30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 24: Moment That Shocked You The Most in An Anime

This post is part of The 30 Day Anime Challenge Series alongside the Cosmic Anvil Kickstarter campaign. Click here to read the introduction, and click here to check out and support the campaign to help us fund the printing and distribution of our first collected volume of our manga-inspired comic series, Age of Revolution.


[SPOILER ALERT! There will be some tragic/death scenes and plot twists mentioned in this post.]

Jess Hardcastle Marketing Whizz Kid

What shocked me the most out of all the anime I’ve seen so far has to be the surprisingly dark themes in Puella Magi Madoka Magicka. I went into the series blind only knowing it was about magical girls but it turned out to be a hell of a lot grimmer than that!

Even the cute cat-like creature, Kyubey, who initially appears to help and guide the magical girls turns out to be an emotionless, scheming alien that has a total lack of regard for the girls’ lives! Mainly as he doesn’t tell the girls that once they become Puella Magi, if they fall into despair they become the very witches that they are fighting!

kyubey turned around

I mean… how could this cute creature be so evil?!

Honorable mentions: L’s Death (Death Note), Maes Hughes Death (Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood), Lucy killing Kouta’s Dad & Sister (Elfen Lied) and Eren becoming a Titan (Attack On Titan).


Hannah Collins Co-Founder and Artist

Until recently I would have had a hard time choosing between moments for this one. That was until I saw the feature-length anime Perfect Blue at the Kotatsu Japanese Animation film festival in Cardiff a couple of weeks ago, and am still trying to get over it weeks later! [Just as a warning, this film is rated 18 (R-rated) and I will be discussing some very NSFW content.]

Perfect Blue Film Poster

Perfect Blue Film Poster

Perfect Blue is a psychological thriller about a J-pop idol called Mima who, after enjoying some success as part of a pop group called ‘CHAM!’, is encouraged by her management to try and channel her talents into acting instead of music. She unhappily complies, taking up a small role in a TV crime series. Unfortunately, following this break she starts to become pushed into doing more and more ‘mature’ work, supposedly to be considered as a ‘serious’ actress, involving a hideously gratuitous rape scene on her TV show, and nude photo shoots. Whilst this is going on, Mima also becomes the victim of online stalking in the form of a blog that claims to be written by her called ‘Mima’s Room.’ The blog tells Mima’s fans how unhappy she is with her new life whilst detailing with creepy accuracy everything that Mima did each day. Moreover, people around Mima who could be seen to be taking advantage of her keep ending up dead.

Mima performing with CHAM!

Mima performing with CHAM!

As Mima becomes more and more unnerved by the attacks, the stalking, and being forced into uncomfortable situations for her new line of work, her mental state becomes more and more fragile. She is haunted day and night by a ghostly projection of herself in her J-pop persona who mimics that words of the blog, making Mima question her own identity and image. Is anything in her life real anymore? Who is the real Mima and who is the performer? As the film shifts between her real life, her TV life, and the waking nightmares in Mima’s head, we as an audience also become less and less sure of what is real and what is fantasy, to the point at which all three blur incomprehensibly together.

Which is the real Mima?

Who is the real Mima?

In a film that is wholly quite shocking all the way through, perhaps the most shocking scene for me – other than the twist at the end – is when Mima is attacked by her stalker (the writer of ‘Mima’s Room’) in the TV studio at night who beats and nearly rapes her before she is able to escape him. She runs away for help, only to find that his unconscious body is gone. The scene is eerily similar in lighting and placement to the one she shot for the TV show is stars on, and the disappearance of his body also reinforces the feeling of uncertainty that the attack ever happened at all.

I felt super uncomfortable watching both of the sexual assault scenes in this film, which I know is the correct feeling you’re supposed to have when watching them, but I also felt very divided about their execution. On the one hand their unflinchingly graphic nature worked to add to the film’s classification as a horror/thriller, and as both were revealed in the end to possibly not be real at all, their almost overly lecherous overtones could be fabrications of Mima’s intense nightmares. However, I am always dubious of how far rape scenes need to go in terms of graphicness. After all, rape is an expression of violence and dominance, not sex, and the constant leeriness of the camera angles as Mima’s clothes are ripped and her body positioned in suggestive poses throughout both ordeals seemed unnecessarily sexual.

Mima's rape scene in the TV show

Mima’s rape scene in the TV show.

Based on a novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and directed by Satoshi Kon, this film was interestingly originally supposed to be live-action direct to video, but after the studio was damaged in the Kobe earthquake of 1995 the film’s budget was slashed to the point that it could only go ahead as an animation.  It would be fascinating to see which – if any – alterations to the film were made through this transition. I can’t help but also wonder if the film’s highly graphic subject matter would be a little less shocking if they were performed in real life by actors rather than drawn figures. After all, as much as I’m used to and open to anime grappling with adult themes, it still feels quite shocking to see cartoon depictions of murder and sexual violence.

Honourable mentions: Eren gets eaten by a Titan and survives (Attack On Titan), the chimera is revealed + the ending of Full Metal Alchemist, Asuka’s death (End of Evangelion), Shinji masturbates over Asuka’s comatose body (Neon Genesis Evangelion), L’s death (Death Note), Kyon’s death (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya), the ending of The Big O.


Huw Williams CO-Founder and Writer

SPOILER ALERT! This entry is a HUGE spoiler for The Big O, so if you are watching/reading it or are thinking of watching/reading The Big O, DON’T READ ON as this is a major spoiler!

Epic Team Up

BIG O!

I think I have already mentioned Big O in this series of blogs, so I’m not going to go over the plot again, but I will say that this anime definitely makes you think.

It’s film noir style matches perfectly with it’s story, a tale of twists and turns, corrupt governments, femme fatales, and hidden identities. It’s truly a brain teaser that has a great merge of style and substance.

However, the film noir feel get’s flipped right on it’s head as it becomes ultra-Sci-Fi at the end. Yes, there are giant robots and androids in this anime, but the anime up until the end was always more of detective drama, but everything changed when the finale happened.

Angel

Angel: Femme Fatale

The final episode blows your mind. It has the standard giant robot fight take place that you’d expect of a mech-themed show, but in the final moments of the episode, Angel – the femme fatale who has been teasing the protagonist Roger – transforms into a giant robot called ‘Big Venus’. She walks toward Big O, the city vanishing with every step she takes, until there is nothing left other than Big O, and then Big Venus merge with him, and the end of the episode fades out with the same monologue that Roger gives in the first episode. This reveals that the world that Big O is set in is a virtual reality, and that Angel is the one who controls it all, once this is discovered she resets the reality to the first episode of the show, and it all just loops.

Big Venus

Big Venus/Angel deleting the virtual reality around it.

This blew my mind… It doesn’t help that the episode itself doesn’t really explain what’s going on. It feels like reading an essay without a conclusion, or a mathmatical sum without a result. You can see all the workings, but you can’t really see what it’s meant to lead to. So only when reviewing it and reading up on it did the pieces fell into place for me, and even after discovering what the final episode meant, it broke me.

Sorry for spoiling it all, but I will always recommend Big O to people, as it’s clever, it makes you think, and it has giant robots. What more do you want?


Written by the Cosmic Anvil team.

Check out our own Welsh-manga (or ‘Wanga’) series, AGE OF REVOLUTION on our official site and Comixology! And if you want to join the fight to get the AGE OF REVOLUTION Volume printed check out our Kickstarter page

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30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 20: Anime Character that Gets on Your Nerves

This post is part of The 30 Day Anime Challenge Series alongside the Cosmic Anvil Kickstarter campaign. Click here to read the introduction, and click here to check out and support the campaign to help us fund the printing and distribution of our first collected volume of our manga-inspired comic series, Age of Revolution.


Jess Hardcastle Marketing Whizz Kid

This one really made me think, but in the end I’ve decided to choose Yuka from Elfen Lied because not only is she annoying, but she’s also jealous, incestuous, and definitely whines far too much! I can’t stand her – even her voice winds me up! I’ve never wished death on a character before but when it came to Yuka I really wanted Lucy to kill her. If she’s not clinging to Kouta, she’s crying or nagging or just generally being a pain in the ass!

445995_1352844556491_400_300

SO ANNOYING! Yuka, Elfen Lied


 

Hannah Collins Co-Founder and Artist

My choice for this post may be a little controversial as she’s such a fan favourite, but bear with me. The character that gets on my nerves the most has to be Asuna from Sword Art Online.

Double Asuna Sword Art Online

Double Asuna = Double Annoying! Sword Art Online

Some characters are annoying from the very start of a show and your opinion of them never really changes. You sigh every time they come on screen, and you’re pleasantly relieved when they don’t get any airtime for a while. Is there anything worse than a constantly irritating character? Well, how about a character who starts off as your favourite only for you to grow to hate?

Let’s be real here: Sword Art Online started out as a refreshingly original, philosophical, and breathtakingly animated show, but by the end of the first series it’s ideas became tired and some of its characters’ suffered from disappointing arcs. Asuna is one of those characters. Beginning as one of the strongest players in the entire game, Asuna was tough-talking and crazy talented with a sword – even giving Beta tester Kirito a run for his money. As an inevitable but nonetheless sweet romance blossomed between them, Asuna’s vulnerabilities started to come out more and more – as did Kirito’s. But the difference between Asuna and Kirito was that whilst he continued to go from strength to strength in the game, Asuna’s strength and agency fell further and further back, until she seemed to be more a of simpering damsel than the once powerful knight she began as. Eventually, through strange plot contrivances, Kirito leaves her behind altogether and continues adventuring with a different partner.

If you compare Asuna’s character development to that of her nearest equivalent – Cecily Campbell from The Sacred Blacksmith – you can see how nonsensical this regression really is. Cecily is a lone female knight in a fantasy kingdom who begins as an untrained, clumsy novice and grows to overcome the inherent sexism of her faux-medieval setting; her own personal weaknesses; and a traumatic sexual assault to become a well-respected warrior.

Cecily Campbell battling on even with a broken sword.

Cecily Campbell battling on even with a broken sword.

This is not only a satisfying arc for a ‘strong female character’ stereotype, but just generally a satisfying and straightforward arc for any heroic character; making Asuna’s comparative strong-to-weak transition look even more bizarre for the action-fantasy genre that I thought the show was supposedly updating.

Asuna sword art online 30 day anime challenge cosmic anvil

Asuna battling in an early episode…

sword art online asuna 30 day anime challenge cosmic anvil

…and Asuna later on in the series.

Honourable mentions: Misa Amane (Death Note), Tea Gardener (Yu-Gi-Oh!), Nunnaly Lamperouge (Code Geass), Suzaku Kururugi (Code Geass), Eren Jaeger (Attack on Titan).


 

Huw Williams CO-Founder and Writer

Although I certainly don’t hate this character, her choices annoy the hell out of me. My most annoying character is Chi Chi from Dragon Ball Z.

Chi Chi

Chi Chi, Dragon Ball Z

Chi Chi didn’t always bug me. She started off as a cute kid, then at the end of Dragon Ball she was a fiery individual and the perfect match for Goku. It was in Dragon Ball Z that Chi Chi really started to anger me. Her dreams and aspirations for Gohan were for him to knuckle down with school and one day become a great scholar. However, it is clear from episode one that Gohan was born with great power lying dormant, and he is clearly destined to follow in his father’s foot steps of becoming the world’s next savior.

At the end of the Cell Saga we think that’s going to happen: Gohan becomes a beast, and the very first to master the Super Saiyan 2 transformation. Below is a clip of the final blow he hits Cell with, named the ‘Father-Son Kamehameha’ as Goku (his father) is the one that finally gives Gohan the inspiration to release his full power, and with it he annihilates Cell, and becomes the most powerful Dragon Ball character.

However, Chi Chi destroys this and makes Gohan go to school and he becomes and absolute lame person! Gohan fights back by training in secret, and taking on the identity of the ‘Great Saiyaman’ to fight crime. It makes you think though: what would Gohan’s power be like if he continued on the path he was on during the Cell Saga?

SHUT UP CHI CHI

SHUT UP CHI CHI.

She’s bossy, she’s complains all the time, she doesn’t see the bigger picture, and she’s controlling. The worst thing is that she wasn’t always this way, she used to be adorable and understanding, so I try to remember the good times. Like in this adorable picture:

Aww

Awww!

But now all I see is this annoying woman who tries to make the two most powerful individuals in the world do homework, go to parent evenings, and take driving lessons… but I guess if that didn’t happen we wouldn’t have these hilarious moments:

Brum, brum, beep, beep

Brum, brum, beep, beep!

And Goku loves her, so I guess she can’t be that bad…

Family fun

Family fun

Just let Gohan punch bad guys for crying out loud!


Written by The Cosmic Anvil Team.

Check out our own Welsh-manga (or ‘Wanga’) series, AGE OF REVOLUTION on our official site and Comixology! And if you want to join the fight to get the AGE OF REVOLUTION Volume printed check out our Kickstarter page!

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30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 6: Anime You Want to See But Haven’t Yet

This post is part of The 30 Day Anime Challenge Series alongside the Cosmic Anvil Kickstarter campaign. Click here to read the introduction, and click here to check out and support the campaign to help us fund the printing and distribution of our first collected volume of our manga-inspired comic series, Age of Revolution.


Jess Hardcastle Marketing Whizz Kid

There’s soooo much anime on my to watch list… Where do I even begin?! As I’ve previously mentioned, I haven’t seen a huge amount of anime so there’s a hell of a lot I still need to see, and top of that list is definitely Kill La Kill that I’ve been meaning to watch for a while now.

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Kill La Kill.

Honorable mentions: Genesis Neon Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell. (I could name many many more that I feel like I should have already seen but the list would go on for days!)


Hannah Collins Co-Founder and Artist

My ‘To Watch List’ is probably about as long as the number of years it will take until Oda finally writes the last chapter of One Piece. I also get into a bad habit of starting but not finishing series’ such as Bleach and Fairy Tail. For this post I’m going to go with a series that’s not only been on my list forever, but I also have a weird nostalgic connection to, and that’s The Rose of Versailles, also known as Lady Oscar.

The Rose of Versailles Lady Oscar Anime

The Rose of Versailles/Lady Oscar

I first discovered this series when I was on holiday with my family years ago as a teenager. My sister and I were channel-hopping in our hotel room, and suddenly something animated flickered across the screen and we stopped straight away to find out what it was. It was dubbed in French, the animation style looked super old school, and the episode featured odd scenes of cross-dressing knights, princesses, horses, and castles. As neither me or my sister spoke French, we made up our own plot to the episode, and even our own lyrics to the theme song (which just involved singing “LADY LADY OSCAR” over and over again).

It turns out – after a little research – that I was right about the ‘old school’ animation, as it originally aired in 1972-3, and ever since discovering it I keep seeing it pop up on ‘The Best Shojo Manga’ and ‘Must Watch Classic Anime’ lists constantly. Apparently we’d unwittingly stumbled across a bit of a cult thing.

Set during the French Revolution, the story revolves around Lady Oscar – raised as a boy by her father, General Jarjayes – and the infamous historical Queen Marie Antoinette. Interestingly, although Marie begins as the main character, Oscar became the fan favourite and was pushed into the central character role from the supporting one. As the head of the Royal Guard, Oscar is essentially the body guard for Marie and the royal family, only to become ideologically conflicted as she realises the true extent of poverty in France at the hands of the neglectful and greedy monarchy.

My research also revealed that the series is both hugely popular and adored in it’s native with Japan (number 14 on the Best Selling Shojo Manga of All Time list; with live action and even musical adaptations) and so well-researched that it is even used as a teaching aid in schools and public libraries. In the West, it is revered as a cult classic, and revolutionised the Shojo genre with its progressive sexual politics and inclusion of the first ever ‘bed scene’ in manga.

Knowing all of this compels me even more to finally sit down and get into those 40 episodes of historical Shojo goodness! And I can finally find out what on earth was going on in that episode I watched all those years ago.

Honourable mentions: Revolutionary Girl Utena, Beserk, Le Chevalier D’Eon, Freezing, Gundam, Fate/Stay Night, .hack//SIGN, Psycho Pass, Noragami, K-On!, Assasination Classroom, Durarara!


Huw Williams CO-Founder and Writer

I tend to refuse to watch good stuff if too many people tell me to watch it. For example I still haven’t seen Breaking Bad or Lost, and I probably never will. But, one day I will watch Death Note… Just not today.

I stayed away from Death Note for two reasons:

  1.  I watched the live action film first and for a wile I was staying away from anything that had to do with it. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know why.
  2.  It just looks too ‘Emo’ for me. I know that’s such an old school insult, but I tend to stay away from stuff styled that way, because in school Emos were annoying to me. But I will watch it eventually, even though I was told the main spoiler of the story…
Urgh.

Urgh.

Honorable Mentions: Psycho-Pass, Fist of the North Star, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Assassination Classroom and Kill La Kill.


Written by The Cosmic Anvil Team.

Check out our own Welsh-manga (or ‘Wanga’) series, AGE OF REVOLUTION on our official site and Comixology! And if you want to join the fight to get the AGE OF REVOLUTION Volume printed check out our Kickstarter page

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30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 5: Anime You’re Ashamed You Enjoyed

This post is part of The 30 Day Anime Challenge Series alongside the Cosmic Anvil Kickstarter campaign. Click here to read the introduction, and click here to check out and support the campaign to help us fund the printing and distribution of our first collected volume of our manga-inspired comic series, Age of Revolution.


Jess Hardcastle Marketing Whizz Kid

I can’t really think of any anime I’m actually ashamed to say that I’ve enjoyed so I think I may have to skip over this one! *Sorry!*  As I’ve carefully selected the anime I have watched so far, there’s nothing I’m ashamed to say I’ve seen yet… Maybe that’s a good thing, though?


Hannah Collins Co-Founder and Artist

I’m ashamed to say that unlike Jess, I had a few too many choices to pick between for this one! Oh boy. Let’s face it though: there’s a lot of great anime out there, and there’s a lot of bad anime too. But, if you don’t watch the bad, then you have nothing to measure the good against, right? Or at least that’s how I justify it…

My pick for this one is a series that I watched because I wanted to find more anime with LGBT+ characters, and of course, ended up in dangerous Yaoi/Yuri/Hentai territory pretty quickly! Feeling lost, I asked for a recommendation from one of my LGBT+ nerd friends, who recommended Gravitation – a 13-part series about a rocky love story between aspiring teen pop star Shuichi Shindou and aloof romance novelist Eiri Yuki, set in the late 90s/early 00s.

Gravitation Cosmic Anvil 30 Day Anime Challenge

Shuichi and Yuki.

So what’s so shameful about it other than the relentless power-pop numbers in frilly pirate shirts? Well, fans may disagree with me here, but I found Shuichi and Yuki’s relationship very problematic, and often borderline emotionally abusive on Yuki’s part! The dynamic of their relationship is Yuki as the older, dominant one and Shuichi as the younger, subservient one, which may work fine in some relationships, but Shuichi’s teenage naivety (this being his first adult relationship) made him very vulnerable and susceptible to Yuki’s hot-and-cold bouts of love and hate.

Gravitation Cosmic Anvil 30 Day Anime Challenge

Yuki surprises Shuichi.

Shuichi also behaves exactly as stereotypes dictate of someone being domestically abused – wrought with the knowledge that he is in love with someone who constantly hurts him, he cannot help but keep accepting Yuki’s apologies and stay loyal to him no matter how far away he pushes him, or his friends tell him he should leave him. Not a great first impression of an adult non-heterosexual romance in an anime, I have to say.

Despite all of this… I kept watching it. I think I honestly wanted to find out what would happen to these two in the end. If Shuichi would realise how much of a dick Yuki was and leave him; or if Yuki would see the error of his ways and respect Shuichi more. I guess despite all its flaws, it really did make me care enough about these two to see it through to the end.

Honourable Mentions: Inu x Boku SS, Yu-Gi-Oh!Vampire Knight, High School of the Dead


Huw Williams CO-Founder and Writer

Now, I’m not actually ashamed of any anime that I watch, and I’ll happily tell you that I watch the good, the crap and the bizarre. However, for the sake of this post, I guess I’ll have to go with… Tokyo Mew Mew.

Tokyo Mew Mew

Tokyo Mew Mew

Tokyo Mew Mew focuses on five girls infused with the DNA of rare animals that gives them special powers and allows them to transform into “Mew Mews.” Led by Ichigo (The one in pink), the girls protect the earth from aliens who wish to “reclaim” it. In their down-time, all five girls work in a cafe, as the owners of the cafe (the two scientists who turned the girls into Mew Mews) use it as a cover to guide the girls during their superhero ventures.

I’m not so much ashamed of liking or watching this anime, but more ashamed of how into it I got. With Cardcaptor Sakura I was always frustrated with the filler, however, with Tokyo Mew Mew I found myself caring a little too much about the romantic subplot. I really wanted Ichigo to get with Masaya, they are meant of each other, GODDAMN IT!

There is nothing more perfect than this.

There is nothing more perfect than this.

On the other hand, the action is pretty cool, the villains have sympathetic motives, and the humor is hilarious. So, I shouldn’t be ashamed of the anime, just myself for getting way too emotionally invested…

Honorable Mentions: Yu-Gi-Oh!, Bayblade, Spider Riders, Duel Masters, Bakugan Battle Brawlers.


 Written by The Cosmic Anvil Team.

Check out our own Welsh-manga (or ‘Wanga’) series, AGE OF REVOLUTION on our official site and Comixology! And if you want to join the fight to get the AGE OF REVOLUTION Volume printed check out our Kickstarter page!

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30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 3: Favourite Male Anime Character Ever

This post is part of The 30 Day Anime Challenge Series alongside the Cosmic Anvil Kickstarter campaign. Click here to read the introduction, and click here to check out and support the campaign to help us fund the printing and distribution of our first collected volume of our manga-inspired comic series, Age of Revolution.


Jess Hardcastle Marketing Whizz Kid

This is another one I really struggled with as they are just so many really good male characters that it’s hard to pick just one!

After much deliberation I think I’ve finally chosen my favourite male anime character and the winner is…. Light Yagami from Death Note. Okay, so this might seem like a bit of an odd choice seeing as he’s kind of a bad guy but he’s still awesome. He’s ruthless, determined, and has the ability to eat crisps dramatically:

What’s not to like? Except maybe the fact that he is essentially a psychotic murderer, but he does believes he’s doing it for the greater good.

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Light Yagami from Death Note.

Honorable mentions: Koro-sensei (Assassination Classroom), Seto Kaiba (Yu-Gi-Oh!), Levi Ackerman (Attack On Titan), Rintarou Okabe (Steins Gate)


Hannah Collins Co-Founder and Artist

After a lot of deliberation (and fan-girling), I have to give my best male anime character pick to Sebastian Michaelis from Yana Toboso’s Black Butler. Although, as Sebastian’s gender is constantly up for debate,  I’m not even sure “he” even counts as a valid answer…

Sebastian Michaelis Black Butler Cosmic Anvil 30 Day Anime Challenge

One Hell of a Butler.

Let me explain. In the image above Sebastian his pictured in his human guise as butler to Earl Ciel Phatomhive – a 12-year-old toy industry tycoon who summons a demon (Sebastian) to stay at his side until he is able to wreak revenge on the occult group who murdered his parents. The demon takes the form of a male butler, but whenever he occasionally slips into his demonic form to terrify the crap out of one of Ciel’s enemies, he becomes less corporeal and more monstrous – fangs, red eyes, bats, black nails and… stilettos?!

Sebastian Michaelis Black Butler Cosmic Anvil 30 Day Anime Challenge

These Boots Are Made For Walking.

The hint certainly seems to be that if Sebastian is not actually female in his ‘true form’, then is at least non-gendered or gender fluid, and since the world of Black Butler is filled with shinigami, death scythes, demons, angels, and werewolves, this isn’t much more of a stretch of the imagination.

Not only do I find the mystery surrounding Sebastian’s gender fascinating, but I find him to be one of the most compelling characters of any anime. His deep connection to Ciel through their demonic contract of servitude is often mistaken in the fan community to be weirdly sexual, but the lust that Sebastian feels for Ciel is actually predatory. Like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, he is slowly fattening Ciel’s soul up for consumption when their deal is done, and this laces everything familial that Sebastian does for Ciel with a murderous tension. Plus, he’s probably the best cutlery-weapon specialist there ever was/will be:

Sebastian Michaelis Black Butler Cosmic Anvil 30 Day Anime Challenge

Honourable Mentions: L (Death Note), Edward and Alphonse Elric (Full Metal Alchemist/Brotherhood), Syaoran Li (Cardcaptor Sakura/Tsubasa Resevoir Chronicles), Kanda Yuu (D-Gray Man), Tamaki Suoh (Ouran High School Host Club), Howl (Howl’s Moving Castle).


Huw Williams CO-Founder and Writer

If you’ve read our blog regularly you might already have guessed who my favourite male character is already. But for those who haven’t, it’s the one, the only: Son Goku form the Dragon Ball franchise. Yes it’s an obvious choice, but I don’t care – he is my favourite male lead. Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z are two animes that I grew up with, and my Dragon Ball merch list rivals my Pokemon merch list. So, Goku has been in my life for some time now, but let me take some time to tell you why he is the best.

Goku is one of the strongest characters in all fiction (Yes, I’ve seen Death Battle, and I’m okay with their result, but you still can’t deny that Goku is unstoppable nonetheless). Every challenge he has been faced with he has beaten; every limit broken; every chart has been thrown out because they needed new ones to record his power. He’s a beast and it’s all down to two things: his will and hard work. He is so focused on becoming the best he has now reached the level of a God and even beyond that.

Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan

Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan.

However, this is not the reason I love him. The reason I love Goku is because he is just a straight up nice guy. Ever since he was young, his most admirable feature – and arguably his strangest talent – is his pure heart. Goku is able to fly on the Kinto-Un (or Flying Nimbus), a flying cloud that can travel at supersonic speed, but will only allow people of pure hearts to ride it. Thanks to Goku’s good nature he learns a lot, which is a good moral to teach, and one that I try to follow.

In Dragon Ball he even turns his enemies into friends – Oolong, Yamcha, Krilin, Tien, Chaozu, Piccolo, Vegeta, Android 16 and 18, Majin Buu and even Kid Buu to a certain extent are all villains/rivals who have turned good due to knowing either Goku, or other members of the Z Fighters. Goku excepts them all into his extended family, and with smile on his face.

Goku and friends (that he used to beat up, or wanted to kill him)

Goku and friends (that he used to beat up, or wanted to kill him).

Yes, Goku has his downsides: his naivety, his pride, his total focus on training (a gift and a curse), but he is the nicest, most forgiving, and powerful being in the world. I also like how he eats.

nom nom nom

nom nom nom.

Honorable mentions: Vegeta (Dragon Ball Z/GT), Kinnikuman (Kinnikuman/Ultimate Muscle), Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece), Gene Starwind (Outlaw Star), Toriko (Toriko).


Written by The Cosmic Anvil team.

Check out our own Welsh-manga (or ‘Wanga’) series, AGE OF REVOLUTION on our official site and Comixology! AND if you want to join the fight to get the AGE OF REVOLUTION Volume printed check out our Kickstarter campaign!

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Sacred Blacksmith by Kotaro Yomada

 The Sacred Blacksmith or Seiken no Burakkusumisu is a fantastical story about knights, demons, medieval melodrama, magical swords, and reincarnation. At its core, however, it is essentially a story about a young woman asserting herself in a man’s world. In light of this it might be surprising to learn that the manga’s key demographic in Japan is the ‘Seinen’ audience – young to middle-aged men. Seinen stories are primarily characterised by soft-core sexual content and a female protagonist, but rather than rely solely on the usual fan service to satisfy male readers (panty shots, accidental nudity, nosebleeds, etc.) Sacred Blacksmith uses its genre trappings to instead highlight the causes and consequences of sexual violence with chilling realism, and handles it better than most live-action representations I’ve seen.

The Sacred Blacksmith began life as light novel series by Isao Miura with illustrations by Luna. The manga adaptation by Kotaro Yamada has been serialised in Monthly Comic Book Alive since 2009, and the (criminally short) 12-episode anime from Manglobe also aired in 2009. It’s hero is Cecily Campbell, a young woman who dreams of becoming a great knight like her Father. The problem is… Cecily doesn’t have a clue how to be a knight. In fact, she’s pretty useless at it. That is, until she teams up with Aria – a formidable spiritual sword who can take the form of a human – and Luke Ainsworth, a grumpy and isolated master Blacksmith who is attempting to forge a sword powerful enough to take out the evil presence that plagues the medieval world they live in. Aria quickly becomes Cecily’s ally and best friend, but Luke takes a lot more convincing. This is not because Luke has any prejudice against women (evidenced by his female assistant, Lisa) but simply because he finds Cecily’s incompetence really annoying.

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(From left to right) Cecily, Luke, Aria, and Lisa

Cecily, however, is unrelentingly ambitious, and slowly manages to become better and better at wielding Aria, and far more confident in battle. Luke finds that as their paths continuously cross, and Lisa and Aria conspire to push the two together, he begins to see past his initial impression of Cecily as a bumbling idiot and instead as a valuable ally and equal. These feelings predictably intensify into more romantic ones, but as Luke seems unsure if Cecily returns these feelings, he remains at a respectful distance from her… for now, anyway.

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Shall we dance…?

Cecily and Luke’s tentative and courteous relationship throughout the story is put into stark contrast with Cecily’s encounters with the villain of the story – Siegfried. Siegfried is your standard ‘insert-villain-here’ kind of villain: power-hungry, ruthless, and very, very creepy. This creepiness doesn’t take long to become predatory, culminating in one of the most shocking moments I’ve ever come across in my years of reading comics and manga.

It comes after Cecily manages to claim a significant victory over Siegfried, and he – humiliated – physically and sexually assaults her when she is alone and off-guard. His intention is to not only humiliate her in the way she did him, but to demonstrate both his power over her as an enemy and, more importantly, as a man over a woman. He doesn’t even need to actually carry out the ‘act’ fully because the implication is enough, and the implication is that it would certainly not be a sexual act rooted in lust, but a violent one rooted in sadism. The ordeal is quite honestly extremely difficult to read – as you would expect it to be – but perhaps equally heart breaking is seeing the effect it has on Cecily, who is utterly psychologically destroyed by it.

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Cecily’s inner turmoil.

This internal collapse is physically represented – and powerfully visualised – by Cecily shutting herself away in bed at home, curled up under the covers with the curtains drawn, closed off to all of her friends and family. Aria tries to console her, but gets nowhere. Cecily seems to suffer in silence for many painful weeks. It is unclear if Siegfried’s actions are unique to his cruel character, or symptomatic of a larger culture of sexual violence in that world, but either way, the effect on Cecily would be the same. In a manga that had been fairly sweet natured up until this point, the gritty brutality of this arc was rendered all the more shocking to me, but I was also impressed at the balance of realism, brutality, and delicacy that Yomada conveyed through art and text, and all the more endeared to Cecily. I was reminded of a scene in the film G.I Jane (1997) which told the story of Jordan O’Neil – the first woman to go through a male-exclusive Navy Seal training programme, the toughest in the world. In the scene, the harsh reality of being prisoners of war is demonstrated to the new recruits, and to their horror, Master Chief Urgayle graphically simulates raping O’Neil to coldly remind them of the horrible fact that sexual abuse is used as torture in war. Broadly speaking, he is also reminding O’Neil that she truly is a woman in a man’s world, and could be taken advantage of in ways that her male peers probably wouldn’t. The only difference between G.I Jane and Sacred Blacksmith is that O’Neil’s abuse was simulated, but Cecily’s was all too real.

cosmic anvil recommends review comic manga anime sacred blacksmith G.I Jane

G.I Jane – the harsh reality of war?

My expectation in Sacred Blacksmith was that Cecily would eventually confide in Luke leaving him to enact revenge on Siegfried as the resident valiant ‘Prince Charming’, but I was glad when this expectation turned out to be completely wrong. Instead – as you would hope from a self-motivated woman of action – Cecily manages to not only come to terms with the ordeal, but faces down Siegfried again with Aria in hand. Luke does aid her in doing this and there is an implication that he has some idea of what may have happened, but I don’t think this detracts from the significance of Cecily standing up to her attacker and finding strength as a survivor rather than continue to feel defeated as a victim. In fact, when Luke steps in to confront Siegfried alongside Cecily, he does so not as Cecily’s protector or superior, but as her friend and ally outraged on her behalf.

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Luke has had enough of this shit.

The ‘woman in a man’s world’ trope maybe a well worn one, as is the ‘clumsy girl who learns strength through fighting’ one. And although Sacred Blacksmith doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, it is ultimately Cecily Campbell’s inner strength that pulls her through one of the toughest ordeals a woman can face, and handled with the appropriate mix of shock, brutality, and sensitivity through the beautifully drawn art. And don’t forget – this is all in a story aimed at young men.


Written by Hannah Collins, writer of the iwantedwings blog.

@SpannerX23 on Twitter.

By night, Hannah is a geeky feminist blogger, but by day she is a freelance artist who specialises in comic and children’s book illustration. Check out her portfolio here.

Don’t forget to check out the official Cosmic Anvil website for our original creator made comics!

Black Butler by Yana Toboso

Written and drawn by Yana Toboso, Black Butler, or Kuroshitsuji, is a Victorian supernatural fairy story like no other. Dark, weird, and classically gothic, this manga is fantastically written, stunningly drawn, and hugely loved both in and outside of Japan. It’s popularity is so strong in fact that its franchise has stretched beyond the manga series and anime adaptations, but also into a video game, a live-action film, and even two musical productions (only in Japan, unfortunately).

Poster for the first Black Butler live action cinematic adaptation

Poster for the first Black Butler live action cinematic adaptation

Despite volumes of the manga selling millions of copies, Black Butler is surprisingly not ranked highly in lists of the most popular manga on sale at the moment, but what sets it apart from most of its competition is the level of adoration and demand for cross-platform adaptations. The fans aren’t just satisfied with reading the story – they want the story to be as real and interactive as possible.

This only leaves one question: What is it about this manga that’s so special?

For starters – and I know this word is overused – it’s truly unique. I love manga, but like any established medium, so much of it is stuffed with generic tropes, fan service gimmicks, and ‘this-seems-very-familiar’ premises. The genres and sub-genres – although endlessly abundant – are also incredibly rigid, and most authors seem to prefer to play it safe within these genres, telling the kinds of high-school romance or action-adventure stories that the audience is used to reading and therefore easy to sell. However, it serves to note that the biggest sellers at the moment – One Piece, Attack on Titan, Naruto, Magi and Kuroko’s Basket – are actually very distinctive, showing that if an original idea catches people’s imaginations, it can really take off.

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Magi Manga Cover

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Kuroko’s Basketball Manga Cover

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Naruto Manga Cover

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Attack on Titan Manga Cover

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One Piece Manga Cover

Black Butler is a manga that has certainly achieved this. Set in Victorian England, the story revolves around 13-year-old Earl Ciel Phantomhive; orphaned on his tenth birthday when his parents were killed in a mysterious fire. Upon their death, Ciel vowed revenge, and inadvertently summoned a demon – Sebastian Michaelis – whom he made a deal with: To help him enact his revenge in exchange for his soul. Until that day arrives, Sebastian poses as Ciel’s butler and aids him in fulfilling his family’s duties as Queen Victoria’s ‘Watchdog,’ solving crimes in London’s gritty underworld while facing other paranormal beings along the way. Even in the worn-out supernatural genre, it’s a pretty interesting set-up.

The characters, however, are the real heart of the series. Ciel Phantomhive is far from your typical 13-year-old boy. Despite running his family’s toy company, he has little time or interest in childish pursuits – preferring to spend his time reading the newspaper, intimidating businessmen, indulging in Victorian High-Tea, and picking over crime scenes with his tailor-made cane and permanent frown of disdain.

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Ciel Phantomhive

Sebastian Michaelis is quite simply what he says he is: “One Hell of butler.” He can do everything from cooking a three-course dinner from scratch in under an hour; to taking out armed mobsters armed only silverware. His demonic powers essentially give him enhanced strength, speed and invulnerability, but his slim physique and feline elegance are more reminiscent of Catwoman than Superman. Despite taking on a male guise, there are subtle hints throughout the story that Sebastian is in fact gender-neutral, which, coupled with his graceful but deadly demeanour, makes him a mysterious and unpredictable presence.

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Sebastian Michaelis

Sebastian also becomes the unwitting object of affection for rogue Grim Reaper (and fan favourite) Grell Sutcliffe. Grell’s sexuality is never openly discussed, but the batting of his eye lashes, the shimmy in his walk, and a certain Titanic re-enactment scene (pictured below) – not to mention his constant fawning over Sebastian’s assumed-male body – make it pretty clear what kind of stereotype he is supposed to be (…or perhaps not if you take a look at this interesting forum debate between fans). Whilst Grell is genuinely endearing, this comedic but negative stereotyping of gay men and women as camp, sexually devious, and always chasing after people they can’t get is unfortunately common in manga/anime of this genre. Sebastian’s indefinable character draws strength from exactly the opposite.

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Every night in my dreams, I see you… I feel you…

The dynamic between Ciel and Sebastian is often mistaken for something perversely sexual and has inspired a wealth of, uh, not so tasteful fan fiction and art, but though I agree it is a perverse relationship, it’s certainly not a romantic one. Despite Toboso’s seductively penned expressions and glove removal sequences, Sebastian actually has no discernable sexuality. It is more of an unhealthy co-dependency to satiate unhealthy desires that he and Ciel share. For Ciel, it is the desire for revenge, and for Sebastian, it is the desire to consume Ciel’s soul. Sebastian – like the witch in the Hansel and Gretel legend – is ‘fattening’ Ciel’s soul up as he helps Ciel get closer and closer to his ultimate goal. In that role, Sebastian appears caring, nurturing, and protective, and sometimes it seems that even Ciel mistakes this for the guidance and companionship he has been missing in the wake of his parent’s demise, forgetting that behind beneath his loyal butler’s skin beats the dark heart of a predator.

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“One Hell of a Butler.”

Although there is something negative to be found in the twinning of androgyny with the monstrous, I think that what Toboso ultimately proves by playing on that connection in Black Butler is that we are perhaps more uncomfortable with androgyny then demonism, and this is the story’s unique appeal. The glimpses of Sebastian in his feminised demon form are more tantalising than his acts of inhuman strength and violence. Sebastian’s gender is a riddle that we – as readers in a gendered society – long to solve.

Written by Hannah Collins, writer of the iwantedwings blog.

@SpannerX23 on Twitter.

By night, Hannah is a geeky feminist blogger, but by day she is a freelance artist who specialises in comic book and children’s book illustration. Check out her website here if you’ve got a project you want to bring to life with bespoke artwork 🙂

Don’t forget to check out the official Cosmic Anvil website for our original creator made comics!