Behind Every Great Anime Protagonist Is A Great Supporting Cast

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Previously I’ve looked at reasons why being a villain would suck and I’ve certainly looked at various characters on my blog and why they shine, but with the exception of Natsume (see the supporter battle Irina and I worked on), I seldom discuss the supporting cast and their importance in making or breaking a series. Which is something I decided I needed to change because the more I think about it the more I come to realise that great characters don’t occur in isolation.

For every character I’ve connected with or instantly fell in love with and wanted more of, surrounding them is usually a plethora of well written, developed and interesting characters. Each one holding up their end of the story and playing the role they need to play in a way that allows the protagonist to shine.

Obi from Snow White With The Red Hair
Obi is a fantastic supporting cast member in Snow White With The Red Hair. See my top 5 favourite moments with him.

However, this also highlights my general problem with harem anime (whether standard harem, reverse harem, or not a harem but using more or less the same tropes). That is, generally (not always), while there might be good characters in the anime, they aren’t working to complement each other.

Not every supporting cast is made up of a harem in anime… just a lot of them.

The focus is on each of the girls (or guys) standing out from the others with a distinct visual and personality. Their job is to carve out their own niche audience and fan group rather than support a main character or even the cast as a whole. As a direct result, the supporting characters pull attention away from what frequently turns out to be a fairly dull protagonist and because of the shared screen time none of the supporting characters ever really feels fully realised (again, generalising).

Going through some of my favourite characters, or characters I am drawn to, I can see time and again, that a lot of what makes them so amazing comes from those surrounding them.


March Comes in Like a Lion (I promise this isn’t another love letter) has Rei at its centre with the Kawamoto sisters as almost dueteragonists. Particularly in the second season where Akari becomes a major focus for a large arc. All four of these characters are fantastically written and interesting characters and honestly I’d probably happily watch them just stay inside the Kawamoto house and interact at this point.


But, that wasn’t what drew me to the show and to Rei early on before the deep connections were formed and I learned more about these characters. Whether it was Nikaido as a self-proclaimed best friend, Shimada as a mentor character, Kyoko and Goto as potential antagonists, the members of the Science/Shogi club… every single character we encounter (even the one episode rival shogi players) felt like a fully realised character that helped to flesh out the world.

More importantly they gave Rei a wide range of people to respond to and react to bringing out more of Rei’s personality and pain and allowing the audience to feel that he was also a fully realised character rather than just a one note ‘tragic young shogi player’.

Yuri on Ice Episode 6
Yuri and Victor

On a lighter note, Victor and Yuri from Yuri on Ice are amazing. No question I loved watching the two of them interact and grow closer together. I would happily watch more of just the two of them. But again, that wasn’t the immediate draw. What draws you in to Yuri on Ice are all the small touches throughout, including every supporting cast member we meet feeling like they have their own story to tell and just being fun.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri's family - The supporting cast members

Whether it is Yurio running from his fan club, JJ and his over-bearing confidence, Yuri’s family and their support, all of the characters bring something to the mix that helps to elevate the whole shoe and provide a context for Yuri and Victor’s relationship to grow within.


However, even something like Noragami, where I genuinely love Yato, it is again the support cast that manage to bring out his full charm. Hiyori and Yuki stand with him and each brings something relatable and interesting to the story, but the other gods, the regalia, Hiyori’s friends, those who call Yato, even the phantoms, each of them add something to the story and while we may not get a huge amount of time with them, or back story, they are a delight to meet and interact with.

Noragami - supporting cast

Where Noragami manages to go even further is in the portrayal of Nora who remains for most of season one an incredibly enigmatic figure but one who is sufficiently built up that when she takes a more active role in season two it doesn’t feel like she’s come from nowhere. It feels like a natural extension of where her story had been heading from the beginning and it is largely through her interactions with Yato that more of Yato’s past can be revealed to the audience.

My Hero Academia Support Cast

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it in terms of whether a great support cast can make or break a show and a protagonist. Look at My Hero Academia. I like Midoriya, I really do, but he isn’t a particularly memorable character on his own. It is the zany cast that surrounds him early on that fills the anime with so much energy and enthusiasm and allows Midoriya the chance to grow into his role as both protagonist and hero. There’s almost as much fan art around plenty of his classmates as there is of him (and of some characters I’d bet there’s even more).

When creating something it is important to remember that while the protagonist will probably be the character people remember, a great protagonist on their own doesn’t normally carry the story alone (unless they are Tom Hanks in Cast Away in which case I still give the award for best supporting cast member to the Volleyball). It is the support cast that create the space and opportunities for the protagonist to be who they need to be and draw out the best of the main character.

Cast Away - Tom Hanks and Wilson

So remember, behind every great protagonist is a great supporting cast. Or a really emotive volleyball.

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

10 Days – 10 Anime Boys: Day 3 – Favourite Male Supporting Character

Anime Boys

Initially I was very tempted to pick Obi from Snow White With the Red Hair. He is an awesome male supporting character and one I would love to see a spin-off of at some point because he’s just a bundle of fun to be around. However, given I already picked Zen for favourite romantic lead I decided to go a different path.

Favourite Male Supporting Character


Uryuu Ishida

I’ve previously included Ishida on my top 5 list of male characters who wear glasses, and probably a few other lists. He was without a doubt my favourite of the ‘human’ characters in Bleach (and I use that term fairly loosely). As a supporting character he was fantastic as he provided a skill set the hero actually needed at times, managed to hold his own in more than one battle so wasn’t just filling time until the hero showed up to save the day, and he got to go through a wonderful character arc in his own right. So why is he my favourite supporting character?

uryu ishida

Reason One: He’s one of the few human characters who doesn’t just blindly follows Ichigo’s lead.

Where Chad and Orihime at times might ask Ichigo is a course of action is wise, they don’t ever actually make any serious effort to deter him once he’s set on a path. Actually, they largely do everything possible to help or just kind of follow along. Ishida on the other hand will tell Ichigo he’s an idiot and at times will refuse to go. But, he’ll then sometimes come up with his own plan and it is questionable whether his strategies (which regularly result in self-destructive behaviour) are actually any smarter.

This makes Ishida an interesting character to figure out as the series progresses. Sure he’s a supporting character but at times he takes a leading role in his own part of the story as he takes initiative and drives forward toward his own goals. Naturally because he isn’t actually the hero he seldom saves the whole day, but we can definitely say that if Ichigo hadn’t been around, Ishida might have made for a great leading character.


Reason Two: Excellent weapon of choice.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am a huge fan of bow users in general. They are a cool weapon and Ishida’s is the coolest ever. Okay, wildly unrealistic, but very cool.

One thing I’ve noticed about supporting characters, particularly in action anime, is that they get increasingly weird weaponry and often times you just have to wonder how it would even be effective. We’re talking chains, string, weapons so huge and awkward looking you just have to wonder if they are going to injure themselves. So Ishida having a fairly basic weapon that they then tweaked enough to make an actually fairly formidable tool that was capable of very real damage kind of makes him stand out from the crowd.


Reason Three: A solid character in his own right.

Ishida has all the makings of a lead character. He has a tragic childhood, a weird power and the willingness to train hard to get stronger. He’s also deeply flawed through being stubborn and anti-social, particularly early in the series. He gets some wonderful character development as the story progresses and he continues to evolve his powers throughout the series.

That he’s used as part of the supporting cast is fine as he is a nice compliment to the actual lead character, but he never feels like just an extra or a lackey following the hero around. Ishida always feels like he is in fact his own character and one that is well worth paying attention to.

That’s why Ishida remains my favourite male supporting character but who would you have picked?

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

Up Close with Diamond


Now I know a lot of people haven’t watched the Land of the Lustrous anime, but you seriously should. The animation alone makes it worth the effort but when you throw in the cast of truly amazing characters who have so many layers to get to know it just becomes a real gem to watch. And Diamond is a very easy character to like as they are one of the few gems who supports Phos from the very beginning despite their weaknesses. Yet that kindness was born from Diamond’s own sense of inadequacy and as we learn more about them, the fact that they go out of their way to assist Phos becomes far easier to understand.


I will only be talking about the anime in this post as I haven’t actually read the books yet but they are in my wish list for future reading because if we never get another season of the anime I definitely want to know what happens next in this story.


Diamond is not an outsider like Phos is. They’re well loved by the other gems, cherished in point of fact, and yet Diamond feels hollow and empty. They push themselves to become stronger and better so that they can stand side by side with Bort and so that they won’t be compared. Despite all of that, Diamond shatters easily and is frequently pushed to the sides or out of the picture during battle. They’re understandably frustrated with how they are perceived by those around them.

Affiliate Link – Book
Land Of The Lustrous 1

Which is probably why Diamond can emphasise with Phos in a way that the other gems can’t. While Diamond is accepted within the group, Phos, a young and fragile gem, is seen as worthless and is the subject of mockery, ultimately given a job nobody else wants. It is all too easy to see that Diamond can understand the feeling of being useless and good for nothing.


What really stands out is that Diamond’s story is not one of a character who sits around feeling sorry for themselves. Diamond encourages Phos at every turn early in the show and also continues to work hard to learn new skills and techniques that might help them be useful. Even once Phos returns in a transformed state and Bort decides to partner with them, Diamond accepts it for what it is and doesn’t allow themselves to resent Phos.


All of that would make Diamond a great supporting character, and a really cute and shiny one as well, but then we throw in the sequence where their home comes under attack. Diamond, cornered and hiding, is forced to take action alone and their sheer nerves during the sequence are incredibly impressive.


While Phos might steal the show in terms of character transformations, it is worth remembering that while Diamond doesn’t necessarily change, they accept Phos’ change with grace and continues to support them. Diamond never gives up and continues to try to do what they can do, and even when feeling sorry for themselves they doesn’t lash out at others. Diamond is a great character to get to know and part of a great cast of characters who all have their own stories to share.

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

12 Days of Anime Characters – Shimada

12 Days of Anime Title Image

Continuing with the 12 Days of Anime I am moving on from Siluca Meletes in Record of Grancrest War, to a character who takes a lot longer to really show his strength. However, once he does, he becomes quite the force to be reckoned with. 

Day 2 has us turning our attention to Shimada from March Comes in Like a Lion.

March Comes in Like a Lion

It is amazing that a character introduced like Shimada ended up having quite the impact that he has had. The one thing I must put it down to is the incredibly solid writing that is consistently delivered in March Comes in Like a Lion. Originally, Shimada is a character Rei is facing off against in a Shogi match and Rei utterly underestimates him, expecting to advance to the next round and take on the next opponent. What we see during the match is that Shimada, though he is quiet, unassuming, and has an undramatic approach to the game, is every bit as hungry for victory and with far more experience and patience, he’s able to more or less crush Rei under-heel with almost no effort.


It is quite the humbling experience for the protagonist and promotes some very real growth in him. However, in and of itself, this moment doesn’t really help Shimada register. He’s just another opponent Rei has faced and someone we assume he’ll play again and maybe beat once he is stronger. 

How wrong this assumption is. Shimada is not so simple a character and the relationship he ends up forming with Rei really defies a single classification. 


And that is because, it is a dynamic relationship. It is one that evolves naturally over time. At first he is the guy who beat Rei, who seems ordinary but is strong, and then you realise he’s incredibly physically weak as stress takes a more or less continuous toll on him. The more you learn about Shimada and how ill he gets with the stress of matches, the more I admire him for continuing to throw himself into the game again and again and never walking away and taking an easier path.

But what really helps is that Shimada becomes something of a teacher and mentor to Rei. Rei joins the workshop Shimada runs and over time we see that Shimada relies on Rei to a point as he prepares for a crucial match. Rei’s insight and talent is valued even if he’s still forming as a player. Rei also accompanies Shimada and helps him before and after the match, building a strong friendship and respect between the pair. So while Shimada remains the mentor figure, there’s a lot of give and take in the relationship.

March Comes in Like a Lion Shimada

Season two though gives Shimada the moments he deserves. Shimada’s story is one of the quiet hard-worker who can’t compete with those who have flair, the gift of gab, powerful presence or the like. He isn’t a draw card to the Shogi world and is seen as an ordinary man. But he is an ordinary man who never learned how to quit, who carries the weight and expectations of those he treasures with him (even if they do not wish him to feel burdened), and who has also learned how to reach out to others in need.

March Comes in Like a Lion Shimada

Shimada is a powerful character who’s journey was almost as moving as Hina’s and yet he is an almost unsung hero. 

Here is to Shimada.

A character who is essential to Rei’s progress both in Shogi and as a person, and a character who has real goals and ambitions all of his own and will work to achieve them.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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March Comes in Like a Lion Movie Original Soundtrack
March Comes in Like a Lion Movie Original Soundtrack

30 Day Anime Challenge: Day 20

30 day anime challenge copy e1495940892299


Day 20 is my favourite supporting character and this one I have a clear winner for. It has to be Sunakawa from My Love Story (Ore Monogatari).

While Takeo and Yamato’s love story was adorable to watch, I think we all remember that without Suna that love story would never have started. He’s the one who listens to both of them when they are worried or concerned. He seldom actually intervenes or gives advice (except when it is absolutely needed) but he is the rock and the support that both characters need.

However, what makes him even better than just being the considerate friend is that Suna actually is a real and fleshed out character. He has family drama of his own, his own reasons for having turned down every girl ever, and as the story progresses he even develops a little bit and starts to let other people in to his life a bit more. Suna was definitely the most valuable character from the series and he was a character I grew to love while watching the show.

Who is your pick for favourite supporting character?

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Karandi James.