Shite, this is a tough one just like yesterday. I’m not using anime movies for this challenge– only anime series. That’s what I decided. However, if movies were included, then fyi, my favorite male character is definitely Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke. Moving on, this was a hard choice, but I think I’ve found one I’m comfortable with: Shun Aonuma from Shin Sekai Yori. Other possibilities were Lelouch from Code Geass, Armin from Attack on Titan, Migi from Parasyte/Kiseijuu, Ginko from Mushishi, Hige from Wolf’s Rain, and Johan Liebert from Monster.
So who is Shun Aonuma and why is he my favorite character? Writing the answer to that at any depth might result in monstrously long post. I’ll do my best to be brief.
Shin Sekai Yori is a fascinating show about people a thousand years in the future, how their societies work, how they interact with newly evolved creatures, and how they can use almost limitless psychic powers called Cantus. There are many disturbing secrets hidden from most of the village. Protagonist Saki Watanabe is the leader of her four friends as they start attending a special secondary school for Cantus users. Saki’s friends are Maria, Mamoru, Satoru, and Shun. The story starts with Saki and Shun at age 12 and later skips ahead to them at age 14.
Shun is smart. Of the five main kids, I don’t necessarily think he’s the most intelligent, because definitions vary. Saki has more common sense than him, for instance, and Satoru has better instincts and reactions to real dangers. But Shun is the best student of the group, the one most interested in learning, and the most knowledgeable. He sees patterns and possibilities before anyone else, with a mind that leaps between many ideas at once, and even considers options outside the bounds of common sense. In that sense, he is like Armin, but calmer and quieter. Despite being gifted with Cantus use and academics, Shun isn’t arrogant, but only shy. When he does talk, it’s when he’s decided exactly what he needs to say, so he can minimize interaction.
In addition to being a smart cookie, Shun is also awesome because he’s kind, sensitive to pressure, fond of animals, and interested in the truth of the world. Like most of the existing humans, who have altered genetics, Shun is bisexual in orientation. This leads to some rather interesting scenes with him and Satoru, wink, wink. Something else I find fascinating about Shun is the tragedy of his character– he develops Hashimoto-Applebaum Syndrome and becomes a “Karmic Demon.” Though intriguing, it’s also terrible, because it means he dies. Information on Shun’s character can only be drawn from the first ten episodes of Shin Sekai Yori, plus a little bit when his “soul” talks to Saki in episodes 22 to 24.
I could write pages and pages about Karmic Demons, Hashimoto-Applebaum Syndrome, and Shun’s final revelations. But I’m trying to be brief here, so here it is in a nutshell. Everyone has a conscious mind and an unconscious mind– this is true in reality and Shin Sekai Yori. But in the anime, the unsconscious mind is the greatest threat to humanity. Why? Well, Cantus or Power usually activates in the conscious mind, so users can control it. However, a little bit is always “leaking” from people, altering reality because of the unconscious mind’s use of Cantus. Normally, this minimal amount of leakage is controlled by staying in small communities, using religious rituals to redirect the flow of Power outside the town, and making everyone believe that personal Mantras must be recited in order to use their Cantus.
Those measures work just fine for normal humans. However, Hashimoto-Applebaum Syndrome is a disorder (of neurology and personality) that causes Cantus users to leak vast amount of Power uncontrollably. This causes “Bad Spills,” or Cantus leaks that alter, mutate, and kill everything in the vicinity. People in the more scientific ages past called it a disease (H-A Syndrome), but the humans of the new world call those with the disorder Karmic Demons. The civilization of Kamisu 66 tries and usually succeeds in eliminating people with personality traits correlated with Karmic Demons. However, the five kids in Shinsekai Yori are an experimental group that the Board of Ethics tries not to kill or interfere with. As a result, Shun became a Karmic Demon.
Shun fell into despair after his Bad Spill wiped out the entire village of Pine Wind, including his parents. The village tried to kill him with poison, but Shun’s Cantus altered the chemicals so they failed. While he waits to be executed by an Impure Cat, Shun tells Saki the truth about how humans have altered the whole world by directing unconscious power leakage outside their settlements. Finally, after the Impure Cat kills Shun’s beloved pet dog, Shun decides to end things before they get worse. He doesn’t want to kill Saki, after all. So my favorite character is killed by his own Cantus in a glorified suicide.
Something I love about Shun is that his arc, despite ending with his death, revealed many truths about Cantus leakage, Kamisu 66’s policies, and the state of the world in Shin Sekai Yori. I also like his quotes about the human mind and the unexpected power of the subconscious, because that’s relevant to neuroscience and psychology. (Check out the book Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow to see the latest scientific discoveries about the human unconscious. No mysticism involved.) It’s also awesome that Shun used Cantus to keep a tiny part of his consciousness or soul alive within Saki. He occasionally talks to Saki as a boy in her dreams or a voice in her head, giving her important guidance. Shun is the one who convinces Saki that Maria’s child is not a Fiend/Ogre.
There are so many reasons to love Shun. There’s his knowledge-seeking, kind-hearted personality, his dramatic character arc, the knowledge he provides to audiences, and the impact his story has on the protagonists Saki and Satoru throughout Shin Sekai Yori. On the MBTI or Myers-Briggs Personality Types, I think Shun would be an INTP with some INFP tendencies, just like me. So maybe what it comes down to is that Shun is my favorite because I understand his personality so well, what with it being dreadfully similar to my own.