There are characters out there who are accused of being overly bland. They’re decried as dragging the quality of a series down below where it should be, and not contributing as much to their respective series as other characters. More recently, this accusation has been leveled at the new girl Nazuna in Hidamari Sketch Hoshimittsu.
While I believe it is possible for characters’ blandness to hurt a series (see a large number of harem shows), and I also understand the desire for characters that aren’t wishy-washy, I feel that in many cases, particularly with Nazuna, these criticisms do not do these characters justice.
By comparison with the other girls in Hidamari Sketch, Nazuna can definitely seem more “bland,” especially because of her passive personality, but I think that passive personality goes a very long way in making her a good character. While the entire rest of the girls in Hidamari Apartments are artists and creative types of all varieties, ranging from a computer graphics specialist to a published writer of short stories, Nazuna is not. Already meek and soft-spoken, this deals a subtle blow to her already wobbly confidence levels. Because she worries about not being “good enough” or “smart enough,” Nazuna is sometimes afraid to speak her mind. The other girls don’t really think any less of her, but in her mind there is a wide chasm separating her from the others. She worries that she might not truly “belong” with the others.
Personally, I think this quality of Nazuna’s makes her a fine character, though I can see why others dislike her. I’m somewhat hesitant to bring out the “moe” argument in all this, but I think it really applies here. Nazuna is a very strong example of a character with a lot of “moe” to her, in that those who like her enjoy the fact that she has such a complex, while those who think she makes the show worse probably think that such “blandness” is the last trait any character should have, especially in a comedy like Hidamari Sketch.
Now you might think that Nazuna is getting a free pass because she’s a girl and that she’s cute, but the idea of having trouble finding some place to belong is a common trait among people both male and female, and this extends to characters as well. To find one, we need go no further than my favorite series, Genshiken, and its main character, Sasahara Kanji.
Sasahara is a somewhat closeted anime fan who in the beginning hasn’t developed his taste in anime anywhere in particular. To some extent he is a reader surrogate, being a newbie to the wild world of PVC figures and doujinshi, but over time his experiences with Genshiken enable him to mature as both a person and as an otaku. Overall, he is a well-written character.
Moe is not really a factor in real life and when dealing with real people, but it is an abstraction of reality. And so it’s a very real worry to have, to think that you’re just not good enough to hang with your friends and that they might just be humoring you. I once talked to a friend from high school who told me that while hanging out with our group of friends, they were always concerned about not being interesting or quirky enough. I don’t think any of us thought of that friend in that manner, but there it is.