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Old 2012-07-24, 02:00   Link #1
Triple_R
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Polarizing anime characters: What's your take on them?

One thing I've noticed this Summer 2012 season is that there's a lot of polarizing anime characters. What I mean by "polarizing anime characters" is characters that people tend to either love or hate, with little middle ground, and the division within the anime fandom is often pretty close to an even split. To get an even clearer sense of what I mean by "polarizing anime character", think of Haruhi Suzumiya or Kirino Kousaka. With each of these two characters, plenty of people love her, but plenty of people hate her too.


I would say that all of these current anime characters are polarizing:

1. Tari Tari - Wein
2. Kokoro Connect - Taichi
3. Accel World - Haru, Chiyu
4. Hyouka - Irisu, Mayaka, and Oreki himself to some degree
5. Muv-Luv Alternative - Yuuya, Yui (quite a debate raging right now where people are picking sides in their feud)


I'm curious to know what people think of polarizing characters in general. Do they make an anime show more interesting to you? Do they make the discussion surrounding an anime show more interesting to you? Or do you dislike the divisive impact that polarizing characters can have on a show's fandom?

Also, what do you think makes a character polarizing? If you look at the list of characters I have above, there's quite a lot of diversity there. It's hard to find a common strand.

Finally, do you usually find yourself on the "love" side for a polarizing character, or on the "hate" side? Personally, I find that I'm usually on the "love" side, though there are some that I'm on the "hate" side for.


Anyway, I just thought it might be interesting to have a discussion on polarizing anime characters.
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Old 2012-07-24, 03:31   Link #2
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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Do they make an anime show more interesting to you?
Depends on the character. I can't predict if a development or character arc I'll enjoy, or if a character I'll find endearing, will be polarizing to the whole fandom.

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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Do they make the discussion surrounding an anime show more interesting to you?
They certainly do. Discussion is always at its best when people are raging and plucking their eyes out, otherwise it's boring and unappealing to read.

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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Or do you dislike the divisive impact that polarizing characters can have on a show's fandom?
Well, if you involve yourself with the "fandom" in the first place, should discussion and different viewpoints really bother you? That's the very reason for coming here, or any other board about a defined topic.


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Also, what do you think makes a character polarizing?
I can't come up with anything concrete, but being in a well presented show is a must. If your story doesn't allow for viewers to pick one side regarding their stance on a character, without feeling out of place/like one of those sides is retarded, then the story fails at presenting that character. This is especially true for characters with dubious personalities/motives, who seem to range from one extreme to the other.

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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Finally, do you usually find yourself on the "love" side for a polarizing character, or on the "hate" side? Personally, I find that I'm usually on the "love" side, though there are some that I'm on the "hate" side for.
I try to empathize with how both sides feel about that character, and always end up in a "neutral" middle ground, being too aware of both extremes to decide for one.
That's not to say I don't have preferences, but I don't think there is a pattern regarding my "love" or "hate" for a controversial character, just based on their controversial-ness.
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Old 2012-07-24, 05:00   Link #3
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Do they make an anime show more interesting to you?
I don't see how the fact that they are polarizing, ignoring which side polarization falls, affects enjoyment of viewing anime. Of course, if they fall on the love side, I would be more interested, if on the hate, less interested.

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Do they make the discussion surrounding an anime show more interesting to you? Or do you dislike the divisive impact that polarizing characters can have on a show's fandom?
I think it makes the discussion interesting, but I hate it anyways. It's like how most people view natural disasters, I think being caught in that huge tsunami that is going to hit the west coast any day now would be very interesting and exciting, in a positive way too, but I don't think it would be good.

I like there to be variation in opinions of course, but if the opinions are too strong, discussion will devolve into an I'm right your wrong holy war, which are only fun for those participating.

Quote:
Also, what do you think makes a character polarizing?
three requirements:
1. There is a divide in the anime fandom about a character trait. Example, emo characters are hated by people that want to see heroic heroes doing heroic acts of heroism in a heroic not emo manner, and liked by people who see them as more human than heroic heroes of heroism.
2. The love/hate increases with increases in how strongly a character demonstrates the trait. Example, the more emo a character is, the more fans of the "Angst? What Angst?" trope hate them. The more emo a teenage character is, the closer they are to a real teenager.
3. Character has the trait in a very strong way. Example, Ikari Shinji is hated by people who want a hero, and loved by people who want a human.

Quote:
Finally, do you usually find yourself on the "love" side for a polarizing character, or on the "hate" side?
Love. I'm generally not anti a lot of character tropes. I just have character tropes that I like, and character tropes that I really don't care.

Last edited by Random32; 2012-07-24 at 05:01. Reason: tyop correction
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Old 2012-07-24, 05:02   Link #4
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When it comes to polarizing characters, it seems like I'm almost always towards the hate side-- and said characters can wreck the show.

The main exception is when they are extremely well defined.

The things that typically define a polarizing character is when they are very different from your "average" character. Haruhi's character, for example, can be interpreted many different ways, ranging from an overly enthusiastic but ultimately wanting to have fun genki girl, a insane psychopath sex offender, etc.
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Old 2012-07-24, 09:00   Link #5
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It's very rare that I find myself involved in this in the first place (a lot of the examples up there, and some of the more popular divisive characters, are from shows that have subforums, which I'm far less likely to post in), but there was one character lately who caused a lot of debate that I found myself wrapped up in - Ume Shiraume. And I happened to be on the side that wasn't the majority opinion. I like to believe that every show is an ensemble, so all characters have their reason for being there, usually to serve as foils to others, be they comedic or otherwise.

The debate over Ume showed that "anti-" groups can get very... enthusiastic about their desire to see things corrected, to where they make themselves look worse off than the acts the character in question committed. Opposing viewpoints are fine in a debate, but when the other side is filled with pure vitriol, that's going to hinder discussion as much as fanboying over something. I do believe that most characters are inherently good people, and the Ume thing was more a matter of characters not having clear lines of communication between their social circles. Division between named groups and group identity was a pretty big part of that show, most of it configured upon the rest of the cast by the single group that led us through the narrative.

It should encourage debate, but both sides need to remain reasonable.
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Old 2012-07-24, 12:26   Link #6
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I find polarizing characters to be among the most interesting you can find in anime. Take one of my favorites in Paul von Oberstein from LOGH, the man is almost a total enigma, cold, distant, seemingly emotionless in all mannerisms right down to his speech pattern. Even if you get a definite idea at how he likes to operate. For context Oberstein is Kaiser Reinhard's chief of military affairs which basically gives him a tremendous amount of influence over not only Reinhard's decisions, but allows him to act in the shadows or behind the scenes in order to "serve" Reinhard's interest.

Yet in spite of all this some of the most oft debated points of the series centre around Oberstein's Machievellian way of doing things to reach the desired result as fast as possible. Things like allowing a colony of civilians to be nuked to shore up support for Reinhard in order to quickly end a civil war, convincing Reinhard to treat his subordinates equally which has the consequence of ultimately resulting in the tragic death of Reinhards closest and perhaps only true friend, purges, hiring a known petty man of questionable character, but who is very effecient secret service agent to rout out dangerous elements in the empire, interrupting Reinhards wedding to deliver news of a rebellion. He seems to have nothing in the way of social skills (although he has a dog which he spoils which leads to much derision from fellow officers about him being a man loved by nobody but a dog), but his committment to his job and devoted service to helping Reinhard get along as quickly and effieciently as possible ultimately manage to earn him the grudging respect of his fellow admirals.

The character is basically endlessly debatable in how polarizing he is. Are his oft-heinous methods that typically result in the sacrifice of innocents for quick long-term gain worthy of any praise at all, or are men like him necessary for the running of a stable government and society?1

Last edited by Kaioshin Sama; 2012-07-24 at 19:29.
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Old 2012-07-24, 13:17   Link #7
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Excellent replies everyone. Everybody has made some good points.

For myself, I find polarizing characters increasingly fun. They spur some of the best discussions, I think. So I'm with Shergal and Kaioshin Sama there.

Random 32 and Archon_Wing bring up good points on what makes a character polarizing. It's probably a mix of what you both said. A definable/polarizing character trait, mixed with different ways of interpreting the character.

And those are good examples of polarizing characters, Midonin and Kaioshin. I definitely remember all the passionate debate over Ume.
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Old 2012-07-25, 01:34   Link #8
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The ironic thing about characters (and even shows) that split audiences down the middle is that my views on them tend to be in the middle itself. Or more accurately, I'm less neutral to them and find myself liking and disliking them evenly. So, seeing the viewer reaction follows the same split and I typically try to stay away from both positive and negative fiascos alike; if I like the character, there's no use in telling the detractors otherwise because they're either interpreting the cast member differently (Archon's example of Haruhi is a good start) or are actually describing the character to where I want to say "thank you for missing the point." It's the same thing if I dislike a character as well because I'd obviously only be seeing the bad in them and I'm wary of attacking characters if my gripes come down to playing right into the author's intentions.

As for what makes a character polarizing, I think the "defining trait" described by Random has it. The thing is, and I'm saying this as tentatively as possible, I get the feeling some particular traits are more prone to splitting the viewers than other characteristics. So Shinji Ikari is hated by people who want heroes and loved by people who want a human. Makes sense. On the flip side, however, I've yet to encounter a Big Damn Hero™ that splits the audience to that effect. Logically, the trait people are looking for and its antithesis should be a two-way street. That doesn't seem to be the case though.
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Old 2012-07-25, 01:42   Link #9
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Shinji isn't a hero, but a protagonist, and thus he draws flak for not fitting into that role particularly well. In fact, arguably anyone else in the show makes for a better "lead" than he, but that's the point of the series.

He could be considered an anti-hero, though we like to think of those as morally grey folks who are badass, so it still wouldn't work.

Finally, it's fairly standard for a character to exhibit growth and attempt to overcome obstacles and shortcomings so we feel a sense of progression. Or at the very least, we want them to do something about shit. Eva's a series that often seems to have regression, and thus said experience can be frustrating to say the least. Shinji's actually a bit more proactive than most give him credit for and a lot of things were out of his control (In the grand list of male protags when it comes to being having a spine, he's certainly below average but hardly the worst), but he's not really a character that gives inspiration on first sight, for sure.
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Old 2012-07-25, 02:12   Link #10
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I am only being general as I hadn't really kept up with most anime lately but it seems to me that the most polarizing tend to invoke a lot of emotions to the viewer. The entire cast of Evangelion tend to invoke a variety of emotions and if you thought Shinji is hated by fans, Shinji is nothing compared to Gendo and Asuka haters. What makes these characters polarizing is that there is not purely heroic characters or generic shonen leads but real human characters fighting real monsters. Evangelion is not story about characters becoming one dimensional badasses who can 'roflstomp' any villain or monster they come across, it isn't an escapist adventure story but about people overcoming their problems and themselves.

The same can be said of the recent Fate Zero adaptation, each and every character had been some attention even Rider/Iskander have some haters. What I liked about Fate Zero is that even though that these characters and their servants are heroes, they each challenge the reader on what exactly makes them heroes. There is also a case of values dissonance as well, the servants themselves came from different time periods and they embody their respective cultural norms and values, you may not even consider them to be heroes in the modern sense of the term but they are heroes nonetheless. Fate Zero also asks a lot of tough questions to the viewer, What is true heroism? What makes someone a hero? What are you willing to sacifice to achieve your objective? If you kill one to save 100, what is the limit?

I can try and note a variety of anime characters but one thing that I realize is that they often invoke a variety of emotions. You can label them villains, heroes, weak, spineless, arrogant or etc. all you want but it is very difficult to label them into one category. Shinji is one of the most polarizing characters in fiction and not without reason, there are so many fanfics dediciated to 'repairing' Shinji as well as the rest of the cast. I usually avoid Peggy Sue fics as it wouldn't feel 'right' to me no matter how well written the fanfic author makes it. My point is that the most polarizing characters in anime are often the ones who receive the most reactions from the readers and viewers.
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Old 2012-07-25, 04:25   Link #11
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Polarizing characters are not entertaining to me because they are polarizing. I've happened to like characters that are polarizing, but them being polarizing doesn't make me like the character or the discussions of that character any better for me. In fact they're more likely to negatively impact my experience in trying to discuss said character.

One of my favorite characters is one of the most polarizing characters of all time in anime, Shinji Ikari from NGE. I do not appreciate the fact that he's polarizing at all. So many discussions get bogged down with the more retarded comments about him. People missed the entire fucking point of a show and start posting things like "shinji is a fag, needs his balls to drop and man up." No this type of discussion does not interest me whatsoever. It's a joke.

There are exceptions sometimes, but that's only when a character is INTENDED to be polarizing. Case and point, Kyube from Madoka. Urobuchi Gen clearly had a purpose in writing this character and the controversy around his supposed "morality" was one that was fully intentional.
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Old 2012-07-25, 16:15   Link #12
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Never heard of the examples. I couldn't care less about how other people think about my favorite characters. I don't see how that alone would make a character polarized. I guess if I had someone, it would be Lynn Minmei from Macross. I can live with my anime characters not being perfect all the time. In fact, seeing characters make mistakes and learning from them is something I find endearing and easy to emphatize with.
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Old 2012-07-25, 17:16   Link #13
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I think there are two types of polarising characters.

The first type is when a character is polarising due to the moral choices he makes. These are often intentional and I think it helps that they're polarising.

The second type is when a when a character is polarising due to the quality of their characterisation (i.e. How well they're written). These are not fun to discuss at all, especially when you like a character that lots of people seem to hate for what you no doubt think are unfair reasons.
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Old 2012-07-25, 18:49   Link #14
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Polarizing characters only exist if there is more than one opinion.

I don't have any problems with polarizing characters, because I ignore all other input on the matter until I'm finished watching a series and try to avoid spoilers. And by that time, I have already finished my opinion of all the characters by myself.

If I then find out afterwards, a character was polarizing the internet community all along, it's simple:
One side is right (my side) and the others are wrong.

Sounds smug, but really what can be a better way of forming a solid opinion than actually watching the anime?
I did that, they did that. If we all watched exactly the same anime and then still came to different conclusions, no amount of internet discussions will make a difference.
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Old 2012-07-25, 19:10   Link #15
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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
I'm curious to know what people think of polarizing characters in general. Do they make an anime show more interesting to you? Do they make the discussion surrounding an anime show more interesting to you? Or do you dislike the divisive impact that polarizing characters can have on a show's fandom?

Also, what do you think makes a character polarizing? If you look at the list of characters I have above, there's quite a lot of diversity there. It's hard to find a common strand.

Finally, do you usually find yourself on the "love" side for a polarizing character, or on the "hate" side? Personally, I find that I'm usually on the "love" side, though there are some that I'm on the "hate" side for.
My guess is characters that either have very distinctive features and/or personalities, or the complete absence of those is going to trigger hate/love reactions.

Usually I either like a character or I'm indifferent towards it. I do have a few "hate on first sight characters" which trigger an irrational dislike, but those instances are rare and these characters tend not to be very polarizing among fans. Examples for me are Yui (Angel Beats), Alto Saotome (Macross Frontier), Lacus Clyne (Gundam Seed) and Ayase Aragaki(Ore no imouto).

Can't say I like the divisive impact much as the aggression involved tends to overwhelm any other discussion about the show. Shipping gone bad can get really ugly. When that happens I tend to avoid the thread on that particular anime.
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Old 2012-07-25, 22:31   Link #16
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I think the focus is on the wrong aspect... a character by themselves isn't polarizing, per se... it's just the someone will develop strong feelings one way or the other for the character. And for ever vocal minority, there is a bunch that don't care, or will go "Haruhi? Yeah, she's fine and decent. Don't really love her, but don't hate her, either."

Remember: vocal minority. There will always be people on every side of the debate, and those that care will be the ones that speak up. The trick, then, is to determine which side is speaking logically, and which is speaking emotionally (unless both are emotional). Are they picking out traits they admire from a subjective standpoint? Or trying to tell everyone what to think?

The polarization comes when a person is unable to accept the opinion of another, and feels they *must* tell them exactly why they are wrong. This is an offshoot of self-validation, because they feel attacked if someone else dislikes the character they love, or vice-versa. And fanboys will exist in every fandom, but if critical thought and review are held up and defended, then the power of the fanboy is lessened.
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Old 2012-07-25, 23:42   Link #17
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I'm not really clear on how to identify a polarizing character, either... but I also don't participate very heavily in anime discussions.

Haruhi was polarizing? Shinki Ikari was polarizing? I guess that Shuu Ouma (from Guilty Crown) counts as polarizing, too, given all of the people who seemed to rag on him in discussions, but I wouldn't say that his character was particularly polarizing. I don't think that any of these characters are. Aren't these characters only polarizing because they're protagonists?

(I admit that I'm not familiar with the other characters that Triple_R mentioned.)

To me, a character is polarizing if they stand for some extreme viewpoint, or if they raise some sort of controversy. Villains tend to be polarizing for this reason, although most people are polarized to the same side in response to a clearly defined villain.

Isn't it more the case that the fandom (and perhaps society in general) is looking for a reason to polarize itself? That is, the characters themselves may not really be particularly polarizing, but one person chooses to rail hard for or against them, and then everyone else responds to that polarizing opinion?
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Old 2012-07-26, 00:09   Link #18
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Isn't it more the case that the fandom (and perhaps society in general) is looking for a reason to polarize itself? That is, the characters themselves may not really be particularly polarizing, but one person chooses to rail hard for or against them, and then everyone else responds to that polarizing opinion?
I'm not sure whether I should tell you that I think you're being way too pessimistic for assuming people will be combative by nature or whether I should not because I played exactly into what you just said. I think the character itself would be more at fault since not everything that gets an extreme amount of positive or negative attention is going to be greeted by the extreme opposing reaction; look at the general reception for Hidan no Aria.
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Old 2012-07-26, 11:07   Link #19
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I also tend to stay out of sub-forum threads and that is one reason, (also i dont like manga,LN info in my anime thread but that is a separate issue). In my case just because I hate the character does not mean I will hate the anime.
BTW for me for Accel World I don't like Kuroyukihime personally, but I still enjoy the series.
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Old 2012-07-26, 12:15   Link #20
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I'm curious to know what people think of polarizing characters in general. Do they make an anime show more interesting to you?
Hmm I think it really depends for the affect on the show. For example: There was an anime character that was my Favorite, I was on the "Love" side for her. then when another character killed her off I "Hated" that character! It also so happens that that character ends up the antagonist of the Anime. So in a way it did make the show more interesting.

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Do they make the discussion surrounding an anime show more interesting to you? Or do you dislike the divisive impact that polarizing characters can have on a show's fandom?
In a way I do think They can make discussions more Interesting as well. But in all honesty I do think I dislike the impact that polarizing characters can have on a Animes fandom.
Quote:
Also, what do you think makes a character polarizing?
Hmm. Around my Friends it seems they tend to either "Love" or "Hate" The Hime(?) Like Characters, because they are usually the "weak anoying" "Or the strong willed" ones. Thats the way I seen them Judge an anime character though. As for my personal Opinon I really have no clue, It probably depends on the story as a whole, and not only the characters. Different surroundings different reactions (?)
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Finally, do you usually find yourself on the "love" side for a polarizing character, or on the "hate" side?
I Find myself on the "love" side, I do "hate" few characters. I actually came to "love" those very characters I once hated in the end, well at least most of them.
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