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Character driven vs. Story driven anime
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34 / F / California
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Posted 12/19/14
Here is a theory that came to me:

Character driven anime is good at hooking you and holding your interest, but often has disappointing endings. While story driven anime is usually harder to get into, but has a more satisfying resolution because of the focus on story. Having the two together is what makes the 'best' anime so good.

Examples:

My HiME and Samurai Deeper Kyo both have an awesome and charismatic cast of characters, and both held my interest all the way through and then let me down in the end. SDK manga is way better than the anime, but both have disappointing endings.

Twelve Kingdoms has a great story, but only one character who I really liked (Enki.) The beginning was confusing and not very engaging, but sticking through it resulted in a very satisfying story. To the point it was told at least...

The last category is obviously the most challenging to make, and has the fewest number of contenders. But I think both Cowboy Bebop and Trigun are so strong because they have great characters and a good story.

I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks...
Posted 12/19/14 , edited 12/19/14

jutsuri wrote:



My HiME
and Samurai Deeper Kyo both have an awesome and charismatic cast of characters, and both held my interest all the way through and then let me down in the end. SDK manga is way better than the anime, but both have disappointing endings.



That was the show I had in mind when entering this topic. To be honest, I prefer character driven. I prefer character chemistry - I feel it should be required for a good story. See the subtle things in White Album 2 --- the story is generic as it gets, but the show had characters that I actually felt were very realistic.

For My HiME - without getting into technical details - it is about girls materializing beasts to fight for them. It certainly is, much more than that and someone more eloquent could explain, but it is the character interactions that make me return to the show. I'm looking at my 7 DVD set in my disc binder as I type this :3.


I don't want to say something that doesn't lack either, but it is possible to have a mix of both. The one I have in mind is very much character driven, featuring one main character, but it tells the story of her life on a topic everyone can relate to. A mix of both is ideal, but sometimes (often) one doesn't get that - at least I don't.
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49 / M / KC
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Posted 12/19/14
I think it's more character-drive vs plot-driven; both have stories, but different focuses.

And I disagree in terms of satisfying endings. That really depends on the nature of the story. On the other hand, character-driven stories often like to examine the darker side of human nature so that might be why you are unsatisfied with these types of endings.
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Posted 12/19/14
Characters are what drive anime for me. I generally do not watch anime for story, the reason being that Japanese storytelling tends to have a philosophy of "the journey is more important than the destination" (i.e. the endings are usually shite). There are exceptions to this, of course, but they tend to be rare (in my experience).


kawaiisugiru wrote:
See the subtle things in White Album 2 --- the story is generic as it gets, but the show had characters that I actually felt were very realistic.


And this would be a favorite example of mine. I love WA2.
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25 / M / This Dying World
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Posted 12/19/14
whar Shows with neither?
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Posted 12/19/14 , edited 12/19/14
I think it would nearly impossible for a show to be both character driven and story driven since basically they characters and story drive the show respectively.
And actually there are a couple of charcter driven anime I know of that have wonderful endings (i.e. Little Busters: Refrain, Kanon, Clannad: After Story, and Air.) Also there's more but I can't of them right now
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Posted 12/19/14
Hunter X Hunter had both :3. Especially during the Chimera Ant Arc. There was a shitload of character development and beautiful story unfolding in every episode.

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Posted 12/19/14

deadpanditto wrote:

I think it's more character-drive vs plot-driven; both have stories, but different focuses.

And I disagree in terms of satisfying endings. That really depends on the nature of the story. On the other hand, character-driven stories often like to examine the darker side of human nature so that might be why you are unsatisfied with these types of endings.


I agree with you that 'plot' would have been a better word to use than 'story'.

However the darkness of an ending has little to do with how satisfying I find it. I felt that the end of Madoka was perfect (the series, haven't seen the movie yet) and I had no problems with the endings of Basilisk, or Berserk. It's more about an expectation of some sort of resolution or payoff that didn't come. Without getting into spoilers I thought that there would be repercussions for the girls in My HiME and wasn't happy with the deux ex machina ending. I felt the ending of the Kyo anime left too much unexplained, and the manga was kind of a fizzle (plus, I really waned to see at least one kiss.)

I don't mind if an ending is sad, in fact I think the best endings are always bittersweet. It's more about different plot lines coming together to be tied up in a satisfying resolution. I don't like endings that are too clean, don't resolve anything, or just lack depth, I want to feel like the trials and tribulations of the characters accomplished something.
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Posted 12/19/14

AnimeKami wrote:

whar Shows with neither?


I felt that particular type of show wasn't worth mentioning...
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Posted 12/19/14

jutsuri wrote:
It's more about an expectation of some sort of resolution or payoff that didn't come.


I think that's the core of things. People's preferences and experience may explain your theory. When it comes time to watch a show, we start to expect certain progressions. When those don't occur, we get disappointed. But I think that's true of both character-driven and plot-driven stories.

Frankly, I don't think the story type is inherently tied to disappointment. I suspect you've formed your theory simply because you've watched more character-driven stories.

Let's suppose that shows can be placed on a bell curve in terms of quality. In other words, there are very few great shows, very few truly terrible ones, and most shows being mediocre to average. However, I believe more character-driven shows get produced as opposed to plot-driven ones. Characters, imo, are a driving force for sales in Japan. So, I think there is an equal(ish) percentage of disappointment for both character-driven and plot-driven story types, but since you watch more of one as opposed to the other, you've come up with your theory.


jutsuri wrote:
I don't mind if an ending is sad, in fact I think the best endings are always bittersweet. It's more about different plot lines coming together to be tied up in a satisfying resolution. I don't like endings that are too clean, don't resolve anything, or just lack depth, I want to feel like the trials and tribulations of the characters accomplished something.


Totally agree with this.
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Posted 12/19/14 , edited 12/19/14
The way I see it, a character-driven anime puts it's characters in a situation and allows events to develop based on how the characters would act in that situation. A story-driven anime is more concerned with showing a particular situation and particular events and will bend or change it's characters as required to suit it's needs. I'm not sure if they're alternatives so much as points on the same scale, with most shows having elements of both and aiming to be true to the characters and tell the story they want to at the same time.

I'd say story-driven is more common because it's probably easier to write. In a character-driven show you might have difficulty keeping things entertaining while staying true to the characters and the audience needs to be invested in the characters to enjoy it.

I tend to prefer character-driven anime because I tend to watch for the characters rather than the story. I often like shows that some people say have "no story", such as Hidamari Sketch and the like. I'll watch a story-driven show if I like the characters in it but I'm more likely to get frustrated when someone acts seemingly out of character to push the story on.


jutsuri wrote:


I'd actually say My HiME was more story than character-driven by my definitions. I felt that the later episodes set the character's personalities aside to have the story go where they wanted. It ignored certain character traits and missed opportunities to make interesting observations about them and instead followed a "storyline". I also kind of liked the ending, though probably because I didn't like the build up as much.

I didn't really like Samurai Deeper Kyo but I'd probably agree that it had good potential in it's characters (I've only seen the anime). Again though, I wonder if the story it wanted to tell didn't get in the way a bit.

I'd actually say Twelve Kingdoms is more of a balanced show, or maybe even character-driven. I felt that the events generally made sense and seemed true to what the characters would do. To compare to My HiME, both have a character that "loses their way" but in Twelve Kingdoms I thought it felt like a natural development while My HiME's character seemed to suffer from sudden insanity.

I'd probably agree about Trigun but with Cowboy Bebop being more episodic and mostly about the journey of the characters I'm not sure I could call it story-driven.

It's interesting that our two definitions end up with such different results.

As for endings, I like to get some resolution for the characters or at least have an idea of how things will go for them in the future. I don't usually worry too much about seeing everything resolved but I do like to at least feel like I understand how things have changed and what the future might hold. It's rare for an ending to have a major influence on how much I like a show, at worst I'd probably just choose an "ending" for myself and ignore the actual ending. If I didn't like the show anyway then a good ending isn't likely to change my opinion either.
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Posted 12/19/14
There can't be an anime both plot and character driven?
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Posted 12/19/14

AnimeKami wrote:

whar Shows with neither?


That's porn... >.>
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Posted 12/19/14
Character driven: Most of the plot is irrelevant. Examples: Lord of the Rings. (This was mostly about the landscapes and the verdant fields and the flowers atop the fields and the particular color of the flowers in the verdant fields atop the rolling hills of hobbittown <---- shoot me. :P)

Character driven stories tend to be about the internal conflict and change within the character, or spend a lot of time developing character, over putting much into plot.

Plot driven stories are like Bleach, Fairytail, etc. They are there to tell you a story. They're about trying to show you who did what, how they did it, what happened, etc.

Cowboy Bebop is a great example of a series that was primarily plot driven, but on an overally basis might be arguably character driven, due too its ending, the changes in this characters through the more serious episodes, (which in themselves where more character driven when telling the story of say, Faye's past, or the episodes with Spike and Julia).

So, at least, it is somewhat possible to have both.

Having neither, on the other hand, is impossible. Without conflict (either exterior, as is plot driven stories, or interior, in character driven stories, you simply don't have a plot, and therefore do not have a story.)

Personally, I need some of both. And I prefer SLIGHTLY more plot driven than character. The characters are the interest, the plot has the holding power.

Posted 12/19/14
I prefer character driven when it comes to light hearted series. Some of the funniest animes I've seen have been mostly due to characters. Watamote, despite being only a 6/10, was very funny due to Tomoko Kuroki. Another is Ichigo Mashimaro. I mean, Miu Matsuoka is so cute.
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