Eden of the East Series Review – An Interesting Look At ‘Saving’ A Nation

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Eden of the East Overview:

Eden of the East takes place after an event known as careless Monday (a bunch of missiles hit Japan but there were no casualties).

Saki finds herself travelling in America before beginning her first job. She wants to make a wish but after throwing a coin over a fence in Washington she is confronted by police. A naked man comes to her rescue and ends up travelling back to Japan with her, after taking the name Akira from a whole bunch of passports he found in his house (yeah he has amnesia).

Eden of the East Review:

While I’ve watched the series for this a number of times I haven’t yet watched either of the films that follow on from it (despite having them sitting in the DVD case with the series). I don’t know why I haven’t gotten around to the films although my cheap justification will be that I’m worried that any further explanation of events may very well undermine what is a fairly solid series.

Eden of the East

I decided to write this review after my Top 5 about characters with convenient missing memories because it got me thinking about Akira again. This series is really enjoyable and has some interesting ideas in it, but it kind of lacks cohesion at times.

Because of this, I’ve decided to take a plus/minus approach to Eden of the East. Before I get into that though, just saying that this story has politics, nudity, terroist attacks and some heavy commentary about capitalism.

Plus +

Eden of the East has a compelling story as we see the Selecao (characters armed with a phone and a large amount of money) pursue their own agendas and tasked with the very vague goal of saving Japan. It’s an interesting set up. While it might be compared with Future Diary (unidentified characters with phones competing against one another), Eden of the East takes this in a very different direction.

The stakes aren’t some supernatural god-hood (Future Diary or even Platinum End style) and the phones really don’t achieve anything that cannot actually be achieved with money (and a large imagination that allows for transactions to occur instantly with no miscommunications). I really enjoyed the political aspects of the show as well as the character driven moments between Akira and Saki.


Minus –

Possibly the story is too ambitious. We have multiple characters all trying to achieve this goal (or at least giving lip service to this goal while going their own way) but the focus is firmly on Akira and his interactions with these characters.

So in addition to following Akira on his journey to remember what happened, and achieve his goal, we have other characters sometimes opposing Akira, sometimes doing something totally unrelated to Akira but there’s a thin cross over so that they have some reason for appearing at all, and we also have Saki and her friends who are serving as the everyman in the series so that the storyline doesn’t become too inaccessible. And honestly, with the short run time, some of these characters and developments could have been cut so that more time could have been spent on a central narrative.

Admittedly, it is clearly a stylistic choice to have an ambiguous plot that comes together toward the end but it does make you wonder whether the story could have been enjoyed in a more straight forward manner.

Plus –

Saki is not the oblivious, blank slate female that is getting duped by Akira. Nor is she the damsel in distress. While she isn’t privy to a lot of what happens in the series, she continues to ask questions, to have suspicions, to demand explanations, and when she’s actually convinced of something she takes action. It would be a stretch to say that she is a strong character, but she is a very relatable character.

Uncertain about her future, plunged into a situation beyond her control, crush on a guy that may or may not be trouble, trying to establish clear relationship boundaries with friends and potential but dismissed boyfriends, and going through family issues. Again, the short run time really stops us from delving into any depth with her character, there’s certainly enough there to see her as an interesting character and not a cookie cutter place holder.


Minus –

The rest of Saki’s friends aren’t particularly interesting or developed and given the scope of the rest of the story their moments feel like they are really just in the way. While they do get tied in nicely to the finale of the series, it feels like we could have had less in the group and spent more time learning who they were so that we actually cared about them beyond the fact that they were Saki’s friends.

Plus +

Eden of the East has a really diverse range of settings. We start in America before crossing back to Japan. We see Saki interviewing for a job in an office, the room her friends meet in, the various places Saki and Akira go while travelling around, the shopping mall that Akira apparently lives in, a hospital, hotel, and the list continues.

That said, we never feel lost in this anime. We aren’t just zipping around from location to location. Each place feels meaningful and it feels like the characters are interacting with the world the way people do. We aren’t static and just following the same paths every single day (or at least we like to believe we aren’t), and Eden of the East feels like it understands that.


Minus –

The ending of the series does offer some resolution but the story isn’t finished. The immediate crisis of the series is averted and Akira uses his money for something that seems wholly ridiculous and yet kind of gives the final episode a feeling of finality. As I said earlier, I haven’t watched the movies yet, and it seems like these will continue on and give a bit more closure, but for once I kind of like the ambiguity of this ending.

It really feels like there isn’t going to be a satisfying answer and imaging the possible outcomes has been quite fun. But, it makes it difficult to recommend a series when you know it doesn’t finish in a way that most people would call finished.

Plus +

This series has a great balance of drama, plot movement, character development, and the occasional comedic moment to keep things moving. While it isn’t an anime that reels from one emotion to the next and the tone is fairly level throughout, there is some great writing that keeps the audience engaged. There’s definitely some sad moments but there are also smiles and some really fascinating interactions.


Minus –

A very minor minus. I don’t like the explanation we’re given for how Akira came to have his memory erased. This is kind of a critical plot point and revelation and I just found it kind of blah. It seemed really stupid and unnecessary and yet it is quite obvious the story doesn’t work without Akira having his memory removed.

I really, really wish they’d come up with a better reason as to how we got to that starting point because this is the point that always makes me roll my eyes when I watch this series.

Final selling point: There’s a dog with wings (not real ones unfortunately). That is all kinds of cute.

eden of east.jpg

If you’ve watched Eden of the East, let me know what you think. If you’ve watched the movies let me know if I should get on that right away or whether it’s okay to let it sit for a bit longer.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Shiki Series Review – My Kind of Slow and Creepy Horror

Shiki Review

Shiki is a horror anime that came out in 2010 set in the small isolated village of Sotoba where life goes on the same way everyday despite the number of characters that seem dissatisfied with their everyday life. The story begins with the disappearance of Megumi, a girl who is desperate to leave the village and to shine in a big city one day. We soon learn of the events leading up to her disappearance and follow the villagers as they slowly become aware of the danger surrounding them.

It’s a slow burn of a story until the end where the villages understand everything and the mob arms themselves and then it does what horror anime tend to do at the end and all the carefully built up suspense kind of gets thrown out the window in a shower of blood and pretty fire. That said, the ending is conclusive, character arcs do come to a close of sorts during that climax, and for those who appreciate the slow reveal it makes this series feel genuinely like it was worth the time.

Yeah, and the creepy eye thing doesn’t get less creepy while watching.

There seem to be three views on Shiki that I have commonly encountered:

  • It’s boring and nothing happens.
  • It reignites classic horror.
  • It’s a great character piece that then throws itself under a bus for a gore filled ending.

The problem is you can’t actually disagree with any of these positions as you can see the reasoning for each. I loved Shiki. I fell in love with the characters and the community of Sotoba and the way the individual struggles play out even while the horror slowly consumes the village. I feel there’s a lot we can take from this in terms of the way we all get too involved in our own individual problems and lose sight of the bigger picture, much to our detriment and the detriment of the world at large.

Shiki is a slow burn but well worth the wait.

I also think they did a pretty good job of interweaving these stories and cutting between them so that we had a feeling of being in this village and experiencing the different perspectives of those who knew early on what was going on but were not believed and those who knew but denied what was happening, and finally those who remained in the dark until it was too late.

So here is my attempt at reviewing Shiki; examining the good and the bad and ultimately my reason why I would strongly recommend this as at least a once watch to anyone who enjoys a good horror story.

Shiki’s Characters:

Shiki has a really large cast. You have the elderly villagers who either sit gossiping at the bus stop or go about their jobs. You have the children and teens trudging to school or pursuing their individual dreams. You have the police, the council, the doctor and his nurses, the tradesmen, the priests and on and on it goes. What I love is that despite the small amount of time devoted to these characters, they seem genuine. You feel like you could go to this village and meet these people.

Natsuno shines as the teen dragged from the city by his parents. His only desire is to finish school and get into college so he can leave the village. His cold views and analysis of other characters regularly puts him on the wrong side of an argument but he is a fascinating character to watch, particularly in the latter half of the series.

shiki 2.jpg

Muroi and Ozaki as the priest and the doctor to a wonderful job of creating opposing moral views on how to deal with the invasion of the village. Both ideals are flawed and neither side is really willing to compromise leading to the very tragic events at the end of the series. It’s interesting that Ozaki seems like the voice of reason for so much of the series but by the end becomes completely consumed by violence and Muroi who tries to sit on the fence is pushed into actions against other humans even as he realises he is in the wrong.

There are also some fantastic performances by the vampires (sorry, shiki) but it’s hard to really get into those characters without giving the plot away too much and in a horror/mystery you really don’t want to know too much about where it is going. That said, one of them does get a listing on my top 5 anime characters that creep me out so if you aren’t caring about spoilers, check that out.

But if the characters are the strength of the series, they are also what ultimately bring it down. The journey you go with these characters is long and you feel you know them, so as reason is tossed aside and they become involved in increasingly violent acts it can make you uncomfortable. Characters who are set up as good or nice meet tragic ends for no other reason than to play on the audience’s emotions and barbaric characters are seemingly glorified at times.

As for the main cast members, none of them could actually be described  as the hero of the piece. They are all just deeply flawed humans acting in their own self interest. While there is a great message in that, it does leave the audience with no one to really support during the final stages of the anime as even Natsuno and Ozaki, arguably the lead characters for the kids and the adults respectively, pursue their own vendettas in the finals episodes.


Shiki’s Plot:

I’ll try to avoid too many spoilers but the set-up involves a family of vampires (obvious to the audience from the start) have moved into the village and are using its isolated nature to their advantage as they believe no one would notice if the entire village became a vampire village. One by one the humans are dying and while at first they believe it is the work of an unusually hot season and then an epidemic, some members of the village begin to suspect more is going on.

This is a slow burning story that spends a lot of time building atmosphere and doesn’t try to do jump scares or excessive violence (until the ending – then it is the definition of excessive). Creepy music, long pauses, and dialogue full of double meanings abound while actual evidence is slow coming during the first half of the series.

The doctor’s exploration of the Shiki and their nature is incredibly cold and will have you questioning his humanity while the priest’s naïve attempt at bridging the gap between humans and shiki is equally doomed to fail. The kids just want to escape and the other adults just want to continue as they always have.

shiki 3

Once it is finally established that vampires are in fact present in the town, there is a dramatic shift in both tone and pacing. Time is divided between the various human characters and the vampires and their actions. The similarities between the two sides are continually emphasised.

Humans are faced with the prospect of killing their former loved ones (re-killing?) and the vampires are faced with the thought that they will need to kill, potentially their loved ones, to live. It is here we find the horror of Shiki. The questioning of the audience about what is right in such a situation. This is far more effective than any slaughter filled horror where vampires appear and devour their prey before being taken out in a shower of blood.

That said, early on you wonder why the characters are so slow to realise what is happening. You wonder what the end game could be. You also begin to wonder why the occasional absurdity is thrown in (such as the vampire run funeral which leaves the family of the deceased speechless). These moments that break the mood and disrupt the flow are frustrating. As is the ending itself. And while I won’t spoil it for those that haven’t already read about it or watched it, it just feels like they couldn’t think of any way to satisfactorily resolve the conflict.


Shiki Other:

I’ve already kind of discussed the village and its setting. The visuals are fantastic but the whole show leans towards a dark colour palette, so with the exception of Megumi  and Chizuru’s outfits, don’t expect much in the way of colour. The opening song is suitably creepy and the time skips forward and back are quite effective for showing multiple perspectives on events, and shining new light on events that you had already seen.

The entire anime is very much about building atmosphere and it is here that Shiki excels. The isolated setting, the sleepy pacing and creeping sense of horror, and the music all work together to weave together a fairly tight viewing experience with only a few moments that really break the flow.

Shiki Verdict:

I loved Shiki. I get why other people may find it boring and may dislike the ending. But for me, it was a great journey and gave me plenty to think about, and really, I can’t think of ending that would have been satisfying because it wasn’t that kind of anime. There wasn’t ever going to be a hero to swoop in and save the day, and if one had, it would have kind of invalidated everything that came before it.

What are your thoughts on Shiki? Or, what are some horror anime that have really worked for you?

Images from: Shiki. Dir. T Amino. Daume. 2010.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

3 Ways Magic Can Undermine Good Anime

Magic Undermines

“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Magic is one of those things that most of us take for granted in stories. Given our earliest bedtime stories contain tales of princesses kissing frogs and fairy godmothers who wave their wands and fix all problems it makes sense that we are trained to accept a certain amount of whimsy in our narratives. Those of us who veer into the fantasy and speculative genres further learn to suspend disbelief and embrace all manner of magical systems.

We’ll happily nod along as Ed explains the fundamental rules of alchemy to a layman (Fullmetal Alchemist) and are more or less willing to believe that there are cute little beings from other worlds who can grant wishes turning ordinary girls into magical ones and ultimately creating witches and disasters (Madoka Magica).

However there’s a genuine difference between suspending disbelief and suspending basic reasoning and common sense. Most viewers expect at least internal consistency or a reasonable explanation for how things play out within a story (some don’t but that’s fine). For me, nothing can more quickly undermine a story than the characters coming across a seemingly insurmountable obstacle and then one of the characters simply making it go away with some as yet unseen power or ability and no real consequence for them breaking pre-established rules. Maybe I’m just nit-picky. Okay, I know I’m nit-picky but I really do like things to at least make contextual sense even if outside of the narrative they make little sense.

While there are plenty of anime that I could look at that have at times been guilty of undermining their own narratives through the less than strategic use of a magical deus ex machina I’m going to focus on three examples and then turn the discussion over to you, my readers, for your own examples and opinions on whether it matters that the fictional magic make sense in an anime. Heads up though: spoilers below.

Example One

Sailor Moon S: The Movie has a number of issues outside of its use of power within the sailor moon universe. Basically it is an extended Sailor Moon episode with a villain of the week showing up aiming to freeze the planet and the only real character development comes from Luna’s sudden desire to be human for a day to make a human’s wish come true. However, as a Sailor Moon story it works as it brings all the usual Sailor antics into play including all the other scouts and Tuxedo Mask getting side-lined for the finale so that Usagi can save the day.

Sailor Moon in Sailor Moon S The Movie - using the imperium silver crystal

So far, so ordinary. The scouts transform and make magical fire, lightning and a range of other attacks appear out of nothing all the time. Plus they manage to avoid freezing to death while wearing leotards in a snow storm. Surely that kind of lets them do what they like in terms of magic within the story.

Except, it was well established pretty early on in Sailor Moon after Usagi first took possession of the silver crystal that using it came at a pretty big cost. Something that powerful would more or less make any kind of villain pointless so they needed to limit it in someway. Even within Sailor Moon S: The Movie, the other characters caution Sailor Moon not to use the crystal or she’ll die. The world is getting frozen, the scouts are out for the count, and they are still pleading with Usagi not to do it.

And then she does. Crystal comes out, lots of flashing light, and problem solved. As an added bonus, she wishes for Luna’s wish to come true, and ta-da. Zero consequences faced or explanation as to why she can suddenly just use the crystal to do whatever the narrative needs.

Realistically, this didn’t just make the end of this particular movie seem weak, it actually made most of the events in the Sailor Moon universe seem a little trite. If Usagi can actually wield the crystal without consequence, and make it do more or less whatever she needs it to do, why do the scouts even need to exist? For that matter, why do any villains ever get to attack Earth? Surely Usagi could just create a barrier around the planet and then go and get a milkshake.

This is a case where even a pre-existing magical McGuffin was poorly written within a story and the results were definitely less than satisfying even to a moon maniac like myself. This movie remains one of my least favourite entries into the Sailor Moon franchise.

Example Two

The Irregular at Magic High School has a really interesting take on magic. Rather than characters using spells and chants, they’ve combined magic and science and casters generally use a CAD (casting assistance device) to pretty much instantly produce magic. Essentially the magician provides the magic while the CAD contains the sequence and ensures the correct magical effect is actually produced.

However a CAD can only hold so many sequences and specialised CAD that produce very cool effects are even more limited in the number of sequences they can produce. Not to mention the devices are pretty costly and require fairly regular maintenance.

There’s been a lot of thought put into the system and it establishes why certain characters focus on particular kinds of magic and why casting speed is of great importance to the magicians. It also allows for new magical developments and through engineering and reprograming, tweaks to be made to existing magical effects.

All of that would be fine except that Tatsuya, the central character and the irregular, kind of does whatever he needs to do however he needs to do it. While it is established that he does things his own way early on in the series, his casting of a spell through snapping his fingers in season one and his solution to the final conflict in the Visitor Arc more or less make you wonder why anyone else bothers doing anything when he is around.


His favourite trick is largely just undoing other people’s activation sequences neutralising their magic. But there’s really yet to be any kind of magic or challenge that Tatsuya hasn’t been able to eventually see through or just make better with seemingly little effort. While it is nice to see a relatively self-assured protagonist who gets on with things without all the screaming and yelling, it is difficult to really feel a sense of tension in the story as we know Tatsuya is going to magically make everything all better again anyway.

And there is the narrative drama. Sure his friends might get caught up in situations or injured when he isn’t around. And there’s a whole bunch of political shenanigans going on around him that he has little control over and unless he wants to be a mass murderer all the power in the world won’t fix. But ultimately, once his power is unleashed and he’s decided to do something, it is more or less a given that he is going to succeed.

It will be interesting to see how the story deals with that and gets around him as the story progresses but having such a rule breaking main character has certainly created a few problems in terms of upping the stakes in a meaningful way.

Example Three

Finally, I am going to use an example that is actually a problem from the premise. Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card has always kind of bothered me. Not because of the story itself, because once it gets going it is the usual Cardcaptor kind of thing. Some kind of magical phenomenon occurs, Sakura goes to capture it using cards with powers she’s already captured. She combines them in interesting ways at times, but she’s been doing that since the beginning. Though getting Syaoran wings was a very cool use of her power and he looked utterly adorable.


My issue with Clear Card is that it feels like it undermines everything that came before it. We started off with Sakura collecting Clow cards that she let escape from the box. It was a straight forward issue of being her responsibility to catch them all given she was the one who unleashed them. The next drama involved turning the cards into Sakura cards and making them her own. That all makes perfectly logical sense.

Then to kick of Clear Card, Sakura has a dream and all the cards turn clear. It kind of feels like a fairly poor excuse to make Sakura, once again, go through the process of finding and catching each of these abilities. Once was logical. The second time was a reasonable build on the basic premise and had the added emotional high of seeing Sakura come into her own power. Clear card feels trite. Like next the cards will all turn black and she’ll have to face the darkness to reclaim them. Then they will all glow like rainbows. And so on and so forth to keep the franchise stretching literally forever.

Magic is a wondrous thing and Cardcaptor actually has a pretty good handle on its internal logic within each arc of its story. However, at some point it feels like the writers need to realise the idea has played out and that they need to move on.


Whether it is pulling magical powers out of nowhere without consequence, characters who already exist outside of established rules making tension and buy-in a challenge, or over-stretching a magical concept for the sake of perpetuating a franchise, none of these are complete deal breaks for a narrative. However, they do all show weaknesses of using magic within stories and some of the pit-falls that a story can fall into if the writers aren’t half-awake.

The magic of a good story happens when all of the ingredients work together. Magic isn’t an instant fix or an easy set up for a conflict. It is something that needs to be integrated into the world of the story and as such needs rules and limits in order for it to make sense and to provide satisfaction.

At least, that’s how I feel. But now I’m turning over to my readers and asking for your examples of magic that has undermined an anime or alternatively, situations where magic has been used really well to really make a story sing.

Images used in article from:

  • The Irregular at Magic High School: Visitor Arc. Dir. R Yoshida. Aniplex et al. 2020.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card. Dir M Asaka. Madhouse. 2018
  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal. Dir. M Sakai. Toei Animation. 2014

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

And With This Monologue I do Progress the Plot

Friday's Feature Banner Image

During the Autumn 2018 anime season, it occurred to me that there are some narrative devices I just don’t take seriously anymore. They may have at one point served a valuable narrative purpose or been written with thought and care, but now it seems as though every example I run across is either tongue-in-cheek satirising itself or is just an example of lazy writing. That isn’t to say there aren’t good examples of them, but the problem is that when a narrative device is used well it almost seamlessly fits into the story in such a way that you barely notice its existence.

Some spoilers below.


However the villain’s monologue is a device that you just have to wonder if it has outlived its usefulness. Or perhaps it is more the case where you have to wonder if writers even try anymore. It is almost as though we get to that almost climatic moment and in order to just get to the smack down as fast as possible they have a character just narrate and vomit exposition at the other characters to tie everything together.

It almost reminds you of that moment in Space Balls where the characters after explaining something to one another turn to the camera and ask the audience if ‘everybody got that’.

Spaceballs (movie) - Everybody got that.

Though, I will make one correction to what I said earlier. It wasn’t actually a villain who decided to monologue and exposition dump that really got my attention last season (mostly because I stopped watching Index and to be fair every character in that show is prone to lengthy exposition). No, it was Mei from Release the Spyce.

Yes, Mei had revealed herself to be a traitor to the rest of her posse of adolescent female spies and gone to the enemy. And then – here’s the big reveal – it turns out it was all part of a plan to double-double cross and actually bring down the bad guys (like we didn’t all see that one coming given the strong themes about the power of friendship and the like).

Release the Spyce Episode 12

However, despite this being revealed in about two lines of dialogue, Mei then proceeds to explain how it came about and was planned and executed, eating up valuable screen time, giving the villain time to prepare her next move, and more or less killing any pacing the episode may have had (so the theory that a monologue gets you to the fight faster doesn’t hold weight in this example). It was a disappointing choice in a series that had great potential early on but never could figure out its tone or characters and then didn’t manage to deliver a climax memorable for anything other than this particularly poorly delivered monologue and a villain whose kimono like outfit was strategically slashed mid-battle.

Now why this particular monologue isn’t necessary comes down to a few points. Firstly, Mei’s motives and actions aren’t that complicated. There’s nothing revealed that is actually necessary to understanding the plot or gives more insight into the character. Sure we get some particulars about when the plan started but that’s largely unnecessary noise and could have easily been left out or revealed later. Secondly, these characters all the way along were about not making stupid choices in battles. And gloating to the villain rather than actually doing something is a stupid choice. It just doesn’t make any practical sense.


Now, if we were to compare that to something like Death Note where both Light and L get numerous monologues (both internal and external) we can see why the ones in Death Note work better. Firstly, it is a consistent narrative device throughout the whole series. Secondly, the information revealed and the insight it gives to the characters is usually not something the audience could determine otherwise. I mean, realistically L doesn’t give a lot away with his actions or facial expressions. His expository moments are highly necessary to provide some context.

And finally, Death Note uses the monologues and exposition to really push the tension and drama of a scene. It isn’t a delaying tactic nor does it break the mood of the piece. It sets the tone and drives the scene rather than hindering its progress.

The Incredibles (movie) - "You Sly dog! You had me monologuing!

Basically, monologues get mocked, a lot, in stories. And a lot of the time they should be. They are intrusive, poorly conceived and barely useful. Ready Player One is jumping to mind right now given the sheer amount of internal monologues we are subjected to as the world is explained to us as if we couldn’t just see it on the screen – fully understand why they were needed in the book but they certainly weren’t once the story was moved to a visual medium.

However, it is important to remember that occasionally when a character starts a monologue, there’s a real reason behind it and there might be a solid narrative purpose. Just because we see this device misused so often doesn’t mean we should throw it out altogether. It just means we need to think about how it’s being employed and whether or not it is doing its job.

And let’s remember: if it’s in an anime, the main job is to entertain us. So I ask, are you entertained? What anime monologues have stuck with you? Were they good, bad, or somewhere in-between? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: What Went Wrong with Katsugeki Touken Ranbu?


When you have a show based on a game that you’ve never played you already know that there are going to be some parts of the show that you are just never going to get. They’ll be references or nods to the game and the fans and that is fine. You also don’t expect a plot that makes a flawless transition from game, where there is some level of interaction with a player, to anime, where the viewer is far more passive in their engagement with the story. That said, Katsugeki Touken Ranbu was a show that was being talked up prior to the summer season beginning. It was always going to be be compared to Hanamaru, the earlier adaptation that took a different direction and I dropped one episode in, but it was still seen by a lot of people in the community as the adaptation that would be superior.

We’re now a fair way in and to be honest this show has become a chore to watch. The good looking characters with cardboard personalities are all pretty forgettable save that they have different weapons and fighting styles and the audience still has been given zero reason to invest in any of the events occurring in the story. While there might be a bit more of a draw for people who have played the games as some of the missing pieces might be there, that doesn’t make this any better as an anime. So while I’m wondering whether I will watch the next episode or not I thought I’d consider everything that is actually stopping me from enjoying watching this show.


01. They are protecting history so the future doesn’t get changed. That seems like a fantastic motive really. Save the future. Only, other than the citadel where the swords all hang out with their master in between missions (or where they sit around and either heal or brood between missions) the audience has no clue what this future they are saving looks like or even if it is worth saving. For all we know the master is actually part of a totalitarian regime that is using personified swords to ensure the freedom fighters can’t undo their rigid control over the society. I don’t actually think that is likely, but the show has given me nothing to actually convince me I should be invested in saving this ‘future’. I don’t even know what it looks like.

More importantly, the swords themselves come from Japan’s past. They have no invested reason in saving a future they aren’t actually a part of other than their master told them to. What good does it do a sword for a future to change or not change? While yes it might be tragic even for a personified sword to see an innocent person cut down in front of them, how is that any more tragic than cutting their way through the enemy? Yet they seem to have no problem with that.


02. Who is the enemy? Yep, I know this should be obvious. They are fighting the Time Retrograde Army. They tell us this a lot. That’s great. Who are they? What is their motive? Other than changing history, what are they actually trying to accomplish? Where or when do they even come from? None of this has been addressed. Not through the main characters, not through narration, and certainly not through characterisation of the villains because they literally have none.

Instead we get shadowy monsters/warrior that appear, cause havoc, and then our good looking swords get to work slicing and dicing in some very cool action sequences but none of this involves actually making us care about either the protagonists or the villains in this story. Even the one villain that was apparently someone one of the sword guys knew and seemed to be creating members of the Time Retrograde Army didn’t get any kind of an explanation


03. So outside of not buying the protagonists’ motivation (because it hasn’t been fully explained nor have the consequences of failing), and not really buying the enemy as all that much of a problem (again, because no one has managed to really explain why it is a problem), we come to the characters themselves. We started with the second unit and met each of the characters. They even did a nice little round the circle introduction for us. Other than their name, their weapon, and perhaps one defining personality trait, the audience still has no clue about these characters. They are an outline or a shell of a cast but there is an incredible absence of actually rich characterisation. If the plot were compelling enough you could overlook this but we’ve already established that their overall mission may as well be ‘save the cheerleader’ for all the difference it would make to the audience at this point.


04. Then we have pacing issues. The early episodes in this series essentially went through a pattern of something ominous early in the episode, lots of sitting around and talking, followed by sudden spurt of action. Which means that for the majority of the episode, if you aren’t into the characters, nothing is happening. What is worse is that their conversations are very repetitive. Are we really preserving history? Seriously, how many characters are going to ask that or something similar and how many times will someone reply that they just need to complete their mission or that they are succeeding because their master said so?

Overall, there’s just no compelling reason to keep watching this show. Even if they do try  to give someone some actual motivation and even if there is some big fight between the swords and the army, what reason has the show given the audience to care at this point? Great music, cool visuals and fight sequences just aren’t enough in the absence of a compelling story or characters.

What are your thoughts on this anime?

Thanks for reading.

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Karandi James.


Tuesday’s Top 5: Characters Robbed By Plot

Tuesday's Top 5

This is another My Hero Academia inspired list after a discussion with a few people on Twitter and this comment:

Tweet - Robbed.JPG

Which got me thinking of all the times characters have lost out in anime because the plot demands they lose. There are a lot. Of course that is true of any narrative because sometimes you just have to let the protagonist win. Anyway, I made a short list of characters that I thought were genuinely robbed by the plot (robbed, mugged, gunned down and left to die, etc). I’d love to know who else you thinks needs to join the ‘they were robbed’ club so please share in the comments below.

Please Note – There will be major plot spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: This week my only honourable mention is going to every opponent in Katanagatari. Sorry guys, but each and every one of you was robbed of your chance of even getting an appearance in a second episode because the plot demanded you be met, challenged and defeated (okay, some of these guys did show up in episodes prior to their deaths and a few got flash backs after their deaths, but mostly they were all one episode wonders).

Number 5: JJ from Yuri on Ice


You know, I don’t actually want JJ to have won because he was incredibly obnoxious (even though he wasn’t technically an antagonist). That said, I think the plot really did run him down just for the fun of it and it was kind of unnecessary. In the first skate of the grand prix, JJ choked. Horribly. Considering his overwhelming confidence and presence in every other competition and that this wasn’t his first major competition it just seemed really kind of cruel and I actually felt sorry for the guy by the end of it. More importantly, it wasn’t necessary for him to do so poorly. When you look at the scores Yuri and Yurio ended up with, even if JJ had been at his best, the result probably would have been the same. So pretty much the plot ran him over for no reason and that actually cheapened the Yuri’s victory because they haven’t beaten JJ at his best.

Number 4: Manato from Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash


Yes, we need a tragic death to reinforce that fragile nature of life and to highlight the real human process of grief. Sorry Manato, the plot demands your death. No you don’t get to save anyone else spectacularly or have any kind of moment of self-sacrifice. You can just get shot in the back and die. This was a really affective moment by the plot and a great character moment for everyone else in the story, but Manato really did get robbed here. He was the best character the show had and in order to help everyone else reach that little bit higher, the plot threw him under the bus. It did it well, but that was a little mean.

Number 3: Linda from Golden Time


Love triangles always suck because someone is going to lose. More importantly, normally if the person at the middle of the triangle would just make a choice we could all be spared the heartache. The reason Linda gets a place on this list out of the thousands of losing at love characters is because technically she didn’t lose. Banri of the past chose her. Continued to choose her. Unfortunately, Banri of the past only existed as a ghost because Banri of the future had lost his memory and was a whole new person who fell in love with Koko. Seriously, that has to suck for Linda. Worse, when past Banri shows up just long enough to get Linda’s hopes up again. Seriously, plot, we get it. Banri and Koko are going to be together. Now please stop rubbing salt into Linda’s wounds for half an episode.

Number 2: Uraraka from My Hero Academia


Yep, the girl who inspired the list. She went into a fight that she knew she probably couldn’t win with a plan. A good plan. If she’d been the protagonist she most definitely would have turned the tide of the fight and won with that plan. Okay, she would have won with even half that plan given some plans protagonists have made work. Unfortunately, cute side-character who may or may not eventually become some sort of love interest for someone, does not have plot armor and when the plot is demanding a show down between two other characters and you face one of them earlier in the competition you know your luck is out. Poor Uraraka.

Number 1: Grimmjow from Bleach


I know, every opponent Ichigo faces could end up on this list but most of them I wanted to see lose. With Grimmjow, part of me really wanted to see him win. He was one of the most entertaining opponents ever and he didn’t have some amazingly overpowered attack that couldn’t be defended against. He was just someone in love with fighting and getting stronger. Given Ichigo doesn’t win every fight and regularly has to have a take two or three against particularly strong opponents (they beat him nearly to death, someone drags him away so that he can heal, learn a new skill, go back and try again), I really wanted Grimmjow to be one of those opponents. I wanted him to beat Ichigo up and for there to be an ongoing rivalry between the two. Alas, it was not to be and Grimmjow became yet another casualty of plot.

That’s my list. I’d love to know who you’ve put on yours.

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Karandi James.


Friday’s Feature: Are There No New Ideas?


I’d suggest that those who haven’t watched Your Lie in April and haven’t read yet what happens, that you might want to try one of my other posts and come back after you’ve either watched the end or someone else has spoiled it for you.

It’s a common criticism of television shows, movies, and of course anime, that the storyline is old. We’ve seen that before. Oh, it’s just like such and such. However, is this a fair criticism? Depending on which theorist you’d like to believe there are only between 5 and 10 storylines in the entire world and we’ve just been recycling them and giving them make-overs for thousands of years. So should originality really be an issue when writing a story?

That said, the main purpose of most stories being made into television shows, movies and anime is to entertain (there are other purposes but that’s the main one – unless you are cynical enough to believe that the only purpose is making money) and in order to entertain there needs to be an element of novelty. Can you be novel and unoriginal at the same time?

And that’s where we have to start looking at the quality of the story telling and the way the elements have been combined. A simple fairytale  can feel like a masterpiece in the hands of someone who knows how to weave it into something magical whereas an epic story might feel like the longest and most boring time of your life in the hands of someone who just doesn’t get how to tell a good story.


Let’s look at Your Lie In April. With 22 episodes to fill you would think we could cover a fairly complex plot in that time. Over the course of 22 episodes we meet and get to know four characters (and only two of them are really developed). We have the initial refusal by Kousei to accompany Kaori and then we see them getting closer and in the process we learn more about Kousei’s trauma, and then we have our hearts broken into tiny little pieces by a death that was incredibly foreshadowed and obvious but still emotionally crippling to watch. That’s it. They meet. She makes him face something he doesn’t want to face. They grow. She dies. The end. There’s some other moments with some of the support cast and while the characterisation of the main pair and emotional weight of the story is well developed, the story itself is that straight forward.

Do we have any other stories that follow this path?  Well, lots if you really start looking but the one that immediately jumps out is Love Story from 1970. No, it isn’t exactly the same however the impact of two characters meeting and growing together before a death that leaves the survivor with a new direction is kind of the same. And no, I’m not suggesting that Your Lie in April is a rip-off of anything. But we have seen this pattern in stories before. The events themselves aren’t new.

So why is Your Lie in April effective as a story? (Okay some of you will say it isn’t but everyone has their own opinion and that’s fine.)


If you were to ask the viewers what they like about the story, you will get a whole range of different answers. The music and the way it perfectly complements the themes. The visuals and the way they show Kousei’s anxiety on the stage. The relationship between Kousei and Kaori. The connection they felt to the characters as the story played out. For me it was the connection between the character’s mental state and emotions and the sound of the music. It’s the way this story has been told and the way the different parts have been put together that draws the audience in. That said, all of these other elements could still be there and if the writers had decided not to let Kaori die (after all that foreshadowing) I’m pretty sure most people would have ended up feeling rather indifferent. Despite the ending being obvious fairly early on, and by the half-way point outright inevitable, the way this story is told makes the journey memorable even if it doesn’t pull a last minute twist of any kind or really seek to break new ground.


Then what if we consider something more complex like Baccano. You might argue that Baccano has a unique storyline and there isn’t anything else like it. And it is true that when you watch Baccano it certainly feels novel and different. But that isn’t because of the story. What Baccano does is combines multiple storylines together and then presents them in fragments with each story interconnecting with every other through either a character, object, or event. If we were to untangle each character’s story we actually get a whole lot of fairly simple plot lines. Again, this is not a criticism of Baccano. The presentation of the story (or stories) is really interesting and there is rewatch value in that some of the connections are missed the first time through.

What do you think? Are there new ideas for storylines or are there just new settings, new characters, and new ways to deliver the story? And does it even matter?

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Karandi James.