Unpopular Opinion: Keijo!!!!!!!!! – The Magnum Op-ass of Sports Stories

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I love Keijo.  Both the anime and the manga.  It is to date the best sports story I have ever followed and that will likely never change.  No doubt that sounds preposterous to most people, I mean it’s just a dumb ecchi show shoving ass and tits in your face constantly.  From what I’ve heard the anime bombed pretty hard and there is no doubt in my mind part of the anime’s failure lies in the perception of the show I detailed in the previous sentence.  There are of course other issues, most notably that it starts well into the story, skipping over the two exams, something many fans of the manga resent.  But I can’t help feeling like the main reason people who’ve never read the manga, which has to make up a larger audience base than fans of the manga, avoided Keijo because of how it was perceived; as dumb, trashy fanservice schlock that used a flimsy premise to get away with justifying itself.  That perception is so miserably wrong and the fact that it likely informs the mass opinion of the show is deeply frustrating because Keijo is so much more than it says on the tin.

Now in fairness it is also exactly what it says on the tin, there is a lot of fanservice, tits and especially ass is often shoved into the viewer’s face.  And all of this is justified by the premise, which contrary to popular belief is not in fact flimsy.  Keijo is, in my opinion, the most ingeniously conceived sport of all time, an argument I made in my last post on the subject and will make again here.  But before that point I want clarify a few things.  First off I will explicitly separate the manga and the anime in a few key areas but for the most part I’m going to be talking about them as one unified entity because I want to talk about Keijo in it’s entirety.  Secondly this is going to be long as shit because I have a lot of things I want to talk about.  And lastly this will get up to it’s tits in Keijo and since I will explain things in as much detail as I’m able, there will be spoilers everywhere.  Now that were clear on that let’s get going.

One thing I want to address right away is how things have changed since I wrote my prior review.  In that review I argued that the manga and the anime were of comparable quality largely based on the fact that, at the time, the manga’s ending was very abrupt.  Multiple sites listed chapter 86 as the final chapter of Keijo, and it remained that way for at least a week or two after the Keijo anime wrapped up, a chapter that cuts off right after Kaminashi won her match against Maya/Kaya, seriously the last panel was like her teammates throwing her into the air as a part of their victory celebrations it was jarringly abrupt.  Currently the  manga is now 147 chapters deep so that part of my earlier analysis is no longer valid.  The manga is now unquestionably better than the anime and if the show bombed as badly as I’m hearing then it will likely stay that way.  That said I will stand by my earlier stance that anime made some good edits to the manga, though it made some pretty bad ones too, and that the Maya/Kaya fight was far superior in the anime, which was huge because at the time that was THE final battle of series.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, let me lay out in simple terms why I think Keijo is the best sport ever conceived.  Ass and titties.  This may surprise you but I didn’t pick that phrase because I’m way into the fanservice, I am but that’s not the point.  I haven’t checked the data in years but I’m fairly confident in what I learned a couple Olympics ago, the most widely viewed women’s event was beach volleyball and it was first in viewership by an overwhelming margin.  This is not due to sex appeal alone but if everyone only watched for the athletic spectacle then the ratings should be less skewed in it’s favor.  Beach volleyball is fun to watch as a sport but it’s also a sport where we get to see women showing a lot of skin, and it has really good ratings.  Basically as the age old adage goes: sex sells.  This is important because one of the central conceits of Keijo is that the sport is so insanely profitable that talented athletes from all kinds of other sports come to Keijo specifically to make bank.  And evidence from reality supports that conceit via women’s beach volleyball.  This is indicative of one of Keijo’s greatest strengths as a story concept, the blending of grounded realism and insane shit you can only find in anime and manga.

One of the reasons I specifically avoid a lot of sports anime is because a ton of them are underdog stories and I’ve seen a million of those.  I don’t want to see some skilled but fledgling team fight against their own weaknesses as they work their way up to the big tournament.  Sports shows share much of the same tone and characterization as shounen stories and I’ll take a shounen show over a sports story any day where underdog narratives are concerned because I value spectacle.  A lot.  So when I see a sports show I want to see high level competition more so than underdog struggles, not that underdogs winning a big fight through hard work, toughness and willpower can’t be fun, but for sports specifically I’m much more interested in high level play.  To that end Keijo is the ultimate sports concept, a sport made of so much money that National and even Olympic level athletes from all kinds of sports will willingly abandon their sport of choice to get a shot at that Keijo money.  This means the baseline of everyone competing in Keijo is really, really high, which results in great spectacle.  Spectacle made all the better by the inventiveness of the ass and tits combat on display, and that was not a joke in the slightest, the combat is incredibly creative.

This setup has a few great boons.  As described above it is totally believable and helps to ground a series which is also chock-full of crazy shit like a character who can use Giga Drill Breaker from Gurren Lagann… with her tits.  Additionally it is a veritable goldmine of creative variety, a bottomless well from which characters of all stripes can be drawn.  In Keijo all the fighters are put into three basic classes, Infighter, Outfighter and Counter.  Infighters are heavy hitters, Outfighters are quick fighters, and Counters excel at using their opponents’ power against them.  However within those three classes there is a ton of variety and room for specialization.  Sayaka and Rokudo Rin for example are both Outfighters with excellent speed and they share the same Ass Gattling technique (a series of super quick attacks with dat ass).  However they have very different strengths.  Sayaka is judo champion who was slated to compete in the Olympics and is notably stronger than most Outfighters, in fact in the beginning she’s got more power than the Infighter Kaminashi.  Rokudo is a runner and she has incredible lung capacity and endurance.  Which is why in a straight Ass Gattling battle Rokudo would win because she can use it endlessly while Sayaka will quickly become tired and out of breath.  Which is why Sayaka switches her main move to the K-acceleration, a move which relies on bursts of intense speed and power, to overcome Rokudo.  Because that technique plays to her strengths as a fighter with a lot of power for her size.

This kind of variety and the resulting plethora of foils, characters who mirror or are diametrically opposed to the main characters, is present throughout the entirety of Keijo.  Kaminashi, our leading lady is an especially fascinating case study where these naturally varying body types and skill sets are concerned because she fits in multiple classes.  She isn’t especially large, Infighters are typically the largest athletes competing.  She isn’t especially strong, which is the kind of the point her class.  She is remarkably good at dodging or keeping her balance when she takes a hit.  Kaminashi would be a great Counter and in practice she wins her first two practice Keijo battles (both happen in the same round but the opponents are very different) by way of Counter-style moves.  If not for the fact she can use her flexibility and gymnastics moves to build up phenomenal force for her special attack, the Vacuum Ass Cannon, there would be no reason to treat her as an Infighter at all.  But her technique is so rare and powerful that it’s practically a sin for her not to fight as an Infighter especially since it has the promise of being a great way to get money.  Which is especially important to Kaminashi as she is dirt poor and has been her whole life.

I know I’ve mixed in some information on techniques which isn’t applicable until the story starts but what I’ve been trying to illustrate over the last few paragraphs is Keijo’s baseline state as a sport.  It’s a tits and ass battle sport fought on a wide variety of arenas, I forgot to mention that above, filled to the brim with incredibly talented athletes who come from all kinds of backgrounds and have all kinds of body types, strengths and skill sets upon which they can create their own Keijo-specific techniques.  And this sport is able to draw from such a varied and consistently talented pool of players because it has all the money for reasons which we easily understand and which mirror trends in reality.  It’s fucking genius and we haven’t even gotten to the actual narrative and characters who populate it.  As far as I’m concerned Keijo has already surpassed any other sport by virtue of how well constructed it is at the conceptual level alone and when competing against other sports stories the match is Keijo’s to win or lose.

Now I expect it to lose for a lot of people.  Because of lot of people don’t want fanservice getting in the way of their sports story (it doesn’t in Keijo but whatever I get the complaint), some people just shy away from fanservice in general, some people will prefer a show about a more realistic sport or a sport they play and some people won’t like the characters and narrative, or maybe they’ll just like another story more.  I do not expect everyone to love Keijo, but what I hope I’ve shown is what merits the sport alone has, divorced from any other elements which a person may or may not like, and that it should be recognized for the excellent craftsmanship on display.  In a genre where most shows and manga just draw from existing sports and can focus solely on characters and narrative, Keijo has created an original sport that not only works as premise for a story but which would work fabulously in the real world as well.  This is just the foundation block of the story but it’s such a great foundation and I’m sad so many people will overlook this because they saw ‘ass and tits fanservice romp’ and checked out.

Ironically enough I came into Keijo like all the people I’ve been decrying, I started with the anime and the attitude that it was going to be so shameless and trashy that I just had to get a look at it.  Then the first episode was great and I checked out the manga and fell head over heels in love with it.  Most fans of Keijo will tell you the anime was bad because it skips the first major arc, the exam arc, which includes a lot of character for the two main girls Kaminashi and Sayaka.  They aren’t wrong but most of the focus appears to be on Sayaka because she develops more explicitly over the course of that arc.  However, while it was stunted, I think the anime got the main thrust of her character story across, that she was a judo champion born to a judo family who felt no passion for judo whatsoever and left against her family’s and even the nation’s wishes, abandoning the sport by throwing her Olympic qualifier match.  There are some great details in the manga that don’t make it into the anime, like how the person she threw the match to got crushed in the Olympics, lost her confidence and how friends of hers try to sabotage Sayaka during the exam as revenge, but honestly Kaminashi was the one who got screwed.

Kaminashi’s closest equivalent from another big name show is Natsu from Fairy Tail.  She appears incredibly stupid and she says stupid or blunt things all the time, but it’s consistently shown that she can be and is incredibly perceptive about things which she actually gives a shit about.  This is shown to an extent in the anime but a lot of subtle changes make Kaminashi looker much stupider and more underdog-ish than she does in the manga.  For example during the Sayaka-Rokudo fight in the anime Kaminashi is confused as to why Rokudo is beating Sayaka in the battle of seemingly equal Ass Gattlings and Kawai, which as a side note is a great name for that character as it’s one letter apart from both kawaii meaning cute and kowai meaning scary and she’s both, explains the endurance thing I detailed above.  In the manga, Non who is consistently depicted as air-headed and kind of out place amid all these other athletes is confused by why Sayaka is losing and Kaminashi is the one who explains it.  I feel this is an especially bad change because one of the key facets of Kaminashi’s character is that she’s far more dangerous than most give her credit for.  This is especially true early on as she’s one of the least famous characters but even in recent manga chapters she proves that she has a good head on her shoulders and can compete with fighters ranked well above her.

But to get away from anime-manga comparisons the point is that I’m a huge fan of Kaminashi and I like the characters in Keijo.  I think the mangaka has made some weird decisions regarding some characters and given how many there are it’s easy for some to fade into the background but on the whole I like them and I really like some of them.  None of the characters outright suck or piss me off.  Which means the story only improves from the impressive foundation laid for it.  This is true of both the anime and the manga though obviously more so for the manga because it’s the better version now.  I want you to keep this in mind whenever I criticize either the anime or the manga because I will and it might look inconsistent.  I think both versions made some bad decisions but I am very fond of Keijo and none of complaints are about things which break or ruin the series, just things I don’t get or disagree with.

For the sake of getting it out of the way let’s do the manga vs anime comparison now.  The anime’s like an 8, it’s a good time and tells a full arc that functions as it’s own story.  I agree that the anime skipping the exams was disappointing but it was also practical.  Most arcs of Keijo last about 3 episodes and there occasional bits that fill time in-between arcs.  This means if the anime had covered both of the two exams plus the first few chapters and the gap between the exams they would end up with 8 or 9 episodes.  To fill 12 they would either have to bloat the episodes they had or end in the middle of the school training.  Both are bad options.   Keijo is pretty tightly paced, it crams in as much as it can from the manga in the time it’s given while still leaving time for the major battles to feel fleshed out and satisfying.  Slowing that pacing down could be done but it probably leave more episodes feeling boring or at least more boring stretches.  Ending in the middle of school would anti-climactic as fuck though so that’s not really a viable option either.  It’s an awkward position to be put in and I think the anime skipping ahead so that it could cover all of the school stuff and finish on the climactic East-West war battles was a good idea.  Or at least it would have been if the anime hadn’t bombed.

The anime also made a number of smart edits to the source material and some shit ones.  One of better ones was keeping Kaminashi in the UTM all time when was forced to wear it, whereas it came off frequently in the manga, I felt that it added a lot more character and made it seem like Kaminashi worked harder.  One of the worst edits was having the Kaminashi vs Fujisaki battle end with both fighters sliding around the circular ring super fast, that looked shit and it was probably the part of manga the anime adapted worst.  The most noticeable improvement the anime makes to the manga though is in the Maya/Kaya fight, the final battle of the East-West War.  In the manga not enough is done to distinguish Maya from her alter ego Kaya and Maya regains control of herself so quickly that it seemed like having split personalities is more of a cheap gimmick to draw out the fight than anything else.  The anime brings that fight to life.  Maya and Kaya have different voices and hair colors, their attacks have different lighting effects and very different sound effects and the anime really sells Kaya as this unrestrained brutal side of the quite and largely defensive Maya and because the Kaya part of the fight takes half an episode of anime it feels fleshed out compared to the thirty seconds it took to read in the manga.

Back when the Maya/Kaya fight was the conclusion I would’ve pegged both the anime and manga as 8s and called it a day.  Now that the manga has continued to other great fights it has reached 10/10 status, but I still remember the anime edition of the Maya/Kaya fight and I struggle not to include that version when I think about Keijo.  Because I have a lot to say about the story in both forms and like both, it’s difficult for me separate them when thinking about Keijo unless I’m specifically looking at what they did differently.  Now let’s look at the manga only problems.

I just said the manga was a 10/10 and that may baffle you.  That’s ok because you aren’t me and don’t necessarily know my thoughts but Keijo is the only sports story I spend a lot of time thinking about.  Even good stuff like Kuroko no Basket which I marathoned the shit out of are shows I don’t love to the point of constantly obsessing over them.  Keijo is a a show I constantly obsess over and I’d like to think that by now I don’t to need any “not just for the fanservice” jokes or lines because that’s clearly not the only thing going in this show nor is it even my primary interest in the show.  I mean if all wanted was fanservice I’d be writing about how High School DxD or HOTD were the best anime of all time and I totally should write about those two for fun, but that’s not why I’m here, not really.  With that in mind let the nitpicking commence.

One of the manga’s problems is it’s got a bunch of characters and concepts which just don’t go anywhere.  For example there’s Kaminashi’s childhood friend who wants to fuck her, the male Keijo engineers, the hints of a shitty love triangle between the childhood friend, Kaminashi and this male-tsundere engineer.  But that’s minor shit.  The decisions which really bother are regarding Ooshima and Naka.  Ooshima is the less important of the two so let’s start with her.  Ooshima is this big volleyball player and National level athlete and she becomes friends with Sayaka and Kaminashi during the 2nd exam and she’s featured pretty heavily during that arc and she shows up for a few minor scenes in the school arc.  She’s an Infighter who’s main advantage is her size and the power that comes with it and she losses all relevance in the manga after she loses during the class advancement battle to Vajrass girl (I don’t remember her name but her technique is Vajrass aka Ass of Vajra, basically taking hard ass to a literal extreme).  Why cut her there?  Vajrass girl is not that important, she may be one Setouchi’s, the school, top ten fighters but that just means she will fight in the East-West War.  She has a mannish character design and sort of rough, ascetic Buddhist slant to her character.  But outside of her technique and design she’s utterly unmemorable and barely relevant to the story.

Why not just have Ooshima take her place?  You could even have Ooshima learn the Vajrass during the training arc between the class advancement battles and the East-West War.  Ooshima was never really a major character even we saw her a lot but at least she has a personality, a clear backstory, a history with the leading ladies and I remember her goddamn name.  I mean Vajrass girl’s most memorable scene is the class advancement battle, which is better in the anime anyway cause she beats out the two Infighters before losing to Non the airhead with a soft ass and arguably the best Counter we know whereas in the manga she loses to Non right away then Non just sort of wins off-screen.  I just don’t see the point of having two irrelevant characters when you could just combine them into one minor character.  Yes the Vajrass has a Buddhist component that isn’t in character for Ooshima but just have her learn it from a monk during the training arc, I mean they go to Kyoto for training why not just include a grizzled old monk guy who teaches her how to toughen herself up and she creates the Vajrass.  I mean Aoba Kazane uses a pyramid shaped ass technique that comes with ridiculous dodging which she describes as Egyptian sorcery (she stole the technique by feeling up a mummy’s ass because she can copy the techniques of any butt she touches) and one girl in a recent chapter uses Ass Incense she got from the African side of the of family to create illusions and basically turn feral so it’s not like having a monk teach Ooshima about body hardening would be too weird or out of place for Keijo.

This problem is only exacerbated when it comes to Naka.  Naka is one of the most interesting characters in the Keijo manga.  Something I forgot to mention while describing how Keijo makes bank is that it’s a gambling sport, so legally speaking all the combatants have to be adults.  They don’t do much with this in the anime and it doesn’t even play that big a role in the manga with one glaring exception, Naka.  Naka is a mom and it’s unclear exactly how old she is though you’d expect low 20’s to low 30’s.  Naka is also a former delinquent bike gang leader who despite her kind and motherly demeanor can get mean, and scare and roast the shit out of anyone she doesn’t like.  In addition to being one of the most interesting characters by way of being older and having a complicated past and life Naka is notable because for a while she has the biggest titties in the show and they are her weapon of choice, whereas most Keijo players focus more heavily on their ass as their primary weapon.  She was also present in the first exam as minor character and was a major character during the second exam.  Why the fuck did they cut her from the manga?

It’s weird.  They just have her marry an engineer and cut her from the story entirely.  Poof, she’s gone.  What I have to wonder is why?  There’s plenty of room for her in the story.  One of Setouchi’s top 10 is so ill defined and unused I don’t remember her name or her technique, I just know that she losses immediately to the twins in the East-West War, why not just give her spot to Naka?  More importantly during the Funabashi arc, especially the final battle, wouldn’t it have made more sense Naka to end up in the final round fighting with Kaminashi against the Funabashi fighters ganging up on them?  Naka clearly has the attitude and toughness that would compel and allow her to throw down on a gang of girls who trick and team up on outsiders and the leader of the Funabashi group is Don Kosugi, who like Naka has huge tits and fights with them almost exclusively.  Wouldn’t it have made more sense to cut Kazane’s Egyptian sorcery bullshit and have Naka fight Don Kosugi, before losing a tit battle thus giving Naka a reason to either retire or train harder and get better, before Kaminashi finishes the fight?  She even would’ve been good to feature during the class advancement battles, because she could have been required to fight Kogatana, who uses boob iaijutsu (sword drawing techniques), and they could have had Naka’s boob volume overcome the boob-draw and get her into the top 10.  So what gives?

Honestly it’s not even like my nitpicks are about Keijo being badly written.  Some of that stuff is unimportant and goes nowhere but nothing I’ve spent the last couple paragraphs whining about breaks the story.  They just represent missed opportunities and I don’t understand why you’d miss those opportunities.  I have no idea if these decisions came from the author, an editor, someone on the business end of things or some combination thereof.  I also have no idea if it’s just because the story wasn’t carefully planned out and characters were discarded before anyone involved knew what to do with them.  It just bugs me because it seems like a waste, especially where Naka is concerned.   Another minor issue I have is that a few characters seem to fly in the face of the high level athlete thing I mentioned.  Non in particular is weird because she’s characterized as clumsy, which you’d think that would preclude her from competing even if no one can beat her soft ass counter.  I like Non and I still think it’s weird.

Anyway let’s cut back to one of Keijo’s strengths, creative combat.  Back towards the top I spent a while talking about the realistic elements of Keijo and those will still be relevant here but this is mostly about the crazy shit.  As a result of the varying backgrounds and skill sets everyone has their special techniques which make them standout and a lot of these techniques are either insane or are borderline superpowers.  That’s not to say there aren’t grounded techniques, Butt on Titan for example is a basic bum rush, pun intended, from a really fat character.  Most of the techniques though are either flat out ridiculous or are based on realistic ideas and then taken to unrealistic extremes.  Sayaka’s K-acceleration for example is based on actual physics, but I’ve yet to meet someone who goes from really fast to borderline teleportation fast just by giving themselves a wedgie.  I’m not complaining mind, I think Keijo strikes a great balance between having elements grounded in reality to make the show make enough sense while also including enough crazy shit to make it over-the-top and fun.  It helps that a number of special attacks are great references like Shoryucans, Giga Tit Breaker, Butt on Titan and Gate of Bootylon, which incidentally was better animated in the Keijo anime than the Gate of Babylon was in UBW.

Keijo is perfect aware of how silly it is and can allows itself to be silly in earnest and not take itself too seriously.  This is good because sometimes shows can’t even get that right.  But the fact Keijo does this while also incorporating realistic elements to excellent effect almost makes me wonder how people can even consider this just a dumb fanservice show.  I mean I know why, they judged the book by it’s cover or a plot synopsis and then looked down their noses at it without digging into the glorious genius that is Keijo.  And that’s not entirely their fault but it does frustrate me some as a big fucking fan to see how underappreciated this series is for shallow reasons.

Anyway back to the action.  The tits and ass action of Keijo is excellent.  There are tons of creative tactics, attacks, super-moves, and arenas to spice up any match.  The arenas range from simple discs to discs covered in mud or water to giant jungle gyms to fucking Edo castles and Spanish galleys.  There are a ton of different kinds of techniques with plenty of fighters choosing techniques which affect the mind.  The physical stuff covers everything you can think of.  I’m not kidding, Kawai has a style that uses precision strikes to key areas to drop her opponents borrowing pages from boxing and wrestling, I dare you to question Keijo’s creativity.  Tactics also play a large role not just in battle but also in developing techniques.  Kogatana just went through an arc where her boobs were suffering damage from overuse and Kaminashi straight up invents a technique for her based on sword-stealing, which I’ve seen in enough anime to wonder if it’s an actual thing in kendo/kenjutsu or if anime is yanking my chain on this one.

I could easily keep going into more and more detail but honestly unless someone wants to talk to me about Keijo, and if you do please a comment cause I will be on that shit, I think I’m done here.  Given that this is about the length of an average 5 page college essay I think I’ve communicated what Keijo has to offer, what aspects of it’s construction are good and why I think Keijo is legit the best sports story I’ve ever seen.  If you made it this far I’d love it if you say something in a comment, even a ‘I think you’re totally wrong because…’ because I would to debate or discuss specific scenes or trends in detail but I’m running out of steam for this particular post.  Thanks for reading, I hope yo liked it and I’ll see you in the next one.

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Unpopular Opinion: Fairy Tail

This review will mostly pertain to Fairy Tail before the show took a hiatus and returned as Fairy Tail 2014, though there will be some comparisons.  There will be spoilers, you have been warned.

This is going to be painful isn’t it?  I honestly don’t know of too many shows that get shit on as often as Fairy Tail, and while it clearly has a fanbase, said fanbase is nowhere near as vocal in defending it as say SAO fanboys or “Narutards” (I’m not actually trying to insult anyone here, I’m just using the term to get a point across) or the like.  I may be wrong of course but that’s generally the impression I’ve gotten from the internet when it comes to Fairy Tail.  Now I’m betting some people can’t wait for me to tear the show a new asshole, it certainly wouldn’t be out of character for me.  However, while I will acknowledge Fairy Tail’s faults in full, I’m mostly going to be defending it and my enjoyment of it.  Yea, I’m going there.  Anyway, let’s start by explaining in the broadest of strokes why Fairy Tail would have appealed to me even if I hadn’t seen it when I saw it.  I love fantasy and within fantasy, magic is arguably my favorite thing about the genre.  I also tend to be more accepting of shounen-battle series than a lot of anime critics because I’m both childish and I like action shows.  Fairy Tail is a battle-shounen series with lots of magic involved, so naturally I had to give it a go, but more on that later.  I also like dragons because again, fantasy lover and childish, and Fairy Tail has all kinds of dragons and dragon-related shit.  So even if I had been paying more attention to the internet when I first watched Fairy Tail, I probably would have pushed forward gleefully anyways.  But it’s my experience watching the show is what really sold me on the show so many people hate.

I started watching Fairy Tail after a fairly lengthy hiatus from anime, because I had a roommate who watched it.  It was nice to get back into anime, so that no doubt colors my experience somewhat, although I never watched it with the roommate much.  It was a nice break from college stress too, the first few episodes of Fairy Tail are patently stupid, silly and mildly funny in a slapstick way.  More importantly the show delivered a variety of different magics, a band of goofy characters and beautifully mindless violence right off the bat.  Violence is after all, an important part of the battle-shounen genre and Fairy Tail delivers violence with unfettered abandonment.  Now it’s not always good violence nor important violence, but there is a lot of it.  While friendship and willpower are still focal points of the show like all its shounen-battle comrades, Fairy Tail’s friendship is more chaotic and violent than is typical.  I mean the very first time we got into the guild, Natsu beats some random guy down, which in turn kicks off a guild-wide brawl.  Even better the show introduces many of it’s major characters as they join chaotic fight like Gray and Elfman, or those who ignore it like Cana.  The scene is silly but it’s actually a clever way to introduce most of the characters all at once instead of dedicating whole episodes to recruiting members one at a time like many shounen shows are wont to do.  Also it’s just fun, to see that this chaotic, brawling bar full of people is where the main characters call home.  If nothing else, it’s a way more interesting base of operations than Ichigo’s house and high school or Konoha.  So Fairy Tail got off to good start for me, not so much in it’s “objective” quality but more so in that is was something I could dig at the time.  And of course things could only go up from there.

I like the way Fairy Tail handles magic.  Rather than give a small group of casters access to all kinds of abilities, they have tons of mages who have to rely on severely limited types of magic.  This appeals to me more because it encourages more tactical thinking in battles, as opposed to straight power fantasies where a single mage steamrolls whole armies with all kinds of attacks, not that these power fantasies can’t be fun, but I prefer the limited magic approach.  In Fairy Tail’s case in particular there is a staggering variety of magic, yes plenty of them are kind of stupid like the Grimoire Heart chicken-man who shoots eggs, others are kind of silly but also kind of interesting like Warcry’s Tears magic that lets him power up as he cries more, and magic that is straight up awesome like Jellal’s Heavenly Body magic.  Even more important, the magics that are similar are not the same.  Gray and Leon learned magic from the same teacher and they are based on the same concept for example, but their ice magics do work differently.  Dragonslayer and Godslayer magic is essentially the same in concept but Dragonslayer magic heavily favors more physical attacks while Godslayer magic has very few physical moves.  And even the different variants of Dragonslayer magic work differently.  The different Dragonslayers all have very different attack patterns, special abilities and even general emphasis.  Wendy’s Sky Dragonslayer magic has support spells and is lighter on damage than say Natsu’s Fire Dragonslayer magic is all about dealing loads of damage and has nothing but offensive techniques.  Just about the only thing all the Dragonslayers have in common is a breath attack.  There are even different methods for becoming Dragonslayers, which the show distinguishes by their generation number.  What I’m trying to say is that Fairy Tail has a wide variety of magic and has put enough care into it’s world that all the magics are pretty unique, which is good.

As much shit as people give the show, I think almost everything prior to Fairy Tail 2014 was either fine or outright awesome, barring one of the filler arcs which sucked big time.  The heart of this comes from the action.  Unlike some of it’s counterparts Fairy Tail had established the perfect battle length for every fight.  Prior to 2014 every prominent fight lasted 1 to 1.5 episodes barring a few battles that would make or break the guild which might take more like 2 to 2.5 episodes.  So we the viewers don’t bored by people breathing hard for minutes on end while the fight gets interrupted and the spectators dump exposition on the moves of the fighters.  Not that Fairy Tail is completely free of this kind of exposition but it’s much less intrusive in Fairy Tail than many other long-running shounen shows.  If were to accuse Fairy Tail of any major faults with it’s battles, it would be that they are pretty formulaic, at least once we get to opponents that actually matter.  A lot of Fairy Tail battles go like this, the hero fights and either makes a good account of themselves but basically just forces a stalemate, gets thrashed for a while but still sort of holding their own or gets pretty soundly beaten before there’s some break in the action, until the heroes figure out a tactic that gets them past their current hurdle, and then they turn the tide and end up beating the enemy, sometimes they totally dominate in the last section of the fight and in others they win by the skin of their teeth, but they always win.  Nakama power-ups are almost guaranteed in the last stage of any Fairy Tail fight.  Given how consistently Fairy Tail sticks to this formula as early as the Phantom Lord Arc, I can see people criticizing the show for it, and in theory I would support that criticism.  However, in my experience Fairy Tail fights are not stale despite sticking to formula, instead I’d say they are polished because they stick to formula.  Despite almost every fight going down the same predictable path, the fights are still great, and as far as I’m concerned that is in large part to this formula.  Because the fights come with a mostly pre-packaged routine the creative staff doesn’t have to try and make a new fight routine every battle, instead they can focus on all the other elements of the battle to maximize the effectiveness of the routine with each new battle.  This has led to loads of fights that just flow really well, they don’t feel too long or too short, and that’s pretty impressive when you consider that most long running shounen shows are notorious for over-long fights.  Which brings to the rest of battle details.

The fight routine I’ve been talking about is the skeleton of every fight, and while that figurative bone structure is something the creators are comfortable with and  clearly understand, it alone does not make the fights appealing.   As with any battle show, fight choreography, tension and dramatic payoffs, and sound are important.  And while that first element is kind of hit and miss for Fairy Tail, the latter three are phenomenal, especially the music.  You may be wondering how Fairy Tail can inject tension or drama into fights that follow a formula and often include nakama power-ups.  Well there’s two basic steps to this.  The first comes by way understanding that routines and tension/drama are not mutually exclusive in the slightest, part of mastering a routine is in understanding how and when to build tension and then create a payoff.  Take for example the humble knock-knock joke.  Every knock-knock joke goes the exact same way, it’s a routine, and you build tension by trying to get people interested in who’s knocking and then the payoff comes at the end when you reveal who is in fact knocking and delivering what you hope is a clever punchline.  The knock-knock joke is neither complicated nor original and while many of them suck, let’s not forget that routines can totally suck, there’s plenty of clever ones out there and they will persist until the end of time, or at least until we no longer have doors you need to knock on.  And what Fairy Tail has done is spent a lot of time making the battle equivalent of a good knock-knock joke, it may be a predictable setup but the punchline is going strong.

The second way this works is sound.  Battle noises and music are crucial, and the creative staff understands that.  The magic attacks and physical blows in Fairy Tail sound like they have a lot weight and impact to them, the visuals tend to reflect this too but more on that later.  If anything the battle noises are played up to a cartoonish level, which fits the show but more on that later too, in a way that kind reminds of how explosive and powerful the sound effects were in One Punch Man (please note I’m not saying Fairy Tail and One Punch Man are alike in terms of quality, just that their battles feature one similar element).  Then we get to the music.  Fairy Tail, in my opinion obviously, has the best collection of music in anime.  I’m not saying it has the best anime theme music, what I’m trying to get at is that it has great theme music but in contrast to most shows, which have about 30 OST tracks at most, Fairy Tail has a more like 150-200 OST tracks at least.  Even if none of those tracks are in anyone’s top 10 list, or something like that, that’s still a staggering number of good OSTs.  And I’m not exaggerating when I say almost all of them are good, if not great.  As someone who collects a lot of anime OSTs I was fucking floored by the sheer volume of high quality music for the show, and still am today as I’ve yet to find another show to pull this feat off, though that’s understandable since many shows never get that many sound tracks period.  Still  it’s worth celebrating good music, especially good battle music and Fairy Tail certainly has good music, battle or otherwise.  However there’s something more important here than the music itself, and that’s effect music has on the viewer.  Good music can bring any kind of scene to life, to make it jump off the page or the screen and burn itself into our memory.  And… and you guys can see where I’m going with this right?  Fairy Tail’s battles feel so alive, thanks to good flow and good music.  Perhaps more importantly they do a great job of firing me the hell up.  In one of my older posts I mentioned in passing that despite how obnoxious the nakama power-up is and how much people shit on it, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it.  You just have get us the audience invested enough in the characters and battle to get us to ride the same emotional wave the characters do before pulling out that nakama power-up.  And in my experience, few battle shounens have so perfected the art of getting the audience to ride that figurative wave quite like Fairy Tail.  There are of course other shows where having the main characters hulk out for their nakamas can be fun but it’s not as consistently tolerable or enjoyable as it is in Fairy Tail.  And the music goes a long way to getting us to ride that wave and thus heighten the experience, however it’s not the part that’s more unique to Fairy Tail.

One thing I find more interesting about Fairy Tail when compared to it’s other shounen counter parts is it’s relationship with rage.  Now plenty of battle shounen shows have characters who frequently get enraged by their opponents which might cause them to makes mistakes and hurt allies in their blind fury a la Naruto Nine-Tails Fox cloak or steamroll their opponents in a wave of unmitigated aggression a la Vasto Lorde Ichigo.  But the thing with rage is that it’s generally very limited.  In Naruto, Bleach and D Gray Man for example, there’s generally one or two people who will rage, while the rest remain more level-headed.  The only exception off the top of my head besides Fairy tail is HunterxHunter but even in HunterxHunter rarely does more than one person enter a state of rage during any given battle even if all the main characters get enraged at various points in the story.  The interesting thing about HunterxHunter’s rage moments is that they vary from protagonist to protagonist.  Leorio for example gets angry for his friends on a moment to moment basis and lashes out, while Kurapika by contrast is almost constantly consumed with the rage that fuels his need for vengeance on the Phantom Troupe.  Which brings me to Fairy Tail.  In Fairy Tail it’s never the case that just one or two people rages, the entire guild rages with them.  And this works because Fairy Tail cribs a bit from HunterxHunter’s style and everyone rages in a different way.  Gray for example generally remains more level headed while still clearly being angry, whereas Natsu gets almost bestial in his anger and rampages over his opponents.  But the point here is that everyone gets angry.  The reason this matters is because it adds to the tension and the atmosphere of any battle, it’s interesting to see a whole bunch of people, who all have different kinds of goofy personalities, suddenly all act in serious unity without a single spoken word.  Watching a chaotic band of mostly harmless goofballs change into an organized band of dangerous wizards so quickly drastically alters the atmosphere of an episode and can build tension by virtue of how jarring and swift that change is.  More to the point it helps fire up the audience.  It’s one thing to support a lone raging hero, but when all the heroes are raging at the same time it’s hard not to roped into the aggression projected by the characters, it’s a sort of imposed mob mentality if you will and goddamn does it work for me.  Tension builds as we the audience wait in anticipation for the moment when whatever is holding back the fighters disappears and the entire guild explodes in beautiful, violent action.  And it works narratively because the guild functions like one big, chaotic, violent family, everyone is always unfettered in their actions and interactions, and while they fight all the time like many siblings do, they also stand up for each other when an outside force threatens a guild member with violence like family should (at least that’s the message shounen shows try and spread anyway).  Ok so in summary, Fairy Tail has made it’s violence fun and interesting, and occasionally something it’s easy to get invested in thanks to the rage and atmosphere.  What else does it do that I like?

Fairy Tail is cartoonish and it’s well aware of that.  This goes beyond overblown attacks and loads of pointless albeit fun violence.  There are loads of character’s with incredibly dumb quirks or who have hilariously bad character designs, or people who are straight up dumb.  Hell in the first episode when Natsu, the male lead, goes to save Lucy, the female lead, from a minor villain, and literally seconds after he makes his badass entrance, smashing through the deck of a ship to get to where everyone is, he immediately collapses and gets the crap kicked out of him because he has crippling motion sickness whenever he’s riding man-made forms of transportation.  Even the old guild master of Fairy Tail basically tells the guild members, fuck what the government says you have to be yourselves without holding back, when what passes for the mage’s government gives them another warning telling them to stop destroying shit in episode two.  Everything the characters do is so taken to such goofy extremes that their fun-loving idiocy feels both genuine and infectious.  The art style likewise reflects this cartoonish tone, it’s full of bright, vibrant colors and goofy animations, complete with odd sound effects to complete the gags.  Speaking of gags, Fairy Tail is full of silly, often slapstick humor.  This is not to say the humor is particularly good, it’s mildly amusing at best and while this isn’t really the case for me personally, I can see it being annoying to some people.  The light hearted comedy however, much like the other cartoonish bits of Fairy Tail, serve a narrative purpose, a contrast to all the darker parts of Fairy Tail.

I mentioned in my review of Nanatsu no Taizai that a lot of shounen shows have dark elements and struggle to make them meaningful.  Granted in shows where willpower and friendship win the day it’s hard to make darkness and tragedy convincing or have any kind of staying power.  As I said the review linked above, most shounen shows introduce characters with tragic, sob-story backstories and then have all that shit paved over entirely by good guy attitude and friendship.  But it wasn’t until I started writing this up and putting more thought into it that I can articulate the difference between shounen shows which use darkness well and those which don’t.  In shounen shows that do use darkness well, like Nanatsu no Taizai or HunterxHunter, the darker aspects of any character are an ongoing struggle.  Unlike say Gaara from Naruto, who has this crazy, dark backstory but then after befriending Naruto never is in danger of reverting back, nor ever suffers from any residual trauma.  And in Fairy Tail, the darkness is used with an acceptable level of competence.  It’s certainly not on par with Nanatsu no Taizai or HunterxHunter, but it at least gets the ongoing struggle right.  Gray has a strong hatred for and sometimes crippling fear of demons, because his whole town was wiped out by one and even the person who taught him magic died in the process of sealing the demon.  This hatred and fear persist long after Deliora, the demon who inflicted the trauma, is dead for good, though admittedly it doesn’t come up often because demon shenanigans are rare in Fairy Tail.  Lucy was always angry at her father for the way he treated her and for eventually causing her guild great harm by hiring Phantom Lord to take her home by force, and she never really got a chance to forgive him because by the time he had reformed himself and the time she was ready to reconcile with him in full, he had died while she was sealed on Tenroujima.  Elfman and Mirajane both blame themselves for getting their little sister killed and their magic suffers for it, and it’s only when they finally find the strength to move forward and fight for others who are important that they at long last break through their limitations and gain/regain their magic power.  Erza and Jellal have one of the more interest relationships as they both clearly love each other but have also caused one another a lot of pain over the course of their lifetimes, their potential romance comes with a lot of baggage that neither of them ever seems quite ready to put behind them and forge a new chapter in their lives even as their attraction for each other deepens.  The island where Erza and Jellal were enslaved as children is crucial to many characters in the story, more than just those two.  Most of Oracion Seis is from that island and their powers are closely linked to their desires to escape the hell it was, while characters like Milliana and Kagura struggle to reconcile Jellal’s apparent reformation to a good guy with the fact he killed their sibling/friend, an act which had an effect on Erza as well.  Some of the darker parts of the character’s backstories are resolved over the course of the show, but for most the struggle remains a work in progress, something that can be mined for setting and character details with Erza’s backstory serving as the prime example, which for my money is a pretty good use of darkness for a show that preaches friendship triumphs and which people ridicule all the time for being a show where no one ever dies.  This brings me to the final positive thing I have to say about Fairy Tail, Fairy Tail women.

Some people are probably surprised that I like Fairy Tail women.  I mean I’ve got that one post about trying to use fewer pandering body, this one and this other one about strong female characters and let’s face it, Fairy Tail women are all about pandering.  The majority of the women are very well endowed, with a few lolis thrown in for guys who are into that, and almost everyone ends up in revealing outfits at some point, assuming they don’t end up in revealing outfits all the time.  Cana for example is always wearing a bikini top, except for that time when she wears nothing but her bra and panties.  There are multiple pool/hot spring/beach episodes, hell Mirajane was introduced in a swimsuit photo for an in-universe model magazine.  Now there’s also some man-service, Gray and Leon strip a lot, but you guys get the point, there’s a lot of pandering fanservice in Fairy Tail.  And while I confess that I certainly do enjoy that and said enjoyment is a part of why I like Fairy Tail women, there is more to it than that.  I think Fairy Tail women walk the line between being objectified women and strong women, because while all the pandering shit mentioned above is true, these women have a lot more to them than that.  But let me get into the strong women bit in the next paragraph while I get distracted.  I mentioned above that I liked Fairy Tail’s art style, with is bright and vibrant colors, and nowhere does Fairy Tail’s art excel more than the women.  Yes there are big boobs and yes I do appreciate them, but there’s more to their visual design than just their busts.  I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to call Erza one of the more iconic women in anime and while her large boobs may contribute I personally think her hair is the most definitive aspect of her look.  Sure Erza has big boobs, but so do like 95% of anime girls, no what makes Erza stand out is her red hair, and the many styles it comes in.  Back in that post about pandering body types I talked about how there were other aspects of character design that could be used to make a woman pretty, and A-1 seems to get that when it comes to Erza and her many, many hairstyles that complement her various outfits and overall look.  I’ve seen plenty of redheads in anime and none of them have looked quite as good to me as Erza does, which is more the hair than the boobs because I’ve seen plenty of big boobs before.  Likewise I think Cana looks more attractive for the contrast of bright colors in her outfits and her tan skin and dark brown hair, and I find her attitude and how that attitude matches her look more appealing than how revealing her clothes are.  This is not to say I’m for every design.  Many people like to joke that people only watch Fairy Tail for Lucy’s tits, and yes I know it’s a joke and I don’t take it seriously, but honestly hers is one of the more drab and boring designs.  Anyway that’s enough on design, time to talk about strong women… again.

All the women in Fairy Tail, well the important ones anyway, are powerful, even if that doesn’t always show.  For instance when Lucy is captured by Juvia during the Phantom Lord arc and loses her keys she appears powerless to Gajeel, who beats the crap out of her.  Yet in the Fairy Tail Civil War arc, she defeats one of Laxus’ top lieutenants and Gajeel is floored by the idea that Lucy is actually strong.  More importantly Lucy’s victory over said lieutenant marks a crucial turning point in the arc’s overall conflict.  Which is a roundabout way of saying that Lucy has agency.  Agency, in a nutshell, is a character’s ability to take action and exert influence over the story.  So characters like Sakura from Naruto, who just stands back forever and no longer influences the story by the time she gets powerful, have no agency.  And Fairy Tail women have agency.  In any given conflict the women play a major role.  Erza in particular decides many of the more important conflicts in the show, hell she saves the entire guild twice, once during the Phantom Lord arc and again during the Tenroujima arc.  Main characters like Lucy and Juvia also contribute to important battles in whatever arcs they appear in.  Even more dedicated support characters like Levy, one of the weakest mages in Fairy Tail, can play important roles in a conflict.  Levy for example was the one who got Gajeel and Natsu out of Freed barrier so they could defeat Laxus during the Civil War arc, and gave Gajeel the iron he needed to defeat the enemies attacking the pair at Tenroujima.  Point is, Fairy Tail’s women all have agency and while some of them have annoying traits (Juvia) or moments of vulnerability (Erza and Lucy), they are important to the story.  Therefore I posit that Fairy Tail women are indeed strong women, even if they aren’t the best examples of that term.  Which is the other reason I find the Fairy Tail women pretty attractive, I have a raging boner for strong women, and they qualify as such.  Give me good character designs with strong women and I’m hooked.  Anyway now that I’ve already gushed over the positives for longer than any other post, time to look at the negatives, Fairy Tail 2014.

Almost everything I praised Fairy Tail for flies out the fucking window in Fairy Tail 2014.  With the exception of the music, and the women having agency, Fairy Tail 2014 is a baffling step backwards.  It’s art style has changed and looks flatter and less alive, likewise the colors are so muted that the whole thing looks desaturated.  Basically the visuals got a massive down grade.  Sound effects are worse as well, Igneel and Acnologia in particular were far less impressive in 2014 than they were in the original Fairy Tail.  The silly humor is still around but it doesn’t make me laugh as often, though I admit it doesn’t annoy me much.  But the worst sin is the fights.  Many of the fights continue the same routine, but they somehow botch almost all of them.  I mean when Erza fights Kyouka, Kyouka is somehow able to block Erza’s Fairy Armor, which she used to destroy a city-sized island in the Edolas arc, with her bare hands.  Yet Erza defeats Kyouka with attacks like a kick to the stomach.  It’s fucking pathetic.  The only fights that impressed me at all since 2014 rolled around is the Erza-Kagura-Minerva three way battle, Natsu vs Jackal (that one had better sound effects and flow) and the battle where Wendy gets to use Dragon Force.  Some of the more memorable fights left in shambles were Gray vs Rufus, where Gray gets beat down for 10 minutes before turning around and one-shoting Rufus, Laxus vs Tempesta round 2, which dragged on too long and had no flow at all, and Gajeel vs whatever the shark demon was called, which also has a terrible flow.  It’s almost like Fairy Tail is being handled by a totally different team of animators and directors, and none of them have any fucking clue what made Fairy Tail decent.  Which, given how A-1 does hires lots of contractors to get all their shows done, would honestly not surprise me overly much.

In conclusion, Fairy Tail is pretty decent, and certainly a good pick if you’re looking for a battle shounen show to watch.  Fairy Tail 2014 on the other hand has mostly been a disaster, even if you discount the unforgivably bad Celestial Spirit Rebellion filler arc the show has undergone a massive downgrade in virtually every regard.  It’s a damn shame but its the nature of long running shounen to fall apart eventually, and for what it’s worth I think Fairy Tail had a pretty good run.  I hope you all enjoyed this and I will see you in the next one.

 

 

 

 

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.