Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Top 10 Characters: ZA RESTO

In case it hasn't been obvious, I'm kind of on a listing bender right now so why not ride out the buzz while it lasts?  A few weeks ago I posted my Top 10 Characters list in response to the trending topic “On What it Means to Call Anime Characters One’s Favorites” and am already finding said list perilously close to being out-of-date.  As such, I figured I should go all the way by displaying the remaining characters in my Top 10 per gender as doing so would provide an opportunity to shrewdly slip in some retroactive modifications.

10. Harima Kenji (School Rumble) – Admirable

Harima Kenji, YOU ARE THE MAN!  Never before has an unassuming high school delinquent with the face and brashness of a yazuka member been so idiotically endearing.  Perhaps it's because he's an otaku conduit as a closet-aspiring mangaka, but I'm thinking the combination of shortsighted (but well-intentioned) boneheadedness and melodramatic inner monolouging that would make Lelouch Lamperouge blush is why Harima steals whatever scene he happens to be in.

Like Sousuke, Harima fits under entertaining better than any other category, but for the sake of simplicity, I went with admirable seeing as he does try really damn hard to shed his naturally gruff exterior and reveal his hidden heart of gold.  Heck, he even occasionally succeeds, if in the most inelegant and hysterical of ways. 

9. Aisaka Taiga (Toradora!) – Admirable

To me, Taiga represents the zenith of the bitchy tsundere archetype in that she's exhaustively fleshed-out to the point of being genuinely admirable.  Sure, she's a tad precocious, severely short-tempered, and abrasive as sandpaper, but the reality is that she's just misunderstood.  Her interactions with Minorin prove how good and honest of a friend she is underneath all that aloof cattiness and from there, all it takes is a chance-encounter with Ryuuji to get her to gradually open her heart up to and accept the world around her. 

Also, since my friend insists:

Oh, and +1 wooden katana! 

8. Shinn Asuka (Gundam SEED Destiny) – Complex

Oh Shinn.  You had such potential before Kira came along and hijacked the entire series.  I'd go into more detail, but Cagalli is crying right now.

In all seriousness, as much as I like Shinn, there's a lot about him that I absolutely cannot stand.  But that's totally fine because as glaring as his flaws are, they serve to humanize him and make him the one of the most complex characters in a series chock-full of one-track-minded, zombified versions of our formerly-lovable SEED gang.

Shinn is a messed up kid. Maybe he clings a tad too tightly to that silly pink cellphone, but trauma marches on.  Throughout Destiny, it's clear that Shinn follows his heart and instincts over reason and I just couldn't, in good conscience, give him any grief for his rash decision-making when it came to choosing sides in the ultimate showdown.  At that point, having survived all of the atrocities that he'd been put through, he was just a confused ball of anguish and anger and all the more props to him for sticking with what he felt in his gut.  Remember, it's only called Wangst if it's suitably unjustified and Shinn is really..just a tragic result of what would happen if one were to put a high-strung, vengeful, brooding teenager in the seat of a giant robot.

7. Hei (Darker than Black) – Complex

He's Chinese Electric Batman.  In other words, Batman plus electricity and the martial arts prowess of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.  Did I mention that his coat is bulletproof, but only when he's wearing it?! Need I say more?

Okay, okay.  Hei is a treat to watch in action because while he is a Contractor and must maintain a brusque, detached demeanor at all times, there are still lines that he refuses to cross.  In a world plunged into bleak chaos, Hei is driven by his personal agenda to dispatch those who stand in his way without mercy, yet he still retains his moral compass and conscience, which 99% of the population has long since discarded.  While he's ruthless on the battlefield, he still finds time to show subtle compassion to the kindred spirits around him.  In the world's darkest hour, by virtue of managing to retain even a shred of his humanity, Hei alone walks the path of twilight.

6. Onizuka Eikichi (Great Teacher Onizuka) – Admirable

Like Harima, on the surface, there isn't too much to get worked up about with Onizuka.  He's rude, dumb, pugnacious, perverted, and a societal reject in just about every sense of the word.  But under the surface, he just might be society's greatest savior: a teacher who actually cares about his students and sticks his neck out for them when the soulless educational system had long since left them to rot.

And like many of my favorite characters, Onizuka is all about following his instincts.  It's easy to bow your head or grind someone else's into the dirt with your heel when confronted with the “The Man” and Onizuka deals with such conundrums throughout his tenure on a daily basis.   And each time, he tells society to shove it while gleefully zooming away on his motorcycle with the students of Class 3-4 along for the unforgettable ride.  Onizuka is what every educator should aspire to be: someone who holds the needs of his students above all else.

5. Claire Stanfield (Baccano!) - Admirable

Claire is solipsism incarnate and boy does he get his mileage out of his God complex.  Although fellow-nutcase Ladd Russo has more in common with The Joker from Batman, Claire mirrors Joker's theatrics to an admirable degree, hence his categorical designation.

Like Joker, to Claire, the world is nothing more than a stage on which he performs.  Unlike the rest of the immortals in Baccano!, Claire is truly immortal in that, to him, every other person in the world makes up the audience and the stage where he prances acrobatically about is a higher plane of existence that simply cannot be touched by those not blessed by divinity.  Cunning, cutthroat, and cool, Claire is well-aware that the universe is his oyster.

4. Okazaki Tomoya (Clannad) – Admirable

Tomoya is the ultimate everyman.  Far from the traditional milquetoast harem lead, Tomoya is actually a well-rounded human being with dismissive, snarky tendencies wrought by his fair share of crippling vices.  While the majority of Clannad may suggest otherwise, the back-half of ~After Story~ shows that I'm not just talking about his shoulder.

As often as the trope comes up in anime, Tomoya pulls off being a Jerk With a Heart of Gold believably and naturally.  His dry commentary far surpasses the likes of fellow-KyoAni frontman Kyon and his pranks are often side-splittingly hiliarious.  But underneath it tall, Tomoya is kind, caring, and a stalwart friend.  Heck, just reminiscing about all the emotional wringers the series puts him through is enough to get the tears flowing.

3. Reki (Haibane Renmei) - Complex

Reki kind of reminds me of Tomoya, but she's far more of a transparent, beleaguered soul who helps those around her like a nurturing mother under the guise of furthering her own ambitions and leave the cage of Haibane Renmei once and for all.  Whether or not it was a case of Becoming the Mask (and it most likely wasn't), Reki cares greatly about her children so much so that she inadvertently ends up forsaking her own freedom for them.

The complexity-tag was a no-brainer for Reki.  Even she finds it difficult to acknowledge her altruism and her solemn wish to be liberated is buried under the fear of facing the truth and accepting her sin.  It is only through Rakka that Reki discovers who she is and what she wants and it's not until the finale that she finally realizes that not only does she truly care about Rakka and the others, but that she relies on them as much as they rely on her.

2. Holo (Spice and Wolf) – Admirable

Holo is one of the most fascinating specimens in recent memory and it's hard to say whether or not she's more admirable than she is complex. For one, just the fact that she knows it's for the best to remain in solitude and yet chooses to seek a fleeting (at least to her) companionship shows how remarkably fragile she is, despite her years of wisdom.

But in the end, I suppose the fact that she feels so real, yet fancifully fantastical is what makes her admirable. She can be an irresistible flirt, a clump of confused emotions, a sly and confident business accomplice, or even a cute, clumsy wolf-girl. She's got a face and personality for every occasion and, believe me, you don't want to see what she looks like when pushed into a corner.

1. Iwakura Lain (Serial Experiments Lain) - Complex

All hail the one and only Goddess of the Wired.  This hacker-chick is a subtle and delicate creature, spending most of her time entangled in a mass of wires not unlike the movie Pi and trying to piece together her destiny by plumbing the dark depths of cyberspace.  Her introspective journey through the Wired is fascinating and the motif of the revolutionary impact of communication draws her out of her shell and peels back more and more layers of her labyrinthine psyche.

Like Reki, Lain finds herself locked in a desperate struggle to find meaning in her life as well as the world around her and soon discovers that the path she walks is treacherous indeed.  I mean, ascending to the status of de facto digital deity is a bit too much of to ask of a tepid teenager, but Lain, the determined Little Miss Badass she is, steps up to the plate to put technology in its place.

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