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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Top 5 Favorite U.S. Characters In Anime

For those who have somehow avoided the fact of this day so far, July 4th is a national holiday for the United States of America. It is the day when the Declaration of Independence was signed, thus making this the country's birthday in a sense.

Basically, it's a holiday used as an excuse to barbeque, get drunk, and set off fireworks (although recent hot weather has put a damper on fireworks in a lot of the country). It's something I'm sure a lot of anime fans are also taking part of today.

It would not seem like a day an anime blog would post about - there's nothing inherently anime related about it - but I'd like to take the time to talk about five characters from anime who are American and are also awesome. It's always amusing to see anime take on American culture, even more so when they add a character to the cast that is from the U.S. So naturally, today is a good day to talk about them!

Feel free to add your personal favorites in the comments. I know I've skipped a few obvious ones, I'm sure!

5. Cyndi Campbell from Shinryaku! Ika Musume

Ah, Cyndi. Scientist and ditz all in one. She's so very determined to conduct experiments on poor Ika-san and prove once and for all that she is an alien and not just a squid girl from the sea. Somehow, I don't think that Cyndi is gonna get what she wants. With her crew of scientists, she trolls the beach looking to make scientific mayhem with her equipment as she looks for proof of extra-terrestrials.

This Californian blonde is always amusing and always up to some sort of antics, much to the annoyment of the cafe's owners as well as Ika-san herself. For someone who is in other realms a super genius, Cyndi certainly is unable to catch a clue about her blue-tentacled target.

Plus, how many scientists do you know walk around in a bikini and sunglasses? Not a whole lot, right? Cyndi does. Paired with her white lab coat, and Cyndi is suddenly looking pretty hot for science. Come on, Ika Musume doujinshi writers, why you gotta ignore the sexy blonde Yank? Oh right, main characters has moe appeal, ends her sentences in 'de geso' and has prehensile manipulative blue tentacles. Mainly the tentacles.

4. Duo Maxwell from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

"The God of Death is back from hell!" Let's be real, Duo is the coolest pilot out of Gundam Wing. This hotshot kid is thoroughly American, despite living in a space colony. Known as the God of Death, his Gundam Shinigami can slice through his foes with his almighty scythe. Duo grew up as an orphan, taken in by a religious orphanage, and after terrorists destroyed his home he turned into the shinigami that would finally take revenge.

Duo was always the Wing kid I loved the most. He was certainly one of the most approachable and easiest to connect with, considering how icy Wufei is and how incredibly guarded Heero was. Heero and Duo's relationship was complex, fascinating, and absolutely slashable.

Also, how could anyone hate that braid of his? Duo single-handedly brought back braids as a thing. Along with his shades and punk priest wardrobe, Duo was also the most stylish of the bunch. Just look at that picture!

3. Leon Orcot from Pet Shop of Horrors

Leon is the stubborn hot-headed New York detective that anime had been waiting for, courtesy of horror manga-ka Matsuri Akino. He serves perfectly as the straightman to the wild weirdness of Count D and his exotic pet shop, where the troubled and confused go to find pets that will improve their lives for the better - or leave them regretting their sins with their lives.

Also, he's a complete and utter horn dog. A pervert of the highest order when it comes to nudie mags and porn. And to think, little Chris has to live with this guy! 

What's so fun about Leon is that he is always surprised by what animals Count D continually has walking in and out of his shop, but he's not so close-minded that he can't see how magic D's shop is, or the effect his pets have on his unwitting clients.

As Leon spends most of his time trying to put Count D behind bars for whatever charge he can make stick, he is also often sucked into helping out the Count, putting his need to put the Chinese man in jail at odds with his need to make sure the innocent are saved and that ultimately justice is served. Guess which need wins out in the end? It's this inner conflict that makes Leon such a compelling character.

2. Kanuka Clancy from Mobile Suit Patlabor TV

In a whirlwind of class and coldness, Kanuka Clancy came into the world of Second Special Vehicles Division, a rag-tag group of police Labor pilots who have no idea how to handle such a stern, by-the-book woman. She's tough, a little icy, and an ace pilot whose skill in the cockpit is almost irritating. Kanuka is a professional at what she does, and she has no problem letting those she does not like how true that is.

She could have easily become the villain of the series. But this is Patlabor, and by the time Kanuka Clancy goes back to the New York Police Department, a little older and a lot wiser, it's the entire Division that ends up missing her and wanting her to stay forever.

Kanuka Clancy came to the 2nd Division with the mission to observe and eventually aid in duplicating such a labor team in New York, with US-made labors. What ends up happening is that Kanuka becomes a part of the SSVD family, making an odd but lasting friendship with main character Noa Izumi despite their initial tiffs. She also becomes close friends with the team klutz/hard-head, Ota; Kanuka became the team expert at reigning in Ota's foolish behavior, just as Ota and Izumi got good at getting underneath Kanuka's mental armor and exposing the kind-hearted personality within.

She is certainly not a force to be reckoned with, both in and out of her labor. There is a scene in the series where she takes down a couple of guys in classic Japanese form - in kimono, wielding a katana, running through an artistically displayed storm of cherry blossoms. It is one of the most beautiful and kick-ass scenes in the entire series, and it's my favorite Kanuka moment. If you need one reason to watch the Patlabor series, then let it be Kanuka "HBIC" Clancy.

1. Alfred Jones from Axis Powers Hetalia

What is a better American character in anime that America itself? And who hasn't gotten acquainted with this burger-chomping shake-slurping loudmouthed cowboy yet? After all, Hetalia has become a global animated phenomenon, and with it its self-proclaimed hero Alfred Jones - better known as the country he is meant to represent, America. And today is his birthday!

Let's be real, what list of U.S. characters from anime would be complete without Alfred here? He is pretty much America literally personified, even with a few (!!) stereotypes thrown in here and there. But he is so much fun, I can forgive him for portraying all Americans as gluttonous trigger-happy obnoxious doofuses.

But Alfred also has a bit of depth to him. Consider the story arc where he cleans out his storage room and finds relics from his messy break-up with Arthur Kirkland that destroyed their relationship for years - you know, the American Revolution. We see Alfred as a little baby, looking for guidance and clinging to Arthur as his adopted big brother. And then we see these good friends coming to blows, bringing out their guns and armies in order to settle the score.

Still, despite this, Alfred and Arthur end up having a pretty positive relationship, despite their bickering and Arthur often calling Alfred an idiot. An even odder friendship is the one Alfred has with Kiku (aka Japan); when they're together, Alfred often goes nuts over Kiku's homeland culture but Kiku can't for the life of him understand how Americans function. Watching them bond over scary movies and technology is quite adorable.

Let's be honest with ourselves. Hetalia is fifty shades of messed-up. It is full of stereotypes and ridiculous jokes verging on being outright offensive (and the English dub at moments is offensive) but it is also a screwball comedy that often throws common sense out the window for the sake of comedy, leading to things like Alfred talking to aliens and everyone getting stranded on an island only to be visited by Father Christmas in his sled, bringing gifts. And Alfred is the heart of this - well, Alfred and Feliciano, that scamp.

Besides, is there any character song more obnoxiously American than Alfred's?

I didn't think so. Happy birthday, Alfred Jones! Try not to blow yourself up (or someone else) with fireworks, okay?