From a gameplay perspective, saying there are 108 characters in a Suikoden game really means there are 60 to 80 benchwarmers once you subtract non-combat, non-support characters who are just there to serve as shopkeepers and other RPG jobs for your army. Some have common jobs like innkeeper. Some have uncommon jobs like elevator bellman, gardener, or the orchestra conductor who’s the music playback menu in disguise. Some such as series vet Jeanne do double duty as party member and vendor. Though Jeanne was already doing double duty as rune vendor and sex object. Story wise though, every character contributes at least a bit part. There are quite a few characters with subplots and character arcs. Everyone else at least has unique dialog and portraits, making this one of the few RPGs where the merchant peons have personality. The merchants that are part of your army, that is.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2011/12/28/suikoden-v-108-samurai-or-knights-ninjas-riflemen-whatever