Strong characters are a hard thing to come by in anime sometimes. We get exposed to so much anime that it’s likely we’ve just obtained a numbness to the lack of genuinely strong characters, but it’s still a problem that shows it face enough for me to complain about it. However, an even smaller minority, if good characters are the minority to begin with, are good male characters. I know that sounds like the beginning of a Kotaku or BuzzFeed article, but I promise I’m being serious right now. I talked about it on Twitter briefly yesterday and decided that since today’s editorial was already going to be late, I might as well write it about something I can rant about for awhile. Male characters in anime are rarely done well and the more I say that the more it must sound like an overstretched lie, but hey, its editorial material right? Let’s get started.
Maybe this is because I’m a guy and I just naturally focus more on female characters, but I forget male characters a lot. An inexcusably high amount of times. I can recite the full names of every Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka? character, their ages, what schools they go to, and what café drink they’re named after regardless of the situation, but I commonly forget the names of all of the boys in Free! or the name of Nisekoi’s harem lead despite me marathoning the most of the first season on a long car ride and even attempting to review the second season. Even yesterday when our lovely editor tagged me to post a picture of three of my favourite male characters on Twitter, the only one that came to mind right away was Koyomi Araragi and the other two took me a second to think about and remember why I admired them so much as characters. Of course, eventually I remembered them, but why am I so absent minded almost exclusively when it comes to male characters? But then, when I tried to remember the names of other male characters, like the main character from Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai or Machine-Doll wa Kizutsukanai I couldn’t remember, and those were both shows that I watched relatively recently and really enjoyed. Then slowly, every single male character that I couldn’t imagine as a mentionable one meshed into the same image of a male character with the same set of stereotypical emotions.
The way it might appear is that the main character needs to fit into some sort of trope if they’re a male. If they’re in a fantasy story they need to be a hero, if they’re in a slice of life show they need to have some sort of awkward quirk and gain some sort of love interest, if they’re in a futuristic setting they need to be some sort of unrecognised super genius. I have nothing against these types of characters, and they’re genuinely super valid character types that could easily make an interesting narrative with the right creative mind behind them, but the fact that they’re done over and over and over in such a way that makes it feel as if Japan can’t come up with any better character types. There is no variety with these tropes, every one acts the same way with the same emotions and the sake feelings towards the same conflicts. Changing the setting doesn’t make your pre-made character special, it makes them cliché and unoriginal.
Part of me feels like I’ve been searching for strong female characters and gaining this list of amazing girls who do amazing things in their respective shows that I’ve just totally become negligent towards male characters as a whole. I mean, Kiritsugu Emiya was an ultra badass who I loved, Koyomi Araragi was funny and the perfect main character for his series, but after that my mind doesn’t really know where to go to name male characters. I guess I could name Yumeiji from Yumekui Merry for being at least interesting to experience, but the only reason I really remember his name is because I’ve been reading Yumekui Merry for over three years. Why can’t we get more unforgettable male characters who stand out in a positive way as a character who was excellent because they did their job as a character correctly. I already discussed the importance of characterisation last week, and this never came up because the problem is almost always that the main male character is supposed to be a window into their world. It works as a window, but as a character, none of these main characters have any sort of standing in my head.
Of course, however, there are shows that do the lovely deed of applying female characteristics towards male characters, like Free! or Ouran Koukou Host Club which take all of memorable qualities in quirky female tropes and applied s them to guys in a way that makes them stand out. Free! went a bit far with this, making their entire male cast literally females down to their names and emotional states then placed them in a male’s body. Not saying it didn’t work to grab my attention to each one of the boys as someone unique, but is that still writing a male character? Is writing a Nagisa the same thing as writing a Koyomi? Is writing a female character than giving them a male appearance still writing a male character? Yes? No? Maybe? I don’t know, but it is clearly different from how normal male characters are written. Haruka from Free! was not written with the same ideas in place as when Shirou from Fate/Stay Night was written. Maybe that’s what it’ll take to write a male character I’m satisfied with, to write them differently. Or maybe I’m biased and just hate male characters for some reason. I dunno.
Welp, that was this week’s editorial. I’m really sorry for the delay, I slept through five alarms that were going to wake me up to post this thing and yesterday I suddenly decided to change topics which is why this delay existed in the first place. I also apologize about the lack of a post last week; I explained why I was taking the week off on Twitter but I never let the beautiful audience here know directly why. Anyways, we’re back on normal schedule now so expect the usual post at the usual time from here on! If you like what I do here, there’s always my personal Twitter to check out if you’re interested! With that said, I will see you all next week!
The featured image for this post was drawn by pixiv artist 花捺.