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Why is there such an aversion to strong, masculine main characters in anime?
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M/F - Michigan
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Posted 5/4/13
I think there's also the factor that some guys (I wont say most), wouldnt mind getting dominated by a beautiful strong-minded girl.
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25 / M / USA
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Posted 5/4/13 , edited 5/4/13
For harems specifically they also have to explain why they all don't immediately become pornographic.

Having a weak-willed or otherwise inept protagonist is an easy out on that angle.

And they also want a decent spread of opposite-gender personalities to cover all the primary relationship fantasies.

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22 / M / Maryland
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Posted 5/4/13 , edited 5/4/13

AnimeKami wrote:

^ didn't you just answer your own question?

pamper to male fantasies


I was referring to harems but I suppose if you take in account what Insomnist wrote that it applies to the topic question as well.
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20 / M / Brisbane
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Posted 5/4/13 , edited 5/4/13
It's almost always just about making individual fantasies accessible to a demographic. Subsequently, I will always almost instantly drop any anime with said character type, because it impliedly concerns itself explicitly with its audience (lots of fan-service is indicative too) rather than the universe at it's core. It pains me to say that to an extent it shares this narrative approach with pornography, where creators are willing to insidiously, irrevocably dissolve the fourth wall to gratify those watching at any given instant.

I think that's why I tend to gravitate towards slice of life anime without male leads, namely Azumanga and Nichijou being among my absolute favourites. There were only a few harem(ish) anime in memory that I've been able to watch through as well, Toradora and the Key Trio come to mind.

Ultimately my main issue though isn't so much the premise of this aversion but how lazily and obviously it's been done.
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114 / F / Candy Land
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Posted 5/4/13 , edited 5/4/13

Insomnist wrote:


Shrapnel893 wrote:

The male main protagonist, Shinya Kougami, from Psycho Pass is an example of that "strong and masculine" type of main character.

It's interesting when characters like this are portrayed as flawed for what we in the "West" consider to be strengths. Although in Kougami's case it's more reflective of something being wrong with the social structure he's born within.

Although that itself could be a reference to modern Japanese culture - I don't know enough about it to tell.

Lelouch from Code Geass would be another example.

He's charismatic, self-reliant, independent, confident, smart as hell, an excellent leader, and practically evil.


Lelouch was also pretty weak physically and slightly effeminate in mannerisms, so maybe he only half counts. I think it may have something to do with the age of what ever protagonist your thinking about as well. Ginoza, Kogami, Masaoka, and Kagari of Psycho Pass are all fairly masculine but they're also all grown men. So are Spike and Jet from Cowboy Bebop, Vash and Wolfwood from Trigun, and Jean Starwind from Outlaw Star. On the other hand, shows that feature teenagers as the main male leads (Linebarrels is the first one that jumps to my mind) tend to have weaker or less confident main characters. Something about a boy doing a man's job maybe.
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Posted 5/4/13 , edited 5/4/13

Dont_Mind_Me wrote:

I don't think that's it especially since a lot of the times the weak male character paired with strong female animes tend to also be harems which is just pandering to male fantasies not knocking down gender roles.

It's possible to relate to a character through aspiration as well as "he sucks just as much as a depressed otaku who can't take personal responsibility for himself and needs a strong-willed woman in his life to motivate him."

I think this is probably the most likely reason.


keep in mind that your question can be open for different forms of speculation and correlates to different genres, and we can't exclude the ladies and their preferred male archetypes.

hint:
lol
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Posted 5/4/13
I suppose they do that to make the characters more relatable. No normal person would like into jump life or death situations with no training or no one really helping them and against impossible odds. Its also because Shinji Ikari wasn't particularly strong(for good reasons) and Eva still has its claws in the anime industry, just think of how every show must have a kuudere and a tsundere.

So wait for the day anime has specialised killers as mcs again?
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34 / M / Planet Sanno
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Posted 5/5/13
*thinks*

Perhaps '80s anime used all of the supermasculine male characters that have been created and will be created?

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26 / M / Other
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Posted 5/5/13 , edited 5/5/13
Personally, I'd target two things for the tonal shift in male protagonists, the first would be characterization and development which has been covered (and I had previously not considered) and the second would be the rise of feminism in the 70's.

From the way I understand it feminism came late to Japan (mid to late 80's) after several years of existence it started permeating the culture just enough to create some shifts in industries that were present, like the anime/manga industry. One can see a rather marked shift in female and male protagonists around 3-5 years after the introduction of feminism, at first it was the creation and maintenance of "strong" and better written female characters (not just protagonists) however, after that initial period it started going down hill (early to mid 90's) where more and more of the protagonists were reversed in stereotypical gender roles at least for the first 50% of most series, at which point the roles were stabilized and became more stereotyped.

With the rise of new-age feminism in the late 90's and early 00's there was another shift within the industry, and society in general, specifically, males with the more stereotyped male physique were going out of favor with society, and a noticeable rise in more "feminine" physical traits started to take its place. This is reflected by character designs becoming much thinner and much softer compared to previous works, as well as a great shift towards setting many series in or around a high-school (which is a different but no less prevalent issue) where there are only two primary body types, the first being near indistinguishable from females (except for the lack of breasts) and the 'other' type, which comprises of the stereotypes that still exist like the fat nerd.

Basically, I'd say that new-age (radical) feminism is a large contributing factor to the decline of masculine looking characters... although, many series seem to pair a 'weak' male protagonist and a 'strong' female protagonist, but by around episode 17 out of 26 the roles have been reversed and the female suddenly becomes close to useless... or I'm just reading too much into it and it's just the fact that most anime that comes out today is set in a fucking high-school and ignores the reality of many people in high-schools having varied personalities and body types.
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Posted 5/6/13
Going along with Coffeebot's post, if you do some research on "herbivore males" in Japan, for the past decade there's been a cultural phenomenon where metrosexual culture has basically become very popular with men in Japan. The macho culture of the 80's and part of the 90's hasn't been carried on by the current generation --- instead, there's largely a population of men who are more interested in personal grooming/appearance/fashion, than they are in being kick-ass awesome manly. A lot of it is a backlash to long-engrained cultural expectations that were strained because of the bubble economy slowly crashing over the course of the 90's --- the expectations used to be that you'd graduate college, get a job, get married and have kids. Unfortunately, with the slow downturn of the economy after the housing bubble burst in the late 80's meant that many men found it difficult to find work immediately after college, which led to a lot of disillusionment with their cultural upbringing and a re-evalutation of what was considered 'normal' for men in the new century. Now herbivore men, who have a very docile and uninterested approach to relationships with women, are reflecting more effeminate attitudes towards their own physical appearance, such as straightening their hair, spending more time focused on their clothing to make sure it's fashionable, etc.

You can really see the stark difference in cultural attitudes just by looking at anime from the 80's up through the present day. Back in the 80's and 90's we had shows oozing with machismo like Golgo 13, Mad Bull 34, MD Geist, Fist of the North Star, City Hunter, Riding Bean, etc. During the 90's we started to see more effeminate male characters show up in Shonen works, like Hiei and Kurama in Yu Yu Hakusho, and a number of characters in Rurouni Kenshin. Then you have a breakout hit like Prince of Tennis at the end of the 90's, which supposedly surprised Shonen Jump, in that they could appeal to both male and female demographics by making a sports series with male protagonists that were handsome by female standards. The most glaring comparison I always see is between Slam Dunk and Kuroko's basketball --- the former used to be the popular perception of manliness back in the early 90's, and the latter is the popular perception of 'manliness' in the modern day.

Modern otaku anime seem to be a strong reflection of the current cultural atmosphere for today's Japanese hardcore otaku. The anime industry is largely supported and financed by the DVD and BluRay sales of hardcore Japanese otaku, and as a result a large portion of non-mainstream anime mostly caters to them. Not only are they a part of the herbivore male trend, but they're esp. not very strong-willed when it comes to relationships and personal agency. Since anime has traditionally largely been escapist fantasy, you find more and more these days that the male protagonists are crafted in a way that Japanese otaku can easily identify with.

Personally, I find the trend un-cool. I hate seeing lithe and wimpy protagonists that look like they spent an hour in front of the mirror in the morning to get their hair 'just right'. That's one of the reasons I'm more a fan of older anime from the 80's and 90's, as I really can't identify with the pretty-boy high school teens that basically define the modern generation of anime.
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19 / M / Tiphares
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Posted 5/6/13
I blame Shinji Ikari

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25 / M / Far west texas
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Posted 5/6/13
I see you already said this but my first reaction was you were sticking to the harem genre too much. Try switching to watch more types of anime or switch to older stuff you may not have seen; I personally think alot of anime from the late 80's and 90's is better than current anime anyway- both visually and story wise.
Posted 5/6/13
Since I'm not the MC, they can't be all that impressive.
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34 / M / Planet Sanno
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Posted 5/6/13

Mad Bull 34


Yargh! My beard grew three inches just reading the title!

Man, I love the '80s.

....

On topic: That bit about the 'herbivore male' trend and targeting the hardcore otaku niche is spot-on, IMO.
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36 / M / Reno, NV
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Posted 5/11/13
More than anything, I think it has more to do with the specific types of shows you're really talking about. If you're talking about shows for boys or young men, it makes sense that a teenage male thrown into those types of circumstances would have a little insecurity. Or, if they aren't insecure (see Luffy from One Piece), their wimpy exterior is mostly to keep the character from seeming too powerful. Or its just a way to add comedy to what would otherwise be really serious. Also, most shounen action shows are essentially extended coming-of-age metaphors, so the character has to start that way to have growth (unfortunately, since most of these shows go on forever, the characters rarely get much actual growth).

In harem shows, its a lot more obvious why the characters are like that: as many have said, it allows the audience (many of whom are likely not total womanizers themselves) to relate. Its also keeps people from hating/resenting the main character. See the School Days anime; in the visual novel, most of the endings resolve with him in a monogamous relationship, but, in the anime, he screws pretty much everyone. Yes, it is more believable than harem shows like Girls Bravo or (especially) Sekirei, but, well, nobody likes Makoto from School Days. Or the main character in Yosuga no Sora. Unless fans universally agree on whom the main character should hook up with, they don't actually want him to make a decision. Thus, by necessity, he is generally wimpy, indecisive, and totally lacks confidence.

However, if you look at other genre of anime, you'll find that many series (even modern ones) have strong main male characters. In a lot of shoujo romances, the male lead tends to have many strong, masculine qualities; its just easy to miss on a superficial level since the art style typical of these series tends to render the male characters in a somewhat effeminate manner. In seinen works like Golgo 13, or even Bartender, the male lead is definitely not wimpy or weak-willed. Even in shounen romance series like Full Metal Panic or Chunibyo demo Koi, the male lead might be strong-willed and masculine (at least for a 14-year old boy). The main thing is, its the most popular stuff that is most frequently guilty of this portrayal, so it gives the impression that all anime is like that.
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