Finding the "Best Girl": Heroines in the Time of Gacha Anime

From "KanColle" to "Katana Maidens," it's time to break down the formula

 

It's the age-old question among anime and game fans: who is "Best Girl"? Is she the prettiest? The toughest? The biggest tsundere? Or the one with the biggest... er, character development?

 

Now that gacha games are becoming an almost essential part of anime fandom, to the point that many IPs are created with both an anime and a game already lined up to go out, there are multiple ways to meet the characters. Too, there are now multiple ways to choose and judge them. So what makes a character popular in a multimedia property?

 

Playing Hard-to-Get


If you're a fan of gacha games, it's almost certain there's that one you just can't get your hands on. They may not be the lead of their corresponding anime. In fact, they almost certainly aren't. But that five-star beauty is only going to be available in the pickup for two weeks, and then it's going to be months until she's back again.

 

Let's be fair... her rarity is half the reason you're crazy about her and that's totally understandable.

 

For one thing, those SSRs tend to have the best art. For another, it's a little like the Disney Vault: unless you actually own it, you'll never get to use it again.

 

Some games are especially devious, letting you add those SSRs to your team for a little while until you can get attached... then taking them away or making you go through a massive campaign to "earn" them for keeps. And since you're already crazy about them, well, you're hooked.

 

The Power

 

Of course, discussions of power levels in anime are nothing new, and they'll always make for fun debate. But how powerful a character is (be it in combat, singing, or soccer) takes on a whole new level of importance when they're actually a part of your team.

 

True, being suer-powerful isn't necessarily enough to win you over completely, but when you're aware that a certain character in a show can also one-shot a boss in their respective game, your admiration of them is sure to grow. That's true even considering their stats tend to follow their stats in the world of the anime -- watching them blow something up onscreen is one thing, but watching them blow something up for you is extra endearing.

 

When Your Styles Match


Here's another element inspired by, but less essential to, the anime: fighting style. Or singing style. Or whatever-it-is-the-do style.

 

In many games (like Love Live!, for example), the same character will have different stats and styles across different cards. But for characters with established classes and styles, it's always a good day when you find the one that exactly suits your play style. And sometimes that ends up being a character you may not have given any thought to until then. So it's not uncommon to see a dark horse from the series show up in your team as your MVP.

 

The Variants


To quote your paranoid grandpa, "That's how they get you." It's Halloween, or it's the holidays, or it's summer, and suddenly out rolls the most amazing redesign of a character that you don't feel too strongly about one way or another. But nope, it's different now. They must be yours.

 

And it's doubly bad if you already liked the character a lot. So what if the attacks are predominantly the same? So what if they aren't actually that much more powered up? It's your fave, but now it's your Halloween fave. Better still, or worse still, you'll never see them looking like this in the show. So it's an even bigger deal.

 

Oh... speaking of never seeing them in the show, you're in an extra tough position if your Best Girl happens to be... 

 

Game-Specific Characters


Meet Mihono Asakura, a character created especially for the Katana Maidens game. Sharp-eyed viewers will have already noticed her hanging out in Kanami and Mai's friend group (she's a little hard to miss with the ombre hair and sakura accessories). Nevertheless, it seems we won't be seeing much of her save for in the smartphone game.

 

The same goes for characters like Mash Kyrielight in the Nasuverse, the Normal girls of Love Live! School Idol Festival, and the more than 30 newcomer Puella Magi in Magia Record. Expanded media, like Mash's trurn in Fate/Grand Order -First Order-, may offer them some screen time. But for many of us, our Best Girls exist on the sidelines of the gacha game, with little to no chance of making it into the anime.

 

So, who's Best Girl? The one whose fighting style complements your tactics? The rare, hard-to-get one who flits through during those brief pickup campaigns? The powerful character who's even more powerful when they're on your side? The extra-special reimaginings of your old favorites? Or the game-only characters who may never make it to screen? You'll find out long after she's already become your favorite.

 

Katana Maidens ~ Toji no Miko airs Fridays at 7 am PST on Crunchyroll.


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Kara Dennison is responsible for multiple webcomics, blogs and runs interviews for (Re)Generation Who and PotterVerse, and is half the creative team behind the OEL light novel series Owl's Flower. She blogs at karadennison.com and tweets @RubyCosmos. Her latest stories can be found in Whoblique Strategies.

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