Character Cache: Ruby Rose

 

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There are a lot of reasons I like RWBY and I’ve spoken of them in more extensive detail here.  And with Volume 5 coming out in a couple days now is as good a time as any to talk about RWBY’s leading lady, Ruby.  There will be spoilers ahead.

In my most recent post I talked about how well lead characters fit the role given to them and this applies to Ruby as well.  This is most clearly shown in Volume 2, when while out on a mission the professor in charge asks the other three members of Team RWBY – which for those not in the loop are her elder half-sister Yang, the Faunus (beastmen and an oppressed group in the in-universe lore) Blake and the heiress to a wealthy company, Weiss – why they wanted to be Huntresses in the first place.  Ruby is conspicuously not asked this question, instead her time alone with the professor is a mini-lesson or words of warning about some of the most powerful Grimm monsters Ruby has ever seen.  The unspoken implication here is that Ruby is a perfect fit for a Huntress and as such asking her why she wants to be one is a pointless question, an implication strengthened by the following scene where the other girls mull over the professor’s question and their reasons for being a Huntress while Ruby subsequently tracks down the covert enemy presence they are here for in the first place.

This scene is hardly the only indicator however.  In fact Ruby herself is a full 2 years younger than the other 8 main characters who make up team RWBY and team JNPR and she’s awarded entry into Beacon academy anyway thanks to the Headmaster’s judgement.  She is also arguably the best fighter in her class – the show does suggest that’s not necessarily the case as Pyrrha is the one most widely recognized as the best in an official capacity and team RWBY has Yang go to the finals during Volume 3’s inter-school battle tournament.  However Ruby is consistently the one who finds the enemy first in various situations, she actually beat all of team JNPR by herself during the Great Food Fight of Volume 2 thanks to strategic use of her surroundings and her Semblance – a power all humans and Faunus have but which manifests itself in a unique form for each individual – which in Ruby’s case is super speed.  I don’t think it’s that hard to explain why super speed is hard to deal with but if any medium really seems to underestimate speed it would be anime.  Ruby’s Semblance makes her almost untouchable unless her enemy is sufficiently skilled enough to predict her movements, has special attacks or equipment of it’s own to counter her speed, or if there are enough enemies in the first place.

This can also be shown by her kill count.  This is a sort of unfair metric since no noteworthy deaths resulted before Volume 3 but thus far the only villains who have died, or even been grievously injured, have done so while fighting Ruby.  I mean technically she didn’t cut them down herself but her efforts paved the way for their deaths, if not for her presence they almost certainly would not have died.  And the fact she was fighting 1v2 against characters who had handily defeated other major characters, Neapolitan especially as she beat Yang so easily in Volume 2, shows that at the very least Ruby is dangerous enough to be one of the biggest thorns in the villains’ sides of the people in her age group.  And she did totally fuck up Cinder, the main villain of the first 3 Volumes, and cut off Tyrian’s stinger.  Likewise she displays excellent tactics during the Initial Beacon exam where her plan allows her future team to kill the strongest Grim in testing grounds.

All that said perhaps perfect is overselling it a little.  Ruby is still in many ways a child, and childishness still tinges her character and actions, albeit to a far lesser degree following the events of Volume 3.  Ruby also has plenty of struggles being a team leader and in retrospect it would not surprise me if Ozpin, the aforementioned Beacon headmaster, assigned her to that role specifically to have her overcome this weakness.  Her strategic ability would probably be enough to earn her the spot but Ozpin is very insightful and the leadership role would force Ruby to confront one of her biggest weaknesses – personal communication.

Ruby is kind of a dork.  When she’s not hunting down villains or cutting down monsters there honestly very little for her to do.  She can be socially awkward to a painful degree and while she is friendly with all 8 of the main characters she doesn’t really connect with anyone else besides Penny, a weirdo herself, because Penny is actually an incredibly advanced robot trying to be a person.  This isn’t to say Ruby can’t talk to anyone or that she doesn’t improve this facet of her character throughout the show, but in the beginning this one of her biggest shortcomings.  And even later on after she opens up she’s notably uncomfortable in larger social settings.  To this very day my favorite line of dialogue in RWBY came from Volume 1 when Ruby explains to Yang that the reason she’s so excited about other people’s weapons is because “seeing new weapons is like meeting new people, only better.”  Which should give you an idea how much she struggles on the social front, though it’s not for lack of trying.

This flaw in her character is necessary though and to me it really helps cement the idea that Ruby is the Huntress equivalent of autistic savant – deficient in many aspects of her life but incredibly good at one thing she’s interested in.  This is also suggested in Volume 1 because of her weapon, a scythe-sniper rile hybrid.  It’s certainly one of the most unusual weapons even by RWBY’s very liberal and open standards of what can be a valid weapon and only one other character we know of is skilled with a scythe.  And she built it herself, which is yet another indicator of her interests.  The weapon aside her clear and consistently demonstrated talent in combat and investigation/tracking make her a great candidate for a Huntress.  Personally I feel like given a few decades Ruby would be very much like her uncle Qrow, minus the alcohol – a lone wolf type perfectly capable of taking down all but the most dangerous foes by herself.  For now though, as good as she is, she does need the team, for personal growth, safety and as the situation turns more dire after the events of Volmune 3, moral support.

Then we reach a new facet of Ruby, one introduced mere seconds after the greatest tragedy of the entire show, Ruby’s eyes have special powers of their own and they are extremely dangerous to Grimm and Maidens alike.  Qrow’s only hints about her powers are that in folk lore silver-eyed Hunters and Huntresses were always considered especially dangerous and that this belief had to come from somewhere, i.e. Ruby’s new power.  Salem, presumably the true arch-villain of the series seems to know more about them but as yet her comments on the matter are cryptic.  I think of this as more of a “chosen one” or “main character” factor than what I described above though.  Does this make her even more suited to be a Huntress?  Yes.  But it’s not something she actively pursued or otherwise gained, it was just a special power given to her.  It has very little to do with who she is and what she wants to be in-universe and everything to do with who she is in the context of RWBY being a story, and presumably her mother as neither Yang, her father nor Qrow has silver eyes.  This is reinforced by the fact she has no control over it and doesn’t even appear to realize she has this power at all nor any desire to use it.

I think what really makes Ruby work is that despite it all she’s a kid and to many a relatable one.  If not for the fact she goes around killing monsters and dueling villains she would just be an adorkable teen.  She has almost all the trappings, and more importantly the shortcomings, of a nerd – even if her preferred hobby is both deadly and an occupation.  This goes a long to grounding the series with all of it’s fantasy and scifi elements, which are many.  It also makes her someone we can easily sympathize with and whose story we can get invested in.  Of course I also think that she’s such a perfect fit for what she wants to be, at the expense of other facets of her personality is a very nice touch and part of what makes her especially interesting.  That’s it really.  I just wanted another excuse to gush about RWBY and Ruby.  Hope you enjoyed it.

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Character Cache: Yasuri Nanami

 

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Given that Katanagatari is the only show I’ve seen four times since I picked up anime in mid 2011, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say Katanagatari is the anime which has fascinated me most.  And within Katanagatari, Yasuri Nanami is the character who fascinates me most.  There will be spoilers, so if you’ve not seen Katanagatari yet I highly recommend you do so.

Before it even comes to character traits what I love about Nanami is her character concept – namely that she’s a character who is so strong her power is killing her.  Actually it’s so strong it’s been crippling her since birth and she’s now reaching the point where it will kill her at age 21 (I think), but that’s too in depth to sound slick and cool.  This is concept is not unique but it is sort of a more typical “stronger spells/jutsus/techniques/etc. have greater consequences when used” just taken to an extreme.  What really sets Nanami apart though is that she can’t turn her power off and she did not do anything to obtain it – she’s just born with an awesome power which was always too much for her body to handle.

I’m a huge fan of the general stronger move has stronger consequences concept and I hate it when shows just sort of sidestep it *oh shit we can’t have Sasuke go blind from overusing his power, quick get him new eyes so his powers no longer have consequences that sounds cool right?*  The fact that Nanami has had this power from birth and suffered the consequences from birth makes it a cut above though, especially as it helps play an important role in the kind of person she is and the decisions she ultimately makes during the course of the show.  For context her power is that she can copy any move she sees, with the caveat she needs to see it twice for the copy to be perfect.  If her claims are to be believed she can see through the all the moves any martial art might have just based on the stance her opponent takes, which is why she doesn’t ever use stances when fighting – in sharp contrast to her brother Shichika who puts a lot of emphasis on his stance throughout the course of the show.  Also this power allowed her to absorb the superhuman strength of one the mythical clans present in the show, the Itezora clan, still not sure how that works but whatever.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Katanagatari is set in alternate timeline of Japanese history where a certain soothsayer creates 12 magic swords during the Sengoku Jidai – the war where Oda Nobunaga becomes famous – to distort history.  He does this because he can see the future and knows about Japan’s downfall under the Tokugawa Shogunate and thus manipulates history to attempt a different outcome.  Because of this history meddling Katanagatari is full of abnormal abilities and clans which are described as something which could have potentially taken place in our history – though obviously they didn’t.  The 12 magic swords are only known to high level government officials and their agents, the sword masters who wield them and the Maniwa Ninjas.  What no one realizes until very late in the show is that Shikizaki Kiki – the soothsayer who made the swords – actually made a 13th sword, the sword which isn’t a sword, Kyotou Yasuri.  This manifests as the special martial art which mimics swordsmanship native only to the Yasuri family, Kyotouryuu – the flow of the empty sword.

Despite being the eldest child Nanami isn’t taught Kyotouryuu by her father, who appoints Shichika as the head of the clan – but she watches Shichika learn so she learns it anyway and is ultimately far better at it than Shichika due to her eyes.  The Yasuri family and the 7 siblings (there are only two siblings but Shichi and Nana both mean 7 and they are the 7th generation of the clan) are all a peculiar bunch but it’s most heavily pronounced among Shichika and Nanami.  The two live on an island with only their father for company for 19 years and live another year alone after he passes.  In addition both are raised to think of themselves as swords instead of people, which is why Shichika initially has no compunction killing female or weak opponents.  But Shichika is ultimately recruited on a mission to retrieve the 12 magic swords and that journey humanizes him – Nanami on the other hand only really sees Shichika and the woman who recruits him, Togame, as humans.  Her relationship with Shichika largely maternal as most of what she does is in his bests interests and she thanks Togame for taking him away because she thought it be a waste to see him rust away unused on the island.

Regarding everyone else Nanami is a psychopath.  In fairness this in part her father’s influence since he taught her to be a weapon instead of a human.  However as the show progresses Nanami gets borderline genocidal as she wipes out the entire populations of three key locations in the story.  Perhaps genocidal is too harsh as it’s not as though race has any bearing in her decision making, she describes the rest of humanity as weeds and thinks of her mass murder sprees as nothing more than weeding.  She also has a very dark and twisted sense of humor and seems to believe she should’ve either never been born or been killed long ago – and when she enters the story as Shichika’s opponent for the 7th magic sword in episode 7 – she does so because she wants Shichika to kill her.

In retrospect I have to wonder just how genuine her behavior is.  She makes it quite clear the reasons she confronts Shichika is that she wants to die and for whatever reason suicide isn’t an option, though she also wants him to learn the weakness of the new special technique he invents in episode 1.  She also makes it clear that she would’ve have been fine with their father killing her the previous year, something Shichika stops by killing their father.  However as Shichika has progressed on his journey, and more specifically his last two opponents, he has learned to show mercy where he can and given his natural instinct to care for Nanami as seen in episode 1 it wouldn’t be all that unthinkable for Nanami to believe she would need to resort to extreme measures to get him to kill her.  He in fact proves that to be true as he doesn’t agree to fight her to the death until she threatens Togame.  That being said their odd upbringing, her knowledge of the fact that her father allegedly killed her mother, and by extension her belief that inter-familial killings were part and parcel of the Yasuri clan and her generally weird state of mind make her thoughts difficult to track even if her endgame is clear as day.

Another fascinating thing about Nanami is that she proves herself to be the most dangerous being in the entire show, to the point where Shichika can’t beat her in a fair fight.  Though Nanami herself has few cryptic lines to suggest her strength in earlier episodes it’s not until episode 4 that Nanami bursts off the page and jumps to the top of Katanagatari’s power level charts.  Personally I find the scene where she fights Maniwa Chocho to be what seals the deal, she ends their pre-fight banter with this evil little smile that sends chills down my spine every fucking time I see it.  Though the fact she takes on three Maniwa ninjas and kills them in quick succession help.  She also wipes out two “Special Disaster Zones” which are areas so dangerous the Shogunate won’t touch them, with remarkable speed as she has strict time limit while fighting.  And the sole survivor of the Nanamicide, Shichika’s opponent in episode 6 remembers her in this split second artsy flashback shot where she looks like some hellish spirit, it’s fucking rad.  And like I said she is the only opponent Shichika seriously loses to, as he and Togame have to use a special trick to temporarily blind her so Shichika can steal the 7th sword from her.

One of the more interesting parts of Nanami’s mindset is her relationship with geniuses and talent.  Geniuses and talent, as well as how geniuses interact with normal people are themes which consistently appear in NisioisiN’s – Katanagatari’s and the more famous Bakemonogatari’s author, works.  In Bakemonogatari for instance there are entire arcs dedicated to the weirdness surrounding Hanekawa due to her genius state of being.  And in Medaka Box arguing about the nature of talent, luck and geniuses is central to several major arcs and all the important characters’ development.  In Nanami’s case specifically she envies everyone else’s ability to work hard and achieve something because she can take up anything with ease and as such can never get that feeling of accomplishment.  And I have to say that while nothing will ever come as easily to me as it does to Nanami and I don’t think I’m a an actual genius, I agree with her sentiments – I’d rather feel accomplished after hard work that just get everything without breaking a sweat, no matter convenient or helpful that might seem during moments of frustration.

Another of the many bizarre facets of Nanami’s character are some her dying words.  She mentions how relying on the 7th magic sword, which forcibly healed whomever it was stabbed into was absurd and weakened her despite ostensibly removing her time limit while fighting.  Part of her justification was that a sword shouldn’t use a sword though I feel like relying on it did in fact weaken her as Shichika is able to kill her in fair fight once the sword is removed – something he previously couldn’t do even before she got the sword.  She also said that by gaining powers with her eyes she was ultimately weakening her powers, a dubious claim considering the range of powers she gets but one that might not be entirely false as she was able to handily defeat Shichika with non-lethal techniques, something she wasn’t shown to be able to do previously – though in this specific case it’s hard to say what other options she had as she had no intentions of killing Shichika even if she wasn’t just going to let him win.

Nanami is a difficult character to parse.  One second she is the caring maternal figure, the next a mass murdering maniac – though I suppose she can be both at once given that she taught Shichika to stop chewing on his fingernails by ripping them out.  Until she obtains the 7th sword her thoughts appear entirely lucid even if they are abnormal or outright fucked up.  Even with her “it’s good, or maybe it’s bad?” lines after she grabs the 7th sword it’s hard to tell if she’s genuinely losing her mind or if that’s the result of her naturally warped sense of humor.  Likewise when she really goes overboard and seems to showcase a total lack of regard for humanity, is that genuine or was it an act to convince her brother to kill her?  Probably both given her upbringing, though she shows no outward sadistic tendencies or overblown personality traits prior to episode 7.  The only thing which I believe one can rightly attribute to Nanami is an acceptance of and familiarity with death.  Nanami wants to die.  Nanami also kills more people than anyone else in Katangatari.  Therefore Nanami and death go hand in hand.

The difficulty and darkness associated with Nanami as a character, as well as her overwhelming power and its consequences, are what draw me to her – though her fantastic character design certainly helps.  I’ve yet to find another character even remotely like her and trying to plumb the depths hidden behind her all-seeing purple eyes is an endeavor I find endlessly intriguing.  That, among many other reasons, is why Katanagatari is one of my favorite anime of all time, and if you made it through this entire post without having seen it, I once again highly recommend that you do.  Hope you enjoyed this post.

Character Cache: Tokisaki Kurumi

 

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Analyzing entire shows is fun and all but sometimes I just want to talk about one character and why they are so great or interesting.  To that end I present you with the first Character Cache, where I do exactly that.  There will be spoilers, you’ve been warned.

I explained this to an extent in my last post on Date A Live but Tokisaki Kurumi is possibly the single most interesting character  to ever explode out of a harem show.  So much so in fact that she puts many characters from beloved, popular, and acclaimed shows to shame despite being from a genre long considered the bottom of the anime barrel.  For some basic background, Tokisaki Kurumi is a Spirit, which are beings of immense power – thus far all of them are female though there are signs that there could be a male one – who exist outside our dimension and enter our world.  Doing so causes a “spackequake” which is basically a void which destroys everything it touches.  The humans of this story’s Earth see spacequakes quite often and have developed protocols to avoid them.  The exceptions to that rule are a few secretive groups, one of them being the government’s covert defense force sent to eradicate any Spirits they find.  This puts them in conflict with Spirits and it’s hard to blame the response because Spirits do God-only-knows how many dollars worth of damage just by showing up.  Because of this conflict most Spirits show a fear of, distrust for or outright hostility towards humans and you can hardly blame them either.

Kurumi is the most evil known Spirit in existence.  She has no qualms  killing people by her own volition rather than just via spacequake and she is one of the few Spirits who seems capable of triggering her own spacequakes at will – it’s unknown how much control most Spirits have over their spacequakes.  However according to government forces even discounting the spacequakes she’s killed thousands of people.  In most stories she would be the villain, and thank God Date A Live doesn’t make her one outright.  Shido, the protagonist, sees her as someone to save like any other Spirit and refuses to back down on that point.  He even attempts suicide at one point in retaliation for her threatening the lives of everyone at his school – and this works because she really, really wants him.

Getting back to Kurumi, her Spirit power is over time – as signified by her left eye which is a golden clock.  This power is exceedingly dangerous as she she appears to have 12 different special attacks/abilities, one for each hour.  Thus far the special attacks she’s shown have been a bullet that stops time, a bullet that turns back time on the person or object it strikes, a bullet that basically lets her teleport, a bullet which can let her look into people’s pasts and a bullet that allows her to make clones of herself.  She can also create a Time-Eating Fortress but that doesn’t seem to require a bullet.  She also has some association with shadow as she and her clones can melt into or spring out of shadows.  In comparison to the other Spirits Kurumi lacks raw destructive power – Tohka can cleave apart buildings and cliffsides for example – but her powers work exceptionally well in single combat and the only opponent she ever seemed in danger of losing to is Efreet, a berserk Spirit of destruction that resides in Shido’s adoptive sister Kotori.

Another interesting difference between Kurumi and the other Spirits is her lack of durability.  Of the six known Spirits four of them have some form of defense to avoid damage and Efreet rises phoenix-like from any wound no matter how mortal.  Kurumi on the other hand is killed by Shido’s blood-related sister Mana at least three times but never truly dies because of her seemingly infinite number of clones.

Kurumi’s power is also her greatest weakness though.  It’s almost unstoppably powerful and is by far the most versatile power among the known Spirits but it comes at a cost.  Unlike the other Spirits who can just use their power without issues Kurumi’s power eats away at her own time – which means her life.  However she can replenish her time via the Time Eating Fortress mentioned above, it’s basically a big shadow which devours the time of any humans in it’s zone of control.  This creates a negative feedback loop.  Kurumi has to use her powers to fight the government forces hunting her down, using her powers carves away at her life, her only way to reclaim her lost time is to devour the time of masses of humans which in turn makes her a bigger target where the government if concerned, which means she’ll need to use more power to fight the heightened response, and so on.  The only way to break this cycle without Kurumi dying is for Shido to save her by robbing her of this power.

But she won’t let him.  Or rather most versions of her won’t let him.  Remember how I mentioned the seemingly infinite clones, they are quite useful but Kurumi’s reliance on them, like the rest of her powers, has severe drawbacks.  There doesn’t seem to be a dominant clone or original, for example there was a clone which operated separately from the rest and dated Shido for a day before being drawn back into the collective mass of clones.  Likewise Shido convinces Kurumi (this is before the clones are revealed) that she can trust him after showing her that he’d be willing to die if it meant protecting everyone but before they can kiss and seal her powers one of the clones kills the Kurumi that Shido was currently interacting with.  This is the other huge failing of Kurumi’s power and lifestyle, her reliance on her own power has fractured her existence so badly different versions of her will kill each other if one seems in danger of threatening the group in any way.

Despite all this Kurumi has a very consistent set of personality traits and values, and barring the two incidents with Shido described above, all of the clones seem to adhere to the will of whichever Kurumi is the one out walking around day to day.  Kurumi’s personality is largely playful in warped sense of the word.  We only ever really see her interact with Shido but during that time she likes to play a lot of games with him.  She’s very forward – to a degree that Shido is uncomfortable with and which would be abnormal for most girls her age – and honest, to the point that she introduces herself as a Spirit when she transfers to Shido’s school even though only like three people in the room will understand what that means.  For a character that lurks in the shadows and appears openly sinister she’s oddly forthright with people, like when she tells a human girl who loves Shido that she wants to devour him.

She’s also a sociopath but not a lunatic, if anything her intentions are quite clear and pure, it’s the means which are a problem.  For example she once encounters a group of teenage or college boys shooting a kitten with airsoft guns, and after asking to join in their game she kills all of them with her guns, paired flintlock rifle and pistol – which she never has to reload because magic weapons.  When the last one is screaming to be spared she calmly remarks that it’s childish to think it’s ok to hurt things without having the resolve to risk being hurt in return, which in principle is not only understandable but a sentiment I agree with – and then she blows five gaping holes in him.

Even when she threatens to all of Shido’s school, first with the Time Eating Fortress and then with a spacequake, she’s doing it as way to assert her own free will, showing that she won’t just bow down to Shido’s plan and do what he says – even if that’s ultimately the best solution to her problems.  And what’s more she’s willing to use her power for good too.  Near the close of the second season when Tohka has been captured and Shido’s allies have been brainwashed by a Spirit who hates him, Kurumi not only helps him confront the Spirit in an attempt make a truce but serves at the main distraction as he attacks a private military organization’s building complex – which she does by becoming a one woman army (of clones) and attacking the robots and private army by herself, at least until further aid arrives.  As stated above Kurumi is not the villain.  She has the potential to be one but for now she’s a chaos factor, the only known Spirit not aligned with Shido, and she seems equally ready to fight Shido and his allies as she does Shido’s enemies.

Tokisaki Kurumi is a fickle and paradoxical character, she’s nigh invincible but also fragile and fragmented.  She’s rational and insane.  She’s a mass murderer who will save a kitten.  She’s clearly the sinister schemer but she’s also honest and forthright.  And it’s because of all these contradictions that she is interesting.  Rather than fitting nicely into an archetype or taking a clear role or side she’d just sort of there, waiting in the shadows for the opportunity to mess with Shido and accomplish her own hidden agenda.  Likewise the duality of her powers as her ultimate weapon and her greatest shackle is fascinating in concept.  Kurumi’s intrinsic connection with time and way she’s forced to expend and accumulate time are key factors in shaping her character, and if I may be so bold, they are by far the coolest set of time-related powers and consequences I’ve ever seen, and a great way to give her a complex place in the story to boot.  Also she’s super hot, it would be a grave dishonor not to mention that, I honestly have trouble deciding between her and Tohka  both for hottest girl and Best Girl.  Anyway that wraps this up, hope you enjoyed it.

Understanding Storytelling: Can You Spin Gold from Generic Garbage & Re:Creators

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Before I get into this let me just clarify that I don’t think Re:Creators is generic garbage, that label applies to a specific aspect of the show and not the entire show.  This was inspired by a recent YouTube video from Mother’s Basement, who I rarely watch because I so often disagree with him and his endless schilling is a new style of cringe to me.  The video was making the argument that Re:Creators has the potential to become an anime classic citing it’s status as relatively high profile original anime, excellent meta-commentary on storytelling and how that is woven into the story, and strong character writing.  Of the three claims the last by far the most contentious where the audience is concerned, with many people openly hating the male lead Sota and just being skeptical to the idea these characters are well written.  This is to be expected though because most of the characters look and act like generic ones.  I mean we have two light novel princesses one from a scifi world and the other from a fantasy world, a magical girl, a teenage mecha pilot, an NPC that probably functioned like the player’s index and quest guide based on her position, what looks like a Persona character, the false-ish character Altair and Blitz Talker whom I have no generic equivalent for because he’s had like 5 lines and 1 scene so far.

However that is kind of the point, and Mother’s Basement sort of address it with regards to one of the best characters Magical Slayer Mamika, but I don’t think he put in enough time with the other characters to really get this across.  One of the main conceits of the story as it continues is that while the characters were initially defined by whatever text their author ascribed to them, they either have changed, are changing or have the potential to change.  Mamika is good case study for this.  Mamika comes from a world with no nuance whatsoever, a kid’s show which has obvious villains and no concept of pain or damage.  This is a problem for a few reasons.  Mamika is easy to trick, is herself an incredibly simple and generic character (at first), and has no qualms attacking people because again no concept of pain or death.  She’s also among the outright strongest characters in the show and she demolishes a business park before she’s realized what her power is capable of and that oh shit violence has consequences.  Perhaps because she is the simplest character she is also the one who evolves the most.

After realizing that her opponents were not in fact villains Mamika becomes much more aware of how much more complex our world is than hers and takes significant steps to understand the world, her opponents and her allies.  She spies on and eventually confronts Altair when she finds out Altair is really a villain masking her true intentions.  She secretly meets with Sota to try and get a better understand of both sides in the conflict.  She breaks up the major fight in episode 5 because she recognizes that both sides have good people on them and doesn’t see why they have to fight.  This also represents one of the in-universe shortfalls of her character, Mamika is still colored to a great degree by her character setting.  As Aliceteria puts it, Mamika’s ideas are often naive but Mamika is a good person.  As fast as Mamika is changing she still has a long ways to go before she turns into someone really special. However I agree wholeheartedly with Mother’s Basment’s sentiment that the idea of having a generic character evolve due to exposure to a more complex world is a great one and Mamika’s evolution is an absolute joy to watch.

Now let’s confront the elephant in the room, Sota.  I have seen a lot of hate for Sota and I don’t think it’s entirely undeserved, I too constantly wish he’d fucking grow a pair and just tell his allies what’s up.  I want him to communicate like a human being instead of stumbling through all of his goddamn sentences and doing his damnedest not to the point across.  However, I don’t think he’s badly written, certainly not based on the latest episode, though I do find it retarded he didn’t recognize Altair immediately since a, he made her and b, she’s a pretty distinct character.  His critics are calling him the new Shinji Ikari and to some extent I agree, which is why it almost baffles me that people think he’s a bad character.  Shinji is often mocked for being weak and wimpy but while that is true Shinji’s weaknesses are central not only to his character but to Evangelion as a show.  If Shinji were a badass then Evangelion would suck, the kind of story Evangelion is only works because everyone in it is broken to some extent and they’re still trying to do an important job.  Shinji’s weakness come for reasons we clearly understand, so him learning to overcome those weaknesses or fall to them is important to the story.  How Shinji is punished for his weakness also plays a major role in Evangelion and Evangelion is a classic anime.

What I trying to say is that Sota has the potential to be a great character.  He may be unlikable as shit, as Shinji is to many, but so long as his weakness has weight in the story and he has to own up to it somehow I think Sota will do just fine.  Based on Magane’s (BEST GIRL) observations and Sota’s stupidly roundabout hypothetical he asked Meteora it appears that Sota and Setsuna, the author Altair’s story, co-created her.  But we figured that out by like episode one.  What was more recently revealed was that Sota was the less talented of the two, or that’s how it seems based on how he framed the aforementioned hypothetical, and his frustrations with the gap in talent between the two led to them having a falling out, after which Setsuna committed suicide.  The timeline for this is somewhat unclear but it is clear that Sota knows Setsuna is dead and that is why he’s struggling both as an artist and a person.  He can’t come to terms with the fact that he sort of caused Setsuna to commit suicide and it’s crippling him, especially in the last few episodes as it becomes increasingly apparent that he will have to face what happened and he isn’t ready for that, so he does his best to hide it.

What Sota doesn’t realize though is that Setsuna committing suicide is not his fault.  Even if Setsuna blamed him for her hang ups and committed suicide, the fact is that she’s the one who chose to give into whatever pressures she was feeling and end it all.  He may feel responsible for it, which explains his behavior and his look of horror when Magane makes it clear she knows what’s up, but he’s not.  Knowing this only adds to him though because it makes sense for a teenager, well anyone really but teens especially, to feel as though they caused some to commit suicide and beat themselves up over it even though the responsibility for that decision lies with the suicide.  What Sota’s age prevents him from understanding is that the world doesn’t owe anyone anything, because at this stage in his life it’s expected that he’s owed certain things like an education, shelter, food, etc.  Setsuna may have felt lonely and rejected enough to commit suicide but that’s her problem, and if she had chosen to continue fighting the problem she might have found what she was looking for.  But she didn’t.  Which brings me to my next point.

Altair is a horribly unjustified villain and while the reveal of her motivations made me super mad, after some reflection I think it might turn out for the best.  Altair wants to destroy the world because it rejected Setsuna and Setsuna committed suicide.  It’s also implied Altair may be able to directly feel what Setsuna was feeling before she died.  Altair doesn’t give a fuck about anyone, she’ll destroy all of the worlds in existence just to take vengeance for her creator.  Because while she is inexplicably good at masking her intentions early on, when Mamika confronts her she basically becomes a Sasuke-by-proxy whining about how Mamika could never understand Setsuna’s pain, and Altair hates everything and she goes into a rage.  However as discussed above the world owed Setsuna nothing and Altair seems blind to that fact.  This has some interesting implications.  Altair claims that what she’s doing was her own choice not her character setting but despite her oddly formal style of speech and apparent levelheadedness she is apparently the only character who has not engaged the nuance of the real world at all.  She is acting like a child and while that does bother me because it seem inconsistent with her earlier appearances, the prospect of seeing a Sasuke-type character get the beatdown they deserve is something I’m hype for.

What Mother’s Basement’s video didn’t address, because it appears to have been written following episode 5 is the case of Magane.  Magane is a character who has refused to choose a side and instead thrives on her own.  For example it takes the whole team of good guys to come with the idea to try and give Silesia a new power via her author and artist, Magane on the other hand gets the same idea all on her own and is savvy enough to find her author and try the idea, and when it fails she kills him but says the fact that this experiment failed to change her was interesting in and of itself.  She’s also running around doing a fine job of collecting information without any assistance and she’s more or less cornered Sota because she figured him out.  Magane is a bit overblown and she follows a pretty distinct archetype but she also appears to be the most creatively written character out of the gate and this gives her a huge head start on everyone else.  While the good guys have to muddle their way through the information they have and the bad guys are basically in the dark, Magane navigates the world with ease and despite having only been a around a few episodes she seems to know more about what’s going on than anyone else already.  Also I think she might be a reference to Bakemonogatari because her power comes from lies and wordplay and her “Peace. Yeah!” scene was very reminiscent of how Yotsugi changed her language to a faux American style after dropping the “I said with a posed look” line.

Basically what I wanted to say is that I think Mother’s Basement is onto to something.  Re:Creators is suffering somewhat from being very exposition heavy and how unlikable Sota is, but given time and vision those could be turned into advantages.  The way this show handles character growth is really fucking interesting in part because it’s so meta, a story full of characters from stories coming together in a new world.  It leads to some great stuff like how Meteora goes from an emotionless info-bot like her NPC role to someone who can properly express joy, kindness and warmth after playing the game she’s from and deciding the “creator” really cared about his story because of all the detail and how good the game was.  That’s some cool shit.  And just everything about Magane is fucking gold, seriously for all the moments Sota drags the show down by beating around the bush she lifts it up by cutting through all the bullshit.  I think Re:Creators has been pretty good so far and has the potential to be really good.  I’m looking forward to it and after reading this, hopefully you are as well.  See you in the next one.

PS: Fuck whoever wrote the fucking show synopsis for Re:Creators it sounded like the most pretentious light novel bullshit I’ve ever heard and it caused me to skip the show for weeks until I saw a good AMV and decided to try it.  Seriously I had no idea this was an original anime until yesterday because the synopsis was so bad I thought it had to be a light novel.  It would have been a thousand times better if you just said it was a show about a bunch of anime characters from different mediums and genres coming to together to fight each other.

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.

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.