Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Misa Misa. The not so dumb blonde.

One of the main criticisms against yaoi fangirls (and by this I mean the type of rabid fan who will chase guys around in cons to hit them with a 'yaoi' pallet, or will say that a cute guy is 'rapeable' and not see how creepy that is) is that they will call *any* female who comes between their guys (Or, in the most extreme cases, any female) a whore, a bitch, a slut, and an idiot.

Unfortunately, that one is not so much a stereotype as it's the truth, and sometimes, not only with the most rabid type of fans. Setting aside the 'but she's not as important/strong/cool/interesting as the main character' complains, that might be true as sometimes, secondary characters don't get as much development as the main characters, I'm talking about people that complain that the daugther of a Foreign Minister doesn't has the same combat skills and military know how as a Gundam Pilot. Or, in the particular case I'm going to discuss, that a pop singer isn't as bright as the best detective in the world, and a guy who fooled every single government agency in his country. And here I make a pause to warn you, I'm going to pretty much spoil a couple of very important plot points of the Death Note manga.

Misa Misa, whose real name is Misa Amane, is, at first glance, hated by many fans and critics of Death Note alike. In secret communities, is fairly easy to find 'I know my friends will kill me, but I like Misa Misa' secrets, as easy as is to find people who complain about Misa Misa fanart (Even more if she's paired with one of the main characters of the series). On the other hand, I've also read in at least two forums (One a community in live journal, another was Girl-Wonder.org) that people where hesitant to pick up Death Note because while the two main male characters were genious level smart, the main girl was the equivalent of a teenaged Britney Spears, who talked about herself in third person, and only cared about dates. Tom S.Pepirium of IGN even compared her to Jar Jar.

Because at first sight, yes, Misa Misa could be considered at best dumb, and at worst stupid. After all, she's a struggling idol singer wannabe who, as I mentioned before, talks about herself in third person (a sign in manga of 'cuteness' and 'childlike personality'). From the moment she appears, she declares her absolute love for Light Yagami, and not only she manages to put him in danger of being caught a couple of times, she also seems to be only interested in getting him to date her. She's like a psychopathic Silver Age Lois Lane in that aspect, and yes, I understand how that can be a bit jarring.

But in a series where the main characters spend most of the first volume playing complex cat and mouse games, second guessing each other, and correctly predicting the other's actions without even meeting face to face, where L is apparently the best detective in the world at the tender age of 25 (And the second and the third best too, because he sockpuppets), and Light is a top student, who is called a genious by his teachers and is so smart that he gets bored by school easily, anyone else can come up as stupid. A good example is Naomi Misora, an FBI agent that comes incredibly close to discover Light without the help of the FBI or L, but committed the one fatal mistake of telling Light her real name because even if she knew that Kira used the real names of their victims to kill them, she had no reason to suspect Light.

Thing is, and most people forget this, that there was one person who managed to not only find that Kira was Light, but also managed to trick him into revealing his identity without revealing hers. If you've read the series, you probably will say that of course she managed to find him, since she had the Shinigami Eyes that reveal a person's name and lifespan... unless that person has a Death Note. However, the planning that went into assuring that Light would be within her eyesight without her being recognized was quite solid and she managed to fool everyone except for Light and L.

She also has a very strong personality, at least in the sense that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. When Light tells her he will have to see other girls, she doesn't hesitate to announce that she will kill all of them if he does that. Where at that point Light still refrained himself from killing too many innocents (He killed all those who were directly a threat to him, but not random cops just to show off his powers), Misa simply views those causalities as steps on the way to make Kira's perfect world. In that way, she's far colder than Light, and one would thing that if she had been the first Kira, that is, if she had been the only possesor of a Death Note, she could've been far more dangerous than Light because even when she didn't had the intelligence that Light had, she was far more willing to kill, and had something that Light never had: A completely loyal Shinigami at her side.

Another great example of her personality is on volume 4 of the manga, in what can be called one of the most disturbing sequences of the whole story (And that's saying a lot). After her first meeting with L, she is captured by the FBI and, since they don't know how Kira kills, but know that she needs to know her victims' faces and names, they cover her eyes with a metal mask, and put her in a straitjacket, and keeping her restrained in what many fans have come to call 'bondage Misa'. Misa then is kept without water or human contact (L talks to her through a microphone but no one comes near enough to touch) until she confesses that she's Kira the Second, and who is Kira the First. And Misa, the bubbly hair head who doesn't seem to think about consequences at all, who seems more concerned about make up and clothes than anything else, doesn't budge. There's a very chilling moment when, after three days of being deprived of food and water, Misa just asks 'Kill me'. It is her codeword to give up the Death Note, but at the time, we readers don't know that. For a moment, we're witnessing Misa's suicide, and it's a very poignant moment for her, as it's the last time we'll see Kira/Misa for a while.

That same torture scene brings forward another thing that most readers overlook: Misa is far more stronger than Light in front of adversity. Following his (Incredibly complex) plan, Light gives himself up to be locked up just like Misa was. Only that he isn't troused up like Misa was. He's just handcuffed, and someone puts headphones on him, ostensibly to keep him from finding out where he is just by the sounds. He waits seven days, according to his plan, before giving up the notebook, but we never know the exact situation of his confinement. We can figure out he's being fed and given water, since there's no indication to the contrary. And when he loses his memory of being Kira, the first thing he does is to ask for his immediate release, and keeps insisting that since he's innocent, he should've let go. Misa, on the other hand, stays tied up like Hannibal Lecter's female version for 50 days. And in those 50 days, with no clear memory of how the hell she ended up like that, she doesn't cry, or begs. She comes to the conclusion that she was taken by a stalker, and starts negotiating for her freedom in a way that keeps L puzzled. She calls him a pervert, she acts as if she's bored out of her mind, and the only time she asks for something not biolgical (namely, going to pee, so we can imagine she's being fed now), is to see Light. In L's own words 'the only thing I see is the abnormal strenght of Amane's love for Light Yagami'.

After that, Misa is shoved in the role of Light's girlfriend by Tsugumi Ohba, so she gets less and less to do. But even so, she still manages to make her opinions heard and, in many occasions, she proves to be braver than the super smart guys because while she knows she can't second guess everything, she jumps into the situations life throws at her willingly, ready to make the best of them.

So sure, she seems like an airhead, only interested in Light as a romantic partner even if he doesn't love her, and at times, she can be certainly annoying. But all those things don't make her an unnecessary character, or a weak one.

If you ask me, she's one of the most multidimensional characters of the whole story, just because of that.


Romanticide said...

Death note es uno de los tantos mangas que debería estar leyendo pero no he pasado del tomo uno, siempre me digo que lo voy a comprar la siguiente vez que vaya a la comicastle pero una vez que estoy ahí termino comprando otra cosa, ya sea por que mi todos los títulos de mi suscripción terminaron llegando el mismo día, por que llegó otro título que me hace sentir que si no lo compro en ese momento luego se va acabar o por lo que tv tropes llega a llamar "aversión a lo popular" http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HypeAversion A veces siento que es la ultima... Se que la obra es buena, tanto en historia como en dibujo pero aún así no me la llevo, ¿Sera que como la siento segura en que los tomos no van a dejar de llegar?
Así que de momento no puedo opinar de Misa más que "chido diseño de personaje" por que hasta ahora solo conozco las imagenes de ellas y las opiniones de terceros...