One Piece and life goals – realism in fiction

This is the second post in the “realism in fiction” series. In the first one I tried to describe the effect of having your story be as real life-like as possible, which is the most literal meaning of “realism”. I also talked about how breaking this sense of connection with real life in takes away from the feeling of the story. Here I want to talk about something different. I’ll focus on characters’ life goals and hopefully I’ll be able to make a convincing argument that this is directly linked to how realistic a story is.

Strawhats

I chose One Piece for this post because it is such a good fit for this topic (nothing to do with the fact that the manga is celebrating its 20th anniversary in a week, I swear!). The manga is very long and rich in detail for both the world and the characters, and it is well written too, allowing a meaningful discussion. Also it is a good excuse to feature Oda’s art on this blog ^^/

Perona Brook

Speaking of art, hope you don’t mind seeing a picture separating every paragraph, cause that is what I wanna do ^.^

Okay, let us start with simple examples, looking at the first members of Luffy’s crew. Luffy himself is famously going to become the pirate king, that is his motivation. It was rephrased as wanting to be the person with most freedom, which is supposed to clarify it, but it doesn’t. The “pirate king”, the “person with most freedom”, they are both completely abstract ideas. And it is very fitting that to become the pirate king Luffy seemingly needs to find One Piece, the McGuffin of this manga. You can easily wave all of this away as just an example of lazy writing. So how real is this motivation? Well in fact, it is very real. Almost anyone either experienced it or can understand how it feels, I think. “I want to become a great scientist!”, “I want to be famous one day!”, “I want to be a rock star!” and so on, all of those goals are almost as vague as Luffy’s. When you are a kid and you feel a desire to become something, you don’t necessarily imagine it in realistic (if any) detail. Neither does Luffy. He goes one step further though, refusing to learn what awaits him in the future (I am referring to the scene where he refuses to accept information about Raftel or One Piece from Rayleigh). In a way, his mindset is similar to that of a school boy who haven’t yet decided on his future occupation but is still thrilled about it and works hard to make it happen. So, on emotional level at least, Luffy’s goal is realistic and relatable.Luffy

Next is Zoro, the guy who wants to become the best swordsman. That is a clear and easily understood goal. It is similar to what an aspiring athlete would have. If you think about it, it is still a vague goal, at best it means something like “to defeat everyone who I think is stronger than me”. What matters for us though, it is very realistic and understandable.

Now we go to Nami. Her original goal was to get rid of Arlong. After Luffy granted this wish she joined him, and her official goal became to map the whole world. In reality though, she just seems to share Luffy’s dream of making him the pirate king. She also seem to enjoy the ride, same as the rest of the crew. Same story with Usopp, Sanji, Franky, Chopper and Brook. I’d argue their motivations are realistic too though. True, they might not be pursuing any real personal goals, but being part of Luffy’s crew, making miracles happen wherever they set foot to, seeing the world and having fun all the while, that seems like a worthy occupation. They are also all wanted people, so their options are limited.

makes me proud to be a freaking strawhat

Moments like this are what makes their motivations seem very real. I am totally with Franky there. These couple of pages were ones of my favourite in the Zou arc.

Okay, enough with the easy examples, let me start with real ones. First in is Edward Newgate, the Whitebeard. His life goal is to have family, as simple as that. This extended to having hundreds of people he called his sons and took care of, while not limiting their freedom. Point is, he had achieved this goal way back when Roger was still alive and Luffy hadn’t even been born. So, it is fair to say that he had no further goals, he just enjoyed his life. What about his crew though? I talked about how Luffy’s crew is kinda just in for the ride, they want to be a part of this grand adventure and to make Luffy the pirate king. Whitebeard did not had an ambition to become the pirate king, and everyone on his ship knew that. Knowing their leader’s history and abilities, Whitebeard’s crewmates couldn’t help but see that the main reason the Roger’s throne still is vacant is because their old man did not care to take it. At least that is what we know so far, of course there might be more to it.

Whitebeard

With all that said, I don’t think Whitebeard’s crew could operate the same way Luffy’s crew does. Whitebeard doesn’t do anything, his existence had been in stagnation for years. It is fine for him, and, sure, it is fine for those who just want an easy life free of worries. But his children are all fighters, they are pirates who had chosen to go against the government; it is hard to believe no one of them would have personal goals or ambitions of any kind. Or rather, it is hard to believe they could be satisfied living with no ambitions or goals. A famous example of a person who wasn’t satisfied is Teach, the arch villain of the series. He did have his own ambitions, and he realized them, which consequently made him an enemy of the Whitebeard.

Whitebeard 2

Another example of Whitebeard’s crewmate who had goals was Ace. His goal later in life was to hunt down Teach and make him pay for his crimes. That is a goal, and it also went against the desires of Whitebeard, although Ace still had his way. Ultimately this lead to the destruction of the whole crew and the death of Edward Newgate.

I feel this is an example where the story makes good use of the realistic life goals and their clashes. The motivations of every party involved in this conflict are clear and relatable, and you can see why it was inevitable, why it makes sense. You can’t achieve your ambitions while riding with a captain who has no goal, which is why Teach and Ace had to leave his ship (they did it in a different manner, of course).

Whitebeard pirates

I this this page is a perfect illustration why Whitebeard pirates are such an awesome crew

Let me give you a few more examples of this sort. Remember Donquixote family? Or Big Mom pirates? Or even Baroque Works? What strikes you about those pirate groups, compared with Strawhats? Among many things, the number of traitors those groups have spawned. The reason is that the goals of the leaders of those groups, as well as the means of achieving those goals, aren’t always supported by all their members. But, the people who disagree don’t necessarily leave those groups, in fact sometimes they can’t (as a reference, see resigning procedures that Big Mom installed). Same thing with the navy. Garp, Akainu, Sengoku and Fujitora all have very different goals, yet they are still working in the same organization. It doesn’t mean that they necessarily are going to betray each other, but that is a possibility.

Fujitora 2

I love that moment.

Doffy 3

Doffy was a fun character to have around too

Now we come to the point I wanted to make. Writing the story this way, where the personal goals of supporting characters matter and play into their actions, it is not just about realism, it is also useful for storytelling. It allows the reader to speculate about the actions of certain characters, making long term predictions. For example, you can speculate that Fujitora would eventually raise against the current navy/government system, in particular against the most inhuman practices (such as slavery, above-the-law position of celestial dragons, shichibukai system). You can predict that Garp and Sengoku would join him only if Fujitora will show clear intent to preserve marines as defenders of justice, otherwise they would fight against him. You can predict that Boa Hancock would be willing to side with the government against Fujitora, as long as she can keep government’s protection for her island. It is easy to assume that the Revolutionaries might aid Fujitora, while Stawhats might stay away from the conflict untill they are being dragged into it. All of this follows from the goals of those parties and their leaders. It might (and probably will) be all different in reality, the conflict might never happen at all, but it is still fun to speculate, being able to back up your ideas. This realism in how characters act on their goals is breathing life into the world, making it feel as if it has some internal laws to it that you can see if you look close enough. Compare it with, say, Bleach, where characters don’t really have realistic and meaningful goals, and when they do it feels like just another feature of their personality, rather than the driving force behind their actions. And, coincidentally it had been way harder to make meaningful long-term speculations about plot twists and character actions in that manga.

Doffy 4

That is also such a good page. Love how Tsuru treats Doflamingo as a boy who made a mess and has to take responsibility. And his arrogance plays into this role perfectly too.

So, this is great and all, but I didn’t mean this post to be just a praise of Oda’s writing. Let us talk about the Red Hair pirates. What are their goals? What is Shanks’s goal? Does he even have one? He seems to be in the same position as Whitebeard, a pirate who made it and who is not looking for any new progress. He seems like a person in stagnation, who does not aim for anything. Remember that scene, where Shanks is drinking on some island and Mihawk visits him to tell him about Luffy’s new bounty? I found that to be very depressing, cause it conformed what I thought about Shanks and his crew – they have nothing to do, they are wasting their time drinking because there is nothing else they need to be doing. That is a very sad life if you think about it. It is ironic that out of all yonko the nicest and the most likable one would be also the only one whose life goes on this depressing way. I can’t even imagine someone wanting to join Shanks’s crew at this point, cause they would have nothing to offer.

Sugar 2

Could have posted a picture of Shanks here, but opted for an actually scary pirate instead!

I don’t think that was the intent when Shanks was written, but there isn’t much that can be done about it. Oda will have to invent something huge to provide a meaningful goal for Shanks. And, if Oda doesn’t give him a goal and doesn’t address the fact that he has none, then it would make for a substantial hole in his writing. This is a consequence of the realism I talked about earlier, it can easily backfire like that. On the other hand, this aimless existence contrasts Shanks with Teach, who had been supercharged with motivation and goals, similar to Luffy. Maybe Oda can exploit this contrast somehow, who knows. Would be really interesting if he creates this battle of motivations, where Shanks would represent balance/stability/preservation and Blackbeard would stand for change/progress/conquer.

Teach 2

Same with Kaido’s crew. So far they all look like ruffians from Hokuto no Ken or something. Oda will have to come up with something to give them goals and motivation. The way he handled it for Big Mom pirates was rather cleaver and unique, but it would be harder with Kaido.

Before I finish I want to add one last bit. Of all the things Oda will have to deal with in his story as it progresses, one of the hardest things to write is  going to be change in Luffy’s goals (and consequently, in the goals of his crewmates). When he finds One Piece his main goal will be fulfilled. But being the protagonist he can’t enter the state of stagnation as Whitebeard and Shanks did. Instead, either the series will have to end or he would need to acquire a new purpose in life, or maybe both. And, it would be way better if this process happens gradually, so the readers can see this change coming and feel that it is natural. The manga had been slowly shifting from the personal adventure of a rubber boy and his friends to a grand world-wide epic, which deals with practical aspects of justice, good and evil and oh so many other things. It would be natural to expect Luffy’s goals to change and shift too. But, writing it in a manner that would make it feel natural is going to be a challenge, the high standards of realism that Oda had set up will be haunting him. Let us see how he does. Till the next time, see you!

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Blue Heaven – realism in fiction

Today I want to talk about Blue Heaven, a manga by Tsutomu Takahashi. Also if all goes according to keikaku plan this will be the first in a series of post where I’ll be focusing on different aspects of “realism” in storytelling (hence the title). So let’s start!

Blue Heaven

Blue Heaven is a story about a dangerous individual being rescued from a small boat in the middle of Pacific ocean. His rescuers bring him aboard a luxurious cruise liner packed with passengers. The guy isn’t just dangerous, his hands are already covered in blood and there is no way to hide the fact, so he will have to flee from his benefactors to retain his freedom, while committing new crimes, all on board a huge ship in the middle of nowhere. Sounds interesting? How about you go read it, if you haven’t already? I am going to have to spoil at least half of the manga, so consider it carefully. The manga is only 24 chapters long, plus a few unrelated bonus chapters, it is not going to take too long.

Blue Heaven, Seiryuu

Alright, let me first recount the story. As I said, the story begins with a cruise liner saving a guy, Seiryuu, from a boat. There were two living people on that boat, and as we soon learn from that second guy, there were 11 more of them, but Seiryuu killed those. By the time we learn these details, Seiryuu had already escaped from his cabin, killing the person who guarded him, and started wandering the liner. The next thing Seiryuu did was finding a lone passenger and striking a conversation. They drink together, then Seiryuu get into his cabin and murders the guy, but not before interrogating him to get as much information as possible. Thus, Seiryuu was able to assume the identity of that passenger, and get a little bit of a breathing room. After all, that cruise liner holds about 2000 people, finding a new face isn’t an easy task.

Blue Heaven

So, what did the liner’s crew do to counteract this? First, they immediately saw the situation in all of its complexity. They rightly guessed that Seiryuu will mix in with the public rather than with the crew. They understood that there are only a few people who know Seiryuu’s face, and that those people would be targeted by him. Recognizing that their enemy is capable (being able to kill 11 people), they armed a group of people with guns. Also, they made a facial composite, which would soon prove to be useful, as one of the personnel members recognized Seiryuu as one of the passengers she saw earlier. You see, they did a fairly good job already. They also decided to call all the Asian passengers to one room, where they could try to identify Seiryuu. This is a drastic measure, definitely not something you would want to do to your passengers, and it is pretty questionable in terms of safety of those passengers. But, it shows crew’s dedication to deal with the problem as soon as possible.

Blue Heaven

Okay, so this is the summary. At this point of the story I was pretty happy and had high expectations for the rest of the manga, here is why. First, we have a pretty simple setup, an isolated place and two parties at play, “everyone” vs “the murderer”. It is a classic setup and I like it. I prefer it when the identity of the murderer is a mystery as well, but well, it is fun to read either way. Second, both parties play intelligently. Seiryuu seems to be on top of the game, he doesn’t make huge mistakes. You can say that he would have been better off hiding instead of roaming the ship, but I’d argue that is not his style. The crew too, they escalate the situation by bringing in guns, facial composites, calling the passengers into a single room. Can you immediately think of something they had forgot? Maybe having a dog tracking him? Maybe trying to take Seiryuu’s fingerprints? I would say it is reasonable to assume that they didn’t have trained dogs and dactyloscopy specialists on this cruise liner. So, my point is, the crew played it smart as well. At this point, I was eager to see the next moves, who will do what.

Blue Heaven, Fuyuki Jyungo

It is not what usually happens, by the way. Usually I would watch a similar two party struggle story and I would go “oh, why did they do that?”, “this came out of nowhere o.O”, “now that was kinda dumb -_-”, etc. Blue Heaven managed to capture my attention by being realistic, by showing me that it operates by sane logic. So, when I see Seiryuu posed with a situation that has no simple solutions, I wonder what he will do, how he is going to stay ahead of his pursuers. I expect the manga to give me a reasonable answer and waiting for this answer is exciting.

Blue Heaven, Seiryuu

Now, unfortunately Blue Heaven didn’t deliver. They soon introduced mentally and physically deformed neo-nazi family which decided to hunt down Seiryuu using submachine guns and explosives, which they conveniently had on the ship with them, unbeknown to the crew. They didn’t hesitate to kill random passengers and crew members, soon turning the manga into a depressive farce. This part was not interesting to read in the slightest, and I think it was because it didn’t seem real. I can believe into rich people carrying guns without permission and not being afraid to use them when needed, but I am not going to buy psychotic racist villains who outright slaughter people for no reason. Not only it makes no sense, but also there is nothing interesting about it, it is just repulsive. And well, the manga had been a bit repulsive all the way from the beginning, cause the utter disregard for human life was the motif of the story; but then it was balanced by the interesting struggle I described above.

Blue Heaven, Yoshiko Natsukawa

So, what I wanted to say is, Blue Heaven lots all of its appeal when it decided to introduce nonsensical characters, a bunch of cartoon villains basically. You can call it lazy writing, I’d agree with that. You can also say that the author lost his inspiration. Or, you can say that the story was supposed to be disgusting and I just mistook it for something else. People do write disgusting stories intentionally, check Gyo by Junji Ito, for example (here I don’t mean “disgusting” as a derogatory term, I think it is rather a weird genre or a theme or something).

Blue Heaven

But, even if it was lazy writing or an intentional spiral down, for me it seems that the driver of this motion was the loss of realism. But it may be just a personal preference. Another element I didn’t like was Seiryuu’s backstory. That backstory consists of Seiryuu spending about 10 years locked in a room, being thrown in there when he was 11. Regardless of everything else, there is no way he could be that strong and healthy after growing up in such conditions. That doesn’t make sense, and I didn’t like it. So, there you go, maybe I just don’t like nonsensical elements in fiction and my judgement is purely subjective.

Blue Heaven, Seiryuu

It is kinda ironic that one of the motivations that drives Seiryuu is wanting to know what the real world is like

Also, I want to add that the story didn’t need to lose its realism I don’t think. I would have been happy to read a story where Seiryuu runs around, hides himself and is being found eventually. Let the good guys win since they have such an overwhelming advantage. Sounds boring? I’d chose that over cartoon villains every day!

These are my thoughts on it. What do you think? Do you agree? Do you think I am wrong to attribute the quality of the first half of the manga to its realism? Tell me in the comments.

3 Level Combination

3 Level Combination is a Korean comic by Il-Kwon Ha, the guy you may know as the author of Annarasumanara. Shaurya recommended me both of those manhwa, and I am really glad she did. Here I want to talk about what I think about that comic. I’ll make a tiny introduction for those who haven’t read it and put a spoiler warning before the part where I start to go deeper into the story.

3LC 3

3 Level Combination starts as a story about a boy Hogu, a boy from a poor family who is being bullied at school. We follow him around, observing how he is being humiliated, beaten and otherwise abused by a group of his classmates. It gets pretty heavy and the story doesn’t hold back at all. After a while a new character is introduced, a humanoid robot prototype named Chevrolet. That robot was supposed to attend school together with normal students as a part of its testing. For better or worse the robots ends up becoming Hogu’s friend, while Hogu is put in charge of keeping it safe. With this event the both the story and Hogu’s life become more complex, going through tragic and happy moments, always unpredictable and thought provoking. Please read it, it is very good.

I want to mention that for me 3 Level Combination was a really hard read, I even had to make a break for a few weeks, because I felt a bit overwhelmed. It is just my personal thing though, stories about abused people living in misery kinda get me. I don’t know if that affected my opinion about the comic, though.

3LC 10

Spoilers start from here.

I want to talk about a few of the characters, and since I myself can barely remember any names from this comic I decided to list them all beforehand. Besides Hogu I am going to be talking his former friend Minwoo, his class president Anna and her father Dr. Lee. Hope it won’t get too long.

I think a good way to start thinking about this story is with Dr. Lee. Who was that person? We know he was largely responsible of making a complete mess of his family life. His wife committed suicide after seeing him clearly displaying preference for a female humanoid robot over her. He said that the robot is better because “it is obedient”, because it is “his type”. He was a sad man who wasn’t able to appreciate the people around him and would rather play with toys. And his story doesn’t even seem all that interesting. The main reason I’ve brought it up is his daughter Anna.

I think Anna might be the central figure to this whole story, and I will try to explain what I mean. What defines Anna as a person? She grew up in a broken family and saw a lot more ugliness of human relations than a child should. Do you remember what was her reaction to that? She would say that it was “boring”. Such an inadequate description, such an obviously wrong choice of words. But let’s go on. Anna’s mother committed suicide because her father brought home a robot and stated that he liked it more than his wife. Naturally that influenced the way Anna felt about robots. She learnt to hate them. She even decided to study robots to prove that they can never be humans. Now let’s pause and think about it. Why would she do that? It is not a disgust towards machines that can be understood in her situation. What’s more, she was still working with her dad. I think what we see here is Anna misplacing the responsibility for what happened in her family; instead of blaming her father entirely she puts a part of the responsibility on the robots. It should be easy to realize that Dr. Lee’s self-centered destructive behavior was the reason Anna’s family ended up in the state it is. He could have had any other occupation, it wouldn’t have mattered, it wouldn’t have changed the fact that he didn’t appreciate his wife and was abusive.

So here is what I am getting at. I think a large part of Anna’s character is self-deception and neglect. Just as she was pretending to be bored to ignore her pain as a child she now pretended that the robots are to blame for what happened in her family. Why would she do it this time – who knows, but an obvious reason is so that she would be able to live on with her father without losing her mind because of the cognitive dissonance.

3LC 27

You’ve probably noticed that I didn’t justify the word “neglect” yet. To talk about that I will need to jump to another character I’ve said I would talk about, Minwoo. He, Hogu, and Anna were friends back when they were younger and Hogu was what kept them together. In the quick episode where Hogu takes a picture of Anna and Minwoo it is pretty obviously hinted that in this friendship Anna was mostly interested in Hogu, while Minwoo was more interested in Anna. And apparently she was oblivious to that. What’s more, this never stopped, with the only exception that after a while Minwoo started to target Hogu, making his school life worse and worse. It might have been jealousy, might have been a desire to get Anna’s attention, likely it was both. And it seems that Anna could have stopped the whole thing, as she did in chapter 17, just by asking Minwoo to do so. But she never even tried to talk to him, never started a conversation in the whole year, as Minwoo mentioned once. Imagine if she did, if she thought through this situation and realized Minwoo motives. Anna is smart, she definitely could do it. And if she asked Minwoo to stop hurting Hogu, then maybe there wouldn’t have been any fights in that class. And going from what we saw of Minwoo I think that is the only thing she needed to do was to ask, there wouldn’t have been conditions or price. But Anna never even thought about it. That is what I mean by “neglect”.

Minwoo 3 Level Combination

Minwoo

I am sorry if you think I’ve spend more than enough time on Anna, but I have to go a little further. In the late chapters we see Anna repeatedly putting effort into making Hogu see that Chevrolet is a robot and hence his friendship with it is absurd. She doesn’t see (or prefer to not notice) the simple fact that Chevrolet was the only one who showed Hogu kindness and care, who spent time with him when he needed it. It is so simple to see, and it is so easy to then understand why the boy would be so attached to the thing, regardless of its nature. What’s more, it is not hard to imagine that Anna might have wanted to be the one who did all of that for Hogu; only she didn’t do it. She would say that Chevrolet was a piece of metal, only the reality was that this robot was more of a human then most of the people around it. And instead of embracing that reality Anna would rather destroy it. She did, with a lie, betrayal and murder, a one act that took away all she had, including her own conscience.

I find it interesting that throughout most of the story Anna doesn’t do anything wrong, and there is no way to blame her. She isn’t hurting anyone, even does good things here and there. Nevertheless, it is as if her way of life slowly places a rope around her heck. It is one of the most interesting character arcs I’ve seen in a long time.

3LC 2

 

It doesn’t feel right to talk about supporting characters all this time and leave out Hogu and Chevrolet. But I don’t think I have as much to say about them. I like their story. It is the kind of story you would want to end on a happy note. While reading I thought that maybe they will use this bomb episode to say that from now on Chevrolet can’t be opened and since her remote control functions were disabled she could effectively become a human. That would open a possibility for a nice ending for both her and Hogu. I was also prepared for Chevrolet’s demise; I think Hogu would have survived that, and I wonder what kind of person would he ended up being. Neither of that happened though.

The actual end made me think of the Romeo and Juliet play. It used be regarded as the greatest love story of all. I’ve heard that since some time ago people started to look at it in a new light, considering Romeo and Juliet to be a cautionary tale about irresponsible passion of young people. I can see that point of view and I don’t think it takes away anything from the romantic side of the play. What’s more, I think the same argument can be made for the story of Hogu and Chevrolet. Do you want to see their story and it’s end as a beautiful romantic tragedy? Or do you want to see it as a tale that says “Don’t be as foolish as this boy was.”? Both ways are good I think. I like the ending, even though it does make the story even more sad.

One more thing. I imagine 3 Level Combination would naturally make you wonder about human-robot relations, asking yourself “What was this friendship between Hogu and Chevrolet? Was it different from the relations Dr. Lee had with his old robot? Can you take any of this seriously?”. I think the comic doesn’t have a lot to say about robots and their potential place as a new kind of sentient beings in our society. Was Hogu any different from Dr. Lee – I have no idea. It is a very hard question, and I don’t see any answers in the manhwa.

Sorry if this post was a bit too long. See you next time!

The Pale Horse

Before I begin, let me admit that I didn’t know anything about the Book of Revelation and the four horse men. I had no idea that The Pale Horse is the horse ridden by Death. I thought the manhwa’s title looked kind of boring. I was like “Maybe it is a story about a horse that looked pale or something.” So my first impression on this manhwa wasn’t all that good.

The story looked bright and sunny at the beginning. The protagonist Rose Dupre is a twelve year old who is the prettiest girl in her village. The villagers bully her because they thought her mother was a witch. Her only friend was Pierre Grand who always stood up for her. It looked like the story of a typical pretty damsel in distress who needed to be protected. I thought the story was going to be about Rose making friends and proving to the villagers what a good person she was. I felt like dropping it but kept on reading since they had all this talk about a witch and I thought the witch might make things more interesting at some point. You could imagine my surprise as I watched this seemingly bright story spiral into a dark and twisted tale.

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Rose Dupre

It is hard to write about all the good things about this manhwa without spoiling the story. What I liked most is how they portrayed immortality. The witch is immortal and we see what it did to her. Being immortal is no joke. Most of the anime and manga show immortal protagonists as people who are just sad about losing everything they hold dear. The Pale Horse says that immortality is something that slowly makes you lose your sanity and it felt more real. Imagine living for a couple of hundred years and watching all your family and friends die one after another. Yes, you will be sad and depressed. Now imagine living for a million years where everyone you once held dear were nothing but a fading memory. You watch people being born and dying on a daily basis that at some point you just won’t care anymore. You won’t feel sad. You would just feel tired of it all. We see the witch who was cursed with immortality try to destroy everything someone else had because she couldn’t have them. She was just jealous and bitter. And then she saw all the lives she had destroyed and all the people she had hurt and felt awful. She was jealous of them and yet she couldn’t bear the burden of destroying them. When the villagers tried to kill her, she was so tired of everything that she didn’t even fight back. She just stood while they tried to kill her but she couldn’t die. It was sad, watching a person who wished for death so desperately but still couldn’t die. It didn’t mean she was a good person by the way. She is spoiled and cocky and always puts herself first.

002

This manhwa has amazing art.

The other good thing about this manhwa is that all the characters are flawed in one way or another. After watching all the anime with good protagonists, it is a nice change. After all people aren’t perfect. This manhwa deals with a lot of delicate issues like identity crisis, love, revenge and jealousy. It shows how people will cling to anything, even something that they know will destroy them, if they didn’t have anything else to hold onto. It shows how you can love someone up to a certain point and then hate them for the rest of your life because they did something really awful to you, something you could never forgive them for. This manhwa will mess up your sense of right and wrong because you wouldn’t want the witch or the hunters to die.

035 (2)

It has interesting dialogue too. This is one of my favorites parts.

005 (3)

Here is another interesting argument.

The character I found most interesting is Baron Guiness. It is hard to say anything about him without spoiling the story. I guess he is the guy who is sort of the antagonist of this story. I say sort of because he has his reasons for what he does and I like his character.

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I like how his face can change from looking nice to cruel almost instantly.

All the chapters are in full color and the art is really good. I like the way the manhwa-ka uses colors. 019

If you feel like reading a good psychological manhwa with a deep story, read The Pale Horse. I highly recommend it. The only bad thing about this manhwa is that it is licensed. Only 63 chapters are out and it might take a long time before they release the next chapter. If you don’t like how the story leaves you hanging, just read the first 33 chapters and drop the manhwa. The first 33 chapters cover the most interesting part of the manhwa and the 33rd chapter gives you a kind of closure, you feel like  you have seen a bright and interesting chapter from a person’s life end and dropping it at that point won’t feel weird.

See you next time ^^/

Hunter x Hunter, reaction

A while ago I finished Hunter x Hunter manga. Yeah I know, 349 chapters. No, I am not crazy. No I didn’t have so skip work to read it. Come on, is it really that big a deal? 349 chapters?..

Yeah I know it is. Can’t believe I’ve read this huge manga. Though I was reading completely different from how I normally do. But to explain this I’ll need to say a few things about the manga. Spoiler alert, by the way.

Kuroro

Hunter x Hunter is a shounen story with most of the well known attributes of the genre. The story follows a 12 years old boy Gon and his friends who do things. It is kinda similar to the first part of Naruto, where there were random adventure, tournament, random but climactic enemy attack; and all of that didn’t happened specifically with Naruto, he just got involved in the things. Same here, HxH has a “hunter exam”, a fighting tournament, a big fight against a group of criminals, and so on. And I’ll go ahead and say this – all of those plot chunks in both Naruto and and HxH are examples of lazy writing. Tournament, exam – those are the easiest things you can throw in your story. And the payback is low as well, cause the events end up being mundane. Same with random adventures and fights, when you provide no motivation for them they don’t have as much impact.

You think I am being too negative? Hold on, i am not done yet :P

illumi

Look at this panel though. I love how Yoshihiro Togashi experiments with his art.

On top of what I said, unfortunately HxH is suffering from a few other diseases. First, the manga is heavy on text. And it is not an interesting text, just a bunch of explanations that you don’t really need. Second, every new arc starts really weak. For example, the biggest (and, in my opinion, the best written) arc started with this premise: “there is an ant queen that spawns soldier ants combined with humans and animals, and we are going to fight them”. Why would I be invested in that fight, even a little bit? These are new born soldiers, they can’t have any interesting motivations or thoughts. And there is no mystery, no sense of wonder. So why would I want to read that?

Third, the art style drops in quality in a catastrophic manner. I was honestly wondering if some of the chapters were redrawn by translators cause they couldn’t get decent scans.

dat art though

I heard that this kind of quality drop occurred when Togashi had serious personal problems and it was the choice between low quality art or hiatus.

So with all that out, here is how I read it. I skipped most of the explanation text, glanced through the low quality chapters, generally didn’t stay on one page longer than I needed to understand what is happening. That is a disrespectful way of reading, but hey, better than dropping it. And I am glad I didn’t drop the manga, cause behind all this mess it hides some treasures.

09_04_20

I said every arc starts in a boring way. Well, they all pick up speed as they go. Thinking back to every one of them I remember interesting moments, things that made it worth the time for me. It is really strange. When I started Chimera Ants arc, that I mentioned above, I thought that this is it, I am going to stop reading. It was just too boring. And yet that is the arc that in the end made me think that Yoshihiro Togashi has more potential as a shonen manga writer than Kishimoto and Kubo.

manga_kuroro06

HxH does what I never seen in other shonen manga. Antagonist who on his own learns to become humane, and ends up being humbler than his opponent. Few very different but related plot lines in the same arc (different to the point that it feels like multiple stories put together; kinda like what G. Martin does in his Game of Thrones). Good guys actually paying the price for their actions. Let me elaborate on this one. Remember how in Bleach Ichigo sacrificed his power to defeat Aizen? And how he then got a nice arc about him learning new techniques only to get his powers back by the end? That is not paying the price. That is cheating. To pick another shonen hero, Naruto never has to pay at all, he needs a power-up – he gets it for free. In HxH when one of the protagonists did an exchange to get power to beat an opponent, the retaliation was horrifying. He was about to die a horrible death, that is pretty much what he had to pay. And in the and to save the guy from death one of his friends had essentially burden himself for maybe the rest of his life. That was amazing to read.

Gon's hand

Look at that hand. That is how the price looks like. That hand is all we see, but that is enough to get the message across.

There is a lot of things I would have loved to praise this manga for. But I also want to keep the spoilers down. Also I don’t like making plot summaries, and this manga is complicated enough for major events not to make sense without proper explanations. So I’ll leave it at that. I like HxH. See you next time (^_^)/

Annarasumanara

Annarasumanara is a short Korean manga I finished reading recently.If you don’t know about it and wanna hear my opinion – here it is. Annarasumanara is probably the best comic I’ve read so far. The story is great, and if you are willing to spend a little time thinking it over you get even more from it. Characters, art style, the way pages are arranged, all that is very different from what I’ve seen in manga and anime. Check it out.

The rest of this post is intended for those who have read the manga already, I won’t explain all that happens in the story, just assume you know about it. Sorry ^^’

annarasumanara 6

I intentionally didn’t cut this picture; I think this scrolling down that you keep doing when reading the manga is more or less a part of it and I wanted to bring a little bit of that feeling back :P

What is Annarasumanara about? Korean students’ welfare? Magic? Life choices? In the beginning I thought that it is going to be a story about a girl who wants to grow up as an escape from the kind life she has now. She is being dragged through the mud of adult world, and then through a dreamland of child’s fantasies of the magician. Ai’s story is full of little turns and vignettes that don’t necessarily lead anywhere. Like that episode with a burger. Someone ate a bite and left it, and hungry Ai who was cleaning the tables was facing this little problem – eat it and satisfy her hunger or keep her pride. She ate the burger; and nothing happened. She is a strong person, hurt pride isn’t enough to seriously affect her. You see what I am talking about, this story is just one little episode that doesn’t go anywhere, but at the same time it maybe is the first time writer tells us that “breaking norms is okay”; or maybe it is more like “here is this girl you sympathize with, she just finished someones burger, are you gonna change your opinion about her?”. At the end of the book this is going to be one if the central points. When in the last part of the manga Il Deung breaks the norm (or just breaks a window, depends on how you see it :P), it is being celebrated by changing his appearance, the way he is drawn. From this point on he looks normal, while before his head was deformed in a weird way. You can’t applaud your character in a more literal way.

annarasumanara 2

So what I wanted to say is that Ai’s story is very rich in many ways. But what is even more interesting is the direction it was heading. Look at Ai in the beginning and in the end of the manga. Did she change? Maybe she grew up a little, learned more about life, learned to accept her own desires more; but that is not much. The road she planned for herself had not changed, the way she was heading towards becoming a “boring adult” stayed the same. The manga took us through a very bright and breath-taking period of her life, but it didn’t change anything for her.

Same with Il Deung, he didn’t change either. There was so much talk about him going off his asphalt road to the bed of flowers, he even had this moment of catharsis after witch his appearance changed. But at the end he became a college student, same as Ai, same as he and his parents planned all along.

annarasumanara 3

So what is up with that? I think the answer to this question lies in magician’s character and his back story. See, Ryu is the one who did not fit into this pattern. He did change his ways, back many years ago. And we all know what he became. An outcast, a man who lives in his illusions. Those are beautiful illusions, but never the less, they are not reality. He does “real magic”, but really every time he performs, it is just an act that masks the ugliness of actual reality. I am not judging him, it is fine for him to live the way he wants. But the fact remains that he does not fit into society. And think about this, that kind of life, it is not what Ai can enjoy. She need to take care of her sister, she wants to escape poverty; I’m sure she has other ambitions as well. And unlike Ryu all those ambitions are her own, it wasn’t like others pushed those goals onto her. See the difference? Ai is a real person with real goals and real problems. Ryu is like a fairy tale character, and his life turned like that because of the problems he had in his head, but not in reality. And their ways can’t be the same.That is the message of this story, I think. That if you live on Earth you can’t follow a shooting star. You can enjoy looking at it, you can run the direction it points, but yours is the Earth and its is the sky. It is a message that does not looks all that positive, when you put it this way. I like it though, just as I like everything that is not obvious but makes sense ^^

annarasumanara 4

There is this very nice pair of events that illustrate what I’m saying. Remember this moment when Il Deung snaps and the guy who tried to frame Ryu? Il Deung tries to hit him. And remember how Ryu snaps at the girl who spilled his cards? The two events mirror each other, but how different are they. Il Deung cares about something that happened in reality, something that is an actual problem, a dishonorable act of injustice. Ryu, he cares about a ruined magic trick for a group of children. It is like the two of them live in different worlds, even though at this time the similarity between Ryu and Il Deung was shown pretty clearly.

I liked this story a lot. Very thankful to Shaurya who suggested it to me \^^/ Thank you =)

Till the next time  (^_^)/

To see all my posts on manga click here: Posts on mangaTo see the catalog of the posts published in this blog click here.

What Kubo thinks of your Bleach anime thing

This post is more or less a reaction on the last chapter of Bleach. I tried to restrain myself from posting two entries about the same manga in a row, but I couldn’t ^^’ So here it is.

Chapter 608 is devoted to the fight between Yhwach and the leader of the zero squad Hyousube Ichibei. During this fight Hyousube reveals one of his many abilities – to control all “black” in this world:

Bleach Hyousube collage

And if you are tuned in to Kubo’s madness this makes perfect sense to you. See, this is a black and white manga, almost no shades of gray. So an ability to control black, in other words, half the colors there are, that is a terrifying ability. One little problem is, if you are not tuned in, if you for example are clinging to the images that were created by the anime version, where the color pallet is richer, then there is a chance you’ll wonder what is going on here exactly. Why Urahara, who is wearing white and green clothes is shown to be affected by this power? What does “controlling black” even mean? Obviously it is a power that only makes sense in a manga. It two dimensional static environment, driven forward by text you can get away with power such as “blotting out names” and “giving new names” (both belong to Hyousube as well). It is not meant to be translated into other media. And that is what made me write this post.

Hyousube Ichibei

That is how Hyousube Ichibei looks. I like the way he is drawn. Look at Yhwach (below), he looks like an evildoer from some medieval European tale, cruel and hungry for power. And Hyousube is completely the opposite, in terms of looks. Still he does not look like a kind or caring person. Where Yhwach is cruel cause is not satisfied with what he’s got and wants more, Hyousube is cruel cause he is completely satisfied with what he has and he doesn’t care to change for someone else’s sake. That is the impression I’ve got from looking at their character designs.

 

Yhwach

Yhwach

 

Just this little thing makes it clear that Tite Kubo is writing this manga as a piece of art disconnected from any other incarnation of this story. He is not making a script for future anime adaptation, he is not making a story that would be connected to the existing anime material. Well, if you want to be completely honest, it doesn’t seem like he makes a story connected within itself. Every little arc looks like a separate story, something you can read and enjoy without looking at what had been going on before. And you will probably be better off not looking at what was before, really.

Bleach chapter 208 2

Another picture of Hyousube. Does he still look like a good guy to you? =)

 

Take this fight for example. First thing Hyousube does is he takes away Yhwach’s voice. Yhwach grants himself voice once more. Then Hyousube takes away half of Yhwach’s power. Yhwach bestows himself with his full strength again. Hyousube takes away Yhwach’s name and names him “black ant”, then stomps him. Yhwach somehow shatters this spell and gets back on his feet. Does it sound awesome? Yes, if you forget that it is a part of Bleach. Cause this fairy story kind of fight have nothing to do with what Bleach battles used to be – a straggle between two reiatsu, as Aizen has put it. And don’t get me wrong, I like this fight a lot. But I don’t try to glue it together with the rest of the manga, it lives its own separate life.

Bleach 608 3

Here is a random picture from the recent chapters, just to make you look at something different. I won’t give you any explanation what that is, cause none was given in the manga :P

 

So, to answer the question that I’ve put in the title, I’ll say that in all probability Kubo doesn’t think about the anime at all. And I don’t think he should. The way the manga is developing it may give birth to something unique. Kubo has the talent to make something new, and I hope he uses it right. Even if his story will turn out impossible to animate, whatever, I’ll be fine with that.

That is it, see you next time (^_^)/

To see all my posts on weekly manga click here: Posts on weekly mangaTo see the catalog of the posts published in this blog click here.