Okabe RintaroU – Steins;Gate
*WARNING – SPOILERS BELOW*
Steins; Gate is a dark/psychological drama anime. I’ve rated it in the Masterpiece category, and it’s my #2 favorite series. The main character, Okabe, takes the cake for my favorite male anime character. He is one of the most deep and complex characters I have seen in anime. Really, it’s because the entire anime of Steins;Gate is devoted to exploring his personality. Even the other characters’s purpose within the anime was to help us understand Okabe. At first, Steins;Gate is silly and fun, but it takes a very serious dark turn.
Okabe has a tremendous amount of depth in the anime. Even his initially silly personality is explained – it was originally done for Mayuri’s sake. Eventually, it became a part of him just as much as it was for her. Okabe is marked by several different kinds of relationships with the other characters. What was most interesting is how he reacts to the main tragedy of the anime – the killing of an untouchable character. What is really well done is seeing how the constant deaths take their toll on Okabe. Eventually, the death itself becomes meaningless as Okabe becomes desensitized to it – it becomes yet another number.
Part of the toll that is taken is the passage of time. The anime itself is over the course of two weeks. However, due to the effect of time traveling and repeating events over and over again, it was probably years’ worth of time. They never really say how long it was, but it had a significant impact on Okabe. Interestingly, it even changes the nature of the relationships between Okabe and the others because he has had years’ worth of time with them that they did not get to experience. It created some really interesting dynamics.
Okabe is a rare character because we got to see what happens when a person is pushed too far. In addition to having his motivation of saving his childhood friend, his actions become slowly tainted by anger, frustration, and desperation as the deaths keep mounting. It was so well animated, that you can see the stress of the situation keep weighing on Okabe. The result was the most powerful scene I have watched to date – the confrontation between Shining Finger and Okabe. The sheer raw intensity of that scene is unmatched in any other anime I have seen. It was the culmination of anger, betrayal, and desperation even somewhat mitigated by his still lingering feeling of friendship. An extremely complex scene within an absolutely stellar anime.
Yakushimaru / Myoue – Kyousougiga
*WARNING – SPOILERS BELOW*
This was, in all honesty, a very tough decision, and my conclusion actually surprised me a little when I really narrowed it down to Yakushimaru / Myoue from Kyousogiga. But it’s true—he has it all. The depth of character, the slowly unfolding backstory, the personality, the great animation of facial expressions…. In the insanity of multiple universes and crazy characters, Yakushimaru stands out as a solid rock of practicality (sometimes to the point of pessimism), even with his magic monk beads.
I watched Kyousogiga beginning with episode 0 (which I do highly recommend), so my first introduction to Yakushimaru was as the “man-slut monk” that seems to be the guardian of three kids in a dream-like world. He’s grumpy and sarcastic from the get-go (which I liked), and then one immediately gets to add to it that he sincerely cares for little Koto. It was a great start that just kept getting better as the story unfolded.
Yakushimaru is a fascinating entity. Little Koto may be the main character of Kyousogiga, but the whole story is really about Yakushimaru trying to find his place in the world—either world!—and his long, long journey to get there. When watching it, it isn’t about saving the world from destruction (even though that’s what’s technically going on), it’s about saving Yakushimaru. It’s about Yakushimaru coming to grips with who and what he is.
So, who is he? He is not the natural son of the monk and the rabbit-in-goddess-human-form, he is a human boy adopted by them…when he was dead, having killed himself upon seeing that his real family had been murdered. He is then brought back to life to become the son and heir of the unusual couple, three things he does not want. His siblings are drawings come to life to push him toward inheriting the monk’s divine powers to create, but Yakushimaru doesn’t want it…and fights it for hundreds of years in a fantastical world where he desperately clings to any scrap of mortal humanity that remains within him. With the arrival of little Koto, he finally adopts himself into the family by finding his place as her big brother and acting on that filial love by accepting his own existence as meaningful and truly needed by someone.
Congrats, Yakushimaru, you really are my favorite.