Posts Tagged ‘Anime’

Yamcha death pose

Failure is not an option, at least if you are one of those DBZ villains. Once the main heroes overcome the hurdle you represent, their power levels will jump to values that make them invulnerable to your attacks, and your only choice is to be forgotten. Your options broaden slightly if you are the protagonist. In this case, you are allowed to lose as long as that lights the fire of your determination and leads into a training montage. Top it all off with a rematch that settles the score once and for all… sending your rival to the sidelines, right next to those DBZ villains.

Defeat feels bad, and victory is sweet. That much is obvious, and it makes it difficult to blame authors for how they use the two in crafting their stories, the good guys having their way in the end. But there are problems involved, too. In shounen stories, discarding a character after a loss means that you have to create dozens of them just to move the story along, and not all might end up with any depth to them. And to establish the threat level of a new villain, you will have to show them victorious over one of the good guys – creating many a Yamcha on the protagonist side, gawking and commenting but forever unable to contribute to the story except as fodder.

But as tricky an ingredient as defeat is, it can be used to produce unique and strangely enticing dishes. You can show a character failing, and make that the highlight revealing exactly how cool they are.

Image result for beato princess principal
One of my favourite scenes in Princess Principal involves one of the heroines confronting a powerful antagonist in order to protect her friend… and getting one-shotted in the process. The nine-second scene allows the character, Beato, to achieve nothing against the antagonist, neither wounding them nor even particularly slowing them down, and the audience knows for sure that even Beato’s survival is the result of pure luck – getting hit in just the right place.

The thing is, that scene makes me respect Beato more as a member of the protagonist team. It is not the emotional aspect of her willingness to self-sacrifice herself for her dearest friend – we already knew that part and its nothing unusual among protagonists. But Princess Principal is a non-chronological series with time-skips between each episode. While Beato became part of the team for her specialized espionage skills, we had never seen her conduct any kind of combat, and had every reason to suspect her of being completely incapable of handling such situations because of her background as a nobleman’s daughter with no combat training.

Open the box and the result is something of a surprise. Remember how I mentioned the scene being only nine-seconds long? That includes character reactions and a few short lines from by-standers. Which means that there is no time for hesitation, facing fears or the like. Beato takes maybe two seconds to take her position, steady her aim and fire a single shot. The audience gets to see the moment the bullet collides with the wall from Beato’s perspective, and it turns out to be a well-aimed headshot, if one that the antagonist effortlessly dodges. Even the sparks from the the bullet’s collision seem to be following the antagonist’s dive to the side – maybe an artistic hint that Beato was trying to adjust for the last moment dodge.

Through a scene which does not in any way undermine, but rather solidifies an antagonist’s superiority, we learn that the weakest member of the main group could still ruthlessly take down an ordinary soldier with no hesitation. It is because of the vast and obvious difference in ability that we can see the character as overperforming even as she gets completely destroyed. Beato seems to have a knack for that kind of scene – a few episodes later we learn she is versed in lip-reading when she fails to do just that because of an antagonist wearing a veil.

Image result for ochako badass
Then there is the quality of failure. I hold many things against My Hero Academia, but I can tell a good scene when I see one. Ochako forcefully dragging a foregone conclusion into “just maybe” territory during her clash with Bakugou is one such scene. It skilfully juxtaposes the shallow comments of an audience caring only for the likely result and the combatants in full awareness of the possibilities. Ochako latches onto the possibilities, while Bakugou is as determined in tearing them apart. By the end of it all, the mutual respect between the two makes it feel like a victory was achieved regardless of the referee’s decisions. And when tears are shed after the match, every one of them feels hard-earned and a worthy foundation of a tomorrow.

Image result for brain unglaus shalltear
At times, portrayals of failure may even cause a small revolution in the viewer’s perspective on things. The second season of Overlord treats us to a rematch between Brain Unglaus and Shalltear Bloodfallen. Their first meeting was not much of a battle, to the point that Shalltear does not even remember who the poor bloke facing her is, while Brain is crushed enough that he ends up on the streets, despairing over the meaningless years of effort he had poured into his swordsmanship. We see Brain pick up the pieces over the course of the second season, and when he faces the vampire for a second time, he is very much like the traditional protagonist, ready to overcome the demons of his past.

Only, he is well aware that reality will not bend to his will and that he stands no chance in hell to win the fight. And then, based on the very assumption that he is worthless trash in the face of his opponent, he comes up with a strategy that allows him to deal the smallest bit of laughable and insignificant damage. That is infinitely more than the zero achieved last time, and the achievement acts as the crowning moment of Brain’s recovery arc. However, even as we are shown Brain’s relief and exhilaration, the audience knows that the success, if it may even be called by that name, has been achieved by moving the goalposts. By a lot. To a large extent, Brain’s story is a parody of a hero’s journey, its dramatic moments amounting to nothing. But the remaining part is genuine praise for the man and the answer he finds: at the end of his journey, Brain becomes master of his own inevitable failure and manages to squeeze something out of that nothing.

Image result for deku punch
If you try looking for it, those kind of scenes can be found in most well-written series. A simple narrative locks the viewer in a simplistic world-view of black and white, success and failure. A complex one makes him notice and appreciate the many shades of grey. But most importantly, we, the viewers, are bound to fail at least as much as we succeed as we deal with the challenges of everyday life. And it is reassuring and inspiring to be shown and reminded that there can be greatness in failure. That you can be cool even as you are defeated. We need that message, because while a hero’s miraculous victory is fine for a momentary emotional rush, none of use can magically pull out a 100000000% punch just because the 100% one failed.

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Anime And (Fan) Fiction


In a recent post of his, Froggykun asks about the influence of anime on the writing style of its fans. He is right that writers love talking about their stories, so here I am, offering my two cents.

Going by my fanfiction.net registration date, I have been reading and writing fanfiction for over ten years. I am not a prolific writer and the time gaps between my releases tend to be long, but I do not think that matters much. Making up scenes and stories, reimagining them from different angles and exploring different possibilities has always been and will probably forever be a large part of my life. If even one in a thousand such images is persistent enough to make me put my pen to paper, I will consider myself a writer.

Getting to the meat of things, then, how do I think a background as an anime fan can affect an author’s writing?


This one is so fundamental it might be easy to miss, but anime and its fandom have their own language, subtly different from the standard variation. There are the obvious cases, like when the narration straight out accuses one of the characters as acting tsundere. But at times I forget that words like glomp do not show up in your standard dictionary, even if they have been a part of my internal dictionary for over a decade.

Because fanfiction authors write almost exclusively for a like-minded audience, they can allow themselves a high degree of freedom in using those specialized terms. But personally, I find that otaku-speak works best in light-hearted writing and comical scenes, whereas other kinds of narrative tend to be more immersive without it.


Froggykun mentions trying his hand at writing anime genres such as shounen, mecha, harem, or magical girls. I must say that this approach is alien to me. I will pluck characters and concepts out of works representing those genres, but once they enter the world of writing, they have to obey a new set of rules.

Genres such as action/thriller/romance replace the original’s former genre as the new base of the narrative. Hayate no Gotoku might be a harem romantic comedy with a penchant for ridiculous gags, but if I want it to be a fantasy story, then so be it. If I want it to be a political thriller, then so be it. I will look for every possible way to retain as much of the original character concepts as possible, but I will not feel guilty over shaking up the rules of the world that the characters have lived in so far. Because every story I write is mine mine mine. (muahahahaha)


Anime has long taken over how I imagine and visualize fictional things. Of course, anime as a medium has a near endless variety of styles, so when I imagine the action of Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead, I call to mind a tame and dark art style rather than painting everyone with pink hair and big round eyes. But this method of visualization does affect what I write.

While working on a recent chapter draft, I noticed that my characters do a lot of glaring, staring, widening and narrowing their eyes. That is not surprising, considering that the characters in my mind have the extremely expressive anime eyes that can show any emotion necessary, which I instinctively try to put into words. Watching out for this kind of tendency is important to avoid repetitive and boring descriptions.

Too often we see anime adaptations that forget that recreating the source material perfectly in a different medium is not possible if you do not use the strengths of the target medium to cover for the weaknesses that will inevitably become apparent in the adaptation. After all, if the source material was any good, it means the author of the original was using the strengths of their medium to their full advantage. The same principle applies to transferring the images in an author’s head to writing.


Just like otaku lingo finds its way into our writing, there are certain concepts that anime fans share and take for granted even if the average Joe has no idea what they are about.

In at least one battle scene I wrote, one of the decisive factors in the fight was that the main character could determine whether their opponent was dead or alive by sensing their powerful killing intent. I did not particularly go out of my way to explain what the killing intent, a mainstay in ninja and samurai stories, actually was. In a story aimed at a mainstream audience, a more careful introduction of the concept would be required.

Whenever our magical girls transform or mechas combine, an otaku audience immediately knows what the scene is supposed to look like, giving the author much more leeway in how to handle the narration and descriptions.   


I do not think that most people like anime because it is Japanese in origin. Most accounts I hear point to the combination of the cartoon medium with stories that actually try to make full use of its potential. It so happened that the one country which produced a varied niche market for this kind of product was Japan.

But the final result is that all anime fans eventually come to deepen their understanding of the Japanese culture, society and language. This has its effect on the writing of fanfiction authors. Regardless of the language the story is written in, you can often see Japanese leaving its mark on the narrative. Terms like sempai/kouhai are left as is, characters address each other using honorifics, and some popular nouns like onigiri or bento slip into the text. None of this is particularly otaku in nature, but people will often feel this vocabulary and concepts necessary to represent the reality of a Japanese setting. (Those who have seen Shion no Ou might remember a scene where one of the characters delivers what amounts to a confession in front of a crowd and in the middle of a shougi match just by dropping a honorific, which goes to show that yes, those things are important.)

Unfortunately, it is much easier to abuse Japanese this way than enhance a story. Inserting whole phrases in Japanese in an otherwise English story can often be cringe-worthy, and filling an author’s note paragraph with “X means Y” does not help at all. While personally I cannot make do without honorifics in my Japanese-setting stories, I strongly suggest limiting the amount of Japanese in a story as much as possible. Even putting aside the fact that adding in Japanese often feels like the author is trying to show off for no reason, if the possibility of your reader not understanding the text is not zero, you have to make double sure that the whole passage still makes sense even if the reader fails to grasp the Japanese part. The payoff is usually not worth the cost.


Those were my general thoughts on how fandom affects a writer. Froggykun hopes to find fanfiction writers among the blogging community. I always thought there was a divide between fanfiction writers producing creative fiction (aka masturbatory drivel) and bloggers taking on editorial and other posts, and I suspect there is relatively little overlap between the two groups. But feel free to share your experiences and prove me wrong! 

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Anime Title Reversing Game

What do you get after giving a bunch of bored Japanese otaku too much time and some anime titles to play around with? ‘Reversed titles’.

Some of those are obvious, some difficult. Can you guess the original series behind those titles?

1. Go wait in that winter
2. Those guys’
3. Brake World
4. Overall
5. NEET!
6. 枯 -wither-
7. That day we saw no flower but we do know the name
8. All-out homo
9. Heavensing
10. Sheep and Sweetener

Other amusing ones:

  • No Fate/Period
  • Past Diary
  • Code Geass: Lelouch of the Docile
  • Magika Madoka
  • Unlucky Star
  • Resurrecting Devil Dokuro-kun
  • Body Connect
  • Sword Art Offline

I’ll probably update the post with answers at a later time, so take your shot at it in the comments section.

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The B side of the Negima/Hayate double-billed combo is Hayate no Gotoku – Heaven is a Place on Earth. Unlike the Negima movie, nobody was really sure what this one would be about before it was screened. Many hopes were dashed when it was announced that the movie would not cover the End of the World manga arc (one of the popular theories right after the movie was announced) but instead show an all-original country-themed story. So what did we get instead of our sword loli?

Warning: the following post may contain some slight spoilers (it’s mostly safe, though).

The movie opens with none other than the idol singer (and doujinshi artist) Suirenji Ruka. It will still be some time before we can see her in the anime, so Hata-sensei found a way to slip her in here. And what a first impression it is! With the spotlight solely on her flowing moves and the power of a cinema’s sound system to carry her singing, we see Ruka as Nagi must have seen her during their first meeting – a near divine, unreachable existence.

Other than Ruka’s dancing, the opening of the movie is composed of humorous still images showing Nagi and Hayate’s first meeting and some romantic scenes with all the girls of Hayate’s life (including those who have already gotten over him, like Isumi, and Athena attempting to kill him with her Gate of Babylon.)

The story is simple enough – Nagi tries to survive a week in the country (no games! iphone doesn’t connect!) and Hayate confronts a supernatural occurrence that threatens to tear him apart from his mistress. All of this is spaced out with a huge dose of heartwarming bonding and typical Hayate humor.

Visually, the movie is a joy to look at. The character designs in Hayate are so simple it’s difficult to screw them up. We all know Hata can’t draw to save his life (or rather, he can’t draw anything too fanciful), but he doesn’t really need to. Less is more. The movie’s bright colors really bring the characters to life. And where the characters are simple, some of the backgrounds are stunning. I’ve been to the country here in Japan, and I don’t recall everything being so green and full of life >_<.

The movie has some presents for fans of all the popular characters. It is particularly commendable how the fanservice never wastes time or feels forced. Even a Hinagiku bath scene flows seamlessly with the developing plot. Other than seeing the girls in a selection of unusual clothing (and, in Hinagiku’s case, the lack thereof) we also get some more fuzzy scenes sure to make the hearts of all the shippers beat faster.

There are also short battle scenes just to remind us that, yes, the characters who are awesome are awesome. Hinagiku summons Shirosakura at will, Isumi is being Isumi, Hayate has been practicing his jumping skills… and Nagi’s screams can destroy dimensions. Probably.

The plot wraps up nicely, not introducing anything new to the Hayate universe, but reinforcing the main message of the series. And the ending shows that the unluckiest butler in the universe knows exactly how blessed he is. I know at least a few other main characters who should take after Hayate and appreciate what they have instead of complaining all the time…

The movie closes with Heaven is a Place on Earth by fripSide. I guess fripSide can’t be accused of being too original when it comes to making songs, but I for one couldn’t help taping my foot to the rhythm when this one started playing during the credits.

Bottom line: Pure fun and a mandatory watch for all fans of the unlucky butler and his otaku mistress.

(Also, third anime season confirmed!)

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I’m back from the premiere of the Negima/Hayate double-billed movies. I’d be happy to hear your impressions from those of you who also went, but in the meantime, a review/preview for those who will wait for the blu-ray release. Starting with Negima – Anime Final

Warning: The following post does not reveal the ending of the movie, but does contain several smaller spoilers.

The first thing to get out of the way is the “production issues” fiasco. For those who still haven’t heard – twenty minutes of the movie were cut out (most likely because Shaft screwed something up, but I wouldn’t know). Akamatsu Ken, the author of the original manga, even felt the need to comment on this on his twitter account, stating that the script of the movie was changed in a way which makes it difficult to understand. Since your average Japanese author doesn’t usually make an effort to discourage viewers from watching their own creation a day before the premiere, most of us were really afraid it was just that horrible.

Well, it isn’t. There’s no gaping hole with something obviously missing in the movie. And I found the premise perfectly understandable from the dialogue at the beginning of the movie. They do get through the setup pretty quickly, but everything in this movie appears to be moving in fast-forward anyway…

The aforementioned premise: Negi has to choose one, and only one, partner to form a permanent pactio with. All his other provisional contracts will be removed along with the memories (concerning magic and Mundus Magicus) of the girls not originally involved with the magical world. With this setup, you could expect half an hour of Negi’s emotional struggle mixed with the girls vying for his affection… but thankfully nothing like that happens.

All the girls are actually highly accepting of the incoming resolution, Many of them are shown alone, making peace with their memories and trying to leave themselves something connected to their magical adventure – photos, manga pages, data backup on a usb stick…

We actually get more drama for the people who do not need to fear losing their memories. How will they be able to speak with their classmates once the worlds they know become so different? This repeated question gets different answers depending on the character mulling it over. Surprisingly (to me, at least) Natsumi x Kotaro fans get a treat in the form of a meaningful discussion between the two, analyzing the weight and meaning of memories and the trial the students have to face. Kotaro and philosophy?

Those few quiet moments are the only part of the movie where the pace is slower than a roller coaster. The remaining part of the first half of the movie is filled with all kinds of what could be considered (under a very broad definition) fanservice for fan-favorite characters. Kaede and Mana suddenly decide to fight each other, which is as visually impressive (and budget-devouring?) as it is pointless to the plot at large. Nodoka and Yue, weirded out at their classmates attempting to murder each other for no apparent reason (I’m with you on this one, girls), decide to investigate. But first they get long magical girl transformations… which again prove to be completely pointless plot-wise.

And if you’re wondering what the remaining characters are doing… well, they’re attempting to mass rape Negi. Not anything contract-related. It’s just that it’s their last night using all those funny pactio artifacts, so they want to take full advantage of the opportunity. This involves blasting Negi’s room to shreds (without confirming if he’s even inside). As in, they are running around using magic to destroy school property. Nobody attempts to stop them. Vandalism? Keeping magic a secret? Who cares?

In the middle of the movie, Negi looks up and notices that the world is about to end. Yes, you’ve read the previous sentence correctly. Armageddon comes, but luckily Negi manages to notice by looking up at the right time… It’s so ridiculous I don’t even want to spoil the details.

So, we’re informed that the only one who can stop the disaster is Negi, and the only way to do it is to improve Negi’s power level by getting that permanent pactio done with. This part also implies Negi is the only one (in Mahora, at least) who can become a Magister Magi… I thought that was just a title full-fledged mages got, not something legendary. Did I get confused on that one, or did they just make it up?

Regardless, what follows is a stream of fallacies so rapid it could easily carry Shaft’s studio away with it. Remember last time Negi broke the laws of the universe by kissing one of his students hard enough? Now it’s enough to hold hands, but there appear to be unfortunate side-effects to his students’ intelligence levels. Asuna forgets she has the ability to completely negate even the strongest magic (that’s a useless ability, anyway) and Yue dramatically yells that even a very powerful barrier isn’t infinitely powerful, so it will break if they all keep hitting it hard enough (is this the same Yue that came up with a devilish plan against Fate? Really?) Or maybe everyone is just too stunned to think straight after seeing Makie throw a ball at armageddon (an orbital bombardment wasn’t enough, but a ball might just do the trick… maybe). Some of the most powerful fighters in the magic universe watch this mess unfold without lifting a finger to help (they are not Magisters, after all, so they can’t do a thing. Unlike balls.) Not even the appearance of one of my favorite characters can do anything to salvage this climax scene.

It’s not that the movie is horrible. The army of seiyuu is a treat. The battle and transformation scenes are visually impressive. All the popular girls get at least one scene to themselves. But it’s not what Negima has gotten us used do. No ingenious twists, clever tactics and subverting the genre. Instead we get gratuitous beam throwing and convenient Hollywood logic. The pacing of the movie could probably greatly benefit from the lost twenty minutes, too. I think we can expect at least that part to get fixed for the blu-ray release.

Bottom line: Concluding an epic saga like Negima in a movie under two hours long is no easy task. But I get the impression that Negima – Anime Final gives up on living up to the Negima name without even giving much of a fight.

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