That’s right. I’m pulling out the Maxwell Smart quotes. For all six of you still alive to remember that, you’re welcome.
Wait. For that matter, why do I know about that? I was born a good decade or so after that show. And trust me. It never came up in conversation. Ever.
I remember spending a good portion of my college days defending anime. I was one of two (and a half) people who liked it, whereas the other eighteen guys were pretty much all productive, useful adults. Well, I’m still watching anime. And where are they? In productive jobs, being a meaningful part of society. So who’s laughing now?
Still them. Always them. It haunts me.
One of the major issues (with various sub-issues) was that anime was riddled with cliches that made it unwatchable at times. When it comes to cliches, I’m probably more forgiving than most – in large part due to the fact that cliches appear in literally every single entertainment medium from movies to manga to crude bathroom stall jokes.
But I will acknowledge that some can be annoying. Today, in particular, I’ll be discussing how attacks in anime and manga never actually land. Ever. Go check. If you’ve ever read anything where an attack connected, it was probably a bootleg issue or something.
For those unfamiliar with the genre, I can understand your disbelief. “How can an anime last hundreds of episodes and be almost fifty percent battles and hardly anybody is actually getting hit?” you might ask. “I just saw that one guy shoot a laser out of his hands that blew up the actual moon. Like, in the actual sky. And then it was gone.”
Well, it happens a few ways.
First off, flash-stepping (or whatever it’s called in your anime of choice) is garbage. If you don’t know what that is, it’s how most anime and manga show movement happening faster than the blink of an eye. And whereas actual dodging requires preparation, tensing the muscles and leaping out of the way, a well-used flash step can just move them eighty feet away.
Often with a smug look on their face as they taunt, “Oh. Were you trying to hit me?”
I’m not a fan, mostly because it seems to work under mathematical principles I don’t really get. I mean, why aren’t they doing that all the time? Couldn’t you just vanish and reappear with your fist through your enemy’s face?
And while we’re at it, why does it make that sound? You know, the one that should sound like someone moving at the speed of sound but instead sounds like shuffling through a stack of papers really quickly.
Regular dodging isn’t much better. It’s a nice way of letting the audience know someone is out of their league in a fight. But when it goes two or three episodes that way, ugh.
Or sometimes they let attacks hit them when they could have dodged, just to show their opponent that things are about to get real.
But the worst dodge cliche is Naruto’s substitution jutsu. Okay. I watched that clip (and the weird clip after it for some reason). Kakashi is dead. Like, super dead. They held a short funeral for him a week later that was attended by friends and family. Proceedings began on the disbursement of his property and assets according to the wishes in his will. On the one-year anniversary of his death, the gang gets together to share drinks and talk about the time they spent together and…oh. Wait. No. It was a tree that died.
But if that’s the case, where did all the blood come from? Did that tree bleed? For that matter, did that tree scream in a thoroughly convincing impression of a dying person?
I appreciate creating tension by making us think a character is dead, but when the reveal equates to “nuh-uh,” it loses a bit of its punch.
Anime battles are very dusty. Another popular method of just screwing with viewers is having a barrage of attacks land, throwing up dust. In my experience watching maybe two or three hundred different shows, the person in the dust or smoke has only actually been hurt once. One and a half counting the time a character self-destructed holding onto an enemy, killing themselves but leaving the enemy unharmed.
Again, I feel like it’s meant to build tension. Did they get him? Is the battle finally over? But pattern recognition means we already know the outcome. If it’s a bad guy, they don’t have a scratch on them. If it’s a good guy, maybe he’s breathing hard and his shirt is sort of torn but he’s otherwise unharmed.
And then, I don’t know. He launches into a speech on the power of friendship or hope or some crap.
Conclusion: I realize it’s a bit of a turn-off for some people…but honestly, it’s not as bad as it seems. In a real world bound by regular physics it makes sense to be realistic. When characters can punch through mountains, though, I understand that dodging is sort of a necessary mechanic. Otherwise fights would be over in twelve seconds and “Dragon Ball Z” would’ve lasted about as long as a blowout college football game.
Besides, for every fight where you get annoying cop-out dodges that just seem to prolong a fight, you’ve got one of these:
Yeah. When’s the last time someone on “Law and Order: SVU” pulled off one of those? No. Seriously. I’m asking. I haven’t watched in a few seasons and I think the planet-cutting episode would be a good place to hop in again.