Hey guys, my first post is going to be something simple. I’ll be addressing a question I received on Twitter from SonofEmhak a few months ago; it’s an interesting topic that’s brought up often so I figured I’d consolidate my thoughts into a short blog post.
SPOILERS may follow. Continue reading at your own discretion!
Q: “So I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I’m wondering about your thoughts. Is Loran Cehack too good as a protagonist? To elaborate, it seems like most of his conflict arises out of his relationships, and very little from within. I can’t decide if this is good or bad. The rest of the cast seems to have plenty of internal conflict to make up for Loran.”
A: Here’s how I see it: it depends on what the viewer wants out of a main character and how they perceive what the show’s intentions are. I see Loran as a point-of-view protagonist; unlike characters like, say, Amuro or Kamille, the story of Turn A Gundam does not necessarily revolve around him. Many of Turn A‘s conflicts do not arise from within him–as noted–but rather from his interactions with the rest of the cast and their overarching storylines. This is why you don’t see him go through many of the typical growth and development cycles common to the standard Gundam protagonist, something I feel is intentional.
Loran may be the protagonist by nature, but he is not the most central character to the plot. That role falls onto Dianna and Kihel, with Loran serving as a “bridge” between the two. Loran is extremely loyal and good-natured, he respects and admires Queen Dianna and also retains his loyalty as a servant to Kihel (and Sochie). These character traits are emphasized at a macro-level with Loran “siding” with the Earth Militia, despite being a member of the Moon Race — his position within the story causes him to naturally “bridge” both sides of the main conflict. What this does is create a phenomenon in which Loran’s role is to respond to the situations arising from characters like Dianna and Kihel as opposed to create them. This is greatly reinforced in the show’s first half, when Dianna is accompanying Loran and the Earth Militia in an effort to expose herself to the Earth and its people. Her growth in character as well as an individual and as a leader is reflected heavily through her interactions with Loran and co.
This allows Loran to be painted in a generally positive light as a person. He’s loyal and naive, respectful towards women and his elders, avoids conflict, seeks to help others, etc. I believe this is where a divide is seen in the community: is this a good or bad thing? Does this make him a good or bad character? Is he too much of a gary stu? Too one-dimensional and boring? Again, it depends. It depends on what you value in a character, especially a main character. Personally, I’m biased and Loran is one of my favorite anime characters and my favorite Gundam protagonist; I value loyalty as a character trait, and I also feel Loran’s “pacifism” is well-founded in context of the show.
A point-of-view character is not an unusual thing. My go-to example is usually Ar Tonelico 2 (a JRPG by Gust). In AT2, Croix serves as the intended point-of-view character, while Cloche and Luca are the focal points of the story. It’s a lot more pronounced and grander in scale in AT2 compared to Turn A Gundam, but the framework is similar. Personally I welcome this approach to storytelling in anime and video games. Not necessarily because I feel it’s better, but it’s definitely a breath of fresh air.