Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Characters Who Smoke

Tuesday's Top 5

This post is a little earlier in the day than normal and that’s because in about 7 hours (give or take) Raistlin and I are going to reveal our super secret project we’ve been teasing about on Twitter. Be sure to check back later for the post.

There’s a definite distance created when watching anime. In real life I cannot stand the smell of smoke or cigarettes and yet there are some anime characters out there that just look perfectly right when they light up their smoke, pipe, or whatever else. So today I am counting down my favourite 5 characters who are smokers and I invite the readers as always to give a shout out to your favourite characters as well.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions: Jean Havoc (Full Metal Alchemist) and Toshio Ozaki (Shiki).

Number 5: Shinya Kougami (Psycho Pass)

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It seems kind of odd for Kougami to only come in at number 5 and yet that is definitely the case. Mostly because his smoking always seemed like a crutch to show he’d become broken down after everything and it never really fit with his excessive exercise and drive to find the culprit. That said, like with most things Kogami did, he looked very good while doing it.

Number 4: Worick (Gangsta)

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Unlike Kogami, smoking really does fit with Worick’s character and lifestyle. It would actually be harder to imagine him not being a smoker. In the gritty world of Gangsta the cigarettes are pretty tame compared to the many other entertainments that could be found.

Number 3: Mikoto Suoh (K)

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At least Mikoto will never have to worry about finding a light. The Red King again manages to make the cigarettes seem an extension of his character rather than something that is tacked on. It fits with his image and firey nature. It also makes a nice moment toward the end when he shares a smoke with the Blue King.

Number 2: Franken Stein (Soul Eater)

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Could anyone else imagine this crazy character without his smokes? There’s something very careless about Stein and his overall appearance and temperament seem to lend themselves to living in the now. Though I have to wonder if smoking while dissecting a rare creature is particularly good practice.

Number 1: Yuuko (xxxHolic)

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She’s such a classy and beautiful character and her elegant pipe just kind of finishes her image perfectly. Again, it is harder to imagine removing this aspect from the character as it really is a part of who she is. Besides, despite her outward appearance of being together and focused, when done with her work Yuuko is quite the whimsical individual who definitely lives for the pleasure of the moment.

There they are, my top 5 anime characters who smoke. Be sure to share your favourites in the comments below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime With Action

Tuesday's Top 5

Alright, I’ve looked at romantic anime before but this time I’m shifting my focus to action. It is really hard to get a definitive classification on whether something is action or not. Does one fight sequence really make for action? And how do you compare action used for comedy with gritty realistic fight sequences, and then how do you compare those to the over the top craziness that is most action in anime? In the end my criteria for this list was that the fight sequences themselves were a strength of the show and integral to the narrative. So yes there are anime out there with more action and maybe even more impressive action sequences, this is the list of anime that I came up with.

I’d love to know what action anime you love and why. Please comment below.

Patrons, be sure to check out my lesser top 5 list. The anime on the list this week are all actually decent anime (in their own way – okay one of them is terrible no matter how you slice it) but the action in them is not so awesome.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions this week go to Full Metal Alchemist and Claymore.

Number 5: Soul Eater

While I’d love to put Soul Eater far higher on this list (because Soul Eater is just plain awesome) when looking just at the action of the series I have to admit there are some really wasted moments and some fairly disappointing outcomes in some of the fights. The reason this stayed on the list at all is Maka. Her fights, right from episode 1, are some of the most amazing fight sequences I’ve seen from a female character in anime. She’s not using a ranged weapon, she’s not moral support, she’s out there in the thick of the fight and swinging around a weapon that realistically she shouldn’t be able to pick up. If we ignore the final fight (which, please do), all of Maka’s battles are just a joy to watch. If you’re interested my series review is here.

Number 4: Gangsta

This one is a bit more realistic than Soul Eater but still goes for spectacle and humans who can perform inhuman feats. Nicolas, as a tag, really shows off what he can do and given he seems to just like the rush his fights aren’t about efficiency, they are definitely about fun. Of course, most of his opponents also seem to be enjoying themselves so while the fight might be about life and death, you can’t help but get caught up in the enthusiasm of the clash itself. Again, I’ve reviewed this series so if you are interested the review is here.

Number 3: Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

I know I just heard the sound of jaws collectively hitting the ground but there is a reason for this choice. While Grimgar is a sleepy little fantasy that is focussed very much on the main character’s internal struggle to cope with this life he finds himself in, the action sequences are an absolutely integral part of this story. More importantly, because every fight is literally a matter of survival for both sides and the tragedy of death is introduced early as a central theme, every battle has a feeling of absolute finality. There are no small conflicts when a single arrow might bring you down and hesitating for a moment could be all the difference between life and death. If we couple this with Grimgar’s distinct art style then the action sequences here are not just deadly they are beautiful. So, while this might be a slow moving story, the action is anything but and if you haven’t given it a go you should probably check out my review and then go check out the anime.

Number 2: Owari no Seraph

This one I haven’t reviewed yet but it will definitely happen. I think what draws me to this is it is a vampire story but it doesn’t really try for horror or atmosphere. It really is a straight up us vs them battle for the right to rule and we have some pretty cool weapons and characters thrown into the mix. Certainly there’s a few issues with the story, particularly in the second half of the second season, but if you like humans (or mostly human) fighting against a superior supernatural force with high stakes than this anime is well worth a watch.

Number 1: Full Metal Panic

 

Again, I’ve yet to review this anime but it is a great action anime. You have military conflicts, robot fights, explosions in school shoe lockers, and pretty much any other kind of action you could be looking for in a story. The weird mix of serious narrative and high school comedy somehow works and actually the Fumoffu season which is pretty much entirely focussed on the mercenary’s day-to-day school life delivers some pretty amazing action in and of itself. Season 1 and Second Raid give us hostage situations and dramatic rescues, chase sequences, straight up military fights, and just such a range of scenes to enjoy it is kind of hard to overlook this one. As being a fighter is an essential part of Sousuke’s character and the action is used so much for both dramatic and humorous effect I just had to choose this as the number one for the list.

There we go, my top 5 action anime recommendations, though not necessarily the most action filled anime out there. What would you have put on your list?


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Gangsta Series Review

Overview:

Much like the title suggests, Gangsta deals with the events of a mafia run city called Ergastulum. Mostly we follow Worick and Nicholas, two ‘handymen’ as they take on pretty much any job for a price.

Review:

It would be easy to make the case that Gangsta goes for style over substance and without any kind of conclusion to the anime (and pretty much no chance ever of a conclusion) that this is a title to put in the watch if you’re bored list or just move on. Despite one of my pet hates about anime being lack of resolution to so many series, I still found Gangsta a blast to watch and even knowing it doesn’t end it has become one of my go-to rewatch titles when I’m feeling a little bit down.

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That doesn’t mean this series is in anyway uplifting. In point of fact, it’s more the kind of thing you watch to remind yourself that maybe you don’t have it that bad. Then again, the series isn’t depressing either because while horrible things happen to the characters at times, none of them seem to really take it too much to heart. And that’s where the argument of style over substance comes in.

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There’s a lot of really good ideas in Gangsta and some really interesting characters. The Tags/Twilights/whatever you want to call them are a great concept and as we get to know some of them and see their way of dealing with the cards life dealt them you really get drawn into the struggle that probably would have become a central theme if the show had continued. Gangsta touches on so many ideas and gets into some really serious issues but none of these have the chance to really be developed. It’s almost as though you are standing on clear ice and you can below that there is depth and something really compelling in the lake below but you can’t touch it.

So really, your enjoyment of Gangsta will come entirely from whether you are happy to simply consider the ideas as they are presented and then contemplate them further on your own.

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Worick and Nicholas are really entertaining as our main characters. It is nice that we meet these two from an outsiders perspective though (Alex, the prostitute they rescue early on) because their relationship is so established before the time period we’re viewing and without that perspective even the audience would be quite locked out of the nuances that govern their ‘friendship’. It’s difficult to actual say if these two are friends or not given their history and positions. At times it feels like a genuine friendship, at others a partnership of convenience, and others still you feel that there is a massive power imbalance. It’s the back and forth between these states that keeps you watching and wanting to know whether or not they really have found a way beyond the discrimination so inherent in the world they live in. It helps too that both characters are deeply flawed in their own ways and yet equally talented in others. They both bring baggage to the table but they also bring strengths that are necessary for the other to survive. I also like that they don’t try to make these two out to be the knights in shining armour. Sure, comparatively to other characters these two aren’t scum but they certainly don’t mind getting their hands dirty.

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Alex is a necessary plot device in the story but as a character she is probably the weakest element in the Gangsta universe. They make some attempts at fleshing her out beyond damsel in distress, hard done by girl who got rolled by the big-bad world, etc. These attempts are okay but mostly she is still just a vehicle for the audience to enter a fairly closed world. Alex wasn’t born in the city and hasn’t been there long so she asks the questions the audience needs answered and gives the other characters a reason to launch into an info-dump. It’s not the most sophisticated way to world build but with limited run-time and a fairly full agenda with the plot it was probably the quickest and least intrusive way to go about it.

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Beyond the characters we have the story itself which looks very much at the power balances within the city and plays old mafia families off against new comers, mercenary units against whoever they choose, the police trying to keep up appearances of order, and independents such as the handymen moving through the whole lot and stirring the pot as they pass. While there isn’t a singe, central issue being dealt with in this series and there is no closure, I never really had a problem with that while watching. There was always something happening, some job the characters were dealing with, or some threat that they were gathering information on.

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Then we have the action sequences. The fights in this are amazing. The tags being significantly stronger than normal humans (and yet not being supernaturally overpowered) gave us some fantastic clashes. Their individual quirks and disabilities add a unique feel to these fights and the speed and power they bring to bear (not to mention some of the weapons) are just entertaining.

Equally entertaining is the opening theme. It energizes you for each episode and really sets the tone of the world we’re entering. All and all, it is an opening I rarely skip when rewatching the show.

Also, the English dub is really good. I don’t say that very often as normally I either haven’t watched the English dub or I preferred the Japanese, but in this case I’ve watched both and I’d happily watch either one.

Final view: I really enjoy Gangsta but wish it could have been more. If they’d finished the story, explored some of the issues they raised, maybe introduced a few more female characters that didn’t feel like they were tokenistic… But that isn’t what the show is. It’s a great ride for what they give you and a lot of fun while skating across the surface of a lot of the darker sides of human nature. I’d love to know your opinion if you’ve watched Gangsta.

Tuesday’s Top 5: Eye Patch Wearing Characters

Tuesday's Top 5

I really don’t get why so many anime characters wear eye patches (and there are a lot of them when you start looking) but I do know that some of these characters are pretty cool. Some of them it is clear why they need the eye patch, for others it is an unexplained mystery. Here are my top 5 anime characters that wear eye patches. Share yours below.

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

Honourable mentions this week go Misaki Mei (Another), King Bradley (Full Metal Alchemist), Valmet (Jormungand), Ciel Phantomhive (Black Butler), Nice Holystone (Baccano), and all of the Data Masamune’s out there (though special mention to Sengoku Basara). That’s a lot of honourable mentions and that is only a fraction of the list I started with. Too many characters with eye patches.

Number 5: Sven Vollfied (Black Cat)

So with so much competition, how did down and out sweeper Sven find his way onto this list? Probably because he was one of my first eye patch wearing anime characters and his eye patch served a purpose. Sven can see a few minutes into the future but using that power takes a great toll on his body so most of the time he keeps his eye covered. However, when things are at their worst, he will lift the eye patch and use that power to his full advantage. Besides, Sven is more unlucky than incompetent.

Number 4: Kaneki Ken (Tokyo Ghoul)

This was an obvious choice but a necessary one. The way the eye patch and mask are used to show Kaneki’s dual nature is actually quite clever and a critical plot device throughout the story. Basically, he keeps his ghoul eye covered when he is human and his human eye covered when he’s a ghoul and slowly we see the divide between these two existences disappear.

Number 3: Rikka Takanashi (Chyunibyo)

After the last two serious entries, I really wanted to include Rikka. Rikka is a fantastic character who suffers from 8th Grade Syndrome and so believes that she has super powers which she cleverly conceals by wearing an eye patch, among other things. She get’s some very cool moments when she reveals her eye and at first it appears magical but then it’s revealed she is wearing a coloured contact in the eye under the eye patch. While her eye patch is definitely an affectation, Rikka is a fantastic character and the eye patch is almost inseparable from her as a character so I felt she deserved a spot on the list. It’s such a fundamental part of her character that when she gives up her ‘delusions’ she removes the eye patch and essentially becomes a different person. However, that transformation is short lived.

Number 2: Worick Arcangelo (Gangsta)

This one is included because unlike a lot of these characters, Worick isn’t hiding a super power but rather is covering an injury. One that the memory of haunts him and when we flash back and see the injury it actually makes the audience wince. This is a physical and emotional scar on the character and is definitely a symbol of the events that have shaped who he is.

Number 1: Lavi (D Gray Man)

Yes, some of the other characters have more dramatic stories and more purpose behind their eye patches. I’m not going to argue that this choice is anything but my own preference. Lavi is awesome. I loved him as a character and like Sven, Lavi was one of the first eye patch wearing characters to catch my eye. And while it isn’t fully explained, the eye patch is a part of who Lavi is and the thought of Lavi without an eye patch is just kind of strange.

So who would you have listed? Share your favourites in the comments below.