Why is it so hard to get right?
Why are you all so god-awful at writing male lead characters? Doesn’t matter if it’s a straight love-story or a yaoi love-story, the male lead we follow the story through is almost always a complete waste of any creative spirit that has been put into the rest of the story. Is it that hard to write a interesting male lead?
I can almost understand and excuse certain stories due to the fact that they’re adapted from visual novels where you’re mean to self-insert your own personality and thoughts onto a bland tabula rasa of a character, but it doesn’t work when you’re trying to tell a narrative from a onlooking perspective. Especially when we’re meant to buy that other characters should fall for him. Why would they!?
Let’s start by looking at one of this season’s more popular shows. Nisekoi: False Love, a very funny and well-made romance story that do fall into many of the standard tropes of its genre, but keeps up its energy enough for it to not shatter the show. Our male lead, Raku, is about as bland as a box of uncooked rice. There’s nothing to him as a person, he’s completely dull and life-less. The show doesn’t even try to make him interesting, instead they make the things around him more interesting almost as if to distract us from just how pointlessly insignificant his personality is. He’s the son of a Yakuza family, he has a locket from his past, he’s suddenly engaged to this hot-blooded girl. That’s all fine stuff, but it’s not part of his personality, just part of stuff going on around him. Thankfully, Nisekoi: False Love is good enough of a show for it to not ruin it.
Sometimes the character might have had personality, but is seemingly devoid of it completely when the story itself happens. Such as Yuuta in Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions. Another show that I do enjoy, but has a lot of flaws with its romance. The only thing going for Yuuta is the fact that he once was a Chunibyo and had his delusional fantasies of being the Dark Flame Master. When he ditched that, he became as plain as one can be. This is actually a problem more specific to the anime than the series as a whole, as Yuuta in the light novel does offer more as a character than in the adaptation. In the light novel it makes sense why Rikka would fall in love with Yuuta even though he’s no longer his past self, in the anime it feels like she’s just doing it because she’s meant to. Granted, one could maybe argue that her having to fall in love with Yuuta because of his past-self is just part of Rikka’s current self, as she does still view him as who he once was, but it doesn’t work for me as a viewer. I can’t see why anyone would want to be Yuuta’s partner in the anime.
And it’s not just straight couples. If we go back a few years and look at Gakuen Heaven: Boy’s Love Hyper, a yaoi love story based on the visual novel of the same name. As I mentioned in my opening bit, this is one of those cases where the problem stems from being adapted from a visual novel. Keita is so boring and bland that Wikipedia even describes him as “an average guy without any sort of special skills” in their entry for the series. You can take a visual novel and give the lead some personality and character, that is in fact a good thing to do. Look at White Album 2, CLANNAD, Love, Election and Chocolate or as my dear twitter friends suggested, Steins;Gate. It makes your story better.
The weird thing is that this is almost always a problem with male leads. Whenever there’s a shoujo manga focusing on love from a female perspective, they nail the main character nine times out of ten. Why is it so hard to get the male character interesting in any way what-so-ever? If Kamisama Kiss, Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha, Say “I love you.”, and so on can have great female leads, why can’t the ones with male leads have them more often? It’s not even just a case of male characters being shitty in their writing, it’s basically just leading roles. When a male character is written to not be the lead they can often have a lot of charm and personality, so why is all that lost when making a lead character? You’re not making a character more relatable by removing personality, you’re just making a lazy excuse not to tell a better story.
And sure, there are exceptions. I personally loved the characterization of Sorata in The Pet Girl of Sakurasou or Kanade in Noucome. I’m not trying to say anything grand with this blog-post, I just felt the need to vent a little.
Come on anime, stop making so many sucky male leads.
Sorry for this late post for Valentine’s Week, I’m sick, grumpy and have had a day filled with work.