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Swimming with the Current

April 20th, 2006

Benchmarks for characters @ 07:49 pm

assyrian deserves a response to her question... what do I mean by benchmarch.

Benchmarks are certain qualities, to me, which measure how a character is portrayed. This is really evident in shoujo series (I'm thinking of magical girls). There's certain events/characteristics which will be unveiled. It's why we'll see certain cliches... I'm thinking of the magical girl dying, coming back to life through to joy of friendship/love. Sometimes the deaths may be more metaphorical than others, but the basic idea is there.

It's almost like a checklist. You can say "yep, it's there!" as soon as you finally see it. I would probably use it interchangably with her term "markers" except that often times there's a progressive development/realization. For example, in Hikago, we see the benchmark of Hikaru accepting his destiny. IE - it's when he decides to play Akira. He's got these talents of his own, and wants to work on his own abilities. It's like when the hero casts aside whatever crutch they've been using (magical sword, powerful friend) and fights on their own.

A benchmark is often used for certain types of characters to help set the archetype - like the reluctant villain. It's when you see the bad guy admitting he's got to be evil since there's a role that needs to be filled (I'm thinking Elphaba in the musical Wicked right now, but I KNOW there's a couple anime guys who're RIGHT ON THE TIP OF MY TONGUE who fits this mold). The benchmarks can be really minor things, including character "markers."

There's certain benchmarks which, unless there's a great turnabout, that characters are going to hit. Example: Ryoma IS going to beat Tezuka (I know he did in the anime, I haven't heard of it happening in the manga since I fell out of love after Rikkai's arc), Naruto IS going to surpass Sasuke (Not sure exactly what form this is going to take, but I'm sure there's going to be some smack-down fight involved) and Ichigo IS eventually going to overcome Aizen. Those are major benchmarks for the "shonen hero" archetype. All three are built off the basic loner! hero! mold, although their subset of archetype is slightly different.

Sometimes I think it would be very cool to have some binomial nomenclature for archetype. Example: Genus Hero, Species: Rebel.... oh, we could have a heck of a lot of fun with it.

I do agree that Tenipuri characters lack definition to become true archetypes in many cases, but that's just because Konomi isn't that great a writer. The last time I truly loved him was 100 chapters ago, with the Yagyuu/Niou switch.

However, Konomi's lack of depth does create a stronger fanon for it (and a more heavily defined fanon which Must Be Obeyed). Without strong authorial support, fanon is more likely to be seen as canon. And since fans like the familiarity of archetypes (see my previous entry), many of the Tenipuri characters are cast into these roles with little canon evidence.

I think I saw someone mention Kishimoto has incorporated part of fanon into his canon. Now I try to imagine JK Rowling doing it, and I laugh. While I may think JK needs work on stylistic elements in her writing, I do admit she's created a very colorful world.
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Swimming with the Current