Favourite character patterns

With the resumption of Inuyasha, I’ve slowly left PoT fandom and swung back to Inuyasha. Hence my obsession is likely to shift from Tezuka back to Sesshoumaru.

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve thought about the types of characters that attracts my attention and keeps it. This is in part an exercise to understand my personal preferences as well as to help me write better fiction or design better characters for my fictional worlds.

My obsessions (as in interest that lasts longer that the time I watch it) with male anime characters chronologically:
(I’ll have to limit it or this thing will run for ages, so no females or non-japanese cartoons or other media)
1. Yue (Card Captor Sakura)
2. Sesshoumaru (Inuyasha)
3. Tezuka Kunimitsu (Prince of Tennis)
4. Shi Seien/Shi Seiran (Sauinkoku Monogatari)
5. Lan Shuei (Sauinkoku Monogatari)
6. Edward Elric (Full Metal Alchemist)

What do these fellows have in common? … Litgeek would summarise it as the strong silent type. Let’s less how true it is.

1. They don’t annoy me. Define annoy … being overly noisy, whinny and melodramatic (e.g. Shippou from Inuyasha and main char in Bleach). Ok, so Edo can be bratty, whinny and noisy. But it works well to lighten up the darker main story and does not over do it till it becomes annoying.

2. They accept whatever hand they were dealt with and move forward with their own skill. Stoic? Perhaps. More importantly, they do no rely on deus ex machina to get them out of trouble, something that frequently occurs to the main characters in Bleach, Sakura, Inuyasha and Ryouma. This is a big reason why I prefer Atobe to Ryouma. Atobe’s character has all the characteristics that should make me dislike him, yet I find him more amusing and intriguing, rather than annoying. I do believe a large part of that is due to his associations with Tezuka and his contrariness. Tezuka tends to bring out the best in people. Ryouma has a lot of characteristics that should predispose me to like him. But he has two major character flaws, his arrogant smart-alecness and his marysueness. Like Atobe, it is difficult to dislike Ryouma. I think I like him better outside the court than in it.

3. Introverts – hmm … while Lan Shuei’s character is borderline extrovert/introvert, I’d say he’s a closet introvert. What do I like about introverts? They don’t fuss. They don’t talk much. In most cases, their actions speak for them.

4. Mystery – Mystery are major part of all these characters. Their past, motives and thoughts are rarely revealed or purposefully hidden. I liked how there is a certain darkness to Seiran’s character, though it was barely hinted in the Anime. The manga and snippets of novels show that Seiran is not as nice as he appears to be on the surface.

5. Competence – it’s no secret, all of them are competent in the context and roles of their world. More importantly, they don’t go around bragging or showing off. Their mastery and competence are internally driven. That is, their reason is not peer driven, parental pressures or from comparison and competitiveness with other characters. They do what they do for themselves, for their own reason. Although, in Seiran’s case, it was originally due to political circumstances outside his control.

6. Independence – These characters always acts according their own agenda or purpose rather than the established/norm. This is not rebellion against norm, rather the characteristic of choosing their own method/direction, not influenced by peer and expectations.

7. Aloofness – Lan Shuei is not exactly aloof, being generally friendly and a womaniser. Yue and Sesshoumaru are aloof in their basic characteristic. They don’t even pretend to be friendly. Sesshoumaru is outright arrogant and condescending in most of his interactions with other characters. Tezuka appears aloof externally, however, his true internal characteristic, I don’t think so. However, he maintained a certain distance to his team members and people around him. While Seiran and Edo are both generally friendly, they keep people from getting too close due to their hidden past.

8. Benevolence – It’s pretty obvious for the other characters, but Sesshoumaru? Benevolent? I must say that I don’t really like Sesshoumaru at the beginning of Inuyasha, but the introduction of Jaken (annoying as he is) and Rin added depth and dimension to Sesshoumaru that makes him more interesting. Sesshoumaru (who never fails to give some self-serving reasons for his altruistic actions just so the others did not suddenly mistaken him for being nice) has saved Kagome, Inuyasha, Kohaku, Rin, and Jaken. While Sesshoumaru is not a ‘good-guy’ character, I would classify him as neutral. He had swung from bad guy to good guy to neutral, depending on his mood. Towards the end of Inuyasha plot, Sesshoumaru’s character had been ‘cleaned up’ to good-guy status, giving him a kinder, more considerate disposition.

9. Mentor – Yue is linked to several strong mentor characters in CCS – Clow, Touya and Yukito. Yukito as Yue’s false form is mentor and brother figure to Sakura. Sesshoumaru as mentor? Yes. Once he has accepted that Tessaiga has chosen Inuyasha, he had, albeit in a roundabout and subtle way, helped Inuyasha in certain directions, protected him and shown him how things should be done by a daiyoukai. One might say, it was personal pride and honour that motivated Sesshoumaru. That would be true, but I do think it is also Sesshoumaru’s pride and ego that do not allow him to act more warmly or caringly towards people that concerns him. Tezuka and Seiran are both obvious mentor archetypes, so I need not say more. Lan Shuei also has mentoring qualities, especially in his protectiveness and interactions with Li Kouyu and Shi Ryuuki. Edo is not really mentor archetype. That role belongs to Mustang and Izumi. However, he is both protector and mentor to his brother Alphonse.

10. Autonomy – A believe in self-autonomy and in the autonomy of others. This is very strongly demonstrated in Sesshoumaru’s interaction with Kagura and Rin. In fact, when Kagura offered Sesshoumaru one of the shikon shards, Sesshoumaru rejected that power, despite the fact that practically every character was gathering it for his/her own use. In turn, Sesshoumaru told Kagura, she should fight Naraku on her own, he won’t do it for her.  It’s rather refreshing to see a character that did not fall for the ‘feminine wiles’ and stand apart from the power rat-race. Both Tezuka and Seiran show this trait in their mentoring style and lack of jealousy towards their proteges. Shuei chose to break-off from Lan clan to serve the emperor, at the same time, is willing to accept his brothers will not do as he had done.

11. Self-sacrifice or Tragic Hero – I believe I’ve written pages about Tezuka in this vein. Let’s look at others. Yue’s willingness to die/fade away only to be saved by Touya is one of the most moving story arc in CCS. Seiran’s fall from favoured future emperor to nameless manservant. Shuei’s arc from his resignation and disgrace from the palace, followed by his disownment from the Lan clan. Sesshoumaru, the ultimate arrogant self-centered daiyoukai as tragic hero is unthinkable. Yet, we have Sesshoumaru losing his arm to Tessaiga, braving Hakureizan and allowing injury to himself to rescue Rin, breaking Tenseiga to give the completed Meidou Zangetsuha to Inuyasha. At major turning points, Sesshoumaru’s loss allows Inuyasha to progress. Edo’s story starts with tragedies; death of his mother, an alchemy project that went wrong, causing his brother to lose his body and sacrificing both an arm and a leg.

Finally, I think, all these characters and their stories leave the audience wanting more. And I think, that is the most important aspect that makes them so compelling.

Edit 11/11/2009:
I forgot Edo! Edward Elric is one of the very few main characters I actually like.
I owe Atobe some thought. He is quite an interesting character that works when it shouldn’t. That, in itself, is noteworthy.
I should also write some analysis for Sesshoumaru. Quite possibly one of the best character design I’ve seen in Anime.

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5 Comments »

  1. Salivia Baker said

    Sadly I do not know any of the other characters you have mentioned. But I do think it is interesting to think about it. I am somewhat similar to you/have similar reasons.
    What I like best – it seems – are deep emotions in a non annoying way. And those are mostly found in quite types like Tezuka or Byakuya. Most main characters I know are either noisy or shy. I don’t like either of that.
    Anyway, do you also know why you like that traits? (not asking for explanation since that can be very personal just if you do

    • cohlinn said

      You’re right about most main characters being either the noisy or shy type. I think this explains why my favourite characters are usually supporting characters.

      Why do I like these traits? For most of these traits, they are traits that I value or admire. Competence/Skill that comes from own effort and not automatically granted by natural talent or granted by third party. Autonomy in being able to think/choose for ownself, yet understand and respect others’ right to think/choose for themselves. So, in Mentor role, they don’t believe in mini-me projects, trying to make the other person to be exactly like them.

      I find mysterious characters very attractive. There is a hint of danger about them, or some deep dark secret. Add introversion into the mix and they becomes deep characters, as opposed to shallow ones. They leave enough room for the reader’s imagination. This is a delicate balance, to reveal enough to develop the character, yet not too much that it destroys their mystery.

      Hmm … I admit, saying that a character does not annoy me is very subjective. So, after some more thought, I think the lack of melodrama and whining conveys an impression of maturity. Quiet stoic characters tend to be or appear to be more mature and think things through before taking action. They don’t usually do things on impulse. Whatever they do, they remained steadfast and true to themselves. They find the most efficient or appropriate way, rather than doing things by brute force and a lot of shouting. Sesshoumaru summed it up best when he said, “All Inuyasha can do is wave Tessaiga around with all his strength…it’s the same whether it’s a famous sword or a log.”

      • Salivia Baker said

        I always have the feeling that those character you describe also have strong (emotional) bonds. Mostly they are loyal, keep their word/promise and would do anything to protect those close to them. Sure those are also found in the heroes but they keep yapping about it and the quite persons simply do it. For persons who are stoic or cold on the outside it has more meaning when they do show those emotions.

      • cohlinn said

        I look forward to your comments. You always make me think a step further.

        Indeed, these characters have strong bonds with one or more characters. It’s understated and rarely mentioned, only hinted or shown through their actions. When that happens, it gives more significance to their expressions. I just love the subtlety.

        I was thinking about the time Tezuka offered the captaincy to Ooishi. It is not easy to voluntarily relinquish a position of power. Tezuka was willing to do that, and swapped from leader to follower role. Ooishi, in turn, declined the power but not the responsibility. That says more about their relationship than any form of yapping. 😀

  2. mimi said

    Omg!! My taste matches exactly with yours. In fact, the character traits that you mentioned(like being silent, self-sacrificing and dark) are exactly what drew me to love these characters. I was a little disappointed though that Itachi Uchiha is not mentioned cuz he had all of those amazing characteristics and more.

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