Anime Vice News

Almost Otaku: When an Anime's Like a Game

Ever feel like your accumulating XP watching something?

   Leveling up between seasons? Psha... these guys leveled up between commercial breaks.
 Leveling up between seasons? Psha... these guys leveled up between commercial breaks.

Kashif1 : What do you think of the way character's powers level up between seasons?  Like how in DRAGON BALL Z, Freeza was a galactic conqueror one season and then beaten in 1 episode (a record for DBZ) in the next.

I don’t think I’m going to be shocking anybody if I say that the worlds of anime and gaming are tightly intertwined...

Actually, here's a personal anecdote. I got a haircut last Saturday, early in the morning, and some kids were watching YU-GI-OH there on a block of cartoons. I suppose you could point the same finger at all the shows I grew up on (*COUGH* POWER RANGERS *COUGH*) but, good lord, that toon was one big advertisement for the card game. They'd literally stop to show a new card and explain precisely how many points of damage it inflicted. There might as well have been a phone number or URL on the lower third with ordering info. 

Back on point (and, perhaps, on a less cynical note) isn’t powering up the most sensible course for the storyline, anyway? You wouldn’t expect the heroes to get progressively weaker as a show progress, would you? Part of the fun is seeing them evolve and grow from where they were at the beginning... and, yes, that includes leveling up.

DBZ does get ludicrous with how much those Saiyans power up but, seriously, the entire show is about powering up. Close your eyes, think of DBZ and what do you see? Probably Goku crouching and flexing, the veins throbbing on his forehead, as he's summoning his chi. That being said, all this does make the times when these invincible characters do have to get thwarted feel a little harder to swallow. It's hard to believe Goku can get punked by some random new alien when he just threw a planet of energy at some bad guy.

I’ve seen some of this in the shows I’ve been watching. Ed and Al’s progress has been charted on an almost step-by-step basis, with them slowly beating or stallmating foes who trounced them on their first encounter. GURREN LAGANN’s knuckleheads always seemed like they were a constant stream of "leveling up" until they’re basically kicking the universe’s ass in the finale.  

In the spirit of this, I'd say I've just reached level three of trivia while Kashif1 gets +500 honorary XP points for asking a good question. If you find some valued honorary XP points yourself, send me a question for this column PM. I will answer it.

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of    HYBRID BASTARDS!  &   UNIMAGINABLE . Order them on Amazon   here   &     here .

vergiliuson Oct. 29, 2010 at 9:12 a.m.
I'm watching Amagami SS right now, and I have to say it feels extremely video-gamey at parts.  Like you can pick out places in the episode and say "ooh, he triggered an event there" or "he took the wrong dialogue path there."
 
Magic Knight Rayearth has the character talk explicitly about how the whole world seems like a video game to them...and later about how it is all too real.
 
Higurashi did a good job of being based on a game but not seeming like it at all.  
 
Also, now that I think of it, you could actually write an *awesome* story about a hero who gets progressively weaker.  You could go with a tragedy about a real world degenerative disease crippling a superhero, or a comedy about a once-powerful character with delusions of grandeur, or a middle path where a character's superpowers are slipping away and they have to become more and more resourceful to deal with their enemies.
Gaffon Oct. 29, 2010 at 10:12 a.m.
@vergilius Metal Gear!?

Another one that is quite blatant in its gaming roots is The World God Only Knows: for those who haven't seen it, the main character has to capture loose souls by capturing the girls' heart in which they're hiding.
Gaffon Oct. 29, 2010 at 11:08 a.m.
Sorry about the double post (the Whiskey Media sites suddenly stopped letting me respond - js errors - and I can't edit posts on the mobile site) but Panty & Stocking and Shikabane Hime (and a slew of others) have "gaming elements" to them: the first boils down to killing monsters for coins, the latter has a set goal to get to heaven.

And to go off on a bit of a tangent, the similarities do make sense: anime and games can both be story telling mediums, and the "hero's journey", overcome obstacles by getting stronger or smarter, is pretty much universal to all myths, from Gilgamesh to Neo.
tigerex78on Oct. 29, 2010 at 11:29 a.m.
what about when a game gets turned into an anime?  Ragnorok comes to mind right away.  There are times the video game to anime works out ok but with Ragnorok that wasn't the case.  I never watched Yu-Gi-Oh for that reason.  Pokemon and Digimon worked out better. 
zaldaron Oct. 29, 2010 at 12:28 p.m.
There is always arcade gamer fubuki...but don't watch that one its terrible...about the time the dinosaur shows up and starts playing an arcade game you start wanting your life back.
 
Oh and are these exp we get here for various stuff worth anything...can I DO anything with them?  I mean its fun to collect them and all but I don't see an area to level up anywhere and I could do with increasing my intelligence stat some...
PenguinDuston Oct. 29, 2010 at 12:34 p.m.
I don't watch it any more, but honestly, I can't follow Pokemon these days.  What bugs me about that show is how all the older pokemon just disappeared when they added the new pokemon to the roster because of a new game release.  I mean, I turn on a show these days and I wonder why no one had Charizards or Bulbasuars anymore.  Obviously Pikachu is still around, but with Misty gone back to the gym, it's nothing but new pokemon.  On top of that, half the new ones look like old ones with a small change.  
 
I like some evolution, though.  When Digimon moved from season 1 to season 2 and the gang from season 1 were now older and not really the central characters anymore, I loved that bit of storytelling.  It created the sense that this was a larger world and time had passed for everyone.  Then they changed everything in season 3 (I think seasons 1 & 2 were considered TV shows within the show) and I didn't bother with season 4.  
 
Another example was the time separation between the original Naruto and Shippuuden.  Honestly, I expected him to be more powerful when he first returned to Konoha (leaf).  On the other hand, I was overjoyed at how improved Sakura had become.  Then there was the progress that Gara had made in Sunagakure (sand).  Three years seemed way to short for that absolute a change in every character involved there.   It's important to build on what was hinted at in previous episodes or seasons.

Yakitate!! Japan was probably the last tournament story I saw and one of the teammates actually got dumber the farther the show progressed.  Still, it was fun seeing the main character "train" to meet his next challenger.  Because it's a show about baking rather than fighting, training consisted of coming up with new recipes or devising creative ways to bake a standard bread.   How a show approaches the process of training/getting better can make the result more acceptable.
 
Good games progress at a reasonable rate and so good anime should do the same.  When a show jumps too much or too far it becomes a different show and some of what made it entertaining may have been left behind.  Dragon Ball Z went way too far and so they took a step back with GT but that didn't work out at all.  Superman has kryptonite (of which there are about 9000 varieties now) because no one wants to see gods who can do anything do everything for too long.  It removes any sense of danger from the story and so you need bigger baddies each time until they lose their connection to the viewer.  I can't identify with a super being who can destroy a planet on a whim, but I can with a guy who discovers he has some gift and now needs to figure out how to use it and still live a normal life. 
sotyfan16on Oct. 29, 2010 at 1:34 p.m.

I like the idea of of "leveling up". It doesn't always have to be about power though. It could concern the main characters learning from previous events and building knowledge. I got gilted by all the evolution in Digimon and Pokemon so I'll stick to preferring characters who get stronger each time they fight (back to the DB universe).

FoxxFireArt moderator on Oct. 29, 2010 at 3:03 p.m.
One of the largest story traps a writer can get into is overpowering a hero. So often they do it to the point where it appears there is no longer any challenge. One of the rules I think is best is that you should never have your hero face a god. If they can defeat a god-like character, how could anything else prove much of a threat. You'd have to pretty much depower your character as a result. That's what BLEACH has had to do recently.
 
One of the reasons I'm not a fan of prequels. There is no more drama, because you basically know what the outcome will be.
 
It's having an over powered hero is what I think always hurt the Superman TV shows. They never did alian threats, and how many times can you watch some human criminal try and get one over on Superman? That's why the animations normally last longer. They can do the extraterrestrial threats such as Darkseid.
 
You want characters to develop and grow. Otherwise they're static, and that's boring.
 
One of the reasons why I'm so fond of One Piece is because Oda has been doing a good job with the powers of Luffy, and during the Whitebeard War. We saw that Luffy isn't nearly as all powerful as we thought. That there are even stronger threats than him. That was humbling.
Lurkeroon Oct. 29, 2010 at 4:51 p.m.
I can appreciate both kinds of anime. I like DBZ and Gurren Lagann where the heroes always have to get stronger to face the next opponent, but I also like anime like Full Metal Alchemist and Ruroni Kenshin where the hero has to be smarter than the opponent in every battle.
Kuma_From_Argentinaon Oct. 30, 2010 at 12:14 p.m.
@lurkero said:
" I can appreciate both kinds of anime. I like DBZ and Gurren Lagann where the heroes always have to get stronger to face the next opponent, but I also like anime like Full Metal Alchemist and Ruroni Kenshin where the hero has to be smarter than the opponent in every battle. "
Kenshin, Sanosuke and Yahiko level up in Shishio Arc and in Enish Arc, but it's a mix between training and mental strenght
Rokujoon Oct. 30, 2010 at 5:12 p.m.
@tigerex78: Yu-Gi-Oh! was originally a manga from back in 1996.  The original anime series was based around this manga, and that was not the one that was aired in the west. All cards games, video games, etc. are based around the original manga.
 
It's actually considered to be quite dark. I'm not talking about really going beyond the limit as it is still shonen manga, but the western version of Yu-Gi-Oh is very heavily edited in order to pass it off more easily to kids. You should check out the original. You'd be surprised by how different it really is.
Psychotimeon Oct. 30, 2010 at 5:54 p.m.
@Rokujo:  You forgot to mention that the TRUE original dealt with card games for only ONE story. The rest of the original series had next to nothing to do with cards. Duel Monsters was just a reference to Magic the Gathering, again, for only one episode.
 
The original comic did have a cartoon, which again, only had one episode dealing with cards. Things changed quite a bit when the audience showed their interest in the card game story arc, and franchising took over from there. They made a new cartoon that was 100% about the card game (with bad results, at least initially), and a new comic to follow up on it. Duelist or R. Not sure which was first.
 
From what I've gathered, the original creator lacks much to any involvement in the creation and development of Yugioh as most people know it.
Psychotimeon Oct. 30, 2010 at 6:09 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt:  I think that the only time the characters have truly leveled up is just recently after 600 chapters of being at the same level since they started. In order to take down strong foes, they've had to use risky tricks more or less. That was what was being foreshadowed since they began on Grand Line back in 100 or heck, Mihawk said it BEFORE that. None of the villains suddenly become weak (unless they were already) villains that were equal to them in power have stayed that way.
 
If there are any exceptions, it'd have to be Mr. 3 and Buggy, but the latter was easy to get rid of since his introduction.
Lurkeroon Oct. 31, 2010 at 7:01 a.m.
@psychotime: 
I disagree, the One Piece characters significantly leveled up during the CP9 arc. Are you just ignoring the fact that Luffy has "Gear 2nd"? 
 
During that time Luffy gained Gear 2nd, Zorro first used that 8 arms technique, Sanji used his diablo leg, Nami had her new weather device, and Usopp's "Soge King" persona was a level up as well, and I believe Chopper had a few more abilities under his belt because of the gumballs he eats. Another significant thing I can remember is Zorro realizing he can cut through metal, that was another "level up" moment.
 
One Piece had leveling up, but it was less blatant.
AURON570on Oct. 31, 2010 at 10:08 a.m.
So I figured out the real aim of Dragon Ball Z... getting men to start bodybuilding. xD
Psychotimeon Oct. 31, 2010 at 5:42 p.m.
@lurkero: Those were those tricks I was talking about. Especially with Luffy's Gears, they're one shot tricks that they NEEDED in order to actually win. At the end of Thriller Bark, Zoro himself said (After Luffy had to put extreme stress on his body by using Gears 2 and 3 simultaneously in order to defeat Moria's Shadow Asgard) that they need to look toward getting legitimately stronger if they want to continue any further.
 
Sanji's move is again, another new trick. Zoro realized how to cut metal by remembering one of his master's teachings. Chopper's monster form is unpredictable and extremely taxing to his body. Nami, I'll give you that one. But you're really pushing it if you can call putting on a mask a level up of some kind in the case of Ussop. Now, the tech he got in Skypeia, that would count the same way as Nami.
 
After the time skip, we've seen that the crew can take care of Pasifistas with little to no effort, when 2 years ago they could barely take down ONE without passing out after burning up every single one of their established tricks. THAT'S a level up.
Lurkeroon Oct. 31, 2010 at 5:54 p.m.
@psychotime: 
If you can honestly call Gear 2nd a "one shot trick" rather than a level up then you are really playing semantics. Nami and Usopps newfound strength arguably are/aren't level ups, but everyone else clearly reached a new level of "strength" rather than "skill" at that point.
 
The reason why the crew had trouble taking care of Pacifistas before the skip is because they were still really weak compared to the other renowned pirates.
Psychotimeon Oct. 31, 2010 at 6:16 p.m.
@lurkero:  Gear 2nd and 3rd both are extremely taxing and can only be used in a limited amount of time, because of the repercussions they have. He does up his strength and speed, no doubt, but it's only limited within the scope of the amount of time his body can handle it, which isn't very long.
vergiliuson Oct. 31, 2010 at 8:43 p.m.
Look, One Piece is very well written compared to Bleach (not that I don't enjoy Bleach), but that doesn't mean One Piece doesn't have its characters steadily improving in combat ability. 
 
That isn't what this blog post was about though.  Characters becoming more competent doesn't always have to be "video gamey."  Now, if there were a bunch of mooks followed by a boss with three forms at the end, then it's video gamey.    The point here is to look for tropes or conceits in anime that seem borrowed from games, or vice versa.  Just "getting stronger" isn't unique to any one storytelling medium.
 
I wanted to add here that I love how One Piece's bounty numbers are basically DBZ power levels in terms of the storytelling function they serve.
miva2on Nov. 1, 2010 at 6:06 a.m.
when I was watching Kanon(2006) the first thing that came to mind was that it looked like a game (well, after realizing the characters in the intro looked really ridiculously ugly)

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