One topic anime fans love to debate is the role of overpowered anime characters. While many complain about OP anime characters who can defeat any enemy without breaking a sweat, others enjoy overly-strong characters in certain settings. I asked J-List customers to give me their thoughts on this phenomenon in anime, and got lots of interesting responses!
The Progression of Main Characters in Anime
Having been an anime fan across many decades, it’s fun to look back and see how anime main characters have evolved along with the industry.
Back in the early days of robot anime for boys, characters could be generic and one-dimensional since viewers were just tuning in for the giant robots. Then came Mobile Suit Gundam with its hero Amuro Ray. He starts out as a zero-level pilot who’s literally reading a manual, but eventually grows into the man who can defeat Char Aznable.
Macross was another important milestone in the “Real Robot” genre. It was such a thrill to see Hikaru/Rick go from a young boy to a seasoned pilot who must fill the shoes of Roy Rokker when his senpai dies in battle.
The ’90s bought even more amazing stories, including one of the first OP anime characters, Spike from Cowboy Bebop. He’s so cool, he could only exist in a fictional universe.
The decade of the 2000s was a great time to be an anime fan, and we got some anime main characters with extremely dubious morality. Lelouche and Light Yagami are two good examples.
While light novels have always been part of anime — I translated the first two Kimagure Orange Road novels back at the dawn of the Internet — anime based on novels with anime-style illustrations wouldn’t become the norm until this century. Suddenly, the majority of anime were coming from novels, usually written by professional authors (Haruhi, Zero no Tsukaima) rather than manga.
Then came the 2010s, and the trend of Narou-kei light novels, which came from the Shousetsuka ni Narou! (“Let’s Become a Novelist”) website. Story ideas that acquire a following online get picked up by Kadokawa or ASCII Media Works, allowing a budding writer to see their story ideas published professionally…and even turned into an anime. While many of these
fanfiction web novels were outstanding (Re:Zero, Konosuba, and my beloved Mushoku Tensei), others are poop on a stick (In Another World With My Smartphone). The trend of bad isekai stories with ridiculously long titles comes from Narou-kei novels.
What Are Your Thoughts on Overpowered Anime Characters? J-List Customers Respond!
I dislike them with shounen series. A key element of this genre has always been the vast amounts of work and training characters must put in to overcome their adversaries, but modern-day shounen has done away with that. However, I really like OP anime characters in isekai shows.
Overpowered anime characters can work, but the main character has to be interesting to watch. Kirito with his saltine cracker personality is an example of how NOT to do an overpowered protag, while Rimuru from Reincarnated as a Slime works very well.
I fucking hate them. It’s hard to give a shit about the MC when they’re overpowered from the start. Then again I could be biased, as my first MC was Parn from Record of Lodoss War, and he got his shit pushed in 90% of his adventures.
OP MC anime are some of my favorites… Slime, Overlord, etc.
OP anime characters can be fun if done right.
I love them, they’re funny and entertaining. I watch isekai for the same reason that other people watch reality TV. Over-the-top bullshit can be satisfying sometimes.
OP anime characters go where they belong: the garbage.
Thanks for reading this blog post exploring the phenomenon of overpowered anime characters, and whether they’re a useful vehicle for certain kinds of storytelling, or a waste of space. Post your comments below, or engage with us on Twitter or Facebook!
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