Top 5: Anime With Demons or Devils

Tuesday's Top 5

There are a lot of anime that include demons and devils in their cast and I know that a list of 5 can’t even begin to cover all the great titles out there. Still, I decided to have a go at listing my 5 favourite anime with demons or devils in them. I did rule out just standard yokai anime though as I wanted this list to focus more on demons or devils as the are more often represented in the west. Still, there are still a lot of anime out there that we could have got into and with one exception I haven’t even touched the sheer number of comedy anime that use these kinds of characters. Nor have I touched on the harem anime that go there so I’m sure there are plenty more anime that people could list and I’d love to hear your choices in the comments below.

I will just give an honourable mention to Devilman Crybaby. I didn’t really like that anime for a number of reasons but its depiction of demons was actually pretty solid and so it deserves a space on the list.

Number 5: Blue Exorcist

I feel a lot of people will probably have this one higher up their lists and if I had only watched season one I probably would as well. I really enjoyed the set up to this story in the first episode where we learn the truth about who Rin’s father was and we see part of the cause for his volatile temper and violence. While this anime takes a lot of liberties with the church structure, terminology, and the basic idea of what an exorcist is, it is undeniably entertaining. The second season lacked a lot of that charm that season one brought to the table, but still, it is a solid entry in terms of an anime focused on the idea of exorcising demons.

Number 4: Hataraku Maou-Sama

The Devil is a Part-Timer is one of those anime that just hit the right spot for me particularly in terms of its comedy. However, a lot of the enjoyment I found in the anime was in the way they portrayed the devil and his demon generals. Also, the connection between the hero and Satan was very nicely established and as the story progressed we had a bit of a look at the follies of humans and angels as well. While definitely not trying to be serious about its premise, this one is just a fun story where demons, humans and angels interact and the end results are interesting.

Number 3: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Weird for me to include an anime that isn’t even finished yet but I must say that I’ve really been enjoying how demons are portrayed in this one. While Tanjiro certainly has sympathy for demons changed from human against their will, largely because of Nezuko’s situation, he is also aware of the destruction demons cause if left to their own devices and after the first encounter where he hesitated, he’s managed to take appropriate action even if we continue to see signs of his compassion. It’s an interesting concept and I’m looking forward to learning more about the different demons we’ve met who haven’t been instantly killed.

Affiliate Link
MAGATSU WAHRHEIT OFFICIAL VISUAL BOOK

Number 2: D Gray Man

I couldn’t have made this list without mentioning the Black Order of exorcists who are fighting against the Millennium Earland his Akuma army. What I particularly like about this one is that the demons aren’t just springing to life on their own. The Earl makes deals with humans in order to breed his soldiers and so the number of Akuma the order are facing is in direct correlation to the weakness of humans who, desperate to reconnect with a loved one, accept the Earl’s dubious offer and end up chaining their loved one’s soul inside an Akuma. It is horrific but for Allen it is even worse as he can see that trapped soul which causes conflict inside of him when it comes to defeating them.

Number 1: Black Butler

Well, you all should have seen that one coming. However, when it comes to an anime that does an excellent deal with a devil storyline, Black Butler is still my undisputed favourite. Sebastian is every bit a demon and yet he covers over his monstrous nature with suave appearance and manners only allowing glimpses at the truth beneath the surface when it suits him to do so. I genuinely love this story and have really enjoyed the Book Of spin-offs even if season 2 didn’t really work for me.

That’s my list but there are plenty of other anime out there featuring demons or devils and I’d love to know some of your favourites so leave me a comment below.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Advertisements

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.

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.

Sirius The Jaeger Yuliy and Mikhail

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.

Affiliate Link
AVENGERS: ENDGAME CHARACTER POSTER COLLECTION (SET OF 6 PACKS)

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.

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.

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

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Embarrassment, Scrapes, Colds, and Other Deadly Things in Anime

Friday's Feature

Life is tough for the average high school anime character. Getting caught in the rain is nearly a death sentence when a dreaded fever will strike and certainly any character who ever had a bout of chuunibyou knows that embarrassment really can kill.

There are plenty of fairly sensible plot and tone reasons for these greatly exaggerated dangers, however the frequency with which these are rolled out each season is kind of mind blowing at times.

Do we have a cocky character who needs to be taken down a peg? Or a character who is holding the plot back by refusing to comply with someone else’s fairly insane demand? Well, look no further than bringing their ‘dark past’ into the open and suddenly you’ve got a blushing and embarrassed character willing to agree to nearly anything.

Chuunibyou - die from embarrassment

Of course, that’s nothing compared to having a guy and/or girl confess or, even worse, touch hands. Look out if they’ve just walked in on someone changing. Suddenly you could fry an egg on the primary red face of the character as they blush all the way to the tips of their ears.

A lot of the time this is played off co-medically and sometimes it just gives the story a way to keep progressing because without some form of coercion the character has no reason to meet the demands of another but they don’t actually want a real sense of menace in the story, but realistically, the blushing character is a trope that is just littered throughout anime.

Kaichou wa Maid Sama

But worse than simply being embarrassed is getting a scrape. Or an actual cut.

Pretty much anything that breaks the surface of an anime character’s skin, no matter how minor, is treated like someone just tore a limb off.

Actually, I think characters who lose limbs have less reaction.

Edward Elric - Losing a Limb
Yeah, pretty sure Edward didn’t react that badly when this happened.

But a scrape on the face of an idol? That’s just wrong. You absolutely must treat it this instant and anything less would potentially endanger their face or potentially court a permanent scar.

Nanami treating Kurama's Wound

While I’m all for effective first aid, even of minor injuries, the reactions to which characters go at the first sign of an injury is a little overwrought. It almost makes you wonder if they never played and fell over as kids and experienced all the usual bumps and bruises that come with growing up. And certainly recent anime have made me wonder if the frequency with which people in Japan break limbs is somewhat lower because if Domestic Girlfriend taught me anything it is that apparently breaking your leg prevents any part of you, including your brain, from functioning properly.

Realistically, this does allow a few things to happen in a story. The first is minor drama. If we’re in a standard high school setting, there just aren’t a lot of real hazards so even minor ones end up being overblown. However, what mostly seems to happen is the injury is seen as an excuse to force characters together in a more intimate setting.

Whether that is through the infirmary visit (sometimes after being carried Princess style), helping the person with their daily life, or visiting the sick friend and then being alone in their room with them, it is a pretty standard plot point. It also leads to some charming and cute encounters as well as some more comedic, entertaining, and sometimes more risque moments.

Affiliate Link
THE PROMISED NEVERLAND 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: NORMAN

However, being embarrassed, scrapes, cuts, broken limbs… all of these pale in comparison with the real deadly killer of anime. The unstoppable force that will knock a protagonist flat in an instant and require all other characters to mope and wonder if they will ever survive.

Yes.

It is that.

The common cold.

Caused of course by any kind of water outside of a shower making contact with said character. And even a bath or shower might trigger it if they don’t 100% dry themselves immediately upon exit.

Seriously, the anime cold/fever is the single most prevalent and debilitating weapon in any anime. Far more effective than a zanpakuto from Bleach at keeping characters down.

And it seems to spread across almost every genre.

Natsume with a fever

From Natsume, the guy who as his friends say catches colds easier than anyone, to darker fantasies like Black Butler, anime characters are in grave peril when there are colds about and apparently they are always about. Maybe the rain droplets carry it? Who knows?

Ciel and Sebastian

All I know is that as soon as water is involved someone is going to end up sick with a fever and inevitably going to end up having bed rest and some kind of towel draped on their head.

Much like scrapes this scenario does allow for more one on one moments but fevers come with the added advantage of a closed mouthed character may let their guard down. Characters acting weird, spilling their true thoughts, severe misunderstandings, all of these things can be triggered by an anime fever.

This situation also confined the character to a single place which allows the rest of the story to progress putting pressure on them to recover and do whatever they need to do. In the case of Norman in The Promised Neverland it gave Emma a chance to show how adorable she was as a kid and also the tight relationship between the three central characters.

The Promised Neverland - Norman sick, Emma visiting

However, with anime writers seemingly out to make anime characters blush from their toes to their foreheads, scar them for life with minor scrapes and wounds, or burn their brains with fevers caused by walking in the rain, it really must be hard for the average anime character to get through the day. And that is even before the giant robots and vampire ninjas show up to cause havoc.

So here’s the question for you: What is the deadliest of all anime ailments?

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Black Butler Book of Atlantic Review

Black Butler Book of Atlantic

Demons, Grim Reapers, and Zombies?
Why didn’t I watch this sooner?

I’m wondering how much they paid in royalties for Titanic for this one? Pride and Prejudice got a zombie version and this one is definitely Titanic with Zombies. Not that I’m complaining. There’s an absolute delight at seeing our favourite characters cutting loose and not taking it all so seriously. And believe me, you can’t take this one seriously. Where Book of Murder took a more measured tone as it built its atmosphere, Book of Atlantic goes for sheer spectacle and entertainment.

Black Butler Book of the Atlantic

I will admit, a good choice was to leave the other Phantomhive servants on the short so once they boarded the ship we only had Sebastian and Snake at hand (definitely the A Team when it comes to those who work for Ciel). Lizzy and her family were also onboard for an unrelated matter and we also came across familiar faces such as Grell, Knox, Undertaker and Grey as well as the always creepy in a different sense Druitt.

Book of Atlantic - Ciel and Sebastian

With the players in place the story unfolds as Ciel is investigating a Doctor who claims to be able to bring the dead back to life and for whatever reason is demonstrating this on the ship. Naturally he succeeds but the end result is a ravenous zombie that promptly bites the grieving mother. Still, this isn’t about a mass infection but rather there was a whole cargo hold of bodies being transported, again for reasons unclear and not really necessary to know because this story isn’t taking itself seriously enough for that to matter.

The Grim Reapers are involved because dead people who have had their soul collected are kind of supposed to stay dead and apparently it is a great affront when the dead start walking. So you would think the Repears and Ciel’s group would be getting along except of course the Reapers want Sebastian to stay out of it and Ciel, being Ciel is pretty determined to have the final say.

Book of Atlantic - Undertaker

And so the story unfolds with a lot of ridiculous cutlery vs lawn-mower and chain-saw action as Sebastian clashes with the Reapers.

All of it is highly entertaining, even if the story does take a pause long enough for Grell and Knox to ripoff the Jack and Rose moment at the prow of the ship.

Affiliate Link
Yana Toboso Artworks Black Butler 1

However, the all-star award goes to Lizzy who despite her determination to be a cute girl is forced into a situation where she finally has to reveal that the scared little blonde girl act really is just an act. All this means is Ciel may be the most helpless in the room but even he gets a bit more direct action than normal taking a gun to multiple zombies. This is certainly a bit more action focused than we’ve seen these members of the cast before but given the circumstances it works well.

Book of Atlantic - Lizzy

I’d also like to say that Undertaker entirely steals the final act and it is brilliant. A character who has been on the edge of things throughout the other series and arcs now takes centre stage and the results are nothing short of brilliant. That said, I’m going to leave that conversation here because otherwise it just plunges us straight into climax spoilers and I really think you should just watch the movie.

The sound is, as usual for Black Butler, spot on. I watched the Japanese version with English subs because I still can’t get used to Sebastian’s English voice (it isn’t bad but I just don’t match that voice with Sebastian and the Japanese voice is brilliant). All of the characters do a solid job though Grell might be a little too subdued at times.

Visually I wasn’t that impressed at times with this. Exterior shots of the boat and the mass of zombie hordes at times seemed very basic and while the characters are beautifully detailed, backgrounds and the like don’t really give off the sense of luxury that you would expect from the setting here. That is probably the biggest complaint I have about this movie is that while if this was an individual episode it would be fine, for a movie I expected a little bit more effort on the visuals.

All and all though, if you are a Black Butler fan, this movie gives you more Black Butler, some of the best characters, some great fight sequences, and some solid character moments. It is a zombie story to be sure, but a zombie story told only the way Black Butler could do it.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Up Close With Sebastian Michaelis

It was probably only a matter of time before I decided to focus one of these posts on Sebastian. Given he’s already had his own top 5 list because I just love his character so much. But what is it about him that is so great?

Firstly there’s his voice. The Japanese version is voiced by Daisuke Ono and seriously I fell absolutely in love with that voice. It is just the perfect mix of threatening, seductive and playful all in one and he delivers some absolutely fantastic lines. Honestly, I’d happily just listen to that voice all day. Which made it a little bit hard for J Michael Tatum, the English voice actor, to really win me over and to be honest, despite delivering a great performance, I actually will not watch Black Butler in English because Sebastian just doesn’t sound right (in honesty he sound better in English given it is actually set in England, but to be perfectly honest I just fell in love with the original and just couldn’t get used to Sebastian sounding different).

In terms of appearance Sebastian is no slouch either. Period Victorian butler style really suits him even if the historical accuracy of a lot of the clothing is highly questionable throughout the entire anime. Still, his coat and tails suit him admirably, and I could have screamed when one of the characters told him he looked like a crow and shouldn’t wear it. I don’t know, he just looks incredibly together and elegant.

However, it is Sebastian’s very personality that really sells him as a character. Whether he is possessively protecting and watching over Ciel, or kind of messing with him, Sebastian is always good fun to watch. He is fairly brazen in a lot of his actions not really seeking to hide his demonic nature and his oft said catch phrase really just sums him up beautifully.

He’s also incredibly playful. Though he plays with a lot of his victims the way a cat would play with a bird or a mouse so I’m pretty sure Sebastian is the only one having fun in those instances.

There are so many things that are just right about Sebastian. Including his use of cutlery and other unconventional weaponry. I love when he sighs at being put behind schedule or when the other servants, in an effort to help, have created more work for him. There is something inherently funny about a demon feeling put upon by humans and household chores.

Still, if he was just an overpowered bully, Sebastian wouldn’t be the great character that he is. He has a very weird personal code that seems self-imposed providing some limitations to his actions and lines he will not cross. As such he finds himself put upon by mundane actions and requests as well as the whims of Ciel when Ciel is in a mood to play his own games.

There are also the more nuanced moments of his character. Such as when Ciel’s life was in danger and Sebastian didn’t go to help him knowing another human was about to intervene. The human died and Ciel slapped Sebastian for failing. Yet, in Sebastian’s eyes he had upheld his contract as Ciel was perfectly fine due to the intervention of the other human.

Also, the final sequence of season one where we see Sebastian rowing Ciel down the river before sitting him on the chair and leaning in is one of those truly perfect moments (one of the many reasons I dislike season two given it kind of kills the impact of the sequence). Watching the complex relationship of Sebastian and Ciel reach this moment is a wonderful experience and few relationships are so clearly defined as this one becomes.

All and all, Sebastian Michaelis is just an amazing character to watch and one that I fell in love with from the first episode of Black Butler.

So, do you love Sebastian’s character? If yes, I’d love to know what your favourite moment with Sebastian Michaelis is?

Or, use one of my product affiliate links.
BLACK BUTLER ARTWORKS 1
BLACK BUTLER ARTWORKS 1

Black Butler: Book of Circus Series Review: Let’s Go To The Circus and Hang Out With Demons and Reapers

Review:

I’ve previously reviewed Black Butler (loved it) and Black Butler 2 (be gone from my sight). However, I wrote my review of Book of Circus after watching Book of Circus on Crunchyroll and fell in love with Black Butler all over again, which may seem inconsistent as it does a few of the things that I berated Black Butler 2 for doing. Revisiting this post just reminded me that my opinion of this one really hasn’t changed.

Yes, there are unnecessary appearances by characters simply because they are part of the original series. And there’s some timeline inconsistencies in this story (mainly due to Book of Circus apparently following something from the source rather than carrying on from the anime adaptation). Kind of on the same level as between Firefly (TV series) and Serenity (movie) where some of the key events are changed to better further the current narrative. That said, the minor discrepancies aren’t enough to break the deal with this show and the unnecessary character cameos are less intrusive than they felt in Black Butler 2.

So why should you watch Book of Circus?

1. The opening theme is incredible. I loved the original Black Butler opening but Book of Circus perfectly matches the circus theme with the dark undertones of the story and creates something really special. And clearly I’m not the only one who thinks so given how many YouTube channels have a version of this opening up to watch.

2. We revisit Ciel and Sebastian’s relationship and the complexities in their master/butler, contractor/demon roles and Ciel’s character arc in this narrative is possibly the best of the lot. While I loved Ciel in the original series because he didn’t undergo overt transformation but reaffirmed his existing status, Ciel in this arc actually manages to develop and grow (and break apart at times) without derailing who Ciel is at his core. It’s fascinating to watch and it doesn’t feel like they’ve cheapened his character. Plus, Ciel is adorable in his circus clothes (this is a point I have to reiterate – Ciel is at his absolute cutest in this story).

d6134899a7746e636794ddfc4012f84b

3. The support cast are great. My biggest issue with Black Butler 2 was the introduction of Alois and Claude, both of whom I despised. Book of Circus bring us a colourful cast of interesting and flawed characters to follow and get to know, even if the end is inevitable from the get-go.

These characters probably deserve a bit more time and attention than I gave them originally in my review. The majority of the employees at the circus were orphans and they are incredibly close. It makes it hard to Sebastian and Ciel to infiltrate because even after they become employed by the circus they aren’t part of that inner group. The relationship between the supporting characters is an absolute asset to this story and makes everything feel more real and dramatic than it might otherwise be.

We also revisit some of the other characters from Black Butler and each one is used to fairly solid affect, though it should definitely be noted that this is a story about the circus and Sebastian and Ciel. The other characters are there to help connect this story to other stories in the Black Butler universe but they are not the focus.

7cbdd404f0bb8827990eba58e22a1efa1405016116_full

4. It’s a well told story. By focusing on one investigation and the steps Ciel will take to solve it, there’s no feeling that this is simply being rushed along as another bump in Ciel’s journey. It feels like the events were given the time they needed without lingering overly long. While it would have been nice for a villain with just a little more motivation (or sanity) the lack of this doesn’t detract from enjoying the journey and having a satisfying resolution.

5. Seriously, it’s just fun. Visually it’s appealing, the music works, the characters come together well, and for any criticism I could give this series, I could dismiss it just as quick because I really enjoyed watching it. And that is why I watch anime.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this instalment of Black Butler, however it was fantastic to watch through and it remains one of my favourite parts of this franchise.

Black Butler Season 1 Series Review: One Hell of A Good Time

I’ve been a big fan of Black Butler since I first saw the anime many years ago – though most of the time I try to pretend season 2 does not exist and for the duration of this review I’m going to. I’ve also reviewed Book of Circus and Book of Murder in case you are interested. Irina and I also debated the merits, or lack of them, of season 2 in a collaboration that you should definitely check out if you missed it.

blackbutler ending

We’ll get this out of the way first. Yes, there are some uncomfortable moments for some people in Black Butler. The relationship between Ciel and Sebastian is at times just a few steps over the line of what some people find acceptable and while nothing is overt on screen the dialogue and insinuation is not exactly subtle. There’s plenty more explicit out there but this will still rub a few people the wrong way. If that’s you, thanks for visiting the blog, please read one of my other reviews.

750-1

Still with me? Great. Moving on.

Alright, any history buffs in the room that care whether or not 19th Century London is portrayed accurately in terms of dress, mannerisms, status, etc, you should probably also step out.

For those who are left, this is why you should watch Black Butler.

Ciel is brilliant as a character. No, he doesn’t really develop as a character. He comes into this series fully formed. Everything truly terrible has already happened to him and he is utterly resolved. Not on revenge, as he states several times in the series, but on ensuring those who humiliated him are in turn humiliated because that is what he wants. He’s under no illusion. This isn’t a noble quest and he knows he has made a deal with a demon. For 95% of the series he is unwavering. It’s kind of refreshing to have a protagonist not trying to find themselves.

Instead, Ciel is fighting to remain who he has decided to be. In the face of everything that comes his way throughout the series he is determined not to leave his path. This allows for there to be conflict and self-reflection but means he isn’t really developing and there is no over-arching character arc here. But it is a joy to watch.

Some might disagree with that last statement. In honesty, Ciel’s a snobbish, childish, jerk who is like the kid who didn’t get picked to play so now he’s going to steal all the equipment so no one else can either. That doesn’t mean he isn’t appealing as a character though. You just wouldn’t invite him around for dinner any time soon.

And then there is Sebastian.

He is polished and cool and refined and he steals every scene he is in. Perhaps he is a boring character because he is so perfect but I always enjoyed watching how he would meet Ciel’s demands and I loved the play between the two as they found new ways to torment each other within the bounds of their contract.

Mostly the series is a kind-of-mystery of the week. The mysteries aren’t particularly compelling and the solutions are usually pretty basic or rely heavily on the supernatural to explain, so don’t get too invested in that aspect of the show, it won’t hold up. However, the overall story of Ciel seeking those who killed his family and working under the Queen to draw his enemies to him, is quite compelling even as it makes you question the logic of those actions.

Angela is also a rich and interesting character, even though she is sadistic and a little bit crazed. Though she isn’t in all that much of the series she is definitely a highlight and her appearances signal some big movements in the plot.

96bd49216dd03c25681f19bc4df2a130

Lastly, we have probably the most annoying aspect of the show. The other servants in the Phantomhive mansion. While they are useful(?) to the plot in the final episodes, their presence mostly serves as an irritant and delivers some of the poorer comedy found in the show.

214d4b2eeb12a5907458066d1da2c5c5

I recommend Black Butler for a watch, but I am aware it isn’t for everyone. Let me know your thoughts on this series.