Several 2020 anime series featured creative characters devoted to their art, be it traditional painting, manga, or animation. Creative aspiration is what makes artists interesting MCs because vision and reality don’t always agree, forcing them to make tough decisions about their output. We have picked three different titles from 2020 to show how artists are depicted in anime and what makes them compelling leads!
Arte (Arte) - Everything for Art
Taking place in 16th century Florence, Arte presents us with one of the strongest female leads of 2020. Born a noblewoman, Arte knows from a young age that her passion is art, so when she comes of age, she leaves her comfortable life to become an artisan apprentice. At her time, that was a nearly unimaginable feat for a woman, but Arte manages to persuade master artist Leo to take her in. Along the way, Arte gains Leo’s respect and is even invited to paint the portraits of high-class courtesans, and later on, of noble families, becoming their protege.
Where the story shines is the way Arte is depicted as a young woman of strong drive dedicated to her craft and her continuous improvement. Even when she is presented with an amazing opportunity that would solve her financial needs for life, she decides to maintain her freedom and learn more from her mentor. Fans speculate that Arte is based on Artemisia Gentileschi, the first woman to become a member of the Academy of Art in Florence, famous for her many impressive paintings, and notoriously so for her paintings Susanna and the Elders, and Judith Slaying Holofernes, with explicitly violent themes. Many of her works depict women as equal to men, and that is one of Arte’s main story premises, so even a loose connection is definitely there.
Gotou Kakushi (Kakushigoto) - Mangaka of Sleazy Stories and Doting Father
Gotou has graced many of our top lists, with Kakushigoto being one of the few anime of 2020 defying categorization - it is a comedy, drama, shounen, and slice of life show. Some could even call it harem, as Gotou ends up becoming the center of affection of many women, but is completely oblivious to any advances, focused only on his role as a father. A father-daughter relationship is central in Kakushigoto, and it is depicted perhaps even better than in Usagi Drop or Sweetness and Lightning.
Gotou, though, is not just a father, but a creator, too, and these two roles collide. There is a division between the artist and the person and as a public figure. Very few people know Gotou’s identity since he uses a moniker to sign his work, so he undertakes the impossible task of hiding from his daughter that he is the author of Balls of Fury, a “lewd”, as he calls it, longstanding manga series. Created by Kouji Kumeta, Gotou is a delightfully neurotic character like the one of Nozomu in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei by the same mangaka, falling into despair whenever his secret identity is under threat.
It’s interesting to note that in Japan, there is the premise of honne and tatemae, roughly corresponding to the true or inner self and the mask we wear in public. The first one is only for those really close to us and the latter is there to preserve harmony in society. Gotou’s role is torn between the famous lewd mangaka and the father, and this story deals with the societal pressures in a tender, honest way, instilled with comedy that doesn’t lose its beat.
Eizouken Girls Midori and Tsubame! (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken)
The girl gang in Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na! (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!) is unstoppable, complete with business savvy Sayaka, and two passionate budding animators, Midori and Tsubame. They’re still in school but they know exactly what to do in life: make anime! Eizouken is a love song to the hard work put into the anime series we all love.
Midori is obsessed with creating complex universes inspired by sci-fi and mecha anime. She is also the driving force behind Eizouken: when Sayaka’s logical argumentation doesn’t come through, Midori steps in with a passionate speech to turn the tables on their opponents. Midori’s extensive knowledge of mechanics is impressive and her imagination knows no bounds. Her involvement in Eizouken has helped her become more outspoken: towards the end of the show, we find out she used to be awkward and kind of a loner before joining forces with her comrades.
Tsubame is well-off and is a popular teen model. Her dream is to create animated characters that are realistic and captivating ever since she got enamored by movement and flow as a child. Dance lessons were more interesting to her for the opportunity they gave her to study movement and recreate it in her drawings. Sayaka shows Tsubame that she can use her modeling career as a means to fund and promote her animation projects, a valuable lesson that persuades even Tsubame’s doubtful parents. Her positive outlook and her passion complete Eizouken’s tight-knit group.
2020 gave us realistic creative characters with big dreams. Definitely a breath of fresh air in a rather stale and claustrophobic year! This is our love letter to creators everywhere and a wish for more inspiring anime to come 🙂 Do you agree with us? Let’s take the discussion to the comments below.