Anime Crushes: A Little Bit of Humility Goes a Long Way

We all have certain tropes or genres or characters or whatever in anime and manga that we really enjoy.  For me, I really like when a protagonist has a crush on someone who at first, apparently doesn’t even know he or she exists.  Inevitably, the object of affection begins to notice the protagonist, either because they become friendly (think Ryuuji and Minori in Toradora!) or because they knew who the other person was all along (think Sadako and Kazehaya in Kimi ni Todoke).  Then, when a relationship buds (if it does), it’s just that much sweeter.

But that’s just the beginning of the sugary relationship building!

Sawako Kuronuma
Art by しろたか

It becomes even sweeter (whipped cream sweetness) when the viewer discovers that the object of affection had eyes for the protagonist all along, or,with cherry-on-top sweetness, the hitherto almost-untouchable one feels like the shy/awkward/unpopular protagonist is a savior of sorts.

Oh man, that’s the kind of story that gets me.

But none of these types of tales would leave an impact if it weren’t for the primary characters’ humility.  True or not, these men and women feel that they are lesser than those on whom they have a crush.  And so the fulfillment of their wishes is not only powerful because we want these characters to get together, but because in one fell swoop, the protagonist also moves from being lowest rung on the ladder to the very top.

In anime, humility often helps in getting the boy or the girl.

Though neither related to anime nor to “crushing,” I’m reminded of a direct message I didn’t send on Twitter a few weeks ago.  I meant to compliment someone, but suddenly wondered if this “rock star” among bloggers would even remember me among a sea of other anime fans/tweeters/bloggers.  So, I resisted and did not send the message.  Later, this same person tweeted me and mentioned a personal detail I’d briefly related a long time ago, and I suddenly felt like I’d jumped from the bottom rung to the top.

Jesus gives an interesting piece of advice relating to this.  He says that at a dinner, don’t take the place of honor.  Instead, take a lesser position so that the host will honor you by asking you to move up, rather than make you feel foolish by having you move down.  This is all related to his teaching of humility and the idea that the lesser will be greater.

But I don’t think the point of the story is to degrade oneself.  If we come to understand that we aren’t the be-all and end-all, we may respond by living a lifestyle of humility.  And perhaps sometimes, without expecting it, there’s a surprising payoff for laying low: it’s in the one who recognizes you and lifts you high, and who, in your heart, counts most of all.



17 thoughts on “Anime Crushes: A Little Bit of Humility Goes a Long Way

  1. I never find it easy to accept praise, I always feel like the person is mocking me or joking around. On the other hand, I always find it easier to dish out praise. I suppose thats kind of different but thats the impression I got from reading this article.

  2. Awwww, this got me feeling all fuzzy and in the mood for some sweet-talking!

    I never really thought of humility as the reason why I love these shoujo romance so much, but it makes a lot of sense. Kimi ni Todoke is especially a good example of this, since after 2 seasons of agonizing over their inability to communicate and come together, the ending was all the more enjoyable.

    1. I’m glad it got you feelin’ fuzzy!

      Kimi ni Todoke’s ending was definitely very fulfilling. There’s also a sense of humbleness in both characters – so while we’re rooting for Sadako all along, we also root for Kazehaya, as he reveals more and more his own understanding that he’s no better than Sadako or anyone else.

  3. I did watch the first season of Oh My Goddess! I think that Morisato being lifting up by Belldandy always gets me especially when Morisato tries to show how pathetic his life is by pointing out how poor he is, how short he is and how clumsy he is.. and even after all that Belldandy says she still likes him… That moment was early on in the series… I really need to expand my “romance/drama” anime.. when I look at how many Anime you’ve seen Charles it amazes me… I think I can list a dozen or so anime that I’ve seen, mostly Shounen type… Obviously Shounen doesn’t have a strong emphasis on Romance.

    1. Oh yes – OMG! is a great example! You know, I really didn’t enjoy the series too much when I originally watched it, but I think I’d appreciate it a lot more now.

      As for my watch list…guh, I don’t wear it with a badge of honor. It’s almost a document of wasted time! 😛

      If you’re looking for romance, you might want to try Toradora – it’s more of a male-oriented romantic comedy/drama. It’s also maybe my favorite series.

      Whisper of the Heart, Kimi ni Todoke, La Corda d’Oro, and Skip Beat are some of my favorite shoujo titles (though I really haven’t watched or read many). In josei, you can’t beat Honey and Clover; Nodame Cantabile is also excellent.

      I can’t get enough of Key anime, like Kanon and Clannad. I also enjoy some older titles like Maison Ikkoku and Kimagure Orange Road.

  4. It’s interesting, because while Sawako was certainly humble about her feelings for Kazehaya, she also learned to love and value herself more through realizing that his feelings for her were mutual. That’s probably the biggest reason why I love Kimi ni Todoke so much. I think humility is also a huge reason why I love Naoki and Kotoko’s relationship in Itazura na Kiss so much – she doesn’t expect him to ever fall in love with her because he’s a genius while she’s not too bright, so seeing her become so elated when he finally returns her feelings is truly rewarding. Meanwhile, Naoki takes a lesson from Kotoko’s feelings for him by not being so full of himself. Basically, I love when couples in anime and manga make each other better people by humbling (yet strengthening) one another.

    1. I definitely find series more fulfilling when there’s a two-way transformation occuring. And in those cases, there’s almost always one character who becomes more humble. I’m actually reminded of a non-anime – My Fair Lady and the play upon which its based, Pygmalion. The bigger transformation there may not be in the female lead becoming more high class, but in the male losing (some) of his arrogance.

      About Itazura na Kiss…sigh…maybe I should return to it. I watched maybe six episodes, but really couldn’t get into it.

  5. A very sweet article indeed. I, and I believe most people, am also easily touched by that theme though I never consciously realized it like you. Humility is a quality that my local culture cherish a lot and I’ve been thought humility since childhood. I think it’s part of many that contributes to my success today. Nevertheless, one should not mistake humility to self-pity or laziness. Humility does not mean that you should do nothing and wait for miracles. ^_^

    1. I think “true” humility is hard to find – whether in anime and manga or in real life. For instance, I don’t know about you, but from the context of the Korean culture through which I largely raised (and am still a part of), there’s a societal bent toward displaying humility outwardly, though it’s often more a reflection of how we are to be perceived by others rather than the true condition of one’s heart.

      You also mention self-pity and laziness…these qualities seem to also be more common that real humilty (or at least run side-by-side with it) on screen and in life.

  6. My English culture doesn’t seem to cherish humility, therefore, it’s not something I’ve been raised to regard in high esteem. We taught, in order to succeed you’ve got to be outgoing and assertive, in other words, brash. Perhaps because of that I’ve always found myself preferring anime couples who are a little more forward in their approach to be together, is that necessarily a bad thing though? : S

    1. Yeah, American culture emphasizes that as well. And to be sure, there’s a time for assertiveness. I look as Jesus Christ as one who was both humble AND assertive. The two work together in Christianity because of the idea of God’s grace (which leads us to humility) and faith in the LORD (which leads us to be assertive when we feel we are right).

      Also, I like outgoing characters…maybe that’s just my type. I always wanted to date an outgoing girl, and I ended up marrying one! 🙂

      So yeah, no, I would never call your preference a bad thing. 🙂

      1. I really do feel as though I was born into the wrong culture… v.v
        So, assertiveness is a good Christian characteristic? I never knew that, thank-you.
        Would it be OK if I added Beneath the Tangles to my blogroll? I’ve only read a couple of posts so far but, it’s all brilliant! Heh, sorry- gushing!

        1. Assertiveness is just a good, human characteristic to have. But just as with any action, I think, there’s a time and place.

          And absolutely – I’d be honored if you added me! Thank you so much for the kind words! 🙂

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