Who Is Your Valentine?

DAKAICHI Episode 1 - Junta and Takato

In the lead up to this wondrous day of hearts, flowers, chocolate, and whatever else may come your way, I asked my followers on Twitter to reply with a picture of their anime Valentine. Here are the responses (also some great people on Twitter in case you aren’t following them). See if you can find your Valentine.

Did you find your Valentine in the list? If not, who is your anime Valentine?

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Choosing An Anime Valentine

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There’s something really odd about Valentine’s Day. I mean, it is cheesy as can be and the dippy pink hearts and flowers that end up decorating everything don’t do all that much for me. Yet, it’s still just kind of fun to get involved in the spirit of the day because amazingly enough sometimes getting just a small something wrapped in foil can make someone’s entire day.

So, because I am an anime fan, I decided this year to think about which anime characters I would ask to be my Valentine (with a suitable gift of chocolate or flowers of course). I almost immediately ran into a problem in that almost every character I could think to pick was already in a relationship but then again, so am I, so I decided to ignore that little fact entirely and just pick whoever I wanted to pick.

The selection process was brutal. So many great characters out there that I would absolutely love to surprise on this day of pink fluffiness and then I realised a lot of male anime characters don’t like chocolates… Which made me think about what I’d actually give them if I was going to try to ask them to be my Valentine.

Basically, I put way too much thought into an entirely theoretical process.

Anyway, who did I end up choosing?

No surprise but the first person (?) who came to mind was Sebastian Michaelis from Black Butler. Seriously, who wouldn’t ask him to be their Valentine? Though, I’m betting there’s a few strings attached to that one. Still, that voice, that hair, that smug smile and absolute confidence… Wait, where was I? Oh right, I was listing all the reasons Sebastian would be the perfect Valentine. Anyway, what would I get for Sebastian? A kitten of course with a cute little bow.

Next, I thought about Eiji who probably needs some cheering up – I know the entire Banana Fish fan-base did after watching that ending. Eiji is literally a ray of sunshine in a dark world and to be honest, I’d love to see him smile. I’d like to sit beside him on a roof and watch the sun come up and I’d like to travel and see the world beside him. I thought long and hard about what to get Eiji as a present to cheer him up and came up with pretty much nothing. Then I realised the perfect present (other than you know a time machine or reincarnation). A photo album commemorating the life of Ash Lynx. It might break his heart a little at first but I think he’d appreciate having something to hold onto.

For my third choice I decided to go with Tigrevermud Vorn from Lord Marksman and Vanadis. There’s something about this red-haired archer that is beautifully charming and honestly his skills are out of this world amazing and he’s still a pretty down-to-earth nice guy (the joys of fiction). Again, I struggled to think of a perfect present given Tigre is pretty much happy with the simple life, but then I figured it out. Exactly what Tigre needs in his life: an alarm clock. That way people won’t try waking him up with swords or killing instinct anymore.

My last pick (though this is narrowed down from a significantly longer list) for my 2019 Valentine – and again, this will surprise no one – is Takato from Dakaichi. I love his cool professionalism on set and how childish he is underneath that. How he carefully plans but gets easily flustered when things go awry. He’s just a character I would love to spend time with and I absolutely love his look. I get that he’s already well and truly spoken for and I’m risking life and limb if Junta finds out, however, Takato is one of the few characters I can genuinely give something sweet to and in this case it will definitely be a cake, pudding, or something sickly sweet.

There we have my short list of anime Valentine’s for 2019. Now I’d love to know who you would make your Valentine and what would you give them?

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Friday’s Feature: It’s In His Kiss

As much as I love my action, dystopian futures, horror stories, and generally violent adventures, deep down inside I have a soft spot for a well told romance story. This comes from an upbringing of watching family friendly romantic comedies with my mother on weekends while folding piles of washing or ironing or other incredibly boring chores but the laughs and sweet stories of all those girls finding their one true love definitely left an impact. Now, if I have a choice of romance or action, I’ll probably pick the action, but every now and then I’m just in the mood for something a little bit sweeter and then out come the romances.

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However, as I sought out anime romances, one thing became incredibly clear to me. There are very few romances that fall into a moderate category. Romances either present as beautiful stories of chaste characters who blush at the mere sight of one another or they present as stories with super aggressive characters who rapidly push the age rating and most people’s comfort zones. And while every now and then we’ll stumble across a story of characters who will actually just fall in love and be a couple, the more common scenario is watching twenty to forty episodes with a couple who have barely managed to hold hands.

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Yes, it is the third season after a 13 year gap, but Sousuke and Kaname finally confidently hold hands.

What this leaves us with, however, is a story that starts reading all sorts of things into fairly mundane actions. The ‘indirect’ kiss nonsense that comes up time and again is one particular example that really makes me roll my eyes. While admittedly, characters probably shouldn’t be drinking out of the same water bottle or sharing a straw or whatever (have these characters never considered glandular fever) the sheer fuss they put up about the possibility of an ‘indirect’ kiss is just insane sometimes. These characters literally melt into puddles of stammering and half the time end up dropping or knocking over the thing they were supposed to eat or drink.

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While this sequence is cute enough in one or two stories, by the time you see it play out again and again and again (don’t believe me, check out the TV Tropes page for indirect kisses and the anime examples) and it ultimately all just gets a bit silly.

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One of my favourite anime romances, Kimi ni Todoke, suffers from being one of those impossibly ridiculous stories. Sawako is a stammering mess of insecurities and doesn’t believe Kazehaya could ever have feelings for her. As a result, when it is first suggested she should date him she flat out states it is impossible. She doesn’t give him the gifts she makes him. She eventually can’t even meet his eyes. All and all, she does everything possible to make herself a cliche shoujo heroine and the type that under most circumstances would drive me half-way up the wall. I don’t know why she doesn’t because I do know that by the end of season one I wanted to slap her for not actually just kissing the guy at the shrine. Nope, you will have to wait until the end of season two before these two will actually kiss and even then, that is as far as their relationship is going. Thirty plus episodes and they finally manage a kiss. Two characters who have been in love with each other since nearly the beginning. To say the pace of that relationship progress was glacial would be being generous.

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Now not every anime romance is quite so insanely slow or chaste. Still, it is interesting how much emphasis is put on the notion of kissing your partner. In some ways it is kind of refreshing and it feels nice to know that the emotional connection between the characters is getting more emphasis then the number of times they can get the characters into the bedroom. Also nice to know that there is a focus on the narrative behind the romance rather than just showing us the characters making out. I appreciate both of these things. At the same time, like with everything else, when there isn’t a variety of relationships and relationship types being shown, it risks normalising some behaviours, marginalising some viewers, and ultimately not providing options so the argument if you don’t like it, don’t watch it, ceases to have weight.

Because a great many people want to watch romance and anime. They may not be after the super shoujo high school girl who blushes to the tips of her ears when a guy picks up her eraser, but they’d like to see a relationship unfold.

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Part of this was why I really enjoyed My Love Story. The protagonist was a male, rather then the girl, and the confession was over and done with four episodes in. The story was about them learning how to be in a relationship rather than getting to the relationship. That doesn’t mean they moved any faster given how long it took them to accomplish hand-holding and the protagonist kissed his best friend (with the aid of some cling wrap) long before he got around to trying to kiss his girlfriend but it still felt a bit different from so many other love stories.

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It was also why I was so puzzled by the number of people who tried to play down Yuri and Victor’s relationship in Yuri on Ice. The ones who claim it wasn’t a kiss and they aren’t engagement rings. Given how little physical connections characters in other ‘romance’ anime have, Yuri on Ice was outright explicit in showing off that relationship. Those two were hugging nearly from the beginning and if hungry stares are the staple of most relationships, just watch Yuri before he starts any one of his skates as he meets eyes with Victor. The average female protagonist has got nothing on that look across the ice and if it was being directed at her she’d probably claim she’d gotten pregnant on the spot.

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Admit it, you want him to be looking at you right now.

Although, the mis-information about pregnancy and sex that comes across in some anime is also a little bit alarming. I kind of get why it happens culturally but at the same time I don’t think girls claiming they’ll get pregnant from kissing a guy really helps get the right kind of information across to people. I’d suggest you not learn sex-ed from anime in the first place, but at the very least they should try to stamp out the more pervasive myths that get flung about.

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However, personal thoughts about romance aside, one thing anime does very well, is really makes those rare scenes, the kiss between the heroine and her hero, truly melting moments. Maybe it is the long wait for it, the build up, the anticipation. Maybe it is the sound tracks, the soft lighting, the sparkles. Whatever it is, one thing I know is that when a couple in anime finally get together and they finally lean in for that kiss, I know I’m usually on the edge of my seat and once or twice I’ve applauded.

Question:

Who was your favourite anime couple and what episode of their anime did they finally kiss in?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Romance in the Spring of 2018

As always, it strikes me as odd that I’m writing about Spring as the temperature plummets and I am being plunged into Winter. Now Winter in Australia, particularly QLD, isn’t exactly chilling for most people, but when your Summer and most of Autumn days are hovering at the 35 – 39 degrees Celcius, a sudden and abrupt drop to the low twenties with nights dropping to frost levels is more of less like an ice-age swept through. Particularly when you live in a house designed to let heat escape so you don’t bake in Summer.

And that’s an incredibly long preamble to get to the point, which is Spring may have brought in a whole bunch of sequel and spin-off anime, but it has also given us some interesting, and less interesting, takes on romance. While there is one title I’m wanting to watch but can’t, I’ve still found more than enough sweet stories and stories of broken hearts, misunderstandings, companionship and the like to give me cavities this season and this week I wanted to take some time to look at some of these.

On that note, there will be some spoilers for the anime below so if you aren’t watching the Spring season you may want to check out one of my other posts instead.

The Frozen In Time Couple

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Carrying over from Winter, we have the adorably sweet relationship that is Sakura and Syaoran in Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card. For fans of the original series, or fans of Tsubasa Chronicles, this is not a new pairing. These two are totally fated to be together and define cute and wholesome. One might suggest the two are in fact a little innocent and naive but when you consider the age they were in Cardcaptor and the time when the original anime aired, it kind of makes sense that their relationship wasn’t exactly flying into the R-rated territory.

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Clear Card continues to tone of their relationship and that’s probably one of its downfalls. There’s been no progress here at all. In the beginning of Clear Card Syaoran returned and Sakura was happy to see him. Since then he’s had some great moments where he’s actually gotten to be useful and protect Sakura and she’s continued to be the fairly independent and powerful character she’s always been and the two of them have had so many cute moments. But that’s more or less where they were when we left them twenty years ago so while nostalgia is a wondrous thing, realistically, if we wanted to see this phase of the relationship, we could just go back to where the original series and watch it through. Then we’d get to see them go through the rivals/friends phases again to actually becoming a couple which was by far the more interesting part of their story.

The Do I/Don’t I deserve Love Couple

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As much as 3D Kanojo: Real Girl has started to bother me, the initial phase of the story set up a fairly standard introverted nerd/otaku falling for the outsider girl who was brash and spoke her mind. It’s a dynamic we’ve seen before and done well can be a lot of fun. Early on there was some promise that this series was going to explore this dynamic however as we’ve entered the mid-season viewers might be struggling to see these initial characters. The introverted guy has a whole group of friends he talks to who like him and the girl who speaks her mind has suddenly become fairly silent.

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What that left us with were two fairly generic high school characters who keep butting heads because the guy keeps devaluing himself and the girl is still hiding something which also makes her wonder if she has the right to be in the relationship. It’s no wonder they aren’t making progress as a couple when both characters are trapped inside their own insecurities. Still, if done well, these characters could still deliver something of note in terms of an anime relationship, but at the moment we’re kind of lost in the maze of miscommunication and teenage angst and my hopes for it lifting its game are not so high at this point.

The She’s A Monster and So Am I Couple

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Yep, we’re back to Darling in the Franxx where the man devouring woman turned out to just be a misunderstood and lost monster who wanted to connect with her childhood friend. After which she becomes a teenage girl obsessed with how she looks, her guy, and suddenly becoming the perfect team player. Meanwhile, he may not have been devoured, but Hiro is definitely transforming into something other than human and the question will become how much he remains Hiro after the physical transformation is complete. Though, given how little exploration has been given to other themes in Franxx, I’m not optimistic on this one being explored either.

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While Hiro and Zero-Two are actually an undeniably cute couple and almost nauseating in their honeymoon period as they bond over drawing a picture book that Zero-Two apparently literally ate back when she was a child, this relationship kind of came at the cost of Zero-Two’s actual personality and character. She’s a far less interesting presence in the series now that she’s resolved her past with Hiro. As for Hiro, he seems to have lost any drive he had either. Previously he wanted to pilot the Franxx, then he wanted to be with Zero-Two, but now he just kind of is. There’s no real motivation pushing him any more so the relationship coming together has more or less cut the guts out of what story there was and left viewers wanting the next step but there’s no real clue as to how we’re going to get there.

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Of course, if we’re talking about couples on Darling in the Franxx, the undeniably adorable couple is Mitsuru and Kokoro. Now there’s a girl who knows how to get what she wants and yet she seems so unassuming.

The He’s a Monster and I’m Suicidal Couple

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Devils’ Line… There’s only so much you can write about this one. However, I’m giving this one props for having one of the stupidest female character from any of these anime relationships this spring. Forget the fact that her chosen partner is a vampire (devil). And forget the fact that they never actually had a conversation before he stuck his tongue in her mouth and somehow she fell madly in love with him to the point where she became obsessive. The sheer fact that she knows the sight of blood sends him crazy and hurts him as he tries to stop himself from killing her and that she still goes near him while bleeding just kind of hurts my head.

The Classic Hollywood Couple

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Tada and Teresa, you two kids are so cute. Of course, given the title is that Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love, I have to wonder if they are setting us up for an ending where Teresa does in fact return home at the end of the school year to face her obligations and they just have the photos of their year together to remember. That would be very sweet and very Hollywood from an early age, and yet somehow kind of annoying. It would make all the Roman Holiday comparisons for this anime fairly conclusive at the end of the day.

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That said, Tada as a protagonist has served the role of being perhaps the least interesting character in his own series. He does have good moments and interactions with other characters, but it is the other characters who seem to drive things forward. Teresa is also a little too over the top at times in her portrayal of a foreigner obsessed with Japan due to love with an old anime. It is adorable at times, but at others just makes her a little hard to take seriously. Still, the two of them together have undeniable chemistry even if that chemistry seemed to form in a near instant of sharing a shelter during a shower of rain.

The Action Couple

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Finally, we have the return of Kaname and Sousuke in Full Metal Panic. If you don’t know why these two characters are amazing already that’s probably because you haven’t seen the original series. Go and watch it. Both characters start out in a very stereotypical manner, but unlike so many other romance/action leads, they don’t allow those roles to define them. They grow and adapt and bounce off one another and their development individually and as a couple has been extraordinary with the first four episodes of Invisible Victory show-casing the incredible bonds between them, right before it ripped them apart.

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Your Favourite Couple

With so many relationships and couples on parade, and I’ve missed a huge number of them, I know, I’d love to know which couple have grabbed your attention this season. Or even which couple you find the least convincing. Sometimes we learn more through observing failure than success.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Recovery of an MMO Junkie OVA (Episode 11)

Review:

Recovery of an MMO Junkie didn’t really need this episode and clearly it was aware of it. So rather than pretend to be an 11 episode series, they released this two part add on as an OVA and to be honest that made it easier to swallow. Basically, Morioka and Sakurai are charming and they continue to be charming here but it adds absolutely nothing to the series and is merely a chance to spend more time with two characters you may have made a connection with if you liked the show.

MMO11

The one thing it did contribute was to give a sense of the couple as they become a little more couple-like even if they are moving forward in tiny little steps. Sakurai offers to help Morioka build a computer after her hard drive dies and the two spend a pleasant day together giving the computer a test spin as they go on a quest online.

MMO11c

This is followed by a semi-nonsense plot that is a dream sequence and seems to exist only to bring all the support cast into the story in some way. There’s certainly fun to be had here but really it is all just a bit pointless.


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Karandi James.

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30 Day Anime Challenge: Day 22

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I knew we’d get to an easy one eventually and Day 22 gives it to me. Day 22: Favourite romantic couple. This one is an easy guess for me and that is Shirayuki and Zen from Snow White with the Red Hair. A close runner up would be Sawako and Kazehayo from Kimi ni Todoke (and Kimi ni Todoke is my favourite romantic anime) but as a couple Shirayuki and Zen are just all kinds of sweet.

shirayuki and zen

I think what I like about Shirayuki and Zen the most is that neither one is a broken character being fixed or healed by the other. They are both hard working and generally nice individuals who just happened to find one another. They bring out the best in one another and support each other, lending a hand when needed, but neither one is ‘saving’ the other from anything as they probably both would have found their way if left to their own devices.

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Seriously, cutest couple ever.

Over to you. Who is your favourite romantic couple?


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Karandi James.

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Friday’s Feature: On Romance in Anime

One of my first top 5 lists was a list of my favourite romantic anime. While romance isn’t my favourite genre, it has always held a warm spot in my heart as romance done well can really move me emotionally and linger with me well after it is finished. So what are some of the common features of sweet and romantic anime? And what do you like in your romance?

01. For the most part they are focused on the female in the relationship. While some shows (particularly a few in recent years) have portrayed romance from a male’s point of view (or at least a male character’s point of view) the majority of romance focused anime follow the girl. This isn’t really surprising given the target audience for most romance anime are girls and as a general rule the romantic genre appeals more to a female audience. And while there are a lot of self-insert girls out there with limited personality besides a love of cooking and cleaning, because romance is such a prolific genre what we find are an array of female leads. From the super shy and fairly stereotypical right through to the oblivious and aggressive.

But that’s what makes romance so great is that if one doesn’t work for you there are plenty of other characters and romances to follow. 2018 turned out to be a bumper year for including a range of relationships and we saw monsters in love with humans, same sex couples, age gap couples and more or less any kind of relationship you’d like to see unfold. It was fantastic to see the diverse range on offer and hopefully 2019 will continue to give us great couples of all shapes and sizes so that everyone can find something to love.

02. This one isn’t in every anime but it is a common feature. The love interest starts out being kind of a jerk and the girl doesn’t like him very much. Then something happens and suddenly she sees him in a new light. This is actually pretty standard in all romances really (and a staple of romantic comedies) and it probably exists because otherwise you have to introduce external tension and conflict early on before the characters have really been established. By creating tension between the two you can focus more or less entirely on the characters without boring the audience to death with their adoring stares.

I’m not the biggest fan of this particular cliché because I’ve never understood why the girl continues to interact with someone who is that much of a jerk, but I do understand from a narrative point of view why it works. Besides, Tomoe may have been nasty to Nanami but he still ends up being one of my favourite male leads in a romance.

Of course, if we look at BL we’ll see a whole lot of incredibly horrible characters that end up being the love interest and while some work hard to try and redeem the character, it is still a trope I’d like to see vanish.

Dakaichi - Episode 1 - Takato

03. The epiphany moment. Despite being in a romance, the characters tend to be unusually dense about their emotions and the state of their relationship. Either one or both of the characters needs to realise they are actually in love or that the other one actually likes them or something. Usually this is accompanied by sparkles, tears, or sometimes a punch because why not. However it is the reveal moment for the character that the audience have been waiting for forever because the character is usually the last to realise it. But hey, at least most of us don’t believe we have arrhythmia because our heart starts beating fast at the sight of the guy.

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04. There’s almost always a rival. Again, this is one of those necessary staples in order to inject some sort of tension or conflict into a story that is basically two people staring into each other’s eyes ad nausea and rivals can add quite a bit of personality to the story. Probably my favourite rival ever is Kurumi from Kimi ni Todoke. That’s mostly because she pretty much demonstrates every characteristic a rival might have rather than just being one type. It’s kind of interesting to watch her character transition.

While I don’t like her manipulative efforts early on (and we aren’t supposed to) you have to admit, Kurumi is a hard worker and ultimately she wasn’t really a nasty person so much as someone who was very driven by her goals. What makes her truly exceptional is that when she finally does confess and get turned down, she accepts this with reasonable grace and uses it as a chance to grow a bit as a person. A little bit. She still stirs the pot occasionally but mostly she moves on.

05. In anime romance tends to only get to the confession and dating stage, again there are exceptions. The vast majority finish the final episode on the confession, the first date, or a kiss and that is as much as we are getting of that story. Then again, given how red most of the characters get just trying to say the name of the person they are in love with I guess we can’t expect much more from them and it really isn’t needed given its the emotion of the relationship that has been conveyed.

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There’s probably a cultural reason for this trend and it isn’t as if the romance is any worse for the lack of physical displays of affection, however it is interesting watching teenage characters get flustered over eye contact or brushing their finger tips.

Well, that does it from me today. What are your favourite parts of romantic anime or what is your favourite romantic anime?

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