Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Couples from 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

This week’s top 5 list counts down my favourite anime couples from 2018. They don’t need to be canon, they don’t need to actually end up together, they just need to be super-adorable and make my heart melt. I’d love to know which anime couples you fell in love with this season so be sure to leave me a comment below.

And apparently I haven’t previously done a list like this at the end of 2017 or 2016, so this is the very first couples list for a single year. I’m definitely going to have to make this an ongoing thing next year because this list was super fun to write.

Honourable Mentions:

I never thought I’d see the day that Kirito and Asuna weren’t on my Top 5 couples list but with what little we’ve seen of Alicization and only one episode with the two of them actually together I just couldn’t justify having them in the top 5. The same goes for Okabe and Kurisu from Steins;Gate 0. I love those two together but they just didn’t show up that much together this year. The last honourable mention is Mitsuru and Kokoro from Darling in the Franxx. Those two were actually pretty adorable together despite my misgivings with the plot of Franxx.

Number 5: Siluca and Theo from Record of Grancrest War

As much as there are some big issues with Record of Grancrest War, and as much as I feel Siluca’s character progression hit the skids as soon as Theo and Siluca became an actual couple, this was one of the most adorable pairs from earlier in the year. Theo may have seemed like a passive protagonist, but he certainly didn’t waste any time or the opportunity to confess his love to Siluca. These two characters could have really carried a very different show if they had chosen to focus on their relationship a little bit more and it would have been fantastic to watch.

Number 4: Nanami and Yuu from Bloom Into You

Okay, Nanami and Yuu both have issues with relationships and I’m honestly not sure if I’m hoping for these two to get a happily ever after or not after everything that’s happened, but I cannot deny I love watching these characters together. The way they gently poke at each other, move the other to see things differently, offer comfort and support, as well as mock when the occasion calls for it, is just all kinds of adorable. I’ve really enjoyed watching their relationship progress even if it is progress of the one step forward several steps back kind.

Number 3: Syaoran and Sakura from Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card

Another great couple from a not-so-great anime. Then again, Syaoran and Sakura have been one of my favourite couples for a very long time and Clear Card just confirmed why. Seeing these two together is truly a joy. Now if we could just stop Syaoran from trying to keep secrets from Sakura, and if Sakura could share her power more often because watching the two of them flying together was the single most squeal worthy moment ever.

Number 2: Takato and Junta from Dakaichi

It won’t be for everyone but I really enjoyed watching the relationship develop in Dakaichi. Part of the appeal is Takato as an individual character, however the longer you watch, the more you realise that everything that is great about how Takato changes as a character comes about because of Junta, and he’s no slouch either in the character development department. These two guys have found each other and while their relationship is riddled with issues and ego, it is an so much fun to watch and I just keep hoping for their happily ever after.

Number 1: Ash and Eiji from Banana Fish

This one isn’t going to surprise anyone who follows me on Twitter. Seriously, every Friday I’ve been spamming the retweets of fan art and screen caps of these two because they are so worth it. And you know what, they don’t need to kiss on screen, they don’t need to actually confess their feelings, and we don’t even need a ring exchange. Every scene with these two together shows their relationship and feelings and seeing them interact is the sweetest and simultaneously most heartbreaking thing to watch and most definitely gives this one every reason to top my list here. Ash and Eiji are beautiful together and bring out the absolute best in one another.

That’s my list, come to an end. Right now I’d love to know which couples made your list and why so be sure to leave me a comment.

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Karandi James
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Three Big Lies We Tell Ourselves in the Face of Love

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Bloom Into You is full of characters who tell themselves lies – but are these lies we tell ourselves?

Watching Bloom Into You, despite finding Yuu’s struggle to reconcile her rational mind and her feelings fascinating and beautifully nuanced in the way it is presented, really makes me frustrated. I’m watching a character who is clearly genuinely in love with another, who has opportunity after opportunity to act on her emotions with few genuine obstacles, and yet time and time again, she creates a barrier between herself and the object of her affection.

Bloom Into You Episode 5

It almost makes me wonder how they’ll play it at the end. If the end up together, Nanami probably deserved better than being strung along by Yuu for so long before Yuu finally accepted what was true from nearly the beginning. If they don’t end up together, than Nanami will be Yuu’s one-who-got-away and she’ll have nobody to blame but herself and her own self-deception and indecision. Either way, while it might seem sweet and it certainly keeps the story moving, the reality is that if this romance were not a fictional construct, this would be a really bad place for the characters to be in.

While it might seem fine to see it as only a work of fiction and to dismiss these characters as exaggerated for affect, these characters, like many others in anime, really do seem to echo their creators and when it comes to love, you have to admit, people do some pretty silly things.

Bloom Into You Episode 3

So Yuu represents the first big lie that people tell themselves. It isn’t love. Yuu is hardly the first anime character to convince herself that what she is feeling isn’t love. She joins a long list of anime characters who insist that they just like the other person, or worse, that they are just playing around. For Yuu, she’s convinced herself that she admires Nanami for all of her outstanding qualities, but that is normal. It isn’t love.

We see a more extreme case of this in Ririchiyo Shirakin who not only doesn’t really she is feeling love (or at least strong like) but manages to self diagnose herself with potential arrhythmia. Now, I’ll admit that most people are at least aware enough of their own emotions to understand that they aren’t genuinely feeling ill when they get that tightness in their chest or their heart goes doki-doki, but Ririchiyo is a fairly special case in terms of being unaware of how to deal with emotions.

And when we ask why do characters do this and make statements about how dumb it is and why can’t they just be honest… You start to think why don’t people in real life. Why aren’t people honest about how they feel?

Which actually brings us to the second great lie that people tell themselves. I’m fine the way things are. This one is illustrated through Sayaka in Bloom Into You. As Nanami’s friend she wants more but for various reasons has decided that she’s fine with things the way they are. She isn’t honest at all about what she wants from Nanami but still feels jealous when she sees how close Nanami is getting to Yuu.

Bloom Into You Episode 6 Sayaka

So why wasn’t Sayaka just honest about how she felt? 

Because, like most sensible people, she was afraid of losing what she had. It wasn’t so much that she was fine with things, but more the loss of what she had was more than she was willing to gamble. If she’d thought she’d had a sure chance, she might have made a move, but there’s no certainty in love. And with Sayaka’s background, can you blame her? Dumped by her former senpai who then made her feel twisted and wrong about her sexual preferences, Sayaka isn’t exactly wanting to dive head first into another relationship. She’s got plenty of reason to doubt and more than enough reason to try to hold onto what she has.

But, Sayaka isn’t alone in this. In fact, she shares this trait not only with many anime characters and people, but she also shares this trait with another Sayaka. Sayaka Miki from Madoka Magica who uses her one wish to save the one she loves and allow him to play his violin again but in all the time he was hospitalised, despite visiting him, talking with him, being with him, Sayaka never once confesses how she feels. And then her friend announces that she’s going to confess and Sayaka is left in an absolute state of turmoil which more or less leads to her downfall. 

So could Sayaka Miki have confessed? Was she fine the way things were? It is kind of too late to know but these characters represent the very real fear people feel about being open and honest with their feelings and the very real potential downside of holding off too long.

Bloom Into You Episode 1

Finally, Nanami gives us the third type of lie people tell themselves in the face of love. Even if you don’t love me back, I’m fine just loving you. One sided, unrequited love makes for excellent story fodder but the reality of it is pretty crushing over time. No matter how generous a person is, pouring love and affection toward another and receiving nothing back is exhausting and for most not something that can be sustained (most, not all). Nanami tells Yuu it is fine if she doesn’t fall in love. Later she tells Yuu not to fall in love with her. Yet despite that, Nanami keeps pushing the relationship forward wanting more and more from Yuu.

No matter what Nanami says her actions speak louder than her words. Her request of Yuu at the sports carnival, that Yuu initiate a kiss, speaks volumes. Nanami wants Yuu to reciprocate. She doesn’t want to be holding up a one sided affection. While she rationalises and says that she’s fine just being in love, ultimately what she wants is more than that.

Looking at another anime character, Linda from Golden Time tries very hard to wish Banri the best. She loved him but because of his accident he forgot her and she left to let him move on with his life. Reunited, she tells herself that she honestly wants Banri to have the life he chooses but deep inside it is killing her to see the boy she loved not know who she is and with Koko. Admittedly, the amnesia aspect of that makes it somewhat less relatable to the average viewer, but it is still an interesting love story.

Bloom Into You is a beautiful anime. The direction, the music, the characters are all beautifully put together. But where it gets a lift beyond just being another pretty anime about high school love is in its exploration of people in love and the lies they tell themselves. This is what makes this story and the characters compelling and brings us back week after week. That and it is just really pretty.

Bloom Into You Episode 6 Nanami and Yuu

Well, if you made it to the end of this ramble, I’d love to know your thoughts on love in Bloom Into You or in anime in general.

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Karandi James
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Say I Love You Series Review

Say I Love You Mai and Yamato

It’s Sweet, Right?

Love stories are a dime a dozen and in anime particularly, high school romances are prolific. While not quite as notorious as isekai stories, these roll out with at least a handful every single season premiering. Some to great fanfare, most quietly appearing and disappearing with little comment or noteworthiness. Every now and then though, a romance comes along that really grabs my attention and even after it is done I still remember it and in such cases, while I’m still very much more fond of action, horror and fantasy, but in such cases the romance may very well work its way into my heart and become a story that I treasure.

Say I Love You didn’t quite succeed at that. However, it also wasn’t one that passed by without needing comment. It’s a story that actually deserves quite a bit of attention, even if ultimately it wasn’t one that really moved me in the way that something like Kimi ni Todoke did. 

To understand my feelings about Say I Love You, I kind of have to point out that what makes or breaks almost every romance story for me are the main pair. From a plot point of view, romance stories are incredibly formulaic, and while there are a few variations on the theme, once you’ve got lonely high school girl and popular high school guy together there really aren’t that many paths for the story to take and for it to still stay grounded in any kind of manner.

Say I Love You Mei and Yamato

Tachibana Mei is an amazing romantic heroine. She starts out as the typical loner who has chosen not to even try to make friends having been burned when she was younger. She deliberately keeps everyone and everything at arms length, save her mother and her cat. She tries not to let the ridiculous taunts of those at school get to her.

Yet one day, having had to put up with too much already, when a boy goes to pull her skirt on the stair-case, she snaps. And she does it in the fantastically amusing manner of a round house kick, that unfortunately doesn’t hit the idiot who actually deserves it, Nakanishi, but instead collides with Yamato, Nakanishi’s friends and one of the most popular guys at school.

This ends up resulting in Yamato pestering Mei and giving her his phone number among other things but she more or less resolves to ignore him, until she realises she’s being stalked and can’t get a hold of her mother. The romance begins and Mei gradually learns to open up and trust others. It actually is a fairly authentic character development and wasn’t a ‘get boyfriend and life gets better’ kind of deal. Mei has to work hard and want changes to happen for them to happen and even then there are set backs, failures, and misunderstandings. 

Through it all, Mei’s basic character doesn’t change, but her outlook on other people slowly expands and she starts to see potential that she couldn’t see before. This actually allows her by the end to help two other characters as they struggle with their own personal demons and is a nice circle to show us how Mei has overcome her own drama.

You know, if the story had focused entirely on Mei, I’d have been okay with that.

Say I Love You Cast

No, my mixed feelings and problems with this show come from Yamato. He is, by anime high school standards, incredibly good looking… and you know what, that’s about it. We don’t know if he is particularly good at anything. People just kind of converge around him and he puts on the face they want to see, and that’s kind of him. Even around Mei, he seems to just change to fit her mood and tone rather than being genuine. And while there are people like this, chameleons, who slide in and out of social groups and fit in everywhere and nowhere, they don’t make for a compelling romantic lead.

It also bothers me that Yamato defends his friend Nakanishi as being a good guy, despite the fact that he’s bad mouthed Mei even before we know who he is and then tried to pull her skirt. Sorry, not a good guy. The fact that the rest of the anime portrays Nakanishi as a ‘good guy’ who actually just wants to be Asami’s boyfriend and doesn’t mean any harm also doesn’t sit well with me. I’ll admit, if we cut the first two episodes off, Nakanishi is an idiot, but a good guy. However the impression left after the first episodes sticks for me and mostly I just want him to get kicked down a flight of stairs. And the guy I’m meant to believe is the romantic lead in this story is not only friends with him but rationalises and excuses his behaviour. It all makes it a bit hard to get behind Yamato from the outset.

I’ll give the anime props in that it did try to build Yamato’s character as it went. We see him as a doting big brother, protective boyfriend, slightly oblivious high school guy who ends up hurting his girlfriend without really thinking about it, and also typical teenager who has regrets about not helping a friend in middle-school who was being bullies.

The problem is that he never really becomes a cohesive character. We just kind of deal with whatever mode the anime has switched him into at the time. Over the top of all of these faces though is the teenage guy who fairly regularly pushes physical contact with Mei. And while he doesn’t go into inexcusable territory, he still moves a lot faster than Mei is ready for and he’s constantly pushing the agenda by kissing her or sitting way too closely.

Basically, I end up liking Say I Love You as a character study because Mei is fantastic and each part of Yamato is interesting enough, but the romance itself is more just a vehicle and not something I emotionally connect with enough to really get carried by.

But as a character study, Say I Love You is extraordinary as the support cast that grows as the series continues are pretty fantastic. Each character flawed in some manner and using others to hold themselves up or to recover from past traumas. 

Say I Love You Yamato and Megumi

Megumi is perhaps the one who undergoes the largest transformation, which makes sense given her impact on Mei and Yamato’s relationship. Still, her story still felt a little undeveloped and while the ideas were there it really did feel like we needed a little more insight into what was going on with Megumi for her story to stick. It is also very hard to sympathise with her plight when you see some of the stunts she pulls to get Yamato away from Mei.

Visually this anime is functional enough but unremarkable. Character designs are great and each character has a look appropriate to who they are, but the overall colour scheme is pretty bland and ordinary. Animation is fine but there’s little to show it off and the music works well but other than the OP is fairly forgettable.

I would recommend trying Say I Love You. It is a fun story and the characters are interesting. There’s some really good exploration of social issues such as self-image, friendship, bullying, social media use, and so on. And ultimately, the romance works well enough. I do have a friend who fell head-over-heels in love with this story, which is the reason I watched it more than once. I certainly think this is one that gets better the more you watch it because the strengths of the characters come out more and their flaws become more understandable when you know where the whole story is going.

Right, I’d love to know what you thought of Say I Love You so if you’ve seen it, let me know in the comments.

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Karandi James
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Who Else Felt Their Heart Shatter At Yuu’s Denial of Love? Excerpt

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Bloom Into You Episode 9 Review

This week Bloom Into You delivered the sports carnival that the student council had been preparing for. As you would expect with any school based anime, the student council ran around before hand checking lists, gathering supplies and generally looking officious and busy. You would almost be forgiven for thinking you were watching any of a dozen other anime. Except, that Bloom Into You manages to make even the most common of events uncommonly interesting to watch…

This is an excerpt of a post written for patrons. To see the full post please consider becoming a patron. For $1 a month you will gain access to all patron only reviews.  For existing patrons, the full post can be accessed here and if you need the password, it is available on my patreon site. A huge thanks to everyone who supports the blog.

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Karandi James
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