I’ll start this off by saying something that will sound stupid, but I truly mean it. While actual people – such as my father, mother, grandparents and various adults I grew up around – molded me into the person I am today far more than any non-corporeal character ever could, the fictional character that left the most impact on me, connected with me the most, as well as became the most well-rounded and realistic example of a fictional character I’ve ever seen in animation, is Ohana Matsume from the anime ‘Hanasaku Iroha‘.
Her personality is extremely well-defined, never betrays itself, grows in poignant ways and is a blast to watch. She is funny, kind; cowardly in some situations, while bullheaded in others. She cries at times, she beams with joy at other times. She has her own weird eccentricities. She brings life and light to others, and she tries to learn from and and better others. She completely fails often. She sometimes succeeds only through sheer tenacity and an iron will that she struggles to maintain.
She learns from her mistakes. She has a heart of gold, but isn’t above being rude without realizing it, or being selfish without realizing it. She doesn’t take crap from anyone, and that sometimes gets her in trouble. She tries to push away things that haunt her and to use her experiences to teach and assist others. She fails at this sometimes. She is in no way a perfect character; she is multidimensional, flawed, and her strengths shine through those flaws. This makes her a near perfect vessel to tell the story that the anime she is in is intending to tell. The sum of all of this ends up being the most human character I’ve yet seen rendered in animation.
She isn’t a caricature of a person designed to be flashy and stand out – despite everything I’ve said – and neither is she an avatar for the viewer. She is Ohana Matsume, and no one else. Her character is so omnipresent – but subtly, without being overbearing – that she steals every scene she is in. Compared to her, many of the great characters in the show come off as one-note. I’m not being hyperbolic. I’ve watched this show multiple times just to reaffirm to myself every so often that I’m not spewing out nonsense when I say this, and her character holds up every time. There are no ‘Mary Sue‘ characteristics or tendencies to be found.
I really need to give a strong round of applause to the team of this show. The animators, the writers, and the director for any aspect they had in shaping and portraying her. I especially need to give applause to Itou Kanae for giving what I would say is a voice over performance that reaches my top five – ever – including all languages and mediums.
Through her tenacity, she inspired me to be more tenacious. Through her attempts – successful and unsuccessful – to teach others through her experiences, both positive and negative, I was inspired to more actively do the same. She did not inspire anywhere near as much growth in me as real people in my life have, but she inspired the most in me that any fictional, animated character ever has.
The next thing I’m about to type may sound extreme, but it’s true. I have decided that I wish to name my first daughter – if I have one or more than one, and if my future wife isn’t completely against it – Ohana. This is for four main reasons. One, ‘Ohana’ means “family” in Hawaiian. Two, ‘Ohana’ means “great flower” in Japanese. Three, because the possibility is open for her to be called ‘Hana’ by many as a more western shorthand if she prefers, but her true name would be ‘Ohana’. Lastly, because I wish for her to have the tenacity, kindness and growing wisdom of this character. I want the best for my children, even though they don’t even exist yet. This seems a lovely way to wish for that.