Awkward Girls Making Friends in Kimi ni Todoke and RELife

In anime, school comes off as an emotional battleground that is especially perilous for socially awkward girls trying to make friends. Kimi ni Todoke and RELife both show the courage of the introvert.

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Manchild in Animeland: Barakamon

Seishuu and the kids, Barakamon
Seishuu and the kids, Barakamon

A few weeks ago, I extolled the virtues of adults in anime. While adults (when they live) contribute to the wellbeing of children, sometimes you have adults who ACT like children. Such is the case with Handa Seishuu (aka “Sensei), who is grown man with a child’s disposition, who is forced to spend extended time with actual children in Barakamon.

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Parental Units in Erased and Usagi Drop

Satoru and Satoru's Mom, Erased
Satoru and Satoru’s Mom, Erased

Anime is usually the playground of superpowered kids, angsty teenagers and dysfunctional young adults, but the parental figures in Erased and Usagi Drop show intergenerational relationships rarely seen.

Let’s face it. Parents and guardians are an endangered species in anime. They are often absent for a variety of reasons, the most popular being some kind of tragedy. Children are either left in the care of grandparents or aunts and uncles or, most likely, they are living on their own! When anime characters do have parents, they are often off-screen and not part of the shenanigans. These kids roll as if they don’t have parents.

So it’s kinda surprising when Satoru’s mom shows up in the first episode of Erased, an anime series about a guy who inexplicably can travel back in time 3 minutes to prevent tragedies, and continues to be a pivotal figure.  Satoru is a 29-year-old wannabe manga artist who ekes out a living writing and working at the local pizza shop. He’s a man of modest means, living in a small apartment by himself.  He’s learned to work with his power, which he calls Revival.

When Satoru’s mom crashes his crib after hearing about his recent accident and hospital stay, Satoru’s response is basically an eye-roll. You don’t get the sense that they have a close relationship. She seems concerned about his well-being, but totally disregards his space. She takes his futon and relegates him to the sleeping bag. He seems to be used to it. At first, their relationship seems to be background for the anime’s main plot, but no! Something bad happens that sends Satoru back to his 11-year-old body and a childhood tragedy involving murdered classmates that he had mostly forgotten about.

Once he realizes what has happened, his first thought is to rush home, looking for his mother, and there she is. However, Saturo has a different reaction observing the situation with his 29-year-old mind. While he was totally annoyed by his mother showing up in his present, he cries out of relief and appreciation in his past. He realizes that he had forgotten that they were close, that she knows him much more than he realizes and that she has always looked out for him. Satoru gains a greater appreciation for his mom, which is no small feat in an anime that has one of the worst mother figures ever.  Satoru’s mom is the exact opposite of Hinazaki’s mom. An alcoholic woman who is obviously with the wrong man, Hinazaki’s mom is physically abusive and a horrible person and mother. Give Satoru’s mom a trophy!

While Erased features the relationship between a fairly capable mother and son, Usagi Drop features a parental figure who has no idea what he’s doing. When 30-year-old Daikichi goes home to pay his respects in the wake of his grandfather’s death, he has no idea of the drama that waits for him. Apparently, the little six-year-old girl that seems out of place at the home is his grandfather’s daughter, making her simultaneously Daikichi’s aunt and potential charge. When the rest of the family discusses putting her up for adoption or sending her to an orphanage, Daikichi steps up to the plate and says he will take care of Rin.

Like Satoru, Daikichi is living alone in modest means. He has no responsibilities beyond himself until Rin shows up and he has little idea how to take care of a six-year-old girl. Not only does Daikichi have to figure out his parental duties, he has to also deal with a grieving Rin.  Daikichi does his absolute best, makes mistakes and asks for help. He asks his sister about school and after-school care. He works out their schedule so that he can take Rin to school before work and pick her up afterwards. When his job begins to get in the way to providing quality time for Rin, he asks to be reassigned to a less prestigious position, going from salaryman to warehouse worker.

Rin and Daikichi, Usagi Drop

Daikichi is asked to do more adulting than anyone because he also has to deal with Rin’s narcissistic mom, some young girl who aspires to be what?  A manga artist. She shows very little interest in Rin’s welfare. Daikichi has to track her down like she’s America’s Most Wanted. He also has to manage Rin’s feelings about her mother. He’s careful not to talk about Rin’s mom in front of her. Moreover, he has to deal with his disapproving family. They don’t particularly dislike Rin, but seem to be more worried about Daikichi’s prospects and future. When they see Daikichi’s efforts, they relent. Daikichi’s mom comes to grow close to Rin, treating her like the grandchild she seems to be.

It’s not that Daikichi is particularly uncaring before taking Rin on as a charge, but that role certainly brings out his nurturing side. Nothing shows this more than when Rin gets sick with a fever. The worry and concern that Daikichi shows is overwhelming. Nevertheless, he proves to be a good parental figure for Rin, giving her the stability that no other adult has in her life. (S/N: Beware the live-action movie. It’s bad, or rather, lacks the charm of the anime).

When parents do show up in anime, it can be fun to watch!

Images:, 2

Hyuga and Kiyoshi. . . Are On My Mind!

Hyuga, Kiyoshi, Aida

So I’m watching Kuroko’s Basketball again (don’t judge me!). The first time around I was all about my favorite blue-haired boy, Kuroko, but this time I can spend more time on other characters, including the dynamic duo of Hyuga Junpei and Kiyoshi Teppei. While their relationship is not exactly Tom and Jerry, it is definitely based on a strange dynamic. Hyuga loves remind Kiyoshi that he hates him, but he usually has to put that to the side to win a basketball game. It tickles me how long it takes Hyuga to high-five Kiyoshi after a successful play. I forgot how much I enjoyed watching their friendship develop, almost as much as I enjoyed Hyuga getting rid of his blond hair.

They Are Not Cheerleaders: Female Characters in Haikyuu!! and Kuroko’s Basketball

While you might assume that sports anime series like Haikyuu!! and Kuroko’s Basketball might relegate its female characters to the sidelines, they do a remarkable job of making them smart, relevant to the story and characters in their own right.

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Redefining Heroism in World Trigger and Kuroko’s Basketball

We often think of heroes as being physically strong, but anime series like World Trigger and Kuroko’s Bastketball make us rethink what it means to be hero. While both lead characters are characterized as physically weak, they remain central to the action and make selflessness the new heroic standard.

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Masaharu Fukuyama. . . . Is On My Mind!

Masaharu Fukuyama

That moment when you realize that the guy you liked in that J-drama you flew through is the guy you like in that J-drama you are nowhere near finishing. I really liked Masaharu Fukuyama in Galileo: his lack of a sense of humor, his crazy hobbies, his quirky way of solving crimes. I don’t know physics professors who roll like that, tho. I kinda thought I had seen him in something else, but couldn’t remember. Then, it hit me! He is in Ryomaden! I guess it’s time to dust off the samurai sword!

The Karasuno Volleyball Team……..Is On My Mind!


There is no reason why anyone should get this worked up over an anime volleyball tournament!

While they may have been “Flightless Crows,” the Karasuno volleyball team are now owning that court. Who knew there could be so much trash talk in volleyball? It’s amazing that these guys can even be on a team, given their radically different personalities and their sketchy coach. Yet, they are steadily making progress through the tournament. Fly, Karasuno!

HQ Director Shinoda……Is On My Mind!

Border HQ Director Shinoda Masafumi, The Tiger of Border

It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for. In World Trigger, HQ Director Shinoda Masafumi is a Border executive who comes off as the voice of reason when Director Kido looks like he’s going off the deep end.  You barely remember he’s there. Sure, at the beginning, we hear whispers of Shinoda being the most powerful Agent with a normal trigger, but you’re not really paying attention to that. That is, until the Second Neighbor Invasion and it’s all hands on deck.  Then you remember that he trained Kei Tachikawa, the best swordsman in Border. Then you see why he earned the nickname “Tiger of Border.” Shinoda isn’t just a good warrior, he’s a smart one.  Battle on, Shinoda!

What I’m Listening To: “Rally Go Round” by Lisa


Ever so often, I like to share what’s on heavy rotation on my iPod. It isn’t always the newest thing, or the most popular thing, but for some reason this is the stuff that I’m grooving to.   It’s just what I like, and some info about it. Maybe you might like it too. Today, it’s “Rally Go Round” by Lisa.

What I’m Listening To


Why I Like It

This song fits the frenetic pace of the anime Nisekoi! One boy, several girls and a mysterious locket.

This Goes Out To All My Asian Dramas That I Haven’t Finished

The Fierce Wife
The Fierce Wife

Sometimes when you start an Asian drama, it is love at first sight. You start marathoning it with no problem, eager to see what happens in the next episode. Then, there are other times when you start a drama, and you let those unwatched episodes languish in your queue. Here are some of mine!

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Brothers and Sisters in Kimi To Boku [You and Me] and My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

Anime series can be a frenetic experience with complex relationships, but some low-key anime series represent very sweet relationships between siblings.

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Goemon (2009)


Oh, my Netflix peeps tried to steer me wrong! I almost did not watch this Japanese movie about the major historical shifts preceding the Tokugawa era. They talked much smack about this movie: bad dubbing (Oh, I’ve heard WAY worse!), craptastic special effects, and no plot.

Are we watching the same movie?  I remember reading some comments that said the effects were Sin City meets 300.  Actually, the mixture of live action and CGI reminded me of Casshern, except this movie had a plot that was not sacrificed for the effects.  You also just have to go with the visual mixing they do; I’ve never seen kimonos like that!

I was initially all about the ninjas, because, let’s face, it’s hard not to be. But the minute I heard his name, I knew this was no ordinary movie:  Hattori Hanzo. This just got interesting…..WHAT! Tokugawa Ieyasu? OBU NOBUNAGA!! Oh this is more than just about some Japanese Robin Hood type. I would recommend it for some Saturday afternoon movie watching.

Oh, and I found myself watching one ninja in particular, Saizo. I knew I saw him somewhere else, and sure enough, he was in Hana, one of my favorite “I’m a samurai, but I don’t want to be a samurai” movies.