Wednesday’s What About: Secondary Characters

This week’s What About post is about secondary characters. You know, the ones who aren’t always guaranteed to have screentime in a series. I’m talking about the ones who ain’t the main characters. 

For a while now, I’ve been paying attention to a specific little trend.

Whenever an episode (or a chapter or even an arc) focuses on a side character, fans are apt to complain. Common remarks include, “This is a filler episode,” “Remember when this show was about [insert main character’s name],” “I don’t care about these characters.” In other words, a lot of fans seem to prefer the main character and consider secondary characters to be unimportant. 

And sure, you’re entitled to your own opinion. But I rarely can agree with the sentiment in question.

Call me a hipster if you’d like, but I tend to find myself pulling away from the main character(s) in most series for various reasons. Maybe they’re just overpowered and thus victory comes easy to them (read: most protagonists in isekai settings).

Or I dislike their personalities and I consider the way their romantic endeavors unfold to be frustrating. That was how I felt towards Sakura Trick and Kiniro Mosaic. I’ve talked about it more detail over here. Basically, I think Shino and Haruka would make for terrible lovers due to their unflattering personalities. That’s just my opinion after observing how Shino overlooks Alice for other girls with blonde hair (namely Karen). The same goes for Haruka, who doesn’t seem to consider Yu to be her girlfriend and is kind of leading Yu on by keeping things vague. Your mileage may vary!

I do recognize that the main character(s) in a franchise are important, but they’re typically not my favorite. On the other hand, I usually am drawn to the suppoting characters. This is probably my love for the underdog shining through.

Compared to the main character(s), the side characters tend to be more mysterious. They obviously receive less screentime than the main characters, who are the primary focus of a series or show. I guess that causes me to get a little curious about the elusive support characters by default. The fact that I’m usually not interested in main characters also helps.

That’s why I’m a fan of Ano Musume ni Kiss to Shirayuri o. To be honest, I can’t stand the main couple, who has this fragile relationship that leaves us readers wondering when they’ll ever officially get together (plus I can’t stand Yurine’s smug attitude). But there are just so many other couples that leaves us feeling warm and fuzzy as they resolve their differences within their own arcs without letting their feelings remain as a vague love-hate relationship that drags on for dozens of chapters on end, which allows me to endure the main couple.

The secondary couples thus can give the audience more context in regards to the main couple by providing contrast. Compared to suppoting couple A (let’s theoretically say that they are both very communicative girls and they became an item relatively quickly), for example, the main girl and the person she loves are both too prideful and too shy to admit their feelings. By establishing this side couple as a foil to the main couple, the audience is better able to understand the mindset of multiple characters. Using comparison as a point of reference accentuates the issues which plague the main couple and prevents them from easily getting together. Such a result would be much less likely if the story only focused on the protagonist.

Of course, it’s possible for a story to do so, but it weakens the story. After all, it is a considerable gamble on the author’s part. If you, the audience, don’t like the main character(s), then there’s a high chance you will dismiss the series altogether. After all, the protagonist, who is not to your taste, will hog most of the screentime and none of the side characters will get properly fleshed out. As a result, it would be hard for you to find an incentive to actually give said series the time of day.

All I ask is that you remember that the main character(s) aren’t the only characters in a story. Yes, the central protagonists are important. But these supporting roles are also important. So what if a few episodes here or there centers around a secondary character? The main character already gets enough screentime as is.

What do you think? Are you usually a fan of the main character(s)? Do you prefer supporting characters? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Sorry about the lack of pictures. It’s past midnight and I am struggling to keep my eyes open.

13 thoughts on “Wednesday’s What About: Secondary Characters

  1. I hereby dub thee, Remyspam, Champion of the Woefully Neglected Underdogs.

    Sorry not sorry.

    I tend to end up with the MC as my favorite – otherwise the whole show might end up dull for me since liking a story where the main player is shit would be an exercise in irritation. But I also don’t discriminate against secondary characters. As long as they’re interesting – and they usually are – them I’m in. Shipping less prominent characters can be fun too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I gracefully accept D’s (nuts) gracious naming ceremony. Underdogs are life to me.
      Don’t be sorry!
      Mmm fair enough. The main character just has to be likeable, which makes them feel a bit manufactured in my opinion. But yes, sometimes side characters are boring.
      Yes, the crazy ships that would never work are great to root for.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They screw up sometimes though. For one, there’s the manufactured issue you mentioned. Then there are wackos like Future Diary’s Yukiteru. *shudder*

        Liked by 1 person

          1. That’s true. Characterization is a minefield, I guess.

            (Heads up, I’m leaving on a trip in a few hours and will be AWOL for about 6 days. Ciao.)

            Liked by 1 person

    1. That was a great series with characters who drew you in no matter the amount of screen time they had. Gotta respect the secondary characters…and the mad scientist Hououin Kyouma.


  2. I agree with you there. I’m usually drawn to supporting characters as well. Secondary characters also have their own perspectives and stories, and they deserve equal screen time. Maybe that’s why I like shows with an ensemble cast, though it’s pretty rare in anime. Awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

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