Amazing Anime Power Often Comes with A High Cost

Power Feature

Haven’t you ever had that moment watching an anime when a character does something unbelievably cool or powerful and you think, just for a moment, how awesome it would be if you could do that? Because its just an amazing anime power and one that looks fantastic and possibly story destroying.

That moment is usually followed by the next moment of realising how unbelievably awful that character’s life would really be when you look at the physical or mental toll that the cool power takes on them or the price they have to pay in order to use it.

This post takes a look at anime powers that come with a price. We’re moving away from superheroes who are born with power or gain it through some cosmic accident and looking specifically at those who choose power and how they pay for that choice. And oh, do their narratives make them pay. And pay. And pay.

Amazing Anime Powers Ahead

Be aware: Spoilers ahead.

Madoka Magica

The obvious example of an anime that puts the price of power as a central theme would be Madoka Magica.

The girls from Madoka Magica - Madoka has an amazing anime power
Let’s see: Beheading and death – endless loop of time travel and watching friends die over and over – ceasing to exist in this reality – um, going crazy, turning into a witch and then I think blowing up – being killed by girl you tried to save. Question: Why does anyone want to be a magical girl?

Keep in mind that in the anime series, Madoka is not a magical girl for the vast majority of the run time. She dreams of being a magical girl, accompanies Mami Tomoe  on her jobs (with tragic results), works to save Kyubey from Homura Akemi but it isn’t until the very end that she makes her wish. And why put in hold for so long?

A magical, white bunny creature that can call you telepathically just promised you that it could grant you any wish you liked and that you would become a magical girl in the process so that you could fight evil witches. Sounds like a great deal; like something straight out of a story book.



But Madoka is being warned by Homura not to make a wish. She directly witnesses the end of another magical girl. She also has to watch as her friend, Sayaka Miki, loses her sense of self and purpose after having her own wish granted. To put it simply, the price of gaining power in Madoka Magica is not to be taken lightly.

When the wish is finally made, it is a wish on such a grandiose scale no one could have seen it coming and it changes everything. Madoka sacrificed herself and her future, and did not save Sayaka Miki (as we see her apologising to her after the wish was made) to prevent others from being forced to make such choices in the future.

Madoka is absolutely a cautionary story about relying on wishes to solve your problems. Moreover, it clearly explores that while you will get what you wished for, the price the girls pay goes on long after the effect of their original wish. In Sayaka’s case, the boy she healed fell in love with another.

Other characters felt isolated, cast out, lost, alone, burdened by knowledge and power. Ultimately none of the magical girls we see in Madoka would believe that the power was worth the cost, save Madoka, whose wish removes her from our reality entirely.

So you’d have to ask yourself whether you ever wanted something badly enough that you would risk a Madoka Magica style wish?

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Pandora Hearts

Pandora Hearts sees Oz being forced to make a contract with Alice after being cast into the Abyss in order to escapes. Everything that follows after would indicate that being a contractor in this world is very much not worth it. Whether it is the incredibly short life expectancy, the constant attacks, or just the fact that once you die you are headed straight back to the place he was trying to escape all make it seem like it wasn’t worth it. Throw in that the people that banished Oz in the first place are still out for his destruction and really the power Alice grants him is hardly going to be enough.

Pandora Hearts
Though Alice was pretty persuasive.

While the various contractors we meet in the series certainly have significant power, their lives and ends are pretty messy and within the anime almost none of them accomplish anything they truly wished for. The bleak world they live in and the dangers they seem to face definitely seem like a steep price for borrowed and temporary power.

Flower Girl
Do you think she really got what she wanted?

Unfortunately, the anime remains incomplete leaving those of us who never went and read the source, left to speculate as to whether Oz’s price was ultimately worth it. What I know is that none of the contractor’s here really seem happy. I also can’t see how they could possibly end up winning in the scenario set up. It really looks like a system that provides very temporary victory but then extracts a significantly higher price.

So, when faced with certain death in an awful place, would you make the deal even though your life will still end sooner rather than later and you’d be unleashing a creature of the Abyss on earth?

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Darker Than Black

Lastly I want to look at Darker Than Black, although technically the contractors in that series didn’t actually choose to become contractors. While there are some very cool powers in this show, the price tags attached are varied and strange and you have to wonder who or what decided on the method of payment, though a number of characters in the show also muse on this as many times the price seems directly linked to some event in the contractor’s life.

November 11
Incredible freezing power – and then choke on a cigarette.

November 11’s power to freeze liquids is amazing and use well in combination with April’s power. However, his need to smoke after using his power, when he clearly finds the habit disgusting, just seems a little cruel.

Then again, Paul’s price of eating a flower is just plain weird no matter how you look at it. Jean’s obsession with laying out a pattern of stones seems tedious. And Amber, well her price is deadly if she over uses her power.

Obviously there are plenty of other characters who have paid dearly for their powers. Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist lost an arm, a leg, his brother’s body, and any hope of resurrecting his mother. Kind of a steep price for a kid who just wanted to see his mum. And of course, Ciel, in Black Butler making a literal deal with a demon. And the list goes on and on.

Maybe we should also keep in mind how unhappy most of these characters end up being and how few achieve their goals – though I guess Ed in Fullmetal did eventually succeed (he might be the exception to the standard here).

So all of this leads me to the question of what power or wish would you want and what would you be willing to pay for it? Or, which anime character do you think paid the worst price for their power?


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Karandi James


Sagrada Reset Episode 21: Decisions and Consequences

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Review:

There’s a real sense of tension in this episode and it is a feeling that has been lacking from the majority of the season. Suddenly it feels very real that Kei might lose because for once resetting is not going to solve the problem and the witch has run out of tricks to help him. That said, Kei has always found a way before even if his methods are questionable. He was described by Urachi this episode as ‘insane’ rather than ‘honest’ and I have to say that some of his earlier action probably support that analysis of his character.

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Soma has given her last hint to Kei and is now trying to not be a liability. This leads to her nearly taking her own life, which of course leads us back to the question of the swampman and whether or not this current Soma is actually Soma or just some program Soma set in motion. It’s interesting because there is no answer and ultimately you are just looping through rationalisation which has kind of been the reason I stuck this show out. It makes me think things through but doesn’t simply drop an answer on your lap if you wait long enough.  That said, it hasn’t made individual episodes any more exciting to watch, but suddenly all of the characters have come together and are choosing a side. Will Sakurada still have people who can use abilities in a few days time or not?

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It seems that Kei came to some sort of decision by the end of this episode but as usual he hasn’t bothered to let anyone else in on his thoughts so the audience are pretty much in the dark. Though Urachi did make me really curious about what he has written in his notebook.


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Sagrada Reset Episodes 15 + 16: Why is there no restore power?

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Review Episode 15:

I’m going to get this out of my system first: Why didn’t Misora tell Kei what she learned in the dream world? He reset it out of existence and because he didn’t know about it, it’s gone except for Soma’s malicious comment at the end. She may not have trying for malice, but telling someone they erased a crucial character development point from the girl they just admitted to liking is malicious no matter how you want to spin it.

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Okay, this episode ends the whole dream world story though to be honest the resolution was pretty much believe in yourself and reach out to friends or whatever and even the show itself didn’t really seem to care in the end about what happened to Michiru so I doubt we’re supposed to either. It really feels like this whole arc was just an excuse to get all the other players into place.

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This show is still incredibly slow even when it packs that much information into an episode the pace of events feel like they are crawling, but I kind of need to know what Soma is up to, so next episode here we go.

Review Episode 16:

This episode starts a new story arc and I must say this one has started in a pretty interesting manner. Then again, this show has never had a problem with intriguing ideas, it is more delivery and characterisation that it falls flat in.

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Soma is playing a fairly dangerous game by the looks of it and she’s most definitely dragging Kei (and by default, Misora) into the mess. From a relationship side, Kei finally actually spoke to Misora and made sure she saved after that point so for once he won’t reset their relationship progress out of existence. That’s a step forward. Too bad it took 16 episodes to get there.

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Okay, I am going to finish this show. I was thinking of dropping it now the new season had started but I can’t help it. I’m curious and want to know how this ends.


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My Hero Academia Episodes 27 + 28: Time For a Power Up

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Review Episode 27:

No surprise that most of this episode focusses on Midoriya’s meeting with Gran Torino and learning a little bit more about his power. The other kids get a look in as we see the start of their internships and they realise reality is quite different from their dreams. That said, I have to wonder why Gran Torino just had to be the cliché mentor character. Small, acts crazy, and gives obscure advice rather than actually clearly explaining a process. I get there is some joy in seeing Midoriya figure it out for himself, but surely that is time that could have been spent on something better.

Hero27a

Compared to some of the episodes that have come before it, this one is neither particularly good or bad, but it does progress the story and the new opening is kind of interesting (I’ll see if it grows on me after a few more episodes).

Review Episode 28:

Please tell me that they aren’t really going to kill Iida. It seems a little dark but crazier things have happened I guess.

Hero28b.JPG

Anyway, Midoriya continues training and he’s on a train to Tokyo when a villain and a hero crash into the side of the train leading to Gran Torino launching himself into the fight. Midoriya is still on the train though so I wonder if he’s going to jump into the fray or watch from the sidelines.

Hero28a

The other kids are mostly being tortured by their mentors, in the usual way that interns are tortured as their ideals are crushed and ground into dust by the reality of the day to day job.

Overall, this was a pretty intense episode by the end and while I’m not sure what the villains are up to with this attack as it just seems like unplanned chaos, the hero killer has been pretty entertaining and seeing Midoriya figure out his quirk a little bit more has been great. I love how they are leaving it fully open for him to continue evolving so we can’t really criticise later power ups as a plot cheat.


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Karandi James.

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Sagrada Reset Episode 12

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Review:

I’m kind of lost again with the timeline on this story. I think we jumped forward again after the resurrection/recovery of Sumire but I’m not entirely sure. That aside, she’s alive and giving cryptic messages and answers to people seemingly for the sake of them not explaining things. That really drives me crazy about this show. It seems she has no actual reason not to tell someone and yet she simply gives them the ‘that’s a secret’ line and the audience are left with nothing to go on and nothing to work with. If we at least knew the reason for her secret keeping that would be something.

Outside of that, I am glad that Sumire set Kei right about who was responsible for her resurrection and subsequent life. He didn’t listen, but she least explicitly pointed out it was her plan and he isn’t responsible for what happens next.

Sagrada12

Now if only Misora could take a page out of this book and not just blindly listen to and follow Kei. I’m sorry, but Kei’s reaction to Misora’s reaction after the black out just kind of made me want to slap him.

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About the episode itself, they go inside a dream world because Kei is interested in seeing whether this will help Sumire (even though Sumire has told him that it isn’t his problem) and for some reason they take the cat girl with them but we don’t see her again this episode (guess that’s important later), and for some reason there’s someone from the Bureau there as well. Other than that,  I got nothing in terms of what this episode does. Well, Kei gets cookies.

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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KADO Episode 4

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Review:

While this show has previously moved at a snail’s pace (though this has been needed given how much information we’ve had to take in), episode 4 seems to have finally planted its foot on the accelerator. Part of that came from the absence of zaShunina for the large majority of the episode as we instead focussed on the humans scrambling around trying to figure out what to do with the infinite energy literally dropped into their laps.

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That said, this episode isn’t without zaShunina’s particular take on the world and his discussion about countries and their purpose and how they operate is kind of interesting. Though, more interesting is his declaration that the wam are not for countries but for humanity, cleanly separating the concepts even as the UN and other countries work to put pressure on Japan.

Not sure what the intention is for the next move but things are definitely rolling along now and certainly we saw a lot more tension in the narrative during episode 4 than in the previous episodes. Really enjoyable story so far.

KADO is available on Crunchyroll.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 2

sagrada2

Review:

This is a really odd show. It isn’t good. That much is fairly clear at this point. A good three quarters of this episode is spent watching various characters talk at other characters (they can’t really be said to be talking to other characters). We also have emotional extortion in the form of threats of self-harm which are carried out and I don’t think that knowing he’s planning a reset makes wrist slashing any more acceptable (though if he had to surely he could have chosen a better weapon than a broken bottle). But they wrap up the whole Mari isn’t a real girl story and everyone is happy. We used our powers somewhat unethically to emotionally blackmail both the bureau and a parent and of course now everything will be fine.

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Let me just say, if that had been the end of the episode I was pretty much done with this. Then they did something actually interesting.

Note: Spoiler.

We have a reset where they don’t change the events but something changes. And because they’ve reset, they can’t go back and fix it. So the question the audience now has is who else is aware of the reset and able to change things.

Though, if I thought they might go into that straight away I guess I was mistaken because we then get a 2 year time skip and bureau guy is now looking after the club he pretty much told our two main characters they had to join. End episode.

So yeah, odd.

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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Feature – On Anime Ending Badly

An anime ending badly is kind of a cliché at this point. Particularly if the anime deviates from source material and creates an original ending.

We’ve all watched anime series that have been amazing until that final episode. We’ve all cringed as the show has suddenly veered off a cliff and sent the characters and plot flying in all directions. I’ve often heard it asked by casual anime viewers why do so many anime end really badly?

An anime ending badly is unfortunately all too common.

I don’t actually have an answer but I figured it was worth looking at this topic. Firstly, what are some of the things anime do that considered bad ends?

Number 1: They don’t End.

This is my number 1 pet peeve and the response from some people that you should pick up the manga or the game of light novel or whatever the source material is does not make the lack of ending of the anime any better. While there are some notable American TV shows that also never got an ending (usually due to being cancelled), this seems to be a pervasive problem in anime.

So, even if we remove all the anime that don’t end because they were being used to advertise source material, we’re still left with anime that seem totally open ended. Romances that are just starting and characters that have only really begun moving along on their journey. This leaves the audience thinking why isn’t there a sequel or why would you end it there?

There’s probably no single answer but some of these can probably be attributed to cultural differences. In western literature we are big fans of having loose ends tied up and bringing things to a firm and definitive conclusion. That’s when the story ends (this is a mass generalisation and yes there are some good examples of literature that doesn’t conclusively resolve but statistically most of them will). But this is kind of true of English as a language.

We like to explicitly state what something is and be definite about it. This isn’t necessarily true of Japanese where a large number of things are implied rather than stated.

Would any reason actually make it any more satisfying for you to watch an anime that ‘doesn’t end’? Probably not, but some of those non-endings might be justified.

Key examples are Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, Pandora Hearts, No Game No Life, and dozens of other anime that just kind of stop and we wait for a sequel that never comes or go and read the books.



Number 2: They used the power of friendship?

The old combine our powers, work as a team, and somehow overcome the big scary thing we’ve been unable to even scratch up until this point ploy.

I recently commented on another blog (sorry can’t remember which one) that I don’t mind this so much as long as it is suggested all along that combining powers was an option and that friendship could in fact enhance those powers. if there is nothing to suggest this prior to the last episode than it is just lazy writing to get the characters out of an unwinnable situation.

Seriously, Sailor Moon can pull of a power of friendship ending as the scouts work with the Moon Princess to vanquish Beryl but that’s because love and friendship were core to the story. Just pulling out a power of friendship last minute save for a non-sensical problem is an issue (looking at you Kiznaiver).

Number 3: This is not my real power.

Right up there with the power of friendship. Yep, the hero suddenly has an unlock of some super never seen before (and usually never hinted at) hidden power that of course saves the day.

Same as the one above, if it is foreshadowed than go for it. If they just had no better solution, pass.

And seriously, too many examples of this to count. And this is definitely a sign of an anime ending badly because it feels so cheap and tacky. Also, overused at this point.

Number 4: They just killed everyone.

This is a hard one to really examine because there are so many different responses to this kind of ending. I mean, Shakespeare did it regularly in his tragedies and nobody really criticises that (being boring and long winded and impossible to understand are regularly criticisms but not the fact that everyone ends up dead in most of the tragedies). And I guess what it comes down to is purpose.

Are those deaths purposeful and meaningful to the narrative? If yes, go for it. The story won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but some people will really appreciate that you didn’t try to pull out of a death spiral at the last minute and give lip-service to happy endings.

However, if they are simply killing off a large cast of characters because they couldn’t think of a better way to make your ending dramatic than there is probably a few issues with the story other than the ending.

Another almost gets away with the massacre style ending because enough characters do survive to still feel there’s some kind of victory, but still, there were a lot of deaths in those final episodes and you have to wonder if all of them were needed.

Number 5: So the story actually ended about two episodes ago but now we’re going to the beach/hot spring/etc.

While this doesn’t actually mean the anime ended badly (there was probably a perfectly satisfying conclusion) it does leave you wondering why you are watching the additional episodes other than the fact that someone clearly was contractually obligated to deliver x number of episodes.

So what are some of the anime you’ve found that have a ‘bad’ ending and what is the worst way for an anime to end? Share your thoughts below.


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Karandi James


The Asterisk War Season 2 Series Review

The Asterisk War Season 2 Overview:

Some disaster struck and from this humans were able to develop powers of sorts and as you do in these fantasy stories you build schools to train teenagers to be homicidal nut-jobs that think only of ways to use their powers to beat other teens into submission all in the name of achieving some greater purpose or dream.

Okay, that was a little bit sarcastic but it is essentially The Asterisk War boiled down to its most basic parts.

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The Asterisk War Season 2 Review:

I’d like to clarify that as sarcastic as I was in my overview there, I actually have really enjoyed watching The Asterisk War (both season 1 and 2 minus the very first episode of season 1).

As long as you don’t want to probe to deeply you have a nice cast of characters with distinct hair colours which makes it easy to differentiate the haremettes, some fairly cool fight sequences, weapons and powers, and a plot that nicely distinguishes that everyone who is not helping our protagonists are clearly evil and will eventually be destroyed. All well and good and thoroughly enjoyable.

Now I’m going to ruin it and actually think about it. Unfortunately, The Asterisk War doesn’t hold up under any kind of scrutiny.

Let’s start with Ayato. Ayato is one of those overly nice protagonists I talked about in a feature. His only true and distinct personality trait is that he is nice. He isn’t overly clever (except when the plot asks him to strategize), he isn’t particularly good at anything (other than fighting), and yet everybody loves him and thinks he is amazing.

What I find particularly distressing in this case was that Ayato did have one defining trait; his power was limited to five minutes by a seal set by his missing sister. This gave him something more than just being nice. A little bit of a tragic backstory (though Asterisk seems determined not to play this for tragedy) and a clear hurdle to overcome when facing strong opponents.

And then he just undid the seal (or part of it). Now he can use his power for an hour or so. No cost for doing this or particular effort involved. More importantly, since then, he hasn’t even seemed to need to unseal his power at all, he just uses it. So that one thing that distinguished Ayato and made him a little interesting just disappeared midway through season 2. That is kind of depressing when you think about it for too long.



Then we have Julis. She’s a Princess of a small country and of course wants to save orphans. She’s tough and doesn’t let people get close but Mr Nice Protagonist manages to win her over and the two team up. While Julis gets to look pretty awesome in the lesser fights as soon as we come up against a boss it is all down to Ayato.

Julis consistently get’s sidelined and overlooked. This is problematic because Ayato’s vague and often forgotten goal of finding his sister is nowhere near as interesting as Julis’ clear desire to save her country (though exactly what from was not established until fairly close to the end of the second season and even then it is still a fairly generic threat).

This story would be better served by actually allowing Julis to take the lead with the occasional support from Ayato and yet Ayato continues to flail his sword around and that’s so much better somehow.

The other characters (mostly female) sometimes get good moments and great lines but then get shunted to the background. They are presented as having goals and reasons for fighting, but mostly hang around to get patted on the head.

That doesn’t bother me all that much as I kind of understand that the story needs to focus on its main characters, the problem becomes that the main characters aren’t doing anything worth watching a lot of the time because Ayato’s goals are nebulous and Julis is waiting for Ayato to help her achieve her goals. Even when she says that she has to do something alone, one sentence from Ayato and she agrees to let him help.

Forgetting the characters for the moment, and forgetting them is pretty easy to do, the plot is as generic as it comes. Ayato goes to school, gets in a fight with Julis, they partner up and prepare for the Festa, we then fight duels in the Festa for forever (though they clearly tell us that was only 2 weeks) and now we are dealing with preparations for the next big round of fighting.

There’s a lot of stuff going on in the background with power deals and organisations, but Julis and Ayato are only vaguely aware of these things so they revealed through shadowy conversations and voice only phone calls which means none of it is developed. This leaves the setting and plot as pretty basic with only moments of intrigue that are quickly swept under the rug and forgotten until a character says ‘do you remember’.

And half the time I don’t remember because it was something mentioned once about six or seven episodes ago.

As to the action itself, I quite enjoyed it but realise that visually it isn’t any better than other standard fantasy fighting anime and the tactics (if they can be called such) used in the fights are pretty generic. There are a couple of moments that make you pay attention, but otherwise the fights are all pretty standard and the most interesting ones don’t include our protagonists so they get finished pretty quickly.

Let me restate, I like this anime. I’ve watched two seasons of it and should we get a third I’ll continue to watch. But this is not a great anime or going on my list of anime that I’ll rewatch over and over. This is popcorn fare at best and while it is inoffensive amusement it doesn’t offer anything deeper or more involved.

Which is a shame because there are certainly hints that there could be something more to this anime but at the moment the series has not delivered. If you haven’t watched The Asterisk War, I would recommend giving it a go, but just know you aren’t going to find anything you haven’t seen before.


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Karandi James