What Makes an Interesting Character?

I’m currently watching E3, which isn’t exactly the best conditions for writing a post, but I haven’t written one in a while, so I feel like I kind of owe you guys.

Anyways, this shouldn’t be too long of a post, because Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is about to be covered, and I want to give it my undivided attention.

The idea for this post came a few days ago, when I was discussing Chobits with a friend. She was complaining that she didn’t like the show because Chi was an idiot, but I was arguing that there’s a pretty valid reason that she’s dumb (at least at the beginning). One thing lead to another, and she was saying that she didn’t find Chi interesting because she was an idiot. This confused me, because, as I said, there was a reason Chi was like that. It’s not like the creator(s) just decided “WHELP TIME TO MAKE A DUMB CHARACTER.” The background for it was what made her interesting.

She countered by mentioning Teen Titans (not really anime, but that’s besides the point) had a similar kind of deal with an “Origin” episode. When Starfire first arrived on Earth, she didn’t know anything, but instead of doing nothing or being confused, she went around killing people, which made her interesting. I argued that it wasn’t a perfect comparison, since Starfire wasn’t dumb, she was just ignorant about things related to Earth. But besides that, I argued that her actions actually made her less interesting, because killing is something that’s universally shunned. Just because her action was “shocking” doesn’t mean that she’s a good character, nor interesting.

What I’m getting at, is that people seem to consider characters who are “evil” or just act in an unexpected way to be more interesting. But how can this be the case when there’s no basis? You could argue that Chi and Starfire are about equally interesting, but most people would probably say that Starfire is more interesting because of her actions.

I feel like this is partially because of the mindset that some people have nowadays, which is wanting the bad guys to win every once in a while. Breaking it down further, it seems like people just want something different to the norm, regardless if it has a solid basis or not. This is almost like my point back in my Light and Dark: The Stereotyping of Anime Genres post, which was that people seem to want something new rather than something that is executed well.


I’m sure there are other reasons too, but I just can’t agree with this mindset. For as long as I enjoy any type of media entertainment, I will continue to fight the case for the good characters whenever I can.

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6 Comments on “What Makes an Interesting Character?”

  1. hearthesea says:

    What makes an interesting character is naturally going to be different for everyone. The most common reason for finding a character interesting is when you relate to them or understand them on some level — whether that be due to their flaws or more positive traits — but it’s also obviously possible to find a character interesting even when they don’t resemble you at all. (I’ve been horrified by certain characters, unable to sympathise with them at all, and still found them very interesting.)

    As for your example, I agree that this is all once again down to the execution. ‘Killers’ and ‘idiot’ characters can both work, but it always depends on how they’re crafted. What personally attracts me to characters is simply when they’re given a ‘human’ treatment — a mix of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ traits rather than a caricature, believable motivations and actions, and interesting dynamics with other characters. When it comes to any kind of fiction, I always place the characters first — if the characters don’t interest or grab me, then I can’t connect to the work at all.

    • Riyoga says:

      Yeah, I don’t doubt there are other reasons for finding characters interesting, I just mainly wanted to address the mentality most people seem to have that ‘bad’ characters are somehow automatically more interesting than ‘good’ characters.

      I personally find any character interesting, as long as they’re given reasons for their actions and such. For example, I find Chi and Kyuubey equally interesting. Though I do find Kyuubey to be executed far better.

  2. Celina says:

    I like how people actually care so deeply about a character inside and out. I’m a ridiculously shallow person who will judge on how the character looks. Using your examples of Chi and Starfire, I was always enamored with Chi because her design is adorable looking and well dressed, but I find Starfire more interesting because she f*cking orange and has green eyes (and green is my favorite color). My in depth character analysis came after.

    Shallow no?

    • Riyoga says:

      Eh, everyone has their own reasons. Plus, personal looks come into play for pretty much everyone. For example, I was instantly drawn to Hei from Darker than BLACK just because his mask is awesome.

  3. abscissa says:

    I’m guilty for being shallow because the very first component that I look at is the art design of the character, then next is his personality of the character. When it comes to personality I often like those ones who play the supporting roles. Also, I think the reason why people usually like characters who are evil and odd is because their personality stand-out, that’s why they’re also easily remembered.

    • Riyoga says:

      Like I said in the last comment, everyone is always biased by the looks at first. We can’t really help it.

      Supporting roles, eh? I have a few friends that think like that too. I’ve always found it to be an interesting mentality since the reason they’re considered to be supporting roles 99% of the time is because they aren’t developed enough to be seen as main characters. Though there’s exceptions, obviously.

      The thing is that being evil does not guarantee your personality stands out. I’ve seen plenty of generic villains that I don’t care to remember. It will always come down to why you do your actions rather than what the actions are.


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