“…the point I want to make is that there’s a significant difference between being manly, an awesome masculine badass who we can respect and admire; and being macho, a muscular, insecure tosspot with no social skills.” – Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw
This post by video game journalist Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw on his Extra Punctuation feature caught my interest a few weeks ago. It’s about distinguishing characters who are ‘manly men’ from those who are ‘macho men’ – the gist of it being that a ‘manly man’ is a guy who’s completely badass while still being honest with his emotions and respectful of other people, while a ‘macho man’ is a guy who tries to constantly reassure you that he has a dick by acting like one. I realize that making this distinction will raise flags with some readers (especially my vocal feminist crowd, hehe), so if you’re wary about this distinction and want to discuss it, please read this disclaimer before leaving any argumentative comments. If you don’t care about all that, then proceed~
After giving thought to Yahtzee’s post, I realized that anime is sparse on ‘manly men’. Most anime characters tend to be young, and lack the clarity of thought and ability to take action that a ‘manly man’ has. Sure, characters will sometimes do manly things, but that’s not the same as embodying that manliness as a way of life. For instance, I could argue that Kyon from Haruhi has some manly moments of taking action, but outside of those moments he’s still a directionless, complacent teenager, regardless of how much wit and intellect he has to back him up. Nay, I’m on a search for characters who are truly ‘manly men’, and I’ve listed a few whom I think qualify below.
Simon the Driller – Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Adult Simon is the epitome of a ‘manly man.’ He’s a man with real goals: to marry Nia and to save humanity; and he will fight with everything to protect those ambitions. Even when others fail at their duties or become unreliable, Simon never casts blame on anyone, and steps up to do as much as he possibly can without complaint. He respects and acknowledges the skills of everyone in his company, and went so far as to stop Russiu from committing suicide after betraying him because he knew that Rossiu was still an important part of the team. Simon never looks down on anyone nor tells them that they’re incapable – he’s always uplifting and inspiring, asking only that everyone give their all in pursuit of their dreams. When his friends betray him and he nearly loses his fiance, he’s never afraid to show his sorrow, but he bites through the pain and continues to rise up and push forward with his goals.
Jing – King of Bandits Jing
In terms of personality and profession, Jing is the most similar to the characters on Yahtzee’s list. As a master thief, Jing has to be fast as well as sneaky – his primary weapon is a large blade that shoots out of his jacket sleeve and retracts with incredible speed for purposes ranging from combat to theft; plus he’s ridiculously agile to an extent that only manga can portray. His ‘last resort’ move is a combo attack with bird companion Kir called the ‘Kir Royale’, a highly effective and usually one-shot-kill maneuver. Admittedly, Jing doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to emote, as he’s a laid-back guy without much to be sad about, but it’s certainly there in places. He’s always gentlemanly and kind as well as quick-witted, but he’s not unflappably cool (despite being represented that way in the anime adaption) and will at times fall victim to gags or traps and what have you, which allows him to remain human instead of seeming too perfect. His eyes are always on the prize, and he goes the distance to get the treasure he’s after… and often the girl as well~
Sagara Sousuke – Full Metal Panic
Sousuke is a man who takes his work very seriously and knows how to get shit done. While a bit uncultured (only knowledgeable about the military), he’s far from unintelligent, as proven through his effectiveness in battle and tactical mastery. While he does have a hard time understanding others, he’s never disrespectful to anyone he meets. Sousuke has his fair share of bad memories and troubling thoughts, but he fights through them and completes the mission no matter what it takes.
Hakuoro – Utawarerumono
Possibly the manliest anime character I can name, Hakuouro fits the definition to perfection and excels at it’s every aspect. He’s a skilled warrior who can hold his own in battle, a great leader who’s able to inspire his kingdom and protect it with tactical brilliance, and a family man who values time spent with his surrogate daughter, wife, and pet more than anything. The opinions of his generals and friends are always considered, and he knows how to use each of their strengths to the fullest. Because he’s friendly to his people, Hakuoro is able to create a happy, flourishing nation. As the series goes on, he’s faced with more and more emotionally taxing situations and never forces them onto anyone else, but also isn’t afraid to share his feelings with close friends. Even when he’s nearly at the breaking point, he still finds the strength to press on and fight for what he wants to protect. [F]
I’m very interested to know what anime characters you consider to be “manly men”, and why you think so. I’ll be responding to all comments in an attempt to raise points and discussion about the character until we can come to a decision about him, so it’d be awesome if you could present all of your thoughts on why you think the character qualifies. In addition, I’ll be adding a few more characters of my own in the comments, as well as making a shortlist of ‘macho’ characters.