Welcome back! With one holiday wrapped up and another right around the corner life is busy for me this time of year! I hope your holidays were enjoyable even if you don’t personally celebrate, and I hope your 2022 was a step in a good direction for you all! Picking up where we last left off, it’s time to talk some more about my favorite anime!
#7: The Devil Is A Part-Timer!
Squeaking into our #7 spot we have another comedy anime: The Devil is a Part Timer. Often times when deciding what anime to watch next it takes me a really long time to settle on one. For whatever reason the act of starting a new anime takes a ton of mental energy from me, and I still have a good five anime that I want to watch but haven’t gotten around to yet. However as soon as I read the premise for this show I immediately began watching it; it’s just that damn funny of a set up. The Demon King Satan of a medieval and magical world called Ente Isla is set on conquering the world, but is stopped by the hero Emilia. He and his general are forced to retreat, creating a portal to another world. In doing so, they end up in modern day Tokyo, and because magic isn’t really a thing here they’ve lost most of their magical powers. In order to survive, Satan takes up a new name and begins working… as an employee at a McDonalds equivalent. The idea of a powerful Demon King being forced to live a normal life going paycheck to paycheck as an employee at a fast food restaurant is such a strange and hilarious concept that I just HAD to check it out. Along the way he befriends a co-worker at MgRonalds named Chiho that develops a crush on him, and as things from Ente Isla end up spilling into the ‘real world’, she ends up getting sucked into all of it.
A lot of this shows strength simply comes from how well it delivers on such a ridiculous setup. The various Demon Lords and Holy Warriors that gradually show up from Ente Isla all having differing versions of culture shock and how they overcome them is interesting and funny, but that’s not the sole point of the comedy. The Demons attempting to research magic in the world and investigating various leads will sometimes create humorous situations, and even some of the actual fights that happen in the show have some great comedic aspects to them. One of my favorite scenes is at the end of Satan and Emi’s fight with Lucifer terrified at the smackdown he’s about to receive, even though the things Satan talks about aren’t exactly intimidating. “If I’m late to work today, it’s all your fault! If I lose my perfect attendance bonus because of you you’re gonna regret it!” I know with humor being subjective it’s hard to quantify why the comedy in this show works, but most of the humor in this show lands well, at least for me it did.
Narratively speaking there isn’t a ton aside from the stellar set up and some of the shenanigans that happens because of Enta Isla. As the story goes on things from Ente Isla keep showing up to get in the way of Satan (now Sadao Maou). Assassins try to hunt him down, the Hero ends up chasing him through the portal here and also gets stranded, and some angels even show up from time to time. However most of the ‘plot’ just serves to facilitate the humor of the show, and as I mentioned with Ouran in my last entry, that’s okay. While it would be nice to have a good story in all the shows we watch, sometimes it just isn’t really all that important for a show to be enjoyable.
Aesthetically speaking the show does alright, but it’s really not something worth noting. The characters look good, the music mostly just does its task without standing out, the voice acting is fine in both Dub and Sub but neither of them had performances that really stood out to me. I know it’s a bit boring, but there really isn’t a ton to say about this show from a Presentation standpoint, except for one detail that boosted its score. You might not know this if you don’t watch commentaries on shows like I do but the Ente Isla language that is spoken isn’t them just speaking latin or anything like that. They actually created their own miniature language for the show, and the English dub followed suit and made their own as well rather than copying the Enta Isla language the sub VAs used. It’s an easy to miss detail but I absolutely love smaller world-building details like that, they really help make the experience all the more authentic.
Between the forces of the Demons and the church from Ente Isla, as well as Chiho who is stuck in the middle, there is fairly wide cast of characters will extremely different personalities. Many of them have rather extreme character traits that clash with one another, often to comedic effect, and do a good job of making each individual character stand out. There are some minor arcs that take place with the cast but overall they’re fairly static over the course of the show. Essentially most of the character are done well but there’s not too much to expect here.
All in all this show is a great show to get some laughs out of. You can count on consistent humor, consistent quality in most aspects, and a general good time to be had. It also has one of the great benefits of having a second season almost 10 years after the first season, with a 3rd season dropping in 2023! And perhaps most surprisingly, the second season is really good too! Rarely do we see that happen… really ever. Regardless of show format, shows that have been in limbo that long rarely get out of it, and when they rarely do it’s usually in a completely different direction or of a much lower quality.
#6: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Yes I consider this show an anime and no I won’t be hearing any complaints about its inclusion here. As you can see by the score we’re getting into some of the ‘heavy hitters’ now. Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) is a show you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone over the age of fifteen that hasn’t heard of it. Many content creators on YouTube that discuss writing advice use this show as an example when discussing how to deliver on various literary concepts.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the Narrative of this show. You see ATLA has an extremely wide demographic ranging from children to adults: most of us OG fans watched it when it was first airing on Nickelodeon and it was rated TV-Y7 (meaning for kids aged 7 and up). In doing this it has a really tricky task of taking on some serious real world themes and problems in a way that will appeal to older viewers without disturbing, scaring or confusing a younger audience. Concepts like trauma, emotional manipulation, abusive familial bonds, war, genocide and losing loved ones are all presented in this show, yet it’s done so in a way that properly shows the severity of these ideas without lingering or focusing on them more than is needed. Many shows aimed at a younger audience would gloss over those details or explaining it with a ‘joke’ in order to ensure the characters and audience never think about it, but ATLA respects its setting and audience too much to do that. Watching the show as a kid I clearly remember being able to understand all of these concepts they presented without being freaked out by them, and the show never feels like it’s talking down to its audience or dumbing things down in order to explain it in a way for the younger viewers to grasp.
Aside from the various concepts and themes, the plot itself is also well crafted. It starts out quite slow in season one, with a clear goal established from the onset that the cast is constantly working towards. “Aang must master all four elements so that he can defeat the Fire Lord and save the world.” Whilst not every episode advances this particular goal, every episode serves the overall story. Even more ‘filler’ episodes tend to do a good job of fleshing out the setting, the characters and some of the core philosophies the show is presenting. The major story beats are fittingly epic with major consequences following the arcs resolution. The only real points against this show here is that while everything it does here is good, and several parts are excellent, the show has several portions that are just ‘okay’; it doesn’t suck me in and keep me invested from start to finish. Season one in particular feels really slow and I genuinely have a hard time not skipping episodes in the season when I re-watch this show.
As for presentation this show does great across the board. The music sells the setting well and fits the mood of each scene. Visually speaking this show is beautiful, especially the bending. I love how stylized the fights are, both from a purely aesthetic stand point but also in that the bending uses martial arts to add authenticity and physicality to what could otherwise be generic hurling of elements back and forth. Voice acting is also essentially perfect here. Really there are no short comings in this category except for the fact that there isn’t much that stands out as being perfect/amazing. Everything here is good but there isn’t much that will truly wow you. The only track I really remember sticking out is ‘The Last Agni Kai’, which for me was particularly memorable because it really respects the scene it’s playing at. Many other shows would have that fight play with epic music, but the scene is quite tragic and the somber music perfectly sells how sad it is that things ended up this way.
One could not properly voice the greatness of this show without discussing the Characters. The main cast is great from the start, and every new character that joins ‘Team Avatar’ is well characterized, unique, interesting and given a proper share of the spotlight. In the first season we have Aang, the childish but determined goofball with immense responsibility on his shoulders who’s just trying to adapt to a world that’s completely changed from before his hundred year slumber. He’s incredibly endearing and a pacifist at his core, preferring to settle things without violence and adamantly refusing to kill. Watching his ideals be challenged with meaningful consequences over the course of the show is great, seeing him hold on to his beliefs despite the adversity he faces and the setbacks it causes him is quite inspiring. And every major character in this show is just as fleshed out. I won’t dive into their characters as thoroughly here (otherwise we’d be here all week) but everyone I mention here has as much if not even more depth. Katara and Sokka are Aang’s first companions and they do a great job fleshing out the dynamics. Zuko is a phenomenal antagonist with one of the defacto best redemption arc in a series bar none. Iroh is a favorite of literally everyone that’s seen this show and brings levity, insight and compassion to the story. Toph, Azula, Suki, Mai, Ty Lee, and of course Appa and Momo. All of these characters are incredible, and in unique ways that really adds a ton to the series.
Really Avatar: The Last Airbender is a show that does something almost unthinkable. It’s a show that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age, even if you don’t typically enjoy ‘anime’, and does everything well. I could show this to both my parents and my young niece and feel confident they’d both enjoy it. The only ‘issue’ I have at all with the show is just that the first season takes a while to build up steam and doesn’t match the overall quality of the rest of the series, but everything the show does is so good that it really doesn’t detract all that much.
From one show I enjoyed greatly in my childhood to another we have Naruto. Whilst technically Naruto: Shippuden is a different series everyone I know refers to Naruto as both parts, with ‘Naruto’ being part one and ‘Shippuden’ being part two. Much like ATLA, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t heard of Naruto. Considered one of the ‘Big Three’ of Shonen anime at the time (the other two being Bleach and One Piece), it has a pretty wide spread reputation to it. However being one of the ‘Big Three’ in many ways was a downside for this show. For one, it meant that the creator had to constantly create manga ever week without any breaks. Shueisha, the manga company and its comic imprint Jump Comics that Naruto was published through, had one of the worst imaginable work environments for an aspiring manga creator to be in. I won’t go into that too much here, but there are two major factors that affected Naruto’s overall quality, and things I’ll be considering as I discuss this ranking. First, Shonen Jump was an anthology style manga released every week that would have a manga chapter from several different shonen. That meant that if your story was a part of this anthology you would have to produce a new manga every single week with no breaks ever because of the contracts. The second problem was that whilst Kishimoto had plans for when he wanted the story to end, Shueisha wouldn’t let him end it there because of the success of the series. This forced him to extend the series past where he intended it to go, and the final beats of Shippuden have some pretty sloppy parts where this is really evident. Ironically Naruto was also airing during a time where anime of its kind were being released weekly as well. This lead to times where the anime would ‘catch up’ to the manga and have to create entire season that were anime-only filler, and boy howdy was it apparent what was filler and what wasn’t.
With all that aside lets talk about the Presentation of Naruto. This show has no real short comings here. The music is iconic and feels authentic to the setting the show is creating; that of a world of Ninjas. Some of the tracks have even become an inside joke between my friends where we’ll jokingly sing the opening to some tracks when something serious happens. The art style is great and well stylized, while it isn’t as visually stunning as shows like Jujutsu Kaisen it’s also a much older show that still manages to look as amazing it does. The visual and sound designs of all the Jutsu’s the show uses is also top notch. It can be difficult to quantify that but essentially everything sounds ‘correct’. Additionally the ‘Hand Signs’ the characters used created almost a cultural phenomena similar to Dragon Balls ‘Kamehameha’. People were mimicking them for years, and I remember people in my school doing this all the time.
Narratively speaking this show has some really great story threads. Some of them admittedly didn’t get followed through on satisfyingly but a lot of the story points are set up well in advance with tons of build up and a satisfying pay-off. In particular a lot of the villains of the series have interesting arcs around them with a lot of hype and build up. The story also has a constant sense of progression throughout most of the show. Early on a goal for both the main character and his rivalry are well established, one wanting to be the Hokage (ninja president) and one wanting to be strong enough to kill his brother. As they move forward we can clearly see each of the steps they make to get stronger leading towards this goal. Late into Naruto the author also brilliantly uses these motivations to drive a massive hole in the status quo of the show in a way that’s effects are felt throughout the entirety of Shippuden. The two shortcomings of this show narratively speaking are some parts where threads didn’t reach satisfying conclusions and the filler. Fortunately the filler is extremely easy to skip when watching this show as it will be obvious from the first episode of a new season that this season is filler and you can skip it. There are also comprehensive lists you can find online of every filler episode. For me most of my issues with the narrative happen during the war arc, but the overall quality of this shows story is quite high even including that.
As for Characters, boy howdy did the show have great characters and character arcs for a large portion of the show, but then towards the end a lot of them take a nose dive. A ton of great characters get nearly 0 screen time for hundreds of episodes, which is the main reason why this category didn’t score higher. Gaara is one of my all time favorite characters in anime, and I enjoyed his character for some cool and interesting reasons. He starts out as a psychopathic killer, but unlike many villains turned heroes I loved him as both a villain and a hero. They also do a much more convincing job showing why he is the way he is and give him a sympathetic and understandable backstory than many other shows. Gaara showing up to save Rock Lee gave me goose bumps when I first saw that, and on top of it all I love his power set. I could list a good 20 characters in the show that are great, but like with ATLA I don’t wanna take up too much space. Some legitimate criticisms though are the notorious ‘talk no jutsu’, which in a few instances feel well earned and justified but other times feel like so out of character you can’t help but sigh. Many characters have amazing starts with good potential/trajectories that don’t end up being delivered on. In particular the female cast of this show tends to lose out in regards to fulfilling character arcs, and it’s a damn shame because almost every presented female character has tons of promise and potential. Overall there’s a lot to love with the cast, but be prepared for some of the ‘minor’ characters to get sidelined for the sake of focus on the main cast.
Fights in this series are quite incredible. Up until the end of shippuden fights are less about “who has the better arsenal” and more about who uses their arsenal better, which makes for some really dynamic and clever action sequences. Even some fights well into shippuden that are fairly late on still have interesting mechanics at play that require the combatants to think outside of the box to win. I think a great example of this is a smaller fight between Naruto and the reanimated 3rd Raikage. He has an ability that makes him impervious to any form of damage and a technique that allows his finger to pierce through and destroy everything in its path. It’s a seemingly invincible combo, and we see characters hit them with several really potent jutsus to no effect. However he has a scar on his chest from his battle with a powerful beast that by all accounts shouldn’t have been capable of damaging him. Naruto is finally able to piece together that his ultimate attack must have backfired and hit himself, and he uses this fact to defeat the enemy in a cool way, dodging the arm and then hitting it into him with his Rasengan.
Overall this show is a series near to my heart. It played a big part in the formative years of my life, it has a really fun and interesting world and power system it uses, and it’s full of amazing characters and conflict. Whilst the end of the series has some hiccups with power creep and story issues, it is still an extremely enjoyable package with a ton to love.
And… that’s a wrap! I hope you guys end up having a spectacular new year, and if you end up partying to bring it in I hope you do so responsibly. I’ve done a lot of introspection towards the end of the year, some of which in regards to the articles I’m writing and whether or not I wanna keep doing them going forward. The answer to that particular question is… yes, but I want go about it differently. I’ve learned a lot this year about myself and what writing means to me, and I want to keep pushing myself to improve as a writer. However this desire has caused me to often really stress over these articles I’m writing which, for all intents and purposes, should be a fun thing for me. All this is to say that I plan to keep writing articles weekly this coming year but I also plan to enjoy myself and the process a lot more. Hopefully it’ll translate to more enjoyable content for you guys to read! All this rambling aside, thank you all so much for reading, both this article and all the others, and stay healthy!