This is a response to Galvanic Media (or specifically Voyager’s) post. You’re going to need to read that before this (and that will also explain why some works are tagged on this post, even though they’re not mentioned).
In retrospect, I did bring a lot of Anglophone and/or general assumptions to the post, so I don’t know if I was specific enough for Voyager to be happy with the answer.
Biologically and historically speaking, the girl is the “frail” one in the relationship that needs protection, due to childbirth, child rearing and whatnot. The girl is (stereotypically speaking) the more emotional one in narratives the world over, which makes a female character’s death more emotionally powerful than her male counterpart’s. Even in the case of Plastic Memories, where the girl is an android, Isla is meant to be “human” enough that such a boundary can still be considered.
Sidebar: Of course, stereotypes do nothing in the face of quality characterisation…I was going to say that a young girl’s death would have more impact than an old man’s, but then Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu kept popping into my head as an example against that.
Then you have the problem that, speaking from a feminist’s perspective – or alternatively, a historical perspective – of media, men dominate the consumption of media, particularly anime, manga and similar media, which is a fairly young medium in the grand scheme of things (no matter how far you chase the history of anime and manga back, you really can’t find much beyond the 1900s). Men also hugely dominate the making of such media, so it makes more sense for the man to be the point of view character in an anime if the creator is male. Again, there’s a lot more exceptions if you look at specifically female-oriented elements of anime/manga meta and fandom, such as the rise of yaoi in the 1970s, shoujo and the anime-watching public’s awareness of fujoshi that roughly happened starting with a certain bunch of swimming boys, but that’s beside the point – these sorts of storylines have appeared in media for a long time for a reason. The assumption there, I guess, goes that romance pulls in the female focus, while the male POV character draws in the men who either see this stuff of their own volition or get dragged to see this stuff by their girlfriends/other female influences in their lives.
Alternatively, you could think of it this way – heterosexual tragic romance pulls in a large audience because most of the audience is (assumed to be) heterosexual and probably (?) knows what it’s like to be in love and/or knows what it’s like to feel loss/grieve for missed opportunities, death and whatnot. Combine that with anime/manga’s tendency to emphasise fleeting moments and young people for maximum melodrama…voila! Instant money-maker, feels-inducer and possibly even a producer of tears for people all around the world.
Sidebar 2: There is an academic article which discusses characters having disabilities in Japanese dramas. The article notes there are quite a few examples of female disabled protagonists shown in relationships, but not that many guys in the same scenario – I took this as a storytelling metaphor (as well as an actual barrier) to communication when being in a relationship…even if the “disability” bit isn’t entirely relevant to our discussion, I still think it’s worth noting.
The reason why I mention this article and my thoughts on it is because I came to the same conclusion that Voyager did – that the girl is always the afflicted one in stories like the ones we’re discussing here – when I read it. I then took it as a suggestion from the author that it was a metaphor for the transient beauty of a girl (despite all those stories about “being able to love a person despite their looks”).
(Well, I didn’t know that Voyager was going to ask this exact question a few months from when I made notes on this article, but hey, since I have the notes and the underlying thoughts from taking them…why not use them?)
…now I’m tempted to think of examples where the guy is the inspiring one to the girl. Here’s a challenge: can you think of any?
(The closest I’ve got, off the top of my head, is A Silent Voice, but some parts of the Shouya/Shouko relationship are so ambiguous that it doesn’t seem to be a good enough example…)