Animefringe Cover Story:
Sex and the Single Anime Hero
Part 2 - What's Wrong with that Boy?
By Dave Baranyi
A young man is accosted by a beautiful and mysterious young woman who has great and frightening powers. Although the young man is initially fascinated by the woman, he is also taken aback by her forwardness and scared of her latent and obvious sexuality. Sounds like our "special couple", Ataru and Lum, from the first essay, but I am thinking here instead of a number of other very popular and successful anime series which use this formula quite shamelessly.
A reader of my first essay in this series pointed out quite astutely that American television shows such as "Bewitched" and "I Dream of Jeanie" exposed the world to this plot line in the 1960's. But the heroes in those two TV series were quite straight-laced and not hopeless skirt-chasers like Ataru Moroboshi in "Urusei Yatsura". (Yet, despite the long running popularity of those series and the characters in them, I suspect that if most people were asked to identify Larry Hagman's most memorable role they would more likely remember his lascivious and totally amoral role as J.R in "Dallas" rather than his "all-American boy" astronaut role in "Jeanie". )
One of the anime series that recaptures the "innocence" of Bewitched or Jeanie very well is, of course, the Tenchi series. This extremely successful and popular series has undergone a number of character and plot line modifications during its run of two OAV series, two TV series and three movies, but one thing remains constant - Tenchi's inability to deal with the girls in the show. Granted, that is a driver for the comedy, but why is Tenchi so up-tight?
Tenchi is embarrassed by Ryoko's forwardness, but at the same time when they are alone he encourages her with promises of "someday". Tenchi nobly goes out to save Ayeka when she is in danger but when he has succeeded he leaves her to return to anonymity. Only with Sammy does Tenchi seem at ease. ( Is this an ominous hint of a "Lolita complex" ? ) Is it the power that is embodied within Ryoko and Ayeka that frightens Tenchi off? Only in the third movie does Tenchi finally have sex, but this is an older, transformed Tenchi who is "bewitched" by his captor. Even at that he is a reluctant mate for Haruna, despite her obvious charms and the traditional domestic environment that she set up for the two of them.
In contrast, in a boring example of what makes "hentai" anime so often worthless, the "heroine" in "Sakura Tuushin" hunts down her "choice" in the hotel where he is staying while he tries to concentrate on his university entrance exams. Now that Sakura has found him, she disrobes, crawls into bed, turns her back to him and makes little "submissive" moans for him to come and take her. For the "hero" to do so would obviate this pitiful excuse for dramatic tension, such as it is, so of course, the hero refuses and throws Sakura out into the hallway. So is it a lack of submissiveness on the part of Ryoko and Ayeka that turns Tenchi off?
Let's look at another famous anime that almost glorifies submissiveness and passiveness, "Ah My Goddess". The hero, Keiichi is a "nerd amongst men" and bemoaning his fate when he causes Belldandy to appear before him. Here is the girl of his dreams, available to grant any wish and unlike Ryoko, totally non-threatening. But Keiichi is frightened of the potential problems that could be caused by Belldandy. Is Keiichi so used to being a loser that he is frightened of actually winning for a change?
To an extent the situation is similar to the opening part of the movie "Risky Business" in which Tom Cruise's character is effectively emasculated by the vision he has of his future being totally ruined if he has sex with his girlfriend. Yet at the same time he is tormented by his dreams of hot sex with an unknown beauty. But unlike the hero in "Risky Business", Keiichi continues to struggle against his desires, even when others encourage him to do otherwise.
When Keiichi's sister shows up, she gives Keiichi a knowing smile and congratulates him on finding a girl. She automatically assumes that Keiichi and Belldandy are doing more than "playing gin rummy". When the uninhibited Urd shows up Keiichi's struggles become even more difficult. Urd knows that Keiichi was interested in "taking advantage" of the situation when he didn't realize that Urd was Belldandy's big sister. Urd can't understand why Keiichi doesn't "do what is natural" with Belldandy. And when Skuld shows up Keiichi shows a comfort level with the youngest sister, similar to that of Tenchi with Sammy in that series. Essentially, both Skuld and Sammy are too young to be threats to the older heroes.
So what we have in both series are heroes who have the "opportunity of their dreams" and their choice of beautiful and willing young women. Yet the heroes in these shows do "nothing" in the "heroic" tradition. ( Remember, for example, how Odysseus handles the women he meets on his voyage. ) To a good extent, both Tenchi and Keiichi are inhibited by a concern about "responsibility" as well as fears of how they will be judged by their society and their "elders".
But how are their "elders" handling the same question? What sort of "role models" are the "older and wiser" heads providing to the youthful heroes of anime? In the next part of this essay, "What are Mom and Dad doing behind that Door?" I will look at the reaction of anime parents to sex and compare it to that of their children.
Sex and the Single Anime Hero - Part 3 - What are Mom and Dad Doing Behind That Door? -->