Home MANGA Let’s discuss problem with Japanese Male Lead in Isekais – Part 2.

Let’s discuss problem with Japanese Male Lead in Isekais – Part 2.

I think we need to discuss Studio Ghibli movies. Rather the movies made by Hayao Miyazaki.

Did you notice anything in particular like a recurring theme about the Miyazaki movies other than the beautiful visuals and story?

The answer is a very significant percentage of the movies have a female lead even in movies they exist as primary protagonist alongside Ashitaka and Pazu. Now I have nothing against female leads because one of my favorite movies of all times is Alien 1 and Aliens(Alien 2) which starred Sigourney Weaver which went onto inspire video-game series of Metroid. Another great movie with a female lead is Terminator 1 in Linda Hamilton who played a much important role.

Toshio Suzuki, renowned producer of Studio Ghibli films, remarked that Hayao Miyazaki as being quite simply a feminist.

Now what am I getting at you’d ask?

I think Ghibli movies has influenced the modern generation of authors/writers and animators and also due to popularity, general population in any country have a habit of the chasing those trends.

Hence you see in Japanese Manga, when a female lead comes into picture, the Male lead takes a backseat and he becomes a pushover and she is driving the story and plot forward.

As you read these Mangas, since I have mentioned Ghibli movies, you will start seeing the pattern that manga plot is moving as it would in a Ghibli movies.

But not exactly as Studio Ghibli movies because Japanese male are prone to even more Beta male like behavior.

I’d like to discuss the Main character of a Manga called ‘Mannen D-rank No Chuunen Boukensha, Yotta Ikioi De Densetsu No Ken Wo Hikkonuku’ where he is assaulted ‘you know what I mean here’. He goes along with it. This is the level of male lead in Isekai have reached with Japanese male leads in a non-H Japanese media. There is another Manga ’29-Sai Dokushin Wa Isekai De Jiyuu Ni Ikita……katta’, apparently he is assaulted you know what I mean here by the female lead and he too goes along with by accepting her as his wife.

The new portrayal of male leads in isekai manga as being wimpy or less assertive can be attributed to several factors, although it’s important to note that not all isekai manga follow this trend, and there are exceptions to this characterization. Here are a few reasons that may contribute to this portrayal:

  1. Audience Identification: Isekai manga often target a Japanese male audience, and the protagonist is often designed to be relatable to the Japanese target demographic being either puberty hit teenagers or typical Japanese salarymen. So a wimpy and/or average protagonist can make it easier for Japanese salary who is at the mercy of his boss to project themselves onto the character and imagine themselves in similar fantastical scenarios.
  2. Fish Out of Water scenario: Isekai stories frequently involve characters being transported from their ordinary lives into extraordinary fantasy worlds. So for an author the lowest hanging fruit to show character development is to make the protagonist who starts off as “wimpy” or less confident and then as he completes quests and meet new people and spreads his other world knowledge as his own. And thus with minimal effort the Author show the Main character undergoing significant character growth and development as they adapt to their new surroundings and gain new skills and abilities.
  3. Power Fantasy and Progression: As mentioned in point 2, gaining magical super powers is another way of showing development of main character as Isekai stories often incorporate elements of power fantasy, where the protagonist begins as an underdog who is looked down upon and laughed at and mocked by adventurer’s guild members and in front of them, the main character gradually becomes stronger or gains new abilities allowing reader’s to feeling delight because the main character was able to reverse the role and either gained respects or defeats them in a duel . This progression can be more satisfying for readers if the character starts from a relatively “wimpy” state, showcasing their growth over time.
  4. Subversion of Expectations: Some isekai manga intentionally subvert traditional hero tropes by featuring protagonists who may not fit the mold of a traditional “hero.” But this subversion has become so common that it has becomes its own trope. This idea that it can lead to more nuanced character development and unique storylines, I think is failing.
  5. Character Dynamics: In some cases, the main character is always shown less confident even when he as the strength to destroy the nearest solar system. But this trope is used where he is less assertive or “wimpy” can create typical “tropey” dynamics with other characters in the story, including potential love interests, allies, or rivals. Main Character even with such power is pushed or beaten by the female lead in some sort of gag relief.
  6. Genre Trends and Conventions: Manga and WN authors often follow genre trends and conventions, and the portrayal of certain character archetypes can become a recognizable trait within a specific genre, such as isekai.

It’s worth noting that the portrayal of male leads in isekai manga can vary widely depending on the specific story, the intentions of the author, and the target audience. As the popularity of isekai stories continues to grow, authors may also experiment with different character types and arcs to keep the genre fresh and engaging. First example is NET as mentioned in part 1 of this series where Japanese author is adopting Korean web novel.