I actually posted a lot about this on Tumblr as fans are well, indignant or disappointed. Many are fans who are gay or who intensely love or ship gay pairings were offended by Bryan’s statement of “hetero-lens” due to its widespread spectrum implicit in the arena of homophobia. I, on the other hand, thought the comment was meh to me because it didn’t really feel I was in that category. This reviewer who has spent the majority of 2014 being indoctrinated into queer or even heteronormative homosexuality to the point that TPAB actually thought that all I watch is otome or queer animes is pretty much salient with the fact that I am/never was homophobic. I enjoyed some of the pairings in the otome show, saw potency in them and actually critiqued the execution of those shows.
I even wrote one of the longest reviews on this blog on critiquing and also praising Sekaiichi Hatsukoi which is a gay anime which pulled no punches. I really liked Queen’s Blade which is a lesbian anime, though a bit directed towards guys, had all the lesbianism, no holds barred, in its glory for the whole series. I loved Maria Watches Over Us which is a lesbian anime directed towards girls. I loved Cardcaptor Sakura and thought that Tomoyo loving Sakura or even Touya loving Yukito to be very well handled. I wanted Touya ending up with his teacher not because she was female but because I liked teacher-student pairings at that time but really hated the other character liking her teacher and marrying him after her high-school graduation though it was a totally heterosexual pairing. Because though it was not illegal it wasn’t to me tastefully written. I actually like Domoki liking Watanuki in xxxHolic and don’t like those other girls who fancy/like Watanuki aside Yuko Ichihara. And even that after layers of interactions and understandings comes about. One of my favourite anime, also directed towards girls is Revolutionary Girl Utena which shows Utena and Anthy as bisexual characters and mostly lesbians, full frontal, in the animated movie retelling Adolescence Apocalypse.
So, this opinion and article will articulate most of my feelings on the series and also on the pairings that survived. It will be long, span paragraphs and I decided after half-writing it I should also push this through some pages so please bear with me. Thank you if you read all throughout the way and Thank you for reading a bit. Honestly, this article took a long time to write — I was exposed to more material, got tired and procrastinated or cogitated a bit more. Yet I wanted this to be a comprehensive read of what I thought about Korra the series, the character and also Korrasami and Makorra. I will put briefly that I had higher hopes for the series but they were not met and as you will see this is more than any shipping or anything else.
It has to do with how TLA was handled and how LOK was handled: both are different shows and may deal with different things but have some core elements. It is the same way you might judge a reboot or even the different installments of the Final Fantasy series. It was mostly how LOK was writtenindependently in itself. How it was budget cut a lot by both Nick and how Bryke had many problems with Nick that eventual made this an internet only show that was also facing cancellations. So much so that Book 3 and Book 4 followed one after the other. Also, though I personally have nothing against Bryke I do think as writers and creators who were facing a lot of pressure that they did do some mistakes and mess up. Also Nick initially did not like that Korra was a girl and wanted her to be a guy because the Aang formula was pretty much potent still and in these series people for some stupid marketing reason and cultural biases want the main protagonist being a male and not female.
The TLA team was larger, had more writers and obviously many discussions amongst Bryke and those other people so many more ideas and expansions of concepts were apparently plausible and executed. Bryke originally wanted Toph and Azula to be guys and also wanted a love triangle between Katara, Aang and Toph so obviously that idea was scrapped by many others pitching in their ideas. Asami was initially also meant to be a villain I wouldn’t have minded if that happened because I think Spysami is pretty more interesting than thinly written Korrasami. Or, she may have been a double agent that would have proved volumes about her dexterity in general. Makorra was, as I read from Tumblr, described as the perfect pairing by Bryke themselves and how Korra and Mako were right for each other and “soulmates” — so I think Bryke’s Korrasami was done almost like a last minute thing. In fact, I don’t think they did away with Makorra either which is telling in the finale episode. I think they were confused at what to do really and thought that keeping both pairings open but focusing a bit more on Korrasami was the only thing they could do to “salvage” the series because before this finale many people had heavily, explicitly, inexorably critiqued Legend of Korra both critics and fans alike. So, LOK had a lot of problems since Book 1 that had to do and nothing to do with Makorra and pairings and stuff.
I won’t lie that I fast-forwarded to the last scene in LOK to see what happens because by this time I was kinda bored and wanted to know what happens to Korra and by Book 3 and 4 the hints of Makorra were pretty high I wanted to see if they patch up, after some time of course because some time even passed for Kataraang to happen. I was impressed with the spirit portal which became like the equatorial region of their world and that was awesome.I loved the last scene music and ambience but the pairing made me very unhappy because it was just too rushed and scatterbrained to be a beautiful buildup.
So to continue, though some fans of Makorra are homophobic; most of us aren’t. This is due to the fact we come to this show after years of watching anime shows from its infancy dealing with heteronormativity, queer sexualities (both straight and gay), performativity, and also the construction/reconstruction of identities. So, as most of us are in our late teens and twenties or even forties we are already nonplussed by homosexuality rather accepting it wholeheartedly as a romantic-sexual outcome. We have relegated our “hetero-lens” a long time ago even before The Legend of Korra or The Legend of Aang/The Last Airbender premiered. I have criticised Korra on numerous occasions and none of them were solely on ships. As listed below:
I am not partial. I have enjoyed gay pairings and straight pairings with equal zeal. I am not infected with “hetero-lens” — also I have accused Korrasami of a “hetero-lens” too. That one is that of heteronormativity. As a friend of mine stated gender or a critique of gender was not established in Korra. Korra is, as Anime Live Reactions put it eloquently, stereotyped as a strong woman/person of colour becoming bisexual and lesbian to validate her strong, “tomboy” existence. Asami’s sexuality has always been a game. She is a doll, a feminine debacle, and having Korra, a masculine, pair up with her reinforces a heteronormative way of looking at things. It essentialises that the avatar spirit is a “male” spirit with or without past lives because Wan, the first avatar, pretty much is shown to be in a relationship with Raava, a female spirit. Lesbianism, gayness or even straight-on heterosexuality is not about binary images but heteronormativity and performativity does reduce it to such.
Korra cannot be alone or be in a heterosexual relationship because that also incinerates the heteronormative way of looking at heterosexual relationships. Makorra ending in a bad note now encapsulates and also mediates on the fixation that strong men and women cannot mix. This stereotype is nothing new. If Mako and Korra could end better we would not point fingers at this rather Bolin and Korra’s chaotic end was foreseen on a lack of attraction on Korra’s part and even Bolin does not date Eska due to her domineering and inhospitable personality. Korra and Bolin are strong and do have chemistry but they end amicably, on good terms, there is hardly any name-calling and finger-pointing between them. Bolin does not ever bring up that Korra broke his heart by kissing her brother nor that he wanted Korra to apologise much because they went through things that allowed forgiveness and friendship to happen. Ironically, even Bolin and Eska’s breakup and later encounter seemed both comic but also reasonable and realistic. It was apparent that they both have considerably, without a doubt moved on. The way Mako and Korra interact are still as lovers even by the end of Book 4breakup or no breakup they just do, both context and subtext affirms it as a romance with mutually concerted feelings — it’s pretty confusing.
It is about a young man named Ritsu Onodera who is painfully shy from romance and any kind of love life. When he was younger he was seemingly betrayed by a older boy he loved and as he was not the social-sort and always a bit timid he resigned to not really be in love.
Unfortunately for Ritsu, the very boy or now man enters into his life ten years later in the Marukawa publishing house’s Shoujo Manga division. This man (boy) is Masamune Takeno who was once known in school as Masamune Saga . They both do not recognise each other, obviously, due to ten years of absence in each other’s lives. Yet Masamune later on looks closely and realises it’s his first love and decidedly declares to a reluctant Ritsu that in a year he will make him confess his love for him again.
Ritsu is obviously 100% annoyed. This man broke his heart and now attempts to be so casually engaged with love again. Apparently, Masamune mentions that it was Ritsu who had done the betrayal and not him. This also confuses Ritsu because Ritsu has no recollection of ever hurting Masamune. Yet Masamune seems interested in not losing Ritsu this time and for establishing love once more.
Can these two stay together or will there be no way to0 resolve what was probably miscommunication and hurt on both ends?
That;s basically the entire show. The worst thing is it is not nicely executed. One will see this show for its beautiful graphic and colour palette, to see some of the inner workings of a manga publishing house, to see lots of snogging between attractive men and the minutiae of life with attractive men. I know I enjoyed those moments.
Did I like the couples or did I care about them?
Fuck not much.
Seriously, I do not want to offend any fans nor do I want to offend the mangaka but this is very badly executed, even if the singular idea of reuniting love or accepting love is not bad.
I was introduced to this series I think when I was looking for titles as such. I took a small break from it but returned to it a year later because I actually liked the character designs and the real-world based setting. So my chagrin lies on the fact that a potentially good story is quite weak in structure be it symmetrical or semi-chaotic.
I admit I liked rewatching the series for its fluff factor which can be just zoned in to moments but I did not particularly care about any of the characters except Ritsu Onodera and Takafumi Yokozawa which is a bit sad as there are many characters so 😄
This isn’t going to be a regular review as it will mostly focus on my personal reflection. It is also going to be LONG and SPOILER FRENZY based on both seasons and the movie.
Despite me not so interested in this anime I can write long about it. I guess I have a lot of opinions on the series. I do like its fluff and that makes it re-watchable but I felt it had more potential that could have easily been extracted and executed yet alas that did not happen. Oh well onwards!
The main couple, Ritsu Onodera and Masamune Saga/Takano are a bunch of incompatible, uninteresting, too-sexualized, too passive-aggressive, non-flirtatious, non-talkative, stalemate (checkmate), misunderstanding, extremely poor communication bunch of lovers you could see. Their singular spark comes alive in really off-hand and pretty much coerced kisses between the two. Yes, and if you know the shounen-ai dichotomy you are well aware that Masamune is Seme and Ritsu is Uke and that the Seme is supposedly the action-taker.
Masamune is a drab guy who somehow thinks that coercively kissing Ritsu is the only way to rekindle what may have been a genuine first love or even a crush. I see most of the action of their youth being taken by Ritsu and also accelerated by Ritsu with only erotic or semi-romantic actions being boredly or even honestly initiated by Masamune, Fast forward 10 years later and Masamune is still kind of a prick who acts all high and mighty.
I can understand that he has a developed a “killer attitude” in the workplace yet with Ritsu he is not as understanding as he should be nor is he tolerable or a person who respects another’s private space. I can understand the separation has instilled in him a desperation that he longs for Ritsu but dude grow up you guys had a huge break and are at a deadly impasse don’t jerk Ritsu about.
What this so-called couple needed was good-old fashioned talk-therapy between each other. I mean even as the anime is expiring and both have kissed each other’s faces off but Ritsu doesn’t know why Masamune thinks he has abandoned him and Masamune shrugs off Ritsu;s complains that he was brusque and insulting to his feelings post-coitus.
In my opinion, Masamune is a culprit. No matter how you look at it you saw that Ritsu is a mild mannered person and anti-social. Laughing like that after sex when Ritsu asked him did he really love him and not affirming his belief is actually a very nasty thing to do. Obviously, a sheltered and even looking like a bullied person, Ritsu would think that Masamune is just passing time with him as he does in the library reading (though they did once lock the library and got a bit hot there).
I admit that Ritsu’s escapism is also at fault. If Ritsu just told Masamune straight off that he is being a jerk and he shouldn’t take his feelings lightly even if they are a bit intense I know this whole situation was avoidable. Yet Masamune did everything to initiate it. Even 10 years later he brushes it off as he was going through a lot then with his parents divorcing and how he was a bit of a punk then but that still doesn’t really excuse him. If he is so keen on wanting and loving Ritsu he should just be there for him and prove his love because all those years back Ritsu did all that so now it’s his turn.
No, he doesn’t do that; the guy just prances around and just sexually harasses Ritsu whenever and wherever hoping that Ritsu will relent. At times Ritsu does and they have weird knocked-out kind of sex that Ritsu either intentionally blocks out or has a hangover and kinda doesn’t remember (O_O :/). Instead of also informing him that he had sex Masamune does the whole you don’t remember speech over and over like they are on some of eternal repeat.
Yeah, it gets that annoying. Not to mention Masamune withhelds information; he is as bad as shoujo-stereotype heroine (as in bodice-ripper) implicitly telly Ritsu that he is not an innocent though obviously Ritsu is sexually still an innocent and quite untainted in his analysis. At the same time he is explicit as a harlequin man doing coercive action hoping it would be similar to affirmative action (I kid you not). Thus he is a merging of two tropes that bring out a bad synergy rather a positive or even tolerable one. Ironically, the best synchronized trope mix is Takafumi Yokozawa who is an ex, friend and colleague of Masamune and also his eventual lover Zen Kirishima (more on that later).
Masamune later on in the movie decidedly and finally apologises to Takafumi for in a way jerking him around. In some ways Masamune blinds himself of the dedication that Yokozawa puts on him. In my opinion, Yokozawa first two TV series is a complete asshole. It also doesn’t help that Ritsu becomes too passive about him. I understand Ritsu’s reluctance to have a verbal spat with a company senior but a few choiced remarks would have been helpful especially at one time Masamune points out (coming to the rescue) that Yokozawa deliberately did not pay attention to Ritsu’s work. Not that he pulled the classical jealous bitch and sabotaged it he just didn’t give it the attention it deserved.
Yokozawa lashes out at Ritsu because during university years Masamune was a wreck not able to cope with anything, becoming devoid of everything around him and naturally he blames Ritsu’s sudden disappearance from Masamune’s life as the sole cause to his psychological breakdown. Masamune does not especially since we see in the last episode of the 2nd TV series that Masamune’s parents were pretty negligent about him and also they were on the turn for a nasty divorce.
Yet Yokozawa thinking Ritsu is Masamune’s kryptonite is not abnormal nor unfair though his treatment of Ritsu is pretty unfair. Takafumi thinks that Ritsu is like a tease who specialises in breaking hearts which is a far cry from who Ritsu Onodera is. Not to forget that Masamune doesn’t really translate Ritsu as Ritsu as in he admits that Ritsu has changed a bit 10 years so Ritsu has obviously matured so he doesn’t know him much anymore. This “stranger” attitude is how Masamune handles the Yokozawa-Onodera situation though he deeply suspects that Yokozawa is being a bitch to him. Takano does not really blast Takafumi much for being a bully to Ritsu which is also something I hated.
That is why Masamune is such an incompetent lover. Aside his kissing vibes and actions he hardly understands Ritsu nor is engaged to Ritsu as a person. The mangaka just treats these people as instruments of romance rather than actual invested lovers. I read in wikipedia that Shungiku Nakamura actually wrote Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi as a spin-off to Junjou Romantica which I am partially familiar with. Nakamura may have just treated this as a pet project or something because to me it is not the best first lobe in the world <sweat drop> On the contrary it trivializes the precepts and concepts, of love and romance to a certain degree though to give it credit it has a few gem moments.
My favourite character is Ritsu Onodera. As a character he is the best written one in this series. Though a traditional uke in some design blueprints and precepts of personality he is ambitious, non-conformist at some turns, not a belligerent hardass nor a complete doormat. In reality he is more fiercer than Takafumi and Masamune.
This young man of 25 has more spunk and direction than the 27 year old annoying git Masamune. Ritsu has an impressive family history in the publishing industry but decides to just escape from it. Masamune does say one valuable thing: your lineage is just a surplus, a little ladder that gave a small boost it isn’t you in your entirety and it won’t qualify you or your work if you don’t understand or are conscientious. That is the most valuable gem in the series and Ritsu is a living embodiment of it.
Ritsu would have better in a shounen anime or another drama where he is bisexual or a thought experiment of an anime. This is my own personal thing but I can easily visualize him in a university drama like Honey and Clover or a male model in Paradise Kiss who is Yukari’s classmate/lover/friend. I can imagine him as a ninja in Naruto or a detective in Death Note or even Misa Amane’s co-star who is rightly suspect and discovers things about her. I can even imagine him as Prince Tutu, and extension of Princess Tutu. Or even as a cast of Free! or Haikyuu!! Yes, I can imagine him like this because Ritsu Onodera is so beautifully delicate and strong, such a large potential of attributes and personality with a repertoire of diligence and finesse that I seriously think he is wasted as just the love of a guy named Masamune Saga/Takano.
This is honestly my opinion. I think in all those incarnations he would work in publishing because he has a literary and artistic talent that is quite beautifully presented if not wholly fleshed out. Yet he can work on other things I can see that capacity for it. Masamune, on the other hand, can be the archetype seme and just be that; his character is narrow and static. Ritsu’s is not.
I just saw the end of DRAMAtical Murder the TV series based on the yaoi game of the same name. If those of who don’t know DRAMAtical Murder (DM for short) is also produced by the same creators who made Togainu no Chi, Sweet Pool and the lesser know semi-furry themed yaoi game Lamento — yeah, it is made by the distinguished boys’ love producer NiTro+CHiraL. This post does have spoilers as most of my posts. Spoilers on DM and also other Nitro-CHiraL stuff.
(Ok I started writing this like some days ago but posted it now)
DRAMAtical Murder is the second time their series was made into an anime. And yeah, it was an improvement if Togainu no Chi. Not that I had the same complaints as the fans of TGNNC that it was not fair to the game, in my opinion, it was a good adaptation of a game that uses points of character elimination (as in character death) to actually progress with story. I am not really going to talk about DRAMAtical Murder in full in this post because a) I need pictures and b) I will make an in-depth review of the whole series and c) I will do an episode by episode review as well as I watched attentively the whole series.
Chiral is the artist who helps write, I assumed, most of the original framework for these yaoi stories and she does a great enough job. NiTro+CHiraL is known for his deep and riveting storytelling and DRAMAtical Murder was no exception. I will not lie I do want more layers in the story but given it is a yaoi visually based game with routes involved I do applaud its integrity to make somewhat impressionable stories if not altogether remembering. Its premises are always something that can twist the ordinary but not so overly shoujo or shounen; it has its own directory of both powers, minutiae of everyday life and a cast of characters that will pervade or not.
The problem of adapting is that it is by the book. Some people hate when loyalty to a medium is severed. I myself complain at times of the same thing. Yet the medium is not a novel. It is a route based game so certain deviations are put as in an anime adaptation you will see all the routes somehow balance one another. The storyline is almost verbatim to what people had experienced in the different routes in the game (minus of course NiTro+CHiraL’s infamous bad endings which are graphically violent, bloody and disturbing to say the least really scary shit). I feel that to fans it is a good treat of seeing their beloved characters in motion and doing things without that multiple choice menu meaning someone else is doing the actions for them and as it is animated it now has cinematic pace. Yet my nagging feeling is that is it always necessary?
Togainu no Chi had an ending that actually carried on the story a bit. People hated it because there was no conclusive coupling. I actually applauded there wasn’t because the decision would be too sudden and too misplaced: though they hinted some Rin/Akira tension mostly because of all the routes that was in my opinion and even on a good pace the best ending of them all but I am not complaining because I am satisfied because that was not conclusive either. And it was also deviated from Rin’s route. So, there was no real coupling and it just focused on Akira’s growth as a person. It was a bit dark and murky but given the circumstances I preferred it the way it was. Of course, people hated it. I for one was happy seeing Akira realizing his destiny at stopping Shiki and just going for it. Shiki himself, like some Voldemort character, has accepted Akira as his rival, though Nano was always his obsession rather than rival. It made sense to me as the series was more or less based on Akira just realizing what and who he is and going on from there.
DRAMAticak Murder follows the same themes only different storytelling and other minor or major differences. Firstly, you will immediately notice that its art and animation is not dark and gothic inducing as TGNNC and that it has brighter colours. It is more based on internet, web, digital applications and interfaces so it also has a neon tint and timncture in colouring. Also it does not have character elimination much. It actually allows any character to become more ruthless rather than just die of your choices or presented circumstances of said choices. So if your route character becomes evil you either suffer or become as debased as him so in that way the bad endings has a darker flare than TGNNC but I guess because of the way it is presented it was somewhat tolerable to me though it is as dark and twisted as TGNNC. If you have a good ending what I enjoyed is I think many other characters can move on with their lives too. I am happy that this is not self centered. I mean why should the main character be so valuable as to always affect others so exponentially. And because it has less character elimination you feel overall happy getting a good ending.
DRAMtical Murder TV series or anime was a more heavy experience than Togainu no Chi the anime. This was both good and bad but mostly it is good. TGNNC was a bit lacking in story narrative that is okay because it was NiTro+CHiraL’s first work so it can have a few scratches here and there. Watching TGNNC felt ok, but it was a very loose and elastic experience. You feel that there are plus points but that this anime needs more to be 12 episodes long and it isn’t. Rather I was more interested in seeing how Akira and Shiki settle scores in the end. That was my feeling for it; I have mixed feelings. With DM those were not so much there. They imp-roved on their story execution and each epiosde was loaded. Yes, for a 12 epiosde anime arc I will say loaded. It can do better but what it did was not so bad. It focused on Aoba Seragaki and also on the emotional turmoils and formations of the other characters a bit too. Each episode after epiosde six felt like a mini route or mini arc on helping both Aoba and a character that has a route and that is pretty good. This sort iof execution was missing in Togainu no Chi anime because well TGNNU was a bit more difficult to arc and branch as character selection in game that led to routes were I think pretty sudden death too. Though some trhings in DM may remain a mystery it is not so nagging. The anime covered pretty much all the bases.
Each character was given ample enough time for a 12 episode arc; each character had someone else they hated or disliked or even pursued which was detailed. There was no one really wanting because if you see the series in one go even you will notice that it gave every major and some minor event in DRAMAtical Murder the game credence and attention. That is a good feat for a 12 episode anime arc that played around with a yaoi game that had many routes. There were both slice of life activities, both character arcs and details about the main plot. The series is character driven more. It is not shounen or shoujo that each thing is easily cured by a fight or interaction so they did focus on some messy things and some communication/ In shounen you have elaborate fights, in shoujo you have elaborate interactions in DM you can a equal pacing of talking and some reveals. Some may say that makes DM boring and they might not like it. I understand this. It is not a regular anime. It is yaoi based anime that left all the sex and sweat off. Except for some tame shounen-ai moments you get nada and I appreciate that too. The anime is not aimed to be yaoi. It is meant to please fans, attract new viewers and probably just mix some ingredients together. If it was yaoi you would find it in the hentai section.
The minor characters in the anime are still minor characters here. One of the mot crucial minor characters here is Sei Seragaki. Sei’s existence is pretty much tied up to Aoba realizing some stuff for himself and he is mostly used as a plot device. I actually mention Sei because Sei is a character I really love. I think even the two fuckers Virus and Trip are given more exposition in the original game (if you get bad routes) than Sei. Sei is both a noble and a very good natured character. He wants the best for his younger twin brother Aoba and wants his end as he has suffered a lot and now wants freedom from it. Because his physical state is so bad he knows he will not survive thus asks Aoba to use his scrap of destruction (he had the scrap of creation) to destroy him. This is where I wanted severely for NiTro+CHiraL to deviate from the original script and just go ahead and keep Sei alive. Ren can do something else to keep on living so it is important to me that Sei should have been given a second chance at life. Instead, they followed it to much on the script only deviating that Virus and Trip (because I think in the original it was not) calls Aoba to inform him that Sei is in the hospital after a year has passed from the Endgame. I mean it took Ren a year to live in his new body as Sei has told him to use his but if Sei was so damaged I think it would have been suitable that his body die out. I know the soul can triumph where the body can’t and now Ren is no longer Aoba but a soul independent I think he can somehow get a new body. I am thoroughly displeased at Sei’s death as to me he was the best innocent there was; though he says he is responsible for helping Toue Konzerin for long I do believe he was always treated as a lab rat thus he is more a victim always than an perpetrator.
Sei’s death is very unsatisfactory to me. In Togainu no Chi many characters die due to your choices and though many find it sad I accepted it as a narrative route strategy . With Sei my acceptance is mired with vexation at best, it is quite thin. To kill of a character that may have potential for other things is surely very pathetic. It doesn’t fit either structurally or artistically with the entire story. In the end Aoba evolves himself and his power a lot. He becomes able to do both what he was designed to do and also pick up Sei’s quality (as Ren projected himself into an ALLMATE puppy). Ren then, not as Aoba’s consciousness anymore or Aoba anymore, due to the grand scheme of things became his own entity. So, in the end there is a lot happening to Aoba and people around him. Sei is not given a chance to evolve though his character is such that because of possibly neural pathways he shared with Aoba (as their hair was connected as birth making them conjoined to a degree) he may have a natural telepathic link with him. To ensure his death was final he decided to tell Aoba to destroy that link so that he can ensure that after his physical body dies nothing fragmentary even has a chance to stay behind. I find Sei interesting so I did not value his character profile as some moody guy who just wants to make his death final. It is stupid and quite arbitrary for him considering there can be more done for him.
In the end, DRAMAtical Murder is enjoyable. It is something if put more thought into can actually expand bigger. But no one really want to do that. So, it just became a copy of the game add hoc which is somewhat frustrating. I do think this yaoi or otome or harem franchises should grow a pair and evolve themselves. Tenchi Muyo did it long ago and I was so pleased that in Tenchi Muyo in Love 2 there was a form of conclusion or even aftersense. I think these animes need more screen time, more substantial writing, more everything…I could actually see some if not many rhyme battles happening in DM, many more plot twists, many more antagonists and a lot of even traveling other places but not they are happy with just adapting with the same formula as game. I won’t lie there were times I fan girl squealed and there were moments I liked but I do want more substance in my anime.
Make no mistake, Kuroshitsuji is Ciel’s story in every sense. Sebastian is a co-lead, certainly, but his role here is more or less written – it’s Ciel’s which continues to write itself as the story progresses. I’ve said this before, but Kuroshitsuji is primarily a tale of victimization. It splits the world into two camps, victims and those who exploit them, and in most cases it’s pretty easy to tell which group each character belongs to. And when characters try to claw their way from the first group into the second, we invariably get tragedy – tragedy like the story of the Noah’s Ark orphans. There can be no doubt that they were victims of society’s cruelty (this episode alone reveals the full extent) yet they made victims out of scores of other children thinking it was the toll required to stop being victims themselves
Another anime review of Kuroshitsuji Circus Hen by Lostinanime so I thought I would share 🙂
As usual this post will be MAJOR SPOILER inducing and will SPOILERS for all Kuroshitsuji media like 1st TV series, manga, and 2nd TV series with the new series which is actually an extension of the first TV series story-line in both manga and anime.
I know I didn’t do a whole series review. It will take time for me to do that. I was on vacation last week and I hadn’t properly seen the whole 10 episode series of this story arc yet. Those of you who know Kuroshitsuji know that Circus Hen or that Book of Circus is one of the most crucial story arcs in the Kuroshitsuji main manga and anime. The manga is not finished yet but this is one of the most riveting, dark, sad and alarmingly unpleasant story arcs in the main story line. I give Yana Toboso props for writing this arc because I think it was not easy for her. Also, this non-ease is illustrated by being introduced to so-called “antagonists” that many fans of the series and also manga had grown to love and also empathize with. Though we had this already with Madam Red I think it got exponentially bigger with the Noah’s Ark Circus troupe.
I am not really telling the story of Circus Hen because it is available in full form in Kuroshitsuji Wiki and also a good synopsis is available in Wikipedia. Let me just say the Circus Hen introduces some characters who unfortunately do not stay with us in the long run and some others who are better off dead and buried under tons and tons of brick. Others I know I will miss a lot like really a lot because they are the embodiment of a form of nobility you don’t inherit. Basically it is a mission Phantomhive is handed that elucidates and exposes that Ciel underwent when he was 10 and a weirdass fetishist guy called Baron Kelvin who wants something that only Ciel can give (apparently at the end he can’t). The Circus, Noah’s Ark Circus, is made up of people like Joker, Beast, Jumbo, Doll, Dagger, etc who are kidnapping children for Baron Kelvin. It also introduces another fetishist called the Doctor who is severely and disturbingly into body modification. All these characters save Snake die brutal deaths. Joker and Doll, in my opinion, really did not deserve them because they are really good people who got stuck with the bad lot. I know the others are not bad people either but the high wire trope were becoming too systematized into killing and hurting so it’s not that they deserved death (I am never gonna be a fit person to say anyone fictional or otherwise did though some atrocious individuals are unanimously agreed by fans that they are better off rotting) but I think as they died in battle with Phantomhive’s army (his other servants) it was just the situation that made their deaths acceptable enough. I do feel bad for both of them as to me both parties were used as pawns rather than individuals. That was the most painful bit for me. I think if all of them, Phatomhive’s army and the Circus troupe, got together they would know how similar they were.
I think there are 2 reasons why the first adaptation did not have this story included with the canon first TV series (not that 2nd series is not canon but the 1st is actually more manga involved and follows the Toboso’s original stories pretty much on the dot). First, it is technicality. Book of Circus is an arc that has more spoilers than many arcs, and it is very long (this series had 10 episodes devoted to it). If you want a viewing audience to want suspense at what happened or going to happen to Ciel Book of Circus is too telling in a way. It also elevated the Undertaker’s role more than previously shown (which I really liked) and depicted a lot that could not be shown in the first anime TV series. It would probably lengthen the 26 episode structure and I think as that is the standard anime set the producers decided why not. Also as the manga is not even finished now it wasn’t the right choice to put so much information in.
I think the second reason is more important. Book of Circus shows a very nasty and bad side of Ciel. In fact many people hated Ciel’s behaviour in Circus Hen where he is culpable for mass murder, emotional manipulation and blackmail of a more or less an innocent and does pretty much malicious things. In the first TV series Ciel was depicted almost as a textbook victim and a classic apathetic type individual who due to facing torture and losing so much (mostly his childhood innocence) was molded into more or less a cold, calculating coerced adult sort of creature who did not truly like himself or what he did but managed to survive on some form of idea concerning getting revenge. His childishness remained, however, as he never truly suspected the Queen, the person he followed, to be the very person responsible for the crimes committed against him.
Ciel is very aloof and cold in Circus Hen and no one really questions him because no one really knows him and Sebastian is not really a type to question; as a demon, like Ryuk the Shinigami in Death Note, his task is to be amused and help Ciel accomplish his goals. Those goals are limited but that is what Toboso unknowingly perhaps shows — demons are more limited creatures than humans. True, Sebastian is physically very strong and has lot of finesse and skill but as he is a demon he is always contract bound and has to be loyal to Ciel without much question. Ciel is very detached in Circus Hen and this is how Toboso shows the nature of his abused self and his fears and terrors. As I never read the manga I did not know that Ciel had a great aversion for blood due to being always around it and bathed in his own when he was sold as a “pet” to a perverse cult that enjoyed sadism performed on children. But in Circus Hen anime it is horribly shown that any form of bloodiness really upsets Ciel. Also it was mentioned by fans who read the manga that Ciel hated being touched also because what the cult did. And he also suffers from asthma. We see all of these in Circus Hen anime adaptation.
It is a good thing that Circus Hen was adapted later (for me it’s ok either way) because Circus Hen is actually a very weighty and dark arc in the series and as many fans disliked what Ciel did that reaction was a reason that people promoting the anime series would want it excluded so that when people see in development that Ciel does grow it would be easier to digest. Actually from what I read from fans in a forum Ciel does visually regret his actions in Circus Hen as in later chapters he is shown to be more quiet and reserved and somewhat shaken. I think the first TV series was also aimed with making Ciel and Sebastian more consistent in the usual anime fair from what I read on fans reaction on the manga it is not always like that in the anime as Ciel and Sebastian do act a bit more erratically there. Circus Hen adaptation did however bring some manga bones into the story because apparently Sebastian is always teasing Ciel and making even at times condescending remarks at him which is very absent in the 1st TV series and also 2nd TV series (with the 2nd series much had happened so Sebastian probably thought it wiser to keep his mouth shut).
But in this anime finale Ciel has another minor breakdown and Sebastian really can’t soothe him (it seems demons do not know basic human behaviour as shown at how Sebastian was a bad cook when he started working for Ciel as human taste alluded him so he had learn what it might be). The first breakdown in Ciel is deviating from what the Queen ordered him to do which also made fans and me to a certain degree angry and kinda disappointed — he decides to burn all the children kidnapped by the circus and Kelvin mansion as he could not see his old torture chamber replicated. This was done with the breaking point of Kelvin’s Doctor started replicating the torture he faced on another child (in an earlier episode of this series it was shown that she was a flower girl that was kidnapped; it was very sad seeing her cheerful and laughing face become well dull, automaton lifeless. I seriously wondered what happened to these poor children). Ciel could not bear it any longer. Seeing all of these brought the 13 year old back to his memories when he was tortured and almost left for dead when he was 10 by a cult who really were a bunch of fuckers that should rot in hell. Sebastian as a demon loves debilitation and destruction so he only mentions once that Ciel is deviating from what the Queen had ordered so but then Ciel persists in using his pentagram seal that he wants this and Sebastian is contract bound, well the demon puts the place on fire and does what he is told.
Ciel later after everything is over mentions that he was totally broken when was stabbed and tortured on the slab (the same thing that happened to the flower girl in Episode 9) pretty much indicating that this was his breaking point again. Ironically, Sebastian seems pretty non-creative or rather wants Ciel to gain his revenge a bit by engulfing the manor in flames the same way that Ciel’s own manor was engulfed in flames on his 10th birthday destroying his family and life. Probably, it was to make Ciel forget that he had lost so much but it was pretty generic way to destroy a manor.
This is one of the first times in the Kuroshitsuji media that Sebastian is shown to be useless to Ciel’s actual well being. Truthfully, it is subtly there in every crucial arc. Sebastian really does not know what’s best for Ciel and that is because he is a contract demon so it is not in his nature to know basic emotions and ethics; he may mock them but does not truly know them. Also wanting to eat a soul is never really the best for anyone; I think we can get a universal consensus on that. That is why demons can only approach really abused and depressed individuals who are so muddled that they are not in their right minds when they make contracts such as this. Of course both Ciel and Sebastian have major evolution in the 2nd TV series. Ciel becomes more astute, forgiving and well matured and finally as a demon he feels he can finally escape who he is and actually live a full life (not scream at Sebastian to come devour his soul which was kinda kiddy but yeah I think by doing this the show reminds us that Ciel is still a kid). Though Sebastian still is contract bound and I did not enjoy Ciel being so awful behaved and belligerently teasing Sebastian about it what I did like is that both of them had a definite evolution on who and what they are. It is true by the end of 2nd TV series Ciel had lost all those who was important to him in a way and I felt really sad at the sudden loss of others of him as well but given his life it was obvious that he could not be with them anymore. I think this was also there when he had finished his revenge so maybe Ciel knew that it was impossible for him to keep what he once had but ironically he could have it partly if not all but given that the Queen wanted him dead and all the trials that he faced it was really evident that being Earl Phantomhive was useless. Ciel may have had Elizabeth’s love forever and maybe have married her but yeah he could not keep his title as noble society was against Phantomhive.
Going back to Circus Hen, what fans really hated, as did I, that Ciel ordered Sebastian to kill Doll/Freckles. It is actually the worst thing Ciel ever did in his life. I think he realizes this later because by the 2nd TV series Ciel has become in many ways like Doll by the end. In the manga, I read in Kuroshitsuji Wiki, Ciel is more cruel to Doll. When she arrives seeing the mansion burning she tries to hold Ciel and asked what happened but Ciel pushes her away and I think meanly say that he had killed all her loved ones. In this anime, however, Ciel’s breakdown rage is omitted to show that Ciel is pretty numb and devastated that in his broken state when Doll in rage and sorrow charges head on with a dagger to attack him he just mentions Sebastian indicating that he wants her dead. Of course, he was in Sebastian’s arms all this time. And he admitted to Doll that his Smile persona was a lie and all the emotions associated with it but I deduce that he was partly lying. Like Alois/Jim in the 2nd TV series Ciel is still at that point where he can’t accept genuine affection from people as Toboso had once said about Alois/Jim that it is very hard for an abused and tortured person, downright scary, to see actual and genuine love and warmth. And in his really messed up state he asks Doll to be killed which is very cruel. I did wish that Doll had survived. I really liked her. Maybe, she is still alive? After all we never do see her dead as we see the others. Of course of the main circus crew Snake is the only one who is alive. In the manga Ciel says cruelly that he employs Snake as a butler in his household for a “pet” effect because he never tells Snake that the others are dead. In the anime they didn’t show this as of yet but fans mention that Ciel actually is hiding his real emotions (as usual). Due to his actions he had employed Snake as a form of reprieve because he was responsible of killing the others. A fan mentioned that this may be also he felt excruciating misery for killing Doll for Doll did genuinely care about him. Doll really reminded me of the demon Hannah who became so akin to human and fell deeply in love with Luca and Jim that she just wanted to be a family with them.
I really mourn for Doll and Joker for these characters really got to me. Joker said that he knew he was doing something wrong but he just couldn’t bear poverty and destitution anymore especially for his friends and other children at the workhouse. Nobles make an unfair and discrepant society and then use the manhandled to do their dirty work. Joker is more of a victim than Ciel but like Ciel and Jim they are more alike than each party care to know and acknowledge. Unfortunately, Joker does not really get what happened to Ciel but hearing the Baron finally reveal it, I think he did feel sorry for him but the situation is that that all parties are too acclimatized to their abuse. That is why I got mad that Ciel said indirectly that he killing Joker is nothing personal and that it was natural for him to want to protect what he loved. But the world exists for the sake of stealing and being stolen from, according to Ciel Phantomhive (:/), and that these two sorts of people can only exist, so, it is without any malice that Ciel says he steals their futures now. That is pretty pathetic coming for a guy who made revenge his only goal in life to reclaim some of the dignity he had lost. By saying that Ciel don’t you realize how stupid you are sounding? Then what will living for revenge even accomplish seeing that you are going to, according to your logic, lose your dignity again right for if you steal back something that can again be stolen then why sell your soul to a demon for something like that for even your satiation of it was short lived? Yeah, a kid in adult clothing, a poor tortured kid. By this time Joker is so demoralised that he hardly can question what Ciel has spoken. To be honest, Joker is so much like Ciel in the abused department that I can understand his despair and sadness very much. I think what angered me a lot, but was expected given the situations these individuals faced (and as Jim/Alois also faced), is that Ciel doesn’t recognize that both he and Joker are the same. They were both pawns who were used (Ciel still being used) as an entertainment or tool for those mirthless, lifeless pieces of shit nobles.
I think for Toboso Circus Hen was a treatise to what the abused, mentally, psychologically, emotionally and physically go through. They are so confused, upset and scarred that they do fail to recognize the humanity that they themselves have in others. As I said Toboso wrote beautifully this arc, this is to me the most beautiful arc of the series (aside the Jim/Alois storyline) because by the end of it Ciel has become aware what a flawed and broken individual he really is. Without such an epiphany it would be really difficult for him to start growing up. And as this arc was, as I learned from Kuroshitsuji Wiki or I think some other site, after the Curry Challenge episodes, we do see Ciel gestate a different kind of attitude by the end. In flashbacks, we also see the Jack the Ripper arc where Ciel faces Madam Red — I think aside fandom pleasing the flashback also served as a method to show the levels of Ciel hardening his heart. Sebastian is obviously fascinated that when he mentions that Ciel should not feel sad about Madam Red’s death but Ciel, shocking Sebastian, had said that he was not sad as Madam Red is just like a learning experience (:/) and that she got what was coming to basically. Sebastian becomes really delighted and we are shown a motif with Ciel in what feels like a British style of Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa anyway :)) and the voice over of Sebastian says that Ciel will trample over anyone and everyone,(we are shown pictures of a bloodied and fallen Elizabeth, his army even Prince Soma), to get to his goals and that is also what is beautiful (well to Sebastian) about him.
Ironically, by the 1st TV series and the 2nd TV Series end we see that Ciel did the opposite of everything Sebastian had anticipated. By that time the Great Fire of London was incorporated also to Ciel’s ascension out of the Queen’s trap and live for himself for once. And his aims became almost heroic and selfless because in the end he also did want to stop London from burning down. In the 2nd TV series Ciel does leave to start a new life not reminiscent of his one tied to a duplicitous monarchy. Thus he did everything in a bit of reverse of what he was blinded by at first. Ciel is by the end of the series more attuned to who is and what he wants: he wanted freedom from his abuses and the person in relation to those abuses. His title did still link to that terrible position in which he would always be targeted so he happily resigned it. The Phantomhive name which he wanted to restore actually became meaningless because now he wanted to live solely for his own individuality. That is one of the best charter progress for a person ensnared by abuse and revenge. Circus Hen is one of the aspects that enabled Ciel to think more differently about who and what he is because obviously he felt something strong both in resentment but also empathy about the troupe. They were lost souls like him and maybe that is why it was so hard to actually face them.
Going back, Ciel may have hidden most of his actual feelings concerning Madam Red because in her casket he had repeated affectionately what his father had once told her — that her hair like licorice burning in the sunshine (as seen in the 1st TV series). But going back to Circus Hen this dream of Madam Red is sort of instrumental to the coming events that Ciel will partake in. Ciel shows almost the same exterior regarding the death of the Circus and the children. However, this time he does make a more stable contribution for his actions. I think the anime added and rather elaborated what Toboso wrote because fans were also quite angry (well, I was really disappointed too) about what Ciel said concerning the death of the children. Well, we are shown he is affected by their deaths but as usual decides to be quiet about his feelings — yet looks on an young girl selling oranges whilst getting on a train and says to Sebastian to buy one. This train is going to the workhouse that Joker and the others felt compelled to protect. In the journey Ciel felt that the children would not recover from the strain that they experienced. He felt this as he was once in their position, and on the slab when he was brutally impaled, when he felt completely broken he made that contract with a demon. That was what he felt made him recover as he now had something, someone that his as he puts it “mine” and he was able to work through a recovery. Well, Sebastian was the only demon there. The children were young and would never be normal. Sebastian smiles and says that his deduction is arrogant. Ciel says that though he is arrogant, he is not arrogant enough to believe that he can save those children from what they endured.
Fans were still outraged by this. To be honest that is a pitiful deduction. It is, I think Toboso’s way of showing Ciel as still immature and a very traumatized child, because only a child will focus so deeply that the universe seems to revolve solely around them. Because fans made a right explanation — not all people need the demon contract to survive, not all people would need Ciel to recover and they could do these things on their own. Ciel was acting as a mutilated child when he spoke. Deep inside him his ideals of being noble hero were squashed against a psychological dilemma that didn’t rupture in time (that is why the OVA depicting him as Hamlet is spot on). Of course, the workhouse was not taken care of by Baron Kelvin and it fell to ruin. Seeing this really disturbs and shocks Ciel to the core.
This is when poor Ciel has another breakdown laughing maniacally he says to Sebastian that the troupe was protecting something that did not exist. Vile, stupid and struggling desperately to attain unattainable, that is what Ciel thinks humans are and says so to Sebastian. Who seemingly agrees, but not fully. Ciel’s hat’s ribbon becomes suddenly loose and flutters away in the wind. Sebastian also makes no real attempt to catch it. Both he and Ciel seem confused and befuddled. The black ribbon goes in the air and images of a happy Joker coming and bowing are shown then the rest of the troupe doing their specialties are shown happily together. Ciel looks on, in what feels a mixture mourning and amazement, the gravity of both makes his face cast a shadow, with his lips open, mouth slightly hanging, of something akin impenetrable gloom. Suddenly Doll comes first also dressed in her altered costume of white then all the Noah’s Ark Circus individuals become as they were without their body modifications. True beauty in what they originally were. And Doll also unspoiled by prosthetic tampering runs towards them and is accepted by her family. Sebastian agrees that humans are more complicated than demons. They possess ludicrous dreams, make endless excuses and do a lot of vile things to get what they want or desperately try to get what they want but somehow they can also recover, come back or do something more unexpected than before that is why they are also interesting. As the black ribbon flutters, which suggested the gravity of mourning and it was beautifully done truly, Circus Hen anime ends with Sebastian smiling as he realizes that humans are always interesting.
When Ciel had Sebastian kill Doll/Freckles The Undertaker was nearby. And he chastised Ciel in monologue for his actions. Saying that he has warned Ciel that he must take care of his soul, because everyone is given one. He had told Ciel not to abuse his power time again and again. But he has. And this will be detrimental to no one but Ciel. He will realize what he has lost only after it has been extinguished, when it crumbles and decays. And so The Undertaker rightfully stated that Ciel is his own demise, or rather the path leading to his own demise. Because he decides not to actually think before he does actions (as seen he is completely blank at the moment) and that is why he will lose more and more until he has nothing. Of course, at that moment Ciel did not recognize this. But the end of the 2nd TV series we see that when Ciel is turned into a demon he does realize that he had been undone by no one but himself. It was probably very painful for him to leave everyone behind but he had no other choice anymore. Yet, one think The Undertaker was wrong about that Ciel has now even both as a human and a demon got some enlightenment in his understanding of things. Probably he now knows that his soul is very important and when Sebastian and Ciel jump into the void he does want a more ideal and a more empathetic world and wants it more than anything. And he had seen it, slivers of it, in Jim who he ultimately accepted as an image of his own. An image he won’t ever erase. Jim may also have wanted him to be a demon not only as revenge on Clause and Sebastian choosing Ciel as a favourite dish but also to free Ciel from his contract. Jim is evidence of the great God Given adaptability of humans that demons truly lack.
In Circus Hen I felt really sad that Joker died. Joker is the irreducible protagonist/antagonist of this arc. I really understood why fans love him as I grew him to love him too. His death left a very deep impression on me as characters can do. I felt an inexplicable pain. Seeing his sadness, rage and also helplessness at being used as a pawn and being bled to death was so anguishing for me. Ironically, he is the true noble of all the series combined. Because he was loyal and tried his best to help people but he was guilt stricken at what he had to do because he reluctantly did those things. I think that is why he could not have a love with Beast (on side note: Sebastian having sex with Beast was pretty unexpected and how casually he does not take off much kind of shows that to Sebastian seduction and sex is purely business :P) because she can only think of running away. Joker could not run away. As it shows in his flashback that being in the manor Joker conceives that humans will always be dissatisfied because Dagger looked unhappy though they were not living the gutter anymore. But Dagger wanted to play but was lacking a leg to run about. But then Jumbo helped him up and they could run along and play. We see an intimate moment with Joker and Beast, almost close to touching hands distance, where Joker comments if he hand another arm he could carry her. This line is symbolic for Joker because that is what he is about; he has been carrying the burden and responsibility of all the people who relied on him. That is why he could not reciprocate Beats;s affections because she did not get this about him I assume. She was thinking that they should run away but Joker could not because he was already so intensely involved with his troupe, his family, running away would be a betrayal to them to handle the burdens by themselves. And he was not of a character to do so.
Joker is one of the most heroic characters in the series. I think Ciel becomes almost like him in the end. Joker is truly one of the most memorable characters in the series and I do love him a lot. I love his strength and his redemptive qualities. I love how beautifully deep down he is kind and contemplative, and socially aware. That is why sadly the nursery rhyme of Tom the piper of only being able to play over the hills and far away is associated with him and the Circus. They were not analytical (a fault Ciel too has) that what was happening to them, how their prosthetic were made from the children bones they had abducted how Kelvin gave jackshit about them and how if he had done more he might be able to have peace. I really think if Toboso continued his storyline it would have been beautiful because he is much like a cool protagonist, at times more than Ciel.
This arc really sheds a lot on human apathy and empathy, and it was also a critique of society and social injustice. Toboso really did well writing this arc as it was poignant and something that stays with you. Ciel made a huge mistake by listening to much to the Queen and the Noah’s Ark Circus’s demise is evidence of it. Now he has to pay the price, as The Undertaker stated, for thinking too callously and presumably rationally and not emotionally. And those acquainted with the Kuroshitsuji 1st and 2nd TV series know that he does. Yet he also matures from it. When he sees the black ribbon floating and the Circus troupe Ciel is seized a great sadness. Maybe he realizes then what he had done. After all isn’t his goals also as worthless as what the Circus had>? To protect a house is also his cause and so he too realizes what they would have realized later or more so if they had been introspective that they were being used so their ideals and dreams are better off put somewhere else.
I really loved the ending theme of Circus Hen anime. In some parts Ciel is animated almost with an adultish sort of body or what anime characters 17 and older have (maybe they did try to aesthetically make Ciel look more adult) but the ballad in darkness in a bathtub is a great touch. Over all as an extension of the first series I really loved Circus Hen. One prominent difference about this series compared to 2nd TV series is that it had less shounen-ai which is good in my opinion but it was still there. Not just copious amounts that disturbed the flow. It had all the makings of a great story arc. I do not why they took 4 years to animate it though as the 2nd TV series was in 2010 and we only got OVAs after that. One question:
What is Ciel and Sebastian’s outcome after the 2nd TV series? I am more interested on that. Though Toboso was involved in the 2nd TV series it wasn’t her original idea and according to the Kuroshitsuji Wiki she had mentioned that if the 2nd TV series happened not to pretend that the first didn’t happen and that is what the producers did. The 2nd Tv series is connected to the first and that is how it also progressed.
I am very curious and hopefully God let me watch what happens to Ciel afterwards. C’mon I really want to see what Ciel and Sebastian do after the 2nd TV series so people start animating it already! And hopefully we all get to see it soon! 😀