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Old 2011-12-04, 05:50   Link #1
DawnEmperor
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How to best handle audiene surrogate protagonists?

One of the most common victims of "Designated Protagonist Syndrome" is the audience surrogate. The stereotypical Harem protagonist, the everyman/everygirl, loser protagonist, etc.

Apparently, relatable means "a blank slate". Or just there to watch other characters be interesting. Since they're not well defined, it will usually be easy for you to step into their shoes. But the tradeoff is, you won't care as much about them. Sometimes you may be annoyed at the character since it's supposed to represent you.

So the question is, how do you strike the balance between a relatable character, and an interesting one?

I say, just develop them. No one is going to have the same struggles obviously, but take the chance to explore one of the potential paths that a seemingly ordinary person takes. Take the chance to give them some dreams or motivations.

One example is Rock from Black Lagoon. He's an ordinary salaryman who gets roped up into piracy...and adjusts to his lifestyle. We explore how his choice has impacted his life, how he can never return to his original lifestyle.
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Old 2011-12-04, 07:20   Link #2
Obelisk ze Tormentor
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The main problem for most (if not all) harem protagonists is: they never meant to be interesting at all, since (most of the times) they are specifically made to represent us, ordinary boys, who watches this kinda show. That theory becomes more obvious if you apply it to the VN & eroge adaptation animes. Thus, I can give ’em some slack for lacking in character. Though some of them ended up being interesting enough like the protagonist of Ah! My Goddess, I"s, Onegai Teacher, Onegai Twins, Clannad, Kanon, and Air. Still, harem protagonists rarely memorable.

As for the ‘everyman or loser protagonists’ AKA not the ‘chosen ones’, they have high potential to be interesting. Do you stil remember Hanamichi Sakuragi from Slam Dunk? He is the absolute loser, he’s not naturally gifted, or descendant of a great person, or destiny’s child. Still, with practise, he can be on par with the one who is genius by nature. Another honorable mention would be: Gurren Lagann’s Simon, Mutou Yugi (NOT Yami Yugi/Pharaoh Yugi) from Yu-Gi-Oh!, Kenichi from History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi (as far as I read) and Takezo/Miyamoto Musashi from Vagabond manga.

Some exceptions would be protagonists who start off as loser or everyman who, as the story progress, turn out to be: the chosen one, naturally gifted, descendant of a legendary person, destiny’s child, etc. Some good examples of this would be Naruto, Ichigo Kurosaki, Kamijyo Touma, Urameshi Yusuke and Songoku.

The conclusion is:
I agree that a relatable average protagonist needs character development to be interesting, but don’t give the protagonist some ass-pull plot development.
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Old 2011-12-04, 09:12   Link #3
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Had completely forgot about Sakuragi, Simon, Kenichi. Hmm, yes I think they're good examples of loser protagonists coming onto their own. I guess I was thinking too narrow-mindedly.
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Old 2011-12-04, 09:43   Link #4
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I definitely think character development is the key but I also think there is a difference between the character in a "hero type role" and the everyman character in an everyday type of setting. The second one at least is a bit harder to develop.

Two examples that I really love (and they are actually sort of similar) are Godai in Maison Ikkoku & Takemoto in Honey & Clover.


In Godai's case he really is sort of a "loser" character at first. He's not very bright, can't get into college, likes one girl but can't break up with another one but by the end of the series he becomes a responsible adult so to speak and you can root for him when he finally ends up with the girl he loves.


In Takemoto's case he is more the average guy surrounded by a bunch of weird & more talented people at an art college. In the end though he has to find something that he can do with his life despite not being super talented or not having any special unique skills. Even though I am a girl I felt Takemoto was one of the few characters I could really identify with.
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Old 2011-12-04, 17:21   Link #5
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The ultimate problem with these kind of leads is that they're effectively placeholders. Most of these anime focus on the appeal of the female characters for marketable purposes. While there's nothing wrong with that, it comes off as incredibly annoying when you can just swap one guy for the other.

Solution: Have more than one guy, maybe even comic relief guy can get development. Ef-a tale of memories had more than one notable male lead, and seemed more interesting that way. Also, toss away the fear of the status quo.
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Old 2011-12-05, 01:00   Link #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DawnEmperor View Post
Apparently, relatable means "a blank slate". Or just there to watch other characters be interesting. Since they're not well defined, it will usually be easy for you to step into their shoes. But the tradeoff is, you won't care as much about them. Sometimes you may be annoyed at the character since it's supposed to represent you.
That's easy. Don't try to strike a balance at all. Instead, write interesting characters and make them relatable by making them do the occasional mundane activity and have them behave in a believable manner. The idea that a character has to be an everyman to be relatable is utterly untrue. As far as anime goes, this character is employed for a totally different reason: it's because they're popular with Japanese otaku.

There is a semi-exception to this though. Certain kinds of shows and books have very complex settings which are as important as the characters themselves. In such works, it's a lot more natural for the audience to learn about the setting at the same time as the everyman main character (or more accurately, characters that are more similar to the target audience) does. Moreover, it adds to believability in these settings. Good examples of this can be found in Twelve Kingdoms and Crest of the Stars.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Archon_Wing View Post
The ultimate problem with these kind of leads is that they're effectively placeholders. Most of these anime focus on the appeal of the female characters for marketable purposes. While there's nothing wrong with that, it comes off as incredibly annoying when you can just swap one guy for the other.
I think that the real problem is that these leads are uninteresting, poorly written, and have a very limited range of the kinds of interactions they can partake in. After you've watched a few of these kinds of shows, you can pretty much how the relationships will play out in another of them just by looking at the character art.
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Old 2011-12-05, 04:44   Link #7
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Yeah, that misconception should be removed. I think everymen are not just boring, sometimes they're just unrelatable considering just how undeveloped they are.
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Old 2011-12-05, 05:00   Link #8
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I have no qualms against these kinds of a protagonist as an existence of itself, as long as their existence fits with the theme of the work they appear in. What I can tolerate least is a pretentious protagonist in a seemingly promising setting, which then leads to disappointment because neither the setting nor the character is fully developed.
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