Anime Trick-or-Treat 2016: A Bag Full of Yanderes

Since this year’s Anime Trick-or-Treat was another colossal failure I’m reworking it into an in-depth analysis of the one subject that was actually requested, namely Gasai Yuno, and her archetype, the yandere.

Since the actual request was just about Gasai Yuno, let’s start with her.  Yuno is easily the most iconic yandere and could easily be credited with popularizing the archetype.  Additionally she completely carries Mirai Nikki, which does have a lot of fans, however misguided they may be (read prior post for context if you like).  That said she’s not exactly what I’d call a good character.  Gasai is more or less defined by three traits, the core components of the yandere, obsessive love, extremely violent tendencies, and of course a firm binding of crazy to wrap up the whole package.  Of the three traits her insanity is probably the most believable and well thought out, Mirai Nikki does show that Yuno’s mom was kind of insane and abused Yuno by locking her in a cage and whatnot.  This is a cut above the truly awful crazies who are insane because plot, like the villain from the Alfheim arc of SAO, but it’s not that good either.  As discussed in an old post on crazy characters the best crazies typically have their entire lives colored by their insanity, they don’t just have an inciting incident like Yuno.  Now you could make the case that since Mirai Nikki takes place in a second world, the Yuno we see there has lived an entire life of insanity already and thus makes sense, but that still doesn’t really explain how she became so insane in the first world beyond the inciting incident.

The abuse also does make Yuno’s violent tendencies more believable as abuse victims sometimes become abusers later in life.  However it doesn’t explain how extreme her violence is nor why she’s good at it.  It’s one thing for the a kid who gets beat his whole life to beat others when he becomes an adult but it’s a lot less believable for that person to become a full blown serial killer, especially one that’s insanely good with knives, axes and guns.  But even setting aside the potential issues of Yuno’s violence there is one glaring hole in her character, her love for Yuki.  It’s clearly shown that the Yuno’s of both worlds fall for Yuki but it’s not ever explained why.  Now I get that love isn’t necessarily logical but come one what’s Yuki got?  He doesn’t appear particularly good looking, he has no social skills, and he’s done nothing for Yuno that might make her fall for him.  So what gives?  Why is he so damn important to her?  Because plot apparently.  Ultimately though I think Gasai Yuno symbolizes the inherent problem with yanderes, they are such comically overboard characters at the conceptual level that playing it straight is shooting yourself in the foot.  It would take a lot of work to make a believable person who was also a full blown yandere and frankly most yandere creators don’t put in that effort because their shows are kinda shit.  Off the top of my head I’d say the only genuine yanderes are the main girl from School Days, which is infamous for being a dumpster fire, Gasai Yuno from Mirai Nikki, which as previously discussed is pleb tier anime and the orange haired girl from Shuffle!, which was a pretty subpar harem show that I’m honestly wondering how many people currently watching anime even really know about since it came out in 2005.  Most people also include one or more of the girls from Higurashi but there’s so much else going on in Higurashi that I think labeling them yanderes is grossly oversimplifying their characters and is wrong.  Lucy from Elfen Lied is also often called a yandere but I don’t think that quite fits either.

In my opinion the best use of yanderes are as gags, and given the prevalence of the gag I think most Japanese creatives agree with me.  Off the top of my head, Medaka has a yandere gag in Medaka Box Abnormal, both Tsukihi and Senjougahara have a couple yandere moments throughout the Bakemonogatari franchise, Ayase from OreImou has a few yandere scenes, Rin from Kanojo ga Flag wa Oraretara has several yandere moments, the black haired girl from Baka to Test has a bunch of yandere scenes, Chocolat and Yuragi both have yandere scenes in NouCome and the real star of this post, Anna Nishikinomiya of Shimoneta, has a few yandere scenes too.  There’s probably more if I thought about it but I think I’ve made my point, yanderes as gags outnumber actual yanderes, because yanderes are so conceptually goofy that they make way better punchlines than characters.  This brings us to my favorite yandere of all Anna Nishikinomiya of Shimoneta.

Anna is a great yandere because A, she’s not a yandere 24/7, B, because the world of Shimoneta is inherently ridiculous and full of ridiculous characters so a yandere fits right in, and C, the narrative has done a better job explaining why she exhibits yandere behaviors than most if not all other shows.  For those unaware, Shimoneta takes place in a future Japan where porn and all things sexual have been banned and censored by the government.  Anna is the daughter of two major proponents of this censorship and as such is a ridiculously sheltered and pure girl even by woefully sexually unaware standards of the people around her.  During the story she is kissed by the main guy during a sting operation where he saves her from some stalkers and she falls head over heels for him, therefore explaining her deep love for him.  It’s also established early on that Anna is insanely physically competent, both due to plot and due to the fact she’s a cream of the crop elite who works her ass off to fulfill her parent’s expectations.  So she has good foundations for being good at violence.  The final and most important touch though is how sheltered she is, she has no concept of the difference between love and lust, between what are acceptable ways to show affection and what’s not ok, so she engages in both extremely violent and extremely sexual acts and believes herself justified in doing so because she’s acting out of love, which she only has a vague idea of but believes is a pure and righteous thing.  She also has no idea how to calm her body’s now awakened sexual urges and only seems to succeed in doing so when she’s performing her most perverse and extreme activities

To make a long story short, the reason the yandere succeeds as an archetype is because it’s incredibly stupid and out there.  Everyone likes to talk about the great animes, the ones that everyone knows about and which left a long-lasting impression on the fandom and even the medium, but most of the time anime isn’t that, it’s stupid and weird.  I say this as a compliment, stupid and weird can be a ton of fun and most of the time I want fun, not the next big classic which reshapes the medium.  Stupid and weird are also core elements of camp, which is something most people absolutely love despite the negative connotations surrounding the word.  The yandere archetype plays into the crowd’s love of camp, a character taken to such extremes and whose behavior is so overblown you almost can’t help but laugh at it.  Because of this it’s vital that the yandere in question not be taken too seriously because serious and camp tend to butt heads.  This is where Gasai Yuno both succeeds and fails, the character herself is ridiculous enough to be kind of awesome, even of you hate Mirai Nikki like me I still think Yuno herself has some appeal as a gimmick or a concept, but at the same time because Mirai Nikki plays her role straight and serious it weakens her character and the show itself.  Ultimately Yuno is the face of yandere and I doubt anything will change that, and in fairness she does embody the extreme nature of the archetype quite well and by extension showcases the archetype’s appeal rather nicely.  But in the context of being played seriously, shes not a good character, and she’s used poorly because again Mirai Nikki is pleb tier anime.

Over the top violence and love taken to creepy, crazy extremes is fun and funny, which is why the yandere should be a gag, because it works so well that way.  Alternatively it makes sense for a yandere to be played fairly straight in a world and story that are already so ridiculous that nothing is to be taken too seriously.  Yanderes, despite their dark reputation, are actually really fun and they are good making us laugh in the “well this is sort of fucked up but it’s still funny” sense.  And if nothing else Yuno performs the crazy violence and twisted love we come to yandere for, it’s just too bad she’s in a show that doesn’t use her properly.  So if you like the yandere, or maybe just want to see what all the fuss is about, go watch Shimoneta instead and let Anna show you how it’s done, because to me she should be crowned as the real Yandere Queen.  Thanks for reading I hoped you enjoyed it, and if you have other characters you think make for good, or bad, yanderes do feel free to share in a comment.  I’ll see you in the next one.

Understanding the Audience: Appeal and Expectations

There are approximately a billion different factors that coalesce into a person’s opinion on a particular anime they watched.  When they watched it, how they watched it, who they watched it with, what kind of emotions did they have at the time, what the animation was like, what the story was about, how good the characters were, what kind of ideas does the viewer like in general, etc.  However amongst these myriad factors there are two that are that widely applicable and really easy to understand, what your expectations of the show were vs what the show actually was and whether or not the show was designed to appeal to the kind of person you are, i.e. whether you were the target audience.  For example, I had very low expectations for Keijo, the tits and ass battle sport anime airing right now, and currently I think it’s the best show of the season because boy did it surpass my expectations. A prominent example of appeal would be the huge war over Re:Zero and whether it’s good or bad, which for the record I’ve start hating the show more as time goes on because it decidedly did not appeal to me.  Which is as good a place to start as any, there will be spoilers you’ve been warned.

Since writing my review of Re:Zero I’ve watched some great videos both pro and anti Re:Zero and have come to the conclusion that the main reason I found it boring was that I was not the kind of person the show was appealing to.  The best defense of Re: Zero I saw was about how it was a tale of self-betterment made specifically with otaku in mind and that some of it’s characters did a great job accurately portraying otaku habits or subverting otaku expectations.  That’s great and all but it doesn’t really reach me.  One of the main lesson Subaru has to learn, for example, is that he needs to treat Emilia as a person to get the relationship he wants instead of treating her like a waifu.  It’s not a bad message to send but, uh how do I put this, it means nothing to me.  Because I don’t really do waifus, as I’ve repeatedly stated in a bunch of posts, I need to see the characters as people first before I even really find them attractive at all.  I don’t want to pedastalize my ideal image of this hot girl, I want to get to know the real girl, then decide if I’m into her or not.  And the closest I’ve ever gotten to pedastalizing the girl I was into  before coming to terms with the idea that that wasn’t healthy or ok, was almost ten years ago, and even then I knew some of my hopes and expectations weren’t fucking ok.  So Subaru’s growth is meaningless to me, because I went past that point so long ago that the struggle to get there doesn’t resonate with me.  I don’t feel the impact of the emotional story that speaks to a lot of otaku in Re:Zero, instead all I’m left with is a character I hate for being inane, and having a terrible design.  Obviously it does appeal to a lot of people, hence the grand battle cry calling it a great show from huge chunks of the anime community.  And that’s fine, it’s nice that it speaks to so many people, but I’m not one of them so I’m not going to like this shit.

I think it’s important for everyone to recognize that because the main draw of the story was completely dependent on who the story was appealing to, there’s going to be a large camp of people who hate the show because it’s not for them, and for everyone on both sides to be ok with the opinions of the other side based on who the show appealed to.  Because the last thing we need is for people to argue over Re:Zero forever and ignore shows they might like better, like Keijo.  This doesn’t apply just to Re:Zero of course, most shows have a very targeted audience and because of that targeting, there’s going to be people left feeling bored because the show isn’t appealing to them.  But I think it’s kind of necessary to keep that fact in mind when talking about a show because to be frank watching two camps of people scream that a show is either great or that it sucks is super fucking boring, talk about why it’s good or it sucks and shed some insight into your personal tastes and experience.  Also it would just be nice if most of the internet and the real world would get on board with the idea of other people’s different opinions being ok.

Moving right along, in direct opposition to appeal, which is about aiming for a specific group and is then affected by a individual factors which can be difficult to describe, expectations are very personal but are also exceedingly easy to explain to a group of people.  For example, one of my all time favorite shows is Utawarerumono, with one of the main reasons being that is has thus far surpassed expectations.  The first time I watched the show I had low expectations so it was pretty understandable for the show to exceed them, and for me to think it was good.  The second time I went in with much higher expectations and was still just as blown as away as that glorious first viewing.  That’s what it means to be one of my favorite shows, to continually surpass my expectations and just being a fucking blast to watch every time I watch it.  It’s also what’s great about Keijo, I read the description and went in expecting the trashiest, low effort ecchi crap I’d ever seen and was rewarded with arguably the best ecchi-action scenes ever made and thus far a decent sports story.

That’s really all there is to this post.  Just be open-minded regarding other people’s opinions, especially if the show has a clearly targeted set of people it’s appealing to, and if you’re sharing your opinion in a public space it would be nice if you mentioned your expectations and how they’ve affected your viewing experience.  Because a good review of an anime is usually about more than just the anime, it’s also a story about the person making the review.  And you can make super interesting posts or videos, even if I totally disagree with your opinion, if you just explain where you’re coming from and how a show appealed to you or how your expectations factored in.  That’s the dream really, a world where we can all understand and accept other people’s opinions, regardless of our own, because the other people explained why they have that opinion.  That would make for more interesting content, which is really a win-win for everybody.  That about wraps this up, hope you enjoyed it.

Raging Rant: Stop Liking Edgy Bullshit

Edgy is one of the worst possible descriptors a show can acquire.  And yet for some reason blatantly edgy shows do annoying well with a large percentage of the anime community.  A lot of that can be attributed to people being noobs, which is fair enough because we were all noobs once, but at the same time I don’t think it’s fair or correct to write off all the attention edgy shows get as solely a noob problem.  So what is it that attracts people to edgy shows in the first place?  Why do so many people buy into the edgy bullshit?  Well… there will be spoilers ahead you’ve been warned.

I think one of the main draws of edgy shows is that they are dark and gory, and to first time viewers that make them seem very cool and maybe even mature.  I remember the first time I saw Elfen Lied and Mirai Nikki, and I thought both of them were awesome and I was ready to fight people who shat on them, you know before someone really broke down why they sucked and I realized the great sin I’d committed by liking these shows.  I hate them both now, in fact the only thing I like about Elfen Lied now is Nyu, because Nyu is fucking adorable.  But I get it, the first time you see a show that’s willing to horribly murder a bunch of people right from the get go, where characters die right and left, where gore and tragedy are everywhere, it can seem like a big step up from all the boring high school stuff.  It can feel more mature and realistic than shounen battles with their huge emphasis on optimism and friendship and marked rarity of death.  But edgy shows are anything but mature and I happen to know a character that illustrates this perfectly, Seiryuu from Akame ga Kill.

Akame ga Kill is one of the notable edgy shows but in contrast to Elfen Lied and Mirai Nikki, it’s one I actually like.  I’ll get into more details on that later, for now let’s look at Seiryuu.  As detailed in one of my early posts, Seiryuu is a well constructed crazy person.  She has been driven to the point of insanity by a clear chain of events, i.e. her parents and mentors are all murdered in rapid succession, and thanks to the fact that some of her mentors are corrupt scumbags themselves, her moral compass and understanding of the world is totally fucked.  This makes Seiryuu a character who believably would act in an overblown, hyper violent, edgy way.  She is a child trying to deal with very adult issues and she just can’t, which ends up with her laughing about feeding people to her dog monster while still believing she represents justice.  This is the essence of what it means to be edgy, adult content written for, and perhaps with, a child’s perspective.  Because any show can be super gory and violent, any show can incorporate tragedy and trauma.  It doesn’t need to be a mature show to have mature content, but that’s precisely why edgy shows generally suck, they just take the trappings of mature shows and throw in some babies first characters and hope no one notices.  And is works on a lot of people, because a lot of people are so wowed by the all the blood and death that they stop thinking about anything else going on the story entirely.  But the effect created by the inherent flaw of edgy stories is present in Seiryuu, she’s far and away the most hateable character in Akame ga Kill and watching her die was one of the most satisfying scenes in the show.

What really puts the nail in the coffin of edgy shows is that the things they are trying to do have been done elsewhere so much better.  Even in Akame ga Kill there were characters who had a more mature perspective and their personal philosophies, ideals and goals were by far the most interesting aspects of characterization in the show.  The titular Akame is especially good because, as discussed in my post on anti-heroes, she follows the all too rare path of the redemption seeker.  She knows how hard she fucked up earlier in life and she fights now to make up for her past evils and ensure others have the brighter future she can never have.  Likewise Bols comes from the unique, at least among Akame ga Kill’s characters, perspective of being a family man while also having done a ton of horrific shit that makes people hate him, but he comes to terms with the hatred of others and resolves to continue doing ugly things anyway because they are in service of the ideals he believes in and the people he fights for.  Now both of these characters were weakened because they were saddled with lame comedic punchlines, but the point stands, these two were the most interesting characters in the show because their stories best reflected a more mature perspective in a show full of mature content.  But those two are pretty minor examples compared to the entire shows and stories which handle the same dark and gory content as edgy shows so much better.

Berserk and Neon Genesis Evangelion are stories with plenty of gore and a buffet of traumatic events.  But in direct opposition to Mirai Nikki and Elfen Lied, the violence and tragedy aren’t gimmicks meant to wow the audience in these stories.  Trauma and mental damage play a gigantic role in Evangelion, they are core themes central to the narrative of the story and the kind of message it presents to the audience.  And Evangelion is way darker and more impactful for it.  Forget a yandere killing a lot of people because they touched her Yuki, isn’t it really insane to force a fifteen year old with serious trust issues and an understandable lack of confidence to pilot a crazy mech and defend the world from otherworldly beings?  What’s really more tragic, a kid seeing his sister blow in a blood pinata and forgetting the whole thing due to the trauma it caused him or a girl who had to deal with a mother that never recognized and loved her, a mother who she saw hang herself, and then had save the world from invading aliens despite the deep-seated mental scars her childhood left on her, which she not only could never forget about but which would also put even more pressure on her during her future struggles with the aliens?   What’s really darker, a world full of overblown characters and equally overblown violence, or a world full of people who behave like human beings, humans that suffer from a myriad of terrible mental issues and are constantly confronted with violence, but have to keep coming into the office every morning because that’s what’s expected of them?  In all three scenario’s it’s the latter because Evangelion, in a addition to just being a damn good show, took a mature, realistic approach to mature content and told a story with mature themes.  Mirai Nikki and Elfen Lied use the same kind of content to tell cartoonish stories of overwrought tragedy and mindless violence with no noteworthy themes at all.

And then there’s Berserk a story where people we like get raped and where people reel back in genuine horror not just from monsters but from Guts and his exceptional skills at violence.  I think one of the best arcs of Berserk was the Lost Children arc because more so than any other arc it really cemented the idea that Guts was fucking scary.  It doesn’t matter that he’s the hero of the story, that he’s in the right or that his feats were badass, in Lost Children Guts scared even the monsters because of the lengths he was willing to go to take them down and most humans feared and hated him for the damage he left behind.  It really showed how isolating Guts’ path and by extension his reaction to his past traumas were, and it took the near death of the only person he cared about to make him change his ways.  That’s a story that speaks to people about human problems, it doesn’t matter that Guts is fighting demons with a stupidly huge sword in a medieval fantasy land, he and other characters around him suffer from very human problems and they deal with these problems in human ways.  In short the characters in Berserk are relatable and human, and at times they showcase the very worst of what people allow themselves to become.  By contrast Mirai Nikki is about a pink haired girl whose kills people because she’s insane.  It’s pathetic in comparison to a story that actually takes a mature approach to mature content, because again in Mirai Nikki violence and tragedy are gimmicks meant to garner a reaction, they don’t really mean anything narratively or thematically.

Another thing that supports the popularity of edgy is shows is their premise.  Tokyo Ghoul and Mirai Nikki are both shows with a strong premise that got a lot of attention, and to sadly large portion of the audience, respect.  Hell I was into to Tokyo Ghoul for the premise, I watched all of both seasons waiting to see if the show could deliver on that premise, and it just fucking didn’t, not in any meaningful way.  It was such garbage that the best character in the show died in episode one and she somehow continued to be the best character despite getting no extra development.  And as I established in another post, premise means nothing.  You can have the coolest premise in the world but if the execution of the narrative, of key scenes, of the presentation vs the themes all sucks, then your show fucking sucks.  This again is where edgy shows trip up, because gore is a gimmick to them, they don’t really have hard hitting themes to match their presentation, so it all comes off as cartoonish, lacking in subtlety and tact, and ultimately tasteless and juvenile.  This is why edgy shows are laughed at as pleb tier anime, because they damn well are pleb tier in terms of writing and construction.  Which brings me back to the one edgy show I will defend, Akame ga Kill.

Akame ga Kill is an odd beast because the reasons I like and defend it don’t really match up with why most other people like it.  That’s not to say there’s no common ground, I’m pretty sure everyone who likes Akame ga Kill likes the action in Akame ga Kill for instance, but generally speaking there is a big disconnect between me and most everyone else.  Because it sounds like a lot of people who like Akame ga Kill actually like the edgy bullshit that drove so many potential fans away, this is especially true of fans of the manga which based on my admittedly limited knowledge appears even more edgy than the anime.  This is ludicrous to me because while I have found a defense for Akame ga Kill’s edginess, I ain’t celebrating that shit.  It’s edginess is by far the worst thing about Akame ga Kill even if it sort of fits in context.  That context being the anime only end of Akame ga Kill, which in retrospect automatically puts me at odds with manga fans.  As discussed in my review, I found the anime only ending of Akame ga Kill pretty incredible.  Not only did we get to see a bunch of great battles in a row, but we saw a final conclusion to the overall story and that’s rare enough that I was happy we got something.  However what really sold me on this ending is the scene where the few remaining survivors of the conflict are talking atop a huge ruined tower on capital city’s wall.  The shot really hit home the idea that, holy shit the scale and cost of this conflict was enormous.  The majority of the Imperial Arms, super powerful artifact weapons that no one can create anymore, used in the show are destroyed.  Hundreds if not thousands of people have died, the capital city is in ruins, a ton of young talent and potential heroes are dead in addition to the established heroes of the empire who have died and the government is being totally reformed by the few who remain.

Put succinctly, the ending of Akame ga Kill gives me the impression of something like the fabled Trojan War of Homer’s epics.  In the world of Akame ga Kill this conflict’s end signifies the passing of age and it will likely end up as an in-universe epic at some point in that world’s history.  I admit this is a weird thing selling point, especially as it doesn’t appear at all until the end, but for me the idea of a conflict which defined and ended an era is overwhelmingly awesome.  Maybe it’s my love for history, or fictional world building, or legends and lore, maybe all of the above; but it was powerful to me and that’s why I really do love the damn show despite it’s faults.  And as far the edginess is concerned, epics tend to have overblown characters with larger than life personalities and traits taken to extremes, i.e. they are kind of edgy in their own, albeit far less cringy, way.  Therefore, if you look at Akame ga Kill as an epic happening in real time, the edginess makes a little more sense and fits the story.  That doesn’t make it good mind, but it fits enough that I’m willing to forgive it and enjoy the rest of the show.

What this has all been building up to is me, here at the end, begging you all on my hands and knees to stop falling for edgy bullshit.  You’re allowed to like whatever you like, but please, please stop liking edgy bullshit.  You can do better than that and we all deserve better than edgy bullshit.  I want to live in a world where edgy bullshit is not financially viable, where Tokyo Ghoul doesn’t sell well and is shit on by everybody for it’s overwrought yet hollow tragedy, it’s boring flatlined story, and intense gore hidden behind all kinds of shadows.  I want everyone to get past the Mirai Nikki’s and Elfen Lied’s of the world because then maybe, just maybe, we can talk about more interesting shit and get some better dark, gory anime worthy for all of us to enjoy.  Thank you for reading and I’ll see you in the next one.

Anime Trick-or-Treat 2016

Hello everyone, it’s time to return to a (mostly failed) tradition.  Halloween is traditionally a time when everyone starts making videos, blog posts, and AMVs about horror anime.  So in the spirit of being different, I’m not going to talk about horror, at least not by choice.  Instead I’m going to do a bit of community outreach, which is a fancy-pants way of saying I’m taking requests.  The plan here is to take around 20 requests and compile them into one giant Halloween post, to make an anime candy basket if you will, for all of you.  If you want to get an idea of what this will look like, you can look at last year’s post as a short example.  The rules are below:

Rules and Regulations:

  • I will take requests from the time this post is published until 11:59 10/30/16, any requests made after this time will not be addressed. If I have not reached the 20 request limit by this time you may be able to sneak in a request during the wee hours of the morning on 10/31/16 before I get up and start working, I make no promises though.
  • For those of you making requests: ask of me whatever you like, I’ll do an entire series, or any scene, battle, character, group of characters/organization, weapon, spell, magic/superpower, physical ability or literary/anime concept; basically anything anime related you can think of. I will analyze these things in medium-sized blurbs as opposed to writing full reviews of 20 entire shows because that would be really hard to do in 24 hours.
  • You’re free to make as many requests as you like, however I’m going to cycle through everyone who makes a request and take their first request before addressing extra requests, so I may not get to all of yours if I get enough people making requests.
  • To make a request go ahead and leave a comment on this post and this post only. Any requests made on other posts will be treated as a separate thing and I won’t get to it until later.

Unpopular Opinion: Qualidea Code

Qualidea Code is one the most fascinating anime I’ve seen in several years.  Normally when I say that about a show I consider that as a positive, however in Qualidea Code’s case it’s a rather neutral description.  If you’ve seen any of Qualidea Code you’re probably wondering what the fuck I’m talking about.  Episode one was thoroughly generic, to the point that even the names and appearances of the invading enemies were uncreative as fuck.  In addition the  visuals were subpar at best, so I thinks it’s a pretty safe bet to say that this show didn’t attract too many fans.  So I assume the question on everyone’s mind is “how is this at all fascinating?”  There will be spoilers ahead.

Well for starters if you’ve seen the entire show, then you know the premise is actually a bit of a bait and switch.  It starts looking like another post-apocalyptic humans vs monsters story like Attack on Titan, except this time the titans are spaceships and the humans have superpowers.  The big twist is that the dumbass high school kids haven’t been fighting aliens at all, instead the aliens were the one that took the children out of cold sleep and using some kind of microchip, overwrote how the human brain perceives information, which means the all the generic “alien” ships the kids kept blowing up were actually unmanned drones sent by the local remnants of the human race to attack the actual aliens and rescue the kids.  That concept itself is actually not a bad one and while the reveal was obvious as fuck by the time Suzaku, who is ostensibly the main guy but kind of not at the same time, found out it was still a cool concept and the execution was decent.  The only thing that really undercut the reveal was the OP, because Canaria is literally the first thing you see in the OP and that would be weird if the show genuinely killed her off before the halfway point of its run.  So that was a case of poor planning but otherwise the big reveal was not too bad, especially since literally the stupidest character in the show figured it out first, which incidentally was much cooler than the actual reveal with Suzaku.  All that said I don’t think this twist was what really made this a fascinating show, it just added to the real meat of what made this show unusual.

What impressed the most about Qualidea Code was what the show did with its characters.  The actual characters themselves range from mildly interesting to outright awful, but many of the roles and archetypes we see all the time in anime were mixed up and changed around.  I discussed this before, but it definitely merits an update.  For starters I think it’s interesting that Suzaku, who again is ostensibly the main guy, is neither the strongest character nor does he ever become the strongest.  This is almost stupidly rare for anime in general and it’s an especially nice touch because Suzaku is such an ass and so obsessed with power levels and rank, at least when he isn’t obsessing over Canaria.  Speaking of Canaria I’m glad that she’s as important as she is.  I think Support-type characters (not support characters but characters with a support skill set like healing, buffing, etc.) have started gaining more relevance after years of hiding in the shadows of OP leads, and Canaria is a good example of that.  Even though she has literally no offensive powers, she’s ranked 10 out of hundreds of superpowered kids because her ability to buff everyone is so good.  And of course she is the key to victory in the final battle though in that case all she’s doing is singing. None of these things are a particularly big deal but they are nice touches.

Continuing onto the other characters I think one of the more interesting things to note is Suzaku’s rival, Kasumi, and how he kind of fucks with everything.  At first he seems like a clear case of as YouTuber Digibro puts it “the overdog posing as underdog trope” wherein a character’s strength is not recognized by the system and he’s actually the strongest guy around even though no else realizes that.  Because despite his near bottom level rank Kasumi seems to have no problems killing the “aliens” and in some ways he’s better at it than his higher ranked allies because of his skill and precision as opposed to raw power.  However it quickly becomes apparent that he’s legitimately weak, he has no heightened physical abilities like being able to hold his breath underwater for 15 minutes for example.  This presents an interesting dichotomy in that Kasumi can swap between being a genuine underdog, and assuming he has good positioning, an overdog.  Moreover there’s a good case to be made that Kasumi, not Suzaku is the main character.  After Canaria “dies” (ie is captured by humans and freed from brainwashing) Suzaku becomes a husk and does nothing outside of lash out at people and Unknown until he recovers.  During this time Kasumi takes center stage and he uncovers the truth behind their situation, tricks the first genuine alien into revealing it’s hand and indirectly kills it.  He also has lot more character interaction than Suzaku ever had during this span of time and after all the main characters are freed from the brainwashing, Kasumi continues to play a leading role in the final fight against the Unknown.

However my favorite two characters are Hotaru and Maihime.  For starters they are the top two fighters in the entire show, which is great.  It’s rare enough for a girl to be the strongest character in any given show where both men and women have some kind of special powers.  So for both of the top two to be women is so rare that it sort of deserves to be appreciated for that alone.  Of the two Hotaru is definitely the less unique, she pretty clearly follows the serious, smart girl archetype and her only quirk is how she gets a withdrawal of sorts if she’s away from Maihime too long.  She does however have the outright best fanservice scene in the show, a positive for me, and she does get one episode mostly dedicated to her alone and how she takes charge of things.  Maihime on the other hand is one of the weirdest characters I’ve seen in a while on the conceptual level.

She clearly falls into the genki (energetic and usually dumb) girl archetype however that’s not all there is to her.  Maihime’s values are very much in line with a typical shounen hero, she cares about people, she leads and fights for the greater good of her comrades and she’s also really really dumb.  But unlike a shounen hero, who generally starts at the bottom and eventually becomes the best, Maihime is the best from very beginning and no one else ever even gets close to her.  And I’m not just taking about rank, though the fact that she doesn’t give a fuck about rank and is ranked number 1 and regularly interacts with the rank obsessed Suzaku is fun.  In episode two when everyone goes for a swim Hotaru, the second ranked fighter, can hold her breath underwater for about 15 minutes, and Maihime can hold her breath underwater for 3 hours.  If we assume the length of time underwater is proportional to power level, then Maihime is about 12 times stronger than her closest competition.  Even if assume the breathing isn’t connected, Hotaru regularly kills squadrons of enemies whereas Maihime wipes out entire armies or giant flagships and never appears tired.  All of this is to say that Maihime is not a typical kind of character especially for a girl, most of her closest equivalents are in fact shounen heroes, so while she is limited because of the general low quality of the show, I think she represents an interesting idea and a potential way to break out of or change the archetype molds that so many characters are trapped in.

The final point of interest is pretty minor but I do think it’s a cool idea.  The aliens of Qualidea Code are called Unknown, which I initially wrote off as the least creative placeholder name for an alien race to ever make it into a published product.  Now it is still an uncreative name but at least it sort of fits.  The whole conceit of the alien invasion was that the Unknown can’t reproduce organically, so they invade other worlds and steal and modify their babies into new Unknown to increase their population (or something along those lines, the show brought the idea up so fast that it wasn’t expressed too clearly).  And the line that got me into this idea is when Airi, the pinked haired woman and final boss of the Unknown invasion on Earth, said that the Unknown have drawn offspring from so many other races that they don’t even know what they used to be anymore, that they really are Unknown.  And while the line itself is a little corny, I think how she delivered lent it quite a bit of impact and communicated how she felt about the Unknown without her actually explaining her feelings.  And as a concept, a race that has gone to such lengths to survive that it no longer knows what it used to be is pretty damn cool and very rare, the only other example I can think of off the top of my head is Suisei no Gargantia (a show I like much more than Qualidea Code).

All of that said I would not recommend Qualidea Code to anyone.  It’s visually unimpressive, the character interactions generally suck, the combat is uninteresting and there’s so much crap crammed into the last episode that a lot of it has no impact and/or just feels like an asspull.  The only episode worth watching was episode two because it was the swimsuit episode (and Hotaru totally won the swimsuit contest) and it was where the only OST I remember first popped up.  Episode eleven is ok too, because Kasumi’s mom is the actual Best Girl in the show and she fires the biggest gun in the show that episode.  But while Qualidea Code as a show is pretty shit, it has a lot of good ideas with regards to character archetypes and character dynamics.  Character archetypes and dynamics are some of the most codified aspects of any given anime genre, and they can get incredibly stale.  So seeing a show, even a bad one, challenge the status quo and do something different is encouraging and I would encourage any creative reading this to likewise think about creating characters that break out of the common storytelling templates we see so much of.  That’s it really, the show is bad even if the ideas it has are good, kind of like how a good premise doesn’t automatically mean that the show will actually be good, and I’ve nothing else to say.  Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next one.