He’s been beaten. He’s been utterly crushed, but he always had his friends and the seemingly invincible Soul Reaper captains to lean on. The defeat they suffered at the hands of the Vandenreich was complete and terrible. Even through all the losses, there is nothing left to do but what he always does: Get stronger. And he isn’t the only one with more strength to find.

Character: I’m trying to verify this volume is the one I think it is. I read them all in basically two days, so It’s hard to separate one from another in that way. From what I can research at the moment, I feel like this is the one. This Volume is essentially my favorite in the series. It has a great fight (though maybe not the best in this arc). The thing is, this is the volume where characters I care about reveal things that give me a better understanding of who they are. It has great worldbuilding. And these characters grow. Kenpachi steals the show (and some other characters that I hesitate to mention because of spoilers). Almost every other volume has some sort of revelation that was either really cool but poorly executed or just plain uninteresting. This reveal is both interesting and well executed, and that’s why this volume stands out to me. We not only learn why Kenpachi works the way he works, but we understand just how far he’s gone to make it so his fights are a fun challenge.

Exposition: This is still provided through dialogue during fights, but it’s not nearly as cheesy as other fights. This is because the fight isn’t full of comments like, “See there, I set you up for that move.” Instead, the conversation is there. It’s two people who deeply respect each other striving to push each other to a new level. There’s love and respect and loss, and the dialogue is about them rather than an odd sort of commentary of the fight we can see.

Worldbuilding: We learn more about Bankai here and the history of the court guard captains. This is less about Bankai, which we saw plenty of lore on very early on in the series, and more about the backgrounds of characters we actually care about. A lot of this story was rushed in some ways and equally too slow. This is because we get background on characters we only met on issue ago. We have no relationship to the characters that leads us to even care why they’re doing what they’re doing. So the back story at best only makes us care, but then they win or lose, and we never see them again. What’s the point? This volume has character we’ve had a chance to get to know, and it expands on their stories. That expansion gives us insight into the history of the captains and the politics of the world. They work in harmony as great story telling should.

Dialogue: While this is a step up from what it has been, it’s probably not perfect. I will say it’s probably equal to the best that I could do, which I say only to acknowledge that it’s already about as good as I could do at my level. Sometimes I do these reviews, and I worry readers might come to believe I think I could do better. This is an opportunity for me to admit I don’t think I could. However, I do think there is a higher level to dialogue to be reached.

Description: This volume is actually all about description from a certain point of view. This entire volume revolves around two very specific scars, and those scars serve as a storytelling tool that really makes this volume sing. The best part is one of those scars has always been something we knew about but didn’t know the origin of. Here we have description serving not just as a way to distinguish one character from another, but also as a way to develop that character. The scar helps us identify one character from the crowd, but the story of how that scar came to be helps us understand that character better. This is great storytelling at its best.

Overall: The good news is this is my favorite volume. The bad news is there are plenty left to go. I think there’s something to learn about “fighting manga” here. I’ll acknowledge that some of the fights are cool, but fights in an of themselves can only reach a certain level of entertainment. For fights to be memorable, they need meaning and emotion. This volume demonstrates that and helps us see why the others don’t measure up so well.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 58 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 58 by Tite Kubo
The cover for this volume was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

PERSONAL NOTE: My new graphic novel Hazel is out right now, and I’d be honored if you considered picking up a copy!

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 58 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, the battle against the Vandenreich reaches a peak as Captain General Yamamoto takes the filed. He unlocks his Bankai, ready to end the war before it begins, but can he?

Character: Some fans feel like the arc here is telling. We see an aspect of Yamamoto that makes the events of this volume more than a typical manga moment. I’m just not one of them. When people talk about character, they’re looking for sympathy, competence, power and proactivity. If the opinion is that we see Yamamoto’s key character deficiency, then I go back to the Azien arc, when we saw that same failing. That doesn’t mean this fight isn’t cool to see, but we come to a point where when characters reach a certain power level, it becomes harder to create a sense of awe or worry over the characters. This volume exemplifies that worry.

Exposition: The fighting continues, which means exposition take a very distant back seat. Yes, there is some “you see how I had the upper hand all along?” dialogue, but that’s always expected at this point.

Worldbuilding: This is where fans will get what they want. If you’re one who cares about Bankai and power levels and the mechanics of those elements, this was where you get your money’s worth. It was cool seeing Yamamoto’s Bankai, but the way the volume goes sort of undercuts it for me. This is sort of the down-side to this arc. We have so many characters who are more or less world-breaking powerful, so the creator has to develop even more powerful people, and that trick sort of gets old after a while. So yeah, it’s cool to see a new move, but cool moves aren’t as satisfying when they don’t really advance the plot (or even reverse it). I can understand why this volume had to happen, but it falls short of the goal in shock factor, which makes the events in this volume unsatisfying for me. If you liked it, feel free to explain why in the comments below. I’d be interested to know.

Dialogue: Aside from the aforementioned “witness my overwhelming power!” stuff, there isn’t a lot of character building dialogue. While not great, it’s not as annoying as the short-comings of the worldbuilding. It’s just kind of how things go.

Description: Now what is satisfying about the aforementioned Bankai is that the rendering of that power is pretty epic. This sort of art and moment is destined for anime (which I believe and hope is forthcoming, though I may be wrong). Even without full color and movement, the art of this fight is exactly what Bleach fans have come to expect.

Overall: The thing is, I wish there was more drama and set up in this fight. I never really felt this fight was going to go any other way than it did. I think if that fight had been more dramatic, this volume and arc would have been more satisfying. Also, we don’t care about Yamamoto. He wasn’t really a character in the story. I was honestly more worried about other members of the guard. Yamamoto is more of a plot device than a character, and that hurts the overall story. So this is little more than what we’ve seen. “Oh, you thought that guy was powerful? Check this guy out!” If the formula works for you, you’ll love this arc. If you’d like a bit more than just the reapplication of the same old formula, then this arc isn’t as satisfying.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Some New Reviews for Hazel!

Some New Reviews for Hazel!

Greetings all,

I was ill last week and glad to have some reviews to share.

Well, this week I feel better, but I’m still also glad to have some more reviews to share!

Hazel is still going strong. Oh, I’m not selling hundreds a day or thousands a week, but I am selling a pretty steady number that I’m not quit ready to estimate until she’s been out three full months. The good news is that the sales are also yielding reviews, and that’s fantastic.

So I’m happy to share this three-star review from Goodreads and this five-star review from Amazon.

As always, if you’ve tried some of my work (even it you hated it), I’d be grateful if you’d be kind enough to leave a rating and review on all the bookish places. It means a lot. We’re coming up on the end of the year, which means the State of the Weech is coming and some other general news. So we’ll see if things calm down enough this week to allow for more news-based posts on Saturdays. Until then,

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 57 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 57 by Tite Kubo

PERSONAL NOTE: My new graphic novel Hazel is out right now, and I’d be honored if you considered picking up a copy!

The cover for this volume was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 57 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Ichigo is trapped in Hueco Mundo, leaving the Vandenreich free to attack Soul Society. Luckily, the captains are there to defend, but can they win?

Character: So this doesn’t have arc so much as it increases our fear for our teammates. There are a few captains that (with the exception of Aizen) seemed unbeatable, and this new cast of enemies brings us a new level of worry for the cast. There is some arc in that these characters, all used to being the most powerful guys around, now have to deal with the humbling truth, and that’s somewhat interesting, but it’s more of a shock factor.

Exposition: Given that this is a “fight” manga, there really isn’t much more to it (nor should there be). These manga are like the rewards for patiently enjoying the story that comes before. I remember two fights, which is a good sign, but I don’t really remember much more than the two captains (who shall remain nameless) who fight in this chapter. This means that we didn’t have too much exposition if any.

Worldbuilding: This volume also serves to establish the new power levels given the Vandenreich. Obviously, they need to be a threat, and there’s really only one way to establish that. However, as we see those power rankings play out, we learn about how they work.

Dialogue: This is what one comes to expect of the combination of Bleach and fight scenes. There’s a lot of, “My power is so great!” followed by, “Oh, really?” Insert awesome power move. Rinse. Repeat. Now that probably wouldn’t cut it in a full novel, but in manga or animated action, it works. I think anime will evolve, but there will always be room for this level of dialogue. So it’s not quality, but it is what’s expected.

Description: The art continues to improve as the story evolves. The fight scenes are not quite to the quality of Demon Slayer, but I really believe that’s the best manga ever (I said it. @ me if you want.) So it’s a little unfair to judge anything against that standard. However, this is still very cool.

Overall: Honestly, fans of Bleach have been waiting for this volume. Bleach is mostly about fights (much like Naruto). While a lot of the other arcs center around the action, some of the other (and, probably, better) manga have more story progression rather than action with a slice of justification via dialogue. But if you like Bleach, what you’re looking for is the fight, and it’s good to see the volumes finally get down to it.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

A 5-Star Review for Betrayed

A 5-Star Review for Betrayed

Greetings all,

This review comes at a great time because it’s been a rough few weeks here in the Weech household. We’re battling an illness, so we’re glad to have some content to present you that’s low maintenance.

That said, a nice five-star review really helps keep the motivation up. So we’d like to share this review with you all.

As always, if you’ve read some of my work, we’d be grateful if you’d take a second to offer a rating and review. I’m actually pretty close to 100 ratings on Goodreads, and I’m excited for that milestone.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 56 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 56 by Tite Kubo

PERSONAL NOTE: My new graphic novel Hazel is out right now, and I’d be honored if you considered picking up a copy!

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 56 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, a new group of Quincies has arisen, calling themselves the Vandenreich, have seemingly overtaken Hueco Mundo, defeating all the Arrancarr in their path, including Nel. Ichigo and his friends rush to help, and find themselves squarely in the middle of a war between Soul Reapers and Quincies.

Character: This arc immediately establishes the outright hatred Quincies and Soul Reapers have for each other. It’s nice to see Nel again and learn who’s in charge at the moment. This volume really does what most anime does. It takes the scary thing from an older arc and throttles it, thus establishing a new OP threat.

Exposition: The dialogue does a lot of the heavy lifting, explaining what’s what and who’s who. So there is exposition, but it’s given in the most typical manga/anime style.

Worldbuilding: It’s nice to build from a place of certainty rather than haphazardly backtrack to the third arc of the series. We get to see the evolution of Hueco Mundo and learn some more about this new threat. We get some lore. While Quincies is an older arch, we have benchmarks to keep them in our minds. I’m not saying it’s not at least somewhat out of left field, but it’s far more familiar than the previous story. I loved the culture of Hueco Mundo, and this story builds on that.

Dialogue: As I mentioned above, there is a considerable amount of dialogue that addresses information, and if any were to call it wooden or overly explanatory, I’d admit it was true, but if you read manga, you expect that sort of thing. These characters (at least the ones we know and love) have unique voices. I’d argue the new characters also have that same quality. So while it’s not great from a pure perspective, it is what one expects from the genre.

Description: The landscapes here are better than previous episodes, and that trend continues in future volumes. The art seems to get better as Tite finds a groove. This is the start of that trend. We get plenty of cool fight-scene images, but the scope of the world takes center stage.

Overall: I feel a little ashamed because I know the trick I’m falling for. Good manga does this though. Every single manga says, “You remember how scare those guys were? Well check these guys out!” It does a great job of amping suspense. I don’t know that it would work in any other format though. This volume gets you ready for a big fight, and the future volumes deliver.

Thanks for reading,

Matt