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.
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.
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.
Different anime and manga, and really all works of entertainment, have different ways of captivating their audiences. Some of them create mental mementos so strong that they last forever whether you want them to or not, and others leave light footprints that disappear with the first snowfall, but are no less beautiful.
There’s a scene in Naoki Urasawa’s Happy! where the main character Umino, who’s gotten herself matched up against a player who should be by all rights an easy win, gets mixed up in a match-fixing gig. Due to her honest nature, she still tries to win the game, but finds herself stymied against an opponent playing much harder than she normally would, at a level that one informed observer remarks she’ll “never reach again” as a result of considerable pressure heaped on her from outside sources.
You know who else is under crushing pressure all the time? Mediocre manga authors.
I had a thought the other day about types of fantasy that I thought I’d hash out and share. This is a bit on settings that applies more to short-form stories than it does to franchises. Examples are largely anime because, well, me.