Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lonecow's Top 10 Anime Women .... # 1

I have put this off for long enough. Honestly, part of the reason I haven't posted as much, is the impending thought of finishing up the Top 10 Anime Girls Feature. Partly because I've already said a lot about my number 1 on this blog and to every one who knows me.

At the same time I'm scared that once I start talking about her I won't stop. Luckily the world invented an "Edit" feature.

So in the immortal words of a janitor I once heard after the credits had rolled on the movie I was watching, "Let's do this."

Number 1: Asuka Langley Soryu

Background:
I'm going to keep this short and sweet. Fact is, if you don't know who the red headed fire goddess of modern anime is, then you probably don't care.

But for tradition sake, she is the female protagonist of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the 14 year old pilot of Unit 02.

Why is she #1: Asuka's placement as #1 on my list should be a surprise to no one who frequents this blog or is a close friend of mine. She is the first anime character I literally fell in love with, and I don't mean that in a light sense or a "I think she's a real cutie." I mean, head over heels in love.

This is due in part to what Asuka stood for and embodied at the same time. As I mentioned in my review of Evangelion 2.22, when I watched the original series I was Shinji and I identified with him wholly. Asuka is an equal part of that puzzle. For a long time, nearly every girl I dated or had a crush on was like Asuka. Loud, abrasive, and condescending. That isn't an insult to my past women, because dammit, that was what I was looking for in a woman. I loved that type of girl. Sure, those qualities made them harder to get to know, but when you could get past that and get to their sweet side, it made it worth it.

However, at the same time, this left me an uncontrollable wreck of an individual in nearly every relationship I was in. In fact, to make matters worse, at the time I was watching Neon Genesis, the girl I was with was a red head.

While I'm putting all this out there I might as well theorize that my fondness for these type of women go back to the third grade after my house burned down and we had to move to a new neighborhood. While everyone else had been really nice and generous to me, the first new "friend" I met in my new neighborhood was a girl who could have been the spitting image of a young Asuka. She was mean, proud and insulting and never showed the least bit of sympathy towards me or my situation. But for some reason we were still friends. She would come to my house to play and I'd go to hers, and for whatever reason it worked. It was a dating sim game turned reality.

But unlike dating sims, I moved away when our house was rebuilt and never saw her again. Hell, I don't even remember her name. So I know for a fact there is something psychological stuck in my brain regarding her, and Asuka is the fictional embodiment of that lost mean little girl.

That was partly why Evangelion was a psychological cleansing for me. It helped me get over all my issues. Sure I could have gone to a therapist and worked that stuff out naturally, but the show did that for me. I would never be able to get back to that "lost innocence" I had with that girl and a string of unhealthy relationships weren't helping. So enter, Shinji Ikari, to help me attach myself to his consciousness and Asuka as the form of all my failed romances. Both characters worked through their problems and regardless of how they turned out, I became a better person from their struggles.

You might think I should have a negative opinion of Asuka if I viewed her as the personification of all my botched attempts at love, but quite the opposite. She represents a time in my life that was very important to me because it shaped who I became. I'm still attracted to those type of girls and I doubt that will ever change.

As a side note, my wife is much more like Misato, which is why I am of the opinion that Misato and Kaji are future personality reflections of Asuka and Shinji. When Asuka matures she will be like Misato and Shinji like Kaji. That is just my opinion. That would also imply that I see myself as Kaji.

Ah, that was therapeutic. Probably boring for you though. Sorry about that.

In a nutshell that is what the character of Asuka Soryu means to me. But she is even more important in the history of anime.

As a character, Asuka is groundbreaking. Now weather you are of the camp that Shinji and Rei should be a couple or Asuka and Shinji should be a couple, by the end the clear parring is Asuka and Shinji, at least in the original series. This isn't really up for debate.

Why this is important is because at the time, in anime, a soft spoken, gentle, motherly character like Rei would be the stand out love interest. And to be sure, most of the Japanese fan base felt the same way. Rei was a phenomenon in Otaku culture. She was the prototypical example of what most lonely Otaku wanted in a wife.

But despite that, the redheaded stepchild, with the loud obnoxious, bratty personality was the female favored by the male protagonist. Asuka still had her fans, and I don't think she was outright hated by most fans in her time, but she defiantly went against the grain. Despite her flaws she was a strong independent woman who strove to be the best without the help of any man.

When so much of Evangelion is written in a way to be slightly insulting to the people who show the most fondness for it, I wouldn't be surprised if Asuka is Anno's way of saying, "You all want a Rei to do whatever you say, but you all need and deserve an Asuka to kick you into shape."

Also if you go back and watch the first four episodes, or some of the last episodes without Asuka her presence is defiantly missed. She took what could have been a very melancholy and dismal atmosphere and put some life into it. Her energy effected those around her and the entire show as a result. Without her interjections and personality the entire show is a little like a Geofront itself (hollow on the inside).

That is my opinion on Asuka Langley Soryu, not just one of the greatest female characters in anime, but one of the greatest characters in fiction itself.

Voice Actress: Tiffany Grant

Though I've become a bit of a sub snob in recent years, Asuka's voice will always belong to Tiffany Grant. When I think of Asuka, that is the voice I hear.

Though after repeated watching of Eva in it's original Japanese, I have issue with some of Grant's interpretations of some scenes. For example, the "kiss" scene is almost completely wrong in the dub, and not to mention the last line in End of Eva being up for heavy debate (I should also point out these are directorial decisions and not the fault of Grant). However, these are minor squabbles in comparison to her complete mastery of the character's personality and demeanor.

Her ability to speak fluent German gives her a major leg up on Yūko Miyamura (Asuka's Seiyu). Yūko Miyamura's inability to speak German became something of a running gag at the time of Eva's original airing and in my opinion takes a little oomph out of the character.

I hope Grant gets to reprise her role in Evangelion 2.22, and I wish they add a feature where you can keep her vocal track for Asuka and the rest in Japanese.

Speaking of Evangelion 2.22, that brings me to the final Honorable mention. Drum roll please....

Honorable Mention: Asuka Shikinami

Ha! Bet you didn't see that coming. Shikinami can be a dirty word with Eva fans, and most, including myself see her has a completely separate character than Asuka Soryu. But unlike most fans who don't like her, I am very fond of her.

She still doesn't hold a candle to Soryu as far as depth and character, but to be fair she has had much less screen time than her forebear and with that little amount of time she has managed to do quite a bit.

Admittedly, Soryu is too abrasive for people to get to know and love in a short amount of time, so some major modifications needed to happen to make Asuka a little sweeter. First of all (and the best part) is her complete child-like obsession with Kaji has been dropped. I never liked that subplot and the manga made it even worse. She also is no longer completely obsessed with being #1. This allows her to not see Shinji as a rival as much and can see him much more as an object of affection. She is also more willing to open up to others, and sadly realizes this just a smidgen too late into the film.

These qualities make Shikinami more lovable and likable than Soryu, but she doesn't have the depth or sides that Soryu has, so it is a bit of a give and take. I talk about Tsundere's a lot on this blog, and I don't think Soryu qualifies, even if the term itself is slightly inspired by her. However, Shikinami is a loud, proud Tsundere, in the fullest extent of the made up word.

Regardless of their differences and similarities, both have a place in my heart.

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And with that my Top Ten Anime Women list is finally done! It's been a long ride, and I can finally relax and not feel the pressure of finishing this list. I was planning on following up this feature with the Top 10 Male Anime characters (though I realize that won't bring in as much traffic from Google Images), but I might take a year or two off before going into that venture. Maybe just a top 5 list next time... or top 3.... or 1.