Occasionally, I will be talking to someone about anime online and suddenly they become passionate about how much they dislike a certain character. This almost always takes me by surprise. Not always, some characters are badly written or just don’t fit at all in a story and everyone sort of dislikes them for it but most of the time they just hate someone, and I can’t figure out why.
Of course, I could just ask. And I often do. But the responses in these cases don’t often help. They don’t like the character because he’s a creep, he’s a jerk, she’s trash… All of that is rather relative. And sometimes, it’s what they’re supposed to be. If a character is the main antagonist of a series and the narrative is trying to get the audience to side against them, they probably are going to have a few unlikable traits. But that doesn’t make them bad characters, quite the contrary in fact.
It’s even more baffling when it’s not antagonists. In fact, I often see it with fairly bland characters that don’t really have strong defining traits or with very popular characters that draw an anti-fandom just by virtue of being so popular.
I’m not saying that’s always the case. Some people have actually, thought-out reasons for hating characters. And some people just have personal emotional reasons, as in they were mean to my favourite so now, I hate them. That’s a perfectly sensible reason, I can get behind that! But there’s still this big percentage of people who seem to have random character hatred, at least in my experience.
If I really think about it, I think I get it. This might only be me though.
When I sat down to write this post, I tried really hard to think about characters I did not like. This was tougher than it seemed. Although a character might annoy me while I’m watching a particular show, I rarely get passionate enough about it to remember them after the show is over. Also, I’m much more likely to dislike a show in general than a particular character in the series. For instance, I personally did not care for New Game because I found it grating how all these professional game designers were portrayed as being almost completely ignorant about games but right now, I can’t say I don’t like any of the characters.
The only one that comes to mind at this moment is Alas Ramus (probably because I just watched the second season f the Devil is a Part-Timer and I thought she was a consistent downfall of the show and a perfect example of everything I don’t like in kid character tropes).
I remember really disliking Tuxedo Mask when I was a kid, I thought he was mean and couldn’t understand why everyone was in love with him. I really wanted Sailor Moon to pursue other love interests since I found it more fun when she was with a guy who was nice to her. However, I reread Sailor Moon lately and Tuxedo Mask was a’ight. I was all ready to hate him but really he’s not that bad. He’s pretty patient all things considered. I’m not sure if this means my standards in men have dropped or if anime Tuxedo Mask was more of a pain.
Still, when I really think about it, I think I’m more likely to get irritated with a specific type of character. Not enough to publicly announce my hatred or anything but enough to make me not interested in their story.
Those characters are usually female, usually young, usually frail, oh so innocent, and ever so surprised/amazed/absolutely flabbergasted by everything! I will say that it is possible to create a character with all those traits that I do like. But they need to have a lot of charm or a lot of humour to counter the rest. Otherwise, I have a really tough time with them.
And if I’m completely honest, I can see the reasons for this. There are a few. One is this perception that society doesn’t value women’s intelligence as much as it should, and the idea saddens me. I’m not sure how true it is anymore. I’d like to think it’s the type of thinking that’s been largely left behind. But then there are people that become very popular on the internet for spouting those types of views so I’m not sure.
But that’s not the only reason. It might not even be the main reason. It’s the one I’m more willing to put forth. The main reason is probably that I relate a little too much to these characters. And seeing them act in ways that I wouldn’t want to, is difficult.
How do I say this? I am female, I’m not exactly that young anymore though but I was once and I’m still pretty immature. I’m also a wide-eyed optimist and generally eager to learn as much as possible about everything. Which makes it sometimes seem like I get amazed at things that seem very ordinary for most.
And I have often felt as if I was expected to have a certain role. One that’s kind of similar to those characters I have such a tough time with. But I’m not comfortable being agreeable, quiet and helpless. I’m not patient enough to wait around for someone else to solve my problems and I’m too curious to not learn how to do it by myself. I’m too clumsy to be comforting, not cool enough to laugh things off when I’m being a ditz, and not cute enough to get away with it. And worst of all, I don’t want to be. I never did. I always wanted to be that self-assured badass that got things done. I wanted to be reliable and strong. I wanted to be the type of pretty you might not notice at first but once you do, you won’t forget! I still want to be that. I’m still working on it. But you know, I think I got a bit closer!
And I think to myself, if I was an anime character, then the world would be my oyster. Actually, forget the oyster, my world would be all pearls! Why are these girls squandering their opportunities? Why is everyone acting like it’s normal that they seem incapable of learning anything new? That’s not doing them any favors. They won’t get better that way…
And you see, I got heated again. Not because the characters are actually bad. If they were real people I’m sure they would be precious and I would get along with them just fine. But when I see them in shows I take it more personally than I should. I resent them for representing ideals that I have occasionally felt imposed on me and get angry that they don’t seem mad about it.
I don’t know if that’s the case for everyone. Probably not. But I do think a certain amount of personal relatably may play a part in why some people seem to hate random characters. It could for instance explain up to a certain point why the fandom turned on Eva’s Shinji so bad.