Connecting the Dots (and the Characters) in Anime

What is eternity doing tonight? has become Mega Megane Moé. For the latest posts, please change your links accordingly.
In the recent anime season a certain harem lead who will pretend to be unnamed has come under much fire for being a cold-hearted, brainless jerk who thinks with his crotch instead of his head.

Now the purpose of this post is not to defend this guy or to add fuel to the burning of his effigy but rather to address a different point often brought up in the discussion of this character.

"I stopped watching the anime because of this guy."

It's a strange thought; that a character repulses one so much that they can't even stand the sight of him (or her, of course) anymore.

The core of today's question, to get to the point, is whether an anime has to have likeable characters, per se, in order to be, well, watchable.

Is it necessary, for one to be able to connect with the characters or plot of anime anime to make it enjoyable.

Of course, it is always preferred to have these aspects present, but in the absence of such factors, does the show shrivel up and die like a plant without water?

Naturally the show I was discussing in the pre-jump, School Days, is a strong proponent of the argument that one can have, well, despicable characters and still be an entertaining watch. There are generally two types of people who watch School Days:

1) Those who watch it like any other harem show, rooting for a winner, either Katsura or Sekai. Many of these people may still find hope in Makoto, attempting to defend him as a victim of cirumstances (teenager-ism).

2) Those who watch it hoping for a train wreck; the bad endings. This group is increasingly getting larger, as people lose all hope for Makoto, or anyone in this

The second group is an example of those who really want nothing to do with anybody in the show, and yet still derive enjoyment (in a dark sense, at least) watching the cast stumble all over each other.

School Days, admittedly, however, is a bit of an exception, in that its endings were infamous, with some waiting for the wreck from the start. So what about other shows?

Comedy shows seem to be also immune to this rule. For example, it's highly unlikely that you REALLY have anything in common with the cast of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. You can claim to be OCD, or a stalker, or a hikikomori, but you're just not going to quite make it to the insanity level that they do.

And the insanity level of just about everyone in SZS is what naturally makes the anime great; but again the question is being dodged in that while viewers can't connect directly with the cast, they aren't per se disliking the cast.

To be honest it's hard at least for me to find characters that I truly dislike; although I may have preferences against, say, lolicons, or characters with ridiculous cup sizes, that doesn't give me a valid reason to hate on Primula, or Moe-senpai, or whomever.

But even in my less ridiculously forgiving moments of judging characters, it seems hard to turn down a series on the merit of unmeritable characters. Even during the dull, plotless period of shows like Da Capo, there is always the promise of, well, change; and this is what draws us back into shows with a cast full of nobodies.

Most shows are very rarely constant; even relatively "pointless" slice-of-life shows like Lucky Star show clear evolution and expansion of the characters' personalities (and yes, that goes beyond Tsukasa moe++ as well). It's the little things that happen, whether it be the slow but steady snapping of a character, a sudden plot twist that turns everybody on their head, or something else, that at least keeps me coming back to shows.

Maybe it's because there are only two types of situations out there in terms of liked/disliked characters; either there's a type of "halo character" that can be followed that brings the show up, or the entire group of people is junk, but in both cases there is almost an urge to keep watching to either see that character again, or, admittedly, see the crash.

Perhaps others who have less time and more anime have a different attitude but that's what blog posts are for, discussing, flaming and expressing opinions and that is mine on whether one has to be sympathetic with the characters of a show in order to enjoy it. Maybe it's being in the golden age of school-year summer that allows one to watch anime endlessly and enjoy everything, but it seems to me that it's a bit ridiculous to stop watching a show just because one doesn't agree with the actions a character takes with another.

So what if Aeris died? It might seem selfish to say "it's for the greater good," but essentially it's true. Bad things, shocking things aren't meant to happen solely to screw over the viewer. There are reasons. There are motives. There is character development that is borne out of it, which allows for that all-important change in a show that keeps it fresh and interesting.

I guess in the end of this entirely off-topic rant, the most important thing is change; mixing things up, making things feel new again. Makoto might be a bona fide pimp jerk, but he still shows emotion. Konata might still be a level 99 otaku, but she still shows human thought processes. And, perhaps the most famous thing to justify change, tsunderes. That switch between cold and shy (to sum it in one word); would there be as much of a giant fandom for Haruhi, Makoto (Sawatari), Shana, Akiha if they were just one side all the time?



Thing is, the bad endings in the game (which the anime seems to be heading towards) don't really have the characters develope any, other than (spoilers) ______ gets raped by runner-up boy, _______ and ______ get together, _______ cuts open ______.

Of course, the good endings for the characters aren't very GOOD if you hate the characters, so it's really a one way direction, the only thing to look forward into the anime is bloodshed. ._.;

I guess School Days is sort of a special case, eh? Maybe sometimes it's the character development and sometimes it's just the raw shock and awe of plot twists that make things interesting.

And somehow I figure that good endings for characters sometimes can lead to better opinions of the characters (unless it's one of those wildly unexplained deux-ex endings); I found that at least in a lot of other shows I liked characters a lot more once their stories were concluded.