Friday’s Feature: Just an Update This Week

While I originally said during my anniversary I was taking two weeks off from seasonal anime reviewing in July, it turns out that due to a whole bunch of things lining up in the real world, I’m actually going to take off closer to a month, but only from seasonal reviews. The blog is going to continue having daily content and I am still going to be online (though a little less often than normal) to reply to comments and to visit everyone’s blog. Mostly. Okay, next week I’ll probably seem like I’ve dropped off the face of the Earth for a bit.

Pretty much I just can’t rely on having access to streaming services during this period of time so rather than sometimes having reviews and sometimes not, I’m just going to pause the shows I’m watching and not pick up anything new, and catch up on everything current once I’m back to my normal routine which will be July 22nd. Basically, I have quite a bit of travel ahead of me. Some personal stuff, some work stuff, some preplanned holiday stuff, and it all just kind of ended up happening at the same time.

Feature posts and top 5’s will continue as normal. I’ve also got some episode reviews of shows that were either recommended to me or came up randomly when I asked for a random episode on Crunchyroll. Series reviews will come out on Wednesday and Saturday. However my Sunday posts where I do a round up of the current season that I’ve been watching will not be out and I won’t be doing the In Case You Missed it posts on Monday. These will both resume after July 22nd.

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That’s pretty much it for this update. Hopefully you all enjoy the content I’ve got planned over the next couple of weeks and I look forward to resuming reviews of seasonal anime on my return. And if you want to know other plans for the blog you can check out my more detailed update on my patreon site.

See you soon.


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Friday’s Feature: What Does Orihime Really Contribute To Bleach?

There’s no denying that I’ve been a massive Bleach fan for a fairly long time now. It was one of the first anime I watched as an adult and it really contributed to my ongoing love of anime. However, despite finding Bleach hilarious, entertaining, exciting, and just fun to watch, the flaws of the series are pretty much open secrets not just to those who endured all that filler to get to an ending that ultimately went about sixty episodes past where it should have (though that’s debatable) but also to those who just listened in to the discussions about Bleach.

So why am I picking on Orihime?

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I’m going to put it out there, that in the first season of Bleach I really liked Orihime’s character. Then she kind of became mostly useless either sitting on the sidelines or wringing her hands in fear as everyone else contributed for a few seasons. In season 7, she had few moments of genuine cool. Really, the start of season 7 actually gave her a little bit of agency as she made her choices and worked at becoming stronger. Then she became a Princess in a cage; worse, just bait to lure in everyone else. She wasn’t even actually valuable as a hostage.

This actually isn’t a problem just for Orihime. Bleach suffers from an extraordinarily large and frequently underutilised cast. Regularly the various Shinigami are prevented from acting by the most arbitrary of reasons just to ensure Ichigo and company can actually be the ones who swoop in and save the day. Then even amongst Ichigo and his friends, the others are almost always sidelined by the final battle. They might get their match up and few moments to shine with in a fight but ultimately the show is all about Ichigo and they aren’t allowed to steal his thunder (even when it seems like they’d be better suited to take on the current threat).

However, I’m going to pick specifically on Orihime for three reasons.

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01. The show expects us to take her seriously as a love interest eventually and while we know Ichigo loves saving Damsels in Distress he isn’t the Captain of the Enterprise sweeping them off their feet. Why is Orihime unique compared to the other characters or the other girls he rescues along the way?

Part of the answer to that lies in season 1 where we see that Ichigo has some genuine feelings toward Orihime as a human being. He remembers (after some prodding) the death of her brother and how she cried. He also works to remind the brother of his love for his sister (given he empathises with the older brother’s plight). While this might not seem overly significant, Ichigo’s character is pretty insular and doesn’t have a lot of genuine connections. Other than Chad, the guys he hangs out with at school are just there. He talks to them but shows little human warmth toward them. Same with most of the girls. Ichigo even remembering Orihime (vaguely though it may be) was a pretty stand out moment.

However, the show then drops this line of thought for a lot of seasons. And I mean, a lot. While it is clear Orihime is fixated on Ichigo, he’s just doing his thing swinging his sword around and other than treating her like every other person who tries to help him out, there’s really not a lot there. Realistically, if it weren’t for Orihime’s ongoing friendship with Rukia, you might have forgotten she existed at all.

Then, we get Orihime’s farewell after she gets given 12 hours to say goodbye. For all that it makes sense for Orihime to feel the way she does as she has remained stuck on Ichigo, Ichigo’s reaction to Orihime being missing seems blown way out of proportion given how little attention he’s paid her in any of the previous arcs since the first one. The end result of this is that you often aren’t sure if this is a relationship developing or merely a girl making puppy dog eyes at an indifferent guy.

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02. The second reason I’m going to pick on Orihime is the severe underutilisation of her power. Not only is she not used well as a character, she has quite possibly the coolest power in a show full of characters with crazy powers, and other than the healing (which isn’t actually healing so much as rejecting past injuries right out of existence) Orihime almost never gets to do anything. She shields occasionally but either gets blown back anyway or just gets stuck standing and holding a shield. But that’s about as far as it goes.

Let’s imagine the fight between Grimmjow and Ichigo for a moment where Orihime is standing on the pillar looking on all frightened and concerned. She’s occasionally shielding herself but mostly she’s just standing their looking worried though her inner monologue tries to convince us she knows Ichigo will win (and hey, plot armour certainly agrees with her). What if she’d actually thrown the shield in between them as Grimmjow had tried to land a hit on Ichigo and then, after Grimmjow’s momentum was lost, she dropped the shield allowing Ichigo pretty much a free hit. Think how much faster that fight would have been over.

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Okay, Ichigo would have been ticked off at the cheap stunt, but who cares. Life or death situation people. But no, Orihime will stand quietly and wait because Ichigo asked her to. She may as well be a golden cup waiting to be claimed for all the good she’s doing as a character in this sequence and this isn’t the only time Orihime is given a similar role during a fight.

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03. Finally, worse than simply not being an empowered female character (we get that it is a male action anime and while there are some tough women in the story, it isn’t exactly the champion of equal opportunity) Orihime makes the fatal error of losing any sense of a personality. Season 1 introduces us to a girl who has had tragedy in her past but makes up for it by smiling brightly and throwing herself at whimsical fantasies. She makes creative food choices, laughs with her friends, and liberally interprets school assignments. At no point does she succumb to simply being an air-head as she is a keen observer of those around her and is one of the few that notes Ichigo’s change after Rukia arrives and one of the few who notices Rukia’s disappearance.

By the end of its run, Orihime may still be the one who consoles others and has a word of encouragement but all of her other personality traits have been diminished to almost nothingness. Other than the occasional silly line, she’s mostly a flat character who is almost impossible to differentiate from any of the other supporting cast members.

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So what does Orihime contribute to Bleach? She’s a plot point, a trophy, a get-out-of-jail free card with her healing ability, and an occasionally remembered love interest but what she isn’t, at least not consistently, is a character.

Again, that criticism could probably be levelled at over half the cast of Bleach, but for Orihime, who started out so dynamically, it seems like such a shame that she was reduced so much over the seasons.

What are your thoughts on Orihime or any of the characters in Bleach?


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Friday’s Feature: My Hero Academia and Hero Culture

Okay, I’ve been reading a lot of My Hero Academia posts over the last couple of weeks as my recent In Case You Missed It post kind of highlighted and what I’ve really loved about these posts is the range of issues and topics they have covered. Given how excited I’ve been about this show the last few weeks it did make me want to write about it but I’m pretty sure my thoughts are still really confused as this is a series the packs a lot of social commentary into what is otherwise a relatively simple shonen anime.

So while I’d like to delve into the school system and a few of the other issues bubbling along in this show I decided I’d start with the main point of the show and that is the idea of being a hero. When I first read the premise for season 1 of My Hero Academia and realised in the world they were creating almost everyone had a super power I couldn’t help but think of Syndrome from the Incredibles.

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It seemed like by giving everyone a hero that having powers would cease to be something special and as a result things should just level out and everyone be back on the usual playing field so how would they make that setting unique. Obviously the few without powers really did get a raw deal and would probably face discrimination (kind of directly opposed to something like X-Men where it is the minority with powers who are facing continuous discrimination) and the story was going to focus on a character who wasn’t born with a power so maybe that would be something. However, they rapidly overcome that particular hurdle by transferring a power to him (admittedly one he still can’t control properly). Whichever way, back to the original point in that you have to wonder how a story where everyone has some sort of power will actually be interesting and not just a case of endless one upping.

What Syndrome’s theory fails to take into consideration is that even in the world of The Incredibles, some super heroes stand above others. This is an issue My Hero Academia takes very seriously even if it isn’t always front and centre.

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The obvious example from season one is All Might (that name is so pretentious). He’s the epitome of heroism if one assumes all the typical clichés for someone being classed as a superhero hold true. From physical appearance and prowess to his courageous acts of rescues and even the way he speaks with confidence and yet just enough humility that you don’t want to smack him one for being completely egocentric. This is a very deliberately contrived persona that All Might has donned and his motives for it are clearly explained as is the consequence of his power quickly failing him. All Might is a symbol in this world. A world full of people with absolutely incredible powers and yet someone who is strong, fast, and good for the sake of being good, still stands above as an icon and something to strive toward for young people, and something to fear for villains.

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But what happens when his power leaves? Midoriya, being Midoriya, has learned All Might’s secret and knows All Might’s time as a hero is limited but still looks up to and admires All Might. For Midoriya, it isn’t just that All Might was strong, it was his attitude and way of living that inspired and even the loss of his physical prowess is insufficient to snuff out Midoriya’s fan boy focus.  However, I think we might all agree that Midoriya and his overall attitude is something of an anomaly in the world of My Hero Academia.

How will the rest of the world respond once All Might’s power leaves him for good, or even leaves him when he is exposed to the public? Will his many years of service and hard work be respected or will he be ridiculed and cast aside? Worse still, would he be left to the mercy of the villains who so far have been kept in check by his mere presence?

From what we’ve seen of this world and the way that it measures strength and worth, you would have to unfortunately believe that even if he wasn’t scorned he would most definitely be cast aside. Serving no further use as either a rescuer or deterrent he would literally just become another has been and fade into the dark recesses of some history book that maybe future heroes would read about. That seems a tragic ending for someone who actually served a greater good even while he built quite a good brand name for himself.

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Which actually highlights the entire issue of hero culture as it is presented in My Hero Academia. There are new up and coming heroes appearing every year. The new generation of students graduating from UA and probably plenty of less well known schools that still train students to become heroes. Each one of these would-be heroes has a reason for wanting to be a hero as we’ve seen exemplified by the students in the class. They all want to be a hero but to get there and to succeed they are going to have to beat their friends, they are going to have to put themselves first, they are going to have to brand themselves, and even then they still only have a small chance of success in an already over crowded market. Essentially heroism has become the new Australia’s Got Talent (or equivalent) and ultimately just being good at being a hero isn’t going to be enough. Everyone who got into the school is potentially good at being a hero but the world doesn’t need entire classes of heroes running around. They have to stand out even at the cost of those around them and that by its very nature would lead to some fairly unheroic personalities making it through the rigorous training processes and reaching the top.

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What I find interesting about this set-up is that normal people on the street have stood back and watched as fairly low level villains have committed crimes. They wait for a hero rather than taking action even though some of their own Quirks are more than capable of dealing with things. They hold the ‘heroes’ of the story in awe even as this show goes to great lengths to humanize the current group of students and to help us realise they are all just kids working toward a dream.

Heroism as a commodity isn’t a new notion in anime or any other story telling medium. Even Clark Kent made money off Superman through writing stories about him and we know Spider Man wasn’t above peddling his own acts of heroism for cash. And it is maybe this part of the story that really sums up this show’s comment about the modern world. Everything has a price and everything is for sale. Even acts of heroism, morals, and dreams.

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But in case that seems a little depressing, just remember Midoriya has so far managed to defy all common sense in his optimism about more or less everything so maybe, just maybe, the seeds of change are already being spread amongst the students in his class.


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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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Friday’s Feature: Why is Natsume Yuujinchou Still Endearing After Five and a Half Seasons?

There’s no mistaking that I truly love Natsume Yuujinchou. You just need to look at the sheer number of posts I’ve tagged with Natsume to know that I not only like watching it, I like to talk about Natsume, a lot. I don’t remember who recommended it to me or why I tried it initially, but I know that once I started this adorable show I never could stop. Even when I ran out of episodes I would happily go back and just watch them all again. Had a bad day at work, or a bad week? Take a double episode of Natsume and go to bed smiling. As I watch season six of this show week to week, I began to wonder how this show has retained its magic formula and even managed to become more entertaining with time given so many shows, particularly ones where new seasons just keep getting added on, become progressively less than what they were.

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I started making a list of all the great things about Natsume. The list got extremely long by the end so I ended up condensing them into a few main points:

  • The characters particularly the central characters of Natsume and Nyanko-Sensei.
  • The episodic format of the show with themes and character growth that run through the series.
  • The feelings this show inspires in its audience.
  • The art and animation while not the most brilliant ever perfectly fit the show you are watching.
  • Every opening theme that has ever been attached to this show.

There were quite a few other points on the initial list but that isn’t surprising given I love the show. However, making this list actually helped me figure out exactly why this show succeeds season after season.

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Reason 1: The way the characters are presented to the audience.

In so many long running shows the main protagonists (and a lot of the support cast) either have a single defining personality trait or goal. Or, worse, the characters actually lose any defining trait over time slowly becoming generic and featureless in amongst a sea of other characters.

Natsume defies this trend in storytelling. He starts out fairly generic, as do most of the characters in the show, and the show has gradually fleshed them out over nearly six seasons. The affect of this on the audience is essentially feeling like we’ve naturally gotten to know someone. First introductions are fairly superficial and then we’ve slowly been allowed to see who they are underneath those initial impressions.

And this doesn’t seem accidental. Within episodes we regularly meet the yokai of the week and are given one impression before Natsume looks deeper and we realise the other side of the character. This pattern repeating over longer periods of time with the human characters and recurring yokai seems like a deliberate thematic choice of the show as it examines who Natsume is and who he is becoming.

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Which, is the second part of this story. The characters are changing. Even as we get to know who they are or who they were (through flash backs), events in the seasons we’ve seen have changed them. There’s no magic reset at the end of the episode so next episode everyone is back to the cookie cutter model we start with each week in a true sit-com style. This is an ongoing story and these characters are dynamic even if the slow pace of the show sometimes makes it seem like little progress is occurring.

Clearly Natsume, as the title character, has experienced the largest growth and development as he has slowly opened up to both human and yokai characters. However, he isn’t along in this constant change and you can see Nyanko-Sensei has softened significantly toward Natsume since season 1. His threats to eat his human companion have diminished and even when they are inserted they now seem half-hearted. He offers advice more freely and is more willing to warn Natsume of danger. He’s gone from being curious and self-interested to being genuinely fond of Natsume and this relationship is really interesting to watch.

Even Reiko, Natsume’s deceased grandmother has been given character growth as Natsume has slowly learned more about her. The end result is a world that feels incredbily rich and populated with real characters that over six seasons you’ve become friends with yourself and you genuinely care for.

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Reason 2: The overall themes of the show strike directly at the heart.

Okay, that was cheesy, but it is Natsume so it kind of had to be.

But really, the experience of watching Natsume, is one of trying to understand what it means to be human and the choices people make and why. For all the fantastical creatures and goings on, it is a story about the choices you make in life and the consequences that come from them as well as one that focusses very much on the connections that result from encounters with others.

In this the episodic nature of the show really helps it to succeed. Characters can enter the show for an episode or two and drift off only to return a season of so later but the connection they forged still exists. What this allows is for the show to never overly clutter itself with too many characters at once and we’re never wondering why such-and-such a character is even in a scene because other than Natsume, none of the characters are guaranteed an appearance if they are not necessary to the story. Even Natsume occasionally gets written out of his own narrative in order for the focus to be where it needs to be.

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For a show that is regularly as sickeningly sweet as Natsume, it knows when not to pull a happy ending out of nothing and it isn’t against leaving the characters wondering if their choice was wrong. It also doesn’t shy away from the darker side of human nature when you think about how most of Natsume’s relatives have treated him and still speak to him and about him. What makes this show a bit different is that it doesn’t wallow in its own darkness or exploit it for sensationalistic purposes. The darkness is there, but like everything else, Natsume chooses how and when to confront it and when to leave things be. It is a very real part of the narrative and while sometimes you may actively dislike a character, generally speaking you are supposed to if that is the feeling you are getting.

After five and a half seasons, my current thoughts about Natsume are that this is actually getting better as it goes. The show continues to weave backstory and lore into a world that already feels rich and real and continues to have Natsume face situations where we confront the human and inhuman equally. Hopefully season 6 can continue to shine.

There were a whole bunch of characters and ideas that I love about this show that I restrained myself from rambling about, but seriously, I’d love to know your thoughts on Natsume. Do you think Natsume has gotten better or is the charm wearing off after so many seasons?


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Friday’s Feature: Mid-Season Thoughts On ‘KADO: The Right Answer’

At episode 6 I had to admit I had fallen completely in love with this anime. There’s someone in the real world who I think will love this show but they won’t watch it until it finishes airing but at the end of each episode I want to talk to them about it and hear their thoughts. They’ve now banned me from mentioning anything that happens because they want to enjoy it for themselves and that’s fair enough but it means I’m wanting to talk about this show so much and really don’t have an outlet for it. (On that note, spoilers if you haven’t watched up to episode 6 will follow).

That’s part of why I would recommend this anime 100% even though it isn’t finished airing (and I rarely recommend unfinished anime because too many take a nose dive in the second half). But even if KADO follows that trend and does deteriorate into nonsense as the season continues, these first 6 episodes give more than enough reason to watch and discuss this show.

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Certainly there are points to be made about the visuals of the show but I’m not really interested in that aspect at this point and time (although, mostly I think it’s been pretty with the possible exception of a few moments where the characters have gone a bit creepy momentarily). What is really grabbing me about this show is thinking through this scenario if it actually happened.

The list below severely simplifies the plot from the first 5 episodes (in the process leaving out a lot of interesting thoughts and concepts raised by the show but we’ll get back to that later):

01. A cube appears and swallows a plane full of passengers.

02. We learn the passengers are fine and will be released but the being from the cube wants to negotiate.

03. As part of that they want to give all of humanity a source of unlimited energy.

04. The UN attempts to control this new energy source and Japan, the nation that received it complies but only because they’ve got a scientist who has already figured out how to make the energy source anyway.

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Even if that were it for a plot and no further curve balls were thrown, that is more than enough to get my personal curiosity fired up. Of course what most people are wondering is what zaShunina is up to in just handing humanity unlimited energy. A popular theory I’ve seen is that it is the usual alien gives double edge sword and sits back and waits for humanity to destroy itself. Certainly that is a possibility and would fit with what is happening in terms of the UN trying to muscle Japan into compliance, mostly urged by the US and Russian representatives (and did anyone else find it odd that the whole UN Security Council other than Japan actually agreed on something).

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I’d like to believe the anime isn’t going there, though events in episode 6 make me a little suspicious of zaShunina. His ‘next’ step concerns me a great deal both in terms of what it means practically and in terms of what he will need to do to accomplish such a goal. Still, if he isn’t out to destroy humanity (or see us destroy ourselves) I have to wonder what his overall goal is. Is he just benevolent and wanting to improve humanity? That seems unlikely although I’ll admit that is probably my own cynicism coming through more than any evidence from the anime.

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Then again, part of me wonders if zaShunina is actually the one in charge of this at all. I remember when we first met him he kind of was constructed by the cube itself.  As they have very carefully avoided actually asking him anything about himself of note (other than where he comes from) it is quite possible that zaShunina’s intentions are irrelevant as he might just be an agent for an as yet unseen factor in the background. That might be needlessly conspiracy theory-ish but it makes a lot of sense when you consider the nature of zaShunina’s appearance and the fact that he seems to have a check list of objectives but doesn’t explain the reason for them outside of general terms that could be misconstrued.

Moving on from zaShuina himself, the reactions of the people and the world in this anime to the events feel very real. Life in Japan, after the initial surprise of the cube arriving, returns to normal outside of a few interruptions to the airport itself and the episode 6 temporary evacuations of certain districts as a precaution. The media are camped outside the cube and reporting regularly, there are photos and the like being sent around on social media, but for most the cube is a curiosity. While some of the more extreme were protesting the Japanese government’s refusal to comply with the UN, the majority of people kind of went about their daily life.

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For some, this might be a problem because we’re used to seeing Hollywood movies where everyone just kind of stops in their tracks or runs crazy at the mention of the arrival of aliens. Remember early scenes in Independence Day when the President makes a speech about the cities where the space ships were headed and how he asked those who felt compelled to leave the cities do so in an orderly manner and then there was just absolute chaos? We’re preconditioned by movies to think that a world changing event will actually be world changing.

Yet, what we see in reality is quite the opposite. Though there have been mass protests and the like to various election outcomes and situations in various countries, for most people they’ve kept going about their daily life. While most people have a vague awareness of situations occurring, they don’t know the details nor do they really care very much unless it directly impacts upon their daily life. You might disagree with that but when we look at the numbers protesting compared to the numbers just going about their business it is clear that the majority would prefer to maintain a status quo life-style even if they take to social media in the evening to pass on a few memes without really troubling themselves to act.

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KADO latches on to this notion, that people prefer their daily routine and the things they understand, and uses it to its advantage in forging what is becoming a very believable storyline, even with a premise that seems incredibly far-fetched at first glance. Of course there are characters directly effected by the events and they are responding. Of course governments are troubled by the offer of unlimited energy. There’s so many ways that could politically and economically go wrong and yet could have an extreme benefit if used appropriately. Of course scientists are fascinated by the chance to go further and research ideas that they couldn’t have before. But for everyone else, other than a possible flight delay and a traffic jam, life is going on. The more socially or politically aware individuals would be watching the news to keep up with developments, but during the day they go to work and things move on (whether for the better or worse is something the show hasn’t commented on in any way at this point).

KADO has totally won me over at this point. It is science fiction done very well. No sensationalist fight sequences to entertain the masses, but a tight focus on the human condition in the face of one very clear intrusion into the normal world. The reactions and flow on effects to that intrusion have been handled with care and what is being woven is a fairly compelling story that asks us to really consider the idea of humanity and national borders, yet at the same time doesn’t seem to want to preach its own brand of morality (at least not at this stage). And that isn’t to say that sensationalist fight sequences aren’t entertaining or a part of science fiction, but at its core, a good sci-fi really should get us to re-evaluate ourselves and the world at large, and KADO has succeeded admirably at that.

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If you haven’t given KADO: The Right Answer a go yet, this is the one show from this season I think is unmissable. Certainly there are more sensational shows, and shows that look prettier, or move at a faster pace, but none of the shows this season have made me want to think and talk as much as KADO has.

What do you think so far about KADO or what is your theory about zaShunina?


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Friday’s Feature: Examining the Pointlessness of Arguing About Subs or Dubs in Anime

You know when I first started writing features I was pretty positive that this was the one topic I was not going to touch. Mostly because it has already been argued to death and also because ultimately what this post is going to come down to is that it is about personal preference so there is no right side of this argument. Hence the title. It really is a pointless debate/argument/war and all it does is split anime fans when, let’s be honest, whether you watch subs or dubs you are still a fan of anime.

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The problem is that so many people get it into their head that their preference is somehow actually the ‘right’ way to view something and then there is this stubborn refusal to accept that someone else might choose to view it differently. So what are the main arguments in favour of subs and why don’t they make much sense from a logical standpoint?

01. They allow you to get the authentic experience. Assuming you believe the sub-titles are actually in anyway accurate or capturing the nuances of the langauge being spoken. Seriously, the subs are as bad as the dub if you are actually going for authenticity of the story. Learn Japanese if you want the real story and then realise that sometimes those changes they make to the dialogue actually do make the story more accessible. My Japanese is dreadful but the more I learn the more I realise that neither subs or dubs are giving me a particularly genuine anime experience but I’m still getting a good story so I don’t much care.

02. Dubs are dreadful. Which would have been a reasonably accurate statement about twenty years ago. Seriously, Sailor Moon voice acting has a lot to answer for and it wasn’t even the worst of the 1990’s dubs. And yes, I went through a period where because English dubs were fairly dreadful, that I wouldn’t watch them. What has changed now though is that a lot of the English dubs are actually quite good with some actually good performances and sometimes fairly contextualised content that make the story really enjoyable. I will point out that the reuse of voice actors in English dubs is a bit of a problem because there is a vastly smaller pool of voice actors to draw from, but even this is improving.

03. You just should watch subs. Unbelievably, this argument comes up time and again. This is not an argument. This is what you resort to when you realise that the only two arguments you actually have in favour of your view are more or less invalidated by the current state of dubs.

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However, the arguments for dubs are just as weak.

01. I don’t have to read and I can enjoy the story more. Okay, valid point if reading is an issue (and in an anime like Steins;Gate where the dialogue hits you a million miles an hour from multiple characters and the dub is pretty good, I might even agree that this argument has validity rather than trying to read half a screen of multi-character dialogue). Mostly though, subs don’t interfere with the viewing experience. You can see your entire television (computer, device) screen at once so your eye is capable of reading that one line of text that is usually quite large in terms of font at the bottom of the screen. Still, given this one comes down to individual enjoyment, it’s kind of hard to refute.

02. Insert something semi-racist here about listening to Japanese. Yep. People who are anime fans actually mock the language and culture that produces the shows they enjoy. This argument isn’t even really worth getting into. It’s right up there with the ‘you just should’ argument for subs.

03. Hmmm… Oh right. There isn’t a number 3. It really comes down to not wanting to read or not liking listening to Japanese. There’s really no other argument that gets put forward consistently as to why dubs might be better.

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And all of this brings me back to my initial point. This is a pointless argument. People will watch what they want and in a way they enjoy it. Rather than fighting over which is better, shouldn’t we all just celebrate the fact that the anime fan-base world-wide continues to grow and that we actually have options as to how we watch it?

Finally, just so that I’m not tempted to come back to this topic any time soon, I’ll make my preference clear. When I watch by myself, with one or two exceptions where I either only have access to a dubbed copy or the dub is genuinely amazing, I watch subbed anime. Why? Because I’m trying to learn Japanese and amazingly enough just recognising one more phrase as I watch today over yesterday is pretty fun. That, and I started watching anime in the 90’s when dubs were horrible and then when I picked up anime as an adult I got used to watching badly fan-subbed anime on YouTube. Okay, some of it was fairly well fan-subbed but that didn’t change the fact that the majority of anime I managed to watch before legal streaming services were a thing,  were subbed.

However, I have a very limited pool of friends that I can talk into watching anime and over half of them will not watch subs. So, when I watch socially I almost always watch dubbed. You know what, anime is still fun regardless of whether it is subbed or dubbed.

Feel free to share your preference below or comment on the ongoing war between subbed viewers and dubbed viewers. Let’s kick the conversation into gear and actually have a conversation rather than a flame war.


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Friday’s Feature – Anniversary Special: My First Posts

As we’ve pretty much come to the end of my anniversary week other than one more follower feature and a things I’ve learned post coming tomorrow (yes, I did take a whole week to celebrate the ongoing existence of my own blog), I’m wanting to look back on the journey as a whole from where I started to now, particularly looking back and my early posts.

Party

The name of my blog clearly states that my initial plan was to only write posts of around 100 words. Mostly it was a writing exercise because I didn’t really expect anyone was going to read my posts. While I wanted to discuss anime with people, I didn’t really have anyone to talk with and I’d pretty much given up on the Crunchyroll forums for a conversation. So the blog was born out of a desire to say something about anime, find other anime fans, and maybe have a conversation. As the blog started growing and I started having quite a bit of fun with it, I expanded into longer series reviews, features, lists, and pretty much whatever I wanted to do.

First Post

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My very first post came a few weeks into the Spring 2016 anime season on May 1st. I think I was a little too optimistic about my ability to actually keep my thoughts down to 100 words per post:

This blog is going to follow some of the anime out this season and offer an episode by episode review with the occasional retro review thrown in, whenever I have the time. As the title indicates, I’m going to try to keep the reviews to 100 words.

Now, for some fun stats. That post has received a total of 15 views ever with 0 likes and 0 comments. For some that would have spelled the end of the blog. I’ve seen so many first posts or introductory posts that never, ever get a follow up post and then the blog vanishes from sight. For me, that was more or less what I was expecting and I was actually surprised it even managed 9 views in the first 2 days.

First Episode Review

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Also on May 1st, because once I start something I get just a little bit obsessed, I posted my very first episode review and now that I’m looking back I’ve discovered that the first ever episode review was for Kiznaiver episode 4.

…I’ve been routinely disappointed as the anime used shocks and (un)comedic moments with a cast that has been difficult to like. Episode four finally overcomes the latter with the cast starting to feel more genuine in their roles even as two of the characters fight it out for title of king weirdo.

This post actually got some views, 19 in May and 28 total, and even a few comments. It probably helped that Kiznaiver was one of the most talked about anime of that particular season and amazingly enough tagging your posts with key words people search for actually does help people find your blog.

First Series Review

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By May 3rd I’d decided to tackle a review of an anime I’d finished watching prior to starting the blog and I pretty much threw the 100 words out the window when taking on a whole series. First series review was The Devil Is A Part Timer for the simple reason that I’d just finished watching it over a long weekend.

While some of the characters remain one dimensional and the basic premise never really evolves beyond Lord Satan is working part time and somehow believes he will one day rule the world, this series is more than entertaining enough.

12 whole views of that post in May. Wow! I’m thinking the lesson I’m learning here is that blogs don’t grow over night. And even though sometimes I wonder if I’m working hard enough at growing my blog, when I look back at where it started I’ve actually made some good progress.

First Friday’s Feature

Why do you watch

On May 6th I decided to write a feature. Actually, I just wanted to further discussion around anime and a 100 word episode review didn’t seem right so I created a feature and being ambitious I called it Friday’s Feature, thus dooming myself to having to think of a new topic each week to write about. Seriously, I enjoy writing those posts but some weeks inspiration is a little dry. My first Friday’s Feature asked people Why do you? and focussed on reasons for watching anime.

Why do you watch anime?

I often wonder why this question ever even gets asked. Its like walking up to someone standing on a football field in their uniform and carrying the ball and asking why they play football.

The thing was, that was my most popular post in May with 27 views pretty much on the Friday or over the following weekend. Even now, my feature posts get significantly more views and comments than most of my other posts (with the possible exception of some of my Top 5 lists). So in terms of igniting a conversation, I think the feature has very much served its purpose and hopefully I can continue to come up with useful and engaging topics, though clearly not all of them will be gems.

First Tuesday’s Top 5

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Skip ahead to June 7 and I launched my very first Top 5 Tuesday’s Top 5 post starting out with  Top 5 Red Heads (Female). I’d thought about it for a little bit before adding this feature and I’d drafed up a fairly lengthy list of potential lists because I didn’t want to get a few weeks in and run short of ideas.

As the title suggests I’m going to attempt to do a top 5 list every Tuesday. Why did I start with Red-Heads? Because it was an easy list to write and really shouldn’t lead to too many people wanting to tell me exactly how many different ways I am wrong. I could be wrong about that, but time will tell.

List writing has become one of my favourite parts of this blog. I don’t want to do more than one a week but just thinking about possible lists and candidates and writing down the names and crossing them out is very relaxing. Anyway, this post got 48 views in June and some of my Top 5 lists have become amongst my most viewed posts.

The Rest

Over time I’ve tried a few different things with the blog. I used to do words of wisdom, sharing anime quotes. Mostly I ran out of quotes that I wanted to share and to be honest a post with just a quote wasn’t really adding much to the overall discussion about anime so I scrapped it. I’ve also occasional promoted a release of a DVD, done some links to AMV’s, and of course I do my weekly overviews of what I’ve been watching and the in case you missed it posts where I link to blogs I’ve read during the week.

What I Learned

For this whole anniversary week I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned through blogging but I think the number 1 thing that I will take away from this is that blogs take time and effort but it is incredibly rewarding. At first it will feel like you are just casting words out into the abyss and hoping someone somewhere might respond, but as you build up connections with your readers and other bloggers you will realise you aren’t alone and that you are actually part of a larger and fairly vocal community that for the most part are highly supportive and also just wanting to find someone to talk anime with.

Thanks to everyone who has joined me this week for the anniversary specials and remember there are a couple more to come out tomorrow to finish off the week.

Here’s to 1 year on 100 Word Anime and hopefully I’ll see you all throughout the 2nd year.


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Friday’s Feature: Avoiding the Paradoxes of Time Travel or Plunging Headlong Into Them with Sagrada Reset

This post was written after watching the first three episodes of Sagrada Reset and while it discusses those episodes everything in this feature will be pure speculation and opinion. Keep in mind this post is not trying to tell you that Sagrada is an amazing, must watch anime given there are a lot of issues so far with it as an anime. It is however, looking at the premise of the show and how it is dealing with, or not dealing with, time travel.

And then episode 4 came out and a lot of my speculation has already been tossed out the window. On to the next lot of theories then, still, this was where I was after episode 3.

Orange9

Previously I wrote a feature article focussing on the use of time travel in Orange and essentially the fact that no matter how I looked at it, even if the mechanism they used for time travel worked, it made no sense that the future versions of a person would actually take the actions they took. As a result of how time travel played out I essentially found the basic premise of the show flawed because the character in the future assumed that changing the past would create a parallel timeline where her past self could experience the different version of her life while future self continued to live her current existence. There was no evidence to give the character confidence this was how time travel would work other than one off hand spur of the moment discussion by a science teacher back when she was in high school For all she knew she was undoing her entire future life and the life of her child.

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Essentially, while I like science fiction, and quite enjoy stories that use time travel as a mechanism, I find these stories tend to by and large fall apart once you step back and actually question the internal logic of them. Even Terminator makes very little sense given the AI has figured out how to travel through time and sends only one machine with a specific target rather than sending an army to hit multiple targets simultaneously. Assuming there’s an energy consumption reason behind that decision, taking out Sarah Connor is still a really pointless move. Even assuming John Connor never exists it is highly unlikely that no human would stand up in his absence. John Connor became the leader of the resistance, but if he hadn’t been there, someone else would have become the leader and maybe they would be more effective. Let’s be honest, if no one had ever tried to kill Sarah and then John, his childhood (assuming he existed at all given his father is technically also from the future) would have been completely useless at preparing him for the end of the world. Surely the AI is smart enough to draw these conclusions and to realise that given the machines seem to be winning in the future anyway, messing with that timeline is unlikely to tip things in the machines favour.

But none of that has anything to do with Sagrada Reset.

Sagrada2

To start with, Sagrada Reset is not using time travel. Nobody moves through time, the world is reset to a particular point (literally to a save point predetermined by Haruki). In the first episode she tells us that it changes nothing and no one can be saved because even she does not remember the reset until she tries to reset again to the same point (because clearly the same events would occur uninterrupted leading to the trigger that makes her want to reset) and she realises she can’t because each save point can only be used once and she can’t set a new save point within 24 hours of the old.

This made me interested in how this show would deal with time because it seemed like a neat way to avoid the usual time travel paradox  discussion without creating parallel worlds because she was literally destroying everything that had come after the save point and starting over to admittedly let events repeat themselves unhindered. This was more or less confirmed in episode three when we got this line from Kei who is the only character we know of who can remember events that have happened during the days that were reset:

Sagrada3

It’s an ugly way to put it but if the reset works the way Haruki has described then it is rather accurate. Meaning you are giving up the three days that have existed, erasing them from everyone’s memory, and starting over.

But then we have Kei who does remember what has happened and who shares that knowledge with Haruki in order to change events (although far more cautiously after the events of episode 2). All of this leaves the story open to be a fairly basic protagonist goes back three days to solve the mystery of the week kind of story without any further issues of concerns about the mechanism that allows that story to operate. This, by itself, would still be a fairly watchable premise and could even be entertaining if done well (though not particularly original – hardly a sin in the entertainment industry these days).

What got this show stuck in my head were the other complications and mysteries that have crept into the story or been hinted at. We’re only three episodes in and yet there’s an almost endless stream of questions and possibilities.

Episode 2 saw Kei use a reset for an almost trivial reason. I guess from his emotionally stunted point of view it made sense to approach the situation that way but from anyone else’s point of view it was a lame reason to ask the girl you just kissed to reset the entire world. As interesting a discussion as that might make as to the true nature of Kei’s character, what makes this moment more than just a minor blip in the story is that after the reset one major thing has changed and that leads to a character’s death (at least she’s reported as dead – let’s be honest, this is clearly setting up a mystery and the girl died off screen so there is every chance for a return later in the series with a faked her own death story). Putting aside conspiracy, she’s not dead, for just a short moment, this made me draw the conclusion that someone other than Kei must remember the reset and have intervened to change events.

However, another blogger (Marthaurion from Marth’s Anime Blog) had this to say in his review of episode 2:

It seems like the reset changed the timeline, but it also seems like…it didn’t?

Which of course made me question the original conclusion I’d drawn and I realised that both options were possible and weren’t actually mutually exclusive which raised even more possibilities further down the track, and none of that addressed the potential of the character not even being dead.

So let’s go back to how the reset works, or at least how it is explained which could be highly suspect anyway given if it worked the way Haruki describes why on earth would she even know she had the power because technically any memory of it should be wiped from her own mind.

SagradaEpisode 2SagradaEpisode2b

Now this is where I wish my Japanese was better to know how accurate a translation those subs are but the implication here is that if things are being rearranged to a past state there’s no guarantee that some mistakes won’t creep in to the reconstructed version of the world. Particularly when literally everyone and everything is being rearranged. It would seem very unnatural for it to fall perfectly back the way it started.

If we then assume the robot or android analogy they made in episode 1 was meant to be something more than a throw away thought bubble then we could see Haruki and her power essentially like the save function in a computer game. Save before you face the boss and should the battle go south reload and try again. In some games the boss will always repeat the same attack patterns allowing you to learn how to overcome it. This would be the way she describes her power working. However, in other games, while the boss will still attack you the sequence of attacks may not be exactly the same each time and you may even have a random encounter before you get to the boss fight that didn’t show up in the previous iteration.

So I guess that leads me to wonder if this story is leading us down the path of discussion about whether events are preordained (in which case they would repeat identically without interference) or whether they are more random (in which case even if the reset was perfect anything after the reset could potentially change though most people would be inclined to repeat their actions simply because without any change in the stimulus provided there would be little reason for them to react differently).

Meanwhile, none of this gets us any closer to knowing if there is another person who remembers the loops and is interfering or whether the power itself is something else altogether.

Now let’s go full conspiracy theory on this show just for the fun of it.

Sagrada1b

My current working theory is that after the Bureau was confronted by Kei and forced to give up on securing Mari because the mother stayed behind, they somehow realised that Haruki and Kei were messing with time but weren’t sure exactly how, or maybe the figured it out but wanted some more details. The next time Kei and Haruki reset, the Bureau used its influence to make one critical change and removed Soma from the picture (either by killing her, convincing her to leave town and then faking the news story as her memory would be gone anyway, or because she was already working for them in her capacity as class rep – which incidentally explains how the Bureau knew about the power in the first place given Soma was the one who put Kei and Haruki together – they simply asked her to disappear). Possibly this was a field test to determine whether or not Haruki really was unable to reset the same period of time.

We then get a two year time leap where it is strongly implied that Kei and Haruki have used the reset and developed a working relationship, though Kei apparently isn’t keen on using the reset easily anymore, and now the Bureau is directly monitoring them through the creation of a club at their highschool and the known Bureau representative being the club advisor.

This time they seem to be testing the three days and the save points by setting up the ridiculous scenario with the run-over/kidnapped cat. Evidence for this includes the advisor knowing when the save points are and Kei reporting the use of a reset to him, the timeline for the cat getting killed and the request that Kei and Haruki help, the suspicious actions of the girl who requested help in the first time line where she’s following their investigation and then in the second where she’s clearly waiting for them to show up (thus confirming they travelled through time and thought something would happen at the bakery), and the advisor’s strange request that Kei not reset time until three days had passed even though they had a new save point.

And that’s a lovely theory that essentially the Bureau are orchestrating the whole thing in order to find a practical way they can utilise this combination ability of Kei and Haruki. The only issue is the hole in the wall thing that showed up in episode 3 at the moment won’t slot into that theory at all.

Basically, more information is needed. To be honest, I’m kind of going to have to finish this show at this point, no matter how bland the characters may be at times or how dialogue heavy the episodes may get while pacing continues to be hit and miss. I may end up really hating this story by the end, but right now I just need to know. Time travel without time travel. What kind of narrative paradox can you create?

If you’ve been watching Sagrada Reset, what do you think?


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Friday’s Feature: Discussing Sequels, Prequels and Spin-Offs

When it came to movies, I was always wary of sequels growing up. It was more or less universally accepted that the sequel would be weaker than the original with a few exceptions (which of course proved the rule). I was less aware of prequels until the Star Wars franchise essentially hacked the heart out of their own series by delivering 3 very underwhelming movies that pretty much told us nothing that we hadn’t already figured out from watching the original series. Since then we’ve had plenty of other examples in movies of prequels and sequels just not quite hitting the mark.

So how does this translate to the anime watching experience?

Well it doesn’t really because anime sometimes wraps up the story in one season, but often it doesn’t. What we usually call a sequel in anime is regularly just an ongoing continuation of a story that wasn’t finished. Which means that sometimes that second part is awesome (or third, or fourth, or whatever in the case of very long running series). However, sometimes even if the story isn’t finished it feels like the characters have said everything they needed to and we’re just getting put through the motions of yet more fights and battles for the sake of it.

That said, some sequels are amazing. Higurashi’s second season is fantastic, and totally necessary if you ever want to know why everyone keeps dying in that story. Meanwhile, Black Butler 2 I probably could have done without (and Darker Than Black 2 and quite a few others). What it comes down to is while I will watch a sequel to a series I enjoyed, I always watch with the assumption that there’s a good chance it will go downhill fast, that way if they manage to pull off something decent I’m always pleasantly surprised. And I know some people are screaming Endless Eight right now which is probably another reason to be wary of some sequels.

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The occasional prequel that shows up (such as Handa-kun) doesn’t really register given how infrequent they are. Generally, any backstory that is needed is told through flashbacks and prequels just aren’t needed. That hasn’t stopped various ‘young’ insert character name stories cropping up but they aren’t exactly flooding the market (and please don’t).

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Then, we’ve also got spin-off series which are extremely hit and miss. Some manage to surpass the original where others just end up looking like a watered down imitation. A Certain Scientific Railgun is an excellent example of a spin-off that kind of left the original material in the dust. While I like A Certain Magical Index, the need to explain magic, esper abilities, and Touma’s weird ability which falls into neither category, meant the whole thing was very crowded. Also, Touma regularly faced magical villains which meant despite the show being set in a city of espers, esper abilities sat more as a background setting than a focus. Railgun deals pretty much exclusively with the espers and esper issues and as a direct result the world building is significantly stronger and the conflicts are far easier to convey and explain.

shirai

This season we’ve got Sword Oratoria giving us a different view of the world from DanMachi (Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?). Where Sword Oratoria concerned me even from its announcement was in the focus character. See, Railgun took the most interesting character out of Index and gave her a chance to shine. Sword Oratoria takes the least interesting character out of DanMachi and so far hasn’t done much with her. That isn’t to say it can’t pick up, but you have to wonder why we didn’t just get a continuation of DanMachi given Bell’s story wasn’t yet done.

What it means is, there’s no hard and fast rule in anime (or in movies really) as to whether a sequel, prequel, or spin-off will work or not which leaves a lot of fans wading through poor follow up seasons in the hope of stumbling across a good one.

Winter 2017 gave us a number of sequels to consider and to be honest I found them all lacking. Tales of Zestiria the X had been reasonable in season 1, but season 2 lost all focus and forward momentum before rushing to a conclusion that made very little sense to those who hadn’t played the game because so many things happened just because. It was kind of a let down even for those of us with minimal expectations of it. Iron Blooded Orphans similarly kind of faded during its second season. While it maintained a reasonable storyline, it just lacked the punch of the original. Meanwhile, Super Lovers 2 just left me wondering if the characters actually had made any headway at all and Blue  Exorcist just felt like they thought they could just throw any random villain at the characters because the audience would be happy with whatever.

zestirias2e7b

Then we got to Spring 2017 and while I’m watching the spin-off Sword Oratoria, in terms of sequels the load is heavy. My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, The Eccentric Family and Natsume Yuujinchou are all trying to draw me back into their worlds. Natsume has the advantage in that it’s up to season 6 (and I’ll come back to Natsume in a little bit). The Eccentric Family made a strong start. Both My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan have done a reasonable job (and I’ll admit My Hero Academia seems to be getting stronger by the episode), but at this point neither has really convinced me they can surpass the first season (I’d love to be proven wrong and for both to end well).

For me, the main issue always seems to be that unlike a new series, a sequel is stuck with all the expectations of the audience and preconceived notions. We’ve watched part 1, we know these characters and this setting. It limits where the story can go but it can still be very good if there is character development to be found or more story to be told.

There are three series that I want to discuss in regards to sequels.

Kaname

Starting with Full Metal Panic, this series had a season 1 and then we got Second Raid. There’s also a filler comedy season which should be regarded in its own way (its hilarious) but I’m not discussing that here. Arguably, you can stop watching at the end of season 1. You can. Chidori realises she’s got all this stuff in her head and she uses it to save the submarine. Sousuke beats the guy he’s been wanting to beat. They celebrate and then they go back to school. Yeah, Chidori is still going to be targeted and Sousuke still knows nothing about living in the real world, but essentially, it’s a good stopping point.

So why Second Raid?

Because what does Chidori want to do now that she knows she has this knowledge in her head? Is Sousuke actually just going to play the good soldier forever? And what is their relationship? There were plenty of character points still open that had more than enough points of interest to explore and certainly more than enough villains in the world to get the plot moving again. The reason Second Raid works though is Chidori and Sousuke both get pushed to their limit. Chidori is forced to fight for her own life because Sousuke doesn’t instantly save her. He’s too busy going through his own little mental break down which is spectacular to see given everything he’s been through. And while he recovers just a little too fast, it is a mecha series and mental health was never supposed to be the main focus (it isn’t Evangelion).

However, then there’s the announcement about yet another season and the only question I had was why? While season 1 set the scene and the plot really well while introducing us to the characters and season 2 showed us the true effect of everything they’d been through on the characters, what will season 3 offer us other than either more of the same or just another random villain? As much as I love this story and these characters, I’m not convinced yet that another season is needed. Though, there also haven’t been any details about season 3 released (other than a delay) so maybe they have come up with something worth saying.

Kirito_Dual_Blades

But all of this contrasts with my view of SAO in terms of sequels. Sword Art Online was fantastic when it came out. The entire first arc, playing Sword Art Online, was good (I know some people have issues with it but it works). I loved it. Then Kirito beats the game and they all wake up. That’s great. We’re trapped in a game that can kill us and someone finally let us out. Whoo-hoo.

So why isn’t that the end of season 1?

Because some people didn’t wake up. Okay. Fine. Why not?

Technically, this could have worked as a continuation. It could have. But most people will agree that Fairy Dance is the weakest of the SAO stories. While it does tie up a loose end or 2 from SAO, it isn’t necessary. The story could have ended with them waking up and being reunited. They added an additional complication for no reason other then to force a continuation that wasn’t needed, turned a reasonably capable female character into a damsel in distress, and introduced a villain who was so immature and cartoonish in his villainy you couldn’t have taken him seriously if you tried.

Then we have GGO and the Mother Rosario arcs, both of which I kind of regard more as Spin-offs given how little in common they have with the original story at this point. More importantly, Kirito pretty much stops developing as a character (and I know some people will argue he didn’t develop in the original, but we’ll save that argument for later). Essentially, he freezes at the end of Fairy Dance. There’s nothing more to say about him. He does stuff, but he no longer changes as a result of his actions or decisions.

natsume-yuujinchou-0070

The last series I want to touch on is Natsume Yuujinchou which is already 5 seasons, with season 6 getting underway. Natsume in terms of story has never really felt like it is driving toward anything. The conflict has always been Natsume dealing with how to live. That isn’t something that can be ‘solved’ or ‘overcome’ and it isn’t something that ends. And it is a conflict that continually sees the main character reflect and grow (admittedly in very slow and small steps). What that ultimately means is that despite the number of sequels, this story still doesn’t feel finished and this character is still evolving. Spending more time with him on his journey is always fun.

Basically, anime sequels (or prequels or spin-offs) all need to be considered in the light of the series they are attached to. For me if they actually are needed or are adding something of value to the character or the story then I will usually find them highly enjoyable. But if I’m just expected to swallow lack luster story telling because someone slapped a name on it I recognise, I’m going to move on.

How do you feel about sequels and prequels in anime?


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Karandi James.

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