Tuesday’s Top 5: Antagonists With Inhuman Characteristics

Antagonists and villains are visually quite fun characters because they usually end up as fashion disasters or twisted into weird caricatures. Today I want to look at five villains and antagonists that have inhuman characteristics that I think are still pretty cool looking (or at the very least they are memorable). I’d love to know your picks so please leave me a comment below.

At some point I’ll have to look at love interests and protagonists with inhuman characteristics but those will be a lot harder to narrow down.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Pretty much every villain in Sailor Moon ever.


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Number 5: The Beast Titan (Attack on Titan Season 2)

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I wasn’t the biggest fan of Attack on Titan season 2, but I did love the beast titan. I would have loved for him to be more important in the season and spend more time on screen. He was a fascinating presence in the first episode and his return later to royally mess things up for the group in the tower was fantastic. More of this character definitely would have made the viewing experience a bit better.

 

Number 4: Amaimon (Blue Exorcist)

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Again, not an anime I’m majorly in love with but Amaimon was kind of cool. Okay, he was a jerk who likes messing with people, but the nails, the ears, his tail, and just his general playful yet cruelly malicious personality just kind of work. And they aren’t trying to make him out to be one of the good guys. He is a nasty piece of work, but he does the job well.

Number 3: Neferpitou (Hunter X Hunter)

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I still haven’t gotten to the end of Hunter x Hunter but Neferpitou is fantastic. Okay, she’s horrible, but she’s kind of supposed to be. Plus, look at that face. She’s truly adorable. Actually she reminds me entirely of my cat who will happily sleep on my pillow but try and move her and you suddenly discover she has four claws and teeth and she isn’t afraid to use them.

Number 2: The Millennium Earl (D Gray Man)

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I can’t help but wonder about the kind of crazy person who would agree to a deal with the Millennium Earl. I know he doesn’t always look quite that sinister, but even at his most innocuous, he’s still pretty creepy. This is the face of someone who can and will destroy the world. Not just monologuing about how bad he is, this guy is going to actively work towards his goal and he’s pretty successful at it. If this was live action that would be the stuff of nightmares.


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Number 1: Little Demon (Soul Eater)

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Not so much a villain or antagonist so much as an inner demon to be faced and overcome by the central characters. The Little Demon starts out fairly small and manageable as a voice in Soul Eater’s subconscious. But as Soul and then Maka give in to madness the Little Demon grows and becomes far more menacing. One of my favourite characters from one of my favourite shows, The Little Demon is both adorable and terrifying and has great taste in music.

That’s this week’s list and as always, I’d love to know who you would have included on yours.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Three Reasons Why Being a Villain Would Suck

Back in 2016 I took a look at villains and their motives in a feature that looked at why so many villains want to destroy and/or rule the world and pretty much drew the conclusion that it was a pretty dreadful motivation. Still, it was fairly early days for my blog back then and to be honest I barely scraped the surface of a much larger discussion about villains, so I’m turning my attention back to our monologuing, nefarious foes who sometimes seem only to exist to oppose the hero giving them no agency of their own.

There are plenty of reasons why being a villain in any narrative would suck but here are the three that I think are the most prominent. Feel free to add your own and your examples to the comments as I’m sure there are plenty of villains out there that deserve something more than the untimely end that is usually dropped upon them in the name of narrative convenience.

Reason 1: Heroes get to travel in packs and work with teams whereas the villain is always alone even when surrounded by comrades.

Think how lonely some of our villains must get. Whether we are discussing Beryl from Sailor Moon, Light from Death Note, or a myriad of other villainous characters, these characters are either constantly alone or have minions (servants, pawns, etc). They have no one they can really confide in and no one who really has their back.

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Beryl’s minions in the original 90’s Sailor Moon are next to useless and most serve out of fear rather than loyalty, which means when they think they can get away with something, they certainly try it. She opens up more to Darien when he is unconscious than we ever see her open up to those who serve her. She also is looked down upon by the higher power she serves. Basically, she is completely isolated emotionally so it can’t really be seen as surprising that she is as deluded as she is. Then again, this one is a chicken and egg question of whether she became a villain because of social isolation, or if her villainous tendencies isolated her from others. And I know some of this is addressed in the manga and in Crystal, but the 90’s anime wasn’t much interested in the how or why of Beryl, only in turning her into Moon Dust to a catchy 90’s pop-rock song.

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In shorter form (otherwise this post will go forever), Light really only has Ryuk to confide in given he essentially looks down on all humans and the one human he kind of semi-respects is actually trying to catch him. While he does work with Misa and later others, he keeps them at arms length and they never are privy to his full plans.

Reason 2: The questionable fashion choices.

Seriously, why do people feel that just because someone is crazy and wants to destroy the world that they would start with their own sense of fashion?

Okay, there is the occasional villain who gets to look suave and pretty well put together, and anime also has its fair share of heroic fashion disasters, but villains just never seem to catch a break here. Alright, more the issue is that villains seem to morph into monstrous creatures  or twist their facial features into unrecognisable masks of pure horror, but still, is there any rule that says an anime villain can’t be adorable?

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Pride is a good choice in terms of what I mean. He’s an evil little kid (well not really a little kid but you get it) from Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood and in his human form he’s kind of cute. He can play cute really well. But then you get one of those looks. Yep, you know the look I am talking about. And then you get his other form. There is nothing cute about that. Yeesh.

Reason 3: The audience expects way too much from their villains.

Heroes are heroes because they want to stop villains. They are heroes because they protect the innocent and their friends. When you ask a hero what their goal is and they say to save the girl, stop the bad guy, protect the school, you accept that as a suitable motivation. Very occasionally you might ask why they want to save the girl but most people agree that girl saving is fairly decent character motivation.

However turn it around. The villain wants to kill that girl, abduct that boy, destroy that city. The audience will immediately ask why. And then, when the get the motive, such as kill the girl because she turned him down in high school or whatever, suddenly that is trite. It isn’t good enough. Shallow motivation comes the cry from the critics.

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No one ever claims the hero wanting to save the girl because she one time made him lunch is being shallow. Okay, I’ll amend that statement. I can think of at least three bloggers who would. Very few people would call that shallow. We don’t question acts of decency and kindness. But we want our acts of villainy to be perfectly justified. And don’t even try to get away with the villain being bad just because they enjoy it. No, no, no, no, no. The audience won’t swallow that. There must be some angsty back story or reason. No one was ever just complete jerk because they chose to be.

The double standard to which we hold hero and villain motivations baffles me as I find some heroes really insufferable because they do good because they can, or because the writer decided it fit with whatever moralistic message they wanted to shove into the story. They seemingly have no other reason. Whereas, I’m kind of okay with villains that just want to smash things to pieces as long as they are upfront that this is all they are trying to accomplish and they don’t try to pretend like there is a deeper reason. Other people are the opposite readily accepting the good deeds of heroes while nitpicking every move and word the villain makes.

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It doesn’t help that heroes usually get three-quarters of a season to establish their motive and moral compass whereas villains generally get about three scenes. An establishing scene, a mid-way point, and the scene right before they die. There are exceptions, as there are in all things, but there is definitely a pattern here.

So remember, be nice to the villain of the story.

It is hard being a villain. No one likes you, your hair probably sucks, you shed your skin and humanity at the drop of a hat (even if only symbolically), and everyone questions your motives. To top all of that off, you are almost always going to lose at the end of the day. You are fighting a losing battle, doing it without friends and probably surrounded by too much purple. If you are really lucky your theme song will be cool and maybe your laugh won’t be too over the top psychotic. It is a hard life, and probably a short one. But most stories rely on the villain to at least keep things moving so we probably should remember the vital role they play even while we critique them to death.


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Karandi James.

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My Hero Academia Season 2 Series Review: Shining the Light on Heroes and Villains

Overview:

There’s no denying that season 1 of this show made me sit up and take notice when I picked it up mid-season after reading many positive reviews. The second season continues Midoriya’s journey (as well as the rest of the students’ journies) to becoming a hero.

Earlier I covered some of the ideas in this series in Friday’s Feature: Not a Character, an Idea.

Review:

With the exception of Bleach (which even I’ll admit isn’t all that great when you break down the story) I’ve never been much for straight shonen action shows. I can’t stand the shouting, the long drawn out fight, the pointless arcs where a villain is built up to be beaten down, the random hero power ups, and all the other silliness that tends to infect those kinds of shows. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good action story, I just prefer something a little less aimed at teenage males. Surprisingly, My Hero Academia kind of has all of the qualities of a shonen story that usually annoy me and yet, much like Bleach before it, instead of turning me away it kind of manages to draw me in a little bit more with every ridiculous fight sequence.

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The first season was utterly charming and just plain fun to watch, and season 2, despite launching into firstly a tournament arc, and then a training/power up sequence, before going into an exam sequence (all of which should have killed any fun or momentum for me) managed to not alone maintain that sense of fun, it also fleshed out a very real and meaningful dialogue around the nature of heroes and villains. All of this while characters continued to grow and develop and come to a greater understanding of themselves.

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Now, there is nothing new to be found in My Hero Academia. We have seen each of these characters before and asking the question of what makes a hero is pretty much story-telling from cave-man days. So it isn’t the novel content that is keeping me fixated. It is all about the delivery.

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This world and these characters are bright and larger than life. Their actions, their ideals, their emotions, everything is heightened unapologetically and then dropped into a world is becoming more and more real with every point we learn about it. While we don’t have Quirks in the real world (or at least not that I’ve noticed), there is something extremely relatable about this social media, popularity focused society that has taken a noble calling (being a hero) and made it a vocation. One that is highly sought due to monetary rewards and social recognition. All of this makes for a very grand and highly energetic narrative even when not a lot is actually happening with the main characters. I’m pretty sure these students could make catching a bus entertaining at this point.

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Part of this is because of the sheer number of characters and their diverse personalities. While some of the less important classmates are still pretty one-note, a lot of these characters have had their moment in the spot light and have started to become far more interesting as the series has progressed. My Hero Academia is very big on giving characters clear motivations for their behaviours and attitudes and ensuring the audience understands these. That way, when a character begins to change or grow, or even just acts out of character, it is immediately apparent and the impact is even greater because we’ve understood why that trait was significant in the first place.

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It also helps that the characters are just fun to spend time with. Even Bakugo, the overly angry and shouty one, is always great fun on the screen. If he could learn to focus some of that rage he could be a truly awesome asset in the future, though at the moment he’s more of comic relief and occasional bringer of tension to an otherwise fairly happy group of kids.

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This season saw Todoroki and Uraraka both gain ground as characters. Each had a number of moments to shine throughout the series and learned from their own actions and the actions of others to progress toward their goals. Seeing the these two characters finding their way and seeing how that changed their relationships with other characters in the story, felt very rewarding. Both kind of gained ground in terms of being my favourite characters from this show by mid-season.

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However, the real spot-light this season needs to go on All Might and Midoriya’s relationship. If growth along a journey was the theme for the season, Midoriya truly personified this as he fought hard to gain control of his ability and also really considered why he wanted to become a hero. Early in the season he loses a fight in the tournament to Todoroki, not necessarily because he couldn’t win (although arguably at the time he couldn’t) but because he needed to help Todoroki. Midoriya chose a tournament loss to ensure a greater victory, helping a friend. And that more or less defined who he was. But, there are greater dangers coming and All Might is trying to prepare Midoriya for those. We see the greatest change in Midoriya, spurred on by Bakugo, when he actually strikes All Might during the exam. Season 1 Midoriya couldn’t have even tried to strike All Might. This transition from idolising All Might, to working to surpass him as a symbol of justice, is just another step on the road for Midoriya though for the audience, there’s the added tension of kind of suspecting All Might’s time is more limited than Midoriya knows. All Might is definitely holding back from telling Midoriya everything so that is one puzzle piece we’ll all be waiting for in the next season.

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Turning our attention to the villains, we see the Hero Killer rise up during this season and his impact on both the narrative and the characters is enormous. Even other villains are launched into renewed vigour because of the Hero Killer’s actions. For me, this part of the season was by far the strongest and most interesting. Mostly because the rest of the season focused on the growth of the future heroes but didn’t really give them a real world challenge to face. Though, the final episode this season leaves little doubt as to where the story is going.

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To begin bringing things to a close, I wasn’t overly thrilled with the openings this season. They worked and they definitely grew on me after several episodes, but initially I was kind of underwhelmed by them. Also, some of the fights in both the tournament and the exam arcs just felt like they were there for the sake of completion rather than for adding anything into the story. But these are minor complaints when considering the season as a whole.

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Season 2 gave me more of what I loved about season 1, and continued to grow both the world and characters in an  immensely satisfying manner. While I would have liked a little bit more from the narrative as we seem to be moving very slowly forward, this is a minor nit-pick to what is a fun series to get into.

I’d love to know your thoughts on My Hero Academia so be sure to leave me a comment below.


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Karandi James.

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My Hero Academia Episode 38: Setting The Stage

Review:

It is odd where I don’t mind a final episode that so clearly is nothing but set up for future engagements, but with a future series already announced and knowing it is very likely to actually be delivered I found myself pretty hooked by this story. So far, the visible leader of the villains has been individually unimpressive and his taking steps this week to find some conviction really does up the tension a notch in the series.

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Midoriya’s face after he realises he may have just insulted someone who can disintigrate him.

Once again this story questions the idea of heroes, villains, morals and justice and it does it in a fairly non-preachy manner that seems to just make this universe far richer and more believable. However, the episode itself doesn’t really deliver anything. It is a transition with the students finishing their first semester at UA (all of this and we’re only one semester along) and preparing for the training camp. But with the villain recruitment underway by the end of the episode it certainly suggests big things are coming.

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this season of My Hero Academia and I’ll be doing a full review soon.


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My Hero Academia Episode 33: All Might’s Hesitation

Review:

This episode certainly continued with the idea of social media and looking at how Stain’s influence is spreading in the world of heroes, at least those ideas were running around in the background and permeating the set up for what is apparently to come. I’m glad I spent some time on this idea in my last Feature and I’ll hopefully revisit the idea later particularly if it remains a prominent theme here.

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However, My Hero Academia doesn’t like to dwell or hold its narrative hostage to its themes and as a direct result while this idea is still sitting there and bubbling away just waiting to explode onto the centre stage again, our hero students are back in class and training. All Might is also ready to reveal more about the past to Midoriya but this is where things took an unexpected turn.

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Not in the story itself. That was pretty stock standard villain and hero origin material to be honest, though like most of the generic points in this anime it managed to be very enthusiastic and dramatic in the delivery. No, the surprising part was that All Might blinked. That’s the best way to put it. He realised Midoriya still didn’t understand something fairly critical and yet hesitated and then chose not to explain it.

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It will be interesting to see if that omission comes back to bite them in later episodes. So, you can probably gather that I am still very much enjoying this show and hopefully it can continue strongly.


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Karandi James.

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Sailor Moon Episode Villains

While I was a big fan of the 1990’s Sailor Moon, I remember how useless some of the individual episode villains were (and how ridiculous some of their costumes looked). I guess when you are a throw-a-way villain of the week it doesn’t really matter. Still, here’s my list of top 5 Sailor Moon episode villains. My criteria here are that they had to be introduced and killed in the same episode, they came from season 1 of the original 1990’s anime, and they made me actually remember them. As an added bonus, their outfit had to be totally ridiculous (though that more or less goes without saying).

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions this week: Murid (because of her dream or illusion ability) and Petasos (because she looks ridiculous).

Number 5: Ramua

Ramua

Early in the series, Serena and Ami are investigating some cursed clock and they end up encountering Ramua who apparently has the ability to control time.  What’s interesting is that while Sailor Moon gets transformed into a child at one point, Ramua doesn’t just cause her to die of old age instantaneously which is what I would think an effective villain would do at that point in time. Anyway, Ramua makes the list because of her striking facial features, and because they make such a big deal later on about Sailor Pluto being the guardian of time and yet here’s a villain playing with it like it is nothing.

Number 4: Garoben

Garoben isn’t exactly spectacular as a villain and her appearance is pretty cliché, though that weapon attached to her hand looks pretty deadly. The reason she’s on the list is because she was the first villain who made me realise even as a younger viewer that Sailor Moon wasn’t your typical girl’s cartoon. She literally grabs Ami by the head and shoves her face at the computer screen. That kind of hands on violence was almost unheard of in 90’s shows aimed at young girls. Whenever I think monster of the week, Garoben is one of the faces that immediately comes to mind.

Number 3: Cameran

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Not entirely sure if I got the name right and googling this one got me more confused as I saw more variations. While she was a later villain in the story and wasn’t particularly noteworthy, except for the part where she foolishly zapped herself with her own power which kind of makes her memorable, Cameran is on the list for the sheer ridiculousness of her design. What is with those shoulders? I honestly had to wonder if she would actually be able to even move her arms properly.

Number 2: Blizzar

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Okay, take in that outfit for a moment. Are we actually supposed to take a villain literally wearing snowmen that look like they are screaming in pain seriously? Despite that, Blizzar was actually a pretty decent villain of the week. She transformed from a skier who was very fit so actually had some good moves on her. Plus the scouts were separated so it wasn’t like they could gang up on snow-ball girl.

Number 1: Shakoukai

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I don’t know if it is the fact that she was a villain who didn’t resort to screaming or empty threats, or whether it was because she’s covered in clam-shells that somehow shoot clay, but Shakoukai (or the English name: Polite Society) was always one of my favourite villains. I liked that even mid-battle she felt the need to correct Sailor Moon’s grammar and was so upset by getting conflicting commands she literally just stopped fighting and waited for Sailor Moon to heal her. All and all, she was an interesting villain though not perhaps the most effective.

Okay, that was my list of Sailor Moon monster of the week villains. Who would you have chosen from Sailor Moon or who is your favourite monster of the week villain from any anime?


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Bungo Stray Dogs Episode 24

Review:

Apparently this show wants a season three as once again we’ve introduced a new villain in the dying minutes of this season. The thing is, after how unsatisfying this final episode was, I wonder how many viewers will stick through yet another season of messy tone and inconsistent story telling? And why is everyone celebrating? The whale dropped right in front of the city. I’m not great at science but something tells me that if the Moby Dick falling was going to destroy the entire city that dropping it in the water should have caused massive waves and some severe tremors still heaping piles of damage on the city. But no, we get a splash and move on. All and all this was a less than thrilling conclusion to the season and right now I’m kind of annoyed that I got my hopes up for anything more earlier this season. Oh well. Done now. I’ll write up a whole series review soonish.

However, one positive point, I liked Kyouko’s moments in this episode. It was nice her character arc finally got some closure.

Bungo Stray Dogs is available on Crunchyroll.

Izetta: The Last Witch Episode 5

Review:

It always goes so much better when the established villains have someone with a brain on their side. It makes for intrigue and actual suspense as you wonder when everything is going to get turned on its head. After the disaster of an episode that was episode 4 (okay, comparatively to other shows it wasn’t that bad but compared to the other episodes in this series it was pretty terrible), episode 5 kicks things into high gear as we establish the witch as a fighting force to be reckoned with. And of course, we knew that the ‘my power only works in certain places’ was going to be exploited as a point of tension (though I didn’t expect it to be exploited in the very next episode). There were some great developments during this episode and the energy from the first couple of episodes was back.

Jonas (glasses wearing soldier who apparently is bullet proof) is also back and he is definitely going to need some plot armour in the next episode or he may very well be the tragic victim of the series.

Izetta is available on Crunchyroll.

Tales of Zestiria the X Episode 12

Review:

Well, aren’t we all glad of second season announcements. Except that it leaves us with pretty much no resolution. Okay, Alisha is fine. A bit too fine given how much blood she lost. You would think it would take her longer to be up and bouncing around but at least she didn’t die.

Actually, my main complaint coming out of this will be the Lord of Calamity. Clearly he has never read a story in his life because otherwise he would know that any villain that lets the hero go (in order for them to become hope before being crushed) has just raised their own death flag. To be honest, it is a lame reason to let someone live and doesn’t make any sense from a self-preservation point of view no matter how arrogant a villain is supposed to be. The only purpose of such declarations is to delay a confrontation the hero can’t yet win and why would any self-respecting villain give the hero a chance to win?

Tales of Zestiria the X is available on AnimeLab.

Cute High Earth Defense Club Love Episode 3

Review:

There’s something about the deadpan delivery of some of the lines in this show that just makes me laugh. Sometimes the lines aren’t even particularly funny and it’s the same every episode. One of the members of the Earth Defense Club will say something that is either beyond stating the obvious or is entirely left field of the main concern but they’ll say it in just the right tone to get me giggling.

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Yeah, questioning someone’s mental health isn’t particularly funny but in this episode it worked quite well as a running joke and the character in question most certainly had it coming.

I found episode 3 a vast improvement on episode 2, probably due to the reduced presence of the villainous twins (though they did make their presence felt) and the back to formula approach of the Defense Club just kind of trying to get through the day without too much fuss when aliens and weird monsters (or being forced into doing a recital which somehow became play) ruin their day.

Cute High Earth Defense Club Love is available on Crunchyroll.