That one character.

Have you ever read a really awful fan-fiction of your favorite anime character, where the writer pictured them as all powerful? Or even where the writer has them as some ideal portrayal of themselves, and what they want to be? The magical girl can do this or that in my fanfic because I want to do it too – a self-insert essentially. Perhaps when we look back to the time when we read these fanfics, we didn’t really notice the lack of skill in writing and storytelling in them. The fanfic was written wholly for this character, and nothing else mattered. The character would become the master of the universe, but would ultimately fall to common and very predictable fictional tropes.

And soon enough, we would notice similarities in these kind of fanfic characters to ones in the shows we watch now. Characters that are capable of overpowering and overshadowing everyone else. Characters that we may grow to love, but at the same time wish that their presence wouldn’t dominate a show. Characters that sends everyone else in the show to the loser’s table, purely because the writer wanted the show solely to be about them. Or even characters created as a result of poor writing and storytelling due to the simple fact that the writer loved them so much that they wanted it to be all about them. If you read the several hundreds of anime forums out there, even the ones from 10+ years ago, there will be at least one post (with around a dozen pages worth of comments) with fans discussing/arguing who they consider to be ‘Mary Sues’.

Some nerdy history here. This term of Mary Sue originated in the 1970s from a Star Trek fanfiction, A Trekkie’s Tale, that described a 15-year-old lieutenant, Mary Sue, who makes it onto the bridge of the Enterprise in a very short space of time, and is immediately loved and adored by the crew. Then when the captain and senior crew all fall sick from an unknown disease, she commandeers the ship singlehandedly back to Federation space before falling ill and dying herself. Her triumphs end up winning huge accolades in Starfleet, and even a national holiday is created in her honor. Now I admit that I like to use the term Mary Sue a lot myself, since they help me describe characters in anime shows that can often annoy the heck out of me. Characters that are capable of doing absolutely everything, leaving considerably less room for others in the show to develop. And while I like to call out ones in shows I dislike, there are even some in shows I like, but still enjoy watching the show regardless.

Here in this post, I’ll be highlighting a few others that some might not see as fitting the role itself, and then talk about the term itself and why it’s become such a talking point in the anime fandom. And of course, you are more than welcome to suggest even more, or poke at me for being wrong or something.

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Disney+: The new kid in town.

Black Rock Shooter: Dawnfall

Maybe Disney+ and anime are two things you wouldn’t see pictured together. As more people are turning more to streaming services than television, it makes sense that all of the big-name services want licenses and exclusivity for shows. Some of us may have been surprised when Netflix decided to get into the game, and now look at them. Despite the criticism they constantly receive, they are still able to put out some quality shows; Violet Evergarden, Kakegurui, Aggretsuko, and Little Witch Academia being just a few. And so it makes sense that Disney would want to get into the game too.

We can say it began when the animated Star Wars: Visions show was released, where seven anime studios put out a total of nine short films all set in the Star Wars universe. And the news that four anime shows would go to Disney+ is not new either; it came all the way back in October 2021 when they announced they would bring several new titles from the Asia-Pacific region. Official sites for Summer Time Rendering, Black Rock Shooter: Dawnfall, Tatami Time Machine Blues and Twisted Wonderland also said that Disney had acquired the licenses for their shows to stream globally. So this will not be a news post; instead I want to look into why Disney would choose to go down this road. Is it because they see the likes of Netflix, Crunchyroll, Funimation and the like as ‘threats’, and want to show people that they can do it just as much as they can? Disney is such a massive multi-national corporation that makes billions of dollars a year. So what would getting licenses for a handful of anime shows matter? Or is this just a stepping stone for something more to come?

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A winter hibernation would really be so wonderful.

Just so you know, I am aware that it’s been around 6 months since my last post. I’m actually surprised that people seemed to like my post about EX-ARM; I didn’t realize I was that alone in my opinion of it. I have about 12-13 drafts of ideas for posts that have been sitting idly in my dashboard, and it’s like I can never seem to progress any further in them because of some silly little reason.

There’s also the matter of more things happening in real-life. Family loss, breakups, and me getting more sick. It’s like these 2 years have been really sucky for all of us, and even though I seem to have all the time in the world to complete these 12-13 drafts and make them actual legitimate posts to go on here, I still feel this real sense of laziness. This coupled with the anxiety I had means that I can’t put pen to paper and finish these 12-13 drafts.

If you’re even interested, these drafts range from me talking about shows like Wonder Egg Priority and the Mahouka spin-off show, to me having the stupid idea of doing an update for the Happy Science post that is actually first page if you google ‘Happy Science anime’ – is that even meant to be an accomplishment? There are some other stuff too, that actually don’t make me think that they’re terrible post ideas that I would later regret. I suppose I just need the poke to go and actually do them…

…but when all you want to do is sleep.

I do admire a lot of other anime bloggers out there who are able to keep to some kind of good schedule and pump out high quality posts on a regular basis. Perhaps because my life no longer revolves around anime, I can’t see myself being that kind of anime blogger anymore. My OASG column is something that keeps me going, and I have also returned to the UK-based review site Japan Curiosity, where I’m back to reviewing Netflix anime shows.

Nostalgia in anime has never really been something I jump to; the reason behind this is I think because I’ve been covering new anime seasons for so long, and I seldom ever pause and take the time to watch a show at my own pace, as opposed to week-by-week. The question is whether I ever want to keep on with this coverage, or to just stop and watch shows whenever I choose. To some people, the answer is probably very simple, and it might just be something I can’t quite see.

I’m writing this post at 3am, just so you know; hence the garbled text. I’ll think of a way around this pause/stoppage/whatever it’s supposed to be. I know it.

In EX-ARM’s defense.

EX-ARM

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “EX-ARM? A good show?! How dare you!!!” Well, at least what I would think when this is casually brought up in conversation or in social media threads. But I believe that this argument has far more weight than you’d think. As anime followers, it seems like we have become so conditioned to big-budget shows that have the backing and support of not just high-profile staff and voice actors, but loyal fanbases both in Japan and in the West as well, as well as media coverage and airtime. I’m talking about the big name shows of My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, Madoka Magica, Sword Art Online, and so on. Not just this too; the standard when it comes to anime movies has become much higher as time as gone by. We’ve seen whimsical pieces like the Studio Ghibli movies of My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service be replaced by fancier and glossier epics like your name, Maquia and Weathering With You. Glitches and mistakes in shows (whether they be animation, script, or anything else) have become easier to spot, and in turn become something that the followers can scrutinize and shit-talk for days. Time goes by, and animation gets better – of course it does, why wouldn’t it? So perhaps this is a reason why EX-ARM was so universally panned. But some people see it as the sole reason for why the show should be on every ‘Worst Anime Shows Ever’ list. So is it really down to the poor animation, and only that?

(This would be the part where I say this post has spoilers for the show, but to be honest, what’s the point?)

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Shimamura’s Catch-22.

You either found her extremely fascinating or extremely frustrating. Shimamura was someone who divided opinion when Adachi & Shimamura came out. With so many yuri shows that came out with couples being very open about their relationships and romances, Adachi & Shimamura was unique in that it presented a much more realistic scenario; girls that aren’t the popular type at school who have their own views on the people around them. Adachi becomes the one who effectively makes the first move, and so when people saw Shimamura’s apparent lack of response, they got fairly frustrated. A girl is in love with her, and she doesn’t respond? Other yuri shows like Bloom Into You and Sakura Trick saw couples who openly accepted each other, sometimes immediately, with their later episodes going into further detail on how their romance blossomed. So because Adachi & Shimamura was such a slow burn show, that may have been the reason why viewers’ frustration may have been misplaced.

Adachi & Shimamura

Only a slow burn could work for a show like this, because both of them weren’t completely open with their feelings from the get-go. In fact, it wouldn’t be until around halfway through until we got to see more from Shimamura’s perspective, and how she really felt about her new best friend. The show is, for the most part, told from Adachi’s point-of-view, and so in the moments where we get to see things through Shimamura’s eyes are things that form our opinion of her as a whole. Most of our focus would be watching Adachi and her puppy love, but while all of this was happening, we never got to see much of how torn Shimamura is…

(This post contains spoilers for Adachi & Shimamura)

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