NB: Some of my earliest blogs no longer have their accompanying images but enjoy the copy!
For those of you who are new to the blog, allow me to explain the ‘purpose’ of this week’s post. A few weeks ago I ran a poll asking readers which special feature they would next like to see and, with almost half the votes, the winner was ‘men in anime’. I’m guessing most of my readers are female!
This isn’t the standard blog formula, as I usually don’t fawn over fictional men on here but this is a ‘just for fun’ piece. In other words, these are my personal choices, so don’t flame me if I haven’t featured whatshisname and don’t abandon this blog forever if you’ve just discovered it and were looking for something more substantial. Also, this isn’t just an ‘oh my god, he’s so pretty so he’s on the list’ list – this is a list that covers every aspect of character from psychosis to arrogance to MANLINESS. The third one is particularly important.
All characters names are written in their original Japanese versions (surname first, first name second), unless you see this star – * – next to their name.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS! If you plan to watch any of the series on this list, skip the relevant paragraph and go watch the show!
10) Okita Souji (Hakuouki)
If you read my ‘samurai of the week’ feature, you might recognise this name. You might also remember that I discussed Hakuouki a few weeks back and said it wasn’t a brilliant show in itself but the bountiful amount of bishounen made up for it. Therefore, I was obliged to include this guy in my top ten.
The Hakuouki series revolves around the Shinsengumi’s struggle against pro-western forces in Japan, with a (fictional) substory about the dangerous ‘ochimizu’ that is being taken by some of its members and turning them into demons. History tells us that they ultimately lost and that Souji died from tuberculosis. The anime largely sticks to this as the charming and witty Souji contracts the illness and is bedridden for much of the series. He is tricked by the enemy into taking ochimizu, believing that it will cure him but it instead turns him into a demon. In the second season, he succumbs to the effects of the tuberculosis and ochimizu and tragically dies.
Souji’s character is rather two dimensional and, whilst very pretty to look at, the tuberculosis and ochimizu substories don’t do much to add to it. To be fair, he does not feature that prominently in the series once he contracts tuberculosis and is unable to join the Shinsengumi’s campaign. He’s still on the list though because I love my samurai.
9) Ladd Russo (Bacanno!) *
I don’t think Ladd Russo has ever featured on any other ‘men in anime’ list for one very good reason. He’s an absolute psychopath. Without a doubt he’s the most dangerous character on this list. Part of the Russo family, he is a trained hitman and gets giddy over violence. He does not appear to care for anyone other than his lover Lua (who he swears to eventually murder himself), and even killed his own boss, so he is certainly not a man of loyalty.
The wonderful Bacanno! series is set in 1930s America, amid gang warfare, alchemy and murder. The story alternates between different events, one of which is the hijack of the Flying Pussyfoot train by the White Suits (led by Ladd) and Lemure gang simultaneously. The two gangs fight on the train, which leads to some rather amusing yet disturbing scenes of Ladd dancing in a puddle of blood of his fallen comrade.
Ladd Russo makes the list because he is a very memorable villain. I have a weakness for sadistic characters and, given how this guy wears white suits for the sole purpose of making the blood of his enemies stand out more, he wins that crown.
8) Gene Starwind * (Outlaw Star)
Alright, this was a really biased choice. Gene Starwind was my childhood hero. Outlaw Star was the first anime I watched that had a lot of swearing (10pm watershed hour, rebellious!) and I don’t remember much about this guy . . . other than the fact that he was an absolute BAD ASS!
Gene is a drinker, a womaniser, lazy and reckless. That said, he isn’t just boring and predictable as a character. We learn early on in the series that he has a fear of space flight, after pirates attacked his ship and killed his father. He eventually overcomes this fear when he forced to take command of the Outlaw Star spaceship in order to help the mysterious Melfina restore her memory. Although he appears reckless and cold, he does open up occasionally and develops feelings for Melfina.
Gene’s on the list because of his impressive weapons itinerary; guns, grenades, rocket launchers, you name it. He’s also pretty manly and he pilots a ship. What’s not to like?
7) Orihara Izaya (Durarara!!)
This was a toss up between two Durarara!! characters – the other was Heiwajima Shizuo, Izaya’s rival. In the end Izaya won because he has the world’s greatest smirk.
Izaya is an underground informant who often manipulates and tricks people into unfortunate situations. Early on in the anime, he tricks a young girl into a suicide pact – texting her and pretending that he is also an emotionally depressed teenager. Once he reveals his true identity on the rooftop from which they were going to jump, he leaves her and says that he does not particularly care what she actually does because he only wanted to observe her reaction to their conversations. Yeah, he’s not a nice guy. Izaya claims that he loves humanity but he does not nor cannot ‘love’ humans. At best, he regards people as friends, calling them informally by prefixes such as ‘kun’ and ‘chan’.
In the series, Izaya manipulates the actions of those around him by leaking information, which he re-enacts on his unusual game board that comprises chess, go and shogi pieces. His goal is to obtain the inanimate head of the headless rider Celty Sturlson so that he can go to Valhalla and start a war in Ikebukuro. He plays by rules that are beyond the rest of humanity’s understanding, as the board shows. Although much of the gang violence unfolding in Ikebukuro intrigues him, he prefers to linger in the shadows and observe rather than actively partake in it. The only exception to this rule is his rival Shizuo, whom he views as the embodiment of violence and goes to great lengths to provoke.
Izaya is on the list because he’s a professional troll. He’s effectively the puppeteer of the series; so, if you like you dickish characters, you’ll probably like him.
6) Takizawa Akira (East of Eden)
Akira wins the prize for greatest entry in an anime – turning up naked in front of the White House. The strategically-placed squiggly white lines only add to the hilarity.
At the beginning of the series, he has lost his memory and only has a futuristic phone and gun. He is actually one of the Seleção, unwitting participants in a game created by the mysterious ‘Mr. Outside’. Each player has 10 billion yen on their phone, which they must use to save Japan (or die when the money on the phone runs out). As the series progresses and the other players are revealed, it becomes clear that Akira is the only one who believes he can really save the country and one of the few who is not playing for personal gain. He falls under suspicion at one point when his friends start to suspect that he was responsible for an attempted missile attack and disappearance of 20,000 NEETs but it is later revealed that he made himself a scapegoat in the event, which was why he erased his memory.
Akira is one of the few noble players in the Seleção game and has an awesome phone. Therefore, he’s on the list.
5) Roy Mustang * (Full Metal Alchemist)
Full Metal Alchemist was my first proper anime ‘fandom’ and Roy Mustang was always the GOD of this series. He is on the list. Deal with it.
‘Colonel’ Roy aka The Flame Alchemist is a State Alchemist who plans to become the next leader (unfortunately the formal title is Fuhrer) of the country Amestris. He is infamous within the military for being shallow, self-absorbed and a womanizer (you’re probably noticing a pattern here by now) but it is in fact a ploy to fool the higher-ups into underestimating him. He sees himself as a protector of those around him and is a firm ally to the Elrics in their fight against the homunculi and ultimate destruction of the country. In the original story, Roy has his sight taken away from him in the climactic battle but still contributes to the battle despite his blindness. This was one of the most emotional scene for many of the fans (there are a LOT of them in FMA) but the good news is he does get it back eventually. Hooray!
Roy makes the list because pyromaniacs are always fun.
4) Kabaragi T. Kotetsu (Tiger & Bunny)
If you haven’t already watched Tiger & Bunny yet, do it! It’s quite possibly the best anime I’ve seen in the last year – and a large amount of that has to do with the comic relief provided by Kabaragi T. Kotetsu (Wild Tiger).
Kotetsu is a ‘veteran’ superhero (I think he’s meant to be around his mid-thirties, so he may as well be 100 years old in the world of anime) who is forced to join up with a younger, handsomer hero (Barnaby Brookes Jr.) who shares the same super power as him. Needless to say, Kotetsu isn’t too happy and the fact that his estranged daughter is a massive Barnaby fan doesn’t help. He is often the butt of the show’s slapstick jokes; uncovering his daughters ‘secret stash’ of Barnaby photos, dropping a woman’s pen under a moving lorry whilst trying to upstage Barnaby and sign his autograph and his attempt to plan a surprise birthday and mistaking an actual diamond thief for another hero. It’s hard to believe that a super hero can be so clueless.
Kotetsu is probably one of the most believable characters in the show and you really can sympathise with him beyond the ‘oh, being a super hero is so hard’ business. For starters, his blames his career for the death of his wife and his distance from his daughter. On top of that, his being upstaged by the younger and cooler Barnaby (who he patronisingly names ‘Bunny’) is something that we can probably all relate to in our own way. He’s on the list because it would be wrong if he wasn’t.
3) Date Masamune (Sengoku Basara)
‘Oh my god, how is Date Masamune not #1 on your list? Didn’t you dedicate a whole blog post to this guy?’ Well, yes, and that’s part of the reason why he’s not at the top of the list – I didn’t want to be so predictable! Still, he’s in the top three for a very good reason – he’s manly!
Admittedly, this isn’t a particular well-developed character in the same way that Kotetsu is. However, there are three things I love in anime: eyepatches, Engrish and samurai. So, yes, this is a very biased and shallow decision. That said, Date Masamune (inaccurately based on an actual samurai) is the star of the Sengoku Basara series due to his recognisable Engrish dialogue. Rather than list everything he’s said, I advise you to have a look for videos on Youtube. Lord of Oshu and known as ‘the One-Eyed Dragon’, he is a instantly recognisable in the anime (and modern day Japan, in fact) by his crescent moon helmet.
Sengoku Basara is like the Power Rangers of anime. Explosions, samurai fighting in midair, raw manliness and action instead of plot. Masamune’s on the list because I love this show and I love his ‘ridicurous’ character. It’s very biased and I’m afraid #2 will be as well . . .
2) Chosokabe Motochika (Sengoku Basara)
Hey, guys, guess what my favourite anime is? Is it also blatantly obvious that I also love men with eyepatches?
OK, so Motochika made the list for the same reasons as Masamune. He has an eyepatch BUT he is also a pirate and surfs on a giant anchor. (I think there’s probably a subliminal message in there somewhere.) I think everyone has a guilty pleasure and mine is two-dimensional characters. In the anime, he is one of the more well-intentioned characters; harbouring war refugees and loyal to his crew who constantly refer to him as ‘ANIKI’ (bro). As a pirate, his fighting style is rough and brutal but this is slightly overshadowed by the fact that he’s accompanied by a parrot . . . and the fact that he was known as ‘Little Princess’ in his childhood because his parents dressed him up as a girl. Obviously, this gets overlooked in Sengoku Basara.
Motochika makes the list because . . . uh . . . What was I talking about?
1) Simon (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann)
Whilst not everyone will have agreed with some of my choices on this list – I’d be very surprised if anyone who’s seen Gurren Lagann will dislike my #1.
Simon is more than the embodiment of ‘manliness’ but the embodiment of the entire series. The series begins with Simon as a child, discovering the surface world and living in the shadow of the older and cooler Kamina. Just a few episodes in, Kamina is killed off and this upsets the balance of the show, Simon and fans alike. How can you kill off the best character in the show? How can Simon carry on by himself? Why is Kaima dead? (Commence the shedding of manly tears.)
In the second half of the series, skip forward seven years later to when Simon is an adult. The simple battle between good and evil that existed in his mind before is much more complex as old friends seem to betray him and his actions from the past have a terrible affect on the present world. The fights become more dramatic and the villains much more complex, as Simon and his friends ultimately fight in SPACE for the sake of the entire universe. However, what really makes Simon such an impressive character is how he surpasses Kamina, previously perceived by many to be the most bad ass character of all time. In fact, he more or less resembles him in the final stages of his battle.
But does that mean that Kamina should be #1 instead of Simon? For me, personally, no. We see his character develop much more substantially and, once you have watched the entire series, you realise how Simon has grown along with the plot. He IS the plot. And it’s a bloody good plot at that.
Simon makes the list because his character is brilliantly executed and very complex. He starts off as a naive young boy, living in the shadows of his hero even after his death, who sees everything as a battle between good and evil. As time goes by, he matures and thus realises that the world and indeed Gurren Lagann’s plot is not written in black and white. As such, Kamina’s death also ceases to be pointlessly upsetting and becomes intrinsic to the progression of Simon’s character and journey.
If you’ve been very perceptive, you might have noticed the title of the blog has changed from ‘Sophie’s Weekly Japan Blog’ to Sophie’s Japan Blog’. Unfortunately, I’ve been having a difficult couple of weeks with job hunting and other things, which has caused me to lose motivation about anything that is not related to being employed. As such, I might have to start releasing blog posts fortnightly if I cannot complete them in time. I’m sorry if this upsets anyone but, on the plus side, it means that you’ll keep getting 100%’s worth of the blog.
Finally, artists, please take a look at my art competition which is closing soon! If you have a deviantart account, I’d appreciate it if you could share it on there as well. Thanks!