Saturday, March 29, 2014

Why Do We Fight?

Why do we fight? A question that is asked so often in media that it has practically become cliche. An element that is juxtaposed throughout the whole shounen demographic. In one form or another, fights are a staple in the battle genre especially from series serialized in Jump. The question I am offering up today is a simple one: Why? Why do we embellish the idea of people brawling it out in life or death battles? Why are we enthralled with the idea of who is the stronger competitor in battle? Why are we captivated by the magical moment of watching how the fights unfold and what twists and turns lie ahead? These are all questions that popped in my head as I finished watching this most recent episode of Hunter x Hunter. So today, I will be analyzing the art of the fight and strive to answer the question posed in the title of the article.

In analyzing the art of the fight, I think it is most important to look at the question of why. So why do these fights occur and why are we so fascinated by these competitions? Well, it's simple really. What it boils down to is it is human nature to be captivated with the sport of competition. This is why sports are popular, boxing and mma are popular as well as super heroes. People resort to these forms of entertainment to escape from their real world problems. Humans are competitive by nature, so this provides them an outlet to enjoy competition. These fights in anime also parallel the real world problems such as all the wars we experience daily. A lot of these battles are the perceived good guys defending the world from the bad guys. This concept is an escape from the real life fights and allows us to enjoy the good guys being able to overcome the bad guys since this doesn't always happen in the real world. Instead of more physical weapons (such as the guns and knives we use in real fights) they are substituted with more supernatural powers in this genre of anime. This isn't to say that guns and knives aren't present in shounen battle anime, but the primary weapon of war in anime is supernaturally based centering on weapon's made from human life energy. We want to be able to believe that embellishing war this way through magical powers is real because it makes it enjoyable and cool. This is why fights have become a staple for the shounen battle genre. We as humans are fascinated with the competitive nature of an all out battle.

Now that we've looked at why fights occur, the next step is to dissect the actual elements to what makes a fight so compelling. The first is the great conveying of emotions through battle. In my opinion, the emotional means to a fight is a critical element that is greatly overlooked in why certain fights are so memorable. There is no better example of this than a fight that occurred in Yu Yu Hakusho when Hiei battled one of three demon world kings in Mokuro. This was not the best physical brawl in history as much of the contest was heavily dominated by Mokuro, however it is still a very meaningful fights for fans because of the great emotional story that this fight centered around. Mokuro was attempting to get Hiei to accept wanting to live and they were in a sense professing their feelings for each other. It was magical to witness and is still one of my favorite fights from that series. But this isn't the only emotionally driven fight. Most of the best fight do have an emotional back story to go along with it. Just to name a few memorable ones off the top of my head: Gon vs Pitou (Hunter x Hunter), Naruto vs Pain (Naruto Shippuden), Luffy vs Arlong (One Piece), etc. The emotions that are poured into a fight really create a euphoric sense of "big fight feel" and keep them invested in every turn that comes to fruition in the fight. Emotions run high in situations that turn to combat, so often the combatant's judgement can be clouded creating for some intense and powerful moments.

Also going along with the emotional element of fights, story is just as pivotal in creating a special atmosphere for battle. People can debate this point as much as they want, but the best fights also have incredible build up and story telling throughout. Very rarely is a fight as memorable without a whole lot of story to go with it. To put it into perspective, Ichigo's fight with Aizen is viewed as a confrontation of epic proportions, but when examining the fight itself without the back story and build up to go with it, there really isn't a whole lot there to praise. In fact, that's probably one of the most one sided curb stomping's I've seen in any anime. So why is it so highly regarded? Well, the story telling and build up of Aizen's character really helped build fans' anticipation for the confrontation and gave them a sense of euphoria when Ichigo was able to put an end to Aizen's tyrannical dominance over the shinigami. It's just a simple, undeniable fact that often a fight can be derailed without a good story being centered around it. I honestly feel it is a critical element to what makes a fight more memorable. There is no better way to convey a story than through characters with opposing ideals having to clash in order to overcome their differences.

Another important aspect to what makes these fights is setting. Setting, in my opinion, is a crucial aspect for helping create the atmosphere of a fight. One of the first things our brains are able to recognize a fight by is the setting. The setting can be used as part of the fight as well. It has just such an enigmatic effect on fights that it becomes a key factor in what people will remember the fight for. One of the best examples of this for me is Natsu's fight with Jellal in the Tower of Heaven. That fight wasn't so great in terms of the actual combat, but it stands out for me because the Etharion background is so captivating and add such a cool element to the fight. Another fight that stands out for me primarily because of setting is Ichigo vs Ulquiorra from Bleach. Yes, this one was a very good physical fight but what I remember it for is the unique setting. The night time of Hueco Mundo was just so visually appealing with the soft white sand mixed in with the pitch black background of the sky. It was something that I'd never seen before having characters fight in a black and white space like that. So yes, in my opinion setting is a critical element of why we love fights.

The final element I think that is key to making these fights so compelling is the actual fluidity and innovative nature of these battles. We love fights because they provide a sense of entertainment like no other. The action and strategy presented keeps us on the edge of our seats and emotionally invested in what the outcome will be at every turn in the battle. Fights are more compelling when they are creative in their approach to it. We want to see the characters engaged in battle have to improvise and find new applications of their skills and abilities to overcome their opponents. We also are going to be more captivated by a back and forth confrontation where neither character readily has the upper hand. These are the types of aspects that make a fight memorable. We want to be thrilled by what we see. Fights need to be exciting while keeping your full attention with what is happening on screen. We, by nature, are excited by the unexpected and by competition. So the more these fights are smart, entertaining, competitive and creating, we are always going to be captivated by their magic.

So there we have it. Fights are always going to capture a lot of people's attention for the sheer entertainment purposes of wanting to be blown away by the sheer power of competition and unpredictability. It's only natural in a society that promotes violent competitive sports such as football, boxing and mixed martial arts that we'd also love the the supernatural battles that occur in shounen battle series. I for one, will always be a fan of fights in anime and manga series because of the reasons mentioned above. There is just so much that can be added to a series by having stories end through battles. It is a euphoric feeling of enjoyment that can't be created by anything else. I will always be a supporter of the series that attempt to carry on this tradition and I am glad to have gotten to watch a vast variety of all different styles of battle in anime and manga to write about my love for them.