Not so fast…
Just when it seemed like Winter 2019 had locked into a predictable pattern, we have our first change at the top in a month (though the same two series that have occupied the top slots all season remain entrenched). You can’t fight the power of Reigen, I guess – not even with a spider woman. This was the closest vote of the season, and as for third place, that series is cementing its hold on the spot.
Passerby steps into the Dark Horse slot this week and asks the rhetorical question: if the same show is featured twice, is it still a dark horse? And the “Ask the Writers” segment (featuring Stars’ debut) has our team thinking about their favorite characters in a different light, with surprising results.
Here are this week’s results:
Weekly Staff Poll
Passerby’s Dark Horse
- Passerby’s Dark Horse Series: Kemerikusa
- Let’s be frank: these days there’s a lot of anime about a normal guys transported to some fantasy world. They’ve spawned something like a genre, called ‘isekai’. A lot of it is trash. Of course, by Sturgeon’s law, most of anything is trash, but the failures of the isekai genre are not just bad, they’re tragically bad, taking any potential they may have had and squandering it all on what is essentially third-rate fan-fiction. It’s a simple affair to just tell the tale of a heroic everyman protagonist to fulfil a wish-fulfilment power fantasy, like many of these anime devolve into. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with wish-fulfilment power fantasies, but they’re a dime a dozen and we’re at saturation. What should rightfully be the crux of isekai, what should rightfully set it apart, is the world. Instead, though, too many isekai anime still fall back on well-worn high fantasy tropes. Why bother transporting some average Joe to a different world if not for the contrast between human characters and an alien setting? Enter Kemurikusa, which is nominally an isekai anime but is firmly a world-mystery. The world-mystery is a tricky genre (which will have to be a topic for another day, but it’s to do with mystery being the main engagement of the story making it tempting to have all Act II and no Act I) and is usually worth looking into when executed with any level of competence. Now, Kemurikusa is right now transitioning from the ‘asking questions’ stage of the story to the ‘answering questions’ stage and that’s where a lot of mysteries bomb, and Kemurikusa may yet do so too. The journey it took to get to this point, though, is already plenty interesting, though. I also know that there will be those who will be turned-off by Kemurikusa‘s mediocre CGI and I feel ya, but don’t let that cause you to dismiss it out of hand. We could even argue that the CGI works in that Houseki no Kuni, in that we’re in a bizarre and foreign world and anything that makes you uncomfortable is part of the experience. And that experience, I would say, is what isekai should aspire to more often.)
Ask The Writers
If/when you have a child, what anime character would you like them to see as a role model?
- Enzo: Of course I could come up with many characters that fit the bill here, but the one that leaps out more than any is the one who’s provided my gravatar almost since the series which featured him aired. That would of course be Kitamura Kou from Cross Game. Yes, strictly as a fictional character Kou is among my all-time favorites (and for good reason). But specifically as a role model he’s especially on-point, because his is a heroism that’s grounded in reality. Kou is strong, always acts with integrity, and is burdened neither with false modestly or excessive vanity. He knows he’s amazingly talented but never takes his talent for granted or uses it as a cudgel to assert his supposed superiority over anyone else. Never too proud to laugh at himself, never forgetting to love those he cherishes (even in his memory) and never giving up on anyone – that’s Kitamura Kou. He’s Adachi Mitsuru’s (And Miyu Irino’s) greatest creation and my answer to this question.
- Choya: If my future kids ever really got into the Gundam series, I would hope that they would look up to Loran Cehack from Turn A Gundam. I’m going with Loran becase he’s a character who is confident in his identity, uses his ultra-powered Gundam to help create a peaceful union between two conflicting forces, and considers the responsibilities of his actions before making decisions. He is also down-to-earth yet never budges on his personal ideals for making the world a better place for everyone to live in. I might not want my son/daughter to 100% replicate some of the rowdier anime heroes, but I feel that Loran is a protagonist that I would hope my future kids would find inspiring.
- Zaiden: Now, whether The Last Airbender can be considered anime or not (editor’s note: it can’t) is a contentious subject I don’t want to touch. But when I first read the question, Uncle Iroh immediately sprung to mind. Iroh earnestly watches out for Zuko, filled with belief towards his troubled nephew, giving him guidance throughout the series that allows Zuko to eventually overcome his demons and see the light. That required incredible patience. Iroh is also wise, funny and kindhearted. And despite being an incredibly powerful firebender in his own right, Iroh never lashes out at people who treat him badly for no good reason. He laughs along and even convinces them to sit down and drink a cup of tea while talking about life. To me, that’s true humility and an admirable way of going about life. Not to say he’s purely good, considering the countless atrocities he committed as a military general. But he’s move on from those times and learned to accept his past failures while changing for the better, encouraging those around him to be the best they can be as well. These qualities make Iroh a fine role model, and if my future kids are feeling troubled, there would be countless Uncle Iroh proverbs I could pull out for all kinds of situations.
- Stilts-chama: Izuku from Boku no Hero Academia, for being idealistic, thoughtful, driven, and deeply kind … albeit with a caveat for my kids not to make their mother (and father) worry as much as Izuku does with his own. That woman is a saint, seriously.
- Passerby: My idealistic side would want my child to follow the most inspirational role model possible. Does not every parent wish their children to reach for the stars? The ideal role model, then, should be a moral paragon of unimpeachable virtue and limitless accomplishment. In anime, maybe that would be a shounen hero, or a sage supporting character, or anything Miyazaki makes. That’s my idealistic side, though. My pragmatic side, which takes my idealistic side out back and beats it up for lunch money, knows that while it’s fine and good to soar high it’s also dangerous to fly too close to the sun. Therefore I would teach my child to be like Triela from Gunslinger Girl. In the fictional Italy of Gunslinger Girl, orphaned girls are taken in by the government and turned into child soldiers through cybernetics and brainwashing. Triela was one of those girls and she had something of a daughter-father relationship with her handler, Hilshire (well, at least until the story went a different direction and things got weird). Now, Triela was a perfectly upstanding young lady, who went through many trials but still maintained a sunny disposition and a moral foundation. Most importantly, though, her foster father was an awkward Prussian man but Triela didn’t resent him for it. This is the lesson I really need my kids to internalise; I expect to be a shoddy father. Look, your dad may not be much of a dad. But love him anyway, okay?
- Stars: While it’s important for little boys to be engaged, I’d love for my son or daughter to learn about the values of friendship, manliness, and self-sacrifice that Kamina from Gurren Lagann espouses. I’m also banking them on them watching the entire anime, so I’ll get to watch it again, too. And as for a female role model, the evolution of Chihiro from a self-centered girl to a mature young adult is touching and organic. I guess what I want more than anything is not only a good role model, but a character that my future kids can relate to, or look at and say, “I want to be like him/her when I grow up.”