RABUJOI’s Top 22 Couples of 2014

UPDATE: We’ve added a couple more couples from Fall 2013 shows that carried over into Winter 2014, bringing the total to 24, not 22.

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1. Mine x Tatsumi

Akame ga Kill! – At first it seemed like Tatsumi’s love interest would be the titular Akame, while Mine was someone he merely constantly bickered with. Yet their chemistry only got better in time, and after both saved each others’ lives multiple times, they finally clicked, and got to say what needed to be said before Mine tragically succumbed to her battle injuries.

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2. Esdeath x Tatsumi

Akame ga Kill! – Another romance involving Tatsumi that started out as a joke but grew more serious as time and circumstances with the war progressed. Esdeath proved that while she was a monster, she was also still a human being, which meant sought someone to give her heart to and share her life of death and destruction with, and Tatsumi literally checked all of her boxes. I only hesitated to list these two because Tatsumi never really seemed interested in Esdeath beyond superficial titillation, but Tatsumi did basically offer himself to her if she came over to the rebellion.

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3. Haru x Tokaku

Akuma no Riddle – While this list is mostly boy-girl pairings, that doesn’t preclude other combinations as long as they were interesting, and Haru and Tokaku’s certainly was, with both girls in turn taking up the “protector” role as conditions warranted, and even Haru’s dark secrets not swaying Tokaku from her side.

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4. Kisara x Rentarou

Black Bullet – Rentarou was adopted into Kisara’s family, but while that technically makes them siblings and thus not couple material, that turns out to be the least of their worries. Let’s get one thing out of the way: Rentarou and Kisara love each other, and it goes beyond standard familial love; they’re devoted to one another, with a bond forged in the hellish fires of the past. What dooms them, in the shows somewhat curtailed ending, is Kisara’s descent into darkness, choosing to become an even greater evil to destroy the great evil that infects the world…starting with Kazumitsu, her brother by blood. It’s a road Rentarou can’t follow her down, and she knows that. It’s also quite sad.

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5. Rikka x Yuuta

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren – Well…duh. You didn’t think these two wouldn’t be on this list, did you? I mean look at them…bloody adorable. But that’s not to say they were just a couple of cute faces. They went through some things, including trying to parse out what their relationship is and what its pace should be, as well as overcoming a feisty rival.

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6. Hilda x Roselie x Chris

Cross Ange: Tenchi to Ryuu no Rondo – Yes, I know, this is a trio, not a couple, but I’ll allow it. Arzenal is many things, and ‘women’s prison’ is one of them. As such, the ‘weak’ (either physically or emotionally) ally themselves with the ‘strong’, be it in the skies, the mess hall, or boudoir. These three comprised Troop Captain Zola’s harem, and Zola looked after them both on duty and off. When she was killed in action they carried on with Hilda in her place. Then Hilda deserted, and it was just Chris and Roselie. When she’s recaptured, Hilda claims she was just playing around with them…but I wasn’t convinced she was being totally honest with herself.

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7. Nagi x Kyoutarou

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – Yes, the show wants to give all the girls possibilities with Kyoutarou, and seems to want to nudge him in the direction of Tsugumi in particular, but I’ve always found this pairing to be the most compelling. They have a past, and spend the most time together, often with no pretense or tension. The only problem is they share the same father. Whoops…

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8. Rin x Shirou

Fate stay/night: Unlimited Blade Works – Rin and Shirou are far from an official couple, but it can’t be argued that they have a certain romantic tension in their interactions, which have varied from verbal to physical/magical altercations to sharing dinner and spending the night under the same roof (though not in the same room). They’ve been enemies, and they’ve been allies, and there’s the constant indication that the alliance is temporary and they’ll be enemies again before too long…but in the interim, they make a good team.

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9. Kazumi x Ryouta

Gokukoku no Brynhildr – This is another case (there were many this year) when I wasn’t as interested in the show’s intended ‘main’ couple of Ryouta and Neko. Kazumi was a way more dynamic character and she and Ryouta have some great dramatic and comedic scenes together.

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10. Tomoyo x Jurai

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – There are cuter and more precocious (Chifuyu), taller and more voluptuous (Sayumi), lovey-dovier (Mirei) and more familiar (Hatoko) women in Jurai’s life, but none ever clicked quite so well as he and the crimson-headed Tomoyo. They bicker a lot, but out of mutual interest in and affection for each other, not loathing.

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11. Satomi x Shinichi

Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – File Satomi and Shinichi under 2014’s Most Doomed Couples, despite their mutual affection and brilliant natural chemistry…well, when Shinichi isn’t making scary faces, yelling at her for no reason, or tossing puppy carcasses in the garbage.

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12. Rurumo x Kouta

Majimoji Rurumo – You can’t tell a book by it’s cover, and the rather childish-looking MMR had a surprisingly rich and mature romance at its core, which rightly took center stage, rather than the magical milieu. Ruru even shelves her original purpose for contracting with Kouta, because completing that would separate the two (via his death), something neither of them want.

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13. Chisaki x Tsumugu

Nagi no Asukara – I loved Miuna to death, but for most of the second core when she’s a main character, her’s was a one-sided love. No, the best couple in this show were the two I thought least likely to pair up, only it happened anyway due to circumstances and time. Their relationship is threatened by Tsumugu’s future and the awakening of their friends, but by the end it endures. They just fit, as the photo above indicates.

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14. Kosaki x Raku

Nisekoi – Sorry, Chitoge, but Kosaki was here first! Not only that, Raku liked her and she liked him first. They were on the cusp of connecting when Chitoge arrived, and no matter how much progress she and Raku made towards becoming less of a fake couple and more of a real one, Chitoge still felt like an interloper. Of course, that’s partly on Kosaki and Raku, for not having the guts to come right out and confess to each other. The show itself didn’t seem to want them together, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were the best fit for each other.

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15. Kaori x Yuuki

One Week Friends – There were times on this show when you weren’t sure whether Kaori’s was a real brain condition caused by her accident, or if it was a psychosomatic process she went through in order to avoid getting too close to anyone. In any case, it made her a tough nut to crack, but Yuuki put the work in and devised a way for her to remember him even when she forgot, regardless of the reason. It was a bumpy road, but immensely satisfying.

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16. Erika x Kyoya

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – One of the upstart surprise of the year, Ookami’s general premise of ‘guy treating girl like a dog’ naturally had me pre-turned off, worried it would be demeaning towards women. It turned out to be a lot more nuanced and likable, as were Erika and Kyoya, despite their many flaws and missteps. I’m not sure if any other couple had quite so many obstacles to finding happiness, but they navigated them all with grace and humor.

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17. Aoi x Naoto

Rail Wars! – Aoi is constantly telling Naoto he’s not tough enough for railway public safety, dubbing him “Stringbean” and such. But the truth is, Naoto was a lot tougher than he looked, and never let her down when they were in a spot. They developed a good working relationship, but the more death-defying adventures they shared, the closer they became, to the point where Aoi is unashamed to be officially in the fight for Naoto’s heart along with the other girls, and Naoto is not opposed to the chase.

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18. Tensai x Juugo

Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – While these two were never an official item, they shared a mutual respect and admiration that would sometimes veer into the realm of romantic affection/attraction. They’re rivals who keep one another on each other’s toes, but when they come together – Tensai’s brains and Juugo’s brawn, they can accomplish great things.

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19. Yuu x Haruka

Sakura Trick – This show mostly focused on one thing and one thing only—the budding relationship between two young people in love for the first time—and did it damn well. Perhaps no other show this year captured that unique joy and excitement that comes not just from finding the right one, but knowing that person thinks you’re just as right for them. That, and the thrill of making out in places where one could get caught.

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20. Kaori x Kousei

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – I considered putting Tsubaki and Kousei here, because despite having different callings (athletic versus musical) they seem to be the more natural match due to time and proximity, which are tried-and-true reasons two people come together. Kaori and Kousei, meanwhile, have the look of a more idealistic, star-crossed couple. Kaori is amazing and everything, but she’s also dying, as we the audience know better than the other characters.

But at the end of the day, Kousei is in love with Kaori, not Tsubaki. He’s said as much to Kaori, though he could have been clearer and she has yet to clearly respond. Still, there’s nothing else on TV, animated or not, quite like watching these two make music together. Yes, music music…get your head out of the gutter!

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21. Chiharu x Mitsuo

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – Pilot’s Love Song had some issues…chief among them, it didn’t really, um…end, so much as stop. But one thing it did well was introduce perhaps the quickest but most compelling and moving romances of the year, between the affable Chi and kind Mitty, both side characters in this meandering tale. Like so many other couples who suddenly find each other in the midst of war, that war ends up tearing them apart prematurely, in one of the most heartrending scenes of the year.

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22. Yui x Sou

Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – Aside from her super-romantic (and heartbreaking) confession/kiss/farewell in the street where Sou had just narrowly escaped death-by-bus, a kiss immediately proceeded by her no longer existing in his universe, the time-traveling Yui’s love story was often overshadowed by future Sou’s obsessive quest to save Kaori, but always present, to the point where Yui started as a means to save Kaori, but then a safe Kaori became a means for Sou to one day create Yui anew. Still with us…?

Bonus Couples

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23. Kouko x Banri

Golden Time

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24. Mako x Ira

Kill la Kill

Merry Christmas!

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RABUJOI’s Top 19 Female Characters of 2014

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Note: Characters are listed alphabetically by name. We may love some more than others, but there’s no official ranking.

1. Esdeath

Akame ga Kill! – Yeah, her name is kinda silly, but the ice blue-haired general was more than just an evil villainess. Sure, no one can argue that she was a murderous, bloodthirsty, and highly prolific conqueror and torturer, but she was a product of her upbringing. She was taught that the strong slaughter the weak…and that’s it. But most importantly, her own heart rebelled against that dark philosophy and the Imperial Arm that propagated it. For all her scars and wrong-headed ideology, she still fell in love. One of the bigger tragedies of the show is that Tatsumi wasn’t quite able to turn her away from evil. Making us feel for such a fundamentally awful villain is no mean feat.

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2. Hanabusa Sumireko

Akuma no Riddle – Sumireko was the self-appointed class president and a gorgeous, well-bred young lady of impeccable manners. She sat behind that desk, being nice and polite as girl after girl tried and failed to assassinate Haru, and when it was finally her turn, she did not disappoint, ditching her prim uniform for revealing combat attire, showing absolutely no mercy, and delivering one of the most elaborate, over-the-top battles of the show.

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3. Ikkyuu Tensai

Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – While her cute blonde looks belie her samurai-style name, Tensai wasn’t just another pretty face. She was a genius detective, as well as a shameless self-promoter who happened to be able to back up her own hype with results. She really stood out among an otherwise meh cast, and her verbal spars and ‘chess games’ with Juugo were always a highlight of the show.

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4. Kanbaru Suruga

Hanamonogatari – I know, this was technically a movie, but it was structured like five episodes of television, and that’s how I reviewed them. Suruga was (due in no small part to her seiyu Sawashiro Miyuki) always one of my favorite Monogatari characters, and she gets the spotlight in this wonderful arc that explores action and inaction, regret, adolescence…and the perils of sleeping in the nude.

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5. Komadori Renge

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – You wouldn’t think Renge had much in common with the violent and domineering Esdeath…but you’d be wrong, and I’m not just talking about their tendency to wear white. Like Esdeath, Renge has fallen for the enemy…only in her case, she’s on the ‘good guy’s and he’s with the ‘bad’, only doesn’t know Jimon is part of Zvezda at all until quite late in the show, and even then, like Esdeath, those feelings don’t change. It’s quite fun to watch the two lovebirds walk a tightrope, both trying to keep their alter-egos secret, and while in their respective disguises.

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6. Maji Mojiruka Rurumo

Majimoji Rurumo – While not a particularly serious-looking show, MMR had a serious (if simple and sweet) romance at its heart, and Rurumo was the slightly better half of it. Always derided and placed in a box labeled ‘slow and inept’ and pushed into training that will eventually take Kouta’s life, her time with him compels her instead to extend that training indefinitely so she can be with the person she’s become so fond of, despite their wildly different backgrounds.

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7. Miyazono Kaori

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – The brilliant violinist who yanks Kousei out of his dark sea of self-loathing and regret and shows him the true beauty and light of music, Kaori is a bundle of energy and charisma, capable of engendering laughter or tears at will. It’s a shame then, she seems to be dying.

8. Murano Satomi

Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – If this list were ranked by luck (rather than the alphabet), Satomi would be pretty high, just as Shinichi would be high on the guy’s list. Her life isn’t all that bad…except for the fact Shinichi isn’t Shinichi anymore. What she doesn’t know is exactly what that means. Her love for him, tinged with her crushing fears, are ably expressed by Hanazawa Kana.

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9. Sakurai Aoi

Rail Wars!RW! was a flawed and sometimes just-plain-dumb show that just happened to have awesome trains, but the extremely badass Aoi was a definite bright spot, as was her tenuous relationship with Naoto. The proud (and very apparent) daughter of a cop, Aoi formed the ‘muscle’ of Defense 4 along with Shou. But her considerable confidence in combat was contrasted with her insecurity with her femininity and struggles with her feelings for Naoto. Aoi was many things, but never boring.

10. Salia

Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – Big changes seem in store for Arzenal in the near future, but at this point in Cross Ange’s run, Salia has been the poster child for a typical Arzenal Norma life, with emphasis on ‘child.’ We’ve explored the many ways in which Arzenal is basically a kindergarten you never leave. It’s the only home she’s ever known, and inspired by the likes of Jill as well as magical girl stories, she’s always dreamed of becoming its savior. Unfortunately, like Jill, she doesn’t quite have what it takes to be the heroine or even the troop leader, and must be content in a supporting role, which doesn’t sit right with her at all.

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11. Hildegard “Hilda” Schlievogt

Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – The opposite of Salia in many ways, Hilda did know a life before Arzenal. It was an idyllic life, like Ange’s, from which she was cruelly ripped away once she was revealed to be a Norma. Rather than working and fighting to become the hero like Salia, all of Hilda’s scheming and screwing has been to find and secure a way out, back to her original life…which didn’t go well at all.

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12. Kazumi Schlierenzauer

Gokukoku no Brynhildr – While she starts out as a callous and annoyingly flirtatious pain in the ass, but steadily grew into the most compelling and endearing of the girls, embracing her mixed-up adolescent tendencies and raw humanity with abandon. Her seemingly always-imminent death terrifies her, and you can’t help but feel for her.

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13. Shinatose Izana

Sidonia no Kishi – Speaking of feeling for someone, one can’t help but sympathize with Izana’s unenviable position as the ‘neglected best friend.’ Add to that the fact she transitioned into a woman (from her original third gender) because of her feelings Nagate, who can’t see the forest of Izana for the trees of Shizuka (who was lost to the Gauna) and the artificial copy of her (which lingers in the ship’s lab).

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14. Shinohara Erika

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – This list is full of flawed and imperfect women, and Erika is no different. But she knows what she wants: friends, and a happy high school life; if she has to lie about having a boyfriend to get those things, so be it. She gets her comeuppance, but eventually comes to want something else: for her fake boyfriend to become real, and love her as she comes to love him. It’s a rough road before that happens, but that’s what makes it so satisfying.

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15. Shiodome Miuna

Nagi no Asukara – Miuna’s one of those characters you won’t learn much about by reading her MAL profile, nor will you really get her unless you watch her full arc, which spans several years and in which she grows from melancholy girl to increasingly strong and selfless, even heroic young woman. Voiced by Komatsu Mikako in what I believe to be her finest voice work to date, Miuna was one of the richest and most beloved characters of the year, full stop.

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16. Sonokawa Momoko

Sabagebu! – There are characters you love to hate, but the pink haired Momoko is someone you almost hate to love, because she is, at best, not a particularly good person, and at worst, a scheming, morally bankrupt scoundrel who’d happily tread upon the corpses of her friends to snatch victory. That being said, all the violence is make-believe (mostly) and she’s immensely entertaining to watch.

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17. Takanashi Rikka

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren – Was Chu2Koi 2 as good as Chu2Koi? No. Is it still some very strong KyoAni romantic comedy with a healthy dose of fantasy? Yes indeed, and Rikka is a big part of that. Her insecurities about the nature of her relationship with Yuuta (which are largely resolved by the end of the show); the elaborate chuuni ways in which she communicates with Yuuta; her competition with Satone; heck, just the way she says Yuuta…it’s all gold. Watching her and Yuuta grow steadly closer brought a lot of warmth to the cold, snowy Winter.

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18. Tsunemori Akane

PSYCHO-PASS 2 – The guy’s list had a gumshoe in Shibazaki, but male or female, I don’t think there’s anyone who can stand up to Inspector Tsunemori in terms of wits or pure badassery. Maybe Esdeath, who has command of ice; or Miuna, who can breathe underwater…but Akane would give them a fight. Sure, she did much of her finest work in the first season, but she doesn’t exactly embarrass herself in this somewhat rushed and action-oriented sequel, either. In fact, she cracked the biggest case of them all: getting Sybil to start cleaning up its act.

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19. Yuuki Asuna

Sword Art Online II – Perhaps the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the year was the fact that after undervaluing, undermining, and marginalizing our favorite SAO character in the second half of its first season and the first half of its second, the show not only brought Asuna back to prominence, but made her the unchallenged star of the show in its final arc which not only explored both her real and virtual families, but had her join another, which led to some of SAO’s best narrative and character work.

RABUJOI’s Top 12 Male Characters of 2014

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Today we begin our cavalcade of end-of-year lists, starting with our favorite male characters of the year. Note: Characters are listed alphabetically by name. We may love some more than others, but there’s no official ranking.

1. Archer

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade WorksEmiya Shirou may be the protagonist, but Archer is his Number One Critic, and an exceedingly surly curmudgeon to boot, never missing an opportunity to throw the younger lad’s ideals in his face. Heck, he even tried to kill Shirou, lest he sabotage his (and Rin’s) chances of coming out on top of the pile. Archer is a jerk…but he’s an oddly lovable jerk.

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2. Handa Seishuu

Barakamon – The young, up-and-coming prima donna calligrapher who was stuck in orthodoxy, slugged a judge, and shipped off to a remote island, met some snot-nosed kids, learned about the simple joys of life, and found a new and daring direction in his art.

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3. Izumi Shinichi

Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – This list is full of guys getting raw deals in life, but there are few deals rawer than Shinichi’s, whose very body is infiltrated by a mysterious alien parasite. Sure, he ends up with heightened strength, speed, and senses, but he scares the shit out of his would-be girlfriend.

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4. Kaizuka Inaho

Aldnoah.Zero – Inaho is a very very steady, stoic fellow who keeps a cool head in 99% of all the situations he faces, regardless of how intense they may be. He’s a welcome rarity among shounen/mecha protagonists.

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5. Kanie Seiya

Amagi Brilliant Park – He starts out as a shameless braggart and cynic, but as he takes on the mantle of park savior, that park gradually opens his heart of gold, without taking away the edge that makes him so good at getting things done.

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6. Kiryuu Shougo

One Week Friends – Like Inaho, Shougo’s a rarity: a rom-com guy sidekick who isn’t an annoying jackass. He provides welcome commentary and perspective on the protagonist’s shortsightedness, denseness, or outright stupidity. He also has a pretty damn good little romance of his own.

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7. Favaro Leone

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – Kind of a fantasy/renaissance-era mix between Han Solo, Mugen, and Bossun. A real rogue’s rogue, with a fierce sense of self-preservation that constantly clashes with his agreement Amira (who gave him a demon’s tail) and, indeed, the entire world (which might be better off if he killed her).

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8. Lubbock

Akame ga Kill! – Though he was rarely the focus of the show (and typically used for comic relief early on), Lubba gradually became a more serious and cool, if not particularly sympathetic, member of Night Raid. He actually had one of the most pleasant pasts of all the members—he had it all—but rather than having it taken away, he chose to give it up, for the love of a woman. He kept loving (but never got the chance to tell her) until his badass demise.

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9. Luis Herman

GARO: Honoo no Gokuin – A man, called “Shitty Dad” by his son, who is able to balance the responsibilities of a Makai Knight (protect the people, even the ones trying to kill you) and the appetites of an unapologetic Don Juan-style libertine, figuring if he has such a raw deal in the knight department, he might as well enjoy the pleasures of life. Sometimes, though, that means he has to fight horrors in his birthday suit.

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10. Shibazaki Kenjirou

Zankyou no Terror – The son of hibakusha, Shibazaki is a brilliant, no-nonsense, hard-boiled detective who poked the wrong hornet’s nest and got demoted to demeaning desk duty—sort of an anime Lester Freamon. Then the Sphinx case comes around and suddenly his not-inconsiderable skills as a profiler and investigator make him indispensable to the force. And of course, he digs deeper than ordered and finds an even bigger shitstorm beneath the grime.

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11. Sora

No Game No Life – One half of the legendary undefeated gamer duo known as [blank], you never want to bet against Sora and his inseparable stepsister Shiro…in anything. While in the real world they were NEETs and hikikomori, in Disboard they rise to kingship and make plays to re-annex lost land. While his sis handles most of the number-crunching, Sora is more of an observer and (usually correct) predictor of and opponent’s personality and behavior. A master manipulator with boundless stores of confidence and arrogance…as long as Shiro is close by, of course.

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12. Tiramie

Amagi Brilliant Park – Don’t let the pink fuzziness or girly voice fool you; Tiramie is a guy, and not an altogether moral one. A self-deluded ‘ladies man’, the vast majority of women are rightly put off/creeped out by his schtick. That being said, he’s not a bad entertainer and gardener; his efforts ensured the soccer teams would have a world-class pitch to play on.

Fate/stay night vs Fate/stay night – Unlimited Blade Works

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A fair number of people have argued that Fall 2014’s Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is being rated as part of a beloved franchise, rather than on its own merits as a show. Since I hadn’t seen F/SN’s 2006 anime adaptation, and do not have time to read the LNs and other adaptations, I thought it would be interesting to put that theory to the test.

After only a few minutes with the older version, I’m surprised this franchise lived on to reach today, let alone carries a large fan base. Even before comparing the art styles and presentation styles, it’s obviously not a great looking show. With those comparisons… ouch?

Comparison Images are Old on Top of New.

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Cheaper, less immaculate storyboarding and detailing aside, F/SN’06 has downright terrible pacing. We get none of the breathing room that to mood build and silently develop characters as seen in F/SN’14’s.

’06 just jumps in with a narrator summing up what the Holy Grail War is and Bang! Rin is doing magic. Worse, the narrator poses the summoning process in what sounds more like a card-battle context, which just sounds dated and “Go buy a supporting CCG” product focused.

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Again, ’06’s short format forces Rin and Shirou’s opening stories to play out at the same time, in a quarter of the time they were given in ’14. The result is Archer shows up, says “Oh look I have a weird master” and then we cut to Shirou waking up the following day.

No character development, no world building, not even pretty costume design to look at. Hell, ’06 doesn’t even establish what some of the major magic elements are nor how they work!

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Speaking of Shirou, he’s a lage part of what makes ’06 so average, if not terrible. It’s not just because he’s a little obnoxious, a little cocky sounding, and has the contextual depth of a peanut. Really, It’s his constant narration.

I just don’t need a character to mentally introduce me to every character, backstory, and location. Especially when his explanations don’t carry any nuance or special detail that a real person — a believable character — would make. It’s all very lengthy and full of empty, textbook-style details.

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I can’t speak to people’s love of the franchise for it’s original LNs or any other adaptations, but man! Fate/stay night 2006 doesn’t seem like it would have done anything to keep the franchise in people’s minds.

Even by the standards of the day, it’s unimaginative and feels rushed. Sure, it was a TV series, which means smaller budgets than a lot of what I think back on at the time, but these drab colors seem more at home for a mid 90s anime.

If you watched more of the old adaptation that I did, or have an argument for it, shoot me a comment below!