October 29, 2007

The Otaku Dream Girl

Let's be frank for a bit, guys. We're all afraid of women, deep down. We like women, but we fear them too. We're programmed to like women, or at least most of us are. We want women around. We want to get intimate with them. But when we try to get to know women, we leave ourselves vulnerable -- and I doubt there's a heterosexual man alive who hasn't had his heart ripped out and stomped on at least once in his life.

[Presumably the converse is true, too, but I've never been a woman so I can't speak to that. Anyway, it isn't relevant to what I'm writing about here.]

It's all the worse for nerdy guys, who are already socially inept. (Like me.) And so we seek in fantasy what we cannot find in reality: the otaku dream girl, whose natural habitat is romantic comedies and harem shows.

An otaku dream girl is gorgous, but that's not the defining characteristic. The defining characteristic of an otaku dream girl is that she is aggressive towards the viewer avatar in the show, the hapless hero guy. He may be a bit inept socially or he may not be, but it is the otaku dream girl who pushes herself on him. He doesn't have to go out and risk rejection, pain, humiliation, by pursuing her.

I first thought about this after watching World of Narue. Narue is the iconic otaku dream girl, middle-school vintage. She's really cute. She's wonderful. She's a bit special. She has unusual abilities; knowing her is a doorway to unusual and interesting experiences for Kazuto.

But the most important aspect of Narue is that she's the aggressive one. When Kazuto returns her baseball bat, it's Narue who invites him to her place for tea. Later in the series, it's Narue who first hugs Kazuto. It's Narue who forces the first kiss. Narue is an otaku dream girl not just because she's cute and wonderful, but because she takes all the risk out of the relationship. Kazuto's emotional risk is minimal, and in fact he never gets hurt emotionally in his relationship with her.

Other such characters warp the pattern a bit, for instance in Tenchi Muyo. The basic characteristic -- that the girls force themselves on the guy -- is present for all of Ryoko, Ayeka, Sasami, and Washu, but they seem to do so in different ways. And there is some degree of risk for Tenchi, at least in the sense that if he selects any of them, one or another of the others could get violent and beat him up. But Ryoko, Ayeka, and Washu all are aggressive towards Tenchi, and Sasami would be except that she's a little girl and doesn't feel it would be proper. (Oddly, Mihoshi isn't. She's content just to be around him.)

The Triplets in Hanaukyo Maid Team La Verite are perhaps the icon taken to the extreme, because they're nymphos. They don't just want to know Taro; they want his body. They want it all the time. But that's the "lust" version, not the "love" version. Narue remains the pure form of the otaku dream girl.

Actually, Narue and the Triplets represent the endpoints of a continuum. All other otaku dream girls land somewhere between them on that scale.

Lafiel (Banner of the Stars) is not an otaku dream girl. She isn't aggressive towards Jinto, or at least not in the same way that Narue and the Triplets are. Jinto and Lafiel are much more realistic characters, and Jinto isn't a viewer avatar, not in the same way. So it's not the case that all women in anime fit this pattern. Not even close.

But a lot do, in different forms. The Yamato Nadeshiko character is a flavor of otaku dream girl, e.g. Aoi in Ai Yuri Aoshi. She lives only to please Kaoru. She shows up and moves in with him. She wants to bathe with him. She even sleeps with him on his futon. Even though she's an old fashioned girl, ultimately it's her that makes all the moves.

Tina is even more aggressive. Her first appearance in Ai Yori Aoshi is her doing a flying glomp on Kaoru. She spends that night with him -- both passed out with liquor, by sleeping side by side, in his bed.

I think this explains something else I've noticed: for every teen romance story in which a guy goes through hell trying to nerve himself up to "confess" to a girl, there are ten which go the other way. Why? Because male otaku fantasy is that the girl comes to him, so that he doesn't have to go to her. If the guy she's trying to confess to is a plausible viewer avatar, then that makes her at least partially an otaku dream girl.

Maburaho, as bad as it is, features three examples of the otaku dream girl. Yuna is the "childhood friend", the gawky neighborhood girl that Kazuki knew as a kid who grows up to be gorgeous, sweet, wonderful, and utterly determined to become his wife. (Or at least, that's what she's like in the first ten episodes.) Initially, at least, she's near the Narue end of the scale.

Kuriko is over at the Triplets end of the scale. She doesn't want to marry Kazuki but she does want to get into his pants. The theory is that she's been ordered by her clan to have kids with him because of his genes, but she seems more enthusiastic about it than would be justified just by that.

Rin, the third girl in the harem, isn't an otaku dream girl, interestingly enough. She, too, is ordered to get into his pants but hates the entire idea and decides instead to kill him. The urge passes; he wins her over. But even after that, she never pushes herself aggressively on him, which is why she's not an ODG.

The fourth girl in the harem is another otaku dream girl but I won't discuss her. She's another "childhood friend".

Dita in Vandread is an otaku dream girl. She starts chasing Hibiki as soon as she sees him, and she never stops. That relationship is a stranger one than most, but she still has the critical characteristic of being the one to pursue the guy, so that he doesn't have to risk. Nothing he can do, no matter how inept he is, drives her away. (And for reasons involving the plot setup, he may well be the most inept romantic lead in anime. Dita was literally the first woman he'd ever seen in his life, so far as he remembered.)

Suzumiya Haruhi is a particularly good otaku dream girl. In fact, she is another pure form comparable to Narue, although she lands at a different point on the scale much closer to the Triplets end.

Remember, the point of an otaku dream girl is that she spontaneously does the things the otaku wishes she would do, but hasn't got the guts to ask for. It's true that Kyon starts things off by talking to her in class every morning, but once she gets going, she's the one who pushes the relationship from then on.

She takes her clothes off when guys (including Kyon) are around. She creates a club for Kyon, and forces the prettiest girl in the entire school to join it so that Kyon can spend time with Mikuru. And she recruits Yuki, too; Kyon appreciates her as well.

Haruhi molests Mikuru, so that Kyon doesn't have to. She "costume rapes" Mikuru -- and eventually Kyon starts suggesting costume ideas. It's true that he's the one who kisses Haruhi, but arguably that's because of a situation she set up. She put him into a situation where he pretty much had to do it.

It's interesting that in the first couple scenes where Haruhi starts ripping Mikuru's clothes off, Kyon freezes and stares. He doesn't instantly turn and run for the door. There's that struggle inside him -- I want to look, but I know I shouldn't. Haruhi is indeed doing for him something he really wishes would happen, even though on a different level he doesn't think it would be proper. He can see it happen, without feeling guilty for being responsible for making it happen.

The essence of the otaku dream girl is low risk for a nerdy guy. She's the girl you want to know -- and she wants you even more than you want her, so she takes all the risks and you, lonely otaku nerdy guy, don't have to.

Girls like that don't really exist, of course -- or if they do, they're damned rare. And that's why there's a big market for fantasy depictions of them. The nerdy guy lives that fantasy through the nerdy viewer avatar on TV.

UPDATE: Fledge comments.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Anime at 11:07 PM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
Post contains 1454 words, total size 8 kb.

1 There's even an otaku dreamgirl in Dragon Ball Z: Videl, who eventually marries Gohan. She fits the pattern beautifully.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 29, 2007 11:24 PM (+rSRq)

2

Another thought occurred to me: In her own way, Mikuru is also an otaku dream girl. It's the older version of Mikuru, but in an odd way. When she first comes back to visit Kyon, part of that scene is that she expresses nostalgia for the time she spent there when younger, including the costumes she was forced to wear.

Which means that the older version of Mikuru effectively grants Kyon moral carte blanche to aid and abet Haruhi's costume-raping of Mikuru, such as by suggesting new costumes.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 29, 2007 11:43 PM (+rSRq)

3 Of course, Belldandy is even more of an ODG than Narue...

Posted by: Wonderduck at October 30, 2007 04:48 AM (CJ5+Y)

4 The type is not entirely unknown in life. (Though, as in other things in life, it's usually admixed with a lot of other stuff. No further comment... ;p)

I've always thought that Kyon was Haruhi's otaku dream guy. He's subtle. He appreciates her femininity, but does nothing to push a relationship on her. She can do something very small to get him to appreciate her, and he'll definitely notice. He doesn't try to stick her in a pigeonhole and tell her "you shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that" - or at least, not with any emotional blackmail attached. He's utterly safe - Haruhi can dangle Mikuru-bait in front of him all day, and be sure that he won't actually do anything about it, nor will he dump Haruhi for Mikuru. And he's at least theoretically capable of being aggressive himself, so if Haruhi changes her mind about being interested, she's got a source of guy available without all the unfortunate dating crap or lovey-dovey garbage to deal with.

It's actually quite a nice relationship, in its own way.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at October 30, 2007 05:28 AM (LMDdY)

5 . . .wow, actually, going off your definitions and descriptions, I *married* an ODG. 

*runs away from army of jealous otaku*

Posted by: metaphysician at October 30, 2007 05:56 AM (KVPNK)

6

Ah, but does she have magical powers?

Oddly enough, Beldandy is not a ODG, or not totally. Yeah, she moved into Keiichi's life, but she doesn't push the relationship. Which is why so many episodes in that series are based around Keiichi trying to nerve himself up (usually with goading from Urd) to try to escalate the relationship. That anxiety which Keiichi goes through is exactly what an ODG relieves a guy of, and Beldandy doesn't.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 30, 2007 08:50 AM (+rSRq)

7

I have to wonder where Goshuushou-sama ends up then.*  One magical girl who's relentlessly being pushed on the main guy by his older sister, and one normal-but-rich girl who's trying to stop the two of them so she can have him, even if she can't admit it to herself.  And the guy is resisting as hard as he can!

(Character growth?  I'd be happy with character consistency!)

*I suppose one possible answer is "in the 'do not buy' pile."  But I admit being seriously addicted to the OP.  I play it at least once a day. 

Pray for me, if your a believer....

Posted by: ubu at October 30, 2007 10:48 AM (dhRpo)

8

D'oh!  The ED.  I mean I play the ED every day.... I only play the OP on even numbered days.

Posted by: ubu at October 30, 2007 10:50 AM (dhRpo)

9 "Ah, but does she have magical powers?"

Well, she got friction to accelerate an object a couple times in a lab, and once blew up a VDG generator by touching it, does that count?

Posted by: metaphysician at October 30, 2007 12:43 PM (KVPNK)

10 Any girl who can cause explosions with her finger tips counts as having special powers in my book.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 30, 2007 02:02 PM (+rSRq)

11 I am a straight male, and socially inept. I probably count as an otaku. (If not a fan, then certainly a fanatic.) I can say that I don't think I've ever had my heart ripped out the way that has been mentioned. On the other hand, I am young, especially in regards to such things, and have not applied myself to courting.

On the one hand, an ODM would be evidence that it is actually possible for a woman to be interested in me. On the other hand, it is not clear whether I'd be able to stand an ODM. Given my prior calculations about demographics, and my near complete lack of interest in purely social activities, I do not think my odds of finding the right girl/woman are really all the feasible.

Posted by: PatBuckman at October 31, 2007 02:00 PM (DZ471)

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