Sailor Moon “Dark Kingdom Arc” Themes, Motifs, & Symbols

Welcome to the start of a new series on my blog! I want to try veering off the traditional review path and instead focus on some of the themes, motifs, and symbols in my favorite manga or anime series. These posts will not aim to critically analyze elements of the work, but rather provide a leaping-off point to prompt your own discussions. I encourage readers to use this post as they see fit (just be sure to tag me and link this page), and I hope you will find it useful!

The themes, motifs, and symbols discussed here pertain specifically to the “Dark Kingdom Arc” of Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon manga and the Sailor Moon Crystal anime series. Other themes, motifs, and symbols may also apply, though I plan to save those devices for future posts where they are more relevant in other parts of the franchise (like the use of dreams in SuperS). As such, this listing is by no means exhaustive, but it should help anyone trying to understand how some of the thematic devices function within the narrative. SPOILERS AHEAD!


Love and Fate Are Intertwined

Usagi and Mamoru’s relationship is written in the stars. Across time, they share many fated moments together, both on and off the battlefield. Whether as Usagi and Mamoru, Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask, or Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion, our star-crossed (or moonlit) lovers are fated to meet again and again. Their romance is the anchor for cruel fate to tear them apart at every possible junction. But, of course, love always wins, especially if it’s destined.

Destiny Is Circular

Fate, cycles, and chance meetings in the night create a circular storytelling pattern in the Dark Kingdom Arc. Just as the girls form unbreakable bonds with each other, they remember that they all used to be friends many moons ago—and that destiny, as it happens, has brought them together once more. The reuniting of the Sailor Guardians this time around is for the same purpose, too: the vanquishing of evil Queen Metalia once and for all. (In the classic Sailor Moon anime, the Sailor Guardians also lose their memories after defeating Queen Beryl—only for Usagi to have to once again become Sailor Moon in the second season—thus enhancing the circular nature of destiny.)

Light Conquers the Darkness

A story of magical girls invoking celestial powers to fight the forces of evil would not be complete without the popular saying “light conquers the dark.” It’s a cliche theme, but again, Sailor Moon makes it work because of its contrast between the heavenly moonlight of Silver Millennium (the force of good) and the subterranean Dark Kingdom (the force of evil). Quite literally, Serenity’s moonlight shines down from on high, establishing a visual hierarchy of morality as well as signaling a powerful allusion to heaven and hell itself.

Loyalty Accompanies Royalty

Every princess has her entourage of ladies-in-waiting, and Princess Serenity is no different. Although it takes the Sailor Guardians considerable time to realize that one of their own is in fact the Princess of the Moon Kingdom, they all naturally look to Sailor Moon anyway for guidance. Perhaps this is attest to her innate charm or the nature of destiny, but Usagi nevertheless finds herself surrounded by a circle of amazing female friendships. Similarly, Queen Beryl has her four Dark Generals carry out every waking task she can come up with. To the bitter end, they follow the will of their supreme ruler.

Acceptance of the Past

Finding out that you once stabbed yourself with a sword out of love several millennia ago and then were reborn in modern Tokyo would be a bitter pill for anyone to swallow. Yet, this is Usagi’s destiny, and it’s the past she has to accept if she wants to save her friends and the world in the present. Likewise, Mamoru must overcome any doubts of who he may have been as a young child due to his amnesia. All he knows now is that he needs the Silver Crystal to reaffirm something unknown to him in his own past. On the flip side, Beryl is forced to recall her feelings for Prince Endymion (and acknowledge her use of Metalia’s dark magic) if she is to take what she believes she rightfully deserves.

Justice Against the Usurper

Queen Beryl, as we find, was not always the monarch she claims to be. At most, she was a peasant girl whose infatuation, obsession, and jealousy over Prince Endymion’s love caused her to sign a dark contract. As Beryl led the rebellion against Earth and eventually the Moon, she only destroyed innocent lives in her path. When she finds the Dark Kingdom in the present age and establishes herself as its queen, she even starts scheming to overcome her ruler’s power, the darkness of Queen Metalia. Once Sailor Moon gets a complete grasp of the situation, it quickly becomes apparent what she must do: avenge her mother, her people, and her own past self by killing Beryl. Only Beryl’s (and Metalia’s) death will claim the justice Sailor Moon needs to validate her dual existence as Princess Serenity.

With Power Comes Responsibility

The staple character pattern of all superhero works is watching the protagonist grow into their newfound powers, only for them to realize that their actions have consequences, regardless of severity. Magic can be a blessing or a curse, and this dilemma stresses Usagi out. In the early chapters, she admits several times that she hates being a Sailor Guardian—that she hates being in pain and likewise inflicting it upon others. Being the guardian of love and justice certainly has its costs, yet Usagi’s destiny that only she can be Sailor Moon—as well as the Moon Princess—will be something she struggles with realizing time and time again. Gone are the days of innocent, youthful school life, and dawning now is the coming-of-age story for the future queen of the galaxy.



Perhaps what the entire Sailor Moon franchise is most beloved for is the endearing and genuine friendship between the girls. In the Dark Kingdom Arc, five girls who once adored each other and their peaceful life on the Moon are separated by fate, only to find themselves falling back into each others’ lives one chapter at a time. From their shared compassion, the Sailor Guardians are able to conquer any obstacles that come their way, whether the forces of evil Queen Beryl or the stress of classroom exams.

Magical Girl Transformation

Sailor Moon is one of the most influential works in creating the popular image of the “magical girl” as we know it today. From Sailor Moon, the magical girl has gone on to spiral into its own genre, wherein the themes of love, light, and justice often reoccur. While it may not be the first work of its kind, we can still understand how magical girls come across as admirable in the way that Usagi idolizes Sailor V. To Usagi Tsukino, Sailor V represents everything she aspires to become. Being a “tough and beautiful ally of justice” would be a dream—until Usagi becomes Sailor Moon, the soon-to-be-strongest magical girl in all existence, and realizes that her previous mundane reality wasn’t so bad after all. Each time the Sailor Guardians transform, we are reminded of their legendary powers, as well as how they are responsible for safeguarding humanity from the darkness.

Disguises & Misrecognition

People wear all kinds of disguises in Sailor Moon. Some moments of misrecognition are comic, like when Usagi transforms into a nurse to rescue Ami. Other times it is more tragic, like how Endou appears to Usagi with the face of Mamoru. The most famous disguise we know is Mamoru Chiba donning his suit and hat for Tuxedo Mask. With this disguise, he navigates through the night undetected to uncover more about the Silver Crystal’s whereabouts, as well as understand his own amnesiac past. As for the girls, they have their second identities as Sailor Guardians, and although they don’t look too different from their normal selves, the powers of magic prevent onlookers from seeing past the guise. Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite, and Kunzite also all use the bodies of innocent citizens to hide their monstrous demons. Finally, Usagi and Mamoru have their dual (tertiary?) identities as Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion. The fact that no one is able to figure out the princess’s identity until she is standing before them is attest to misrecognition’s role in protecting destiny itself.

Roundtable Meetings

Like King Arthur’s Knights of the Round or any other kind of strategizing scene in a superhero or spy movie, the Sailor Guardians are always assessing and evaluating new information as a group. Typically, their meetings take place at someone’s home, a local park, the arcade, or their secret base beneath the arcade. These meetings primarily serve to debrief recently acquired information and establish a plan of attack for the group, but they also provide insight into the girls’ individual personalities as they react to the developing situation. For example, Ami responds with tactical reasoning, Makoto just wants to fight the enemy, and Usagi usually sleeps through the whole thing. Meetings add moments of levity where the suspense of lingering battle can reset and transition back to daily life, reinforcing the themes of responsibility and loyalty to their noble cause.

Darkness & Light

Throughout this first arc, darkness always looms at bay. Whether the monsters of the Dark Generals, Beryl’s witchcraft, or Metalia’s overwhelming presence, darkness pervades in Sailor Moon. The radiant Moon and the Mythical Silver Crystal symbolize pure light, and although Metalia is a being born of the Sun, her existence only casts shadows—a kind of darkness which twists her and any who interact with her. It’s no coincidence that the Sailor Guardians are always “fighting evil by moonlight,” for the night is when the darkness can creep out. Likewise, their “winning love by daylight” lets us know that daytime is more or less a safe space. Any colorations of light and dark are further emphasized in the manga, wherein Naoko Takeuchi uses stark panels of all-black to heighten the spectacle of Sailor Moon’s glittering light.

Death & Rebirth

Cycles of life and death occur for both the heroes and the villains of the Dark Kingdom Arc. In the war on the Moon, the Sailor Guardians are defeated, Prince Endymion is martyred, and Usagi commits suicide. Likewise, Beryl is slain in her revolt, and her master, Metalia, is sealed away. The death of the antagonists and the preservation of the protagonists are commandeered by Queen Serenity, who uses the last of her strength to give the Sailor Guardians a second chance at life on Earth. Even after all Serenity had done, however, Mamoru again martyrs himself for Usagi, and Usagi—drawn to her wits end—surrenders to their circular fate and draws the fatal sword to her chest once again.


Castles and royalty are central to the early story of Sailor Moon and her legend. Queen Serenity ruled the Moon Kingdom. Prince Endymion ruled the kingdoms of Earth. Now, Queen Beryl rules the Dark Kingdom, and in order to reclaim what was lost from her mother, Usagi will have to awaken as Princess Serenity and end Beryl’s terrible reign. As the series progresses (across this arc and subsequent ones), we follow Usagi as she slowly starts equipping herself with the powers that once belonged to Queen Serenity. In this arc, the climax is Sailor Moon wielding the destructive force of the Silver Crystal to vanquish her foes. The passing of the jewel from mother to daughter is a significant rite of royal passage, one which marks Usagi as the next heir to the Silver Millennium.

Slumber & Awakening

Moments of sleep and wakefulness are apparent throughout the story. When not fighting the forces of evil, Usagi and the Sailor Guardians earn their rest. In fact, much of the motivated drama in the story is enhanced by Usagi and Mamoru’s conflicting dreams. Both sense their fate, yet they can’t quite grasp what it means. In the same sense, Queen Metalia “slumbers” deep beneath the Dark Kingdom as Beryl’s Four Dark Generals amass energy for their great ruler’s return. Likewise, both Queen Serenity on the Moon and the essence of Princess Serenity within Usagi’s heart lie dormant until the Silver Crystal can unleash their fated awakenings.

The Moonlight Legend Reborn

This signature phrase is borrowed from Viz Media’s marketing of the Sailor Moon Crystal anime, and it’s quite a fitting phrase considering how many times various adaptations have revisited this timeless story’s opening act. From manga to animation, stage plays to musicals, and likely countless drama CDs, Sailor Moon Crystal marks yet another retelling of the Moon Princess’ origin story. The moonlight legend is reborn, and we are once again given a chance for one of these adaptations to tell the manga’s story as Naoko Takeuchi originally intended. Thankfully, if the Crystal anime gets one thing right, it’s the conviction to that cause.


Jewelry & Gemstones

Across literary and cinematic history, jewelry and gemstones have become associated with wealth, power, greed, and an obsession with vanity. Their sparkling allure attracts the gaze of many—it’s no wonder Beryl is so drawn to the Mythical Silver Crystal. Along with Beryl, the Four Heavenly Princes are characterized after actual gemstones. Naoko Takeuchi is able to flex her background in chemistry and gemology by tying many of the characters and plot points in the series to her personal fascination with minerals and gemstones.

Mythical Silver Crystal

The famous and sacred MacGuffin of Sailor Moon. Whether translated as legendary, imperium, or mythical (as the English localization of the manga went with), one thing’s certain—the crystal is silver, and its powers are unrivaled. One could argue that the Silver Crystal symbolizes the ugly struggle for power itself, as Beryl and Queen Metalia stop at nothing to obtain it. When wielded by an emotional Sailor Moon, however, the Silver Crystal only serves to protect her allies, heal their wounds, and carve a destructive path toward justice. The Silver Crystal also represents the legacy of the Moon Kingdom left in Usagi’s hands by Queen Serenity, which makes sense why it was hidden away from everyone—including loyal Luna—in Usagi’s own heart. What seems to matter most is that in the hands of evil, the legendary crystal is nothing but another pretty rock.

Transformation Pens

The obvious connotation here is that the pens aid in the transformation and disguise of the Sailor Guardians. Each pen is uniquely colored, denoting individual ownership over them. Thus, they become symbols of responsibility for the Sailor Guardians. While Usagi has her own assortment of magical items, the Sailor Guardians only have their pens. Holding their pens close to their chest when they shout out their transformation mantras, the transformation pens represent the timeless duty of the Sailor Guardians.

Stone Sword

The sword is a unique artifact in the continuity in that it is the only traditional weapon found in the battle against Beryl and Queen Metalia. A blade compounded over time by countless rocks and minerals, the sword is durable enough to cut through diamonds. It’s also heavy and denotes leadership, as shown in the way Sailor Jupiter helps Sailor Venus wield its power. Moreover, the sword was used in the previous war on the Moon to banish Queen Metalia. Back then it was shining, but its stone-cold appearance now reinforces the fact that Metalia’s power is turning things to stone. Additionally, Usagi wields this sword twice in the act of suicide, forever tying the blade to her suffering and legend. Thus, the stone sword needs to be the item that ends this story once again, for it symbolizes the destruction of ancient evil and leaving antiquity behind, once and for all.

The Moon & Silver Millennium

Floating high above and adorned on just about everything pertaining to the Sailor Guardians and their princess, the Moon carries the ambitious task of symbolizing everything the titular heroine stands for: tranquility, ephemerality, and serenity. Although Usagi may not embody those traits perfectly at first, the Moon is a constant reminder of where she’s come from—and where she needs to go next. We can almost attribute the crescent moon to Sailor Moon herself, while the full moon represents Queen Serenity. The moon’s white glow often warms the characters, and as they lose their way, they look up to its light for guidance. Of course, Earth’s silver satellite is also home to the Moon Kingdom, Silver Millennium, which means it bears an ancient history as the civilization that once orbited the blue planet below.


Red roses are the romantic mark of Tuxedo Mask. Since the flower is almost exclusively found on Earth, we can also associate plant life and nature with Prince Endymion. A red rose symbolizes true love, respect, and courage, qualities which are all tried and exemplified by all the good-natured characters in the story. Most of all, the flash of a red rose on the battlefield reaffirms Sailor Moon that she is not alone, for Tuxedo Mask is always watching her back.


Based on the pun of Usagi’s name and the Japanese word for rabbit, the animal is associated with Usagi Tsukino herself, as it is patterned on all her stationary and personalized items. The cute bunny ears and light colors also represent innocence, and we tend to associate them with Usagi as a middle-school girl as opposed to future queen of the Moon. In English, one could almost see the word “bunny” more closely relating to Usagi’s modern self, whereas the more sophisticated “rabbit” would befit Serenity (even though they are the same person and refer to the same animal).

Pocket Watch

Mamoru’s star-shaped pocket watch is the memento Usagi holds onto until she is able to see her beloved again. The watch symbolizes time, but specifically in relation to the temporal distance which separates the two lovers. When the pocket watch is cracked, the lovers struggle to find one another. The fact that the watch protects Usagi from her suicidal blow with the stone sword shows that time is on their side, and that they will eventually claim their happiness once they defeat Queen Metalia. Usagi mending the watch and returning it to Mamoru tells us that she has accepted her identity as the Moon Princess, and that she no longer needs to rely on borrowed time to understand her cosmic role.


Like Mamoru’s pocket watch, the handkerchief is a classic symbol of lovesickness. Mamoru’s longing to be with Usagi is indicated by his delicate handling of her pink-laced handkerchief. The personalized cloth is also a mark of championship, almost as if Usagi has (unbeknownst to her) already chosen Mamoru to be her knight. We find this relationship twofold when Tuxedo Mask admits his admiration for the guardian of love and justice, Sailor Moon.

Sailor Moon’s Compact

The transformation brooch given to Usagi by Luna at the story’s beginning is the device which allows her to become the titular guardian of love and justice. It fashions nicely with both her sailor-suited outfits for school life and heroine life. As the franchise progresses, the compact itself transforms and receives new powers—blessings from the moon and Queen Serenity. After Beryl and Metalia’s defeat in the “Dark Kingdom Arc,” Usagi’s receiving of a new compact from her mother is symbolic of her divine right to rule. Its star-encrusted pattern and colored gems represent the unity of Sailor Moon and her Sailor Guardians as they are bound to Silver Millennium’s fate. This new compact houses the Mythical Silver Crystal, and its light will continue to guide Usagi as they both transform together.

Got any themes, motifs, or symbols you think should be on this list? Drop your suggestions down in the comments for all of us to see. Thanks for reading, and ‘til next time!

– Takuto

Shirobako: A Creative’s Guide to Happiness || OWLS “Hope”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” For the OWLS blog tour’s fourth monthly topic of 2020, “Hope,” I wanted to put aside my more elaborate thoughts on the entertaining and endearing Shirobako and just kinda ramble about creativity and the future. (Worry not, I’ll have more to say in a series review forthcoming!)

We are in the midst of a pandemic which has led people to live in fear and anxiety over the coronavirus. For this month, rather than seeing the dark side of the situation we are living in, we will be exploring anime and other pop culture mediums that bring hope for humanity and why they have such a positive impact on us.

This is such a wonderful topic, and yet I feel so unprepared for it. I hope you guys will enjoy what I’ve got to share. Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

miyamori shocked

A brief discussion of the 24-episode fall 2014 anime “Shirobako,” animated by P.A. Works, directed by Tsutomu Mizushima, and based on the original story by Michiko Yokote. 

Being Creative is Tough

Five high school girls had dreams of creating an anime together after showing off the labors of their club’s hard work in a school festival. Skip forward a couple years and we see that while Aoi and Ema made it into a reputable studio in the industry, all five of them are struggling to find a greater purpose behind the work. It would seem that the path to one’s dream job is littered with all kinds of trials and unexpected turns. 

At Musashino Animation, Aoi Miyamori has it pretty decent as a production assistant compared to her animator friend Ema. Miyamori’s job entails coordinating emails between departments and outside sources, scheduling meetings, running errands, maintaining public relations, and generally keeping everyone on task—including a notoriously nervous director and a whole crew of constantly tired animators, key artists, and the like. Half the battle, as one can imagine, is not with the work itself, but the people behind it.

But where Ema’s sights are clearly set on becoming one of the best animators the industry’s ever known, Miyamori often finds herself asking why she even joined the animation world in the first place. Despite the job suiting her better than she realizes, Miyamori feels adrift in an industry that’s been chewing people up and spitting them out for years. While the road to success is rough now, it’s only bound to get rockier—not to mention veer off the path more than once. Still, this is the world that Miyamori dreams of working in, and dreams—as she realizes—can still be achieved through unyielding perseverance and a splash of creativity. 

miyamori sleepy

A Future Unknown

Office stress, annoying coworkers, late nights, instant meals—oh Miyamori, how I feel for you. As a young twenty-something myself, it can seem near impossible to try exploring other potential avenues of interest when all our time and energy is drained just by living day to day. In struggles like this where future seems unclear, we want simple work, mechanical work. Even if it’s repetitive and dull, it is stable, and reliably puts food on the table each night. Because she does not yet know what she truly wants to do in life, Miyamori continues to slave away, giving her current job everything she’s got despite its tedium. 

On the other hand, when we have something to look forward to—a goal or a higher purpose in mind—we find ourselves more willing to take risks, and risk is always a scary thing. This isn’t just as a feeling of general optimism, but a yearning for something more in life. It’s a feeling of being destined for greatness, even if the path to that future lies completely unpaved. Miyamori knows deep down that she’s just as creative and visionary as her friends are—now she’s just got to figure out what niche she belongs in. As we see for her, others will help pave this path, and brick by brick, slowly, everything will come together in the end.

It sounds easier to just coast the less pleasurable route out, but that’s the trap. Before you know it, more time has passed by, and seldom do second, let alone third, fourth, or fifth, chances come along. Through her interactions with some of the big wigs who have been in the industry for decades, Miyamori finds that they all had specific goals to strive for. With this realization comes aspiration, and soon it dawns on her what she must do: Once one’s goal in life has been found, you should take time to figure out how you can achieve it. If you’ve done everything right, you’ll probably end up having to make a critical decision: Will you play things safe, or risk it for the chance to dream big?


At the Crossroads of Happiness & Hope

Life is full of choices we have to make, crossroads we have to pass. But it’s because crossroads exist that people can get a true start on their lives and do the things they’ve always wanted to, whether that is explicitly known to them in the moment or not. Crossroads are a curse, but they also provide hope—the hope that people can choose their own path in life and make something fantastic out of their time on earth. They’re a necessary evil, the riskiest kind of choice, but once you know deep down that you made the right choice, there truly is no better feeling.

As Miyamori’s friends start to see the crossroads lay out before them, they decide to chase down the path of their dreams. In the end, Ema, Shizuka, Misa, and Midori each chose the riskier path—the hopeful path—over the one guaranteeing security. All at once, everything starts to look a lot brighter for them. Sure, there will be rough days and hard nights ahead, but at least they can sleep knowing that this is indeed the path for them.

Suddenly—as if all the clouds parted at once—tomorrow seems a heck of a lot brighter than the day before for these ladies. The air is lighter, the sky looks clearer, and all because they realized what they really wanted to do in life. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful feeling? That is what gives people hope—pursuing passion and happiness even if the future seems uncertain. I wonder what path Miyamori will choose . . .

happy miyamori

There is no occupation that doesn’t have its difficulties. That’s why the rest is how much you’re able to endure after all of the humiliation you face. — Rinko Ogasawara


Shirobako spoke to me with all kinds of wisdom, I love it so much. Again, I’ll have a full series review out for Shirobako here in a bit, hopefully, so please look forward to that! I’ve really enjoyed watching Shirobako, and I’m so glad I held off on it until now. The series is full of pathos that I’m sure any creative can relate to. Sorrows and frustrations blend perfectly yet realistically with the joys and satisfaction of being involved with the arts, and the whole experience has been absolutely healing for a soul like mine. Thus, I hope you enjoyed some of my takeaways from the series here today!

This concludes my April 11th entry in the OWLS “Hope” blog tour. My dear friend Lita (LitaKino Anime Corner) went right before me with a sweet post on Cells At Work that you really shouldn’t miss! Now, look out for my buddy Matt (Matt in the Hat) with a post on one of his favorite superhero icons, Spiderman, this coming Monday, April 13th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time!

– Takuto

Yumeiro Patisserie: The Strong, the Savory, & the Sweet || OWLS “Failure”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” For the OWLS blog tour’s eleventh monthly topic of 2019, “Failure,” I wanted to dabble just a bit into the sweetest little show that’s been on my plate as of late. We’re talking about Yumeiro Patissiere and a young girl’s road to becoming a pastry chef—and don’t worry, I’m not gonna sugarcoat any part of her great struggles!

One of the best ways we can learn is through failure. This month we will be talking about the failures of our favorite characters in pop culture media and what we can learn from them. We will also reflect on our own mistakes and failures and how those experiences have allowed us to grow as human beings.

I’m gonna keep this sweet and simple, just as the show would serve it to you, so thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief discussion of the 50-episode fall 2009 anime “Yumeiro Patissiere,” stylized as “Yumeiro Pâtissière,” animated by Studio Pierrot and Studio Hibari, directed by Suzuki Iku, and based on the manga by Natsumi Matsumoto. Minor spoilers for the first 12 episodes will be present. 

Thrown Into the Culinary World

Ichigo Amano may just be a middle schooler, but she’s nothing when compared to her piano prodigy of a kid sister. In fact, Ichigo hasn’t ever been successful at anything, but she does have a passion for eating cakes. This unique tongue of hers leads Ichigo to Henri Lucas, a famous patissier who not only recognizes Ichigo’s tasting talents, but points her towards St. Marie Academy. This prestigious culinary school specializes in the art of desserts, and just so happens to be her late grandma’s alma mater, who was an accomplished confectioner in her own right.

Despite being a beginner lacking all of the essential skills for the craft (and thanks to being recommended by THE Henri sensei), Ichigo is placed in the elite A Group with the “Sweets Princes.” Famous throughout the school for their enchanting treats (and charming good looks), the trio is composed of Andou, an analytical, traditional Japanese sweets specialist; Hanabusa, a delicate boy who crafts elegant candied flowers; and Kashino, a gifted chocolatier with an attitude that’s not afraid to bite back.

While they’d likely fair well on their own (save for poor Ichigo), each of the kids in A Group are accompanied by their “Sweets Spirits,” fairies from a distant land who make patissiers’ dreams come true by aiding them in the kitchen with tips and tricks. Together, they all work towards their unique goals in the competitive world of sweets, and pray each day that their combined efforts will pay off in the future.

ichigo sweets

The Strong Must Protect the Sweet

The culinary world will always be a scary one to me, so it’s no wonder that Ichigo is freaking out when she’s placed among the school’s elite from the get-go. Easily the kind of girl to mistake the salt for sugar, Ichigo is a total klutz—and this doesn’t take too long for her new classmates to figure out. Every minute Ichigo spends with the esteemed Sweets Princes soils their perfect reputation.

However, as she works her saccharine magic on their hearts and they bond together through late night practice sessions in the kitchen, the Sweets Princes slowly start to care less about what their peers think and more about what their savory sweets mean to those that fall for their confectionery. By bouncing their knowledge and creativity off one another, the members of A Group learn most of all that love is just as essential an ingredient as flour, eggs, or sugar are.

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Criticism & Self-Destruction in Academia

Japan has this thing about letting us know how exploited and overworked students can sometimes feel in elite academic settings. The tiniest compliments can give such students the greatest confidence boost, but the slightest criticism can be absolutely devastating. It’s a fine line us students pressured by high standards find ourselves tight-roping across, and that’s exactly where Ichigo finds herself at St. Marie.

At its earliest low in the series’ first twelve episodes, Ichigo almost quits school entirely. The moment before she left her dorm for home, she got ahead of herself and thought she’d do well in the upcoming cake-baking tournament without having had more experience behind her. Of course, she was just joking around with the Sweets Princes, boasting because they had recently served up something incredible as a team, but Andou and Hanabusa, who are normally very kind and supportive, snapped back and told her how wrong she was—that the competitive world of a pastry chef is much more arduous and complicated than baking a cake for some kids.

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This revelation—and it coming from the nicest people in her class—throws Ichigo from the top of the summit to the bottom of the ravine. One minute she felt like she could joke around and laugh at her successes and failures alike with her esteemed peers, the next she couldn’t feel more distant from them. Here, we have a middle school girl voicing the concerns of every struggling honor student in academia:

I got into the school fine, but it was just screw up after screw up, day after day. And once in a while, when someone complimented me, I got way too carried away. I think I’m just not cut out for that place. — Ichigo Amano

Inspiration Lies In Our Humble Beginnings

It takes going back to her creative roots—to her grandma’s old sweets shop, and the source of her inspiration—to jump-start that confidence and motivate Ichigo to get back on her feet. Ichigo even gets the chance to flex in front of her incredibly talented younger sister, showing off all the skills she learned at her fancy academy. It turns out, when she has to fend for herself, Ichigo knows a lot more than she gives herself credit for

When she asks her uncle to make the house special strawberry tart, only she—not even her talented sister—notices that her grandma’s recipe was changed. It is at that very moment that Ichigo realizes she is qualified for this career, and she becomes even more deeply connected with her grandma’s unique style as a patissier.

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Having turned a new leaf, Ichigo feels ready to get back to baking. Of course, kind hearts attract good company, as Ichigo’s mom had her packed bags ready to go in the trunk the whole time. Imparting precious wisdom, Kyouko Amano drops her clumsy yet dedicated daughter back off at the academy. Honestly, that’s #familygoals, but she also wouldn’t be coming back were it not for her friends in A Group who covered for her abrupt absence.

When the going gets tough, sometimes we have to take life one chocolate cake roll at a time. We should take chances, and even if we suck, we should never give up. We should polish our dreams like jewels, and even when we want to cry, if we try smiling while doing something we love, we just might be able to change our whole day around all on our own. Sometimes, all it takes is going back to our humble beginnings to realize just how far we’ve traveled. There are more takeaways one could make, but hey, sometimes the shortest explanations are the sweetest ones. 

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It’s ok to get depressed sometimes. But what’s important is to get back on our feet when we’re ready. — Kyouko Amano


Just like the opening says, Yumeiro Patissiere is “Light and soft and fluffy! Melt-in-your-mouth sweet! It’ll bring you so much unbridled happiness.” So on and so forth. Yumeiro Patisserie is a gem, a certified “Cake” like you’ve never had it, and one that has a fun flavor you’ll never forget! I doubt anyone’s ever heard of this anime (I hadn’t, until the Blu-ray was recommended to me in a sale so I snatched it up), but don’t sleep on this shit—it’s GOOD. The young hardworking patissieres, the beautiful string music, the decadent, delectable desserts—this show is so friggin’ charming, and I’m so excited to see where it goes. After all, there are 50 episodes in the first season alone!

This concludes my November 28th entry in the OWLS “Failure” blog tour. My friend Crimson (Read At Night) went right before me with a post over the heartbreaking geisha drama novel Snow Country that you can read right here! Now, look out for my blogger buddy Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews) as he rounds out the month with his crack at Haikyu!! and what failure means to the Karasuno Team (so excited to read!) this Saturday, November 30th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

To the Top of the Tower: How Alicization Encodes its Lore || OWLS “Fantasy”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” For the OWLS blog tour’s tenth monthly topic of 2019, “Fantasy,” I decided to head down a less conventional route for portraying this genre with none other than the (in)famous Sword Art Online. But fear not, for in my most humblest opinion, the Alicization story is not only the franchise’s most competent arc, but most fantasy-heavy one as well.

In the month of October, we will be exploring the world of fantasy in pop culture. The genre of fantasy focuses on telling stories about our external and internal environments. There are many ways we can interpret the word fantasy. For example, we can talk about how a fantastical place could glorify what reality should be, or the dangers of ideal expectations. Fantasy could also be seen as taking a “wild journey” or a “hallucination,” and how that can affect our psyche and well-being. Additionally, fantasy can focus on our personal dreams and expectations, and how those expectations do not align with our reality. Overall, our posts will reflect on how we view the fantasy genre and what we can learn about these pop culture mediums.

Since I’ve got a review of the series coming in a couple days, it’ll be nice to focus exclusively on the cool story elements at play here. SPOILERS will be present. Thanks Lyn and Aria for the prompt!

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A brief discussion of the 24-episode fall 2018 anime “Sword Art Online: Alicization” as well as the original novel series, animated by A-1 Pictures, directed by Manabu Ono, and based on the light novel by Reki Kawahara. MAJOR SPOILERS WILL BE PRESENT. 

How SAO Blends Magic & Science Fiction

Reki Kawahara’s Sword Art Online has amassed into a franchise that sets its stories in a variety of fantasy worlds, but with a caveat: They are gaming worlds, virtual lands created by programming, and code is the law of the land. My favorite aspect of each season is watching how they seamlessly blends the two genres I love most—fantasy and sci-fi—with one another to create some of the coolest adventure stories out there. SAO is cool, yeah, I said it.

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Every magical attack, legendary item, or floor boss is portrayed through a fantasy lens, but can be broken down scientifically by sword skills and hit-points, system stats, and in-game features. SAO, GGO, ALO, and the latest VR world “Underworld” all operate on systems that actively try to rationalize even their most fantastical of elements. Often, yet most especially with this third season, the series isn’t afraid to dive into weapon lore and in-game backstory whenever permissible to explain certain mechanics and unique properties. As such, SAO is a universe structured around duality: the relationship between code (the outside world) and lore (the inside world)

In this community, however, it is rare for people to call parts—let alone entire story arcs—of SAO “good” or even “great” like I do, which kinda sucks as a fan. But the coming of Alicization changed the game, truly, and imparted with us a story of epic proportions unlike anything the series has tackled before. And with the grand War of Underworld on the horizon, there’s no better time than now to sit down and take a look at the inner mechanisms of this latest world our hero finds himself trapped in.

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System Call: Underworld’s Unique Features

As with previous seasons, Kirito is forced into another virtual world due to circumstances far out of his control. What immediately draws his eyes to this virtual reality, unlike others have done before, however, is that “Underworld” looks and feels very real. And it should—it’s based on a network of real human memories, after all. By highlighting the neural pathways of the brain—the “Fluctlight”—and flooding them with visual imagery that stimulates one’s haptic, echoic, and visual senses, a person hooked up to the “Soul Translator” can essentially experience life in an entirely different world, detailed down to the tiniest speck of dirt.

While the mind is in some far off world full of swords and dragons, the physical body remains intact on the outside. You could almost view Kirito’s wild journey through the fantastical unknown as one big hallucination, as every memory made in the game world is erased upon awakening (due to a contractual agreement made between the Rath Scientists and the subject). This allows Kirito’s mind to continue operating and maintain the neural connections that would otherwise be lost due to his fatal encounter at the third season’s beginning.

And so here we are, in this world that looks just like ours on the surface, but operates under an entirely different set of encoded gimmicks and laws. Instead of chemical properties and physics, everything in Underworld has life and experience points. Rocks, trees, food, weapons, and of course people are all bound to a numerical HP. Can’t seem to lift a heavy blade or open a particular door? Perhaps it’s not your own strength at fault, but the fact that such “objects” may be assigned a higher priority number than your own level can currently interact with. And you don’t “make” fires—you “Generate Thermal Elements.” Such cool coding lingo.

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The system gets even more interesting when it comes to the Integrity Knights’ Divine Object-class weapons, one-of-a-kind arms they wield to protect the human realm. Each with their own unique origin, such legendary swords or bows can unleash unimaginable powers beyond their prescribed damage set, especially if the weapon’s memory is triggered via the “Enhance Armament” system command, followed by “Release Recollection.”

For instance, Kirito’s Night Sky Sword, made from the highest branch of the once-infellable Gigas Cedar, can summon all of the darkness amassed through years of gazing at the stars in one incredible blast when its memory is released. Eugeo’s Blue Rose Sword, born from a lonely rose which blossomed in the snow and ice of the End Mountains, freezes all in its user’s path, encasing foes in icy vines and frost.

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For the Integrity Knights, the lore embedded within their Divine Objects runs even deeper due to their creator’s self-assigned calling as Ruler of Underworld. The titular Alice Synthesis Thirty’s golden-petaled Osmanthus Blade was originally the first tree programmed in Underworld, and thus the oldest creation in the land. Fanatio Synthesis Two’s Heaven Piercing Sword was a physics experiment of Administrator’s in which the concentrated the light of a thousand mirrors was forged into a single blade in an attempt to mimmick the great Solus itself.

And get this: the great Bercouli Synthesis One’s Time Piercing Sword was crafted from the needle on the first village’s clock tower—Underworld’s own system clock. I just love the way Kawahara marries gaming mechanics and programming with story lore to form not just creative weapon origin stories, but an entire world full of intrigue and wonder to be fascinated with.

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Cracking open the Central Cathedral

When a story presents you with a tower, you climb it. Whether you’re adventurous or not, that’s just what you do. Kirito seeks out the towering Central Cathedral at the center of the human realm in hopes that somewhere waiting for him on the very top lies a console in which he can log himself out through. While he’s not technically wrong, the costs of getting to the 100th floor far outweigh the prize he seeks.

The very act of ascending Central Cathedral floor by floor feeds us with hope that whatever lies at the top will scratch that itch we’ve had since Kirito first woke up in Underworld. Little did any of us realize how truly unprepared we were for the rich irony awaiting our poor characters, as well as the truth behind the horrific secrets holding the fabric of their world together. 

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As the Pontifex of the church, Administrator, imparts her devious and wicked plots to Kirito and his friend Eugeo, we finally come to understand that some truths are in fact better not knowing. The holy order that’s been maintaining peace in the realm, the legend of the three goddesses who blessed the land, the very truth behind the coming cataclysmic invasion by the forces of the Dark Territory—

Of course, it’s all fake. Yup. Fantasy often leaves us spellbound, instilling within us a feeling that something holds deeper meaning than it really does. Perhaps that’s because we want fantasies to entertain us, to dress up the real world, even if the characters may be desperately trying to tear it all down. Like Administrator’s Integrity Knights, which have been brutally brainwashed into fighting on the behalf of some made-up higher power than themselves, we want to believe there is deeper meaning to what we do, and that we’re not just vehicles for someone else’s success or failure.

To trust in that illusion is to fall for deception, and that’s exactly what Administrator did. She deceived people. She built up several lifetimes worth of fraud, lies, and corruption, which are manifested by the imposing, all-seeing tower of Central Cathedral itself. As Kirito remarks toward Administrator, toward Quinella: she’s no god or ruler, but a thief. Quinella preached unconditional love to her followers, but all she really desired was absolute control. So she stole what she wanted from the humans of Underworld, and fabricated layers of mythos to protect her frail ego from the mere thought of losing her power, her authority, and her control over others.

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Imagination Holds the Power to Change Everything

Central Cathedral and the Integrity Knights—“born” to fight for the good of the human realm yet unknowingly bow to Administrator’s whim—represent just how a land of honor, bravery, and magic can glorify these noble concepts: People should be born with the freedom to love and protect as they wish to, not as someone else pleases. Kirito and Eugeo’s quest to right the wrongs of this land’s all-powerful Ruler present the dangers of ideal expectations in the form Quinella’s knights that were led astray by her lust. But most of all, we experience firsthand how human morals can be easily twisted when the right bait is dangled in front of our faces.

The power of using imagination to change the world—or in this case create one—is the philosophy that lies at the core of the fantasy genre. If we can dream it, it shall be, and SAO is no exception to this principle. Fantasies can conjure forth one’s greatest mystical musings about how the world can be, and Quinella took this power in her own hands to create a reality where the world bows to her wishes, not the other way around. When Kirito forces his way to her chambers on the 100th floor, her expectations of the fantasy world she created are called into question.

As a VRMMORPG fanatic, I guess you could say Kirito’s ideas of a truly enjoyable fantasy world overpowered even the Ruler’s imagination of such a world, and thus he manages to slay Administrator in combat, single-handed. By then, it was not a battle of strength, but a clash of two individual wills—and an exchange for the truth that resulted in the shattering of over 300 years worth of painstakingly crafted illusions, and the destruction of a young greedy girl’s entire fantasy.


The only proof of my existence is the control I exert. That desire is the one thing that motives me and gives me life! These legs of mine are meant only to trample over others. They are not for bending at the knees! — Administrator


Lots of foreshadowing there at the end, I know! It’s not THE Quinella post I wanted to write, but it’ll do for now. This post probably made no sense whatsoever to non-SAO fans, and perhaps even to people who watched and even enjoyed Alicization‘s first half. I often ramble in these posts, but man, someone really should’ve cut me off with this one! A full series review of Alicization is in the works, so I’ll save any kind of rating for then. In the meantime, if you, too, liked the first half of this epic third season, I encourage you to share your favorite aspects about the series in the comments!

This concludes my October 29th entry in the OWLS “Fantasy” blog tour. Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews) went right before me with a much more pleasant post over the light-hearted Flying Witch that you can read right here! Now, look out for Naja (Blerdy Otome) with an excellent post about the portrayal of romance in her favorite otome games tomorrow, October 30th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host