Friday’s Feature: Angels and Demons in Anime

One thing all anime fans know is that if it exists as even a vague idea, somewhere, someone has made an anime about it. Probably more than one someone. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that many stories in anime are built on some of the trappings from the Christian and Catholic church. While some of these stories might attempt something resembling a realistic representation, more often than not, in true anime fashion, an idea is borrowed and then it gets the full anime treatment. And while some people might dislike the way various religious icons and ideologies end up being represented, the end result has been a range of interesting stories that might not otherwise have existed.

Now using religious ideology as the basis of a story, or borrowing heavily from religious texts for characters, themes and ideas, is nothing new, there’s something quite interesting in the way anime tends to do it. With only around 1% of Japan actually identifying as Christian, writers can take quite a few more liberties with the subject matter they are borrowing from without as much fear of audience backlash as writers in more western countries. And while movies like Dogma and the like show that even western writers can get away with subverting the original message, there’s a much greater risk involved.

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And while at some point I’d probably like to get more into the various influences of religion within anime narratives, today I’m really just wanting to look at how angels and demons have been represented in a small section of the medium. There are far too many stories that have borrowed these iconic characters to really generalise across the board, but there’s a definite trend that has surfaced in how angels and demons are being depicted.

The trend I really have noticed is that angels are getting a really bad reputation in a lot of these shows (a trend that also seems to be taking place in the west with fallen angels being a trend that bubbled up after the success of Twilight and the market over-saturated with vampire romance and so people jumped on the fallen angel bandwagon instead). While it might be a little earlier than that bubble, Angela/Ash from Black Butler is a prime example of the type of character and depiction that angels regularly get given.

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Cruel, sadistic, and slightly crazy, Angela is very driven by her goals which may or may not have anything to do with a higher will power. Her actions are justified as righteous in her own mind even as they leave the audience wondering who the real demon in the show is. And that isn’t to say that Sebastian comes off looking saintly given his violent and predatory nature is well known. It’s just that when you compare him side by side with the angel there’s definitely a question of which one is supposed to be in the right. Even the neutral Grim Reapers end up siding against the angel toward the end of the season as their plan threatens to upset the balance of the world.

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If we look at something more recent and comical, Gabriel Drop Out gives us essentially a lazy, drop-out of an angel who’s inherent good nature is so easily corrupted by the pleasures of earth (gaming) and very quickly abandons her original mission. While I didn’t get far into the series, I found this to be an interesting depiction of an angel. It didn’t paint Gabriel into shades of gray, but simply had her become a slacker, which really doesn’t fit with the image of an angel but at the same time didn’t necessarily make her bad either. Throw in the fact that the ‘demonic’ characters in the show seemed to be genuinely sweet and there’s a mess of ideologies going on here that are played for laughs and humour but have probably strayed a fair way from the borrowed religious themes.

Even The Devil is a Part Timer works on subverting the audience’s expectations. It sets up a standard Satan versus Hero situation and Lord Satan (Maou) is corrupt and trying to take over the world. There’s no question of his evil nature in the first episode or of the hero’s righteousness. However, as the series progresses, Emi (the Hero), resorts to stalking, petty rumour spreading, jealousy, and other underhanded tactics while Maou pretty much conforms to the new world’s rules and laws. We also learn that Emi is part angel which begins to subvert the idea of what an angel is before Mitsuki shows up.

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Despite being an angel, Mitsuki is very much on par with Angela from Black Butler. He kidnaps characters, he tortures them while laughing about it, he’s petty and vindictive, and ultimately he’s overwhelmed by the power of Maou. And at that point no one feels even slightly sorry for him because he’s a complete an absolute jerk who totally had it coming.

One anime that takes a different approach is Angel beats where Angel (or Tachibana) is originally portrayed as a cold and efficient killer, but later it is realised she is acting in the best interest of others she’s just a really, really bad communicator and no one had ever taken the time to ask her what she was doing. Turns out she isn’t an angel anyway which kind of makes the title of the show a bit odd (unless you count the fact that the computer program she’s using to generate some of her weapons is called Angel Player). Ultimately though, Tachibana is actually trying to help the other students live a happy school life, make peace with their previous life, and move on. Which is probably the most angelic sounding character I’ve mentioned so far.

Angel Beats

Demons in anime go anywhere from being mindless beasts hell-bent on destruction, to articulate and savvy romantic interests. The defining trait of being evil is questionable in most of these characters and a lot of them are portrayed as being very human or having very human motivations. And regularly there is no connection between demons and any specific religion as they come across more as random monsters then creatures from the pits of hell. Frequently demonic characters are ones a human audience can sympathise with. It’s an interesting trend though it does make you wonder where all the ‘evil’ demons went. You know, the ones that actually wanted to devour human souls and lead us into ruin.

Now as I said at the start, there’s nothing new about the borrowing of icons and ideologies from religion in narratives, and trends in narratives come and go. But it will be interesting to see what sorts of angels and demons we get from here on out.

And on that note, I’d love to know who some of your favourite angelic and demonic characters are from anime so please be sure to leave me a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Female Anime Characters With Pink Hair

Last week I looked at my favourite male characters with pink hair and realised, tragically, there just aren’t that many that I’ve remembered. Totally opposite problem this week when I tried to narrow down my list of lovely anime ladies with pink hair. Ultimately I went with characters who I felt were striking in appearance (pink hair does tend to stand out) as well as characters who added something to the plot of their story. The list ended up being a bit interesting.

I’d love to know who you are including on your list so please share your choices in the comments below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions: Emi Yusa (The Devil is a Part-timer) and Yuno Gasai (Future Diary).

Number 5: Kofuku Ebisu (Noragami)

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Kofuku may be a god of poverty and have a tendency to bankrupt men and tear rifts into the underworld leading to more phantoms being released, but you have to admit, as one of Yato’s few divine friends she’s certainly a lot of fun. She gets that sometimes you just have to go with things yet ultimately she’s ready to do what needs to be done. As a character who has offered advice, shelter, power, predictions, and full on muscle to the team when needed, Kofuku definitely earns a spot on this list.

Number 4: Amu Himamori (Shugo Chara)

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Amu is definitely one of my favourite pink haired characters of all time. The contradiction between her outer appearance and personality is one that causes her no end of confusion in this magical story that very much focuses on her finding out what she actually wants to be and who she is. With three different guardian characters all pulling her in different directions as well as her own heart, Amu is a very fun character to get to know and to watch grow up and learn to really harness all of her potential.

Number 3: Yuki Takeya (School-Live)

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And here is another spoiler warning just in case you missed the one earlier in the post.

Yuki is a fantastic character. When we are first introduced to her, she’s your basic school-girl air-head all happy to be with her friends and join in club activities. As you follow Yuki around in a typical day during the first episode, you note that not everything seems quite right, but it isn’t until the end of the episode you realise that Yuki is living in a zombie apocalypse and just hasn’t admitted it to herself yet. Yes, this adorable pink haired protagonist is firmly convinced everything in the world is fine and it is up to the rest of the club members to keep her from wandering outside of the barriers or getting herself killed. That would be interesting enough, but Yuki’s character has a beautiful arc as she comes to terms with what has happened and she is fantastic to watch. Definitely an anime to check out and Yuki’s character will leave a lasting impression.

Number 2: Megum Shimizu (Shiki)

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Megumi may not be the main character of her series, but she is the first victim we see on screen in this vampire horror story. Megumi, so desperate to escape village life, ultimately dies and comes back as a vampire and is pretty much asked to continue living a village life. While she at first has a great deal of fun tormenting those who used to be friends, as life sours for the vampires, Megumi starts looking seriously at escape. While she is never a fantastic character, Megumi gives us some excellent creepy moments and she is a character who is very true to what she wants at all times.

Number 1: Masami Iwasawa (Angel Beats)

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It is no secret that I have a deep love of Angel Beats, and a lot of that came about because of Iwasawa’s character. Prior to the episode that focused on Iwasawa I’d been enjoying Angel Beats and I’d loved the music and craziness of it, but when I first heard “My Song” and watched Iwasawa ‘accept’ things, I think that was the first time Angel Beats broke my heart and it was the moment I realised that this anime was something a bit special. While its blend of over the top action and comedy as well as melodrama may not sit well with most people, for me it was an emotional roller coaster that I never could get enough of. Iwasawa’s song and character moment remain one of my favourite anime moments ever.

That’s a wrap on pink hair. Leave me a comment telling me who is on your list, and next week we’ll count down anime with dark endings.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Ordinary Anime Characters Who Inspire

While many an anime character has inspired me, it is worth noting that a lot of anime characters have super powers, or magic, or destiny, or some other force working for them, which makes their actions a little less applicable to the everyday life that most of us lead. This list is to the heroes (and ordinary people) who have moved me to action or have given me strength when I have needed it. That makes is a fairly personal list so I’d love to know who would end up on your list of inspiring anime characters. While it hurts that I can’t add Maka to the list this time round, the characters below are all exceptional and yet completely human.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Akito from Bakuman for standing by his friend from start to finish no matter how rough things got.

Number 5: Nagisa (Assassination Classroom)

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One might argue that none of the students in Assassination Classroom are particularly ordinary, but that is their most compelling trait. They are ordinary. They are the ones who are overlooked and cast aside, who have been down so long that they have forgotten that they even have the right to stand up. Watching Nagisa move from someone who accepts this role to someone who has a clear presence about him and is comfortable in his own skin is something that is greatly inspiring. Okay, most of us don’t have a yellow octopus for a teacher who we get to learn to assassinate, but most of the lessons Nagisa takes on board are strictly of the ordinary kind of valuing who you are.

Number 4: Kurumi (Kimi ni Todoke)

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Season One of Kimi ni Todoke introduced us to Kurumi and she was a nasty piece of work determined to get Kazehaya to look at her and to get Sawako out of the picture. After being rejected she undergoes an incredible character transformation that reminds us all that just because we don’t get what we want doesn’t mean it is the end of the world. Kurumi becomes a truly great character and by the time the end of season 2 rolls around you really want her to find her own happiness.

Number 3: Kousei (Your Lie in April)

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This one might be cheating given the kid is definitely a genius. Yet, much like with Nagisa, the lessons Kousei takes on board during the heart breaking journey that is Your Lie in April are strictly the ordinary everyday ones that we all could learn from. Learning to grieve and mourn, to accept what has happened, to find a purpose, and just to find who you are. These are the things Kousei discovers throughout the course of his journey and they make him incredibly relatable and when he takes the stage in the final episode you cannot help but feel moved by him.

Number 2: Oreki (Hyouka)

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While this might seem an odd choice for number 2 on the list, there’s something truly remarkable about how this character lives his life. He has his own ideal of energy conservation and yet at the same time he doesn’t want his ideals to harm the experiences of others. He doesn’t want to let his sister down and later Chitanda and so acts contrary to his own nature on more than one occasion. This is also inspiring because while some people might see that as giving in or compromising, what it really demonstrates is an acceptance of a need for community and that it can’t always be about you. Oreki is inspiring because he finds a balance where he does have moments where he refused to do things or to get involved and other moments where he acts for the benefit of others. While I’m still not sure I like the anime, I quite like Oreki’s character and he reminds me that sometimes it isn’t all about me.

Number 1: Yuri (Yuri on Ice)

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Did we really think anyone else was going to take this spot? I almost disqualified him because being a world champion (even if he’s only in the top 6) kind of makes him somewhat extraordinary, but the only superpower he has is persistence and determination and so I let him take the top spot. His journey is fantastic and watching him stand up again and again and try to overcome his weaknesses never ceases to inspire.

And there they all are. Who would you have put on your list?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime That Only Have One Season

There’s something to be said for an anime that can tell a complete story in 11, 12, 22, or 24 episodes and not leave the viewer unsatisfied or waiting for a conclusion that may never occur. While I have nothing against the longer running anime brethren, the anime I rewatch most often meets the condition of being a complete story in and of itself. Which actually made it quite hard to narrow this list down.

Now the order is entirely subjective and based only upon my enjoyment of the story and how complete it feels when watching, so I’d love for you to share your top 5 anime with only one season. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Parasyte, Ouran High School Host Club (this one actually kind of needs a sequel), and Trigun.

Number 5: My Love Story

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I don’t know why it is that I am completely in love with this anime and even though there’s plenty more that could be said about the characters and where they go, I never finish the story feeling like I’m missing out. This one is a sweet story that deals with two people not falling in love, because they actually cover that in about three episodes, but with the act of being in love for the first time and not really knowing what to do. It is awkward at times, adorable at others, and overall it is an incredibly rewarding watch.

Number 4: Death Note

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While logically you could write sequels, spin-offs and whatever else you want from this story, but I’m pretty sure most viewers will agree that Death Note feels decidedly finished with that final episode. Realistically, the story felt finished before it got to the end given the narrative structure. When you set up two characters in binary opposition and one dies, that definitely feels like an end point. Death Note pushes on nonetheless leaving us with a definitive ending later on, though a little bit of the satisfaction does get sucked out in the process.

Number 3: Erased

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Mystery stories are probably a bit easier to make feel complete. When you are first waiting for the who is the bad guy reveal followed by the will they catch him, it kind of gives you a clear end point for the series. Needless to say, while there are some lingering questions about the nature of revival, the story is most definitely complete in this anime.

Number 2: Your Lie in April

Your Lie In April

Much like Erased, there was always an end point in mind for this series. However, what we get is a fairly profound character journey and ultimately an ending that will leave you in a smiling/teary mess as you can’t decide whether it was tragic or beautiful or somewhere in between the two. Anymore of this would simply take away from the power of that ending and really that is not something anyone should ever try and do.

Number 1: Angel Beats

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This anime begins with Otanashi waking up in a limbo and being told he has to fight against god. The story explores the true nature of the world he is in and the other characters inhabiting it. By the time we get to the end of this story everything that ever needed to be said about this world has been said. And while you have to wait around until after the end credits of the final episode to get to the resolution you so desperately want, it is most definitely there and leaves you with a feeling that everything is going to work out okay which is pretty much how I want to feel at the end of the emotional roller-coaster that is Angel Beats.

That’s the list for this week, so now I’m turning it over to you. What is your favourite anime with only one season? Or what are your top 5 is narrowing it down to one is too hard?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Characters with a Tragic Backstory

Are there any anime protagonists who have a happy backstory? Because that might be something a bit different given the sheer number of characters who come from a past of misery and despair. Okay, I hadn’t really thought about what I was in for when I started drafting this list and to be honest, it was a bit of a nightmare thinking about whether having your parents burned to death after being sewn together was more tragic than having your entire country torn apart by war and to be honest, those kinds of decisions really can’t be made objectively. This list is definitely based on how emotional I became while watching the characters’ tragedy unfold rather than any kind of definitive measure.

Which anime character has a tragic back story that hit home for you? Let me know in the comments below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: The entire cast of Angel Beats and Lelouch from Code Geass.


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Number 5: Vash (Trigun)

The guy can’t catch a break in the present with everyone wanting to get the bounty on his head and he’s blamed for so many different disasters. He just wants love and peace. But his current circumstances come directly from the tragedy in his past and while it is pretty much impossible to talk about without spoilers, there’s definitely an evil twin brother involved. Regardless, Vash’s pacifist attitude is almost a protest against the horror that his life has been.

Number 4: Gray (Fairy Tail)

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The entire cast of Fairy Tail should probably be on this list as well, though I haven’t really watched far enough along to the know the details of all of them. But fairly early on in the series we have quite the extended arc that delves in Gray’s past and his training by his teacher and to be honest, that was pretty heart breaking. While Gray came out of it better than his fellow student did, there’s still some pretty deep scars and emotional turmoil there. If we think back even further, the reason he was with the teacher was because of the tragedy with his parents so to be honest we’re just kind of lurching from one disaster to the next when we look at Gray’s childhood.


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Number 3: Scar (Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood)

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What is more cliché than tragic backstory? Tragic backstory that leaves a visible scar. Despite making fun of it, Scar’s story is really quite horrific no matter how you want to look at it. As a survivor of a war that was more of an extermination than a fight and as someone who was forced to carry a power he found repulsive, Scar’s general anger towards everything kind of makes sense. Still, the nightmare doesn’t end as he goes out for revenge. It kind of prolongs the misery of this story.

Number 2: Ciel (Black Butler)

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Child with dead parents cliché? But this one is so much better than just that. Set in the Victorian era a conspiracy of monumental proportions brings down the family that serve the Queen and the child, tormented and humiliated, decides that the perfect solution to this is to take them all down even if he has to sell his soul to the demon who becomes known as Sebastian. The real tragedy here is that even if Ciel succeeds at his plan, his young soul is going to be devoured so he has no future. This isn’t just a tragic backstory. This is a living and breathing tragedy.


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Number 1: Yato (Noragami)

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While we haven’t yet heard all of Yato’s backstory, the pieces the audience have seen don’t exactly paint a great picture. Known as a god of calamity who would take on any wish isn’t exactly something that seems like it would be a pleasant existence. Couple in some real daddy issues with the as yet unseen string puller and Yato’s past is complex and has some fairly far reaching consequences. For those who know the silly facade Yato puts on in the presence, even they can see that there’s some deep pain buried underneath. I’m hoping when we finally get the whole story it manages to match the build up but to be honest, a lot of the time seeing Yato’s past makes me want to bring him home and feed him cookies.

And that’s my list but I’d love to know what would make your list.


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Karandi James

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Angel Beats Series Review: What Do You Live For?

Overview:

Another anime I cannot believe I haven’t already reviewed given how many times I’ve used this one as an example. I discussed this in anime using product placement and it is on at least four of my top 5 lists including top 5 anime that made me cry and top 5 anime from P.A. Works.

What is Angel Beats about? Otonashi wakes up and finds himself in a strange school. Nearby him is a girl setting up a gun and taking aim at another girl. The girl informs him he is dead and invites him to join a battlefront in a fight against god. Politely declining the girl’s offer, Otonashi decides to talk to the other girl. It is there he realises that he is in fact dead and he is now in the afterlife.

Review:

Angel Beats is one of those anime that you will either completely fall in love with or you will sit and stare at it wondering what the hell it is you are watching.  There’s very little room for inbetween given you either love the over the top humour followed by insane action and finally crush your heart drama or you find the whole thing an exercise in emotional manipulation that misses the mark. However, for me Angel Beats is one of those very special anime that I can watch time and again and no matter how many times I see it I laugh, I get excited, and then I end up a teary mess before breaking into that final smile post credits of the last episode (and yes, you have to watch through the credits otherwise you are just going to end up a mess).

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It is really hard to explain why I feel this way about Angel Beats though. The characters aren’t exactly riveting with such a large cast and so few episodes to develop them. While you will probably grow attached to Otonashi and Kanade, maybe Yuri if she doesn’t annoy you, and one or two other cast members, the vast majority remain strictly background or one note. This kind of means that a lot of the events later in the series shouldn’t have a lot of impact given the characters are more or less only distinguished by their hair colour, weapon or catch phrase and yet somehow they all manage to charm me in their own way even if I know very little about the bulk of them. Possibly it is because of how little time they get to annoy that they manage to remain charming. I think that given enough time characters like TK could get super annoying.

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Despite that, individual character moments are solid.  Iwasawa’s moment here we got her back story and then got to see her sing ‘My Song’ was incredibly emotionally wrenching and really consolidated that despite the zany humour, this show was serious about dealing with the themes it brought to the table when it set its story in the afterlife of young people who, for various reasons, never got to live their full lives the first time. This is really the first turning point of the series. A character you were kind of familiar with from the first couple of episodes takes the spot light and then breaks your heart and you finally realise what this show is going for in terms of tone and theme.

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Then there is Hinata and Yui. Yui may be an incredibly annoying character, but she still manages to have her moment to shine when we finally see her stripped of all the comedy, frantic energy and distractions. When you realise why she is forging herself into the person she became in the after life and you realise what she’s really trying to achieve it just hits you. The fact that she’s annoyed you every time she’s appeared on screen up to this point kind of fades away and Hinata steps in when Otonashi falters and he manages to give Yui the words she needs to hear at that moment.

And that’s probably the greatest strength of Angel Beats. It knows how to deliver moments. The overall narrative pacing and plot might be a bit of a mess with too many characters and at times too many ideas, but each of those character moments are beautifully spaced throughout the series that each time you think you might want to stop you’ll be hit with something really stunning and unforgettable. What you are left with is a series where the feeling of the whole is significantly greater than most of the individual parts.

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Visually Angel Beats is a joy. Sure there are some moments where the characters are off model and the animation isn’t as clean as it might be, but again, the show knows when to put everything on the table and there are those scenes that just take your breath away and they are the ones you will remember after watching. The dramatic moment when the lunch tickets float down to the ground, all the Angel’s recombining, the destruction of the guild, and the graduation sequence are each beautifully delivered and give you a sense of a truly gorgeous show. This is further reinforced by the fabulous music throughout the whole show (and one of the best opening themes of all time).

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I’m not going to say everyone should love this. The plot is a bit of a mess and there are definitely a lot of moments that are pure filler or there forced in for a sub-plot that ultimately doesn’t amount to much, and as much as I came to love the characters, there are just too many of them for the show to really do the cast justice. Still, if you watch it through and it reaches you, this show will be the one you reach for when you want to laugh, cry and then smile and just be able to feel something.

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As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on Angel Beats so please leave a comment and let me know whether you are in love with the show or whether it was a bit of a miss for you.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime That Make Me Cry

I’m sure all anime fans have a favourite series out there that they enjoy just because it hits them hard every time they watch it. That show, and that moment, that has you breaking down into tears. It isn’t a feeling I seek out all that often but every now and then it is exactly what I need. If it was finished, I know that March Comes in Like a Lion would have topped this list, but given it hasn’t, here are some of my other favourite shows that are sure to make me cry every time I watch them.

As always, I’d love to know what would be on your list.

Please Note – There are absolutely spoilers below.

Honourable mentions to Clannad After Story, Your Lie in April and Yuri on Ice.

Number 5: Code Geass

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Code Geass is action filled and exciting. It also has some thought provoking moments and some interesting commentary on the human condition. But what sticks with me long after I’m finished watching the show for the whatever number time I am up to is how many times it felt like the show had grabbed my heart in a fist and squeezed. Shirley’s death, Lelouch accidentally setting Euphemia off on her massacre, the final sequence, so many moments where it just punches you hard in the gut. And yes, Shirley’s death is the one that makes me cry each and every time.

Number 4: Steins;Gate

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For an apparently mad scientist, Rintaro really takes the events of Steins;Gate hard and what we see is a fairly quick break down as this guy gets hit time and time again by more than he can really deal with. As the weight of his failures start to crush him, we see Kurisu reach out to him unknowing that she’s also part of the weight that he can’t actually deal with. While eventually all is righted, this show can pack a mean emotional punch as you wonder what decision you could make in the situation particularly when it looks like saving Mayuri will lead to someone else’s death.

Number 3: Heaven’s Memo Pad

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Heaven’s Memo Pad starts out fairly innocuously and to be honest there’s a lot of silliness throughout the series. But underlying all of that there are always some fairly dark themes and ideas and the final story arc brings things right to the surface. With the attempted suicide of his friend at school and drugs being sold in the area, Narumi is left feeling utterly helpless and useless and ends up making a fairly rash decision in an effort to do something. I always forget just how serious this show ends up getting because I start it and get kind of fooled by the early episodes which means the ending hits hard every single time.

Number 2: Assassination Classroom

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You don’t get a prize for knowing the affect this show had on me when we finally got to that scene. Yes, the one where the students all stand around and say goodbye before Nagisa finally assassinates their teacher. And yes, it is designed to pull at your heart strings and it is overly long and all the other things people might say about it. But that doesn’t stop it from being highly affective and leaving me in a complete mess of tears absolutely every time.

Number 1: Angel Beats

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My go to anime for when I feel like having a cry. Whether it is Otonashi recalling his life, Hinata promising to marry Yui no matter what her condition was, the graduation sequence or the final farewell between Kanade  and Otonashi this show gets me. What I love is that I don’t feel bad while watching it. I laugh, I get excited in the action sequences, roll my eyes at the classroom antics, and get to go through a whole range of emotions before the show tears my heart out and stomps on it a few times. Plus, if you watch after the credits, after you’ve had your release of tears, the show does just enough to put a smile on your face and leave you feeling like the world isn’t such a bad place after all.

So there’s my list. What have you got on yours?


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Friday’s Feature: What Genre Is That?

As kids, when we first start watching anime, we kind of get the impression it is all giant robots and lots and lots of fighting (or magical girls, which are much the same except that they’ll hit you with sparkly hearts instead of a sword and the results will be more or less identical). For me, growing up with Sailor Moon and the like, that is what anime was and while it was cool and all, I probably wouldn’t have become the obsessed anime fan I am today except that there is so much more to anime than that.

As the internet actually became functional for watching videos (believe me if you didn’t grow up being introduced to dial up where waiting for even a single page of text to load was torture you have no idea how painful it was to try to watch or access anything else and even after dial up was a thing of the past slow internet speeds continued to be a major problem for access in Australia) there came the realisation that there were all these other types of anime out there. Suddenly, anime wasn’t just the beat ’em up amusement for when you felt like turning your brain off but was something that could be explored and where stories of all sorts could be found.

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Genre list from AnimeLab.

And that’s where this feature actually gets started because realising that anime wasn’t just about kids beating monsters meant that you then had to say more than just watching anime. You were watching a shounen or a mecha or a romance or a myriad of other types of anime. And then you get those series that you just can’t explain what genre they are at all.

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Let’s look at Angel Beats. I love this anime even if it makes me cry every single time I watch it; even if it is deliberately contrived to pull on your heart strings. So it’s a drama then? Not really. Certainly there are dramatic elements and the conclusion of the series would have you believe it is a drama or a romance but the show itself deals out healthy doses of comedy, action, slice of life, and fantasy. To simply call it a drama would not really get the point across at all and anyone who started watching it expecting a drama would probably hate it by episode 2 because the first two episodes deal very much with the comedy and fantasy elements of the show.

Now mixed genres are certainly not exclusive to anime stories. Many movies and books cross several genres particularly romances. The number of hybrid genres that have become mainstream such as romantic-comedy, historical-romance, and supernatural-romance are clear indicators that while romance is indeed a big genre people tend to prefer their romance paired with something else these days. It helps keep things interesting and moving.

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If we were to look at a show like Full Metal Alchemist defining genre becomes really difficult. MAL lists it as an action, adventure, comedy, drama, fantasy, magic, military, shounen. And yes, all of those genre elements are there. But what genre is Full Metal Alchemist? If we were going to file it somewhere under a genre title which one would we choose? I’d probably go with adventure given the whole thing follows the journey of the main characters but you could legitimately choose any of the other genres listed there and justify why FMA should be there.

So the question becomes, does genre matter? Why classify things if they are going to cross between genres and incorporate other elements?

From my point of view I think it is because regardless of the window dressing, stories tend to follow set patterns and that pattern is embedded within a genre. That is why Angel Beats ultimately is a drama and Full Metal Alchemist ultimately is an adventure story at least from my point of view and I fully accept that other people will classify them differently. Despite the comedy and all the other elements that come in to create subplots, excitement, or just fill time, these stories when broken down follow patterns that we are very familiar with. It is this adherence to basic story patterns that makes something mixed genre rather than just a mess of ideas that may or may not come together into something comprehensible.

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One thing I’m fairly certain of is that we’re going to see more and more stories (anime or otherwise) that will push the boundary of the genre they are in and draw on elements of other genres. Whether they do this well will remain to be seen.

What are your thoughts on genre in anime?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Females with Silver Hair

Okay, I’ve already covered blonde, red and blue hair so today I am tackling silver hair (though I won’t argue if you want to tell me some of these characters have white or gray hair). Next week I’ll share me list of the guys with silver hair and I had a lot more fun with that list but there are still some great female anime characters with silver hair to be found. My final decision this week came down to characters that had silver hair that I found to be kind of adorable on a character I found to be interesting. As such it is entirely subjective and I’d love to know who you would have included on your list.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions to Villetta Nu (Code Geass) and Eucliwood (Is This a Zombie).

Number 5: Anju from Karin, Chibi Vampire

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Anju is arguably the most interesting character from Karin despite how little she talks. A great deal of the plot is pushed forward by her small moments of interference or her suggestions to other characters. She sits in the background a lot but she is very motivated and driven. What I like the most about her is that despite the fact that she is very attached to her sister, she isn’t trying to hold her sister back but is really trying to push Karin into a life of her own. It is refreshing to see a sister complex that results in actually helping the object of your affection rather than trying to control them. All and all, I really liked Anju as a character and episodes that had more of an Anju focus were very enjoyable.

Number 4: Togame from Katanagatari

Togame is a fascinating character and her journey throughout Katanagatari with Shichika is adorable. Her hair plays a fairly critical role in the development of their relationship early on and later in the series gets cut, so not only is her hair beautiful but it also has a purpose in the plot (though I will admit it is probably more white than silver).

Number 3: Sylvette Suede from Letter Bee

I haven’t got around to a review of this show yet but it is adorable from start to finish and Sylvette is one of my favourite characters. She’s the sister of a missing letter carrier and has a strikingly similar appearance and colouring. Throughout the show she develops a close relationship with the main character as he goes on his journey. She’s wheelchair bound and her cooking is fairly toxic but she’s most definitely the most resilient character in the show and the one who regardless of circumstances knows that they have to keep moving forward in whatever way they can. Utterly adorable character and the heart of the show for a lot of the characters.

Number 2: Kanade from Angel Beats

Kanade is just adorable. Even when Angel Beats first started and she was set up as the antagonist, I loved her character from the opening as she played the piano. As the story developed, we found out she was just kind of dreadful at communicating and she was actually trying to help everyone move on. She’s just such a sweet character and I really wanted her to be happy at the end of the series, which is why I always end up in tears pre-final credits and then smiling like an idiot post-final credits.

Number 1: Yin from Darker Than Black

So what beats Kanade? An emotionless doll who actually has more agency than it first appears, apparently. Yin is undoubtably my favourite character on this list. While early in the series, she really is just a doll, as the story progresses you see more and more often the small things she does because she wishes to and the way she builds her relationship with Hei. She’s a crucial part of the team and the only reason Hei managed to succeed at anything, so really should get the title of most valuable player for Darker Than Black. Plus, she’s just beautiful.

Alright, that’s my list of silver hair female characters. Who would you have included on yours?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime from P.A. Works

While P.A. Works doesn’t excite me as much as BONES when looking for anime to watch, I have to admit, over the years P.A. Works have definitely been responsible for some of my favourite anime – and some that I’m not so fond of. Today I’m listing my favourite 5. No real criteria other than I enjoyed them. Basically all of these are really pretty anime (though the other common feature will be slightly problematic storylines). Feel free to add your favourite in the comments or tell me which studio you like.

For patrons my lesser 5 are up though there are actually only 3 titles on my list of P.A Works anime that I just don’t like (though there’s a few I’ve yet to see).

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions go to: True Tears and Hanasaku Iroha.

Number 5: Charlotte

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For all the complaints about the story in this anime, I loved Charlotte. It started off really ho-hum and then it just took off and while not every part of it landed smoothly it was ambitious and it worked really hard. Plus, there was just kind of something about Charlotte that appealed to me. Whichever way, this is an anime that stuck with me after I finished watching it and every now and then I go back for another run through it just to see if I’m deluding myself but I always enjoy that watch.

Number 4: Red Data Girl

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Another one where it is pretty easy to make fun of the story. Admittedly, I don’t like the rest of the series as much as I loved the first three episodes, but I still really enjoyed it. There are some good ideas and visually it is great. The story itself doesn’t really manage to achieve what it sets out to do, much like Charlotte it is overly ambitious, but it is entertaining and I quite liked the journey this anime took us on.

Number 3: Another

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Classic horror, of course Another made the list. When you take P.A. Works and their very pretty, atmosphere dripped animation and couple it with horror you have a recipe for something very beautiful (in a gore covered fashion). Again, it isn’t like Another isn’t without a few issues in its story but it is great for the horror fans fo the world as this slow burning story plays out before we go to the climax where clearly the writers just went for maximum carnage (though they weren’t willing to knock off the main characters which kind of took a bit of the suspense out of it all).

Number 2: Angel Beats

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It really was difficult to not put this at number 1. It is one of my favourite anime ever and it makes me laugh and cry every single time I watch it. There are some amazingly beautiful scenes in this anime as well as some awesome music. The characters are all really interesting (not very believable but interesting) and the story just drags you in and you just want to know why the characters are where they are and what they will do next. I love the crazy and over the top violence of this paired with the quieter refective moments and while I know it isn’t to everyone’s taste Angel Beats will always come up if I’m discussing my favourite anime.

Number 1: Uchouten Kazoku

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So what can beat Angel Beats? Try a family of Tanuki living in Kyoto. Four brothers all working to overcome the death of their father in their own special way (including one who chose to transform into a frog and live in a well) while trying to avoid being eaten themselves. This has magic, great dialogue, humour,  interesting characters, some interesting action sequences, and a lot of heart. It’s brilliant. It’s also one of those anime that I keep forgetting about until I see it again and then I remember how amazing it is. Definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it before. And they’ve announced a second season which normally doesn’t get me overly excited but this world was just amazing fun (please don’t mess it up).

So that’s my list this week. Your thoughts?


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