The Arduous Task of Gaining Viewer SympathyPosted: August 18, 2011
“The character wasn’t really developed enough for me to care about them.”
“That character was annoying, he was a complete idiot.”
Something I’ve noticed in the aniblogosphere is the swift judgement that characters tend to receive. The most common judgement is not caring about a character because they haven’t been developed enough.
Lately, I’ve been pondering about this mentality.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that the basis for it is critical analysis, so not every character can just get a free pass. But at the same time, I know (or at least hope) that in real life, people wouldn’t be so quick to judge others. I’d be willing to bet that if most of the characters existed in real life, people who said they didn’t care about them or thought they weren’t developed enough might even like them.
However, that line of thinking throws me into another mental roadblock. The whole point is that these shows aren’t real life, and the whole point of critical analysis (or at least part of it) is to judge the writer’s abilities. But then yet again in counter, I question if it’s necessary to abandon part of our humanity purely for the sake of analysis.
Before my brain explodes, I suppose we should get to some examples.
One of the more recent example would be Kujo from Gosick. He got quite a bit of flak for being “an idiot.” They weren’t really wrong, either. There were a lot of common sense moments that completely flew over his head.
But at the same time, as I said in my review for the show, Kujo is a nice guy. His heart is in the right place, and he’s always protective of Victorique once he gets to know her.
I don’t feel like it’s really fair to judge the guy solely based on his faults.
One of the most popular examples would definitely be Yuuji from Shakugan no Shana. There are a fair amount of people that actually dislike him more than any other male characters in anime (or at least they’re the most vocal about him). This is due to, just like Kujo, not having a lot of common sense. He’s been branded as basically the embodiment of male high school lead character stereotypes. In English: he’s generic.
But on the other hand he’s quick to get in on the action. Admittedly, at first he just gets in the way, but he’s always training with Shana to get stronger, and once he finds out he has “Silver” in him, he’s quick to try and harness the power. Though he sometimes gets in the way, at least he’s trying to help Shana where he can.
Here’s a nice recent one, and the opposite gender, too! Madoka was hated for, obviously, whining all the time. Pretty straightforward.
But if you think about it, that’s a realistic approach. Throughout most of the show, we the viewers were just as confused about all the developments that were going on. Maybe whining isn’t the best approach to all the confusion and mayhem, but you can’t deny that it’s a realistic reaction.
For both Yuuji and Madoka, it seems like the hate stemmed from the characters not acting the way viewers wanted. Viewers wanted them to act or react one way, but the author chose another, just as valid approach, but since it wasn’t what the viewers expected or wanted, it created a conflict. At least that’s what I gathered from what people were saying.
I think there should be large (or at least more obvious) divide between seeing/judging a character based on the fact that it’s someone’s creation, and seeing/judging a character based on the characters as people in and of themselves. By blurring the line between the two, you can end up hating characters with personalities you like/approve of, or liking characters with personalities you hate/don’t approve of.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, people should be able to admit a character has faults, but still be able to like them. There’s no harm in having critical analysis and personal judgement, as long as you can tell the difference between the two.