It is an irrefutable fact that we don’t have to be connoisseurs of games, fictional books, or shows to have come across several types of popular characters. It has come to a point whereby seeing superhero symbols/merchandise from anime series has become pretty commonplace as society becomes more accepting towards works of fiction as well as their growing affluences. However at the crux of it, one wonders what makes these characters so well-known and even, well-loved? What is the special formula used to conjure up such unique individuals that others adore and can even relate to?
Upon deeper analysis, there is no one special and specific formula that would work across all contexts and characters. However, despite this, we can still categorise several character archetypes that seem to work over time and over several different contexts.
The “Character” Character
I never manage to find a suitable name for these sorts of character but I call them the ‘character’ character because they start and end as embodiments of many values and traits that most strive hard to achieve.
Some examples of such characters are; Captain America from the Marvel comics, Superman from the DC comics and Optimus Prime from the Transformers franchise. They are exemplary models for others and apart from being strong leaders, they also demonstrate physical and mental strength, selflessness, bravery, wiseness, empathy, kindness and hard-working attitudes etc. While at times these characters may waver in their moral strengths and alignments, they are usually remembered for being the gold standard for others to achieve in terms of their character.
The downfall of such characters is that they can come across as a unrelatable because they carry too many strengths, until their flaws and vulnerabilities become viewed as nonexistent. However, storytellers have tried to tackle this issue to varying degrees of success.
These characters are the exceptional examples but they tend to not have as much to them as far as personality goes and have fewer weaknesses than other character types. Despite that, they have displayed many admirable traits in the face of adversity and are thereby greatly respected and memorable.
These characters are different from the aforementioned category as they tend to be portrayed as mentally and/or physically weak in the beginning. Over time, however, they do develop and hone their skills, thus becoming much more confident and better abled than before (i.e. evolving from being naive and innocent ‘infants’ to stronger and wiser ‘adults’).
These characters strive to do their best for what they deem is good for themselves or for others. Some examples of such include Spider-man from the Marvel comics, Katsuki Yuri from Yuri on Ice!!!, Deku from Boku no Hero Academia, and Clementine from The Walking Dead.
These characters come across as more relatable than the ‘character’ characters as we see them struggle multiple times to better themselves. We see them endure many adversities, and can sometimes even feel their raw emotions during doubtful and unforgiving times.
Overall, these characters tend to be the ‘precious’ few whom readers want to protect because they are too pure for the world. With their undying perseverance to do good coupled with multiple moments of vulnerability, there is no doubt to me that this character type is definitely a special cinnamon roll.
These characters are memorable simply because of how adorably hilarious they are and have tickled our funny bones again and again with their lack of forethought about what to say or do, with some even lacking the ability to think at all.
They bring life and humour to their respective series by making us giggle or even burst out in laughter, delivering a lighter tone to the otherwise heavy atmosphere.
Such characters that fall under this category are Beast Boy from Teen Titans, Cosmo from the Fairly OddParents, Patrick Star from Spongebob Squarepants, Harley Quinn from the DC Comics and Flash from Bruce Timm’s Justice League series.
While the term ‘weird’ is subjective, these characters take it a step further and have certain eccentricities that most characters from their series find terribly bizarre.
These eccentricities can materialise in different forms, from DC Comic’s The Question’s tendency to spot non-existant links to confirm his conspiracy theory, to Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures’ Yoshikage Kira’s hand fetish and keeping his clipped nails for fortune telling. It can also come in a more disturbingly hilarious manners such as Attack on Titan’s Hanji’s extreme obsession for titans and Franky from One Piece’s obsession with transforming and upgrading his body into silly and almost useless inventions.
Regardless of how these unusual traits manifest, audiences are sure to remember these characters for their odd preferences and mentalities, sometimes even forming an odd attachment to them for how unusually unique they are.
The Unfortunate Soul
Characters who fall under this category have faced terribly unfortunate circumstances, circumstances that have changed the trajectory of their lives for as long as they will live.
The difference in this category is that these characters were more or less innocent, having just been at the wrong place at the wrong time. However, these unfavourable situations changed who they were and who they were meant to be. No longer is being a normal and everyday citizen an option for them, thus barring them from pursuing certain goals or aspirations they had hoped to one day achieve.
Examples of these types of characters are Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul, Batman from DC Comics, Bucky Barnes from Marvel comics, Archer from Fate Stay/Night and Nico Robin from One Piece.
While some of these characters can fall under different categories from the ones they were placed in, they are or can be mainly characterised by the category which we have placed them in.
Also, stay tuned for part 2 of this character archetype list to understand how and why characters are so intriguing as well as why you adore them so.