Archive for the ‘Character Comparison’ Category

!!Some spoilers for Gundam Seed and Gundam 00 1 & 2!!

In the anime world, who doesn’t know the popular franchise “Gundam?” This saga has spanned over numerous series and is still going, but today I’ll be looking at Lacus Clyne and Marina Ismail from two of the more recent series, Gundam Seed and Gundam 00*. There will obviously be similarities in two series from the same franchise, but I was particularly struck by the close circumstances these female leads share yet how different of an impression the two characters made on me. Lacus and Marina both hold political positions, both advocate for peace through understanding and talk in times of war, and both spread this message of peace through song. They also both end up having some influence on the lead male character. So, let’s compare these two!

In Gundam Seed, viewers are introduced to Lacus Clyne, a girl who screams stereotypical female anime lead; she’s pink-haired, sweet and smiley, and seems like a bit of an airhead. I was concerned at first, but Lacus turned out to be a lot more than the cotton candy substance I thought she would be.

Lacus lives in a world divided between two people–one of normal humans and one of humans who have been genetically modified to perform better. There are hard feelings and prejudice between both groups and this has led to war. She is a modified human fighting for peace and understanding between the two groups. Between her fame as a singer and her father’s position as a powerful politician vying for peace, Lacus is an icon and has many followers, using her singing career to spread a message of peace. Some people–especially politicians–see Lacus as naive and impractical. But it becomes clear that she is one of the strongest women to appear in the series, leading people toward peace with a sharp mind and clear position. When the politicians decide on more violent options, Lacus has the strength to stand her ground and take action for peace, even after the government deems her a traitor. She holds power with the people and ends up leading a faction devoted to nurturing the relationship between the two groups rather than kill each other.

In Gundam 00, Marina Ismail is a newly crowned monarch in an economically poor country torn apart by war in an unstable world. She is a pacifist and wishes to keep her beloved country out of war now that it is finally at peace. However, Marina is politically inexperienced; she grew up in a normal household and, by a twist of fate, was tracked down by Parliament and asked to govern because of her lineage. Perhaps because of this and her rather meek personality, she actually does come off as somewhat naive rather than simply idealistic. I also just don’t feel that Marina got the same amount of respect as Lacus, by politicians or citizens; people may have liked her, but I’m not sure I’d use the word “respect.” Later, Marina does inspire people with her song of peace, but it felt like she held less power than Lacus and therefore, her influence was more limited in comparison. In addition, while Marina ends up a target several times because of her position or associations, besides singing, I never felt she made any independent move  or important choice like a strong leader might. It doesn’t have to be leading an army of rebels, but just some bigger attempt to rally a movement for peace.

When I compare these two, neither one is bad, but Lacus makes a stronger impression. While both women are kind and struggling for peace, Lacus comes off as a strong-willed woman who will make it happen. Marina wishes for peace profusely, but looks meek and never felt like someone who one could rely upon to get things moving. Her song of peace has influence, but her efforts pale in comparison to Lacus’. Thus, despite first impressions, I have to give Lacus the prize for taking action and becoming a true leader.

*(Keep in mind that this comparison is based solely on the content in Gundam Seed and Gundam 00 Seasons 1 & 2. This does not include content from Gundam Seed Destiny or the Gundam 00 movie.)

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Kodocha and Gakuen Alice; ever since the more recent Gakuen Alice started being released in English several years ago, people have been buzzing about how similar these two manga series are. Having read a good portion of Gakuen Alice and finishing Kodocha, I have to admit, there are some obvious similarities; in both stories, readers are presented with peppy preteen female leads whose first challenge of many challenges is to deal with the zoo they call class. The out-of-control classes are both controlled by quiet troublemaker boys who have a chip on their shoulders about something. This ultimately leads the girls into confrontations with the troublemakers and eventually develops into a more friendly relationship.

Despite this likeness, there was something that differentiated the two stories for me. There was a similar set up between the female and male leads in these manga, but the dynamics seemed somehow different. What was it? While the female lead from Kodocha, Sana gave back whatever her troublemaker Akito dished out and more, Mikan, the female lead from Gakuen Alice, often endures and reacts rather than dishing out. To give you an idea of what I mean, let’s compare the first clash of the female and male leads.

 In Kodocha, Sana has been tolerating Akito’s reign of chaos in her class for some time from the looks of it. However, by the start of the series she’s done dealing with it. At first she does indirect things like leaving class or ranting about Akito on a talk show (she’s a young actress), but that doesn’t change things. In fact, after badmouthing Akito on TV Akito’s gang begins threatening and insulting Sana. Sana isn’t the least bit intimidated and, for whatever reason, Akito won’t confront her head on. On the other hand, regardless of his reputation, she isn’t afraid to confront Akito. The two finally have a confrontation when Akito starts bullying a friend of Sana’s. She slaps him, dodges his punches, and tries to talk to him about why he’s doing this. Even when Akito snaps and says he’ll start bullying her from now on, Sana stands strong. This all transpires in the first chapter and already Sana has defined herself as a tough girl who’s not willing to deal with this behavior or be pushed around. With so many female characters out there who are willing to put up with abuse, it’s great to see one who isn’t. Her strength inspires her fellow classmates, who had just been putting up with Akito and his gang’s craziness, to stand up against them as well.

In Gakuen Alice, Mikan meets the troublemaker of her story, Natsume, when he tries to escape the mysterious school Mikan is trying to enter. A teacher quickly quells Natsume and he and Mikan are put in a room to wait while the school officials try to sort things out. Unlike Sana who knows Akito is a troublemaker, Mikan doesn’t know Natsume and although she’s warned that he’s dangerous, she’s caught off guard when he grabs her, threatens her, and demands to know who she is. Understandably, she’s shocked. When she doesn’t answer, Natsume steals her panties and readers are left with the typical scene in manga of the heroine crying, “comically” insisting she’ll never be able to marry now (I’ve never understood the humor of this scenario in manga since it’s making fun of a character feels like she’s been violated). In Mikan’s defense, as I said earlier, she isn’t used to dealing with Natsume, but because Natsume has already one upped her, the power seems shifted to his court. Readers are constantly reminded of this since, in coming confrontations between the two, Natsume brings up the incident with the panties. While this only fuels Mikan’s anger, I think there’s a certain amount of power in being able to rile someone up like Natsume does with Mikan. She’s put at Natsume’s whim more than a couple of times and so, while she does stand up to Natsume, she also has to endure a lot.

In the end, even after the relationships between the female and male leads aren’t enemies anymore, I felt Sana and Akito’s relationship was a lot more equal. Even when those two get on each other about something, it doesn’t feel like either of the characters is just being overpowered or steamrolled over by the other. In comparison, Mikan and Natsume have a relationship that’s much more typical in my opinion with Natsume pushing and pulling Mikan around a fair amount. Mikan isn’t spineless and Natsume does get nicer, but in the 10 volumes I’ve read of the series so far I still feel the relationship hasn’t reached the equal footing I’d like it to.

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