Keita Amano and the Case for Empathetic Protagonists

Ahoy! You’ve found your way to Anime Parlay and I’m glad you’re here. For me, I am not one who likes to keep up on the latest and greatest in seasonal anime. Seldom do I like to check release lists and predict what’s going to be good or popular. For one, there are a lot of great fans out there on the inter-webs who do this for me. Thank you! Secondly, if something is just SO GOOD that I MUST see it, I will. Surfing the minutia of amazing titles, stories and characters is a rush but I prefer to take it my way and indulge to my liking. One of the more recent shows I gravitated to was Gamers!.

I like video games. Who doesn’t to some capacity? I was 4-years-old when I played my first Nintendo game. Mario Bros was only the beginning of a life-long affair with digital imagination. Gamers! should have been a stick out title for the name itself. Truth be told, I saw Karen Tendou and said “Yeah, I’ll check that out.” Shoot me.

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Still, I managed to watch the whole series with great anticipation for each next episode. Unfortunately, it was for the wrong reasons. Still, I found something special in the often described “plain” protagonist of the show, Keita Amano. Amano appears to be only harem fodder for the romantic-comedy genre but digging deeper and seeing myself reflected in his character is what really sold Gamers! in the end. Today, I’d like to make a case for my introverted anime counterpart.

What is “Gamers!”?

If you haven’t had the opportunity to check it out, Gamers! came out in the Fall of 2017 and can currently be found on Crunchyroll/Funimation Now for streaming depending on your viewing preferences. No judgement here kids, just get it. To be absolutely unfair to the show, I would describe this show as a set of misunderstandings covered in other misunderstandings filled with more misunderstandings with hint of gaming references to round out the show. Look, if you like the dramatic grind of watching a love pentagon sort itself out with the grace of a shoujo manga; Gamers! can fill that void. If you’re not into that genre of show, this may not be one for you.

Seriously, my biggest qualm with the show is that despite deep character development for a 12-episode show, the characters were often reduced to succumbing to their own self-doubt about their relationships with the other characters in the show. Honestly, a 10 to 15 minute, heart-to-heart conversation between all of the characters could have settled SO MUCH unneeded grief and drama and that kills me. Other than that, I enjoyed it and hope the rumors I’ve been seeing about a second season are true.

Amano, The Compassionate Mainstay

Let’s talk about Amano, the normal looking, plain SOB he is. Just look at him, it’s like his celestial creator(s) just hit “Default” and sent him to the planet.

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In the show, Amano is the type of person that keeps to themselves but are very kind and pleasant to the people they interact with. Amano doesn’t have any friends but can just as easily be found with his face buried in his phone or handheld device. He also has the hots for Karen Tendou who is the school idol. Nothing to see here by all accounts. Insert protagonist here or so I thought.

Through the entire show, Amano is shown providing a key characteristic we don’t often see in today’s protagonist. That trait is empathy. Over and over again, Amano has no problem defending his ideas or viewpoints, often with passion, but not without acknowledging perspectives from others first. Amano is the type of character who listens first before thoughtfully speaking in a way to include everyone. What does it say about reality when compassion is something I want in my heroes?

Another thing that really stood out for me with Amano was his ability to go against what was expected of him to do what was true to himself. At the very beginning of the show, Amano is presented with the chance of chances. Karen Tendou, in the flesh, comes to his class to personally invite him to join the school’s gaming club. Amano turns her down immediately. No one puts Karen in a corner, Amano, NO ONE! Except Amano. Even after Karen tries to invite him again after showing him the club and all, Amano still declines. His reasoning for his decision is just sterling to me.

Even though Karen, his idol (who he doesn’t just have a weird thing for, he genuinely respects her and what she wants as if she were a person, food for thought there) is asking him to join a club about something he enjoys, he still says no. Why? For Amano, he doesn’t play for the competition. He doesn’t play for glory. He doesn’t play to be the best. He play simply for enjoyment. That’s it. Amano plays games to enjoy every overlooked and unexamined parts that most players take for granted. That really spoke to me. It’s not everyday someone would forsake their crush and hobby for the sake of being true to themselves and I think that’s mighty big of Amano. Not to say he doesn’t play a smutty game here and there though. No one is perfect.

Maybe through his own self-reflection, Amano answers the call to be a supportive friend throughout the show and often puts his heart and soul into everything he does. I imagine a lot of time by yourself can give you a lot of perspective but rather than force himself or opinions onto the other characters, Amano listens and then responds. Despite his own problems, Amano always puts his friends first and that’s admirable.

Why it matters!

Amano is a rare case in the sense that we don’t see to many protagonist that use their feelings and emotions to solve issues and problems. Another hero that hits me as the empathetic protagonist is Newt Scamander from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It’s so nice to see protagonists that go against the grain of what we expect from male characters and masculinity in general. These characters want to come from the angle of understanding and compassion. The end goal is always to solve the problem, just as diplomacy or war would, but using perception and patience as their tools for success.

The Author of Gamers!, Sekina Aoi, was born in the 80’s like me. I am more curious about his upbringing in Japan than anything and Google won’t give me anything on the dude. Regardless, his stories often revolve around popularity and the constructs of social hierarchy in a high school environment. Gamers! maybe less so than his other stories. Still, I totally get wanting to have the popular girl go for the loner. I love cliches! Still, I feel like we’re cut from the same cloth and maybe had similar experiences growing up. At the very least, I saw myself in Amano.

I had my friends growing up but some of my most cherished time was getting too into RPGs on Sega Genesis and SNES or writing on a busted laptop my dad gave me. I was a bit of a loner too. Not a weird one, I hope. I tried to be a day-walker in everything I did while still being a HUGE nerd. Still, I never gave up the things that made me ME. Like Amano, I wanted to play my games, solve every issue with empathy, and not have to justify the amount of anime posters on my wall. It’s the little things in life. Even now, as I move into my 30’s, I still prefer my privacy but not without the best companionship. Amano and I both ended up with the best partners and not for our looks, brawn, or brains. Simply because we can be open and honest with our emotions. I want more representation like this! I guess the real question is is the world ready for that? Maybe not yet..

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Thanks for reading today and being patient for the post. I had a burger waiting for me at the in-laws today and I never say no to free food. It’s a bad habit from college that never went away. You know how it goes! Thank again! Adios for now!

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