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Old 2004-08-12, 22:12   Link #1
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Are protagonists in manga you read, just like you?

Here's a interesting article on Neworama
"This time out, I thought we’d discuss Wildstorm’s Ex Machina and its use of 9-11. Okay, just kidding. I am actually going to lead off with some thoughts about rhetorical appeals, and then move into some books that I previously haven’t covered here because I had covered them for Newtype USA. Now that those issues are off the racks, I can expand the discussion here. First off…

Relatability: We’ve discussed the concept of the appeal of manga in various ways through the course of several columns. I’ve also battened upon the notion that manga seems to be supplanting traditional U.S. comics among the younger readership. Everybody has their own theories as to why; heck, I’ve tossed around everything from anime tie-in to bookstore visibility. I just wanted to introduce another idea into the mix.

Back when I was a grad student, I had a class on rhetoric. Why rhetoric? Shouldn’t that answer itself? Really, there are a few definitions. Rhetoric doesn’t just refer to speaking (of the empty or full variety); the idea extends to the kind of persuasions and arguments you put forth in a discussion to sway a person or group to your side. We call those “rhetorical appeals”. It’s the same idea that stand-up comics use; the first joke is intended to draw you in, so they often start with a universal idea (in-laws, dating, that time you nearly got arrested when your buddies boosted a stop sign at your high school graduation party, etc.) to get you on their side, as it were.

One great example of the rhetorical appeal as it applies to comics is the Frederic Wertham saga. His book, Seduction of the Innocent, led to The Comics Code and has been discussed at great length elsewhere. I actually wrote a paper on the book for that very class. I had to get a copy through inter-library loan from the University of Iowa, and I covered how the man managed to throw a scare into ‘50s moms by hitting publications like Ladies Home Journal and putting forth ideas with few substantiated quotes, no end notes, or compelling backing evidence. Yet, he made some huge trouble.

The more basic version of this is called “knowing your audience.” It’s why the makers of Friends never had Monica turn into a werewolf, and it’s why the makers of Buffy never had Willow turn into a screechy neurotic whose catch phrase was “I KNOW!” With me so far? All right…

I think a crucial element of the appeal of manga to the younger set is that they can literally see themselves in it. The protagonists are mostly teens, and the represent a style, a mode of dress, a rationale of thought, that the teen readers take to heart. If you’re looking for something that appeals to YOU, consider… who do (or did) you, as a teenager, think you relate to more: a regular looking teenage protagonist who happens to be in fantastic circumstances, or Captain America, an adult who was frozen in the ‘40s and is an adult now who symbolizes ideals that fluctuate with the times?

This is part and parcel of the runaway success of the X-Men. Of course, everything seemed to work right for the book in the ‘70s; suddenly, they had characters from other countries, different ethnicities, talent at the top of their games, and the ongoing sympathetic metaphor for those who felt different. And the second that the X-Men started seeming a little too adult… BANG! New Mutants, welcome.

Really, I just wanted to introduce this into the manga discussion. What does it take for a book to hook you as a reader? Is it the talent behind it, or is it the premise? Is it the age of the characters, or is it the tone of the piece? I figure these are worthy ideas to discuss; take a couple of titles, and tell us on what level they appeal to you. Maybe it’s a combination of factors, or maybe it’s impulse. Whatever the case, I think it’s relevant to talk about."

I think this is true, although not entirely in my case, since I read a lot of different things. Look at Naruto, you got a kid whose basically led a miserable life, and he's fighting through it, getting stronger while trying to accomplish his dreams, this is basically crack to kids. And Sasuke an angsty genius whose racked with emotional and physcological scars, that also screams to the younger audience.

What do you guys think? When you think about it, are your favorite mangas or characters, the characters that relate to you the most? I personally love a huge span of manga, and my favorites, RK, YYH, Scryed, Monster, 20thCB, Beck, Trigun and several others have characters I don't really relate too. But for some reason, american comics scream to me, such as Nightwing, Green Arrow, JSA and The Flash, and several others, I'm far more excited about those titles, because I find myself relating to those characters, so I guess there's a lot of truth in that.

What do you think? Voice your opinion.
JubeiYamazaki is offline  
Old 2004-08-13, 01:31   Link #2
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I remember not getting into any good colleges right after high school, and finding this manga about a ronin student who is too shy to confess to the girl he likes and terribly worried about his future in general. So, yeah, I'd say Maison Ikkoku's Godai struck a sympathetic nerve with me at least. Of course, years later Love Hina's Keitaro just pisses me off, so I think the quality of writing may have had something to do with it, too.

I'm not sure if it's relatability so much as sympathy. The characters have to be someone you can root for, otherwise their successes and/or failures don't mean anything. In American comics, big titles like X-men and Spiderman have this factor, appealing to their fans as outsider underdogs. But a lot of Superhero titles forget this idea, and let the characters get either too powerful, so that you can't imagine them as real, or too dark, so that you don't care anymore about what happens.

Not too say this doesn't happen in manga as well. I've heard numerous people complain that Gantz, for instance, has an intriguing plot, but lacks any likeable characters, and so fails to be entertaining. (I've heard this complaint about Scryed, too, but I liked it myself, so this makes a better example.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that good characters make or break a story, and while it's nice to be able to see yourself in the protagonist's shoes, it's not really all that important.
hooliganj is offline  
Old 2004-08-13, 02:09   Link #3
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Join Date: Apr 2004
Not really. Although it's easier to identify with a character if he's like you, it's not necessary to do that as long as you enjoy the story.
God is on the side with the biggest cannon.
evil|plushie is offline  
Old 2004-08-13, 05:40   Link #4
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Join Date: May 2004
I figure that it's not the creation of a protagonist like you that intrigues us, but rather the creation of characters (including the protagonist) who we can IDENTIFY with. This same reasoning could justify your point why Monica didn't turn into a werewolf and that other Buffy example.

However, it is true that when a certain character reflects our own personality, we might get more drawn into the manga. Keep in mind that at times, its not only the reflection of our own personality; its a reflection of who we WANT to be, i.e. a person who is brave, willing to chase his dreams, sacrificing, loyal etc.

Other than that, you had a nice point but it could be too narrow.
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Old 2004-08-13, 06:40   Link #5
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I can identify myself with a lot of the antagonists... so I end up hating most protagonists
dreamless is offline  
Old 2004-08-14, 00:34   Link #6
Join Date: Apr 2004
Bobobo is an exact replica of me both in appearance and personality.

...So my answer is no, most characters in anime/movies/whatever are nothing like me. Even manga about otaku like NHK and Genshiken don't have a character like me in them.
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Old 2004-08-14, 02:27   Link #7
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Originally Posted by JubeiYamazaki
...What do you think? Voice your opinion.
I think this first post is long enough to give me a headache. Hopefully it boils down to something equivalent to the nice neat topic sentence. And the short answer to that would be "no."

I have little in common with ageless vampires and/or schoolgirls (or schoolgirls who turn out to be ageless vampires). What's more, I prefer it that way.

WTH is this about Captain America!? Captain America is/was awesome! Even when he wants things I don't want, he is willing to bust his ass to get them, so I don't really have a problem with that. Even when he pulls his attitude thing I just figure he is entitled. And when he thinks about corny old 40s stuff that's just him being himself.

I think a lot of what people like to see in stories has to do with things they don't have to deal with every day, and seeing how people who are totally unlike them will deal with these things. Comedy, after all, is when "you" get a flat tire...
babbito2k is offline  
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