A Very GLORIO 2014: Colons Reads Too Far Into Some Memorable Character Introductions

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[Welcome to “A Very GLORIO 2014″, our look back at the best of the past year. We’ll be featuring a different post from each of our authors everyday leading up to our top 10 shows of the year. The title says it all for today’s post as colons tackles some of the deep and meaningful ways certain anime characters were introduced this year.]

I don’t feel I watched enough shows this year to really warrant an awards rundown, so I won’t do one. I did meet some interesting characters, though, so I thought it’d be fun to revisit how some of them were introduced as an exercise in parallel construction.

Mad spoilers to follow, naturally.

Shiro (No Game No Life)

shiroThroughout, No Game No Life veered uncomfortably between fun storytelling and borderline pornography like a drunk uncle. At its peaks, it would pull off dramatic, Columbo-esque reveals, and at its grossest, it was… well, gross. Often, it managed both at the same time.

When they are introduced, Blank are shown in the video game they’re playing as totally badass, triumphing even against players who are blatantly cheating. When their physical selves are introduced a few minutes later, they are shown to be scruffy nerds, lit only by the light of their screens. Shiro is sat on the floor next to Sora’s chair, eating cup ramen and controlling the game with her feet. One of the most interesting games they play in Disboard involves the protagonists defeating Jibril, a cocky enemy magic user. Blank win by exploiting knowledge they brought from Earth about the construction of the universe that a magic user would have no reason to know. It’s well-paced, the turnabouts are dramatic, and it consistently looks and sounds great.

Blank truly are a team. Sora and Shiro make equal contributions to the success of their plans. They respect each other as equals, and they command equal respect from their opponents. That respect does not extend beyond the canon of the show, though. In the fight against Jibril, all female characters present are fully nude, Shiro included, for reasons only tangentially relevant to the narrative at hand. In her introduction in episode one, the show communicates that Shiro is controlling the computer with her feet with a shot that I am pretty sure a screenshot of would constitute child pornography under UK law.

It’s okay, though; the show later makes a definitive point of establishing that she’s not Sora’s biological sister, so she’s totally a legitimate target for romantic interest.

Katoran (Time of Eve)

katoran(Not from this year, but I saw the film version for the first time this year, so there.)

Half way through Time of Eve, there’s a scene that is effectively a test you are put through to make sure you’ve been paying attention.

From his introduction to his death, Katoran’s only scene is consistently presented on the surface as farcical comedy. We are shown a broken robot with comical visible malfunctions: persistent, violent shaking; broken, unnaturally timed, occasionally comically garbled speech; body parts that get stuck in awkward positions; violent jets of steam; an inability to resolve logical contradictions. The pacing is unambiguously comic and it’s even scored as mock horror, with short, harsh cuts of vaguely ominous music.

What is actually happening, though, is not at all funny. Katoran is a child who has been abandoned by a family he loved. A family who, at least for a time, loved him, but that he can not remember. He remembers the love, but not the people. He remembers being named, but he does not remember his name. He is lost, sad, broken and confused, and the confusion is literally killing him.

He has come to the Time of Eve café as a final attempt to feel a human connection, but Masaki and Rikuo are not yet emotionally available to such a cartoonishly robotic robot. They’re not even conceptually committed to the no discrimination rule. Nagi is, of course, and she’s present and compassionate towards the end of the scene, but she’s ultimately unable to prevent Rikuo asking the question that finally kills Katoran.

This scene was especially interesting to see in a theatre. Sad and engrossed as I was, I couldn’t help taking a degree of interest in the crowd’s reaction. As the pacing and farce ramped up and the presentation got ostensibly funnier, the laughter slowly died as the reality of the scene sank in. Anyone still laughing as Katoran died was not going to get a lot out of the rest of the film.

Alluka & Nanika (Hunter x Hunter)

allukaBefore it gives her even a single line of dialogue, Hunter x Hunter has spent a full half episode introducing Alluka as a plot device. We learn how dangerous and sinister her power is. We learn that Killua is the only member of the Zoldyck family that even considers her to be human, let alone part of the family. We learn the Zoldycks are scared enough of her that they keep her imprisoned behind five or six massive metal doors in the middle of the volcano they live in.

The mechanic of her power is neat, and the way it is presented is remarkably chilling. I spent a decent chunk of the week between episodes 138 and 139 considering the narrative possibilities. That’s about all I considered, though; it was some time before the concept of Alluka as anything but a plot device and a source of controversy in the Zoldyck family is properly presented, and even then she’s still not really a character; she’s more just a designated target for sympathy via Killua.

I have to be honest, a lot of why I like her is the overt but never directly addressed implication that she’s trans. I worry, though, that even if the current manga hiatus ends, she can never really be her own character. Killua’s never going to bring her on dangerous missions; she has shown no evidence that she is nearly as effective a fighter as the rest of the family. She has, after all, spent most of her life locked in a chamber underground, alone. Killua could certainly train her, but he seems pretty adamant when he leaves Gon that fighting is not going to be her scene. His justification for this is not just that it’s for her own good, either; her power makes her an extremely valuable target.

So she’s introduced as a plot device to save Gon and demonise the Zoldycks, and she leaves a plot device to separate Killua from Gon. Not that the device is not effective; the peak of Alluka’s introductory arc is a genuinely touching moment, one of the few in Hunter that brought me to tears. I just wish they had taken the time to make her more of a person.

Enju (Black Bullet)

So, with all that in mind, I will leave the extrapolation of this last introduction to the reader. It’s certainly memorable for its subtlety.

enju

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