My Top 10 Anime Characters Discovered in 2016
Belated New Year’s greetings dear readers! Whatever you did to acknowledge another trip around the sun, I hope you enjoyed it! This time last year I cast my mind back to the animated shows I had watched in 2015 and had a great time picking out a list of ten characters that I had discovered that year, so I decided what the hey, why not make it an annual event? With that, I am happy to present the top ten characters that I encountered for the first time last year!
My rules for these lists are very simple. The characters in question do not need to have been in shows that aired during the year in question. As a self-styled omega of the geek and otaku world the majority of what I watch is older than that. Also, as this blog has shifted focus to mainly anime and videogames I have decided to narrow the window further to become an anime-only list. I didn’t watch much western animation last year anyway, not anything with unfamiliar characters in it at least. Alright! Groundwork sufficiently laid; let’s get to the list!
10) Kiroumaru – Shin Sekai Yori
We kick things off with this imposing Monster Rat from the SF thriller Shin Sekai Yori. The commander of the Giant Hornets colony of Monster Rats, a race of anthropomorphic rodent-like creatures, Kiroumaru is one of the largest of his species; taller than most humans whereas most of his kin are dwarfed by their human overlords. He is a fierce military commander and warrior, who could very likely cause serious trouble for the dominant human society were it not for his strict respect for and adherence to Japan’s existing species hierarchy. His kind may be subjugated, but his unshaking loyalty to the “gods” even as the truth of Japan’s dark history is revealed to the main characters is admirable. Though the hierarchy may shift and distort through the course of the series, Kiroumaru does not allow himself or his colony to be drawn into it, and can be relied upon to do whatever needs to be done, even if the humans commanding him don’t feel like they can trust him.
9) Windom/Reika Shiragane – Kaiju Girls
I was a big fan of Godzilla in my formative otaku days, and have maintained an interest in kaiju ever since, so I was keen to check out Kaiju Girls even before I knew that the characters were based on monsters from the Ultraman franchise. There’s something to like about every character in this short form comedy, but eventually I had to pick Windom as my favourite. Embodying several aspects of otaku culture and fujoshi in particular, Windom is a shy, intelligent closet BL fangirl, who first unlocked her Kaiju powers while reading a particularly steamy yaoi manga (there may be some subtext there about being true to yourself and unashamed about your hobbies, but it’s hard to tell with a 4-minute run time!). Later on she enters a dangerous berserk state after hearing spoilers for the movie of her favourite BL sports anime I’ll Score on You, in a fantastic send-up of the feelings many geeks get when they get spoiled for things they haven’t yet seen. I feel that the way that otaku tropes are worked into Windom’s powers is surprisingly clever for a short, silly comedy anime, and that is what makes her my kaiju best girl.
8) Riko Sakurauchi – Love Live! Sunshine!!
Sunshine featured a cast of very vibrant, almost tropey characters, but my favourite member of Aqours is one of the most low-key, sensible girls. Well, sort of. Riko is highly regarded by pseudo-protagonist Chika because she transferred in from Otonokizaka High School, birthplace of the previous series’ idol group, and because of her existing musical skills. She initially refuses to help form a new group, but relents after Chika and You help inspire her floundering music composition. Riko is usually quiet and thoughtful, and is one of the characters who brings the others back down to Earth when their ideas start getting too off-base. She is also the first girl in the franchise who is canonically implied to potentially be homosexual, as she is seen reading and buying yuri manga, and even makes what I believe to be an honest proclamation of love late in the series (and I am very disappointed that said proclamation was left 100% unaddressed after the fact. Pick up your game next season please!). I was torn between Riko and You for this list, but the inclusion of a possibly gay character in a franchise that is otherwise full of non-canon yuri baiting won out, if only for the sake of inclusivity.
7) Haruka Shitow – RahXephon
It’s hard to talk about Haruka without dropping massive spoilers, but lets just say that I’m a bit of a sucker for unconventional, slightly tragic romances in anime. Haruka comes into protagonist Ayato’s life and brings his world crashing down by revealing that the section of Tokyo he lived in was a sealed-off time-dilating bubble, and takes him to the defence agency TERRA to enlist his help in fighting the mysterious Mulian civilization. Haruka is hard-working and dedicated to her job with TERRA, but unlike some of her fellow agents she is down-to-earth and knows how to let her hair down. What really earns her a place on the list is her backstory, which is slowly and very subtly revealed throughout the course of the series, culminating in a reveal about her relationship to another character which is at once both touching and very sad. But in spite of the knowledge that she keeps to herself throughout the story, Haruka maintains a strong resolve and strives to not let that knowledge interfere with her duties.
6) Nozomi Toujou – Love Live!
The original Love Live lineup has plenty of great characters, and I can’t say that I dislike any of them (yes, even Nico) but there can only be one best girl, and Nozomi has slowly but steadily climbed to the top of my rankings. This tarot-reading, seemingly all-knowing third-year acts as a wise mother-figure of sorts to the rest of µ’s, which belies her deep-seated fear of loneliness and desire for friendship that was denied to her as a small girl. It is initially a mystery as to why she shows such a keen interest in Honoka’s attempts to form a school idol group, but as time goes on it is revealed that she has been secretly orchestrating the conception and rise of µ’s from behind the scenes in order to create a group of strongly-bonded friends that she can finally feel at home with. I resonate with Nozomi’s outwardly playful, almost theatrical nature, but the best aspect of her is that despite feeling lonely and sometimes shy, she pulls herself up and decides to go out and do something about it rather than wallowing. Loneliness and feeling like one doesn’t belong isn’t uncommon in otaku, and Nozomi is a positive if somewhat unconventional role model for people who want to put themselves out there and make friends.
5) Kyoko Mogami – Skip Beat!
Kyoko is a joyful, hard-working, bright-eyed young girl who moves to Tokyo with her childhood friend Sho when his celebrity career takes off. However, one day her heart is shattered when she discovers that Sho only convinced her to come with him to act as his live-in maid. Where some shojo heroines would become despondent and mopey until a new man enters her life Kyoko takes a much more refreshing route: she completely snaps, swears undying hatred for Sho, and sets her mind to becoming a massive celebrity herself and taking revenge by utterly overshadowing him! Kyoko is very entertaining as a main character, suffering dramatic moodswings from the slightest provocation she keeps the other characters and the audience on their toes, as one never knows when she might fall into a slump or become comically aggressive. But in spite of her rapidly-shifting, almost self-destructive personality, she is a dedicated, driven young woman, who will stop at nothing to achieve her goals, even though her reasons for doing so are highly self-centred. Another refreshing difference between Kyoko and other heroines is how surprisingly competent she is. While it often takes her a long time to get to grips with a role, once she is she becomes an acting chameleon, effortlessly translating her own deep-seated issues into compelling characters that constantly surprise those around her. Skip Beat! was one of the most enjoyable anime I watched last year, and it owes most of that to Kyoko’s force-of-nature personality and dedicated drive to succeed.
4) Darkness – Konosuba!
A standout character from a standout comedy anime! Darkness is a Crusader in the fantasy world that otaku protagonist Kazuma is reborn into after his death. Kazuma is smitten by her beauty, but can tell that something isn’t quite right about her and rejects her request to join the party. However, the rest of the party considers a Crusader knight to be a valuable party member and allows her to join anyway. It turns out Mazuma was right on the money, as it turns out Darkness is a huge masochist and wanted to join them after hearing how Aqua and Megumin were badly beaten by monsters. The prospect of any kind of abuse excites Darkness; whether it be monster attacks, humiliation, or capture and subjugation by e emies. Indeed, she chose to become a Crusader because they are known for shielding party members from attacks. Some might find her peculiar kinks uncomfortable, and they are mainly played for laughs, but I always admire characters who can proudly accept who they are unapologetically; I think it’s very important to be honest and unashamed about who you are. Darkness very much embodies that ideal as she stands in front of of a barrage of cabbage monsters, cheeks flushed and panting excitedly.
3) Tsumugi Inuzuka – Sweetness and Lightning
From a decidedly adult character to the complete opposite end of the spectrum! Tsumugi is the infant daughter of high school teacher Kohei who recently lost his wife and while the two of them have a happy, stable life the one thing Kohei can’t get his head around is cooking adequate meals until the two of them start learning to cook with one of his students. Tsumugi is the very picture of childhood innocence, and her every action on-screen is a delight to see. She is smart, outgoing and full of curiosity and wonder. She may have her low moments and tantrums as any child does, but the deep bond she shares with her father and her sheer excitement at new things made me crack a smile every time, and even shed a joyful tear more than once. In a medium better known for darker or more mature content Tsumugi is an absolute ray of sunshine that everyone should let into their lives.
2) Jean-Jaques Leroy – Yuri!!! on Ice
Stop! It’s JJ’s Style! As I’m sure many Yuri!!! on Ice fans did, I initially dismissed JJ as an arrogant, self-obsessed jerk, but YoI has an uncanny knack for making you love even the most minor of contenders by the end of their run. Canada’s darling of the ice may be a braggart who loves to parade his beautiful fiancée around and has his own theme song that he sings along to on the ice, but like all of the skaters in this breakout series JJ has his own issues and baggage that he has to struggle with. As a top contender he has a lot of pressure and anxiety suppressed inside of him, and when he suffers his full-on anxiety attack on the ice he is reminded that more than his own talent and hard work, it is the adoration of his fans that makes him truly special. I know a fair few people who suffer from anxiety, depression and panic attacks, so thinking back to his breakdown and subsequent recovery now makes me well up a little, and his theme song “Theme of King JJ” is currently my motivational song of choice that I simply have to hear every day.
1) Galko – Please Tell Me! Galko-chan
A true paragon of not judging a book by it’s cover, Galko is a high-school girl who adheres to the glamorous gyaru fashion style; a style whose followers are often considered cliquey and self-obsessed. However, it is readily apparent that Galko is far from a simple stereotype. Indeed, she is open and earnest towards pretty much anyone, and is always prepared to help people out in any situation, even carrying extra stationary to lend to her classmates. She also seems somewhat aware of the effect her physical appearance has on boys, but if she ever makes use of that knowledge it is for the sake of others rather than herself; often intimidating bullies of both genders merely by being friendly to their victims. But Galko doesn’t just get the top place on this list for her socially progressive character traits; I love her because she balances these attributes with almost stereotypical female troubles like her appearance and eligibility as a wife and mother, making her a complete, fully-rounded character with foibles and petty yet personal concerns that no woman should feel ashamed of thinking about if that’s what matters to them. You do you!