Am I the only one who actually liked the Graces characters? Well, with the notable exception of Pascal who I hate with a passion, much like how Ashtrot feels about Rita ;) But seriously, though, I just found them more relatable than most Tales games (or most JRPGs for that matter). Asbel is pretty far from the cool and confident type of protagonist and I understand how that can be annoying for people, but a lot of the problems he deals with (at least in the first half of the game, before super magical evil, etc.) are pretty down-to-earth. Family problems (he actually has a real family, crazy I know!), trying to find he place in the world, etc. Sure nothing about him is really super original (but it's a Tales game, come on) but I still don't think that he's archetypical simple because he felt more like a real person than a generic JRPG hero. The conflict with his brother Hubert was actually believable. I also really enjoyed Malik, who starts out seeming like a straight-laced military type but then as you play you find out he actually has an awesome sense of humor (I loved pretty much all Malik-Sophie interactions) and a pretty interesting backstory. He's probably one of my favorite characters in any Tales game.
I'll admit that the female characters aren't as strong. Pascal is an annoying pile of deus ex machina and Cheria is way too pure and innocent to be believable. Sophie is extremely naive, of course, but at least she has a good reason for it so I can give her a pass. And she probably gets the most character development of the bunch. Still, I didn't hate Cheria and overall I think the cast had more solid characters than bad ones.
And of course the Graces f battle system is sweet. I never got bored with it.