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Creating Common Manga Characters

When you know how to draw a manga figure, you're ready to turn your attention to creating your own characters. A number of common archetypes appear often in manga. In this case, archetypes are basically sets of personalities and attributes assigned to a character. An archetype may include, for example, the color of the individual's hair and eyes and the type of body build the character has.

The decision of what your character looks like is ultimately yours, but first explore these established archetypes and see if they will work for you:

  • The Main Protagonist: Every manga story must have a main leading character, either male or female. Readers lose interest in manga very quickly without a lead character to identify with. Even if everything else about your script is terrific, captivating the audience with memorable lead characters is crucial. Common main protagonists are the androgynous student, the varsity team captain, the Army Special Forces rookie, the innocent daydreamer, and the martial arts warrior.
  • The Loveable Sidekick: For every lead character, you have at least one supporting cast member — otherwise known as the sidekick. These archetypes can be male, female, or neither (animal or alien). Conquering battles and winning over hearts of loved ones gets pretty lonely without supporting sidekicks. Humans learn from interacting with each other, and that's true of manga lead characters in every story.
    Lead characters look alike in so many manga stories, so the sidekicks make the difference — by either helping the lead character's mission go smoothly or by turning it into a living nightmare (usually unintentionally). Regardless of her impact, a sidekick's existence is just as crucial as the lead character's. Some common sidekick archetypes are the dimwitted muscle-man, the loyal little brother or sister, and the spoiled brat.
  • The Dreaded Villain: No action manga saga is complete without an opposing bad force — for every protagonist, there must be an antagonist. Otherwise, you don't have a strong plot. Contrary to most American comics, where villains are portrayed as teeth-gnashing and grotesque, modern manga stories rely on good-looking, intelligent, and cunning lead villains to make the plot more interesting.
    These archetypes expand and change, just like every form of popular entertainment does, but you want to at least recognize the common trend that has flooded the popular manga market for the past several decades. Current popular villain archetypes are the handsome yet icy-cold villain, the military vixen, the well-trained warrior, and the evil sorceress.
  • Damsels in Distress: Ever watch one of those silent movies featuring attractive women tied down to the railroad tracks? How about the girl who gets abducted and taken up the tall building by a giant gorilla? Well, guess what — the manga world is flooded with these characters. Damsels in distress give your main protagonist an obvious mission — save the girl! Remember, though, that these characters shouldn't steal the spotlight from your main characters; they should play secondary roles in advancing the focus of your story. Common types of characters that need saving are the "little sister" princess, the innocent schoolgirl, and the loyal and selfless damsel.
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