Unrequited Love, Childhood Friends and Dense Male Protagonists: A Girls work is never done.
July 3, 2011 1 Comment
Childhood friends, we all know the characters, the ones that we can cheer for the most, yet deep in our hearts we know they will never have the love of the male protagonist.
These kinds of characters crop up everywhere, although the majority of them are of course found in harem anime and those that have been adapted from eroge. They are the curious characters that have been with the male lead the longest and yet either cannot, or will not tell him they love him. They are often the ones who care for the character the most, make their lunches, look after them.
I can think of a few examples of childhood friends: Keade from Shuffle, Manami from Asobi no Iku Yo, Sumiyoshi from Nyan Koi, Kirie from Girls Bravo, Herikawa from Onegai Teacher, Miyano from B Gata H Kei, etc. Quite honestly the list goes on and on, but I can’t remember anymore at the moment.
These girls are often very devoted, although quite shy, being unable to show their true feelings for the male lead. A large number of them are also of the Tusdere character type (although in Keade’s case I would say she is more of a Yandere considering her psychotic moments in the show and the implied psychotic moment in a flashback). They tend to beat up the male lead for very small things, such as Sumiyoshi constantly being at war with Kousaka Junpei, calling him ‘Koubaka’, a pun on his name and the Japanese word for stupid or moron ‘baka. Manami and Kirie are very much the same, showing violent tendencies towards their love interest to replace the words or feelings that they seem unable to show.
Another aspect that a large number of these characters share is the arrival of some mysterious love rival. We have Eris in Asobi ni Iku Yo, Mizuho Kazami in Onegai Teacher, Miharu in Girls Bravo. All these characters are essentially aliens, they are mysterious, very beautiful, with great figures.
Now what is interesting about the majority of ‘childhood friends’ characters is that they aren’t necessarily there as a love interest, rather they are there in order to be a rival towards the new character. They are there in order to create tension, add love triangles, etc, but they are not there to be the character that the male protagonist ends up with. They are not the love interest basically, and are essentially an important side character.
There are of course exceptions to this, such as Kiriko from Tenchi Muyo GXP and Yuna from Maburaho. In both cases they end up with Seina and Kazuki respectively, although again in both cases it is a harem ending where essentially everyone and no one wins. Maburaho has the male lead being cloned, so basically everyone ends up with him, and much hilarity ensues.
This use of a character certainly has the possibility of creating a lot of ‘rage’ amongst the shows fans. They are all part of the harem, they are all very cute and wonderful girls, and yet we know, no matter how much we wish for it their love will not be returned.
There are of course many anime that end without any resolution, having very open, harem endings. Infinite Stratos, Maburaho, Tenchi Muyo GXP, Asobi no Iku Yo, Nyan Koi and even Shuffle end quite openly, and yet not so openly. The main female character has clearly won in some way, and yet at the same time nothing is resolved.
The endings are deliberately open, so that there is the possibility of a sequel, they are also deliberately open in the way that only harem can be. It is simpler to have a harem ending with all the female characters piling on to the male lead rather than wrap things up and have a single girl or woman win over the rest. There are also those anime that have been adapted from Eroge or dating sims. There are so many different endings in these games that it is almost impossible to end the anime in a ‘proper’ way, rather one of the endings needs to be used, very often the harem, non-conclusive ending which neither really resolves the story or in fact ends it.
As an anime fan, I do often find myself cheering for these childhood friends, they are often some of my favorite characters and can provide some of the best laughs. There are exceptions for me as well though. I personally prefer Eris and Mizuho Kazami to Keide and Herikawa for example; I think they are better characters, cuter, etc. I do think this is largely to do with these characters being far more complete and better (cant think of a better word, might come to me later, next week perhaps) than the other characters.Although again Asobi ni iku Yo doesn’t really end, rather it finishes with all the girls confessing to Kiyo and nothing being resolved.
So essentially while these characters might often be the hardest done to in any series they are not often the ones we as viewers really prefer, and lets be honest the female leads tend to get more screen time than the childhood friends, who are often essentially supporting characters destined to watch from the sidelines. I do however wish that there were more childhood friends characters who were the female lead and ended up with the male character.