Musings on the ideal protagonist

April 8th, 2011 by ben Leave a reply »

So yesterday (Wednesday) I got bored of all the anime in my queue:

[spoiler]SOUL EATER (just finished today!), Seto no Hanayome, Beet the Vandel Buster (just started it yesterday, and kind of unsatisfied — somehow no old series has managed to interest me since Ranma), Kara no Kyoukai (don’t get it), Katanagatari (accidentally/purposefully spoiled myself on Wikipedia and lost interest), Aishiteruze Baby, Mitsudomoe (it’s so sick and disgusting trying to masquerading as this cutesy-wutsy kid anime), Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (not funny anymore…), DARKER THAN BLACK (nothing that really draws me in), Tales of the Abyss (almost done, but again not excited about it), SHUFFLE (god), Motto ToLOVE-ru (saving for a rainy day), Gintama (can I drop this yet? people say it’s so funny, but it’s… not…), School Rumble II (already finished the manga… and saving for a rainy day kind of?), Utawarerumono (mask-face pisses me off), Code Geass R2 (subtitles are out of sync…), and Spice and Wolf (trying to read the novel. was. like three years ago.), and Kyou no Go no Ni, Mahoraba, Da Capo, Magical Pokan (rainy day), Tegami Bachi (don’t know…), Air (wow), Hidamari Sketch (probably drop), Kobato, NuraMago (fansubbers gave up halfway through), and all of the series from Winter ’11 that haven’t finished yet.[/spoiler]

Not counting the Winter ’11 series, that’s… 26 titles. Counting the Winter ’11 unfinished, that’s 31.

Depressing, no? I’ve been trying to shave this list down, but it seems to have a mind of its own, and is still tending to grow rather than shrink.

I’m just not interested in finishing some of these. It’s not entertaining enough.

Manga is much more entertaining. Instead of one amazing series every 50 that I go through, which is getting to be the case for anime, nearly every manga I decide to start turns out amazing. I can say that my last three were absolutely fantastic: Hoshi no Samidare, Beelzebub, and Oresama Teacher.

I started Oresama Teacher. It’s a shoujo manga about a delinquent middle-school girl. Kurosaki Mafuyu is the name of the female lead. The art is brilliant, and the comedy unbelievable. It’s not just any shoujo manga, either. I mean, Mafuyu is the second-strongest character in the book, and beats up mobs of gangsters to relieve stress. How can you reject a kick-ass MC like that?

The other supporting and main characters complement her well, providing gags and humor as well as drama. The fighting and all makes this shoujo manga have similar characteristics to shounen manga as well, so I think it would not be inaccurate to describe Oresama Teacher as both shounen and shoujo. Meaning… everybody should read this. Boys and girls alike.

Thinking about those last 3 manga, I’ve put some thought into what makes an exemplary protagonist. First of all, the main character needs to kick ass. A weakling main character, like Nagasumi in Seto no Hanayome, is difficult for the audience to truly get to like. Weakling main characters also tend to have weak or cliche personalities. The MC need not be the strongest character — in fact, that would make it rather difficult to come up with plotlines. In fact, when you have MCs like Nanoha who can annihilate anything within a five mile radius with a Starlight Breaker or two… people get bored of the flashy graphics and cool attack names, you know?

Secondly, the MC should be tomboyish. This goes for male MCs as well, I suppose, but we’ll consider females. Protagonists like Sakura (I’m thinking Tsubasa not CCS) who exhibit a silent, kind personality aren’t fit to be leads. Shy or childhood-friend don’t work either. Female leads need to be resourceful, confident, athletic, and cheerful.

The same adjectives need to apply to male leads as well. In fact, those exact adjectives. I can’t think of anything more to add for males. I think it’s also necessary to add a touch of mischievousness. Main characters like Ueki (Ueki no Housoku/The Law of Ueki) lack depth: Ueki exhibits all of the traits above, but is too righteous. Morals that are too strong get in the way of the audience’s enjoyment. Biggest moralfag: Touma (To Aru Majutsu no Index and related).

Now that I think of it, those three manga are also all poking fun at something. Samidare pokes fun at shounen plots… just read the first chapter and you will see what I mean. Beelzebub could be interpreted as a parody of juvenile-delinquent movies that I guess are common in Japan (never seen any myself though). Oresama Teacher has less of a “parody” intention, but in combining the shoujo and shounen genres, it mildly laughs at both: stereotypical male personalities in shoujo manga, and stereotypical boss fights and leveling-up in shounen manga. Well, I guess this point doesn’t apply as much as I thought it would. But genre-deconstruction is definitely a plus, if done well.

I shall leave you with a lovely guide by Mafuyu on how to escape from being tied up in a hostage situation by an enemy gang. I am sure it will be of use to at least one of my readers in the future.

Click to enlarge. Credits to MangaFox and scanslators. Fair use rationale: this manga is not yet published in the United States. Will remove when or if published, or upon request of copyright holder. I apologies for the unclear translations. No offense to the scanslators.

Please do not attempt to practice this at home. Especially if your parents won’t be home for a week and the neighbors hate you.

Related Posts:

Advertisement

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.