Carl at Ogiue Maniax is currently running a contest to win a copy of Galaxy Express 999 and Adieu Galaxy Express 999. I decided that I would make today’s post my entry into the contest. I sadly don’t talk about Rumiko Takahashi or Urusei Yatsura nearly as much as I should. Bu this contest gives me a chance to talk about one of my favorite anime characters. One that I normally don’t talk nearly enough about. I have loved Shinobu Miyake since my early in my fandom. She is fascinating character study and noteworthy in several respects outside of the scope of this post. But for now let me answer a question about growing up.
What is your favorite example in anime/manga of a character growing up, whether literally or figuratively, and why?
Rumiko Takahashi is rather infamous for creating great characters with huge personality quirks and then running them though hundreds of different scenarios as their signature shtick plays off of each new situation. For this to work the characters largely have to remain the same loveable jerks they are when they are introduced who never learn from their experiences. But I think there is one character who very clearly goes through a strong character arc over the course of Urusei Yatsura. That character is Shinobu Miyake.
When the series starts Shinobu is nominally in a relationship with Ataru. As childhood friends they seem to have fallen into being a couple but Ataru has an ever wandering eye and Shinobu has a nasty temper. When Lum enters into the picture in the first chapter the delicate balance of their relationship is thrown into chaos. Soon she is forced to try to win the affections of man she only barely tolerates. In fact at times she seems more interested in beating Lum than she is in actually dating Ataru.
When Mendo comes to Tomobiki high school Shinobu quickly loses interest in Ataru as a lost cause. She figures she might as well dump the zero and get with a hero. Mendo seems to be everything Ataru is not. Mendo seems handsome, suave, smart, brave, cultured, and ungodly rich. At the same time Ataru is goofy, lecherous, dumb, cowardly, slovenly, and perpetually broke. At first she does everything she can to win the affection of this seemingly great catch. As she continues court Mendo she often finds herself paired off with him and they become much closer. But intimacy makes her realize that Mendo and Ataru are not all that different outside of their financial status. Mendo’s good breeding just lets him hide his bad personality better than Ataru who wears his flaws on his sleeve. They are even both in love with the same woman. And that woman is not Shinobu.
Then it dawns on Shinobu that she is basically going after a high class version of the same man she learned long ago was no good for her. So Shinobu stops chasing after any men in the series with the realization that going after Ataru, Mendo, or any other man like them is just a vicious cycle with her. But as we all know when you stop looking for love is usually when it comes after you the most. When she runs into Inaba at first she is completely uninterested in him. But as she gets to know him she begins to realize he exactly the type of guy she should have been looking for in the first place. Being that Inaba is a cute tall blonde guy I am sure Narutaki would agree with her choice.
Through out the series we see Shinobu’s romantic taste mature as she is one of the few characters in a Takahashi manga outside of her serious works that is able to change for the better. We see her go from a naive girl who is resigned to settle and transforms into a jealous rival when threatened. Mendo invokes a change to a foolish love stuck girl, a devious schemer, and then a bitter heartbroken young lady. But in the end all these setbacks give her the wisdom to notice and grasp happiness when it finally comes her way. She does not age that much over the course of the series because like the Simpsons they are eternally in the same grade but she does mature in her romantic sensibilities like few other characters.
Takahashi later admitted than Shinobu was based on someone she knew. I wonder if the her real life counterpart went through anything that would go on to inform her fictional avatar. Either way I think that being based on a real person is partially the reason she is able to mature so brilliantly.
If you want to enter just go over to Ogiue Maniax and leave him a comment with your own answer. I even left you the answer on how to win the contest no problem. So go and give yourself a chance to win some Leiji Matsumoto and Rintaro goodness.