Character Analysis: Justy Ueki Tylor

A long winter storm and a Comic Book weekend (which requires only reading and watching cartoons, including manga and anime) led me to the delight that is The Irresponsible Captain Tylor.

There’s a nice story here I might want to break down sometime – it’s like a harem driven by outside forces, which is pretty rare – but you know why you like The Irresponsible Captain Tylor. It’s because you like the irresponsible Captain Tylor.

Der. He’s built that way.

It’s easy to define a protagonist as A _______ but _______, where the first blank is a general descriptor and the second something at odds with the first. The first blank defines the basic character; the second creates tension within them.

You know what I mean: Spike Spiegel is a bounty hunter but he has a sense of honor. Vash the Stampede is a physically powerful individual but he won’t kill. Usagi Tsukino is a complete loser but she’s kind.

The cool thing about Captain Tylor is that he has TWO jobs in his series and that makes him have TWO buts. That combination gives him a lot more depth than a lot of leading characters in anime, because one is obvious and one harder to see, and because they have to be coordinated for him to be a coherent character. That creates tension between them, along with between them and his general personality.

Oh, captain my captain

I mean, you know what his main characteristic is. He’s a goofball.

Right? He has no discipline, accepts no responsibility (except when things go wrong); he drinks and womanizes; he’s lazy and unreliable. He’s … wait for it … Irresponsible. It is the perfect word, le mot juste.

You can immediately see the comic potential of putting this goofball in the army/navy/space force. I mean, like, duh. It’s been done a dozen times in movies like No Time for Sergeants and Stripes, and on TV in Gomer Pyle USMC. (You know I’m old so it won’t be a surprise when I admit I grew up watching that.)

To make this work, to make this bum a main character you want to watch week in and week out, he needs something redeeming, and that’s his first but: Tylor is a goofball but he’s considerate.

Right? That’s the single thing that is most characteristic of him: That he treats everyone thoughtfully and with respect. When Harumi confesses to being an android and a spy, he says, “I know;” he’s already accepted her as the kind person she really is. When Azalyn first runs across him and mistakes him for a cook, he treats her as an equal even though she is both a child and an enemy (he doesn’t know she’s the Empress, of course); he feeds her and tries to catch her pet Pako Pako for her.

There’s a telling moment at the end, after Yuriko has been promoted and shifted to a desk job. She asks a subordinate to do something, and says, “Please,” and “Thank you.” He’s astonished at that, and says, “No officer has ever spoken those words to me before.” She thinks back and remembers that Tylor was always saying things like that.

What that does is make him likable, and making him likable makes it easy for him to be the star of the series. When you laugh at Tylor goofing up, you’re laughing with him and not at him. He’s like a chum.

But he’s not just the main character. He’s also the protagonist.

A lot of people get those two confused. The main character is at the center of the story; often the story is largely told from their point of view. The protagonist drives the action.

There’s a really obvious example of the difference between the two, and that’s Welcome to the NHK. The story revolves around Tatsuhiro and his “adventures” for lack of a better word, so we go where he goes and see what he sees. But Misaki is the one who drives the action: She makes the decisions that drive Tatsuhiro to do what he does. He’s the main character; she’s the protagonist.

But Justy Ueki Tylor is both of them, and his construction as “A goofball but considerate” doesn’t work to make him a protagonist. So he needs one more characteristic to let him drive the action.

Tylor is also perceptive.

Right? He sees through Harumi, and Makoto, too. The latter especially; when Makoto says that something Tylor wants is impossible, Tylor always manages to turn Makoto’s logic on its ear. And when he’s a prisoner of the Raalgons it’s almost child’s play for him to turn the tables on the members of Azalyn’s court, especially the scheming Prime Minister, Wang. He sees their motivations and calls them on it to their faces, tying them all in knots and simultaneously protecting Azalyn.

It’s his ability to see through the fools and self-serving jokers around him that allows him to win the day. He looks at what they want, and wins the day by playing against their desires. They think they’re being subtle but he sees through them.

Tylor is a goofball but he’s considerate and perceptive. If those last two make him seem a lot sharper than a goofball should be, well, there you go. Conflict, right? And it’s some damned fine writing to get those things all put together in a way that works. Nicely done.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

2 thoughts on “Character Analysis: Justy Ueki Tylor

  1. One thing that I particularly like about the series is that the core question of the series (is Tyler lucky or a genius) is just as much a mystery to the audience as it is to the characters within the show. We’re left to come up with our own answer, and neither one is wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

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