In my last post, I talked about my views on the relatable protagonist. Next up we have the protagonist that one could initially look up to.
From where we left off, the relatable protagonist character usually start off with traits that can help develop a personal connection with the viewer through common tendencies that most can relate to in reality. They commonly have numerous flaws and are underdeveloped in terms of personality, morale, charisma etc. However, the author purposely does this so that we can embark on a journey along with the protagonist as he makes his climb to glory.
On the other hand, there are protagonists that initially kick off already possessing ideal traits. The trope that these characters fall under is more commonly known as a Mary Sue. Mary Sues are obviously gifted with extraordinary power and have little to no significant flaws whether it be physical or emotional. These types of characters are created for viewers to admire, but the results are exactly the opposite. Mary Sues are so perfect to the extent that viewers will find them annoying or distasteful to the eye. Like please, have a flaw so you could have more depth and become closer to being real or something!!
Contrary to popular belief or the status quo, I do enjoy main characters I could look up to from the start over wimpy relatable protagonists. Before I explain and defend my preference, let’s look at the why people don’t like them first.
The bad part about this?
If the protagonist is already strong right out of the gate, then what is the whole point? What is the main goal or the “end of the road”? Fans love an underdog story; being a witness to a character’s transition from zero to hero is a formula for success as discussed in the previous blog. A protagonist in introspect and watching them have to innovate and build themselves in order to get over a speed bump on the road is much more exciting when compared to a, “broken” or otherwise noted as extremely powerful protagonist just steamrolling every single obstacle in their path regardless of the difficulty of the situation or predicament.
Mary Sues are so ahead of every other character in the series they’re in that it becomes predictable. They will win and obviously achieve the victory without even trying or putting in little effort if any. On the other hand, the generic underdog protagonists are fleshed out from all their struggles, internally and externally. They go through so much by the end of the story that you are able to differentiate the protagonist’s abilities, personality, etc. when comparing them from when they were first introduced to end-game. On the other hand, since Mary Sues win or prevail against conflicts or get through situations with no effort, they are left to undergo no serious growth if any. There is minimal difference in themselves from the beginning of the story to its conclusion.
For example, Kirito might be the most infamous Mary Sue in the anime community. I’ve seen a lot of people even refer to him as “Jesus-kun” and I don’t blame them either. He was insanely talented at every video game he played and all the girls he has encountered fell head over heels for him. He was flawless until GGO when an internal conflict arises. I’m not going to expand on it, however, that was the most character development we got from Kirito over the course of multiple episodes.
So why is it that I prefer protagonists I can look up to more than relatable protagonists?
They’re just MORE ENTERTAINING.
Don’t get me wrong, I like good character development just as much as the next person. But Mary Sue characters are entertaining solely because they start off strong. I don’t have to watch countless episodes for them to develop their powers. It is nothing but pure braindead fun to watch a protagonist be ready to go all out and kick ass right off the bat like the badass he is.
These characters are so good at what they do that you can’t help but watch what they will do next. You know there’s only a small chance of them failing, but they always come up with ways to get out of a jam. So when Mary Sue protagonists fail, it’s a bigger deal than when a “Hero” type character does. The viewers are always anticipating their victories but the moment they suffer a loss, a hidden side of the protagonist could be exposed. How do they cope with the loss if they have never come across such a humbling experience before?
Which brings me to the next point that not all Mary Sue protagonists are inherently bad. Factors such as surrounding characters and just how the plot will unfold are crucial in order to execute this concept. And those are the ones that I look forward to the most.
Take Yukihira Soma from Food Wars, for example. He started off as a very talented cook yet he was put in an environment where his talents are considered only normal. He encounters other characters that would push him out of his comfortable boundaries. There were times when he took losses, which is unusual for Mary Sue protagonists, but these served as stepping stones for him. So even though he started off as an overpowered main character, there was still room for character development.
Mary Sue protagonists aren’t as bad as people think. Not all characters that start off with ideal traits aren’t one dimensional either. I love these ideal protagonists because they are just fun to watch, nothing more nothing less. If they do end up an even more fleshed out character from scenarios that happen along the story, then it’s just an added bonus. Who doesn’t like a good twist from your typical “I kick everybody’s ass” character, right?
And that concludes my two part post about the two types of protagonists! Hopefully, I elaborated enough on why I prefer broken main characters from the get go than the ones that initially start off weak. There’s just such a negative stigma that surrounds them when really, they provide a different kind of entertainment.
Thanks for reading!