The Dynamics of Duos In Anime

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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?

Girls Last Tour - an adorable example of duos in anime

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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Karandi James


Top 5 Nice Guys/Girls in Anime

Tuesday's Top 5

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. That and I kind of like nice protagonists.

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.

Who are your top 5 nice nice guys or girls in anime?

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

Honourable mentions this week could go to about a million characters but probably Bell from Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon and the far more recent Lloyd from Suppose a Kid From The Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town both deserve a shout out.

Number 5: Shiemi Moriyama (Ao No Exorcist)

There’s not a lot to say about Shiemi other than she’s definitely deserving of a place on the list of top 5 nice characters. 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 like Black Butler, 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 for a top 5 nice guy or girl in anime (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?


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Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Tuesday’s Top 5: Top 5 Red-Heads (Male)

Tuesday's Top 5

Previously I’ve covered the female red-heads of the anime world but there are definitely some red-haired guys who deserve some love. Going to be honest, for those of you who have been following my blog you probably already have a pretty good idea who the number one is going to be on this list.

As this is a conversation starter and not a definitive list with scored attributes, please share your views on who should have been on the list below.

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

Honourable mentions this week go to Ginti from Death Parade and Mikoto Mikoshiba from Gekkan Shojo Nozaki Kun. These two definitely were considered but ultimately fell short of the top 5.

Who are my top 5 male red-heads in anime?

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Number 5: Abarai Renji from Bleach

I really struggled with number 5. Mostly because what we mostly remember about Renji is he get’s beaten, a lot. Usually by Ichigo but by nearly every other wannabe villain going around (and sometimes even by his own captain).

That’s kind of what happens when you are a typical shonen hero character but not the protagonist of the story. I always really felt for Renji. He works really hard and he is talented. If Ichigo wasn’t in the show Renji would be pretty damn amazing. Unfortunately, anime narrative tropes have not been kind to Renji.

Next time, save Rukia first and then you can be the hero.

That said, you’ll always be one of my favourite red-heads in anime.

Number 4: Lavi from D Gray Man

In an anime full of brooding characters and dark back stories, Lavi is still a brooding character with a dark back story but mostly manages to bring a smile to the party. Lavi’s job is to record history and at times seems to have a duplicitous nature but this all just adds to the interesting character he brings into the mix of D Gray Man. Though, girls should note, he probably won’t be sticking around town for too long, and he falls in love at the drop of a hat.

Either way though, this is one red-head with a lot on his mind and he really manages to bring it when push comes to shove.



Number 3: Mikoto Suoh from K

Alright, so Mikoto is not going to get any leader of the year awards even if he is going to get my shout out for being a red-head worth paying attention to.

However, what he should get is recognised for his absolute loyalty to his clan members. He pushes himself to self-destruction after one of them is killed. While his methods may be violent and not entirely efficient, the passion of his actions is certainly clear. Besides, his power is amazing to watch.

Number 2: Claire Stanfield from Baccano

Claire is a really impossible character to explain without recounting his entire character arc. I will suggest that if you haven’t watched Baccano you do so, if for no other reason than to follow Claire’s story. He’s direct, blunt and you do not want to get on his bad side, which can apparently happen by trying to ride on a train without a ticket, threatening to kill another passenger, or killing another train conductor. Or threatening the woman he falls in love with a first sight.

Still, despite being a psycho he’s definitely one of the cool (or cruel) red-heads.

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Number 1: Karma Akabane from Assassination Classroom

Come on, it had to be Karma topping this list of awesome red-heads.

He isn’t a mindless thug or violent for the sake of it. He is manipulative, clever, cold as ice, and totally focussed on his goals (no matter how unpleasant that current goal may seem to you). He can turn up the charm or lay on the intimidation and everything he does is done with style. The first student in Assassination Classroom to even injure their super-powered teacher, Karma stole the show from the moment he walked into the classroom. What sets him further apart, is you can see him more or less succeeding in any situation, not just in the school yard. Karma has big dreams and he has everything he needs to achieve them.

Is your favourite red-headed character on the list? Feel free to tell us below or to offer suggestions for who should have been on the list.


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Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Ajin Series Review – Interesting But Not Quite There

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Anime that have come out on Netflix have been very hit and miss for me. So when I first saw reviews for Ajin while I was curious, I didn’t rush into viewing it. When I finally did watch it, I very much enjoyed it, after I got over the visual style. I’m going to be honest, the character animation is creepy and while that works for the Ajin and villainous characters, even the human characters are just kind of creepy to watch.

The story initially focusses on Kei Nagai who is a studious and fairly detached student. We see his fractured relationships with friends and his family and then we see him get hit by a truck and not die. Kei has found out, at the same time as the witnesses, that he is an Ajin, someone who cannot die. That would be kind of cool except that the Ajin are more or less treated as monsters and hunted down where we see them being experimented upon. The rest of the story involves Kei trying to evade capture and we meet other Ajin and various agents trying to track down Ajin.

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While the exposition at the start of this anime is at best clunky, once the story gets moving this is quite the fascinating ride. Despite an opening sequence showing us a conflict in Africa where an Ajin is overpowering a small armed force and is then taken down with tranquilizers, the anime still felt the need to add a lesson at school where students were told about Ajin as if it were the first time they had ever discussed it and asking questions that they should have already had the answers to if Ajin had been known about for as long as they had.

It’s not an impressive way to segue from battlefield to Kei’s everyday life about to be interrupted by this war between human and Ajin.

This is something the story will suffer from a number of times throughout the first season. They tell us information multiple times and many characters feel the need to spell out or explain things that you would think should be obvious to the person they are explaining it to and the dialogue at times exists only to fill things in for an audience who probably already put it together and is now wondering just why the show is bothering to tell us something so obvious.



The story also doesn’t offer anything particularly new in terms of Kei’s narrative arc. He finds out he’s Ajin. He runs. An old friend that he’d broken off contact with helps him and then Kei leaves him behind because Kei believes that he can’t help him any further (Kei is incredibly logical – some might say cold, his sister calls him a jerk). Kei finds other Ajin. They betray him. He’s captured by the government. Oh, they do horrible medical experiments. He escapes. Etc, etc. You could more or less predict the next step in the sequence but that didn’t make it any less engaging to watch.

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Ajin works because of the cast of characters and its pacing. The action sequences are spaced out far enough that you don’t feel like you are getting whiplash but the quiet moments in between don’t feel like they are dragging. And while you may not like the characters, they all come across as real people who have issues of their own to deal with even while they are thrown into this situation. It would be nice if they were fleshed out a little more but they each offer something to the story and they don’t out stay their welcome.

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And yes, this anime does go for shocks in a few places. You have main characters who can’t actually die but they don’t regenerate until they are fully dead. Cue scenes of dismemberment and excessive pain, as well as Ajin facing a need to kill themselves in order to overcome some damage. If you’re squeamish, this probably won’t work for you. The medical experiments performed upon various characters, even when just alluded to are on the disturbing side and are supposed to be. The way human’s treat Ajin as monsters, and so many Ajin behave monstrously, is a pivotal point in the story and while it isn’t a new idea it is well used by this story.

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I do need to come back to the animation and character design. Much like other anime I watched on Netflix, such as Knights of Sidonia, I really dislike this particular style. At least in Knights the characters were supposed to have undergone adaptation to live in space so the fact that their facial expressions and the way they moved was creepily smooth and unnatural didn’t really interfere with immersion. Ajin doesn’t have that luxury and so the appearance of the characters is at time jarring.

Another gripe, though this one is entirely petty, is Izumi Shimomura’s appearance. Mostly because from the first scene she was in I just kept seeing Ennis from Baccano. And I know that isn’t really a legitimate criticism of Ajin but it was distracting for me. See below we have Ennis and then Izumi. Spot the differences because there’s creepy similarity.

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Like long lost sisters.

Anyway, in case it doesn’t seem like it, I actually really enjoyed watching Ajin and I happily dove into season 2. Because, let’s be honest, there really were a lot of loose ends left at the end of season one. If you’ve watched Ajin, let me know what you thought. If you haven’t and you have Netflix you should definitely check it out.


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Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Tuesday’s Top 5: Weird Episode Titles

Tuesday's Top 5

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 weird 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)

Not Enough Pool Safety is a weird episode title that comes to us via Amagi Brilliant Park.

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.

It also helps that this weird episode title is attached to one of the more action packed stories in the series that is also pretty hilarious as it goes very over the top.

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.

Seriously, this is one series that almost as fun to watch for the various references to horror movies as it is for the story it is delivering and the story kind of works.

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

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All of the episode titles in Astarotte’s Toy 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.


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Karandi James


Top 5 Anime Characters in the Mafia

Tuesday's Top 5

There’s something about a good gangster story that really draws in the viewers. Unfortunately there aren’t a huge number of anime that deal with the mafia or gangsters and even then, most of my favourite characters in those stories aren’t actually in the mafia, so this list was a little tricky to put together. Ultimately though I’ve picked my top 5 anime characters in the mafia and I’d love to know who some of your favourites are.

Number 5: Nero Vanetti from 91 Days

Nero is an interesting choice because he’s a character I find hard to get a read on and yet I enjoy watching him. He’s carefree to a point and brash but he’s also very loyal to his family. Avilio abuses his trust and uses him and yet when the betrayal is revealed Nero struggles with it because of his loyalty to his friend, even if it isn’t returned. Ultimately Nero is just an interesting character to watch and while he makes many mistakes he comes back from them each and every time.

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Number 4: Jolly from Arcana Famiglia

Alright, I’m not a huge fan of La Storia Della Arcana Famiglia as an anime feeling there were a lot of wasted opportunities and plenty of potential left languishing. However, there were some great characters scattered about being utterly deprived of a half-decent plot. One of those characters is Jolly. He makes only sporadic appearances in the story but his impact and influence on the rest of the cast is clear to see. Jolly might be the right hand man in the family but his personal agenda and his experimentation put the rest of the members on edge and this makes him fascinating to watch.

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Number 3: The Fourth from Kamisama no Memochou

The Fourth, or Souichirou Hinamura, is full of surprises. While on the surface he seems the typical gangster running his group, he’s got an interesting skill set including repairing stuffed toys. However, that doesn’t mean he isn’t an incredibly dangerous character to try to get close to and don’t even think of trying to betray him. While The Fourth is a peripheral character in Heaven’s Memo Pad he gets some substantial character development including his own back story and he remains one of the most interesting members of the cast.

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Number 2: Claire Stanfield from Baccano

So many great characters in Baccano it was hard to narrow it down to one for this list, but ultimately I had to go with Claire. The incredibly talented murderer definitely dances to the beat of his own drum but has an interesting personal morality that plays a part in all his decisions about who to kill and who to leave alive, even if he leaves them emotionally scarred for life. In a zany cast of larger than life characters Claire managed to leave a definite impression.

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Number 1: Oda from Bungo Stray Dogs

Again, the Port mafia is full of a lot of incredibly interesting characters but the one who has had the greatest impression on me is actually one we only saw for a handful of episodes as part of an extended flash back. Oda’s story is tragic to be sure but it left a lasting impression on the audience and on the other characters. It certainly left a lasting impression on Dazai. I know it is too late but can we please have more Oda, I loved watching his story unfold and just got so drawn into his character.

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That’s it from me but as I said before I’d love to know who your top picks would be for anime characters in the mafia.


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Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Top 5 Anime in Historical Settings

Tuesday's Top 5

I’m going to be honest, this list was harder than I first thought and that is because I made the decision early on to not include anime from fantasy historical settings. They had to be real places (or close enough). Now, that doesn’t mean my choices are based on historical accuracy, because they definitely aren’t, but I just wanted to exclude all the vaguely European/pseudo-medieval fantasy settings before I began thinking through the list. That said, there are still a few anime, like Princess Principal, that just didn’t make the final list. So as always, I’d love to know what some of your favourites are so be sure to leave me a comment below.

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Number 5: Sirius the Jaeger

Admittedly, this one is a newer anime for me as I’ve only watched it recently, but I had a lot of fun with it. I also enjoyed the 1930’s setting in Tokyo and the travelling about the group did. While it probably isn’t going to get massive points for historical accuracy (not entirely convinced about vampires plotting to take over the world and working with factions of the Japanese military), the time period felt very much a part of the story and the setting was very nicely integrated. All and all, this one was just fun to watch.

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Number 4: 91 Days

Set in the Prohibition Era (1920’s – 1930’s), 91 Days isn’t set in a real place but is kind of a composite of fairly similar places in America during the era. And again, the setting is very much a part of the story and the era, and its many cliches that have been constructed largely through fiction, are very much integrated into this story. I really did like the set up for this anime and the setting was great, or at least it was different from another Japanese classroom setting, so while I found the middle of the narrative got a little lost, I really did enjoy a lot of aspects of 91 Days.

91 Days

Number 3: Baccano

Well, we’re still stuck around the 1930’s, but this time we’re in Chicago. Baccano is just fun from start to finish with larger than life characters all with their own stories being interwoven in a fast paced mess that comes together beautifully by the end. Whether you are enjoying the story of the immortals gangsters, wondering what happened to the missing brother, following the massacre on the train, or any of the other events, Baccano is one story that knew exactly what it wanted to be and it took the audience on an incredibly ride.

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Number 2: Katanagatari

I knew at some point on this list I’d have to include something from the Edo period in Japan, and then I remembered Katanagatari is incredibly loosely set in the real world and not a fantasy setting. Now, I loved this anime and I’ve recently fallen in love with the first volume of the books, and it is just a great story in its simplicity. Two characters are trying to collect 12 swords. There’s a lot of politics and character background information that fleshes out what seems like an incredibly simple story, but ultimately this one is really fun, visually stunning, and the setting is fantastic.

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Number 1: Black Butler

It is a good thing I clarified I didn’t care about historical accuracy because one friend of mine at least found Black Butler truly dreadful. Set in the Victorian era in England, the story follows a young Earl and his butler as they go about solving mysteries on behalf of the Queen and while the Earl tries to find those responsible for the death of his parents and his own trauma. And yeah, there’s a lot of liberties taken with the setting and time period but I absolutely love Black Butler so it had to top this list.

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As I said, I’d love to know your top picks so be sure to leave a comment.


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


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

Tuesday's Top 5

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.

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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


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?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Baccano Series Review: Ambition, Immortality, Murder and Mayhem

isaac and miria

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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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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