In anime and manga, the Main Character having Nakama is very important to the plot. Aside from being strong individuals with quirky mannerisms and ideologies, we like MCs who love and respect their Nakama. We get teary-eyed seeing Luffy or Midoriya risk their well-being just to protect those dearest to them. And we love it so much we might miss it when that concept of Nakama is misused at certain times.
The value of Nakama in anime and manga
“Those who break the rules are regarded as scum, but those who abandon their friends are even worse than scum.” – Kakashi Hatake
There aren’t many popular MCs that don’t have friends they want to protect from the forces of evil. Nakama is a concept hardwired into an MCs DNA and plays a major role in the plot. It has become a common trope in popular titles and the word has become so popular in anime and manga fandom because of how characters portray and show value to their friendships.
Monkey D. Luffy is one character who embodies the spirit of Nakama intensely. The entire One Piece story is built around creating conflicts and motivations around the concept of bonds, having adventures and protecting the life and goals of Nakama that he, his crew, and their friends. And it lends to epic battles between well fleshed out characters, with the friendships Luffy holds dear usually on the line.
You don’t just want Luffy to win because He’s strong or wants to be Pirate King. You also want him to win because of his friends. You want him to protect his friends and be with them during his adventures. You are equally invested in the bonds he has created with everyone around him.
Friendships make a character interesting in popular titles and it’s why it takes our breath away when part of a characters motivation is the protection of their friends, even at the cost of their lives and goals.
Nakama isn’t good as just a prop
And so it comes as no surprise that it can sometimes feel shoehorned into a title. I remember watching Bleach and feeling Kurosagi Ichigo’s motivation for protecting his friends often felt condescending.
With him, I thought he felt entitled to protect his friends as the strongest one among his group. And I didn’t like that about him. That never came off as him caring but him being obligated to take responsibility for them. Though the characters of Bleach had built some form of strong connection it felt like he was just a shield to his weak friends.
In contrast, Monkey D Luffy protects his friends when they need him. It never feels like he is obliged to. When they ask for his help, he is there but he doesn’t just butt in on their battles and take all their problems on his shoulders if they didn’t ask him to. And they don have to beg him to have their own battles. Maybe it was just me but it felt forced whenever Ichigo was protecting his own friends.
The Choice between Nakama and Personal Goals
If you gave your MC two choices; reach their goal or protect their Nakama, which would they chose? An MCs main focus is of course their goal. And we’ve had lots of MCs who have great ambitions. But when it comes to friendships, sometimes the buck stops at protecting them.
After watching a YouTube video by Totally Not Mark, a particular thought came to mind. In his video, he compared Luffy and Goku’s relationships and made an interesting point about Goku being the type that would choose his goal, most often, at the expense of others around him.
We’re talking about an idolized MC who would literally endanger his loved ones by putting himself in a handicap for a good fight. I mean it’s even a popular meme of how Goku is the dad of the year because he often chooses training and fighting over getting to know his own family.
And it’s a bit odd when you realize that compared to O.G MCs like Luffy and even the best new MCs like Midoriya … that’s kinda raw.
Maybe it’s just me. But not every MC is pulling off the Nakama card well enough in their titles. Or maybe it’s just enough to catch a bullet or a powered-up punch for a friend to create emotion.
I really don’t know.
Thanks for reading.
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Photo’s uploaded from google and Wikipedia.