Rules of Shonen Action Main Character:

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Producer X Rin
I am thinking about writing a shonen* light novel, and I'm thinking about experimenting with some typical shonen action conventions, especially ones that are applied to the main characters.

As many of you guys have noticed noticed this already, in many shonen action manga/anime, the main character follows rather rigid formula. I'm pretty sure you guys have seen this kind of lists more than necessary. Unfortunately, my reference pool is very small and I want you guys to read it and see if I'm making right observation, list exceptions if you can think of, and add your own observation. Exceptions are not limited to shonen.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Again, there are exceptions to this. This list is just listing the most basic of the basic conventions and therefore does suffer from some generalization. Yes, listing exceptions is appreciated.

  1. His* parents are either dead or plain useless.
  2. He has spikey hair*
  3. He is not good at study, more often than not at the bottom of the class, and even if he is good at study,it's more of an informed attribute than anything. This usually has to do with MC being exhausted doing whatever kind of adventure that he is engaged in, although he never seems to engage on it every single day.
  4. He has very hot temper and when in fight, usually heads along without concrete plan.*
  5. When he fights, it always eventually boils down to who has more raw strength and endurance.
  6. He will almost always defeat opponents who are obviously far more trained than him.
  7. When he DOES get trained, output will be almost always be bigger than input, which will be always bigger than that of main antagonist.
  8. He always goes his way to save people, usually with motives either very shallow or related to 1.
  9. He never gives up, even in a situation when it's better for him to retreat, preserve himself a bit more, and try again with different methods.
  10. He is incapable of having normal romance. He will always belligerently deny romantic involvements and act aloof or rude toward his potential love interest, when he is not busy being completely oblivious to romantic feelings in general.
  11. He is always right, ever, no matter what, even though he does not adequately understand the context of the situation that he is involved in. Anyone who opposes him, almost always ones who know what they are doing, is misguided or outright evil.

Yes, this is incomplete, not entirely correct, and generally pointless. Still, I believe that observe conventions that is very frenquently utilized to the genre that I'm primarily working with would be helpful during my writing.

Just in case you are getting it wrong, I like shonen genre* and how idealistic and well meaning (usually) the protagonists are. It's just that I want a SAMC who is idealistic and is willing to help people, but with plausible motivation that doesn't involve generally implausible situation and pragmatism (for goodness sake, learn to step back a little). Is there any SAMC that fits this mold?

edited 11th Aug '11 3:57:08 PM by dRoy

Secret Character
Well, if you want to try something new why not subvert half of the list? Your observation is spot on: this list is the Cliche Of Shounen Heroes. Frankly I'm tired to see the same thing over and over (the reason why I choose an All-Girl's team in Etrian Odyssey).

edited 11th Aug '11 1:34:49 AM by djmaca

...a little brother should belong to his older sister, right? - Orimura Chifuyu
By "plausible motivation", I assume you mean that they're not just a hero because they want to save others, but because there's something that they might lose, or that there's something they want to achieve that's close to them.

Negi from Mahou Sensei Negima! seems to fit your criteria, but what's interesting is that he subverts almost everything about the shonen hero that you just listed.
MAL || vndb || Blog
Producer X Rin
About Negi's motivation...I can't certainly comment on that. He has a proper motive, but that had to be resulted from Parental Abandonment.

Why is it so hard to see a Badass Bookworm (yes, Negi is so shush) as a SAMC?
Secret Character
[up]Huh? It's not that diff to see a Badass Bookworm as a Shounen MC. What makes you people think that? If the MC is Bad Ass enough...
...a little brother should belong to his older sister, right? - Orimura Chifuyu
Producer X Rin
I don't know, I think that just mainly stems from me being sick of characters who always do badly at school.
Touma is an interesting case, actually. He's bad at the esper curriculum, but he's actually of above average intelligence. As for motivation, Shiage Hamazura's probably the most naturally motivated of the three heroes in Index (Touma, Accelerator, Shiage) because he's being a hero for the person he loves.

edited 11th Aug '11 2:01:12 AM by LiberatedLiberater

MAL || vndb || Blog
8 Recon511th Aug 2011 01:58:26 AM from Southeast Asia
Avvie-free for life!
Well, we need characters that Joe/Jane Bottom-Of-Class can identify with. Put in a bookish character and even Jack Middle-Of-Class will be left out.

At least, that's the Exec line.
Secret Character
[up][up]So Touma is so-so type of hero, Accelerator doesn't even care if it's got nothing to do with him, or his women, and Shiage the same. As I see it, even if Shiage is the most motivated, the most heroic one is still Touma.
...a little brother should belong to his older sister, right? - Orimura Chifuyu
10 KSPAM11th Aug 2011 07:48:01 AM from PARTY ROCK , Relationship Status: Giving love a bad name
I've got new mythological machinery, and very handsome supernatural scenery.

Goodfae: a mafia web serial
You know, I bet you could turn your list of Shonen Hero characteristics into a trope proposal.
Is allowed only three romantic avenues

Chaste Hero, Belligerent Sexual Tension or just plain not noticing/understanding what girls are.

edited 11th Aug '11 9:53:01 AM by AkumaShogun

Let's tropify for fun (some approximation here):

1. ConvenientlyAnOrphan, MissingMom,DisappearedDad

2. ShonenHair

3. IdiotHero and BookDumb

4. HotBlooded, sort of — this trope could use some TLC.

5. Can't really find an obvious one for this. Commonly it's HeroicSpirit or HeroicResolve that gets the shonen protagonist through, however.

6. HardWorkHardlyWorks

7. Not an obvious one here, though TrainingFromHell and LookWhatICanDoNow are both related and pretty common.

8. ChronicHeroSyndrome. Also, there is a trope I can't seem to find related to heroes helping those who remind them of their pasts. Frustrating.

9. Hmm...Determinator, coupled with StupidGood, maybe?

Also, there are a few (very few, actually) shonen with a female main. The only ones I can think of off-hand are Claymore and Souleater.

edited 11th Aug '11 10:26:28 AM by ForlornDreamer

14 KSPAM11th Aug 2011 10:47:14 AM from PARTY ROCK , Relationship Status: Giving love a bad name
They'll always Take a Third Option. Always.
I've got new mythological machinery, and very handsome supernatural scenery.

Goodfae: a mafia web serial
15 NapoleonDeCheese11th Aug 2011 10:48:04 AM from Valencia, Venezuela
Does Maka count as a Shonen Action Main Character? If so, she subverts pretty much all the cliches for those roles. Soul, however, plays them rather straight.
Praise the Lord.
Producer X Rin
[up][up][up][up] THIS. Seriously, it really, REALLY, gets on my nerve.
17 Excelion11th Aug 2011 03:47:19 PM from The Fatherland
- Can master techniques in a short time when it took the Old Master years

- Is always right (despite being an idiot kid with little idea about the world, morality, philosophy). Always. Wise Badass Grandpa opposes him in an argument? Bet that he's wrong. Bonus points if he's a Neutral Good moralfag with unrealistic ideals. But he's always right, so said ideals come true.
Producer X Rin
[up] Well, the first one is covered with combinations with 5 and 6. However the latter? Cannot be truer.

I will start adding some of you guys' own addition to the list so give it your best shot, and thank you all for contribution! grin
19 NapoleonDeCheese11th Aug 2011 03:50:56 PM from Valencia, Venezuela
If he ever becomes a father, despite being a borderline or even outright Adult Child himself with little sense of maturity and guidance, his children will always turn out noble and heroic.
Praise the Lord.
Producer X Rin
[up] Hmm, I'm not familiar with any SAMC who actually fits that mold. Who fits those? I'm just curious.

edited 11th Aug '11 4:03:09 PM by dRoy

21 NapoleonDeCheese11th Aug 2011 04:06:18 PM from Valencia, Venezuela
[up] Goku, for starters. From what I heard on the Shaman King manga sequel, Yoh as well. I heard Kinnikuman or Muscleman or however he's called in the dub turned out like that as well, although I've never read anything of THAT franchise.

You also could kinda count Nagi, who, while not an actual protagonist, fully fit the stereotype of the SAMC. Then again, he didn't even have a hand on his son's raising, so I'm unsure if he counts at all.
Praise the Lord.
22 Jewbacabra11th Aug 2011 05:25:27 PM from San Francisco, CA
Interesting collection of bullet points. I never realized how homogenous Shonen protagonists are. I was laughing all the way down your list dRoy [lol].

So you intend to deconstruct a shonen protagonist or what? I'm a little confused as to your goal.
Two Wong's don't make a white.
Secret Character
Maybe you should plan your hero's life first... I mean before the start of the novel: like "who is he?" or something.
...a little brother should belong to his older sister, right? - Orimura Chifuyu
Producer X Rin
[up][up] Huh, you found it funny? Well, it's good that you did, but I tried to make it as formal as possible. Yes, they are really hommgeneous, aren't they?

I'm not saying it's totally bad. I'm pretty sure you guys heard of this Over Nine Thousand times, but *ahem* Tropes Are Tools. For example, Negi and Naruto follows those conventions almost competely, but I like them a lot. In fact, my MC DOES fit that mold a little, especially 1.

Some things about my SAMC that makes him stand out from the usual is that he's very stoic and takes his study seriously. Also, when he fights, he goes for as pragmatic movements as possible (yes, that means a lot of eye poking and attack to where it counts). Oh, and I would like to mention that his primary character design inspiration is Hei and Shiki, who are far from fitting SAMC conventions.

edited 11th Aug '11 7:16:56 PM by dRoy

25 Excelion11th Aug 2011 07:14:41 PM from The Fatherland

I seriously hope...

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