Posted by: AceRailgun | January 27, 2012

That Anime Character #6 – Cowards and Realists

There is a lot of them but most of them suck. But among the god awful ones there is some great ones which put into the right situation can be very entertaining.

The point of these characters is to point out how dangerous something is whilst making the hero of the story look brave for attempting something reckless.

Another thing about these character is they will always question the logic of everything especially when magic or complex science is involved. Watanuki from xxxHolic is a great example of this. In the beginning when he is introduced to spirits and magic he simply chooses to ignore them hoping hey will go away. Being an intelligent guy he knows logically ghost shouldn’t exist but the hard fact is ghosts are around him making it hard for him to deny them. He matures later in the series but he is constantly pointing out why magic is crazy and unrealistic.


Usopp and Chopper from One Piece also fall into this character trope. Usopp’s main personallity trait is that he is cowardly but this relfects mostly when he is presented with otherwordly situations that should be impossible. That and over powered villians. Seriously who wouldn’t be scared of someone made of lightning or darkness. Chopper simply plays off Usopp’s cowardice coming across as even more cowardly at times.


Lets not forget the ultimate coward Jacuzzi Splot from Baccano. He is cowardly in a very unique way but over the duration of the anime he shows he has enough courage to face a greater opponent.


The draw back to a cowardly character is that they are often poorly characterized and simply remain cowardly right until the end never evolving past the whining and bickering which after a while can drive you insane. However whining and bickering can suprise you sometimes. Every charater in Infinite Ryvius does this but it was still an amazing story.


I guess it all comes down to whether or not the writer intends the coward or realist to be a minor character or a major character that evolves or the length of the story.

Could anyone come up with other examples? I was struggling a bit this time.



  1. I actually have a really good example from a manga called Vagabond but not a lot of people I know blog about it.
    Basically Vagabond starts out with two characters, Matahachi and Takezo. They survived a brutal war together and find refuge with two girls who make a living by selling weapons they find in the aftermaths of the war. The two guys get intertwined with the problems the girls have, mainly gangsters who bother them. Takezo is able to kill one of the gangsters leaders and they run away. Matahachi also provides useful assistance in driving back the bandits and the two swear to “make a name” for themselves.. However the gangsters return with a bigger force and hellbent on killing Takezo. Takezo charges into the bandits (who have raided the girls’ house) while Matahachi is somewhat stunned for a second and doesn’t go in the house to help his friend. Matahachi instead runs off with the girls and Takezo returns to his hometown alone and hated by Matahachi’s family.
    Later on, Matahachi would see Takezo again on many occasions but he grows extremely jealous as Takezo (now Miyamoto Musashi) who has made a name for himself and is a greatly respected warrior in the country. The two serve as a nice foil to each other and when the two finally do meet face to face, let’s just say it isn’t the happiest reunion. The manga itself is a great story of how the bloodthirsty “demon” warrior finds inner peace and learns the way of the sword with many lessons learnt from his journey across the country.
    Hopefully I didn’t ramble too much

    • The whole friendship rivalry thing is used occasionally and is a trope in itself. As far as individual characters are concerned Matahachi sounds like he comes across as cowardly because he is realistic in how he treats dangerous situations. This is how most of these characters end up simply because of they know when something could get them injured or killed.

      Don’t worry I don’t mind reading rambling if it’s on my blog.

  2. The trope of a character starting off weak-willed or presented as an everyday person, but then being pulled into events that force him or her to do extraordinary things is a trope as old as the first oral stories. It’s understandable that this is still utilized today, including in anime. Many in the anime fandom will deride what is now termed “the wimpy, useless male lead” at the start of many shows, but fail to recognize the character development that ensues over the course of the story. (Some of my favorites include Yukiteru from Mirai Nikki and Kujo from Gosick, who both actually show early on that they’re not useless [though these moments will usually be ignored by many].) (Other characters that get pinned this a lot include Shinji from Evangelion, Shirou from Fate/Stay Night, and the boy from Claymore, but I’m less familiar with these shows and can’t judge. There’s also the male leads of most of the harems out there, but this is probably representative of another trope fulfilling different purposes.)
    This trope of a character who is “not heroic at first appearance” could also be expanded to include “the underdog,” but at that point you’d be dealing with a TON of characters. (SEE: every shounen fighter protagonist, to some degree)

    The comic relief side character who is always concerned with the danger the heroes get them all into is also a common trope, as you pointed out. This seems to be used to add a little humor to the story, though most of the time I feel this is unnecessary and distracting (and can ruin the mood of a dramatic situation). The only character that I can think of right now that I like in this sort of trope is probably Waver from Fate/Zero, who is interesting because it’s clear his character is being developed, largely through his relationship with Rider. His subplot is a “coming of age” story, more or less, and it’s been rather handled well so far.

    You mention Watanuki as a cowardly character, but my feeling is he’s much more of a pragmatist (and has an incredibly easily excitable nature, in the form of a quirky berserk button [early on in the series, at least]). He’s actually one of my favorite protagonists in manga (of the series I’ve read), since he develops so much over the course of the storyline. But in general, he sees the danger and flips out about it (after all–it *isn’t* fair that he has to deal with all this chaos!), but in the end he has no choice in the matter and simply must face it… and in the end he pulls through! I feel that his logic turns out to be a big help in the end as well, considering the major responsibility he eventually gains later on in the series.

    • Watanuki sure was an interesting character. He is more of a realist then anything else in my eye and typically he would think more logical which comes across as cowardly when he tactically decides not to engage a dangerous spirit directly. He certain develops and take on a lot more responsibility then earlier on in the series and by the end he has reached the next level and is no longer cowardly.

      I have another trope I will probably cover within a week which covers Raki, the boy from Claymore in a better fashion then this trope could. I think I’d be willing to say Shinji and Yukiteru are part of a more defined trope which would be something along the lines of adolescence with great responsibility and power. Sure they fit into the coward trope but they are more complex then that. Maybe i’ll cover that at some point too.

  3. It is kinda hard to pick out someone who appears cowardly but makes up for it in the end. The only other I can think of is Kenji from Summer Wars, if he counts. Maybe Chrona from Soul Eater as well.

    • I forgot about Chrona. I need to read more of the manga before i can be sure though. Kenji’s character arc is a lot quicker then most but it is defiantly there. The love version of the coward is something I will be thinking about for later.

  4. I never saw Kujo from Gosick as a coward or useless. Maybe he was weak physically but he made up for it in his tenacity, love, friendship, and mental strength. Now Yuki-kun from Mirai Nikki has very rarely shown signs of strength and has more often in not acted in a sniveling manner and uses Yuno’s psychotic love for him to his advantage. He admits that he is weak, granted he has been put in a tough situation, but even before then he was hiding under a blanket in his room in his “imaginary world”.

    Ganta from Deadman Wonderland is a perfect example of someone who comes off as cowardly but makes up for it in the end. He was wrongly accused for murdering his classmates, put in a prison where you have to fight for your life, a prison where you have to eat a disgusting candy so that you’re not killed by the poison in your neck manacle, you’ve discovered you have a weird power to manipulate your blood; hey, I would be crying, too. But Ganta ALWAYS gets back up and fights for himself.

    • Ganta should have died like 100 times but he had plot armor so he kept surviving all that stuff. He did have that character arc I would say he was a coward but I’d laugh if you tried to call him a realist. Same with Yuki. He is a coward but the opposite of a realist. Sure he understands he is weak but he readily accepts crazy stuff without question.

      I don’t remember Kujo being that weak either. He was kind of like a servant for his love interest but that is another trope altogether.

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