What is it that people love so much about anime? The animation itself is pretty cool. It is a lot different from Western animation. But moving pictures alone generally aren’t enough to captivate an audience. So, what’s the deal? More often than not, great anime is built on great characters. It is the characters and the stories they tell that grab a fan’s attention.
The Walt Disney Company is arguably the king of Western animation. They more or less defined the genre in the early 20th century. But the one thing that sets Disney animation apart is not the quality of the artwork. It is the quality of the story. Disney considers themselves storytellers first and foremost. And at the heart of every story is a compelling cast of characters.
Just think about it. How many Disney characters do you know? How many of them would you recognize on sight? Disney does such a great job with their characters that they are recognized around the world. In the anime area, the exact same principles apply.
Compelling Characters Tell Compelling Stories
UmaiClothing is a boutique clothing brand designed around anime and the anime community. They sell everything from anime T-shirts and sweatshirts to posters and smartphone cases. Umai recently published a blog post discussing the idea of creating anime by starting with characters.
A thorough reading of the post makes it clear that Umai believes compelling characters tell compelling stories. It is hard to argue with such an analysis. If the characters in a given anime series are not compelling enough to cause you to be interested in them, are you really going to pay attention to the story? Probably not as much as you would if you found the characters compelling.
Truth be told, stories do not exist apart from the characters in them. A story is just a narrative of its characters’ lives. So if characters are boring, their story will be as well.
Compelling Characters Draw Us In
One of the secrets every successful anime creator knows is that compelling characters draw viewers in. They are drawn in by the simple fact that they identify with the characters they see on the screen. Once that identification is made, a fan can be drawn into the story by way of their own imagination.
As such, compelling characters are a way for fans to connect with the stories they are consuming. Good characters in whom fans can invest themselves become the gateway from reality to fantasy. And when the fantasy button is pushed, it’s game over. The fan will be invested in that series from then on.
More Realistic Anime Characters
Characters in any type of story have to be compelling enough to resonate with consumers. But in anime, creators must go one step further. One of the foundational principles of anime, as an art form, is realism. Fans expect characters to be more realistic in terms of what they look like and the lives they lead.
This emphasis on realism is what makes anime stories so relatable. Even when some aspects of a story exceed believability, a good story’s underlying components are still realistic. Fans can still relate to them on a personal level. And once again, it is the characters that make it all possible.
In the end, anime is a vehicle for compelling characters to tell compelling stories. The unique animation style that is anime is the icing on the cake. It gives a certain aesthetic flair to stories filled with characters that make us want to care about and identify with them.