I see anime as a medium about exploration and new ideas.
The medium has its fair share of cliches and character tropes it clings to, but few other mediums can boast to have explored new interpretations as much as anime has. Certain tropes and cliches have been reexamined under Anime’s large-eyed-lens and given a unique perspective. It makes the medium stand out, especially when compared to other styles of cartoons and storytelling.
To prove my point, these are four characters “types” that are treated very differently in anime than in western media or other media types. Some were researched with the wonderful help that was TV Tropes because I am a puny human who lacks Ultimate Knowlege.
Remember L from Death Note (the weirdly adorable fella on your left)? When he’s behaving in his odd but cute fashion, stacking creamer cups and pinching sweets between his fingers, it’s easy to forget that he’s a socially awkward shut-in who doesn’t go outside or brush his hair. He’s got pupils that take up his whole iris, gargantuan shadows under those eyes (as an insomniac) and has never really shown his face to the world… or gone outside much if that pale skin is an indicator.
L is also one of the most well-loved characters in anime. Because anime has no problems with socially awkward shut-ins.
This type, known as the Hikikomori, never goes outside if they can help it. They hole themselves up in their rooms for months, sometimes days, and become unable to properly function in society as a result. The character is certainly more common in anime than other media, but it’s also more welcomed in the medium. As mentioned above, L has a massive female following despite his scrawny appearance and odd behaviors and only God knows how many fans Japan from Hetalia has. Other mediums tend to make these characters uncomfortably creepy and hard to be around, but anime seems more sympathetic to them at times.
The “Perv With a Heart Of Gold.”
I’d like for you to recall a slightly obscure anime/manga by the name of GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka. People who talk about the anime, and Onizuka himself, tend to focus on the fact that he’s a badass, but kinda gloss over that he initially became a teacher to hook up with underage girls. Let’s also not forget that our very first scene with the Onizuka is watching him look up young girl skirts at the local mall. Just about every time the audience sees the man, he’s doing something perverted and/or disgusting.
And yet fans love him because he stands up for his students and actually tries to help them… mostly.
In short, you’ll find anime fans are far more forgiving of extreme anime perverts so long as they do something else commendable. Sanji from One Piece routinely fawns over any attractive woman he meets but gets a pass for being a badass who never turns away a starving person (and genuinely being a nice guy). Hideki from Chobits may get pushed and jerked around a lot for his perverted tendencies, but he’s still shown to be sympathetic and likable. This trope is not entirely limited to anime, but I find anime a lot more open to it than Western media.
The Dorky Man Who Gets All ‘Dem Girls
Harem anime and reverse harem anime stem from a very basic fantasy: the want of being the object of desire for pretty girls/handsome dudes. The harem part just takes this desire to a fantastical extreme, with lots and lots of attractive partners fighting each other for the prize that is little old you. In short, the popularity of shows like Tenchi Muyo, Love Hina, and Fruits Basket isn’t an accident. It’s the ability to tap into a common human fantasy.
But the astute viewer will notice that this genre is mysteriously absent from Western media, or even other media forms. In fact, characters who have multiple perspective partners are treated rather negatively in most other media. They get called “womanizers” or “maneaters”, shown to be a negative person who plays with emotions or a charming character who just has a lot of one-night stands. But a hop and skip over the pond to Japan brings us to the land of dense protagonists, who find their multiple female/male pursuers to be intimidating and/or annoying.
It’s hard to say what causes this divide. One side seems to long to be a smooth pickup artist with a pick of the litter; the other desires to be taken as they are, warts and all. As both are wish fulfillment fantasies neither are really right vs. wrong, but they make a very interesting contrast.
The School Idol
Lastly, we stop in anime high school, a common breeding ground for alien invasion and magical girl transformations. When it comes to high school hierarchy, anime tends to put the popular crowd in pretty high esteem. Sure, they have their fair share of Evil Jocks, Mean Girls, and Corrosive Cliques, but they also feature the School Superstar. They are the ones who transcend merely being “popular” and are treated like a celebrity. They often have several fans who are obsessively protective, theme music that seems to follow them everywhere, and even the teachers treat them like they just saw Brad Pitt.
And then you take a look at other media, be it books or Western cartoons, and something goes missing: the adoration.
The tippy-top of high school nobility is treated very differently outside of anime, especially western media. Popularity is usually treated as a stigma in high school stories – especially underdog stories – and the people who have it are often horrific individuals who don’t consider other people’s feelings. You’ll likely find the school idol being humiliated by the end of it where, in anime, they’ll likely be the love interest or secretly the best fighter of the whole group.
That being said, I’ve personally read Western media that treats the popular crowd differently, and even several who make them the end love interest, but they seem few and far between. Maybe it stems from a different school culture, or maybe a different style. It’s worth note either way.
To say that these types are always treated differently in anime would be fictitious and generalizing. But it is clear that anime seems more open to different interpretations of these characters. Whatever it may stem from, cultural or otherwise, it offers a whole new set of story-telling tools that fans like myself are always grateful for. Because it will “go there” even when other media just can’t.
Do you notice any types that get different treatment? Feel free to comment about it and anything else you want below. And feel free to give it a like if you enjoyed yourself and follow for more content just like it.