Understanding Characters: The Battle Maniac

I have already talked about the basics of good fights here, and expounded upon the nature what makes certain characters badass in action here.  But there is a certain kind of character that is central to action and often one of the badasses involved who I’ve not yet covered.  Enter the battle maniac.  From here on their will be scattered spoilers as I dissect what makes up a good battle maniac and use examples to prove my points.  You have been warned.

Some people just like to fight, but while that is an integral part of the battle maniac, this trait alone does not qualify a character to be a battle maniac.  Take for example a typical shounen hero like Naruto, Natsu, Ichigo or Gon.  These characters fight a lot and upon occasion they enjoy the challenge of fighting someone strong.  But I don’t think anyone would call these four battle maniacs, because they are always fighting for something or someone.  Even if they enjoy some of their fights, most of the time they’re fighting for the survival of friends, family or just humanity at large.  By comparison someone like Hisoka or Grimjow are battle maniacs because they enjoy fighting for its own sake.  Unlike the heroes they fight against, Hisoka and Grimjow get restless when there’s no action and actively seek out fights to kill their boredom.  That particular trait is essential for battle maniacs.  That they must enjoy fighting is something of a given, but they also should be seeking out fights or at bare minimum worthy opponents for future battles.  If they don’t have this trait they generally can’t be a battle maniac, anyone can enjoy a fight either for the challenge or the adrenaline, battle maniacs need to seek out enemies who can spark much deeper feelings in them.  Take Hisoka, to Hisoka what matters the most is finding and later fighting opponents who he finds challenging enough to be worth the effort.  Anyone below that level is of no interest to Hisoka and he crushes them without thought as a way to vent his enormous bloodlust.  Which brings us to our next most important trait.

Battle maniacs should not only be able to deal with bloodlust but usually cloak themselves in it.  Battle maniacs are an abnormal type of character, they are natural outcasts whose violence drives more sane characters away from them.  This one reason why so few heroes can be battle maniacs.  Even if you take heroes like Eren Jaeger or any of his contemporaries who live to wipe out whatever monster took something precious from them, these guys aren’t battle maniacs.  They don’t drive people away like battle maniacs do because their defining trait is their extreme determination and drive.  Battle maniacs on the other hand tend to be defined by their ability to intimidate and the how they enjoy the things they do.  You can see how battle maniacs tend to be more twisted than even the most violent heroes by glancing over at Hisoka, or the lesser known Akabane Kuroudo from Get Backers.  Both characters intensely value the heroes of the story because they see them as perfect challenges.  They both are portrayed as creepy, with even their allies being wary about them and their actions.  Both characters are played up as menacing and they are completely nonchalant in what most would call dangerous situations.  Another thing that usually separates heroes from battle maniacs are their weapons.  Heroes tend to use very traditional weapons, not that some don’t use more exotic weapons, but generally the hero uses simple weapons or magic that the audience will approve of.  Natsu and Gon for instance both use special abilities that center around a simple physical fighting style because punches and other simple martial arts strikes are something everyone is familiar and comfortable with.  By comparison Hisoka and Akabane use cards and scalpels as their weapons and are made all the more creepy by how they wield such unusual weapons with deadly skill.  It makes them scarier since they fight with tools that aren’t associated with fighting, because when the audience has no point of reference for understanding how they fight, it makes them more alien to us on some level and alien is scarier than familiar.  However, despite all these differences with heroes, there is some overlap.

One of the traits that heroes and battle maniacs share is that they fight inconsistently.  What I mean is that they power up exponentially when they fight someone stronger.  For most heroes this means it’s nakama power-up time but it works a bit differently for battle maniacs.  The battle maniac will always appear strong.  So when they fight small fry opponents they put in very little effort and then appear exponentially stronger when fighting an opponent who is actually a challenge and they put in some effort.  Akabane for example, moves much better and uses more vicious techniques when he takes on someone near his level than he does when fighting average Joes.  Heroes that best blur the lines between battle maniac and hero are Xin from Kingdom and to a lesser extent Natsu from Fairy Tail.  Now make no mistake Natsu has plenty of nakama power-up moments and he usually lacks the more malevolent traits battle maniacs have, but he has a number of similarities.  For one thing when Natsu really gets pissed he tends to take, to some extent, the malevolent traits he lacks.  His anger turns him more feral than a typical hero, therefore he becomes more intimidating because he is moving away from more understandable human anger and entering a more alien realm of anger.  Likewise Natsu loves to fight more so than most heroes, he intensely enjoys fighting powerful opponents and generally is more inclined to seek fights out rather than wait for them to come to him.  Xin is even more pronounced in this regard.  Xin loves to fight and he actively seeks out the strongest opponents he can, though his targets also tend to be high value military commanders so his reasons for fighting them are for personal enjoyment and military accolades.  Also, while Xin isn’t wrapped up in malice he has a certain weight to his presence that marks him out to powerful opponents.  And in Xin’s case there are very few nakama power-ups, he just fights a lot better when he takes on more talented foes.  In the end I don’t know if I would call Xin a true battle maniac, but it’s close call to be sure.

Generally speaking battle maniacs fit much more neatly into the OP Badass category.  They are always strong and because they are usually built up as being creepy or menacing, they already have the dramatic build-up they need when they go into battle.  Uvogin and Hisoka are both great examples of this.  Both characters are incredibly powerful, enjoying fighting for its own sake and love crushing worthy opponents.  But both are also vulnerable.  At one point Hisoka loses both arms in a single fight and Uvogin gets put in life threatening situations on more than one occasion.  Also a good battle maniac should be a pretty important character in the story.  If they aren’t they end up like Christoph Gardos from Strike the Blood.  Gardos is a battle maniac insofar as he loves war and enjoys battling the strong but he lacks too many other key elements to be a good battle maniac.  For one he’s not all that strong, two he isn’t very intimidating and three because he’s essentially a footnote in the story he lacks the kind of presence that a proper battle maniac like Hisoka or Akabane has.  So Gardos ends up being one of these small time bad guys who looks more like a poorly thought-out psycho, because he loves war even though he’s way too weak to be particularly good at it.  You don’t want that.  A true battle maniac is generally a recurring character, like Hisoka or Akabane, and the only reason these two work so well over the course of the story is that they always feel menacing and dangerous.  It’s an essential part of the battle maniac’s character and any would-be battle maniac who lacks that trait can’t measure up to the real thing.  And that about wraps this post up.  Hopefully you all enjoyed it and I’ll see you in the next one.

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One thought on “Understanding Characters: The Battle Maniac

  1. Great post. I agree that Hisoka’s character is a battle maniac, but I think that he’s one of the most dynamic characters in “HUNTER x HUNTER”, even more so than the main protagonist, Gon. Just like you said, Hisoka and Grimmjow are similar, but I think that Hisoka’s character has more depth, perhaps because he’s been on the entire series, whereas Grimmjow has only been on the series for a short time. Anyway, I like battle maniacs when they’re created in a way that shows some character depth. I don’t like watching one-dimensional battle maniacs.

    Once again, great post. Keep it up. Cheers!

    Like

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