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Although we do not wish to draw too many links between Japan's traditional past and its modern-day entertainment, it is worth noting that much of the shorthand employed in story meetings and brainstorming sessions can break down into the yakugara character clichés established in the Japanese theater. In kabuki, for example, roles are broadly divided into protagonists and antagonists, with heroes divided into the gruff, "hot-headed" aragoto, and the more refined, elegant, even effeminate wagoto role-see Samurai Champloo, which copies these divisions to the letter. Other kabuki character clichés include the jitsugoto, who oppose evil with divine strength, although they are often broken and destroyed by their efforts. Female characters in kabuki were more simply divided into wakaonnagata (youthful princesses, courtesans, and other damsels in likely distress), kashagata (samurai wives, often good with a sword or a frying pan), and akuba (archetypal bad-girls, with street smarts, tattoos, and sass). These basic classes of character are further multiplied by three age groups-young, middle-aged, and old-to create most main characters of the Japanese stage, although we have left out several subclasses, such as clowns, due to space limitations. Similarly, kabuki has six basic types of villain-evil princes (aka "nation demolishers"), evil samurai, evil retainers, dishonest clerks, henchmen (often used for comic relief), and apprentices. Multiplied by the three age groups, they form 18 basic templates for villainy, from beautiful boy-villains who threaten the hero's would-be girlfriend, to scheming old uncles who are secretly in league with an enemy clan.
Anime in the early days of TV, particularly but not exclusively those with a sporting basis, would often use similar character archetypes. The viewer's point of identification is usually the character closest in age to the target audience, and often a supposed "natural" at the anime's central sport/activity, with a rough, unhoned talent that requires hard work and perseverance (Gunbuster's oft-repeated "doryoku to konjo") to turn into true ability. The catalyst that drives them into action in many instances is the loss of an elder family member-a father or sibling-although the lost relation may eventually reappear working for the enemy. The mentor figure is an associate of the one who is lost, attempting to assuage his/her own guilt or bereavement by pushing the lead character into ever better achievements. The mentor figure will also be likely to have a tragic fate, possibly due to some disease or affliction that s/he has kept from the protagonist, or otherwise a moment of supreme sacrifice. Note also that these archetypes are far from unique, as they delineate a mythic "hero's journey" that can also be found in Western media, most obviously Star Wars (1977), itself famously using Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces to define its archetypes. There will also be a childish sidekick, often for comic relief, and probably a dark mysterious stranger, who may turn out to be the long-lost relative. These dynamics, plus a few sports matches or battles, can normally carry a story healthily for 26 episodes. By the time the audience might notice they have seen it all before, they are probably already in a different year at school or following a different show-that, at least, is how the more cynical producers might excuse the use of such stereotypes.
The rise of merchandising led many manga and anime creators to follow larger cast templates, chiefly inspired by foreign imports. It was Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds that introduced the Japanese to the toy-selling, audience-pleasing potential of an entire family of protagonists, most noticeable in Skyers 5 (1967) and Goranger (*DE; 1975), which introduced the character roster of Hero, Rogue, Big Guy, Comic Relief, and Token Girl, often working for an avuncular scientist, and perhaps most recognizable in Battle of the Planets (1972).
Five lead characters allows for a healthy group dynamic and helps justify the sale of five toys instead of one. This format was further refined in girls' anime to remove men from the equation, creating groups of five heroines-or more precisely, a single point of identification, with four supporting cast members. Hummingbirds and early seasons of Sailor Moon offer the best examples, with our klutzy, ugly-duckling Girl Next Door heroine, a hapless, self-doubting center, surrounded by a brusque Tomboy, a demure Maiden, a sophisticated Older Girl, and a Child (occasionally a feral one). Other female characters might include Foreign Girls, often depicted as blonde, loud, large-breasted, and stupid. It should be noted, however, that blonde hair, or indeed any other hair color, including green and purple, is not a racial signifier in anime, which often gives its characters ludicrous hair colors in order to aid identification. Similar concerns often lead to heavy accessorizing in female characters' hair.
Foreignness also plays an important part in the subject of gay erotica-many relationships in such anime being describable as a meek, submissive, dark-haired character, who is acted upon, dominated, or seduced by a more experienced, often elder, blonder character-even if the seducer is not demonstrably foreign, their actions will often be the least stereotypically Japanese.
The arrival of the dating simulation genre has also utilized the basic female archetypes of the team show, often turning game play into a form of personality test in which the computer tries to work out what kind of mate the player would most prefer-a bratty pop idol Child, perhaps, or a librarian Maiden, both likely candidates for moe, the modern fan obsession with unthreatening, childlike girls like something out of the Lolita Anime. Many dating sims introduce more than the basic character set (which, incidentally, the authors first divined by comparing the programming flowcharts on erotic dating sims), but additional girls are often variations on the basic themes. Such themes are readily translated into erotic anime, many of which are based directly on the games where the archetypes are most clearly used. Where romance is part of the story, even in mundane anime not related to dating sims, it is often assumed that the Girl Next Door character among a hero's love objects will be the eventual lucky lady-time-slip chapters of both the Urusei Yatsura and Doraemon stories imply that their heroes settle for their hometown girl, and not any exotic alien princesses or demon queens.
Japanese critics are often reluctant to admit that so many characters can be so easily delineated. Takashi Kondo's Guide of Fantastic Beauties (Kusou Bishojo Tokuhon, 1997), for example, prefers to plot female anime characteristics on six axes-Town vs. Country, Warlike vs. Peaceful, Adult vs. Child, Real vs. Ethereal, Fresh vs. Bitter, and the rather vague Sun vs. Moon. Furthermore, attempts by press liaisons to make something sound palatable to journalists can reduce any anime plot to predictable and unappealing stereotypes. Consequently, the phrase "Hot-headed and/or shy boy gets robot and/or several would-be girlfriends, and/or a childhood sweetheart who is a mysterious girl" is applicable to a depressingly large number of anime. Where a title first appeared in comic form, it has also become a hoary cliché to say "based on the popular manga," regardless of whether the manga was popular or not.