Understanding the “Emotionless” Anime Girl

I’ve heard it all before, about how otaku like the quiet, blue-haired anime girls because they’re empty dolls onto which fans can imprint any sort of fantasy on them. It’s supposed to be a selfish fantasy that speaks nothing of REAL women.

And this is wrong.

The first step to understanding the “emotionless” anime girl is to realize that they’re not emotionless at all. More important than the quiet distance that they usually provide is the evidence of emotion that appears. Because they are so quiet all the time, any actions they take are that much more significant. They may even say that they’re unable to feel anything, but when evidence proves otherwise, it fascinates the viewer, who gets a brief glimpse at what the character may really be all about.

Ayanami Rei’s stern reaction to Shinji holding that pair of broken glasses.

Eureka’s simple comment that Renton is “interesting.”

Nagato Yuki contributing to the defeat of the Computer Club.

Vanilla H’s anything and everything.

And of course, Hoshino Ruri discovering her childhood.

If someone wants a blank slate to fantasize over, the truth is that any character will do. But fans who love the “emotionless” type do not do it out of some desire for an everywoman, they do it out of the desire to see what this specific girl is all about. More important than imprinting an image onto the character is striving to find out what the character is all about.

PS: As I’ve said in a previous post, I don’t count Kawazoe Tamaki in this category. She’s just a quiet girl who wears her heart on her sleeve.

7 thoughts on “Understanding the “Emotionless” Anime Girl

  1. The voluminous mountains worth of fan-made works involving these characters in which any and every sort of fantasy imaginable is imprinted onto said characters–to an extent that is *significantly greater* than what is done for other characters–says your assessment is completely and totally bunk.

    People imprint images onto these characters as a matter of simple expediency. These characters are already, as you put it, “blank slates.” There’s no need to strip away their personality traits and apply that primer coat to these models before painting them with your fetish brush of choice. You can just go right to it. Hell, considering how many otaku like ’em just the way they are, you might say the colors are already injection-molded directly from the factory.

    Therein lies the actual point you’re making: many otaku DON’T imprint an image onto these blank slate/nothing characters, nearly all of whom are prepubescent little girls (but SURELY that’s coincidental and has nothing to do with ANYTHING!). The blank slate’s what they actually want in the first place. It would be nice to believe that what you were saying was true among a majority of fans, but the empirical evidence says otherwise and it’s all pointing to that “selfish fantasy” thing.


  2. Fans may indeed imprint a “submissive” image on these characters, and they may indeed be the majority, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who like such characters for the reason SDS stated don’t exist, or that the fans who imprint the “submissive” image onto these characters don’t also appreciate this element of the character archetype.

    And authorial intent (which comes into play if these characters are intentionally designed to be “blank slates” for otaku to project their fantasies on) never stopped someone from reading deeper into a work. Philip Pullman has stated that he intended his His Dark Materials series to be a huge slam on religion, Christianity in particular, but it’s entirely possible to read the series in a religious or spiritual light as an allegorical tale. I’ve not read it, but for you to like Golgo 13 (or gekiga in general) so much, surely you must have gleaned some kind of meaning from it somewhere along the way.

    Lastly, otaku do not have a hive mind, Borg mentality, and I don’t think that doujin consumers are anything more than a very large minority of total anime fans. And by “anime fan” I mean anyone who has ever liked even a single anime series. Vocal minorities do not a majority make.


  3. At no point did I ever state that it was not *possible* for someone to conceivably think along the lines of what SDS is proposing. But what his post implies is that the mindset he describes is the *default* one, and people who think otherwise are mistaken. I disagree for the reasons stated in my first reply: the tangible evidence indicates to the contrary. And while authorial intent doesn’t always jive with what meanings people derive from a work, all I’m saying is that it takes a great deal more effort to decide that Top Gun is about a man coming to grips with his own homosexuality versus “planes shoot at each other.” Similarly, it takes quite a bit of legwork to presume that Emotionless Little Girl X actually has a personality when nothing outside of the vaguest of hints is ever pursued within the context of the series itself. Perhaps if they were around for forty years like Duke Togo has been, those little glimpses of personality would all eventually add up to form a cohesive whole as it has for G13.

    The notion that doujinshi consumers are a small minority compared to the larger scope of anime fans (assuming for now that term means the definition you’ve put forth) doesn’t refute anything I said either. After all, nobody outside of otaku–as in the kind of people who would do things like know what the term “doujinshi” means–is watching shows like Galaxy Angel, Martian Successor Nadesico, or The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in the first place. The “emotionless little girl” is a character type made by otaku, for otaku. There’s no blue-haired helpless girl who needs her daddy/big brother to protect her in the anime shows that reached out beyond the otaku demographic. And that’s true both in the US with titles such as Akira and in Japan with titles such as Star of the Giants or Ashita no Joe.

    Lastly, the hive mind/Borg mentality is a lot more prevalent than you think among otaku. Why, just look at 2chan and 4chan! Or how Akihabara otaku all dress pretty much exactly the same way. Or how attendees at US anime cons all behave exactly the same way (dress the same, say the same stuff, listen to the same music, watch the same shows) regardless of what section of the country you’re in. Surely if your assessment were correct that wouldn’t be the case, right? But it’s just as http://tinyurl.com/3xcolj says: it’s the same ol’ song from coast to coast. I’m not saying the level of sameness extends to all anime fans since con attendees don’t represent the anime-viewing whole. But it does apply to all the anime otaku who would download or purchase the shows that would contain the types of characters discussed in this post.

    In summary: everyone’s wrong but me, AS USUAL


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