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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Karandi James.

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Guys with Black Hair

Tuesday's Top 5

Last week we did the list of top 5 anime females with black hair focussing on the cool beauties of the anime world. This week my attention shifts to the male characters and I think my main focus here was focussed and dependable. That said, there are an enormous number of males with ebony hair that I just could not fit onto my list so I would love to know your thoughts and who would have been included on your list.

Please note there are some spoilers in the descriptions below.

Honourable Mentions: Jiroh (Black Blood Brothers), Kazuya Shibuya (Ghost Hunt) and Gilbert Nightray (Pandora Hearts), plus the dozens of others that were considered and ultimately left off the list.

Number 5: Hei (Darker Than Black)

Whether he’s on a mission, infiltrating an organisation, reporting in, apparently having a break, Hei is always focussed on his primary goal, find out what happened to his sister. He might be a crazy powerful contractor but even before he became a contractor he was feared for his skills. he is one guy you do not want to cross because once he sets his sights on something, one way or another he’s going to make it happen and he’s going to look really good while doing it.

Number 4: Kirito (Sword Art Online)

Another highly focussed character and one I very much enjoy watching in action, Kirito does not let anything stand between him and his current goal, not even death. Plus, once you get through his protective shell and anti-social exterior, he’s actually a genuinely caring person who looks after those he considers his friends. While his tunnel focus might work against him when he gets fixated on single points and sometimes misses the bigger picture, in terms of drive it is hard to argue against his actions.

Number 3: Kuroh Yatogami (K)

If you are looking for dedication and loyalty than you can’t go much further than Kuroh. Not to mention the guy can cook and rocks that pink apron. Admittedly, there’s a bit of a disconnect between his good looks and personality when fighting to his more laid back persona and he definitely has some personality traits that are a little questionable, such as listening to the recordings of his dead master for guidance on a daily basis. Still, he’s a strong fighter, wields a sword, has an absolute sense of duty, and ultimately does what he believes is right. He is one very cool character for this list.

Number 2: Shinya Kougami (Psycho Pass)

I’d like to let the pictures speak for me on this one. Kougami is tough, focussed, and relatively unstoppable once he puts his mind to things. He’s also really great to watch in action. However, he isn’t a muscle head who only relies on his fists, he’s got a good head on his shoulders and knows when to use it. A pure joy to watch as he unravels the mysteries in Psycho Pass and seeks out his revenge.

Number 1: Sebastian Michaelis (Black Butler)

Was there ever a moment of doubt that Sebastian would not be number one on this list? The guy can do anything and look amazing while doing it. Okay, he might be a demon so has an unfair advantage. In a fair world, Kougami would be the number 1, however fair or unfair, Sebastian is perfect, except for the whole eating people’s souls things. That’s a minor hiccup in an otherwise flawless persona.

Alright, I’m done so I’m handing it over to you for your top 5 guys with black hair.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Males with Silver Hair

Tuesday's Top 5

Here’s the list of my top 5 male anime characters with silver hair. I’m going to admit, this was a far harder list to put together than the female one. There are so many silver haired males out there that I wanted to include. Plus, splitting the one and two spot this week was all but impossible so I finally went with overall good looks which means I now feel really bad about number 2. Anyway, my primary criteria, other than having silver, white or gray hair, was that they are an interesting character that I enjoy watching. Still, this one was really difficult. I’d love to know who you would have included so please leave me a comment.

Also, next week I have a Top 5 list suggested by Kendra Ressler who is one of my patrons. As part of their reward tier they get to suggest three post topics in a year and this is their first one and it is focussed on My Hero Academia. I’m really looking forward to writing it and even though the post will come out after I’ve gone on break, I’m hoping everyone will enjoy it. Thanks to Kendra for the great suggestion.

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

Honourable mentions go to Undertaker (Black Butler), Tomoi (Kamisama Kiss) and Lag Seeing (Letter Bee).

Number 5: Hitsugaya from Bleach

 

 

It feels kind of wrong for Hitsugaya to be so low on this list given I absolutely love him as a character but when I thought about why I liked him, his hair doesn’t feature very high. his attitude, his sword, his eyes and his very cool ice power featured heavily, but his hair style and colour were more of a side note. Still, Hitsugaya is an amazing character so I’m glad he didn’t fall off the list altogether.

Number 4: Zero from Vampire Knight

 

 

As much as I do tend to mock Vampire Knight and its storyline, I have to admit Kiryuu Zero is a really fun character to watch. That’s probably slightly mean to say given most of what you are watching is his descent into depression as the vampire hunter transforms into a vampire and feels incredible guilt over sucking the blood of his crush but I just enjoy him as a character. As for his hair colour, other than providing a strong contrast with the other love interest, I really couldn’t imagine Zero with any other colour. He always seems a little washed out and detached from the world and his hair kind of helps give that impression.

Number 3: Weismann from K

 

 

This issue with Weismann is that we see so very little of him. Flashbacks are all well and good but given his body is snatched before the events of the first episode of K, we really don’t see much of him. That said, his silver hair, given he’s the silver king and all, is kind of important and I really enjoy his character (what little we see of it). Brilliant and detached with a slightly off-beat sense of humour, he remains an enigma even after he regains his memories and I absolutely love every moment of screen time he gets.

Number 2: Allen Walker from D Gray Man

 

 

I know. I can’t believe Allen isn’t number 1 on this list either. Much like Zero, Allen is a pretty tragic character to watch and I can’t get enough of it. He’s one of my favourite characters of all time. Want a strong and loyal character who will literally fight to the death and even beyond for what he believes to be right but isn’t exactly a saint? Then Allen will entertain you for hours (and hours and hours given the run time of the show now). Though I definitely have a preference for his character design in the original series rather than Hallow (too colourful in Hallow).

Number 1: Victor from Yuri on Ice

 

 

I did warn you at the beginning I split 1 and 2 by overall looks and as much as I love Allen as a character, Victor is pretty impressively charming. I think it was the fact that for once there was an anime character who was actually in his late twenties that was being treated as desirable by pretty much everyone rather than as an old man (typical of high school anime) that really got me focussed on his character. Then, of course, there’s his talent, charisma, and developing relationship with Yuri, and all and all I really did fall in love with his character during Yuri on Ice – even if I know that in reality his personality would drive me completely crazy.

So there is my list of silver haired anime males. Who would you include on yours?


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