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Anime Archetypes: Companion Characters

Updated on March 22, 2016
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Kristen is a freelance writer, editor, gamer, and anime/manga enthusiast with a Master's in Creative Writing.

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The Companion in most manga and anime is the character that develops a bond with the main character and ultimately encourages and receives a transformation of characteristics and skills. They are meant to inspire the main character to experience growth as the journey is told, although they usually don’t expect to go through their own character development. The common misconception that the Companion is meant to be in the shadow of the main character causes them to be seen as unnecessary and repelling to the audience. Through a breakdown of the Companion’s role and attributes, I will discuss the companion’s importance and how they can become more memorable to the audience. Afterwards, a series of “What if…” prompts will be suggested to hopefully encourage you to create a companion that stands out.

Alignment: Neutral until later established.

The Six Steps to Creating The Companion

Backstory: The Companion’s alignment is initially neutral until the writer decides what the main character alignment is; then, the placement of the Companion can be decided. Alignment Placement is the one attribute the Companion depends on the main character to produce. You must make sure the Companion’s thoughts and actions will be consistent with the main character and to do that, you must create a believable backstory that explains what sculpted your character’s personality and the skills they obtained. In addition, the backstory needs to have an element that connects with the main character’s personality or history so it will be understood as to why the paths of the Companion and the main character have crossed. Keep in Mind: The Companion’s alignment is dependent on the main character, but their history is not. Make sure the companion’s story is significant and compelling.

Personality and Skills – What are they like and what can they do? – The Companion needs to have a personality that is memorable. The best way to establish that is to forge the Companion’s characteristics in contrast to the main character and other characters. As the writer, you don’t have to think of “opposites attract”, but rather “what does the companion have that other character’s don’t”? For example, if you created a “wimpy hero character” that has more brains than brawn, you might make your Companion someone that is self-confident, but probably at the same level of brawn and doesn’t have the smarts to think before they do. You want to make sure your Companion’s attributes are always giving and receiving experience so they will successfully reach a believable transformation. Keep in Mind: A Companion’s personality doesn’t have to be the complete opposite of the main character. The Companion’s skills may be similar to others, but should be specialized for the Companion alone to increase their importance in the story.

Yes, you can have it. It will help you write.

The Relationship with the Main Character (MC) – The awesome part about Companion’s is that they can be anyone who appears in the story at any time. What determines the importance of the Companion’s existence is the strength of their connection or chemistry with the main character. It’s easy to fall into stereotypes when you’re thinking of the Companion’s relationship with other characters, but there are fundamental factors required to accurately portray what kind of person the Companion is to the main character. In the examples I provide, I will use C for Companion and MC for main character:

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  • Sibling – C is to MC as Alphonse Elric is to Edward Elric. – A sibling relationship can range from endearing and considerate to more of a tough love outlook. The Elric brothers are a bit of both in their story. A sibling relationship has a quality in their bond that they could never ignore even if they later decided to hate each other. The sibling bond is usually what fuels the MC and C to cooperate and move forward through whatever adventure they’re living.

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  • Childhood FriendC is to MC as Sasuke Uchiha is to Naruto Uzumaki – The companion as a childhood friend of the main character is very similar to the sibling relationship. The bond between childhood friends remains strong even when there’s distance between them. Sasuke Uchiha and Naruto Uzumaki initially appeared to be on opposite ends of the personality spectrum but they eventually discovered that they have more in common than they thought. The childhood friend and the main character link to one another when they realize a similarity in their personality, history, lifestyle, or goal. From that moment, a bond grows through trials and achievements that they usually endure together.

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  • Love InterestC is to MC as Asuna is to Kirito – When the companion is a love interest, it’s common to misinterpret them as solely a muse for the main character, but that isn’t always the case. If a genuine relationship is formed between the companion and the main character through the process of taking the time to understand each other through internal and external conflict, they will be seen as partners rather than the cliché “hero and damsel in distress”. Developing this kind of bond between the two characters can overlap with the “muse” idea, but it doesn’t have to be restricted to that. The companion is meant to enhance the hero, not distract them.

If Kirito and Asuna are your OTP, you need this on your wall.

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  • RivalC is to MC or C as Rin Matsuoka is to Haruka Nanase – When companions are main characters, they are meant to interact with one another with varying personalities so one character can present what another character is missing. Usually, this creates a competitive rivalry that can lead the characters to be friends or enemies. For example, Rin appears to be more ambitious, than Haru; whereas Haru has a greater sensitivity to his friends’ feelings than Rin. In the end, Rin learned to think about others before making decisions and Haru learned to fight for what motivates him instead of letting it pass him by. A rivalry between characters can be extreme or competitive, but what must be emphasized is the growth the characters achieve overtime.

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  • Teacher/MentorC is to MC as William Anthonio Zeppeli is to Jonathan Joestar – The teacher or mentor of the main character is the character that most adamantly serves the role of the companion. When the teacher becomes completely willing to support the main character, they will do all they can to make sure their mission is a success. They are also qualified characters that appear to be much more advanced at a skill than the main character is. However, the teacher usually aspires for their students to be better than themselves. For example, Zeppeli was born in a scholar family and then became a master of the power of “Hamon”. After he teaches Jonathan the ways of “Hamon”, Jonathan excels in the use of his power. Zeppeli eventually acknowledges Jonathan as more of an ally rather than just a student. It is very common for the teacher to gradually see who ever is under their wing initially as someone they can fly with later on.

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  • Fellow Teammates - C and C is to MC as Armin Arlet and Mikasa Ackerman is to Eren Jaeger – Although they initially started out as childhood friends, a catastrophic scenario led them to become soldiers. Their bond as friends still exist, but things changed when they were thrown in the line of duty. It forced them to work as a team by bringing forward their best skills to survive. Eren as the main character has a mixture of driven vengeance and compassion, which causes him to be fearless and reckless. Mikasa and Armin balance out Eren’s irrational behavior with knowledge and strategy, although Armin is much more compassionate than Mikasa. When companions and main characters are meant to work as a team, they will do more balancing rather than solely enhancing the main character. Teammate companions go through transformations for the sake of what and whom they care for; the main character will go through transformations for the sake of their goals and their companions.

Keep in mind: Companions and main characters evolve as they interact with one another. Make sure your companions will naturally meld with your main character’s personality and ideals.

Process of Enhancement: Once you select your companion’s role, you need to establish how they will make their skills applicable to the situations they and the main character go through. The companion following the shadow of other characters happens far too often. Unless you’re using the “shadow” as a method of developing a character’s personality, don’t let your companion only be summoned when you need something interesting to happen in your story. You want your companion’s thoughts, beliefs, and actions to be believable more than anything. Keep in mind: The companion’s individuality isn’t meant to blend with the shadows, but resonate when around other characters. Make sure your companion is appreciated.

Growth of the Companion: Your companion may be a fellow main character or a secondary character, but they still need to display a growth or change of some kind. Their personality isn’t worth engaging with if it’s initially revealed that the companion has a good amount of strengths and weaknesses. Then there should be an apparent internal and external conflict that reveals more detail about those strengths and weaknesses.

- Internal Conflict: The companion’s internal conflictions concern their inner thoughts. Taking the time to delve into their internal battles will allow the author to easily visualize their external actions.

- External Conflict: The companion’s external conflictions are the actions and interactions that confirm what’s going on the inside. If you want your companion’s actions to be believable, take the time to think of common actions fueled by common emotions, then specialize those actions by your character’s personality.

A mantra for understanding the relationship between your companion’s thoughts and actions: “What would [character] do after feeling [this emotion]” = “Would my character’s [internal conflict] make them [create external conflict]” – Example: Would Mikasa’s care for Eren make her fight multiple titans on her own? – The answer is yes. When you understand the reciprocity of internal and external conflict, you can bring changes into your companion’s life that will make their growth more understandable. Keep In Mind: If you want the companion’s journey to be worth understanding, you must take the time to understand them.

The Transformation: When your Companion experiences a transformation, it’s meant to work from the inside out. The disconnections within your character need to start reconnecting as the story progresses. Afterwards, the transformation of your character will reveal itself externally through an action or a series of actions. The timing for this moment is important to highlight, but what is of even more importance is how the main character and other characters respond to the companion. This will solidify the change the Companion has made in their life and make it even more apparent to them. When people accomplish something, they want to share it with those they are close to. Keep in Mind: The transformation of your Companion is a pivotal moment of their life; it doesn’t overwhelm or underwhelm, but makes their purpose in the story more substantial than it was before.

"What if..."

That was a lot of information to take in for the companion. Now let's start brainstorming.

- What if the companion you created is based off of someone you know? It’s very common for writers to base their characters on people they know in person. Consider your best friend or family member as a companion. Maybe take the traits of two different people and mush them together.

- What if the companion had a misleading alignment? If the origin of your Companion sculpts them into a character you would least expect to be beside your main character would definitely make them fascinating. Think of the “Prince and the Pauper” scenario.

- Does the companion have to be a person? Some may think the animal or monster sidekick has been overdone, but creatures are beings that usually communicate through action more than language. Experimenting with this kind of companion can be extremely fun.

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Thanks for Reading!

I really hope this article helped you with you with your character creation. Please comment or rate this article here or on my Anime Archetypes page. You can also make suggestions for another archetype to be analyzed.

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