This week I’d like to examine the nice protagonist making a distinction between a protagonist whose main descriptor is being nice to those that are simply self-insert protagonists so common in the vast majority of harem comedies. No, the nice protagonist has the defining trait of being nice, but still has additional personality traits (underneath being nice all the time). They also are usually so nice that it would actually be impossible to self-insert into them because literally no-one is actually that nice (okay, gross exaggeration but why not).
Just like overpowered or complete jerk protagonists, nice protagonists cop their fair share of criticism. They’re boring, they’re unrealistic, they’re just allowing themselves to be walked all over, and – probably the most fatal trait for a protagonist – they’re completely forgettable.
For instance: Bell from Is It Wrong To Try and Pick Up Girl’s in a Dungeon? is a nice protagonist. He’s also adventurous, impatient, ambitious, a little bit lecherous, and a lot insecure. So being nice isn’t his only personality trait. But when you talk to people about this show they discuss Hestia, the fight scenes, the weapons, occasionally Loki, but they don’t mention Bell. Or if they do, they call him the Main Character because half the time they don’t remember his name.
Bell definitely suffers from Nice Protagonist forgettability at times.
And it seems a bit harsh to not even remember Bell’s name. He has some incredible character development both in literal skills and in his focus and goals. He also gives us one of the most dramatic fight sequences I think I’ve ever watched and one where I genuinely cared if this nice character was actually going to make it through the fight. So much so in 2021 I gave this fight its very own article.
The common saying of nice guys finish last seems to apply here. Get anyone to list their favourite protagonists and the vast majority of them will not be nice guys. Instead we’ll see the bad-boy, the laid back and cunning hero, the shouting self-righteous types, as well as the hard-as-nails standard hero model. So why is it we don’t like nice protagonists?
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And I already know people will argue, but we don’t dislike them. And that’s true to. That’s why they exist at all. Because they don’t cause people to dislike them. But, in the absence of a truly great story or supporting cast the nice protagonist will just slip off your radar without a second thought.
Which all of course raises the question of what is it about human nature that ‘nice’ is seen as such a dull descriptor of a person? I was watching a rom-com recently (not anime amazingly) where the girl had the choice of two guys and she was describing them to a friend. Mid-way through one description the friend made snorted and then said that she’d literally just fallen asleep. Why? Because the guy was nice. Apparently that’s a death sentence in a rom-com because at the end of the film the girl ended up with the other guy.
So, my question is: Who is your favourite ‘Nice’ protagonist?
Let’s give all the nice guys (and girls) a shout out.
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