If the anime of the 80s can be summed up as stories about mankind’s grand future in space (Gundam, Macross, Gunbuster) and the 90s as a golden age when companies reached their commercial peak making psychologically driven stories (Evangelion, Lain) or re-inventing classic genres (Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura), the decade of the 2000s was largely about exploring the characters themselves. Of course, anime characters are no more real than the action heroes seen in Hollywood films, being caricatures of personality types created for the endearment of viewers: the dojikko girls in anime are more cute-clumsy than any meatspace person could be, the tsundere types too predictably angry then full of love at just the right moment to provide a payoff for fans. Still, sometimes realistic elements creep in. In the anime Working!! there’s a character named Maya Matsumoto who’s obsessed with being perceived as futsuu, meaning normal, average and no different from anyone else. I’ve actually known some Japanese people like that, including a girl who got offended when I told her she was kawatteru (“a little different”) and an eroge programmer who legally changed his name to Abe Reiji because he loved the English word “average.”
Maya from Working!!, the ultimate “normal” girl.