Then I remember my brother playing Final Fantasy IV and he named the green summoner child after me, who was eaten at some point and I got upset, but eventually she returned as an adult to kick-ass. He also played the Sailor Moon Another Story RPG, and Sailor Moon, which is getting an awesome remake in the coming months, is an extremely nostalgic thing for me. My brother loved it to the point that my mom knew what Anime we were watching and even bought (probably bootlegged) VHS SUBBED Sailor Moon movies for my brother. (I liked it too, but at the time I think my brother did even more) And of course of my favourite cartoon growing up was probably Powerpuff Girls.
Now the one reoccurring theme in all of that are female characters. This isn't a coincidence or anything. I'm a girl and naturally are drawn to girl characters because they should be role models to me and y'know, also being a girl should identify with them a tad more than the boys. But that wasn't always the case obviously. My brother also watched the first season of Digimon and I watched it with him every Saturday morning. More seasons of Digimon came by later (I watched the second one, but my brother did not as he only enjoyed the first) and skipped the third because it seemed really slow and boring to me (well at least now I appreciate the greatness that was Tamers P:) and then for some reason returned to Digimon in season four despite its unpopularity because holy shit sentai! I watched Power Rangers a ton as a kid too, though I was especially young when the first Mighty Morphin series aired, so I don't recall too much about it. Even today sentai is a thing I could pretty much easily get into, but its target demographic is a bit too young for me to really enjoy now. (I watched one season of that parody/meant for older-audiences Akibaranger series, but found it a bit too ridiculous and silly to continue watching the second. Maybe someday I'll pick it up!) But these two were sort of general type things, didn't have a favourite character to gravitate to, just enjoyed the concept and story. (such as this wondrous cartoon called Weekenders, but I think I've said enough of it for now P: )
And now for the other end of the gamut, introduced to me by the great medium that is VIDEO GAMES! My brother always played these girly RPGs of girly franchises like Final Fantasy and Sailor Moon, meanwhile I was beating people up in LF2 and beating people up in NHL97 and beating mushrooms up in Mario and beating...well basically I didn't really play any RPGs aside from Pokemon. A majority of these types of games have pretty much 99% male characters, what with the beating up associated more closely with the testosterone Y chromosome. But hey me and my two guy friends and my dude cousin were all about the video games. Yes, when he played Halo on the Xbox I would watch because first-person made me dizzy. Every time I went over it was either a hockey game (to the point my uncle stormed downstairs and turned our Playstation off because it was so late...but it didn't seem like we were being loud in the first place?? My uncle's not a nice person lol) or Worms on Playstation or Gundam games (I don't remember its title!) in Playstation or...WWE on the Nintendo 64. Or my other dude friend with his N64 and always playing Mario Party and Pokemon.
Anyway this could lead into a huge rant about why I enjoy female friendships/shippings so much these days, traced back to my years of childhood where all my guy friends were super nice and awesome and all my girl friends either told me I'd turn into a boy if I hung around boys too much, or that boys shouldn't be allowed and lock themselves in my room on my birthday while I stood outside with my crying cousin or getting into a fight with that girl because I was tired of being the one always wrong and playing the idiot male stuffed animal being the buttmonkey to her superior female stuffed animal and what was I talking about again?
That's right, the first anomaly is Beyblade. It's a show with 99% guys, aimed towards boy audiences (seriously it was so shounen it wasn't funny) and had extremely poor writing in at least one of the seasons, extremely poor action scenes in one of the seasons, and extremely poor design in one of the seasons. And it was not a video game that I enjoyed with guy friends. Oh no it was a show that became my first fandom, populated with many other girls around me. So after thinking about everything beforehand and having my mind deviate to irrelevant memories like that last paragraph, I wondered to myself...why did I enjoy this show so much?
We must go to the source, that being the one episode that drew me into the series. I always cited that Max's utter adorableness in the one season two episode when he is trapped in a collapsed building with his enemy, Mariam, as the thing that started it all. Max was super cute, was super friendly, and one thing I really liked about his voice in particular is that usually an adorable little boy with hyperactive tendencies would be given a high voice, but here his voice actor was maturing and his voice was quite low. Even though it was low the acting was quite good (at least that I could tell of a dubbed show anyway) and he was still spunky and happy despite his low voice, making Max extremely unique in my eyes. Sometimes typecasting voices to certain types of characters makes them a lot more boring than they could be. After all, it's not always that someone you know also has the most fitting of voices too, right? Wouldn't that be too much of a coincidence? Max actually sounded like a young boy and not a girl voicing a boy because every young male has a high voice and they aren't still that young age when going through puberty either, amirite???
But I rarely ever mentioned the other part of this source, Mariam. When you think about the female characters in Beyblade...everything sort of falls short. The VERY first female character introduced in the show was a girl who wore complete pink, basically being the pink counterpart to Rei and not being especially original in the process. Supposedly she is meant to be the female love interest for Rei (eventually, they do get married at the end of the manga) but that has to be the least interesting love interest you could ever make for a male character....A PINK COUNTERPART to the character. Whether or not Mao/Mariah's personality was interesting at all (I don't even remember! I think she just spent all her time talking/thinking about Rei since it was his character arc and thus has nothing about her as an individual at all) it's still pretty disheartening that the first female character introduced is someone like this. (You gotta start somewhere right?) But the very next was some girl in the American team who wasn't memorable at all. She also didn't have much of a role compared to pink cat girl. And as far as I remember those were the only two of the female gender that existed in season one...sad, huh? Unless Max's mom counts. :X
So season two comes by and there is this mysterious female character in a brown cloak along with other mysterious brown cloak people. She has one line and is super mysterious but is already more interesting than every female introduced combined including this Hiromi/Hilary chick who might just be around to be Takao's love interest or something because she never picks up the sport of spinning tops at all. WHAT IS HER PURPOSE!? Just to support? A cheerleader??? Anyway the mysterious brown cloak people disappear and we instead get these friendly spinning top enthusiasts who end up using experimental cyborg wrestling animals in order to steal the main characters' wrestling animals! Oh no!! Salima had potential, but she was sadly reduced to Rei's second love interest who didn't develop much of a personality besides being really stupid. Man this arc was really stupid and these side-characters were really stupid. The only thing that was really interesting about all this is apparently, in the non-bowdlerised original, Kai's roommate at some private boarding school was also manipulated into using experimental cyborg wrestling animal, but it was so powerful he went insane and died. (I mean why else did he show up as a spirit later on when Kai was facing the same experimental cyborg wrestling animal???) Anyway even though Kai found his roommate to be an annoying fanboy, the fact that he was victimized by these evil people and he failed to protect him haunts him, and pretty phoenix feathers fly everywhere as he achieves his pained vengeance.
Oh and Max was hardcore (and really dumb) this arc, so that was cool too. But I digress, Salima ended up stupid and then bland when she was good again, another boring potential love interest for Rei (combine this with the supposedly angsty Kai episode and there's no need to wonder why Yaoi was so rampant in this fandom) and so we wait yet again for some sort of female character that was worth anything, anything at all.
Finally the best arc in the entire series began, the Saint Shields. Is it a wonder the only female character worth anything (and I mean ONLY, not ONE OF, ONLY) was a part of this arc? Okay so Dunga was stereotypical dumb muscle, short green-haired kid had no personality besides being a rat, and Ozuma was stubborn bull horn crazy dedicated serious "COMPLETE OUR MISSION" dude, but as a whole the four of them complimented one another perfectly. It is very refreshing when the most interesting character with the most interesting development as side-character has ever and will ever see in this series, comes from the female in the group, Mariam. Yes, that's right ladies and gentlemen. The reason I loved Beyblade was because by sheer chance, I happened to watch the best part of the entire series. No wonder I rant about things so much. You are drawn to something because it's so good but the rest of it is crap, like an amazing trailer that spoils everything and the stuff you actually pay for in theatres is worth jackshit.
So Max and Mariam are battling as per usual because they need to steal the wrestling animals from their owners to protect them, sort of like those Team Plasma dudes in Black and White (but not really in B2W2) but then some architect or construction worker epically failed at their job and the building came down just because a few spinning tops smashed into a few support beams. (Well as far as I can remember) Maybe that's why the building was conveniently abandoned, who knows. (I think there was some sort of machine summoning ANCIENT wrestling animal that did so, a dinosaur or something but eh, I'll still blame the planners. They should have foreseen a dinosaur wrecking the place and planned accordingly!) Miraculously our main character and side character survive because people dying can't ever be shown death in children's shows despite what happened a dozen episodes ago. But that character was very minor so no one cares. What was fascinating about this sequence of events was at the time such a thing was very foreign to my young, inexperienced eyes. Max being the shorter, nicer kid despite being the boy, and Mariam being the taller meaner kid despite being a girl. Even though I've had poor experiences with friends of the girl variety media had taught me still that girls must be nice and petite and conforming and guys must be alpha manly males that save all the damsel in distresses' days. I'm not sure why this was so emphasized in my mind considering all the shows and media I mentioned paragraphs ago that were nothing of the sort. Well some of them were of the sort, so close enough.
Anyway one thing happened that I hadn't really seen too often aside from Hey Arnold! (and that example is an extreme one, as well) and that was a girl who hates you and is your enemy and has misguided views, starting to melt in your presence because you are nice to her. They still try to hold up their bad girl image, but hey, maybe this boy isn't so bad after all because he didn't die in a collapsing building either and they worked together to find an escape and oh my god you hurt your shoulder let me bandage it up with my headband holy crap this is so cute and the character development and the amazing designs of both characters and the unique circumstance the two are in WOW! Also Mariam's wrestling animal is a shark and Max's is a turtle. A SHARK, supposedly a very badass vicious creature very few traditional females would enjoy as an animal, is MARIAM's while Max gets a cute docile little turtle (okay it's not cute or docile or little at all, but it's still a turtle) emphasizing his defensive prowess. SO DIFFERENT, SO REFRESHING! SO CUTE! SUCH FRIENDSHIP.
Hey girls? Guys aren't so bad. Hey guys? Girls aren't simply your pink counterparts. So the end of this arc has the traditional beat each other up in the sport of spinning tops. Mariam predictably loses to Max, but learns that since Max is rather competent perhaps stealing their wrestling animals to protect said animals from evil people isn't the right way after all. Then we had that pretty awesome episode where Rei decides he don't need no wrestling animal to fight off the wrestling animals...and almost gets crushed by an abandoned roller coaster, but his tiger is too loyal to let him die so stupidly and escapes the rock itself. (This episode is also a reason all that rampant yaoi isn't so puzzling after all even though, as far as the creator's intentions were concerned, the episode is just to show off how badass Rei really is)
Ah, where was I? Now I did say this arc is the best in the entire series. For some reason the third season was rather popular among the English audience despite bombing in ratings in Japan, thus being the last season. You see every season is crippled by a significant flaw, so unfortunately there is no perfect season to point towards. The first season had linear storytelling and thus was pretty easy to develop the characters and show off the spinning tops. The story and "gameplay" as I will call it, using video games terms, was really well-done. (That being the action scenes of the spinning tops smashing into one another) but the design of the characters was atrocious, likely putting off many fans (and so I will call this the "graphics") who may have played it. Imagine season one like an NES game or an Atari game but it still had a compelling, if simple, story and really good gameplay. The gameplay will draw in the intended audience and the story keeps everything organized and coherent so no one gets confused or bored. Luckily certain characters have a rustic charm in this style, or at least don't look too crappy so it even drew in those outside of the target demographic.
Then the second season ramped up in the story, but the story put so much emphasis on the wrestling animals that it really screwed over the gameplay, that being the action scenes. Many people who really enjoyed those scenes were put off by this season despite the graphical overhaul. For me since I am not the target audience, I don't care all too much how the spinning tops are handled so it didn't bother me too much, but the major target audience probably was so they put far less spotlight on the wrestling animals next season, that being season three. Also while the graphics improved some people did not enjoy how cartoony it looked (the sudden youth of all the characters!) but to me it looked super duper cute. :D
Finally the third season sacrificed story this time around for gameplay and graphics. 99% of the new characters had no development or were bland, and the old characters suddenly forgot their development (Kai) has no consistent characterization (Rei) for some reason went backwards in design (Max, why is his hair bleached?? What happened to his super cute colour scheme of dark blue, red, and yellow?? WHY) and people who went backwards in their development (Takao). But hey at least the spinning top part was improved. You'd think with the action scenes and the graphics being so nice more people would watch, but because the story (which is far more important in a show than a video game thus the flaw of using this analogy) was all over the place and silly that it detracted from the show itself. Every new female character had piss-poor development too, so that department was not improved on whatsoever. Sure everything looks good now but it doesn't read good and thus its poor ratings despite an audience of yaoi fangirls (that was the only audience that was still watching in Japan apparently at the time. I've no clue how they came to that conclusion either. It's still a failure because they aren't the target demographic)
And that is why I liked the show.
Yep, this rant sure was all over the place.