- Newfoundland, Canada
- I've been a big anime fan for about 10 years or so now. My five all-time favorite animes at this point are, in no particular order... Puella Magi Madoka Magica, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Love Live!: School Idol Project, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. However, there are hundreds of anime shows that I like. The main purpose of this blog is to provide meta-commentary on anime, and the anime industry - to try to cast a critical, though appreciating, eye upon this entertainment genre that I believe has tremendous potential, but can also be easily wasted. I have always been a fan of animation in general - in the 80s, I grew up on western cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, and G.I. Joe. Through out the 90s, I was a hardcore comic book fan, for the most part. I'm also a big fan of Star Trek. Right now in my life, though, anime is my principal entertainment passion.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Number 9: Tatewaki Kuno!
Top Ten Countdown - Number 9: Tatewaki Kuno
Moral Alignment: Lawful Evil
Supporting Quotes - "'What Fates impose that men must need abide.'
The course is now clear... A-ha! His hold on you is gone! Come, let us date!"
"'Cowards die many times before their deaths...'
No doubt he feared my prowess."
AMV showcase video here. (This particular AMV I made myself ^_^ )
Before I get into why I chose Tatewaki Kuno, of the immortal Ranma ½ anime, as Number 9 on my Top 10 countdown list, let me explain a new feature that will be in play for him and the eight characters that beat him out in the charge for top spot. That feature is the Moral Alignment focus. Something that I noticed while making my Top 10 selections is how the Top 9 all fit fairly comfortably into the nine moral alignment blocks of Dungeons & Dragons fame. Yes, a couple of the characters have to be exaggerated, or strained, a bit in order to fit their specific slot (Kuno himself, for example, is not particularly evil; although he's more villainous than heroic it could certainly be argued). However, all of those moral alignment selections are at least defensible for the nine characters I picked for my Top 9, I believe. Personally, I found this kind of neat. Like a stockholder going over his portfolio, I very much like how diversified my Top 10 Favorite Anime Characters of All-Time is. ;)
It would be easy to pick nothing but heroic protagonists, or to take nothing but colorful chaos creators, and hence I take a certain pride in having a well-balanced (I hope) presentation of anime characters here. That being said, I suspect that of all of my Top 10 selections that this one will be the most controversial and perhaps the least well-received. This is because, even as an antagonist, Tatewaki Kuno is deeply flawed.
His perception of the world around him is... drastically skewed, so much so that legitimate questions pertaining to his intelligence, and even to his very sanity, can be raised. Furthermore, his competency and suitability as a serious threat to the main protagonist (Ranma Saotome, in this case) is frequently in question. So why then does he actually make my list as one of my Top 10 Favorite Anime Characters of All-Time?
There are several reasons, most of them hitting home for me personally; hitting home with all the force of Kuno's bokken slicing cleanly through a tree. First of all, there's simply his moniker of 'The Blue Thunder of Furiken High'. That's a simply smashing title to actually introduce yourself by, in my opinion. And the fact that Kuno frequently does introduce himself that way reflects another aspect to his character that I like, and that is the sheer comedy value of it. Kuno's unintentionally hilarious stand-up routine almost never misses a beat... ;)
Kuno is a splendorous comedic antagonist; often unsurpassed at arousing gleeful guffawing guttural laughter. While the Ranma ½ anime as a whole remains a celebrated comedic classic for me, the character of Tatewaki Kuno in particular rarely failed to bring a smile and chuckle to my face. If he was on camera, I could be ensured that my diaphragm, larynx, lungs, and vocal chords would be in for a good workout. ;)
To this day, Ranma ½ remains the superlative anime comedy for me. Its cast is as colorful as the Teletubbies in Rainbowland, and it had the feel of Days of our Lives mixed with The Simpsons mixed with gender-bending, animal-rendering, martial arts-sundering, harem anime. For a long time, I'd go over to my cousin's house just down the street every day after work, and marathon a few episodes of this anime along with him. It was such a lighthearted stress reliever. And as I said before, no Ranma ½ character contributed more to that than Tatewaki Kuno did.
But comedy alone doesn't explain Kuno's appeal to me. As over-the-top as he is, I can still relate to him to a significant extent. I say that somewhat embarrassingly, since this relates in turn to one of my odder quirks and failings in life. Like Kuno himself, I am an old-fashioned romantic. Similar to Kuno, I was rarely shy about approaching the girls in school that I had crushes on, and I even wrote much love poetry whereas Kuno recited such romantic rhetoric. And also much like Kuno, my love is almost always unrequited... ^_^;
So, in a very real way, I can feel Kuno's pain...
To be sure, and to relieve the likely concerns of my readers, my attempts at courtship were nowhere near as blind and unaccepting of clear rejection as Kuno's was... but by the same token, I've never been good at picking up on hints, and hence it could sometimes take weeks, if not months, before a lovely luscious lady that I had my eyes on would manage to successful convey rejection to me. And each such time, my heart withered under the melancholic strands seeking to constrain unquenchable fires ironically thirsting for dousing by the sweetly scented dewdrops of love dripping from the leafy lush lips of the woman of my dreams...
So, as you can see, cherished reader, I often share with Kuno his propensity to make utterances in finely flowing flowery language. ;)
And yet, what I admired in Kuno, and what I myself lacked in my teenage years, was the ability to be eternally optimistic in spite of the heart-wrenching, soul-crushing, spirit-debilitating dismisses of desired loves. Kuno consistently overcomes such setbacks, and in so doing, casts the image of a proud man with an abiding sense of honor and a dogged determination for abundant joyous life. Kuno, too, is a Determinator in his own way. And indeed, all of my Top 10 picks are in one fashion or another, this being a common cord that runs through them all and provides at least a silver lining of consistency to the clouds that hang in the bright blue sky overhead my 10 favorite anime characters of all time.
Beyond all of the above, there are a few more short reasons for why I like Kuno so much. As I grew in my anime fandom, two factors in particular caused me to gradually like Kuno more and more, and make him one of the few anime characters of the 90s to remain in my favorites list through even the watching of all the recent animes of renown. Those two factors are as follows...
1) Ghost, of Comic Book Resources legend, is also a Tatewaki Kuno fan. This let me know that I was not alone in liking Kuno; liberating me in a sense to feel more 'Ok' with my liking of a frequently disparaged character.
2) Kuno's two peculiarities became steadily more apparent to me.
First of all, he is courageous in the ways of romance. This is staggeringly unique for an anime character, a fact that was not known to me during my first viewing of Ranma ½. Within his own anime, Kuno's willingness to always be open about his romantic feelings for others only stood out mildly... for other characters like Kodachi, Ryouga, and Shampoo were also similarly fearless here. However, over and against the whole of anime, Kuno's approach to romance is marvelously rare.
Secondly, Kuno is a bishonen... and an underdog. Kuno is consistently presented as physically outmatched by Ranma Saotome, and arguably by most of 'The Nerima Wrecking Crew'. An underdog bishonen is practically an oxymoron within anime, yet Kuno is one. The physique and style of the bishonen embodied by a figure that you can legitimately pity... it is a stark contrast that I can appreciate much like I do the gorey moe of Higurashi.
Finally, there are two more reasons that I liked Kuno practically from the moment I saw him. First is how he uses a bokken, uses it a lot, and keeps it at his side at all times. This reminds me of my favorite cartoon character when growing up in the 80s... He-Man. :) For me, Kuno is like the dark mirror image of He-Man; similarly lawful, but dangerously troublesome instead of helpfully heroic, and a man of conspicuous charm instead of understated gentlemanly grace.
And last, but certainly not least, Kuno's English dub actor is one with a manifestly distinct voice to me. I've liked Ted Cole a lot both in his role as Tatewaki Kuno, and also in his role as Gilbert Durandal in Gundam Seed Destiny. Cole has the ideal voice for the suave idealist, be his ideals romantic (Kuno) or political (Durandal).
So, Ted, this is thanks to you, and thanks to Rumiko Takahashi, for helping to bring to life a character that has brought me much cheering, enthusiasm, laughs, and smiles in life. I can only hope that in some fairy tale land beyond the typical inconclusive ends of Takahashi, that Kuno's final romantic moment leaves him feeling like this... ;)