Twice in the past, I’ve blogged extensive lists of my top 100 favorite anime characters, and I’ve regretted the decision to set that 100 limit for a while; partly because a favorite character list is bound to transform every time I finish a show, and also because I love a lot more than 100 characters.
For eight months now, I’ve seen Chii of Oishii Anime run her ‘365 Days of Anime Characters‘ series, which is very admirable, even if I wouldn’t personally want to talk about characters that I dislike alongside those I love. I’ve also been jealous of Glothelegend’s character page on Eye Sedso, wherein he selects his favorite character from every anime that he’s watched and talks about them.
I can’t do what either of them have done, because I only want to talk about my favorite characters, and I want to do more than one per show. Of course, a post series like this would get boring if I didn’t liven it up and innovate somehow, so I hope you’ll enjoy the formula I’ve come up with for these posts. I’m setting them to go up once a week, indefinitely.
Each post will contain two characters selected randomly off the top of my head. The numbers are just for archiving purposes. If you don’t know the character, you can click on their names to get some basic information.
1. Orihara Izaya – Durarara!!
Seiyuu: Kamiya Hiroshi (Performance: 5/5)
Character Design: (Designed by Kishida Takahiro, based on designs by Yasuda Suzuhito). I’m a big fan of Kishida’s designs; he always brings this sort of sleekness to the characters, which lends itself to the badassery that most of them are likely to spring forward with. Izaya doesn’t immediately scream ‘badass’ – actually, his fuzzy coat borders on looking silly, and in combination with the smirk he always wears, he can come off as a pompous jackass. Which he is! But when he gets on a roll, his face and demeanor make both the awesomeness and the sadism of his attitude pop.
Personal Bias/Moe Traits: Izaya is like an extreme version of how I view myself (and to a greater extent, how I’m viewed by those around me). He’s completely full of himself, and only interested in his own benefit; if others will be helped in the course of his current ambitions, then he’ll help them, but he might decide to take from them shortly thereafter. One could call him a sore loser, because he’s the type who always views himself as ‘the man on top’ – if his plans are foiled, then it’s not that he was wrong, but that his plan became whatever the situation called for.
I’m routinely and deservedly considered a ‘manipulative bastard’ by the people around me (to the point that whenever I offer a deal to someone, they call it ‘a deal with the devil.’) It’s not that I’m uncaring – I love my friends, but I love them for my own sake, and I’ll manipulate them into doing things the way I want them to. Many see manipulation as evil, but much in the way that I think Izaya’s manipulation was ultimately helpful to Kida Masaomi, Ryuugamine Mikado, and others, I think that my manipulation has had as many positive effects for others as it’s had for myself.
Distortions of My Imagination: It’s never clear in Durarara how Izaya views his position in comparison to other characters. He may actually view himself as ruling over everyone’s fate, but that’s not the assumption I want to make, nor one that I have to. Instead, I’d like to think that Izaya considers himself just as much a piece on his crazy-ass game board as anyone else, and gets his feelings of utter confidence not out of a sense that he’s in total control, but out of a sense that he’s able to bend whatever situation comes about to his will.
Crowning Moment of Love: My favorite Izaya scene was his first one in the show, at the end of episode 2. He meets with a young woman on the roof of a building that is a popular suicide spot, having told her through email conversations that they’d both kill themselves to escape their terrible lives. Instead, Izaya gives her a speech and essentially informs her that her life is nothing special or unique and that she doesn’t honestly have the force of will to commit suicide. He makes her feel as though he’s somehow ‘won’ by convincing her not to jump, and out of a desire to shove it back in his face, the girl goes to do just that – the truth, however, is that it didn’t matter either way to Izaya. He merely wanted to see what she would decide to do after being confronted with his speech. Whether she jumped or not, he’d already won.
Title: The Great Deceiver
2. Kuhouin Murasaki – Kure-nai
Seiyuu: Yuuki Aoi (Performance: 4.5/5)
Character Design: (Designed by Ishii Kumi, loosely based on shitty designs by Yamamoto Yamato) Murasaki is an adorable loli and it doesn’t take much for me to love one of those, but she’s also a unique design. She’s got a round face and a bit of baby fat, which makes her look her age (7) more than your average loli (and the original design). I think my favorite design aspect is her big, purple, expressive eyes, which are complemented perfectly by the cut of her very long hair. The couple of outfits that Murasaki gets to wear in the show are hilariously mismatched or pastel, but they also serve to emphasize both her childishness and her alienation from the outside world (and she still looks cute in them). The kimono is cute, too, and it’s interesting in the way that it doesn’t seem to fit her age, but also serves to pronounce her maturity in certain situations.
Personal Bias/Moe Traits: Murasaki plays straight to two of my biggest fascinations – exploring the psychology of children from strange home situations, and observing how children grow and learn to interact with a world that they don’t recognize. In a way, Murasaki was lucky to not have stepped foot into the normal world until she was seven years old, because it allowed the things she learned to have a bigger impact and deeper meaning to her. Things that are usually considered common sense and not often thought about are put into consideration by her, and she in turn gains a deeper understanding of those thing than the average person. This is perhaps expressed best in the many lessons that perverted collegiate woman Tamaki gives her about love and relationships, through which she gains important abilities to understand the ways that other people think.
Towards the end of the series, Murasaki shows a maturity that no normal seven-year-old girl would have, but this isn’t a mistake – it’s the point. Murasaki grew up in an environment that prevented free thought or action and carefully trained her to understand her place in life as it would be even in adulthood. When Murasaki learns many things about the outside world, her knowledge and personality evolve, but the sense of knowing the world of adults that she was always being trained for remains and takes new form with her gain in worldliness.
Distortions of My Imagination: Actually, some of what I said above could be considered the result of my perspective take on the show more than a message it was trying to give. That said, I know writer-director Kou Matsuo’s work pretty well, and one common theme in his work is learning to look at one’s situation in a mature light (not necessarily the same as coming-of-age). I have enough reason to believe that my thoughts on her personality and development aren’t off-mark, but whether or not her upbringing was considered the immediate connection to her maturity, I cannot say.
Crowning Moment of Love: This is difficult, because the true culmination of Murasaki’s appeal comes from her dialog in the final episode, but I really don’t want to use endings for this section. Instead, I pick the last scenes of episode 8, wherein Murasaki explains to Shinkurou that she’s happy with him and that she loves him, but that it frustrates her that she isn’t old and mature enough to become his woman. The dialog could in part be considered Murasaki’s misunderstanding of Tamaki’s perverse lessons about love, but ultimately, Tamaki’s lessons aren’t wrong or anything, and they mean the same things to Murasaki that they’d mean to an adult, so as I see it, the scene is as meaningful as it appears. I like to imagine that in the future, when Murasaki grows up and comes to reclaim Shinkurou, she’ll give a speech exactly like this, as if to say that understanding the connotations of her words hasn’t changed the way she feels.
Title: When I Grow Up