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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: The Power of Clichés, Archetypes, and Being Predictable

We all know about anime clichés, archetypes and tropes and we’ve all kind of come to accept that there are certain characters and events that we’re going to run into again and again. However, for some people, the existence of clichés and archetype characters who don’t break the mould are enough for them to scorn a show and turn away from it. They label it unoriginal or boring and might claim it offers nothing. And yet there are a lot of good reasons for stories not to go off script or venture into new waters.

That isn’t to say that it wouldn’t be nice occasionally for things to be changed up a bit or presented in a new way, nor is it excusing the lazy use of clichés for laughs in exchange for actually writing a story or considering the purpose of the characters but it does mean that just because something is entirely cliché does not mean it is bad just because it is. I think we need to consider the context and the execution (as well as which cliché it is because there are some clichés that individuals will accept more readily than others) before making up our minds.

It is kind of timely to visit this topic with so many new shows starting for the season. It is inevitable that first episodes will be riddled with clichés. And for those who consider that a death sentence on a story that is something you will have to accept.

Why?

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First episodes need to get their point across, set up what their tone is going to be, introduce characters and give the audience some impression of who they are, as well as do some basic world-building. And they need to grab the audience’s attention so there are going to be some bells and whistles thrown in. All of this in some twenty minutes. It is a lot to ask and while some shows put off some of these attributes for later episodes and choose to either focus on world building, tone, or characters rather than all of them in one episode, with the short attention span of viewers these days that’s a pretty risky move. That’s where clichés and archetypes come in.

Archetypes are recognisable and memorable. They also cut through a lot of explanations because people already know what is on offer. In a first episode a female character might come across as the ‘manic pixie girl’ and a male character might be ‘generic self-insert isekai protagonist’ but it instantly establishes where this character is starting and the tone the audience can expect. Depending on which character archetypes we have on display the audience can begin making predictions about the kind of narrative path we’re about to walk and what is on offer. They may have seen it before, but they haven’t seen this version, so as long as the quality of how things are being executed is there, or there is some reason to believe that things are going to get shaken up in future episodes, there’s no reason to dismiss something just because it seems like it might be similar to about a thousand other stories.

Cliche events and actions such as first meetings, finding a secret power, some sort of misunderstanding, and so on serve much the same purpose in these first episodes. They may not be terribly original but as long as they are presented with integrity, that isn’t a huge problem. The issue isn’t from the archetypes and clichés themselves, the issue comes from the lazy way these are sometimes rolled out.

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If we take a look at the current anime season on offer we might look at something like How Not To Summon a Demon Lord and begin with the take down criticism of it being horrendously unoriginal, derivative, and the same as about a million other stories. And certainly it isn’t exactly ground breaking as we’ve seen a player trapped in his in game character that is some sort of demon in Overlord, we’ve seen transported to another world about a million times, and a world based on a game fairly recently in Death March to a Parallel World Rhapsody. We’ve certainly seen ordinary socially awkward guy instantly surrounded by bunch of girls of various types who for whatever reason all end up in love with him (more times than I can count).

The set up is incredibly generic, and then the events in the first episode are incredibly cliche. We have more fan-service moments then I’d care to recount right at the moment, an obnoxious jerk who wants to teach the protagonist a lesson and consequently gets beaten down, and the cute girl who eats a lot. Then the main character who is so incredibly recognisable as a gamer with no social skills or ability to talk to other people without assuming some sort of in game role (No Game No Life and about a million others).

All of this might be enough reason for some anime viewers to pass on this show entirely and I’ve certainly seen a fair number of reviewers who have thrown all isekai offerings this season into a basket and if that basket had been more than just metaphorical they’d have set it on fire (much the same to how I feel about idol anime really). However, not all isekai anime are created equal and while episode 1 of How Not To Summon A Demon Lord certainly didn’t blow my socks off, it did a decent job of setting up a potential story of interest with characters that have most definitely started out as cookie cutter archetypes that we’ve seen before but they all have growth potential.

This is where it gets tricky. The anime now has a short window of time to convert viewers like me from ‘maybe’ into definitely following the show. While generic cliches and archetypes work well enough in first episodes to establish ideas, if the show doesn’t demonstrate a willingness to do anything more than walk the well tread path of other stories, or worse, it has established the characters and then it leaves them exactly where they are, then the show becomes utterly deserving of the criticism of being unoriginal, derivative and not worth the time. But a first episode isn’t enough to make that judgement.

Though episode 2’s opening act with Diablo waking up with his hands on the boobs of both of his female companions probably indicates where this show sees character development.

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While comparing first episodes I’m really looking at How Not To Summon a Demon Lord or The Master of Ragnarok and Blesser of Einherjar to add to this season’s watch list (but not both because even I draw the line on isekai at some point). At the moment How Not To Summon a Demon Lord is slightly edging out The Master of Ragnarok for the simple reason that I had more fun with the first episode and the potential story set up looks like it will have a better pay off. Also, cool explosion (sorry, deep down I’m six years old and I know it) and the reference was cool even though I never watched the anime being referenced (memes do wonders for filling in context sometimes). The Master of Ragnarok didn’t get an immediate skip though because despite the overly harem qualities, the overt sex jokes, and every other poor generic idea this genre likes to throw at us, it does have the slight intrigue of not being another world but potential the past earth and the protagonist isn’t just arriving, he’s already there and established. It gives it just enough points of interest to earn a second episode consideration despite all the flaws with the first episode.

Regardless of which isekai I end up watching, the point that clichés and archetypes aren’t all bad can be made pretty clearly through an anime that also aired recently, Cells at Work. Outside of the concept that the characters are all anthropomorphic cells doing jobs within the body, there’s really nothing particularly original about the first episode. While AE3803 might be a truly adorable red blood cell, she’s your stereotypical naive and shy girl on her first day at work. She’s confused, she gets lost, after a chance encounter with a guy who saves her she literally clings on to him as he shows her around before he saves her again. If we took out the fact that they are blood cells, it is pretty much the script of any romantic comedy anywhere or even an action flick (actually, take out first day on the job and we’ve more or less got Temple of Doom working here).

Cells1b

Yet most viewers would agree that Cells at Work presents itself in such a way that it feels original, fresh and entertaining. The change in setting and the clever way that is integrated into plot and character development allows them to execute a fairly ordinary and familiar story in a way that people appreciated and enjoyed. Something isekai stories might start doing if every ‘other world’ wasn’t generic fantasy land type B (why are no other worlds ever technologically advanced or just completely different from anything we’re familiar with – pseudo-medieval settings have been done to death, move on).

As a reviewer, I’m not above calling something cliche or generic, but at the same time, that isn’t reason enough for me to condemn a story and stop watching. As a fantasy/horror/action/sci-fi fan (in movies) I am well used to seeing very familiar characters and plots time and time again. What I want isn’t something that reinvents the wheel or revolutionises story telling; what I want is a quality story with a purpose and passion behind it that lends integrity to the work. Though that also might be asking too much sometimes and maybe I should just stick to wanting to be entertained for twenty minutes because that is something I’m more likely to achieve.

Alright, over to the readers. What do you think about the use of generic plots, tropes, cliches and archetypes and what do you think about the start of the Summer anime season? Be sure to leave me a comment letting me know.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Blog Update

It has been awhile since I’ve just done a general update on the state of the blog and there’s a few things I need to announce, explain and generally cover, so unfortunately, no real feature this week. Just me rambling to those who choose to read.

Kirito - relax

Firstly: Taking a Break

Okay, first bit of news is that I am taking a quick break from the blog. From July 2nd until July 7th I will not be watching any anime, writing any posts, reading any posts, or actually accessing anything on my online accounts at all. Part of this is because I was travelling anyway. The other part is due to how my health has been recently, I decided I needed to just stop fully and allow myself the recovery time. Hopefully this means when I return on July 7th I will be bouncing with energy and ready to catch up on the first episodes of the Summer Anime season which I am really looking forward to.

Normally when I know I’m going to be a way I do a lot of pre-work to make sure I still have posts going out. This time is different. The only posts going out during this break are re-posts of old anime series reviews that some of my newer followers may not have seen. So some of my favourite series will have their review published again.

However, from July 8th, I will hopefully be fully back with all my usual posts and features, and again, hopefully feeling much refreshed. This is the first genuine break from blogging I’ve had in two years, so I kind of felt it was time.

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Secondly: Ko-fi

Yeah, I finally signed up for a Ko-fi account and have added a Pay Pal donate button to the sidebar. Given I know there are some people who would like to support the blog but aren’t willing to commit to an ongoing payment such as Patreon I’ve added these options.

As I come to the end of my first full financial year having monetised my blog, I look back and see that I have finally broken even. Still, this is a long way from having a blog that is able to be more than a hobby so I’m going to continue to work on this.

While the Patreon is for building a more consistent income to the blog that will allow me to look at different types of content creation particularly looking at producing video content in the future, Ko-Fi is definitely more about short term goals. The first one is to commission some art for the blog including a more professional looking banner and profile picture.

As always, I want to thank everyone who has offered support to the blog so far. Whether that was through Patreon or through buying the ebook. It is appreciated and I know the last couple of months haven’t been great, but I’m definitely looking forward and am committed to improvement. Please feel free to message me if you want to give feedback about the blog or suggest how 100 Word Anime could improve in the future.

summer
It’s hard to talk about Summer Anime in the middle of Winter, but that’s the way it is.

Thirdly: Summer Anime 

While I am going to continue with a few ongoing shows from the Spring season I have decided to only review ten shows from the Summer line up. I’ll probably end up watching more but I won’t be posting reviews on them. One of these shows will end up being reviewed for patrons only, leaving nine shows on the review schedule for everyone else (outside of the carry over shows from Spring). This is probably the lightest review load I’ve given myself for awhile but that is because I want some time to produce other content outside of episode reviews.

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Finally: Guest Posts

I’d like to open up 100 Word Anime to hosting a guest post each month from another blogger. I’d be happy to do an exchange of posts, or just host the other blogger depending on what works for them.

If you are interested in being apart of this for the end of July, please send me a message on Twitter or use the contact on the blog with your post idea and I’ll respond after I return from my break. I’m mostly looking for content I wouldn’t necessarily write myself, so maybe a focus on Slice of Life anime or Yuri or something similar would be great if you are interested. That doesn’t mean I won’t consider other suggestions as I’ll probably just be really happy someone is interested.

thank you

A Huge Thank-You

I really should say this more often, but thank to those who continue to support the blog. It has been so much fun meeting all of you and discussing anime and I’m looking forward to getting back into it after my short time away.

Sunday I will be hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase and will also announce the poll results for the best and worst anime of the season, so be sure to visit the blog and check out some of the great content in the Showcase and leave a comment about your favourite and least favourite anime of the season.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Let’s Try Something Different and Build A Harem

I’m going to thank Cactus Matt from Anime Q & A for throwing this tag my way. I have never even considered building a harem and so when I was nominated my brain suddenly went a little bit crazy with the possibilities. Then of course I had to think about when I could respond to the tag and ultimately I decided just to make it my feature for the week. I think this is going to be fun if only because I decided to go all out and not think for a moment about the reality of what such a gathering would be like.

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The Idea:

You are the central protagonist of a harem anime. Pick five characters (of any gender) that fit into a different harem character type. The characters must be from existing anime (but can come from any anime). If you want the full list of original rules, click here.

My Amended Idea:

You are the central protagonist of a harem anime. Pick five characters (of any gender) that will play a particular role within the harem. The characters must be from existing anime (but can come from any anime).

The reason for the change is I don’t really use labels from the types and tropes that this list should probably include (Tsundere, etc). I actually find these labels really limiting as they only focus in on one part of a character, much like the ‘manic pixie girl’ label that gets thrown around. So while I do understand these terms, I tend to avoid using them except when I’m being really sarcastic toward something, so I decided not to use them in my harem.

My Harem

01. The Dangerously Perfect Guy

Okay, we all know this type in fiction, though fortunately few of them exist in real life. This guy can do anything. Literally anything. And he does it perfectly, flawlessly, and looks really good while doing it. Too bad he’ll chew you up and spit you out and not even look back as he moves on to the next meal. And of course, to fulfil this role in my harem I’ve enlisted the aid of one hell of a butler, Sebastian Michaelis, from Black Butler. The one advantage of this, is by default I get Ciel Phantomhive to be part of the harem without using one of my five because Sebastian isn’t going to just join someone else’s harem. So realistically, I’ve somehow connect Ciel into it and Sebastian came along for the ride.

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02. The Smart and Sexy Guy

He doesn’t necessarily have to wear glasses, but why would you turn down a gorgeous looking guy with glasses who also has a brain to back up the look. He’s probably a little bit sharp tongued and he’s probably talked down to you on more occasions than you can count, but he genuinely smiles when you argue back and win a point or two in the verbal sparring match. This guy has a plan at all times, doesn’t respond well to sudden shocks, and isn’t great at expressing emotions, but he’s just too cute because of his awkwardness. So yes, I’ve selected Uryu Ishida from Bleach. He’s smart, deadly with a bow and arrow, he sews, and the guy is seriously stubborn. Plus, he really does rock those glasses.

Uryu Ishida

03. The Guy You Just Want To Hug

He’s like your little brother, only fortunately not. His smile is infectious, his tears make you melt, and all and all, this is the guy you want to hang around and spend time with. He tries hard at everything, he’s always looking out for you, and when he falls down he pulls himself back up but you just know one day he’ll need you. Yep, I had to throw Katsuki Yuri, from Yuri on Ice, on this list. Partly because I actually needed someone nice in my harem, and partly because I really would like to give Yuri a hug. It probably doesn’t hurt that if Yuri is around there’s a good chance Victor might show up.

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04. He’s In His Own World, But One Day He’ll Need You

It’s amazing how many girls in anime fall for the guy who barely know they exist and yet insist on just waiting patiently. And yet, there was one guy I thought of who might just be worth waiting for. Natsume Takashi from Natsume Yuujinchou. The guy literally lives in his own world and at times his human friends get quite forcibly pushed aside, and yet, for someone like that, I could definitely see them being worth the wait. As he slowly opens up to people, there’s such a kind and gentle soul there. Much like with Yuri Katsuki, I’d just like to give Natsume a hug.

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05. Finally, The Bad Boy, Because Every Harem Needs One

I’m going to be honest and point out that I’m not a big fan of bad boys in real life, but in stories they work beautifully. The joy of watching a rebel or rule breaker in a narrative is fun and safe, in real life they are a destabilising factor that is best avoided. But for my fictional harem, I’m throwing one in because that allows me to toss this truly gorgeous guy in, and I’m pretty sure most of you will agree he belongs in the list: Shinya Kougami from Psycho Pass. He’s fighting for his sense of justice, or revenge, and he doesn’t worry about whether or not he has to break the rules to do it. His single-minded focus is attractive as hell, but also dangerous as it is likely to burn those who come too close.

Kougami

Your Thoughts:

Given I’d never put together a harem before, or even considered it, this ended up being a lot of fun. Of course, I then visualised these five guys (six if you count Ciel) in a room together and realised there is no way I’m stepping foot into that room. And with the exception of Natsume, am I noticing a trend in my type of anime guy? Definitely. Now the question would be, if this was a real harem, who would be the OTP? Karandi and…

Nope. Can’t see it. Not with any of them.

I tag (no obligation):


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: How Does Sailor Moon Avoid The Label of Overpowered MC?

It seems as I go back through the Sailor Moon series for review purposes I’ve become a bit fixated on this series again. It is the place where my love of anime was born so I guess that’s really no surprise. However, as I thought through the events of Sailor Moon, even in the early seasons, I started to wonder why Serena never got stuck with that apparently most heinous of labels of being an overpowered MC (definitely spoilers for seasons 1 and 2 of the 1990’s anime below).

serena and Darien

I’ve examined the issue of overpowered main characters in a feature fairly early on after starting my blog. Mostly because I find that the phrase OP MC tends to feature heavily when people are criticising a main character but don’t really have much to say against them other than apparently they don’t tend to lose fights. Apparently that makes for boring viewing but to be perfectly honest it is the foundation of most fiction that the good guys win except when there’s a pressing thematic need to have them knocked down a peg or two. And one could equally argue that a protagonist who loses all the time would be pretty dull to watch as well.

I’m not going to recap all the reasons why I think overpowered main characters aren’t a problem, but I think most anime fans have at least one truly overpowered character in their life that they just love. Even if it is just Saitama from One Punch Man.

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Instead I want to look at season one and two Sailor Moon and the reasons why I feel that by any definition she’s OP and yet that’s fine. I will only be discussing the 1990’s anime.

Firstly, she fairly instinctively knows how to use her power. There’s no learning it and at first it is kind of weak and then with training she gets stronger. She get’s one prompt from Luna and then she’s throwing that tiara like she was born to do it (oh wait, she was). And it instantly kills her enemies. While the tiara isn’t strong enough to defeat higher level enemies, that’s okay. As Serena faces more powerful enemies, more powerful weapons literally get dropped into her lap and again, there is almost no learning curve.

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Ordinary middle school girl one day; slayer of the minions of the Negaverse the next with almost no inbetween.

Secondly, given there is a monster of the week, every single week, if we look at her win to lose ratio you have to admit there’s a real imbalance here. Now, we could disqualify any villain taken out by another villain or the very small number that actually get defeated by one of the other scouts, but realistically Sailor Moon has the finishing move in almost every fight regardless of how much or little other characters have contributed. The only real losses she suffers are at the wharf when Malachite traps the scouts in a dome and in the Starlight Tower when Zoisite kidnaps Darien and whisks him away to the Negaverse.

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Yet, in neither of instances did Sailor Moon actually fight. She was trapped in the dome without warning and so Malachite avoided going head to head with her (making him one of the smarter bad guys in the series) and once Serena was freed from the dome (by Venus) Malachite ran away (sorry, tactically withdrew). In the case of Zoisite, the fight was with Darien and he lost. Nobody actually fought Sailor Moon until after Darien was teleported out of the tower and then Malachite faced a resounding smack down from a girl who had only just received her magic wand.

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Thirdly, Serena becomes the holder of the Silver Crystal which is said to be the ultimate power in the cosmos and can pretty much do anything, provided the user isn’t afraid to die in the process. This crystal is the magical get out of jail free card for this series that seems to get stronger when needed and literally does whatever is needed at the time (healing, destroying, restoring, etc). Serena as Sailor Moon and the Moon Princess has the ultimate weapon and is pretty much the only one who can use it. Let’s just be thankful she isn’t all that ambitious.

And that brings me to the second part of this post. Why wasn’t Serena labelled as OP?

Probably because it wasn’t trendy to drop labels like that on main characters back then. Fans weren’t jaded to the point where someone being successful was a sign of poor characterisation. However, there are probably some other good reasons why she escapes the label.

Despite her roaring success in battle and overcoming so many world destroying evils, Serena is totally uncoordinated and just looks so pathetic. It is very hard to take her seriously as a threat when she can barely walk four steps without tripping over her own pig-tails (slight exaggeration, only slight).

serena1

She’s also not one of the protagonists with a clear and driving goal forcing her forward. This is where Sailor Moon quite distinguishes itself from so many shounen anime. Sailor Moon is always reactive to threats that appear to upset her normal everyday life. But her normal everyday life is all she’s fighting to preserve. She doesn’t want power or to use her abilities for anything other than to live out her days eating great food and maybe being a celebrity provided she doesn’t have to work too hard.

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That lack of drive contributes to the overall view that somehow she isn’t as strong as she is. She isn’t knocking people down to get what she wants left and right or seeking out stronger opponents to test her mettle. At the end of each conflict, she looks forward to putting her crystal on the shelf and resuming her normal life rather than the next challenge she will face.

But that doesn’t make her any less powerful.

Sailor Moon Crystal.gif

In fact, I’m struggling to think of a single character who could actually beat Serena in a real fight if Serena was motivated to fight (as in that character had hurt her or one of her friends). Cosmic Moon Power is pretty unbeatable and given it hasn’t killed her yet (despite the fact that it probably should have) she’s more or less got no limits on what she can do.

What do you think about Serena or overpowered main characters?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Why Syaoran Beats Tuxedo Mask As A Male Character in A Magical Girl Anime

As a female teenager of the 90’s I was well indoctrinated in the notion of girl power and looking for strong female role models in media. This isn’t a bad thing as even now there’s a definite imbalance in the various types of roles and the frequency of them available for males and females in stories. But one thing I found to be a problem then and now is how male characters are treated so often in these kinds of shows.

Though, the standout performer from the nineties was definitely Buffy. Great show with great characters, both male and female. Everyone had their strengths and weaknesses and the plot exploited and promoted these as required. Sure, the show ultimately revolved around the female heroine, but the overall balance between the characters and genders was actually relatively well maintained.

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Yesteday, I posted a review of the original Sailor Moon anime and while reviewing it, I realised I kind of brushed straight past Tuxedo Mask and Darien. At the same time as I was drafting that post I watched an episode of Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card and part of me realised that of the two shows that both hit the screen during the 90’s, Syaoran really did beat Tuxedo Mask in terms of being a character rather than a plot device.

Now, it might be unfair to look at a magical girl anime and judge it based on its construction and treatment of male characters, particularly as the attention and focus is undoubtedly on the magical girls themselves. And in that regards, Cardcaptor Sakura is an anomaly in the first place, given it doesn’t have a group of magical girls but rather has one cardcapturing heroine who doesn’t even get a transformation sequence because her costumes are sewn by her best friend. But still, I really do want to look at some of my issues with Tuxedo Mask and some of the reasons why Syaoran is a much better character.

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Let’s start with Tuxedo Mask. He comes off as this cool mysterious guy at first who shows up to save our heroine when she’s inexperienced and afraid. The metaphorical knight in shining armour, although lacking the armour because who doesn’t want to fight in a tuxedo. His weapon of choice is a rose though if we actually look at the first season there are perhaps four times in the entire season run when those roses hit anything (Zoisite’s face, a couple of ice crystals, Beryl’s chest). Mostly they hit the ground between Sailor Moon and whoever she’s currently fighting. He then gives a pep-talk. Not joking. He’s usually standing up high (a window ledge, a lamp-post, whatever) and literally talks down to Sailor Moon and the villain and gives a speech about how she can do it and then he either stands and watches or just kind of whisks himself away.

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If only cape swirling was all it took to be a decent character.

And then he repeats this. Over and over again. While one could argue that his interference in the fight is what gives Sailor Moon her opening to attack, one could also argue that if she’s capable of turning the enemy into moon-dust after his pep-talk, she probably was before hand. And if the heroine still needs a speech to get going sixteen episodes in there’s probably an issue with the heroine of the story.

This is kind of damning in itself in terms of his character because it really does paint him as a plot device. A standard act to be deployed during each and every battle. His only motive given early on is to find the Moon Princess but what is he planning to do after that? He wants his memories back but that’s about all he’s after. His story has no real bite or purpose outside of himself. But it gets worse.

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Tuxedo Mask is ultimately captured by the enemy, becoming the damsel in distress to be rescued. Then he’s brain washed and becomes the enemy that has to be saved. However, even as an enemy, he kind of sucks. There’s a strong argument that deep down he still loved Sailor Moon which is why he could never let Malachite’s plans succeed, but ultimately he spends more time saving Sailor Moon and threatening to fight her in the next episode then actually fighting her. It is all a bit pathetic.

So season one Tuxedo Mask is a bust. Then we progress through the seasons. Pretty much in each and every season there’s some reason why Tuxedo Mask can’t be present or useful during the final battle before season 5 literally just disappears him during the first episode only to be rescued right at the end of the season. His character is so incredibly disposable and actually becomes a hindrance to the writers as they need to think of reasons why he wouldn’t be fighting side by side with Sailor Moon. They painted him as this amazing guy who could fight shoulder to shoulder with the Moon Princess but then they wanted an anime about an amazing female soldier who defeats her enemies without the guy involved. It’s a little contrary.

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Even if we look at Darien, Tuxedo Mask’s alter-ego, we see a character who has connections only with Rei and Serena. Serena he teases until their identities are revealed and Rei just kind of hangs around him. In later seasons, Darien interacts with almost no-one outside of Serena or Rini (Chibi-Usa). He’s kept to the side of the plot, has limited development, and has very little impact on the rest of the cast.

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Syaoran, on the other hand, isn’t held back by any of these issues (of course he has a few of his own). To start with, he is introduced into Cardcaptor as a rival rather than a mysterious guy who might support the heroine. This gives him his own goals and motives from the beginning and also a reason to interact with the heroine. Sometimes the two clash, okay, they clash a lot, but given they are both inherently good people even when bickering they aren’t actually out for blood.

From a power point of view, Syaoran was always incredibly useful. Whether it was tracking down cards or using elemental magic, he was in the fights from the moment he appeared. And while Sakura ultimately gets an edge over him to become the one who gets to keep the Clow Cards, Syaoran is in it to win and works incredibly hard. He has an existence outside of Sakura making him a much stronger and more interesting character than Tuxedo Mask could ever hope to be.

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Furthermore, where Sakura is learning about magic and the cards from the ground up in a crash course that has been forced upon her, Syaoran has been studying and preparing for this most of his life. While there are certainly things he doesn’t know, he is still a kid, he brings a wealth of knowledge and know-how to the story that is desperately needed.

He also integrates with the entire cast and is the linking character for others. Mei-rin’s existence makes no sense in the anime outside of her connection to Syaoran. And yet, even though she was an anime original character, she brought so much into the story. Sakura’s school friends get on with Syaoran, her brother teases him, and he and Kero have a fairly rocky relationship. He stands as a character in his own right outside of his connection to the heroine.

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Having a male character who is competent and strong doesn’t take away from Sakura. She’s still able to become the heroine of the story. She’s determined, hard-working, a little naive, and ultimately she is the one the cards end up with. But the writers knew they didn’t have to compromise on the male character to make the female shine.

Because that is a worrying trend. For some reason stories where the female is the strong lead seem to attract weak and cowardly male characters who seem just a little bit pathetic (that’s a broad generalisation and I know we can find examples of decent male characters in some of these stories, but there is a trend). What is concerning about this is it insults both the male and female characters and the viewers. It implies that the female can’t be strong in a world where males are competent. And it also just make the male characters look kind of sad.

While Sailor Moon Crystal breathed a little more character into Tuxedo Mask, it can’t paint over the glaring flaws in his narrative. Meanwhile, Syaoran just goes from strength to strength in Clear Card, his only real flaw being that he keeps trying to act alone rather than talking to Sakura – which is kind of a standard flaw for anime characters in general.

Cardcaptor Sakura didn’t take the path of sacrificing a male character for the sake of making a female lead look stronger. It gave us a world way back in the 90’s where the girl could win the day, and the guy, and the guy didn’t actually have to be anything less than what he was.

I’d love to know your thoughts on these two characters, or any other male characters in magical girl anime, so please leave me a comment.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Finding Joy and Inspiration In Watching Anime Characters Succeed

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been feeling pretty down recently. After work travel followed by travel for a wedding and then straight back to work even though I had a fairly bad cold, I’ve been feeling really tired and run-down and finding it hard to really get any motivation to do much of anything. For awhile I kind of embraced this down feeling and watched anime that normally I wouldn’t give a moment to, I didn’t get around to drafting much for the blog, and I kind of just kept my head above water at work. The problem with that is that it isn’t a long term solution for anything other than eventually drowning and so I had to pick myself up one way or another.

And so naturally I turned to Yuri on Ice.

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There are so many bloggers out there who talk about how anime has saved them or given them the strength they’ve needed at a certain time in their life. Realistically, any story can have this impact if it is the right story delivered at the right time and the right way. However, for those of us who call ourselves anime fans, there’s something very special about anime and the way we connect with it and the characters. We know they aren’t real (or at least most of us do). We understand these are drawn or computer generated characters. And yet the emotions we feel while watching them are very real.

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I don’t think I’m alone when I say that watching Yuri on Ice is an experience in and of itself. Each time Yuri falls down he picks himself back up whether personally or professionally. The reciprocated respect between Yuri and Victor that ultimately becomes a truly beautiful love is amazing to watch and the scene where they exchange rings is absolutely fantastic.

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Yet none of that beats the high of seeing Yuri performing his routine, to his chosen music, at the end of the series and finally delivery an awe inspiring performance. While the relationship between the characters is great, the whole cast is interesting, and the music great to listen to, for me the biggest high watching this anime through again is in seeing Yuri’s moment of triumph.

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In a way that none of the screaming shounen protagonists have ever been able to do, Yuri’s performance inspires me, lifts me up, and makes me want to smile and cry all at the same time. It makes me want to try things and not give up and for a brief moment I might even crazily think I can accomplish anything and everything I set my mind to. About a minute after that my more cynical and rational mind kicks in and tells me not to get too ambitious but focus on the things I can in fact accomplish with just a bit of effort.

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I followed this up with a round of Snow White with the Red Hair. Let’s be honest, Shirayuki is inspirational from episode 1. She never once lets a single thing set her back for too long. She gracefully rises to each challenge she is faced with and continues to look forward on her path. There’s never bitterness or complaints or looking for an easy path. There’s no faltering just because she’s tired. Shirayuki is the kind of character that might really annoy you if you were really feeling down, but after being raised up and inspired by Yuri, Shirayuki gives you a practical approach to walking the path you choose.

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And finally, mostly for a laugh, I ended this anime recovery session by watching a single episode of Attack on Titan season 2. The one where Eren first actually kills a titan while in human form. Eren is not my favourite character and yet there’s a definite thrill and joy in seeing him momentarily celebrate this seemingly minor achievement during a battle. On a more serious note though, it does remind us to take time to celebrate the little things. Otherwise, we might get eaten by a titan before we have the chance to celebrate anything.

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So while I’m still feeling very tired and behind and like life might just be piling too many things on my shoulders just at the moment, I’m no longer seeing this as a negative. Yuri, Shirayuki and Eren all gave me a reason to look forward, to embrace the challenge, to celebrate small successes, and to remember that I can choose to continue to wallow or I can choose to try to make my situation better. I may not always succeed at what I set my mind to, but I can certainly make some progress with effort.

Once again I find myself very thankful I am an anime fan.

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So I’ll leave you with the question of which anime characters have ever inspired you? And this will probably lead into a top 5 list very soon about inspiring anime characters.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Plot vs Character and What is Darling in the Franxx?

There’s something of an ongoing debate going about whether stories are better when they are plot driven or character driven, or whether some sort of balance is needed in between the two. For me, it always comes down to what type of story it is as to what I prefer the focus to be.

For example, I loved Fruits Basket even though the anime has almost no plot. Tohru is living rough when she’s taken in by the Sohma’s and then she meets various Sohma’s and helps them out with various things but there’s no real driving plot. There’s the ongoing issue of the curse and some of the inner workings of the family that link things together as well as the characters themselves, but realistically it is the characters and their interactions that drive the audience’s engagement with the story. The plot itself isn’t really doing that.

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However, there are some anime that take the same approach as Fruits Basket and bore me silly. I end up wondering why the plot can’t get moving along. This is usually when I haven’t made any kind of a connection with the characters and so their interactions offer little of interest for me. Other people will find the cast perfectly charming and the story will work for them, but it ends up being very much about whether the characters work for them or not.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my overall preference would be for stories that had a clear and driving plot. A definite goal that is being headed for and an end point that can either be achieved or failed. I’ll put up with some fairly ordinary characterisation as long as I can see where the average characters are trying to get to and I’m interested in that journey.

But what do we do with stories that can’t seem to decide what they are?

And by that, I don’t mean character driven stories that actually have a plot (such as Baccano) or plot driven stories that put some time into their characters (Psycho Pass), but rather stories where the character development seems to be actively competing with and at times undermining plot development.

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Our current case study: Darling in the Franxx.

The first episode of Darling in the Franxx set up a real standard dystopian future with generic teens becoming mecha pilots and having to protect their city from some inhuman enemy. Certainly Zero Two as a character left an impression even back at episode 1, but the episode itself was very much setting up a plot driven story. At its core we had Hiro, the one who was being left behind having failed to become a pilot and having had to fight to overcome this, finally getting a chance to pilot with Zero Two, the rumoured pilot killer.

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As expected, the next couple of episodes focused on this partnership that allowed Hiro to overcome this weakness and gave some backstory on the main character. There were some diversions as other characters had a little bit of development to flesh out the world. And then they face a minor crisis, the third time piloting which was meant to be the end of the road.

All of this was pretty standard fare for the genre and while some of it was clearly exaggerated to a level that almost became self-parody, it was setting up what should have been a really interesting story.

From episode 7 on, however, the story has kind of flopped about and if the last two episodes are anything to go by, we’ve become strictly a character drama set to a back-drop of the dystopian world.

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Episode 7 of course being the infamous beach episode. While it did some world building and had some character moments, we all know why the super controlling adults let the kids spend a day unsupervised on a beach. The production team wanted an excuse to put the cast in swimsuits. It broke the logic of the world and just because they give us an explainer about one of the scientists being eccentric and trying different things doesn’t mean we need to swallow it.

We had progressive episodes after that which moved us through the support cast and gave them all more depth and interest. It was lovely and all but it started to feel like a totally different show. Then we had the blow up with Ichigo and Zero Two in episode 14 where fans went crazy and I honestly had to stop and wonder why they cared so much. Sure there had always been the whole love triangle going on but to me it had always been background to a story that kept getting buried and delayed. The only reason I cared about it at all was because the character relationships directly effected their ability to pilot.

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Then episode 15 hit us with a massive amount of plot points, utterly and completely buried under a thinly disguised teen melodrama.

Which made me think that maybe the entire time I had it wrong. Maybe Darling in the Franxx never intended to be plot driven. Maybe the robots and dystopian setting were all just background to a teen version of Days of Our Lives and it just took me 15 episodes to notice.

My problem with that theory is that the first episode doesn’t support it. Actually, the first three episodes don’t support that idea. The characterisation is very much background as the plot is being firmly established. It is just after the ground work was laid down, the story abandoned it in favour of character development.

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And that’s where we get this character vs plot problem.

This story isn’t delivering a satisfying plot because for chunks of it at a time the plot has been forgotten and when we finally had some plot development it was rushed through and not given the time and attention needed to have an impact.

And the character drama, while it is definitely a drama, comes in after the fact and just kind of starts taking all the attention but at the same time what it is offering isn’t really that unique. It’s just another teen romance gone wrong and if that was what the show was going to be about, I probably wouldn’t have signed up to watch it.

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What really gets me here, is that we’ve seen character driven mecha anime done right. Neon Genesis Evangelion all but wrote the book on teen drama and mecha pilots. And it was extraordinary.

The key difference?

Even in episode 1 of Evangelion, when they were definitely setting up the setting and the plot, the audience became aware of Shinji as a character and his short comings and the issues he would overcome. He wasn’t generic pilot protagonist who we might get to know later, as Hiro definitely was early on in the Franxx (though I guess people who like Hiro’s character will probably disagree with me on that). It kind of links to what I said at the start of this post. I enjoy character driven stories when I connect with the character and Evangelion did it right.

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Darling in the Franxx made me think I was getting a plot driven story and has since delivered more or less anything but, and the overall impression I’m left with is that it is just a bit of a mess that hasn’t quite figured out what it wanted to be. That isn’t to say that a lot of what has happened hasn’t been interesting. There are definitely things to think about and moments that have been pretty spectacular. But to look at the anime as a whole, my main impression would be that it is messy and a little bit problematic.

What do you think?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: To Recap or Not To Recap?

Let me begin this post by giving you a full history of my blog and all of the previous posts that have come before this one. Most of them are irrelevant to the current context and I know you clicked here to read this post, but surely you should acknowledge everything that has previously occurred.

Or wait?

Maybe that’s not the best approach when trying to engage an audience. I mean, I previously did a feature on recap episodes and why some of them make me want to drop an anime then and there particularly when viewing week to week.

Friday’s Feature – Recap Episodes (Or Why I Came Close to Dropping 91 Days)

But even then, I acknowledge that sometimes recap can serve a purpose and be done in an interesting way. The problem is, a lot of anime don’t bother with this. They just cut and paste sequences of previous events together without even really stringing a plot around it. But more and more often, we’re seeing anime try to disguise their recap.

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My Hero Academia Season 3 is one such anime that used this method. They gave us a thin plot of the characters training at the pool (good excuse for buff boys in swimsuits I guess) but interspersed those events with characters reminiscing or discussing prior events supported by flash backs. Now, to give credit where it is due, this approach is better than just a series of disconnected scenes or a rehash of the story. At least the recap is given context and the characters are adding their thoughts or feelings about the situation to our understanding of it, and there’s some small amounts of new-material that has varying levels of entertainment strewn amongst it.

What it doesn’t change, is the fact that My Hero Academia felt that despite less than a year had passed since its previous season and the episode count as a whole is under 50, that the audience couldn’t remember what had happened. And maybe for a more obscure show that might be true, but MHA is not obscure. People were talking about it and sharing parts of it well after it finished airing.

However, if they hadn’t done a recap, there may be some people who would complain that they’d forgotten some detail. So how does a show know when to recap and how to go about it?

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Realistically, if we have a long gap in-between seasons, recap of some sort is needed. Full Metal Panic Invisible Victory won me over by skipping this step, but a thirteen year gap on a series that never had the sort of popularity of MHA probably warranted some work to get new viewers. Instead, only those who have watched at least the first season and second raid need apply because without that knowledge you aren’t following this story. And if your knowledge is over a decade old, rewatch it and do it quick. The anime is brutal and unforgiving, barely reminding you of character roles as we jump between the school and Mithril and are plunged straight into a conflict that will make zero sense without the back story.

So where My Hero Academia could have foregone the recap, Full Metal Panic probably should have tried something. Then again, if they only ever intended to target the original fans, most of them have probably rewatched the anime many times in the years since it aired and like me, they are probably pretty happy to get dropped straight back into the action. It definitely narrows the target audience but at least it keeps the people in that audience pretty happy.

While it might be hard to say when a recap should occur, it is pretty easy to figure out where they shouldn’t. Any series that is only one cour long should never have a recap episode. Not ever. There is no reason on the planet why a series that is thirteen episodes or less needs to recap. if there are production delays, skip the week, or replay episode one, or something. But don’t try and pretend recaps are episodes in their own right. They really, really aren’t particularly when hastily put together to fill a gap in the schedule.

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Record of Grancrest War used a week inbetween seasons to recap and I still have not watched that episode. The interesting thing about that is that a lot of bloggers claim that it made the entire first cour actually make some kind of sense. I wonder if that’s still true now that we’ve seen all the random plot lurches of the second cour occur, but I thought that for once that might be a useful use of recap. If you know your plot has gone off the rails and you are trying to refocus both the writers and the audience as to which direction the story will continue, a recap that crafts the narrative you wanted to see could do wonders. Though, that is admitting your story had fallen apart in the first place.

From where I’m sitting, I’ve come to the conclusion that recap needs to have some thought behind it and effort put into it. I still think Kimi ni Todoke has the best recap episode ever as the special episode before the start of season 2 where the story of season 1 is retold from a different character’s perspective. More anime need to consider what they are giving their audience when they drop half-hearted recap efforts on them and start thinking about how they can use recaps (if they are needed at all) to really re-engage the audience with the story and the characters.

Where do you stand on recap episodes and what do you think of how the returning series of Spring have done with them?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Anniversary Special – Friday’s Feature: Blogging Goals

I kind of feel like you always need to be working towards something. It gives you drive and a sense of purpose and when I’m left without something to aim for I kind of feel adrift or like I’m fighting against the tide. I kind of talked about that a little in my post where I reflected on avoiding stagnation and just resting at one place.

At the one year anniversary, I set myself 5 goals so that seems like a good number to try again for this year.

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Number 1: Continue to have fun. This is a must. An absolute priority. I feel the writing and the sense of community I have been trying to create here at 100 Word Anime will all just kind of fall apart if I’m not enjoying doing what I do.

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Number 2: Continue to work on improving content. Write posts I am happy with and think about the content I am producing. This is more or less an ongoing goal for the blog and will hopefully always be a priority, but I really do think I need to work on this over the next twelve months.

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Number 3: Increase the average number of daily views by about 25%. So I’m kind of looking at an average of 250 daily views and I would love to increase that to 312 (let’s round it to 310) by the next anniversary. It seems like a doable kind of goal given the previous rate of growth and it gives me a target to aim for.

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Number 4: Reach the $100 a month goal on Patreon and remove advertising from my blog. I feel this is an achievable goal. With over 2000 followers, if even 5% of them committed to $1 a month (which is only $12 a year) I would hit this target. I am working toward this goal by trying to increase the content patrons get access to.

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Number 5: Work to increase the average number of comments per post. At the moment I think I’m at 10 comments per post. I think I’d like to see that increase to 15 by the end of the next year. Mostly because I love talking to people about anime and I love to know what they thought of an episode or a show. What they loved, what they hated, whether they agree or disagree with my thoughts. I’d really like to see this kind of engagement increase.

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So those are my main goals for the third year of the blog. I’d love to know what you would like to see on the blog over the next year and what you like about the blog, or what you would like to see improved. Feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message via the contact as I’d really appreciate your feedback.

Stay tuned for the final posts of the anniversary celebration as we have Arthifis, Aldael and then the wrap up still to come. Catch all the anniversary posts here.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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