One of the fundamental elements in good storywriting lies with character flaws. As photographer Kevyn Aucoin once said, “perfection is boring.” And it is. At best, perfect characters are uninteresting. At worse, readers hate them because they are perfect. It’s the imperfections that bring characters to live and allow readers to identify with them. And when a character’s flaws are big enough, it can shape everything the character says and does.
Addiction is perhaps the most insidious and detrimental of character flaws, and one that has often been touched upon by writers. Whether it’s Sherlock Holmes’ addiction to cocaine or the smoking habits of Commander Samuel Vimes, these traits reveal weaknesses that readers can identify with, and which helps make that character more human. Often these weaknesses can seem superfluous and are used as window-dressings to flesh out the character. But sometimes addiction can play a key role in not only fleshing out a character, but presenting something for the protagonist to overcome.
Recently, Megatokyo introduced Ibara Junko’s father to the cast of tertiary characters that inhabit the Megatokyo world. Unfortunately, the lack of an official cast page hides an interesting aspect to the elder Ibara… the fact he is a raging alcoholic, a fact that is revealed in Ibara Junko’s write-up in the 5th volume of the Megatokyo print compilations. While his behavior and body language hints at his being an alcoholic, the generic reader who hasn’t acquired the print compilations or read the forums might miss this key fact… and its importance for one of the primary members of the MT cast, Largo.
There is little doubt that Largo has a drinking problem. Largo and Piro ended up in Tokyo because Largo got really drunk and Piro felt it better to get Largo out of the country after Largo flashed E3. This was just one of a multitude of incidents, including begging Piro (and Hayasaka) for money to buy beer from vending machines and a rip-roaring bender when Hayasaka rejected him. Heck, upon gaining a line of credit when he worked for the Tokyo Police Cataclysm Department, he filled the refrigerator with beer, without bothering with any food outside of dry cereal. Even in the latest chapter, Piro lamented to Nanasawa that Largo spent most of Piro’s paycheck on beer and cereal.
Nor is Largo’s drinking problem a secret. Ibara Junko ran across Largo during his bender, when he caught her practicing enjo-kōsai (going on dates for “gifts” of money). Largo brushed it off and continued staggering through the street. But Ibara followed and helped Largo not only stop feeling pity for himself, but also come up with a method of fulfilling his own need to be a knight in shining armor for Hayasaka while accepting her own desires not to be mollycoddled. It seems a rather decent (and indeed, noble) thing to do. Hell, some shippers even started hinting at a love triangle between Largo, Ibara, and Hayasaka (which is perhaps a tad disturbing as Ibara is only 16 or 17, but not quite as twisted as a 14-year-old girl chasing after a man in his mid-20s (that being Sonoda Yuki, who has been crushing on Piro along with half of Tokyo)).
The truth is perhaps more twisted. When Ibara senior arrived at his daughter’s school to beg money off of her, he revealed something inadvertently; Ibara Junko follows her father when he’s out getting drunk. His very words in the latest update reveal this: “…don’t worry about trying to find me later tonight, I won’t be at any of the usual places. I’ll be out working!” This puts Ibara Junko’s practice of enjo-kōsai in a different light. She’s not out getting money to buy things for herself, or even necessarily to put more money in the till to help her family buy food and supplies. She’s keeping an eye on her father… and making sure he gets home safely.
Did Ibara see a reflection of her father when she saw Largo, lying on his back before an arcade (after Boo deliberately tripped him)? Did she reach out to Largo because he reminded her of the other man in her life that she works so hard to save… her dad? Indeed, this twists the shipper daydreams of Largo and Ibara getting together into Ibara looking for someone just like her father, which is generally felt not to be a good thing as far as relationships go. (Not that I agree with the shippers here; rather than being attracted to Largo, I feel Ibara’s interest is more like a moth attracted to a flame… Largo is her broken bird, and she wanted to save Largo as she can’t save her dad.)
Nor is Largo necessarily alone with this addiction. Nanasawa commented to Piro that Hayasaka was similar to Largo in refusing help when she was drunk, and that Hayasaka went on benders back when she was dumped by Sonoda Hitoshi. Hayasaka shows the same general disregard with her job at Megagamers that Largo does for his teaching job, and has shown no hesitation at drinking when offered alcohol. While alcohol doesn’t seem to be as large a part of Hayasaka’s life as it is with Largo, she too has used it to escape emotional pain, and has entered into a relationship with someone else who likewise hides from his failings with alcohol. We’ve not seen enough to determine if she is an alcoholic or just uses it to hide from her feelings, but there are signs that she shares this failing with Largo.
The last chapter of Megatokyo ended with the apparent death of Tohya Miho… a possible death that only a remote few characters know about. This chapter seems dedicated to Ping, the little android girl who formed a close relationship to Tohya and who misses her dearly, and her own search for Tohya Miho. But perhaps we might have something more forming here… a fellowship of sorts, with Ping, Ibara Junko, and Largo working together to track down Tohya Miho. In doing so, we might actually see Ibara confront Largo on his drinking… and perhaps bring about a chance for Megatokyo’s cloudcuckoolander to realize his problem. In turn, Largo might start a truly heroic battle with an addiction that, untreated, could in time leave him a pathetic old man who hits up his kids for drinking money.