[Just a quick shoutout: this post is dedicated to my friend Wei En and his sister, for both the awesome pizza and being fans of AOIA. Thanks a lot guys!]
Katekyo Hitman Reborn. Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Even Pokemon, if you must. What do these anime have in common? Simple. Each character (or each pokemon, if you catch my drift) seems to personify a certain character trait, and perhaps even being the only characters in the show who possess that particular trait, at least in that degree of intensity. How much does this deliberate diversification of personalities in anime affect our anime watching?
Note the usage of the word ‘deliberate’, for it is clearly planned for each character in several shows, to be the unique possessors of a particular trait. In both Hitman Reborn and PMMM, this special trait is marked by objects they hold – in Hitman Reborn, the rings they possess sort of mark their personalities: for instance, it could be said that the Lightning Attribute’s users are all unpredictable and spontaneous in their actions. In PMMM, their wishes and perhaps costumes mark their characters – a passionate red for the passionate Kyouko, and a blue for Sayaka to represent her sentiments of sadness and unrequited love as well as sacrifice.
And it moves beyond the fantasy anime as well. Even simple slice-of-life characters have character archetypes for each character, so much so that even if a common archetype is shared, their personalities would differ tremendously. In most high school anime, it is common to have a deadpan, serious character, a fun-loving character, and so on. The characters hence become incredibly predictable and polarised - each character being similar yet different only by account of the tremendous differences in personality.
How then, does this affect our anime watching? Perhaps on a micro level it actually generates interests for the show instead. If Pottermore and Facebook quizzes are any indication, people and fans just like being paired up with characters in the show. They like to know what house they’re in, what character they most resemble, what weapon they would use, et cetera. Would the polarization of characters and the reflection of this via symbols and items thus increase accessibility to the show? If today’s events were any indication, I’d say yes.
It was rather simple today, actually. A trip to my friend’s house led to a short discourse by my friend on his collection of Vongola rings and how each ring represented a particular personality trait. He even offered to pair up the people present with each ring, and explaining the personality traits for each. (I was this character, apparently.) And if the sudden interest in the rings and characters were any indication, I’d say that he managed to get the rest of the group mildly interested in the anime itself.
Yet it would be too idealistic to call this polarization of characters as a means to promote and increase accessibility to the anime without considering the effects of the anime on the characters themselves. Would characters made with simply having different personalities in mind fare as well as anime which are much more story-driven? Is it impossible, then, to avoid polarising characters in anime and restraining them to only one type of personality?
I think that in the end, the question boils down to whether this polarisation of characters in anime is deliberate or coincidental. It’s one thing to create a wide and diverse cast of characters, and it’s another to do so in a fixed, forced manner. It is only when we understand what goes on in the minds of the writers for anime do we become truly able to access the effect this diversification of personalities in anime holds on our anime watching habits.
Now if you excuse me, I’m off to take yet another quiz.