And With This Monologue I do Progress the Plot

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During the Autumn 2018 anime season, it occurred to me that there are some narrative devices I just don’t take seriously anymore. They may have at one point served a valuable narrative purpose or been written with thought and care, but now it seems as though every example I run across is either tongue-in-cheek satirising itself or is just an example of lazy writing. That isn’t to say there aren’t good examples of them, but the problem is that when a narrative device is used well it almost seamlessly fits into the story in such a way that you barely notice its existence.

Some spoilers below.

However the villain’s monologue is a device that you just have to wonder if it has outlived its usefulness. Or perhaps it is more the case where you have to wonder if writers even try anymore. It is almost as though we get to that almost climatic moment and in order to just get to the smack down as fast as possible they have a character just narrate and vomit exposition at the other characters to tie everything together.

It almost reminds you of that moment in Space Balls where the characters after explaining something to one another turn to the camera and ask the audience if ‘everybody got that’.

Spaceballs (movie) - Everybody got that.

Though, I will make one correction to what I said earlier. It wasn’t actually a villain who decided to monologue and exposition dump that really got my attention last season (mostly because I stopped watching Index and to be fair every character in that show is prone to lengthy exposition). No, it was Mei from Release the Spyce.

Yes, Mei had revealed herself to be a traitor to the rest of her posse of adolescent female spies and gone to the enemy. And then – here’s the big reveal – it turns out it was all part of a plan to double-double cross and actually bring down the bad guys (like we didn’t all see that one coming given the strong themes about the power of friendship and the like).

Release the Spyce Episode 12

However, despite this being revealed in about two lines of dialogue, Mei then proceeds to explain how it came about and was planned and executed, eating up valuable screen time, giving the villain time to prepare her next move, and more or less killing any pacing the episode may have had (so the theory that a monologue gets you to the fight faster doesn’t hold weight in this example). It was a disappointing choice in a series that had great potential early on but never could figure out its tone or characters and then didn’t manage to deliver a climax memorable for anything other than this particularly poorly delivered monologue and a villain whose kimono like outfit was strategically slashed mid-battle.

Now why this particular monologue isn’t necessary comes down to a few points. Firstly, Mei’s motives and actions aren’t that complicated. There’s nothing revealed that is actually necessary to understanding the plot or gives more insight into the character. Sure we get some particulars about when the plan started but that’s largely unnecessary noise and could have easily been left out or revealed later. Secondly, these characters all the way along were about not making stupid choices in battles. And gloating to the villain rather than actually doing something is a stupid choice. It just doesn’t make any practical sense.

Now, if we were to compare that to something like Death Note where both Light and L get numerous monologues (both internal and external) we can see why the ones in Death Note work better. Firstly, it is a consistent narrative device throughout the whole series. Secondly, the information revealed and the insight it gives to the characters is usually not something the audience could determine otherwise. I mean, realistically L doesn’t give a lot away with his actions or facial expressions. His expository moments are highly necessary to provide some context.

And finally, Death Note uses the monologues and exposition to really push the tension and drama of a scene. It isn’t a delaying tactic nor does it break the mood of the piece. It sets the tone and drives the scene rather than hindering its progress.

The Incredibles (movie) - "You Sly dog! You had me monologuing!

Basically, monologues get mocked, a lot, in stories. And a lot of the time they should be. They are intrusive, poorly conceived and barely useful. Ready Player One is jumping to mind right now given the sheer amount of internal monologues we are subjected to as the world is explained to us as if we couldn’t just see it on the screen – fully understand why they were needed in the book but they certainly weren’t once the story was moved to a visual medium.

However, it is important to remember that occasionally when a character starts a monologue, there’s a real reason behind it and there might be a solid narrative purpose. Just because we see this device misused so often doesn’t mean we should throw it out altogether. It just means we need to think about how it’s being employed and whether or not it is doing its job.

And let’s remember: if it’s in an anime, the main job is to entertain us. So I ask, are you entertained? What anime monologues have stuck with you? Were they good, bad, or somewhere in-between? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Karandi James
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The Double-Edge Sword of a Misanthropic Protagonist

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If you’ve watched any amount of anime, there is no doubt at one time or another you have come across the misanthropic protagonist. While they aren’t as prolific as the ‘nice guy/girl’ protagonist or the ‘wanna-be the best’ protagonist, they are a breed of protagonists that crop up from time to time, though they are often met with mixed reception.

Evangelion

And it is no wonder. Having a character who openly hates or looks down upon the other characters is a reasonably hard sell when not done for the sake of comedy, to set up a situation where the protagonist can be reached out to by others and grow, or where the protagonist is just the villain of the piece. As much as people might find the average edgy misanthrope character amusing for a few episodes, or even find them endearing as a supporting cast member, to try to carry the plot and the audience’s affection for an entire season is quite the ask.

However, when done well, this type of character has a few advantages right from the beginning. Firstly, they tap into the cynicism that seems to be the current trend of the day. That isn’t to say that people who like misanthropic protagonists are actually all cynics who hate the world and want global warming to raise the ocean levels and drown all puppies (though there might be some of those in the target audience). It is more that there is a growing feeling of discontent across populations in the world that things aren’t going well and a general feeling of wanting to do something but feeling ultimately powerless. The misanthropic character appeals by pointing out the worst humanity has to offer, usually in a mocking manner, and for a moment the audience is given some kind of release to the mounting negativity.

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The second reason this type of protagonist works is because they aren’t fighting for recognition amongst a thousand other faces. While I said in the beginning they crop up from time to time, they are still very much in the minority when looking at protagonists in anime.

It isn’t really hard to know why when you consider that they generally promote social disharmony, point out the follies of those in charge, and generally go about solving things in fairly socially destructive manners. You can kind of understand why Japanese anime doesn’t exactly promote these types of protagonist as the everyday.

Where the misanthrope is more normally seen is in the reluctant love interest or support character and generally speaking the nice guy/girl protagonist ultimately heals whatever dramatic back story lead to their social discord and they ultimately learn to make friends again, or whatever. This is the more normal character arc for a misanthropic character and one that serves a valuable purpose but isn’t exactly compelling.

But, while there are advantages to this particular character archetype, it isn’t without its risk. Too negative and you risk depressing or alienating your audience. Too anti-social and you create a situation where your protagonist is literally sitting in their room without interacting with others. Or every interaction is barbed, strained and painful. There’s definitely a balance that needs to be had with this type of character. They need to express misanthropic ideology while at the same time they need to be fairly socially nuanced. So today, I want to look at just two examples.

hachiman

The first, and most obvious example of a misanthropic protagonist, is Hikigaya Hachiman from My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong As I Expected. Now, his misanthropic tendencies are clearly on display from his opening monologue. The audience sees him as a keen observer of others, someone who analyses the situation around himself and draws conclusions that have sufficiently wrapped themselves is rationalisations to hold a glimmer of truth. It is a truth that most audience members can find themselves to relating to, on some occasions. And that is the mastery of Hachiman as a character.

He isn’t the person who an audience member might always agree with. He takes things to extremes. His self-destructive tendencies are counter productive even to is own goals of basically slipping through school without drawing undue attention. And yet, every now and then he says something that makes the audience sit up and take notice. He’s someone who has perfectly phrased a sentiment or a fear that has dwelled inside that member of the audience and how it has been given voice.

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The other reason Hikigaya Hachiman works so well as a character is that he is not stagnant. He makes steps toward becoming more social and open and then another scar is added as life happens and he retreats. This pattern continues again and again and we see Hachiman wall himself off, terminating the inroads that other characters have made. While it would be nice to believe that in the source material maybe Hachiman gets to his happy ending, ultimately the anime leaves him hanging perpetually in a limbo of his own making, and to be honest with a title like ‘My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong As I Expected’ I kind of suspect that there is no happily ever after to be found for this protagonist. But I’ll be okay if when I finally get to reading the light novels to find that I am wrong.

But while I have spent the last three paragraphs talking up Hachiman as a character, I am now going to point out the obvious. He isn’t universally loved by the audience. While many people connect with this apathetic and cynical bundle of adolescent edginess, other find him grating, defeatist, and needlessly negative. I wish I remembered which blog I read one particular post on that essentially tore Hachiman’s character apart from the ground up because it really did summarise the opposing viewpoint on the character quite well.

By using a misanthropic protagonist, the writer’s have tapped in to one audience and touched a nerve, managing to make them connect and relate to a character who exhibits many negative traits. However, they have equally managed to put off other members of the potential audience who just find it an exercise in futility to listen to a character who ultimately isn’t going to overcome the chip on his shoulder and save the world from all the wrongs (okay, that was a little bit more condescending a line than I intended, so sorry about that). However, maybe the issue isn’t that Hachiman is negative in his view on people and his solutions are destructive. Maybe the problem is that Hachiman didn’t go far enough.

Yagami Light Death Note

And that leads us nicely into the final example I’d like to discuss, Yagami Light from Death Note, the original anime series and not the movie. Now, Yagami Light is as misanthropic as they come and he is that way long before he ever finds the Death Note. He looks down upon those around him and feels the whole world is rotting. The only thing he lacks is the power to act upon his desires and then the Death Note literally falls into his hands.

As a character, Yagami Light is intriguing, and yet he is never put on a path of redemption. He hates the world and decides that the only way to save it is to become its god and essentially create a new world in his own chosen image. Admittedly, misanthropy may be the least of Light’s issues when you consider he’s also a mass murdering psycho with delusions of potential divinity. His arrogance is almost limitless as is his ultimate ambition.

light-vs-l

Yet Light is a character who regularly comes in on people’s favourite male character lists and is generally fairly beloved by the fan-base. Some of the heftiest criticisms of the Netflix movie was its depiction of Light and the fact that fans were very unhappy with how the teen was altered.

Unlike Hachiman, Light does not doubt his course of action. He has almost no moments of hesitation. He doesn’t open up to others tentatively and hope that maybe this time it will end differently. Light’s walls are absolute and people fall into the category of criminal, victim, obstacle, or potentially useful and he uses them as such. That said, Light ultimately frames himself as someone fighting for, or even creating, justice. He believes that truly and his actions for the most part are not those of a villainous character but the actions of a protagonist seeking to change the world, though many will disagree with his course of action.

Though perhaps that is why he is brilliant. He is not a character who is wavering and second guessing himself, but a pure embodiment of the rage and anger almost everyone feels at some point in this unfair world. Where others are powerless, Light lashes out at the injustices that everyone can see, though in the process he creates a new form of injustice and a new kind of terror. And ultimately his end is in-glamorous and his goal unrealised.

Light

So the question becomes has Light gone too far or did Hachiman not go far enough? What appeals about these characters and what turns audience members away? And more importantly, what do you think about misanthropic protagonists in anime? Be sure to leave me a comment below and let’s get the conversation going.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Inquiring Minds Want To Know #34: How did you decide on your avatar?

Another week and another fantastic question. I’m still seeking questions to keep this series going a little longer so if you have something you want to know, be sure to fill in the simple survey below and I will definitely get to it.

Question: Perhaps someone asked this at one point, but how did you decide on your avatar? Did you draw it yourself, and does that reflect in any way what you look like? From Moyatori

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I think I’ve mentioned it somewhere before on my blog, but my avatar is just kind of there. Honestly, I didn’t expect my blog to last very long so I didn’t put a lot of thought into it when I started. I’d previously been trying to discuss anime with people in the Crunchyroll forums (with incredibly limited success) but one day someone started a thread for people to create an anime version of themselves and post it. I don’t even remember what I used to create the avatar but she’s designed to look like a cuter version  (much, much, much cuter version) of me when I was in my teens.

The colour of the hair and clothing is pretty accurate but the eye colour is way too bright as mine are closer to blue-grey or blue-green and pretty pale. The chin is too pointy and the nose is well just totally wrong. I like the accessories she’s wearing in her hair and her necklace because they kind of fit with what I was going for as a teen, though they are a little bit dated for me nowadays.

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I actually really liked how it turned out though as I’ve thought more and more about making my blog a full time thing, I’ve started to think I need something designed specifically for the blog (if for no other reason other than not being sure about whether or not I’m supposed to be using that image the way I do). And that is why I set up the account with Ko-Fi as my goal with that is to have enough to commission some art that is made for the purpose of the blog.

I think if I ever do reach the goal and look at getting an avatar made specifically for the blog, I’d probably like her to look a little bit older (I am in my thirties after-all) and while the book is a cute prop, it really doesn’t have anything to do with being an anime blog. There’s also a specific style pendant I’d love to have included as I wear it almost continuously.

On that note, if you are or happen to know someone who is looking for an art commission, I’d love it if you could pass their name along and some samples of work because it is something I really would like my banner, logo, and profile pic to all kind of look like they were designed purposefully and not just kind of thrown together. While I’m not at a point where I can pay for this yet, I’m working on it so research is always good.

maka2

This was a great question and as always I’d love to know about my readers as well. So, how did you decide on your avatars?


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Karandi James

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Inquiring Minds Want To Know #33: What do you think of live action adaptations of anime?

Thanks to everyone who responded to the question drive but if you didn’t get a question in, remember you can still fill in the survey at the end of the post or use the link in the sidebar to send me a question. This week we get a very timely question and I really enjoyed going back and thinking about some of the live action adaptations I’ve watched since becoming a blogger.

Question: What do you think of live action (dramas or movies) adaptions of anime? Any favourites? from Rise

Netflix Live Action Bleach

I’m going to be perfectly honest here, live action adaptations of anime have an incredibly patchy history and a fairly well deserved reputation for being less than stellar. The Dragonball Evolution isn’t just a poor adaptation of the source material, its just a terrible movie to have to endure watching.

Still, that isn’t every adaptation. Okay, the Full Metal Alchemist adaptation wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible.Ghost in the Shell worked well enough for me but that’s probably because I’m not a fan of the anime in the first place and just took it as a generic sci-fi kind of movie and it succeeded at that. Death Note angered me at first and then I detached my expectations from the anime and realised that as a cheap horror movie it could work just fine so got over it, but none of these have really stuck.

DeathNote5

That actually leaves me with two live action adaptations I really enjoyed just because they were really enjoyable and not because I looked for some positives amongst a mess of an adaptation.

The first is Erased the series. I really enjoyed seeing this story brought to life and feel they did a great job of it. I know the live action is based more off the anime so most of the changes between the anime and the live action are more because the anime veered off course, but I actually feel from a plot point of view the live action is stronger. I still really love the anime but I prefer the ending as presented in the live action series.

Erased2

The second is one that just came out and that is Bleach. Given how incredibly on the fence I was about the idea of a Bleach movie and the fact that I went in really expecting to be severely disappointed, this movie actually put my concerns to rest and delivered what is a fairly decent movie in its own right and probably the best kind of adaptations I could have hoped for. It remains true enough to the feel of the anime that what I loved about the franchise is recognisable but it makes sufficient changes to sit relatively comfortable as a movie. It really is just good fun and one I definitely recommend.

Bleach Netflix Live Action

Thanks for the question this week and I’d love to know what my readers think and what some of your favourite live action adaptations of anime are (or if you hate them). Please leave me a comment and remember if you have a question for me you can simply complete the survey below.


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Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Ordinary Anime Characters Who Inspire

Tuesday's Top 5

While many an anime character has inspired me, it is worth noting that a lot of anime characters have super powers, or magic, or destiny, or some other force working for them, which makes their actions a little less applicable to the everyday life that most of us lead. This list is to the heroes (and ordinary people) who have moved me to action or have given me strength when I have needed it. That makes is a fairly personal list so I’d love to know who would end up on your list of inspiring anime characters. While it hurts that I can’t add Maka to the list this time round, the characters below are all exceptional and yet completely human.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Akito from Bakuman for standing by his friend from start to finish no matter how rough things got.

Number 5: Nagisa (Assassination Classroom)

Nagisa.png

One might argue that none of the students in Assassination Classroom are particularly ordinary, but that is their most compelling trait. They are ordinary. They are the ones who are overlooked and cast aside, who have been down so long that they have forgotten that they even have the right to stand up. Watching Nagisa move from someone who accepts this role to someone who has a clear presence about him and is comfortable in his own skin is something that is greatly inspiring. Okay, most of us don’t have a yellow octopus for a teacher who we get to learn to assassinate, but most of the lessons Nagisa takes on board are strictly of the ordinary kind of valuing who you are.

Number 4: Kurumi (Kimi ni Todoke)

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Season One of Kimi ni Todoke introduced us to Kurumi and she was a nasty piece of work determined to get Kazehaya to look at her and to get Sawako out of the picture. After being rejected she undergoes an incredible character transformation that reminds us all that just because we don’t get what we want doesn’t mean it is the end of the world. Kurumi becomes a truly great character and by the time the end of season 2 rolls around you really want her to find her own happiness.

Number 3: Kousei (Your Lie in April)

Kousei.png

This one might be cheating given the kid is definitely a genius. Yet, much like with Nagisa, the lessons Kousei takes on board during the heart breaking journey that is Your Lie in April are strictly the ordinary everyday ones that we all could learn from. Learning to grieve and mourn, to accept what has happened, to find a purpose, and just to find who you are. These are the things Kousei discovers throughout the course of his journey and they make him incredibly relatable and when he takes the stage in the final episode you cannot help but feel moved by him.

Number 2: Oreki (Hyouka)

Oreki.jpg

While this might seem an odd choice for number 2 on the list, there’s something truly remarkable about how this character lives his life. He has his own ideal of energy conservation and yet at the same time he doesn’t want his ideals to harm the experiences of others. He doesn’t want to let his sister down and later Chitanda and so acts contrary to his own nature on more than one occasion. This is also inspiring because while some people might see that as giving in or compromising, what it really demonstrates is an acceptance of a need for community and that it can’t always be about you. Oreki is inspiring because he finds a balance where he does have moments where he refused to do things or to get involved and other moments where he acts for the benefit of others. While I’m still not sure I like the anime, I quite like Oreki’s character and he reminds me that sometimes it isn’t all about me.

Number 1: Yuri (Yuri on Ice)

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Did we really think anyone else was going to take this spot? I almost disqualified him because being a world champion (even if he’s only in the top 6) kind of makes him somewhat extraordinary, but the only superpower he has is persistence and determination and so I let him take the top spot. His journey is fantastic and watching him stand up again and again and try to overcome his weaknesses never ceases to inspire.

And there they all are. Who would you have put on your list?


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Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime That Only Have One Season

Tuesday's Top 5

There’s something to be said for an anime that can tell a complete story in 11, 12, 22, or 24 episodes and not leave the viewer unsatisfied or waiting for a conclusion that may never occur. While I have nothing against the longer running anime brethren, the anime I rewatch most often meets the condition of being a complete story in and of itself. Which actually made it quite hard to narrow this list down.

Now the order is entirely subjective and based only upon my enjoyment of the story and how complete it feels when watching, so I’d love for you to share your top 5 anime with only one season. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Parasyte, Ouran High School Host Club (this one actually kind of needs a sequel), and Trigun.

Number 5: My Love Story

ore-monogatari

I don’t know why it is that I am completely in love with this anime and even though there’s plenty more that could be said about the characters and where they go, I never finish the story feeling like I’m missing out. This one is a sweet story that deals with two people not falling in love, because they actually cover that in about three episodes, but with the act of being in love for the first time and not really knowing what to do. It is awkward at times, adorable at others, and overall it is an incredibly rewarding watch.

Number 4: Death Note

Death1

While logically you could write sequels, spin-offs and whatever else you want from this story, but I’m pretty sure most viewers will agree that Death Note feels decidedly finished with that final episode. Realistically, the story felt finished before it got to the end given the narrative structure. When you set up two characters in binary opposition and one dies, that definitely feels like an end point. Death Note pushes on nonetheless leaving us with a definitive ending later on, though a little bit of the satisfaction does get sucked out in the process.

Number 3: Erased

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Mystery stories are probably a bit easier to make feel complete. When you are first waiting for the who is the bad guy reveal followed by the will they catch him, it kind of gives you a clear end point for the series. Needless to say, while there are some lingering questions about the nature of revival, the story is most definitely complete in this anime.

Number 2: Your Lie in April

Your Lie In April

Much like Erased, there was always an end point in mind for this series. However, what we get is a fairly profound character journey and ultimately an ending that will leave you in a smiling/teary mess as you can’t decide whether it was tragic or beautiful or somewhere in between the two. Anymore of this would simply take away from the power of that ending and really that is not something anyone should ever try and do.

Number 1: Angel Beats

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This anime begins with Otanashi waking up in a limbo and being told he has to fight against god. The story explores the true nature of the world he is in and the other characters inhabiting it. By the time we get to the end of this story everything that ever needed to be said about this world has been said. And while you have to wait around until after the end credits of the final episode to get to the resolution you so desperately want, it is most definitely there and leaves you with a feeling that everything is going to work out okay which is pretty much how I want to feel at the end of the emotional roller-coaster that is Angel Beats.

That’s the list for this week, so now I’m turning it over to you. What is your favourite anime with only one season? Or what are your top 5 is narrowing it down to one is too hard?


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Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Smart Anime Characters

Tuesday's Top 5

Before getting into this list, I will point out that one of the most annoying things in stories than an anime character who the audience is told is smart who then acts like a complete air-head for the entire run-time. I get that some characters are smart in one specific skill and therefore have issues at other things, but some supposedly smart characters just act really dumb. Therefore, my list is focusing on consistency. Characters who are smart and who consistently seem to think through their actions, even if they don’t always draw the right conclusions.

That said, I’d love to know who you would have included on your list of smart anime characters so please leave a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Light (Death Note), Uruhara (Bleach), and Ami (Sailor Moon).


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Number 5: Lelouch (Code Geass)

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Realistically I understand the Lelouch made a lot of mistakes. Still, given he was a high school student who was presented with a sudden opportunity to take what he wanted, he actually thought through quite a few things and had a lot more success than he might have if he wasn’t such a quick thinker. Ultimately, for all the mistakes Lelouch made, he found a way back and some of his plans were pretty brilliant. Probably Lelouch’s biggest problem early on was over-confidence but after the end of season 1 he seemed to overcome that and from then on he was pretty good at what he was doing.


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Number 4: Rei (March Comes in Like a Lion)

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Rei is a genius Shogi player. He doesn’t get much about life and what he does get, he overthinks horribly, but considering his age and experience, the boy is pretty smart. Even though he puts himself down all the time and, particularly in season one, he paints himself in a negative light, he’s someone who is managing to live on his own, study his craft, and attempt to finish school mostly on his own. He’s one smart cookie and one who deserves to give himself a bit of praise every now and then for what he has achieved and he shouldn’t worry so much about his failures.

Number 3: Kurisu (Steins;Gate)

Steins - Microphone

I had a hard time deciding between Okabe and Kurisu, but ultimately Kurisu is the more logical and the one more likely to put the hard work in to figure out what makes things tick. Okabe’s more manic approach may stumble upon a success every now and again, but Kurisu is the one who can begin to understand the how and the why and the limitations. Almost all of the adaptations to the phone-microwave as the series went on were because of Kurisu’s testing and meticulous work and so she well and truly deserves her place on this list. That and she managed to not kill Okabe for calling her Christina.


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Number 2: Tatsuya Shiba (The Irregular at Magic High School)

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For someone who can’t perform well on the standardised tests of his world, Tatsuya Shiba more than makes up for it everywhere else. Brilliant at magical theory, manipulating magical devices, and generally figuring out ways around his limitations, he’s more or less unstoppable (which would kind of be why so many people throw the overpowered label at him). Be that as it may, he’s a very smart character and one I would not want to be up against in any battle of wits – though that’s probably true of every character on this list.

Number 1: Korosensei (Assassination Classroom)

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For all that he ended up an experiment that went a bit wrong, Korosensei proves over and over again that he knows his stuff as a teacher. He delivers the curriculum across a range of subjects and also expands the students’ knowledge into a whole range of fields.  If it wasn’t for the whole blow up the world thing, he’d be the perfect teacher and he certainly deserves his place as number one on my list.

And that’s my list but I’d love to know what would make your list.


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Karandi James

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