- Author's Saving Throw: Karna, an Honor Before Reason servant to the wicked Duryodhana, was cursed by his guru Parashurama to have the mantras that he learned fail him. The reason? Karna outed himself as a kshatriya (which even he did not know) while Parashurama was resting on his lap and an insect bit Karna, drawing blood. Later on, in the Mahabharata, Parashurama comes to Karna in a vision and explains that his death by said curse is fated, and that if Duryodhana wins then evil will fall on the land. This allows Karna to Face Death with Dignity, so it could be a form of Let Them Die Happy.
- Character Tiers: It's not all that clear, but general trends are set. Pandavas are more heroic than most heroes, with Arjuna being the greatest of them all, but are outmatched by Bhishma. And of course even they cannot hope to be on equal footing with Krishna. And somehow, Karna is stronger than Krishna, and in fact stronger than pretty much everything in existence.
- Designated Hero: Yuddhistira. Not only does he gamble away his kingdom, his brothers and their common wife, he also gambles AGAIN, loses *a second time* and is exiled for twelve years. Yet, he is called "Dharmaraj" or the upholder of dharma. This is justified; see I Gave My Word.
- Family-Unfriendly Aesop: The whole thing can be interpreted as dharma is a stupid, erratic concept that will screw you over and favour the evil. Perhaps more charitably, Krishna's entire message to the Pandavas is to be good, but not Stupid Good.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Since the Javanese version contained several changes, some characters get a gigantic boost of popularity in Indonesia:
- Ghatotkacha (renamed Gatotkaca) got turned from a normal Gentle Giant who's otherwise not that important to the story into a superhero-esque figure, with local popularity comparable to that of Heracles/Hercules or Superman
- Shikhandi had his Gender Flip removed and became known as Srikandi, most Indonesians revere her as their Ur-Example of mythical Action Girl, to the point that her name became the epithet of 'really remarkable and honorable woman' in Indonesia/Java.
- In normal cases of liking Mahabharata in Indonesia, this is also why that sometimes, it's not that rare you see someone in Indonesia literally having the name Arjuna in his name, being considered Awesome Mc Coolname
- Iron Woobie:
- Karna. Abandoned by his mother, fights on the wrong side for the most honorable possible reasons and gets screwed out of his life for "lying" about his caste. Shoot the Shaggy Dog is Older Than They Think, though he gets honored AFTER dying.
- Also, Abhimanyu. A sixteen year old warrior prodigy who dies fighting his father's war, and had to be cornered by several of the greatest Kaurava warriors before kicking the bucket.
- Ekalavya. Despite being low-caste, trains himself as a warrior to rival Arjuna by eavesdropping on Drona's lessons. Then willingly and dutifully obliges when Drona asks him for his thumbs in payment.
- Moral Event Horizon:
- Guru Drona asking for tribal boy Ekalavya's thumb as a guru dakshina, so that Ekalavya is no longer the best archer and Arjuna could pass the former. It's hard to sympathize with Drona after that, especially when he refuses to teach lower caste boys like Karna for fear of history repeating itself.
- At Duryodhana's command, an innocent woman is stripped naked and sexually assaulted in public. Only a handful of his allies object to it, and everyone else just watches and jeers. When Yuddhistira hesitates to fight Anti-Villains like Karna and Bhishma, it is the memory of that which inspires him to do so.
- During the Kurukshetra War, it was the ganging up on Abhimanyu when no one could defeat him in single combat. After this event, both sides routinely ignore their own laws and customs of war.
- The Kauravas crossed into the horizon when they plotted to trick the Pandavas into sleeping in a vacation house surreptitiously built out of wax, and then setting that wax house ablaze.
- Unintentionally Sympathetic: The Kaurava side did have quite a few Punch-Clock Villain kings and princes who only fought alongside Duryodhana because of long-standing treaties.
- Karna was abandoned by his mother, raised as a low caste charioteers son, was taught the arts of battle craft by Parshurama who intentionally wanted to only teach non-Kshatriyas, and had completed his training. And yet, he was cursed to forget all he learned at the most inopportune time because he displayed a great deal of bravery and pain resistance that his teacher assumed only Kshatriyas were capable of. He is then openly insulted as a charioteers son not worthy of fighting by the Pandavas, rejected by Draupadi for that same reason even after hes been bequeathed a kingdom, but he still has a reputation as a steadfastly loyal friend of Duryodhana, who was the only one to look past hislow status, as well as a reputation for unconditional generosity. Indra and Krishna take advantage of his generosity by asking him to give up his Armor of Invincibility. That said, he did encourage the sexual assault on Draupadi, even calling her a prostitute, he took part in the hanging up on Abhimanyu (to save the Kauravas from annihilation from single combat) and he did fire an arrow into the open air in frustration, causing it to strike and kill a helpless sacred cow.
- Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
- The Pandava brothers, especially Arjuna. Arjuna as a kid wanted to be the best archer, which his guru Drona promised he would become, and he complained when a tribal boy Ekalavya surpassed him. Not to mention that he mocks Karna, a "charioteer's son," for being of a lower caste. They are shocked when they learn that Karna is their brother after the battle, and Arjuna afterward Took a Level in Kindness, but still!
- Bhima is quite a bully to the Kaurava that they attempted to poison and drown him when they were young. He insulted Karna the hardest for being a charioteer's son, laughed the hardest when Duryodhana falls in a pond and Draupadi insulted both Duryodhana and his father, his murder of Durshasana is so brutal his own allies got horrified, and he stomps on Duryodhana's head even after he's already defeated by Bhima breaking the duel's rule. After all of those, he then proceeds to insult Dristharastra to the point of him and the rest of the Kuru elders exiling themselves, even after he and Ghandari had forgiven him (after a small bout of anger) for killing all 100 Kauravas and Yuddhistira has made it a point not to. That said Bhima's romance with Hidimba and being Good Parents to Ghatotkacha does redeem him in the eyes of some readers.
- Yudhisthira is supposed to be The Hero and The Good King but this is seen by many readers as Informed Ability on account of him being within the story The Gambling Addict milquetoast, his Honor Before Reason approach to Dharma, and generally being less than chivalrous to Draupadi as compared to Bhima and Arjuna. He's generally regarded as The Load of the Pandava brothers compared to Bhima, Arjuna, Kunti, Krishna and Draupadi, though scholars generally see him as a tragic figure.
YMMV / Mahabharata