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.