Push vs. Pull: Thoughts on the Attraction of Characters

Ume_Shiraume

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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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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Post from the Past: “Ogiue’s Perspective or Why Sasahara is a Giver”

Note: Fellow anime blogger Pontifus recently posted his thoughts on re-reading Genshiken, wherein he discusses in part Ogiue’s developing feelings for Sasahara. This reminded me of an old post I wrote about the subject, pre-Ogiue Maniax, and I thought that it’d be good to share with everyone.

Keep in mind that this post is originally from 2005, two years before the start of this blog, and so not only had the Genshiken manga not quite finished yet, but my writing is a little more unrefined than even back when I first started Ogiue Maniax. I was considering refining it but I think I’ll let it run as is. I still think it makes a good point of just how Ogiue would start to fall for our main man of the Modern Culture Society.

——

In Ogiue’s fantasy yaoi world, Sasahara is viewed as an aggressor. This seems to run contrary to what we’ve seen of Sasahara’s character. Ohno seems to agree; she finds the idea of Sasahara being a “giver” to be unusual. And why shouldn’t she? She has known Sasahara for years now, and he has generally been a very passive individual and easily seen as spineless.

However, Ogiue has not known Sasahara since his freshman year and initial awkwardness. Ogiue initially meets Sasahara when he is Genshiken’s chairman. And while Sasahara is still fairly passive in general, there are moments where Sasahara is “uncharacteristically” aggressive.

First, is the scene where Haraguchi comes back in volume 5 to give Genshiken “advice” on their doujinshi. Sasahara tries to get along with Haraguchi as much as he can, politely saying that while Haraguchi’s advice is appreciated it is not needed. Eventually, as Haraguchi continues to press on in his unique annoying way, Sasahara decides to turn it around and asks Haraguchi outright to teach him everything. Ogiue reacts to this. So does everyone else. They’re all taken aback by Sasahara’s sudden decisiveness and the way he has shut down Haraguchi. At this point Haraguchi turns to Madarame asking if it’s okay, but Madarame points out that Sasahara is the current chairman. I believe this is moment is what gets the ball rolling.

Next, is the scene where Sasahara and Kugayama are arguing over the status of Genshiken’s doujinshi they are making for Comifes. Ogiue is seeing Sasahara yelling loudly and demanding that Kugayama actually stay on schedule, and this further reinforces her perception of Sasahara. The real killer, however, is the moment when Ogiue awkwardly suggests that she could do more work to make up for it. To make a stand against Kugayama, Sasahara says to Ogiue that she doesn’t have to do anything. In fact, they can just use a bunch of sketches from Kugayama’s sketchbooks.

Ogiue becomes silent. Then she starts crying.

This has more to do with the fact that she had put her heart on the line, and Sasahara’s words were probably interpreted by her as, “Sorry, but you’re not good enough.” The main thing is that Ogiue has now directly felt the aggressive side of Sasahara, and it has her in tears. It has made her feel vulnerable in a way up to that point we have not seen of her.

From these two examples, it’s easy to figure out why Ogiue thought of Sasahara as the giver in Sasa-Mada when she sees Sasahara pulling Madarame’s tie. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knows that lying underneath Sasahara’s normally gentle nature is someone who can be very active and commanding. And while she doesn’t even initially think this outright (she believes her own drawing of an aggressive Sasahara to be “impossible”), from her personal history with Sasahara, she had no reason to discard the idea.

——
Thinking about how much more happened after I wrote that originally, I think my initial thoughts hold up pretty well. The Sasa x Ogi romance arc reached its climax, with the two of them actually becoming a couple.

Ogiue’s view of Sasahara as “pitcher” comes from the fact that he has a quiet, gentle confidence about him.  It might not be a strong, hyper- masculine or ever-present confidence but it’s still there. It really shows by the end, and I think this contributes significantly to not only the feelings Ogiue develops for Sasahara but also Sasahara’s eventual success in winning her affections. For Ogiue, who had been searching for a way to reconcile her passion for manga and yaoi with her own self-doubt and sense of shame, Sasahara becomes what she needs, providing just the right amount of emotional support.

Man, Genshiken is awesome. Just thought I’d remind you of that.