Cruz’s evolution from a timid and frightened coward to a courageous and accomplishing hero has been a lengthy and challenging process. But his positive growth throughout the series, especially from Chapter 50 onward (or about where the anime diverted and made its own conclusions), is undeniable. And the opening scene of Chapter 95 is a perfect snapshot on how far our protagonist has come.
When we first saw Cruz, he was a terrified weakling, dependent on everyone around him and unable to act on his own. This was most evident early on when he readily relied on his sister whenever adversity showed its face. Even after she was gone in the opening moments of the manga, Cruz still relied on her heavily, often holding his locket (with a picture of her) close and crying. Under the care (or often carelessness) of Blade and Eve, Cruz began to grow, helping participate in battles anyway he could but often only helping through his unrivaled intelligence. But throughout the beginning of the manga, Cruz was entirely dependent upon everyone around him.
What forced him to change the greatest was Arclight’s Eden Seed release in Chapter 50 (unfortunately not in the anime), the blast that separated everyone from each other. From that point, Cruz was alone and reverted back to his fearful and cowardice self that we’ve come to expect. It’s then when Mio, still a dangerous enemy, came to help him. Mio’s positive support of Cruz helped build some confidence in our young hero and helped him start on the process of gathering his friends back together. Still a nervous weakling, Cruz relied on Mio for many things but not everything and began taking the initiative to solving his own problems. And even though he wasn’t capable, he began trying which is a huge step considering what he was like before.
As Cruz adventured through Blackspot, gathering his friends and making new ones, his confidence began to build and he began to hesitate less. Since the Bloody Rain arc (or Moustache arc, whatever you like) Cruz has taken been the one who steps up to save those around him, even if they are Needlesses or even if he’s up against Needlesses. His actions became bold, often times willing to sacrifice his own life to save others. The last heroic moment we saw was in the Eve Story arc when he stepped in front of Strom’s attack to save shounen Blade. It’s been an amazing transformation to see Cruz slowly change over all these chapters and I thought that was the pinnacle of his growth. But this chapter showed that he’s gone to a level higher and perhaps still has room to grow.
Chapter 95 (probably wondering when I’d get around to this) started out with the City district being bombarded by airships and Cruz struggling to save his life. When he finally arrived at a safe platform, he noticed a stranger falling to her death, so our heroic Cruz reached out and pulled her to safety. It is here we see some new progress for Cruz. He never hesitated when reaching out to save that woman. Every instance prior, Cruz usually thinks about the situation, relying on his intelligence, before acting. It’s this hesitation, that dependence on his intelligence, that he’s growing out of. Had he hesitated, even just the slightest, she would’ve fallen to her death. But Cruz acted and pulled her to safety. Even though it’s only a minor scene and not even the main purpose of the scene, it’s an improvement on Cruz’s character to see him selflessly and quickly act to help others. Additionally, his determination to scale the wall in this City district is something that the old Cruz would never have been able to do. His old self would’ve lacked the willpower to scale the wall to save his life or mourn the death of the innocent citizens around him. Instead, we saw a fearless Cruz do whatever it needed to survive his brutal onslaught. It’s in these moments we can truly see how far Cruz has come, from a panicky coward to a courageous her.
Overall the chapter turned out pretty well. The scene depicted above focused more on Cruz realizing the City was not as good as he originally thought rather than what I wrote about. The next scene was the beginning of the next battle, although it looks like Seto and Solva are going to handle this by themselves and Blade and Eve are going to adventure onward. It contained the only comedy in this chapter, which I always appreciate and enjoy, so it may have been my favorite part of this new chapter. The final scene showed Cruz enter in a branch of Simeon where there are some pretty shocking material. I’ll leave that to you when you read the chapter yourself.
Additionally, this happens to mark the 10 year anniversary for Imai Kami with Ultra Jump, the magazine that publishes Needless, so there are some nice articles in there as well as a bonus color image with most of the main ‘good’ characters. Nice to see Setsuna, Mio, and Kuchinashi again, even if it’s just for a bonus like this.