Posted by: AceRailgun | September 9, 2012

Expanding the cast

What I’m talking about is that moment in a story, in this case anime where the minor characters start to get more screen time and when they start to get back stories. It’s not normally an issue in anime series because the group of protagonists tends to be limited to about four – six but sometimes in movies we see a large cast of characters fight it out for screen time when there just isn’t enough time for them all. There is also the issue of an ever expanding cast in shonen anime. Often this is capped but in rare occassions it’s not and it becomes very hard to rememeber all the characters and even harder to care about all of them.


It’s probably not a great example but I’ve been re-watching Gurren Lagann and much to my surprise I noticed an absolute tonne of characters being introduced at a rather alarming pace. You get the main three in the first part and then they proceed to pick up another three or so every episode until episode eight where they pick up an army of characters who all get their own story to some extent. It’s at this point the series reaches it’s character cap and doesn’t introduce anymore characters until it reaches the end with the exception of a certain replacement.


What I noticed through all this is that not once does the anime try and force drama of the side characters before they are characterized. Once they get their own backstory they are allowed more screen time but even when that happens they take a back seat to the main three. Some of them are pairs and there story is shared which saves a lot of time and doesn’t take time away from the main cast.


Comparing this to something like Mushi Shi or Kino’s Journey were you have a much different kind of story telling was interesting to say the least. You are introduced to essentially a new cast every single episode and yet a high level of drama is still achieved. How is this possible and why doesn’t it lead to bad story telling? Is it because we view the new characters from an outsiders point of view and aren’t expected to grow attached to them like we were suppose to in say Guilty Crown or any visual novel with the childhood friend deal going on? Is it this forced drama with characters we’ve never met that makes these types of anime less appealing or is there another element I’m missing?


I also noticed that when something action orientated suddenly has character death followed by drama I become sadder then something like Ano Hana which is just drama the whole way through.


  1. Protagonists are the characters that are meant to contrast the antagonist. This usually makes them major characters as they are the primary tools through which the author portrays their message. But not every story has to follow this linear route, and many stories that do certainly aren’t bad. Simply put, If the message is varied enough, characters outside of the protagonists and antagonists can add another layer of complexity to the plot. As far as I’m concerned, if a side character doesn’t do this, their only role should be to further develop the main characters (or provide some comic relief).

    I can’t speak about Kino’s Journey, but I can say with certainty that I formed an attachment with the characters in Mushi Shi. Even though their appearances were brief, each one had a strong impact with an independent message. I don’t see why screen time needs to have such a strong correlation with character development. If anything, it takes much more effort to develop your characters in twenty short minutes than over the course of several episodes.

    I don’t really think that you can nail down the “missing element” in bad story telling. There are just to many different kinds of stories to pick out the one problem that turns a great plot into a forgettable one. The author has lost when the audience becomes apathetic towards the characters in their story. As long as some interest is maintained, the author has done at least something right.

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