Up Close With Madoka

You know, plenty of people want to change the world. Most of us won’t ever be given the chance to. But what if one day a small, white, bunny like creature appeared and told you that you could make a wish, and because of your great potential you could wish for almost anything you wanted and it would come true?

Would you end up like the Rat from Juni Taisen who simply wishes to forget everything that has happened so that he could find some peace? Or would you manage to find a wish worth changing everything for?

This is the question Madoka is confronted with early on in Madoka Magica and it isn’t really surprising that it takes her the full series to finally come to a resolution. Madoka is living an ordinary life. She is an ordinary girl. This wasn’t a case of her being reborn in human form or born into a family of magician or anything along those lines. Madoka is painfully ordinary and she is well aware of the fact.

Madoka Magica - Madoka's Family

That said, her family interactions are adorable. She has a career driven mother who still tries to find time to bond with her daughter and to support her through the awkward transition into adulthood sharing small pearls of wisdom while preparing for a day of work/school. The father prepares meals and takes care of the younger brother and again provides that quiet background support within the story. Madoka’s home life is well established and her family feels warm and caring, though also busy with their own concerns. I would have liked to have seen more of hose Madoka’s choices impacted upon her family but realistically in the episode count they had they did a great job with this.

Madoka also has well established friendships with Sayaka Miki and Hitomi. These three are very well grounded and while Hitomi gets sidelined a little from the main action, serving more as a catalyst for Sayaka’s disintegrating mental state, early on it is fun spending time with these characters as they head to school and the like.

Madoka Magica - Sayaka

So from this very ordinary beginning, Madoka is asked to consider making a wish that might very well change the world. It isn’t that she doesn’t want to become a magical girl. It is clear early on she is interested as even the prospect of it has her daydreaming and drawing potential costume designs while at school. She also jumps at the chance to observe Mami in action so that she knows more about what a magical girl is.

The problem Madoka faces is she doesn’t want to waste her one and only wish and yet she doesn’t want anything badly enough to wish for it. Her life is settled and happy. Good family and friends. It makes sense that while she has things she’d like, none of them seem like something that are worth using such a wish for.

Of course, this is where things get ugly, because being a magical girl isn’t all it is cracked up to be and as Madoka witnesses the tragedies of the other magical girls and ultimately the threat to her family and friends from a witch that is really too powerful to be fought, Madoka finally does find her wish.

For a character who is fairly unassuming and comes from such an ordinary background, Madoka really does think this one through and while there are consequences and implications she couldn’t possibly have imagined, her wish really did change the world.

Madoka is a great character. She truly transforms in response to the circumstances around her and ultimately manages to figure out what it is she wants and uses her one and only wish to ensure it happens. Watching the journey as she tries to figure out what is really worth wishing for is truly a rewarding experience and one I absolutely loved.

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Karandi James
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PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA PORTABLE [LIMITED EDITION]
PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA PORTABLE [LIMITED EDITION]

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Up Close with Sawako Kuronuma

On first glance, Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke looks like the kind of female character I usually am either indifferent to or actively dislike. She’s shy and nervous, doesn’t speak up for herself, accepts it when others avoid her, and the early set up seems to be about the guy swooping in and saving the gloomy girl. Fortunately there is so much more to her character than meets the eyes and while the meeting with the guy might be a catalyst, it is Sawako’s own strength and endurance that sees her through situation after situation.

Though, I do like Kazehaya as a character and I’ll have to look at him at some point individually. Not to mention Kazehaya and Sawako ended up taking out the top spot for my top 5 list of romantic anime even beating Zen and Shirayuki.

Kimi ni Todoke - Sawako and Kazehaya

So how does Sawako manage to go from being the template example of a character I would normally dislike to a girl I was actively cheering for as she approached a soccer match, performed in a festival, and ultimately finally got to her confession scene (and did that take forever to get there)?

Well, Sawako won me over the same way she wins the characters in the anime over. Sawako is always true to herself. She’s always earnest and hard-working. She doesn’t blame anyone for the situation she is in but resolves to work hard to overcome it. And while not every situation can be beaten with a positive attitude and effort, Sawako’s determination and her willingness to help others slowly draws people to her once they look past her somewhat scary exterior and the rumours that have been swirling around her about her being able to see ghosts.

Kimi ni Todoke - Sawako

One of the earliest challenges we see Sawako take on is dealing with rumours spreading about her new friends. Sawako is used to being avoided and used to rumours spreading about her but it deeply hurt her when her friends seemed to be targeted. While Kazehaya gave Sawako some encouraging words, Sawako was the one who took action and confronted those spreading the rumours. In one scene Sawako maanged to set the record straight about the rumours and solidify her friendship with Chizuru and Ayane.

That isn’t to say it is all smooth sailing. Sawako is an unusually dense protagonist unable to pick up on a lot of social cues and the maddeningly slow pace of her beginning to interact with others and accept their feelings can be quite the put-off for those who just want the story to get moving. But still, Sawako’s journey is one of quiet inspiration. She shows people that just being willing to change things isn’t enough and just trying hard won’t always immediately yield results, but trying again and again without giving up might just get you where you need to be.

Kimi ni Todoke - Sawako at Christmas

While Sawako isn’t going to top any lists for being my favourite character ever any time soon, she’s definitely a character I learned to love while watching her story and I know that whenever I’m feeling a little defeatist, watching a couple of episodes of Sawako will pick me up and get me ready to act again.

Thank you Sawako for being you.

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Karandi James
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Kimi ni Todoke : From Me to You, Vol. 1
Kimi ni Todoke : From Me to You, Vol. 1

Up Close with Maka Albarn

Maka Albarn from Soul Eater

I mentioned last year while completing the 12 Days of Anime that I had really enjoyed writing posts focused on single characters and so I was looking to make it more of a feature in 2019. I don’t know if I’m going to do this every week or not at the moment, though I probably will for awhile just to see how it goes. Still, when thinking about what character to start with for 2019, I couldn’t go past my favourite female character, the hard working scythe-meister Maka Albarn.

Maka Chop

Maka is one of those rare female characters who manages to be tough and yet still adorable. She’s emotionally strong and yet she isn’t emotionally shut down. She has friends, yet likes to stand on her own. In short, she’s kind of a delight to watch in action whether she’s fighting with her partner Soul (fighting using him and fighting with him), reading a book, studying, trying to pretend her father doesn’t exist, or just going about her daily life preparing breakfast and the like. When I decided to cosplay as an anime character for the very first time, it seemed obvious that Maka would be the character of choice.

Maka reaching out.

Now, for those who haven’t seen Soul Eater (and why not), Maka is one of the main characters in a series that splits its focus mainly between three main pairs. Maka and Soul, Black Star and Tsubaki, and Death the Kid and Liz and Patty. Maka and Soul are my favourite of these but their interactions with the others are a large part of what makes them so fantastic.

Maka starts the anime as an already fairly determined student. She wants to reach the same heights her mother did and she’s going to work very hard to get there. In the very first episode though she suffers a little bit of a set-back but we see her continue on her path working toward making her scythe (Soul) the strongest death-scythe ever.

Maka fighting

As with many characters, Maka shines most when she faces adversity and while she is awesome to watch in a fight, helped by some very flashy animation, where Maka really excelled was in the arc where she had to deal with her guilt at letting her weapon protect her and Soul getting hurt in the process. They didn’t dwell overly long on this or allow Maka’s character to stagnate, but rather she took the time to process what had happened and where to go from there. We saw that she needed Soul as well to help her overcome the trauma and that the two became stronger partners because of it.

Maka and Soul dancing

This is one of my favourite arcs of any anime ever and I love where it leads. I just love Maka as a character and wish we had more characters like her. While I’m still not sold on the end of the Soul Eater anime series (please let it get rebooted), Maka alone makes the anime well worth the journey.

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Karandi James
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Soul Eater Original Soundtrack 1
Soul Eater Original Soundtrack 1

12 Days of Anime Characters – Kaname Chidori

12 Days of Anime Title Image

One day to go for the 12 Days of Anime. Yesterday we looked at a support character who deserved his own series (Goro from Darling in the Franxx) and today we’re going to turn our attention to a girl who did an amazing job in the original series but in the most recent iteration – Invisible Victory –  got completely sidelined. Yes, we’re looking at Kaname Chidori from Full Metal Panic and one of my all time favourite female characters.

Kaname Chidori starts out as your ordinary high school girl. Then a new student comes along who is a little bit weird. For Kaname, Sousuke is just a little unbalanced, doesn’t really get how things works, and over-reacts to everything. He’s a pain but one she can’t leave alone as she works to ‘correct’ his behaviour in a Japanese school. All too soon though she realises the military maniac is actually trying to protect her from various militia forces that would like to kidnap her because of some knowledge she has in her head.

It’s a lot to take in.

During the first season of Full Metal Panic, Kaname is very much trying to just live her normal life however when push comes to shove, Kaname is ultimately the one who saves the day. Admittedly with some help from Tessa.

Fumoffu gives us more of an inside look at Kaname and Sousuke’s daily lives as high school students and here is where Kaname shines. While she might be out of her element on the battlefield, in a high school setting Kaname has her feet very solidly on the ground and everyone, including Sousuke better watch out if they cross her.

And then we had Second Raid. Second Raid gave Kaname a chance to rise to a military challenge and while she understandably ended up in tears, Kaname’s bravery, endurance and resilience were amazing to behold. To be perfectly franks she came out of Second Raid as the best character in the series.

All of this would have been fine, except that Full Metal Panic felt a need to bring us Invisible Victory. While I wasn’t upset to see more of these characters, the experience was ultimately underwhelming, more so because Kaname gets kidnapped at the end of episode 4 and that’s it for her character essentially for the remainder of the run time. Sousuke is great and all but the show works best when the two are kept together. Still, I won’t turn down the scene with Sousuke and Kaname at the shrine. If Invisible Victory did one thing right, it was definitely that scene.

So here is to Kaname and hoping that if they continue Full Metal Panic beyond this that her character gets back in the spot light where it belongs.

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Karandi James
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FULL METAL PANIC!: THE COMPLETE SERIES
FULL METAL PANIC!: THE COMPLETE SERIES

12 Days of Anime Characters – Siluca Meletes

12 Days of Anime Title Image

Okay, so this year I’m going to be participating in the 12 Days of Anime and I decided that I’d like to focus on some of the characters I really liked, or found interesting, in 2018, but for whatever reason they won’t end up on any of my favourite character lists. 

So for Day 1 I’m going to look at Siluca Meletes from Record of Grancrest War.

Record of Grancrest War Episode 8 Siluca

Now Siluca starts out as a great character. She’s a young, plucky mage, fresh out and going to serve a lord that she’s already decided is a womanizer and someone she doesn’t want to work with citing the uniform he put her in as solid evidence that she should pass. On the way there she runs into Theo, a young man determined to gain power and free his island from whatever. And so she joins forces with him and helps him rise to power.

Great story, right?

And it probably would have been in slightly defter hands. However, because of the choppy nature of the narrative, Siluca, who starts out all strong and smart does get to spend some episodes devising plans, being overly ambitious and getting Theo in and out of trouble. She even gets to fight once or twice and show off some of her really cool magic tricks.

Record of Grancrest War Episode 9

And then it all goes sideways for her as a character.

As much as I loved Theo and Siluca together, as soon as Siluca became an official love interest, the story all but sidelined her. She occasionally gets to be in the same scene as Theo and she’s certainly there for the dramatic revelations at the end, but mostly she becomes background. The one or two shining moments she gets swiftly get buried under an avalanche of other things happening in the story and the need for Theo to ultimately be the hero.

Record of Grancrest War Episode 22

Here is a character who well and truly gets butchered for the sake of narrative convenience. Her brains, her strength as a mage, all of the things that made her so delightful early on get toned down until she’s essentially the sound board for Theo and moral support.   It is such a shame because she is a character with incredible potential, and it is horrendously squandered here. 

For once, I am crying out for a prequel. Let us see Siluca before she met Theo, as a young mage learning her craft. She would be a delight and we would get to see her character as she truly could have been. 

Record of Grancrest War Episode 2

Siluca Meletes, you deserved a better anime.

Tomorrow I turn my attention to Shimada in March Comes in Like a Lion.

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Karandi James
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RECORD OF GRANCREST WAR 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SILUCA MELETES
	RECORD OF GRANCREST WAR 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SILUCA MELETES

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

Tuesday's Top 5

Last week I looked at my favourite male characters with pink hair and realised, tragically, there just aren’t that many that I’ve remembered. Totally opposite problem this week when I tried to narrow down my list of lovely anime ladies with pink hair. Ultimately I went with characters who I felt were striking in appearance (pink hair does tend to stand out) as well as characters who added something to the plot of their story. The list ended up being a bit interesting.

I’d love to know who you are including on your list so please share your choices in the comments below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions: Emi Yusa (The Devil is a Part-timer) and Yuno Gasai (Future Diary).

Number 5: Kofuku Ebisu (Noragami)

Kofuku

Kofuku may be a god of poverty and have a tendency to bankrupt men and tear rifts into the underworld leading to more phantoms being released, but you have to admit, as one of Yato’s few divine friends she’s certainly a lot of fun. She gets that sometimes you just have to go with things yet ultimately she’s ready to do what needs to be done. As a character who has offered advice, shelter, power, predictions, and full on muscle to the team when needed, Kofuku definitely earns a spot on this list.

Number 4: Amu Himamori (Shugo Chara)

Shugo5

Amu is definitely one of my favourite pink haired characters of all time. The contradiction between her outer appearance and personality is one that causes her no end of confusion in this magical story that very much focuses on her finding out what she actually wants to be and who she is. With three different guardian characters all pulling her in different directions as well as her own heart, Amu is a very fun character to get to know and to watch grow up and learn to really harness all of her potential.

Number 3: Yuki Takeya (School-Live)

Yuki

And here is another spoiler warning just in case you missed the one earlier in the post.

Yuki is a fantastic character. When we are first introduced to her, she’s your basic school-girl air-head all happy to be with her friends and join in club activities. As you follow Yuki around in a typical day during the first episode, you note that not everything seems quite right, but it isn’t until the end of the episode you realise that Yuki is living in a zombie apocalypse and just hasn’t admitted it to herself yet. Yes, this adorable pink haired protagonist is firmly convinced everything in the world is fine and it is up to the rest of the club members to keep her from wandering outside of the barriers or getting herself killed. That would be interesting enough, but Yuki’s character has a beautiful arc as she comes to terms with what has happened and she is fantastic to watch. Definitely an anime to check out and Yuki’s character will leave a lasting impression.

Number 2: Megum Shimizu (Shiki)

Megumi

Megumi may not be the main character of her series, but she is the first victim we see on screen in this vampire horror story. Megumi, so desperate to escape village life, ultimately dies and comes back as a vampire and is pretty much asked to continue living a village life. While she at first has a great deal of fun tormenting those who used to be friends, as life sours for the vampires, Megumi starts looking seriously at escape. While she is never a fantastic character, Megumi gives us some excellent creepy moments and she is a character who is very true to what she wants at all times.

Number 1: Masami Iwasawa (Angel Beats)

Iwasawa

It is no secret that I have a deep love of Angel Beats, and a lot of that came about because of Iwasawa’s character. Prior to the episode that focused on Iwasawa I’d been enjoying Angel Beats and I’d loved the music and craziness of it, but when I first heard “My Song” and watched Iwasawa ‘accept’ things, I think that was the first time Angel Beats broke my heart and it was the moment I realised that this anime was something a bit special. While its blend of over the top action and comedy as well as melodrama may not sit well with most people, for me it was an emotional roller coaster that I never could get enough of. Iwasawa’s song and character moment remain one of my favourite anime moments ever.

That’s a wrap on pink hair. Leave me a comment telling me who is on your list, and next week we’ll count down anime with dark endings.


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Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Female Characters with Green Hair

Tuesday's Top 5

Today I am taking a look at the lovely green haired ladies of anime and I will admit this ended up being harder than expected.  While there was no doubt who was going to top my list, the other characters proved a little harder to split. Basically I was looking for interesting female characters where their green hair was a distinguishing part of their appearance.

I’d love to know some of your favourite green haired female characters. Next week I’ll tackle the guys but until then be sure to leave your picks in the comments below.

Note: There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions go to Sailor Neptune (Sailor Moon) and Akari (Chaika).

Number 5: Nanami Yasuri (Katanagatari)

Katanagatari8

Nanami gets points for being the second creepiest character I put on this list. She’s a devoted sister but I’m pretty sure that her notion of raising or caring for her brother has definitely crossed a few lines. Admittedly, he is really strong and made stronger by her interference in his quest but Nanami is still one terrifying green haired girl. Her particular ability to essentially use any ability she has ever seen makes her fairly terrifying to almost all who encounter her and if it wasn’t for her weak body she’s be an unstoppable force of nature.


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katanagatari-nendoroid.jpg


Number 4: Tsuyu Asui (My Hero Academia)

Froppy.gif

Now I am not the biggest froppy fan but even I have to admit that Tsuyu is one talented hero. If she wasn’t in the same class as the protagonist and his rivals she might even get to stand out occasionally. She’s level headed in a crisis, has a range of useful skills and is pretty determined. Throughout the second season she demonstrated numerous times that she has what it takes to be in the same class as the others and while I didn’t really appreciate her getting her own mission episode as it felt a lot like filler, even I had to admit it was very high quality filler and you could totally see this character carrying their own series.


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My Hero.jpg


Number 3: Lenalee (D Gray Man)

No real surprise here given I’ve made it fairly clear that I love Lenalee as a character. She’s such an awesome exorcist and a great partner for Allan. Unfortunately she gets sidelined too often, but the fight over the ocean on the way to Japan just proved how incredibly tough she is and how far she will go to save others and win the fight. She also got her innocence to evolve to the crystal type and while Hallow severely underutilised her I’m kind of hoping if we get another follow up series (please) that we’ll see more of this amazing character on the screen.

Number 2: Mion/Shion Sonozaki (Higurashi)

Mion and Shion.png

So who beat Nanami as the creepiest character on this list? Mion and Shion of course (and no, I’m not even going to try to split these two because depending on the time loop you are in either one of them could be crazy and it isn’t as though they don’t switch places making it even more confusing). Still, these two are fantastic characters. The older sister characters of the group and the children of gangsters, they come across as tough as nails but are surprisingly emotionally vulnerable. They both go through hell at various times but fortunately they learn from the experiences eventually, like the other characters, and finally find their happy ending.

Number 1: Nel (Bleach)

Whether in her child-form or fully grown, Nel was a fantastic character that Ichigo met when he invaded Hueco Mundo. As a former member of the Espada, she is one tough cookie but she’s got a grudge and Ichigo has a soft spot for little sister characters so the two of them bond fairly readily after meeting. One of my favourite Bleach characters ever, and rocking her green hair and matching shirt, Nel well and truly deserves the number one spot on this list.

And that’s my list done but I’d love to know your picks and remember to check in next week when I count down my top 5 male characters with green hair.


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Karandi James

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