Roving Thoughts archives


A theory on why cool characters wind up being villains

Here is my theory (springing from the aside in the last entry):

At one point, the heroine of Pumpkin Scissors has to finally grit her teeth and meet her arranged fiancee. There's a lot of ways this could go badly for her, but actually he's a cool guy; he's nice, competent, powerful, understanding, and of course it turns out that he's one of the lead villains. How predictable.

But let's think of it from the other side. From a story perspective, how do you keep her fiancee from taking over the show given that he's a secondary character?

Roughly, I think that there are three main things that you can do in this situation:

  • Somehow sweep the secondary character more or less off stage. This both wastes the character (why introduce them at all if you're going to make them disappear) and is unrealistic in this sort of situation; the better they are the harder you have to work to make them disappear.

    (This works best when you have a clear reason for why the secondary characters are secondary and can't become part of the protagonist team.)

  • Bite the bullet and have them become part of the protagonist team. There are all sorts of drawbacks to this, especially if the secondary character is (very) competent; the more flawless they are the more they dominate the real protagonists (and the less interesting they are), and the more flawed they are the more time you spend exploring their flaws instead of dealing with the actual protagonists. This is where they take over your show.

  • Make them villains, thereby making them part of the main plots without detracting from the protagonists.

    (In theory you don't have to make them literal villains, just people who oppose the protagonists in some plot-relevant way. In practice I think that making them villains simplifies the story in a bunch of useful ways.)

Another way to put this is that unless you have an unusually long anime, you probably don't have much time to deal with things that don't involve the main plots. This implies that secondary characters have to either help move the main plots forward or not be around very much, and there are a limited number of ways they can move the main plots forward. If you need villains, it must be tempting to (re)use a character you need to have around anyways; it kills several birds with one stone.

(Also, you probably only have room for so many characters before your audience gets lost in the cast. If you only have room for ten major characters, you have to make all of the significant roles you need filled fit into those ten characters. If you need a romantic rival and a villain, well, maybe you can combine those together to save space.)

anime/CoolVillains written at 22:12:28; Add Comment

On Otome Youkai Zakuro's foreshadowing


I may be wrong as usual, but I expect the opposing human-youkai team to appear and maybe some conspiracy to rule the world thrown in, which is what the 3 couplings of bumbling lovers are going to face. Heck, I'll guess more: the dude in the mask is probably the adjutant guy who we saw in the beginning of the 1st episode.

The adjutant (he's briefly named as Hanadate) reappears in the second episode as the Lieutenant who saves the day by defusing the situation our heroes have gotten themselves into (by throwing around Army resources, which apparently he can speak for). If one wants more signs that villainy is in the air, there's also the mysteriously ill-tempered lightning beast from the first episode; anime has taught me that any time a normally well behaved creature inexplicably goes berserk, it is due to enemy action.

Sadly this is one of the weaknesses that I grumped at Zakuro for, because the good Lieutenant Hanadate sure feels like a cliche. My immediate reaction to him in the second episode (even before I realized that he was also the adjutant) was that he was so clearly too good to be true that he was probably going to turn out to be a villain, just like a whole string of similar characters before him in other shows.

(Just to be sure, the show gave him the smarmy villain look.)

I hadn't paid enough close attention to the opening and ending sequences, though, so I didn't really notice the bits that Author did. The masked man does seem to have hair that's pretty similar to Lieutenant Hanadate's, including bangs (sort of visible in the unmasking section of the opening), although I don't think we've seen Hanadate with his hat off yet.

This 'too good to be true, turns out to be a villain' thing has gotten to be such a cliche in anime that I groan every time such a character turns up. Just once I'd like them to actually be the genuinely nice people that they appear to be, instead of villains who lead the protagonists on and betray them later on. (As it happens I have a theory for why this keeps happening, but it doesn't fit here.)

PS: to be clear, I'm not surprised by the existence of villains in Zakuro; it was plain from the opening that there would probably be antagonists, given that they suggestively showed us extra characters (in shadowy lighting, just to drive it in). It's the fine details I didn't spot, which shows that Author has a better eye than I do.

anime/ZakuroVillainComment written at 21:32:19; Add Comment

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