Disclaimer: The following may spoil a lot of different shows, though I will try my best to keep the spoilers down. Just be sure to tread lightly.
When you think of a basic shonen protagonist in this day and age, what do you instantly think of? I automatically picture the ones that lack intelligence but not battle wisdom, have naturally abilities beyond all the people around them, fires some kind of blue energy wave most of the time, has infinite charisma and charm, and can clean out your local restaurant. In other words, pretty much a clone of Goku, because Dragon Ball and its sequel series (GT does not exist besides some interesting concepts and I don’t know about Super yet, but I haven’t heard good things) are insanely popular. Even Hunter X Hunter fell into this trap. The show played a lot with that kind of character’s morality and questioning their sanity, but Gon is still a Goku clone in the beginning. Anyway, the point is that Studio Bones have found shows to adapt that fit their own definition of what they consider a good protagonist because of how layered they are.
The idea for writing this blog came into my head after watching the latest episode of My Hero Academia. I really like the show for a lot of reasons, but the main protagonist is one of the major ones. Izuku Midoriya is the Rocky of shonen protagonists. He has no natural abilities in a world where 80% of people have special abilities called quirks, but Izukj wanted to be a hero all his life. He studies different heroes and constantly writes down different hero’s abilities in notebooks for future reference. Considering that the fact that he didn’t originally have an ability, Izuku is the continuous under dog that the viewer naturally roots for. Even when Izuku did acquire a quirk from All Might, he is throw into a situation where he doesn’t have full control over his ability yet. This poor protagonist is put through so many trials in five episodes, but he has been meeting all of them even if it’s just barely or through different circumstances. It’s still a shonen story so it still has some of those tropes, but it uses them extremely well. This character is good, but there are many others from Bones I can use for examples.
There are many examples in Bone’s repertoire that I can throw out, but the quickest examples that I can think of Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist/FMA Brotherhood, Leonardo Watch from Kekkai Sensen, and Renton Thurston from Eureka 7. How can you talk about shonen and Studio Bones without mentioning Edward Elric. I feel like it would be a crime if I didn’t and I would allow people to sue me or something. Anyway, I believe many people are familiar with Ed’s story, but this kid and his brother used illegal alchemy to get back their mother. The ending result is Ed lost an arm, a leg, and his brother’s soul is now in a suit of armor. Traveling around the country side using their intelligence, wits, and alchemy, the two search for the philisopher’s stone to return their bodies back to normal. Despite their actions opening up special abilities for them, like performing alchemy without an alchemy circle, they still lose a lot of battles and go through a lot of suffering to find what they want. Edward is just a great character and vessel for the story of Full Metal Alchemist. The other two are easier to explain, but that doesn’t make them any less layered.
Leonardo Watch, from Kekkai Sensen, gained the eyes of god when he and his sister randomly come one. He gains the power to hack other people’s eyes and some other things that we don’t know about, but besides that he’s just a normal person. Leonardo is just a mostly normal teenager in a city of strange beings beyond normal people’s comprehension. Plus, in a group of people with super abilities, he is the one that keeps the group on what can possibly considered normal. Renton Thurston, from Eureka Seven, is similar in some ways. Starting as a wide eyes opened protagonist who wanted to pilot giant robots and follow his all his life, he meets a girl and starts his adventure. What sounds like a basic start goes deeper as the series goes forward. Renton’s eyes are shown how complex the situation is in. He learns how there is no direct right or wrong and he has some difficulty adjusting to it, but for the good he and this girl fall in love with each other in a real relationship. These characters are only a small introduction to the kind of protagonists they favor.
Studio Bones is one of my favorite production studios for a lot of reasons. These include their art, their fluid facial animation, their awesome fight scenes, but the most important part is their characters. The characters from their original works and what they choose to adapt are so layered and interesting that I can’t help but love them. They blow most shonen protagonists out of the water.