Characters with missing memories are an overused plot device, a cliché, and a cheap way to build a big reveal into a story, and it’s a staple in far too many anime.
That said, not every story built around amnesia (or every character with convenient amnesia) is all that bad. Sometimes this well established storyline is delivered well and it is these small miracles that convince other writers to try and duplicate the efforts leading to such an oversaturated field.
However, this probably isn’t a list of the best characters but rather the ones where I actually enjoyed finding out what they had forgotten. As always, it’s entirely subjective and I invite you to give your own suggestions below.
Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.
Honourable mentions this week go to: Tuxedo Mask (Sailor Moon), and Tada Banri (Golden Time). I love these characters but they didn’t make the final cut (nor did 07 Ghost, Hitsugi no Chaika and a whole slew of other titles where characters have convenient missing memories).
Character with Missing Memories Number 5: Yashiro Isana from K
As someone accused of murder and with more than one group of people out to kill him, it would probably help is Yashiro Isana remembered who he was or what he’d been doing.
The fact that his amnesia was imposed on him from outside (with the best of intentions) makes him interesting as most anime characters just seem to have missing memories from either shock or blunt force trauma.
The other reason I like Yashiro is that it is only through him having no recollection of events that he is able to ask the questions the audience needs answered. And yes, this definitely falls under the category of cheap plot device, but imagine being dropped into K without a clueless protagonist to ask all those questions. The audience would be even more lost than most of them are when watching the show.
Besides, I find him a genuinely likeable individual as he floats along through his narrative and slowly finds the missing pieces of his memories.
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Character with Missing Memories Number 4: Zwei from Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
Of all the characters on the list, Zwei from Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom, is the only one I actually feel sorry for. He was an ordinary tourist who witnessed something he shouldn’t and then got kidnapped, had his memories erased, and was forced to become an assassin.
While eventually his missing memories return, this is (at the time) more a curse than a blessing as it only reinforces that he’s gone too far down the road of an assassin to return to his normal life.
His identity and his future become very muddled for a fairly long time. Zwei is definitely more of the blank slate amnesiac than Yashiro, but despite limited interactions with other characters, he still manages to leave quite an impression. His development when contrasted with equally blank slate character Ein is really interesting to watch.
Character with Missing Memories Number 3: Akira Takizawa from Eden of the East
Akira’s amnesia is entirely self-inflicted, or so we learn as the story progresses. Quite why his former self thought this would help the situation is never really made clear, but his current self is forced to try to learn more about what is going on and what he needs to do now.
Eden of the East is just an interesting story and much like K, the main character having to learn about the rules of the game from the ground up really is the only reason the plot is accessible to the audience without lengthy expositions that seem to serve no purpose.
So, definitely a plot device, but also a fundamental part of Akira’s character. He felt cornered enough to have his own memories erased. It leaves you seeing his character in a very different light. It also casts some shadows over his growing relationship with Saki as you can never tell what is really going on in his head.
Character with Missing Memories Number 2: Yuuko from Dusk Maiden of Amnesia
Right from the title, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, you know that this one is about a character who has missing memories. The fact that the character is a ghost who is rumoured to haunt the school makes it a little bit different but that by itself isn’t enough to really add Yuuko to the list.
While this is a big spoiler, Yuuko’s amnesia is caused by her essentially denying anything bad ever happening to her. She literally throws off any bad memory to a shadow version of herself. And boy does she not want to confront these memories.
I really enjoy watching Yuuko and the way she interacts with the human characters (those who can see her at least) but she isn’t exactly demonstrating a healthy approach to dealing with trauma.
Character with Missing Memories Number 1: Chiyuki from Death Parade
I think I like Chiyuki from Death Parade the most because even though she has lost her memories, it isn’t the crutch for the entire plot. Everyone who visits the bar has missing memories. Chiyuki knows things aren’t right and she puts a lot of things together on her own, but even without direct memories, she is most decidedly a complete character.
She isn’t stumbling around trying to figure out who she is and what’s right and wrong. At times you even forget that there’s anything missing. Which fits in with the theme of the show of trying to determine who people are at their core. When the truth is finally revealed it is more a natural next step rather than a shocking revelation which makes this character feel more like a real person than a plot device.
Finally, it is Chiyuki’s developing relationship with Decim that is just a pure joy to watch in an otherwise fairly dark show, that allowed her to top my list of anime characters with missing memories.
So, which character would you choose to add to the list? I’d love to know.
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