How heroes are portrayed?
Today’s Table of Contents.
- Heroes as enforcers of justice
- Interest in the inner world of the hero
- A hero connected to society / a hero with a human touch
- Issues connected to society / Issues disconnected from society
Heroes as enforcers of justice
Very famous “Jidaigeki-Movie”, model of heroism, as represented by “Mito Kimon”, is very familiar to Japanese people of all ages.
“勧善懲悪”. In Japan, there are dramas(we call it “Jidai-geki”) that clearly separate the existence of justice from that of evil. The good thing about this model is that the structure of “ally = good, enemy = evil” never wavers. The hero does not have to ask himself “Why am I fighting? All he had to do was to keep on kicking the enemy around like a machine, and it seems as if he is purely there to enforce justice.
Because it was compatible with the Japanese TV broadcasting format, it was possible to continue with the fixed format of “Arrive in town -> Incident occurs -> Help me, Mito Kōmon -> Battle scene -> show Inro to them” without breaking the fixed format.
Inro is a symbol (Aoi no Gomon) representing the Tokugawa family, the ruling class of the Edo period, and was usually used as a medicine case.
This model is also followed by the children’s hero Kamen Rider, which uses a “勧善懲悪” format with one complete episode. However, Kamen Rider may not be purely good Hero, as they have a special origin (a modified human created by an evil organization) at their core. Considering the existence of a Kamen Rider who is “Behavior is good but comes from an evil background,” it can be said that this is a structure in which a good being who turned from evil takes revenge on his former peers.
And perhaps, because the times have come to focus on the inner life of people, such as “self-discovery,” it seems that interest in heroes has gradually shifted to the inner life as well.
Interest in the inner world of the hero
Isn’t Shinji Ikari of Evangelion a prime example of this?
Since his appearance, I think people have become more and more aware of the inner nature of heroes. They are fighting for the world, but they did not come to that position by choice, so what are their problems and what are they suffering from? It was a chance for the viewers who enjoyed the works to project themselves as life-size young people and become more immersed in the world view, and I think it penetrated deeply into the world.
In relation to what I will write later, Shinji Ikari has a line that is synonymous with him, “Don’t run away. I feel that he is childish, as if he is afraid of ghosts and runs through the darkness with his eyes closed. On the other hand, I wonder if it is my imagination that I feel that “Kamado Tanjiro (from Demon Slayer)”, who inspired me to write this set of articles, has a mature and adult atmosphere.
Anyway, the image of heroes who mindlessly execute justice has been replaced by the recognition that it is quite natural that heroes are not invincible beings with blood in their veins just like us.
A hero connected to society / a hero with a human touch
Next, I would like to look at the way heroes are portrayed in America. The American heroes are American comic book heroes such as DC Comics and Marvel Comics.
What are the differences between Japanese and American heroes?
Let’s start with “Captain America”. His costume reminiscent of the stars and stripes, the letter “A” on his forehead, his name, and his appearance show that he is full of patriotism for America. To begin with, the setting of this work is World War II, and the enemy is the Nazis. We can feel that the production intentions was close to the social situation of the time. In other words, America is justice and Hydra is the enemy. It will never be overturned.
Next is Batman. The Christopher Nolan trilogy starting with “Batman Begins” is considered a masterpiece, but before that, Tim Burton and many other film directors have portrayed Batman.
What is told there is that the main character, “Bruce Wayne,” whose parents were killed when he was a child, chooses to live as the Dark Knight, who is responsible for enforcing justice in order to protect Gotham City, which his parents (and family) have protected throughout his life.
At first glance, Batman (Bruce Wayne) is a citizen who lives in Gotham City, and at the same time, he is a vigilante. His acts of violence have no legal basis and are perceived as illegal, just like criminals. His isolation from the world and his lonely struggle against the police organization is somewhat similar to that of the Japanese Kamen Rider.
Above all, Batman is not a superhuman being blessed with any special abilities, although he has financial power. In other words, he’s just an ordinary person armed with the latest technology, but he’s an ordinary person with a body just like us.
In his book, “How War Changes ‘Manga'” (2007 NTT Publishing), Odagiri points out the following.
The “wounded hero” and his inner life are rapidly emerging as a theme in superhero comics.How War Changes ‘Manga'” (2007 NTT Publishing),Odagiri
In the movie “Batman Begins”, we see a painful scene of Bruce Wayne taking off the Batman suit and stitching up his lacerations with his upper body naked. It can be said that showing a wounded hero portrays a new image of hero.
On the other hand, the “X-Men” series is one of Marvel’s masterpieces. It tells the story of people who have acquired superhuman abilities through genetic mutation. These mutants are feared by humans because of their amazing powers and abilities. In the “X-Men” series, Wolverine is the most popular character, so much so that a spin-off movie has been produced. His situation is quite similar to that of Kamen Rider.
Wolverine has keen animal senses, reflexes, and a healing factor that allows him to recover from virtually any injury. This healing ability enabled him to incorporate the world’s hardest metal, adamantium alloy, into his skeleton during the Weapon X super-soldier manufacturing project. The codename “Wolverine” refers to the wolverine, a small but ferocious animal of the weasel family.Excerpt from Wikipedia
However, Wolverine does not get hurt like Batman. To be more precise, he never suffers any trauma. His ability to heal is such that even if he is shot with a gun or slashed with a knife, he has the power to heal over time. It is a power that no human being can achieve.
The fact that Mito Komon portrayed Mitsukuni Mito and the ruling class of the time as the protagonist is similar to the fact that Captain America brings the United States to the forefront. And Kamen Rider’s origins and roots are similar to those of Batman and Wolverine. There seems to be no major difference between the heroes portrayed by Japan and the heroes portrayed by the United States.
What if I dare to find something different about them?
When Iceman returns to his parents’ house as a temporary refuge in X-Men 2, his parents say to him, “Can’t you just go back to normal?
“Can’t we just go back to normal?
Mutants ≠ humans, which means they are not normal. In other words, they are not the majority. The U.S. has a strong background as a nation of other ethnic groups, so it is a country that constantly struggles with discrimination against race, LGBT, and other groups. Heroes are also portrayed as people who have special abilities, so in a sense they are subject to discrimination and persecution.
Issues connected to society / Issues disconnected from society
If I were to describe the difference between heroes in Japan and the U.S., I would say that the way they are connected to society is different. While Kamen Rider and Shinji Ikari face their circumstances as if they are locked in a shell, Batman and the X-Men struggle with how to define themselves and how to connect with society in their relationship with it. This may be a difference in national character, but I will not go into that in this paper.
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