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Why Do (So Many) Dense MCs Exist?

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3:04 pm, Sep 4 2022
Posts: 15


I can't stand the MCs (Main Characters) who not only start out naive, but also stay that way for far too long. In fact, I see so much vitriol towards them I have to ask: why do authors keep making them and why do publishers keep greenlighting them?

Does anyone have any insight?

Because I would not be unhappy if one day, in order to get published, your MC couldn't remain dense after they ought to know better. If that means the plot stops making sense or the unique element stops working, then it means the plot needed to be adjusted and the unique element was just a gimmick. And if the characters are kids, have them act like kids.

Or am I just too old to appreciate dense MCs?

But I digress. Why do they prevail so often in manga? No shame on any author, editor or otherwise here, I just want insight. Any theories are welcome as well.

Thank you in advance.

Last edited by LazyReviewer at 3:04 pm, Sep 4 2022

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4:15 pm, Sep 4 2022
Posts: 3


I think the issue might lie in writers' abilities to create tension. The manga industry is big and a large chunk of it is aimed at kids and very young adults, so you don't have a very prevalent Quality base for the writing (and editors must not encourage too many bold choices depending on the genre/demographic). This is only my assumption as a reader, but Japanese (or East Asian) storytelling seems to rely heavily on tropes, and there are again and again the same techniques being employed to invoke certain reactions from the audience, and having dense characters works for comedy and low-stakes but dramatic human conflict. I think they basically count on your satisfaction at the end overwriting the annoyance with the conflict mechanisms.

Still, I think there is something to be said about people burning out on certain vehicles of storytelling and stopping meeting it halfway when listing them and crossing them out of to-do plans become too prevalent in media consumption/art engagement, however you want to call it. You know, people become impatient and stop suspending their disbelief in accordance with what the story is trying to offer them. Without pointing any fingers, I'd say it's time to change plans or change attitude at this point. Having people acting dumb will not go out of fashion in young media any time soon, so maybe some variety is in order, some change in medium or even being a bit pickier before starting anything.

Anyway, there are a lot of subversions of this trope around, too, but depending on how good the writer is, some of the dense-ness might slip through anyway. Or maybe it's just, you know, people being people in a heightened version of reality, which is built to move forward a writer's plan. You can make excuses for it and not let it get to you too much, or you could move on.

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7:47 pm, Sep 6 2022
Posts: 137


young MCs should be dumb/inexperienced
having characters in junior high-high school aged try to navigate the adult world is understandably heart-breaking
and is highly relatable for those escaping into comics

it could be as simple as 'to make the reader feel good about themselves' for identifying an obvious correct course of action for the characters

really clever MCs really tax the storyboard; you have to find bigger and bigger challenges for them, and you can run out of scenarios that don't require the suspension of belief

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3:21 pm, Sep 12 2022
Posts: 15


These are both good answers (thank you), and they cover some things that now make more sense.

But I'd still like to know about the more recent trend in extremely or inconsistently dense and/or naive characters. Ichigo Kurosaki (pre-fullbring), Naruto, and Monkey D. Luffy were generally too busy to notice romance, but in fighting and war, they smartened up especially when it came to fighting for their friends' lives. Kagome in Inuyasha does become more competent as the series goes on.

I can name character after character that start out naive but do learn their lesson and not regress when it's convenient to the plot.

What about all the isekai manga where they might as well scrap the isekai part because the MCs instantly turn into a person who lives like they only ever experienced the new world?

Like, there's this flood of less competent writing than usual, and it shows up because, like a ton of fanfiction, characterization and logic are sacrificed for drama. And these significantly or selectively naive characters are almost a celebration of bad writing instead of just a symptom of it.

Actually, since I just said that, would this also be a reason: More poor writing being published in general? Not just manga, but LNs and stuff that get turned into manga.

Last edited by LazyReviewer at 3:22 pm, Sep 12 2022

F_J
Post #799123
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5:08 pm, Sep 12 2022
Posts: 537


Oh you're talking about sense as in romantically disinclined and not dense as having no common sense.

Honestly I think it's just easier to have the main character focus on something that is not a romantic relationship. Also, those stories you listed are shounen for a demographic that is more interested in action and adventure than in exploring romantic relationships. Furthermore, having a dense character makes it easier for things to happen to them instead and their action to move the story along as let out of character. Because of course Luffy wouldn't care to jump head first into danger. He doesn't think about the repercussions of that because he is dense.

You might want to jump demographics if you can a character that is not dense when looking at a love interest. However, the other demographic also has dense characters as in dense in passivity. Typically passive character are easier for reader inserts, because the main character doesn't do anything you can the read begin to infer on what you would do if in the main characters shoes

Post #799128 - Reply to (#799123) by F_J
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6:58 am, Sep 13 2022
Posts: 15


Quote from F_J
Oh you're talking about sense as in romantically disinclined and not dense as having no common sense.


Those were examples of starting out naive done well. Inuyasha had competent romantic awareness and the setup was decent, for example. I wasn't meaning to stick exclusively to shonen titles, but that's what I could think of.

I also did not mean to imply I was talking about romance exclusively, though that is a significant part of it. A lot of stories are setting up the romance really hard and then, for whatever reason, doing nothing with it. What's the point of setting something up that never pays off?

But for a non romantic example, take
(Kurotonbi no Seija ~Tsuihou sareta Kaifuku Jutsushi wa, Ariamaru Maryoku de Yami Mahou wo Kiwameru~): the MC, identifying followers of a sun goddess by the red clothes they wear, calls a girl a follower of the sun goddess. She asks why, he says because of what she's wearing. She points out it's blue, and the MC goes "oh, she is basically wearing blue".

Like, there are so many legitimately... I won't even just say naive, there's a lot of dumb (or selectively and contradictingly naive) MCs in these stories it's baffling. Lots of MCs reincarnated or isekai'd just stop acting their age because the author wanted a fantasy child, not an actual isekai.

Like that one where the guy was reincarnated at 21 into a baby, gets raised by a wizard with his memories intact, and then ends up with no common sense when so many times his former life would have had the common sense, but no, screw that, he needs to be naive.

The reincarnation stories where the reincarnator wants to live a normal life, but then, with all their memories and experiences as prodigies and where it got them, they do exactly what they did to get famous once more, with this irritating veneer of "oh, but I can't suddenly accept this useful thing because I'm trying not to stand out."

The author claims to want one thing, then pushes so hard to get the exact opposite.

The hero, the second strongest person in the country, is introduced by an old man kicking her 30 feet out of his house, and then the story expecting us to think she has a chance against a dragon.

Basically, there are a lot of more recent stories that are claiming, one way or another, an intelligent or competent MC... then doing everything they can to show the opposite because them being smart interferes with the lazy plot that was written.

Or something like that. There are some isekai and reincarnation stories I enjoy, standard fantasy, too, but lots have looked interesting only to sabotage it with bad writing, often in the form of a selectively naive/dumb MC who can be a genius at researching magic, then forget the spell that protects the village from the demon invasion might run out if he falls asleep.

This being after he had 6 hours available to rest, knowing he had that much time, having already been up for 36 hours, and having done everything in his power to stay up for no justifiable reason in those 6 hours. And the story literally showed his previous life full of moments where he's the reliable office worker who makes sure everyone gets enough rest and stuff.

It's just frustrating to see so many good ideas spoiled by poorly written MCs with less common sense than a 5 year old when the story needs them to act or react a certain way to force a plot point. Total destruction of my suspension of disbelief.

Post #799129
Member

9:25 am, Sep 13 2022
Posts: 148


I think it's just an archetype. In much cases it's not that authors writes them that way, but the editors who force the MC into being simple and doing the standard and acceptable for the shounen viewers expect to see. The same goes with all the half assed settings.

It's quite common in comercial stuff since the stories are mostly copy pasted from one another and it makes it easier for a reader that checked out the latest chapter of the series out of curiosity be able to follow the story. If you go to LNs, WNs or change the genre; you'll see the same with different stereotypes.

Just look as how die hard fans of Solo Leveling liked everything similar and branded anything slightly different as a copy, even though in some cases the novel it was adapted from was the copied the setting of other WNs.

Last edited by Joese at 9:47 am, Sep 15 2022

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