I was thinking about this topic and how it might relate to both comics and manga. But before i get to that, i thought it might be necessary to ask the question; which do you prefer in anime/manga, long fights or short fights? Because there is a difference between the two and even when it all comes down to the same result, the path taken will bring a different taste out of the achieved end.Long fights:
These will usually follow the same trajectory. A hero faces up against a great villain probably after a long wait and they both unleash their power against each other. Things seem to be picking up, the ground is being torn apart and everything within the vicinity is fleeing as they each attempt achieve victory over the other. Eventually after an episode or two, one finally stands over the other, clearly the superior combatant. But things are far from over. You see, they might have seemed like they were unleashing their full capabilities but that wasn’t the case. They were holding back and releasing a mere fraction of their full potential; at which point they actually remove their restrictions and really go at it. This time the destruction is escalating to a whole new level and entire cities probably have to be evacuated. So after two episodes, you the viewer realize that the fight is actually only beginning not ending. Both combatants push hard against each other and at any one point in time, either of the combatants will seem to gain the upper hand only to lose it and after ten episodes of each warrior being beaten down and somehow managing to get up even from attacks that have been claimed to be fatal, someone is finally capable of rising from the ashes while the other falls. He is the defeated and is either killed or locked up. Some manga or anime might waste an extra episode on dialogue between these two.
Most such long fights in anime and manga will occur with any one of these factors in play, factors that will decide the path the fight will follow:1. A weak hero
- So here you have a weak hero going up against an enemy that is clearly miles stronger than them, They know they can’t win but they fight none the less. One way it will work is the villain underestimates the hero and doesn’t put his best foot forward, choosing to play with the hero; or maybe he isn’t playing but certainly isn’t using everything he has top beat the hero, who
manages to hold on but eventually gets his ass kicked in extremely brutal ways.And here what causes the fight to drag. The hero simply won’t go down. NO matter what you do to him, cutting him, burning him, beating, grinding him, he will get up again and again. There is usually some excuse made about the hero’s durability but that is usually a very silly excuse, at least with some of the ridiculous damage that is dished out against them. This is something that greatly irritates me with shonen heroes like luffy; i mean i get goku being thrown through planets and surviving-okay maybe luffy makes sense, being rubber and all,but besides the mere blunt force, there are attacks that the one piece hero would tank before the time skip that seemed ridiculously unrealistic to me, even for one piece.
Anyway, by this time you have gone through five episodes. Another scenario is that the hero and villain are on par at the start, but , after the hero gets a little cocky, the villain finally reveals his true power and the fact that he was simply playing around. The he unleashes hell on the hero who also simply decides that he will not go down, no matter what (there is usually mention of some promise or something). The villain spends another five episodes trying but failing to kill the hero, by slowly escalating his power but never really going all out at once. Eventually something happens; the hero discovers a new power he didn’t know he had, overwhelms the villain and ends the fight, DBZ being an example; OR, after ten episodes of getting his ass kicked, the hero gets a handle on what the villain was doing, probably figures out the trick to his attack and can now avoid it, or he actually masters the very same attack. Ichigo exemplifies this best, somehow learning in mid battle and by the end of it all, he gains the upper hand and ends the conflict. Ichigo might as well be a supernatural super saiyan; after all that is what they do, get stronger with each battle. You would think someone would learn a lesson and go all out against Ichigo at the start. This is why i love gamaran; characters usually start at 100%.2.Weak Villain
- This pretty much goes the same way as with a weak hero. In fact it will occur midway the weak hero scenario. A hero might start off as simply too strong for the villain, basically dominating. Or he or she could start of as weak and by the end of it doesn’t merely get the upper hand but completely overwhelms the villain. AS such, events are reversed, with the villain struggling to stay on his feet as the hero unleashes holy hell upon them. Except that just like the hero, he villain will not go down. I first noticed this in DBZ where Goku went super saiyan and clearly outclassed
Frieza and for two episodes you were simply waiting for Frieza to succumb to his beating. Except he wouldn’t. And with time he began to retaliate as well, displaying new never before seen abilities and a will to survive that somehow enables him to catch up to and match super siayan’s power level. It basically becomes one long irritating circle. I was actually afraid Ichigo Vs. Aizen would become just that; first Aizen was strong beyond comprehension, then Ichigo surpassed him and claimed to have evolved even beyond Aizen, except he began taking serious damage and…they were smart to wrap the fight up fast.
3. Sometimes both hero and villain are matched and will spend hours on end smashing into each other until one of them gives up or suddenly dies without explanation
The point is these kinds of fights fail because they are drawn out beyond their logical life. In the first place it becomes frustratingly boring. I have mentioned before that i prefer watching one piece to reading the manga. And i can’t tell you how frustrating it is to watch Luffy do the same thing over and over and over again against an opponent he clearly can’t beat, but seemingly expecting gear one, two or three to finally work the thousandth time he uses.
Actually Ichigo better exemplifies this. I don’t know how many bleach episodes began and ended with Ichigo screaming ‘GETSUGA TENSHOU’ over and over again, sometimes hitting, sometimes missing, but clearly making no difference. What is the point? I mean, i get that there has to be a struggle between Ichigo getting his ass kicked and finally figuring a solution out. But really, sometimes it doesn’t make sense how, even after the hero figures out the trick to beating a hero, he can muster the strength to execute it, not after all the beatings he has endured. It is illogical. In most cases figuring out the technique or mustering that mysterious move at the end of the battle shouldn’t matter if you consider that the hero shouldn’t be capable of continuing their battle.
Besides the boring aspects of it, long fights stall the story. Imagine learning at chapter ten that character A is finally going to learn about character B or something like that, but, twenty chapters later, character C and D are still fighting, and there are probably 20 more chapters of fight left before you can finally return to the story and by then, especially if the story is young, you might either not even remember what all the excitement was about, or you might have lost interest in favor of the fight. And this is how shonen manga that is struggling to have a more story based run fail, when the battles take precedence and hence prove to be more enticing and appealing than the story. Imagine reading a DBZ volume, but with at least half of the material dedicated to dialogue. People know what they want from DBZ and that is action, because Akira let it steal the spot light. Same thing for Bleach where, at one time, all people cared about where the fights, with any story related material receiving little to no attention.
Of course i am not saying that long fights are always bad; they can in fact be necessary at times. Some times it takes a long fight to settle matters or to tell a story. Think of Naruto Vs. Sasuke in part one. I have had the rare complaint, but most fans will agree that the length of the fight was actually necessary. This wasn’t as much a fight between brutes as it was a conversation between would be friends. It was an opportunity for both characters to express everything within them and, as some cheesy anime character i can’t remember said, to let their fists speak.
Same goes for Naruto Vs. Pain. As we have seen Kishimoto likes to tell his stories and give background information during major fights. And unlike many people i like it. Because having two characters merely sitting there and talking can get boring. When done right, long fights can tell a story, but of course this is rarely done and will usually be about cool moves and violent endings.
Sometimes the length comes down to the strength of the character. Seeing two powerful characters fight and finish within seconds can sometimes feel unfulfilling. After all as fans, when we see two characters fight, we (usually) want to know who is the more dominant force and that can only happen if both characters empty their tanks and unleash every weapon, skill, power within their reach. It isn’t about the struggle but creating a scenario in which both characters are tested to the limit and when it all ends, there is no doubt as to who the victor is. Back to Naruto Vs. Sasuke, imagine sasuke had beaten Naruto in the first two episodes, before Naruto awakened his nine tails power. Or after he activated his cloak, he had beaten Sasuke senseless without Sasuke awakening his full sharingan. That would have been a pointless and hollow victory.
None the less i don’t advocate for long fights, because they are rarely done right and sometimes it feels like the authors are either stalling for time or trying to take up space, maybe to fill a volume or two.SHORT FIGHTS
: These are usually more incisive and focused. They have no structure per say like long fights do and this adds a level of unpredictability to a series. When a fight drags out multiple episodes you can usually see what the end result will be. Which ever character has been at the wrong end of the punishment for five or more episodes, be it hero or villain, will eventually make a miraculous come back.
Short fights, when done right, are less predictable. They are not merely unpredictable in terms of the end result though, you will not even be able to tell or guess when the fight will end, hell sometimes
you do not even know that the fight has began. Fate Zero had a way of drawing out certain attacks and moves for a precious second or two during the Kirei Kiritsugu fight that made it impossible for you to guess what would be the killing blow. At one point it seemed like Kirei’s knife would do it only for it to miss Emiya’s flesh by a hair breadth. Then you thought the bullet would do it, but Kirei would somehow find a way to exceed Kiritsugu’s expectations. basically the short one minute fight somehow managed to keep me at the edge of my seat by maximizing the effect of every move. Sure, i knew that Emiya would live to adopt (lame) shiro. But in that moment, none of that mattered, because any of these two monsters looked like they were more than capable of killing the other in the next instant and that raised the stakes to incredible levels.
That is what short fights should do. They allow the story to proceed at a stable pace, sometimes around the fight, while doing what so many shonen series fail to do, and that is getting to the point rather than dragging out every event and keeping the viewer in supposed suspense for several episodes. There is a slickness to short fights. Most times the combatants know little to nothing about each other,which makes it so much easier to lose, and more a game of strategy that brute force. It also eliminates endless power ups. if you must fight against an incredible opponent in a fight destined to last mere minutes, you will will have to start at 100%, instead of wasting time the way so many heroes and villains do. There is always an excuse used to elongate fights, to torture the loser, to allow them to achieve the full potential and some more garbage like that.
It is possible to misuse short fights of course. I have pointed out numerous times in my fairy tail reviews just how ridiculously short recent fights have become. Some times it is necessary to allow the fans to enjoy a battle between enemies but that is a rare scenario. Most times i would rather these series gets some of these long fights over with so we can move on to the story. I like that feeling of having absolutely no idea what it is going to happen at any one second in a battle. it adds some excitement to the whole experience. I just re watched Kagura and Yomi’s final battle and really, having knowledge of the manga series and realizing that kagura definitely survives the battle didn’t make that clash any less exciting. This is how battles should be.Anyway, that aside, i am not sure if this even applies to comics; this is more like more pointing out something unique to anime and manga and distinguishes it from comics. I don’t think i have read any comic in which a hero and a villain clash and spend the next few days beating the crap out of each other all over the city. While they do not technically fall under short battles, most comics i have come across will showcase relatively moderate length battles, just enough to get the point across. But then again, we are dealing with heroes that have fought the same villains over and over and over again, so it would be illogical for the battles to drag out.
None the less i would be right in saying that anime and manga needs to adopt some of this temperance in conducting their battles.