Light Novel Protagonists


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    Here we can talk about our favourite MC and our least favourite and why. The type of MCs we find. What makes us like one MC over another and what do we look for in MCs.


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    I've been rereading Dendro a bit, and I've been thinking about whether Ray factors into my enjoyment of the series or no. On face value, Ray isn't that exciting of a main character (good guy who didn't do much research before hopping into the world of the VRMMO game his bro was on; has a gambling addiction; self-sacrificial), and Dendro has a big supporting cast that may be more interesting and more worthy of focus (Rook, Marie, and Shu in particular have more interesting stuff going on in their personal lives and / or Dendro; even Hugo and Franklin I find more intriguing). But let's say we went two or three volumes focused solely on the supporting cast, no appearance by Ray, I don't know that it'd hold my interest.

    I feel like I need a main character, even one I don't really care that much for personality wise, to drive the plot. We don't really have a Tzuredure Children type series that shifts between different characters (we have Me A Genius, but that still has a defacto main character we're following even if the perspective shifts; almost all of the chapters feature Kouki in them).

    Haruhiro is one of my favs from JNC. He's not likable in the idealized sense, but his shortcomings and tendency to beat himself up I find endearing. Obviously I'd like him to evolve little by little to being more assertive than a passive leader, though he'll never have a swole head. He has some pretty good quotes early on life and death too. And guys that are a bit dense or unsure in the romance department I tend to sympathize with too. I like that he's playing the field a bit too and not sworn to anyone (although, sounds like he thinks it'd be a betrayal a bit to his party to date a member within it). I'm only on volume 9, and I really gotta reread all the volumes to this point.



  • @terrence I feel the same way for Haru from Grimgar. Personally I he is one of my favorite characters due to the lack of power he has. Although in most recent parts he is kinda praised for his abilities as a thief. Sadly he doesn’t hear it which would probably help him with confidence. Overall he can be really realistic. I’m happy he has been getting praise in the most recent volume. Ps another factor is Grimgar gives me a feeling of unease when reading cuz I feel anyone can die at any point just one wrong move and that character is out.


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    I watched SAO Alt: GGO anime before reading LN and what hooked me was Llenn the Protagonist. What hooked me on Llenn? In episode 2 we see her listening to music; Something so simple can make a big impact.

    And the LN is even better when it comes to Llenns' character and I am only like chapter 3 or so.


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    I'd have to spend more time thinking about the good ones - Haruhiro and Llenn/Karen (anime only for me so far) would have to be up there though.

    Tentatively I'd say Haruhiro is my favourite, but I'm bound to be forgetting some.

    Compared to the anime, Kazuma from Konosuba is surprisingly interesting, dunno if I'd put him anywhere near my favourite though.

    I'm quite fond of Marie in Clockwork Planet, I prefer her over Naoto cause he switches between comic relief and godly ability like he isn't real, whereas she's the one with all the human features.

    Bad ones - well, pick any harem series with a dense MC - that trope really shits me to tears. Ichika from Infinite Stratos is so bad he almost wraps back around to good as a parody, but not quite.


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    Traits I like

    1. Any protagonist not socially impaired beyond help even if a bit shy or awkward at first is fine as long as they get more confident as story progress (hopefully doesn't take more than 1 or 2 volumes to do so.

    2. Somewhat clever or even a genius but uses logical methods to deduce the situation rather than pull something out of their ass.

    3. Not wishy washy forever on romance, can't stand it when the guy never makes a move and the girls continue to chase him to no avail. I'm okay with the girls being more aggressive, but the guy needs to reciprocate eventually.

    4. Morally grey or at least not always a goodie two shoe that helps random strangers without a reason all the time.

    5. Has some what of a goal in life, can be like protecting the heroine or simply doing well in life.

    Traits I hate

    1. Socially awkward protagonist for life (how not to summon a demon king)

    2. Wishy washy forever and ever

    3. Stupid/lazy protagonist

    4. Protagonist with no goal or only very short term ones


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    @bryan Let us see how one of my favourite LN protagonists (heck probably most favourite) goes up against your list: Bell Cranell from Danmachi

    1. Bell is a shy innocent kid.

    2. Bell is not clever or genius, he is quite a simple man.

    3. Bell is not wishy-washy at all, he has his sights on Aiz Wallenstein in the romance department. he is clueless about everyone else who has romantic feelings for him but his romance vision is tunnel-visioned on Aiz.

    4. Bell is not morally grey, he will do whatever it takes to do what he believes to be right. Bell needs no reason to help others, that is the kind of man he wants to become.

    5. Bell wants to become a hero and be someone worthy of Aiz because he loves her and wants to be with her.


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    @drone205 To be fair I like Bell also from Danmachi, but that part is just part of what I like about characters not what I hate. And Bell does not have any traits that I hate.


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    I like characters who are good-hearted. I got tired of the edgy gray heroes long ago, and that seems to be more and more common. This doesn't mean they can't be pragmatic.

    I like characters who are smart, though believably so. The ones who the author lazily equate 'genius' with 'predicts the future' are ones I absolutely loathe. Lelouch is a big example of this silliness.

    One thing I do not like is the 'anti-hero who treats everyone like dirt but everyone acts like he's such a good guy and he has to be begged to do anything for anyone'. Basically, folks like the Arifureta protagonist. It just feels like something I would have liked when I was a teenager. "And he's soooo badass but he won't help the peons unless they convince him, but he's still a good guy, and...!"

    I like characters who are believable in a romantic way. Sometimes, taking it slow can make sense story-wise, like Realist Hero - he had legitimate concerns and hangups, being, y'know, from a different world and being forced into an engagement when he wasn't even twenty.

    I don't like when the romance feels like an excuse to just drop more female (or male!) cliches onto the hero or heroine. Like it's a checkbox. This is the tsundere, this is the childhood friend, this is the ojou, and so forth.


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    @dtta Agree about the Arifureta hero. I totally would have dug him as a teen and can see why others do, but daaaamn I don’t like that guy at all.


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    If they framed it as less edgelord & more legit psychologically damaged from his time in "hell", I'd like Hajime better. He does seem to be growing out of it to a degree, but he still does that pretend he has a hardarse reason for helping people thing. Even in story they say he's getting his "humanity" back, so if only it was executed a little different. Meh, I can still enjoy it for what it is, roll my eyes at parts & keep reading.


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    I spent a bit of time thinking about it, and I condensed my preferences down to two points, one pro and one anti.

    Trait I Like: They make everyone around them better.

    This is a broad, yet quite simple effect. The protagonist should make the people they interact with happier and better people, be it from an improvement in their lives, or helping them with their problems, or just being cheerful and bringing up their mood. This is by far the best trait of a lot of light novel protagonists I like; chapters from the viewpoint of other characters show that when these protagonists enter the characters' lives, everything became brighter and happier. Even better if they manage to do so for people who oppose them, and without violence or force.

    • For JNC series, there's quite a few; Shinichi from Outbreak Company, Kouki from Me A Genius, Fie from Walking My Second Path, Anti from Gear Drive (although she was cheerful enough before she became a protagonist), Will from Faraway Paladin, so on and so forth.
    • Outside JNC, there's Katarina Claes from Destruction Flag Otome, Maine from Ascendance Of A Bookworm, Mashiro from Obsessions Of An Otome Gamer, Reika from Kenkyo Kenjitsu... again, the list goes on.

    Trait I Dislike: They don't care.

    This is depressingly common, which is why the above trait I like is sufficiently distinct enough to be considered "not every light novel protagonist". The most common form this takes is that the protagonist assumes they must have some sort of self-serving or "pragmatic" reason to help another person or to perform some act of charity, since to them, the world and its inhabitants don't matter, or at least don't matter as much as themselves. It always seems like the intent is to make the protagonist seem all aloof and badass, and the effect is to make them seem arrogant and immature instead.

    • For JNC series, I dropped My Big Sister Lives In A Fantasy World immediately at the end of the Eyes arc, because the protagonist went through a rapid-fire sequence of "I don't care" and "don't involve me" at all the obvious plot hooks and story pick-ups thrown at him. It's presented comedically, and he just got back from saving the world, but the narrative itself didn't seem to care about the fate of several minor NPCs who got killed off (gruesomely) for the sake of Drama, when this was supposed to be relatively lighthearted.
    • For non-JNC, I forget the name of the story, but I dropped a story once when the protagonist was testing out his clairvoyance powers, spotted some mildly antagonistic people who mildly inconvenienced them earlier being caught and magically enslaved, then he just shrugged and went "well, not my problem", and the two women with him went "well, if you say so, then not our problem either".

    Obviously I can name more series with protagonists who have the traits I like than traits I do not, because I follow series I like.


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    @unsynchedcheese I think there is a problem when you condense everything into two points; The world is not black and white. Though I get that you tried to simplify it to two points. I just do not think it really works here.

    Well, I will try to make some kind of list or points that I like or think a protagonist should have:

    1. A Goal and Motivation - The protagonist should not be purely passive or reactive, they should be proactive. If they have some sort of goal they want to achieve then they should strive to achieve it.

    2. Have a Personality and Likes & Dislikes - The protagonist should not be Archetype 2A but be there own person with there own little quirks. they need some things that they like and do not like, this can be something as simple as loving certain music. They can start out archetypical but they should have something to them.

    3. Weakness - now this is kind of self-explanatory but the protagonist needs some sort of weakness HOWEVER not an Achilles Heal or a kryptonite weakness.

    *this next point is related to the Protagonist but needs an Antagonist (or conflict) for this to work

    1. Choices & Dilemmas - We need to know who the protagonist truly is, what they desire most, what they hold dear most, what they prioritize the most? The harder the dilemma the deeper we understand the protagonist based on what choice they make.

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    @drone205 said in Light Novel Protagonists:

    @unsynchedcheese I think there is a problem when you condense everything into two points; The world is not black and white. Though I get that you tried to simplify it to two points. I just do not think it really works here.

    I simplified it into the absolute dealmaker/dealbreaker points. As in the protagonist traits that carry so much weight that it would require a great deal of mitigating factors on the other side to rebalance my opinion of them the other way.

    For every other trait I considered, I came up with examples of protagonists that I liked which didn't quite match them, so I had to reconsider whether they were truly that necessary. But of the protagonists I liked and disliked, those were the common points.

    It just happened to come down to two points because I could only think of those two points. Presumably if my tastes went a different way, I could have pared it down to just one, or maybe three or four.


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    @unsynchedcheese said in Light Novel Protagonists:

    For every other trait I considered, I came up with examples of protagonists that I liked which didn't quite match them, so I had to reconsider whether they were truly that necessary. But of the protagonists I liked and disliked, those were the common points.

    Well not every protagonist will have every trait you like. If say one point you considered was weakness (witch I really should add to my list), not every (LN) protagonist will have that. However it makes for a great character. Though if I were to be specific about what I like in a protagonist then... well actually my list would probably remain the same for the most part. I mean if I were to make a list of LN protagonists I really like they all would have the first 2 easily, they will have some sort of weakness, and they will have to make some sort of big choice. Though my list is a pretty broad list, but I just do not care if the protagonist is a "nice guy" or the biggest scum there is, as long as they are written and executed well.


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    well, I will make a comment every now and then on this topic about a protagonist I really LOVE, and I will probably use my list I created as a guide.

    Bell Cranell:

    1. Goals and Motivation - Bell has a Goal from before the start of the series and that is to pick up girls, but at the start of Volume one, his goals shift to being worthy of Aiz Wallenstein. For this goal, Bell needs to become stronger and become Aizs' equal.

    2. Personality and Likes & Dislikes Bell loves the stories about heroes and their adventures. Bell is loyal and can be a bit childish at times, like when he first learned magic he wanted to test it out right away even going against Hestias' words about being patient and waiting the next day.

    3. Weakness - Bell does not have any kryptonite type of weakness. Bell had a lack of confidence and a wall blocking his progression known as Fear, though this wall was destroyed in Volume three it was present. Not necessarily a weakness but Bell will do what he believes to be right, even if there will be dire consequences.

    4. Dilemmas and Choices - Bell is forced into making near impossible choices, and he takes action, NOT a passive wishy-washy or no choice.