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musings of the enigmatic

August 21, 2008

“what do you think:” on character archetypes

Filed under: What do you think? — thenightsshadow @ 4:48 am

When one looks at the different characters in many different shows, each person finds at least one archetype particularly pleasing to them. In addition, I’m sure most everyone finds a new combination of archetypes refreshing.

But I think the problem today in anime isn’t about whether an archetype is “refreshing”, “new”, “pleasing”, etc. Characters don’t necessarily have a problem with using an archetype that works, because there are so many to choose from. The problem, in my humble opinion, stems from the lack of difference, or rather, the lack of an essence that separates one character from another, and not just in artwork and name.

Let’s take Yue Ayase from Mahou Sensei Negima, and couple that with Patchouli Knowledge from the Touhou series. Granted, the former was based off the latter, but the comparison is still clear. Despite the world difference, and the quirks each person has, neither of them can fully break away from the other. They both seem to be the same base, with add-ons (something like the same soup with a different garnish), rather than something deeper (like the same noodles but a different soup base and a different color, not to mention a different flavor).

I agree with an earlier post that states on how characters are only memorable if they hold a place in one’s heart. But what makes up that memorable status? It’s not just merely about “I agree wholeheartedly with this character”, or “I can feel the life of this character”, but about both, and beyond that.

Or, at least, that’s how I view it.
So, what do you think?

One Response to ““what do you think:” on character archetypes”

  1. ghostlightning Says:

    This is a really interesting question. Here’s a list of characters that don’t really fit my preferences (as I understand them) but somehow stand out in my memory:

    Klan Klan: Macross Frontier
    Tieria Erde: Gundam 00
    Kaoru Kaede: The Prince of Tennis
    Ranmaru Morii: Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge

    These characters aren’t my favorites, but what makes them memorable - even unforgettable to me is that they surprised me in some way. They behaved in a way that I didn’t expect them to, or in a way I wasn’t set up for.

    Klan Klan became more than fanservice bait and became a friend to Alto, portraying a kind of friendship and support that has more depth than anything in the Macross franchise. Tieria’s growing humanity that did not necessarily come from being humiliated - but rather through establishing healthy relationships with his fellow Gundam Meisters made him special in my eyes. Kaoru was entirely a caricature in PoT, until an episode where he was forced to pretend to be Echizen so as not to disappoint a fan of Echizen’s in some way showed a humanity and heart that wasn’t cheaply done. His commitment to go through the embarrassing ordeal showed me something special. In Ranmaru’s case, his narcissism wasn’t token, it was exaggerated to a spectacular and entertaining degree, such that when I meet characters in anime who are narcissistic, the comparison is drawn with Ran-chan.

    So the common thread besides the surprise, is the how of the surprise. It comes in a moment, a scene that is well-handled with good planning and direction. To me this is what makes a character memorable. Favorite characters usually agree with established preferences and therefore have a high probability of retention. It’s the outlier that’s an interesting study.

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