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B L E A C H

Ichigo Kurosaki has always been able to see ghosts, but this ability does not change his life nearly as much as his close encounter with Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper and member of the mysterious Soul Society. While fighting a Hollow, an evil spirit that preys on humans who display psychic energy, Rukia attempts to lend Ichigo some of her powers so that he can save his family; but much to her surprise, Ichigo absorbs every last drop of her energy. Now a full-fledged Soul Reaper himself, Ichigo quickly learns that the world he inhabits is one full of dangerous spirits and, along with Rukia--who is slowly regaining her powers--it is Ichigo's job to protect the innocent from Hollows and help the spirits themselves find peace.

Perhaps the most interesting idea put forth in Bleach (and no, I don't understand why it's called Bleach) is that part of a person's spirit forms into a sword (called a zanpuku-to), which has its own spirit, and can be "released" into a transformed shape with varying special powers. It is interesting to learn what each character's zanpaku-to becomes in both its shikai (initial) and bankai (final, for those characters able to achieve bankai) release, and what that says about each character.



D . G R A Y - M A N

Akuma, monsters born from dead souls mistakenly recalled by their loved ones to the living world, are the weapons of the Millenium Earl, who is intent on the destruction of the world. Allen Walker has been cursed with an anti-Akuma weapon as his left arm and an eye that sees the former soul of the Akuma since his youth. He is also one of the few who contain "Innocence", a substance that allows him to kill Akuma and fight the Earl. With these powers, he joins the Black Priest Organization as an Exorcist and sets out with other Exorcists to stop the Earl's attempts to annihilate the human race.

D. Gray-Man (another title I don't quite understand) is a series that addresses the pain of losing a loved one, through a macabre fantasy lens. Would you wish for your recently-departed loved one back from the dead, if it meant that your loved one would become a remorseless killer? Add into this mix a group of people assembled to stop the monsters that the resurrected become: "exorcists". But as with any ultra-powerful organization, corruption sets in, which further begs the question: Which side is the side of the angels?



F A I R Y . T A I L

Lucy is a 17-year-old girl, who wants to be a full-fledged mage. One day when visiting Harujion Town, she meets Natsu, a young man who gets sick easily by any type of transportation. But Natsu isnt just any ordinary kid, he's a member of one of the world's most infamous mage guilds: Fairy Tail.

Despite its name, Fairy Tail is perhaps the best example I've come across of a classic "high fantasy" story. Dragons, fairies, demons, elemental magic, summoning magic ... As a fan of high fantasy, I cannot recommend this series more highly.



K Y O . K A R A . M A O H !

Yuri Shibuya was living a pretty normal life. That changed the day he was dunked into a toilet after an attempt to save a classmate from a gang of bullies. Instead of just getting a good soaking, he's pulled in. The next thing he knows, he's in a world that vaguely resembles medieval Europe. If that's not odd enough, he's told that he is to be the next Maoh (demon king), just because he has black hair and black eyes. The Maoh is the King of the Mazoku (demon tribe), who are coexisting not-so-peacefully with the humans in this world. Much to his subject's dismay, he's totally different from the rulers they're accustomed to. He's kind, considerate, a believer in justice, and not willing to use violence to solve conflicts. Not exactly someone they want running a country on the very brink of war. Now, Yuri has to deal with trying to become a good Maoh, while at the same time attempting to adapt to this land's customs and culture, all in a world where the tension between the humans and Mazoku is reaching its peak.

Kyo Kara Maoh!, or "From Today I Am The Demon King," is an interesting story, surprisingly well-written. While magic is highly prevalent, the story focuses primarily on the politics of the land Yuri finds himself in, as well as his own inability to catch a break. One of the best examples of this is when Yuri stands up to a prince named Wolfram, only to learn that by slapping him with his left hand, Yuri became engaged to Wolfram! Don't misunderstand, this series is not yaoi; Yuri's engagement to another man is a perpetual source of consternation for the protagonist, for the amusement of the audience.



N A R U T O

Before Naruto's birth, a great demon fox had attacked the Hidden Leaf Village. A man known as the 4th Hokage sealed the demon inside the newly born Naruto, causing him to unknowingly grow up detested by his fellow villagers. Despite his lack of talent in many areas of ninjutsu, Naruto strives for only one goal: to gain the title of Hokage, the strongest ninja in his village. Desiring the respect he never received, Naruto works towards his dream with fellow friends Sasuke and Sakura and mentor Kakashi as they go through many trials and battles that come with being a ninja.

Naruto is perhaps the best-known of all of the titles I currently read. It's something of a guilty pleasure. The series has definitely grown and evolved over time as the titular character has grown from a knucklehead kid into a thoughtful, sincere teenager that you can gladly root for. The author has also done a remarkable job of incorporating the many tropes of Eastern mythology.



S O U L . E A T E R

Maka is a scythe technician, working to perfect her living scythe and partner, Soul Eater. By feeding on the souls of 99 humans and one witch, Soul Eater aspires to become the perfect weapon–the Death Scythe! Along the way, the two will face innumerable challenges, including an amorous cat, thieves, and even a teacher turned zombie. It will be a wonder if Maka can even survive, much less turn Soul into the Death Scythe...

I'm not sure why the description calls Maka a "scythe technician" - every translation I've seen uses the term meister. In Soul Eater, every student and teacher at "Shibusen", aka Death Weapon Meister Academy, is, as the name implies, either a Weapon or a Meister. The series description isn't particularly clear about this aspect, either - Weapons are actually people, with the amazing ability to shapeshift into a weapon. Meisters are individuals with keen psychic perception and the ability to synchronize their spiritual wavelength with that of a Weapon to create an awesome fighting team.



W I T C H . H U N T E R

Witches suddenly declare war against humans, causing two-thirds of the world to fall apart. They summon monsters called Supporters and devastate human residences... but why? Survivors gather people with the power to combat the witches and called them Witch Hunters! Tasha Godspell is one of the strongest nicknamed The Marksman along with his Jack-O-Lantern looking Supporter. He fights the witches but cannot really bring himself to hate them...

Witch Hunter is quite possibly the best manga (or more specifically, manwha) that nobody's reading. Witch Hunter poses many interesting ideas, among them is the idea that historically, witches have been women because women have a greater ability to metabolize mana (albeit often at the cost of their sanity). The tradition of the witch's hat is explained as a physical manifestation of the witch's power, a sort of "mana battery". Witch Hunter plays with the formula where rules are established ("only women, as witches, can use magic") and then the main character deftly proves to be the exception to the rule.

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