< Piro >
Saturday - September 16, 2000
Animated shows typically have a half dozen or so characters developed for them. There usually are lead male and female characters, a few supporting characters and minor characters that pop up from time to time. The degree to which a 'main' character is truly the focus of attention in a show varies. Sometimes every single episode focuses on them. Other times focus will shift to other characters and develop them a little further.
It amazes me how many times I find myself more interested in a secondary or even minor character than the main protagonists. A classic example is Ruri from Nadesico. I found her far more interesting than the rest of the characters in the show, and watched it for what was sometimes just 30 seconds of her screen time per show. I wasn't alone in this obsession - Ruri's popularity far exceeded that of the rest of the characters, to the point that she became the main character in the movie (which, sadly, did not do her or her character justice - i found it very disappointing)
There has been a trend in recent shows that minor characters get their 'moment in the sun' - episodes that focus on developing that character. A lot of Gatekeepers have been just that - every other episode concentrates on out one of the characters. This is an exciting moment if this is your favorite character (ah... the "the sound of water is the sound of me" episode of Nadesico) or it can be boring if the character doesn't interest you.
Not that much usually happens to secondary characters. They tend to have a past, or problems that are solved in one or two episodes. Sometimes, they come out of nowhere to become a major element in the plot. Usually, tho, nothing much happens to them. You are safe in knowing that they aren't going to change. Usually.
There are those shows... shows where something unfortunate DOES happen. As I mentioned earlier in the week, you can get attached to characters pretty easy. If it is a secondary character, that character tends to be built on a much smaller base of information - i mean, they do after all get much less screen time. This can be dangerous. A small 15 second segment in the middle of a show can devastate your afternoon. You find yourself sitting there going, wait...
i... i liked her the way she was. why did you do that to her?
All of a sudden she is different, she's changed, and you are not happy about it. Gainax is famous for this - in fact they did it to me again this morning while watching FLCL (grrr... how dare they mess with my Ninamori-chan!). Granted, it was a small thing, and it annoys me to no end, but at least it's nothing particularly vicious. You can write those things off as personal annoyances, do be dealt with in constructive ways (as i'll mention later)
Then there are the REAL bad episodes... things that bother you to this day. Things like what happened in Evangelion... your favorite characters are subjected to such abuse and mistreatment that to me it really amounts to fan abuse. Yes, fan abuse. ^_^ People have suffered major depression over some of what happened in that show. Even some of the folks involved with the show, like the chief artist for the TV series, Sadamoto Yoshiyuki, who is said to also be upset with the direction the story took. For me, 15 seconds, where we see Asuka-chan finally broken... sorry, that was too much, it was awful. It still depresses me.
Now, before this appears to be a major rail against Gainax, its not, not at all. I have enormous respect for what they did with Eva, good and bad. The whole intent of anime, or any art form, is to elicit a emotional response from the audience. Eva was incredibly successful - the emotional response from fans was amazing. I actually feared getting tapes of the show week after week, especially after a good friend told me that he had been physically ill after taping a particular episode... it all made me very nervous.
So, what IS a fan to do? I'll talk about that on monday... because we are not helpless. ^_^