All-Female Round Robin Returns: The “Strong Women” Stereotype in Anime
Ok, so I’ll admit that it feels a bit presumptuous to post one of these big essay-type things for this Round-Robin topic after I’ve done such a half-ass job of getting caught up after I was gone for a week. I can offer you no excuses, except that life just ate me – so many things and responsibilities just crashed down on my head this past week-and-a-half, that I’ve barely had time to accomplish all the things I need to in real-life; much less in the blogosphere. I know I’ve probably lost any readers that I once had, but I’m posting this anyway…wishful thinking, perhaps?
Anyway, this Round Robin topic is about Strong Women in Anime: the Stereotypes and the Roles they Play. Please read (and maybe even comment, if you feel like it! *gasp*) – this topic continues behind the cut…
In almost every anime (especially harem anime of any flavor), there’s the stereotypical “strong woman” character – she never gets the guy, she never gets the spotlight, and we usually only get a small glimpse of her backstory – so why is she even there? Answer: She’s there to contrast the other moe~moe girl, and make her look even more moe-licious then before. Yes, I said moe-licious.
The rough girl contrasts the softness of the other; the loud girl makes the silence of the other even more noticeable; the angry girl highlights the forgiving nature of the other. They say that to comprehend cold accurately, you also need to have experienced heat – this works in the same way. To get a full understanding of how kind a character is, they need to be balanced with one who is harsher. The personality and backstory for this character are then built into the story, so they don’t feel too random to the viewers and ta-da – we have our “strong woman” character!
The most obvious example I can think of is Clannad. Both Tomoyo and Kyou are of the “strong women” stereotype…we get a glimpse of their past life (but nothing compared to what the main character gets), they hang around to provide comic relief and such, but we know from the start that they’ll never get the guy. As soon as we meet moe~moe Nagisa, we KNOW that she’s gonna be the lucky gal. Kyou and Tomoyo’s tsun-tsun personalities (if you aren’t familiar with the word tsun-tsun, it means aggressive, pushy, strong, or forceful. You may know it better as the first half of “tsun-dere”) are there to contrast Nagisa’s weaker, more moe personality.
Another example is that of Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion; she contrasts the quiet, almost un-human personality of Rei. In this case, even though neither one of the girls are going to “get the guy,” the watcher’s attention must be drawn to the extraordinarily silent and strange portions of Rei’s personality for the big reveal at the end to hold any meaning (I won’t give it away, if you haven’t watched it…). There is one point at which Asuka actually slaps Rei for being so silent and expressing no opinion – this is one of the strongest moments in which we see the differences between the two girls. Rei is destined to have the bigger backstory, however, so it is important that Asuka is there to make sure the details of Rei’s character don’t go unnoticed.
My final example is Tohru from Fruits Basket (and it is going to be full of SPOILERS, so don’t read if you don’t want to know!)…she is contrasted by her “rival in love,” if you will – Kagura. While they are not directly contrasting each other at the beginning of the story, they grow to oppose each other as Tohru begins to show her feelings for Kyo over Yuki. Their differences are especially highlighted in the way Kyo deals with them, and they way they deal with Kyo. Tohru is even directly contrasted with Kagura when Kagura speaks about seeing Kyo’s true form. She tells about how she ran away in fear, while Tohru was called to stay with him because she was so kind and caring. Eventually, of course, it is Tohru and not Kagura that ends up with Kyo.
Of course, we have become so accustomed to this that it feels strange to have the strong woman as the main character. That has been enough, on some shows, to set it apart from the mold and make it a wonderful success! People can’t always put their finger on what it is that makes those shows special, but they go “Yeah, that was neat – that was original!”
Examples of this include Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, for my friends who prefer the English translation), Ouran High School Host Club, Furi Kuri (or Fooly Cooly, or FLCL – whichever way you like it!), Paprika, Clannad ~ After Story, and BECK (to an extent, but not as much as the other shows I mentioned).
What are your thoughts on this? Do you prefer anime with a moe~ main character to one with a “strong woman” main character? Do you always want the main character to get the guy, or do you root for the strong woman character? Are you more attracted to moe~moe or tsun-tsun? Let me know guys!