Is the Overpowered Protagonist Trope Overdone?

With the long history of anime and manga protagonists who are too overpowered, is this trope about to break?

Goku and Kenshin. Haruhi. Kenshiro. Saitama. Tatsuya Ainz Shigeo and Jin-Woo. These names are synonymous with force and strength. Exposure to an overpowered protagonist just comes with the territory for fans of the anime and manga media; nevertheless, with the current trend of protagonists who are not merely overpowered, but may sometimes be labeled by the gaming slang term, “broken,”

With such a long history of completely broken characters, it raises some important considerations about the trope’s future: is the overpowered protagonist trope reaching a critical mass? What would that even look like? Is it even possible to overuse this particular trope?

Define “OP”

First, we must understand why a character is overpowered. Literally, “overpowered” means the individual has an incredible source of power that sets them apart from others. “Overpowered” may apply to characters who are so talented at what they do that their plot lacks a high-stakes element.

The overpowered anime character is many things, but the great decider is one of them. If anybody can reverse the tides of destiny, dodge the inevitable, and demolish what’s possible in their universe, it’s them. The phrase “overpowered” has grown common for characters who never slip. These people have a solution for every problem, a backup plan for every failed plan, a restaurant management friend, and an incredible ability to prevent loss or death. There are many examples of overpowered characters, but they can be classed based on their ontological precedence (how they came to be), the breadth of their ability or potential, the context, or in what element of life their skill is relevant, etc.


Born Weak, Live Strong

First category generates engaging stories because of travel. A character starts as a beginner and gains mastery unseen on their homeworld. These are the characters who were derided for aiming high but beat the odds. The most famous overpowered character is the Dragon Ball franchise’s protagonist.

Born with a power level of 2, Goku’s Saiyan lineage and ferocious hunger for training and combat spurred him to push and break through his bounds. Such stories inspire fans to improvise, adapt, and overcome.

Overpowered protagonists include later-introduced characters. Tokyo Ghoul’s Ken Kaneki, My Hero Academia’s Izuku “Deku” Midoriya, and Arifureta: Commonplace to World’s Strongest’s Hajime Nagumo, Iruma from Welcome to Demon School Iruma-kun!, and Naofumi Iwatani from Rise of the Shield Hero are in this subset. The following characters are viscerally overpowered in different ways, yet they all become world-class at something. Ao Ashito can work at this rate.

Born the Best

The second sort of overpowered protagonist starts off as the most strong character in their series. While many of these heroes began weak and became powerful, the most emphasized era in their lives is when they attained overwhelming strength. Characters like Tatsuya Shiba from The Irregular at Magic High School (and, by extension, Anos Voldigoad from The Misfit of Demon King Academy) are typically perceived as inept and treated with contempt, disrespect, and derision; nonetheless, they stand head and shoulders above everyone else.

Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya from Sword Art Online is one of the most famous overpowered protagonists, and he’s the perfect example of why anime fans hate this trope. These people can do anything and always overcome opposition or difficulties. They can quickly learn any talent, transform foes into allies, and attract loyal followers.

Did You Mean “Underdeveloped”?

Overpowered protagonists sometimes create uninspired, risk-averse characters. Unstoppable characters have nothing to lose and nothing to gain. Their quest is accomplished as it begins, their plans are developed as challenges arise, and their success is inevitable, albeit in unpleasant, boring, and uninspired ways. Goku’s journey in Dragon Ball is so profound, but also guilty of some of the trope’s worst manifestations, because he is overpowered but not unrivaled.

Character stagnation can be a thematic decision that creates fascinating story dynamics. One Punch Man subverts shonen media preconceptions, especially the overpowered protagonist cliché. Saitama’s dual existence as a nobody and the strongest somebody makes One Punch Man so great. Goku’s overpoweredness as a journey is nebulous: he’s underdeveloped yet fully realized, unlimited yet continually hitting new limitations. Goku’s interpretation of overpowered is unique because all battles end with his victory, even if other characters may do similar things.

Critical Mass?

The majority of overpowered characters from prior seasons are still important. Fist of the North Star remains one of the medium’s largest exports despite Kenshiro being one of the most famous overpowered characters. Kenshin Himura, the Rurouni Kenshin protagonist, lived in postwar Japan with a reversed blade and was the most dangerous swordsman, even more so than a guy whose leftover fats could fire the tip of his blade.

Perhaps the issue isn’t overpowered individuals, but how their skills become unconvincing Ex Machinae and surrogate egos. Each of the best overpowered characters is linked by the fact that their overwhelming might is only one part of their character; as a result, overpowered protagonists may never reach their limit or be overdone. Intent and execution may be the issue.

Thank you very much for reading!

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