Up Close With Reiko

For a character who has been mentioned in Natsume Yuujinchou since season one, Reiko remains the character most shrouded in mystery. For every flash back or memory Natsume has of Reiko dealing with yokai we’re presented with just one more puzzling piece of a complex character who died a long time ago. Yet she remains a driving factor behind so many of the interactions in Natsume’s Book of Friends and so I wanted to take a moment to look at her a bit more closely.

Not that we have all that much to go off of. With few exceptions, all the information the audience gathers about Reiko comes second hand and is heavily interpreted by the one conveying the information. For yokai, Reiko was a human they either feared or held in awe. Some yokai developed a fierce attachment to her whereas others would flee at the very mention of her name.

It is difficult to tell how Reiko felt about yokai. The story that she was frustrated and so picked fights seems likely given she did in fact force a large number of yokai to write their names in her book, and yet there’s much more to it. The young and naive yokai she met who wanted to see the ocean was given the chance to do so many years later due to his encounter with Reiko. While on the surface it looked like she was being horrible to him, she ultimately gave him the chance to fulfil his wish. Admittedly she could have gone about it in a nicer manner but it was still kind of helpful.

Plenty of other yokai were also helped by their encounters with her. However, some were not. Others were beaten and then abandoned and left with a helpless feeling of being abandoned. At various points Reiko might have been able to have become friends with one yokai or another, much as Natsume has, and yet she continued to hold herself aloof.

We also know Reiko had dealings with the Matoba exorcists, though again, other than brief glimpses we don’t know exactly to what extent those dealings went.

Affiliate Link
FIRE EMBLEM FP04 PLUSH: LUCINA (S

What we do know about Reiko is that she was someone who refused to compromise who she was. She was different from other people and they shunned her because of it but she didn’t try to hide her nature. She was fierce and strong and seemed whimsical but there was kindness in many of her actions. We also know that at some point she had to have had a child or else Natsume wouldn’t exist today for us to enjoy his adventures.

I’d love to learn more about Reiko as she is a truly fascinating figure whose actions have had far reaching consequences as she left her mark firmly in the yokai world.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Advertisements

Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 14

What is precious to you?

Another volume of Natsume and another delightful read. This volume focuses very much on losing things which are precious to you, or trying to protect them, and the result is a lovely and warm read as we see once again how Natsume has to balance his life in dealing with yokai who mistake him for Reiko, whether he helps yokai, or defending his very human world from unwanted yokai intrusion.

Chapter 55

The first story starts off more or less as many stories do in Natsume. He’s more or less minding his own business and yet is attacked by a pair of yokai who steal his voice to prevent them from calling their names or for help. He manages to escape from them but is picked up by another yokai who mistakes him for Reiko and unfortunately he can’t explain the situation.

There’s something very sad about this story as we see another yokai who has patiently waited for Reiko to return only she never will. It isn’t the first time we’ve been in this situation or that Natsume has felt sorry for a yokai for this reason, but as usual, the emotional impact hits hone. Not to mention Nyanko once again shows that he isn’t just treating Natsume like a snack anymore and comes to collect him.

All and all, it is a nice lead in to the volume and a fun story to read even if it isn’t particularly stand-out from the series (it is very hard to be stand-out when the stories are so consistently good).

Chapter 56

Natsume’s Book of Friends then brings us another standard set-up but makes it feel fresh through seeing how Natsume has changed in his approach to dealing with yokai. In this story a young looking girl yokai, she’s actually pretty old, has lost her towel and he returns it to her. However, it turns out the towel belongs to a human and she wants to return it. So begins Natsume’s efforts to reconnect two people whose times are very different.

The difference between a yokai life and a human life has also been a recurring theme in Natsume, and this story really makes it hit home that while for a yokai only a little time had past almost an entire human life had gone by. It makes you wonder how it will be for Natsume one day or for the yokai he’s befriended as sooner or later the reality of their lives is going to intrude.

This story is adorable and it was equally adorable in the anime.

Affiliate Link – Buy on the Book Depository
Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 14

Chapters 57 – 59

Then we get to the pointy end of the book where we see Natsume face off against a yokai in a pot who declares that if he doesn’t return what was stolen she’ll steal what is most precious to him. Such a threat back at the beginning of this series wouldn’t have had anywhere near the weight given Natsume’s lack of attachment to people or places. Now however that thought is terrifying to him even though it would be difficult to decide exactly what that most precious thing might be. Certainly difficult for a yokai to determine what it would be and it would have been interesting to see what was stolen but this time we just have to imagine it.

With the help of Nyanko and other yokai he meets along the way, Natsume eventually pieces together the story of Reiko and her encounter with the yokai. Once again we see how Reiko was shunned for most of her life and we can see that while Reiko and Natsume are similar, there are distinct differences and those largely exist because of the connections and friendships Natsume has managed to create and holds onto.

While not the strongest of stories overall, it is very affective and is a nice way to complete this volume.

Only, there is also a special story about the mid-level yokai finding some medicine for Natsume when he is sick. Even they know their attachment to such a frail human is foolish and can only end in tragedy and yet they cannot sever the ties between themselves and Natsume at this time. It is nice to see Natsume isn’t the only one aware of the strings that tie all these characters together at this point. Not to mention, this story is really pretty to read.

Anyway, as usual, I’m loving these books and eagerly awaiting the opportunity to review the next one.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

In Case You Missed It 2019 #13

This time next week and I should have landed in Japan (all going well). I’ve got a crazy week ahead of me but hopefully blog posts will keep coming out and I’m looking forward to sharing my journey around Tokyo with you all (either while I’m there or once I’m back depending on internet). As a result, the weekly round up of blog posts will be postponed until the end of April and then it will resume again (I may do an overall April ‘In Case You Missed It’ post once I get back before going back to weekly.

In the meantime, here are some great posts from the community last week and as always feel free to give a shout out to a post that you feel deserves some more attention in the comments below. Also, feel free to DM me any links during the week via Twitter as I’m always happy to read good content.

Posts from the Community

Lita Kino gives us a great list of mecha pilots, without any Gundam mentions. Yes, her five favourite mecha pilots that do not come from a Gundam series, and there are some fantastic picks on the list. If you want to celebrate some of the non-Gundam mech stories out there, and the characters who pilot those machines, this is a fantastic post to read.

Full Metal Panic - Sousuke Sagara

Dirk O’Brien from Weeb the People examines episode 1 of March Comes in Like a Lion (3-Gatsu no Lion) and how tone is established through symbolism and character. Now I would have enjoyed reading this anyway given it is about an anime that really hit me hard, but this is a really nicely thought out post about the episode and is definitely one I recommend reading to anyone who has watched the anime, or anyone who is considering it and might need a bit of a push to see why they should definitely check it out.

I absolutely had to include Irina’s great post on Reiko from Natsume Yuujinchou this week as part of the OWL’s March tour. She’s a great character and Irina did a great job discussing the theme of femininity through Reiko. I look forward to Irina’s next Natsume focused OWL’s post.

Reiko - Natsume Yuujinchou

Arthifis followed a post by the lovely Irina on SEO and gave some more advice to bloggers about what it is and what they can do on their blog. It is always great to see bloggers trying to help other bloggers out and sharing their thoughts and processes. I found this a fun read and it made me reflect on a few things so I’m really glad I came across it.

Marth reviews My Roommate is a Cat so if you want to check out someone’s full thoughts on it and whether or not it is worth checking out, this post is a quick and fun read. I really feel My Roommate is a Cat flew too consistently under the radar during the Winter 2019 season despite being fairly consistent and relatively entertaining. It also managed a reasonably decent emotional character story by the end so all and all, I’d recommend checking out Marth’s post and then go watch the anime.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 11 Subaru

Never Argue With A Fish has a wonderful review on Digimon Tamers to read that really sells the series strengths while mentioning some minor points that might be of concern. Still, for those who are inclined to check out the anime, this is a lovely review to read that will probably get you hyped for it.

Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews covers Full Metal Panic The Second Raid. Definitely worth checking out this review and if you haven’t watched Full Metal Panic, please do and be sure to keep going on to Second Raid as it is well worth the time.

Full Metal Panic The Second Raid

Lynn Sheridan shares their thoughts on Episode 12 of The Promised Neverland. Totally spoiler filled given it is a final episode review but if you’ve been enjoying the anime it is a nice summation of the final episode and what has happened and how we got there. Worth checking out.

Affiliate Link
FLCL ALTERNATIVE/PROGRESSIVE SONG COLLECTION - FOOL ON COOL GENERATION

Pick of the Week

Over on Phoenix Talks Pop Culture Japan there was an interesting post about Cheer Boys (Cheer Danshi) that explains a bit of the back story behind it and shares their personal connection with the school that the story was based on. It’s a different sort of look at the anime/manga and one that was very pleasant reading. I really enjoyed this post last week and it is one well worth checking out.

Posts For Patrons

Meiji Tokyo Renka

Karandi’s Posts

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Embarrassment, Scrapes, Colds, and Other Deadly Things in Anime

Friday's Feature

Life is tough for the average high school anime character. Getting caught in the rain is nearly a death sentence when a dreaded fever will strike and certainly any character who ever had a bout of chuunibyou knows that embarrassment really can kill.

There are plenty of fairly sensible plot and tone reasons for these greatly exaggerated dangers, however the frequency with which these are rolled out each season is kind of mind blowing at times.

Do we have a cocky character who needs to be taken down a peg? Or a character who is holding the plot back by refusing to comply with someone else’s fairly insane demand? Well, look no further than bringing their ‘dark past’ into the open and suddenly you’ve got a blushing and embarrassed character willing to agree to nearly anything.

Chuunibyou - die from embarrassment

Of course, that’s nothing compared to having a guy and/or girl confess or, even worse, touch hands. Look out if they’ve just walked in on someone changing. Suddenly you could fry an egg on the primary red face of the character as they blush all the way to the tips of their ears.

A lot of the time this is played off co-medically and sometimes it just gives the story a way to keep progressing because without some form of coercion the character has no reason to meet the demands of another but they don’t actually want a real sense of menace in the story, but realistically, the blushing character is a trope that is just littered throughout anime.

Kaichou wa Maid Sama

But worse than simply being embarrassed is getting a scrape. Or an actual cut.

Pretty much anything that breaks the surface of an anime character’s skin, no matter how minor, is treated like someone just tore a limb off.

Actually, I think characters who lose limbs have less reaction.

Edward Elric - Losing a Limb
Yeah, pretty sure Edward didn’t react that badly when this happened.

But a scrape on the face of an idol? That’s just wrong. You absolutely must treat it this instant and anything less would potentially endanger their face or potentially court a permanent scar.

Nanami treating Kurama's Wound

While I’m all for effective first aid, even of minor injuries, the reactions to which characters go at the first sign of an injury is a little overwrought. It almost makes you wonder if they never played and fell over as kids and experienced all the usual bumps and bruises that come with growing up. And certainly recent anime have made me wonder if the frequency with which people in Japan break limbs is somewhat lower because if Domestic Girlfriend taught me anything it is that apparently breaking your leg prevents any part of you, including your brain, from functioning properly.

Realistically, this does allow a few things to happen in a story. The first is minor drama. If we’re in a standard high school setting, there just aren’t a lot of real hazards so even minor ones end up being overblown. However, what mostly seems to happen is the injury is seen as an excuse to force characters together in a more intimate setting.

Whether that is through the infirmary visit (sometimes after being carried Princess style), helping the person with their daily life, or visiting the sick friend and then being alone in their room with them, it is a pretty standard plot point. It also leads to some charming and cute encounters as well as some more comedic, entertaining, and sometimes more risque moments.

Affiliate Link
THE PROMISED NEVERLAND 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: NORMAN

However, being embarrassed, scrapes, cuts, broken limbs… all of these pale in comparison with the real deadly killer of anime. The unstoppable force that will knock a protagonist flat in an instant and require all other characters to mope and wonder if they will ever survive.

Yes.

It is that.

The common cold.

Caused of course by any kind of water outside of a shower making contact with said character. And even a bath or shower might trigger it if they don’t 100% dry themselves immediately upon exit.

Seriously, the anime cold/fever is the single most prevalent and debilitating weapon in any anime. Far more effective than a zanpakuto from Bleach at keeping characters down.

And it seems to spread across almost every genre.

Natsume with a fever

From Natsume, the guy who as his friends say catches colds easier than anyone, to darker fantasies like Black Butler, anime characters are in grave peril when there are colds about and apparently they are always about. Maybe the rain droplets carry it? Who knows?

Ciel and Sebastian

All I know is that as soon as water is involved someone is going to end up sick with a fever and inevitably going to end up having bed rest and some kind of towel draped on their head.

Much like scrapes this scenario does allow for more one on one moments but fevers come with the added advantage of a closed mouthed character may let their guard down. Characters acting weird, spilling their true thoughts, severe misunderstandings, all of these things can be triggered by an anime fever.

This situation also confined the character to a single place which allows the rest of the story to progress putting pressure on them to recover and do whatever they need to do. In the case of Norman in The Promised Neverland it gave Emma a chance to show how adorable she was as a kid and also the tight relationship between the three central characters.

The Promised Neverland - Norman sick, Emma visiting

However, with anime writers seemingly out to make anime characters blush from their toes to their foreheads, scar them for life with minor scrapes and wounds, or burn their brains with fevers caused by walking in the rain, it really must be hard for the average anime character to get through the day. And that is even before the giant robots and vampire ninjas show up to cause havoc.

So here’s the question for you: What is the deadliest of all anime ailments?

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 12 Manga Review

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 12 Cover

Relying on and Reaching Out To Others

We all know Natsume is a bit cut off emotionally. Volume 12 does an excellent job of showcasing the relationships he’s forged as well as pushing him to realise he cannot do everything alone and nor does he really want to. It is a great collection of stories and with Natori showing up for the final three chapters I was pretty thrilled with this volume.

Chapter 47 Answer Instead

This is perhaps the weakest story in the volume, though it is still pretty interesting. A yokai who mimics human voices asks Natsume for his help in finding another yokai who can restore paper so that he can read a note left by a human many years ago. As usual, Natsume gets very caught up in helping the yokai but it ends up being a pretty sad story.

Or maybe bittersweet would be the better way to phrase it.

The yokai lost his chance because he feared the outcome of making a real connection with the human girl and that sets the scene for the remaining stories in the volume.

Chapter 48 Name of the Mysterious One

It wouldn’t be a Natsume story about connecting with others without dealing with Reiko’s life. I really liked this story when I saw it in the anime and here it was just as fun to read and just as heart warming.

Natsume encounters an elderly lady who turns out to be a yokai, or maybe a former god, it is a little unclear. Whichever way, the woman asks for Natsume’s help in finding a powerful yokai to return a mirror to. As more of the story comes out, Natsume realises that the one the woman is looking for is Reiko.

Once again we see and hear about the lonely life Reiko had as she was unable to connect with either yokai or humans. And once again, we see how far Natsume has come in separating himself from that path.

Chapter 49 – 51 Beyond the Glass

This story involves both Tanuma and Natori and it is truly fantastic. Both of these characters know about Natsume being able to see yokai but Tanuma can’t see them himself or help much whereas Natori believes he knows better than Natsume when it comes to dealing with yokai. It makes for an interesting encounter.

Natsume unfortunately draws the attention of two yokai who imprison him in a bottle. As Tanuma tries to help him, he gets injured and the bottle is stolen by the yokai. Tanuma however isn’t going to leave it at that and tries to rescue Natsume, though fortunately Natori is also there to help of things might have gotten ugly.

The danger Natsume poses to his friends is all too clear here and yet without Tanuma, Natsume would not have made it through this encounter.

The contrast between each character, Natori, Tanuma and Natsume, is really nicely explored in this story and following on from the story about Reiko it really helps to distinguish how each of these characters are choosing to live and grow and the connections they have or sever.

I love reading these stories because they always leave me thinking, with a quiet smile, and just wanting to read more. Volume 12 is no exception and is a great, relaxing read.

Affiliate Link:
If you’re interested in reading Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 12 it is available on the Book Depository.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

They Can’t All Be Natsume – Nor Do They Need To Be

Friday's Feature Banner Image

As a reviewer I try to avoid comparison where possible between one story and the next (and previously wrote a feature about it – comparing apples and oranges), but it is kind of inevitable that comparisons will be made. Partly that is because similar characters or stories will remind you of the previous one though other reasons for comparing are to make a point clear, to point out the strength or weakness of a story, or to help your audience to really get a feel for what you are talking about by linking it to something they are likely more familiar with.

Still, comparisons aren’t always all that helpful. I recently went looking for some reviews of Kamisama Kiss online and found comparisons everywhere (I was curious about what people had said at the time it came out because that was pre-blogging days so I hadn’t really read any reviews of people who watched it when it first came out). On several occasions I found it compared to Fruits Basket or InuYasha and it seldom came out favourably.

While as a shoujo, the comparison to Fruits Basket kind of makes sense, the overall tone and feel of the stories are entirely different. I watch Kamisama Kiss when I want to just have a bit of a laugh and soak up some cute yokai vibes. Sure, it doesn’t really manage character drama all the deftly, but there is the occasional moment where it hits the spot, but realistically, you kind of watch Kamisama Kiss for the weird antics as Nanami learns to be a land god and the supernatural reverse harem that forms around her.

Fruits Basket on the other-hand I watch when I want to go through a bit of an emotional journey. I usually watch it when I’m feeling low and don’t know the reasons for feeling that way. Watching Fruits Basket and watching Tohru help others really helps process your own emotions and there’s definitely a cathartic effect as you see each of the characters she touches slowly come to terms with themselves. About the only complaint for the original series, other than the dated visuals, would be the lack of ending, which is why I’m super excited about the upcoming rebooted series. Whichever way, I wouldn’t have even thought of comparing it to Kamisama Kiss because in terms of why I enjoy it, it couldn’t be more different.

I can’t really comment on its similarity or dissimilarity to InuYasha because despite that one being on my watch list for a very long time, I’ve still yet to actually watch it.

Affiliate Link
Natsume Yuujin-Cho (Natsume's Book of Friends) Nyanko Sensei Ani-Art Mug Cup

So as the title of this post suggests, recently I found myself comparing The Morose Mononokean to Natsume Yuujinchou. Actually, worse than comparing, I mostly pointed out that The Morose Mononokean couldn’t hold the emotional weight of something like Natsume. And that’s actually really true but it is more or less true of the vast majority of anime and not an actual complaint about The Morose Mononokean.

Now when watching these shows, comparisons do seem more or less inevitable. They both follow teenage boys who have the ability to see yokai. More importantly, the first season of The Morose Mononokean and Natsume Yuujinchou more or less follow the yokai of the week format where a new yokai is introduce, the main characters encounter it and it is either threatening or friendly, there’s a little bit of misunderstanding or a problem to resolve, then someone we fix things and we learn and grow from the situation. Rinse – repeat. Yokai of the week.

However, Natsume Yuujinchou, for all that it really is a monster of the week kind of story, has managed subtle and continuous character growth and built an impressive supporting cast that all feel like fully developed characters in their own right. Admittedly, it is now six seasons in, but it is still impressive how you barely notice the character growth until you go back to the beginning and then you realise just how much ground each character has gained. It is such a natural drip feed of growth and development that you really don’t even notice it but the results are there to see in how each season Natsume is that little bit stronger than he was and his relationships with those around him are that little bit deeper and more interesting.

Natsume Yuujinchou

In short, Natsume is pretty brilliant and you should definitely watch it.

The Morose Mononokean is not.

And that isn’t actually slapping it down. The Morose Mononokean season one was decidedly average in every way. It used the yokai of the week format well enough. The characters were entertaining and the back and forth between the two main characters was actually pretty entertaining. Visually it was okay, but they really did a great job contrasting the mundane world and the yokai world through the use of colours. Everything about it functioned, though it never delivered much in the way of an emotional punch and the characters remained more or less as they began, though a bit more of an understanding was forged between the two main characters.

In fairness, I don’t think it was really trying to pack much of an emotional punch. There are more ‘comedic’ moments dotted throughout, and Ashiya, as the protagonist, is quite the loud and reactive character responding to things with over the top expressions and shock rather than calm deliberation. The yokai frequently aren’t really given a voice and other than fuzzy, Ashiya isn’t really developing much in the way of a relationship with them and he wasn’t shunned or outcast so he doesn’t have to go through the emotional growth Natsume needed at the start of season one.

While that makes The Morose Mononokean a somewhat less compelling watch, it works as it is. Season two expands on the world building and the characters and it has become a much stronger story in its own right. It still has a vastly different tone and feel to Natsume, despite the surface level similarities in premise, but it really is its own show.

But telling someone The Morose Mononokean isn’t as good as Natsume Yuujinchou isn’t exactly helpful when it comes to reviewing, however true I might personally feel that to be. Nor is telling someone that it is similar to Natsume overly helpful because if someone starts it expecting another Natsume, they are surely going to be disappointed.

I think as a reviewer I am going to continue to strive not to overly rely on comparisons to convey my feelings about an anime. They certainly will happen and sometimes fairly thoughtlessly, but I hopefully won’t use them as my main summation of a show. In the case of The Morose Mononokean, through season two I have definitely come to appreciate it for what it is on its own and I’m no longer really looking at what I feel it is missing. Hopefully when it ends and I write my final review my thoughts on it as its own entity come through loud and clear.

Now here’s a question: The Little Fox or Fuzzy? Which is the cuter yokai?

In the meantime, I’d love to know your thoughts on comparisons in reviews and whether you find them helpful or not. Please leave a comment below and get the conversation started.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Behind Every Great Anime Protagonist Is A Great Supporting Cast

Friday's Feature Banner Image

Previously I’ve looked at reasons why being a villain would suck and I’ve certainly looked at various characters on my blog and why they shine, but with the exception of Natsume (see the supporter battle Irina and I worked on), I seldom discuss the supporting cast and their importance in making or breaking a series. Which is something I decided I needed to change because the more I think about it the more I come to realise that great characters don’t occur in isolation.

For every character I’ve connected with or instantly fell in love with and wanted more of, surrounding them is usually a plethora of well written, developed and interesting characters. Each one holding up their end of the story and playing the role they need to play in a way that allows the protagonist to shine.

Obi from Snow White With The Red Hair
Obi is a fantastic supporting cast member in Snow White With The Red Hair. See my top 5 favourite moments with him.

However, this also highlights my general problem with harem anime (whether standard harem, reverse harem, or not a harem but using more or less the same tropes). That is, generally (not always), while there might be good characters in the anime, they aren’t working to complement each other. The focus is on each of the girls (or guys) standing out from the others with a distinct visual and personality. Their job is to carve out their own niche audience and fan group rather than support a main character or even the cast as a whole. As a direct result, the supporting characters pull attention away from what frequently turns out to be a fairly dull protagonist and because of the shared screen time none of the supporting characters ever really feels fully realised (again, generalising).

Going through some of my favourite characters, or characters I am drawn to, I can see time and again, that a lot of what makes them so amazing comes from those surrounding them.

March Comes in Like a Lion (I promise this isn’t another love letter) has Rei at its centre with the Kawamoto sisters as almost dueteragonists. Particularly in the second season where Akari becomes a major focus for a large arc. All four of these characters are fantastically written and interesting characters and honestly I’d probably happily watch them just stay inside the Kawamoto house and interact at this point.

But, that wasn’t what drew me to the show and to Rei early on before the deep connections were formed and I learned more about these characters. Whether it was Nikaido as a self-proclaimed best friend, Shimada as a mentor character, Kyoko and Goto as potential antagonists, the members of the Science/Shogi club… every single character we encounter (even the one episode rival shogi players) felt like a fully realised character that helped to flesh out the world. More importantly they gave Rei a wide range of people to respond to and react to bringing out more of Rei’s personality and pain and allowing the audience to feel that he was also a fully realised character rather than just a one note ‘tragic young shogi player’.

Yuri on Ice Episode 6
Yuri and Victor

On a lighter note, Victor and Yuri from Yuri on Ice are amazing. No question I loved watching the two of them interact and grow closer together. I would happily watch more of just the two of them. But again, that wasn’t the immediate draw. What draws you in to Yuri on Ice are all the small touches throughout, including every supporting cast member we meet feeling like they have their own story to tell and just being fun.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri's family

Whether it is Yurio running from his fan club, JJ and his over-bearing confidence, Yuri’s family and their support, all of the characters bring something to the mix that helps to elevate the whole shoe and provide a context for Yuri and Victor’s relationship to grow within.

However, even something like Noragami, where I genuinely love Yato, it is again the support cast that manage to bring out his full charm. Hiyori and Yuki stand with him and each brings something relatable and interesting to the story, but the other gods, the regalia, Hiyori’s friends, those who call Yato, even the phantoms, each of them add something to the story and while we may not get a huge amount of time with them, or back story, they are a delight to meet and interact with.

Noragami

Where Noragami manages to go even further is in the portrayal of Nora who remains for most of season one an incredibly enigmatic figure but one who is sufficiently built up that when she takes a more active role in season two it doesn’t feel like she’s come from nowhere. It feels like a natural extension of where her story had been heading from the beginning and it is largely through her interactions with Yato that more of Yato’s past can be revealed to the audience.

My Hero Academia Support Cast

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it in terms of whether a great support cast can make or break a show and a protagonist. Look at My Hero Academia. I like Midoriya, I really do, but he isn’t a particularly memorable character on his own. It is the zany cast that surrounds him early on that fills the anime with so much energy and enthusiasm and allows Midoriya the chance to grow into his role as both protagonist and hero. There’s almost as much fan art around plenty of his classmates as there is of him (and of some characters I’d bet there’s even more).

When creating something it is important to remember that while the protagonist will probably be the character people remember, a great protagonist on their own doesn’t normally carry the story alone (unless they are Tom Hanks in Cast Away in which case I still give the award for best supporting cast member to the Volleyball). It is the support cast that create the space and opportunities for the protagonist to be who they need to be and draw out the best of the main character.

Cast Away - Tom Hanks and Wilson

So remember, behind every great protagonist is a great supporting cast. Or a really emotive volleyball.

Or, use one of my product affiliate links.
DARK SOULS III 1/6 SCALE LIGHT-UP STATUE: BONFIRE
DARK SOULS III 1/6 SCALE LIGHT-UP STATUE: BONFIRE