Why are cutesy, adorable, totally not my thing but I can’t stop watching it, anime so much fun to watch?

Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Maxed Out My Defense, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level anime

I love anime! It is an art form unto itself. There are some lines that anime crosses (Redo of Healer, for example… and I will never understand the brother/sister love thing) but overall, I can’t stop watching it. My wife doesn’t understand my obsession either (what spouse does) but I feel the same way about her obsession with “90-day Fiancé” so, we’re even.

I usually watch the more intense anime (Attack on Titan, Space Battleship Yamato, DemonSlayer) and love Isekai (transported to another world for those uninitiated) anime (Overlord, Reincarnated as a Slime, Jobless Reincarnation) but lately, I found myself drawn to cute anime. It’s weird, but I like watching it, mostly because they make me laugh… And yet, watching it feels so wrong.

I mean, here are cute, adorable characters put in hilarious situations that just makes me laugh. Their cuteness is almost sickening, and yet, I can’t take my eyes off of it. Take the tale of Maple in Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Maxed Out My Defense… The main character, Maple, is so OP (over-powered for any non-anime watchers) that its hilarious as to what trouble she gets into and how much more powerful she gets to get out of said situation. I mean, in a fantasy VRMMO (Virtual Reality Massively Multi-Player Online), she can transform into a giant monster or super-mech. Its so ridiculous its laughable, and I can’t help but enjoy it.

Another favorite of mine is Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and its just as adorable as it is catchy. I mean, the opening theme song alone is one of those mind-numbing tunes you can’t get out of your head. All of the dragons are so OP that even a simple game of four-square becomes competitive and dangerous (for the humans that is). I love it! In this one, I think its the heart-warming relationship between Miss Kobayashi, Tohru and the others. The dragons (in human form) don’t understand humans but they are learning about them through Kobayashi and her friends. And, for goodness sakes, who wouldn’t want a little dragon like Kanna for a daughter. She is so freakin’ adorable it isn’t funny!

Like I said, I know this is weird and I would probably be labeled a freak (or something worse) in most cultural norms, but it’s a fun addition to have. These anime are even more of an escape than the regular ones. In Attack on Titan or even My Hero Academia, there is a hint of surrealism within the fantasy element that puts you into these life or death situations. Even Sword Art Online, in all its fantasy video game world, make life and death real for the viewer. I dare you watch the death of the Moonlit Cats in Episode 3 (Red-Nosed Reindeer) and not cry even a little. Sachi just breaks your heart.

These cutesy anime are the breath of life, a little fun to escape the harsh reality of the world we live in. The violence, political sniping, racial tensions, and pandemic are swept aside when I watch anime like these. I laugh, and we all need to laugh to make our bad days brighter. Watching anime like these do that for me. The characters are relatable (at times) and yet human. For example, Fafnir in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is this all powerful dragon of darkness, willing to exterminate all human life. And yet, he is content to sit and eat curry (mild) and play video games all day and night with his roommate (Kobayashi’s otaku co-worker). The relationship between the two is a breath of fresh air and fun to watch.

They’re not cutesy, kid anime like Pokemon or Digimon. Even when my own children were small and watched these shows, I never got into them. They don’t have the same appeal to me as the anime today. I think, as my wife likes to remind me, I’m still a “big kid inside” and these anime bring that spirit out in me. She doesn’t like the fact that her husband still watches “cartoons” but this is different. Anime is on a whole other level and I believe I associate with it more, as many people today do. Like I said, to me, anime is an art form and should be appreciated and enjoyed.

So now, I’m waiting patiently for Season 2 of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and in the meantime, I found a new one to watch… an Isekai anime called I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level. I don’t know what it is, maybe the big, floppy witch’s hat, but this anime makes me laugh. I mean, she’s reborn in a new world as an immortal witch and just takes it easy by killing slime monsters for 300 years. Now, she’s so OP that her easy life is now fraught with danger. I love it, it’s freakin’ hilarious!

There are others like Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun, KonoSuba, and How Not to Summon a Demon Lord that are just as idiotic yet hypnotic to watch. Like I said, I don’t know what it is specifically about these anime but I just can’t get enough of them. You should watch them too! They’re good fun, and we all need that once in a while!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His next two fantasy novels, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart and The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series are being released in 2021.

The majesty of fantasy and scifi that is Sword Art Online

I know I’m going to get some hate mail from anime fans out there for this post. But, I am determined to write this anyway. I LOVE SAO! I’ve watched anime since the 60s, and nothing has struck home to me like Sword Art Online. It’s fantasy, sci-fi, and video games… All wrapped into one. Like I said, it’s everything packaged neatly together for any anime geek or nerd. I fell in love with this anime the first time I watched it … The settings, the characters, the storyline. 

I can’t explain what it is, but I think its like having a great ensemble cast in a movie. When a group of characters mesh so well together, it’s like magic. That’s the way I feel about these characters. By themselves, they are interesting on their own but not something to wrap a story around. That’s why together, I just can’t get enough.

For anyone reading this who never watch Sword Art Online, don’t wait, do it now. It’s great for binge watching. But just in case, here’s the basic plot. In 2022, a virtual reality massively multiplayer online role-playing game called Sword Art Online (SAO) is released. With the NerveGear, a helmet that stimulates the user’s five senses via their brain, players can experience and control their in-game characters with their minds. 10,000 players log into SAO’s mainframe cyberspace for the first time, only to discover that they are unable to log out. Akihiko Kayaba, the game’s inventor, appears and tells the players that they must beat the game if they wish to be free. He also states that those who suffer in-game deaths or forcibly remove the NerveGear out-of-game will suffer real-life deaths.

It’s from that single storyline that this world was created… The years spent in SAO, trapped through the NerveGear; beating the game and escaping; Alfheim Online and freeing Asuna; investigating Gun Gale Online (GGO) and mysterious deaths; and more. This anime has every storyline imaginable built into this world. The power and draw of SAO, to me, is the believably of these stories. Their villains are quite real, and downright scary. The love is true and honest, even if every girl in this anime are in love with one man. It’s a complete story, from start to finish. 

Wallpaper art, Sword art online, Sword Art Online, CAO, Kirito, Sinon  images for desktop, section сёнэн - download

There are storylines within the SAO universe that makes even a grown man like me cry. In the SAO II arc “Mother’s Rosario” it was discovered that a terminally ill girl was using the “full dive” VR system to keep her from feeling the pain brought on by her illness. She died in the VR world surrounded by her friends. It was one of the saddest moments in the series. I never thought I would cry watching an anime, but that did it.

The other thing that is rather intoxicating about SAO is the music. Anime theme music is some of the best out there. I have an entire playlist on Amazon of just anime theme music. Eir Aoi and Lisa are two of the best in Japan and their SAO theme songs are just incredible. I mean, Eir Aoi’s “Ignite” from SAO II is like a James Bond theme in anime form. Just watch the video and you’ll see what I mean. Even the music from the SAO movie, Ordinal Scale, was just amazing, especially the final song. Again, tears…

The latest arc, “Alicization” and “War of Underworld” has been phenomenal with a whole new VR world, new technology, new (and old) villains, and what appears to be a wonderful conclusion to this series. Like I said, if you haven’t watched it, do so. From the series to the movie, it’s a great ride for any fantasy/scifi fan!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse Publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Saturdays are the best day for anime because of My Hero Academia and GGO

dlbu_d0uiaagos5-1Most people would look forward to Saturdays because it meant the weekend, a day off, etc. Me… I look forward to Saturdays because that’s when the new episodes of “My Hero Academia” and “Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online” (GGO) air via Funimation and Crunchyroll, my two favorite anime channels! It’s like having my favorite Saturday Morning Cartoons like when I was a kid. These anime’s have heart, soul, and can be funny as hell. It’s amazing as to how entrenched I get into these shows, especially My Hero Academia.

I’ve been reading comic books since I was a kid. I actually wanted to be a comic book artist/writer when I was growing up. I wasn’t a good enough artist, but I still got to be a writer. Anyway, I’ve been reading teenage superhero stories, like forever, from The Legion of Superheroes to The New Mutants. Teenage superheroes dealing with their emerging powers and fighting super-villains has been a staple of comics for generations, but not like My Hero Academia.

First off, their powers are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Sure, there are some mainstays like super strength, fire and ice creation, etc., but there are some unique ones too that this shows makes out to be quite powerful. I mean, shooting tape out of your elbows, causing people to become immobile when you taste their blood (gross) are pretty out there. But the characters are rich, so much so that you want to know more about them. The stories are so intense and gripping, it’s hard to turn away from them.

42159On the opposite spectrum is GGO. Sword Art Online was the first modern anime I fell in love with, especially the GGO section in SAO2. The new GGO has so much more spunk than the original. The little “pink devil” known as Llenn is a munchkin with an attitude. In real life, she is a tall teenager, wanting to be shorter like the other girls her age. She gets her wish in the virtual world of GGO. There she meets another female player, Pito, who she finds out has a death wish she’s trying to fulfill.

GGO is so much fun. Yes, because it’s an anime about a VR world full of guns, shooting, explosions, and bloody mayhem, it can be rather violent… But in a good way. It does it with such fun and irreverence to death and dying. Plus, the action scenes are pretty incredible sometimes, almost like watching The Matrix fight scenes. I mean, one of the first action sequences was Llenn popping out of a suitcase and taking down five opponents in seconds. That was awesome.

And just like My Hero Academia, it has great characters and very distinct storylines that make the anime flow perfectly. That’s what makes anime so much more than a cartoon. Yes, a lot of the characters in anime are kids, but to me, they remind me of me in so many ways:  Vulnerable, a little dense sometimes, wanting to do what’s right. It’s what makes them so much fun to watch.

My Hero Academia is a place where heroes exist and GGO is a world where anything goes. As a writer, it gives me plenty of inspiration for what I do. That what draws me in and makes them so much fun to watch! Tune it Saturday! It’s a blast!


51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.



Virtual reality is the new, up-and-coming fantasy world for writers to explore

Image result for star trek holodeckI think the first time we thought of “virtual reality” was in 1987 when Gene Rodenberry brought us Star Trek: The Next Generation with the latest technology… The Holodeck. We saw a virtual world come to life as Commander Riker stepped on the holodeck, moving from a starship to a forest. There were many such adventures on all the Star Trek series to follow, as the holodeck was used to leave the doldrums of work behind and explore places we’ve never been or seen, from Leonardo Da Vinci’s workshop to a 1920’s crime novel.

“Reality is incredibly larger, infinitely more exciting, than the flesh and blood vehicle we travel in here. If you read science fiction, the more you read it the more you realize that you and the universe are part of the same thing. Science knows still practically nothing about the real nature of matter, energy, dimension, or time; and even less about those remarkable things called life and thought. But whatever the meaning and purpose of this universe, you are a legitimate part of it. And since you are part of the all that is, part of its purpose, there is more to you than just this brief speck of existence. You are just a visitor here in this time and this place, a traveler through it.” ― Gene Roddenberry

This technology may be pure science fiction, but it is used quite frequently to transport people to fantasy worlds. Anime does that a great deal of exploration into these alternate realities (Sword Art Online, The Silver Guardian, Recovery of an MMO Junkie, Overlord, etc.) but its got to be more than just straight science fiction. You have to know how to use the technology, whether it be holograms or a virtual computer world.

I think one of the first virtual reality movies—in my lifetime—didn’t use either one. In the 1973 film Westworld,  the rich vacationed in virtual worlds filled with androids. The virtual reality of choice here was a popular one from the 60s/70s… Westerns. The modern Westworld on HBO is more about artificial intelligence than virtual reality. I think we’ll see more about the “escapism” factor of virtual reality when the movie Ready Player One comes out.

Image result for sword art online quotes about virtual realityLike science fiction itself, virtual reality gives writers a broad brush to paint with. You can make almost anything possible in virtual reality, but I think medieval fantasy (a.k.a. Lord of the Rings) are the most popular in the genre. Sword Art Online does it best with their virtual reality game ALO (Alfheim Online). Its a wonderful blend of science fiction and fantasy that any fan can slip into easily, whether its the anime or the manga.

Overall, I think this does make it doubly hard for the writer, to ensure that smooth transition from fantasy to science fiction and back again; but, at the same time, it gives you the chance to explore some philosophical questions about reality, fantasy, and the roles games (and their storytellers) play in the world today.

When you have  horrific tragedy like the shooting at Parkland High School in Flordia, it makes one question how fast technology has advanced. Has technology gone so far that kids today are so desensitized to violence, and maybe reality itself, that they feel the need to kill others as a way of getting that kick? Its hard to pinpoint precisely where things like video games, virtual reality, take that step too far; but, I want to leave you with this quote from SAO’s Kirito to make my point.

“I thought that the closer the real and virtual world got, the better the future would be. But the more the boundary between them blurs, the more it starts to trick people.” – Kirito, Sword Art Online

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Is it okay to cry over movies, music, or books? Even for a big, tough man?

158979-163217I think every one of us knows a “tearjerker” when you see one. They come in many shapes and sizes. It could be a movie, a song, a television show, or even a good book. I am the first one to admit that I am a “big baby” when it comes to certain things.

I cried the first time I heard “The Christmas Shoes” by NewSong; during the final episode of M*A*S*H, and at the end of Les Miserables. One of the worst times I cried is when I was writing my second book, The Dark Tides. I have own “Red Wedding” scene (which was not meant as a ripoff to Game of Thrones, since I wrote it before I even read or watch the series) where a number of main characters were killed. It was quite heart-wrenching for me, as I had grown so fond of these characters and killing them was quite painful.

Even during my editing process, I found myself in tears every time I read those pages. Even now, it’s hard to re-read it without getting choked up, but that’s the kind of emotion I want to evoke in my readers. I want them to feel that emotional depth in my stories so it causes people to react.

“There’s no crying in baseball!” — Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own

According to Dr. Michael Bader, from his article “Why We Cry at Movies,” a wide range of phenomena are resulted from movies and books. He said, “that people repress feelings and perceptions that are too dangerous to experience, but, under conditions of safety, are able to finally begin to let them out.”

The safest place we feel is in our homes, a movie theater, even in our own car. At those moments, the repressed feelings we associate with the music, words or what we see come out.

When asked what made him or her cry in such a situation, Bader found that “it might involve a parent-figure, spouse, or friend understanding the hero, or offering protection or love. Right away, I know that these feelings have been there for much of the patient’s life.”

It’s hard to cry at the moments of pure emotion, especially for a guy. I think the old adage of a big, tough guy being brought to tears at moments like this is a “common norm” from the early days, as men were meant to be big and tough. In contrast, today’s “metrosexual” or “snowflakes” are in touch with their feelings, so crying is everyday. These are two huge contrasts, but it applies to many people today.

Image result for asuna and yuuki death sceneI think it’s okay to cry when the time calls for it. The other night, I was watching Sword Art Online II on my iPad while my wife was watching Shark Tank on TV. (FYI, if you haven’t watched SAO, you should, and spoilers ahead!) It was the episode where Yuuki, a girl with AIDs who was living in the VR realm, died surrounded by her friends and all the gamers in ALO. It was quite an emotional moment. I just couldn’t help it as the tears just poured out of me. My wife looked at me as if I was crazy, crying over an anime, but I just couldn’t help it.

I think these types of emotional outbursts helps us as cope with everyday life. We laugh, we cry, we feel joy, and we feel sadness. These are the emotions that authors, like myself, hope to bring out in people when they read my stories. I want those emotions to resonate and bring out that emotional response. It’s what makes us human.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.