Every week, the Fandom Post community suggests and votes on a new Top 5 list about something in anime, most often from the current season. It’s our way of highlighting something fun or interesting or strange—or even meaningful—about what’s airing now, or about anime in general.
2015 is over, and we’ll conclude our look back on the Year in Anime with two lists: first, Best Adult Character of 2015. In a medium that seems (and, in most genres, is) dominated by Adolescents Saving the World (or Falling in Love for the First Time) it’s worth a look from time to time at the more experienced side of the typical anime cast. Often adults in the average anime show are parents, teachers, wise old people, a cartoonish superior officer, or wise older mentor. Or, often enough, the villain. Any one of these categories also often portrays the adult in its role as little different behaviorally from the teens and children they are supposedly supervising. Often only in stories featuring a predominantly adult cast do they act, well, adult. Or near enough.
Our voters settled on a representative variety, restricted only to characters from the past 12 months who were 18 and older. (“Adult” by many Western standards; age 20 is more the determiner in Japan, in fact, but we settled for simply being out of high school.) A couple adults, still young, but closer to middle age. And three more or less young adults.
#5: Hinako Inui (Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma)
As young hopeful chefs ranging from cocky prodigies to insecure over-acheivers, the high school students of Totsuki Culinary Academy require their elders to test and judge them in order to determine who stays, and who goes. Those elders are former students themselves, now famous chefs; most are heartless, brilliant professionals eager to break in the freshman class. Then there’s Hinako Inui. A traditional and respected Japanese chef, she’s also no pushover. But when she spots students she likes, like Soma and Megumi (one inspiring and one she might just want as a pet) she’s a lot more enjoyable than the other, stodgy, adults. If supporting or rooting for prodigal students like them also causes mischeif for one or two of her fellow alumni, then she’s all the more eager. The ‘teacher’ who alternates between immature or youthful abandon and a surprising professionalism is an anime/manga staple, but Hinako’s mischievousness manages to make her seem fresh.
#4: Kaede “Dagashiya” Kagayama (Non Non Biyori Repeat)
Kaede, like her friend Kazuho, a school teacher, returned to her rural home town in her young 20s to run her family’s dagashiya, or traditional Japanese candy store. She’s independent and aloof and seems like she’d fit in fine in the big city, but she also seems to tolerate and find meaning in the slow, quiet life of the country. In rural Japan today, in fact, she’d still be one of the “kids” in a sense, if it weren’t for the handful of still younger residents—Komari, Natsumi, Hotaru, and Renge; plus a high-schooler or two, and a ninth grade boy she may or may not notice—who frequent her shop. Those kids don’t see her as too much of an authority figure (a couple of them still remember her as an older classmate in the town’s one-room school), often referring to her by her place of employment rather than her name. The sense and power of Kaede as an adult comes, instead, from the audience’s side. In her family-friend relationship with six-year-old Renge, often times as a substitute big sister, we get to see her take an adult’s role in teaching practical lessons about growing up, and administrating care with the resulting cuts and scrapes. We get to see Kaede grow up, too.
#3: Seiichi Kinoshita (Shirobako)
Director Kinoshita was the other hero of Shirobako, besides Aoi (herself 20-21 years old). Where Aoi and the other doughnut girls had to learn and grow in their new careers, Kinoshita, the anxiety-eating, procrastinating chief director at Musashino Animation, already had years under his belt in the industry and understood his position and responsibilities (even as he shirked them whenever he could afford to). But it didn’t mean he did not have his own challenges, as great or even greater than any other character in the story, if only because most other characters’ fates depended on if he succeeded or failed. When it came down to it, Kinoshita knew what to do, and when (and wearing the right clothes). And though his role was not the taskmaster, being on the creative side of the studio, he could be a reliably beguiling and optimistic authority figure capable of surprising moments of good advice for his younger staff members.
#2: Shirayuki (Snow White with the Red Hair)
Shirayuki manages to embody the familiar themes of the young, curious, fearless, stubborn—and occasionally and conveniently naive—hero, while from the perspective and position of a young adult, out in the world and responsible for herself. Because she has had to look out for herself in such a manner that she had to uproot and restart—and even reinvent—her life, she’s always worth rooting for, no matter what she gets into, or sets herself the goal of achieving. There is often as much to envy in her as there is to cheer for or find inspiring. Self-confidence, in younger characters in these mediums, is rare indeed, where it is not self-aggrandizing. Shirayuki is a welcome example of the effect of maturity. (It may be worth noting, possibly again due to her maturity and age, that she also is welcome in subverting certain stereotypes for anime redheads…)
#1: Saitama (One Punch Man)
In some ways similar to Shirayuki above, Saitama is in the shoes of a younger character, here the role of every over-powered, earnest, young male superhero. Except he’s an adult, and, really, once you’re at a certain age where just relaxing at home is more appealing than being out all night, god-like physical powers can seem tiresome and boring after awhile. Saitama is a most fitting number-one choice here because his whole appeal as a character works precisely because he is an adult—it would not be as believable if he were still at the age of a restless teenager. It probably wouldn’t be as amusing, either, as he’s called reluctantly time and again into action. His desire to be a hero, to be the strongest in the world, comes from a younger impulse. But how he directs and follows through on the powers and responsibility he’s gained are directed—and made compelling—by the maturity granted from his adult status.
And that’s Best Adult Characters of 2015. Join us next week for the final 2015 look back, with Most Unforgettable Moments of 2015. To have a say in what makes it on that list, and the next list after that, check out the forum thread, read up on the rules, and join the Fandom Post Anime List Project today!