Spoiler for taken from the Sukitte ii na yo thread:
Lately I’ve been finding that “mob” characters have been catching my attention and affecting my enjoyment of a series so I was hoping to get more thoughts on this.
Often in High school anime you’ll have background characters often with no names and faces whispering gossip about a particular character of attention, and often I can’t help but fell how cheap and artificial it seems, as if the world entirely revolves around them. Sometimes it’s played for comedy...:
Spoiler for Kamisama Kiss:
...and often I don’t mind that but sometimes it can just get irritatingly over the top when there’s a misunderstanding involved...:
Spoiler for Code;Breaker:
More controversially, there are times when the gossip of “mob” characters are played for drama and these often end up irritating me even more (like the most recent episode of Sukitte ii no yo) since it’s almost always as subtle as a Jun Maeda drama.
I suppose it really does depend on how it’s used because I never found it grating in Tonari no Kaibutsu when it’s played for both comedy and drama, but I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that the best anime in primarily High school settings are those that make use of “mob” characters as way more than just plot devices. In that regard, the most successful example in my eyes would have to be Hyouka, especially during the festival arc where many of these characters were given a lot more thought and attention with some of them even catching a few fans. The most recent episode of Chuunibyou has also made use of “mob” characters to hilarious effect. To me these anime boast more “expanse” in their cast and there is more of a feeling that they’re living in a wider world. I suppose the opposite of that are anime that make little to no use of “mob” characters, even as cheap plot devices so the drama can sometimes feel too insular.
So I was just wondering what everyone else thought regarding these “mob” characters: Sometimes I feel they can have just as much of an effect on a storyline collectively as an actual character, but I was wondering if it was the same for everyone. What are your thoughts?
It's only partially related, but one of the more recent episodes of Smile Precure had a background character that the fanbase took to. When one of the villains is running for student council president (it works in context), there's a single shot of this one girl in the audience.
She was cheering really loudly, and looks somewhat more unique than your average background character. She's already been given a name by fans too. Chinatsu Wakayama, named after a local mascot character who she closely resembles. She didn't affect the plot much (it's clear Reika was going to win reelection, as the challenging candidate teleported off the stage), but she does help to expand the world.
And then there's cases like K-ON! where every single character in the classroom has a name and small bit of personal information, some of which leaked back into the main series. I love background characters. They can be defined by the fans much more than the main ones, which leads to fan works, which leads to a stronger community.
Every student in the ill-fated Class 3-3 of Yomiyama North Middle School was named.
Some had more air time than others, to the point where at least one "mob" character elicited sympathy
from viewers when the inevitable end came. For the most part, though, they mostly served as cannon fodder.
That's all a mob is good for, in any case, when it comes to a murder-horror-slasher flick. :heh:
When I clicked on this thread, I thought this would be a thread about various Mafia and Yazuka characters in anime. You know, members of "the mob". :heh:
But I'm honestly glad it's about something more commonplace than that.
What I have a problem with are "student celebrities" that are treated like actual celebrities.
To be fair, it's true that some students do attract more attention from their peers than other students do (and yes, how high your grades are, how attractive you look, and how good you are at athletic competitions, are all big factors here). That much alone I can accept. So the attention and gossip that, say, a Haruhi Suzumiya garners is something that I can easily accept.
But when certain students get dedicated fan clubs that treat them like actual rock-stars, that's when it can seem a bit much to me. It certainly seems a bit much when an entire school seems to revolve around just a student or two.
So "mob characters" can hurt a story when they make me think of the out of control fans of a big rock star.
I would argue that "mob characters" are the most effective when they seem to have their own goals and motivations. They may be paying special attention to our major protagonists, but they're not completely wrapped up in them either.
And yes, Hyouka certainly handles this very well. You can tell how Oreki, Irisu, and some other students have gained a certain degree of special attention, and perhaps even quiet admiration, but nobody treats them like rockstars.
On a final note, I do think that "mob characters" are important, precisely for the reason that you listed - Without them, a narrative setup in a high school can have this weird insular feeling. Off the top of my head, though, I honestly can't think of an anime that had that weird, insular feeling. Maybe K-On and Kokoro Connect in the early going, although both shows effectively corrected that later on.
Haak: stay far, far, far away from Korean girls' manwha. You can sort of take the risk with Japanese shoujo manga, though Sukitte ii na yo is probably one of the lesser offenders of mob gossip and other high school drama bullshit you find in them. But the Koreans...the horror, oh the horror. Was there ever a kind mob somewhere, anywhere in a Korean high school? There are idols, idol groupies, delinquents and their jjang, overworked nerds, and the inevitable Cinderella heroine who's going to be caught in one hell of a let's-just-blow-Seoul-to-pieces angststorm.
In any case, school-based shoujo romantic fiction widely employs the crowd and the gossip mill as tools of drama, whereas in shounen romances it's generally the jealousy brigade at work (think "lucky bastard!"). In more serious action or mystery dramas, the crowd can serve the "muggles" role in shaming the heroes' weird behavior or even become a lynch mob. Or impromptu heroes, like in a certain famous Hollywood superhero trilogy.
All different uses of the mob.
All those silhouettes of background characters, animation replacements, and "stylistic" choices of highly unrealistic backgrounds make for a remarkably exhausting sense of claustrophobic isolation once you get past the average SHAFT character's high energy antics.
KyoAni is quite the opposite in this regard, at least when they have budget to play around. Hyouka, Haruhi, K-On!, and the ongoing ChuuniKoi all have worlds and, more precisely, high schools which seem to be realistically populated by people with their own lives and concerns.
My favorite "background" character, though, is Tiger & Bunny's lovely scarf-tan. I bet she's secretly a magical girl...Cure Scarf, the one and only.
My favorite mob, however, is the manga D-Frag!!. Those guys, male, female, unnamed, bald, costumed, whatever -- every single one of them are all total bros. Broskis. Bros4life.
I think there was a post in the Tari Tari thread that mentioned how little details like unevenly aligned tables and personal belongings strewn about a classroom goes a long way in giving life to the room. Likewise that's the same way I feel about mob characters.
Not to mention it can be very fun when a studio has a bit of fun with them (e.g. all the mob classmates in Tsuritama are based off the animation staff) or when a fandom starts taking a liking for said mob characters. Aquarion EVOL is a nice example where a mob character becomes an unexpected hit with fans. :heh: (coughmyavatarandtitlecough) In fact his popularity surprised the staff enough that they gave him a name along with the rest of the mob characters long after the show finished and included him in a commemorative group shot for the official fanbook. :heh::heh: Having a mob character you like officially recognised is a very satisfying feeling.
I put credit on some "mobs" that reveals a lot of out characters background through gossips....
The only thing I have against "mob" characters (there has to be a better term for that, as I thought this was going to be a thread about...oh...the actual mob/yakuza), is when they have a better voice actor than the main characters.
I then spend the entire show going, "why couldn't so and so have played so and so". :heh:
Amazingly common occurrence in English dubs, btw.
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