One of the things I always find most memorable about any story I experience, be it a book, TV show, movie, anime or game, is the characters. If the characters aren’t interesting, chances are I’m not going to get hooked in. It’s the reason I usually cite as to why I loved the open-world adventuring of Xenoblade Chronicles but find Bethesda role-playing games and most MMOs rather tiresome after a while, but it applies to pretty much any medium.
As such, I would like to present to you a randomly-chosen selection of five of my favourite characters that have popped into my head immediately upon attempting to think of my favourite characters. If that makes sense. I make no apologies for the fact that some or all of these are likely to be big-eyed anime or computer game people.
Grace (Gabriel Knight)
Most people cite Tim Curry’s memorable portrayal of the lewd, womanising bookshop owner in Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers as the highlight of that game, but the unsung heroine of the piece is most definitely Grace Nakamura, his long-suffering assistant.
Grace is a realistic female character in that she’s not there to be eye candy, she’s not there to be a useless sidekick hanging on everything the hero does and she actually has a personality. She doesn’t take any shit from Gabriel, and you’d better believe that he regularly gives her shit — his always-rejected advances are a highlight of their interactions, and yet it’s clear that the pair of them do, in fact, care deeply for one another, otherwise Grace would have been out the door long ago.
The exact nature of Grace and Gabriel’s relationship, at least in the first game, is kept deliberately rather ambiguous. Grace often acts as something of a mother figure towards Gabriel, though it’s never quite clear if she actually wants to “tame” him or simply sand down a few of his rough edges. Gabriel is certainly receptive to the things she says and appreciates the hard work she puts in for him — and yet the clear sexual tension between the two of them goes unresolved. Proof that you can have two characters of the opposite sex to one another without them ending up in a predictable love scene.
Angel (Buffy, Angel)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off series Angel remain two of my favourite TV shows of all time. David Boreanaz’s brooding vampire Angel appears in both, but really comes into his own when he gets his own series.
It would have been easy for Whedon and the gang to leave Angel as your stereotypical brooding vampire, haunted by his past and trying to make amends for deeds that can never be forgiven. And indeed for many of his appearances early in Buffy, he’s little more than that, providing a convenient “forbidden love” interest for Buffy while allowing the show to explore some traditional vampire themes.
In Angel, however, he cuts loose and we get to see him for who he really is. Sure, he broods and spends a lot of time sitting in the dark — something that is regularly commented upon by his companions — but he also does a fine line in completely deadpan one-liners.
Incidentally, a comment on that YouTube video reads thus: “I always thought Angel was a ponce in the first three season of Buffy…then He moved to L.A. L.A. changes people.”
Toshino Kyouko (Yuru Yuri)
Kyoko, as you can probably tell from the image above, does not give a shit what people think of her, and she’s immensely entertaining as a result. She’s often the instigator of the various scrapes the group gets into, and her hyperactivity is a big part of what gives the show so much energy. Part of her appeal comes from the fact that her blonde-haired, blue-eyed appearance sets her up to be “the pretty one” and she then subverts stereotypical expectations completely with her wild and crazy behaviour.
At the same time, though, she’s a dedicated friend and companion, and the whole “possibly unrequited love” thing going on between her and the huggably tsundere student council vice president Ayano (whom I also considered including on this list, but settled on making her my Facebook avatar instead) is another big draw for those who enjoy seeing blushing anime girls simpering at one another and then denying their feelings vehemently. I-It’s not like Ayano wants to spend every waking moment with Kyoko or anything, after all! Idiot!
Seiko (Corpse Party)
Seiko was one of my favourite characters from Corpse Party, a game with an incredibly well-defined and interesting cast all round. The best thing about Seiko, though, was how self-consciously “not girly” she was. She’s open, honest, brash, crass and, a bit like Kyoko, does not give a damn what people think of her. At the same time, she’s cheerful and does her best to keep the people around her in high spirits, even as they are trapped in a horrifying, terrifying situation from which there appears to be no escape.
It becomes clear after only spending a short amount of time with her in the game that she has a number of deep bonds with her friends — particularly with the character Naomi, for whom it’s rather strongly implied that she’s harbouring romantic and/or sexual feelings.
To say too much more about Seiko would probably be to spoil Corpse Party more than I’m willing to, but suffice to say that she’s a definite highlight of the game. And, oh look! Corpse Party is half-price on the PlayStation Store (PSP and Vita) right now. You should go and buy it if you have a Sony handheld, otherwise I’m not sure we can be friends any more.
Polgara (Belgariad, Malloreon)
David Eddings’ Belgariad and Malloreon series are rather traditional pulp fantasy novels in many ways, but a few aspects of them cause me to remember them fondly — and I’ve even re-read the whole set of books several times, which is not something I normally do.
One of these aspects is Polgara the sorceress. For those unfamiliar with Eddings’ epics, they follow a relatively traditional pattern in which an unassuming young farmhand named Garion gradually gathers a party of various ne’er-do-wells and, through various combinations of circumstances — spoiler! — becomes incredibly powerful, battles against an evil god and wins.
One of Garion’s constant companions throughout the entire series is his “Aunt Pol,” who has been a constant presence in his life since childhood. It transpires that “Pol” is actually Polgara, a four thousand year old sorceress and daughter of Belgarath, sorcerer of legend and he who recovered the mystical artifact The Orb of Aldur from — look, let’s just say he’s Kind of a Big Deal, all right?
The reason Polgara is interesting is not because she’s a kick-ass sorceress, though, it’s the fact that she’s a very well fleshed-out character with a hell of a lot of hidden depth. Garion learning the truth behind her heritage in the Belgariad is just the tip of the iceberg — Eddings went on to publish two additional books known as Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress which explained the ancient magicians’ history in exhaustive detail, giving the entire world in which the two series were set an extremely strong feeling of being a “real” — or at least believable — place. Polgara and Belgarath’s constant presence throughout the world’s history give you something to latch on to as millenia tick by in the pages of the books — and yet both of them remain entertainingly “human” despite their obvious… non-humanness.
That was fun. I’ll do this again sometimes soon. I won’t ask what your favourite characters are, because no-one ever replies when I end a blog post with a question. I’ll just say good night and leave it at that!