DragonBall: Inspirational story or dumb action show?

I’ve been torn on the subject of Dragon Ball for most of my life.

Very few series have attained the stardom it has, yet from a story perspective it isn’t too phenomenal. So what exactly drives people to adore it?

Is it just childhood nostalgia, or something deeper?

I think for many children, Dragon Ball and its subsequent continuations, was an inspiration.

Showcasing a cast who, no matter the odds, continued to focus on self improvement and continual growth. Regardless of how powerful their opponents were, they kept trying to get stronger and stronger, to protect their friends and family, almost never for personal gain(except perhaps Vegeta from time to time) .

That indomitable will that drove many of them to stand up to a myriad of increasingly powerful foes, no matter how outmatched they were, is sadly lacking in most of our day to day interactions with people.

I don’t think anyone can watch Gohans pain and see him internalize it and use it as fuel to finally attain super saiyan 2 for the first time without feeling some kind of wild exultation at his accomplishment.

We all look for mediums in our life, whether through books or film or games, that can fill that deep seeded need we have for inspiring heroes, people we can look up to during hard times and use a guiding light out of the darkness that can overwhelm our lives.

As children, we gravitate to these stories. Although Dragon Ball can be incredibly dumb at times, it still is incredibly motivating.

At least it was to this little boy, who is re-watching the entire series from the beginning while travelling, and loving it just as much as I did as a child.

 

What defines an artist?

What defines an artist?

Is it a single piece of work that touches millions, or is it the consistent grinding out of good quality content that keeps a core audience enraptured over decades?

I don’t think there is an answer to the question, but it’s something that has sparked my curiosity over the past few years, what really makes someone or something great?

One of my favorite art makers is Studio Ghibli, that mastermind of animated work that has spanned decades, creating in my mind what can only be described as visual masterpieces that even 20 years later still enrapture me with their riot of colors and heartwarming stories of growth and perseverance.

Ghibli works are not perfect, nothing is, but they touch my heart, and have touched the hearts of millions of people around the world. Yet I still meet people every year who have never heard of Ghibli or any of its films, and look at me with a slightly puzzled look as I wax eloquently about how awesome they are.

No matter how amazing we think something is, there will always be someone who comes around and simply doesn’t think that what we love is anything special, much less worth taking the time to look at.

It’s that diversity of opinion that creates such a vast difference in the artistic work available to us. As people grow up and gravitate towards different aspects of culture and life, the work they produce becomes an amalgam of all these differing interests and gives us a huge swath of variety in the works produced.

So what some parts of society consider great work are laughed at by others as utter garbage not worthy of existence, it’s a sobering thought for those of us who work in any of the artistic fields since our egos tend to be quite sensitive to someone thinking our work is a piece of crap.

The world is full of everything and anything you can imagine these days, and I am quite happy to spend my days trying to create a space where people can laugh and cry and reminisce about their experiences through my work and the works of others I enjoy.

Especially Ghibli films, which are the most awesome and wonderful things ever and if you disagree you are obviously deranged.

Just saying.

The ridiculous beauty of Mob Psycho

There are a multitude of anime that manage to create characters that are infuriatingly stupid. Loud mouthed fools whos  only positive aspect is their sheer determination to beat the odds.

As I have grown older, my patience for these types of stereotypical “male” idiots has dwindled as my appreciation for characters with more depth has grown.

When I originally started watching Mob Psycho, I thought I had come across yet another anime showcasing the “dimwitted male who happens to be very strong” trope, used again and again in most shows these days.

I was wrong, and quite happy about it. Although the show is a bundle of cliches, just like the studio’s other work One Punch Man, the manner in which they put them together and the underlying meaning behind the character’s attempts to come to terms with who they are really resonated with me.

Mob, for lack of a better word, is awkward. Awkward in the cannot socialize, express emotions well kind of way. Rather than this being boring, it takes on a different light when you realize that the reason he is like this stems from repressing his immense psychic powers from a very young age, as well as an internalization of inferiority as he believes that his abilities do not make him special in any way, and that those things he lacks, such as social skills or good looks, are much more important and his lack of them a sign of deficiency in character.

Obviously for anyone who has watched the show, this is meant to be comedic, just the ridiculousness of a human being with such immense power believing his abilities are meaningless and refusing to use them in any way.

But if you look at the show deeply enough you can really see how this plays out in many people’s lives, minus the psychic powers of course. The consequence of repressing  for Mob are severe  as he develops a sort of dark, separate personality when pushed to his limit and completely loses control of himself, causing quite the devastation.

His inability to come to terms with his powers and recognizing that they are a part of him and one that he should use and be proud of is his downfall. There is wisdom in him not thinking he is better than other people, but he takes it to an extreme that is unhealthy.

I believe many people, myself included, have held ourselves back for fear of not being good enough when comparing ourselves to other people. It is so easy to look at other’s skills and think that because we cannot do what they do, because we do not have what they have, that we are  somehow lesser, inferior, weak.

Each of us has a set of things, whether physical, mental or emotional that we excel at. But even those things require great will, effort and loads of practice to become great at.  Not recognizing the gifts we have and the work we put into getting good at something will lead to many negative consequences, and Mob Psycho showcases this perfectly.

Mob’s brother, who is good looking, intelligent and very physically adept, lives his life feeling massively inferior to Mob, even though he has so much in his life, and because of that he does some very cruel things, and even more when he finally develops his own psychic powers.  Mob on the other hand will probably never reach his full potential due to his refusal to merge fully with his powers.

We are who we are, and only when we utilize all that we have been born with can we fully grow into our potential.

On a less philosophical note, Mob Psycho is a roller-coaster ride of great fight scenes, interesting use of color, using white and black and little bits of other colors in a way that really expresses the powers being used and draws you in, as well as  an amusing cast of characters, making it a fun view for everyone, I highly recommend it.

Breaking tradition: Looking to books for animation ideas

Sometimes society gets so stuck in it’s ways that it misses out on tremendous opportunities to expand it’s artistic repertoire, until someone comes around with an idea and the will to act upon it, smashing through the barrier of tradition.

We see it time and again in the music industry as musicians do away with the rules set down by the past generations and start entirely new genres.

Painting and drawing went through multiple renaissances over the millenia from scratches in cave walls to the masterpieces of Da Vinci and Michaelangelo.

Writing has changed tremendously in the last century as our ability to transmit information has shifted from paper to electronic and as the quantity of literate people has grown.

As we dive deeper into this tech driven age we are going to see paradigm shifts, and the bastions of the old traditions will not give away so easily. Sometimes that is a good thing, as there is beauty in old ways of doing things as well, balance is key.

Personally the biggest shift I want to see, which I have written of before, is for people to start using fantasy, sci fi and other novels to create animated worlds as we see the japanese do with their anime.  There is a massive amount of books just waiting to be brought to life, and we need to stop trying to make them into real life series and films when the animated genre is exploding and becoming more popular year after year.

Brandon Sanderson’s stormlight archives and mistborn series, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera and so many other amazing authors have created beautiful worlds which could be realized in animated form, and yet because we have simply tossed this field to the Japanese and to Disney and Pixar for children, they lay dormant.

It just needs one team of dedicated people who love books and love the magic of animation to smash through these old ways of thinking to expand the genre into a whole different realm of experience.

There are a myriad of other domains that lie waiting for similar breakthroughs.

I look forward to a future where these potentials are realized.

Ghibli love: Princess Mononoke is a masterpiece and should have been a series.

This last month I have come to the stunning realization that Ghibli studio has created many more films than I was originally aware of, which has led to a series of beautiful nights alone spent discovering all the lovely worlds they have imagined.

I was first introduced to Ghibli through their great work Princess Mononoke.

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Now to start off, I do have some gripes with this movie, some trivial, some serious.

Probably the most trivial is the fact that one of my favorite aspects of Ghibli films is that generally they have a female lead, usually young, and very sweetly are able to show the young girls development, a coming of age story in many ways.

But the star of this movie is Ashitaka, a young man from a  cast out tribe who is stricken by the curse of a Boar God(although the concept of what exactly makes these creatures Gods considering they die from a bullet rather easily is a bit sketchy) who has gone mad and turned into a demon, leading Ashitaka to go on a journey to find out what caused the Boar Gods change and hopefully find a cure for the curse. I absolutely adore Ashitaka, he is everything sorely lacking in many anime series featuring male leads; strong, resolute, intelligent, caring and open to differing ideas. And yet this film is called Princess Mononoke! To this moment her presence in the film as some sort of central focus is just a waste to me, she has barely any development, is not needed in any sense to advance the story and the fact that her name adorns the title just irritates me to no end. Kind of like how the Zelda games are 98 percent about Link but are all named after a princess who barely plays a part in most of the games, except maybe breath of the wild(possibly some of the old nintendo titles).

Trivial I know, but annoying. Her name is in the title I think simply because Ghibli is habituated to making their leads female, although I could be wrong, who knows.

This leads to something more serious though, which is that Princess Mononoke SHOULD HAVE BEEN A SERIES. It annoys me to no end that Ghibli refuses to break out of it’s mold of just doing movies. The world built up in Princess Mononoke is wonderful, Ashitakas tribe background of being cast out and him being a Prince could have been fascinating, the development of the worlds animal Gods and their connection to the land and people, exploring how people interact with them, getting more imaginative with how the curse could affect Ashitaka and make him even stronger and have his actions reverberate more throughout the land , even seeing how the humans would deal with things after the death of Shishigami would have been cool.

Obviously none of this will ever happen(unless someone begged Ghibli for the rights to reboot it as a series so long as Ghibli liked the general direction? ANYONE!? PLEASE?!).

Regardless of all that, the film is visually stunning, it’s use of light and color, especially the scenes of transition when Shishigami went from his daytime form to night form were exquisite, and the changing of the land from life to death and back to life as Shishigamis head was restored to his body was breathtaking.

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Ashitaka was a wonderful character and it hurts my poor little heart that more anime developers these days do not develop their male leads more along this line, instead we are continuously subjected to the most idiotic of characters.

San could have been very interesting if she had been given more time to develop with backstory, and not been subjected to this weird love story with Ashitaka that just felt tacked on.

Lady Eboshi, although there were attempts to humanize her with her deeds of helping the lepers and helping prostitutes, just seemed like a complete ass to me and was completely devoid of any logic or emotion for anyone outside of her circle. The story just went, well, these miners wanted to mine, and the animals( who we know are conscious beings just like humans)were in the way, so we massacred them all, but we are nice to lepers so we’re allowed, solid reasoning right there folks.

 

This may seem like I am hating on quite a bit of the film but in reality it’s the fact that regardless of these irritations the film is still beautiful, the characters are brought to life wonderfully, even those not central to the story, the humor and seriousness are used perfectly, and the conflict between nature and progress was shown very well.

Overall though I think Ghibli did a wonderful job trying to balance so many different viewpoints and aspects to the story in such a short timeframe and as always pushed the bounds of what the meaning of quality art is.

NOW GET ME A SERIES PEOPLE!

With love, your friendly neighborhood Otaku.