Tuesday’s Top 5: Appearances of Cherry Blossoms in Anime

We are finally done reflecting on the anime of 2017 and now it is time to get into some new lists. To start us off, I am look at my 5 favourite uses of cherry blossoms in anime. These flowers are just adorable and are incredibly prolific so I am absolutely certain that you all have your own favourite scene from an anime so please feel free to share in the comments below. While I started off the list with some fairly standard pretty flowers, I think the ones that stick are a little out of the ordinary.

As an added note, for those that don’t know, the Cherry Blossom symbolises how fragile and yet beautiful life is (that’s an oversimplification but you get the point). It is a fantastic flower to show transitions in one’s life which is probably why so many anime start with them.

Please Note – Some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week goes to every high school anime ever that starts with the main character walking under cherry blossoms to get to school.

Number 5: Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card

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I’d be lying if I didn’t point out that this was the moment I thought of writing this list. I probably could have picked some scenes out of the original Cardcaptor just as easily, but this scene of Sakura on her way to school was gorgeous. It perfectly captured the feel of the old Cardcaptor while showing us just how visually impressive this new series was going to be.

Number 4: Your Lie In April

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No surprise at all given the symbolic meaning and the season that cherry blossoms feature heavily early on in this show. While it doesn’t have the same magical quality as the scene in Cardcaptor, these scenes are absolutely perfect in setting up the relationship between the two main characters and the inevitable ending in Your Lie in April. It might not be subtle symbolism, but is is affective.

Number 3: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

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What to do when you want to film and it isn’t the season for cherry blossoms? Just hope your director is also a god and you’ll be just fine. While the SOS brigade are shooting their movie, in addition to causing one of the group to shoot a lazer from her eye, creating white pigeons and a talking cat, Haruhi causes the cherry blossoms to bloom out of season. It is a bizarre series of events that are all undone when Kyon gets her to declare that the film is a work of fiction but it was an interesting use of cherry blossoms.

Number 2: Nurarihyon no Mago

Nurarihyon features one cherry blossom tree very prominently in the Nura Clan’s family compound. It gets used a lot throughout the series’ run time but we’ll see it often as Riko stares at it in his human form when he is thinking and when he is in his yokai form he sits on one of the branches in the tree looking down. Nura’s grandfather is also regularly seen near the tree. Additionally, there’s also a ‘secret’ technique used by the family that includes using saki and a sakura petal and ends with all the enemies incinerated.

Number 1: Bleach

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I came to the conclusion fairly early on that there is really no way to show just how impressive Byakuya’s bankai really is so if you have never watched Bleach you really should just for this attack. The first time we see it is when Ichigo pretty much goads Byakuya into releasing his bankai  and after the usual condescending remarks Byakuya literally lets go of his sword and in its place, after a very impressive entrance, we have thousands of blades scattered that Byakuya controls (and yes, they look just like cherry blossoms). What makes this technique particularly brilliant, other than looking gorgeous, is that it can be used for attack and defense and when he uses his hands he can increase the speed of the blades. Basically, anyone besides the protagonist is going down fast once Byakuya brings out this move.

Time for you to share your favourite appearance of cherry blossoms in an anime.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Yokai Anime

Having spent the last two weeks looking at favourite yokai characters I am now looking at my top 5 favourite anime that contain yokai. There probably won’t be any surprises on this list given where my favourite yokai characters came from, but here we go anyway. I have avoided any anime that is more focused on demons, ghosts, or other supernatural creatures. This list is for Japanese yokai focused shows. And despite the fact that I took on this yokai focus as we lead into Halloween, I have to be honest that none of the shows below are even vaguely scary. I’ll have to have a ghost or demon focus next year if we actually want some chilling shows on the list. But as always, please feel free to share what you would have included on your list. I’d love to find a new yokai themed show to fall in love with.

Please Note – There may be some spoilers below.

Honourable mentions to The Morose Mononokean and Inu x Boku SS.

Number 5: Kamisama Kiss

This story of a normal girl turned land god who now needs to learn about the various supernatural creatures and her own powers is adorable and there are so many great characters in it. While it isn’t exactly going out of its way to be accurate in the way it represents yokai, there’s still a wide range of yokai characters and powers here, and the show is just so much fun.

Number 4: Nurarihyon

Following the quarter yokai Rikuo as he learns to accept his yokai blood and takes over the Nura clan from his grandfather, this show is a whole lot of fun. Plus, if you just want to see a huge range of yokai, this anime has you covered. It even, where appropriate, gives you a little bit of history about the stories surrounding the yokai. Plus, if you like supernatural battles, this one has you covered.

Number 3: The Eccentric Family

This one is a rambling tale and focuses almost exclusively on tanuki, tengu and humans and their interactions in Kyoto. This is one show where the yokai elements are fully integrated into the real world and it creates a very strange blend of magic realism as you follow Yasaburo about on his rambles and mischief making. There’s a whole lot of charm to the story and the characters but the narrative gets a little lost from time to time.

Number 2: xxxHolic

Not strictly speaking an anime about yokai, but they certainly make their presence felt in some stories. xxxHolic is one of the CLAMP stories and very much tied in with Tsubasa Chronicles but has a slightly more mature feel to it. Its a slow and meandering story but one that becomes deeply fascinating and the lore is certainly well thought out.

Number 1: Natsume Yuujinchou

I don’t think there was ever any doubt that Natsume was going to end up number 1 on this list. Over 6 seasons we have met a lot of yokai. Some have been charming, some scary, some friendly, some completely scared of humans, but all have come into our lives through Natsume and left an impression. The characters are what make this show and the yokai characters, particularly in the early seasons, really hold their own. If you have never watched Natsume, now is the perfect time to give it a go.


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Karandi James.

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Male Yokai

Continuing on from last week where I looked at my top 5 favourite female yokai, this week we have my top 5 male yokai. I must admit, my first draft had a lot fox yokai on the list and even the revised version hasn’t really fixed that issue. Apparently I like foxes. Anyway, as always, I’d love to know who you would include on your list so please leave a comment below.

Please Note: There may be some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week goes to Kappa from Nurarihyon.

Number 5: Yahiko from The Morose Mononokean

Okay, I nearly chose Fuzzy from this list but ultimately had to go with Yahiko. Seriously, this fox is so cute and his desire to play hide and seek is adorable (okay, potentially deadly but still pretty cute). Admittedly, the fact that Yahiko was introduced as a potential big bad and then quickly degenerated into the little brother type character that just wants all the attention is probably the reason Yahiko isn’t further up the list.

Number 4: Kuro from Blue Exorcist

Yeah, I know technically they want to say Kuro is a demon but I’m still including him as a yokai. There really isn’t much to explain with this choice. Kuro is my favourite character from Blue Exorcist. Fiercely loyal and yet definitely a cat, Kuro manages to steal pretty much every scene he is in.

Number 3: Yasaburo from The Eccentric Family

Our fast talking, trouble seeking tanuki, Yasaburo had to be on the list. He’s just such a great character even before you consider the fact that he is a shape changing tanuki. As the third of four brothers he is pretty content to drift through life looking for things to make his days ‘interesting’. Despite that, he’s pretty loyal to his family when it matters and most of the time he cleans up the mess he makes (mostly). I absolutely adore spending time with Yasaburo.

Number 2: Tomoe from Kamisama Kiss

Now, how could I overlook Tomoe, the fox who serves as a land god’s familiar. He is rude, occasionally foul mouthed, and extremely short tempered, but also incredibly loyal and ultimately a fairly lonely character seeking acceptance. Not to mention incredibly powerful and needs to be given how often his human-turned-god master Nanami gets herself into trouble.

Number 1: Miketsukami from Inu x Boku

So what beats a fox familiar, well a 9 Tailed Fox secret service member who uses a sword apparently. Told you there were a lot of foxes on this list. Seriously, the guy is adorable both in his normal suit and when he transforms into a yokai. If it wasn’t for his creepy stalkerish tendencies (I guess he calls that loyalty) he’s be nearly perfect. About the only thing he lacks is the ability to actually have a normal human interaction and eventually he might learn to get around that.

There is my list of my favourite male yokai characters. I’d love to know who you would have included.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Female Yokai

Seems like October is an appropriate time to bring out lists on yokai and similar topics so my Top 5 today is focussing on female yokai characters. I started with quite an enormous list of characters and narrowing it down was difficult but eventually I picked my 5 favourite female characters that also happen to be yokai. Next week I’ll turn my attention to the male yokai but until then, I hope you enjoy the list today and I’d love to know some of your favourite female yokai characters so please leave me a comment.

Please Note: There may be some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week goes to Zashiki-Warashi from xxxHolic.

Number 5: Aokuchinashi from Natsume Yuujinchou

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For a one episode character, I have to admit, I kind of love her. First she tries asking for help, then she threatens to curse Natsume, and ultimately her conversation with him helps him to understand more about himself and his grandmother. I’m really glad she met Natsume and I absolutely love her episode. We’re never really sure exactly what kind of yokai she is (though apparently she’s a minor god) but that’s a minor issue.

Number 4: Kejourou from Nurarihyon no Mago

Of all the members of Rikuo’s inner circle, Kejourou probably gets the least attention and the least development, but I absolutely love her. Her calm and cool demeanor occasionally being thrown off for a petty tantrum, and her incredible contributions to many of the major fights make her one of my favourite characters ever (not to mention her really amazing outfits). There’s just something very cool about her and I really feel she needs a lot more appreciation. Again, we never find out exactly what kind of yokai she is but her hair is amazing both in appearance and as a weapon.

Number 3: Yuki-Onna from Nurarihyon no Mago

Yuki-Onna is obviously a snow woman and so pretty much freezes things, particularly when she is annoyed. She’s completely devoted to Rikuo but that doesn’t stop her freezing him from time to time. Still, for all her ditsy silliness in the day to day, when it comes to a major battle, Rikuo knows that Yuki-Onna has his back and is dependable. She gets one of the coolest moments of the final fight of the first season, and really, there’s just something about her hair that makes her pretty awesome.

Number 2: Karuta Roromiya from Inu X Boku SS

The spacey, pink-haired, food-obsessed body guard who also turns into a giant skeleton thing. She had to have a place on this list. I kind of love that even in her human form she is pretty amazing the few times she is spurred into action, though to be honest, mostly she just wants to eat good food and be left alone. Though, don’t ever mess with Watanuki or you will definitely have Roromiya’s less nice form to deal with.

Number 1: Hinoe from Natsume’s Yuujinchou

Another yokai that I don’t know what kind she is supposed to be, other than a compulsive smoker and drinker, Hinoe has become a reoccurring character in Natsume and one I deeply love. For all her occasional cattiness and her sillier moments when she is letting loose, she is often an advisor and a voice of reason and regularly she provides Natsume with what he needs. Plus, for all her aloof attitude as she looks down from where-ever she has currently perched smoke in hand, when Natsume is in trouble she has come running more than once.

And there you have it, my list of top 5 female yokai. Who would you have included on yours?


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Nurarihyon no Mago Series Review: Fascinated by Fear

Overview:

Rikuo is one quarter yokai and tries to live his life as a normal human. The problem is, his grandfather is the former supreme commander of yokai and his house is literally overflowing with them. That and his grandfather wants Rikuo to take over as the next commander of yokai. Despite this, Rikuo still fights to keep his human life separate until some dangerous yokai come to town endangering his friends.

Review:

It should be no surprise by now that I absolutely love stories about yokai and Nurarihyon certainly hits the mark. With some silly school comedy elements, some ho-hum romance, but a fair decent amount of action and supernatural antics, this show isn’t perfect by any means but is a pretty enjoyable ride. There is another season, and I will review that separately, but this is definitely a show that’s worth giving a go.

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That said, I’m going to start with the negative. Both opening songs are just plain wrong. The first one isn’t too bad. It kind of fits the show, but it doesn’t feel finished. It’s like they get to the end of the title animation and the song just kind of gets cut off. Every time it is jarring and kind of undermines what is a not-great but not-bad song. The second one however does not fit the show. It kind of highlights the silly school antic side of things in its tone and by that stage of the show, the school segments of the show are pretty small. When you are gearing up to watch a yokai vs yokai fight sequence and the opening is some lighthearted tune about sunshine, there’s a real disconnect.

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My other major negative is the way the human characters are treated. Rikuo has friends at school and even belongs to a club that apparently seeks out yokai but mostly that’s just one character’s obsession and the others all just kind of tag along. Early on, this is used helpfully to introduce a monster of the arc kind of feel but later, the human characters are pretty useless to the plot and yet just keep hanging around. Realistically you could have halved the number of students and they could have served the same purpose and gotten more development and screen time. Then again, this show wasn’t great at balancing things, which for a show that focuses primarily on the main character trying to find balance in his life, is kind of ironic really.

You could also criticise some of the animation, the choppy pace early on, and a number of other things but mostly these don’t interfere with enjoying the show.

Plus, there is a strong second half. Once we’ve been introduced to the idea that Rikuo has a night form that he can take and we’ve seen him in action a few times, the show finally introduces the main antagonist of the series, a yokai from out of town who has come to overthrow the Nura clan. With Rikuo’s grandfather missing in action and no one else to lead the defense, Rikuo is forced to step up his game and from then on the story really doesn’t take a break.

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There’s a great range of yokai and supernatural powers and these are used well to keep things fresh visually as well as provide some interesting moments in the story where they manage to turn things in a fight through an unconventional method. Admittedly, the second or third time that happens you are more or less expecting it, but they still manage to make it feel like something a bit different. Also, the yokai who surround Rikuo for the most part and act as his guards are pretty entertaining though could have been fleshed out a little more.

This show does get dark at times with humans being kidnapped by yokai and a real sense of danger permeating a lot of the fight sequences. Ultimately you know that no one of consequence will actually be killed but they do sustain some fairly substantial injuries. There’s blood and gore to be found but not so much that it is particularly shocking, though I was glad when one particular yokai finally was dealt with because at least it meant I didn’t have to worry about him licking anyone else.

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My favourite part of this show though is the central character. Rikuo is pretty stock standard in his human form. All jumps and worry when his friends visit his house as he worries about them seeing some of the yokai who conveniently hide just around corners and the like in a fairly poor attempt at humour. But he does have a more serious side. Even though he wants to be human, he does accept that there are things he has to do, so he isn’t just denying outright the yokai around him. This stops him crossing the line into whiney cry-baby territory that other protagonists of a similar style might fall into. And then we have his night form. I kind of get why the yokai are so fascinated by him. Admittedly, he’s just kind of smug and broody guy when all is said and done but everything about the presentation makes him look cool. The perpetually floating cherry blossoms, the music, the way he stands, everything is just perfect for presenting this ultra cool guy that you would want to follow. It works beautifully.

Anyway, if you are into supernatural stories at all and you haven’t checked this one out, it is worth your time. There are definitely some parts that won’t quite hit the mark, but overall this is a fun show to watch.


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