It’s common practice for an anime to feature a male lead whom the audience can easily relate to, and therefor usually holds to society’s moral compass. It’s also common practice for that male lead to have one or more female love interests, and not uncommon for one of those love interests to follow a conflicting moral compass. This creates a “Defrosting the Ice Queen” situation, wherein the lead tries to bring his love interest over to what he views as ‘the side of righteousness.’
Being as I’m at ends with society’s moral compass and have a deep hatred for self-righteous people, I’m always wary of this trope. However, surprisingly, I often find it to be justified. For example, take Revy, the Ice Queen from Black Lagoon. The male lead, Rock, tries to change Revy and create some sort of moral base within her, but he does so because her attitude and actions are self-destructive. He gradually admits that while he doesn’t approve of her criminal way of life, he understands it, and he makes it clear that he wants Revy to change for her own sake, so that she can find happiness instead of wasting her life.
Mikiya, the male lead from Kara no Kyoukai, takes an even more brazen approach. He’s very firmly against murder, not because society says it’s wrong, but for his own personal reasons. Ice Queen Shiki is obsessed with murder, but Mikiya falls in love with her anyway because he doesn’t believe in her capacity to actually murder anyone. There’s a point in the series where Mikiya demands that Shiki not murder someone, for the simple fact that he doesn’t want to saddle the burden of sharing love with a murderer (not that he’s actually unwilling to do so.)
I’m fine with these characters – in fact, I have a lot of respect for them, because their moral pressure is an attempt to help the Ice Queen find happiness. What pisses me off is when a guy demands change from a girl because what she does “Just Isn’t Right.” And I’ve figured out that this is why I hate Shakugan no Shana.
Shana was doing fine at the start of the series. She had no reason to feel bad about the things she did, because they were part of her job as a Flame Haze. She takes a professional approach to her work and is annoyed when Yuji keeps complaining about what she does. She’s not just a joyless “Rei-type” either, as we see through things like her love for melon bread, the way she gets distracted by random objects, and her embarrassment over being seen half-naked by a guy.
If Yuji was acting in the interest of forming a relationship with Shana, then it wouldn’t bother me, but that’s not the case. He accuses Shana of being cold for referring to herself as “just a Flame Haze” and for not having compassion for people who die – he tries to force the morals of society onto someone with no reason to conform to them, and whose situation he in no way understands. How she performed her job was really none of his god damn business.
If anything, the ways that Yuji changes Shana only cause her more problems. Emotions are created within her that complicate her job. She somehow ends up falling in love with Yuji, but he doesn’t seize that opportunity for their joined happiness. If he’d just followed through on their feelings for one another, I could have forgiven him, but instead he is an indecisive fuck who’s bitchiness throws Shana into emotional turmoil.
This might sound fucked up, but Yuji’s influence made me unable to like Shana as a character anymore. I loved her at the beginning of the series to the point that she could have been one of my favorite characters – that’s why I could never bring myself to give up on the show no matter how much it spat in my face. But the sad truth is that Shana turned into a character that I can’t like or respect. It’s no different from losing a friend in the real world; If one of my friends started hanging out with a bad crowd and turned into a jerk, then I wouldn’t want to be around him anymore. Because I like him, I might try and change him back to the way he was, but I don’t get that opportunity with a fictional character. For me, Yuji, and any other self-righteous male lead, is ‘a bad crowd,’ and when Shana started hanging out with him, we slowly grew distant until we lost contact somewhere in season 2. [F]
Has a male lead ever ruined a series for you? What about him made you want to kick his ass?