OWLS Blog Tour: The Pride of the Protagonist

Here we are in June and I’m writing my second post for OWLS (OWLS stands for Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect). I will admit, it took me a bit to get going with this month’s theme but I’m pretty happy with the end result.

For those who don’t know: OWLS  are a group of otaku bloggers who promotes acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability. OWLS emphasise the importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being. Each month, OWLS will look at a specific theme. If you want to know more, please do click on the logo in the side bar.

The theme for May: Pride

In honour of “Pride Month,” we will be discussing the word, “Pride” and its meaning. We will be exploring pop culture characters’ most satisfying and joyful achievements or skills that they possessed and whether or not these qualities could be seen as a positive or negative aspect in their personal lives and/or society.

The Pride of the Protagonist

I really struggled with this theme at first. Mostly because for me ‘pride’ is one of those double edged swords. Characters with too much pride annoy me as they come off as arrogant. Characters with too little pride also annoy as they come off as doormats. Though it is much the same in real life. I feel people need to have pride in themselves but it shouldn’t cross the line into being egotistical or conceited. And I kind of looked at this issue when I wrote a feature back in 2016 on anime characters who want to be the very best (no Pokemon in the post but a focus on Ichigo from Bleach and Light from Death Note).

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However, my personal thoughts on pride aside, in narratives pride is a driving force for characters. For better or worse, characters can make decisions and take actions to protect their pride and this moves both the characters and the plot forward. Still, at times you have to question what that pride is based on and whether or not it was particularly beneficial to act in that way.

For anime I’m watching at the moment, the immediate one that sprang to mind when thinking about whether or not pride was helpful is Record of Grancrest War. Now, there’s a lot of questionable decisions in the narrative outside of character motivations and yet I think a lot of the audience would be happy to accept a lot of the things that have happened if the character motivations would make sense.

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Now we could look at the choices made by so many characters in this anime. Marrine deciding she has to unify the continent herself and willing to even resort to chemical warfare to achieve that end. Milza being Milza. The number of commanders who have ridden out to their deaths rather than surrendering. The number of characters who have committed suicide upon losing a battle (and has anyone ever inquired as to the mental health of the mages because they seem particularly suicidal). But instead of looking at all of that, because it is messy and doesn’t relate well to other stories that actually have some logic behind them, I want to look at Theo and his decision to face Milza in a one-on-one fight.

Realistically, this just reminded me of Sarah in the Labyrinth:

Sarah: No! I have to face him alone.

Didymus: But why?

Sarah: Because that’s the way it’s done!

Didymus: Well, if that is the way it is done, then that is the way you must do it. But, should you need us…

Hoggle: Yes, should you need us…

Sarah: I’ll call.

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So, why does she need to face the Goblin King alone? She has a whole group of friends waiting and yet she’s going to go fight the guy with magic powers by herself, armed with… Confidence she’s the protagonist so it will all work out somehow? Even as a kid, this scene never sat well with me.

As does Theo’s decision to fight Milza one-on-one. It has already been established that Milza is by far the stronger fighter of the two. Despite Theo’s preparations to wear down Milza’s army and to isolate him, fighting him by himself is pretty much suicidal, given that in a realistic world, Milza would have broken through Theo’s defense and killed him early on.

That isn’t what happens though. Instead, Milza beats away at Theo, hitting his guard and sword continuously, and in the process he wears himself out before Theo prattles at him and then runs him through. And once again, we get an excellent look at why pride is not a useful trait for character survival when Milza is given an opportunity to just surrender and flat out turns it down allowing Theo to kill him and somehow justify it.

Milza

An argument could be mounted that Theo has to beat Milza to prove he is worthy of leading the alliance and inheriting Vilar’s crest, but realistically if Theo lead the army that reclaimed the castle and wiped out Milza’s troops, would it matter if Theo had actually personally killed Milza. Furthermore, would it have mattered if the other characters had brought Milza down to the ground where Theo could have still walked up and done his little speech and offered Milza a chance to live before delivering the finishing blow?

But let’s expand that argument to more or less any story about a lone hero who rises up and some of the convoluted reasons narratives come up with as to ‘why’ they end up facing the villain alone.

Lethal Weapon gives us an excellent example of this in the fight of Riggs vs Mr Joshua. They are fighting on the lawn, literally surrounded by police all armed with guns, and yet they continue a smack down. Running around the perimeter, we see Murtaugh claiming he’ll take responsibility as it is Riggs’ arrest and the others shouldn’t interfere.

Um…

I’m not sure where that fits into any kind of standard police procedure or common sense. It makes for a great fight sequence. We get to see how tough Riggs is and how awesome he is at fighting. We also get to see him being the benevolent man and not killing Mr Joshua, you know, until Mr Joshua grabs a gun. But it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense.

From a character point of view, we can see why Riggs wants to fight him. That is clear. And the reason he might want him dead. But that drive, his sense of pride in wanting to be the one to take him down, is pretty silly in the grander context leaving him quite badly injured and almost killed. More importantly, despite what Mutaugh is saying, I’m not sure the rest of the police would just chill and watch for the sake of Riggs’ personal vendetta.

Over and over again we see these kinds of protagonists who push the limits and boundaries in the pursuit of defending their pride. And while there might seem to be something noble about this particular action, the end result is something that seems slightly faulty to me. To assume that an achievement is one you cannot be proud of unless you do it alone is really inaccurate and realistically, collectively having pride in the achievements of a group is more likely to lead to social cohesion than lauding individual achievements. Would Theo have been any less a character for not facing Milza alone? Would Sarah have failed to realise she could beat the Goblin King if Hoggle and Sir Didymus have accompanied her? Would Mr Joshua be any less dead or arrested if the full force of the police had simply swarmed him on arrival at the scene?

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Having pride is important as people all have value. But protagonists regularly go too far. They cross the line into believing that they must stand alone and it is only their strength that will succeed. While it definitely makes for some great viewing and has lead to some truly epic scenes, the application of this kind of pride into the real world would definitely be problematic.

So let’s bring this back to Pride Month. Pride Month isn’t about the lone wolf going off to bring down the villain in a showy display of individual strength and self-glorification. Being acknowledge for either your individual self or for your achievements (both individual and collective) don’t equate to tearing someone else down.

In that sense, Sailor Moon with her ‘love and friendship’ mantra is probably a better role model as she reaches out to her friends for support when facing her enemies and even reaches out to her enemies where possible.

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The Schedule for June: 

5: Matthew Castillo (Matt-in-the-Hat)

7: Mel (Mel in Anime Land)

12: Zoe (Let’s Talk Anime)

14: Mistress of Yaoi (Yaoi Playground)

15: Zel (Archi-Anime)

17: Karandi (100 Word Anime)

18: Irina (Drunken Anime Blog)

19: Naja B. (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero)

20: Marth (Marth’s Anime Blog)

21: Dylan (DynamicDylan)

22: Gloria (The Nerdy Girl News)

23: Marina (Anime B&B)

24: Dale (That Baka Blog)

25: Gigi (Animepalooza)

26: Takuto (Takuto’s Anime Cafe)

27: Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews)

28: Crimson (Crimson is Blogging)

29: Carla (PopCultureLiterary)

30: Matt (MattDoyleMedia)


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Let’s Try Something Different and Build A Harem

I’m going to thank Cactus Matt from Anime Q & A for throwing this tag my way. I have never even considered building a harem and so when I was nominated my brain suddenly went a little bit crazy with the possibilities. Then of course I had to think about when I could respond to the tag and ultimately I decided just to make it my feature for the week. I think this is going to be fun if only because I decided to go all out and not think for a moment about the reality of what such a gathering would be like.

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The Idea:

You are the central protagonist of a harem anime. Pick five characters (of any gender) that fit into a different harem character type. The characters must be from existing anime (but can come from any anime). If you want the full list of original rules, click here.

My Amended Idea:

You are the central protagonist of a harem anime. Pick five characters (of any gender) that will play a particular role within the harem. The characters must be from existing anime (but can come from any anime).

The reason for the change is I don’t really use labels from the types and tropes that this list should probably include (Tsundere, etc). I actually find these labels really limiting as they only focus in on one part of a character, much like the ‘manic pixie girl’ label that gets thrown around. So while I do understand these terms, I tend to avoid using them except when I’m being really sarcastic toward something, so I decided not to use them in my harem.

My Harem

01. The Dangerously Perfect Guy

Okay, we all know this type in fiction, though fortunately few of them exist in real life. This guy can do anything. Literally anything. And he does it perfectly, flawlessly, and looks really good while doing it. Too bad he’ll chew you up and spit you out and not even look back as he moves on to the next meal. And of course, to fulfil this role in my harem I’ve enlisted the aid of one hell of a butler, Sebastian Michaelis, from Black Butler. The one advantage of this, is by default I get Ciel Phantomhive to be part of the harem without using one of my five because Sebastian isn’t going to just join someone else’s harem. So realistically, I’ve somehow connect Ciel into it and Sebastian came along for the ride.

Ciel and Sebastian.jpg

02. The Smart and Sexy Guy

He doesn’t necessarily have to wear glasses, but why would you turn down a gorgeous looking guy with glasses who also has a brain to back up the look. He’s probably a little bit sharp tongued and he’s probably talked down to you on more occasions than you can count, but he genuinely smiles when you argue back and win a point or two in the verbal sparring match. This guy has a plan at all times, doesn’t respond well to sudden shocks, and isn’t great at expressing emotions, but he’s just too cute because of his awkwardness. So yes, I’ve selected Uryu Ishida from Bleach. He’s smart, deadly with a bow and arrow, he sews, and the guy is seriously stubborn. Plus, he really does rock those glasses.

Uryu Ishida

03. The Guy You Just Want To Hug

He’s like your little brother, only fortunately not. His smile is infectious, his tears make you melt, and all and all, this is the guy you want to hang around and spend time with. He tries hard at everything, he’s always looking out for you, and when he falls down he pulls himself back up but you just know one day he’ll need you. Yep, I had to throw Katsuki Yuri, from Yuri on Ice, on this list. Partly because I actually needed someone nice in my harem, and partly because I really would like to give Yuri a hug. It probably doesn’t hurt that if Yuri is around there’s a good chance Victor might show up.

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04. He’s In His Own World, But One Day He’ll Need You

It’s amazing how many girls in anime fall for the guy who barely know they exist and yet insist on just waiting patiently. And yet, there was one guy I thought of who might just be worth waiting for. Natsume Takashi from Natsume Yuujinchou. The guy literally lives in his own world and at times his human friends get quite forcibly pushed aside, and yet, for someone like that, I could definitely see them being worth the wait. As he slowly opens up to people, there’s such a kind and gentle soul there. Much like with Yuri Katsuki, I’d just like to give Natsume a hug.

Natsume.jpg

05. Finally, The Bad Boy, Because Every Harem Needs One

I’m going to be honest and point out that I’m not a big fan of bad boys in real life, but in stories they work beautifully. The joy of watching a rebel or rule breaker in a narrative is fun and safe, in real life they are a destabilising factor that is best avoided. But for my fictional harem, I’m throwing one in because that allows me to toss this truly gorgeous guy in, and I’m pretty sure most of you will agree he belongs in the list: Shinya Kougami from Psycho Pass. He’s fighting for his sense of justice, or revenge, and he doesn’t worry about whether or not he has to break the rules to do it. His single-minded focus is attractive as hell, but also dangerous as it is likely to burn those who come too close.

Kougami

Your Thoughts:

Given I’d never put together a harem before, or even considered it, this ended up being a lot of fun. Of course, I then visualised these five guys (six if you count Ciel) in a room together and realised there is no way I’m stepping foot into that room. And with the exception of Natsume, am I noticing a trend in my type of anime guy? Definitely. Now the question would be, if this was a real harem, who would be the OTP? Karandi and…

Nope. Can’t see it. Not with any of them.

I tag (no obligation):


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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OWLS Blog Tour: The Compliance Trap Within Soul Society

Welcome to my very first OWLS (OWLS stands for Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect) post. I’m super excited to be on board this month and joining in the tour. OWLS  are a group of otaku bloggers who promotes acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability. OWLS emphasize the importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being. Each month, OWLS will look at a specific theme. If you want to know more, please do click on the logo in the side bar.

The theme for May: Movement

We join movements, organizations, and systems that align with our own personal values and beliefs. Sometimes we join these groups because they believe in doing good and making positive changes in society. However, these movements can turn sour when a dictator arises or behind the good intentions, there’s a hidden agenda of oppression. It is in these groups that individuals start to shape their identities by questioning their values and beliefs or conforming to the system. This month, we will be examining “real and/or fictitious” movements, organizations, or systems in anime and other pop culture mediums, and the positive and negative effects they have on individuals and society.

Soul Society

Soul Society (Bleach seasons 1 – 3):

There’s no denying that organisations and governments get an incredibly rough representation in the vast majority of literature. They make for easy targets to be portrayed as impersonal, corrupt, violent and oppressive. They can easily symbolise everything that is keep you the individual from reaching your potential and keeping you down and there’s something quite cathartic about watching one headstrong individual take the mammoth organisation down. Very David and Goliath really and it speaks to a wide audience as the vast majority of people are not part of the them that these stories are vilifying for our pop-corn entertainment.

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That isn’t to say that a strong message about the need for individuals to be aware of the power of organisations and to watch for corruption isn’t a valuable thing. 1984 in particular left a lasting impression in the minds of many and has been imitated multiple times since because the fear that our individual freedoms will be eroded without us even noticing is fairly sound in the modern world.

Be that as it may, there’s one organisation that immediately sprang to mind when I saw the topic for this blog tour and that was Soul Society in Bleach. What I find truly remarkable about this is we do in fact have a mostly faceless organisation rife with corruption and power mad individuals, where people are reduced to numbers, there’s a definite ‘us and them’ mentality, and yet despite this, Ichigo’s charge into Soul Society to rescue Rukia didn’t end in a fiery explosion bringing an end to this cesspit of a governing body but rather simply rooted out one individual who took advantage of the corruption and then left the corrupt leadership pretty much in-tact to continue business as usual and yet that was meant to be some kind of triumphant ending to an arc.

If you’ve never watched Bleach that would probably confuse you but there’s some definite points that need to be raised here as well as speculation as to the reason we don’t simply burn it all down and start over at the end of season 3.

Firstly, Ichigo never actually cared about Soul Society or its rules or laws at all. He barely knew about Soul Society, went there with limited knowledge, and his goal was not to liberate or create some kind of Utopian afterlife for souls. He went to Soul Society to save Rukia. Once she was saved, his work was essentially done and he had no further issue or reason to meddle in Soul Society’s affairs. And let’s be honest, Ichigo wasn’t exactly a political figure. He was a relatively jaded high school boy. Realistically he wasn’t interested in Japanese politics so what business did he have caring about Soul Society. The only thing he ever fought were those individuals who directly stood in his path. The fact that they worked for Soul Society was pretty much a non-point for him.

Secondly, those who reside within Soul Society tended to accept the situation as it was. There were the outer districts with the poor and then there were the extreme wealthy and then there were the Soul Reapers and everyone had their place and with one or two exceptions people complied with the expected behaviours of someone within that strata. Even if Ichigo had decided to destroy it all, they essentially would have rebuilt the exact same system because those living within it didn’t desire change. They were compliant within the system and it seemed most couldn’t have even imagined a different system.

Soul Society6

This is despite the obvious flaws that were identified with this system during this arc. The only reason the villain got away with his plot was because he exploited these obvious weaknesses. Those who gave orders were faceless individuals in Central 46 but none of the Captains ever seemed to go there to speak with them directly. Messages were distributed via butterflies and not one of the Captains ever questioned those orders even when the extreme nature of Rukia’s punishment kept getting pushed. Okay, eventually some did question but this was a long way down the line and it was already well and truly too late.

Furthermore, the division between the squads and their captains, not healthy rivalry but outright division, ensured that each group was more or less blind. Information was not shared between all squads and individuals until very late in the piece and by then the villain had already pretty much achieved his goal.

Also, the system itself reduced people to skills and numbers. Qualities such as empathy or forethought or just being level-headed were not valued as such things aren’t really quantifiable. Instead fighting abilities and spiritual energy were raised up as the mark of strength and strength ruled regardless of how inappropriate for the role or where it was leading others to. This meant that a great many with clear abilities and gifts of value were overlooked or looked down upon. Most of squad 4 in point of fact were treated horribly despite the fact that they serve an incredibly valuable function in healing others as well as a myriad of other essential functions within the society. Those with such a gift should not be scorned and yet here they are treated largely like baggage.

Soul Society4

Finally, the society was stagnating. Stuck in a past model where new ideas and approaches were openly scorned, the society was unable to grow and evolve with the individuals within it. One thing that remains true of all societies is that they evolve over time and a society that openly tries to stop progress is one that is pretty much doomed to failure or to at least repeating the same errors over and over again.

The entirety of Soul Society and the tenants it is built upon is fatally flawed, which probably explains why so many bad things happen and take the residents by total surprise each and every time.

Soul Society3

And yet, unlike any Western film that would tackle such a story, the hero did not kill the leaders of this corrupt body and blow up some symbol of their power and then declare the people free. Instead we see him listening to Rukia, acknowledging her choice to stay, and then departing. He even agrees to work with Soul Society as a substitute shinigami in the future.

The thing is, by the end of season 3, most of the Captains know there is a problem. Most of their lieutenants are starting to look at their society with fresh eyes. While change doesn’t then occur immediately, over the course of Bleach we do see small steps forward for Soul Society that could not have occurred if a violent uprising had been the catalyst. Instead we see those who are leading the organisation starting to communicate more, starting to work in slightly different ways, and trying to avoid the pitfalls of the past. They aren’t exactly successful or rushing things by any means, but there’s certainly evidence of a change.

What this leaves the viewer with is a very different outlook from other stories and movies where we are left with the notion that corrupt systems must be immediately dismantled, violently if necessary, or are left with the notion that the government cannot be beaten. Stories like Bleach, and even Psycho Pass, make the viewer consider the slower but potentially more lasting change that can be constructed by working within a system and taking on each problem one at a time. Building on past successes and building bridges with others to try to overcome the past.

There’s no long term answer given as to whether or not this approach would work within the anime, that isn’t really the point anyway. So we’ll say goodbye to Soul Society here and turn our attention to those who rule in the real world and whether we are falling into the compliance trap and accepting things we should not, or whether we lack the imagination to even perceive what might be changed. And more importantly, turning our attention to our attitudes towards organisations we don’t like. Sometimes systems that seem terrible to an outsider work for those who uphold the system and work within it and even if the system isn’t working for those within, change driven from an external source may not be the best option.

Soul Society7

The Schedule for May:

If you’ve missed any posts on the tour or want to know who is up next, the schedule is below. Be sure to check out some of the great bloggers and their posts this month.

1: Matthew Castillo (Matt-in-the-Hat)

2: Kat (GrimmGirl.com)

4: Auri (Manga Toritsukareru Koto)

7: Miandro (Miandro’s Side)

8: Irina (Drunken Anime Blog)

9: Matt (MattDoyleMedia)

10: Mel (Mel in Anime Land)

15: Zoe (Let’s Talk Anime)

16: Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews)

17: Karandi (100 Word Anime)

18: Carla (PopCultureLiterary)

20: Marth (Marth’s Anime Blog)

21: Marina (Anime B&B)

22: Gloria (The Nerdy Girl News)

23: Takuto (Takuto’s Anime Cafe)

24: Dylan (DynamicDylan)

25: Andrea (All Andrealinia)

28: Shokamoka (Shokamoka’s Blog of Wonders)

30: Mistress of Yaoi (Yaoi Playground)

31: Naja B. (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero)


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: English Dubbed Anime

While I’m pretty much a strictly sub-watcher under normal circumstances, there are the occasional anime that for whatever reason I’ve enjoyed in English or had to watch the English dub of. Today I count down my five favourite anime that I’m pretty happy to watch in English. At some point I’ll have to count down my top 5 least favourite dubs, but for now I’m counting down my favourites and I’d love to know what some of your favourite dubbed anime is and why.

Please note, there will probably be no spoilers this week.

Honourable Mentions: K

Number 5: Bleach

Fight-Bleach

Bleach is a weird one because I know the dub isn’t that great (not that bad, but not that great). However, given this was one of the earlier anime I watched and initially I was watching episodes in smaller than ten minute chunks on YouTube so the subs were not always done by the same group and some episodes were in English with Spanish subs, actually getting to listen to it in English and not try to work out what the slightly different translated term or name was in the subs was kind of a relief when I could access it in English. There’s definitely a fondness and a nostalgia factor at work here and realistically I mostly watch this one in Japanese now that I own the DVD’s, but when watching with others I’m pretty happy to watch this either subbed or dubbed.

Number 4: Soul Eater

Maka + Soul

Is it wrong if I admit I prefer Maka’s English voice over her Japanese? She’s one of my favourite female characters of all time, one I’ve bothered to cosplay, and I think she’s amazing but something about Laura Bailey’s delivery in the English dub really lifts this character. Again, no actually issue with the original Japanese and I prefer Black Star in Japanese to English (though personally I’d prefer him on mute) but overall this is one of my favourite anime and I watch it in English about half the time I watch it.

Number 3: Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

Full Metal.jpg

This is another anime I originally watched online, somewhere, because everyone said it was amazing and I didn’t have access. The version I watched just happened to be an English dub and I really fell in love with the characters. By the time I was able to by a DVD copy of this anime, I kind of felt the English voices fit things just right and I actually find it odd when watching this one in Japanese. There’s a real energy to the cast and the characters really do come through beautifully in the dub.

Number 2: Sword Art Online

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While I love the Japanese of this one, this is an anime that I’ve used on multiple occasions to get people into watching anime so I’ve watched the dub, a lot. At first it kind of bothered me but over multiple watches, the voices have definitely grown on me. There are some characters that really do give a fairly impressive performance in the cast and while I prefer Kirito speaking Japanese, he works quite well in the English dub. More importantly, most of the people I’ve watched it with have been impressed by the voice acting given most of them had previously had limited experience with anime and most of the dubs they had been familiar with were 90’s ones which we should probably all agree just weren’t very good.

Number 1: Steins;Gate

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Yes, it is the original Steins;Gate series. I’ve mentioned in more than one comment online that this one of the few series where I prefer the dub. Not only are the cast amazing, it relieves the problem of the very quick dialogue and multiple characters speaking at the same time. While I have no issues with subs, when the subs cover a third of the screen and pass so quickly you can’t read it all at times, it becomes a slight distraction from the overall enjoyment. Watching this in English is a joy and one I would happily recommend skipping the subs on and just switching straight to dub.

What are some of your favourite dubs?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Smart Anime Characters

Before getting into this list, I will point out that one of the most annoying things in stories than an anime character who the audience is told is smart who then acts like a complete air-head for the entire run-time. I get that some characters are smart in one specific skill and therefore have issues at other things, but some supposedly smart characters just act really dumb. Therefore, my list is focusing on consistency. Characters who are smart and who consistently seem to think through their actions, even if they don’t always draw the right conclusions.

That said, I’d love to know who you would have included on your list of smart anime characters so please leave a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Light (Death Note), Uruhara (Bleach), and Ami (Sailor Moon).


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Number 5: Lelouch (Code Geass)

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Realistically I understand the Lelouch made a lot of mistakes. Still, given he was a high school student who was presented with a sudden opportunity to take what he wanted, he actually thought through quite a few things and had a lot more success than he might have if he wasn’t such a quick thinker. Ultimately, for all the mistakes Lelouch made, he found a way back and some of his plans were pretty brilliant. Probably Lelouch’s biggest problem early on was over-confidence but after the end of season 1 he seemed to overcome that and from then on he was pretty good at what he was doing.


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Number 4: Rei (March Comes in Like a Lion)

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Rei is a genius Shogi player. He doesn’t get much about life and what he does get, he overthinks horribly, but considering his age and experience, the boy is pretty smart. Even though he puts himself down all the time and, particularly in season one, he paints himself in a negative light, he’s someone who is managing to live on his own, study his craft, and attempt to finish school mostly on his own. He’s one smart cookie and one who deserves to give himself a bit of praise every now and then for what he has achieved and he shouldn’t worry so much about his failures.

Number 3: Kurisu (Steins;Gate)

Steins - Microphone

I had a hard time deciding between Okabe and Kurisu, but ultimately Kurisu is the more logical and the one more likely to put the hard work in to figure out what makes things tick. Okabe’s more manic approach may stumble upon a success every now and again, but Kurisu is the one who can begin to understand the how and the why and the limitations. Almost all of the adaptations to the phone-microwave as the series went on were because of Kurisu’s testing and meticulous work and so she well and truly deserves her place on this list. That and she managed to not kill Okabe for calling her Christina.


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Number 2: Tatsuya Shiba (The Irregular at Magic High School)

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For someone who can’t perform well on the standardised tests of his world, Tatsuya Shiba more than makes up for it everywhere else. Brilliant at magical theory, manipulating magical devices, and generally figuring out ways around his limitations, he’s more or less unstoppable (which would kind of be why so many people throw the overpowered label at him). Be that as it may, he’s a very smart character and one I would not want to be up against in any battle of wits – though that’s probably true of every character on this list.

Number 1: Korosensei (Assassination Classroom)

assassination-classroom

For all that he ended up an experiment that went a bit wrong, Korosensei proves over and over again that he knows his stuff as a teacher. He delivers the curriculum across a range of subjects and also expands the students’ knowledge into a whole range of fields.  If it wasn’t for the whole blow up the world thing, he’d be the perfect teacher and he certainly deserves his place as number one on my list.

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


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: 3 Reasons Why Rukia Kuchiki Should Have Died At The End of Season 3

No surprise that I’m back to Bleach given it was one of the anime that got me into anime as an adult. Previously I’ve looked at whether Orihime contributes anything to Bleach and it occurred to me at the time that I really needed to look at Rukia’s character (okay, I need to look at a lot of characters in Bleach and eventually I need to review it as well but that will be a long time before I get to it). Today I finally intend to get around to arguing the case that Rukia Kuchiki should have died at the end of season 3 of Bleach (clearly spoilers incoming for those who haven’t watched it).


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Now unlike my post that took a swipe at Orihime, I really like Rukia’s character. She’s the literal life changer of Ichigo by being the catalyst for him getting caught up in pretty much everything that happens from the first episode forward. She’s got a strong presence and even when stripped of her powers strives to fight and fight hard. Anyone who has watched the first season of Bleach knows that Rukia Kuchiki is one tough cookie, who is also terrible at art.

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And while I probably swooned a little bit when Ichigo first swept in to save Rukia after many, many, many, many episodes of him fighting his way through Soul Society to rescue her, part of me had to wonder how much better the series would be if he had faced a complete defeat and failed to save her in that instance. So much of the tension in the show vanishes after the end of season 3, so much of the drive, and ultimately Rukia’s character becomes one that increasingly serves little purpose other than the occasional pep-talk (or smack down).

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However, I’ve narrowed it down to 3 main reasons why Rukia Kuchiki should have died at this point in the story (and none of them have anything to do with shipping wars and whether Ichigo would be better off with Rukia or Orihime).

01. Rukia’s character becomes reasonably redundant after the initial arc has run its course.

She’s an impressive character to be sure. When Ichigo’s family were in danger she showed up to fight the Hollow and then when she failed and was injured, she gave Ichigo the power he needed to protect his family. It was an incredibly self-less act (though she didn’t actually intend to hand over all her power so it’s a little less selfless than it might at first appear).

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After serving first as the catalyst for change, Rukia adopts a mentor role in the story. She teaches Ichigo what he needs to know and provides him access to a range of tools that sometimes even help him out as he tries to defeat Hollows and protect those around him.

Then we get to the end of season 1 and the tone shifts dramatically as Rukia is finally tracked down by other Shinigami from Soul Society who believe she’s broken the law in staying in the human world as long as she has and in giving her power to a human. They beat Ichigo down and take Rukia back to Soul Society providing the clear goal for the next two seasons. Defeat everyone in Soul Society and rescue the girl. It’s a pretty big down-grade for a mentor character in the first place going from adviser to damsel in distress in about ten minutes of air-time, but it again sets out a necessary goal for our hero. Still, I wonder how Yoda would have reacted to that kind of plot twist? She’s the prize, the trophy or the life sized Kinder Surprise awaiting rescue at the end of an arduous hero’s journey.

Eventually however she is rescued but Ichigo no long needs her as a mentor. Many other characters have swept in to fill that void (most of them older and significantly wiser than Rukia). She’s not one of his friends, they aren’t love interests (unless you happen to be on that side of the shipping wars), they no longer have a mentor-mentee relationship, so the question becomes what role does she serve?

I think the show itself flails as it attempts to answer that question. For awhile after the rescue, Rukia disappears to ‘regain’ her powers or whatever and she does appear off and on afterwards, notably showing up in the Hueco Mundo arc when Ichigo wants to save Orihime. And anyone who watched to that point knows Rukia is fantastic when we finally get to see her fight with her power actually in-tact.

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But, was she needed? Honestly, this arc was stretched enough so seeing Rukia get a cool fight might have been fantastic for Rukia fans, but all it did was slow the story. It tried to bring some closure to the whole Rukia killing her friend who was possessed by a hollow way back when too, but that story was never much of a major tipping point and the conclusion is more or less pointless. Rukia does get a friendship with Orihime, but this also isn’t much of a bonus for a series as hopelessly padded as Bleach becomes.

This story needed to take a tip from Game of Thrones. Kill your characters, occasionally. If they aren’t needed, or even if they are, occasionally take them out. In this instance, Rukia had served any purpose she was ever going to for the grander narrative and any thing attributed to her after season 3 could easily have gone to the thousands of other underused characters. So as a redundant and no longer purposeful character, killing her off seems like the smart move to me.

And I know the counter argument. Just because she doesn’t serve a purpose anymore doesn’t mean she needs to die. But…

02. Think how much more motivated Ichigo would have been to track down Aizen and make him pay. Really, after the Soul Society arc Bleach loses focus. Aizen flees and Ichigo resumes his normal life with the slight perk (problem) of being a substitute shinigami. There’s no sense of urgency to do anything about the guy who literally had all of Soul Society dancing to his tune.

However, if Rukia dies, Ichigo loses it. He’s driven to be the best, to save those around him, he gave it everything he had and pushed himself beyond his limit and he still failed to watch Aizen float up into the sky and escape. Ichigo becomes obsessed with bringing Aizen down and guess how much faster we can now get to the invasion of Hueco Mundo and the ultimate face-off between these two. Added bonus, Byakuya Kuchiki (Rukia’s brother after he adopted her), is also ticked and Soul Society get off their collective butts and do something far sooner than they actually did. Added, added bonus, Renji also gets a massive power up after witnessing the death of his childhood friend.

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Giving Ichigo a solid motivation would give this story so much more purpose and direction. Because basically after rescuing Rukia, the show flounders. And it does this for a long time until Orihime is targeted and abducted and Ichigo decides he must save yet another damsel in distress, setting up an almost mockery of his first desperate race into Soul Society as he now charges into Hueco Mundo. I get that not everything in long running series is going to be amazing, but that was a rehash of a motive if ever we saw one and it effectively knee-capped any kind of character progress Ichigo may have made.

Kill Rukia, get a more affective motive for our protagonist and kick the story into high gear faster. Not seeing a down side to this plan. But let’s get to the third reason and it is probably the most crucial.

03. Nobody of note ever seems to die in Bleach. The occasional villain gets a send off but most characters recover from even the most insane wounds. Ichigo himself is pretty much killed at least four times before he ever finds Rukia in Soul Society and yet plot armour is such a fierce thing. Don’t get me wrong, this adds to the fun of the show. Zany and over the top fight sequences and attacks, blood splatter and drama at every corner, but you don’t actually have to get too worried.

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But, Rukia is a different story. This was a chance to give this story a truly dramatic turning point and give the show some actual narrative credibility in amongst all the shouting, sword flailing antics. It was an opportunity utterly squandered by the need to keep her alive so that she could engage in some half-hearted verbal sparring with Ichigo and linger on fairly pointlessly in a story that had outgrown its beginnings.

And let’s relate this back to her main role early on. She was Ichigo’s mentor. Mentor’s die. Sorry Yoda, Konobi, Gandalf (okay, he came back to life), Ur (Fairy Tail), Mami (Madoka), and Kamina (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann) but mentor characters die. They pass what is needed onto the next one and then they bow out of the story.

Rukia was the character who could be killed off because of the role she’d played. It would hurt the audience greatly but it would be one of the most memorable moments of the series and her character would be remembered as the amazing young warrior who gave Ichigo the start he needed on the road to whatever it was he became by the end (seriously, is there anything Ichigo isn’t by the end?).

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You could argue almost every problem people have with Bleach after the third season stems from Rukia still being alive. Ichigo isn’t motivated to chase down Aizen until far later in the series. There’s no sense of tension or drama and no matter how bleak the situation you know these characters will survive. Absolutely. Without fail, survive.

So let’s imagine a reboot. Let’s take the incredible concept of Bleach, trim all the fat, and really think about the role the characters were set to play and have the series play out as it really should. See that fantastic moment when Ichigo realises his failure and Rukia’s final moments play out? See Ichigo actually have an immediate clear goal to progress with after this arc?

Certainly, this is all a matter of my opinion but these are the three reasons why I think Rukia Kuchiki should have died at the end of season 3. If you’d like to share your thoughts on the matter, be sure to leave me a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Female Characters with Green Hair

Today I am taking a look at the lovely green haired ladies of anime and I will admit this ended up being harder than expected.  While there was no doubt who was going to top my list, the other characters proved a little harder to split. Basically I was looking for interesting female characters where their green hair was a distinguishing part of their appearance.

I’d love to know some of your favourite green haired female characters. Next week I’ll tackle the guys but until then be sure to leave your picks in the comments below.

Note: There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions go to Sailor Neptune (Sailor Moon) and Akari (Chaika).

Number 5: Nanami Yasuri (Katanagatari)

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Nanami gets points for being the second creepiest character I put on this list. She’s a devoted sister but I’m pretty sure that her notion of raising or caring for her brother has definitely crossed a few lines. Admittedly, he is really strong and made stronger by her interference in his quest but Nanami is still one terrifying green haired girl. Her particular ability to essentially use any ability she has ever seen makes her fairly terrifying to almost all who encounter her and if it wasn’t for her weak body she’s be an unstoppable force of nature.


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Number 4: Tsuyu Asui (My Hero Academia)

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Now I am not the biggest froppy fan but even I have to admit that Tsuyu is one talented hero. If she wasn’t in the same class as the protagonist and his rivals she might even get to stand out occasionally. She’s level headed in a crisis, has a range of useful skills and is pretty determined. Throughout the second season she demonstrated numerous times that she has what it takes to be in the same class as the others and while I didn’t really appreciate her getting her own mission episode as it felt a lot like filler, even I had to admit it was very high quality filler and you could totally see this character carrying their own series.


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Number 3: Lenalee (D Gray Man)

No real surprise here given I’ve made it fairly clear that I love Lenalee as a character. She’s such an awesome exorcist and a great partner for Allan. Unfortunately she gets sidelined too often, but the fight over the ocean on the way to Japan just proved how incredibly tough she is and how far she will go to save others and win the fight. She also got her innocence to evolve to the crystal type and while Hallow severely underutilised her I’m kind of hoping if we get another follow up series (please) that we’ll see more of this amazing character on the screen.

Number 2: Mion/Shion Sonozaki (Higurashi)

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So who beat Nanami as the creepiest character on this list? Mion and Shion of course (and no, I’m not even going to try to split these two because depending on the time loop you are in either one of them could be crazy and it isn’t as though they don’t switch places making it even more confusing). Still, these two are fantastic characters. The older sister characters of the group and the children of gangsters, they come across as tough as nails but are surprisingly emotionally vulnerable. They both go through hell at various times but fortunately they learn from the experiences eventually, like the other characters, and finally find their happy ending.

Number 1: Nel (Bleach)

Whether in her child-form or fully grown, Nel was a fantastic character that Ichigo met when he invaded Hueco Mundo. As a former member of the Espada, she is one tough cookie but she’s got a grudge and Ichigo has a soft spot for little sister characters so the two of them bond fairly readily after meeting. One of my favourite Bleach characters ever, and rocking her green hair and matching shirt, Nel well and truly deserves the number one spot on this list.

And that’s my list done but I’d love to know your picks and remember to check in next week when I count down my top 5 male characters with green hair.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Finally, you can use the affiliate link to shop at Play-Asia.com ifPlay-Asia.com - Play-Asia.com: Online Shopping for Digital Codes, Video Games, Toys, Music, Electronics & more you are interested in anime, soundtracks, figures or games. Should you use the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

 

Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Archers

Alright, I know before getting into this that someone is going to suggest Fate/Whatever but the only one of that franchise I’ve actually watched is Fate/Stay Night and it didn’t terribly impress so no, they didn’t get on the list. However, as always, once I get through my list I would love to know which characters you would include on yours. This is a pretty straight forward list in that the only requisite is the character uses a bow and arrow (or some very close variant).

Please note: there may be some spoilers below.

Honourable mentions this week go to Sailor Mars and Madoka.

Number 5: Borgoff Marcus from Vampire Hunter D

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Okay, honestly this is probably more of a cross-bow thing than a bow and arrow, but it is still really cool. The guy launches enough of his arrows to fill the sky and rain down death upon the vampires he’s hunting. He is also incredibly accurate which is demonstrated numerous times throughout the movie. All and all, it is a great weapon and while he isn’t the best character, he is certainly a fine marksman.

Number 4: Miyuki from Red Data Girl

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We see Miyuki training at archery regularly and we know he was trained as a mountain monk. Throughout the series we see him use both the bow and a staff to try to defend Izumiko (though his spiritual power is a little low when not being given a boost by Wamiya). Still, he looks pretty good when drawing his bow.


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Number 3: Yona from Akatsuki no Yona

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It would be almost criminal to make this list and not include Yona. She starts out having never been allowed to touch weapons and she spends a lot of time training. Yet all that hard work pays off because she becomes very competent with that bow by the end of the series. This one I particularly like because she didn’t start off an amazing archer but we saw her develop this skill over the course of the series.


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Number 2: Tigre from Lord Marksman and Vanadis

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The show is called Lord Marksman so of course there was an archer involved and Tigrevurmud Vorn (no wonder he gets called Tigre) is the main character. In fact, bows are looked down upon as a coward’s weapon and one of not much use early in this series and Tigre faces all kinds of discrimination from the other Lord’s. However, that doesn’t last as Tigre shows time and again what a bow can do in the hand of a competent user. He wins the trust of Eleonora who ends up backing him as he fights to first defend his lands and then his kingdom from invasion.


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Number 1: Ishida from Bleach

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It was always going to take something a little bit special to beat Tigre on this list, but Ishida is always going to hold a special place in my heart. My favourite character from Bleach and proving just how cool a bow can be, Ishida well and truly deserves the number one spot on my list. I also love the variations of ‘bow’ Ishida uses throughout the series and it was always interesting seeing how Ishida adapted to different enemies. A far more refined fighting style than Ichigo’s swing the sword and see if it connects approach.

And that’s my list this week but I’ll hand it over to you and ask who your favourite anime archers are.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Finally, you can use the affiliate link to shop at Play-Asia.com ifPlay-Asia.com - Play-Asia.com: Online Shopping for Digital Codes, Video Games, Toys, Music, Electronics & more you are interested in anime, soundtracks, figures or games. Should you use the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

 

Tuesday’s Top 5: Appearances of Cherry Blossoms in Anime

We are finally done reflecting on the anime of 2017 and now it is time to get into some new lists. To start us off, I am look at my 5 favourite uses of cherry blossoms in anime. These flowers are just adorable and are incredibly prolific so I am absolutely certain that you all have your own favourite scene from an anime so please feel free to share in the comments below. While I started off the list with some fairly standard pretty flowers, I think the ones that stick are a little out of the ordinary.

As an added note, for those that don’t know, the Cherry Blossom symbolises how fragile and yet beautiful life is (that’s an oversimplification but you get the point). It is a fantastic flower to show transitions in one’s life which is probably why so many anime start with them.

Please Note – Some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week goes to every high school anime ever that starts with the main character walking under cherry blossoms to get to school.

Number 5: Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card

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I’d be lying if I didn’t point out that this was the moment I thought of writing this list. I probably could have picked some scenes out of the original Cardcaptor just as easily, but this scene of Sakura on her way to school was gorgeous. It perfectly captured the feel of the old Cardcaptor while showing us just how visually impressive this new series was going to be.

Number 4: Your Lie In April

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No surprise at all given the symbolic meaning and the season that cherry blossoms feature heavily early on in this show. While it doesn’t have the same magical quality as the scene in Cardcaptor, these scenes are absolutely perfect in setting up the relationship between the two main characters and the inevitable ending in Your Lie in April. It might not be subtle symbolism, but is is affective.

Number 3: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

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What to do when you want to film and it isn’t the season for cherry blossoms? Just hope your director is also a god and you’ll be just fine. While the SOS brigade are shooting their movie, in addition to causing one of the group to shoot a lazer from her eye, creating white pigeons and a talking cat, Haruhi causes the cherry blossoms to bloom out of season. It is a bizarre series of events that are all undone when Kyon gets her to declare that the film is a work of fiction but it was an interesting use of cherry blossoms.

Number 2: Nurarihyon no Mago

Nurarihyon features one cherry blossom tree very prominently in the Nura Clan’s family compound. It gets used a lot throughout the series’ run time but we’ll see it often as Riko stares at it in his human form when he is thinking and when he is in his yokai form he sits on one of the branches in the tree looking down. Nura’s grandfather is also regularly seen near the tree. Additionally, there’s also a ‘secret’ technique used by the family that includes using saki and a sakura petal and ends with all the enemies incinerated.

Number 1: Bleach

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I came to the conclusion fairly early on that there is really no way to show just how impressive Byakuya’s bankai really is so if you have never watched Bleach you really should just for this attack. The first time we see it is when Ichigo pretty much goads Byakuya into releasing his bankai  and after the usual condescending remarks Byakuya literally lets go of his sword and in its place, after a very impressive entrance, we have thousands of blades scattered that Byakuya controls (and yes, they look just like cherry blossoms). What makes this technique particularly brilliant, other than looking gorgeous, is that it can be used for attack and defense and when he uses his hands he can increase the speed of the blades. Basically, anyone besides the protagonist is going down fast once Byakuya brings out this move.

Time for you to share your favourite appearance of cherry blossoms in an anime.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Spare a Thought For The Victims

Last week I looked at visuals creating atmosphere in horror in the run up to Halloween and that was actually kind of fun. I don’t really get into the visuals of shows all that often because I’m more focused on the plot and characters so it was nice to look at a different aspect for a change. This week however I’ve shifted my attention back to characters and because I’m looking at horror, I’ve decided it is time to give a shout out to all the designated victims in horror stories.

By the way, there will be some images below that may be seen as disturbing to people who are not fans of horror. If this isn’t for you, thanks for visiting and please check out one of my other posts.

These aren’t the characters we come to love and then get a dignified or shocking death, usually followed by a period of mourning by the other characters. These are the mob characters, the background figures, who pretty much get cut down and forgotten. A lot of the time we don’t think about these characters (mostly because it would be kind of hard to argue that they are characters). They appear, sometimes to block the protagonists path, or to fill a room or scene, or just to make the scale of a tragedy worse, and then they die. Usually we don’t know their names or their ages. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to know their job (soldier, police officer, whoever). But we know nothing really about them, they appear for moments at most on the screen, usually in a group shot, and then they die.

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Worse, in the case of Central 46 in Bleach, we never see them at all until they are discovered dead. Are we supposed to feel bad for these guys?

The point of horror is to engage the audience emotionally and to force them to react to what they are seeing. And yet, these victims come and go from the screen and while most of us will pay attention to the scene (usually because mass deaths are pretty flashy) we don’t particularly feel anything for those victims in the moment. There are exceptions and I’ll look at those further along but for the most part we’ll watch a massacre of unnamed characters without feeling anything for the victim at all. So why include this?

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Partly it is the idea of increasing the scale increases the stakes which isn’t actually true. I looked at that when I looked at the notion of saving the world as a story goal and how sometimes a story of such a grand scale leaves the audience out and unable to relate. So a high body count doesn’t necessarily make for better horror. In fact some would argue it can hurt the experience because suspense is what a lot of horror fans are really looking for and when you are hurling bodies around in every other scene the suspense is kind of gone.

The other issue with a high body count is that it makes the protagonists job of stopping whatever is doing that mass killing significantly harder. Finding a plausible way for something that has wracked up that many deaths to be stopped is pretty difficult and the majority of horror movies and anime have a young and inexperienced protagonist at the centre. It isn’t often you get a horror that stars a tough and experienced soldier who is fully equipped and ready to go.

However, it isn’t all bad news. A high body count and the merciless cutting down of innocent (or at least generic) humans does have a few positives in some stories:

01. If it is the opening act it immediately sets a tone for the story and it means that even if there is then little blood or gore until the final act, the audience knows it is coming and will for the most part wait through the middle of the story for it. Of course, if the show or movie doesn’t then deliver something superior to that opening act be prepared for screams (and not of horror).

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Tokyo Ghoul did this quite well with the introduction of Rize. We have no idea who any of those victims are. With one exception, we never saw them in any state other than corpse being fed on. Yet as an opening image it sets a clear tone for the show we are about to see. What is interesting, is that for all the sensationalized gore (vomit and other grossness) Tokyo Ghoul throws at its audience, after the opening episodes, it tones it does to about half-volume until the final act of its first season where it hastily pulls out everything it has on a stomach churning torture sequence that runs uncomfortably long.

02. If they choose the victims right, even if we know nothing about them as individuals, you can still hit an emotional mark. Elfen Lied did this beautifully with the massacre in the school. The handful of students we did know were complete jerks. They didn’t deserve to get sliced and diced, but they weren’t exactly going to win any awards for being a good friend or classmate. The rest of the class were more or less unknown other than being in the class.

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This is starkly contrasted with the massacre in the opening of Elfen Lied where Lucy is escaping the facility. There she cuts down seemingly endless men working security and you feel almost nothing for them. You don’t know what they’ve done or who she is, but the scene is pretty cold and emotionless. Even later on, once you find out more about the facility, you almost start to sympathise with Lucy.

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The school massacre on the other hand, just starts you thinking about how monstrous Lucy is. It may not be her fault given how she was treated, but the end result is that her actions are pretty monstrous.

I kind of feel bad for the characters that are created only to be killed. I don’t know their names and I don’t know what they were trying to achieve, but I’m pretty sure being victim no. 13 probably wasn’t their life goal. Being killed for the entertainment of horror fans probably didn’t cross their minds either.

But see, we aren’t really supposed to think of them that way. These are not actually characters, they are plot devices. They are designed to up the stakes and increase the scale of the horror, or if the plot has gotten a bit dull, they are thrown in to spice the story back up. Their role is merely to show us how bad a danger is, to give the protagonist something to avenge, to set a tone for the show… it isn’t to actually make the audience feel bad for them. That role is saved for characters who get a name and usually a bit of a back story right before they die.

As a viewer it is easy to get swept along and not think about all of those who fell along the way, so this October, spare a thought for all the cannon fodder characters that have been created on the path to good horror stories.


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Karandi James.

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