Why Do We Criticise Main Characters For Being Overpowered?

Overpowered Feature

I know right from the start of writing this article that I’m going to step on some toes but the argument about main characters being over powered and whether that makes them less interesting comes up time and time again and I decided I wanted to discuss this.

Why are overpowered main characters considered a bad thing?

Admittedly, I do like anime where the underdog comes forward and finally overcomes the seemingly unbeatable peril, but that doesn’t mean every main character has to be a wimp or a developing hero. It’s nice sometimes to have someone competent, in control, and at times even confident to follow along on their quest. In those instances, it isn’t tension that you are wanting to experience but rather the satisfaction of seeing someone overcome a challenge in a fairly capable manner. So, different emotional payoff but still entertaining, right?

Only it seems there is a very vocal group on the internet that seem to think that an overpowered MC exists only as a plot device and can’t possibly be an interesting character. While they are entitled to their opinion, and if an anime that features a strong main character isn’t for them, so be it, why do they feel the need to berate anyone who feels differently or to tear down these anime?

The king of overpowered main characters - superman

Before we get into anime characters that seem overpowered, I would like to point out the most overpowered character of all time, Superman. Seriously, there is only one thing in the entire world that can even slow him down and its ridiculously hard to come across (unless you are a B Grade villain living in Metropolis in which case it seems you will find it every time you sneeze). And with nothing that can actually harm him, let’s be honest there is very little reason to ever feel concerned about the outcome of a battle. His girlfriend died and he turned back time to save her (didn’t worry about all the other victims though).

One of my favourite characters in anime is Sebastian from Black Butler, but by every definition he is overpowered. At no point in the series do you feel he is actually in any danger, and by association there is little that will actually endanger the protagonist of the series, Ciel.


Does that take any fun out of the series? Does it mean it is pointless to watch because you know Sebastian is going to win the fight and finish with s smug smile, usually while polishing something, and then give a cheesy line about being “one hell of a butler”? I didn’t think so. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the series and the fact that not every conflict could be solved simply through pointing Sebastian at it and saying ‘defeat’. Sure, the outcome of any conflicts were inevitable, but the process of getting to that victory was usually quite amusing to watch and it made for a very satisfying experience.

And Sebastian never complains. Or cries. Or pleas for more power. There are no training montages, no wise advisers showing up, or even friendly rivals (at least not in the first season). All of these clichés that occur in anime where the protagonist is still developing and not overpowered can be removed because what on earth will our character learn from them? They are already strong so most of their learning comes about themselves or other people rather than combat.

Another character who seems to take hits for being overpowered all the time is Kirito from Sword Art Online. Firstly, why is he considered overpowered? He nearly dies in every single battle and fails fairly regularly to protect those he is trying to save, which takes a fairly heavy emotional toll on him. The fact that he manages in most instances to save his own life doesn’t make him overpowered.


While some haters argue that knowing Kirito will win a fight makes it pointless to watch. Unless you seriously haven’t ever watched or read any kind of story before, of course the main character is going to win. They only ever lose if it serves a greater purpose in the plot. So knowing he’s going to win doesn’t make him overpowered either.

Kirito isn’t always confident of victory, and he doesn’t walk needlessly into danger or expose himself to harm. He trains hard and he works with other characters – who admittedly get sidelined in critical battles to show off how amazing Kirito is but that’s a whole other discussion – and lastly, he continues to grow and develop as a character (which is another key criticism of him that he doesn’t develop). While his growth is subtle, it most certainly is occurring.


Remember back in the very first episode of SAO when Kirito realised that the game was real and that he could die. The fear he felt and the way it nearly overwhelmed him. And that emotion led him to the conclusion that he had to get strong and had to survive. Then as the series progressed he realises that mere survival won’t be enough. He has to find a way to live. And then he helps other characters realise that they can find a way to live as well. Kirito may become an exceptionally strong character, but he doesn’t just blink and get that way. And I personally found his journey very interesting even knowing he wouldn’t die.

Then again, if you really hate Kirito you can watch SAO abridged and that is pretty funny regardless.

Lastly, I’d like to bring up Tatsuya Shiba from The Irregular at Magic High School. He is totally overpowered in almost every conflict he is involved in. And even though that is blatantly apparent to the audience the rest of the cast that inhabit his world are a little slower on the uptake. Does that make him boring to watch? Not at all. Tatsuya is fantastic to see in action.


Here is a character who exudes calm and confidence in every situation. I would say the issues come more from his lack of personality than from him being overpowered. And once again, it isn’t as though he is never in any danger or never injured. And it isn’t that the people around him aren’t put in danger or injured. The fact that he is going to win a fight doesn’t make it any less exhilarating to watch.

So, while I will admit that an overpowered main character can cause some plot problems (for instance the increasingly ridiculous ways they will try to make villains or situations that do challenge them), having an overpowered MC is not an instant sign that an anime is flawed, terrible, or without a story.

I guess it all comes down to why you are watching the story and what you are after. If you want nail biting tension and uncertainty in a battle’s outcome, certainly these overpowered main characters won’t be for you. But if you are after something else, there may be quite a bit of enjoyment to be found.

Share your thoughts. Do you like or hate overpowered characters? Who are your favourite/most hated overpowered characters?

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

Gilgamesh Series Review: When You Want Something Creepy and Unsettling


With Halloween just passing I really wanted to think of the perfect series to review this week that would fit the theme that I hadn’t already reviewed. Lots of possibilities presented themselves and then I remembered Gilgamesh. It was very odd how I came to find this series. I’d just started watching anime as an adult and had watched a few things on YouTube (downloaded a couple given streaming wasn’t a thing at the time) and I was really trying to branch out beyond the Sailor Moon and Pokemon titles that were kind of the only easily available anime at the time. Then the local video shop had this just sitting on the shelf to rent. I’d never heard of it, had no idea what it was about, but I rented it. When I went back to the shop I noticed they had the box set for sale and I bought it. Admittedly, if I had as much anime available to be me then as I do now, I probably wouldn’t have looked twice at this series, so as I revisited it for this year’s Halloween, I wondered how it had held up after all that time.


I actually have no idea how to describe the story here. There was a terrorist attack on an archeological dig and somehow that caused the ‘shimmering sky’ to appear and that somehow stopped technology from working (making this a post apocalyptic story as we pick our characters up many years after this incident in a broken and rapidly falling apart world). Kiyoko and Tatsuya are siblings on the run from debt collectors when they are bought by a woman known as the Countess. She’s using children with special powers to fight some monsters and Tatsuya has the ability she’s looking for.  But you know that’s just kind of the set up and there’s a lot of other stuff going on.


First and foremost it needs to be said that this series is too ambitious for its own good. It really wants to be an epic tragedy, on par with the legend of Gilgamesh, which it references ad nauseum (seriously, please don’t tell me the story again). The problem is, this story isn’t epic. What it contains are plenty of very small stories and moments that are interwoven, but at no point can any of these stories be seen as anything but petty. Which thematically makes sense because part of the overall message here is that people are petty and a lot of what happens is pointless, but it kind of steals some of the thunder of the grandiose narrative it feels like they were trying to weave together. Gilgamesh however does get the tragedy part as right as you can get it.


This is not an anime for those who are squeamish about anything. Human experimentation, human trafficking, rape, child molesting, blood and gore, excessive use of military force… pretty much anything you can think of that would be horrible and depressing at the same time finds its way into this story. Which is fine for building a truly horrific atmosphere, and early on the show does an excellent job of setting the scene. The issue is that once the scene is established and we’re kind of waiting for something to develop from all this misery, all we get is a continuation of the same as all the characters are kind of emotionally in a holding pattern before the curtain literally falls on the story and the world. Other than a celebration of everything pointless and miserable about the world and living, there’s really nothing more to this story. Any turning points or small rays of hope are quickly shut down and we find ourselves locked into inevitable tragedy. It becomes hard to take overly seriously by the end of the middle act and as the story reaches its climax, while you are strapped in for the ride you realise that a lot of the earlier tension has evaporated. There’s very little more you could do to any of these characters that would make you feel worse for them so you kind of become numb to the horror of their lives.


This loss of emotional connection could still be fine except that that narrative doesn’t hold up without the weight of those emotions. While there are plenty of explainers tossed around in the latter half of the series ultimately little of what happens makes sense from a logical point of view. Also, it kind of seems like nothing any of the characters were doing was ever going to stop the concluding act, most of them didn’t even know it was coming, so essentially we just sat and watched a whole bunch of factions fight it out for control of a world that was coming to an end regardless of the outcome of anything they did. While it might seem cool to kill off your cast of characters, when not handled emotionally well or for a strong narrative purpose mostly it just feels like you didn’t really know how to draw your story to a close. The afterward with Kiyoko and the final act of violence lends some narrative purpose at least to the resolution but it isn’t quite enough to make it seem like it was worth it.


Before I get into characters I want to discuss the visuals of this show (I’m avoiding discussing the music because the opening theme is just wrong for the show and it is better if I don’t speak much about it). The character designs are ugly. Horrendously, distractingly ugly. Yet… Somehow they work for the story being told here. Everything about this world and the people is ugly so somehow having the designs reflect that is kind of an interesting choice. As is the cool beauty of the ‘monsters’ the children are fighting. In a hideous world having a monster that is charmingly alluring is a creepily good choice. The shimmering sky is also beautifully depicted though I note that go out of their way not to show you the sky except when the characters directly refer to it. A lot of scenes the camera angle is directed downward which certainly shows the powerless nature of the characters and also avoids needing to fill in the detail of what the sky should look like. However, visually this story manages to be pretty consistent in creating the atmosphere they seemed to be aiming for early on and the visuals serve their narrative purpose well (albeit with some incredibly obvious symbolism along the way). They just aren’t particularly pretty.


Finally though I need to address the characters. Much like the story, the presentation of the characters is overly ambitious. They seem to want these characters to be multi-dimensional and layered human beings and they want to build a sense of mystery around these characters that all essentially keep their true self locked down inside. What that means is most of the characters come off as either pretentious or complete jerks. More importantly, as more of the ‘layers’ are revealed to the audience, what we mostly realise is that every character is pretty much the same. Self-centred drama-Queen who thinks the world should be all about what they want. It is possibly a statement that the show was going for but it makes it very hard to like or care for any of these characters.

Kiyoko at times seems like she’s going to be an interesting character as the older sister who is pretty much dismissed as excess baggage because she doesn’t have the power her brother does (she was born before the terrorist attack destroyed the world as everyone knew it). While part of Kiyoko wants to protect her brother, part of her is just sick of having to look after him and be the responsible older sister. She can’t stand the countess, for good reason, she’s got real issues with her parents, and deep down inside she just wants to escape and live her dream. Only even when she does get away from the countess she finds only failure and rejection. Her choice to help one of the monsters might have been an interesting turning point but the reason for her decision is never explored beyond her innate loneliness and sense of isolation so while this still makes her one of the more interesting characters, there’s still a lot missing that would make her seem just a little more real.


And Kiyoko being the character who gets the most development just makes Tatsuya’s lack of character even more apparent. He’s good at baffled younger brother who after getting a taste of power becomes a little bit arrogant over baffled younger brother. But he’s not clever enough or interesting enough to pull off anything more than this and when things start falling apart, his initial personality reasserts itself and he ends up more or less hiding under Kiyoko under the guise of protecting her.

So having rewatched this through for the first time in a number of years, how did it hold up? Well, it was more or less exactly as I remembered it. It is fascinating and the first third does a beautiful job setting up what feels like it should be an amazingly dark and twisted tale. What follows on from that isn’t a failure but it never quite delivers on what it has promised early on. All and all, one for people looking for something a little bit different, but there’s a lot that could have been improved.

Thanks for reading.

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Karandi James.


The Irregular at Magic High School Series Review



In 2095 magic have become scientifically broken down and magicians are part of various countries basic defense strategy. The Shiba siblings, Tatsuya and Miyuki, have been accepted into First High School but Miyuki is accepted into the first course where as Tatsuya, who scored brilliantly on paper but poorly in practical tests, is only accepted into the second course. The series covers three arcs: The Enrollment Arc, The Nine Schools Competition, and the Yokohama Disturbance.


Let’s address the obvious straight up: yes, Tatsuya and Miyuki are way too close as siblings for conventional comfort and Tatsuya does in fact get his own little fan club of female students (I’d say harem but given his complete lack of sexual awareness or demonstrated desire realistically they could fan girl forever and he’d just ask them if they needed their CAD adjusted). Tatsuya also gets hit with the label of bland protagonist and hopelessly overpowered a lot.


I’m not actually going to deny any of those claims given they are all pretty valid (with the exception that Tatsuya is bland – I’d say more personality neutral for a deliberate purpose) so if that’s enough to make you throw in the towel on a series, this one isn’t going to work for you.

However, if you can get past all of that, and Miyuki’s clinginess in the first arc doesn’t make you throw up a bit in your mouth (seriously, Miyuki is an incredibly powerful magic user in her own right, why is she that needy) then you will actually find quite a fun high school fantasy here.


Starting with the world itself. I love that magic has been reintroduced into the world but turned into a science. Magical technicians work on CAD’s to help spell processing speeds and theoretical papers are written about applications for magic in terms of energy production and similar (in fact the final arc focusses on the disturbance surrounding a thesis competition). As a result, the world feels fairly authentic. Characters don’t just chant latinish sounding phrases and poof whatever happens. Each spell is the result of sequences of magic and activation codes with large numbers of variables. That is where Tatsuya is truly an irregular.

See, while Tatsuya is put in the second course at the school, he himself explains that he is poor at practical skills, which in terms of how the school tests and assesses is correct. His spell activation speed when using traditional processes is poor. However, they make a clear point of explaining that Tatsuya can calculate multiple variables exceedingly quickly which means he can produce some impressive effects with fairly basic spells and use spells in unconventional ways. Later on we also learn that he doesn’t need to build an entire sequence anyway because he can instantly recall the entire spell for a ‘flash cast’ which means while he isn’t going to ever ace school his military application as a magician is pretty impressive (hence the overpowered label he gets smacked with even though there are a couple of obvious limitations).


For a brief moment it looks like this story might actually be taking a jab at the use of standardised testing in schools, however after a less than subtle conversation between members of the student council, the issue is quickly brushed under the rug and we just get on with Tatsuya being awesome despite being a course 2 student. This is probably my biggest complaint about this series. There are actually quite a few moments where there could be some good social commentary but rather than embracing these they become more throw away plot points as the story rushes to get on with the next bit of obvious narrative development. The end result is a fairly shallow story that might be entertaining but doesn’t have any lasting impact despite the fact that it has several opportunities to rise about this.

From a fantasy point of view, I found the magic in this story fascinating and I liked how it developed and we learned about different types of magic and different ways of using it. That’s where the three arcs are each distinct and fun in their own way.

The first one we meet the students at school, watch them fend off an attack (introducing a range of spell types) and then some of the stronger students go and massacre the attackers (because who doesn’t send students to do that). However the first arc does well to introduce us to Tatsuya the student.

The second arc is a sports tournament. There’s no getting around that. However with sabotage, secret agents, and the Chinese mafia (I think) all getting involved, it isn’t your standard tournament and this is where we learn more about Tatsuya the weapon. The innovative ways magic is used in a variety of events though is kind of fun. Even something as simple as target shooting has a range of approaches.

Then we go to the third arc which crosses between the thesis competition as well as more about Tatsuya’s military and family ties. Arguably this is the weakest arc because we spend a lot of time in battle and quite a few of the students we’ve come to like are pretty well sidelined for the duration. It’s kind of a shame the story ends on this arc. It is also where I lose any ability to defend Tatsuya from the overpowered label. Some of the spells he uses in this arc really do make him seem pretty unstoppable and also kind of remove any tension about his friends suffering permanent harm. If you want to see some cool spells though, this arc is for you.


Outside of the magic and the way that is explored, the characters are a lot of fun. I really like a lot of the supporting cast members. They each get their moment to shine and most of them are just fun to watch in action. Okay, we do end up heavily female heavy in the cast particularly after the second arc where Tatsuya is assigned to the junior female competitors as their technician. Despite that, the guys manage to make their presence felt and it was nice that this wasn’t a literal one man show.

Visually this anime is really pretty. Character designs are pretty standard, but I love the girl’s uniform and the magic itself is really beautiful to look at. Each setting is distinct enough from the school to the hotel where the sports tournament takes place to Yokohama. I also really like the feel of the cafe where they hang out occasionally.


So yes, I loved this anime. Despite all the clichés that come along (the bath sequence, bouncing breast, misunderstandings leading to a guy getting slapped, rivals, etc) this world feels like a plausible future and the magic is fascinating. The characters hold their own in the story and while Tatsuya may not be the most exciting protagonist, he’s capable and sure of his ability without being cocky (though at times he definitely let’s it known that he does have an inferiority complex which given his family situation seems warranted).

I will point out that not all the loose ends are tied up and there are still a lot of secrets that the Shiba siblings have not yet explained when we reach the final arc of the series (particularly what is going on with their family). Still, it’s a relatively fun watch.

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