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Tag Archives: Azumanga Daioh

Alright, so… I haven’t had time to dedicate to this blog lately. Moreover, I haven’t even had time to WATCH anime lately. There is a new season out there, a few weeks in… and I haven’t even read a list of titles. I am tired, internets. I am spread thin, like butter scraped over too much bread. I’m shutting it down, locking it up and taking a break. Maybe I will post here again when I get things more in order… but for now, I just can’t generate any content worth reading. Thanks for reading.

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You might have noticed, but I’ve removed the “Currently watching” page and I’ve added an Anime-Planet banner in the About Me section. Go to the website on it; the things I’m watching and the months of my life spent watching anime are all cataloged there for your perusal. Current amount of time spent watching anime: Over 3 months. ^_^

anime-planet.com/users/wytenite

So, I got in a discussion with a friend of mine about what makes a good character. MM! came up and got dismissed for having cookie-cutter characters that didn’t seem to have anything new about them. They were just bits and pieces of other various anime characters combined. My friend said, quite reasonably, that the same could be said of all anime characters. After all, there really isn’t anything that is 100% original and unique unto itself. Everything has to have similarities to something. He was, of course, perfectly right… but it didn’t help the fact that I hadn’t grown any attachment to the characters of MM! The problem wasn’t so much in the parts… when I first watched it, for that first episode, the characters seemed sort of interesting. It was only after a few episodes that I began to feel the sense of apathy building. The reason, I believe, is they were lacking the thing that really makes you fall in love with a character. None of them really had too much in the way of depth and none of them ever seemed to change.

Smiling Revy is scary because she has depth.

There is a certain beautiful and difficult point an author has to reach to really win the hearts of the audience. That is the point at which the audience realizes that a character acts a certain way, or doesn’t act a certain way because of some deeper part of who they are as a human being. For instance, Revy from Black Lagoon is a murderous and cold-hearted killer. This is not disputable. What makes Revy interesting as a character isn’t what makes her cool. Sure, we could watch Tw0-hand kill men for hours and it would be entertaining, but it isn’t why we love her. We love her from the things we see in the gap between her behavior. The Revy we see at leisure, the Revy we see sharing fire from a cigarette, the Revy we see murdering a man because he doesn’t speak proper English… they are all different versions of the same girl. She is still the same character, she still has the same personality, but she changes with the situation. Slowly, with the bits and pieces we gather from lines she leaves unsaid or dark places in her mind that we barely glimpse, slowly we begin to form an image of who she is as a person.

Now this effect can break down really quickly in the wrong hands. Half of it is preparation, half is presentation. First off, Revy is a dynamic and round character, she is actively influenced by the world in which she lives and she has a multi-faceted personality. She has been designed in such a way that she can’t be simply described in a single sentence with any amount of justice. “Revy is a callous Chinese-American murderous pirate that was raised on the harsh streets of New York,” doesn’t quite sum up the layers of the woman the fans have come to know. We ask ourselves questions like “Can Revy really be capable of a relationship anymore? How would she express love?” We ask these questions because the answers aren’t as easy as “IF: A; THEN: B”, and that brings me to the next point. Presentation is key. If the author has answers to those sorts of questions, how they transmit those answers is essential. We learned about Revy’s past and character bit by bit and each bit we treasured. Might we have valued the knowledge less if it had come in the form of a big expositional block?

Not necessarily. Take, for instance, One Piece. With the exception of the main character, almost all the central characters, fairly early in the series, had some sort of episode involving their past, who they are as people and how they got there. For instance, Usopp had a series of flashbacks to his childhood that set up his reason for lying, his kind heart, his hatred at his own powerlessness and his grand dreams of things he doesn’t believe himself capable of doing but desperately wants to do. If you paid attention, it was all right there in that one episode. Why watch the rest of the show then? Who cares about this guy now? I do! That flashback told us a lot about who he was, but it was presented in such a way that you were the one who drew conclusions about how that affects who he is. Furthermore, once I had that information, I began watching the character closer than I did before I had it. I began applying that lens onto his actions and his actions gained depth from it! Why would he stay here and fight like this if he were a coward? Why isn’t he running from THIS battle? You begin to see the flaws that appear in the initial impression. It is those points that give him a human characteristic in ways that a distinctive physical feature or a unique way of ending a sentence never could. Not only that, if you watched only the episode that established his backstory, you would be floored if you returned to him episodes later! What happened here?! Oh, he is a dynamic character. Not only does he affect the world, the world affects him. Things weigh at his soul, doubts creep into his mind, friendships build, skills are honed… he isn’t the same man at the beginning of the story as he is in the middle of it, and that makes him feel more real.

Bisco Hatori is amazing when it comes to developing characters subtly. One thing I especially love about Ouran is that all of the characters have something that they don’t feel like sharing. Generally, it is an event or situation that has changed the way they behave on a very personal level. Even during the sections in which we, the audience, aren’t yet aware of it, those events change the way the characters behave in certain situations. Furthermore, the presence or absence of other characters will alter behavior in subtle ways! For instance, Tamaki Suoh, the King of Hostobu and major player in the reverse harem. He has a terrible set of family circumstances which has caused his personality to develop a certain way. He has become a man who can’t give up hope. Now, when you combine him with his right-hand man Kyoya, you see subtle changes in Kyoya’s character. But wait, Kyoya isn’t behaving quite the way he would if you only took into account his family history. Could it be that Tamaki and Kyoya also have a separate event that caused them to change as characters?! Are there layers to this process until we eventually end up with complex characters acting in a complex manner that looks simple at first glance but gets deeper and deeper the longer you stare?! Yes! Yes there are! This is the sort of story-telling and character-building that isn’t easily forgotten.

 

Now…  lets get back to MM! for a second. There is a female character… that one… Arashiko? Arashiko. Arashiko Yuuno. It took some thinking and google to remember her name. She is the purple-haired one. She has an irrational fear of men because her father pretty-much brainwashed her into thinking all men are beasts. (Scratch that. I was remembering the character from Working! she is likely based off of.) As such, she will punch any man that gets too close with mighty strength and scream “MEN ARE SCARY!” She does that a LOT. A LOT. However, she tries to repress it, because she likes the main character. So, what do we have here? Well, often times we will have her try to get close to him and then somehow end up throwing out her tagline while uppercutting him to heaven. After a while, it begins to wear on the soul. Maybe it is an issue of preparation. I don’t recall there being very much else to her personality apart from fearing men but liking that one guy. Maybe it is an issue of presentation, the only personality trait I can really recall is the one that gets beaten into my face every episode. Maybe it is a bit of both. But, honestly, I don’t think I will still remember Arashiko’s name years from now.

 

You know whose name I do still remember? Ayumu Kasuga.

So, I was watching Mitsudomoe, having a good time… and then they hit me with this.

It hit me right in the heart. Oh God, I thought, this is the last episode… I will never see these girls again… IT’S AZUMANGA DAIOH ALL OVER AGAIN! I actually waved goodbye back. In the brief 5 second period in which this image of them waving bye-bye was on the screen, I had a brief period of mourning.

It is never easy, letting a decent series go. Sometimes, rarely, you are blessed enough to get an ending that ties everything up for you and gives you closure. Gungrave was the best series ever for that. More often, though, the characters have lives that they need to go on living and you feel left out… sure, evil is defeated and the land is saved… but what about that girl? And that mystery? And that guy who said that “One day, I will repay this favor”?! WILL HE EVER REPAY THAT FAVOR?!

Ah, but then we have Mitsudomoe, Azumanga Daioh, School Rumble, Genshiken… anime about life and people living it. Their lives don’t just end with the series. Surely, these characters are going on, living out lives that we will never see. It is simply that we are forced at some point to say goodbye.

It is a saddening realization. This is the last episode. I will never again see these characters. It is the ultimate last step for the “slice of life” genre. If you haven’t seen Azumanga Daioh, I strongly urge you to watch it just for the powerful feeling it will leave in your chest… The last episode, all of the girls have to say their goodbyes. They will be friends forever, certainly, and they will see eachother again… but it is goodbye. A very real and powerful goodbye, the kind that you have experienced before and will experience again. Lives diverging, people who walked side-by-side with you, walking down a different path… then, at the very end, they walk away… and that is when you realize that you, too, must say goodbye. You can recommend the anime to other people, you can rewatch it… but that first time, the powerful feeling that you get there… it is something special.