Wednesday, March 04, 2015

31 Days of Scans - Favorite Female Character

I mentioned back in December I might try adapting Scans Daily's "31 Days of Scans" theme to my own purposes. I'm not planning to do this every day, right now I was thinking it could be a Wednesday feature. I don't think there'll be a specific format, just me posting pictures and talking, like usual.

The easiest answer for Favorite Female Character would probably be Cassandra Cain. If not her, Felicia Hardy. But I already did posts about each of them last August, and it feels kind of lazy to just re-post those or link to them. So I'm going to highlight a character I didn't include in those "Favorite Characters" lists, and I'm going outside Marvel and DC (not to mention the U.S.) entirely.

It still might be a bit of a cheat to use Ryoko from the Tenchi Muyo! series, considering I was introduced to the character through the anime first, and it was years before I got around to buying any of the manga volumes (the series was originally created by Masaki Kajishima, and the manga were written and drawn by Hitoshi Okuda). But hell, I'll take any excuse to gush about Ryoko.

When I was doing the favorite character posts, there were certain recurring characteristics or themes, and Ryoko has a fair number of these, though which ones and to what degree depends on which version of the continuity we're going with. If we go with the OVA/manga version, she has the tragic backstory of being used as a weapon by Kagato for some considerable span of time (I've seen her age at both 2000 and 5000 years, factor out the 700 years she spent locked in a cave, and you can possibly knock some time off the front before Kagato stole her from Washu, but then that one panel only says she's over 800, so I don't know). She was under his control, but still has the memories of killing who knows how many people (that guy on the right says she's known galaxy-wide as 'The Fiend of Destruction'). It wasn't her choice, but she still bears the guilt, and for the people in the galaxy at large, she's the one they associate the acts with, not the guy who was hiding in the shadows pulling strings.

In other versions, she's a space pirate by choice (though I don't believe it's explained why), so slightly less tragic. But then I get the fun of her being a space pirate, and if she wasn't a super-nice, Errol Flynn/Kurt Wagner sort of pirate, she's at least not a vicious, irredeemable bastard.

She has a bit of the learning to be a person arc I liked in characters like Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Whichever version we're talking about, she's largely lived a life defined by violence, where you take what you want, and if you find yourself in conflict with someone else, you hurt or kill them. In the OVA, she's able to project her astral form from the cave she's imprisoned in, and watch Tenchi's family interact, which at least gives her a clue that there are other ways to behave, while in other versions, it's the fact Tenchi finds her unconscious and tries to help her, rather than kill or rob her, which is the key moment. Either way, you get someone struggling to figure out how to operate by a set of rules that are largely foreign to them, so she screws up sometimes (sometimes for comedic effect, which is fine, her cooking disasters are entertaining), but the effort is important, because it shows she's not just a wild thug, she can be peaceful and friendly if given the chance.

She's also fiercely devoted to her friends. She's not good at actually telling them that she cares, mind you, but throughout the manga, she repeatedly gets injured trying to protect Sasami, or Tenchi, or trying to rescue Ayeka from some foe so Tenchi doesn't risk his neck doing it. There's one quick story where a couple of small-time crooks approach Ryoko about stealing something for them. When they're just threaten her, she's content to demonstrate she could punch their heads off, but is willing to let them leave peacefully. But when one of them mentions they know she's fallen for some Earthling named Tenchi, well. . .

Don't worry, his head grew back. Or he pulled it inside his body before she fired. One or the other.

And I enjoy her flaws, because they feel like natural offshoots of her circumstances. She is impulsive, she is loud, she is not above using threats or intimidation, though at least she tends to save it for jerks (I like to think that guy on the left if her universe's version of J. Jonah Jameson. Just needs a slightly bigger mustache). She does drink a lot, though I believe her alien metabolism means she could give Wolverine a run for his money in a drinking contest. She is adverse to housework. She does tend to grab Tenchi inappropriately. But again, space pirate. They take what they want, they don't have to clean up if they don't want, they don't have a 9-to-5 job, and they could be killed or imprisoned at any moment. Ryoko spent centuries floating in some half-comatose state, with no contact with anyone. The best she could do was project her astral self out to see what everyone else was doing. In the manga, her mother is this half-mad scientist who stays in a child form and treats Ryoko more like an experiment than a daughter (if Washu isn't the worst fictional parent I've seen, it's only because I watched Evangelion and got to see Gendo Ikari in action). She is well aware of how abruptly she could lose the odd family she's fallen into.

Also Ryoko and I share a tendency to get so focused on a problem, and solving it in a direct manner, we can't see other, better solutions (at least, according to my dad I have this problem). Ryoko has a bit more success getting through on main strength and awkwardness than me, but she has a lot more strength than I do.

Ultimately, I think it's that she has a clear idea of what she wants out of life, and she's set on getting, and then protecting it, and she refuses to allow her past to slow her down. It's impressive to me.

No comments: