BEST MALE CHARACTER
Koibuchi Kuranosuke (Kuragehime)
A handsome ladies’ man from a wealthy background with a talent for crossdressing, Koibuchi Kuranosuke is larger than life, the kind of character who you would almost be able to say is “too unrealistic” if weren’t for how natural and convincing he is as an individual, and if you’re used to this sort of thing via extensive experience with shoujo and josei, he stands out that much more. Straightforward yet enigmatic, helpful yet selfish, intelligent and savvy yet frightfully naive at times, Kuranosuke is equal parts intriguing stranger and close personal friend, and it makes him both fascinating to watch and easily relatable.
From the very first time he saves Clara the jellyfish and enters Tsukimi’s life, you know that Kuranosuke is a man you can respect, even before you know that he’s a man. He’s not a saint and he won’t solve everyone’s problems as he has his own to deal with, but he tries hard to help others, in particular working to help Tsukimi and the rest of the “Sisterhood” recognize that their stereotypes of themselves are self-imposed. It’s a fight I can definitely get behind.
BEST FEMALE CHARACTER
Kurumi Erika, Cure Marine (Heartcatch Precure!)
Though I can describe Kurumi Erika by her general traits — talkative, friendly, clever, energetic– I feel that it doesn’t quite do her justice. With Erika you have someone who is much more than the sum of her parts, an endearing character whose traits cannot simply be divided into “strengths” and “flaws,” but are aspects of Erika that have both positives and negatives. Erika’s gift of gab is tempered by the perils of being a motormouth. She is incredibly hardworking and focused when it comes to her interests and will go out of her way to accomplish her goals, but can be incredibly lazy and ignorant towards anything that fails to inspire her passion. All of this stems from Erika’s sense of emotional honesty and her full-speed, no-brakes approach to life.
In a series with particularly strong characterization, Erika stands out in a big way, and I hope that she and her fellow Cures have a positive impact on not just the way characters are written for anime, but also how they are received by the fans and how they may influence those watching to better themselves. Erika feels real, not in the sense of evoking reality or being a simulation for it, but in that she is an emotionally complete individual. She is an inspiration for anyone who has every hesitated due to fear of being unable to grow as an individual.
Though not intentional on my part, I realized while writing my thoughts on Kuranosuke and Erika that the two have much in common. Both are outgoing with sunny dispositions. Both are highly passionate about fashion and believe in the positive transformative effects it can have on people. And both are eager to meet and help others, but their enthusiasm and extroverted natures can make them seem abrasive to those who can’t keep up with their pace. They feel human. On an additional storytelling level, both are able to show that you can have incredibly straightforward and simple characters that are also complex and fully developed, whether it’s a show for adults (Kuragehime) or for children (Heartcatch Precure!). Perhaps most importantly, having people who can encourage you to grow for the better can be incredibly uplifting, whether they’re real or fictional, and that’s exactly what they do.