Anime Characters: Living in the Lavish Light of Luxury (And Yumeiro Patissiere Episode 1 as a Bonus

Poor Sisters Story - as close as youll get to the truth!

Poor Sisters Story - as close as you'll get to the truth!

So long as tales have been told, there have been countless stories of the upper-class. It only makes sense that authors across all time have been affixed on aristocrats;  for one thing, putting characters on pedestals provides personality – when you feel that the character in question is above you in some way, they gain an air of mystique and beauty due to a lack of understanding on your part for the world of the well-off.

It also gives the author more thread to weave his story with. Because the characters are mysterious, enigmatic, and beyond comprehension, it becomes more believable when they encounter situations beyond belief or themselves have odd and eccentric personalities that you would never expect a normal person to have. I think a great place to look for these elements is in the classic tales The Count of Monte Cristo and The Great Gatsby, both of which create a character so overwhelmingly wealthy and powerful that their mysterious eccentricity becomes a tightrope for the viewer’s suspicions .

This trend has never stopped. Sure, some cultures (America included) also appreciate stories about more normal or less fortunate characters (in a way really where if the character is truly destitute, the reader is probably more busy feeling sorry for them than anything. I don’t want to call it ‘relatability’. If a character is really, honestly poor, then sadly, there wont be enough literate people on their poverty level for it to define the story’s popularity.) However, we still tend to celebrate the successful above everything (obvious.) But there’s something somewhat surprising – though people are quick to mention the star worship of Hollywood and the like, we don’t see it brought up much in regard to anime. Why is that?

They may not all be multi-billionaire ojou-samas, but your average anime character is LOADED.

They may not all be multi-billionaire ojou-samas like Nagi, but your average anime character is LOADED.

Maybe foreigners (especially Americans) don’t realize what it’s really like in Japan. Yes, this is one of the wealthiest countries in the world right now. Also, most of it is a godforsaken wasteland, much like the American midwest. Oh, but like America, it has major population in some huge cities, right? Tokyo! Right? But also like an American city (let’s use New York for obvious reasons) only so many people live that lavish city life that you see on TV, while a hell of a lot more people live in a shitty little apartment where the rent is WAY too fucking high.

I’ve got no records to point this out with, but to make a very general statement, the ratio of well-to-do to shit-for-fuck in Japan is just like what it is in America. And what’s more, you get less bang for your buck on the island. Living space is fucking crazy in Tokyo, so it’s not like America where even a relatively poor citizen can find a cheap, old one-story house – if you have no money, enjoy your new cardboard-box-sized apartment! My bedroom is bigger than a Japanese apartment. No joke. (My bedroom is also the size of your average American’s living room, though.)

So what am I getting at, here? Well, go watch some anime that takes place in Tokyo. You’ll probably see some shows where the characters live in an apartment (Toradora, for example) wherein this is a major plot point, and in other places it is supposed to add realism (Welcome to the NHK, Genshiken, Honey and Clover, etc.) We’ve even got Neon Genesis Evangelion which I think is hilarious because a government worker (a fairly important one at that) is living in a little apartment! In spite of the fact that there should be way more housing after Second Impact! (in all fairness, Misato might have just been trying to live close to the NERV headquarters. But then she also drinks cheap-ass beer and eats nothing but ramen.)

So those are a few. But now go watch most anime, and notice that the characters you are seeing all have houses. Sometimes, rather large houses. (a question to readers in the third world – when you saw the houses of anime characters, did you think of it as because they lived in Japan, or because they themselves were wealthy? I’m trying to gauge it against reactions of American audiences.) If you want some examples, try Shakugan no Shana, Lucky Star (where is the Izumi household getting it’s money from, anyway?!), Marimite (hilarious, because this show has a character known for the fact that she’s hyper-rich, but dodges the fact that all of the characters are pretty well-off!), Kamichu, and really almost any of the visual novels and their adaptions that I can think of (see all the Kyoto Animation anime) as well as most of the shoujo I can think of (Shugo Chara, Cardcaptors Sakura, and a third to be mentioned momentarily all come to mind) – you see what I mean.

What your average anime character lives in...

What your average anime character lives in...

And while I’m at it, I’ll point out that most of the anime with poor characters are comedies. Why? Because it’s relatable! Comedy is all about ‘it’s funny because it’s true’, right? And if most of the people watching the show are hurting on cash, then it’s that much easier to get into a show where the money don’t flow!

I slightly digress – what you should take away from this is that, as per the time-honored tradition, anime likes to focus on the upper-class. Because what kind of people are the ones with the strange personalities? What kind of people can afford to live such carefree lives? What kind of people are more likely to have exciting things happen to them? And moreover, what kind of people can even afford to suck so much in school?! High school isn’t free in Japan, people! Look at these fucking academies these students are going to just to spend all their time dicking around! And even more, look at the girls! We are always saying how anime characters are unnaturally attractive and unrealistic, well no shit, because they are like the Hollywood actresses who make us say the same things. THEY. ARE. LOADED.

What your average Tokyo-dweller probably live in.

What your average Tokyo-dweller probably live in.

What drove me on to this subject was the first episode of Yumeiro Patissiere. The main character’s family is wealthy beyond belief. The episode begins with the younger sister giving a piano concert to an audience in some kind of auditorium. (And how much were the lessons?) Then the older sister sees that there is some kind of sweets festival going on nearby and heads in. She wants to buy some sweets, but her wallet isn’t on her – she is disappointed until Daddy shows up and says he’ll pay (this guy is WHIPPED) and so the girlie, Ichigo, whirls up all she can grab. It rings up at the checkout and we see the father cringe, but hold on, what the fuck did that register say?!

12,050 YEN. NO. SHIT. How much is that? Yahoo’s yen converter is my friend and tells me that it equates to, oh, 130 FUCKING DOLLARS USD. (Go ahead and use the converter to find out how much that is in you country’s currency.) Can you imagine? Walking into a place and just letting your daughter spend 130 bucks on sweets? That’s fucking ridiculous. (Of course, my own father would fully do something similar. Yes, I really am THAT spoiled. Though I don’t think it would be that much on just one kid. …but he surprises/scares me some times O_o)

And we continue to see how rich they are. Because Ichigo decides she wants to go to a prestigious academy specializing in French delicacy. The father protests – but never once does he mention cost. He’s only concerned about his daughter’s safety, and his wife talks him rather sternly into letting her go (she probably controls the cash flow, anyway.) However, a big point is what she uses to convince him – she tells him that if he can spend as much money as he does on golf clubs in spite of sucking at the sport, then his daughter can go to this special school.

How spoiled can you get?!

How spoiled can you get?!

As you may know, golf is a pretty expensive sport. You have to pay for assloads of equipment as well as the damn rights to use the course, and a lot of them are owned by country clubs and the like. In Japan, it’s even more expensive – there are extremely few courses in Tokyo due to the major lack of space, and it’s really only the upper-crust who touch the game at all. So we know that this whipped father’s ‘spare no expense’ policy is the real deal. I want to know what the hell kind of job this bastard has!

Anyway, I just think it’s fun to see how the rich always get to have all the fun. Because we keep letting them~~~ Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go waste some food and pick my teeth with dollar bills~

17 thoughts on “Anime Characters: Living in the Lavish Light of Luxury (And Yumeiro Patissiere Episode 1 as a Bonus

  1. Is there a trend over time? In the classical animes, the protagonists are usually middle to less well of. I am thinking about Niea under 7, Lain (middle class), Oh my goddess, love Hina, Mahoromatic, S.A., Mahoraba, Chobits, A Snow Fairy named Sugar, et al. In fact, the only one I can recall with a rich setting is … Ai Aoshi.

    There are also a fantasy component to the rich protagonist perspective, as well as some sort of transformation, usually, from a middle to low class income bracket to a national GDP sustaining bracket.

    • I don’t know if I’d consider those to be older series. And in a lot of them, the poverty is a major plot point (Chobits, NieA) I find it truly perplexing you mentioned Lain though, because they are LOADED in that show! Not only do they own a massive house but they keep filling it with more and more top of the line technology! That would have been what I’d usea s a perfect example of the rule and not the exception.

      • True enough. Lain’s family is quite rich in terms of technology. Somehow, though, it is a more accurate portrail of rich families in modern society — Lain’s family behaved realistically as a real family would if they had that much income. Nagi from Hayate, on the other hand, approaches richness in an over the top manner, so does many of the anime where richness is a main theme.

        Also, Simoun approached class barriers and income divide fairly interestingly. Other animes, on the other hand, played this off as a joke or a cheap plot device. Then again, the idea of poverty and richness is common in literature as well, not just in Marx and Engel’s writtings either. Charles Dicksens with his Christmas stories as well as Great Expectations, William Blake with his Song of Innocence, and of course Hugo with his famous Les Miserables all touched on this topic. So perhaps anime is not creating new path, but following literature trends. This brings up an interesting question — is anime lagging behind? Is anime repeating itself and running out of steam? If so, does it need to steal new ideas from classical literature other than light novels?

        Also — Why is my Classical Literature Anime Adaptions not subbed?!!!

  2. Perhaps the creators are trying to abstract away from the issues with small apartments? You can’t have wacky K-ON parties in a tiny apartment, or chase people through the halls, or pace back and forth.

    As I recall, when Friends was running, people would criticize it for its lavish Manhattan apartment sets, which a bunch of young adults with crappy jobs couldn’t possibly afford. But if the sets were realistically sized, they would’ve looked weird from a filming perspective. Plus it’s harder to make a dramatic entrance or exit without space to move through.

    Although room perspective isn’t as big an issue in anime.

    Damn, now I can’t relax until I figure this out. Whoever’s in charge of the animation must have access to houses, otherwise the animation would look like shit. I guess houses are more fun?

  3. I’d disregard wacky classroom behavior in anime as an indicator of wealth. A realistic setting would involve 90 percent studying- nobody wants to watch that. Boring, realistic characters who spend all their time studying get relegated to side character duty. We want freaks in our school anime. We want to see people fall in love, fight the student council, yell over the PA speakers, and have a good time. The only thing exciting about studious characters is when they screw up and have a meltdown and we can gloat over their wasted effort.

    • What? Sure, a realistic setting would have 90% studying. Doesn’t mean that a show would have to show all that studying. Example off the top of my head: Haruhi. We spend nearly all of our time in the clubroom, because stuff happens there. How often do we head into the classroom? As often as it is narratively interesting: almost never.

      And I find it as hilarious as I’m sure you must that I’m using a show where one of the characters is God as an example of a “realistic setting” :p

  4. I find myself questioning your assertion that the majority of stories have historically concerned the upper classes. The ones that have come down to us might do, but remember that for the vast majority of history the upper classes were the only people that could read or write. Before the invention of the printing press, a book was worth a small fortune. Hell, in eleventh century Europe the only people you could count on to be literate were the upper ranks of the clergy, monks and scribes. Yep, your average village priest was unable to read the Bible and had to give sermons from memory.

    It should come as no shock that these people thought that the only stories worth recording were those about themselves. Hell, they excise the peasantry from those stories as well. We have God knows how many chivalric romances from the Middle Ages, those stories where the knight errant ventures off on a quest. I’m willing to bet that the only one that makes any reference to the knight’s servants is Don Quixote, and that’s a parody. Your average knight in the High Middle Ages would have a squire, a groom for the horses, maybe a valet, a cook, perhaps a couple of general servants to fetch and carry.

    It would be interesting to examine what’s left of the oral tradition/folk tales: see how many of them concern themselves with aristocrats. I actually have the Thousand and One Nights and the complete fairy tales of Brothers Grimm on the shelves, but I don’t really have the time to go through them now. I think the staple character of the Nights, at least, is the poor fisherman/merchant. Though they don’t usually stay poor; you’d think it rained dinars in Arabia, the way gold just springs out of the desert.

    As for the modern day… well, I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but here in Britain we have a tradition of “kitchen sink drama”; stories about your average working class dude doing his everyday working class thing. It’s every bit as boring as you’d imagine, imho.

    No argument that anime is full of it, though. Remember Special A? That wasn’t just a show about elites, it was about hyper elites whom the pissant normal elites looked up to in total awe.

    On most of Japan being a godforsaken wasteland: I was looking up urbanisation rate earlier for entirely unrelated reasons. Japan comes in at 66%. 66%! That’s pathetic. America clocks in at 82%, and you guys have a population density of precisely fuck all. Britain had bettered that by 1881. @_@

    My brain hurts

    • As for historical literacy, of course – I dodged the issue on purpose to make a point lol. But hats off to your great points anyway!

      I never saw SA but there’s Ouran, which aside from the main character who’s entire schtick was being poor, everyone else was an extremely eccentric rich person.

  5. There was a lovely Marxist critique of Ghost in the Shell somewhere. Can’t find it now, but I’m sure an hour or two on Google would turn it up.

    I do notice more houses in the country, for what it’s worth. Outside of little shopping areas, there’s nothing around but vending machines and farmland, so that might excuse some shows. It certainly doesn’t explain how Konata’s dad keeps a swank place near Kyoto, unless he’s the most prolific romance novelist ever. Really good life insurance on Kanata, perhaps? But that’s getting far too deep into it.

    • Prolific perhaps. Maybe he’s one of those Japanese writers whose been churning out like 2 books a year for 15 years or something. I have never really wrapped my brain around the sheer speed of Japanese authors.

  6. Haha, yeah, I also did a double take when I saw the numbers come up on the register in Yumeiro Patissiere. I love cake as much as anyone, but damn, that is a lot of money.

    Also, this makes me think of Minamo’s apartment in Azumanga Daioh and how she had everything neatly packed into such a small space.

    • holy shit, it’s Desbreko!

      Anyway, yeah, I was like ‘no way’, I had to remind the video and really make sure that it was a comma and that there were no periods in there. When the father just kind of sighed it off, I thought ‘you’ve gotta be kidding me!’

  7. Pingback: Night of the Servants OR How Anime Ingrained the Awesomeness of Maids And Butlers Into Our Minds « Fuzakenna!

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