Rise of the Bread Dogs: Hololive, Precure, and Pokémon

There must have been something fermenting in the collective imagination of 2022. Last year gave us not one, not two, but three different forms of media featuring cute dogs combined with bread. And as many minds landed on this same idea of oven-baked canines, they all appeared to be guided by more than merchandising power alone.

Sanallites

The first bread dog of note is an embodiment of the Sanallites, the fanbase for the retired VTuber Tsukumo Sana from Hololive. The reason her fans are portrayed as bread is that Sana herself would express how much she loves bread, even going as far as doing a bread horoscope in an early stream. And because Sana herself is an experienced artist, she used her illustration chops to solidify the design as a whole loaf with an adorable flat face.

Sana’s bread dog comes from a warm and comforting relationship with her fandom—the kind of personal-feeling connection that you could only get from a streamer.

Pam-Pam

The second bread dog is Pam-Pam, a sandwich-themed dog fairy from the magical girl anime Delicious Party Precure. Here, Pam-Pam is the mascot sidekick of the bread-themed Cure Spicy, and contrasted with a rice mascot and a noodle mascot for a trio of staple carbs. This all plays into one of the themes of Delicious Party Precure, which is teaching kids to eat balanced meals and learn to appreciate all types of food. Pam-Pam transforms into a little sandwich with her dog head sticking out, meaning her bread elements come out primarily in battle.

Delicious Party Precure’s bread dog is a way to convey a theme of good nutrition. The decision to design Pam-Pam in this way is the result of trying to prepare children for the future.

Fidough and Dachsbun

The last bread dogs are the new evolutionary line from Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. Fidough, which resembles unbaked bread, evolves into Dachsbun, whose Baked Body ability makes it actually immune to fire attacks. They have more of an active bread motif than Pamu Pamu but retain more dog features than the Sanallites.

These two are actually just a couple of the many new Paldean Pokémon with a food motif—others include hot pepper plants, olives, and more. The Paldea region is based on Spain, which has a rich and diverse food culture, and both bread dogs reflect that aspect.

The Yeast They Can Do

Combining fluffy bread with furry dogs seems like an obvious winner, and these examples are certainly not the first. But to see three big franchises implement the same idea within the same year feels like a tiny miracle. There’s a surprising amount of versatility to be found in the bread dog concept, and should there ever be a true bread-dog boom, I doubt anyone would mind.

Precure Can Drink in Japan: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for February 2023

February has arrived, and that means new Precure, of course. It’s this odd exception in that February debuts have been typical of the franchise, so I have it on my mind—especially because it’s the 20th anniversary [I’ve been informed that Precure is actually only 19, so oops.]. I still remember seeing the original Futari wa Pretty Cure being mentioned in an English-language anime magazine, and noticing the large combat boots and floppy socks they wore. It’s been a part of my fandom for two decades now, and while I don’t have plans to write a retrospective, I wonder if I should. At the very least, expect a review of Delicious Party Precure.

Moving on from a two-decade-old magical girl juggernaut, I’d like to thank my Patreon subscribers!

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Naledi Ramphele

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from January:

“Son Goku” vs. “Sun Wukong”: The Challenge of Translating Chinese Names in Japanese Media into English

If you’ve ever wondered why a Chinese character’s name in an anime sounds so unlike what the subtitles say, this might be hwy.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury Season 1—Bold New Steps

My review of Season 1.

The Elegant Design of Suntory’s Virtual Youtuber

Many VTubers have extremely busy designs, but one notable exception comes from a surprising source: a Japanese beverage company.

Kio Shimoku

Kio actually retweeted one of my posts this month!!!

Closing

I learned along with everyone else that Love Live! School Idol Festival is shutting down to make way for the sequel game. Given this information, it’s all too perfect that I finally managed to achieve my goal. Will I play the new game? I really don’t know—it depends on how much time I have and what the gameplay looks like.

Ghosts in Them Shells

I’m 20 years late, but I finally finished Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which I first started watching all the way back in 2002 (!). Its detective-story approach to the GitS franchise allows it to deliver its cyberpunk world in a fairly straightforward manner that doesn’t necessarily require an inherent love of science fiction. At the same time, it still explores the central concepts of GitS (like the question of identity in a world where fully artificial bodies are ubiquitous) effectively. 

But watching SAC has me thinking about just how different each iteration of Ghost in the Shell is. It makes me feel that almost everyone will naturally and firmly gravitate towards a particular flavor of GitS, even though they’re thematically of the same realm. The original manga by Shirow Masamune revels in the slick aesthetic of its futuristic technology (and dials up the horny to 11). The films by Oshii Mamoru famously dwell on the philosophical implications of its world, with the second film, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, being even more heavily geared in that direction to the point that one can argue that there’s a breaking point at that sequel. I haven’t watched Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2045, but I have noticed disappointment, and I wonder if it’s because SAC 2045 is yet another noticeably different interpretation.

Though I say that people are likely to pick one version as their absolute favorite, I actually have trouble deciding for myself. I think this has to do with each GitS delivering a substantially different experience, and I find a type of fulfillment in each. Maybe I’m one of those folks who just loves science fiction as a whole.

“Son Goku” vs. “Sun Wukong”: The Challenge of Translating Chinese Names in Japanese Media into English

Let’s say you’re watching an episode of Raven of the Inner Palace in Japanese. Or maybe it’s Thunderbolt Fantasy. A new character appears and introduces themselves, but the voice seems to say one thing and the subtitles another. Is the eponymous heroine Raven “Ryuu Jusetsu” or “Liu Shouxue?” Is the hero of Thunderbolt Fantasy “Shang Bu Huan” or “Shou Fu Kan?” 

They look kind of similar but also not. It feels discordant to read and hear two different things that are supposed to be the same, so you might be wondering why such a decision was made. 

What you’re running into is the legacy of how the Chinese language came to influence the Japanese language.

I am no expert when it comes to to Chinese-Japanese linguistic history, but I believe I can sum it up very briefly as follows. The Japanese language originally did not have a writing system, eventually began importing Chinese between the 3rd and 7th centuries AD to deal with that problem despite the fact that the language structures are dramatically different. Japanese began to use Chinese written characters (kanji), in some cases choosing to adopt Chinese pronunciations of words as well. Yet, because the languages are so far apart in fundamental ways, these pronunciations had to be approximated. The word for wood (木) was pronounced as muk in Chinese (specifically what’s called Middle Chinese by linguistic scholars), but due to the lack of ending consonants in Japanese, this became moku. Such onyomi, as the Chinese-approximate pronunciations came to be known, were codified into Japanese and are still used today.

But the Chinese languages continued to transform in China, and many pronunciations changed over the centuries. Various factors, from the rise and fall of dynasties to physical barriers creating pockets and enclaves of peoples meant that not only did the language end up different from its 7th century form, but also resulted in regional variations that can often be mutually unintelligible. While the Cantonese word for “wood” retains the “k” sound at the end (similar to how it was said in Middle Chinese), Mandarin Chinese (what is today the official language of China and the most common throughout the world) pronounces it as mu. This is because most of the ending consonants disappeared from Mandarin.

So when you have a hero or heroine with a Chinese name in an anime, that name can generally be written in Japanese through kanji. But when it comes to pronouncing these kanji, the default in Japanese is to use the old onyomi pronunciations. This is why Sun Wukong becomes Son Goku, and why Kongming (like in Ya Boy, Kongming!) becomes Koumei. But then, if these characters are ethnically Chinese or have origins in Chinese stories, might it be better to write their names out as if they were being pronounced in Chinese? The question is whether an anime based on Chinese culture should go Chinese -> Japanese -> English with names, or make it Chinese -> English. And if it’s a manga or novel, and there is no issue of text and audio disagreeing, is it still an issue?

There are many other factors that can complicate this decision. While many anime and manga are set in China, some series take place in a world that is merely Chinese-folklore-inspired. Twelve Kingdoms, for example, is a fantasy series where all the countries have names that would make sense in China, but would translating the names into Chinese be too far removed from the source material, given that the series is originally Japanese and the world of the Twelve Kingdoms isn’t technically China? And even if a story is set in China, what if it takes place in the 5th Century AD or any other time when even “official” Chinese sounded substantially different from its modern form? Or what if a story takes place in a region of China where Mandarin Chinese isn’t the dominant form? What if there’s a Chinese character living in Japan, and everyone pronounces their name as if it’s Japanese but they refer to themselves internally with their Chinese pronunciation? In English, we’re increasingly at a point where the right thing to do is to respect the person’s own desire for how to pronounce their name, but the context of onyomi in Japanese complicates that decision.

The toughest thing is that there is no right or wrong answer because it’s not even a matter of Japanese vs. English but rather Japanese vs. English and the point at which to insert the inherent Chinese cultural aspect into a translation. Whatever choices are made, it‘s important to understand that “accuracy” and “faithfulness” are not so simple. 

(Happy New Year!)

A Dream Realized on Hanayo’s Birthday, or “Oops, All Hanayo”

It was almost 10 years ago when I discovered Love Live! and by extension the School Idol Festival mobile game. Koizumi Hanayo quickly became my favorite character, and so I set out with a simple goal: Make dedicated all-Hanayo teams while also avoiding whaling. It was both a way to show my fandom and to set a fairly concrete goal that I could dedicate my gacha pulls to. 

In 2015, I achieved the first step in a long road: a Hanayo Team consisting of all unique versions. Now, in 2023, I have crossed what I consider to be my final finish line: Three all-Hanayo teams with every member an idolized and legit Ultra-Rare (as opposed to free-giveaway URs that have less power as a result).

I have, in my own way, “beaten” Love Live! School Idol Festival, and can finally lay this game to rest—at least until the recently announced Love Live! School Idol Festival 2 shows up. Will I even play the sequel? And if I do, will I maybe dedicate myself to a different character, like Love Live! Superstar!!’s Wakana Shiki? Whatever the case, it’s the end of an era.

Happy Birthday, Hanayo. It’s been fun to cheer for such an intensely passionate character of contrasts, and it’ll continue to be amazing. 

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury Season 1—Bold New Steps

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR SEASON 1 OF GUNDAM: THE WITCH FROM MERCURY

I know I probably shouldn’t do it. Sunrise is notorious for fucking up a good thing by meddling midway, and Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury has been good. Yet, even if I regret in the long run giving this show praise, I want to lay out my thoughts now, especially after an intense and shocking season finale.

Gundam: The Witch from Mercury is the first major Gundam anime to feature a female protagonist. While there have been heroines before like Christina Mackenzie in 0080: War in the Pocket and Hoshino Fumina in Gundam: Build Fighters Try, no one has been as prominent as Suletta Mercury. It’s a milestone that can easily be mismanaged, but the creators have done an amazing job not just with her portrayal, but also constructing a world that is a significant departure from typical Gundam while also feeling true to the spirit of Gundam and addressing modern concerns.

One of The Witch from Mercury’s biggest adjustments to the lore of Gundams-as-mecha is simple but profound: In this universe, Gundam technology was not originally designed for war. Rather, it was meant to help people with disabilities, and was only made into weapons through the greed of others. The world is dominated by corporations operating from space at the expense of those on Earth, touching upon a very relevant concern about the unchecked power of the moneyed. 

It’s within this context that Suletta stands out in contrast to her peers as she enters school for the first time. When we first see her (outside of the traumatic childhood events of Episode 0), she’s a nervous mess of a teen who has never interacted with kids her age, and whose only friend is her Definitely-Not-a-Forbidden-by-Law-Gundam, the Aerial. She seems to have the power to persevere in spite of her anxiety, carrying an innocent-yet-powerful sense of right and wrong. She wants to both make friends and do good, and the wrench she throws into the systems in place at her school is a big one.

The school setting is also something of a first for a main Gundam series, and the way it’s handled is beautiful. While on the surface it makes The Witch from Mercury look like it’s trying to mimic a popular trend, the show successfully does two things to make this work. 

First, it presents the school as an unusual place with unusual rules: a place to train students in the use and management of mobile suits, which also features a formalized mecha-dueling system that participants can use to wager and settle disputes. It seems silly, but it’s also contextualized as a kind of sheltered space to protect/mold the rich kids of the corporations running the world and give them advantages to further leverage their positions. This is precisely what Suletta gums up by becoming the “groom” for the “bride” of the school, Miorine Rembran—the daughter of the CEO who owns the school.

Second, it takes those setting elements of the school and uses them to drive home certain themes and metaphors. The Witch from Mercury has often been compared to Revolutionary Girl Utena, and while the abstract symbolism and allegories aren’t as robust and dominant here, they still carry a lot of weight. Not only are the yuri vibes undoubtable and a more overt step into that territory, but the duels are very revealing about each character and their motivations. The balance is very reminiscent of G Gundam.

So when the other shoe drops in Episodes 11 and 12 as a real battle begins, it really highlights what an isolated environment the school really is. Duels are playtime and ways to establish hierarchy. Combat is where lives are lost. The competition between corporations is only one factor when the tensions between Earthians and Spacians can lead to such death. And when Suletta emerges as being surprisingly okay with murder (for the “right” reasons, like saving people), her lack of hesitation is downright frightening. It’s why Miorine’s reaction at the end is so powerful. She and Suletta worked out their emotional differences and trust issues, but now here’s an unexpected side called “Suletta can literally smash someone into a bloody stain and not bat an eye.” It really is like Utena and Anthy switched spots.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the similarities between Suletta’s mom and Char Aznable, and how they go beyond the masks. I was mostly thinking about their presentations and mannerisms, but this has made me realize there’s a vital aspect of Char’s character I didn’t look at enough: the unwavering desire for revenge. And so it begs the question—what would Char do of he has a child? The likely answer is “shape them into a bringer of vengeance.”

I hope The Witch from Mercury can live up to the greatness we’ve already seen. Please let this one get through okay. The next time I write about this series, I imagine it’ll be as a Gattai Girls entry.

Circles, Full and Partial: Belle

There’s a general arc to the films of Hosoda Mamoru. Over time, they have been increasingly concerned with family and the raising of children, to the extent that his early works can feel like a distant memory. His latest work, Belle, feels like both a return to older titles like Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time that comes by way of his decade-long focus on parenting.

Belle (whose Japanese title translates to The Dragon and the Freckled Princess) is actually an incredibly difficult work to summarize, as it tries to be so many things at once. It’s the story of Suzu, a teen girl who inadvertently becomes the biggest music sensation in an interactive virtual community after being unable to sing due to childhood trauma. It’s also heavily inspired by Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, with the aforementioned Dragon being an online version of the Beast who picks fights with everyone and has to run from a Gaston-equivalent with the power of doxxing. But Suzu also struggles with the cruelty of social ostracization at school, a self-inflicted strained relationship with her dad, relationship woes, and much, much more. 

I believe the way Belle harkens back to Summer Wars is obvious enough (virtual worlds and community), but when it comes to the teen aspect, I think Hosoda basically looped all the way back around. If works like Wolf Children and Mirai come across as explorations of how the feelings of small children influence how they behave and grow, then Belle is smack-dab in the tumult of puberty. Rather than entirely centering the world around teens, there’s a sense that the story is about watching over them as adults.

Belle is a lot, especially when you get into its various topics, including but not limited to: the Internet as a place to find oneself vs. the judgmental eye of social media, the way media facades can bring out positive qualities but also obscure dangerous ones, and the particular ways in-group vs. out-group dynamics run counter to the greater good, among others. At times, Belle seem like it’s going to burst at the seams, which makes it a full and rich experience but also at times thematically convoluted. The rich visuals and stunning musical performances help to tie everything together, keeping the package from falling apart at the end and delivering a complexity that has more merits than faults.

I don’t say this often, but I wonder if Belle would have actually been better as a long-format series. As 13 episodes or maybe more, all its components could be given more room to breathe, and the journey Suzu herself takes could have benefited from the real passage of time. The lack of a film-level budget might have meant a less exquisite presentation, but I think the themes could have rung truer.

Diamond Drama: Princess Nine

1998’s Princess Nine is the kind of sports anime with an instant hook: What if a Japanese all-girl baseball team competed against the boys in pursuit of the national championships? It’s a series I’ve seen get praise from professional reviewers and personal friends alike, and as a fan of the similarly premised Taisho Baseball Girls, I came in assuming I’d enjoy it. While that was indeed the case, what I find especially intriguing watching it now is how this 1998 anime feels like both a time capsule and anomaly whose style and particulars haven’t persisted in more recent sports series, be they shounen or shoujo.

Hayakawa Ryo is a talented female pitcher who helps out with her neighborhood’s small-time baseball team, when she gets scouted by a prestigious private all-girls’ school to be the foundation for an inaugural baseball team—not softball—with the aim of getting to Koshien, the vaunted stadium that symbolizes the romanticism of Japanese high school baseball. Along the way, she helps recruit new teammates, develops a budding romance, learns the secret past of her deceased father, develops a rivalry with a teammate that’s also a love triangle, and plays plenty of baseball.

The drama of Princess Nine takes place both on the diamond and adjacent to it, and that is what makes the anime so unusual relative to so many sports-genre titles. Oftentimes, an anime will use sports as either a central axis or a starting point. The primary conflict of Kuroko’s Basketball, for example, is how Kuroko’s cooperative philosophy fares against his self-centered former teammates from the Generation of Miracles. In contrast, a series like Touch! uses baseball as the backdrop to a portrayal of nuanced human relationships. But in Princess Nine, you’ll have episodes dedicated to mastering the Lightning Ball alongside ones focused on romance, and ones where feelings interfere with baseball and vice versa. The resulting juxtaposition can often be a double-edged sword, generally making the show more gripping but sometimes feeling a bit too overwrought. 

If there’s anything that approach reminds me of, it would be old-school shoujo sports titles like Attack No.1. I have to think this is intentional, especially because of how one character, the aforementioned rival Himuro Izumi, is very much an archetypal descendant of Ochoufujin from Aim for the Ace!—her long and luxurious hair, the way she has the adoration of her fellow students, and even her literal tennis skills are cut from that cloth.

While Ryo and Izumi feature most prominently, the rest of the team showcase distinct personalities that really gives the sense of them being a motley crew where opposites attract, in a sense. One thing that does feel like a quality from a bygone era is how long it takes for the team to fully assemble. Early episodes are basically devoted to gradually bringing in each girl and showing both what makes them tick and the specific hurdles they face (from lack of confidence to family obligations and more). The fact that it was clearly planned for 26 episodes as opposed to 13, all without being based on a long-running manga, is the kind of thing you rarely see anymore. They don’t even play a game of 9 vs 9 baseball until almost halfway!

The looks of the girls themselves also embody a specific period aesthetic for female character design. With the notable exception of Daidoji Mao, the stocky ex-Judo player turned catcher, all of the girls have a particular kind of “narrow hips and even thinner waist” look that I don’t often see these days. Anime isn’t exactly a bastion for diverse body types, but I definitely notice a difference in beauty standards for contemporary anime characters compared to the at-the-time typical appearances of Princess Nine, even when you discount the changes to face design that have occurred in the decades since.

I realize that I couldn’t have gotten this exact perspective if I had watched Princess Nine back when it was first being recommended to me around the mid to late 2000s. At the same time, the fact that this show seems to draw so heavily from a bygone era of anime at that time might also mean that I wouldn’t have appreciated its old-school flavor. 

I also don’t know if Princess Nine was ever intended for a second series, but it definitely feels like it could have gotten one and thrived in the process. I have my doubts that a sequel will ever see the light of day, but more unlikely things have happened. 

RABBIT!: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for January 2023

Yesterday, I watched the Hololive COUNTDOWN LIVE 2022▷2023. It involved 3D concert performances by a variety of members including two of my faves, the currently COVID-stricken Haachama and the on-hiatus La+ Darknesss. I highly recommend it, especially the crossover sections between the girls of Hololive and the boys of Holostars. This clearly takes some inspiration from Japan’s long-standing end-of-year musical event, Kohaku Uta Gassen, but I’ve never actually watched it.

Looking back, it didn’t hit me how long the past year felt until I saw Kio Shimoku mention that Hashikko Ensemble concluded back in January of 2022. At times, it’s like the days move by all too quickly, and other times, it’s like they slow to a crawl. I can’t tell at this point how much of it is the prolonged funk of the pandemic and how much is just me getting older.

But here we are at the start of 2023 and the Year of the Rabbit, at least if we’re going by the solar calendar. Whenever I think about it, I find myself remembering a certain old flash video from the 2000s. Thankfully, someone uploaded it to Youtube, so I can inflict it on a new generation.

January’s Patreon subscribers are looking good. Thank you, everyone, and here’s to another fine (?) year.

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy

Naledi Ramphele

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from December:

Elegy of Fire and Metal: A Tribute to Mizuki Ichiro

Paying respects to one of the greatest singers in all of anime who passed away.

Hololive 3D Concerts and Bringing Different Fans Together

This is partly an analysis of how different fans have different expectations for their VTuber faves, and partly an excuse to post more videos of La+ Darkness’s amazing dancing skills.

Prospera Mercury, She Is a Char

How the mom in Gundam: The Witch from Mercury nails that Char Aznable feel.

And normally, I only pick three highlights, but I must mention that I’ve selected my anime characters of the year.

Kio Shimoku

Kio’s tweets mostly show his model-building progress and his thoughts on the 2022 World Cup.

Apartment 507

Chainsaw Man Anime vs. Manga.

Closing

At the start of the year, I feel myself wondering if I should be doing more both with Ogiue Maniax and outside of it. One thing I’ve thought about is starting a Substack, but I have no idea how I might divide my writing. In my head, there’s no real differentiation between “regular” posts and “premium” ones, and I’d probably have to figure out some way to make it worthwhile. One possibility is to break off the VTuber stuff into its own dedicated area in case it’s becoming too intrusive, but I don’t think it’s that bad currently.

I could also do premium posts on Patreon, but that sort of runs into the same issue. If anyone wants to see that sort of content (or if you even hate the idea), feel free to leave a comment. I think I care less about the money at this point and wonder more about how to promote Ogiue Maniax in 2023. All the old ways seem to be vanishing (and Twitter is constantly on the verge of collapse because of its moronic new boss), and I still haven’t caught up.

Whichever ways things go, though, I hope you’ll keep reading.

Best Anime Characters of 2022

BEST MALE CHARACTER

Bojji (Ranking of Kings)

In a massively oversaturated field of boy adventurers and princes with great destinies, it’s easy for a hero to get lost in the shuffle. But that suits that perpetually underestimated Bojji just fine. Deaf and undersized (especially for the son of giants), the hero of Ranking of Kings is one of the finest examples of a protagonist to ever grace the world of anime because of how his combination of cleverness, grit, and a loving heart work as one. What’s most impressive is that while he has a disability, it’s not used as inspiration porn for the able-bodied. Bojji develops himself in specific ways due to the particular challenges he faces, and he is neither wholly defined by them nor portrayed as if they don’t matter. He’s a character who will stand the rest of time.

BEST FEMALE CHARACTER

Power (Chainsaw Man)

There are very few characters that have made as immediate an impact on me in their first appearance, and even fewer who can make me laugh the way Power can. From her slightly archaic manner of speech, to the way she clearly doesn’t think through most things, to her penchant for violence and undeserved self-aggrandizement, Power is a lot to handle. But it’s in the strange yet continuously growing bond between her and Denji that she reveals what can sort of charitably be called a softer side—though it’s more like she’s the type not to care about anything beyond herself until she recognizes it as affecting her emotionally. I love her antics, and I hereby nominate Power for a Nobel Prize in Being Rad.

BEST UNCLE

Uncle (Uncle from Another World)

Here is a character who speaks to me on a deep and powerful level. His love of Sega is second to none, the combination of reclusive awkwardness, gamer brain, and a caring heart (that doesn’t always come across in the best way) makes him an amazing combination of gag character and hero. I’m extremely biased for a variety of reasons, and Uncle was a hair’s breadth away from also being the best male character of the year, but I felt it was more fitting to dedicate a category just to him for 2022.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It was a seriously tough decision picking my two favorite characters of the year. I had to think a lot about the balance between the characters that are closest to my heart vs. those who impressed me the most, and any slight reordering of priorities would have titled the scales in other characters’ favors. In fact, I think 2022 was an unusually strong year for characters in anime, and in some cases, I even held back because I expect them to do amazing things in 2023 as their shows continue. But an entire year is a long time, and I feel like there might be some upsets on the horizon.