2013 hasn’t been a particularly flattering year for me and main characters. To me, a great deal of these characters I’ve seen are just hard to get behind. 2013’s absence of great main characters has prompted me to make my own list of what I feel a main character needs to have in order for an anime to be good. Basically, I feel a strong main character should fit the following descriptions:
1. Main character must be likable.
2. Main character must be interesting.
3. Main character must be relatable.
4. Main character must have proper motivations.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m just going to talk about the main characters I’ve seen this year. I’m not going to say that I’ve seen every show airing this year, because the truth is that I have not. 2013 might actually be the year I’ve seen the least amount of shows while they were currently airing (thank you, various responsibilities).
Just follow these simple 4 steps in your writing, and you’ll know that you have made a strong main character!
1. Main character must be likable. Good lord, how hard is this one? I put it as number one because I feel this is the most important. If we don’t like the main character of the anime, we most certainly won’t care about the situation he/she is thrown into. Many of you know that I am watching and blogging about Golden Time. You might also know that I give the main character, Banri, a very hard time. Guess why? He’s one of the most unlikable characters I have ever talked about! Another show I blogged, Sunday Without God, had an unlikable main character, Ai. This was mainly because she didn’t really have a character to begin with. Plus, she wasn’t a very smart character (despite her age, 12 year olds aren’t that oblivious), so that helped make it hard to like her. Would you be more inclined to like a smart character or a not-so-smart character? My bet is on the former.
2. Main character must be interesting. This isn’t some throwaway, nameless, exposition-spouting character who will only be known for three minutes in one episode; this is the character we have to watch the show with. Because we’re stuck with the main character, they better be written well because if they’re not, then why would we want to stick around with a character who doesn’t interest us? You wouldn’t want to be friends with a boring person who never has anything to say, would you? Some of the best shows are the best because of how the main character intrigues us! One good example of a main character (who I admit, had some serious flaws) when it comes to the intrigue was Hajime from the excellent show Gatchaman Crowds. Even though she was too optimistic for my taste, she was one of the most interesting characters I’ve even had to talk about. Her fearless nature and her acceptance of the crazy situations that happened around her gave me so much interest as to why she acted that way. But as we all know, none of that was explained in the end of the show. But the point still remains; I liked that show a lot more because of just how interesting her character was.
3. Main character must be relatable: This point, in my opinion, isn’t as crucial as the others I’ve stated. However, it is a nice touch. One aspect that give any type of character a greater impact is how we normal people can relate to them. When you can look at a character and have a certain level of empathy for them, they become stronger for you personally. Now, sure, not everybody is the same, and everybody will have different reactions to characters. But writers need to try to connect to their audience to have a better understanding of what the common viewer is like. For this to happen, characters need to be grounded in reality. Even if the anime is a fantasy, they still need to be realistic to some extent so a normal audience will look at them and have a stronger connection.
4. Main character must have proper motivations: Basically, they have to make us want to like them. Even if a character is likable, interesting, and relatable, it’s hard to be on their side if they don’t make the right decisions. Going back to Banri from Golden Time, even if he was likable, interesting, and relatable, he constantly makes the wrong decisions. Even if you love Banri as a character, even you would have to admit that when he constantly acts submissive to Kouko, it starts to make you like him just a little less every time.
Sometimes, main characters can make or break a show. Imagine if Cowboy Bebop was the same as it is, but all of the characters were bland and stereotypical. Imagine if Durarara!! had transparent, one-dimensional characters who you don’t give a damn about. In my opinion, those shows would be completely ruined because of that. It just goes to show that writers need to give more care and attention to making strong main characters.
Maybe it’s my fault for picking the shows that I did in 2013. I haven’t seen any main characters this year who have fit all those descriptions for me (as I said, I’ve only seen a very small number of 2013 anime). As a result, 2013 hasn’t left as great of an impact on me as I feel it should have. Some might say my standards are too high, but I don’t feel that way at all. I know, it takes time to create a strong main character. Some people don’t want to put in the effort, and that’s a real shame. Now that I’ve outlined my thoughts on how a main character should be written, there should be no more excuses! If you follow these steps, I can guarantee you that you’ll at least have one fan of your work, no matter what.