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There are three things to consider here.

My biggest objection to character styles is not that there are so few inbuilt ones but that you can't toggle them very easily. So when I need text in italics or boldface, I just use direct formatting. Implementing a way to toggle character styles would be much more useful than adding a lot of inbuilt ones. Also, if you give user defined character styles meaningful names, they won't raise any questions.

Many of the inbuilt styles are meant to be applied automatically, without any effort on the user's side, like in footnote anchors, footnote text (even though that gets overruled a lot by inexperienced users), headings in a TOC. So they have to be predefined.

The last point is something I read about a while ago, it's far from obvious for the average, visually oriented user (and I am one). What if somebody uses text-to-speech software to read a text aloud? How do you convey that some words are in italics, or bold? What will it mean to the listener that some text is apparently in italics? You can even distinguish between different uses of italics, like in "this is so cute", and "the magazine Nature". This brings us to the heart of the problem: it's not about how to get text in italics, but what it means. You should use character styles not to tell how text should be displayed, but to give information about that text. A character style called "Magazine title" is much more informative than "Italics". Using Emphasis and Strong will also force you to think about what any special formatting of some text means. If you simply use Italics or Bold, you might use italics in one place and bold in another, for exactly the same purpose, simply because you forgot or aren't even thinking about what you had decided to use for what.