Retrospective – My Top 10 Animated Characters Discovered in 2015

The Christmas/New Year period is the time that the internet collectively looks back on everything and itemizes it all. Well, I’m always one to run straggling behind the bandwagon. Since as a self-styled omega in the wolf pack that is geek culture I often get into franchises after everyone else I thought I would run through the animated shows that I watched last year and make a list of the top ten characters that really resonated with me. Plus this is a good chance to do a post that isn’t about video games.

Needless to say, there will be a few spoilers mixed in here, you have been warned.

So without further ado:

10) Dandy – Spance Dandy

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Now, I will be the first to admit that Dandy is a hard character to like for so many reasons. He’s brash, ignorant, self-obsessed, perverted and a total imbecile. However, what redeems him is the simple fact that he is comfortable with who he is, no matter what the rest of the universe may think of him. Dandy confidently blazes his own trail through the vastness of space, stumbling into bizarre situations beyond his understanding during his alien hunting jobs for no simpler reason than a man has to eat and food has to be paid for. You may roll your eyes at his eccentric sense of style and his lifelong obsession with eating at Boobies restaurants, but he knows what he likes and won’t compromise on it even in the face of death or starvation, and in my book that counts for something. Space Dandy, and Dandy himself may be polarising entities in the anime community, but we can all agree that both are wholly unforgettable.

9) Felix – Red vs Blue

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While technically introduced in Season 11 which I watched in 2014, it’s in Season 12 that Felix really comes into his own as a fully-fledged character and we discover who he really is (cop-out? Yeah, so what?) An initial charismatic and inspirational facade veils Felix’s true nature: that of a wisecracking sociopathic mercenary who will perform any act of violence for a price – and enjoy himself immensely while doing so. With only this to go on he seems pretty one-dimensional as treacherous villains go, but come the climax of Season 13 we see more of the man under the helmet and discover that his fun villain/serious villain relationship with Locus is built on top of an insecurity so deep you could park a submarine in it, making him a more vulnerable and desperate man than we had been led to believe. In a series full of sarcastic and comedic archetypes, Felix is the only one who plays that part to mask his own flaws.

8) Greg Universe – Steven Universe

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Greg may not seem like a great parent when we first meet him, but on most points he is precisely the kind of father I would want to be. He holds down a steady job and seems to enjoy it even if it isn’t what he dreamed of doing with his life, and he has maintained a sense of child-like fun well into his adult years. While both these aspects of his character might make him look like a bit of a flaky loser on the outside, it is obvious that he loves Steven with all his heart and wants to stand by his son’s side as he grows up, even as the antics of the Crystal Gems slowly turn the world he knows upside-down. We still haven’t seen much of his relationship with Rose Quartz yet, but what flashbacks we have show a man who is willing to persevere through any hardship or bizarre circumstances in order to achieve his desires, and that is a driving force that we can all aspire to. Greg teaches us that if we know what we want we should chase after it, no matter how out of this world that desire should seem.

7) Ricardo Fellini – Gundam Build Fighters

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Who doesn’t like the tall, dark and handsome romantic type? A top-seeded Gunpla Battler representing Italy, the only thing Ricardo loves more than gunpla is wooing women with his dashing smile and a lovingly-crafted Gundam. No, seriously, where most men send the waiter over to a beautiful woman with a glass of wine, Ricardo sends her a gunpla. Outstanding. Fortunately, rather than being a one-note womaniser, he is a dedicated and highly skilled fighter, whose fantastically designed Wing Gundam Fenice has been his steadfast partner since he was a young boy. He is mature yet maintains a child-like joie de vivre that makes him instantly likeable. His character arc is also engrossing, as this initially shameless flirt finds himself embroiled in a slow-burning romance with the tournament’s idol announcer Kirara, and comes out of it a far deeper, more mature man.

6) Garnet – Steven Universe

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What can I say about Garnet that people who follow Steven Universe don’t already know? She is a multifaceted character (pardon the gem pun) who displays all her different attributes through a filter of unflappable coolness. Garnet is loyal and dedicated yet also gentle and empathetic, with a surprising sense of fun and humour delivered in a terrific deadpan manner. But what really makes her a standout character is how perfectly she embodies key themes of the show. As a being in a permanent state of gem fusion she is living proof of how powerful love can make us, she is a strong, independent yet complex female who is in charge of her own life, and her component gems Ruby and Sapphire show the world that same-sex relationships are just as deep and meaningful as straight ones.

 5) The Joker – Batman the Animated Series

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Like most kids growing up in the 90s, I caught the odd episode of this stellar show, but none of it really stuck with me at the time (except for “The Laughing Fish” – for some reason the Joker Fish made me feel physically uneasy as a child…). It’s only recently, since I fell in love with the DC Universe with the New 52 that I’ve gone back and really watched Batman. I had my first real taste of Mark Hamill’s take on the Clown Prince of Crime in the Arkham games, but it’s in this delightfully gothic nostalgia trip of a cartoon that he really gets to show his true colours – literally. Joker’s colourful design stands out wonderfully against the drab, monotone backdrops of Gotham City. The simplistic animation style allows for some truly elaborate facial expressions that ensure that Joker’s yellow-stained grin will linger in your memory, his hijinks are both chillingly unpredictable and hilarious and paint him as a traditional cartoon character in the midst of a serious animation, and Hamill’s sinister voice acting perfectly encapsulates everything that makes Joker who he is.

4) Haruto Sakuraba – Eyeshield 21

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If you had told me in my teens that I would grow to love an anime about American football and end up man-crushing on one of the characters I would have laughed in your face. But here’s Sakuraba, wide receiver of the Ojo White Knights. Initially a skinny pretty-boy model, I really loved the conflict between his modelling career and his role on the team, but I was concerned that his celebrity status would be the focus of his character. That’s why I was blown away when a chance encounter with a die-hard child fan provoked such a drastic change in his outlook. When he rejoined his teammates in the Fall tournament showing the results of his new training and rocking a badass new look he became one of my favourite Eyeshield characters and instantly became the character I most wanted to cosplay. His transition from mediocre player to someone willing to do whatever it takes to improve himself makes Sakuraba a truly stand-out inspiration in the world of sports anime.

3) Taiga Aisaka – Toradora!

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She may be tiny, but she’ll squish you like a flea. In an age where the tsundere has become more of a comedic stereotype than a legitimate  archetype, Taiga is, in my opinion, an example of tsundere done right. She is aloof and temperamental on the outside, but not merely to hide her feelings for a boy; she has a hard exterior because, despite a relatively privileged early life she has been dealt some bad hands and would rather only open up to the handful of people she trusts. But hiding behind a temper as short as her stature is a genuinely kind girl with a heart of gold, and her brash behaviour leads to some all-time great missteps that end up revealing just how cute she really is. Having said that however, while she never really attacks the people she intimidates, her threats never feel empty and you get the feeling that if pushed hard enough she would be just as fearsome as her namesake. If you allow Toradora to pull you in, then Taiga is a character that it is impossible not to fall a little in love with yourself.

2) Izumi Sena – Love Stage!!

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Like James Bond and Doctor Who actors, you never forget your first yaoi characters. Izumi eschews his family’s tradition of working as entertainers, preferring instead to pursue a career in manga, despite his atrocious drawing skill. When he is forced to act in a follow-up to a commercial he starred in as a small child (dressed as a girl), he attracts the romantic attention of superstar actor Ryoma Ichijou, and begins to struggle with his own feelings after Ryoma discovers he’s really a boy but still wants to pursue a relationship. As someone with below-average creative skills myself, I can’t help but admire Izumi’s drive to make his hobby into a career (even if he himself doesn’t realise how bad his drawing is), and I find I can empathize a little with his emotional and sexual discoveries, as of late I myself have come to realise that my own sexuality isn’t as binary as I thought it was. I feel like Izumi’s journey of discovery provides a good answer to those confused by the concepts of “alternative” love and sexuality: if you love someone you love them; if you choose to follow what society thinks is right then you’re just lying to yourself. I can’t wait to read the manga this year and see how Izumi and Ryoma’s relationship progresses.

1) Kaoruko “Gyanko” Sazaki – Gundam Build Fighters TRY

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Ah, Gyanko. Ever since Build Fighters TRY I’ve had a hard time getting this girl out of my head. The leader of St. Odessa Girl’s School’s Team Song Dynasty Vase, she may be an arrogant, overconfident, selfish person much like her older brother from the previous series, but in my opinion she has a lot of appeal, especially as a female character. Firstly, although the above picture doesn’t do her justice, Gyanko has some weight on her. In a series and a medium saturated with super-skinny cute/beautiful teenage girls, her ever-so-slight chubbiness makes her stand out and makes her look more realistic. What also sets her apart from the other girls in the show is her attitude towards series protagonist Sekai. Fumina exhibits that most infuriating female stereotype of not recognizing her feelings for Sekai, and Shia is the quiet, mysterious girl who sees potential in him which somehow develops into quiet affection. Gyanko on the other hand develops an attraction for Sekai after losing to him in battle and she embraces it. No secretly mooning after the hero, no blushing and melting when she sees him and not knowing why; she knows she fancies him and will go out of her way to show it, even if Sekai himself is ridiculously oblivious to it. Add all this to an extremely competent Gunpla Battle player in a sport that is primarily dominated by men and you have a confident female character who I think deserves to be remembered. (Why yes, I probably will buy an R-Gyagya gunpla kit at my next convention, thanks for asking). She isn’t a deep character, she isn’t an important character, but since I first saw her she’s been on my mind more than any other character on this list.

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