We’ve all got that one female character who we can see ourselves with. Whether she’s falling in love, trying to pass her class, starting out on her career or even just chilling out – something about her reminds you of, well, you. So why is that some Shōjo characters connect with us more than others?
A recent American study surveyed 385 U.S. University students, who were fans of Anime and Manga, to answer this question. Of the responses, 275 were female, 93 were male and 17 did not record their gender. Participants, on average, spent between 1 to 1.5 hours per day reading or watching Shōjo manga or anime. Overall the study found that participants connect to Shōjo heroines through appreciation of pro-social traits (helping and supporting other characters), wishfully identifying with them and developing para-
social relationships with the characters. In this study, Wishful identification is defined as perceiving the character as oneself. Previous research has identified that audience members connect with characters who are similar to them in terms of demographics such as age, gender or socio-economic status. While para-social relationships are where one interacts with the character on a friendship level. Para-social relationships, lead into para-social interactions which are typified by emotions regarding one’s relationship with their character, effort in maintaining the relationship with the character and also imitation (such as cosplay or repeating catch phrases) – however these three factors are experienced independently of one another.
Based on other previous research, the study argued, that Shōjo heroine’s pro-social behaviour separated them from ‘mainstream’ American protagonists. They postulated that the Shōjo heroines, who were usually ‘normal’ girls, who exhibited positive behaviour allowed them to be a more relatable role models, compared to typical ‘Superhero’ female characters.
Personally for me, I do agree with some of their findings. One female heroine that I do connect with is Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club. Besides looking similar (at least I like to think so), I see her as a version of myself to aspire to – she’s hard working but also knows how to have a good time. I can see myself as her, but at the same time be inspired by her open and kind behaviours and attitudes towards others. Although I have yet to cosplay as her, and she doesn’t really have a ‘catch phrase’.
So what about you? Are there any female Anime characters, or any Anime character that you identify with? Why do you think you connect so strongly with that character?
Till next time 🙂
Srividya Ramasubramanian & Sarah Kornfield (2012) Japanese Anime Heroines as Role Models for U.S. Youth: Wishful Identification, Parasocial Interaction, and Intercultural Entertainment Effects, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 5:3, 189-207, DOI: 10.1080/17513057.2012.679291