The Bishounen Dream

Every guy wishes to be a bishounen. Some are deluded that they already are. It’s a rare occurrence to find any anime character that’s not dashing (though of course for certain art styles like Aku no Hana nobody really is good-looking). I won’t go much into details of appearance, because I’m more intrigued by something else, and that is the personality archetypes that these bishounen take on. If you watch enough anime, you’ll notice that the generic male characters can be categorised into a few broad categories.

1. The “Cool” Guy

Free! conveniently gave us 4 — or even 5 — of the most common and well-liked male archetypes, one of whom would be the famous Haruka-type, the cool, quiet guy. That said, I’m not sure that all of us are able to effectively segregate the different types of “cool guys”, because this is the category with the most branching nuances. What do I mean? Well, consider Haruka and Kanda from D.Gray-Man. Would you comfortably group them both in the same category?

I would think not. Haruka and Kanda, although both are cool and quiet, have a stark difference. Kanda is quick to anger, whereas Haruka would never flare up at anyone. In the “cool guy” category, there are 2 main branches, the “angry cool” and the “calm cool”. Some variations have a “cool but intelligent” guy, which would fit neither Haru nor Kanda, but probably someone like Sasuke from Naruto (though he also has elements of “angry”). The “cool guy” is a popular archetype to use, and would often steal the scene and the hearts of girls and also guys among the audience. Because guys don’t mind being fans of cool guys for some reason.

2. The Nice Guy

In contrast with the “cool guy”, we have the “nice guy”. The “nice guy” tends to be the opposite of the “cool guy” in many ways, one of which is likeability. For some reason, nobody really likes the nice guy. The nice guy is sometimes the shortest one, such as Allen from D.Gray-Man, or Asakura Yoh from Shaman King. Some nice guys are also tall, such as Makoto from Free!. It is often the irony that no matter whether the nice guys are cast as the lead or the supporting characters, they’re usually sidelined in favour of the cool guy.

3. The Gay Guy

Gay is perhaps too strong a descriptive, but nowadays in recent anime, there pops up an effeminate guy. He could be the Shy Girl Guy like Ruka from Steins;Gate, or the Noisy Over-Exuberant Guy like Nagisa. If they weren’t so gay, they might just be well-liked. As it is, though, most people regard them as comic relief at best. These people are also usually short, though tall wimpy men like James from Pokemon may sometimes be placed in this category.

4. The Jokester

The Jokester would in the past be regarded in a supporting role, but ever since prominent Jokesters like Lavi and (sometimes) Yoh came out, Jokesters with a serious side have become even better-liked than the Cool Guy. There is at least a Jokester in almost every show, and their cute smiles and sparkling eyes, together with their fearless body language, are fast catapulting them to be the future successful character archetype.

5. The Reckless Guy

Do you remember your Digimon days, when all the goggle boys have the same fiery, reckless personality? This archetype is quickly dying out, but some action anime still retain some of the feckless unthinking goggle boys.

6. The Completely Normal Guy

The most fascinating type of guy in anime is the “completely normal in all respects but is still drawn like a bishounen” guy. This archetype was parodied well by Hiroshi in Ookamikakushi, where people comment that it is strange that someone as normal as he is manages to attract the attention of guys and girls alike in the town. Well, it turns out this unseen attractiveness is a crucial core of the storyline. On the other hand, we have Natsume from Natsume Yuujinchou, who is supposedly a very plain guy but really looks unerringly similar to the so-called “bishounen” in the anime, Natori. And then of course there is Kirito, the really normal guy with a power level over 9000 degree of luck and lethal charm.

These are the main archetypes I can think of that bishounen (and sometimes non-bi shounen) belong into in anime. You may have more to offer, or nuances within each category to point out. It’s always interesting to watch a new character and see how far he fits into an archetype, and the subtle differences he has with others in the category.


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