Non-Seduction of the Innocent

I’ve come to notice that there are few female characters in anime with seductive personalities.

There are characters who are physically good-looking, characters who are proud of their appearance, characters who are in love, and characters who try to get closer to the person they’re interested in. Rarer is the type of female character whose mannerisms ooze fiery passion in such a way that their sexuality is more than simply their physical design.

Here’s a character who I think qualifies: Fuwa Aika from Blast of Tempest.  Good-looking but not to an incredible degree, you can sense in her interactions with her boyfriend Yoshino not only the way she focuses all of her charm on him, but also the strong physical and emotional response that Yoshino has to Aika’s desire. It’s difficult to capture this impression in a single image.

Another lesser example comes from a few years ago in Macross Frontier. The character of Sheryl Nome is more sexy than seductive normally, but in one scene both she and Ranka Lee are trying to out-sing each other in order to demonstrate their interest in the protagonist Alto and why he should choose one over the other. In that moment, both Sheryl and Ranka exude strong desires which fill the space they’re in.

In thinking about this, I’m reminded of an old post on Heisei Democracy, in which Shingo states that lips aren’t moe. The argument is that lipstick denotes an assertive un-moe character, while lips in general are a sign of active sexuality which is counter to moe’s ostensible image of innocence. I don’t quite agree with that premise, and my discussion of characters isn’t limited to just those who would be considered “moe,” but I do feel like there’s something relevant in Shingo’s argument. There’s this rough idea that moe characters, even when they are attractive or overtly sexualized, at most tend towards conflicted expressions of desire (e.g. tsundere) or displays of innocence even in less “innocent” moments. If you then move the idea to being about the difference between sexual/seductive, maybe it’s not so unusual for seductive characters to be a rarity.

Best Anime Characters of 2008

Once again, there’s only two categories. I would include a “BEST DEATH” category but I’d feel bad accidentally spoiling events from anime in such a dramatic fashion. So without further ado, I present…

THE BEST ANIME CHARACTERS OF 2008

BEST MALE CHARACTER**

Graham Aker (Mobile Suit Gundam 00)

It’s not easy being a rival character, and it’s even less easy when you’re in a Gundam series. Despite the odds, Graham Aker exemplifies the best in rivalry in a way that is rarely seen in anime.

Graham isn’t some rebel who can’t be contained, or a neutral figure with ulterior motives. He’s no Char Aznable, but that shouldn’t be held against him. He’s loyal to his allies, respectful to his enemies, and approaches every situation with unmatched fervor and determination. His skills as a pilot make him one of the most significant threats on the battlefield. Even when he’s severely outmatched on a technological level, Graham can never be counted out. He’s a rival character who actually has the  potential at all times to end the life of a main character without any convenient plot devices to cheapen his victories. Graham Aker has presence unlike any other.

Graham Aker is a thinking man’s beast. He’s passionate, but doesn’t let passion blind him from the truth. In the end, Graham’s most important trait is that he is simply unafraid to be himself, though he may change his name and then make everyone call him by said name. That’s just Graham Aker, baby.

BEST FEMALE CHARACTER

Sheryl Nome (Macross Frontier)

2008 was rife with good female characters, and unlike last year it was very difficult to choose just one. The more I thought about it though, the more I leaned towards Sheryl Nome.

Sheryl is attractive in a way that harkens back to 1980s anime series while still possessing a modern 2000s flair. She’s confident yet vulnerable, going from being on top of the world to carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, and along the way all you want to do is cheer her on and be her support. But she doesn’t need your support, because she’s Sheryl Nome and nothing short of death will stop her from moving forward. Even when she’s hit rock bottom nothing can ever truly dampen her spirit.

There are some disagreements among the anime community in regards to recent anime and its treatment of female characters. Sheryl Nome is a compromise between these schools of thought. Actually, “compromise” is a misleading word, as there are no concessions made with her character. She has all of the strengths with none of the drawbacks. Sheryl Nome shows everyone, old and new, fan and detractor, what it means to be a strong character where strength does not preclude vulnerability or vice versa.

Final Word

Picking the “best” characters is never easy, and in the end, the concept of “best” as used in this sense is just an illusion. These aren’t even my favorite characters of the year, but I felt they had much more of an impact on anime as a whole, in addition to being characters I’m very fond of. It’s also pure coincidence that both Graham and Sheryl are from Gundam and Macross respectively, two of the biggest franchises in anime that are also giant robot series. Or perhaps not, seeing as both series dared to do more with its characters than anyone expected.

**What this actually means is, “Best Male Anime Character of 2008 who is not Kenshiro or Raoh”

The Sexiness is Galaxy

Macross Frontier seems to have a certain portion of the Macross fandom in a dangerous state of conflict, as they see both good and evil in this 25th Anniversary celebration of Studio Nue’s most famous work. Fanservice, of the T&A variety, fanservice, designed to get men (and possibly women) in a tizzy, it’s the subject of much discussion on forums and chatrooms. Some people feel it would be a better show without things like Sheryl’s exposed bosom or Klan’s alternating forms.

I think it’s a mistake to though say that the fanservice in Macross Frontier necessarily detracts from the show, as much of the fanservice is done with a sense of style and taste, and it’s not easy to mix with taste with tastelessness. I think the absolute best example so far, in so much that it got me particularly hot under the collar, is the hospital scene with Ranka and Sheryl competing with each other by singing to Alto. No actual T or A was present, but just the implied message of the two pop idols vying with each other for the affections of one man makes that scene perhaps the most sexually charged scene to date. Now that’s what I call fanservice.

And then there are all the people who wish they would get away from relationship drama and go back to more fighting. Don’t listen to them.

The Multiple Perspectives of Triangler

“Triangler,” the opening theme to Macross Frontier, is supposed to be about not the relationship between Alto, Sheryl, and Ranka but rather that of Hikaru, Minmei, and Misa. WIth that in mind, I tried to figure out just whose perspective the song was written from.

Initial logic would dictate that the song was written fron Minmei’s perspective, seeing as she was the singer in the love triangle, but some of it didn’t make any sense. Slowly I realized that the song is written from all three perspectives, with certain lines attributed to certain characters.

“Dragging a weak crybaby along with me, I decide to keep going on.”
This is probably Hikaru, with the crybaby being Minmei

“I’m frustrated with myself because it’s easier to distrust than it is to love or desire.”
Misa was initially distant and overly rigid when it came to following the rules.

“You say you’ll protect me, yet you’re not by my side.”
I believe this to be Minmay, whose relationship with Hikaru gradually fell apart.

And of course the big one:

“Who will you kiss, me or that girl?”
If I had to wager a guess, I would say this is almost definitely a Misa line, because Misa was very insecure about her relationship with Hikaru, and this kind of nervousness and doubt about oneself is very much like Ms. Hayase.

I wonder if “Do You Remember Love?” will be sung at some point in the series.