Thanksgiving Special: Hey Arnold! – Arnold’s Thanksgiving

Arnold's Thanksgiving 1

Plot: Arnold and Helga’s Thanksgivings are complete disasters this year, as every year, so they decide to leave during the festivities. As they both vent to each other about their terrible holidays, they try to figure out if the perfect Thanksgiving is even a thing that exists.

Breakdown: This Thanksgiving special has always stood out to me, even if it does have a tad of ‘Thanksgiving-special-itis’. As I’ve mentioned before, most Thanksgiving specials all tend to follow a similar formula, “Something goes awry with the dinner, everyone thinks its ruined, and then they come together with some simple feast and enjoy the holiday because Thanksgiving isn’t about food – it’s about family and friends and being thankful for what you have.” Only this time the dinner is really only perceived as ruined by one person in each family.

There’s no escaping that idealized version of the holidays, is there? During Thanksgiving, we get that image of immaculately dressed happy people sitting down to a beautiful spread of turkey, stuffing, potatoes – the works, and getting along merrily without a care in the world. However, the real image is almost never as such.

If there’s another trope that Thanksgiving specials tend to follow it’s people avoiding their relatives because they can’t stand them for one reason or another. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to really understand why this became such a known trope.

I no longer have Thanksgivings with extended family and haven’t for many years. The last times I remember seeing extended family members on purpose was at funerals.

The closest I’ve gotten in recent years is going out for Thanksgiving with my grandma, but recent events have made the possibility of us ever inviting her out for the holiday again very slim. I just enjoy a dinner with my parents, and that’s frequently a mess too. We stress ourselves out trying to get everything ready and make the holiday special, sometimes yelling at each other in the meantime, but we almost always manage to have a pretty good night no matter how much drama went on during the creation of it.

And even though I know I’ll have an ungodly amount of dishes to deal with after the fact, I still enjoy these special times with my family. I’m very thankful for that.

I told you all of that because this episode made me think a lot about its message. It’s the very typical ‘be thankful for what you have’ but the story itself makes it difficult to really embrace this lesson.

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They do a great job cementing the typical view of a traditional Thanksgiving by having the kids in a play showcasing the history of Thanksgiving complete with historical inaccuracies and mild racism. (Ah the 90s…) Arnold and Helga have to grin and bear it as they help portray the perfect modern interpretation of the holiday.

Arnold and Helga have never really had real Thanksgivings like their friends all seem to have. Arnold’s holiday isn’t even Thanksgiving. His grandma always thinks Thanksgiving is the Fourth of July, so she makes them all dress as the forefathers, cook hotdogs and burgers on the roof in the freezing cold and shoot off fireworks. You’d think this would just mean that he’d celebrate a real Thanksgiving on the Fourth of July, but Ernie states that she thinks that day is Christmas, which is weird because we know she celebrates Christmas on Christmas (Though, in the Christmas special, she played Yankee Doodle Dandy as ‘Christmas music’ and wore Happy New Year’s clothes on Christmas day….) So does she just omit Thanksgiving altogether?

They placate her, and Grandpa’s only reasoning for doing is because it’s what they do and being like everyone else would be boring.

It’s a very….unique situation for Arnold, but I guess not outside of the realm of possibility for his odd boarding house.

As for Helga….well, anyone who has seen the show and knows of her living situation probably understands why her Thanksgivings tend to blow. Bob is glued to the TV set and doesn’t bother paying Helga much attention. Miriam burns the stuffing in her (drunken) haze while also barely paying Helga any attention. And Olga, her shining star sister that her parents adore, makes a pristine dinner while making Helga do much of the grunt work. A ridiculous amount of grunt work, I might add. A family of four should not require a bushel of potatoes, and even though Bob and Miriam were the ones cutting the onions, they don’t need a mountain of chopped onions either.

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As extra bonuses, Bob saddles her with his own beeper-related grunt work after she gets done with Olga’s demands, and Olga’s beautiful ice swan centerpiece far outshines Helga’s pine cone centerpiece to the point that she doesn’t even want to show anyone once she sees Olga’s.

What’s interesting is that it doesn’t seem like Bob or Miriam give a single crap about Thanksgiving traditions, sentimental ones anyway, until Helga claims she’s not thankful for anything when they do that thing where they go around the table asking everyone what they’re thankful for. They all get insanely pissed about it, (well, Olga is more shocked than anything) and Bob demands she go to her room and not come out until she thinks about what she’s thankful for.

I should point out that he was about to stuff his face with food after completely ignoring Helga’s turn to say what she was thankful for. He only stopped himself when Olga reminded him about Helga. I’d understand if it was about simply defying him, but they were all shocked that she was defying tradition.

Not surprisingly, they both leave their dinners and stumble upon each other. After venting to each other about their bad Thanksgivings, Arnold suggests heading to Mr. Simmons house since he’s so nice and loves the holidays and traditions, so he must be having a great Thanksgiving they can mooch on.

When they arrive, they find an odd sight. Mr. Simmons’ family and friends all share the same names as the people in the modern interpretation of Thanksgiving – the almost too-perfect one from the start of the episode. However, they’re all terrible people who do nothing but take potshots at each other and just be overall miserable the whole time while Mr. Simmons tries to keep the mood light. They don’t even try to pretend to like each other like many tension-filled families would do.

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Mr. Simmons was projecting his desires onto his play, which is…very very sad. Mr. Simmons is a great guy, so it sucks for him work so hard just to have a terrible family to share it with. I don’t even really know why he’s friends with those two people. The woman (brown hair) just seems to be monotone and miserable while the guy (blond hair) is a snob.

When Helga and Arnold realize that their Thanksgivings were much better in comparison to Mr. Simmons’ they start to come around to the idea of going back home and being thankful for what they have. Mr. Simmons overhears their conversation and actually breaks down for a minute, confirming that he’s completely devastated over how terrible this dinner is going, but he loves his friends and family and always tries really hard to get them together at least once a year to be thankful for what they have. So, in his eyes, even though the dinner is a disaster, he’s thankful that he has those people.

I’m a little confused by this. If he’s happy with what he has, why is he projecting this picture-perfect version of his family onto a school play? Is it just a harsh truth of wanting something to be one way but finding it within yourself to just be happy with what you have, even if it’s crappy because you probably have it better than someone else? That might be a bit biting, though somewhat comforting. However, we’ll soon see that this message, if that is what they’re going for, falls flat in my eyes.

Helga and Arnold depart for their homes, hoping they can salvage their own Thanksgivings.

When Helga arrives at her house, she finds it in almost a comedic level of disarray. Everyone’s panicking because she went missing. Miriam’s on the phone with the cops, Bob’s gearing up in actual military garb to scout the area in his hummer and Olga printed up a ton of fliers that are honestly the most insulting part of this ending because the pictures on the fliers mostly show Olga, don’t give Helga’s name and the flier says ‘Award winning Olga Pataki’s sister.’

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…..I hate Olga, by the way.

I’m really kinda torn about this development mostly because the Patakis are always very inconsistent with how much they care about Helga. Most of the time, it seems like she could be missing for days and have no one notice. I wish I were exaggerating, but it’s true. Other episodes, her parents will be gung-ho about finding her or protecting her. I know that, deep down, they love her, but I feel they’re out of character for going this insane over Helga being gone for a couple of hours.

To be honest, I’m surprised they realized she was even missing. Keep in mind that these are the same people who were once so enamored by Olga’s piano playing that they neglected to realize a pre-school age Helga had left the house by herself with a lunch she had to ‘make’ herself and walked herself to school in the rain….

They sent her to her room right before dinner. Bob had dinner and football on the mind, Miriam would probably pass out in her burnt stuffing and Olga would probably be too busy gloating about something she did to notice. Unless they needed her to clean up the table and couldn’t find her.

It gets even worse when Bob and Miriam say they’re thankful for her being around. This episode is talking about the unrealistic expectations of perfect families on Thanksgiving then they throw that in? I’m sorry I’m not buying this as much as I should, but Helga’s parents are regularly terrible to her. If they’re not outright ignoring her all day, they’re treating her like crap. I feel like the sentiment of being thankful for Helga rings hollow if I know they’re just going to continue treating her like crap – especially considering this is merely a SEASON ONE EPISODE.

They’re still not done because, somehow, none of them ate either while Helga was gone, and Miriam remembered Helga’s centerpiece and made sure she saw her putting it on the table.

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I guess I should just be thankful Helga does get a truly happy moment with her family for a change, and if they really were being genuine here then I’m all for that. I just wish her family had progressively gotten better with Helga over time. They’d have these one-shot episodes where they learn to appreciate or pay attention to Helga more and then they’d be right back to their old tricks the next time they’d show up. It’s pretty frustrating.

If you can believe it, Arnold’s ending is even more BS. When he arrives home, he’s ready to don his stars and stripes and partake in Fourth of July festivities. However, when he gets on the roof, he finds everyone gone and the place a wreck. Everyone pops up to give him a surprise Thanksgiving with Grandpa explaining that they had heard Arnold went out to look for a real Thanksgiving (….Did….Mr. Simmons call? How could they have known he was doing that?) so they decided to make him one.

I somehow got more upset at this than Helga’s ending. Wanna know why? Because Arnold had asked several times straight out if they could have a real Thanksgiving and everyone always shot him down. But they ‘hear’ Arnold wanted a real Thanksgiving when he was gone so they decided to make him one then?

And what’s weirder is Grandma acts like none of this Fourth of July stuff was even a thing, even asking him why he’s wearing a Ben Franklin costume. I get that Arnold’s grandma probably has an unconfirmed psychological problem, which might be one of the reasons why they play along with her sometimes, but if she could be convinced that this was Thanksgiving and forget the Fourth of July so easily, why has that never happened? Did no one tell her that it was Thanksgiving and not the Fourth of July….ever? They were so adamant about not doing a traditional Thanksgiving for no real reason, but he leaves for a couple of hours and now they cater to him?

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(This is a bit too nitpicky, but where did they a turkey on Thanksgiving and how did they cook it in the time he had been gone?)

Like Helga, it’s great because he now gets to have his own special Thanksgiving with his family and friends, even adding the unique fireworks to the occasion (that can’t be legal) but all I’m thinking about right now is poor Mr. Simmons.

Helga and Arnold both leave their houses for a couple hours and get the as-close-to-perfect-as-they-can-get Thanksgivings that they wanted the whole time handed to them under unrealistic circumstances. Meanwhile, Mr. Simmons shows he has a terrible Thanksgiving every year and he grins and bears it for….what?

I get it, be thankful for what you have – having a crappy family and crappy friends with a roof and food is better than nothing. But Mr. Simmons deserves his unrealistically happy Thanksgiving too….and he doesn’t get it. I’m glad that he finds some sort of semblance of happiness in this situation, but I really think at least showing one legitimate happy moment between them, even tiny, would have showed that all this torment he goes through is worth it.

I’m all too familiar with family drama and massive tension. Trust me. But even though Mr. Simmons himself even said Helga and Arnold probably wouldn’t understand this, I find myself struggling to understand.

And are Helga and Arnold really encompassing the lesson of just being thankful for what they have when they were given what they wanted when they got home?

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If I had to think of more fitting endings given the setup, Arnold’s would be rather simple. Have him enjoy the Fourth of July stuff, but maybe they can meet halfway and make some turkey legs on the grill. Helga’s is the more complicated matter. I honestly don’t know how I’d write that to be better because any end I come up with is either equally corny or ends with Helga still being treated poorly, just being happy about it, and that’s not right.

I thought for a bit that maybe they could see Mr. Simmons have no one to celebrate Thanksgiving with, which is why he got so emotional during the play. Helga and Arnold decide to have a small Thanksgiving with him, but they realize they miss some of the little special traditions they have at each of their houses and they should have been more grateful. Arnold invites Mr. Simmons over for…The Fourth of July and they all have a pretty good time.

Meanwhile, Helga, who continues to be the difficult spot here, would maybe go home to her family coming to the realization that she said she wasn’t thankful for anything because they can be major d-bags to her and assure her that they are thankful for her even if they have difficulty showing it?

I hate to come off as such as sourpuss in a review of a Thanksgiving special that I have enjoyed since I was a kid, especially since, as far as I can tell, it’s a beloved holiday special. Definitely not as widely remembered or beloved as Arnold’s Christmas special, but the video reviews I managed to find on it called it beautiful, warm and amazing. However, looking it at more closely now leaves me very conflicted, especially if you’re trying to tell this story to people like Mr. Simmons who have crappy Thanksgivings or none at all.

Someone in the Youtube comments section of the aforementioned reviews described it perfectly – It’s It-Could-Be-Worse-giving. I don’t know if I’m just getting too cynical in my old age, but that sentiment doesn’t fill me with warm fuzzies – it kinda just makes me sad. As I’ve pointed out in this review, Arnold and Helga realize they could have it worse and go home fully ready to accept the situations they have, but they’re gifted what they wanted for Thanksgiving, even if it’s not quite the picture-perfect version they envisioned. We only see them embrace their gratefulness for a moment before they get these endings.

This isn’t really a bad episode at all, even though I will ding it for the instances of OOCness. It’s actually a pretty good episode with nice heart behind it. It’s just that the message feels muddled given the way the story goes. After thinking it over quite a bit, let me sum up what I’ve concluded from this story.

Always be thankful for what you have, even if your home life isn’t great. However, don’t feel bad about wishing for something better, even if part of that is wishing the people around you were better to you, each other or as a whole. Be the example, like Mr. Simmons, and hopefully one day things will get a little better bit by bit. You may not have the perfect Thanksgiving fall into your lap, but your outlook on it can make it more enjoyable and maybe even rub off on those around you.

If anything, I’m thankful this special has made me think so deeply about this subject and appreciate my own family and holidays more. Hopefully, it has done something similar with you.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. 🙂


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Pokemon Episode 57 Analysis: The Breeding Center Secret

Pokemon Ep57 Analysis Screen1

Character Debuts: Butch and Cassidy – Butch and Cassidy are basically Jessie and James if they were about….40% more competent. I always like when they pop up because they are legitimate threats, but they tend to get taken down almost as easily as Jessie and James either way. Also, I hate the running gag of getting Butch’s name wrong. It got old so fast it’s ridiculous. However, it hasn’t even started in this episode so I’m good for now.

Butch and Cassidy are named after the legendary old west outlaw, Butch Cassidy, which is another mirrored attribute of Jessie and James, who are named after Jessie James.

Pokemon: Butch – As of this episode, he’s not known to have any Pokemon, but later down the line he’ll be shown to have a Primeape, a Hitmontop, a Mightyena, a Cloyster and a Shuckle.

Cassidy – Cassidy’s Ratticate is basically their version of Meowth only it doesn’t talk and stays in its Pokeball. She’s later shown to also have a Houndour, a Sableye, a Tentacruel and a Granbull.

Cap…tures?: James has a Victreebel. Don’t ask questions. He just does, okay?

Its only character trait is trying to eat James every time it’s let out, which gets super annoying over time.

Character Departures: First time I’ve ever had to use this, but Snap did stick around for several episodes so I guess it’s fitting to do this here.

Snap takes his leave in this episode.

And I’m all broken up about it.

I really have nothing against Snap, even though, I’m just going to say it, he’s even more one-dimensional and boring than Tracey. Give Tracey credit – he doesn’t just draw Pokemon. He’s basically a Pokemon Researcher that draws. And he has his own Pokemon to add to the mix. Snap’s only gimmick is taking pictures. That’s it. The end. He is a walking camera. He doesn’t have any Pokemon to make him even a little more interesting – he’s just the guy taking pictures.

I will never understand why he stuck around in the first place. It is one of Pokemon’s greatest mysteries to me.

EDIT – I pre-maturely said goodbye to our camera toting pal. He reappears way down the line in Johto in three episodes where he’s trying to capture a picture of an Articuno. Again, he stays for three episodes in Johto and I have no clue why. I already have difficulty understanding the criteria for making any characters of the day reappear, but why Snap has two three episodes bursts where he’s traveling with the group in the series is an even bigger mystery to me. Is he that much of a fan favorite, or what’s happening here?

Plot: Ash, Misty, Brock and Snap stumble upon a new Breeding Center where the owners promise to improve any Pokemon and even get some to evolve in mere days. Misty jumps at the chance to leave her Psyduck there.

Later, the group finds a restaurant that promises free food, which ignites Misty’s interest. However, there’s a catch – you have to show the chef his favorite Pokemon, which is, ironically, Psyduck. Misty is irritated that Psyduck isn’t there the one time she actually needs him, but when she heads to the Breeding Center to retrieve him, they find the shop is closed.

Impatient and hungry, Misty decides to break in. They overhear the shop owners talking in the back room – they’re secretly top Team Rocket agents, Butch and Cassidy! The Breeding Center is really a front to get rare and powerful Pokemon to send back to Giovanni. All of the Pokemon they’ve acquired are kept in small cages and treated poorly – including Psyduck.

The group hatches a plan to take pictures of everything in the room so they can show it to police and get Team Rocket shut down for good. They take their pictures, nearly getting caught in the process, but as they’re about to grab Psyduck and head out, someone else breaks into the Breeding Center.

It’s Team Rocket – the regular one – looking to nab all of the Pokemon in the center, unaware that it’s being run by other Team Rocket members. The group catches them and tries to stop them from stealing the Pokemon and getting them caught. Their efforts are in vain, however, because Butch and Cassidy catch them.

They try to escape, but not before James stops to retrieve his Weepinbell that he left at the center a few days prior. To his delight, it has evolved into a Victreebel.

The escape continues, but they’re all nabbed up in cages. Misty, Togepi and Pikachu are the only ones able to evade capture. Butch and Cassidy take Snap’s camera and call the police to get them all arrested, leaving Misty as the one who must get the evidence back and clear Ash, Brock and Snap’s good names.

She covertly uses Pikachu to snatch the camera while she disguises herself and enters the center as a customer trying to retrieve her Psyduck. Misty brings the photos back to Officer Jenny, proving the criminal nature of the Breeding Center, and the group rushes to arrest them.

Butch and Cassidy fight them with their Raticate, but Pikachu easily defeats it. They make a run for it, but are Vine Whipped into submission by Ash’s Bulbasaur.

With Butch and Cassidy behind bars and the Pokemon safely set to be returned to their owners, Misty finally takes her Psyduck to the restaurant to get as much ice cream as she can eat.

Later, Snap departs from the group to head to the mountains to take some pictures of wild Pokemon. Ash and the others bid their photographer friend farewell as they set off for Cinnabar Island and Ash’s seventh Gym match.

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– Snap is very obviously taking posed pictures of Togepi.

– Weathergirl: “Now, a Pokemon weather update!” What the hell is Pokemon weather? I know you people like putting ‘Pokemon’ in front of everything, but it needs to make some sense. Like, am I writing this blog post on my Pokemon computer? Sitting in my Pokemon chair? As the Pokemon computer sits on the Pokemon desk? Am I Pokemon typing? Please stop!

(Also, don’t think you can get away with mentioning Castform here. That little dude is a long way away from being created.)

– What is up with Brock and Misty’s face here? I didn’t realize that a weather report could make ten year olds sport an expression you’d usually only see if you bought them a pony.

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– I find it very weird that they opted to call this place a Breeding Center when we’ve already seen Breeding Centers before and they don’t increase Pokemon levels there. (Being fair, that same episode also included a Team Rocket putting up a front as a fake Breeding Center just to steal Pokemon, so points off for kinda recycling plots) Brock’s a Pokemon Breeder too, there’s no reason he’s not suspicious of this place.

In the original, as you can guess, it was a Pokemon Daycare. Like in the games, they promise that simply leaving the Pokemon with them will level them quickly. The reason it feels quick in the games is because 1) You’re so busy grinding and doing busywork or catching Pokemon that ‘time’ (steps) kinda flies and 2) …..You probably forgot you had a Pokemon in the Daycare. In the anime, it makes less sense because you’re left wondering how they’re leveling them in a literal quick manner (Cassidy states they had a Charmander evolve all the way into Charizard in three days.)

Also, the games didn’t have the Pokemon evolve in their care, even if they far exceeded level requirements.

Also also, when you think about it, it kinda DOES make more sense for this place to be called a Breeding Center if they went all the way with the Daycare motif because, in the games, when you leave two compatible opposite sex Pokemon (or any (non-legend) Pokemon and Ditto, because Ditto’s the real bicycle of Pokemon.) you will eventually get a Pokemon egg. Meaning, for a change, actual BREEDING would occur in a BREEDING Center if they did this right, but I can understand why they didn’t. They don’t want to have to explain the Pidgeys and the Beedrills to kids….even though, in the games, they still claim they don’t know for sure how Pokemon eggs are made….

Admittedly, this is a good plan if they only stick around for a few days, but…we’ll get to the rest of the plan later.

– Butch’s voice is terrible.. It doesn’t bother me as much as it does other people, but I can see why it might.

Dogasu brought up a very….interesting note about Butch as a character though.

“I read a theory from the Internet from waaaay back when this episode first premiered that might explain what 4Kids and / or Eric Stuart was thinking. This is in no way confirmed but here goes anyway: James represents effeminate gay men while Butch is a stand-in for their more masculine counterparts. Hear me out. The idea goes that since James is often seen cross-dressing, is given all these high-pitched squeals and giggles, hates the idea of marrying the woman his parents set him up with, and spends nearly 24/7 with a sexy female colleague but isn’t trying to get into her pants then that means that of course he’s a friend of Dorothy. It is 1998 after all; what other explanation could there be! This may not have been the intention for the character when 4Kids first started but the whole “James is a flamboyant gay man” idea is one that they would definitely end up embracing as the years go on.

And then, when it came time to dub this episode, 4Kids looked at what they had already done with James and decided hey, wouldn’t it make a lot of sense if we gave this other guy a name that means “masculine” and then also gave him this super deep man voice? You know, as a kind of yin and yang thing? So they get Eric Stuart to come in and do his Harvey Fierstein impersonation and BAM! we’ve got someone the exact opposite of James. When all is said and done, Eric Stuart plays James to be effeminate while he plays Butch to be, well, butch.

This is all just a theory and there’s no proof whatsoever that this is what 4Kids was going for at the time. Still, it all kind of adds up. I don’t think this was done out of any sort of malice or anything (from what I’ve gathered both 4Kids and TPCI seem to be very LGBTQ-safe environments) but instead was intended just to be a funny little in-joke among the staff at 4Kids. It’s still a terrible, terrible voice though.”

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Sooooo…..yeah, I’ve NEVER heard of this until I read the comparison and I never thought this until now, and I gotta say…..I think it’s a bunch of bull. I think it makes a lot more sense for his name to just be a play on Butch Cassidy from the get-go and not anywhere inspired from being a ‘butch’ gay guy. I also don’t think Eric Stuart was thinking that going in because I think, if he had, he would’ve put more of a deep tone to the voice instead of making it higher pitched just really raspy, like his throat had just been ripped out by rabid weasels.

I also don’t think the original writers intended for anything like that with this character. Butch and Cassidy definitely seem like they’re meant to be more offshoots of Jessie and James with a more serious/competent slant to them than having them be in any way opposites. For example, Cassidy is really just Jessie only slightly less vain, shrill and overbearing. It is possible that 4Kids was trying to force that kind of subtext onto him, but I can’t imagine they would. The reason it works with James is because the animation lends itself so well to their interpretation. The same cannot be said of Butch.

Also, if anything, James is probably bisexual because he has shown attraction to several women over the series. That’s my two cents in that bucket.

– I’m really getting sick of Misty being mean to her Psyduck for no reason. I’m also disappointed reading that her relationship with Psyduck only gets, at best, slightly better as far up as Sun and Moon. Psyduck deserves a lot more than Misty’s abuse….

– Misty can say whatever she wants, you can say she loves Psyduck more than she lets on all you want, I still believe there’s a significant chance she would indeed leave Psyduck there for good.

– Before they just started chucking out Pokeballs, they should’ve just…ya know…asked the guy what his favorite Pokemon is.

– Snap: “Hey! That looks like a picture I took!” It does? Because it could not be more posed if you tried.

Also, this picture is yours, Snap? This one?

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You uh….mind sharing why you had this Psyduck do a ‘draw me like one of your French girls’ pose?

– Misty: “That’s typical! It figures Psyduck isn’t around the one time I really need it!” Yeah, it’s totally Psyduck’s fault you left it at a Breeding Center to be better because you’re too lazy or impatient to actually train him yourself…..Bitch.

Ash: “You’re the one who left it at that center…” I know right?…..Hey! Stop pointing out my notes for me!

– Misty is so worried that she won’t be able to get ice cream tomorrow if she waits until the center opens that she’s willing to break into the Breeding Center…….But…the chef explicitly stated he was waiting for a delivery of 50 gallons of ice cream….Does she think they’ll go through 50 gallons of ice cream overnight?

– Butch and Cassidy are indeed more competent than Jessie and James…..but they’re still too incompetent to lock their back door. Or the room where they keep their Pokemon for that matter.

– Was….Snap really thinking of taking pictures of these Pokemon just for the sake of taking pictures? He had his camera in his hand and then said ‘These Pokemon don’t look like they want to smile for the camera….’ That’s kinda messed up, Snap.

– It’s horrible that they taped Psyduck’s eyes open, especially considering, realistically, he’d have gone blind by now, but I have to analyze this in three possibilities – 1) They thought taping his eyelids like that long enough would actually alter his face and make him look more intelligent. That’s really dark and messed up. 2) They were planning on giving Psyduck back to Misty like this, which is dumb because surely she’d notice the tape at least before she left the building. And 3) if they were just planning on stealing all of these Pokemon anyway, why tape his eyelids?

– So they’re only planning on giving Giovanni the cream of the crop?…..Why not give them all to him? Surely they’d all be useful in some capacity and the more Pokemon you have, the more powerful you are as an organization. Jessie and James are rarely ever picky about the Pokemon they try to get for Giovanni, but maybe that’s part of their problem.

….Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, isn’t this kinda a dumb plan for the sake of getting powerful or rare Pokemon for Giovanni? These trainers are sending their Pokemon to this Breeding Center for the sake of leveling up faster and improving them, so wouldn’t Butch and Cassidy only get mostly low level poorly trained Pokemon?

– I’d call the cops in addition to taking pictures of the place, but anything to give Snap some point to his existence, I suppose.

– I love how Cassidy brings up how it’s weird that Giovanni puts up with Jessie and James even though they always fail and they’re completely incompetent, but even though Giovanni agrees…..he doesn’t really answer them. He’s just like ‘Yeah, it’s a good thing those fools weren’t here to mess everything up. Those fools I still have on my payroll. Complete idiots that I still employ.’

– I get that it makes for commercial break cliffhanger tension, but why aren’t any of them trying to run or hide when they hear Butch coming in the room? They’re literally just standing there for several moments going ‘Uuuahhhhhh!!’ You lot would never survive a horror movie.

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Togepi’s face, though. lol

– They were still frozen in fear, shaking and going ‘Uahhhhhh’ when Butch had his hand on the door knob. How did they have time to come to their senses, come up with this plan to have Pikachu use its electricity to light up the room in a cage, implement said plan and hide before he actually opened the door?

– I’m kinda pissed it’s taken them this long to try to get Psyduck out of the cage. Also, Misty, use your Pokeball to recall Psyduck through the bars. You don’t need to fuss with a lock.

– Why are Jessie and James holding their hands over the eyes like there’s a bright light when they’re in a completely dark room?

– I don’t why, but the way that James says ‘I knew all along we couldn’t trust you!’ has stuck with me through the years. He says it at such a weird pitch for one and for another he’s almost sing-talking the line.

– I am unreasonably bothered by the fact that Butch and Cassidy don’t say their names in the proper order when they do their motto. Granted, if you’re just doing a beat-by-beat remake of Jessie and James’ motto then Cassidy saying her line when she does makes sense, but in order to poke at the fact that their name makes out ‘Butch Cassidy’ you need to have Butch say his name first.

Pokemon Ep57 Analysis Screen6

– Butch and Cassidy’s motto makes so much more sense than Jessie and James’ version, but it also brings up a lot of questions.

Jessie and James accuse them of stealing their motto, but they claim it’s the Team Rocket motto, so I always assumed it was an actual motto that Jessie and James probably weren’t reciting properly given the words. However, in this instance they’re acting like they made it up from scratch. James has never met Butch or Cassidy, so if Butch and Cassidy did steal their motto and rework it, how did they ever hear it?

Why would they steal it, honestly? If there is no Team Rocket motto or even if Jessie and James’ version is different, wouldn’t they just find it to be something silly Jessie and James needlessly say and brush it off?

Is there an actual Team Rocket motto that both teams are getting wrong? Since Butch and Cassidy’s version is so different, why are Jessie and James acting like they stole the whole thing? Is one of them right? I’m so confused….

– Uh….do you guys want to actually use your Pokemon and….battle? You guys fight Jessie and James all the time when they’re stealing Pokemon, why are you not even trying here?

– We’ve reached a point of confusion that far surpasses the previous note, though – James’ Weepinbell/Victreebel. Ever since I was a kid, I wondered where the hell James suddenly got a Victreebel that was supposedly a Weepinbell before this episode. He never hints at having a Weepinbell, not once.

Over the years, I thought this was another instance of a character having a Pokemon that they caught in a banned episode so it kinda just appeared on western airings, but nope. James just inexplicably had a Weepinbell for an undisclosed amount of time and never used it for no reason.

I would say maybe it’s been in the Breeding Center for the entire series, but James specifically says he left it there ‘the other day’ and I’d assume this place is very new.

To make matters even more confusing, it evolved into Victreebel. James acts like this is super impressive, but Weepinbell only evolves through a Leaf Stone, so Butch and Cassidy had to have used one on it. I can only assume this was one of the Pokemon they didn’t intend on giving back because why would they buy and use a valuable Leaf Stone on a customer’s Weepinbell without keeping it?

I would say maybe it would be to improve word of mouth – like proof that they can evolve Pokemon super quick – but obviously the main problem there is the stone evolution.

Also, how does James know this Victreebel is his Weepinbell anyway? It could just be another customer’s Victreebel.

Oh well……..it’s the start of a very, very annoying trend either way….Prepare for god knows how many instances of James being eaten by Victreebel….yay.

Pokemon Ep57 Analysis Screen7

– Ya know, Misty has a fairly solid plan, but if I were Butch and Cassidy, I would’ve destroyed the camera and the film immediately after getting my hands on it. There’s no point in keeping it. I mean…maybe they’d like a cool expensive camera, but at least destroy the film.

– Considering Cassidy does give Psyduck back, I assume this Breeding Center is meant to be up for a while and they are, for some reason, giving Pokemon back?….But what about the people who are trying to get back the Pokemon they plan on giving Giovanni? I’m really trying to make full sense of this plan.

– I would think they’d take all of their Pokemon away in jail given that oh so many Pokemon abilities could probably break them out easily, but….cops in the Pokemon World….*sigh*

– Jenny really shouldn’t be calling the group Pokemon snatchers, because they never opened any of the cages and they never stole any of the Pokemon. James did technically get Victreebel out, but he can prove it’s his because he has its Pokeball. You have them on breaking and entering and trespassing, but that’s it.

– Boy, those are some awfully posed pictures on your film roll, Snap. Ya know, Snap, you have one character trait – you like to take pictures – and your once specificity in that regard is you hate taking pictures of Pokemon posed. Yet nearly every picture is posed like you work at a K-Mart photo studio in the 90s, you…you…poser.

Pokemon Ep57 Analysis Screen8

– Those photos are damning, but Misty has no proof Snap took the photos from inside the Breeding Center.

– Even though Butch and Cassidy are more competent than Jessie and James, their Raticate gets taken out in one shot, they just leave it behind and don’t seem to have other Pokemon to battle with or don’t bother trying, so they run…

– Wait, where did Team Rocket get shovels in jail? How did they dig through concrete?….I’m just gonna chalk this up to more pisspoor Pokemon World cops…

– And just as randomly as he joined their journey, Snap departs to just…go take pictures on a mountain. Have fun.

————————————

It’s not one of my favorite episodes, but I still really like this one. Butch and Cassidy are formidable foes, though I wish they could’ve battled a little more and a little better. Trying to covertly take them down, while most of the group is imprisoned, was a nice change from the norm from just battling off the bat, though I don’t understand why they never battled in their first encounter. Heck, why didn’t they let out some of their Pokemon when they got nabbed in the cage at least?

Misty got to take the reigns in this episode, and Snap was finally useful for something even though, honestly, any of them could have had a camera and used it in that instance. Even though I’m almost insulted at how they introduced it, at least James has another Pokemon now so we can have some more variety in Team Rocket’s roster, even if it does introduce the first Pokemon who starts the ‘attacks James at every opportunity’ shtick.

Psyduck was pretty abused in this episode both by Misty and by Butch and Cassidy. Misty just chucking him into a Breeding Center to make him better is kinda insulting, the tape was blatant abuse and the fact that Misty blamed Psyduck for not being there to score her free food was very irritating. This is only compounded by the fact that she barely made any effort to get Psyduck out and LEFT HIM THERE after they got discovered. Let me remind you that James stopped and retrieved his Victreebel as they were trying to escape. You’re not as caring as James, Misty. Come on.

I would say he at least got some appreciation through that Psyduck fanboy chef at the end, but Psyduck honestly just had to put up with the chef being creepy while Misty stuffed her ice cream hole.

I have to stop going on angry tangents on episodes I like.

Speaking of episodes I like, NEXT EPISODE IS THE FIRST CINNABAR ISLAND EPISODE!

Cinnabar Island is my favorite Kanto Gym and one of my favorite Gyms ever, and I really love this two-parter for a variety of reasons, so I can’t wait to dive into it.

.Previous Episode


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Analyzing the Criticized: Sakura Haruno (Naruto) Part 1 – Chapters 1-100: The Buds of Problems and Promises

Sakura Analysis 1

When it comes to hated female anime characters, few get as much flak as Sakura Haruno of Naruto. The most common complaints about her character include – she’s useless, she’s whiny, she’s obsessed with Sasuke and she’s one of many ‘typical female leads’ where their role is defined by the men in their lives (Either Sasuke or Naruto)

I watched Naruto and a good chunk of Shippuden many moons ago and my opinions were the same. Heck, I slammed her quite a bit over the years and even included her in my entry for ‘Least Favorite Female Sidekick’ in the Salty Anime Challenge.

Everyone agrees that she becomes much better during Shippuden and….I’ll have my time with Boruto later, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a LOT of talking points regarding her usefulness and simply how she’s portrayed. But it’s been so long and I need another perspective. I need to dive into the details of the criticisms throughout time.

I’m hitting the nostalgia button. I’ve decided to go back and read the Naruto manga, which I’ve never done, to focus firmly on Sakura’s role. Why? To give Sakura a fair shake. To break her down as objectively as possible and try to see how much of the criticism was really warranted while also giving her proper credit when due. If this analysis goes well, I may do similar evaluations to other criticized characters such as Kagome from Inuyasha, Eren from Attack on Titan and Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi. I might even do this for characters I like, though that’s more of a traditional character study than what I’m doing here. We’ll see.

Quick Disclaimer: I am going to be discussing my opinions on certain shippings in this series. I kinda can’t avoid it, honestly, because so much of Sakura’s character is entwined with her relationship to Sasuke, and it’s no secret that I have a lot of criticism for the pairing. HOWEVER, note that I am very much against anti-shipping. I may post heavy criticisms about ships, but at the end of the day I am very respectful of people’s opinions on the matter and never sling hate their way for them. Ship anything you want, it’s fine. No matter if it’s canon or not, like what you like. Have fun.

I, personally, ship Rock Lee and Sakura and Hinata and Naruto (And Temari and Shikamaru, but I doubt that’ll ever come up, really) for a variety of reasons, but I most certainly won’t harp on that. I may bring it up if it has to do with Sakura’s development or if there’s a particularly good comparison to be drawn from it, but otherwise, this series will definitely not be championing any shipping and no shipping hate will be tolerated, that includes the comments.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll be breaking up this series into 100 chapter marks and 20 chapter sections.

Chapters 1-20 (Covering basic training and part of the Hidden Mist Arc)

Even 20 chapters in and there’s already a lot of commonly discussed issues that are brought to the forefront.

Sakura treats Naruto badly. True. However, she’s a 12 year old girl and Naruto is the egotistical class clown who has a crush on her and hates Sasuke, her crush. Even though those facts don’t justify her behavior, it’s somewhat understandable.

What’s not understandable is her comments about how he behaves poorly because he has no parents and that he’s lucky to not have them, in a way, because he doesn’t have his parents hounding him.

When I got to this scene in the manga, I looked up responses online and some people justified this by saying she was explaining his behavior, not mocking him, but I don’t think so. From what we’ve seen of Sakura to this point, she never says anything kind or in defense of Naruto unless someone chews her out or Sasuke acts as an example for her. Both of which happen after the scene in which she makes the aforementioned comment.

Not to mention how unbelievable it is that she didn’t realize she was saying these things to Sasuke of all people. I can’t imagine she didn’t know about the Uchiha family massacre and didn’t connect the dots that, maybe, saying stuff like Naruto acts poorly because he has no parents and is lucky to not have them isn’t the best thing to do in front of a fellow orphan.

Then there’s the moment where they’re practicing climbing trees with their chakra and she actually seems like she’s looking forward to Naruto getting frustrated and quitting.

Sakura Analysis 2

Sakura is obsessed with Sasuke. This is also very true. Nearly every line she gets, either internal or external, somehow involves Sasuke to some extent. If not, she’s merely providing commentary on what she’s watching.

When she has moments of character development, at this point anyway, like rethinking her views on Naruto or giving Naruto some of her lunch during the bell test, she only does so because of Sasuke. He scolds her for her comments on Naruto’s lack of parents – she rethinks her views on Naruto for about ten seconds. Sasuke gives some of his lunch to Naruto first – Sakura follows suit.

Even during a moment where she actually has a time to shine brighter than the boys, a rarity to say the least, her focus is on Sasuke. She climbs the tree easily with her chakra but is upset that Sasuke isn’t impressed with her.

Speaking of chakra control, Kakashi does praise her for this, but it doesn’t come into play as an actual strength of hers until way down the line after the time skip where she uses it for medical purposes and feats of massive physical strength, particularly in punching and kicking. As of right now, her chakra control is only as useful as the ability to climb trees without her hands, and even that won’t be impressive in about one chapter as Naruto and Sasuke learn the ability.

Kakashi also mentions in passing that, despite her great chakra control, her potential power is ‘nothing’ compared to Naruto and Sasuke. While I understand that to a degree, considering she doesn’t have a massively powerful demon living in her and isn’t part of an incredibly powerful bloodline, it’s still a bit irritating to not only have confirmation that she’s the weakest in her team by far, but also that she doesn’t even have the potential to match her comrades’ power.

Also, I could’ve sworn another of Sakura’s strengths was in her being smart. I thought she was at the top of the class, but she’s not. Sasuke has the best grades in class according to Iruka. So she doesn’t even have that going for her.

That also brings about a question of the balance in their teams. Sasuke and Naruto supposedly got paired because the best in the class is balanced by the worst in the class, but where does Sakura fit into this equation?

She’s supposedly the most talented kunoichi of her class but….come on….that’s not really something to brag about. There’s all of five or six girls in her class, only three of which get names.

To her credit, she does attempt to do something brave on her own without even thinking of Sasuke. She jumps in front of Tazuna, the old bridge builder they’re meant to protect, as two enemy ninja attack him. However, the moment is still overshadowed by Sasuke because he suddenly jumps in front of Sakura to protect her. Either this was a brief fleeting moment where Sasuke actually shows concern and caring for Sakura or he knew she wouldn’t be able to do anything to protect Tazuna and was more concerned with the mission. Maybe a little of both.

Chapters 21-40 (The rest of the Hidden Mist Arc and the first part of the Chunin exams)

As you can probably expect, Sakura doesn’t do much in the rest of the Hidden Mist arc. She’s relegated to babysitting Tazuna on the sidelines for the entire fight. Sasuke and Naruto fight Haku, and Kakashi fights Zabuza.

To her credit, she is shown to be very determined to both help her friends and protect Tazuna with all her might. However, the one time Zabuza does break off to attack Tazuna, Kakashi steps in the way.

Granted, it’s not like she can do much now, as I stated before.

This is one of many times where Sakura is massively eclipsed by Naruto and Sasuke off the bat. This arc is where Sasuke awakens his Sharingan and Naruto starts tapping into his nine-tailed fox powers. Obviously, Sakura has nothing grand to show off that even comes close to these abilities, so she’s mostly relegated to being a bodyguard and she doesn’t even really get to do that.

Kakashi also mentions that Sakura’s the brightest mind on the team, which is odd because not only is there the earlier mention of Sasuke getting the best grades, but in almost the same breath as him saying that, he mentions that Sasuke is a genius. It’s hard to be impressed by her intellect if you immediately follow that up with ‘but she’s not as smart as the other main character.’

There’s a slight bit of character development here in that Sakura, without prompt, kinda compliments Naruto. She says Sasuke will never lose to someone like Haku, then she adds that Naruto wouldn’t either.

The only other thing Sakura does during this arc is cry over Sasuke’s body, believing him to be dead then her hugging him and crying more when it’s revealed that he’s alive.

Some people complain about this scene, mostly in regards to, of course, the girl is relegated to crying being one of her only notable actions during the entire arc, but these complaints are easily countered.

1) She just watched her sensei kill a kid her age in a horrible manner mere moments before she found out about Sasuke. She’s already on uneasy ground, emotionally.

2) She doesn’t go to Sasuke until Tazuna offers to go with her in order to properly perform her ninja duties.

3) Before she cries, she explains that part of the shinobi way is to never show your feelings on the battlefield no matter what, like she’s trying to apologize beforehand for breaking this rule.

4) Her comrade, teammate, crush and kinda friend is laying dead on the battlefield. I’m pretty sure anyone would get a pass for crying in that moment.

5) She’s not the only one who cries in this arc. Haku cries, Naruto nearly starts bawling and even Zabuza sheds some tears. You can’t ding the trope of girl tears if several guys are also crying.

Sakura Analysis 3

After the Hidden Mist arc, we get to the Chunin exams where Sakura starts reevaluating her standing in the team after Sasuke chews her out for being more focused on flirting than training and being ‘just as bad as Naruto.’ Trouble is, there’s an entire chapter dedicated to her struggle with this, even named ‘Sakura’s Depression’ but it doesn’t amount to anything.

Sasuke compliments her strategic skills, which haven’t really been displayed yet, and her ability to identify Genjutsu, which also hasn’t really been mentioned up til now. The only experience she’s had in Genjutsu, really, is when Kakashi tried to trick her into thinking Sasuke was terribly wounded, and she didn’t see through that one. She freaked out and fainted….

That is the first instance of Sasuke seemingly being nice to Sakura genuinely, though. I don’t know if he felt guilty for what he said or if he knew she felt useless compared to the two of them, but it was a rare moment of niceness.

Sakura did catch Sasuke after being thrown by Rock Lee, so chalk one up for her.

Chalk up more character development for her too because she believes Naruto is shaking in fear or about to cry in the face of the Chunin exam and she goes to comfort him.

She’s also being very analytical during the first portion of the exam.

Chapters 41-60 (Chunin Examsthe rest of the intel test and part of the Forest of Death)

Sakura’s actually impressive in the first part of the Chunin exam, even if Sasuke figures out the main goal of the test before she does (Actually, it’s a bit unclear whether she figures out the main goal of the test. The furthest she seems to get is that the test almost seems designed to force the participants into cheating.) She’s the only one of the main characters to legitimately answer all of the questions on the exam instead of trying to cheat…..which is the main point of the exercise….which….may mean she actually didn’t do well in this part? Hinata may have also answered the questions herself, but considering she has her Byakugan, that’s questionable. Even Sasuke the ‘genius’ and Neji the ‘genius’ needed to cheat.

She was also willing to take the hit in quitting the exam for the sake of protecting Naruto’s future as a ninja, knowing he’d be too proud to do so himself – completely disregarding that quitting would mean Sasuke would also be forced to fail the exam.

I find it funny that Sakura does this to spare Naruto from being a Genin for the rest of his life, when he stays a Genin for the rest of his life anyway. Not kidding – he never officially advances beyond the point of Genin the entire series until he earns the role of Hokage.

Sakura punches Naruto for trying to take a leak in front of her, which is kinda justified, but the little inner Sakura above her head implies that she’d be fine with Sasuke doing it in front of her…..So either Sakura has a urine kink or she’d love to see Sasuke’s doodad while he’s doing one of the most unsexy things with it. O…kay….Sakura….

Sakura didn’t notice the fake Naruto when she’s supposed to be the smartest one…kinda…Sasuke the genius realizes it immediately. She also does absolutely nothing against the enemy ninja that tries to pull this stunt.

Sakura AGAIN doesn’t detect the fake Naruto in front of her and doesn’t find it odd that he remembered Sasuke’s long complicated password with no issue. Sasuke the genius, again, realizes it immediately.

Also not a big fan of Sasuke needing to put his hand over Sakura’s mouth to keep her quiet. Nor am I a fan of the fact that chapter 47 ends with a page focusing purely on Sakura being paralyzed with fear….

Sakura spends the rest of this fight doing fuck all. In fact, when Naruto is grabbed by Orochimaru, she just stands there yelling “Sasuke, Naruto needs you!” The one thing she does do is stop Naruto from falling.

I do kinda like how she implied that Sasuke was acting cowardly because he was seemingly giving up and submitting to Orochimaru when Naruto was giving it his all. It’s a slight implication, but it is there. And I will admit that her words are what drive Sasuke to getting back in the fight.

They kept saying Sakura has an affinity for Genjutsu, but this is yet another instance of someone using a Genjutsu on her (The death vision) where she couldn’t identify it or break it without help yet Sasuke was able to recognize it, keep moving and break it entirely by hurting himself while Sakura was frozen in fear.

We’re at Sakura’s first big solo moment here, and it’s one I and many other people have slammed pretty hard in the past – her haircut.

But there’s more to it than that.

……But I’m still pissed about.

Let’s break this down. Sasuke and Naruto are both unconscious after their battle with Orochimaru and Sakura is the only one left behind to both care for them and protect them – big responsibility. Big opportunity for growth.

To Sakura’s credit, she does several things here that are worthy of praise. She carefully watches and tends to Sasuke and Naruto all through the night, driving herself to the point of paranoia and exhaustion. She sets booby traps around their camp to help catch intruders, and despite being very visibly afraid, she stands her ground and confidently confronts the other sound-nin when they show up, even name-dropping Orochimaru.

Rock Lee kinda comes in and ruins it A LITTLE. I love that little bushy browed bowlcut, and he’s being sweet here, though on a similarly misguided infatuation level as Sakura is with Sasuke, but I think this confrontation would have been better without his initial interference, mostly because it derails the story into more of a Rock Lee moment than a Sakura one for a bit.

Granted, the fact that Lee fails in his attempt to protect Sakura compounds her guilt that people are always coming to her rescue, getting hurt in the process, and she doesn’t like that.

She does try to combat the sound-nin with some throwing stars, but they’re about as effective as you’d think.

Then comes the moment of truth. One of the sound-nin, Kin, has Sakura by the hair…..Yup. She doesn’t restrain her hands to prevent her from pulling a weapon or making hand signs or just…to not use her hands, she just grabs her by the hair and expects that to be good enough.

Sakura actually pulls out a kunai and Kin, like an idiot, just doesn’t do anything, even though it’s in plain sight and she even acknowledges it. And then, after much buildup, she frees herself by cutting her hair very dramatically.

Everyone looks at her like she just cut her damn arm off.

Now, considering Sakura had been dinged a few times now for being more concerned about her looks and flirting than she was about being serious in her ninja duties, this could be seen as her growing out of that and proving her ninja prowess. Considering that she actually does have a slight moment of badassery after this, that much is certain….but 1) There’s still the glaring part about this also being a big thing because Sakura and Ino both grew their hair long because they had heard a rumor that Sasuke liked girls with long hair. They focus on this aspect, but we all know it doesn’t really matter in this respect because Sakura’s obsession with Sasuke never ends.

2) It’s still just hair, it grows back. Granted, she never does grow her hair back, whether symbolically or because she realized she looks a lot better that way, but still. It’s hair.

3) She has about four pages of badassery in her before she just resorts to biting Zaku and not letting go like an untrained puppy. I give her props for taking that beating, but it was unnecessary. Why didn’t Kin or Dosu do anything to stop it?

4)….In the end, she still gets saved by other people, which is what was she was trying to prove she DIDN’T NEED.

I know, she’s against three people and she’s already exhausted. There’s no way she’d be able to pull something uber powerful out of her butt and defeat them all. I would never expect her to. Considering they just whupped Lee’s ass, it’s completely unrealistic. It’s unrealistic even if Lee never appeared. Even Naruto and Sasuke would have great difficulty taking on three skilled ninja, BUT I have a constructive criticism on how this entire scene could’ve been made eons better.

First of all, maybe restrain Sakura in some way where there would be no way for her to escape without harming herself. It would badass, a definite show of courage and seriousness, and the scar left behind would be proof that she cares more about her stance as a ninja than her looks. Maybe even go the extra mile and put the wound on her face somehow. You don’t need to pull a Berserk, but shed some blood.

Second of all, keep the scene with Sakura fighting the sound-nin alone, but after the biting scene have her get thrown by Zaku then have him try to look for her to finish her off. He can’t find her and, after some time, the other sound-nin realize they’re in a loop (This is inspired by later events). They reveal that Sakura had bitten Zaku as a distraction. While he was focused on her head, she was making necessary hand signs to pull off a Genjutsu.

The Genjutsu in question would be making the sound-nin think everyone’s still there when they aren’t and put them into a loop of trying to find Sakura. The Genjutsu was so good even the Genjutsu-savvy sound-nin didn’t realize it until she had grabbed the boys and taken them far away. She doesn’t need to defeat the other ninja, she just needs to get out of this dire situation. She needs to ensure their survival. That in itself is a big enough moment.

Finally, Ino, Shikamaru and Choji would all witness this and just quietly give Sakura a moment of respect for how much she’s grown as a ninja.

My version isn’t perfect but it would be much higher tier than what we got, which just pales in comparison to the big moments of Sasuke and Naruto up until this point. Plus, it would actually show that she has a true affinity for Genjutsu instead of people telling us that without any evidence. How can I really give this moment much credit when it comes after Sasuke very nearly dying for a mission (twice now) and Naruto kicking ass while using his nine-tailed fox powers (Twice now)?

Another big-ish moment for Sakura, especially where SasuSaku is concerned is him reverting back from his cursed form when Sakura hugs him and begs him to stop. This moment is a bit up in the air for me considering it’s another moment where Sakura’s crying and doing more observing than anything, but I think I’ll give it to the pairing support at least. Sasuke really could’ve just pushed her away and staked his true claim as a power-hungry ‘avenger’ by taking out the last sound-nin, but instead he listened to her pleas and calmed down.

Considering this, you’d think, later, Orochimaru would have mentioned her influence being a problem for Sasuke’s dedication to being an ‘avenger’ instead of just mentioning Naruto and making him a target because of it.

Even though I give Sakura props for lying to Naruto about the reasons behind cutting her hair, the fact that they focus on Sasuke and Ino pausing as she says this, like it’s some dark secret, is a bit goofy.

Sakura Analysis 4

It’s very interesting how Tenten points out that Lee could have easily taken the sound-nin in battle if he wasn’t preoccupied with Sakura. Does that mean I have to ding her here for being the reason Lee lost?

I appreciate Sakura defending Lee so fiercely but punching the hell out of Naruto for making a comment like ‘unibrow’ is way too far. I’m also starting to get sick of the old ‘female love interest is allowed to punch the protagonist for little to no reason and haha it’s funny even though it would be clearly seen as abuse if the genders were reversed’ trope….

Chapters 61-80 (The rest of the Forest of Death and most of the tournament prelims)

Sakura is the first to get so tired she collapses when they get caught in the enemy loop Genjutsu, which is silly because Naruto and Sasuke were both exhausted from battles that left them both unconscious for several hours, but I guess Sakura did also fight for a bit and they got to rest that night while she didn’t.

Hey, speaking of Genjutsu, Sakura didn’t notice another damn Genjutsu when she’s supposed to have a talent for this shit.

Another instance of a different Genjutsu that Sakura neither notices or can dispel. She also needs to be kinda convinced that it’s a Genjutsu at all.

When they finish the second exam, there’s an interesting bit involving the scroll on the wall. It was a little interesting back then, but it’s much more interesting now given hindsight. Iruka points out that the scroll is talking about traits you should work on in order to be a good Chunin. It’s necessary to have the properties of heaven and earth with heaven signifying wisdom and knowledge and earth signifying strength and physical prowess.

He notes that Naruto’s weak point is the trait of heaven – he needs to study hard and develop himself mentally to become a good Chunin. Then he notes that Sakura’s weak point is her physicality – earth. She’s physically weak and doesn’t have much battle prowess, so she needs to work on that. (He doesn’t state it, but the framing implies Sasuke has both properties, so he’d be most fitting as a Chunin in Team 7)

The reason I found this more interesting in hindsight is because Sakura does become incredibly physically strong later after learning to channel her chakra in very specific points such as her fists and feet. Problem is, this doesn’t happen until way down the line after the time skip.

She vehemently tries to get Sasuke to withdraw from the exams due to his curse mark to the point where she starts crying and threatening to tattle on him if he doesn’t leave. I’m debating how much of a pass, if any, I’ll give her here because she has already seen Sasuke ‘die’ once before and she’s pretty much starving and sleep-deprived right now. However, I will ding her a little because I’m having a hard time thinking she’d fight as strongly if Naruto was the one who was cursed and she’s back to crying some more.

This has nothing to do with Sakura, but can we please stop referring to Sasuke as an avenger? This complaint has nothing to do with anything Marvel related – it’s just a cringey thing to say, especially when you’re proclaiming it about yourself. It’s so emo or forcibly dark and edgy. Putting the Marvel spin on it, it’s a team name so it doesn’t have that spin. It’s not like something you’d say before flapping a black cape in front of you and walking off dramatically to go reapply your black mascara.

Oh shit, son, are we at chapter 71? It’s time for the main event!

SAKURA

VS.

INO

Let me give you my initial views on this battle from when I watched the anime version: This is one of those Sakura-centric plot points that I’ve heavily criticized in the past. One of the few times Sakura actually gets to battle on her own, no one interfering at all, and it’s kinda boring and ends in a silly tie. Ino, in a seeming act of defiance to Sakura cutting her own hair, cuts her own hair, which, unlike Sakura, she doesn’t keep for too long, in fact she has much longer hair when the first time skip happens and even longer in the Boruto age. It’s also slightly symbolic in that, again, the long hair was grown in an attempt to impress Sasuke.

I think this battle would’ve been more interesting if they both got past their insane love of Sasuke afterwards, but of course that didn’t happen.

We just got one of the dumbest friendship breakup baskstories in existence.

(Trying to keep this as an aside: Another common complaint regarding Sakura even in Shippuden and Boruto is that Sakura never gets to actually finish her battles, even when she’s winning. She always either has someone else come in and take over or she has someone save her. My question will be answered in time as I do this series….but does Sakura ever actually win any battles on her own? Legitimate question. Does she actually WIN, as in completely finish by herself, any battles? I’ll even take movie references as proof, even if those aren’t considered canon. I’ll become so much sadder doing this series if I find out she’s never won once…..)

So, since this is basically the first actual major Sakura event….and uh…..pretty much…..the only one until we get to Shippuden, let’s break this down a little more than we normally would.

Ino and Sakura are paired to fight in the prelims of the third round of the Chunin exams because why wouldn’t they? And we get the absolute best vote of confidence that this fight is going to be boring by Ino’s teacher, Asuma. He says in inner monologue that Ino may look fierce, but, and I quote “among the kunoichi rookies, she’s far from the top of the pack.”

Let me remind everyone that the only rookie kunoichis in konoha that aren’t nameless nobodies to fill up classroom space are Sakura, Hinata and Tenten………And I’m going to give top spot in skill to Hinata and knowledge to Sakura…..If Ino is ‘far from the top of the pack’ in konoha kunoichis and we’re ranking Sakura as one of the top dogs….this match is going to be depressingly uninteresting before the bell even rings.

Let’s be even more fair and include the non-konoha konoichis there, which consist of Temari, who is skilled probably on the same level as Hinata, at this point anyway, and Kin, the sound-nin, who is basically Tenten if she focused more on Genjutsu, and whose sole role to this point has been ineffectively restraining Sakura. Admittedly, Ino did take over her mind once, but she was defeated by Kin’s teammate there, so make of that what you will.

Asuma expounds upon this even more by wondering if Ino can even give Sakura a good workout…..He either drastically overestimates Sakura, maybe based on her grades, or he underestimates Ino, which is a bit sad because he’s her teacher. I feel like, if the rules didn’t say whole squads had to participate or none of the individual members could, Asuma never would have submitted Ino has an entrant.

And, considering this match ends in a tie, I’d say he did both massive under and overestimating on both sides here. They’re both disappointing, but to different levels.

Since this is the first time we’ve really focused on literally the only ‘tragic backstory’ Sakura has (or really the only backstory she has at all) we have to sideline the battle a few times to go over her past with her previous best friend Ino.

The flashback starts off with a female ninja leading a class specifically meant for young aspiring female ninja, teaching them feminine practices for the sake of blending into a village easily and being a covert spy. One of those important traits is flower arranging…….sure it is. And we see that Sakura’s even useless at picking flowers as she trips and falls on her face. And if you think I’m being too harsh on her, even Sakura says she’s no good at this stuff.

Ino teaches her to arrange flowers, and she’s being kinda passive aggressive about it. First she says it’s pathetic that Sakura is not being able to arrange flowers when her name is based off of cherry blossoms. Then she says blossoms should never be in the competition for the main focus of the arrangement, very clearly making a metaphor in regards to Sakura. She then compares herself to the center flower, the cosmos, and says she’s even prettier than that flower. So, if we’re completing Ino’s little metaphor, Sakura should always be kept to the background as an ‘accessory’ and Ino’s the beautiful star of the show.

This is the foundation for this beautiful friendship torn asunder. Go grab some Kleenex before it’s too late.

Three girls walk up harassing Sakura about her ‘big forehead’ but before I go off about that, what the hell is up with the designs of these girls? They’re meant to be like 8 or 10 years old yet one of them is dressed like a punk rocker, the middle one is like a female Orochimaru and the one on the right……pbbbbtttt what is the girl on the right? She looks like the love child of Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo and Wobbuffet.

Sakura Analysis 5

Back to the ‘big forehead’ thing – I never once understood this. I get that kids are little pricks and will make fun of anything they think can be a viable target, but this has followed her into her Genin years. In fact, while Sakura’s go-to insult with Ino is calling her variation of a pig (because her name is Ino, which means ‘pig’) Ino’s is to constantly poke fun at Sakura’s forehead. Sakura’s forehead looks ridiculously normal. It looks no bigger than Ino’s.

They’re bullying her outside of the forehead stuff anyway, and Ino pulls a pretty badass move and uses flowers as ninja stars, throwing them in the mouth of one of the bullies and claiming they’re poisonous, which causes them to run off.

Sakura then continues with the metaphor from earlier, saying Ino’s so smart and cool, and if she’s the cosmos, Sakura must be a purple trousers (one of the accessory flowers) Ino then says she’s not even a bud yet. Sakura then asks why Ino gave her the ribbon she wears on her head to hold her hair back from her forehead. Ino replies that she felt it was a shame to see a bud like her dying on the vine. She gave her the ribbon to help her bloom into something even prettier than a cosmos.

Admittedly, this part, even in light of the passive-aggressiveness from earlier, was sweet. She helped build up Sakura’s confidence in herself and it strengthened their bond.

HOWEVER, any sweet sentiment involving their backstory or current situation is instantly completely destroyed all because of their stupid fight over Sasuke. It literally went ‘Hey I heard you like Sasuke. Guess we’re rivals now.’ *end friendship* It’s like they didn’t realize they can be friends and rivals at the same time or didn’t bother trying that route.

Some deep and caring friendship you two had if your competition over a guy who has never even shown a passing interest in girls can completely destroy it to the point where all you two do when you see each other is make fun of the other. I also find it particular stupid that the ribbon that Ino gave Sakura for the sake of keeping her hair back and owning her ‘big’ forehead as opposed to hiding it and giving the people who made fun of her power over her is even a thing because once they stop being friends, as I mentioned, she resorts to making fun of Sakura’s forehead too.

I won’t comment on their future friendship status yet because I don’t remember enough about it. I’m pretty sure they don’t reach a point of even really being casual friends again until either mid to late Shippuden, which is probably around when Ino started letting go of Sasuke and liking Sai, which, if that really is the lynchpin, is even more disappointing. At least it shows that Ino can get over her petty obsession….Unlike some people.

Back with more flashbacks, soon after their graduation I assume, Sakura proclaims that Ino doesn’t have much of a chance with Sasuke now since she and Sasuke are on the same team, but Ino won’t let up. Sakura returns her ribbon to Ino and proclaims she’ll use her leaf headband as a hair band until the day she feels she can face her in battle as a true kunoichi – then she’ll wear it on her forehead properly.

Ino takes the ribbon back and agrees to do the same (well, she wears hers as a belt).

Back in present day, Sakura shows she’s ALL BIDNESS by taking off her konoha headband with a flourish. Then, to prove this isn’t some silly stereotypical catfight, she announces that she’s never letting Ino anywhere near Sasuke………………….Kakashi points out that she’s riling her up so she won’t go easy on her, but still….that is one of the points they’re fighting for. Their friendship wouldn’t have ended over it if it wasn’t.

Ino realizes what’s going on, and she removes hers as well. They replace them both on their foreheads, signifying that they’re ready to prove themselves to the other.

The match starts and it’s pretty much just physical blows for a while. I love how even the other characters are cognizant of how boring this match is because, even with all of the aforementioned factors already making this match kinda boring, they point out that Sakura and Ino are too well-matched at this point in time so they’re just stalemating for over ten minutes.

The only way Sakura ups the ante is by basically calling Ino too vain and pointing out her long flowy hair, which prompts Ino to cut her hair too. However, I must have forgotten this point, Ino’s main point in cutting her hair wasn’t to prove herself to not be vain to Sakura, she was actually setting up a living hair jutsu trap, which is kinda ingenious. I still believe literally throwing her cutting her hair in Sakura’s face was part of it, though.

I’ve always loved how this moment, in a way, just highlights how silly it was for Sakura’s big moment to be cutting her hair. Like “You think you’re hot stuff because you cut your hair?! Look, I can do it too! It ain’t hard, there, Supercuts!”

And just to follow up an ingenious mark with a stupid one for Sakura – she’s top of her class in grades, Ino’s back of the pack, and even she was able to outfox Sakura in battle.

Technically, Sakura should’ve lost because she clearly said the full phrase ‘I, Sakura Haruno, wish to withdraw from the match.’ and she had her hand up most of the way. I have no way of knowing the volume at which she said that, but the text wasn’t small or implying a whisper, so, by all means, Sakura should’ve lost.

I always thought it was kinda dumb that they actually acknowledge inner Sakura is a legitimate other being – Ino refers to it as a second psyche. And Ino develops one later too, it’s weird.

Sakura manages to use her inner Sakura to literally fight off Ino internally long enough to use a release jutsu and force Ino out of her mind, with the help of some egging by Naruto. When all is said and done, they tie with one final punch, but the tie is negative – they both lose and neither moves on to the next round.

Alright, so even though I still found this fight to definitely be boring, most certainly the worst match of the Chunin exams (well…..maybe not as bad as Choji vs. Dosu. That’s pathetically short and I didn’t even remember it) it was more entertaining than I remember….but that’s really because of Ino.

She was the one thinking on her feet and coming up with clever strategies. She was the one with cool jutsu, even when Shikamaru claimed she needed to use her mind control technique with him because he restrains them first. She proved she knew that weakness and could overcome it on her own. Ino technically managed to win, but I guess the ref just didn’t hear her or something.

All Sakura did was have decent physical strikes due to good chakra manipulation, even though she didn’t seem to be hitting harder than Ino, and she had the weird inner Sakura willpower to fight off an already weakened Ino’s mind manipulation.

If this battle was meant to highlight Sakura’s growth as a ninja, it didn’t do much. I was much more impressed by her in the Forest of Death, to be honest. Yes, I was more impressed by her haircut moment than her big battle with Ino that was meant to prove herself. There, she was putting her life on the line and proving her vanity wasn’t more important than her duty as a ninja and a friend. She fought literally tooth and nail back there. The haircut was lame, but at least they painted some badass aspects over the lame.

Here, she’s not really impressive. In fact, she’s disappointing. Sakura’s so smart and skilled with chakra manipulation yet, in all this time, she never tried to learn some specialties, find a niche, or maybe make her own moves? Her strategy was just full on punching and kicking with one instances of making clones. How does that prove you’re the better ninja? It only proves one or the other is a better kickboxer. Ino, despite being more vain than Sakura and seemingly much lower in class, not only mastered her own clan technique, but she mastered an ability that fixes a major issue with its implementation.

Sakura didn’t even really come back on her own – Naruto had to pump her back up to push Ino out.

I do appreciate the sentiment behind this battle more than I did in the past. I viewed it more as a bitchy penultimate catfight over Sasuke when, at it’s core, it was more about their rivalry as ninja – Sakura proving that she’s just as good as the girl she once idolized and Ino proving her own worth. However, it pretty much failed on Sakura’s end in that regard. What a wasted opportunity for some much needed Sakura shine.

At least the very end of the confrontation has a sweet moment between the two, though I still wish they’d move past their dumb obsessions with Sasuke.

But, hey, let’s be fair to all the girls who get shafted up in here – the anime was a lot more generous to Tenten than the manga was in regards to her match. They just straight-up cut from the start of the match to Tenten bent over Temari’s fan in defeat after a brief conversation with Ino and Sakura in-between. In the anime, the match was completely one-sided, but we still got to, ya know, see it.

After Sakura wakes up, she cheers on Naruto to not lose to the sand-nin….but the framing is weird? She’s not looking at Naruto when she says this and Rock Lee’s the one who challenged Temari in defense of Tenten. Considering Gaara’s the only sand-nin left to challenge, it’s strange that she would assume that Naruto will get paired with him anyway. Oh well, at least she’s being supportive.

She goes further by basically giving him a speech similar to the one he gave her during her match and thanking him for helping to give her the willpower to break free. That was nice….I mean, Naruto had to ruin it by saying he saved her butt, but still.

When Naruto is in his match with Kiba, Sakura is cheering him on quite spiritedly. She and Kakashi also share a knowing look when everyone thinks Naruto’s down for the count, but they clearly know better. Show’s a bit of growth in her respect for him.

Hm, I had forgotten how clever Naruto was in his match with Kiba. He was pulling some really good moves and even utilized his prank-y nature to get the better of him…..The fart was still stupid, but at least it had an actual point.

And Sakura didn’t even really ding him for it, which is pretty impressive because that is definitely ripe for both mocking and yelling.

When Naruto asks what a keirakukei is, Sakura says “Here we go again. The insightful questions of an idiot!” Really, Sakura? Come on. I’ve been praising you all this time and then you go and call Naruto an idiot for not knowing what is essentially chakra physiology?

Also, Sakura punched Naruto in the back of the head for seemingly making a jab at Rock Lee’s haircut, yelling that he should be respectful since Lee outranks them…But Sakura has been really disrespectful of Lee a couple of times at this point.

I always get chills when I watch Hinata’s match with Neji. Yes, you could apply some of the same criticisms I throw Sakura’s way when it comes to Hinata, that her focus is heavily on a guy she likes when she does stuff, but her focus is less on how cool Naruto is or how attractive she finds him and it’s more about how he inspires her to be better. She admires him for being the underdog who always gives up, never backs down and is always trying to prove himself and be better.

She wants to be like him more than she wants him. She does express a desire for Naruto to watch her and acknowledge her here, but it’s more to show him that she’s improving too. She’s bettering herself, putting her life on the line and never giving up because she wants to be better and he inspired her to do that. Even Kurenai points out how much Hinata has improved over her time as a Genin, and she’s had very little contact with Naruto since graduation.

Sakura, however, is different. Her focus is on impressing Sasuke through her looks, charms and whatever skills she can muster in her ninja training (such as climbing the tree) She also feels a desire to prove herself as a ninja, to not be useless in her ninja team, and she has made strides in improving herself, but when it comes to Sasuke’s influence, he doesn’t inspire her. He doesn’t prompt her to be better – at best, she just gets sick of him and Naruto getting hurt trying to protect her. On the occasions that she is prompted to make changes for the better because of him, she moreso copies him seemingly because she thinks it will make Sasuke happy. And her rivalry with Ino is heavily based on fighting over Sasuke and who will ‘get him’ in the end.

But it’s superfluous to both of them because neither really care to know him and fall in love with him as a person, like Hinata has with Naruto. They love him because he’s dark, brooding and hot. Even today, I’d be hard-pressed to say Sakura really knows Sasuke deep down and loves him for who he is as a person, especially considering all of the crap he does later on, but I’ll refrain from making a firm statement until I’m further along in this analysis.

Chapters 81-100 (The end of the Chunin exam prelims and the entirety of training for the finals)

Sakura is cheering on Rock Lee and is clearly showing a lot of concern for him through his match. She also has a very grave look on her face as she tries to go to Lee after the match is over and Kakashi stops her, because he knows seeing her will cause him more pain at this point.

Though, goddamn, can we take the time to appreciate the Rock Lee vs. Gaara match again? This has been one of my absolute favorite matches in all of shounen for quite some time, and the manga was just as good. It’s telling how two of my favorite matches in Naruto are ones where the character I’m rooting for loses.

Gaara’s insanely powerful and scary, yet even he’s amazed and nearly defeated by Rock Lee. It’s full of tender, sweet moments with Lee’s backstory and it’s got some of the best action you can find in shounen fighting manga/anime. It’s just awesome.

Even though Sakura really doesn’t have much to do in the following chapters considering she lost her bout and thus doesn’t have to train for the finals, Ebisu does elaborate more on Sakura’s good use of chakra production and specifies why she has a slight edge over Naruto and Sasuke in that regard.

No matter what jutsu Sakura is using, she is able to precisely convert her stamina reserves into the proper level of chakra. If she needs 30% of her stamina to create the proper level of chakra, that is exactly how much she will use. Her skills with hand signs also allow her to control her chakra properly, making for a clean and efficient jutsu to be created.

Sasuke’s chakra production isn’t quite as good. For the sake of a 30% chakra move, he’ll use 40% of his stamina, causing him to waste 10%. However, his skill with hand signs is just as good as Sakura’s so he still makes a clean jutsu, he just needlessly wastes a little energy.

Naruto, however, is the worst of the lot because he’ll convert 50% of his stamina for the same 30% move and his skills with hand signs are sloppy, which makes his control over his chakra poor, creating bad jutsus sometimes.

However, even though I will definitely give Sakura this, it’s never really much of an issue. Sasuke never seems like he’s noticeably using too much chakra, and Naruto has such immense stamina due to the nine-tailed fox that his wasted chakra is also not very noticeable. Even though his knowledge and skills with hand signs needs work, he doesn’t seem to be bound by the crap jutsus he used to make, so even that note doesn’t seem to be too relevant. (Not to mention that Jiraiya notes that Naruto’s chakra control and production problems were further expounded by the five-pronged seal he had put on him, but he released it so his control is much better now.)

Sakura is the most efficient ninja of Team 7, there’s no doubt about that, but it doesn’t count for much if both of her teammates have massive chakra reserves and seem to be insanely fast learners. Sakura was desperately in need of powerful and useful skills that focused on these strengths early on, but they waited a depressingly long time to give her any.

Also, given this situation, you’d think Sakura never would have tied with Ino. I mean, if chakra efficiency Sakura’s forte and she went the longest match with Ino, and she didn’t even use many jutsu, it only makes sense. If Ino’s far from the top of the class, I’d imagine she has chakra production and control issues too, but maybe not considering she later also becomes a medical-nin.

Other than that, we have Sakura and Ino trying to get some flowers to Sasuke, who is still hospitalized, but become saddened when they find that he’s not there. Sakura does show great sympathy for Lee, who is also hospitalized, but continues to try to train despite doctors claiming he’s so badly injured he’ll never be able to be a ninja again. She even picks out a flower for him and gives it to him secretly, which was really nice. (Note: She didn’t get him a flower after she saw him try to train. She got him one while she was shopping for one for Sasuke.)

The last bit with her before we reach the end of this part is her asking Ino why boys always push themselves too far. Ino says she doesn’t know either because she’s a girl. I feel that’s an unnecessarily sexist statement that makes no sense for Sakura to ask let alone not know the answer to.

—————————————

Overall, I feel I have a little more respect for Sakura as a character, at least right now. The moments that I saw initially as being ridiculously stupid or annoying don’t seem to bother me as much upon experiencing them through a more balanced lens. At this point, I’m more annoyed at her being wasted so many times and her moments to shine being poorly executed than anything else.

Sakura does obsess over Sasuke, she does treat Naruto badly numerous times and she is pretty useless and unimpressive at this point. I get frustrated at there being so many moments when she realizes that she’s so far behind Naruto and Sasuke and can’t do much on her own, but she doesn’t respond to this by training, coming up with a plan of jutsu or areas she can specialize in, or trying to perfect the use of some tool or weapon or something – she just mopes and gets encouragement from others which spurs her to get off her ass. At least she does manage to get off her ass, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.

Here’s looking forward to chapters 101-200!


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Hell Girl: Two Mirrors Episode 17 – Silent Gaze Review

HGTMEP17

Plot: Ren takes a particular interest in a client that is strung together with an older case of theirs. Eleven years ago, Ai and the others sent the abusive husband of Honomi Chiwaki to hell for her. Now her daughter wants to do the same to her out of misguided vengeance for her father.

Breakdown: This episode was one of the most depressing I’ve seen in Hell Girl. Absolutely no one won in this situation, and everything is broken to microscopic pieces in the end.

Nene, daughter of Honomi, was merely a toddler when her father was alive. He was a horribly abusive monster who targeted both Honomi and Nene, but she was too young at the time to remember the abuse when she got older.

Her mother called upon Hell Girl to free them from the torment, willing to be sent to hell if it meant saving her daughter from a life of terror and pain, possibly even death. In present day, Honomi is a busy but still very loving and doting mother who does her best to raise Nene and give her a good life. However, their life is far from perfect.

Upon meeting with her grandmother, mother of Heitaro (Nene’s father), she has started turning on her mother. I have no clue when this started, but I can surmise that her talking with her grandmother has been going on for at least several months to a couple of years. Even though it’s not explicitly stated by Nene at any time, it’s implied that her grandmother has been telling her that Honomi killed her father and that’s why she won’t talk about him.

Her grandmother acts extremely kind, but still very manipulative, when she’s with Nene in order to bring her to her side and hurt Honomi as much as possible. She even convinces Nene to move in with her, which Honomi accepts because she realizes she can’t stop her anyway. Honomi even gives Nene her own bank account that she will load with money whenever she needs it to cover her living expenses.

Eleven years ago, the grandmother was more than happy to show her true colors, and they were the same as her monster of a son’s. She did nothing but drink and harass Honomi, not caring that either of them were being abused. She’d even simply tell Honomi to get Nene to shut up as she’s crying her eyes out and wounded from past abuse. However, Nene doesn’t remember this either.

Honomi’s not giving Nene up without a fight, however, as she secretly meets with the grandmother to pay her off to let Nene go home, but the grandmother is adamant. She’ll fight her in court if she has to. All she wants it for her to pay for Heitaro being gone, even without a shred of proof that Honomi killed him (There’s not even a body.)

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Nene overhears them fighting about it, realizing her grandmother is also not to be trusted, and runs off in a rage at the both of them. Honomi gives chase and they stop on an overpass, Nene threatening her with the doll if she comes any closer.

Honomi admits that she killed Heitaro by using Hell Girl’s services and explains the abuse her husband put them through. She believes she’s the only one who needs to suffer for this and can’t run the risk of Nene pulling the string. Since she’s going to hell anyway, she saves Nene from what could’ve been an ever-lasting horrible decision that could damn her to hell by committing suicide by jumping off the overpass.

So now Nene is an orphan with a hateful grandmother she can’t trust who probably doesn’t want her around anyway since her only goal in being nice to her was to get back at Honomi.

The only good part of this situation is that Nene was saved from going to hell herself, but goddamn her life is in shambles now.

She spent however long getting an idealized version of her father built up in her head by her grandmother only to have that be shattered upon the realization that he was an abusive asshole. She spent however long hating her mother enough to call Hell Girl, believing her mother had killed her father, only to realize that her mother was a battered wife who sent her husband to hell to save her daughter. Then she had to watch her mother commit suicide in order to save her from hell. She spent however long thinking her only ally in this situation was her grandmother only to realize she was also an asshole who was only nice to her to get revenge on her mother. Now she’s possibly a homeless orphan with such massive emotional baggage it’s hard to see how she’ll ever get through it.

But it’s not even over there because we see Honomi in the ferry with Ai and she starts sobbing that she’ll likely never see her daughter again or know how she’s doing or how she’ll turn out as she grows up. She had to damn herself to hell to save her daughter, then she had to kill herself to save her daughter again. She was robbed of her future and watching her daughter grow up all because her husband and mother-in-laws were horrible people.

But we’re still not done because we have to talk about Ren’s part. Ren has taken a particular interest in this case because he remembers the old case and doesn’t want to see Nene be sent to hell or Honomi be immediately sent to hell (she’s damned anyway, but on her natural death) over a situation that was not either party’s fault.

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We explore Ren’s backstory in this episode. He was a very old sword – from what Kukuri said, at least 100 years old.

He had seen many wars, battles and murders. He had drank the blood of countless people – men, women and probably children. And throughout all that time, as an inanimate object, all he could do was watch (Which might be why his special power is his all-seeing eye) One day, he was pierced through a stone on yet another battlefield. Ai and Wanyuudou found him and asked if he wanted to take on a corporeal form and join them. Yearning for something more, he agrees, Ai pulls him out of the stone and we get some nice Ren fanservice when Ren emerges from a bright light in his literal birthday suit.

Wanyuudou is deeply concerned that Ren’s getting too involved in this case and will interfere when they’re not supposed to. Supposedly, such an offense might get him removed from Ai’s service, though I found this part of the plot to just be really ridiculous. This entire season has practically been non-stop Hell Team interference in one form or another. They’ve even basically saved some people from going to hell. Now Wanyuudou gets his panties in a bunch when Ren’s not even approaching them or talking to them, just watching from afar like he always does?

I will admit that the very ending where they fakeout Ren possibly saving Honomi, and thus interfering greatly, did get me. However, he, for better or worse, chose to do his job and merely comfort Nene as she cried at the scene instead.

While the ending of Honomi and Nene’s story is far from a happy one, Ren starts finding some solace in his life. He’s still forced to merely observe, but what little influence he does have, what little he can do after the fact, is enough to lessen the burden on his heart if only somewhat. And he admits that he has found a family with Hone Onna, Wanyuudou and Ai, which I found touching.

Overall, while this episode was dreadfully depressing on both sides, I can’t say it wasn’t well-written because it was extremely good in that regard. I deeply cared for both Nene and Honomi (Admittedly Honomi more than Nene because, even though she’s being manipulated, I don’t think she’s giving her mother nearly enough credit.) and the story differed from the norm quite a bit to make it refreshing and engaging.

Plus, having the backstory of one of the Hell Team actually be fully explored and well-written as well was a much welcome bonus.

Rating: 9/10


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SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 20: Hidden Message

SSBS - CFV Ep 20

Plot: It’s the second match of the finals! While Kai steps up for his match, Aichi stews in anxiety as the weight of the tournament piles on his shoulders. He knows Kai will win, leaving the deciding match to him. Self-confidence slowly fades away from Aichi, but Kai sends him a hidden message with this battle. Will Aichi get what Kai is telling him?

Breakdown: This episode is 80% pointless. Even the characters know that Kai will, no question, win his next match, and we, as an audience, know he won’t lose to Mr. Kaboom. And if he did lose to that kabooming ignoramus, I think I’d drop the series along with my faith in humanity.

The only real point of this match is to bring Aichi’s waning self-confidence back up since he now realizes that he’ll be the deciding factor in whether or not they win the tournament.

What’s that, you say? What of Misaki?

Well, dear reader, she’s….refusing to battle. Yes, even though she was the main player in the team and Aichi was just an alternate, and even though she arrived so late the tournament was nearly over by the time she arrived, she vehemently refuses to play the final match when Aichi asks her.

I assume this is for the sake of building him up as a Vanguard fighter, but I’m really failing to see what the point even was of making her the main teammate in the first place. She has been completely without a role here. Also, isn’t she a bit too green herself to be doling out these life lessons like this?

How we even reached the ‘message’ is kinda strange and I’m not sure it makes enough sense. Kai taught Aichi to nut up and battle through………winning a Vanguard battle like Aichi knew he would. Aichi’s realization was that he wants to be as awesome as Kai, and to do that he can’t run from challenges.

So was this just Kai strutting his tail feathers around Aichi? Before his match even started, he said he doesn’t fight against players who run from matches. Considering Aichi’s deep almost obsessive admiration of Kai and his desire to battle him someday, I imagine that’s literally all he had to say to get him to do it.

What I don’t understand is how that gave Aichi confidence. Even when Kai’s match is over, he still says to himself that his skills are nothing compared to Kai’s.

In similar situations, the example being given to the character without confidence is usually by another underdog, or at least someone who’s not the obvious winner. They come back against all odds to win either through sheer determination, skill or hard work. Sometimes, the example in question doesn’t even win. It’s their behavior and attitude in battle that inspires the other character.

Here, we go into the match knowing Kai will win, even Aichi says that straight out, which is why he gets nervous in the first place. Then Kai wins and that somehow turns Aichi’s attitude around.

The one question mark was why Kai was choosing not to guard certain attacks when he easily could’ve, but obviously that was just part of his endgame strategy because again, duh, he’s not going to lose.

I might be a bit harsher on this episode than necessary because I felt a bit cheated. We’ve skipped over several matches that would’ve been interesting to watch in their entirety yet they dedicate an entire episode to Kai vs. Billy Mays and his KABOOM. Coming fresh off the heels of Kamui vs. Nagisa, which was both annoying and redundant in their play styles, and this final is turning into a disappointment.

I’m a bit conflicted on whether I want Aichi to win or lose. Kamui changed the terms of his marriage agreement with Nagisa to needing to win the finals as a whole for it to stick, so that’s on the line, but she’ll probably be a recurring character anyway.

I’d like Aichi to win, but on the other hand, if they do win this tournament this will probably lead to the Nationals, and not too long ago I praised this series for not going too far with their tournaments too quickly. I get that the stakes need to keep going higher for the sake of audience interest, but I always feel like shooting too high too fast causes the realism factor to diminish.

And just to get this out of the way, Morikawa was also putting his annoyingness on high today. That combined with KABOOM made me go into this episode feeling irritated enough.

All in all, I’m not really upset with this episode, I didn’t even find it bad, I was just disappointed. I didn’t expect much from this match to begin with, even Goki would’ve been thoroughly spanked by Kai, but I feel like it was a big waste of time.

Aichi’s moment of picking himself back up should’ve been handled a lot better. Maybe have Kai go first, then Kamui, then have a brief break where Aichi is freaking out about going into the finals with the victory resting on his shoulders then have Kai talk with him or even have a side-match with him or something. This just wasn’t the way to go, in my opinion.

Rating: 5/10

Next episode….

..Previous Episode


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SSBS – Beyblade Episode 3: Take it to the Max!

SSBS - Beyblade ep 3 Screen7

Plot: Tyson and Kenny meet the new kid, Max, who happens to be an ace Beyblader with a dad who owns a hobby shop with its own Beystadium. As Tyson tries to learn and train, they learn that there’s an exciting new Beyblading tournament coming up and they all want to enter.

Bey-Battles

Max (Draciel Metal Ball Defenser) vs. Tyson (Dragoon S)

Victor – Max

Breakdown: Tyson is training with his new Beyblade when it’s suddenly taken by a puppy named Sparky. After Sparky returns to his owner, a little girl, Tyson and Kenny meet the new kid in town, Max Tate. However, their introduction is interrupted when they hear the girl yelling out in panic as Sparky is whisked away by the river.

I have a few questions about this whole rescue. Where did that conveniently sized log even come from? How little attention was this girl giving Sparky to let him climb on a log and float away? Why is this river that quickly flows into an incredibly steep man-made waterfall not blocked off to the public? Tyson and the others hang out there all the time. Not only is the river not restricted, but kids can easily climb on top of the waterfall platforms with no gates, fences or even guardrails.

Tyson and Kenny try to save Sparky, but the current quickly gets too strong for them to even attempt going in. Just then, Tyson gets the idea to smack the log with his Beyblade so it will turn sideways and block off the top of the waterfall. I get that we have to incorporate Beyblades into basically every facet of every plot point, but if I saw a couple of kids trying to save my dog with Beyblades I think I’d smack them. I know they can’t do much else, but still.

Tyson’s shot was unable to turn the log and the blade lands on top of the waterfall. Max steps up and releases his Beyblade to help, but Tyson chastises him for doing the same thing he did when it failed. I don’t know why he’s upset. He already launched it, there’s no point in getting angry over it. Max doesn’t even do the same shot – he launches his Beyblade to Dragoon’s location and smacks it to the proper angle, successfully shifting the log’s position and stopping Sparky.

With Sparky safely back with his owner, Tyson applauds Max for his Beyblading skills and they become quick friends. However, he’s slightly concerned over his Beyblade for being sunk in the water after that last shot. Max suggests taking it to his father’s hobby shop to get it looked at.

SSBS - Beyblade ep 3 Screen1

After getting a clean bill of health on his Beyblade from Mr. Tate, he asks if Max wants to have a friendly Beybattle with him so he can teach him that shot that saved the puppy and he agrees. Max brings them down to the basement where he reveals that his father’s shop actually has it’s own Beystadium and even a few pieces of training equipment like a smaller Beystadium and a…..ramp with spikes—what?

SSBS - Beyblade ep 3 Screen3

Kenny has concerns, however, so he pulls Tyson aside to talk to him. He says he probably shouldn’t let Max train him because his shot seemed suspiciously good. Max is obviously a very skilled Beyblader, but finds it a bit too much of a coincidence to suddenly meet this skilled Beyblader with his own Beystadium right at the perfect time to save that dog…..Uhh…The dog was in trouble after Max started to introduce himself to them, so unless Kenny’s insinuating that Max was the cause of that accident, Kenny is a bit paranoid. Tyson just believes he’s being jealous and moves on with the match.

Kenny notices that Max uses an Easy Grip launcher, which improves accuracy without sacrificing spin, and the match begins. Dragoon is making some nice hits, but Max’s blade stays firmly in place. Max praises Tyson’s rotation, but Tyson points out that sitting there won’t help him win. Kenny, on the other hand, has news for Tyson. Max’s blade, the Draciel Metal Ball Defenser, is a special defense-focused blade. Despite it seeming like Tyson is way ahead, he’s actually doing no damage. Tyson’s not giving up so easily and changes up his strategy to pushing Draciel out of the wok instead, which he nearly succeeds in doing before Dragoon runs out of energy and falls.

SSBS - Beyblade ep 3 Screen2

Max is the winner, leaving Tyson upset that he doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Max tries to teach him that patience is the key to improving – one match won’t improve much of anything. Uhh, I thought the first scene implied that Tyson’s actually been doing quite a bit of training. Kenny agrees, which makes this even more confusing because he’s been the one training Tyson all this time.

I would understand if it was the shot that Tyson missed because that was a new issue that was brought up, but despite talking about teaching Tyson the shot, there was no mention of it during the match and it wasn’t implied to be the problem afterward. He just got overconfident in the power of Dragoon and overestimated its lasting power.

Max suggests training with him for a while, promising to teach him all sorts of secrets and techniques for accuracy and power. Tyson agrees, but before they can start another Beybattle, a man walks in and greets Mr. Tate. He introduces him as Stanley A. Dickenson, the chairman of the BBA, the Beyblade Battle Association. Kenny gushes over Mr. Dickenson, proclaiming him to the most important man in the sport of Beyblading. He promotes and trains up and coming Beybladers to make them some of the most skilled players in the game.

Mr. Dickenson is a family friend of the Tates, and he has come both to check out Mr. Tate’s new store and to let him be the first to learn of the new Beyblade Battle Tournament that the BBA is hosting. They all get excited over it, but Tyson quickly gets worried, stating that a tournament this major is sure to bring out Kai. Mr. Dickenson says Kai’s actually already entered……Wait, he specifically said he wanted them to be the first to know of this tournament yet not only does Kai know, he’s already signed up?

Mr. Dickenson praises Kai as a Beyblader and reveals that he’s actually the returning champion. Despite the worries, they all get amped up for the challenge and go back to training.

SSBS - Beyblade ep 3 Screen4

We cut to Kai who is also doing some training of his own. He’s trying to increase Dranzer’s lasting power. When he hears that Dranzer’s been spinning for over ten minutes, he implements a new phase of training, which is taking on three of his lackeys at once with the same still spinning blade. They start the match, but it’s over within a few seconds as all of their Beyblades are quickly knocked out of the arena. Even after the battle is over, Dranzer is still spinning strong. We get some slight insight into Kai who thinks to himself ‘That’s why I’m the champion….whether I like it or not.’

Back with Tyson and Kenny, who have returned to the dojo after from some intense training with Max, Kenny apologizes for what he said about Max and admits he was jealous. Tyson and him make up before analyzing Dragoon for some tweaks.

The truce lasts about a minute before Tyson gets all pissy about having to do actual planning, thinking and analysis to become a tournament class Beyblader. He says he’s gotten to where he is today without all of that boring stuff, but Kenny argues that it’s necessary in order to control the power of Dragoon. Tyson then gets personal and says Kenny’s only good at building Beyblades but sucks at actually using one, and he’s also so inept at controlling his own bit beast that he trapped her in a computer. Tyson realizes he’s gone too far too late and Kenny leaves.

SSBS - Beyblade ep 3 Screen5

I don’t even know why Tyson got so pissed there. I can understand him having a tantrum over having to do technical work but going that far when he knows full well that Kenny has been invaluable to his victories since he met him? And that he’s been a great asset in his overall training? Kenny’s been so valuable that he’s been kidnapped for his knowledge.

Kenny and Max has a bit of a heart to heart by the river and Max asks Kenny to get Tyson and meet him later.

Back with Tyson, he’s training in kendo with his grandpa, who, coincidentally, is basically mirroring his match with Max. Grandpa is taking a defensive stance, and Tyson’s continuous swings are useless against it. He says he has to be good at analyzing his moves and predicting them in order to succeed in battle, which Tyson connects to what Kenny was trying to tell him earlier.

Grandpa suddenly starts moving so quickly back and forth that he’s basically learned anime!Double Team from Pokemon. Tyson realizes that the way to combat this is by studying where Grandpa was and is in order to predict where he’ll be next. Then, with proper timing, he’ll be able to strike the real one.

Tyson’s attack actually fails, which I like because it emphasizes the other lesson about needing to practice new moves instead of learning them immediately.

Later, Tyson has some quiet reflection in the dojo, thinking that Kai’s strength is in balance while Max’s is in defense. If he can figure out strategies to combat both, he’ll be the new champ—uh, dude. No. That will help immensely, but you do realize that there will be many, many, many other very skilled Beybladers at this tournament, right? In order to truly be effective, you’ll need to learn how to quickly adapt, study your opponent’s moves for strengths and weaknesses and use both of those aspects to your advantage.

Kenny arrives at the dojo and spies through the window for a second to see Tyson start training. He puts some spin on his wrist as he launches Dragoon, and his Beyblade speeds off like a blur, leaving burn marks in the floor and shooting it through the wooden wall of the dojo, embedding it in another stone wall. Tyson rejoices that he’s finally mastered controlling Dragoon’s power. Uh….so you worry about your Beyblade when it’s submerged for a few minutes, but not when it’s crashed through a wooden wall and embedded itself in a rock wall?

SSBS - Beyblade ep 3 Screen6

As Kenny updates his stats and devises new strategies for Tyson, Tyson apologizes for what he said and the two make up, ready to take on the tournament together.

————————————-

I liked this episode, but mostly due to Max. Ray used to be my favorite character, but Max has gained a larger appreciation to me over the years. He has such a great attitude, awesome strategy, and I love his Beyblade. Plus, his backstory always seemed a bit more interesting to me than Ray’s. Truth be told, I think I used to be biased with Ray because I had a bit of a crush on him.

Tyson ruins this episode slightly to me because he has a little more ego than usual and he’s being a complete ass to Kenny for no reason other than ‘waaah, thinking!’

Some plot threads don’t mesh together like the log shot that Max just never taught Tyson, what connection the Double Team-ish move had to do with any of Tyson’s past matches, unless that was purely meant to give Tyson a niche (speed?) and I don’t see how him watching his grandpa do that automagically allowed him to control Dragoon.

Next episode, the qualifier for the tournament begins.

…..Previous Episode


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Yami Shibai 7 Review

Plot: Season seven of the horror anthology series, Yami Shibai.

Breakdown: This season of Yami Shibai was consistently okay. There weren’t any entries I hated, there was one episode I loved, and everything was more or less….fine.

That assessment is actually more disappointing than anything because I really don’t like when entertainment is just middle of the road. It’s usually just shorthand for ‘forgettable.’ But let’s really assess the damage and high points here.

Episode 1: Delivery – 5/10: What batter way to start off a series I was describing as being middle of the road than with a very middle of the road episode. There’s some creepiness here, but it’s not much and the twist at the end is pretty contrived.

Episode 2: The Sleepless Child – 8.5/10: A highlight of the season for sure, this episode had great buildup, nice atmosphere and some legitimate scares. It also subverted expectations a bit with that ending, but the jump scare made me wag my finger a little.

Episode 3: The Reception Room – 9.5/10: I think I jumped the gun a little on this episode. While I did really like it, it’s still a tad confusing on just what exactly the doll was doing to the couple to the point where I feel like it’s a problem. If the doll was killing them, then I don’t feel the sympathy with the doll at the end, really. Still a really great episode, but ultimately not worth my second 10/10 score on Yami Shibai.

Episode 4: Paintings – 6.5/10: Decent enough of the creepiness factor, but the story was kinda bland and I didn’t much care for the MC.

Episode 5: Notice of Termination of Service – 7.5/10: Despite the rating, I have just as little to say about this episode today as I did back when I watched and reviewed it. It’s a solid entry, but nothing too special.

Episode 6: The Veranda – 4.5/10: Another meh episode, the only things this episode really has going for it to me are the spastic animations they had on the fingers and the sound the ghost woman was making. Otherwise, it’s very dull.

Episode 7: Public Phone – 5/10: More meh. There are significant writing problems with this episode and the art is terrible. Outside of there, there are some creepy elements, but it’s a messy episode.

Episode 8: Cough – 7/10: Earned some points for both being legitimate creepy for a few seconds and for giving me a good laugh. This episode would be rated way higher if the ending weren’t so ridiculously silly.

Episode 9: The Woman in the Elevator – 7.5/10: Had some good spots of tension and an interesting story, but it was a bit too predictable and I really just felt bad for the ghost more than I was scared of her.

Episode 10: Manga Cafe – 5/10: Frustratingly stupid MC, goofy art and animation, lack of scares and kinda confusing story at the end.

Episode 11: Little Sister’s Room – 3/10: After mulling it over for a while, I decided the only things I really liked about this episode were the fact that it had good tension, but it was misplaced, and the cool way the ghost or demon thing moved without anyone acknowledging it was there. Outside of that, it’s a mostly unpleasant episode as we have a bitchy sister and her equally terrible friend talking smack about fat people and her brother, who has done nothing wrong as far as I can see, a fairly nice guy in the brother, but that’s ruined because he gets killed in a hilariously bored way, and some of the worst art the series has had so far.

Episode 12: Fitting Room – 6/10: While I did enjoy it for what it was, and the mannequins were some of the creepiest things we’ve seen all season, it didn’t blow me away and it was another entry that was very confusing.

Episode 13: Refrigerator – 6.5/10: Basically the same situation as Fitting Room only amplified by about 100. This story is certainly unique, especially for Yami Shibai, and it was a lot better than I thought an episode about a fridge could be, but at the end of the day, you basically have to write your own story for it to make any sense. In a way, it’s basically asking your to create the horror for them, so you mileage with this episode will vary depending on what story you come up with, if you even bother trying to come up with one in the first place.

——————————–

One thing I definitely noticed as I was recapping the episodes for this review was that there was many more instances where I was making theories on what was actually happening in an episode than I would usually do. Yami Shibai is no stranger to leaving things open to interpretation, but they went overboard with this season to the point where it was almost frustrating. Refrigerator is by far the biggest offender, but nearly every episode this season had these problems. The Sleepless Child and Manga Cafe probably fared best in that department and even they had issues.

Even in the episodes where I felt it wasn’t necessary to explain every little thing, like Notice of Termination of Service or Fitting Room, I still felt like I was forced to fill in the blanks to make a full story. You can definitely have coherent stories without going too much into detail, scary short stories basically thrive on that, but the risk of confusing your audience to the point where the horror was diminished was too high.

Your instant reaction to a scary story should be fright, terror, anxiety – if your audience is too confused when the story ends, even if the story is scary, they won’t feel nearly as much of those emotions because they got sidetracked by confusion first.

I also find it a tad unacceptable that we got two episodes that had funny endings this season – Cough and Little Sister’s Room. They were both one liners too, it’s was a bit ridiculous. I enjoyed the comedy, but it ruins the horror.

Overall, this season isn’t worth much outside of The Reception Room, The Sleepless Child and, just because I find it interesting to theorize about, Refrigerator. Everything else was caught in a purgatory of meh.

I found the opener this season to be interesting since it was so different to every other opener we’ve had in Yami Shibai, but I also was confused as to why the narrator was in this weird rundown building, why we were here and what is even happening. So many openings have the narrator in a public or otherwise open place gathering people or spirits or what have you to watch the show. Who is he rallying together to watch the show in this abandoned….hospital? Warehouse?

It also amounted to nothing, which I am always disappointed by. At least have the narrator bookends loop around each season. Come on.

The ending theme was pretty good. It’s a grungy and catchy song with some interesting visuals.

The art and animation, like each season, fluctuates. There is some really bad stuff in here, but also some pretty nice visuals.

Even in spite of this disappointing season, I look forward to season eight next year if they decide to continue this franchise.

Rating: (As always, averaged and rounded) 6/10

Additional Information and Notes: Yami Shibai 7 was produced by ILCA and is not currently licensed in the US.

Episodes: 13

Year: 2019

Recommended Audience: It’s a horror series, so by default it’s already meant for more of an older audience. Outside of that, nothing of note really. The typical scares and creepiness factors of the franchise. 12+


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Episode One-Derland: My Love Story!!

Plot: A classic love story – a handsome, charming young man saves a beautiful young woman and they fall hopelessly in love. That is the plot….of a different anime.

The plot of this one involves Takeo, a large, traditionally unattractive and somewhat imposing young man with a heart bigger than he is, falling for a beautiful timid girl named Rinko. However, every girl he falls for ends up falling for his extremely attractive and cool best friend, Suna, who coldly shoots down every girl who confesses to him. Believing her to also be in love with Suna instead of him, Takeo decides to take it upon himself to help Rinko win over Suna, even at the cost of his own feelings.

Afterall, a girl so cute and kind could never fall for someone who looks like him……Right?

Breakdown: Romance isn’t my favorite genre, but this series always looked pretty unique to me, and I had heard great things about it.

I’m happy to say that, so far, it’s lived up to expectations, but still has some problems.

Let’s start with the positives. Takeo is a precious cupcake, protect him. He can be a little gross, admittedly, but he’s got a heart of gold and I wish nothing but good things for him.

His relationship with Suna is also really unique and interesting. It must be heartbreaking to be best friends with a guy who, for lack of a better term, ‘steals’ all of the girls you fall for and then brushes them off when they confess to him.

Suna’s not really a jerk, he’s just not interested. And he also doesn’t try to take these girls from Takeo, they just don’t think of Takeo as a romantic prospect due to his size and features and instantly fall for Suna because he’s cool and handsome.

I looked forward to their interactions most of all, because, despite the fact that they seemingly have little in common, Suna is at his most relaxed and happy when Takeo is around, and Takeo is more confident, usually, with him around.

The story is a little on the weak side because the trope of two people falling for each other after the guy saves the girl from someone is so overdone that it probably predates written word. However, it was done in a way that was pretty cute, even if the groper was a complete idiot.

Who, when being accused of groping a girl, in the middle of a police station, in front of a cop, responds to the girl directly accusing him of groping her with ‘You were asking for it, with a skirt so short!’? I know full well that guys do throw around the ‘You were asking for it because of what you were wearing’ garbage ‘excuse’ but realize where you are, dude.

My only other problem is Rinko. She’s a little overly moe. She’s super shy, constantly blushing and has one of those ultra-kawaii high pitched voices that was honestly started to grate on me after a while. I don’t know if this was intentional, but I thought Takeo was more adorable than Rinko was. I’m just kinda sick of her stock character structure. All we need is for her to be clumsy and she’ll win moe bingo.

That being said, I do root for them to be with each other because she is really nice and doesn’t seem at all put off or intimidated by Takeo’s appearance. I also thought it was really sweet, and kinda sad, that Takeo was fine rooting for her to be with Suna and dedicating himself to helping her be with him because all he really wants if for her to be happy, even if it hurts him.

The art and animation is really nice, which is to be expected of a shoujo title. Nothing terribly impressive, but still nice to look at.

The music was alright, but really forgettable. I wrote this only a few hours after watching the first episode, and I can’t really remember anything about the tracks besides that they were fairly typical fare for this type of show. Upbeat and sugary.

Final Verdict:

Continue Yes

Even though it had some aspects that were kinda cliché and Rinko really needs to do some work to truly grow on me, I really enjoyed this first episode and look forward to watching the rest of the series.

Recommended Audience: Rinko gets groped, but it’s probably the most non-graphic grope I’ve ever seen in an anime. Other than that, nothing. 5+