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Old 2013-09-06, 06:26   Link #41
RobotCat
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I think when most people think a character feels 'sue-ish', they're really talking about the 'blackhole' effect that blatant Mary Sues have on the story. Basically, a Mary Sue character is always liked and is never wrong. All the good guys like the Sue, and the only people who disagree with the sue or dislike the sue are bad guys. So the world essentially revolves around the sue and all the characters aside from the sue are only there to show how great the sue is. Characters will also act out of character in order to agree with the sue. This is especially apparent in fan fiction where established characters from canon suddenly make really strange decisions just because the sue is there and needs them to to progress the plot.

When this is too blatant, the story is pretty much destroyed. There's basically no tension as you know the sue will always win, and everyone will always end up agreeing and praising the sue. Any characterization in the side characters are destroyed as all of them will behave inconsistently whenever the sue shows up, or they are just 1 dimensional props in the first place.
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Old 2013-09-06, 07:04   Link #42
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Like a lot of popular fan-terms, "Mary Sue" and "Gary Stu" have been overused. And when terms get overused to a significant degree, they tend to lose their value as it means that they're getting applied too loosely, which can dilute their meaning.

That being said, I'm not as against these terms as some are, since I do think there are some characters out there that are deserving of this particular criticism. It's just that the critical label is applied too often in very borderline cases, or even in cases where it makes no real sense at all. If the term was used more judiciously, it would probably cause less of an issue.

I don't really buy the sexism argument myself, since I come across the "Gary Stu" criticism about as often as I do "Mary Sue".


But putting aside the labels for a second, I think it's more important to focus on the root reasons for why some characters get labeled this. Over time, I've observed that there are three root reasons for it. They are...

1) The plot contorts itself to serve the character's every whim and desire. Everything goes this character's way. The character never has to deal with loss or failure or even serious setbacks. Many readers/viewers start to find this tiresome as the character is never truly challenged. Eventually, their dissatisfaction is taken out on the character.

2) The character renders other characters redundant or useless. There's nothing of practical value that other characters bring to the table. Fans of those other characters hence start to resent this, giving rise to "Mary Sue" or "Gary Stu" criticisms.

3) The character is always right. The character is never allowed to make a mistake, or shown to hold an incorrect opinion or assumption. The character is never allowed a moment of weakness. Now, the importance of this is proportional to how much focus and screen-time the character has. If a character only voices two or three opinions throughout a lengthy narrative, then it doesn't matter that much if he or she happens to be right every time. So this is mainly an issue for main characters.


If the writer avoids these root reasons for the label use then the writer will almost certainly avoid the label being applied to one of his or her characters.

Now, the importance of all of this is directly proportional to the importance of the plot. In a light and fluffy slice of life work, it doesn't really matter that much if a character runs afoul of one or more of these root reasons. But if there is a significant amount of conflict in the story, it's good to avoid these root reasons behind the Mary Sue/Gary Stu label, imo.
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Old 2013-09-06, 07:15   Link #43
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Just having another though: We watching Anime is kind of a self-fufillment itself, to imagine the wonderful drama of a wonderful world. But we never got satisfied...

Actually, the line of Sue-or-not is kind of vague these day. Normaly, OC always have a bit of badass in themself. The real problem lies in the author: Making everything sense is the key point! And then that lead to Original events,... Which is kind of hard for an average writer.
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Old 2013-09-06, 09:49   Link #44
Akito Kinomoto
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It's possible to have good Mary Sue characters even in a conflict-heavy story. Wang, Mikoto, and Kirito from LoGH, Railgun, and SAO are often personality magnets, usually trivialize the other characters (Federation's ace military genius, 3rd Ranked Level 5, the solo frontline player), and overcome most conflicts. The difference is how Wang and Mikoto are balanced by their own personality in the former's cynicism and awareness of how he's being manipulated and the latter for showing genuinely teenage faults. But Kirito has no character between his extremes of nice guy and badass and his personality is close to flawless.

A Mary Sue's quality depends on whether their personality rounded out storytelling gifts.
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Old 2013-09-06, 11:16   Link #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Akito Kinomoto View Post
It's possible to have good Mary Sue characters even in a conflict-heavy story.
You can have a Mary Sue/Gary Stu that's a good character in a vacuum. But a character being a Mary Sue/Gary Stu will typically, if not always, have a negative impact on the work featuring that character, if that work has a conflict-heavy story, imo. So I'm inclined to disagree with the spirit of your argument here.

First of all, Wang and Mikoto are not Mary Sues. Reasons why...

Spoiler for Minor LoGH spoilers:


Spoiler for Major Railgun S spoilers:


Now, as for Kirito, he's a debatable case. And personally, I lost interest in SAO largely because I started to feel no suspense or tension in Kirito's fights because, imo, he was made too strong relative to his enemies.


Quote:
Wang, Mikoto, and Kirito from LoGH, Railgun, and SAO are often personality magnets, usually trivialize the other characters (Federation's ace military genius, 3rd Ranked Level 5, the solo frontline player),
Wang doesn't trivialize the main opponents on the other side of the main conflict. Mikoto doesn't trivialize Accelerator or Touma (quite the opposite, if anything).
Kirito... yes, I think he does do this after awhile. And that's one of the problems in SAO, imo.

Edit: Actually, I would say that Mikoto is an excellent example of how you can make a main character very strong and impressive, and generally competent, without having that character sink into the depths of Mary Sue-dom. If you run Mikoto by my three reasons for why characters get labeled a Mary Sue, it's crystal clear that neither of the 3 reasons apply to her. The plot definitely doesn't go easy on Mikoto, the other major characters definitely bring something to the table, and I can think of at least two or three times when Mikoto was mistaken in a plan or opinion she had.


Quote:
A Mary Sue's quality depends on whether their personality rounded out storytelling gifts.
A Mary Sue is best avoided, period. Even characters that I would consider good characters, but are also Mary Sues, would be better and more interesting characters if they weren't Mary Sues, imo. Good writers should strive to not have Mary Sues in their works, imo.
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Old 2013-09-06, 12:22   Link #46
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Just write your character as you would, describing a human being. (not in a literal sense). As long as your character isn't "perfection 24/7", you shouldn't have a problem.

But don't give them too many flaws either. You just need a balance of good points and bad. Balance is key. I made my very first character so much like myself...and I worried that she might be a Mary-Sue. But I gave her my own personality flaws as well....so...that ought to fix that.
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Old 2013-09-06, 13:22   Link #47
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Just write your character as you would, describing a human being. (not in a literal sense). As long as your character isn't "perfection 24/7", you shouldn't have a problem.

But don't give them too many flaws either. You just need a balance of good points and bad. Balance is key. I made my very first character so much like myself...and I worried that she might be a Mary-Sue. But I gave her my own personality flaws as well....so...that ought to fix that.
Yes, too many flaws can be a disaster too. If the audience hates the main character, it'll be hard to get them to continue reading/watching.

I also agree that Mikoto is not a Mary Sue. First, she's a 'growing' character. You can tell that she's incredibly idealistic at the start, and tries to solve things with actions based on her idealism, but she keeps on getting into situations where it showcases just how childish her idealism is, and shows her powerless she is in the grand scheme of things despite her powers. Even the people she beat she only beats them physically, but is unable to beat them in the battle of ideals, as their motivations are far stronger and run much deeper than Mikoto's simple sense of justice.

Also, there are characters in the Railgun universe that are not antagonists that challenge Mikoto.
Spoiler for Spoiler for the Railgun Manga:
Accelerator is also another major character that doesn't care much for Mikoto.

Edit: Also, she's relatively weak compared to the other stronger characters in the Index-verse. I mean, she gets completely destroyed by Accelerator and needed Touma to save her.

Last edited by relentlessflame; 2013-09-06 at 14:01. Reason: removed and tagged spoilers
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Old 2013-09-06, 13:24   Link #48
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Really, too tired of "story experts" out there to bother.
This. It amuses me to see how certain quoted characters are labeled as 'St/ues' without thorough understanding of the work in question, that or making early pre-judgments with few or shallow substantiations. So yeah, I won't bother either......

So far, in my book, true St/ues only appear in fan-fiction.
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Old 2013-09-06, 13:58   Link #49
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Now, as for Kirito, he's a debatable case.
He entered a game and planned to fight the head GM with no plan about how to do so. He won due to a deus ex machina. That's about as Gary Stu as you can get.

Plus, despite having a girlfriend who is essentially his wife and a surrogate AI daughter, he still gets more and more girls in his harem every time he so much as blinks.
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Old 2013-09-06, 14:11   Link #50
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He entered a game and planned to fight the head GM with no plan about how to do so. He won due to a deus ex machina. That's about as Gary Stu as you can get.
But this is where you start arguing semantics.

1. The way that fight was won is one of the on-going/persistent themes of the work.
2. It's not as if all of his plans went flawlessly; his decisions and carelessness literally got people killed.
3. His personality weaknesses are explored in multiple ways in the story.

So now you start playing this game of "how much hero-gravity is too much" and "how many flaws are needed to disqualify someone" and so on.

My point isn't necessarily to get into arguments about SAO itself, but just to say the term has grown to the point where it's "a protagonist I can't relate to because they seem too perfect and the story seems to always go their way". (i.e. "Too good to be true.") And when we're talking about characters designed to be heroes/heroines in their respective stories, that can really encompass an awful lot of variability and the term's meaning loses precision. (And so you get into the quote that was posted earlier where it can seem conversely like any capable female character can be accused of being a Mary Sue unless they have enough crippling flaws to make them "believable" to the sexist male audience. It's a judgement call of "you're not weak/flawed enough!")
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Old 2013-09-06, 15:52   Link #51
Akito Kinomoto
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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
You can have a Mary Sue/Gary Stu that's a good character in a vacuum. But a character being a Mary Sue/Gary Stu will typically, if not always, have a negative impact on the work featuring that character, if that work has a conflict-heavy story, imo. So I'm inclined to disagree with the spirit of your argument here.

First of all, Wang and Mikoto are not Mary Sues. Reasons why...

Spoiler for Minor LoGH spoilers:


Spoiler for Major Railgun S spoilers:


Now, as for Kirito, he's a debatable case. And personally, I lost interest in SAO largely because I started to feel no suspense or tension in Kirito's fights because, imo, he was made too strong relative to his enemies.




Wang doesn't trivialize the main opponents on the other side of the main conflict. Mikoto doesn't trivialize Accelerator or Touma (quite the opposite, if anything).
Kirito... yes, I think he does do this after awhile. And that's one of the problems in SAO, imo.

Edit: Actually, I would say that Mikoto is an excellent example of how you can make a main character very strong and impressive, and generally competent, without having that character sink into the depths of Mary Sue-dom. If you run Mikoto by my three reasons for why characters get labeled a Mary Sue, it's crystal clear that neither of the 3 reasons apply to her. The plot definitely doesn't go easy on Mikoto, the other major characters definitely bring something to the table, and I can think of at least two or three times when Mikoto was mistaken in a plan or opinion she had.




A Mary Sue is best avoided, period. Even characters that I would consider good characters, but are also Mary Sues, would be better and more interesting characters if they weren't Mary Sues, imo. Good writers should strive to not have Mary Sues in their works, imo.
Wang trivializes most of his opponents on military genius because he would wreck most of them if he actually had as many resources as the Empire did. There weren't many times where his troops outnumbered the other. Personality-wise, he was far less flawed than Reinhard, Oskar, and some others with his cynicism rounding him out but not the recipe for character-to-character or internal drama.

Touma trivializes every esper instead of outright overpowering everything like Accelerator does, to which I agree on the latter.

I look at Mary Sues in conflict-heavy stories as individually gifted but may or may not be stunted by the story. Wang and Kirito were always impressive with only the latter being a plot breaker. That said, Wang's limited resources was the same kind of roadblock Mikoto has against Touma; they're not being outdone on the intelligence or power that makes them impressive, their gifts can't be used to the fullest extent. Mikoto admittedly starts to lose her power advantage as early as the Level Upper arc so she isn't a Mary Sue anymore but Wang is still an unmatched genius despite his limited resources. In fact, relative to their series Wang might actually be more "overpowered" than Kirito for managing just fine when his side of the proverbial chess board is missing half its Pawns, Rooks, Knights, and Bishops. Though Wang's a better character overall and I wouldn't mind a near-flawless lead if the character was actually good.
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Old 2013-09-06, 17:17   Link #52
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But this is where you start arguing semantics.

1. The way that fight was won is one of the on-going/persistent themes of the work.
2. It's not as if all of his plans went flawlessly; his decisions and carelessness literally got people killed.
3. His personality weaknesses are explored in multiple ways in the story.

So now you start playing this game of "how much hero-gravity is too much" and "how many flaws are needed to disqualify someone" and so on.

My point isn't necessarily to get into arguments about SAO itself, but just to say the term has grown to the point where it's "a protagonist I can't relate to because they seem too perfect and the story seems to always go their way". (i.e. "Too good to be true.") And when we're talking about characters designed to be heroes/heroines in their respective stories, that can really encompass an awful lot of variability and the term's meaning loses precision. (And so you get into the quote that was posted earlier where it can seem conversely like any capable female character can be accused of being a Mary Sue unless they have enough crippling flaws to make them "believable" to the sexist male audience. It's a judgement call of "you're not weak/flawed enough!")
I think there's a sizable amount of people who levied that criticism towards Kirito in SAO such that it's completely disingenuous to assert this about the audience in this case. There's ample reason to believe that Kirito is basically Gary Stu in portrayal, which I won't rehash since this is not the place for it, and the reasons are loud and clear.

You aren't wrong that people often use the term to just criticize just any character that seems too "perfect," but this is not the best example IMO.
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Old 2013-09-06, 18:59   Link #53
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I think there's a sizable amount of people who levied that criticism towards Kirito in SAO such that it's completely disingenuous to assert this about the audience in this case. There's ample reason to believe that Kirito is basically Gary Stu in portrayal, which I won't rehash since this is not the place for it, and the reasons are loud and clear.
It's not disingenuous at all; I'm asserting that the term is over-used and has lost its precise/exact meaning. Just because a "sizeable amount of people" levied a criticism doesn't mean they're using the term accurately. It's just the word they applied to the situation and that stuck, whether it's accurate or not. And when you start trying to evaluate the criteria that are supposed to disqualify someone from the term (like having flaws with consequences, and not having everything go their way), it raises the question: so what does the term really mean? Who does and doesn't qualify in that case?

I'm not trying to dismiss the criticisms people have of the character. But I am trying to say that the Mary Sue/Gary Stu term is confusing when you apply it outside of the realm of fan fiction (where the meaning is much more clear).
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Old 2013-09-06, 19:18   Link #54
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Originally Posted by Akito Kinomoto View Post
Wang trivializes most of his opponents on military genius because he would wreck most of them if he actually had as many resources as the Empire did.
I disagree. The fact that his opponents typically have more resources and soldiers than Wang does is much of what keeps the conflicts interesting, and which helps ensure that Wang is not a Gary Stu. The plot is not at all easy on Wang, and continually challenges him. And while he typically rises to the occasion, it rarely feels too easy. And it's not like there aren't brilliant military strategists and tacticians on the other side of the war.

Honestly, I think you do Wang a bit of a disservice in even bringing him up in this discussion on Mary Sues.


Quote:
Touma trivializes every esper
No he doesn't.

Spoiler for Railgun and Index spoiler:



Quote:
I look at Mary Sues in conflict-heavy stories as individually gifted but may or may not be stunted by the story.
I think that's an overly broad and vague description for it, but in fairness to you, that simply reflects how the term has become overly used, recently.

A Mary Sue is someone who runs afoul of one or more of the three reasons I listed. And when I use words like "everything" and "always" in those reasons, its not hyperbole or exaggeration. It's totally literal, that's how extreme an actual Mary Sue is. And that's why Mikoto and Wang's names shouldn't even be in this thread, imo.
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Old 2013-09-06, 19:39   Link #55
Akito Kinomoto
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I disagree. The fact that his opponents typically has more resources and soldiers than Wang does is much of what keeps the conflicts interesting, and which helps ensure that Wang is not a Gary Stu. The plot is not at all easy on Wang, and continually challenges him. And while he typically rises to the occasion, it rarely feels too easy. And it's not like there aren't brilliant military strategists and tacticians on the other side of the war.

Honestly, I think you do Wang a bit of a disservice in even bringing him up in this discussion on Mary Sues.

I think that's an overly broad and vague description for it, but in fairness to you, that simply reflects how the term has become overly used, recently.

A Mary Sue is someone who runs afoul of one or more of the three reasons I listed. And when I use words like "everything" and "always" in those reasons, its not hyperbole or exaggeration. It's totally literal, that's how extreme an actual Mary Sue is. And that's why Mikoto and Wang's names shouldn't even be in this thread, imo.
The lack of resources is what makes Wang's conflicts interesting. On the Empire's side, even Reinhard is hard-pressed to deal with Wang. Would you believe me if I said the battles that didn't involve him were the ones that engaged me the most? I'm not attacking Wang's character at all. I'm saying he's a good character despite how near flawless he is compared to everyone else in LoGH.

You're seeing Wang's limitations as something that stops him from being a Gary Stu but the way he works with them could arguably make him more impressive.
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Old 2013-09-06, 19:42   Link #56
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I think Mary Sues are fine unless the author blatantly shows off how godly the character is.
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Old 2013-09-06, 19:47   Link #57
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A Mary Sue is someone who runs afoul of one or more of the three reasons I listed. And when I use words like "everything" and "always" in those reasons, its not hyperbole or exaggeration. It's totally literal, that's how extreme an actual Mary Sue is.
Well, not sure it everyone will agree to your three reasons or not, but just to run with it, the only exception would be a "noble sacrifice" -- where, after being literally perfect, the character dies to save everyone else and they live on forever in everyone's heart (which resets canon back on its path for the most part). So like, even when things don't go their way, they're still perfect and it's never in any way their fault.

So yeah, that's basically the spirit of my earlier comment as well. When you start branching from the strict/literal definition, now you've got to figure out where the line really is. I think there can be protagonists/characters that are "problematic" or "criticized" in terms of how they're used in a story, but they may not necessarily deserve the label because they're truly not as perfect/flawless/unmatched as the term was intended to imply.
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Old 2013-09-06, 19:56   Link #58
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But this is where you start arguing semantics.

1. The way that fight was won is one of the on-going/persistent themes of the work.
2. It's not as if all of his plans went flawlessly; his decisions and carelessness literally got people killed.
3. His personality weaknesses are explored in multiple ways in the story.

So now you start playing this game of "how much hero-gravity is too much" and "how many flaws are needed to disqualify someone" and so on.
I'm talking Alfheim, not Aincrad, by the way. The way he beat Sugou was not so much as even hinted at being possible, and it wasn't even by his own volition that the means to win even became apparent. It was, literally, a device from god. The literal meaning of a deus ex machina.

As for people dying, that was really early in the story and doesn't really reflect on him later. Using, say, Spider-Man as an example, if his only losses were Uncle Ben and Gwen Stacey, and everything else in his life went not only without a hitch, but were basically given to him on a golden platter... would you not say he was getting into Gary Stu territory? Shoe-horning in one or two losses does not negate the massive amounts of divine handouts he gets.
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Old 2013-09-06, 20:40   Link #59
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Shoe-horning in one or two losses does not negate the massive amounts of divine handouts he gets.
So, is three losses enough? Does it take four our more to qualify? Or is it just a "gut feeling", like "no, you haven't demonstrated enough flaws/failures yet" and that's enough to qualify him as a Gary Stu?

My whole point is this argument about "how much is too much/not enough". One of the major themes in the second arc is powerlessness and persistence in the midst of helpless circumstances completely beyond your control. And the other half of the plot was dealing with the consequences of a regret he left from before SAO that festered into a heartbreaking situation for both parties. But clearly, these themes/elements didn't resonate with you as much as the "divine handouts" did. Is the issue the character himself, or it the story's ability to develop its themes in a way that the audience can understand and relate with?

Again, my point isn't necessarily to dismiss the criticisms, but to say: what even is a Gary Stu/Mary Sue character in the modern use of the term? It seems a bit like a vague criticism that's "you'll know it when you see it". In that case, I think it'd be clearer if people just list the actual criticisms of the story without bringing this term into it, because now we argue semantics over whether or not this character qualifies for the label, rather than trying to understand each other's points of view about the storytelling "flaws".
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Old 2013-09-06, 20:48   Link #60
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It's not about how many, but when. If he only experiences losses in the beginning, then gets divine handouts, what was even the point of having him experience loss to begin with? Just to give him some background angst?

Powerlessness is fine and all for story-telling, unless the end result is "screw it all, here's a free win from god." Deus ex machina kill stories, and from what I've read regarding spoilers, he continues to get more and more unique things in games, divine handouts, etc.
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