Favourite Anime of 2013


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It’s always a difficult task coming up with a simple list of my favourite anime that aired throughout the year, the list always seems to extend over several pages, only to be pruned and cut down to a simple selection of the series and films I truly enjoyed watching. This year I have decided not to put the anime in any specific order, or even give them a number as I feel numbering, and ordering the anime to be rather arbitrary. Apart from one specific series the anime in this list have all been equally enjoyable for a variety of different reasons. Interestingly most of the really popular series, ones that acquired lives of their own are missing from this list, largely because I found them almost universally boring, or didn’t particularly interest me in one way of another. But before the list proper a few special mentions, series that I certainly enjoyed, but have not made it onto the final list for a number of reasons. Read more of this post

Outbreak Company – Cultural Imperialism and Development


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In my last post about Outbreak Company I explored the dissemination of mass culture as a form of soft power, a way of maintaining political, and cultural power within a globalised and changing world. Outbreak Company presents us with an example of Japan using its cultural wealth to create political, social, and economic links with another country. Shinichi acts as a ‘Moe Missionary’ so that Japans government can use this element of popular culture to their own advantage and help cement important relations with a country that no one else currently knows about. There are clear similarities here in the way western anime fans have come into contact with Japan – indeed, many bloggers and fans may only know about Japan through their limited knowledge gleaned from watching anime, reading manga, or playing games. There is much more to Japan than the national cool of anime culture, and most foreigners will never penetrate the barriers of language – we just have look at how poorly anime comedies, and those shows that focus on specific cultural and social aspects of Japanese life can be treated – and culture well enough to see Japan as the average Japanese sees it. Read more of this post

Kyoukai no Kanata 12 – Shadows and Light


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As I have said on numerous occasions, the relationship between Mirai and Akihito has been at the very centre of this series, they are the odd ones out in society, both cursing their existences, and living with the complicated nature of who they are. The various plots and political intrigue that reared its head from time to time swirled around these two characters like thick fog, clinging to their clothes and never letting them go. That Akihito seemed to be harbouring the Youmu known as Kyoukai no Kanata in his body, a shade so powerful it is said to be capable of destroying the world emphasises how unsure his existence was. What is interesting however is how little we as the audience ever find out about the politics between Miroku – likely acting as a proxy for the Spirit Hunter’s Association – and the Nase clan. In many respects it seems find to leave it as a case of political intrigue, coupled with plans to use the power of Kyoukai no Kanata, along with numerous other Youmu to produce something dramatic and world changing. Read more of this post

Kyoukai no Kanata 11 – A Place Between Worlds


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The relationship between Mirai and Akihito has been a complex one, with both characters coming from complicated backgrounds and having to deal with their own issues throughout the series. This episode acted as a continuation of the progression in their relationship, and arguably served as a defining moment in how they view each other, and themselves. From the very beginning of this series Mirai, and Akihito have had their fair share of problems stemming from their backgrounds and lineage. The complex issues of pollution within (traditional) Japanese belief means that both characters are arguably polluted, with backgrounds that single them out as strangers, outcasts that neither fit in the world of humans or the world of dreams and shadows. Read more of this post

Kyoukai no Kanata 10 – Truth and Lies (Slight Return)


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Last weeks episode helped to clarify the idea that the binary division of Youmu as bad and Spirit Hunters as good is rather problematic and glosses over the intricacies of the relationship between these two groups. We now have a better grasp of the current state of things within the series universe, while also being introduced to the political intrigue that has been one of the more subtle parts of this anime so far. What may have at first appeared to be a chance encounter between two very complicated individuals has become a clash of clans vying for power, groups that are willing to use people as pawns in order to achieve their goals. The various figures, and Youmu that have appeared in the series have all become a part of a complex web of intrigue and politics, with Mirai and Akihito firmly at the center of the Nase Clan and Spirit Hunter Associations plans. Read more of this post

Kyoukai no Kanata 09 – Truth and Lies


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As discussed in last weeks post, there has been an arbitrary line placed between Youmu and Spirit Hunters, one that creates the binary division of Youmu = Bad, and Spirit Hunters = Good. However, over the last couple of episodes it has become increasingly clear that such a division does not exist, and that in many cases the roles appear to be switched. Many Youmu such as Ayaka and Ai lead relatively normal lives despite the immense power that they posses (in the case of Ayaka), and do not pose a threat to humans. They good friends with the main characters and even run their own business trading Youmu fragments. They are far from this image of a deadly force, or a mass of dangerous, bloodthirsty creatures that we as the viewers assume them to be. Furthermore, the presence of Yakimon (Sweet Potato) as Mitsuki’s familiar and pet presents us with another, more gentle side to Youmu, and one that is very different from the Hollow Shade in previous episodes. Rather it is humans, and particularly Fujima Miroku – and arguably by extension the Spirit Hunters Association – that come across as the more aggressive and dangerous, more so than most Youmu.

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Kyoukai no Kanata 08 – Into the Gloom


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Throughout Kyoukai no Kanata there has been an arguably arbitrary line forced between Youmu and Spirit Hunters. Spirit Hunters have been portrayed as people who are attempting to rid the world of potentially dangerous shades and creatures that can bring great misfortune to human beings. We know that it is impossible to completely eradicate Youmu as they are often the accumulations of humanities negative energy, or in some cases appear to be the particularly powerful natural spirits. So, the Spirit Hunters act like shepherds on the one hand, herding these potentially dangerous spirits and preventing them from bringing harm to others, while on the other they are hunters, using their powers and abilities to thin out the herd as it were. While characters have debated the merits of this activity, and characters like Izumi Nase have their own opinions on the job of a Spirit Hunter, they are largely portrayed as warriors tasked with helping humanity. Youmu are therefore a scourge, a deadly plague, a faceless mass, or terrifying creatures that threaten all those that come near. Read more of this post

Kyoukai no Kanata 07 – Memories and shadows


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Last weeks Kyoukai no Kanata served as a brilliant diversion from the main narrative of the series, one that explores ideas of cursed existences and the idea of blood as a form of pollution. It was very successful at what it did as well, providing us with another glimpse at the business of hunting and destroying spirits, albeit one that involved classic training montages, a full musical number, and the main characters apparently forgetting that they were supposed to destroy the Youmu, not entertain it. As a break from the darker themes of the series it was both entertaining, hilarious, and also rather interesting as it presents us with a different vision of Youmu and their place next to humans. Up until that point all the Youmu that this series has introduced have been particularly vicious looking creatures with murderous auras, and in the case of the Hollow Shade, a dangerous reputation for destroying Spirit Hunters that try to confront it. What last weeks episode suggests is that Youmu are far from being the evil, destructive creatures that until recently we may have assumed them to be. Instead they are merely spirits, many may be potentially dangerous, but then so are humans, and the reality of it is that many of them do not threaten the safety of humans of Spirit Hunters, providing they are left alone to get on with their own devices. Read more of this post

Kyoukai no Kanata – Youmu 1, Idols 0


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While previous weeks of Kyoukai no Kanata have had a decidedly serious, often very dark tone, with the central characters fighting for their lives in one form or another, this weeks took a different approach to Youmu and Youmu hunting. Initially Youmu hunting was introduced as a serious matter, one where Spirit Hunters would go out and hunt down and destroy potentially dangerous spirits – at least we are told they are dangerous, and the threat they pose to human’s remains to be seen. Mirai has to hunt to survive, her powers are immense, but for a variety of reasons, many we have yet to fully comprehend she has not spent much of her time hunting Youmu, and is therefore immensely poor. In fact, one of the main comedic gags used throughout the series so far has been Mirai’s poverty, and her immense pride that makes her try to ignore others charity, even when she knows would allow her to survive. Read more of this post

Outbreak Company and the dissemination of mass culture


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The premise of Outbreak Company seems a little odd at first – developing good relations with another nation (in this case one in a fantasy world) through the use of popular culture. However, once we look a little closer at this series whilst also exploring real world examples we can see that such a premise has been used before on multiple occasions, and is arguably central to the Japanese governments attempt to enhance its standing in today’s globalised world. Indeed, culture – be it political, religious, or social – has always been one way for a country to strengthen its position with its neighbours, or perhaps in a foreign country. If we look at the process of imperialism throughout the 17th-20th centuries we can see how elements of the conquered nations culture were supplanted by the conqueror. Culture can be used to rebrand a countries image, change how it is perceived in the world, and recreate a powerbase that was once lost. Read more of this post