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.


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Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: English Dubbed Anime

Tuesday's Top 5

While I’m pretty much a strictly sub-watcher under normal circumstances, there are the occasional anime that for whatever reason I’ve enjoyed in English or had to watch the English dub of. Today I count down my five favourite anime that I’m pretty happy to watch in English. At some point I’ll have to count down my top 5 least favourite dubs, but for now I’m counting down my favourites and I’d love to know what some of your favourite dubbed anime is and why.

Please note, there will probably be no spoilers this week.

Honourable Mentions: K and Ghost Hunt

Number 5: Bleach

Fight-Bleach

Bleach is a weird one because I know the dub isn’t that great (not that bad, but not that great). However, given this was one of the earlier anime I watched and initially I was watching episodes in smaller than ten minute chunks on YouTube so the subs were not always done by the same group and some episodes were in English with Spanish subs, actually getting to listen to it in English and not try to work out what the slightly different translated term or name was in the subs was kind of a relief when I could access it in English. There’s definitely a fondness and a nostalgia factor at work here and realistically I mostly watch this one in Japanese now that I own the DVD’s, but when watching with others I’m pretty happy to watch this either subbed or dubbed.

Number 4: Soul Eater

Maka + Soul

Is it wrong if I admit I prefer Maka’s English voice over her Japanese? She’s one of my favourite female characters of all time, one I’ve bothered to cosplay, and I think she’s amazing but something about Laura Bailey’s delivery in the English dub really lifts this character. Again, no actual issue with the original Japanese and I prefer Black Star in Japanese to English (though personally I’d prefer him on mute) but overall this is one of my favourite anime and I watch it in English about half the time I watch it.

Number 3: Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

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This is another anime I originally watched online, somewhere, because everyone said it was amazing and I didn’t have access. The version I watched just happened to be an English dub and I really fell in love with the characters. By the time I was able to by a DVD copy of this anime, I kind of felt the English voices fit things just right and I actually find it odd when watching this one in Japanese. There’s a real energy to the cast and the characters really do come through beautifully in the dub.

Number 2: Sword Art Online

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While I love the Japanese of this one, this is an anime that I’ve used on multiple occasions to get people into watching anime so I’ve watched the dub, a lot. At first it kind of bothered me but over multiple watches, the voices have definitely grown on me. There are some characters that really do give a fairly impressive performance in the cast and while I prefer Kirito speaking Japanese, he works quite well in the English dub. More importantly, most of the people I’ve watched it with have been impressed by the voice acting given most of them had previously had limited experience with anime and most of the dubs they had been familiar with were 90’s ones which we should probably all agree just weren’t very good.

Number 1: Steins;Gate

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Yes, it is the original Steins;Gate series. I’ve mentioned in more than one comment online that this one of the few series where I prefer the dub. Not only are the cast amazing, it relieves the problem of the very quick dialogue and multiple characters speaking at the same time. While I have no issues with subs, when the subs cover a third of the screen and pass so quickly you can’t read it all at times, it becomes a slight distraction from the overall enjoyment. Watching this in English is a joy and one I would happily recommend skipping the subs on and just switching straight to dub.

What are some of your favourite dubs? Let me know in the comments below.

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Karandi James
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BLEACH ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
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B: The Beginning Netflix Anime Series Review: There’s Murder and Mayhem But What Comes Next?

Overview:

The anime series, B: The Beginning, came out on Netflix and styled itself as a task force (known as the RIS) working a double murder that involved a notorious serious killer known only as ‘Killer B’. However, things soon take a turn for the strange when a military vehicle is stolen and taken for a joyride, poisonous gas is developed and used to threaten hostages, and other unsolvable crimes occur.

Review (Probably some spoilers – just warning you):

I think B: The Beginning wants to be a lot of things and I’m not sure it actually succeeded at any of them, at least not in any meaningful way. It is fun enough if you do just want to watch the mayhem unfold before they then painstakingly explain how clever they’ve all been for the last two episodes, but realistically there isn’t enough groundwork for any of it to have any effect. After finishing the last episode I pondered for awhile about what my overall opinion of this series was. Because, while I didn’t particularly like quite a lot of it, I didn’t exactly dislike the viewing and finished it off in three consecutive days of binge viewing and it wasn’t just so I could review it.

While I was pondering I actually sorted my main issue with the whole thing out, and that was that it just felt too similar to other shows I actually liked a lot but it didn’t manage to really hit on what made those stories work. I’ll admit that problem is entirely my own, but it helped me understand what I didn’t like about this show and why, even though it is definitely watchable, I probably won’t go for a second round. And that means this review is going to do something I normally don’t do, and it is going to rely heavily on comparisons to explain the points I want to make. It isn’t really something I like to do as I feel each show should be judged on its own merit (or lack of it) but it is a way for me to sort my mixed thoughts on this show.

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Terror in Resonance

The first and obvious comparison would be Terror in Resonance. Stylistically these shows are quite similar and the tone of the later episodes of this most definitely strikes a Terror in Resonance vibe. As do the kids being used as experiments, the burning down of the lab, and the central character, Keith Flick who is incredibly reminiscent of Shibazaki. Where B: The Beginning falters to capture my attention and interest in the way Terror in Resonance seemed to, was that it didn’t seem to have anything to say.

Whether you agree with the actions and ideas presented by Terror in Resonance or not, the show gets you thinking about the world and about the way the media manipulate events, about the decisions of governments and large institutions, about relationships between countries, and about the actions of those who are labelled radicals or terrorists. B: The Beginning doesn’t seem to have anything to say unless ‘murder is bad’ is somehow a message that I missed under all the cool trapping and laughter of those committing incessantly, or that you should always work in a ‘team’ which is definitely a sermon from the second act of this story but doesn’t really ground itself on anything substantial other than the team working together for about three seconds before Keith goes off on his own again.

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But despite the heavy and easy comparison to Terror in Resonance, that actually didn’t feel right to leave it there. Sure there are some parallels, but B has it’s own kind of edge that Terror in Resonance never aspired to taking itself far too seriously at times (though when dealing with terrorists who have a potential nuclear device I guess you should have some level of solemnity to your tale). And then it hit me. B is kind of what would happen if K was somehow crossbred with Terror in Resonance only about a third of the connecting plot points got dropped out of both shows.

K Project 4
K

Once I realised that I understood the excessive fight sequence full of flash and grandeur (even if they only seemed loosely connected to the narrative) and the shifting tone between frantic and snail crawling exposition. See, K was all about the style and presented its supernaturally charged characters in the coolest light possible, even when they were just thugs. It gave each action sequence flash and bang and a sense of movement. Essentially what we see during the first two episodes of B. The trouble is, that B doesn’t have an interesting enough lead on the supernatural side to pull it off and the villain ultimately has no plan of note other than death to the protagonist.

B The Beginning 3

To a degree though, B works. It does get your attention in the early episodes, even if it is the hyperactive child shrieking at you for attention kind of attention. In fact, the show’s format reminds me very much of how most of the other characters describe Koku’s actions. He was screaming out that he was there but no one was listening. B declares it is here as it splatters blood across the screen, constructs incredible acts of violence, and generally does everything possible to grab the dark and edgy label that seems to be a flavour of the last couple of years (surely we’re ready for sunshine and rainbows again, or at least a dark and edgy that doesn’t rely just on making all the characters we meet horrible for every second of screen time).

Then it tries to segue into actual plot and that’s where it comes off the rails a bit, not unlike a train that somehow managed to land in a somewhat precise pattern and aren’t they glad the killer chose a sign that train carriages could actually form. Totally coincidence I am sure. Leaving beside all the comparisons, it is the plot that really drops the ball for this show because there are two central conflicts and while there is a connection and the characters, clues and mysteries intersect, their resolutions are essentially independent and neither ultimately feels like the actual climax or big finish because they’ve both been fighting for your attention and as a result you don’t much care about either.

B the Beginning 2

Koku wants to know his past, about the people who destroyed the institution, and to find a girl. There is always a girl. This story is full of supernatural characters, a very K like ancient tablet that has been deciphered and has some impact on his powers (though don’t expect that to be explained), and I’m guessing there is kind of a revenge goal in their somewhere but Koku isn’t exactly articulate in explaining what he is after and it wouldn’t matter anyway because it all comes down to rescue the damsel in distress. It isn’t a particularly satisfying narrative arc on its own, the powers just kind of exist and once you learn a bit more about Koku and what is going on you kind of realise exactly what the outcome of that plot-line will be so you just then wait for it to play out. Which it does, in cut sequences of bloody action which break up some of the driest dialogue I think I’ve endured for a long time between a protagonist and antagonist.

And this takes us to the second story involving the detectives. Because as much as their solving the crimes does involve a lot of the supernatural goings on, ultimately they do nothing about that part of the story. They track down the human element behind it all, and if you were paying even vague attention early on you will know precisely who the culprit is as soon as Keith mentions there are two culprits and sends Koku after one of them. It is another case of lack of options for suspects making it more or less impossible to miss.

B The Beginning 4

We then get what could have been an interesting attempt by the detectives to set up and ensnare the culprit but the story isn’t really happy with the whole power of team work dynamic and decides to overthrow it for a final attempt at tragedy. After that attempt essentially ends in failure, Keith takes the final clue (or signpost however you want to look at it) and tracks down the perpetrator and then calmly leans against the wall in front of a projector showing images of the killer taking out previous victims, including Keith’s sister, while he holds a conversation with the killer. There is no sense of tension or drama in this scene and any attempt at a serious tone is unhinged by the constant cuts to Koku and his fight sequence or the other detectives racing to the scene.

Anyway, it does wrap up and we see the next steps for the country and characters. There’s plenty left open that could still be explored should they want to do a sequel, but the current situation is done and you have a sense of closure.

This isn’t a train wreck by any means but nor is it particularly well done. It has elements that could be quite interesting, tones that I appreciate in other shows, and ideas that certainly could have merit, but ultimately it feels largely empty. I’m drafting this mere hours after watching the final episode and already details are escaping me because there’s nothing to ponder or consider and nothing to take from the viewing. And while that is fine in and of itself, and some people won’t see that as a negative, for me it feels like this show just missed its mark.

Anyway, if you’ve had a chance to watch it, I’d love to know your thoughts so leave me a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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K Season 1 Series Review: Is Looking Good and Being Cool Enough For A Series?

Overview:

There are 7 Kings and each King can bestow their powers upon their clan. While the Blue King works to keep order, the Red King is pretty much all about anger and right now the entire red clan is out for blood because one of their members was murdered by the self-declared colourless king.

Review:

For anyone who watches this story, there are two things that will become immediately apparent. The first is that there are a lot of males characters and most are drawn to be seen as the various types of attractive that they usually use in anime. So lots of tall and slender guys with various hair colours and accessories so that you can be sure to find your favourite type. Or why not just collect them all? And the second is that this show isn’t above relying on spectacle and shock to grab your attention if you aren’t into the predominantly bishonen cast.

The opening scene see HOMRA (the clan controlled by the Red King) essentially break into an apartment and beat the guys inside up for information (that they do not even have). This is break and enter followed by assault, and low level torture before the loli girl walks in and declares they know nothing and they all just walk out. If that isn’t actually enough to get the audience engaged and their hearts pumping, the red clan then walk smack into the blue clan for a fight that ends with the red king handing himself over.

K Project 4

Throughout all of this, no explanation as to what kings are, or their swords, or why they have powers, or even what information the red clan are after, is given to the audience. It’s just expected that you are going to be so mesmerised by this cool and confronting action and gorgeous cast that you’ll shut up and buckle in for the ride.

And you know, it actually works pretty effectively.

K Project 1

Admittedly, the good looking guys in the cast are kind of wasting their efforts trying to charm me, particularly the crew from HOMRA who they later on try to endear us to but to be honest they’ve come across as thugs and little that happens later changes my mind about that. So while they are the most exciting characters to watch, mostly because every scene they are in explodes with violence or humour, I don’t really care about what happens to them. Anna, the girl I described as the loli earlier, is the exception as she actually gets quite a nice character arc and isn’t quite so prone to violence, at least not the direct kind, as the others in the clan. Admittedly though, you’ll be waiting through the movie and season 2 before you really care about her.

K Project 3

Still all of this is actually background because this is the story of Yashiro Isana. He starts out as a seemingly normal student who likes cats but is then chased by both HOMRA and Kuroh (a vigilante sent by the previous colourless king to kill the evil king).

The problem being that the carefree guy who slips in and out of trouble and through all the chaos of the clans throughout the series isn’t that compelling to watch when compared with the scenes dominated by the Kings and their clans. Most scenes involving Isana are only interesting because of Neko (the cat) and Kuroh and the banter between the two. While I don’t dispute that ultimately Isana’s story turns out to be interesting and quite compelling (and I’m not going into any spoilers here), as a character he is the low point of a lot of the early part of the first season. Part of this can be attributed to the trope of protagonist with missing memories. It is very hard to be compelling as a character where basically you get to tilt your head a lot and wonder about things you have no clue about.

K Project7

Fortunately, the rest of the cast, including the normal school students surrounding the central trio, have more than enough personality and presence to make up for what Isana is lacking. And I do mean more than enough. We have rivalries between clans, long standing histories, potential romances and bromances, old grudges, and just so many details that are touched upon or hinted at but because this story isn’t about them they seldom get to take centre stage and when they do it is at the cost of the actual central narrative.

But I have to wonder if that even matters in a story presented as this one is?

The pace keeps moving along as we go from one conflict to another. One chase sequences blends in to the next, and there are only a few moments in the early couple of episodes where the focus is on the school and kids getting ready for a festival where you have to wonder if things are going to actually progress. The sheer size of the cast and the complexity of the world (not the story because it is pretty straight forward when you separate it from setting) works in its favour because it means you are seldom bored by what is on the screen and the number of details makes it feel like a rich and real reality that has existed prior to the writing of the story and will continue afterward.

K Project 6

And of course the fight sequences look fantastic. They are full of energy and interesting uses of powers. They are visual feasts and usually accompanied by suitably energised music, and all and all they are just fun to watch. The final sequence between the blue and red king at the end of the series is both grandiose and heart breaking, and gets the balance right between visual spectacle and portraying the human emotions of the scene.

K Project 5

So while K is actually pretty easy to criticise for some of its story telling choices and its over-emphasis on looking good over actual characterisation, the end result is something that is reasonably compelling to watch and ultimately fairly rewarding for the viewer as things do come together. Obviously there is then a movie and a second series so don’t expect all the loose ends to be tied up, but Isana and the mystery of how and why he lost his memories, and who the real murderer was, all of that is concluded and you are left with a sense of real satisfaction.

I’d love to know your thoughts about K.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Male Characters With Gorgeous Long Hair

Tuesday's Top 5

Yes, this list is entirely my own preference and as such I am going to happily update the list as new characters come along who catch my eye, or I just gain a deeper appreciation of older characters. Either way, I love a guy with long hair and male anime characters regularly have amazing hair and so this list is one I really enjoyed putting it together initially and coming back to update it (Feb 2019) has been great fun.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions this week go to: Edward Elric (Full Metal Alchemist) and Malachite (Sailor Moon).

Also added to the honourable mentions are Weismann (from K Project) and Zangetsu (from Bleach). They formally held the fourth and first spot on this list but I’ve kind of moved on just a little bit from both of them so while they are still awesome, and so is their hair, they now sit in the honourable mentions.

Number 5: Kanda (D Gray Man)

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I’ll admit there is very little chance of Kanda actually letting me touch his hair even if he wasn’t an anime character and if I happened to meet him, but that doesn’t stop me very much wanting too. That glossy shine, the way it moves when he fights, his hair is amazing and completely sold this character even early on in D Gray Man when he was a bit of a jerk (okay, he’s regularly a jerk but he kind of grows on you).

Number 4: Tomoe (Kamisama Kiss) – Moved from Number 3

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Another character who doesn’t usually have long hair but the few times he does, it is unbelievably gorgeous. It almost makes you wish for more flashback episodes just so you could see more of Tomoe with this hair. Plus the ears kind of work. Then again, he was pretty violent then so maybe we should just stick to present day Tomoe.

Number 3: Takato (Dakaichi)

This one is just a total cheat because Takato doesn’t have long hair. He does however play a role in a play where he has long hair and can I just point out he looks absolutely gorgeous. And then I’ll ask why he doesn’t wear his hair long all the time because it absolutely suits him. Totally in love with Takato when he has this look going.

Number 2: Shichika Yasuri (Katanagatari)

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He may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but Shichika is honest, earnest, and deadly. Combine that with some odd but strangely compelling fashion sense and a great hairstyle (albeit one that cannot really exist outside of an anime) and you have a character that is going to fascinate from minute one.

Number 1: You Keika (Spiritpact)

I still don’t know when it was that You Keika went from being the single most annoying character ever to a character I really enjoyed watching and wanted to succeed, but particularly during season 2 I really grew to love this character. Keika is a spirit but he’s growing in leaps and bounds and I absolutely have loved his character journey. Needless to say, once I started paying proper attention to his character I also noticed just how amazing his hair looks and well, the rest is history as he now has the number one spot on my list.

Okay, and a total cheat bonus addition to the list. Victor from Yuri On Ice (from when his hair was actually long).

So that is my list this week. Which anime male with long hair would you have had on your list? Or female if you prefer.

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Karandi James
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Tuesday’s Top 5: Characters that are not all there.

Tuesday's Top 5

Okay, anime is full of zany, quirky characters but every now and then we come across a character who you just have to wonder what is going on inside their head (if anything). There characters can be fun and amusing or they can be completely annoying but they usually leave a fairly lasting impression. For the most part I’ve tried to avoid genuinely insane characters (or characters that have a mental illness where it is being treated seriously) or master mind villains because they fall into a category all of their own. That said, we’ve got some explosive tempers, some extreme flamboyance, and some really weird motivations from some of these characters.

List updated January 2019.

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

Honourable Mention: The Colourless King from K (Previously number 5).

Honourable Mention: Schokolade from Jormungand (Previously number 4)

Number 5: Karuta Roromiya from Inu X Boku SS (Previously number 3)

Karuta is another food obsessed girl and she is one spacey character. It is difficult to know what she is thinking but as Watanuki points out, she always knows what she is doing even if the rest of us don’t get it. Besides, how can we hate someone who helps small animals, likes to eat, and can transform into a giant skeleton if push comes to shove?

Number 4: Prince Mare from Dame X Pri

I really enjoyed meeting Prince Mare in DamePri. Outside of Ani he was definitely the best part of the show. A reclusive shut in who would speak only through his puppet it took Ani a great deal of effort to get Mare out of his room and even then he would find humorous ways to avoid sunlight, such as stuffing himself in a barrel or a chest. Still, when it came to pursuing his hobbies Mare was second to none. Not to mention his cynical observations of the other princes.

Number 3: Ladd Russo from Baccano (Previously number 2)

While he is definitely a villain he isn’t a crazy evil genius. Ladd is just… obsessed with violence? An egomaniac? Completely disconnected from reality? It’s hard to know but a character who chooses to wear white in order to show the blood better definitely deserves a mention as someone who isn’t all there. And Ladd is such an upbeat murderer. That said, other than hunting the thrill of violence and death, his motives remain totally in the dark as does any reason for his warped personality. I wasn’t even a little upset when he was beaten and had to abandon the train though his survival was a little regrettable.

Number 2: Bakugou from My Hero Academia

Bakugou is brilliant, driven, and incredibly talented, but the kid who wants to be a hero comes up with a hero name of Lord Explosion Murder so you have to question some of his common sense. Whether you are friend or foe, you have to be wary of Bakugou’s incredible temper as he is seeking a justice all of his own and while we might be starting to see him grow a little, explosions still follow in Bakugou’s wake (I feel kind of bad for his parents when he was growing up because wow he takes temper tantrum to a whole new level).

Number 1: Grell Sutcliff from Black Butler

There’s not a lot you can really say about Grell except that he knows exactly who he is and he isn’t about to change. This is one flamboyant character who enjoys a good fight as much as a good flirt (though in Sebastian’s case Grell would love to go beyond flirting). Grell’s favourite colour is red and he personifies the fiery and diverse nature of this colour from passion through to violence. That said, we know next to nothing about Grell’s real feelings beneath the antics and we know next to nothing about how Grell came to be how he is. This character marches to the beat of their own drum and it works.

So that’s the list this week. Who would you have put on yours?

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Karandi James
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Tuesday’s Top 5: Characters Voiced by Daisuke Ono

Tuesday's Top 5

While I’m not a massive follower of voice actors, every now and then a character’s vocal performance catches my attention. Daisuke Ono has voiced a lot of my very favourite characters (both characters I like in their stories and characters I just love to listen to). So this is my top 5 list of characters voiced by Daisuke Ono. Feel free to add your favourites below or just suggest your favourite voice actors and actresses.

Please Note – List is relatively spoiler free today.

Honourable mentions this week: Hugh Anthony Disward (The Mystic Archives of Dantelion) and Seishuu Handa (Barakamon).

Number 5: Kazuma Yagami from Kaze no Stigma

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I genuinely cannot watch this anime in English because Kazuma’s voice is just wrong. Having heard the original Japanese dub and really loving this character, the English voice just can’t compare. Kazuma has just the right amount of playfulness and darkness in his voice to really draw you in.

Number 4: Kuroh Yatogami from K

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I was actually surprised when I learned that Daisuke Ono was the voice for Kuroh. The character is quite different from other characters I’d already associated with the voice. Kuroh might be creepy at times but he has a no nonsense air about him as he pursues his own views of justice. And he manages that without sounding like a naive adolescent.

Number 3: Yakumo Saitou from Psychic Detective Yakumo

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This character always sounds either bored or ticked off (occasionally he manages both simultaneously). Despite such a limited range of emotions on display, listening to him never get’s boring.

Number 2: The Fourth from Heaven’s Memo Pad.

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It’s hard to be the leader of a gang and not come off as a mindless thug, and yet THe Fourth does it admirably with the help of some very effective voice acting. Normally the type of character I would barely tolerate, he actually managed to make me somewhat sympathetic and by the end I actually liked his character.

Number 1: Sebastian Michaelis from Black Butler.

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Who else? I could seriously listen to this character all day long. It’s the reason I will not watch the English dub of this series. While some of the other characters sound really good in the English, Sebastian just isn’t right without Daisuke Ono delivering the lines.

Who would your picks have been? Or which voice actor/actress do you really love to listen to?