Category Archives: Character Spotlight

Character Spotlight: Moka Akashiya

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In the last 10 years, it’s safe to say that unless you’re a teenage girl, vampires in the Western entertainment world have not exactly been very high on your list of things to talk about in a positive manner. Filled with sparkles, depression and shitty romance plots, vampires have gotten the shit treatment for the last little while, forgetting about how badass they were with films like Blade and how elegant and charming they were in the old vampire movies back in the day when a vampire basically walked into a fancy party lookin’ spiffy, picked up a girl, likely fucked her brains out and then sucked her blood afterwards.

Thank god we live in a world where we have access to other countries’ adaptations of things. So naturally, why would I not be interested in a harem anime that features a vampire who can kick all kinds of ass…and has a really nice one too!

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Now the tough thing about Moka Akashiya from Rosario + Vampire is that there’s two of her, two different forms for two different personalities in fact. On the pink-haired Moka, you’ll see a rosary around her neck which acts as a sealant to her true, full-vampire form where she’s far more violent and kicks all kind of ass. So with these two forms, they’re referred to Outer Moka (pink hair) and Inner Moka (silver hair). They are polar opposites to each other and for me personally, polar opposites as well in terms of my level of appreciation for them.

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Outer Moka is the one we see the most of, the pink-haired “nice” form of this vampire, the form that results from the rosary surpressing and sealing the full-blooded vampire version of Moka. It’s this Moka that specifically attracts the love of the series’ main character, Tsukune and thus starts the annoyingly excessively lovey-dovey relationship between the two of them, often getting lost in each other’s eyes and lovingly saying each other’s names over and over again until someone finally interrupts them. This version of Moka for me is nothing short of insufferable, she’s way too far on the side of the cliched potentially perfect wife character. She’s way too happy, caring, loving and accepting of everything around her, she’s way too bland and boring and there’s no edge to her, nothing interesting to note, nothing quirky about her that separates her from the rest, like others do, such as Mizore’s more reserved, quiet side, Yukari’s tiny, cute personality and Kurumu’s well…incessant desire to constantly shove her breasts in people’s faces. Outer Moka has zero personality to me and it’s when we understand that she’s essentially a “fake personality”, it only makes me appreciate the full-blooded vampire in Inner Moka so much more.

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Inner Moka is a fantastic example of a female character in an anime that no matter what the show does to tell me how dangerous this girl is, no matter how many times she basically kicks the shit out of anyone that gets remotely close to her, I still can’t help but fall in love with the girl. Absolutely she is dangerous, she’s a a pure vampire and has the fighting ability to boot (literally) and her personality initially is that of a tsundere girl, but there’s so much about her to like as her character further develops and she opens up to Tsukune and us, the viewers. It’s very clearly that behind the dangerous, cold exterior of Inner Moka, there’s a very beautiful and still a very girly girl on the inside, as we later see that the girl who will kick your face off still loves the same things most teenage girls do, shopping, stuffed animals, all that jazz. She’s still a teenage girl through and through, she’s just a teenage girl you really, REALLY don’t want to get on the bad side of.

It makes her character so much more interesting as well when you take into account that so much of the anime spends its time devoting to Outer Moka and not allowing us to see the true personality and nature of Moka herself. It makes the moments we see Inner Moka that much more important and once the end to the series starts to draw near and we finally start to see Inner Moka in sections besides kicking the shit out of the episode’s antagonist, those moments become super important and fascinating to watch as we see this once dangerous vampire turn into well…a dangerous vampire that has a much softer side than she would have us believe she had.

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For harem girls, Moka’s definitely one of the more interesting characters I’ve come across in my various shows I’ve watched over the years, for both positive and negative reasons. It’s amazing to me that there’s a girl that I can simultaneously love and hate as much as I do with Moka. You have one side of her that’s badass, cool, interesting, a ton of depth to her, just a beautiful woman, but then you have this other side that is so one-dimensional, boring, annoying and honestly a bit of a damsel in distress kind of character, extremely unlikable.

But I’ll happily take Inner Moka regardless. Mostly because watching her try to “flirt” is perhaps the most adorable and hilarious thing ever.

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Character Spotlight: Hotaru Shidare

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Often in anime there are characters that are so over-the-top that they actually flip over from being annoying to downright amazing. Hotaru is one of those characters who’s just so crazy and random that you can’t help but enjoy her every second she’s on the screen. And when you mix her into an anime that is solely dedicated to the love of all things dagashi (cheap snacks and candies that kids could buy, usually between 5-10 yen), you get a show that ended up being so random that I couldn’t help but enjoy it, regardless of some boring episodes here and there.

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Hotaru is introduced to us as the daughter of the owner of a massive candy production company and aims to recruit the main character’s (Kokonotsu) father to work for her father’s company. To do so, Kokonotsu would have to take over the family dagashi shop, but at the current time of the anime, he intends to make a career being a manga artist. So now Hotaru takes it upon herself to convince Kokonotsu the beauty that is dagashi and that taking over the family shop would be in his best interest.

To do so, she employs a wide variety of tactics which includes constantly interrupting every facet of his life, to the point I’m not sure if he really likes her, so much as he just tolerates her, since he’s gotten so used to her constantly being involved in his life ever since she first showed up. Though her key strategy is to essentially teach Kokonotsu the origins and awesomeness of various dagashi snacks, going beyond in-depth in dramatical form of the history of certain snacks. While these moments began to get more and more stale for me, I have to say I’m impressed for someone to love dagashi so much, that she’s able to craft such a magnificently sophisticated imagination that can visualize all these origin stories.

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What really makes Hotaru unique is that there is no way to nail down what this girl’s “normal” is. There are times were she’s actually pretty composed and times when she’s all over the fucking place. Times when she’s super cute and adorable and times where she’s essentially a sex kitten, though we’re to assume that virginity’s still intact. She never really tips her hand, while the majority of time spent with her is her crazy dagashi-loving self, one could argue that it’s perhaps an act. After all, in the picture above, she’s “drunk” after drinking a candy that when you add water makes it look like beer, but it’s actually apple juice. So unless Hotaru is beyond stupid, it’s very possible that the entire time she’s over-exaggerating and by being this crazy young girl, she has a way to get away with constantly being involved in Kokonotsu’s life.

But I think it’s safe to say that it’s not that and she’s just your average crazy anime girl. She just gets the extra quirk of being possibly the biggest lover of all things candy in all of anime. The fact that even with a mouth ulcer, she was willing to eat pop rocks (was called Watapachi in the anime) and deal with consequences. It also lends more fodder to the “She’s stupid!” argument, but at the same time in the context of the anime, it’s purpose is to show how much of a dagashi lover she is, not willing to let anything keep her from eating was she loves to eat the most.

Which unfortunately for her, results in a few extra quirks about her that we see later in the show.

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Because for most anime watchers, having a show devoted to being about candy is a little boring…so the anime counters by having quite a bit of sexual innuendo at times. And because Hotaru is designed with F-cup breasts, she’s usually at the forefront of these things. The amount of times she bends forward ever so perfectly to present those breasts is very high, she’s had a couple of occasions where she either spills something on her chest, making Kokonotsu direct his attention to them, or is out in the rain and her top gets a little see-through. But the biggest example of her being ecchi fodder comes near the end of the season where she gets a massive dagashi snack shoved into her mouth as a “taste test contest” and looks a lot more like some ridiculous sci-fi hentai animation where a girl somehow doesn’t die after being raped in every hole imaginable by a massive…something.

It’s not to say that Hotaru isn’t worthy of such content, she is in fact a very beautiful woman (#8 on my Top 10 Sexiest Purple-Haired Anime Girls), though I could certainly do without the F-cups, I would’ve preferred just a little less, but hey that’s my personal taste and then again, anime is all about a lack of realism, so who am I to argue anyways? But if there’s anything about her that I’m weirded out by, it’s those eyes. If there’s one thing about the anime that gets to me, it’s how they do everyone eyes.

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But regardless of everything, the show was still a fun watch and having Hotaru as the central comedy character of the show worked almost perfectly. She’s memorable specifically for her over-the-top nature and pure unadulterated love for dagashi, but since this is anime, she will also be known for having a large chest and somehow being one of the only girls to not freak the fuck out when seen naked by a male character.

Seriously though…that giant dagashi being shoved in her mouth, what the fuck was that?! I can’t unsee that…

Character Spotlight: Ren Ekoda

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I loved Anne Happy, it was easily my favourite show from the Spring season of anime, no question. The show was full of life and cheesy jokes, over-the-top situations and a fantastically over-the-top cast of characters with a ton of ridiculous quirks.

Out of all of them, there’s no doubt that my favourite from that show was Ren.

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At first, I was immediately drawn towards Ren because I looked at her as potentially the tomboy of the group, mostly due to her short hairstyle, but as the anime drew on, it became apparent to me that I wasn’t going to be into Ren because she’s a tomboy, I was going to be into Ren because she’s a calm and reserved pretty girl with a massive love for animals, which checks off so many boxes with me that it’s impossible for me to ignore her.

However, Ren’s got a quirk that not only makes her an interesting girl to watch, but extremely entertaining to watch: The fact that all females of any species can’t help but be attracted to her.

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All the girls of the main cast have quirks that are extremely entertaining to watch constantly unfold and get them into precarious situations, but Ren’s quirk ends up visually looking the funniest. There’s nothing funnier to me than watching her walking down the sidewalk with dogs following her, birds on her shoulders and a cat draped across her face. How she’s breathing, I’ll never know. But when you’re a cat lover like myself and there’s a girl who’s essentially a literal cat magnet, how am I supposed to not like Ren?!

It’s hard to tell if Ren actually minds the extra attention she gets or not, after all she’s still walking with the cat across her face sometimes. It seems safe to assume she loves animals more than enough to even put up with having an army of them walking around her at all times. Although it gets potentially dangerous when she leaves her balcony door open when she goes to bed.

Speaking of which…

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The other quirk that Ren has is that she is the anime cliche of being the character that sleeps all the time, whether it’s oversleeping or sleeping in randoms places/positions. You mix that with the constant insanity of the anime, it’s hard to believe that anyone could even consider sleeping when all the things these girls are put through go on, but Ren not only does it, she’s a goddamn champion at it! Get that girl into a sleeping competition, she’s making some waves in there!

Lastly, I can’t talk about Ren without mentioning her relationship with Hibiki.

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Since the show is female-dominated, it’s hard to tell right off the bat if her relationship is at all beyond friends, at least in Ren’s mind. We know that while she’s not 100% honest about it, Hibiki is totally in love with Ren and goes out of her way to put herself in situations that could advance said relationship, because naturally she’s too nervous to just do all the work herself, instead she tries to trip into perhaps their first kiss or something to that extent. From watching their interactions together, it’s really hard to call if Ren sees Hibiki as anything beyond her best friend. They’ve been together since they were little, in fact Ren’s short hair being directly because of Hibiki, which is a weird flashback to say the least, I didn’t get how Ren had to cut off half her hair because Hibiki would’ve gotten one strand on hair cut off after getting it caught in a gate. But if I were to put money on it, I’d assume that there’d be a wedding with Hibiki in a dress and Ren in a suit. She could totally pull that off.

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I don’t think I can say it enough, but go and watch Anne Happy, it is one of the funniest and happiest shows I’ve watched in quite some time. And when it comes to that show, there’s no one on it that I enjoyed watching more than Ren. She’s an interesting case to say the least, while girls like Hibiki, Botan and of course Anne are all over the place, Ren’s a much more calmer character in what’s an insane anime. And if you’re a lover of animals, there is no reason for you not to attach to Ren.

Because all the animals are attached to her. Literally.

Character Spotlight: Rean Schwarzer

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Generally speaking the lead character of JRPGs, especially when they’re male, they’re not exactly the brightest or the most interesting. They’re usually made to either be very bland so every player can associate themselves with him, or they’re designed to be way over-the-top, whether they’re super broody, super happy, or just super strong and tough.

Rean from Trails of Cold Steel doesn’t really fall into any of those categories. Yes, he’s skilled, friendly and a bit oblivious to when girls have feelings for him, but he is what most MCs are not: an actual leader.

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Rean is the adopted son of a lower-tier Baron of the town of Ymir. At this point it’s unknown who his biological family is and what happened to them, but he is a Schwarzer now through his adopted family and gained nobility based on this. However when first asked if he’s a noble or not, he says he’s not, as he honestly doesn’t view himself as a part of that culture and realistically isn’t actually of noble blood. Because of his adoption though, his adopted family was ostracized by the rest of the nobility due to them essentially adopting a commoner, though it’s still very possible he is of noble blood, we just don’t know.

Throughout the game, in particular the beginning, we see that Rean isn’t your typical main character of a JRPG. He establishes himself early on as someone who should be respected amongst his peers and more than capable of leading the party. After solving (sort of) the constant fighting between party members Jusis and Machias, the rest of the group begins to depend on him (or use him depending on how you see it) when it comes to similar issues, such as Laura and Fie’s quarrels, or the many monthly requests the student council gives him when no one else volunteers to help. Rean is so dependable that he’s essentially getting tasks and problems almost literally thrown at him because he’s the most capable of doing so.

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In battle, there’s definitely far more about him that we’re not privy to. He claims right from the very start he learned just the basics of the Eight Leaf Sword Style, yet he is one of the most capable fighters of the entire Class VII roster, including Laura and Fie who are juggernauts on the battle field. He also appears to have an unknown power within him that he uses twice the entire game which turns him into a white-haired, red-eyed powerhouse that he fears using for risk of it consuming him. However, by the end of the first game we know nothing about what this power is, where it came from and why he has it. We’re left to assume it has something to do with why he was found alone when he was adopted by the Schwarzer family.

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Lastly, unlike most male protagonists in a game where many lovely ladies exist (and believe me, there are a lot of them), Rean actually attempts to not fall into the usual trope of getting caught in situations where he would have to get a slap across the face, though he can’t avoid one of them, no matter how well he plays the situation (as pictured above). He tries his best when saving Alisa from a drop and she lands on top of him, he keeps his hands up where everyone can see them, but it doesn’t really matter, she landed breast-first on his face, there’s nothing he can do now, he’s screwed in Alisa’s eyes regardless. But it’s nice that over the course of the game, he doesn’t find himself in the girls’ changeroom, he’s not somehow in their hot spring when they all come out and he’s not walking in on any of the girls in their underwear. He still is a bit clueless with any of the girls expressing their feelings towards him (in particular Alisa and Elise, his adopted sister), but all in all, he’s designed to be a normal guy who has fighting ability and is a strong leader.

I’m not saying he’s the most amazing main character in JRPG history, but it’s refreshing to play through a game with a lead character that isn’t cringe-worthy or isn’t some dipshit, emotionless and usually voiceless MC that a lot of JRPGs tend to have. Rean is genuinely interesting and given that there’s two more games left before his story ends, I’m very interested to see where his journey goes.

Character Spotlight: Yuna

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In the world of Final Fantasy, Rikku is my bae, my pride and joy, my waifu. But if I had the piece of mind to bother and then the ability to get a mistress, Yuna’s right there as well. If you read my first few Top 10s, you saw that Rikku was the top Final Fantasy girl on the list of video game waifus at #4, while because of Rikku, Yuna had to be relegated to #1 on the video game girl “sleep with” list, simply because I can only be faithful to one girl per universe. So unfortunately, there can only be one waifu, but it’s not to say Yuna isn’t an awesome girl with a ton of upside.

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I was never truly a fan of Final Fantasy X’s version of Yuna, aka “Boring Yuna”. And that’s not just because of Rikku owning that #1 spot with me, Yuna just wasn’t all that enjoyable throughout the game. Was she pretty? Yes. Could she be adorable too like Rikku? At times, yes. The problem though was that she hit two major snags with me.

One, being the super religious, following every word she’s told by the Teachings and what the Maesters say, all that nonsense. As an atheist, even at the age I played the game the first time, I had trouble attaching myself to someone who was so brainwashed and following by the letter what the Teachings said, including what would have eventually been sacrificing herself for really no good reason in the end. I don’t have a problem with religion so to speak, but I do take issue with those who are all the way in with it, because those are the ones you cannot reason with and those are the ones who you should be the most worried about.

The second thing was honestly like the name “Boring Yuna” represents, she was boring as hell in the first game. She had little to no personality for the majority of the game, she was a soft-spoken, pretty girl, that’s all she had going for her. She had zero intensity, zero quirkiness, nothing of note to grab my attention. Hell, I’m not sure I can recall a point in the first game where I can say she truly changed her personality to something more interesting to me, it may have been the sequel when she first displayed this.

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From the very moment Yuna was not singing in the intro of Final Fantasy X-2, I could see the change in her. She had a bit of spunk to her, she wasn’t doing things because she was told to or because some ancient texts said she should, she was doing things because she wanted to. She had independence. That alone was more than enough for me, but there was still more to her in this game. She had a sense of humour now, her smile didn’t come off somber to me anymore and she seemed genuinely happy at times, rather then putting on happy face for everyone at the worst times. For the first time to me, Yuna was genuinely interesting to me.

Most importantly though, she had a “Fuck you!” side too, as she would on several occasions display towards Shuyin, in particular when she screams “I’M NOT LENNE!!!” at him while guns drawn and pointed at the jackass. Her independence was shining through, she wasn’t taking shit from anybody anymore, yet she could balance that calm, happy side of her and the quirky, bouncy side she’d gained through her adventures with Rikku and Paine. She was multi-layered now, instead of the boring religious pretty girl in FFX.

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Now admittedly, another major part of why I started liking Yuna a little more was indeed her change in attire. Now she didn’t have to wear super tight hot pants or a top with the chest completely opened up, that wasn’t necessary. But what the new outfit represented was her pushing away from her past life where she was that cute, perfect girl that everyone looked up to. No longer was she that boring girl, she had something unique going on, she was taking freedom of her own body and putting it out there however she saw fit. It just happened to show her boobs and butt off a lot more than I think 99.9% of us were expecting when we heard a sequel to the original game was coming out. And I suppose the hot spring scene helped a bit too, though I’ll never understand how Rikku changed out of a bikini and into a one-piece, I’m still confused from that.

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Yuna is a memorable character and an important one in the Final Fantasy universe. Because she’s the only character I can think of in the history of that series that went through an actual character change over the course of the storyline. Characters may change hairstyles and outfits, maybe even colour schemes, but Yuna is the only character I can think of whose personality actually changes. I love her FFX-2 version leaps and bounds above her FFX version and I think she’s a fantastic female character in video gaming because of that.

Seriously though, it’s not because of the hot pants!!!

Character Spotlight: Liara T’Soni

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When it comes to Mass Effect, Tali’s my girl. Always will be. However in my first run of the first two games before adjusting my love interest to the lovable Quarian, Liara was my first choice.

It made sense at the time, she was the lone alien your Shepard could go with, she is absolutely stunning to say the least and she was smart as all hell. And this is all before she becomes a total badass in the second game, especially during the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC. I will admit, I was entertaining the idea of immediately getting involved with a “space hottie”, y’know the whole showing the rest of the universe what us humans have to offer. Aside from that though, it was a very easy decision to pick her over Ashley (y’know, her being racist and being extremely boring) and Tali wasn’t an available option at that point. Liara as I said, is extremely intelligent, well-spoken and is very kind-hearted. She came off the most human between her and Ashley.

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In the first game, Liara isn’t exactly starting off as the badass we know her to be in the later games. You find this Asari beauty suspended in an energy field she accidentally got herself into while fleeing the Geth, not exactly the most flattering position to be in for a first meeting. She ends up being the daughter of a powerful Matriarch who the main villain has under his command, so you end up recruiting Liara in hopes of reaching her mother and talking some sense into the woman.

What’s interesting about the romance with Liara is the fact that it’s even possible to be unable to start one based on how you go through the game’s missions. If you do everything else before rescuing Liara, there’s not enough time to form a relationship, a great bit of realism in the storytelling that the series (until the very end) is known for. But if you are able to get that relationship going, it’s interesting alone in the fact that we watch as Liara experiences love and an intimate relationship for the first time in her life. She is absolutely adorable throughout it.

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I was not happy when I realized Liara was not going to be a party member in the main game during Mass Effect 2. Seeing her later on in the game working as an information broker eased me a little bit, but nowhere near where I wanted things to be since the beginning of the game. Thankfully, the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC came out and a lot of my worries were finally put to rest. We already see during the vanilla version of Mass Effect 2 that Liara’s attitude has changed a ton since becoming an information broker. She’s far more ruthless and dark-natured. This is only multiplied further during this phenomenal piece of DLC where she’s chasing down the Shadow Broker, the ultimate information broker that only a handful of people even know anything about. It’s also because a friend of hers, Feron was captured by the Broker so she’s on a bit of a revenge quest. During this entire storyline, she is the most badass woman in the entire game, and we have girls like Jack, Samara and Kasumi in this game. It’s in this DLC story that Liara is at her best.

In the third game, I honestly can’t say much different about Liara beyond the fact I was super happy to have her back as a permanent party member. She retains the badassery she had during Mass Effect 2, though being around Shepard again clams her down a bit more throughout the game, she’s not going around putting guns in people mouths as often. Though if there’s anything I have to say about her time in Mass Effect 3, holy shit she looks amazing, the detailing on her skin is unreal in this game, which makes me look forward to Mass Effect: Andromeda even more just to see what the Asari will look like on the current consoles. Also, goddamn her romance scenes are intense!

Liara’s my third favourite female in the Mass Effect series, Tali and then Kasumi ahead of her. But in terms of memorability she was my first romantic choice in the series and a good one at that. I’d be more than happy to give aliens a chance if they look and act like she does.

Especially the look part.

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Character Spotlight: Aika

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When I started watching Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation, I had zero expectations going in, after all it was an anime based on a video game, an MMORPG no less. It was a premise that was already getting tiring from shows like Sword Art Online, Log Horizon and more. And while it had a slow start, it really got better towards the second half and in the end, gave me a couple of characters I ended up enjoying, including my favourite of the bunch, the subject of this week’s Character Spotlight, Aika.

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Aika is a bit of a unique character in the series. Without spoiling the major plot points pertaining to her backstory, she’s sent to watch over the main character, Itsuki, sometimes a little too stalker-y, but she does what she’s told. I mentioned it in a Top 10 on the sexiest girls from that season she was in, I really do have a fondness for the expressionless girls you see in shows, because of the potential adorability for these girls if they start to show some emotion. Also admittedly, I love their ecchi scenes cause they usually say the funniest things during this, or are even the instigators in the actual scenes (see Korone from Demon King Daimao for the most extreme cases).

And then you have to add onto her mystique with just how purely beautiful she is, something the majority of these expressionless characters seem to be given. At first, she’s just your average blonde-haired pretty girl, nothing special. But when she walks right on into the men’s bath with Itsuki, she shows us that for what she lacks in enthusiasm, she makes up for it (and then some) in her absolutely stunning figure. I will admit, when scenes like that happen, I’m a major sucker for it. And it’s shockingly well-drawn, I also have to admit.

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In terms of her story arc though, since I’m done talking about how sexy she is, while it’s not the most surprising reveal as there’s plenty of hints to what’s really going on with her, it’s the ending of the series (assuming it’s only one season) that’s a little bittersweet. By the end of the show, I wanted to see so much more of her, perhaps finally getting a more emotional side of her, but she mostly retains that stoic, expressionless side of her without compromise. It’s a bit disappointing, but all things considered, it was a better ending that many other possibilities that anime shows tend to use that drive me absolutely insane.

Aika compared to all the other girls I have given the Spotlight treatment, is nowhere near as developed and memorable, but I will admit the large part in how I remember her so well after six months now, is the simple fact that she was a character that in the beginning I gave not much thought to from a show that in the beginning I also gave not much thought to. Rather than being a boring character in a subpar anime, she turned out to be a little more than that, far exceeding my expectations.

And yes, the outdoor bath has a part in that as well. Stop judging me!

Character Spotlight: Pina Co Lada

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Ever since I really started watching simulcasts on Crunchyroll and Funimation, I’ve been exposed to some fantastic and interesting anime. One of my personal favourites of these past 12 months has been GATE. That show for two seasons so far (I’m expecting one more at least) has been a fantastic story about the “what if” question of how we’d deal with a fantasy world suddenly being accessible in our own. But what’s really given this show some staying power with me has been their tremendous range of interesting characters.

So this week I decided to spend a round of Spotlighting on my current favourite on the show: Empress Pina Co Lada, leader of the Rose-Order of Knights of the Empire.

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While you have a consistent cast of women surrounding Youji in Lelei, Tuka and Rory, for me Pina actually comes off as the strongest of all the women in the show. I’m not talking in terms of battle prowess, because if I was, Rory would have something to say about it, I’m talking in terms of the cliche feminist bullshit definition of what a “strong woman” is. Unlike all the male leaders of the Empire who wanted to fight and flex their metaphorical muscles around in attempt to thwart the “invading Japanese”, Pina knew right from the very moment she saw was the JSDF were capable of, they were beyond outmatched and would’ve been fighting a pointless war that they’d lose and lose badly. Granted, she uses Youji and the JSDF in the early going, but she realizes pretty quick that it’d be in her best interests to not fuck with them as they could destroy her entire kingdom at the snap of their fingers.

Once fully committing to bringing peace between the Empire and Japan, Pina takes on a much more meaningful role as the bridge between the two sides, almost like a peacekeeper. It’s become all about preserving her nation now, no longer a warring state, no longer the dominant ones of the world, they’re now the little fish in the pond. And when in this role of peacekeeper, she exudes a ton of strength, courage and loyalty to the Empire, even if that means admitting defeat and trying to stay peaceful with the newly arrival of Japan in their world.

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Now it’s really once she’s exposed to Japan and in particular their otaku culture that she becomes an absolute treat to watch throughout the series. It is nothing short of hilarious to watch this dignified, elegant princess (at the time) being given a BL (boy love) doujinshi and see the look on her face that start with shock and horror and ends with joy and being quite turned on by the idea of two men…enjoying each other’s company, shall we say?

She is at her best after this point, becoming much calmer and much more open with everyone. She still retains a lot of her stern and super serious personality that she has to have as a Princess and soon-to-be Empress of the Empire, but when she is away from her political objectives for just a little while, she’s much sweeter and quite adorable, especially when dealing with the unfamiliar Japanese culture. Her reaction to a handshake (a wedding-only gesture in her culture) is priceless and her pure enjoyment when she and the rest of the main cast go to Japan for their first time, something I was really disappointed was not re-visited in Season 2.

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And because I am that kind of guy, I can’t help but mention how stunningly beautiful Pina is. Granted, pretty much every female in GATE is absolutely gorgeous, but in Pina’s case it’s really the moments in Japan that really set her apart from them rest. Seeing her dressed more like a normal girl in our world would, it really showed off just how truly drop dead gorgeous she is, as she spends the majority of her time in clunky armor that may give the viewers a little cleavage, but it’s still armor. And let’s be honest, no one looks sexy in prison garbs, I don’t care how much skin it shows. Her being imprisoned in Season 2 was not enjoyable for me in any way whatsoever.

What Pina brings to the table in GATE is more than just her looks though. Like I said, she plays a major political role in the show and it’s quite arguable that she is actually the most important character in the entire show. After all in Season 2, her imprisonment becomes a great problem for Youji, for the JSDF, for Japan, for everyone. She’s the link between the two worlds on behalf of the Empire, like Youji is almost considered the link for Japan. And when you write a woman as being that important in the show, she’s believable in that role and even with her being naked a couple times in bath scenes she’s still not looked at with such lustful attention but instead looked at as a vital character to the show, you’ve done a great job with the writing.

Character Spotlight: Naoto Shirogane

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Persona 4 does so many things that very few games would ever dare to even stand remotely close to. We saw through Kanji’s struggles with his sexuality, that alone is something that in 2008 pretty much no one would touch with a 50-foot pole. We also took a look at Rise dealing with the issue of being looked at lustfully not only because of her beautiful petite body, but because of her status as an idol, so it delved into the celebrity life of a young teenage girl idolized both by girls and by men who would look at her for other reasons. There are tons of interesting storylines going on throughout the game that are large in part fueled by the inner thoughts and struggles that many teenagers and young adults go through.

My personal favourite though, is that of Naoto Shirogane.

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When we’re first introduced to Naoto, we’re left believing that he’s a young upcoming detective making his way up the ranks, earning the moniker of the “Detective Prince” by his peers. He proves his chops pretty quick when he identifies Kanji as the next victim of the Midnight Channel, long before the Investigation Team even figure this out as well from seeing him on TV at night. Now here’s the only thing that sucked about the beginning with Naoto: I can call gender swaps in any Japanese media almost immediately, I’ve seen so many through games and anime throughout my life, even more so now with the sheer amount of anime I consume weekly nowadays. So just from hearing Naoto’s voice for the first time, even though the voice itself does have a hint of masculinity in the sound and tones of the voice, it still immediately tripped my “THIS IS A GIRL!” alarm in my head. So unfortunately for me, the surprise was ruined before her dungeon revealed the truth.

However, the story behind this truth was still very engaging and interesting. Essentially, even though Naoto was the ace detective she was and constantly proved herself time and time again, she was never being taken seriously for multiple reasons. One of course was that she was very young, only 15 years old when first introduced in the game, so naturally a bunch of weathered old police officers and detectives could never believe nor accept that a teenager was doing a better job than them. It’s a common occurrence so that wasn’t surprising. The other glaringly huge reason was of course that she was female. And thus begins the conversation of gender equality in the workplace. Now it’s implied that she always hid her gender from the police force because she thought they would never take her seriously as a woman and that’s not all that surprising. Even today in 2016, the majority of police officers you see are male, it’s still an occupation that is dominated by men. So both those reasons caused the creation of really split personalities with Naoto, one that was the stoic male Detective Prince and this other feminine and very shy Naoto that was slowly fading away due to how little time she was allowed to come out, thus leading to a very uncomfortable situation that her dungeon represented.

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Initially when you enter the dungeon, you hear the ramblings of Naoto’s conscience stating that “he” will be undertaking a “body-altering operation”. Now if you hadn’t figured out the secret yet, this was probably a confusing thought, what could this young boy possibly want to alter? It’s not until you reach the very end where you learn that Naoto is indeed actually a female and that body-altering operation is actually meant to be a sex change, the inner-workings of a distraught Naoto wanting to get away from the “shackles” preventing her from getting past the glass ceiling she perceived to be in place at her line of work.

As the game progresses further, Naoto eventually comes to terms with how she was born and accepts that changing how she looks would never change the person she is inside, especially when really the sole reason for why she wanted to change her gender was because of her line of work. We don’t really see her lamenting over her gender for anything else, so we’re left to believe that if she wasn’t a detective she likely wouldn’t have minded her situation much, if at all. By the end of the game as well, she begins to be a little more open with how she actually looks and dresses just a bit more feminine to reflect that, though it’s not like she starts wearing low-cut tops and short shorts, she essentially just doesn’t go out of her way to hide the one massive giveaway of her true gender.

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Of course, because Japan and anime-drawn material is always funny like this, Naoto of all the girls in the entire game has to be the one with the biggest breasts of them all, something that immediately grabs the attention of all the girls the first time they get a good look at her. It’s also when she’s looking her most feminine, particularly when she’s in situations where her body is exposed or she’s to be dressed in clothes that would hide very little of her absolutely stunning frame that she completely drops that mature detective attitude of hers and employs a much shyer, feminine demeanor. When the Swimsuit Contest comes to Yasogami High and Rise, Yukiko and Chie all get roped in, Naoto can’t quite bring herself to wear a bikini in public. In the animation we get a far better hint of what that looks like though and boy is that little bit more than enough to make you believe that not only is Naoto female, but she is far prettier than you could’ve ever imagined. And just to finish off the more feminine side of Naoto, if you really want to bring that side of her out, put her into a situation where she can actually be scared of something, when she’s in total fear, her masculine tone completely drops, showing us that she can only keep up that charade when she’s fully composed. Otherwise, she’s a girl you just wanna hug, as the ski trip in Persona 4: Golden showed me.

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I’m going to make no bones about it, I’m at the time of writing this article, two weeks ahead on my “Waifu, Friend with Benefits or One-Night Stand?” articles in terms of the three girls being judged. If Naoto ever hits a weekly article through the randomizer, she’ll be an automatic Waifu for me. While Chie is my current #1 pick in not only Persona 4, but all Shin Megami Tensei games, she and Naoto are constantly flipping between #1 and #2. Naoto is a tremendous character, one you cannot help but root for. Her story is extremely challenging as a storyline because so few would dare to take on the issue of gender identity and transsexuals.

And just to top all that off, she’s the best of all worlds in terms of attraction. If you’re attracted to feminine looking males, Naoto can fit that bill. If you’re attracted to tomboys, Naoto can fit that bill. If you’re attracted to the male that’s actually a female character, she obviously fits that bill. And if you’re attracted to just beautiful women, Naoto still fits that bill. She’s not a character that you can fit in a single box, she has potential is so many different areas. She’s strong, yet can be weak. She’s confident, yet can be easily embarrassed and shy. She’s cold, yet can be loving. She’s an incredible woman and one of my favourite female characters in terms of how she’s written.

Though I will admit, Naoto in the high-cut armor costume looks way off on her.

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Character Spotlight: Tharja

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There are a ton of female characters in the Fire Emblem series. Seriously, the series doesn’t shy away from having a ton of badass women going out there and kicking a ton of ass. You’ve got the smaller girls like Rebecca and Lissa, the more muscular girls like Sully and Rinkah and of course your half-human girls like Nowi and Panne. There’s someone for everyone, of all shapes and sizes, personalities and all the like. And again this is only the women, the men are so varied as well, it’s what makes the Fire Emblem series as refreshing as it is.

But in the entire Fire Emblem universe there is only a single female character that for me has had staying power in my mind. There’s been notable girls that have strong characters, or a cool look, girls like Lyndis and Lucina come to mind. But no one has captured my heart the way Tharja did during the course of Fire Emblem: Awakening.

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Tharja is crazy as fuck! There is nothing you can possibly do to hide this fact, she is off her rocker, stone…cold…fucking…crazy! This Plegian dark mage shows up in the game during the Chapter 9 mission at Plegia Castle when Chrom and his army are trying to rescue Emmeryn. It’s very obvious from the beginning of that mission that Tharja was very apathetic towards the objectives she was under orders to do against Chrom and his army, almost like she straight up didn’t give two fucks about what was going on. So when Chrom approaches her and asks why she’s not at all attempting to fight them, she merely notes that she’d rather not die and ends up joining them when Chrom hangs in there with her even when questioning their quick trust of her. From then on, it’s nothing but smooth sailing with Tharja. Well…if you enjoy sailing in foggy waters with the odds of someone stalking you and potentially hexing you for an eternity.

I’m not going to waste time talking about how she is in terms of battle usefulness in the game, cause that’s the least important thing on my mind when it comes to Tharja. So needless to say, while she wasn’t the best party member on my team, by being my waifu in the game, she was always in the main party, regardless of how many better options I had sitting in the reserves.

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While you can’t marry her as the female protagonist, Tharja is a consistent stalker with her extreme obsession with your main character, regardless of gender. It appears as your relationship with her levels up that when she’s in love with someone or at the very least attracted to someone, she’ll go beyond out of her way to try and get the person she has her eyes on to return the favour, even going as far as changing her entire personality to attract the one she has eyes on towards her. All this is completely thrown out the window though if you do not fall into that category, anyone outside of her affectionate side gets the cold shoulder, she’s extremely distant and cold to them, often threatening to hex them and all that jazz she’s known for.

It’s funny though when you do pursue a romantic relationship with her if you’re playing a male main character, she’s all over the place in her attempts to court you. She tries everything to gain your affection, which creeps you out in the beginning, but once you get comfortable and used to her advances, you see an actual sweet and loving side of her that is legitimate, it’s not just an act she’s putting on to get to you, she’s actually a really loving person when she’s not trying to cast hexes on you. It even goes as far that if she remains single through the entire game, she still chases after you regardless of who you’re married to, hoping one day she casts the right hex to reunite you with her.

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It’s no secret that Tharja is one, if not the hottest girl of the Awakening cast, maybe the sexiest of all Fire Emblem characters, just based on how she’s designed, personal tastes aside. Which makes this even more hilarious when you see during the course of the game that she has no idea just how beautiful she is in everyone else’s eyes. When Nowi tells her that she has the biggest breasts of all the women in the army, she blushes madly about that. She also admits to Cordelia soon after that how she had no idea whatsoever that she had not only some sex appeal, but a ton of it and was super embarrassed when she found out about this, likely Nowi’s boob conversation kickstarting this. You’d think someone who wears a thin almost see-through tight-fitting outfit would figure that out, but hey she’s busy hexing people. Priorities.

And then again her beauty was fully confirmed in the Summer of Bonds (or Summer Scramble) DLC where she was one of the two girls (Cordelia the other) picked by fan vote to have a swimsuit moment in the game, including CG artwork. Now this became a bit of a controversy when it was redone for the North American version, where most of her ass was covered by a curtain. Because y’know the picture of her in a bikini above this is sooo revealing. Even to this day, I don’t understand how people got so worked up about this. And that whole thing was before all the Gamergate stuff that kickstarted this whole anti-sexy material SJW bullshit.

Katyuska Moonfox
Katyuska Moonfox

Her popularity is also very prevalent by how often she’s cosplayed, especially when you consider how rare Fire Emblem cosplay is. Some would argue it’s because Tharja is an easy girl to cosplay as a sex symbol kind of character, so models really take her as an easy cosplay for photo shoots and that may be partially true, but she’s also one of very few Fire Emblem characters to get a figurines made of her and she’s also part of the Shin Megami Tensei crossover with the Fire Emblem series. Clearly she has some staying power.

Tharja like I said before is easily my favourite Fire Emblem character and it’s not just because she is super sexy and I chose her as my wife in the game. She is such an interesting and intriguing character with her dark personality, her weird sense of humour and everything that makes her this oddball of a woman. But it’s also that hidden lovey-dovey side of her that just makes her so adorable and I didn’t expect any of that kind of stuff in a strategy game.

If she existed in real life and I was single, she wouldn’t have to stalk me for very long until I’d allow her in…so long as she promises not to hex me or use me for her various experiments.