Tuesday’s Top 5: Sebastian Moments in Black Butler

There’s no denying I really love season 1 of Black Butler, and a lot of that love comes from an overall love of the demonic butler, Sebastian. So my list this week focusses on my top 5 moments with the guy who makes everything look easy and he does it while being pretty easy on the eyes as well.

Please Note: There will be spoilers for season 1 Black Butler in the list below.

Honourable mention: Every encounter Sebastian has with a cat (seriously, who doesn’t love a guy who loves cats).

Number 5: Episode 24 – Sebastian fights Angela/Ashe

It is kind of an obvious moment given it is the final fight of the season and its demon butler vs angel butler. Still, this had the potential to be the usual kind of overpowered fire fight where the characters suddenly turn into coloured lights and mash about in the sky giving the audience almost no sense of the battle. Instead, we get a rare glimpse of Sebastian’s true demonic side and while the details of the fight are hidden, you almost feel it is better that way (Ashe certainly would agree).

Number 4: Episode 2 – The signature cutlery flingling

This became a fairly standard move by the butler, to the point where it was totally ripped off by wannabe demon butler  Claude in season 2, but this is the first time the audience sees this move and it is pretty awesome. Admittedly, I’m not entirely convinced of the credibility of using serving trays to stop bullets, nor am I convinced that forks and knives have the penetrating power shown in this sequence regardless of how hard they are tossed, but it is still Sebastian showing off his very classy self and to be honest, it looks amazing.

Number 3: Episode 20 – Angela tortures Sebastian

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After being ordered by Ciel not to take any action, Sebastian undergoes torture by the angel herself. It is an odd moment for the character because he is being true to his absolute loyalty to his master, and yet still acting in a way that is totally contrary  to his sense of self-preservation. What is great about this moment is that while Angela might be the one dishing out the torture, you can’t help but feel that Sebastian is the one winning in this scene.

Number 2: Episode 1 – Sebastian locks the guest in the oven

I absolutely adore the first episode of Black Butler. It starts out with darkness but quickly switches to fairly mundane and innocent acts of stupidity and basically makes you wonder where it is going. It becomes more and more sinister but it isn’t until the moment when Sebastian speaks to the guest in the oven that you really appreciate how dark this series will get at times. For all the stupid, goofball comedy moments, for all the ordinary investigations and politics and business, at the heart of this story is a pact with a demon and episode 1 makes that clear in one simple scene that ensures you never forget Sebastian’s real nature.

Number 1: Episodes 5 + 6 – Sebastian fights Grell

For all the times when Sebastian looks cool and unruffled by whatever problem that has recently been thrown toward his master, his fight with Grell was one of the few times it looked like he might lose his studied calm. Admittedly, he still had the upper hand for most of the fight, but he was forced to resort to a few cheap tricks and wasn’t overly impressed with the measures he had to take to follow Ciel’s orders. For Grell’s part, Grell is just an awesome character and this was really the audience’s introduction to Grell’s very entertaining presence. Definitely one of my favourite Black Butler moments ever, and my favourite moment with Sebastian.

Over to you – which Sebastian moment is your favourite?


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Karandi James.

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Black Butler Book of Murder Series Review

Okay, you already know I’m a fan of Black Butler and I loved Book of Circus but hated Black Butler 2. I bought Book of Murder on disc blind (never watched) and finally got around to viewing it. How does this entry stack up against the others in the series?

Overview:

The Queen is at it again giving Ciel an unhelpful request to host a dinner party but then one of the guests is murdered and of course due to a storm the suspect must be amongst the guests (or the hosts).

Review:

Five minutes in and Mei Rin has her glasses off and is shooting. This is a bit more action driven then we’ve seen Black Butler before. That said, after an initial skirmish that serves no purpose other than to point out that the Queen’s Butlers (messengers, whatevers) are a little dodgy (or a lot dodgy given they didn’t die facing off against Ciel’s staff), the series settles down into its usual routine of cat and mouse, dripping with atmosphere and the usual over exaggerated mystery feeling without actually delivering much in the way of mystery.

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I actually loved this. It has all the components that made the original Black Butler series entertaining but with only 123 minutes run time the story is concluded in a single sitting and everything is nicely wrapped up. At least as much as anything ever is in Black Butler keeping in mind that both Book of Circus and Book of Murder are set somewhere in the timeline before the end of season 1. What that means is the overall story of Ciel and Sebastian isn’t going anywhere in these side stories though we are getting some more understanding of the depth of their relationship which is a nice takeaway for when you go back and watch the original series.

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The problem with Book of Murder is that unless you’ve already watched the other entries in Black Butler, a lot of it isn’t going to make sense. Other than a few side characters making reference to Ciel’s eye patch, the significance of it is not explained and while it’s unlikely that you don’t know that Sebastian’s a demon it isn’t in any revealed early on in the piece so likely you won’t have a clue how the situation is going to get resolved. Not to mention, his standard line about being one hell of a butler seems to have finally taken a vacation. Also, the flashback the servants have of being recruited while crying in the rain provides enough to be a solid link for those of us watching through the lens of a fan but for new arrivals to the series it will just be another baffling fact that doesn’t give enough context to really make any sense. Lastly, the final twist and conclusion rely very heavily on you knowing what happened in Book of Circus, and they manage to leave a dangling inconsistency in the story that doesn’t match up with the original time line of the anime (unless events in other stories we’ve yet to see eliminate that inconsistency).

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What Book of Murder does succeed at is providing some light entertainment for those who like classic locked room mysteries with a bit of supernatural nonsense mixed in. Also, if you ever wanted to watch Ciel actually look distressed (not ticked off or shocked but actually distressed) then your chance will come during the first part (even if it isn’t actually genuine). Ciel also smiles several times throughout the two episodes, though most of these are kind of cruelly amused smiles rather than ones of genuine mirth.

And that’s all I’ve got on this one. The music is standard Black Butler fair. We’ve got our usual cast of characters lined up and the new additions mostly just fill the roles of other characters that for the sake of narrative continuity can’t be around in this particular arc. Character and background design is all much the same as well. Basically, if you like Black Butler, pick up Book of Murder. If you haven’t liked the other entries then continue to steer clear.

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: Characters Voiced by Daisuke Ono

While I’m not a massive follower of voice actors, every now and then a character’s vocal performance catches my attention. Daisuke Ono has voiced a lot of my very favourite characters (both characters I like in their stories and characters I just love to listen to). So this is my top 5 list of characters voiced by Daisuke Ono. Feel free to add your favourites below or just suggest your favourite voice actors and actresses.

Please Note – List is relatively spoiler free today.

Honourable mentions this week: Hugh Anthony Disward (The Mystic Archives of Dantelion) and Seishuu Handa (Barakamon).

Number 5: Kazuma Yagami from Kaze no Stigma

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I genuinely cannot watch this anime in English because Kazuma’s voice is just wrong. Having heard the original Japanese dub and really loving this character, the English voice just can’t compare. Kazuma has just the right amount of playfulness and darkness in his voice to really draw you in.

Number 4: Kuroh Yatogami from K

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I was actually surprised when I learned that Daisuke Ono was the voice for Kuroh. The character is quite different from other characters I’d already associated with the voice. Kuroh might be creepy at times but he has a no nonsense air about him as he pursues his own views of justice. And he manages that without sounding like a naive adolescent.

Number 3: Yakumo Saitou from Psychic Detective Yakumo

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This character always sounds either bored or ticked off (occasionally he manages both simultaneously). Despite such a limited range of emotions on display, listening to him never get’s boring.

Number 2: The Fourth from Heaven’s Memo Pad.

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It’s hard to be the leader of a gang and not come off as a mindless thug, and yet THe Fourth does it admirably with the help of some very effective voice acting. Normally the type of character I would barely tolerate, he actually managed to make me somewhat sympathetic and by the end I actually liked his character.

Number 1: Sebastian Michaelis from Black Butler.

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Who else? I could seriously listen to this character all day long. It’s the reason I will not watch the English dub of this series. While some of the other characters sound really good in the English, Sebastian just isn’t right without Daisuke Ono delivering the lines.

Who would your picks have been? Or which voice actor/actress do you really love to listen to?

Tuesday’s Top 5: Saddest Death Scenes

We all know the scene. It’s usually about two thirds of the way through the story and the nice character, the one we all love, suddenly gets cut down. What makes it even sadder is that usually the only purpose their death serves is to give our protagonist a renewed focus. yep, the guys that killed your friend are evil. Now you need to go get them back.

Okay, not every sad death scene goes like that. But you must admit it’s fairly common in anime. My list below are the deaths that came in isolation (no group deaths), in non-horror/slasher anime, that serve as a critical plot point and really crushed me. As such, it’s an entirely subjective list. 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:Shirou Fujimoto (Ao No Exorcist), Nagisa Furukawa (Clannad After Story), Art (Hamatora), Kuro Sensei (Assassination Classroom), and Mikoto Suoh (K).

Number 5: Maes Hughes from Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

Kind of a given going into this list that Maes Hughes would appear. Arguably one of the most well remembered anime deaths of all time. What makes Maes stand out (I feel) is that he is a genuinely sweet character, a family man, and very few of the main cast in Full Metal Alchemist die. They get injured a lot and there are some deaths, but Maes is really the only one that get’s treated as a true death with the funeral and the mourning family.

While Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood plays this for the emotional punch and uses it to drive first the Elric brothers and then Mustang into action, Maes’ death is more than just a cheap plot device. It is a devastating reminder that life and death are at the core of the story. If you look at the timing, it has been a long time since the hit from the death of the Elric Brothers mother, and quite a length of time has passed since Nina’s tragic end. There are many lighter moments in the show but they always come back to the darkness at the centre of the story and Maes’ death is definitely one of those moments.

Number 4: Mikage from 07 Ghost

I was really torn about this one. Certainly, I  was really crushed when he died (or rather was horrifically murdered after being forced to try to kill his best friend) but then the show pulls the whole his soul is still with you in the form a really cute animal that follows Teito around for the rest of the run time. It kind of takes some of the impact out of the death.

Clearly though, I decided Mikage’s demise was one of the saddest deaths in an anime. I think it is more that Mikage never did anything to deserve anything that happened to him. Sure he helped his friend escape the military and that certainly deserved some punishment, but having his family threatened, being possessed, and forced to try to kill his friend before choosing to die so that neither his family or his friend would be hurt, just kind of sucked all round. This was definitely a sad death scene. (It doesn’t help that the rest of the anime kind of suffers from Mikage’s lack either).

Number 3: Joker from Black Butler Book of Circus

I started noticing a theme in my choices. Characters who aren’t inherently bad but end up on the wrong side of the protagonist for whatever reason or try to turn over a new leaf and get killed in the process.

Joker is a pitiful character. He originally comes off as quite strong and together but it becomes quickly apparent that he is desperately trying to hold up his little sand castle of dreams even as the tide is washing it all away. By the time Joker is killed he literally has nothing left to live for. It is sad and tragic and just leaves you feeling empty inside.

Number 2: R from Jormungand

Hard to believe that any death in an anime about an arms dealer travelling with body guards would get to you but R manages it. In the first season he is almost a non-entity, but he is definitely there. After seeing the second season I went back and watched and began to see how they had managed to make a character who seemed so in the background such a major emotional turning point.

R is working against Koko with the American government, but when one of their agents targets Jonah, R throws caution to the wind to save the child soldier, in the process revealing his duplicitous lifestyle to Koko before getting himself very dead. The impact this death has on Koko is enormous and unlike most of the deaths before it, this one causes the show to pause for some quiet reflection which hits the audience hard.

Number 1: Nephrite from Sailor Moon

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Firstly, what makes a death sad is emotional connection to the characters, and given that Sailor Moon is one of my all time favourite anime, it should be no surprise that I feel an emotional connection to the characters. Secondly, I saw this when I was pretty young and unlike most other cartoons, they just knocked off a fairly major character, on screen, and one who had redeemed himself (kind of), and they didn’t even wait for a season final or something. This was really different from anything else I was watching at the time and I honestly couldn’t believe what I’d just watched. I remember sitting and staring at the screen completely stunned. I wanted to scream, “But he just saved Molly!”

No matter what anime deaths come after this one,  I will always remember Nephrite. Even though he was a villain, and not a particularly good one, and even though he was barely in a quarter of the series, his death had real impact.

Okay, who do you have on your list?

Tuesday’s Top 5: Supernatural Anime

I am a big fan of horror and supernatural stories in general and I do love a good horror or supernatural anime (for the sake of this list I’ve excluded stories that deal with Japanese folklore as that is going to be a whole other list at some point). So this list is my top 5 favourite supernaturally themed anime. I’ll definitely do a horror one at some point and there may be some cross over.

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

Honourable mentions this week go to: Baccano (more gangster than supernatural), Dance in the Vampire Bund and Black Blood Brothers (while both would appear on a list of vampire anime they just didn’t stand up here), Ao No Exorcist (feels more action than supernatural), Fruits Basket (romance more than supernatural), Ghost Hunt and Another (lost to another ghost story), Death Parade (other than the characters being dead didn’t have a lot of supernatural going on) and Inu X Boku (focus on Japanese folklore so will probably show up on another list at some point).

Yes, that is a lot of honourable mentions and that’s the cut down list. As I said, I’m a big fan of the genre.

Number 5: Dusk Maiden of Amnesia

While I get this isn’t the single most amazing anime in the world (and a lot in my honourable mentions are actually better as stories), this one made my list because the supernatural is at the front and centre of every single episode. Yuuko also made my list of characters with convenient missing memories.

The characters form the Paranormal Investigation Club and the club president is literally a ghost with amnesia. Also, the story doesn’t fit any genre except supernatural. There is romance, there is coming of age, there’s some detective and mystery work, there’s some horror, but it isn’t any of these. It is just a good supernatural story and that’s why I put it on the list.

Number 4: Kokoro Connect

This one starts with a group of friends who are literally jumping into one another’s bodies and have no idea why. Even when the culprit appears, they are no closer to figuring out why or how. When that phenomenon finally stops (in a manner that I will not spoil, watch the anime), it isn’t too long before another challenge awaits them. Kokoro Connect is heart wrenching, funny, touching, and generally just a great character piece even while it plays with most of the common tropes of highschool kids in a club doing not very much. While the supernatural element is never really explained that actually makes the story work because it kind of makes sense for beings that can do the sorts of things that are being done to these kids to not bothering to explain them.

Number 3: Angel Beats

Another heart break anime. Okay, there really isn’t a way for this to not break your heart given the characters are all young and all dead and really haven’t got anything left except for this insane desire to fight against god who they aren’t even sure exists. What drives Angel Beats are the characters and the way each of them dealt with tragedy in life and deal with their own tragedy and the tragedy of their companions in the afterlife. Yeah, there’s also a lot of high school hijinks and the usual running about doing silly things but ultimately the situation these kids find themsleves in is tragic and the final episodes place that tragedy front and centre and make you embrace it even while offering hope.

Oh, what’s supernatural about it other than the characters being dead? Just a possible angel, guns being made out of dirt, hypnosis, an inability to die, and having your personality overwritten by a potential computer virus.

Number 2: Death Note

An excellent combination of mystery, crime and the supernatural, Death Note is kind of all of my favourite genres in one. A death god drops a notebook on earth and it is picked up by Light, who it turns out wants to change the world by killing every single criminal and now he has the means to enact this. It’s a great story with some really compelling characters and the entire thing is driven by the fact that Light is able to commit crimes without leaving any physical clues because all he is doing is writing names in a notebook.

Number 1: Black Butler

Making a deal with a demon? It doesn’t get more supernatural than that and Black Butler does it superbly. Even though Ciel’s story of revenge (being enabled by his demon butler) sits at the front and centre, there are a host of other mysteries and supernatural beings to be found. From the peculiarities of the servants, to the mysterious Jack the Ripper case, to the story of the missing girls, and then demon hounds, every episode delivers something fun and tragic simultaneously.

I know I have missed a lot of great supernatural anime when I made this list (even with the honourable mentions) so feel free to add your choices in the comments below. What would you have included and your list and why?

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

Friday’s Feature – I Am Human

Anime does a lot of things. It shows us amazing places and takes us on wild adventures. It can make us laugh or cry or wince or groan. It can make our eyes widen in shock and it can bore us to tears. However, what it does every now and then is really make us think.

This is part of why I love stories. Even stupid comedies sometimes hold a much greater truth than we might realise and thinking about those themes and messages, while enjoying a great show, is really rewarding.

This week I want to look at anime that look at what it means to be human. And the list is huge and there are plenty of amazing quotes and gifs out there that deal with this and I’m sure that people will tell me I missed some of the most obvious in the discussion below. I will say I deliberately have avoided Evangelion. At some point I’m going to get into that anime on this blog and I’ll leave that discussion for that later.

Now, some anime are pretty heavy handed when making a statement or delivering a moral message. One that immediately springs to mind is Parasyte. This is a really enjoyable anime but the conflict of our main character, Shinichi, as he wonders whether he is human or not after his arm is taken over by a parasite and his ongoing moral dilemmas about killing people, fighting and the like is anything but subtle.

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Basically Shinichi wants to protect people from the parasites but is too weak to do this by himself. So he is forced to cooperate with Migi (the name he gave the parasite that is his right hand) in his attempts to protect his friends, family and occasional random stranger. However, Migi isn’t all that cooperative. He doesn’t see the point in risking his own existence for another. Cue long conversations about right and wrong and the value and meaning of life.

While it might sound like I’m belittling it, I’m not. I really loved Parasyte and at least it didn’t try to be smarter than it was. Both Shinichi and Migi evolved as characters through gaining insight into the others point of view. The blending of what is originally a clear binary opposition and what the compromise looks like really is the take-away from the show and leaves you wondering where you would have ended up if placed in a similar situation.

Then we have Gundam, a franchise that is so heavy handed with the morals and messages that at times it is difficult to see individual characters as anything other than the voice of whatever moral viewpoint they have been appointed at that point in the plot. While most of these revolve around war and the futility of fighting and dying while also trying to acknowledge the necessity of these things, they also sometimes dive headlong into the overall discussion of what it means to be human and what motivates us to act.

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Asking why sometimes seems incredibly futile but it is these questions and reflections that actually make up the stronger emotional side of several of the Gundam series (you know, the parts that aren’t giant robots shooting or stabbing each other). The strength of Gundam is the sheer number of characters which gives more or less every audience member someone to agree with in terms of how they feel about the essential weakness of the human character.

Yet life and death aren’t the only elements of what it is to be human. Golden Time tackles several questions about the human experience including a sense of self and personal identity as well as how we define ourselves through relationships. And it is on how we create and maintain relationships with others that Golden Time really manages to shine.

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The other questions the show asks always feel a little forced given most of us aren’t an amnesiac with a dual personality caused by the soul of our past self trying to bump out the soul of our present existence. It kind of makes it hard to relate to. However, the romance and the heart break and how we deal with others, that we can watch and understand and really feel for some of these characters even as we wonder how we would cope in such a situation.

But if you were after an anime that decided to tackle identity, Charlotte gives it a good go, though you may find this theme hard to follow as at times it confronts it head on and at others it leaves you to fill the gaps in how the characters respond.

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Although, reading the quote above I’m always reminded a little bit of Alice In Wonderland and begin wondering, “Who Am I?”

Then we have the sheer number of ‘inhuman’ characters who cast their judgement on the human race. Which of course leads to the I know that this character was actually created by a human so it’s a human pretending to be a demon/ghost/arbiter/god/whatever speaking about their views of humanity. We very recently had an example in Twin Star Exorcists of this when one of the Kegare asked Benio if she remembered all the ants she’d ever stood on. This probably would have been more affective if it wasn’t a reasonably clichéd line from an overpowered non-human character.

But this trope can actually be done well. Sebastian from Black Butler makes numerous observations about human nature, usually in comparison to himself. He generally views humans with disdain and so lumps most of humanity into very overly generalised groups but at the same time, it is difficult to argue with his conclusions at times.

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Though demons and devils in anime are regularly used to make us wonder who the real demons are as we frequently have human characters acting far worse than the demons within particular stories. Works symbolically but one has to wonder where all the good, old-fashioned demons have gone.

However, I don’t want this post to get too caught up in the ins and outs of philosophy in anime. Keep in mind, mostly it is a form of entertainment. So sometimes, even in anime that seem like they are working very hard to have a serious message, you get a comment so off the wall it just kind of sticks with you. Hence, Potato Girl from Attack on Titan.

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So what animes have made you think about what it means to be human? Or just made you laugh with an incredibly obvious observation (such as people die when they are killed). I’d love to know.

Friday’s Feature – On Overpowered MC’s

I know right from the start of writing this article that I’m going to step on some toes but this is an argument that comes up time and time again and I decided I wanted to discuss this.

Why is an overpowered main character considered a bad thing?

Admittedly, I do like anime where the underdog comes forward and finally overcomes the seemingly unbeatable peril, but that doesn’t mean every main character has to be a wimp or a developing hero. It’s nice sometimes to have someone competent, in control, and at times even confident to follow along on their quest. In those instances, it isn’t tension that you are wanting to experience but rather the satisfaction of seeing someone overcome a challenge in a fairly capable manner. So, different emotional payoff but still entertaining, right?

Only it seems there is a very vocal group on the internet that seem to think that an overpowered MC exists only as a plot device and can’t possibly be an interesting character. While they are entitled to their opinion, and if an anime that features a strong main character isn’t for them, so be it, why do they feel the need to berate anyone who feels differently or to tear down these anime?

Before we get into anime characters that seem overpowered, I would like to point out the most overpowered character of all time, Superman. Seriously, there is only one thing in the entire world that can even slow him down and its ridiculously hard to come across (unless you are a B Grade villain living in Metropolis in which case it seems you will find it every time you sneeze). And with nothing that can actually harm him, let’s be honest there is very little reason to ever feel concerned about the outcome of a battle. His girlfriend died and he turned back time to save her (didn’t worry about all the other victims though).

One of my favourite characters in anime is Sebastian from Black Butler, but by every definition he is overpowered. At no point in the series do you feel he is actually in any danger, and by association there is little that will actually endanger the protagonist of the series, Ciel.

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Does that take any fun out of the series? Does it mean it is pointless to watch because you know Sebastian is going to win the fight and finish with s smug smile, usually while polishing something, and then give a cheesy line about being “one hell of a butler”? I didn’t think so. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the series and the fact that not every conflict could be solved simply through pointing Sebastian at it and saying ‘defeat’. Sure, the outcome of any conflicts were inevitable, but the process of getting to that victory was usually quite amusing to watch and it made for a very satisfying experience.

And Sebastian never complains. Or cries. Or pleas for more power. There are no training montages, no wise advisers showing up, or even friendly rivals (at least not in the first season). All of these clichés that occur in anime where the protagonist is still developing and not overpowered can be removed because what on earth will our character learn from them? They are already strong so most of their learning comes about themselves or other people rather than combat.

Another character who seems to take hits for being overpowered all the time is Kirito from Sword Art Online. Firstly, why is he considered overpowered? He nearly dies in every single battle and fails fairly regularly to protect those he is trying to save, which takes a fairly heavy emotional toll on him. The fact that he manages in most instances to save his own life doesn’t make him overpowered.

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While some haters argue that knowing Kirito will win a fight makes it pointless to watch. Unless you seriously haven’t ever watched or read any kind of story before, of course the main character is going to win. They only ever lose if it serves a greater purpose in the plot. So knowing he’s going to win doesn’t make him overpowered either.

Kirito isn’t always confident of victory, and he doesn’t walk needlessly into danger or expose himself to harm. He trains hard and he works with other characters – who admittedly get sidelined in critical battles to show off how amazing Kirito is but that’s a whole other discussion – and lastly, he continues to grow and develop as a character (which is another key criticism of him that he doesn’t develop). While his growth is subtle, it most certainly is occurring.

Remember back in the very first episode of SAO when Kirito realised that the game was real and that he could die. The fear he felt and the way it nearly overwhelmed him. And that emotion led him to the conclusion that he had to get strong and had to survive. Then as the series progressed he realises that mere survival won’t be enough. He has to find a way to live. And then he helps other characters realise that they can find a way to live as well. Kirito may become an exceptionally strong character, but he doesn’t just blink and get that way. And I personally found his journey very interesting even knowing he wouldn’t die.

Lastly, I’d like to bring up Tatsuya Shiba from The Irregular at Magic High School. He is totally overpowered in almost every conflict he is involved in. And even though that is blatantly apparent to the audience the rest of the cast that inhabit his world are a little slower on the uptake. Does that make him boring to watch? Not at all. Tatsuya is fantastic to see in action.

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Here is a character who exudes calm and confidence in every situation. I would say the issues come more from his lack of personality than from him being overpowered. And once again, it isn’t as though he is never in any danger or never injured. And it isn’t that the people around him aren’t put in danger or injured. The fact that he is going to win a fight doesn’t make it any less exhilarating to watch.

So, while I will admit that an overpowered MC can cause some plot problems (for instance the increasingly ridiculous ways they will try to make villains or situations that do challenge them), having an overpowered MC is not an instant sign that an anime is flawed, terrible, or without a story.

I guess it all comes down to why you are watching the story and what you are after. If you want nail biting tension and uncertainty in a battle’s outcome, certainly these overpowered main characters won’t be for you. But if you are after something else, there may be quite a bit of enjoyment to be found.

Share your thoughts. Do you like or hate overpowered characters? Who are your favourite/most hated overpowered characters?