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.
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.