Manga Case Study IV
The fourth and final 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.'
Welcome back for the final installment of Animefringe's in-depth discussion of the two emotional and psychological methods by which an individual within the Real Bout High School manga series articulates their way of functioning and maturing in the world. (To catch up on what you might have missed, please see the May 2005, June 2005 and July 2005 issues of Animefringe: Online Anime Magazine.)
The Real Bout High School manga series is exquisitely entertaining and intellectually satisfying in every way. The manga offers characters that I can understand clearly, no matter how complex they and their social functions are. The two character identities that the Real Bout High School magna series utilizes in order to invite its readers into a world of intense action and fascinating philosophy are the wolf-like young man and the anxious young woman. The value of this Japanese comic lies not in the mere delivery of these two character consciousnesses, but rather in how the elements of an intellectual identity, behavioral idiosyncrasy, and purpose for engaging and consenting to physical violence define any particular character.
The character identity of the wolf-like young man has been marked as one self-motivated and unassuming to the chaotic world around him. As such, he defies the greater socio-political authority in favor of something more beneficial to the self. Having to use his skill of behavioral learning as a means of conquering his emotional shortcomings, the character consciousness of the young man is at its core the story of an individual seeking to articulate through his behavior what intellectual and emotional mechanizations cloud his mind.
Peering into the souls of characters so frustrated in their lives that a suicidal temptation of fate is what mostly appeases them, the Real Bout High School manga series regards this character identity as a dangerous soul -- one that is struggling to exist. In knowing that his future involvement with the world around him hinges on the sharpness of his desire to succeed, characters such as Shizuma Kusanagi treats their life as more like a survival mission or a puzzle to solve than as a series of coincidental or fated events. The easiest example of such is that whenever Shizuma gets a little behind during a street fight, the last thing on his mind is settling for the security of a forfeit, which results in Shizuma commenting, "I keep coming back," time and time again.
The young man is a fighter by nature, and his ceasing to give up is just one small aspect of his yearning to construct an understanding of self. He is selfish and egotistical, he is arrogant and smug, but above such labels, he is a personality willing to put himself on the line in order to find out just what it means to be alive. In applying himself in hazardous situations, the wolf-like young man shows a unique and elemental type of bravery only found in individuals whose lives are defined by experience.
In one key scene in the second half of the Real Bout High School manga series, the characters Shizuma and G, the veteran street thug, meet for the first time. The incident nearly forces the two of them to come to blows. These two men, whose lives are guided by bloody knuckles and black eyes, are the most dangerous wolves known to the outside world. They feed on the fear of others, and they anticipate the coming and passing threats of overly anxious opponents. But when Shizuma and G speak to one another, something interesting occurs.
While Shizuma's sarcasm cuts like a knife, G's mute challenge of skill is just as dangerous. As the pair of fighters step into the center room of an underground bar, they peer at one another with limitless curiosity, and find the thick, needle-like atmosphere cool and comfortable. I find that whenever you have a character operating on their own code of ethics juxtaposed with a person so much like themselves, you will arrive at a newer and more interesting conclusion than you could have perhaps imagined otherwise. Thus, when these two young wolves search into one another's souls for a microcosmic reality to disturb, it is like looking into a mirror. It is the compromising of the rationality of the vicious street fighter G that Shizuma finds amusing, while the unabashed freedom to gamble experience of the rogue fighter Shizuma is that which G envies.
For the character consciousness of the wolf-like young man, fighting helps him to sharpen his spirit. It is a tool to allow him the mobility to experience, observe, and understand the ways in which the world operates, for better or worse. Every philosophical inclination that these character identities have revolves around finding ways to better their souls, regardless of how perilous the means may be. It is through fighting that the mundaneness of everyday life becomes challenging, and that the complexity of emotional awareness becomes clearer.
Additionally, the character identity of the anxious young woman -- while oft complimenting the young man on his courage, but scolding him for his foolishness -- is a character identity just as, if not more so, emotionally conflicted. Throughout the Real Bout High School manga series, she is portrayed as one pressed with issues of camaraderie, upholding justice, finding an emotional focus, and of maturity. Her insight concerning social norms is remarkable, as she is a highly adaptable person; however, it is perhaps her understanding and expectance of moving on after the fact (adaptation), that in turn keeps her from maturing into a complete person. This young woman, although capable of achieving much, is often blighted by her own fear of the path that she must walk in order to seize such dreams.
The young woman epitomizes a collection of cognitive and behavioral cues that detail the line of reason behind one continually struggling with the concept of and capacity for maturity. This character consciousness tries to find a way to comprehend the ways of its internal and external conflicts, meeting face to face with the very troubles that ail her, while hoping to somehow emerge victorious in a battle for self-growth.
One key aspect of the anxious young woman is how hard she tries to maintain her innocence. The character Azumi Kiribayashi is the rival to the manga's lead character Ryoko Mitsurugi, and everything about Azumi's external demeanor denotes her to be the perfect girl. Outspoken and over-confident, Azumi's physical beauty is just as dangerous as her mastery of the Naginata-jitsu. The young woman's outward charm, however intriguing, nevertheless hides a dispassionate and jealous heart of which the girl always masks with a disturbingly efficient smile.
I find that Azumi is an important representative of the innocence that most, if not all of the female characters of the manga hope to partially represent at some point in time, because of the horrible yet understandable balance between who this girl is, and who she thinks she is. This particular young woman has the appearance of what many would call perfection, yet it is also true that she is a just as perfect representative of all that is conflicted inside of her imperfect soul. Known for her angelic smile, Azumi is referred to as "Saintly Azumi," but at the same time, her pretentiousness, uncontrollable ego, and insincerity force one to wonder if her smile is not that of emotional contentedness, but that of hysteria.
Empathizing with the anxious young woman's inherent emotional indifference, it is therefore Azumi Kiribayashi's appearance of and undying lust for innocence that grants her a sentience that will continue to mature. Because of her anticipation of emotional reliance, the anxious young woman makes attempts at refining her mind, all with the knowledge that if she ever fails, her innocence will be lost, and the boundaries of her psychological burdens will break.
In observing the character consciousness of the anxious young woman as a whole, there is a significantly large importance of defining personal and public insecurities. Lead female protagonist Ryoko Mitsurugi, over the course of the Real Bout High School manga series discovers that in order to mature into a great woman, she must dissect and decipher her emotional imbalances. Whether competing for the affections of a young man, protecting her best friend, understanding the morals of egoists, or experiencing a fight where her samurai spirit sparks into high gear, regardless of what Ryoko had come across, she was always aware of exactly how and why the experience would shape her physical, mental and psychological foundations.
The underlying principle for the anxious young woman -- indecisive Ryoko, egocentric Azumi, disillusioned Asuka, lonesome Megumi -- is that with the help of some almost supernatural aid, she is able to grow and mature as she so chooses. This supernatural variable is fighting: a catalyst for comprehending and balancing the emotional and the psychological. As best observed through Ryoko, fighting allows this character identity to teach itself the value of an aggressive intellect and the significance of localizing ambitious behavior to achieve equilibrium.
Fighting is the most important facet of development for each character of the Real Bout High School manga series. It is a way to challenge the guardian of a rugged past, just as it is a means to define for oneself the value of an uncertain future. It is a way to indict those who unjustly cause suffering, and it is a way to uncover the path of anxiety within one's own soul. To persevere conflict, and to mature, however ungracefully, this is the purpose of fighting in the manga Real Bout High School.
"To live or to die. To laugh or to cry. This is the road I have chosen." -- Ryoko