Can I really pick my top five favorite characters of all time? I just know, if I start listing people, that I'm going to come back next week and say "Gah! How could I have left that person out?" So, let's say that these are my top five favorite characters of all time... that come to mind today. In no particular order:
Auron, Final Fantasy X
The ultimate man of mystery, and a man with a purpose, a purpose which is slowly revealed to us over the course of the story. Since this is something I love in a character, I was primed to love Auron. Which also explains why I love the next person on the list...
Paine, Final Fantasy X-2
Once again: mysterious past, the details unfolding before us in small, fascinating pieces. Paine is also the quipper, the one who gets all the best lines, much like...
Susan Ivanova, Babylon 5
One of Yuna's battle quotes in FFX-2 is "Paine gets all the best lines"; this is a tagline that could easily be applied to Susan Ivanova as well. Ivanova is the no-nonsense one, the one who will stand up for anyone, including herself; she is one of the most fully-rounded woman characters I know. She is competent, professional, but also human. She makes mistakes, and those mistakes help make her real.
C.J. Cregg, The West Wing
Another brilliant professional woman who has a way with words. She knows when to be tough and she knows when to give, and when opportunities come her way, she knows how to rise to them. She's a woman making her way in a man's world, in a way that's always felt very real to me.
Turtle Wexler, The Westing Game
The brilliant professional quipping woman of the future. I wanted to be Turtle from the very first time I ever read The Westing Game, and I still want to be her. And because she won.
Some common themes on this list... characters who kick ass and take names, characters with depths and secrets that become known over time, characters who have a goal and succeed at it, characters who are tenacious, characters who know how to drop a cutting line. Some of the favorites whom I had to leave out for length reasons (Garak from Deep Space Nine, Corwin from the Amber books, Janet Carter from Tam Lin, Rae from Sunshine, Giles from Buffy...) have many if not all of these qualities, although there are others that don't fit at all.
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