Character profiles, the Wild Wild West of MAL


I’m a huge fan of MyAnimeList (a.k.a. MAL). I find it to be a tremendous resource in ways ANN isn’t (although an unholy alliance between the two would be perfection). Before I start watching a series, I’ll check out the fansub list to see which groups to check out and which ones to avoid. Sometimes I’ll check it out mid-show, maybe to look up a particular seiyuu or something of that nature. Then after the show, I’ll use it, of course, to update my list to reflect the latest things I’ve seen. Or sometimes to recall which episode I’ve watched up to (particularly handy if you haven’t watched a show in a while and don’t want to re-download an episode you’ve already watched). And after each episode I’ll check out the forums to see what other people thought. And last but not least, I often use MAL as a reference when writing, most of time to make sure I’m referring to characters by their right name, using the right spelling, etc. (I have grammar/spelling/detail-nazi tendencies).

This leads me into my one gripe about the site, the character profiles.

I’m of the opinion that less is more. Show me a picture of who they are, give me an idea of what they’re like, but don’t give the story away. Basically, don’t be Wikipedia.

98% of the time, the profiles (which are created and edited by the users) do this. But it just so happens that the most popular 2% of the characters, who probably get 90% of the views, often have profile pages littered with spoilers about the character as well as the show. You might be doing some light reading to figure out whether Gundam 00 is worth checking out and accidentally find out that a certain beloved character died in season 1. Or maybe you’re watching Soul Eater and after a particularly titillating episode, you decide to read up on a particular diabolical character, and find out that what you thought you knew about her is wrong, because in the manga x, y and z occured. The list continues.

Case in point, MAL’s top 3 favorite characters: L, Lulu and Light, whose profiles run the gamut of good to bad and whatever’s in between. Take a look (note: I think had too much fun picking font styles for the polaroids on picnik. There’s something about fonts I can get lost in…)

The good


The beloved and hated (hated by me) anti-hero, Yagami Light actually has a very good profile page. It provides basic profile info about him and his relations, a little bit of insight into his character and finally introduces his place within the story without giving away any more details than what’s in the show’s synopsis. (Although I’d change “Likes: Justice” to “Likes: Being a megalomaniacal jackass”, but that’s just me 🙂 ).

What’s the takeaway? He’s a genius who’s using something called a Death Note to bring justice to the world. He’s playing high-stakes mental Russian roulette vs. a guy named L – the only guy that’s between him and godhood. Got it. I know everything I need to know and I am sufficiently psyched to check it out.

The bad


The other beloved and hated (who could hate Lulu?) anti-hero, Lelouch may have the most heinous character profile I’ve seen. I remember going back after finishing season 2, checking out that profile page and putting spoiler tags on half the content in there. I was really tempted to delete all the extra crap, but when I thought about how much time someone had invested in writing all of it out, I felt bad about wiping that away and and took the wussy way out. As it is, it’s a 3,000+ word compendium on everything that happened to Lelouch during the show’s run, including a synopsis of basically every major event he was involved in in season 2 (which was umm… like all the major events).

There’s some good portions to it. I always like standard profile information, e.g., age, relations, measurements, etc. And the first paragraph pretty much tells you all you need to know without giving any of the story away. That’s pretty much all you need. All the geass info and character analysis later on in the page? It’s interesting, but it doesn’t fit and gives away more of the story than it should.

What’s the takeaway? Lelouch is a really smart guy with an evil eye and big plans. We get it. We can take it from there.

The meh


The mostly loved hero (or another anti-hero?) of Death Note, Yagami’s better half and the guy that made Death Note great for a while (is my editorial spin showing?), L Lawliet has an interesting profile. It gives away a little more of the story than I prefer (the 2nd and 3rd best detective scene was a very minor scene, but a cool reveal), but I really liked the Ohba and Obata’s commentary, because it gives you some very interesting background info on L. Is it necessary? No, not really, but I give it a pass, because it doesn’t reveal beyond what’s in the show’s synopsis.

What’s the takeaway? Well, he’s the coolest character on Death Note. And it’s not just me, Ohba and Obata said it too!

Good enough right? Well, not quite. Right below is the spoiler section which provides a summary of the major events in the show and manga. If you never felt like watching the show, but want to know all the big plot points, just read the profile. I don’t know why people like doing that, but it’s not uncommon.

So there you go. Tread carefully in the character profiles section, especially if you haven’t seen the show. And if you’re out there making edits? Keep it clean. Less is more. If you feel compelled to do a brain dump, there’s always Wikipedia. Meanwhile, next time I plan to wade through the wild west with a machete. No more mister nice guy. Say goodbye to spoilers!

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