Actualization of shonen characters.

E Minor posted an interesting blurb about Ao no Exorcist and shonen shows in general that I urge you to go read.  He is of the opinion that Ao no Exorcist should not try to proceed past the “early years” mainly because it requires excellent writing to properly handle the growth of the characters. He relates his opinion about Exorcist and other shonen shows to his views on Harry Potter remarking: “A children’s tale tried to grow up with its audience, but it couldn’t help doing so without awkwardness.” Inferring that Harry Potter (the series) was having a bit of an identity crisis in part one of the 7th film. In this post I wanted to outline some of the reasons I personally might like “to see Rin drive a blade through Satan’s black heart” and why I enjoy shonen and epic literature in general.

I’m a sucker for novels and novel series where a character grows up over time. Not necessarily because I like seeing their growth but because I like seeing them reach their goals or seeing an actualization of their potential. It varies from show to show which of the criteria I enjoy. So often does the main character start out at the bottom of the totem pole in the worlds they inhabit. Harry and Rin both begin with zero knowledge of curtain that separates their mundane world from a world of spells and sorcery. Naruto begins as a social outcast with stunted ninjitsu skills. In Naruto, despite his rather fervent goal to become Hokage, I would prefer an ending point where he has clearly grown into his abilities and not be such a fuck up. His goal to become Hokage seems childish and naïve, I don’t think of it as a realistic way I would like the series to end. Likewise I see Rin’s goal in Exorcist the same way: a childish goal that, in Rin’s case, is made in the heat of the moment more than anything else. I think along the way he will realize that he has no chance of defeating Satan on his own. I wouldn’t mind seeing him do it on his own I just don’t think it’s realistic with the way the show has been set up. I will be happy with an ending that shows Rin graduating to a level equivalent to his brothers. However, I’m sure we won’t even get that hence I’ve started the manga.

I am disappointed when a goal isn’t achieved after it has been set. There was an anime a few years back I was almost positive no one watched called Over Drive. It was a sports manga based on a loser kid who becomes a great cyclist with a goal of winning the Tour de France. Now normally I would consider this another one of those childish goals, but in the cold open of the show it shows him competing in the Tour de France. I expect Tour de France and the anime never gets past his freshman year of high school. Son, I am disappoint. That show set a clear goal and by all accounts they mean him to actually achieve it. I don’t like it when a show can’t deliver on its promises.

Though some shows don’t really set up an initial goal. The more I think about Bleach the more I realize it just sort of bounces from one goal to another. There isn’t even a possible potential that Ichigo could reach because Kubo keeps making shit up. Gintama likewise doesn’t set up a goal but clearly has other things going for it. Gintama’s universe also lacks really concrete laws and most of the character development for Gintoki has already taken place. So there must be something else about Gintama that keeps me watching. Beyond the laughs (though they certainly help) I like Gintama because it is changes moods from shonen parody to shonen embodiment and generally is actually successful.

Two novels from my favorite epic/episodic Sci-fi series: The Vorkosigan Saga.

Which brings me to this: I like it when I show or book surprises me. I like it when it tries to change, even if the growing pains aren’t pretty. Perhaps I suspend my disbelief too easily, but I liked Harry Potter movie 7 (part 1) because it did try to be different and serious. I personally thought it succeeded in creating an entirely different atmosphere that was absent of the whimsy of the earlier films and novels. The eve of battle shouldn’t be full of whimsy; it should be full of people gathering the courage to face their foe. It should be full of people praying to their god or writing a letter to their loved ones that they hope they will be alive to deliver. It’s a sobering moment for the series.

The Harry Potter books were never meant to be epic fantasy. At the end of each Harry Potter book status quo is restored. It is extremely difficult to create a sense of growth when everything is restored to the status quo Compare to Tolkien where a clear goal is set and even though it takes 3 books to reach the peak of the mountain, the result is satisfying because what was promised is fulfilled. George R.R. Martin largely sells his Song of Ice and Fire novels based on the readers desire to see who will sit the Iron Throne in the end. Likewise, I don’t think shonen is as enjoyable if the status quo keeps being reset. Since shonens take so long to see themselves through, most of your enjoyment just has to do with how long you are willing to wait. I’m the patient sort.

9 thoughts on “Actualization of shonen characters.

  1. I just think I’m picking between the lesser of two evils, and judging by history, shounen anime don’t often execute “change” very well. So yeah, I understand your point about how stagnant maintaining the status quo can be. You’re right — it isn’t enjoyable when anime reset themselves over and over. After all, I don’t even like any of the currently airing shounens.

    In the best case scenario, I’d much prefer to see a great ending over a lack of change… but how often do shounens age well? I guess I just think the missteps* are so much more odious than remaining stagnant. This sounds a little bit like a fear of failure, but shrug, I guess ambition doesn’t do much with me anymore. Being ambitious but failing horribly is still, well, failing horribly at the end of the day.

    *Of course, this hinges on the fact that I found the latest Harry Potter movie an absolute bore, and I realize that not everyone feels the same way.

    • I’m not sure how often shonens age well. While I’ve watched my fair share of anime, I’ve missed many of the classics simply because I have to make the decision of: watch old shows or watch new shows. Generally I pick to watch new shows just to have something to talk about.

  2. I don’t know Over Drive, but I had the same experience with Initial D: I really wanted to see how Takumi became the world’s greatest driver, but the whole structure was built around from one goal to another. I still love this show though :)

    And I find your comparison between Ao no Exorcist and Harry Potter interesting. Would you compare FullMetalAlchemist with Harry Potter as well ? I always thought that they were a bit similar.

    • I can’t say. I’ve never been able to get past more than 5 episodes of FMA. I tried to watch Brotherhood but the short jokes were just so bad and forced…Someday I’ll get around to watching it.

      • You’ve gotta be kidding me. You’ve been skipping out on such an amazing show because of a few short jokes? And FMA:B would probably appeal to you a hell of a lot.

        • It just didn’t really capture me at the beginning. I mean I totally wished I’d followed through but I just couldn’t get on board somehow. I dunno why exactly. I can remember being exacerbated with it’s attempts at comedy but…idk I wished I’d watched it just the same as I wished I’d watched Heartcatch.

  3. I dunno about A Song of Ice and Fire. Have you read the fifth book yet? I’m getting mightily tired of Martin killing off viewpoint characters for the shock value, and especially tired of the way he’s dragging things out by sending popular characters off on long, pointlessly complicated side-quests.

    But then, I’m not a huge shounen jive fan, and this post is *about* shounen jive, isn’t it? How it works, how you develop for it, how you maintain narrative within the pressures of that environment?

    Hopefully Bujold is done with Miles. She has basically beat out any last sputtering spark of bildungsroman from his life with Cryoburn, and I can’t help but feel that the last book was at least one strike too many – I have a friend who thought that Diplomatic Immunity was that point…

    • I have read the 5th book of ASoIaF and like E Minor’s opinion on Harry Potter, I think you may be in the minority of getting tired with Martin. Though I don’t think he’s killed off a PoV character since…Book 3. He left one hanging at the end of book 4 and an even bigger one in peril at the end of book 5, but I think he kills characters to move the plot along. I personally think he’s got a grand plan and everyone has a part to play. I personally don’t really care about how streamlined the story is because his methods gives his world tremendous scale and world building is 80% of what it’s all about imo.

      It was more of personal view of why I enjoy shonen but I suppose you can extend that into how shonen works in general.

      I haven’t actually read Cryoburn. I keep ending up in different series of novels and don’t want to put one down in the middle of a series. I’ve had it on the shelf since Christmas. I figure it’s one I can pick up anytime. I agree though that Bujold should be close to done with Miles. I’m sure some people didn’t like Miles after Mirror Dance. Memory was much more contemplative and admittedly depressing chapter of Miles life, the mystery of the novel was just sort of tossed in there but he grew as a character much more than in his previous novels. Someone people probably didn’t hang around to see Miles into middle age.

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