Anime, Shows

A Flawed Character Worth Rooting For: Wandering Witch Season 1

Anime Review:

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina Season 1

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Entertaining, flawed main character
  • Good storytelling
  • Some strong, impactful episodes
  • Beautiful animation and art style

Cons

  • A little hard to get into at first
  • The episodic feel made it seem a bit plotless and like it was going nowhere

Observations

  • Almost all of the character development focused on one character

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Review

This anime is about a young traveling witch who visits various countries, cities, and towns.

When I started watching this anime, one of my first impressions was that I didn’t like the main character. I simply hadn’t considered her value to the show as someone with obvious flaws yet capable of change and development. It was a simplistic way of approaching the anime and I wish I had thought more carefully about it, because that attitude left me dissatisfied with the first few episodes.

As a writer, I should have realized the reason that Elaina grated on my nerves was not because she was a bad character, but because she was well-written and had a set of flaws composed of ones that annoyed me more than most other flaws would. It’s okay to have a character that is not likable as the main character, as long as she is well-written and has strong narrative purpose. And it took a reminder from my sister and a friend to help me see it that way.

The main reason Elaina bugged me at first was because she is so full of herself, especially as an adult. At the beginning and/or the end of most episodes, she describes herself as beautiful or amazing. For example, at one point she says she is so brilliant, the sun squints involuntarily upon seeing her. At another time, when asked about her specific talents, she says “I’m good at pretty much everything.” Sure, she’s right. She is a prodigy who became a witch in record time. But man, that gets annoying pretty fast.

She was apprenticed to a witch named Fran, who tried to teach her the power of failure by overwhelming her. That was a lesson she wouldn’t really internalize and learn until later, however, when she failed in more significant ways than just being defeated in a duel by a powerful witch.

Her parents have her make three promises when she leaves them to travel the world.

First, to run away from danger. She doesn’t do that very well. Even though she is apathetic most of the time and tries not to get involved in the conflicts and problems of everyday people, she gets in danger plenty of times without running away.

The second promise is not to think of herself as anyone special. I laughed upon thinking back at that one. She failed that promise with style.

The third promise is that she will come back someday and tell her parents about her adventures. She doesn’t do that, either, at least in the first season. She writes and publishes a book about her adventures, if that counts for anything. Perhaps her parents will read it.

She basically fails at all three promises.

It takes a botched mission to make her realize that she is not perfect, and what she experienced during that mission traumatized her. In episode 9, A Deep Sorrow From the Past, Elaina is the Clock Village of Rostolf. She is low on money and must take on a job.

The Lavender Witch Estelle offers her a job. Estelle had a close childhood friend, Selena, whose parents were murdered by a burglar. After their murder, Selena is sent to live with her uncle, who was abusive. Eventually she turned on her uncle and killed him, afterwards becoming a serial killer. She kind of reminded me of Toga from My Hero Academia. Estelle was eventually order to kill Selena, and she did it by beheading her. This traumatic event left Estelle obsessed with finding a way to go back in time and change her friend’s terrible destiny.

When Estelle tells Elaina this story, Elaina appears to be completely apathetic. She is truly only in it for the money.

Estelle reveals that she has found a way to time travel. She has been sacrificing her own blood to get enough magic to prep the spell. She wants Elaina to come with her since she will be drained of magic after the spell. Estelle gives Elaina a ring that allows them to share magic power.

When they go back in time, Estelle convinces Selena’s parents to leave the house so they will not be murdered. Meanwhile, Elaina watches the house so she can catch the burglar. The burglar never shows. Eventually, Elaina notices from the ring that Estelle is using her magic power. She follows the source of magic to find that Estelle is bloodied and lying on the ground next to Selena’s murdered parents.

Selena is standing there with a knife. It turns out she was originally the one who killed her parents, not a burglar. Her father had been sexually abusive and her mother had gotten jealous and hit her repeatedly.

Estelle rises to her feet and starts to strangle Selena with magic. Elaina is horrified that a friend is killing a friend and tries to stop her by taking off the ring. Estelle sacrifices all her fond memories of Selena in order to get the remaining energy necessary to behead her.

Once they return to the present, Estelle has no memory of Selena. Elaina holds herself together until she gets outside, and then breaks down into tears. She recognizes her own failures and is devastated from having watched love turn to hate and from seeing a child brutally killed. She admits to herself that she is inexperienced and occasionally helpless to stop bad things from happening.

The extent to which this experience impacted her is revealed in a later episode, when she enters an enchanted place in which there are multiple versions of herself. One of these versions is violent and exhausted, deeply hurt by what happened with Estelle and Selena. The true Elaina must come to terms with all the versions and aspects of herself before she is able to escape that place. This offers her a sense of closure and helps her move on.

Those were my two favorite episodes, although there were many other good ones. Those were one of the few that seemed strongly connected as well. Most of the season felt somewhat plotless, with Elaina wandering aimlessly to various destinations. Each episode was like a vignette, a piece mostly independent of the others. The episodic feel was interesting, though not always satisfying.

In conclusion, I would recommend this anime to anyone who appreciates somewhat dark anime with an interesting lead character.

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Books

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson Focuses on Dalinar’s Backstory

Spoiler-Free Book Review:

The Stormlight Archive: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Multiple intriguing points of view
  • Gripping character backstories
  • Different lifeforms than in any other series
  • Unique magic system
  • Richly developed cultures
  • Objects unique to the realm of this book
  • So many quotable moments
  • So much research put into this
  • Illustrations and other worldbuilding snippets between sections of the book
  • Quotes that introduce chapters are interesting and relevant
  • Phenomenal ending with twists
  • The interludes could be books of their own

Cons

  • No noticeable cons

Review

This series is without a doubt the best one I have ever read. From character development to worldbuilding, Sanderson knows how to weave a compelling story. Oathbringer is the third book in The Stormlight Archive. With this book, my favorite character has shifted from Kaladin to Shallan.

Psychologically, Shallan is a fascinating character. She makes alternate versions of herself such as Veil and Radiant, until she has trouble figuring out who she really is as a person. Even when she has a better grasp on who “Shallan” is, she wonders if she should discard her original personality in favor of one of the alternatives that is less broken. A big part of Shallan’s character arc is coming to terms with her own brokenness.

I should also say that I never liked the idea of Shallan and Kaladin as a potential couple. I won’t spoil who she ends up with, and I wouldn’t consider whichever choice she made to be a con for the book, but I thought I should mention that. And the reason is that I prefer Shallan and Adolin because they have phenomenal chemistry. Adolin wants Shallan, not her false personas. He is so sincere. I am not big on romance, but they are honestly cute together.

Also, Pattern as chaperone is hilarious.

“What,” Pattern said with a hum, “is a chaperone?”

“That is someone who watches two young people when they are together, to make certain they don’t do anything inappropriate.”

“Inappropriate?” Pattern said. “Such as…dividing by zero?”

The interludes between the sections of the book remain a testament to Sanderson’s solid writing skills. He made me care about characters who may only get a few pages of development here and there, but are nonetheless multifaceted and interesting. Two of my favorites are Rysn and Kaza. Rysn has been crippled from falling from a greatshell’s head and is now keeping ledgers. Kaza is slowly turning to smoke the more she uses her soulcaster. I love them both so much, especially Rysn.

The Windrunners are joined by new members, and I really appreciate the ideals that they must swear to.

Windrunner’s first ideal:

“Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.”

Windrunner’s second ideal:

“I will protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

Windrunner’s third ideal:

“I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right.”

The Windrunners are my favorite out of all the orders of Radiants.

This really was more of Dalinar’s book, just like The Way of Kings focused on Kaladin and Words of Radiance focused on Shallan. We finally learn more about Dalinar’s first wife, which is honestly amazing. Dalinar really has a strong character arc, turning from a warmonger to a peacemaker. It is his tragic and violent past that influences him in this novel, although his softer side is involved as well.

The ending was everything I could have wanted. It did not disappoint, with ample twists and tons of suspense and tension. I was in awe.

In conclusion, you should definitely read this book. Read the first two books first, obviously, but this one was amazing too. This book would be best for lovers of high fantasy.

Anime, Shows

An OP Character Who Specializes in Defense

Anime Review:

Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense Season 1

Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Fun concept
  • Good animation
  • Attractive art style
  • Nice music

Cons

  • Boring at times
  • Very low stakes
  • Not much character development
  • Unimpressive ending

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead!

Review

When I play dungeon-crawling board games such as Descent or Gloomhaven, I always choose a character people would refer to as a “tank”. The character with the highest HP and defense, capable of withstanding hordes of attacking foes–that’s what I always choose. It comes at the cost of low speed though, and many other stats that are minimal at best.

Kaede Honjō makes the same choice. Under the username Maple, she creates a character for a virtual reality game called New World Online and puts all of the points she gets from leveling up directly into defense, neglecting all other areas. It gets to the point that monsters that attack her die from exhaustion because their repeated attacks have an effect that is negligible.

She eventually develops immunity to effects such as poison and obtains ridiculously overpowered items. She becomes OP, which is anime talk for an overpowered character. It kind of reminds me of other anime with overpowered characters, such as One-Punch Man and The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.

This anime is not as good as those two, however. The main problem is the low stakes. Character death results in mild penalties and a quick respawn. Not winning a challenge merely means losing the chance at the prize. At no point is there any suspense, especially since Maple and her friend Sally are consistently successful and lucky.

Maple is universally liked by the other characters, and becomes the face of the game. Even the moderators of the game are afraid to limit her power too much since that will provoke annoyance from her loyal fan base. She experiences very few setbacks, and her constant learning of new skills that make her increasingly powerful kind of gets old.

The characters other than Maple and Sally are poorly developed, and even Maple and Sally are not developed much.

I’ve seen a lot of people compare this anime to Sword Art Online. Sure, this anime involves a virtual reality game as well, but the similarities end there. In SAO, the stakes are high because a misstep in the virtual world can lead to death in the real world. In Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense, Maple becomes OP despite her lack of video game experience. She only thinks to max out her defense so she doesn’t feel any pain. In SAO, the main character Kirito is extremely powerful, but he also has had significant experience with the game.

To be fair, this anime was not meant to be taken seriously. But for shows such as this, comedy and fun should be what is given in return for low stakes. Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense is not amusing enough to make up for its lack of suspense.

Maple basically breaks the game, but it is permitted because of her popularity. She’s bland despite being mildly likeable, and she pretty much always gets what she wants. The ending was nothing special and is exactly what I expected. It was lackluster at best.

I can’t really say I recommend this anime to anyone in particular, except maybe as a show to put on in the background when you are doing something else.

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Books

The Second Book in the Stormlight Archive is Just as Awe-Inspiring as the First

Spoiler-Free Book Review:

The Stormlight Archive: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Introduces new characters such as Lift, who are simply awesome
  • Some very quotable moments
  • Extremely well-developed main characters
  • More backstory, especially for Shallan
  • Perspectives from both sides of the war
  • Introduced new settings such as Shadesmar
  • Well-placed interludes to up the tension and anticipation
  • A worldbuilding masterpiece
  • Obviously did a lot of research

Cons

  • Couldn’t think of any.

Review

Warning: Although there are no spoilers for book 2 of The Stormlight Archive (Words of Radiance), there are minor spoilers for book 1 (The Way of Kings).

I’ll start out by saying I adored the first book in this series. The rich character development and worldbuilding, the detailed backstories, the complex and engaging plot…it truly was a masterpiece. Words of Radiance is an equally powerful testament to the powerful writing of Brandon Sanderson. It does not disappoint.

Lift is an intriguing character introduced in the interludes of this book. She’s a go-with-the-flow, thieving girl who is paired to a spren named Wyndle. She thinks it is unlucky to have your age be more than you can count on your fingers. Gawx, a fellow thief, is pretty fun too, even if I like Lift better.

I enjoyed the interludes, but their placement caused so much tension. Sanderson picked key moments to insert his interludes to up the suspense. You will be on the edge of your seat.

Rysn is another strong character from the interludes. She looks down on those who are different than her, and her mentor forces her to care for a pot of grass to try to temper her pride. She is annoyed because the grass is stupid–it doesn’t retract or move the way grass does in her country, just staying still and soaking up sunlight.

Each interlude adds to the worldbuilding. It’s brilliant.

I love some of the great lines from this book.

Spren are those ideas – the ideas of collective human experience – somehow come alive.”

Jasnah

Natural laws? Laws are of men, Kaladin. Nature doesn’t have them.”

Syl

Beauty was out there, all around. To create art was not to capture it, but to participate in it.”

I’m sorry your mystical, godlike powers do not instantly work as you would like them too.”

Pattern

As I fear not a child with a weapon he cannot lift, I will never fear the mind of a man who does not think.”

Dalinar

And all these beloved characters–they start meeting each other. Shallan has the chance to meet Kaladin and Adolin. I love love love seeing Adolin and Shallan meet. They are so awkward it’s funny. Right down to Shallan asking how does one poop in shardplate. Priceless moments. And when she meets Kaladin with the whole boot scene–trust me, you’ll love it.

We get a ton of background for Shallan in this book. I feel like Kaladin is still my favorite character, but Shallan is superbly developed. We learn more about her childhood and her brothers and father. She also takes her abilities to the next level in this book. I love to see her grow more confident under Jasnah’s leadership, demanding that the crew of a ship she is sailing on lower her down into the water to memorize the appearance of a Santhid.

Sanderson does villain points of view very well. If they can even be called villains, since they are so sympathetic and justified. Eshonai is a Parshendi and a leader of her people, who call themselves the listeners. Parshendi use rhythms alongside words to communicate, which adds depth to their conversations. They also can exist in different forms such as mateform and warform, depending on their role in society at any particular time.

It’s great that he gave perspectives from both sides of the conflict, unlike in The Lord of the Rings, in which one side of the war is clearly completely evil.

Shadesmar, the world of spren, is an assortment of structures surrounded by a sea of glass beads. It’s weird, but Sanderson manages to fit it into the novel without much problem.

There is a duel partway through the book that is easily one of the best scenes in the series I have read thus far. Loved it. Oh, the suspense! The action! The courage!

Finally, I must say that Sanderson undoubtedly did a lot of research, just like his first book. From the details of caring for wounds to the nuances of riding a horse for the first time, Sanderson knows what he is talking about.

Read this book. Obviously read the first one first, but this one will be all that you want in a fantasy.

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