I’ll Walk On My Own/I’ll Walk With You

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June OWLS Tour – Vulnerable

In the month of June, we will be discussing what it means to be vulnerable. To some individuals, being vulnerable could be seen as a sign of weakness, but in fact, vulnerability is actually a sign of strength. In this month’s posts, we will explore what it means to be vulnerable and how certain characters in pop culture glamorize vulnerability. When do we show our vulnerability? How do we express vulnerability? Why should we show vulnerability? These are questions that we will be discussing in our posts featuring characters that show vulnerability and/or sensitivity and what we can learn from them or even our own personal stories.  

Be sure to check out Matt’s post about Sword Art Online and tomorrow you can check out Yumdeku’s post on Shin Sekai Yori.

Shirayuki Gains Strength By Allowing Herself To Be Vulnerable.

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you’ll know I really love the anime Snow White With The Red Hair (or Shirayuki ga Akagami) and I particularly love the relationship between Zen and Shirayuki that develops. When I read the prompt for this month I was initially stumped because I wasn’t sure I wanted to write another post about March Comes in Like a Lion but that was the first anime that came to mind. However, soon after that, I thought about Shirayuki and more importantly, about how her character became stronger once she allowed herself to be vulnerable.

Shirayuki is a fascinating character. In the beginning of the story she seems incredibly independent and strong. Her grandparents have died leaving her on her own to run the herbalist shop, she explores the forest for herbs, and she defies Prince Raj’s order to become his concubine all on her own with no one really standing beside her or lending her support. It is nice to see her not immediately thrust into the damsel in distress role and while there are instances where she is rescued, she is never completely useless as she continues to strive to overcome her own problems.

However, this strength that she seems to demonstrate early in the series is incredibly fragile. She has no real ability to stand up to Raj on her own and makes the decision to flee which shows initiative and a desire to be independent but a lack of strength. That she asks no one in the town for help in her flight or preparations speaks volumes. While she likes the people she helps each day and thinks of them as she prepares medicine to leave for them, she keeps them at a distance.

Part of that would be the logical thought of not wanting to drag them into trouble with the royal family. It is very considerate of Shirayuki. But part of it also seems to be her desire to not feel she needs anyone else. Shirayuki doesn’t want to appear vulnerable or weak or to feel like she can’t handle the situation alone. And so she acts alone and leaves the kingdom of Tanbarun for the neighbouring kingdom of Clarines.

What happens next in the anime, shows that despite Shirayuki’s best efforts to not appear vulnerable, she really is whether she wants to admit it or not. And it is a vulnerability she hasn’t accepted or been in control of.

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Raj pursues her, or sends his servants to, and after Zen is poisoned Shirayuki concedes to following along with his actions. Even then, she isn’t just playing damsel. She’s determined to help Zen, the guy she just met and knows nothing about, because she feels responsible for him being poisoned.

This all shows the audience that while Shirayuki is a strong character, she still has limitations. By herself she can only go so far walking on her own before she will hit a wall that cannot be overcome by her own determination and guts, though she’ll certainly try.

The friendship that then forms between Shirayuki and Zen determines the next steps for her character. At first Shirayuki continues to keep Zen at a distance, not wanting to trouble him with her problems, and continues to try to solve things alone. However, a small change begins.

It is small though. At first Shirayuki will occasionally consult with Zen on the problem but not allow him to interfere with her solution. Then we see her working to heal the men at the fort and concealing her exhaustion from Zen so as not to worry him.

However, by the time we are fully into the second season, we see a Shirayuki who has realised that there is only so far she can get walking alone and more importantly, she doesn’t want to be alone.

Shirayuki wants to walk with Zen and we see both of these characters, both very strong in their own ways and yet also weak in others, begin to open up to one another and trust the other sufficiently to be vulnerable before them. The end result is that both characters grow stronger together and support the other. It is a relationship built on trust and one that can only exist because they have the courage to be vulnerable and reveal their true selves to the other.

Shirayuki is a strong character when she is alone, but she is undeniably stronger when she walks beside Zen and the other friends she makes. By allowing herself to be vulnerable, she opened up the possibility of becoming stronger and overcoming her individual limitations.

What did you think of Shirayuki?

Reminder to check out Matt’s post about Sword Art Online and tomorrow you can check out Yumdeku’s post on Shin Sekai Yori.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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May 2019 OWLS Post – Finding Happiness In and Out of Your Comfort Zone

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Hi everyone. Sorry it has been a couple of months since I’ve had a go at an OWLS post but I decided to definitely get back to it in May and then, once I saw the prompt for May I knew I had to write something for this one. Let’s get into it.

Happiness is subjective. We all have different definitions of what happiness means to us and we also feel happiness in varying degrees. This month we will be exploring several questions describing our happiness in our fandoms, communities, and hobbies. Why do we find enjoyment watching anime or reading manga? Why did we decide to join the anime or pop culture communities?  Why do we blog about our hobbies or cosplay as our favorite characters? This topic is all about the passions we have for our interests and why they are important to us.

OWLS Theme for May

Finding Happiness In And Out Of Your Comfort Zone

When I read this prompt the first thing I was reminded of was Prince from Run With The Wind and while I’ll get to my own experiences in a little bit, I’d like to examine his character first the journey he went on throughout the series.

Run With The Wind Episode 7 Prince

Prince has a clear comfort zone at the beginning of the series. His room in the apartment is floor to ceiling stacked with his manga and he is most comfortable when his nose is stuck inside one of those volumes absorbing the story and the characters within it. While superficially this might seem like a story about getting the loner out of his room and exercising, what we see instead is Prince connecting the new experiences he has with his experiences within stories and blending the two in a way that few anime or stories dare.

Run With The Wind Episode 14 Prince

Ultimately, his passion for manga is still burning fiercely at the end of the series. He hasn’t moved on from it, grown up, found a new love that surpasses the old. While the manga is visually less prevalent in later episodes, in case there was any doubt that the message here was about embracing multiple experiences, Prince’s passionate speech to Haiji about the great characters who could inspire him makes it clear that Prince’s head is firmly still with his beloved manga and the characters he has formed attachments to.

Run With The Wind Episode 19 - Prince

Equally though, he tells Haiji at the end that he’s had fun with running the race and its truly the first time Prince acknowledges what the audience has seen in the second half of the series, Prince has embraced the team and the new hobby without compromising on his first love.

Run With The Wind Episode 23 - Prince

I bring up Prince because he’s a truly wonderful example that it doesn’t need to be all or nothing. I am an anime fan and also a fan of gaming, a fairly new fan of light novels, a much older fan of novels and movies, but I also enjoy hiking, travel, and anything that involves eating chocolate. As such, I don’t define myself solely through one fandom or another and nor do I allow one fandom to prevent me pursuing new avenues should something take my fancy.

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One of the many things I love about anime is that it is squarely in my comfort zone. It is largely an individual hobby, though there is a thriving online community I can interact with, largely activities involve being indoors, and anime, despite having some interesting variations and themes, essentially follows the same basic rules and structures of narratives that I love from movies, books and other TV shows. Slipping into the anime fandom was easy, getting hooked even easier, and staying within the fandom is very comfortable.

There’s a genuine happiness that comes from finding a new anime and falling in love with it, watching a terrible anime and pulling it apart, watching an anime with a friend and cringing when you realise that they are about to do something that as an anime fan you are very used to but you are about to get asked to explain by someone less familiar with it. There’s happiness to be found when you finish an anime, whether it was better or worse than you expected and there’s true joy in the anticipation of a new season even if it doesn’t end up panning out. Then there’s the happiness of connecting with others who equally love what you love, collecting figures, books or other merchandise of characters you’ve truly come to care for, and ultimately owning the shiny DVD’s of a series that you will binge again and again.

However, anime also takes me out of my comfort zone in ways I’ve learned to love and appreciate.

Five years ago I would have said I was never going to watch harem based shows. Now I routinely have these in my list of anime watched for the year, though more reverse harems.

Three years ago I would have said I wouldn’t watch sports based shows. Now I’ve got quite the catalogue of sports anime that I’ve finished and I’ve had in depth conversations with a friend who coaches volleyball around a game we were watching because having watched Haikyu I actually know what is going on now other than the ball goes over the net.

There are so many anime in so many different genres that I never thought I would try that I’m now loving each and every season.

Two years ago I started reading light novels and some manga. I’ve since had to once again reorganise my shelves in order to find space for the next volumes of Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash and of course Natsume’s Book of Friends. The collections are growing as quickly as I can buy them and yet my shelf space is limited and I already have quite the library of novels that I’ve been accumulating since I was a pre-teen.

I don’t actually dislike e-books, but there’s something truly magical about opening a new volume and the feel and smell of the paper.

In the last couple of years I’ve been to two conventions (which given where I live is quite the venture) and spent the weekend surrounded by hundreds of people. For me that is an intense and overwhelming experience and yet because everyone there was embracing the fandoms and a love of the same kinds of movies and anime that I love both were incredibly rewarding experiences.

Even on this last trip to Japan I made a note of a few things I particularly wanted to find and managed to even ask at shops for certain items or shows to see what they had in relation to them, though my tongue tried to glue itself to the roof of my mouth before hand as I freaked out about whether I’d be understood or not.

All of these things bring me happiness even as they push me further beyond what I thought was my comfort zone and I try things I may never have given a chance and interact with people I might never have had any reason to speak with, because of the happiness and joy I’ve found in anime.

here’s no one reason why I love anime, but because of my love of anime, my life is filled almost daily with small pieces of happiness. For as long as I keep finding those moments of happiness I will continue to love anime. How about you?Be sure to catch Jack’s post on the Aniwriter and next up in the tour is Naja on the 13th.

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Karandi James
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February OWLS Blog Tour – Bell Adores His Goddess

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Welcome to my OWLS post for February (full schedule of OWLS posts here). In February, we will be exploring love and romance. The word selected is “adore” because it has two main connotations: to be loved and respected or to feel worshipped. We will analyse characters that give us a feeling of admiration and explain why we love those characters. We will also be exploring different forms of love (familial, friendship, and even self-love) and how those types of love influence our lives.

Bell Adores His Goddess

Bell and Hestia - Is It Wrong to Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon (DanMachi)

It won’t be much of a surprise to regular readers to know that I adore DanMachi. I avoided watching the anime for so long because the full name, Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, seemed too stupid for words and like it would be either an idiotic comedic harem anime or something really sleazy. I’m really glad I finally watched it and I’m really glad that while waiting for the often promised but yet to be delivered season two that I got into reading the light novels, because the characters here are very worth it.

While there are definitely harem elements at play and we could throw the words love and adore around between a lot of the characters there are two specific relationships I want to look at in this post. The first is Bell and Aiz, which is kind of a catalyst for growth and one where the word admiration is probably far more fitting than adore. The second is Bell and Hestia, where the word adore is the absolute perfect fit.

Is it wrong to try to pick up girls in a dungeon Volume 6
Why haven’t we gotten to this in the anime?

Starting with Bell and Aiz, we kind of have to go right back to the very beginning of both the anime and the books. Bell is a rookie adventurer who enters the dungeon alone only this day he gets chased by a Minotaur that is on a floor far higher than it should be because it managed to get away from Aiz and her party on a lower floor. There is no way for Bell at his level to even try to fight it and ultimately he gets cornered and believes he is going to die. That’s where Aiz turns up, slays the beast, and in the process covers Bell in blood.

For Aiz, this is a moment of regret because she feels responsible for letting the Minotaur go in the first place, but also because she doesn’t get a chance to apologise to Bell before he scampers off (something that becomes something of a pattern). Bell on the other hand feels intensely embarrassed that he needed to be saved given he wants to be a hero, but more than that, he is inspired. He has found his goal. Someone so much stronger than him. The person he wants to catch up to no matter what.

Bell and Aiz - DanMachi

While he declares that it is love, nothing in the story after this point really suggests romance between the pair. At times they have a mentor/student relationship, at others they have distance because they are in different familia and serve different gods, Bell continues to admire Aiz and aims to get stronger… okay, he also continues to be intensely embarrassed around her which might suggest he continues to hold a crush. Aiz also continues to be fairly observant of Bell and when he takes actions she doesn’t approve of she feels disappointed, so maybe there will be love between them.

However, as the title of the anime initially suggested, Bell sees Aiz as a goal rather than a person. Not so much that he wants to own her (which would be the sleazy version of the story that we fortunately didn’t get), but more as someone he wants to stand equal to. Their relationship remains defined by Bell’s admiration and almost hero worship of Aiz. It is hard then to see how they will move beyond this point to a romantic relationship, assuming of course that either one actually wants that development in the future.

DanMachi OVA
Cheating a little as this image is from the OVA.

But, Hestia, the goddess in Bell’s life very clearly wants a more romantic relationship with Bell. She flaunts herself in their home, she clings to him, she is openly jealous when other girls get near, and she drags him out on a date around the town. In the light novels, she continues to have him go with her at various times on ‘dates’ and she continues to be very protective of him and who gets near him (even more so than in the anime). However, she also trusts Bell to make the right decision and supports him even when some of his decisions will have consequences for the family (big consequences at times). Hestia very much loves Bell and wants him to see her the same way.

And there is the problem. Because Bell genuinely adores his goddess, but he can only see her as a goddess, not a woman and certainly not a romantic interest. More than anyone else, Bell would lay down his life to protect Hestia, would fight for her, would do anything to make her happy, but to him she is the goddess. She’s the centre of his family, the one who took him in when he was rejected elsewhere, and the one who gave him the blessing that allowed him to pursue his dream of becoming a hero.

DanMachi Bell and Hestia (Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon)

Where Aiz and Bell would have a lot to overcome before they could become a genuinely romantic possibility, with Bell and Hestia it seems nearly impossible given the way Bell views Hestia. I genuinely love the two characters and their interactions, but I have to admit I feel a little sorry for Hestia as she tries to have Bell see her as a woman and not just a goddess (that seems a little like a downgrade but it would be an important step if anything were to develop between them).

It is the complexity of these relationships, and the relationships Bell forms with the rest of the members of his familia, that keep Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon a remarkably interesting story despite following more or less the usual tropes. I really hope that second anime season does eventuate because reading the books there is so much great stuff still coming and I’d love to watch it someday.

DanMachi - characters

If you missed it, check out YumDeku’s OWLS post from yesterday and be sure to check out Dale’s post tomorrow. The full schedule for the month is here.

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OWLS Blog Tour: The Pride of the Protagonist

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Here we are in June and I’m writing my second post for OWLS (OWLS stands for Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect). I will admit, it took me a bit to get going with this month’s theme but I’m pretty happy with the end result.

For those who don’t know: OWLS  are a group of otaku bloggers who promotes acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability. OWLS emphasise the importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being. Each month, OWLS will look at a specific theme. If you want to know more, please do click on the logo in the side bar.

The theme for May: Pride

In honour of “Pride Month,” we will be discussing the word, “Pride” and its meaning. We will be exploring pop culture characters’ most satisfying and joyful achievements or skills that they possessed and whether or not these qualities could be seen as a positive or negative aspect in their personal lives and/or society.

The Pride of the Protagonist

I really struggled with this theme at first. Mostly because for me ‘pride’ is one of those double edged swords. Characters with too much pride annoy me as they come off as arrogant. Characters with too little pride also annoy as they come off as doormats. Though it is much the same in real life. I feel people need to have pride in themselves but it shouldn’t cross the line into being egotistical or conceited. And I kind of looked at this issue when I wrote a feature back in 2016 on anime characters who want to be the very best (no Pokemon in the post but a focus on Ichigo from Bleach and Light from Death Note).

ichigobankai2

However, my personal thoughts on pride aside, in narratives pride is a driving force for characters. For better or worse, characters can make decisions and take actions to protect their pride and this moves both the characters and the plot forward. Still, at times you have to question what that pride is based on and whether or not it was particularly beneficial to act in that way.

For anime I’m watching at the moment, the immediate one that sprang to mind when thinking about whether or not pride was helpful is Record of Grancrest War. Now, there’s a lot of questionable decisions in the narrative outside of character motivations and yet I think a lot of the audience would be happy to accept a lot of the things that have happened if the character motivations would make sense.

Grancrest11e

Now we could look at the choices made by so many characters in this anime. Marrine deciding she has to unify the continent herself and willing to even resort to chemical warfare to achieve that end. Milza being Milza. The number of commanders who have ridden out to their deaths rather than surrendering. The number of characters who have committed suicide upon losing a battle (and has anyone ever inquired as to the mental health of the mages because they seem particularly suicidal). But instead of looking at all of that, because it is messy and doesn’t relate well to other stories that actually have some logic behind them, I want to look at Theo and his decision to face Milza in a one-on-one fight.

Realistically, this just reminded me of Sarah in the Labyrinth:

Sarah: No! I have to face him alone.

Didymus: But why?

Sarah: Because that’s the way it’s done!

Didymus: Well, if that is the way it is done, then that is the way you must do it. But, should you need us…

Hoggle: Yes, should you need us…

Sarah: I’ll call.

Labyrinth.jpg

So, why does she need to face the Goblin King alone? She has a whole group of friends waiting and yet she’s going to go fight the guy with magic powers by herself, armed with… Confidence she’s the protagonist so it will all work out somehow? Even as a kid, this scene never sat well with me.

As does Theo’s decision to fight Milza one-on-one. It has already been established that Milza is by far the stronger fighter of the two. Despite Theo’s preparations to wear down Milza’s army and to isolate him, fighting him by himself is pretty much suicidal, given that in a realistic world, Milza would have broken through Theo’s defense and killed him early on.

That isn’t what happens though. Instead, Milza beats away at Theo, hitting his guard and sword continuously, and in the process he wears himself out before Theo prattles at him and then runs him through. And once again, we get an excellent look at why pride is not a useful trait for character survival when Milza is given an opportunity to just surrender and flat out turns it down allowing Theo to kill him and somehow justify it.

Milza

An argument could be mounted that Theo has to beat Milza to prove he is worthy of leading the alliance and inheriting Vilar’s crest, but realistically if Theo lead the army that reclaimed the castle and wiped out Milza’s troops, would it matter if Theo had actually personally killed Milza. Furthermore, would it have mattered if the other characters had brought Milza down to the ground where Theo could have still walked up and done his little speech and offered Milza a chance to live before delivering the finishing blow?

But let’s expand that argument to more or less any story about a lone hero who rises up and some of the convoluted reasons narratives come up with as to ‘why’ they end up facing the villain alone.

Lethal Weapon gives us an excellent example of this in the fight of Riggs vs Mr Joshua. They are fighting on the lawn, literally surrounded by police all armed with guns, and yet they continue a smack down. Running around the perimeter, we see Murtaugh claiming he’ll take responsibility as it is Riggs’ arrest and the others shouldn’t interfere.

Um…

I’m not sure where that fits into any kind of standard police procedure or common sense. It makes for a great fight sequence. We get to see how tough Riggs is and how awesome he is at fighting. We also get to see him being the benevolent man and not killing Mr Joshua, you know, until Mr Joshua grabs a gun. But it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense.

From a character point of view, we can see why Riggs wants to fight him. That is clear. And the reason he might want him dead. But that drive, his sense of pride in wanting to be the one to take him down, is pretty silly in the grander context leaving him quite badly injured and almost killed. More importantly, despite what Mutaugh is saying, I’m not sure the rest of the police would just chill and watch for the sake of Riggs’ personal vendetta.

Over and over again we see these kinds of protagonists who push the limits and boundaries in the pursuit of defending their pride. And while there might seem to be something noble about this particular action, the end result is something that seems slightly faulty to me. To assume that an achievement is one you cannot be proud of unless you do it alone is really inaccurate and realistically, collectively having pride in the achievements of a group is more likely to lead to social cohesion than lauding individual achievements. Would Theo have been any less a character for not facing Milza alone? Would Sarah have failed to realise she could beat the Goblin King if Hoggle and Sir Didymus have accompanied her? Would Mr Joshua be any less dead or arrested if the full force of the police had simply swarmed him on arrival at the scene?

Grancrest22e

Having pride is important as people all have value. But protagonists regularly go too far. They cross the line into believing that they must stand alone and it is only their strength that will succeed. While it definitely makes for some great viewing and has lead to some truly epic scenes, the application of this kind of pride into the real world would definitely be problematic.

So let’s bring this back to Pride Month. Pride Month isn’t about the lone wolf going off to bring down the villain in a showy display of individual strength and self-glorification. Being acknowledge for either your individual self or for your achievements (both individual and collective) don’t equate to tearing someone else down.

In that sense, Sailor Moon with her ‘love and friendship’ mantra is probably a better role model as she reaches out to her friends for support when facing her enemies and even reaches out to her enemies where possible.

Sailor Moon I Need You.gif

The Schedule for June: 

5: Matthew Castillo (Matt-in-the-Hat)

7: Mel (Mel in Anime Land)

12: Zoe (Let’s Talk Anime)

14: Mistress of Yaoi (Yaoi Playground)

15: Zel (Archi-Anime)

17: Karandi (100 Word Anime)

18: Irina (Drunken Anime Blog)

19: Naja B. (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero)

20: Marth (Marth’s Anime Blog)

21: Dylan (DynamicDylan)

22: Gloria (The Nerdy Girl News)

23: Marina (Anime B&B)

24: Dale (That Baka Blog)

25: Gigi (Animepalooza)

26: Takuto (Takuto’s Anime Cafe)

27: Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews)

28: Crimson (Crimson is Blogging)

29: Carla (PopCultureLiterary)

30: Matt (MattDoyleMedia)

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January OWLS Post: Accepting Being Rebuilt

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Welcome back to a new year and a new OWLS blog tour. This month we are looking at the theme of metamorphosis.

A brand new year means new beginnings and opportunities. We have a tendency to embrace the new year because it’s a time when we can start fresh. For this month’s topic, we will be exploring our favourite dynamic characters who undergo changes for better or for worse. We will analyze these characters’ transformations and how these transformations benefited or minimized these characters’ potential in becoming “great people/beings.” We will also use these characters as a way for us to reflect on our own lives and who we want to become.

We all know that life is about continuous growth and change. Our bodies and minds are transformed every day, sometimes in small ways and other times in ways we could not have imagined. Not all of these changes are good but whatever changes come our way we need to find a way to cope with them and to deal with them.

Admittedly, for most of us these changes are not as drastic as the ones that Shinichi faced in Parasyte.

For Shinichi in between going to sleep one night as a normal high schooler and then waking up after a bad nights sleep and terrible dreams, his whole world and his body had changed. Though technically only half of that statement is true.

The world had already changed with parasytes already being fairly embedded within the population and murders already occurring. What changed for Shinichi was he gained an awareness of a reality he’d previously been either oblivious too or disconnected from.

And that happens a lot in our own lives. We learn something or experience something that makes us feel like the entire world has suddenly shifted. But really, the only thing that has changed is we are now aware of the situation. But that awareness brings new possibilities for action (or even the choice to close the door on it and now wilfully ignore something). In Shinichi’s case, becoming aware of the threat to humans gave him choices and while at first it seemed he was overwhelmed by the new reality he adjusted.

What took him longer to adjust to were the specific changes to his body. His right hand was eaten and taken from him. In its place was Migi, a parasyte with a mind of its own that didn’t always do as Shinichi wanted. Sometimes that worked in his favour when Migi would react to external threats faster than Shinichi could and other times it worked against him when Migi decided not to cooperate. However, Shinichi was faced with a situation where he had to learn to cooperate. Ignoring the reality of Migi was not an option. And while Migi certainly came with perks and enhancements, for Shinichi his body seemed no longer under his own control and at first that left him feeling quite despondent and helpless. But overtime, he found a way to accept Migi and even ended up feeling quite sad when Migi’s consciousness bid him farewell.

It’s a feeling anyone who has suffered an injury knows well. When you’ve broken a bone or torn tendons or ligaments (or worse though hopefully not), limbs suddenly don’t response the way they are supposed to. Even after they heal, they are never quite the same and sometimes you need to relearn skills or ways around basic activities that never used to give you problems. It can be tiring and frustrating and a feeling that somehow you aren’t in command of your own body. However, overtime while it might never be the same, it may get significantly better or easier to accept.

Though that is just looking at the physical changes. Shinichi’s metamorphosis went significantly further, particularly after Migi saved his life by repairing damage to his heart and chest meaning parts of Migi became spread throughout Shinichi. Shinichi became colder and less emotional and this pushed distance between him and his human friends.

Again, most of us haven’t had an alien parasyte fuse with our bodies but the idea of feeling removed from people you used to be close to and unable to connect with those around us is one most people can understand. Whether because of anxiety, depression, or just growing apart, it is a feeling a lot of us have experienced and can relate to.

Arguing whether Shinichi was a better person before or after his transformation is kind of pointless. Shinichi was fine as he was. The kind of shy high schooler with his crush on the girl. He may not have been about to change the world but he was living his life the best way he could. Shinichi after the transformation looked and acted differently, but that shy boy was still a part of him, as was his crush on the girl. With the knowledge he’d gained about the threat to the world and the strength he’d acquired he was set on a different path, but it wasn’t better or worse than where he’d started. Just different.

For me, Shinichi kind of demonstrates something that is worth remembering. Some changes you choose yourself and others happen to you, but the most important thing is what you do after the change has happened and how you react to it. In 2019, life is going to happen. Things will change. Big things and small. The question is how will you react when these changes affect you?

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

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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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OWLS Blog Tour: One Foot In Front of the Other

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Welcome to my August OWLS post. This month we explore the theme of Journeys and it has been an exciting month with so many great posts already coming out. The schedule is below so if you missed any posts you can be sure to catch them up.

OWLS  are a group of otaku bloggers who promotes acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability. OWLS emphasise the importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being. Each month, OWLS will look at a specific theme. If you want to know more, please do click on the logo in the side bar.

The theme for August: Journey

“We have all heard this saying in some shape or form: “Life is a journey.” We travel down a path in hope that we reach a goal or destination, but the travel in getting there isn’t always easy. Along the way, we encounter some personal struggles. It is in those moments where we must overcome an adversity to complete our journey or take a different route or path instead. In this month’s OWLS post, we will be discussing the personal journeys of pop culture creators, icons, and characters. We will explore the journeys that these characters went through, discuss the process and experiences they had on their journeys, what they discover about themselves, or share our own personal journeys.”

One Foot in Front of the Other

The Hero’s Journey is one of the most standard plots stories can deliver us. For people who shun cliche, generic, or ordinary narratives, this one is probably the one they like the least because we’ve seen it time and time again with almost no variation. But they kind of miss the point. While it might seem that a journey should be plot driven and surprising, what makes the Hero’s Journey worth following is the character themselves. It is their journey that we’re interested in.

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We all know that wherever we meet the hero, something is going to happen to take them from their ordinary life into the start of their journey (the call to action). We know that they’ll probably resist at first (sometimes a lot and sometimes not much) but they will eventually realise they need to go (accepting the call). Stuff will happen and there will be a set-back, generally speaking someone the hero knows will die or suffer some consequence because the hero wasn’t yet strong enough or has made a mistake (defeat). However, because this is a hero’s journey, they will rise up and overcome that weakness before succeeding in some way (rebirth/atonement). And lastly they will return home their character forever changed by the events they have experienced.

It is a story we know well. It comes straight out of mythology from almost every culture and remains practically unchanged into the modern world. We may make our protagonists more edgy, self-aware, glib, or whatever, but they are all still walking this same path.

I thought really long and hard about what example to use for this particular theme and I ended up being overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices. However, I ultimately decided to focus on a journey that I got to experience in a more personal manner. So I turned to Lara Croft’s journey in Tomb Raider (2013), as you actually get to walk this journey with the protagonist.

tomb10

What I think is worth remembering about all of these journey’s is that while the character in question, in this case Lara, do have an end goal when they are called to action, finding out what happened to her father, the steps in between are always shrouded a bit in mystery. The character makes a choice in an effort to get closer to their goal and then they are forced to react to the world and the problems that their choice has brought them.

For anyone who has played Tomb Raider, you will know that you spend quite a lot of time running, avoiding capture, and figuring out if you should try for a more careful approach or just go in with your bow and hope the opponent doesn’t have a gun.

See Lara ends up in a situation she never even imagined. After getting washed up on the beach after the storm sends the boat onto the rocks, she’s hurt and alone and left with very little equipment. She literally has to take it one step at a time as she figures out what is happening on this tropical island and slowly builds up her weapons and abilities, learning from experience and growing after each encounter.

There are no short cuts on this journey. No steps that can be skipped. Every experience is a valuable one in preparing Lara for what is to come. And while you might be able to predict more or less what is coming next in any sequence as this is a fairly familiar tale, it remains engaging and exciting because Lara as a character is someone you want to see succeed.

tomb9

And that’s the true beauty of the hero’s journey. It doesn’t matter that we’ve seen this story before. It really doesn’t. Because when executed well it is gloriously engaging. We see our own lives reflected in it where we set a goal for ourselves but the steps that we will take to get there are dictated by circumstances and unexpected obstacles will find their way onto our path and we’ll have to react to them. We learn as we go. We learn from failure. We also get hurt and knocked down but then we need to choose. Do we get back up and try again or do we hit the exit button and leave the game entirely?

The Schedule for August (be sure to check out any posts that you have missed):

4:  Shay (Anime Reviewer Girl)

7: Takuto (Takuto’s Anime Cafe)

9:  Matthew Castillo (Matt-in-the-Hat)

12: Lita (Lita Anime Corner)

13: Shoka (Shokamoka’s Blog of Wonders)

15: Moonid

16: Jack (The Aniwriter)

17: Z (aniblogplay)

18:  Dale (That Baka Blog)

21: Marth (Marth’s Anime Blog)

22: Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews)

23:  Mel (Mel in Anime Land)

25: Dylan (DynamicDylan)

26: Marina (Anime B&B)

28: Steph (TwoHappyCats)

29: Karandi (100 Word Anime)

30: Megan (Nerd Rambles)

31:  Rai (Rai’s Anime Blog)


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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