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Old 2009-08-15, 21:20   Link #1
Timdog
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Is using willpower/guts a bit of a copout?

When I first started anime, I loved shows where guts and toughness won the day, things like TTGL and Hajime no Ippo. The biggest example that anyone can relate to (if you're an American) is the Rocky series of movies. It's all about having the willpower to continue that lets the main character win the day.

I LOVED these type of stories. But I'm starting to wonder if using the old willpower/courage concept is just an easy way for writers to finish a story. It just seems like it would be much more interesting if things were solved in a creative way instead of just whoever has more will wins. Plus, the concept of will winning out over everything else isn't very realistic at all. Obviously a lot of anime are not realistic with mecha, sci-fi and fantasy being common but it just seems like using willpower is such an easy way to solve the conflicts in the story.

When I looked at both TTGL and Ippo, most of the fights just boiled down to the main character having more will than the enemy and thus, they won. There were technical aspects thrown in (moreso in Ippo), but the one thing that won was willpower.

Am I wrong in thinking this? Is using willpower just an easy way for writers to conclude their story without attempting to have another, more creative way of finishing it?
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Old 2009-08-15, 21:31   Link #2
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It has to do with the mood of the story and... it's hard to explain without linking to a TVTropes article.

No, you aren't wrong. Sometimes, it is used as a copout, but sometimes it's the most fitting thing to use.
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Old 2009-08-16, 03:01   Link #3
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To make a long story short, it's about ideals versus cruel reality. You need both actually but some prefer one more than the other. Anime aiming for kids and teens are heavy on ideals while anime aiming on mature or adults (hentai are of course not included) are more on the reality part.

I myself am more of the reality, although I gladly accept a twist as a jump from one end of the spectrum to the other. Imagine an idealistic hero realizing he was taken for sucker. Great scene, no matter how many times I watch it. Or a scientist having the power to destroy the world with a button because predictions and mathematic formulas show that people are scum, yet not pressing it because he hopes to change the world otherwise. It is great to have both as counterattacks of one another than just one.

I no longer like shonen like Dragonball Z where your power is equal to your willpower. Why do the good guys have more willpower than the bad guys? Not explained, other than assuming the bad guys are not stuck up to their ideals as the good guys are. Something loathsome as the stereotypical villains are always a hundred times more glued to their selfish goals than the heroes are to their friends and their willpower is calculated accordingly.

A nice excuse for ideals winning is that teamwork beats solo performance. A single ingenious person can achieve greatness on his own up to a point. Yet, several normal people can also achieve greatness if they just cooperate. Like adding their willpowers to a sum greater than an individual willpower. This is quite clear in the Genki dama in Dragonball Z or the conclusion of the first Sailor Moon season.

Still, you also need a sense of realization of the true status of the world around you. If you try to build castles in the sand, no matter how much you try, you will always encounter failure without realizing the problem.

Anyway, anime and cartoons started as children's adventures and comedies, where ideals were essential. Nowadays, people tend to be more cynical because of globalization and several scandals of clerics and politicians being reveiled on a daily basis. Ideals are still needed for civilization to maintain a form of solidness but not as much as before.
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Old 2009-08-16, 04:01   Link #4
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The willpower/guts & toughness method of ending a series is simply generally more epic to watch than a more creative method.

If you look at the most beloved fights, and conclusions, in anime (and probably in pop fiction in general), they tend to be based more on willpower/guts & toughness than on creativity.

You yourself mentioned TTGL, which is one of the most hyped action-oriented animes on the net, but then there's also the famous Falcon Punch, most of Nanoha Takamachi's victories, most of Shana's victories, etc... Generally speaking, it's simply more fun to watch heroes go in with guns ablazing or martial arts thrashing, and take down the villain through simply greater firepower and/or resolve, than it is to watch a cerebral solution play out.

Don't get me wrong, a good cerebral solution can be nice to see, but it just tends to not carry that epic feeling that a lot of fans like to see in their entertainment - i.e. there's a reason why "epic win" and "epic fail" are such huge cliche terms on the internet. People like epicness.

Idealism vs. Cynicism is a bit of a factor, but I honestly think that this is secondary to what simply looks cooler to your average fan. You can have a cerebral solution that doesn't contradict an idealistic outlook on the world. Actually, some of the more creative conclusions frequently arise from very idealistic heroes trying to find a way to defeat the villain with out actually killing the villain and/or causing any loss of life in general.

Finally, like you yourself say, its generally easier to write a willpower/guts & toughness victory. The author has to be a pretty cerebral and intelligent guy himself to come up with something like, say, Death Note.
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Old 2009-08-16, 04:07   Link #5
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Its the mindset that counts and the Japanese have a very powerful spiritual mindset, they are such hardworking people because they believe in willpower.

Is it really just yoru willpower at work? How can willpower itself work? Of course it can't work with just raw willpower.

But willpower works because the characters had the will to train and make themselves stronger. They become strong enough to have the willpower to do what seems impossible.

If you want to defeat someone, do you just keep thinking and have the will to win? No, besides having the will, you must have the power and means to do it. In other words, your willpower is the drive behind your actions, your capabilities respond to your willpower.

You don't win because you are strong, you win because you refuse to give up.
Quote:
Originally Posted by roriconfan View Post
I no longer like shonen like Dragonball Z where your power is equal to your willpower. Why do the good guys have more willpower than the bad guys? Not explained, other than assuming the bad guys are not stuck up to their ideals as the good guys are. Something loathsome as the stereotypical villains are always a hundred times more glued to their selfish goals than the heroes are to their friends and their willpower is calculated accordingly.
No its explained by you failed to understand. The good guys have stronger willpower because they have a stronger belief in what they want to achieve. If someone wants to destroy your planet, his selfish intention cannot match the intention of you who wants to protect. Because when you want to protect, you are not only having a single intention, instead your desire is supported by the intentions of many others who want to protect. Your combined intention and wills make your stronger than the single selfish desire of the enemy.

It has always been shown in every single shounen, mecha series out there that the character who fights for others will win. Simply because he is not carrying just his own will, by the combined wills of others who are with him. His willpower is a combined willpower of everyone vs the enemy's single willpower.

In TTGL, at first the Anti-Spiral was stronger than TTGL because it had the entire planet's will united. But when Earth appeared and the Gurren-dan saw the Earth, the realised that they are carrying the wills of their home planet as well, who are shown to have their faith in the Gurren-dan. And in the end TTGL wins because of their many wills which defeated the single united will of the Anti-Spiral.

You see this in Ultraman, Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, Godzilla, Gundam, Digimon, all Super Robots, Shounen, everything. Its the combined many wills of everyone who supports you that defeats the single selfish will.

Over at the One Piece subforum we have this really deep thread called 'Haki discussion'. There I realised that the West have a completely different mindset from the Japanese, its extremely hard for them to understand very simple Japanese concepts.

Its really just a difference in culture that people don't understand.
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Old 2009-08-16, 04:34   Link #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C.A. View Post
You don't win because you are strong, you win because you refuse to give up...
...unless you get killed. Too bad most series are too afraid to kill their characters and we get a lead who is turned to meance meat, yet stands up stronger than when he was healthy and beats the bad guy... who doesn't survive or just gives in. Kinda lame. Yes, what doesn't kill you can make you stronger. But not that suddenly.

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No its explained by you failed to understand.
Hey, I mention the same thing right there in the post.
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Old 2009-08-16, 04:53   Link #7
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Originally Posted by roriconfan View Post
...unless you get killed. Too bad most series are too afraid to kill their characters and we get a lead who is turned to meance meat, yet stands up stronger than when he was healthy and beats the bad guy... who doesn't survive or just gives in. Kinda lame. Yes, what doesn't kill you can make you stronger. But not that suddenly.

Hey, I mention the same thing right there in the post.
I don't get the greatness of death. Character death is just a plot device, it is no more significant than any other plot device.

Refusing defeat and standing up when you fall down = lame, if this is the kind of mindset that you have then its just you whose not suited to the genre.

What these stories are teaching is to have determination and will, something that the Japanese culture treasures alot. They treasure the human spirit.

What is different from my take on the combination of wills and yours is that you do not account faith and belief in it. Even if your sand castle fails, you should keep trying if you really want to do it, you must have faith in yourself. Its when people think they have realised the reality of things that they start to lose faith and give up.
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Old 2009-08-16, 05:25   Link #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C.A. View Post
You don't win because you are strong, you win because you refuse to give up.
Quote:
Originally Posted by roriconfan View Post
...unless you get killed.
Actually, they're not mutually exclusive.

TTGL is loaded with protagonist character death, and prominent character death at that. But when the character died for a cause, he or she accomplished something worthwhile with it.

Much better handling of character death than what I typically see in western comic books, where characters are frequently killed for sheer shock effect.

Quote:

Too bad most series are too afraid to kill their characters and we get a lead who is turned to meance meat, yet stands up stronger than when he was healthy and beats the bad guy... who doesn't survive or just gives in. Kinda lame. Yes, what doesn't kill you can make you stronger. But not that suddenly.
I will say that I'm not a fan of what I call "unbelievable damage soak" ("damage soak" referring to the amount of damage that a character can withstand with out dying, and/or being KOed).

While I was a big Bleach fan, they were a bit guilty of this, imo.

So, I agree with you here. If an attack looks like it inflicted lethal damage, then the character shouldn't be fighting on in spite of it. He or she should be down for the count (at least), if not outright dead.
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Old 2009-08-16, 05:30   Link #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C.A. View Post
I don't get the greatness of death. Character death is just a plot device, it is no more significant than any other plot device.
Character death is a lot more important as a plot device than you think. I have seen it myriads of times. A character gets on the verge of death, reaches to some sort of self-realization and beats the bad guy, while surviving himself, despite for the obvious reverse outcome. You'd think he became a better person, a more mature version of himself or something like that. Sadly, most of the times that does not happen. He either remains the same immature kid afterwards or even worse, his purpose in the story just ended and thereafter he becomes an unimportand stunt in the background, serving as filler material. Why would a character survive if he is to become far less interesting than far more interesting after a supposed near-death experiance? Most series are afraid to kill their characters or just remove them from the story entirely after they have nothing to do with them thereafter. So, they turn to a parade of stunts after awhile and the interest simply dies out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by C.A. View Post
Refusing defeat and standing up when you fall down = lame, if this is the kind of mindset that you have then its just you whose not suited to the genre.
Hey, hold on, I never said I don't like that. What I don't like is how they get stronger and wiser when they are one with the floor. Something that simply does not happen in practice. You are stronger when you are in shape. You think straight when you are in shape. You get stronger when you are in shape. See my point? You have the means to fight for all your friends and gather their power when you are in shape. When you can hardly stand up, you can do shit, much less realize how a hell of a lot more you care about them and fight at 1000% power.

Quote:
Originally Posted by C.A. View Post
What is different from my take on the combination of wills and yours is that you do not account faith and belief in it. Even if your sand castle fails, you should keep trying if you really want to do it, you must have faith in yourself. Its when people think they have realised the reality of things that they start to lose faith and give up.
There, the usual problem of stuck ups. I never said "don't build a castle". I meant "don't build a castle there". Or even "use cement if you want it to hold". Being a stuck up, means you keep trying to achieve even a lost goal. Like all those priests back in the dark ages, who refused to believe the Earth is indeed round and not flat. They were killing and torturing thousands of people because they refused to give up (yes, that's exactly what their willpower and belief led to). It took 500 years for the Vatican to admit it was wrong. 500 years for an obvious fact!!! Well, excuse me I'm not into this sort of mindset as you say.

By the way, the Japanese people were brainwashed during the 2nd world war to be in a mindset of "we are the undefeatable nation that will rule all of Asia in the name of the God emperor". Can you imagine how devastated they were, when their undefeatable navy was beated, their cities were nuked and their God emperor surrendered, begging for mercy? Don't try to convince me standing up or not surrendering would lead to Japan winning the war, because it wouldn't. They had already lost. So, from my point of view, all this "fight for your ideals and never give up" is more of a tradition than actual practice in real life.
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Old 2009-08-16, 06:06   Link #10
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I actually enjoy the idealism portrayed in the willpower tropes, but not when used excessively. Related what roriconfan was saying, the problem with such "good guy" conviction is that what if the enemy has such convictions too?
Protagonist believes he/they are doing the right thing, fights to protect something, etc.
Antagonist believes he/they are doing the right thing, fights to protect something, etc.

And what I like about anime is that there are many titles featuring this aspect too.
Although less common, this goes to the idea of Strong Opinions, Weakly Held
i.e. willpower that can change directions

even less common is the idea of Weak Opinions, All Strongly Held, where you're not attached to any one at all, and treat them all as potential solutions, perhaps suitable in different contexts
i.e. applying willpower in multiple directions

Last edited by npcomplete; 2009-08-16 at 06:21.
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Old 2009-08-16, 06:15   Link #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by npcomplete View Post
I actually enjoy the idealism portrayed in the willpower tropes, but not when used excessively. Related what roriconfan was saying, the problem with such "good guy" conviction is that what if the enemy has such convictions too?
Protagonist believes he/they are doing the right thing, fights to protect something, etc.
Antagonist believes he/they are doing the right thing, fights to protect something, etc.

(and what I like about anime is that there are many titles featuring this aspect too)
Some people simply have more will power than others, the strength of convictions aside. I mean - this is true in real life. Not everybody has the same degree of drive and determination in life. Perhaps the protagonist simply has a bit more inherent drive and determination than the antagonist. I don't see a big deal with that myself.
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Old 2009-08-16, 06:35   Link #12
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Character death is a lot more important as a plot device than you think. I have seen it myriads of times. A character gets on the verge of death, reaches to some sort of self-realization and beats the bad guy, while surviving himself, despite for the obvious reverse outcome. You'd think he became a better person, a more mature version of himself or something like that. Sadly, most of the times that does not happen. He either remains the same immature kid afterwards or even worse, his purpose in the story just ended and thereafter he becomes an unimportand stunt in the background, serving as filler material. Why would a character survive if he is to become far less interesting than far more interesting after a supposed near-death experiance? Most series are afraid to kill their characters or just remove them from the story entirely after they have nothing to do with them thereafter. So, they turn to a parade of stunts after awhile and the interest simply dies out.

Hey, hold on, I never said I don't like that. What I don't like is how they get stronger and wiser when they are one with the floor. Something that simply does not happen in practice. You are stronger when you are in shape. You think straight when you are in shape. You get stronger when you are in shape. See my point? You have the means to fight for all your friends and gather their power when you are in shape. When you can hardly stand up, you can do shit, much less realize how a hell of a lot more you care about them and fight at 1000% power.

There, the usual problem of stuck ups. I never said "don't build a castle". I meant "don't build a castle there". Or even "use cement if you want it to hold". Being a stuck up, means you keep trying to achieve even a lost goal. Like all those priests back in the dark ages, who refused to believe the Earth is indeed round and not flat. They were killing and torturing thousands of people because they refused to give up (yes, that's exactly what their willpower and belief led to). It took 500 years for the Vatican to admit it was wrong. 500 years for an obvious fact!!! Well, excuse me I'm not into this sort of mindset as you say.

By the way, the Japanese people were brainwashed during the 2nd world war to be in a mindset of "we are the undefeatable nation that will rule all of Asia in the name of the God emperor". Can you imagine how devastated they were, when their undefeatable navy was beated, their cities were nuked and their God emperor surrendered, begging for mercy? Don't try to convince me standing up or not surrendering would lead to Japan winning the war, because it wouldn't. They had already lost. So, from my point of view, all this "fight for your ideals and never give up" is more of a tradition than actual practice in real life.
I think you've been seeing some really bad shounen series and missing out on the good ones, it doesn't help as well that you yourself don't like the trope.

Why did the priests lose? Because their will and belief is not strong enough to win the will and belief of the rest of the world. More people were convinced by science and believe the facts of science, the will of discovery continue to uncover more with science.

Why did the Japanese lose in WWII? Despite their will and belief, they lost to the will of the Allies. Even with their extremely strong will, they do not have the resources to win the war. The combined will of the Allies combined their efforts, resources and war factories to produce overwhelming forces.

Will is nothing unless you have the means to support the will. Even in anime, the characters have the power to support their will. One of the most important traits in many of the shounen and mecha characters is 'Nekketsu', 'Hotbloodedness', a word that cannot be found in the English dictionary and people nowadays do not know what the word is about.
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Old 2009-08-16, 06:43   Link #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Some people simply have more will power than others, the strength of convictions aside. I mean - this is true in real life. Not everybody has the same degree of drive and determination in life. Perhaps the protagonist simply has a bit more inherent drive and determination than the antagonist. I don't see a big deal with that myself.
I see a big deal when one man defeats a thousand or a few rebels outpower an empire. How can a smaller group of people outpower billions? Especially when even the villains have goals of their own. I mean, duh, a handfull of teens in Bleach kicked the shit out of hundreads of centuries old ghosts... in their own turf!!!

Down to it, there is no other excuse other than allowing the heroes to win in a sold out battle, just because the politically correct cliche dictates a happy ending for the side of the established shape of morality.

Did you knew of propaganda in cartoons during the WW2? Youtube is full of idelistic crap of that time. Look what blunt propaganda were feeding to the poor children back then

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmCd0QXTS7I
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_F_sUpMH18
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRcBt904OJ0

By the way, this is not off topic. Willpower is practically Japanese propaganda for having children to keep fighting (working in the real world) no matter the odds (no matter how much their work and lifestyle sucks).
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Old 2009-08-16, 06:58   Link #14
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the thing is, with some shows like Hajime no Ippo or Kenichi, while I enjoyed them both, when I step back, I don't see anything else to back up their will except will itself. You mentioned the means or power to support their will, but I just see that as being unexplainable sometimes, usually simply arising out of the thought "I cannot loose", or "I made a promise" etc. Like in some games where you gain extra abilities just by being down on your last once of health.

In other words, I don't see the development in the turning point used to allow the protagonist to win.
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Old 2009-08-16, 07:06   Link #15
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the thing is, with some shows like Hajime no Ippo or Kenichi, while I enjoyed them both, when I step back, I don't see anything else to back up their will except will itself. You mentioned the means or power to support their will, but I just see that as being unexplainable sometimes, usually simply arising out of the thought "I cannot loose", or "I made a promise" etc. Like in some games where you gain extra abilities just by being down on your last once of health.

In other words, I don't see the development in the turning point used to allow the protagonist to win.
That is another thing the Japanese believe in, '底力', 'sokojikara'.

In English, you can translate it as 'potential' or 'latent energy'.

Its often said that when you push someone to the limit, they will ultimately fight back. Sokojikara is when you push someone to the limit and they have no more routes left but to use every bit of their strength to fight back. When you have such a great desire to win but is losing, or when you want to live but is dying, you will have this incredible urge to fight back with every bit of power and wit.

And in a fictional world of characters with superhuman strength or determination, this latent energy is also superhuman and suspends belief. Suspension of belief is in all works of fiction.
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Old 2009-08-16, 07:06   Link #16
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the thing is, with some shows like Hajime no Ippo or Kenichi, while I enjoyed them both, when I step back, I don't see anything else to back up their will except will itself. You mentioned the means or power to support their will, but I just see that as being unexplainable sometimes, usually simply arising out of the thought "I cannot loose", or "I made a promise" etc. Like in some games where you gain extra abilities just by being down on your last once of health.

In other words, I don't see the development in the turning point used to allow the protagonist to win.
Desperate times calls for desperate measures i guess. Out of sheer desperation when pushed to the edge of failure, the characters themselves manage to tap into a hidden potential only accessible once a certain threshold of will is attained. That's the best explanation i can come up with.

EDIT: Damn beaten to the punch by C.A who ironically made the same point as well lol

As for my views on the matter however, I'm generally fine with willpower winning the day as long as it's not contrived and doesn't feel out of place. When it's start to get overused and/or abused, i just can't help but think "not this shit again...", then again that goes for everything else overused and cliched. So in effect, i think it all boils down to the execution and portrayal of such willpower as per all cliches.
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Old 2009-08-16, 07:11   Link #17
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Desperate times calls for desperate measures i guess. Out of sheer desperation when pushed to the edge of failure, the characters themselves manage to tap into a hidden potential only accessible once a certain threshold of will is attained. That's the best explanation i can come up with.

EDIT: Damn beaten to the punch by C.A who ironically made the same point as well lol
Well your point is better I think, using the word 'desperation'.

Actually the Japanese act of Kamikaze in WWII was a desperate act of sokojikara. They were desperate enough to be willing to sacrifice their lives and use their own planes and themselves to take down aircraft carriers and ships.
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Old 2009-08-16, 07:20   Link #18
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If you don't have the will, you don't win. It doesn't matter if you have everything else; you need a goal to fight for.

Heroes don't fight against overwhelming odds because it is easy, but because it is hard.

Go ahead; try to write a story containing no will power. The story would have no humanity or purpose. A will to succeed is not optional; it is mandatory, to win in anything and everything in the world.
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Old 2009-08-16, 07:43   Link #19
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^ Spoken with great truth. Where there's a will, there's a way.

I think the main gripe occurs when the 'way' becomes rather inconceivable to imagine.

EG: Hero stares at an enemy with a will to win so great, that the enemy magically blows up.
A bit of an extreme and probably poor example to use, but it's the best i could come up with on the spot
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Old 2009-08-16, 07:45   Link #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roriconfan View Post
I see a big deal when one man defeats a thousand or a few rebels outpower an empire. How can a smaller group of people outpower billions? Especially when even the villains have goals of their own. I mean, duh, a handfull of teens in Bleach kicked the shit out of hundreads of centuries old ghosts... in their own turf!!!

Down to it, there is no other excuse other than allowing the heroes to win in a sold out battle, just because the politically correct cliche dictates a happy ending for the side of the established shape of morality.

Did you knew of propaganda in cartoons during the WW2? Youtube is full of idelistic crap of that time. Look what blunt propaganda were feeding to the poor children back then

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmCd0QXTS7I
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_F_sUpMH18
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRcBt904OJ0

By the way, this is not off topic. Willpower is practically Japanese propaganda for having children to keep fighting (working in the real world) no matter the odds (no matter how much their work and lifestyle sucks).
Well, Bleach is a pretty extreme example, but I do agree that most shounen anime are like that.

I'd have to disagree with you about the "excuse", though. It also has a lot to do with the mood of the story. People don't watch Bleach to watch realistic fights, they watch Bleach to watch the main character win against near-impossible odds. Having it be realistic, even at the end, would actually be worse for the anime, since it wouldn't fit the mood. And the main character probably would've died quickly, making for bad entertainment.

Personally, as long as a series keeps the concept 'too much of a good thing' in mind, I don't mind this idealistic mood in my anime.

lol, itt ppl debating which ideology is better by the criteria in their ideology.
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