Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Newtype Character Rankings 2010

About two weeks ago, Newtype composed an all-encompassing anime character popularity poll categorized by decade and gender.

Now, I know that Japan is a vastly different culture than the West, but I still found myself flabbergasted at a handful of results from this retrospective popularity contest. It’s more than just one or two characters securing a puzzlingly high or low position as the complete absence or even presence of more than a few characters had me recoiling in disbelief. Consequently, I decided to put together a little analysis of sorts on Newtype’s comprehensive census.

1980’s (Male)
*1. Lupin III
*2. Char Aznable
*3. Saotome Ranma
*4. Amuro Ray
*5. Son Goku
*6. Saeba Ryo
*7. Uesugi Tatsuya
*8. Kamille Bidan
*9. Pazu
10. Moroboshi Ataru
11. Ikusabe Wataru
12. Conan ("Future Boy Conan")
13. Yang Wenli
14. Kenshiro
15. Godai Yusaku
16. Roddy Shuffle ("Ginga Hyouryuu Vifam")
17. Sanada Ryo
18. Chirico Cuvie
19. Adalbert von Fahrenheit
20. Seiya
21. Ozora Tsubasa
22. Hassaway Noa ("Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack")
23. Hoshino Tetsuro
24. Bernard Wiseman
25. Shinohara Asuma
26. Rom Stohl
27. Ichidō Rei
28. Rabi
29. Ladios Sopp
30. JJ

My exposure here is lamentably limited so I cannot go in-depth to any degree. Lupin is definitely no surprise at #1 and Goku earns his spot in the top tier. Aside from that, though, I am completely clueless.

1980’s (Female)
*1. Nausicaa
*2. Lum
*3. Lynn Minmay
*4. Otonashi Kyoko
*5. Sheeta
*6. Clarisse
*7. Tendo Akane
*8. Kiki
*9. Sayla Mass
10. Haman Karn
11. Elpeo Ple
12. Maetel
13. Hayase Misa
14. Momo
15. Ayukawa Madoka
16. Asakura Minami
17. Doronjo
18. Four Murasame
19. Ple Two
20. Kisaragi Honey
21. Izumi Noa
22. Takaya Noriko
23. Shinobibe Himiko
24. Lana
25. Christina Mackenzie
26. Lalah Sune
27. Fraw Bow
28. Fa Yuiry
29. Katue Piason ("Ginga Hyouryuu Vifam")
30. Sakura Mami

I was really surprised and pleasantly so that Nausicaa managed to emerge victorious. Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind is my third favorite Miyazaki film and Nausicaa herself is a high-flying heroine for the ages. It was similarly nice to see that the ever-lovable and sweet Kiki also managed to secure a spot in the Top 10.

Since I’m working my way through Macross SDF as I type this out, I was rather intrigued that Lynn Minmay came in at #3. She’s not a bad character; I just don’t feel that she really stands out enough to warrant such an esteemed position. Well, I guess it’s hard to dismiss the fact that galactic pop idols are more prone to spotlight-stealing than most, especially the fledging days of the 80’s. That being said, I do feel that fellow Macross cast member Misa Hayase would have definitely earned her place here at #3, which is more than a bit disappointing. I guess succumbing to childish superficial appeal is something we’re all guilty of from time to time, and I mean that in the most positive of ways.

1990’s (Male)
*1. Ikari Shinji
*2. Nagisa Kaworu
*3. Kurama
*4. Sakuragi Hanamichi
*5. Hiei
*6. Heero Yuy
*7. Chiba Mamoru
*8. Himura Kenshin
*9. Edogawa Conan
10. Nekki Basara
11. Rukawa Kaede
12. Porco Rosso
13. Tamahome
14. Nike
15. Li Syaoran
16. Urameshi Yusuke
17. Kasshu Domon
18. Spike Spiegel
19. Yokoshima Tadao
20. Shishio Gai
21. Duo Maxwell
22. Shiro Amada
23. Parn
24. Xellos
25. Senpuuji Maito
26. Jean Roque Raltique
27. Loran Cehack
28. Seabook Arno
29. Arslan
30. Arima Soichiro

Of course, I knew Eva was going to flatten the competition here, but I still didn’t anticipate such a staggering runaway victory. Shinji pulling off #1 is rather unsurprising as he remains a groundbreaking character, if a bit too angsty for most people to handle.

What was surprising is that Kaworu clocked in at #2. Now, to his credit, he was a very chilling Anti-Villain that manifested an unrivaled feeling of unease in all of us from the moment he appeared. He was refreshing, complex, and, most of all, penetratingly creepy for the 15 minutes of screentime he received. While I can see why Kaworu is heads-and-shoulders above the majority of characters, I just can’t see him coming in as the runner-up for an entire decade, especially when he was up against the likes of Spike Speigel and Kenshin Himura.

Speaking of our pair of generational badasses, I am more than a bit dismayed that Spike came in so low (#18 to be precise). Where’s the love for Bebop? Again, I realize that Bebop didn't receive the universal acclaim as it did in the West, but Spike’s wisecracking, fancy-footwork-ing, supremely maverick nature splashed with unbridled cool should have secured him a spot in the Top 10 at the very least.

Finally, Xellos at #24 was a bit of a head-scratcher until I realized that there’s something to be said about his greasy, yet sophisticated arrogance. The fact that he repeatedly knifes everyone he comes across in the back like it’s no one’s business is also rather amusing (in a devilishly diabolical way, of course); especially when our heroes end up backing him up time and time again. He’s a strange mixture of both Affably Evil and Evilly Affable, that’s for sure.

1990’s (Female)
*1. Ayanami Rei
*2. Tsukino Usagi
*3. Soryu Asuka Langley
*4. Kinomoto Sakura
*5. Hoshino Ruri
*6. Nadia
*7. Mizuno Ami
*8. Mylene Jenius
*9. Belldandy
10. Deedlit
11. Chacha
12. Inokuma Yawara
13. Tifa Lockhart
14. Lina Inverse
15. Cecily Fairchild
16. Aino Minako
17. Katejina Loos
18. Allenby Beardsley
19. Hino Rei
20. Mikami Reiko
21. Relena Peacecraft
22. Shido Hikaru
23. Kukuri
24. Misumaru Yurika
25. Mōri Ran
26. Tiara
27. Sakura Momoko
28. Pai
29. Kino Makoto
30. Paffy Pafuricia

Not many surprises here. Rei at #1 and Asuka pulling #3, two Sailor scouts thrown in for good measure, and both Sakura Kinomoto and Belldandy to round out the top tier. The only peculiarity I picked up on was the woeful omission of Lina Inverse from the Top 10. Megumi Hayashibara was every bit as brilliant as the spunky, hot-tempered, dynamo of destructive Dragon-Slaves as she was with Rei so I really was hoping for Lina to pull in some more numbers than she did.

2000’s (Male)
*1. Lelouch Lamperouge
*2. Kira Yamato
*3. Athrun Zala
*4. Edward Elric
*5. Kyon
*6. Echizen Ryoma
*7. Shibuya Yuuri
*8. Sakata Gintoki
*9. Sagara Sosuke
10. Hei
11. Roy Mustang
12. Haji
13. Sugisaki Ken
14. Genjyo Sanzo
15. Tieria Erde
16. Chiaki Shinichi
17. Shinn Asuka
18. Araragi Koyomi
19. Kazuma
20. Setsuna F. Seiei
21. Date Masamune
22. Monkey D. Luffy
23. Syaoran
24. Koizumi Itsuki
25. Keroro
26. Ogami Ichiro
27. Coud Van Giruet
28. Lockon Stratos
29. Natsume Takashi
30. Koga. Gennosuke
31. Archer
32. Watanuki Kimihiro
33. Okazaki Tomoya
34. Takizawa Akira

Right, now we’ve finally cut a swath into familiar territory after two decades of cloudy confusion. Starting from the top, Lelouch came as no surprise and I’d argue that anyone who was even remotely connected to the anime-scene would have predicted a landslide victory for our favorite flamboyant terrorist leader. Fangirls love bishie sparkles combined with bishie brooding and magnificent bishie scheming. And yeah, even I’m not afraid to admit that he’s an incredibly likable and convincingly complex guy, what with his ruthless Knight-Templar crusade, bent on crushing the world and reconstructing it to fit his ideal vision.

Having never seen a Gundam series (although it’s definitely on my to-do list), I can’t comment on Kira Yamato or Athrun Zala, but I will say that seeing Edward Elric and Kyon round out the Top 5 was awesome. Ed’s no slouch when it comes to brooding or blundering, but he’s far more sympathetic, almost in an Iron Woobie kind of way (if he weren’t so badass, that is). And Kyon rides to victory on his lemony snarkiness alone, which I guess proves that uncompromisingly deadpan and sarcastic narration is just too appealing to pass up.

A bigger surprise, at least in my opinion, was that Gintoki came in at #8, as I’d always believed the series’ exposure was mediocre at best, despite its objective brilliance. Well, it’s great to see that such an amazing show is getting the recognition it so richly deserves. Gintoki’s ranking also proves that Tomokazu Sugita is quickly becoming a powerhouse seiyuu, with two Top 10 roles under his belt.

I’m a bit dismayed that Hei managed to sneak into the Top 10. While he’s quite an amusing and badass assassin, he hasn’t really done much in the way of breaking ground. Where’s the originality? Sure, it’s a blast to watch him fry thugs using his metallic garrote wire, but the rogue operative angle has been done before and better. Spike Speigel, anyone? How about Kenshin Himura, who can also match him in switching between polarizing personalities?

Ken Sugisaki at #12 is hands-down the most mind-boggling entry on this entire list. It’s not that he’s a bad character, per se, it’s just that he’s, well, artificial. Think about it. The whole “Oh I have perverted tendencies, but am actually a nice guy at heart” schtick feels horribly forced in a series, that, frankly, should have just stuck to straightforward parody throughout instead of trying to experiment with genuine drama. Need I also mention that Kimura from Azumanga Daioh has already pulled off this role and in a much more hilarious and not-totally-contrived fashion?

I’ll quickly wrap this list up. It was nice to see Itsuki Koizumi sneak in at #24 (probably due to far too much Ho Yay with Kyon), as well as Shinichi Chiaki and Takashi Natsume. What I’m most surprised by, however, was the fact that neither Light Yagami nor L made it on this list. That’s not to say that I personally think they’re incredibly awesome characters, but as far as popularity goes, I would have predicted them giving Lelouch some healthy competition. Guess Japan has no love for Death Note either.

2000’s (Female)
*1. Cagalli Yula Athha
*2. Lacus Clyne
*3. Sheryl Nome
*4. Nagato Yuki
*5. Suzumiya Haruhi
*6. C.C.
*7. Shinguji Sakura
*8. Shinku
*9. Senjyogahara Hitagi
10. Saber
11. Teletha Testarossa
12. Kusanagi Motoko
13. Riza Hawkeye
14. Misaka Mikoto
15. Katsura Hinagiku
16. Ryogi Shiki
17. Kallen Stadtfeld
18. Takamachi Nanoha
19. Hirasawa Yui
20. Higurashi Kagome
21. Kagura
22. Lunamaria Hawke
23. Ranka Lee
24. Makinami Mari Illustrious
25. Fujioka Haruhi
26. Konno Makoto
27. Fate Testarossa
28. Hinata Natsumi
29. Shana
30. Furukawa Nagisa
31. Aisaka Taiga
32. Akiyama Mio

Ironically, the category I have by far the most experience with, I am also least surprised by. Although maybe that should be fittingly, but I don’t really care. Anyway, my only gripe is that Sheryl Nome from Macross Frontier claimed the #3 spot, above the likes of Yuki Nagato and Haruhi Suzumiya. It’s not really unexpected that Gundam would leave the competition in the dust and finish with a clean sweep across bother genders, but it does temper the excitement somewhat. Ah well.

Pleasant surprises came in the form of Riza Hawkeye, whose sharpshooting skills secured her the #13 spot, and Haruhi Fujioka, proving that an unapologetic, outright rejection of stereotypes can usher in immense popularity. I mean, she’s the center of a reverse harem, yet is strikingly independent, levelheaded, quick-witted, and wonderfully snarky as opposed to being a useless piece of plasterboard.

Overall, I can’t say I was unimpressed with the results, although I did raise my eyebrows more and more as I ascended the list towards the #1 spot across all the categories. In the end, it’s just popularity polls, and a character’s popularity is not necessarily a result of their critical excellence or contribution to the medium as a whole. And as such, getting all “srs business” about these kinds of polls is a savagely fruitless endeavor. Who knows, maybe I’ll feel compelled to check out some of these shows that sport allegedly popular characters. And by “popular characters,” I of course mean either fanservice-y lumps of moe or lustful fangirl bait.

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