The Incomplete Mieruko-chan

Of all the anime to not yet have some sort of upcoming second season! Especially after that ending!

Mieruko-chan is a horror and a comedy as it follows the ordeals of a young Japanese girl named Miko. Which, if I understand correctly, means “priestess.” It would be something of an apt name, as she one day wakes up able to see the unseen spirits of the dead, as well as other specters and apparitions. Quite nearly all of them are freakish and unnerving in some way, and possessed of a drastic desire for someone who can see and hear them. Exactly what they would do with this is not made entirely clear, but Miko errs on the side of extreme caution, and she has both the lightning-fast wits to pretend she can’t see them, and also the nerves of steel required to remain calm and composed in the face of virtually all of their ghostly antics.

Miko’s overwhelming fear of the apparitions might be wise and is certainly understandable at the start. However, the danger they pose is never explicitly spelled out, so much so that Miko’s continuing terror almost seems silly by the end of the season. It even gets to feel like a joke that they’re telling long after it’s played out, seeing her constantly wrestling to maintain her calm outer demeanor while she’s always on the cusp of screaming. Even when the horrid, ugly ghosts rage and thrash, nothing seems to happen. Even when they devour each other, growing ever more monstrous, nothing happens to the mortals around them. And yet, there does seem to be some sort of danger which they pose.

An old psychic lady mentions in an inner monologue, but does not explain to Miko herself, something about specters that would come for her and her friend, Hana. Hana is ignorant of the ghosts and spirits, but she has a spiritual aura that’s practically like the sun, which one spirit uses to barbecue another, much smaller spirit, before eating it. And another friend they make, Yulia, is a would-be exorcist that knows a little more than Miko, but is largely blind to the spirits around them, a factor that results in a great number of hilarious misunderstandings. People like Yulia probably wouldn’t even bother wanting to exorcise ghosts unless they posed some sort of risk to others. And, finally, there’s a local deity and its spiritual shrine maidens, all of which are clearly powerful and dangerous, and which intervene to protect Miko several times. Why bother protecting her if there is no danger? …and yet, it may be those deity-like figures which ultimately pose the most danger to Miko.

That goes into one ongoing theme of the anime: things are often not what they seem. It is a truth which is both fascinating and unsettling to contemplate.

A prime example of this is a particular substitute teacher. They have a first encounter over a cat which they are trying to find a good home for. This handsome, neat-looking man shows up, looking all right, but Miko sees the darkness of screaming, tormented animal souls clinging to him, and ghosts scream straight into his face, leading her to distrust him immediately. Miko ends up entrusting that cat to a guy who looks like a gangster, but which has two happy feline spirits riding on his shoulders, showing him to be more trustworthy with a trusting little kitten. But the handsome man returns as their teacher, and Miko (alongside the audience) suspects him of doing very bad things. However, the darkness around him is eventually proven to be that of his mother’s spirit, who strives to keep him miserable and has haunted him so persistently that her influence has corrupted the feline spirits which, on their own, would be quite happy and loving around him. Indeed, he’s a Good Samaritan who both rescues cats off the street on a frequent basis, and also patrols, looking for some recent malcontent that has been doing cruel things to the unfortunate strays in the area.

Thus, a man who looked decent and attractive but seemed like a villain was actually an unsung hero. Things are not what they seem.

That held true for the teacher, for the delinquent, and for the lady next door who apparently was doing something to the food she gave the teacher only to find out that he never ate a bite of it. This probably holds true for many of the ghosts as well, such as one which terrifies Miko but does not harm her or anyone else as it drags some specter out of a lady on the subway.

Which brings me back to the deity and to why I want a second season of the show. There is a communication barrier so Miko cannot understand it, but it seems to be benevolent, albeit extremely brutal and disquieting as it outright devours an evil spirit. It manages to tell Miko, “three times,” in which its servants appear in Miko’s defense. But after the three are done, it clearly wants something in return. Miko is unable to guess what it desires, but a terrifying dream she has – or did she? – would indicate that it wants to devour her, and it might be capable of doing so. Certainly, it’s still following her around at the end. Leaving us on a surprising cliffhanger, not knowing if this… entity… is truly good, or the true evil of the story. (at least, not without accidentally finding out courtesy of google!)

All in all, it dragged a bit in the middle, and got repetitive with Miko always being put in a state of fear, but it’s a much more riveting story than I had been expecting, especially with the intimation at the end that, yes, the danger of these supernatural beings is very much real. The details are left unexplained, but the threat of being consumed is substantial enough without details, isn’t it? And with the threat established, the show is free to be spooky and scary as well as funny. It’s a ghost story where the ghosts may not always be able to bite, but that doesn’t mean none of them can.

Oh, and yes, there is unquestionable fan service, but I may have not noticed it that much.

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-minus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #413: It’s Worth the Burden

“To have memories of those you loved and lost is perhaps harder than to have no memories at all.”
– Gabriel Van Helsing, Van Helsing

When Van Helsing says this, he is in company of a woman who has lost her entire family, a litany of sorrow that has been most recently added to by the loss of her brother, who gave his life for hers. To make her agony all the worse, her brother has returned to her having been turned into a werewolf. A horrible fate, for now he has to be killed again before he kills others, yet she longs to save him, to somehow find a way to get her brother back. It is a doomed venture, but one which she must undertake because of how dearly she loves him. That is something which Van Helsing must relent to, because it is something that he does not know, and yet a part of him longs to know it. See, he does not have memories of his past, save for the nightmares of ancient battles. He does not know who he has loved and who he has lost in a life that has been far longer than he remembers. He is spared that pain, and so recognizes the burden of it as it falls on another.

What he says is very much true, it is, indeed, harder to have memories of those we lose. And I don’t only mean in death. Death is a thing that happens to us all, and those of us who can have the hope of eventual reunion can survive that loss. But there are other forms of loss. Betrayal, the ending of friendships, the breaking of families, family feuds and rifts that last so long that everyone forgets what they were originally about. To lose those we love in any way is painful, and to carry memories of the happiness we once had is always a burden, always difficult. To remember none of it is to avoid that burden.

But avoiding a burden isn’t always a good thing, is it? No, I seem to recall that there is no way around pain, no way to truly avoid it, and those who have tried have often only made things worse for themselves and those around them.

I have a certain qualm with that trope of the immortal amnesiac. Namely that it ignores the value of our memories, even the painful ones, which I have spoken about before. To forget the people we have loved is to forget everything they gave us, everything they taught us. Knowledge is power, and it is found in experience, in memory. To forget everything is to become weaker, to forfeit the strength that our loved ones have given us, and thus make their lives and our lives that much more meaningless. And to do so simply because it hurts? That is cheap and weak indeed.

I recall the Winter Soldier from the MCU had his memories taken from him, again and again. Did that make him stronger? No. It just made him easier to control. And regaining his memories was painful to the extreme, yes, but it certainly made him stronger and more whole.

If there is one benefit which I can see from forgetting and evading the pain of loss, it would be this: once burned, twice shy. Experiencing the same pain over and over again will make us try to avoid it on some level, like a child who eventually learns to be more careful with a hammer. In the case of a pain that is brought on by feeling love, we may try to stop loving. We may hesitate to open ourselves up in the one way that we need to be open. But even then, I would still argue in favor of remembering everything anyway. It is certainly a hard thing to open ourselves to a pain that we have known before, but doing so with our eyes open is what can make us wise, and help us to truly heal from our pain, until the agony is gone and joy is all that remains.

So I say, however hard it is or may be to bear the pain that comes with love, we are the better and stronger for it.

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Wasted Potential: The Vampire Dies in No Time

The Vampire Dies in No Time is a satire and a comedy. With only a dozen episodes, it’s only one season long, and it starts out strong and fairly witty in its hilarity, but fails to keep that up even to the end of its run. It’s like the creators had all these hysterical ideas, but then ran out of them and had to keep going for a bit, whereupon their wits devolved into lewd, crude, and boob. And if that’s your thing, then more power to you, but it isn’t mine. Thus, I enjoyed the earlier portion of this anime much more than the latter.

The vampire in question is Draluc, a skinny little weakling of a vampire so frail in his constitution that he dies and turns to ash at even the slightest things: a moment of fear, getting startled, getting hit by a door, that sort of thing. Fortunately, he is still immortal and pulls himself back together in short order every time.

The premise of the story is that Draluc, being so weak and harmless, is permitted to stay with his new friend, the world-famous vampire hunter, Ronaldo! This comes after Ronaldo sort of accidentally burned Draluc’s home to the ground. As it happens, Ronaldo is not quite all he’s cracked up to be, either, but he’s competent enough, and he publishes stories which are loosely based on his adventures (thus, his fame). Which leads to some truly funny scenes involving Ronaldo’s editor coming down on him hard as deadlines approach, every bit as terrifying as the worst vampires in the world.

Other characters add flavor and provide jobs for the unlikely duo, but they aren’t usually important beyond the moment. There are various other hunters in the local guild, there’s Draluc’s vampire family (with their INSANE patriarch), and there’s the Vampire Control Bureau, most especially a pretty, sword-wielding, young lady named Hinaichi, very strict but easily flustered. She’s monitors Draluc to determine if he’s a threat, and is so taken by his gentlemanly behavior (and the cookies he bakes) that she constantly decides that he needs further monitoring. IE, she has a crush on him, and I would so totally be there for that vampire romance, between such a straight-laced officer woman and a vampire who is not trying to seduce her, he’s just decent and surprisingly weak. But they have yet to do that.

Oh, and there’s John. The adorable armadillo that everyone with a heart loves.

I mean… how could you not?

Between the zany antics of various hunters and vampires, most especially that of Draluc’s grandfather, the anime really is very funny at first. But, as one episode follows another, that humor starts to wither. I mean, having some over-the-top lewd joke works once or maybe twice, but it came to dominate each and every episode towards the end. And that is such a shame because 1) it started out so brilliantly and 2) with all those hunters and vampires and vampire control people and even a potential vampire romance, it just felt like such a waste to not explore all of these characters and possible plots more. It wouldn’t have to be serious, of course, as “serious” is not in the nature of this anime, but, still, it could have been a whole lot better, and a whole lot more wholesome, than it was.

Apparently this anime, like Nagatoro, has another season coming out at the start of next year, in just a couple more months. But, really, the way the first season ended, I am hesitant to even try it. I suppose I could use another application of my one-episode rule, see if the first episode of season two is more intelligent or more crude. But either way, my point is that the first season did not leave me particularly excited for a second season, ya know? It was nice, for awhile, and due props for that, but that’s as far as it goes.

Rating: I give The Vampire Dies in No Time 6 stars out of 10.

Grade: C-minus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #412: The Meaning of Hope

“Things don’t get better. Things get worse.”
– Colonel Grigio, Warm Bodies

The plot of Warm Bodies involves a zombie apocalypse, with humans fighting desperately to survive by killing all the zombies whilst the zombies are killing all the humans just because. Then one zombie begins to come back alive again, a single moment of love making his heart begin to beat, and it spreads throughout the dead population, bringing most of them back. The world ends up saved, exhumed from its own grave, but it very nearly ended right at the beginning, when Colonel Grigio nearly shot that first zombie in the head. He was forced to live in a world that has ended, that was in its death throes, and, as part of that, he had to accept the grim reality of things. On some level, that left him in despair, unable to accept… hope. As is manifested in these words he utters when first presented with a zombie who is coming alive again.

Fortunately, first he was stopped by someone else, and then he was convinced. It took a near-miraculous demonstration right in front of his eyes, but he was convinced. He was able to change. Which was the ultimate divider between the living – and those who came back alive – and the dead: the ability to change. To learn and come alive again despite being dead. That is the essence of hope. It’s not just the belief that things can or will get “better” in some way, but that people can change and be saved. Even if things do get worse.

The reason this quote speaks so powerfully to me is how basically human and universal it is. I mean, I couldn’t begin to count the times we’ve been told how everything is getting worse. It’s easy to see the catastrophes all over the globe, it’s easy to see all the evil at work in the world, and it’s easy to see the many, many ways in which our society is crumbling. It is so easy to lose hope, to resign ourselves and our world to misery, to give up on anything ever getting better, in short, to stop living. It is difficult to see why we should even keep going. But that is only one side of things, and there is more.

Yes, a lot of things are getting worse and worse every day, and that will probably continue. But there are other things which are getting better, or, even more, just staying good, no matter what. How many stories do we see of everyday heroes stepping up, going out of there way, coming up with something to do the impossible and which they get no benefit from? There is still a basic goodness in people, even now, which will never be entirely snuffed out.

If things get worse, and worse, and worse, then humans will change, adapt, and overcome as we always have. It may – and probably will – get grim, as people are dragged out of their comfort zone and thrown from the very lap of luxury into desperate circumstance, and not everyone survives that. But it is my hope, there are plenty who will adapt and will survive and will keep their humanity as they do so. That even in the darkest hours ahead, love will endure, and broken societies rise from their own ashes to shine brightly again before the entire world.

Things will get better, in time. We will make it so. Day by day, step after step.

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Flying Witch is So Peaceful

The first thing to say about Flying Witch is that there isn’t really that much to say about it.

Not much plot, no conflict, no grand themes, not much of anything, really. Except that it’s very, very peaceful, and happy. There was little to no excitement whatsoever, but it felt good. It’s wholesome, cute, and child-friendly, though I don’t know that kids would be entertained by a story where basically nothing happens. I recall, at that age, being very unimpressed with anything that didn’t have conflict, fighting, explosions, etc. Flying Witch has none of that.

The witch in question is Makoto Kowata, a high school girl who is also a witch in training. Witches live in quiet secrecy, passing their knowledge down the generations of their families, and as part of this, Makoto has to leave home and train. Her parents didn’t want to simply kick her out, however, so she goes to stay with some relatives in the countryside, in a small, peaceful town. As she learns and practices, the people around her are introduced to the wonders and peculiarities of the magical world.

Easily the most enthusiastic individual about this is Makoto’s cousin, Chinatsu Kuramoto, an absolutely adorable young girl. Initially wary of Makoto, Chinatsu completely idolizes her after learning she’s a witch and being taken for a flight on a broom. She loves it so much that she convinces Makoto’s sister, Akane – a fully-fledged and powerful witch known far and wide among their community – to take her on as an apprentice, even though they don’t know if she’ll ever be able to use magic herself. (apparently, the manga tosses Chinatsu a bone in the form of a magical ring, but that doesn’t come into play in the anime) She’s a girl introduced to magic and loves it right from the get-go! And who can blame her?

I included Flying Witch on a list I made of non-combative magic systems because this magic, unlike most others, is almost entirely about seeing the world through eyes of wonder. Flying whales, fish that swim through the ground, and casual, friendly interactions with otherworldly beings are just a part of life in a world with magic. And that’s before getting to the spells that witches cast, which tend to be harmless fun, even when things go a bit haywire.

So, if you want to just kick back and relax a bit, maybe find something to smile at, then Flying Witch will probably fit the bill.

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-minus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #411: A Humanity Worth Survival

“If you’ve got to kill all my friends to survive, maybe it’s time for a change.”
– Marty Mikalski, Cabin in the Woods

What this particularly means, in context of the movie, is that humanity does not deserve to survive if it means the willful sacrifice of humans.

It is a deeply profound and always profoundly relevant statement, isn’t it? Humans are locked in a struggle to survive, to keep our lives for as long as possible, to keep what is ours as long as possible, and to keep safe those we care about as long as possible. To this end, we have often found ourselves in the position of having to compete with other living things – beasts of every kind, plants that are in our way, and other humans – and either triumph or die. To further the ultimate goal of preserving ourselves and our own, we have often trampled each other with little to no remorse. Which leads naturally to the question, where do we stop? What do we refuse to sacrifice? Can we even be moral if we withhold what is needed “for the greater good?”

I can recall several stories which speak on this, and it is never truly an easy question. And yet, we need an answer.

There are at least two stories in the Kaiju Rising anthology which deal with humans being sacrificed. One of them is to empower the machine which humanity’s defenders use, and it’s such a terrible cost that it drives one of them to embittered drug use before he makes the sacrifice of himself. The other is the offering of young girls to appease a monster and keep everyone else alive, and it ends with the entire populace paying the price for their sin.

Another short story in Tales of the Night, if I recall correctly, had much the same, with a group of humans enslaved and forced to offer their daughters once every few years to a terrible monster. No one in that society was able to smile until the monster was defeated, their very joy ripped from them by cruel necessity.

I’ve spoken at length about the principle of sacrifice in Attack on Titan, which shows both the pros and the extreme perils of entertaining a willingness to sacrifice anything for one’s people. Ultimately, it leads to devastation and genocide.

In Battlestar Galactica, Commander Adama has to seriously entertain the assassination of a superior officer. He nearly goes through with it until he relearns something: survival is not enough; we have to be worthy of it as well.

It’s the same principle Black Lightning holds to as he becomes the leaders of the Justice League in Young Justice: that they will not become the same as their enemies in order to defeat them. Instead, they will hold each other accountable and hold to their principles, the best parts of themselves, that they gain an honorable victory or at least go out on their own terms.

Of course, people talk about saving the many at the cost of the few, but Robert Heinlein answers that in Starship Troopers:

“How often have you seen a headline like this?—TWO DIE ATTEMPTING RESCUE OF DROWNING CHILD. If a man gets lost in the mountains, hundreds will search and often two or three searchers are killed. But the next time somebody gets lost just as many volunteers turn out. Poor arithmetic . . . but very human. It runs through all our folklore, all human religions, all our literature—a racial conviction that when one human needs rescue, others should not count the price. Weakness? It might be the unique strength that wins us a Galaxy.”

And Star Trek is but one of many science fiction stories which displays in numerous ways how monstrous it truly is for the good of the many to trample to needs of the one or the few.

It seems to me that humanity is wrestling with the notion itself, with the very idea that one may have to sacrifice one life in order to save another. At one end, there are those who use “the greater good” as a justification of every terrible thing they do, even billing themselves as heroic for what they do to their fellow man, taking everything from them. At the other, there are those who refuse to give anything of theirs for no better reason than their own selfishness. In the middle however, are the people who voluntarily give of themselves, but refuse to allow society to become a parasite upon its own people.

That selflessness which finds a balance, where the many and the few work together instead of eating each other, that is what convinces me that humanity is still worthy of survival, no matter our many flaws and mistakes.

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Anime Review: Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro

Translation is a tricky business. The same Japanese phrase could mean “don’t tease me,” or “don’t mess with me,” but they went with “don’t toy with me.” Maybe because Takagi’s show already had a girl “teasing” her guy, and there’s something aggressive in “don’t mess with me.” Somehow, though, the act of saying, “Don’t toy with me,” would feel assertive, even angry, which was a little at odds with the everything in this show, not least the character who would be saying it.

Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro is something of a high school romantic comedy, anime style. It begins with Naoto Hachioji, an awkward, introverted school boy just trying to get his homework done so he can work on his art. By chance, a few pages of the amateur manga he’s drawn fall out of his bag and are seen by a group of loudmouthed high school girls, who immediately disparage him. One of them, however, sticks around after the others leave to keep messing with him, much more thoroughly. Then she keeps coming around the art club room, where he usually is outside of class, to mock him for his timidity and his interests, often with sexual connotations. And thus does the titular Hayase Nagatoro make her tumultuous, whirlwind entry into this boy’s life, and if she has her way, she won’t ever leave it.

Nagatoro is the anime version of a manic pixie girl. She’s young, pretty, full of vim and vigor that dwarfs most real people, and dead set on living in her boy’s head rent-free. She’s aggressive and suggestive, highly jealous and protective of her boy toy, and almost never knows when to stop. She is pretty much relentless in showering her attentions onto Naoto. It’s almost always annoying in some way, but oddly nice in some ways, like when she gives him a nice hair cut when he really needs it.

Meanwhile, Naoto’s patience is practically without limit as he suddenly has this loud, aggressive girl constantly ragging on him, demanding his attention, putting him down in many ways, but most of which involve tying his awkwardness to his virginity and calling him a closet pervert. Which, I’m not going to lie, I probably would not have put up with that for even ten seconds, and I’d have gotten royally angry at the personal nature of her teasing. But somehow, Naoto is influenced by Nagatoro’s teasing in a way that builds him up instead of tears him down (like all the rest of the bullying in his life has). That would be the most unrealistic part of this, I would say, if not for how Nagatoro actually wants this. She literally teaches him that it’s ok to say, “no,” “stop,” or “shut up,” in a way that makes him less socially awkward. He even starts learning how to call her out on her own game, to turn the tables on her. Even more, he begins learning how to assert himself, to stand his ground and take charge in various situations.

In short, somehow Nagatoro’s unending taunts actually help Naoto grow both as a person and as a man. In light of this, there is a certain sense to Naoto developing a crush on Nagatoro. Not much sense, mind you, as I see it. Certainly, being inundated with her presence and the force of her personality would probably make for some taut sexual attraction, especially considering the lewd nature of a good deal of her teasing, but coming to care for her in a romantic sense? It just seems a little far-fetched to me, though not impossible.

Oddly, this actually makes me somewhat interested in the second season, due at the start of 2023. Since there’s a good deal about this coupling which doesn’t make sense to me, I actually have some interest in seeing it play out. My understanding is that the anime thus far has covered about the first half of the manga series, and though the second season will have been produced by a different company, I still appreciate that they would finish the story. Said story involving the first meeting and early interactions of these two teens, and their friends as well, up until they officially become a couple and go on their first date. The first season basically just establishes the odd dynamic between them and how they obviously like each other.

Overall, though, the show mostly just displays the various hijinks Naoto and Nagatoro get up to. It’s amusing enough to enjoy, and there’s a certain hilarity that comes with what amounts to the sexual awakening of these two inexperienced teens, but somehow it felt lackluster to me. Perhaps because the talk always got around to sexual topics and behaviors, which makes this noticeably not child friendly, but without even the surprising wholesomeness of, say, My Dress-Up Darling. Not to mention how I still don’t get how Naoto put up with Nagatoro’s antics, or even how Nagatoro put up with her friends. They seemed like a rather vicious bunch behind those smiles.

It basically felt like things happened mostly because that was how the author wanted them to happen. It was funny, at times, in a way, and it didn’t actively repel me, but somehow it didn’t entirely grab me either.

All in all, I suppose I feel fairly neutral about this anime.

Rating: 6 stars out of 10.

Grade: C. Just a C.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #410: Simple Answers

“Is a slave a slave if he doesn’t know he’s enslaved?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, I was hoping for a philosophical debate. Is that all I’m going to get, ‘Yes?'”

“Yes.”

– The Editor & the Doctor, Doctor Who
Series 1, Episode 7, “The Long Game”

This episode features an all-too-real “satire” of the news media being used by humanity’s rulers to keep them under control. As the Editor says, a word or phrase repeated often enough can influence everything from economies to borders to votes. They think they’re making their own decisions based on what’s real, but they’ve been lied to, manipulated, and quietly enslaved without them ever realizing it. When confronted with that last, the Editor says that’s an interesting point, and we get this brief but pointed exchange.

I will be the first to advocate for reasonable, rational discussion. I believe that knowing truth is not the same as understanding it, and without understanding truth, our knowledge of it can crumble and decay. However, there comes a point where a clear and simple line must be drawn because discussion is pointless, especially when faced with someone who doesn’t care about the truth at all. Not only can you not change them, but it can become counter-productive, as the poison of broken, evil rationale is allowed into our minds. The quest for understanding gets turned back on itself in confusion.

To have an open mind is usually good. But a mind that is too open is easily manipulated, easily clouded and filled with half-truths, lies, and rationalizations, easily broken and twisted, before it ends up shut and impossible to persuade again with genuine reason.

One must be open to change, but also firm in retaining what truths one already knows. As per usual, it is a question of balance.

There are many questions which people ask hoping for a philosophical debate, and even more which they ask in the hopes of propagandizing their choices. Sometimes, though it runs counter to many of our urges and much of what we may have been taught, it is simply best to give the clear and simple answer, and end the discussion there.

In a world filled with madness and lies that have the barest sprinkling of truth and logic within them, sometimes it is best to hold true to the simple answers and not give an inch.

It is not easy to simply stand there and take the veritable storm of verbiage that gets thrown at us with such fury, but the truth is the truth, and it is not always complicated.

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My Anime Dungeons and Dragons Party

So, there’s this trend going round a couple Facebook groups I belong to. The idea is to assemble a dream crew as a Dungeons & Dragons party. Some people have used characters from books, some from movies, some even from real-life deceased celebrities. Wherever they draw from, they pick someone for each of the classes, which are, in alphabetical order: Artificer, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard.

It was cute and all, but it wasn’t until I saw some rather impressive parties put together that I really began to feel the itch to make one of my own. Heck, I may make a small series of this, one for books, one for movies, one for superheroes, that sort of thing. But for now, I simply indulge myself in making a D&D party made up of characters from anime.

I did set myself a rule, to keep things interesting, to not use characters from My Anime Justice League or my Anivengers. Can’t just keep repeating myself, can I? 😉

And, of course, only one pick per franchise!

I had fun putting this together, and I hope you enjoy it! Indeed, I suppose I unofficially challenge all of you, my wonderful audience, to come up with your own parties, anime or otherwise, as you like! Let’s have some fun! 🙂

Artificer: Usopp
One Piece

The man might never have been a particularly good shipwright, despite his best efforts, but it must be said, he can take pretty much anything at hand and create a vast array of unusual, unpredictable, and powerful tools. Not only did he assemble his own bag of tricks, more than once, with whatever materials he came across, but he crafted almost every version of Nami’s weather-manipulating staff as well. Most impressive, I say! Who knows what mad tools he could come up with in D&D, eh?

Barbarian: Tora
Ushio and Tora

I mean how much more of an obvious barbarian can you get? He’s a savage, vicious, man-eating demon, though that last part does get sorted out in time. He’s powerful, full of rage, and not at all hesitant in resorting to brutal, lethal force. He’s a creature of appetites, of hunger for delicious food, and he finds that he loves a good burger. And though he is not exactly dumb, he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed either. Yet, he has an unorthodox code of honor, and gives respect, albeit grudgingly, to those who undoubtedly earn it.

Bard: Isuzu
Log Horizon

I don’t really know that many bards in anime, let alone those who can legitimately use magic through their music. But, even if I did, I would probably pick Isuzu anyway. She’s so happy and innocent, so pure in her love of music. She might not be a “player” the way many bards are – and she’s too young, I’d say, for that anyway – but she’s still a formidable and respectable young lady, and definitely calls the shots in her relationship with her boyfriend (that got established early on, he does what she says).

Cleric: Neese
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight

I was tempted to go with Etoh of the same anime instead, but we see a bit more of Neese. We see her purity and innocence, and the strength of her faith in her goddess. It’s enough to heal the injured, protect her friends, drive away all sorts of evils, and even resist a dark goddess that had ostensibly already devoured her, body and soul. I would have no issues trusting her with my life.

Druid: Aura & Mare
Overlord

Ok, I may have gotten a little desperate with my selection here. There aren’t many singular characters who fit the bill for a Druid, so it came down to this pair of dark elf twins. Aura is a physical fighter and tamer of mystical beasts, while Mare wields the magic of nature, such as the earth or plant life. The two of them together fit the bill, and they are both strong as well as frighteningly ruthless.

Fighter: InuYasha
InuYasha

This brash, prideful half-demon is strong and fiercely loyal, though he tends to keep his feelings behind a gruff, rude exterior. He can fight with his claws and even with his blood, but he most often uses his demonic sword, with which he can deliver truly mighty blows that cut down entire armies of enemies or break mystical barriers. He’s straight-forward and honest, but clever and determined in a fight, and devastating in battle.

Monk: Sakura Haruno
Naruto Shippuden

It was a close competition between Sakura and her teacher, Tsunade. She’s clever and has a number of ninja tricks and ninja weapons up her sleeve, but most often fights with her fists, her feet, and her monstrous, earth-shattering strength. And she’s a healer, too, with a great deal of medical knowledge gleaned from years of diligent study and learning. Exactly the sort of monk I’d want in my party!

Paladin: Makoto Misumi
Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy

Most of my selections are what they are because that is what they chose and they are fine with it. This one is not. He’s actually something of a reversal for this category. Where most paladins are faithful and on good terms with their gods, this young man and his goddess pretty much hate each other and would happily be without one another. Nonetheless, he gains a great deal of power through a deal he has with her, and through the blessing of the moon god who was offended by her unfair treatment of him, and he uses it to devastating effect in the defense of his life and his people. So, divine power and authority used to help others? He fits the bill, at least!

Ranger: Ryoma Takebayashi
By the Grace of the Gods

He might be young, but it would be a mistake to underestimate him. He survived three years in the wilds, facing beasts and bandits alike, with only his slimes for company. He does well in civilization, but, as a tamer and user of other magics as well, he is almost uniquely capable in nature as well. He has the necessary physical skills with knives, bows, and arrows, he’s skilled with making potions and other forms of alchemy, and he can move quietly enough to surprise wary guards without even trying. And that’s before he adds magical birds to his menagerie of familiars, through which he can see and hear undetected. He’d be magnificent as a ranger.

Rogue: Akame
Akame ga Kill

With godlike speed does she strike from the shadows, beautiful and alluring, a force of death with a mystical blade the likes of which can kill with even one cut. She’s an assassin of nearly unrivaled peer, fighting from the darkness and bearing the sins of many that the innocent might live and play free in the light.

Sorcerer: Misaka Mikoto
A Certain Scientific Railgun

A sorcerer in D&D is defined as having their magic rooted in some inherent gift, some influence of mystical powers on their bloodline, as opposed to something that is learned by study. To that, I believe an electrokinetic esper fits the bill quite well. And she’s both strong and cunning in its use, sometimes shooting lightning, sometimes making a sword out of iron dust, sometimes using a coin as a rail gun, and more. She’s pretty creative and has worked hard to master her inborn power, which shows in how competent she is with it.

Warlock: Ling Yao
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

I know there must be a good number of them, but for the life of me I could not think of many anime characters who make direct bargains for power, not with fae, devils, or eldritch horrors. However, Ling Yao makes a bargain to take a Philosopher’s Stone into his being and become host for the homonculus known as Greed. He does this to save his life and also to obtain exactly what he has been after: the means to immortality. He intends to use it to become the next emperor of his nation, and he becomes quite the one-man army with the combination of his skills and wits with Greed’s cunning, regeneration, and ultimate shield, which makes his skin all but impenetrable. And heck! It even ties into how little magic warlocks are infamous for! 😉

Wizard: Merlin
Seven Deadly Sins

If the amount of power a wizard has is tied to how much knowledge they obtain, then Merlin is easily one of the most powerful ever. As well she should be, having gained an incredibly long lifespan in which to study, learn, and experiment. She’s got all sorts of tricks which she can conjure practically out of thin air, and the insights she has gained with her research make her truly formidable. This magic woman is dangerous, and it goes much better when that danger is directed at one’s enemy instead of oneself.

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My Isekai Life as a God-Sent Savior of the World

In the first episode, Yuji was powerful, but there was a clear limit to just how much he could do. By the time we reached the twelfth episode, they pretty much just nixed that and made him a mortal god.

My Isekai Life follows Yuji after his death in Japan and his reincarnation as a young adult in a fantasy world. He’s a tamer with one large wolf and an apparently unlimited number of cute little slimes, with whom he travels the land, helping good people and striking down villains with his vastly overpowered magic. Evidently, any magical text which his slimes touch instantly adds its spells to his inventory, and he can channel this magic through his slimes, making him a one-man battalion of arch-wizards, such that he is able to easily defeat enemies the likes of which strike terror into every other mere mortal on the planet.

Literally everything he does is too easy. It’s amusing at times, as he casually exceeds what people expect him to be capable of, to a hilariously overwhelming degree, but it really destroys the tension that we are supposed to be feeling. Even when he’s facing something godlike, there’s no excitement, because there is no chance of failure. His power is too great, his wits are too keen, and nothing bad is allowed to happen to him or anyone he cares about. Everyone else, the bad people, completely get the shaft, often at Yuji’s own brutal, cunning, merciless hands, but this is definitely the anime to be in if you’re not evil.

There was at least a little excitement in the first episode, when the audience doesn’t yet know any of this. Heck, after one really big spell, Yuji falls over in exhaustion, his magic virtually depleted. When faced with the necessity of doing the same spell again, there is significant tension found in how Yuji will have to dip into his life force (his hit points) to get the job done and save everyone, and he does it, falling unconscious as a result.

But come the final episode of the first season, Yuji apparently has no such limits anymore. He’s fighting a godlike being, using that same huge spell dozens of times, and defending four other regions through his slimes, simultaneously, spending his magic like a madman, far into the negative, but there’s no cost to his life force this time. The answer to how to deal with this enemy comes literally from on high, and Yuji momentarily wields a divine level of power, easily and without any cost to himself. It’s the climax, and there’s no suspense any more. None.

Oh, and apparently he’s an emissary sent by the deity of this world to save it from a bunch of false, destructive saviors.

Then there’s how Yuji’s character is “developed” through this. He remains aloof and stoic, from start to finish, showing little emotion, and yet somehow caring enough to defend the entire world all at once. He’s doing everything with only his slimes and his wolf to help him, completely avoiding getting close to anyone, making any friends, and yet he watches over everyone he meets even after he’s long since departed. His big “development” is when he realizes he doesn’t have to do everything alone… though he still continues to do so anyway.

It’s a whole thing where they repeatedly show the towns he’s visited and the people he’s left a lasting impression on with his overwhelming power and casual attitude. With enraged monsters coming at all of them, it’s supposed to be this big, inspirational moment when the people in each of these towns step up and defend themselves and each other (gee, how revolutionary, people fighting on their own without him holding their hand). And on all their lips, “Yuji.” Like he’s their god. And he has his grand epiphany, “It’s good to work in a team sometimes.” Not that he ever actually does.

Joeschmo's Gears and Grounds: Tensei Kenja no Isekai Life - Episode 12 [END] - Dryad Yay!

“Wow what inspiring character development!”

The slimes were cute enough, being small, blue balls with various cute expressions on them. They were also very powerful, being bouncy pocket dimensions and numerous conduits of Yuji’s magic. Proud Wolf was amusing, too, being more of a cowardly wolf, but he was fun. Various minor characters were easy enough to like or dislike as we were supposed to. But with exception to a priest, with wisdom gained from his tragic backstory, hardly anyone stood out as important in any way besides Yuji.

The cult of enemies was fairly standard fair, too. Fanatic zealots eager to give their lives in order to “cleanse this tainted world” of all evil, ie, utterly destroying it and everyone in it. Spies, traitors, agents of destruction, assassins, human traffickers, and so on. The music and scenery and everything else was similarly mediocre, not really standing out in any way.

All this said, I suppose My Isekai Life isn’t really “terrible,” per se. It doesn’t do any of those cheap, meaningless tricks to try and rivet the audience with shallow fan service or flashy explosions or over-complicated plots. There’s something to be said for that. It’s not a “bad” show, really. It’s just not that good or great, either. It falls pretty flat after such a strong opening, but Yuji’s adventures are still amusing, if not really that exciting.

It’s a lukewarm show, rather than either hot or cold. It won’t do it for people looking for something more thrilling, but it’s fairly nice. It makes one laugh, and it’s one of the more wholesome anime I’ve seen, both in general and especially this season. That’s still worth something, and, no matter how I might criticize the job it does in telling its story, it must be said: I dropped several anime this season for getting too inappropriate or too boring, and this was not one of them. I would certainly follow a second season as well.

Rating: I give it 6 stars out of 10, on the positive side of neutral.

Rating: C-Plus.

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