‘The Worst is The Best’ is The Worst

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Too much ink has already been spilled on two anime that have premiered recently, and how similar they are: The Asterisk War and Chivalry of a Failed Knight. That wouldn’t be such a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that what these two shows have in common is symptomatic of everything wrong with cheap, forgettable light novels in this day and age. The male protagonist attends a magic high school. He starts out low on pecking order, meets a girl who is amongst the school’s elite, embarrasses her, causing her to challenge him to a fight, yadda yadda yadda. In the end, however, it always comes down to the fact that, despite his low rank in whatever arbitrary power measurement system the series has come up with, the male protagonist curb-stomps anyone who crosses his path — especially that elite female protagonist.

This ‘deemed the worst but actually the best’ trope is all over the place in light novels, and I can’t help but mull over just how shamelessly anti-feminist it is. If the rampant objectification and the fact that most female characters in light novels exist solely to have a crush on the protagonist didn’t already convince you of the fact that the medium has a gender problem, hear me out for a bit. The basic logic behind this trope is the Randian idea that the male protagonist is the most talented and strongest –because he is without exception a juvenile power fantasy — yet is denied the credit he deserves for his talents because his powers are different from the norm. The examples are myriad: There’s Touma from A Certain Magical Index, who is a Level 0 because his power is neither magic nor science; there’s Kirito from Sword Art Online, who is unrightfully shunned by other characters for being a ‘beater’; and of course the shining patron saint of this trope: Tatsuya Shiba, the titular Irregular at Magic High School, who is unable to use conventional magic, but a super-genius at everything else. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the main characters of The Asterisk War and Chivalry of a Filed Knight fit this description to a T.

On the other hand, the female protagonist will often be some kind of prodigy or genius, considered the very best at whatever the norm is in the series’ universe. The link with the standard anti-feminist rhetoric that men are denied their ‘proper’ credit because of ‘political correctness’ is easily made. And what pretty much always happens in light novels? The male protagonist defeats the female protagonist, despite being ‘worse’ than her, which always leads to her falling for him, or even being somehow forced into being his slave, as is the case in Chivalry of a Failed Knight. In other words: The truly talented man reigns victorious over the woman who only profited off of institutionalized positive discrimination. I assume most of the hacks who write this dross have never read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, nor visited a men’s rights subreddit, but the inherent message these abominations have in common is just too prevalent in light novels to be a mere coincidence.

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