Although Daito and Shoto can be used to generalise the entirety of Ready Player One‘s Japan, my example is not as deep but shows signs of being similar. That is, Ran Takeda of the Lorien Legacies book Fugitive Six. I mentioned in the Make It Anime tag post that I thought the series jumped the shark at this point (although I read Ready Player One in 2014, which might explain why I liked it more then, enough to recommend it to classmates in a Japanese class at the time). This might be a contributing factor as to why.
Ran is characterised by her politeness, not speaking too much and the fact she’s occasionally associated with Japanese imagery (apparently she, before Fugitive Six, becomes the owner of a chimaera turtle called Gamera). The first two are common to Western opinions of Japanese people but hard to judge. This last bit, however, is what irks me so, combined with the translation problem.
What translation problem?
Mabudachi (マブ達). Unless you’re truly proficient in Japanese, you might never have heard of it. It’s a term used to mean “true friend”, but if the person/people responsible really knew Japanese, they would just default to tomodachi (friend), shin’yuu (best friend) or maybe even nakama (comrade). Reasons being:
- It’s a yakuza term, which devolved to mean “platonic friendship between men”. This is Ran, using it towards a guy (it was either Kopano or Nigel).
- Even for a term that is correct through meaning, it doesn’t go along with Japan’s idea of honne and tatemae – you keep your true desires to yourself and comport yourself on the outside. Even years of anime watching and studying Japanese tells me mabudachi is wrong, because it reveals too much about Ran’s honne in a way that doesn’t match what people of the culture are like in the nuances.
Anyways, outside Taylor (the arguable protagonist of Fugitive Six), none of the characters are really fleshed out well enough – not even through the potential for headcanons, except maybe the things you could do with the Kopano/Taylor ship. However, note the second generation of Legacy-holders has 3 out of 6 characters being of Western descent, as opposed to 4 of 10 of the first generation.
In short, Ran has been written, at least in my opinion, as someone who merely checks off the boxes of “minority character for the sake of diversity”. Sure, diversity is cool – just make sure you do more research beyond Google Translate to make sure you don’t offend anyone. That’s how stereotypes exist, people.
Meta context: You just got fooled!
…well, kind of. The origin story of this post is exactly as how I explain it in the intro. However, I’m not turning this place multi-fandom or bookish any time soon…it’s right there in the name, and thus mission statement, of the blog after all.
Although my feelings on Ran are exactly as they are laid out here, there are signs this entire post was a prank. The most obvious, I’d say, is not bothering to check who was referred to as mabudachi and the aborted point of argument near the end of the post, but I wonder if all the signs were perhaps too subtle to notice using the internet and the scheduler…hence this rambling box of context.