We have favorite shows, and we also have favorite characters. Sometimes our favorite characters aren’t even on our favorite shows (if we look at our top 5 lists). Here I will look at our habits of favoring anime characters and speculate a little on why we do it the way we do.
Here are three subjects. Including myself are Pontifus (as mentioned) and lelangir. All of us blog anime.
|Fav. Characters||Fav. Shows||Fav. Characters||Fav. Shows||Fav. Characters||Fav. Shows|
|Nekki Basara (Macross 7)||SDF Macross||Athena Glory (Aria)||Princess Mononoke||Sis (Now and Then, Here and There)||K-ON!!|
|Lynn Minmay (SDF Macross)||Eureka SeveN||Ginko (Mushishi)||FLCL||Fate Testarossa (Maho Shojo Lyrical Nanoha)||Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG|
|Char Aznable (Mobile Suit Gundam)||Neon Genesis Evangelion||Reki (Haibane Renmei)||Aria the Animation||Yang Wenli (Legend of the Galactic Heroes)||Legend of the Galactic Heroes|
|Reinhard von Lohengram (Legend of the Galactic Heroes)||Cowboy Bebop||Sasahara Kanji (Genshiken)||SDF Macross||Sakurai Yuji (Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad)||Planetes|
|Kamina (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann)||Revolutionary Girl Utena||Koiwai Yotsuba (Yotsuba&!)||[none listed]||Nakano Azusa (K-ON!!)||Maho Shojo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS|
Immediately noticeable are the lack of correlation between the characters and the shows. The correlations appear to be exceptions rather than the rule. I don’t think there’s much to this, as there are plenty of memorable characters that can be found in not as remarkable shows. At times the characters are the primary draw for such shows.
Also, there is some connection I think with Azuma’s ‘Otaku Database’ theory. There are shows that aren’t viewed for particularly Liberal Humanist values such as timeless quality, but rather for the possession of characters that have elements viewers like. This shouldn’t be a strong connection however, as I don’t think that the sample group (or perhaps the larger fandom) favors shows strictly on database elements, at least not yet.
Speculation: Admirable Traits Wins over “Interesting Complexity”
Beyond the people on the table above, I noticed in many (perhaps most) MAL profiles that people’s favorite characters are those whom they admire. Perhaps I should qualify this for males favoring male characters. Males will also admire favorite female characters, but there is also a layer of sexual attraction in play, so it is more difficult for me to speculate on this.
That said, the admirable qualities of favored female characters qualify them to exist in an imaginary romantic pairing with the viewer, whether this is actively imagined or not.
Looking at Pontifus and lelangir’s list, from what I know about the characters listed, these are all admirable and upstanding folk. They are fallible, in a way that is charming or endearing, as opposed to more complex flaws as can be found in characters like Paul von Oberstein (Legend of the Galactic Heroes), Lelouch Lamperouge (Code Geass), or Ikari Gendo (Neon Genesis Evangelion).
I can easily imagine someone favoring a set of characters like these, but even I don’t do so, as much as I really like them. I’m not concerned with viewers who dislike these characters, but rather with those who do like them and yet would not consider them favorites. I wonder if there is an answer beyond the obvious: that they just like other characters more.
Explaining my MAL favorites, using the ghostlightningian admirable/complex spectrum. In fact, I want to add a third dimension: relatable. This is just a quick overview for the sake of getting ideas out there.
Athena Glory (Aria) — Admirable, but maybe more complex than is immediately evident. At any rate she’s a favorite because I admire her willingness to help Alice without the least expectation of reward, unless one counts her own pleasure in having done something nice for her kouhai.
Ginko (Mushishi) — Admirable. He’s probably complex, too, but again, I like him because of how he values life. He assumes personal responsibility whenever he has to kill a mushi.
Reki (Haibane Renmei) — Complex. She’s troubling in both her actions and her function as a character, and thereby saves Haibane Renmei from being a mostly bland and generic example of slice of life.
Kanji Sasahara (Genshiken) — Relatable. His predicaments feel very authentic to me.
Yotsuba Koiwai (Yotsuba&!) — Admirable for her being Yotsuba. Probably the characters I enjoy most in Yotsuba&! are the adults, but they’re probably able to have as much fun as they do because of Yotsuba’s being around to justify it.
Max Jenius (er, Macross) — Admirable. Much as he ceases to be so admirable and becomes a little more complex in Macross 7, it’s probably admiration (in the form of awe of his manly prowess — he makes intelligence look cool) that made him a favorite in the first place.
Mullin Shetland (Last Exile) — This is tough because I’m not really sure. Mullin is the oldest favorite on the list by far. But ultimately I think it has to do with his being relatable — he’s just a guy who doesn’t know what he wants out of life, much less how to get what he wants out of life.
Souichi Negishi/Krauser (Detroit Metal City) — Relatable, amazingly enough. I get his sense of being torn between multiple identities — including the associated anxiety — and his inability to settle on one over another. I sympathize with his discovering that life takes strange, unplanned, un-hoped-for turns.
So for me that’s 50% admirable, 12.5% complex, and 37.5% relatable — and I suppose that supports ghostlightning’s observation that people are drawn primarily toward characters they admire (and not necessarily toward complex characters), an observation I agreed with re: myself in the first place.
But then I wonder about how people consciously choose faves — for me it has a lot to do with whether a character feels satisfying in the context of the show’s events, I think (though once that stipulation has been met, they can be removed from those events and I’ll still be excited about them, i.e. Ramba Ral as he appears in fan art and Dynasty Warriors Gundam). And maybe that’s why Nekki Basara is so great, singing to space whales notwithstanding.
So, to put it another way, what I’m talking about here isn’t really like Azuma’s database business; I’m not savoring Ramba Ral’s discrete elements. I think of my favorite characters as complete packages in the sense that their existence — say, in fan art, conversation, or memory — implies everything they’ve done plot-wise. They’re these horribly clunky things that resist reverse-engineering, not at all like constructs of convenient moe building blocks.
How Do I Explain My List?
The top two characters, Basara and Minmay are there for very specific reasons. I love Macross in a way that I think that’s different from other anime fans. It’s almost as if I am a fan of Macross as much as I am a fan of anime in general. I am a fan of Macross more than I am a fan of robot anime. It is a powerful love that finds expression in We Remember Love.
Minmay represents my discovery of the show in 1984. Love at first sight. She represents my loyalty to the show. She is grossly imperfect and generally makes a mess of things – and not in a winsome, moe fashion as one may expect from such a statement. She represents my view that I love Macross not because it’s the best anime I’ve ever seen. Rather, I esteem it above all other anime because of my love for it.
But Minmay is a woman, and I too seek to look up to in some way to my favorite character. Basara serves this well because like Minmay he represents how flawed the franchise is and yet how much I love it anyway. And yes, he pilots a variable fighter using a guitar hero controller and makes space whales LISTEN TO HIS SONG.
If Minmay is the symbol of my love for Macross as a whole, Basara allows me to be aggressive with it and champion my favorite anime franchise to the ends of the galaxy. THAT’S WHY THEY’RE THERE.
The rest are generally admirable, Char, Reinhard, and Kamina are strong-willed men who do great things. But in the case of Reinhard and Char, they are very interesting in that I disagree with many of their ways. I don’t really see myself as the galactic conqueror type, nor the amoral revolutionary. Even so, I find them the most fascinating among all other anime characters. That’s why they’re there.
Kamina and Basara are alike in that they’re courageous morons that don’t let their lack of intelligence get in the way of saving the universe. I fancy myself an intellectual, but I have a deep intellectual appreciation for this kind of idiocy.
I still believe that the choice of favorites, while an act of collection, is as much an exercise in ‘putting on clothes,’ that is what a fan does to present himself to others. It is a manifestation of taste, declaring what is quality. What is added here is since the characters chosen are admirable, it is an advertisement of what the fan holds as (at least some of the) ideal virtues.
Now I acknowledge that this is but speculation, and the analysis may be extremely fallible. I put this forth less as an attempt to educate readers, but more as a means to educate myself through discussion.
Who are your favorite characters?
Why so? Do you have a method or system in choosing them?