I recently posted a wonderful illustration of Link in casual Breath of the Wild clothing on our Instagram account, along with this question: “If you were dropped into an epic story, The Legend of __________, would you be the hero, the villain, a supporting character, or a NPC?” While a good number selected the villain, just as many or more picked the “supporting character.” I’m not at all surprised—that would be my selection, too.
I realize these days that I’m very attracted to that supporting character role (most of my favorite anime characters fit that description) and especially to those that are best friends to the protagonists, like Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura. Again, especially on a superficial level, I see a lot of myself in characters like her. As with Tomoyo, who is left completely breathless while trailing behind Syaoran and Sakura when chasing after a card, I don’t have heroic characteristics. I’m not especially tall, strong, handsome, wise, or charismatic. And for all the basketball I play and running I try to do, I’m no athlete.
Because they’re relegated to second-place, because they’re not as important to the story’s plot, these characters don’t get to have the good stuff come their way. They don’t get the boy or the girl, for instance—something I was thinking when seeing Tomoyo interact with Syaoran in a recent episode of the Clear Card Arc (though that’s why we have fan fiction, right?). They also don’t get the glory, usually sitting on the sidelines during the most important conflicts (Tomoyo often misses even the minor ones!).
As a real life supporting character, I sometimes feel envious of those protagonist types. But I’m also reminded that the “hero” doesn’t always have it good, either. They get tossed around and beaten up and usually defeated more than once before they succeed. And on this side of the screen, they face challenges, too, some that are different from those I encounter and some that are the same. My co-administrator on our Instagram account, for instance, is someone I’ve mentored for years in real life—she’s pretty, kind, smart, talented, energetic, athletic, musical, artsy, even a good gamer, but she has just as many obstacles in the way of her personal growth as I do. Life is just as hard.
And the more I think about what a best friend type of character is, the more I’m eager to be that, to be someone who supports and challenges and loves, who is humble enough to step into the background, yet strong enough to be there when it’s needed.
This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t rather be a Sakura—but I’m finding myself more and more satisfied in being a Tomoyo. After all, there are fewer things better in life than having a best friend—and in being one.
featured illustration by IMJAYU | reprinted w/permission