Misused Words by Anime Fans: What Is Character Development?

Character development is a term that gets thrown around in most anime discussion. But I rarely see it get used right. So let’s get straight to the point on what character development is!


I’m going to try out this new segment where I will try to explain and hopefully clarify any misunderstandings when it comes to certain terms used commonly in anime discussion. I get extremely frustrated and generally appalled when I see somebody use these words in the wrong context. It’s even worse when they use it to seem “intelligent and educated” in the subject but in actuality, it proves to be counterproductive and make them look like a complete tool.

If you don’t exactly know what a term means then don’t worry; I’ll be here to hopefully help.

So with that, let’s begin!

What exactly is Character Development?

Character development is typically used to refer to a character that goes through a change as the story progresses, whether it be something significant or even just something minuscule that only dedicated fans would notice. It ranges from how a character communicates to other characters throughout the story,  the way they would initially react to certain situations, and finally their thought process when it comes to approaching problems they may face as well. It’s all about how the creator of the story fleshes out the character.


A simple way you can discern character development is by looking back on how they were originally and looking at how they are at the end of the series. Did they achieve their goal and stayed true to their character along the way? And even if they did change, are their foundations still intact and the only difference is that they are now more well-rounded?

If not, can you pinpoint an event that served as a catalyst for them to walk down a path of life-changing events?  Ultimately for the sake of getting closer to their final objective? If you answered yes to either scenario, then that is what you can call character development.

How could you tell if character development is handled well? 

Character Development being good or bad is usually subjective and depends a lot on the audience. Sometimes the direction a character is headed goes against what the audience desired. On the other hand, there are also those who wanted an unexpected twist. However, as long as the direction a character develops is reasonable, then it is good even if the audience’s definition of what should have gone canon didn’t go as planned.

As an addition, the less a character has out of character moments, the better. There are times when a character has one of those lapses in their usual behavior in which they are not only unpredictable but also not credible, yet it somehow advances the plot along regardless. These are what I would consider just straight up repugnant and leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the audience.


Any example where character development is in the spotlight?

I’ll keep this spoiler-free because I want to recommend this show. This was my favorite from last year and also my top anime of 2017.


Houseki no Kuni, for example, focuses its attention on Phosphophyllite, or Phos for short, and their quest to find their purpose. (To steer up any confusion beforehand, the characters in Houseki no Kuni are all immortal and genderless life forms, so just in case you’re wondering why I use they/them to refer to the characters, that is the reason). Back to the story, Phos initially started out weak. As not only the youngest member but also the lowest rated gem, they wandered along feeling like deadweight to their peers. However, after numerous situations that happened during the series, the definition of who they were in the first episode becomes nothing but a dream they could never go back to.

It’s the perfect example of a show that exhibits character development. The process doesn’t take long either, especially since Houseki no Kuni is only 12 episodes long; Phos underwent through so many alterations that they aren’t even recognizable anymore. It’s tragic as they start out as this innocent being just going through the strokes of life. But through many unfortunate calamities, Phos becomes nothing but a hollow shell of their former self.

steins_gate_review_screenshot-2.jpgClosing Thoughts:

Character development isn’t essential to a good story. You don’t have to throw the term around just to prove that your favorite anime/manga is good. There are stories that heavily depend on world-building or plot movement where the characters do not need to be the focal point.

This is an unusually short post but I kinda want to keep it short and simple. If you have any other questions or any terms you would like me to go into detail, feel free to comment or DM me on Twitter.

Thanks for reading~!





11 thoughts on “Misused Words by Anime Fans: What Is Character Development?

  1. you mentioned character development is often not used right in discussions, but then you explained character development is subjective. i’m confused a bit. xD
    more so, any good examples of bad character development? but I do agree, I think a good character development has significant changes from episode one up until the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. what I meant by how good character development could be subjective is all on the viewer’s perspective. Because sometimes the direction a character goes could be perceived bad by somebody who wanted the character to go a different route. But then to someone else, it could be a godsend.

      Also hmm. I couldn’t think of a bad example of character development, but I could come up with a scenario. Let’s say a character ends up in a pinch and had to change his mindset/how he could tackle a problem. But instead, the author comes up with an asspull in order to get him out of that situation. It makes it less believable and too convenient for the character when we could’ve gotten some type of development out of it


  2. Character Development guy here, and I both agree and disagree on your assessment of CD being misused.

    I disagree that it’s not essential, I think some form of character development is required to elevate a good story to a great one. An anime can be good, but not great, due to lack of compelling characters (i.e. Angel Beats), but yes, people seem to throw the word around just because it sounds nice.


    1. there’s many shows and series, not just in anime but in other mediums, that doesn’t have character development but are still phenomenal because of how the plot is driven or how vast and detailed the world is.

      I don’t think characters need to be fleshed out because sometimes, it could get in the way of telling a good story


      1. True! To me, the thing that matters most is how they tell the story, so whether it be through fleshed out characters, a well built world, or a story driven by plot, then I’ll probably enjoy it


      2. I agree with the sentiment that a very good story can be furthered with a strong enough plot or world. Girls’ Last tour is proof of that with their rather simplistic characters dealing with the beautifully lonely world around them. Not that the characters are bad, they are very good, but they don’t really change that much by the end of the story.


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