Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Review Episode 9

He’s Got Some Moves

Demon Slayer - Tanjiro attacks

Demon Slayer Episode 9

We may have slipped into even more standard shounen territory this week on Demon Slayer as the battle with the two demons extends the length of the episode and we end with the battle as yet unresolved. Not that it was bad. In fact, the fight has been pretty interesting so far and some of Tanjiro’s attacks are bordering on spectacular even if they’ve yet to actually do significant damage.

One criticism I will make of the episode is the amount of reused sequences. We get a flashback to them discussing collecting demon blood and a replay of a sequence within the same episode. Not to mention the opening sequence is essentially a replay of the end of the previous episode. While the new material we got looked great, there was definitely some padding in this episode that just didn’t sit right and definitely felt like a cost cutting measure.

However, petty criticisms aside, it was difficult not to get swept up in the fight this week. As Tanjiro, Nezuko, and the demon doctor and her body guard go from cowering from attacks and getting beaten down to moving onto the attack. Even knowing three out of the four of them are demons and can regenerate, there’s still substantial weight behind the situation as characters lose heads and limbs alike (though they are going to have to explain why losing his whole head didn’t kill him).

As for Tanjiro, he’s being pushed harder than ever before (not that previous battles have been easy). He’s pulling out all the moves he’s got and for once his sense of smell showing him the winning move didn’t decisively and more or less instantly end the battle. Equally, he hasn’t pulled out some new secret move or gotten a mysterious power up. He’s combining the skills he’s shown the audience he has in new ways to fight a foe more powerful than any he has faced and while he’s taken a battering he isn’t down yet.

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I do love the water effects when he’s fighting though. Early on it seemed a little odd and slightly intrusive, but honestly it is beautiful and makes his attacks so much more dynamic and interesting to watch. Plus they continue to change up how he uses these attacks allowing for a variety of appealing visuals.

Nezuko and Tanjiro - Demon Slayer

The fight goes on and while I am still hoping this doesn’t end up being the kind of show that drags on fights for episodes at a time, there’s very little to complain about in this episode other than the fact that the fight is yet to resolve and a little too much repetition in between spectacular attacks.

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Top 5: Anime With Demons or Devils

Tuesday's Top 5

There are a lot of anime that include demons and devils in their cast and I know that a list of 5 can’t even begin to cover all the great titles out there. Still, I decided to have a go at listing my 5 favourite anime with demons or devils in them. I did rule out just standard yokai anime though as I wanted this list to focus more on demons or devils as the are more often represented in the west. Still, there are still a lot of anime out there that we could have got into and with one exception I haven’t even touched the sheer number of comedy anime that use these kinds of characters. Nor have I touched on the harem anime that go there so I’m sure there are plenty more anime that people could list and I’d love to hear your choices in the comments below.

I will just give an honourable mention to Devilman Crybaby. I didn’t really like that anime for a number of reasons but its depiction of demons was actually pretty solid and so it deserves a space on the list.

Number 5: Blue Exorcist

I feel a lot of people will probably have this one higher up their lists and if I had only watched season one I probably would as well. I really enjoyed the set up to this story in the first episode where we learn the truth about who Rin’s father was and we see part of the cause for his volatile temper and violence. While this anime takes a lot of liberties with the church structure, terminology, and the basic idea of what an exorcist is, it is undeniably entertaining. The second season lacked a lot of that charm that season one brought to the table, but still, it is a solid entry in terms of an anime focused on the idea of exorcising demons.

Number 4: Hataraku Maou-Sama

The Devil is a Part-Timer is one of those anime that just hit the right spot for me particularly in terms of its comedy. However, a lot of the enjoyment I found in the anime was in the way they portrayed the devil and his demon generals. Also, the connection between the hero and Satan was very nicely established and as the story progressed we had a bit of a look at the follies of humans and angels as well. While definitely not trying to be serious about its premise, this one is just a fun story where demons, humans and angels interact and the end results are interesting.

Number 3: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Weird for me to include an anime that isn’t even finished yet but I must say that I’ve really been enjoying how demons are portrayed in this one. While Tanjiro certainly has sympathy for demons changed from human against their will, largely because of Nezuko’s situation, he is also aware of the destruction demons cause if left to their own devices and after the first encounter where he hesitated, he’s managed to take appropriate action even if we continue to see signs of his compassion. It’s an interesting concept and I’m looking forward to learning more about the different demons we’ve met who haven’t been instantly killed.

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Number 2: D Gray Man

I couldn’t have made this list without mentioning the Black Order of exorcists who are fighting against the Millennium Earland his Akuma army. What I particularly like about this one is that the demons aren’t just springing to life on their own. The Earl makes deals with humans in order to breed his soldiers and so the number of Akuma the order are facing is in direct correlation to the weakness of humans who, desperate to reconnect with a loved one, accept the Earl’s dubious offer and end up chaining their loved one’s soul inside an Akuma. It is horrific but for Allen it is even worse as he can see that trapped soul which causes conflict inside of him when it comes to defeating them.

Number 1: Black Butler

Well, you all should have seen that one coming. However, when it comes to an anime that does an excellent deal with a devil storyline, Black Butler is still my undisputed favourite. Sebastian is every bit a demon and yet he covers over his monstrous nature with suave appearance and manners only allowing glimpses at the truth beneath the surface when it suits him to do so. I genuinely love this story and have really enjoyed the Book Of spin-offs even if season 2 didn’t really work for me.

That’s my list but there are plenty of other anime out there featuring demons or devils and I’d love to know some of your favourites so leave me a comment below.

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Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Review Episodes 3 + 4

The training and the test sequence.

Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 4

Episode 3

Training episode. I could probably leave the review at that. We’re going to see Tanjiro run, jump, swing a sword, get beaten down, get up again, and so on and so forth. Training episodes are all much the same regardless of the anime they are a part of.

Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 3

To be honest though, this episode really highlighted how little impact Tanjiro has a protagonist. While there was nothing wrong with this episode, and formulaic training episodes are part and parcel of the genre, there was also nothing to cling to during the episode because his character just doesn’t really have any character. Or at least not a particularly interesting one.

Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 3

It also seems way too convenient to the narrative that Nezuko is sleeping during the whole training period. I wonder if the writer didn’t know what to do with her while Tanjiro trained, but it just seems really ridiculous that for nearly two years she is sleeping while he gets stronger. It would have been different if she’d been injured or something in the previous episode and it took a length of time for her to recover, but even then there’s a limit to how long someone can conveniently be unconscious.

Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 3
I kind of had to wonder why the old guy hadn’t done this, but then again, he didn’t really want Tanjiro to take the test so maybe it makes sense.

On the bright side, I’m curious as to what Tanjiro will do now that the training sequence is done with. Clearly he needs to still pass the special test to actual become a demon slayer but  I wonder if we’ll go straight to that or if something more interesting  might happen first. I’m kind of hoping for something more interesting because this episode was pretty ordinary to say the least with the only point of real interest being the two kids who show up to help him slice the boulder.

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Episode 4

There’s definitely a few staples of shounen stories and Kimetsu no Yaiba is stepping us through each and every one of them. For those who desire novelty in their entertainment, this isn’t going to work at all as we’ve gone through the standard call to arms, finding a mentor, training, and now the first test sequence, but honestly Demon Slayer isn’t doing too bad of a job at delivering this story.  

Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 4

Where the plot might be dismissed as cliché and each step is pretty much a standard stepping stone, the pace has been pretty quick as we’ve covered all these steps in four episodes rather than stretching out a training sequence over an entire arc, and realistically each episode has been well enough executed in its own way, though episode 3 is still the low point so far.

Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 4

In keeping with standard shounen trappings though, this episode begins by replaying the final exchange between Tanjiro and the fox-masked boy. This type of replay of a battle that has taken place at the end of an episode is actually one of my pet hates of the genre. Worse than a recap at the start of an episode. Mostly because it eats episode time and somehow implies that within seven days I forgot the pivotal climax of the previous episode. Throw in the idea that our protagonist Tanjiro claims he can smell the winning strike and I just have to wonder how far they were reaching to try and find any novel trait to give him.

Oh, and I almost forgot this anime’s obsession with foreshadowing something that happens like a minute later. Old guy warns Tanjiro of demons who eat lots of humans and transform their bodies and guess what Tanjiro runs into on the exam?

Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 4
It is good to have goals.

Despite those complaints though, this was another fun enough episode to watch. From the warm mentor/student moments before Tanjiro sets out to the exam, to seeing Tanjiro fight post-training sequence against two demons, there was more than enough going on and nothing really lingered past its welcome. Even the giant, taunting demon fight was completed fairly quickly and even if we learn next week it isn’t quite dead yet (I guess that’s possible), it doesn’t feel like they are going to stretch these fights for episodes as some less reserved stories might.

Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 4

So far, Kimetsu no Yaiba has remained just interesting enough for me to enjoy it even as I pick at the more obvious genre elements and wonder just where this intends to go. If nothing else, at least Tanjiro isn’t a shouting protagonist because shouting shounen protagonist is now a trope I will not put up with after dealing with Asta in Black Clover for only 12 episodes before pulling the plug.

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Up Close With Sebastian Michaelis

It was probably only a matter of time before I decided to focus one of these posts on Sebastian. Given he’s already had his own top 5 list because I just love his character so much. But what is it about him that is so great?

Firstly there’s his voice. The Japanese version is voiced by Daisuke Ono and seriously I fell absolutely in love with that voice. It is just the perfect mix of threatening, seductive and playful all in one and he delivers some absolutely fantastic lines. Honestly, I’d happily just listen to that voice all day. Which made it a little bit hard for J Michael Tatum, the English voice actor, to really win me over and to be honest, despite delivering a great performance, I actually will not watch Black Butler in English because Sebastian just doesn’t sound right (in honesty he sound better in English given it is actually set in England, but to be perfectly honest I just fell in love with the original and just couldn’t get used to Sebastian sounding different).

In terms of appearance Sebastian is no slouch either. Period Victorian butler style really suits him even if the historical accuracy of a lot of the clothing is highly questionable throughout the entire anime. Still, his coat and tails suit him admirably, and I could have screamed when one of the characters told him he looked like a crow and shouldn’t wear it. I don’t know, he just looks incredibly together and elegant.

However, it is Sebastian’s very personality that really sells him as a character. Whether he is possessively protecting and watching over Ciel, or kind of messing with him, Sebastian is always good fun to watch. He is fairly brazen in a lot of his actions not really seeking to hide his demonic nature and his oft said catch phrase really just sums him up beautifully.

He’s also incredibly playful. Though he plays with a lot of his victims the way a cat would play with a bird or a mouse so I’m pretty sure Sebastian is the only one having fun in those instances.

There are so many things that are just right about Sebastian. Including his use of cutlery and other unconventional weaponry. I love when he sighs at being put behind schedule or when the other servants, in an effort to help, have created more work for him. There is something inherently funny about a demon feeling put upon by humans and household chores.

Still, if he was just an overpowered bully, Sebastian wouldn’t be the great character that he is. He has a very weird personal code that seems self-imposed providing some limitations to his actions and lines he will not cross. As such he finds himself put upon by mundane actions and requests as well as the whims of Ciel when Ciel is in a mood to play his own games.

There are also the more nuanced moments of his character. Such as when Ciel’s life was in danger and Sebastian didn’t go to help him knowing another human was about to intervene. The human died and Ciel slapped Sebastian for failing. Yet, in Sebastian’s eyes he had upheld his contract as Ciel was perfectly fine due to the intervention of the other human.

Also, the final sequence of season one where we see Sebastian rowing Ciel down the river before sitting him on the chair and leaning in is one of those truly perfect moments (one of the many reasons I dislike season two given it kind of kills the impact of the sequence). Watching the complex relationship of Sebastian and Ciel reach this moment is a wonderful experience and few relationships are so clearly defined as this one becomes.

All and all, Sebastian Michaelis is just an amazing character to watch and one that I fell in love with from the first episode of Black Butler.

So, do you love Sebastian’s character? If yes, I’d love to know what your favourite moment with Sebastian Michaelis is?

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BLACK BUTLER ARTWORKS 1
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Another Cute Girls Beat Demon With A Time-Warp Twist

Endro - Post Title Image

Endro! Episode 1 Review

We see to be swimming in stories that take place after a final battle in recent times, though here’s a twist… they went back in time to before they beat the villain and the villain has gone back to but remembers that final battle. It all sounds kind of cool and fun and then we realise it is a slice of life story featuring a quartet of cute girls with the demon being transformed into a loli teacher for whatever reason.

Endro Episode 1

If we find out at the end that the only reason the heroes get strong enough to defeat the demon lord is because the demon lord was the one who trained them (though technically she’s trying to get them expelled), I’m probably going to be really annoyed at this.

Endro! Episode 1

All and all though, the first episode is pleasant. The characters are cute without becoming annoying and so far we haven’t had any random boob groping or the like (though we did get some ear nibbling and sleep talk plus the outfits of a couple of these girls are reminiscent of the uniforms in Akashic Records of a Bastard Magical Instructor).

Endro Episode 1

What might get annoying is the demon as the loli teacher. While she has the potential to be quite interesting as the only one aware of the time travel and what happened when the heroes confronted the demon lord, so far she’s kind of petty and pathetic and her schemes are transparent and juvenile. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to like here but she’s certainly the weakest link for me so far.

While I’m not 100% sold on this one if it comes down to a choice this season of watching this or Ueno-San I will definitely pick this without hesitation.

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SEISHUN BUTA YAROU WA BUNNY GIRL SENPAI NO YUME WO MINAI 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SAKURAJIMA MAI
SEISHUN BUTA YAROU WA BUNNY GIRL SENPAI NO YUME WO MINAI 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SAKURAJIMA MAI

Castlevania Season 2 Series Review: Oh Look, We Got The End Of The Season

Castlevania Season 2 Promotional Image

I mentioned repeatedly in my season 1 review of this that it really wasn’t a season. It was a taste test. A preview or introduction to a series that hadn’t been fully made before release. Here, with the so called season 2, we get the rest of the season bringing the total episode count now to 12 which is pretty much a standard season. So other than a prolonged gap during which time I forgot most of the pertinent details forcing me to rewatch the first four episodes before getting into this, was there any real purpose to this? All I can figure is that they really weren’t sure of their market and wouldn’t commit the resources but that’s a really terrible way to deliver a story as all it really did was make the faults of this second season more apparent.

See, there’s a flow to stories. When you get caught up in them, it is easy to miss small details or to stop yourself from asking hard questions or picking at the edges to see what falls out. But once the story has had a jarring pause and you’ve had months plus a rewatch to contemplate, it is much harder to become immersed in the world. Particularly when the series itself seems to be doing everything possible to stop you.

Castlevania Season 2 Camilla and Hector

Now, that isn’t to say Castlevania is bad. Because, it actually is quite a fun little romp of a story provided the copious blood and guts being splashed around aren’t a problem and the clear sequel bait endings for the surviving cast members doesn’t annoy. If this had come out in a solid chunk and I’d binged the 12 episodes altogether, I’d have had an absolute blast and while I still probably would have noted a few of the flaws, I don’t think I would have been as disappointed.

I was going to try to start positive but I realised that every positive I have for this season comes with a caveat so we’re just going to have to wade right in and hope we don’t sink.

If you like your blood and violence (and if you made it through the first four episodes the answer to that is probably yes), then season 2 is going to deliver. However, there’s a different kind of feel to it. Whereas season 1 had kind of a cruel humour with its demons running from the city carrying an infant (the excess of this imagery just made it more amusing than horrific and maybe that’s saying something terrible about me) and Trevor’s whip cracking removing eyes and the like. It was excessive but fun. It was almost pushing things to the absurdist level as it rained fire and blood down upon the masses. Season 2 sadly lacks any of this kind of edge and instead we are left with vampires tearing through small packs of fleeing humans and a few fights between various demons and Trevor, Sypha and Alucard. These conflicts are still bloody but nowhere near the same level as the city slaughtering madness that the first four episodes threw at us.

Castlevania Season 2 Trevor

And that seems to be a reoccurring theme of season 2. We get more of things given there are more episodes, but at the same time it is less. There’s less impact, less care, and generally less involvement. The church that was such a threat in season one gets some mentions but otherwise are completely absent from the conflict. The vampires spend more time squabbling amongst themselves inside the castle and Trevor, Sypha and Alucard spend an inordinate amount of time investigating the museum that is Trevor’s family vault. With the three main groups separated for vast spans of time (and the church more or less vanishing) there’s a lot of waiting for things to get moving. It doesn’t help that the vampires barely attack anything during the run of the eight episodes here so unless you are fresh on the memory of season one you may not even really remember why we should care about Dracula’s whole kill all the humans plan.

But, we’ve just gotten to my big issue with this second season. Dracula. In season one, the time we spent with him was not great but it was well used time. They built up a very strong impression of this character who was literally larger than life. His love for his wife, his fury at her loss, the pain he felt and his anger being distributed amongst the masses in a slaughter that wasn’t justified but understandable. Here, well Dracula is just a hollow shell waiting to be killed (as more than one character points out). There’s a clever line from Alucard about this whole massacre thing just being a really long suicide note, and he’s right but that just kind of makes Dracula’s character seem even more hollow. The fire and fury is gone and we never even got to see it fade. We went from this extraordinary and imposing menace to the guy who spent nearly eight episodes sitting in his chair staring at the fireplace and occasionally having one on one chats with the various minions who were all scheming around him as he sat more or less oblivious or indifferent.

Castlevania Season 2 Dracula

Perhaps if we’d seen this transition and the slow loss of his connection to the war he started and the drive he had, it might have played out more emotionally. However, the transition happened off screen. One season we see him in one form and now here he is a different and much less interesting one.

They do fill a lot of the screen time with his followers though. The majority of the vampire characters are either glorified extras or just annoying, with Camilla being a notable exception. That said, her character remains more or less on the side of things and ultimately hers is a story unresolved so there’s little satisfaction to be found in this one. Also, her sudden swearing at various points might have been amusing but it kind of seemed vastly out of character for her (plenty of other characters swear and that’s fine, but it just sounded so wrong coming from Camilla – and not just because she was female but rather because it seemed like it didn’t fit with the rest of her persona). The two human generals Dracula acknowledges could have both been interesting but instead they come off as fairly cheap characters with contrasting ends just for the sake of it.

It might be fair to say that none of these characters left an impression, except that even when they are just stuffing around in a library, Trevor and Sypha have real chemistry and the addition of Alucard’s comments and provocations actually just worked really well. Every moment spent with the main group (and admittedly, there weren’t enough moments spent with them) was purely fun and once the fighting started things got very good very quickly. It’s just a shame that there’s so much down time focusing on things that aren’t really all that interesting first.

Sypha - Castlevania

I mean, there are questions about Sypha’s seemingly unlimited magical reserves and Trevor not being totally dead because even though he’s from a family of monster hunters he is actually a human, and Alucard just kind of does whatever because apparently half-vampire means worse than a full vampire though how that works is unclear… but none of this matters. This group is awesome fun. Let’s see more of them.

All and all, watching both season 1 and 2 of Castlevania together won’t be a bad watch. There’s plenty to enjoy – again though with a warning about the blood and gore, it is definitely a feature. However, this isn’t something that is unmissable and it probably won’t be remembered for long. But hey, whips, swords, magic, vampire killing… It is all good fun just remember not to ask too many questions.

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DEMON CASTLE DRACULA X: NOCTURNE IN THE MOONLIGHT ORIGINAL GAME SOUNDTRACK

Friday’s Feature: Angels and Demons in Anime

One thing all anime fans know is that if it exists as even a vague idea, somewhere, someone has made an anime about it. Probably more than one someone. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that many stories in anime are built on some of the trappings from the Christian and Catholic church. While some of these stories might attempt something resembling a realistic representation, more often than not, in true anime fashion, an idea is borrowed and then it gets the full anime treatment. And while some people might dislike the way various religious icons and ideologies end up being represented, the end result has been a range of interesting stories that might not otherwise have existed.

Now using religious ideology as the basis of a story, or borrowing heavily from religious texts for characters, themes and ideas, is nothing new, there’s something quite interesting in the way anime tends to do it. With only around 1% of Japan actually identifying as Christian, writers can take quite a few more liberties with the subject matter they are borrowing from without as much fear of audience backlash as writers in more western countries. And while movies like Dogma and the like show that even western writers can get away with subverting the original message, there’s a much greater risk involved.

Devil.png

And while at some point I’d probably like to get more into the various influences of religion within anime narratives, today I’m really just wanting to look at how angels and demons have been represented in a small section of the medium. There are far too many stories that have borrowed these iconic characters to really generalise across the board, but there’s a definite trend that has surfaced in how angels and demons are being depicted.

The trend I really have noticed is that angels are getting a really bad reputation in a lot of these shows (a trend that also seems to be taking place in the west with fallen angels being a trend that bubbled up after the success of Twilight and the market over-saturated with vampire romance and so people jumped on the fallen angel bandwagon instead). While it might be a little earlier than that bubble, Angela/Ash from Black Butler is a prime example of the type of character and depiction that angels regularly get given.

Angela.jpg

Cruel, sadistic, and slightly crazy, Angela is very driven by her goals which may or may not have anything to do with a higher will power. Her actions are justified as righteous in her own mind even as they leave the audience wondering who the real demon in the show is. And that isn’t to say that Sebastian comes off looking saintly given his violent and predatory nature is well known. It’s just that when you compare him side by side with the angel there’s definitely a question of which one is supposed to be in the right. Even the neutral Grim Reapers end up siding against the angel toward the end of the season as their plan threatens to upset the balance of the world.

Gabriel.jpg

If we look at something more recent and comical, Gabriel Drop Out gives us essentially a lazy, drop-out of an angel who’s inherent good nature is so easily corrupted by the pleasures of earth (gaming) and very quickly abandons her original mission. While I didn’t get far into the series, I found this to be an interesting depiction of an angel. It didn’t paint Gabriel into shades of gray, but simply had her become a slacker, which really doesn’t fit with the image of an angel but at the same time didn’t necessarily make her bad either. Throw in the fact that the ‘demonic’ characters in the show seemed to be genuinely sweet and there’s a mess of ideologies going on here that are played for laughs and humour but have probably strayed a fair way from the borrowed religious themes.

Even The Devil is a Part Timer works on subverting the audience’s expectations. It sets up a standard Satan versus Hero situation and Lord Satan (Maou) is corrupt and trying to take over the world. There’s no question of his evil nature in the first episode or of the hero’s righteousness. However, as the series progresses, Emi (the Hero), resorts to stalking, petty rumour spreading, jealousy, and other underhanded tactics while Maou pretty much conforms to the new world’s rules and laws. We also learn that Emi is part angel which begins to subvert the idea of what an angel is before Mitsuki shows up.

Mitsuki.jpg

Despite being an angel, Mitsuki is very much on par with Angela from Black Butler. He kidnaps characters, he tortures them while laughing about it, he’s petty and vindictive, and ultimately he’s overwhelmed by the power of Maou. And at that point no one feels even slightly sorry for him because he’s a complete an absolute jerk who totally had it coming.

One anime that takes a different approach is Angel beats where Angel (or Tachibana) is originally portrayed as a cold and efficient killer, but later it is realised she is acting in the best interest of others she’s just a really, really bad communicator and no one had ever taken the time to ask her what she was doing. Turns out she isn’t an angel anyway which kind of makes the title of the show a bit odd (unless you count the fact that the computer program she’s using to generate some of her weapons is called Angel Player). Ultimately though, Tachibana is actually trying to help the other students live a happy school life, make peace with their previous life, and move on. Which is probably the most angelic sounding character I’ve mentioned so far.

Angel Beats

Demons in anime go anywhere from being mindless beasts hell-bent on destruction, to articulate and savvy romantic interests. The defining trait of being evil is questionable in most of these characters and a lot of them are portrayed as being very human or having very human motivations. And regularly there is no connection between demons and any specific religion as they come across more as random monsters then creatures from the pits of hell. Frequently demonic characters are ones a human audience can sympathise with. It’s an interesting trend though it does make you wonder where all the ‘evil’ demons went. You know, the ones that actually wanted to devour human souls and lead us into ruin.

Now as I said at the start, there’s nothing new about the borrowing of icons and ideologies from religion in narratives, and trends in narratives come and go. But it will be interesting to see what sorts of angels and demons we get from here on out.

And on that note, I’d love to know who some of your favourite angelic and demonic characters are from anime so please be sure to leave me a comment below.

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