Man Vs Society – I Am Not A Slave

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My focus on conflict in stories continues as we look at Man vs Society. So far I’ve had a brief look at Man vs Man, Man vs Nature and Man vs Technology so if you missed any of those be sure to check out the posts.

Man vs Society just lends itself to dystopian futures, though obviously this isn’t the only way this type of conflict plays out. Essentially this occurs when a character, or group of characters, feel trapped or oppressed by the society they live in. Whether this is because of overt government or military control or whether it is simply because of societal norms not matching their personal views, the character feels obliged to rebel or escape from this oppression. It’s definitely a theme most viewers can relate to.

psycho pass - man vs society (or did we compromise)

This type of conflict works well on both small and large scales. Whether the conflict is within a family and the child wanting to be free of their parents’ expectations, set in a school with students feeling oppressed by the rules of the environment, workplace, or even the entire country, most members of the audience can understand how a character might feel in the situation, even if they don’t directly relate to the type of control being exerted.

However, as I said before, this type of conflict also works excellently in science fiction and forms the basis of a large number of dystopian texts. Fear of control and fear of losing freedom linked to events and trends that we already see around us is a great way to build relatable conflict into a story.

It’s pretty easy to understand why Man vs Society works as a type of conflict but let’s look at the main reason why it is effective.



01. People are constantly attempting to balance selfish desires with the basic instinct of connecting with other people. It is a conflict we face everyday as to whether we act fully as ourselves or act in a way in which others find acceptable. For some this is a major conflict because who they are is so vastly outside of the expected norms whereas for others it is a fairly minor conflict in most situations, but it is an internal conflict that everyone faces every single day.

Seeing a character make choices to defy those norms and to act on their own desire (whether it is a good desire or not) has a real appeal to audiences. They see these characters as brave or as true individuals and whether their actions have merit or not they are associate with desirable character traits.

The fact that a lot of these characters succeed at causing change in the society they are acting in (whether that be the smaller or larger scale) really plays into the wish fulfilment that people have for making a difference as an individual. In very rare cases we see these characters faced with failure but then they are still seen as noble for having made the attempt.

02. When played on the larger scale, this can lead to some very cool stories. Bring on the Hollywood movie where the single character rallies the downtrodden and brings down the government. It’s sensationalistic but it is so fun to watch play out even as you wonder what would happen on the day after when they now have to face the reality of a transitional government system? But that is not the point of the story. The point is the uprising and the success.

03. A lot of the time these stories challenge viewers to question what they accept as the norm. They make audiences think and reflect about the expectations we have of others. While they may probably won’t change too many people’s behaviour they at least start the conversation about why certain things are the way they are. It lends itself to being the starting point of a dialogue that might be badly needed.

Man vs Society requires audiences to engage in some kind of reflection.

How does this work in anime?

This is one type of conflict we come up against time and again in anime and it isn’t surprising. Japan is an incredibly ordered society (not overtly oppressive but there is a lot of social pressure to conform to expected behaviours).What is interesting is how characters in anime respond to the pressures they face as, unlike so many Hollywood movies, their first impulse isn’t usually to bring things crashing down but rather to work with people to bring about change. That isn’t to say there aren’t some characters reaching for the explosives.

Case 1: Psycho Pass (not yet reviewed)

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This was probably an obvious choice for Man vs Society but what I find interesting about it is how many characters are trying to work within or outside of the social norms surrounding them. The three main examples are below but pretty much every character has some sort of conflict with the society in this anime.

Kogame is an obvious discussion point. Originally an inspector, after the death of a colleague he became obsessed with revenge and he became flagged as a latent criminal. Even after this he continues to pursue revenge for his friend regardless of whether that puts him in direct conflict with the Sybil System or his current colleagues. He literally throws away everything for the sake of bringing down his target. What makes this interesting is that it is hard to decide whether Kogame is actually wrong for this approach.

Makishima is similarly working outside of the Sybil System though in his case it is because the system does not actually recognise him in the first place. His crime coefficient can’t be measured and so the system cannot judge him leaving him feeling alienated from everything. I’m still not sure that is sufficient justification for intentionally helping other people beat the system to commit horrendous crimes,  but it does highlight the dissatisfaction felt by those who feel ignored by society.

Though if both Korame and Makishima are finding ways around or defying the system, Akane is the character that honestly understands that the system is needed, even if it isn’t perfect. That doesn’t mean she accepts everything at face value and isn’t going to work to change things, but it does mean that she accepts her limitations at the time.

While the end of season 1 may have seemed unsatisfying to some people, I preferred this ending to the usual blowing it up and thinking everything would be better approach. Akane understands that her society is not in a position where it can function if Sybil stopped immediately even as she has learned that the Sybil System isn’t the ideal solution that people have been told.

Case 2: The Devil is Part Timer

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This is an interesting anime in terms of how it sets up the conflict. Originally Maou is the person in power apparently oppressing humans and generally doing all the things you would expect from a demon in control of a country. However, he is overthrown and forced to flee. He ends up in Japan with limited use of his magic and no authority. However, instead of surrendering to despair, Maou sets about conquering the new world through working his way up in a chain food store?

While this concept is played for laughs there’s quite a few moments when you are forced to consider what is really going on with this story. Could Maou actually succeed at rising to a position of power from part time worker? That’s basically the question they want us to consider. Because as kids we’re told hard work will help us move up and rise to the top. We are told this over and over.

Yet the reality is most people won’t. Maou, a demon lord, succeeding at rising as fast as he does to shift manager raises some real questions about what it actually takes to get ahead (admittedly the anime isn’t really interested in dealing with the topic seriously).

Even then, the challenges Maou faces are regularly not from his home world. He faces challenges of rival shops, needing identification, paying rent, and even his housemate getting scammed online. All of these things highlight the way people get cornered and trapped everyday by the mundane functions within our society and given they at times stump a hero and a demon from a world of magic is both hilarious and incredibly telling of how complex life really is in the modern age.

My number 3 reason why these sorts of stories work was because they challenge us to think about what we accept as the norm and The Devil is a Part Timer beautifully highlights some of the things that are considered everyday and yet create challenges and complications for people just trying to live. It doesn’t tell us to eliminate these things, merely asks us to look at them from a different point of view.

Case 3: Terror In Resonance

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It would be impossible for me to visit the idea of Man vs Society without looking at this anime. This story tackles acts of terror head-on from the viewpoint of two would be terrorists. That said, it isn’t willing to really take on the role of terrorists, choosing instead to make the main characters opposed to actually killing anyone even as the commit various crimes and destroy massive amounts of property with explosions.

What is interesting is that the main character ultimately only want their story to be heard and believed but they know early on that even if they simply told their story and released it online it would be buried, covered up and denied. They had to make enough of a scene that it could not be covered up any more.

Their actions and logic might be faulty but the actual criticism that stories that need to be told aren’t getting the attention they need, and that truth has become incredibly irrelevant to global discussions, is well made and quite timely.

This anime makes it clear that it isn’t about what is right or wrong. It isn’t even about what you can prove. It is all about how people perceive things that matters. Nine and Twelve take advantage of this and allow people to perceive them as terrorists because it suits their interests. The story isn’t perfect but it definitely has a lot to say and the journey is quite an interesting one.

Conclusion

There are so many other anime I could have gone into for this topic. Jormungand, Bleach, Sunday Without God, No. 6, and so on. Even My Love Story has the basic notion of defying expectations when Yamato is forced to defend her choice in Takeo to her friends. Basically Man vs Society is an inevitable conflict as we try to balance individual ideas and goals with overall benefit for the masses so these sorts of stories aren’t going anywhere and that’s probably a good thing.

What is your favourite Man vs Society focussed anime or what is your favourite dystopian movie?


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


On Character Transformation and Loss in Anime

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To change yourself is to lose yourself and yet, transformation is an entirely necessary part of living. Everyday we grow and learn and experience and the world changes around us. We all experience transformation and loss in one way or another. Those who stay the same get left behind.

It isn’t really a wonder that so many stories focus on the notion of transformation, growth and change. Because we live, we are constantly in a state of flux and the one lesson everyone learns growing up is that sometimes changes are hard.

This idea is really at the core of Land of the Lustrous, which has Phos’ transformation both physically and as a character at the centre of its narrative. And it made me want to look at examples of characters who have undergone transformation and looking at what they’ve lost in the process of their changes.

Transformation and Loss in Shugo Chara

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Starting with the more superficial physical transformations found in magical girl stories, I thought about using Sailor Moon as an example, but then I realised a far more literal example existed within Shugo Chara. This boppy little series features Amu, a girl who doesn’t believe her inner character matches her perceived external character and so wishes to become more true to herself. Imagine her surprise when she finds and then hatches three guardian characters who literally transform her into a different kind of character.

For Amu, the initial experience is one of humiliation. As Ran, the cheerleader, does a chara change with her at school leading to Amu confessing to the Prince of the school during assembly and being publicly rejected, Amu flees the scene. She rejects that this could be part of her character and doesn’t want anything to do with the eggs and their annoying inhabitants.

Transformation and Loss - Amu transforms for the first time

And yet, with Ikuto shows up to steal them from her, she risks her own life to claim them back, surpassing her own limit and performing a full character transformation allowing her to survive the fall and the launching herself into the air to experience a freedom she never knew existed.

Basically Amu’s transformation forced her to give up something and that was the image she’d been projecting of herself at the school. It hurt and was painful (and being a pre-teen girl she assumed humiliation was on par with the end of the world) and yet she came out the other side newly transformed and stronger. However, her transformation being externally imposed is temporary, whereas the fear of facing the kids at school is longer lasting.

It isn’t until much later in the series where Amu accepts that the Guardian Characters are a part of herself and a part she longed for and begins to accept those elements of her personality.



Transformation and Loss in My Hero Academia

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Still looking at heroes of a sort, I thought touching on Midoriya from My Hero Academia might be in order. Now Amu was wishing for a transformation and her wish brought it about, however in Midoriya’s case he could have wished forever and it wouldn’t have changed his reality. He was born without a quirk and was not going to get one. T

his in itself had a massive transformative effect on Midoriya as he grew strong in so many other ways. Bullied and heckled by others at school, while Midoirya certainly developed some ‘quirky’ behaviours such as mumbling to himself and generally being a little bit shy at putting himself forward, he continued to think and learn about heroes and their powers and strategies. He didn’t allow his quirkless nature stop him from moving forward even if his dream seemed well out of reach and unobtainable.

This in itself could have been a fascinating story about the child who worshipped a hero and then had to come to terms with never reaching the dream to which they aspired. We see it in Midoriya’s face as a child when he realises once and for all that he will never get a power. That is a crushing moment and could have been the defining moment of his life is he’d allowed it to be and not reforged himself.

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But that isn’t the end of transformation for Midoriya. He meets All Might, his hero, and at first learns the harsh reality that sometimes heroes that we worship aren’t exactly the flawless visions we have of them. Yet, he is not discouraged. Inspired anew by the experience, despite how it turned out, Midoriya then rushes into same Bakugou when he sees him in trouble.

All Might, having found what he was looking for, wants then to pass his power to Midoriya but understands Midroiya’s body can’t handle it. This is somewhat different from most kid get super power stories in that in this case it isn’t just ‘have some power’ but the kid is asked to work first. To build up their body and to prepare to receive teh power. Fortunately the sequence is mostly a training montage but we see the lengths to which Midoriya will push his body in pursuit of a dream that he should have put aside quite some time ago but hadn’t.

Then he gets the power.

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Dream achieved, right? Well no, because then we would have no more story. As Phos will attest, just gaining power isn’t enough. You need to know how to use it and your body needs to understand how best to use it, its limitations, and more importantly, how much you can use without breaking yourself. That last one is particularly a problem for Midoriya. Despite the training he did in preparation, there really isn’t a way to prepare a normal boy’s body to safely contain all of that power.

Time and again we see Midoriya break under the weight of his own power. Each time he learns a little more and gains a little more control, but the process has been painful and not without longterm repercussions.

Along the way, Midoriya has lost the dream of one day being a superhero. Instead, he lives the reality of training to make that dream his own and despite disillusionment at some of the institutions, he continues to strive to make the dream real knowing full well what it has cost him and what it will continue to cost him as he transforms himself into the vision he has of an ideal hero.

Transformation and Loss in Land of the Lustrous

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Lastly we move to Phos and the reason for this post from Land of the Lustrous. As the youngest and weakest of the gems, she was ridiculed, left out, given no purpose and she desired change. Yet, unlike Midoriya, Phos had no real drive to begin that change herself (sorry, using her for ease of writing, I know Phos is technically genderless). For Phos had accepted the reality of her situation and that was that she was weak and incapable. Wanting more was one thing, but actually trying to change anything was too hard or too much.

Yet, the motive for change was still there and we see that in her small act of rebellion when she enters the sea. It ends badly for Phos and yet it is the catalyst for change (both figuratively and literally). Her legs destroyed and replaced by a different material, she gains power, and yet it still isn’t enough as she learns in her first real battle. The fact that a small physical change has occurred isn’t enough yet to give her what she needs.

That longing to continue the transformation is exposed by the ice floes which leads to the loss of her arms the the inclusion of gold and platinum in her make up.  While the loss of her legs was unfortunate, the loss of her arms is devastating. Her memories are irrevocably lost as is a part of Phos’ personality. This change is clear almost immediately, but becomes far more prevalent after we see the loss of Antarcticite. Phos becomes almost unrecognisable as both the physical and emotional transformation have taken her so far from where she started.

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For Phos, gaining strength is the literal surrender of who she is and the material she is made from. Her body now an amalgamation of materials is far stronger than it was, but how much of Phos remains? That is a question that needs to be answered in the next couple of episodes because it has become clear even Phos realises what she has lost is never going to be recovered.

It is hardly a definitive post about character transformation but it is a good starting place for considering what it means to be transformed and to grow. What are some of your favourite character transformations from anime?


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Feature: On Bad Romance in Anime

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Last week I looked at some of the common elements of anime romances from the positive point of view. This post I want to look at some of the more problematic aspects of anime romance that seem to crop up again and again from personalities to full on stalking and imprisonment. Yep, these are definitely the marks of a bad romance. As always I’d love to hear your point of view in the comments below.

What features commonly appear in bad romance?

01. The guy doesn’t just come off as being a bit of a jerk, he is actually a jerk. Maybe there’s a reason for his damaged and warped personality but what he does is emotionally destructive to his love interest. Yet somehow, we’re supposed to be convinced that the girl will put up with this and should actually pursue this character despite the emotional trauma she’s dealing with, and that this is romantic.

While I know that there are many, many people trapped in emotionally abusive relationships it would be nice if so many romance stories didn’t glorify this. For a non-anime example we could most definitely point straight at Twilight. Edward is a controlling bully and his leaving Bella caused her to become nearly catatonic. This is not healthy. However, let’s go back anime and look at Wolf Girl and Black Prince. Whatever redeeming qualities Kyoya Sata may have or may develop later in the series he is a bully and the argument that Erika got herself into the mess with her lying doesn’t make it any better.

Of course there are plenty of other candidates out there for girls putting up with guys who manipulate them. Then again, we could easily turn that around and look at some of the truly horrendous girlfriends anime has given us over time.

02. Following on from number 1, we have the guy who wants a more physical relationship than the girl and is willing to push for it even when she clearly isn’t comfortable. While in comedies the guy in question will usually get slapped and dropped to the floor or beaten with a broom (hilarious, really) in serious romances what usually happens is the girl allows herself to be convinced. Generally speaking I avoid anime that goes down this road.

One I did watch was Say I Love You. While it isn’t too far over the line, Say I Love You definitely hovers on that borderline during the earlier episodes before the relationship starts to balance out a bit. For the most part Yamato is a generally nice guy (with a couple of rough edges) who helps Mei out and seems to like her but he is definitely more experienced in relationship and at times he is clearly pushing for more than she is willing to give.

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Though mostly this is nothing compared to what happens to some guys in a lot of BL so maybe we should just be thankful for that and move on to the next point.

03. Anime romances tend to normalise stalkerish behaviour. Secret photo taking, finding out someone’s entire schedule, likes and dislikes of food, their home address and phone number, it seems nothing is off the table for some determined would-be partners in romantic anime. It would be an adorable display of affection if not for the creepy real world consequences of actual stalking.

However this particular behaviour has been normalised to the point where it is now parodied in comedies and played for laughs. Momokuri last year with Kurihara took this to extremes and while in the show it was played cute and for laughs with Kurihara having no ill intentions, one has to wonder what would happen if Momotsuki had ever tried to break up with her.

Of course, we see the far darker side of this behaviour in Mirai Nikki through the notorious Yuno Gasai who will genuinely do anything to keep Amano ‘safe’ including tying him to a chair and holding him in captivity.

This is probably my least favourite trope in anime romances.

04. The characters know nothing about each other but declare they are in love. How many times do we see the scene where the girl confesses to the guy having never actually spoken to him before? Why are you in love with someone you don’t know? There are so many assumptions being made here and it really makes me wonder how they expect a relationship to last when they can’t even speak to the guy properly.

Of course, there are just as many male characters confessing to girls they’ve only ever admired from afar so this isn’t exclusively a problem of the heroine of the story. I love it when they follow this up with an internal monologue that says they’ve always been watching that person. Yeah, because that will tell you everything about them, or you are journeying into the stalker territory from number 3.

05. The girl starts changing herself entirely based on the guy’s preference. She asks his opinion on everything and ceases to actually make any decisions on her own. It is like being in a relationship was akin to lobotomising the character and suddenly their brain has stopped functioning independently.

I know this one isn’t fair but a character who pretty much has no identity outside of her relationship is Belldandy from Ah! My Goddess. Realistically, what little we see of her before Keiichi makes his wish doesn’t really reveal much of a personality to start with (other than sweet) and then she’s bound by his wish for most of the rest of the show. In this instance it kind of works but I still find these sorts of characters frustrating.

Belldandy - you are sweet but this is a bad romance.

That’s it from me on bad romance trends but feel free to suggest your own or provide more examples of the ones above.


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Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Feature: On Romance in Anime

shirayuki and zen 2

One of my first top 5 lists was a list of my favourite romantic anime. While romance isn’t my favourite genre, it has always held a warm spot in my heart as romance done well can really move me emotionally and linger with me well after it is finished. So what are some of the common features of sweet and romantic anime? And what do you like in your romance?

Romance in anime – what do we usually see?

01. For the most part they are focused on the female in the relationship. While some shows (particularly a few in recent years) have portrayed romance from a male’s point of view (or at least a male character’s point of view) the majority of romance focused anime follow the girl.

This isn’t really surprising given the target audience for most romance anime are girls and as a general rule the romantic genre appeals more to a female audience. And while there are a lot of self-insert girls out there with limited personality besides a love of cooking and cleaning, because romance is such a prolific genre what we find are an array of female leads. From the super shy and fairly stereotypical right through to the oblivious and aggressive.

But that’s what makes romance so great is that if one doesn’t work for you there are plenty of other characters and romances to follow.

2018 turned out to be a bumper year for including a range of relationships and we saw monsters in love with humans, same sex couples, age gap couples and more or less any kind of relationship you’d like to see unfold. It was fantastic to see the diverse range on offer and hopefully we’ll see this trend continue to give us great couples of all shapes and sizes so that everyone can find something to love.

02. This one isn’t in every anime but it is a common feature. The love interest starts out being kind of a jerk and the girl doesn’t like him very much. Then something happens and suddenly she sees him in a new light.



This is actually pretty standard in all romances really (and a staple of romantic comedies) and it probably exists because otherwise you have to introduce external tension and conflict early on before the characters have really been established. By creating tension between the two you can focus more or less entirely on the characters without boring the audience to death with their adoring stares.

I’m not the biggest fan of this particular cliché because I’ve never understood why the girl continues to interact with someone who is that much of a jerk, but I do understand from a narrative point of view why it works. Besides, Tomoe may have been nasty to Nanami (Kamisama Kiss) but he still ends up being one of my favourite male leads in a romance.

Of course, if we look at BL we’ll see a whole lot of incredibly horrible characters that end up being the love interest and while some work hard to try and redeem the character, it is still a trope I’d like to see vanish. At the same time, BL has come a long way and there’s a lot more variety these days.

Dakaichi - Episode 1 - Takato
Romance in anime

03. The epiphany moment. Despite being in a romance, the characters tend to be unusually dense about their emotions and the state of their relationship. Either one or both of the characters needs to realise they are actually in love or that the other one actually likes them or something. Usually this is accompanied by sparkles, tears, or sometimes a punch because why not.

However it is the reveal moment for the character that the audience have been waiting for forever because the character is usually the last to realise it. But hey, at least most of us don’t believe we have arrhythmia because our heart starts beating fast at the sight of the guy (Inu X Boku SS).

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04. There’s almost always a rival. Again, this is one of those necessary staples in order to inject some sort of tension or conflict into a story that is basically two people staring into each other’s eyes ad nausea and rivals can add quite a bit of personality to the story.

Probably my favourite rival ever is Kurumi from Kimi ni Todoke. That’s mostly because she pretty much demonstrates every characteristic a rival might have rather than just being one type. It’s kind of interesting to watch her character transition.

While I don’t like her manipulative efforts early on (and we aren’t supposed to) you have to admit, Kurumi is a hard worker and ultimately she wasn’t really a nasty person so much as someone who was very driven by her goals. What makes her truly exceptional is that when she finally does confess and get turned down, she accepts this with reasonable grace and uses it as a chance to grow a bit as a person. A little bit. She still stirs the pot occasionally but mostly she moves on.

05. In anime romance tends to only get to the confession and dating stage, again there are exceptions. The vast majority finish the final episode on the confession, the first date, or a kiss and that is as much as we are getting of that story. Then again, given how red most of the characters get just trying to say the name of the person they are in love with I guess we can’t expect much more from them and it really isn’t needed given its the emotion of the relationship that has been conveyed.

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There’s probably a cultural reason for this trend and it isn’t as if the romance is any worse for the lack of physical displays of affection, however it is interesting watching teenage characters get flustered over eye contact or brushing their finger tips.

Well, that does it from me today. What are your favourite parts of romantic anime or what is your favourite romantic anime?


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
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Karandi James


The Dynamics of Duos In Anime

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The Autumn 2017 anime season gave viewers many things, but one thing I took away from it was an absolute love of Chito and Yuuri, a duo made up of two moe girls surviving in a dying a world. In a show that really only had two characters for the majority of its run time, those two and their relationship was crucial to the show’s charm and success and they pulled it off with seeming ease. But what made those two such a perfect duo?

Girls Last Tour - an adorable example of duos in anime

I kind of touched on this in one of my episode posts where I pointed out that Chito and Yuuri had pretty much demonstrated the two types of people in the world (an over-simplification but it does feed in to why these two work so well). For those who didn’t read the post the basic idea was that the girls had found a path marked by arrows and Chito had commented that she wished life could be like that with clear arrows pointing the way. Yuuri on the other hand wanted to leave the path just to see what might be down another away.

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From that, it might seem like the show was simply playing on the opposites attract characterisation as seen in a million buddy cop shows and there is an element of that in Girls’ Last Tour. And yet, the relationship the girls have is more complicated than just being opposites of one another.

So while Yuuri might be the more adventurous and the first to ask if something is edible or to simply try biting something and Chito might be the kind of try to find a description of it in a book and not trying eating it until she is sure it is edible, both girls do in fact explore a world that is seemingly dead and has proven more than once to be dangerous and both remain surprisingly positive in the face of fair amount of hopelessness.

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It is in the final episodes however that you really realise that for all that Chito has been the quiet one, the one not carrying a gun, the one unlikely to race ahead without a plan; she can only be like that because she has Yuuri with her. Yuuri saves Chito when the path crumbles beneath their bike and took the lead in defending the two when they were threatened, and yet when Yuuri gets into what might be a sticky situation, Chito doesn’t hesitate.

She picks up the gun and she races after her friend. Likewise, we have seen a number of times that Yuuri might come off as lazy, selfish and a little bit silly at times and yet she comes through every time when Chito needs her. Yuuri is also only able to be Yuuri because Chito has her back and won’t let her do anything too stupid. What makes the relationship really work is clearly both girls know what the other provides for them and they respect the other for the balance they provide.

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That is what makes these girls so adorable to watch as they muse about life, the universe and everything (or at least where they will go next and what they might eat). It is also what makes it so fun thinking about whether you are more like Chito or Yuuri and most of us will draw the conclusion that there’s a little bit of both inside of us depending on the situation (though Yuuri lost me a little when she set a book on fire).

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After finishing Girls’ Last Tour I started thinking about other anime duos that I’d really enjoyed and this was actually a struggle as so many anime rely on group dynamics (five is a number that comes up a lot particularly in high school anime – though that is a post for another day). I ended up thinking of Takeo and Sunakawa from My Love Story and Isaac and Miria from Baccano.



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Takeo and Sunakawa are fantastic and were what really made My Love Story come alive for me (okay, I also like Takeo’s relationship with Yamato given it is what the show is about). And when thinking about it, Takeo and Sunakawa have a similar style relationship to Chito and Yuuri. On the surface they seem like opposites and that’s fine enough and would create enough of an interesting watch.

And yet it is the way they complement each other and the way that they use the other’s strength to support themselves that makes the relationship truly meaningful.

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It isn’t all smooth sailing (particularly when Takeo decides he needs to practice kissing and Sunakawa is his nominated test subject) but Takeo ditches his girlfriend on her birthday midway through their date to be with Sunakawa at the hospital when Sunakawa’s father is having surgery. And Sunakawa turned down every girl who ever asked him out because they’d all said something bad about Takeo behind his back. These two are a fantastic duo and to be honest I’d love a second season of My Love Story just to see more of these two and where their lives take them.

Isaac and Miria

Isaac and Miria are a little different. To start with, they aren’t the main characters in Baccano. They certainly cross into almost every story, but they are strictly side character/comic relief in the story. Also, they aren’t opposites.

Instead these two characters are positive thinking epitomised with happy-go-lucky attitudes that keep them going in the face of more or less anything. They bounce off each other, build each other up, and work together in absolute unison. Despite their limitations in thinking things through at times, you just know that everything will work out in the end for the two of them and they are definitely the happiest of the cast in Baccano.

They are certainly an odd pairing given neither really brings anything to the table that the other one does not possess. And yet it is impossible to consider these two characters simply being a single character. While some of the jokes could have worked, it is the relationship between the two and the way they work together that sells every scene they are in and steals the viewers attention.

Anyway, I’m going to keep my eyes out for other duos in anime and I’d love to know some of your favourites so if you have a favourite anime duo be sure to leave a comment below.


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Why is the Natsume Yuujinchou Anime Still Endearing After Six Seasons?

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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. However, while watching season six of this anime, 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.

Natsume Yuujinchou is comfort food for the soul.

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I started making a list of all the great things about Natsume Yuujinchou. 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 Yuujinchou has gotten better or is the charm wearing off after so many seasons?


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Make A Wish, But Will That Help The Story?

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It is a fairly common moment in stories where a character will make a wish for strength or power or to undo something terrible that has happened or even wishes to save a friend. While the vast majority of these wishes will go unanswered leading to some kind of tragic moment the character must overcome through non-magical means, occasionally a character will be granted their wish. But does this lead to a satisfying story for the audience?

The answer to that really depends on how the wish is framed within the narrative and the results of the wish. For example, a story like Aladdin kind of requires a few wishes to be granted. Without the genie and magical wishes you kind of don’t have a story at all. Then again, it can also be used as the cheat card, particularly in Christmas movies.

The plot ties itself into ridiculous knots and then a character usually looks up at a star and makes a wish squeezing their hands together earnestly before a miracle happens and somehow everything works out okay. While this might make for a feel good scenario it also kind of makes all the effort or attempts by any of the characters to resolve the situation prior to the wish feel mostly futile.

Make a wish…

Today I want to look at some examples of anime that deal with wishes and the different ways they are used. Yes, this post was definitely inspired by the final episode of Juni Taisen and yes, there will be spoilers for the anime below so if you are concerned, thanks for reading this far and please check out some of my other posts.

I’m going to start with the easy one, xxxHolic. This one is easy because it plays on one of the most common tropes of being careful what you wish for and the idea that nothing comes for free. While this theme is heavily embedded in all of its stories, the super obvious one with the story of the Monkey’s Paw. Now you’ve probably heard this story before because it does the rounds as an urban myth and has been used in almost every collection of strange tales ever but essentially a character finds a tube containing a monkey’s paw and it gives them five wishes, one for each finger that of course break with an ominous snap after each wish.

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Which would be all well and good except that the wish maker in this case, and in most cases with this style of story, makes wishes for selfish reasons and doesn’t really think through the consequences of their wishes. Ultimately their wishes lead to the death of another and finally they are killed.

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Much like Aladdin, the story here wouldn’t exist without the wishes coming true, albeit in a horrible manner in this case. It isn’t a cheat to solve a plot problem, but rather it is the problem or the source of conflict that will ultimately drive the story. So while you might accuse this of being cliché, it fundamentally works as a narrative.

On the opposite side of this, we have a story like Ah! My Goddess that also starts from a wish, only in that case the wish is granted without tricks or traps. It still does have the pitfall of poor wording and not quite thinking through consequences even if ultimately things work out.

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For those unfamiliar with the story, Keiichi is down on his luck and kind of a doormat but has a real love for working with mechanical objects. When left to look after the dorm one day he receives a phone call from a Goddess who claims she will grant his wish before she appears through the mirror in his room. After his initial skepticism is met with upbeat and positive answers, Keiichi makes a fairly rash wish that a goddess, like the one before him, would stay with him. And just like that heaven grants his wish and Belldandy, the Goddess, is now going to stay with him.

It isn’t all smooth sailing as Keiichi is thrown out of the dorm and they at first struggle to find a place to stay. Other goddesses and even a demon show up and at times really cause issues for Keiichi. At one point, due to a computer error in heaven, the wish is lost and Keiichi needs to use the exact wording to remake the contract with Belldandy but can’t remember what he said on the spur of the moment.

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The point however is, that once again, the wish is what kicks the story into gear. There’s no other reason for a goddess to be bound on earth and living with this ordinary guy and so none of the story that follows could happen without the wish. What I do like about Ah! My Goddess is that even though Belldandy and the other goddesses do have some significant power, there are some incredible restrictions on the use of that power on earth. Many issues come up during the story and for the most part when they are mortal issues they are dealt with through mortal means with magical solutions being reserved for more magical problems.

So despite the wish itself not having strings attached or some moral message about not making wishes, this story looks at the aftermath and how just having a wish granted isn’t enough to solve all your problems as new problems will continue to arise and it is only by facing them one by one that progress can be made. The wish is again fundamental to the operation of the story and the themes being constructed.

But what both of these stories have in common is that they uses wishes as a catalyst for the story. What about anime where the wish comes later in the series and we have two very good examples of this in Madoka Magica and in Juni Taisen.

Starting with Madoka Magica, making a wish is what makes the contract with Kyubey to become a magical girl. If you don’t make a wish you can’t become a magical girl and Madoka, our title character, can’t decide on her wish. More importantly, the longer she delays making her wish, the more she learns about the consequences of wishes and of being a magical girl.

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Sayaka, Madoka’s friend, jumps in early at making a wish and uses it to heal a friend who has been in hospital. She clearly has deeper feelings for her while he sees her as just a friend, but she uses her wish on him and becomes a magical girl. Because of the nature of her wish, Sayaka has incredible self-healing power but is otherwise fairly inexperienced as a magical girl.

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Imagine her surprise then when the boy she literally gave her soul to bring happiness to ends up accepting a confession from another friend. Emotionally unbalanced, she swiftly descends and falls from being a magical girl to become a witch.



Much like xxxHolic, there’s a lot of warnings about being careful of wishing for things and realising that nothing is truly free. However, Madoka’s wish doesn’t come until the very end. When things are at their worst and we know Madoka can make the most powerful wish ever which in turn will lead her to become the worst witch ever, and you have to wonder how the writers are going to pull out of this loop they’ve written themselves into. And then Madoka literally breaks the world with her wish.

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If this had been done poorly it would feel as much a cheat as a Christmas miracle but Madoka’s wish has some great writing backing it up. We already knew that Madoka’s potential was beyond any other magical girl and the audience knew she could make a truly amazing wish. We also knew the fundamentals of how the magical girl/witch system worked at that point and so Madoka wanting to save magical girls from becoming witches would of course require the entire system to be rewritten.

The wish also didn’t come without a price. Madoka saved the girls from becoming witches but didn’t save them from dying and she also didn’t save herself as she isn’t in the new world that has been created.

Foreshadowing coupled with a decent price levied for the wish that was made ensured this didn’t feel like a cheap plot device designed only to bring the show to an end on a high note. It felt like everything had led the audience and Madoka to that moment and it was the perfect solution to the complications presented by the story.

And that then brings us to Juni Taisen (big spoiler ahead if you haven’t watched and don’t know who won).

Now, there are all sorts of issues with Juni Taisen in the way it executed its story, but the story itself does work. 12 warriors come together every 12 years to fight a battle royal and the winner gets a wish. It is simple and could have worked quite spectacularly. While I’m not going to get into what I felt when wrong with Juni Taisen here (I’ll save that for my actual review) I do want to look at the wish aspect of the story.

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Very much like Madoka, Rat can’t decide what to wish for. He’s been given (or earned through the battle) a wish and the audience is told he can literally wish for anything. The mechanics of how or why someone else can grant any wish (including apparently resurrection) is something the show isn’t interested in getting into so unlike Madoka we never really know why such a wish can be granted. And so Rat begins to go through 100 options for his wish and for each idea he comes up with he sees an obvious down side or consequence and quickly dismisses the idea.

It is kind of the opposite of all those other stories where characters make rash wishes without thinking through the consequences, and was almost novel enough as an idea to work. All these characters competing for a wish and the one who wins it doesn’t know what to do with it.

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Ultimately, Rat’s decision didn’t sit well with a lot of viewers. He wished to forget. Forget the tournament and the deaths and the 100 paths he had to take to find victory. For some this wish seemed horrible given it essentially wasted an unlimited wish and for some viewers it seemed like it invalidated the deaths of the other warriors.

I actually really liked Rat’s wish as I kind of felt it fit the show thematically in that so much of everything was pointless and unexplained and none of it was going to bring happiness or contentment to a traumatized teen who had just experienced his own death 99 times. It was one of the few moments where I kind of felt a grudging respect for a choice the story had made.

However, like or not, does Rat’s wish work within the narrative?

I’d have to say it probably doesn’t work as well as a conclusion as Madoka’s wish did. With Madoka, we have spent a whole season with her as a character and seeing her learn about the consequences of making a wish and what it will cost and learning who she is as a person. With Rat we have two episodes really where we learn very little about him other than he has a general apathy toward life before he makes his wish. Also, while the wish at the end of the tournament is announced early on, the audience is never made aware of the mechanics of the wish or how it fits into the world being constructed.

So, yes Rat’s wish does end the story and the tournament in a way that we were told the tournament would end with a character getting a wish. But, it doesn’t leave the audience feeling satisfied with the overall story. The wish doesn’t address what the story was about but simply gives some closure to a character we’ve had insufficient screen time with to really care about whether they get closure. Of course, it probably isn’t the wish’s fault that the ending feels lacking and probably more a sign of deeper issues with the anime as a whole.

And this post got a lot longer than intended so I’m going to leave it there. Four examples of anime that all use wishes and for the most part integrate the wishes well into their overall narrative structure. What are some of your favourite examples of wishes in anime? Or do you find wishes a narrative cheat that you could do without? Let me know in the comments below.


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


The Importance of the Final Impression

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With the ending of the Summer 2021 season, it seemed like an appropriate time for me to revisit my thoughts on the importance of the final impression, given how many anime seem to forget about this aspect in their rush to move on.

As much as we think about first episodes and how important it is to grab the audience and draw them in, for me, once I’ve decided to watch a show, how it ends becomes incredibly important. And clearly my recent experience with Seirei Gensouki made this point clear when the final impression I was left with has kind of soured my thoughts on the whole series. Things I was willing to let go and accept (such as the rushed pacing of the whole series) are less acceptable in the face of a poor resolution on top of those issues.

No matter how much I’ve enjoyed watching something, a poor ending can really taint the whole experience, or at the very least make me not want to rewatch an anime. While some viewers won’t mind whether something has rewatch value or not, for me that’s the whole point of falling in love with a show. Watching it again, and again, and again.

As I am discussing final episodes, please note that there will be spoilers.

What makes it hard with anime is the sheer number that just don’t end. They leave themselves open for sequels that may or may not ever exist or they deliberately stop where they do because they want you to engage with the source material (whether it be a game, manga, or novels).

These shows automatically make it hard for me to recommend them because they aren’t a complete story in and of themselves and if they haven’t even taken minimal steps to leave the audience at a satisfactory resting place in the story it just doesn’t feel like it is worth the effort starting something that decidedly doesn’t end. Other people may feel differently about it, but my primary  focus with watching anime is the story so an unfinished story is more or less the kiss of death no matter how great the journey to get there was. That’s a final impression that just does the title no favours.

How important is a final impression to you?

That said, not every single loose end needs to be tied up and just because there is sequel bait doesn’t mean we can’t get to a satisfactory resolution for the immediate issue or problem faced. There are plenty of good examples of anime that manage this kind of ending, such as the original season of How Not To Summon A Demon Lord. Also adapted from light novels, also unfinished in season one.

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While the overall complication of Diablo having been summoned into a game like world is not resolved leaving the story open to plenty of sequels and the overall story is clearly not complete, the final episode of How Not To Summon a Demon Lord managed to bring the audience to a decent climactic point and resolve the current drama.

They did this through the sub-plot of Rem carrying around another Demon Lord inside of her that was going to be reborn. This wasn’t suddenly thrown at the audience in the final episodes to give an excuse for a fight. It was introduced early in this season and we revisited this point multiple times throughout the series before it became the central focus of the final few episodes.

The rebirth of this Demon Lord and the subsequent fight felt satisfying because there had been build up to this issue, it was directly tied in with the main characters, there was a genuine sense that this was dangerous enough as a threat, and the immediate danger/issue was solved by the time the final credits rolled. This is a great example of a narrative that wants to continue giving the audience enough of an ending that even if no sequel ever occurs, we’re all still pretty satisfied with the season as it aired.

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Alternatively, we could look at the obvious comparison of The Master of Ragnarok (though making fun of the ending seems kind of pointless given how many other things went wrong with the series) and realise how it utterly and completely dropped the ball.

Midway through the season we were still introducing would be antagonists and powers and rules to the story so very few of them felt like they meant anything. The main character was returned to his original time which should have been the end, only he felt bad about abandoning ‘his’ people in their time of need so opted to be summoned back. Also fine enough, except for the part where I am still not sure how his coming back actually fixed the dire situation his people were in. They never did explain how he overcame any of the challenges.



Not to mention he took his childhood sweetheart back with him (admittedly she asked to go) and I just have to wonder if she knew what exactly she was getting into.

This ending just didn’t satisfy or even make a lot of sense and while there is clearly sequel potential, I’d have to wonder who is actually hanging out and waiting for a continuation of a show that just kind abandons fights midway through because clearly they don’t have a solution for how the protagonist is going to get out of the situation they dumped him in.

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Moving away from isekai stories though, we had another great example of a story ending in Steins;Gate 0. Now I am not the biggest fan of this particular spin-off story and yet the way it concluded, bringing itself nicely back into line with the events in the original series provided an incredibly satisfying end to the overall narrative that had been established by this series.

Okabe had given up on trying to save both Kurisu and Mayuri and had let Kurisu die. He was now going back to save Kurisu. It is as complete as it needs to be and while there are definitely loose ends and I’m still curious about the whole war thing, there is little to complain about in terms of narrative closure.



However, there are times when we get an ending that does in fact conclude the story and yet still feels like it isn’t particularly satisfying. This season I got that feeling from Phantom in the Twilight. I really enjoyed that series once it got going and there is a lot to like about how it builds up the world and story throughout.

The final episodes bring us a conflict between the established antagonists and the protagonist and her friends and the fairly predictable good guys win the fight ending occurs. While there is heaps of room for a sequel, this particular chapter is wrapped up nicely.

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Yet, there was a lot lacking from these final episodes. My biggest issue will be with the villains as I still didn’t really care about them or their motives and they largely came to lame ends that served no real purpose. The monsters the group were fighting were very samey and didn’t really seem to put up enough of a fight so even though there were lots of enemies you didn’t really get an overall sense of danger.

Basically while the story worked the execution let it down and while it is still good enough, it leaves an impression that the story was somehow less impressive than it might have been and while I still enjoyed the series overall these final episodes certainly left me with a weaker impression of it than I had at about the midseason mark.

So back to Seirei Gensouki.

Seirei Gensouki Episode 12

We had a series that rushed through content so incredibly fast we never really got to appreciate the story for what it could have been (and it really could have been brilliant). All of that might have been acceptable if the goal for the anime was to get us to some amazing sub-plot resolution in the final episode with a small amount of sequel (or source material) baiting.

But… that final episode was no more climatic than any other and while Rio did save a girl it didn’t feel any weightier or more meaningful than any other time he’d saved some one. And before they even took a moment to celebrate they dumped in a whole bunch of stuff that is clearly only going to get dealt with if we get a second season (feels unlikely) or if viewers decide that despite the poor efforts here they’ll go and read the books.

That’s a final impression the anime could have avoided if they’d just thought about how to end their own season in a somewhat more satisfying manner.

Basically, I really wish more anime actually ended well. So I’ll turn it over to the readers and ask you which anime you think have the best endings and which ones have the worst and why?


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James



Emotional Connections in Mecha Anime – Why are they so important?

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I often point out I have a love-hate relationship with the Gundam franchise in general. Some series I love and others I really hate and can’t get into at all. I kind of have that same relationship with most mecha anime. Some I get right into and others, even though the storyline is ostensibly the same, I just can’t like or enjoy.

Maybe I’m just a bit contrary or maybe there’s something more driving my overall interest and engagement when I’m watching giant robots duking it out with impossible weapons while defying the laws of physics.

Why do so many mecha anime not click for me?

In a moment of clarity, back in 2016, I finally came to realise what at least one of my issues with mecha anime was.

It was the fact that the robots themselves dehumanize the conflict and remove my emotional connection from the characters. Clearly that doesn’t happen in all of the series featuring giant robots fighting one another, given the number of series  I have enjoyed, but ultimately it is the mecha themselves that cause my disconnect and as a direct result, can make a mecha anime series not necessarily work for me.

Let’s be honest, the vast majority of mecha anime set up conflicts between groups of people who have developed these fantastic machines (either mainstream or as a highly experimental and new kind of weapon) and the show then finds some way to spark that conflict into a full on battle whereby the various pilots get into their machines and we then spend a few episodes zooming past one another and blowing things up.

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I’m severely oversimplifying given the vast array or real world political issues (including environmental management, balance of powers, and various ideologies) that appear in these sorts of anime, but that’s the basic set up when you boil it right down.

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During these fights we sometimes get to see the pilots and their internal dialogue or their conversations through the comms with other pilots, but the action is seen from outside. The robot with its big gun or sword thrashing another robot that then explodes or smokes while the pilot may or may not eject.

Very occasionally (if the character is someone the show wants us to care about) we see the damage to the human pilot, but more often we get a scream over the comms and then the bang and we move on to the next part of the conflict. Unless for some short span of time the anime has decided that this death (out of the dozens during the battle) is important and we’re actually going to mourn this pilot, then we’ll get right inside the cockpit for a tear jerking farewell.

Therein lies the problem. When there are a large number of combatants, we know little about anyone other than the main group so have little reason to care. Most of these stories set up governments that are all equally despicable and so we aren’t really standing behind any one groups ideals more than any other. So we don’t know the individuals particularly well and we have no reason to rally behind any one political stance, why do we care about the outcome of the battle? 

And I get that we’re usually meant to like the ‘heroes’ side but regularly they are just as bad as the people they are fighting and their side is usually as tainted with underhanded tactics, ignoring treaties, or the various other transgressions, as the other side.

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When we see an anime set in a more medieval setting we often have vast armies confronting one another and getting mowed down by a hail of arrows, and that is more affective to me than a giant robot going bang, flash. Why? Because of the human element. There is nothing between me and my view of the human combatants being mercilessly slaughtered.  That scene affects me and makes me feel sorry for them or happy that the other army is winning, or gives me some emotional impact.



One robot hitting another? That might be cool and visually awesome but the human aspect is gone, at least for me in so many of these stories.

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So which mecha anime do I like?

I love Code Geass. Why? Because of Lelouch, Suzaku and Kallen. They are the human element for me even if the vast majority of soldiers I don’t care about.

Gundam Seed (and more recently Iron Blooded Orphans) won me over with the human characters at the core of the story even while the greater political agenda within the story kind of rolled past me in a haze of grey morals.

Even Aldnoah Zero worked for me, though Slaine kind of went off the rails in the second season making it a bit harder to care about the outcome.

Then I also loved Full Metal Panic with Sagara and Chidori. They were great characters and the contrast between the military fight sequences and the high school daily life was well done.

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Of course, my favourite mecha anime is Evangelion, mostly because it gives you the cool and awesome giant robot fighting monstrous (and bizarre) angels but is almost totally focussed on the human elements of its story.

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I’d love to know your thoughts on mecha anime. Do you watch it? Do you like it? What works for you and what doesn’t when watching giant robots fight?


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Discussing The Horror and Joy of Anime Sequels, Prequels and Spin-Offs

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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 when watching anime sequels?

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 anime 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.

Did Darker Than Black really need the anime sequel? I don't think so.

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).

Handa-Kun was entertaining but did it actually act as a prequel or really was it its own thing?

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 an anime 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 anime 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.

Yes Tales of Zesteria the X - you lost focus. Your anime sequel was less than impressive.

Then we got to Spring 2017 and while I’m watching the spin-off Sword Oratoria, in terms of anime 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, an anime 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.

More importantly, long running series like My Hero Academia ultimately suffer diminishing returns in entertainment. As they try to one-up the danger they ultimately fall into feeling pretty formulaic and repetitive.

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

Fumoffu was more of a filler season than an anime sequel. Highly entertaining but also pretty skippable.

Starting with Full Metal Panic, this series had a season 1 and then we got its anime sequel: 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).

It kind of needed an anime sequel in order to continue this journey and all of the characters and the plot still had more to give that was worth seeing. It didn’t feel like anyone was contriving reasons for these characters to still be around just to create an anime sequel.

But then this anime announced yet another continuation, Invisible Victory. The original question I had was whether or not this anime sequel could fit with the prior seasons, considering the time gap, and whether it was even needed. I’m thinking yes it was needed from a story point of view but the execution was not great.

Kirito_Dual_Blades

But all of this contrasts with my view of SAO in terms of anime sequels. Sword Art Online was fantastic when it came out (some will argue against that but let’s put that aside). 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.

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Then we have GGO and the Mother Rosario arcs before the most recent Aliciztion, all of which I kind of regard more as Spin-offs given how little in common they have with the original story at this point. And they work as anime sequels that develop the supporting cast but 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 - doing anime sequels right.

The last series I want to touch on is Natsume Yuujinchou which is 6 seasons along and has kind of nailed how to do an anime sequel right. 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 anime sequels and prequels?


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
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Karandi James