Kirito from Sword Art Online and Shiroe from Log Horizon have a lot in common when it comes to the protagonists. Both are the protagonists of an isekai anime, and both end up in a virtual reality version of the death game of an MMORPG that they played in their real life.
They are both loners who spend more time online than with other people, and both excel at the games they are in. Despite these similarities, there are ways each of them becomes a better protagonist than the other, with skills and character traits that set them apart from other isekai protagonists.
10 KIRITO: He’s too confident
This is probably a negative trait, in terms of personality traits, since no one wants to spend time with people who are conceited or who think they know all the answers. But for a protagonist, this is actually quite an interesting trait to have. Kirito is one of the strongest players in the game, so his trust can be earned. But it also leads him to make mistakes that he has to deal with. Learning your own limitations puts you in a great position for personal growth.
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9 SHIROE: He remains humble despite his ability
One of the most frustrating traits of a main character that viewers are supposed to like is a self-enhancing worldview, in which they assume that their contributions and points of view are the most important. Shiroe doesn’t feel like that. He is quite humble despite his abilities, and does not like to force his own opinions or points of view on those around him. You are willing to listen to others and take other opinions into account, showing that you can work well with others.
8 KIRITO: He tries his best to help others
An important trait in a protagonist is sympathy. Although Kirito is sometimes gruff, especially early in the series, and doesn’t always interact with people in a way that makes him especially likeable, he makes up for it by always being willing to help people in need.
He’s even willing to put his personal well-being in jeopardy if it means rescuing someone else. This applies to social situations, in which he will take the blame for something to protect others, to combat scenarios.
7 SHIROE: He doesn’t dislike people
It’s kind of like a tired trope in the death game isekai anime that the protagonist is a loner who spends all his time online because he hates people or likes interacting online more than in person for various reasons. And while some of these qualities apply to Shiroe, who is wary of new people who haven’t earned his trust, he also doesn’t openly dislike people. It makes him an easier character to support as he learns the new rules of his circumstances and forms alliances with others.
You are proactive and willing to take the first step …
Many people in Kirito’s position can sit around waiting for things to happen, too worried or nervous about the possibility of dying to actually try to make a move. But Kirito, who is very familiar with the game, takes the opposite approach.
He does everything he can, as soon as he can, to get what he needs to survive the game and to empower himself enough to have a better chance of winning.
5 SHIROE: He’s highly motivated by bigger goals
Shiroe, like Kirito, is quite forward-thinking when it comes to figuring out what he needs to do next to achieve his goals. While Kirito is primarily focused on survival, both for himself and the friends he has made, Shiroe has bigger goals in mind. You are very impulsive when it comes to making sure that if you have an idea that you think will solve a problem or make life easier for others, it is done in a way that is helpful, even if you face setbacks or opposition.
He is very powerful and acts like « The Chosen One »
Kirito is so powerful that he is sometimes a point of contention among Sword Art Online fans. If someone is so overpowered, it is hard to imagine that they will lose to someone, removing some of the stakes from the battles they face. But on the other hand, having a kind of « chosen » main character, more powerful than those around him, gives viewers a reason to want to follow his adventures above those of other characters.
3 SHIROE: He is a charmer who provides support to his allies
Where Kirito is a great protagonist because he is the most powerful character, Shiroe actually works just as well as a protagonist because he subverts that trope. Although he is still a great player and is very successful in battle due to his strategic thinking, Shiroe primarily plays as Enchantress which, in Log Horizon, is a support class. This means that he is often not the person who rushes into battle first, allowing other characters to be the center of attention from time to time.
2 KIRITO: He can be emotional and really cares for those around him
Kirito initially appears as somewhat solemn and difficult to read, not showing much emotion and not really having open reactions to things. But as he begins to build relationships with other people in the game, he becomes attached to them, leading him to become very excited about the possibility of his death or even injury during the course of the game. It’s kind of refreshing to see a male lead.
1 SHIROE: Has friends who are fans of the same RPG
A frustrating trope of this type of isekai series, including Sword Art Online, is that of the protagonist who spends all his time online and has no friends. It is a somewhat outdated concept in the age of the Internet, where it is possible to foster real relationships with people that one might not see in person. So the fact that Shiroe has friends is kind of refreshing. They are even his fellow players, people he knows primarily from being a fan of the same RPG as him.