I’m a complete action fanboy. And being a fanboy means that I love good shounen. The first anime I can remember being exposed to was Dragonball Z back around when I was 11. Me and my friend always used to talk about how awesome the show was, but took two very different paths: he got into gymnastics/fighting/general awesomeness (as his love of DBZ was less a love for anime and more a love for all things martial arts) and I just kept watching more anime. DBZ was just a gateway drug, and although it’ll always be with me as a part of my childhood, these days I easily dismiss it for not being all that good. But that’s not really the point.
The point is that another thing the show gave me other than a general love for anime was an expectation. From then onwards, whenever I watched a show where there was a clearly defined good and evil, a bad guy who just has to be defeated, I thought that no matter what, even if the antagonist was completely invincible and unbeatable, the hero would never lose. No matter how many times they were knocked down, they would always get back up again for the sake of their friends, their family, or the fate of the world. That’s something that I’ve always loved about shows such as these – they always appeal to the kid in me who wants to see the bad guy lose. The heros represent justice, determination and the American way!. The Gokus and Luffys of anime are just like the Supermans and Spidermans of comics. They’re who the kid in me wants to be, the strong hero who saves the day despite all odds. And I never get tired of seeing it happen.
The points that stand out to me in Dragonball Z and One Piece are Goku’s fight against Frieza and Luffy’s fight against Lucci. Both fights have those “hell yeah!” moments where you just get the urge to shout your support for the hero’s side. At the same time, both character’s exhibit traits that we I love in my heroes, defying the powers of evil and refusing to submit to them.
Goku – “The future of Gohan…of Chi-Chi…not to mention the entire universe. It all depends on me! I don’t care if you’re a million times stronger than me, mark my words, I’m not going to let them down! So get ready Frieza because this time you’re going down!”
Luffy – “Until I defeat you, I’m not going down!”
The never say die attitude of these guys is something that always inspires me no matter how critical I become of anime – it just appeals to the part of me that wants to be as awesome as these heroes.
Another series which really brings out the fanboy in me is Hajime no Ippo (how many times do I have to rail on about this thing before people take notice!?). In every one of Ippo’s battles, his dreams, aspirations and pride are riding on the line. But on top of these things, there’s something else he’s inherited through his fights. The words of the reporter Iimura say it all:
“At the very least, your fists carry the dreams of 19 different people in them. I don’t believe that those fists are so light you can just toss them aside.”
Every match Ippo’s been in has allowed him to grow and take on new challenges, and that growth is what makes him able to withstand any punch and keep fighting. Without every ounce of experience he’s gained from his battles before, he wouldn’t able to continue on his path. Not only can he not give up, he’s not allowed to give up, for himself and the sake of all the people that he’s beaten. The series is always packed full of tense moments and seeing the protagonists rise again and again despite all odds never stops being awesome.
After seeing a good amount of anime, I can safely say that outside of shounen action series, this isn’t a very prevalent trend or at least not as clear cut as good beating evil. There are always exceptions, though such as Casshern Sins, but again Casshern’s “invincibility” and the moral and philosophical messages in the show kind of challenge the assumption that there is a “good” or an “evil”. However, I could always be wrong as there’s always something that I’ll not have seen or perhaps even missed in something I’ve watched or read. One example outside of shounen I can think of is Shin Angyo Onshi.
It’s not so much how Munsu gets up again, but how he doesn’t back down at all despite being destroyed by the end of the manwha. I mean, just look at this. He loses both his arms and is fighting a monstrously powerful demon, yet he’s still able to overpower him through sheer force of will. His death afterwards makes his actions before all the more impressive.
This stuff appearing in shounen (Soul Eater, Gurren Lagann etc) and anime in general is one of the many reasons I love watching anime so much, as those “hell yeah!” moments don’t seem to show up in movies or televisions shows as often.If there’s anything I’ve miseed out on or should take notice of, feel free to leave a comment with some suggestions!