how would you recommend learning how to break/perform manuals more efficiently?

Performing manuals is a bit tricky, especially if you don't have experience using links from other fighting games. My best advice would be to start by trying to do light manuals after heavy linkers, since this is the largest timing window possible. Since the timing for performing manuals varies depending on which special move you are using as a linker (for example, doing a manual after Jago's wind kick linker is quite late, while doing it after Jago's laser sword linker is earlier), practicing light manual after heavy linker should give you a good sense of when the manual timing window is. After you get decently good at this, do the heavy linker again and simply try pressing a medium button instead of light. If your timing is good, it will just work automatically, because the timing window hasn't changed. If it doesn't work, you know that the medium move's slightly slower startup is the only difference, which means you're probably only 1 or 2 frames off, so try adjusting your timing very very slightly.
As for how to break manuals, it's really difficult to do on reaction, so the best advice I have is to just try to notice your opponent's patterns. If you're able to recognize the linker strength, you can narrow down your choices for guessing, but that might open you up to being locked out because the opponent tries an auto-double. A better idea is to try to break the linker before the manual, since it is usually easier to recognize the strength of linkers. If you notice that your opponent always does a certain manual after a certain linker, though, you can try to break it, although long term the game makes sure that you can't have as much success breaking manuals as you will by trying to break other parts of a combo. Practicing manuals yourself will gain you the same advantage over your opponent when you hit them, so they're definitely worth bringing into your game.

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New to KI, got it because of the sale. Reading your guide, wondering what "shadow OK" means? It's used in the context of linkers or openers or enders, but I don't know what OK is abbreviating?

It just means "also applies to the shadow version of this move". For example, a damage ender could be the normal version or the shadow version, so I'd list it as "Tiger Fury (shadow OK)". You'll also see "air OK" elsewhere, which means "this move can also be done in the air".

Poor noob here, playing on a 360 pad on Steam. I prefer the PS4 controller (tho I don't own one) for its superior d-pad, and know I should get an arcade stick. Until I can afford either a PS4 controller or arcade stick, should I avoid QC input characters and stick to Wulf, Riptor, etc? Thanks!

Lots of people do quarter circles on 360 pads just fine, so I wouldn't use that as a reason to avoid QC characters. If you find it impossible to do and you like a back-forward character, then go ahead and play them, but I wouldn't avoid QC characters because of your controller.

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I'm wondering about maximizing meter gain for characters without a battery ender. During a combo, does the attacker gain meter more or less proportionally to damage dealt? Or is the game biased towards some moves gaining more shadow meter per damage dealt than others?

I think it is character dependent, I don't think there is a standard for whether a move gains more meter in a combo because it does less damage.
That said, most combos don't build a ton of shadow meter; to verify this, just look at the meter you build when you are comboing someone after round 1, you usually only get about 20% of one bar for the entire combo of heavy autos and linkers. So whatever advantage might exist on a per-move basis is going to be pretty minimal.
In general, the best way to build meter for characters without battery enders is to make them block moves in neutral. You get more meter if your move was blocked than if it hits, and this is especially true of projectiles. So someone like Mira, who has no battery ender, builds a ton of meter because she is constantly making you block st.MP xx light bats, and this string (and others) just generates a ton of meter for her.

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Great work on the guide man! I was wondering now that the Rash beta has ended, what did you think about the character? Does his moveset need anything and if so, what?

I think he's a very well animated character! I didn't get to play him very much unfortunately, but I do know his moveset will be tricky to balance (characters with air mobility usually are), so I look forward to seeing what they do with the zipline/tongue move in particular.

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Thank you for answering the question on cinder but I am confused because the shadow fission is then breakable. I read on hisako's page that her 2 hit into shadow is unbreakable damage that leads to a combo. Why is it different for cinder because his shadow follow up is always breakable.

I rewrote my combo breaker page just the other day (so check it out if you like), but KI's combo breaker system starts to work every time you get hit by a special move. So, Inferno is a special move, so anything you try after it becomes breakable, including cancels and stuff.
Hisako (and Orchid) have rekkas that are really... weird. They don't trigger the "this is a special move" until the 3rd hit, so you can do raw 2 hit rekka into shadow move and this is not breakable because the game thinks you haven't done a special move until the shadow move. On the other hand, if you do a normal canceled into 2 hits of rekka and then further canceled into a shadow move, THIS becomes breakable because of the 3-Move Rule (check my rewritten combo breaker page: http://ki.infil.net/cbreaker.html); the normal is your first move, "2 hits of rekka" is your second move, and the shadow is the 3rd move. The game still thinks you haven't done an opener or you haven't done a special move, but the 3-Move Rule catches this specific case.
I will go through my Hisako page and make sure that I make clear what is and isn't breakable about 2 hits of rekka into shadow move... it's possible I have some misinformation here.

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Could you include a section on each character that explains how best to fight AGAINST that character. I'd love to know each character's weaknesses, the best counters to certain moves, the proper way to deal with certain kinds of pressure, etc. Thanks!

Hopefully there is a bit of that scattered in each of the pages already! But ideally, yeah, it'd be cool to have a section like that on each character page. Unfortunately it's a ton of work, but I'll keep that in mind if I have some time in the future for expanding the guide at all!

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This is a cinder related question. There is this odd thing about inferno that I have noticed. It is not an opener but can combo into shadow moves. If I do a full range inferno into shadow fission on hit Cinder teleports over to the opponent. The shadow is breakable. Isnt it the opener for that?

Yeah, some special moves can't be canceled into linkers/auto-doubles, but CAN be canceled into shadow moves (and then these shadow moves can be openers if you want). Inferno is like that for Cinder but it's not the only move in the game like that. Orchid/Hisako can do the same after 1st or 2nd hits of their rekka specials, Aria can do the same after medium Allegro in blade body, most characters can cancel their fireballs into shadow openers, etc.
Inferno is a little unique because you MUST cancel into shadow inferno/fission in order to continue the combo (you can't do a manual after it or continue the combo any other way), but it's not the only move in the game that isn't an opener but lets you cancel into shadow openers.

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I don't have KI to test this, but if you manual a special move, do you get the special linker version of the move or the neutral version? e.g. with orchid doing Ichi Ni San after a grenade hit in the middle of a combo. Was wondering if you could do unblockable rekka in middle of a combo

You get the neutral version, and it will be breakable via the same rules. You also get the neutral version if you do special moves directly after jump-ins (even though the jump-in is an opener, all special moves are links/manuals for some reason), which can make for some tricky break situations (if you do a shadow move, for instance, it's breakable but you get the "opener" version which might have different timing than the linker version).
You can do Orchid's rekka string as a manual in some situations, including as a link after grenade if you set it up correctly, but the unblockable HP one has a lot of startup and it never combos. But yes, you can try to reset with it.

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When you decide to crouch attack, do you instantly go through with the crouch attack start up frames (just crouch attack frames) or do you first have to crouch, go through the crouching frames and then add the crouch attack frames? (Crouch + Crouch attack frames)

Interesting question that I don't really know how to answer without recording footage at 60fps and doing a frame by frame comparison. My guess, however, is that if you manage to crouch on one frame and then press a button on the next frame, you will immediately go into the startup for your crouch attack and "cancel" however many frames are left on the crouching animation.

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