One of the things that some fans complain about Anime is how similar the characters are. It’s true that there is an array of archetypes you can use to describe a character, but is this a reasonable complaint? (Image Source)
When we talk about a character in any type of story, they usually have a fixed personality since personalities has to be developed throughout the story. Because of this, people eventually use different archetypes to easily describe a specific character. It can range from the good old protagonist and antagonist characters to your average male high school lead or Tsundere girl. However, since some archetypes tend to get used more than others, which is why some people feel that Anime is getting worse. I don’t agree with this statement since archetypes does not mean that characters are carbon copies of each other from different stories.
While stories from a certain genre have similar characters such as the typical hot-blooded male hero or in a slice of life anime, a cute absent-minded girl, people tend to complain that all or some of the characters are not original. The only problem with that argument is that even though a character might have the same archetype, they are not exactly the same. For instance, Kyoto Animation has adapted shows that have the typical kind, cheerful but ditzy girl such as Yui (K-ON), Eru (Hyouka) and Tamako (Tamako Market), but they also have some unique qualities that set them apart such as Tamako’s obsession over the Bunny Market. This can apply to Tsundere characters too since most of them are cold on the outside to hide their insecurities, but have different insecurities, cast, etc. However, I understand why people feel that the Tsundere archetype is unoriginal because Kugumiya Rie tsunderes are popular.
In short, characters will have different experiences that influence their personality and outlook like we do in real life. While each character can look or have similar qualities, they are still unique since the author can add more depth to make it more interesting. For instance, Ichinose Kotomi from Clannad shares some similarities from Mai and Shiori from Kanon, but experiences a loss of her parents, which pushes her to become a top student with her childhood friend possibly reuniting. However, if an archetype is not used correctly, it can give negative impressions to people.
Besides Anime, Japanese role-playing games not only have its share of overused archetypes, but also clichés relating to its cast. The problem I see with most role-playing games is that most of them feature a typical shounen male hero while female characters are reserved for healing and using magical skills rather than physical attacks (although there are exceptions). To make matters worse, the ratio of male to female party members are imbalanced to the former. This bothers me not because I want to play as a female lead, but I feel that they are just as capable as males. I think most of this has to do with video games being a male dominated hobby in the past, a trend that is changing. Not only that, in recent years, we are seeing a higher ratio of capable female characters (or an all female cast) in role-playing games such as the Atelier games (especially the last three main games in the series), Tales of Xillia (which you can play as a female protagonist), Neptunia, etc. Still, this cliché stands out the most compared to others such as the need to level grind to beat a boss, saving the world from evil, etc.
At the end of the day, I don’t think archetypes (or the over usage of them) are making Anime unoriginal for the fact that each character is developed differently. Even if an archetype gets overused, it will never become clichéd as it only describes a characteristic. Furthermore, each story is going to have a number of clichés. What matters more to me is how the story progresses and develops these characters to make it interesting from its original premise.
With that, what you think about character archetypes? Do you think that some being overused more than others? Feel free to discuss some that are being used in Anime or related mediums.