Sympathy vs. Antipathy

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Which makes things more interesting?

I've ranted at least once that the most interesting anime are the ones with characters that you can personally connect to - whether it's Lisianthus's personality conflict over how to adore Rin, Mina's shy struggle against her gut feeling, or just Shiki's carefree attitude towards life, having a show strike a chord with you really skyrockets the power and appeal of it.

But then, once again, we come to the skyrocketing "popularity" of a show like School Days, arguably the most-blogged show running so far, eclipsing even such slice-of-life moe-mobiles (which even I admittedly subscribe to) as Lucky Star.


A long time ago - code for "someone mentioned this once and I forget who" - I heard that essentially, love and hate are the same emotions, equal strength but opposite polarity. In a sense, that could be true for anime as well.

As much as anime shows and characters can bring warm fuzzy feelings to the bottoms of our stomachs somewhere, they can also fuel a burning fire of flaming fury, and both of those feelings are the type to really encourage the intense discussion and posting we've seen.

As long as an anime appeals to your emotions in one way or another it's bound to be a interesting journey in one way or another, but the question is: is a show more involving when it has highly likable characters or highly hate-able characters?

Obviously the former is more appealing in a sense in that we like to feel good about shows and ourselves more than we like to burn effigies and stab pins into voodoo dolls but with the rampant flurry of Makoto hate-posts flying around the net in a sort of fan anti-wank the latter just might be one that spurs more people to discussion.

Maybe it's because people tend to speak up more when they are discontent than when they are content. Complaints more than praise are common when talking with acquantainces, perhaps because it seems less socially acceptable to brag about how great life is. Rather, people like to talk with each other about what's going wrong, so that they can sympathize with each other and make each other feel better, mutually angry at some third-party source.

Perhaps, back to a fiction sense, that it is easier to talk about what's wrong with something rather than what's right. When characters are highly messed up, it's easy to argue what went wrong with them, if there's any hope for them, and just how awful they are. As opposed to raving about the positives of a character, which might come across as too much fanboyism for some elitist bloggers. One could discuss why a character is so awesome, but really there's not a lot to discuss apart from one-sided arguing. (usually, either one greatly likes a character or greatly dislikes a character, in the same way that people square off over the concept and appeal of moe)

Or maybe shows with disastrous characters are also equally heartwarming in a cold sense, in that they make you feel better about yourself? Why? Because you never slept with 4 girls during high school, and since being a player like that is a Bad Thing, you are much better than that guy. That's right, you're so awesome. Ah, but that really feels too much like self-confirmation, right?

But again to dismiss a theory just because you don't believe in it feels like the wrong way to argue, so it's quite possibly valid.

Personally I could take my anime either way; I like sweet stories and sugary, bright characters with endearing characteristics, but I'll admit that School Days has got me animated (i.e. getting physical with the keyboard) like no series ever was, if only because I had originally classified some characters in the former sense as ones who would be the "good" characters.

So in a sense all the hype about School Days could be a wave of pent-up emotion as everyone is distraught that really no one is safe from not just the Makoto-mobile, but from the vicious school as a whole.

That's not to say that the hype is a bad thing; remember, in the media business, all hype is good hype; and as long as you derive some enjoyment from the anime you watch, I think that is the important thing. And that's why I find any type of character interesting, as long as it's in a sense, different: both the ones that are entertaining to watch and the ones that are entertaining to watch burn are refreshing and so as long as the show isn't filled full of stereotypes and cliches I can find it somewhat watchable.

But what of the readers? (Yes, you exist. I willed it so.) Do dislikable characters, amongst a sea of gutless harem leads and shy girls, work pretty well in terms of inspiring interest? Or rather, do they turn you off from the show instead; making the show so horrible that you can't stand it?

Maybe it's my upbringing in American auto racing that allows me to enjoy the trainwrecks of anime.