A wise man once said that we in the anime community are the ‘hippiest of hipsters’ and will hate on anything that becomes too mainstream. While this is gross generalization there’s some truth to it, especially those of us who REALLY get into anime. While many anime fans may not necessarily ‘hate’ the mainstream we aren’t the biggest fans and as a result tend to be dismissive and critical of anything that becomes popular generally speaking. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but at what point does criticism become dismissive? Do you dismiss things out of hand sometimes? I do and I appreciate when someone can show me a deeper side of something and occasionally take something I may dislike or even hate and cause me to appreciate or even like it. That’s what I’m going attempt to do today.
Now “Battle Shounen” isn’t really a real genre of any kind. It’s just a term we used to easily categorize and simultaneously recognize certain shows based on their characteristics (If you’re willing you should check out the book “Otaku: Japan’s database animals” which explores these habits). Having no formal definition I’m going to describe the categories I myself use to define a battle shounen so we’re all on the same page. They are:
- series that in some way revolve around fights or ‘battles’ that are used to push the plot forward and/or used to develop the characters (before, during, and/or after the battle)
- series categorized as a shounen
Now I realize this definition is an extremely broad one but I think it severs the purpose of what I want to say here. While I left out a lot of the tropes and clichés usually associate with the genre this is to make a point.
To whom it may concern
Many people I talk to in my extremely small circle of friends and acquaintances, all whom who watch anime of course (because how else am I supposed to talk to people?) say that they are or have become disenfranchised with the shounen battle genre. They say they’ve grown out of it like it’s a phase; They’ll say with a few rare exceptions the genre is flat and boring; riddled with cliques; some say it’s fallen from grace since the 80’s and 90’s (they’ve changed it now it sucks sort of deal); that they’re really just not that into it or it rarely gives them something to invest in unless it’s a commentary on the genre itself
and some, I assume, are good people😀
I don’t know if these emotions and feeling have their root in the seemingly innate hipster in hard-core anime fan as I suggested in the beginning (after all the biggest draw in of new anime fans comes from shounen series both here and in Japan), or whether they would have always felt this way regardless of its popularity *note: I’m not claiming their feelings aren’t genuine either way*
Regardless I write this mostly for them.
From my perspective, shounen battle is my favorite genre because besides the fact that I’m an action junky who loves to get pumped up for a good fight (something I can get from other genres potentially such as mecha); I find it to be the most creative, complying, innovative, and if not they most formally educational genre, the very best and expressing and transferring life lessons and its themes.
Now I know I just lost 90% of you especially the anime aficionados. “shounen battle complying and innovating? PREPOSTEROUS! “ Here me out as I’m going address each of my points starting with the easiest:
Action: Yes of course. Simplistic? Maybe. However, it’s something primal within us that draws us to it. But because it’s so basic and hard to communicate the appeal let me explain to you in a story why this aspect is HUGE.
So imagine you were a very emotionally stunted for a good chunk of your life. That you could rarely ‘feel intensely’, like a grown man after a long day of work. outspoken at times but overall you don’t engage in any activity. You’re a wonder to watch over (you’re simply plopped in front of a tv and feed and you’re happy with that). You do great in school but often feel as if something is lacking something. Perhaps you only ever feel normal or comfortable most of the time watching something (and later reading something) because these activities engaged you in a way nothing else seemingly could. It’s anime that finally allowed you to get better, specifically shounen battle series like DBZ, Naruto, and Pokemon. You’re also learning important life lessons and giving you something in common with people. Later on, when you discovered what anime was (the realization that it’s not just a cartoon) you watch other SB series mainly because it gets your heart racing. You pretend to be one a martial artist, a ninja, a pirate. A feeling of euphoria overcomes you when you see something practical amazing. Action is what gets many young boys into the series. It’s why we come, and the other reasons I love SB being why I stay, but none the less action is a founding pillar.
And the action in SB series is always getting better!(overall) The fight scenes keep getting more dynamic, the cuts and other edits cleaner, the music more fit, and the colors more pleasing to the eye overtime. The genre has been around for years and as such has had a long time to perfect its craft. This is why I dislike when people saying the older shounen battle series were ‘better’. They were different and you can prefer them for your own reasons (maybe you like the tone and feel or maybe you prefer the greater emphasis on romance in the past) but to say they are objectively better (Objectivity in art is a concept I don’t believe, to begin with) is ill-advised at best. And things are only going to get better as things move forward.
I’ll NEVER forget the moment I fell in love with anime and it had become my preferred medium forever. I can describe down to the exact moment. I was watching kuroko no basket a show often hated on for what I consider ridiculous reasons like the show “having superpowers” (which even IF you really believe such nonsense, as a good friend of mine pointed out more sarcastically than I will: YOU DON’T WATCH KUROKO TO LEARN HOW TO PLAY BASKETBALL). It likes to do what anime is good at and made for; accentuating and exaggerating reality. As I watched a certain match during the end of a season (details avoided to prevent spoilers, plus I’ll probably make a post about in the future anyway) and as it reaches towards a climax I felt something I had never felt before, at least not so intensely. My skin grew visible bumps-my breathing was hush my mouth was open my heart raced like I was afraid that I wasn’t! This wasn’t the suspense that was ruined by spoilers, and it wasn’t a feeling that would leave me shortly after. I would later learn to categorize this feeling with a word more potent and capturing the true essence of the feeling: Hype
And when it was over I couldn’t stop moving as I jumped around and yelled and screamed uncontrollably, I felt a deep catharsis. Finally, I had experienced a feeling, true feeling. I’m much better than I was back then but that was one of those moments that had things went differently I’d for sure be a completely different person. Action as a concept is simple but it is the simplest concepts that have the power to change your life.
Creativity: Despite being around for years new series in the genre are continuously release that give fresh takes on old concepts. While it is a genre that borrows from itself a lot (that’s just the nature of anime) I almost never see a series that gives nothing back to be borrowed from itself. And this ‘borrowing of itself’ so much isn’t necessarily bad as one would think. After all “good artist borrow, great artist steal”. Ex: Ninja’s, Pirates, Kung Fu warriors, Grim Reapers, Ghouls, Witches, superheroes just to name a few are age-old concepts make unique again tough SB. Every series also takes the tropes and cliques well-known to battle shounen and does their own thing with them. Does it work every time? No. Is there the rare carbon copy? Yes. However becoming disenfranchised with the genre over these is a mistake I feel. (And the powers are just freaking AWESOME)
Complying: Now I mean something very specific when I use the word complying. That is I’m saying SB series do things such as characterization, plot progression, expressing themes and develop concepts in ways LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE in any other genre. rather than being general I’ll use what I feel is the perfect specific example in modern times here: My Hero Academia (HxH 2011 would be too obvious XD). If you read BnH, or even if you don’t, you’ll know it’s about superheroes and most importantly the whole theme of the series seems to be covering literally EVERY base of what it means to be a hero and what a career as a hero (analogous in real world applicability for young readers to being a police or firefighter, which is why those occupations are still given much respect in the series even if it is primarily focusing on superpowered beings) entails. I’ll definitely cover this in a later blog as well but there are concepts and ways of conveying this theme in BnH that just could not be done in any other format than a battle series and there as a result REALLY interesting! I’d encourage anyone who disagrees with me that BS are complying overall to watch and read BnH (even if for SOME crazy reason you don’t end up liking it) and think deeply about what’s been presented in the series. *Edit: My favorite channel on YouTube right now, pause and select, released a video explaining bnh’s greatness WAY better than I ever could. Check it out and subscribe: BnH academia and peace*
Life lessons: While this can apply to any genre because these series are aimed at a young demographic generally speaking they impart good life lessons and morals that it is important for everybody, perhaps especially adults to take in lest we forget. Admittedly this is the most biased and thus weakest argument I’ve presented for why you should love battle shounen’s but consider this…
We all live in an age where things can go better than ever for us as a species or go straight to the gutter Great Filter style. Either way, the earth will be a better place once all or most of us learn or remember the important lessons in life that allow us to live a little better with time, and stop being dicks to each other. Wouldn’t you agree?
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