An anime/manga’s characters make up a great deal of the title’s worth. There are titles like Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure where the concept of bravery and manhood are the centre of attraction; other titles, like Revolutionary Girl Utena focus on drama; still other manga like Mai Otome, give every protagonist a certain cliche he/she represents. Kaori Yuki, a talented mangaka who has written stories like Angel Sanctuary and Ludwig Kakumei, follows none of the above aprroaches, yet she delivers an exceptional set of protagonists in her story.
First of all, let me say that there is a very good reason why I am comparing Angel Sanctuary and Ludwig Kakumei to the other series I mentioned. Even though all four of them belong to different genres they still have one thing in common; a great number of characters that play an important role to the main story. If I had to pick one as the best when it comes to handling the cast, I’d immediately pick up Kaori Yuki’s works. Why is that?
Lets take Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure into consideration. Even though it is an epic story, it is indeniable that all its characters evolve around the one and same concept. That is not to say that there are not differences between guys like Joseph Joestar and Polnareff, but they are fighters, people who enjoy victory like nothing else and struggle to get it. There is not much diversity and that makes it (a little bit) easier to put them together in the same setting. Then, we have Revolutionary Girl Utena and Mai Otome. Though they both have long casts, one has to admit that most of the characters have a specific set of traits and reactions she/he follows faithfully. When their part of the story ends, they are conviently “pushed aside”; i.e. Akane in Mai Otome or Wakaba in Revolutionary Girl Utena. In a way, these characters exist to favor the plot and support the main characters and not so much as individual beings with their own worries.
Kaori Yuki has made a tremendous effort to create a huge set of characters with completely different thoughts, goals and behaviors. Let us take as example a random duo from my favorite manga of hers, Angel Sanctuary; Zaphikiel and Setsuna. The former is an old, introvert man who has past sins to worry him and who, though very polite, can be unbelievably harsh and aggressive. He uses reason to a great degree instead of emotions. Setsuna on the other hand, is the kind of person who has his heart up his sleeve. His main motivation is highly selfish and in the course of events he comes to hurt (and help) and many people for it. What makes these differences more appealing is that the two men do not share a common story -and that happens for most characters in Angel Sanctuary. When their paths collide, it is only temporary -until one’s story comes to an end.
Unbelievably, not only do these characters have a story of their own but they are the object of extremely successful character development. Throughout the whole story, they are useful tools to the plot and at the same time they develop little stories of their own, where their personalities grow and new parts of themselves are revealed. In a way, Angel Sanctuary is more like collection of many short-stories that lead to one big finalle.
I do not intend to belittle the success of any of the titles mentioned in this article. Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure is one of my favorite shows, Revolutionary GIrl Utena remains one of my most important anime of all time and Mai Otome is among the best I have watched. The point is very simple; the way Kaori Yuki uses a great set of diverse characters in her major works, is elegant and unique in the anime industry. Even beyond its borders, I can hardly imagine any other storyteller/artist making such a great use of large casts. It is one of the many reasons why The Beautiful World loves her.