Sunday’s Wisdom #258: Try Again

“You try, you fail. You try, you fail. But the only true failure is when you stop trying. …Try again.”
– Madame Leota, The Haunted Mansion

Everybody knows what it is to fail. Almost everyone learns, sooner or later, what it is to fail when the stakes are high, and real, and important. Not everyone learns what to do after such a failure.

The the Haunted Mansion movie, Eddie Murphy’s character, one Jim Evers, has all of his mistakes as a husband and father thrown in his face. He only meant it for the best, but, however inadvertently, those mistakes have brought him and his family to a place where they are at immediate risk of losing each other forever. As the danger unfolds, he fights furiously to save his loved ones and escape, but his efforts are in vain. Broken by failure and by guilt, he is languishing in misery, when Madame Leota comes and gets him back on his feet.

When he tries once more, trying something a little different this time and holding nothing back, his efforts meet with success, and his family is saved, alongside a number of other innocent souls.

Now, of course, it doesn’t usually work out quite that neatly and quickly in real life. Indeed, sometimes we fail again, and we have to pick ourselves back up again. But as long as we are alive, we can keep trying.

Not necessarily trying the same thing, mind you. Eventually, one must concede defeats in certain areas if one is ever to achieve victory overall. If something consistently does not work, then one must try something else.

To persist in trying something that does not work, again and again, in the hopes of some different result, is not only useless, it is the very definition of insanity.

You know what consistently does not work? Giving up.

Falling down into a little pool of self-pity and despair may be a natural reaction after a devastating defeat, but nothing ever gets done by the people who stay there. No, great things, small and large, are accomplished by those who pull themselves out of the rut and try again.

Failure may still be possible – in fact, failure is always possible – but success never comes to those who stop trying.

So, when you are feeling down and out, when you have tried your hardest and still failed, I hope you will remember these two words, from a spooky kids’ movie:

Try again.

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The Seven Sins of Marvel’s Netflix Villains

You know when you get one of those thoughts? One of those little ideas that buzzes around the brain like a fly trapped behind your eyes, just itching to get out? This is one of those thoughts.

As I was ranking the villains found within the current (albeit fractured) Marvel Cinematic Universe, I found myself pondering what these marvelous villains really were, what they truly meant. Somewhere in this, my brain snapped a connection in place between the villains of the Defenders-based shows on Netflix and the seven deadly sins of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Almost before I knew it, I had a list in my head of these nasty, deadly, insane antagonists and a sin which they could arguably represent.

It needed a bit of revision, but, as ideas like that don’t just go away, I thought I’d satisfy my mental itch and share it with all of you, my wonderful audience! I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

Lust
Killgrave, the Purple Man

“I. Will. Have. Her.”

One of the more obvious choices, Killgrave the Purple Man is a walking embodiment of the violation of consent, and he is obsessed with having the one woman whom he literally cannot control.

Most villains have to fight to exert control over others, but Killgrave can make anyone do anything he likes just with the sound of his voice. He is utterly selfish in every way, taking anything and everything he wants, and if it catches his eye in any way, then he wants it. Naturally, that includes women, whom he can keep and rape endlessly, however he wants, and however much he wants, violating them in every possible way.

And you know what the lustful cannot abide? Being denied what they want.

Killgrave’s eye lands on Jessica Jones when he sees she has abilities, making her the newest, shiniest possession he can have. But when her body develops an immunity to his power, and she becomes the first woman ever who can tell him “no,” he becomes nothing short of obsessive over her. She was already a trophy, and even more so now, and he refuses to be denied. He won’t take “no” for an answer. She’s just too “shiny” for him to give up on.

That is the only reason he wants her: because of her power. That’s why he assumes her affection for Luke Cage is because of the man’s power. He simply cannot comprehend wanting a person as anything more than a possession.

He is especially vicious towards children, taking delight in their pains, including how he can force normally-devoted parents to behave apathetically towards them. It may be for differing reasons, but as lust is inherently selfish and children are inherently inconvenient… well, the lustful are often very cruel towards children, without a second thought.

Greed
Harold  Meachum

“Money makes my world go ‘round.”

The first season of Iron Fist was pretty lackluster, but that had very little to do with its villain, Howard, for the most part.

As half of the partnership which founded Rand Enterprises, and making it one of the most successful companies in the world, he has a brilliant financial mind, an insanely cutthroat attitude, and whatever he wants, he uses every means at his disposal to get. And what he wanted was money and power. He got both of them, in strange ways, and a certain degree of immortality as well.

He is precise, cold, and calculating, thinking nothing of any sacrifice that needs to be made in order to get him what he wants. Self-control was never his forte, but it slips even further as he goes mad. Yet, even at his maddest, most abusive, and most murderous, he always has the same goals of wealth and influence. That is what drives him. That is the core of what he wants.

It says something about him that this his greed and avarice are what he retains when the rest of his mind is slowly stripped away.

Wrath
Bushmaster, John McIver

“You hurt me! I kill you!”

You know what wrath is? It is a response to being wronged, or feeling that one has been wronged. Now, many villains feel that, but few exemplify it in actuality better than Bushmaster.

As a boy, the man who would become Bushmaster lost his father to some disaster, and the family of his father’s partner railroaded them out of what was rightfully their share of most profitable venture. When his mother fought for it, they murdered her by setting fire to their home. Then they tried to kill him, too, and very nearly succeeded.

So, to say he has been wronged, after being robbed, witnessing his mother’s violent death, and being nearly murdered, is an understatement. There are very few with grudges as legitimate as his, and he pursues it relentlessly and without mercy. His anger is his strength… and his undoing.

When one acts in wrath, one becomes irrational and sloppy. Even in the best of cases, it tends to undermine itself.

While I’ve no real issues with Bushmaster’s grievances, he messed up terribly by letting it all be personal. He dilly-dallied, instead of making it quick and clean. He dragged bystanders into a conflict they had no part in, which drew the attention of a local hero. He tried to make his enemy’s end slow and painful, such that they were rescued by the same hero who would not have been involved had Bushmaster not dilly-dallied and dragged bystanders into the conflict. The result was a slaughter, including many innocent, unsuspecting people who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Oh, and he lost, in the end, with his mind and body almost entirely consumed in the process of unleashing his wrath again and again.

Pride
Billy Russo, aka Jigsaw

“You think anyone is more important than me?”

Originally, I thought I’d put Billy under Gluttony, but somehow Pride just seems to fit him slightly better.

You know what makes pride a sin? It’s when you set people above or below each other. Pride puffs one up, beyond the bounds of humility, and drives self-centered behavior because one puts oneself above all else. How does that not fit Billy to a “T”?

He holds others accountable, but not himself. He does whatever he wants, to get whatever he wants, for himself. He commits terrible crimes, betraying those closest to him, those who love him the most, and still he holds himself guiltless. He lies through his teeth, and accuses others of lying. When facing justice, revenge, and punishment, he still behaves as if he has the moral high ground. He plays to the self-entitled attitude of his men, all to get what he wants, and in the end he just uses and discards them, no matter their loyalty to him.

Even when he’s on the brink of dying, he calls an old friend, trying to lay claim on some last sympathetic moments, even knowing he doesn’t deserve them.

Heck, even when he was just enjoying a day with a friend and his family, he was still boasting about himself, making himself seem more than he was.

Beginning, middle, and end, Billy Russo is full of sinful pride.

Sloth
Cottonmouth, Cornell Stokes

“I can’t be any more than this!”

Choosing a villain to represent sloth was a bit tricky. Hardly any villains can be called “lazy,” after all. But the sin of sloth isn’t just laziness and idleness.

In the original language, the context of the word used signifies not just being lazy, but, rather, withholding one’s talents and resources. It means failing to do/be good, and Cottonmouth does exactly that, I think.

He is one of the most interesting villains I’ve seen, and I hate how they killed him off so quickly.

In the present, he is clearly a bad man, but one that has some standards of honor. He keeps his word, he does not engage in mass violence, and he does not hesitate to kill his own subordinate for killing a beloved old man. He doesn’t even trouble himself with beating a man to death until that man acts, for a moment, like a real man in his book. He’s so honorable, in his way, that he doesn’t even think of how to dispose of Luke Cage if he can’t simply shoot or beat the man (as opposed to Mariah, who instantly conjures several more devious methods of doing so).

Yet, for all his honor, he is a crime lord, and a killer. Why?

Because his family trapped him into it.

He could have been a magnificent musician, and a most honorable man. He still loves music, but that path was taken from him by the woman who raised him. He was made to kill his own uncle. He was made to be a crime lord. And he never got out of it, even years and years later. He held on to some little piece of nobility, but he never made the effort to be truly good. He could have. But he didn’t. He held back the good man he could have been.

The sloth of Cottonmouth was in withholding from the world all the good he could have been and done.

Gluttony
The  Kingpin, Wilson Fisk

“I will devour… EVERYTHING.”

The single most difficult sin to find a corresponding villain for, gluttony is defined as excess consumption. It’s typically associated with consuming good food and drink and too much enjoyment of the finer things in life, making it a close cousin of greed, lust, and pride. While the Kingpin obviously enjoys his fine food, I have a deeper reason for equating him with gluttony, namely:

He consumes everything in his path. He feeds on suffering and death, sating his rapacious ambitions on blood and horror. He devours the lives and even the humanity of everyone around him, especially those who oppose him. And his wrath absolutely annihilates anyone who angers him.

First, he became a crime lord, the one feared by all the rest in New York City. He was calculating and ambitious, removing rivals and enemies, and he did not hesitate to kill the innocent. All this, he did, at first, with the goal of supposedly making the city a better place, and he had no qualms with doing so atop the bodies of its current residents. Then, he was brought low and sent to prison, and slowly rose again. He came to rule his prison, and reach out like a master puppeteer, setting up a situation wherein he would emerge with everything, a true king of the underworld, with connections on both sides of the law, and a killer at his disposal which his enemies could never hope to match.

Luxurious living conditions, fine food, art, money, power, and the woman he loves. He obtained it all, corrupted the law, and turned the bonds of other people’s love to his service. And he did it all twice. His appetites, of every form, could not be restrained.

His gluttony was just too great to be contained.

Envy
Gregory Salinger

“If I can’t have it, neither can you.”

Gregory Salinger is a serial killer. By the time he is brought to justice (and faces vengeance), he has killed at least nine people, and tried to kill at least three more. Every last one of them is because of his jealousy.

From what I gather, he was always looked down on by his father and brother. He had a keen mind, and a strong, albeit unassuming, body, but he was always derided, never credited for his successes, even abused, no matter all the effort he put into everything he did. This, while his father praised his brother, dangling the recognition he always wanted in front of his face but never letting him have it.

In his own mind, Salinger was well-accomplished at everything he did, yet everyone else got all the glory, success, and opportunities, just because they were born with stronger bodies and better looks. Things were “easier” for them, so they were “cheaters,” though apparently he never realized that cheating is a deliberate action, completely independent of what one is born with. But I digress.

When Salinger’s brother died, he hoped his father would praise him. Instead, his father nearly killed him. And that was it: he was never going to get what he “deserved,” so he built a grudge against anyone who did get the success and recognition he wanted, especially if they were, in the slightest way, imperfect at what they did, because surely he would never be so imperfect.

He murdered his childhood friend because the boy was recognized as a more talented athlete. He nearly murdered a chef because the chef got one tiny detail of his food wrong. He murdered at least seven others for similar reasons, all while trying to unmask their “true selves,” which were wanting, in his estimation. Again and again, he lashed out, trying to stand above others, to make himself feel superior, for no better reason than his jealousy.

“How dare anyone be more successful than me?”

Envy in a nutshell.

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Anime Review: Inu x Boku SS

A young lady from a prestigious family moves out of her family’s home and into a palatial apartment complex. It is unusual, not only for its luxury, but also for how each resident has their own designated bodyguard, reminiscent of a secret service. She doesn’t want any such guard, but finds herself saddled with one who is not only dedicated to his duty, he is completely obsessed with her. Tall, handsome, skilled, and utterly devoted to her, to the point where he all but literally worships the ground she walks on, the man can, and will, do anything for her. She can’t rid herself of him, so she is forced to deal with him and try to find some kind of equilibrium between them. Little does she suspect how much he will come to mean to her, and the secret he keeps from her.

Oh, and everyone in the complex is descended from some sort of supernatural creature that bred with a human ancestor. They’re half-breeds.

That is the idea behind Inu x Boku SS, in a nutshell.

It’s partially a supernatural slice-of-life story, just showing us the daily lives of these unusual people. It has comedic elements, and a bit of drama, though the characters are developed only very slightly. The most entertaining part of the show is the characters, and they are also the most annoying part, too. There’s a very little bit of romance, but that romance is actually a bit more disquieting than endearing.

To explain all of that from the beginning:

The premise is that a number of wealthy, powerful families have a bit of supernatural blood sprinkled in their veins. Occasionally, this manifests in the form of some member of the family that is a genetic throwback to the original creature in question. They are treated like royalty… or, rather, like possessions. They are seen as belonging not to their immediate family, but to the entire extended family as a whole. To explain the damage that does… well…

I commented awhile ago, in My Angry Otaku Epiphany, about how the fans of idols and celebrities in Japan tend to put them on pedestals and isolate them. They act like they own the idol in question and are, in a way, devoted to keeping them separate from everything in the world, because that would somehow be the same as losing them, as having their idol taken from them. It makes only a very little sense to me, but there you have it.

Applying the same principle here, these atavistic throwbacks are kept isolated and idolized, treated as something other than human… but human is exactly what they are.

In the case of the lead character, a young lady named Ririchiyo Shirakiin, she never learned how to properly deal with people. Having so little experience, she overthinks everything and reacts before reaching a proper conclusion. Result: she speaks and behaves imperiously, and her tongue is far more pointed than she ever actually intends it to be, which, as she is still overthinking things, makes her feel very guilty and self-conscious immediately afterward. It is her desire to fix this habit of hers that drives her to move out of her family’s estate and into the palatial apartments that they and other families have built together, the Maison de Ayakashi. She wants to get along with people better, so she goes off to live alone.

…yeah, that plan may not have been entirely thought-through, but it works out well enough.

Upon her arrival, she meets her bodyguard, a truly handsome man named Soushi Miketsukami. Where the demon in Ririchiyo’s bloodline is unclear (some sort of oni?), he is quite clearly descended from the nine-tailed fox. He is extremely devoted to her, like a dog, or perhaps something a bit more rabid in said devotion. Serving her, looking after her, everything about her is the beginning, middle, and end of the meaning of his existence. He does not say why, at first, but he tells her that he chose to be her servant because he already knows her, and has known her for a long time, and, though she does not know it, she once saved him.

Yeah, that’s not creepy or overbearing at all… right?

“We may look sane, but we are crazy!”

Unable to rid herself of her new guard, Ririchiyo gradually comes to accept and appreciate him, even if she gets annoyed by his excessive devotion. Partially through his influence, she is able to become more at ease around others as well, forming friendships with several people who are, in varying ways, as unique, as distinct, and as misunderstood as she is. There’s a raccoon-dog boy who is so keenly aware of how weak he is that he is constantly trying to be a tough-guy delinquent, though that’s a pretty threadbare facade. There’s a quiet, sincere girl who turns into a HUGE skeleton creature. An older boy turns into a floating carpet or scroll or something (how the heck did his demon ancestor even breed with a human?). An older ice-woman who… ah, let’s just say she is obsessed with cute girls. A man who wears rabbit ears (no idea if they’re real or false) and has a wicked, scheming sense of humor and wit, which cloaks his more benevolent intentions. Oh, and a cousin of Ririchiyo, who is obsessed with sadism and masochism, and is her fiancé.

Yes, Ririchiyo is in an arranged relationship with her cousin. I’m hoping that’s a distant cousin, but it gets even weirder from here anyway.

While the story mostly follows Ririchiyo as she develops into someone who can interact with people more openly and honestly, and less formally, the final episode goes in a wildly less kosher direction at the last minute.

It comes on the heels of learning the truth of her bodyguard’s past. It seems that they have been pen pals since she was very little, and he is, in fact, that same, dear friend whose words helped her be strong at her lowest moments. Even more, after a tragic life wherein his freedom and survival depended on being able to be anything that another person wanted him to be (the first set of which involved sexual intimacy with various women of his own household), it was her words which helped him to gain an identity of his own, and she saw the genuine person he was becoming. That is why he became obsessed with her, because such absolute devotion to another person was the only way he really knew how to interact with people, and as he gained that “self” which we all take for granted, he wanted to repay her.

After that, things could have developed into a genuine friendship, which I would have very much enjoyed. But then there is a little mix-up that Ririchiyo, as per usual, overthinks and gets embarrassed about. It could be misconstrued as if she were confessing love for him, which she did not intend, and he acknowledges and even embraces that. Then, about two seconds after declaring that they don’t like each other that way, they declare that they do love each other that way. And then, as the show wraps up (and we see that he has a shrine to her in his apartment), we see that they’ve gone from not being romantically inclined to planning their future together, including children, in under two minutes of runtime.

Even setting aside the age difference between them, and even forgetting that she’s still only fifteen or maybe sixteen years old, and even setting aside how this is all sorts of weird and creepy and unsettling in ways which I do not have the psychological terms to fully describe… even without all of that, to go from Point A, mutually acknowledging that she does not actually like him that way, straight to Point X, planning their lives and their children while laying on the couch in each others’ arms… it’s all just too much, too fast!

Does the show make me laugh? Yes.

Does it make me feel for these characters? Yes.

But it also completely unnerves me at the end, when we get to the bit where they get together.

Even if I can see why they do so, it’s still very weird, and doesn’t strike me at all as a healthy relationship. And yet, it’s probably the best that these two, whose families claim ownership of them as if they weren’t people, can possibly hope for. Which is even more disturbing to contemplate.

Outside all of this, the anime does a fair job of being entertaining. It’s not particularly extraordinary, mind you, but it’s not terrible either. It’s all right. With exception to the “romance,” it has an enjoyable “average” of quality overall.

Rating: 7 stars out of 10.

Grade: C-Plus.

Posted in Anime and Cartoons, Tuesday Review | Tagged | 7 Comments

Sunday’s Wisdom #257: The Lesson of Regret

“If only we had more time. I wish that things could have been different between us. But we have to say ‘goodbye.’”
– Yuri Nakamura, Angel Beats
Episode 13, “Graduation”

If only.

Are there any words more sad than these?

Angel Beats is an anime about facing death, and accepting life. That struggle is represented by many of the characters, none more so than Yuri Nakamura, or Yurippe, as she’s often called. She has fought, more than anyone, to not accept the cruel hand that was dealt to her and her loved ones. To that end, she mistakenly fought against one of the other characters, not realizing they were actually all in the same proverbial boat. When she finally finds peace, and lets go of her animosity, the one thing she wishes is that she had let herself be friends with the one she treated like an antagonist. They do enjoy a few happy moments together, but then the time comes, all too quickly, that they must part.

What is done is done.

The past cannot be changed, and if we carry our regrets around forever, we may never know peace. All we can do is move forward, and we can’t do that while facing backward.

Eventually, everyone must part ways. Some now, some later, but it always, always happens.

So, if you want a good relationship with those closest to you, don’t wait.

If you want to repair a relationship, don’t wait.

If you want to improve something in your life, don’t wait.

We know that the time to say goodbye is coming, and we don’t know when it will arrive, so make the best of your time here, today, now.

Take those sad, sad words, and wipe them away. Turn them into something better.

I find this is particularly powerful in my mind and heart, today.

Today is the fifth anniversary since I started blogging. Five years. About nine-hundred and eighty posts. I have no idea how many words, but it’s a big number. Today, I find myself contemplating the past, the present, and the future, both in regards to my life overall, and to my blog, especially.

I don’t know a thing about what the future holds, except for one: there are endings coming.

My life, my time on this Earth, my time to give, and live, and write… it will eventually end, and that ending will most likely be sudden, without warning. The same applies to the lives of everyone and every creature in my life. My friends, my relatives, my pets, everything.

So I’d best make the best use of my life, and my time with the people I love, as I can.

My blog will eventually end. I’m sad to think about that, but it is inevitable. Sooner or later, something will happen, and Merlin’s Musings will simply stop, and never start again. Eventually, everything I’ve posted on here will vanish in a puff of smoke, all of my words simply gone, just like any memory of me will eventually die out.

…but not just yet! 😉

It may sound depressing to contemplate the future, but the fact is, I am still alive. Here, now, today, I am alive.

I am alive, and writing, and loving, and helping, and working, and getting frustrated, and petting my fluffy dogs, and facing my problems, and spending every moment as well as I can.

While I am alive, I can keep my course, or alter it as I choose, so as to live, and die, with as few regrets as possible.

What’s that old saying? Where there’s life, there’s hope?

So, while the future is intimidating, and the past is irreversible, the present is magnificent, and full of hope. The time for goodbye will come, but it hasn’t come yet.

Every moment I have, I can still make it count, both in my real-world life, and here, on my humble little blog.

And I will continue with my humble little blog for as long as I can.

Here’s hoping the good times last for awhile yet!

Here’s hoping “goodbye” takes its time to arrive!

Here’s to another five years! 🙂

Posted in Anime and Cartoons, Sunday's Wisdom | Tagged | 1 Comment

My Top Twelve Favorite Anime

In three days, I will hit my fifth blogging anniversary. Approximately one thousand, eight hundred, and twenty-two days ago (if my math is right), the second post I ever did on this humble blog of mine approached the idea of an anime countdown. And, the next day, I did it again. I have been promising this countdown ever since, and today, my wonderful, patient audience, I keep my word. 🙂

Took me long enough, right? 😉

In the past five years, writing this blog, especially all of the reviews (about eighty of which, thus far, have been for anime), has helped me towards this point. I have gained a much better grasp on what I like, and exactly why I like it. Not to mention, I’ve gotten a lot better at talking about it, putting it all on paper in some coherent form. Or, so I like to think, anyway! 🙂

That said, this was still, by far, my most challenging countdown yet, and possibly my most challenging post yet. There are just so many anime, old and new, which I have deeply enjoyed and long held among my favorites. This  particular competition was… well, incredibly fierce. I’m kind of amazed that I actually finished sorting through all the chaos of my head!

So, without further ado (five years is plenty of ado), and with the hope that you, my wonderful audience, might share your favorites with me, too, I present, at long last…

My Anime Countdown! 😀

12) Fairy Tail

A guild of fighting wizards, filled with living legends, challenges all the powers of evil and darkness in the world with all of their might, and their enduring bonds of friendship and love!

This was the very first anime that inspired me to call it “my favorite.” It opened the gateway for all the rest that have followed. Indeed, it set the standard for them. As such, anytime I make a list of favorite anime, be it Top 12, Top 10, Top 5, or even Top 3, it will probably always be included. It is near and dear to my heart, and I will always love it.

But… well, fierce competition can knock even the best of them down a few pegs, ya know? Especially as one matures and gets a little distance from the immediate fever that the latest favorite will always induce. So, I love it, and I will always include it… but probably always at the bottom of everything up to a dozen. (If we’re talking Top 100, that would be a different story entirely, ya know? 🙂 )

11) InuYasha

A young girl finds herself transported back to feudal Japan, which is filled with all manner of nefarious demons. She forms an unlikely partnership with a half-demon and, together with their friends, they go around fighting evil, saving people, and trying to reassemble a sacred  jewel.

I was uncertain whether or not to include this one, but… well, if I am honest, it had a huge influence on me, and somehow it just never quite seems to feel “old” to me. It has been a long time since I’ve seen it, yet it has never faded from my memory or my heart. I love these characters and their stories and I especially love the music. 🙂

And, unlike one of the highest runner ups, Cowboy Bebop, it has a happy ending. I don’t usually like tragedies, ya know?

10) Attack on Titan

They say that the giants outside the walls are impossible to defeat, but everyone can rest safe and sound within the walls. Then a terrible tragedy happens, as the giants breach the walls and invade, eating everyone they can get their hands on. A huge chunk of the population dies overnight, and amidst all that horror, entire families are lost. Yet from this moment begins the story of those who fight back, against the giants, against the lies, against the system which enslaves them, and against everything that steals lives and freedom.

You want some powerful storytelling? A tale that displays the best and worst of humanity? This is it. It has some of the best characters, stories, and themes I’ve ever encountered, beautifully animated, with a masterful soundtrack to boot. It is jarring and bloody and horrific, but also inspiring and exultant.

This one, I always knew, would come in at Number Ten. High enough to be noted, and just barely low enough to show that there are other things I like better.

9) Outlaw Star

A twist of fate turns a man into an outlaw, and one who finds himself caught up in a vast conspiracy of pirates and military powers on the hunt for an ancient treasure. Together with a colorful crew and a one-of-a-kind ship, he embarks on an odyssey through the stars, looking for fortune, action, and answers.

It’s a fun, zany adventure with lots of action, a bit of intrigue, lovable heroes and hate-able villains. The setting and world-building is excellent and magical. It gets a bit naughty on occasion, but, notwithstanding this, it represents, to me, much of what made the anime of my youth so great. It simply tells a good, quality story in a fun, engaging way. There’s a reason it’s a classic.

And I love it! 🙂

8) Trigun

Long after humanity reached for the stars, it struggles to survive on an arid  wasteland of a planet, with two suns burning in the sky overhead. It is an age of bizarre outlaws and murderous maniacs. But there is one outlaw which walks the sands, dressed all in red, bringing justice and mercy to a land virtually without law. He is Vash, and he is all that stands between humanity and the ultimate annihilation designed for them by a very old, sinister evil lurking in the shadows.

Vash’s entire demeanor, including how he, the ultimate outlaw, is the also the ultimate donut-scarfing doofus, great with kids and firm in his convictions, makes him easy to love. He truly cares about the people he comes into contact with, and he abhors the loss of any life. That makes for a compelling theme as he wrestles with the hard reality that sometimes the only way to save lives is to take one. The plot is riveting and intricate, the action is fun, the tragedy has weight to it, and the ultimate triumph and maturing of the hero is inspiring. I love it! 😀

The classics are making a very good showing of themselves on this countdown! 😉

7) Slayers

The young sorceress Lina Inverse travels around with her friends, slaying demons, slaughtering bandits, and upending the nefarious plots of all manner of dangerous creatures, all in pursuit of adventure, and treasure, and food!

It’s an old favorite of mine. I love how it both sets and defies the expectations usually associated with D&D types of fantasy adventures. It has plenty of humor, good action, and, most of all, lovable characters!

Somehow, I just couldn’t knock this one any lower, ya know? 🙂

6) Rurouni Kenshin

A wandering samurai defends those closest to him with his phenomenal sword skills, facing down everything from common thugs to extraordinary assassins, all while maintaining an oath, made in repentance for the lives he has taken, to never kill again.

I believe I mentioned, in my review of this show, something about coming to see kids’ shows through the eyes of an adult, yet those shows of our youth remain forever dear to us. Such is the case here. I just love the adventures and antics of Kenshin and his friends too much not to include it here.

What can I say? I just love it! 😉

And have you noticed how the classics are dominating this countdown?

5) Digimon

Children are paired with digimon in a partnership, wherein the digimon taps into the child’s energy and temporarily evolves into a more advanced and powerful form to protect the child. Facing dangers aplenty, mostly from other digimon, these “digidestined” kids and their digimon must fight to save their world and that of the digimon from total destruction.

Yeah, it’s a kids’ show, from start to finish, but it’s fun, funny, adventurous, and exciting! I especially love the first and third seasons of this show. 🙂

4) Baccano!

Set back in the 1930’s, following the stories of a multitude of characters, almost every one of which plays the lead. The first episode can be a little jarring, as one needs to grow accustomed to the non-chronological format as well as all the storylines, but it all combines into a very well-told story, full of twists and surprises, a great deal of action and humor, several of the best love stories in anime, and a lot of wonder in an otherwise ordinary world.

It’s fantastic! A rip-roaring fun time with action, alchemy, suspense, and villainy, and a number of unusual heroes! My only complaint about it is that it’s so short. There’s enough material they could have kept going, and I dearly wish they had. I want more! 😀

3) Angel Beats

A young man wakes up in the afterlife, and is immediately drawn into a struggle between a group of rebellious young souls and the angel they defy. Yet, his own experience begins to shed a light on a deeper truth, that this limbo they find themselves in may actually be for their benefit, that they might find peace and move on after their unfair lives were all cut so short.

It’s a powerful, deeply emotional story about accepting death, and therefore accepting life, with all the pain and peace involved in both.

It’s not for the faint of heart, it must be said. I knew that beforehand, so I put off watching it, but now that I have, I must admit: it leaps into forward ranks, my Top Three, because it is, quite simply, a quality story, with important themes, well-crafted and well-told.

My hat’s off to the people who made it! 🙂

2) Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

In the wake of tragedy, and mistakes, a pair of young alchemist brothers set out looking for the means to repair what they did wrong. Over the course of their journey, they make many friends, face many enemies, fight nightmarish monsters, and walk straight into the heart of a nefarious conspiracy, authored by an ancient, inhuman evil. Together with their allies, they fight to save their nation and everyone in it.

This anime is probably the single most serious contender for the top spot that I will ever see. It may even work its way up there someday, depending on how things turn out. But either way, I just love it! Action, intrigue, alchemy (can you tell this was authored by the same people as made Baccano?), love, revenge, hope, humor, amazing heroes, fantastic villains, a rich world, powerful themes, intricate story… this anime has it all! It is nothing short of great!

So, what anime could possibly top this one, in my personal list of favorites? Well, first, a few… or more than a few…

Honorable Mentions:

Ah My Goddess!
Akame ga Kill
Assassination Classroom
Barakamon
Cowboy Bebop
Dog Days
Eden of the East
EscaFlowne, The Vision of
Fruits Basket
Fullmetal Alchemist
G Gundam
Gabriel DropOut
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
Gate
Ghost Hunt
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Gundam Wing
Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto!
Hellsing Ultimate
Interviews With Monster Girls
Katanagatari
Level E
Log Horizon
Maoyu
Monster Rancher
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit
My Hero Academia
My Roommate is a Cat
Needless
One Punch Man
Place to Place
Record of Lodoss War
Restaurant to Another World
Saga of Tanya the Evil
Shiki
Snow White with the Red Hair
Soul Eater
Spice and Wolf

Tenchi Muyo
Ushio and Tora
Valvrave the Liberator
Working!
Yu-Yu Hakusho

Zoids

And now, (drum roll please!) for the Number One, my most favorite anime of all…

1) One Piece

A young man sets out on an adventure across the seas. Searching for a fabled treasure and facing off against all manner of savage killer and murderous tyrant, he gathers the greatest crew and fights with all his might. His goal: to become King of the Pirates!

What can I say? 🙂

It has several of my favorite characters, including my all-time anime crush, along with powerful, important themes of freedom and order, and it tells a truly epic story, filled with zany, wacky adventures. It’s not without flaws, I will readily admit, but it remains my favorite nonetheless. 😀

Now, over to you, my wonderful audience! What are some of your favorite anime? 😉

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Anime Review: Bleach

In Japan, voice actors, or seiyuu, are pretty much required to act, sing, be idols in a band, and a whole lot more that western people just don’t think to expect of them.

In the USA, voice actors are exactly that: voice actors. And nothing else. Usually. Ok, while they can do other things, like live acting, or music, or heading a studio or whatever, we Americans tend to think of voice actors as only voice actors. Nothing more is required or expected for them to be voice actors.

Why do I begin this review with that comparison? Because it illustrates a difference in the cultures. One seems to expect that if you are good at one thing, you should be good at many things, while the other tends to expect that if you at good at one thing… you are good at only that one thing, and anything else that you are good at is entirely independent of it.

For instance: if one can draw exceptionally well, people in the West might expect this person to employ their skills in partnership with a skilled storyteller, while Japanese people seem to expect the skilled artist to be the skilled storyteller. That’s what everyone seemed to expect of the man who created Bleach, after all.

Let this lesson be learned: to draw with exceptional creative ability is not the same thing as to tell a good story effectively.

I rush to make it clear that Bleach is highly enjoyable, in its way, and a great deal of thought and effort clearly went into it. But it also earns some fair criticisms, and serves as an example to aspiring storytellers with both the accomplishments and the mistakes found within it.

The story primarily follows Ichigo Kurosaki, a human with a bit of spiritual awareness, and his friends. A twist of fate brings Ichigo into contact with Rukia Kuchiki, a shinigami, or soul reaper, whose job it is to reap wayward souls and strike down those who have lingered so long that they have become monstrous, a threat to both the living and the dead. In a moment of dire need, Rukia shares her power with Ichigo, turning him into a substitute reaper, unleashing a vast, untapped reservoir of spiritual power within him. This fateful encounter sets into motion events which will alter the course of their lives and determine the outcome of pivotal confrontations to come as nefarious conspiracies are brought to light.

The major selling points of Bleach, much like those of Zoids, are the battles, the characters, and the music, all of which are superbly crafted. The major points against it are the shoddy overall plot and the lackluster world-building. Oh, and way too many characters.

To start with, the battles are among the best I’ve seen, in their way. They use fairly unique magic systems to create a variety of special abilities which are all thrown against each other in gripping battles that are both flashy to behold and riveting to witness in their significance to the characters. It’s a fairly intelligent way of fighting, though fairly dramatized and drawn out a bit, much like in many similar stories like Naruto, or One Piece, or Fairy Tail. There are better fights, and worse fights, and some fights that are just there to be flashy and take up some time. For the most part, it’s pretty fun.

The characters are all very well designed, and interesting to watch. There is a truly diverse range of appearances and temperaments to be found here. Mind you, it can get to be a bit much, as there are entirely new sets of characters, heroes and villains alike, introduced in each new arc, but everything about them is exceptionally well-crafted. Their history, their abilities, their appearance, their demeanor, everything. Superb. And, especially, their interactions.

The reason we watch or read stories as long as this is because we come to care about the characters, and that is accomplished in how they interact with each other. Whether they be honorable adversaries, albeit ruthless enemies as well, or friends and comrades, or captains and subordinates, I love watching these people. My single favorite moment would have to be when one captain made his introduction to his foe while having his lieutenant sprinkle sakura blossoms from a balcony overhead, which she did, and then poured the entire basket onto him, and threw said basket straight down onto his head, all without a word. Heh, somehow that just always made me crack up! 🙂

Funny moments, happy moments, tender moments, shocking moments, sad moments, inspiring moments of loyalty and triumph, moments of mutual tragedy and sympathy… basically, whatever is happening, these people are brilliant.

And then, like many a classic anime, there’s the music. Seriously,  I don’t think this anime would have lasted nearly so long if not for its soundtrack. Whatever moment we are in, the music is pretty much perfect. 🙂

So, that’s what it does well. As for what it doesn’t…

“Get ready for battle…”

I can scarcely think of a show in more dire need of rewriting and streamlining.

The earliest part of the show, the first season, was clearly making things up as it went along, things being much more dramatic than functional. Soon enough, it delved into an overarching plot that left almost everything from the first season behind. Then it extended that plot long enough to chronicle a small war between the reapers and a traitor who rallied their enemies. It ends with a sacrifice on Ichigo’s part, which they then immediately undo in the show’s final season, and leave things there, just shy of the final arc of the manga. As all of this occurred, there was often a sense that things were happening “just because.” The plot of having to go rescue a girl after she was kidnapped and whisked away to an otherworldly stronghold was used at least twice. The villain’s role, and power, were very overdone. Also, Ichigo is apparently a motley of every kind of creature mentioned. And did they have to resort to entire filler seasons? I mean, it covers little enough ground already, especially for being so long.

Then there’s the world-building, which seems to be made up as they went along, from start to finish. We have an afterlife where people are still born, live, and die, and even those human spirits which are brought into the Soul Society, as it’s called, are basically just living a life where they don’t age and can never find their previous loved ones. Any soul which does not make it to the Soul Society goes to Hueco Mundo…

ADD moment: super props for how the author managed to incorporate Japanese and Spanish so perfectly.

…so,  they go to Hueco Mundo, where they are all monsters, and they fight forever, and congeal into massive monsters, which fight and devour each other, becoming more developed monsters, until they eventually become beast-like lords of death and destruction. Good or bad doesn’t matter, that’s what the afterlife holds for everyone: either an ongoing existence in Soul Society, a hellish existence that annihilates you in Hueco Mundo, or one is either devoured entirely by the monsters of Hueco Mundo, if not simply destroyed outright, ceasing to exist, by a breed of ghost-killing humans.

There are very few imagined afterlives which are more horrific than this one, I think.

“You ever get the feeling that our afterlives suck?”

Now, dealing with spirits of the dead and such, the reapers are sent forth to slay monsters, thus retrieving the souls which became those monsters, and sending them to the Soul Society (or Hell, depending, because apparently that exists, too, though it’s barely mentioned). So, the entire enemy force of monsters which is led against them can pretty much be chalked up to their failures, on a massive scale. But that’s never mentioned.

Indeed, things are either mentioned and forgotten, or dwelled on forever, but the ramifications of nearly every aspect of this world are almost never elaborated on. Things are the way they are just because that’s the way they are.

Yeah, world-building problems.

I say again, the selling points for Bleach are the entertaining fights, the lovable characters, and the music. Not so much the overall story or the world it’s set in. And with so much attention and loving detail going into what was good, it’s a shame that whatever could have been better, wasn’t.

And this is why artists and storytellers are partners more often than they’re the same person.

That said, I still enjoy Bleach tremendously, especially, like most fans, during the arc where Ichigo and his friends invade the Soul Society in order to rescue Rukia. That is absolutely the best part of the show. The rest isn’t “bad,” but it could have been so much better… and so much shorter.

Rating: 7 stars out of 10.

Grade: C-Plus.

Posted in Anime and Cartoons, Tuesday Review | Tagged | 3 Comments

Sunday’s Wisdom #256: The Unacceptable

“Five was better than five hundred, but that didn’t make it acceptable.”
– Julie Shackleford-Pitt, from Monster Hunter Guardian, by Larry Correia

The number referred to here is that of children taken by monsters. (so this may be my most heavy-handed post yet)

It’s part of what Julie is thinking as she, a mother and a defender of humanity, is conversing with a minion of monsters (who turns out to be a monster himself, in disguise). The man boasts that he has saved more children than any monster hunter like Julie has, because where there used to be five hundred children taken by the local monster population every year, now there are only five. In a purely quantitative light, that might be a significant step forward, but those five children who are still taken? They, and their entire lives, are written off as an acceptable loss. That is what Julie disagrees with.

It is one thing to sacrifice a few in order to save many more, but it is quite another to accept that choice, and to such a degree that one makes a lifestyle out of it. It is when such sacrifices are normalized, when we stop even trying to save those who are doomed, that we become monsters ourselves.

One does not gain victory by surrendering

And choosing not to even fight for those taken children, because of some “agreement,” in the name of some facade of “civilized, non-violent behavior,” is definitely a surrendering of humanity.

I recall reading in another book, something akin to, “When it becomes acceptable to kill another human, childhood dies. When it becomes acceptable to kill children, humanity dies.”

The same thing happens in the story, and in real life.

Now, in the book, that happens a bit more literally. The monster within the man soon reveals himself. Where the man would have happily given an inch and declared that he had gained a mile, the monster took that inch, and everything else. The man died trying to make a costly “peace” with the monsters that prey on humanity, and then his murderer wore his skin and used his resources not to diminish the number of children taken, but to keep them from being noticed. The number, which the man would have bragged about, is just a lie told by the monster within.

Some “peace,” huh?

Give an inch of humanity to the monster, and the monster takes it all. Try to make deals with them, and they eat you. Try to placate and appease them, and they take over your life. Dine at a monster’s table long enough, and you become either the monster or the menu.

Julie, on the other hand, refuses to give that inch, or anything at all. Not ever. Not when her child is at stake. Not when any child is at risk. She won’t look for some “civilized,” “rational,” solution, to save some children at the cost of others. No, she’ll just shoot the monster in the face until it’s dead. She fights to save all children, no matter the odds.

In short: she does not accept something so wrong. She fights against it, with everything she has. She tries, and never stops trying.

Mind you, sometimes we do need to endure what is wrong with the world, because it is a great rarity to be able to change the world overnight, but that is not the same as accepting it.

True, losses are inevitable. True, sometimes we must make impossible choices about who to save, the many or the few. True, we cannot save everyone. But that is no reason not to try.

To fight against what is wrong, and evil, and inhumane, and unacceptable, is merely the choice to retain one’s humanity.

How does the old saying go? You only really fail when you fail to try.

And who knows? Who really knows? It may just be that, in the end, no matter the odds, and through all the loss and pain and sacrifice, maybe, just maybe… we just might win.

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The Would-Have-Been Big Bad: A Digimon Fan-Theory

I have been a fan of Digimon since I was a kid. I love the first season, highly enjoy the third, and even the second, for all its flaws, has its charms. I had the opportunity to watch all three of these seasons recently, alongside my nephew, and I could not help but notice a few things.

In particular, I noticed some clear indicators about a certain menacing final villain – the “Big Bad,” if you will – sprinkled throughout the first two seasons.

Or perhaps I should say, they would have been the true and final villain, the ultimate Big Bad, of the original Digimon series, the Adventure saga. The third season, Tamers, departed wildly from what they were planning, and they clearly were planning something. They laid some pretty solid groundwork over the course of two seasons, and just never got to finish building on it. All of their work is directly tied to the Big Bad, the one behind many of the other villains we see, a being so powerful and dangerous that they took two full seasons of other, lesser threats just to indicate his (or her) existence.

I could not help but file a bunch of these hints away, and I believe I have a pretty good idea of what they would have done, and who the Big Bad would have been.

Starting From the Beginning

First, a quick review.

The first season of Digimon had the Digidestined getting swept off to the Digital World, where they found both friends and a multitude of enemies. Both the Digital World and the Real World were in crisis, and most of that centered around the activities of dangerous, villainous Digimon, but there was something much bigger happening: the boundaries between the two worlds was blurring, with Digimon appearing and causing catastrophe all over the Real World. But the Digidestined defeated all the villains, and the Digital World was both destroyed and reborn again, the barriers coming back firmly into place.

The second season saw an expansion in the ranks of the Digidestined as they traveled back and forth between the two worlds freely. New villains arose, as well, yet they were mostly connected, like puppet strings or dominoes, to a single, previous villain who made his return just in time for the finale. Once again, both worlds were devastated, and restored, and this time the story ended with the two worlds interacting freely, instead of being separated once again. Still, the blurring between worlds was a significant problem, and they added in new worlds as well, such as the one that grants wishes and, more infamously, the Dark Ocean.

The ending of these two seasons obviously rushed to tie up the story, but there were plenty of dangling threads that would have been tied up in what would have been a third season.

How Connected Are the Seasons?

The fact that the first two seasons were connected, as part of a much larger story, is well-established by the characters of Azulongmon and Gennai.

Azulongmon is a mega-ultimate level digimon, one of four ancient protectors of the Digital World. This concept was recycled in Tamers with the four Sovereign Digimon, but we only got to see Azulongmon in the Adventure seasons. The exposition he provides links the events of the second season with the first, especially by way of mentioning how, “after a long battle,” each of the four were sealed away by the Dark Masters, who were the second-to-last villains of the first season.

Gennai is… well, he has a human appearance, but he’s certainly not human. He and his comrades are disciples of a force of light, one which briefly communicates with the Digidestined via the conduit of Kari, who bears the Crest of Light. In that sequence, we see that he and his brethren helped to create the digimon and sync them with the energies of the Digidestined, after such had been chosen, as well as the crests which proved pivotal to helping them Digivolve. Then Piedmon, chief of the Dark Masters, attacked them and cursed Gennai, when the man stood in his way and got the eggs, crests, and Digivices out of harm’s way.

Afterward, Gennai appears frequently to guide, protect, and aid the Digidestined. He and his brethren are even able to impart a bit of power from Azulongmon, their ally, to the digimon in the second season, to help them digivolve at critical moments.

So, Azulongmon, Gennai, and some sentient force of light are all clearly working together, an alliance of various creatures forming a faction aligned with the light, whose activities span both seasons as well as events set before the story begins, with the chosen Digidestined and their digimon partners standing at the very heart of their efforts. But what are they all allies against?

Following the Puppet Strings

Azulongmon and Gennai’s brethren demonstrate an ability to enhance a digimon’s ability to digivolve, and this is actually what they do in partnering humans and digimon together. The same ability to digivolve is suppressed by the Control Spires, which Azulongmon explicitly states were created in order to suppress him and his comrades.

The Control Spires were constructed by Ken, when he was corrupted as the Digimon Emperor. Yet, despite building them, he knows next to nothing about them. It turns out, they weren’t even his idea to begin with. He was under the influence of a Dark Spore, which Oikawa planted in him whilst, in turn, under the influence of the spirit of Myotismon. So Myotismon used Oikawa who used Ken to build the Control Spires… but where did they come from?

The answer may be indicated the first time Kari is swept up out of the Real World and onto the shores of the Dark Ocean. There, she meets some wretched, desperate, vile creatures who want her to be their queen, and use her power to lead them against their king, the King of the Dark Ocean. We barely catch a glimpse of that figure, rising from the depths after she escapes, but that only happens after they discover and destroy a Control Spire.

It’s quite a surprise, finding one there. But, then again, Ken only became the Emperor after he, too, had been taken to the Dark Ocean, and his Digivice, a holy talisman of empowerment within the Digital World, had been bathed in its waters, corrupted into a Dark Digivice which did the opposite: it suppressed the digimons’ ability to digivolve. That power was then relayed out through the Control Spires, which he built.

That is both a circular and a straight line between the Dark Ocean, and its king, and the Control Spires which suppress the power of Azulongmon and all other digimon.

Connections Between the Villains

The power of the Control Spires and the Dark Digivice are tied straight to the Dark Ocean, but they only came to be through the machinations of Myotismon. Interestingly, he becomes an entity of darkness itself, feeding on people’s misery and negativity. He also states, “It is my destiny to plunge this world (meaning the Real World) into darkness and become king of the Digital World.” That phrasing always puzzled me. How would destroying the human world make him king of the digital one? But it is perfectly explained if the darkness he referred to was that of the Dark Ocean, and rule over the Digital World was some sort of promised reward.

Yet, the Control Spires most directly suppress Azulongmon and his comrades, who were sealed away by the Dark Masters. The Dark Masters didn’t seem especially “dark” to me, for the most part, but they certainly had dominion over the Digital World. That is, first they defeated the four guardian digimon, then they tried to prevent the Digidestined from coming, then they waited until the Digidestined had come and gone (in pursuit of Myotismon), and then they reformed the Digital World into Spiral Mountain, and then, only then, did they challenge the Digidestined… and lost.

So, is there a connection between the Dark Masters and Myotismon?

Well, they both interfered with the Digidestined, trying to corrupt or kill them and their digimon even before they came to the Digital World. Myotismon was the more successful on that score, corrupting Ken, enslaving Gatomon, and trying to kill Kari. He also, through his servant Demidevimon, tried and somewhat succeeded in corrupting each of the Digidestined in turn, suppressing their respective virtues and stifling their strength.

There is one other being who tried to stop the Digidestined when they were still relatively weak: the first major villain, Devimon. He used the power of the Black Gears, as well as his own Touch of Evil, to take control of benevolent digimon all across File Island, trying to destroy them. Much like the Digimon Emperor later used black rings to enslave digimon to do his will.

Devimon appeared only one other time in the series, after his initial defeat. Ken, as the Emperor, found him in the depths of the Dark Whirlpool. This is described as “the source of all evil in the Digital World.” Is it merely a coincidence that both of them are found in the middle of the ocean? Perhaps it is, in fact, a place where the Digital World and the Dark Ocean are connected to each other?

And speaking of second appearances, we see a servant of Piedmon, Ladydevimon, in the second season as well, this time amongst the Daemon Corps. Daemon is leading them to try and obtain the Dark Spore from Ken, on behalf of the “the forces of darkness.” They couldn’t even destroy Daemon, merely exile him to the Dark Ocean, whose king he obviously knows of, and counts as being extremely powerful.

So there are connections running between Daemon, Devimon, Myotismon, and the Dark Masters. They all seek power, seek and become darkness, and try to kill, corrupt, or otherwise stop the Digidestined at various stages, as early as possible. They have similar goals, similar abilities, and similar allegiances.

Even Apocalymon, whose advent is only made possible by the destruction of the Dark Masters because they remade the Digital World. He can purportedly use all the powers of all the evil digimon that the Digidestined defeated up until that point, yet he only uses a few of them. And all of the digimon he mimics are part of this recurring theme of serving the darkness.

One could easily theorize that they are, in fact, all loosely connected with each other. Perhaps they are competing servants of a single, greater power, with Myotismon merely going rogue in due time. Certainly, there is a likely connection between them and the Dark Ocean, as well as its king: the true antagonist of the show.

Who is the King of the Dark Ocean?

Yes, who is he, really? And why does he obviously send his servants not only to wage war against the Real World, and the powers which protect the Digital World, but, most specifically, against the Digidestined, again and again?

There is something there, something that could very well be… personal.

Yet, to have something personal against the Digidestined, he would have to have previous experience with them… and there is only one entity I can think of which fits that description.

Gennai tells of a being (a digimon or whatever) that came to the Digital World from beyond its boundaries. This enemy was the very reason the first set of Digidestined were called, long before Tai and the others from the first season. They were called to fight alongside digimon partners, who were empowered by their connection to a human, and they won. But it was quite a long, terrible conflict.

Much like the one Azulongmon refers to having endured before the Dark Masters pounced on him and his friends, sealing them away one by one, they being wearied from the battle, and then actively suppressed by the servants of darkness, via the Control Spires. I almost wonder if the four guardian digimon were the original partners of the original Digidestined, or if they were simply part of the overall struggle.

Either way, all it would take for this ancient enemy to become the nefarious, much-feared King of the Dark Ocean is simply for him to survive. It would certainly explain why he hates the Digidestined, having been defeated by them, or their predecessors, once before. Maybe he, like Daemon, was too powerful to be destroyed, so they exiled him instead, back beyond the barrier between worlds he had crossed once before.

He certainly did come from beyond it the first time. And he certainly had tremendous power. So much, in fact, that his mere presence warped reality, even time and space, and blurred the barriers between worlds.

Which is exactly the real problem that the Digidestined were always facing: the blurring of worlds with one another.

Coincidence?

In Summary

The same, underlying problem persists from the start to the finish: blurring barriers between worlds.

The Digidestined were called to fix this problem, but that only continues to make sense if there is a specific being behind it, one whom they can face and defeat. And that seems to be how it began in the first place.

The original Digidestined were called to fight one powerful digimon in particular. Why should it really be any different now, with the latest crop of them?

The various enemies they face are continually targeting them, trying to kill or corrupt them or simply prevent their coming at all, almost like the enemy knows the true danger they represent, which would be easily explained with previous, firsthand experience.

Many of their enemies are connected to each other, to the powers of darkness, and to the Dark Ocean, whose king is purported to be extremely powerful, and is certainly gigantic.

And how much sense does it make for an alliance of the light, whose activities span both seasons and beyond, to be allied against a king of darkness, whose activities also would span both seasons and beyond?

Thus, I humbly submit that the would-have-been Big Bad is, in true storytelling fashion, the original villain of ages past, returned again as the King of the Dark Ocean.

Thoughts? 🙂

Posted in Anime and Cartoons, Discussion, My Fan Theories | Tagged | Leave a comment

5 Anime I Want to Watch

…there are probably a couple hundred of these.

Meaning, anime on my extended To Watch list. Said list is compiled of anime which I’ve not only heard of, but which have passed my one-episode rule: I watched it, liked it enough to maybe watch later, just not right then. I am still interested in them, but I just haven’t gotten around to them as of yet. So, if I listed all of them… yeah, we’d be here awhile. 😉

Fortunately, in the interest of picking only five of them, I had to consider a little.

I obviously can’t judge what I haven’t seen anywhere like I can judge what I have seen. But I know what I’ve heard, and I can still recall some impressions from my one-episode experience. There are some titles which I might get around to eventually, and others which intrigued me more. Some are older, some are newer. But most of all, I still wanted a bit of variety in my picks.

I mean, with a couple hundred possibilities, it would be way too easy to pick five anime that were all practically the same, ya know? I wanted to have a little more fun with this! 😀

So, as we end this Anime Pick 5 Challenge with a look to the future, I present my five picks for anime I want to see! 🙂

1) Black Jack

If I understand correctly, this is basically the anime version of a medical drama. Meaning it has some anime gimmicks, like a lead character with a tragic past that explains his distinguished face and why, having been raised by a doctor, he knows so much of medicine. And, of course, the nurse who looks like a kid until she temporarily transforms into an adult… and she’s his wife. But it also has the protagonist dealing with rare and dangerous medical conditions in order to save lives, which makes it stand apart from the crowd. I’m not sure I’ve heard of any other like it, and I very much enjoyed the first episode I saw, so… yep, this one is definitely higher on my list! 🙂

2) Dororo

A newer title, one that has the feel of a traditional Japanese epic come to life. It’s about a young man whose body parts were taken by demons even before he was born, as part of a deal made by his power-seeking father. When he’s grown, he goes about slaying the demons to reclaim what is his, much to his father’s outrage. I haven’t had the time to watch this one yet, but I’ll probably get to it sooner rather than later, I hope! 🙂

3) Great Teacher Onizuka

A former delinquent becomes a high school teacher, and he is truly dedicated to helping his students. The first episode illustrated that he will definitely not be your typical teacher, not ever, certainly not when dealing with troublemakers. You give him trouble, and he will give you Hell. If his students are suffering because of someone’s idiocy, he will punch straight through that crap. It was comical and endearing and fascinating to watch. I really do need to get around to watching this one. And I particularly liked the contrast, in the pilot episode, between Onizuka’s sincere concern and another new teacher’s lecherous motives. As much as Onizuka is a man of passion, he is also a man of honor and compassion, albeit of an unorthodox nature. Yeah, I really need to get to this one soon. 🙂

4) Kino’s Journey

There’s an older and a newer version of this show, I believe, and both live up to the title. The main character is a wanderer named Kino. He (at least I think Kino is a guy) goes from place to place, stays in each place for about three days, and moves on. He’s learning about the entire world, and he has many experiences, with many lessons. I think the only reason I haven’t watched it yet is because of how episodic it must be, so it got knocked lower on my list of priorities. One thing I absolutely must find out, though, sometime, is why his bike apparently talks, and nobody finds this unusual. If nothing else, I very much enjoyed the first episode of each series. Must definitely get around to this one in due time. 🙂

5) School Rumble

Another school-based comedy? Yes. But unlike the tale of a teacher, this one is a tale of true love… I think. It features a delinquent doing everything in his power to attract the girl he is in love with, who is, in turn, doing her best to attract the attention of another boy, who is every bit as oblivious of her as she is of the delinquent. The first episode had me laughing so hard, and I think we have established by now that I am way ok with anime that make you laugh! 🙂

And that’s it! My five picks, out of a much larger pool of potential picks. How about you? Any anime out there you’re especially interested in seeing?

And that’s the end of the 30-Day Anime Pick 5 Challenge! Done just in time to celebrate five years of blogging, and next week, the long-awaited, much-promised, finally-delivered countdown of my favorite anime! 😀

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Anime Review: Yu-Yu Hakusho

It begins with the protagonist dying. And it’s not a reborn-isekai story.

Yu-Yu Hakusho is a shounen anime from my younger days. It starts out with the drama surrounding the death and resurrection of the lead protagonist, Yusuke Urameshi, but then it quickly goes the way of a fighting-based anime as Yusuke and his friends, both humans and demons, face down dangerous menaces to the mortal world, also both human and demon. The first few smaller arcs introduce the major characters, then there’s a long, exciting, tournament-based arc, then there’s the arc with all the crazy psychics trying to destroy the world, and, finally, an arc in the demon world that culminates in another tournament.

That might be a bit oversimplified, but that’s basically it.

Though the show, in all honesty, loses quite a bit of steam by the end, it’s still pretty entertaining. The characters are lovable, the villains are either tragic or detestable, the action is epic, the music is grand, it’s plenty funny… yeah, it’s a classic. 🙂

Not a masterpiece, perhaps, but a classic. 😉

Yusuke begins the story as a delinquent, and a delinquent he remains for most of the story. He’s so mean-spirited that when he gives his life saving a little boy from being run over (or so he quite reasonably thinks at the time), it actually surprises the powers that be of the afterlife, who arrange for him to come back to life within a few episodes. In exchange, he becomes a “spirit detective,” hunting down criminal demons and protecting innocent lives.

Alongside Yusuke are some colorful allies: Kuwabara, also a delinquent, who sees himself as Yusuke’s rival, and a man of impeccable honor; Kurama, a fox-demon with plant-based powers and a precise, cunning ruthlessness that makes even other demons feel their blood run cold; Hiei, a fleet-footed fire demon with a magical third eye, absolutely the arrogant bad boy of the group, and a savage, brutal enemy; Botan, a cute, bubbly, ditzy reaper of souls who is mostly there for moral support; Kayko, paragon of virtue, Yusuke’s significant other, the only one who can keep him in check through sheer, overwhelming attitude and a strong slap; Genkai, wise, acerbic, and immensely good at curbing Yusuke’s attitude as his teacher and mentor.

The boys of the group, no great surprise, take the lead in all things combative. Even as a teenage boy, I must admit that it was a little disappointing to see most, if not all, of the girls (Botan, Kayko, and others) relegated to little more than cheerleaders in distress, as they are quite engaging and enjoyable in their own ways. Seriously, it’s easy to love these girls, and sad to see them rather under-utilized as characters in their own right. Still, it’s also easy to love the guys, and it’s great to see them step up and shine on the battlefield. They tend to do that individually, in one-on-one matches, but an undeniable bond of mutual respect and loyalty eventually forms. It may be a boys club, but it’s an admirable, honorable one, at least.

Speaking of honor, and the ties that bind, that is a recurring theme throughout the show. The good guys have it, and show it, and the bad guys don’t. There are a handful of opponents they face who are also honorable, and while they don’t take it easy on each other, they do manage to avoid killing each other.

On the subject of the fights, there’s a bit of variety to be found here. Some, especially those featuring Kurama, are battles of wit and cunning. Others are matches of overwhelming power. Still others dig steeply into emotional depths more than anything else. Some do all of the above and more. Very few of them are easy, but most of them are actually used to develop the characters bit by bit, in the fire of battle, where the stakes are high and the soul of the warrior is both refined and revealed.

There’s something to that idea, simple though it may be. It’s one reason why so many fighting-based stories have always been so popular, when there’s more to the fight than just the fighting. That is what Yu-Yu Hakusho plays to the most, and it does so effectively for most of its run, just over a hundred episodes.

Give us characters we like and show us why we should like them. A bit oversimplified, but that’s storytelling in a nutshell. 😉

Yu-Yu Hakusho is fun and funny, packed full of fights, and surprisingly tender on occasion. They censored it a bit when it aired on Cartoon Network, so it can be a bit graphic and disturbing at times, but it’s nothing extreme. It’s PG or PG-13 in my book. The first half of it is, in my opinion, more exciting, while the second half tries to be more poignant. And it’s fairly geared towards the boys, more than the girls, though they could still have let the girls kick some butt, too. All in all, it’s a pretty good show.

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Plus.

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