They Can’t All Be Natsume – Nor Do They Need To Be

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As a reviewer I try to avoid comparison where possible between one story and the next (and previously wrote a feature about it – comparing apples and oranges), but it is kind of inevitable that comparisons will be made. Partly that is because similar characters or stories will remind you of the previous one though other reasons for comparing are to make a point clear, to point out the strength or weakness of a story, or to help your audience to really get a feel for what you are talking about by linking it to something they are likely more familiar with.

Still, comparisons aren’t always all that helpful. I recently went looking for some reviews of Kamisama Kiss online and found comparisons everywhere (I was curious about what people had said at the time it came out because that was pre-blogging days so I hadn’t really read any reviews of people who watched it when it first came out). On several occasions I found it compared to Fruits Basket or InuYasha and it seldom came out favourably.

While as a shoujo, the comparison to Fruits Basket kind of makes sense, the overall tone and feel of the stories are entirely different. I watch Kamisama Kiss when I want to just have a bit of a laugh and soak up some cute yokai vibes. Sure, it doesn’t really manage character drama all the deftly, but there is the occasional moment where it hits the spot, but realistically, you kind of watch Kamisama Kiss for the weird antics as Nanami learns to be a land god and the supernatural reverse harem that forms around her.

Fruits Basket on the other-hand I watch when I want to go through a bit of an emotional journey. I usually watch it when I’m feeling low and don’t know the reasons for feeling that way. Watching Fruits Basket and watching Tohru help others really helps process your own emotions and there’s definitely a cathartic effect as you see each of the characters she touches slowly come to terms with themselves. About the only complaint for the original series, other than the dated visuals, would be the lack of ending, which is why I’m super excited about the upcoming rebooted series. Whichever way, I wouldn’t have even thought of comparing it to Kamisama Kiss because in terms of why I enjoy it, it couldn’t be more different.

I can’t really comment on its similarity or dissimilarity to InuYasha because despite that one being on my watch list for a very long time, I’ve still yet to actually watch it.

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Natsume Yuujin-Cho (Natsume's Book of Friends) Nyanko Sensei Ani-Art Mug Cup

So as the title of this post suggests, recently I found myself comparing The Morose Mononokean to Natsume Yuujinchou. Actually, worse than comparing, I mostly pointed out that The Morose Mononokean couldn’t hold the emotional weight of something like Natsume. And that’s actually really true but it is more or less true of the vast majority of anime and not an actual complaint about The Morose Mononokean.

Now when watching these shows, comparisons do seem more or less inevitable. They both follow teenage boys who have the ability to see yokai. More importantly, the first season of The Morose Mononokean and Natsume Yuujinchou more or less follow the yokai of the week format where a new yokai is introduce, the main characters encounter it and it is either threatening or friendly, there’s a little bit of misunderstanding or a problem to resolve, then someone we fix things and we learn and grow from the situation. Rinse – repeat. Yokai of the week.

However, Natsume Yuujinchou, for all that it really is a monster of the week kind of story, has managed subtle and continuous character growth and built an impressive supporting cast that all feel like fully developed characters in their own right. Admittedly, it is now six seasons in, but it is still impressive how you barely notice the character growth until you go back to the beginning and then you realise just how much ground each character has gained. It is such a natural drip feed of growth and development that you really don’t even notice it but the results are there to see in how each season Natsume is that little bit stronger than he was and his relationships with those around him are that little bit deeper and more interesting.

Natsume Yuujinchou

In short, Natsume is pretty brilliant and you should definitely watch it.

The Morose Mononokean is not.

And that isn’t actually slapping it down. The Morose Mononokean season one was decidedly average in every way. It used the yokai of the week format well enough. The characters were entertaining and the back and forth between the two main characters was actually pretty entertaining. Visually it was okay, but they really did a great job contrasting the mundane world and the yokai world through the use of colours. Everything about it functioned, though it never delivered much in the way of an emotional punch and the characters remained more or less as they began, though a bit more of an understanding was forged between the two main characters.

In fairness, I don’t think it was really trying to pack much of an emotional punch. There are more ‘comedic’ moments dotted throughout, and Ashiya, as the protagonist, is quite the loud and reactive character responding to things with over the top expressions and shock rather than calm deliberation. The yokai frequently aren’t really given a voice and other than fuzzy, Ashiya isn’t really developing much in the way of a relationship with them and he wasn’t shunned or outcast so he doesn’t have to go through the emotional growth Natsume needed at the start of season one.

While that makes The Morose Mononokean a somewhat less compelling watch, it works as it is. Season two expands on the world building and the characters and it has become a much stronger story in its own right. It still has a vastly different tone and feel to Natsume, despite the surface level similarities in premise, but it really is its own show.

But telling someone The Morose Mononokean isn’t as good as Natsume Yuujinchou isn’t exactly helpful when it comes to reviewing, however true I might personally feel that to be. Nor is telling someone that it is similar to Natsume overly helpful because if someone starts it expecting another Natsume, they are surely going to be disappointed.

I think as a reviewer I am going to continue to strive not to overly rely on comparisons to convey my feelings about an anime. They certainly will happen and sometimes fairly thoughtlessly, but I hopefully won’t use them as my main summation of a show. In the case of The Morose Mononokean, through season two I have definitely come to appreciate it for what it is on its own and I’m no longer really looking at what I feel it is missing. Hopefully when it ends and I write my final review my thoughts on it as its own entity come through loud and clear.

Now here’s a question: The Little Fox or Fuzzy? Which is the cuter yokai?

In the meantime, I’d love to know your thoughts on comparisons in reviews and whether you find them helpful or not. Please leave a comment below and get the conversation started.

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Karandi James
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Why Do Anime Heroes Get The Most Boring Powers?

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In case it doesn’t become immediately apparent, this discussion is mostly me musing on something that has bothered me in a handful of shows that I’m now generalising across anime. It is not actually intended to be an overly serious post but honestly, I’ve been wondering this for awhile and of all things it was Endro that brought me back to musing about the powers given to a hero in anime.

Endro! Episode 1

For those who aren’t watching the pastel painted moe fest that is Endro, it is the story of a girl who wants to be a hero and defeat a demon lord, only she kind of already did but stuffed it up sending the demon lord back to the past and now the demon lord is her teacher as she learns to be a hero. of course she has a team of friends along for the ride and a Princess who has fallen in love with her, but mostly it is just a lot of fun and silliness.

Now, as one of the symbols that Julia Charldetto is in fact the hero she comes across the ‘hero’s sword’ and draws it out. In fitting with the colour scheme of the anime it is pink. And it sparkles. But basically we have a hero who swings a sword and whacks things.

Endro Episode 2 Seiran

Meanwhile, we have Seiran in her squad who is an elven priest and when all else fails can actually put her glasses on and is a crack shot with a bow. Then we have Fai who is more hand to hand and likes pummelling things and jumping a lot. Lastly we have Mather with her obsession with Cartado and an array of interesting magic to bring to the fight. All of these characters have really cool abilities and yet the hero in their story has a pink, shiny sword.

Endro Episode 4 Finding Shells

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ENDRO!: JUULIA CHARLDETTO

Now I’m not dismissing swords. Swords can be super cool. Just look at Hitsugaya in Bleach with Hyourinmaru and how cool that sword can be with weather controlling effects and ice dragons. Seriously, that is a cool sword. As is Rukia’s zanpakuto and dozens of other blades in Bleach.

Hitsugaya - Bleach

But, do you know who has a less than cool sword? Ichigo Kurosaki. The hero of Bleach. His sword is really big. About the only time it kind of looked cool was when Hollow Ichigo was swinging it around by the wrap and attempting to pummel Ichigo with it. Actually, Ichigo vs Hollow Ichigo is just a fantastic fight to watch in general and Hollow Ichigo provides some great entertainment throughout the course of Bleach.

Even when Ichigo steps up to the next level, his sword actually becomes less impressive and realistically, while he gets really fast and agile, and hits things even harder and faster, Ichigo’s power is the least interesting one to watch in Bleach (okay I take that back, there are worse powers in Bleach but when looking just at the main group of shinigami and Ichigo’s human friends, his power is just not that interesting by comparison).

Hollow Ichigo - Bleach

Though, even if we move away from sword wielding heroes to a magical girl like Sailor Moon, what we see is a hero surrounded by characters with cool elemental powers that are showy and flashy, fairly versatile and interesting, and yet in season one she throws her head band and occasionally heals things. Even when she uses the Silver Imperium Crystal, other than a light show the power itself is not that interesting to watch. It might be the strongest force in the universe but that by itself doesn’t make it all that fascinating to watch as the bright pink light engulfs her enemy and thus ends the climax.

As the seasons continue, Sailor Moon upgrades from her Crescent Moon Wand to the Moon Sceptre and if nothing else she continues to get the absolute best accessories compared to the other scouts. The Moon Spiral Heart Attack is perhaps the longest one to get going of her general attacks and is so overblown in both the set up and execution that you almost have to laugh (actually, I was more worried Serena was going to trip over her own hair while doing the activation sequence) and yet realistically for all the increases in power Sailor Moon’s attacks remain much the same. She’s very much a one punch and they are dead kind of hero and once she lets off her attack in most cases the battle is done. While the other scouts might be less effective in battle, at least there are some interesting possibilities for outcomes when they attack.

Kirito kind of bucked this trend in Sword Art Online (at least in Aincrad). While his sword style was a bit weird to begin with, it was always fun to watch. This only got better when he demonstrated his dual wield ability which was unique in the game making his ability actually one of the more interesting in the story.

However, Sword Art Online decided to kick its own hero when they introduced magic in Fairy Dance, and Alicization has taken the Bleach approach where swords aren’t always swords. Suddenly, Kirito isn’t looking all that crash-hot even in his own series, though he is still one hero who kind of breaks this trend of having the most boring power going.

Actually, there are plenty of cases where the hero does have a cool power or hidden ability. The problem is, with a lot of these powers they are so OP that they kind of instantly end fights once they get going or can’t be used because of the general scale of destruction. So even when a hero has a very cool ability, its use outside of final battles is pretty minimal meaning we’re watching a hero fight at less than full capacity in a lot of fights and it doesn’t always make for engrossing viewing, particularly when you know that they can pull out another power if things get really tough.

For instance, Bell in Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon has a very cool attack. Admittedly, I like Bell’s fighting style anyway where he relies on speed and his fairly small knife, moving around his enemy and wearing them down rather than just smacking them really hard once. Bell’s fight against the Minotaur is still one of my favourite fights ever and for all that there are stronger warriors in DanMachi, Bell is actually just great to watch in action.

But, his Argonaut Skill is definitely an overpowered skill, tempered by the long time it takes to activate. In order for Bell to get a decent strike in with it, he requires a lengthy interval in which his companions are likely to get splattered if they aren’t careful. While the results of this attack are fairly spectacular, it essentially boils a fight down to the flies buzzing around an enemy and distracting it long enough for Bell to get a decent fly-swat and one punch end the battle.

Is there a solution to this? I mean, we want our heroes to win their fights and having a fairly unstoppable attack more or less guarantees it. Though, such a large scale attack usually ends up looking much the same as every other large scale attack. The personality and distinction of an ability is washed away by the effects given to promote the size and scale of the attack.

Anyway, as I said at the start, this wasn’t an overly serious post. I’ve just been thinking through anime heroes and wondering why more of them don’t have unique or interesting powers and why so many end up with giant swords. I’d love to know your take on anime heroes and whether they have interesting powers or not so leave a comment below.

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Karandi James
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The Promise of Later

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There’s a definite trend for anime that start slowly or have a lull in the mid-section to be defended by staunch lovers of the source material using the phrase ‘it gets better’. Usually with a ‘trust me’ thrown in there as well. And often times that is actually quite correct in that the story does find its feet and pick itself up. However, does that actually make the story any better in the first place if the only way to defend it in the early days is to argue that something better is coming?

I guess we could point out that viewers these days are fairly impatient beings and with so many anime available to them each season it is easy enough to simply not want to play a waiting game. Why wait for one title to ‘get better’ when another title simply is ‘better’?

Endro Episode 8

Now, I know I am an impatient person. Given I’ve suggested things like skipping the first 100 pages when To Kill a Mockingbird as you won’t appreciably miss any of the plot by doing so, though you will lose a lot of character and world building. I guess it depends why you are reading the story in the first place and whether you really get immersed in all that set up or just keep turning pages to see when the ‘plot’ might appear. But yes, that book tried my patience to no end and even though the trial and the message in the second half of the book are actually pretty solid, I really felt like I wanted the time spent reading the opening act back.

However, I’m perfectly happy to wait a reasonable length into a series with an interesting premise for it to find its feet even if the opening act isn’t exactly blowing me away. Of course, that results in me watching quite a number of anime that just never find their feet and end as boringly as they started, or worse, they go in weird directions and just kind of implode. Caligula would probably fit into this category. I didn’t drop it even though there were plenty of poor episodes early on and plenty of warning that it was going to be a mess. However, I wanted to give it time to find its way and finish its set up. Too bad it never got any better.

Caligula Episode 11

Yet there comes a time during a season where you have to wonder if the time being sunk into watching is actually going to be worth a later payoff. In the case of Sakurada Reset, it turns out it really was. Now, I still don’t fully recommend Sakurada Reset to any but the most avid anime fan given there’s a lot of set-up time and I very nearly walked away from the anime mid-season. But…

See, there’s that ‘but’.

It gets better.

The ending of Sakurada Reset was one of the most satisfying narrative conclusions I’ve seen in anime and while it isn’t the best, by any means, I felt that all of the set up time, the weird stilted dialogue, the seemingly disjointed stories, and the general frustration felt while watching individual episodes of the story, were worth it for that ending. Everything came together in a way that so few shows manage and it just felt like reaching the summit of a mountain and getting the most gorgeous view imaginable.

Still, if someone else were to watch the first few episodes and tell me they dropped it, I would fully understand. I would try to argue that they should be more patient and give it more time because it is quite the slog to get through and I remember how tiresome some of those mid-season episodes were.

Run With The Wind Episode 4

There’s also Run With The Wind, that has built up to a second half that is truly unmissable. Yet would I blame anyone from walking away in the first half? When I hated one character entirely for a large chunk of the first cour, didn’t really connect with a lot of the others, and found the training sequences less than compelling and it was really only direction, visuals and sound design that really kept me hooked (and Prince as he has some of the coolest lines imaginable). I really can’t say that everyone is going to think that the ending is worth it (particularly as we aren’t yet at the end). What I will say is I am super glad I kept watching because wow that has been one of the best emotional payoffs in a long time from anime.

Run With The Wind Episode 7 Prince

But I’ll turn my attention to Sword Art Online Alicization. I was really looking forward to more SAO, and not a spin-off without Kirito, but genuine SAO. Alicization as an arc has been talked up by those who have read the source so much so even though I tried to go in with reasonable expectations, there was this sense that what was coming should be amazing.

First few episodes had their moments. They got me into the story and established characters. There were sufficient cool and nostalgic moments sprinkled in. Yep, this was SAO and I like SAO and Kirito was back doing his thing. It wasn’t like Aincrad which hooked me from episode one and dragged me into a story that I ended up loving, but it was certainly a promising beginning.

Sword Art Online Alicization - Episode 2 - Kirito

Then we just kind of meandered along. Stuff has happened to be sure but if the recap episode after episode 18 was anything to go by, not enough to justify 18 episodes worth of viewing. And as more and more chinks in the poorly paced and exposition heavy narrative become completely impossible to ignore, the defence that is being mounted is ‘it gets better’.

How much better and will it be worth the time commitment? Well only time and personal judgement will answer that.

Will I drop Sword Art Online Alicization? Probably not. I like Sword Art Online and much like Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card, nostalgia will get this show a lot of life-lines and keep me watching and hoping.

But if I was asked whether or not someone should start Alicization, would I actually recommend it?

Right now the answer is absolutely not, unless you happen to be a huge fan of SAO and just want more. There are significantly better written and better executed shows airing right now and while Sword Art Online Alicization remains a watchable experience there is very little I could point to that would be something I could recommend to anyone who isn’t a Kirito fan already.

The argument ‘it gets better’ just seems a little hollow here.

Ultimately, each viewer is going to make their own decision about how much time they are willing to give something. Whether they will stick with something for the long haul or whether they will cut their losses early. Each viewer will decide whether the promise of something better later is worth what they are watching right now. But I am interested to know from my readers how you feel about the ‘it gets better’ defence and whether you feel it has merit as a means of recommending someone continues to watch something or whether you are someone who drops things fast when they don’t deliver.

Leave us a comment below and lets get the conversation started.

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Karandi James
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MY HERO ACADEMIA PLUSH: JIRO
MY HERO ACADEMIA PLUSH: JIRO

3 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

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There’s no doubt that Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood is a well loved and popular anime title. The number of mentions on best anime of all time lists, it’s most favourited status on MAL, and the sheer number of fan arts and fan fictions about the characters speak volumes of how the fan base loves this particular work. And there are plenty of good reasons to love it. Really great story that is given sufficient episodes to really develop, rising action that really drives toward a climax, a great main and supporting cast and even fairly solid villains, not to mention the heart and humour the anime brings to its tale. However, this isn’t going to be a review of FMA Brotherhood, but rather taking a look at 3 life lessons you can learn from watching the diminutive alchemist and his bound-to-a-suit-of-armour younger brother.

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood Alphone and Edward Elric

Lesson 1: Someone who shares the same goals as you is not necessarily your friend.

This one should be self-explanatory but sometimes it is almost as though people crave someone who understand them so much that they overlook this point. Throughout the course of the story, Edward and Alphonse run into many a character who is seeking a philosopher’s stone and their motives are wide ranging as are their uses for the incomplete stones they come across. In the case of Full Metal Alchemist, the brothers can almost assume that anyone sharing a similar goal as them is probably up to no good and will become a hindrance sooner rather than later.

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood Crimson Alchemist

At the same time, the brothers cannot complete this journey on their own. They need those who support their goal but may not necessarily share it to assist them on their way. And that’s the important lesson here.

Winry may not ever want to be an alchemist and she personally has no desire to possess a stone, but she does understand what drives Ed and Al and she supports them with everything she has. Her goal is not the same, but it complements what the brothers wish to achieve which makes Winry invaluable in more ways than one.

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood Winry

While finding someone who does share the same goal can be great, just because someone doesn’t necessarily want the same thing as you doesn’t mean they can’t understand what is driving you. This comes through incredibly clearly throughout Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood.

Lesson 2: A government that can manipulate the information provided to its people cannot be trusted not to become corrupted.

As much as I try not to get political on my blog, Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, through its fictional institutions but based on fairly familiar government structures, manages to make some fairly good points about political power and corruption.While it gives no actual solutions to the points it raises, it becomes quite clear that Amestris as a country is rife with corruption with those in the inner circle benefiting while those on the outside simply become fodder for the machine.

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood Fuhrer Bradley

A large part of the issue is that the government controlled all the records and there did not appear to be much in the way of independent reporting of events going on. With both the war in the past and the ongoing events in the story, cover-ups and lies were frequently fed to the public and the main characters manipulating their actions and responses.

And while I don’t assume that our governments are actually being run by homunculi that are trying to bring about the end of the country, the point about providing truthful information to the public was fairly well made and is as relevant now as it was when this story first came out (if not more so).

Lesson 3: You can’t stop tragedy but how you deal with the tragedy is more important.

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood is a story built on tragic events. The war in the past that took Winry’s parents, the death of the Elric’s mother, Nina, Hughes, and so on. However, on each of these occasions we see characters dealing with the tragedy in their own ways and we see that some responses are more helpful than others.

For Edward and Alphonse, they refused to let go of the past and the tragedy and instead of accepting what had happened and moving forward, they created a secondary tragedy when they tried to bring their mother back to life. This cost Edward a leg and his brother his whole body and Ed only saved him through giving up an arm (puts a whole new twist on the costing an arm and a leg). There were a few factors that played into this. For instance, their incredibly young age and the absence of any other parental figure. While Winry’s grandmother certainly tried to look out for them, it wasn’t enough during such a tragedy to keep them from taking this path.

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood young edward

And the tragedy may have ended there with the brothers never going any further except that Mustang came along and offered Ed a lifeline. For the remainder of the series we see Edward clinging to that hope and thread as he journey’s forward. When he meets Tucker and Nina and that encounter inevitably leads to tragedy, Ed, while he feels the tragedy, doesn’t make the same mistake again of trying to deny the tragedy or make it go away. Instead he ensures Tucker can’t hurt anyone else and then seeks comfort. It doesn’t make the tragedy of Nina any better, but at least a secondary tragedy was avoided.

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood Nina
Let’s all just pretend she lived happily ever after.

What lessons have you learned watching Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood or from another anime?

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Karandi James
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GUNDAM 40TH ANNIVERSARY BEST ANIME MIX - BEYOND

Behind Every Great Anime Protagonist Is A Great Supporting Cast

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Previously I’ve looked at reasons why being a villain would suck and I’ve certainly looked at various characters on my blog and why they shine, but with the exception of Natsume (see the supporter battle Irina and I worked on), I seldom discuss the supporting cast and their importance in making or breaking a series. Which is something I decided I needed to change because the more I think about it the more I come to realise that great characters don’t occur in isolation.

For every character I’ve connected with or instantly fell in love with and wanted more of, surrounding them is usually a plethora of well written, developed and interesting characters. Each one holding up their end of the story and playing the role they need to play in a way that allows the protagonist to shine.

Obi from Snow White With The Red Hair
Obi is a fantastic supporting cast member in Snow White With The Red Hair. See my top 5 favourite moments with him.

However, this also highlights my general problem with harem anime (whether standard harem, reverse harem, or not a harem but using more or less the same tropes). That is, generally (not always), while there might be good characters in the anime, they aren’t working to complement each other. The focus is on each of the girls (or guys) standing out from the others with a distinct visual and personality. Their job is to carve out their own niche audience and fan group rather than support a main character or even the cast as a whole. As a direct result, the supporting characters pull attention away from what frequently turns out to be a fairly dull protagonist and because of the shared screen time none of the supporting characters ever really feels fully realised (again, generalising).

Going through some of my favourite characters, or characters I am drawn to, I can see time and again, that a lot of what makes them so amazing comes from those surrounding them.

March Comes in Like a Lion (I promise this isn’t another love letter) has Rei at its centre with the Kawamoto sisters as almost dueteragonists. Particularly in the second season where Akari becomes a major focus for a large arc. All four of these characters are fantastically written and interesting characters and honestly I’d probably happily watch them just stay inside the Kawamoto house and interact at this point.

But, that wasn’t what drew me to the show and to Rei early on before the deep connections were formed and I learned more about these characters. Whether it was Nikaido as a self-proclaimed best friend, Shimada as a mentor character, Kyoko and Goto as potential antagonists, the members of the Science/Shogi club… every single character we encounter (even the one episode rival shogi players) felt like a fully realised character that helped to flesh out the world. More importantly they gave Rei a wide range of people to respond to and react to bringing out more of Rei’s personality and pain and allowing the audience to feel that he was also a fully realised character rather than just a one note ‘tragic young shogi player’.

Yuri on Ice Episode 6
Yuri and Victor

On a lighter note, Victor and Yuri from Yuri on Ice are amazing. No question I loved watching the two of them interact and grow closer together. I would happily watch more of just the two of them. But again, that wasn’t the immediate draw. What draws you in to Yuri on Ice are all the small touches throughout, including every supporting cast member we meet feeling like they have their own story to tell and just being fun.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri's family

Whether it is Yurio running from his fan club, JJ and his over-bearing confidence, Yuri’s family and their support, all of the characters bring something to the mix that helps to elevate the whole shoe and provide a context for Yuri and Victor’s relationship to grow within.

However, even something like Noragami, where I genuinely love Yato, it is again the support cast that manage to bring out his full charm. Hiyori and Yuki stand with him and each brings something relatable and interesting to the story, but the other gods, the regalia, Hiyori’s friends, those who call Yato, even the phantoms, each of them add something to the story and while we may not get a huge amount of time with them, or back story, they are a delight to meet and interact with.

Noragami

Where Noragami manages to go even further is in the portrayal of Nora who remains for most of season one an incredibly enigmatic figure but one who is sufficiently built up that when she takes a more active role in season two it doesn’t feel like she’s come from nowhere. It feels like a natural extension of where her story had been heading from the beginning and it is largely through her interactions with Yato that more of Yato’s past can be revealed to the audience.

My Hero Academia Support Cast

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it in terms of whether a great support cast can make or break a show and a protagonist. Look at My Hero Academia. I like Midoriya, I really do, but he isn’t a particularly memorable character on his own. It is the zany cast that surrounds him early on that fills the anime with so much energy and enthusiasm and allows Midoriya the chance to grow into his role as both protagonist and hero. There’s almost as much fan art around plenty of his classmates as there is of him (and of some characters I’d bet there’s even more).

When creating something it is important to remember that while the protagonist will probably be the character people remember, a great protagonist on their own doesn’t normally carry the story alone (unless they are Tom Hanks in Cast Away in which case I still give the award for best supporting cast member to the Volleyball). It is the support cast that create the space and opportunities for the protagonist to be who they need to be and draw out the best of the main character.

Cast Away - Tom Hanks and Wilson

So remember, behind every great protagonist is a great supporting cast. Or a really emotive volleyball.

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Karandi James
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DARK SOULS III 1/6 SCALE LIGHT-UP STATUE: BONFIRE
DARK SOULS III 1/6 SCALE LIGHT-UP STATUE: BONFIRE

What Does It Really Mean To Me To Love Anime?

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Now, there are probably as many answers to the question of what it means to love anime as there are people who claim to love it. Like most passions and hobbies, it is something that is deeply personal and becomes an integral part of the individual. So while we can share an appreciation of a love of anime, our reason for loving it and how we got there is likely one only we will ever understand.

For those who have read my blog a while you will know my love of anime began with Sailor Moon, though I guess that is technically not correct for two reasons. The first being that I’d seen Astro Boy and probably quite a few other anime prior to Sailor Moon but I hadn’t known what they were. And watching Sailor Moon didn’t make me fall in love with anime. It made me fall in love with Sailor Moon and stories with great female characters.

Sailor Moon, Tuxedo Mask, Sailor Chibi Moon and the Scouts

Given the access to anime at the time was limited, other than Card Captor, that love didn’t really go anywhere in terms of anime even when I knew that Sailor Moon was in fact from Japan, and then got to Australia via American translation. See, my next steps after Sailor Moon were actually Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed. Stories that pushed imagination, had great characters and really good narrative arcs (even if the overall plots, now that I’m looking back particularly at Charmed, were a little questionable in quality).

Of course, I also just had a general obsession with stories and was busily devouring libraries of novels as well as pretty much every movie that hit the cinemas at the time. Even as a teenager, I had a healthy respect for even poorly told stories because even a poorly written story could reveal something, could entertain, could teach me a lesson about how stories and characters could and should function, and generally inspired me.

Conception Episode 12 Itsuki
Alright, my love of even poorly told stories didn’t extend to this. Conception was just bad.

I still remember watching Chronicles of Riddick when it came out and I was at university. My friend and I went in to a fairly empty session (even emptier by half-way through the movie) and set up in the middle with sugar filled drinks and chocolate. I don’t think either one of us had laughed that hard in a long time as the clumsy narration threw exposition at us and actors attempted to deliver nonsensical lines as if they were golden. Fantastic fun and a movie I bought on DVD because nothing works quite so well as a pick-me-up as seeing something fail as spectacularly as that movie does (seriously, they outrun a sunrise at one point).

However, it was around that time or just after it, that a certain someone, who knew I loved Sailor Moon and a few other anime that I’d managed to come across, suggested we watch Evangelion together. They just happened to have it on disc (how I do not know). There was also a Death Note watch somewhere around then or just after. I never can remember which of them I saw first but they both left an impact.

Evangelion - Shinji

You know, there are moments in your life when you just know everything is about to change. As I watched episode after episode of Shinji and the tragedy unfolding for the characters, even as I hoped they would win the day and realised that wasn’t where the story was heading, I think a switch somewhere inside of me was flicked on.

And then YouTube began.

And I suddenly had an avenue to access all of these amazing stories that I’d never seen before, heard about, or even dreamed existed.

Bleach - Gin vs Hitsugaya
If you weren’t watching anime when YouTube first started, you have no idea how frustrating watching fan-subbed shows in ten minute increments was. Like seriously, you rarely found the whole episode subbed by the same group so names and terms and things would change mid-episode, parts would be missing, mislabelled, whatever. And buffering. Wow, I remember waiting for the video to load enough to bother hitting play. Be thankful for better internet and video streaming sites.

It would be nearly 2010 before I would say I was an anime fan. Prior to that I would have claimed to be a fan of specific titles. Sailor Moon, Evangelion, Bleach, Darker Than Black and so on. At the time I was still watching as many live action TV shows as animated ones but the balance was definitely shifting.

For me, anime satisfies my love of stories all by itself. Whether I’m chasing romance or horror or action or drama or anything else, I know that there’s an anime for the mood I’m in and for the story I want to live through for a few hours. While I won’t give up reading books or watching movies, and every now and then I’ll get into a TV series that isn’t anime, for the most part, I don’t need to venture far from anime to feel that sense that I have found what I am looking for.

Each new season is an adventure and trying out shows, whether they work out or not, is a delight. Each first episode is full of surprises and each show brings me new characters to meet (whether I end up liking them is another story).

For me, loving anime isn’t something I decided to do. And it isn’t something that I hide. It also doesn’t come at the exclusion of other things that I also love. But I know my life would be a great deal emptier without it. I know that I am really happy to have come across anime like Snow White With The Red Hair, to have spent time with the characters of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, to have risen to great heights with the shoutiest of shounen protagonists, and to have been steeped in misery and pain with the edgiest stories that just want to push the limits.

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash - Mana

While I did indeed celebrate Valentine’s Day this year (as I have for many years), I felt this was a good time to reflect on what it means to me to love anime. To know that anime has a place in my life and my heart and that I really treasure the people I have met through anime and my blog.

Now that the official Valentine’s Day is over, celebrate your love of anime. Share your story of what loving anime means to you.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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DEATH NOTE COMPLETE SERIES [THE OMEGA EDITION]
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Choosing An Anime Valentine

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There’s something really odd about Valentine’s Day. I mean, it is cheesy as can be and the dippy pink hearts and flowers that end up decorating everything don’t do all that much for me. Yet, it’s still just kind of fun to get involved in the spirit of the day because amazingly enough sometimes getting just a small something wrapped in foil can make someone’s entire day.

So, because I am an anime fan, I decided this year to think about which anime characters I would ask to be my Valentine (with a suitable gift of chocolate or flowers of course). I almost immediately ran into a problem in that almost every character I could think to pick was already in a relationship but then again, so am I, so I decided to ignore that little fact entirely and just pick whoever I wanted to pick.

The selection process was brutal. So many great characters out there that I would absolutely love to surprise on this day of pink fluffiness and then I realised a lot of male anime characters don’t like chocolates… Which made me think about what I’d actually give them if I was going to try to ask them to be my Valentine.

Basically, I put way too much thought into an entirely theoretical process.

Anyway, who did I end up choosing?

No surprise but the first person (?) who came to mind was Sebastian Michaelis from Black Butler. Seriously, who wouldn’t ask him to be their Valentine? Though, I’m betting there’s a few strings attached to that one. Still, that voice, that hair, that smug smile and absolute confidence… Wait, where was I? Oh right, I was listing all the reasons Sebastian would be the perfect Valentine. Anyway, what would I get for Sebastian? A kitten of course with a cute little bow.

Next, I thought about Eiji who probably needs some cheering up – I know the entire Banana Fish fan-base did after watching that ending. Eiji is literally a ray of sunshine in a dark world and to be honest, I’d love to see him smile. I’d like to sit beside him on a roof and watch the sun come up and I’d like to travel and see the world beside him. I thought long and hard about what to get Eiji as a present to cheer him up and came up with pretty much nothing. Then I realised the perfect present (other than you know a time machine or reincarnation). A photo album commemorating the life of Ash Lynx. It might break his heart a little at first but I think he’d appreciate having something to hold onto.

For my third choice I decided to go with Tigrevermud Vorn from Lord Marksman and Vanadis. There’s something about this red-haired archer that is beautifully charming and honestly his skills are out of this world amazing and he’s still a pretty down-to-earth nice guy (the joys of fiction). Again, I struggled to think of a perfect present given Tigre is pretty much happy with the simple life, but then I figured it out. Exactly what Tigre needs in his life: an alarm clock. That way people won’t try waking him up with swords or killing instinct anymore.

My last pick (though this is narrowed down from a significantly longer list) for my 2019 Valentine – and again, this will surprise no one – is Takato from Dakaichi. I love his cool professionalism on set and how childish he is underneath that. How he carefully plans but gets easily flustered when things go awry. He’s just a character I would love to spend time with and I absolutely love his look. I get that he’s already well and truly spoken for and I’m risking life and limb if Junta finds out, however, Takato is one of the few characters I can genuinely give something sweet to and in this case it will definitely be a cake, pudding, or something sickly sweet.

There we have my short list of anime Valentine’s for 2019. Now I’d love to know who you would make your Valentine and what would you give them?

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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FINAL FANTASY X / X-2 HD REMASTER (MULTI-LANGUAGE)
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