3 Reasons Why Flashbacks Aren’t Always The Best Narrative Device

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For anyone who has started Fairy Gone this season it should have immediately become apparent that in addition to the visual problems with the anime the narrative itself relies heavily on flashbacks and exposition to fill the audience in on information. While neither flashbacks nor exposition are actually inherently bad, in point of fact they can both be used incredibly effectively, the way they’ve been employed in Fairy Gone is fairly maddening.

At some point I’ll have to look at exposition and anime that use it well and anime that just beats its audience over the head with the exposition driving dialogue and literally nothing else happening, but for now I just want to look at flashbacks and how these have been used poorly so far in Fairy Gone.

The first real problem the audience will encounter with Fairy Gone is that each of the first few episodes begins with a sequence that is actually a flashback, usually to the war where the Fairy Soldiers were originally created to fight in. That’s fine and all as many a story begins with a flashback sequence to an important time prior to the events of the story proper and over time the significance of the scenes becomes clear. I’d liken Fairy Gone’s attempt with the style used for the Dark Angel TV series where most episodes begin with a flashback of Max back at Manticore, the institute where she was raised as a soldier.

Now I actually really like Dark Angel and how Max’s childhood permeates each episode through flashbacks, particularly when she’s having an episode and weak or when she encounters someone who is connected to her past. However there are are a couple of things Dark Angel does differently that actually makes those flashbacks enjoyable and relevant.

Mainly, the longer flashbacks are narrated by Max herself. We aren’t just seeing the kids running around doing stuff, but are given her thoughts about what had happened. This isn’t usually a long monologue worth of narration though. It is usually just a few lines leading into the sequence or a couple of lines at the end that link us back to the present and why she’s thinking about it at all. It’s amazing how some simple framing can make the flashbacks feel so much more purposeful and immediately relevant.

Fairy Gone doesn’t do this. We get some text telling us what year we’re in and usually the name of the city where the characters are. Also character names seem to appear sometimes but they aren’t always characters we know. The sequence of events plays out and while there are bits and pieces that by the fourth episode seem to be relevant, at the time you are mostly watching characters you don’t know participate in events long past and given little to no reason to care about it. The transition from flashback to present day is indistinct, again save some text, and there’s usually no immediate link between what we saw in the flashback and what follows after, other than the tenuous one of these characters previously knew each other in some cases.

Speaking of transitions, this is another case where Dark Angel did it better. In order to always know whether we are in the past or present, without having to wave text around the screen, the flashback scenes are leeched of colour and the sound is slightly muted or echoes as if hearing it from a distance. That means when we come out of the flashback the world resumes its normal tone and sound and there’s an instant awareness of when and where we are in the story.

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The second problem I’m really finding with the flashbacks is I’m not sure that they’ve added anything of note. I mean, we know Marlya and Veronica belonged to a village that got destroyed and the two of them escaped before getting separated, but did we need the whole flashback sequence to establish something that we could have learned a myriad of other ways? Now, this could have been a really interesting flashback providing insight into Marlya’s motives or feelings or it could have just been a really exhilarating or exciting set-piece but due to the lacklustre and pedestrian way it was delivered there’s little to no reason to really care about the sequence at all, and yet they’ve shown it more than once.

Fairy Gone Episode 3

Free’s backstory is equally frustrating as it has established a relationship between himself and Wolfran and their involvement in the war, but these are things we could have just as easily have picked up by staying in the present and through comments made between characters. Seeing it could have been interesting if the sequence had built any emotional investment or given us more insight into the relationship but it really didn’t.

Again, bringing it back to Dark Angel, the flashbacks there are at times repetitive but they do so to emphasise and reinforce particular points. Each one fills in a piece of Max’s past and provides understanding of her volatile nature and her complex relationships with Zac and Lydecker. While they possibly could have achieved the same effect with a few less repetitions, for the most part each flashback felt meaningful in terms of providing context for a very complex character.

But that does bring us to the third problem Fairy Gone is having with its flashbacks, which is how much time they eat out of episodes that already feel like they aren’t getting very far with the story. I’m actually kind of interested in the premise Fairy Gone has laid out and I’m slowly warming up to the characters, but I feel I’d be more attached to the whole story at this point if it spent less time wasting time in the past without seeming to really value add and more time actually developing the characters as they are and their current relationships with one another.

Now, there are plenty of anime that use flashbacks. Some at the beginning of a series to establish setting and some throughout the series to develop a particular character’s backstory or to establish a new setting or idea. There are many anime that manage to do it very well.

For example, Fruits Basket uses fairly continuous flashbacks of Kyoko, Honda Tohru’s mother, and the advice she gave Tohru as well as the love between mother and daughter and this is used really well. It often gives Tohru’s advice and ideas context as to why she feels the way she does or feels compelled to act and it establishes key themes that are being considered within the episode in question. These flashbacks are heartwarming and flesh Tohru out as a character who has pre-existing relationships that changed her, even if her mother is now dead.

On the other hand, we have something like Juni Taisen that essentially filled each episode with flashbacks of a single character, building them up, just to knock them off at the end of that episode. By the third time that happened the writing was on the wall for the series as a whole but I’ll give them credit for consistency at least even if it didn’t end up being all that entertaining.

Somewhere in the middle of those we have something like Attack on Titan where some flashbacks are used beautifully at just the right moment to fill in key details or character points and at other times just feel like filler to delay moving the plot forward.

The main point being that flashbacks aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Like all narrative devices it really depends on how they are executed and for what purpose as to whether or not that will work within their story. So far, Fairy Gone hasn’t demonstrated a great grip on how to actually use flashbacks effectively but Fairy Gone isn’t bad because of an excessive use of flashbacks. It is more that it hasn’t used these in an interesting manner or to drive either the story or characters forward.

But that’s enough from me. What do you think about flashbacks in anime? What are some of your favourite anime that use flashbacks well? And what are some anime where the flashbacks just make you wince and wish they would be done already?

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May 2019 OWLS Post – Finding Happiness In and Out of Your Comfort Zone

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Hi everyone. Sorry it has been a couple of months since I’ve had a go at an OWLS post but I decided to definitely get back to it in May and then, once I saw the prompt for May I knew I had to write something for this one. Let’s get into it.

Happiness is subjective. We all have different definitions of what happiness means to us and we also feel happiness in varying degrees. This month we will be exploring several questions describing our happiness in our fandoms, communities, and hobbies. Why do we find enjoyment watching anime or reading manga? Why did we decide to join the anime or pop culture communities?  Why do we blog about our hobbies or cosplay as our favorite characters? This topic is all about the passions we have for our interests and why they are important to us.

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Finding Happiness In And Out Of Your Comfort Zone

When I read this prompt the first thing I was reminded of was Prince from Run With The Wind and while I’ll get to my own experiences in a little bit, I’d like to examine his character first the journey he went on throughout the series.

Run With The Wind Episode 7 Prince

Prince has a clear comfort zone at the beginning of the series. His room in the apartment is floor to ceiling stacked with his manga and he is most comfortable when his nose is stuck inside one of those volumes absorbing the story and the characters within it. While superficially this might seem like a story about getting the loner out of his room and exercising, what we see instead is Prince connecting the new experiences he has with his experiences within stories and blending the two in a way that few anime or stories dare.

Run With The Wind Episode 14 Prince

Ultimately, his passion for manga is still burning fiercely at the end of the series. He hasn’t moved on from it, grown up, found a new love that surpasses the old. While the manga is visually less prevalent in later episodes, in case there was any doubt that the message here was about embracing multiple experiences, Prince’s passionate speech to Haiji about the great characters who could inspire him makes it clear that Prince’s head is firmly still with his beloved manga and the characters he has formed attachments to.

Run With The Wind Episode 19 - Prince

Equally though, he tells Haiji at the end that he’s had fun with running the race and its truly the first time Prince acknowledges what the audience has seen in the second half of the series, Prince has embraced the team and the new hobby without compromising on his first love.

Run With The Wind Episode 23 - Prince

I bring up Prince because he’s a truly wonderful example that it doesn’t need to be all or nothing. I am an anime fan and also a fan of gaming, a fairly new fan of light novels, a much older fan of novels and movies, but I also enjoy hiking, travel, and anything that involves eating chocolate. As such, I don’t define myself solely through one fandom or another and nor do I allow one fandom to prevent me pursuing new avenues should something take my fancy.

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One of the many things I love about anime is that it is squarely in my comfort zone. It is largely an individual hobby, though there is a thriving online community I can interact with, largely activities involve being indoors, and anime, despite having some interesting variations and themes, essentially follows the same basic rules and structures of narratives that I love from movies, books and other TV shows. Slipping into the anime fandom was easy, getting hooked even easier, and staying within the fandom is very comfortable.

There’s a genuine happiness that comes from finding a new anime and falling in love with it, watching a terrible anime and pulling it apart, watching an anime with a friend and cringing when you realise that they are about to do something that as an anime fan you are very used to but you are about to get asked to explain by someone less familiar with it. There’s happiness to be found when you finish an anime, whether it was better or worse than you expected and there’s true joy in the anticipation of a new season even if it doesn’t end up panning out. Then there’s the happiness of connecting with others who equally love what you love, collecting figures, books or other merchandise of characters you’ve truly come to care for, and ultimately owning the shiny DVD’s of a series that you will binge again and again.

However, anime also takes me out of my comfort zone in ways I’ve learned to love and appreciate.

Five years ago I would have said I was never going to watch harem based shows. Now I routinely have these in my list of anime watched for the year, though more reverse harems.

Three years ago I would have said I wouldn’t watch sports based shows. Now I’ve got quite the catalogue of sports anime that I’ve finished and I’ve had in depth conversations with a friend who coaches volleyball around a game we were watching because having watched Haikyu I actually know what is going on now other than the ball goes over the net.

There are so many anime in so many different genres that I never thought I would try that I’m now loving each and every season.

Two years ago I started reading light novels and some manga. I’ve since had to once again reorganise my shelves in order to find space for the next volumes of Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash and of course Natsume’s Book of Friends. The collections are growing as quickly as I can buy them and yet my shelf space is limited and I already have quite the library of novels that I’ve been accumulating since I was a pre-teen.

I don’t actually dislike e-books, but there’s something truly magical about opening a new volume and the feel and smell of the paper.

In the last couple of years I’ve been to two conventions (which given where I live is quite the venture) and spent the weekend surrounded by hundreds of people. For me that is an intense and overwhelming experience and yet because everyone there was embracing the fandoms and a love of the same kinds of movies and anime that I love both were incredibly rewarding experiences.

Even on this last trip to Japan I made a note of a few things I particularly wanted to find and managed to even ask at shops for certain items or shows to see what they had in relation to them, though my tongue tried to glue itself to the roof of my mouth before hand as I freaked out about whether I’d be understood or not.

All of these things bring me happiness even as they push me further beyond what I thought was my comfort zone and I try things I may never have given a chance and interact with people I might never have had any reason to speak with, because of the happiness and joy I’ve found in anime.

There’s no one reason why I love anime, but because of my love of anime, my life is filled almost daily with small pieces of happiness. For as long as I keep finding those moments of happiness I will continue to love anime. How about you?

Be sure to catch Jack’s post on the Aniwriter and next up in the tour is Naja on the 13th.

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What’s Wrong With The Spring Anime Season?

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I know the headline is a little dramatic and realistically the Spring anime season isn’t any better or worse than any other, and yet for a lot of bloggers there seem to be slim pickings this season when it comes to creating a review list. With my travel overseas making my start to the season a little late, I kind of expected that I’d have too many shows to catch up and that I’d be fighting to narrow my list down to 15 or 16 titles. Instead I’m struggling to find even 14 anime that I might last the season with.

Hitoribocchi

Now that doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong with the Spring Anime season. There are actually quite a number of anime out that people have been anticipating and are excited about. The Fruits Basket reboot being a great example of something lots of people wanted and the first few episodes haven’t really disappointed. While some viewers aren’t thrilled by the toned down comedy, I’m preferring the tone of the reboot and the visuals and sound are miles better than the original series.

Fruits Basket

There’s also the return of Bungo Stray Dogs, Attack on Titan, and One Punch Man that all have their fans and detractors at this point and all of these anime have made a pretty reasonable start to the season, even if Attack on Titan entered the anime season later than I did.

Bungo Stray Dogs

However, this season seems a lot more scattered in how it has been distributed across streaming services. I have subscriptions to Crunchyroll and HiDive, access to AnimeLab a week after release (as well as a Netflix subscription I rarely use for anime viewing) and yet there are still a plethora of titles I’m just not able to watch yet. Carole and Tuesday, Fairy Gone, and Shoumetsu Toshi were all titles I was interested in checking out but they are either locked behind paywalls of services I don’t use or region locked so I won’t be seeing them any time soon. Every season there are one or two shows I just kind of miss out on that I was curious about but this season this has become a larger problem.

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It certainly brings us back to why there is an anime piracy problem still. Access to anime has certainly improved since the early 2000’s but there’s only so many services someone can subscribe to before the cost definitely outweighs any potential benefit. And region locking just feels like people haven’t woken up to the fact that the world is actually all connected these days (okay, I know there are actual legal and political reasons for region locking but it really does feel like something we should have moved on from at this point).

One Punch Man

For me, while I’m mostly feeling this season is weak, is because while there are a number of shows I’m enjoying to watch, when I think about which ones will probably end up on my DVD purchase list, I can’t think of a one outside of Fruits Basket.

Midnight Occult Civil Servants hits all the right genre notes for me but just isn’t objectively very good. That doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it, but it isn’t the kind of anime you go to watch again. Unless it does something amazing in its second half but to be honest I’ll just be happy if it manages to maintain where it is and doesn’t implode. Demon Slayer might end up being quite good but it is very classic shounen and realistically the only one of those I ever bought the DVD’s for was Bleach. It just isn’t a genre I get super excited about even though the few episodes I’ve watched have been good enough.

Midnight Occult Civil Service

Then there are the school based anime. Hitoribocchi with the shy girl and Senryuu Shoujo with its girl who doesn’t talk gimmick. Both are cute in their own way. They’ve got some good points. But neither is something I’d ever go for a rewatch of. Again, they just aren’t the kind of show I’m likely to remember after they finish airing.

Senryuu Shoujo

While there’s certainly still a few titles for me to try, and I am curious about one or two, I’m definitely finding the spring anime season is coming up a little empty.

Still, I’m sure there are other viewers who have found shows they love this season and as always, another season is just a couple of months away.

Kimetsu no Yaiba

In the meantime, a low watch anime season is an opportunity. It means I get to pick some older anime that I didn’t get to review or watch and fill in some gaps in my anime knowledge.

But that’s enough rambling from me. How are you finding the spring season so far?

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There’s No Anime While Driving

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The statement “there’s no anime while driving” seems like something that should be a totally obvious statement. And as there is no anime, there is also no reading, no gaming, nothing. Just the long stretch of straight black road lined with red dirt, dust, and the occasional (or frequent) animal carcass.

Stardriver / driving in QLD… okay, there isn’t much of a connection but still that picture is cool.

Yes, I have officially started my drive to the city to catch a plane to get to Japan. The first leg of the journey done, I’m writing this after a full work day and a three hour drive while sitting on the edge of what might be the single most unaccommodating bed in the history of motel beds (not unclean, just really uncomfortable) and I’m sitting on the bed because when I sat in the chair every single time I moved (you know to like type something) it squeaked and shrieked like I was killing its mother and so I gave that up as a bad joke.

But I am not complaining. Tomorrow I have another fairly long drive and then I have just a few hours to pick up the few things I needed to buy for the trip but couldn’t get where I lived and then I’m flying up and away to Japan and I’m very excited.

However, back to the point of the post (okay, there is no point, not really), it kind of occurred to me that driving long distance is the single most boring game ever invented. It’s like a really dull driving simulator only getting bored mid-journey and crashing out is kind of life threatening which is actually enough to make you keep paying attention even as you stop at yet another roadworks sign where there isn’t a single person working on the road (or even visible) or as the sun turns into a flaming orange ball in your rear-view mirror and threatens to burn your eyes clean from their sockets if you actually dare to glance at your mirrors.

But as to the true inspiration for the post title I’ll have to give thanks to the great Tom Hanks for that one as it borrows heavily from his line from ‘A League of Their Own’.

Tom Hanks - There's no crying in baseball.

The important point though is that I’ve started my trip and I’m really excited. I finished watching everything I was reviewing in Winter except for Boogiepop wa Warawanai which I do intend to finish I just haven’t quite gotten there yet. Still, over the next couple of weeks while I’m hoping to do update posts and possibly some first impressions posts, output is going to be a little down on the blog.

Hope everyone is doing well and I’ll be back soon with actual updates from Japan.

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Embarrassment, Scrapes, Colds, and Other Deadly Things in Anime

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Life is tough for the average high school anime character. Getting caught in the rain is nearly a death sentence when a dreaded fever will strike and certainly any character who ever had a bout of chuunibyou knows that embarrassment really can kill.

There are plenty of fairly sensible plot and tone reasons for these greatly exaggerated dangers, however the frequency with which these are rolled out each season is kind of mind blowing at times.

Do we have a cocky character who needs to be taken down a peg? Or a character who is holding the plot back by refusing to comply with someone else’s fairly insane demand? Well, look no further than bringing their ‘dark past’ into the open and suddenly you’ve got a blushing and embarrassed character willing to agree to nearly anything.

Chuunibyou - die from embarrassment

Of course, that’s nothing compared to having a guy and/or girl confess or, even worse, touch hands. Look out if they’ve just walked in on someone changing. Suddenly you could fry an egg on the primary red face of the character as they blush all the way to the tips of their ears.

A lot of the time this is played off co-medically and sometimes it just gives the story a way to keep progressing because without some form of coercion the character has no reason to meet the demands of another but they don’t actually want a real sense of menace in the story, but realistically, the blushing character is a trope that is just littered throughout anime.

Kaichou wa Maid Sama

But worse than simply being embarrassed is getting a scrape. Or an actual cut.

Pretty much anything that breaks the surface of an anime character’s skin, no matter how minor, is treated like someone just tore a limb off.

Actually, I think characters who lose limbs have less reaction.

Edward Elric - Losing a Limb
Yeah, pretty sure Edward didn’t react that badly when this happened.

But a scrape on the face of an idol? That’s just wrong. You absolutely must treat it this instant and anything less would potentially endanger their face or potentially court a permanent scar.

Nanami treating Kurama's Wound

While I’m all for effective first aid, even of minor injuries, the reactions to which characters go at the first sign of an injury is a little overwrought. It almost makes you wonder if they never played and fell over as kids and experienced all the usual bumps and bruises that come with growing up. And certainly recent anime have made me wonder if the frequency with which people in Japan break limbs is somewhat lower because if Domestic Girlfriend taught me anything it is that apparently breaking your leg prevents any part of you, including your brain, from functioning properly.

Realistically, this does allow a few things to happen in a story. The first is minor drama. If we’re in a standard high school setting, there just aren’t a lot of real hazards so even minor ones end up being overblown. However, what mostly seems to happen is the injury is seen as an excuse to force characters together in a more intimate setting.

Whether that is through the infirmary visit (sometimes after being carried Princess style), helping the person with their daily life, or visiting the sick friend and then being alone in their room with them, it is a pretty standard plot point. It also leads to some charming and cute encounters as well as some more comedic, entertaining, and sometimes more risque moments.

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However, being embarrassed, scrapes, cuts, broken limbs… all of these pale in comparison with the real deadly killer of anime. The unstoppable force that will knock a protagonist flat in an instant and require all other characters to mope and wonder if they will ever survive.

Yes.

It is that.

The common cold.

Caused of course by any kind of water outside of a shower making contact with said character. And even a bath or shower might trigger it if they don’t 100% dry themselves immediately upon exit.

Seriously, the anime cold/fever is the single most prevalent and debilitating weapon in any anime. Far more effective than a zanpakuto from Bleach at keeping characters down.

And it seems to spread across almost every genre.

Natsume with a fever

From Natsume, the guy who as his friends say catches colds easier than anyone, to darker fantasies like Black Butler, anime characters are in grave peril when there are colds about and apparently they are always about. Maybe the rain droplets carry it? Who knows?

Ciel and Sebastian

All I know is that as soon as water is involved someone is going to end up sick with a fever and inevitably going to end up having bed rest and some kind of towel draped on their head.

Much like scrapes this scenario does allow for more one on one moments but fevers come with the added advantage of a closed mouthed character may let their guard down. Characters acting weird, spilling their true thoughts, severe misunderstandings, all of these things can be triggered by an anime fever.

This situation also confined the character to a single place which allows the rest of the story to progress putting pressure on them to recover and do whatever they need to do. In the case of Norman in The Promised Neverland it gave Emma a chance to show how adorable she was as a kid and also the tight relationship between the three central characters.

The Promised Neverland - Norman sick, Emma visiting

However, with anime writers seemingly out to make anime characters blush from their toes to their foreheads, scar them for life with minor scrapes and wounds, or burn their brains with fevers caused by walking in the rain, it really must be hard for the average anime character to get through the day. And that is even before the giant robots and vampire ninjas show up to cause havoc.

So here’s the question for you: What is the deadliest of all anime ailments?

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Karandi James
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They Can’t All Be Natsume – Nor Do They Need To Be

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As a reviewer I try to avoid comparison where possible between one story and the next (and previously wrote a feature about it – comparing apples and oranges), but it is kind of inevitable that comparisons will be made. Partly that is because similar characters or stories will remind you of the previous one though other reasons for comparing are to make a point clear, to point out the strength or weakness of a story, or to help your audience to really get a feel for what you are talking about by linking it to something they are likely more familiar with.

Still, comparisons aren’t always all that helpful. I recently went looking for some reviews of Kamisama Kiss online and found comparisons everywhere (I was curious about what people had said at the time it came out because that was pre-blogging days so I hadn’t really read any reviews of people who watched it when it first came out). On several occasions I found it compared to Fruits Basket or InuYasha and it seldom came out favourably.

While as a shoujo, the comparison to Fruits Basket kind of makes sense, the overall tone and feel of the stories are entirely different. I watch Kamisama Kiss when I want to just have a bit of a laugh and soak up some cute yokai vibes. Sure, it doesn’t really manage character drama all the deftly, but there is the occasional moment where it hits the spot, but realistically, you kind of watch Kamisama Kiss for the weird antics as Nanami learns to be a land god and the supernatural reverse harem that forms around her.

Fruits Basket on the other-hand I watch when I want to go through a bit of an emotional journey. I usually watch it when I’m feeling low and don’t know the reasons for feeling that way. Watching Fruits Basket and watching Tohru help others really helps process your own emotions and there’s definitely a cathartic effect as you see each of the characters she touches slowly come to terms with themselves. About the only complaint for the original series, other than the dated visuals, would be the lack of ending, which is why I’m super excited about the upcoming rebooted series. Whichever way, I wouldn’t have even thought of comparing it to Kamisama Kiss because in terms of why I enjoy it, it couldn’t be more different.

I can’t really comment on its similarity or dissimilarity to InuYasha because despite that one being on my watch list for a very long time, I’ve still yet to actually watch it.

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So as the title of this post suggests, recently I found myself comparing The Morose Mononokean to Natsume Yuujinchou. Actually, worse than comparing, I mostly pointed out that The Morose Mononokean couldn’t hold the emotional weight of something like Natsume. And that’s actually really true but it is more or less true of the vast majority of anime and not an actual complaint about The Morose Mononokean.

Now when watching these shows, comparisons do seem more or less inevitable. They both follow teenage boys who have the ability to see yokai. More importantly, the first season of The Morose Mononokean and Natsume Yuujinchou more or less follow the yokai of the week format where a new yokai is introduce, the main characters encounter it and it is either threatening or friendly, there’s a little bit of misunderstanding or a problem to resolve, then someone we fix things and we learn and grow from the situation. Rinse – repeat. Yokai of the week.

However, Natsume Yuujinchou, for all that it really is a monster of the week kind of story, has managed subtle and continuous character growth and built an impressive supporting cast that all feel like fully developed characters in their own right. Admittedly, it is now six seasons in, but it is still impressive how you barely notice the character growth until you go back to the beginning and then you realise just how much ground each character has gained. It is such a natural drip feed of growth and development that you really don’t even notice it but the results are there to see in how each season Natsume is that little bit stronger than he was and his relationships with those around him are that little bit deeper and more interesting.

Natsume Yuujinchou

In short, Natsume is pretty brilliant and you should definitely watch it.

The Morose Mononokean is not.

And that isn’t actually slapping it down. The Morose Mononokean season one was decidedly average in every way. It used the yokai of the week format well enough. The characters were entertaining and the back and forth between the two main characters was actually pretty entertaining. Visually it was okay, but they really did a great job contrasting the mundane world and the yokai world through the use of colours. Everything about it functioned, though it never delivered much in the way of an emotional punch and the characters remained more or less as they began, though a bit more of an understanding was forged between the two main characters.

In fairness, I don’t think it was really trying to pack much of an emotional punch. There are more ‘comedic’ moments dotted throughout, and Ashiya, as the protagonist, is quite the loud and reactive character responding to things with over the top expressions and shock rather than calm deliberation. The yokai frequently aren’t really given a voice and other than fuzzy, Ashiya isn’t really developing much in the way of a relationship with them and he wasn’t shunned or outcast so he doesn’t have to go through the emotional growth Natsume needed at the start of season one.

While that makes The Morose Mononokean a somewhat less compelling watch, it works as it is. Season two expands on the world building and the characters and it has become a much stronger story in its own right. It still has a vastly different tone and feel to Natsume, despite the surface level similarities in premise, but it really is its own show.

But telling someone The Morose Mononokean isn’t as good as Natsume Yuujinchou isn’t exactly helpful when it comes to reviewing, however true I might personally feel that to be. Nor is telling someone that it is similar to Natsume overly helpful because if someone starts it expecting another Natsume, they are surely going to be disappointed.

I think as a reviewer I am going to continue to strive not to overly rely on comparisons to convey my feelings about an anime. They certainly will happen and sometimes fairly thoughtlessly, but I hopefully won’t use them as my main summation of a show. In the case of The Morose Mononokean, through season two I have definitely come to appreciate it for what it is on its own and I’m no longer really looking at what I feel it is missing. Hopefully when it ends and I write my final review my thoughts on it as its own entity come through loud and clear.

Now here’s a question: The Little Fox or Fuzzy? Which is the cuter yokai?

In the meantime, I’d love to know your thoughts on comparisons in reviews and whether you find them helpful or not. Please leave a comment below and get the conversation started.

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Karandi James
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Why Do Anime Heroes Get The Most Boring Powers?

Friday's Feature

In case it doesn’t become immediately apparent, this discussion is mostly me musing on something that has bothered me in a handful of shows that I’m now generalising across anime. It is not actually intended to be an overly serious post but honestly, I’ve been wondering this for awhile and of all things it was Endro that brought me back to musing about the powers given to a hero in anime.

Endro! Episode 1

For those who aren’t watching the pastel painted moe fest that is Endro, it is the story of a girl who wants to be a hero and defeat a demon lord, only she kind of already did but stuffed it up sending the demon lord back to the past and now the demon lord is her teacher as she learns to be a hero. of course she has a team of friends along for the ride and a Princess who has fallen in love with her, but mostly it is just a lot of fun and silliness.

Now, as one of the symbols that Julia Charldetto is in fact the hero she comes across the ‘hero’s sword’ and draws it out. In fitting with the colour scheme of the anime it is pink. And it sparkles. But basically we have a hero who swings a sword and whacks things.

Endro Episode 2 Seiran

Meanwhile, we have Seiran in her squad who is an elven priest and when all else fails can actually put her glasses on and is a crack shot with a bow. Then we have Fai who is more hand to hand and likes pummelling things and jumping a lot. Lastly we have Mather with her obsession with Cartado and an array of interesting magic to bring to the fight. All of these characters have really cool abilities and yet the hero in their story has a pink, shiny sword.

Endro Episode 4 Finding Shells

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ENDRO!: JUULIA CHARLDETTO

Now I’m not dismissing swords. Swords can be super cool. Just look at Hitsugaya in Bleach with Hyourinmaru and how cool that sword can be with weather controlling effects and ice dragons. Seriously, that is a cool sword. As is Rukia’s zanpakuto and dozens of other blades in Bleach.

Hitsugaya - Bleach

But, do you know who has a less than cool sword? Ichigo Kurosaki. The hero of Bleach. His sword is really big. About the only time it kind of looked cool was when Hollow Ichigo was swinging it around by the wrap and attempting to pummel Ichigo with it. Actually, Ichigo vs Hollow Ichigo is just a fantastic fight to watch in general and Hollow Ichigo provides some great entertainment throughout the course of Bleach.

Even when Ichigo steps up to the next level, his sword actually becomes less impressive and realistically, while he gets really fast and agile, and hits things even harder and faster, Ichigo’s power is the least interesting one to watch in Bleach (okay I take that back, there are worse powers in Bleach but when looking just at the main group of shinigami and Ichigo’s human friends, his power is just not that interesting by comparison).

Hollow Ichigo - Bleach

Though, even if we move away from sword wielding heroes to a magical girl like Sailor Moon, what we see is a hero surrounded by characters with cool elemental powers that are showy and flashy, fairly versatile and interesting, and yet in season one she throws her head band and occasionally heals things. Even when she uses the Silver Imperium Crystal, other than a light show the power itself is not that interesting to watch. It might be the strongest force in the universe but that by itself doesn’t make it all that fascinating to watch as the bright pink light engulfs her enemy and thus ends the climax.

As the seasons continue, Sailor Moon upgrades from her Crescent Moon Wand to the Moon Sceptre and if nothing else she continues to get the absolute best accessories compared to the other scouts. The Moon Spiral Heart Attack is perhaps the longest one to get going of her general attacks and is so overblown in both the set up and execution that you almost have to laugh (actually, I was more worried Serena was going to trip over her own hair while doing the activation sequence) and yet realistically for all the increases in power Sailor Moon’s attacks remain much the same. She’s very much a one punch and they are dead kind of hero and once she lets off her attack in most cases the battle is done. While the other scouts might be less effective in battle, at least there are some interesting possibilities for outcomes when they attack.

Kirito kind of bucked this trend in Sword Art Online (at least in Aincrad). While his sword style was a bit weird to begin with, it was always fun to watch. This only got better when he demonstrated his dual wield ability which was unique in the game making his ability actually one of the more interesting in the story.

However, Sword Art Online decided to kick its own hero when they introduced magic in Fairy Dance, and Alicization has taken the Bleach approach where swords aren’t always swords. Suddenly, Kirito isn’t looking all that crash-hot even in his own series, though he is still one hero who kind of breaks this trend of having the most boring power going.

Actually, there are plenty of cases where the hero does have a cool power or hidden ability. The problem is, with a lot of these powers they are so OP that they kind of instantly end fights once they get going or can’t be used because of the general scale of destruction. So even when a hero has a very cool ability, its use outside of final battles is pretty minimal meaning we’re watching a hero fight at less than full capacity in a lot of fights and it doesn’t always make for engrossing viewing, particularly when you know that they can pull out another power if things get really tough.

For instance, Bell in Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon has a very cool attack. Admittedly, I like Bell’s fighting style anyway where he relies on speed and his fairly small knife, moving around his enemy and wearing them down rather than just smacking them really hard once. Bell’s fight against the Minotaur is still one of my favourite fights ever and for all that there are stronger warriors in DanMachi, Bell is actually just great to watch in action.

But, his Argonaut Skill is definitely an overpowered skill, tempered by the long time it takes to activate. In order for Bell to get a decent strike in with it, he requires a lengthy interval in which his companions are likely to get splattered if they aren’t careful. While the results of this attack are fairly spectacular, it essentially boils a fight down to the flies buzzing around an enemy and distracting it long enough for Bell to get a decent fly-swat and one punch end the battle.

Is there a solution to this? I mean, we want our heroes to win their fights and having a fairly unstoppable attack more or less guarantees it. Though, such a large scale attack usually ends up looking much the same as every other large scale attack. The personality and distinction of an ability is washed away by the effects given to promote the size and scale of the attack.

Anyway, as I said at the start, this wasn’t an overly serious post. I’ve just been thinking through anime heroes and wondering why more of them don’t have unique or interesting powers and why so many end up with giant swords. I’d love to know your take on anime heroes and whether they have interesting powers or not so leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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