If you’ve read this previous post , I apologize in advance. Thing is, a classmate of mine complained that my posts ‘lacked humour’ and he wanted me to troll something. But then , my troll skills have gotten really rusty. Studying for hours before writing doesn’t help much, but I digress.
Amazingly, I actually finished something this week : Rozen Maiden. Throughout the first few episodes, I couldn’t help but wonder something when I see Jun get overwhelmed by the sudden inflow of random dolls which all seem to be able to overpower him. It’s a sentiment I’ve held for plenty of anime characters that I bet that most viewers have thought about once or twice.
Why is the male lead such a weakling/ coward/pussy?
Well, it’s not like this sentiment of hating on less-than-awesome male characters is one limited to only obscure segments of the anime kingdom. As you can see here , 21stcenturydigitalboy’s blogged about how Yuji ruined Shakugan no Shana for him. Well, he puts it on how the male lead is self-righteous and forces his ideals onto Shana.
But male leads are getting more and more feminine, or to be less gender-biased, more and more weak, to the extent that the idea of a male lead battling the bad guy involves his harem of girls who for some reason, are attracted to this walking pile of garbage, to battle the bad guy in his place, only for , in all-too-typical anime style, for them all to be defeated and the male lead to suddenly save the day. For instance, Omamori Himari, an anime that’s easily forgotten. Seriously, I can’t even remember the male lead’s name. But anyway, they battle the antagonist through giving the cat-girl, for some reason, Shana-esque powers and it’s all thanks to the male lead for some reason.
The leading example in this archetype of a male lead is Ikari Shinji, of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame. Ikari Shinji is not only the Highschool Hero, but also the coward character of the cast as well as the butt of most of the jokes. Of course, in all anime fashion he manages to save the day every single time. Not to mention every other female lead’s in love with him too.
So let’s check the details surrounding these male leads:
- They are all cowards (already explained) They may or may not be androgynous.
- They always happen to have a large group-of-friends/harem/amount of fuck-buddies who stick around to defeat the bad guy/take all the damage/ sacrifice their lives for him.
- All of them have Radiance Aura active at all times. Despite being utterly ball-less and a wretched character to begin with, they all manage to attract a large amount of people who like them for their characters.
- They all have some kind of immense power hidden inside them/ crucial to the plot line/ show that they have balls towards the end of the show. For instance, Shinji may be a weakling and coward, but when piloting the EVA , he’s arguably the only one who actually has full grasp of the situation and fights (somewhat calmly), compared to oh, say, Asuka.
So given that most of these male leads are gigantic walking pussies who only demonstrate their skills at the very end for maximum plot effect, why do they exist in such abundance? Surely if they weren’t liked, they wouldn’t make so many similar male characters.
Exactly the point. They are liked. Why? How can a male be so weak and pathetic?
Well, gender roles are changing, or to be more exact, coming to an equilibrium. No longer do all the women get portrayed as housewives and mothers. They get portrayed as go-getters, competitive and headstrong workers in the modern workforce, while more and more men start to embrace the idea of being a house-husband. Girls get tougher and tougher, and guys, well, cry several times while watching Clannad. That sort of thing.
Anyway, a male possessing such distinct features isn’t much unique or even rare amongst anime. What this archetype provides , however, is for plot development.
Notice that only in the last episode do these seemingly useless characters actually do something. In Rozen Maiden, Jun shows his powers, running on water, dispelling Suigintou’s feather attacks and magically mending Shinku’s arm. In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ikari survives the longest, so to speak. In Shakugan no Shana, Yuji slowly learns how to actually protect his own balls.
As a result, these hollow shells for characters get filled with the liquid of awesomeness. Suddenly, they become explosively entertaining or possibly, even epic. As a result, the audience is wowed by this sudden transition, and then they start to like the character. If the male lead stayed useless through and through, well, I would hate that guy. But if he manages to become the main power in defeating the bad guy, maybe he isn’t that useless after all. In the end, it becomes sort of like a coming-to-age kind of story, or one with character development. One could argue how we see the character change throughout the show, how the character overcomes his personal fears and saves the day.
It’s much like the Disney and Ghibli movies of yesteryear, by which as long as you learnt the morals and pick yourself off the ground, you can conquer anything. It’s this kind of theme that never gets old. This kind of theme that continually changes for the better. The themes always change, but the general feel is always the same. In Finding Nemo, perseverance overcomes all. In Ponyo, love overcomes all. There’s always a moral behind these movies. Something that the protagonist learns that enables them to break out of their shells and fly into the sunset of awesomeness.
So Jun’s tree eventually gets trimmed and grows, and he breaks out of his hiki-like lifestyle. Shinji gets the bravery to pilot the EVA and defend his fellow pilots as well as Tokyo-3. In a sense, it’s also an ideal representation. An ideal that people like to see : As long as you chan ge, you will 100% succeed.
IN conclusion , why do weak male leads appeal to audiences?
- Their character gets developed over time, eventually shattering the audience’s view on these characters.
- Although they may be cowards at times, they eventually show that they are great characters, with noble characteristics like bravery or love.
- They all have the power to make things right. Most of the time by fighting. Violently.
- There are infinite amount of ways to make such a male lead and yet have a different storyline.
- The story’s plot develops over time along with the character’s development. When the character is developed fully, the plot climaxes. The plot itself may appeal more to the audience than the character itself even if they both go through the same amount of development. Are there any actual Shinji fans out there at all?
With that, I’m certain that as long as I get over my depression, I can score high for my End-Of-Year examinations.
Maybe I should rewatch Neon Genesis Evangelion, not just for more Rei, but maybe for Shinji.