The Threshold of Relatability

Inspired by this post by Karandi.

We fans of anime, manga and associated media tend to see ourselves in characters, but how much is too much? Seeing an aspect or two which we also recognise as influencing our own actions tends to garner comments of “#relatable” and “I love this character because they act/talk like me”, but going too far in one extreme or the other can be dangerous.

For example, take a series where you cannot see aspects of yourself in any of the characters. You might be compelled to finish because of the other aspects of it, like the overarching storyline. That’s fine.

Then take the opposite approach and you can see aspects of yourself in all of the characters. Suddenly, your emotional investment into the series goes way up and you’ll be more compelled to deal with the ups and downs of the fandom, as well as the work itself.

However, in my time as admin of a certain Hypnosis Mic server, I have been exposed to the dangers of associating too heavily with characters – I’ve heard of people who identify so strongly with a single character, to the point they want to be referred to as that character and/or become offended when the character is talked about negatively. Thus, if finding aspects of oneself within characters is the reason one likes those characters, then it can easily lead into arguments between fans, because an argument about the characters can be seen as an attack on the participants.

A similar concept, specific to Japanese idol culture and some adjacent cultures (including HypMic), is the idea of the “oshi” (English equivalent would roughly be “stan”) – the idol/character you’re a fan of, possibly to the point of “not being able to share them” and having to specify this to other fans on fan introduction documents like this one. This is problematic because…well, if you’re a fan which “can’t share” because you get jealous of other people liking this character, that can be seen as selfish. After all, it takes more than one person to make a fandom, so other fans of the same character you like will inevitably show up, no matter how niche they may be (even if that other fan may not like the character you like to the extent that you do). Once again, if you get into arguments with other fans because you see yourself reflected in the character in a case like this, it can really cause pointless arguments to be even more heated than they could be.

Sidebar: 同担 (doutan) is the term for someone who likes the same character as you, so ticking 不可 (not allowed) on the document I just linked would advise Japanese fans you “don’t want to share”.

This is not a particularly easy question to answer and for different people, the threshold will be different, so it’ll be interesting to see what discussions arise from this.

4 thoughts on “The Threshold of Relatability

Add yours

  1. I have found characters here and there whom I relate to definitely but usually it’ll be parts of them or them in specific scenarios. Relating to characters and having an emotional investment in them doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing but like you pointed out here it’s problematic when people begin forgetting they are just fiction or feel the need to force everyone else to agree to their exact views resulting in toxic fandoms.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Man, I knew so many people who fit into the ‘don’t interact if we like the same character’ in high school/college. I appreciated their honesty since hey, at least they were upfront about it. I’ve always understood, to a degree not wanting to ‘share’ a character at large, I have one of those myself.

    Knowing that I’m being selfish with something that isn’t even technically ‘mine’; I made the decision to not interact with the fandom at all. I can control my own actions and choices, but not others. There will be people who ‘get it’ and other who don’t and honestly I don’t want any trouble so… no fandom for me at least for that series.

    I do get nervous when people start asking to be called by that character’s name, RP’ing for long periods of time, and then escalating to changing their real life appearance to better suit the character. That is relatability gone too far for me.


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