Ghost Hunt Volumes 8 & 9 Review

“This foolish girl will descend into hell.”

Ghost Hunt focuses on a core cast, but they do a good job of hitting each character’s main abilities and each story stands pretty well on their own. Volume 8 would be an ok place to start reading if you didn’t want to go back to volume 1.

I’m reviewing these two volumes together because they form one complete 9-part arc. A young man brings his niece to Naru after a dire message mysteriously appears branded onto her back. Shibuya Psychic Research’s ghost hunters are led to an idyllic looking restaurant with a long history of unexplained deaths… including several mediums called on to investigate.

As usual with Ghost Hunt t would be a disservice to the suspense of the story get into plot details, but I can say that this is perhaps the creepiest story yet (an impressive feat given what’s come before). There’s a big development early on that places an unusual burden on the team and it’s interesting to see them adapt to unexpected roles and responsibilities. The pace is a little uneven, but there are several twists that keep things building nicely overall.

Mai and Masako get a lot of focus. Their individual feelings towards Naru and own competitive relationship are explored well within the context of the story. A significant amount of background about several characters is also woven into the narrative. This is a place where Ghost Hunt shines. Tension is never lost nor momentum slowed for character development. It’s all blended and layered wonderfully with the story.

Another heart-wrenching, unnerving adventure for Naru and company. Ghost Hunt continues to be an excellent example of suspense and horror done right.

Gimmick! Volume 4 Review

This volume directly continues a previously started arc and builds off of established characters and events. Better to start reading at the beginning.

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Volume 4 starts with the conclusion (parts 6 and 7) of the TB Confidential arc started in volume 3. Strong finish with some more unique tricks from Kohei and a lot of foreshadowing regarding Kohei’s ominous rival.

Having just had a pair of long, complicated arcs we get a number of shorter stories of varying atmosphere and subject matter. There are single chapter tales focusing on Kohei helping Mone with a molester problem, his first meeting with Kannazuki, and a touching pair of chapters set at a local hospital. In the middle of these is a two-part story about an aging actress. All of these packed a lot into short lengths, and ran the gamut from light and amusing to somber and emotional. A great mix. Not all of it works perfectly, but it’s all interesting.

Finally there’s the first three parts of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, in which Kohei meets someone who reminds him of himself. Nice start. Hope it realizes the potential for exploring Kohei’s character both past and present.

Another strong volume. Still really enjoying Kohei’s antics and adventures.

Evolve 56 Live Thoughts

March 19, 2016 in Queens, NY

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Evolve was back in Queens with a big show headlined by the undefeated Matt Riddle challenging Timothy Thatcher for the Evolve title. Shortly before the event a special appearance by William Regal was added for the live crowd. Regal is a long time favorite of mine and it was an honor to meet him. He opened the show announcing that the US qualifiers for WWE’s upcoming cruiserweight tournament would happen in Evolve. Good news and a nice moment / appearance from Regal.

La Boom is a great little venue and it was absolutely packed, with I think the largest crowd I’ve seen them draw. Sami Callihan vs. TJ Perkins was a decent opener that started strong then fell off a bit when both wrestlers ignored major leg work their opponent had been doing all match. TJP in particular often forgets to sell at certain points which takes me out of his matches. Good otherwise though. Odd booking, as Callihan really shouldn’t be dropping matches given his building feud with Thatcher.

Unfortunately “Speedball” Mike Bailey couldn’t make it this weekend, so Jack Gallow took his place against “All Ego” Ethan Page. Bailey was impressive in previous appearances so his absence was disappointing, but Gallow was fine and Page looked good in what was almost a squash to establish Page’s new outlook is starting to work.

 

Drew Gulak vs. Fred Yehi felt a bit slow to me, but was well worked overall. I’m not sold on Yehi yet. He’s not bad but there just seems to be something missing from his matches. Nothing wrong here, but nothing great either.

The show picked up in a big way with Chris Hero vs Tracy Williams. Hero quite honestly came out looking huge, but he’s lost none of his speed or mobility so all it really did was make his sentons and William’s power moves look more impressive.

Hero is crazy over and Williams desperately trying to prove he could hang made for a great in ring story (although perhaps not the best position to put a heel in). They built this into a frenzy and topped it all off with and insane exchange of piledrivers. This was neck and neck for best match of the night with Sabre vs Gargano.

Next up was The PAB (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley) vs Team Tremendous (Dan Barry & Bill Car). Nese and Konley looked better than they have in a while, clicking on all cylinders and keeping the pace brisk without sacrificing their heel heat. Andrea was great in SoCal Val’s usual role on the outside cheering them on and objecting to everything the faces did.

 

Team Tremendous looked good too put on a fun match with the PAB. More questionable booking though. Team Tremendous are around 50-50 in their short stay in Evolve and don’t seem like a credible threat to Gargano and Galloway going into their title match tomorrow. If they do upset the champs it will feel like a fluke. On top of that the last time we saw Konley he said tag matches don’t matter and he was focused on the Evolve singles title. More on that later. Just weird all around. Sometimes the obvious result is the right one.

Best In The World Challenge Series – The WWN Icon: Johnny Gargano vs Zack Sabre Jr.

The more I talk with other fans the more I notice a divide on Sabre’s work. Most like it, but there are a fair number within that who don’t quite “get” the style and are waiting for his matches to “hit another gear.” They don’t always build into a frenzy of high impact moves like others (Hero’s for example). They get more intense in brutality of the holds being applied and the single minded will to win on display. Personally I love it and Sabre vs Thatcher was one of my favorite matches last year.

This match had similar qualities, and the story revolved around Zach RELENTLESSLY going after Gargano’s arm until the centerpiece of Evolve just couldn’t escape and couldn’t take anymore pain. The counter wrestling on display was glorious, and I loved every minute of this. The crowd was pretty loud and into it, but again I think some fans are still adjusting to Sabre’s style. Huge win for him to start out his “challenge series.”

After the match Sabre left and Gargano was attacked by the PAB during a promo. It was “just a reminder that we’re still coming for the tag titles.”  With Galloway absent Ethan Page made the save with a chair to continue his redemption / unasked for aid to Gargano story.

The Page part works fine, but after building Konley’s frustration up regarding it taking so long for his singles title shot, having him previously state he doesn’t care about tag victories, and with his Evolve Title shot the NEXT NIGHT,  him taking a night off from his obsession to suddenly care about tag team wrestling again knocks a lot of steam out of his quest.

Evolve Title Match: Timothy Thatcher (c) vs Matt Riddle

I adore Timothy Thatcher’s style and was looking forward to this battle with the undefeated Matt Riddle. Riddle is extremely over as a heel and the crowd was chomping at the bit to see Thatcher finally get his hands on the upstart in a one-on-one environment.

This was incredible while it lasted. Riddle kept countering Thatcher’s grappling enough to get on top and then pounded away with forearms and elbows until Thatcher could turn things around again. He’d then suddenly switch to suplexes and throws to try to wear Thatcher out. Thatcher in turn just kept going straight at Riddle like a pit bull.

The drawback here was just as they really seemed to get going the match ended. The finish was so abrupt several fans around me (including myself) thought Riddle had legitimately been knocked loopy off the headbutt Thatcher delivered. Reading results from people watching it on ippv it seems there was actually some sort of (inadvertent?) low blow involved in the finish, which would better explain Gulak getting in Thatcher’s face and calling him a disgrace after the match. No one in my general area caught the low blow so there was a lot of confusion about the finish. Likely (and understandably) done to protect Riddle, but something clearer and more of a match before that ending would have been appreciated.

While Catch Point was arguing with Thatcher after the match Sami Callihan came in for another attack on the champ from behind. Williams then returned the favor on Callihan sending a message for their match the next day. I like the competitive spirit aspect, and I understand the crowd will always cheer for their favorites, but the mix of heel mannerisms and “face me like a man” sportsmanship ramblings several roster members use makes it hard to get into the overarching angles.

 

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Honored to meet one of the best in the business.

 

Overall

Evolve consistently puts on some the best displays of professional wrestling available anywhere in the world. Nothing is ever outright bad and the highs of each card are always raising the bar. The various stories are interesting, but there are issues with the booking that make it hard to get caught up in those stories sometimes. Still I always feel like I get my money’s worth (an often more) from Evolve’s shows, and I highly recommend checking this one out for a pair of excellent matches and an unique if short main event.

Japan Crate March 2016 Review

March is here and so is another box of snacks and treats from Japan.

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As usual Japan Crate includes a booklet / mini-manga that explains what everything is and has various additional content.

The Excellent

Yuki No Yado Chips are said to be a rice cracker variation and have a “snow-like” frosting. The balance of sweet and salty is perfect and this was easily my favorite snack this time.

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The first of several great crunchy chocolate treats this month was Furuta Dodeka Bar, one of the Premium exclusives. Fantastic 10 inch candy bar resembling a lighter textured Nestle Crunch.

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The Premium bonus item was Sakupan Land chocolate covered cookies. Each was printed with a different panda face. They came in almond cream, caramel chocolate, and dark chocolate. I got the dark chocolate version and they were delicious. In the same vein and equally tasty were 7 Stick Choco Cream, a batch of seven chocolate filled crunchy wafers.

 

The Decent

Fue Ramune have consistency similar to mint lifesavers (though “break” easier when chewed) and taste strongly of the named drink. They are shaped to create a whistling sound and come with a mini toy for added amusement.

Three more varieties of Umaino Sticks included this month. All three (teriyaki, corn potage, and pizza) were good and tasted reasonably like their advertised flavor.

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Two Yaokin Roll Candies were included: strawberry and green apple. These were sweet, sticky versions of fruit roll ups. I preferred the strawberry, but both were good and had decent flavor to them.

The Premium drink was either Sangaria Ume Soda or Yogu Time. I got the yogurt drink in orange flavor. It’s a nice, light drink, somewhat reminiscent of Sunny Delight with a creamier taste.

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My Kasugai Gummy flavor was pineapple, so along with the Pine-ame Gummy I got two types of such flavored gummy candies this month. They had slightly different texture and flavor, and made a nice contrast. The other possible Kasugai Gummy flavors were lychee, peach, and ramune.

The Meh

There were two possible DIY Kits this month, and I got Choco Kinako Mochi DIY. I have to say I didn’t care for the kinako, and the rehydrated mochi pellets could have been better. I do appreciate it’s inclusion as something unique and different, regardless of not liking it personally.

 

Conclusion

I’m impressed with the number of different flavors and variations possible in this month’s crate. It adds to the surprise and fun. The snacks themselves were largely great, and this was possibly the best crate I’ve gotten yet.

Sci-Fi Block March 2016 Review

Sci-Fi block is the newest edition to the Nerd Block family. Being a fan of the genre I decided to give it a try, although apparently I was under misconceptions about my options should I decide I preferred one of their other offerings.

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The products of the month are a Doctor Who lunchbox and cup. I adore the idea of the items, but the property does nothing for me so these are kind of wasted potential in my case.

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On the other hand I am a rather big fan of The Fifth Element, so the “classic style” Leeloo action figure and multipass (!!!) amuse me greatly. There were three other possible figures. The multipass comes with sticker that can be filled in with your own info if you’d like. Love it.

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I collect keychains and the three possible Guardians of the Galaxy Pocket Pop! all looked good. Pleased that I got Dancing Groot though. Can’t complain about the high quality of the art print showcasing Kenner’s original Boba Fett figure, although it’s not something I’m likely to display.

 

The T-Shirt this month is an amusing mash up design featuring Rock’Em Sock’Em Terminators.

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Conclusion

Sci-Fi block is decent enough, with a nice variety of items and properties. I seem to have started at the wrong time though, because I am not personally a fan of Doctor Who and not only were this month’s featured items related but more Doctor Who merchandise is advertised for next month. My personal inclination is to switch to Arcade Block, but I found out Sci-Fi Block is not included in the allowable subscription switching for some reason (despite costing exactly as much as the ones that are).

Don’t misunderstand, this is a good block that will certainly be worth it for most sci-fi fans (and I liked it considerably more than the classic Nerd Block). I’m just lukewarm on a couple of the big properties they’re likely to include. I’m happy enough with this box, but not sure I want to gamble on future ones. Might suspend my subscription until they let me change it. We’ll see.

Gimmick! Volume 3 Review

This volume directly continues a previously started arc and builds off of established characters and events. Better to start reading at the beginning.

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This volume starts with the conclusion (parts 5 and 6) of the Over the Rainbow arc started in volume 2. Solid wrap up with a nice look at Kohei’s background to boot.

The majority of the remainder of this book contains parts 1-5 of another long arc, TB Confidential. Kohei finds himself leaving his comfort zone to use his skills as an unlikely bodyguard for a friend of Mone’s. Kanari’s doing a great job with these longer stories, keeping them intriguing and varying the ways Kohei’s skills come into play. The stakes keep escalating as well, giving the entire manga nice progression.

Finally there’s a two-part “Special One Shot Story” named after the manga’s title. It’s a fun side story that backs a couple nice twists for such a short tale and really highlights Kohei’s skills.

I’m really enjoying Gimmick!’s unique setting and Kohei’s adventures. Will definitely be reading more.

Ghost Hunt Volumes 6 & 7 Review

Ghost Hunt focuses on a core cast, but they do a good job of hitting each character’s main abilities and each story stands pretty well on their own. Volume 6 would be an ok place to start reading if you didn’t want to go back to volume 1.

I’m reviewing these two volumes together because they form one complete 10-part arc. Naru and his acquaintances are called to investigate mysterious disappearances in an old mansion. It would be a disservice to the suspense of the story get into plot details, but I can say that it builds nicely and never feels slow despite its length. Important bits of character development are worked in seamlessly, and the creepiness is off the charts. The supporting cast could’ve been used and fleshed out a bit more, but keeping the focus firmly on our main cast and the mystery they’re investigating isn’t really a negative.

Excellent atmosphere and progression in Ghost Hunt’s longest arc yet, keeping this engaging and gripping for two full volumes. This series is a must read for those who can handle disturbing tales of the supernatural.