Everybody loves them…except me

Everybody loves them…except me

I was thinking about the characters I’ve liked from every anime series I’ve watched. What I quickly realized is that in many series I’ve watched, the character with the biggest fanbase is one that I’m indifferent to, or actively dislike. So, I’ve compiled a list of characters (some more popular than others) that most fans who have seen these series like…but I don’t.

  1. Sailor Mercury (Sailor Moon): I’ll start off with her because she’s a pretty recognizable character. Like many of the other characters on this list, I don’t actually dislike this character – I find her to be pretty boring, but harmless nontheless. However, I don’t understand her enormous popularity – in a poll from Animage magazine ranking the most popular female anime characters of 1992 (the same year as Sailor Moon ‘s debut), Sailor Mercury was voted number one.  Out of all the characters from Sailor Moon , I definitely prefer Sailor Venus and Sailor Jupiter, who have much brighter personalities.
  2. The elusive Madoka.

    Madoka (Kimagure Orange Road): Now, KOR is from 1987, so I wouldn’t exactly say Madoka’s the most popular female character in anime today. However, back in the late 80s, Madoka was the number one girl-next-door for anime fans in Japan. Even in the late 90s, when Kimagure first came to America, Madoka was seen as a goddess by male anime fans because of her beauty and constant teasing of Kyosuke, the main male protagonist in the series. However, the reason why fans love her is the very reason I have a problem with her character: she’s too perfect. She can play the saxophone and piano, she can sing, horseback ride, ski, surf, is beautiful, and gets good grades without trying. Her only flaw is that she’s so melancholy – which is because everything has come so easily to her. Since I don’t find this to be a very good excuse for her sullen nature, I don’t really sympathize with her. Meanwhile, her best friend and love rival Hikaru, who is considered to be very annoying by most Kimagure fans, I find to be very sympathetic because she is the third wheel in this triangle.

  3. Roy Mustang (Fullmetal Alchemist): Here’s another character I don’t have any actual problems with – I just don’t see what the fuss is over him. Now, Ed is still more popular than Roy, but there is a huge fanbase of fangirls for this flaming hot coloniel. Now aside from the fact that I don’t actually find him hot, I’d much watch Ed and Al in action, or find out Lust’s background than waste time seeing Ed and Roy duke it out. Yet,  he was always voted in Newtype’s Top Ten male characters throughout 2004, when FMA was first airing in Japan. Furthermore, in an Oricon poll asking Japanese fans which side characters were most deserving of a spinoff, Roy ranked sixth among male fans. But considering how many fans love Roy because they ship him with Ed, I may have to chalk this one up to not being a yaoi fangirl.
  4. Haruhi in a typically bossy stance.

    Haruhi Suzumiya (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya): Haruhi is a unique character on this list for several reasons. First, she comes from a series that I really dislike, while all the other characters on this list come from anime I actually enjoyed at one point or another. Second, rather than being neutral towards her or curious as to why she’s so popular, Haruhi is definitely the character that I most actively dislike on this list (and probably in anime in general). Finally, while she’s an enormously popular character, maybe more than any other character I’ve mentioned, she’s also got a significant hatedom. Yet while there are many who can’t stand the loud, bossy leader of the SOS club who sexually assaults it’s female members, her fans seem to outnumber her foes. In a 2010 Newtype poll, Haruhi was ranked the fifth most popular female character of the 2000s. What I have noticed, however, is that the people who dislike her character often tend to be women. Thus, my hatred for this character perhaps can best be explained by the fact that I am not a member of the show’s target demographic: moe-loving males.

  5. Riku Harada (D.N.Angel): While Riku is not anywhere near as popular as, say, Haruhi Suzumiya, of all the female characters in D.N.Angel, Riku is by far the most liked. Now this could be because fans find Risa, Riku’s boy-crazy twin sister to be shallow and Mio, a hyper girl who isn’t from the original manga, to be annoying, thus making her the best of the worst. However, while Risa didn’t really bother me because I’ve met several girls like her, I found Riku to be too bossy and irritating to be considered the ‘nice’ girl, and I’ve never cared for her since.
  6. Rui Hanazawa (Hana Yori Dango/Boys Over Flowers). This…is a hard one. I think the main reason I’m not a fan of Rui (aside from the fact that I don’t see why people find him to be a prince charming) is because I love Tsukasa Domyoji, Rui’s rival love interest, so much and want everyone to love him too. That sounds sort of childish, but I just hate when people gush over Rui so much when I find him to be cold and kind of boring for a good portion of the series. There are so many fans who were willing to look past Rui’s jerky moments because of his kinder acts towards Tsukushi, but weren’t willing to do the same for Tsukasa, EVEN WHEN TSUKASA RISKED HIS LIFE FOR HER. Just look at this poll: Crea magazine asked for the top 100 male manga characters Japanese females fell in love with most, and Rui is number four on this list. Four. Out of all male characters in every manga ever created. The only saving grace is that Tsukasa is also on the list, at a very respectable number thirteen. But he’s so much more funny and loving. Sigh. There is no justice.

So have you guys noticed that you tend not to care for characters everyone else seems to love? Share your thoughts!

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Love is complicated…(love triangles in anime and manga)

Love is complicated…(love triangles in anime and manga)

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d write about some of the best and most unique love triangles in anime and manga. There are many many love polygons to be found throughout anime and manga, even in series that don’t specifically focus on romance. And while this may be a shojo blog, some of my personal favorite love triangles are from shonen and seinen series, so this list won’t be limited to just shojo examples. I hope you guys enjoy! 

♥Kyosuke-Madoka-Hikaru (Kimagure Orange Road)♥

Why it stands out: They’re all best friends.

In my opinion, Kimagure Orange Road is the quintessential shonen-romantic comedy series and features one of the best love triangles in anime and manga. At first glance, this triangle may seem straightforward: Kyosuke is a newcomer to town and is torn between a sweet, clingy girl named Hikaru and the ‘bad girl’ Madoka whom he falls in love with at first sight. However, this series raises the stakes because not only are Hikaru and Madoka best friends, but as the series progresses the trio become close friends, making Kyosuke’s inevitable rejection of Hikaru in the series’ first film all the more painful.

♥Kyoko-Godai-Mitaka (Maison Ikkoku)♥

Why it stands out: They’re all sympathetic.

One of the best romantic-comedies there is, this classic 80s seinen series features a love triangle between Kyoko, a widow who becomes the mangager of a run-down boarding house, Godai, a poor college student who is Kyoko’s tenant, and Mitaka, a coach at Kyoko’s tennis school. This is one of the few love triangles I’ve encountered where I liked and sympathized with everyone involved: it’s easy to understand why Kyoko is so reluctant to pursue either of her suitors as she struggles to overcome her husband’s death, and I love that both Godai and Mitaka are very respectful of Kyoko’s feelings. You can’t help but root for Godai to win Kyoko’s heart not only because he is the complete underdog, but because he matures into such a sweet and caring guy. And while in most series the charming rich love interest usually comes across as a jerk,  when Kyoko finally rejects Mitaka after he has waited for her to reciprocate his feelings for almost four years, I couldn’t help but cry.

♥Tsukushi-Tsukasa-Rui (Boys Over Flowers/Hana Yori Dango)♥

Why it stands out: It’s unpredictable.

Even though I had been spoiled about who Tsukushi would choose before I got into the series, I still consider Boys Over Flowers’ main love triangle one of the least predictable love triangles in anime and manga. Soon after standing up to the rich clique of bullies at her school called the F4, Tsukushi develops feelings for Rui Hanazawa, the quietest member of the group. However, when the F4’s leader, Tsukasa Domyoji, begins to fall for Tsukushi, she finds herself torn between them. There is a lot of tension in this love triangle, particularly after Tsukasa confesses his feelings to Tsukushi in volume six and Tsukushi ends up feeling as though she betrayed Tsukasa by choosing Rui, and it was at this point in the series that I began to believe that I had been misinformed of who the main couple of the series was. However, Rui ends up rejecting her because he still has feelings for his first love, and over the course of the series Tsukushi finds herself slowly falling for Tsukasa, which made me elated. I think the main reason this love triangle feels so unpredictable is because the author originally intended for Tsukushi to end up with Rui but ended up changing the storyline when Tsukasa became more popular with the fans, allowing the shift in Tsukushi’s feelings to feel very genuine.

♥Akito-Sana-Fuka (Kodocha)♥

Why it stands out: They’re 12.

This was probably the first love triangle I ever became really invested in, which makes sense considering the fact that Kodocha is my favorite series. I love that Akito, who had been in love with Sana from early on in the series, starts dating Fuka when he believes Sana is interested in someone else, which serves as the catalyst for Sana to realize her feelings for him. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that Sana and Fuka are best friends, causing Sana to hide her feelings for Akito from both of them because she doesn’t want to hurt Fuka. None of them know how to handle the situation well because they are only twelve years-old. It doesn’t take long for Fuka to realize she’s the third wheel in this triangle, and I love the scene when Sana and Fuka finally confront one another. When Fuka admits that she doesn’t feel like Akito’s real girlfriend and Sana says she’ll take him from her, all I could think was ‘aww snap!,’ making this one of my favorite moments in anime love rivalry.

♥Sousuke-Kaname-Tessa (Full Metal Panic!)♥

Why it stands out: Sousuke only vaguely seems to realize he’s in a love triangle.

This is one of the few triangles where I enjoy the romantic moments of both possible pairings because while I prefer Kaname and Sousuke as a couple, I can’t help but like Tessa. While it’s fairly obvious that Sousuke is developing feelings for Kaname, the hot-tempered high school girl he’s supposed to be guarding, Sousuke is completely dense when it comes to love. This is especially true when it comes to his commanding officer Teletha ‘Tessa’ Testarossa, who is anything but shy about showing her feelings for him, which completely confuses (and possibly scares) the moody military officer. So while Sousuke may be completely oblivious to Tessa and Kaname’s feelings for him, the entanglements of this triangle are very fun to watch.

♥Momo-Kairi-Toji (Peach Girl)♥

Why it stands out: She dates both of them.

In most shojo love triangles, when the main female character decides between her two leading love interests, she’ll generally stick with her choice and the losing guy will often find love with someone else. However, in Peach Girl, despite the fact that Momo starts going out with Toji, the guy she had a crush on prior to the beginning of the series, she not only later dates playboy Kairi Okayasu after Sae’s manipulations tear her and Toji apart, but she even ends up with Kairi. While there are a few other love triangles where the female dates both guys (such as in Sand Chronicles),  it’s usually made obvious that she is only going out with the second guy as a rebound and is still in love with her first love interest. But in Peach Girl, despite the fact that Momo still has feelings for Toji when she starts dating Kairi, Kairi’s charms win Momo over and she eventually chooses him.

♥Hagu-Morita-Takemoto (Honey and Clover)♥

Why it stands out: (spoiler) She doesn’t end up with either of them.

While I’ve never personally cared for this love triangle because I never understood why either Morita or Takemoto was in love with the moody and introverted Hagu, it still stands out to me as a unique love triangle because she doesn’t choose either guy in the end. Even though Hagu is in love with Morita, Hagu decides to spend her time focusing on her artwork after her hand gets injured, and asks Shu (Professor Hanamoto) to stay by her side and help her. So even though I may not have been as invested in this love triangle, I respect Honey and Clover for not tying up all of the romantic loose ends like most series would, as well as for being one of the most poignant examples of unrequited love in anime and manga.

So what I’ve noticed is that I especially like love triangles where the people involved are friends. In these triangles, there is a lot more at stake, which is why they are so dramatic and interesting. If anyone has a love triangle they love or feel is unique, please feel free to comment!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

In the spirit of the holidays, I thought I’d rank my favorite Christmas-themed episodes in anime. In Japan, Christmas is typically celebrated among couples as a romantic occassion; many couples get enganged during the holiday. This is also reflected in a lot of anime Christmas episodes, which often contain romantic themes. Some of these episodes are full of holiday cheer while others are more bittersweet, but they all have memorable moments.  

5. Maison Ikkoku episodes 39&40:

An epic two-parter, Kyoko discovers a rock that was given to her by her late husband and asks Godai to find out what type of stone it is. Mayhem ensues when Godai’s friend loses the rock on the train and Godai spends Christmas Eve searching for it in lieu of going to the Christmas party being hosted by his neighbors. Both episodes have an undercurrent of melancholy, but romance ultimately wins out when Kyoko realizes the anxiety she felt wasn’t because she wanted to find out information on the rock – it was because she was waiting for Godai. 

Sakura sleeping with her adorable Yukito plushie

4. Cardcaptor Sakura episode 35:

This episode features Sakura, Yukito and Shaoran at an amusement park (with Tomoyo and Kero-chan following them and Toya ‘coincidentally’ working there). Although Shaoran has a crush on Yukito, this episode is one of the first times that he expresses romantic interest in Sakura. But aside from the ever-shifting love triangle, this episode has a really memorable battle where Sakura and Shaoran work together to capture the elusive ‘Fiery’ card. I love the end of the episode when Sakura and Yukito are on the ferris wheel. And the plushie Sakura gives Yukito is adorable.

3. Kimagure Orange Road episode 38

Another romantic Christmas episode, this one revolves around a couples-only Christmas party and combines the typical ‘day that never ends’ set-up with Kyosuke’s supernatural powers to solve Kyosuke’s eternal dilemma: Hikaru or Madoka? In the first scenario, Kyosuke decides to go to the Christmas party with Hikaru, then he gets a do-over and goes with Madoka. Finally, he goes to the Christmas party with both girls after realizing how much he cares about them and doesn’t want to hurt either of them – even if it makes him look like a two-timer. The supernatural weirdness doesn’t end there, though – Kyosuke’s grandfather decides to dress in a Santa suit and spread joy (in the form of snow) around Tokyo.

A festive holiday celebration with the Azumanga gang

2. Azumanga Daioh episode 17

Probably the funniest Christmas episode there is – when Tomo asks Chiyo-chan if she still believes in Santa, Kagura ends up defending Santa’s existence by proclaiming that he’s paid by the government to deliver presents for everyone, and that he can fly at Mach 500. I love that when Tomo asks Chiyo-chan what she’d want for Christmas if she could have anything, Chiyo-chan says the star atop the big Christmas tree. The girls also decide to have some fun on Christmas Eve by singing karaoke. Yet in true Azumanga fashion, much of the episode has nothing to do with Christmas as we’re drawn into the girls’ random conversations – including Osaka’s infamous horror story about smelling a fart that wasn’t hers when she was alone in her bedroom. Priceless.

1. Kodocha episode 38

My all time favorite Christmas episode ever (not to mention my favorite episode of Kodocha). It’s got a middle birthday party, Naozumi singing a Christmas carol, Akito freaking out because he can’t decide what to get Sana, and a toy dinosaur Akito ‘doesn’t hate.’ And of course, it wouldn’t be Kodocha without over-the-top wackiness (in the form of Mama’s life-size Christmas tree hat). But the best part of the episode is definitely after the party has ended and Akito tries to tell Sana he loves her – and gives her a special Christmas kiss instead. Awww… Even better, when this episode came out on volume 10 of the U.S DVD release of Kodocha, it was two weeks before Christmas, so watching it always helps put me in the holiday spirit.

The order of things

The order of things

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how the timing of viewing an anime or reading a manga can influence your opinion of a series. For many anime fans, you might rate a series very differently if you watched or read it early in your fandom comparised to after you’ve been into anime and manga for a while. It’s often easier to enjoy a series more if you’ve seen or read it early in your fandom because everything is still new, and you’re less familiar with what’s cliché. For example, I saw D.N.Angel about three years into my anime fandom and enjoyed it’s romantic entanglements (the hot guys didn’t hurt either). But when I rewatched the series last year, I found I didn’t care about any of the characters and felt it was really uneven, especially it’s ending. However, my feelings about the show were still stronger than if I had only gotten into it recently because of my initial viewing of it seven years ago.  Or, you might appreciate a certain type of show (more niche, introspective, etc.) later in your fandom than if you’d seen it before because your tastes have matured.

There also may be outside influences that impact your opinion of a series. For example, if you watch an anime or read a manga that has a plot or themes resembling a monumental event in your life, the series is likely to make a big impression. Maybe you saw a show when you were going through a difficult time and the series helped you cope or cheered you up, or it may strike a nerve because of its vivid portrayal of the human condition. This happened to me when I watched the first Kimagure Orange Road film “I Want to Return to That Day,” in which two characters break off a long-standing relationship that was doomed to fail. I’m already sensitive to watching characters go through emotional trauma , but because something similar had happened to me just two weeks earlier, my impression of the film always takes me back to those raw emotions.

Kimagure Orange Road: "I Want to Return to that Day"

There’s also series you may enjoy but could have been your all-time favorite if you’d seen it earlier. For example, my favorite anime are Kodocha and Boys Over Flowers, but I wonder if my opinion would be different if I had watched certain series before these two. For example, I found Marmalade Boy and Fushigi Yugi to be wonderfully addictive series that I really enjoy and consider to be personal favorites. But I gripe on their flaws a lot, mostly because I watched them after being an anime fan for several years. However, maybe if I had seen them when I was less critical, I would love these shows even more and would have gotten just as obsessed with them as I did with Kodocha and Boys Over Flowers. Another example is Fruits Basket – although I like the show, I think watching it after hearing so much fuss about it made me very cynical towards the series. I came into it with very high expectations – I had always heard that it was funny, moving, and has extremely relatable characters – but I just felt as though it didn’t measure up. Part of my resentment towards the series was that I felt that Kodocha was much stronger in portraying the elements Fruits Basket was praised for yet wasn’t as popular. But if I had seen Fruits Basket before hearing so much acclaim for it (and certainly before seeing Kodocha), maybe I would have liked the show more.