In anime, you tend to encounter a wide range of stereotypes and tropes. By rooting familiar concepts across different works in a genre, the show is able to build upon and play against them. For instance, deconstructions exist only in the context which the genres themselves have established. Playing on the expectations of its audience, a deconstruction is able to leverage the existing style to produce a unique work that may expand or cement it.
I’m not here to talk about deconstructions, though. On the contrary, I was thinking about my favourite tropes and which genres they appear in. The moment has come for me to expose my shitty tastes: I love shows with characters that are subtle about being overpowered. These types of characters have been hammered out a million times by isekai shows, a genre which involves characters that are transported to a different world, but most anime lacks tact in its execution. What makes these types of characters special to me is that it leaves an onerous task to the author. Characters that fit this mould must first fit to their typically average personas before being given the one opportunity to show off their abilities.
For the most part, characters that are secretly OP are done most well in comedy. Light novels like Overlord and Eminence in Shadow play on this type of character, presenting MCs that constantly find themselves to be the centre of praise and attention by their peers, yet are ignorant to what their actions even are. Actually, the most common type of MC seems to be the type that’s ignorant to their own ability, relying on the feedback from others to actually acknowledge that they’re, in fact, powerful. Comedy is probably the best genre to leverage these situations due to the large number of misunderstandings that happen.
My favourite subcategory within this archtype is definitely the characters that understand their position and are humble about it. These are the characters that are teased by their peers due to their other mannerisms, or have personalities that sharply contrast their own position. Characters like Eikichi Onizuka (Great Teacher Onizuka) or Kvothe (Name of the Wind – not anime but I love this book) fit this description. There are also oftentimes where characters who are not strong in the traditional sense fit this category, though they are typically under extraordinary circumstances and may be a spoiler as it is a rather large break in character.
If I ever get into writing, I’ll definitely have some character who’s like this. They’ll be in a position where they’re aloof and mocked by their friends while, in parallel, be resolute and principled when circumstance calls for it.