January OWLS Post: Accepting Being Rebuilt

OWLS Post Image

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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PARASYTE: THE MAXIM [LIMITED EDITION]
PARASYTE: THE MAXIM [LIMITED EDITION]

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Horror Anime Released in the Last 5 Years

Tuesday's Top 5

It is seriously hard to find a good horror anime and that isn’t surprising given how few are released in general (when compared with the plethora of isekai stories or cute girls doing whatever anime). But it does make it hard to do a Halloween anime list each year when very little has changed. So to shake things up, this year I’m just looking at my favourite horror anime released in the last 5 years (so since the beginning of 2014). My only requirement for this list is that I enjoyed the anime and it is tagged as a horror anime. That said, I’d love to know your favourites so please leave me a comment below with some of your recent favourite horror anime.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions: Devilman Crybaby and The Lost Village. Both had potentially good ideas but neither really worked for me in the end. Still, they are both better than the Ito Junji Collection anime.

Number 5: King’s Game

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It would be so wrong for me to not include King’s Game on this list. As terrible as it was, it was the kind of terrible that ended up just being a joy to watch. With a number of other bloggers on board watching this weekly ended up being pure fun even as the show descended into every sillier lows (I’m still stuck on the girl who was on fire calmly spouting exposition before jumping). It is ridiculous, over the top, violent, and mostly senseless, but it is still one of the most entertaining horror anime I’ve watched in a while.

Number 4: Ajin

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Okay, creepy animation style aside, Ajin delivered a fairly compelling plot and an interesting cast of characters. Did it always use them to their best advantage? Not so much, but Ajin did manage to keep me entertained. Whether it was the tense feeling of needing to escape, the horror of confinement and human experimentation, or the outright shock and gore of some fairly bloody fight sequences, Ajin delivered and it did it with style and consistency for the most part.

Number 3: Parasyte

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There’s something genuinely unsettling about the idea of having your hand eaten and replaced by a parasitic being that awakens you by lamenting that it didn’t manage to eat your head. Throw in the cold and alien intelligence with no regard for life outside of its own survival and you have the makings of a really interesting story. Now, Parasyte may not have lived up to the expectations set by its premise and it did have a lot of wasted side quest moments, but the core story is one that provides plenty of unsettling moments and if you want blood you will certainly find that here.

Number 2: Tokyo Ghoul

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Speaking of blood, Tokyo Ghoul managed to slip in to the time frame and so I had to include it. Season one begins with a lot of gross out body horror with slicing and dicing and vomiting. It’s a generally visually disturbing opening to a show that continues to bring shocks and grossness with over the top violence, cannibalism, and finally descending into a slow torture sequence before ending its first season with a bang. While the narrative has its issues and the pacing is all over the shop, if you want something that knows how to get a visceral reaction out of an audience, Tokyo Ghoul is going to do the trick (at least the first season did).

Number 1: School-Live!

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There’s not a lot I can say about this one without getting straight into spoiler territory but if you’ve never given this anime a go and you like horror at all, I’m just going to tell you to go watch the first episode and watch the whole episode. What you do after that is up to you but if you are anything like me you’ll be hooked. Again, the mid-season of this anime flounders a bit but with a solid opening act and some genuinely horrific sequences for the cast coming your way, this one is well worth watching and attempting to watch cold. The less you know the more impact it is going to have.

Have I missed your favourite horror anime released since 2014? Let me know your picks in the comments below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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DANCE IN THE VAMPIRE BUND: COMPLETE SERIES

Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Characters That Creep Me Out

Tuesday's Top 5

Here we are and it is October and this year I’m going to be running Halloween themed top 5’s all month long (not that Halloween is actually a thing where I live but any excuse to dust off some of my favourite anime and characters). Starting out with this list of anime characters that I just find disturbing or unsettling for whatever reason. I will admit, it was a tough list to narrow down but I’m pretty happy with the final list. But as always I would love my readers to join in the fun and share their top 5 creepy character lists in the comments below. Hopefully you like my list.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions: Miki (Parasyte) and Tsukiyama (Tokyo Ghoul).

Number 5: The Millennium Earl (D Gray Man)

The Millennium Earl - D Gray Man

Look, the guy has a permanent smile that is almost bigger than his head and the deals he offers people are worse than any deal you could make with the devil. He’s responsible for so much misery and pain and he does it all with that ridiculous grin and a laugh. So many characters claim they are going to destroy the world but I actually came to believe the Millennium Earl would eventually succeed in D Gray Man and given the story isn’t finished let’s just say he’s currently winning.

Number 4: Hisoka (Hunter x Hunter)

I probably don’t need to explain why I consider Hisoka a creepy customer but right from the first time he graced the screen in Hunter x Hunter he left me unsettled. He’s a little bit violent, a little bit sadistic, gets way too in to his pursuits, and seems to be entirely indifferent to any kind of moral code outside of his own. That and his fixation with Gon at times is very creepy. Still, I’m thinking if I ever end up in an anime world and see someone who even looks vaguely like Hisoka coming I’m running for it (not that it will do me much good mind you, but it might make me feel better).

Number 3: Urado (Ghost Hunt)

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Probably not a well known character given Ghost Hunt isn’t the most popular anime out there, but while most of the ghost stories the characters encounter in the various arcs are more interesting than scary Urado is one character who could definitely leave you with nightmares. That’s probably because unlike so many of the other stories, Urado seems to be based off of tales of real life figures like Elizabeth Bathory and the like so with a more familiar context, and a lot of blood, Urado managed to really get under my skin for the brief time he was in the story.

Number 2: Megumi (Shiki)

Shiki - Megumi

No surprise Megumi made the list. It isn’t that I’m actually scared by Megumi, but there’s that scene where she slides out from under the bed and no matter how many times you watch it, it is still unbelievably creepy. That and Megumi is just so incredibly malicious in the way she attacks people as a vampire. She well and truly earned her number two spot.

Number 1: The Colossal Titan

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Right, so future revelations in the story may have reduced the impact, but The Colossal Titan appearing behind the wall was one of those moments where you just kind of stared at your screen and froze. They really just nailed the perfect combination of factors to make this character someone who would lodge in your memory and haunt your dreams well and truly after watching the episode. For me, no other titan since has had as much impact, not even that insanely creepy smiling one.

There you have it. My top 5 anime characters that creep me out. Now it is your turn so remember to share below.


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Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime That I’d Like To Rewrite

Tuesday's Top 5

Now I would like to note that I don’t think I’d actually do a good job or rewriting the story, but there are anime that I really like to see go in a slightly different direction than what they did. It’s entirely my own personal choices and I’m sure there are viewers out there who like these anime exactly as they are. That said, I am not just picking anime that are terrible but rather anime that are pretty reasonable as they are but just thinking about what personally I would have liked to have seen changed. On recently completing a tag where I was asked what cross over I’d like to see, I started thinking about how I’d like to modify a few anime and so this list was born.

As always, I’d love for you to share your choices and reasons so please leave me a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mention: Vampire Knight – A little less twilight and a little more of the politics of the vampire world and I probably would have really loved that anime.

Number 5: Chaika Coffin Princess

Chaika is an interesting anime to discuss because it is actually quite a fun watch. However, most of the fun comes from the characters themselves and individually scenarios and action sequences. The over-arching plot is a bit of a mess and is ultimately pretty rushed to a conclusion at the end of season 2. I’d love to see this story redone with the time and attention it needs to really build up the different Chaika’s and their mission as well as the conspiracy and ultimately I’d love to see some of the other factions and groups get more time to feel like real characters rather than simply obstacles to overcome. As much as Chaika is an anime I enjoy, I really think there is a potentially much better story that could be told with a bit of rewriting.

Number 4: Junjo Romantica

Romantica

Right, so I’m not going to pretend this particular anime is problem free. It is quite a popular title mostly because of the particular niche market it fits into and the absence of other titles that actually get DVD releases outside of Japan in the particularly genre, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues. A number of reviews I’ve read come from people who outright skip episodes focused on one of the three main couples due to those problems. For me the biggest issues come from episode 1 and how the relationship between Misaki and Usagi begins (which is to be honest a criminal act and while it isn’t that explicitly shown the fact that Misaki doesn’t immediately report Usagi leaves a fairly sour taste). And honestly, the power imbalance and the possessiveness shown between this couple right through to season three continues to be a bit of a problem for the show when it is trying to sell it as a true romance. I think though that if that first encounter wasn’t as confrontational and off-putting, the rest of it would be a lot easier to swallow so I’d love that first episode to get a rewrite. It would still be a problematic relationship, but it wouldn’t cross that particular line.

Number 3: Parasyte

Parasyte is one of those anime I really enjoy though for me the second half and then the ending feel very much like the show didn’t quite stick its landing. For all the excitement and tension early on in the show when the parasytes are mysterious and scary and Shinichi is dealing with coming to terms with sharing his body, the second half kind of loses a lot of its emotional tension and by the end when the show drops a save the environment message on the viewers lap it just doesn’t quite have the impact it could. I’d love to see this anime get rid of the super parasyte guy with four (?) parastyes in one body and actually just deal with the issue facing the world of humans being over taken. Rather than ending on a shounen style smack down it would be fantastic to actually just see the ongoing paranoia and fear as people aren’t sure what is going on. I’m not entirely sure how this would work as a show but I’d love to see it.

Number 2: Bleach

I love Bleach. I really do. It has a very special place in my heart when it comes to anime. But realistically I think you could tell the entire actual plot of Bleach in about fifty to sixty episodes if you cut out all the fluff, silliness, and unnecessarily long fight sequences. If we just wrote out the core story points and got rid of the extra characters, subplots, and random asides, we could have a much tighter, much more thrilling story and one that never felt bloated or weighed down. If anyone makes a Bleach abridged story, I’m totally in.

Number 1: Kado The Right Answer

Anyone who followed my reviews of this one will know how disappointed I was with the ending of this show. I really loved the set up and I was so into the story and then it decided to go for a standard fight sequence and a defeat the bad guy ending (with a time travelling daughter thrown in just for laughs I suppose). It was somewhat devastating to watching a show I’d really gotten excited for become something so standard and while it isn’t actually as bad as it sometimes feels, I’d love for this show to be rewritten with a different ending.

So those are the top 5 anime I’d like to rewrite (or see rewritten). What would be on your list and how would you change it?


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Karandi James

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Parasyte the Maxim Series Review

Parasyte the Maxim, a title which makes us wonder if we’ve just been misspelling parasite our whole lives while simultaneously wonder what on earth ‘the Maxim’ might be. Don’t get me wrong, I actually am a fan of this series but I’ve never quite figured out the title and unlike Bleach I just don’t feel the need to let this go. The words here look like they should make sense and convey something and yet they don’t really and it is all just a bit bizarre.

What is Parasyte about?

Well, it’s a bout a dorky ordinary guy who one night has a nightmare about some kind of snake crawling into his arm and then when he wakes up he realises the nightmare is just beginning. His arm has been eaten and a parasite, soon to be name Migi, now lives there. Migi of course is just upset that he couldn’t eat Shinichi’s head. The two have to learn to co-exist but that’s harder than it seems given the other parasites out there aren’t exactly playing nice.

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Despite being a fan of the series, and really enjoying the viewing experience, I have a few issues with it. Because of that, I’m going to do a plus/minus review format. There are some spoilers.

Plus +

The characterisation of Shinichi and Migi (the name Shinichi gives to the parasyte attached to his right arm – migi meaning right) is solid as is the relationship that develops between the two as they search for a way to co-exist. The blending of their personality traits as they literally become more interconnected is portrayed well and feels very realistic as are the reactions of those who know Shinichi and see the changes but can’t identify the cause. Plus, some of Migi’s descriptions of human behaviour are fantastic. They make you laugh but they make you think.

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Minus –

This anime treats every character other Shinichi as either an antagonist or canon fodder (okay that may be a slight exaggeration but only slightly). Quite literally every decent person in Shinichi’s life is either killed by Parasytes, nearly killed by Parastyes, or endangered by Parasytes that are trying to kill Shinichi. And while I get that in the beginning Shinichi is trying to keep his head down and stay out of conflict and one or two deaths are needed to really get him moving in the direction of the plot, some of the deaths are quite clearly the result of someone saying “Right, it’s been three episodes since we graphically slaughtered someone the audience can identify, who is our next victim?” Ultimately, what it means is we stop caring about the deaths, and even the impact on Shinichi begins to lose meaning. While there are one or two other characters that play genuine characters, the vast majority of the cast are victim or killer.

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Plus +

While many characters throughout discuss where the Parasytes came from or what their purpose is (several of the Parasytes also become curious about their origin and purpose beyond eat people), no definitive answer is given. Even though it is all but outright stated through some really unsubtle narration toward the end that the existence of the Parasytes is benefiting the planet through reducing the human population and making it more sustainable, we still don’t know who, what, how or why this took place. I quite liked that they didn’t try and pin it on some experiment gone wrong or aliens but they allowed our characters to continue their wondering about what the meaning of their existence might be (assuming it had any).

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Minus –

I’ll probably annoy some people with this one, but I’m putting the entire last episode and a good half of the second last episode as a minus. I loved this series, even with its shallow portrayal of characters and some plot issues, and then the end happened. Between pompous speeches, bad narration, and the need to really show us that the Parasytes weren’t actually the worst villain out there, the last two episodes are a mess of shifting tones and they talk down to the audience while adding a totally unnecessary conflict. That and it really seems unlikely that just when Shinichi and Migi come to some sort of understanding and manage to defeat the thing trying to kill them that all the other Parasytes would just decide they don’t actually need to be homicidal killers anymore. Plot convenience much?

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Plus +

The fights. Okay, if you are super critical of animation or logic, the fights probably won’t do much for you but I found them interesting to watch. The way each Parasyte employed it’s blades and the way the human hosts for the most part were all but stationary, leaving them vulnerable to attack was pretty interesting. And while this might have seemed odd, it makes sense that the Parasyte couldn’t control all those arms and blades and the human host simultaneously, and it was also necessary if Shinichi was ever going to get any kind of edge in a fight because he could control his body while Migi protected him from attack. Whichever way, I found the combat visually interesting and it fit with the story the way it was set up.

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Minus –

Why is Shinichi the only useful human? You have scientists and government organisations who are working on the problem and realistically they should have come up with something better than the plans they made. It just feels like these guys are made to be useless so that Shinichi still has a reason to exist in the plot because realistically he should have just laid low after taking out the first Parasyte that sensed him.

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All and all, this is a decent action anime that poses some interesting questions about human nature and the nature of life (even if none of them are particularly unique). I don’t like the way the end is handled but the series does conclude all the necessary plot points. Ultimately, if you enjoy the interactions between Shinichi and Migi you will have a lot of fun watching this anime. If you find these characters disengaging, you may well be better off passing. It is violent and gory, excessively so at times, and you really shouldn’t get too attached to many of the characters.

What is your opinion on Parasyte the Maxim?

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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PARASYTE: THE MAXIM [LIMITED EDITION]
PARASYTE: THE MAXIM [LIMITED EDITION]

Friday’s Feature – I Am Human

Anime does a lot of things. It shows us amazing places and takes us on wild adventures. It can make us laugh or cry or wince or groan. It can make our eyes widen in shock and it can bore us to tears. However, what it does every now and then is really make us think.

This is part of why I love stories. Even stupid comedies sometimes hold a much greater truth than we might realise and thinking about those themes and messages, while enjoying a great show, is really rewarding.

This week I want to look at anime that look at what it means to be human. And the list is huge and there are plenty of amazing quotes and gifs out there that deal with this and I’m sure that people will tell me I missed some of the most obvious in the discussion below. I will say I deliberately have avoided Evangelion. At some point I’m going to get into that anime on this blog and I’ll leave that discussion for that later.

Now, some anime are pretty heavy handed when making a statement or delivering a moral message. One that immediately springs to mind is Parasyte. This is a really enjoyable anime but the conflict of our main character, Shinichi, as he wonders whether he is human or not after his arm is taken over by a parasite and his ongoing moral dilemmas about killing people, fighting and the like is anything but subtle.

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Basically Shinichi wants to protect people from the parasites but is too weak to do this by himself. So he is forced to cooperate with Migi (the name he gave the parasite that is his right hand) in his attempts to protect his friends, family and occasional random stranger. However, Migi isn’t all that cooperative. He doesn’t see the point in risking his own existence for another. Cue long conversations about right and wrong and the value and meaning of life.

While it might sound like I’m belittling it, I’m not. I really loved Parasyte and at least it didn’t try to be smarter than it was. Both Shinichi and Migi evolved as characters through gaining insight into the others point of view. The blending of what is originally a clear binary opposition and what the compromise looks like really is the take-away from the show and leaves you wondering where you would have ended up if placed in a similar situation.

Then we have Gundam, a franchise that is so heavy handed with the morals and messages that at times it is difficult to see individual characters as anything other than the voice of whatever moral viewpoint they have been appointed at that point in the plot. While most of these revolve around war and the futility of fighting and dying while also trying to acknowledge the necessity of these things, they also sometimes dive headlong into the overall discussion of what it means to be human and what motivates us to act.

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Asking why sometimes seems incredibly futile but it is these questions and reflections that actually make up the stronger emotional side of several of the Gundam series (you know, the parts that aren’t giant robots shooting or stabbing each other). The strength of Gundam is the sheer number of characters which gives more or less every audience member someone to agree with in terms of how they feel about the essential weakness of the human character.

Yet life and death aren’t the only elements of what it is to be human. Golden Time tackles several questions about the human experience including a sense of self and personal identity as well as how we define ourselves through relationships. And it is on how we create and maintain relationships with others that Golden Time really manages to shine.

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The other questions the show asks always feel a little forced given most of us aren’t an amnesiac with a dual personality caused by the soul of our past self trying to bump out the soul of our present existence. It kind of makes it hard to relate to. However, the romance and the heart break and how we deal with others, that we can watch and understand and really feel for some of these characters even as we wonder how we would cope in such a situation.

But if you were after an anime that decided to tackle identity, Charlotte gives it a good go, though you may find this theme hard to follow as at times it confronts it head on and at others it leaves you to fill the gaps in how the characters respond.

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Although, reading the quote above I’m always reminded a little bit of Alice In Wonderland and begin wondering, “Who Am I?”

Then we have the sheer number of ‘inhuman’ characters who cast their judgement on the human race. Which of course leads to the I know that this character was actually created by a human so it’s a human pretending to be a demon/ghost/arbiter/god/whatever speaking about their views of humanity. We very recently had an example in Twin Star Exorcists of this when one of the Kegare asked Benio if she remembered all the ants she’d ever stood on. This probably would have been more affective if it wasn’t a reasonably clichéd line from an overpowered non-human character.

But this trope can actually be done well. Sebastian from Black Butler makes numerous observations about human nature, usually in comparison to himself. He generally views humans with disdain and so lumps most of humanity into very overly generalised groups but at the same time, it is difficult to argue with his conclusions at times.

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Though demons and devils in anime are regularly used to make us wonder who the real demons are as we frequently have human characters acting far worse than the demons within particular stories. Works symbolically but one has to wonder where all the good, old-fashioned demons have gone.

However, I don’t want this post to get too caught up in the ins and outs of philosophy in anime. Keep in mind, mostly it is a form of entertainment. So sometimes, even in anime that seem like they are working very hard to have a serious message, you get a comment so off the wall it just kind of sticks with you. Hence, Potato Girl from Attack on Titan.

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So what animes have made you think about what it means to be human? Or just made you laugh with an incredibly obvious observation (such as people die when they are killed). I’d love to know.

Pre-order Parasyte through Hanabee

So this is great news:

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If you’re in Australia or New Zealand you should check this out on the Hanabee site. The image is from the website and this is only part 1 of the series but still good news.