Archetypes
By Rio

Archetypes? Yes, archetypes. Unlike stereotypes which are localised personality types, archetypes are universal characters that have mass recognizability across any culture. In this article, I'll be talking about universal character archetypes plus taking that archetype and making it "manga".

Universal archetypes have a seven basic archetypes with a select few more often used and familiar than others. These archetypes does not necessarily have to be human. They can be animate or inanimate, animals or aliens, young or old. I'll be addressing the "Hero" as a "he" to save on any h/she, his/her semantic. The 7 Archetypes are:

  • Hero - The protagonist of the story. Usually courageous, a leader, righteous, and determined. Goku from Dragon Ball Z, for example, fits the Hero mold.

  • Mentor - As the name suggests, Mentors take on the role of teacher and guide the hero to become more than what he was to fulfill his quest. A Mentor would be Luna from Sailor Moon.

  • Threshold Guardian - An adversary who tests the courage, strength, intelligence, or other trait of the hero but is not the main villian nor the villians underlings. Since no manga threshold guardian comes to mind, RPGs are filled with threshold guardians whom you have to battle first before they help you.

  • Herald - A herald is someone who says what the hero has done or carries messages for the hero. Unfortunately, no herald archetype comes to mind in manga.

  • Shapeshifter - The one who is not what he seems on the outside. Typical shapeshifters are double agents, and those with private motives. Haku from Spirited Away, for instance, is a shapeshifter in multiple levels. For one, he aids Chihiro but he is Yubaba's "henchman" and for another, at first glance, he appears to be human but that is proved otherwise in the end.

  • Shadow - The dark side of our personality. The shadow is the villian that must be overcome whether it is within another or within the hero himself. Shadow-types include Kenshin as the Battousai in Rurouni Kenshin and it's recurring temptation to manifest itself once again.

  • Trickster - Mischievous and often humourous characters whom the hero cannot rely on as the trickster tends to act unpredictably such as switching sides. Xellos of Slayers is a well known trickster who aids his companions but makes some moves that are erratic.
  • These universal archetypes may be mixed together such as a Mentor and Trickster. Not only that, archetypes must become realistic with a semblance of their history, actions, and reactions to situations. Even their manner of speech from drawling, accents, slang, and so forth becomes a part of who they are.

    The funny thing about manga is that they bend the rules. Hero's for instance, may have a quirk from being domestically challanged (ex/ can't cook to save their life) to being physically impaired (ex/ changes into a girl with a mere splash of cold water) that foils the traditional "hero" ideal. This, though, is what makes manga personable than other stories - readers can relate to those imperfections.

    Of course, not all manga present the quirky side but stick to the more traditional archetypal roles such as Nausicaa. This of course all boils down to your own personal choice of creating traditional characters or more queer ones that fits the story. But, if your story calls for it - mix the two if you want. Manga does bend the rules, after all. ;)