Interesting Characters: Deep, Developed, and Chemical

“Who knew the ramen guy had so much backstory?”
Neku, The World Ends With You – taken from TV Tropes

In my years of reading anime reviews, I have seen many writers try and define what makes a ‘good character’, usually citing a certain element of characterization that they find most important in doing so. Leaving aside the obvious fact that character interpretation is subjective, I want to try and distinguish the different elements that can be used to make a show’s characters interesting. In this post I’ll be discussing the conventional elements of character ‘depth‘ and ‘development,’ as well as the element of ‘chemistry,’ which is less commonly mentioned in anime reviews.

The paragon of depth, development, and chemistry.

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I Love Pulp Characters

Many people who have shown disdain for movies made in the past decade or so have made the complaint that there are less memorable characters and especially less memorable villains in modern movies. While I’ve never been a particularly big fan of old movies, I will agree with the sentiment that there were better characters in the past, and it’s not just that they’ve been around long enough to acquire a greater status.

The problem lies with one of the biggest problems that I have with movies that were made in the past decade, which is one that I thankfully predict that we will be moving away from as we enter the next decade. The trend is that people started demanding a misguided ‘realism’ from their movies. To many people, ‘realism’ just seems to mean being excessively dark and edgy, which has lead to a flood of movies that are in no way realistic, but pretend that they are. The problem is that this has lead to movie characters excessively needing ‘humanizing’ qualities. Nowadays, characters have to have some kind of fault or weakness it seems, and I see this as a problem.

The bottom line is, you can only develop a character so much in the span of a movie. Some movies are more successful with it, but if you are making a blockbuster action flick, you’ve got no business trying to make a realistic character. The point is to make one who is unforgettable. In general, I think one way to put it is, it’s not about how many one-liners your character spits (as no doubt modern characters still spit them) but it’s about how badass the last thing the character did before saying the line was.

What I want to see is characters who are beyond reason, beyond weakness, and totally larger than life. I want the villain to be so unstoppably badass that if the hero actually takes them down, it’s only because the hero was even more unstoppably badass. You don’t even have to be making an action film for this to be possible. Quentin Tarantino has consistently made all of his films by filling them with way-larger-than-life characters. Take the recent Inglourious Basterds, wherein face-offs between The Jew Hunter and Aldo the Apache are so big and tense that when the former talks about having the entire war in his hands, you don’t even start to doubt him.

What stirred me to talk about this (and how it ties into anime) is that Ryougo Narita, creator of Baccano! and Durarara!!, is a veritable god of creating memorable characters. He fills his stories with people so otherworldly and amazing that you don’t even feel like normal life stands a chance against them. The clashes between Rail Tracer and Ladd Russo in Baccano! had an enormity about them that was incredible because you felt like this was a true clash of titans. Durarara! has already shown that it will have similar situations, as was felt in the second episode’s meeting between Orihara Izaya and the Dullahan rider. The show uses it’s insane cast and overpowering atmosphere to create a unique and interesting world for things to play out in.

Really, I could say that this is what the Faust-type light novels are all about. Writers like Kouhei Kadono (Boogiepop) and NISIOISIN (Bakemonogatari) are the forefront of modern pulp literature with their dark and overpowering stories about completely incomprehensible characters. I also think that the trend could come back in the US with the success of films like 300 and The Dark Knight, which had almost the ultimate pulp villain, the Joker. (And yes, there were a lot of other super hero films in this decade, but once again, they all tried to humanize the heroes and villains – those are the problems I’m talking about.) I love that movies and anime like these are being made, and I can’t tell you how happy I’d be if the trend came back in full force in the coming decade (which I can see happening.)

Screw You Guys, Bleach Is Awesome. (Giant Fanboy Post) (Also, A Public Apology 2)

This post will be filled with some of my favoirte images and moments from the series

This post will be filled with some of my favorite images and moments from the series

This is mostly going to be a massive fanboy post, so I want to get some things out fast. Fuck everyone who says that Bleach ‘gets worse’. If you never liked Bleach, that’s fine with me, but if you think it only started sucking after the Soul Society arc, then fuck you. Why? Because Bleach has not changed ONE FUCKING BIT since the Soul Society arc. Maybe you dropped it too soon afterward to notice, or maybe you simply forgot what had happened in the first arcs, but either way, you are dead wrong if you think that anything has changed. The next arc has all of the same characters, the same character development, the same focus on battles, and the same attitude… what the hell has changed? How could you say that it could have ended after Soul Society when the whole arc was spent setting up for the betrayal of Aizen? The whole story is a cohesive narrative, so how could you just cut out half of it?

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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.

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100 Characters For 100 Otaku (Part Twenty: 5-1) FINAL

The twentieth and final post in “100 Characters For 100 Otaku.”

oh. my. god.

oh. my. god.

Well, folks, here we are! “The final post in 100 Characters For 100 Otaku!” It’s been a long and crazy ride, exciting every step of the way, but it’s finally time for the whole thing to end. I hope you’ve enjoyed what I sincerely hope will be remembered as my most epic and experimental post series to date (don’t worry, I’ll top this one day!) That being said, let’s cap it all off, baby! It’s time for the top five!!!

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100 Characters For 100 Otaku (Part Nineteen: 10-6)

The nineteenth post in “100 Characters For 100 Otaku.”

This is it! The top 10! We’re almost at the end of “100 Characters For 100 Otaku!!!” I think it’s pretty funny how the fairly even, if not somewhat male-dominated list took a sudden shift in the top thirty to being most women, hehe. Let’s see if the trend continues as we dive into 10 down through 6! By the way, be sure to check out Mainichi Anime Yume where the author is doing his own 100 character list!

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100 Characters For 100 Otaku (Part Eighteen: 15-11)

The eighteenth post in “100 Characters For 100 Otaku.”

It’s truly down to the wire as we enter the final three posts in “100 Characters For 100 Otaku!” Has your favorite character shown up yet? If not, don’t fret – while it’s true I may have left them out on purpose, there’s a high chance I have never heard of your favorite character or not seen enough of their work. If there is someone you think I should know about, by all means, recommend them to me as convincingly as you can! Meanwhile, let’s see 15 through 11!

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100 Characters For 100 Otaku (Part Seventeen: 20-16)

The seventeenth post in “100 characters For 100 Otaku.”

I feel like we’ve reached the final stretch of “100 Characters For 100 Otaku” as we enter the top 20! From this point on, the characters gain a very real importance to me. We’ve been on a steady incline of character importance, but now there’s a very steep jump into characters that I truly love. So let’s see what they have to offer! We’re rolling 20 down through 16!

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100 Characters For 100 Otaku (Part Sixteen: 25-21)

The sixteenth post in “100 Characters For 100 Otaku.”

It’s down to the top 25 in the “100 Characters For 100 Otaku” series! Truly, it feels like we are in the final stretch! Incidentally, if you’ve been reading all this time, I’m sure you’ve seen the hints at the bottom of the posts of characters to come. Have you been able to guess them at all? Today, I’m going to make them especially hard, and you have to post your guesses! Now, let’s get started with numbers 25 down through 21!

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100 Characters For 100 Otaku (Part Fifteen: 30-26)

The fifteenth post in “100 Characters For 100 Otaku.”

We’re three-fourths of the way through “100 Characters For 100 Otaku!” Originally, the series was only going to be five posts long, with each containing twenty characters! I quickly realized this was not possible when I started writing the first post in my notebook, and decided to shorten it to ten posts, but once I transferred it to the computer, I knew it would have to be twenty! Today’s quarry are numbers 30 down through 26, so let’s check ’em out!

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