These days it seems everyone has a personal philosophy (or at lease a fortune cookie slogan that they hold up as one) and anime isn’t any different. There are literally barrels of characters who will throw their own personal view of the world at you (ad nauseam if someone else in the show doesn’t hit them first). In a previous feature I looked at anime that discuss what it means to be human and today I’m in a similar mood so am really just wanting to look at some of these philosophies that characters are carrying around out there in the anime universe.
And of course, I am going to start with Yuko from xxxHolic. She is definitely the queen of making statements that can be taken multiple ways and each sentence is either flippant or loaded but sometimes it is difficult to tell which is which. And she loves to remove context from her statements which makes them fairly applicable in almost any situation and very difficult to prove wrong when they are said as portents of future events.
But what do her quotes amount to?
She frowns upon those who would sacrifice themselves for others and as a direct result more or less condemns the horde of shounen protagonists to be seen as kind of childish and self-absorbed (also makes you wonder if some of those rescued people would bear a few scars if that meant being saved).
She challenges people to confront their assumptions and to also realise that most people don’t. She accepts that she will be called a liar and that it is simply the way things are. It doesn’t affect her actions in the least.
The last Yuko quote I’m looking at forces us to realise how inconsequential our actions really are in the grander scheme of things. That said, she doesn’t belittle us for making choices, only for fearing the consequences of actually making a choice.
There’s nothing earth shattering in Yuko’s view of the world. While it is a little left of centre at times, these are all ideas we’ve heard before. However, when they come thick and fast, episode after episode, and with the plot of xxxHolic revolving around Watanuki slowly learning to see the world from Yuko’s point of view (in between all the other ideas that are thrown in for good measure) you walk away from the story feeling that maybe you learned something or at least you’ve considered an idea you hadn’t before.
However, by Yuko’s own wisdom, accepting her view of the world without question would be just as foolish as never questioning your own perception of reality.
Moving on to Psycho Pass. There are a lot of questions raised by this show about morality and sanity and violence and justice but the character that really makes you think is the central villain, Makishima.
Of course, I might just like Makishima because he still likes paper books.
Not that E Books are all that bad (great for travel and such) but there’s something really amazing about the tangible feel and smell of an actual paper book.
While Makishima might be twisted and warped, he echoes Yuko’s sentiment about making your own choices and how there is value in determining your own fate. Ultimately, Makishima’s entire crime spree is in direct defiance of a system that removes free will and choice from the equation. If he’d chosen a different method (or had been a character in another anime) he’d probably have been the hero, the leader of the rebellion, and the one who would liberate humanity. That said, he’s still a cold blooded psycho.
His dual nature makes him interesting. On the one hand he claims a love of ideas and art and freedom, and on the other he manipulates and orchestrates disaster. That said, he does expound upon the power of stories.
Which of course brings up the interesting discussion about censorship. We can see it in relation to the anime itself as artists and works need Sybil approval but we can also see this in our own world where we put viewer warnings and advisory’s on things and lock certain ideas away. The questions of how much censoring is too much and the harm lack of censorship might do come forward and of course that is a rabbit hole that is filled with a never ending tirade of personal opinions and opposing theories.
Lastly, I just want to touch on Kamina from Gurren Lagann. Perhaps one of the most over the top characters of all time, he seemingly lives his life in the belief that positive affirmations will make things so.
Kamina is all about being bold and daring and not letting self-doubt get you down, which given Simon’s timid nature (the protagonist of the story) is a needed attitude to kick the story into motion. That said you sometimes have to wonder how big Kamina’s ego is or conversely how much of what he says is just plain bravado.
So on that slightly more upbeat note I’m going to end my post. I’d love it if you would share some of your favourite (or some of the more interesting) anime character philosophies out there.