Home ANIMECON Let’s discuss problem with Japanese Male Lead in Isekais – Part 1.

Let’s discuss problem with Japanese Male Lead in Isekais – Part 1.

Reminder: Readers can always comment to share their opinion with what they liked/disliked using the Disqus comment section after reading.

This month’s topic: The problem with most Japanese MC in isekai stories.

Lets discuss the problem with Japanese Isekai Main Characters. Where characters generally exist on 2 extremes of the spectrum. Where one is psychopathic revenge driven edgelord and other is pushover who goes along with the whims and fancies of female lead.

The problem is so glaring and almost ubiquitous in today’s Isekai manga that it can be considered as Japanese quirk or a uniquely Japanese trope that you can just overlook it just focus on power fantasy and the world building aspect of the Fantasy.

This grating problem has made me more inclined to read Korean Manhwas even when the worldbuilding in webtoons(not novel) format is not at the level of Manga. (Digressing here, I can understand some will argue that Webtoons are in colored format meaning they are a more complete form of comics relative to Manga as they are in B&W. But Japanese are adapting to this. Recent Examples: Sword Art Online manga is done by the artist in the webtoon format, Gravity User and Necromancer’s Evolutionary Traits(NET). In case of NET, it is categorized as a Japanese Manga but it is based on Korean Webnovel. It is categorized as a Manga as the publisher and producer are based in Japan except it is in a webtoon format. This is also the same reason ‘The Beginning After the End’ is not considered as a Manhwa because It is an American comics in webtoon format. Even though the Author is South Korean and the comics is drawn by an Indonesian artist and published in America.)

Lets us not involve ourselves with semantics of what classifies as Manga or Manhwa or comics.

Coming back to the problem of how Japanese male leads in most Isekai are depicted in Manga. They are shown as being very passive who can also be called as Beta male(American internet parlance) or a pushover. I think one reason behind this problem could be attributed to the limitations of the shounen genre which limits what can be portrayed in that medium considering Isekai also has a common theme of an adult reincarnating in different world thereby catering to a particular niche/audience in Japan. So there is a restriction that Shounen genre automatically imposes if you cater to that audience.

Biggest example of above would be Tensei Shitara Slime Data Ken, where Rimuru has become the epitome of a Japanese Beta male, the male character has become genderless monster and even as a human form, he has no gen_tals. Now he has at his disposal a Harem which can be classified as a Schodinger’s Harem because Author has made it so that Rimuru neither can do anything nor does he desire to do. Add to that, the unique/ultimate skill is very jealous and will limit its master.

Example 2: Ainz Ooal Gown or Momonga of the Overlord series. He is a skeleton with no genitals with harem members competing for him. He is a passive character who is pulled in the plot due to the scheming of Demiurge with inputs from Albedo and Shalltear.

I also think this goes behind the simple explanation of genre restriction and is part of the greater societal problem in Japan with respect to marriages and birth rate of Japan.

First, I think it has to do with the rise of the Hikikomori(s) which is classified as a condition in which a person is socially avoidant to the point of staying isolated at home for at least six months without social interaction. China has taken measure albeit authoritarian to address or rather combat the same problem.

One of the reason is that Hikikomori has been attributed to rise of video game and rise of fidelity of 3D graphics with their fleshed out worlds and the introduction of addictive gameplay loops using modern algorithmic data farming tools to maximize the audience attention and increase the dopamine hit. This has been exploited to the extreme by the gacha mobile games.

Some may argue Hikikomori is symptom where the main issue lies somewhere else.

The exact reasons behind hikikomori are complex and multifaceted, and there isn’t a single explanation that fits all cases. However, several factors are commonly considered to contribute to the development of hikikomori:

  1. Social Pressure and Expectations: Japanese society places a significant emphasis on academic and career success, which can create intense pressure on individuals to excel. Those who feel they cannot meet these expectations might withdraw to avoid facing perceived failures or disappointment.
  2. High-Stress Education System: The demanding education system in Japan, characterized by long hours of study, intense competition, and entrance exams, can lead to burnout and stress. Some individuals may choose to isolate themselves as a way to escape this pressure.
  3. Family Dynamics: Familial factors, such as dysfunctional family relationships, overprotective parenting, or high parental expectations, can contribute to hikikomori. In some cases, individuals may feel trapped or suffocated within their family environment, leading them to withdraw.
  4. Mental Health Issues: Underlying mental health conditions, such as social anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders, can contribute to hikikomori. Isolation might be a coping mechanism for individuals struggling with these issues.
  5. Technological Influence: The prevalence of technology and online communication can lead some individuals to substitute virtual interactions for face-to-face ones. This can reinforce their isolation and make it easier to withdraw from physical social interactions.
  6. Economic Factors: Economic instability, job scarcity, or financial difficulties can create feelings of hopelessness and uncertainty about the future. Some individuals might withdraw as a response to these challenges.
  7. Cultural Factors: Certain cultural aspects of Japanese society, such as collectivism and conformity, can contribute to the development of hikikomori. The pressure to conform and fear of social judgment may drive individuals to isolate themselves.
  8. Stigma and Shame: Hikikomori often experience stigma and shame, both from themselves and from society. This can create a vicious cycle where the fear of judgment reinforces their isolation.

It’s important to note that while these factors provide insight into the reasons behind hikikomori, every individual’s situation is unique. Hikikomori is a complex issue, and addressing it requires a comprehensive approach that involves understanding the individual’s specific circumstances and providing appropriate support, which may include therapy, counseling, and community outreach.

Anyways, another problem of the acceptable Male behavior as portrayed in Manga/Anime medium has to do with the modern Japanese laws and culture being a result of insular nature of the Japanese society along with US interference in Japan. Laws have made the Japanese too passive. If you think this isnt the case then you are wrong, because in China, certain laws regarding child policy gave rise to a particular type of culture and outlook towards women.

By observing and understanding Japan and their relation with USA I came to the conclusion that, one reason for the problem could be attributed to the fact that Japan post-ww2 has a relatively significant American interference in their politics and hence limited in making serious changes for their society. Also due to WW2, US has also restricted Japan with how they can develop their military.

In next part we will discuss the 2nd reason.

PS: This is an multi part series which will be discussed over a period of few weeks as to what is afflicting the portrayal of Male leads in Manga industry.