One of the numerous reasons I just can't care about Attack on Titan. The people I know that like it all say it's for purely primal and gratuitous reasons. I can appreciate what you're trying to say, but with the exception of Mikasa, I just can't care.
I take it Tsuruko and Naruko both never get their love interests to realise how much they like them?
I'll rephrase it to modern shounen then - I have watched a bit of Fist of the North Star and totally dig it. Kenshin - maybe....another on a long list to get through. It's okay but wasn't standing out. I'm aware one of the OVAs is highly regarded. As for YYH and HxH, not my cup of tea. But Ken is cool as flock.
Okabe - yes. Little Busters - can't watch it.
Fate/Zero - Urobuchi wrote it, therefore I despised the characters for the greater part, particularly the males. Especially Kirei, who was one cool, snide villian in the FSN game - didn't think Urobuchi could make him that boring. And as for Kiritsugu - I am sure people dig the whole destruction angle and get some form of beauty or weird satisfaction from it. I don't - he had choices and he always made terrible ones. It's the same reason my mentor and I utterly despise Grave of the Fireflies - the guy made terrible decisions over and over when he knew better. And Kiritsugu knew better. He was permanently convinced his way was the only way. The only thing I can say was he deserved what he got. Maybe he set things right in the long run, but whatever. I couldn't give a damn about Kiritsugu and his code and that he couldn't see the consequences of his actions until it was too late. To hell with Urobuchi and his obsession with the abyss and killing the characters he loves most in the most painful way and giving women utterly cruel, demeaning deaths while the guys die in glory. (I know you like his stuff, so if we could agree to disagree, I'd appreciate it.) However, we can agree that Rin was portrayed well in it. However, you're the first person from here to say that to me. I remember during its airing everyone bitched hard about that episode dedicated to Rin.
Batou - erm...not really...Togusa - yes. Aramaki - didn't see enough of him to form a solid stance.
The whole Mikasa's abs thing is stupid. Interestingly it was started because the author received demands for fanservice, and as you can see he pretty much decided to not demean his characters to that kind of bullshit. People don't get it.
Anohana is centered around Menma as a plot device, but in reality most of the show is about the characters. Understandably, this is still a weakness but I don't think it's as pronounced as many would claim. The end kinda went off the rails and wasn't that good, but I don't think it really matters.
I'm not exactly convinced that shounen is some kind of sinkhole, considering that Fist of the North Star and the Togashi Duo of Yu Yu Hakusho and Hunter x Hunter have developed some of the most notable characters and meaningful relationships between the male characters as well. And what about Kenshin? Which of course brings up male characters in anime. I think there are a lot of good male characters ranging from the cold and calculating Akagi to the ever so pouring his heart out Kaiji. Attack on Titan itself has strong characters in the form of Armin and Levi, both of which show their care for others in an exceptional way through development in the form of the former, and character revelation in form of the later. Sure, I would say that Eren's single minded potential sociopathic tendencies probably made him an inferior lead but that's how the cookie crumbles. The fandom is irritating as hell and should be ignored.
Steins;Gate has Okabe, who develops into someone that must balance reality with wish as well as dealing with circumstances he is most uncomfortable with on a constant basis.
The relationship between the four male characters in Little Busters! are the main strength of the show; a feat that is fairly unusual for its genre. The concept of group camaraderie is exceptional and reminds me of older Star Trek; another series that focused more on interpersonal bonds in the context of ridiculous happenings.
Fate/Zero has one of the most interesting antagonist-antihero relationships, though certainly Kirei has more to talk about than Emiya. And as a side note, I think it showcased Rin's character as a little girl more effectively than Deen had portrayed her.
And what about Ghost in the Shell; Batou and Togusa are on different levels cybernization and the story went into their thoughts concerning their humanity rather well. And then there's the subtly paternal leader with Aramaki, who does care deeply for section 9 and pulled all the stops and gambits so that they all could succeed.
I never really saw the Major as an object of desire or wish fulfillment. You can accuse the movie of sexualizing her, but I really don't think it's any more overt than anything else anime tosses at us. As for the perception of intention, it may or may not be intentional.
I think there is a tendency to focus too much on the Shus of anime. And there are certainly many like him, but there's way more than it, even in anime, just like there are many repulsive portrayals of females in anime.
We agree on enough things. If we were too similar, it'd be scary and make for boring conversation. I think the only other fundamental difference is you've traversed recent anime way more than I'll ever dare to, while I've gone back in time way more than you have.
*shrug* Well, for about every male character I actually give a damn about from stuff I've watched, there's ten female characters I like. Feminine characters are fine as long as they're not just submissive saps. But when it comes to me, I need complexity. I just can't see anything or anyone from a simple perspective.
I'll say it again - Madoka Ayukawa and Tomoyo Sakagami are virtually kindred spirits. They have virtually the same background, they both do things their way, they both have one heck of a kick. I guess one fundamental difference would be the naivete. Tomoyo is somewhat unfamiliar with the expectations of others/the norm - Madoka is all too familiar with them, to the point it is a nemesis. And there's this crazy but pure win episode where the three main characters end up being in a Top Gun-like scenario and Madoka is a fighter pilot.
Don't get me started about what people whinge about when it comes to females in shounens....frankly, to be a female character in a shounen title is almost always tragic, as far as I'm concerned. You're always going to have red-blooded readers only giving a damn about your body and being a love interest. They're rarely allowed to be proper characters. And I've utterly had it with the constant flood of stupid comments about Mikasa's abs, yet alone her as a character. Heaven forbid a girl from being fit and physically powerful...*facepalm* Honestly, I didn't even finish the first episode of Titan. I knew within minutes this title would make me utterly sick. My stance on shounen has pretty much come to this - if it isn't Fullmetal Alchemist, I don't care. I utterly despise shounen.
Fair points on Fate and Misato. I like them too.
Ohana was the only thing I could find to care about in H-S I and I really didn't care for what Okada saw fit to do with her.
As for Anohana - see, this is one title I wish I could have liked. Except...well...Menma....freaking Menma....You know how Rin from Bunny Drop is that kind of character that makes your heart swell and you'd do anything to give her a decent chance in life? When it comes to Menma, every organ in by body wants to simultaneously explode and send a fatal virus airborne to wipe out humanity. The guys ticked me off too. Whereas Naruko and Tsuruko were both characters that had appeal. Even if they were polar opposites and antagonistic to each other, they gave things some depth and something unique. But since the story revolves around Menma, I couldn't stay with Anohana. Again, because Okada.
The Major...see, I did think about putting her on that list. But I didn't for one reason - wish fulfillment. As awesome as Motoko's personality is as well as how she conducts herself if general on the job and in her private life, the original Stand Alone Complex series and the movie overly sexualised her. As much as the character is supposed to not be subject to one's desires, the way they used her in those parts ultimately did allow that. As for the 2nd GIG, that is when she breaks free of that stupidity IMO.
See, almost every female you listed, I somewhat agreed with. I don't think we're as different as you think we are. I just think life shaped us differently to give us different needs and perspectives.
The thing I'm always careful about now is never assume for one second what women are into within anime these days. I've learned that Elfen Lied and Gantz have WAY more female fans than I'd ever thought possible. I've seen women that look like they're in high-end jobs discretely walk into a comic/manga store and walk out with a pile of yaoi. I've seen and been told about women who only watch ecchi titles. And while it can be assumed somewhat that some women will love cute - you never can be sure of what kind. Women/females are more complex that what anime makes them out to be for the greater part. Perhaps that's part of why I need characters that are more complex than the norm. There's only so far I can detach from reality.
Frankly, it's not the females in anime that I have more issues with. It's the males....I'm not kidding that when out of the hundreds and hundreds of titles I've seen, I would utterly struggle to list ten male characters that I actually gave that much of a damn about.
Another notable example is Ohana from Hana Saku Iroha. While at first she just seems like a generic plucky girl that wants to lighten things up, things are not so easy here, and the resistance from the inside and outside causes a lot of internal conflict. She runs through the whole gamut of emotions that one could possibly ever feel, and I think this kind of stuff at the end creates a realistic character that ends up the wiser after the story. Now, of course, I know you threw the series in the trash after that really bad episode, and yes, the other characters are idiots leading the series to collapse under its own mediocrity, but I think that should be additional credit to her.
Other picks include Tsuruko from Anohana who was the only sane one in a histronic atmosphere with a decent amount of wit and Motoko from Ghost in the Shell. Sure, season 1 was a bit silly with that stupid outfit, but the main personality from Motoko can't be denied-- she doesn't really give a fuck about what you think, and isn't subject to your desires.
Extended music video really describes .hack sign. If only someone bothered to write a script to fill stuff in, or maybe halve the series. Ironic that it would have worked in today's atmosphere well.
Dickbrains... enough said about that trash. I think people want things to have a shock value so they put a bunch of tasteless shit so they can be edgy. Something that will gross you out and shake you. But to that I use this analogy-- if one took a dump all of a sudden in public, that might also be gross and shock people. But there's no real value to that. And as for those dickbrains, what they did is pretty much no better. "You think your work is vile and disgusting? So is a piece of shit. And so are you."
I don't think you and I see much on the subject on characters if you would click on my MAL and arguably I probaly prefer more traditionally feminine characters, relatively speaking. Regardless Lain is a very interesting character despite the lack of input from her but on the other hand having someone that was basically a construct discover the concept of care, respect, and love for not only Arisu but humanity as a whole is a rather subtle development. Of course people just go "omg that's just pretentious bullshit" despite the fact that the concept is rather straightforward. And characters like Shiki and Kurisu are certainly in short supply in anime when they are the most needed. But if you really want mold breaking:
So I would definitely list Tomoyo from Clannad, because she is just drastically different from every other girl from not only that show but the grander scale of Key things. Probably the only other one is Yuiko Kurugaya from Little Busters that really has her own initiative. Unfortunately, Key has an obsession with girls that can't function on their own and while they've been getter with each work, it's not hard to find moments where you still want to punch the writers and even the better characters sometimes suffer from this.
Anyhow, while innocence and naivety are supposed to come across as moe, it often gets overused to the point where you again, want to punch someone. Tomoyo is just a bit more unfamiliar with other people's expectations but it's not like she's completely unaware either. But at the same time her straightforwardness makes it intimidating enough for people to not really comment on it, which confuses her even more, leading to some humorous scenes.
There's quite a few ones in which Tomoyo wants to handle her gender identity by acting more feminine with mixed results. In the end, it comes off to me as just accepting who you are and to not try and twist/bend to other people's opinions who don't even matter anyways. While most Key characters would collapse in these times of existential crises, this is where she thrives and establishes her character.
A lot of people accuse her (and later Yuiko) of being too "perfect", and this accusation is also levied against characters such as Mikasa from Titan. Yet, if any of these characters were dudes, they'd be cheering for how awesome ass kickers they are. Hmmph. Fear of competent women, I'd say! It was blatantly hypocritical in Titan since Levi is such a fan favorite.
This is of course more prevalent for Tomoyo in the original novel, but the anime did decently at getting the point across. And don't bother coming in contact in Tomoyo After; since it just decides to ignore all of this for generic characterization and melodrama, and shows why Jun Maeda can be quite the complete hack; not always, thankfully.
I think Fate (season 1-2 at least) is a decent point for me, since she is probably the core of a lot of the values I hold true. The thing about her is that at surface it seems like a classic pity parade, but then the story doesn't bother to whitewash any of her actions. It's not like "DURR this girl is sad and crying, and thus you should excuse her for any of her actions". And the fact that Fate really doesn't bother being a drama queen and tries to remain buisness like is a strong point considering the age they started at. And Nanoha is pretty unique too. Unlike other magical girls that are ditzy and afraid to fight, we have something else right her... I think RRR can fill the rest.
Misato from Evangelion is also quite a special character for me since she seems tied down by so much baggage, but ultimately she always perseveres to do the right thing. While she does occasionally fall into self pity, there's always the sense that no matter what, she's always trying to find a solution. Some may say she's tied down with her love, but I would say this is one of the few relationships where they are tied to each other. Note that despite all the womanizing Kaji seems to do, he never actually manages to really come down to it. Misato's the working person in this mess where everyone else is just flailing around with their own agendas.
Lafiel from Crest of the Stars - A very apt representative of a process-driven race and culture. An even bigger contradiction of the damsel in distress trope since Lafiel was almost always saving Jinto. Straight-forward, feisty, polite, elegant, overly confident without being arrogant. The maturity of her conversations with Jinto is just mind-blowing. If I ever had to pick one female who could have a bond with a male that wasn't solely defined or dominated by love yet so darn epic, Lafiel's with Jinto was just magic.
Lain from Serial Experiments Lain - Oh, Lain...Now, are we going to avoid the idea that Lain is a genderless entity rather than a human since she is more like a process rather than a person? Certainly Lain's creator intended Lain to be female, so I guess we can say for our discussion's sake that she is. But certainly the one person Lain always gravitated to was Arisu - after all, Arisu was the only person who ever showed Lain any true affection/treated Lain as a friend. Lain's form of love for Arisu would be quite a pure one - given Lain's real identity, there is no sexual aspect to it. It also does reinforce that affiliation and affection are earned through actions rather than mere intentions.
Lina Inverse from Slayers - Personified chaos, a real anarchist, selfish and pragmatic. Yet so damn awesome...She was never a hero but did whatever a dire situation required. An eternal source of laughter. And that crazy voice that Megumi Hayashibara gave her. They don't make them like Lina anymore.
Shiki Ryougi from Garden of Sinners - Morally ambivalent, always walking a line between sanity and darkness. Female yet many aspects of a male, further amplified by that dual-tone voice Maya Sakamoto gave Shiki. So dangerous yet so insatiable. Someone you can't be a fence-sitter with. Someone afraid of living but scared of dying. Someone who knew happiness and a normal life would never be attainable, but was able to find something worth living for just from knowing one person in the world gave a damn about her and wouldn't ever give up on her, even if he is a fair idiot at times. And seriously, how badass can you get with that red jacket and blue kimono combo outfit? Nasu, why are you so awesome?!
Kurisu Makise from Steins;Gate - Well I had to pick someone really stuck in the modern way of things in anime yet still standing. Kurisu just turned that damn tsundere trope upside-down and ending up being way more than that. The antagonist to the fanciful dreams of Hououin Kyouma and the catalyst required for Okabe to man up and become the hero. A real source of intellect and awesome nerd moments. (lab coat, Dr. Pepper, @chan, Tina) And seriously, she is the main reason those overly moe early episodes are bearable. (And yes, I know I haven't finished it yet...but I saw enough to appreciate Kurisu. It's either the next thing I watch or the one after.)
I'm going to have to extend that list to make room for Erin. Hopefully I can find a few more to go with her.
Note these wouldn't be my ten fave characters - but in terms of 'breaking the mold', for sure.