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.

Do you wish you had a superpower?

I cannot recall the first moment I decided I wanted to have superpowers. I must have been very young, as I began reading fantasy at quite an early age. All I know is that ever since that moment, I have lived with a mild pang of sadness at the thought that I will never know what it is like to wield power beyond this normal human shell.

Imagine being able to whisper to the very air and have it lift you high up into tendrils of the clouds and soar across the world, a cloud walker.

Or to feel your bones and muscle tighten with such strength that you could lift a whole building, or perhaps even simply remake the very substance of life into anything you wish, fusing your very own creativity into reality.

Ah the dreams I have had all my life, the stories I have told, only to awaken again and again to this damn normalcy. But at the same time I am quite grateful, because I recognize that it is being this normal guy that has pushed my imagination to its limits(with the help of copious amounts of books and games created by other inventive folk)  and allowed me to imagine world upon worlds of magic and wonder.

If Humans have one true superpower it is our ability to create within our minds an infinite universe of possibility, to bend and twist the fabric of reality into anything we can think up, and we can do this again and again until the moment we leave this Earth.

Creativity is our gift to ourselves and those around us.

It is quite wonderful when you think of it that way, isn’t it?

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.