Oh, now this one is absolutely no contest. In the whole of anime-dom, there has been exactly one character who has been my crush. While I have admired many women for their strength and beauty, there has been only one actual crush. This woman is beautiful, wily, and strong in a way besides brute power, though she does pack quite a punch, both literally and with her weather-based attacks. I speak of none other than:
Nami, from One Piece.
Seriously, it’s ridiculous how, every scene she’s in, a corner of me always squeals, “Naaaaammmiiiiii!”
In my defense, where Sanji is automatically in love with every attractive woman, my crush did not form overnight. And not only because she’s a cutie who becomes a hottie later on.
There is some method to my madness.
For the first few episodes of One Piece, Nami was mostly a pretty face, a cutie we saw moving in the background, close but not quite touching the main action. Yet we could already see she was up to something, which turned out to be “stealing gold.” In that vein, she turned out to be a greedy, opportunistic schemer, perfectly willing to use her sex appeal to charm her targets, and all too happy to throw a perfect stranger, Luffy, under the bus when the Buggy pirates catch her stealing their captain’s map. Then she turns around, all cuteness, with an offer to team up, bribing Luffy with lunch. She’s a thief and a skilled navigator, but she hates pirates (until she gets to know Luffy), and proves adept at double-dealing and double-crossing.
Not the most sterling of introductions, but there was a certain charm to this gold-digging, tangerine-loving, pirate-robbing, redheaded navigator. Particularly when we see her first real display of humanity. She risks her life, and burns her palms, saving Luffy’s life after her plans backfire with nearly-fatal results. That spoke to something good and selfless about Nami. While each of the Straw Hat Pirates could be summarized as selfish and greedy at times, but exactly the opposite when people’s lives are being trampled upon, Nami stands as a particular example of this.
So, I could certainly enjoy her as a character, but then they gave us something which demanded admiration for the young lady.
Nami’s life was spent almost exclusively in hardship. She was an orphan, her home destroyed by pirates when she was just a baby, too young to remember her birthplace. Fortunately, a spunky marine officer, a woman named Bellemere, adopted her and another girl, Nojiko, as her own daughters. They lived modest lives together for about a decade, raising tangerines in their yard and selling them. They were poor, but happy, until tragedy struck again. The fishman pirate Arlong came to their village, took over, demanded tribute, and killed anyone who could not pay or be paid for. Bellemere, being so poor, could never pay the tribute for her entire family, but she had just enough to save her daughters. Arlong gunned her down right in front of Nami and Nojiko.
If that trauma weren’t enough, Arlong noticed Nami’s skill, at her young age, for drawing sea charts. This caught his eye as potentially very useful for his ambition. If they were able to understand the seas better, they could turn the ocean itself into their weapon of conquest. So, before Bellemere’s body was even cold, Arlong took Nami from her home and forced her to work for him. The monster who murdered her mother was now Nami’s master. And this is how she lived, for eight years.
The simple fact that Nami was able to smile at all, to make any friends at all, after enduring that prolonged Hell spoke volumes to me of her strength. Not brutish power, though she could certainly deliver a mean punch, but the strength to endure day after day after day of unending agony. That is nothing short of amazing.
As Bellemere says, “Never give up. You must find the strength inside you to always move on. You must live through every moment. And if you can smile in the face of it all, that is the greatest strength.”
That is Nami’s strength.
People who can break stuff are a dime a dozen.
People who can endure the obliteration of their entire world are rare.
That is worthy of admiration.
Whatever her foibles, Nami is the kind of woman, the kind of person, who is most worth fighting for and fighting alongside.
I suppose that’s where my little crush really started, when I started to admire her. There are a hundred other reasons, of course, including everything about her mannerisms, her ambition to chart all of the seas, her cleverness, her compassion, her authoritative aura as she commands the crew in sailing the ship through storms and trouble, her unflinching ability to whack Luffy when his stupid/crazy/eccentric ways get them into trouble, her growing physical strength, her talents as a pickpocket, how she uses Sanji like a tool, her level head, her fiery nature, and more, more, more. Everything about Nami’s character is enchanting and/or compelling, even her flaws. But the single greatest reason has to be that strength to endure.
It’s no wonder she’s my anime crush. She’s as smart, strong, and capable as I want to be.
Oh, and a big shout out to her voice actors, both in the original Japanese and in the English dub by Funimation, where she is played brilliantly by Luci Christian. You rock, Luci!