Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Brothers

We all know there are some terrible anime families out there, but every now and then a show finds a way to remind us that not every blood relative wants to abandon you, use you to destroy the world, or is on a vendetta to kill and destroy you. I’m dedicating this list to all the very cool brothers out there in the anime world and my criteria was simply that they had to actually look out for their sibling/s in some way.

Please Note: There will be some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week to Byakuya from Bleach (admittedly, it took him awhile to warm up to the idea of saving Rukia but after that point he was a pretty good brother).

Number 5: Sora from No Game No Life

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Sora is an incredibly confident gamer who is absolutely certain of victory, but only so long as his sister, Shiro, is by his side. More importantly, he prioritizes her happiness and well-being at every turn and absolutely trusts in her abilities. While there relationship may be unhealthy in some respects, separating them leading to the both of them all but shutting down emotionally, you can’t doubt the love these siblings have for one another and how much Sora is willing to do to give Shiro exactly what she wants.

Number 4: Edward and Alphonse from Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

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Oh, they are so cute. Seriously, these two are adorable as brothers even after one of them ends up as a soul attached to a suit of armour. Realistically these two could be put at number one on the list given everything they do is initially driven by Edward’s desire to ‘fix’ Alphonse but to be honest they get caught up in a lot of other stuff and even while the two will forever help each other out, both are aware there is more at stake. Still, utterly adorable.

Number 3: Lelouch from Code Geass

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I’ll be the first to admit that Lelouch’s family situation is complicated and not exactly nice, however his genuine love for his little sister Nunnally remains one of the touching cornerstones of Code Geass and is pretty much the only reason Lelouch shouldn’t just be written off as another egomaniacal character wanting to show off how smart he is. While I’m not entirely convinced that Lelouch ever really succeeded at ‘saving’ Nunnally, his determination to give her a better life was pretty admirable and he did end up shouldering an end that really shouldn’t have befallen him in order to spare her from having to take the responsibility.

Number 2: Touya from Cardcaptors

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Best big brother ever. Okay, maybe not given I put him in the second spot on the list, but he would still be an awesome brother to have. He doesn’t fall into the sickly sweet category as he certainly teases his little sister, as any self-respecting big brother would, but he never crosses the line into being mean and he most definitely always has his sister’s back even when she doesn’t know what he’s given up for her. This also carries over into Tsubasa Chronicles, though Touya has a much briefer role there.

Number 1: Komui Lee from D Gray Man

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While most of the time Komui acts like such an idiot it is hard to take him seriously as a character, it is important to remember that he gave up everything in his life to be with his sister and be her support. She was taken by the Dark Order because she could use Innocence and then she was pretty much on a self-destructive path and perfectly happy to die until Komui gave up whatever future he’d been heading towards to work for the Order to be with her. While casual observers think he’s the sister obsessed one, it is more that he knows how important his presence is for his sister and it really is the case that she’s the one who is a bit obsessed. Whenever you remember those scenes where we see Komui join the order to care for her, it makes so much of his character more tolerable and makes him my very favourite anime brother.

Over to you, who would you have included on your list of anime brothers?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Males with Silver Hair

Here’s the list of my top 5 male anime characters with silver hair. I’m going to admit, this was a far harder list to put together than the female one. There are so many silver haired males out there that I wanted to include. Plus, splitting the one and two spot this week was all but impossible so I finally went with overall good looks which means I now feel really bad about number 2. Anyway, my primary criteria, other than having silver, white or gray hair, was that they are an interesting character that I enjoy watching. Still, this one was really difficult. I’d love to know who you would have included so please leave me a comment.

Also, next week I have a Top 5 list suggested by Kendra Ressler who is one of my patrons. As part of their reward tier they get to suggest three post topics in a year and this is their first one and it is focussed on My Hero Academia. I’m really looking forward to writing it and even though the post will come out after I’ve gone on break, I’m hoping everyone will enjoy it. Thanks to Kendra for the great suggestion.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions go to Undertaker (Black Butler), Tomoi (Kamisama Kiss) and Lag Seeing (Letter Bee).

Number 5: Hitsugaya from Bleach

 

 

It feels kind of wrong for Hitsugaya to be so low on this list given I absolutely love him as a character but when I thought about why I liked him, his hair doesn’t feature very high. his attitude, his sword, his eyes and his very cool ice power featured heavily, but his hair style and colour were more of a side note. Still, Hitsugaya is an amazing character so I’m glad he didn’t fall off the list altogether.

Number 4: Zero from Vampire Knight

 

 

As much as I do tend to mock Vampire Knight and its storyline, I have to admit Kiryuu Zero is a really fun character to watch. That’s probably slightly mean to say given most of what you are watching is his descent into depression as the vampire hunter transforms into a vampire and feels incredible guilt over sucking the blood of his crush but I just enjoy him as a character. As for his hair colour, other than providing a strong contrast with the other love interest, I really couldn’t imagine Zero with any other colour. He always seems a little washed out and detached from the world and his hair kind of helps give that impression.

Number 3: Weismann from K

 

 

This issue with Weismann is that we see so very little of him. Flashbacks are all well and good but given his body is snatched before the events of the first episode of K, we really don’t see much of him. That said, his silver hair, given he’s the silver king and all, is kind of important and I really enjoy his character (what little we see of it). Brilliant and detached with a slightly off-beat sense of humour, he remains an enigma even after he regains his memories and I absolutely love every moment of screen time he gets.

Number 2: Allen Walker from D Gray Man

 

 

I know. I can’t believe Allen isn’t number 1 on this list either. Much like Zero, Allen is a pretty tragic character to watch and I can’t get enough of it. He’s one of my favourite characters of all time. Want a strong and loyal character who will literally fight to the death and even beyond for what he believes to be right but isn’t exactly a saint? Then Allen will entertain you for hours (and hours and hours given the run time of the show now). Though I definitely have a preference for his character design in the original series rather than Hallow (too colourful in Hallow).

Number 1: Victor from Yuri on Ice

 

 

I did warn you at the beginning I split 1 and 2 by overall looks and as much as I love Allen as a character, Victor is pretty impressively charming. I think it was the fact that for once there was an anime character who was actually in his late twenties that was being treated as desirable by pretty much everyone rather than as an old man (typical of high school anime) that really got me focussed on his character. Then, of course, there’s his talent, charisma, and developing relationship with Yuri, and all and all I really did fall in love with his character during Yuri on Ice – even if I know that in reality his personality would drive me completely crazy.

So there is my list of silver haired anime males. Who would you include on yours?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime With A Colour in the Title

This week’s list is a bit strange but I started wondering about how many anime actually used colours as part of their title and that took me down a meandering mental path that I won’t bore you with but the end result was this list. Essentially my favourite 5 anime that use any colour in the title. Now, to simplify things, I went with the English name of the anime (assuming they have one). Otherwise, my only other real consideration other than enjoyment was that the colour actually served some significant point in the story (symbolic or literal) and wasn’t just a random word thrown into the title. That, and I tried to avoid multiple titles with the same colour but that gave me a real headache trying to decide between Black Butler and Darker Than Black.

I’d love to know your favourite anime that uses a colour in the title so feel free to comment below.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Red Data Girl and Black Butler (sorry Sebastian, but I just couldn’t pass over Darker Than Black on the list).

Number 5: Blue Spring Ride

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While I’m not a hopeless romantic I really did enjoy this story. The main character is kind of pitiful at the beginning as she endeavors to fit in by essentially denying her own character and then she kind of gets crushed when she reveals herself and is rejected, but the slow build-up from that low point is kind of sweet and the romantic element of the show is kind of adorable. Plus, when deciding between this or Blue Exorcist for the list (which were the two blue titles I narrowed it down to), Blue Exorcist just didn’t seem to have enough of a reason for the name other than the whole blue flame thing (though there might be some deeper reason I just overlooked).

Number 4: Golden Time

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It might be hard to claim I’m not a hopeless romantic with some of the titles on this list, but I loved Golden Time. Banri was great as the lead and I liked that even though he was kind of the every guy he wasn’t a complete push over. He did break up with Koko when he realised she was using him, which actually slapped some sense into her (metaphorically) and allowed their relationship to progress more naturally after that point. Okay, he is a convenient amnesiac and the story doesn’t really work if you start applying too much logic to it (and what about Linda), but that doesn’t stop it being really kind of sweet.

Number 3: Snow White with the Red Hair

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Okay, I like romance and romance apparently is full of anime with coloured titles. Besides, you had to know this one was coming on the list and it takes out two colours simultaneously, so points for being an over-achiever. Zen and Shirayuki are quite possibly my favourite anime couple ever. Basically, this one is adorable from start to finish and I’m completely in love with this anime which means the two anime coming are ones I am even more insanely in love with for various reasons and despite their flaws.

Number 2: Darker Than Black

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As might have been obvious from my choice of this anime for my 100th review, I really love Darker Than Black. It is one of those anime I never get enough of rewatching. There are some cool characters with awesome powers and a storyline that makes you think (just don’t over think it because it won’t hold up to the scrutiny) and it is fun. The other thing I love about this anime is that it appeals to non-anime fans and I’ve managed to convince quite a number of people to watch it with me over the years given there are minimal moments where you have to use the “it’s anime” excuse for something on the screen. Considering all the other anime out there with black in the title, this should have been a hard decision but Darker Than Black is not just one of my favourite anime with a colour in the title, it is one of my favourite anime of all time.

Number 1: D Gray Man

Allan

But what beats Darker Than Black? Allan Walker and one of the most misery inducing stories I’ve ever watched and loved every single minute of. D Gray Man ran for 103 episodes before leaving us mid-narrative, completely stranded. The story returned in D Gray Man Hallow with new character designs and a brighter colour scheme in general but it just continued on as if 8 years hadn’t passed. And then it was only 13 episodes and gone again barely progressing the plot. Despite all of that and everything this show has done to drive me away, I’m still in love with this story. Partially, it is because I watched it when I hadn’t seen such a huge amount of anime but mostly it is because of what the show puts Allan Walker through and how he responds to it. He isn’t the happy-go-lucky protagonist who occasionally snaps. He isn’t a shouter. He isn’t a calm and collected genius. Nor is he simply a crazy berserker. Allan is a person in every way and a person who has been through some of the worst experiences imaginable and somehow is still mostly nice but has an undeniable dark streak (just try playing cards with him to see that in action). Following Allan, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve stared in stunned shock at the screen, I’ve yelled at him, I’ve supported him, and to be honest he is a character that I will never get over. The show has its rough edges and doesn’t appeal to everyone, but it is most definitely one of my favourite anime ever.

So there’s my list. What would have included on yours?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Girls in a Shonen Anime

I was inspired to write this list after watching My Hero Academia episode 22 on the weekend and then seeing this tweet:

Tweet - Shonen.JPG

It got me thinking about all the female characters in shonen anime and how usually they get sidelined or end up in support roles (healer, archer, etc). So I started thinking about my favourite female characters in these shows who defy the odds and actual get to be a front line fighter (even if only in the lead ups to final battles where the male protagonist of course steals back the show – it is shonen afterall). My other criteria for a spot on the list was I actually had to like them as a character. Just being a crazy fighter didn’t quite cut it if I couldn’t stand them whenever they were on screen.

Anyway, this is my list and I’d love for you to tell me who you would have included on yours.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Mikasa from Attack on Titan and Morgiana from Magi.

Number 5: Lenalee from D Gray Man

I really wondered about Lenalee and whether to include her or not. Mikasa was looking fairly tempting given she’s undeniably a better fighter, but Lenalee wins in terms of mostly having an actual personality other than save Eren. So what makes Lenalee awesome? During the early half of D Gray Man, she’s a very active fighter. She shows Allan the ropes of being part of the order and she holds her own in some pretty horrific fights. The first battle Lenalee and Allan have against Road Camelot takes a massive toll on both Lenalee and Allan but Lenalee is in that fight all the way. The second half of the original 103 episodes Lenalee gets a couple of exceedingly cool moments with a fight that literally destroys her innocence and ends up encasing her in crystal. She’s pretty much out of active combat at that point until we get to the final battle of that particular run of episodes where Lenalee’s innocence evolves and she gets a brand new power up just in time to help Allan win the fight. Admittedly though, you are just as often going to see Lenalee serving various characters cups of tea.

Number 4: Rukia from Bleach

Rukia is another strong female character that suffers from having her power broken/stolen/whatever in order to allow the male character a chance to actual grow and catch up. It would be lovely if we could just a female character strong and not need to be crippled for a good chunk of the plot for narrative convenience but apparently that is asking for a little too much (back to Mikasa, she hasn’t been crippled physically but emotionally she’s pretty stunted). Anyway, Rukia doesn’t get to show us how amazing she is for pretty much the entire first three seasons given Ichigo takes her power at the end of episode 1. Still, if you make it past that point, when Rukia comes back into the show you see the very capable shinigami that she is and her sword definitely does have one of the prettiest attacks in the show, if freezing your enemies solid can be considered pretty. What I really like about Rukia is her versatility. She uses her sword but she also uses a range of other attacks and thinks through her fights.

Number 3: Uraraka from My Hero Academia

Okay, one tournament fight does not make her an awesome fighter but seriously, Uraraka has been hanging in there right from the beginning. Despite a pretty timid personality she has stepped up to every challenge so far. She’s also a nice person. We’ve recently learned how fierce her desire to be a hero is and yet she still tried to give away her spot to Midoriya after the entrance exam. That’s a pretty impressive move for someone who is desperate to succeed. However, nice or not, hanging in there through every challenge including villains attacking the school, none of that is the reason for her place on the list. That one tournament fight is enough to show us that this girl is deadly serious about becoming a hero one day. She may not be there yet but her tenacity, skill, and focus were amazing and this girl really needs more attention on her.

Number 2: Akari from Hitsugi no Chaika

This one might be a weird choice and I will admit her weird brother focus does kind of make her a weird character at times, but Akari is fantastic. As a saboteur she’s got a fair range of skills at her disposal. I know most of the focus is on Toru, but Akari is in pretty much every fight and the majority of them wouldn’t have succeeded without her presence given the two siblings plan and one acts as bait or a distraction while the other usually either sets up the trap or pulls off whatever goal they are currently working towards. Also, there are two occasions where Akari turns on Toru (once for fun and once after brain washing). Both times, Akari pushes Toru hard. If you think Akari is just there for comic relief or rival love interest, think again. She’s a cold fighter and you better not be her opponent.

Number 1: Maka from Soul Eater

Okay, this was a given from the get go. Maka is not only an awesome fighter, hard worker, and academic, she’s also one of the few girls on the list who doesn’t lose her powers midway through a series and gets to be the main character and doesn’t lose out to the main guy in the show. Admittedly, she does go a little mad during one of the story arcs, but crazy Maka is kind of fun too (and a significantly stronger fighter due to a lack of care for personal safety). Actually, Soul Eater gets a double hit here because I’d love to also add Tsuabaki (Black Star’s weapon) to the list. She doesn’t get the spot light much but when she does, she really shines (plus she deserves a medal for putting up with Black Star).

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So that’s my list this week with my top 5 girls in shonen anime (okay, technically 6). I’d love to know who would have been on your list and which girls stand out to you.


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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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Tuesday’s Top 5: Male Characters from 2016

Last week I looked at the female characters from 2016 that left an impression. This week I turn my attention to the guys. I’m going to be honest; this was a much harder list to write. The reason being that female characters still tend to play a lot of support roles and still tend to have very generic personalities (with some exceptions). There are more leading male characters and more personality types (though still some basic archetypes) out there to choose from.

So how did I choose my top 5 male characters? Pretty much they played a significant role in their anime, were entertaining to watch, and, for whatever reason, memorable. They also had to be in an anime that aired at some point during 2016 (either continuing on from 2015, completely in 2016, or at least started before the end of 2016).

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions go to: Natsume (Natsume Yuujinchou Go), Mikleo (Tales of Zestiria the X), and weirdly to Matsumi Asuma (Kiss Him, Not Me).

Number 5: Dazai (Bungo Stray Dogs Season 2)

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There were times in season 1 when Dazai drove me absolutely crazy. He was hilarious and intriguing for the first 2 episodes and then his character went into one note comedy mode for most the rest of the season. Season 2 Dazai became a much more interesting character. First we spent four episodes getting his back story and then even after that while we still had the odd goofy moment and suicide joke, Dazai kind of left the playful facade behind and started actually being a character. It made him far more intriguing and made me far more interested in him. Is Dazai the best character? Not really, but I certainly remember him.

Number 4: Karma Akabane (Assassination Classroom Season 2)

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Okay, this one should come as no surprise given he topped out my list of favourite red haired male characters last year. I find Karma fantastic value as a character. Why isn’t he higher up my list? Because season 1 of Assassination Classroom did not air in 2016 and looking at Karma’s contributions to season 2, I just couldn’t justify it. His character decidely takes a back seat with the exception of the conflict between him and Nagisa and even that plays out relatively quickly. He is still one scary teenager and what I like is that he isn’t just a hoodlum, he is smart, manipulative and motivated.

Number 3: Yuuri Katsuki (Yuri on Ice)

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It would have surprised me more if I hadn’t added a character from Yuri on Ice and it had to be Yuri himself. The character transformation he underwent and how natural it felt was one of the highlights of the whole year for me. I liked that this wasn’t a show about someone who was bad at skating getting suddenly amazing. Yuri was always good but lacked confidence. This story really just focussed on him overcoming himself rather than a skills deficit and it was a much stronger character story because of it.

Number 2: Obi (Snow White with the Red Hair)

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Obi was always my favourite character from Show White with the Red Hair and season 2 we got more Obi. When Shirayuki leaves the kingdom to visit Prince Raj it is Obi who goes with her as a bodyguard so when she get’s kidnapped, Obi kind of loses it in the best possible way. It’s probably the first time we ever see Obi anything less than laid back and completely in control and that he then spends the rest of the season working to save her and then in ensuring that Zen and Shirayuki are going to get their happily ever after (despite the fact it’s pretty clear he’d really like Shirayuki to look at him) just makes Obi an even better character. He’s still stealing every scene he shows up in and I would love more of this character. Note to self: Do not get on Obi’s bad side.

Number 1: Allen Walker (D Gray Man Hallow)

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Okay, I know a lot of this placement is due my overall love of this franchise but Hallow did an amazing job of progressing Allen’s story as the fourteenth is slowly but surely taking over. Allen has come along way from the naive want to be exorcist we met back in episode 1 of D Gray Man and is now a very competent exorcist however he is continuously doubted and mistreated by the Order and ultimately is forced to make the decision to leave (which gave us an incredibly heartbreaking farewell between Allen and Lenalee). Allen is a character I always want more of because he is incredibly interesting and I would love for him to eventually find out everything and be able to make his own informed choices about his life. Seems unlikely and far more likely he will continue to flounder along, but he does keep moving. Not even certain death keeps him out of the action.

That’s my list so now its time to share yours. Who were your favourite male characters in 2016?

Friday’s Feature: Consistently Inconsistent – Or Why I Would Struggle to Recommend Bungo Stray Dogs

I know I covered a lot of my issues with Bungo back when season 1 finished airing. In case you missed it here’s a link to my review of the season. One of my biggest complaints then was the inconsistency of the series. So now that season 2 is done, has the issue been resolved? (I will actually write a review of the show at some point rather than nit-pick at individual points.)

I’d really have to say no. The one thing I can rely on from Bungo Stray Dogs is not knowing from week to week what I’m going to get. More importantly, not knowing from minute to minute within the episode. Is this threat going to be serious or not? Are they actually going to develop that plot thread or is this just another throw away idea that will come and go in the blink of an eye?

Sometimes I really feel that Bungo would benefit from an absolute do-over. There are so many good ideas in the show and there are some really interesting moments that are well delivered and well thought out. Then there’s everything else in the show.

Bungo 10

From season 1 to season 2 there have been some changes. Spending the first four episodes of season 2 in flashback (giving that arc at least a bit of consistency and a more serious tone) was a bold choice. The end of season 1 left us waiting for the next move in the three way war and instead we got back story on a character and more information about the Port Mafia and the show benefited overall from both of these things. It made Dazai a little more human and a lot less of a comic relief character and it allowed us to see the Mafia as an actual player in the battle to come rather than the throw away third wheel.

But this wasn’t enough to really say that this show found its tone. While the episodes following the flash back did tone down the comedy aspects that consistently plagued season 1, the comedy is still there (and rightly so given its an established part of the show). The issue is that they still aren’t really finding the right timing or placement of some of these ‘humorous’ moments and a lot of them still aren’t hitting their marks.

Okay, there are worse things for a show to be than inconsistent in tone but inconsistencies are a major problem. When a show doesn’t have consistent tone or pacing they risk alienating everyone. A lot of people will put up with bad or mediocre but when we’re not sure what is coming and we go from soaring heights to crashing to rock bottom in the space of half an episode it makes you start to resent the show.

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That said, this problem isn’t exclusive to Bungo Stray Dogs though it’s probably been the one anime I’ve kept watching this year where inconsistency has been a problem. Prior to Bungo the anime I’d have pointed to with this as a central issue would be Samurai Flamenco. I never had any clue whether that show was supposed to be serious or not and whether it was supposed to be funny or not and the way it threw us around made me wonder sometimes if the writers actually knew what they were aiming for from scene to scene (and I know I just annoyed every fan of Flamenco but wow that tone shifts around a lot).

Addressing the other side of the coin though, some anime are deliberately all over the shop  when it comes to tone and it works for them. D Gray Man, which is admittedly one of my all time favourite anime if not my favourite, is horrendously inconsistent when you consider the sharp shifts from comedy to character driven drama to shonen action and then to the darkest and nastiest things your could do to characters. And yet in D Gray Man the tonal shifts are actually a strength rather than a detriment in the long run (at least for me). While occasionally the comedic moments are jarring, they are placed strategically to either energize a section where the pace has slowed down for exposition or at a moment when things have been too dark and tense for too long and they are trying to bring us back into the flow of the story.

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What the comedic moments never do in the original series is step on an important piece of character development or a truly dramatic moment. While Allen and Kanda will shout and yell at each other in the cafeteria or prior to a normal battle, when faced with a truly dangerous foe the characters don’t waste time with quips or other silliness. They respond to the situation they are in and that makes them feel more real. In the everyday (and facing the normal enemy that they are well used to fighting) they are more relaxed then in other situations.

The other reason it works is because ultimately the central narrative continues to drive forward. We are always moving toward stopping the Earl. It doesn’t matter what side missions they get sent on or what intrigue happens or how dark or light the tone of the show it because we are still moving toward something that was established early on. Basically the story has purpose and all the jumping around in tone just makes 103 episodes of this show actually interesting because the characters go through a lot of different things and you are going along for a ride with them. If they hadn’t had the variations in tone we might have been buried under an avalanche of depression about twenty episodes in.

Bungo lacks this drive toward anything because from episode 1 we know nothing. We don’t know what any of the characters ultimately want and we don’t have a central conflict or villain to deal with. Everytime we think we’ve met something that could be a that villain or goal, it is quickly revealed to be just another distraction in an already cloudy narrative. And that may actually be the main reason Bungo struggles to find its feet. While there may be an overall purpose, the audience aren’t in on that secret and so very little of anything it is presenting has any weight. At the end of season one we meet the Guild but are they really all that much of a threat? And will defeating the Guild mean everything is fine? None of this has been established and other than the fact that the leader of the Guild seems crazily destructive for the sake of it, if the Guild actually won this three-way battle would it matter?

What are your thoughts on inconsistent tone in anime? Does it bother you?

D Gray Man Hallow Series Review

 

Overview:

A continuation/reboot of the D Gray Man series; we follow as the Order take on the Noah in a fight to determine the fate of the world. However, inside the Order there are secrets and plans that the exorcists know nothing about and Allen Walker is going to get caught up in the middle.

I reviewed this week to week so if you are interested in my thoughts on individual episodes click here.

Review:

By the way, it should go without saying, but this post will have spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the original D Gray Man so if you intend to watch and want to be surprised, skip now.

There are two ways this review could go. I can be totally detached and just objectively list the merits and problems with this show or I can go into complete fan-girl mode and just gush about how great it is to see all of these characters again after an 8 year gap. Yep, 8 years left on a cliff hanger as the headquarters of the Order were destroyed and Lenalee’s weapon transformed into the blood crystal thing and that’s where we left it.

Normally shows that don’t end and those that don’t end and leave us on a cliff hanger, go into my list of been there, done that, don’t watch again. D Gray Man was different. I loved it more than Bleach and Soul Eater. It even blew away any nostalgia for Sailor Moon while I was watching the original. It was my absolute favourite anime ever (and that was saying something). There was just something about the cast of characters and the weird mix of really over the top emotional drama followed by incredibly clunky comedy that appealed in a way that other shows couldn’t. Individual events in the show were incredibly moving and some of the things the characters went through were heart-breaking and yet the show itself (while intensely dark at times) always held that small little glimmer of hope.

But this is not a review of the original series. I’m saving that for a long way down the track when I kind of feel I’ve figured out exactly what I want to write in a review.

From a fan-girl point of view, this story continuing was the most amazing thing ever. I tried really hard to downplay how excited I was because after 8 years I knew things were going to be different and there was a good chance it wouldn’t be any good. There was also the issue that only 13 episodes had been announced and 13 episodes just didn’t seem long enough to do anything given how long it took us to get to where we were last time.

So let’s take the fan-girl and nostalgia lens off and let’s just look at the 13 episodes we were given by Hallow.

Right, first point: If you haven’t watched the original series, this continuation/reboot gives you about five minutes of character introductions during a fight sequence that makes little sense from a narrative point of view and that is supposed to be your catch up on who the main cast are and how they fight. Bad Hallow. This fight didn’t please fans of the series much because the attacks being used are excessive for the forces they are facing and we don’t have any real idea why they are facing these guys or why all of the main cast are together given how rarely that happens in the show because they keep sending little sub-groups off in all directions. For people who weren’t familiar with the show, this was a confused mess of an introduction and didn’t really endear anyone new to the series.

Second point: Allen and Kanda are the standout characters in Hallow. Krory and Lavi are at best bystanders. Thinking about it from the point of view of someone who has no knowledge of the show, it’s possible you entirely missed that these two were actually main characters. Seems like most of the rest of the cast have forgotten that Lavi is a main character too given no one seems to be caring that he’s been kidnapped by the Noah. Seriously? Sorry, Lavi is one of my favourite characters and his treatment in Hallow is a little criminal (not that I don’t want him to be kidnapped, but it would be nice if this had some narrative impact or affected his so-called friends a little bit).

That said, Kanda is finally given a backstory and it is completely heart-wrenching. You kind of knew that his past would be horrible (given all of the other character story’s) but the way his particular tragedy is played out and the implications for the moral compass of the entire Order is truly the take-a-way moment from Hallow. Even if everything else had sucked, Kanda and Alma’s story would have been worth watching.

Allen’s story is equally emotional but a lot of it requires prior knowledge of Allen and you need to actually care about the overall conflict. That, and Allen’s story is not touchingly brought to a close during Hallow, in fact we are left right in the middle of it with all of the characters focussed on Allen and wondering what will happen next, which doesn’t really help the audience get any closure.

Lenalee fares better than Lavi and Krory but she doesn’t get much chance to show off the fact that she actually can be a pretty good fighter. Then again, that was always a persistent problem with Lenalee. Long gaps in-between action where she would serve the other characters cups of tea. In that respect, Hallow kind of just keeps her being Lenalee.

The Noah are fairly present during the 13 episodes but it doesn’t feel like we’ve gotten any closer to any of them. Road is still awesome but she barely appears. While as individual characters the Noah aren’t really developing, as an overall threat they do make their presence felt. However, they are more of a natural disaster kind of threat than individuals and it kind of feels like the show would like us to notice they have individual emotions and motives but it doesn’t give us enough time to really care about them.

So the characters are a bit of a mixed bag in Hallow. Then again, if I were to take 13 episodes out of the original we’d probably have the same problem. Characters do disappear for extended lengths of time while we focus on other stories and then we come back to them eventually. Again, newcomers to the show will be lost by a lot of what goes on and won’t really know why some other character points are significant. The only two characters you will really gain any kind of connection with are Kanda and Allen.

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Third point: What are they doing with the pace? Let’s fight, let’s go investigate, let’s make a new friend, wait we’re fighting again, sad moment flash back, fight… Okay, we get that there’s a lot you want to do and a lot you want to tell us, and that the original series is also plagued by pacing issues, but if I entirely take the fan-girl in me away, the pacing is rubbish. It is genuinely bad and distracting to the plot and character development.

Fourth point: Visuals? Alright, this is where fans are split. Visually, D Gray Man Hallow is fine when looked at in terms of just being a show. It isn’t particularly beautiful or well done, but neither is it ugly. The problem is it isn’t D Gray Man. The colour palette is too bright and most of the scenes are too bright. D Gray Man was almost always dark and dripped atmosphere whereas Hallow really doesn’t feel like it has a distinct visual identity. That said, I didn’t find the visuals a put off, but they certainly don’t draw me in the way the original did.

Fifth point: The story continues but where are we really going? The fight between the Order and the Noah is always in the background of this show and individual conflicts (that somehow tie into that) are almost always in the foreground. The 13 episodes we had here almost entirely revolved around the conflict with the Noah, which is a massive deviation from how the war has been conducted prior. That’s part of the reason why so many characters have been sidelined. They aren’t strong enough to survive a fight with the Noah and we already know that given how effective the Noah have been previously at killing exorcists. The problem with this entire focus on the Noah is that we still don’t actually know what they want (other than to destroy Innocence) and now the Order’s motives (which were always questionable) are entirely suspect. So we are following a conflict between two groups and we don’t really know what either is ultimately striving for. Meanwhile we are mostly following the story of the lower grunts who really don’t know what is going on but are having to make some really significant moral choices.

Here’s the thing with the plot. I love it and I love that we aren’t being spoon-fed everything in an instant. However, if the story doesn’t continue then we’ll be left in limbo, again.

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Final point given this has gone on long enough: Is Hallow entertaining? For me, I loved it. I loved being back in this world with these characters and seeing the story move on. The visual changes aside (and voice actors), it just felt right. It was like reuniting with an old friend. You’ve both changed but somehow none of that matters because you are just happy to see them again.

Recommendation: If you haven’t watched the original series and you don’t mind dark anime, check it out right now and then watch Hallow. If you’ve seen the original and you haven’t watched Hallow, watch Hallow. Also, keep hoping and hoping that they don’t end it here. If you don’t like your anime dark and you don’t like seeing main characters going through hell, this anime is not for you.

Tuesday’s Top 5: Pets and Mascot Characters

Mostly pets and mascot characters are either superfluous to a show or just plain annoying (yes, Kinako from Twin Star Exorcists I am looking at you), however every now and then one of these characters actually does draw you along into the show, or help the plot along significantly, or just lightens the mood and makes you happy to see them. This is my list of my favourite pets and mascot characters.

Feel free to add yours in the comments or to comment on the most annoying pets and mascots (which will definitely be a future list though I’m not sure when).

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions to Hawk (Seven Deadly Sins), Mokona (Tsubasa Chronicles), Maru (Kimi ni Todoke) and Fuzzy (The Morose Mononokean).

Number 5: Kuro from Ao no Exorcist

You have to admit for a demon cat, Kuro is pretty adorable. And useful in terms of a pet to own. He talks telepathically and can become big enough to ride into battle. Anyway, I’m glad Kuro stuck around for the remainder of the series. He plays an important role in helping the brothers reconnect with their ‘father’s’ memory and that also ultimately helps them get over some of their own relationship baggage.

Number 4: Kon from Bleach

 

There’s something about a modified soul stuck into the body of a plush lion that just really makes me laugh no matter how many times I watch the episode where Kon first appears in Bleach. Admittedly, after the first season, Kon’s role becomes very much comedic relief he initially plays a reasonable role in allowing Ichigo to transform into a Shinigami and to ensure people didn’t ask why Ichigo kept passing out all over the place. While Kon is at times borderline annoying, just when you would write him off he does something incredibly selfless or touching, or just manages to nail his comedic timing.

Number 3: Happy from Fairy Tail

 

I think it would be kind of mean to actually imply that Happy is a pet. He’s definitely a character in his own right and quite a cute one at that (sorry, who doesn’t find a flying cat adorable). Whether he is playing the comic relief, the heart of the group, a mode of transportation, or just chiming in with his usual ‘Aye’, Happy lives up to his name and is a great character.

Number 2: Timcanpy from D Gray Man

Whether we are talking Hallow or original, Timcanpy is a great character. Originally belonging to Cross Marion, Timcanpy was given to (left with) Allen Walker after Cross went missing. Timcanpy is silent (unlike every other character on the list) but still manages to convey a lot of personality. More importantly, he shows Allen genuine affection at almost every turn in the anime which is kind of needed given how dark and horrible most of the things are that happen to Allen.

Number 1: Nyanko Sensei from Natsume Yuujinchou

Much like Happy, I’m not sure we can actually call Nyanko a pet (or a mascot) but for a youkai transformed into a maneki-neko he is pretty adorable even as he is fat, self-centred and a little bit of an alcoholic. That said, he is amazingly funny and he does look out for Natsume when it really matters (though he frequently let’s lesser threats just run their course). There is of course the concern that one day he might try to eat Natsume for real, but the longer the show runs the less likely it seems. It really feels like Nyanko Sensei is getting just as much from hanging around with Natsume as Natsume is gaining. Okay, I also included an image of his true form. So this little cutie is my number 1 pet or mascot in an anime (and is hanging off my phone).

I did realise after writing this that three of my five top picks are cats. That’s probably saying something about me but I’m not going to think about it too deeply.

That’s my list. Who or what would you have included on yours?

Summer 2016 Week 13

This is my last overview for Summer 2016. I know some shows still haven’t finished but next week I’ll be posting my first thoughts on the Autumn season shows as they start rolling out (though from the looks of Crunchyroll and AnimeLab I may be a little short of shows this season – I say that now but will have to reconsider once I see what actually gets released). That said, I will begin whole season reviews of the Summer shows in a few weeks (once I’ve had some time to gather my overall thoughts).

No real surprises in the order this week but some interesting conclusions (and non-conclusions) to some highly entertaining shows. I think that’s my main take-away from Summer. I enjoyed watching more shows than I did during the Spring season.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the season below.

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I Must Keep Watching

  • D.Gray-Man Hallow (Ep 13)
  • Alderamin on the Sky (Ep 12)
  • Tales of Zestiria (Ep 12)
  • Days (Ep 12 – No episode this week)

And D Gray Man was awesome until the end. I’ve loved being back in this world and now all I can say is I want more because we are still left without resolution. Let’s hope it isn’t 8 years this time.

Alderamin was not finished yet but with one episode to go it is fairly safe to say that this series needs a follow up. While watching Ikta manage a tactical retreat has been fun, it would be excellent to see how he follows this up. Admittedly they could still kill him off but that would seem to defy any of the narration we’ve had throughout the series about how amazing he was going to become.

Tales of Zestiria the X delivered a stunning lack of resolution but did bring the current battle to an end (of sorts). Objectively I know there are a lot of issues with this show however, I am really enjoying watching it week to week even when I’m being critical. I’m actually kind of looking forward to another season with these characters.

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Still On My Radar

  • The Morose Mononokean (Ep 13)
  • Momokuri (Ep 26)
  • 91 Days (Ep 11)
  • Food Wars (Ep 13)
  • Cheer Boys (Ep 12)
  • Orange (Ep 13)

The Morose Mononokean continued right to the end at showing us an alright show but never tipped the scales toward becoming a great show. And while not every show needs to be great, this one just continued to feel lacking even while what it delivered was perfectly watchable entertainment.

Momokuri finished the way it started. Creepy but adorable simultaneously. This one is going to be hard to write a full review about but I’m kind of looking forward to reading over my impressions from the season and finalising my thoughts.

91 Days gave us a great second last episode. If the series had maintained its momentum from start to finish it would have been a must watch. Unfortunately all the ending is doing is making me wonder why it took so long for them to kick the story into gear.

Food Wars gave us a conclusion to the placement and all the characters came back to school but really this whole series has just been a bit of a let down after the manic energy of season 1. Still, it was worth watching the continuation of the cooking journey.

Cheer Boys left us on a fairly flat note but the series as a whole has been a delightfully empty piece of entertainment and other than an episode 5 recap I haven’t really got any complaints.

At last Orange is done. I feel this show would fair better with a binge watch rather than week to week, though even that may not remove some of the more frustrating aspects of watching the show. I guess the real issue is I’m not much for touching emotional teen drama and that is what this show drips with from start to finish.

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Not Dropped But Close

  • Hitorinoshita (Ep 12)
  • Taboo Tattoo (Ep 12 – Finished last week)

MAL tells me Hitorinoshita is finished but you wouldn’t know it from watching the episode. After leaving us with questions all series they are going to finish it without really revealing anything (odd after two episodes of nearly continuous flashback that we still know almost nothing that we couldn’t have kind of figured out).

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Dropped

  • Cute High Earth Defence Club Love (Dropped at Ep 4)
  • The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi (Dropped at Ep 4)
  • Sweetness and Lightning (Dropped at Ep 4)
  • Danganronpa 3 (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • Mob Psycho 100 (Dropped at Ep 1 – Revisited to Ep 3)
  • Servamp (Dropped at Ep 2 – Revisited to Ep 3)
  • Rewrite (Dropped at Ep 2)
  • The Disasterous Life of Saiki K (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • Ozmafia (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • Scar-red Riders XechS (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • Qualidea Code (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • First Love Monster (Dropped at Ep 1)

And now we’re done with Summer. Bring on Autumn and let’s hope we find some more shows worth watching.