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Author Topic: Why Must Characters Change?  (Read 5464 times)

Offline Tamashii

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Why Must Characters Change?
« on: September 21, 2005, 12:39:12 PM »
It doesn't quite fit under Anime, since this applies to any kind of medium such as books, movies, etc.

An interesting question was raised in a bash-filled forum on the IMDb: Why must characters develop or change? I've asked myself this several times but have never found an example in a movie, anime, or manga where the characters truly did not develop and still be a great character...until Cidade de Deus or City of God. Many of the characters, Buscape, Ze, Bene, did not change much or at all throughout the movie, and still, they are fantastic, realistic, and dynamic.

So then why must people, especially certain reviewers, emphasize on character development? Could something be seen as having great characters and yet the characters remain static throughout?

My take is: it depends. There are factors such as the nature of the story and the themes that determine whether a character, especially the lead roles, remain static or develop. Say, for example, a story about the Holocaust, with a female lead. She is naive and weak. Suddenly trapped in a small city of Germany with a significant Jewish population, she must fight her way out...and thus, she must change. It is hard to believe that the character can go through a ton of crap and yet remain static. Another factor is the character themself. Is she/he interesting? Is there something unique about them that makes it all right that they do not change because if they change, that uniqueness will vanish? This comes right out of City of God--Little Ze is a monster in the beginning and a monster in the end, but that quality makes him realistic, more human than being a monster at the start and then transforming into an angel in the end. This applies to Ze yet does not apply to other villains because Ze's portrayal is convincing. The actor did a good job leveling Ze to a plane where the audience can see why and how Ze as a person can exist through emotion, mannerisms, and dialogue. Characters can be strong, intelligent, mentally ill, nasty, or even sadistic, but they must be interesting. I think that in the end, whether they need to develop or not depends on their personality, action, spoken words, and idiosyncrasy.

Discuss.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2005, 12:43:01 PM by Tamashii »

Offline Kuma

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Why Must Characters Change?
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2005, 04:12:49 PM »
There's a reason that I stress character development so much in my reviews, characters that change are a lot more interesting to watch than characters who don't change.  The only time I can think of that character development isn't important is in character-based comedies such as Slayers, which are funny because they show the same old characters acting goofy in a bunch of different ways.  There shouldn't be character development that is unreasonable or there just for the sake of having character development, but it needs to be there in some form.  It's okay for a character to be a psycho for an entire anime, but at the end the character should be more or less of a psycho than he was at the beginning.  If the events of the plot aren't potent enough to change the characters, then the anime has a weak plot.  If the characters don't change after experiencing shocking events then the characters aren't realistic.  Consider Wolfwood, *Trigun spoiler ahead*


They could have easily let him end the series as he was in the beginning and that would have been plausible, but by causing him to undergo such a drastic change in a single episode and die at the end he became one of the most memorable characters in anime, at least for me.

The one thing I do hate is when you get to see a "bad-guy's" background and find out that he wasn't always bad, but something that happened to him made him bad.  No matter how you slice it, this comes off as an attempt to justify evil actions.  Ick.

Offline Tamashii

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Why Must Characters Change?
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2005, 07:41:07 PM »
To some extent, this is a matter of opinion and taste. But one must know when a character should "most definitely" change and when they should "most definitely not" change. A character that is just too interesting to start with, say, Hamdo from Now and Then, Here and There, must not change. His personality (and in turn, his actions) was essential as a driving force to propel the theme of 'corruption' and 'the impact of the individual' (a little bit jargon-ish, sorry). Of course, Lil' Ze is also a good example of why some characters cannot change. I could argue that these characters would, in the end, be more interesting and satisfying if they stayed 'the same'. But it is, again, a matter of opinion.

The 'justifying evil' with a specific motive or inherent flaw (emphasized through the anecdotal dosages of background) gives the audience a better feel for the character and can, instead of alienating the audience, develop a connection between them and the character. Most of people would just root for the hero and boo down the villain, but if people can understand the villain, perhaps there would be more empathy. I do agree that sometimes it does sound trite. But when it's done well, it's all good. "Well, I'm evil because I just am" does not sound as interesting as, "Well, I'm evil because I was castrated thrice."

Offline Kuma

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Why Must Characters Change?
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2005, 05:51:33 AM »
Funny you should mention Hamdo, because I almost used him in my post.  However, I'm glad you did use him, because he does change IMO.  He is more psycho at the end of NTHT than he was at the beginning.  Granted, if Hamdo became a saint it would be ludicrously stupid.  I have no idea what you're trying to say with Ze, because I haven't seen City of God.  A different example might help.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't find out anything about a villain's past.  I'm just saying that the past shouldn't be brought up in a way to, on any level, justify the villain's actions.  Gendo is a perfect example of how you can have a deep "villain" without justifying his darker actions.  Or there are shows like FMA when it's up to you to decide who the "bad guys" are.  I haven't seen the entire show yet, but I hope Scar kills those filthy alchemists ;)

Offline C0MPL3X

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Why Must Characters Change?
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2005, 07:50:12 AM »
Quote from: kuma
I'm not saying that we shouldn't find out anything about a villain's past. I'm just saying that the past shouldn't be brought up in a way to, on any level, justify the villain's actions.

Heh, I agree, its amazing how lame it feels when villain suddenly tells us his 'o sad story' and claims 'u see! this is why i must go on and kill all of u!'. Sigh.


Heh~I would think that Hamdo didn't change at all. Sure, he does go more psycho at the end. But has he learned anything different? Has he been touched at his heart to change how he perceives/responds to the world? My answer is no. Hamdo we see at the end is the same Hamdo we have seen throughout the series, that same Hamdo who has been pushed to the extremes.

And as an amateur when it comes to viewing a literature, I have a question. I've noticed that kuma is equating character development to character change (and therefore saying that a character that has a lot of character development in the show has undergone a lot of change in character). I don't know how this can make sense. Let's take Sarah and Hamdo for example (ntht spoiler obviously).

Hamdo is an example of a great character development, yet no change in character. What we see in the beginning is a very paranoid dictator, his mind bordering on the line between the field of sanity and insanity. From then, the show builds up on this character. Next we see Hamdo giving no flying f*ck about other people, we then know his complex mind is able to convince himself, that he is a rightful ruler (which is shown when he passionately speaks about vegeance after the war, fires fueling the soldiers rage as we see their dying hands burning to crisp, which just comes to show, Hamdo is more than capable of manipulation) yet be aware of the fact that he is relying on that woman (i forgot her name...the commander 2nd in charge), afraid of her betrayal thus leading to his downfall.
Now, this is character development. Building on the character. But hang on, we're getting new insights on his character, so why is this not considered as a character change, or should it be? Well, simply, he hasn't changed. It's not like any events in the show forced Hamdo to reconsider his position when it comes to looking at certain issues, the reality, or there was a person who touched him somehow and changed him to care for others, etc.

Sarah on the other hand, undergoes a great amount of change (and of course, character development along with it too). What we see in the beginning is a weak helpless girl who is afraid of what is going to happen to her next. Then we are given a brief background of her character (character development). After the rape, she changes. Bestial sides of humanity drives her to the edge, committing murder, something she'd NEVER have done as her previous civilised self. Then she cuts her beautiful hair, stare at them disappearing out of her sight amidst the twinkling stars on the night sky. Its anyone's guess what she was thinking/feeling when she was doing this but one thing for sure, she is NOT the same Sarah we saw from the beginning. Same goes for the later Sarah who has grown to appreciate being alive (deciding not to abort her child and staying behind to build a new future).


I hope i didn't go offtopic here.

Offline Tamashii

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Why Must Characters Change?
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2005, 03:20:59 PM »
COMPL3X, I think your definition of 'character development' is a little confusing. How I see it is that character development is the process of actually developing the character, as in progression to another stage. In other words, "character growth". Establishing a character's personality could be considered character development, but I have never seen it as that. I don't really give that process a word, just that it is basically a requirement in my mind. If the character does not establish a personality, he/she is considered hollow/flat/empty/boring. If she/he does establish a personality, then he or she would be considered a "character", and if that personality exceeds expectation, the character would then be a "good character". It's somewhat of a yes or no thing, that's how I see it.

I still do not agree that Hamdo "develops". Getting more insane is not "character development". Sure, it's character "change", but that's not the same. When a character develops, he or she progresses to the next stage of being a human being, not regresses. It's "develop" not "devolve". Sure, it's character change, I'll buy that, but it doesn't play much relevance to the story. Hamdo was fairly insane enough for the story at the beginning and no matter how much more insane he got, he would still have the same impact.

Offline C0MPL3X

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Why Must Characters Change?
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2005, 11:26:40 PM »
Quote from: Tamashii
COMPL3X, I think your definition of 'character development' is a little confusing. How I see it is that character development is the process of actually developing the character, as in progression to another stage. In other words, "character growth". Establishing a character's personality could be considered character development, but I have never seen it as that. I don't really give that process a word, just that it is basically a requirement in my mind. If the character does not establish a personality, he/she is considered hollow/flat/empty/boring. If she/he does establish a personality, then he or she would be considered a "character", and if that personality exceeds expectation, the character would then be a "good character". It's somewhat of a yes or no thing, that's how I see it.
Well, I've talked about how there is a difference between merely showing us what this character is like (character development) and how the series of events taking place in the show is affecting the character (change in character). From this, I was arguing the point, that a character does not necessarily have to undergo a change if he is at least being developed well (like Hamdo).
 
Now for the second point.
 
Quote
I still do not agree that Hamdo "develops". Getting more insane is not "character development". Sure, it's character "change", but that's not the same.
This is not what I was trying to say. In fact, I'm pretty sure I agreeded with you on the point that Hamdo does NOT change, EVER.
 
Quote
When a character develops, he or she progresses to the next stage of being a human being, not regresses. It's "develop" not "devolve". Sure, it's character change, I'll buy that, but it doesn't play much relevance to the story. Hamdo was fairly insane enough for the story at the beginning and no matter how much more insane he got, he would still have the same impact.
No, here's the thing that I have miscommunicated to you. I totally agree. When I was talking about character development, I was talking about how we were bombarded with more insights into just what kind of person Hamdo is. This, is not just his insanity, or maybe it is, different aspects of his personality as a result of his conscience bordering on the line between sanity and insanity if you will. As I've talked before, we gain insights into his paranoia tendency, complex mind that convinces him that he truly is a rightful ruler and at the same time in the corner of his mind, aware of the fact that he is relying on this woman and the fear of losing her and his reign. Why do I think this is developing? Because unlike other generic romantic animes where they don't develop their character (repetition...predictability...nasty stuff...), we actually see new stuff from Hamdo. Its not just insanity, its wide spectrum of his fascinating elements that make him 'Hamdo'. By showing us that he is able to make ruthless decision (firing laser canon) that can decide the fate of thousands of children in a tick, by showing us that he is more than capable of manipulating his subordinates for his cause, by showing us that he is still feeble at the core fearing the loss of Abelia (yes, I remembered the name! How could I forget his irritating 'abbbbbeeeelia~'). He develops as a character because we are given more details and the way I see it, its definitely more than just becoming 'more insane'. Thats what makes Hamdo more interesting than other characters that just gets more psycho. However if all you see from Hamdo is getting more insane, I can say nothing that can convince you otherwise. But is Hamdo we see at the end same as the Hamdo we saw from beginning? The answer is, yes (as you've said). Just because we've been gaining new knowledge of who he really is, that doesn't mean the events taking place in the show has changed him spiritually or intellectually as a person. Therefore no change in character. At least I hope you can now understand, what I mean by Hamdo has a lot of character development yet no change in character.

Offline C0MPL3X

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Why Must Characters Change?
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2005, 11:27:17 PM »
Quote from: Tamashii
COMPL3X, I think your definition of 'character development' is a little confusing. How I see it is that character development is the process of actually developing the character, as in progression to another stage. In other words, "character growth". Establishing a character's personality could be considered character development, but I have never seen it as that. I don't really give that process a word, just that it is basically a requirement in my mind. If the character does not establish a personality, he/she is considered hollow/flat/empty/boring. If she/he does establish a personality, then he or she would be considered a "character", and if that personality exceeds expectation, the character would then be a "good character". It's somewhat of a yes or no thing, that's how I see it.
Well, I've talked about how there is a difference between merely showing us what this character is like (character development) and how the series of events taking place in the show is affecting the character (change in character). From this, I was arguing the point, that a character does not necessarily have to undergo a change if he is at least being developed well (like Hamdo).
 
Now for the second point.
 
Quote
I still do not agree that Hamdo "develops". Getting more insane is not "character development". Sure, it's character "change", but that's not the same.
This is not what I was trying to say. In fact, I'm pretty sure I agreeded with you on the point that Hamdo does NOT change, EVER.
 
Quote
When a character develops, he or she progresses to the next stage of being a human being, not regresses. It's "develop" not "devolve". Sure, it's character change, I'll buy that, but it doesn't play much relevance to the story. Hamdo was fairly insane enough for the story at the beginning and no matter how much more insane he got, he would still have the same impact.
No, here's the thing that I have miscommunicated to you. I totally agree. When I was talking about character development, I was talking about how we were bombarded with more insights into just what kind of person Hamdo is. This, is not just his insanity, or maybe it is, different aspects of his personality as a result of his conscience bordering on the line between sanity and insanity if you will. As I've talked before, we gain insights into his paranoia tendency, complex mind that convinces him that he truly is a rightful ruler and at the same time in the corner of his mind, aware of the fact that he is relying on this woman and the fear of losing her and his reign. Why do I think this is developing? Because unlike other generic romantic animes where they don't develop their character (repetition...predictability...nasty stuff...), we actually see new stuff from Hamdo. Its not just insanity, its wide spectrum of his fascinating elements that make him 'Hamdo'. By showing us that he is able to make ruthless decision (firing laser canon) that can decide the fate of thousands of children in a tick, by showing us that he is more than capable of manipulating his subordinates for his cause, by showing us that he is still feeble at the core fearing the loss of Abelia (yes, I remembered the name! How could I forget his irritating 'abbbbbeeeelia~'). He develops as a character because we are given more details and the way I see it, its definitely more than just becoming 'more insane'. Thats what makes Hamdo more interesting than other characters that just gets more psycho. However if all you see from Hamdo is getting more insane, I can say nothing that can convince you otherwise. But is Hamdo we see at the end same as the Hamdo we saw from beginning? The answer is, yes (as you've said). Just because we've been gaining new knowledge of who he really is, that doesn't mean the events taking place in the show has changed him spiritually or intellectually as a person. Therefore no change in character. At least I hope you can now understand, what I mean by Hamdo has a lot of character development yet no change in character. I still believe in the validity of how I distinguished these two entities.

Offline Sorrow-kun

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Why Must Characters Change?
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2005, 02:35:28 AM »
Quote from: Kuma
The one thing I do hate is when you get to see a "bad-guy's" background and find out that he wasn't always bad, but something that happened to him made him bad. No matter how you slice it, this comes off as an attempt to justify evil actions. Ick.
I really disagree with this.  This applies to all medium, but I'll take examples from anime, since anime is the one we're all most familiar with.  Anyway, I think some of the most boring action series of recent time have been the ones that haven't bothered to give information about their antagonists, and instead just make them "evil" precenses, and a hurdle for our protagonists to overcome.  Just look at Tsukihime.  The antagonist there couldn't have been less interesting.  Would background and development have helped?  Very possibly, imo.  It would have made the character more interesting, and thus, the conflict between him and the protagonists would have also been more interesting.

Even looking at examples of anime that gave their antagonists background and development... it really seems to make them more interesting, IMO.  The two most notable examples are Berserk and Gungrave (two of my alltime favourites).  I mean, with Berserk, we follow Gatts and Griffith's story all the way until the moment where Griffith turns on Gatts and the people who trusted and respected him the most.  Would it have been nearly as interesting if it wasn't a betrayal, but rather Griffith as an existance that popped out of midair on Gatts and the Hawks and committed the actions that he did?  I submit that it wouldn't have been.  Similar situation with Gungrave.  Rather than talking about the obvious case of Harry, let's look at Brad Wong and Canon Balkan.  Sure, they dropped out of the sky, and started a war on Millennion, but, by the end of their three episode appearance, we learn entirely about the major moments in both their lives, and come to understand their motivations.  It makes the conflict between our protagonists and these guys far more interesting, IMO.

So yeah, I think it's fair when an attempt to make the antagonists sympathizable is made.  Black and white is boring, anyway.

Offline ReadorDie

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Why Must Characters Change?
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2005, 05:37:41 AM »
Characters don't need to change, but sometimes its fun if they do.  Who wants people wearing the same clothing the entire series?  Yick!  Get a washing machine.

But on a more serious note, characters need to change because, simply, it makes them more human and therefore the aundience can relate to them better.  

However, I only think characters should change over a great deal of time; people do not simply change overnight.  Jack Bauer should not be a whole new man by the end of an episode of 24; the threat to the country is taken care of but he isn't.  Koudelka Iasant should not get nicer at the end of the game; the monastery's demons were set to rest but hers were not, and she just plain hates James, no ifs ands or buts about it.

However, is something goes beyond one hour, or one night, or one day, yes the characters should change, because slowly but surely and relentlessly, so does everyone.  Haibane Renmei's characters evolve over the thirteen episodes they're given.  In Noir, if Mereille hadn't slowly warmed up to Kirika, would you have felt half as tense when she closely shaved with death?  Likewise with Kirika, if she hadn't slowly found herself and became more outgoing?

The answer is a resounding no.  If you're going to really know someone and whatever you're watching/playing goes beyond a simple glance into someone's life, they had damned well better change or they lose every bit of humanity they may have had.

Offline Tamashii

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Why Must Characters Change?
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2005, 06:14:45 AM »
COMPL3X, I was responding to Kuma. Sorry you got confused! I don't like using the quote-thingy. I was, however, referring to you when I said that your definition of character development was a little confusing (to me at least). The rest was for Kuma. And yes, I do agree with you.

Sorrow-kun
Your Gungrave and Berserk examples are completely off the mark. Those antagonists are an entirely different case. They were protagonists in the beginning and then became antagonists later on so it gives them a slight advantage over other villains.

A good example defending your opinion would be 20th Century Boys's "Friend". He is quite a nasty, crazy bastard but through flashbacks and unveiling of the backstory, his motives become more clear and he is made a much more interesting antagonist. I think that his background does justify his actions (as how he sees it), thus it works.

ReadorDie
Ah! But people do change overnight. One scathing event, such as the rape and murder of your wife, can drive a peace-loving man completely insane (Memento). Or on the "character development" note, an enlightening event that happens in just a few minutes can transform a character, such as several cases in Kare Kano. It's also reasonable that it is possible to change in real life.

Offline ReadorDie

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Why Must Characters Change?
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2005, 01:18:35 PM »
Quote from: Tamashii
ReadorDie
Ah! But people do change overnight. One scathing event, such as the rape and murder of your wife, can drive a peace-loving man completely insane (Memento). Or on the "character development" note, an enlightening event that happens in just a few minutes can transform a character, such as several cases in Kare Kano. It's also reasonable that it is possible to change in real life.


I haven't seen Momento or Kare Kano(though I desperately want to) so I will decline to comment on those particular parts of your posts.  The 'scathing events' you mentioned would more likely change someone's mindset.

Now, there is a very large difference between someone's mindset and who they actually are to me.  Coming from a family with two psyche majors as parents, they had better.  Someone's mindset is how they view something, and if that thing is sentient, how it thinks they view them back.  If someone is, say, raped, or somesuch other life-changing event, their mindset on life is changed.  So suddenly they may view the world as a cold, unforgiving wasteland, and because of this the world begins to see then that way.

However, deep under the self-destructive behavior is their old self screaming to get out from under the mindset's thumb.  Until that 'old self' stops screaming from the circumstances they're under(and the circumstances don't change), the person is still the same person with a radically different mindset.
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