Anime Characters Are Not You

This feels like a very minor complaint or discussion in the world of anime, but this one is something that pops up quite a bit. What is it? Well, you’ve read the title of this post. The concept of “I wouldn’t do that in this position” or “this character is bad because they aren’t doing the things that I would do.” That always frustrates me and isn’t something that I would consider a real critique of an anime series or a piece of fiction in general. Even in wish fulfillment series where the main protagonist is an audience avatar, they are not going to function the way an audience member is going to. There are a couple reasons for that.

There are certain things that can lead to characters saying that sort of thing like if a story’s writing causes some sense of frustration in the viewer. Sometimes, that frustration is the point and that isn’t a failure. Other times, a series just doesn’t explain itself well enough or there isn’t enough in motion in a well written way to put the viewer into the head space of the main characters. That later part is where this complaint can come have some value. In general, it doesn’t really stick the same way.


1) The Stories Point of View

Unlike in an anime series or whatever, a character is not going to have all the facts that you do. If a lot of series have some complex histories or politics, a good show is going to share all of that information with you so the viewer can so the show is interesting. A good story is never going to put all of that information to the characters. Sometimes a show will cut off information to the viewer to put them into the head space of the viewer itself because there is a lot of variability to how a story can work. With all that information in mind, a character can only act on their personality and what they know might or might not work for them.


2) Characters Have Their Own Lives

Every anime character has their own life. They’ve had their own backstories, whether they are good or bad, that makes them who they are. Those stories are not going to be yours even if they are so close and relatable in some ways. Variable differences like world differences, people differences, or even power differences matter when it comes to all of this. All of those facts directly affecting their lives in how they think and feel. They are not you. They don’t believe in the same things you do, see things the same way, and everything else. Even if that character was you with one small differences, it’s still not. Don’t expect them to behave and solve problems the way you would.


And all of that is what I wanted to say. It’s a very simple thing, but some people forget about these basic things sometimes. Fiction is fiction because it explores different worlds and situations with fictional characters. Some things explore realistic situations with realistic emotions and that can be a good thing. Even if a character that is a celebrity in our world or even you are in it, it’s still not those people doing those things the series wants them to do. It’s still a piece of fiction after all.


8 comments

  1. That is something that definitely needs to be addressed to fans. People playing armchair writer (some may be fanfic authors) can be so annoying. Should characters be criticized for doing protagonist centered morality? Yes, I’ll concede that much. I don’t know if it’s me not seeing a lot of anime characters like me, but the idea of thinking that an anime character is the viewer in some way is baffling.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think some people are just too interested in criticizing a series by looking at how a character “fails” in their opinion and it’s wrong. Annoying is one thing, but that is completely true.

      There have been characters that I connect with, but never an exact copy at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is a weird and unproductive way to critique a series. Some characters are worth critiquing, but to only do this by a character failing isn’t a valid way to do so even if the viewer wouldn’t do those same things.

        Same here, but I don’t make a big deal out of it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You nailed this one: slice-of-life anime are particularly vulnerable to this, with people complaining incessantly about a character’s decisions. “Koguma isn’t observing safety conventions”. “Himeno shouldn’t of made such a bad bowl”. “Yui doesn’t practise enough”. “Mira is using her telescope wrong”. That is disingenuous to the author since the individual ignores what the character is intended to do for a series’ themes, and I find it indicative of someone who fancies themselves as being an expert: rather that contributing to the discussion, these people come across as arrogant and closed-minded. I’m going to share this to an anime forum I frequent, since it’s a very common thing I see people doing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It is a little too heavy in all different genres considering how it all works, but wow. Those are pretty awful examples when these are characters who are still learning things or trying to find themselves in some ways. None of that is criticism at all because these characters are written the way they are supposed to be.

      Like

  3. If a character did things exactly like I would it would be a very boring show. I don’t need anime to see myself. I can see myself all I want.

    There are sometimes characters with traits I identify in myself. Sawa in Kimi no Todoke reminds me of a female version of me when I was a young teenager. She is obviously on the spectrum. I share many of her bad experiences.

    And Gray Fullbuster in Fairy Tail loves to lose his clothing, just like me. I think we’d get on famously. 🙂

    I don’t try to push it beyond just having shared traits. I don’t plug myself into a “blank slate” character as fantasy fulfillment, either.

    All I ask is that characters don’t do things that make no sense ***given the situation and their personality.*** That inconsistency irritates me and causes me to lose any interest in the character and likely the anime.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you there. Any character that is like me would be so boring because of how kind of eh this life is if it was in an anime. Even in a slice of life, it wouldn’t be that exciting or fascinating either.

      And yeah, I’ve had some characters that have some of my traits like Hiyori from Noragami and Banagher from Gundam UC, but an exact fit is impossible.

      That’s a good thing to ask for. As long as characters are consistently written, I wouldn’t complain either. Some characters bouncing around a lot is really horrible.

      Liked by 1 person

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