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I’m generally not a fan of yandere characters, but I feel that I can understand why some people love them.
In a lot of my favorite characters there is a kind of intensity that emanates from them. Whether it’s Ogiue from Genshiken‘s withering stare, or Urabe Mikoto’s eccentric behavior in Mysterious Girlfriend X, it’s like their very beings pierce my soul and linger there for a while.
From there, it’s a hop, skip, and jump towards tsundere, and then eventually yandere as well. In other words, yandere characters exist on a spectrum where powerful emotions (sexual or otherwise) are valued, and their feelings are so overwhelming that it warps their minds. “Deep love” they call it.
This intensity has gotten me to think more broadly, past the typical labels, such as yandere, genki girl, Kansai native, etc. What I’m beginning to form is a theory of character attraction that takes a lot of these categories and places them into two distinctions: “push characters” and “pull characters.”
Push characters are like many of the ones stated above. It is as if the characters’ attitudes, visual look, and other qualities invade your space. They pierce and break down the barriers in your heart. Kurosaki Rendou, creator of Houkago Play and other racy titles, specializes in this type of character for both guys and girls. Akashi from Kuroko’s Basketball is also what I’d call a “push character.” They can perhaps be called aggressive characters as well, but I don’t think that it fits entirely neatly. Rather, in shounen terms, it’s more like they’re the “strong fists” of Rock Lee from Naruto or Raoh from Fist of the North Star.
Pull characters, then, are more like the “gentle fists” of Hyuuga Hinata (Naruto) or Toki (Fist of the North Star). Rather than striking actively, their auras are passive and receptive. It is as if they have a gravity or magnetism that draws you to them. Softer, kinder characters would fall into this category, such as Daidouji Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura, Maetel from Galaxy Express 999, or Teppei from Kuroko’s Basketball. It’s as if their warmth envelops your being.
Now there are a few aspects I’m thinking through as I bring out this half-formed way of considering characters. The first is that, many characters probably don’t fall into one category or the other. Sort of like a Myer-Briggs personality test, the “lesser” quality still exists. For example, I’d consider Koizumi Hanayo from Love Live! to be a “pull character” because of her typically shy personality, but the excitement of her two main loves—rice and idols—is enough to transform her into a “push character.”
Second, perhaps this distinction is actually entirely subjective, and one person’s “push character” is another person’s “pull character.” Does this render the terms meaningless, or is it more like moe where a broader understanding exists but the minutiae can get incredibly personal?
Lastly, to what extent do these terms match up with the idea of “seme” and “uke” characters in BL. Would “push characters” be those who tend to be seme, while “pull characters” are more commonly uke? If that’s the case, could this be a way to translate those terms to other types of relationships, such as heterosexual, yuri, or whatever other combinations can exist?
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If you’re into anime and aware of the concept of lolicon, then you probably have an idea of what the word means and the kinds of characters associated with it. Lolicon, after all, means the eroticization of very young characters, particularly female ones, right? It turns out to not be so simple, and I don’t mean in terms of “she looks 10 but is actually 500.”
I’ve been re-reading Sharon Kinsella’s Adult Manga lately (which is one of the best academic texts on manga and the manga industry), and in one chapter she writes about lolicon and doujinshi creators, as well as their relationships to professional manga In it, she gives the definition of “lolicon manga” as manga which “usually features a young girlish heroine with large eyes and a childish but voluptuous figure, neatly clad in a revealing outfit or set of armour.” It’s still pretty consistent with the current general conception of lolicon, but the “voluptuous” trait might seem a little strange.
Kinsella points out Gunsmith Cats as a lolicon title, but unlike the idea that it’s lolicon because of Minnie-May Hopkins and her child-like figure (see above), the example given is of the older-looking Rally Vincent.
Furthermore, she discusses the lolicon-esque qualities of Ah! My Goddess, but like Gunsmith Cats she isn’t just talking about the younger Skuld but also Belldandy and Urd, who, Urd especially, seem to go almost entirely against the current conception of lolicon used by people. Other titles from Monthly Afternoon (home of Genshiken!) mentioned as lolicon which seem to defy that definition further are Seraphic Feather and Assembler 0X.
Ah! My Goddess
This could be considered merely a rather broad definition of “lolicon,” but there are three things keep me from drawing that conclusion. First, according to Kinsella the influence of lolicon-style on the manga industry is somewhat acknowledged by professionals. Second, the character designs of Azuma Hideo, the “father of lolicon,” are very much in that blurry territory of the “child-like but voluptuous.” Third, is a conversation I’ve had with ex-manga editor and current Vertical Inc. editor and frontman, Ed Chavez.
According to Ed, one of the most significant lolicon characters ever is Lum from Urusei Yatsura, a character known for her sexy figure, and he also considers the origin of lolicon to actually be Maetel from Galaxy Express 999, a character notable for her mature and motherly qualities. I remember finding his categorization a little out of the ordinary, but when taking Kinsella’s words into account as well, it starts to make sense. It is that intersection of youthful but in certain ways adult, where for example the body is more developed but the face remains youthful, though neither is necessarily at any extreme.
Lum (left), Maetel (right)
Given this idea of lolicon, one of the most fascinating lines of thought to come out of this can be summarized with the following: if we go by this older definition of lolicon, even many of the fans who consider themselves vehemently against lolicon, who try to avoid it like the plague, would be categorized as lolicon fans themselves. Again, characters like Rally Vincent and Belldandy have been presented among fans for years and years now as the positive counterpoint to their respective series’ younger-looking characters, but they too now fall under the same umbrella.
Taking that into further consideration, the question becomes: given the anime of the last 20 years or so, what female characters wouldn’t be considered lolicon? It seems to encompass a large majority, where even characters defined by their mature, sexual bodies like Miura Azusa from THE iDOLM@STER and Fukiyose Seiri from A Certain Magical Index are grouped in, not to mention characters like Lina Inverse from Slayers.
Miura Azusa (left), Fukiyose Seiri (right)
I am not using this as a platform to invalidate people’s opinions, or to accuse anyone of being hypocrites. The term lolicon seems to have transformed over time, and the current generally accepted definition of it isn’t somehow less valid than its origins discussed above, though it may make for some inconsistencies in communicating, and at the end of the day Minnie May is still there. Rather, I think it shows a clear example of how words can change over time, that the boundaries by which we categorize things may not simply be about what traits are and aren’t present, but how those traits interact with each other (though that subtlety makes it susceptible to being more narrowly defined), and furthermore, how those traits are then perceived by those viewing.
In the end, Kinsella provides a quote from a senior editor of Monthly Afternoon:
The form of the manga is the same, but the themes have been changed to make them easier to read and understand for lots of people. Aah! My Godesss is a good example. It looks like otaku manga, but the content is different, the story has been changed so it can be read by a wider audience.
Could it be that, by taking the styles originally associated with lolicon, and putting them into contexts more relatable to a broader audience, this lolicon aesthetic no longer exists in that form? Where once the term referred to a broader range created by the interaction of certain traits, by having that larger readership claim one end of that spectrum, does the lolicon genre as we currently know it come into the forefront?
Otaku obsess over characters, and I am certainly no different. Hell, I named my blog after obsession #1. I’ve often been asked though, how is it I could maintain what is now an almost 3-year-long interest in the character of Ogiue, especially in this age of constant fansubs where the viewers are witness to new characters every season. I really don’t know if I have a complete answer to that, and this post is going to be about trying to find a reason. Warning: meandering ahead.
First, I think Ogiue is totally deserving of it. I believe her to be one of the most unbelievably complete and well-rounded characters in anime and manga. Actually, this applies to pretty much every other Genshiken character as well. What puts her above the rest is that she’s attractive to me.
Aside from that, however, is the fact that I have a tendency to carry long-term obsessions with characters in general, and it just manifests itself most strongly with Ogiue. Maetel, Tomoyo, Eureka, Cagalli, Hinata, in many, many cases once a character manages to catch my eye, they never quite leave. Some have faded a bit over time (Filia from Slayers TRY for example), but for the most part the strong presences of my past are not overridden by the strong characters of the present.
The real question, then, is why exactly am I able to obsess over characters for significantly longer periods of time compared to some of my peers? One possibility is that I form what feels like an emotional bond with the characters such that even if the quality of the character is not as great as I imagine, even if they turn out to be fairly big cliches, my memories of fondness for the characters are much stronger than objective reasoning. If they are indeed strong characters with strong emotions, such as Eureka, then that connection becomes much stronger and much longer-lasting. That said, I don’t think I’m all that susceptible to pandering fanservice characters (no matter what type of fanservice it may be), but there are always a few. I don’t call them guilty pleasures because they never really are.
I don’t think all that many people actually just cast their preferred characters aside when a new season starts, and the primary difference between me and some friends becomes how we display our passion for anime and its characters. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve stuck with the Ogiue paraphernalia (avatars, name tags, this blog) for quite a while. It’s the public display that is more important. New, strong characters appear every season, but I stick with Ogiue.
Maybe it’s just how I want people to think of me, but I feel more like I’m compelled to do so, because she is that strong of a character.
While this blog is indeed called Ogiue Maniax, I thought I’d talk about two of the girls of anime who I called and still call my favorites, particularly the ones prior to my discovering Genshiken.
Daidouji Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura has, in terms of favorite characters, been #1 for a very long time. Her devotion to Sakura, her desire to help those she cares for, and just the strength of her compassion makes watching her in Cardcaptor Sakura simply a joy every time. In fact, to give you an idea of how highly I think of Tomoyo (or maybe how highly I think of Ogiue), I am going to have to rewatch some Cardcaptor Sakura so I can determine to myself which is currently #1 to me.
Maetel from Galaxy Express 999. Prior to Ogiue, she was the most beautiful character I had ever seen. I remember seeing the GE999 movie in a theater about 8 years ago, and it changed my life. Galaxy Express 999 is the best anime I’ve ever seen, and the timelessness of Maetel’s character contributes to that feeling immensely. Watching 999 leaves me very emotional, so it’s no wonder I consider Maetel not only one of my favorite characters, but one of the best characters in fiction, period.
There are of course more, but we’ll save those for another day.