Manga Case Study III
The third portion of a multiple chapter case study on the manga Real Bout High School, in which there is a detailed analysis of the significance of 'fighting.'
For those just joining us, this article continues an in-depth examination into the world of Real Bout High School and, in particular, how the individual characters manifest their particular means of enduring and surviving the world. (Previous discussions can be found in the May 2005 and June 2005 issues of Animefringe: Online Anime Magazine.)
The two concentrations of character types include the previous assessment of the unstable wolf-like young man, and this present observation of a maturing, ambitious young woman. The young woman of which is an old soul, destined to face internal, emotional conflicts unlike anyone else. Her duties to her community and to her self are what define her. How she deals with the conflicts that arise betwixt such duties, which in this case involves fighting, will be a testament to the strength of her integrity.
The Real Bout High School manga series, in addition to the wolf-like young man, conveys another character archetype that is well worth observation. The anxious and indifferent young woman is a character consciousness that while filled with several points of interest, is a disposition of immense internal conflicts. Again, a character consciousness is a sequence of cognitive and behavioral cues that detail an oft-fluctuating line of reasoning, or theory of life.
The character consciousness of the ambitious young woman is heavily outlined by social satisfaction, maturity, innocence, and anxiety (or the lack thereof of any of such items). Considering that the Real Bout High School manga is laden with dangerous maidens, it is rather easy to come across a few characters whose internal complexity mirrors this theory.
The manga's lead female, Ryoko Mitsurugi, is a kendo enthusiast who respects and loves those who take responsibility for their actions; however, she is still having trouble maturing into a great woman. Ryoko is a charming yet peculiar individual who is willing to do whatever it takes to bring justice to those who need it. Asuka Kuronari, a disillusioned ninja-girl, is a character that for who knows how long has the indelible mark in her mind that the path of the shadows is the one for her. She's actually a very sensitive and devoted person, but she often finds devotion in things unnecessary. Finally, Megumi Momoi, a wrestler searching for a community, is a girl whom has struggled perhaps the most out of the entire female cast in order to become who she is. The Real Bout High School manga series uses these girls' troubling emotions and their passion for fighting to deliver a consciousness often unsure of its influence on others, and plagued by numerous emotional conflicts.
For these young women, whose goal is to become a strong, independent, certain and mature person, there exists the issue of trying to find one's place in society. The manga's lead character, Ryoko, finds that it is best to become someone influential when you have the support of the public at large. While she obviously enjoys a polished reputation, her encouragement directly from the public fulfills what may have previously been a void of emotional discomfort. Exciting as it is to be appreciated by some, there are still others that have expectations beyond that which is normally achievable. Ryoko herself feels the obligation to overtake what self-effacing evils aggravate those that she cares for. As a result, the character consciousness of the young woman creates an internal conflict over what is and what should be emotionally sufficient for her survival. Ryoko may be appreciated in some circles, but neglected from others -- just as her grasp of reputation is contrasted with her understanding of how dissatisfying that same reputation can be when judged against harsh ambition.
In order to deal with the conflict of public appreciation and of meeting of personal goals, this character consciousness of the Real Bout High School manga seeks and draws inspiration and wisdom from others. When confronted with the complexities of schoolwork, club and organization work, and everything else social, this individual often reverts to an external source of support. The problem with this, however, is that in seeking some form of external help, the individual then becomes highly susceptible to over-reliance. For Ryoko, her mentor and sweetheart Tatsuya served as an emotional breaking point.
Asuka Kuronari, a girl determined to become a ninja, has narrowed her perception of objectivity. By selling herself on one ideal, she raised her expectations of herself over what was feasible. Asuka is an important character, because rather than utilizing an ideal or schema of wisdom to guide her -- as such guidance is what her character consciousness needs -- Asuka abused the aid, her fighting training. Her hope and expectancy of herself betrayed the usefulness of her own ambition, resulting in a humiliating defeat in battle.
However ironic it may appear, it nevertheless holds true that there are times when one's love for an ideal is that which blights one's aptitude for said ideal. This ambitious conscience, inherently lacking maturity, is a conflicted persona, for she is constantly juxtaposing the necessity of her goal of societal acceptance with her undying need for a psychosomatic crux.
This type of young woman, in the throws of a desperate conflict, is constantly under pressure not just to appease each aspect of her person, but she is pressured to find a way to bring balance to this conflict as well. Everyone knows it is difficult to find a solution to a problem deemed inherent, but for this circumstance, perhaps only a moment of self-reflection is all that is needed to reveal one's opportunities. "I wonder if being a great woman simply means getting the attention of others," Ryoko Mitsurugi imagines, "I don't now for sure. Anyone can try to look good, but most of all, I want to see what I can do to find my own way." For the slowly maturing young woman, the method chosen to achieve such womanhood is fighting.
It is through fighting that a character consciousness prone to ambivalence ceases to be coy, and it finally begins to focus. The excitement of meeting a challenging opponent like no other, the thrill of a battle with no clear boundaries, and the experience of both victory and loss: all when obtained through fighting offers the young woman a way to channel her frustration into an emotional pipeline. By mastering a martial art, the anxious young woman proves her mental agility and physical endurance, and in using this as a tool for polishing her spirit, as Ryoko's rival Azumi Kiribayashi once noted, the issue of becoming a great woman suddenly appears to be within reach.
This dissection of the Real Bout High School manga series deepens as the character consciousness of the anxious and yet to fully mature young woman crosses paths with that of the wolf-like young man from the previous month's article, as we come to the struggle of innocence in the greater, chaotic world. While the young man had already lost his innocence and was thus forsaken to retrieve the seemingly irretrievable, the young woman is fortunate enough to still possess that aspect of her, which allows comic book artists to often equate her state of mind to that of a seraph.
Even though the conflict of societal importance is a difficult one, this young woman faces an equally intriguing struggle in attempting to maintain her innocence in a world of turmoil. Whether it is through her girlish charm, woman's intuition or natural instincts, this character consciousness still grasps onto her fragile integrity like any child would a security blanket. When she fights, it is not with hopes of catching hold of dreams of the past, but with hopes of becoming whomever she wants to become, as Tatsuya, Ryoko's instructor and emotional catalyst, once commented.
The struggle of maintaining her innocence, while neither the first nor the last of the uncertain young woman's journeys, is nevertheless the most influential struggle, because the result of which can be seen long after its initial revelation. Because the world is a purgatory filled with so much corruption, immorality, and thievery, it becomes clear that preserving her innocence and justness is essential to becoming whomever it is that he aspires to be.
The Real Bout High School manga proposes through this character a fear of ultimate societal complacency. This fear is something of a grander conflict in and of itself, but it still manages to be a piece of an understandably smaller self-contained intrigue as well. The list of psychosocial incongruities that arise from a fear of complacency (or rather, a fear of never moving forward, leaving one's anxiety to consume them) is a list that is relatively endless. However, there are a few key aspects that stand out as frightening to the individual more so than others. Losing her innocence and giving in to what sour neuroticisms belay her will threaten the character consciousness of the ambivalent young woman with a variety of insecurities.
Such insecurities include: fearing her own cowardice, wherein any notion to achieve is choked out by reluctance; loneliness, by which she does has not have enough emotional energy to survive; being blighted, and never being given the opportunity to raise the proverbial bar of intrigue; sameness, wherein individuality, moral distinction and emotional decisiveness are suppressed; and lastly, the young woman is threatened with the possibility of never maturing, a crisis that may prevent her from achieving her highest state of objectivity -- of becoming exactly who she feels she needs to be.
Megumi Momoi of the manga perhaps shows the most growth throughout the entire comic, considering that her emotional evolution began since she was a child and comes to a peek in her late teens. Long before she was a tough brawler, she was an incredibly weak and sickly child who was unable to meet the expectations of those she considered the greater community. It was not until later in her youth that Megumi snatched up life's reigns and steered towards her own future, a future where she and only she was the only one capable of finding and nurturing various personal relationships.
Now a skilled wrestler, Megumi uses her aptitude for physical combat, which is an incredible accomplishment in and of itself, in order to rise above the falsehood of aloneness and sameness, to settle the conflict within her anti-social self, and most of all, to grant herself a community. The character consciousness of a young woman struggling to find her self amidst several physical and emotional animosities, as seen through Megumi Momoi, is an intellectual and psychological construction, while prone to anger and dissatisfaction, it is an emotional framework stable enough to keep one's ambitions from being cheapened.
The maturing character consciousness of the anxious young woman hopes to one day ascend to that of a great woman, taking with it all of the experience, self-reflection and emotional imbalances suffered along the way. For Megumi who seeks companionship, for Asuka who seeks a tangible reality, for Ryoko who seeks certainty, and for all of the other women of the Real Bout High School manga series, fighting is a catalyst for all things unique. It is through fighting that trust, confidence, wisdom, and reliance are formed.
To become a great woman is to have found equilibrium between societal discomfort and personal ambition. It is to confront any emotional or psychological conflict with what the experienced street fighter G referred to as a spark in their eyes. This character-type, initially unsatisfied and ambivalent, uses her grasp of fighting as a way to repel cowardly sentiments of aloneness, and make progress in her maturity.
As this article has brought to a close the writings on the individual character-types available in the action and drama manga series, the following article will bring to a conclusion the intricacy of Reiji Saiga and Sora Inoue's Real Bout High School manga series in the observation of character identity and fighting as interconnect ideological functions.