Last Updated 2017-09-29: Added an honourable mention for The Bloody Ashikabi.
Since my last post on Familiar of Zero fics, it occurred to me that there is another series that’s not to my taste but which still manages to make interesting crossover fodder in exceptional circumstances: Sekirei.
Now, I don’t have anything against harem anime in general. I actually really enjoyed watching anime like Saber Marionette J and Ai Yori Aoshi. They’re funny, the characters are entertaining, and I can just ignore the stuff that’s not my cup of tea.
The main problem with Sekirei is twofold. First, from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t really put enough effort into being engaging outside its target audience. Second, it runs right into several of my pet peeves.
I already wrote and discarded a ridiculously long post on this that was approaching rant territory, so I won’t go into detail beyond saying that most of them have to do with the author’s approach to things. (For example, it’s a story that combines romantic comedy and cute girls fighting in deathmatch-esque battle royales.)
Thankfully, unlike some stories, it does have elements which I’d find interesting under better circumstances. So far, I’ve found several cases where a good fanfic author has written something more to my taste. For each one, I’ll list it along with a brief summary of how it fixes the tonal problems and what makes it so noteworthy to me.
(If anyone knows of any other fics which manage to dodge the flaws in how canon handles things, please leave them in the comments. When written by a skilled author, I quite like the characters.)
- In Flight by gabriel blessing
- Solution to Tone Problems: Generalized “heroically overcome” which manages to mute the darker implications of canon as a side-effect.
- By the author of The Hill of Swords, this
630,000+ word (and still being extended)fic drops post-canon Emiya Shirou into Sekirei as a replacement for the original protagonist. Like Hill of Swords, it’s well-written and, like Hill of Swords, it mixes things up by dropping someone much more experienced than the canon protagonist into the thick of things.
- In fact, saying it’s well-written is a bit of an understatement, given how much work it takes to defy a status quo as deeply entrenched as Sekirei canon while still feeling truly good. Authorial skill aside, the reason this works so well is that post-canon Shirou is very well suited to the role of a serious literary hero in this setting. He takes the inherent issues with the setting seriously (rather than just facilitating a male fantasy like in canon) and the story neither tries to make excuses to justify canon nor tries to wave an authorial magic wand and fix everything. It’s just a believable character with a believable viewpoint and enough skill, experience, and conviction to believably subvert various aspects of the canon plotline without throwing things off the rails.
- Combined with a slow, methodical approach to characterization and a narrative style that gives the solid impression that the author shares Shirou’s views on things, this means that I find myself trusting him to bring about something I’ll accept as a happy ending (after a narratively-appropriate amount of struggle) and, thus, I let my guard down. (It’s not foolproof, it’s not a perfect solution, and I’ve been burned on occasion before, but it’s a very good sign and it means that I enjoy the story in spite of my discomfort with some of the core elements.)
- The Wizard Ashikabi by plums
- Solution to Tone Problems: Retcon to mute the dark undertones and add more hope, outmanoeuvre the antagonists.
- Harry Potter crossover. This story really shows how interestingly elements from Harry Potter can be used to reinterpret things in Sekirei and it does an even better job than “In Flight” of considering Sekirei people first and aliens second. (Essentially, it takes lessons learned from Harry Potter Veela-bond fics and treats Sekirei as psychologically human but raised with a warped worldview… which, to me, not only makes them higher-quality characters from the literary theory side of things, but makes them deeper, more sympathetic, and it just plain makes more sense given who runs MBI.)
- I also like how it reinterprets a lot of Sekirei elements in the context of Harry Potter magic (For example, Homura is an untrained metamorph with a problem) …especially the Sekirei-Ashikabi bond which helps to neutralize my biggest issue with it.
- It does starts with tired old Harry Potter fanon clichés as a way to get Harry out of Britain, but those are over before the end of the first chapter and, aside from a slight hiccup in Chapter 3, it’s much better from then on, doing quite a few things I’ve yet to see in another fic, like taking its sweet time to even start on Sekirei canon and giving Karasuba some focus. Harry also does an even better job of defying MBI here than Naruto and Jiraiya have been in Michief Fragment Sekirei.
- No One Left Behind by Syroc
- Solution to Tone Problems: Intentionally force Sekirei to take off its rose-colored glasses, even if that means hurting characters in the short term.
- This is a really interesting case. While it’s a spin-off of In Flight, it actually makes things even less pleasant. I won’t spoil things, but I will say that, for certain characters, it feels like it’s preparing to explore more depth of character than In Flight.
- I like it because, as with In Flight, it doesn’t have the schizophrenic tone that I perceive as a sort of “dystopic comedy” and, at the same time, I get the impression that the author is casting the retained (and perhaps mildly reinterpreted) aspects I’m not fond of as challenges to be overcome rather than, as Sekirei canon does, as static elements of the context in which the story takes place. If so, it’s the first fic to focus some of the elements I hate head-on and directly challenge them, rather than tonally brushing them under the rug (out of sight, out of mind) or bringing in a crossover hero who can re-interpret them.
- Broken Birds by Razor Scion
- Solution to Tone Problems: Acknowledge that things are darker than canon wants to portray but completely reinterpret the villain’s motivations. (Also, it’s The Doctor. Being The Hero is what he does.)
- An interesting story. It’s a Doctor Who crossover which explores Akitsu, Minaka, and Takami in more detail than anything else that I’ve read. However, the part most relevant to this list is that, rather than trying to sugar-coat the elements that grate on me, this fic throws them to the forefront, resolving my unease by acknowledging the tragic inevitabilities built into to the Sekirei concept. It has the odd flaw, but it’s definitely worth a read.
- Starry Starry Nights by Fenschway
- Solution to Tone Problems: What canon tone problems? The tone makes it obvious that this is a Wolverine story that happens to take place in Shinto Teito, not a Sekirei story featuring Wolverine.
- Logan/Wolverine wakes up heavily concussed (and temporarily amnesiac as a result) in a hole in the ground in a Tokyo, park being watched over by an alien woman named Akitsu. You can probably imagine where things go from there.
- Logan ends up endearing himself to various people in his own unique way and, as his faculties slowly come back online, he starts to plan to screw with Minaka for reasons that are better discovered by reading the story. An entertaining, very divergent take on Sekirei with a lot of good character work too. In this case, it fixes the tonal conflict in Sekirei by playing everything serious and character-deep.
- This story is like a better alternative to The Game Changer. It elaborates less on the Sekirei setting, but the main character is also a lot less likely to be called “boring” or “annoying”. It’s even got a Sekirei (albeit a more minor character) who uses her wits to keep her options open… which makes it only the second fic I’ve seen to do so. (Though, since she’s a minor character, it still doesn’t satisfy my desire to truly explore the character of a Sekirei who feels like she’s outwitting the status quo itself.)
- It’s also one of those stories where the title was carefully chosen and the revelation of its significance has a good build-up.
- The Ninth Sekirei Pillar by Arthain
- Solution to Tone Problems: Embrace the dark implications. Show how dark things really are… assumably as a prelude to heroically overcoming them.
- In defeating Madara, Naruto and Hanabi wind up thrown out of their own place in spacetime and wind up in Sekirei. This story definitely gives a less than ideal first impression but it also has some very clever twists and, once it gets going, it does a very creative and thorough job of interpreting the nature of the Sekirei crest in terms of fuuinjutsu.
- What earns this a place on the list is that it doesn’t screw around and try to whitewash anything. Not only does it kill (not deactivate) a named canon character for the sake of bettering the story, it resolves the tonal conflict in Sekirei by showing you just how much sadistic power lurks behind those innocuous-looking crests.
As for the ones which don’t make the cut, they are still fun and worth a read… they just don’t directly address the aspects of canon I dislike, instead focusing on giving them as little attention as possible while focusing on things I do enjoy:
- Ashikabi No Shinobi by pokemaster12
- Solution to Tone Problems: Recast the potentially problematic nature of the bond as a way to force open the walls around the immortal hero’s heart. Avoid stepping on any tonal landmines.
- Naruto Crossover. Noteworthy because it’s the first time I’ve run across a fic which truly makes the Sekirei-Ashikabi bond something good rather than a neutral set piece or something bad.
- It does cover a lot of the same major plot points as In Flight but it also does enough new stuff that I enjoyed it… for example, thanks in part to Naruto’s memories of Jiraiya, I’ve never seen a more amusing portrayal of Matsu.
- A Soul of Fire by SatireSwift
- Solution to Tone Problems: Mostly, just copying what works in In Flight’s tone mixed with rethinking certain specific botched canon events like Homura’s transformation.
- A self-proclaimed spin-off of In Flight, this fic explores what might happen if Sahashi Minato grew up to be Kotomine Shirou.
- It doesn’t really put much focus into knocking down the elements of the setting I find distasteful, but it does do a decent job of focusing more on the characters and it’s the first Sekirei fic I’ve found where our hero manages to set up a cold war between Miya and MBI after all but declaring open war on the Sekirei plan. (To actually declare war, the other side has to recognize you as a serious threat rather than just a guy with a temper.)
- It also brings Rin and Sakura into the mix, decides to mix up the Sekirei-Ashikabi pairings a bit, and takes Homura’s malleable body in a refreshing new direction. All in all, a very entertaining fic.
- The Wagtail’s Cuckoo by Syroc
- Solution to Tone Problems: Focus on a plot that never intersects canon and keep the reader distracted from the problematic side of things.
- A little timeline adjustment where, when Shirou doesn’t heal quickly enough, Emiya Kiritsugu takes him to a hospital… where he ends up meeting and later getting adopted by Uzume and Chiho. It doesn’t really fight canon directly, per se, since it simply keeps all the elements I don’t like as far off camera as possible, but it’s so rare for me to find something that’s short, sweet, and complete like this that I’ll toss it in the honourable mention bin for now.
- Debt of a Sword by gabriel blessing
- Solution to Tone Problems: Focus on a plot that never intersects canon and keep the reader distracted from the problematic side of things.
- A masterfully-written concept outtake from In Flight (Shirou-Miya pairing) that’s such a joy to read that it’s definitely earned a place on this list. Completed.
- Mischief Fragment Sekirei by Kestral on the Anime Addventure
- Solution to Tone Problems: Frustrate the antagonists, ignore the bond and let the reader assume Jiraiya the seal-master will eventually get around to figuring out something.
- This was the first I’d ever heard of Sekirei and it has some interesting potential. The basic setup is that Jiraiya and Naruto wind up in the Sekirei setting due to some Addventure fatesplit dimension-jumping plot device, the details of which are unimportant.
- The potential comes about in how good Naruto and Jiraiya, the extra-dimensional ninja spy master and student, are at outwitting MBI on sheer paranoia and unknown skills, despite not being fully familiar with the abilities of the locals.
- Unfortunately, since I wrote this list, it’s been increasingly focused on diluting the Sekirei elements to the point where I’m not sure whether it’ll be listed here much longer.
- Wizards, and Aliens, and Faeries Oh My! by Vanathor
- Solution to Tone Problems: It’s a Dresden files fic where Sekirei happen to exist in the same universe. What tone problems?
- The arrival of the Sekirei ends up having ripples in the context of the Dresden setting and Queen Mab calls in one of her favours to get Harry sent to Japan to investigate why some of the Wyld Fae who usually ally with her have dropped off the map.
- This story is barely started, but I feel it really deserves notice because of how much potential is in it if it gets far enough into its story arc and continues in the direction it seems to be going. (Think Soul’s Light but with The Dresden Files rather than Evangelion.)
- Sekirei of the Leaf by lord of the land of fire
- Solution to Tone Problems: I had trouble feeling any problems but it’s so different from canon that it’s hard to localize the reason… it probably has something to do with the Elemental Nations having so many other evils (even if you ignore the Caged Bird Seal) that it’s easier to reconcile the two when you bring the Sekirei to Naruto rather than vice versa.
- I’m honestly surprised that I’ve only ever seen this done twice (and that this is the only good one), given how mobile a crashing spaceship is as a plot device and how much originality and creativity it allows you to add to the plot. (I don’t count the third fic, which just relocates MBI to The Land of the Moon in the Elemental Nations. It’s even less interesting than something stupid like teleporting Naruto to Shin Tokyo because Madara hiccuped while fighting him.)
- In this one, Minato is still dead, Miya is the fifth Hokage, and Naruto is half-sekirei… and my main reason for finding it so entertaining is seeing what parallels the author managed to draw with canon in this hugely different setting.
- The Bloody Ashikabi by Arawn D. Draven
- Just as Sekirei has flaws which make it specific to a certain male audience, this fic has flaws which make it specific to a certain Harry Potter audience. As such, I can’t recommend it generally.
- That said, if your taste in Harry Potter fics does line up with this fic’s design choices, it’s quite engaging. However, what earns this fic an honourable mention is how it handles turning Homura female. (I run a gender-bending fiction index, so I’m no prude here, but bonding a guy to a straight guy without potential for divorce, and then resolving that by non-consensually turning him female is definitely not what I’d call sexy.)
- In this fic, Homura’s situation is made more palatable by “revealing” the following details through various means:
- The extreme gender imbalance is such a normal facet of the Sekirei species that, in the complete absence of males, some females will temporarily metamorphose into males in order to ensure a viable breeding population. (In other words, not unlike certain real-world amphibians and tropical fish, made famous as a plot point in the original Jurassic Park.)
- Homura’s adjuster didn’t realize this fact and locked Homura into a form meant to be temporary. Homura’s nearly fatal issues with control were a result of his/her body’s attempts to forcefully return to its natural state.
- After coming to terms with the more conscious objections to becoming female after having been raised male, Homura realizes that doing so has resolved a discomfort she never realized she was feeling… which suggests that, coupled with their natural gender-fluidity, Sekirei have much more subdued gender-identity instincts.
- When two Sekirei bond with each other, rather than bonding to a human, the urge to obey cancels out and they’re equal partners in the relationship (Discovered as a result of Harry getting turned into a human-Sekirei hybrid as part of saving his life). While this still doesn’t make everyone equal in a multi-way relationship, since each Sekirei can only have one Ashikabi, it does allow one to imagine a less “teenage power fantasy” interpretation of the species as they would exist back on their home planet.