Well, Devil Survivor 2 is over now. That was a very standard cookbook ending, and only a few things happened that were really worth commenting on.
I’ve been writing about shonen for the past 2 weeks of this competition, and Keima only knows if I’ll make it out of the first round, so I might as well use the freedom I’ve got to coin a term that’s been percolating in my head for a while and talk about seinen (and some shonen, as well) while people are listening. I’ve taken to calling some manga Mid-Major because they’re great in a way that screams “improbable” and “unsustainable”, but because of that are even more fun to watch than consistently great ones. Clearly not top-tier, but clearly blessed with enough potential to make a little legend, like Dunk City FGCU demolishing Georgetown in this year’s NCAA Tourney.* There’s an appeal to watching the little engine that could suddenly transform into a giant robot and dropkick a galaxy, and nowhere (other than sports) does this phenomenon happen more often than in the world of monthly manga.
I’m a tremendous fan of battle series that play with creative power systems. So I was ecstatic when, some 5 years ago now, a new fantasy adventure manga about a couple who needed to hold hands constantly or perish called Double Arts arrived on the scene. I was equally devastated when, half a year later, Weekly Shonen Jump’s ruthless management killed the series dead immediately after some of the best introductory chapters of manga I’d ever read. I was younger then and didn’t realize that there were thousands of amazing manga I’d never even be able to read in my lifetime, so I was all kinds of devastated.
This whole affair was my introduction to one Komi Naoshi, a multiclass genius of a manga author who handily survived Double Arts’ cancellation and is currently set to break the anime barrier with an adaptation of two-years-young Weekly Shonen Jump (hereafter WSJ) manga Nisekoi. He’s also one of the few personalities in manga or anime who gets exponentially cooler the more I read about him. If you don’t currently have the afternoon’s worth of time to check out his entire mangaography (something I wholly endorse), then you might as well read this column.
This post represents the first of three entries our blog is submitting to the Manga Olympics for Bloggers. Voting begins in a few days on June 16th, so just enjoy the article for now. Or check out our illustrious competition.
Shonen manga, as literally defined, are manga marketed towards young boys. There are several implications of this definition, but I’m going to zero in on one in particular for the moment. Because shonen manga is popular with and being marketed towards younger boys, it must to some degree adhere to their notions of manliness, but still holds a unique opportunity to redefine what they see as cool, manly traits to aspire to. Let’s dive right in and take a look at some of the many shonen manga that subtly teach kids life lessons.
I kind of understand why Space Brothers has a huge overlap with fandoms of various battle series. One, it’s an objectively good show with very understandable messages. Two, it’s been on crunchyroll for a year, so it’s had plenty of time to catch the eye of the people who come there for Naruto (i.e. the majority of users). Three, similar to a good battle series like Hunter x Hunter, it can set an arc based on a very rigid set of rules and ideas, but grow very complicated very quickly, while being a thrillfest the whole way. The sealed-capsule arc was a great example of that approach in action, as was the more recent lunar-crash arc. The comeback competition is really just the latest example, this time featuring Engineering, but knowing that it’s somewhat formulaic doesn’t make it any less exciting to watch.
Bonus points for viewers who happen to have built a robot before
I don’t want to make too much sport of a show that’s already been dragged through the mud a number of times, but I’ve been calling it Dull Survivor 2 to myself throughout the episode. Make of it what you will, or read on for a more detailed analysis.
Arata Kangatari’s 7th episode was delayed this week thanks to a pan-Asian Table Tennis tournament, so I was going to write a post celebrating rapid-fire tennis comedy Teekyu. But a certain phrase kept popping up in that post, so I thought I’d address that first. And really, I’ve tossed around the terms “fast pacing” and “high energy” a whole awful lot over the past couple of months. I think it’s only fair I define both terms, since I’ll be using them a lot in the months to come.
Not only are some of the villains now good guys, and not only are the real villains better established, but this shift in circumstances was shown via their actions (rather than pseudoexciting revelationary monologue), and we even got some decent fight scenes to go with it all. Now *that* was a halfway climax!
How do you create the ultimate anime? Buy the best director and the best writer and give them infinite time and infinite money? Seems like that’d be obvious, right? Obvious, but wrong.
Leaving aside auxiliary questions like how one can actually judge who the best director and best writer are, there’s a much more fundamental problem with that idea. It’s an thought I often find expressed in critical circles, that the best successes come simply from good talents being able to do what they really want, free of any constraints. It’s the ideal of creative freedom unchained and free to race around the world with gumption and gusto.
The problem with this idea is that it’s too much yang and not enough yin, and it neglects the fact that a lot of the most creative ideas of our time have only come about because people didn’t have the materials or editorial approval to try their first choice and ended up doing something totally new. And how the choice that spends the most money isn’t always the choice that’s best for a particular show. Creative constraint is the polar opposite of creative freedom, but almost as vital in the production of powerful anime.
I’m not sure every Monday this Spring will be a clinic for how to make a good Battle-genre series, but this one certainly was.