Anime Recommendations and Open Thread

(Fistful of Woolongs t-shirt now on sale at the NeatoShop)

In February, I wrote a post in which I offered anime watching recommendations and invited Neatorama readers to make their own or share any thoughts they had on anime. It was quite popular and we had a lively discussion. So let's do it again!

Blade & Soul is a Korean fantasy MMORPG. The currently airing anime series by the same name is set in that universe. It is the story of Alka, an assassin bent on revenge against the woman who murdered her master. Alka is a seemingly emotionless person. She lives according to a code. She's avenging her master not because of any apparent feeling for him, but just because of her professional code. 

It is noteworthy that Alka is the main character, but not the hero of the story. There are no heroes in Blade & Soul. Yet it is not an amoral series, but a morally complex series. Episode 5 is particularly outstanding in this regard.

Kotaku's anime critic Richard A. Eisenbeis referred to Sakura Trick as "My Favorite Anime of the Winter Season." That got my attention. Although my tastes and Eisenbeis's don't always overlap, I find that his regular reviews and recommendations are helpful starting points.

Eisenbeis calls Sakura Trick "a real romance," which I think is a great way to describe it. Love, especially young love, is messy. Not only are there no fairy tale endings, there are no fairy tale beginnings or middles, either. Hakura and Yu are awkward and uncertain as they explore love for the first time.

One Week Friends is a currently airing high school romance. It's a sweet and romantic tale about a girl with a unique memory problem: every week, Fujimiya's memories about her friends reset. If she makes friends with someone on a Friday, she has no memory of that person on the following Monday.

Hase, the lead male character, nonetheless wants to be her friend (and possibly more), even if he has to restart the relationship every week. It's similar to Sakura Trick in that the characters are three dimensional people, not stereotypes or stock characters. Hase in particular doesn't know how to navigate his own inner feelings or his relationship with Fujimiya.

Watching Spice and Wolf was a novel experience. It is the tale of a merchant and his companion, a centuries-old wolf spirit who takes the form of a woman. Although Spice and Wolf is a love story, the main plot drivers are economic. Kraft Lawrence and Holo operate various business ventures. They are not fighting battles against evil or some terrible enemy, but engaging in currency speculation and commodities trading. They're trying to make money. The business adventures are not the B story and their love affair the A story, but the reverse.

There's one feature of Spice and Wolf and other anime series which annoys me. In a tsundere romance, the two lovers initially dislike or even hate each other before falling in love at the end of the story.

From what I've seen, it's usually the female which is particularly hostile to the male. Holo, the lead female character in Spice and Wolf, is verbally abusive and manipulative to Kraft Lawrence. In some tsundere romances, the female is physically violent to the male (e.g.: The Familiar of Zero). This is domestic violence, but it is depicted as amusing so as long as it is female-on-male violence.

The best course of action for anyone in an abusive relationship is to exit it immediately.

The Familiar of Zero and its sequel The Familiar of Zero F is harem anime in a fantasy setting. Louise, a mage, casts a spell to summon a familiar. That familiar is Saito, a Japanese teenager who gets sucked out of our world and into Louise's.

As is typical of a harem anime, several girls fall in love with Saito. Naturally, he makes the worst possible choice and falls in love with the violent and abusive Louise. That problem aside, it's a fun, light, playful series in which Saito and Louise overcome a number of magical threats against her world.

What anime do you enjoy? In the comments, share your recommendations and any other reflections you have on anime.

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I'm current on Black Bullet. I'm kinda on the fence about it. I have started Blade and Soul though, and I am liking it. I just finished Golden Time and found it really enjoyable.
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