Firstly the biggest shout out ever has to go to digibro’s AMAZING AWESOMETACULAR video on the use of rules in SB manga and anime that both perfectly encapsulates what makes the genre great and my favorite, AND for praising ToGODshi. This video will be referenced constantly by me from here on out Shounen Jump Rules
Now I promised this in the last blog so as a man of my word let us explore themes in long runners!
Jokes aside there are of course a lot of series that focus too much on the theme and alienate audiences with their moralizing (a good example being Fairy Fail). But I think that it is much worse if a writer robs the story of a good meaning it has (or could have) for broad appeal. This is another area where I think a lot of SB series come out on top. By virtue of being targeted at a younger audience, they can be more upfront about their messages and are almost never esoteric. Characters, dialogue, and plot are all allowed to reach their full potential when you have a guiding element to the story, a way to understand what’s happening in a big picture sense. I think the best case study for this is to look at 3 of the most popular shounen battle series ever-The big 3
One piece has one of the most interesting starts I’ve ever seen. Literally, the very first time we’re introduced to our MC this young child stabs himself just under his eye as a proclamation that he is ready to set forth on the 7 seas with a pirate crew. Immediately we are made of 3 things:
- This character is not the brightest bulb in the ceiling
- This character is very straight forward and honest in expressing his feeling both in his actions and his words
- Most important he has a very blue and orange sense of mortality. What’s right for him is what gets him what he wants and thus any action taken in that direction is a good one.
Now keep in mind this is supposed to be the character we’ll follow throughout the story. Now perhaps I am jumping the gun in considering authorial intent but I don’t think the writers and editors of jump want kids thinking that this sort of behavior and mindset is good. But considering how Luffy is never framed as a villain or bad guy I get the impression that he’s not supposed to be taken as completely wrong with his attitude. Now full disclosure I have just started the one piece manga and am not that far into the story but if I had to guess Luffy is not meant to be viewed as a hero. Rather his positive attributes like his love for adventure and desire to achieve his goal while also taking care of his friends (an Aesop taught to him by his role model Shanks) will be celebrated and get Luffy very far in achieving his dream. But I think ultimately once the story gets towards its conclusion the consequences of his sense of justice, while better than the dominant authority of the world government (which so far has been portrayed as incredibly corrupt), will be shown as far less than ideal (we’ve seen a glimpse of this in the first chapter when Shanks loses his arm protecting Luffy). If I were to make a prediction I would say that while Luffy will indeed achieve his goal it will come at a great sacrifice. So why is this important to the themes of OP and why does the story have to be so damn long to convey it?
Well in terms of length it’s a good idea to look towards Japan. A whole generation is growing up with one piece and it is THE most popular manga in their current zeitgeist. What this means is that however the story concludes it will have a visible effect on the country, an effect that could only have been achieved by how long and popular it is. But if we want to come to an understanding of why this has come to be we have to look at what the series is actually trying to communicate with its story. Looking beyond the obvious lessons of friendship and camaraderie that is emphasized in most fiction aimed at a younger audience, if my prediction is correct (and I’m confident it is) one of the main messages of one piece is “Yes chase after your dreams and be honest with your feelings! Fight for what you think is right! Go on an adventure! But be smart about it(unlike Luffy) and also realize that just because you want something doesn’t make it right to disregard others or the law.” These are ideas that resonate with the collective consciousness of the country and is being reinforced in an entire generation who will pass it on down to their kids.
Bleach is a series about death and loss and how we deal with it and it’s also about defying the status quo. Now do to recent events in regards to bleach and it’s rushed ending the series might not be the very best example of how well long running shounen’s work. Nevertheless, the beginning of bleach is often regarded as one of the best in shounen history and for good reason IMO. Now like One Piece I’m just barely getting into the series. However as I’ve already used OP as just one example to show why length in BS is a desirable factor and good quality of the genre(for the most part), I’m going to use bleach to show how the link between theme and character progression is done in SB and how the “Battle” part of the genre provides unique elements that can’t be replicated in other genres.
Now I’ve already covered a specify example in bleach of how the themes of the afterlife and dealing with loss were linked to the character progression Ichigo and Orihime through an intense battle in my bleach first impressions, Here’s the link. And I also explained how I think it was necessary that for it to have the impacted it did that a “physical” battle took place. So this time around I’ll focus on the defying society aspect this time. From the very start, Ichigo’s existence as a soul reaper defies the rules of soul society. The laws of soul society are very strict and set in place for specific reasons. Despite this Ichigo can always be seen questioning soul society and its methods, particularly because he is an outsider; because he got in from breaking rules. Even the unofficial rules like when Rukia tries to convince him that if he goes out of his way to save one life he most also take on the full burden of being a soul reaper. He utterly rejects this and manages to take a 3rd option. Through Ichigo and his accomplishments, and by using a whole different other world as a lens, the series sends a message about how the youth can change society, an important lesson that is also in many other BS.
Finally, we have the boy wonder himself. Naruto being the biggest selling manga series in the western sphere it already has tons of analysis, and since I’ve actually finished naruto I can be lazy and share them with you all :D! (Don’t worry I’ll make my own Naruto analysis at some point.): Tv tropes, Derek Belden’s analysis The definitive best analysis of Naruto
So hopefully we’ve learned a lot today about how SB series implement themes in a general sense from how the big three does it. At the very least we learned how the former biggest three does it. I need new blog idea’s beside impressions so feel free to comment what series or topic I should do next!
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