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Six friends, more or less equal screentime.

"Depending upon which of these interesting characters you focus, the same incident will behave like the surface of the ocean, changeless yet ever-changing. In other words, there may be but one event but as many stories as there are people to tell them."
Gustav St. Germain, Baccano!, "The Vice President Doesn't Say Anything about the Possibility of Him Being the Main Character"
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In most cases, the protagonist is a defining element of fiction. It is they whom the plot revolves around and, usually, the one the audience is supposed to empathize with most.

However, some shows decide to do something different—there is no one protagonist. The plot and its narrative don't revolve around a single, "most important" main character. Instead, it shares a cast of characters with (almost) equal screentime and importance to the plot. This is called an Ensemble Cast. This type of narrative is interesting because it highlights the relations between different characters by taking away the importance of a single character.

In addition, it allows the writers to focus on different characters in different episodes freely, without worrying about giving the main character not enough screen time.

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On the other hand, it can also result in a work that lacks focus and drive. Something must unite the events other than the main character. Most of these works therefore fix on a restricted setting and stick to it like glue.

Rotating Protagonist is a subtrope of this. See also All-Star Cast for instances where putting a bunch of stars in the work leads to no one star getting the bulk of the focus. For villains, see Big Bad Ensemble.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • 20th Century Boys starts out with Kenji as the protagonist, but after the events of the "Bloody New Years Eve" (which happens fairly early in the story), the focus spreads out evenly among the casts. Kanna has a more central role than the others, but not enough focus to call her the "protagonist".
  • 7 Seeds has a cast of originally 40 characters, separated into five teams of eight people. Some characters end up dying or disappearing for some time, though the main cast can still count at least 20 people.
  • Attack on Titan starts off focusing on Eren Jaeger and his two closest friends, but soon expands its scope to include almost every character of his regiment, and then some.
  • Azumanga Daioh mainly centers on the antics of the main cast (comprised of six schoolgirls and two of their teachers) without prioritizing any one character's screentime over the others. While Chiyo is the closest the series has to a "central viewpoint" character and Sakaki gets the most Character Development, neither of them truly overshadow the other main characters in terms of focus.
  • Baccano!: There's no main character. Discussed in the beginning with Carol and the newspaper vice president in their debate about which of the characters is the main character.
  • In Delicious in Dungeon, initially, Laios seems like the obvious main character, having the closest and most personal connection to the quest as well as being one of the two characters that drive the food angle, but in truth he gets no more of the spotlight than the other team members. Most chapters feature the entire team with similar screentime and the ones more focused on a singular one are very even. That being said, Senshi tends to have less of a role overall since he isn't as prominent unless food is around.
  • Durarara!! in the same way as Baccano. They're based on books written by the same author. Although some readers mistake Mikado for the protagonist, since his arrival is what kickstarts the plot and he is the first one to narrate the story and receive plot focus, the author has since stated that, if anyone is the protagonist, it's Celty.
  • Gohan no Otomo follows the lives of a group of loosely-connected individuals who occasionally frequents Nobu's cafe or Kuma's bar. However, none of them can be considered the central protagonist, and most of the time, the series seems to focus on the ambience rather than the characters.
  • Despite its minimalist cast, Heaven's Design Team doesn't have a single protagonist. The importance of each character varies depending on whose design quirk is the most necessary to drive the plot.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers, by its very nature. While it originally started with the "World 8" (Italy, Germany, Japan, Russia, America, China, England, France) in World War II, due to its source material being world history the cast has expanded considerably to include a lot of other countries. Many of them have grown prominent in both canon and fandom that it's reached the point wherein there's no real main character anymore or that everyone's one. Much like world history, come to think of it.
  • K has a world with seven powerful Kings and their Clans. Several of these Clans are shown, and their Kings and several Clansmen from each are given fairly even focus. The first season seems to focus on Yashiro Isana and his companions, but they aren't really main characters. The movie and second season are definitely this - Shiro only shows up for the very end of the movie, and has a more backseat role in the second season, though he does deliver the last blow to the antagonists. In retrospect, one could say Saruhiko Fushimi is the second season's main character, but only in retrospect - he gets the most development when you think about it, but he doesn't do much until the last few episodes. The side-story novels and manga expand on this, giving a lot of development to the Red and Blue clan's "Alphabet Boys" - teams of Bishōnen under the Kings and more major characters, both of which have names that go down the alphabet.
  • Legend of Galactic Heroes. Hardly surprising, given just how many characters there are that it essentially has to do this to give anyone screen time. The clue's in the title, too.
  • Lyrical Nanoha: While Nanoha herself is pretty clearly the protagonist of the first season, later seasons and works begin splitting the focus up between more and more characters.
  • While the first half of Lucky Star focuses on the main Four-Girl Ensemble of Konata, Kagami, Tsukasa and Miyuki, the late half of the anime also focuses on the other Four-Girl Ensemble of Yutaka, Minami, Hiyori and Patty, thus fitting into this trope well. The manga later moves on to focus on other characters, putting the four main girls Out of Focus.
  • Magical Girl Raising Project doesn't really have a protagonist per se, the degree of who is the most protagonist differs in each book.
    • In Unmarked, Snow White, Ripple, and Swim Swim can be considered the main characters as these three gets the most development.
    • By Restart, who one might consider the protagonist is a bit blurrier. One can consider Pechika as the protagonist of Restart, as she feels similar to Snow White. Some can also argue that Pfle and Nokko-chan can be considered as the protagonist of Restart.
    • When Limited kicks in, nobody really feels like the protagonist. Even Unmarked survivor Ripple comes across more as a Big Good than a protagonist. If desperate enough, one may interpret Pythie as a Villain Protagonist.
    • JOKERS also has the same vibe as Limited, where nobody is a stand out protagonist. This is lampshaded by Prism Cherry, who wants to be the protagonist in her story; however is just another normal person.
    • In ACES, the amount of previous book survivors in the story is at an all time high, which causes this trope to play straight; since everybody was to some extent a protagonist.
    • Since QUEENS technically has the same cast as ACES, minus the ones who died, this trope is played pretty straight.
    • Snow White Raising Project ambiguously had Pythie Frederica as a Villain Protagonist who oversees the events of the short story.
    • The short stories in Episodes focuses on specific characters in each chapter, such as Alice in "Zombie Western", Top Speed in "Playing with Top Speed", or Clantail in "Clantail and Friends".
  • Nichijou has five characters (Yuuko, Mio, Mai, Nano, and the Professor) who might be considered the "core" cast and interact among themselves more than with others, but none of them are treated as the sole protagonist, and the series depicts the lives of their classmates, teachers, and families almost as often.
  • Simoun collects over a dozen main characters with roughly equal screen time towards the end.
  • From the beginning, Soul Eater has been as much about the Black*Star/Tsubaki and Kid/Liz/Patti teams as it is about Maka and Soul.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: Each of the five Supermen serving as the protagonists of the show have multiple episodes that give them the main character focus.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Adult Stuck, a Fan Sequel to Homestuck (see Webcomics below), does this.
  • Christian Weston Chandler in Survivor: Kujira-Jima inherently features this due to the twenty-contestant format.
  • The Elemental Chess Trilogy does this in the Rotating Protagonist fashion, with no single character claiming the focus of more than one chapter at a time. Fullmetal Alchemist does have a very large ensemble, however, so some characters get the limelight a bit more often than others.
  • Due to the great amount of PoV characters, Game of Touhou presents a case of this trope.
  • Honorable Hogwarts did this to the Harry Potter universe, giving the characters roughly equal focus and Simultaneous Arcs.
  • Intercom: Like the movie, there are several lead characters from the main 6, with Fear, Joy and Riley getting extra attention.
  • Pokemon: The Origin of Species shares the role of primary character between three protagonists. They avoid typical Chromatic Arrangement character interactions, with Leaf being the reporter who wants Pokemon to be treated with respect, Blue wanting to become League Champion and guide the continent to a safer future, and Red being the researcher who is looking into how Pokemon work and what's it all mean, anyway.
  • Royal Heights with a main cast of seven characters, the perspective and focus alternates constantly. There are some plots and characters that receive more development than others in specific arcs though they always manage to intertwine with the main conflict or someone else's subplot.
  • Skyhold Academy Yearbook more or less does this with the cast of Dragon Age: Inquisition, most of whom are teachers at the eponymous school and spend several years together getting into and out of a variety of scrapes and schemes.
  • In Sonic and the Freedom Fighters -- Blue Horizon, while Sonic may be the headliner, plenty of stories aren't really about him. Just about everyone gets their time in the sun, though Sonic is still one of the most powerful members of the Freedom Fighters. Each arc also tends to focus on a smaller chunk of Freedom Fighters rather than all of them at once, which helps keep a sense of focus and gives time to develop them without tossing everyone else aside.
  • Being an Ultimate Universe fanfic of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Spectrum features an extensive if still tightly-packed roster of characters. In the main plotline itself, Lyra Heartstrings and Twilight Sparkle drive the story over the course of Act I, with Princess Luna and Princess Cadance taking over for Act II, and the plotlines continue to intersect from there. Rounding off the primary cast is Princess Celestia, while a crucial player in the background is Celestia and Luna's unknown sister, Galena.
  • Tangled Adventures in Arendelle begins with focus on Rapunzel and Eugene. However, once Frozen finishes its movie story, the focus gets split between Rapunzel, Eugene, Anna and Elsa for focus, creating a much more balanced story overall.
  • Total Drama Action: All-In: Pretty much everyone gets a storyline in this version of the season.
    • Bridgette's conflict with Eva over the latter's efforts to make DJ more aggressive.
    • Lindsay and Tyler trying to assert their usefulness to their teams.
    • Cody trying to become manlier.
    • Noah and Owen's Odd Friendship being strained by Noah having Izzy voted off.
    • Trent's breakup with Gwen and its impact on her relationships with everyone else.
    • Justin charming and manipulating everyone, notably Beth, Heather, and Duncan.
    • Geoff hosting the Aftermath with Blaineley and fearing Bridgette might not really love him back.
    • Ezekiel and Leshawna's Odd Friendship, as well as Harold's jealousy of it.
    • Courtney having to tone down her bossiness and improve her leadership skills.
    • Sadie ending her friendship with Katie and trying to find herself a new identity.
  • Total Drama All-Stars Rewrite: Every character (Except Jo, Lightning, Anne Maria, and Lindsay) have their own storyline and each one has enough focus.
    • Noah and Dawn's relationship.
    • Owen rekindling his relationship with Izzy and being the first to discover Mal.
    • Brick's friendship with Owen and his power struggle with Courtney.
    • The love triangle is still present.
    • Duncan trying to become a villain again.
    • Gwen trying to become Courtney's friend again.
    • Heather and Alejandro's rivalry.
    • Sierra mistaking Cameron for Cody.
    • Scott's fear of sharks and his feelings for Courtney.
    • Mike having to deal with Mal which affects his relationship with Zoey.
  • The Urthblood Saga. While the titular badger is in many ways the central character, he's not the protagonist (we only rarely see things from his POV, in fact). The focus shifts to a variety of characters and groups.
  • Like in the source material, there's a cast of six in Dusk's Dawn and no one pony has the most focus.
  • Young Justice: Darkness Falls and Young Justice Titans, being extensions of the Young Justice story utilize this to the fullest, though Beast Boy, Nightwing, Superboy and Ms. Martian do get a lot of focus within the different focuses.

    Films — Animation 
  • While the original books already had A Day in the Limelight here and there, Disney's Winnie-the-Pooh adaptations tend to take this trope more thorough, in that while Pooh is still the title character, the other characters still get a roll call in the main theme, have plenty plots (or episodes in the case of the TV shows) devoted to them, and for some of them even their own theatrical movies. Rabbit, Tigger and Piglet in particular get as healthy a quota of limelight as Pooh himself, while Roo starts to become a more central character in later works.

    Films — Live-Action 

By creator

  • Many of the films of Robert Altman, especially Nashville (which interconnects a series of vignettes in and around the title city), Short Cuts (a Crossover adaptation of nine Raymond Carver short stories), and Gosford Park (which interweaves many subplots above and below stairs, although Kelly Macdonald's character comes closest to being the protagonist).
  • Some of the Soviet propaganda films made by Sergei Eisenstein. Both Strike and The Battleship Potemkin lack a protagonist, being portraits of group struggles against oppressive capitalist bosses (the former) and the oppressive Tsarist state {the latter).

By work

  • The Avengers (2012). The lead characters first appeared in their own respective movies before teaming up for this one.
  • Clue has seven main characters of equal importance. The opening credits simply list them alphabetically: Eileen Brennan (Mrs. Peacock), Tim Curry (Wadsworth the butler), Madeline Kahn (Mrs. White), Christopher Lloyd (Prof. Plum), Michael McKean (Mr. Green), Martin Mull (Col. Mustard), and Lesley Ann Warren (Ms. Scarlet).
  • The movie Crash focuses on several characters and the racial tensions between them.
  • Grand Hotel is a story about the various people that check into the titular hotel and the dramatic events that happen to them over two days. It was a big hit, and inspired imitators such as Dinner at Eight (the various people invited to a fancy dinner) and The Captain Hates the Sea (the various people aboard a cruise ship).
  • Inglourious Basterds. Despite the Basterds being in the title of the movie, it puts the same focus onto them, Col. Landa, and Shosanna Dreyfus.
  • The Long Voyage Home, a story about sailors aboard a merchant vessel during World War II, is a classic ensemble piece. No single character is the protagonist, and John Wayne, the biggest star in the cast, has little to do until late in the film.
  • Pulp Fiction has multiple protagonists who follow their own plot and their ways only cross at random.
  • Separate Tables boasted an All-Star Cast that included Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth, and David Niven, along with several other supporting characters. No single character stands out as the lead, which didn't stop Niven from winning an Academy Award for Best Actor for 16 minutes of screen time.
  • In Waiting..., you can more or less pick who you want the main character to be.
  • Street Fighter features almost every character from Super Street Fighter II, most with fairly large roles, leading to a total of 16 major characters to keep track of. (Fei Long gets a substitute with Captain Sawada.)

    Literature 
  • The Animorphs series features six characters who swap first person narrations between books. While you can argue that Jake is the central most character, there really is no true main character.
  • Beauty Queens has chapters from the point of view of many of the contestants and doesn't focus on any one of them in particular.
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Cancer Ward revolves about life in a cancer ward in Soviet Uzbekistan, and featuring many characters.
  • This is one of the main ways the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Death Star distinguishes itself from the rest of the EU. Rather than revolving around at most three or four main protagonists like most other works, it instead has a large, well-developed cast of supporting characters ranging from Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin on down to one of the stormtroopers.
  • In keeping with its Tabletop Gaming roots, the original Literature/Dragonlance Chronicles featured a large ensemble cast with the Heroes of the Lance. That said, authors Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman definitely gave some characters more screen time than others, such that some of the Heroes are Demoted to Extra. The latter characters have, however, gotten some more screentime in more recent novels, whether by Weis and Hickman or by other authors.
  • The Dreamside Road starts with Enoa Cloud's coming-of-age/learning-magic viewpoint, but the points-of-view increase as the quest for the Dreamside Road grows to include jaded adventurer Orson Gregory, as well as the Maros brothers and their childhood friend Duncan.
  • Elantris switches between the viewpoints of three main characters. Near the end, a number of previously background characters get in on the act.
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle features multiple characters whose stories all revolve about a single sharashka.
  • There are four narrators to Redfern Jon Barrett's The Giddy Death of the Gays and the Strange Demise of Straights - each central to the plot.
  • The Gone series. While Sam could generally be called the protagonist (though there are always large portions of the story not focused on him), Lies moves all the way into this trope, with Sam getting equal or less attention than Astrid's struggle to lead the council and care for her brother, Sanjit and the island kids trying to fly to the mainland, power struggles among the Coates kids, Mary's growing mental problems, and many other subplots with the rest of the characters.
  • The first book of the Hyperion Cantos. All the pilgrims have equal importance.
  • Subverted by The Legend of Drizzt. While the dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden is typically the main character, in some cases he serves as The Ishmael to the main plot which is driven more by one of the supporting protagonists. There are also Switching POVs where the action is taken off Drizzt to other protagonists. Several short stories and novels even have Rotating Protagonists, where Drizzt doesn't appear at all and one of the other supporting characters is the lead.
  • Rick Cook's Limbo System shifts among many crewmembers of the human ship, and even some of the aliens, about the First Contact story.
  • Lonely Werewolf Girl and Curse of the Wolfgirl: while Kalix is the titular character, all the rest of the cast have equally important and almost separate storylines. Especially noticeable in Curse where Thrix, and Malveria's story arc, have no contact at all with Kalix's.
  • In Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, we have many, many different characters, although Celia and Marco do manage to eke out being the many characters.
  • The Night Room follows seven different characters with no central figure, and has perspectives of even more.
  • The Overstory: The novel follows nine characters, each of whom get a chapter focusing on them during the first third of the book (except for Dorothy and Ray, who share one chapter) that can work as a stand-alone short story. The rest of the book alternates between each of their stories.
  • The Railway Series gave individual novels to many engines and even different railways, and while many appeared more so than others, there was never a definite lead character (or at least not until the TV series was made...).
  • The Saga of Seven Suns by Kevin J Anderson has a vast number of characters, with each chapter focusing on one character, much like A Song Of Ice And Fire does. Obviously, some characters get more focus than others.
  • Satyrday has the story being told from the viewpoint of every important character, and the number of protagonists is at least 4 for most of the story.
  • Sea Of Poppies: A historical novel set in British-controlled India before the Opium Wars, the book has no clear protagonist, but a rotation of four characters- Deeti, Zachary, Neel, Paulette- generally receives the most narrative focus. To a lesser extent, Jodu, Kalua, and Baboo Nob Kissin also receive their own viewpoint sections.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has thirty-one viewpoint characters, some with more chapters than others, and switches between them every chapter. The TV series does the same. This is why none of the actors, not even the top-billed Peter Dinklage, ever submit for Lead Acting at the Emmys.
  • The Sound and the Fury has four viewpoint characters that each get equal time, and Faulkner has said that the actual "hero" of the story is Caddy, who is not given a viewpoint at all.
  • The Star Darlings franchise has 12 main girls, each with her own book, as well as several Starling adults and inhabitants of Earth.
  • L. M. Montgomery's A Tangled Web (1931) goes through many stories of the family members in the year before it is revealed who will finally inherit the most prized antique that Aunt Becky owned.
  • This is a central concept of Unique, in which the plot revolves between four different groups: Vampires, Werewolves, Magi, and Veiðimaðr (Hunters). Often the same scene will be retold multiple times, each time from the point of view of a different character - and things come across quite differently depending on whose point of view it is.
  • The Village Tales series has loads and loads of hyper-vibrant characters and no single protagonist – unless, perhaps, it is The Land Itself that is the protagonist.
  • Every Warrior Cats arc after the first focuses on a group of characters with roughly equal screentime and importance, with each of them getting various turning points and focal segments.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Afterparty: is a murder mystery comedy with each episode centered on a different suspect recounting events leading up to the murder "Rashomon"-Style.
  • Akavet: The twins Alma and Aske form the ensemble cast with their respective best friends Tone and Elias. Each following season adds at least one character to the ensemble.
  • 'Allo 'Allo!: Started with the focus on Rene, but the comedy hijinks and the sheer number of Once an Episode catchphrases necessitated the whole cast share the limelight (this is quite common with UK sitcoms, Red Dwarf, Are You Being Served?, Dad's Army, Mongrels et al all have an Ensemble to spread the weight and storylines).
  • Baywatch was described by David Hasselhoff as this.
  • Boohbah has this with the five Boohbahs, Humbah, Zumbah, Zing Zing Zingbah, Jumbah, and Jingbah, who are given completely equal focus in the series.
  • Caprica has about four characters who could be considered the main character - Daniel Greystone, Zoe Greystone, Joseph Adama and Clarice Willow.
  • Casualty: has a regular turnover of cast and no fixed stars so everyone gets a storyline.
  • Community, although the pilot introduces Jeff Winger as the protagonist and the episodes with Two Lines, No Waiting generally have Jeff working the A plot.
  • Criminal Minds rarely has ever had fewer than seven main characters. Notable exceptions were the episodes between Elle leaving and Prentiss joining, Gideon leaving and Rossi joining, and most of season six.
  • The CSI franchise shows are all described as ensemble casts.
  • Downton Abbey has at least fifteen characters spread out between "upstairs" (the Crawleys) and "downstairs" (their servants), and almost every one of them is involved in a personal plotline of some sort.
  • In Firefly, Captain Malcolm Reynolds is ostensibly the main character, although all of the characters get a significant amount of focus, and the River / Simon subplot is probably equally important to the main story overall.
  • Friends famously had six main characters. All six main characters appear in every single episode, with (usually) equally divided up screen time. The cast themselves insisted they be paid the same amount and each be concealable for Lead Role award nominations. At one point they even had a chart marking the number of lines and jokes each cast member got, to make sure it was even.
  • Game of Thrones had 43 names in the credits over the course of 8 seasons, divided between Three Lines, Some Waiting. (Of course, Anyone Can Die, so only 12 of them were in Season 1... and three were Promoted to Opening Titles in Season 2.) Notably, the show only received two Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor / Actress (both in Season 8), with every single nomination up until then (including Peter Dinklage's Once a Season nomination) being for Supporting. You could make the argument that the showrunners did this deliberately to obscure who The Protagonist was; you could also argue that they weren't sure themselves.
  • Glee started out focusing mostly on a few characters (mainly Rachel, Finn, and Mr. Shu), but as formerly minor characters were given subplots and background characters became actual characters, the glee club, most of the teachers, and some students from other schools are arguably main characters.
  • Happy Endings had an ensemble cast of inexact but lampshaded Friends expys who'd split up in groups of two or three for surreal hijinx.
  • Heartbeat originally focused on village bobby Nick Rowan, but as the cast changed and expanded, the show developed an Ensemble Cast.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street focused on a unit of homicide detectives, and gave each of them an equal amount of focus; each episode would generally have multiple plots, each following a different detective trying to solve a different case.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has five main characters- Frank, Charlie, Dennis, Mac and Dee. In any given episode any of them can be the Only Sane Man and any of them can be the focus of the episode.
  • At least on paper, Seamus O'Neill was the main character of Key West. And in the credits, it might have seemed that way. The truth was something entirely different, as O'Neill was actually very rarely the central character in any given storyline.
  • JAG, rather than focusing solely on Harmon Rabb and his female partner as in the first season, became an ensemble cast beginning in the second season. Even fairly minor characters had episodes putting them in the spotlight.
  • Legends of Tomorrow. In the first season, while Rip gets to give the opening narration and is ostensibly the leader, the actual amount of spotlight everyone gets tends to be split pretty evenly (unless you're Carter). From the second season onward, Rip was removed from the main cast, and the characters took turns doing the opening narration, cementing the show's ensemble status.
  • Lost is a borderline case. There is an Ensemble Cast, but Jack has a more central position than the rest (as was finally made clear in the last season). Just not enough to call him the "protagonist".
  • Matador is mainly about two families, but other characters (like servants, friends of the families) get a lot of screentime too.
  • Modern Family really doesn't have a main character, and focuses on all three branches of the family pretty much equally.
  • The Office (US) revolves around the entire staff of the Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch. Michael, Dwight, Jim, Pam, and Andy could be seen as the main characters but almost every character has at least one episode in the limelight.
  • Once Upon a Time has Emma as the lead protagonist, but all the primary characters, as well as some secondary and minor characters, get a good majority of screentime and each of their backgrounds are focal points throughout the series.
    • While Emma usually has the most prominent role in the present day storylines, she rarely has flashback episodes centered on her (the current rate is one every two years), while characters like Snow, Charming, and Regina average 3-4 a year, and Rumple, Belle, and (starting with Season 2) Hook are guaranteed at least one episode totally to themselves per season.
  • Orphan Black is an interesting borderline case. Although it's clear Sarah is the main protagonist, as the show evolved Alison, Cosima, Helena and even Rachel were given their own storylines that at times were completely independent of Sarah's. The case is interesting because all of the aforementioned characters were played by the same actress.
  • Oz has characters whom get at least one moment to shine, and in some cases their own story arcs. Even some of the extras play a major role in the plot a couple times.
  • Parenthood gives more or less equal focus to each of the four Braverman siblings, as well as their parents, spouses, and children.
  • Party of Five splits its focus evenly between its four starring actors.
  • Seinfeld: With its Surname Protagonist Title, it's obviously centered on Jerry Seinfeld, but as the show goes on and more focus is put on the roles of his surrounding friends (which often even extends to a web of recurring characters) the Jerry character himself becomes less of a protagonist and more as part of an ensemble. A noted early instance of this gradual shift in motion is in the season two episode "The Busboy"; an episode focused on both George and Elaine's problems and Jerry takes the backseat. This role of gradual less focus is lampshaded many times throughout the series, particularly in '"The Opposite" where Jerry points out how both his friends have switched roles and are having good (George) and bad (Elaine) things happening to them, meanwhile he remains to 'breaks even'.
  • While Servant of the People started off with one protagonist, it gained an ensemble cast in the eighth episode.
  • Stargate SG-1 and its spinoffs all have several main characters, and no single character is ever presented more prominently then any other. The casts of both SG-1 and Atlantis changed fairly often, with only a few characters being present throughout their entire runs.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was one of these. Unlike the other Trek series where the focus was firmly on The Captain, DS9 gave pretty much equal airtime and weight to all its characters from Rom on upwards.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation had a small recurring cast, and main focus was given to Picard, Riker and Data. The series gave each of its main characters focus episodes in later seasons.
  • UK police show Vexed changed the female lead for its second series, having originally planned to change the male lead as well. The first series comprised only three hour-long episodes, an extreme example of British Brevity.
  • The Umbrella Academy There's no single protagonist. Although Vanya's storyline is the most immediately plot-relevant, the surviving siblings all get their own focal plots and character arcs.
  • The West Wing turned into this despite initially being thought of as being a show about Sam Seaborn. Led to a lot of cast/pay trouble.
  • The Wheel of Time: While Rosamond Pike as Moiraine could be considered the central character, her, Lan, and the five from the Two Rivers are all equally considered the main characters as all of them get plenty equal of screen time.
  • The Wire seems at first to be about Jimmy McNulty, but how many characters it has and the fact that Jimmy barely shows up in season four makes it clear that it is actually about the city of Baltimore as a whole.

    Roleplay 
  • Exaggerated in a broad sense with NoPixel, which has no "main" character to speak of, but is an amalgation of hundreds of different characters interacting at any given moment. Also a subversion in that the "main" character at the moment could be considered whoever the viewer is watching at the time.note 

    Tabletop Games 
  • This trope is a standard for the vast majority of Tabletop RPGs, as they are expected to provide entertainment for all players, which usually includes giving all their characters a similar amount of spotlight. If it isn't in play, then either the game has a very atypical concept, or the GM is running it incorrectly.

    Theater 
  • Come From Away; justified in that it is based on real events. Every character portrayed has their own story to tell. Some characters were combined for dramatic purposes and also to cut down the sheer number of possible characters (for example, the "Make A Wish" kids are talked about but never appear).
  • Into the Woods: Many different characters of note weave in and out throughout the plot. The Baker is the closest thing to a protagonist and The Baker's Wife and The Witch are also seen as leading parts, with Cinderella and the dual role of The Narrator/Mysterious Man occasionally regarded as such as well, but focus shifts enough between all of them and the supporting roles for this trope to still be in play.
  • RENT: All the principle characters get their fair share of spotlight, with Mark, Roger, and Mimi more so than the others, but there's still no one central character among them.
  • La Ronde consists of ten scenes, with no character appearing in more than two scenes.
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream which splits focus between the interconnecting storylines of the young participants of a Love Dodecahedron, a group of amateur actors, and the magical fairies of the forrest, with no one in any of these groups who can be called the main character.
  • In Orpheus In The Underworld, while many Orpheus operas have a small cast of characters, this one goes all-out and brings in the many gods from Olympus, all with their own quirks.
  • You Can't Take It with You features a large cast of main characters, most of whom are present throughout the play. The plot centers on the romance between Alice and Tony, but their characters in execution are supporting ones, with the largest roles being Alice's Grandpa and her mother Penny. Even then, despite the size of Penny's role she has no more effect Character Development or impact on the plot than the supporting parts, and outside of a subplot, Grandpa only truly impacts the plot in the last scene.

    Video Games 
  • Even though ARMS has two clear mascots (Spring Man and Ribbon Girl) by necessity of marketing, the developers of the game have stated that "everyone is the protagonist" of the game. This was used by Masahiro Sakurai to justify Min Min getting in as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate over the two mascots, Spring Man also already in as an Assist Character.
  • Most of the horror in Danganronpa is because of this trope. Out of the 15 students, the only one that can be considered a main character in the first chapters is the player, and even that doesn't always mean that they're safe or going to stay until the end. This makes it very difficult to predict who will be murdered.
  • Ensemble Stars! technically has a protagonist in Anzu, but she's so much of a Vanilla Protagonist that she doesn't even speak (at best, the characters will repeat back something she apparently just said, but even this only usually happens once or twice a conversation). The main story also focuses primarily on Trickstar and their efforts to take down the student council. However, in the vast majority of the story, revealed through different gacha and event cards, all restrictions go out the window and all of the thirty-plus characters get their chance to be the star, each belonging to a number of different groups (at least an idol group, a club, and a class, and often another association too) and possessing a constellation of different relationships and histories with the other characters.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VI: some members of the ensemble (Terra and Celes in particular) do get more screen time and Character Development than others but it's a minor thing.
    • Final Fantasy XII: The Character Focus bounces all over the place, and its official protagonist was a last-minute addition in order to keep tradition.
    • Final Fantasy XIII was officially described as having Ensemble Cast for a while, then later marketed the game as being "the first Final Fantasy with a female main protagonist", prompting a good bit of the fandom to cry sexism. It didn't help that Lightning ended up having a bit of a Pinball Protagonist problem that caused her to often be overshadowed even with Character Focus on her in the greater franchise.
  • Megadimension Neptunia VII takes this approach. The first act mixes things up by featuring the two previous protagonists equally. The second gives each CPU their own independent but interconnecting sub-chapter. By the third, everyone has equal investment in the plot, and the story isn't afraid to switch perspectives or focus on the new characters who are driving the story. Neptune, who is completely aware she's supposed the be the series' main character, finds this existentially uncomfortable.
    "This is practically protagonist fraud at this point. I'll take this to court! I'll sue and I'll win!"
  • Super Smash Bros.: Subspace Emissary: Ultimately, the "star characters" are whoever you prefer to play as, since there's no real arc or characterization. Although the game does seem to feature Kirby, King Dedede and Meta Knight over the rest of the characters, especially given that the creator of Super Smash Bros., Masahiro Sakurai, is also the creator of the Kirby series.
  • While Yakuza formerly had Kazuma Kiryu as the main lead of the series, Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5 (as well as the non-canon Yakuza: Dead Souls) used other protagonists to convey stories about the people of Kamurocho and the Japanese criminal underworld. While Kiryu features in each ensemble, he is joined in these games by other characters, including (but not limited to) a Friendly Neighborhood Loan Shark, a Cowboy Cop, a Prison Escape Artist, and even Kiryu's own adopted daughter Haruka.
  • Sa Ga Frontier features seven (eight in the HD remaster) protagonists with differing, at times intersecting storylines, with the player encouraged to play through all of the stories. These characters include:
    • Red, a Henshin Hero known as "Alkaiser" who is on a quest to dismantle the criminal organization "Black X".
    • Blue, a mage-in-training on a quest to learn as much magic as he can for his destined final battle against his twin brother.
    • Emelia, a supermodel-turned-secret agent on a quest for revenge after being framed for her fiance's murder.
    • Lute, a free-spirited minstrel who finds himself caught up in a bloody war.
    • Asellus, a young woman who, through a life-saving blood transfusion, finds herself trapped between the world of humans and mystics.
    • Riki, a monster on a quest to find magic rings that can save his homeworld from destruction.
    • T260G, an amnesiac robot on a journey to recover their lost memories.
    • Fuse, a Cowboy Cop for the resident Space Police force.

    Web Animation 
  • AstroLOLogy stars a cast of Western Zodiac personifications. There's no one designated main character, and all thirteen of them get equal amounts of focus.
  • Inanimate Insanity has around 20 characters, each getting their fair share of screen time.
  • Red vs. Blue has nearly a dozen main characters, most of whom have had at least a short story focused on them. If the series has a central character, it'd be Church (who is arguably indirectly responsible for almost everything that happens to them), but there's plenty of time in the spotlight for everyone else.
  • RWBY: After Volume 4 transitions away from the Cast Herd set-up of Volumes 1-3, the show focusses on the main cast of heroes and villains, with secondary antagonists and allies appearing as the plot demands. The heroes consist of the protagonist Team RWBY, the deuteragonist Team JNPR, Qrow Branwen and Oscar Pine; the villains of Salem, her subordinates and Cinder's subordinates. Although Ruby Rose is technically the main character, all the heroes and villains get similar story time, and any allies that become part of story arcs are also given air time as if they're a main character.

    Webcomics 
  • Charby the Vampirate confuses some new readers because while the comic is named after Charby, he's only one of many main characters. The story tends to rotate focus through the characters.
  • Consolers, a comic about Anthropomorphic Personifications of game companies, is this by its nature. Any company can be a "main character" in their own strips and stories (though the "big 3" console creators tends to get most of the attention overall)
  • The Dragon Doctors split face time among the four protagonists so that none of them is THE protagonist, plus other characters such as Tanica (who spends the first fourteen chapters of the comic in the form of a TREE) get a ton of development and focus too.
  • Drowtales started off with focus on Ariel but the cast kept growing until there was 4-5 important story arcs running at the same time with equally important characters. Currently there was nearly a year where Ariel was never seen with more important plot lines hogging the pages. All those layers of plots of even greater importance that live in the background and probably will burst into foreground in the future.
  • El Goonish Shive tends to focus on groups of two or more more of the main 8 characters and a few supporting characters at a time.
  • Goblins divides its focus between three groups of characters: the titular sextet of Goblins (of which none can be accurately called the main character,) Dies Horribly and his fellows, and MinMax and Forgath, a pair of human adventurers. All three groups are given roughly equal screentime, despite one of them not consisting of any goblins at all.
  • Homestuck is the king of this trope, with over forty characters all being focused on at one time or another, with frequent perspective changes. John is supposedly the main character of the comic, and was the main focus of Acts 1 and 2, with Act 3 covering all four of the kids' perspectives, as well as the Exiles, although arguably focusing more on Jade than anybody else. Act 4 also focused on John, but was more of an ensemble than before. Act 5 Act 1 has the story told with 12 protagonists, but focusing on Karkat more than anybody else. Act 5 Act 2 is the best example, divided between 20 characters with no clear focus. Act 6 switches between the Alpha Kids but focuses mostly on Jane.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!—While Bob is the main character (at the very least, because his Weirdness Magnet status drives everything else), the supporting cast gets a lot of screen time. Molly, Galatea, Roofus, Rocko, Jean, and Voluptua have each had story arcs focusing on them.
  • Karin-dou 4koma: Comes with the Slice of Life nature of the comic. The series mostly revolves around Karin-dou and Elza's household, though.
  • morphe focuses on a group of five main characters with their friendly villain antagonist being given a large amount of spotlight too.
  • Mountain Time moves the spotlight around between many main characters, but also devotes a lot of comics to minor characters and one-offs. You'd have to read a lot of strips to know the main main characters even are.
  • PvP has no single "main character".
  • Rumors of War combines an Ensemble Cast with Rotating Protagonist (plus Two Lines, No Waiting and regular Time Skips) to create a Cast-Go-Round. The first and third Story Arcs mostly follow Elysia and Nenshe, while the second and (allegedly) fourth arcs follow Illyra and Occela. The characters also seem to spend a lot of time talking about things that happened in between the story arcs, with Obadai stepping in to provide advice and commentary.
  • Shiloh divides its focus between a gang of killers for hire and a team of cops on their trail.
  • Sire is a story about the descendants of classic literary characters and though the main story follows the Jekyll/Hyde-child, characters from Phantom of the Opera, String of Pearls, The Invisible Man and Jeeves and Wooster are majorly in focus once they are introduced.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent has no well defined protagonist, with six characters currently sharing the spotlight almost equally.
  • Tales of the Galli has a sprawling cast of over 30 characters, none of which are in the spotlight for long.

    Web Original 
  • The Descendants fields seven core characters with the focus in a given issue going to the older trio or either Warrick or Cyn. The others get plenty of face time too, as do the supporting cast, guest stars and the occasional villain will snag a starring role for an issue.
  • Dino Attack RPG has no one single protagonist due to the fact that the story is told by different players each writing from the perspective of their own character, though Rex would be the closest person to a protagonist, if only because he was the primary character of the RPG's host.
  • Hardly Working stars all of the members of the CollegeHumor editorial staff.
  • The Mario Party TV show features a revolving door of players and background commentators. Some are more popular than the others, though.
  • Noob gives equal importance to all the members the guild had during the two first seasons of the webseries, the first novel and four fist comics. Once recruited, Ivy becomes a fifth member of the ensemble. The Justice guild main roster eventually became a Deuteragonist ensemble.
  • The Penumbra Podcast:
    • Season three of the Juno Steel stories opens up to focus on the crew of the Carte Blanche, where previously it had just been Juno's perspective.
    • The Tales from the Second Citadel episodes has a much larger cast who take turns sharing the spotlight.
  • While Unwell Podcast's first season focuses on Lily, season two onwards begins giving as much focus to the other residents of Fenwood House.
  • Void Domain has Eva as the main protagonist. Despite her title, she shares screen time with just about every other member of the cast. She even went without a single segment dedicated to her for a span of about twenty chapters, and promptly vowed revenge against the one who stole her spotlight in the author's note for that book.
  • Every member of Team Kimba or Outcast Corner is a main character in the Whateley Universe, with now at least half a dozen more main characters added in. Every one of these is a protagonist of his or her own storyline.

    Western Animation 
  • 3-2-1 Penguins! has six main characters, Jason, Michelle, Zidgel, Midgel, Fidgel, and Kevin. Ron Smith even stated in one episode commentary that there isn't one main protagonist.
  • Arthur arguably qualifies as one, with each episode focusing on a specific character. While primarily focusing on seven core charactersnote , there is also a large supporting cast who get their episodes in the spotlightnote  and even a few minor characters who get the occasional episode, like former Living Prop Maria. Arthur’s parents and Mr. Ratburn are also very important characters, although rarely are they the focus of individual episodes.
  • BoJack Horseman starts off with the focus on the titular BoJack, his issues, growing depression and attempts at becoming famous again, with the other characters being part of his narrative. As of Season 2, while still being the main character, BoJack's issues take a backseat, giving Princess Carolyn, Todd, Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane time to deal with their own problems and start their own plot lines and share about the same amount of screen time if not more than BoJack depending on the episode.
  • Code Lyoko: The five main characters all get their share of focus and not one of them can be said to be the main character, though Aelita is the most central to the Myth Arc.
  • Drawn Together splits the screen time fairly evenly between each of the 8 housemates.
  • Hey Arnold! can definitely qualify as this, particularly in the later seasons. While the titular character, Arnold, appears in every episode, he has next to nothing to do with a lot of the stories of the show. It's not uncommon for him to have less than one minute of screentime. And while the series does have a certain (and rather large) "circle" of characters that appear very frequently note , there are sometimes episodes revolving around minor side characters, like Mr. Green, the Jolly Olly Man, Chocolate Boy, Dino Spumoni, and Big Patty. There are also several episodes centered around eccentric one-shots, like Monkeyman, Stoop Kid and Pigeon Man. Really, it's easier to pinpoint which characters didn't get A Day in the Limelight.
  • The Justice League cartoon. Superman was sort of "The Leader", or at least the League's public face, but he was never more or less likely to be an episode's main character than any of the original seven. Then the show went Heroes Unlimited in its later seasons (titled Justice League Unlimited).
  • Kaeloo: Even though the show is named after its protagonist, Kaeloo, all the main four get equal amounts of attention in the show.
  • The Loud House: While the show originally began with Lincoln as the main character, it has shifted towards this format starting with season 2, giving the other characters their Day in the Limelight episodes.
  • Mixels has all the Mixels making up the protagonists. While sometimes characters are defined as "main" ones for the episodes, none of them are the leads of the entire series, with the only solidified pieces being the Nixels as all-around antagonists.
  • Monster Buster Club: There are four main characters who get roughly equal spotlight.
  • My Little Pony:
  • On Ready Jet Go!, Jet is definitely the main character, but Jet, Sean, Sydney, Mindy, Sunspot, Carrot, Celery, and Face 9000 (or "the Core Eight") all get episodes focused on them.
  • The main six in Recess all get equal screentime. The creators said they wanted to do this to avoid the show becoming "The Gretchen Show", "The Gus Show", "The Spinelli Show", etc. Though in the movie, TJ becomes The Protagonist.
  • Shaolin Wuzang: There are three protagonists, all of whom get equal focus throughout the series.
  • South Park: The show gives each of the four main boys an equal amount of focus. As time passed by it would expand its focus to other residents from the titular town. They range from other children aside from the four boys to even the adults of South Park, including the parents of the four boys.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: While the titular sponge is clearly the focus of the show, there are ten main characters who (particularly in the more recent seasons) get a good amount of episodes all about them individually.
  • Teen Titans also did well with balancing its ensemble of five protagonists, each of whom got several episodes focusing on them individually. And each of them (aside from Starfire) was the focus of a seasonal story arc; Robin in Season 1, Beast Boy in Season 2, Cyborg in Season 3, and Raven in Season 4. However, Season 5 instead had a story arc about expanding the Teen Titans to include dozens of new heroes around the world.
  • Since the series is based on reality shows, each Total Drama season has several protagonists who serve as the focus characters of the season amongst the larger group of contestants. You can usually identify them by how far they make it into the season. In Island, it was Gwen, Duncan, and Geoff; Action had Harold, Beth, and Duncan (again); World Tour was Heather, Cody, and Courtney; Revenge of the Island followed Mike, Zoey, and Cameron; All-Stars was Gwen, Mike, Zoey, and Courtney; and Pahkitew Island was Shawn and Sky.
  • Thomas & Friends, despite the boost to title character for Thomas, narrated the stories from The Railway Series rather accurately and thus several engines got near or equal spotlight as him. As the show separated itself from the novels however, more demand was made for Thomas focused stories (for both the show and the books), making him more the central character, though the other engines tend to still get lead roles on a frequent basis. There were even a few episodes where Thomas himself has little more than a cameo, sometimes not even appearing at all.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: The show started off as this, with focus being exchanged between the Voltron team members, though Shiro was often seen as the main character because of his role as leader, but he had about the same amount of focus as the other characters of the group. As the seasons go on, this starts to get subverted as Shiro, Keith and Allura become the clear protagonists of the story, with the latter two in particular getting most of the spotlight, while Pidge, Lance and Hunk fall Out of Focus very often.
  • X-Men: Evolution, which spends most of its time on the original students, with the mentors and even new recruits getting a sizable chunk of the time, too.
  • Young Justice from the get go. In the pilot episode it was just Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Superboy, though by the end of the season Miss Martian, Artemis, Zatanna, and Red Arrow were firmly apart of the ensemble. Season 2 goes even further, by adding over ten new main characters to the ensemble, on top of the original eight.


Alternative Title(s): Multiple Protagonists

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