Friday’s Feature: Not a Character, an Idea

This post discusses My Hero Academia up to episode 31 focussing only on events in the anime. There are some minor spoilers if you have not watched that far.

Since the beginning of season 1, My Hero Academia has been obsessed with the idea of symbols. All Might is a symbol of justice. He is what other heroes aspire to be and villains fear him. Who All Might actually is has ceased to be important as it is the persona All Might carries when he is All Might that matters to the world he lives in.

Midoriya confronts the separation between the idea of who All Might is and the reality head on when he encounters his childhood hero in the real world. However, with Midoriya being Midoriya, he doesn’t become disillusioned but rather manages to reconcile his preconceived view of the hero with his new understanding of the man.

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But the world they live in (and the real world) does not work that way. Outside of a few of the teachers at UA, most people do not know about All Might’s current condition. He works hard to keep it a secret as he knows that if the symbol of justice ceases to be a shining and perfect symbol of justice, then the world and its balance will be irrevocably changed as villains will no longer have a reason to fear (despite all the other heroes who might do them in), and the younger generation of heroes won’t have that symbol to aspire to.

In a way, All Might’s current condition is actually more damaging than if he had died in the line of duty. If he had died in the line of duty than there could be an outpouring of grief for a hero who had done so much but he would have retained that perfect image he’d constructed until the end. Instead, if his condition as it stands becomes public knowledge, it is likely to tarnish the ideal he’s worked so hard to create (even though his current condition doesn’t change anything about what he had previously done).

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It is amazing in a way that the idea might be bullet proof and All Might’s death wouldn’t change it, but his living on and not representing the ideal people associate with him could deal significant damage. In a way, V from V for Vendetta got it right in that the only way to ensure his ideas carried forward without getting cluttered was to remove the man from the equation. With nothing ever known about the true identity of the terrorist V (at least not by the general public) he transcended the man he was and became a symbol of freedom and a voice for the people. What makes his death even more powerful was that Evey then pointed out that everyone in the crowd could project their own view upon V. He could be their brother who died, their father, their friend, coworker, lover, anyone. He could represent everything they wanted him to represent and he could never do anything to undermine their belief that how they saw him was what they intended.Which is scary because the idea is bullet proof and it is taking on a life of its own and the intended message may get overwritten and eroded in time or misappropriated for a cause it was never intended for and there is nothing anyone can do about that once the idea is out there.

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Which of course brings me to Hero Killer Stain. He has a clear ideal of what a hero should be and he was punishing those who failed to meet his expectations. We already knew that but then episode 31 gave us a bit more insight into how he became disillusioned when he dropped out of hero school and then tried to use words to convince the public that the way they saw heroes was problematic and ensured a system full of contradictions. ‘Hero’ had become a job. Having heroic qualities and a heroic mindset was not as important as results and showmanship. As the Hero Killer his acts caught the attention of many and his arrest got even more eyes locked onto him and his ‘ideas’.

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What becomes worrisome about this, or awesome depending on how the plot is handled, is that in the eyes of the public there is a link between the Hero Killer and the League of Villains. For the audience, we know that Stain outright refused to join the League of Villains as they did not live up to his standards of what a true villain should be any more than the heroes he had killed lived up to the standard of true hero. But the public do not know that. They only know that there is a connection. More importantly, how Stain was making his judgement of which heroes were true heroes and which were fake was through a deeply personal set of criteria. Any attempt to mimic of copy his ideology would result in a character coming to a very different set of judgements.

But Hero Killer Stain has been arrested. He has become the symbol of a movement and has lit a fire motivating people to action and then he has been removed from the scene. He is unable to correct perceptions (even if he was so inclined) and more importantly, unlike All Might, he’s already fallen so he can’t mar his own reputation that has taken on a life separate from himself. Admittedly, he could escape and get out and change the legend unfolding around him, but that would almost be counter productive to the movement left in his wake.

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For the League of Villains, if they are in any way able to understand how the world works, they won’t ever point out they were at odds with the Hero Killer. They’ll allow his symbol and image to draw people to them and then they will twist that message to their own ends.

However, what I find particularly interesting about this is that All Might was a constructed brand. He went out of his way to become the symbol of an idea. Whereas, Hero Killer Stain simply lived true to his own ideals. He didn’t make speeches or pompous appearances (he’d already given up on using words to change people’s minds). He acted and his actions spoke for him, though whether the true message came across is anyone’s guess and it will be interesting to see how the next generation of villains take his message and use it. But that’s why Hero Killer’s mark is going to be harder to erase than All Might’s would. Hero Killer was appealing to base impulses that people had hidden away and were just waiting for an excuse to let out and his message spread organically without anyone in particular constructing the narrative behind it and yet its momentum was undeniable.

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Of course, there’s a lot of real world parallels about how messages and branding as well as people standing in for ideals that we could get into but I’m certain that most of us have already thought about just how this works in reality and some recent examples. Even if the show doesn’t go any further into this issue, it has been an intriguing build up (please don’t spoil in the comments if you have read the manga).


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Karandi James.

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Friday’s Feature: Characters Seeking Who They Are

While I have said that I’m not loving the Summer 2017 line up all that much, I’ve been surprised by a number of shows that at first seemed like they wouldn’t really appeal but have then managed to bring me around. One of the common features of these shows is their focus on the theme of identity and characters who seem to either be in search of who they are supposed to be or trying to reconnect with something. On its own, characters doing some soul searching won’t sell a show, but when done in a way that resonates with its audience or in a way that feels real, can make even a reasonably average story suddenly come to life.

With so many anime featuring young and adolescent characters, it is not really all that surprising that many characters are seeking out who they are or who are trying to be something they aren’t. It’s a fairly standard theme of adolescent literature. However, regardless of the age of the characters, or the age of the audience, this idea of figuring out who and what you are is something that people connect with because everyone has at some point wondered if they are who they are actually supposed to be or even if there is someone that they should be.

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Knight’s & Magic takes a very wish fulfillment view of this topic and it isn’t one that is particularly new or surprising. Take an otaku (who actually was doing okay in his normal life) and drop him into a fantasy world where his fascination with robots and skills as a programmer are pretty much allowing him to rise quickly to a position of renown. The key to this kind of story working is that many people have gone through this experience of feeling like they were born in the wrong time or place, that if given a different setting their skills would be valued so much more and they would be appreciated better. It might seem self-indulgent but Knight’s & Magic does have a few things going for it that sets it a little apart from other similar titles.

Firstly, Ernesti’s skills are limited to programming and while he can apply that to the system of magic in the world (making him pretty powerful), he isn’t a super genius at everything and he is highly reliant on the skills of the team of mechanics and the like he is working with to get his ideas of the ground. Regardless of his genius, without these guys, none of Ernesti’s visions would ever have seen the light of day.

Secondly, it isn’t entirely clear whether Ernesti has full memories of his former life or not. Certainly he’s carried quite a bit of knowledge over and some terminology, but otherwise he seems very much a young boy in the fantasy world rather than the adult he was in the real world (which almost makes you wonder why bother saying he was reincarnated in the first place when he could just be a plucky genius). Of course, there’s always room for the story to go back and address this point later so maybe there’s more to this reincarnation thing than initially meets the eye.

Thirdly, while Ernesti is fascinated with creating a robot, his vision doesn’t really extend beyond that. He doesn’t actually seem to have any ambition or drive or understanding or care for the politics and the like of the world he is in. Normally in this kind of story there would already be some great injustice that the plucky hero would be able to judge evil and start raising forces against, but in this story it really just seems like Ernesti is happily oblivious to anything outside of his immediate goals. Maybe this will change as he is forced into increasingly complex situations and Ernesti will be forced to deal with the fall out of his choices, but for the early part of this series it seems Ernesti has zero interest in politics, rules, norms, or anything else that does not lead to him building a giant robot he can pilot.

Still, the entire thing begs the question of what would happen if you were really transported to a fantasy world and would your skills actually amount to anything of value.

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Outside of the fantasy realm, we actually have a darker story set in an alternate history with Princess Principal. Given the duplicitous nature of all of the characters, they are spies afterall, it is no wonder that the theme of identity comes up time and time again. However, it is Ange’s character that has particularly caught my attention, and clearly I’m not alone on that one.

The very first episode “Wired Liar” makes it clear that Ange is not the kind of person that can be trusted. She appears extremely stoic on the outside, hardened as a spy and the life she’s lived, but we later learn of her deep friendship for the Princess. Outside of this, she keeps others at arm’s length by giving them ridiculous answers to simple questions or avoiding their questions altogether. And then in episode 4, as the group struggled with the question of what to name themselves, Ange outright told the Princess she hated who she used to be. So what does that mean for her friendship with the Princess that is rooted very firmly in that past that Ange apparently hates?

Unlike Knight’s & Magic, this isn’t a story about wish fulfillment. It so far has been a story very much walking inside the grey zones we all see where we can’t really define right or wrong. The characters are also grey. Not in the way the Princess is described as grey because her loyalty can’t be trusted, but grey because the true history of all of these characters is obscured. I don’t think Ange’s motive of saving the Princess is a lie (although that would be quite the twist), but nor do I believe that Ange truly believes she can save the Princess. There’s something very sad about Ange and how she has so far been portrayed and I find it fascinating and desperately want to know more about her, but much like her comrades she keeps the audience at arm’s length.

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The last anime I want to look at from the Summer 2017 line up is Gamers. This show has been surprisingly entertaining, and surprisingly good. For a silly comedy that is rapidly becoming a high school rom-com there’s still enough going on in the story that I can’t help but enjoy it. Mostly this is because all of the five main characters who feature in the opening have so far been struggling with finding who they are (and searching for that answer in relation to why they game).

Admittedly, the girls’ stories and actions have all been so far driven by their relationship (or desired relationship) with the males of the story and it would be nice to see them have motivation beyond romantic, yet the stories have been pretty interesting. Aguri and Uehara’s story is particularly interesting. Uehara having transformed himself from perceived geek in middle school to someone who would be socially accepted, even picking up Aguri as a girlfriend even if he wasn’t that in to her. Aguri had also undergone a transformation as she wanted to be someone Uehara liked. However, she knew him back before his own transformation and liked him regardless. All of that might seem pretty shallow until the characters themselves are forced to face the consequences of creating and living a lie or trying to creat an ‘ideal’ high school life.

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But it was episode four with Tendou, the catalyst for the whole story, narrating her daily life that really tipped this one. Tendou’s narration paints a vivid picture but what the audience is seeing is a girl who is obsessed with creating a particular image of who she thinks she is. Then we see her life and her narration after she’s been turned down by the protagonist (not for dating, just for joining the game club) and we realise that Tendou is really unaware that she has created an artificial view of herself. Tendou’s world begins to crumble as she can’t make sense of Amano’s views within the confines of her artificial reality. Whether she comes out the other side of this a better person, or at least a more real person, is another story and one that we don’t yet have an answer to, but the fact that this show is willing to ask the hard questions about who these characters actually are and why they became that way is kind of refreshing.

And while a single character, or even a pair of characters, may get this treatment, to see the entire cast thrust under the microscope as they start out as archetypes, are then fleshed out archetypes, and then have their own perception of who they are challenged, is an interesting and so far entertaining experience. The narrative itself isn’t amazing, but there’s certainly enough in the characterisation to make it interesting.

As none of these shows are finished, it is impossible to know where these characters will end up. That said, there are a lot of interesting characters with interesting possibilities facing them this season. While the shows so far have been a bit hit and miss for me, I know that I’ll remember many of these characters well after this season ends regardless of how their character arcs end.


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If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

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Karandi James.

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Friday’s Feature: From Horror Creature to Character – The Question of Zombies

There will be some spoilers for School-Live and Shaun of the Dead in this post.

While my initial thoughts on this post were sparked by watching School-Live, I will admit, the question of zombies has been one that has been rattling around my brain for awhile. Not that that’s surprising given the prolific nature of zombie movies, TV shows, video games, and books and my love of terrible horror (and the occasional good horror story).

So what is the question?

What makes something a zombie or a zombie horror?

That seems like a really silly question given, as I already mentioned, the vast number of stories that feature zombies. In the last ten years you’ve barely been able to blink without a new zombie story being thrown in front of your face.

While some people will argue that this is an over-saturation of the market and that zombies are now pretty boring (and they aren’t entirely wrong), what they miss is that a zombie is not always a zombie and with a vastly over saturated market writers are becoming more and more innovative in how they present their version of a zombie filled future. Of course, this phenomenon isn’t entirely limited to zombies. We’ve seen the same thing occur in super hero movies. So many super heroes and the movies are all the same? Time for a gritty reimagination. Then again, zombie movies were always pretty gritty and depressing so I guess we’re doing the opposite in that some of these shows and movies are having a bit more fun with their zombies.

I do find it interesting that both werewolves and vampires had their make-overs done nearly two decades before zombies though I’ve noticed some modern vampire shows are starting to dump the romance angle and are heading back into actual horrific territory. It would be interesting to see the lore come full circle and more of the ravenous beasts and less of the cool beauty for awhile.

However, let’s focus on zombies. Specifically zombies in anime.

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If you want classic zombie silliness with some fan-service and not a lot of plot (unless bouncing breasts count as plot) you can’t go past High School of the Dead. It will give you exactly what you expect as the teenagers go from frightened students to armed and dangerous literally hacking their way through anything without a pulse that moves. The zombies in this story are as stock standard as they come. They shuffle and walk in mobs with limited to no intelligence demonstrated and are only to be feared because of sheer numbers and the fact that normal injuries don’t dissuade them. Go for the kill shot or run.

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There is nothing noteworthy about the portrayal of zombies here except that it seems decidedly old-school considering the zombie movies of the time were adding in zombies that could sprint, jump, and generally seemed to work together in a terrifying manner. Seriously, zombies that can move quick are unfair and 28 Days Later or 28 Weeks Later (not to be mistaken with 28 Days that deals with drug addicts and not zombies – though you’d be forgiven for that mix-up) took the fast violent zombie angle to new levels of terror. It was probably the first time I genuinely jumped watching a zombie movie.

Of course, the standard commentary that both High School of the Dead and 28 Days Later incorporated was the question of ‘who is the real monster?’ Both show that the human survivors are frequently more terrifying than any virus running rampant. I will note here that zombie stories have kind of moved beyond using zombie culture as a metaphor for consumption and consumerism which is kind of nice even if that particular metaphor is still pretty apt at times. Instead questions of identity and what makes a person a human float to the surface but never for too long because there are zombies to kill.

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Then we have the story that decided to play zombies for laughs: Is This A Zombie? And the question had to be asked and I had to rewrite my title for this post because originally that was my question about zombies in general but given it is also the title of one of the examples I was discussing that just seemed confusing. Despite the comedic nature of the show, you are left wondering what actually does it mean to be a zombie in this story?

Ayumu is definitely dead. He died and was brought to life. He is pretty indestructible (a fact which is played for laughs many, many times) though is weak to sunlight.  Otherwise though, he has his memories, his personality, everything about him is pretty much unchanged. There’s no shuffling mindlessness and apparently no concern about him infecting others (mostly because he didn’t become a zombie via a virus or contamination but rather due to a necromancers magic).

What this does is makes us re-evaluate the term zombie. Because prior to the movies, older zombie lore was more about a zombie being made. The idea of rapidly spreading infection and bio-hazards is a far more recent entry into the genre even though it is now the standard.

Still, a comedy play on a zombie doesn’t really allow for much discussion of the genre because any idiosyncrasy can be laughed off as part of the humour of the story so we’ll move on to School-Live which is mostly what brought me to this topic.

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School-Live has your slow moving and shuffling zombies that seem to swarm at times and infect others through a bite. The spread of the virus seems pretty rapid considering how slow the zombies seem to move but I guess once they had numbers on their side there was little normal civilians could do if they got themselves surrounded. What School-Live does that is different from High School of the Dead, other than far less fan-service (though they didn’t remove that aspect entirely) is that the survivors don’t become fearless zombie killers and the zombies themselves seem to retain some memory of their former life.

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I was kind of reminded of the joke in Shaun of the Dead when the son is trying to convince his mother to abandon the step-father because nothing of the man he was remained and then the step-father in question leaned forward in the car and switched off the annoying music. It was played as a joke but it raised a significant question about the moral implications of bashing the brains in of a zombie if it still had a personality and an ability to think. And Shaun of the Dead took this further where at the end of the movie we see the two main characters (one human and one zombie) playing video games together in the shed. It really makes you wonder about all those zombies that were ruthlessly mowed down and how many of them could have learned or been saved and whether or not living chained in a shed is actually considered to be living.

School-Live raises this question early on when the zombies are noted to follow the pattern of their previous daily routine. They rock up to school during the day and seem to ‘go home’ at night. Sometimes the boy zombies seem to be ‘playing’ soccer. Basically the zombies seem attracted to places and things of significance during their life.

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However, it is with Megu-nee (the teacher) where this question really becomes important. We have the obvious encounter between one of the students and the zombified teacher where the teacher does end up biting and infecting the student. So we know that the zombification does in fact over-ride some of the basic instincts of the human they were. And we have the student unable to defend herself because she likes that teacher and can’t bring herself to kill her (kill her again?). That’s pretty standard. However, the presence of the teacher in the sub-basement, the note book that was clearly written in after the teacher had ‘died’, all of this hints at a life after death that is more than just being a mindless monster.

The dog also demonstrates this point where even after becoming a zombie (and zombie dog is really cute even though he is terrifying) he ends up protecting one of the girls from a zombie attack.

If further evidence of this theme of zombies that think needed to be given in the show, they then get the zombie students back out of the school by telling them that school is now closed and it is time to go home. Seriously. They make this announcement over the school speakers and the zombies all just kind of leave and go home.

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In a genre full of spectacular and bloody murder, such a clean solution to a zombie crisis seems crazy and yet it kind of changes how you look at every other show about zombies and what is driving the zombies. In many films and shows it is clear you couldn’t interact with a zombie in this way. You would be dead. They don’t respond at all. But others? Even Resident Evil attempted to domesticate the zombies throughout the films despite miserable failure at doing so.

So my next questions are for you:

What are your favourite zombie shows/movies/books?

And which classic monster needs to have the next make-over? (My vote is for mummies.)


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If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

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Karandi James.

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The Worst of Spring 2017

Yesterday I posted the results of The Best of Spring 2017 poll, so if you missed the post be sure to check it out and let me know what your favourite show was. Here though, we celebrate those lesser titles that just didn’t quite hit the mark.

My Least Favourite Show

Chosen only from shows that I watched from beginning to end during the Spring 2017 season, this show gets the title of worst (even though there were worse shows, I just didn’t finish watching them). I’m giving it to Akashic Records of a Bastard Magical Instructor.

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I might point out that there were actually some good moments and ideas in this show, however it was more I tolerated watching the rest to get to those points rather than actually enjoying watching the show. I’d love to give the title to something like Sword Oratoria, but I dropped it.

My Least Favourite Character

It has to be Glenn Radar. I genuinely hated him from start to finish in his series and any time it looked like maybe they might help him turn around and become somewhat decent, he would do something so scummy that it would make me despise him yet again.

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Glenn actively makes you hate him in the first episode. He does after all have to live up to the title of Bastard Magical Instructor, the issue is that after they’ve established that he then see-saws from caring mentor to scummy drop kick in the space o two lines of dialogue for the rest of the series and you just cannot take him seriously as an instructor.

My Least Favourite Story

This one goes to The Silver Guardian. There were a few moments where it looked like this show would get itself together but it really was just a mess of ideas that never really seemed to progress sensibly.

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By the end of this season we still don’t know the villain’s motive for kidnapping Riku Rei or why she’s suddenly donning a Princess Leia rip-off costume and seemingly joining them. Nor do we have any idea how Suigin is going to become that amazing fighter we saw in episode one given he still hasn’t actually done anything in the game of note. Basically, things happen and we keep moving forward but the reason for anything is unclear so you really don’t have any reason to care.

My Least Favourite Opening Theme

Early in the season I’d have given this to Attack on Titan but that theme actually grew on me by the end of the series so now I’m kind of stumped as to what my least favourite opening theme was. I’m going to give it to Sagrada Reset because I basically end up skipping it most weeks because I’m just not interested in it.

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Though, I think if this was finished the whole show might have gotten nominated for my least favourite of the season.

My Least Favourite Visuals

Another tough one and I’m going to have to give it to Granblue Fantasy. I know lots of people really liked how this looked but I found it really unappealing to look at and I really didn’t like how the characters moved a lot of the time. Admittedly, The Silver Guardian is probably uglier to look at and I know The Laughing Salesman is, but with both of those I kind of felt the visuals added something to the overall feel of the show, whereas Granblue was just kind of there.

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Again, there were some good moments in the series but overall I think it was the show that appealed least visually to me.

Reader’s Choice – Worst Anime of Spring 2017

Here it is:

This one was never close. Clockwork Planet was leading from beginning to end and to be honest, given I dropped it during the first episode, I was not in any way surprised by this result (other than apparently 13 people who voted actually watched it through to the end).

Okay, your turn to tell us what you thought the worst of the season was and why.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

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Karandi James.

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Friday’s Feature: So You Want To Save the World?

There is a staple in stories, whatever there form, where a protagonist is called to save the world. They might be a trained soldier, some randomly strong hero, a random nobody chosen by destiny, or just someone who happened to be in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time, but they are called and one way or another they answer. The different types of protagonists would each need their own post to deal with and eventually I might get around to that, but my focus today is more on the notion of saving the world itself and how this operates in stories.

While it might be argued that high stakes make for a more intense and dramatic story, you have to wonder about all the times our little blue-green planet manages to become imperilled for the sake of kicking a narrative into gear (admittedly, a lot of the stories I’ll refer to aren’t actually set on earth but whatever the planet you have to wonder how they manage to find so many world ending catastrophes to face off against). Put into context, even though individuals, cities, and countries face devastation fairly regularly, our world tends to keep on spinning and the majority of people go about their lives relatively unhindered. Whether this can continue (and scientists will tell us that is a resounding no), it has continued for a fairly long time yet we write stories full of disasters that end life as we know it.

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Some of these are cautionary tales. When overpopulation was the scary flavour of the month we had stories that looked at how we would deal with this in the future. Logan’s Run and Soylent Green both have some fairly interesting things to say about population control even if the message has largely been ignored. More recently we have had a round of environmental awareness stories with The Day After Tomorrow and its ilk attempting to scare some common sense into us by showing us just how bad things might get without action.

While these stories are awesome in their scope when showing us the problem, what they all do, and need to do, is focus on a protagonist. There may be other groups and characters addressed, but they narrow the focus to a single protagonist for the majority of the run time. Why? Because the audience needs that someone to relate to. The idea of saving the world is legitimately too big for most people so while having such a grandiose problem in the story might add to the drama, it actually makes it fairly hard to relate to. What we usually end up with is a protagonist trying to save an individual or group and as a by-product of saving them they might save the world. Even Armageddon understood this where ultimately Bruce Willis gave his life to ensure his character’s daughter would have a future. The fact that this also saved the world was almost inconsequential by that point in the story.

But let’s move away from movies in Hollywood and look at anime.

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Spring 2017 brought us WorldEnd, or the anime that asks us in its title ‘What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?’

There’s no obvious direction for these questions so as an audience you have to wonder if the show is asking you to consider your own actions if the world were coming to an end. Even more peculiarly, the story itself takes place nearly 500 years after the world essentially ended. The fact that there are ‘people’ still clinging to life on floating islands that are apparently not going to last much longer is more of a happy accident than good design and the peril is still very real. So if you were Willem, protagonist of the story, would you lend a hand or would you accept the inevitable ending that has been coming for a very long time?

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Despite having watched the show through, I still don’t really get Willem’s motivation. Early in the story he really is just drifting. He tried to save the world (or those near to him) and he failed. After waking up in the new world he realises he is completely alone because of his failure. The world he knew is already gone. Despite that, he inevitably gets drawn into the new world through Chtholly and ultimately decides to help keep her alive even though once again he’s clearly fighting a losing battle. So what should he have done?

And actually, this is where anime hits such a major snag. I’ll admit to finding a lot of anime endings unsatisfying, but that’s probably because of how conflict is set up in so many stories. How exactly do we expect the protagonist to get out of that situation or save the world? The problem facing them is massive and usually unsolvable so the narrative is faced with only a handful of options. Either the protagonist loses and is swallowed by whatever world ending force they’ve been pitted against, or against all odds they win. The first option leaves the audience a little bitter about having been made to care about a character who didn’t succeed (though I must admit I don’t mind the occasional tragic end), while the latter leaves us rolling our eyes as they pull out a magic power up, combination attack, or just break the established rules of the story in order to succeed.

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So do we just expect too much from the conflict in the first place? Does the world really need to be endangered before we understand the stakes are high?

I don’t think so. If we look at something like Food Wars, as much as I found the second season a little bit wanting, the first season was pretty engaging and the worst thing faced by any of the characters was expulsion (admittedly, most of the characters seemed to think that was a fate worse than death). This didn’t stop the audience from getting drawn in, from wanting to get behind the characters, and wanting to see them succeed. They were cooking. All that was on the line was a place at the school when there are other cooking schools and for the most part they could probably have found a job with their skills regardless. Yet because the characters believed in the conflict and the consequences, the audience were able to believe it mattered. This was high stakes viewing even though the reality is that the story didn’t endanger the world. No one needed the perfect cake to stop some alien race blowing up Tokyo to get the story going.

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However, that isn’t actually me saying that I don’t want stories where the world is in peril. I think mostly what I want are stories that think about the appropriate level of danger and the appropriate way to build drama without just trying to one up the dangers other stories have introduced. More importantly, think about how they intend to solve those issues before they throw them in front of an audience. If the Spring 2017 anime season has taught viewers anything it really should have reinforced that shows live and die by how they resolve and while a deus ex machina ending is better than no resolution, it is right up there with the ‘it was only a dream’ ending. Audiences today expect more and probably deserve more.

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So you want to save the world? You think that would be nice and dramatic? Great. Now get to work figuring out the details of what exactly is the peril being faced and how it can be overcome and lay your ground work fairly precisely. It isn’t enough to throw flashing lights at the audience and tell them it is scary.

What do you think? Is the world coming to an end an overused problem? Are you tired of seeing characters pull off an impossible save just because plot demands it? Or do you love these kinds of stories and get a real thrill out of watching characters beat impossible odds? I’d love to know so leave a comment below.


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30 Day Anime Challenge: Day 23

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Day 23 and introducing my most hated anime character.

This was actually kind of difficult due to the fact that generally when I actually dislike a character, particularly a main character, I usually end up not finishing a show. Which means while I remember hating a character I remember very little else about them after the fact.

So choosing a character from an anime I actually really liked, I’d have to say Eiji Nizuma from Bakuman.

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This character serves an incredibly important role in both the plot and the development of other characters and yet every time he was on the screen I either wanted to slap him, roll my eyes, or just close my eyes and beg him to go away again. He’s like the hyperactive toddler who has just discovered how to wave and he drove me totally crazy. It doesn’t help that he actually is a hard working genius. I appreciate that he does work at his craft and that he’s good at it, but please don’t make me watch him or listen to him. Probably the best thing about him is that he isn’t on screen all that much.

So tell me, which anime character do you hate?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Characters Robbed By Plot

This is another My Hero Academia inspired list after a discussion with a few people on Twitter and this comment:

Tweet - Robbed.JPG

Which got me thinking of all the times characters have lost out in anime because the plot demands they lose. There are a lot. Of course that is true of any narrative because sometimes you just have to let the protagonist win. Anyway, I made a short list of characters that I thought were genuinely robbed by the plot (robbed, mugged, gunned down and left to die, etc). I’d love to know who else you thinks needs to join the ‘they were robbed’ club so please share in the comments below.

Please Note – There will be major plot spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: This week my only honourable mention is going to every opponent in Katanagatari. Sorry guys, but each and every one of you was robbed of your chance of even getting an appearance in a second episode because the plot demanded you be met, challenged and defeated (okay, some of these guys did show up in episodes prior to their deaths and a few got flash backs after their deaths, but mostly they were all one episode wonders).

Number 5: JJ from Yuri on Ice

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You know, I don’t actually want JJ to have won because he was incredibly obnoxious (even though he wasn’t technically an antagonist). That said, I think the plot really did run him down just for the fun of it and it was kind of unnecessary. In the first skate of the grand prix, JJ choked. Horribly. Considering his overwhelming confidence and presence in every other competition and that this wasn’t his first major competition it just seemed really kind of cruel and I actually felt sorry for the guy by the end of it. More importantly, it wasn’t necessary for him to do so poorly. When you look at the scores Yuri and Yurio ended up with, even if JJ had been at his best, the result probably would have been the same. So pretty much the plot ran him over for no reason and that actually cheapened the Yuri’s victory because they haven’t beaten JJ at his best.

Number 4: Manato from Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

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Yes, we need a tragic death to reinforce that fragile nature of life and to highlight the real human process of grief. Sorry Manato, the plot demands your death. No you don’t get to save anyone else spectacularly or have any kind of moment of self-sacrifice. You can just get shot in the back and die. This was a really affective moment by the plot and a great character moment for everyone else in the story, but Manato really did get robbed here. He was the best character the show had and in order to help everyone else reach that little bit higher, the plot threw him under the bus. It did it well, but that was a little mean.

Number 3: Linda from Golden Time

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Love triangles always suck because someone is going to lose. More importantly, normally if the person at the middle of the triangle would just make a choice we could all be spared the heartache. The reason Linda gets a place on this list out of the thousands of losing at love characters is because technically she didn’t lose. Banri of the past chose her. Continued to choose her. Unfortunately, Banri of the past only existed as a ghost because Banri of the future had lost his memory and was a whole new person who fell in love with Koko. Seriously, that has to suck for Linda. Worse, when past Banri shows up just long enough to get Linda’s hopes up again. Seriously, plot, we get it. Banri and Koko are going to be together. Now please stop rubbing salt into Linda’s wounds for half an episode.

Number 2: Uraraka from My Hero Academia

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Yep, the girl who inspired the list. She went into a fight that she knew she probably couldn’t win with a plan. A good plan. If she’d been the protagonist she most definitely would have turned the tide of the fight and won with that plan. Okay, she would have won with even half that plan given some plans protagonists have made work. Unfortunately, cute side-character who may or may not eventually become some sort of love interest for someone, does not have plot armor and when the plot is demanding a show down between two other characters and you face one of them earlier in the competition you know your luck is out. Poor Uraraka.

Number 1: Grimmjow from Bleach

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I know, every opponent Ichigo faces could end up on this list but most of them I wanted to see lose. With Grimmjow, part of me really wanted to see him win. He was one of the most entertaining opponents ever and he didn’t have some amazingly overpowered attack that couldn’t be defended against. He was just someone in love with fighting and getting stronger. Given Ichigo doesn’t win every fight and regularly has to have a take two or three against particularly strong opponents (they beat him nearly to death, someone drags him away so that he can heal, learn a new skill, go back and try again), I really wanted Grimmjow to be one of those opponents. I wanted him to beat Ichigo up and for there to be an ongoing rivalry between the two. Alas, it was not to be and Grimmjow became yet another casualty of plot.

That’s my list. I’d love to know who you’ve put on yours.


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The Best of Winter 2017

Earlier today, I shared the Worst of Winter 2017 (both my opinion and the view of the readers). If you didn’t check it out, make sure you have a look later and let me know your view. Meanwhile, this post is celebrating all the good things that happened during the 2017 Winter season.

My Favourite Show

Pretty straight forward category. I had to have watched the show all the way through and I had to have loved watching it. There are only 2 shows this season that I nominated as being a must watch in my weekly overviews and choosing between them is really hard at the moment and I reserve the right to change my mind later in the year after I rewatch both as to which is actually my favourite. But for now I’m giving the award to…

ACCA.

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I really had a lot of fun with this show, though there is definitely a fear that it won’t hold up under a rewatch because a lot of the fun came from never knowing quite where it was going next.

My Favourite Character

This was a really hard choice because there were quite a few characters that I really loved spending time with this season, even if the show they were in wasn’t doing much for me. I did notice going through my notes from all the shows I watched this season that there are very few female characters of note from the season. Possibly that’s because of the shows I ended up following but even those that had female characters didn’t really seem to do much with them.

Anyway, not the point. My favourite character from Winter 2017 was…

Rei Kiriyama from March Comes in Like a Lion.

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I loved Rei and found him almost instantly relatable and I really loved watching him struggle and slowly grow but remain true to who he was (again, I had a hard time deciding between Rei and Jean from ACCA but Rei had quite a bit more development and twice as many episodes to win me over).

My Favourite Story

Obviously ACCA but given I gave that best anime I’m going to look at my next favourite story from the season. And I know this one is going to make some people raise an eyebrow but my next favourite story from the season came from…

Chain Chronicle.

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Possibly this is a sad criticism on the quality of the narratives this season (or my taste in stories depending on how you view it) but Chain Chronicle managed to build from a pretty good opening, through some basic world building, a couple of obvious twists, to a final conflict without tripping itself up, losing momentum, or doing anything that might make you question the story (though plenty of questions about the originality and execution at times). The other show I considered here was Spiritpact but the beginning of that story was far too rocky for it to be seriously nominated even if the end of the show was pretty magnificent.

My Favourite Opening Theme

Boy I’m glad I didn’t exclude it because it was my choice for best show…

Definitely ACCA.

ACCA11d

This opening theme is a fantastic fit for the show and just fun to listen to, accompanied by highly relevant and interesting visuals. Not once did I skip the opening and I certainly went back and watched it a couple of times after I was finished some episodes.

My Favourite Visuals

Winter 2017 didn’t have quite the plethora of visually appealing shows that previous season have had so the choice here is pretty obvious…

March Comes in Like a Lion.

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While there are certainly shows with better character designs and better animation, March consistently delivered interesting and memorable visuals that added to the overall depth of the viewing experience. Couldn’t ask for much more from a story.

Reader’s Choice – Best Anime of 2017

Here it is:

Best Winter 2017

And yep,  March Comes in Like a Lion won. Possibly because I forgot to include Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju a fact which has been pointed out to me a number of times (that was actually an honest mistake as I thought I’d covered most of the anime people had been talking about whether I’d watched them through or not but I missed one). However, from the choices available March won.

march16

Of course Dragon Maid and Scum’s Wish both made a decent showing here and I knew before I started this that ACCA wouldn’t win a popularity poll given it really isn’t the kind of show that everyone is going to love.

Okay, these were my choices for favourite of the season so now I’d love to know yours. Feel free to share in the comments below and I’d love to know the reasons for your choices.

With that I’m leaving Winter 2017 behind and I’m now ready to face the Spring 2017 anime season.


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The Worst of Winter 2017

Later today my Best of Winter post will come out and I’ll celebrate all those wonderful moments that got people talking (or at least entertained me during the past three months). But that is not his post. This post shares the worst and the lowest moments of the season as well as the reader’s choice for worst anime of Winter 2017.

My Least Favourite Show

Chosen only from shows that I watched from beginning to end during the Winter 2017 season (or completed in 2017 if they carried over from the previous season), this is the show that I cringed at the thoughts of watching but still managed to string me along with the faintest of hopes that eventually it would reveal something of note.

Yep, Hand Shakers.

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And no, it never did produce anything of note other than just how awful it was. Then again, anyone who has been following my blog is not even remotely surprised by this.

It should probably be noted that I literally hated everything about this show, however, in order not to let Hand Shakers get a big head by letting it take out every worst of category, I’ve pretty much excluded it from this point forward.

My Least Favourite Character

So, this had to be someone I bothered to remember but I actively disliked them as a character (so not just because they were a villain). And once again, I had to have finished watching the show so all the characters from Fuuka were removed from potential nomination because otherwise my decision would have been easily made.

I’m kind of going to have to go with Chuta from elDLIVE.

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I really wanted to see him grow as a character and I did enjoy the few kind of moments of growth he got, but he pretty much instantly regressed right after and given they are playing his insecurities for laughs it really doesn’t have quite the same appeal as some other emotionally damaged characters this season.

My Least Favourite Story

Again, I had to have finished the story to make this decision so Iron Blooded Orphans Season 2 and Zestiria are momentarily given a reprieve as neither of them have actually finished, though both would have been contenders given their season 2 plots have mostly just gone through the motions and added little of significance. And on that theme we have the winning anime:

Blue Exorcist Season 2

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All build up and hints at later plot threads but the plot delivered in this season is strictly side-story material and the final villain is all but inconsequential (and treated as such). Basically, if you have been reading the source material, you might get a lot out of this in terms of the set up for later events, but if you view this just as an anime season and ask it to stand on its own two feet in terms of plot, its going to fail miserably.

My Least Favourite Opening Theme and Visuals

Okay, these categories are only combined because the answer was one and the same. Not a lot to explain about the category other than this is an opening theme I couldn’t stomach listening to and visuals that were just hideous to look at (and I already excluded Hand Shakers from nomination).

I give this dubious honour to Spiritpact.

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As much as I ended up enjoying the show by the mid-season point, the opening was terrible as were the visuals. While the visuals improved in the second half, there were still some really questionable choices and to be honest the whole show would benefit from a total remake as the story is actually kind of good once you get into it.

Reader’s Choice – Worst Anime of 2017

Here it is:

Hand Shakers, you did it again.

Admittedly, there was a pretty short time frame on this poll and Fuuka was definitely rallying there at the end so maybe if I’d left the poll open a bit longer we’d have a slightly different result.

Now, I’ve had my say on the worst of Winter 2017. What do you think? Who would you have nominated for worst character? Which show had the worst opening, visuals, or storyline? Share your opinion in the comments below and be sure to check out the best of post later today.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Male Characters With Gorgeous Long Hair

While I try not to write too many posts about the physical characteristics of characters, this was a list I’ve wanted to write for awhile. Long hair on guys is just kind of amazing (or at least I think so). And when it billows in the wind and invites you to run your fingers through it, there’s just something really magical about that. Here are my top 5 characters with gorgeous long hair who I would absolutely love to spend some time with. Yes, this list is entirely my own personal preference and uses no criteria worth mentioning.

And then for patrons, be sure to check out my lesser top 5 list. This week focussing on male characters who have long hair but still don’t really impress and I’d rather not get too near.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below (particularly number 4).

Honourable mentions this week go to: Edward Elric (Full Metal Alchemist) and Malachite (Sailor Moon).

Number 5: Kanda (D Gray Man)

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I’ll admit there is very little chance of Kanda actually letting me touch his hair even if he wasn’t an anime character and if I happened to meet him, but that doesn’t stop me very much wanting too. That glossy shine, the way it moves when he fights, his hair is amazing and completely sold this character even early on in D Gray Man when he was a bit of a jerk (okay, he’s regularly a jerk but he kind of grows on you).

Number 4: Weismann (K Project)

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This one is an odd choice I’ll admit given we barely get to meet this character in his actual body (which would be the long haired version). A few flashbacks are really all we get and the next time we meet this character with memories he’s in Yashiro’s undeniably short haired (not too short) body. Still, you have to admit his hair is just kind of inviting you to touch it.

Number 3: Tomoe (Kamisama Kiss)

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Another character who doesn’t usually have long hair but the few times he does, it is unbelievably gorgeous. It almost makes you wish for more flashback episodes just so you could see more of Tomoe with this hair. Plus the ears kind of work. Then again, he was pretty violent then so maybe we should just stick to present day Tomoe.

Number 2: Shichika Yasuri (Katanagatari)

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He may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but Shichika is honest, earnest, and deadly. Combine that with some odd but strangely compelling fashion sense and a great hairstyle (albeit one that cannot really exist outside of an anime) and you have a character that is going to fascinate from minute one.

Number 1: Zangetsu (Bleach)

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I know, so many characters in Bleach with long hair, and so many anime characters, so why choose Zangetsu? Because his hair matches the torn and scrappy edges of his outfit, because its almost always windy when we see him, because of all the characters on the list his would be the closest to a hairstyle you might be able to encounter in the real world… Mostly just because I really love his hair.

Okay, and a total cheat bonus addition to the list. Victor from Yuri On Ice (from when his hair was actually long).

So that is my list this week. Which anime male with long hair would you have had on your list? Or female if you prefer.


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