Supporting Characters in Anime

Rita Moreno, Helen Hayes, Hattie McDaniel, Elsa Lanchester, Margaret Dumont; Jack Palence, Vincent Schiavelli, Sydney Greenstreet, Thomas Mitchell, Robert Morley, C. Aubrey Smith:

Prisoner of Zenda C. Aubrey Smith counsels younger actor

Prisoner of Zenda
C. Aubrey Smith counsels younger actor

All are instantly recognizable, by name or by face, even though they were never stars. They are the superb actors who played supporting roles, secondary characters, often better than the stars they were supporting. In part it was because of their abilities. In part it was because they were playing people who were interesting characters in their own right. Those of a certain age might not remember right off hand who played “Wild Bill Hickok” in the TV series, but everyone knows that Andy Devine played his sidekick.

It’s the same in anime. While the heroes are driving their mechas, transforming into magical girls, or agonizing over confessions of love, there’s always a supporting character there, to provide key intelligence, to move the plot along, maybe just to vamp till ready. Sometimes it’s a minor part (Fujishima), and sometimes it’s a minor costar with a back-story (Asahina). Herewith, a too-short list of characters I think deserve shows of their own, the way Mary Tyler Moore spun off Rhoda.

Fujishima Maiko (Kokoro Connect):

Fujishima

Fujishima

The class representative. She’s perceptive, supportive, and manipulative. Also yuri. She wants to encourage love matches amongst the students of Class 1-3, and is willing to help others against her own interests. What is her love life like? Who else is calling her for romantic advice? What else is going on around the school that a perceptive Class Representative with police connections might be involved in?

Drake Anderson (Read or Die):

Drake Anderson

Drake Anderson

A quietly competent, long-suffering mercenary, who dabbles in pottery-making and worries about his daughter. Where does he come from? What other adventures has he been on? When and how did he meet Yomiko Readerman?

Momoe Maria (Big Windup):

Momoe Maria

Momoe Maria

The female coach of the ball team. Played softball at the HS, back in the day. Works part time jobs to pay for team stuff. Can crush large fruit with her bare hands and pop a fly ball straight up into the air off a bouncing bat. There’s a great girl’s sports anime in there somewhere.

Asahina Mikuru (Haruhi Suzumiya):

Mikuru-san, the elder

Mikuru-san, the elder

The shy, retiring, perpetually perplexed time traveler. Sorry Nagato Yuki, your backstory would be like reading the boot sector, and despite a really cool background concept, Koizumi Itsuki doesn’t come across as a James Bond character. But Asahina-san! Picture an anime set in Time Control Central, with the various versions of Asahina dashing in and out, trying to avoid meeting each other, and slowly revealing the complex plot behind their attempted manipulation of Suzumiya. Something like The Norman Conquests, the set of three plays written by Alan Ayckbourn that all take place simultaneously in the same house.

Gokō Ruri and Makishima Saori (Oreimo):

Kuroneko and Bajeena Ignore the brat in the middle

Kuroneko and Saori Bajeena
Ignore the brat in the middle

These two otaku girls have totally different personalities. Saori is extremely formal in her speech, highly considerate of others, and her otaku name is “Saori Bajeena“, so what’s not to like? Goth-loli catgirl Goko “Kuroneko” (Black Cat) Ruri, is a tsundere, just like Kōsaka Kirino, the bratty little sister of the title. How did those two get together? What is Saori’s home life like? Is there a slice of life anime hidden in Ruri’s relations with her own sister? Is there a place in this world for an anime titled “The Cat and the Bajeena“?

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