The Price of Smiles Series Review

The Price of Smiles Episode 1

Smile and the world smiles with you… Unless you are in the middle of a war.

There is something about average anime that make them very hard to review. They aren’t necessarily bad, but the potential they had to be better actually makes them taste a bit more sour particularly after they’ve just ended. The Price of Smiles is an average anime, even for a mecha anime. Almost painfully average in every respect. Yet at times there were glimpses of a far more epic and amazing story simmering just beneath the mediocre execution and some of what was delivered managed to shine just bright enough to keep up hope of improvement.

The Price of Smiles Episode 8 Yuki

However, if you aren’t drawn in within the first few episodes, you will probably be better off thanking The Price of Smiles for its time and moving on. Without trying to be too facetious, the pay-off at the end of the Price of Smiles is not really worth the price of time commitment to get there.

Which is a real shame because there was a lot of potential in the ideas here.

For those unfamiliar with The Price of Smiles it covers two different girls, Yuki and Stella. Some episodes exclusively focus on Yuki and her Kingdom, yes she is a Princess, and other episodes focus on Stella, who is just an expendable soldier on the other side of the war. It isn’t until the second last episode that we see both perspectives in the same episode and it is an interesting way of delivering what might be a fairly predictable narrative.

The Price of Smile's Episode 5

While the war itself, two sides fighting over resources, is pretty standard, through Yuki’s position we see those at the decision making level of the war on both sides as well as Yuki’s childish and naive perspective. It gives one view of the story and realistically, that could have been the only view and we still would have ended up with an okay anime.

But, by cutting Yuki’s story by introducing episodes from Stella’s perspective, on the front lines of fighting and on the side of the invading forces, it kind of gives the story more depth and keeps it feeling fresh.

The Price of Smiles Episode 6 Yuuki

Neither story is particularly amazing, though Stella’s story and the cast surrounding her are perhaps the more interesting, but together they manage to create a wide view of the world and the different responses to the war. If there had been a few more episodes and a bit longer to really flesh out a few world building points, this choice in splitting the narrative between two characters would have worked really well.

That said, it isn’t exactly an original idea with plenty of other mecha anime that split their narrative between representatives of different factions to give that particular insight into what each side is doing and how it is affecting different groups of people. But original or not, it is a fairly solid choice particularly with the anti-conflict message that is heavily stamped on almost every episode.

The Price of Smiles Episode 5

Again, this isn’t exactly new for the genre, but here the lack of subtlety is probably one of the things that hurts this anime the most. Yuki, the white and pink clad Princess wringing her hands and hoping for peace and wanting to bring smiles to everyone is just too much. And while the excuse that her advisers kept her in the dark about the true state of things, or even that they were at war, can explain some of her reluctance to face the reality they are dealing with when it is force upon her, honestly some of her decisions are a little hard to swallow.

Though while we are on messages, this anime also managed to bring in a heavy handed environmental allegory about humans over using resources and destroying eco-systems and while this seems to be at the centre of the conflict and is tied heavily in the final solution of the series, it is almost as though The Price of Smiles knew it didn’t have time for everything and so while it wanted to wear an environmental slogan it ultimately discarded it in favour of the anti-conflict stance.

The Price of Smiles Episode 9

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Which is why I said the anime needed more episodes to really develop its world. The setting here is fantastic (or at least could have been). They are on a colonised world that was terraformed using technology no one on the world still really understands but the Kingdom has developed the chrars, a fairly substantial power source and one which allows their technological superiority (not that it really helps them all that much in the war).

As the story progresses we learn a bit more about this seemingly amazing power source and how its use is tied in to the failing crops and eco-systems that are at the core of the conflict between the two groups as resources are becoming scarce. If this idea had been put front and centre and given time to be really discussed and dealt with, it could have really given this anime a bit more of an edge. However, while the idea is there, and is interesting, ultimately Yuki’s decision comes down to her immediate need to not see any more death in the war. The long term implications, despite the ground work already being laid, are more or less glossed over leaving this all feeling a little bit less than satisfying.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11

Visually, The Price of Smiles also suffers as its run continues. While action sequences always look relatively polished and are great fun to watch, and the character designs are quite lovely even if the majority of their clothing looks insanely impractical, the animation falters in later episodes in non-action scenes and characters appear off-model more often or with barely sketched in faces when seen from a distance. It isn’t enough to really mar the viewing but it is definitely noticeable in the later episodes.

The other major complaint I will level at this series is its inability to create drama through any means other than killing off its cast. While the first important death comes early and is something of a shock, in the second half they essentially kill one major character per episode with increasingly diminished emotional returns to the point that the final death in the last episode can barely even register because you were expecting it long before it happened.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Joshua

Despite its faults, I don’t really mind that I watched The Price of Smiles this season. There was always plenty to talk about and while I wanted more from it, I actually relatively enjoyed what I watched. The characters weren’t amazing but were interesting enough and the fights were spaced out nicely to keep the talking moments and the fighting moments relatively balanced.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Yuuki

This isn’t an anime to avoid, nor is it one to rush out and watch. Still, if you are in the mood for a mecha anime, and you have a bit of spare time, you could certainly do worse than The Price of Smiles.


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Karandi James


Bringing Back Smiles Through Over-Simplification

The Price of Smiles Post Title Image

The Price of Smiles Episode 12 Review

Well we have come to the end and I can say with confidence at least that this anime concludes its story. The fact that it does so through over-simplifying the situation in the extreme and relies on cute girls smiling to sell the solution is kind of a point against it, but at least we aren’t left hanging for a sequel that probably would never have happened.

The Price of Smiles Episode 12 Stella

I’m going to really try to avoid spoilers, but we kind of new the end The Price of Smiles had in store for us at the end of the last episode. There aren’t any particular curve balls in this episode with the character who was clearly going to die following through beautifully in doing so, those who were always going to survive also doing so even against sensible reason, and Yuki’s vision achieved and any negative consequences played down to a ridiculous extent.

The Price of Smiles Episode 12 Yuki and Layla

That doesn’t stop it being a perfectly sound ending. It takes the tone, ideas, and characters from the series and finalises it in a way not so many anime manage, so even though the word ‘trite’ is springing to mind when describing this ending, at least I am not left annoyed that plot threads were just never addressed or that characters seemed to serve no purpose. In fact, other than the fact that this narrative ended up being fairly ordinary despite having the potential to go into so much more, they never seemed to bite off more than they could chew and this ending makes it clear they were never planning to be that ambitious.

The Price of Smiles Episode 12 Yuki and Stella

I will fault Yuki as a character though. Without to much detail, she is put in a position where she needs to get Stella onside and her arguments are around peace and smiles. That’s all well and good but why not use the one compelling argument that has been revealed? If they don’t stop the chrars the entire eco-system is going to collapse and everyone will be dead anyway regardless of who wins the war. This would have been a much more compelling reason for an enemy to suddenly assist and would have made the whole shoe-horned in environmental narrative actually become more than just an add on to the anti-war stance this war focused anime seemed to be taking.

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Anyway, I’ll get to a full review soon as this is the first of my Winter anime to be completed, and I’ll look more at what the series did and didn’t accomplish then. However, in terms of being interesting and watchable, The Price of Smiles has succeeded, even if it didn’t do much beyond that.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11
Back to the picture – yep everyone except Yuki died. The message? Don’t stand in a photo with Yuki.

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Karandi James


Not About Who Is Right, Only Who Is Left

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The Price of Smiles Episode 10 Review Review

Death has definitely lost its impact in The Price of Smiles as three episodes have played three key deaths against the other. My only real concern was that Lily still hasn’t managed to bite the dust given she insists on raising her own death flag. However, with the exception of Joshua, this anime seems to have gone out of its way to target older men for death in battle despite the number of young females flying around in the mechs. It makes you wonder if the writer just couldn’t bring themselves to kill off the cuter characters.

The Price of Smiles Episode 10

There’s also an issue in episode 10 with the visuals. While The Price of Smiles hasn’t been exceptional, it has been relatively decent from both an art and animation point of view. However, this week felt rushed with long shots of characters frequently looking either off-model or facial expressions looking very sketched in and then jarringly we would snap to full detail for a closer image. It all just felt a little slap-dash and that is a shame as the season approaches it’s end game.

smile10b

Outside of those complaints though, The Price of Smiles manages to continue furthering its development of Stella’s squad as the Kingdom presses forward with their battle. We get some more orphan dramas as Lily and Stella go with the commander to entertain some kids they come across (the irony of first making orphans and then feeling sorry for them is a little heavy handed but otherwise it makes a solid point).

The Price of Smiles Episode 10

The battle sequence also looks very well done. For all the earlier glitches in quality, the commanders final battle was a suitable spectacle, albeit brief.

What troubles me is that it seems really unlikely that this war can wrap up in the two episodes remaining because regardless of what Princess Yuki is up to she doesn’t have the power to stop the war. Stella is an interesting character but far too low in the military hierarchy to have any say on the direction of the war. All and all, this doesn’t feel like it can wrap up, unless of course they just blow the whole planet up and wouldn’t that be a depressing way for The Price of Smiles to wrap up.

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The Price of Smiles Episode 11 Review Review

Apparently we’ll get to episode 12 before Stella and Yuki actually meet (that’s assuming they do though it seems almost certain given the post credits sequence this episode). And we’re also apparently going for a destroy the thing everyone is fighting over kind of ending even though that is going to make life incredibly hard for everyone for a fair while. Oh well, with one more episode to go after this I guess there wasn’t much else they could do.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11

Stella’s squad are dealing with the death of their commander which causes some emotional outpourings and some punches, but otherwise they are still just following orders. It is Yuki who surprises this week by using propaganda of her own, declaring they have a new weapon, and taking a more aggressive approach by claiming they’ll reclaim one of the cities firmly in enemy hands.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11

Unsurprisingly this is a ruse and Yuki has cooked up a plan to destroy all the chraras which are the cause of the failing eco-system but also the source of their power. While the new weapon entertains the main forces, Yuki and her group are slipping through to the old Verde Empire to enact their plan. Which is where they encounter Stella’s squad which were ordered to watch a border.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11
3 Out of Five Of These Characters Are Dead – Who’s Next?

I’m not entirely certain if this is a satisfying direction but at least Yuki is taking a direct hand in the final events and if we actually get a Stella/Yuki meeting that would be kind of great after this long. Not to mention, Stella’s mother, Leila is with Yuki, and is also currently the only one of the four who essentially raised Yuki still alive. Does anyone else sense a death flag here?

Whichever way, next week’s episode is called ‘The Price of Smiles’ so I guess we’ll find out what it really costs to bring happiness to everyone.


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Karandi James


Where Will Yuuki Find Her Smile Now?

The Price of Smiles Post Title Image

The Price of Smiles Episode 6 Review

There’s a price for everything and a consequence for all actions and The Price of Smiles seems determined to hammer that point home like a blunt instrument by continuing to emotionally throttle Princess Yuuki. The fact that it is obvious what the anime is doing isn’t actually a problem because it is doing it very well and because we occasionally perspective jump to Stella and her squad on the other side of the war, it doesn’t feel like we’re constantly getting beaten down as so far they’ve been pretty successful at their missions. It has been nicely executed even if heavy handed.

The Price of Smiles Episode 6 Yuuki

Episode 6 is pretty much all about Yuuki. She’s assisted the military in evacuating her people out of the capital by delivering a heart rending speech and she’s watching the final operation and keeping her eyes open without looking away. She feels the full weight and responsibility for her people being in this position even though there was literally nothing she could have done to change anything prior to this point. Twelve years old and she is watching the Kingdom her parents lead fall apart around her as the enemy comes for the power source that was supposed to bring everyone peace. It is all kinds of tragic and yet she continues to try to hold on.

The Price of Smiles Episode 6

The one bright spot in an episode that seems designed entirely to make you feel like this is completely hopeless, is when Yuuki orders a retreat of her forces and detonates all the mines left on the field. It is actually a pretty solid tactic and one that throws us back to episode one where we saw Yuuki directing Joshua with great success. For all that Yuuki has been kept in the dark about a lot of things, she’s a solid tactician when the occasion calls for it and her decision here possibly saved a lot of lives.

The Price of Smiles Episode 6 Yuuki

Soon after though she declares that she is going to surrender and this is where things get dicey again. While everyone around her claims to follow her and respect her, they’ve conspired to keep her in the dark about the threat to her kingdom and now they trick her and remove her from the city before the surrender. It makes you wonder whether she’ll ever be a Princess in anything more than name. Meanwhile, the guy who stays behind to surrender (and who will probably die) had his pregnant wife and kid introduced this episode just to twist that knife a bit further (and why didn’t one of the older military guys stay instead).

smile6b
Why didn’t the suicidal guy stay and let the guy with the pregnant wife go with Yuuki?

The Price of Smiles is definitely a flawed show and one that is relying heavily on tearing at its audience emotionally through the age and inexperience of Yuuki as well as the subject matter in general, but despite that it manages to be an interesting watch and so far seems to be holding its own quite well. I’m still wondering if Yuuki and Stella will ever actually interact but otherwise I’m pretty happy just to watch and see where this one wants to take me.

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The Desperation of Both Sides in a War

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The Price of Smiles Episode 5 Review

So far The Price of Smiles or Egao no Daika has done a pretty excellent job at making me actually concerned about the characters in this story even if I barely know anything about them. There’s something about the way they interact, particularly Stella and her squad that we’ve only really spent an episode with, that makes them feel like real people and makes the war around them seem even more bleak than it might.

The Price of Smile's Episode 5

This episode is another interesting one as we follow Stella and her squad almost exclusively but in doing so we realise how far the enemy has pushed into Yuuki’s country and how desperate the war effort has become. It makes it difficult when we see Stella and her group moving into position to try and flank the enemy because I don’t want to see anything bad happen to Stella but I would also like Yuuki’s kingdom not to get overrun.

The Price of Smile's Episode 5

The action this week is pretty nice with some night time sneaking in mechas through a forest followed by a short but brutal fight amongst the trees. In the process we learn a bit more of the relationship between Lily and Stella and what has happened to Stella over the last few years. While it is all superficial stuff they’ve nicely sketched the outlines of a potentially interesting character and the Price of Smiles has bought enough goodwill from me that I’m willing to wait and see what they do with this.

The Price of Smiles Episode 5

While things remain unresolved at the end of the episode, and it is also unclear if we’ll be following Yuuki or Stella next episode, there’s certainly reason to look forward to next week. This one isn’t blowing me away but it is developing nicely and has so far managed to be an intriguing entry into the mecha anime field. Hopefully it can do something with its ideas before the end but it has been awhile since I’ve found a mecha I liked this much (Iron Blooded Orphans the first season was probably the last one I had this much enjoyment with).

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DEADPOOL: BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL
DEADPOOL: BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL

Rare Case When Naive Heroism Doesn’t Win The Day

The Price of Smiles Post Title Image

The Price of Smiles Episode 4 Review

The Price of Smiles is still definitely a mixed bag four episodes in, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that even if it doesn’t nail its narrative, I’m happy I stuck with it because it at least feels like it is trying a few things. After this week’s episode I’m particularly impressed with how they are handling Yuuki, post Joshua.

The Price of Smiles Episode 4 Yuuki

Does anyone else find it odd watching the opening and seeing Joshua smiling and waving in central position in so many shots given he lasted all of two episodes and gets some flashbacks?

This episode sees the Princess’s military still fighting a losing retreat as they try to hold a line and evacuate cities being attacked pretty much continuously. At first Yuuki is completely unable to cope with the new situation (keeping in mind that everyone has worked to keep her completely in the dark). She screams at them and asks why they want her approval now when they’ve never asked her before or told her anything. It is a legitimate complaint and one that probably wouldn’t come up under normal circumstances. She doesn’t just smile bravely and do her job but has to take the time to process the new situation.

The Price of Smiles Episode 4 Princess Yuuki

We get a lot of backstory about the death of Yuuki’s parents and a lot of this explains how Leila came into the picture as someone close to Yuuki. Now this is where I felt they were laying coincidences on far too thickly as Leila was also in the explosion that killed Yuuki’s parents and during the course of events she lost her own family, including a blue haired daughter who I’m guessing is not so dead after all and isn’t that a convenient plot development, but Leila also saved Yuuki’s life when she was an infant.

The Price of Smiles Episode 4 Leila serves Yuuki

Still, as interesting as learning what triggered the war all those years ago was, it wasn’t half as interesting as what happened when the Princess decided to actually step up. She went to where the leaders were directing the evacuation and listened as they told her they’d used the technology she’d already told them wasn’t for war. Instead of flying off the handle she accepted that it was necessary to save lives.

The Price of Smiles Episode 4

Then we realise that in the evacuated city there are some civilians making their own stand. Yuuki asks the military leader to save them and he sends in a team to do just that, and they all get killed.

In so many other stories they’d have narrowly saved the day or come up with some clever plan. But here, under-resourced and under-pressure, they try and they fail and the soldiers sent in and the civilians are killed. Yuuki’s face sells the whole scene and it is curious to wonder just how many more blows she can take emotionally given her whole world has literally been upended over the past few days.

The Price of Smiles may not be amazing or revolutionary, but there’s enough interesting ideas being thrown about here and the cast work well enough. I’m having a good time with it and if it actually can develop these ideas without feeling rushed in its run then it could end up being fairly solid. Even if it doesn’t, it has so far proven entertaining enough.

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TENGEN TOPPA GURREN LAGANN: YOKO

You Mean There’s People On The Other Side Of A War?

The Price of Smiles Post Title Image

The Price of Smiles Episode 3 Review

After two weeks, The Price of Smiles has finally in episode 3 moved to the second character we see as central to this whole anime in the opening. Her name is Stella and she’s on the other side of the war. We don’t know a lot about Stella other than she clearly lost people either during the war or before the war broke out, but she is often seen smiling. I get the distinct impression that Stella’s smile has a very different meaning to Yuuki’s.

The Price of Smiles Episode 3 Stella

It is almost a shame the anime didn’t start at this episode. While some of what we have learned helped provide a bit of a context to the events this week, this episode and the characters we met were far more instantly interesting. Whereas Joshua and Yuuki and the very honourable soldiers fighting on their side were potentially interesting and were just kind of coming onto their feet at the end of episode 2 (well, one of them wasn’t rising to his feet but that couldn’t be helped), Stella and her crew, while not necessarily likeable are an interesting mix of characters and there’s some good back and forth between them.

The Price of Smiles Episode 3

We’re also thrown not into the ideals of the war but into a squad that is clearly expendable with a commander who isn’t above bending the rules even while he does achieve his objectives. It makes for a fun introductory episode to Stella and the others and while the orphan sub-plot this episode was laying on the emotional angle and horror of war theme a little heavily, I actually really had fun with this.

The Price of Smiles Episode 3 Stella

While I’m still not overly interested in the was as a whole I am interested in Stella and the squad we met here. I’m interested in what Yuuki intends to do next after episode 2. I’m very curious as to when and how (or even if) Stella and Yuuki meet and where that will take the story. So The Price of Smiles had an okay start with some potentially interesting ideas but now I’m more or less on board for the season. Hopefully it can deliver something fairly solid from this foundation.

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NENDOROID DOLL: QUEEN OF HEARTS
NENDOROID DOLL: QUEEN OF HEARTS

The Will To Keep A Smile Shining

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The Price of Smiles Episode 2 Review

The Price of Smiles plunges us headfirst into the war this week. While learning that Joshua has been deliberately keeping the Princess in the dark we also see the lengths he will go to in order to see her smile. And yet…

The Price of Smiles Episode 2

There just seems to be a small hole in the whole plan here. Given the military are currently losing the war against the empire you would think sooner or later the Princess is going to notice pieces of her kingdom getting overrun. Not to mention the costs associated with maintaining all those units and the death and injury of the soldiers. Joshua is just a little misguided and what worries me more is that everyone else in the entire Kingdom seems to be playing along with it.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Joshua

Though, because of this, the end of the episode didn’t hit with anywhere near the impact it should have. It seemed obvious this set up was flawed and couldn’t be maintained and if you thought about how the cruellest way would be to make the Princess aware of the situation you could probably nail the end of this episode. It still works and it still sets up a dramatic turning point, but emotionally you were more waiting for it to happen rather than shocked by it.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Joshua

That said, we do get a brief moment at the very end where the second character who is dancing about the opening sequence finally shows up. It will be interesting to see where this story chooses to go next week now that we’ve thoroughly broken the Princess’ smile. Or will she just bravely soldier on with her usual cheeriness because people expect it of her? So many possibilities and we might just cut to the other group altogether.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Yuuki

I’m honestly not hugely into this show and yet at the same time I am intrigued by the possibilities so they’ve managed to get me very interested even if the execution and characters have so far been just okay (there really isn’t much to criticise it just doesn’t really grab me either).

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TO ARU MAJUTSU NO INDEX III 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: MIKOTO MISAKA
TO ARU MAJUTSU NO INDEX III 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: MIKOTO MISAKA

The Small Victory and Loss Within a Greater Battle

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode Review Title Image

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13 Review

Reminder: the poll is now open for you to vote on the best and worst anime of the 2018 Autumn Anime Season. Be sure to jump in and have your say. Voting closes on the 29th of December.

This week we got the conclusion to Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary but really there was never much chance of the overall story being resolved. There was just too much going on in the world and so this final episode, much like the series, chose instead to focus on a battle that will decide the next steps for each of these characters.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13

The Yin, Ning and Zhao issue is effectively brought to a close by the events in this episode. And while Zhao remains a conflicted character who can’t really seem to pick a side, he does at least take action rather than waiting for power to be bestowed upon him. He pays a high price but he does manage to contribute in some small way to the survival of Yin, Ning and Cheng.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13 Zhao

Yin and Ning’s sisterly conflict is also kind of resolved though all things considered it just kind of feels like they are back to where they started at the beginning of the series. Possibly there was more of a resolution here but it just felt like we’d come full circle with Ning in even worse shape and Yin with yet more baggage to carry emotionally. While it might seem callous, it really felt like one of these two needed to be sacrificed for the story to make sense and while they kind of manage to make this work, it doesn’t have a lot of impact as you are kind of just left rolling your eyes as Yin refuses to leave Ning and Zhao and then they pull a power of love last minute save (though again, Ning and Zhao have already taken quite heavy losses throughout this fight).

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13 Cheng

However, it is Cheng, in her very limited screen time, who gains the most this episode. While Zhao is wishing for her happiness, Cheng has kind of adopted a very fatalistic attitude refusing to leave the palace despite the danger. She survives unscathed physically but her attitude during the credits and the ongoing expansion of the empire makes it clear that she’s been emotionally scarred and she has no one left around her to soften her attitude. While Cheng was the leader of the empire through this series, it was hard to see her as the big bad, but if this ever got a second season that is almost sure to change.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13 Zhao and Ning

It is hard to say if anything was actually accomplished by these events other than a big explosion and some personal dramas, but I will admit this season has been relatively fun to watch. I’ll get to a full season review of it soon, but despite the fairly dodgy animation, this was a fun historical/fantasy story to get lost in this season.

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NIER: AUTOMATA CHARACTER FIGURE: YORHA TYPE A NO.2
NIER: AUTOMATA CHARACTER FIGURE: YORHA TYPE A NO.2

December OWLS Post – What’s Important Is What You Do After The Miracle

OWLS Post Image

After a few months off I’m happy to get back into OWLS and what better month and topic than December where we look at miracles.

Spoiler warning for Code Geass.

Tis the season where miracles happen. For December’s theme, we will be exploring faith in anime and pop culture. We will discuss some of the miracles that enter a character’s life during their darkest moments. Some of their questions we will explore is how does a “miracle” change a person’s life? How do we define miracles? Can miracles only happen due to a legend or a mystical being? Or do miracles happen every day, but we just don’t see it?

Miracles are awesome when they happen. While media such as movies and TV series tend to exaggerate the response to miraculous events for dramatic events, we live in a world where each and every day we encounter small miracles. Whether it is a chance meeting with someone, the coin that dropped and made you stop rather than step out onto the street, the smile someone gave you when you were feeling down; all of these small miracles carry us day in and day out.

The Princess Bride - Miracle Max and Valerie

However, what we need to take away from stories is that we can’t rely on the miracle happening just because we need it and that even if we get a miracle that isn’t the end of the story. And while I was very tempted to look at Miracle Max’s pill in the Princess Bride – and if you’ve never seen that movie, please go watch it – I decided to stick with anime for this month because I think anime really does capture the spirit that miracles do come in and change people’s lives. Sometimes in a wonderful and welcome manner and sometimes in a way the character can’t appreciate until later. But, these characters can’t just stop just because a miracle has occurred.

Setsuna F Seiei - Child at war - Gundam 00

Starting with Setsuna F Seiei from Gundam 00, his survival as a child in a war torn country was a miracle. That wasn’t the only factor given how hard he worked to stay alive, but ultimately his efforts wouldn’t have been enough. The reason he survived was because at just the right moment a Gundam appeared.

For Setsuna, this defines his life after this point. He has an obsession with not just being a Gundam pilot but being a Gundam. His actual commitment to the cause is questionable, his interactions with his team are fairly disruptive, but he believes entirely in the power of the machine that saved his life as a child.

Setsuna F Seiei and the Gundam - Gundam 00

The problem with this approach is that Setsuna takes a long time to look beyond the Gundam to the people and the cause. These are lesser concerns to him because his whole life has really just been in a holding pattern ever since the day his life was saved. He didn’t think about who sent the Gundam, who piloted it originally, why it chose to intervene in that war at that time. Setsuna simply took the miracle that he was saved and it became to core of his life.

For Setsuna, he never really considered what his life was all about outside of being saved by the Gundam and as a result while he lived quite a bit longer and accomplished quite a lot, he never found what he was really searching for because he just missed so much. The miracle happened when he needed it, but that still didn’t give him the life he could have had. Because the miracle was the starting point and instead of finding out where he could go from there, Setsuna’s life stagnated around that single point until it was pretty much too late to change the course his life was set on. Though, it was good that he met Marina when he did.

Setsuna and Marina - Gundam 00

Setsuna isn’t the only mecha character experiencing a miracle though (actually considering mecha anime are built around technology it is amazing how often miracles feature where machines suddenly go beyond specs and the like). For Setsuna, he welcomed the miracle into his life, however if we turn our attention to Suzaku from Code Geass we can see sometimes ‘miracles’ aren’t exactly welcome even if they are exactly what we need.

Suzaku is a pretty complex character in Code Geass and unfortunately a pretty tragic one. Having killed his father and joined the British army in an attempt to end the war he is pretty much just living in hopes of dying. This doesn’t change as he begins the fight against the mysterious Zero. Yet, despite being Lelouch’s enemy, Lelouch uses his one command on Suzaku to force him to live.

Suzaku being compelled to live - Code Geass

It was a spur of the moment and probably not well thought out command but it has incredible implications on the rest of the story and Suzaku. No matter how close to death he comes, eventually the geass kicks in and he performs some fairly impressive manoeuvres to survive what seem like impossible situations.

But none of this makes Suzaku happy. He’s a character more or less bent on self-destruction and is denied it through his former friend’s command.

Code Geass - The Death of Lelouch

But… The important take-away is that because Suzaku lived despite his best efforts, he eventually found a cause to fight for and to believe in, a role to play, and while I won’t say he absolutely found happiness at the end of so much tragedy, he definitely found purpose. While for Suzaku the geass to live may have been seen as a curse initially, it was exactly the miracle he needed.

This holiday season, it would be nice if we all took a step back and remembered not just to see the miracles, but to think about what we will do after them. Will we use the miracle to grow to new heights or will we wait for another miracle to come and save us again? Will we question why the miracle occurred at all or will we simply assume it was meant to be? And most importantly, will we reach out to someone else when they need a hand and become the miracle they need this season?

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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