Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Princes

There’s something about growing up on a heavy dose of fairy tales and fantasy that leaves me with this ridiculous urge to still fantasise about the prince riding up on his noble steed and sweeping me off my feet, despite the fact that if common-sense hadn’t knocked that notion out of me, Shrek really should have. And yet, I can’t help but feel my heart do a little skip when we’re introduced to an anime prince who looks like they might be the hero I was holding out for.

With so many princes to choose from it was really hard to narrow down this list so I gave myself a few conditions. Firstly, they had to actually be a prince and not just called a prince (so no Prince of the school on this list). Secondly, no duplicates from the same show. Finally, these princes are in the order in which I personally would like them to come and save me from my mundane life. That said, I’d love to know which prince you’re holding out for.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions: Mare (DameXPrince Anime Caravan)

Number 5: Prince Endymion (Sailor Moon)

Endymion

While these days I’m not the biggest fan of Tuxedo Mask and even as a kid I thought he talked too much, there was something undeniably cool every time we got to see Prince Endymion. His costume for one was a thousand times better than the Tuxedo Mask persona and he had an actual sword rather than a rose and cane so actually looked combat ready. The real tragedy of course is the limited screen time this character got in the original series.

Number 4: Ling Yao (Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood)

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Okay, questionable choices aside, Ling Yao is a character who is literally willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. And while at first it might seem like his goals are pretty self-serving, there’s a lot more at stake than it might at first appear. This guy is driven, talented, and willing to go as far as he needs to succeed. What’s not to like?

Number 3: Bruno Von Glanzreich (The Royal Tutor)

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Of the four Princes in the Royal Tutor, Bruno was the one I consistently liked the most, though all of these princes went through some fairly decent character development throughout the course of the series. Bruno may have been awkward and indecisive at times, but deep down he always just wanted to succeed and he worked hard to achieve his goals. I love a hard working yet awkward prince.

Number 2: Lelouch Lamperouge (Code Geass)

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Did I  just say I liked someone awkward? Apparently not, because I’m now jumping to a guy who is literally overflowing with self-confidence. Between you and me, Lelouch would drive me crazy in real life. I’d probably end up slapping his smug face mid-chess game and then work at demolishing him on the board (okay, I don’t like losing either). And yet, there is something undeniably appealing about someone who will take on an entire empire to settle a personal grudge and who ultimately plots his own death in order to save the world. It’s a weird appeal, but it is appealing.

Number 1: Zen Wisteria (Snow White With the Red Hair)

The prince that I think most of us envisioned as kids. The guy who will ride in to save the day but if he can see the situation is under control he’ll just wait patiently until you are done. Sorting most things through words and paperwork but able to draw a sword and go to town when needed, quite literally the fairy tale prince.

I had so much fun writing this list but I’m really looking forward to seeing which princes my readers like. Please let me know your favourite, or your top 5 anime princes in the comments. And next week I’m going to take on my favourite Princesses.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Trains and Train Sequences in Anime

I love a good train sequence and I know I’m not alone. There’s a reason why it is a staple of action movies and dramas alike. Trains can let the cast sit back and have those poignant conversations to catch the audience up on details and ensure that the characters can’t escape midway through, they allow for some thrilling cat and mouse, and mostly they allow for an escalated sense of drama because until they get to the next station you aren’t getting off. At least not without a few bumps and scrapes. There’s just something really fun about trains and they serve so many purposes in stories outside of just getting the characters from point A to point B.

Below are some of my favourite train sequences. When I thought of this list my main consideration was how memorable the train or train sequence was within the anime. I’d love to know your favourites so leave a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mention: Full Metal Alchemist – It is amazing how much exposition takes place while the characters are on the various trains travelling around the country.

Number 5: Fairy Tail

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Okay, the train in Fairy Tail has a number of purposes. Firstly it does just get the cast from point A to B. It also allows for some bonding between team members. It’s also one of the many sources of the ongoing joke that Natsu gets motion sick. And, because it is Fairy Tail, the train and the train tracks are also the sight of a fairly intense battle sequence. Or it would have been fairly intense if the battles that came after it hadn’t completely eclipsed it. At the time when you watch it, the battle seems like a big deal. Whichever way, the train and the fight were well remembered even though its been quite awhile since I put Fairy Tail on hold and I need to get back and finish watching it at some point.

Number 4: Chuunibyou

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Love and Other Delusions indeed, but the scene that stands out to me more so than any other save the climax of season one is the scene where Yuuta watches Rikku do her thing and stares in amazement as the train door opens and she struts on, before realising he neglected to get on and he is now late for school. It’s a classic moment and one that really defines the relationship the two characters will carry on with for the better half of season one. So while technically not on a train, when thinking of train scenes, this one immediately came to mind.

Number 3: Spirited Away

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A rare entry from an anime movie on one of my lists. I’m not the biggest fan of Spirited Away, it’s pleasant enough but it doesn’t really stick. And yet, for some reason the train scene does. It isn’t even a major point in the story as it really is just a visually pretty interlude as we move from one setting to another and stretch out the run time of a story with some striking scenery. However, it did serve its purpose and it is quite an iconic sequence.

Number 2: Izetta: The Last Witch

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As much as I ended up not enjoying Izetta very much as a whole, the train sequence from episode 1 was pretty brilliant. It was exciting, it got me hyped for the setting and time period of this anime, and it was actually the highlight of the entire series. Too bad it peaked in episode 1. But, it does make this train sequence one that it worth remembering because it did exactly what it needed to in grabbing the audiences’ attention.

Number 1: Baccano

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Could there ever have been a different choice for this list? The Flying Pussyfoot is legendary and this train dominates as the setting of the most memorable of the interwoven stories in the series. So many characters have converged in a confined space with their own backstories and motives. There will be laughs, mis-understandings, and blood. So much blood before this train ride is completed. Definitely a train ride to remember even if it does take the better part of a season to see the entirety of it.

Again, this was my list, but I’d love to know your picks below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Characters with a Tragic Backstory

Are there any anime protagonists who have a happy backstory? Because that might be something a bit different given the sheer number of characters who come from a past of misery and despair. Okay, I hadn’t really thought about what I was in for when I started drafting this list and to be honest, it was a bit of a nightmare thinking about whether having your parents burned to death after being sewn together was more tragic than having your entire country torn apart by war and to be honest, those kinds of decisions really can’t be made objectively. This list is definitely based on how emotional I became while watching the characters’ tragedy unfold rather than any kind of definitive measure.

Which anime character has a tragic back story that hit home for you? Let me know in the comments below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: The entire cast of Angel Beats and Lelouch from Code Geass.


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Number 5: Vash (Trigun)

The guy can’t catch a break in the present with everyone wanting to get the bounty on his head and he’s blamed for so many different disasters. He just wants love and peace. But his current circumstances come directly from the tragedy in his past and while it is pretty much impossible to talk about without spoilers, there’s definitely an evil twin brother involved. Regardless, Vash’s pacifist attitude is almost a protest against the horror that his life has been.

Number 4: Gray (Fairy Tail)

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The entire cast of Fairy Tail should probably be on this list as well, though I haven’t really watched far enough along to the know the details of all of them. But fairly early on in the series we have quite the extended arc that delves in Gray’s past and his training by his teacher and to be honest, that was pretty heart breaking. While Gray came out of it better than his fellow student did, there’s still some pretty deep scars and emotional turmoil there. If we think back even further, the reason he was with the teacher was because of the tragedy with his parents so to be honest we’re just kind of lurching from one disaster to the next when we look at Gray’s childhood.


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Number 3: Scar (Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood)

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What is more cliché than tragic backstory? Tragic backstory that leaves a visible scar. Despite making fun of it, Scar’s story is really quite horrific no matter how you want to look at it. As a survivor of a war that was more of an extermination than a fight and as someone who was forced to carry a power he found repulsive, Scar’s general anger towards everything kind of makes sense. Still, the nightmare doesn’t end as he goes out for revenge. It kind of prolongs the misery of this story.

Number 2: Ciel (Black Butler)

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Child with dead parents cliché? But this one is so much better than just that. Set in the Victorian era a conspiracy of monumental proportions brings down the family that serve the Queen and the child, tormented and humiliated, decides that the perfect solution to this is to take them all down even if he has to sell his soul to the demon who becomes known as Sebastian. The real tragedy here is that even if Ciel succeeds at his plan, his young soul is going to be devoured so he has no future. This isn’t just a tragic backstory. This is a living and breathing tragedy.


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Number 1: Yato (Noragami)

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While we haven’t yet heard all of Yato’s backstory, the pieces the audience have seen don’t exactly paint a great picture. Known as a god of calamity who would take on any wish isn’t exactly something that seems like it would be a pleasant existence. Couple in some real daddy issues with the as yet unseen string puller and Yato’s past is complex and has some fairly far reaching consequences. For those who know the silly facade Yato puts on in the presence, even they can see that there’s some deep pain buried underneath. I’m hoping when we finally get the whole story it manages to match the build up but to be honest, a lot of the time seeing Yato’s past makes me want to bring him home and feed him cookies.

And that’s my list but I’d love to know what would make your list.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Male Characters with Green Hair

Following on from last week’s selection of female characters with green hair, I now bring you the list of male characters. These are my personal favourite characters who have the distinction of having green hair, though in many cases I’m still not sure why given green is not even close to a natural hair colour. You have to admit though, some of these guys look great with it.

As always, feel free to add your thoughts and your choices in the comments below as I’d love to know some of your favourite male characters with green hair.

Please note: There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions: Rei Sagara (Love Stage) and Genpachi Inukai (Hakkenden).

Number 5: Envy from Full Metal Alchemist

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Not hard to see why Envy would earn a place on the list. To start with, the hair actually makes sense when you consider the sin they are portraying, and secondly, this character was fantastic. Self-centred and with a massive chip on their shoulder, Envy stayed true to who they were all the way through the story (both versions) and was a great deal of fun to watch on screen no matter what they were up to.

Number 4: Jae Ha from Akatsuki no Yona

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He’s a massive flirt and playboy but also a very loyal friend and warrior, Jae-Ha initially annoyed me when he was introduced as one of the dragons in Akatsuki no Yona but it is very hard to overlook his charms as a character. Despite his frivolous exterior, he has his reasons for his actions and ultimately he is probably the dragon with the most familiarity with the ways of the world and an ability to cope with new situations.


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Number 3: Sadao Maou from The Devil is a Part-timer 

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Sadou is a fantastic character. Having fallen from being the demon king in control of a country to a part time employee of a rip-off McDonald’s, he still isn’t going to let anything get in the way of his ambitions. What I like the most about his character is that he isn’t just waiting for an opportunity or for success to fall upon him. Sadou Maou is out there every day working to make his dreams a reality and for the most part he is working within the rules of the system around him and trying hard to overcome the obstacles in ordinary ways. Anyway, he is a great deal of fun and the thought of the devil making pepper fries is always pretty amusing.


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Number 2: Gon from Hunter x Hunter

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While I’m not quite finished my journey through Hunter x Hunter yet (almost there now), Gon has been quite the joy to meet and travel with. While by himself he isn’t an overly impressive character, his interactions with the support cast bring out the best in him and in the rest of the cast making him fairly memorable. Of course, the spiky green hair certainly leaves an impression as well, though I’m not quite sure how it manages to stay looking like that given I’m pretty sure Gon isn’t using any kind of product. Any way, he is a super cute, super hard working and super loyal character and he is great fun to watch in action.

Number 1: Midoriya from My Hero Academia

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Were you honestly expecting anyone else to top out this list? While Midoriya might be a new comer to my favourite character list, he’s certainly left quite the impression. Another impossibly hard worker and someone who isn’t just waiting for success to be bestowed upon them, Midoriya is a character I admire for his focus on his goal and his willingness to fight for what he wants to achieve. Also his genuine concern for his friends is kind of impressive particularly as he was teased most of his life which could have left him being the bitter and anti-social individual, but instead he’s just a really nice person who has a really big dream. And that is why he gets the number 1 spot on this list.

Okay, so they are my top 5 male anime characters with green hair. Over to you and who you would have put on your list.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Fullmetal Alchemist Live Action Movie Review: Bringing Equivalent Exchange to Life

Overview:

Ed and Al are brother’s who have been studying alchemy when their mother dies unexpectedly. Determined to bring her back, they commit a taboo and in the process Al loses his body and Ed loses his arm and leg. Now a State Alchemist, Ed is determined to learn the secret of the philosopher’s stone and use it to restore his brother’s body.

Review – With spoilers for those who have never read or seen any adaptation of this story:

I must admit, one of my greatest fears going in to this movie was that they would actually try to fit the whole saga of FMA into a movie which was guaranteed to fail without any chance of redemption. Fortunately, this movie seems to understand it was an adaptation and decided on a sensible stopping point in the narrative to bring the movie to a close and also made some pretty solid choices on what to cut and what to keep in the story.

Admittedly, purists who want the source adhered to are going to hate it. There’s no Scar, the Fuhrer doesn’t appear at all, various actions and motives get attributed to the characters that were left in the story in order to fill some of the gaps left by the entire arcs that have literally been hacked out. But the end result is surprisingly okay. There’s a few bits of awkwardness, a couple of plot threads that people who aren’t familiar with the story are going to be puzzled over because they are just kind of floated out there and left dangling for a sequel, and the pacing isn’t spot on, but this definitely could have been worse.

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And that is probably going to be the mantra of this review. It could have been worse. That is hardly a glowing recommendation but I honestly found that I enjoyed this movie well enough, but at the same time, I’d rather watch the anime. Either version of the anime.

Taking this logically, I’m going to point out the first twenty minutes of this feel need to be redone. It is a horrible beginning and almost had me reaching for the remote the first time through, unsure if I could stomach watching the farce FMA had become. The second try watching was actually worse and I would have stopped it except that I remembered things got better. So what is wrong?

The child versions of Ed and Al are not good actors (let’s not talk about the hair, really, we’ll save that for the grown up version of Ed). They do not pull off the whole tragic backstory that was so incredibly hard hitting in the anime. And possibly even the director realised this given the aftermath of their attempt to bring their mother back to life is only told in a dream sequence by Ed where the older version of Ed stands in instead of child-form. It is completely illogical that older Ed would be there and yet so much better than what that scene would have looked like if the younger version had attempted that scene.

But actually, the bigger issue with the start of the movie is the action sequence. Yep, FMA is a shounen story through and through and it has some incredible and fantastical fight sequences. These were always going to be really hard to translate into live action and yet somehow I think they could have done better than this.

Whether it is the pained expressions on the actor’s faces, the poor trajectory of Ed’s leap off the roof (seriously, he did not land anywhere near where the landing shot showed him landing, that was incredibly badly cut), the very average CG, the poor attempt at inserting some of the slapstick humour into the story (which just resulted in me declaring the main character dead about ten minutes into the movie), or even Al’s dreadful attempt at pacifying the crowd and explaining alchemy in one of the clunkiest exposition dumps I’ve seen in recent memory… Just no.

Quite literally the only good thing to come out of the opening sequence is Al’s first appearance and that was entirely deflated because we had already seen that exact moment in a teaser trailer. That moments and reveal utterly powerless because we were just kind of waiting for exactly that to happen.

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Throw in the disappointment that came when I first saw Mustang (no, he did not live up to my impossibly high standards given he’s one of my all time favourite characters), and really the opening of this movie left me really wishing I’d decided not to bother.

By the end of the movie, I would re-evaluate that thought.

Mustang grew on me as the movie progressed and to be honest, while the actor never quite pulled off the nonchalant attitude Mustang usually has when not in combat, he certainly pulled off the final of this movie in the confrontation with the homunculus. He was every bit the Flame Alchemist I wanted to see in action. He delivered and to be honest the removal of the comedic Colonel wasn’t such a downside in this movie.

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However, there is no escaping discussing the appearances of the characters. While I know the reasons they chose an all Japanese cast, one has to wonder why they then decided that they had to stay true to the Elric’s being blonde. Would having a hair colour that didn’t look totally ridiculous on the actor really have been that difficult? Given all the other changes to the FMA universe, would we have been that upset by a dark haired protagonist? I’d like to say no. And given FMA isn’t set in Japan in the first place, if you wanted to keep them blonde then don’t use a Japanese actor. There is genuinely no escaping that Ed looks bad. The hair is the main culprit here with the plait looking completely detached from the rest of his hair most of the time and the whole time it just looks nasty (distractingly so).

And the costumes themselves, while faithful reproductions of what the characters wore in the anime (and possible the manga – never read it), they don’t look good in real life. All of the characters look like they escaped from a cosplay convention where a few minor modifications would have brought the outfits in line with the reality they were trying to construct. This is a case where slavishly trying to replicate something has resulted in an inferior product rather than giving this movie the look it deserved.

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Though, while still on appearances, they nailed Hughes, Lust and Envy (Gluttony, not so much – okay, not at all). Hughes particularly, though he had about four scenes, managed to be exactly the character he needed to. Similar enough to what we were familiar with and yet he made Hughes come alive in a way most of the other characters fail to do during most of the run time.

To get to more positives, I loved the attention on Ed’s feelings of guilt toward Al for the majority of the first half. While there were certainly other stories that could have taken the lime-light, this story managed to humanise the characters and it is a story that managed to play out in the time given. Some great choices in shots and the relationship between these brothers gets the spot light and it manages to hold up very well.

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However, that does come at the expense of Nina and Alexander’s moment which becomes more a moment for Ed and Al. I didn’t mind this too much given it fit the context of the film, but the anime definitely handled this particular story better.

I also really liked that they realised that in their short length of time the Homunculi couldn’t be these massively unkillable creatures where fights took up episodes. Sure, they were tough enough to be a threat but reasonably scaled down to be dealt with in the course of the movie and while we might all be sad if our favourites didn’t appear, or were killed off too quickly, I think this was a sensible choice.

So it is a mixed bag. There are some great choices here and some really good moments, and then there are some poor choices and less outstanding scenes. I think your enjoyment of this movie will come from whether you are willing to accept the compromises that were needed to bring the movie to life or not and whether you are willing to ignore the incredibly bad hair on so many of the characters.  It might seem like a petty complaint, but it is definitely distracting.

After a second watch through, I definitely know that I enjoyed this well enough, but if I want to see FMA again, I’ll watch the Brotherhood box set. However, will I watch a follow up movie to this? Probably.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Character Poses

Pretty much every anime fan will admit that at some stage they definitely struck the pose of their favourite character (usually a fighter) in real life. There’s something very cool about character poses on screen and something utterly ridiculous about using them in real life and yet some cosplayers really pull it off. Today my top 5 includes 5 character poses I love seeing and am really glad that they are either parodied regularly in other anime or that cosplayers enjoy them too because it means endless streams of images to admire.

Please Note: There may be some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week goes to Rika from Chuunibyou.

Number 5: Steins;Gate

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This one is fantastic but mostly because you can actually pull it off in real life without looking too ridiculous, which makes it a fairly safe pick for most people who while they would like more anime in their everyday life don’t want to have people start avoiding eye-contact with them. There are some more dramatic poses from Steins;Gate but the back to back in the lab coats is pretty classic.

Number 4: Soul Eater

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I’ll admit, Death the Kid with Patty and Liz is also pretty iconic but there is something insanely fun about taking on one of Maka’s stances and if you happen to have your scythe handy (or a broom stick or anything else really) you can really prepare to fight. Of course, the key to Maka’s look is not actually how she stands given other than the crouch it isn’t exactly the same each time, the key is in that piercing gaze. Nail that and it won’t matter how ridiculous you look.

Number 3: Evangelion

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The Gendo Pose. Probably doesn’t need much explanation and while it isn’t really a cosplayer favourite, it is an overly referenced and parodied look in anime. Plus, it is all kinds of fun to strike it in meetings when no one knows what you are doing. Even more fun if one person knows what you are doing and the rest are oblivious.

Number 2: Full Metal Alchemist

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I dare you to tell me you watched either version of Full Metal Alchemist and didn’t at one point in the month after the viewing clap your hands together when something broke or didn’t work. It may not be the coolest pose but once again it is all about the attitude while doing it. This isn’t a clap your hands if you believe in fairies moment.

Number 1: Sailor Moon

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I should probably attribute this one to the fact that I was significantly younger when I watched Sailor Moon but I most definitely spent more time than I will ever admit practicing and perfecting each of the Sailor Scout’s poses. And their attacks. And pretty much anything else to do with the show. Favourites were of course Jupiter and Mars for attacks. But very little beats Sailor Moon’s transformation stance and then her little monologue ending with “In the name of the Moon, I’ll punish you”.

Okay, time to spill. What is your favourite anime pose or which one will you admit to practicing in front of your TV?


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Karandi James.

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Brothers

We all know there are some terrible anime families out there, but every now and then a show finds a way to remind us that not every blood relative wants to abandon you, use you to destroy the world, or is on a vendetta to kill and destroy you. I’m dedicating this list to all the very cool brothers out there in the anime world and my criteria was simply that they had to actually look out for their sibling/s in some way.

Please Note: There will be some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week to Byakuya from Bleach (admittedly, it took him awhile to warm up to the idea of saving Rukia but after that point he was a pretty good brother).

Number 5: Sora from No Game No Life

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Sora is an incredibly confident gamer who is absolutely certain of victory, but only so long as his sister, Shiro, is by his side. More importantly, he prioritizes her happiness and well-being at every turn and absolutely trusts in her abilities. While there relationship may be unhealthy in some respects, separating them leading to the both of them all but shutting down emotionally, you can’t doubt the love these siblings have for one another and how much Sora is willing to do to give Shiro exactly what she wants.

Number 4: Edward and Alphonse from Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

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Oh, they are so cute. Seriously, these two are adorable as brothers even after one of them ends up as a soul attached to a suit of armour. Realistically these two could be put at number one on the list given everything they do is initially driven by Edward’s desire to ‘fix’ Alphonse but to be honest they get caught up in a lot of other stuff and even while the two will forever help each other out, both are aware there is more at stake. Still, utterly adorable.

Number 3: Lelouch from Code Geass

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I’ll be the first to admit that Lelouch’s family situation is complicated and not exactly nice, however his genuine love for his little sister Nunnally remains one of the touching cornerstones of Code Geass and is pretty much the only reason Lelouch shouldn’t just be written off as another egomaniacal character wanting to show off how smart he is. While I’m not entirely convinced that Lelouch ever really succeeded at ‘saving’ Nunnally, his determination to give her a better life was pretty admirable and he did end up shouldering an end that really shouldn’t have befallen him in order to spare her from having to take the responsibility.

Number 2: Touya from Cardcaptors

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Best big brother ever. Okay, maybe not given I put him in the second spot on the list, but he would still be an awesome brother to have. He doesn’t fall into the sickly sweet category as he certainly teases his little sister, as any self-respecting big brother would, but he never crosses the line into being mean and he most definitely always has his sister’s back even when she doesn’t know what he’s given up for her. This also carries over into Tsubasa Chronicles, though Touya has a much briefer role there.

Number 1: Komui Lee from D Gray Man

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While most of the time Komui acts like such an idiot it is hard to take him seriously as a character, it is important to remember that he gave up everything in his life to be with his sister and be her support. She was taken by the Dark Order because she could use Innocence and then she was pretty much on a self-destructive path and perfectly happy to die until Komui gave up whatever future he’d been heading towards to work for the Order to be with her. While casual observers think he’s the sister obsessed one, it is more that he knows how important his presence is for his sister and it really is the case that she’s the one who is a bit obsessed. Whenever you remember those scenes where we see Komui join the order to care for her, it makes so much of his character more tolerable and makes him my very favourite anime brother.

Over to you, who would you have included on your list of anime brothers?


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Friday’s Feature: What Genre Is That?

As kids, when we first start watching anime, we kind of get the impression it is all giant robots and lots and lots of fighting (or magical girls, which are much the same except that they’ll hit you with sparkly hearts instead of a sword and the results will be more or less identical). For me, growing up with Sailor Moon and the like, that is what anime was and while it was cool and all, I probably wouldn’t have become the obsessed anime fan I am today except that there is so much more to anime than that.

As the internet actually became functional for watching videos (believe me if you didn’t grow up being introduced to dial up where waiting for even a single page of text to load was torture you have no idea how painful it was to try to watch or access anything else and even after dial up was a thing of the past slow internet speeds continued to be a major problem for access in Australia) there came the realisation that there were all these other types of anime out there. Suddenly, anime wasn’t just the beat ’em up amusement for when you felt like turning your brain off but was something that could be explored and where stories of all sorts could be found.

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Genre list from AnimeLab.

And that’s where this feature actually gets started because realising that anime wasn’t just about kids beating monsters meant that you then had to say more than just watching anime. You were watching a shounen or a mecha or a romance or a myriad of other types of anime. And then you get those series that you just can’t explain what genre they are at all.

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Let’s look at Angel Beats. I love this anime even if it makes me cry every single time I watch it; even if it is deliberately contrived to pull on your heart strings. So it’s a drama then? Not really. Certainly there are dramatic elements and the conclusion of the series would have you believe it is a drama or a romance but the show itself deals out healthy doses of comedy, action, slice of life, and fantasy. To simply call it a drama would not really get the point across at all and anyone who started watching it expecting a drama would probably hate it by episode 2 because the first two episodes deal very much with the comedy and fantasy elements of the show.

Now mixed genres are certainly not exclusive to anime stories. Many movies and books cross several genres particularly romances. The number of hybrid genres that have become mainstream such as romantic-comedy, historical-romance, and supernatural-romance are clear indicators that while romance is indeed a big genre people tend to prefer their romance paired with something else these days. It helps keep things interesting and moving.

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If we were to look at a show like Full Metal Alchemist defining genre becomes really difficult. MAL lists it as an action, adventure, comedy, drama, fantasy, magic, military, shounen. And yes, all of those genre elements are there. But what genre is Full Metal Alchemist? If we were going to file it somewhere under a genre title which one would we choose? I’d probably go with adventure given the whole thing follows the journey of the main characters but you could legitimately choose any of the other genres listed there and justify why FMA should be there.

So the question becomes, does genre matter? Why classify things if they are going to cross between genres and incorporate other elements?

From my point of view I think it is because regardless of the window dressing, stories tend to follow set patterns and that pattern is embedded within a genre. That is why Angel Beats ultimately is a drama and Full Metal Alchemist ultimately is an adventure story at least from my point of view and I fully accept that other people will classify them differently. Despite the comedy and all the other elements that come in to create subplots, excitement, or just fill time, these stories when broken down follow patterns that we are very familiar with. It is this adherence to basic story patterns that makes something mixed genre rather than just a mess of ideas that may or may not come together into something comprehensible.

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One thing I’m fairly certain of is that we’re going to see more and more stories (anime or otherwise) that will push the boundary of the genre they are in and draw on elements of other genres. Whether they do this well will remain to be seen.

What are your thoughts on genre in anime?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Female Characters with Blonde Hair

This was a seriously hard list to narrow down and even then I’m still torn over some of the decisions. The issue is unlike with red-heads and the blue-haired ladies, there are so many different types of blonde characters that it gets hard to decide who your favourite is. I did finally make a decision and unfortunately that mean some really excellent characters got the chop (as well as a lot of cliché ones). As always, feel free to tell me your favourites in the comments below.

And for patrons there is my lesser top 5 list. This week I just went with blonde girls who irritate me to no end.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions go to: Lucy (Fairy Tail), Serena (Sailor Moon), Annie (Attack on Titan) and Lizzy (Black Butler).

Number 5: Triela from Gunslinger Girl

Triela is my choice for being both tragic and incredibly amazing. ALl of the girls in Gunslinger Girl are tragic characters. Suffering sever injuries before being brought back more machine than girl and then being trained to be a killer. While Triela is the oldest of the girls, she also goes through a lot and she’s one of my favourite characters from the show as we see more of her involved in direct combat than some of the other characters. Determined and deadly, this blonde character means business.

Number 4: Amber from Darker Than Black

Amber is a bit of an enigma because she’s only really in flashbacks until the second half and even then she is in and out of the show. That said, I like her character. She plays everything very casually even while she’s probably the only character with the full picture of what is really going on. And she makes some really hard choices and pays the price for them. While I still feel she might have clued some of the other characters in a bit earlier, she has sound reasoning for her actions in the end and she seems to genuinely respect Hei’s final decision in the series. Amber, for taking on everyone and doing it with a smile, you have taken the fourth position on this list.

Number 3: Riza Hawkeye from Full Metal Alchemist

What’s not to love about Riza no matter which version of Full Metal Alchemist you are watching? She likes dogs, she’s the only one who can really deal with Colonel Mustang, she’s a crack shot, and she’s a hard worker. Add to that she’s also a voice of reason and logic and occasionally a motherly figure to the younger characters, and she’s just all kinds of amazing. If I ever do a best supporting character list, Riza is going to be on it.

Number 2: Utau Hoshina from Shugo Chara

She’s an idol with not one, but two guardian characters that take the form of an angel and a devil. Early on in the series, Utau works against our protagonists and only uses Iru (the devil guardian). Later on she accepts Eru (the angel) and she begins building herself up from scratch as an idol and a person. Other than her brother complex, Utau is a fascinating character and a good rival for Amu early in the series. She’s also pretty awesome as an idol even if she does use her powers for evil early on. As a character, Utau experiences the best growth and development in this series.

Number 1: Maka Albarn from Soul Eater

It had to be Maka. She’s one of my all time favourite characters and she’s just plain awesome. She hits the books, fights with a scythe, and is still a genuinely nice person who is able to make a real connection with Crona who is need of human contact. Unlike so many heroes, Maka isn’t just strong because she is. She’s actually probably the weakest in the group we follow, but she is an incredibly hard worker and very determined to succeed. Even Maka going crazy is highly entertaining.  Oh, and don’t make her mad when she’s carrying a book or you will get hit with the dread Maka chop.

And that’s my list this week. As I said at the start, feel free to add your own suggestions to the list in the comments below and let me know what you think of my selections.


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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.