Your Ideal Anime/Manga Cast
I don’t feel the need to explain exactly how stock characters work, because they’re so omnipresent all throughout fiction. It’s almost impossible to write a character without it falling into quite a few major archetypes. However, despite how familiar many of us are to certain stock characters, we can all name some series in which they work much better than others. Maybe it’s some subtle changes, or maybe just better writing, but for whatever reason some of these characters just manage to work where others might not. So I thought about it, and I decided to find out what kind of characters work the best.
But of course this isn’t the sort of project I can do by myself. I know so many people who have their own favourite characters and their own thoughts on why those characters work. Everyone gets to select whichever archetypes or characters they feel belong in their ideal series and write about how they work. I could mention quite a few myself, but I think it’s best to start off simpler, so I’ll be going by the TvTropes definitions of the Five Man Band and the Big Bad.
Of course this is the character type we all know the best. There are so many heroes out there that it would be difficult to pick exactly who is best. In fact, four out of six characters on this list are main characters, but they accel mainly in areas outside the scope of the traditional Hero. See, being a truly good Hero requires quite a bit. They would need to be likable and memorable, so most harem leads are out. They need to be able to command the respect of others, which few non-heroes can accomplish. Most importantly, a real Hero needs to feel heroic. You can tell from their actions and their words that they’re willing to fight for the cause they believe in. And out of all the characters I know, there is one who I think represents what I would want in a Hero.
Yu Narukami from Persona 4 The Animation is a difficult person to forget. He manages to say with few words or expressions what so many others cannot. He’s driven forward purely be the desire to help those around him, and the people around him are quite literally what give him strength. I know he’s likable, both from how funny he is and how everyone I know consider him the best part of the show. He even manages to come of as a very human character, because we get to see his fears and how they can help him be a better person. As you’re going to see, most of the characters on this list are lead characters themselves, but if they really were to gather, I’m confident it would be Yu who plays the most important role.
A Hero can’t do everything by himself, of course. The Lancer could almost be considered his second on command, and is generally the one the main character turns to more than anyone else. Now, until not long ago, I considered giving this spot to Sakurako from Psyren, but then I realized I knew someone better suited. This character needs to be someone who can communicate on the same level as the Hero, and while they won’t get along very often, there should still be a strong degree of respect between them. While Sakurako seemed to fit these traits well, there was one other character out there who filled the position even better.
You can tell that Zoro would go to any lengths for his crew, even beyond the numerous times he’s proven that through his actions. Sure, he bickers with them far more than should be healthy, but nothing they can say would ever cause him to lose that deep respect he holds so close. I don’t know for sure if he would act the same way around Yu, but the two are just weird enough that I think they’d come to blows every so often.
The Big Guy
Despite the simple title, this is probably the hardest of these character classes to define. I suppose the general meaning is that the character should be the toughest member of the group, but there should be more to it than that. If not, you would think Zoro should fill this role as well. I think the best way to describe what I would like from this archetype, then, is just to show what I think of when I picture it.
No, not the old man or the puppy, although they’re great too. Jotaro Kujo has gained a reputation for being the sort of guy who solves all his problems through punching. But he’s actually much more intelligent then most people would think. It’s hard to explain without going into a full-on review, but you have to be able to plan and out-think your opponents to win in the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure universe. Jotaro is one of the best at that, and while the last step of his fights usually involve punching a lot, he’s capable of much more. He’s also the type who never gets emotional, which makes him a very good example of this character type.
The Smart Guy
No matter how noble the hero might be, he may not always be the smartest person in the series. There should be someone there to make those difficult decisions that he cannot. In my mind, there needs to be something more to this character than simple intelligence. They should be smart, but they should also be willing to use that intelligence in a way that is all their own. So there should be talents with decision making, planning, and possibly the ability to trick others. I know a lot of smart characters, and even smart protagonists, but when you factor in all of these qualities, I can think of only one person for the job.
The man in that picture is Akiyama Shinichi from Liar Game. In his hand are checks for 200,000,000 yen he got the main villain of the arc to hand over to him. The game they were playing did not have money at stake. That’s just the sort of thing Akiyama does all the damn time. He’s possibly the most intelligent normal human in any series I read, or at least the one who best uses this intelligence. He’s also more than willing to use whatever tricks he needs to get what he wants. Hell, he spent several years in prison for bankrupting a company that totally deserved it. I also like to imagine he took over that whole prison from the inside as well, because it isn’t that hard to believe for someone like him.
This doesn’t necessarily need to be a female character, but it usually is. Generally characterized as being the heart of the team, this is the archetype most often looked down on. After all, when you get so much attention for being emotional, you can get a lot of haters. I think it’s only in the more poorly written cases where the character is that weak, docile type, though. It’s very possible to be strong and outgoing while still holding everyone together through your feelings.
It would be a difficult challenge to find someone who doesn’t like Yotsuba. She’s cute, has no problems interacting with others, and has enough charisma to get everyone but the most cruel people on her side. Despite this, she isn’t exactly what you would call feminine. She can be emotional sometimes, but it’s much easier to understand for someone like her. It’s this sort of personality that I could see just about anyone – even an ex-convict or a crazy swordfighter – finding it in their heart to care about.
The Big Bad
There’s a big difference between being a villain and being a main villain. People debate what makes a truly good villain, but I think there are some important qualities that make them much better. In particular, a good villain should be both understandable and terrifying. The most obvious example of this is Johan Liebert, who we see just enough of to know that there is a method to his madness, even if we can’t see all of it. However, the one trait he lacks is the one thing that makes a truly great main villain, which is leadership.
Friend from 20th Century Boys is…complicated. You know that MAD of “Frieza Frieza” by Maximum the Hormone? He’s in there, next to real life dictators like Kim Jong-Il. And he earned that position. This man came up with a plan to take control of the world, and we got to see it through each horrifying step he took. He’s willing to murder insane amounts of people and lie to everyone everywhere in order to advance his plan. He manages to reach places most villains only dream of. But what really makes him such a great villain is how much we understand the path he took. His behaviour follows a logical path that we get to see develop over time. It’s faulty logic, since it’s obvious the man is obsessive and out of his damn mind, but we can still understand him. Not that it makes him any less terrifying.
Those are the characters who would make up my ideal cast. This isn’t everyone who would be in the series (I would love to see Sebastian Michaelis as the main villain’s second-in-command) but we’re quickly running out of text. As I said before, I asked some other people what their ideal casts would look like, and I’ll keep you up to date with their responses. Anyone else can make a post of their own, and I’ll link to that as well. Again, you don’t need to use the TvTropes definitions like I did. Whichever character types you personally like/feel are used all the time is okay.
Yamaguchi Hoshiko’s Cast (slice-of-life)
TsurugiArashiX’s Cast (magical girls)
Kai’s Cast (fire-ice-lightning)
Marth Aurion’s Cast (chess)
SnippetTee’s Cast (idols)
Cholisose’s Cast (romantic comedy)
du5k’s Cast (FMB+)
Leap250’s Cast (FMB Shonen)