12 Days of Moe – Day 6: Character-driven humor
Character-driven anime are where the show is mostly carried by the characters themselves, and what’s important here is that the characters’ actions don’t really bring any dynamic changes to the plot, hence the difference between this and plot-driven anime where the focus are more on external conflicts, twists, action and development on a situation. Not just moe, but quite a lot of slice of life anime are character-driven. Stories like these may focus on a character’s backstory, developments and so on, while plot-driven elements are minimal to none.
Applying that theory, character-driven humor makes use of it’s own characters as a basis for their jokes — a prime example being Wagnaria (Yamada breaking plates, Takanashi liking small things, Satou’s unrequited love, etc…). This is character-driven humor in a nutshell-using their own characters as a basis for humor.
I notice the Japanese seems to be more keen with character-driven humor than American humor where the joke can be understood at first glance with the use of sarcasm, wordplay, slapsticks and outright physical comedy. This is a big difference here, considering Japanese humor really requires you to invest and understand the characters’ personalities and their relationships with each other to get the humor.
To illustrate some examples, Mio’s timidness in K-ON isn’t funny if we aren’t introduced to her character first and foremost, additionally, we also aren’t introduced to how that timid personality clash with the other main characters. K-ON is funny because of the dynamics and chemistry between all the main characters-but this is something you won’t get without watching from the first episode. It’s also hard to find humor in one of GochiUsa’s running gag — Cocoa’s overly protective tendencies for Chino and overall obsession with being a big sister, without understanding their subtleties, backstories and relationship. GochiUsa is fun just like every other moe shows because of the dynamics between the main characters, which again, is something you won’t get if you jump straight in without first being properly introduced to said dynamics.
Character-driven humor seeks excitement and amusement in routine, everyday lives. Maybe this is why I like them, because they are funny, in a different kind of “funny” Gintama or any American comedy are. Character-driven humor is a more down-to-earth comedy, it helps you understand the characters and invest in them as they participate in their daily activities. At the end of the day, it’s as if you made some new friends whom you mess around with over the simplest matters.
This is the magic of moe anime — their settings are often extremely sanitized but they give that sense of relaxation and inviting atmosphere like no other purely just from character dynamics.