Sunday, May 8, 2016

Overpowered or Badass?

Written by Shiggins

Time to try answering one of my biggest internal conflicts.

Almost every week, I find myself asking the same question over and over as I watch certain characters smash into each other and use ridiculous moves to destroy massively powerful opponents. Is this ridiculously overpowered to the level that it's unbearable, or is it enjoyably badass and worthy of fangirling over? And because I am such a mature man and fangirling is expected of someone who does as much as he can to get attention from other anime fans, let's just do an article on it!

Saitama is not part of this debate because he is a gag character, and the series is full-blown comedy. The joke is he is overpowered, and even it's starting to get tiresome. Or maybe I'm just tired of people bringing up the "Saitama vs Goku/Superman" debate... Fans, stop ruining One Punch Man.
Recently, I've found this debate actually getting more and more difficult as we enter a new arc of Nanatsu no Taizai, a relatively enjoyable shonen series by Nakaba Suzuki that releases every week in the same magazine as Hiro Mashima's Fairy Tail. In Nanatsu no Taizai, we're currently seeing some majorly powerful villains being taken down by the protagonist Meliodas, and this seems like a good place to kick-start this debate.

It's amazing how quickly the tension in this scene fell.
For those who don't know or even worse, don't care, Meliodas and the other characters are fighting a group of demons known as "The Ten Commandments". Just like the Akatsuki, the Phantom Troupe, The Espada etc, these ten demons have been built-up big-time and the entire kingdom is literally in fear of them as people are massacred and such. You know, usual villain stuff. Anyway, in recent chapters, Meliodas has been fighting two of them at once. Except, it's barely a fight. It's a beatdown. It's a slaughter. Meliodas, single-handedly, is taking on these two Commandments as if they were piss-easy fools.

Now this instantly summons forth the debate. Is watching Meliodas cut off the limbs of a four-armed giant as enjoyable as it should be? The sad truth is, it's not. It's annoying, and there are several reasons for this. Am I going to tell you them? Well... I kinda have to, don't I? It's the whole point of this article.

One of the most important ways to make a victory great to watch is the method through which it is done. Shows like Naruto and Death Note usually use strategy and ideas to come up with solutions to defeat their foes and it helps us to appreciate it far more. We get to see how a character come to that final decision, and we get to see the development of this idea.

Shikamaru is like the poster child for sapiosexuals.
When Erza fought Kyouka, I was livid because the method was... well, to put it frankly, bullshit. It made no sense and any chance of badassery was thrown aside by the lack of actual thought or plausibility within the story. Admittedly, demanding plausibility in an anime is a bit unfair, but every story has a limit written out by the writer. When you ignore that limit just so you can have a victory, it feels more like a cop-out. Like a blessing from the writer, rather than a victory for the character and, by extension, the reader.

Yeah, honey. You make me cry too.
Of course, the method doesn't need to be a genius plan to be fun to watch. One of the greatest fights I've ever seen in any anime is Goku fighting Frieza when he first achieves Super Saiyan and there are many reasons this is so mesmerising to see. And this brings to my next point; The effort involved.

I'm going to go away from manga for a moment and talk about it's western cousin, comic books. More specifically, the Death of Superman comic from 1992, in which Superman tragically lost his life in the fight against Doomsday. In all honesty, I don't even like Superman but I respect the hell out of this fight because it is brutal and desperate. It's Superman pushed to the limit, doing everything he can and never giving up. It's a fight you can appreciate because it's Superman fighting to his maximum level (at this point in the story), and it comes across as a difficult and painful experience.

Man, this is so epic. I can't wait to see this in a live-action film. There's no way anybody could fuck this one up!
Goku fighting Frieza also follows this tactic. The planet gets set on fire, Goku screams in agony, Frieza transforms to his strongest level, characters die, Frieza loses his tail, and it only ends because Frieza got cut in half then Goku had to obliterate him. That was not an easy task, and it was one of the most badass fights in anime history because it felt so difficult to win. Frieza was relentless and fighting him was 100% beautiful to witness.

This fight, while still really fun to watch, is not as badass the Namek battle because the threat and tension went down quite a bit. Still such an enjoyable movie, but not one we took as seriously as the series. Again though, still good. 8/10 for me.
Of course, there is the incredibly rare exception that talking about Frieza no doubt makes you think of, which is the moment when Future Trunks slices Frieza in half quickly. In many respects, this one should suck. However, the reason this one is badass is because it destroyed expectations after giving us what we already wanted. It was a lead-up to more shocking reveals, as well as being a shocking reveal by itself, and it was only done long after Frieza had provided us with the spectacle that he was an imposing threat. This type of badassery is rare and tricky to make work, so it should never be attempted without Toriyama-supervision.

One of the ways effort can best be shown is through the training, and not by being Lady Gaga with it. Don't just be "born that way". Train to get stronger, even if the training is bullshit. Naruto went to a giant frog mountain to learn Sage Mode, and it made his fight with Pain so damn satisfying because he trained to get to that level. Ichigo trained to get Bankai, and it was fantastic when he fought Byakuya with it. Seeing a character go through effort to get the power can be just as satisfying as seeing the character use the power, and I can't stress enough how much I love a good training montage.

Now THAT is how you get someone pumped up for a badass fight!
When you have a villain who has been talked up massively, treated like an unstoppable monster that only a few could even hope to survive against, you want to see them live up to that name. Frieza destroyed planets and killed children. Pain destroyed the village. The Phantom Troupe massacred dozens upon dozens of people. I could go on and on, but the point is clear. You should always show us over telling us. Don't just say "they're scary" and then assume we'll be scared. Just make them scary instead!

...........................I regret ever asking for the gift of fear. The line has been drawn, and my pants have been filled.
And sadly, this is another reason why Meliodas' victory and many other victories from other manga have failed. They say the enemy is badass, but they don't make us believe it. How can we feel a character is terrifying when all they do is get beaten up? Ironically, if you want a hero to have victory, you have to give the enemy victory too. Doctor Doom became a dictator of an entire nation! Kefka slaughtered countless people! They lose in the end, yes but they don't just get utterly destroyed during their first time on set. That's not scary. That just makes them look weak, even if we've been told they aren't.

With all that being said, even if the characters follow all my previously stated conditions, can they still be overpowered instead of badass? Yes, they can. And for the simple reason of their supporting cast. If Meliodas or Ichigo or whoever are going to be the most powerful character in the series, that's 100% fine. No seriously, it's okay. However, please take the other characters into consideration.

*tragic laughter in the distance*
Where Ichigo especially slips up in this regard is when he uses all these god-given powers to dominate the screen, while every other character "helps" until he appears. They all come across as heavily incompetent, unable to do anything but watch as Ichigo charges ahead with his sword out. In a way, they're like UNIT from modern Doctor Who seasons. Making stupid mistakes, and not being anywhere near as strong or smart because the protagonists need to look super-strong and super-smart. A protagonist is usually the strongest one and again, that's fine, but if we get to the point where we're watching a god-type character destroy every opponent while the other protagonists gawk, the size difference in power becomes pathetic. Remember kids, real badasses stay with their friends!

I've been fairly mean to Meliodas in this article, so I'll admit it. The fight with Ban is badass, because they're both equals having a difficult time and using their all to try to win. It's not an easy victory, and Ban's face here is hilarious.

Am I a dumbass who said utter nonsense? Do you have disagreements? Do you want to add your own thoughts to this debate? Or do you have any other articles you'd like to see?

Let me know in the comments below.

Shiggins:[Admin]   .
Born under the stars of the Dark Gods, Shiggins owns the power of the Great Eye and is utterly magnificent in his omniscience. If you dare to discover more about someone as great as him, then go ahead. And to all my friends and family members, YOU are wrong and I should be disappointed! Not the other way round!,. You can find out about him or ask him stuff on or go to his tumblr page

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure if Ichigo is a good example of a useless sidecast or overpowered MC. I mean he fails as many times as he succeeds and given the recent trend will probably fail again. Without the supporting cast he would be dead nine out of ten times and they are all contributing to the war. Except for Chad. He's useless.