The goal of art is to be an outlet for the artist. The idea is usually to send a message. But, sometimes, it’s just a place to work out your frustrations or your greatest desire.
The medium offers all writers a chance to explore a lot of “what ifs,” and thus a lot of inner fantasies end up dancing on screen for viewer entertainment. This idea in and of itself isn’t bad at all, as lots of us share the same wish: finding the love of our lives, getting superpowers, becoming the popular person in school, etc. The key to success, in this case, is for writers to be skilled enough to make the ride enjoyable for everyone, not just the author, and to share the wish fulfillment with everyone.
Case in Point, Yana Toboso shares Sebastian iberally
And then there’s Anime Mary/Gary Sue: the shining beacon of selfish writing. Any old school fanfic-er should recognize Mary: a badly written character that suffers no real conflict or character growth and acts as the author’s fantasy persona. As the term arose from Star Trek fanfiction, it’s assumed that she/he cling to the fanfiction circuit. But Human Error is real; Mary/Gary can rear their pretty heads just about anywhere.
There are a few basic signs that these two may have infected the building. Are these signs always omens of bad to come? No. But they do require quite a bit of writing prowse to make work, which most new writers just do not have.
Things Just Work Out For Me, Babe
This one is a universal trait of bad writing, but it’s almost pervasive in anime as a whole. Our protagonist barely lifts a finger, doesn’t even try very hard in his/her miserable existence, and yet bizarre and cool events just present themselves like a burlesque dancer. Rather than having the protagonist make conscious decisions that set the story in motion, reacting to the world around them with some agency, they can’t take five steps without a neko-alien woman falling into their lap.
Thankfully, most anime are not very overtly sue-ish in this regard. Shonen anime can be guilty of dipping into this technique – and I would point a loaded finger at Bleach – but only a few titles are overt about it. In fact, this trait only becomes a problem when the writing alongside it is bland and/or poor. It’s not very fun to watch someone get everything in life “just because” after all.
Romance Options Ten Miles Wide
It’s human to want a significant other or just someone who’s okay doing the horizontal rumba with you. It’s also very human to fantasize about being the King of Attraction Mountain, atop a throne of gorgeous people clawing to reach you. Harem anime usually gets away with this fantasy by having a protagonist who’s basically a blank slate for the watcher to slide into. However, sometimes there are protagonists who get all the attention from the opposite sex when, really, they shouldn’t.
Maybe they’re really boring and lack any depth; maybe they do things that are supposed to be seen as good but are actually reprehensible; maybe, just maybe, they’re Sasuke Uchiha and behave like an emotionally unstable baby, and no one should be all over them. These and many other repellent personality types getting massive chances to get lucky, unironically, can only lead to disaster.
PHENOMENAL, Unearned, COSMIC POWER!
Becoming bad-ass is universally awesome, naturally. But consumers tend to prefer characters who earn their badassitude, who clawed their way tooth and nail towards awesome power and prestige. When it’s handed to you, with follow-up gifts of other special powers, you have a quick means of annoying the hell out of your audience if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Shounen is once again very guilty of this every so often, such as Erza Scarlet’s constantly changing plot armor, but shojo has its moments as well. After all, Berry from Tokyo Mew Mew A La Mode hardly earned her powers and she became more powerful than all the mews combines.
However, most of these animes also save themselves by having the character only get the “access pass” to these powers and forcing them to climb the rest of the mountain before getting the premium Badass membership. If your anime, however, gives the goods away for free with no real consequence, then Mary and Gary have infected the area.
So, Why all the Fuss?
Writers like me spend so much time discussing this archetype of character because they can ruin everything or make everything awesome. It’s a very fine line with a hair-thin trip and setting it off can make the entirety of the web explode. These kinds of tropes be it overpowered protagonists or romantically popular ones, need to be handled with care and experience. Because, while Superman won’t draw as much ire, others will trigger someone and send them into a frothing rage.
In short, it’s not the wraiters should avoid everything listed above but be aware how these tropes can be harmful. All is possible with good writing, but lazy execution is the nector of the terrible Mary Sue.
Do you know any Mary Sues in anime? Feel free to comment below! And don’t forget to like and follow if you wanna see more content just like this.