Not that long ago Narutaki and I were having a discussion about a phenomenon she likes to call side-character-itis. It is the tendency for fandom to latch on to certain side characters and completely obsesses over them to the point where they almost seem resentful whenever the main characters take the center stage. Hinagiku Katsura from Hayate the Combat Butler is a prime example of this. At times parts of the fans base seem genuinely surprised they are not watching a show called Hinagiku the Combat President. Shonen fighting shows tend to have this phenomenon as well as they often have generic protagonists to keep the story flexible. They offset the bland hero by making the side characters very vibrant. The problem is while fandom often gets obsessed with these more exciting side characters they are rarely strong enough to carry a show on their own. Often what makes them work as a side character is what keeps they from standing on their own as a main character.
I recently decided to re-watch some episodes of A Certain Magical Index during lunch at work and one of the poster girls for side-character-itis pops up immediately: Misaka Mikoto. Whenever a new episode of the show would come out it seemed the fan base interest was directly tied to the amount of the Railgun in any given episode. In fact she was such a popular character she was spun off into her own series. But interestingly enough she was strong enough to support her own show. So what separates the main characters in waiting from the merely flashy supporting cast? What separates the Fraisers from the Joeys? I won’t say that Misaka Mikoto has all the answers to that question. But she is a good place to start thinking about which characters can cut the mustard.