Up Close with Sawako Kuronuma

On first glance, Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke looks like the kind of female character I usually am either indifferent to or actively dislike. She’s shy and nervous, doesn’t speak up for herself, accepts it when others avoid her, and the early set up seems to be about the guy swooping in and saving the gloomy girl. Fortunately there is so much more to her character than meets the eyes and while the meeting with the guy might be a catalyst, it is Sawako’s own strength and endurance that sees her through situation after situation.

Though, I do like Kazehaya as a character and I’ll have to look at him at some point individually. Not to mention Kazehaya and Sawako ended up taking out the top spot for my top 5 list of romantic anime even beating Zen and Shirayuki.

Kimi ni Todoke - Sawako and Kazehaya

So how does Sawako manage to go from being the template example of a character I would normally dislike to a girl I was actively cheering for as she approached a soccer match, performed in a festival, and ultimately finally got to her confession scene (and did that take forever to get there)?

Well, Sawako won me over the same way she wins the characters in the anime over. Sawako is always true to herself. She’s always earnest and hard-working. She doesn’t blame anyone for the situation she is in but resolves to work hard to overcome it. And while not every situation can be beaten with a positive attitude and effort, Sawako’s determination and her willingness to help others slowly draws people to her once they look past her somewhat scary exterior and the rumours that have been swirling around her about her being able to see ghosts.

Kimi ni Todoke - Sawako

One of the earliest challenges we see Sawako take on is dealing with rumours spreading about her new friends. Sawako is used to being avoided and used to rumours spreading about her but it deeply hurt her when her friends seemed to be targeted. While Kazehaya gave Sawako some encouraging words, Sawako was the one who took action and confronted those spreading the rumours. In one scene Sawako maanged to set the record straight about the rumours and solidify her friendship with Chizuru and Ayane.

That isn’t to say it is all smooth sailing. Sawako is an unusually dense protagonist unable to pick up on a lot of social cues and the maddeningly slow pace of her beginning to interact with others and accept their feelings can be quite the put-off for those who just want the story to get moving. But still, Sawako’s journey is one of quiet inspiration. She shows people that just being willing to change things isn’t enough and just trying hard won’t always immediately yield results, but trying again and again without giving up might just get you where you need to be.

Kimi ni Todoke - Sawako at Christmas

While Sawako isn’t going to top any lists for being my favourite character ever any time soon, she’s definitely a character I learned to love while watching her story and I know that whenever I’m feeling a little defeatist, watching a couple of episodes of Sawako will pick me up and get me ready to act again.

Thank you Sawako for being you.

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Karandi James
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Kimi ni Todoke : From Me to You, Vol. 1
Kimi ni Todoke : From Me to You, Vol. 1

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Up Close with Maka Albarn

Maka Albarn from Soul Eater

I mentioned last year while completing the 12 Days of Anime that I had really enjoyed writing posts focused on single characters and so I was looking to make it more of a feature in 2019. I don’t know if I’m going to do this every week or not at the moment, though I probably will for awhile just to see how it goes. Still, when thinking about what character to start with for 2019, I couldn’t go past my favourite female character, the hard working scythe-meister Maka Albarn.

Maka Chop

Maka is one of those rare female characters who manages to be tough and yet still adorable. She’s emotionally strong and yet she isn’t emotionally shut down. She has friends, yet likes to stand on her own. In short, she’s kind of a delight to watch in action whether she’s fighting with her partner Soul (fighting using him and fighting with him), reading a book, studying, trying to pretend her father doesn’t exist, or just going about her daily life preparing breakfast and the like. When I decided to cosplay as an anime character for the very first time, it seemed obvious that Maka would be the character of choice.

Maka reaching out.

Now, for those who haven’t seen Soul Eater (and why not), Maka is one of the main characters in a series that splits its focus mainly between three main pairs. Maka and Soul, Black Star and Tsubaki, and Death the Kid and Liz and Patty. Maka and Soul are my favourite of these but their interactions with the others are a large part of what makes them so fantastic.

Maka starts the anime as an already fairly determined student. She wants to reach the same heights her mother did and she’s going to work very hard to get there. In the very first episode though she suffers a little bit of a set-back but we see her continue on her path working toward making her scythe (Soul) the strongest death-scythe ever.

Maka fighting

As with many characters, Maka shines most when she faces adversity and while she is awesome to watch in a fight, helped by some very flashy animation, where Maka really excelled was in the arc where she had to deal with her guilt at letting her weapon protect her and Soul getting hurt in the process. They didn’t dwell overly long on this or allow Maka’s character to stagnate, but rather she took the time to process what had happened and where to go from there. We saw that she needed Soul as well to help her overcome the trauma and that the two became stronger partners because of it.

Maka and Soul dancing

This is one of my favourite arcs of any anime ever and I love where it leads. I just love Maka as a character and wish we had more characters like her. While I’m still not sold on the end of the Soul Eater anime series (please let it get rebooted), Maka alone makes the anime well worth the journey.

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Karandi James
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Soul Eater Original Soundtrack 1
Soul Eater Original Soundtrack 1

12 Days of Anime Characters – Goro

12 Days of Anime Title Image

We’ve almost made it to the end of the 12 Days of Anime and as we enter day 10 I’m really kind of sorry to see it end. I’ve had a lot of fun, even if the posts ended up taking a lot longer than expected, participating in this. It gave me something a bit different to write about. So yesterday we looked at Akari, the source of so much warmth in March Comes in Like a Lion. Today, however, we turn our attention to Goro from Darling in the Franxx (patron only post link).

Darling in the Franxx - Episode 23 - Goro

For me, watching Darling in the Franxx, Goro was the unsung hero of the story. No matter how silly the other characters seemed to act or what the plot was doing, any scene or plot that turned the spotlight on Goro ended up being sheer delight. The worst part was, there wasn’t that much of it.

Darling in the Franxx Episode 3 Goro and Hiro

As Ichigo’s partner, and childhood friend of both Ichigo and Hiro, Goro was very much the third wheel as he supported Ichigo’s crush on Hiro despite Hiro’s reasonable indifference to Ichigo. Still, as they say, actions speak louder than words, and Goro certainly took action to try to keep Ichigo safe, even if that did result in him nearly dying and then needing to be rescued.

Darling in the Franxx Episode 9 Goro

Goro’s calming influence on the group as someone trusted by almost everyone, can’t be overlooked. Where the others struggled to communicate, Goro managed to find the way to open channels between them again. He was a steady character from start to finish and while that doesn’t make him the most exciting of characters, it did make him someone who I felt a connection with while watching.

Darling in the Franxx Goro

It was also nice that eventually Goro got over his Hiro worship. Seriously, needed to claim independence earlier and just go his own way. 

So, to Goro, who needs his own anime in order to show off how amazing he can be when not hampered by Hiro’s love triangle, here’s wishing you better luck if there’s ever a sequel.

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Karandi James
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NENDOROID NO. 987 DARLING IN THE FRANXX: ICHIGO
NENDOROID NO. 987 DARLING IN THE FRANXX: ICHIGO

12 Days of Anime Characters – Akari Kawamoto

12 Days of Anime Title Image

As we move into Day 9 of the 12 Days of Anime I have realised just how many amazing characters there are that I never really focus on for my blog. I’ve really enjoyed visiting with these characters each day and am glad they’ve each had a moment to shine. Day 8 turned to Lin from Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens but today we are going to focus on someone who has a smile that can make you melt and will take care of you when you are sick, help you when you are down, and stand back and let you go when you need to move forward. Yes, we are turning our attention to the amazing Akari from March Comes in Like a Lion.

March Comes in Like a Lion - Akari

Akari is an amazing character and one I regularly overlook because with Rei and Hina to talk about, and even Shimada who was visited early in the 12 Days, Akari just doesn’t get a look in. But that really isn’t fair as she is the back bone of the family and the one who’s words reach both Rei and Hina at their lowest moments. She sits on the side of so much of the story but without her these other characters would not be the people that they are.

March Comes in Like a Lion - Akari and Hina

It was Akari who saved Rei in the very beginning when he was taken out and drank. Akari was the one who forcibly invited Rei over for dinner so many times, confronting him and making him face people. She was the one who nursed him when he was sick. When Hina wanted to make a lunch box for a boy, Akari was the one who first gave advice and then stepped back and let Hina take charge of the situation as she needed to, but provided comfort for her when it didn’t go well. And it was Akari who tried to deal with the bullying situation at school as Hina’s guardian. 

March Comes in Like a Lion Akari

Akari is a source of endless strength and warmth. Her few moments of weakness, where she doubts and questions herself are understandable, and make her even more endearing. Her masterful cooking and ability to help her grandfather, her aunt, and both her sisters, should certainly be recognised as should her effort and good spirit.

March Comes in Like a Lion - The Kawamoto sisters

For all that I haven’t given Akari enough attention, I really think that needs to end. Akari is not just an awesome character, she’s the big sister all of us want and at some point in our lives needed. 

Thank you Akari for being you.

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March Comes in Like a Lion Akari KawamotoMarch Comes in Like a Lion Akari Kawamoto

12 Days of Anime Characters – Lin Xinming

12 Days of Anime Title Image

Onto day 8 of the 12 Days of Anime. While on Day 7 we looked back at  Shizue from That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, today we turn our attention to the hitman with a sense of style, Lin from Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens - Episode 5 - Lin

Lin is one of those characters that you just come to love fairly instantly. The series never really addresses why he cross dresses, he just does, and it just becomes part of his character, like his frugal nature and distrust of others. I will admit though, that Lin is only as interesting and likeable a character as he is because of the connection he forms with Banba in the first episode. And what a greeting. 

Hakata Tonktsu Ramens Episode 1 Lin

Considering the situation Lin finds himself in he is a remarkable together character. He’s trying to save money to free his sister, he sends money to his mother, and all he has to do to earn that money is kill people for a boss he hates. However, when the boss refused to pay him because of a double booking, Lin decides it might be time to find new employment leading to a chain reaction of events and reveals (including that all his efforts to support his family up to now have more or less been for nothing). 

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 9 Lin

The thing about Lin is that he’s a character you can sympathise with but not really relate to. You haven’t been sold as a child, trained as an assassin and then worked as a hitman trying to support a family from back home that turns out isn’t being assisted by you in the slightest. So there’s no relating to the character, but you can be sympathetic to his plight and more importantly, he never comes across as pathetic. Lin’s a fighter through and through and has a great sense of humour considering the situation.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 12 Lin

However, it is Lin and Banba together that make a truly compelling viewing experience. Where Lin is cold and distant, Banba is very much in your face and intrusive. Lin is cut off from others whereas Banba has an entire support network. Where Lin is frugal and careful with his money, Banba is loose and fairly carefree. The two make a good odd-couple pairing and their contrasts work well. 

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 7 Lin and Banba

The only regret here is that we don’t have any word of a second season so we’ll just be left with the 12 episodes we have. And on that note it is probably time I gave the series another watch through.

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Karandi James
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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Red Rum / Murder Inc Card Case
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Red Rum / Murder Inc Card Case

12 Days of Anime Characters – Shizue

12 Days of Anime Title Image

We’re past halfway and we’re now at Day 7 of the 12 Days of Anime. Yesterday was all about Eren Jaeger, a character who has taken three seasons to grow on me. Today couldn’t be more different as we look at a character who was seen in a vision, appeared, and died, more or less in the space of three episodes and yet managed to leave a massive hole in so many viewers hearts (that and a whole pile of press F on Twitter messages).  This one is for Shizue from That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 6

Few anime treat the death of a character, particularly one who was so newly introduced into the series, with as much respect as Shizue got. Her passing took nearly half an episode, meaning we’d only known her for barely two when we were watching her death scene. They didn’t rush it, they didn’t play any part of it for laughs. Instead this was a quiet scene where Shizue lay on the bed contemplating the life she’d led and confirming the connection she had with Rimuru. And while her acquaintance with the slime was relatively new, the connection they’d forged over those two episodes was pretty impressive.

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

Shizue was a character I barely knew and yet I still felt her passing keenly. Because, she wasn’t just a plot device dropped in and her death wasn’t used simply to up some stakes or emotional tension. She was written as a person. One who had entered Rimuru’s life, and so ours as viewers, and one who was leaving abruptly after leading a hard life that was filled with moments of tragedy.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 7

She was also a character that this anime made me want to get to know more of. She wasn’t bland and without personality, though we didn’t really get to see too much of her. They kind of took the adage ‘always leave them wanting more’ to heart here as Shizue certainly left me wanting more and wanting her not to be dead.

A very worthy addition to my 12 Days of Anime countdown, Shizue’s time with us may have been brief but it was most definitely felt.

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Karandi James
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That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Rimuru-sama Face Cushion
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Rimuru-sama Face Cushion

12 Days of Anime Characters – Eren Jaeger

12 Days of Anime Title Image

Here we are at Day 6 of the 12 Days of Anime. Yesterday we looked at a character who possessed poise and grace as she moved through her unrequited love (Sayaka from Bloom Into You) but today’s pick couldn’t be any more different. A shounen protagonist who throws himself at everything with the same bull-headed attitude, it is Eren Jaeger from Attack on Titan.

Attack on Titan Episode 9

Now, Eren Jaeger is a character who I really haven’t liked for a lot of the three seasons and yet as season three progressed, I found myself finding a new appreciation for him. Admittedly, I’m not exactly joining the Eren fan-club anytime soon, but season three managed to see him going through some fairly well deserved character development – or maybe he just finally grew up.

Spending a large number of the episodes tied up and gagged was something I initially found amusing because in the absence of Eren yelling at things, it felt like we could finally see some of the other characters in action without him and let them shine. And that was true to a point, but what I didn’t expect was that when Eren finally got to speak, that for once he wouldn’t just be that angry, shouting little boy we’d endured for the previous seasons.

Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 3

Suddenly, we had an Eren who was reflecting on the power he had and how he’d received. An Eren who was thinking about the long game and while he was also a little defeatest, understood that he wasn’t necessarily the one who was going to save everyone. Yet even at his lowest point, when push came to shove, Eren acted to save the other scouts. Even after that, he didn’t suddenly let it go to his head; instead he remained aware of his own individual insignificance and was working his hardest to contribute what he could.

Yes, season three of Attack on Titan gave me new reason to think about Eren’s character and the journey he has been on. While I’m still not the biggest fan of Eren, and I still don’t like shouting protagonists, it really was like watching someone grow up right before my eyes and the transformation felt natural given the circumstances, and earned, given what he’d gone through. Now I’m keenly looking forward to where his character goes from here, though given it is Attack on Titan I’m guessing he’s got more pain and misery headed his way.

Attack on Titan Episode 11

For a character I don’t normally talk about, I really felt this year he stepped up and so I definitely wanted to include him in this list of twelve characters as I counted down to Christmas.

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Karandi James
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ATTACK ON TITAN JUNIOR HIGH MOFU MOFU MINI TOWEL: EREN
ATTACK ON TITAN JUNIOR HIGH MOFU MOFU MINI TOWEL: EREN