The Mushoku Tensei Characters May All Be Flawed Individuals But They Are Well Written

The Mushoku Tensei Characters May All Be Flawed Individuals But They Are Well Written

As a viewer who quit Re:Zero Starting Life in Another World fairly quickly because of a deep dislike of main character Subaru, not clicking with characters is definitely grounds for me dropping an anime. But that doesn’t mean I need all my characters to be nice or good people and quite frequently I’ll enjoy an anime where characters act in a way that I find morally questionable. The Mushoku Tensei characters definitely land squarely in the list of characters that quite frequently rub me the wrong way and yet they never make me want to stop watching.

Mushoku Tensei characters

Most people know that characters should have some flaws. One of the most frequent criticisms of isekai protagonists is that they are a Gary Stu or just hopelessly boring characters. While I don’t always agree that some of the characters labelled such actually fit the trope, I do agree that this nice guy persona wrapped up in a one-man-army packaging has kind of dominated the genre so it is kind of refreshing when an anime does something different.

That said, there’s doing something different and then there is rejecting the trope and doing the reverse just because you can. And even then, sometimes the story doesn’t maintain any of the differences they initially start the protagonist with. If we look at Arifureta, Hajime actually starts out as a pretty wimpy character and transforms into an edgy I hate the world type who is only looking out for himself… except that he keeps saving everyone else even though he usually then puts on a show of demanding some kind of payment for it.

Arifureta - not like the Mushoku Tensei characters

While his overall character transformation is handled significantly better in the light novels than the anime, the end result is that as the story continues, Hajime more or less ends up like every other isekai protagonist with a gaggle of girls around him that he’s rescued and using his powers to more or less steam-roll through every situation that comes his way.

A non-isekai example of a character who was flawed, selfish, quite childish, and generally painful, would be the recent Deep Dive. here we have a horrible human being playing a horrible game with other horrible people none of which make me care about them or want any of them to succeed. It isn’t a case of writing flawed characters so much as just writing awful characters and having them learn nothing from their experiences.

While it certainly is different from the nice-guy protagonist, it isn’t entertaining to watch and mostly at the end of the series I was just kind of relieved it was finished.

What about the Mushoku Tensei characters?

Mushoku Tensei Characters

Where the Mushoku Tensei characters succeed is that while each of them have flaws and are at times quite painful to watch make choices that you just wish they wouldn’t, there’s a genuine sense that these characters reflect on their actions, learn from past actions, and while they don’t always make the right choice other characters respond to their actions in ways that make the story feel far more real.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation centres around the reincarnated Rudeus and he’s most definitely what you would call a flawed character.

A hopeless shut-in before his death due to being beaten down by life and just surrendering all control, he wakes in his new life and decides to take advantage of the fact that he can learn faster and use magic in this life and so actually makes a go of bettering himself. Kind of.

Another truck forced reincarnation - wonder if this one matters.

You would think that Rudeus was on track to become another cookie-cutter isekai protagonist except that for every bit of growth Rudeus experiences, we see that he has some real human flaws.

I’ll be honest: I do not like Rudeus. He isn’t a character I’m going to buy a poster of or have on my desktop background. If I collect any figures from Mushoku Tensei his character won’t be among them. While some of his internal thoughts are creepy and he usually acts in a way that is entirely driven by self-interest (understandable given his past life had him cut off from other people and positive interactions and his new life has very much given him an every-man-for-himself mentality) it is Rudeus specific perverted actions that really make me dislike him.

Way to give the story some impact, Roxy.

However personally disliking it not the same as declaring Rudues to be a bad character. Rudeus is a very well constructed character. His emotionally responses to situations check out with what we know about his past experiences. As the story progresses we see him learn from past failures and overcome obstacles and honestly most of the time I want him to succeed. Just every now and then he says or does something that makes me seriously want to see him smacked down.

Fortunately, the anime obliges more often than not which makes me kind of smile and then watch to see whether Rudeus will once again rise to the occasion.

Rudeus may be the poster-child for the Mushoku Tensei characters but each cast member, or at least the reoccurring ones, seem to be written with great care and thought. None of these characters are paragons or virtue. They all feel human and their flaws and failings are all too human which makes the emotional notes of this anime strike true.

And nowhere was this more apparent than in episode 16 when Rudeus reunites with his father, Paul, after a year and a half of trying to get home.

Let’s be real, Paul was a pretty scummy father even when Rudeus lived with his parents. It is clear Paul was a womaniser and also someone who only real cared about his own goals. That Rudeus developed an ability for magic didn’t impress him as Paul wanted his son to learn to use a sword (though Rudeus proved again and again to have zero aptitude there). And when Paul made a decision he knew Rudeus wouldn’t agree with, he used brute force to get his way rather than any kind of persuasion.

Mushoku Tensei characters

The Paul we see in part two is a broken shell of a man and the last year and a half have certainly taken their toll. So much so that he can’t even muster up a hug or a ‘glad you’re alive’ for his son.

Worse, Paul launches a verbal attack upon his son basically accusing him of taking it easy and more or less destroys all of the confidence and independence Rudeus has developed over the last eighteen months.

Again, I don’t like Paul. I didn’t like Paul back in season one when we first met him and I like him less now (even after episode 17).

But, because of how he has written I can understand this man and it makes perfect sense, given Paul’s personality, that when push-comes to shove he would in fact push the blame onto someone else and lash out, because accepting that bad things have happened and they may not be anyone’s fault isn’t something he’s capable of doing.

I still kind of wanted Eris to go and beat him into the floor-boards though.

Jobless Reincarnation Episode 15

Which leaves us with Eris, who is the character who has quietly but surely grown from spoiled brat to young warrior and true friend of Rudeus in slow but steady steps. It’s impossible to say when she started changing outside of the moment Rudeus entered her life, but little by little she’s calmed, she’s trained, she’s worked hard, she’s learned to trust and rely on others but also to reach out and help them, and honestly Eris is just fantastic to watch.

My only real concern is that all of this is setting her up for the hardest fall when she learns about the fate of her family and I’m not sure that she’ll ever be emotionally ready for that. Would anyone be?

The Mushoku Tensei characters work and tell a compelling story because each of them have positive traits and do good things on occasion, but they also fail to live up to expectations, take the easy option, and have selfish desires. Basically, they feel far more real and human and so the story they are telling feels more compelling.

Jobless Reincarnation Episode 12

More than that though, none of these characters are stagnant. Each of them grows and responds to the events that have unfolded and will hopefully continue to do so. There’s no sudden character shifts but instead slow and steady progress occasionally interrupted when they give in to one of their less noble traits.

The Mushoku Tensei characters are all flawed, but it isn’t that they have flaws that they are good. Plenty of characters are flawed. What makes them work is that their flaws make sense, they drive their decisions and actions, and at times the characters are forced to overcome one of their flaws in order to make progress and they don’t always succeed. This makes for compelling characters even if not particularly nice ones.

Images from: Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Part 2. Dir. M Okamoto. Studio Bind. 2021

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Karandi James

Black Butler 2 Series Review – Review or Rant? Hard To Say

Spoilers of season 1 are going to appear as we discuss Black Butler 2.

I previously reviewed the first season of this and to be honest I really should have stopped there. Back when I originally watched this anime, I remember how excited I was to learn there was a sequel, and how bitterly, bitterly disappointed I was when I finally saw that sequel. Since then, whenever the occasion to rewatch Black Butler has come up, I have chosen to ignore the existence of a season 2. The anime ends with Ciel getting his revenge and Sebastian devouring his soul. That’s it. Game over.

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However, for the sake of reviewing it fairly, I had to watch this series again. Plus, AnimeLab runs the two seasons together and leaving half of it unwatched just didn’t feel right. Besides, maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought I remembered it being. You know, how you build up all the negative points over time and forget the good things.

No. My memory wasn’t failing me. (That said, if you want some good reasons to try season 2, you should check out the debate Irina and I had about it.)

Black Butler 2 is everything that is wrong with sequels.

Characters who should be dead aren’t. The perfect resolution from the first season is undone and then utterly lost. New motives and rules are forced upon the characters for narrative convenience. Characters who have outlived their purpose in the series reappear regardless of how pointless and out-of-place their appearance might be. Or worse, the brother of a character who died in the first season intrudes on several episodes and then disappears without any purpose what-so-ever.

And don’t even get me started on the opening theme and how badly it matches the tone of the show. Seriously, Black Butler 2 could have at least had a decent opening theme.

I know some people really like the second season (for example: Irina) but I just can’t bring myself to enjoy it.

And the absolute worst thing is the addition of a new master and his butler. Alois has had a tragic childhood and has made a contract with a demon. Very similar to Ciel. Right. Uh-huh. Let’s have one more character tell us how they are similar. That’s right. They both had fires in their past. Really, really similar.

Alois - one reason to really hate Black Butler 2

Alois is a horrible human being with no redeeming qualities. Not even his obsessive love for his younger brother can make you genuinely want anything nice to happen to this violent, unstable thug of a human. And his butler, Claude, is a cheap imitation of Sebastian at best and a vile mockery at worst.

What it comes down to is that the sequel attempts to duplicate the events of season 1 in the early stages of the series, but fails completely at capturing the atmosphere and tone that made it dark and playful and sheer delight even when it kind of crossed lines it shouldn’t have and when the narrative wasn’t holding its weight.


What it comes down to is that the sequel attempts to duplicate the events of season 1 in the early stages of the series, but fails completely at capturing the atmosphere and tone that made it dark and playful and sheer delight even when it kind of crossed lines it shouldn’t have and when the narrative wasn’t holding its weight.

The second half of Black Butler 2 just decides to over write all the rules you thought you knew about demon contracts and throw twist after twist into the mythology of the entire piece until you genuinely believe anything could happen and you really don’t care what happens.

All and all, it’s a mess.

The only moment in the entire 2nd series worth watching comes at the very, very end. While the journey to get to that point was horrendous, it was a really clever way to finally have the show beat Sebastian, the overly perfect butler. Poetic justice was served and it was very satisfying, if only the road there had made any sense and it didn’t feel like the ending came from throwing all the possibilities in a box and shaking it real hard.

What are your thoughts on this second season?

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
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Karandi James

No Game No Life Series Review – Life Is Just A Buggy Game Until You Get Sent to Disboard

no game no life

Sora and Shiro are a pair of gamers that collectively go by the name Blank, and Blank never loses. Because of this they have become quite bored and are slightly interested when they are challenged to a game of chess. On winning the game they get asked it they want to go to a world where games decide everything. This is an absolutely intriguing premise for a story and in honesty the world of Disboard, and all its psychedelic colours, is a fantastic concept. However the anime isn’t without a few problems along the way, the biggest of which being its lack of resolution and no sequel anime ever coming out.

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I’ve re-watched No Game No Life again and again because it is one of those anime that intrigues me because of its premise, world building and visuals. The first time I watched this series I absolutely loved every minute of it. However progressive rewatches have made sure I am well aware of some of the problems within this anime. That said, I still recommend it to people and sometimes it is an intriguing anime to show people who haven’t watched a lot of anime. The concept usually draws them in but some of the other elements push them out of their comfort zone.


The dazzle of No Game No Life means more than one viewing is needed.

Basically, the first viewing of No Game No Life is one where you are either drawn in an absorbed by everything going on and so the flaws just kind of get swept under the rug. When the pretty and wow factor have faded and you already know the outcome of the games there’s less distraction from some of the weaker elements such as the characters in this story.


Are characters are complete and over-the-top parodies of human beings (even though the vast majority aren’t human). And while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does make it hard to feel sympathy, empathy, or anything else for the characters. They are just so extreme in their personalities and lack nuance or variety to their responses. This means that characters who hang around for awhile ultimately become a little repetitive even in a single season show.

And just when you think Sora and Shiro aren’t so bad afterall, Shiro’s outright lack of human emotion will punch you in the gut or Sora will follow up a truly brilliant dialogue with a panty joke or something equally jarring from the flow of the show. While it does play into their overall lack of experience with human interaction it makes it a little more difficult to truly get behind their plots and to really want them to succeed. Then again, the people they are playing against are also jerks so it maybe none of the characters really end up being ones you want to see victorious.

That said, there is something amazing about these characters. My personal favourite is Izuna, who unfortunately doesn’t come along until close to the end but is actually the character I found the most sympathetic (though there wasn’t a lot of competition here).

Jibril has some shining moments (anyone who values libraries and knowledge automatically gets some brownie points) and her adaptability is something to behold. But, those moments are contrasted with their attempts at using Jibril for comedic purposes that mostly fall flat. She was at her funniest when recalling the previous war when she apparently single-handedly wiped out many elves and that was pretty dark humour being thrown around in that scene.

So are the characters good or bad? That is entirely going to depend on whether you find them all smug beyond redemption or if they start to grow on you. I’ll leave each individual to make that call.

However bigger problems start to emerge when you look at the plot beyond just a cool concept of a duo that never lose at games in a world where games decide everything.


They play games. They win games. They tell us early on that Blank  will NEVER lose. Seriously, they weren’t joking. Doesn’t matter what the situation or odds, these two are going to find a way to win. Whether you find the incessant rationalisation and explanations for how they managed to win charming and amusing or just pretentious will really determine how much you enjoy the story here. More importantly, it kind of cuts off just as it’s getting interesting. They are progressing toward their stated goal but still have a long journey ahead of them and that’s it. Game over. Or, anime over.


There isn’t really anything resembling a subplot in this. There are supporting characters and something about a potential rebellion in Elven Garde but mostly this just serves as more fodder for explanations about how Sora manipulated the situation to win. What back story there is revolves around the previous King who lost a lot of Imanity’s (Humanity’s) territory to the War Beasts, and again, it isn’t a subplot so much as another piece of a long and convoluted explanation of victory.

Is this worth watching for the story? I don’t mind the excessive exposition but I’m sure there are others out there who find it irritating. The stated goal of the protagonists is clear and they systematically cut through all their obstacles. Pretty straight forward adventure really. And it would be fine if there was a resolution because it would make the journey feel worthwhile and rewarding but instead the plot cuts off just as the world is beginning to open up and new challenges, that might even be challenges, are appearing.

However, while I might criticise the characters and the plot, even on a rewatch, Disboard is beautiful.


Okay, the colour palette is a little on the insane scale but it is supposed to be a fantasy world ruled by a god who thinks games are the best way to solve conflicts so we can probably let that go. I loved getting lost in this world and honestly, the story holds together well enough so let’s go.

The music works but is reasonably forgettable and the voice acting is neither particularly good or bad. Shiro’s voice annoys me because it feels like everything she says has been put through a filter and is just that little bit too high and whisper like. Maybe this was supposed to make her sound cute but it drove me crazy by the end of the series. Fortunately, Shiro doesn’t talk anywhere near as often as Sora.

There are an excessive number of bathroom sequences and scenes where characters lose clothing for some of the most contrived reasons ever heard (even in anime). While bathroom scenes aren’t by themselves a problem their lack of purpose in this case is. It seems at times the entire plot just screeches to a halt while they chatter about random things while covered in suds. Could they at least talk strategy while showering?

While it might seem like I’m running this series down, I kind of love No Game No Life. There’s excitement in the games despite knowing the outcome and I like that the characters aren’t just proclaimed to be smart but then never act smart (yes, I am looking at you Devil and Realist). Visually it is gorgeous and there’s some funny moments and moments that do make you care about our protagonists. It isn’t without flaws but it is definitely one that I’ll happily watch again and again.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
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Karandi James

Best Anime of 2019 – Best Cast of Characters

Best Anime 2019

It is amazing when a great group of characters get together. Here is my choice for best cast of characters in 2019.

I’m finding more and more that I’m less interested in stand out protagonists and more interested in the cast dynamic as a whole as I get a bit older. Probably that’s because with protagonists you’ve kind of seen most variations, but it is in the cast combinations and interactions where stories can make even pretty generic characters feel fresh and new. That’s why it feels right that I should end my look at 2019 by looking at some of the great casts of characters that we came across throughout the year.

Please note, the nominees and winning choice are entirely my own opinion and are not based on any rigid criteria. Feel free to nominate your own winners for the categories in the comments. Help other readers find some awesome anime from 2019 to watch.

Best Cast of Characters in 2019

This category was insanely hard to narrow down however I finally got my nominations down to 5. Even then, I wanted to give the victory to most of the titles in the nomination list.

And the winner is…

best cast of characters 2019

Dr Stone

Dr Stone was a curious anime that for about five or six episodes was perfectly fine to watch, interesting enough, but hadn’t really grabbed my attention. Then Senku left on his own and ended up at Ishigami Village where we met a delightful cast of characters who surrounded and bounced off of Senku for the remainder of the series. It brought the anime to life and turned it from a curiosity to a must watch. I cannot overstate how necessary the cast was in bringing this story to life and really grabbing my attention.


Individually these characters aren’t particularly unique or special. It is the combination of these characters, the way they group them within episodes, the small ways they contribute to the overall narrative, whether they are getting along or rubbing each other the wrong way, collectively the people of Ishigami Village are just great fun to spend time with. Despite some amazing characters in other anime, and ones I really do want to celebrate, I had to give the title of best cast to Dr Stone. The cast sold this story.

So many great choices but I’d love to know which anime had your favourite cast of characters in 2019 so be sure to share. Also, if you missed any of my best anime of 2019 posts be sure to check them out using the links below.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
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Karandi James

Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Duos of 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

There’s only one thing better than a great character and that is a great duo. A pair of characters where the chemistry just works, the timing in their dialogue and reactions are spot on, and seeing the two interacting is enough to carry any scene they are in. This is my list of top 5 anime duos from 2018 and there are some incredibly great pairings here. My only real limitation was the characters in the top 5 couldn’t be part of my favourite couples from the year.

As always though, I’d love to know your picks so please share in the comments below who some of your favourite duos were.

Who were my favourite anime duos of 2018?

Honourable Mentions:

Honourable mention for Ash and Eiji from Banana Fish. After taking out best couple I couldn’t have them on this list as well, but let’s be honest, they really deserve a spot. The only question would be whether I think they could have beaten the number one on this list and that’s a tough question. Also, an honourable mention to Keika and Tanmoku from Spiritpact who were fantastic together, however the introduction of a third character into the mix in season two kind of disrupted the duo for a bit so they ultimately didn’t get a spot in the top 5.

Number 5: Ryuichi and Kotaro from School Babysitters

It is a slightly unusual choice for a duo list but these brothers are fantastic together. Kotaro is awesome as the toddler younger brother and Ryuichi is a delight as a concerned older brother. Neither of these characters comes off as too clingy but their scenes together are always sweet and heart warming and they are just adorable.

Number 4: Kirito and Eugeo from Sword Art Online Alicization

While Asuna may be left fairly high and dry this season, Kirito isn’t flying solo. No, he’s working side by side with Eugeo who has turned into a surprisingly fun character and the interactions with Eugeo and Kirito remain my favourite part of this new instalment of SAO. This is kind of what I think they should have done with Klein way back in the Aincrad arc but I can kind of understand why they didn’t. Looking forward to more Kirito and Eugeo moments in the new year.

Number 3: Banba and Lin from Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens

Your typical odd couple, these two work beautifully and are an absolute delight in a show about hitmen and murder. Individually, both characters are fun enough and fine, but when you put them together with their opposing views and contrasting skills you get something really special. Banba brings out the best in Lin and Lin certainly helps to keep Banba fairly level. I know this anime flew a little under the radar for some viewers so if you haven’t checked it out, and you don’t mind a bit of violence, then this one might end up being great fun. It is certainly worth checking out for these two characters.

Number 2: Red and White Blood Cell from Cells at Work

Alright, you knew these two were going to make an appearance. They are adorable and every moment when they are together is delightful. Whether White Blood Cell is rescuing Red from a germ, Red is telling White about her day while they drink tea, or even seeing the young versions of them in training, these two characters are just pure bliss and they work perfectly together.

Number 1: Sakuta and Mai from Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

They had to be the number one. From their very first episode together, the interactions between Sakuta and Mai charmed their audience and in an anime full of strong writing and interesting characters, nothing beats scenes with these two together. The back and forth dialogue, the give and take nature of their conversations and barbs, and just their general awareness of one another make these two an unbeatable duo from 2018.

That’s my list of best duos from the year and I’d love to know who some of your favourites were.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

A Special Halloween Top 5: Spirits, Ghosts, and Dead People – With Luminous Mongoose


Luminous Mongoose has had a busy month organising a number of collaborative top 5 lists for the spooky season. I was really happy they asked me to be a part of it, though I definitely struggled with time management (it has been a really busy month). Still, I love Halloween and all things creepy so getting to put together a list of top 5 ghosts seemed like a great idea.

Anyway, I’ve got the start of the list (5 – 3) but if you want to see who my favourite ghost/spirit character is, and Lumi’s, than you will have to jump over to their blog. Hopefully you enjoy the list and as always, I’d love to know which characters you would have included on your list.

Number 5:

Karandi’s Pick – Atsushi – Natsuyuki Rendezvous


He’s the jealous husband who literally won’t go away and when the new part timer who has eyes on his wife notices him, Atsushi starts out trying to drive him away. When that is unsuccessful, he takes a new approach convincing him to share his body and allow the ghost to speak with his wife. Needless to say Atsushi has a few other things in mind.

Lumi’s Pick – Son Goku (While he was dead after fighting Cell) – Dragon Ball

Son Goku.jpg

Okay, so right off the bat, counting Goku as a ghost will tell you that I’m being very loose with the entries on this list. While Goku has died as much as he has children and grandchildren, I always enjoyed his character the most when he was just a ghost exploring the afterlife of the Dragonball universe, and spectating on the affairs of his friends and family. The biggest reason why I included him here is thanks to the image above, which is the iconic Father-Son Kamehameha. Not only is it a beautiful shot, it also represents Goku passing on the torch to his son as the next savior of Earth, and it was a great send off for one of action shounen’s most iconic heroes.

At least until GT and Super crapped all over that.

Number 4:

Karandi’s Pick – Yuuko – Dusk Maiden of Amnesia


She’s forgotten plenty but Yuuko has finally found someone who can see her and she’s ready to have fun exploring the mysteries of the old school house and generally mess around. Equally alluring and scary, Yuuko appears as people think she will and she uses this to her advantage as the ghost president of the supernatural research club.

Lumi’s Pick – No Face – Spirited Away

No Face.png

No Face is a very simple but effective character. We have no clues as to his motivations, nor does he ever even string together complete sentences. All we know is that he wants to be friends with Chihiro, and gets cranky when he doesn’t get what he wants. It’s a strange thing to see a possibly centuries-old spirit act like a spoiled child, but it really works for the bizarre tone of Spirited Away. His design is  creepy and off-putting, while still being distinctly Ghibli, and that lands him a spot at number 4.

Number 3:

Karandi’s Pick Yukine – Noragami


Okay, probably not technically a ghost but he is the spirit of a dead boy who was reforged into a weapon for a god so I’m still throwing him in my list. He’s a fantastic character and while at first he comes off kind of sullen and one dimensional, his growth as a character over the two seasons of Noragami are a delight.

Lumi’s Pick – Fuko Ibuki – Clannad

Fubo Ibuki.png

Okay, major spoilers for the first arc of Clannad, so feel free to skip this if you somehow haven’t watched KyoAni’s magnum opus in terms of drama.

Having Fuko on here could be considered cheating since she is TECHNICALLY not dead, but she is the spirit of a girl in a coma, so I’m counting it. Just like Yuuko from Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, Fuko is a mysterious girl who is apparently tied to the school in some way, and has no memory of who they are.

When I first watched Clannad, I thought it was just gonna be a straightforward slice of life highschool drama, mysterious robot and girl in an astral plane aside. The reveal of her true nature was legitimately surprising and the mystery of it was intriguing.

She was the introduction of the supernatural element to the story which becomes a huge deal in the later arcs, and her arc was the highlight of my time with Clannad’s first season. Plus, her sudden reintroduction as a gag character despite her very heartfelt and emotional ending was hilarious and still completely in-character, so she makes the list at number 3!

And that’s our list numbers 5 – 3. Again, be sure to check out Luminous Mongoose’s post for the rest of the list.

Thanks for reading.

Karandi James


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Natsume Supporter Battle – Final Thoughts

natsume characters

Irina (I Drink and Watch Anime) and I had a fantastic time on the series of posts where we put the support cast of Natsume to the test (although mostly we tested our own ability to make hard choices and eliminate characters from the contest).

If you missed any of these posts, check out my feature from the end of that week where I link to all of the posts in the series.

However, it is time to say goodbye to this particular project and with that I mean it is time to announce the reader’s pick for best supporting character of Natsume.

Now I know a lot of our readers couldn’t vote because they haven’t watched Natsume Yuujinchou yet (what are you waiting for), or they hadn’t watched through to the later seasons. However, we do have a clear winner from the readers and while it isn’t a character that either Irina or I chose, I don’t think either one of us would be that unhappy with who won.


And there we go. It is official. Hinoe rocks.

Not that Irina and I didn’t already know that given how hard it was to see her lose out in her particular match up.

The part of this that I was interested to see was that our choices (Natori and Matoba) weren’t even in the top 3 of the reader’s choices. Part of me wonders if that was because people were helping those characters we knocked out or if the exorcists just aren’t that popular (though fan art would suggest otherwise). So, I’d love to know if you voted and who you voted for and why.

Still, the really important take away is that Natori did beat Matoba in the poll by 2 votes. Sorry, Irina, I couldn’t help it. I love Natori. Matoba is one of my favourite antagonistic characters and incredibly valuable to the Natsume universe, but Natori is going to remain my favourite character outside of Natsume, Reiko and Nyanko-Sensei.

It is actually kind of sad to say goodbye to this project but hopefully it won’t be goodbye to Natsume forever. Fingers crossed for many more anime seasons in the future.

Natsume’s Supporter’s Battle For Supremacy Round 3 Part A

natsume characters

This is a collaboration between Karandi and Irina.

If you need to catch up:

Be sure to check out Irina’s blog tomorrow for the conclusion to Round 3.

Matoba vs Natori

Krandi: Irina, why did we do this to ourselves? Seriously, what were we thinking?

Irina: Clearly we weren’t...

Karandi: After two rounds it has come down to exorcist vs exorcist. Both complex and interesting characters walking different paths along the moral spectrum and yet at this point in the anime, neither one has had their overall motive or character fully revealed leading to plenty of speculation.

We have said good-bye to some truly fantastic characters in rounds one and two and I think that is what needs to be remembered most about this show. While it is Natsume’s Book of Friends, the story that unfolds is made truly interesting by the love and care put in to each and every member of the support cast, no matter how minor a role they may seem to play within a season. These are characters we can relate to, can sympathise with, be wary of, be annoyed at, and characters we might want to meet ourselves. So this series of posts has accomplished its goal of shining the spotlight on this series and one of its core strengths, the supporting cast of characters.

For this final round, we’ve decided to reflect on our views of both characters rather than going head to head. But if you take nothing else away from this series, I’m taking away that I won the first round.

Irina: Pffth second place is just first loser unless I lose this round in which case second place is awesome, better than first even! Somehow…

For this round Irina will make her final case for Matoba.

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Irina: Through six reviews for the various seasons of  Natsume’s Book of Friends, Matoba has been my favorite character twice, a distinction only shared with Nyanko and even then only in specific incarnations (Nyanko as Natsume forever!) There’s a reason for that and a reason my boy Seiji made it all the way to the final round. He rocks.


Matoba is a slap in the face of a character, a spark thrown into the Natsume story that makes everything more exciting. I have always enjoyed characters in series that I would not necessarily like to meet in real life. Although this may not be the case here… I got a soft spot for attractive troublemakers. Matoba is definitely ruthless and singularly determined. This leads him to act in ways that can appear brash. He lacks the gentle touch everyone else in this series seems to possess. But when considered as a whole, he is undeniably rational and, if nothing else, diligent.

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His entire life, Matoba has carried the burden of responsibility. The responsibility for the livelihood and safety of his clan, the unique duty one has when they are one of the few who can see Yokai and the weight of his particularly well developed talent. All these elements have made him into a man that cannot afford to take chances. A man whose misplaced kindness could end up hurting those who depend on him, and so he is sparring and greedy with it. It is unfair to ask others to pay for your altruism and that is a lesson Matoba seems to have learned well. He isn’t flighty or selfish. Childishly pursuing whatever strikes his fancy or playing the good guy. Matoba does what needs to get done. It may not be as instantly likable but it’s a trait that deserves respect and one that makes the story so much more affecting.


The characters that push aside emotionality in favour of common sense are absolutely primordial to framing the story and putting everyone else in proper context. Matoba’s perfectly justifiable conflicts with Natsume become that much more interesting because they are not a question of right and wrong. They allow for introspection and questioning that ultimately make the story much deeper than it otherwise would have been.

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Moreover, Seiji knows when to take a bow. There has never been a moment when Matoba was onscreen and I was bored. His appearances have been used to such optimal effect that his simple presence confers a sense of excitement and anticipation. You know somethings going to happen if Matoba’s there and he always leaves you wanting more.


A lot more in fact. We have only gotten crumbs of his backstory so far and clearly there’s a lot more left to tell. What we do know is that this man holds most of the secrets of the Natsume Universe and exploring his character will unlock a whole new world for both the viewers and the actors.

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At the end of the day, most stories, even ones as peaceful and sensitive as Natsume’s, need some form of conflict and few things can elevate a narrative quite like a worthy and interesting antagonist. Matoba is exactly that. He is build with the same care and nuance as any  hero. He manages to be relatable or at least understandable, while still undeniably menacing. The element he brings is completely unique in the story and no one else can play this role.

KarandiIs Irina right? Tomorrow, I’ll make my case in part B on Irina’s blog.

Natsume’s Supporter’s Battle For Supremacy Round 2 Part A

natsume characters

This is a collaboration between Karandi and Irina. If you are just catching up the previous posts are:

Be sure to check out Irina’s blog tomorrow for Round 2 Part B. Or, you know, just check out some of her great posts in general.

Irina: We said goodbye to some truly lovely characters in round 1. It speaks to the quality of the story that both of us found it so painful to cut anyone out. It’s very tough to argue your case when you truly love the other character as well but we did what we had to. This said, we had a clear winner in round 1 as 3 of Karandi’s characters advance to the second stage but Matoba is a strong contender! He may save me yet!

I’m not sure who will make it out of round 2 but there’s a chance neither of *us* will survive it. After ripping Natsume away from all his peers and actual friends in round one, the cruel hand of fate (a random number generator) now demands that we further shatter the boy’s social circle and support structure by pitting all the closest and most important people in his life against each other.

The mysterious and slightly ominous Matoba will take on our last Yokai and one of Natsume’s strongest allies: Hinoe, while the closest thing he’s even had to a family will be torn apart as Touko and Natori face off. I’m not going to lie, this is going to be way harder on me than it is one any of you…

Matoba vs Hinoe

For this match Karandi will be arguing for Matoba and Irina has taken on Hinoe.

Karandi:  For all that Matoba has had a significant influence on Natsume and the plot of Natsume Yuujinchou, he’s all up appeared in 6, maybe 7 episodes. However, that just speaks of how notable his presence is. Amongst a pastel sea of sweet and misunderstood characters, Matoba represents something quite a bit darker and his fixation on power and later on Natsume always adds a bit of a thrill of danger to an otherwise placid story.

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In fact, Matoba didn’t appear in the show until season 3, though the idea of exorcists and those that were not even as nice as Natori (who was definitely already a fairly grey character) had already been clearly established. And Matoba did not disappoint. Generally clad in black and with his eye covered, Matoba looks every bit the part of someone with shady intentions. His callous disregard for his servants (human and yokai alike) has been demonstrated several times, as has his overall ambition and desire to become more powerful.

While his view can be understood, the exorcists are serving a fairly important role in keeping dangerous yokai sealed, there’s always a sense of malice about him and a question about what he is truly seeking in the long term. The way he looks at Natsume and desires Natsume joining his family certainly has some darker undertones.

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One thing that has become certain for me is that when Matoba makes an appearance, I’m going to love the episode. And it is going to get dark. Whether it is because Natsume is going to find himself captured and confined once again needing to escape or because there are going to be more yokai deaths, these episodes stand out from the others and yet perfectly compliment the darker themes that are constructed throughout the series. Over and over again, Matoba has proven himself a force to be reckoned with and as his views directly contradict Natsume’s views about yokai, the two are going to clash again and again. The episode where Natsume grudgingly helped Matoba was really interesting as it didn’t paint Matoba in a favourable light, but Natsume started moving toward understanding him a little bit more.

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As much as I love Hinoe, and argued for her case in round one, I would strongly suggest that Natsume needs Matoba’s character and this is one character where despite limited screen time, he has made his presence felt and it sends tangible ripples through the entire rest of the series.

Irina: Hinoe is not a mere character, not a simple emissary representing the Yokai in this grand competition, more than any other person in the series, Hinoe is the living embodiment of the thread of faith that binds Natsume’s legacy to the turmoil he yet faces. As Karandi deftly pointed out in round 1 “Hinoe also forges a direct connection back to Reiko”, and this may prove much more important than we have been led to believe.

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Reiko’s shadow looms large over Natsume, it always has. She is the only one he can truly relate to even though he has never met her and in a very real sense, the one responsible for everything in Natsume’s life, both good and bad. Unraveling the riddle of Reiko’s life will be primordial to Natsume’s continued growth and evolution. Without gaining a better understanding of what came before, he will be stuck repeating old mistakes or ultimately throwing away what makes him unique. The ominous repeated fact that Reiko died young and *alone* may also prove to be an omen that Natsume cannot afford to ignore.

The only person that is still in a position to offer any real insight on Reiko’s life and the lessons she had learned, is Hinoe. Without her, Natsume is set adrift.

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Moreover, you cannot simply disregard the fact that she is a Yokai. I don’t want to sound specieist or anything, but how exactly can we think of Natsume’s Book of Friends and not have a single “friend” to speak of. The Yokai, their presence, influence, simple existence, are the singular most formative and important element of Natsume’s entire experience. They are a completely inextricable part of his world. Of course, Hinoe is hardly the only Yokai but she is one of the closest and kindest.

Because of her unusual willingness to interact with humans, Hinoe has managed to have one of the greatest impacts of Natsume that any of her kind (save Nyanko) have had. She has been a reliable big sister, a gentle guide and a comforting helper whenever Natsume has needed one. There is absolutely no one else that can bring these elements to Natsume’s life and without her, the Yokai side of the story becomes dreadfully unbalanced.

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Yes Matoba’s influence is a catalyst and an important narrative element, but it is useless without the counterbalance of kind hearted Yokai to pull Natsume’s loyalties their way, and Hinoe is chief among them.

Karandi: Okay, if we’re arguing their knowledge of past events, Matoba and his clan have certainly indicated they have had past links with Reiko and have already done quite a bit of digging into Natsume’s past – a plot thread I definitely want to see developed. However, the point is well made that Hinoe has been one of Natsume’s strong links to the past and to the yokai from the beginning.

Irina: I’m sure that sneaky Matoba clan knows a whole lot more than they let on but are they willing to share? What good is that knowledge if it remains locked away?

Karandi: I don’t know. I like them both. They are both needed.

Honestly, I’d cast my vote for Matoba for the simple reason that he does bring those darker elements to the forefront of the show and I just truly love his episodes.  Irina?

Irina: Yeah it’s Matoba. Let’s face it I always knew it was going to be Matoba but you have to admit, Hinoe put up a good fight!

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Natsume’s Supporter’s Battle For Supremacy Round 1 Part A

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A collaboration between Karandi and Irina. Be sure to check out Irina’s blog tomorrow for Round 1 Part B. We’ll be posting each day this week.

Karandi here: Toward the end of last year I started thinking I’d really like to put together some sort of feature about Natsume Yuujinchou. I’m completely in love with the show and have certainly written a number of posts about it previously, but I wanted to do something different. Knowing that Irina had recently watched the show and had also fallen in love with the series, I reached out and asked if she was up for a collaboration and so after many emails an idea was born.


I don’t think either one of us quite knew how challenging this would be when we picked the idea of a tournament style match up between members of the support cast to determine who the best supporting character was. (I think we both thought this would just be a bit of a laugh but eliminating anyone from this list has been incredibly tough.)  Just coming up with the entrants was a killer task as there are just so many great characters who appear throughout the course of six season. To make it a bit easier we agreed that they had to have appeared in more than one season to be considered and we ruled out Nyanko-Sensei and Reiko as being main characters from the start.

Still, we finally cut it down to 8. However, there were dozens of other characters we’d have liked to include (I think both of us would have loved Aoi to appear in the list but he was a one episode character, and I know that cutting how Shigeru was harsh but at least Touko made the cut).

We ended up with:

Then we had to decide on a criteria for the matches. Ultimately we decided to discuss character design, character growth, their interactions with Natsume, and their impact on the plot (at least for round one).

Finally we were ready for round one. We each had our four contestants to try to defend and we knew who they would be matched against, still some of these contests were just harsh. And can I point out how hard it is to argue in favour of one character when you are hopelessly in love with the one you are about to throw out of the tournament. And yet, I wouldn’t really have wanted any of these characters to lose their match (except maybe Satoru, but Irina made a pretty good case and made me see him a little differently).

However, through working on this project with Irina I definitely gained a deeper appreciation of just how well this show has built up its characters, even the fairly minor ones. All of them bring something amazing to the show and losing any one of them would leave Natsume somewhat worse off. I also realised once again what an amazing person Irina is. I loved working on this collaboration with her and I’m glad we got to spend some time sharing our thoughts on such an incredible anime.

Anyway, that’s it from me in terms of an introduction. We’ll get to the first round of matches and see which characters make it through to the semi finals.

Round 1:

Taki vs Hinoe

For this match Irina is defending Taki and Karandi is taking on Hinoe.

Character Design

Irina: I’m starting off at a bit of a disadvantage. Humans in Natsume’s universe all tend to look very similar and a little bland in contrast to the Yokai but Taki does have one big thing going for her, she’s a redhead! We all know gingers are special and both Satoru and Natsume seem to have noticed as well.

Karandi: True enough, Taki is a redhead and they are awesome, but Hinoe is rocking that gorgeous blue hair and sporting quite the adorable hairpin. Throw in her outfit and her pipe and she strikes quite the distinct figure even amongst the yokai.

As much as I love Taki, I would definitely say Hinoe wins for design.

Irina: This is a though one. Hinoe has one of my favorite designs and cosplay goal but I’m going for a last ditch attempt here – Taki’s design is special precisely because of how normal it is. She represents a visual cue for normalcy and stability in Natsume’s world….Ok Hinoe rocks….

Karandi: I’ll just take that as a win for Hinoe on design.

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Character Growth

Irina: Admittedly, Taki hasn’t undergone any dramatic transformations, most of her personal evolution really takes place during her first appearance and even then it’s more a question of her getting out of a bad situation and being able to relax and be herself again, rather than her evolving through lessons learned. But she’s so lovely as is, why should she need to grow.

Karandi: In the present day, we haven’t really see Hinoe grow at all. She’s a yokai and they kind of pride themselves on long lives and not really changing. However, we did see a flashback with Hinoe before she met Reiko and while we don’t know all the ins and outs, she did go from hating humans to being fairly accepting of her friendship with Natsume.

Still, I would probably have to concede this criteria to Taki.

Irina: Like Karandi – I do think we have clues to indicate the Hinoe has undergone some pretty radical evolution but we haven’t *seen* it. I agree Taki.

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Interactions with Natsume

Irina: Taki’s influence on Natsume is undeniable. She’s is one of the gentless and most understanding people in Natsume’s life which is saying something as he is literally surrounded by love. Taki is clearly in the human camps as she can’t naturally interact with Yokai in any way but her family history has given her a much better understanding of the spiritual world than most. As such, Taki essentially represents the possibility for Natsume to have completely honest relationships with “normal” people. She is completely unique in that regard and absolutely essential to Natsume’s acceptance of himself. She’s also a lovely age appropriate human girl which opens up a wealth of potential interactions not available to anyone else!

Karandi: Her human appearance not just for show, Hinoe is one of the more calm, collected and certainly more understanding of Natsume’s situation than most of the other yokai. That said, I do recall a scene where Hinoe came running with a scythe after Natsume got kidnapped so she’s proven herself to be fairly loyal as well. Ultimately Hinoe offers guidance and advice to Natsume on many issues and while she still pretends to be fairly aloof she’s clearly very interested in Reiko’s grandson and in making sure he stays safe.

I honestly can’t call this one. Irina, your thoughts?

Irina: I love Taki and I’m so very glad Natsume has her friendship but if we are to be completely honest, her role is a little redundant with Tanuma’s. On the other hand, Hinoe is the closest thing he has to a big sister. I think Hinoe for this one. She has his back in a way no one else does.

Karandi: I’m glad you mentioned that her role is a little redundant given Tanuma plays much the same role. It would be different if more of her grandfather’s knowledge came into play as that would give her a more unique role. Still, Hinoe it is.

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Impact on the story

Irina: Not only has Taki had an impact so far by being a human that can’t see Yokai but is still fully accepting of Natsume but considering the hinted at wealth of interactions, her possible impact on future plotlines is probably one of the most important of any character in the series.

Karandi: Hinoe has literally saved Natsume’s life from being consumed by a curse and continues to watch over him, providing guidance when needed and makes some attempts to keep the middle ranked yokai in check (when she’s not drinking with them). Hinoe also forges a direct connection back to Reiko and unlike Madara, she seems more willing to talk about her past with Natsume’s grandmother.

While I love Taki’s role, I’d say that Hinoe being a literal life saver back in season one kind of tips this one to her.

Irina: I agree, Taki’s impact is much less direct that Hinoe’s. Her absence would be less obvious.

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Karandi: Taki vs Hinoe: I’d vote for Hinoe. Irina?

Irina: I’m honestly stumped. I’m going with pure subjective gut feeling here but I agree – Hinoe.

Karandi: We agreed. Fantastic. Let’s see if that can happen in the next match up which will be out tomorrow on Irina’s blog.