Nakama power, most of us know what this is, the worse thing, and i mean THE WORST THING TO EVER COME OUT OF MANGA AND ANIME.
I don’t know how accurate it would be for me to claim that Nakama power isn’t a particularly new element in anime, because i haven’t really watched that much anime or read that much manga before the year 2000.
It is possible that Nakama power is a relatively new element, an invention of recent times; but it could be something relatively old that has only exploded in recent times. I spoke in a post sometime back about how it was likely that most tropes were not always tropes, the idea that the clichés of Dragon Ball Z weren’t particularly cliché when they first appeared on screen, and indeed could have been something inventive at the time.
Same thing with nakama power; it could have been a relatively acceptable attribute of anime years before manga and anime series and movies began inundating their stories with its presence.
+So a question to those of you who have been watching anime for a quite a long time, or have had the opportunity to encounter older anime and manga titles; Is nakama power a recent creation or did it exist even in those ancient days of anime.
It occurred to me a few weeks back that there might be a positive twist to nakama power that i had never considered, which is the purpose of this post; to find the lighter less infuriating side of nakama power.
But first, what is Nakama power? That is if you are relatively new to anime and have no idea what we keep raging about.
Think back to those old Kung FU movies; Jackie Chan has finally arrived at the climax of the story, challenges his clearly stronger final foe and is getting his ass kicked all over the battle field; that is until the enemy makes the stupid mistake of revealing to Jackie the fact that he killed his master.
And suddenly Jackie is on his feet, rejuvenated with new greater strength and brings his foe to his knees.
That is basically Nakama power, a sudden surge of strength generated within a clearly weaker protagonist, empowering him or her to defeat a sometimes near invincible foe, elicited by thoughts of one’s Nakama.
Nakama is the Japanese world for friend, and basically refers to one’s non romantic love for another; usually used to show a deep attachment and fondness between characters.
In some cases (One piece) the term will refer to a group of people who share a closeness surpassing that of family.
Nakama is what drives most characters in anime and manga, both heroes and villains, to do what they do.
+WHY ALL THE HATE FOR NAKAMA POWER?
Before trying to see the possible pros that Nakama power might have, it might be prudent to understand exactly why some of us otaku not only hate but loath this element in anime and manga.
Thinking about it, you can probably remember a point in time, probably a few years back, where the presence of Nakama power, even in excess amounts like Fairy Tail, did not irk you.
This hate for nakama power seems like a fairly recent creation, and i would impute it to the injection of a realistic perspective into the fictional world of anime and manga.
Yes, we understand how fictitious anime and manga is. These big haired characters do not exist, cannot exist and as such we as viewers understand the fact that the laws of realism will be broken at some point in time; anime doesn’t have to make sense in relation to the real world, it just has to entertain, no matter the context.
This, based on some people that i have spoken to, is the mind set that initially prevailed and probably continues to prevail today. No one can expect realism to rule in the context of a fictitious universe.
Except that i believe we actually do; most otaku that i know today cannot simply accept the rules and laws governing an anime and manga universe just because it isn’t real.
As anime and manga fans, there is a part of us that expects a sense of logic and rational to rule; no matter how crazy One piece gets, we will, at one point in time, expect the goings on of the series to keep to some common sense, even while following their own virtual regulations.
Nakama power grates on many otaku minds because it is, for lack of better terms, complete and utter nonsense. It throws out even that tiny essence of realism and logic we expect to find in any anime and manga out the window.
The idea that the outcome of EVERY SINGLE FIGHT that the protagonist will ever partake in is predetermined, that one can expect us to believe that the feelings a character has for friends and family can somehow transform into raw power…that simply stretches even otaku imaginations to a breaking point.
When a story becomes sappy to the extent of Nakama power, when one can break the rules of their own world (which is the one golden rule in anime and manga, that a story strictly follow its own rules) as well as ours to beat the odds, the story loses its appeal; their is no point in rooting for a hero that doesn’t relate to anything remotely real.
Frankly all this hate for nakama power (from a few) comes down to two points:
-It’s cheating- and why should we care about a hero that can only overcome challenges, not through hard work and determination, but by basically breaking the rules of his universe (which, if i think about it, is what all that business regarding the heart of the card was, in YuGiOh!…still enjoyed it though).
Now that i think about it one could impute the success of Game of thrones to a warped sort of Nakama power, only this time it’s the villains that control it.
-It’s lazy writing- and this is what it usually comes down to for most series i have come across, villains so powerful that it almost seems like the writer has no idea how the hero could possibly win in a fair match (here’s to hoping that doesn’t happen with Madara…it would sort of suck if Naruto and killer bee defeated Madara moments after he owned the kages).
Give me a random power up any day; heck, even Goku’s power ups had more rational than nakama power, because Goku had the advantage of being a Saiyan. Beating Frieza was within his limits. Even if he had to reach Super Saiyan 10 to beat Bils, he is a Saiyan. Achieving greater super saiyan levels is a rational progression…i think.
+THE GOOD IN NAKAMA POWER?
Considering how many times i keep have raged against nakama power, it might come off as odd that i would write a post attempting to defend it. And in truth that isn’t exactly what i am trying to do.
I spoke to an anime fan a few weeks back that actually put up a defence for the concept; well, defence is too strong a word, rather the fellow simply expressed his positive interest in the nakama power idea, and sufficing to say i was flustered.
I wasn’t sure whether or not to believe him, but i eventually came to the realization that for a while now i had made some blanket judgments about otaku and how every ardent anime and manga fan obviously had to hate the idea of nakama power.
It never occurred to me that there might be people out there who actually support the idea of nakama power, or at least don’t possess the same kind of hate for the idea that i do.
That is what got me thinking, attempting to consider nakama power objectively and how it might actually positively impact a story.
-When Nakama power is appropriate-
Yes, there are times where nakama power isn’t a total nuisance, especially in shonen series; only one situation in fact, when the impact of nakama power is minimal with regards to the outcome and only serves to accentuate a specific element about the protagonist.
In other words even with all his speeches about nakama, it is difficult to cry ‘nakama power’ against most of Luffy’s victories because, considering all the strategies he has deployed previously, as well as his gear abilities, Luffy always stood a favourable chance of attaining victory.
The idea of appropriate nakama power use is to present evidence of a rationale to support victory. IN other words if nakama power really only serves as a means of strengthening one’s will, bolstering mental strength, which in turn allows one to use pre existing abilities to defeat an opponent within his sphere of strength, then nakama power can prove acceptable.
Beyond that, outside of shonen, i have seen arguments for nakama power in shoujo and romance anime and manga; i cannot comment further on the truth of that idea because i rarely indulge in those genres. But it is an interesting consideration, that shoujo somehow benefits from nakama power.
Then again that brings up the question of what exactly nakama power is, and if such elements in a romance or shoujo series could be called nakama power. And what exactly would that look like? Anybody that reads or watches shoujo and the like, i am curious as to your take on the matter of nakama power in such circumstances.
-There are moments in a story where nakama power on exists to bring heart to a series, allow the ideals of friendship and the like to proliferate a plot, only ever done well when nakama power in this case is secondary.
Just look at Naruto; i can hardly complain about Naruto’s many speeches about his nakama; because while someone like Ichigo makes his speeches as he prepares to unleash some silly and random power up, Naruto Uzumaki does so-at least in most cases-after the main event, when his enemy is down and beaten, debilitating the very idea of Nakama power.
- I guess one can forgive comedy, whose purpose is to use all elements available to its writers to entertain; which is why i am only now learning to appreciate fairy tail. Take it too seriously and the nakama power elements in the series will infuriate you. Learn to understand what it is, light heartened and fluffy, and you will start to enjoy it, no matter what Hiro throws at you.
+THE LEGITIMACY OF NAKAMA POWER?
After trying and failing to come up with anything that might resemble a benefit of nakama power, it occurred to me that i might be looking at it wrong. Rather than some silly and lazy tool to force protagonists to the fro of a story, has any one ever tried looking at Nakama power as just that, a power?
It is possible that there might be some sort of mistranslation from Japanese to English; that maybe nakama power isn’t some wishy washy feeling that somehow creates new power out of nothing, but a genuine power, like ki.
It is possible that we have all along been misunderstanding the purpose behind the stories these mangaka tell; that Natsu isn’t simply wishing himself more strength, but instead tapping into an actual tangible ability within his spirit, which he transforms into raw power, like haki or something.
That would change everything, that there is a legitimate and rational explanation for nakama power. Who came up with that term anyway? Nakama power, i mean?
Take that into consideration and Natsu beating Laxus was little different from Goku finding a well of ki within him, from which he defeated Vegeta.
What is the problem with nakama power? Simply put, it is everywhere, it is irrational even by the standards of a fictitious world; it makes every story and every fight predictable. It is unfair against the antagonist, basically cheating.
And within any serious anime or manga story, it should seize to appear.
But what do you think? Given time and imagination, could nakama power possibly find a place in anime and manga?