It’s no secret that one of anime’s biggest appeals is how it can make viewers very attached to its characters, thanks to a great emphasis on character development, attractive character designs, and employing beloved character archetypes that fans enjoy seeing. But is it possible for fans to take their love of a character too far, so far that it blinds them to the overall quality of the anime the character hails from? I’m not talking about the stereotypical otaku who’s so obsessed with a particular character that he carries around dakimakuras of her or even acts like he’s married her. I’m talking about fans who are more in touch with reality, but still may be going a bit overboard…
Hoshiko recently wrote a similar post on her blog (which was also my inspiration for this topic) and mentions one sign that indicates a fans who may be too attached to a character: if they go on an angry rampage if anything extreme happens to that character in the series, the most common ones I would assume being that the character dies or is written out of the show some other way, or if he/she becomes an “official” couple with another character that the fan doesn’t approve of. By going on a “rampage” I don’t mean they just express some resentment about it here and there – they go all out and do things like completely defame or even threaten the creator of the series all over the Internet, boycott products of the series, destroy any items they have from the series, or endlessly cry, swear, rant and rave like someone murdered their child or raped their lover. I haven’t had any personal experience with this type of fan so I can’t elaborate more, but I’ve certainly heard stories, not just among anime fandom but other fandoms as well.
I agree that it’s unpleasant when any character we like dies or is otherwise condemned to a fate we don’t approve of. In all the anime I’ve watched, I’m always saddened when characters I like die even if they’re not a particular favorite. But the reason it doesn’t ever bother me that much is because to me anime, like art, mirrors life, and death is a part of life whether we like it or not. If you watch anime only because it gives you things that satisfy you and make you happy, you could develop the idea that an anime is only worthwhile if it satisfies you personally. You should of course watch anime that satisfy you, but if it doesn’t, instead of flying into a rage because the story didn’t go your way, take a step back and see if you’re looking at it for what it actually is – someone else’s creation meant to entertain you, but at the same time, meant to interpret a story and characters written by someone else the way they want it. The original creators of anime and manga stories have no obligation to make events in the story turn out the way you want it, just as you have no obligation to stay true to their characters and story canon when you write fanficion or doujinshi.
Speaking of fanfiction and doujinshi, they’re great outlets for very attached fans to express themselves, especially when they feel the official series doesn’t do justice to a character they love. And what’s funny is that it seems like anime and manga creators know that so many fans get obsessive about certain characters so they purposely do subtle things to satisfy the fans…to an extent of course. Not only are doujinshi and other fan creations more often than not tolerated by the official series creators rather than condemned, but the way so many series are structured makes it seem that way too. For example, in the majority of anime I’ve seen, it’s rare for characters to “officially” become a couple, as in, they (or the original creators) state that they love each other and are going to date/marry. Even if there’s evidence for potential pairings, as I feel is the case for Evangelion, Code Geass, AnoHana, Macross Frontier, Fullmetal Alchemist, and many others, it’s rarely downright stated that two characters are a couple. Even when a lot of anime end, they tend to either have reset endings or endings that return to the status quo, as in the characters go back to their lives and how they related to each other before the plot started (except maybe they’re a little closer than before). I know this thing about being vague with romance has to do with the formality of Japanese relationships, but it also seems like the creators of anime and manga know that fans will be pissed no matter what character pairings they make official, so they instead give us the evidence but make it arbitrary in the end, so fans are continually left speculating and arguing amongst each other about which pairing is best. Even deaths of anime characters are typically slated for just villains and side characters, and for series that do kill off main protagonists, its either in long-running series or very dark-toned series (where a lot of death happens anyway).
When it comes to characters I like dying, ending up in relationships I don’t want, or anything happening to them in the story that upsets me, instead of asking “Why did they have to kill off [name of beloved character]?” or “Why did this have to happen to [name of beloved character?” I’m more inclined to ask things like “Did it make sense?” and “Was it written well?” Even if I don’t like what happens to characters on a personal level, if what happened to them flowed well with the story, developed their character, or was just a good part of the overall narrative, I can accept it. It actually pisses me off more if characters act out of character or regress in their development than if they die. It’s wonderful to get attached to anime characters, but that attachment shouldn’t blind us to the fact that they are someone else’s creations and thus they’re not obligated to have a fate we personally want for them.