Generally speaking the lead character of JRPGs, especially when they’re male, they’re not exactly the brightest or the most interesting. They’re usually made to either be very bland so every player can associate themselves with him, or they’re designed to be way over-the-top, whether they’re super broody, super happy, or just super strong and tough.
Rean from Trails of Cold Steel doesn’t really fall into any of those categories. Yes, he’s skilled, friendly and a bit oblivious to when girls have feelings for him, but he is what most MCs are not: an actual leader.
Rean is the adopted son of a lower-tier Baron of the town of Ymir. At this point it’s unknown who his biological family is and what happened to them, but he is a Schwarzer now through his adopted family and gained nobility based on this. However when first asked if he’s a noble or not, he says he’s not, as he honestly doesn’t view himself as a part of that culture and realistically isn’t actually of noble blood. Because of his adoption though, his adopted family was ostracized by the rest of the nobility due to them essentially adopting a commoner, though it’s still very possible he is of noble blood, we just don’t know.
Throughout the game, in particular the beginning, we see that Rean isn’t your typical main character of a JRPG. He establishes himself early on as someone who should be respected amongst his peers and more than capable of leading the party. After solving (sort of) the constant fighting between party members Jusis and Machias, the rest of the group begins to depend on him (or use him depending on how you see it) when it comes to similar issues, such as Laura and Fie’s quarrels, or the many monthly requests the student council gives him when no one else volunteers to help. Rean is so dependable that he’s essentially getting tasks and problems almost literally thrown at him because he’s the most capable of doing so.
In battle, there’s definitely far more about him that we’re not privy to. He claims right from the very start he learned just the basics of the Eight Leaf Sword Style, yet he is one of the most capable fighters of the entire Class VII roster, including Laura and Fie who are juggernauts on the battle field. He also appears to have an unknown power within him that he uses twice the entire game which turns him into a white-haired, red-eyed powerhouse that he fears using for risk of it consuming him. However, by the end of the first game we know nothing about what this power is, where it came from and why he has it. We’re left to assume it has something to do with why he was found alone when he was adopted by the Schwarzer family.
Lastly, unlike most male protagonists in a game where many lovely ladies exist (and believe me, there are a lot of them), Rean actually attempts to not fall into the usual trope of getting caught in situations where he would have to get a slap across the face, though he can’t avoid one of them, no matter how well he plays the situation (as pictured above). He tries his best when saving Alisa from a drop and she lands on top of him, he keeps his hands up where everyone can see them, but it doesn’t really matter, she landed breast-first on his face, there’s nothing he can do now, he’s screwed in Alisa’s eyes regardless. But it’s nice that over the course of the game, he doesn’t find himself in the girls’ changeroom, he’s not somehow in their hot spring when they all come out and he’s not walking in on any of the girls in their underwear. He still is a bit clueless with any of the girls expressing their feelings towards him (in particular Alisa and Elise, his adopted sister), but all in all, he’s designed to be a normal guy who has fighting ability and is a strong leader.
I’m not saying he’s the most amazing main character in JRPG history, but it’s refreshing to play through a game with a lead character that isn’t cringe-worthy or isn’t some dipshit, emotionless and usually voiceless MC that a lot of JRPGs tend to have. Rean is genuinely interesting and given that there’s two more games left before his story ends, I’m very interested to see where his journey goes.