Friday’s Feature: Angels and Demons in Anime

One thing all anime fans know is that if it exists as even a vague idea, somewhere, someone has made an anime about it. Probably more than one someone. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that many stories in anime are built on some of the trappings from the Christian and Catholic church. While some of these stories might attempt something resembling a realistic representation, more often than not, in true anime fashion, an idea is borrowed and then it gets the full anime treatment. And while some people might dislike the way various religious icons and ideologies end up being represented, the end result has been a range of interesting stories that might not otherwise have existed.

Now using religious ideology as the basis of a story, or borrowing heavily from religious texts for characters, themes and ideas, is nothing new, there’s something quite interesting in the way anime tends to do it. With only around 1% of Japan actually identifying as Christian, writers can take quite a few more liberties with the subject matter they are borrowing from without as much fear of audience backlash as writers in more western countries. And while movies like Dogma and the like show that even western writers can get away with subverting the original message, there’s a much greater risk involved.

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And while at some point I’d probably like to get more into the various influences of religion within anime narratives, today I’m really just wanting to look at how angels and demons have been represented in a small section of the medium. There are far too many stories that have borrowed these iconic characters to really generalise across the board, but there’s a definite trend that has surfaced in how angels and demons are being depicted.

The trend I really have noticed is that angels are getting a really bad reputation in a lot of these shows (a trend that also seems to be taking place in the west with fallen angels being a trend that bubbled up after the success of Twilight and the market over-saturated with vampire romance and so people jumped on the fallen angel bandwagon instead). While it might be a little earlier than that bubble, Angela/Ash from Black Butler is a prime example of the type of character and depiction that angels regularly get given.

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Cruel, sadistic, and slightly crazy, Angela is very driven by her goals which may or may not have anything to do with a higher will power. Her actions are justified as righteous in her own mind even as they leave the audience wondering who the real demon in the show is. And that isn’t to say that Sebastian comes off looking saintly given his violent and predatory nature is well known. It’s just that when you compare him side by side with the angel there’s definitely a question of which one is supposed to be in the right. Even the neutral Grim Reapers end up siding against the angel toward the end of the season as their plan threatens to upset the balance of the world.

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If we look at something more recent and comical, Gabriel Drop Out gives us essentially a lazy, drop-out of an angel who’s inherent good nature is so easily corrupted by the pleasures of earth (gaming) and very quickly abandons her original mission. While I didn’t get far into the series, I found this to be an interesting depiction of an angel. It didn’t paint Gabriel into shades of gray, but simply had her become a slacker, which really doesn’t fit with the image of an angel but at the same time didn’t necessarily make her bad either. Throw in the fact that the ‘demonic’ characters in the show seemed to be genuinely sweet and there’s a mess of ideologies going on here that are played for laughs and humour but have probably strayed a fair way from the borrowed religious themes.

Even The Devil is a Part Timer works on subverting the audience’s expectations. It sets up a standard Satan versus Hero situation and Lord Satan (Maou) is corrupt and trying to take over the world. There’s no question of his evil nature in the first episode or of the hero’s righteousness. However, as the series progresses, Emi (the Hero), resorts to stalking, petty rumour spreading, jealousy, and other underhanded tactics while Maou pretty much conforms to the new world’s rules and laws. We also learn that Emi is part angel which begins to subvert the idea of what an angel is before Mitsuki shows up.

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Despite being an angel, Mitsuki is very much on par with Angela from Black Butler. He kidnaps characters, he tortures them while laughing about it, he’s petty and vindictive, and ultimately he’s overwhelmed by the power of Maou. And at that point no one feels even slightly sorry for him because he’s a complete an absolute jerk who totally had it coming.

One anime that takes a different approach is Angel beats where Angel (or Tachibana) is originally portrayed as a cold and efficient killer, but later it is realised she is acting in the best interest of others she’s just a really, really bad communicator and no one had ever taken the time to ask her what she was doing. Turns out she isn’t an angel anyway which kind of makes the title of the show a bit odd (unless you count the fact that the computer program she’s using to generate some of her weapons is called Angel Player). Ultimately though, Tachibana is actually trying to help the other students live a happy school life, make peace with their previous life, and move on. Which is probably the most angelic sounding character I’ve mentioned so far.

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Demons in anime go anywhere from being mindless beasts hell-bent on destruction, to articulate and savvy romantic interests. The defining trait of being evil is questionable in most of these characters and a lot of them are portrayed as being very human or having very human motivations. And regularly there is no connection between demons and any specific religion as they come across more as random monsters then creatures from the pits of hell. Frequently demonic characters are ones a human audience can sympathise with. It’s an interesting trend though it does make you wonder where all the ‘evil’ demons went. You know, the ones that actually wanted to devour human souls and lead us into ruin.

Now as I said at the start, there’s nothing new about the borrowing of icons and ideologies from religion in narratives, and trends in narratives come and go. But it will be interesting to see what sorts of angels and demons we get from here on out.

And on that note, I’d love to know who some of your favourite angelic and demonic characters are from anime so please be sure to leave me a comment below.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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The Devil is a Part Timer Volume 1 Light Novel Review

The Devil is a Part Timer is one of those rare comedy anime I fell in love with. It was even my very first series review on this blog. So now I’ve tried the light novel. What did I think?

Review:

I’m wondering how I would have taken to this book if I’d never seen the anime. Mostly because, I really didn’t enjoy reading it very much. The few moments of genuine enjoyment I found came when I was remembering how a scene was portrayed in the anime, rather than the words on the page. And given the length of time it took me to finish this as I regularly would stop reading to do literally anything else, kind of indicated I wasn’t getting into it.

Part of that definitely comes from my personal distaste of comedy. While the anime managed to pull off the absurdity of the situation the characters were in the book feels like it is playing it more straight and the whole thing doesn’t quite connect. The other issue being, that when I think of this series in book form, I was expecting something more along the lines of Douglas Adam or at least Pratchett in terms of sardonic tone to the narration and that was utterly missing. As was any tone really.

That isn’t actually an exaggeration. There is literally no personality in the writing here. The dialogue that the characters are given, has personality. The narration does not. Or rather it does but it hasn’t quite committed to the absurdity of the situation and the end result is something quite flat.

For what it is worth, the plot works really well. If you’ve seen the anime, you know it, though you will get a few more details about Emi and some of the politics behind things, but essentially the Demon King lost to the Hero and fled through a gate ending up on earth where there is no magic. As a result, he resorts to working at a fast food restaurant while he waits to reclaim his power, but in the meantime he’s determined to work his way up the management chain to take over the world in the most ordinary of manners. All that would be fine except the hero followed him as well and she wants to make sure he never returns back to their world but she also can’t bring herself to kill him when he’s defenceless.

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This plot works well and when both the Hero and Devil King are attacked, the threat plays out really well as does the reluctant teaming up of the two enemies who now have learned to see each other in a different context.

Basically, the plot and the ideas behind it are solid enough if a little undeveloped.

The support cast aren’t used overly well and Chiho tragically gets thrown into the role of love-sick teen followed by damsel in distress with few traits in her favour. While it is all well and good to have her character there, the fact that both Maou and Emi end up protecting her and liking her in their own ways kind of feels like her character should have a bit more going for her than being sweet. And yet, nothing. She doesn’t do or say one interesting thing in the story and exists purely as a plot point. And Alciel is even more ridiculously useless in the novel than he was in the anime and I wouldn’t have thought that was possible.

This is one of those rare cases where for me the adaptation was much better. The comedy worked for me in a visual form with music and the character voices driving the dialogue. As a text, I just didn’t feel it and the story, while it works, isn’t interesting enough without the comedic edge to push it into the realm of memorable.

Lots of people seem to like this one as a light novel, but for me its another pass and I won’t be going on any further with this series.

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If you’re interested in reading The Devil is a Part-Timer Volume 1 it is available on the Book Depository.

Tuesday’s Top 5: Male Characters with Green Hair

Tuesday's Top 5

Following on from last week’s selection of female characters with green hair, I now bring you the list of male characters. These are my personal favourite characters who have the distinction of having green hair, though in many cases I’m still not sure why given green is not even close to a natural hair colour. You have to admit though, some of these guys look great with it.

As always, feel free to add your thoughts and your choices in the comments below as I’d love to know some of your favourite male characters with green hair.

Please note: There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions: Rei Sagara (Love Stage) and Genpachi Inukai (Hakkenden).

Number 5: Envy from Full Metal Alchemist

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Not hard to see why Envy would earn a place on the list. To start with, the hair actually makes sense when you consider the sin they are portraying, and secondly, this character was fantastic. Self-centred and with a massive chip on their shoulder, Envy stayed true to who they were all the way through the story (both versions) and was a great deal of fun to watch on screen no matter what they were up to.

Number 4: Jae Ha from Akatsuki no Yona

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He’s a massive flirt and playboy but also a very loyal friend and warrior, Jae-Ha initially annoyed me when he was introduced as one of the dragons in Akatsuki no Yona but it is very hard to overlook his charms as a character. Despite his frivolous exterior, he has his reasons for his actions and ultimately he is probably the dragon with the most familiarity with the ways of the world and an ability to cope with new situations.


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Number 3: Sadao Maou from The Devil is a Part-timerĀ 

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Sadou is a fantastic character. Having fallen from being the demon king in control of a country to a part time employee of a rip-off McDonald’s, he still isn’t going to let anything get in the way of his ambitions. What I like the most about his character is that he isn’t just waiting for an opportunity or for success to fall upon him. Sadou Maou is out there every day working to make his dreams a reality and for the most part he is working within the rules of the system around him and trying hard to overcome the obstacles in ordinary ways. Anyway, he is a great deal of fun and the thought of the devil making pepper fries is always pretty amusing.


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Number 2: Gon from Hunter x Hunter

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While I’m not quite finished my journey through Hunter x Hunter yet (almost there now), Gon has been quite the joy to meet and travel with. While by himself he isn’t an overly impressive character, his interactions with the support cast bring out the best in him and in the rest of the cast making him fairly memorable. Of course, the spiky green hair certainly leaves an impression as well, though I’m not quite sure how it manages to stay looking like that given I’m pretty sure Gon isn’t using any kind of product. Any way, he is a super cute, super hard working and super loyal character and he is great fun to watch in action.

Number 1: Midoriya from My Hero Academia

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Were you honestly expecting anyone else to top out this list? While Midoriya might be a new comer to my favourite character list, he’s certainly left quite the impression. Another impossibly hard worker and someone who isn’t just waiting for success to be bestowed upon them, Midoriya is a character I admire for his focus on his goal and his willingness to fight for what he wants to achieve. Also his genuine concern for his friends is kind of impressive particularly as he was teased most of his life which could have left him being the bitter and anti-social individual, but instead he’s just a really nice person who has a really big dream. And that is why he gets the number 1 spot on this list.

Okay, so they are my top 5 male anime characters with green hair. Over to you and who you would have put on your list.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Isekai Stories

Tuesday's Top 5

Every season we seem to be getting more and more isekai anime. As I continue to explore a range of light novels with the theme of being trapped in another world and pick up these new anime series, it means that this top 5 list is going to be moving around for awhile. Here is the most recent update for the end of 2018 (which was an excellent year for isekai anime giving us some of the best and worst examples the genre has to offer).

I’m almost certain Re:Zero and Overlord will get a plethora of shout outs in the comments but please feel free to share your favourite isekai anime below and what you like about them.

Please Note: There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions in this list go to GATE and Drifters.

Also The Familiar of Zero which was formally number 5 on the list has moved to an honourable mention.

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Number 5: No Game No Life

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Formally number 4 on the list, No Game No Life has managed to hang in there but honestly I think this one will eventually drop off the list as rewatching it has made me realise there just isn’t enough going on here (though it is pretty). There’s a massive amount of fan service moments going on in it, but the setting for this one is really interesting. A world where there is no war and literally everything is decided by the outcome of games seems really fascinating, particularly when the participants of the games set and agree to the rules so it isn’t as though you have to be good at one particular game. Shiro and Sora are siblings who play as Blank online in the real world when they get invited to play another game and end up being transported to Disboard. While some people find the predictability of the victor a bit of a let down, I really enjoyed this anime and my only real complaint is the anime ends just as the story seems to really get going.

Number 4: The Devil is a Part Timer

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Another one that has slid on the list. This one is kind of the reverse situation to so many other isekai stories. Instead of some normal everyman from earth finding themselves in a magic world, here a hero and a devil find themselves stuck on Earth where magic is pretty hard to come by. While they do find various ways in the end to travel home, for some reason, they never seem to go and Maou finds more and more reasons to stay. This one is funny and if you ever believed that corporate culture was evil you will probably find the devil’s aspirations to take over the world by working his way up the food chain at a knock off McDonald’s hilarious. Again, the story feels unfinished, but it is a fairly entertaining ride.

Number 3: How Not To Summon A Demonlord

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Overpowered main character trapped in a world based on a game he was really good at? Yep. How Not To Summon A Demonlord is embracing the cliches and doing a fine job of showing us why the genre works and is just great fun. Admittedly, you do need a fairly high tolerance for fan service with this one and if females being enslaved  is going to be a trigger just pass. However this one has a lot of heart, some good laughs, and some very over the top magic and fights. It really is just fun watching with a great cast of characters who will really grow on you over the course of the season.

Number 2: Sword Art Online

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Yeah, Sword Art Online isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. This one is also a bit different from others on this list in that it is a game world and not some sort of magic world the characters are in, and they voluntarily entered it even if they didn’t know they couldn’t leave, and by the end of the first arc they aren’t trapped anymore, but I love this show. I’m putting it here. It is great fun and Kirito is awesome. If you like boss fights, some random questing and levelling, and seeing characters getting on with ‘life’ when removed from the real world, this show is great fun.

Number 1: Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

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It is no surprise when I decided to dip my toes into the pool of Light Novels that I started with Grimgar. I loved this anime so much and fell in love with the world and the characters and desperately wanted more. Now that I’m reading the light novels I really want to know why there is no second season of this anime. Certainly it is a much slower pace and not as comedy heavy as some on this list, but I think that is for the better in this case as it provides a darker view of normal guy being transported to a world where he’s suddenly expected to know how to fight and survive. Well worth watching but you may need some tissues mid-season. One major difference in this story is the anime never confirms where the characters came from before they woke up in Grimgar so we know nothing of who they were before they encounter this world.

So that is my list of top 5 isekai anime. Please add your own favourites in the comments below because I would love to know what is on your list.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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