Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Top 10 Characters

Following the trend birthed over at THAT Anime Blog, I decided to scrape something concerning my favorite anime characters together.  The gist of Ghostlightning's postulation was that there are two categories under which favorite characters can fall: “Complex” and “Admirable.”  Other bloggers hastily appended two additional categories: “Entertaining” and “Relatable.”  The point being made is that the criteria for choosing a favorite character are vastly different from the criteria for choosing a favorite show in that personal appeal far outweighs technical merits or “Liberal Humanist” values.

Personally, a strong cast of characters can and most likely will cause me to overlook a wealth of glaring, detrimental flaws, so I fully understand the means by which a favorite character can come from a not-so-great series.

10. Senjougahara Hitagi (Bakemonogatari) – Complex

I almost went with admirable here, but that would mainly be from a perspective removed from the confines of the show itself so I think complex works better both within and without.  And Senjougahara is indeed complex, so much so that while she seems to be in complete control over every scathing quip delivered with a beautifully-framed sultry sideways-glance, she's really just as confused and crippled as her unfortunate victims.  It's a defensive mechanism that's triggered involuntarily and the fact that she is just starting to struggle against it is what brings her down to earth and makes her nothing more than a frail teenager in need of a friend.

Okay, okay, yeah, it's great fun to see her flay Araragi senseless with her sharp-tongued trolling.  Probably her most impressive feat is her uncanny ability to string her boyfriend along mercilessly whilst keeping him enamored with her.

9. Mogami Kyouko (Skip Beat!) – Admirable

If nothing else, Kyouko's got guts; so much so that she could teach a platoon of hardened frontline soldiers a thing or two about determination.  When she loses her cool, there's not a single person who isn't intimidated and for damn good reason.  Who would have thought that the flaming pillar of courage that towers above the battlefield and reduces all other contenders to soot would come from a shoujo-comedy series?

But while her feisty Fem-GAR makes her admirable, she's just a lot of fun in general.  She can be innocent and airheaded (which in fact is her default persona), yet sympathetically cute when overwhelmed by emotions that aren't anger.  Heck, she can even wax Badass whenever she's called upon to adopt a role (in fact, it's the picture I went with just because of how cool she looks).  Compare Kyouko the student to Kyouko the actor to Kyouko the jilted harbinger of revenge and you'll have three completely different people on your hands.

8. Allen Walker (D. Gray Man) – Admirable

I'm not a fan of shounen-action and found Fullmetal Alchemist's pint-sized lead “mildly compelling” at best, but Allen just sort of clicked with me from the moment I fired up D. Gray Man.  Maybe it's 'cos he's the antithesis of the traditional shounen hero in that he's meek, soft-spoken, and heck, even cowardly at times, yet still manages to pull off posh, leather-clad badassery (seriously, just look at that Crown Clown) when it's crunch time.  And while I dare not wander into the territory that is shotacon (in addition to being completely straight), I have to admit he's adorable enough to evoke an omochikaeri~ every now and again.

I went with admirable here because while Allen's a far cry from your typical shounen protagonist, he still retains all of those admirable cornerstones such as unwavering dedication to one's friends and sharp-as-steel courage.

7. Miyazaki Nodoka (Mahou Sensei Negima!) – Admirable

Aww...she's so adorable.  Cute and meek may be, but recent chapters have proven that Nodoka will have easier time victimizing you, if you mess with her or her friends.  That's right, she took so many levels in badass all at once with the line “My counterattack starts here!” that not only was just boosted to the level of memetic badass, but it was directly lampshaded in the series itself. 

Aside from that, the main reason Nodoka resonates with me more than the legions of Shrinking Violets in anime boils down to relatability.  I myself am withdrawn and reclusive but my dandere tendencies do inspire me to open up, just like Nodoka.  But more significantly, I love hanging around at bookstores and drowning myself in trivia, manga, fantasy epics, you name it.  How could I not feel inherently destined for a girl nicknamed “Honya-chan”?

6. Sakata Gintoki (Gintama) – Admirable

It's hard to pin Gintoki down, but I'd like to think he's the inspirational brand of admirable.  That is, someone the otaku audience can identify with and aspire to (if they had his kick-butt wooden-katana prowess that is).  He's snarky, solitary, short-tempered, and an unremitting jerkass...unless you happen to be a person in need of help.  In which case, he'll unhesitatingly break every bone in his body to rescue you from the depths of despair.

I once described Gintoki as a “covert chevalier” in that even he, at times, forgets how much of a Good Samaritan he is.  Yeah, he's a lazy bum who constantly gets his balls twisted by this little thing we call life, but that's why we love him.

5. Suzumiya Haruhi (no Yuutsu) – Both!

The only character on this list that I couldn't properly classify.  She's complex because not only is she the embodiment of a dizzying wealth of character tropes, but she's also got a relatable edge: the titular melancholy.  Put simply, it's a severe case of I Just Want to be Special, but she conveys her regret in such an understandable fashion that, well, we all know exactly how she feels.

And what's not to love about her genki, gung-ho attitude of tackling life head-on and never pausing for a lull since our time on this planet is so very fleeting? Her energetic free-spirited-ness could only be described as admirable and is so powerful that it needs its own anchor, namely Kyon, to keep Haruhi from taking the SOS Brigade straight to the stars.

4. Sagara Sousuke (Full Metal Panic!) – Admirable

Sousuke may very well be the only exception on my list seeing as categorizing him as admirable is merely a formality.  While he is admirable and complex, I think entertaining works best for our short-fused, hyperparanoid sergeant.

While Sousuke's dangerous(ly hysterical) naivet√© makes him, in my opinion, the funniest character in anime, his character is still humbled by a rather grisly upbringing and the ability to be exceptionally competent on the few occasions where critical situations do worm their way to Kaname Chidori's front door.  But, really, none of that holds a candle to watching him instinctively detonate a bay of gym lockers or interrogate teachers at gun-point with their arms locked behind their backs.

3. Vash the Stampede (Trigun) – Complex

It's hard to argue with the classics.  Even today, Vash is one of the most complex characters in all of anime, while still remaining insanely goofy and likable.  Pacifist may be, but his status as the God of Marksmanship is a good indicator of how much of a badass he can be.  Plus, he can play comic relief and miraculously not come off as an insufferable twat.

But the reason Vash is so remarkable is because of his engrossing backstory and the way it's subtlety revealed throughout the course of the series.  Even during the earlier, lighthearted episodes, hints are dropped that this fun-loving wanderer is the result of something sinister, something tragic, something taboo. Vash plays every one of his roles to perfection, be it womanizing clown, spot-on sharpshooter, pacifistic mediator, nomadic martyr, or messiac savior.

2. Ryougi Shiki (Kara no Kyoukai) – Admirable

One of the most beautiful cases of an Ice Queen defrosting, Shiki's story is a tale of self-discovery, both old and new.  Over the course of Kara no Kyoukai, she gradually overcomes the mental blockades that she herself instituted to cope with her loss in order to pursue a relationship with someone she had truly fallen in love with.

What makes her truly admirable is, again, her acceptance of who she is.  Years of mental conditioning, a harsh, isolated upbringing, an inveterate thirst for combat and killing, heck even dissociative identity disorder; none of it means jack to her after Mikiya enters her life.  Now that's admirable.

1. Katsura Hinagiku (Hayate no Gotoku!) – Admirable

Allegations of Mary Sue be damned, because this girl is a bonafide Parody Sue and is loving every minute of it!  As I mentioned in a previous post, Hinagiku's got everything; she's admirable in her upstanding heroics, complex in her tangled web of emotions, entertaining in her being the only straight man in the crowd of idiots surrounding her (plus her propensity for parody), and relatable in her underlying teenage insecurities.

But to be honest, I just love how good she looks at whatever she does, be it heading up the student council, acting like the tall, aloof, bishoujo she wishes she could be, playing mom to her older sister, sweeping up the whoopsies of twit-trifecta, Risa/Miki/Izumi, berating and/or spazzing out in front of Hayate, or stuffing her wooden katana down the nearest Eldritch Abonimation's windpipe.  She's just too damn awesome.

So the final breakdown of this list is as follows:
Admirable – 7
Complex – 2

If I had to assign Haruhi to a category, it would have to be admirable, so my list ends up being rather admirable-heavy.  I guess the disconnect between character and series is more significant than I thought seeing as I'm unrepentantly clamoring for more sophisticated, intricate narratives when it comes to anime, yet seem to be leaning away from the more sophisticated characters.

But then again, most of my favorites are a healthy mix of both traits with a splash of enjoyability and a pinch or two of relatablity on top so it's hard to say.  Looking back, I seem to have a thing for multi-faceted creatures, particularly in the case of Kyoko, Vash, and Hinagiku. In any case, this has certainly been a fun, eye-opening little exercise so thanks, Ghostlightning, for the impetus!

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