Sunday, February 5, 2017

Animals and Personality in Manga

When I was growing up, my family occasionally played a kind of 20-anthropomorphizing-questions game; the answer was always a person while the questions included, "What kind of animal would this person be?" "What kind of plant?" "What kind of wrapping paper?" and so on.

The question did not refer to the type of animal or plant or wrapping paper the person liked but, rather, what characteristics the person shared with the animal or plant or wrapping paper.

Manga employs these sorts of comparisons consistently and naturally;  animals are the default analogy. Although characters are most often compared to cats and dogs, they are also compared to bears, rabbits, even tigers.

In Apple & Honey: His Rose-Colored Life, Natsuki compares Komano to a cat AND to a dog. In Honey Darling, the main protagonist not only finds and cares for an (actual) adorable little cat but has the personality of one (he compares his roommate, the veterinarian, to a bear). And in Rabbit Man, Tiger Man (see below), the entire point of the characters is that one is a rabbit (the Doc) and one is a tiger (Yakuza-san). Can a rabbit and tiger get along?

Hilariously, the bonus story at the end of otherwise serious-minded Maiden Rose is an over-the-top farce where the main characters are re-imagined as a cat and a dog (see above). Forget Gnomeo & Juliet: when it comes to satires, looks like Animal Farm hits closer to home!

Generally speaking, throughout manga, cats/cat characters are quiet, clever, and luxury-minded while dogs/dog characters are extroverted, blunt, and friendly. Cats are quite popular in Japan though dogs have their own following. Being compared to any animal is a mark of having "arrived"!