Tuesday’s Top 5: Male Anime Characters With Pink Hair

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a colour list and I actually struggled a bit with 5 males I liked with pink hair. The female list which will come out next week was definitely easier to come up with. That said, there are some interesting characters on the list below and as always I’d love to know who your picks would be for male anime characters with pink hair. I kind of went for characters that are important to their story and really rock the pink hair colour.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Number 5: Hikaru (Ouran High School Host Club)

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Okay, right from the start I am cheating here because Hikaru does not normally have pink hair. Yet, for one episode of Ouran High School Host Club, after a fight between the twins seemingly triggered by an innocuous comment by Haruhi, the twins dye their hair blue and pink. I have to admit, I kind of liked the look and kind of wished they’d kept it going for the rest of the season.

Number 4: Zange Natsum (Inu X Boku SS)

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There’s something super-cute and simultaneously super-creepy about Zange. He see’s far too much and isn’t above manipulating others for his own entertainment. That said, he certainly marches to the beat of his own drummer and provides some of the best scenes in Inu x Boku SS so despite his more questionable tendencies he became one of my favourite characters.

Number 3: Hisoka (Hunter x Hunter)

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I still haven’t decided if I like Hisoka as a character or not. He’s incredibly creepy but he adds a lot to the story and he has some great moments. Plus, you have to admit he’s got a style all of his own and I really couldn’t imagine him with any other hair colour other than pink. He’s certainly earned himself a spot on this list even if I feel like running the other direction.

Number 2: Alice Color (Sunday Without God)

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Alice Color only shows up in the final arc of Sunday Without God (though is in the OP from the beginning) and while he’s a fairly stoic character he is also very cool. Driven and determined to free his town from its endless loop, even when he believes that he’s going to die to do it, his story is one of the best in Sunday Without God.

Number 1: Natsu (Fairy Tail)

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Okay, if it was a question of my favourite character in Fairy Tail, Natsu wouldn’t get much of a look in. Despite some pretty cool dragon themed powers and a fiery personality, I don’t really enjoy Natsu’s antics in much of the early parts of the story (definitely prefer Gray). That said, when looking at distinct pink haired anime guys, Natsu immediately jumped to mind. While I think a lot of the other characters are more interesting, Natsu is definitely a bundle of energy, his interactions with Lucy are adorable, and when he gets going in a fight you know its going to be big. Plus, he has a talking flying cat for a friend so you really can’t beat that.

That’s my list this week, be sure to check back next week when I list my top 5 anime females with pink hair.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Snow White with the Red Hair Season 1 Series Review

This is a re-post. All reviews from the 2nd of July until the 7th of July will be reruns. New episode and series reviews will resume on the 8th of July.

Overview:

Shirayuki lives in the kingdom of Tanbarun as a herbalist until one day the Prince (having heard of her unusual hair colour) orders her to become his concubine. Rather than accepting that fate, she cuts off her hair (in a somehow perfectly straight line) and crosses the border into the Kingdom of Clarines. There her story really begins.


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Snow White With The Red Hair Season One


Review:

Alright, I’m going to admit there will be some gushing in this review. And no, I won’t argue that this is a ‘perfect’ anime or story but I am going to argue fairly passionately that this is storytelling done well.

Snow White with the Red Hair starts out very Disney. You’ve got your Princess character (though she is of low birth) and the Prince who wants her (although as a concubine so icky). She runs away and through the forest and comes across an empty house, though because she respects break and entry laws she sits outside and waits for the owner to return. We never do find out who actually owns the house, but a boy named Zen and his two attendants come by because they use the house and this is where the story really takes off. Zen is actually the Prince of Clarines but it isn’t his princliness that get’s Shirayuki’s attention. It is hs general advice about finding her own fate and the two embark on one of the most interesting relationships I’ve probably encountered in romance focussed anime.

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Ultimately, this is a love story between Shirayuki and Zen (two of the sweetest and yet well rounded romance anime couples I’ve ever encountered). Both of them have issues, particularly their tendencies to take on everything rather than ask for help, but they are both genuinely striving to improve themselves and to help others. That said, they aren’t sickly sweet to the point of having no other personality. At times Zen is quite stubborn and childish, even having a temper tantrum after losing both a sparring match and a verbal argument with the first prince of Clarines, Izana. He’s also impulsive but has enough sense to heed the words of his attendants (most of the time). Shirayuki is the strong female character done right. She doesn’t need to be a violent psychopath, she uses her words and steely determination to get through things and when all else fails she can accept the occasional rescue. Not that I have anything against female characters who fight, but I found it refreshing to have a female lead who could clearly be labelled strong entirely because of her personality. Anyway, I featured Shirayuki way back when I did my top 5 list of female red heads because she is an amazing character.

Even if the rest of the anime stank, the relationship between Zen and Shirayuki would be enough to sell this story. Fortunately, the rest of the anime is pretty good.

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Visually it does look Disney like. From the sweeping shots of the castle in Clarines, the forest sequences, to even the character designs to a point. It is a beautiful anime and has some quite bold colour choices for romance. I normally find romance anime to be a little washed out and faded looking (not all, but a lot), however Snow White goes for some fairly striking colours. The red hair for Shirayuki is obvious, and the various flowers and herbs being used are quite distinct, but even Zen’s standard blue for clothing and eyes, the forest greens, Obi’s darker brown and greens all draw your attention to whatever the current focus of the scene is. The colours work well and distinguishing mood and characters and are just visually appealing.

The music will sweep you away. While it is all pretty standard fairy-tail fare, it is so perfectly chosen to the story that you can’t help but be moved by it. Even the ending carries such a feeling of hope and a sense of moving forward that you kind of just get drawn on to the next episode before you really think about it.

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The supporting cast are standout. Kiki and Mitsuhide as Zen’s attendants aren’t just there to be there or fill the background of scenes. They are rich and interesting characters in their own right (though you’ll have to watch season 2 for some more specific details about their relationship). Kiki is a physically strong female, but she is also gentle, caring, occasionally sarcastic (particularly toward Mitsuhide), and proud. Her interactions with Zen, Izana, Mitsuhide, Obi and Shirayuki are always interesting and informative. She’s fairly laconic but her choice of words is quite deliberate  and the voice actress, Kaori Nazuka does an excellent job of conveying more meaning to the audience than just the words themselves. I haven’t watched the English dub but I really hope they managed to preserve Kiki’s character.

Mitsuhide at times comes off as a sound board for the other characters, but his is probably the most interesting relationship with Zen (other than Shirayuki) due to their history. This is hinted at several times early on and directly shown when it is revealed that Mitsuhide is the only one Zen really listens to once he’s made his mind up. Later in the series we get a flashback to Zen’s younger days which not only helps explain some of Zen’s emotional baggage but further elaborates on the relationship between Zen and Mitsuhide.

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Of course, my favourite character is Obi. He’s so funny and he’s a little bit darker than the other characters so regularly makes fun at their expense. He is also the outside of the group, having first tried to scare off Shirayuki before becoming one of Zen’s attendants. This gives him an outsiders perspective on the group and his insights are usually amusing. His fighting style is also pretty impressive, as is his general agility. Possibly my favourite moment from the series (outside of a Zen and Shirayuki scene) came from the scene where Obi was looking after the drunk Shirayuki.

I’d love to write more about the cast (the other herbalists, the first prince, the prince of Tanbarun, the various villains who show up throughout the series, the couple of nobles we meet) but in honesty it would take too long. Basically, the cast works brilliantly and while no one detracts from the central characters, they all have their moment to shine.

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Beyond that, the story itself is always interesting. Yes, this is a romance, but at the same time Shirayuki and Zen are both pursuing their own goals and the romance fits around that. There are episodes focussing on illness and Shirayuki working as a herbalist, episodes that deal with Zen’s childhood, episodes looking at the social status of the Prince and how he is seen by others, and all of this works really well to create a sense of moving forward and makes the moments where Zen and Shirayuki can have a quiet moment together and we see the progress of their relationship even sweeter.

I will say that I’m really glad there was a second season (season 3 where are you) and I will review that separately at some point.


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Snow White With The Red Hair Original Soundtrack (Michiru Oshima)
Snow White With The Red Hair Original Soundtrack


Also, before I wrap this up I do need to add some criticisms.

  1. Why does Shirayuki’s hair not grow at all during the months after she moves to Clarines? Are they trying to suggest she’s cutting it off like that regularly because otherwise there’s no reason for it to still be that short.
  2. How did Shirayuki support herself after moving to Clarines before she passed the test to become a herbalist? She mentions once that she’s going to look for a job but when she finds out about the test she then studies for what seems like it must be weeks but doesn’t work. She has to be paying her rent somehow.

Yeah, they were petty criticisms but they bother me every time I watch this series through.

Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend  this anime to people who only like action or darker anime, but for everyone else, this is a must watch.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Trains and Train Sequences in Anime

I love a good train sequence and I know I’m not alone. There’s a reason why it is a staple of action movies and dramas alike. Trains can let the cast sit back and have those poignant conversations to catch the audience up on details and ensure that the characters can’t escape midway through, they allow for some thrilling cat and mouse, and mostly they allow for an escalated sense of drama because until they get to the next station you aren’t getting off. At least not without a few bumps and scrapes. There’s just something really fun about trains and they serve so many purposes in stories outside of just getting the characters from point A to point B.

Below are some of my favourite train sequences. When I thought of this list my main consideration was how memorable the train or train sequence was within the anime. I’d love to know your favourites so leave a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mention: Full Metal Alchemist – It is amazing how much exposition takes place while the characters are on the various trains travelling around the country.

Number 5: Fairy Tail

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Okay, the train in Fairy Tail has a number of purposes. Firstly it does just get the cast from point A to B. It also allows for some bonding between team members. It’s also one of the many sources of the ongoing joke that Natsu gets motion sick. And, because it is Fairy Tail, the train and the train tracks are also the sight of a fairly intense battle sequence. Or it would have been fairly intense if the battles that came after it hadn’t completely eclipsed it. At the time when you watch it, the battle seems like a big deal. Whichever way, the train and the fight were well remembered even though its been quite awhile since I put Fairy Tail on hold and I need to get back and finish watching it at some point.

Number 4: Chuunibyou

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Love and Other Delusions indeed, but the scene that stands out to me more so than any other save the climax of season one is the scene where Yuuta watches Rikku do her thing and stares in amazement as the train door opens and she struts on, before realising he neglected to get on and he is now late for school. It’s a classic moment and one that really defines the relationship the two characters will carry on with for the better half of season one. So while technically not on a train, when thinking of train scenes, this one immediately came to mind.

Number 3: Spirited Away

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A rare entry from an anime movie on one of my lists. I’m not the biggest fan of Spirited Away, it’s pleasant enough but it doesn’t really stick. And yet, for some reason the train scene does. It isn’t even a major point in the story as it really is just a visually pretty interlude as we move from one setting to another and stretch out the run time of a story with some striking scenery. However, it did serve its purpose and it is quite an iconic sequence.

Number 2: Izetta: The Last Witch

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As much as I ended up not enjoying Izetta very much as a whole, the train sequence from episode 1 was pretty brilliant. It was exciting, it got me hyped for the setting and time period of this anime, and it was actually the highlight of the entire series. Too bad it peaked in episode 1. But, it does make this train sequence one that it worth remembering because it did exactly what it needed to in grabbing the audiences’ attention.

Number 1: Baccano

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Could there ever have been a different choice for this list? The Flying Pussyfoot is legendary and this train dominates as the setting of the most memorable of the interwoven stories in the series. So many characters have converged in a confined space with their own backstories and motives. There will be laughs, mis-understandings, and blood. So much blood before this train ride is completed. Definitely a train ride to remember even if it does take the better part of a season to see the entirety of it.

Again, this was my list, but I’d love to know your picks below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Characters with a Tragic Backstory

Are there any anime protagonists who have a happy backstory? Because that might be something a bit different given the sheer number of characters who come from a past of misery and despair. Okay, I hadn’t really thought about what I was in for when I started drafting this list and to be honest, it was a bit of a nightmare thinking about whether having your parents burned to death after being sewn together was more tragic than having your entire country torn apart by war and to be honest, those kinds of decisions really can’t be made objectively. This list is definitely based on how emotional I became while watching the characters’ tragedy unfold rather than any kind of definitive measure.

Which anime character has a tragic back story that hit home for you? Let me know in the comments below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: The entire cast of Angel Beats and Lelouch from Code Geass.


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Number 5: Vash (Trigun)

The guy can’t catch a break in the present with everyone wanting to get the bounty on his head and he’s blamed for so many different disasters. He just wants love and peace. But his current circumstances come directly from the tragedy in his past and while it is pretty much impossible to talk about without spoilers, there’s definitely an evil twin brother involved. Regardless, Vash’s pacifist attitude is almost a protest against the horror that his life has been.

Number 4: Gray (Fairy Tail)

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The entire cast of Fairy Tail should probably be on this list as well, though I haven’t really watched far enough along to the know the details of all of them. But fairly early on in the series we have quite the extended arc that delves in Gray’s past and his training by his teacher and to be honest, that was pretty heart breaking. While Gray came out of it better than his fellow student did, there’s still some pretty deep scars and emotional turmoil there. If we think back even further, the reason he was with the teacher was because of the tragedy with his parents so to be honest we’re just kind of lurching from one disaster to the next when we look at Gray’s childhood.


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Number 3: Scar (Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood)

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What is more cliché than tragic backstory? Tragic backstory that leaves a visible scar. Despite making fun of it, Scar’s story is really quite horrific no matter how you want to look at it. As a survivor of a war that was more of an extermination than a fight and as someone who was forced to carry a power he found repulsive, Scar’s general anger towards everything kind of makes sense. Still, the nightmare doesn’t end as he goes out for revenge. It kind of prolongs the misery of this story.

Number 2: Ciel (Black Butler)

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Child with dead parents cliché? But this one is so much better than just that. Set in the Victorian era a conspiracy of monumental proportions brings down the family that serve the Queen and the child, tormented and humiliated, decides that the perfect solution to this is to take them all down even if he has to sell his soul to the demon who becomes known as Sebastian. The real tragedy here is that even if Ciel succeeds at his plan, his young soul is going to be devoured so he has no future. This isn’t just a tragic backstory. This is a living and breathing tragedy.


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Number 1: Yato (Noragami)

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While we haven’t yet heard all of Yato’s backstory, the pieces the audience have seen don’t exactly paint a great picture. Known as a god of calamity who would take on any wish isn’t exactly something that seems like it would be a pleasant existence. Couple in some real daddy issues with the as yet unseen string puller and Yato’s past is complex and has some fairly far reaching consequences. For those who know the silly facade Yato puts on in the presence, even they can see that there’s some deep pain buried underneath. I’m hoping when we finally get the whole story it manages to match the build up but to be honest, a lot of the time seeing Yato’s past makes me want to bring him home and feed him cookies.

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


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Strong Female Character?

I’ve mentioned before that I am a huge fan of Joss Whedon’s work. As a teenager in the 90’s it was more or less impossible not to get on-board the Buffy bandwagon, and it was such a great bandwagon to be on. A female character who was reasonably attractive, had street smarts (though struggled at school), was articulate, and for the most part didn’t end up in ridiculously revealing outfits (after they got over the season 1 mini-skirt thing). Buffy kicked butt, literally, and was such a great character. Add in Willow, who also took the geek girl role and made it something empowering, and Cordelia, who proved that just because you are vapid doesn’t mean you can’t help save the world, and the story was full of these amazing characters that gave a range of ways to be feminine but not helpless.

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One of the things that occasionally bothers me about anime is the lack of female characters that I can really get behind. Part of that is probably the genres I prefer to watch as I know there are more female characters in other genres, but at the same time, it seems odd that whole seasons can pass without a single female character that I actually like or admire. Female characters are there and sometimes they are doing the over-sexualised thing, the damsel in distress thing, or just come off as pretty useless and dead weight to the script. Worse, they exist just to be a love interest or to rotate around a central protagonist who is usually male.

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That said, I find the statement that we need more ‘strong female characters’ to be a little bit mis-leading. Not every female character needs to be strong. Imagine how boring a show would be if every character was ‘strong’. And it isn’t as though every male character out there is strong. There are some pretty despicable depictions of masculinity to be found even in shows where there are some fantastic male characters. And that is more my point. What we need are more diverse female characters to be shown.

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Shiaryuki from Snow White With The Red Hair is an excellent example of this. She isn’t a ‘strong’ character in that she doesn’t wield a sword and she isn’t a martial artist. Yet when you read descriptions of her, her strength always comes up. She has a strong moral character, strong willpower, strong belief in herself and in her actions, and so she gets the label of strong female character. And while she is an excellent example of a different kind of female character, neither the hero nor the damsel in distress (though at times moving through both roles), I think labelling her strong kind of minimises how interesting she is as a person.

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See the strong label puts Shirayuki on the same stage as Erza and Buffy and at the end of the day, if we made this a test of strength, Shirayuki isn’t exactly going to hold her own in a fight against these two. She has a different kind of strength of character and is exceptional, but she isn’t a fighter and we wouldn’t want her to be. Though, while we’re on that note, Erza might be exceptional in her magical and physical strength but with where I’m up to in Fairy Tail it seems her personality is fairly fragile. And that’s fantastic that she is more than just stoic and tough because if that was all there was to her, strong as she might be, she’d be pretty boring.

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However, I’m going to move away from red-heads for a moment (otherwise people might think I’m biased towards female characters with absolutely beautiful and stunning scarlet hair) and look at the cast from Princess Principal. This cast is kind of what I am talking about when I said earlier I think we need diverse female characters. None of the members of the squad in Princess Principal are useless and none of them are one-dimensional. Each comes into the squad with back-story, with some skills, some weaknesses, some baggage and motives, and they all contribute to the team. None of them fall into a single descriptor such as damsel-in-distress or childhood-friend (though those descriptors can be applied it isn’t the sum total of their character at any point) and as such the cast are really interesting to watch and the girls are characters I really enjoyed seeing on the screen. They all get moments where they can be strong, and other moments where we see them in a less desirable light as they crumble under emotional pressure, hesitate, or make poor decisions.

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And that is where a show like Orange kind of annoyed me. Of the three females who had significant screen time, two of them had almost no development as characters. We don’t know their backstory or their motive, and mostly their interactions could have been cut down to a single character (there was no real reason for two of them as they didn’t add anything all that different from the other – lovers of these characters will now hate me). And Naho as a main character could be summed up as ‘nice, shy girl’. There really wasn’t much else to her. Sure she wanted to help the guy but that was kind of coming from the nice attribute and she wasn’t overly effective at actually helping him. One could argue that the male friend ended up doing all the actual work that succeeded at anything and Naho was merely the catalyst for him to act because he didn’t want to see her unhappy. Basically, I didn’t dislike these characters (well, I did dislike Naho) but I didn’t find anything appealing or memorable about them either and I only remember Naho’s name because I kind of prodded at her in my review of Orange and I can’t remember the other names at all.

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Strength comes in many forms and even then, strength isn’t necessarily the only character trait female characters are sometimes missing in stories. Rather than fighting for stronger characters, I think what is really needed is diversity. If there were as many female characters out there and as many types of female characters as male ones, than most of us would be able to find a reasonable selection of characters that we can connect with or find interesting. Not every female character has to save the world or even shoulder the entire emotional burden, but it would be nice if we could see female characters carrying more roles than the traditionally assigned ones in stories. Or even if they have to carry the traditional role of mother and house-wife, at least let them do it with their own touch on the role so that it feels like they are a person and not a stand in for an understood convention.

As always, I’ll turn this over to the readers and ask you what you think.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Problem Solver

I’ve been thinking this for awhile but this is probably the first time I’m really trying to write about it, but fiction is a fairly distorted way of experiencing reality. Not saying that’s a bad thing, by distorting certain aspects of what is real other points can be more easily framed and foregrounded. Complex emotional ideas that usually get swept under the rug in reality can take centre stage or we can just enjoy the fact that our heroes are all but indestructible due to plot armour.

However one way that fiction consistently distorts is that regardless of the medium  stories have this tendency to lead the audience into thinking the problem (whatever it is) has a solution. It isn’t that every fictional problem is always solved neatly or easily, but there is almost always a forward motion in stories and usually this is built around characters advancing towards that final solution whether they ultimately achieve it or not.

And while certainly a non-defeatist attitude or a desire to be proactive might be admirable personality traits, hopeless optimism that everything could be solved is probably not. When we think about some of the situations anime protagonists are faced with and yet mostly they still say cheesy lines like:

I mean, they are wonderfully inspiring quotes that make you feel you can get out there and accomplish anything you put your mind to. But they don’t really deal with the reality most people face everyday. Changing things is sometimes not a matter of having courage but one of opportunity and those are few and far between.

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And sometimes you could try as hard as you like but without others being on board you may not succeed. Also, sometimes you don’t have endless chances to try once more. Sometimes you’ve tried and failed and that ship has sailed off into the sunset when you were not on board (I do mean a metaphoric ocean going vessel here and not a relationship).

That isn’t to say that there aren’t characters out there expressing a more down to earth view of things.

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However, that is why Kunikida is not the main character of Bungo Stray Dogs. He can’t be a main character with that kind of attitude. He exists to be a voice of logic or reason that others (those who will be the main character of their story) fight to overcome. In truth, he is directly positioned to be seen as unhelpful and negative at times and as the person who has a defeatist attitude. Comparing him to Atsushi (who is actually the main character of Bungo Stray Dogs for some reason), Kunikida is smarter, more focussed, and infinitely more talented. And yet it is Atsushi’s never say die and charge into the den of your enemy approach that ultimately saves the day in the final fights though there is a lot of giving up at smaller challenges earlier in the season (what exactly did Kunikida do for the entirety of season 2?).

Then we have Hachiman from My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU. From a casual observation he flies in the face of every other protagonist out there. He is the star of his show and carries with him a negative and self-destructive mantle that he absolutely refuses to change.

He doesn’t want to change, he doesn’t see his personality as a problem, and has more or less given up on expecting anything from the world. Yet then we look at the plot structure of this story. Almost every episode (or arc as some go over multiple episodes) deal with Hachiman having to address a problem and solve it. He may whinge, drag his feet, and act indifferent but even though his solution is unconventional and usually leaves him burned, the fact remains that he continues to act on behalf of others to bring problems to a solution.

The one problem that he refused to address is the problem everyone else in the series is forced to address and that is his own anti-social attitude which as he points out probably isn’t that big of an issue given he’s hardly the first teenager to go through high-school without friends. It becomes an issue though when it becomes apparent that a lot of what he says is an outer facade rather than his true feelings.

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And then of course we have Kirito from SAO who faced a problem so extreme that even with a never say die attitude and you never know until you try still couldn’t win so broke the game. While there might be a touching message about the power of emotions and desire the reality of that situation wasn’t just distorted it was completely thrown out the window for narrative convenience. Of course, any other ending wouldn’t have really worked at that point so we’ll just go along with it.

Fiction is a mirror for the world but it isn’t a true reflection and this is seen clearly in this idea of solving problems. Some things once broken can’t be fixed. Others require a work around, acceptance, or sometimes a tactical withdrawal (otherwise known as running away with purpose). And while all these ideas appear in stories, the overwhelming majority of fiction has a protagonist confronting a problem (regardless of what that problem might be) and in some way dealing with that problem (even if the protagonist ultimately does not succeed).

What do you think about fiction and how it constructs reality? What are some of your favourite quotes from anime protagonists as they go to confront overwhelming danger? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


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Karandi James.

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Character Quirks

Okay, if you are looking for quirky characters, anime has you covered. However, there are some characters who just have one specific trait that in some ways ends up defining them. This is my list of favourite quirks that complement the other features of the character, fit into the narrative being told, and still manage to stand out and be remembered. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.

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

Honourable mentions this week go to: Baldo from Black Butler for cooking with explosives, Fuko from Clannad for carving starfish, Isana Yashiro from K for his umbrella, Lita from Sailor Moon for her constant falling in love, and Himemiko from Kamisama Kiss for clacking her teeth together.

Number 5: Nice Holystone from Baccano

Despite her name, Nice is definitely an explosives junky which ultimately caused the disfiguring accident she had as a kid. Did that in any way curb her enthusiasm for things that go boom? Not remotely. When things get bad, Nice always has a supply of noisy helpers and a big smile on her face.

Number 4: Io Otonashi from Acchi Kocchi

In a show full of one trick and quirky characters it is amazing that I remember Io so vividly, sitting as his desk and spinning his pen. It’s probably just how impressive he is at spinning it that makes it stick but that image really defines his character for me.

Number 3: Saki Hanajima from Fruits Basket

I don’t know if this one is ever explained in the manga, but in the anime, Saki spends a lot of time reading people’s waves. She senses something odd about the Soma’s, knows when people are sad, and generally scares the living daylights out of anyone who is mean to Tohru. At times this is invaluable as Saki is a hard worker in the background ensuring that Tohru is able to enjoy her high school life.

Number 2: Gray Fullbuster from Fairy Tail

Once again, the show is full of quirky characters with a whole array of interesting character traits, but Gray and his stripping down to his underwear is what stuck with me. He was definitely one of my favourite characters and it makes perfect sense that an ice mage wouldn’t be worried about the cold. The fact that this is usually subconscious until someone points out to him that he’s stripped is just funny (as is the back story as to how he developed this trait). And yes, the joke is overplayed, but still funny.

Number 1: Edward Elric from Full Metal Alchemist

Edward takes being offended by comments about his height to a whole new level. To the point where he actually insults himself and his height far more than any other character in the show. It’s absurd and hilarious. It also adds a bit of reality to his character. He is just a kid and he’s having to face issues far above his emotional maturity and deal with the world of adults. Having a few of these very childish traits (he also hates milk) really just rounds out his character.

So what are some of your favourite character quirks?

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?

Tuesday’s Top 5 – Characters who wear glasses (male)

Last week we looked at the ladies who were rocking glasses so this week we turn to the guys. No self-interest in this but I was really looking forward to writing this list. There’s something about a guy who knows how to wear a pair of glasses…

As always, feel free to add your suggestions or who you would have chosen in the comments below.

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

Honourable mentions to William (Black Butler), Maiza (Baccano), Yukio Okumura (Ao No Exorcist), and Reisi Munakata (K). Okay, leaving Munakata out of the top 5 hurt a little but I just couldn’t put him above some of the others.

Number 5:  Murasaki from Hamatora

Murasaki is an awesome character and a great partner to Nice in Hamatora. That said, he may have still lost out to Munakata except that this is a list about glasses wearing characters and not only are Murasaki’s frames amazing but he actually uses his glasses to activate his minimum (super power). While Murasaki is doomed to be the sensible decision maker in the pair, he is a solid friend and a naturally hard worker. Certainly one of my favourite characters from the series.

Number 4: Akito Takagi from Bakuman

I feel bad for Akito a lot of the time while watching Bakuman. He is the motivator and the driving force behind the pair initially and yet Mashiro continually sets the pace. Okay, Akito’s decision to become a manga author isn’t exactly the most sincere dream in the world but he commits everything to achieving the goal. Anyway, he looks amazing in those glasses and they make an otherwise generic face actually slightly memorable.

Number 3: Io Otonashi from Acchi Kocchi

Alright, Io is probably a weird choice but he’s fantastic (and arguable the best thing about Acchi Kocchi though that’s a whole other discussion). As the straight man in a group full of nut jobs, Io has it tough. That said, his mad pen spinning skills, his allure to felines, and his general level headedness all make him a great character and the glasses just help make him stand out even more. There was never a doubt that Io was going to end up on this list.

Number 2: Loki from Fairy Tail

Another great character, Loki kind of slips under your radar early in Fairy Tail but his story with Lucy was one of the moments in Fairy Tail that really moved me. On rewatching the start of this anime I paid a lot more attention to Loki and gradually found he was one of my favourite cast members. Yeah, his womanizing habits early on are irritating, but just look at that smile. Anyway, from the glasses point of view, I like that his are a little bit out of the ordinary.

Number 1: Uryu Ishida from Bleach

Second only to Hitsuguya, Ishida is my favourite character in Bleach. I feel really bad every time he get’s sidelined in a battle because he’s actually more interesting that Ichigo and at least he thinks his way through battles. Plus, it’s all about the gaze. The way he looks at his enemies through his glasses with absolute contempt. Okay, Ishida has an issue with arrogance (so does everyone in Bleach), but you must admit that is one intense gaze.

So that’s the list this week. What are your thoughts?

Snow White with the Red Hair Season 1 Series Review

Overview:

Shirayuki lives in the kingdom of Tanbarun as a herbalist until one day the Prince (having heard of her unusual hair colour) orders her to become his concubine. Rather than accepting that fate, she cuts off her hair (in a somehow perfectly straight line) and crosses the border into the Kingdom of Clarines. There her story really begins.

Review:

Alright, I’m going to admit there will be some gushing in this review. And no, I won’t argue that this is a ‘perfect’ anime or story but I am going to argue fairly passionately that this is storytelling done well.

Snow White with the Red Hair starts out very Disney. You’ve got your Princess character (though she is of low birth) and the Prince who wants her (although as a concubine so icky). She runs away and through the forest and comes across an empty house, though because she respects break and entry laws she sits outside and waits for the owner to return. We never do find out who actually owns the house, but a boy named Zen and his two attendants come by because they use the house and this is where the story really takes off. Zen is actually the Prince of Clarines but it isn’t his princliness that get’s Shirayuki’s attention. It is hs general advice about finding her own fate and the two embark on one of the most interesting relationships I’ve probably encountered in romance focussed anime.

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Ultimately, this is a love story between Shirayuki and Zen (two of the sweetest and yet well rounded romance anime couples I’ve ever encountered). Both of them have issues, particularly their tendencies to take on everything rather than ask for help, but they are both genuinely striving to improve themselves and to help others. That said, they aren’t sickly sweet to the point of having no other personality. At times Zen is quite stubborn and childish, even having a temper tantrum after losing both a sparring match and a verbal argument with the first prince of Clarines, Izana. He’s also impulsive but has enough sense to heed the words of his attendants (most of the time). Shirayuki is the strong female character done right. She doesn’t need to be a violent psychopath, she uses her words and steely determination to get through things and when all else fails she can accept the occasional rescue. Not that I have anything against female characters who fight, but I found it refreshing to have a female lead who could clearly be labelled strong entirely because of her personality. Anyway, I featured Shirayuki way back when I did my top 5 list of female red heads because she is an amazing character.

Even if the rest of the anime stank, the relationship between Zen and Shirayuki would be enough to sell this story. Fortunately, the rest of the anime is pretty good.

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Visually it does look Disney like. From the sweeping shots of the castle in Clarines, the forest sequences, to even the character designs to a point. It is a beautiful anime and has some quite bold colour choices for romance. I normally find romance anime to be a little washed out and faded looking (not all, but a lot), however Snow White goes for some fairly striking colours. The red hair for Shirayuki is obvious, and the various flowers and herbs being used are quite distinct, but even Zen’s standard blue for clothing and eyes, the forest greens, Obi’s darker brown and greens all draw your attention to whatever the current focus of the scene is. The colours work well and distinguishing mood and characters and are just visually appealing.

The music will sweep you away. While it is all pretty standard fairy-tail fare, it is so perfectly chosen to the story that you can’t help but be moved by it. Even the ending carries such a feeling of hope and a sense of moving forward that you kind of just get drawn on to the next episode before you really think about it.

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The supporting cast are standout. Kiki and Mitsuhide as Zen’s attendants aren’t just there to be there or fill the background of scenes. They are rich and interesting characters in their own right (though you’ll have to watch season 2 for some more specific details about their relationship). Kiki is a physically strong female, but she is also gentle, caring, occasionally sarcastic (particularly toward Mitsuhide), and proud. Her interactions with Zen, Izana, Mitsuhide, Obi and Shirayuki are always interesting and informative. She’s fairly laconic but her choice of words is quite deliberate  and the voice actress, Kaori Nazuka does an excellent job of conveying more meaning to the audience than just the words themselves. I haven’t watched the English dub but I really hope they managed to preserve Kiki’s character.

Mitsuhide at times comes off as a sound board for the other characters, but his is probably the most interesting relationship with Zen (other than Shirayuki) due to their history. This is hinted at several times early on and directly shown when it is revealed that Mitsuhide is the only one Zen really listens to once he’s made his mind up. Later in the series we get a flashback to Zen’s younger days which not only helps explain some of Zen’s emotional baggage but further elaborates on the relationship between Zen and Mitsuhide.

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Of course, my favourite character is Obi. He’s so funny and he’s a little bit darker than the other characters so regularly makes fun at their expense. He is also the outside of the group, having first tried to scare off Shirayuki before becoming one of Zen’s attendants. This gives him an outsiders perspective on the group and his insights are usually amusing. His fighting style is also pretty impressive, as is his general agility. Possibly my favourite moment from the series (outside of a Zen and Shirayuki scene) came from the scene where Obi was looking after the drunk Shirayuki.

I’d love to write more about the cast (the other herbalists, the first prince, the prince of Tanbarun, the various villains who show up throughout the series, the couple of nobles we meet) but in honesty it would take too long. Basically, the cast works brilliantly and while no one detracts from the central characters, they all have their moment to shine.

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Beyond that, the story itself is always interesting. Yes, this is a romance, but at the same time Shirayuki and Zen are both pursuing their own goals and the romance fits around that. There are episodes focussing on illness and Shirayuki working as a herbalist, episodes that deal with Zen’s childhood, episodes looking at the social status of the Prince and how he is seen by others, and all of this works really well to create a sense of moving forward and makes the moments where Zen and Shirayuki can have a quiet moment together and we see the progress of their relationship even sweeter.

I will say that I’m really glad there was a second season (season 3 where are you) and I will review that separately at some point.

Also, before I wrap this up I do need to add some criticisms.

  1. Why does Shirayuki’s hair not grow at all during the months after she moves to Clarines? Are they trying to suggest she’s cutting it off like that regularly because otherwise there’s no reason for it to still be that short.
  2. How did Shirayuki support herself after moving to Clarines before she passed the test to become a herbalist? She mentions once that she’s going to look for a job but when she finds out about the test she then studies for what seems like it must be weeks but doesn’t work. She has to be paying her rent somehow.

Yeah, they were petty criticisms but they bother me every time I watch this series through.

Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend  this anime to people who only like action or darker anime, but for everyone else, this is a must watch.