Top 5 Gardens in Anime Series

Tuesday's Top 5

We all know there are many pretty anime out there and flowers, particularly cherry blossoms, show up in a lot of stories (and usually look gorgeous). Today I’m looking at my favourite gardens in anime series (I excluded movies deliberately but still ended up with far too many options). This is definitely a list of my favourite picks so please feel free to tell me which anime gardens you love in the comments below.

Number 5: Blue Exorcist

Garden - Blue Exorcist

Rin first meets Shiemi when his brother takes him to visit the Garden of Amahara which ends up being important because Shiemi ends up being Rin’s first real friend. However, the garden itself is beautiful even if it is a little bit hostile when we first arrive there. What I love about it though is that it isn’t just decorative. The garden and plants in general play a fairly critical role in terms of exorcisms and healing throughout the story and so it seems right that this is where me meet Shiemi for the first time. That and it is really pretty.

Shiemi - Blue Exorcist

Number 4: The Eccentric Family

The Eccentric Family - Garden in Kyoto

The Eccentric Family takes place in Kyoto and a large part of it is showing the play between the human world, the natural world and the supernatural world. Needless to say we spend a lot of time outdoors and get to see some very nice looking gardens throughout the series. I love the garden that has the well in it where Yasaburo’s brother is for most of the first season transformed into a frog. However, we see a range of lovely gardens throughout the two seasons of the anime and visually this anime is worth noting.

Yasaburo visits the well - The Eccentric Family

Number 3: The World Is Still Beautiful

I’m not entirely sure this one fits in with the rest, but I really like the layout of the garden in this anime. It is incredibly tidy and sculptured compared to the others on this list, but I remember thinking how pretty the garden was the first time I watched the anime. And, given a lot of the story involves Nike trying to convince Livius that the world is beautiful, the garden features in quite a number of episodes in a variety of weather types.

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Number 2: The Ancient Magus’ Bride

Chise - The Ancient Magus' Bride - Garden

Where do you even start with gardens in this story? The Ancient Magus’ Bride was gorgeous from start to finish and while I ultimately found the episode count a little too long and the story felt like it meandered too much, I cannot fault how beautiful they made the countryside look. Whether it is the garden Chise studies in or the rose garden where we meet the vampire character, there’s plenty of pretty sites to visit throughout the run of this anime and ever single scene is worth the effort.

Rose Garden - The Ancient Magus' Bride

Number 1: Snow White With The Red Hair

Snow White With The Red Hair - Shirayuki and Ryuu

I absolutely love the hillside garden in Snow White With The Red Hair. There are so many plants, forests, and greenhouses in this story and they are all gorgeous, but that hill covered in flowers and medicinal herbs is beautiful to look at and so many key story moments take place on or near the hill. Honestly, let’s just have an OVA that involves all the herbalists working on the hill and I’ll happily watch it. This is the garden that immediately came to mind when I started thinking about this list.

Snow White With The Red Hair - Shirayuki and the garden

And that’s my list for the week but as always I’d love to know your picks so be sure to let me know what your favourite anime garden is in the comments.

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In Case You Missed It

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 11 Sakuta

For those who may not check back until next week, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I’ll still be posting more or less as normal though Features and Reviews aren’t starting up again until the new year. Still, plenty of episode reviews, my Top 5, the 12 Days of Anime posts, and an OWLS post from last week so heaps of content coming out on the blog. For patrons there was also my second video review to check out which is linked to below and you can get the password from my patreon site. I’m definitely still learning the whole video editing thing and having to travel midway through putting it together didn’t really help, but I learned a lot and I’ve got quite a few ideas for the next one on Bloom Into You that should come out in the first few months of next year.

In the meantime, the ani-blogging community have been busy, busy, busy and there are some great posts to check out. Below I’ve linked to some of the great posts I found and as always feel free to give a shout out to a post you read last week that you think deserves some more attention in the comments. One more In Case You Missed It post for the year next week and then we’ll be into the new year. 

Posts from the Community

Ka-Chan has a great post as part of the 12 Days of Anime about Fruits Basket. They explore what drew them to the original anime, what they learned while checking out the manga, and why they are looking forward to the reboot. A great post for fans of Fruits Basket or those wanting to know why there’s a lot of anticipation around the new anime. Actually, Ka-Chan is on a roll with their 12 Days of Anime posts as their one about Free (an anime I can’t finish watching for reasons I’ve discussed previously) is pretty amazing in sharing their enthusiasm for this franchise and what it means to them.

OOCentral has a really fun post about Uchouten Kazoku (The Eccentric Family). This was an anime I loved but seems like it doesn’t get much discussion. However it is great fun and the sequel was pretty solid and I really enjoyed coming across this post last week. If you’ve never seen the anime, go check out this post.

On The Well Red Mage this week there was an excellent game review for Mario vs Donkey Kong. This little piece of nostalgia was a highly entertaining read and while a lot of people won’t be interested in reading a review of a game for an old system this one was a fun read and made me want to go back to these style of games (at least for a little bit).

Banana Fish Episode 21 Ash and Eiji

Ty-Chama looks at the different shapes and sizes romance has come in during 2018 and it was something I realised while putting together my best couple list for the year – there have been some awesome diverse couples in anime this year. This post celebrates some of the pairings that have confronted issues such as age, gender and even species differences, even while looking at issues that anyone in a relationship can relate to such as being lead on, codependency, etc. Really great post.

Floating Into Bliss looks at some of the really amazing Yuri anime out this season (and anime that may contain Yuri elements). When they line them all up like this it becomes fairly clear that Autumn 2018 has had a lot of same sex couples (and they weren’t even looking at the guys). So if you are interested in titles containing yuri, or anime that have potential yuri pairings, out this season, this is a video/transcript for you.

Bloom Into You Episode 11 Camp

Astral Gemini shares their top 5 favourite snowscapes from anime in a post that looks at different moods and ideas that are captured within snowscapes. It’s a really great post with some great images of snow scenes in anime and well worth checking out. 

Pick of the Week

Irina has a great post about Gurren Lagann this week and while she does do a fair amount of discussion about leadership within the anime, she really looks at why it is the emotional roller coaster it is and why it ends up resonating with so many viewers. It’s an excellent post looking at a series that despite initial impressions has quite a lot of depth to it (and is a lot of fun). This is one for all fans of the series to check out and if you haven’t watched it this may be the post that gives you the push to give it a go.

Gurren Lagann - Yoko

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Friday’s Feature: Strong Female Character?

I’ve mentioned before that I am a huge fan of Joss Whedon’s work. As a teenager in the 90’s it was more or less impossible not to get on-board the Buffy bandwagon, and it was such a great bandwagon to be on. A female character who was reasonably attractive, had street smarts (though struggled at school), was articulate, and for the most part didn’t end up in ridiculously revealing outfits (after they got over the season 1 mini-skirt thing). Buffy kicked butt, literally, and was such a great character. Add in Willow, who also took the geek girl role and made it something empowering, and Cordelia, who proved that just because you are vapid doesn’t mean you can’t help save the world, and the story was full of these amazing characters that gave a range of ways to be feminine but not helpless.

Buffy.gif

One of the things that occasionally bothers me about anime is the lack of female characters that I can really get behind. Part of that is probably the genres I prefer to watch as I know there are more female characters in other genres, but at the same time, it seems odd that whole seasons can pass without a single female character that I actually like or admire. Female characters are there and sometimes they are doing the over-sexualised thing, the damsel in distress thing, or just come off as pretty useless and dead weight to the script. Worse, they exist just to be a love interest or to rotate around a central protagonist who is usually male.

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That said, I find the statement that we need more ‘strong female characters’ to be a little bit mis-leading. Not every female character needs to be strong. Imagine how boring a show would be if every character was ‘strong’. And it isn’t as though every male character out there is strong. There are some pretty despicable depictions of masculinity to be found even in shows where there are some fantastic male characters. And that is more my point. What we need are more diverse female characters to be shown.

Shirayuki

Shiaryuki from Snow White With The Red Hair is an excellent example of this. She isn’t a ‘strong’ character in that she doesn’t wield a sword and she isn’t a martial artist. Yet when you read descriptions of her, her strength always comes up. She has a strong moral character, strong willpower, strong belief in herself and in her actions, and so she gets the label of strong female character. And while she is an excellent example of a different kind of female character, neither the hero nor the damsel in distress (though at times moving through both roles), I think labelling her strong kind of minimises how interesting she is as a person.

Erza

See the strong label puts Shirayuki on the same stage as Erza and Buffy and at the end of the day, if we made this a test of strength, Shirayuki isn’t exactly going to hold her own in a fight against these two. She has a different kind of strength of character and is exceptional, but she isn’t a fighter and we wouldn’t want her to be. Though, while we’re on that note, Erza might be exceptional in her magical and physical strength but with where I’m up to in Fairy Tail it seems her personality is fairly fragile. And that’s fantastic that she is more than just stoic and tough because if that was all there was to her, strong as she might be, she’d be pretty boring.

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However, I’m going to move away from red-heads for a moment (otherwise people might think I’m biased towards female characters with absolutely beautiful and stunning scarlet hair) and look at the cast from Princess Principal. This cast is kind of what I am talking about when I said earlier I think we need diverse female characters. None of the members of the squad in Princess Principal are useless and none of them are one-dimensional. Each comes into the squad with back-story, with some skills, some weaknesses, some baggage and motives, and they all contribute to the team. None of them fall into a single descriptor such as damsel-in-distress or childhood-friend (though those descriptors can be applied it isn’t the sum total of their character at any point) and as such the cast are really interesting to watch and the girls are characters I really enjoyed seeing on the screen. They all get moments where they can be strong, and other moments where we see them in a less desirable light as they crumble under emotional pressure, hesitate, or make poor decisions.

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And that is where a show like Orange kind of annoyed me. Of the three females who had significant screen time, two of them had almost no development as characters. We don’t know their backstory or their motive, and mostly their interactions could have been cut down to a single character (there was no real reason for two of them as they didn’t add anything all that different from the other – lovers of these characters will now hate me). And Naho as a main character could be summed up as ‘nice, shy girl’. There really wasn’t much else to her. Sure she wanted to help the guy but that was kind of coming from the nice attribute and she wasn’t overly effective at actually helping him. One could argue that the male friend ended up doing all the actual work that succeeded at anything and Naho was merely the catalyst for him to act because he didn’t want to see her unhappy. Basically, I didn’t dislike these characters (well, I did dislike Naho) but I didn’t find anything appealing or memorable about them either and I only remember Naho’s name because I kind of prodded at her in my review of Orange and I can’t remember the other names at all.

Eccentric10d

Strength comes in many forms and even then, strength isn’t necessarily the only character trait female characters are sometimes missing in stories. Rather than fighting for stronger characters, I think what is really needed is diversity. If there were as many female characters out there and as many types of female characters as male ones, than most of us would be able to find a reasonable selection of characters that we can connect with or find interesting. Not every female character has to save the world or even shoulder the entire emotional burden, but it would be nice if we could see female characters carrying more roles than the traditionally assigned ones in stories. Or even if they have to carry the traditional role of mother and house-wife, at least let them do it with their own touch on the role so that it feels like they are a person and not a stand in for an understood convention.

As always, I’ll turn this over to the readers and ask you what you think.

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Male Yokai

Tuesday's Top 5

Continuing on from last week where I looked at my top 5 favourite female yokai, this week we have my top 5 male yokai. I must admit, my first draft had a lot fox yokai on the list and even the revised version hasn’t really fixed that issue. Apparently I like foxes. Anyway, as always, I’d love to know who you would include on your list so please leave a comment below.

Please Note: There may be some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week goes to Kappa from Nurarihyon.

Number 5: Yahiko from The Morose Mononokean

 

Okay, I nearly chose Fuzzy from this list but ultimately had to go with Yahiko. Seriously, this fox is so cute and his desire to play hide and seek is adorable (okay, potentially deadly but still pretty cute). Admittedly, the fact that Yahiko was introduced as a potential big bad and then quickly degenerated into the little brother type character that just wants all the attention is probably the reason Yahiko isn’t further up the list.

Number 4: Kuro from Blue Exorcist

 

Yeah, I know technically they want to say Kuro is a demon but I’m still including him as a yokai. There really isn’t much to explain with this choice. Kuro is my favourite character from Blue Exorcist. Fiercely loyal and yet definitely a cat, Kuro manages to steal pretty much every scene he is in.

Number 3: Yasaburo from The Eccentric Family

 

Our fast talking, trouble seeking tanuki, Yasaburo had to be on the list. He’s just such a great character even before you consider the fact that he is a shape changing tanuki. As the third of four brothers he is pretty content to drift through life looking for things to make his days ‘interesting’. Despite that, he’s pretty loyal to his family when it matters and most of the time he cleans up the mess he makes (mostly). I absolutely adore spending time with Yasaburo.

Number 2: Tomoe from Kamisama Kiss

 

Now, how could I overlook Tomoe, the fox who serves as a land god’s familiar. He is rude, occasionally foul mouthed, and extremely short tempered, but also incredibly loyal and ultimately a fairly lonely character seeking acceptance. Not to mention incredibly powerful and needs to be given how often his human-turned-god master Nanami gets herself into trouble.

Number 1: Miketsukami from Inu x Boku

 

So what beats a fox familiar, well a 9 Tailed Fox secret service member who uses a sword apparently. Told you there were a lot of foxes on this list. Seriously, the guy is adorable both in his normal suit and when he transforms into a yokai. If it wasn’t for his creepy stalkerish tendencies (I guess he calls that loyalty) he’s be nearly perfect. About the only thing he lacks is the ability to actually have a normal human interaction and eventually he might learn to get around that.

There is my list of my favourite male yokai characters. I’d love to know who you would have included.

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The Eccentric Family Season 1 Series Review: Grief, Family, Adventure, and Foolishness – This Tanuki Will Experience Them All

Overview:

Yasaburo is a tanuki and one of four brothers who have recently lost their father, the one who used to lead the Tanuki world in Kyoto. With an election fast approaching to decide who the next leader will be, plenty of family drama, and an absolute sense of adventure, this is one story that will quickly take on a life of its own. I’ve already reviewed season 2 of this so if you are looking for that review please click here.

Review:

It is hard work having a famous father. Regardless of how down to earth he might be, people outside the family are always going to judge you based on a comparison to him. For Yasaburo and his brothers they have for most of their lives been found wanting as each one seems to have one part of their father within them but none of them can really match up to the man they remember only as the warm and comforting father who cared for them regardless of their faults and foolish ways (and actually encouraged some of their sillier traits).

Eccentric4

The Eccentric Family tries to keep the slice-of-life and upbeat comedic tone going through its run time with quirky and fast paced dialogue. Certainly the story is jumping around through a series of seemingly disconnected events as Yasaburo pokes his nose into the business of his mother, his various brothers, his uncle and cousins, his tengu mentor and the mentor’s protegé, and the human group that eats Tanuki the Friday Fellows. All of this would make you think that perhaps this is kind of empty viewing or light hearted at best. But this is a show not afraid to delve headfirst into grief and how grief can change a family. For all their foolish actions and the distractions they are seeking out, at their core, every member of the family is deeply hurt by the death of a man they much admired.

Eccentric2

Though, the same can be true of all the characters. None of them are what they at first appear, or at least that isn’t all there is to them. As the story progresses we learn small details about them, we see the characters pushed into a variety of situations and how they respond, and occasionally we see the masks they have carefully constructed for the world come down.

Eccentric3

The character designs are interesting and characters are easy to distinguish though that isn’t the same as being pretty to look at. There’s a weird thing going on with ears in this show, and to be honest the characters aren’t that good to look at, but they are distinct and after awhile you realise how their appearance is such a reflection of their personality, or at least the personality they are trying to project. In that sense, Yasaburo’s near constant shifts early in the show make a great deal more sense.

Eccentric6

For me the strength of the show is in the character dialogue and the music. Both are distinct enough to be memorable and there are some very good exchanges between the characters that leve you smiling or just a little bit broken hearted. However, if you aren’t the kind to enjoy listening to characters exchange barbs, or quirky comments, than you may just find episodes becoming tedious because while there is some action to be found it is definitely spread sparsely throughout the series run time.

I certainly recommend trying this anime though. It has a real charm to it and really portrays the connections between family members in a way that I feel few anime really get (while at the same time it seldom falls into slow drama). There’s a lot going on but all the stories eventually come together and ultimately it is hard to follow Yasaburo around and not get a smile.

I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve watched The Eccentric Family.


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The Eccentric Family Season 2 Series Review: How Much Trouble Can One Tanuki Get Into?

Overview:

As I went to write this, it occurred to me that I have yet to actually review season 1 of this show so I really must bump that up my priority list given reviewing season 2 without season 1 just seems odd. That said, season 2 picks up the story in the year following the events of season 1 and the tanuki are still trying to elect a trick magister and Yasaburo’s way too serious brother Yaichiro is still trying to follow in his father’s footsteps and assume the role. However, Yasaburo is not content to just have one thing going so once again he is interfering in tengu and human affairs as things get more and more out of control. I reviewed this week to week so if you are interested in my individual episode thoughts, click here.

Review:

The Eccentric Family is one of those very odd anime where there is a story and you could boil it down fairly simply in terms of the main plot, and yet that is almost incidental to what you are actually going to be watching. Season 2 follows the same format as season 1, in that we’ll mostly be following Yasaburo on his rambles around as he stirs up trouble and mischief, offers ‘advice’, and generally seeks out trouble for the sake of having a bit of fun. That said, season 2 seems to have decided it was time for a number of the cast members to grow up and so we have far more focus on romance and relationships outside of the family than in the previous season. There’s also a few quite dark moments (though season 1 did deal with the fall out of their father getting eaten so even though it is a comedy it isn’t as though it wasn’t always dealing with tragedy in one form or another).

Eccentric5c

Because of the large cast and the rambling nature of the plot, it is more or less impossible to summarise the story given any summary is going to leave out massive amounts of subplot, all of which come back into the main storyline eventually. Basically season 2 follows yet another attempt at tanuki society electing a new trick magister only this time things seem to be going relatively smoothly for Yaichiro with almost no-one in tanuki society standing against him. The issue comes that Akadama-sensei has refused to be the tengu representative and has instead appointed Benten (who eats tanuki) and so the tanuki ask the recently returned not-tengu (his own insistence), Nidaime, to oversee the election instead, which really upsets Benten. Clearly that’s not all that is going on given we have a trip to hell, the return of the banished uncle, not one but two budding romances, the Friday Fellows seeking out yet another tanuki to eat, and multiple other storylines just bubbling along. Despite the sheer amount of content this show packs in it never feels overly rushed and even when things initially feel random, you know they will make sense eventually so you kind of just wait for them to twist back into the main narrative and then it all just kind of clicks.

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Basically, if you liked season 1 and enjoyed this eccentric cast walking around and having off beat conversations while stuff happens and they react, then season 2 gives you more of the same with a slightly more mature tone at times and with Yasaburo having a few more moments of reflection given even he realises that eventually his actions are going to get him killed.

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My favourite part of season 2, other than the music and the character designs which I loved in season 1 as well, was the inclusion of Nidaime. Any scene where he and Benten appeared together was fantastic. The tension between those characters and the occasional explosive encounters were well worth waiting for though I regret that they didn’t get a chance to meet in the aftermath as it would be interesting to see where they’ve ended up after that final encounter.

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Benten is still a fantastic support character in her own right, stealing literally every scene she is in, but this season she isn’t alone amongst a seemingly male dominated cast as Kaisei and Gyokuran (the two tanuki love interests) definitely step into the spot light at times (and isn’t it nice that these fool brothers are finding some fairly sensible matches to help keep them from going too far).

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The one complaint I would raise is that the ‘magic’ seems to have gone missing from a lot of this season. Yes, the tanuki still do transform but this is for the most part no big deal. There are a few encounters between Nidaime and Benten, however the last of them ends in hair pulling and barely anything of note (other than a storm being summoned and how jaded am I that this barely registered as magical). Basically, season 1 had a sense of wonder about the supernatural even as it worked to integrate the magical world into the city of Kyoto. Season 2 makes everything fairly common place and a lot of the wonder has just kind of fizzled. Admittedly, it was replaced by higher emotional stakes but I missed that feeling as I watched this season.

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If you’ve never given The Eccentric Family a go, don’t start with season 2. It assumes an understanding of the events of season 1 and the relationships between most of the characters are already pre-established and assumed knowledge. That said, this is one anime worth trying because it is kind of zany fun with a lot of drama thrown in and certainly feels a bit different.


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The Eccentric Family Season 2 Episode 12

Review:

Pretty sure I’d given up expecting a Nidaime/Benten face off and yet that’s what we get this week after Benten ‘allows’ Yasaburo to crash the flying bus straight into Nidaime’s home. Yasaburo really does think on his feet and yet he never thinks long term.

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Needless to say, Nidaime’s reaction to the destruction of his home is fairly explosive, but only after a sulk session. It’s probably where we see his true character coming out for the first time beneath his reserved exterior. He’s someone who when he doesn’t get his way packs the toys into the toy box and stomps off, and that kind of explains everything about him and why he left Kyoto in the first place. Just in case we weren’t clear though, they do give us a flash back to the fight against Akadama-Sensei that started it all and to be honest, that was kind of unnecessary given all the pieces had really come into place without it and all that seemed to do was break the pace of what was otherwise a fairly brilliant final episode.

That said, the fight against Benten was both cool and lame simultaneously. I never expected a fight between the two to result in hair pulling and biting and that just seemed all kinds of childish, particularly when Nidaime set Benten’s hair on fire (though you can’t say she didn’t deserve it at that point).

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Anyway, Akadama-Sensei returns after Benten is run off, makes a statement that indicates that Yasaburo is no longer excommunicated, and then has words with a crying Nidaime who has finally calmed down enough to see the destruction of his own home.

And that’s it. Crisis averted. Still, there’s all the loose ends to tie up including a tanuki wedding and so the final moments of the episodes have Yasaburo bouncing around to catch up with literally every character of importance so they can all have their moment of closure. That said, Yasaburo and Kaisei are too cute together so hopefully they work it out so he can actually look at her eventually given they’ve finally agreed they are going to get married one day. However, it is Nidaime’s words to Yasaburo that really sum everything up.

And as Yasaburo says, that clearly a result of his fool’s blood.

So the second season of this very odd show brings us right back where we started with the tanuki seeking a fun life, the tengu doing tengu things, and the humans being for the most part irrelevant to the actual plot and merely a minor hindrance in the grander scheme of things. I’ll do a full series review shortly.

The Eccentric Family is available on Crunchyroll.


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