The Origin Story
Also known as the ‘Marty Stu,’ is often considered the male equivalent of the ‘Mary Sue’ trope, conceived via the world of Star Trek fanfiction.
Mary Sue was a character devised by Paula Smith in her Magnum Opus “A Trekkie’s Tale,” published in December 1974. Unlike many anime-related examples, however, this was intended to be satirical; almost a critique of the unrealistic female protagonists depicted in other works of Trek fanfiction. Mary, a 15 and a half year old Lieutenant had tits, brains and swagger. Every canon character of Trekverse became smitten with her bountiful charm, but whilst her every being excreted pheromones more potent than Axe body spray, she would often turn down the sexual advances of the ship’s male-kind, including its chief ‘ Hunk of Spunk.’
“Gee, golly, gosh, gloriosky,” thought Mary Sue as she stepped on the bridge of the Enterprise. “Here I am, the youngest lieutenant in the fleet – only fifteen and a half years old.” Captain Kirk came up to her. “Oh, Lieutenant, I love you madly. Will you come to bed with me?” “Captain! I am not that kind of girl!” “You’re right, and I respect you for it. Here, take over the ship for a minute while I go get some coffee for us.”
(To be honest, I’d take a 100% Arabica brew any day).
Creating a single, clear-cut definition for the Mary Sue trope however has raised differing opinions, but to put it simply, she is an idealised projection of her author.
So Gary Stu is bascially the dude version of Mary Sue?
Gary is the preferred male synonym of the Mary trope because well… It has 4 letters and also ends in ‘ary?’ Beyond this, the two are comparable in the fact that they are good at what they do, master of their particular skills set/s. They are almost ‘super evolved humans,’ and often obnoxiously so.
How to deal with a Stu
Nevertheless, whilst Mary is often exotically beautiful, with a dose of intelligence sufficient enough to those attracted to the all-consuming gravitational pull of her awesome vagina, she remains rather passive in her demeanor. She doesn’t technically have to do anything to win over the affections of all sentient life. Gary however, as well as being spectacularly handsome (or at least, of above average appearance), is an active agent, a man of action. He is defined by what he does, and how amazingly skilled he is at it.
One important question remains when exploring this topic, are the Mary and Gary archetypes limited to the realms of fanfiction? I would argue not. Smith’s piece was a satirical take on a convention conceived since the birth of storytelling itself. Think back to (all you immortals out there) Greek legends such as Diomedes, who pwned the Greek mythos (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diomedes).
Of course, all cultures most likely have tales of Stu-like figures, and it could be argued that in Japan, anime is no exception.
Aren’t most Shonen heroes basically Stus?
I have to be careful when naming Stus, simply because I feel it’s important to distinguish between typical Shonen heroes and the Stu.
In Shonen manga and anime, the audience expects a leading male protagonist to have at least the 3 following traits:
- Enduring integrity.
- A ‘give it your all’ personality (ganbatte kudasai!!! Because Japan loves a trier).
Nevertheless, a Shonen protagonist isn’t the embodiment of perfection, they are capable of making errors, becoming susceptible to their own follies, and do not necessarily follow an upwards trajectory of awesome. They can be a bit dim (Goku, Dragonball), standoffish (Ichigo Kurosaki, Bleach), impulsive (Naruto) etcetera, etcetera. However irrespective of their drawbacks, they remain pure of heart and are generally selfless in aiding their friends and companions.
Akin to the Stu figure, it serves as form of wish fulfilment, perhaps not necessarily the wishes of the reader/watcher, but of societal expectations for young boys. Shonen by definition is manga and anime in service of a young male audience. It tells boys, “hey try your best, but even if you’re not the sharpest tool in the box at least you are trying.”
Stus don’t have to try or rely on the super-special-awesome power of friendship to pull them through.
Possible Stus include (and this is all down to interpretation): Suzaku Kururugi (Code Geass), Shiba Tatsuya (Mahouka Koukou No Rettousei), Sebastian Michaelis (Black Butler) etc. The problem with these examples is that they’re all tentative instances of the Stu. The INTERNET could (and will) probably bombard me with a million reasons as to why my examples suckzorz, and that’s the problem with ‘outing’ Stus. Notwithstanding my attempts to define him above, very few anime characters can be declared outright Stus. I shall (foolishly) attempt to examine the characterisation of two of the most heavily referenced anime Stus I’ve come across: Inaho Kaizuka (Aldnoah Zero) and Kirigaya ‘Kirito’ Kazuto (Sword Art Online).
An Earth born high schooler with floppy hair, burgundy coloured eyes and a perma-blank stare. His parents were killed in 1999 during Earth’s first conflict with the colonists on Mars (the proclaimed ‘Vers Empire’), so he was largely brought up by his sister Yuki. A ceasefire was declared following a battle on the Moon’s surface which causes ‘the Hypergate’ to explode, making parts of the moon go boom boom. Mars busied itself making big-ass orbital space stations, and Inaho became top of his class at school. Inaho’s world is thrown into conflict with the Vers Empire once again, following an assassination attempt on Princess Asseylum of Vers during a peace mission on Earth. A war ensues, mainly consisting of Japanese teenagers versus bishie men cosplaying as members of the Holy Britannian Empire.
Despite being only fifteen years of age, and a boy of little worldly experience, Inaho takes to intergalactic, mechanised warfare like a duck to water. His sheer brilliance in war makes all the adult characters seem utterly incompetent.
In episode 4: The Children’s Echelon. Earth encounters ‘ Argyre,’ one of the first Martian Kataphrakts (giant space mechas) of the conflict. Argyre makes light of a patrol unit and obliterates Commander Nakabyashi and his crew. As the Terran adults are poo at warfare, Inaho and his non-descript Gaijin friend Calm suit up in their Kataphrakts. Inaho quickly deduces that his bullets are having no effect on Argyre, which is using the ‘Leidenfrost’ effect to drive them off course, so Inaho switches to the more effective AP rounds. Calm is endangered when Argyre prepares to use its awesomely named ‘Beam Katana,’ but our Stu saves his freckled bum by ‘holding up’ the Argyre’s arm and using the momentum of a swinging shipping container to damage the Argyre’s cockpit.
And there are a number of examples when Inaho saves another from destruction…
In Episode 6, Phantom of the Emperor, Inaho’s comrades fail to make a dent on another Kataphrakt named ‘Hella,’ as their AP and HE rounds prove ineffective. This particular Kataphrakt remains a particular danger because of its detachable rocket fists (ROCKETTO PAUNCH!!!) Inaho however, with his beautiful mind, realises that from his range he can throw the fists off course; he diverts them into a cliff face, and not his acquainted meat-bags.
And it continues…
In Episode 10, Darkness Visible, closet Martian Rayet strangles Princess Ass in the shower, who falls unconscious. Bestest medic in the world Inaho conveniently shows up to administer CPR and defibrillation. Unsurprisingly, Inaho saves her, making the ship’s trained clinician, Dr. Yagarai, look a wee bit inadequate (despite being there with Inaho!!!)
Skipping a bit ahead…
In Episode 21, The Light of Day, we see Inaho as Earth’s most leet military strategist. He uses is knowledge of the Martian Knights’ abilities to instruct his squad in the destruction of their Kataphrakts. One particular Kataphrakt proves a challenge however, when its ability is to multiply itself. Inaho kicks himself for not realising sooner that the Kataphrakt was using quantum teleportation (well duh!). He uses the cybernetic implant in his eye (yeah, he gets one of those), to link to all the Kataphrakt on the battlefield and manually control their targeting systems to destroy the last remaining Knight.
Ugh, I could go on but it’s becoming tedious.
Basically, Inaho shows a great aptitude for maths, physics, engineering, combat simulation, CPR, military strategy, piloting Fanta flavoured mechas, checking people’s BMI, eggs…
100% Certified Stu?
Inaho carries himself as a character devoid of emotion. He is almost robotic in his ability to calculate on the fly. He values utility above all in people.
Inaho is very different from Slaine Troyard’s character, who is certainly not a Stu. Yes, Slaine is a rather capable pilot, but he’s also a bit ‘messed up’ in the ol’ noggin! Understandable, given:
- He was originally a Terran sent to Mars by his traitorous father.
- He lives in a hierarchical society which largely hates his guts.
- He finds out that one of the few Martians to treat him with respect, his Step Father, Saazbaum, was also the person behind the plot to assassinate his saviour and unrequited love interest, Princess Asseylum.
Slaine, a boy who is ‘totes emosh.’
Slaine’s fierce loyalty to the Princess borders on obsession, and makes him engage in impassioned, sometimes reckless behaviour.
Inaho is also a part of the tedious Asseylum – Slaine love triangle, but he isn’t exactly forthcoming when it comes to expressing any form of romantic sentiment, either because he’s incapable of emoting, or finds difficulty tapping into any emotional outlet.
It could be argued that Inaho’s inhibited, utilitarian approach to the world was born through his experiences as a war orphan. Following the first conflict with Mars, the Earth Inhao is born into is constantly ‘on-edge;’ counting down to the eventuality of a disruption to the already precarious ceasefire. Due to a presumably large number of Terran adults getting killed in the first war, Earth looks to its youth to fill the gaps in its defences. Cynically, it could be said that Inaho and his comrades are expected to be offered up as cannon fodder in a clash between a more technologically advanced enemy. Fortunately for Inaho, most of the Martians act like illogical douchebags, blinded by their own hubris.
Likewise, it could be said that Inaho is simply Giri incarnate. Giri is one of the most, if not THE MOST, highly considered societal values. It can be roughly translated as ‘burden of obligation.’ It aims to teach its citizens to dedicate oneself to the wider society rather than the egocentricity of individualism, or ninjō.
Inaho effectively serves as a counterpoint to the egocentricity of the Martians, perhaps furthering his position as the humble, self-forgetting Stu… That being said, I have issues with the idea of Inaho as ‘Human 2.0: Beyond Desire.’
Irrespective of his social conditioning, I reckon Inaho has high-functioning autism, with a form of savantism to boot. This further explains why he struggles to relate to people, including the rather chipper, less grounded sister who raised him.
Oh, and this could also provide context for that fascination with eggs and egg-related cooking techniques…
Of course, I’d like to state that only a minority of those on the autism scale exhibit savant-like tendencies. I do get riled when forms of media perpetuate the myth that all autistics are essentially Raymond Babbitt from Rain Man. In reality autistic savants make up around 10% of all individuals diagnosed with autism. Nonetheless, Inaho’s extraordinary aptitude in mathematics and analytics strongly suggests the writers intended for Inaho to exhibit this particular neurodevelopmental ‘disorder.’ (http://www.autism.com/understanding_savants)
Even when Inaho had his organic eye replaced with a cybernetic implant, it didn’t make him any more ‘robotic,’ it merely emphasised pre-existing behaviourisms. Much unlike Shinichi Izumi’s character from Parasyte, whose personality shifted toward cool and detached only after being infected by the parasite Migi.
Indeed, it could be said that Inaho sacrificed one of his eyes for the sake of utility, enabling to expedite his calculations further, like a really boring Odin.
This is why I cannot cast Inaho as a ‘pure’ Stu. His ‘personality’ is more complicated than that of the typical solemn stoicism exhibited in some Shonen anime. Stus are about wish fulfilment, and I couldn’t actually say whether anybody would want to be Inaho!
Thanks for reading Part 1! I aim to publish Part 2 (Kirito) in the next couple of weeks. Let me know your thoughts and opinions on Inaho or Gary/Marty Stus in anime!
Posted by HCrabby