Before I say who I’ve chosen, I want to mention something I notice.
When I chose my favorite male character, it was not easy and a most enlightening, introspective experience.
When I chose my favorite supporting male character(s), it was perfectly quick and easy, practically a reflex.
When I chose my favorite female character, or at least my favorite female character who was not my anime crush, the only difficulty was in choosing my criteria, and the rest fell into place from there.
Now, choosing my favorite supporting female character, I have yet another unique experience, which I will describe in just a moment.
What I notice is this:
Out of four times where I choose a favorite character of some sort, I have had a new, unique, illuminating experience all four times.
Which would be the idea, of course. 😉
I’m glad I accepted this challenge!
Now, without further ado, to the main event:
When I first started thinking about this, about who my favorite supporting female character would be, I actually knew my answer even before I figured out my criteria for it. She just sort of drifted to the forefront of my brain, and I went, “That’s true… but why?”
So, I had to go back and re-watch the anime she was in, so I could understand my own reasoning, and it was some good reasoning.
But, as I was watching and forming that very reasoning, I found myself favoring a second girl as well. Not favoring her over the first, mind you, but still, she was barely a background character, yet she suddenly seemed every bit as important as the first.
Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say, I believe both girls have important stories for us to notice, so I am mentioning the both of them.
From the anime Say, “I Love You,” I present Aiko Muto and Momo!
Starting with Aiko, we meet her first as a schoolmate of the main protagonists, Yamato and Mei. Mei is a rather withdrawn girl, new to everything about her fledgling relationship with Yamato, and terribly uncertain. As Yamato is one of the most popular boys in school, who could have the pick of the litter, Aiko is confused as to what Yamato sees in her, spiteful about Mei’s lack of resolve, and more than a little jealous.
At first, Aiko’s hostility is a bit perplexing, but soon we learn her story. She was once in a serious relationship with a boy, and went to great efforts to please him, including using a lot of makeup to make herself prettier. Her self-esteem was pretty low, one aspect of which was her growing dependence on her makeup to help her feel like she was worth anything. Then Yamato gave her a sincere compliment at a moment when her makeup was lacking, and told her she should lay off it a bit, it wasn’t healthy. (I am paraphrasing greatly) That was the first time Aiko could recall being called pretty without her makeup, and it left a deep impression on her.
When Aiko found out her boyfriend was cheating on her, she was heart-broken, and in a moment of weakness, bordering on insanity, she not only relied on Yamato to help her feel some self-worth, but also demanded that such be displayed via sexual intercourse.
While that was a tremendous mistake on many levels, Aiko ascribes her survival through that terrible time to Yamato’s kindness, and she feels terrible that she took advantage of his kindness. Even so, that kindness draws her to him, and she wants to have him for her boyfriend. But, again, with her self-esteem so low, she doesn’t see why he would choose her, so she puts herself on a brutal diet, losing so much weight so fast that she actually has some scars to show for it, beneath her clothing.
So she’s definitely not perfect, but her flaws become a little more understandable as symptoms of a root problem. She does not approve of Mei because Mei hasn’t put any effort into getting Yamato, while Aiko lost weight at a very unhealthy pace. And when Aiko was finally “ready” to pursue Yamato openly, she learns he’s dating Mei.
Thus, her spite, and her incomprehension of Yamato’s attraction to Mei.
That changes soon, though, when a third party intrudes on Yamato and Mei’s relationship, and, failing utterly, vents his frustrations on Aiko, critiquing her weaknesses. Mei overhears this, and steps up to Aiko’s defense, driving the boy off in a huff. Aiko and Mei have a simple, honest conversation, where Mei reveals how much she admires Aiko, which throws her for a loop. With some understanding that Mei’s strength just isn’t as loud as others, Aiko becomes friends with her, giving up entirely on Yamato in the process.
That friendship saves Mei, and her relationship with Yamato, at least once. Mei has self-esteem issues of her own, so when a popular, gorgeous model named Megumi starts campaigning to steal Yamato from Mei, Mei begins to withdraw again. That’s when Aiko and other friends step in, listening to Mei’s worries, bolstering her spine and her resolve, and Aiko herself talks to Yamato, making it clear that he’s been messing up. He didn’t mean to, but he’s been inconsiderate of Mei, and it’s hurting her.
So Aiko goes from trying to take Yamato for herself, as her emotional crutch, to supporting and protecting Yamato’s relationship with Mei, who has helped her, in a quiet way, to stand up for herself.
I find there’s a great deal to admire about that. People make mistakes, sometimes truly terrible ones, but they can change into better people too, and not all strength is the loud, “I can smash castles with my fists,” variety.
Now, at this point in the story, Megumi the model finds herself all but deserted by people whose friendship she has courted. Or tried to court. In truth, she’s just always found her own worth in how others see her, so she’s put a great deal of work into her appearance, into seeming to be what she believes others want her to be. It may have landed her a position as a popular model, but most of her relationships are hollow and false. When she’s left alone, she breaks down in depression, and she may well have done worse to herself if not for the intervention of her friends.
One of these friends is Momo.
Momo isn’t ugly by any stretch of the imagination, but she’s apparently not as gorgeous and popular as Megumi. Megumi isn’t even particularly kind to her. Yet Momo is her friend, and has always been her friend since childhood. When Megumi felt down about herself, growing so tall before the rest of her class, it was Momo who helped her to feel better.
It was Momo who helped her feel cute, albeit by introducing her to makeup. If not for that moment, Megumi may never have become a model in the first place. As is, Momo watches her friend become very popular, and something of a worse person than she was before, yet she stays by Megumi’s side, holding no grudges. When everyone else leaves, and leaves Megumi devastated, Momo remains, a faithful friend.
When they have a shouted conversation through Megumi’s apartment door, it’s Momo’s words, not Yamato’s, which help her get back up. Megumi finds strength to be herself and to love herself, as Momo hugs her warm and close.
We don’t even know Momo’s surname, but she proves pivotal in saving Megumi, and helping her become a better person.
And I say again, not all strength is the strength to break things.
The thing I like about these two young ladies is how their strengths are similar, but their personalities, and the things they do, are very different.
Aiko, I will be honest, does strike me somewhat similarly to the stereotype in anime of “the mean girl who becomes a friend.” That doesn’t always sit so well with me, but they did a good job with her in this story, so it’s forgivable, and I can always appreciate characters who change for the better.
Momo, by contrast, is always a nice girl, and has always been Megumi’s friend. Even when Megumi was, frankly, far too full of herself and rather neglectful of her childhood friend. She endured it well, and was there to catch Megumi when she fell.
Both of them, however, support their friends, and push them to stand up again after they’ve stumbled.
This, I like.