Top 5: Christmas Episodes in Anime

sawako christmas

I will admit, I am not the biggest fan of Christmas episodes whether they be in anime or anything else. They all kind of feel the same after awhile.

When narrowing down the list I decided to stick with shows where I just enjoyed the Christmas episode rather than found it a bit of a tag on annoyance. That said, Christmas isn’t as pervasive in anime as Valentines or New Years so trying to remember which shows actually focussed on Christmas proved a bit of a challenge.

As always, I’d love to know your favourite episodes below.

Favourite Christmas Episodes in Anime

Honourable mentions to Haruhi Suzumiya (not an episode but the movie focussed on Christmas), Clannad After Story, and the Sailor Moon second movie (again not an episode).

Number 5: Karin Chibi Vampire

Episode 19 gives us a Christmas Eve episode where both Karin and her friend Maki are trying to make gifts for the objects of their affections. It isn’t all happy news for the pair but there’s enough sweetness in this episode to make it an uplifting experience for the most part. That and it seems like another logical step in Karin and Usui’s relationship rather than an added in episode for the sake of having a Christmas episode.

Number 4: Hayate Combat Butler

Hayate.jpg

Alright, this one probably isn’t really capturing the spirit of Christmas given his parents leave him their debt and run away and then Hayate tries to kidnap someone (fairly unsuccessfully) but Santa’s dream response to Hayate asking why he didn’t get a present is pretty amusing.

Again, the Christmas element doesn’t feel like an add in because it is used to make you feel genuinely sorry for Hayate and the end result is reasonably positive (unless you truly feel that Hayate got a bad deal having to work for Nagisa) so go Christmas.



Number 3: Sword Art Online

SAO - Nicholas.png

Definitely not capturing the spirit of Christmas, I liked this episode because it tapped in to a few different ideas.

Firstly this Christmas episode consolidates the fact that death is going to be final in the game world. Sachi is dead and all of Kirito’s actions won’t bring her back. Secondly, it presents Santa in a way you never wanted to see him and visually this is one of the more interesting boss’ that show up in the series. And finally, I like this episode because there are events in games and they do tie in to holidays so this just worked.

Plus it kind of broke my heart as they gave us a promise  of resurrection, we watched Kirito fight to even get to the location of the event, Klein first trying to stop Kirito and then assisting him to get to where he needed to be, watched Kirito succeed at defeating the boss, and then the realisation that it won’t help him anyway because of the time limit. Everything about this episode was perfect (though perhaps not really within the spirit of Christmas).

Number 2: Kobato

A near love triangle resolved when one of the suitors bows out realising the girl he likes only has eyes for one guy. Using the Christmas episode as a chance to get the two together is just the great kind of excuse everyone needs. Except that the guy in question (Fujimoto) has genuine issues about being abandoned on Christmas Eve so his surly tone for the earlier parts of this episode are completely understandable even if he is misdirecting some of that angst at Kobato.

And Kobato doesn’t really get Christmas anyway and is just fluttering along as always. Still, this episode marks a change in the tone of the show and the central relationship being built and so is pretty important from a plot point of view.

Number 1: Kimi ni Todoke

Christmas episode - Kimi ni todoke

The class Christmas party that Sawako couldn’t go to because… she never got up the nerve to ask her parents? This episode was a really important one as we saw Sawako actually want something more than just Kazahaya to speak with her and we saw her genuinely struggle as she didn’t want to let her parents down. More importantly, she finally comes to the realisation that perhaps she’s been too considerate and it is okay to want things.

Good thing her parents are both alive (a novelty in anime) and actually pretty supportive and understanding. She might not get to see much of the class party but it’s enough that she did actually develop another step as a character.

So that’s my top 5 but I’ve probably missed a bunch so feel free to tell us about your favourite Christmas episodes in anime.


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


Discussing The Horror and Joy of Anime Sequels, Prequels and Spin-Offs

kaname

When it came to movies, I was always wary of sequels growing up. It was more or less universally accepted that the sequel would be weaker than the original with a few exceptions (which of course proved the rule). I was less aware of prequels until the Star Wars franchise essentially hacked the heart out of their own series by delivering 3 very underwhelming movies that pretty much told us nothing that we hadn’t already figured out from watching the original series.

Since then we’ve had plenty of other examples in movies of prequels and sequels just not quite hitting the mark.

So how does this translate when watching anime sequels?

Well it doesn’t really because anime sometimes wraps up the story in one season, but often it doesn’t. What we usually call a sequel in anime is regularly just an ongoing continuation of a story that wasn’t finished. Which means that sometimes that second part is awesome (or third, or fourth, or whatever in the case of very long running series).

However, sometimes even if the story isn’t finished it feels like the characters have said everything they needed to and we’re just getting put through the motions of yet more fights and battles for the sake of it.

That said, some anime sequels are amazing. Higurashi’s second season is fantastic, and totally necessary if you ever want to know why everyone keeps dying in that story. Meanwhile, Black Butler 2 I probably could have done without (and Darker Than Black 2 and quite a few others).

What it comes down to is while I will watch a sequel to a series I enjoyed, I always watch with the assumption that there’s a good chance it will go downhill fast, that way if they manage to pull off something decent I’m always pleasantly surprised. And I know some people are screaming Endless Eight right now which is probably another reason to be wary of some sequels.

Did Darker Than Black really need the anime sequel? I don't think so.

The occasional prequel that shows up (such as Handa-kun) doesn’t really register given how infrequent they are. Generally, any backstory that is needed is told through flashbacks and prequels just aren’t needed. That hasn’t stopped various ‘young’ insert character name stories cropping up but they aren’t exactly flooding the market (and please don’t).

Handa-Kun was entertaining but did it actually act as a prequel or really was it its own thing?

Then, we’ve also got spin-off series which are extremely hit and miss. Some manage to surpass the original where others just end up looking like a watered down imitation. A Certain Scientific Railgun is an excellent example of a spin-off that kind of left the original material in the dust.

While I like A Certain Magical Index, the need to explain magic, esper abilities, and Touma’s weird ability which falls into neither category, meant the whole thing was very crowded. Also, Touma regularly faced magical villains which meant despite the show being set in a city of espers, esper abilities sat more as a background setting than a focus.

Railgun deals pretty much exclusively with the espers and esper issues and as a direct result the world building is significantly stronger and the conflicts are far easier to convey and explain.

shirai

This season we’ve got Sword Oratoria giving us a different view of the world from DanMachi (Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?). Where Sword Oratoria concerned me even from its announcement was in the focus character. See, Railgun took the most interesting character out of Index and gave her a chance to shine.

Sword Oratoria takes the least interesting character out of DanMachi and so far hasn’t done much with her. That isn’t to say it can’t pick up, but you have to wonder why we didn’t just get a continuation of DanMachi given Bell’s story wasn’t yet done.



What it means is, there’s no hard and fast rule in anime (or in movies really) as to whether an anime sequel, prequel, or spin-off will work or not which leaves a lot of fans wading through poor follow up seasons in the hope of stumbling across a good one.

Winter 2017 gave us a number of anime sequels to consider and to be honest I found them all lacking. Tales of Zestiria the X had been reasonable in season 1, but season 2 lost all focus and forward momentum before rushing to a conclusion that made very little sense to those who hadn’t played the game because so many things happened just because.

It was kind of a let down even for those of us with minimal expectations of it. Iron Blooded Orphans similarly kind of faded during its second season. While it maintained a reasonable storyline, it just lacked the punch of the original. Meanwhile, Super Lovers 2 just left me wondering if the characters actually had made any headway at all and Blue  Exorcist just felt like they thought they could just throw any random villain at the characters because the audience would be happy with whatever.

Yes Tales of Zesteria the X - you lost focus. Your anime sequel was less than impressive.

Then we got to Spring 2017 and while I’m watching the spin-off Sword Oratoria, in terms of anime sequels the load is heavy. My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, The Eccentric Family and Natsume Yuujinchou are all trying to draw me back into their worlds. Natsume has the advantage in that it’s up to season 6 (and I’ll come back to Natsume in a little bit). The Eccentric Family made a strong start.

Both My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan have done a reasonable job (and I’ll admit My Hero Academia seems to be getting stronger by the episode), but at this point neither has really convinced me they can surpass the first season (I’d love to be proven wrong and for both to end well).

For me, the main issue always seems to be that unlike a new series, an anime sequel is stuck with all the expectations of the audience and preconceived notions. We’ve watched part 1, we know these characters and this setting. It limits where the story can go but it can still be very good if there is character development to be found or more story to be told.

More importantly, long running series like My Hero Academia ultimately suffer diminishing returns in entertainment. As they try to one-up the danger they ultimately fall into feeling pretty formulaic and repetitive.

There are three series that I want to discuss in regards to sequels.

Fumoffu was more of a filler season than an anime sequel. Highly entertaining but also pretty skippable.

Starting with Full Metal Panic, this series had a season 1 and then we got its anime sequel: Second Raid. There’s also a filler comedy season which should be regarded in its own way (its hilarious) but I’m not discussing that here. Arguably, you can stop watching at the end of season 1.

You can. Chidori realises she’s got all this stuff in her head and she uses it to save the submarine. Sousuke beats the guy he’s been wanting to beat. They celebrate and then they go back to school. Yeah, Chidori is still going to be targeted and Sousuke still knows nothing about living in the real world, but essentially, it’s a good stopping point.

So why Second Raid?

Because what does Chidori want to do now that she knows she has this knowledge in her head? Is Sousuke actually just going to play the good soldier forever? And what is their relationship? There were plenty of character points still open that had more than enough points of interest to explore and certainly more than enough villains in the world to get the plot moving again.

The reason Second Raid works though is Chidori and Sousuke both get pushed to their limit. Chidori is forced to fight for her own life because Sousuke doesn’t instantly save her. He’s too busy going through his own little mental break down which is spectacular to see given everything he’s been through. And while he recovers just a little too fast, it is a mecha series and mental health was never supposed to be the main focus (it isn’t Evangelion).

It kind of needed an anime sequel in order to continue this journey and all of the characters and the plot still had more to give that was worth seeing. It didn’t feel like anyone was contriving reasons for these characters to still be around just to create an anime sequel.

But then this anime announced yet another continuation, Invisible Victory. The original question I had was whether or not this anime sequel could fit with the prior seasons, considering the time gap, and whether it was even needed. I’m thinking yes it was needed from a story point of view but the execution was not great.

Kirito_Dual_Blades

But all of this contrasts with my view of SAO in terms of anime sequels. Sword Art Online was fantastic when it came out (some will argue against that but let’s put that aside). The entire first arc, playing Sword Art Online, was good (I know some people have issues with it but it works). I loved it. Then Kirito beats the game and they all wake up. That’s great. We’re trapped in a game that can kill us and someone finally let us out. Whoo-hoo.

So why isn’t that the end of season 1?

Because some people didn’t wake up. Okay. Fine. Why not?

Technically, this could have worked as a continuation. It could have. But most people will agree that Fairy Dance is the weakest of the SAO stories. While it does tie up a loose end or 2 from SAO, it isn’t necessary. The story could have ended with them waking up and being reunited.

They added an additional complication for no reason other then to force a continuation that wasn’t needed, turned a reasonably capable female character into a damsel in distress, and introduced a villain who was so immature and cartoonish in his villainy you couldn’t have taken him seriously if you tried.

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Then we have GGO and the Mother Rosario arcs before the most recent Aliciztion, all of which I kind of regard more as Spin-offs given how little in common they have with the original story at this point. And they work as anime sequels that develop the supporting cast but Kirito pretty much stops developing as a character (and I know some people will argue he didn’t develop in the original, but we’ll save that argument for later).

Essentially, he freezes at the end of Fairy Dance. There’s nothing more to say about him. He does stuff, but he no longer changes as a result of his actions or decisions.

Natsume Yuujinchou - doing anime sequels right.

The last series I want to touch on is Natsume Yuujinchou which is 6 seasons along and has kind of nailed how to do an anime sequel right. Natsume in terms of story has never really felt like it is driving toward anything. The conflict has always been Natsume dealing with how to live. That isn’t something that can be ‘solved’ or ‘overcome’ and it isn’t something that ends.

And it is a conflict that continually sees the main character reflect and grow (admittedly in very slow and small steps). What that ultimately means is that despite the number of sequels, this story still doesn’t feel finished and this character is still evolving. Spending more time with him on his journey is always fun.

Basically, anime sequels (or prequels or spin-offs) all need to be considered in the light of the series they are attached to. For me if they actually are needed or are adding something of value to the character or the story then I will usually find them highly enjoyable. But if I’m just expected to swallow lack luster story telling because someone slapped a name on it I recognise, I’m going to move on.

How do you feel about anime sequels and prequels?


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


Would Seeing Azusa Grinding For 300 Years Have Made Her A More Interesting Character?

Slime 300 Feature

We time-skipped 300 years but did we miss anything about Azusa?

https://otakuauthor.com/

A long, long time ago, back in 2012, the original Sword Art Online anime came out and created a stir. It was an instant hit with many anime viewers and soon after became the anime that people just loved to hate because you could. However, one story element that was only really apparent in the Aincrad Arc did leave some viewers wondering and that was how the story would just jump chunks of time and the characters would suddenly be significantly stronger and higher up the tower than where we last left them.

For some people, this was seen as a deficit of the story and they celebrated the announcement of Progressive which apparently fills in those gaps.

That said, I wasn’t in the camp that wanted to see characters grinding day after day and level after level. Sure you could make any one of those encounters interesting but episode after episode of either going out and grinding levels before returning to a safe town and trying out different foods and flavours wasn’t something I was missing in Sword Art Online. I found the time jumps worked in the story’s favour to move us along to the significant plot moments for Kirito and Asuna’s relationship as well as beating the tower.

Which then of course brings us to I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level which took this to a new extreme entirely by just skipping all 300 years after a character got isekai’d and dropped us straight into the slice of life antics of someone who is already an unstoppable force of power.

Azusa looks too cool
Image from I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years
Introducing Azusa who can get away with wearing that hat because not one attack is ever getting near her.

Now as a fantasy/comedy with slice of life elements, the success of each episode more or less rests on how engaging these characters are and yet it feels like the most interesting parts of Azusa’s story were just swept under the rug. Her life in Japan prior to dying and being sent to another world is breezed through in minutes and other than seeing standard corporate worker who does too many hours of work we learn little about her as a person.

Likewise, her reaction to being sent to another world is so calm and detached it is hard to really get any kind of feeling for her. While we see her initial arrival in the fantasy world and her very first attempt at killing a slime we all too quickly jump to 300 years in the future where slime hunting is just the hum-drum every day activity.

300 Slime Ep1 5
This is as fish out of water as Azusa gets.

If this were an adventure story we’d have some serious problems at this point. Our main character has zero motivation other than to lead a quiet life. If she received a call to adventure she’d happily slam the door in the caller’s face. We also haven’t seen her struggle to grow and overcome any weaknesses. Her powers are great but we didn’t see her earn them or really know how they work so she more or less just does what the plot requires her to do and we all just go, ‘cool she’s really strong’.

But as an immortal, power maxed out witch she’s more or less untouchable and while I enjoyed the most recent episodes with the dragons, it kind of made me realise there’s never going to be any kind of actual threat in this story.

But… Slime 300 never claimed to be an adventure story. Actually, if we cut off the beginning of this story and just started the story with a powerful witch living in the highlands who gets visited by various and sundry magical characters who want something from her, we’d have a slice of life story without the complications or even really caring what said magical witch’s backstory actually was.

300 Slime Ep2 6
This cute little button is the only one who has even managed to dent Azusa’s confidence.

So perhaps the greater question is, “why make this an isekai at all?”. And that’s a question I’ve had to ask a lot of anime. But, there is one reason why Azusa living a second life isn’t entirely a pointless premise. Let’s get back to her only motive. Azusa is motivated by living a slow and quiet life. Her values and decisions are built around working in moderation. This came out of her realisation that her previous life was essentially wasted working a thankless job and ultimately achieving nothing but ruining her health. And she passes this on to those around her.

Azusa being from another world and having another life of experience definitely adds to her character and one could argue is the cornerstone of everything she’s become in this second life. So we can’t do away with her being reincarnated and given a second life. Do we necessarily need the 300 year time skip?

Kind of no. The goddess who gave her the second life bestowed her with immortality and a peaceful life but the goddess could have achieved that by maxing out her power to start with and then we wouldn’t need the time-jump to exist.

300 Slime Ep1 2
Cute goddess is hard to be mad at.

The answer here is much muddier. It is difficult to tell what impact those 300 years have had on Azusa as a person because we didn’t know much about her before them so it is difficult to see the impact of events that may have occurred on her person. Would the story be the same without the time-jump? Quite possibly.

However the question at hand is whether or not seeing those 300 years would have made the audience more interested or connected with Azusa’s character?

Which is a hard question to answer because some people will already feel really happy with how Azusa is. I mean, she is a fine enough character and is certainly serving the purpose of the story.

300 Slime Ep3 6
And she’s sparkly.

For me though, I feel I still don’t really know Azusa or feel any real connection with her. She’s a placeholder instead of a character and because she’s stupidly overpowered and knowledgeable and surrounded by equally powerful characters there’s little to challenge her or bring about anything other than these light moments that just kind of feel like they are somewhat lacking.

It is quite possible I would find her more interesting if I’d seen her struggle a little more as she learned to kill slimes or tried to figure out her magic. Possibly if we’d seen her on days when she was bored or discouraged there’s be more sense that she was a real person rather than someone who just went happily about doing the same thing every day for 300 years.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike Azusa. She’s perfectly pleasant. However, I also probably won’t remember her after the season ends. I’ll remember that anime that had slime in the title and an overpowered witch with a cool hat, but if I even remember her name I’d be surprised.

Now we’re still early days and maybe she’ll leave a bigger impression before the end. But I would like to know if you think seeing some of the first 300 years in the fantasy world might have been interesting?

Images in this article from:

  • I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level. Dir. N. Kimura. Revoroot. 2021


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


Why Do We Criticise Main Characters For Being Overpowered?

Overpowered Feature

I know right from the start of writing this article that I’m going to step on some toes but the argument about main characters being over powered and whether that makes them less interesting comes up time and time again and I decided I wanted to discuss this.

Why are overpowered main characters considered a bad thing?

Admittedly, I do like anime where the underdog comes forward and finally overcomes the seemingly unbeatable peril, but that doesn’t mean every main character has to be a wimp or a developing hero. It’s nice sometimes to have someone competent, in control, and at times even confident to follow along on their quest. In those instances, it isn’t tension that you are wanting to experience but rather the satisfaction of seeing someone overcome a challenge in a fairly capable manner. So, different emotional payoff but still entertaining, right?

Only it seems there is a very vocal group on the internet that seem to think that an overpowered MC exists only as a plot device and can’t possibly be an interesting character. While they are entitled to their opinion, and if an anime that features a strong main character isn’t for them, so be it, why do they feel the need to berate anyone who feels differently or to tear down these anime?

The king of overpowered main characters - superman

Before we get into anime characters that seem overpowered, I would like to point out the most overpowered character of all time, Superman. Seriously, there is only one thing in the entire world that can even slow him down and its ridiculously hard to come across (unless you are a B Grade villain living in Metropolis in which case it seems you will find it every time you sneeze). And with nothing that can actually harm him, let’s be honest there is very little reason to ever feel concerned about the outcome of a battle. His girlfriend died and he turned back time to save her (didn’t worry about all the other victims though).

One of my favourite characters in anime is Sebastian from Black Butler, but by every definition he is overpowered. At no point in the series do you feel he is actually in any danger, and by association there is little that will actually endanger the protagonist of the series, Ciel.

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Does that take any fun out of the series? Does it mean it is pointless to watch because you know Sebastian is going to win the fight and finish with s smug smile, usually while polishing something, and then give a cheesy line about being “one hell of a butler”? I didn’t think so. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the series and the fact that not every conflict could be solved simply through pointing Sebastian at it and saying ‘defeat’. Sure, the outcome of any conflicts were inevitable, but the process of getting to that victory was usually quite amusing to watch and it made for a very satisfying experience.



And Sebastian never complains. Or cries. Or pleas for more power. There are no training montages, no wise advisers showing up, or even friendly rivals (at least not in the first season). All of these clichés that occur in anime where the protagonist is still developing and not overpowered can be removed because what on earth will our character learn from them? They are already strong so most of their learning comes about themselves or other people rather than combat.

Another character who seems to take hits for being overpowered all the time is Kirito from Sword Art Online. Firstly, why is he considered overpowered? He nearly dies in every single battle and fails fairly regularly to protect those he is trying to save, which takes a fairly heavy emotional toll on him. The fact that he manages in most instances to save his own life doesn’t make him overpowered.

Kirito_Dual_Blades

While some haters argue that knowing Kirito will win a fight makes it pointless to watch. Unless you seriously haven’t ever watched or read any kind of story before, of course the main character is going to win. They only ever lose if it serves a greater purpose in the plot. So knowing he’s going to win doesn’t make him overpowered either.

Kirito isn’t always confident of victory, and he doesn’t walk needlessly into danger or expose himself to harm. He trains hard and he works with other characters – who admittedly get sidelined in critical battles to show off how amazing Kirito is but that’s a whole other discussion – and lastly, he continues to grow and develop as a character (which is another key criticism of him that he doesn’t develop). While his growth is subtle, it most certainly is occurring.

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Remember back in the very first episode of SAO when Kirito realised that the game was real and that he could die. The fear he felt and the way it nearly overwhelmed him. And that emotion led him to the conclusion that he had to get strong and had to survive. Then as the series progressed he realises that mere survival won’t be enough. He has to find a way to live. And then he helps other characters realise that they can find a way to live as well. Kirito may become an exceptionally strong character, but he doesn’t just blink and get that way. And I personally found his journey very interesting even knowing he wouldn’t die.

Then again, if you really hate Kirito you can watch SAO abridged and that is pretty funny regardless.

Lastly, I’d like to bring up Tatsuya Shiba from The Irregular at Magic High School. He is totally overpowered in almost every conflict he is involved in. And even though that is blatantly apparent to the audience the rest of the cast that inhabit his world are a little slower on the uptake. Does that make him boring to watch? Not at all. Tatsuya is fantastic to see in action.

tatsuya.jpg

Here is a character who exudes calm and confidence in every situation. I would say the issues come more from his lack of personality than from him being overpowered. And once again, it isn’t as though he is never in any danger or never injured. And it isn’t that the people around him aren’t put in danger or injured. The fact that he is going to win a fight doesn’t make it any less exhilarating to watch.

So, while I will admit that an overpowered main character can cause some plot problems (for instance the increasingly ridiculous ways they will try to make villains or situations that do challenge them), having an overpowered MC is not an instant sign that an anime is flawed, terrible, or without a story.

I guess it all comes down to why you are watching the story and what you are after. If you want nail biting tension and uncertainty in a battle’s outcome, certainly these overpowered main characters won’t be for you. But if you are after something else, there may be quite a bit of enjoyment to be found.

Share your thoughts. Do you like or hate overpowered characters? Who are your favourite/most hated overpowered characters?


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


Top 5 Anime Houses

Tuesday's Top 5

There are plenty of cool homes and houses that we come across in anime but there are some that stick with me well after the anime has finished. Today I’m counting down my top 5 favourite anime homes and houses. That said, there are a lot of great houses in anime so feel free to share your favourites in the comments.

Number 5: Student Council Building – Code Geass

This one is a little bit odd because technically it is a school building. However, as the Ashford’s allow Lelouche and Nunally to crash there I’m counting it as a home so there we go. The biggest issue is finding a picture of the exterior that isn’t the entire school and alas I came up short on that. Still, it looks like an amazing place to live except for the tragic circumstances surrounding the characters who live there.

code geass

Number 4: Yuuko’s Shop – xxxHolic

Seriously, how can you not love this place. And I love how it is nestled in amongst the high rises of Tokyo. It is just a beautiful building and with the trees framing it like a small oasis of magic and mystery within the large city, Yuuko’s home is amazing. Okay, again there’s a lot of fine print on this house but that shouldn’t stop us from admiring.

yuukos house

Number 3: Shigure’s Home – Fruits Basket

I still remember watching the original Fruits Basket anime and seeing Shigure’s home with Tohru for the first time. It is an unassuming building surrounded by nature and it is truly gorgeous. The open nature of the house makes it feel like part of the forest surrounding it and the characters spend a lot of time on the veranda or rooftop adding to the feeling that it is a very open and inviting house. As Shigure, Yuki, Tohru and Kyo build a home within it, the house is just as much a part of the show as these characters and I love it in the new anime adaptation as well.

fruits basket shigure house

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Number 2: Kirito and Asuna’s House – Sword Art Online

Feel like visiting floor 22 of Aincrad? If you do in addition to gorgeous trees and lakes where hiking and fishing are the relaxation hobbies of choice you can also drop by this adorable little cabin where Kirito and Asuna built a home within the virtual world. While it isn’t as grand as some of the entries on this list, this one is filled with warmth and love and very much was a home built by the characters.

kirito and asunas house

Number 1: Tigre’s Home in Alsace – Lord Marksman and Vanadis

If I’m honest, this is the building that inspired me to write this list. I just happened to watch a few episodes of this the other day to try to help me relax and when I saw Tigrevurmud Vorn’s family home in Alsace, the home that he fought so incredibly hard to protect even after becoming a prisoner of war, I realised that I had to write this list. This place is truly adorable and full of the memory’s Tigre has of his father as well as the upbringing he’s had with his friends. This is a place worth protecting.

vanadis house

That’s my list but as I said before I’d love to know yours. Let me know which anime house you would include on your top 5.


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Karandi James


And Apparently We’re Done For Now

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 24 Review

I wasn’t aware until the episode ended that this is actually the end of this season and the story won’t be continuing until October when we get Sword Art Online Alicization – War of the Underworld (that’s a mouthful and a half of a title). So on that note the complete cliff-hanger on an ending makes kind of sense knowing that this will continue but on the back of now 24 episodes of very little really being all that engaging, I’m just kind of left wondering if I will pick up the series when it comes back.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 24 - Eugeo encouraging Kirito

Am I that curious about the fate of fluctlights who’s nature and existence hasn’t actually been satisfactorily explained other than some pseudo sciency ‘soul’ babble that went on way too long and essentially explained nothing? I know the only character I did have any kind of desire to see grow is now dead so that kind of doesn’t exactly help my desire to watch more. I also know Kirito, who I used to really like as a character, has spent the last 24 episodes making me really just bored with his current holier than thou attitude. I need to go back and watch Aincrad again just to remind myself that I actually do like his character.

Honestly, when I do my full series review of this first 24 episodes of Alicization, I’m going to really struggle for positives. For the few shining moments sprinkled throughout, there’s a whole lot of nothing and a lot of babble about less than nothing.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 24 - Kirito

The final episode continues the trend with a fight between the Administrator and Kirito. Kirito who changes back into the clothes of the black swordsman through… not a command or anything. He just kind of wants it to happen and it does. Before someone tells me he’s in a game world, I get that. I also get that at no point in this series has Kirito demonstrated that he can just create things out of thin air without going through an actual command process. And while Kirito has broken games before to pull a victory from nowhere, that didn’t involve equipping a new costume mid-fight.

The Administrator pulling sword skills and the like from previous iterations of the game actually was kind of cool to give credit where it is due. Although, they pull the Godiva hair trope on and on and you just wonder if it really would have been so hard to have her wear clothes during any part of this fight.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 24 - Administrator

Then Eugeo, who I’m pretty sure was already dead, gives Kirito a pep talk and I’m pretty sure his blood turns into a sword. Again with the how and the why? This literally came out of nowhere. Yep, Eugeo turned into a sword last episode but Cardinal did that and there was quite a process. It wasn’t just a hold my hand, say some encouraging words and presto have a sword.

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Though, of all the stupid things going on in this episode, Kirito’s horror when the Administrator decided to go to his world just kind of made me laugh. We have no reason to believe she’ll be capable of anything once she crosses over. No body, and even if she’s the proverbial ghost in the machine, they can delete her. I kind of feel if they wanted me to take that seriously as a threat, they possibly should provide some context for why that is threatening. Then the senator chasing after her and her reaction actually did make me laugh because it was just so stupid.

In the final moments we see Kirito finally communicating with someone outside the game and things are going poorly. Then we get our cliff-hanger moment with another, oh no did Kirito die kind of moments, but shrug. Honestly, this series has been a mess and the final episode is equally messy.

Sword Art Online Alicization - Episode 24 - Cliff hanger

It really expects you to ask no questions of it or challenge anything. It really doesn’t want you to look for logic. It literally just wants you to jump along to the next cool moment and appreciate it because any other kind of viewing experience makes this one just fall apart. You can’t ask questions because there are no answers (or at least none that make sense).

Can we go back to the days where the crazy guy just wanted to make his own world and trap everyone inside of it?


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Karandi James


Empty Promises Preceding Empty Actions

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Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23 Review

I’ll give this episode its positives first, because to be honest I’m kind of at the point where I’m not sure if next season I’m going to continue with episode reviews or whether I’ll just watch in batches of three or four episodes at a time and review once it is done. On the positive side, we finally got some action and significantly less exposition. The action was flashy and sparkly and suitably dynamic and all and all it kind of worked.

And there the positives end.

Cardinal - Sword Art Online Aliciztaion Episode 23

Cardinal makes the Administrator swear on her fluctlight that she’ll let the others go and then offers essentially to die. Administrator, agrees (as if anyone believes her) and then proceeds to blow Cardinal around the room with a bunch of flashy light and explosions ending with a limb flying off and Cardinal flopping onto the ground to be held by Kirito.

So, why didn’t the Administrator just kill her?

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23 - Eugeo are you...

Oh I know, this is meant to be showing us how cruel Administrator is by playing with Cardinal. Also how over-confident etc, etc. But mostly it is just making her look like a complete idiot because what it does is gives the Cardinal a chance for one more program.

Then we have the whole sword automaton thing that is apparently made up of three hundred people somehow drawn from the memories of the inegrity knights (okay, that part lost me a little, but it had to do with the shiny little crystals in the roof).

Sparkly Ceiling - Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23

However, if I thought the Cardinal was dumb for trying to make deals with the Administrator, and then I thought the Administrator was dumb for not just actually killing her, then Eugeo gets the prize for most idiotic decision making of the episode.

Cause, you know, turning into a sword and flying around is going to fix everything.

Eugeo - Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23
The imagery was also somewhat less than subtle.

What’s tragic is Eugeo’s one sword, I’m guessing because he chose and accepted it, took out the core of the 300 sword thing. Which just kind of makes you wonder if maybe they couldn’t have figured out a better way to do that.

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Then he turns his attention to the Administrator and attacks her. Admittedly, he does land a blow and injures her but the end result is one dead Eugeo.

I kind of feel like this series threw his character well and truly under a bus. Giving Kirito and off-sider and a male companion was actually kind of novel but mostly he’s just been used by the plot over and over again and now they’ve split him in two and dropped him bleeding on the floor. I’m just not convinced that this was a particularly compelling character arc and given how idiotic his actions were here I’m not even particularly upset that he met his end.

Eugeo Sword - Sword Art Alicization Episode 23

Kirito also has Asuna flashbacks as Alice gets in-between him and the Administrator and that is apparently what triggers him into action. Not Cardinal’s death. Not Eugeo choosing to turn into a sword, which no one did anything to stop. Not Eugeo subsequently fighting alone as a sword before being cut down. Not Eugeo dying. But a flash back of Asuna jumping between Kirito and Heathcliff from Aincrad. That gets him moving.

I like the Aincrad arc a lot, but really?

More importantly, unless Kirito has some program destroying move in mind he’s still going to lose. And if he does have a program destroying move in mind, Eugeo’s death was worse than idiotic, it is pointless.

Sigh.

Really wondering what is supposed to be appealing about the current state of the story because I’m just not getting it.


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Karandi James


Anime Characters Should Not Review Their Own Episode

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Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Review

While I’ll get to reviewing the episode in a moment, I just want to look at the opening act of this episode which addresses the fight between the Senator (only barely introduced a few episodes ago) and Eugoe (no longer brainwashed), Kirito and Alice. Mostly because there was a lot of build-up around a character only just introduced, a cliff-hanger as the fight got started, and then we spend the opening scene rewatching his power up. Only to essentially one shot kill him. Alice distracts his flame creation with little difficulty, Eugeo diverts attention from Kirito by half-heartedly attacking the administrator causing the senator to look away, and then Kirito light beams him to death. The end.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Kirito

In the words of the Administrator herself, that was boring.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Administrator

All that build up and a week’s wait and nothing. Barely even a whimper.

Then without any further discussion, the Senator’s body is flipped against a wall and promptly forgotten. Discarded as the bit character he was but he essentially served no purpose. None at all. Not even a cool fight sequence and diversion. Literally he just put the breaks on the story for a build up that never delivered.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 dead Senator

Following this the episode gets back into exposition and sermonising mode. They did at least draw parallels between whether the game world and reality are similar in asking whether humans live their lives in fear of being reset by some unknown creator, so points for thematic linking back to the original SAO. However, again, this is a lot of back and forth covering content we already knew. The only real take from this is that Eugeo now knows Kirito isn’t just someone from his world (which I’m left wondering why Kirito hadn’t told Eugeo this by this point, but whatever).

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22

However, the Administrator then decides to reveal her ultimate weapon that will replace the incredibly flawed system with the integrity knights. It is shiny and golden and really large. So cool. In a matter of seconds it impaled both Alice and Kirito and left them bleeding on the ground and Eugeo shaking in his boots.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Alice is stabbed

Of course, after a spider vs sword golem moment that makes about as much sense as it sounds like it should, Eugeo stabs the special dagger into the floating platform and somehow that lets the Cardinal appear. In an instant Kirito and Alice are healed, we get some more exposition while the Administrator just kind of floats and gloats, and then the episode ends.

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This show makes me want to face palm so badly almost every week at this point.

Nothing is having any consequence at the moment. Eugeo brainwashed – fixed next episode. Senator guy is really powerful – killed in one shot within minutes. Kirito and Alice stabbed and bleeding – instantly healed including their clothes and bloodstains.

Meanwhile, the Administrator seems to just have whatever power they decide to give her which makes you wonder why she doesn’t just rewrite the world’s code to disappear the floor and send Eugeo, Kirito and Alice back to the bottom and ignore them. Why bother fighting at all? As to the Cardinal, who knows what she’s up to?

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Cardinal

I’m almost all for letting the humans outside of Underworld hit the reset button at this point. It couldn’t make it any sillier.


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Karandi James


The Power of Friendship Strikes Back

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Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 21 Review

I’m in two minds about this fight between Kirito and Eugeo. On the one hand, I’ve been wanting to see these two go head to head for a fair while in Sword Art Online Alicization. On the other hand, it doesn’t look like either one ultimately took the fight all that seriously. More importantly, that was some fast acting brain washing and just as quickly removed with a few words about friendship.

Alicization Episode 21 Eugeo and Kirito

I actually kind of get that the original brainwashing job wasn’t exactly first class, which explains why she was trying to redo the whole process now that she had more time, but still… it all seems like an unnecessary step. Plenty of characters get brainwashed and go to the darkside (look at Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon), but having it last not even a whole episode kind of makes it seem like a relatively shallow point. Like they thought it would be cool to see Kirito and Eugeo fight but had no ongoing narrative purpose for putting the two against each other and so rapidly backtracked.

Alicization Episode 21 Eugeo

Even then, it could have worked out except that Kirito didn’t overwhelm Eugeo with some amazing swordplay or even pull out any crazy or cool moves. Alice didn’t even fight. She was just bystanding. Nope, Kirito just spouted a whole bunch of names of people who haven’t been in the show for ages as if they are somewhat relevant or important and Eugeo turned Kirito and Alice into ice before going off to face the administrator alone.

It wasn’t exactly a satisfying outcome.

Alicization Episode 21 Eugeo, Alice and Kirito

Now of course we’ve got the three of them together facing off against the senate guy in the jester costume. Can I hope that giant flame monster thing he summoned means we’re going to maybe get a cool fight next week or is that asking a little too much at this point?

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SWORD ART ONLINE: HOLLOW REALIZATION [DELUXE EDITION]
SWORD ART ONLINE: HOLLOW REALIZATION [DELUXE EDITION]

The Promise of Later

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There’s a definite trend for anime that start slowly or have a lull in the mid-section to be defended by staunch lovers of the source material using the phrase ‘it gets better’. Usually with a ‘trust me’ thrown in there as well. This is “the Promise of Later” and I’ve kind of used it myself with Saihate no Paladin because such an epic story needs time to get up and off the ground.

So often times it is actually quite correct in that the story does find its feet and pick itself up. However, does that actually make the story any better in the first place if the only way to defend it in the early days is to argue that something better is coming?

I guess we could point out that viewers these days are fairly impatient beings and with so many anime available to them each season it is easy enough to simply not want to play a waiting game. Why wait for one title to ‘get better’ when another title simply is ‘better’?

Endro Episode 8

Now, I know I am an impatient person. Given I’ve suggested things like skipping the first 100 pages when reading To Kill a Mockingbird as you won’t appreciably miss any of the plot by doing so, though you will lose a lot of character and world building. I guess it depends why you are reading the story in the first place and whether you really get immersed in all that set up or just keep turning pages to see when the ‘plot’ might appear.

But yes, that book tried my patience to no end and even though the trial and the message in the second half of the book are actually pretty solid, I really felt like I wanted the time spent reading the opening act back.

However, I’m perfectly happy to wait a reasonable length into a series with an interesting premise for it to find its feet even if the opening act isn’t exactly blowing me away.

Does the promise of later sway your decisions?

Of course, that results in me watching quite a number of anime that just never find their feet and end as boringly as they started, or worse, they go in weird directions and just kind of implode. Caligula would probably fit into this category. I didn’t drop it even though there were plenty of poor episodes early on and plenty of warning that it was going to be a mess. However, I wanted to give it time to find its way and finish its set up. Too bad it never got any better.

Caligula Episode 11

Yet there comes a time during a season where you have to wonder if the time being sunk into watching is actually going to be worth a later payoff. In the case of Sakurada Reset, it turns out it really was. Now, I still don’t fully recommend Sakurada Reset to any but the most avid anime fan given there’s a lot of set-up time and I very nearly walked away from the anime mid-season. But…

See, there’s that ‘but’.

It gets better.

sagrada22b

The ending of Sakurada Reset was one of the most satisfying narrative conclusions I’ve seen in anime and while it isn’t the best, by any means, I felt that all of the set up time, the weird stilted dialogue, the seemingly disjointed stories, and the general frustration felt while watching individual episodes of the story, were worth it for that ending. Everything came together in a way that so few shows manage and it just felt like reaching the summit of a mountain and getting the most gorgeous view imaginable.

Still, if someone else were to watch the first few episodes and tell me they dropped it, I would fully understand. I would try to argue that they should be more patient and give it more time because it is quite the slog to get through and I remember how tiresome some of those mid-season episodes were.

Run With The Wind Episode 4

There’s also Run With The Wind, that has built up to a second half that is truly unmissable. Yet would I blame anyone from walking away in the first half? When I hated one character entirely for a large chunk of the first cour, didn’t really connect with a lot of the others, and found the training sequences less than compelling and it was really only direction, visuals and sound design that really kept me hooked (and Prince as he has some of the coolest lines imaginable).



I really can’t say that everyone is going to think that the ending is worth it (particularly as we aren’t yet at the end). What I will say is I am super glad I kept watching because wow that has been one of the best emotional payoffs in a long time from anime.

Run With The Wind Episode 7 Prince

But I’ll turn my attention to Sword Art Online Alicization. I was really looking forward to more SAO, and not a spin-off without Kirito, but genuine SAO. Alicization as an arc has been talked up by those who have read the source so much so even though I tried to go in with reasonable expectations, there was this sense that what was coming should be amazing.

First few episodes had their moments. They got me into the story and established characters. There were sufficient cool and nostalgic moments sprinkled in. Yep, this was SAO and I like SAO and Kirito was back doing his thing. It wasn’t like Aincrad which hooked me from episode one and dragged me into a story that I ended up loving, but it was certainly a promising beginning.

Sword Art Online Alicization - Episode 2 - Kirito

Then we just kind of meandered along. Stuff has happened to be sure but if the recap episode after episode 18 was anything to go by, not enough to justify 18 episodes worth of viewing. And as more and more chinks in the poorly paced and exposition heavy narrative become completely impossible to ignore, the defence that is being mounted is ‘it gets better’.

How much better and will it be worth the time commitment? Well only time and personal judgement will answer that.

Will I drop Sword Art Online Alicization? Probably not. I like Sword Art Online and much like Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card, nostalgia will get this show a lot of life-lines and keep me watching and hoping.

Alicization12a

But if I was asked whether or not someone should start Alicization, would I actually recommend it?

Right now the answer is absolutely not, unless you happen to be a huge fan of SAO and just want more. There are significantly better written and better executed shows airing right now and while Sword Art Online Alicization remains a watchable experience there is very little I could point to that would be something I could recommend to anyone who isn’t a Kirito fan already.

The argument ‘it gets better’ just seems a little hollow here.

Ultimately, each viewer is going to make their own decision about how much time they are willing to give something. Whether they will stick with something for the long haul or whether they will cut their losses early. Each viewer will decide whether the promise of something better later is worth what they are watching right now. But I am interested to know from my readers how you feel about the ‘it gets better’ defence and whether you feel it has merit as a means of recommending someone continues to watch something or whether you are someone who drops things fast when they don’t deliver.

Leave us a comment below and lets get the conversation started.


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Karandi James