Hello to all!
Last time, I revealed how almost all modern stories use a similar pattern or formula called “The Hero’s Journey.”
However, the pattern is only part of the equation.
As we all know, a story is only as good as it’s characters, and the Hero’s Journey features eight particular character types to assist in it’s pattern.
But what are those character types, and how to they relate to the world of anime?
Well, that’s why I’m here!
This one should be pretty obvious.
This is the main character, the one the story revolves around. They are the one who is called to adventure, called upon to defeat the evil that threatens their world.
However, sometimes the hero is not necessarily a “good guy.”
There have been many stories featuring what’s known as “villain protagonist,” main characters that are meant to be the bad guy, or anti-heroes, characters that aren’t really evil, but also don’t exactly fit the “hero” definition.
Pretty much any protagonist from any anime could fit into this category, but my personal favorite is Joseph Joestar from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure : Battle Tendency.
Our hero doesn’t start off very strong. They need help in the beginning. This is where the mentor comes in.
The mentor is someone who knows the ins-and-outs of the hero’s abilities. they know what to expect from the journey ahead, and will provide their assistance to the hero when he or she first starts.
Think of any character who trains the hero at the beginning of any anime, and you find a mentor for that story, such as Rias Gremory from High School DxD.
Of course, no hero can accomplish anything alone. They need help from friends every now and again.
Enter the ally characters. These are the friends of the hero who help them along their quest. Usually, they are more than one, but sometimes a hero will have a single companion to travel with for moral support.
Almost any side character can fit this role, but my personal favorite example is, not surprisingly, Robert EO Speedwagon from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure : Phantom Blood.
Whenever the journey gets rough, and spirits start to run low, this is the character that brings everyone back to life.
The trickster is usually the oddball of the group, making comments and jokes about how crazy the situations are, while offering a fresh perspective on things.
While they may come off as the dumb one of the team, they are often the ones with the best ideas when given time and merit.
Almost any comic relief character will fit this role, and it can even be filled by some heroes as well, such as Joseph.
But, I feel the best example would be Colonel Hughes from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
This role is a little different from the other because it could not be just a character, but an event that sets the story into motion.
This is essentially the trigger for the hero’s path, the one event that set’s everything to motion.
There isn’t much to say on this other than it starts the story itself.
Any event that triggers the hero to rise up could be considered a herald, such as Edward’s and Alphonse’s mother’s death at the beginning of Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist:Brotherhood.
This is the character whose intentions are never clearly defined.
Could they really be good, fighting alongside our hero for what’s right? Could they be a spy for the villain, trying to discover the group’s weaknesses?
Or could they simply be out for themselves, not caring about how they affect others?
The point is, no one is really sure what this character has on their mind, and they may never make their intentions clear. Only time will tell.
Sasuke Uchiha played a sort of Shapeshifter role in some of the later Naruto arcs, and serves as a good example of the character type.
Before the final battle is fought, the hero and his group face a final test ; The Guardian.
This is the sign that the fight ahead will be harder than any faced before, and a final warning to turn back.
The Guardian serves as the final obstacle between the hero and the evil he seeks to defeat.
The fallen angels in the first arc of HighSchool DxD serve well as guardians, blocking the straight forward path to defeat Raynare and save Asia from her cluthces.
This is everyone’s favorite, the force that challenges our hero, and who they must defeat to save their world.
More commonly known as the villain, this is the evil the hero must destroy, and doing so will make the end of the journey, and the start of the way home.
After defeating the Shadow, the hero returns with their companions, wiser and more mature than when they all had left.
Any villain would fit this role, but one of my favorites would be The Major from Hellsing and Hellsing Ultimate.
These types are rarely used one for one.
Sometimes the hero may also embody a trickster. Sometimes the shadow may hide amongst the group as a shapeshifter, or even an ally.
But all of these types are present in almost any story you can think of, in some way, shape or form.
I realize this may destroy the notion of originality for some, but seeing these types over and over is a good thing.
Why are these character types used so often, as well as “The Hero’s Journey” pattern itself?
Because it works!
We as people connect with heroes facing impossible odds, and still succeeding, because we do the same every day.
Every single one of us has own journey, where we are the hero. All of us have allies and mentors. We all have a herald that drives us to achieve what we want.
Maybe some of us have a shapeshifter, or even a shadow in our lives.
But we don’t lose hope. We keep going, striving for our own happy ending.
And why? Because we are our own heroes!
Thank you for reading my two-parter on The Hero’s Journey in anime.
Have you seen these character types in your favorite anime? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’d thank to personally thank all of you amazing readers out there for helping this site grow over this past year, especially Arria Cross, whose blog carnivals were a big help.
Have a great Christmas everybody, and I hope you vote in my poll to help decide what I should start next year.
Until next time…