In a recent post, feal87 from Empty Blue questioned the appeal of side characters and why we often find ourselves liking the side characters over the protagonists. Feal87 argues that protagonists are often bland or too common because they are too idealized. And in essence, all of these protagonists are so similar that there isn’t much to distinguish them from each other.
Now, unlike feal87, I don’t always find myself liking the side characters over the protagonists. In fact, more often then not, I find myself liking the main characters of a good show quite a bit. That said, in most of these shows there is almost always side characters that appeal to me even if they spend little time actually on screen. And while they may not be my favorite characters from the show, I end up liking them a fair amount.
But if they spend very little time on screen and receive less development, how is it possible that these side characters could make such an impression? Like feal87, I think a part of is that a lot of protagonists are very generic and not very different from each other. In fact, visual novels often leave protagonists deliberately bland so that the players have an easier time projecting themselves into the character. But that only explains it for certain shows, so how might we explains this paradox for anime in general?
There is two reason why I think that despite their limits, supporting characters appeal to viewers as much as I do. The first reason is that we are less demanding of supporting characters than we are the leads. Let me give you a recent example of what I mean. If you have been following my Guilty Crown posts, you will know how much I adore Tsugumi, the show’s resident nekomimi character. Ignoring how much I like her though, Tsugumi doesn’t really contribute anything important to the story as a character. Not only that, but she is also very one dimensional. Despite these two rather large faults, I’m always happy to see her on screen. As a side character I hold Tsugumi to lower standards than I would with a main character which means I am able to appreciate her more as a character even with her faults.
The other reason that viewers are drawn to the side characters over the protagonists is simply because they are side characters. By design, we see less of them on screen and understand them less. Thus, to viewers, those side characters are something of an enigma. And it is that mysteriousness surrounding them which draws us to them. It is precisely because we aren’t given enough of them that we want to see and know more. Just like how we become curious about the main characters when information we don’t know is hinted at, we desire to know about characters we don’t see very much of.
Now, everybody’s experiences with anime is different, and personally I find myself liking both main characters and side characters. But besides personal reasons such as looks or personality, I would say that the reasons for people being drawn towards side characters is because we don’t have the same expectations for them as we do mains and that their enigmatic nature draws us to them naturally.
But what do you think? Why or why don’t you like side characters? Let me know in the comments down below!