The Problem with Shonen Anime and Manga: Part Two
I recently talked about a big problem that plagues shonen anime and manga. Now, I want to talk about another problematic trope: neglecting side characters.
There are some awesome side characters in anime that often get neglected in some way. Let's look at one of my favorites from Bleach, Chad. Chad is introduced and Tite Kubo starts making him really interesting. He is given powers so he can help fight hollows, he seems to be invincible in a fist fight, he gets a great emotional backstory that shows he’s a gentle giant, and all of this shows that he’s a valuable ally to Ichigo, but then he is always cheated. In the Soul Society arc, his first opponent of any importance is Shunsui, Captain of Squad 8, and Chad is quickly defeated. Meanwhile, Ishida barely wins against a Captain himself, and Ichigo fights some more prominent foes and wins all the time because he’s the main character. Can’t Chad get a moment of actual glory? Maybe have him beat a Lieutenant and then lose to a Captain?
In the next arc, Chad trains with Renji to grow stronger and goes to Hueco Mundo with Ichigo. It is then hinted that his powers are closely related to hollows, while Chad fights the bad guy equivalent of a Lieutenant, a fight he barely wins. Granted, he unlocks more of his powers and that's awesome, but his win is overshadowed when an Espada (think bad guy Captain) shows up and mops the floor with Chad. I am grateful that Kubo decided to make Chad stronger and have him beat a stronger opponent than in the last arc, but it doesn’t do anything to further the plot. Plus, he got new powers and he couldn’t even scratch a big bad guy. All it does is establish Chad as Bleach’s Krillin, just with less dying.
After the good guys defeat Aizen (the big bad guy for the first 3+ seasons) and things start calming down, Chad comes back from being out of commission and fans are given the exact opposite of an awesome payoff. Remember how we were led to believe Chad had hollow powers? Apparently, Kubo decided to ignore that. Instead of giving us an awesome story about how Chad has hollow abilities, we’re introduced to Fullbringers. Now, Fullbringers definitely seems more like an explanation for Orihime’s powers and not Chad’s. Sadly, Chad’s powers are suddenly deemed those of a Fullbringer instead of a hollow. This change feels like Kubo had this cool concept of Fullbringers and then realized too late that there was no way to use Orihime to progress that story, so Chad is shoehorned into it instead.
Chad is not alone in shonen. Look at Dragon Ball Z. If you're not a Saiyan, you're worthless even if you're as awesome as Tien. Rurouni Kenshin does the same with Sanosuke. These characters are all given some sense of importance. Sadly, these characters are constantly unused to further the story. I still love shonen anime, and it looks like some shows, such as The Seven Deadly Sins, are already working to fix this problem, and that makes me extremely happy.
Who's your favorite neglected side characters?