The Influence of the Bad Guys
I started watching My Hero Academia this morning and, by the fourth episode, I'd already picked a favorite. And, unsurprisingly, it's the moodiest one of the bunch, Katsuki Bakugou. It's pretty much a guarantee that I'll pick what I call the "friendly antagonist" as my favorite, even before I know who they are or what their role in the show is going to be. They aren't the villains, but their attitudes and casual opposition to the main character make them still occasionally antagonistic in nature. Some of my most notable favorites include:
L to R: Bakugou (My Hero Academia); Rogue Cheney (Fairy Tail); Yuri "Yurio" Plisetsky (Yuri on Ice); Prince Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
It's always interesting to see myself pick these strong yet emotionally distraught characters so quickly. Picking them out is easy enough. They're always the angsty ones that always seem to be angry at anything that happens. They're the dark, moody teenager to the main character's usually bright, friendly personality. They're flustered easily when people don't respond as they expect.
It's not their angstiness that intrigues me the most about them, though it certainly doesn't hurt. No, it's the backstory, emotion, and strength that they hide underneath the moody exterior that makes them my favorites.
Character development tends to be limited when it comes to main characters. Their motive is revealed almost immediately from the start and, while we see them grow throughout a show, their intentions don't change. They're always looking to defeat the darkness or accomplish their dreams. The friendly antagonists start out as "bad guys", but their opposition is guided by misunderstandings or personal greed that, as the story arch continues, is altered or flipped around completely.
In a way, they're more interesting characters. They grow the most in a span of a season or an entire show, changing with their experiences. It's the closest thing to a real-life personality sometimes. Seeing characters that adapt to the things they learn as they go make them feel more relatable, even if their actions aren't.
As a writer, seeing those progressions is so much more fulfilling than a character that just always strives to "beat the bad guy" and always seems a little self-righteous at points. Characters that know their flaws right from the beginning get stale very quickly, so it's always appreciated when angsty characters come in and give a breath of fresh air to the show.