They are bold, they are luminous, they almost jump out at you. There are no two ways about it: the heroes of anime and manga grow on you--and stay with you. These heroes seem always perfect, always ready, always…heroic. Yet behind this perfection lie certain much-used rules, philosophical guidelines that dictate the hero’s behavior and actions. These rules can be quantified, and I shall here attempt to do that. Also, I would like to attempt a little feasibility study on the basis of what we will see and understand in this paper. Let us begin.
The characteristics of a hero (barring exceptions of course are:
-Fidelity: A hero, no two ways about it, is like a loyal dog. He leaves no one behind, no matter how impossible the rescue may be. At times emotional, at times stupid, the animanga hero is a paragon of fidelity. Ichigo (Bleach) rushes into fights every time, sustaining heavy damage, to save his friends alone. The same is the case with many heroes (mostly shounen, for some reason): Naruto, Allen Walker (D.Gray-Man), Abel Nightroad (Trinity Blood), Kosuke Ueki (Ueki no Housoku) etc.
-Compassion: Give a hero a cause, and you can bet your farm that he’ll fight for it. Be it saving the helpless (Ueki), or giving the common folk a voice in their government (Edward Elric, believe it or not), you can always count upon an animanga hero to do it for you. Even the so-called ‘neutral’ ones do it: Kurama the Fox from Yu Yu Hakusho rushes in to save his friends when they cry for help, and Van from GunxSword will save your behind, even though he’ll scream at you the whole time. Examples of this nature abound; besides the ones mentioned above, there’s Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop), Naruto, Ichigo (who initially used to take revenge for ghosts),Allen Walker (especially the time he tried to save the singing doll) etc.
-Justice: ‘Fair is fair’ is a concept not many play by in the real world. But in animanga, it’s de rigueur; Watanuki (xxxHolic) realises he has nothing with which he can pay Yuuko (who,in my opinion, acted like a totally unfair person), so he decides to take up work as her literal body slave in order to repay the debt. Similarly, the three Paper sisters from R.O.D. the TV series find refuge with Nenene (who’s a total slave driver), yet repay the debt by saving her life--not once, but thrice. Fair is fair, after all.
-Chivalry: Ok, this one’s primarily a male quality. Most animanga heroes (mostly shoujo ones) will do everything for the ladies. Seiji from Midori no Hibi takes a beating from guys he doesn’t even fear for Ayase; he wouldn’t even look at Midori when she was changing her clothes,even though she’s on his hand.
This quality seems to be very widespread among the so-called ‘cool’ types too. Train Heartnet (Black Cat) doesn’t even let the hapless Kyoko know that her love is doomed to failure; Spike Spiegel says he hates women, kids and dogs, yet saves all of them at some time or the other. In this category falls every known hero except Ryo Saeba (from City Hunter), who is in a class of his own.
-Courtesy: Heroes without courtesy are like burgers without something in between: fail. Every hero loves to respect others’ privacy, even if they’re plotting world destruction. Abel Nightroad lets a vampire draw first blood (pun unintended) before sending it off to Bye-Bye Land; the shinigami of Bleach tell their enemies their names,so everyone knows who killed who. No matter what the emergency is, an animanga hero loves to be courteous.
-Nobility of Purpose: An animanga hero’s cause is a noble one, and all those who oppose it have to be put away (preferably permanently-and with much violence). Whether it’s revenge or duty (and it’s always like this) a hero is the perfect paragon: his cause is the best.
-Sensibility: A hero has a lot of sense. His causes and justifications are always correct. No matter how hare-brained it may seem to the reader/viewer, the hero’s views are always sensible in his own universe.
-Tenacity: An animanga hero is the world’s last believer in ‘never-say-die’. He gets badly bruised, damaged and humiliated, but never gives up. Kosuke Ueki always gets beaten down in his battles, but does he give up? No! The same with Ichigo, Naruto, Train Heartnet etc. Even a dynamic character such as Major Motoko Kusanagi (from GitS) is included in this list.
-Political incorrectness: Ok, a hero’s not a politician. But seeing that he is a model to the people, he can be expected to be appropriate in his behavior. But unfortunately, most of our dear heroes are grossly negligent in this department. Most of them don’t respect the system, others just look for loopholes. They say bad things to the wrong people at the wrong time. For example, Deunan Knute, in the Appleseed manga, goes in on an assault and finds baddies with hostages. She just walks up to them, and blithely begins to play devil’s advocate--a total no-no as a political response. So…the next time you vote for some guy with a huge sword, please do think twice.
Now that we’re done with quantifying our heroes, let’s attempt a little feasibility study: Are these attributes transferable to the real world? Can we really have our own Ichigos and Narutos?
Fidelity is an emotion which is highly plausible in the charged environment of today’s society. As such, its value is high.
Compassion has very few takers in the modern world. Despite the meteoric rise in the number of poor, despondent and unhealthy people, most societies and governments are ignoring this basic human emotion completely. On the contrary, our society may be said to be encouraging acts of cruelty with legal approbation.
Justice is another neglected facet of modern society. Due to its complexity and seemingly punitive nature, people fear the law as almost nothing else. Also, due to certain legal ‘amendments’ the originally unbiased system has weighed down irrepressibly on the underprivileged. Fair is not fair anymore, because the poor don’t get enough justice as they should.
Chivalry is another concept that is fast becoming extinct. In this age of sexual liberty and reproductive freedom, a man no longer needs to be a ‘gentle’man in order to get a chance with the other sex; money, vehicles and looks do the job well enough. Yet,as manga shows us, chivalry is still held up as an ideal in some cultures, maybe because of a hidden nostalgia.
Courtesy is an idea that has gone extinct in the modern age. In a time of ballistic missiles and aerial bombardments who has the time to observe the niceties of decorum? No longer does one find two fighters announcing their names to each other, as a sign of faith. This virtue is well-nigh dead.
Nobility of purpose is a concept that has been raped again and again throughout history. Every jackass with a gun and bomb declares his ‘mission from God’ loud and clear. There is no hope for this virtue.
Sensibility,though oft-caricatured, is nevertheless a very stubborn virtue. Coherence of thought has made many a failure successful, and though not always right, has retained its practical value today.
Tenacity, either due to its biological origin or to its intrinsic practicality, has assumed greater proportion today. It is a virtue that will survive.
Political incorrectness is, unfortunately, a much-reviled virtue. Faced with the raw brute force of political organizations, most people choose to stay quiet and follow the status quo, rather than use their natural right to resist oppression. The society, by suppressing outlets of public opinion, also contributes to the death of political ‘in’correctness.