I’ll start this post off with a confession: I have a thing for side characters. You know, the ones who don’t get as much of a turn in the spotlight as the lucky main few; the ones who aren’t the stars of their series. Maybe they’re the ones who should be or could be, though, and at the very least, they help the stars shine brighter. I love these characters. I’m not sure why, either. Perhaps it’s that the lack of character development allows me to theorise endlessly about potential hidden depths. Or perhaps it’s just the fact that if a character has less screen-time, there’s less potential for them to be irritating. Regardless, this side character fascination is certainly there. Throughout 2010, we were presented with a wealth of delicious flat characters – ‘flat’ in the sense of a lack of character depth, of course – in anime, and I want to take a look at some of them here.
I suppose the girl featuring in my current avatar is as good a place to start as any, eh? Aoi Yamada of Working!! is largely a mystery. What we do know about her is as follows: she’s a klutzy, incredibly blunt, drama-mongering, supposedly sixteen-year-old girl who fancies herself a ‘super waitress’, has a huge collection of disguises and is inexplicably good at bugging people. Aoi is also a fantastic comedic side character. She’s entertaining and charming, and she also brings out the funniest in everyone around her, whether they’re members of the main cast or not. To quote what I said in my final post on Working!!, “I honestly think that her addition [to the cast] directly or indirectly led to each character’s funniest moment of the series”. One more Working!! character who definitely deserves mention is Maya Matsumoto, who only had her first real lines in the last episode of the series. Her obsession with normality was what set her apart from her bizarrely-behaved coworkers… and it was also what makes her fit perfectly among them, as it caused her to act as strangely as the best of them.
Another creator of hilarity and easily one of my favourite side characters of the year was Railgun‘s Mitsuko Kongou. Mitsuko toed both the fanservice character and gag character lines, but got a bit of development as well and a crowning moment of awesome (or two, arguably) to boot. She’s essentially presented as the ojou-sama with the giant ego. She’s confident to the point of boastfulness, and self-assured to the point of narcissism, and I loved her for it. We got hints, though, too, of her private persona being quite different to this – she seemed a lot milder and kinder to her friends, albeit not less boastful, telling them stories about how she single-handedly brought down one of Railgun‘s primary antagonists with ease. I think she’s fantastic, but I don’t at all think she could have carried Railgun. (For the most part, it was too laid-back for all Mitsuko all the time.) She was, however, both an excellent rival to Kuroko and an excellent unknown rival/self-proclaimed friend to Mikoto.
Sometimes, side characters don’t have terribly much to say or do. If we’re lucky, though, whatever they do end up saying or doing is hilarious. Angel Beats! had TK with his nonsensical English backed up by an array of dance moves, Seitokai Yakuindomo had Satomi Arai playing another schoolgirl lesbian in the snarky and slightly depraved Ranko Hata, and B Gata H Kei had the permanently cheerful and cheerfully frank Mami Misato. But perhaps the ultimate scene-stealer of the year was Milky Holmes‘ unforgettable Twenty. Milky Holmes actually had a few characters like this – another notable example being Arsene/Henriette’s chest, which seemed to have a mind of its own - but even in a show full of people with little tethering them to reality, Twenty managed to stand out the most. Whether he was stripping at an alarming pace, showing off his incredibly pointy nipples to the camera, moaning and screaming in Engrish about how beautiful he was, or going on a date with a hug pillow of himself, he demanded attention.
There were the usual side character duos, too. Occult Academy‘s sardonic janitor Smile and cheerful goth JK begged many questions. Why were the two of them always together? How was JK able to consume so much pudding? Why was Smile permanently wearing a smiley face badge, and what the hell was up with his giant spanner? Even more mysterious were Durarara!!‘s Erika Karisawa and Walker Yumasaki. Prone to fast-paced banter and off-the-wall conversations on topics ranging from fandom to philosophy, the two also displayed a wide variety of skills and prominent sadistic streaks. In addition, they made an excellent couple.
Lastly, we had – or should that be ‘have’, given she’s in a still-ongoing show? – Ruri Makina of Star Driver. … Yeah, she’s kind of only here because she reminds me of Utena‘s Wakaba, somehow. I’d love for her to get even comparable character development to Wakaba; I really want there to be more to her than “Her specialty is meat and potatoes!”. Star Driver, I have faith that you’ll deliver. Don’t let me down!
Okay, that concludes day five of Borderline Hikikomori’s twelve days of Christmas. Who were your favourite anime side characters of 2010?