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01 August 2009 @ 07:04 pm
Antagonists/villians in anime (Redux!)  

I wrote this essay a little while back, and considered posting it in this community for a time.  I'm not sure if it's on-topic or not, since while Bleach was what inspired me to write it, it doesn't directly deal with the series all that much, instead only makes references to it from time to time.  If it's off topic just let me know, Deb, and I'll happily delete it.  ^^  People have been writing some world-class essays recently, and I felt guilty reading all of them without contributing something unique of my own, so I hoped I could at least offer this much. 

That said, The reason for my writing it is this:  I'm often approached with questions regarding my reasons for demanding depth from the espadas and arrancars of Bleach.  Fairly often, I here rationales regarding how they're "just bad guys who died because that's what bad guys do" and that "there's no need for them to be deep or significant."

Now, obviously, I'm a fanboy, and as such I have a strong predisposition toward villians, but I have deeper reasons for wanting my villians complex, I promise!  I'm not sure how many have already read this, but I hope it gives at least a few people an example of my way of thinking.  

The formatting screwed up when I tried to post it on my journal, so for this incarnation I went with the barest minimum of formatting to keep the text as regular as possible.  My apologies for the boring layout.


Part of the reason why developed antagonists are as important to the story as developed protagonists stems from the fact that storytelling shares a number of similarities with physical law.  (I know, ain't that a silly comparison?  ^^)  Newton's law is as true in a storytelling sense as it is in a physical one, as is inertia.  There can't be an action without an equal but opposite reaction, since the one will always result in the other.  Likewise, a plot cannot be set into motion with being triggered by an event, nor can it cease without an event of similar magnitude at its conclusion.

Because of the truth of this comparison, if you have a strong, firmly developed, and wonderfully established cast of protagonists, but a hackneyed, unappealing, or perhaps even virtually absent antagonist, it leads to a story that feels off-balanced.  Typically, this can happen in one of two ways:

1.) Weak protagonist, weak antagonist-  an example would include a story premise such as "An evil from 1000 years ago has been awakened, and now only the chosen hero of destiny, alongside his assembly of quirky comrades, can journey the world, collecting all of the sacred objects needed to finally quell the evil force.  That's just one example, mind.  Their are thousands of plot starting points that are equally limiting.

Here you have a setup that borrows from archetypes to create its premise.  Because of the very nature of some plots, the hero will be, almost without exception, eithar a chaste and noble soul who always does the right things at the right time because he's the rightful hero of rightness, or a tortured and angst-filled soul who's none too happy about having the burden of destiny thrust upon him, but will nontheless come to terms with who he is, and ultimately become the hero of rightness mentioned before.

The villian will also be muted and forced into a typecast, in this example he will almost certainly be out to destroy the world... if the author is chartiable, he may have some super-selfish but still rather ridiculous motive, like sucking all the life energy out to become a god... but the villian in this type of story is lucky to recieve even that degree of development, and will more likely just be portrayed as the wicked enemy to all living creatures, probably be big and scary, and will likely shout or roar on almost any opportunity.

The confines of the weak premise spread to the characters, and force them to be weak as well.  As a result, the entire work is stilted, and never gains the spark needed to be legitimately enjoyable to the reader.  Of course, depending on the characters themselves, the quality of a story that uses it can run from "absolutely unwatchable" to "tolerable but not really enjoyable."  Either way,  if one uses such limited archetypes, the story they create will always come across as cliche.

As far as actual series example, since this level of storytelling tends to be percieved as amateur and run-of-the-mill, it rarely makes it to the levels of renown needed to have real examples to cite, but somewhere between 80 and 90% of all fanfiction and original fiction (especially from younger writers) fits into this category.  From my experience, it seems to be a necessary step in the development of many.

2.) Overdeveloped or too numerous protagonist force, underdeveloped or outnumbered antagonist force (Can you guess where I'm going with this? ^^) -  Many times, especially in "character-based" writing (which I'll explain a bit more about below) the ideas for "good guys" simply outnumber the ideas for "bad guys," perhaps the writer falls in love with certain characters of his/her creation, and doesn't want to see harm befall them.  Perhaps he/she simply doesn't have too many ideas for long-term antagonists to serve as the protagonist's foils.  Either way, it typically leads to the same result:  at some point in the story, there will come a time when an ungodly large number of protagonists face off against a comparitively miniscule cast of developed villians.  

This arrangement will compromise the suspension of disbelief if taken to the extreme.  The reader will eventually be led to wonder how exactly the antagonists remained a threat for so long when there are so few of them and so many enemies.  Developing the enormous cast of protagonists also becomes burdensome, since finding fight-partners or foils for all of them is impossible.  As such, the writer is forced to throw in stock villians, underdeveloped and typecast characters whose only purpose is to be defeated by a specific protagonist.  However, because these stock villians are poorly (if at all) tied into the central plot, said plot slows down to a crawl or stops entirely while these conflicts are resolved.

Examples of this type of storytelling include episodic adventures, such as children's action series (power ranger, TMNT, etc.)  In anime, as you probably guessed by the nature of my words above, the most heinous offender of this is Bleach.

Thus, balance and strength are needed by both sides to create a story that is enjoyable, fluid, and original.  Dismissing antagonists as "invariably wicked creatures who simply need to die in the end" will always weaken your impact, because it will eventually destroy your balance and unhinge your plot.

PART 1: The types of antagonists

Typically, for a character or group of characters to be the protagonists... the ones through whose lens the story is seen by the reader... a certain degree of sympathy or relateability must be had with them.   They don't have to be "good" per se, but a story can never develop a following if the characters readers spend the most time with are unappealing.  Any charcter who doesn't quite have that degree of appeal, will most likely become a neutral supporting character.  Neutral characters are the ones whose existance helps to develop the world of the story, but doesn't significantly alter the movement of the plot.   This leaves only the characters whose existance in some way runs counter to the protagonists.  Because of the point of view offered to the reader, their motives will seem antagonistic, and thus they are the antagonists.  Just as "protagonist" doesn't mean "good,"  "antagonist" doesn't mean "bad" either.  They are two sides whose goals or wishes cannot coexist,  the opposite reaction to an action.  In more organic stories, it's best to not even think of "good guys" or "bad guys" when creating your world, and instead focus on realistic reasons all the characters would have to do the things that they do.  There are more archetypes for antagonists than there are stars in the sky, but I find that most of them fall into four distinct cattegories:

Type one - The sympathetic, redeemable antagonist- The character who may start off completely unappealing to the reader, but eventually shows sides of themselves that are vulnerable or disarming.  If these elements to the character are allowed to continue developing, and eventually surpass the unappealing aspects of the character, then a time may come when the antagonist is no longer percieved as such, becoming neutral, or perhaps even a protagonist.  Since a large number of antagonists who fall into this cattegory die as a result of or shortly after the events that make them sympathetic, whether a villian belongs in this class or in the one I'll go into next is usually in the eye of the beholder, based on personal taste and bias.

Examples of the sympathetic, redeemable antagonist include-  Nico Robin from One Piece,  Charden from Black Cat,  and, of course, Ulquiorra Cifer from Bleach.

Also from Bleach, one could technically consider the shinigami to be in this category (though personally I never saw them as antagonists to begin with, not by the traditional definition.)

Type two - The sympathetic, unredeemed antagonist-  there are times when the sympathetic side of a antagonist isn't shown to redeem him, but only to explain why he turned out the way he did.  In most of these cases, while increasing the compatibility the reader has with the villian, these revelations or nuances to their personality don't outweigh the unappealing acts or traits that made them antagonists to begin with.  A type two antagonist is the kind who, after having played his role in the story, will make the reader think "I understand why you turned out the way you did, and I feel kinda sorry for you... but you still deserved what you got."

Examples of a type two antagonists include-  Kabuto Yakushii from Naruto,  Legato Bluesummers from Trigun, and Iseley of the North from Claymore.

From Bleach, it's difficult to say given how much development remains to be seen, but Gin and Tousen likely belong here, with Aizen likely to end up in type 3 or type 4 before all is said and done.  This is also the most natural place to put characters like Nnoitra, Zommari, and Grimmjow.

Type three - The unsympathetic, unredeemed, but still developed and complex antagonist-  Without a doubt, this is the single hardest kind of antagonist to get right.  You see, there really are people, in the world of fiction and in reality, who are... well... batshit insane.  As such, every so often there really are people who do evil things for little to no reason, or who develop philosophies and ways of living that would make any sane human being tremble in disgust and fear.  The problem is, though, that many writers use "insanity" as an excuse for having an underdeveloped villian, and don't try to justify the actions of their character outside of the "oh, he's crazy" and a few fits of maniacal laughter.

Creating an insane character may seem like a great idea if you really want to exemplify that your antagonist is a villian, but you have to be willing to give him a much greater degree of development than you would if your antagonist were more sympathetic.  For starters, how is your villian insane?

Is he a sociopath?  If so, then be sure to portray him as such.  Make him lack empathy, and perhaps even the ability to feel emotion, but make certain that he has superficial charisma that can draw people to him, as well.  You also need to explain how such a person was able to rise to the point where he could be a sufficient antagonist.

Is he simply delusional and sadistic?  If so, what are his delusions?  Does he follow a thought pattern that makes sense to him.? Is he able to unite other similarly delusional people beneath him?  Again, how was such a person able to rise to the point that he could be a sufficient antagonist.

Because of the degree of development needed to create a type 3 antagonist, and because of the difficulty involved in creating a truly developed one, the handful of villians in any genre that succeed in being portrayed in this way stand among my favorite villians of all time.

Anime examples of  a type three antagonist include:  Solf J. Kimbley from Fullmetal Alchemist,  Dietrich von Lohengren from Trinity Blood,  and Johann Liebert from Monster.

From Bleach, Aizen has the potential to end up here, but can just as easily wind up in type 4.  Szayel-Apporo belongs here, as well.

Type four - Unsympathetic, unredeemed, and undeveloped antagonists-  Essentially the half-assed attempts at a type three antagonist, type fours are the stereotypical villians.  Favorite passtimes of type fours include:  blowing down the houses of pigs, stealing candy from babies, eating babies, wearing black caps and pulling them over their faces for shock value, twirlings the ends of their moustaches, tying women to train tracks, and attempting to conquer/destroy the world/happiness/freedom/puppies.  The reasons type fours have for enjoying these activities will never be given... and don't ask the writer... they probably don't know either.

This type of antagonist is partially justified when used in children's storybooks and other literature aimed at the very young, because such stories typically require the portrayal of morals and values in an easy-to-understand way.

For all other works, an antagonist like this should be the thing to avoid, and is a sign of poor writing should he ever appear.

Examples of a type four villian include:  Any of them from Power Rangers, Team Rocket from Pokemon,  and is a popular interpretation of Ulquiorra Cifer amongst shippers of IchiHime.  (hmm...  I wonder if they have ulterior motives behind such a linear view...)

From Bleach, pretty much every hollow to appear in the KT arc except Orihime's brother.  Hollows in general have laughable development prior to the arrancar arc, and even after it there are a few who make this list.  The sadistic Aaronario, for instance.  Surprisingly, many of the fraccion escape this, most becoming type 2 antagonists before the ending comes.  The only ones who I feel belong here are Findor and Nirgge.

Bear in mind that these villian types are based on the assumption that the characters in question are human.  demons, vampires, and the like have a bit more freedom in how they exist, although without development any antagonist can be a weak one.

Part 3: The ways of writing, and how I personally create my protagonists/antagonists.

It is often said that there are two kinds of writers in this world.  I find that the manner in which protagonists and antagonists are developed and portrayed vary greatly depending on which of the two types you are.  For instance:

With writers who create their characters first, and then develop the world and plot around them, the protagonists are more likely to be heroes or heroic, and the antagonists are more likely to be villianous.  There's usally a clearly drawn moral event horizon, and and obvious choice of who the reader wants to support.  The upside to this style is that all the characters will tend to be very unique, in appearance and manner if not necessarily in depth.  The downside is the kind of story created is typically more a "shonen/shojo" in nature.

This style of writing is particularly popular amongst those with artistic talent (whom I envy very much) as they draw a character, get a feel for who they want him to be, and then start creating other characters for him to interact with.

With writers who create their world, and then develop the characters and plot around it,there's often more of a feel of moral ambiguity.  Perhaps the protagonist and the antagonist aren't that different, perhaps bad things will happen no matter who prevails in the end.  The upside to this style is that the story conveyed can be effective on multiple levels, and it's easy to understand exactly why every character is the way they are.  The downside is that the characters themselves can sometimes lack charm or uniqueness, due to the fact that they aren't thought of as more than cogs in the plot's motion.

From what I'm told, this is the rarest type of writer, and the style is prevelant mostly amongst those who are better at thinking of events than physical details, or who are very methodical in nature.

Bear in mind, I'm not saying that ALL people who write in one style have the same strengths and weaknesses, only pointing out the tendencies and trends.  There are exceptions to every rule, and neither style is inherently better or worse than the other, they're just different.

Personally, I belong to the latter group, so I'm not certain how much help any advice I give can be, but when I start to write someting, this is the thought process I generally go through:

1.) To quote Axis Powers Hetalia, "draw a circle, there's the world."  My first step is always to develop the kind of world my story will take place in.  Everything about it that is outside the control of those currently living there, from climate, to vegetation, to quality of life.  After the physical, I move on to the philosophical.  What kind of history has this setting had?  What events led up to what is happening now?

2.)  Try to imagine what kind of person would grow in a world like this, or what kind of group.  How do they live?  What do they live for?  What would they want most out of life?  Is it a big group?  Maybe it's only one person.  The last question I ask myself is always "would this character/group of characters be appealing enough to readers to serve as my protagonists?"  If not, I repeat tis step.  Creating many different groups and kinds of people, and developing how they would interact with each other, as well as the world.

3.)  Once I've decided on which character/group will be the protagonists, I more sharply define their relationship with the other characters/groups I've created.  Which ones exist neutrally with the protagonists... and which ones cannot coexist with them.  The majority of the plot is developed here.

4.)  now I set up the events of the plot.  Everyone who writes a story has a general idea of the kind of tale they wish to spin, this step is a simple case of manipulating the events and characters you've created and using them to tell your story.

5.)  This is when the aesthetic details of my characters is applied.  I'm nototoriously bad at thinking about the physical appearances of my characters.  I typically only give one or two details, and leave it to my artists to handle the rest (when dealing with graphic novel format.)  I also tend to swipe names from phonebooks... and often role dice to determine the genders of my characters, since most of the roles I create are unisex.  If there's one thing I've never had talent for, it's the finer details in things.  ^^



again, I'm not saying that that style of writing is "right" or "better than" anything.  It's just my style.  Anyway, I suppose that cocludes my long-winded sermon.  Thanks to all who happened to endure it this far, and I understand if you don't have much to say about it.  ^^


Current Mood: amusedamused
gypsygrrl420gypsygrrl420 on August 2nd, 2009 01:23 am (UTC)
I must say, this was quite possibly one of the most well-thought out, well-written essays I have read about the actual art of writing that I've come across in a very long time (let alone online).
By any chance have you ever come across a nifty little reference book called 'Bullies, Bastards, & Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction' by Jessica Page Morrell? If not it's definitely worth a read, as it expands upon what you just wrote (sorry, I'm an absolute reference book junkie, especially if it's not the usual 'How to Write A Novel' tome, as they've been done to death and contain very little helpful information.
Anyhow, as much as I like having the good guy win/save the day/get the girl (or guy), I love great villains--especially the extraordinarily complex ones that are so rarely seen in fiction of any kind now a days--and when I come across one I like, I find myself rooting for him/her; the hero/heroine can't always win, right?
It's unfortunate when a villain is flat or unappealing, and if you're not a child (and children these days want a great deal more out of their reading materials than they did when I was a kid)it almost feels as if you've been cheated of something (do people realize just how damn expensive books are lately?). If I want fluff I'll pick up a Harlequin from the 1970's--I want a hero that makes me care and a villain that makes me teeter on the edge of breathless fear that he/she will win and WANTING them to win (though that usually happens when I pick up a book with an interesting villain and a squeaky clean, annoying protagonist).
As for your second point, the part about too few/underdeveloped antagonists and too many/overdeveloped protagonists--I completely agree, though I do understand the need for episodic, quickly killed villains. I personally like the whole pyramid scheme of villainy: lots of little bad guys that are easily taken care of (for example, your everyday Hollow if I use Bleach as an example), then above them slight stronger enemies that are fewer but harder to kill (general Arancarr? Or the Fraccion). Above these are stronger enemies, which are far fewer than the former (the Espada) and so on till we reach the top of the pyramid and what I like to call THE BIG BAD (I used to watch Buffy alot when it was on). I suppose if one squints hard enough, Bleach follows this formula. I did notice that the seasons build upon each other; the little bad guys are the focus of the first season, then the second and third deal with rescuing Rukia (with Soul Society being the antagonist), and the discovery that Aizen is a traitor. Then we step back and deal with the Bount Arc, then swing back to the Arrancars, and so on...(sorry, it's just an example).
Anyhow, I'll shut up now *grins* I look forward to any more essays you might write on the subject of writing in the future.
n a o k o || want your rad bromance: Izuru- Zetsubou no Hananendo_chan on August 2nd, 2009 03:49 am (UTC)
Yeah, you said everything I wanted to say. So I'll just indicate you with a little carrot. ^
balladbirdballadbird on August 2nd, 2009 05:59 am (UTC)
I agree that a hierarchy of sorts is necessary, and stock villians are a must for a shonen series, where developing characters and having them fight are virtually synonymous.

My biggest fear regarding Bleach is the fact that the hierarchy doesn't seem to be all that steep. It goes, essentially:

Fodder/insignificant enemies:
Everyone except Aizen, Gin, and Tousen

Significant enemies:
Aizen, Gin, and Tousen

...and I'm not even sure about Gin and Tousen. Even if these espada fall, and Aizen snaps his fingers and a bunch of VLs appear (a popular belief, and one that I dread terribly) they won't be any more substantial to the story than the current espada were, just more lackeys to be sacrificed at the feet of the next group of protagonists who happen along.

Don't misunderstand, I haven't given up on Bleach and I still have hope for Kubo. The simple fact that the visored were forced to appear without the top 3 falling proves that things aren't as uneven as the worst case scenario would have dictated. I'll just wait and see how things play out.
(Anonymous) on August 2nd, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)
Very nice, I enjoyed reading this. I think you've bluntly and plain-spokenly characterized the important aspects of storytelling and argued your point persuasively. Depth is the breath of a story, and that's why I'm bored out of my mind with all of these pointless battles raging on uselessly in Bleach.

Ulquiorra was Bleach to me. The only thing keeping me on is the hope that Ulquiorra will be back someday, and along with him, the plot.

I liked this. Makes me want to try harder and be a better writer :).
balladbirdballadbird on August 2nd, 2009 06:02 am (UTC)
I feel I should point out that the purpose of this essay isn't to criticize anyone, (not even Kubo) but just to point out why villians are so important to me, and to illustrate where I'm coming from as far as storytelling goes.

I'm glad to have helped motivate you, though, if that was the case. ^_^
廚二病: Aegis on shadowchuuni on August 2nd, 2009 01:24 pm (UTC)
Why do I feel such camaraderie towards you Anon? :> May you possibly be the same anon whom has admitted on a few occasions that your reason for reading Bleach is Ulquiorra?
tenkyoen on August 2nd, 2009 03:15 am (UTC)
First thing is, well, WOW. Thank you so much for writing this! I've always kinda had an idea of the types of Protagonists and Antagonists but this is the first time I've ever seen it listed out in such detail that is easy to understand. Oh, and the 'pick names out of the phone book' = Amazing! (I always come up with killer plots, but can never name my characters anything worth while.)

But yeah, I LOVE this! It's hard to find people who can give you genuine (and good) advice on writing, at least that's how it's been for me. (Our school doesn't even have a Creative Writing class, not to mention that I'm out in the Middle of Nowhere!)

Anyway, I could go on forever on what I agree with and why, but I'll spare you that. ;)

I guess what I'm getting at is that it is a very well thought out essay that is not only fun to read, but very informative as well, so thank you for writing it! :)
balladbirdballadbird on August 2nd, 2009 06:04 am (UTC)
I'm glad I could help, then. ^_^

How small of a school do you go to to have no creative writing call, though? :(

I went to high school in rural missouri with a graduating class of 80 or so, and we still had one.
tenkyoen on August 2nd, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
Hrm...well your school is smaller (our grad class will be around 180, but granted, the average grad class there is around 100)

Personally, I think it's because of a lack of teachers. All the English teachers want a Creative Writing class, but they're too busy with teaching the basic English credit. I think the school's more focused with passing people so they get more state funding (not that I agree with it, but what can I do?) But, at least the teachers are nice enough to read my stuff and give me their input. :)
manonlechat: Gin_Ichimarumanonlechat on August 2nd, 2009 04:31 am (UTC)
Really nice meta.

This bit has me thinking about the current chapter:

From Bleach, it's difficult to say given how much development remains to be seen, but Gin and Tousen likely belong here, with Aizen likely to end up in type 3 or type 4 before all is said and done. This is also the most natural place to put characters like Nnoitra, Zommari, and Grimmjow.

Personally, I'm holding out for partial redemption for both Gin and Tousen before the end, though Tousen is turning out to be much colder than I'd previously realized. I think the manga could go either way. I like seeing Aizen "set apart" a bit in his villainy--less sympathetic.
balladbirdballadbird on August 2nd, 2009 06:06 am (UTC)
A lot of times an antagonist dies in the act of redemption, which makes the final question of whether they were actually "redeemed" or not more of a personal inference for each reader than an actual stated fact. ^^

I can't actually categorize any of the big three villians of Bleach properly, since their role in the story hasn't been fully developed yet, I was just guessing where they might belong based on the storytelling trend.
manonlechat: DeathOfBeautymanonlechat on August 3rd, 2009 03:50 am (UTC)
Agreed on it being too soon to tell on the big three. This being shonen manga, you know that Gin and Tousen (and Aizen, for that matter) will HAVE to die. If they do get their redemptive moments, as you say, it's likely to happen close to or at the time of their deaths. (I'd love to see Gin try to stab Aizen in the back, though Aizen would win.)
karkashan: Glass Fleetkarkashan on August 2nd, 2009 04:53 am (UTC)
Very enjoyable and interesting read.

I, myself, tend to make up a plot, then go through it over and over and over again until I'm done, the characters, relationships, world, ideologies, metaphysical laws, and behavoural attitudes/cultures just popping up on their own. However, if I change my mind about something, I do so. I go back and rework everything to fit, changing things along the way.

It tends to take forever for me to write stuff, and especially even getting a rough draft completed, but boy is it fun that way.
balladbirdballadbird on August 2nd, 2009 06:07 am (UTC)
There's no wrong way to create a story. ^^ Whatever works for you is what works for you. I gave my own style just to cite an example, more than anything.
廚二病: Ulquiorra from 226chuuni on August 2nd, 2009 01:28 pm (UTC)
You have the most interesting insights Sir ^^

I am not actually a villains person, Ulquiorra is the only villain I like in anything I've watched/read. Maybe except for Viral from Gurren Lagann, but Viral was a type-1 who joined the good side for eternity afterwards. I did like him from the beginning though. I know it's cheesy to have baddies join the protagonists, but I can't deny that I really love it when it happens.

"is a popular interpretation of Ulquiorra Cifer amongst shippers of IchiHime."

I laughed at this really hard.
廚二病chuuni on August 2nd, 2009 01:36 pm (UTC)
And nooooo, I wouldn't say Team Rocket are villains at all, much less type 4. They've been shown to be much more sympathetic that they really are in the beginning, and they help the protagonists unwittingly from time to time (especially in the movies). So no, they're really not type-4, not in my eyes. But still, this is a matter of personal opinion.
balladbirdballadbird on August 2nd, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
The two members of team rocket most commonly seen are too inept to really be called villians at all, I agree. ^^ The organization itself, however, tends toward villiany for the sake of villiany.
hinodeh: yelling alitahinodeh on August 2nd, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC)
Just wanted to chime in and say that I like Viral, too. In fact, he was my favorite TTGL character.
(And I liked him right off the bat too!)
metaphore_art on August 2nd, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC)
Great, great essay! I never thought about it in quite that way before, but what you're saying makes perfect sense. At least for me, character-driven reader that I am.

"Developing the enormous cast of protagonists also becomes burdensome, since finding fight-partners or foils for all of them is impossible. As such, the writer is forced to throw in stock villians, underdeveloped and typecast characters whose only purpose is to be defeated by a specific protagonist. However, because these stock villians are poorly (if at all) tied into the central plot, said plot slows down to a crawl or stops entirely while these conflicts are resolved.


I've found that in Bleach, specifically, when we're dealing with the developed villains, I'm glued to my seat wanting the next chapter RIGHT NOW SO I CAN SEE WHAT HAPPENS!!!!, but when we're just going through the random stock villains, clearly designed to give (for instance) Ikkaku, Yumi, Hisagi, and Kira someone to fight, I'm incredibly impatient and want the next chapter SO WE CAN MOVE THE F*** ON!!!! This is how I've felt about the majority of the HM arc. When Ulquiorra was there, personally, I was glued to the seat because he was so well-developed that his interactions with ANY ONE of the characters was interesting. I could even sort of get into some of the other espada like Grimmjow, Nnoitra (and even Aaroniero) because there was something behind it. There was history.

But when I'm sitting through two month's worth of chapters on a throw-away villain with no purpose other than to beat the crap out of a protagonist for a while and then be suddenly beaten because the latter found his hidden inner strength (again) instills more of a "yeah, yeah, we know; NEXT!" feeling in me.

Like you said, part of what made everything having to do with Ulquiorra so exciting to me was because a) we could never take for granted that he was going to lose, and b) we didn't WANT him to lose...even while we wanted Ichigo to win.

As for Aizen, ugh. I'll reserve judgment until we know more about his motives, though I will say that while I understand that for any story this epic to maintain, the villain has to be damn good. That said, the whole, "This-was-all-part-of-my-master-plan" thing annoys the hell out of me. That can happen once, and I'll be like, "Ooooooohhhh" but after that, he has to have something different. He can still get away/win the battle so the story continues, but I feel like it should be because he's just as good at taking things as they come and turning them to his advantage, or getting out of tight situations, as the protagonists, not always because it was all part of his master plan. This is what I personally fear the most. I fear that at the end of this long drawn out arc, he's going to turn around and say, "Everything that happened was all because I planned it!" because then I shall have to throw my computer through a wall.

Long comment is long, but again, awesome essay. Well-thought out, logical, and really makes you think!
_debbiechan_: 60secondcoming_debbiechan_ on August 2nd, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)

Thank you for this essay, Ballad--I loved it on your LJ and am SO glad you shared it here. FEEL FREE TO share any of your meta at any time.

It's not just a soft spot for bad boys and angsty antagonists I have (although I do admit that Vegeta, Sasuke and Ishida were just drawn for me to fangurl) but an honest appreciation for character complexity. Bleach has these sorts of ambiguous not quite black, not really white archetypal dudes in spades and I love them all....

Kim!spartydragon on August 2nd, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
Very nice. Although, I gotta say, Villain type 4 is oftentimes essential to the plot - there's always gotta be those expendable redshirts running around and cannon fodder for the main characters to fight so that they can level up. ;)

Sometimes the bad guy of the week formula can work extremely well. Frankly, I liked Bleach best when it was just some hollow bustin' and hijinks - leaves plenty of room for character development so that when the REAL bad guys show up, it's more shocking.

As for the two approaches - Kubo's MOST DEFINITELY a character designer. I'd love to play a game with his character design, but for manga he needs an editor that'll keep him focused on the plot, and not the oh so fun character creation. X)
secila80: Matsumotosecila80 on August 3rd, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing! This was a very interesting read. I agree villains should be complex and relatable whenever possible. *Remembers getting stink eye from BritLit prof when she dared to ask why Wickham was so bad*

In Bleach, the lack of back story with the top espada is particularly frustrating to me right now. It wasn't always that way. I long harbored hopes that Kubo would begin to peel back the implied layers there. I'm still hopeful that he will, but he is taking so long to get there that I'm becoming more bored than interested in their actions. Maybe with some more challenging adversaries -- VIZORDES!!! -- we will get some depth soon. He did have to let the SS captains fight them I suppose, so I guess that is an good excuse for the fight fodder.

Gin a Type 2? He has always seemed more in the batshit insane category to me. I'm not expecting a redemption from him. *Hugs for Matsumoto*
balladbirdballadbird on August 3rd, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
Gin is tentatively placed, since his development isn't finished. ^^ Based on his past, I'm expecting something sympathetic to occur with him eventually, but it's far from guaranteed.
meowkitty7 on August 3rd, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC)
this was very interesting to read Ballad-kun. Very excellent points you make.

I agree with you on the two types of writers. I myself am definitly the first type of writer, I always develop my characters first than think about the setup and if i end up with way too many characters (which i often do) than I'll stop for a minute and then work on the main ideas i'll have for the story's set-up so i can try to balance out the plot and the characters, because I may need to eliminate some or just save them for later uses down the line. :D
ms_barcelonams_barcelona on August 7th, 2009 01:38 pm (UTC)
"2.) Overdeveloped or too numerous protagonist force, underdeveloped or outnumbered antagonist force (Can you guess where I'm going with this? ^^) ......................................
Examples of this type of storytelling include episodic adventures, such as children's action series (power ranger, TMNT, etc.)"

that was my exact thoughts when i read that chapter!!!!
I was like "3 against 1? ORLY? that is way too power ranger!!"