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Naruto Shippuden 451!

So Naruto is back! Back to flashbacks, but this time it's with a flashback about Itachi. This time... the final flashback?

I hope so! It's been a long time coming, and it feels like a good time to pick up where they left off. I haven't even been watching full episodes lately, just skimming; just waiting for the dream to be over... maybe reality is really sinking in again with this one. Feels good.

I don't look forward to the series to end, but I look forward to seeing the end of the series. The start of the end. Soon.

One Punch Man!

I seem to only be choosing new animes to watch with 'Punch' in the titles lately. :) Last time it was Punch Line, and now it's this one! But in difference from the former (which was good, but not memorably good) this one show shows some pretty serious potential!

It's about a hero who looks very ordinary, but is really very powerful (you might even argue he's the strongest person on Earth), but he has one big problem: he can't find an opponent he doesn't instantly knock out with just one punch. He's getting bored. Life seems trivial and dull, to the point where he almost seems kinda suicidal in some of his battles (I mean come on! He's taking that giant guy's punches head on for what? When he could be dodging them?!).

I just finished the first episode, in which he beats up a wide assortment of strange villains, and then, plot twist: sub-subterraneans appear, destroying his house while he sleeps, after having already killed 70% of the population! He fights them off, but they're strong, and suddenly... he starts feeling a feeling he hasn't felt in so long! How it feels to have a real fight!! As he stands victorious, sweating, shivering, towering over his foes on a cliff of rubble, the King of the Underground appears and challenges him, and he runs that beast head on! And then: his alarm clock rings and be instinctively (accidentally?) punches it through the floor.

Sound like an entertaining premises for a show? Well, I thought so too! And not just the premises: but the show! Awesome idea, animation, comedic quality and plot aaand everything about it really. As seems to be the trend with modern (fighting) anime, it progresses at a super-fast pace, but of course, it's the first episode. This might've been more eventful than most just to get us hooked. And that I am.

I'm looking forward to following the show and catching up on the remaining, already aired 11 episodes (out of 12 total, just 1 left!). Here's a bunch of screenshots to give you a taste of content:

One Punch Man!


800 Episodes Of Detective Conan!

Now this amount truly merits a post! What does it take to create an anime that rivals the best of them; runs parallel to the manga, without pause, for now almost 20 years! (And the manga for more than that.) That's almost as long as I am old! Hell, that's half of what the life expectancy was in Africa back in the 50s. What I'm trying to say is: that's a long... time!!

I made an attempt to catch up with this series about a year ago, but I didn't make it very far. I watched the first few episodes in their entirety, but then I started skimming, and eventually I gave up completely. Mostly because it's really a great series, and I didn't want to just skim through the episodes, but I didn't have the time or the devotion required to actually watch through them all in full. For anyone who wants to jump on this bandwagon now it'll be even tougher. :)

I did watch the movies though, and I received a few segments of the Manga for my 25th birthday (last year). I'm hoping to find a few more eventually, but they're rare over here. The whole franchise isn't just surprisingly unknown here, but in most of the Western world as well, even though I'd without a doubt class it as one, if not the best detective comic/manga/series/anime ever made. Each case is just as clever as the last, and the characters are an amiable bunch of people.

There's a story too, still brewing in the background, occasionally progressing between the various case encounters and crime scenes. At the rate it's going it doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon, but someday... I will catch up! I'll take a sabbatical year for it if I have to. :) Here's to another 800 episodes! Or at the very least, another hundred! And cheers, Gosho Aoyama, for creating not only the longest running, but also one of the most clever and creative series of my time.

From The Grand Line To The New World

...and from hope to desperation. Books 46-60.

After Water Seven the Strawhats embark into shadowy waters, where they meet the living dead (Brook) and eventually the Warlord Moria on Thriller Bark. He steals their shadows, but they get them back, along with Brook's - and with him they get a new crew mate!

They have a run in on a second member of the Seven Warlords at the same time: Bartholomew Kuma, yet thanks to Zoro's extreme show of conviction he leaves them alone. Not yet healed from wounds of the previous battle against the World Government, Zoro saves the crew and almost dies in the process... and they don't even know about it! Well, apart from Sanji, Brook and Robin. Even if I know about his sacrifice, I'm glad some of the crew do, too! It makes for a heartfelt moment.

Already, we are getting a taste of things to come. That maybe they're not really ready. That maybe, they need more than just luck - which they have had plenty of thus far. It's not until right before the New World that things really start getting serious however. None of the Strawhat's actually die (technically Brook is dead hmm), but Ace does, and though their whole story of brotherhood feels like something fabricated for this particular segment of the series, it's a tragic loss: to Luffy, and Whitebeard, and many more. Well, moving back to the story:

After they leave Thriller Bark, they arrive at the Sabaody Archipelago, a gathering place for everyone seeking to make their way across the red line, again, and into the New World that lies beyond. We are introduced to a bunch of rookies collectively known as the Worst Generation who have traversed the same sea via parallel islands. These 11 villains include Trafalgar Law, Eustass Kid, Scratchmen Apoo, Basil Hawkins, X Drake, Killer, Jewelry Bonney, Capone Bege (he doesn't seem to be in the same generation at all though) and Urouge. Luffy, Zoro and Blackbeard are the other three in this 'group'. They also meet an important veteran, the Dark Knight Silvers Rayleigh - second in command on Gold Roger's old ship! And plenty of revelations with him.

They meet with an old f(r)iend too, and a mermaid who soon gets kidnapped, and all of a sudden things start happening very quickly. In the process of rescuing her Luffy punches a World Noble. Big deal? Yeah, pretty big deal! One of the admirals gets sent in, and suddenly the place is crawling with marines. It doesn't help that the marines have their HQ close nearby. Kid, Law & Luffy team up and break their way out along with Rayleigh (who they meet at the same time).

For a moment it seems they've managed to get away, but Bartholomew Kuma makes a repeat appearance, and along with an army of robots and the admiral Kizaru, things soon seem pretty hopeless. Their lack of strength is apparent, and when Kuma appears, Luffy's friends start disappearing one by one. He is the last one still there, and he couldn't do a thing to save them. And then, he disappears as well.

Turns out however that they're all blown off to remote islands; Luffy to the land of Amazon Lily, where the Kuja tribe lives - a tribe of only women where no men are allowed! That gets him in some trouble of course, but he gets through it and makes a friend in Boa Hancock, who turns out to be one more of the seven warlords! Through a newspaper he learns that Ace is about to be executed (and no, he didn't read it himself), and in a hurry they head off to Impel Down, the most secure prison facility in the world, to break Ace out of prison.

It's a hellish journey, but along the way he reunites with Buggy, Mr.3, Mr.2 (Bon Kurei), and later with Daz Bones (Mr.1). At the very lower levels of this infernal pit they meet Crocodile, Emporio Ivankov, Inazuma and another warlord of the Seven - Jinbe. Luffy fights the big bad boss of Impel Down (the monstrous Magellan) and almost dies, but his willpower (along with Emporio Ivankov's hormone injections and Bon Kurei's incredible friendship) keeps him alive. Together with over two hundred prisoners they break out and, against all odds, escape!

Stuck in the government-only stream that goes between the great prison Impel Down, the gates of justice at Enes Lobby and the marine headquarters at Marineford, there is only one destination they can choose. Ace is being taken to the Marineford, so that's where they head, friends and foes alike, and dangerous prisoners, not all with a common goal but all with one common destination!.

As always, Luffy enters with a bang. He has a chat with the legendary Whitebeard, almost meets up with Shanks, and is unexpectedly saved by Trafalgar Law after almost being killed by Akainu. Ace saves his life, after he's just been saved himself, and is killed in the process. RIP.

The battle at Marineford is incredible in the manga, and not so dissimilar from the anime, just not quite as impressive in dragged out form. And in the anime... didn't Whitebeard just get his mustache cut, not his entire face? There are certain differences, but overall the anime is a more truthful rendition of the manga than I had expected, in many scenes boosted by voices and sounds, and occasional melodies (like Brook's Song). So many people told me otherwise!

Reading the manga again (I mean, after just watching the animated counterpart), it's also clear that Ace dying is not Luffy's fault. He may have been weak and powerless, running headfirst into a battle in which he surely had died was it not for the help of the others. But were it not for him... had Ace been saved at all? Though it's the strength of the others that ultimately takes him to Ace, it seems to be his willpower that constantly leads them on. It's a memorable fight, which ends in tragedy. Blackbeard comes in and steals the show for a moment, killing Whitebeard once and for all (no doubt he would have died either way) and stealing his power, and then Shanks walks in... and the war is over.

Not longer after the war, Luffy and Rayleigh visit Ace's grave. Luffy covered in bandages, but with a message tattooed on his arm: 3 D 2 Y. We get a glimpse of the trials the other members are going through, and how they react to the message. Just as I did, and knew they would, they all understand. Their meeting at the Sabaody Archipelago in three days has been postponed... to two years! And there, the timeskip begins, and my books end.

I haven't reached to the Fishman arc yet, or the Dressrosa one I'm currently hooked on in its animated form. Don Flamingo was hinted so early on, already in the Bellamy arc, so it seems this latest one is really going to be MASSIVE. I can't wait to keep reading, but until I get my hands on the newer books, this is probably the best possible place to take a pause. From the Grand Line to the New World (well, almost)... it's been one hell of an adventure!

And it's not over yet.

Past Cloud 9 And Water 7

I had to take a break from my manga reading streak due to unforeseen circumstances.

Well, unforeseen in that I didn't except these circumstances to arise so quickly! I made it through the first 32 books in my newfound One Piece manga collection way too fast, and suddenly I was stuck. Books 34-37 were missing. Of course I knew this from the beginning, but I thought it'd take longer to get there, so...

For weeks, I kept watch. I waited, restlessly. Browsed, attentively. Then finally, books 30-34 and 35-39 popped up at Tradera - the local auction site! 260 SEK for all ten books. I bought them. Compared to my previous deal it wasn't such a good price: 26 SEK per book compared to 12 SEK, but I have no regrets! Retail prices are way higher anyway.

So... where did I leave off? Sky Island. The most exciting arc of the story so far. A battle against the great lightning God Enel, a battle without comparison... the only disappointment being how all the symbolism I saw in this segment of the series was quickly washed away in the author Q & A. Oda didn't have any real message there, no symbolisms and metaphors, it's all just fantasy and random wordy inspiration... though even though he says that, that fantasy must've been derived from somewhere right? Maybe somewhere deep within? His uttermost fears and thoughts ported into the form of this grand adventure? That's what I'd like to believe anyway, because if you want it to, this arc can mean so much.

Well. Tears fall. The Strawhats jump down from the clouds, and moments later they are off to their next adventure! At this moment, the arcs start increasing in length a bit. The Skytopia arc was quite a few books lengthy, and after their short stop at the looooong island and their Davy Jones battle against the Foxy Pirates subsequent run into Aokiji the ice man, they reach their grandest arc of adventure yet!

Water 7. A massive story, one I'm surprised never made it to a movie! Though maybe it'd be too big a story for just one movie, unlike the Alabasta Rebellion or Drum Island Arc.

On Water Seven they meet Franky, a cyborg demolition man, and Iceburg - a builder man, and what starts as a quest to have their ship - the Going Merry - fixed, soon turns to tragedy and desperation. Robin disappears. They are told their boat can't be fixed - that it's broken beyond repair. Usopp leaves the crew, and duels Luffy for the boat. He loses, but Luffy gives him the boat anyway. They have to get a new one.

All of a sudden there's an assassination attempt on Iceburg... and Nico Robin is the culprit! The whole city's after them, as are the Galley workers at Dock 1, a team of crazy strong workers who go from friends to enemies, to friends again when it's discovered that the entire thing is a complot by the government; part of the workers of the Galley were CP9 spies, a team who had been in hiding for five years attempting to find the blueprint for a weapon of mass destruction that Iceburg supposedly had. They figure out Franky has the blueprint - also revealed to be Iceburg's bother, and capture him. Robin goes with them of her own free will, in what's later revealed is a sacrifice in order to save the rest of the crew. The CP9 eventually rise from their cover; attempt to kill Iceburg again, but the Strawhats intervene. Iceburg is saved, unbeknownst to them, and the government officials leave on the sea train towards Enes Lobby - the island of justice - the Strawhats on their tail. At the same time, the Aqua Laguna, a vicious storm, sweeps over the island.

The crew get it together, with newfound purpose and with Usopp joining them masked as the master sniper Sogeking, they take it to the Government - the impenetrable Enes Lobby. Crashing through the toughest Aqua Laguna ever on their way, just to get back one of theirs. Confronted by Robin's fear and desperation, Ruffy asks Sogeking to shoot down the World Government's flag, waging war on the world. Against powerful enemies, they overcome all odds, get Robin, and escape under a siege of cannonfire. Merry appears at the last moment and takes them away, a boat with a soul - she thanks them for this time of adventure; they say farewell on a sea of flame.

Their farewell to Merry was the most memorable, most tear filled moment of the anime, and even though I've seen that episode a few times already, the manga was no different. Just writing this blog is enough to get the tear ducts working again.

Well, they return to Water Seven, Franky builds them a ship, and (after much protest) joins their crew. Usopp does too, though his return is all but easy. Just before they leave, Luffy's grandpa Garp makes an appearance too - he's a marine legend! And it's revealed that Luffy's dad is Drake, the revolutionary, known as the most dangerous criminal in the world! The comedic levels flare high, as do the emotions, and the books just flash by - numbers 26-45, before they fly off to their next great adventure!

Not many books remain of what little One Piece was published here in Sweden now (66 was the last one, and I'm missing a few at the end)... but I guess I'll have to jump onto the English translations when I reach the end. No matter the cost. That's hoe exciting this is getting! I'll keep you posted.

From North Blue to Skytopia

Ever since this heavenly gift fell into my lap - at the very affordable price of 649 SEK, I've been consumed by the One Piece manga.

I'm reminded once again of how it's really no surprise it's as popular as it is. It's not only funny, with a compelling story full of characters you grow to love - even side-characters that appear for only a short moment, but it oftentimes toys with your emotions like a powerful drug, making you desperately try to keep those tears contained since you're going to work the next day and don't want to look all red-eyed and gloamy when you get there. But why not? Be a man about it,cry your eyes out; live without regret!!

Eiichiro Oda is a masterful story-teller, and he seems to be having fun while he's at it too, something the frequent Q&A sections amidst the chapters reveal. If I were him I'd be super nervous about this great responsability: fearing I might run out of inspiration, that I might do something wrong, that the story might deteriorate over time and no longer be on par with the vision I had in mind when I'd made it... and yet it seems that, chapter by chapter, he just keeps getting better and better! He's a true inspiration! So extremely dedicated towards his creation, and even more so: his fans. A humble man, he seems unaltered by the past decades of rising stardom; fan mail pouring into his office at a rate of hundreds each week (for a moment in thousands, so many he didn't have to read them all).

In my venture through the manga I've now followed Ruffy & Co all the way from North Blue to Skytopia. Ruffy who I've always known as Luffy, and the crew, also with names later slightly altered by unofficial fansubs of the anime, yet now the original names feel as natural as those of their animated counterparts. It's like the manga and anime-version characters are slightly different, and I'm following their stories in parallel; enjoying the pros and cons of each medium, noting the differences with some kind of satisfaction at how much I know.

I've shared in their adventures: laughs, tears and bursts of adrenaline as they battled their most vicious of foes! At times the side-story breaks between chapters - along with games and talks with the author, distract a little from the action... at times I've skipped them for later, but for the most part I've thoroughly enjoyed these surprisingly frequent close encounters with the author. Glimpses at old sketches and character ideas pop up every once in a while; back stories behind even the most non-mentionable people standing in the crowd, the One Piece universe constantly expanding until it becomes less and less just compelling fiction, but a world of its own.

The introductory flashback with Shanks was longer than I remembered it, but from the moment Luffy (I still write that with an L!) jumps out of that barrel and beats Alvida, it all happens so fast. It doesn't pause for a moment until he's rescued Zoro the swordsman from Morgan, said farewell to Coby, met up with navigator Nami, blown Bugsy away, stumbled upon honorable liar and sniper Usopp (the one character that truly embodies all the flaws of being human), fought of the Kuro crew and vicious cats & Co, made their way to the Baratie and met up with Sanji the cook; blown away Don Krieg, to shortly thereafter make their way to Nami's hometown and take down Arlong at Arlong Park.

Then all of a sudden they cross the Red Line and meet the giant whale Labun and a strange old man who... could have been a member of Gold Roger's crew? Not to forget the memorable leave of Loguetown right before: a violent reunion with the vengeful Buggy and Alvida (now with a new power) and a meeting with vicious foe Smokey and Tashigi. At the Drum Kingdom they fight Wapol, accompanied by princess Vivi, trying to save Nami from a strange sickness, where they also meet up with Chopper - a human deer and their new doctor.

They join up with Vivi and take down one of the Seven Warlords, Crocodile, in the process halting a revolution, but even before that they meet up with giants Dorry and Broggy, mighty giants who have been dueling on an ancient island for a hundred years, and start beating up the Baroque Works in the process...

While Ruffy fights Don Krieg, Zoro encounters the greatest swordsman in the world - Mihawk, and almost gets killed in the process - realizing how powerless he really is. He promises never to lose again. Luffy meets up with his brother Ace, too. And shortly after their venture through the desert, an unexpected new crew member turns up: Nico Robin. She becomes their living encyclopedia.

And then, they meet Montblanc Cricket, run into Blackbeard, fight Bellamy, we get a glimpse of Don Flamingo... and they're off! To the island in the sky. The land on the clouds. No filler. No wait between episodes. It truly has been an exciting journey, from North Blue to Skytopia! And still, the adventure's only just beginning. This is all in book 1-25, five years worth of a masterful story I'm only now catching up on... but I hope it takes a while before I do! Waiting for the newest episode of the anime each week is enough, I wouldn't want to wait on this version as well. :)

To be continued!

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