It’s long been accepted by people with an iota of common sense, no matter how small an iota it is, that interests do not necessarily dictate one’s behavior in polite society. If they did, everyone would be running around in spandex, shooting everything in sight that they haven’t already viciously humped into quivering blobs of shame, and Chihiro Furuya would be imprisoned for defiling corpses. Of course it’s human nature to prejudge someone based on how they look or what interests them, but everyone outside of closed-minded doomsayers that stand on street corners yelling at passersby abut the British Zionist-Homosexual Coalition knows that humans are not so easily stratified into one group or another.
Characters in fiction, on the other hand, tend to be another matter entirely; if they’re not pigeonholed into one archetype, at least initially, they’re often difficult to work with and truly flesh out, even by fully capable writers. This is why sites like Tvtropes exist, to catalogue every kind of character imaginable so writers can have a smooth transition from not knowing what kind of fetish their main character has, to deciding on them having a kink for ceramic rabbit picture frames. Small, seemingly insignificant details can often be the most memorable, adding just that extra touch to make a character shine; details like zombie-obsessed Chihiro’s fear of mall haunted houses.
Overall, Chihiro’s is a surprisingly good example, with his obsession with zombies being his defining trait, but by no means his only one. Even though his ever-growing collection of zombie paraphernalia and his admittance that his dream is to date a zombie girl in spite of the inevitable incongruities would give off the impression of an unstable, creepy individual, he’s shown to be relatively normal outside of those two quirks. Yeah, they’re pretty big fucking quirks, but you won’t find Chihiro sitting alone in a graveyard reading from the Necronomicon or keeping dead people crammed in his closet to reanimate later. Instead he embraces relative normalcy and studies for school, helps around the house, and isn’t all that bothered by the company of the living, in spite of what could very well be perceived as an unhealthy obsession with the living dead. Even when Rea comes to him looking for help, he doesn’t seriously consider raising her from the dead, proving that he at least has a reasonable grasp on the difference between fantasy and reality.
As the series has worn on and Rea has encroached on his life, what’s been established as Chihiro’s defining trait has slowly but surely been relegated to something of a side characteristic, left only for sight gags and explanations as to his hobbies. It’s not an unwelcome development, since there’s only so far you can stretch zombie otakuism before it wears thin. It’s something more of a frame to the rest of Chihiro’s personality, that extra oomph that sets him apart from the rank and file of generic male leads.
He may have started out as something of a shallow caricature of a horror movie fanatic, or of the somewhat baffling western zombie obsession that hasn’t let up over the past half decade or so, but there’s much more to him that’s kept him memorable, if not likable. He’s not just some shell meant to project onto, he has his own personality that’s not based around his own uselessness or impotence, even if it is tinged with thoughts of the undead. I’d hesitate to call him a regular human, but it does feel like he actually grows like one, as opposed to staying perpetually worthless at everything.
If I have any complaints with the way his personality has been developed, it’s that even though it’s been shown that he’s had an obsession with zombies since before he began primary school, no explanation behind it has really been offered past him living in close contact with the deceased for most of his life. It’d be nice if the event or film that spurred on his fascination was shown, but I suppose there’s still plenty of time to explain it away, so I’m not going to level it against him just yet.
Chihiro is a great character, in that it feels like his personality actually develops, but still leaves plenty of room for growth. There are still occasional moments of stupidity that make me want to cave in his skull, but it’s not so normal for him that I just loathe his very existence. Even if Rea’s character goes to shit, even if the plot screeches to a halt, I can always count on Chihiro at the very least to keep things from becoming too infuriating with his wider than average emotional range. And that’s more than I can say for his shit friend, whose very presence is a blight on what’s ordinarily a good show.