Friday’s Feature: Not All Self-Insert Characters Are Created Equal


This post will probably end up a little bit of a ramble but I’m almost certain I get to a point so if you would kindly stick with me while I meander about the place before finally attempting to stick the landing, I’m hopeful it won’t be a complete waste of your time. Though that sentence probably was.

As the Autumn Season of anime gets well and truly underway there have been a barrage of posts belittling Black Clover for being too generic shounen and having little of its own identity. We could look at that argument for hours but at the end of the day most of us will agree it is pretty standard shounen but that isn’t actually what is wrong with the show so far. What’s wrong with the show has been the execution of standard shounen tropes where Black Clover has done little to impress, though it is kind of getting better. But that isn’t really the point. The point is that this argument being stirred up got me thinking about a different criticism that is often levelled at characters and that is that they are bland, self-insert character and by default that must make them terrible and the bane of all creativity. (Incidentally if you actually care about my thoughts on Black Clover so far – or Weekend Otaku’s – we’ve been covering the episodes so far here.)


I’ve always found it quite interesting that people see self-insert characters as a problem or that they paint them all with the same brush. Part of the issue comes from the confusion between a character being a self-insert or whether the character exists as a sense of escapism or wish-fulfillment for a certain audience. Because self-insert isn’t about asking the audience to become one with the character but rather for the author to express part of who they are through a character. Whereas a character created for the sake of wish fulfillment might very well only exist to encourage a certain audience to want to be them and imagine themselves in those shoes.

In that respect, self-insert characters come in a wide range of tones and colours with a wide variety of personality traits. The author wants to be that person or express something through them. Maybe you as an audience member don’t connect with a particular character because you don’t really relate to what the author is trying to share, in which case the show probably won’t ever work for you, but the character exists for a reason.


Okay, now people who have waded through many bad self-insert fan-fictions (not that every fan-fiction is bad, including ones that have self-insert protagonists) will now point out that the sole reason for self-inert characters is that they become overpowered Mary Sue and Gary Stu characters to help lonely authors have their own wish-fulfillment play out in front of them. And, you can’t really argue that there are a lot of these characters out there and not just in fan-fiction stories. For these writers, what they want is to overcome all and every weakness and as a result their characters (no matter how individualised they may have started) all end up at around the same generic kind of default lack of personality that is the main reason people criticise self-insert characters in the first place.

But that doesn’t inherently make self-insert characters bad. It means that some writers fail to execute the self-insert well or don’t really think about the overall character progression and more just individual moments for their character. It means that somewhere in the back of our collective understanding of characters we’d like to be, a large number of people all have the same basic view of ‘perfect’ and somehow it is never all that interesting.


However, what is an author was to self-insert all of their flaws and issues into a character? What if they were to project a deeply flawed version of themselves and then give themselves the agency needed to overcome some of their issues (at least for the duration of the work of fiction)? What if that self-insert character is actually kind of funny and charming and maybe even just a little bit appealing?

Basically there are as many ways to do self-insert as people can imagine, and history has shown that people can be very imaginative if you give them enough time and reason to be so. An individual author may self-insert again and again and while each of their characters might have a certain similarity they could all end up quite different if the author chose to foreground and project a different aspect of who they were onto the character.


So much like the criticism of Black Clover being too generic not being a particularly helpful criticism (pretty much all genre fiction has standards within their genre it is all about execution) crying self-insert over a protagonist isn’t particularly enlightening given you could probably argue that every character ever created shares some of their creators mentality. Nor does being a self-insert necessarily doom your character to being generic, over-powered, or dull. Those things will come about by poor planning and writing but not because the protagonist was a self-insert in the first place.

Turning it over to you, what do you think of self-insert characters? Any you love? Any you hate? Do share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

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Karandi James.


Amnesia Series Review



A girl wakes up but doesn’t remember anything and for some reason seems to intrinsically trust whichever guy shows up in her life first.


Originally I reviewed this over on Crunchyroll immediately after watching it. Probably a bad idea (it was pre-blog) and I really didn’t like it very much. That said, I probably didn’t hate it as much as some people did. This review isn’t a rehash of the previous one  on Crunchyroll but rather a reconsideration after time and a rewatch which has more or less brought me to the same conclusion. Amnesia isn’t terrible, but it just isn’t very good.


Any kind of accurate plot synopsis that tells you more than my overview is going to spoil what few plot points there are in relation to why she keeps waking up without her memory so I’m just going to point out that the plot makes sense in that the ridiculously shallow character archetypes wander through the events and usually respond in a way that makes sense (even if the characters themselves don’t). The problem with the plot is only that it relies very much on the central gimmick of a main character with amnesia and the suspension of disbelief when they reveal why.

If you haven’t already backed out of this review and are still reading I’m now going to turn my attention to the characters.


My original description of the main character was ‘blank slate heroine’ and I’m sticking by that. She genuinely has nothing, not even memories. So forget the usual blandness of self-insert and just think of a Doll from Darker Than Black without the potential for evolving. And that leads me to wonder who this anime is for. The stereotypical hot guys (personifying various tastes)  dancing around in every other shot would indicate they are trying to appeal to women and yet the main character isn’t someone you can self-insert onto even if you wanted to (and given the personalities of a lot of the guys you would have to wonder why you would want to enter that world – this one is much safer at a distance). She is so hopelessly blank you almost pity her. So while a stronger heroine who could negotiate with the various men in the harem might have provided for an entertaining bit of escapism and a flirt with danger, the heroine here just makes you cringe and want someone to rescue her from her very existence.

Or maybe that was just me but my impression from first viewing to second actually got worse because the first time through I just found her bland and the second time I was genuinely wanting her out of most of those situations.


The shock deaths that are thrown at you throughout the series are also kind of off-putting (and this is from someone who actually appreciates slasher horror). In amongst this warped romance these deaths feel incredibly out of place and because the heroine is so hopelessly defenceless against them it kind of hurts to watch. This isn’t the amusement of watching a bad horror in action, or even the thrill fo watching a good horror play out while you wait with anticipation for the next shoe to drop. This is just uncomfortable viewing at the best of times. I think it’s because it really feels like the writers at times felt that having the girl fall in love with or be played around with by the possessive guy or the jerk or the whatever wasn’t edgy enough so let’s add a dose of inconsequential death and that will give it some edge.


My final major criticism with this show is that all of the main characters really are dressed like extras from a circus. It helps distinguish them from one another (because little else does) but you have to wonder how long it would take to put on some of those outfits and given the truly bizarre effect of them, why they would even bother (not a criticism of individuals who have clothes with flair but rather a criticism on ordinary character designs poorly disguised up by overdressing characters).

So if it seems like this is truly dreadful from that then I’m probably not being fair. Amnesia is perfectly watchable with a plot that works during the viewing and fails on the reconsideration. The characters are not good but with the exception of the central protagonist they aren’t so dreadful as to make this an unwatchable ordeal and even my main criticism of the protagonist is that she is an empty shell rather than a terrible character (though some would argue that this is worse).

On a personal level I really disliked the show. I hate the way the heroine is portrayed and romance in general and the ending (while conclusive enough) is not satisfying nor does it seem to justify the journey (though it is logical enough within the context of the show). But I can’t bring myself to actually say I hate Amnesia because mostly I am walking away realising that much like after my first viewing I’m going to forget this very quickly and move on to other anime that leave a more lingering impression. More importantly, I can kind of see that some viewers would enjoy elements of this show even if they aren’t for me.

If you’ve watched Amnesia, I’d love to know your thoughts.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Campione Series Review

campione episode 13


Godou Kusanagi is supposed to be returning a tablet to someone in Italy when there is an attack by a god and somehow he ends up with the ability to fight gods though mostly he seems to run into cute girls with supernatural powers.


This is going to be quick. I didn’t much like this series.


The plot never made sense. Using the power of a god to somehow fight gods and all these factions and groups want the power but rather than try to take it they send various girls to ‘observe’ or interfere and either way the motivations of anyone in this anime are highly questionable at the best of times.


The characters are as generic as they come. You have your self-insert protagonist surrounded by an increasingly large group of super powered females. None of the girls have any discernible personality besides annoyed or ditzy. And the paper thin premise that somehow you can teach mythology via kisses just makes you wonder ‘what the’ on so many levels. Even then, you would probably forgive all of that except that they proceed to butcher mythology to the point where you wonder if they just put a mythological encyclopedia through a blender and then dropped the remains on the floor and called it a back story. While mish-mashes of mythology are not new to anime, this one takes it to a new level of ‘huh?’.


The fight sequences are mildly entertaining except that ultimately each battle will end with self insert protagonist getting just the right clue at just the right moment, making a pretentious speech where he relays a whole bunch of mumbo-jumbo about the various gods and their stories, and then he’ll swing his sword around and voila, problem solved.


If you don’t mind harems, have no qualms about made up mythology, and you don’t really question why anyone is acting the way they are, this actually moves along nicely and is entertaining enough. However, it doesn’t do much else and I’m certainly not going to give it another watch. There are definitely worse anime out there, and this one isn’t overly bad, it just fails to really do anything of note.

What did you think of Campione?