(Aka the Ritsu appreciation post. Considering most of her real character comes out in the last part of Kawai Complex, be prepared for a few spoilers)
As I mentioned in my post last week, I take what I can get. The last streaming season, as usual, didn’t really bring in anything that broke cycles in anime. But it did have some surprises and now I want to focus on one of my favorites: Ritsu, from Kawai Complex.
Ritsu is introduced from the very beginning as a stoic bookworm who honestly does nothing but read 24/7. In other words, a non-alien version of Yuki Nagato, from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Oh and without any super powers either. Which you’d think would make her boring. And for the first half of the series it does. But once the hero gets in a bad situation, one in which he is being bullied, Ritsu breaks out of that horrid stereotype and… speaks. Oh but she doesn’t mutter something short in a monotone. She looks right into the room and speaks, clear, strong and not to be argued with.
Now, I’ll admit, I was hesitant when this first happened. Sure she got shy again right after, wondering to herself how she managed such a feat. But it seemed so against her character type, I thought it might have been a simple easy out for the writers. Something they forced her to do to increase the romantic entanglement between her and the hero. Something they can brush off later as an oddity. But to my shock, this didn’t come to pass. As the series began to move towards a close, we got to see Ritsu stand for herself as well. She looks right into the eyes of a judgmental guy and states her differing opinion loud and clear. She then removes herself from an uncomfortable social position all on her own, without any aid from the hero character, or anyone else for that matter.
See, the problem I have with bookworm characters is that they are so often kept voiceless. Often opinion-less to boot. At best they might have a single outburst of feeling. Maybe twice. But more often than not it’s the main characters that must “stand up for them.” The bookworms themselves rarely, if at all, learn to stand on their own. And that’s pretty interesting considering that, in the real world, bookworms are actually pretty talkative. The invention of social media and various, rather nerdy, sites gaining in popularity have made it clear that bookworms have some pretty strong opinions in general. And as projects like the Vlogbrothers on Youtube have shown, nerds are very capable of speaking about those opinions. As a fellow bookworm myself, it’s pretty obvious that opinions run strong in us. You don’t read tons of books, all with different voices, situations, concerns and issues and walk away without feelings about such things. And while Japan is a super conservative culture as a whole, it still doesn’t excuse the stereotype of “those that read hath not a voice.” It’s simply not true. No matter what culture you’re in, reading expands your world. It doesn’t make it smaller. It makes it larger. More vibrant. And while not everyone will wish to speak their mind openly on the feelings they have about the world around them, they will have an opinion. Often a very strong one, cultivated over years of looking at life through the eyes of hundreds of people who lead different lives than they do.
Ritsu still ends the series as herself. A shy girl, awkward and usually neck deep in a book. But she’s far more human than I thought she would be. Because she isn’t a voiceless bookworm. Not this one. Ritsu may be quiet as a rule, but she’s far from not having an opinion, let alone a voice. And that make her more real and a character deserving of the title “heroine.”