In honor of Women’s History Month, Byte is doing a month long Byteing Question about the most iconic female characters and why they matter. Every day two writers will look at two characters that are important to them in many different ways. Today, we look at Ellie and Ryuko Matoi
by Graham Taylor
2013 saw a lot of strong female leads dominating game of the year lists, but Ellie from The Last of Us took a fair amount of the spotlight, and with good reason too. Beyond just being attached to a good story, Ellie was also extraordinarily well written, driving the plot and making the story that much better.
Despite being only 14 when the story starts, Ellie has had to deal with a lot of tragedy in her life. While it isn’t explained right off the bat, as she is introduced as a tough, somewhat sarcastic teenager, it is easily assumed that growing up after the end of the world wasn’t easy for her. Right away she is characterized as strong, capable and a bit independent, but as she opens up more, the player begins to see that she is also insecure and afraid, especially fearing that she will lose those around her.
Because of this, Ellie, who is immune to the disease that ravaged the world of The Last of Us, wants to use her condition to help create a cure. Having lost friends, family, even lovers to this outbreak, feeling guilty for their deaths, and she wants nothing more than to see it end. And she is willing to risk almost anything to achieve that goal, putting life and limb on the line throughout her journey.
This is part of what makes Ellie such an important character. A good character isn’t just strong. A good character is three-dimensional, having strengths and weaknesses, goals they want to achieve, and motivation for those goals. On top of that, a good character shows change. Ellie shows all of these characteristics in spades.
Another example being that at the start of the game, she is the more talkative of the two protagonists, usually cracking jokes or being generally curious about the world. However, towards the end of the game, surviving multiple traumatic encounters, she becomes quieter, more distanced. While this isn’t necessarily change for the better, it still shows the growth of the character. In the face of all of this, up till the very last scene of the game, she holds out hope for a cure.
This overall is what makes Ellie so important. She is written very realistically, in a fairly grounded setting. When something happens to her, she reacts and changes accordingly. She is not a perfect person, she has flaws and faults, but this is what makes the narrative so compelling. Ellie is more than just an incredible character; she is incredibly human.
by Meghan Duffy
When you first look at Kill la Kill it’s easy to brush it off as that one fanservice anime that seems to plague every season of anime out there. There’s enough boobs and butts in the show to fill up an entire year of anime fanservice. But Kill la Kill is so much more than that, and a large reason is its main character, Ryuko.
Ryuko’s the brash main character that we’re used to seeing -- in shounen animes as the male lead. She’s loud, brash, bullheaded, and just wants to avenge the murder of her father. Replace her with a boy and you’ve got the plot to about any shounen anime that’s out there. That’s one of the reasons she’s such a rad character. She gets stripped down to basically nothing, yes, but with the stripping down her character gets built up. Ryuko works to improve, letting nothing, not even her own shame, stop her from achieving her goal.
She’s one of my favorite characters because how she takes every stereotypical shounen trope and just runs with it. She gets stupidly powered up to beat each newer and more powerful villain, but it never seems forced. So often in anime like Kill la Kill the power-ups seem like forced deus-ex machinas, things for lazy writers to extend the plot without putting any thought into it. Kill la Kill knows this and it plays with it in the most incredible way. Ryuko gets knocked down for seconds before she’s up with a brand new power-up and even more scanty clothing -- or rather lack thereof. She’s just so much fun as a protagonist, although she takes herself so seriously the writers rarely do. Ryuko is a total subversion of traditional roles in anime and because of that succeeds immensely. It’s easy to miss the incredible character for the boobs and butts, but when you move past that you see an incredible world. Ryuko is one of the best female characters in anime in my opinion, and Kill la Kill is one of the best anime out there.