Tuesday’s Top 5: Trains and Train Sequences in Anime

I love a good train sequence and I know I’m not alone. There’s a reason why it is a staple of action movies and dramas alike. Trains can let the cast sit back and have those poignant conversations to catch the audience up on details and ensure that the characters can’t escape midway through, they allow for some thrilling cat and mouse, and mostly they allow for an escalated sense of drama because until they get to the next station you aren’t getting off. At least not without a few bumps and scrapes. There’s just something really fun about trains and they serve so many purposes in stories outside of just getting the characters from point A to point B.

Below are some of my favourite train sequences. When I thought of this list my main consideration was how memorable the train or train sequence was within the anime. I’d love to know your favourites so leave a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mention: Full Metal Alchemist – It is amazing how much exposition takes place while the characters are on the various trains travelling around the country.

Number 5: Fairy Tail

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Okay, the train in Fairy Tail has a number of purposes. Firstly it does just get the cast from point A to B. It also allows for some bonding between team members. It’s also one of the many sources of the ongoing joke that Natsu gets motion sick. And, because it is Fairy Tail, the train and the train tracks are also the sight of a fairly intense battle sequence. Or it would have been fairly intense if the battles that came after it hadn’t completely eclipsed it. At the time when you watch it, the battle seems like a big deal. Whichever way, the train and the fight were well remembered even though its been quite awhile since I put Fairy Tail on hold and I need to get back and finish watching it at some point.

Number 4: Chuunibyou

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Love and Other Delusions indeed, but the scene that stands out to me more so than any other save the climax of season one is the scene where Yuuta watches Rikku do her thing and stares in amazement as the train door opens and she struts on, before realising he neglected to get on and he is now late for school. It’s a classic moment and one that really defines the relationship the two characters will carry on with for the better half of season one. So while technically not on a train, when thinking of train scenes, this one immediately came to mind.

Number 3: Spirited Away

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A rare entry from an anime movie on one of my lists. I’m not the biggest fan of Spirited Away, it’s pleasant enough but it doesn’t really stick. And yet, for some reason the train scene does. It isn’t even a major point in the story as it really is just a visually pretty interlude as we move from one setting to another and stretch out the run time of a story with some striking scenery. However, it did serve its purpose and it is quite an iconic sequence.

Number 2: Izetta: The Last Witch

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As much as I ended up not enjoying Izetta very much as a whole, the train sequence from episode 1 was pretty brilliant. It was exciting, it got me hyped for the setting and time period of this anime, and it was actually the highlight of the entire series. Too bad it peaked in episode 1. But, it does make this train sequence one that it worth remembering because it did exactly what it needed to in grabbing the audiences’ attention.

Number 1: Baccano

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Could there ever have been a different choice for this list? The Flying Pussyfoot is legendary and this train dominates as the setting of the most memorable of the interwoven stories in the series. So many characters have converged in a confined space with their own backstories and motives. There will be laughs, mis-understandings, and blood. So much blood before this train ride is completed. Definitely a train ride to remember even if it does take the better part of a season to see the entirety of it.

Again, this was my list, but I’d love to know your picks below.


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Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Plot vs Character and What is Darling in the Franxx?

There’s something of an ongoing debate going about whether stories are better when they are plot driven or character driven, or whether some sort of balance is needed in between the two. For me, it always comes down to what type of story it is as to what I prefer the focus to be.

For example, I loved Fruits Basket even though the anime has almost no plot. Tohru is living rough when she’s taken in by the Sohma’s and then she meets various Sohma’s and helps them out with various things but there’s no real driving plot. There’s the ongoing issue of the curse and some of the inner workings of the family that link things together as well as the characters themselves, but realistically it is the characters and their interactions that drive the audience’s engagement with the story. The plot itself isn’t really doing that.

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However, there are some anime that take the same approach as Fruits Basket and bore me silly. I end up wondering why the plot can’t get moving along. This is usually when I haven’t made any kind of a connection with the characters and so their interactions offer little of interest for me. Other people will find the cast perfectly charming and the story will work for them, but it ends up being very much about whether the characters work for them or not.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my overall preference would be for stories that had a clear and driving plot. A definite goal that is being headed for and an end point that can either be achieved or failed. I’ll put up with some fairly ordinary characterisation as long as I can see where the average characters are trying to get to and I’m interested in that journey.

But what do we do with stories that can’t seem to decide what they are?

And by that, I don’t mean character driven stories that actually have a plot (such as Baccano) or plot driven stories that put some time into their characters (Psycho Pass), but rather stories where the character development seems to be actively competing with and at times undermining plot development.

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Our current case study: Darling in the Franxx.

The first episode of Darling in the Franxx set up a real standard dystopian future with generic teens becoming mecha pilots and having to protect their city from some inhuman enemy. Certainly Zero Two as a character left an impression even back at episode 1, but the episode itself was very much setting up a plot driven story. At its core we had Hiro, the one who was being left behind having failed to become a pilot and having had to fight to overcome this, finally getting a chance to pilot with Zero Two, the rumoured pilot killer.

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As expected, the next couple of episodes focused on this partnership that allowed Hiro to overcome this weakness and gave some backstory on the main character. There were some diversions as other characters had a little bit of development to flesh out the world. And then they face a minor crisis, the third time piloting which was meant to be the end of the road.

All of this was pretty standard fare for the genre and while some of it was clearly exaggerated to a level that almost became self-parody, it was setting up what should have been a really interesting story.

From episode 7 on, however, the story has kind of flopped about and if the last two episodes are anything to go by, we’ve become strictly a character drama set to a back-drop of the dystopian world.

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Episode 7 of course being the infamous beach episode. While it did some world building and had some character moments, we all know why the super controlling adults let the kids spend a day unsupervised on a beach. The production team wanted an excuse to put the cast in swimsuits. It broke the logic of the world and just because they give us an explainer about one of the scientists being eccentric and trying different things doesn’t mean we need to swallow it.

We had progressive episodes after that which moved us through the support cast and gave them all more depth and interest. It was lovely and all but it started to feel like a totally different show. Then we had the blow up with Ichigo and Zero Two in episode 14 where fans went crazy and I honestly had to stop and wonder why they cared so much. Sure there had always been the whole love triangle going on but to me it had always been background to a story that kept getting buried and delayed. The only reason I cared about it at all was because the character relationships directly effected their ability to pilot.

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Then episode 15 hit us with a massive amount of plot points, utterly and completely buried under a thinly disguised teen melodrama.

Which made me think that maybe the entire time I had it wrong. Maybe Darling in the Franxx never intended to be plot driven. Maybe the robots and dystopian setting were all just background to a teen version of Days of Our Lives and it just took me 15 episodes to notice.

My problem with that theory is that the first episode doesn’t support it. Actually, the first three episodes don’t support that idea. The characterisation is very much background as the plot is being firmly established. It is just after the ground work was laid down, the story abandoned it in favour of character development.

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And that’s where we get this character vs plot problem.

This story isn’t delivering a satisfying plot because for chunks of it at a time the plot has been forgotten and when we finally had some plot development it was rushed through and not given the time and attention needed to have an impact.

And the character drama, while it is definitely a drama, comes in after the fact and just kind of starts taking all the attention but at the same time what it is offering isn’t really that unique. It’s just another teen romance gone wrong and if that was what the show was going to be about, I probably wouldn’t have signed up to watch it.

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What really gets me here, is that we’ve seen character driven mecha anime done right. Neon Genesis Evangelion all but wrote the book on teen drama and mecha pilots. And it was extraordinary.

The key difference?

Even in episode 1 of Evangelion, when they were definitely setting up the setting and the plot, the audience became aware of Shinji as a character and his short comings and the issues he would overcome. He wasn’t generic pilot protagonist who we might get to know later, as Hiro definitely was early on in the Franxx (though I guess people who like Hiro’s character will probably disagree with me on that). It kind of links to what I said at the start of this post. I enjoy character driven stories when I connect with the character and Evangelion did it right.

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Darling in the Franxx made me think I was getting a plot driven story and has since delivered more or less anything but, and the overall impression I’m left with is that it is just a bit of a mess that hasn’t quite figured out what it wanted to be. That isn’t to say that a lot of what has happened hasn’t been interesting. There are definitely things to think about and moments that have been pretty spectacular. But to look at the anime as a whole, my main impression would be that it is messy and a little bit problematic.

What do you think?


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Karandi James

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Baccano Series Review: Ambition, Immortality, Murder and Mayhem

Overview:

During the early 1930s in Chicago, the transcontinental train, Flying Pussyfoot, is starting its legendary journey that will leave a trail of blood all over the country. At the same time in New York, the ambitious scientist Szilard and his unwilling aide Ennis are looking for missing bottles of the immortality elixir. In addition, a war between the mafia groups is getting worse. On board the Advena Avis, in 1711, alchemists are about to learn the price of immortality.

– From MAL

Review:

Baccano is one of those anime that the first time you try and watch it, you would be easily forgiven for dropping mid-episode 1 and walking away. The opening episode is incredibly dry and confusing as it has two characters discussing a range of apparently unrelated events seemingly trying to find a connection between them or a main character for the story. The dialogue is slow, you have no context for anything they are discussing, and all in all it is probably one of the worst opening episodes I have endured for an otherwise very competent anime.

What makes it worse, is that after having watched the anime through, the opening actually makes perfect sense and on the second and third watch of the series you begin to think the first episode is actually rather good, and that is probably a mistake. I remember it took me nearly four goes before I watched this beyond episode 1. It then became something I couldn’t stop watching and ended up falling in love with, but that first episode is tough to get through. Still, endure it and you will find a story that ends up hitting all the right notes even if it takes its time to get there.

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Part of what makes the first watch through of this series challenging is the sheer number of characters and that you are jumping through time and locations as three stories are told almost simultaneously but the links between them aren’t all that clear until you are fair way through the narrative. Adding to the confusion of the main storylines are characters like Isaac and Miria (who are amazing) that simply float through every other characters’ story at some point though they don’t actually have all that much to do with the main stories that are going on. Their presence is completely necessary to everything that happens, and to draw certain ideas and characters together, as well as to move several key plot points along, and yet they are almost oblivious to the story the audience is trying to follow as they flit about in their own little world. It makes them amazing but confusing.

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With so many characters it would be easy to write off a lot of them as one-note and given the majority of the story is set in a world of gangsters and we see the usual tropes getting pulled out and marched onto screen, that could be a fair complaint. However, there’s a lot going on in this story and even seemingly simple characters sometimes offer a little bit more than meets the eye when you stick with the show. Then there are the pivotal characters within the plot that have been given a lot more depth. While they don’t get a lot of screen time individually, they leave a lasting impression.

The show does a number of things to help the audience out with remembering who is who and what their role is. The most obvious is the opening, which outside of being awesome to listen to and entertaining, introduces each character in their element and also draws a lot of the relationships for the audience. Watching the opening can really help early on in the series if you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of faces and names being thrown around. However, outside of that, the majority of the characters stay within their plot. There are connections to the other stories being told, but with the exception of Isaac and Miria, very few of the other characters cross between storylines until the very end when things kind of come together. This means that you can usually remember when and where you are based on which group of characters you are currently following. Also, that boring first episode, actually does give you a lot of the set up if you manage to pay attention to it.

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One thing I really liked about the story was despite the fact that Ladd Russo is most definitely crazy and violent, the story doesn’t try to paint those opposed to him or anyone as heroic. Self-interest reigns supreme for almost all of these characters and their actions reflect that. While sometimes characters are cast in a more heroic light, the anime itself largely refrains from pushing anyone into that hero or good guy role. That doesn’t mean that their aren’t likeable characters in the story. There are many characters you may end up really loving. However, even Isaac and Miria are thieves and everyone else has plenty of blood on their hands.

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Ultimately, Baccano is one of those stories that it is best to try yourself and make your own mind up about so I’m avoiding going into any specific details about the plot. It is violent and quite gory in places so it probably isn’t for those who dislike blood and violence. However, that upbeat opening song isn’t just for show. Despite some dark subject matter, this show is a bundle of fun to watch and one that sticks with you after viewing. I definitely recommend a second viewing of it though because everything is more fun in this show the second time when you know where it is going and aren’t struggling as much with character identification.

I’d love to know your thoughts on Baccano if you’ve seen it.


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Friday’s Feature: The Dynamics of Duos

The Autumn 2017 anime season gave viewers many things, but one thing I took away from it was an absolute love of Chito and Yuuri, a duo made up of two moe girls surviving in a dying a world. In a show that really only had two characters for the majority of its run time, those two and their relationship was crucial to the show’s charm and success and they pulled it off with seeming ease. But what made those two such a perfect duo?

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I kind of touched on this in one of my episode posts where I pointed out that Chito and Yuuri had pretty much demonstrated the two types of people in the world (an over-simplification but it does feed in to why these two work so well). For those who didn’t read the post the basic idea was that the girls had found a path marked by arrows and Chito had commented that she wished life could be like that with clear arrows pointing the way. Yuuri on the other hand wanted to leave the path just to see what might be down another away.

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From that, it might seem like the show was simply playing on the opposites attract characterisation as seen in a million buddy cop shows and there is an element of that in Girls’ Last Tour. And yet, the relationship the girls have is more complicated than just being opposites of one another. So while Yuuri might be the more adventurous and the first to ask if something is edible or to simply try biting something and Chito might be the kind of try to find a description of it in a book and not trying eating it until she is sure it is edible, both girls do in fact explore a world that is seemingly dead and has proven more than once to be dangerous and both remain surprisingly positive in the face of fair amount of hopelessness.

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It is in the final episodes however that you really realise that for all that Chito has been the quiet one, the one not carrying a gun, the one unlikely to race ahead without a plan; she can only be like that because she has Yuuri with her. Yuuri saves Chito when the path crumbles beneath their bike and took the lead in defending the two when they were threatened, and yet when Yuuri gets into what might be a sticky situation, Chito doesn’t hesitate. She picks up the gun and she races after her friend. Likewise, we have seen a number of times that Yuuri might come off as lazy, selfish and a little bit silly at times and yet she comes through every time when Chito needs her. Yuuri is also only able to be Yuuri because Chito has her back and won’t let her do anything too stupid. What makes the relationship really work is clearly both girls know what the other provides for them and they respect the other for the balance they provide.

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That is what makes these girls so adorable to watch as they muse about life, the universe and everything (or at least where they will go next and what they might eat). It is also what makes it so fun thinking about whether you are more like Chito or Yuuri and most of us will draw the conclusion that there’s a little bit of both inside of us depending on the situation (though Yuuri lost me a little when she set a book on fire).

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After finishing Girls’ Last Tour I started thinking about other anime duos that I’d really enjoyed and this was actually a struggle as so many anime rely on group dynamics (five is a number that comes up a lot particularly in high school anime – though that is a post for another day). I ended up thinking of Takeo and Sunakawa from My Love Story and Isaac and Miria from Baccano.

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Takeo and Sunakawa are fantastic and were what really made My Love Story come alive for me (okay, I also like Takeo’s relationship with Yamato given it is what the show is about). And when thinking about it, Takeo and Sunakawa have a similar style relationship to Chito and Yuuri. On the surface they seem like opposites and that’s fine enough and would create enough of an interesting watch. And yet it is the way they complement each other and the way that they use the other’s strength to support themselves that makes the relationship truly meaningful.

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It isn’t all smooth sailing (particularly when Takeo decides he needs to practice kissing and Sunakawa is his nominated test subject) but Takeo ditches his girlfriend on her birthday midway through their date to be with Sunakawa at the hospital when Sunakawa’s father is having surgery. And Sunakawa turned down every girl who ever asked him out because they’d all said something bad about Takeo behind his back. These two are a fantastic duo and to be honest I’d love a second season of My Love Story just to see more of these two and where their lives take them.

Isaac and Miria

Isaac and Miria are a little different. To start with, they aren’t the main characters in Baccano. They certainly cross into almost every story, but they are strictly side character/comic relief in the story. Also, they aren’t opposites. Instead these two characters are positive thinking epitomised with happy-go-lucky attitudes that keep them going in the face of more or less anything. They bounce off each other, build each other up, and work together in absolute unison. Despite their limitations in thinking things through at times, you just know that everything will work out in the end for the two of them and they are definitely the happiest of the cast in Baccano.

They are certainly an odd pairing given neither really brings anything to the table that the other one does not possess. And yet it is impossible to consider these two characters simply being a single character. While some of the jokes could have worked, it is the relationship between the two and the way they work together that sells every scene they are in and steals the viewers attention.

Anyway, I’m going to keep my eyes out for other duos in anime and I’d love to know some of your favourites so if you have a favourite anime duo be sure to leave a comment below.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Characters Who Are a Bit Strange

Alright, anime characters by their very nature are usually a bit strange. They are after all living in the anime universe and not the real world. That said, there are some characters that take being a bit peculiar to all new levels of strange. Sometimes there’s a really good reason for their actions (childhood trauma, etc), and other times they just like doing what they do. So today’s top 5, I’m focussing on my favourite top 5 strange characters. This list is kind of similar to my list on characters who weren’t all there but on that list I went more with characters who were a bit spacey and oblivious rather than characters who clearly have direction its just weird what direction they’ve chosen.

Please Note: There are some plot spoilers below if you read the descriptions.

Honourable mentions this week go to Oculus from Death Parade and Misaki Mei from Another.

Number 5: Koko Hekmatyar from Jormangand

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Koko is an arms dealer. She’s tough and almost impossible to phase even if you point a gun directly at her face. That said, she’s also more than a little bit odd. She’s got a strange moral code and at times her decisions about who to deal with and who to walk away from seems fairly arbitrary. Also, after spending a lot of her childhood on battlefields she has picked up one very strange habit after she was told by one of her body guards she should always be smiling. All and all, Koko is a character I love, but the girl is strange.

Number 4: Kagerou Shoukin from Inu X Boku

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This guy sees everything in the world through the classification of either being an S (sadist) or an M (masochist) and he goes to great lengths to explain his reasons and logic to those around him even when they tell him they don’t care. Even a Lazy Susan in a Chinese restaurant doesn’t escape classification. Kagerou is one seriously annoying character, but he does have style and you certainly can’t accuse him of not being true to who he is.

Number 3: Miyo Takano from Higurashi

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Miyo’s strangeness is really entirely understandable given the horrific experiences she had at the orphanage as a child, but that doesn’t excuse her decision to kill an innocent child and then massacre an entire village just to prove that her adopted father’s research was actually right all along. You do have to admire her dedication to the long term plan and she’s certainly tried to account for all the loose ends. If not for time looping and the power of friendship, she’d have definitely succeeded and she did many, many times before she was finally defeated.

Number 2: Akito Sohma from Fruits Basket

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Alright, if you just watch the anime, Akito is just a bully and a nutjob. Violent temper tantrums, control issues, and outright torture of younger family members litter the scenes Akito appear in. There’s some attempt to justify this extreme personality in the manga, though while it helps you to see why Akito is so crazy it doesn’t really justify Akito’s actions given for the most part this is a case of misplaced anger. A tragic figure through and through, there’s something compelling about Akito so that even when you hate what Akito is doing, you can’t really look away.

Number 1: Ladd Russo and Claire Stanfield from Baccano

I couldn’t really split these two. In a show full of strange and extreme characters with strange and extreme personalities, these two still managed to distinguish themselves as being severely unhinged and yet fantastic fun to watch. Their show down on top of the train was one of the highlights of an anime I loved through and through. They are also oddly similar though Claire is clearly the more refined. Neither is squeamish or has an issue with blood and they both wholly believe in their abilities and that their actions and justified. They also severely lack empathy for pretty much anyone else except their chosen lady. All and all, these two guys are awesome to watch on screen but I would never, ever want to meet anyone like them.

Over to you: Who is your favourite strange anime character?


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Friday’s Feature: Are There No New Ideas?

I’d suggest that those who haven’t watched Your Lie in April and haven’t read yet what happens, that you might want to try one of my other posts and come back after you’ve either watched the end or someone else has spoiled it for you.

It’s a common criticism of television shows, movies, and of course anime, that the storyline is old. We’ve seen that before. Oh, it’s just like such and such. However, is this a fair criticism? Depending on which theorist you’d like to believe there are only between 5 and 10 storylines in the entire world and we’ve just been recycling them and giving them make-overs for thousands of years. So should originality really be an issue when writing a story?

That said, the main purpose of most stories being made into television shows, movies and anime is to entertain (there are other purposes but that’s the main one – unless you are cynical enough to believe that the only purpose is making money) and in order to entertain there needs to be an element of novelty. Can you be novel and unoriginal at the same time?

And that’s where we have to start looking at the quality of the story telling and the way the elements have been combined. A simple fairytale  can feel like a masterpiece in the hands of someone who knows how to weave it into something magical whereas an epic story might feel like the longest and most boring time of your life in the hands of someone who just doesn’t get how to tell a good story.

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Let’s look at Your Lie In April. With 22 episodes to fill you would think we could cover a fairly complex plot in that time. Over the course of 22 episodes we meet and get to know four characters (and only two of them are really developed). We have the initial refusal by Kousei to accompany Kaori and then we see them getting closer and in the process we learn more about Kousei’s trauma, and then we have our hearts broken into tiny little pieces by a death that was incredibly foreshadowed and obvious but still emotionally crippling to watch. That’s it. They meet. She makes him face something he doesn’t want to face. They grow. She dies. The end. There’s some other moments with some of the support cast and while the characterisation of the main pair and emotional weight of the story is well developed, the story itself is that straight forward.

Do we have any other stories that follow this path?  Well, lots if you really start looking but the one that immediately jumps out is Love Story from 1970. No, it isn’t exactly the same however the impact of two characters meeting and growing together before a death that leaves the survivor with a new direction is kind of the same. And no, I’m not suggesting that Your Lie in April is a rip-off of anything. But we have seen this pattern in stories before. The events themselves aren’t new.

So why is Your Lie in April effective as a story? (Okay some of you will say it isn’t but everyone has their own opinion and that’s fine.)

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If you were to ask the viewers what they like about the story, you will get a whole range of different answers. The music and the way it perfectly complements the themes. The visuals and the way they show Kousei’s anxiety on the stage. The relationship between Kousei and Kaori. The connection they felt to the characters as the story played out. For me it was the connection between the character’s mental state and emotions and the sound of the music. It’s the way this story has been told and the way the different parts have been put together that draws the audience in. That said, all of these other elements could still be there and if the writers had decided not to let Kaori die (after all that foreshadowing) I’m pretty sure most people would have ended up feeling rather indifferent. Despite the ending being obvious fairly early on, and by the half-way point outright inevitable, the way this story is told makes the journey memorable even if it doesn’t pull a last minute twist of any kind or really seek to break new ground.

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Then what if we consider something more complex like Baccano. You might argue that Baccano has a unique storyline and there isn’t anything else like it. And it is true that when you watch Baccano it certainly feels novel and different. But that isn’t because of the story. What Baccano does is combines multiple storylines together and then presents them in fragments with each story interconnecting with every other through either a character, object, or event. If we were to untangle each character’s story we actually get a whole lot of fairly simple plot lines. Again, this is not a criticism of Baccano. The presentation of the story (or stories) is really interesting and there is rewatch value in that some of the connections are missed the first time through.

What do you think? Are there new ideas for storylines or are there just new settings, new characters, and new ways to deliver the story? And does it even matter?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Characters that are not all there.

Okay, anime is full of zany, quirky characters but every now and then we come across a character who you just have to wonder what is going on inside their head (if anything). There characters can be fun and amusing or they can be completely annoying but they usually leave a fairly lasting impression. For the most part I’ve tried to avoid genuinely insane characters (or characters that have a mental illness where it is being treated seriously) or master mind villains because they fall into a category all of their own.

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

Honourable mentions Sylphy (Amagi Brilliant Park), Isaac and Miria (Baccano), Cassandra (Black Blood Brothers), Barry the Chopper (Full Metal Alchemist), Seo (Gekkan Shojo Nozaki-kun) and Hajime (Hamatora).

Number 5: The Colourless King from K

While at first he seems like the mastermind behind the violence between the Kings and it feels like he might have fallen into the villain category, once we get more time with the Colourless King it becomes clear that this is a very unhinged character. What we don’t ever find out is whether or not they were unhinged prior to taking on the personalities of all the people he had taken over or whether he had slowly become that way. Whichever way, this character (brief though their appearance is) definitely manages to steal the show with their multiple personality monologue. That said, this character while unhinged is still very effective at working through their plan and very nearly succeeded at achieving their goals.

Number 4: Schokolade from Jormungand

Sometimes I don’t know if she is effective and actually smarter than she looks or if she is just a food and money obsessed ditz. In a show about arms dealers and government organisations, Schokolade is decidedly a small time character working under other people (or being bribed by them). While it is clear she is being used, it is also clear that she seems to be enjoying herself and usually come out of the situation with what she wants. I have no idea how this character survived through this story though.

Number 3: Karuta Roromiya from Inu X Boku SS

Karuta is another food obsessed girl and she is one spacey character. It is difficult to know what she is thinking but as Watanuki points out, she always knows what she is doing even if the rest of us don’t get it. Besides, how can we hate someone who helps small animals, likes to eat, and can transform into a giant skeleton if push comes to shove?

Number 2: Ladd Russo from Baccano

While he is definitely a villain he isn’t a crazy evil genius. Ladd is just… obsessed with violence? An egomaniac? Completely disconnected from reality? It’s hard to know but a character who chooses to wear white in order to show the blood better definitely deserves a mention as someone who isn’t all there. And Ladd is such an upbeat murderer. That said, other than hunting the thrill of violence and death, his motives remain totally in the dark as does any reason for his warped personality. I wasn’t even a little upset when he was beaten and had to abandon the train though his survival was a little regrettable.

Number 1: Grell Sutcliff from Black Butler

There’s not a lot you can really say about Grell except that he knows exactly who he is and he isn’t about to change. This is one flamboyant character who enjoys a good fight as much as a good flirt (though in Sebastian’s case Grell would love to go beyond flirting). Grell’s favourite colour is red and he personifies the fiery and diverse nature of this colour from passion through to violence. That said, we know next to nothing about Grell’s real feelings beneath the antics and we know next to nothing about how Grell came to be how he is. This character marches to the beat of their own drum and it works.

So that’s the list this week. Who would you have put on yours?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday’s Top 5: Character Quirks

Okay, if you are looking for quirky characters, anime has you covered. However, there are some characters who just have one specific trait that in some ways ends up defining them. This is my list of favourite quirks that complement the other features of the character, fit into the narrative being told, and still manage to stand out and be remembered. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.

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

Honourable mentions this week go to: Baldo from Black Butler for cooking with explosives, Fuko from Clannad for carving starfish, Isana Yashiro from K for his umbrella, Lita from Sailor Moon for her constant falling in love, and Himemiko from Kamisama Kiss for clacking her teeth together.

Number 5: Nice Holystone from Baccano

Despite her name, Nice is definitely an explosives junky which ultimately caused the disfiguring accident she had as a kid. Did that in any way curb her enthusiasm for things that go boom? Not remotely. When things get bad, Nice always has a supply of noisy helpers and a big smile on her face.

Number 4: Io Otonashi from Acchi Kocchi

In a show full of one trick and quirky characters it is amazing that I remember Io so vividly, sitting as his desk and spinning his pen. It’s probably just how impressive he is at spinning it that makes it stick but that image really defines his character for me.

Number 3: Saki Hanajima from Fruits Basket

I don’t know if this one is ever explained in the manga, but in the anime, Saki spends a lot of time reading people’s waves. She senses something odd about the Soma’s, knows when people are sad, and generally scares the living daylights out of anyone who is mean to Tohru. At times this is invaluable as Saki is a hard worker in the background ensuring that Tohru is able to enjoy her high school life.

Number 2: Gray Fullbuster from Fairy Tail

Once again, the show is full of quirky characters with a whole array of interesting character traits, but Gray and his stripping down to his underwear is what stuck with me. He was definitely one of my favourite characters and it makes perfect sense that an ice mage wouldn’t be worried about the cold. The fact that this is usually subconscious until someone points out to him that he’s stripped is just funny (as is the back story as to how he developed this trait). And yes, the joke is overplayed, but still funny.

Number 1: Edward Elric from Full Metal Alchemist

Edward takes being offended by comments about his height to a whole new level. To the point where he actually insults himself and his height far more than any other character in the show. It’s absurd and hilarious. It also adds a bit of reality to his character. He is just a kid and he’s having to face issues far above his emotional maturity and deal with the world of adults. Having a few of these very childish traits (he also hates milk) really just rounds out his character.

So what are some of your favourite character quirks?

Top 5 Tuesday: Nice Guys/Girls in Anime

I know it’s weird but this is probably the hardest list I’ve tried to write so far. I was thinking how easy it would be to come up with the top 5 nice characters but then I started thinking what about… and the list just never ended. Finally I’ve whittled it down to my 5 favourite nice guys and girls.

My criteria for the final list was simple. They had to be nice and pivotal to the plot. The couldn’t be nice even while other characters walked over them (so they had to have some sort of backbone) but they mostly liked to get on with others. Also, they had to be in an anime where the main characteristic of the cast wasn’t nice. So Shirayuki and the like were ruled out pretty much instantly. See what you think and add any characters you’d like in the comments below.

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

Honourable mentions this week are going to a lot of characters because they got axed from the final list. Kazari Uiharu (A Certain Scientific Railgun), Sakakibara Kouichi (Another), Yuri Makita (Ao Haru Ride), Naoya Touhara (Astarotte no Omoucha), Tohru Honda (Fruits Basket), Chiho (The Devil is a Part Timer), and lastly Kukuri Yukizome (K).

Number 5: Shiemi Moriyama (Ao No Exorcist)

There’s not a lot to say about Shiemi. She’s an adorable character and she just wants to make friends with all the other exorcists. The reason she isn’t higher up the list is because she is a little bit of a doormat at times and it takes a lot for her to assert herself, though she does improve throughout the series. Fittingly, her summoned spirit thing allows her to grow plants that she mostly uses for healing purposes which more than once makes her invaluable to the team.

Number 4: Hak (Akatsuki no Yona)

This one was probably an odd choice because I’m thinking that most people don’t automatically use the adjective nice to describe Hak. However, my view is he is an incredibly nice character. He’s the older brother/friend who looks after Yona and she knows that he’ll have her back even when she blows up at him. More importantly, early on Hak respects Yona’s choice even when he is clearly in love with her (or maybe that’s just my view). He could have been a lot more intrusive but instead other than some gentle teasing, he kind of stays out of her way (until she needs some serious rescuing). I think he’s an incredibly nice character toward his friends and particularly Yona, but I’m guessing his enemies will not see that side of him.

Number 3: Mimiko Katsuragi (Black Blood Brothers)

Mimiko kind of gets dragged around a lot during Black Blood Brothers and she works really hard for Jiro and his brother to help them get to the Special Zone and to help them get established there. She’s an incredibly nice person, but she is definitely not a door mat. At every stage of the journey she puts forward her views and at times openly challenges Jiro and his opinions. She’s probably the most balanced character I’ve included on this list.

Number 2: Aberline (Black Butler)

In an anime where every character is more or less morally suspect, Aberline and his desire to make a safer London really does stand apart from the rest of the cast. Of course, his nicer nature made it inevitable that he would give us one of the more tragic moments of the series and the futility of his gesture just made it all the more heart-breaking. Aberline is a great character. He has his convictions and a desire born from his own life experience and yet he reaches out to Ciel as he sees that Ciel has definitely lost his way in all the corruption. Nice guy, tragic end.

Number 1: Jacuzzi Splot (Baccano)

A nice guy looking out for his friends in a world of gangsters? Jacuzzi had to be my number 1 pick (though it was hard even choosing him from amongst the cast of Baccano because a number of our ‘gangsters’ were deceptively nice). He is completely devoted to his friends and ensuring their safety, would love to avoid violence if at all possible, seems like a complete coward but definitely knows when it is time to stand up and be counted. And he doesn’t do that half way. Even the story behind his tattoo is completely adorable.

So, which nice characters have I missed? Who should be on the list?

 

 

 

Tuesday’s Top 5: Weird Episode Titles

Frequently you don’t really know what an individual episode is called but when you buy the DVD or start searching for a particular episode online you suddenly realise the title and you are thinking… what the? Some anime go for thematic titles whereas others just go for long and strange. Here are my top 5 weird episode titles.

Share some of your favourite episode titles below.

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

Honourable mentions this week go Akame ga Kill and Black Butler for their thematic episode naming. That wasn’t enough to get them onto the list but it was enough for them to be considered.

Number 5: Not Enough Pool Safety (Amagi Brilliant Park)

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Amagi also went with thematic naming (for most of the series) with episode titles such as ‘Not Enough Time’ and ‘Not Enough Money’. While those are pretty straight forward, I pulled out episode 7’s ‘Not Enough Pool Safety’ because of the episode content. WHile the title seems straight forward you aren’t really expecting magical pirate invaders to take control of the theme park’s pool area. The title is descriptive but deceptive and certainly caught my interest.

Number 4: From Dusk Till Dawn (Dance in the Vampire Bund)

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Horror references abound in the episode titles of Dance in the Vampire Bund. ‘Interview with the Vampire’, ‘Teen Wolf’ and ‘Howling’ all feature in the line up. ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’, episode 6, kind of feels like a turning point for the series in terms of atmosphere and the character arcs which is why I liked the reference.

Number 3: The First Semicolon (Astarotte’s Toy)

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All of the episode titles in this series seem to use punctuation and none of it seems to make a lot of sense. ‘Ampersand of the Party’ and ‘Secret Apostrophe’ feature, but I chose ‘The First Semicolon’ because mostly no-one really knows how to use a semicolon and because it is the second episode of the series which is where I noticed what they were doing with these titles. The first episode uses exclamation but I didn’t realise why they had used that word until the rest of the episode titles were revealed.

Number 2: My Cell Phone Doesn’t Get Many Calls (Haganai)

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Again, all of the episode titles in this series are kind of long and descriptive. I just find this one amusing because it is understating a situation and leads us into quite an amusing episode where are characters realise they can use their phones to call places other than home and they can add numbers and emails to their phones. While there are other anime out there that do similar things with their titles, I just find this one particularly funny.

Number 1: Czeslaw Meyer is Forced to Rework His Tremble-Before-the-Specter-of-Immortals Strategy (Baccano)

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I could have chosen any of the episode titles from Baccano but this one really resonated. Each title starts with a character name and then reveals something fundamental about the character and the plot, only you won’t really realise it until after you have watched the series and really gone back and looked at how it all lines up. In this episode (part of it at least) Czeslaw attempts to convince Ladd to kill the other passengers but miscalculates his approach and is shot himself. This moment is more revealing than it seems at first and as you learn more about Czeslw you start to get a really interesting picture of his character and motives. That said, it is just a funny title. Seriously, say it three times fast.

What episode titles have caught your eye? Share them below.