Strike Witches is like a guilty pleasure. It’s a dumb story about characters who are largely one-dimensional by design whose flaws are painted over with constant action and piles of fan service. It’s hugely formulaic but it’s a formula that WORKS.
This isn’t one of those clever shows that tries to hide something from you. The central character, young Yoshika Miyafuji, is also the protagonist. In virtually every encounter with their terrifying, alien enemy, the Neuroi, Miyafulji announces that she has to do something, she is told she can’t (creating tension), and she goes and does it.
Poof. Yeah, she’s a total Mary Sue.
But like the series itself (and like another total Mary Sue, Chise Hatori from The Ancient Magus’ Bride), somehow the Miyafuji character works. Right? She’s bland but enormously likable, and when she whups the bad guy you cheer for her even though you knew she was going to do it the second she announced she had to.
If we broke her down Mind-Body-Soul like a lot of characters, we’d find out right off that she’s basically 100% soul. Frankly, she’s not very bright, and her physical triumphs are a consequence her magic and the strike witch technology. She’s not only not strong, but she’s repeatedly shown to be in poorer physical condition than anyone except her fellow recruit, Lyn Bishop.
So how do you build a character who’s all Soul?
One is to pick a mix of personality traits that are simultaneously compatible and admirable. The fact that it’s a mix makes her more than just a one-trick pony, and they have to be compatible because she’s not a character (and Strike Witches isn’t a show) that’s driven by interior conflict.
So what is she?
Kind. She’s primarily a healer (her military specialty is medic) and she is driven to help people and animals by her nature.
Impetuous. She rushes in where her colleagues … well, they don’t fear to tread. None of them is afraid of anything … but she rushes in where her colleagues are more thoughtful, or at least obeying orders.
Strong-willed: Miyafuji often wins because she just plain refuses to lose. She also routinely does the opposite of what she is told because she does what her heart tells her instead of what her officers tell her.
Naive: She accepts what she is told factually (as opposed to orders, which she routinely disobeys) without question. This extends to violations of her person: when Francesca (the Italian witch) grabs Miyafuji’s breasts in the bath, Miyafuji just smiles.
Eager: As the junior witch and a non-commissioned officer she is assigned chores the witches who are officers don’t get. Miyafuji cooks for the others, for instance, and when she does she doesn’t just bust open some cartons of Meals: Ready to Eat; she makes a proper Japanese, er, I mean Fujian, feast. She throws herself in enthusiastically.
That’s a lot of positive qualities and all of them are attractive. Right? We routinely like people who display any of these characteristics and Miyafuji has them all!
More importantly, it’s not just the question of quality (positive traits), it’s the question of quantity. By giving her a large number of positive traits, the writers maximizes the chances that any given viewer will relate to her on at least one of them.
Me, I find her eagerness to be her most attractive trait. She reminds me a great deal of little Chihiro from Spirited Away; Miyafuji exudes that same sense of “I’m going to do this the very best I can.” And Chihiro is not a very good character, she is also an enormously likable character.
If you want people to like your character, it can’t possibly hurt to pattern the character after another character everyone likes, right? Of course, Chihiro is ten years old.
Miyafuji is constructed a lot like the series itself: They took a lot of attractive elements and threw them against the wall expecting a couple of them to stick. That could have made her sickeningly sweet, and I suspect they knew it. To keep that from happening they kept the action coming and coming and coming. I bet if they held still for an hour we’d all get really sick of Miyafuji really quick, since she’s not just Mary Sue, she’s also Pollyanna.
So they don’t hold still. They whip the plot past us at 150 KPH and at the end Miyafuji saves the day every time.
I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.