Tuesday’s Top 5: Characters Who Are a Bit Strange

Alright, anime characters by their very nature are usually a bit strange. They are after all living in the anime universe and not the real world. That said, there are some characters that take being a bit peculiar to all new levels of strange. Sometimes there’s a really good reason for their actions (childhood trauma, etc), and other times they just like doing what they do. So today’s top 5, I’m focussing on my favourite top 5 strange characters. This list is kind of similar to my list on characters who weren’t all there but on that list I went more with characters who were a bit spacey and oblivious rather than characters who clearly have direction its just weird what direction they’ve chosen.

Please Note: There are some plot spoilers below if you read the descriptions.

Honourable mentions this week go to Oculus from Death Parade and Misaki Mei from Another.

Number 5: Koko Hekmatyar from Jormangand

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Koko is an arms dealer. She’s tough and almost impossible to phase even if you point a gun directly at her face. That said, she’s also more than a little bit odd. She’s got a strange moral code and at times her decisions about who to deal with and who to walk away from seems fairly arbitrary. Also, after spending a lot of her childhood on battlefields she has picked up one very strange habit after she was told by one of her body guards she should always be smiling. All and all, Koko is a character I love, but the girl is strange.

Number 4: Kagerou Shoukin from Inu X Boku

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This guy sees everything in the world through the classification of either being an S (sadist) or an M (masochist) and he goes to great lengths to explain his reasons and logic to those around him even when they tell him they don’t care. Even a Lazy Susan in a Chinese restaurant doesn’t escape classification. Kagerou is one seriously annoying character, but he does have style and you certainly can’t accuse him of not being true to who he is.

Number 3: Miyo Takano from Higurashi

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Miyo’s strangeness is really entirely understandable given the horrific experiences she had at the orphanage as a child, but that doesn’t excuse her decision to kill an innocent child and then massacre an entire village just to prove that her adopted father’s research was actually right all along. You do have to admire her dedication to the long term plan and she’s certainly tried to account for all the loose ends. If not for time looping and the power of friendship, she’d have definitely succeeded and she did many, many times before she was finally defeated.

Number 2: Akito Sohma from Fruits Basket

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Alright, if you just watch the anime, Akito is just a bully and a nutjob. Violent temper tantrums, control issues, and outright torture of younger family members litter the scenes Akito appear in. There’s some attempt to justify this extreme personality in the manga, though while it helps you to see why Akito is so crazy it doesn’t really justify Akito’s actions given for the most part this is a case of misplaced anger. A tragic figure through and through, there’s something compelling about Akito so that even when you hate what Akito is doing, you can’t really look away.

Number 1: Ladd Russo and Claire Stanfield from Baccano

I couldn’t really split these two. In a show full of strange and extreme characters with strange and extreme personalities, these two still managed to distinguish themselves as being severely unhinged and yet fantastic fun to watch. Their show down on top of the train was one of the highlights of an anime I loved through and through. They are also oddly similar though Claire is clearly the more refined. Neither is squeamish or has an issue with blood and they both wholly believe in their abilities and that their actions and justified. They also severely lack empathy for pretty much anyone else except their chosen lady. All and all, these two guys are awesome to watch on screen but I would never, ever want to meet anyone like them.

Over to you: Who is your favourite strange anime character?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime I’d Like to See Rebooted

Clearly this list is just a personal wish list. Essentially, there’s a lot of anime out there with great premises and interesting ideas, but so many anime just don’t make use of that potential or end really badly. Like, incredibly train derailed into mountain pass before sliding into a chasm badly. So this is my wish list of 5 anime I feel could be really amazing if redone (and by that I don’t mean following the manga or other source material more closely, but I mean they actually think about the story they want to tell and just tell it without all the clutter or distractions and with a clear purpose and end point).

I’d love to know what is on your wish list for anime reboots so please leave a comment below.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions this week go to Higurashi, Sword Art Online, and Gilgamesh.

Number 5: Vampire Knight

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As much as I have mocked vampire knight when talking about it (the anime version of Twilight) there is actually something quite interesting about the idea of a vampire hunter starting a school where humans and vampires co-exist. And the pure blooded vampire with his own agenda living at the school is kind of interesting. As is the child of the hunter family who has been bitten by a vampire and is slowly turning into one. I’d love to see this story redone with a little more focus on the darker aspects and a little less on Yuki’s indecisive love triangle (okay, every Vampire Knight fan now hates me).

Number 4: Claymore

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I really loved Claymore. Until we got to the end which was rushed and inconclusive. Seriously. This is a great concept for a story and the characters are interesting. The world building was well done. Why did we get that ending? I’d love this anime to be redone with a clear focus on where it is going and an actual ending.

Number 3: Fruits Basket

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My issue with this one is I did go and read the manga. The story in the anime was so inconclusive. We still knew nothing about the curse or why Akito was such a psycho or anything. There’s so many interesting characters and the central story around the Souma family is fascinating but the anime is happy to just follow Honda around on her daily life. Reboot please with the focus on the cursed family. It may not be the happy healing experience that the current anime is, but there’s definitely a good story to tell here.

Number 2: Soul Eater

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Soul Eater has been showing up a lot lately. As much as I love this anime, that ending was bad. Inexcusably bad. That and there’s probably a lot of padding that the series could afford to lose. I’d love to see a much tighter focus on the main villain rather than all the other villains they face off against and actually just watch the students and teachers prepare for and fight that battle. It would be different but I think the show could really benefit from a much stronger focus and a conclusion that doesn’t leave people stunned by how lame it is.

Number 1: Bleach

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It had to be. As much as I am in love with Bleach as a series and as much as Bleach is a big part of the reason I became an anime fan as an adult, there are some real issues with Bleach as a story because of its excessive length, scope, and endless rounds of filler. Now that the manga is finished can we decide what the main point of the story is and just tell that story. 50 episodes. Bleach in 50 episodes. Really trim everything unnecessary from the mix and just tell the core story with the characters you actually need. I would absolutely love to see this. Either that or give Hitsugaya his own show. I’d be pretty happy with that (joking – kind of).

Okay, so over to you. What would you like to see rebooted?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Valentine Episodes

Well it is Valentine’s Day so today I’m counting down my top 5 favourite Valentine episodes. This was actually harder than it sounded because while I know I have watched a million different anime versions of Valentine’s Day (seriously, this was not an exaggeration at all) I really struggled to remember which shows they were in. And that’s because they are all pretty much the same. So my list is based on which ones stuck with me (which will explain some of the weird choices). Feel free to add your favourite Valentine episode in the comments below.

For patrons I’ve got my list of worst anime to watch for Valentine’s Day up over on Patreon so please check it out.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

No honourable mentions this week.

Number 5: Vampire Knight

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While I’m not the biggest Vampire Knight fan (way too Twilight in anime form and I was too old when this came out to really appreciate the brooding teen romance element) but I must admit the Valentine’s Day episode is memorable. Screaming fan girls, crowd control, Zero actually being kind of nice and getting punched for it, a couple of broken hearts and all and all it is a perfectly watchable episode.

Number 4: Acchi Kocchi

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Alright this is one of my weirder choices. It isn’t that anything particularly different happens in this episode. Its Valentine’s Day and Tsumiki wants to make chocolates for Io but he doesn’t like plain chocolates so she’s making mousse. That’s all pretty standard but the reason this episode sticks is because of Mayoi and her surprise chocolates. Surprising because she claims she put frog meat in them after feeding them to the guys. Of course, she wouldn’t be Mayoi if she left it there. She follows this up with coating Tsumiki’s lips with chocolate flavoured lipstick and pushes her toward Io. fortunately Io is a gentlemen (or at least smart enough not to put up with Mayoi’s rubbish) and manages to come out of the situation more or less unscathed though Tsumiki might have exploded. In short it is Valentine’s Day the way only Acchi Kocchi could do it.

Number 3: Fruits Basket

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Again this one is pretty straight forward. Tohru decides to make everybody chocolate however when she is about to give it to everyone Kyo, who is annoyed with Kagura, declares he hates chocolate. He is then guilt tripped into eating both Kagura’s and Tohru’s chocolate. It isn’t a profound episode but I really like Kyo as a character so I kind of enjoyed this moment.

Number 2: Kimi Ni Todoke

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Honestly, this should be number 1. The reason it isn’t is because Sawako doesn’t give him the chocolates. So frustrating. She gives chocolates to everyone else but then questions the meaning behind the chocolates she wants to give Kazehaya and after hearing he won’t accept chocolates with real feelings she hesitates and loses her chance. As much as I love this show, this episode is really frustrating. Certainly it is memorable and he does eventually get given the chocolates but Valentine’s Day is not a particularly happy one in this series.

Number 1: My Love Story

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At first I thought this was going to go down the same path as Kimi ni Todoke but thank goodness Yamato is a lot tougher than Sawako. While the group date is pleasant it is her arrival at his house later with the most ridiculously over the top Valentine’s cake ever. It is adorable.

There they are, my top 5 Valentine’s episodes. What anime would you have chosen?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Annoying Anime Tropes

While we all know that there are some clichés in anime that just won’t go away (girl running to school with toast in mouth, guy falling on girl and hand accidentally landing…) we all have to admit there are some tropes that we just wish would disappear. This is my list of the 5 common tropes that annoy me and I’d love to hear yours in the comments. No criteria this week other than personal annoyance.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions to weird shot types, dense MC’s, pretty much anything from a harem anime, and the skinny guy that can eat the entire pantry bare.

Number 5: The School Idol or Prince

I don’t know if this is a cultural thing or whether this is an anime thing, but having an entire school of girls fawning over one guy to the point where they make pacts and sign agreements not to date him or speak with him unless there is someone else there just strikes me as ridiculous. It’s impossible to take this character seriously or any of the fan club for that matter. What really surprises me is how many anime this comes up in. While highschool based animes aren’t my favourites the few I can think of instantly are Kazehaya (Kimi ni Tadoke), Yuki (Fruits Basket), Kuran Kaname (Vampire Knight), and even Rem (Dance with Devils)

Number 4: Characters having lengthy discussions about their attack techniques mid-battle

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You know what, we get that your power is awesome and amazing and that we may not quite get exactly what you are doing without the explanation but, I’m kind of certain no winning strategy in history involved giving a detailed description of your power to the enemy. This is an ongoing annoyance for me in anime as it seems like if the audience had to know how that power worked we probably should have prior to the battle, and if it wasn’t that important all that dialogue is doing is slowing down the pace. Bleach is my main example of this one but honestly, I really would like to gag some characters in some of the fight sequences I’ve watched.

Number 3: The stuttered confession

I get that being too direct in Japanese is kind of rude but why are so many characters unable to express how they feel when they are alone with the person they like. Seriously? From Edward in Full Metal Alchemist, Kadoka in Haganai, to Tomoe in Kamisama Kiss, these characters avoid, use pretext, out right run-away, or divert the issue rather than just give or receive a straight confession. Not to mention the slew of girls running around with love letters that never get delivered or are pushed into shoe lockers to be detonated (Full Metal Panic style).

Number 2: The club is going to get shut down

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Oh the horror. We might have to join another club or find somewhere else to hang out because if we don’t have X members by X date we’ll lose our room. While in a slice of life or comedy anime this is all well and good as something to get the characters moving it is hardly sufficient conflict to build an entire show around. Equally irritating is the we want to start a club but we don’t have enough members. While we’re at it, why do so many clubs seem to not actually follow their purpose and just have students hanging out?

Number 1: The protagonist wins the fight because they are the protagonist

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I know that this is true of all stories and not just anime but when the protagonist pulls out a deus ex machina mid-fight it really kind of kills any reason to care about any of the events up until that point. If they had this mysterious power or ability why didn’t they use it earlier?  I know that some anime try to give their protagonists reasons for being unkillable overpowered fighting machines but really this is a bit of a contrivance and sometimes could be avoided just by showing the character build up to that point or maybe making the villain just a little less unkillable. While I don’t normally throw rocks at SAO this is probably my biggest complaint about the first arc. Yeah, they foreshadow that the game is a game and therefore is subject to cheats and that the human spirit might be able to overcome some of the limitations but I don’t think that justifies not dying when your health bar runs out. However, Kirito is not alone in the list or protagonists who really should have just dropped dead mid-battle.

So that’s my list of annoying anime tropes. The thing is, an anime could have some or all of these tropes and still be fairly entertaining to watch. Just having a cliché doesn’t mean that the entire story is derivative or dull. However, sometimes anime leans just a little to heavily on these tropes to fill in for actual character development or plot and that’s when it become a touch annoying.

Tuesday’s Top 5: Character Quirks

Okay, if you are looking for quirky characters, anime has you covered. However, there are some characters who just have one specific trait that in some ways ends up defining them. This is my list of favourite quirks that complement the other features of the character, fit into the narrative being told, and still manage to stand out and be remembered. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions this week go to: Baldo from Black Butler for cooking with explosives, Fuko from Clannad for carving starfish, Isana Yashiro from K for his umbrella, Lita from Sailor Moon for her constant falling in love, and Himemiko from Kamisama Kiss for clacking her teeth together.

Number 5: Nice Holystone from Baccano

Despite her name, Nice is definitely an explosives junky which ultimately caused the disfiguring accident she had as a kid. Did that in any way curb her enthusiasm for things that go boom? Not remotely. When things get bad, Nice always has a supply of noisy helpers and a big smile on her face.

Number 4: Io Otonashi from Acchi Kocchi

In a show full of one trick and quirky characters it is amazing that I remember Io so vividly, sitting as his desk and spinning his pen. It’s probably just how impressive he is at spinning it that makes it stick but that image really defines his character for me.

Number 3: Saki Hanajima from Fruits Basket

I don’t know if this one is ever explained in the manga, but in the anime, Saki spends a lot of time reading people’s waves. She senses something odd about the Soma’s, knows when people are sad, and generally scares the living daylights out of anyone who is mean to Tohru. At times this is invaluable as Saki is a hard worker in the background ensuring that Tohru is able to enjoy her high school life.

Number 2: Gray Fullbuster from Fairy Tail

Once again, the show is full of quirky characters with a whole array of interesting character traits, but Gray and his stripping down to his underwear is what stuck with me. He was definitely one of my favourite characters and it makes perfect sense that an ice mage wouldn’t be worried about the cold. The fact that this is usually subconscious until someone points out to him that he’s stripped is just funny (as is the back story as to how he developed this trait). And yes, the joke is overplayed, but still funny.

Number 1: Edward Elric from Full Metal Alchemist

Edward takes being offended by comments about his height to a whole new level. To the point where he actually insults himself and his height far more than any other character in the show. It’s absurd and hilarious. It also adds a bit of reality to his character. He is just a kid and he’s having to face issues far above his emotional maturity and deal with the world of adults. Having a few of these very childish traits (he also hates milk) really just rounds out his character.

So what are some of your favourite character quirks?

Fruits Basket Series Review

Overview:

Honda Tohru’s mother died and she went to live with her grandfather. Unfortunately, he needed to move in with other family members and while the house was being renovated Tohru was asked to stay with a friend. Rather than troubling her friends, she moves into a tent. Then, one morning she comes across a house where the Prince of her school lives, Yuki Sohma. It turns out her tent is on Sohma land. After a landslide destroys the tent, Tohru finds herself living with Yuki but the Sohma’s have a little bit of a secret.

Review:

Alright, if you don’t like sweet, slow shows or fairly effeminate looking guys, you are probably going to pass on this one from the outset. However, if those three elements aren’t going to make you walk away, you will probably find a really charming anime to watch filled with interesting characters who are all just a little bit (sometimes a lot) emotionally damaged and you can watch them grow closer together, or turn into animals. Then you can suffer from the absolute lack of resolution given by this series.

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It is one of my pet hates when anime just stop without finalising anything. While one small bit of Kyo’s story is resolved, the greater mystery surrounding the Sohma’s is still completely a mystery, as is the vast majority of what is motivating some members of the family to act the way they do. And we don’t even meet all of the zodiac. For a story where members of the family are possessed by the spirit of the zodiac, to not introduce them all and not to continue the story is just purposefully leaving us hanging. As a result, this is one of the very, very, very few anime where I did go and read the manga after watching because I just couldn’t stand leaving the story where the anime dropped us. That said, I didn’t completely finish reading it. I read enough to start piecing together some of the mysteries that were bugging me and then cut my losses (I’m just not a fan of reading manga, I’d prefer a novel).

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So with that said, how do I review Fruits Basket? It’s adorable. It isn’t as visually impressive as Snow White with the Red Hair and Tohru is an air-headed protagonist who pretty much functions in ‘be sweet and don’t annoy anyone’ mode while voluntarily cooking and cleaning because she quite likes it. I really wonder if this is actually a thing in Japan where teenage girls actually enjoy cooking and cleaning for others who seem to be completely inept at living or whether this is a not so subtle message to the youth of Japan that typical gender roles should be maintained. Either way, it is something that generally irks me when watching anime, particularly in characters that don’t have much else to offer.

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Fortunately, Fruits Basket as a whole offers more than what our protagonist brings to the table. Her two best friends are fantastic. Yeah, they are equally stereotypical (one is a standard reformed delinquent and the other the weird girl who senses vibes) but the balance they offer and their interactions with Tohru work really well. They also offer some of the more comedic moments during the school scenes.

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The Sohma’s are also pretty interesting as a family. Individually, they all have scars from being part of a cursed family. Scars because of the way others outside the family deal with them and scars because of the trauma inflicted by the family. It’s interesting to watch and in honesty I would have preferred more focus on this at times.

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Tohru’s mother also needs a mention. For someone who is dead prior to the start of the series, she has a definite impact all the way through. Whether it is her lingering advice to Tohru about how to live, the inspiration she gives Tohru and her friends, or just the way characters who have never met her begin responding to her because of their interactions with Tohru, she’s a tangible force that moves the characters and plot. Not bad for someone who is dead and isn’t even appearing as some sort of spirit. It does however give the whole series a very human feeling as the loss of a parent should leave lingering traces.

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The opening theme is fantastic. Admittedly, it is slow but it sets the tone for the show and if you aren’t finding the theme engaging and sweet, while just a little bit wistful and nostalgic, you probably aren’t going to be the right audience for the show in the first place.

Lastly, while it wasn’t so much a problem when I first saw this anime, the character designs are definitely starting to look dated. Also, the backgrounds are fairly nondescript and pretty washed out looking at times.

All and all, this was a great anime to watch but there just is no excuse for the lack of ending. If you are watching it just for the characters, you will love every minute of it. If you are hoping for the overall story with the curse of the Sohma’s to go somewhere, forget it.

Words of Wisdom

As promised, the quotes this week are a little more uplifting than last time.

Erza

I love Erza as a character but by far her most admirable trait is her absolute devotion to her guild and how far she’ll go to protect them.

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Almost everything Momiji says is super cute, so when he takes a turn for the serious you really need to pay attention.

Mashiro

This one I’m in two minds about. I kind of like the idea but if someone happens to inspire you to have a dream than isn’t that just as good as finding it on your own?

Do you have a positive anime quote to share this week?