Bleach continues to impress, as Academia reminds me that people’s motivations in manga can be confusing. Food Wars ends this week with yet another pot-sticker cliffhanger (because that's a sentence that makes sense, yay manga!). In all seriousness, a continuing strong point of this series is its ability to take us into a major moment for the story and its characters and yet somehow have all of our attention focused on what alterations Soma is going to make to his stuffed chicken wings. Just think about that: I care about this guy's chicken wings because I'm worried about the fate of his dorm, his friends in the dorm, the woman he's trying to save, and, generally, I'm worried about everyone's future. And yet the Shokugeki serves as a place to distill all this intrigue and conflict in such a way that I get educated about and fascinated by various foods and the cleverness with which Soma cooks them. To have so much narrative weight hinge on a chicken wing and have the story actually deliver is fairly ridiculous, but very cool.
Kubo's current work on Bleach has quickly become one of the weekly things that I can't shut up about. His title pages are visually stronger at this point than other entire comics that I read. Kubo has spent so much time meandering and making up wacky shit and wasting these characters that it seems shocking how strong his grasp is of who they are. But the knack for simple, powerful, visual symbolism that has defined the last few chapters in particular is demonstrating both that he knows these characters and he knows what he wants to say about their identities--their strengths, weaknesses, histories, failures, aspirations--and their relationships with each other. There is so much room to understand things like love and regret through the manner in which Kubo has taken to silently stalking through his depiction of these scenes.
Despite my consistent praise of Academia, there are conceptual high and low points for me. For instance, the explanation of the difference between All-Might's "One-for-All" power and the contrastingly villainous "All-for-One" power. Even if it's a tad on-the-nose (good guys are selfless, bad guys are greedy), it's a powerful conceptual centerpiece for the series. More than that, by actually going the extra step and making these concepts into powers with powerful figures attached (not to mention the relationship the good power has to the bad power and vice versa), Horikoshi demonstrates why Japanese superhero stories are more popular than many others: concepts gain life in their characters. These characters actually think about what it is that they do. They struggle through it. Not just for a story arc, but always.
Anyway, that's all an example of a conceptual high. A low for me happened in the recent issues with Shigaraki. Sometimes, there will be character moments in manga that just don't make sense to me. It's not a translation issue, but it's sort of the flip-side of the above plus-side of Japanese comics: the creators sometimes build so much thought into their characters that the characters psych themselves into things that just don't make sense to me. Case in point, Shigaraki's obsession with the fact that he differs ideologically from the hero-killer Stain... it just doesn't make sense to me. Stain's purpose is singular, but sort of vague. Shigaraki is depicted as being more aimless in his villainy than Stain, but it's not as if Shigaraki hasn't been pretty obsessed with killing All-Might.