Things I learnt from Yowamushi Pedal: Backstory solves everything
Before this, I wrote a post about character flaws that aren’t endearing, featuring Midousuji, a creepy jerk who only cares about victory even if it means crushing people’s spirit to do so.
And then the author presents us with his backstory, featuring Midousuji as a kid.
So it’s been established in the series that Midousuji is pretty much that guy that no one wants to be friends with. Even his teammates (who are actually his seniors) are with him because they can’t win without him.
A lot of the other characters have already have their backstory episode, featuring their history and motivations and basically fleshing them out so that they are more than just ‘the opponents’. And now it’s Midousuji’s turn.
Flashback to Midousuji as a kid, and he turned out to be a pretty strange kid (and still a little creepy to be honest), but pure hearted. He was more awkward than malicious, and the only person he felt comfortable with was his mum.
Problem was, she stayed in a hospital 20 km away. Midousuji picked up cycling and rode his bike to visit her whenever he could. In summer, he visited her every day. In the few scenes that we see of him with his mother, it’s easy to tell that they really love each other.
The flashback also provides us insight into his relentless pursuit for victory.
First, his mother told him that he had beautiful teeth, which was important for professional athletes (which explains why he keeps clicking his teeth).
Second, she told him to keep moving forward, which he did, even if he ended up taking those words to the extreme.
With one episode, the author has turned the complete jerk to a jerk with a history. It’s important to note that Midousuji’s personality doesn’t change just because his backstory has been revealed. He’s still a jerk and he still wrecks people with his words, but the audience has a better understanding of why he’s doing it.
Long story short, if you want to create a character that people would empathise with, backstory is a very good way to connect your audience to your characters. Just don’t give the character a silly backstory like vowing to take revenge on the world just because it rained on the character on the way to school. If you do, that rain better be responsible for something life-changing, in a terrible world-ending way.
On the other hand, if you want make sure none of your audience takes the villain’s side, you might want to skip his/her origin story. To be extra sure, make sure he/she looks hideous too.