“Dying For Nothing” A 20 Question Anime Essay About The Importance of Meaningful Character Deaths

“Dying For Nothing” A 20 Question Anime Essay About The Importance of Meaningful Character Deaths

This post contains some spoilers for Magical Girl Raising Project, Made In Abyss and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.

So, a 20 Question Anime Essay? Huh… Branching out are we? I felt like talking about a subject rather than just one anime.

Fair enough, what are we talking about today? Death in entertainment, specifically how character deaths hold a different meaning to the viewer depending on the circumstances around their death.

Heavy. What got you thinking about this? Well I recently finished ‘Magical Girl Raising Project’ and a lot of characters die in it, 14 out of the 16 main and supporting cast in-fact.

Yikes! Getting all Game of Thrones up in here! And the thing that struck me the most was how for a lot of these deaths my main emotion watching them was annoyance. In fact with the exception of a couple of the deaths I wasn’t ever sad—like the show wanted me to be—I was just ticked off. I found myself with my arms crossed, sitting there going, “really, another one?” This didn’t start happening until about episode 4 but continued until episode 10, when finally the narrative revealed the all important ‘thing’ I had been waiting for all along—a reason!

A reason for what? A reason why all these characters were dying, yes the show gave the characters reason to want to kill each other, it was literally a survival of the fittest, a battle royale. But there wasn’t a narrative reason for them to be killing each other and so what started out as a dark(er) take on the magical girl genre ended up feeling like it was just indulging itself in a self-satisfying excuse to kill off cute girls all for the edgy spectacle of it.

But it was fine once the narrative gave purpose to their death match? Pretty much. It validated the character deaths that had come before as not just being for the sake of the audience and rather that they served a point to the narrative. I fully admit that not realising there was actually going to be a ‘larger picture’ sooner was a failing in me the viewer, but a part of that was due to my emotional reaction and dare I say “being triggered” by the sight of so many adorable and nice characters die without an explicit reason given.

And why do you think that is? That you got triggered I mean, and aside from the surface level reaction of not liking cute things having harm done to them. I blame Hollywood.

Oh? Care to elaborate? Even if you haven’t watched that many Hollywood produced films, or even network television dramas, you should at least have seen a typical ‘Hollywood’ death. Regardless of the genre, they more or less play out the same way, a character we’ve come to know over a period of time is killed, usually while in the service of the hero, probably doing something heroic. And it’s always a ~big~ moment in the film that’s supposed to either serve as inspiration for the hero, or set them on a path of revenge or simply highlight the importance of their character in having risked their life for the greater good. In Hollywood, more often than not, death has a purpose.

But that’s seldom the case in real life. Oh, I’m well aware of this, I’m under no illusions that 99.9% of people—myself included—will die for nothing. Hollywood knows this too but they’re not in the business of selling reality, they’re in the business of selling dreams.

So what point are you trying to make here? Are you annoyed that an anime had initially betrayed your expectations in regard to how death’s are supposed to serve a purpose in the story? But as you said they did end up serving a narrative purpose towards the final episodes, where’s the issue? I’m more interested in my reaction, maybe it’s nothing noteworthy but I nonetheless found my growing disdain through the middle episodes of ‘Magical Girl Raising Project’ at least passingly similar to the feeling I had while watching the later episodes of ‘Made in Abyss’.

Okay, so what happened in that show that triggered you? It wasn’t a death, but rather what I saw as cruelty for cruelty’s sake. For anyone who’s seen the show, ‘the elevator’ is all I need to say, but for anyone who hasn’t seen the show and doesn’t mind the vague spoiler; two side characters are subjected to unimaginable torture at the hands of a nondescript villain character who’s only introduced at the start of this flashback scene. The scene is darker in tone than anything that had come previous and in the moment only serves the purpose of showing how two characters came to be how they are. Important, perhaps, but at the time I was so angered and disheartened that I couldn’t marry what the show had shown me and its importance to the narrative. I was ready to quit the show then and there so strong was my reaction.

Sounds like you’re just too sensitive for some things. But I don’t think I am! I’ve watched so many graphic and disturbing movies in my life, graphic horror films like the Hostel films, the Human Centipede films, even a film considered among the most harrowing ever made; Irreversible—while all impactful in their own way—never affected me the way ‘Made in Abyss’ did.

I’m still not sure what point you’re trying to make. One of the tortured characters in ‘Made in Abyss’, the one most physically affected by the torture is given a mercy killing by the male protagonist. It’s a powerful scene, but it’s only as powerful because of all the context that was given from the flashback scene of their torture. This ties into the idea that suffering and violence and death, like in ‘Magical Girl Raising Project’ is only palatable, or perhaps a better word is “understandable”, if there’s sufficient context to justify their suffering. And the context for the death and suffering in ‘Magical Girl Raising Project’ came almost too late.

Right. I think I understand what you’re saying now. You don’t like death unless it has a narrative purpose and the more impactful and traumatising the circumstances around it the more immediate the reasoning has to become apparent through the story? Yeah, something like that. I’m reminded of when Buffy’s mother died on ‘Buffy: The Vampire Slayer’, here we were in the fifth season of the show and certainly characters had died before, but always as the result of something related to the narrative. But then suddenly we have a character who’s more or less removed from the immediate dangers of Buffy’s dangerous ‘slaying’ lifestyle and she dies, and not only does she die but it’s without warning and due to a brain aneurysm. There’s no-one to blame for it, no ~thing~ to get revenge on, no urgency to be addressed. It serves to immediate narrative purpose, she just dies. And yet, it’s all the more powerful because it’s so real and unexpected and pointless.

Umm, I feel like you’ve just contradicted your whole point you were trying to make with this essay? Why did you bring that up? Because I didn’t want to suggest that there isn’t power and purpose in an occasional pointless death. As I said earlier, 99.9% of us will have a pointless death and yet to those who love us and care for us it will be every bit as important as the cinematic deaths that saved innocent lives or inspired the hero to destroy a great evil. The reason the ‘Buffy’ example worked so well was because it was so different to not only other character deaths we’d seen on the show thus far but different to what any kind of show was doing at the time.

So a pointless death is okay if not all the deaths in the show are pointless? I don’t know, I haven’t watched every anime and the anime where people die “pointless deaths” generally aren’t on my radar. I’m not pretending to be an authority on the subject, despite me calling this an “essay” this is still very much a narrow opinion based on a few examples.

Fair enough, probably should have prefaced this “essay” with that… Well take this as forewarning for future essays’ I may write like I know what I’m talking about but I’m far from the authority on any subject.

Don’t sell yourself short, you’re an expert pervert after all. Come on now, I thought we could go one post without reminding the readers of that…

So how’d you want to wrap this thing up? How do essay’s ‘normally’ wrap up? I don’t know, I suppose I could reiterate my points in a succinct manner?

Do that! Right… So at the end of the day, a character dying in any media, be it a flashy Hollywood picture, or a gritty indie horror flick, a long-running live-action TV series or an anime filled with cute characters—needs to serve a purpose. But why? Well, regardless of whether something fancies itself as ‘realistic’ or not, it’s still entertainment. Yes the media we consume can sometimes be messy and problematic and imperfect but it should always strive to serve a meaningful purpose, especially with something as permanent and powerful as the death of a character.

This is my first proper essay style 20 Question post, let me know what you thought of it, if you think I should do more or if you have any suggestions for topics I should cover in the future. Thanks for reading!

If you liked my post and want to support my content, please consider supporting my Patreon page, or donating by buying me a coffee on Ko-fi!



The One-Liner Challenge (Anime Edition) – Untold Questions

An Untold Questions blog about The One Liner Challenge (Anime Edition).

What’s this, ‘One-Liner Challenge’? Haven’t you done this before? Probably, but it feels like it’s been long-enough, beside this time I’m going to do it about anime instead of last time which I believe was about Books.

Fair enough, so who nominated you? Arthifis! Thanks again for the nomination!

And what are the rules? 

  • Accept and thank your challenger(s) by linking back to their post.
  • Make a post of one-sentence summaries/roasts of at least five books manga anime games.
  • No spoilers!
  • Link back to The Awkward Book Blogger so she can see your post.
  • Challenge as many or as few people as you want!

Great, so let’s get this show on the road!

Made in Abyss
“Great, now I can’t even ride in an elevator without getting depressed…”

Food Wars!
“If ‘hangry’ is a portmanteau of ‘hungry and angry’ then this show makes me ‘horngry’.”

Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid
“Orgasms turn girls into inanimate objects, not the other way round like it usually is.”

Kiss x Sis
“The phrase ‘family friendly entertainment’ has never been more inappropriate…”

“The only sport where the audience works up more of a sweat than the competitors!”

Okay then! Great, so what now? I have to nominate some people, as always, if you’ve done this before or just don’t want to there’s no obligation to do so!
And if anyone else wants to do it, just message me and I’ll add your name and we’ll pretend like I nominated you from the start! I hope you enjoyed this post, I certainly had fun coming up with these little roasts! Thanks for reading!

If you liked my post and want to support my content, please consider supporting my Patreon page, or donating by buying me a coffee on Ko-fi!



20 Question Weekly Review Week Ending 11th February 2018

A 20 Question Weekly Review for the Week Ending 11th of February 2018.

What’s this?! A new weekly feature of this website, exploring my previous weeks’ anime/manga related experiences. It’ll be posted every Monday and cover the previous week up until the Sunday (I’m posting this one late because I only got the idea to do this on Thursday). The blog will also contain some shout outs and personal thoughts because apparently people are kind and generous and actually want to know things about me *shy shuffle*

Okay, cool, I guess I can get into this? Do I get paid double for doing this job too? No.

Pfft, fine. So what new anime did you watch last week? Well… a lot to be honest, this ‘Winter’ season has been pretty damn good for slice of life. Which is, I’m sure most of you are aware, is my favourite genre. Of last week’s newly aired anime I watched episode 6 of: A Place Further Than The Universe, Citrus, Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san, Marchen Madchen, Miss Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles, Pop Team Epic, Slow Start, Yuru Camp. And episode 5 of: Dagashi Kashi 2, Darling in the FranXX and Mitsuboshi Colors.

It was just a button! Silly Hana.

That’s a lot! Pfft, that’s nothing. There’s some people who watch every new anime. That’ll be me one day, hopefully.

What’s stopping you? Crippling depression. Not enough hours in the day. And, um, personal stuff…

Personal stuff? Spill! Well, I turned 30 on the 9th. It’s weird because I simultaneously don’t feel 30 and also feel like a hundred million years old.

Big deal. People are having birthday’s every day. Oh and my grandmother died two days later.

Woah, this took a turn for the dark, sorry for your loss and all but maybe not ambush the good people who bothered to read this with such things? Hey, you wanted me to spill!

So, what’s your verdict on all those shows you’re currently watching? And succinctly please we don’t have all day… Hmm, okay. All of it is really good (I mean otherwise I wouldn’t still be watching, right?) I usually don’t release preliminary scores and I don’t make a decision on the score out of 100 like I have for my reviews until completing an anime. But I will for the sake of these weekly blogs give a score out of five stars for the series as it currently stands, so bare in mind these scores could change by the end of the season.
A Place Further Than The Universe ★★★★★
Slow Start ★★★★1/2
Citrus ★★★★1/2
Mitsuboshi Colors ★★★★1/2
Yuru Camp ★★★★1/2
Miss Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles ★★★★
Dagashi Kashi 2 ★★★★
Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san ★★★★
Marchen Madchen ★★★★
Darling in the FranXX ★★★1/2
Pop Team Epic ★★★

Even Japanese girls don’t like durian! Hard to believe when they still like natto.

Cool, any other non-new anime you’ve started/continued watching last week? Up to episode 10 of Haikyuu!! It’s not really my thing but I certainly see the appeal, there will be a review of it up once I’m done with it, be rest assured of that. Also finished Made in Abyss.

Oh yeah? How’s that show? Remember when I mentioned the ‘crippling depression’ above? Yeah, that show’s partially to blame…

Huh, that powerful then? *slow nod*

And I see we’re talking about manga now? That’s like anime except book, yeah? Sure… “anime except book” let’s go with that…

Shuddup. So what are you reading? Well I’ve bought quite a lot, but last week I read Volume 1 of ‘A Certain Scientific Railgun’ and Volume 1 of ‘Nurse Hitomi’s Monster Infirmary’.

An irl photo! All the manga I received last week.

Verdict? Well, ‘A Certain Scientific Railgun’ has its charms, its more focused on world building than I expected (which is good!) but at the expense of character development (which is bad). I can see me continuing with it even if I find it hard to tell the difference between the two main girls, which is a big problem as far as I’m concerned. But ‘Nurse Hitomi’s Monster Infirmary’ omg, I LOVE it! It reminds me a lot of ‘Interviews With Monster Girls’ which I’ve only seen the anime, but loved a lot, except Nurse Hitomi has a lot more cheeky comedy and innuendo, plus the characters are all so unique and interesting. I instantly bought the other 6 volumes on [popular book website] and will read them with glee once they arrive!

Well this was all very nice, but what if I have more questions for you, beyond the allotted 20? Then wait ‘til next week you impatient bastard.

AHAHA! (I was meaning what if the readers have more question, don’t go alienating them already!) Oh, um sure if you have any questions just come and add me on twitter.com/Cactus_Matt I’m the kind of person who always has twitter open so unless I’m asleep chances are you’ll get a quick reply! Or comment below, either way works!

Anything else you want to add? Of course, I’m only new to the blogging scene but already I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of the wordpress anime blogging community. Specifically I want to shout out Irina @drunkenanimeblog, who was there from my fourth day on the site and kept liking my content and thus spurring me on despite very few views. Then came @raistlin0903 who reblogged me and still comments like a persistent cheerleader! And @chizurue who championed me on twitter loudly!

But wait; didn’t the last two people only start to do those things the week after the week ending the 11th? Ah… well yeah, but this is the first blog of this type so credit where credit’s due and all that… I just wanted to thank some people is all… Plus there’s way more people before and after the aforementioned that deserve a shoutout, I’m just still trying to get to grips with this whole thing…

Fair enough. How would you rate the week ending 11th of February 2018? An emotional roller coaster, as much as that is a cliché, I don’t think I’ve ever felt such dizzying highs and worrisome lows. Nevertheless, I am out the other side and thinking of the future and can’t wait to see what comes next for this blog, for anime and manga and for my life.

Well that was the first of my 20 Question Weekly Reviews! Let me know what you think, what should be changed, what else should be discussed? Also, don’t worry, the normal 20 Question Anime Reviews will still come out daily, these will not interrupt the regularly scheduled reviews! Thanks for reading!