Pretty much what it says on the tin. Frog-Kun recently made a more personal post about the anime characters with which he has felt a “quasi-spiritual kinship”. Inspired, I’d like to do the same.
I’m not sure I feel as strong an association with any one character on this list as Frog-Kun seems to feel with the characters on his list. Accordingly, the list of characters is longer, but each explanation is shorter.
Nishi (Mind Game)/Watashi (The Tatami Galaxy)
Not that there aren’t plenty of distinct differences between Masaaki’s protagonists, but I relate to very similar aspects of Nishi and Watashi’s characters. In short, they’re both essentially well-meaning, but neurotic, and they hopelessly over think everything they do. It’s an aspect of myself I’ve battled for a long time, and watching these two similarly battle their own contrived fears and failures was enormously associable for me. I’d go so far as to say Nishi’s arc in Mind Game has profoundly affected my perspective on life as a whole.
Shouma (Mawaru Penguindrum)
There are a lot of differences between Kanba and Shouma in Mawaru Penguindrum, and while most people found Shouma’s indecisiveness frustrating, I found him infinitely more associable than Kanba. Shouma is a boy who sees the consequences of his own actions, who is able to stand outside of himself for long enough to see that everyone has precious things to protect, and often protecting what you have means taking those precious things from others. Crushed by the weight of his own actions, Shouma is unable to take action, and falls into an apathy in the face of what seems to be a zero sum game.
As citizens of a first world country, our every purchase has far reaching consequences on those less fortunate than us. As someone who remembers this cost, I found Shouma’s empathetic ways extremely sympathetic.
Satou (Welcome to the NHK)
I almost feel silly even putting this one on here, because I doubt there is anyone who watched Welcome to the NHK and didn’t feel at least some deep association with Satou. He is a character that epitomises the weakness in all of us. The part of us that wants to run away, the part of us that wants to blame everyone else, the part of us that can’t trust those around us, the part of us that’s looking for easy answers, and, at the extreme, the part of us that wonders if things wouldn’t be better if we just weren’t alive at all.
No scene affected me as deeply as when Satou visits Yamazaki’s college, and imagines all the other students as ultra competent snobs, sneering derisively at him in secret. As someone struggling with a difficult course, surrounded by people who seemed to be effortlessly out-achieving me, this scene hit horrifyingly close to home.
Kasuga (The Flowers of Evil)
There’s no doubt in my mind that the will to self-destruction is a core human drive. Kasuga is a little like Satou, in that he is often used to epitomise the worst in us – if you can’t find something deeply associable about any of his weakness, then you’re not looking. However, nothing about Kasuga resonated deeper with me than the increasing joy that sprung to his face as his life spiralled further into anarchic, self-destructive chaos. The beauty in destruction, the power of tragedy, the catharsis of loosening the chains we usually impose upon ourselves. Nothing in the Flowers of Evil hit me harder than the way Oshimi and Nagahama captured this perplexing aesthetic.
Touga (Revolutionary Girl Utena)
Touga proved a far more compelling character than I thought he ever could. Set up as the arrogant, manipulative antagonist of the first arc of Utena, I never suspected his influence on the story would be as far-reaching as it is.
At first Touga seems like little more than a representation of pride, arrogance, and rapacious male sexual assertion, but he actually changed throughout the story. Something crazy happens, he actually starts to genuinely care for Utena, rather than treating her as a particularly challenging conquest. The thing is, he still acts upon this from within the extremely masculine paradigm he represents. He tries to save Utena by an attempt to subjugate her. He attempts to subvert her own autonomy to protect her, because even if he cares for her, perhaps even respects her, he still doesn’t see her as an equal. Ironically, in this way, Touga may be the best representation of the “everyman” the Utena series has, as one who struggles to overcome his own innate masculine lens.
I might call myself a feminist, and I do truly believe in those ideals, but I can’t completely escape the chauvinist aesthetic that, in many ways, comes naturally to me. The desire to protect, even at the cost of another’s autonomy, is something I can definitely associate with, and is, rather ironically, one of the bigger ongoing issues in how anime portrays gender relations, and how, I believe, it instils unfortunate biases in its viewers.
Well, that was a pretty fun aside. I slapped a “Pt 1” on the title because I may feel like expanding this list at some point. No promises though 😉