The Safe Yandere

I’ve been thinking about what I call “safe yandere,” or alternately “yandere aesthetic.”

Yandere character fetish feeds off many things. The notion of a character who’s so in love with another that she turns into a crazed axe murderer (and that this is a good thing!) is at the same time obvious and complex. It’s a realm of fantasy that, in my estimation, works by essentially being so hyper exaggerated as to feel real—like how food for astronauts is made extra spicy because the sense of taste is dulled in space.

Because yandere characters come primarily from media like anime, manga, and visual novels, there are many visual shortcuts to convey that quality. The thousand-yard stare, the creepy smile, the icons of sadism, and so on make portraying a yandere in a single drawing perfectly possible. What this also means is that this aesthetic can be extracted and placed onto characters who aren’t necessarily trying to trap their significant others in cement so that they can be together forever.

The first example that stands out to me is Jabami Yumeko in Kakegurui. She has all the visual hallmarks of a yandere, except she directs that primal energy towards the art of gambling instead of a person. She doesn’t take pleasure in hurting others so much as she does mutually experiencing the torrent of emotions that stir when everything is on the line. 

Another is the teasing girl. They’re not exactly yandere—more like a midway point between that and tsundere—but they can serve a somewhat similar function. Nagatoro might be the most well known at this point, and her sneers evoke a kind of pain/pleasure combo that aligns with the general yandere for vibe. 

The last example actually comes from the world of VTubers. The Hololive zombie girl Kureijii Ollie has a visual presentation that is very reminiscent of yandere, especially in the eyes, but her personality is far from it. I suspect that this contrast is part of her charm, though, and a reason she’s so popular. Incidentally, another Hololive member, Ceres Fauna is sort of the opposite: Her appearance is gentle but her words and demeanor can get yandere, especially in ASMR streams.

I don’t think separating out the visual component of yandere is a bad thing—far from it, in fact. It gives people the opportunity to assess themselves and what they enjoy, allowing for greater personal discovery. It also reminds me a bit of what has happened to the concept of vampires. Some people just want a specific sub-flavor of hotness, and that is okay.

I don’t know if we’ll reach a point where the definition of yandere has fundamentally changed and it goes towards the safe yandere. I doubt it, given the continued popularity of characters like Toga Himiko from My Hero Academia. But like so many things, I’d rather people be able to remember that this transformation has occurred rather than wholly adhere to some specific definition. History is important, even that of the yandere.

(And technically, all fictional yandere are safe precisely because they remain in the realm of fiction. Though that does mean VTubers can blur that line…)

Inugami Korone, Taira Isao, and My Fandom History

As a Virtual Youtuber, Inugami Korone has always been known to march to the beat of her own drum. From doing flips and cartwheels during the biggest Hololive events to squealing with glee over a fishing game getting ported to the Switch, you never quite know what to expect from her. Even knowing this, however, nothing could have prepared me for one of the special guests at her 4th Anniversary Concert: mecha anime singer Taira Isao.

I both saw and heard Taira as he came in on the second verse of the Galaxy Gale Braiger opening, and my jaw dropped. In a world where a cameo by a VTuber from a rival company is a big deal in itself (something Korone also included), to have such an established name and fan favorite is a boss move like practically no other. And on top of that, I would have expected at most to see him on the screen behind Korone, but there he was, standing next to her and sounding as amazing as ever.

Taira is not necessarily the biggest name among musicians of giant robot anime, but the songs he has under his belt occupy a sweet spot: somewhat obscure, beloved by hardcore fans, and actually incredible tunes. Other songs he’s performed are the openings to Trider G7, Daiohja, and Ideon, the last of which he also sang with Korone. In fact, Taira first became aware of Korone specifically because she sang “Fukkatsu no Ideon” during her 2022 birthday concert. 

A number of significant names in anime and game music have collaborated with Hololive, but Taira is perhaps the most personally significant thus far. Owing to my love of giant robots and my more recent interests in VTubers, I maintain an unorganized Youtube playlist called the rather self-explanatory “Virtual Youtubers Singing Giant Robot Anime Songs.” 

But my fondness for the singers of Taira’s generation has been with me for 20 years. Back in the mid-2000s before Youtube even was a thing, I was enthusiastically discovering and discussing video clips of live performances of musicians like Mizuki Ichiro, Kageyama Hironobu, and indeed Taira Isao. Through these concert videos, I bonded with friends online; in fact, this is how I first came to know my fellow mecha enthusiast and mahjong partner-in-crime, Dave, before we ever met offline. To see Taira show up with Korone, still snazzily dressed and still looking incredibly good for his age, feels like a culmination of various bits and pieces of my own history as an anime fan.

Even now, I find myself re-watching the 4th Anniversary performances of Braiger and Ideon music, and it actually reminds me of how I felt whenever a really good character trailer happened in Smash Ultimate. I’d watch the reveals over and over again to relive the excitement of the initial reveals, and to just remind myself that they’re real. It makes sense when you think about Tairas’ performance with Korone being a similar kind of hype crossover. 

How will Korone top herself next time? I’m looking forward to seeing what less-traveled road she takes. 

Trigun Stampede, Cowboy Bebop, and Scrapbook Worlds

When Studio Orange announced that they were making Trigun Stampede, I was pleasantly surprised. Trigun is a title that a lot of anime and manga fans around the turn of the 21st century cut their teeth on—I myself remember seeing it thanks to my school’s anime club. However, aside from a singular film in the form of 2010’s Trigun: Badlands Rumble, it hasn’t gotten much love, and it also isn’t as enduring in the general fandom consciousness as Cowboy Bebop. To be fair to both, they’re only vaguely similar, but they did come out around the same time and were anime convention staples together for years.

But here was a new Trigun TV series, and what’s more, it was clear that Trigun Stampede was going for an updated aesthetic. Anyone who’s familiar with the manga or anime remembers the iconic look of hero Vash the Stampede in his signature red trench coat and ultra-spiky hair—and both have been significantly altered for this remake. As I watched it, one thing became clear: While a lot of elements are similar to the 1990s anime, the story had been rearranged in noticeable ways. Where the previous iteration has a 50/50 balance of slapstick comedy via larger-than-life personalities and twist-filled science-fiction drama, Stampede is a lot more focused on telling a serious story. That said, I didn’t mind the changes, and was able to take all the changes in stride and appreciate them on their own terms. 

But as I was going over how I feel about Stampede, a thought occurred to me. Why is it that I was able to easily accept a different Trigun, yet the very idea of a new anime remake of Cowboy Bebop feels wrong? I’m not even someone who reveres Cowboy Bebop as a sacred cow, though I think it’s excellent in many ways. (I know there’s the live-action Cowboy Bebop, but I consider adaptations like that their own separate topic regardless of quality, so I‘m setting that aside.)

What I think the difference comes down to is just the way each series generally approaches storytelling. Cowboy Bebop is like a finely tuned machine, intricate and delicately balanced to give a very specific experience. Removing even one or two gears can throw the entire thing off, and overhauling it entirely feels pointless. Trigun, on the other hand, comes across as more of a scrapbook. Narratives can still be formed, but the strengths of the individual elements are more important, and they can be rearranged in different ways.

This brings to mind an old favorite topic of mine: the contrast between “character” and kyaraas written about by manga scholar Ito Go. Essentially, character is how a figure exists within their greater story, whereas kyara is how much of their identity can be maintained if divorced from their original context. I think neither Cowboy Bebop nor Trigun are severely lacking in either category, but the former has a relatively stronger  emphasis on character, while the latter focuses more on kyara

It’s why Trigun Stampede can be this more somber experience wholly lacking in things like a wacky black cat who makes cameos and meows a lot, yet still identifiably be Trigun. In fact, this new series can often feel like Trigun leaning in the direction of Cowboy Bebop without thoughtlessly aping it. So even though there’s a sequel to Stampede on the way that will actually incorporate more of the 1990s Trigun look, the new groundwork laid out makes me look forward to seeing both how similar and how different things get. And despite the fact that the franchise has its origins in the 1990s, I can’t help but wonder if the pacifist nature of Vash might actually resonate harder among fans today.

Randori Acts of Friendship: “Ippon” Again!

Anime is no stranger to judo, with titles like Yawara! being perennial favorites in Japan. “Ippon” Again! isn’t quite the same kind of work, but what it does do is successfully mix the joy of slice-of-life-adjacent everyday friendship with the emotional journeys that are a hallmark of sports-themed titles, resulting in a series that thrills just as much as it comforts. In other words, “Ippon” Again! is a series about cute girls doing judo where they actually do judo.

The title is a pun: In Japanese, mou ippon can mean “one more round,” but ippon is also the most points that can be scored by a single move in competitive judo. The main character, an energetic teen girl named Michi, loves judo—particularly the part where you land sweet throws and really lay the opponent on their back. But no matter what, she’s never been able to score an ippon in competition. She finishes middle school with this dream unfulfilled and a decision to quit judo in high school, but when she finds out her final opponent at her last tournament is one of her classmates, she gets drawn back into the world she loves so much. Together, they begin to re-establish the school’s defunct judo club.

“Ippon” Again! definitely takes its judo seriously, and it’s all the better for it. Like so many good sports series, it has an endearing core cast each of whom have their own reasons for practicing judo (or not, as the case may be), and they bring their training and their aspirations onto the mat against a variety of interesting opponents. The action is well executed, with high tension and fluid animation that make movement and techniques feel impactful. This is a more grounded portrayal of a sport, less Kuroko’s Basketball and more Haikyu! Yes, Michi has a tendency to shout out the names of her attacks, but that’s just a personal quirk of her direct and eager personality. The result is an anime that wants to show how much its characters grow both in practice and in the spotlight.

The overall feel reminds me a lot of one of my current favorite manga, the karate series Mabataki Yori Hayaku!!. While the characters and their dynamics aren’t quite the same (one features an experienced judo player protagonist while the other stars a karate neophyte, for example), it’s safe to say that if you like one, you’ll probably like the other. It’s also personally fascinating to see how similar yet different the scoring systems are based on the throwing-focused judo versus the striking-based karate, but your mileage may vary. Another title of a similar vein is Bamboo Blade, although “Ippon” Again feels a bit less prone to exaggeration and wacky personalities. 

I don’t know whether “Ippon” Again! is supposed to be a glorified ad for judo. Even if it is, I don’t really mind. It‘s a nice, solid story that delivers on everything it sets out to portray, and seeing the team get closer and come into their own is an absolute joy. There’s a lot more manga, and I hope we get to see it further adapted into manga.

Memoriam-o-rama: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for April 2023

April is cherry blossoms in Japan, and their fleeting nature is associated with an aesthetic valuing of the ephemeral in Japanese culture. I normally don’t get all poetic about it, but recent events have me reminiscing and feeling the passage of time. One month after the death of Matsumoto Leiji, one of my favorite character designers, Kimura Takahiro, passed away. Ash Ketchum is being retired as the lead of the Pokemon after two decades. Not one but two VTubers are graduating: Heavenly King Mirai Akari and Pikamee Amano, one of the lights of the early COVID pandemic. And just today we learned that Sakamoto Ryuichi of Yellow Magic Orchestra passed on the 28th of March—the second member to go this year after Takahashi Yukihiro.

To my April Patreon subscribers, thank you:


Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado



Sue Hopkins fans:


Hato Kenjirou fans:


Yajima Mirei fans:


Blog highlights from March:

Farewell to One of Anime’s Great Character Designers: RIP Kimura Takahiro

I was devastated.

La+ Darknesss: Hololive’s Tiny Dancer Extraordinaire

My attempt to explain why I love La+’s dancing so much.

Pallet Cleanser: The End of Ash Ketchum as Pokemon Protagonist

Looking back on 20+ years of Pokemon anime, and Ash’s ride into the sunset.

Kio Shimoku

Kio tweeted a lot about Spotted Flower this past month because the latest volume came out on the 31st.

Apartment 507

My thoughts on Akiba Maid War.


Another new season of anime is upon us?! Already?! And it’s filled with a ridiculous amount of highly anticipated shows??!!

Rock and Roll Sometimes and Party Never: Bocchi the Rock!

I’m a little late to the Bocchi the Rock! party. I saw the positive reactions every week, from the discussion to the clips of creative animation to the fanart, yet I still decided to wait. Having now watched the entire season of the anime, I understand what the hype is all about. In the perennially popular genre of “cute girls doing things,” Bocchi remains anything but static. 

Gotou Hitori is a girl who wishes to make friends but suffers from severe anxiety. Upon seeing a band play on TV, she gets a brilliant idea: If she can become a great guitarist, she can stay shy and reticent and have people come to her instead. As with all best-laid plans, however, she remains lonely through middle school and into high school even as she hones her skills and even started a music channel on a social media platform. When all hope seems lost, Hitori gets roped in by two girls around her age who have started a band of their own and are desperate to find a last-minute replacement for their missing bandmate. It’s her chance to shine, though first she has to deal with her biggest fear: actual social interaction. Noticing her personality, Hitori’s new acquaintances nickname her “Bocchi,” or “lonesome.”

With a show like this, there was always a possibility that Bocchi’s social anxiety would be treated pras a kind of characterization seasoning; many anime only go so far. But it becomes immediately obvious that even though her panicking is portrayed with some levity, the anime is not treating Bocchi’s emotions frivolously. From her frustrations to her tendency to catastrophize, everything feels painfully genuine.

There’s an example that hits particularly close to home for me: Bocchi initially tries to make friends by displaying band stickers on her stuff and carrying around her guitar so that others might notice and strike up a conversation. As soon as I saw this, I could feel myself cringe as I remembered doing similar things at her age. While I never had Bocchi’s debilitating levels of anxiety, I distinctly recall putting anime merchandise on my bag, and maybe even playing my music a little loud so that someone might recognize “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” and the like. And just like with Bocchi, I learned that this never works. 

(As an aside, whenever I see people with anime goods these days, I don’t say anything out of fear of being too old or overstepping boundaries. Ahh…)

Bocchi the Rock! could have easily remained in this space of comedic suffering—what I refer to as the moe of tiny tragedies. But what gives the anime real legs is that it depicts Bocchi’s imperfect progress towards overcoming her issues. Specifically, it shows how her relationship with music and her gradually strengthening connections with her bandmates work in tandem to help Bocchi come out of her shell. The fact that it’s often a matter of “two steps forward, one step back” only makes her journey feel more authentic.

Given the premise of Bocchi the Rock!, it draws an inevitable comparison to one of the most titanic cute-girls series of the past 20 years: K-On! Both are works capable of providing comfort to its viewers and inspire them to take up music, but they’re as different as a Swedish massage versus a deep-tissue massage. The former is a soothing experience meant to invigorate (K-On!) while the latter hurts so that it can heal (Bocchi the Rock!). This contrast is evident in their protagonists. Hirasawa Yui is a silly and cheerful sort who can never remain sad for long, while Bocchi is a gigantic bundle of frayed nerves. It makes me wonder if Bocchi the Rock! might resonate better with a current-day audience than K-On! would if it first aired in 2022 instead of 2009. 

So I’m definitely a fan now. It’s a series that hits hard in so many unexpected ways, and in that regard, I actually think there’s a moment in the opening that perfectly encapsulates its essence. As the opening draws to a close, there’s a closeup of Bocchi at school just staring while the shot zooms in very, very slowly. There’s no “animation” to speak of, yet it conveys the tempestuous turmoil behind her eyes and the difficult inner journey she faces. It’s amazing that something so simple contains so much power—that’s Bocchi the Rock! in a nutshell.

Pallet Cleanser: The End of Ash Ketchum as Pokemon Protagonist

This past week marked one of anime’s biggest departures ever, as Ash Ketchum—aka Satoshi—has ended his 26-year tenure as the main hero of Pokemon. It’s amazing to think about how the character has been such an enduring presence in the lives of millions of people for over two decades, all without being wholly remade and revised. Other heroes in other franchises might arguably have greater legacies, but the fact that it was consistently the same Ash week in and week out makes for one fascinating and continuous chain of history.

It’s been many, many years since I was actively part of the Pokemon fandom. I naturally didn’t know about it when it first came out in Japan, but for all practical purposes I was there from the beginning. I remember getting a little pamphlet about Pokemon in an issue of Nintendo Power, and as I anticipated its arrival, I managed to even catch the sneak peek “Battle Aboard the St. Anne” episode that aired the week before the first episode aired in the US. For maybe five or more years, I would record every episode on VHS, and the times I had to program the VCR, I tried to time breaks in the recording to preserve space so I could fit more on each tape. I’ve long since stopped doing that, or watch Pokemon on a regular basis, but I can never forget those early days.

Ash was never my favorite Pokemon character, and for the fellow fans I interacted with online, it was largely the same. The reason: a lot of the people I talked to I met either through the competitive scene (years before the founding of Smogon) or via a Team Rocket messageboard. In the former case, people were not fans of Ash’s nonsensical battles or inability to understand the type chart despite his successes. In the latter, it’s because a site dedicated to Team Rocket would naturally run ever-so-slightly edgy and prefer older characters. For me, it’s just because he was a pretty decent but generic kids’ anime protagonist—a plain rice ball (or donut, as it were) in a world of more compelling stories. 

But there‘s something special about being that hero for so many people for so long. And while many of his accomplishments were often tied to meta events (e.g. Gary Oak/Shigeru’s Japanese voice actor leaving the show is why they ended up having their big 6v6 clash in the Johto Pokemon League), the sheer amount of things Ash managed to achieve is impressive. A character who could have gone on forever unchanging still leaves behind one hell of a CV. 

A big factor in why there was a sense of progress with Ash was because of the way he would go from one region to the next in accordance with game sequels. While the basic formula of “meet new friends, have adventures, get gym badges” was always present, he never stayed in the same area for long, and he always met new people. And while fans would often remark on the way his skill and knowledge would seemingly go backwards every time he started a new path to a Pokemon League, it’s clear that his inability to retain knowledge is not necessarily a matter of poor character writing or insufficient lore consistency and more a way to keep him level with the new fans who still come to the series even now. Ash is as much a vessel as he is a protagonist, and he could never be a vessel for everyone at the same time.

One thing I always found funny is the fact that some of Ash’s greatest wins and titles came about in “filler arcs,” the seasons that took place between main-game storylines. This is why he’s the Orange League champion, the Frontier Champion, and most recently the winner of the Masters Eight tournament (solidifying him as the strongest trainer in the world). He also won the Galar Pokemon League, but in hindsight, it’s clearly because they knew they were about to start winding down Ash’s story and they wanted to show much he had grown. I remember thinking, all the way back in the late 90s, about how a main-line gold medal would likely someday be the sign that Pokemon was going to conclude. While the anime will continue with new leads, it really is the end of an era. 

Now the perennial 10-year-old gets to go off and do things unseen, and it makes me wonder if we’ll ever see him again. Might Ash make cameo appearances down the road, and will he look different or even possibly…older? It’s a new and unknown world.

Thoughts I Have After Watching “Raven of the Inner Palace”

Raven of the Inner Palace is an intriguing fantasy anime with shades of one of my favorite shows ever, Twelve Kingdoms, but mixed with the vibes of a series like Natsume’s Book of Friends or Mushi-shi. The main heroine, a girl known as the Raven Consort, works in the inner environment of a great palace, using her supernatural abilities to solve mysteries like an occult detective. Its combination of elements and its overall compelling nature make me think about various assorted aspects of the series, each of which I want to briefly expand upon. There’s no real organization to these thoughts. 

Chinese Fantasy vs. European Fantasy

The world of Raven of the Inner Palace is not actually China, but the series takes a lot from Chinese culture and mythology. It’s certainly not alone in this regard (Twelve Kingdoms also falls in this category), but it stands out in my mind because of how much “Ancient China” is an aesthetic (especially in fiction coming out of Asia in general), and how much it parallels/contrasts with the default European look that typifies fantasy series of a certain kind. “China-esque” is a whole artistic motif that is less prominent in the West, but the fact that the Chinese Wuxia BL novels have been such a hit makes me wonder if Raven of the Inner Palace (itself originally a light novel series) might also get increasingly popular.

Girls Often Make for Better Audience Stand-In Characters

In terms of being vehicles for wish fulfillment, Raven of the Inner Palace isn’t an exception. It’s primarily geared towards female readers, with the heroine Liu Shouxue (or Ryuu Juusetsu, depending on if you prefer Chinese or Japanese pronunciation) being a cool and powerful sorcerer who gets involved both professionally and emotionally with a kind and handsome emperor. But even knowing this, Shouxue comes across as a well-conceived and well-written character who is actually enjoyable to witness. 

I think one of the big differences is that the male counterparts in series geared towards guys tend to be either more insufferable or carry qualities that just make them less appealing overall. I can see why the emperor or anyone else would fall for Shouxue, and it helps render her as an individual who can carry her own weight in the narrative. On the other hand, so many light novel protagonists seem to just kind of be there, with a handful of quirks cobbled together into a makeshift personality.

Cool Eunuchs???

In Chinese culture and entertainment, eunuchs are often not portrayed in a favorable light. The very reason Chinese emperors used eunuchs is because their inability to procreate supposedly meant that they could care for the concubines without surreptitiously siring children with them, but they also became major parts of inner-palace politics as a result. Thus, eunuchs are traditionally portrayed as weirdly effeminate and conniving schemers who also smell.

However, Raven of the Inner Palace, eunuchs are some of the most awesome characters around. Unpleasant emasculation is interpreted as bishounen coolness, and I can’t help but think about whether this is the product of Chinese-inspired fantasy being processed through anime and manga aesthetic.

The Last Thing: Chekhov’s Chicken

There’s a chubby bird that lives with Shouxue that is mainly comic relief, but I had a feeling from the start that it’s important in some way. I call it “Chekhov’s Chiken,” and I just wanted to mention this nickname so that others use it as well.

Farewell to One of Anime’s Great Character Designers: RIP Kimura Takahiro

I normally don’t write about the death of anime and manga figures that often, preferring to save it for people I feel have influenced me in major ways. But here we are again with animator and character designer Kimura Takahiro, who passed away on March 5 from amyloidosis. He was 58.

Kimura worked on series like Gaogaigar, Betterman, Godannar!!, Brigadoon: Marin & Melan, , Gun x Sword, and Code Geass. As far as character designers go, he is one of my favorite ever. His style is distinct, and he would give his designs a real attractiveness and charisma. Are they drawn pretty horny? Certainly, but somehow that aesthetic feels both very grounded in the 90s but also timeless. His art touched so many of the series I love, and I still consider Aoi Anna from Godannar a Top 10 fave among female characters.

I never got to meet Kimura in person, and I think about this because of the fact that he was a guest at Sakura Con in 2006 and Anime NYC 2019. In both cases, circumstances made it impossible for me to see him, and now I wish I could have figured something out. 

I found out the news of Kimura’s death thanks to a tweet from his wife, the artist RICCA—I guess this is how I learned the guy was married. Also, Kimura apparently loved to search his own name, and RICCA mentions that he’s probably watching from heaven and loving the attention.

And here’s a message from the director of Gaogaigar, Yonetani Yoshitomo, recalling the cosplay wedding party Kimura had back in the day. Apparently, Yonetani and Kimura not only sat next to each other at work, but also lived right next door from each other.

Thank you, Kimura Takahiro. You were one of my heroes.

Rediscovering the Sea of Stars: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for March 2023

The end of last month hit with some tough news as the world learned that Matsumoto Leiji had passed away at the age of 85. I’m still thinking about what an end of an era that is, and I’ve been spending time with his works. In addition to finally watching more Space Battleship Yamato 2202, I decided to revisit my favorite anime of all time, 1979’s Galaxy Express 999. It’s as gorgeous as the day I first saw it.

Thanks to my March Patreon subscribers:


Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado



Naledi Ramphele

Sue Hopkins fans:


Hato Kenjirou fans:


Yajima Mirei fans:


Blog highlights from February:

I Almost Forgot the Power of Tsundere, or “Ogiue and Me”

Thinking about tsundere in 2023, and the long-term appeal of Ogiue.

Don’t Watch on an Empty Stomach: Delicious Party Precure

Great and inspiring show, but it’ll make you hungry as heck.

New Paths: Pokemon Violet

The most fun Pokemon game in a long time.

Kio Shimoku

Kio posted a ton of awesome Genshiken art this month.

Apartment 507

Hype for the Rokudo no Onna-tachi anime!


As stated last time, it’s the dawn of the final month for Love Live! School Idol Festival. The queen is dead; long live the queen.