Team of Pairs
Putting characters in easy to point out contrasting pairs, so that the group as a whole stands out when seen together.
You've seen them before, the Five-Man Band, the Quirky Miniboss Squad, the plot relevant cool kids down the street. But what is it about them that let's you know it's them right at a glance, and not a faceless hoard of uncool masses? Basic aesthetic pairs. The most common way to make a group of characters stand out is to group them in contrasting pairs with any the odd man out getting the chance to throw in a wild card. Regardless of the nuance, or vagueness of actual group dynamics, these guys just have to look or act wildly enough apart that you A: don't get the members confused, and B: can easily pair them off based on theme. This can overlap with more established and rigid team formations. The Five-Man Band's usual version can boil down to the first pair being the base and slight variation to foil the base (soft vs sharp, or red vs blue). The second having more extreme contrast (big vs small) and the odd man out is just (female). But there are many other ways to create pairs contrasting shorthand to let your team stand out. You could do a male base and foil, and a female base and foil with just a team of four. This also works with the Power Trio (base vs foil, and wild card) or The Magnificent Seven Samurai (base vs foil, physical vs intellectual, old vs young, wild card is funny). You can do this with just demeanor and quick dialogue in when the group lines up together (introvert vs. extrovert, Hulk Speak vs Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, polite vs. rude, or anything off Duo Tropes.) When done solely through design it's much more common in animation since real humans, and Hollywood attractive actors, tend to look more alike than cartoons drawn from scratch. Also common in multiplayer action and sports games with no story at all but you gotta be able to pick your favorite off the character select screen. Compare Nominal Importance. See also Geodesic Cast when multiple different teams follow the same template. Sometimes the group can pair off in different ways besides the most obvious, and the odd man can change depending on context. Occasionally the "odd man" is actually the medium, and the pairs are the different extremes.
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Anime And Manga
- Gundam Wing: The Five Gundam Pilots. Heero and Duo (and the Wing and Deathscythe Gundams) are a stoic angel vs a cheerful devil. Quatre and Trowa (Sandrock and Heavyarms) are a friendly swordsman with a massive extended family and estate vs. a distant gunner orphan in a literal traveling circus. and Wufei (Shenlong) is the wildcard Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy firebreathing dragon.
- Arms: The first five characters to be revealed. Spring Man is default, a round and sproingy character. Ninjara is the direct foil with a sharper design but similar build. Master Mummy and Mechanica form a physical vs intellectual duo, the former a massive monster using his own strength and the latter a small girl in Nerd Glasses piloting a mech. Ribbon Girl rounds things out as the feminine version of Spring Man.
- Power Quest: The 5 Robot Models to the character can choose from. And roughly the ingame characters that main them. Max is the default, a heroic boxing Shoto Clone. Axe is the foil, a dark alien looking Shotoclone. Gong is The Brute, a giant robot with slow and simple wrestling moves vs Lon the Old Master with quick highly technical kung-fu, and Speed is the wildcard, Kick Chick to round things out.
- Snowboard Kids: The five original Sno Bow Kids. Slash the spiky haired lead troublemaker boy, Jam the direct foil Black Best Friend showoff. Nancy the sweet "cute" girl, and her foil Linda the snobbish "hot" girl. And the odd man out Tommy is the fat kid.
- Justice League: The founding 7. Superman and Batman are literally The Cape vs The Cowl. Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl are a naive curious Proper Lady vs a jaded snarky Lad-ette. Green Lantern and Flash are a Straight Man and Wise Guy Odd Friendship. And Martian Manhunter is the wild card greenskinned shapeshifter who feels like like he can't relate to the world he's in even among other aliens, demigods, and superheroes.
- Scooby-Doo: The male duo of courageous Fred and cowardly Shaggy. Female duo of brainy Velma and ditzy Daphne. And odd man out is Shaggy's talking dog best friend Scooby.
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