A Comparison of the Portrayal of Bullying in Anime

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I’ve really come to hate the word bullying. It isn’t just that acts described as bullying are morally repugnant, it is more that the term gets thrown around to cover everything from excluding someone, minor pranks, staring at them, talking behind their back, openly harassing them, directly sabotaging their person, profession or possessions, to full on violence and acts that most definitely should be classified as criminal assault and never be given the cop out title of ‘bullying’. Bullying has become a catch all phrase to cover all those things we dislike about societal living where we realise that while humans do like to herd together we don’t really like to herd with everyone and while teaching tolerance and acceptance are lovely ideals the evidence strongly suggests they haven’t gone that far in reversing this culture. It has also become the excuse as people try to excuse these vicious and horrendous acts as misguided rather than malicious.

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 31

But that’s all just my personal view on bullying and it is one of those major social issues that most societies need to take a long hard look at the causes and why on earth we allow people to get away with it and tolerate it as ‘a part of growing up’ or part of ‘workplace culture’. And that’s not really within my blog’s scope so instead I want to look at how bullying has been portrayed in anime.

This kind of got inspired by a recent episode of The Master of Ragnarok, of all things, as in this very ancient world our out of time protagonist has decided to develop a school system to educate his population and build skills for the next generation. Such an admirable goal and yet from opening we instantly have a situation where a slave girl is being excluded by the other girls in the class. The reason: the patriarch of the clan, our protagonist himself, took her to school on the first day and dared to pay attention to her. I mean, how dare he. Such an unforgivable act being taken to school by someone who cares about you.

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 8

This episode moved me to title the episode review Create School, Create School Bullying and I realised after writing the episode review how I genuinely believe that these days bullying is ingrained in pretty much every institution despite decades of anti-bullying policies and ‘education’. There are a huge number of societal factors at work that drive this but anyone who has been to a school or workplace knows full well that bullying, in one form or another is prevalent there.

Then I started thinking about how this episode portrayed bullying. Effie, the slave girl, has so far been portrayed as a victim. At no point has she been seen in any other light. We met her when Yuuto, our wonderfully kind protagonist, came across Effie and her mother in the market place being sold as slaves. While creating sweeping social reform like universal education is easily enough done off-screen in the space of an episode, apparently ending institutional slavery isn’t and so rather than address the issue of the people suffering, he buys them and gives them jobs at the palace. At least I assume that’s where the mother is working because we never see her again.

Instead we see Effie getting dragged into the harem even though she does not fit there. They dragged her to the hot springs which sounds nice but then she was subjected to watching all the other girls flaunt their superior relationship with their ‘father’ while she was isolated and fairly uncomfortable with the situation. While she’s invited to eat with them, it is only after she’s delivered the food and after Yuuto has personally requested it. Effie remains on the outside of this harem at every turn separated by a class divide that no amount of ‘kindness’ is going to bridge.

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 8

So by the time we see Effie feeling pretty miserable about being ignored at school we as an audience already have it in our heads that Effie is a victim. And while at first I thought she was being ignored because of her class, it turned out she was being ignored because of Yuuto’s attention and petty jealousy, which was just as bad really. By the time a third party intervened, Albertina, it was obvious that Effie was not going to take any action to resolve the situation, that the other students were happily observing a status quo they themselves had assisted in creating, and the teacher never even got screen time so who knows if they were even aware of the situation.

While it might seem cathartic that in this case Effie’s bullying issue is resolved, this representation of bullying is all kinds of problematic. It almost trivialises the problem. My main issue with it includes the fact that the victim is seen as utterly blameless but without agency. Effie did nothing to deserve being picked on, did not retaliate in any way or do anything to draw attention to herself.  She doesn’t even report the situation or mention being upset and it is only through Yuuto’s super sensitivity that anyone realises something is wrong.

But I also take issue with the very quick and easy resolution Albertina comes up with and how easily she reverses the situation. More importantly, solving one case of bullying through isolation by creating another doesn’t seem like much of an improvement. Maybe there will be some in the audience thinking ‘serve you right’ as the bully gets a taste of being ignored but switching the target from one character we like (or at least are supposed to) to another character isn’t really solving the problem so much as sweeping it under the rug. Then of course Effie does the sickly sweet thing and reaches out her hand to the former bully bringing her back into the group. Effie has just been victimised and hasn’t solved the problem on her own but has had someone else intervene on her behalf. There is no way she’s in a state to reach out to someone else.

Emotionally it just smacks of a desire for the show to finish off with this side show and move on. Which made me wonder why even address the issue at all – only that is all too easy to understand. Bullying is a universal and in Japan particularly it is something that is understood by pretty much anyone. If you ever want your isekai, military, harem story to ‘relate’ to your audience, throwing in a bullying subplot is one way to do it. Does it give this dire social issue the development it probably deserves? No. But it isn’t the main point of the story. So maybe this shallow dive approach is fine, only I just found it a little annoying.

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 27

I couldn’t help when watching this to compare it to Hina’s arc in March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2 from the beginning of the year. While watching that arc I felt it was such a great representation of bullying, and I still believe it is one of the best anime bullying arcs I’ve ever seen. There Hina is given agency as she actively takes steps to minimise the damage to first her friend and then herself. She eventually reaches out for help and while others certainly do play a part, Hina continues to have to stand on her own and fight (not physically).

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 34

We also see a teacher who has been destroyed by the weight of so many instances of bullying where there are no simple solutions that she ultimately has a full emotional collapse, and then we get the comparison to two other teachers. One takes over the class but has experience and a level head and addresses the problem head on. Even then it doesn’t instantly mend the damage but his actions create a space where the students can start to turn things around and at least he holds people accountable for their actions. The other is Rei’s teacher who listens to Rei as he vents about Hina’s situation and outlines the complexities even while feeling frustrated that there is little that he can practically do for either Rei or Hina. I do slightly object to the fact that the female teacher is portrayed as emotionally fragile and breaks under the pressure becoming hysterical where the two male teachers are more level headed about it, though realistically with only three teachers in play it is just nice that there was a mix of approaches to the issue and each one felt real in its own way. As in the audience might remember the teacher who was like A, B or C.

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 35

Bullying in March Comes in Like a Lion is treated with a great deal of respect and the ripples created by it in Hina’s life are observed as every character connected to her is impacted in some way by her situation. This arc is given an enormous amount of screen time and at times you could almost forget that this is Rei’s story as Hina and this situation takes centre stage, but it allows the situation to really be brought to life.

However, on reflection, I have to say that at least at the beginning Hina has the same issue Effie does. Hina is portrayed as the girl who did nothing wrong and just became the target. At all points throughout the arc Hina’s innocence and the unfairness of her situation are made clear to the audience. Where Hina becomes more palatable as a character is that she is given agency (even becoming the victim was a result of her standing up for another student) and that she doesn’t quietly accept it. She gets angry and she gets upset, even if she tries to hold those emotions in there are times when they explode.

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 36

Honestly, I’d love to see more series deal with bullying giving it the time and attention it needed to actually make it feel meaningful. I’d love to see more like March Comes in Like a Lion. I would really love to see bullying tackled by adult characters and more insidious forms of bullying on display rather than the overt cases on display here. Though more than anything, I’d love for societies to actually do something about this problem. What are your thoughts on bullying in anime?

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Karandi James
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March Comes in Like a Lion Akari Kawamoto
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Brotherhood of the World Award Part 3

I must be getting better at this as I definitely got this nomination turned around faster than most (or it could be that Steins;Gate didn’t air and I had some free time I wasn’t anticipating). Whichever way, I would like to thank Average Joe for the nomination.

Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the questions sent to you.
  • Nominate around 10 bloggers (3 is around 10).
  • Create your own set of questions for your nominees and display the rules.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8

Questions:

01. Which western produced cartoon do you think would work best in an anime format and why?

Does Archer count? I’m going to be honest, I don’t watch a lot of western produced cartoons nor do I really think things that aren’t anime need to be presented in anime format. Still, I think Archer could be kind of fun as an anime.

02. Which novel series do you want adapted into a movie or show?

I’d really love to see Tracy Hardings ‘The Ancient Future’ trilogy turned into at least a tele-movie at some point. It would be visually fantastic to see the story play out, though they would probably need to do some deep cutting of the plot to actually get it down to something manageable within a movie. That, and some of the stuff in the third book probably wouldn’t go over so well with a wider audience so might need to be hollywoodified to actually make it successful. Still, just the thought of seeing the characters brought to life would be pretty cool. If not this series, then I would have to say more or less any of David Eddings book series would make for a cool movie or TV show.

03. What candy is your favourite and why?

Do I just say chocolate? Actually, I’m pretty hooked on minties as well as m&m’s so maybe just anything with sugar counts.

04. What fictional universe would you most want to live in and why? P.S You would be integral to that universe.

Let’s go with Sword Art Online, because the plot armour is strong with that one for the main characters and that sounds good to me if I’m integral. Unless I’m the person who dies first to bring home the tragedy. Oh no.

05. In an essay of no more than 300 words, if there were any anime you wish had been written differently, what would you have written?

Let’s bring back Kado: The Right Answer.

Kado12c

Only this time, after the issue with the Wam is resolved through japan handing over the ones provided because they can make their own, instead of introducing further devices and the like, let’s actually just deal with the way unlimited power actually changes humanity. Also, let’s spend some episodes dealing with the clear change in Shindo due to the fact that he was the first human Yaha-Kui ZaShunina processed. And then, let’s not make ZaShunina some comically bad villain but let’s actually just have him be genuinely curious about humans will respond to these advances and changes.

And let’s erase the time travelling future daughter who deus ex machina’s the heck out of the ending. instead, let’s just see how Japan and the world progress, build a conflict between either nations or some kind of economic upheaval due to the new power source, and use that as the final boss to be overcome.

Seriously, up until the midway point this show was excellent. The next third was passable and the anime still could have pulled off its ending. The final third was a train wreck that should be destroyed.

06. Who’s your waifu or husbando and why?

I think I’m going to pass on this one. Though if you just want a crush, Sebastian always works for me.

Sebastian5

Nominations (feel free to pass):

Questions (same as for part one + 2):

  1. What would you most like to change about yourself or your life?
  2. If you could travel in time to the past but once you were there you had to stay, would you go and what time would you go to?
  3. What technology are you most excited about for the future?

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Karandi James

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8: Down Time

If this were still just Ton’s story, than episode 8 would seem relatively fillery and kind of like they were trying to drag out a plot to a set number of episodes. However with Shinyao and Chris still on the run and bad guys manoeuvring for position, while the action is largely off screen there’s still a sense of movement here.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8

I’m not entirely convinced by this episode given after elevating our heroine momentarily it now lays her out for an entire episode with amnesia and exhaustion. It might be worth noting that at least there was some genuine consequence to the sheer amount of power exerted in the battle of episode 7 and a welcome addition to the world building in Phantom in the Twilight, however given by the end of the episode they’d more or less completely backtracked on both the physical and mental marks of her struggle, I’m not 100% sold on that explanation. Ton’s condition does lend itself to the boys worrying about her and their personalities are on full display as they discuss and argue about what is best for Ton before each offering her comfort in their own way.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8

However, where Ton’s story was very much a time out for the team, Chris and Shinyao are very much still in the thick of things. I’d wondered earlier why they hadn’t just gone to Cafe Forbidden so it was nice when Shinyao finally raised the prospect and I kind of hope we’re finally getting to that point because keeping Shinyao away from Ton has been stretched almost as far as it can (though I did get worrying vibes of pitting the two against each other in the future and that would not be a pleasant development). However, where the scenes with Shinyao and with Haysin and the other villains succeeded was in convincing the viewers that this world is real (or at least close enough). The other characters don’t just stop what they are doing while Ton is lying around in bed. The world goes on whether the heroine is involved or not.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8

This wasn’t the best of episodes, but it did do some building on the world and characters and it has neatly set up future developments. Hopefully it manages to execute whatever choice it makes.

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Karandi James

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How Not To Summon A Demon Lord Episode 9: The Good, The Bad, and The Protagonist

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Episode 9 - Group hug

I kind of mentioned this in my post about anime angels and demons, but there are a lot of demon characters out there in anime that are portrayed as the lesser of two poor choices (if not actually the good guy). How Not To Summon a Demon Lord does one better with the paladins seeming like psychos, the actual demon lord an unknown boogeyman type character, and Diablo, the self-proclaimed demon lord, the character we’re supposed to rally behind.

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Episode 9 - Saddler

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord continues to introduce new characters even at episode 9 and I’m not entirely sure we needed that. There’s already a fairly rich cast and a clear set up for a final so Saddler coming in at this stage as the overly righteous Paladin didn’t really seem necessary. Whatever role he might be intended to play as an antagonist could easily have been fulfilled by Galford, but given how Saddler ends up this episode I’m not even sure if we’re supposed to count him as a reoccurring character or whether he was a villain of the week.

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There’s another sequence early in this episode where Diablo reaffirms that not everything is just like the game when Rem is teaching Shera how to summon. They are using a stone Diablo has never seen before and he certainly seems to be wondering just how the game and this world are related given the number of similarities but these ongoing discrepancies keep stacking up. Outside of that though, the whole summoning sequence just felt like down time and I’m not sure we gained all that much from the sequence.

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Episode 9 - Shera

Of course this show needed its dose of fan-service and this week we get that in the form of Shera and Rem taking a bath in a stream. There’s a particularly uncomfortable moment where Rem is doing something to Shera’s boobs that defies physics and common sense, however the sequence is fortunately brief before what’s-her-name the fallen shows up. Here Diablo is presented with a choice. He can trust the fallen and learn the spell to unseal the demon lord inside of Rem or he can decline her offer. Admittedly, he wants the demon lord out of Rem, but his confidence that he can definitely beat the demon lord seems a little mis-placed after he has realised not everything is just like the game.

How Not to Summon A Demon Lord Episode 9 Shera
The magic of anime hair, and sparkles.

Still, for what this show is, it remains remarkably fun to watch. I’m looking forward to what will happen next week with Rem and the spell and I have so far pretty much enjoyed most of what this show has on offer. The bits that miss their mark for me aren’t enough to detract from some of the strengths this anime has on display with its characters and ongoing plot.

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Karandi James

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The Isolator: Sect.002 The Igniter Light Novel Review: Crazed Villain Verses Super Powered Youngsters

Previously I reviewed Volume 1 of this series and was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the story was even if the villain seemed a little weak and the basic idea a little cliche. Alas, with the high cost of the hard cover volume, its been a fair while between books for me but volume 2 finally came down in price during a sale and so here we are. How did this book go?

Review:

While it was established in volume 1 that there was an organisation working with those who received jet-eyes to fight the menace of those with ruby-eyes, it never really felt overly real given we only saw the two agents and one was a fairly young girl. Still, volume 2 takes us into the organisation as Minoru begins his work for them in his quest to ultimately be forgotten by everyone.

The inherent paradox in making connections with people in order to sever your connection with the world is not lost on the characters either, though I will point out the overall lack of subtlety about Minoru’s personality and choices is probably one of the more grating aspects of this particular volume. While he remains an interesting enough protagonist and his goal, which is not to become the strongest, is at least novel, the execution and the way the plot forces him to still actually become the strongest in order to achieve that goal pretty much undermines any novelty that may have been found. That said, I quite like like him as the lead because I can kind of relate and despite gaining power and a sense of responsibility toward others, he isn’t abandoning his original ideals even if he is letting circumstance dictate some of his choices.

Then again, as we meet more members of the organisation, you have to wonder if there is anything other than generic at work here. There is almost zero chemistry between the various members as each is so far more or less a one-trick pony who exists in this story to be introduced, show off their power, and to be all amazed when the newbie essentially swoops in and saves the day after, despite their experience and preparation, they very nearly fail the mission. It is incredibly predictable and while that in itself isn’t an issue, the lack of any spark or interesting personality amongst this support cast, that are apparently going to be in it for the long haul given they all come out unscathed, is more of a problem. Future books might develop these characters and certainly the relationship between Minoru and Yumiko gained strength in this volume, but that doesn’t help the mostly flat dialogue and various set ups that this volume delivers.

Igniter2

I know it sounds fairly negative but despite all of that, I still had some fun reading along. The abilities of the characters are interesting in their own way as is the speculation about where the eyes come from. We are introduced to an opposing faction that are in contact with our villain this time around but they aren’t directly involved in most events which leaves a nice way for the book to resolve the conflict of this volume and leave plenty of room for a sequel. And while nothing was overly surprising here, it was all done well enough even if I might have wanted more from the characters.

However, like in the first volume, the villain kind of lets things down. While at first he seems more together than the Biter, Igniter quickly becomes just another thug with a grievance against society amplified by the power of the Ruby-Eye and while his power is fascinating and quite the challenge to overcome, he himself is not.

Overall, I’m left wanting to read the next book but not really willing to pay full price for it yet again. Once again I’ll wait for a decent sale and try to pick this one up. And once again, taking the jacket off of this book will leave you with a truly hideous blue cover. I really wish they’d either pick a better colour or give us some kind of pattern or something. I really dislike picking on a book for its look, but this one is ugly, and that is a shame given the jacket is quite pretty when it isn’t sliding off while trying to read the book.

That said, I’ll finish up and turn it over to the readers. Have you had a chance to read The Isolator Volume 2: The Igniter? If so, what did you think?

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Karandi James
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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 8: The Price of Betrayal

Angolmois Episode 8

While this episode was an improvement on last week, and even thought to remind viewers that there are in fact reinforcements coming (I’d almost forgotten that they only had to hold out for a certain time assuming the reinforcements arrived), there’s still a definite feeling that things are just getting drawn out now.

Angolmois Episode 8

Jinzaburo spends a lot of this episode reminding us that despite his political savvy being somewhat lacking, he is a fairly good leader. After pointing out that the castle is essentially a death trap and seemingly resolving to leave, he takes on a challenge by some of the guards and in the process understands why they can’t or won’t leave. Even after beating them, he simply requests their names and then we get on with everyone sitting down to a campfire.

Angolmois Episode 8 - Jinzaburo

Where this falls a little short, is the fact that one of the exiles is betraying them. From the audience perspective, given we’re shown the moment he makes the choice, his dealing with the Mongols, and then returning, there is little room for doubt. And while Jinzaburo isn’t in on this knowledge, it seems like he should probably pay more attention to these exiles he is leading as they come and go particularly when they are in as fragile position as they are. Of course, placing all the blame on him would be foolish when you have to wonder why when they arrived the gate was guarded and yet this exile apparently left, had a meeting with the Mongol forces, and returned without anyone on the walls wondering just what he was up to.

Angolmois Episode 8

There was an attempt at injecting that time pressure that we felt so keenly in the first few episodes, but here is falls short. It has been too long since they reminded us the relief might be coming and too long since it has felt like there was any kind of end game for it to now be an affective plot device. If this had been featured more often as a constant gnawing pressure about whether they would survive long enough to be saved, then it would have significantly more impact.

Angolmois Episode 8 - The Mongols

While this show hasn’t ended yet, and I’m actually expecting something reasonably decent from the final confrontation, I really don’t think I’ll end up recommending this anime. As interesting as it ended up being, there’s just too many places where it has failed to hold itself up in the middle and the weight of them are starting to really drag on the overall experience.

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