Who said anime never makes an impact?
Children tend to idolize the characters they see in their favorite media: books, tv or otherwise. After all, to a five-year-old there is little more awesome and “heroic” than Superman lifting a train off the ground so that one of the normies can crawl out. They take up our entire lives when we’re young, and become people in and unto themselves.
How many of us cried from Pokemon The Firs Movie? Be honest…
It’s only later in life that we look back on the people we dressed up as on Halloween, and start to sort out the people we thought were “cool” and the people we carried with us for much deeper reasons. Since I dove head-first into anime at a pretty young age (thanks again, Toonami) most of the characters I really liked or really resonated with usually came from there. These are my childhood anime heroes: the characters who spoke to me on another level and still resonate with me to this day.
If we’re going back in my anime experience, I’d be remiss not to start with she who started my love for it all. The grandmother of all magical girl anime, Usagi Tsukino, was the klutzy, scaredy-cat crybaby who transformed into the beautiful sailor soldier, Sailor Moon, to fight monsters in Tokyo. She was a very odd addition to the heroes pantheon as she lacked the confidence of most superheroes and tended to cry during fights. But she always pushed past her fears to save the day, proving that all you needed to be a hero was enough courage and enough heart.
This, above all things, is what draws me to Sailor Moon. I was always klutzy as a child; I cried at the drop of a hat, and it didn’t take much to scare me. Yet here was this hero who was just like me, breaking past her flaws to be a hero and save the day. Usagi taught me that anyone can be great, no matter what their weaknesses are. I can only hope the new generation picks that up from this unlikely hero.
On the train of underdog heroes, Cardcaptors (the dub of Cardcaptor Sakura) became my new daily watch when Sailor Moon ran out of “safe” dubs. I was intrigued by the cute animation and magic, but even more so by lead: Sakura Kinomoto. She was much younger than Usagi and just as easily scared, but she was much better at running into the fight and finishing it. But what she had one extra thing that made all the difference: Leeway.
I’d like to think that Sakura had far more stacked against her than Usagi. She was the one who accidentally scattered the Clow cards, thus it makes sense that she’s tasked with recollecting them. This is a scary prospect to have shoved onto you and yet she embraces it as best as she can. She’s allowed to have shortcomings in that she has to get help from Kero, her best friend, and other allies she meets. She taught me that it’s okay to reach out and ask for help, something I think more anime needs to stress in these “unlikely hero” scenarios.
Speaking of mistakes, sometimes those mistakes can come back to haunt you. Coming to you live from the “I was too young for this” department, meet the girly-looking swordsman with the badass skills and soft heart: Kenshin Himura
As I said, I found Rurouni Kenshin at a point where I was too young to truly understand the plot. But I had a basic enough grasp of the characters to know that Kenshin was a former samurai that instigated most of the death in some big war of the time. He became a wandering samurai to atone for his deeds in the war and wound up staying at the Kamiya Dojo with a hot-tempered assistant master and her student. He vowed to never kill again, a vow difficult to keep when everything from the past is rushing back with swords drawn, ready to gut you and everyone you care about. And yet, through all this strife, Kenshin finds himself a new life, a place to put down roots, and a new will to live. It’s all about second chances, and I took that to heart.
Once again, this was someone I shouldn’t have known about at such a young age. Outlaw Star is not a kid’s anime at all, but it is an excellent anime if you like sci-fi and cyberpunk things. And part of the reason I love it so much is because of its protagonist, the jerkass with standards: Gene Starwind.
Gene is a perverted, sarcastic, foul-mouthed, space handyman. A Jack-Of-All-Trades that did a variety of jobs, he accidentally wound up helping a space outlaw and found himself in possession of an awesome ship. From there, the rest is a fun-filled search for the mythical Galactic Leyline. It’s a pretty fun, pretty chill anime that’s about cruising around space and meeting neat sci-fi things, and all to the most unlikely of people. Gene is not perfect by any definition but he can still get his rear in gear and be a true hero. You don’t have to be a paragon of morals to do the right thing; that’s a powerful lesson to take away at any age.
Monkey D. Luffy
Our last entry today is one that still endures and inspires to this day. When you have endless oodles of energy and a dream that cannot be shattered, how can you not inspire for years on end?
Monkey D. Luffy is hardly the smartest pirate on the ocean or the most strategic. In fact, his only real leg up in this madness comes from his physical strength and his straight moral compass. But where Luffy cannot be defeated is his stubborn tenacity. When idiot meets determined, magic can happen, and almost nothing can break his spirit (and several will try). Luffy is my hero purely on strength of will and his battering-ram like chase after his dream. He’s gonna get that treasure someday, even if every building behind him has to fall.
Who was (or is) your anime hero? Feel free to leave a comment below. And don’t forget to like the post and follow if you want more content just like this.