Tuesday’s Top 5: Ordinary Anime Characters Who Inspire

While many an anime character has inspired me, it is worth noting that a lot of anime characters have super powers, or magic, or destiny, or some other force working for them, which makes their actions a little less applicable to the everyday life that most of us lead. This list is to the heroes (and ordinary people) who have moved me to action or have given me strength when I have needed it. That makes is a fairly personal list so I’d love to know who would end up on your list of inspiring anime characters. While it hurts that I can’t add Maka to the list this time round, the characters below are all exceptional and yet completely human.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Akito from Bakuman for standing by his friend from start to finish no matter how rough things got.

Number 5: Nagisa (Assassination Classroom)

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One might argue that none of the students in Assassination Classroom are particularly ordinary, but that is their most compelling trait. They are ordinary. They are the ones who are overlooked and cast aside, who have been down so long that they have forgotten that they even have the right to stand up. Watching Nagisa move from someone who accepts this role to someone who has a clear presence about him and is comfortable in his own skin is something that is greatly inspiring. Okay, most of us don’t have a yellow octopus for a teacher who we get to learn to assassinate, but most of the lessons Nagisa takes on board are strictly of the ordinary kind of valuing who you are.

Number 4: Kurumi (Kimi ni Todoke)

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Season One of Kimi ni Todoke introduced us to Kurumi and she was a nasty piece of work determined to get Kazehaya to look at her and to get Sawako out of the picture. After being rejected she undergoes an incredible character transformation that reminds us all that just because we don’t get what we want doesn’t mean it is the end of the world. Kurumi becomes a truly great character and by the time the end of season 2 rolls around you really want her to find her own happiness.

Number 3: Kousei (Your Lie in April)

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This one might be cheating given the kid is definitely a genius. Yet, much like with Nagisa, the lessons Kousei takes on board during the heart breaking journey that is Your Lie in April are strictly the ordinary everyday ones that we all could learn from. Learning to grieve and mourn, to accept what has happened, to find a purpose, and just to find who you are. These are the things Kousei discovers throughout the course of his journey and they make him incredibly relatable and when he takes the stage in the final episode you cannot help but feel moved by him.

Number 2: Oreki (Hyouka)

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While this might seem an odd choice for number 2 on the list, there’s something truly remarkable about how this character lives his life. He has his own ideal of energy conservation and yet at the same time he doesn’t want his ideals to harm the experiences of others. He doesn’t want to let his sister down and later Chitanda and so acts contrary to his own nature on more than one occasion. This is also inspiring because while some people might see that as giving in or compromising, what it really demonstrates is an acceptance of a need for community and that it can’t always be about you. Oreki is inspiring because he finds a balance where he does have moments where he refused to do things or to get involved and other moments where he acts for the benefit of others. While I’m still not sure I like the anime, I quite like Oreki’s character and he reminds me that sometimes it isn’t all about me.

Number 1: Yuri (Yuri on Ice)

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Did we really think anyone else was going to take this spot? I almost disqualified him because being a world champion (even if he’s only in the top 6) kind of makes him somewhat extraordinary, but the only superpower he has is persistence and determination and so I let him take the top spot. His journey is fantastic and watching him stand up again and again and try to overcome his weaknesses never ceases to inspire.

And there they all are. Who would you have put on your list?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime That Only Have One Season

There’s something to be said for an anime that can tell a complete story in 11, 12, 22, or 24 episodes and not leave the viewer unsatisfied or waiting for a conclusion that may never occur. While I have nothing against the longer running anime brethren, the anime I rewatch most often meets the condition of being a complete story in and of itself. Which actually made it quite hard to narrow this list down.

Now the order is entirely subjective and based only upon my enjoyment of the story and how complete it feels when watching, so I’d love for you to share your top 5 anime with only one season. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Parasyte, Ouran High School Host Club (this one actually kind of needs a sequel), and Trigun.

Number 5: My Love Story

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I don’t know why it is that I am completely in love with this anime and even though there’s plenty more that could be said about the characters and where they go, I never finish the story feeling like I’m missing out. This one is a sweet story that deals with two people not falling in love, because they actually cover that in about three episodes, but with the act of being in love for the first time and not really knowing what to do. It is awkward at times, adorable at others, and overall it is an incredibly rewarding watch.

Number 4: Death Note

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While logically you could write sequels, spin-offs and whatever else you want from this story, but I’m pretty sure most viewers will agree that Death Note feels decidedly finished with that final episode. Realistically, the story felt finished before it got to the end given the narrative structure. When you set up two characters in binary opposition and one dies, that definitely feels like an end point. Death Note pushes on nonetheless leaving us with a definitive ending later on, though a little bit of the satisfaction does get sucked out in the process.

Number 3: Erased

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Mystery stories are probably a bit easier to make feel complete. When you are first waiting for the who is the bad guy reveal followed by the will they catch him, it kind of gives you a clear end point for the series. Needless to say, while there are some lingering questions about the nature of revival, the story is most definitely complete in this anime.

Number 2: Your Lie in April

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Much like Erased, there was always an end point in mind for this series. However, what we get is a fairly profound character journey and ultimately an ending that will leave you in a smiling/teary mess as you can’t decide whether it was tragic or beautiful or somewhere in between the two. Anymore of this would simply take away from the power of that ending and really that is not something anyone should ever try and do.

Number 1: Angel Beats

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This anime begins with Otanashi waking up in a limbo and being told he has to fight against god. The story explores the true nature of the world he is in and the other characters inhabiting it. By the time we get to the end of this story everything that ever needed to be said about this world has been said. And while you have to wait around until after the end credits of the final episode to get to the resolution you so desperately want, it is most definitely there and leaves you with a feeling that everything is going to work out okay which is pretty much how I want to feel at the end of the emotional roller-coaster that is Angel Beats.

That’s the list for this week, so now I’m turning it over to you. What is your favourite anime with only one season? Or what are your top 5 is narrowing it down to one is too hard?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Appearances of Cherry Blossoms in Anime

We are finally done reflecting on the anime of 2017 and now it is time to get into some new lists. To start us off, I am look at my 5 favourite uses of cherry blossoms in anime. These flowers are just adorable and are incredibly prolific so I am absolutely certain that you all have your own favourite scene from an anime so please feel free to share in the comments below. While I started off the list with some fairly standard pretty flowers, I think the ones that stick are a little out of the ordinary.

As an added note, for those that don’t know, the Cherry Blossom symbolises how fragile and yet beautiful life is (that’s an oversimplification but you get the point). It is a fantastic flower to show transitions in one’s life which is probably why so many anime start with them.

Please Note – Some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week goes to every high school anime ever that starts with the main character walking under cherry blossoms to get to school.

Number 5: Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card

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I’d be lying if I didn’t point out that this was the moment I thought of writing this list. I probably could have picked some scenes out of the original Cardcaptor just as easily, but this scene of Sakura on her way to school was gorgeous. It perfectly captured the feel of the old Cardcaptor while showing us just how visually impressive this new series was going to be.

Number 4: Your Lie In April

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No surprise at all given the symbolic meaning and the season that cherry blossoms feature heavily early on in this show. While it doesn’t have the same magical quality as the scene in Cardcaptor, these scenes are absolutely perfect in setting up the relationship between the two main characters and the inevitable ending in Your Lie in April. It might not be subtle symbolism, but is is affective.

Number 3: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

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What to do when you want to film and it isn’t the season for cherry blossoms? Just hope your director is also a god and you’ll be just fine. While the SOS brigade are shooting their movie, in addition to causing one of the group to shoot a lazer from her eye, creating white pigeons and a talking cat, Haruhi causes the cherry blossoms to bloom out of season. It is a bizarre series of events that are all undone when Kyon gets her to declare that the film is a work of fiction but it was an interesting use of cherry blossoms.

Number 2: Nurarihyon no Mago

Nurarihyon features one cherry blossom tree very prominently in the Nura Clan’s family compound. It gets used a lot throughout the series’ run time but we’ll see it often as Riko stares at it in his human form when he is thinking and when he is in his yokai form he sits on one of the branches in the tree looking down. Nura’s grandfather is also regularly seen near the tree. Additionally, there’s also a ‘secret’ technique used by the family that includes using saki and a sakura petal and ends with all the enemies incinerated.

Number 1: Bleach

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I came to the conclusion fairly early on that there is really no way to show just how impressive Byakuya’s bankai really is so if you have never watched Bleach you really should just for this attack. The first time we see it is when Ichigo pretty much goads Byakuya into releasing his bankai  and after the usual condescending remarks Byakuya literally lets go of his sword and in its place, after a very impressive entrance, we have thousands of blades scattered that Byakuya controls (and yes, they look just like cherry blossoms). What makes this technique particularly brilliant, other than looking gorgeous, is that it can be used for attack and defense and when he uses his hands he can increase the speed of the blades. Basically, anyone besides the protagonist is going down fast once Byakuya brings out this move.

Time for you to share your favourite appearance of cherry blossoms in an anime.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Are There No New Ideas?

I’d suggest that those who haven’t watched Your Lie in April and haven’t read yet what happens, that you might want to try one of my other posts and come back after you’ve either watched the end or someone else has spoiled it for you.

It’s a common criticism of television shows, movies, and of course anime, that the storyline is old. We’ve seen that before. Oh, it’s just like such and such. However, is this a fair criticism? Depending on which theorist you’d like to believe there are only between 5 and 10 storylines in the entire world and we’ve just been recycling them and giving them make-overs for thousands of years. So should originality really be an issue when writing a story?

That said, the main purpose of most stories being made into television shows, movies and anime is to entertain (there are other purposes but that’s the main one – unless you are cynical enough to believe that the only purpose is making money) and in order to entertain there needs to be an element of novelty. Can you be novel and unoriginal at the same time?

And that’s where we have to start looking at the quality of the story telling and the way the elements have been combined. A simple fairytale  can feel like a masterpiece in the hands of someone who knows how to weave it into something magical whereas an epic story might feel like the longest and most boring time of your life in the hands of someone who just doesn’t get how to tell a good story.

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Let’s look at Your Lie In April. With 22 episodes to fill you would think we could cover a fairly complex plot in that time. Over the course of 22 episodes we meet and get to know four characters (and only two of them are really developed). We have the initial refusal by Kousei to accompany Kaori and then we see them getting closer and in the process we learn more about Kousei’s trauma, and then we have our hearts broken into tiny little pieces by a death that was incredibly foreshadowed and obvious but still emotionally crippling to watch. That’s it. They meet. She makes him face something he doesn’t want to face. They grow. She dies. The end. There’s some other moments with some of the support cast and while the characterisation of the main pair and emotional weight of the story is well developed, the story itself is that straight forward.

Do we have any other stories that follow this path?  Well, lots if you really start looking but the one that immediately jumps out is Love Story from 1970. No, it isn’t exactly the same however the impact of two characters meeting and growing together before a death that leaves the survivor with a new direction is kind of the same. And no, I’m not suggesting that Your Lie in April is a rip-off of anything. But we have seen this pattern in stories before. The events themselves aren’t new.

So why is Your Lie in April effective as a story? (Okay some of you will say it isn’t but everyone has their own opinion and that’s fine.)

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If you were to ask the viewers what they like about the story, you will get a whole range of different answers. The music and the way it perfectly complements the themes. The visuals and the way they show Kousei’s anxiety on the stage. The relationship between Kousei and Kaori. The connection they felt to the characters as the story played out. For me it was the connection between the character’s mental state and emotions and the sound of the music. It’s the way this story has been told and the way the different parts have been put together that draws the audience in. That said, all of these other elements could still be there and if the writers had decided not to let Kaori die (after all that foreshadowing) I’m pretty sure most people would have ended up feeling rather indifferent. Despite the ending being obvious fairly early on, and by the half-way point outright inevitable, the way this story is told makes the journey memorable even if it doesn’t pull a last minute twist of any kind or really seek to break new ground.

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Then what if we consider something more complex like Baccano. You might argue that Baccano has a unique storyline and there isn’t anything else like it. And it is true that when you watch Baccano it certainly feels novel and different. But that isn’t because of the story. What Baccano does is combines multiple storylines together and then presents them in fragments with each story interconnecting with every other through either a character, object, or event. If we were to untangle each character’s story we actually get a whole lot of fairly simple plot lines. Again, this is not a criticism of Baccano. The presentation of the story (or stories) is really interesting and there is rewatch value in that some of the connections are missed the first time through.

What do you think? Are there new ideas for storylines or are there just new settings, new characters, and new ways to deliver the story? And does it even matter?


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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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