A Compendium of Cool Characters

Sort of a lie. This isn’t summarizing anything massive; just a little ol’ post inspired by ghostlightning’s post on the why of favoriting characters over at THAT Anime Blog. I’m also a dirty bandwagon hopper, because Rakuen at Borderline Hikikomori has already taken the lead on this. But, hey, bandwagon hopping every once in a while isn’t so bad, right?

(P.S. Still thinking a bit on how to tackle a Macross Plus post. Just know that I greatly enjoyed the OVA and would heartily recommend it to anyone, even those who might be a bit wary of Macross.)

I never really put any deep thought into favorite anime characters . . . my number one requirement, really, is that they entertain me more than other characters. This could come a variety of ways; I don’t necessarily need to feel a deep, personal connection with a favorite character, though there are a couple of those types of characters on my list. A favorite does not have to be particularly admirable either — there are characters I would some day like to grow to emulate, and there are characters who are scummy as hell. A character could be simple but extremely memorable, or incredibly complex.

Whatever. All that 100 percent matters to me is that by doing what they do and being who they are, the characters sticks in my mind and never lets go. Here are 10 characters who do that for me, in no particular order, because then this post would take hours to figure out:

Yuuta Takemoto of Honey and Clover: I identified pretty strongly with the general aimlessness of Takemoto’s existence for much of the series, and the intense fear that just maybe he is not putting his talents to use in the right way. Basically I watched Honey and Clover at the right time in my life, a few months after I walked in college but just before I got my degree (similar to how watching Evangelion in high school was just the right time to watch it). A year of joblessness put the fear of God in me like seeing how much Hagu and Morita’s talent dwarfs his own puts the fear of God into Takemoto. He gets a bittersweet ending, but I also like how he stands up and makes a push to figure out his life and himself.

Oscar Francois de Jarjayes of Rose of Versailles: I like characters who struggle with an identity that goes against what society deems to be correct. Oscar is a woman who kicks more ass than every man combined in the Court of Versailles, and she rises to become the personal protector of Marie Antoinette . . . but she also struggles with her femininity, believing that it clashes with her identity as a soldier. In the world Oscar is born into, it is one or the other; the real tragedy is that Oscar is forced to choose a pre-made identity at all rather than forming one of her own will. The way Oscar grows into herself just captivates me, and it also helps that she is one GAR motherfucker.

Holland Novak of Eureka Seven: Holland is an asshole. He’s a selfish, bitchy, temperamental prick who asserts himself by beating the snot out of a kid. He’s probably the most hateable character in Eureka Seven‘s first half; however, once he finally accepts his place and his responsibilities, Holland becomes the show’s coolest character, someone who will put his life on the line for those he cares about, but also a man who will not recklessly give up his life, because he knows he and Talho have a future. Also, I have a bit of a man crush on his seiyuu, Keiji Fujiwara. :X

Ayato Kamina of RahXephon: Said plenty about my personal connection with the guy in this post, but to make a long story short (too late), I like his search for a self and a place to call his own, even if the ending of the series is a huge cop-out.

Sora Naegino of Kaleido Star: One of the few super energetic, super positive lead anime characters who doesn’t annoy the piss out of me. I love her gumption (using that word just aged me 15 years), and how she doesn’t back down from all the crazy ass work she has to do to be on top of Kaleido Stage. And her super god mode acts that conclude each half of the series are just outstanding. Said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’d go broke going to Kaleido Stage every day.

Juri Arisugawa of Revolutionary Girl Utena: Her arcs are super dramatic and include basically everything I love about Utena, but more than that, I just love Juri’s style. She’s sharp-tempered and forged of steel when crossed, but other times she is shockingly cool and laconic. One moment that has stood out for me since I saw it is when Juri challenges Utena to a duel the second time. Up to that point, the challenges have been ridiculously dramatic as the challengers fall under the influence of Akio and Touga. Not Juri — she simply challenges Utena while staring out a window, nothing on her mind but her lost love. Nothing against Utena; Juri just wants that miracle. Always thought that was cool as fuck.

Dr. Kenzo Tenma of Monster: I love his basic conflict — he is a man who should be (and is) admired because is good and moral, but he is on a quest to commit an act that, under normal circumstances, would be unthinkable to him: Murder. But any diatribe on when (if ever) taking a life is truly justified has nothing to do with why I like Tenma. Really, it’s because the story never forgets the gap between the ideal and the human. Tenma has his ideal morality just like anyone else, and he sticks to it as best as possible, but it’s just fucking hard sometimes, and he loses himself in the guilt of keeping up to an impossible standard. He ain’t perfect — he can be self-righteous, stubborn (in both bad and good ways) and a bit hypocritical (the number of times he tries to steer others away from killing is amusing). But he’s a good man in a world that’s shit as often as it is great. The world just needs more people like Dr. Tenma.

The Count of Monte Cristo from Gankutsuou: Kind of funny that he is right after Tenma, but whatever, haha. The Count is just a wonderful character to watch at all times. His sheer charisma dominates wherever he goes; his silver tongue is capable of convincing anyone that any lie is the truth, and that any truth is the filthiest fallacy. His need for revenge dominates his whole life, and even though his vengeance will destroy everyone around him (even innocents who really have nothing to do with it), the Count is so awe-inspiring that you almost want him to achieve all his goals. That’s the power of his spell.

Also, I have a man crush on Jouji Nakata’s voice, too. :X

Yukino Miyazawa of Kare Kano: Without a doubt my all-time favorite female romantic lead. She’s a god damn spitfire, a relentless spirit who, once she discards her identity as a perfect student, is who she is without a single regret. And what personality! She’s fun, funny, playful, smart, resourceful, confident, and on and on and on. Miyazawa is the type of girl who makes everyone around her fall in love without even trying, and you’d enjoy every second of the experience.

Dilandau Albatou of Vision of Escaflowne: Just a big ball of crazy. He’s a completely ineffective villain (the heroes kick his ass numerous times), he disappears during a large chunk of the show and the final plot twist involving him is truly terrible (and derails him completely), but damn it, I just love Dilandau shrieking like a madman and attacking Van’s crew like a little kid frying ants with a magnifying glass. Even after Escaflowne devolves into abject insanity and episode after episode of shitty romance, I could count on a jolt of Dilandau to wake me up again . . . until the end, anyway. :(

23 Responses to “A Compendium of Cool Characters”

  1. Lovely write-up for Dr. Tenma. It just is. Good job. Full marks.

  2. I hate to admit it, but I haven’t seen a single anime referenced in this post. A few of them are on my to-do list though.

    I have to say, Tenma’s write up makes me want to watch Monster. I need more hours in a day…

  3. I never found Temna that interesting myself. In my Monster watching experience, he was just a tool used to explore the psyche of Johan.

    Interesting list, although it says something about how much I’ve read your blog that I could’ve guessed half of these anyway :P

    • I am the most predictable blogger in history!

      Tenma got more interesting for me the second time around. I like how he often gets to good moral ends, but the ways he gets there are kind of simple and childish . . . through Tenma, the show does a good job of exploring what it means to be a “good” person or a “bad” person.

      I will say that I nearly put Johan in Tenma’s place; I just connect more with Tenma, though, and I didn’t want to put in two characters from the same series in my top ten. We’ll just say Johan is No. 11. :p

  4. Well done. I’m familiar with nearly every character here. You can’t go wrong with a character like Oscar. She lived a demanding life, living out a challenging role. Ayato I thought was a great character because he carved out his own defined niche in a genre saturated with characters in his situation. And Holland… he is an a-hole, but he’s a cool a-hole and a lot can be said about that. I’ll have to make it a point to finish Monster, but I’m already knocking out Legend of the Galactic Heroes. After that I hope to experience this great Dr. Tenma.

    • Haha, someday I’ll have the cojones to take on Legend of the Galactic Heroes. It’s a fairly intimidating series from the outside, and I know I’ll want to write about it!

  5. Ah you’ve made me want to rewatch Kare Kano and Escaflowne now!

    I really get what you mean about identifying with Takemoto – his story hit a nerve with me too.

    • Haha, I just rewatched Kare Kano a few months back, and after buying the series at Anime Expo (along with reading ExecutiveOtaku’s posts about the series on THAT), I want to watch it yet again. There’s just so much to love about it!

      Escaflowne I can do without rewatching, though . . . maybe just the scenes with Dilandau. :p

  6. This is a seriously awesome list of favorite characters. Though I might just be saying that because I know who they all are LOL

  7. Takemoto does have that kind of universal appeal, doesn’t he? I imagine that we go through the sort of life crisis/indecision like he does every so often, and because of that, he’s pretty easy to sympathize with since we see traces of ourselves in him. Guess that’s why he’s such a great everyman kind of character.

    As for the others, props for The Count representing the badassery. I’ve always had a thing for competent, malevolent characters and the Count more than fits the bill there.

    • Yep, Takemoto is about as great an everyman as you can concoct while still making him his own person. It’s tough to write a character like that!

      I love competent, malevolent characters like The Count as well. They’re just so much fun to watch!

  8. fathomlessblue Says:

    I’m all for Ayato from Rahxephon. Saw the anime dubbed (which I know many elitists hate) and thought his VA really suited him. An excellent portrayal of a confident (well in terms of the awkward mecha pilot stereotype) yet deeply troubled youth. Also Megumi from that show is in my top three female characters.

    Yet to see The Count or Monster, although concerning the latter I recently just finished the manga of 20th century boys and definitely plan to check out more of Naoki Urasawa’s material.

    Personally I have have a thing for larger than life characters that appear for an episode or two, stir things up and disappear. Koaru from Evangelion is a great example in terms of drama whilst Spacebutler from Excel Saga is my comedy champion.

    Oh and thinking about it I refuse to accept the validity of any list that doesn’t have Isaac and Miria at the top XD. If only reality let you live like those two!

    • I actually prefer the English dub of RahXephon just a bit to the Japanese original. Part of that is probably because I heard it in English first, but I do prefer Chris Patton to Hiro Shimono (can’t stand his voice in anything outside of comedy, with ef – a tale of memories as a major exception), and I also think Monica Rial’s turn as Haruka is unbelievably sexy. :X

      Good to see more fans of 20th Century Boys! I prefer Monster just a tad to that series, just because it’s a bit more focused, but Urasawa is a great author in general. You should check out Pluto when you have the time as well — I’m completely unfamiliar with Astro Boy, and I still loved it.

  9. Nice list, though I’ve only seen five of the anime here.

    I would jump on this bandwagon if I hadn’t done so last year:

    http://animeyume.com/blog/2009/11/05/my-100-favorite-anime-characters-10-1/

    Heh, it seems like my taste in characters is quite different from yours XD

    Don’t think it’s been enough time for me to revise my list of favorite characters, but I plan to do it one day when I feel they’ve changed enough. It would also be great thinking of them in terms of complex, admirable, etc,.

  10. Yukino is my kind of girl~

    Hmm, other than the usual “characters we relate to” and “ideal girlfriend material”, I really respond to goofball jokesters. Osaka, Excel, Konata, I really value a good sense of humor.

    • I love a good sense of humor, too, and yet only Miyazawa is funny. (Maybe Dilandau if you count unintentional humor. :p) You just made me realize a HUGE oversight, though — I definitely should have had Sei Satou from Maria-sama ga Miteru on this list instead of Dilandau. How in the hell did I overlook her?? Inexcusable.

  11. Hi, I’m AC from NHRW. Just came across this article and it feels so damn nostalgic to come across another of those favorite/hate lists. It’s been some time for me, personally.

    Sorry, but I can’t relate much with almost all the characters (honestly, Honey and Clover is problematic to get to watch) except for Dr. Tenma and the Count. Tenma is a man of his ideals, and there are two reasons why he had so much trouble trying to put a stop to Johan: 1) Johan has people protecting him, and more importantly, 2) his own ideals are stopping him from doing so. It’s ironic; his own ideals set him on the journey to find and kill Johan, yet his own ideals are preventing him from finishing the job. His ideals are keeping him sane throughout the how, yet it (perhaps it’s his righteous guilt) is driving him to kill someone. He actually embodies the contradictory/ironic idiosyncracies in all of us, only his circumstances are more severe. Monster has always been one of the best anime out there IMHO, although I would vote Johan as the better character over Tenma.

    Now, the Count is all about being badass, so I agree with you here wholeheartedly. I personally don’t know who’s badder: him or Shishio from Rurouni Kenshin. The Count’s stylish and cutthroat execution of bringing his victim to their downfalls has this effect that makes viewers want to follow in his stride. His charisma is something like Shishio’s: the two do so well with their respective plans that viewers just don’t want to seem fail at the final sprint. He certainly is a charismatic villain at his best.

    Great article, Shinmaru. It cheers up my day.

    • Haha, well, I don’t relate to everyone on the list — probably only Ayato, Takemoto and maybe Tenma. Everyone else is just damn cool.

      Good thoughts on Tenma, and thanks for the comment and compliment!

  12. [...] truly insurmountable foes for Tenma. It took their crossing paths to cancel each other out so that Tenma can actually do what he set out [...]

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