I really fell in love with Ore Monogatari or My Love Story the first time I watched it. Certainly it had the advantage of being a little bit different from a lot of the romance anime I watched given it was from the male’s perspective. It also had the novelty of the two main characters establishing a relationship within the first few episodes so the will they/won’t they antics were kept to a minimum. This isn’t a story about falling in love so much as a story about being in love, but mostly it is a story about the characters and their lives and while falling in love is one aspect it isn’t the only thing this story is looking at.
A large part of the draw of this series is Takeo Gouda. He’s huge and towers over his peers as he enters his first year of high school but his size tends to put others off. He’s also not the brightest and tends to act impulsively which leads to misunderstandings. At one point in the series he sees a mother struggling to get a pram up a flight of stairs and so he picks up the pram and carries it to the top. Unfortunately he doesn’t ask first or let her know what is going on and it is left to his friend, Sunakawa to explain.
While that might paint Takeo as a tragic figure, that isn’t actually correct. Takeo has a few bouts of self-pity but by and large just keeps travelling even when things don’t go his way. He’s supported by his parents and his incredibly loyal friend Sunakawa and as the series progresses, by his girlfriend Yamato. With a group of people who really get him and really see him surrounding him, the blows of those who take a superficial glance are a lot easier to deal with.
However, what continues to elevate Takeo as a character rather than just being a nice guy or a strong guy is his willingness to keep trying. He keeps helping people even knowing it doesn’t always work out and that he won’t always be thanked. When Yamato mentions going to a university, Takeo asks Sunakawa to tutor him to help him prepare for practice examinations so that he won’t hold her back. Takeo doesn’t like studying, and he isn’t particularly good at it, but his dedication is pretty admirable.
Equally admirable though is his loyalty to his friends. This is tested quite thoroughly when he’s made plans for Yamato’s birthday and then Sunakawa’s father goes to hospital for surgery. Torn for a fair while, Takeo ends up apologising to Yamato, handing her the birthday plan so she can enjoy it, and runs to the hospital to be with his friend. It’s a beautiful moment for a character I think most of us wish we had in our lives because friendship like that is hard to come by.
Takeo Gouda is a character who I don’t think gets talked about enough. He’s wonderful and just charming to watch. His story is well worth it so if you haven’t watched Ore Monogatari before I totally recommend it. In the meantime, if you have watched it, I’d love to know what you think of Takeo so leave me a comment below.
As much as I love my action, dystopian futures, horror stories, and generally violent adventures, deep down inside I have a soft spot for a well told romance story. This comes from an upbringing of watching family friendly romantic comedies with my mother on weekends while folding piles of washing or ironing or other incredibly boring chores but the laughs and sweet stories of all those girls finding their one true love definitely left an impact. Now, if I have a choice of romance or action, I’ll probably pick the action, but every now and then I’m just in the mood for something a little bit sweeter and then out come the romances.
However, as I sought out anime romances, one thing became incredibly clear to me. There are very few romances that fall into a moderate category. Romances either present as beautiful stories of chaste characters who blush at the mere sight of one another or they present as stories with super aggressive characters who rapidly push the age rating and most people’s comfort zones. And while every now and then we’ll stumble across a story of characters who will actually just fall in love and be a couple, the more common scenario is watching twenty to forty episodes with a couple who have barely managed to hold hands.
What this leaves us with, however, is a story that starts reading all sorts of things into fairly mundane actions. The ‘indirect’ kiss nonsense that comes up time and again is one particular example that really makes me roll my eyes. While admittedly, characters probably shouldn’t be drinking out of the same water bottle or sharing a straw or whatever (have these characters never considered glandular fever) the sheer fuss they put up about the possibility of an ‘indirect’ kiss is just insane sometimes. These characters literally melt into puddles of stammering and half the time end up dropping or knocking over the thing they were supposed to eat or drink.
While this sequence is cute enough in one or two stories, by the time you see it play out again and again and again (don’t believe me, check out the TV Tropes page for indirect kisses and the anime examples) and it ultimately all just gets a bit silly.
One of my favourite anime romances, Kimi ni Todoke, suffers from being one of those impossibly ridiculous stories. Sawako is a stammering mess of insecurities and doesn’t believe Kazehaya could ever have feelings for her. As a result, when it is first suggested she should date him she flat out states it is impossible. She doesn’t give him the gifts she makes him. She eventually can’t even meet his eyes. All and all, she does everything possible to make herself a cliche shoujo heroine and the type that under most circumstances would drive me half-way up the wall. I don’t know why she doesn’t because I do know that by the end of season one I wanted to slap her for not actually just kissing the guy at the shrine. Nope, you will have to wait until the end of season two before these two will actually kiss and even then, that is as far as their relationship is going. Thirty plus episodes and they finally manage a kiss. Two characters who have been in love with each other since nearly the beginning. To say the pace of that relationship progress was glacial would be being generous.
Now not every anime romance is quite so insanely slow or chaste. Still, it is interesting how much emphasis is put on the notion of kissing your partner. In some ways it is kind of refreshing and it feels nice to know that the emotional connection between the characters is getting more emphasis then the number of times they can get the characters into the bedroom. Also nice to know that there is a focus on the narrative behind the romance rather than just showing us the characters making out. I appreciate both of these things. At the same time, like with everything else, when there isn’t a variety of relationships and relationship types being shown, it risks normalising some behaviours, marginalising some viewers, and ultimately not providing options so the argument if you don’t like it, don’t watch it, ceases to have weight.
Because a great many people want to watch romance and anime. They may not be after the super shoujo high school girl who blushes to the tips of her ears when a guy picks up her eraser, but they’d like to see a relationship unfold.
Part of this was why I really enjoyed My Love Story. The protagonist was a male, rather then the girl, and the confession was over and done with four episodes in. The story was about them learning how to be in a relationship rather than getting to the relationship. That doesn’t mean they moved any faster given how long it took them to accomplish hand-holding and the protagonist kissed his best friend (with the aid of some cling wrap) long before he got around to trying to kiss his girlfriend but it still felt a bit different from so many other love stories.
It was also why I was so puzzled by the number of people who tried to play down Yuri and Victor’s relationship in Yuri on Ice. The ones who claim it wasn’t a kiss and they aren’t engagement rings. Given how little physical connections characters in other ‘romance’ anime have, Yuri on Ice was outright explicit in showing off that relationship. Those two were hugging nearly from the beginning and if hungry stares are the staple of most relationships, just watch Yuri before he starts any one of his skates as he meets eyes with Victor. The average female protagonist has got nothing on that look across the ice and if it was being directed at her she’d probably claim she’d gotten pregnant on the spot.
Although, the mis-information about pregnancy and sex that comes across in some anime is also a little bit alarming. I kind of get why it happens culturally but at the same time I don’t think girls claiming they’ll get pregnant from kissing a guy really helps get the right kind of information across to people. I’d suggest you not learn sex-ed from anime in the first place, but at the very least they should try to stamp out the more pervasive myths that get flung about.
However, personal thoughts about romance aside, one thing anime does very well, is really makes those rare scenes, the kiss between the heroine and her hero, truly melting moments. Maybe it is the long wait for it, the build up, the anticipation. Maybe it is the sound tracks, the soft lighting, the sparkles. Whatever it is, one thing I know is that when a couple in anime finally get together and they finally lean in for that kiss, I know I’m usually on the edge of my seat and once or twice I’ve applauded.
Who was your favourite anime couple and what episode of their anime did they finally kiss in?
While many an anime character has inspired me, it is worth noting that a lot of anime characters have super powers, or magic, or destiny, or some other force working for them, which makes their actions a little less applicable to the everyday life that most of us lead. This list is to the heroes (and ordinary people) who have moved me to action or have given me strength when I have needed it. That makes is a fairly personal list so I’d love to know who would end up on your list of inspiring anime characters. While it hurts that I can’t add Maka to the list this time round, the characters below are all exceptional and yet completely human.
Please note, there will be spoilers below.
Honourable Mentions: Akito from Bakuman for standing by his friend from start to finish no matter how rough things got.
One might argue that none of the students in Assassination Classroom are particularly ordinary, but that is their most compelling trait. They are ordinary. They are the ones who are overlooked and cast aside, who have been down so long that they have forgotten that they even have the right to stand up. Watching Nagisa move from someone who accepts this role to someone who has a clear presence about him and is comfortable in his own skin is something that is greatly inspiring. Okay, most of us don’t have a yellow octopus for a teacher who we get to learn to assassinate, but most of the lessons Nagisa takes on board are strictly of the ordinary kind of valuing who you are.
Season One of Kimi ni Todoke introduced us to Kurumi and she was a nasty piece of work determined to get Kazehaya to look at her and to get Sawako out of the picture. After being rejected she undergoes an incredible character transformation that reminds us all that just because we don’t get what we want doesn’t mean it is the end of the world. Kurumi becomes a truly great character and by the time the end of season 2 rolls around you really want her to find her own happiness.
Number 3: Kousei (Your Lie in April)
This one might be cheating given the kid is definitely a genius. Yet, much like with Nagisa, the lessons Kousei takes on board during the heart breaking journey that is Your Lie in April are strictly the ordinary everyday ones that we all could learn from. Learning to grieve and mourn, to accept what has happened, to find a purpose, and just to find who you are. These are the things Kousei discovers throughout the course of his journey and they make him incredibly relatable and when he takes the stage in the final episode you cannot help but feel moved by him.
Number 2: Oreki (Hyouka)
While this might seem an odd choice for number 2 on the list, there’s something truly remarkable about how this character lives his life. He has his own ideal of energy conservation and yet at the same time he doesn’t want his ideals to harm the experiences of others. He doesn’t want to let his sister down and later Chitanda and so acts contrary to his own nature on more than one occasion. This is also inspiring because while some people might see that as giving in or compromising, what it really demonstrates is an acceptance of a need for community and that it can’t always be about you. Oreki is inspiring because he finds a balance where he does have moments where he refused to do things or to get involved and other moments where he acts for the benefit of others. While I’m still not sure I like the anime, I quite like Oreki’s character and he reminds me that sometimes it isn’t all about me.
Did we really think anyone else was going to take this spot? I almost disqualified him because being a world champion (even if he’s only in the top 6) kind of makes him somewhat extraordinary, but the only superpower he has is persistence and determination and so I let him take the top spot. His journey is fantastic and watching him stand up again and again and try to overcome his weaknesses never ceases to inspire.
And there they all are. Who would you have put on your list?
There’s something to be said for an anime that can tell a complete story in 11, 12, 22, or 24 episodes and not leave the viewer unsatisfied or waiting for a conclusion that may never occur. While I have nothing against the longer running anime brethren, the anime I rewatch most often meets the condition of being a complete story in and of itself. Which actually made it quite hard to narrow this list down.
Now the order is entirely subjective and based only upon my enjoyment of the story and how complete it feels when watching, so I’d love for you to share your top 5 anime with only one season. Feel free to leave a comment below.
Please note, there will be spoilers below.
Honourable Mentions: Parasyte, Ouran High School Host Club (this one actually kind of needs a sequel), and Trigun.
I don’t know why it is that I am completely in love with this anime and even though there’s plenty more that could be said about the characters and where they go, I never finish the story feeling like I’m missing out. This one is a sweet story that deals with two people not falling in love, because they actually cover that in about three episodes, but with the act of being in love for the first time and not really knowing what to do. It is awkward at times, adorable at others, and overall it is an incredibly rewarding watch.
While logically you could write sequels, spin-offs and whatever else you want from this story, but I’m pretty sure most viewers will agree that Death Note feels decidedly finished with that final episode. Realistically, the story felt finished before it got to the end given the narrative structure. When you set up two characters in binary opposition and one dies, that definitely feels like an end point. Death Note pushes on nonetheless leaving us with a definitive ending later on, though a little bit of the satisfaction does get sucked out in the process.
Mystery stories are probably a bit easier to make feel complete. When you are first waiting for the who is the bad guy reveal followed by the will they catch him, it kind of gives you a clear end point for the series. Needless to say, while there are some lingering questions about the nature of revival, the story is most definitely complete in this anime.
Number 2: Your Lie in April
Much like Erased, there was always an end point in mind for this series. However, what we get is a fairly profound character journey and ultimately an ending that will leave you in a smiling/teary mess as you can’t decide whether it was tragic or beautiful or somewhere in between the two. Anymore of this would simply take away from the power of that ending and really that is not something anyone should ever try and do.
This anime begins with Otanashi waking up in a limbo and being told he has to fight against god. The story explores the true nature of the world he is in and the other characters inhabiting it. By the time we get to the end of this story everything that ever needed to be said about this world has been said. And while you have to wait around until after the end credits of the final episode to get to the resolution you so desperately want, it is most definitely there and leaves you with a feeling that everything is going to work out okay which is pretty much how I want to feel at the end of the emotional roller-coaster that is Angel Beats.
That’s the list for this week, so now I’m turning it over to you. What is your favourite anime with only one season? Or what are your top 5 is narrowing it down to one is too hard?
There’s no doubt that Madhouse is a bit of a powerhouse when it comes to producing anime. They’ve got a large number of fairly big titles under their belt and the quality of so many of their productions is undeniable. That isn’t to say they don’t have any misses and those will need to be looked at eventually, but today is about celebrating my favourite five titles by Madhouse and this was one hard list to put together because I really did want to add a lot more than five. Ultimately I’ve tried to assemble titles that I think represent the range of shows that Madhouse has out there as well as ones that are truly just fun to watch.
This anime title didn’t have the broad appeal that a lot of Madhouse’s titles have but if you happen to like the story this anime is a really good one to watch. For a magic highschool setting this anime pulls out all the stops crafting a believable world where magic has been integrated with technology and with Madhouse’s attention to detail and great animation has really been brought to life in a truly beautiful manner. Whether the spells are simple or complex, the end result is gorgeous to watch and the fights are exciting and fluid. I really enjoyed this anime for its world building and I think I’m glad that Madhouse was behind this one because in the hands of a different studio it may have ended up decided less than impressive.
I really love My Love Story because of its quirky take on the traditional high school love anime, but again I think part of what makes this show so special is the way it has been put together. The story itself is interesting but without the visuals and animation there was every chance this show would fall flat. Yet every scene draws you into the show and the characters and ultimately watching this is a pure joy.
This is one of those shows where the story takes awhile to get going so it is a good thing we have fantastic visuals (even if they are a little dated looking by today’s standards) and some really fluid animation to keep us engaged in the early stages where the show presents like a screwball western. Once the story gets going and the transition to dark sci-fi kind of takes over it is impressive how the show manages to remain cohesive but all in all, this is one of those slightly older shows that is worth watching. Vash the Stampede is a hilarious and tragic character who will often leave you scratching your head but when you get right to the end he will step up when needed.
No surprise that ACCA made my list given it was one of my favourite shows in 2017. It is a slightly off-beat political thriller (kind of) but also has a very laid back tone. Anyway, it all could have been a big mess and yet it became an anime that really held my interest assisted by its distinct visuals and very cool jazzy sound-track. While I wouldn’t describe ACCA as beautiful, it is quite a distinct looking anime and the animation suits the style fairly perfectly. It isn’t as flashy as some of the other titles on the list with less in the way of actual action to show off the fluid animation madhouse has a reputation for, but it certainly has style.
Alright, it is a little bit older and from an animation point of view again there aren’t the impressive physical fights to show off just how great it is, and yet this show managed to make writing in a book look intense and amazing and created a visual tone that carried even the weaker parts of the story to fairly lofty heights (there’s a reason this anime is on most people’s must watch lists). With an opening that grabs your attention and is filled with visual symbolism echoed within the show itself (at least the first opening, let’s not discuss the second), and an intensity to every scene that is hard to come by with so many shows striving not to take themselves seriously, Death Note is well and truly worthy of my number one spot on this list even if the second half of the series isn’t exactly flawless.
And that is my list for this week but be sure to check back next week for a new list, or you can check out all of my Top 5 lists here. For now though, I’d love to know what you’ve put on your list.
Thanks for reading.
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The Autumn 2017 anime season gave viewers many things, but one thing I took away from it was an absolute love of Chito and Yuuri, a duo made up of two moe girls surviving in a dying a world. In a show that really only had two characters for the majority of its run time, those two and their relationship was crucial to the show’s charm and success and they pulled it off with seeming ease. But what made those two such a perfect duo?
I kind of touched on this in one of my episode posts where I pointed out that Chito and Yuuri had pretty much demonstrated the two types of people in the world (an over-simplification but it does feed in to why these two work so well). For those who didn’t read the post the basic idea was that the girls had found a path marked by arrows and Chito had commented that she wished life could be like that with clear arrows pointing the way. Yuuri on the other hand wanted to leave the path just to see what might be down another away.
From that, it might seem like the show was simply playing on the opposites attract characterisation as seen in a million buddy cop shows and there is an element of that in Girls’ Last Tour. And yet, the relationship the girls have is more complicated than just being opposites of one another. So while Yuuri might be the more adventurous and the first to ask if something is edible or to simply try biting something and Chito might be the kind of try to find a description of it in a book and not trying eating it until she is sure it is edible, both girls do in fact explore a world that is seemingly dead and has proven more than once to be dangerous and both remain surprisingly positive in the face of fair amount of hopelessness.
It is in the final episodes however that you really realise that for all that Chito has been the quiet one, the one not carrying a gun, the one unlikely to race ahead without a plan; she can only be like that because she has Yuuri with her. Yuuri saves Chito when the path crumbles beneath their bike and took the lead in defending the two when they were threatened, and yet when Yuuri gets into what might be a sticky situation, Chito doesn’t hesitate. She picks up the gun and she races after her friend. Likewise, we have seen a number of times that Yuuri might come off as lazy, selfish and a little bit silly at times and yet she comes through every time when Chito needs her. Yuuri is also only able to be Yuuri because Chito has her back and won’t let her do anything too stupid. What makes the relationship really work is clearly both girls know what the other provides for them and they respect the other for the balance they provide.
That is what makes these girls so adorable to watch as they muse about life, the universe and everything (or at least where they will go next and what they might eat). It is also what makes it so fun thinking about whether you are more like Chito or Yuuri and most of us will draw the conclusion that there’s a little bit of both inside of us depending on the situation (though Yuuri lost me a little when she set a book on fire).
After finishing Girls’ Last Tour I started thinking about other anime duos that I’d really enjoyed and this was actually a struggle as so many anime rely on group dynamics (five is a number that comes up a lot particularly in high school anime – though that is a post for another day). I ended up thinking of Takeo and Sunakawa from My Love Story and Isaac and Miria from Baccano.
Takeo and Sunakawa are fantastic and were what really made My Love Story come alive for me (okay, I also like Takeo’s relationship with Yamato given it is what the show is about). And when thinking about it, Takeo and Sunakawa have a similar style relationship to Chito and Yuuri. On the surface they seem like opposites and that’s fine enough and would create enough of an interesting watch. And yet it is the way they complement each other and the way that they use the other’s strength to support themselves that makes the relationship truly meaningful.
It isn’t all smooth sailing (particularly when Takeo decides he needs to practice kissing and Sunakawa is his nominated test subject) but Takeo ditches his girlfriend on her birthday midway through their date to be with Sunakawa at the hospital when Sunakawa’s father is having surgery. And Sunakawa turned down every girl who ever asked him out because they’d all said something bad about Takeo behind his back. These two are a fantastic duo and to be honest I’d love a second season of My Love Story just to see more of these two and where their lives take them.
Isaac and Miria are a little different. To start with, they aren’t the main characters in Baccano. They certainly cross into almost every story, but they are strictly side character/comic relief in the story. Also, they aren’t opposites. Instead these two characters are positive thinking epitomised with happy-go-lucky attitudes that keep them going in the face of more or less anything. They bounce off each other, build each other up, and work together in absolute unison. Despite their limitations in thinking things through at times, you just know that everything will work out in the end for the two of them and they are definitely the happiest of the cast in Baccano.
They are certainly an odd pairing given neither really brings anything to the table that the other one does not possess. And yet it is impossible to consider these two characters simply being a single character. While some of the jokes could have worked, it is the relationship between the two and the way they work together that sells every scene they are in and steals the viewers attention.
Anyway, I’m going to keep my eyes out for other duos in anime and I’d love to know some of your favourites so if you have a favourite anime duo be sure to leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading.
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Well it is Valentine’s Day so today I’m counting down my top 5 favourite Valentine episodes. This was actually harder than it sounded because while I know I have watched a million different anime versions of Valentine’s Day (seriously, this was not an exaggeration at all) I really struggled to remember which shows they were in. And that’s because they are all pretty much the same. So my list is based on which ones stuck with me (which will explain some of the weird choices). Feel free to add your favourite Valentine episode in the comments below.
For patrons I’ve got my list of worst anime to watch for Valentine’s Day up over on Patreon so please check it out.
Please Note – There will be spoilers below.
No honourable mentions this week.
Number 5: Vampire Knight
While I’m not the biggest Vampire Knight fan (way too Twilight in anime form and I was too old when this came out to really appreciate the brooding teen romance element) but I must admit the Valentine’s Day episode is memorable. Screaming fan girls, crowd control, Zero actually being kind of nice and getting punched for it, a couple of broken hearts and all and all it is a perfectly watchable episode.
Number 4: Acchi Kocchi
Alright this is one of my weirder choices. It isn’t that anything particularly different happens in this episode. Its Valentine’s Day and Tsumiki wants to make chocolates for Io but he doesn’t like plain chocolates so she’s making mousse. That’s all pretty standard but the reason this episode sticks is because of Mayoi and her surprise chocolates. Surprising because she claims she put frog meat in them after feeding them to the guys. Of course, she wouldn’t be Mayoi if she left it there. She follows this up with coating Tsumiki’s lips with chocolate flavoured lipstick and pushes her toward Io. fortunately Io is a gentlemen (or at least smart enough not to put up with Mayoi’s rubbish) and manages to come out of the situation more or less unscathed though Tsumiki might have exploded. In short it is Valentine’s Day the way only Acchi Kocchi could do it.
Number 3: Fruits Basket
Again this one is pretty straight forward. Tohru decides to make everybody chocolate however when she is about to give it to everyone Kyo, who is annoyed with Kagura, declares he hates chocolate. He is then guilt tripped into eating both Kagura’s and Tohru’s chocolate. It isn’t a profound episode but I really like Kyo as a character so I kind of enjoyed this moment.
Number 2: Kimi Ni Todoke
Honestly, this should be number 1. The reason it isn’t is because Sawako doesn’t give him the chocolates. So frustrating. She gives chocolates to everyone else but then questions the meaning behind the chocolates she wants to give Kazehaya and after hearing he won’t accept chocolates with real feelings she hesitates and loses her chance. As much as I love this show, this episode is really frustrating. Certainly it is memorable and he does eventually get given the chocolates but Valentine’s Day is not a particularly happy one in this series.
Number 1: My Love Story
At first I thought this was going to go down the same path as Kimi ni Todoke but thank goodness Yamato is a lot tougher than Sawako. While the group date is pleasant it is her arrival at his house later with the most ridiculously over the top Valentine’s cake ever. It is adorable.
There they are, my top 5 Valentine’s episodes. What anime would you have chosen?