Most of the people I know who like anime have liked it since they were children. And most of those people, myself included, have stuck with the same favorite characters for years. If you ask me what my favorite Pokemon is, my answer is still Charmander. My favorite Sailor Scout is still Mars (and Jupiter), my favorite of the Rekai Tantei (from Yu Yu Hakusho) is still Kurama. I have done a lot of growing up since I first watched these shows, but there’s something in these characters that has remained with me all this time.
A couple months ago, I decided to foray back into the Yu-Gi-Oh! fandom, just to kind of see what it’s like these days. I didn’t imagine that I would become totally re-immersed in Bakura Ryou’s character and story to the point where I was reading fan fiction and browsing fan art just as though I was fourteen again. I never stopped caring about him; I merely put my interest on hold for a short time while I was off making new discoveries. And now I can see his character for more than just what’s given to me in the series; I have been able to flesh out a realistic background for him in my own mind, with the kind of intricacy that my adolescent self wouldn’t have bothered attempting.
What is it within us that remains? Is anime a way for some of us to retain our childhood fancies? Or do we recognize ourselves in the characters we’ve chosen to admire? Maybe we liked them from the start because they had traits that we wanted to emulate. Or perhaps at the core of our being, we haven’t changed that much as the years have gone by.
There is one thing about my viewing that has changed dramatically, however; I can now appreciate many of the characters that I despised for no good reason. I see them as far more complex in the realm of their series, instead of just writing them off as, say, an annoying love interest or random filler character. Because my sense of story has developed, I have been able to expand my empathy for such characters, instead of being frustrated that they get in the way of my ship or that they seem to serve no purpose.
And though I have certain character types that I gravitate toward (beautiful but silent men, outspoken women, anyone/anything associated with fire, thieves), all of the characters I like are vastly different. I do like to think that in some way, they all represent different parts of myself, or different potential selves. Like great literature, there are animanga that will stick with you to the very end and help to dictate the person you choose to be.
On this post-Thanksgiving Monday, I find myself grateful to be able to relate with my past self, grateful to be reminded that though I grow older, certain things will always remain: That I love brooding men with dark pasts, that punk teenagers with a rigid moral code always get my vote, that I have far too much sympathy for thieves, and that Charmander will always be my starter Pokemon.
How about you, readers? What characters, anime or otherwise, have remained your favorite? Or have you found new favorites as you’ve grown? Do you see parts of yourself in these characters? Is it easier for you to understand now why you latched onto that character so easily way back when?