There’s alot of bullshit in the anime community. It’s a common fact to anyone who’s been here for awhile that everyone thinks they are right and no one actually knows anything. But the example that pisses me off the most is the current consensus view on shounen action series. You’ll never hear anything more ignorant then statements made about Shounen Battle series unless you dive into the Wonderful World of Politics™. From saying every good and popular shounen is deconstruction to saying every new popular series is a water down version of an old one, the debts of stupidity are endless.
However, the interesting thing to me is there is a shounen series that never gets talked about that you would think would be at the center of these discussions: Medaka Box. I am frankly shocked I hear so little about this series anywhere considering it’s prime pickings for the “It’s a subversion/deconstruction because I like it and I only like smart things” crowd. And more than that it is genuinely fun and hilarious, like an upgraded version of One Punch Man before it even existed (guess it’s a time and place thing). And while I wouldn’t say that Medaka Box subverts shounen tropes, it has a character and 1 fight in particular that absolute perverts them in such a way that it nearly mirrors (is the reverse image of) a character and fight from My Hero Academia.
*Spoilers for MHA seasons 1 and 2 and events in Medaka Box that take place after the end of the anime*
Kuwagama vs Zenkichi & Deku vs Todoroki
MHA has some of my favorite fights in all shounen period. Not only has there never been a fight in that series that I dislike, but alot of them I would describe as utter masterpieces. MHA is the essence of the best of shounen jump played straight, which is why it is perfect to contrast with the utter insanity that is the Eldritch Abomination Kuwagama Misogi. Everything that is good and pure about shounen battle, Kuwagama is the materialization of the opposite of that. And I don’t mean he’s dark for darkness sake like alot of what shounen haters think makes a good subversion. The author of Medaka Box truly understands shounen; how it works, what makes its great, and as such is able to create someone who utterly reverses all of that.
Comparing the fight between Misogi and Zenkichi in Chapter 69-70 “You have become stronger” (a clever nod of a title if I do say so myself) & “I love you” with the fight between Deku and Todoroki you begin to see what I’m talking about.
Both fights have a character handicapping themselves for mental/trauma reasons, Zenkichi by shutting his eyes and Todoroki with not using his fireside. Both fights have a character who tends to win through defeat up till this point. One of Kumagawa’s many nicknames is “the good loser” because he does tend to win but in a way that’s isn’t completely satisfying, Meanwhile Deku has had to strategically wreck his body in order to accomplish anything up to his fight with Todoroki. Even Deku’s greatest victory up to this point, his triumph over Bakugo, was only achieved because he lost the fight yet managed to get his teammate in a good position. The fight against Todoriki also ends in his technical defeat. And both fights have a character going through a mental shift caused by this person who lost (who by the way both also act recklessly because they know they will be healed).
And yet, when we look at all these characters motivations, these parallels start to become interesting. Todoroki is the stronger one and is handicapping himself cause he doesn’t want to use his abusive father’s power. Zenkichi is the weaker one who is handicapping himself to avoid the PTSD that fighting Kumagawa head on will bring. And through both Deku and Kumagawa lose on purpose in order to change their opponents frame of mind, Deku does this in order to save Todoroki from his Trauma, Kumagawa seeks to increase the trauma Zenkichi feels in order to bring him down to his lv and make zenkichi give up his optimistic attitude.
I want to stress this is no coincidence. Through My Hero Academia came out later these fights sync so well because despite shounen battle not “technically” being a genre, in many ways it is one, with it’s own conventions and tropes that are used again over the ages in different ways in order to express similar sentiments (Edit from the future: I’ve worked with a friend to describe this phenomenon as The Shounen Aesthetic. Check Out The Post About It). People never complain that “All of the detective mystery genre is a water down version of Sherlock Homes” because they understand that all things in a genre borrow from and play off one another. These are 2 of my favorite fights of all time from series I consider to be masterpieces and I’m glad there are authors out there that understand and care about the genre as much or maybe even more than I do, and that’s why I made this post. Also, I wanted to talk about Medaka Box cause it’s cool and people don’t talk about it but whatever XD.
- Here are some more comparisons between the fights!
- Deku had depended on healing from an external force from the fight and Todoroki’s trauma was also from an external source from the fight. The fight had a positive effect by helping Todoroki “forget” the external world for a moment. In contrast, all healing and trauma occurred between and because of the participants in the Zenkichi versus Kumagawa fight.
- The one holding back eventually was able to release his full power in one fight, whereas the other was crippled from using the ability he wasn’t using (in this case to see) during the fight.
- Deku is all about self-improvement and is the weaker one who loses. Kumagawa is about bringing others down and is the stronger one who loses.
- Both Deku and Kumagawa had powers given to them.
- Both Deku and Kumagawa are absolute madmen, one a madman for good one a madman for evil!
If you want an even better comparison between 2 characters and fight scenes check out TalesofNerdia’s video comparing Meruem to Gon!