Up Close With Haruhi Fujioka

Haruhi Fujioka is a pretty well known character. The protagonist of a reverse harem, she isn’t the usual bland or blank slate centre around each of the bishounen cast revolve. Instead, she’s smart, sassy, at times vulnerable, and incredibly well rounded character with her own goals, history, hang ups, and motives. While credit does need to be given to the male cast for holding up their end as well, it is fairly easy to say that Haruhi is the beating heart of Ouran High School Host Club and the reason so many people love it.

We first meet Haruhi when she’s looking for a place to study. At the time, due to her appearance, she’s largely mistaken for a male student, and it takes the first episode before all the members of the host club realises that Haruhi is a girl.

The idea of gender identity isn’t deeply explored by Ouran, but nor is this facet of Haruhi ignored. She doesn’t mind in the slightest that people mistake her for male and doesn’t really feel like it makes a difference. However, what the audience sees is the way the attitudes of the boys in the club change toward Haruhi as they realise her gender and how gender roles comes up again and again.

The scene at the beach where Haruhi puts herself in danger and incurs the anger of the other club members is a prominent moment where the theme takes centre stage, as are the moments where we meet Haruhi’s father or the members of the rival club from another school that try to recruit Haruhi. Then there’s the medical examination episode which mostly uses Haruhi’s hidden gender for amusement purposes.

Ultimately the anime manages to look at gender without making too many judgements or preaching at the audience allowing consideration of an idea without taking away from the entertainment of the story, and all of it centres around Haruhi’s character. It makes her fairly memorable.

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But that isn’t all there is to Haruhi. In a more heavy handed fashion the anime also explores social class and wealth division with Haruhi being a ‘commoner’ and being at the school on scholarship. This theme is less nuanced and is largely played for laughs throughout the series, but again is a clear part of Haruhi’s identity within the story.

While it would be easy to define Haruhi by the themes and issues that are centred on her, that isn’t really fair to her character. What makes Haruhi interesting isn’t that she is poor or that she doesn’t see gender roles in black an white terms. What makes Haruhi interesting is the way she interacts with the other cast members. Her commentary on the antics of the club, her determination to succeed at her goals, the way she refused to pick up social cues from others when she doesn’t agree with them.

While watching Ouran High School Host Club it is really easy to rally behind Haruhi. She’s just such a fun and entertaining character to spend time with and even though she starts as an interesting character she still grows and changes through her interactions with the members of the host club. All and all, she’s a character I remember fondly and enjoy going back and spending time with.

What about you? What did you think of Haruhi Fujioka?

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Karandi James
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Up Close with Xianming Lin

From the moment we are introduced to Lin in Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens we know a few things about him. He has zero attachment to anyone, will do whatever he has to do, and for some reason he likes to cross dress. As the series continues to weave its tale of assassins, betrayals, and baseball Lin remains in the midst of a crazy story and along the way makes some progress as a person and the audience is given a little insight into how he got to where he was at the beginning of the series.

And yes, there are some spoilers ahead.

Hakata Tonktsu Ramens Episode 1 Lin
You have to admit – he knows how to make an entrance even if he isn’t aware of practical shoes.

At the beginning of the series we meet Lin. In one episode he takes out one target as an assassin, claims payment on another hit even though he didn’t actually kill the guy, and after his employer withholds payment we see Lin turn his back on him and actually protect his next target so that no one else can kill him until his boss pays him. It’s cold, fairly audacious, and done with a matter-of-fact manner from someone who has come to not expect much else from their day.

However, Lin is not a cold and hard killer. Nor is he an emotionless puppet. Even in the first episode of Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens we see a character driven firmly by his emotions. At first the motivation is paying money to save his family and then it shifts to revenge.

Lin isn’t disconnected from others because he lacks emotion. As we learn more about him, and see the flash back to when he was trained to become an assassin, it becomes clear that Lin is disconnected because he feels too much and is scared of trusting others because of the hurt of previous betrayals and losses.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 9 Lin

He sold himself in order to save his mother and sister from poverty. Making the best of a poor situation, he befriended his roommate in the training camp only to learn that the final test was that they had to try to kill each other and his roommate knew this all along and intended to kill him. Even working as an assassin for a boss he knew was scum, he felt betrayed when the boss first wouldn’t pay him, then tried to kill him, and finally that same boss sold his sister to someone he knew would kill her in a horrible manner. It is no wonder that Lin recoils from others and as he starts feeling comfortable in Hakata he begins making plans to flee.

Despite that, Lin ultimately stays. While Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is not the kind of anime where the power of friendship overcomes the big evil and they all go back to their normal lives, the connections Lin makes after meeting Banba in Hakata are what allow him to be saved toward the end and while things might not be normal they do go back to playing baseball (even if Lin still really doesn’t get the sport at all).

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The one question we don’t get answered about Lin is why he likes to cross-dress. The anime never once addresses it and the only time it even comes up is when he’s mistaken for a woman or deliberately uses his appearance as part of a plan. But the why never comes up and we know he hasn’t just done it his whole life because he wasn’t cross-dressing in any of the flash backs.

It is a mystery and one of many reasons why I’d love a second season of Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens. The main reason though is that these characters, assassins and flawed human beings that they are, were a lot of fun to watch and I could definitely watch them face and overcome some more challenges and be entertained.

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Up Close With Subaru

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 11 Subaru

This week I’m turning my attention to the human half of the fabulous duo that made up the very sweet My Roommate is a Cat, Subaru. Admittedly, individually, and particularly at the start of the season, Subaru’s personality is a little bit abrasive and hard to take. I still found him interesting to watch but didn’t necessarily like him. However, the fantastic, emotional journey he goes on throughout the series and the growth he makes as a person just made him really shine by the end of the series and I think he is a character well worth spending some more time on.

There will be some spoilers for the series.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 1 Subaru and Cat

If you only watched the first episode or two of My Roommate is a Cat, your impression of Subaru, other than the fact that we have yet another anime protagonist starting a show with the funeral of his parents, is that he’s a bit rude and abrupt. I kind of understood why though because in the cases where he was being rude to his editor, the editor had taken him out of his comfort zone seemingly for no reason. If you know someone doesn’t like going to cafes and the like and there’s no reason to meet them there, then why drag them out. Still, Subaru doesn’t make the best first impression on the audience.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 3 Subaru

However, in these first episodes, Subaru comes across Haru, who despite being a cat very much deserves her own character post, and Subaru, seemingly on a whim, takes her home with the intention of using a cat as a muse for a new character in a story he is writing. it’s an on the spot decision made without a lot of forethought and it becomes obvious fairly quickly that Subaru doesn’t have a clue how to deal with the new addition to his household.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 5 Subaru

Over the course of the series, we see that Haru’s presence in Subaru’s life begins to help him reconnect with others and makes him remember his parents and the many lost opportunities to connect with them. While this show doesn’t have a dramatic change of character, Subaru begins to subtly grow, seeking out small interactions with people building up until he agrees to a book signing.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 9 Subaru

That doesn’t mean he’s actually good at interacting with others. He’s still awkward, gets flustered, at times wants to run away, but he’s more and more committed to trying to deal with those in his life. He also begins to appreciate what each of the others brings into his life and tries to show that he appreciates it.

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However, the final push comes at the end of the series where he goes on the last holiday his parents planned. While this is an emotional enough development given the course of the story, what really shows the change in Subaru is his reaction when he realises he can’t get home to Haru as planned. Then, Haru manages to get out of the house and Subaru needs to search for her.

From a character who blatantly refused to leave the house and if forced outside was cold and cut-off, to one who actively searched for another and called on those he’d made connections with to help, Subaru’s character grew in leaps and bounds and while his basic personality hadn’t changed at all, something shown through the clever use of flash backs, his ability to deal with others and his acceptance of them had developed tremendously.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed watching Subaru grow as a character and found his story delightful.

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Up Close With Emma

The Promised Neverland Episode 5 Emma

She’s one of a trio of precocious eleven year olds who learn her whole life is a lie. Emma from The Promised Neverland shines and today I want to take a closer look at her. I am however only looking at the first season of the anime and what we’ve seen of Emma so far there.

There will however be some spoilers for the anime.

The Promised Neverland Episode 9

Fortunately, Emma is one shining character who carries every scene she is in. She’s the glue that holds the central trio together and drives the narrative in The Promised Neverland, and while she might not be as smart as Ray or Norman it is safe to say that without Emma the story would have been dead in the water. While they think and plan, Emma is the one puts things into action.

What is so great about Emma?

The Promised Neverland Episode 1 Emma and friends

Right from episode one, we see that Emma is a character who nurtures those around her. She is fiercely protective of her ‘family’ and when she learns they are in danger and that the world they are in is a lie she is driven to take action. Only, escape isn’t her only goal. She wants to save everyone.

Norman knows this is foolish. Ray doesn’t just know it to be foolish, he openly opposes the idea of trying to save everyone and makes his own deal with Norman behind Emma’s back. But, Emma is resolute.

The Promised Neverland Episode 7 Emma and Norman

That is what makes the ending of season one of The Promised Neverland so incredibly surprising. Emma doesn’t get all of the kids out of the orphanage but not because Ray tricked her or she failed. She makes her own decision that it isn’t time. After refusing to compromise or to give in, Emma makes the only compromise she can and that is to not save everyone just now. She’ll save those she can now, those who are in danger, and resolve to finish the job later.

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It is such an unusual move for a protagonist in this kind of story. They normally take an all or nothing approach sacrificing life and limb for their ideals.

Emma is idealistic. She has a goal so big it will change her whole world. But she won’t lay down her life, or anyone else’s to achieve it, because that defeats the purpose of achieving it.

Emma is a protagonist the likes of which we have never really seen before. She lies at times but feels guilty. She isn’t above underhanded actions or leaning on others, but Emma ultimately is the strength that props everyone else up and encourages them to be more than they thought they could. All of those kids believed in her and helped with the plan because of Emma.

The Promised Neverland Episode 12 - Morning

It was a real joy to spend time with Emma during season one of The Promised Neverland and I look forward to seeing her in action during season two next year.

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Up Close with Yuki Soleil

The Price of Smiles Episode 6 Yuuki

Alright, so let’s establish who Yuki Soleil actually is given I’m kind of certain a lot of people decided not to watch The Price of Smiles during the Winter anime season. Which is a fair enough decision. Even though I low-key enjoyed it and still feel it is probably better than some people think, it isn’t exactly great and ends up being a fairly average watch once it concludes (though more on that in the series review that will come out later this week). For now, I just want to look at Yuki, one of the two protagonists that The Price of Smiles splits its time between.

The Price of Smiles Episode 1

On meeting Yuki we find her to be an exceptionally bubbly and cheery Princess. She does all the usual anime Princess things such as being adored by her subjects, has a childhood friend who also guards her, and she sneaks out of the palace to play. It is all pretty standard and unfortunately, despite Yuki actually being a reasonably interesting character, she ends up grounded in this terribly cliche mould.

The other issue Yuki suffers as a character is that despite being The Princess and technically the ruler of the Kingdom of Soleil given her parents are dead (oh look another anime character with dead parents), those around her actively strive to keep her in the dark. Their excuse is they want to see her smiling and happy, but how can she possibly rule anything when she knows nothing of the reality?

The Price of Smiles Episode 4 Princess Yuuki

Even after the truth confronts her in the horrible shock of the death of a close friend in a war she never knew existed, Yuki remains stubbornly naive looking for quick solutions to solve the conflict including offering herself up to secure a peace deal. And while that path could have been interesting, once again, those around her ignore her wishes and whisk her away sacrificing someone else in her place.

The Price of Smiles Episode 12 Yuki and Layla

It makes you wonder what authority Yuki actually has and unfortunately they never address this. While Yuki keeps making decisions and works with Layla, her closest adviser to ultimately get the outcome she wants, she never does win over the council or the army. She technically goes behind their backs. So it never becomes a story of Yuki growing into her authority because even in the final episodes she seemingly has little sway over anyone outside of her inner-circle.

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That and Yuki never really gets over her childish desire to simply make everyone happy, as if such a state were possible.

Yuki is a character who had huge growth potential but largely didn’t get it. Her periods of grief for those who are lost vary with some deaths hitting her significantly hard and other deaths seemingly being just another drop in the ocean.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Yuuki

What manages to keep Yuki from becoming a fairly forgettable character are her few moments of tactical brilliance. This is demonstrated in the early episodes when playing a game. She helps her knight fight his way to victory through reading the terrain. Mid-season this brilliance comes back again very briefly, but over and over again she makes poor calls because she allows her emotions to overcome her reasoning. It does however make her final play more believable because Yuki isn’t a dumb character. She’s naive and she didn’t know much about the real state of the world, but with the right information at her disposal, she certainly demonstrates that she can use it creatively and to be effect to achieve her desired results.

The Price of Smiles Episode 8 Yuki

I’d have loved for Yuki to have gotten more time to develop and to grow. I would have loved to see her actually earn the authority as a ruler and to see her win over those beneath her. Unfortunately, the story just didn’t have time for it and so we end up with a character who potentially could have been great but will for the most part be forgotten.

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Up Close With Rimuru Tempest

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 12 Rimuru

Since That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime began in the Autumn 2018 season, Rimuru Tempest has been super popular. Just looking at the sheer number of items that have come out from That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime makes it clear that there’s some appeal. And yet, while I enjoy watching Rimuru’s antics, I can’t say that I find him overly memorable as a protagonist. Which is why his winning the Crunchyroll award for best protagonist last year kind of had me a little stumped. So, since the ‘story’ of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime came to a close last week I decided to take the opportunity to have a bit of a closer look at our reincarnated slime.

Keep in mind, I’m only responding to what I’ve seen in the anime as I have not read any of the source material in any form.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 1

Originally a 37 year old office worker from Japan, Satoru died when a random guy came running down the street with a knife and he protected his co-worker and the co-worker’s girlfriend. I’m still not sure why just pulling them out of the way wouldn’t have worked or why the guy was running with the knife, but clearly there wasn’t a lot of thought put into the way they’d off this character and at least they didn’t hit him with a truck which has become beyond cliche. Whichever way, we establish that even as a human, while Satoru isn’t overly ambitious he is a nice guy, and alas that kind of defines all of Rimuru’s relationships from that point forward.

Now, there is nothing wrong with being nice. Bell Cranel is certainly a ‘nice guy’ protagonist, however in his case it is off-set by his drive and ambition to become a hero like the ones in his grandfather’s stories. Rimuru doesn’t have anything to off-set just being nice other than the fact that he is reincarnated as a blue slime monster, which is novel for about an episode and then you wonder if there’s anything more to the gimmick.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime - Ranga

Probably my biggest complaint about Rimuru Tempest and his character is that it isn’t really defined by anything. He bops along in the cave collecting stuff because why not and then runs into Veldora, who also gives him his name and a few handy hints. After Veldora we meet the goblins, then the wolves, then the dwarves, then the ogres, and then… You see, once a relationship is formed, the characters in question end up more or less in the background and Rimuru just kind of moves on to the next thing.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 8 Rimuru and Shizu

About the only relationship that looked to go a bit deeper was Shizue, but even then she was only in the story for a couple of episodes and Rimuru’s only real connection with her was that she was also born in Japan.

However, I’m not just taking a look at Rimuru to dump on him (well, technically he is gender-less as a slime but he started out as a male human so we’re sticking with that). Rimuru is a fun character to spend time with because of his lack of drive and ambition. While he’s building his city, a lot of it he just kind of stumbled across and most of his actions are the result of him trying to make things easier on himself. He’s almost infectiously relaxing which is kind of great if you are looking for some laid back entertainment.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 10 Rimuru

He also gets two great character designs. As the slime, he’s awesome and I really was eyeing off the pillow version of Rimuru as a slime because it just looked too cute. While as a character that gimmick wore thin pretty quick, as a design for a character it is amazing how cute they managed to make a blue blob. As a human, he’s easily recognised, cute, and not over-designed. There’s a simplicity about him and yet he’s still distinct.

All and all, from a design point of view they kind of hit the jackpot with Rimuru.

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While I’d personally like him more if he had some kind of drive, rather than a vague picking up of Shizue’s legacy and just kind of dealing with stuff as it happens, there’s not a huge amount to actually say is wrong with Rimuru. Though plenty that might have been stronger.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 21 Rimuru reacts

He doesn’t leave a strong impression in terms of his character journey and on thinking about that it seems clear that he isn’t changing very much despite the circumstances he finds himself in. At first that makes no sense and then you remember he was 37 years old when he died. Late thirties, he was going to be pretty set in his personality and attitudes and even applying his thoughts to new situations it is unlikely his character would rapidly change. Certainly over time he might develop slowly in response to the new situation but it isn’t going to happen quickly. This isn’t an impressionable or emotional teenager we’re dealing with.

Also, his lack of ambition is also explained by the same. At 37 he had settled for what life had to offer and then he died in an instant. What would be the point in striving to work toward something when Rimuru knows first hand how quickly it could all just disappear. It makes his go with the flow feeling far more acceptable when you consider that he’s already lived one life where he didn’t really accomplish much and then died without warning.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 9 Rimuru in the cave

While Rimuru isn’t going to rocket up my list of favourite anime characters any time soon, I certainly did have some fun bouncing a long with him on his journey.

What do you think about Rimuru?

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Karandi James
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Top 5 Anime Characters With Wings

Tuesday's Top 5

There are plenty of anime characters out there with wings and for whatever reason they always look pretty adorable. Maybe I’ve just been watching too much The Rising of the Shield Hero and Filo just reminded me how much I enjoy anime characters that have wings, but I decided that counting down my top 5 anime characters with wings seemed like a great idea. How did I rank these characters? Mostly on how much I like their look with wings. It isn’t exactly deep or objective. That said, I’d love to know who your picks would be so feel free to leave me a comment below sharing your favourite winged anime character.

Honourable Mentions:

This week I’d like to mention Filo from The Rising of the Shield Hero because in her human form with her two little wings she is just too cute. But, I’m also throwing it over to Ryuk from Death Note because he is just very cool and those wings of his are scary looking.

Number 5: Holy Bell from Ah My Goddess

When Belldandy calls upon Holy Bell the viewer is treated to a really spectacular visual. This is one of the reasons that I absolutely loved Ah My Goddess despite the fairly silly plot at times and the fact that it ended up very formulaic as they repeated more or less the same drama over and over again. Still, seeing Belldandy and Holy Bell do their thing is well and truly worth it.

Number 4: Jibril from No Game No Life

She loves books and she has beautiful wings? Wow, if Jibril wasn’t quite so crazy she’d almost be the perfect character. Seriously though, she makes an impression when she spreads those wings and descends. I absolutely loved her entrance and wished we saw more of her using her wings in the anime.

Number 3: Kurama from Kamisama Kiss

A cloud of smoke, the playing of his own theme song, and Kurama knows how to make an entrance. As a tengu who has descended the mountain to attend a human school and be a singer, he’s got some really gorgeous wings that he knows how to take advantage of.

Number 2: Tachibana from Angel Beats

This one is a bit of a cheat because despite being called an angel, Tachibana doesn’t have wings, until she uses a computer program to make some. They are nearly entirely cosmetic allowing her more to slow a descent than fly and she only really uses them once, but they are just so gorgeous. I really couldn’t leave this one off the list.

Number 1: Yue from Cardcaptor Sakura

I will admit, I totally had a crush on Yue when I was younger and seeing him with his wings was always a joy. It definitely made me squeal happily inside just having him turn up on screen and that was something that continued even with the return of Clear Card. More Yue please and let’s see more of those wings.

There’s my list for the week and as I said, I’d love to know your favourite anime characters with wings so please give them a shout out in the comments.

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