Friday’s Feature: Do You Like To Look In The Mirror?

When reading reviews a comment that is regularly mentioned is how relatable a certain character or situation is and why that makes something more or less interesting. I find this an intriguing comment mostly because the bulk of my viewing growing up was strictly fantasy and science fiction and while you can relate well to the human elements of those shows and some of the characters, the fun of those genres is that they can take you outside of what you know and make you see things in new ways. However, as I got older and really started looking at what made stories work, I realised that even within fantasy and science fiction, the stories I was drawn to were the ones where the struggles the characters went through felt real. And what made those conflicts and problems real was that I could usually see a parallel to something in my own life or the real world. It was kind of at that point where I started expanding outward from fantasy and sci-fi, as well as copious amounts of horror, and started finding other stories to lose myself in though I never lost my love for fantasy.

Anyway, the reason I’m thinking about this at the moment is I recently tried to review the first season of Kuroko’s Basketball and what I realised was I didn’t actually like the show. I watched the entire series (25 episodes) in less than a week while working 55+ hours and doing episodic views and reviews of currently airing anime, and I came to the conclusion I didn’t particularly like the show, though I didn’t dislike it either to be honest. So why couldn’t I stop watching it?

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Kuroko.

He is an incredibly boring character when you just kind of describe him. He barely talks, he has no presence for either the other characters or even the audience (even when he is seemingly supposed to be the centre of attention) and his overall character journey isn’t that interesting in this first season. He didn’t like the way the other members of his middle school team played basketball so now he’d like to beat them. Well, that’s profound. So again, why couldn’t I stop watching?

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Because of the relatability. I really related with Kuroko right from episode 1, and not because of basketball because I really did not care about that part of the story. Without the gross exaggeration, Kuroko is someone who is easily overlooked. The guy in the room that even when people know he should be there, they just forget about him. It isn’t that he lacks talent, or that he is getting picked on, or anything like that, he’s just an existence like air. And that is something I could relate to.

At school I was the person who the teacher would ask someone else in the room if they knew where I was, when I was sitting in the classroom. I’m the person who can stand at a service counter forever and will have to wait while everyone around me gets served, sometimes even people standing behind me, and then the service person will start cleaning up behind the counter because they genuinely don’t see me standing there (something which my real life friends find hilarious for some reason).

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However, what made Kuroko easy to relate to wasn’t just that he was invisible. It was that he wasn’t bitter about that aspect of his life, he wasn’t hiding because he was being bullied, he wasn’t on some quest to be noticed or not to be noticed… it was just part of who he was. There are so few characters like that and it was such a novel experience seeing a character that just owned that attribute. That isn’t to say he doesn’t make his presence felt when needed, but again, that makes him relatable. While I might have a presence like air by default, you can’t get through life like that. You have to make people see you sometimes.

So one character, with one relatable trait, was enough to draw me into a show that I don’t actually dislike but it isn’t exactly blowing me away and it made me realise just how powerful this idea is. People are drawn to characters they relate to. They don’t need to be exact mirror images, but when they have that one trait or one thing that the viewer connects with on a personal level, they grab the interest of that viewer in a way that all the brilliant plots in the world probably wouldn’t.

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Which made me wonder about the number one show on my current viewing list, My Hero Academia. What is the draw for that show? Its fun, high energy, great fight sequences, but ultimately it is the characters that I’ve fallen in love with. And when you look at each of the characters what you realise is that they all have some trait or characteristic that you can relate to. Even if it isn’t a trait you have, it is one you recognise in someone near you. Those characters are incredibly interesting but more than that, you can relate to the struggles they are individually going through even as they are on this fantastical journey to become a superhero.

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Earlier in the year one of my favourite shows was March Comes in Like a Lion. I connected very strongly with Rei as he progressed through the story. As a character I wanted to see him succeed but I could understand him when he failed and when he felt he needed to give up. I cheered when he pushed forward, even if it was only a small step, and I cried for him when things got hard. There were so many moments in my own life where I felt Rei’s struggles related and so many people I know who have gone through depression or similar situations that I could relate Rei’s story too. It felt real and I loved every moment of Rei during its run and I’m really looking forward to its return.

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer characters you can relate to?


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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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21 thoughts on “Friday’s Feature: Do You Like To Look In The Mirror?

  1. I always found that I could relate to quite a lot of the characters in fiction, not because I’d personally experienced what they were going through but more because I could sort of understand where they were coming from. But strangely, now that I actually think about this, I find that my favourite characters are the ones that are hard to understand – the kind that I can’t relate to but then I end up admiring some aspects of their character so much! I never really thought about this so thanks for the article.

    On a side note, I tried watching a couple of episodes of Kuroko but I just… couldn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I kind of get what you mean about Kuroko. It is so heavily recommended and yet if it hadn’t been for connecting with Kuroko himself I would have probably let it go fairly quickly. It just didn’t do much for me.
      I find it interesting that you like characters that you end up admiring some trait of but not necessarily relating to.
      Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve got to admit, I’m not that into it. I’ll probably watch the second season but it just hasn’t grabbed me the way Haikyuu or a couple of other sports anime have (not that I’m all that into any sport anime really – which is why I’m trying all these titles for the first time).

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t know. I had a lot more fun with the characters in Haikyuu. The whole show just seemed more energised. It isn’t the sport aspect. I don’t like either volleyball or basketball so that isn’t swaying my view on it.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved this post and it was interesting to read how you related to Kuroko.

    As for me, I do love relatable characters, even if it”s just one trait or aspect of their personality where I see myself reflected. I also love characters who are nothing like myself because it gives me a chance to vicarioulsy experience things that I will not – and probbaly cannot – feel.

    Then there’s a bunch of stuff about my emotional range and how stories affect me but I’m sure you’re not interested in hearing me ramble. Thanks for sharing this post.

    (Ok so I tried to use that translate feature you’ve added to view this page in my mothertongue…and holy shit, that was wild.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So the translation not very accurate then?

      Please, feel free to ramble. I love hearing how other people feel about stories and characters.

      I agree, it only needs to be one trait or aspect of their personality that makes them relatable. I really got that from Kuroko because other than the one trait, the rest of him was pretty different, but that one trait was enough to draw me in.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No but it’s google translate so we can’t really expect much. I mean, it turned one of your comments into something like “I love letters very much”

        And well, okay, here we go. I have a lot of difficulty feeling emotions at a level that’s not shallow as hell. Stronger bursts tend to be short-lived. It’s been this way for many years now and I’m not too bothered but it does mean that my default emotional state is a blank slate and things gets boring fast that way.

        Reading stories, watching shows, writing my own stories, music, constructiong elbaorate worlds in my head – all of this is the best way (and for now, only way) that I can feel a whole range of emotions with the depth I want.

        Laid out like this, it sounds kinda weird, I guess.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Not really strange, I’m pretty much the same. Other than neutral and anger I don’t really emote well (apparently I manage annoyed very well), but I love stories because I feel like I can experience more or less the full spectrum of emotions. It is one of the many reasons I’ve always been in love with stories (particularly books).

          Liked by 1 person

          1. That’s pretty great to know. A few years ago, I made a friend who was the same and who also turned to stories as a solution. Seems to be working for us all so far.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. To be honest, I don’t really think about this all that much but, there are times when I’m drawn to characters or end up having a soft spot for a certain character because I relate to them.
    Usually, I just enjoy the characters and story for what they are. If they are realistic enough that I can attribute a part of their personality or action to someone I know or something I have experienced, that’s just an extra bonus that makes that character all the more likable. :’)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I like a bit of both. I feel more deeply for characters who I can relate to but I also like characters who arent like me. And if theyre fleshed out and have a great story then I will just love them to bits regardless of them being relateable

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Some interesting questions here. I haven’t really given this topic much thought on my own. I guess I decide if a character is relatable or not, but I frame it as asking if they are realistic or not. I’d much rather ask that, being relatable is just a bonus.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never been that concerned with realistic compared to consistent. Sure characters develop but they shouldn’t just be up/down and all over the place. Plus, I kind of like characters to follow some basic internal logic and some people in real life just don’t.

      Liked by 1 person

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