Monday, March 2, 2009

Anime and Manga Themes and Premises

Akemi's Post No. 2
(SW's response in Com Box)

Thank you for your response. I'm very excited to have someone who has studied the subject on hand to ask questions of. Please, lets continue this discussion in your blog. I've always felt that I've lacked something in my story telling, and working exactly what it is out on my own has been a pain.

I feel that I found what I’m missing in my studies and your book clarified it. I am quite frustrated studying anime and manga because I’m well aware that there may be a gold mine of books on this subject in Japanese awaiting discovery, just out of my grasp. It's a language i'm determined to master someday, just for the purpose of ransacking the book shelves.

I'm afraid I have no credentials to my name except a certificate in the digital arts. I'm interested in writing and drawing my own stories in comic book form. As there's no university for that, I study on my own.

Here are a few anime and manga that I like. Naruto, Full Metal Alchemist. If you ever decide to watch an anime, these two are your best bet. :)

The first two are what I call larger than life plots dealt with on a level that I can identify with. This is a point that I feel fails miserably in movies today. The “Why do I care?” factor. If I can’t be emotionally moved and identify with the journeys of the characters in their stories I simply don’t care. No matter what grand message the movie is trying to get across. The two examples below of mange that I enjoy have me caring deeply because I can understand the frustrations and desires of the characters on a daily life level.

The plot of Naruto is about a boy who is an outcast from birth because he had a demon that was destroying the village sealed into him. People shun him. Because he is an outcast, he has a turning point in the first book where he has a choice to become destructive to the society or be a contributing part of it. The characters he meets mirror that theme on some level. Those other outcasts who chose to actively to use their demons to be a negative impact on their society, those who chose to let others to use their demons to destroy... *sighs* It's difficult to explain. Nartuo is complicated on so many levels theme wise and I can enjoy the story on many different levels: plot, theme, characters, the setting.

Fullmetal Alchemist starts on mistake. Two boys lose their mother and study the magic of alchemy intending to bring her back to life. The story theme of this story is quite clear, "to gain something of value, one must lose something of value in return." One boy lost his body in the attempt to bring his mother back, the other brother literally looses and arm and a leg. Their story is a journey to find the philosopher’s stone to regain the brother's lost body. It's interesting because the characters they meet along their journey follow that theme exactly...those who are willing to sacrifice what is precious to them for their goals, and the consequences.

Some image links:
Full Metal Alcehmist

Signed: Akemi Art

1 comment:

Stan Williams said...

Dear Akemi:

Regarding your "credentials." As you study, think and write, you develop credentials. Don't sell yourself short. You've begun a valuable journey. There may be a gold mine of books in Japanese, but you have a different cultural perspective. Work with what you have. There are obviously some cross-cultural values that you can explore and reveal to others. That's of value.

As I've written before a movie, or story of any kind, but allow the reader or audience to identify with the main characters if it is to communicate anything of value. That there are movies that do not allow you to identify with the characters is a message that I hope filmmakers pay attention to. I believe, and my book discusses, how true moral premises allows the audience to care for and identify with the characters and the story's values.

Your description of the demons in the characters in Naruto does not sound complicated at all. All story characters worth their "salt" have both strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices. Those weaknesses and vices are like demons that can hinder and destroy things around us. Naruto chooses to be a contributor to his village but that doesn't mean he forever conquers the demon within.

This mythic structure is very true of all people. In Catholic teachings there is such a thing as CONCUPISCENCE, which is the craving inside all humans to do evil. Some people in real life, and those characters created by writers, all have different levels of success in suppressing or controlling concupiscence desires. It is the difference between good and bad moral decisions. It is the motive force of all drama.

What you discuss about Fullmetal Alchemist and the need to sacrifice to gain something of value, can have both good or bad premises. To sacrifice for the good of another, or the good of the larger group, provide it brings a higher good without doing evil, is always going to be read by audiences as justified and heroic. But it is also possible to sacrifice something out of an evil desire, and although the character may achieve it, the consequences for the character and for those around him or her, but not be good. Remember, the end never justifies the means. There is a hierarchy of good and bad. For instance, it may be a good sacrifice to give up one's arm for the life of another. But it is never good to give one's life to save the arm of another.

I will watch some anime thanks to Netflix.