Emotional Weakness vs. Emotional Dependency

What is eternity doing tonight? has become Mega Megane Moé. For the latest posts, please change your links accordingly. Anime girls are apparently the polar opposite of superviruses. They don't evolve resistance to disease but rather become more susceptible to it as they go on.

The disease today is, moreso than any harem lead, a lack of an ability to stand on their own, a sort of AIDS affecting the brain. Perhaps it's too much of a blanket statement to say that all anime girls are affected by such an affliction, but certainly in some harem anime it seems we're getting less and less real believable female characters and more and more one-legged props.

At least, it seems so, that many of the haremettes today just aren't capable of standing on their own.

Now I would enjoy being a knight in shining armor just as much as the next guy, but the extent to which characters are becoming socially or mentally, well, retarded, is sort of ridiculous.

It's part of the reason why I'm not getting into Clannad perhaps as much as other Key/KyoAni works, that from Kanon to AIR to Clannad the relationships have become increasingly one-sided. Certainly KyoAni's latest work has some merit in the vast amount of nonstandard (i.e. male) characters and their hilarious antics, but it really feels the harem itself leaves something to be desired.

(yeah, Kanon and AIR get spoiled.)

Now, I'm not going to be the first to call the girls of Kanon anywhere near realistic, but they certainly seemed to have a reasonable level of backbone, in that all of them were able to live relatively normal lives without Yuuichi.

Everyone still had, in classic style, a connection to him, of course, but if we removed him from the equation, it's still relatively plausible that they would still be able to survive. This is likely in part due to a strong supporting cast; Nayuki has Akiko, Mai has Sayuri, and even Shiori can sort of look to Kaori in a sense.

Ayu and Makoto are more questionable, but both their characters aren't complete pushovers. Makoto has the typical energetic tsundere disposition, and while Ayu is certainly a whining taiyaki-munching machine, she doesn't convey what I see in some Clannad characters as a sense of hopelessness.

My main example would be the seeming main character, Nagisa; or even extend it to the whole Furukawa female side. Both she and her mother take criticism in a manner that can be described as 'extremely poorly', with both being reduced to tears (or yeah, fainting) with only the slightly offhand remark.

Additionally, Nagisa is hardly the social type, with a soft voice, a weak body, and a lack out outgoingness so much that one has to wonder if her classmates even know that she exists. As such her meeting with Tomoya is brimming with a ridiculous amount so-called potential for emotional development into an outgoing person, which should be mildly heartwarming to some.

But, the question is brought up that, if Tomoya and Nagisa never happened to meet, what would become of her? Would she still stand under streelights at night, sit alone in the courtyard, and sing random stuff about a Big Dango Family if she remained what appears to be friendless?

It's sort of silly, and taken in that context it almost seems like an act; the standard "oh noes, I am a lonely girl, please help me and make me fall for you, etc" gig that goes down really too much in anime. People like that are really too much of a suspension of disbelief for me - it's just too much of the stars aligning, too much of Chance Encounter Occurs. People just aren't this helpless; either they take care of themselves emotionally, "take care of themselves" physically, or, more likely, have at least a few people they can count on.

Same goes for the childish characters like Fuko as well. Yes, she's adorable. Yes, she's funny. And yes, she makes Ayu looks sane, for God's sake. I've seen her dubbed "retard moe" by many, which is scarily accurate. Her childish, loli-like demeanor may be attractive, but one has to wonder how someone like her got into university in the first place.

Kotomi could go either way, seeming to be the typical idiot savant. An IQ of 190, as typical, has nothing to do with your social competence, as shown by her book-cutting, lunch-offering, uber-spacey demeanor. Again, it's an interesting personality that leans more towards blatant escapism than a plausible character.

Either that, or maybe I need to start going to empty libraries more often.

To be fair Clannad is only in its 3rd episode and I might be missing some of the depth to the characters that will come later, but at this point the characters seem a bit more unrealistic than usual.

Kanon's characters, as mentioned, seem better suited to standing on their own because, while they do have emotional weaknesses, soft spots to speak, these flaws don't overtake the rest of their character.

For example, while Shiori is, yes, "deathly ill" and yes, she does sit around waiting in the courtyard like Nagisa did, it feels like something she did more on her own accord rather than just showing up and moping, "Man, I really hope Yuuichi shows up to make me happy." She goes out and does things, goes out and tries to be strong, tries to make the most of her time.

This sort of attitude is what personally makes the Kanon characters, if not more realistic, more appealing, in that they aren't overly reliant on others, that they fight, they give their all and
they aren't, in a sense, pushovers.

AIR is, as it seems, somewhere in between with its lead character of Misuzu. While she does have a form of Magical AIDS that affects her character strongly (think how she always breaks down when trying to make friends), she is the outgoing type that wants to make friends, that doesn't wait for people to come to them, that pushes herself to the limit to do so.

Sure, there's a large break of disbelief in her befriending of a random, older traveler that she doesn't know, but somehow it seems better than it the situation were the other way around.

Perhaps it is a personal belief but I've always found these characters with the positive outlooks more appealing and more interesting than the passive ones that almost seem like quitters. It may be a lower tolerance for whining and almost manufactured drama, or it may be the inherent appeal in rooting for the 'underdog', the Little Mac fighting against the odds, but there's something about overly weak characters that really rubs me the wrong way.

But now, what about the rest of you; how do you like your haremettes? Is this perceived 'helplessness' in characters something that actually is desirable? Is reading these personalities as such not taking into account the whole situation?

Suddenly I'm beginning to see the appeal of tsunderes, with the hard exteriors and the soft interiors (innuendo not included) that really show they can be characters that stand up for themselves.



Now that you'd mention it, it does seems that some of the characters in CLANNAD have taken in some unrealistic character traits that surpasses being socially inept to just being plain mentally indeficient or are just too emotionally dependent.

I'd take a tsudere character any day.

You know I really don't see how characters in Clannad are less realistic than the ones in Kanon. First helpless socially inept people do exist, more than you think, this character trait is actually less cliched than say the Tsundere ones.
Then for Nagisa herself she isn't socially inept, she said herself than she had friends but they all graduated, after that it's very hard for someone to make friends in a new class where you don't know anyone and the groups have already been formed.
Actually I find the relationship in Clannad much more believable than in say Kanon because the relationship between Nagisa and Tomoya actually go both way and she actually try to help him unlike in Kanon where Yuuichi goes and help everyone like the perfect hero he is.
Of course for Fuuko and Kotomi we pretty much didn't see them so I don't know how they will be developped.

Also to continue on my point, it seems to me that Clannad will be more about Tomoya being helped by Nagisa than the other way, the first episode begins with a narration from Tomoya saying how much he hates the town and how boring his life is, you can also see as the whole scene is in black and white then the screen suddenly goes in color after his meeting with Nagisa, probably symbolizing than she is going to "brighten" his life.
Add to that that Nagisa actually seems well adjusted, she has a loving family, her sickness doesn't seem to be from the "magical AIDS" variety like Shiori and Misuzu (well I think) and even though she doesn't have any friends at the beggining she at least tried to make some by starting a club, something she would have done even without Tomoya.
I don't know how the story will goes but I'm really liking it so far simply because the relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa actually seems real, something you see rarely in a bishojo game to anime conversion.
Sorry for the long rambling.

You had a very well-written entry, but I agree with Anonymous. First of all, there are definitely people with either depression or social phobia which make them avoidant of social interactions, and I would say that they are actually underrepresented in anime (possibly because they appear less interesting). This is why I applaud CLANNAD for featuring a heroine who is so different from those of Kanon and AIR. Secondly, Nagisa is shy, but she is not so emotionally dependent to the point where her life would collapse without Tomoya. I would imagine her keeping more to herself if she hadn't met Tomoya, but she would still pursue her own interests and do her own things. She is independent, not helpless. Thirdly, as Anonymous had said, the relationship between Nagisa and Tomoya is reciprocal. In fact, I get the feeling that Tomoya sought after Nagisa precisely because HE needed help, he needed support in dealing with his family issues. Nagisa was someone he could trust and confide in about his father. Thus the relationship is mutual.

Mikoto: Unsurprising from you, Mr. Shana. :P

Anonymous: Hmm, perhaps I skipped over that point about Nagisa just having separated from her friends, so I may have been a little in the wrong when judging her.

Anonymous and Asuka: Nagisa still has a bit of the "not quite right in the head" feel to me, which perhaps I should have mentioned instead than simply saying she wasn't outgoing, and drawing the unrealistic conclusion from that. I can't claim to be a man of the social life myself, in any regard, so I'm not intending to rip reserved people a new one.

To that regard I'm a bit of a hypocrite in anime though - a lot of my dislike of these types of personalities is because I'm brought up with the American way of "do it yourself" and individualism, and as such I prefer characters that take life into their own hands. I suppose she is trying.

Maybe it's just Nagisa's quirks that rub me the wrong way, like the random shouting of food names, and the passing out in the rain, and the standing under streetlights, and whatnot.

I do agree, though, that the relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa is a well-developed one, it's just that maybe to me it felt like it got off a bit on the wrong foot, the chance encounter between Tomoya and Nagisa who was just sitting there talking to herself.

There's still quite some time left in the show though for these things to play out, in any case, so we'll see how it goes.

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Personally, the problem I have with Key's works thus far (at least with Air and Kanon) is a rather more literal "Magical AIDS"; to be precise, it's the deus ex machina diseases that seems to strike various characters at exactly the most dramatic moment.

I can't say any more due to spoilers, but suffice to say that after a very short while, suspension of medical disbelief begins to fail.