Soul Eater

Despite being published 15 years ago, Soul Eater remains to feel fresh and lively. The unique art style, beautiful animations, and solid Shonen story will forever keep this a timeless anime.

Soul Eater pulls in references to a bunch of different European stories without the show feeling recycled or generic like a lot of current amines. Dr. Frankenstein, The Grim Reaper, Escalator; although all coming from different fantasy stories, they were perfectly integrated as characters in Soul Eater while feeling fresh and unique.


Ajin is a thrilling supernatural horror anime to watch, the story was well-paced, action-packed, and very interesting. TLDR: this is a perfect anime to binge-watch.

Although it is a very good anime, I can’t quite place it as an excellent anime. My first gripe with the anime is largely due to the 3D CG that was used throughout the show. The characters appeared odd at first, however, I got used to it by the end of the first season. Frame by frame, everything looks ok, but the movement often felt offputting– which in a weird way added to the horror/dark component of the anime.

Second, the anime was thrilling to watch and it had enough plot depth to make it interesting, but it didn’t really have a deeper meaning. Another anime that I would closely relate Ajin to is Death Note. Death Note constantly tore into a philosophical debate surrounding justice and how power changes people. The closest thing that Ajin has to that is that it explores the ways in which people are marginalized if they are different– people with Ajin people being hunted down and researched on. Again, this topic can be really interesting if done right — like in season 4 of Attack on Titan when it introduced moral ambiguity and conflicting ideals between the main characters over the use of the Titan power. The discussion around human rights in Ajin is not deeply explored and becomes a simple black and white issue that only serves to advance the plot for the main villain. By the end of season two, the human rights issue for the Ajins has been resolved in the blink of an eye, leaving season three to be merely about fighting Satou. But, this might be too critical since it is a relatively shorter anime and didn’t have enough time to fully explore any themes/philosophical things deeper.

For a Shounen protagonist, Kei is different since he is… as his sister put it: “a Jerk”. There is some plot development with Kei since he eventually learns to trust and rely on others for support. However, Kei still remains a cold and detached protagonist for the most part. It is not clear whether this is due to his upbringing in a strict family, or if it has to do with his Ajin powers. Other than Kei, the other characters are pretty straightforward for anime. The supporting characters are supporting, and the antagonist is driven by the desire to conquer the world.

Mob Psycho 100

In short, Mob Psycho 100 is absolutely amazing, everyone should watch it. This show accomplishes a lot. The animation is simplistic yet beautiful. The story is exciting and well-paced. The characters are well-balanced, relatable, and hilarious.

Mob Psycho 100 explores what it means to live a fulfilled life through a coming of age story. In a decomposition of shounen tropes, the protagonist Mob starts out the show as an all-powerful character. Despite being all-powerful, Mob is not fulfilled. Mob recognizes that his powers can’t solve all of his problems. Rather than relying on his psychic abilities to solve all his problems, Mob seeks activities like the body improvement club to better himself. This all amplifies the message that happiness comes from hard work bringing success. In other words, natural talents can only get you so far in life.

It is common for people in this show that are blessed with psychic abilities to have a serious ego complex and believe that they are the “protagonist of the entire world.” When Mob defeated other Psychics called vespers, he often instilled the message that they are not special and reminds them of their own insignificance. Although we are each the protagonist of our own lives and responsible for our own happiness, we are all but little pieces of society in the grand scope of things.

Devilman Crybaby

Sex and violence. Devilman crybaby is a thrilling anime to watch with its simplistic yet beautiful animation style with pastel color pallets and well-defined line work. Also, did I mention sex and violence? Devilman crybaby indulges in the taboo as it explores themes of puberty, violence, human nature, and self-identification. This show is not afraid to include graphic scenes with sex and gore.

Overall, the show did a good job with the limited number of episodes that it had. The conclusion was very nihilistic, yet at the same time, the ending left me feeling satisfied with the show overall.

Code Geass

Code Geass did a lot of things right for a mecha shounen anime. It had excellent battles, well-developed characters, and character conflicts. But, most of all, I enjoyed this anime because it brazenly presented philosophical questions. What is justice? What is national identity? How does nationalism turn into racism? Should the powerful rule over the weak? Is it possible to end world conflict? Do the ends justify the means?

It isn’t even necessary to read too deep into the plot to pull out these themes because the characters flat out discuss these things. The opening commonly asks us to ponder these more philosophical questions about time, consequences, etc.

There is a lot to be said about the show. However, I felt like the development of the “F.L.E.I.J.A” super weapon is the most interesting. This isn’t the only technological advancement made during the show. The mechas are constantly getting new upgrades. This could be a cleaver plot device to level their power system, or it could be a illustration of how war typically speeds up technical advancements. This, leading to one of my favorite quotes in the show:

Well, you know what they say… war is the mother of invention.

– Lloyd Asplund

The introduction of the super-weapon changed the dichotomy of war drastically. No longer was it just people who were willing to fight that died in the war, but, millions of people as entire cities got erased. Both the power of the FLEIJA, and of the power of Geass could bend people into absolute submission. Which of these weapons is more unethical to use? Who shoulders the burden of responsibility for using such a weapon? The story later sabotaged the importance of the FLEIJA, by then creating a anti-FLEIJA weapon. But, the devastating effects of the weapon were already felt by that part of the story with two cities being destroyed– reminiscent of Japan during WWII.

If this type of plot development with the FLEIJA sounds familiar, it is because it is all over the place in anime. Think about how Netero Killed Meruem with the Miniature Rose [nuclear] bomb in Hunter X Hunter. Or, consider the Colossal titan in Attack on Titan. Or the N2 mine in Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Tegami Bachi

After seeing glowing reviews on the internet for Tegami Bachi, I decided to dive in and read the manga. Tegami Bachi by far lives up to its reputation and deserves more attention than it has received. Allegedly the corresponding anime adaptation wasn’t great, but maybe I’ll review the anime later.

The main reason why the manga is fantastic is due to its beautiful artwork and characters. There is nothing to not love about the artwork, from the breathtaking scenery to the dynamic and gorgeous characters. But, I most appreciated how many of the pages were on black paper with everything drawn in as white since it captures the manga’s themes so eloquently, and not many mangas employ this art style.

I would heavily recommend that people take the time to read this manga. It is a story of love, friendship, family, loss, ambition. The story follows our protagonist Lag Seeing as he sets out to become the Head Bee (a letter delivery person) and find the truth about his mother’s abduction by the government.

[Spoilers Below]

There can be many similarities to be drawn between Tegami Bachi and Fullmetal Alchemist:

Full Metal AlchemistTegami Bachi
Power SystemAlchemyHeart
ParentsMother diedMother abducted by government
OriginBorn of immortal fatherBorn comprised of spirit fragments during the flicker
Faustian BargainRevived mother using alchemyShared soul with spirit amber to gain power
OccupationState Alchemist — military memberLetter Bee- Gov postal worker fighting monsters while traveling
GovernmentSecrets about HermuncliSecret about origin of Sun

Not to say that these stories are anything alike; narratively, they are vastly different. Patterns like this can be found all over shounen, suggesting similar prototypes when building a grandiose story. A young boy with a tragic backstory and unique ability in a magical world joins a government agency and defeats a foe/completes a quest. This pattern is all over the place. However, the similarities between these shows are deeper because most shounen shows don’t involve fighting an apparently corrupt government from the inside. Well… there also is Attack on Titan, which shares many of these similarities. It is hard to say precisely what makes this type of story so great. Obviously, a quest to learn the truth in a system against them while taking the moral high ground is clearly a great foundation of a story.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

I can’t believe I waited this long to watch the legendary anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion–aka AVA. This anime was incredible. A pure masterpiece.

Although this shounen anime is about giant machines called Evangelions fighting biblically sized monsters, the action didn’t sell this show. What really sells this show is the incredible character development and the exploration of psychological trauma, loneliness, and depression.

The protagonist of most shounen anime is an energy ball of pure skill and talent ready to leap into danger to save the world. In AVA, Shinji is a shy, weak, timid 14-year-old boy who is always doubting himself. Although Shinji has the ability to sync with an Evangelion, that is only because his very own mother was turned into the Evangelion. We see Shinji crumble into depression throughout the show– and not the kind that shounen protagonists typically just pop right out of. Shinji has a hard time dealing with the pressure of saving the world. Shinji longes for admiration from his father, who is distant. Shinji questions his sexuality and desires with characters like Kaworu and Rei. And most important, Shinji fears hurting others and has a problem with intimacy.

SEELE presents the solution to human suffering as the human instrumentality project. A plan that will combine all of our minds into one entity to fill in each other gaps. The show presents two endings to the show. The first in the last two episodes of the anime explores Shinji’s mind after the Human Instrumentality Project. Shinji learns the importance of individuality and what it means to be intimate with others and breaks out. The movies Death and Rebirth and The End of Evangelion present a darker ending to the story. Although Shinji concluded that individuality is important and breaks out of the singular being, he is doomed to repeat his past mistakes. The ending scene is of Shinji strangling Asuka.

There is so much more that could be said about this show, especially with confusing endings. After watching it a second time, I’ll come back and write a second version of this reflection.

The Promised Neverland Season 2

Oh boy, Promised Neverland season two had great potential. But, it faced the same fate as the ending of Game of Thrones. Large swathes of the manga were cut, and the ending… Up until the final episode, I was fine with season two — having not read the manga. But the final episode’s ending was terrible. Most stories will either end with a cliffhanger or with a conclusive ending. But, the anime ended with multiple seasons worth of content included as a PowerPoint slide at the end of the show. The anime would have been better off simply not playing the slideshow montage and just ending with the two groups parting ways.

It is as if halfway through the season upper management decided that there wouldn’t be a third season or a movie so they tried to cram everything than a half-baked ending that spoils the manga.

My second problem with season two is the issue with Norman’s return. It simply didn’t feel natural or earned to the reader. Norman then placed Emma into a trolley problem where she either had to kill all the daemons or save their siblings. It upset me that serious consequences were not forced upon the characters at this moment. Instead, the solutions to all their problems just fell at their laps; no serious effort or price to pay was required to solve this serious morally charged geo-political conflict.

A lot of shounen anime often backs themselves out of a trolley problem once they present one. Personally, I don’t have a problem with this since it illustrates that not everything is black and white and that there is always a third solution. But, consequences must be had for large decisions. As a horror show, Promised Neverland could have easily used this as a reason to kill characters or even make a Faustian bargain. Since the show was paced too quickly, consequences were never felt for their decisions, and victories never felt earned. The show methodically used 12 episodes for the orphanage escape in season one; it is a shame that CloverWorks crammed overthrowing the entire demon world into a meager 4 episodes.

The Promised Neverland Season 1

Season One of Promised Neverland is the shounen equivalent of the movie Maze runner. A group of children have to escape an orphanage after finding out that they are merely cattle waiting to be eaten by monsters who rule the world. The plot a lot like Death Note, was driven by suspense, strategy, and plot twists rather than the action — which is heavily prevalent in most shounen anime. The way the story handles twists and turns makes it a great thriller to watch. The story was dark, and the characters were sympathetic.

I have mixed feelings about using CGI for most of the environments and 2D animation for the characters. This made for a really eerie watching experience like something is deeply wrong with the orphanage. The way the camera lingers through the orphanage reminded me of the way the Shining was filmed. Although, in The Shining, the camera rarely ever stayed still. Moreover, many shots were framed to gave us the feeling that the children were never alone and that someone was always watching them. The animation strove to mimic the camera effects used in lenses that are often used for horror movies. Scenes often shifted focus from foreground to background and using fisheye effects in some transitions to add an added sense of eerieness.

There are little gore or jump scares in this anime –unusual for the genre. Instead, Promised Neverland conveys the horror through the characters’ raw emotions and tension built up by how details in the story are revealed.

Many of the themes and deeper meaning of the show is similar to the Matrix. The question boils down to whether a blissful life of ignorance is better than living in constant suffering but being free. This debate can be summarized by an exchange between Isabella and Emma in episode 8 after Isabella finds Emma and Norman trying to scale the outside wall:

I love you all and don’t want you to suffer. I don’t want to be the cause of your suffering. You get to live in a warm house filled with delicious food and love. If you can stay oblivious to the truth, then you are able to die feeling satisfied… So how does that sound like anything but paradise?

Isabella Season 1 Episode 8

What’s the point if it is all fake! I’m going to live freely even if I suffer for it! Then I’ll decide happiness for myself!

Emma Season 1 Episode 8

This isn’t an easy moral question to answer. On the one hand, we all want to live free of suffering, yet on the other hand, everyone should have the right to know the ‘truth’ and make the decision for themselves. This show gives us a ‘give me liberty or give me death’ answer. Complacency in the system that systematically uses them as food is obviously not tolerable for the protagonists. But, it is understandable why so many humans go along with the system in hopes of living a normal life. But, what kind of life can you live knowing the nature of your existence? How do you live knowing that the people you love will die premature deaths for a cruel system? Is it possible to ever return to a life without suffering after they have learned the truth? That is why Emma’s question to Isabella asking her if she is happy struck an emotional chord with the audience. Or why Ray’s question to Isabell asking why she gave birth to him struck a deep chord of nihilism.

My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia. Everyone is watching it, everyone is talking about it. It is a great shounen anime. It really is worth watching.

Despite MHA being great, I can’t really give MHA all that much praise because it doesn’t feel unique or inspired. Being unique in the saturated superhero landscape is difficult. After all, everything in one way or another is inspired by other things; we are just making copies of copies of copies. My Hero Academia hits on all the shounen and hero tropes, making it feel familiar before you even start watching it.

What makes My Hero Academia great is the flawless execution of all these tropes.
It has a great story (albeit uninspired), the animation is great, and the characters are great. Watching the show is exactly what you would expect from a shounen anime. I said a similar thing about Black Clover being “un-original” but still a great anime since it did everything right.

My Hero Academia is slowly putting itself in a position where the story can make a deeper critique of Hero culture and our infatuation with it. MHA includes villains who rebel against the status quo of the Heros because they believe the Heros themselves have become corrupt and greedy. With the retirement of All-might, we also posed the question, what is a hero symbol? Do we need a symbol of justice? Who gets to determine what justice is? Do bureaucracies get in the way of justice? Is vigilante justice ever justified?

All of these deeper moral questions that MHA ponders suggest a story that is deeper than your typical Superhero story. However, the superhero medium has already become self-aware of its own tropes and is starting to address them. American superhero movies like Logan, The Dark Night, and Captin America: Civil War has done excellent self-critics of the superhero genre. All these American Superhero movies explore the complex social and political landscape and question how superheroes can fit into a modern society. So far, MHA has aligned closer with shounen tropes and only briefly alluded towards a more complex superhero theme in some of its villains– but not the main villain group, The League of Villains.

With all that said, I see this show becoming the closest thing that anime has right now of mainstream success. It will become a long-running shounen anime that should gain a large international following. Maybe it will become the next Fullmetal alchemist, i.e., the anime that gets new people hooked on anime.