Profiles in likable characters: Kanuka Clancy and Noa Izumi

I delve into some amazingly trashy television. Some of it is childish, such as Dominion Tank Police. Some of it is forgettable and bland (and I would cite an example of something forgettable, but such stories are all so bland that I have forgotten their titles). But sometimes amid the trash, one finds real treasures.

Patlabor is remarkable in that it presents amazingly likable characters in a humanized fashion.

These characters have human flaws, some of which are played for childish laughs; for the most part, these flaws are humanizing, not grotesque.

For example, when you are sleeping with a lot of men on the floor of a room, it’s just grotesque when one of them sticks his foot in your face.

However, if you are so inexperienced with women that you start dreaming that stinky foot is a woman, that’s kind of childish but also kind of humanizing.




One of the male characters is macho in a childish but believable way: he is obsessed with combat, and even dreams about shooting bad guys. It’s very believable: if you know a lot of men in the real world, you have probably met at least one foolish manchild who is competent enough to get a job as a cop or a soldier, but who really doesn’t have the maturity that his position should require.

Apparently only the men have to suffer overcrowding.


Izumi Noa apparently gets to sleep in a comfortable room all by herself.

I was initially scared that Noa would turn out to be very obnoxious. She could be an unrealistic pseudo-lesbian (like Major Kusanagi), or she could be obnoxiously tomboyish (like Leona from Dominion Tank Police).

Initially, she appears to be a standard anime tomboy protagonist: she has a bizarre and unhealthy love for giant robots, bordering on the erotic, like Leona.

Izumi Noa joined the police voluntarily just so that she could pilot giant robots. Both Izumi Noa and Leona are tomboys who love their giant robots more than any boyfriend. However, whereas Leona was a badly written character, Izumi Noa is believable. She is obsessed with giant robots, but that’s her only flaw. Later episodes of the OVA give her a believable backstory, believable human relationships, and believable romantic interactions with human beings. She is not unbelievably competent, and she is not grotesquely klutzy.  She’s not particularly feminist by modern standards, although in the 1980s she was probably perceived as highly feminist. (One might speculate that the producers wanted a highly feminist character, and the writers fooled them by presenting concept art for a tomboy heroine with scant love for boys, but then delivered a well-rounded character.) Izumi Noa is very likable, but not extremely feminist.

The OVA does have one extremely feminist character, and I am amazed to say that she is likable.


Kanuka Clancy initially appears as a ridiculously overcompetent superheroine among the ordinary slobs:

Kanuka Clancy is proud, confident, pretty, young, athletic, competent at police regulations, competent enough to drive a motorcycle with one hand while shooting a revolver with the other hand – she is a one-woman action movie. And yet, she’s believable.

In the real world, every so often, one runs across highly competent professional women who are highly confident in their abilities. And when those women join a team of ordinary slobs, they really do attract admiration just like Kanuka Clancy does.

Notably, Kanuka Clancy does get a few moments in the spotlight, and she is pretty damn amazing, but she doesn’t steal the show, and her heroics are well within the limits of plausibility. Not only do her stunts obey the laws of physics, she is always dragged down by the need to cooperate with ordinary slobs.  Most superheroines come across as nearly mythical demigoddesses who always prevail because they are the heroines. Kanuka Clancy is much more impressive, because she comes across as a highly competent professional working hard to do a difficult job, and taking very human pride in her work.

The only slightly silly thing about Kanuka Clancy is her name, which is probably an homage to Tom Clancy.



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