Sunday, April 1, 2018

Canny Dopes on April's Fool Day

It's April Fool's Day in the West. I don't much care for practical jokes, so instead I'm posting about canny dopes.

I'm a huge fan of canny dopes, the so-called fools of the story who turn out to be insightful, even shrewd. Sometimes they are (supposedly) academically stupid but everyday life smart. Sometimes they are naive and gullible yet with clear foresight. Mandy of Last Man Standing falls into category 1. Kyle of Last Man Standing falls into category 2.

Canny dopes abound in manga.

Iku Kasahara from Library Wars is a canny dope. Everyone is absolutely sure that she doesn't think before she speaks (which is kind of true), that she puts her foot in her mouth (which is kind of true), that she can't master academic subjects however proficient she is at military ones (which is less true but still sort of true).

Yet it is Kasahara who comes up with many of the correct answers--through, we are informed, sheer naive intuition. Still, Kasahara is the one who decides to help Komaki by enlisting Marie. And she's the one who suggests protesting censorship by getting the censored author out of the country. She's the heroine, not only because she falls over the right answer but because she acts on it.

Antoine from Lovers in the Night by Fumi Yoshinaga is a clever dope of Mandy's variety. He absolutely doesn't care about the French Revolution, has no interest in the wants and needs of other people (except, maybe, Claude) and ignores the most basic information that would provide him with answers to questions like, "What do we eat when we have no access to more food?"

That doesn't mean he doesn't know how to size up a person or situation correctly.

These canny dopes are interesting because they often appear to act dumber than they actually are. Without being at all manipulative, they give the impression that they are giving other people exactly what other people expect. It's a form of self-protection.

When Nakai unknowingly tacks up
an expensive piece of art in his bathroom,
because it makes him regular, Tanizaki is
reminded of what he claims to believe:
art is meant to be viewed, not priced.

Nakai of In the Walnut I and II is an optimistic partner, like Finder's Akihito.  Unlike Akihito, however, Nakai operates from a position of utter innocence. Akihito, though comparatively innocent (versus Asami), is far too wild and street savvy to be a canny dope. He thinks too much.

Nakai, on the other hand, stumbles on the correct answers not through overthinking but through intuition and a lack of wrong assumptions. He sees the truth because his perception cannot be bought. Akihito hangs onto his innocence through willpower and Asami's help. Nakai simply has it; he is entirely uncorrupted.

In all cases, the canny dope brings truths to light. They are not passive, no matter how much they avoid "deep thinking," since they will often put their bodies, characters, and relationships on the line in order to back those truths.