Anytime a manga, anime, or other series does something you don’t anticipate, weren’t prepared for, or goes in a direction you don’t want, it quickly becomes a shocking or sensitive subject. What suddenly becomes more important than the actual developments is how this delicate topic is handled and what satisfaction or salvation can be gained by those in disagreement to what’s happening. The events of Needless Chapter 102 were able to solve most of these issues but not all of them. **Warning: spoilers below**
With the sheer amount of plot developments in recent chapters, especially the last 4, it’s almost certain that some readers and followers of the manga would be disturbed or in disagreement with what’s progressed. Fans of Teruyama or Aruka may have been horrified with what’s happened to these enjoyable characters. Others, including myself, weren’t prepared for Cruz to develop and demonstrate his Fragment so readily. And again, others may find minor details in the story or presentation that irritate them in some way or another. The mentality of the manga has swiftly reformed over the course of the City arc, becoming more meaningful, significant, and exposing or answering a number of questions and mysteries than any other arc in the manga. By covering this number of sensitive topics, the manga is becoming simultaneously more enjoyable but also causing some ambivalence.
However, the way Needless has handled these sensitive topics and complex subjects has been largely agreeable or, at a minimum, acceptable. For me, the development and progression of Cruz’s Fragment has been the most delicate topic for me since I always enjoyed the fact that the main character of Needless was a spectator who was able to influence the overpowered fighters around him through other means. Additionally, there’s never really been a fighting manga like this where the main character isn’t a combatant, yet he does his best to help everyone around him. I always thought that made Needless special to me. But as you already, there were a hefty number of unexplained events in Cruz’s life that would be inconsistent or irrational with no explanation. And we know from reading the previous chapters that Cruz has a Fragment and has always had one despite it being underdeveloped and unobserved throughout the series. And what Chapter 102 was able to do was present Cruz using his Fragment, Shield of Aegis, in a live battle situation that resulted in him fighting against a Needless on equal terms and subsequently saving the friends that he loves and admires. Given what we’ve seen in these chapters, I can’t help but feel satisfied with how this sensitive issue was dealt with, though I doubt I ever will be completely content with how everything happened.
What I find most acceptable about the disclosure and explanation to Cruz’s Fragment is that it is not a sudden, Deus-ex-machina addition to the series but it’s always been present in the series and been shown in notable moments and incredibly subtle contexts, too. The fact that Chapter 101 went over every detail of Cruz’s ability made me realize that this had always been a part of the story but it was never acknowledged by anyone, character or reader alike, until everything was pieced together. Perhaps my favorite part of the explanation was the fact that Cruz deflected an attack in the background panel of a battle, yet it never received any recognition or curiosity by anyone. And using that as proof is simply phenomenal since it was in the manga for such a long time but no one bothered to make a deal about it until last month’s chapter. For that, I can’t help but admire the way the development has progressed and how it was a part of the manga since the very beginning.
Chapter 102 was able to show Cruz continue to struggle with his Fragment, unable to manually control it and participate in battle to save his comrades. It wasn’t until the situation become extremely dire, after all his friends had sustained damage, that Cruz was able to manifest his power in a useful way. Being able to recall the Shield of Aegis and save the party from annihilation is a useful way to show the power develop since there has been no time for Cruz to practice on his own and it was used in a meaningful situation in the manga. It is a bit cliché for it to happen like this, but after seeing Cruz being protected for 100 chapters by his friends, seeing him take the initiative to strike in battle (something we’ve seen twice before against Hatfield and Strom), it almost feels like a capstone to Cruz’s development as a character. Another satisfying moment was that Disk immediately used Scan to read Cruz and gather information on him, something that I dreaded would be forgotten or ignored given how it evaded Disk for so long. Given the careful and detailed explanations, shown various degrees of evidence, and then quickly answering the mystery of ‘what is Cruz’s Fragment?’ all have lead me to be satisfied with the presentation of Cruz’s ability.
What’s more is that I feel there’s some level of incompleteness in this presentation, almost like the mangaka, Imai Kami, is attempting to trick us again like he did throughout the entire series with Cruz’s Fragment. Given what we’ve seen and Disk’s explanation through Scan, Shield of Aegis allows Cruz to neutralize attacks in the direction of his hand. That, however, doesn’t explain everything that’s happened to him in the manga. As we’ve seen before with Aruka’s second attempted murder of Cruz, back in the Third Shelter, Cruz’s arm was outstretched and it stopped Aruka. However, there was no display of any power or anything when it happened, though it does match the profile of the Fragment to some degree. But what about when Cruz feel into St. Rose and survived the fall from the cliff? It wasn’t an attack that Cruz was blocking when he created a crater on the ground. Or more recently, what about surviving Arclight’s Agnishwattas when his arms were pinned down to the examination table? Furthermore, it wasn’t that the attack was neutralized but reflected, not to mention the strength to break free from his bondage nor rationalize the change in the color of his eyes. I believe the explanation we received here was able to satisfy all our immediate questions about Cruz but not answer every question about Cruz. After seeing Imai Kami deceive us throughout the entire manga, even with a considerable amount of hints and clues, I can’t help but imagine he wants to believe this is all there is to the Fragment and become vulnerable to more surprised and developments down the road. I want to believe he gets enjoyment out of shocking his fans and I can’t help but feel that these events here are a part of trying to set up another round of revelations and astonishments again soon. There’s much more to Cruz than the simple explanation of Shield of Aegis, so there’s still an unknown level of development for Cruz to attain as the series progresses. And in that, I can find enjoyment of seeing Cruz development more as a character and now, after years of wishing and hope, as a Needless, too.
That being said, there have been other changes recently, too. The manga has seen a considerable drop in its staple of comedy but it’s replaced it with some fairly decent action and an unprecedented level of fanserivce. It almost feels a bit like the opposite of the previous arc, Memory arc or Eve’s Story, which had quite a bit of dialogue without too much action and almost no fanservice (probably about one pantyshot from Cruz per chapter). The City arc has almost been entirely comprised of action or fighting and, with both Cruz and Disk having their skirts destroyed and Eve wearing the standard length but participating in battle, there are no less than multiple pantyshots per page. It is rather amusing to think that the most important and momentous chapters of the manga are also the ones with the most fanservice, though I assume it’s to make up for the lack of comedy and gags recently.
And with the chapter ending with the defeat of the enemies and ultimately answering all the immediate questions about Cruz and his friends, it allows the start of the next chapter to be free to choose wherever it wants. Without a resolution to the two other concurrent battles, I can’t help but imagine the manga will jump to those brawls to wrap them up before returning to Cruz’s party. It also allows the manga to jump around to some of the other characters as well, including Arclight who has the second datachip or Saten who’s had extensive interest in Cruz throughout the entire manga. Similarity, there’s a number of other topics that need expansion on, too, such as the 12 Stigmata, the recent warfare in Blackspot, anything related to the cloning, and Arclight’s ultimate goals. Whatever happens next is sure to be exciting.
#1 by Soji on May 31, 2012 - 10:18 AM
As always good work. I find myself agree with everything you say. The only thing is about Cruz fragment,because I always want he gain one. I mean he always want power to help the other and don’t feel useless anymore. Even if we and most of the character know that this was no the case. So i was pretty happy(like you know) that he gain his power. Though,like you say i’m pretty sure there is more than what we just see.And now will be interesting to see what route the author will take with the next ch. We will continue to follow Blade ,Cruz,Eve and Disk or we will finally see what happen in the other fight? The author really have many route that he can follow from the next ch and will be really interesting see the one he will chose.
#2 by avvesione on May 31, 2012 - 12:54 PM
Yeah, based off our small Needless community, I feel as I was one of the few who wanted Cruz to remain powerless throughout the series but still to affect every battle in his own unique way. It would’ve made Needless more distinctive by having the protagonist be the only one without a superhuman power. But the series didn’t need Cruz to stay like that and has actually surpassed my expectations on how its handled and shown Cruz’s development here (which was my topic here). I’m thrilled with what we’ve seen thus far about Cruz and only excited to see what else we’ll learn before the manga is over.
As for where the next chapter will start, I’m hoping we get back to the other fights soon since those were actually pretty exciting and both had a number of interesting developments each (Stigmata and the Angel’s hand), so that’s where I’m hoping the story starts up next. If not, then I hope we get some insight on how they’re doing right now since it’s been so long.
#3 by Skieth on June 1, 2012 - 6:53 AM
Another very nice chapter review. I was initially a little put off by this chapter, Kami’s had a few gruesome deaths involving young girls in this series, and I always find that a bit hard to look at. Once I read the chapter though, I was quite pleased how it turned out. The two army’s were enough of a threat to bring our hero’s to the edge of defeat, and as you stated Cruz’s power was extremely well managed. It’s interesting to note how he went from the absolute depression of feeling useless at the start of the arc, to the ecstasy of joy he experienced at being able to fight alongside his friends. I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll further develop his powers, and what new abilities he learns.
I’m also hoping we’ll be getting back to the others next chapter. Very curious to know what’s been happening to all of them, especially the trio fight, and the outcome of Seto’s fight. Hoping that they will be able to meet up with the others, I’d very much like to see everyone’s expression when they find out Cruz has a power, especially Mio’s.
#4 by avvesione on June 1, 2012 - 11:42 PM
The changes Cruz has gone through, even from the start of this arc to the current chapter are overwhelming but the nice thing about this arc is that even with that depression and hopelessness, he still decided to act on his own, survive all the obstacles, and make his way to the Simeon HQ with only the confidence he’s developed throughout the manga. Cruz’s development is literally one of the best things about Needless, it’s rare to see a character change so much AND have it be done so well for so long. This chapter handled it perfectly.
And yeah, it is a bit sad to see young characters die the way they do but given the violence/gore in Needless and the amount of girls, it’s bound to overlap sometime, though I think these are the youngest victims in the series (younger than the 4 Killer Girls who have died).
And yeah, I never thought it about, but seeing everyone’s reaction to Cruz’s ability will be amazing material to see, both in terms of development and definitely comedy.
#5 by John Sato on September 2, 2012 - 7:18 AM
Cruz getting powers *is* a bit of a “sensitive issue” to me, as you put it. On one hand, I love the fact that he’s gotten a power. I like how you put it, a “capstone” of his character growth. Cruz has earned this. He deserves it. And for that, I’m totally happy. But on the other hand, one of the coolest things about Needless is that it had a character without superpowers fighting people with superpowers, and it did it extremely well. It was almost like every fight had two components: the mental one, figuring out how the enemies’ powers worked and how to exploit them, and the physical one. Cruz had always been the main “fighter” in the mental one, with Disc occasionally backing him up. What made him special is that he wasn’t. He was the only one who fought exclusively in the mental component, and he had no powers or ability to fight in the physical one. He was a specialist, not an all-arounder, and the fact that he now has the ability to “fight” fight rubs me the wrong way just a little. So, I feel like him getting powers makes Needless lose a little bit of what made it so unique.
Then again, I found this entire chapter extremely *satisfying*, because it was like Cruz was finally a part of the “team.” Even though he was before this and everybody (both the characters and the audience) recognized that, it felt like they were saying, “You’ve really come far, Cruz, and we acknowledge that. Come fight [physically] with us.” And I found that pretty dang awesome on a purely emotional and fan level. Also, I found that last panel genuinely endearing. So overall…I guess I’m okay with it. I would have been just as if not more fine if he *didn’t* get any powers, but I do like him having them at the same time.
Excellent write up as always, Avv.
#6 by avvesione on September 6, 2012 - 11:33 PM
I feel exactly the same way as you did about Cruz, especially that uniqueness and innovation on his behalf by fighting without any fragment or physical assets. He proved his worth through his mental capacity, one that surpassed everyone around him and helped his friends win their fights. But now, it feels a bit awkward and lessens the significance and distinctiveness of his character by being this way. But still, I’m glad everything happened the way it did because he deserves it. After all he’s been through and wanting one for the entire series, it’s about time he gets something so important to him. That and it’s a way he can pay back Blade and Eve for everything they’ve done for him. I think I’d still prefer it the former way, without a fragment, but this is able to provide him with some growth and development that would otherwise be impossible without it. It may be a sensitive subject for us, but I believe it’s for the best.
And yeah, that last page was great; absolutely love the humor in Needless.