Isekai Shokudou Is A Perfect(ly Okay) Anime

Isekai Shokudou or Restaurant to Another World is exactly as it sounds and little more. Its title is literal, succinct, and as will be repeated: I think that’s fine. Doubtlessly you don’t need a plot summary as there really isn’t much to delve into. It portrays characters from a fantasy world finding a magical door to a modern Western restaurant, Nekoya, in Japan. There’s a lot of questions that could be raised when watching the show or reflecting on it. Several can be asked about the magical door itself. There’s also brief glimpses at the evolution of technology and agriculture as a result of customers emulating modern food and tech. What about the discrimination towards demons and half-elves? The wage gap? While fantasy currency is useless in the modern world, what about its purity and cost as a metal? I could go on and on, but the fact of the matter is that the show didn’t really explore these topics. 

Audience reception was generally positive, but Isekai Shokudou aired during the Summer 2017 season. For reference, Shokugeki no Souma was airing its third season in Fall 2017. As a result, I think there were some misconceptions about the show. Cooking anime don’t seem to be particularly prolific and so Shokugeki no Souma was the only point of reference for a lot of people. I suspect the anime community expected a bit more focus on action and fantasy in the vein of shounen while the show ended up being the exact opposite. Critique followed the train of thought that the show had no progression, main story, or plot as nothing happened. After reading the previous list of topics they could’ve written about in-depth, you might be inclined to agree that a larger overview of topics related to cooking should’ve been explored. Well, I actually disagree.

My argument here isn’t that Isekai Shokudou is an objectively great anime. I understand why it has a 7.35 on MAL and I think that’s a fair score. In fact, this article is barely an argument. I’m writing this to affirm why I liked the show and to explore the main theme because there was one integrated into every episode. It was never about large complicated ideas. Instead, it was about appreciating the small things. In this case: food and food culture. 

From the beginning of the show, it’s stated that Nekoya is not a traditional Japanese restaurant. While it does have Japanese cuisine to suit the local palate, it’s a so-called Western restaurant. In this case, they define Western not just as food from Europe and the Americas as is often associated. Instead, Western is closer to a term for foreign, defined as food not having originated in Japan. This alone is integral to the entirety of the series. By showing culturally diverse food, it holds up and embraces its interconnected nature. We shouldn’t be stringent in what we accept or negative towards foreign food as so much of what we eat doesn’t originate natively. Sometimes this is the case in recipes, but it’s also true when we look at crops themselves and international trade routes.

When it comes to food, no one is excluded. Elves represent this most overtly with their aversion to eating meat and dishes created with animal products: veganism. Even then, there’s still options available to them and they’re quite good. The perspective is not that veganism is exclusively a restriction either- it’s a push to further explore new tastes. SORTEDfood is a great channel that maintains the comedic nature of a bunch of friends while talking, teaching, and messing about with food. In the past, they’ve brought to attention and raised good points about traceability, food alternatives, and veganism to name a few. You don’t need to be particularly interested in cooking to have a laugh.

In a way, there’s also a subtle allusion to the unification that food can provide. Nekoya is often filled with multiple inhabitants from the other world, all varying species. Despite any barriers that may exist, that all fades away when they enter the restaurant’s door. No one wishes to physically fight in earnest fearing they’ll be kicked out. As such, it’s almost like they’re on sacred ground. The only argument that transpires there is about which dish is supreme. It’s a common occurrence, but it’s always friendly banter with the resolution that everyone has their own preference. Those arguments also serve to broaden the horizons of other customers, urging them to try other dishes.


The very lighting of the restaurant, or at least the warm colors used in its depiction, reinforce the homely nature of the environment. I’m sure everyone is aware of color psychology so we can sail past that. Interestingly though, when I looked to see if there were any articles written about lighting in restaurants specifically, there was one worth mentioning. Its title is Fast Food Restaurant Lighting and Music can Reduce Calorie Intake and Increase Satisfaction (Wansink & van Ittersum, 2012). Before I discuss it, I do feel that the title is irritatingly misleading. To me, it presents itself as some miraculous way to reduce calories while maintaining portion size and food consumption. That’s not the study at all. It merely observed the effect of lighting and music and its relation to how much people ate. Dim lighting and soft music caused people to eat slower and often less than the other extreme of loud music and bright lights which accelerated consumption (p. 231). Very generally, this (dim lighting and soft music) led to greater satisfaction with the food. There is other speculation about their data, but honestly it’s fairly flimsy and so I opt to forgo writing about it.

Usually, I’d apply a study’s conclusion to the anime I’m discussing- that’s the point of bringing it up after all. In this case though, I want to make a few points: 

  • The study was about fast food restaurants. That means it doesn’t directly apply to proper restaurants. It’s difficult and often faulty to generalize results that occur outside of a lab setting due to the amount of factors out of the researchers’ controls.
  • The study’s sample size consisted of 62 people. While that is decent and the results it concluded are backed up by significant enough data (large enough to not be a result of random chance), it remains a singular study. Despite this phrase being frowned upon since it’s self-evident within the science community, I say it anyway: “further research must be done.”
  • To you as a reader, while it may be difficult due to a variety of reasons, try and read a citation’s original text. At the least, skim it. While a writer may propose something, even with citations, don’t treat it as fact. Not all research is done well and you need to learn when to disagree with experts’ methodology or conclusions about their data.

All that aside, there are still other factors beyond the lighting which theoretically increase the homely feeling of the diner. For one, it’s the proximity of the dining room to the kitchen. While you’re seated at your table, you can hear the chef preparing your food. It’s one step away from watching your parents cook as you did as a child. You’re doing nothing physically, but you’re anticipating the meal and thinking about it in your head. You can smell the delicious aroma wafting from the back that causes you to salivate. The placement of the furniture and lack of separators between tables aids this. In an open room, you’re not only smelling what’s being cooked currently- you register all the sensory information from others’ food. You’re able to see their reaction, one of pure bliss, and you too come to expect that. Those other people aren’t just customers either. You’re all regulars at this lovely restaurant, nicknames given to each other based on your favorite dish. It’s truly a familial experience.

While it never explored the purity of coins, it did touch on the craftsmanship and advancements of the modern age. Episode 2 featured a treasure hunter and soldier baffled at the availability of free cold water and the presence of ice respectively. Episode 5 featured a half-elf who emulated a fridge with magic while wondering how the restaurant copied her writing perfectly to produce multiple menus. Episode 9 featured a dwarf who marveled at the craftsmanship of a beer mug. This is all a showcase of the little things we take for granted. Settings like the restaurant shown in the anime are personal favorites of mine. Whether they be cafes, tea shops, or bars, they all represent a peaceful place away from the business or action. It’s as if time stops and life allows you room to breathe. When you’re there, all you need to do is enjoy the atmosphere. Places like that transport you to another world. 


“Isekai Shokudou Is A Perfect(ly Okay) Anime” – There’s nothing exceedingly spectacular about it and that’s fine. Not everything needs to be met with raving reviews, heralded as a masterpiece for all to follow. It’s still filled to the brim with little details to appreciate and makes for both a pleasant and relaxing viewing experience. To like it is to recognize the little things that make it good, a successful passing on of the theme. Watch it on Crunchyroll, Funimation, or Amazon if you haven’t already. There has even been an announcement of a Season 2!

A Starlight Shores Analysis: Time & Ambiguity

Header Image from Starlight Shores.

Note that this analysis of Starlight Shores does contain spoilers for the story. As such, it will sparingly show screenshots from the game; however, they will not portray the integral story beats per se. Instead, I’ll be using them to convey what I believe capture some of the themes of the game. Still, if you only want to hear my thoughts without spoilers, this will summarize it:

Starlight Shores is a hidden gem masquerading as a writer’s first full-release. The dialogue is poignant, and the short-novel style fully utilizes the medium while playing into the theme of time.

No review copy was sent to me, nor was there any other incentive for writing this analysis. Starlight Shores was bought with my own money and my connection with the development team is limited to following them on Twitter and tweeting at them sporadically. 

Starlight Shores is available on both Steam and Itch.io

The development team as documented on the Itch.io page and in the game’s credits:

Sam Kerr- Creative Director and Lead Developer

Nanae Lia- Creative Director, CG & Character Artist

Tanuma San- CG & Background Artist

Alcaknight- Lead Composer

BackgroundTK- Outdoor Background Artist

Re.Alice- Logo Designer

A special thanks to Uncle Mugen, CC backgrounds were from his lemmasoft page!

Click Here for their Discord!


I don’t know what I expected from Starlight Shores (SS). I played the demo of Tidal Blossoms (TB) a while back, also written by Sam Kerr of Delphinium Interactive, and from what I can recall it was quite decent. I wouldn’t single it out as anything too spectacular, but I think it’s still important to bring up. The fact that they’re both in the same universe and SS is a sort of prequel to TB aside- from a writing perspective, it’s very interesting because the tones are perceivably different, or at least that’s my feeling.

Tone is something I’ve commented on before and even then I noted that I’m hesitant to do so because it’s such an ephemeral and subjective concept. It’s very easy for tone to control an author’s writing rather than it purvey throughout. As such, intended tones often come off heavy-handed and almost amateur in their application. Its role in Starlight Shores though is dare I say excellent. But before that, what is Starlight Shores? 

To quote the the short blurb on the game’s page:

“Starlight Shores is an island-themed romance game where you’ll visit the town of Seaside with your friends. Party under the stars, play games together, and remember that your choices matter!”

It’s very straight-forward about being a romance game which is quite ironic in retrospect when we view the dynamic of Theo, Lena, and Will who is our main character. To start, while Will is the MC, he is by no means a blank slate to be puppeteered around completely by the player. His history is extremely relevant to the story as Theo was his close friend and their parting left a sense of longing and regret which aided in dividing the two. Being able to reunite after so long, it’s both a blessing and a curse. People change over time and without significant introspection, it’s difficult to consciously notice that change within one’s self, regardless if it was for better or for worse. After so long, will the memories they made remain consistent with who shows up at Seaside? 

That’s a good hook in its own right, but the personality and views of a person aren’t the only things that change with time. Our lives are never static. Conversely, they’re always in development and that brings new stories and new characters, even if we’re sometimes stuck in the past. That’s where Lena comes in, the new best friend of Theo. She’s affectionately referred to as Theo’s replacement best friend, a stand-in for Will, and that has very relevant implications. Top among them is the formation of a perceived romance barrier. Yes, Lena is not just a love interest for the protagonist. She too carries feelings for Theo and draws very significant parallels to Will as is mentioned time and time again. 

The dynamic of the previous two paragraphs is the crux of the story in a nutshell and your choices dictate your answer. All that was only to explain the premise but henceforth I’ll be talking about its themes. The themes which stood out the most to me were these:

Time & Ambiguity

I’ve already discussed time’s role in the synopsis, but I talked about it in a way which denoted inevitable change. I don’t mean to contradict that, you can’t stop time, but critical is what we decided to do within that context. We are not helpless bystanders that watch the world go by. Though our lives are fleeting, all the more reason to seize what we want while we still can. Carpe diem. But what does that really mean? Does that involve reconnecting with and romancing Theo? Does it mean to date Lena? Does it mean to reconcile that your feelings were not romantic but platonic?

If you date Theo, then you’re affirming that while both you and her have made mistakes in the past, you still love each other and vow to be there for one another in the future. That goodbye kiss, whether purposefully memorable or done spuriously, bound you two together in a relationship not to be confined by distance. Lena though? She’ll never end up with Theo who she loves dearly. She missed her chance by waiting too long. Maybe she can accept that, but can you? 

A similar conundrum persists if you date Lena. Perhaps you do contend that you love Theo in a platonic way and so you choose Lena. Well, she still loves Theo. Your choice is then to hook up with Lena for the night or abstain, in the case of the latter not knowing what will come from that choice. You can spur her on, but at this point all you can do is hope the future will prove fruitful for the two. Do you opt for sex for the sake of it, again hoping that a proper relationship will further blossom from that? Only time will tell.

And of course, when you maneuver a path to bring Theo and Lena together, for the most part, you step out of the picture. You’ll be there to support the two, but are you alright leaving Starlight Shores like that? You’re playing a romance game, so the game’s objective in theory is most likely to end up in a relationship. It’s your choice to walk away knowing that your preconceived goal wasn’t met, but perhaps this was the supposed correct choice. Or was an ending without a relationship between the player and someone else a waste of time?

I don’t have an answer, but I do know that there’s no correct choice. I’d posit that the author didn’t have a canonical choice in mind either. You find this string of text at various different endings: “This wasn’t the night that I expected, but I’m glad that I’m here.” Your choices are something you have to live with. You don’t always need to justify your actions and you won’t always know where you’ll end up. There’s nothing wrong with that though. It’s through the passing of time that we ourselves bring meaning to our choices and our lives in full. 

Throughout all of this analysis, there’s been a level of ambiguity present reflective of the VN. Sometimes ambiguity is frowned upon, but usually that critique is levied at a lack of information which prevents readers from formulating any cohesive meaning from a work. That isn’t the case in Starlight Shores. There’s undoubtedly ambiguity, but it’s tactful in its use as the meaning needs to be both ascertained by the player and the characters themselves. Take this for instance:

Besides the fact that it’s a beautiful line, the context of the scene is discussing the past of Theo and Will’s and if they were ever truly in love. The ambiguity here is not just well placed, but it’s accurate. Relationships and emotions in general are ever so complicated and sometimes our minds get a bit boggled trying to make sense of the events around us. It’s easy to second guess and doubt ourselves, especially when we’re in stressful situations and I think it’s fair to say that the isolation that came from moving away from a potential partner and the rigors of college life are significantly stressful. Moreover, the quote plays into the idea of personas and romanticization. We wear a mask to appease different social groups. Individual masks subtly alter our mindset and behaviour, though not too far from the cumulative average. These masks though are not only relevant when outward facing. When we view them all, our emotions must be consistent with them otherwise one of them must change. This conflict of memory and emotion, not knowing which is correct, leads to a downward spiral as one’s self is lost. 

I’d like to bring in an academic article titled My Time, Your Time, or Our Time? Time Perception and its Associations With Interpersonal Goals and Life Outcomes by Yu Niiya (2019). Niiya talks about the concepts of zero-sum and nonzero-sum time. The former is when time is viewed as a limited commodity or resource, usually taken up, taken away, or spent on another in an interpersonal relationship (p. 1440). A nonzero-sum on the other hand is when time is not perceived as property, neither given or taken away. Rather, it’s unowned and exists for everyone’s benefit. It’s argued that people most likely perceive time as zero-sum or nonzero-sum in different situations. The conclusion to take away from that article are the primary results about time perception, interpersonal goals, and life outcomes: In layman’s terms, people who wish to help others are more likely to have a nonzero-sum perception of time since they view the processing of helping to aid in self-growth resulting in no perceivable loss. Overall, there was a correlation between nonzero-sum perception and happiness (pp. 1451-1452).

These conclusions are considerable when we think about the dialogue contained within Starlight Shores. By not looking at time as a commodity, we stand to be happier for it. Thoughts about wasting each other’s time should cease, though that’s definitely easier said than done. However, this does happen at certain points in the game, principally select endings. It fits thematically as that’s the culmination of their life experience and conversations that transpire- learning to live in the moment, uncaring of judgement by others, wholly trusting, and only wishing to be happy with one another.

Parallel Timelines

Before I close out, it wouldn’t do to avoid talking about the “short story” romance style of the game. On a meta level, the player experiences the story through parallel timelines via their different choices. It’s through these different stories that we learn about different facets of individual characters’ lives. The background information is both relevant to understanding them and substantial when accumulated over multiple playthroughs. It’s even on a meta level that we once again return to the core themes of time and ambiguity. We can see that on certain routes, say when Will romances Theo, Lena is willing to grant them reprieve and essentially gives up on her chance with Theo by returning to the house. With this knowledge of character’s actions and mindsets, we can make a more informed decision about what we really want to do.

I think this is of the utmost importance to other developers who also develop their games in the “short story” romance style: consistency, and Starlight Shores does it well. There must be consistency in actions and if not, there must be a very good reason. Undoubtedly characters are dynamic and their words and actions should suit the situation, but they need to remain true to their personality. Otherwise, you run the risk of ruining players’ expectations of how a character will act, negating any sense of knowing that character on a deeper level. Breaking those expectations is no doubt useful, but that’s a tool to be used sparingly.

With that, we’ve reached the end of this analysis. Starlight Shores is a wonderful game that has somehow managed to claw its way into my list of favorite VNs. Admittedly, I didn’t expect that, but credit where credit’s due. The writing was superb, the artwork was beautiful, and the music a joy to listen to. Thank you for reading and I implore you to buy Starlight Shores if you haven’t done so already.

Critique

As I don’t review games as I’ve done in the past, I’ve opted to bundle my critique of the game here. Firstly: the amount of choices. It’s an odd critique to be sure, but I do believe it’s justified. At junctions, I sometimes felt unsure as to which choices were relevant. Couple this with the amount of choices, and there are quite a number of permutations to go through. I don’t feel as if it detracted from the experience, and as has been stated, there is importance even in the finer details of small junctions, but something to note nonetheless. 

I believe this problem of “getting lost” when searching for a new end doesn’t need to be solved by lessening those choices, though practical and aesthetically pleasing ways of doing so are difficult to think of. The most efficient and fitting way I can come up with at the time of writing is implementing coding which denotes that a choice has been picked before. Other mechanics to consider are a hint system or a flow chart that effectively serves as a chapter select after a certain amount of progression has been achieved. These two systems don’t seem very pleasing though and I’d opt for the initial recommendation. For all that, this is the critique and recommendation of one person. Other methods are available if the critique is to be agreed with in the first place. 

Two other minor critiques are the speed at which text fades in and the settings (preferences) screen. I think the fade-in is a tad too slow and could use a slight bump. Maybe allow that speed to be configurable in the settings. The settings screen itself is, and this really is the most minor of critiques, a bit plain. There’s nothing wrong with something default, but in the future and with a bigger budget, it’s a little detail that would be appreciated. 

Despite these critiques, I still vehemently believe that the quality of Starlight Shores is worth your time and money. 


The game’s credits and potential conflict of interests are listed again for redundancy:

No review copy was sent to me, nor was there any other incentive for writing this analysis. Starlight Shores was bought with my own money and my connection with the development team is limited to following them on Twitter and tweeting at them sporadically. 

Starlight Shores is available on both Steam and Itch.io

The development team as documented on the Itch.io page and in the game’s credits:

Sam Kerr- Creative Director and Lead Developer

Nanae Lia- Creative Director, CG & Character Artist

Tanuma San- CG & Background Artist

Alcaknight- Lead Composer

BackgroundTK- Outdoor Background Artist

Re.Alice- Logo Designer

A special thanks to Uncle Mugen, CC backgrounds were from his lemmasoft page!

Click Here for their Discord!

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Writing Outbursts & More

I’ve never seen When Supernatural Battle Becomes Commonplace. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, renown or not. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. The entire show could be utter crap and I wouldn’t care. No matter what, it wouldn’t take away from one scene which I just so happened to stumble across. 

I hold this scene in incredibly high regard since it’s so rich in quality on multiple fronts. Most obvious is Saori Hayami’s incredible voice acting in tandem with the script. The way her speaking exponentially increases in speed and pitch is beautiful. Along the way, her voice breaks more and more to accentuate everything. A lot of it goes against what you normally want from voice acting: clear readings which have a natural but not noticeable pause between strings of sentences. For emotional scenes, you can say you want to evoke emotions and to add sobs, gasps, pauses, and whatnot, but nothing I write can express how good Hayami’s execution was. There’s literally nothing I feel the need to critique about it. Actually, I don’t think I can find something to critique about it. 


The most amazing part for me is how well this scene can be portrayed between mediums. Remove the audio component (as heretical as that is) and there’s still brilliant ways of translating the weight of the words. For manga, you can increase the size of the type font and purposefully overlap dialogue boxes to serve as borders atop the illustration. This is also a great way VNs can portray outbursts:

It’s a literal wall of dialogue without periods that confuses itself by blending inner monologue to portray the character faithfully. It’s tough to read and hard to follow which is exactly the point if you know anything about Rin (She has difficulties understanding people and best expresses herself through her art). 

Here’s another way to portray outbursts and fast talking in VNs: abuse rolling dialogue. It has the same effect as the wall of text except, unless you look at the history, the player is forced to read and comprehend facts quickly lest they miss things (which is fine). I will say though, this should be done cautiously and may be why we haven’t seen it too often. Artificial full stops, half created by how we code dialogue and the other half created by players pausing to take in the info, is precious. It makes players think and can increase the weight of the situation in their minds. Think of it like playing a horror game versus watching a horror movie. The player is forced to move the conversation forward of their own will without external forces compelling them. 

The wall of text is a great addition to contemporary novels and stories too. Even before beginning to read the wall, the reader sees a large block which keys them into what’s going on. Bonus points if you leave a leading question at the bottom of the page so that the reader must turn it before seeing the block. 

Okay, that’s enough of that educational stuff for now. More breakdown of the original scene- 


The directing is rather good as well. This is where the visual medium of anime triumphs over LNs or novels. Quick cuts, close-ups, and dutch and low angles make it so thrilling and confrontive. When we get quick cuts between Hatoko’s face, our eyes are chasing after her desperately. At other times, she takes up most of the screen so that we can’t look away. We even get a great close-up of the mouth where we can see her gritting her teeth in certain frames. Other close-ups are of her hands which are gripped tight and shaking. 

Those dutch angles are basically when the camera is skewed and not on a normal plane (eye-level). They’re supposed to create unease since it’s slightly off from our usual perspective and it does. The low-angle is a great addition too since its function is to make the viewer seem small, us having to look up and inversely making everyone else look down on us metaphorically and literally. There’s also a great high-angle shot in this scene that’s at the very end; the only high-angle shot in the scene actually, which was a great way to show detachment. 

There are some minor gripes I do have though:

This low-angle is… I don’t know. It feels like it strays oddly into fanservice. And it’s not like they couldn’t make a different low angle shot work. They do exactly that a few seconds later. I don’t think it detracted anything from the scene in my case, but it doesn’t add as much as other low-angles would’ve. Confusing. And that’s not the only confusing thing. 

The weird low-angle…
The other low-angle.

The music and SFX are odd. I love the ambient sound of the pot’s contents boiling and her slam turning off the burner, but why add anything else after? It’s probably the biggest critique I have. There’s absolutely no reason to drown out the VA with somewhat melancholy music. The absence of any sound besides her voice was perfect. I’m especially critical of the “slamming” sound when she discusses Kanji. In fact, there’s no reason to visually represent that either. Look. It’s small in the scope of the scene, but I can say for sure it would’ve been better without it. 

Silence is strong.
They do have some neat quotes though.

They misstep on stuff like that, but then they succeed in amping up the sound for her tear droplets hitting the floor. You win some, you lose some I suppose. 

Now, that’s (mostly) everything great about the scene from a cinematography standpoint, but the actual message of the scene is phenomenal-

Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’ve all fallen into the trap that Hatako talks about. Some of the shit we spew as anime fans is ridiculous and we need to realize that. It’s an entirely different culture that people don’t understand unless they’re immersed in it as well. That’s why we need to take the time to explain things, even if we fear sounding stupid.

There’s loads of people who just don’t watch anime and that’s fine. They shouldn’t have to. In fact, for as popular as anime is, I dare say that we’re still the minority and I don’t foresee a change in that. We shouldn’t expect anyone to know anything about it and a good relationship with them shouldn’t be conditional on the fact that they like it too. Don’t get me wrong, anime is a great shared hobby and friends are often made through that mutual passion. Nevertheless, please don’t restrict yourself and most importantly don’t force your opinions on anyone.

Hatoko is a fictional character, but what she stands for in this scene is real. A person who wants to understand, evidenced by her being able to recall all the tropes, cliches, and terminology, only to be ignored and never given the chance to. 

This isn’t a critique of anyone in particular. In fact, everyone I know actually supports the spread of anime in a positive way, even if they don’t know it. That’s right, I’m talking about all you anime WordPress bloggers. You aren’t part of the group Hatoko is meant to criticize. When you talk about anime, you talk about its technical components, its themes, its plot structure, the culture around it, the community, etc. By doing that, you open up a hub where people from multiple specialties can come together and appreciate anime as an art form, even if they don’t necessarily watch it regularly. Good on you!

A Psychological Analysis of Lana Rain’s Perspective on Romance in Society

It’s time for psychology and a drop of sociology while we’re at it. Let’s analyze Lana Rain’s video: “Why our perception of romance is harmful towards our mental health.” 

The only thing I want to say before diving in is that, overall, the video is quite accurate. For a rant/opinion video, I was genuinely impressed. So far as I know, everything she said was anecdotal evidence that she herself perceived and experienced. I don’t believe there was any academic foundation to it and that’s the most interesting part about psychology and sociology. 

The fields are incredibly nuanced so to be a professional in either is tough. Even if the DSM-5 was your bible, you’re going to sink rather than swim without the research component that comes with higher education. Still, you don’t need such roots to understand certain concepts. After all, as humans, we created the rules of society. The definition of normal is something we make up (and change over time). It’s for that reason that just by being aware and conscious of the society we live in, we get a sense of how it functions. As individuals within it, even if we’re not actively aware, our subconscious catalogues information and changes behavior. Anyway-

Preface TL;DR: The video is surprisingly accurate and I was impressed.


**The quotes taken from the video are in loose chronological order. I did group some since they encompassed similar psychological concepts. 

“…society completely looks over and treats it [unhealthy romantic tendencies] as part of its culture without question.” [0:58]

“…when viewed from another perspective, it’s one of the most heartbreaking things to witness.” [1:27]

Completely factual. This is called, as you might expect, cultural blindness, and it’s far from rare. We can predominantly see this when we view religious practices in other nations. A classic example is the treatment of the body after death. In the United States, cremation or burial are the norm. Look elsewhere such as Tibet and you find something called a sky burial: a ritual where the body is consumed by birds (scavengers and decomposers). 

When we come across something that’s different, the first question in your mind should be “why?” Most of the time, there’s a great reason. Tibet’s geography is conducive to burials. It’s incredibly rocky there and would require much more effort as opposed to the land in the US. People also cite the lack of forests (and hence fuel) as to why cremation isn’t popular in Tibet either. (However, the problem cited in the video doesn’t have a great reason to support its continuation.)

“It’s romanticized to oblivion…” [1:04]

“The concept of love; it’s completely taken over everything. From our media, our music, movies, games…” [1:35]   

“The perpetuation of the topic is literally unescapable. Unless you live under a rock, there’s absolutely no way you can’t be tainted by the world’s perception of it.” [2:00]

Spot on. Much of the video can be evidenced by Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. As you can tell, he cites society and culture as the primary influencers on development. How we are raised and what information we take in will inevitably affect what we value. Hence, the comment about it being inescapable is wholly accurate 

[*Author’s Note: The sociocultural theory is very compelling and this video certainly leans into it; however, it’s also supported on a cognitive level. I feel the need to say this because, as everyone knows, there’s a multitude of factors in development. We can nearly never attribute the cause to only biological, psychological, or sociocultural.] 

Interestingly, she noted Disney specifically as a source of negative influence [1:50]. I mentioned the Disney Princess Effect in my other article about anime and sex-role adoption and she shows a definition of it here, but I think it was a bit misused. The topic of the video is more about love than role-adoption, but I understand the sentiment and it still manages to work-

Look at a Disney film. Even if it’s not love at first sight, the man and woman become a couple very quickly. By the end of the movie, it’s practically marriage and they’re in a steady relationship. One of the main problems here is the time frame. It’s a very steep rise from “like” to “love.” Thus, it falls into passionate love more than companionate love, intimacy and sexual attraction v. trust and concern for your partner’s well-being. This is more strongly shown by other media where sex is seen as a goal in a relationship rather than part of the natural progression. 

Lana’s point about finding a “Prince Charming” is also poignant as it can (and has) lead to mental disorders: bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, etc. The former’s symptoms are acts such as self-induced vomiting in order to maintain a certain body weight after sessions of overeating. Anorexia nervosa is the purposeful starvation of one’s self to lose weight. 

“From birth, you’re thrown into a world that already makes it really hard for you to like yourself because everyone else’s issues and turmoil makes them neglect or mistreat others around them.” [2:13]

“When one of the first things you’re taught that is valuable is getting married for religious values and that having a girlfriend or boyfriend is fun or desirable, you’re kind of made to feel like you’re not supposed to focus on your own problems and self-love and happiness comes from indulgent external sources.” [2:51]

This is a great showcase of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the top is self-actualization: what all people should aspire to. It can be defined as “being the best one can be.” Lana makes a great point that society has created a different chart. Instead of love being separated from self-esteem and self-actualization, the three have been made equivalent. Thus, we stop at love and don’t reach for the top two tiers of the pyramid. There’s no further improvement of ourselves. 

“…coupled with the fact that, in a lot of cases, people already try to put you into a certain mold before you can even decide what you want for yourself.” [2:30]

Two terms to discuss here: modelling and shaping. They sound alike and they both deal with the same thing: the modification of behavior. Basically, modelling is learning and imitating what we see. Shaping is purposefully modifying what was learned to illicit a different behavior or thought process. I actually don’t see a need to go much further in explaining that because I believe we’ve all experienced it from parents and teachers alike. It’s the self-fulfilling prophecy in action.

“You’ll then start to actively seek and force relationships before an actual bond is even made because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do.” [3:34]

Conformity at its simplest due to normative social influence. We want to gain approval from the in-group that is our society as we know that the out-group is perceived as different and is disapproved of. 

“How a real relationship forms is knowing someone over time and getting really close to the person, creating a best friend kind of bond. The relationship itself should not be the first thing on your mind when meeting someone you like. It should be a consideration after a lot of meaningful time after that person.” [5:06]

Perfectly describes the passionate v companionate love I described earlier. 

“Considering a relationship as an object to obtain is really poisonous for the world because it makes people forget the idea of focusing on themselves and the concept of self-love which is already hard to obtain with how everything is right now.” [5:48]

 Another great summary of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

“Sometimes it’s good to take a step back from your everyday routine and give some thought that not everything that is told to you about how life should be necessarily needs to be that way.” [6:49]

And that’s a good summary about cultural blindness. 


Alright! That wraps up my backing of the general message of the video. Hopefully you found it enlightening. If I could ask for anything, I’d hope that you learned some psychological concepts and begin to think of how they affect you in your own life. Here’s hoping Lana reads this.

Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonc Front Babylonia – The Best of Humanity

*This article contains heavy spoilers for Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia.

Siduri is unequivocally the best character of Babylonia. In a cast filled with standouts, husbandos and waifus alike, she takes the spot for best character. Not best girl. Best character. This either sounds completely absurd to you or you fully agree with it. Let me explain.

Since we’re talking about the all star cast, let’s list them:

Gilgamesh

Enkidu

Merlin

Ishtar

Ereshkigal

Quetz

Gorgon

Ana

Mashu

King Hassan

Ushiwakamaru

Leonidas

Benkei

When I first wrote this list, I separated a few characters into another group since they weren’t as popular as Gil or Eresh. Yet, with these characters coming to life on screen, they’ve all garnered many more fans. (Even Benkei! A lot of his story was cut from the anime, but even he got a cool moment the audience loved). As a minor tangent, I think Quetz gained the second most fans from the adaptation. CloverWorks did a great job with her NP(s) and everyone was in awe. 

Who gained the most? Siduri. 

All F/GO players who have played through Babylonia beforehand know the tragedy of Siduri. We all remember her and what she did. Thus, we waited with dread about how poignant the anime’s portrayal of it would be. Miraculously, it was phenomenal. I’ll bear the flak if anyone disagrees, but I believe every player loved the beautiful scene. Would it hit as hard to non-FGO players? Actually, it’s very close.

Since Siduri was never introduced to players beforehand, all backstory and emotional attachment had to be formed in Babylonia’s narrative. That means her story arc starts and ends in Babylonia, leaving no room for people (even anime-only watchers) to get lost. There’s only one minor reason it wouldn’t be as impactful.

The Flashback of The White Flag

This was a small directing mistake that’s done a lot, but I’m not surprised. It’s the classic: “I don’t trust the audience.” They didn’t think we’d be able to connect Siduri’s initial waving of the flag (back in episode X to the Lahmu’s gesturing. These sorts of “mistakes” will most likely never be remedied as they’re somewhat useful. The entire reason it’s made so obvious is for less astute viewers to catch on. What that means for detail-oriented watchers though is that the reveal of Siduri being converted is wasted. Instead of the heartbreaking reveal and realization occuring at the end of Enkidu’s chase (which subverts the expectation of his death), it jumps the gun. 

I’ve said all that, but a tragic death doesn’t constitute being titled best character. Why is she so compelling? The answer is simply thus: she’s human. 


All of the cast that I listed were/are/can be servants. At the minimum, that means they have all gone through mythological trials and tribulations in their lives. Their lives have been meaningful enough to be recorded in history. Siduri has no great feats; however, she still fits comfortably among the heroes of old. Her actions, though not on a comparable scale, embodied heroism despite being a human with no special powers. [Let’s ignore MC-kun (Ritsuka Fujimaru) for now since he’s supposed to embody the player. Besides, even he has some ability as a magus, even if average.] 

The entire reason she died is because she chose to sacrifice herself for the people of Uruk. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. She knew that by leaving Gil’s side at the throne room, her death was cemented. She didn’t need his clairvoyance to know it either. 

Gilgamesh is described by Merlin as, “A judicator who tries to keep humans on a fair scale. That’s why he protects mankind, but he doesn’t favor individuals.” Yet, as Siduri proclaims that she will go assist with the evacuation of citizens, he shouts in disapproval. Does that sound like he doesn’t favor Siduri? No. That was a completely emotional outburst as he foresaw the outcome which doesn’t go unnoticed by her. In her mind, she accepts everything and with a smile that shows full understanding, Gilgamesh has no choice but to concede to her.

Even when Gilgamesh was a child who took the throne, she was there to watch over him. Even as Enkidu, a being devoid of a soul was brought in, she welcomed him with open arms. Even as Gil left Uruk to find immortality, she waited for him to return and maintained Uruk in the meantime. And when he finally did, she scolded him for shirking his duties and, in no uncertain terms, told him to do his job. She scolded him. I can’t express that enough. She is respected by all the citizens of Uruk as well as the gods and goddesses. When Ishtar and Gilgamesh threatened to fight each other once more in the Singularity, she stopped them easily with a few sentences. Let me remind you that Ishtar caused the death of Gil’s only friend, yet neither are able to oppose Siduri. 

Furthering how pure of heart Siduri was, let me clarify that it isn’t wrong to say she died twice over. While protecting the citizens, she died once as she was converted into a Lahmu. Then she died once more as a Lahmu. Through all of that, she retained her sense of self. Nothing could corrupt her. If you’re more familiar with these terms, it’s as if she was under Madness Enhancement but was able to control what she did. That’s literally Heracles levels of willpower as seen in Fate/Stay Night. Overall, she got little screen time. That said, every moment we did witness was as poignant as ever. 


Now that we’ve established who Siduri is, how do we incorporate a character like her into our own stories? 

First, we demonstrate hopelessness. We can see an abundance of examples of this everywhere in Babylonia. That’s literally what Babylonia is: a hopeless situation where the people of Uruk still continue to resist the gods. 

“I will say it once again. Uruk will fall! It is a fact that we can no longer change!” 

Gilgamesh, Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia, Episode 18

“Everyone has tried everything under the sun to get even this far. But it’s still not enough” 

Merlin, Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia, Episode 19

Second, carefully distinguish your character. Once you begin writing, you need to actively pay attention to the character you’re creating. Think back to Ritsuka Fujimaru and Benkei. They aren’t the same as Siduri. In the game, Fujimaru is depicted as a survivor who barely manages to scrape by. He’s performing his tasks out of necessity and survivor’s guilt; only later developing the courage to stand fast by meeting other servants. Hitachibou is also driven by guilt and regret about leaving Ushiwaka and Benkei. 

Siduri is unlike either. She didn’t help out of necessity or because she would feel guilty. She helped because that was her nature. To not be compassionate and selfless didn’t make sense to her. 

Third, watch your scale. A small reminder that characters specifically like Siduri are best left as side characters. What she did was, in the scope of the narrative, small. While she saved Enkidu, it isn’t as if she held back an army. She defeated three Lahmu that were playing around with their prey. Two were ambushed and the other traded stabs with her through the chest. 

*Also remember to plan out the history of a character too. It’ll have implications on the future, add depth, and allow you to get a better feel for them. 


What better way to end the article than with the special ED made for her? Both the visuals and song were used for this tribute and only recur when Siduri is mentioned. Undoubtedly, best character.

The World God Only Knows – A Tragic “Harem”

Valentine’s Day is upon us and so what better thing to talk about than romance anime? 

Today, I’ll be talking about an anime that I normally keep under wraps. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine in the fact that it’s not widely regarded as “great” in terms of quality. It also falls into a grey area with the harem tag, something I usually steer clear of because I don’t normally like harem plots. If you ever read the Home page of this site, you may remember that I have a quote from it

Obligatory spoiler warning for both the anime and manga (including the ending).


Let me give a bit of context for those not familiar with The World God Only Knows (TWGOK). The main character is Keima Katsuragi, a high school student. He is crazy about visual novels and 2D girls, often not caring about the real world. That is until he mistakenly contracts with a (cute) demon who is tasked with bringing back loose souls that escaped from Hell. Loose spirits reside in the heart. To capture them, Keima must similarly capture the heart of whomever it has inhabited. From there, the (cute) demon, Elsie, will do the rest. Break the contract or fail to meet the conditions, and he will die. 

Sounds fairly usual by anime standards. Keima basically has girls fall in love with him and that’s it. The only caveat is that after every “conquest,” when a girl falls in love with him and the loose spirit is captured, that girl loses all memory of it. How else would the plot support multiple romances? You saw the title of the article though. The Tragic “Harem.” You know why the harem part is a bit of a misnomer now. The tragedy? Keima, who doesn’t lose his memories. 

During a conquest, a lot goes into making a girl fall in love with him. It isn’t simply romantic gestures and pleasant dates. He learns their life story, the problems which enabled a loose spirit to embed themselves in them in the first place. Without his presence, many of the girls would’ve lost themselves. Some would abandon their extracurricular passions, lose their self-recognition, find themselves jaded by the real world, etc. Love is the goal, but the means to that end require Keima to guide the girls through their problems and spark self-confidence and determination, ultimately reorienting them to reach a path where they will be happy. His own happiness is another matter entirely.

“Well, it’s probably easier for me this way.” – Keima Katsuragi, TWGOK, Ep. 1

Speaking realistically, unusual circumstances notwithstanding, love is not a one-way street. It requires both parties to reveal their hearts and minds to each other. Thus, every time Keima has a girl fall for him, it’s impossible for him to not hold at least a sliver of emotion for them in turn. He may try and say that this is simply what he must do in order to “fulfill the contract” or “complete the route,” but this is all a facade. For as long as the series needs to continue, he can’t find true love. But what if those conquest targets did regain their memories? This is actually an integral plot point in Season 3.

A girl named Kanon runs up to Keima and confesses to him, remembering the conquest that dates back to Season 1. You can tell from the clip below that Keima is at a loss for words. He’s not in the business of being confessed to. For someone to still remember him and therefore love him? It makes his heart skip a beat.

Not all conquest targets regained their memories, only a handful. Due to more anime shenanigans and the explanation for why they regained their memories, there’s surprisingly little conflict between the girls now doting on him. The conflict that does ensue isn’t even between two girls that have regained their memories. While they were both previous targets, only one has regained their memories. Why do they fight then? Because the other has fallen for Keima despite forgetting what he did for her. 

Ayumi – The first girl Keima ever captured the heart of. The fastest runner on the track team; known for both speed and cheerfulness. The best friend of Chihiro.

Chihiro – A girl whose heart was previously captured by Keima. No particularly defining traits, recognized even by herself. Described as a “normal girl.” Originally a background character. The best friend of Ayumi.

Ayumi is the one who gets her memories back. Meanwhile, Chihiro is the one who  develops feelings for Keima independently. A love triangle forms.


There are two things I neglected to mention. The first is that Keima doesn’t actually know who has regained their memories. He has to subtly probe all those he has previously targeted to find out. 

The second is the stakes of the season. Fail to capture the hearts of those who have regained their memories and the world will fall to ruin. The details of why aren’t particularly important for the article. Although, know that this causes an artificial timer for the former point. 

This needing to probe (seeing who displays feelings for him) and the timer (mandating a quick turnaround time between conquests) causes a scene that none of us want to see, let alone experience.

On the school roof during the festival, Keima and Chihiro gather together as a couple. It’s here that Keima realizes that Chihiro isn’t a girl he needs to capture. Too little too late though.

He needs to push her away. He can’t fall in love with her. She can’t fall in love with him. Otherwise, he can’t go after the last target, Ayumi. But when Chihiro finds out that he’s trying to romance Ayumi, she’s angered to no end. Keima does try to explain the stakes to Chihiro, but she’s still angered. Why? Not because she rejected him. She realizes the stakes. It’s the fact that Keima isn’t serious enough about Ayumi.

Her own happiness doesn’t matter. She recognizes Ayumi loves Keima. As Ayumi’s best friend, she’ll support that. If you ever saw Hamilton, perhaps you remember the song Satisfied. It has lots of parallels to this arc. Here’s a great AMV of TWGOK.

After Ayumi is captured and the world is saved, that isn’t the end:

Keima tells Chihiro that she was never involved in this. He lies, implying that they never once loved each other. Going forward, he wants to spare her from anything like this. He doesn’t want her to get involved with his life because chances are that he’ll inadvertently break her heart again. She’s already gone through so much- She deserves better.

The anime ends on a concert, Chihiro’s band (consisting of many who were capture targets, including those who got their memories back), playing a song she wrote about herself before this mess started. As the concert continues, she recognizes that she’s the only one who never got a happy ending. Yet, the lyrics of the song describe her thoughts. Though her first love has ended, she’ll never forget it…

Its title: “The Memory of My First Love.” 

Keima listens from the roof lamenting; the only time he’s shown crying for serious reasons in the series. So too does Chihiro begin crying as the song ends.

And that’s the finale; two people forsaking their own happiness for the sake of others. 


Why did I write such a sad article for Valentine’s Day? 

It’s a reminder I suppose. Chihiro is a normal girl with nothing notable about her. But she’s kind. Incredibly kind. Never forget about people like her in your life. In the beginning, they may fade into the background; you don’t immediately notice them. Upon discovery though, they’ll face life’s trials with you.

That’s why-


Please enjoy your Valentine’s Day. If you don’t have a valentine, that’s quite alright. Do yourself the favor of loving yourself. Thank you for reading.

Gakkou Gurashi – An Unraveling Tale

If you haven’t watched Gakkougurashi, I highly recommend you do before reading this. Spoilers abound.


I used to watch every single new anime that aired for three episodes. That’s a fairly standard practice and most people still continue to do it, not just in the blogging community but a fair amount of the entire anime community. I didn’t do it so I could write reviews or analyses; that wasn’t even on my radar at the time. I just thought that the only way to know if an anime was for me was to actually watch it. I still stand by that line of thinking. I also thought that I’d be able to find any hidden gems of the season. 

After awhile, I almost got burnt out on anime altogether. I started to see recurring patterns in character archetypes, designs, settings, and even story arcs. It’s an inevitability really: both seeing recurring things and said things recurring. The former because of experience and the latter most likely a byproduct of how close-knit the community is. We see an anime do [x] and we love it. Thus, we want to try our hand on implementing our own version of it as both as an homage and attempt at refinement. There’s no malice in it. It simply happens. 

I started to become an anime recluse; watching mostly slice of life because there was no grand narrative; it was just a bit of dumb fun in the moment. That’s why when Gakkou Gurashi came along, I felt as if I was saved. No synopsis or spoilers existed yet. I went in expecting to watch people enjoy their lives, that’s all. And you know what? I got that. I got that and so much more.

Let’s leave the psychological analyses for another day. I definitely want to revisit Gakkou Gurashi since it’s actually one of my favorite anime. There’s a ton to talk about like trauma, repression, pain threshold, attribution of emotion to color, mental illness treatment… Oh, it’s endless and so interesting, but another day to be sure.


Today, I’ll be talking about the brilliant unraveling of Gakkou Gurashi. I’m not gonna hold back any emotions in this review since I loved it that much. Because of that, it might read a bit differently than normal. It’s definitely me experimenting with a new style, but don’t think this is a facade. I’m not putting on a mask or anything of the sort. I genuinely write casually and semi-formally naturally. Speaking of personas, the manga I wrote about in my last article, From Now On We Begin Ethics, has a chapter dedicated to the concept. Check it out if you’re interested. Anyway, back to Gakkou Gurashi.

I really do hold Gakkou Gurashi very highly, perhaps higher than I even should, but the way it unravels is breathtaking. Twist after twist, all of which is perfectly foreshadowed beforehand, creates a picturesque viewing atmosphere. Being surprised by a twist is nothing special, but when a twist feels cathartic, you’ve done it right. 

From the end of the very first episode, it punches the audience in the face. I talked about restraint in my Isekai Quartet article, so you might think that’s it hypocritical to praise this. However, there are exceptions to every rule and this is why it worked. 

There was actually a lot of restraint shown. Sure, they did reveal a twist in the first episode. The thing is though, their restraint didn’t begin with the first episode. It began behind the scenes. The initial key visual was this: 

Coupled with the release of that was its opening: 

For those who didn’t read the manga, it was strictly a slice of life anime. Very rarely was it hinted in news sites that there was anything dark under the surface. This is a huge component of what makes the anime so great and I do attribute this “deceptive” marketing entirely to Gakkou Gurashi. After all, advertising and media don’t only serve to promote your product. They themselves can spin a narrative. 

Check out this key visual that was released much later:

Then also look at how the actual anime opening evolves over time. It’s brilliant really.

If possible, I would’ve liked to link to a Code Geass publicity stunt they did a while back. I actually can’t find anything about it anymore though, but the gist of it is that a Code Geass themed announcement was made with a time, date, and location. When people gathered there, a metropolitan area with huge billboards and screens, said screens went to static. Silence captivated them for a short while until Lelouch appeared. In the middle of Japan, during a regular day, he was there. It was a great publicity stunt, especially since it mirrored the event in Season 2. 

For something I actually have a video for: Joker’s inclusion in Smash. If you don’t know, Joker is from the game Persona 5 and is the leader of the Phantom Thieves. Thus, their hacking in The Game Awards broadcast was incredibly apt.

I’ve gone on a slight tangent, but to summarize, marketing is a core part to telling a story. Try and take advantage of it when possible.

This is all well and good, but how did Gakkou Gurashi sustain itself? They started with an absolute banger, but how did they keep up the momentum? There was never only one twist. 

Admittedly, when people talk about Gakkou Gurashi and vaguely refer to “the twist,” they’re most likely referring to the first one. Yet, there’s so many twists and turns that it’s almost unfair. In my mind, the first twist wasn’t even the best twist. “Who is Megu-nee?” takes the cake for me. 

If you’re reading this without watching the series and breathing in all these spoilers (you monster), Megu-nee is the teacher of the four girls on the key visual. While she’s supposed to be an adult, she’s very clumsy and instead serves as a source of emotional support. The thing is, she died before the first episode even began. Every time we see her, it’s simply Yuki imagining her presence. She can’t do anything and is a crutch for Yuki’s psyche. 

Damn, I’m slipping into psychology again. I intended to talk about the incredible planning of Megu-nee instead. Since she doesn’t exist and only Yuki sees her, no character ever interacts with her except at Yuki’s behest. The amazing thing is that the continuity goes completely unbroken. Rewatch the series and you’ll see that she really does do nothing. You can catch her teleporting from scene to scene with no conceivable way for her to get there. Oh, but they still keep the pressure on as they compile another twist atop that twist! Megu-nee isn’t quite dead. To be clear, she’s undead. She’s still walking around as a zombie in the depths of the school. 

Another beautiful twist that goes unexplained has to do with the setting itself. While its exterior is that of a regular high school, it has the ability to be fully self-sustained. The girls catch on to this and realize it’s too big of a coincidence. With enough searching, they found out that part of the school faculty were aware of a biological weapon (or weapons?) that would create zombies. Thus, the school would serve as a sort of sanctuary for the healthy. 

“Why was that specific school built as a haven? Are there other locations like it? How many people were aware of the biological weapon?” We never get an answer and yet it adds more than it detracts. To understand why, think back to an anime called Girls’ Last Tour. In both Gakkou Gurashi and GLT, the goal isn’t to answer why they’re in such an apocalyptic state. The goal is simply to survive above all else. 


So, even with this more cluttered style, what did we learn? Let’s recap.

1) Advertising and social media is a tool for much more than promotion. It can elevate what you’re trying to sell and can even tell its own story.  Code Geass and Persona are good examples for thematic correctly publicity stunts. Of course, marketing antics on that level aren’t possible at the get-go. A possible alternative is what Studio Élan is doing right now with making audio logs. Theoretically, if you’re competent enough and have an appropriate setup, you can even record the script yourself. Whether there’s voice acting for the game itself is irrelevant.

2) Plot twists in a story shouldn’t be completely out of nowhere. Like any great mystery novel, the audience should be able to piece the next story beat together. Having them realize your intentions shouldn’t remove the emotion you want to evoke. Adding a surprise for the sake of it, one that your audience can’t see coming, is lazy writing. If you want to implement something like the “Who’s Megu-nee” twist, have the plot laid out before hand. Otherwise, you’ll end up with plot holes when you retroactively correct your story to account for said change. 


What do you think of this style of writing? Did it reduce the article’s educational value? Did it add or detract from what I was trying to convey? Most importantly, did you still find it an enjoyable read? I found that by writing like this, I can probably crank out articles at a 3 day pace. For that reason, any feedback is greatly appreciated and will go a long way to molding this site.

Isekai Quartet – More Than a Chibi

“Overlord, Re;Zero, Konosuba, and Youjo Senki were all great anime. What if we take their characters and transport them to another world (again)? This time though, they all have to attend a school together. Doesn’t that sound great? Huh? Why do they get transported? Well… That’s a secret- for now,” said someone, somewhere, maybe.

It reads like a badly written fanfiction. You’re putting together four different Isekai series, only one of which is mainly comedic, without any real rhyme or reason besides being under KADOKAWA. There’s absolutely no way it would work. 

But it did. Spectacularly. 


With Isekai Quartet’s second season now airing, it’s a great time to discuss the original season, how it managed to work, and what we can learn from it.

The original and second season’s episodes clock in at about 10 minutes of original animation, plus the OP & ED. Then, you have the chibi art style whose role is to make every character look similar to their respective designs while keeping everything uniform in the new setting. On a technical level, there’s nothing too blatantly important at first glance; however, the voice acting and animation really do elevate the series. It’s no surprise given that nearly every character is a main or otherwise staple of their show with all VAs reprising their roles, some even voicing multiple characters. You can feel that they had a lot of fun in the booth and I hope we get to listen in on some bloopers eventually. 

(In the case of Ram and Tanya’s squad, it’s a blessing to see them get more screen time. In the case of the latter, it actually flushes out a lot of their character. The world of Youjo Senki doesn’t have time for breaks or vacations so seeing them relax is nice, even if they’re not waifus!)

The animation is also deceptively simple. Its chibi style allows for incredibly fluid animation when the scenes call for it. Moreover, all the visual effects look gorgeous. Check out the energy Tanya exudes in this scene. The pulse, while brief, is nothing to scoff at.

It looks nice and it sounds nice, but what about the story? 

For the overarching story, the question of why and the specifics of how our characters have been transported go unanswered. This is actually the best thing they could’ve done. While explaining why and how is certainly important to the cast in-universe, for the most part, I daresay that it’s the B-plot to the audience. Their transportation is certainly a point of intrigue and all the allusions to a greater power inspire curiosity, but the audience doesn’t watch for that. We watch to see the characters react in circumstances that are somehow more crazy than usual.

Even if there’s only a loose connection between most episodes and arcs, it’s not a concern. The entire show is more akin to a series of skits and all aspects conform wonderfully to that concept. If the comedy doesn’t hit or your favorite character hasn’t shown up yet, it’s only a matter of time until they do. That of course stops jokes from running too long and leaving the viewer bored. I don’t believe there was any joke that didn’t land, but I recognize that the audience at large may not have watched every show. The delineation between good jokes and cheeky references is important. Luckily, they manage this well. 

Strangely enough, I don’t remember Isekai Quartet opening to much hype. It certainly made the rounds with a plethora of screenshots and memes though. No doubt season 2 will make the round also. The same can be said for the inevitable season 3. So long as the series continues to do well and doesn’t show its entire hand, Isekai Quartet has the potential for exponential growth. With the many isekai series that release each year, it’s only a matter of picking who to incorporate next. That does beg the question of how long the show is willing to skirt around the question of why they were transported there in the first place. Regardless, I do sincerely hope the series continues. 

Since we got this comedic collaboration, the prospect of a serious crossover did occur to me. Surely that wouldn’t work as well though. Having to scale powers and change tones on a whim- It’d be a headache. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t watch it though. It would make for a fun experiment. 

What can we learn from Isekai Quartet? 

(1) Restraint (2) Preservation (3) Delineation 

(1) As I said before, you never want to show your hand too early. 12 episodes of 10 minutes aren’t nearly enough to explore the larger narrative. By the end of the second season, they still shouldn’t be able to give a cohesive answer. There’s not enough time alloted for it and that’s not a bad thing. It all comes down to preplanning. 

This is also illustrated by the fact that the producers had a clear intent to add more characters in future seasons. As of now, only Naofumi and his party (from Rising of the Shield Hero) is a new addition. Those three characters alone will provide enough content for the season as they more or less need an introduction to every character already in place. Leave the audience anxious for what comes next, a basic tenet. 

(2) This is a problem when you start working with a large number of characters. The problem only compounds when they all occupy the same space but is still relevant when that’s not the case. Writing without a clear outline of your characters leads to an amalgamation of traits that are only true from moment to moment. Amateur writers tend to either swing one way or the other; either having a character stubbornly keep to one way of thinking or be far too flexible. To resolve this, remember to differentiate between personality and emotions. 

“This character is normally like [x]. So, if [y] happened, would that be enough to provoke them to act differently? Are they more vulnerable to [y] because of recent events?” Questions like that are essential to ask yourself. 

(3) References can be hilarious, but they in themselves aren’t necessarily funny. Moreover, they shouldn’t be funny to just those in the know (If said jokes are in the spotlight anyway. If they’re minor, you can get away with it, especially in writing. The eyes will glaze right over it). They’ll surely be more funny with background knowledge, but that shouldn’t stop them from being appreciated. It’s effectively similar to needing to have the joke be explained to you. Leave references as a fun tidbit to catch. For anime, maybe it’s something in the background you only catch if you’re actively watching or on a second viewing. 


My publishing schedule is still a mess… Surprise! There were two articles that were supposed to be finished and released before this one, but one is probably going to be 3x the average length and the other is a tad too subjective for my liking. I know that being subjective is normal and generally can’t be avoided, but I want to make sure it doesn’t detract from the article’s educational value. The site’s name is AniCourses after all. I’ll figure it out though, no worries there.

Kuzu no Honkai & Writing Sex Scenes

The first post and we’re already a fair bit into January… I should probably start by saying thank you to Irina again for mentioning me in a batch of great blogs. Also a big thank you to Amelia for nominating me in her post for the Mystery Blogger Award. I don’t know if I’ll quite make a post for it at the moment, but I’m still really grateful all the same!

And, of course, another thank you to everyone following my blog, new and older. I hope I can exceed your expectations in this new year. Now, onto the article.

[NSFW]

Anime isn’t a medium that distances itself from mature subjects. 

We can easily turn to Neon Genesis Evangelion or Serial Experiments Lain for examples. More recently, Death Parade and KADO: The Right Answer come to mind. However, none of those four are the type of mature I’ll be talking about today. In this article, when I say mature, think something more the lines of romance. Nana and Bloom Into You are great examples of this; both shows which I loved from beginning to end and deserve their own individual articles.

Even then though, I haven’t specified enough. We’re moving a bit farther into the general label of “mature romance” and stepping into passion and sexuality.

Kuzu no Honkai is a show that aired in 2017, met with mixed opinions, not for the quality, but rather the subject matter. It was too painful to watch and even disgusted people. Relatability is a term people love to throw around and, in the literal sense, wasn’t there at all; people found themselves unable to empathize with the characters. 

For more background, the translation of Kuzu no Honkai is Scum’s Wish. It tells the story of multiple characters who yearn for a person they can’t have. Instead, they mutually use each other as substitutes for their true love. Things get more complicated when same-sex relationships and relationships with large age gaps are posed, making the characters internally conflicted about their perceptions of love on multiple fronts. Unrequited love ultimately describes the entire show. 

Today, let’s have two topics. Let’s talk about Kuzu no Honkai and the tactful use of sex scenes.

The entire cast of Kuzu no Honkai is filled with characters that people would describe as scum and it’s fitting. Only one person really escapes the title throughout the entire series and still gets flak for how he acts. 

In this scene, Hanabi confronts her teacher about how she has loved him for the longest time but could never express it. It’s only now that she can tell him, strong enough to confront her own feelings and conclude that long lasting unrequited love. 

*Note that they are not blood related; however, they did grow up together which is why Narumi Kanai (the teacher) views her as a younger sister.

As you can see, the conclusion of this unrequited love isn’t them getting together nor is it them abolishing love. Hanabi said herself that these feelings in the moment and what they do aren’t romantic, but it’s still love. It’s not passionate, it’s compassionate. It’s moments like these that really define the series. She hasn’t found love. She has understood what love is and entails. 

Kanai is the man who I said escapes the title of scum. He accepts Hanabi’s feelings as gracefully as he can, understanding that this confession doesn’t require a response. Hanabi already knows the answer. This is just her proclaiming it. 

What’s interesting is that Kuzu no Honkai is full of sex and it isn’t the kind of anime to shy away from showing it. But was it necessary? Did animated sex scenes benefit the narrative it was trying to tell? Could implications and clever cuts do the job just as well or better than what we were given? I don’t believe so.

Showing these characters in bed pushes them past the point of no return. More than that, it’s very symbolic of the point of view. The sex scenes are beautifully drawn, more so than the day to day life we are frequently witness to. Its allure captures and entices them to do horrible things, guided only by their emotions. Some scenes show a fiery orange glow while others dim it to an abyssal blue. 

The actual sex isn’t neglected either. Take this scene:

Mugi has to ask “How do I get this off?” He says it in an extremely monotone voice, bereft of any excitement or passion. The scene is temporarily paused by taking off a ribbon. Remember, most of the characters are in their first relationship. They’ve never had sex before and it’s indeed incredibly awkward. Moreover, he actually isn’t into having sex with Moca. He goes so far as stripping her to only her underwear before realizing it. Even in the POV of Moca, I’m sure the blue tint would still be there because she knows this is all meaningless. There’s no fiery passion that takes hold of both of them. There’s only the empty night sky filled with stars that have already decayed. 

Look at the colors used in this scene and how bright they are:

It’s the exact opposite of the scene with Moca because Mugi believes he loves her. What’s great and terrifying is how warm it is without the lighting being harsh. It gives a feeling of comfort and safety: what he sees in Akane.  

Before I move on to how you should incorporate sex scenes in writing, let me conclude my thoughts on Kuzu no Honkai. 

It was a heart wrenching series that I kept up with as it aired. I always questioned how far it would go and asked if it would step even further than it already had. In retrospect, what’s amazing is how the anime discouraged people from watching it solely through subject matter. At a certain point, those people felt that the story wasn’t one they watched solely for entertainment. It had become something else entirely. Its saddeningly mature story and beautiful art can still drive me to tears two years later. Despite it not being exceptionally praised and even hated by some, I’ll always remember it as a well written bittersweet anime.


Now that we’re through that, let’s talk about how to implement sex scenes in writing.

Of course, the style will vary depending on what you intend to convey. After all, if you plan to write a sex scene, everyone knows at this point it’s not about the sex. And if it is? Well, that’s a post for another day (Which I fully intend to write). 

That’s why, before you even start writing, you need to ask yourself if that sex scene is necessary. For what purpose does it exist? Is it to show another side of the character? To show how close two characters are or aren’t? 

Most importantly, ask yourself if doing it another way would be better. Sex is an easy way to show intimacy but if that’s all you want to express, cuddling is actually better. I’m not joking either. Two people having sex is just life. Two people cuddling together is endearing and cute. 

You don’t need to show intimacy through physical contact at all either. Everyday things which seem like routine can be made into thoughtful and affectionate acts. Imagine a couple who lives together. Their routine in the morning is to have a nice breakfast. To show how close they are, maybe they know how they their significant other takes their coffee.

If you want to go a bit further (And still use coffee for some reason), imagine that same couple. This time, one of them has to quickly travel and visit their family. The other person still in the house accidentally makes two portions of food, forgetting they’re alone. It’s simple to understand and effective. 

If you’re sure you want to include a sex scene, I recommend being familiar with literature from both sex’s POV. It makes a huge difference and it’s very noticeable when the author only knows their own mindset. 

The vocabulary you want to use should be a mixture of both literal and symbolic. I assure you, trying to describe everything literally is incredibly off putting. It’s better to read a comedically metaphorical scene than a disgustingly literal scene. Inevitably though, you’ll need to include terms for genitals. What terms you use are up to you, but keep in mind that things can turn comical very quickly. There’s a fine line between medical vocabulary and colorful words that’ll take you many rewrites to find. Just go with whatever comes to mind the first time and come back later.

The best piece of advice: including all senses, should be paid strict attention to here. The warmth or coldness of a person’s touch is frequently used. The lingering smell of shampoo in someone’s hair, the sweet taste of their lips, and soft exhales all serve as basic tools you’ll want to utilize. 

The first time you write a sex scene, it’ll be tough. When you read it back, it’ll sound awkward. At times like that, just remember that it’s no different than writing a dance.

You don’t and shouldn’t describe everything that’s going on. Keep in mind what you’re trying to express.

Anime & Sex-Role Adoption

Originally submitted to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 2019.

This is a research paper regarding the role anime has in sex-role adoption. While not formally published yet, any usage of the content herein requires proper citation.

That said, the language used is very formal, even for this blog. If a sufficient amount of attention is given to this, I’ll publish another article detailing the results in simpler terms and what their implications are.

A forward thanks to Irina, an excellent writer with a brilliant blog. This paper was, in part, inspired by her post: Does Animation Distill a Serious Message.


Japanese animated shows exhibit a limited promotion of sex-role stereotypes; less than that of contemporary television. While studies do posit that television is culpable in sex-role adoption as will be further explained, they don’t reference Japanese shows explicitly. This is important as a nation’s media is indicative of its culture. Yet, to what extent is a point of contention given that, as explained by Matthes, “Most research on gender stereotypes in television advertising is based on single-country studies” (2016, p. 314). Due to this, no comparison is available which directly demonstrates the differing effect of culture. Regardless, past literature and a modern analysis of popular animations as of 2019 prove the initial claim. Thus, literature regarding the effect of television, its contents, as well as the effect of animated shows in particular will be explained.

On a grander scale, television’s potential effects on a child’s identity are known. Given the abundance of gender stereotypes in television, as evidenced by Matthes’ data who describes the situation as a “global pattern of gender stereotyping” (2016, p. 325), children are exposed to the risk of sex-role adoption. Sex-role adoption is a process by which a person’s identity is modeled by their perception of another individual of the same sex. Ellithorpe explains this in broader terms, relating it to gender and race: “One way that adolescents may explore and formalize their identities is by selecting media content with characters that match their racial and gender identity categories” (2016, p. 1433). This adoption isn’t necessarily harmful dependent on the role model; however, given that in regards to television they adopt stereotypes, these perceived role models are inappropriate. A commonality among many television shows is the portrayal of males as dominant and females as complementary, an infamous sex-role stereotype that’s still prevalent, demonstrating their inappropriate nature (Durkin, 1985, p. 325). 

Animations are not exempt from having sex-role stereotypes either. Disney movies are a poignant example with Coyne stating that “There are still strong messages of traditional gender role stereotypes for girls and women (e.g., physically weak, affectionate, nurturing, helpful, fearful, submissive) [since the release of Disney Princess movies in 1937]…” (2016, p. 1910). Moreover, animations may pose an additional risk because of their medium. Typically, animations are thought to be safe for the consumption of children (Coyne, 2016, p. 1910) because that is the demographic normally targeted. Such logic then dictates that many parents aren’t aware of the implications sex-role stereotypes have or their inclusion in cartoons, or perhaps both. While Disney movies were discussed, not animated shows, the conclusion that sex-role adoption may stem from animations applies. Rather, the argument for animation’s ability to contribute to sex-role adoption is enhanced due to the relationship the two share. Disney movies, given their profit and evidenced by their continual growth in the modern era, have and continue to be an inspiration for a plethora of artists. It would follow then that artists would seek to mimic and include similar themes reminiscent of the popular product to drive sales.

Generally, Japanese television is not reflective of the rest of the world’s global stereotyping. Matthes note that, “In all countries but Japan, the association of female primary characters with toiletries, beauty products, personal care, and cleaning products can be confirmed” (2016, p. 318). This difference can be explained through two conclusions, both beneficial to stopping sex-role stereotypes: (1) the perceived importance of a stereotypically beautiful physical appearance is decreasing for women, and (2) the use of makeup and other miscellaneous beauty products is becoming acceptable for men. The latter is doubly important considering the following quote: “Research has found that boys can learn gender stereotypes from watching female heroines in the media and vice versa” (Coyne, 2016, p. 1910). Thus, exposure to sex-role stereotypes is dangerous for both men and women. They will formulate a misguided expectation of reality and act according to that if left unchecked. 

To fully analyze whether there are sex-role stereotypes in Japanese animated shows, the top fifty most popular animations (MAL, 2019) were viewed by the author of this paper. All fifty shows portrayed multiple female characters free of stereotypes as a side character. Although, out of the fifty shows, only forty-six were observed to have female characters who took a main role in the narrative. Of the forty-six, five were noted as having one or more sex-role stereotyped traits such as deference to a male or the inability to fight. In all fifty shows, male characters took a main role. The overlap of characters in a main role can be explained by the inclusion of multiple main characters within a show. Of the fifty male main characters, three met the definition of stereotypical. Most male main characters actually had one or more of these characteristics: unathletic, shorter than average height, a fear of fighting, and social anxiety.

The aforementioned data translates to 92% of shows having a female main character and 11% of female main characters exhibiting stereotypes. 100% of shows had a main male characters and only 6% exhibited stereotypes. Lauzen writes, “Females accounted for 42% of major characters on broadcast network, cable and streaming programs [in 2017]” (2017, p. 2). The difference between the 92% and 42% is evident. Additionally, the mentioned percentages of stereotypes for both male and females characters doesn’t take into account the parodic nature of multiple shows or the subversion of the stereotype therein. That said, arguments can be posed about whether parodies contribute to the problem of sex-role adoption and so the percentages will remain unchanged. 

This paper contends that the analyzation of the top fifty most popular animations of all time is more representative of the medium than the currently airing popular animations. The top fifty of all time represent a range of data from 1996 to 2017 as well as a consensus given by the majority of watchers. It can also be stated that these fifty are of significant impact in the minds of viewers, evidenced by their continued popularity over time. Looking at currently airing popular animations wouldn’t provide a large enough sample size worthy of analyzation. Any data observed from it would be insignificant, regardless of whether it finds Japanese animation to have a positive, negative, or no correlation to sex-role adoption at all. Considerations for future studies; however, may wish to look at the top ten most popular animations per year from the late 90s to 2019. Such data may indicate a fluctuation in cultural objectives and perceived sex-roles in Japanese society.

Further arguments can be made that the categorization of genres within Japanese shows as a whole contributes to the overarching problem of stereotypes. Besides conventional genres such as action, horror, or mystery, there are also genres such as shoujo and shounen. When entertainment is marketed as being of the shoujo genre, it targets the demographic of young females. Conversely, when marketed to the shounen genre, it targets young males. These two terms are used to describe genres, but on their own also translate directly to “young girl” and “young boy.” No literature has documented the effect this labeling has; however, shoujo and shounen can be seen as a way for the audience to search for their interest. At the least, it isn’t indicative of malicious intent or put in place for the purpose of restricting people. Nevertheless, this paper recognizes that such labels may have unintended consequences and concedes that, although not available, alternatives should be considered.

This freedom of sex-role stereotypes generally runs counter to Japanese society, one that is very much a patriarchy. Even still, this can be theorized to be purposeful; artists and animators expressing their true feelings through animation because they are unable to in real life. External factors also include the shedding of xenophobic tendencies on the part of the Japanese post-World War II where the country found itself isolated; now beginning to lead towards more liberal tendencies and gradually becoming increasingly more open to outsiders. These liberal tendencies may pose a shift from the aforementioned patriarchal system to one that is more equal (Rush, 2015). 

Japanese animated shows aren’t free from sex-role stereotypes. A number of shows, past and present, do include an unrealistic portrayal of men and women; sexualizing them to provide a fantasy. The difference is in the proportion of shows which do it, especially compared to the previously mentioned statistics of broadcast network, cable and streaming programs as provided by Lauzen (2017). Compound this lack of stereotypes with the portrayal of strong and independent women, as well as diversity in gender, and perhaps Japan’s animated shows may do more than simply avoiding promoting sex-roles. Nevertheless, it stands that Japanese animated shows do a much better job of portraying both sexes than contemporary television. 

References

Coyne, S. M., Linder, J. R., Rasmussen, E. E., Nelson, D. A., & Birkbeck, V. (2016). Pretty as a Princess: Longitudinal Effects of Engagement With Disney Princesses on Gender Stereotypes, Body Esteem, and Prosocial Behavior in Children. Child Development, 87(6), 1909–1925. 

https://doi-org.ez.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/10.1111/cdev.12569

Davidson, E. S., Yasuna, A., & Tower, A. (1979). The Effects of Television Cartoon on Sex-Role Stereotyping in Young Girls. Child Development, 50(2), 597–600.

https://doi-org.ez.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/10.2307/1129444

Durkin, K. (1985). Television and sex‐role acquisition 1: Content.

https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8309.1985.tb00669.x

Ellithorpe, M., & Bleakley, A. (2016). Wanting to See People Like Me? Racial and Gender Diversity in Popular Adolescent Television. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 45(7), 1426–1437. 

https://doi-org.ez.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/10.1007/s10964-016-0415-4

Lauzen, M. (2017). Boxed In 2016-17: Women On Screen and Behind the Scenes in Television.

Click to access 2016-17_Boxed_In_Report.pdf

Lazar, B. A. (1994). Under the Influence: An Analysis of Children’s Television Regulation. Social Work, 39(1), 67–74. Retrieved from:

http://search.ebscohost.com.ez.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9403302584&site=ehost-live

Matthes, J., Prieler, M., & Adam, K. (2016). Gender-Role Portrayals in Television Advertising Across the Globe. Sex Roles, 75(7–8), 314–327. 

https://doi-org.ez.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/10.1007/s11199-016-0617-y

MyAnimeList (MAL). (2019). Top Anime by Popularity

https://myanimelist.net/topanime.php?type=bypopularity

Rush, M. (2015). Theorising fatherhood, welfare and the decline of patriarchy in Japan.  International Review of Sociology, 25(3), 403–414.

https://doi.org/10.1080/03906701.2015.1078528