Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Characters Who Smoke

Tuesday's Top 5

This post is a little earlier in the day than normal and that’s because in about 7 hours (give or take) Raistlin and I are going to reveal our super secret project we’ve been teasing about on Twitter. Be sure to check back later for the post.

There’s a definite distance created when watching anime. In real life I cannot stand the smell of smoke or cigarettes and yet there are some anime characters out there that just look perfectly right when they light up their smoke, pipe, or whatever else. So today I am counting down my favourite 5 characters who are smokers and I invite the readers as always to give a shout out to your favourite characters as well.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions: Jean Havoc (Full Metal Alchemist) and Toshio Ozaki (Shiki).

Number 5: Shinya Kougami (Psycho Pass)

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It seems kind of odd for Kougami to only come in at number 5 and yet that is definitely the case. Mostly because his smoking always seemed like a crutch to show he’d become broken down after everything and it never really fit with his excessive exercise and drive to find the culprit. That said, like with most things Kogami did, he looked very good while doing it.

Number 4: Worick (Gangsta)

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Unlike Kogami, smoking really does fit with Worick’s character and lifestyle. It would actually be harder to imagine him not being a smoker. In the gritty world of Gangsta the cigarettes are pretty tame compared to the many other entertainments that could be found.

Number 3: Mikoto Suoh (K)

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At least Mikoto will never have to worry about finding a light. The Red King again manages to make the cigarettes seem an extension of his character rather than something that is tacked on. It fits with his image and firey nature. It also makes a nice moment toward the end when he shares a smoke with the Blue King.

Number 2: Franken Stein (Soul Eater)

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Could anyone else imagine this crazy character without his smokes? There’s something very careless about Stein and his overall appearance and temperament seem to lend themselves to living in the now. Though I have to wonder if smoking while dissecting a rare creature is particularly good practice.

Number 1: Yuuko (xxxHolic)

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She’s such a classy and beautiful character and her elegant pipe just kind of finishes her image perfectly. Again, it is harder to imagine removing this aspect from the character as it really is a part of who she is. Besides, despite her outward appearance of being together and focused, when done with her work Yuuko is quite the whimsical individual who definitely lives for the pleasure of the moment.

There they are, my top 5 anime characters who smoke. Be sure to share your favourites in the comments below.


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Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Make A Wish, But Will That Help The Story?

It is a fairly common moment in stories where a character wishes for strength or power or to undo something terrible that has happened or even wishes to save a friend. While the vast majority of these wishes will go unanswered leading to some kind of tragic moment the character must overcome through non-magical means, occasionally a character will be granted their wish. But does this lead to a satisfying story for the audience?

The answer to that really depends on how the wish is framed within the narrative and the results of the wish. For example, a story like Aladdin kind of requires a few wishes to be granted. Without the genie and magical wishes you kind of don’t have a story at all. Then again, it can also be used as the cheat card, particularly in Christmas movies. The plot ties itself into ridiculous knots and then a character usually looks up at a star and makes a wish squeezing their hands together earnestly before a miracle happens and somehow everything works out okay. While this might make for a feel good scenario it also kind of makes all the effort or attempts by any of the characters to resolve the situation prior to the wish feel mostly futile.

Today I want to look at some examples of anime that deal with wishes and the different ways they are used. Yes, this post was definitely inspired by the final episode of Juni Taisen and yes, there will be spoilers for the anime below so if you are concerned, thanks for reading this far and please check out some of my other posts.

I’m going to start with the easy one, xxxHolic. This one is easy because it plays on one of the most common tropes of being careful what you wish for and the idea that nothing comes for free. While this theme is heavily embedded in all of its stories, the super obvious one with the story of the Monkey’s Paw. Now you’ve probably heard this story before because it does the rounds as an urban myth and has been used in almost every collection of strange tales ever but essentially a character finds a tube containing a monkey’s paw and it gives them five wishes, one for each finger that of course break with an ominous snap after each wish.

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Which would be all well and good except that the wish maker in this case, and in most cases with this style of story, makes wishes for selfish reasons and doesn’t really think through the consequences of their wishes. Ultimately their wishes lead to the death of another and finally they are killed.

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Much like Aladdin, the story here wouldn’t exist without the wishes coming true, albeit in a horrible manner in this case. It isn’t a cheat to solve a plot problem, but rather it is the problem or the source of conflict that will ultimately drive the story. So while you might accuse this of being cliché, it fundamentally works as a narrative.

On the opposite side of this, we have a story like Ah! My Goddess that also starts from a wish, only in that case the wish is granted without tricks or traps. It still does have the pitfall of poor wording and not quite thinking through consequences even if ultimately things work out.

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For those unfamiliar with the story, Keiichi is down on his luck and kind of a doormat but has a real love for working with mechanical objects. When left to look after the dorm one day he receives a phone call from a Goddess who claims she will grant his wish before she appears through the mirror in his room. After his initial skepticism is met with upbeat and positive answers, Keiichi makes a fairly rash wish that a goddess, like the one before him, would stay with him. And just like that heaven grants his wish and Belldandy, the Goddess, is now going to stay with him.

It isn’t all smooth sailing as Keiichi is thrown out of the dorm and they at first struggle to find a place to stay. Other goddesses and even a demon show up and at times really cause issues for Keiichi. At one point, due to a computer error in heaven, the wish is lost and Keiichi needs to use the exact wording to remake the contract with Belldandy but can’t remember what he said on the spur of the moment.

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The point however is, that once again, the wish is what kicks the story into gear. There’s no other reason for a goddess to be bound on earth and living with this ordinary guy and so none of the story that follows could happen without the wish. What I do like about Ah! My Goddess is that even though Belldandy and the other goddesses do have some significant power, there are some incredible restrictions on the use of that power on earth. Many issues come up during the story and for the most part when they are mortal issues they are dealt with through mortal means with magical solutions being reserved for more magical problems.

So despite the wish itself not having strings attached or some moral message about not making wishes, this story looks at the aftermath and how just having a wish granted isn’t enough to solve all your problems as new problems will continue to arise and it is only by facing them one by one that progress can be made. The wish is again fundamental to the operation of the story and the themes being constructed.

But what both of these stories have in common is that they uses wishes as a catalyst for the story. What about anime where the wish comes later in the series and we have two very good examples of this in Madoka Magica and in Juni Taisen.

Starting with Madoka Magica, making a wish is what makes the contract with Kyubey to become a magical girl. If you don’t make a wish you can’t become a magical girl and Madoka, our title character, can’t decide on her wish. More importantly, the longer she delays making her wish, the more she learns about the consequences of wishes and of being a magical girl.

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Sayaka, Madoka’s friend, jumps in early at making a wish and uses it to heal a friend who has been in hospital. She clearly has deeper feelings for her while he sees her as just a friend, but she uses her wish on him and becomes a magical girl. Because of the nature of her wish, Sayaka has incredible self-healing power but is otherwise fairly inexperienced as a magical girl.

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Imagine her surprise then when the boy she literally gave her soul to bring happiness to ends up accepting a confession from another friend. Emotionally unbalanced, she swiftly descends and falls from being a magical girl to become a witch.

Much like xxxHolic, there’s a lot of warnings about being careful of wishing for things and realising that nothing is truly free. However, Madoka’s wish doesn’t come until the very end. When things are at their worst and we know Madoka can make the most powerful wish ever which in turn will lead her to become the worst witch ever, and you have to wonder how the writers are going to pull out of this loop they’ve written themselves into. And then Madoka literally breaks the world with her wish.

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If this had been done poorly it would feel as much a cheat as a Christmas miracle but Madoka’s wish has some great writing backing it up. We already knew that Madoka’s potential was beyond any other magical girl and the audience knew she could make a truly amazing wish. We also knew the fundamentals of how the magical girl/witch system worked at that point and so Madoka wanting to save magical girls from becoming witches would of course require the entire system to be rewritten. The wish also didn’t come without a price. Madoka saved the girls from becoming witches but didn’t save them from dying and she also didn’t save herself as she isn’t in the new world that has been created.

Foreshadowing coupled with a decent price levied for the wish that was made ensured this didn’t feel like a cheap plot device designed only to bring the show to an end on a high note. It felt like everything had led the audience and Madoka to that moment and it was the perfect solution to the complications presented by the story.

And that then brings us to Juni Taisen (big spoiler ahead if you haven’t watched and don’t know who won).

Now, there are all sorts of issues with Juni Taisen in the way it executed its story, but the story itself does work. 12 warriors come together every 12 years to fight a battle royal and the winner gets a wish. It is simple and could have worked quite spectacularly. While I’m not going to get into what I felt when wrong with Juni Taisen here (I’ll save that for my actual review) I do want to look at the wish aspect of the story.

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Very much like Madoka, Rat can’t decide what to wish for. He’s been given (or earned through the battle) a wish and the audience is told he can literally wish for anything. The mechanics of how or why someone else can grant any wish (including apparently resurrection) is something the show isn’t interested in getting into so unlike Madoka we never really know why such a wish can be granted. And so Rat begins to go through 100 options for his wish and for each idea he comes up with he sees an obvious down side or consequence and quickly dismisses the idea.

It is kind of the opposite of all those other stories where characters make rash wishes without thinking through the consequences, and was almost novel enough as an idea to work. All these characters competing for a wish and the one who wins it doesn’t know what to do with it.

Juni-Rat

Ultimately, Rat’s decision didn’t sit well with a lot of viewers. He wished to forget. Forget the tournament and the deaths and the 100 paths he had to take to find victory. For some this wish seemed horrible given it essentially wasted an unlimited wish and for some viewers it seemed like it invalidated the deaths of the other warriors.

I actually really liked Rat’s wish as I kind of felt it fit the show thematically in that so much of everything was pointless and unexplained and none of it was going to bring happiness or contentment to a traumatized teen who had just experienced his own death 99 times. It was one of the few moments where I kind of felt a grudging respect for a choice the story had made.

However, like or not, does Rat’s wish work within the narrative?

I’d have to say it probably doesn’t work as well as a conclusion as Madoka’s wish did. With Madoka, we have spent a whole season with her as a character and seeing her learn about the consequences of making a wish and what it will cost and learning who she is as a person. With Rat we have two episodes really where we learn very little about him other than he has a general apathy toward life before he makes his wish. Also, while the wish at the end of the tournament is announced early on, the audience is never made aware of the mechanics of the wish or how it fits into the world being constructed.

So, yes Rat’s wish does end the story and the tournament in a way that we were told the tournament would end with a character getting a wish. But, it doesn’t leave the audience feeling satisfied with the overall story. The wish doesn’t address what the story was about but simply gives some closure to a character we’ve had insufficient screen time with to really care about whether they get closure. Of course, it probably isn’t the wish’s fault that the ending feels lacking and probably more a sign of deeper issues with the anime as a whole.

And this post got a lot longer than intended so I’m going to leave it there. Four examples of anime that all use wishes and for the most part integrate the wishes well into their overall narrative structure. What are some of your favourite examples of wishes in anime? Or do you find wishes a narrative cheat that you could do without? Let me know in the comments below.

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Karandi James
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Tuesday’s Top 5: Yokai Anime

Tuesday's Top 5

Having spent the last two weeks looking at favourite yokai characters I am now looking at my top 5 favourite anime that contain yokai. There probably won’t be any surprises on this list given where my favourite yokai characters came from, but here we go anyway. I have avoided any anime that is more focused on demons, ghosts, or other supernatural creatures. This list is for Japanese yokai focused shows. And despite the fact that I took on this yokai focus as we lead into Halloween, I have to be honest that none of the shows below are even vaguely scary. I’ll have to have a ghost or demon focus next year if we actually want some chilling shows on the list. But as always, please feel free to share what you would have included on your list. I’d love to find a new yokai themed show to fall in love with.

Please Note – There may be some spoilers below.

Honourable mentions to The Morose Mononokean and Inu x Boku SS.

Number 5: Kamisama Kiss

This story of a normal girl turned land god who now needs to learn about the various supernatural creatures and her own powers is adorable and there are so many great characters in it. While it isn’t exactly going out of its way to be accurate in the way it represents yokai, there’s still a wide range of yokai characters and powers here, and the show is just so much fun.

Number 4: Nurarihyon

Following the quarter yokai Rikuo as he learns to accept his yokai blood and takes over the Nura clan from his grandfather, this show is a whole lot of fun. Plus, if you just want to see a huge range of yokai, this anime has you covered. It even, where appropriate, gives you a little bit of history about the stories surrounding the yokai. Plus, if you like supernatural battles, this one has you covered.

Number 3: The Eccentric Family

This one is a rambling tale and focuses almost exclusively on tanuki, tengu and humans and their interactions in Kyoto. This is one show where the yokai elements are fully integrated into the real world and it creates a very strange blend of magic realism as you follow Yasaburo about on his rambles and mischief making. There’s a whole lot of charm to the story and the characters but the narrative gets a little lost from time to time.

Number 2: xxxHolic

Not strictly speaking an anime about yokai, but they certainly make their presence felt in some stories. xxxHolic is one of the CLAMP stories and very much tied in with Tsubasa Chronicles but has a slightly more mature feel to it. Its a slow and meandering story but one that becomes deeply fascinating and the lore is certainly well thought out.

Number 1: Natsume Yuujinchou

I don’t think there was ever any doubt that Natsume was going to end up number 1 on this list. Over 6 seasons we have met a lot of yokai. Some have been charming, some scary, some friendly, some completely scared of humans, but all have come into our lives through Natsume and left an impression. The characters are what make this show and the yokai characters, particularly in the early seasons, really hold their own. If you have never watched Natsume, now is the perfect time to give it a go.

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Karandi James
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xxxHolic Series Review: Everything Has a Price

Overview:

Watanuki can see spirits and they bother him fairly continuously. One day, as he is being harassed on the street by spirits he touches a fence and suddenly they back away. Entering the house he meets the mysterious Yuuko who offers to fix his problem in exchange for Watanuki working in her store where she grants wishes for a price. Though reluctantly, Watanuki accepts her offer and enters a world full of strange and supernatural occurences.

Review:

The idea of a mysterious person being able to grant wishes for a price is hardly a new one in fiction. Its pretty much as old as they come when you consider Rumpelstiltskin and other fairy tales that play on exactly that notion. What makes xxxHolic interesting is that you never really know if Yuuko is out for personal gain or not. While the price she demands at times seems steep, she always follows through on her end of the deal and considering what is being asked of her it only makes sense that it come at heavy cost.

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So the premise of this story works fundamentally very well. As does the slightly spooky and yet glamorous setting of Yuuko’s store/house. It is unsettling and yet visually compelling as is Yuuko’s basic appearance. She is beautiful but beautiful in a way that makes you sense something slightly inhuman about her. The opening music, the butterfly motif, all of the aesthetics work at creating a truly enjoyable atmosphere for a mysterious story about spirits, contracts and other supernatural occurences.

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What I like less about the show is Watanuki himself. He is an incredibly irritating character. His hissy fits, his moments of self-delusion as he imagines himself with the pretty girl from school that he clearly has a crush on even though she’s clearly up to something, his sudden bursts of anger, his constantly underestimating or misinterpreting Yuuko’s actions… He is an incredibly childish character and most of the time you just want Yuuko to put him straight and yet for the most part his actions go without rebuke. Occasionally she’ll deliver a cutting remark to make him reflect and then we get the even more painful Watanuki being humble scene usually before he flies into yet another unwarranted rage.

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This means I kind of have a love/hate relationship with the show. I watched xxxHolic because I loved Tsubasa Chronicles and Yuuko’s brief appearances in that anime fascinated me. On learning there was a story focussed on her I just couldn’t resist. And she is fantastic while Watanuki is just kind of tiresome.

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The rest of the cast are all kind of interesting or forgettable by various measures but they help to fill out the world and give direction for Yuuko and Watanuki so that isn’t really a problem. Watanuki’s friends (?) from school each have secrets of their own though in the first season of xxxHolic little is revealed about that.

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Each episode is more or less a stand alone story, however artefacts from previous stories come up later and Watanuki becomes more knowledgeable and asks less questions later on in the series. Still, the basic set up is someone comes to the store or Watanuki stumbles upon something, there’s a brief consultation with Yuuko and Watanuki will usually be unimpressed with her initial response so do something stupid, there’s another consultation with Yuuko where someone will make a deal and she’ll either take action or direct someone to take action to resolve the problem. It is fairly formulaic but it doesn’t feel overly repetitive given the sheer number of different issues the characters face.

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If you are in the mood for a slow paced story with a little bit of mystery and a focus on the supernatural, xxxHolic is certainly something worth checking out. Not to mention, some of the quotes that you will come across in this show will stick with you long after you finish watching it.

If you’ve watched it, please let me know your thoughts.


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Karandi James.

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Female Characters with Black Hair in Anime

Tuesday's Top 5

Time to update this list. There are just so many great female characters with black hair that it would be hard for this list to never change.

While not as flashy as certain other colours, there’s something to be said about the beauty of black hair. Below are my top 5 female characters from anime with black hair and I’d love to know your picks. I kind of based the selection on how cool a beauty they were so some of my favourite black haired characters got cut a little bit. 

Please note there are potential spoilers in the descriptions below.

Honourable mentions: Rukia Kuchiki (Bleach) and Ran Mao (Black Butler).

And moving down from number 5 is Yukino Yukinoshita (SNAFU). Sorry Yukino.

 

Number 5: Rory Mercury (GATE)

Do not let the cute costume fool you. This black haired beauty is almost a millennium old and a demi-goddess to boot. You do not want to mess with her even if she isn’t wielding her scythe because she’s another on this list with a dangerously sharp tongue. While Rory has some very fine moments on screen (when she isn’t being used for fan service purposes), her finest hour came when she visited earth and was testifying about the actions the soldiers took on the battlefield.  It was a fantastically delivered speech that left very little room for argument.

Number 4: Mei Misaki (Another)

For someone being shunned by her classmates in a desperate but futile attempt to ward off a death curse, Mei Misaki certainly defines grace under pressure. You almost want to see what she was like at school prior to entering grade 9 just to see whether the girl we meet is who she always was or whether the successive pressures of being in the class, being made invisible, and the death of her sister played a role in creating the cool and quiet Mei we meet.

Number 3: Chuyun (Voice of Fox)

Voice of Fox Episode 10 Chuyun and Hu Li

Chuyun is just gorgeous. As an idol, that’s kind of expected, but even when she’s just at school or hanging out on the roof where she regularly ends up chatting with Hu Li, there’s an elegance about her. While I would have liked more from her character story in Voice of Fox, she was an excellent supporting character, and really, her solo was just phenomenal. 

Number 2: Rei Hino (Sailor Moon)

Rei is an interesting character, mostly because she can switch between cool and sophisticated to middle school brat in the blink of an eye (and usually when in the presence of Serina). Still, in the 1990’s Sailor Moon, she was the cool beauty of the group and the sometime rival for Darien’s attention prior to the whole revelation that he was Tuxedo Mask etc. I’m kind of glad Sailor Moon got an update if for no other reason than it saved Rei from some of those dreadful 1990’s fashion choices (the pink overalls are definitely springing to mind).

Number 1: Yuuko (xxxHolic/Tsubasa Chronicles)

The cool and mysterious dimensional witch and a very intriguing lady, Yuuko can be every bit the lady, or she can drink herself silly while lazing about and still look cool doing it. Don’t expect a straight answer from her and don’t expect a favour without payment, but she does always honour her agreements no matter how hard a bargain she drives. With a fantastic wardrobe full of a wide variety of truly glamorous and unique outfits, Yuuko is my number one pick for a true cool beauty with black hair in anime.

That’s my list done so throwing it over to you. Which lovely ladies have made your list?

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Karandi James
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Friday’s Feature: Philosophy in Anime

These days it seems everyone has a personal philosophy (or at lease a fortune cookie slogan that they hold up as one) and anime isn’t any different. There are literally barrels of characters who will throw their own personal view of the world at you (ad nauseam if someone else in the show doesn’t hit them first). In a previous feature I looked at anime that discuss what it means to be human and today I’m in a similar mood so am really just wanting to look at some of these philosophies that characters are carrying around out there in the anime universe.

And of course, I am going to start with Yuko from xxxHolic. She is definitely the queen of making statements that can be taken multiple ways and each sentence is either flippant or loaded but sometimes it is difficult to tell which is which. And she loves to remove context from her statements which makes them fairly applicable in almost any situation and very difficult to prove wrong when they are said as portents of future events.

But what do her quotes amount to?

She frowns upon those who would sacrifice themselves for others and as a direct result more or less condemns the horde of shounen protagonists to be seen as kind of childish and self-absorbed (also makes you wonder if some of those rescued people would bear a few scars if that meant being saved).

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She challenges people to confront their assumptions and to also realise that most people don’t. She accepts that she will be called a liar and that it is simply the way things are. It doesn’t affect her actions in the least.

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The last Yuko quote I’m looking at forces us to realise how inconsequential our actions really are in the grander scheme of things. That said, she doesn’t belittle us for making choices, only for fearing the consequences of actually making a choice.

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There’s nothing earth shattering in Yuko’s view of the world. While it is a little left of centre at times, these are all ideas we’ve heard before. However, when they come thick and fast, episode after episode, and with the plot of xxxHolic revolving around Watanuki slowly learning to see the world from Yuko’s point of view (in between all the other ideas that are thrown in for good measure) you walk away from the story feeling that maybe you learned something or at least you’ve considered an idea you hadn’t before.

However, by Yuko’s own wisdom, accepting her view of the world without question would be just as foolish as never questioning your own perception of reality.

Moving on to Psycho Pass. There are a lot of questions raised by this show about morality and sanity and violence and justice but the character that really makes you think is the central villain, Makishima.

Of course, I might just like Makishima because he still likes paper books.

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Not that E Books are all that bad (great for travel and such) but there’s something really amazing about the tangible feel and smell of an actual paper book.

While Makishima might be twisted and warped, he echoes Yuko’s sentiment about making your own choices and how there is value in determining your own fate. Ultimately, Makishima’s entire crime spree is in direct defiance of a system that removes free will and choice from the equation. If he’d chosen a different method (or had been a character in another anime) he’d probably have been the hero, the leader of the rebellion, and the one who would liberate humanity. That said, he’s still a cold blooded psycho.

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His dual nature makes him interesting. On the one hand he claims a love of ideas and art and freedom, and on the other he manipulates and orchestrates disaster. That said, he does expound upon the power of stories.

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Which of course brings up the interesting discussion about censorship. We can see it in relation to the anime itself as artists and works need Sybil approval but we can also see this in our own world where we put viewer warnings and advisory’s on things and lock certain ideas away. The questions of how much censoring is too much and the harm lack of censorship might do come forward and of course that is a rabbit hole that is filled with a never ending tirade of personal opinions and opposing theories.

Lastly, I just want to touch on Kamina from Gurren Lagann. Perhaps one of the most over the top characters of all time, he seemingly lives his life in the belief that positive affirmations will make things so.

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Kamina is all about being bold and daring and not letting self-doubt get you down, which given Simon’s timid nature (the protagonist of the story) is a needed attitude to kick the story into motion. That said you sometimes have to wonder how big Kamina’s ego is or conversely how much of what he says is just plain bravado.

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So on that slightly more upbeat note I’m going to end my post. I’d love it if you would share some of your favourite (or some of the more interesting) anime character philosophies out there.

Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime to Watch For Halloween

Tuesday's Top 5

Okay, I know Halloween was yesterday and I know it is mostly ignored in Australia as a day in general, however I just felt that this list was needed. So what criteria did I use to determine what I should be watching on Halloween? The main criteria was definitely atmosphere and tone but also looking for anime that gave me pause for thought or a little bit of a fright.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned. Also, graphic visual warning for number 1. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions to Tokyo Ghoul (season 1), Ajin, Death Parade, Another and Higurashi. All of which would be awesome to watch for Halloween.

Number 5: D Gray Man

If you are looking for something that is dripping in atmosphere, you don’t need to look much further than the original D Gray Man. While there are comedic moments and moments of hope, these quickly get buried under the tragedies that befall each and every character (and continuously fall on protagonist Allen Walker). When his parasitic arm isn’t getting injured (leaving him defenceless and in severe pain and facing fairly painful treatment to get him moving again) he is witnessing those he has promised to protect get killed, sent on missions that he frequently doesn’t agree with the objective of, being tormented and or tortured by his enemies (and sometimes his allies), and generally suffers from severe trauma from a childhood that takes terrible anime upbringings to a whole new level.

Even ignoring the general tone and atmosphere of the show, the akuma in this series are the stuff from nightmares and the thought of a friend or loved one having been possessed is enough to award this a place on the list. Why it didn’t get number 1? The main characters remain far too upbeat given the circumstances for this to truly be the number 1 pick for a Halloween list.

Number 4: Charlotte

Yeah, if you’ve only seen the start of this you probably won’t get the choice given the start is anything but deep, atmospheric, or anything else other than generic. However, I think that makes the direction this takes even more horrific (or at the very least it catches you unprepared). As truths are revealed and our main character is forced into a fairly impossible situation, this show doesn’t hold back on showing the full cost of ‘saving’ the world on the individuals that attempt to do so.  I’m not going to say anymore about this because it’s kind of hard not to spoil, but just know going in it is going to get dark.

Number 3: Bokurano

If you haven’t seen this, stop reading and go watch it now. There’s no way to say anything about this without spoiling. Okay, so you’re still reading so I’m just going to dive straight into this. When you first see Bokurano you kind of get a very ho-hum feeling. Group of kids, chosen to pilot a robot, a lot of them have issues, yep, seen this. Bokurano very much relies on the youth of the characters to drive home tragedy but just when you think you know what you are in for, they take it to a whole new level of cruel. The impossible situation these kids find themselves in is heartbreaking and this anime possibly has the highest death count ever (mostly because every battle has entire realities on the line in the most literal sense – so while we don’t see all that many deaths outside of the main cast if you stop and think about the casualties caused every battle…).  All and all, this anime creeped me out with its concept and left me feeling just a little bit broken after watching it. Points for worst game of musical chairs ever.

Number 2: xxxHolic

This one isn’t scary or even traumatising, but it does drip atmosphere and that is why it shot so high on the list. Consistently hitting that slightly off-putting and creepy tone while exploring both supernatural and human conflicts, xxxHolic is well worth a watch and kind of fits perfectly with the overall idea of Halloween. If you want something a little less graphic and violent and just a little bit unsettling, xxxHolic is probably the perfect choice.

But if you were after graphic…

Number 1: Pupa

Now, I am going to put a warning label on this. Extremely graphic, unsettling and incest overtones. Given my fascination with horror anime, I would still class this as the darkest and most unsettling thing I ever sat through. The episodes only run 4 minutes each and the story doesn’t progress too far given there are only 12 episodes, but that is still enough to leave a very significant impression and that impression is definitely one of being thoroughly unsettled. Focussing on an abandoned pair of siblings where the younger sister is transformed into a flesh eating monster by a virus. The brother is also infected but manages to hold on to some of his humanity (though gains some remarkable regenerative abilities). In order to ‘protect’ his sister, the brother allows her to feed upon him and things only get worse from that point. Don’t expect a resolution to any of this however. If you watch this you are signing up for a one way trip down the worst thing that could ever happen without ever finding a solution or even letting the nightmare end.

So what were your picks for Halloween viewing? Were you wanting to be mildly thrilled or were you going for full on zombie and gore action?