Posted by: AceRailgun | July 8, 2012

Excessive power levels and unbalanced battling

At what point does something become so strong in anime that a normal human cannot stand a chance. I’m talking about the moments in anime when a normal human has a 100% chance at losing a battle and need a super powered main character to save them. I find this very frustrating lately and it’s mostly because it’s bad writing.

 

Claymore and Gantz are two of the best examples of this I’ve watched/read in the past as any human who happens upon a battle ends up as a bloody smear on the landscape or dinner within seconds. It is possible to to make this kind of battle system work but it’s very hard to show character growth if super powers are just suddenly gained during battle. On the other end of the scale you have something like Samurai Champloo where the outcome of a battle is decided based on skill level not the size of their muscles. This leaves room for normal humans to play a part in battles and makes introducing new enemies easier as they can just be normal people and not super powered warriors who have trained for years on end.

 

A more recent example is Truth from Eureka Seven Ao. There is no reason for this guy to exist and no clear explanation for his power yet he “appears” out of nowhere and starts killing heavily armed soliders in a military base with no motivation. I’m sure there is some kind of underlying plot to explain him but for the casual viewer it’s frustrating to watch pretty much every scene with this guy. The story becomes less about the characters and the growth of them from beginning to end and instead a story about the people the god like character Truth decided to let live for no reason beyond the fact that they are main characters.

 

This whole concept of overpowered characters is the major focal point in pretty much every ongoing shonen manga at the moment and although I don’t read all those there is definitely an audience for this kind of battling. By warning of powerful characters before you meet them is one way to avoid the “Truth” situation from Eureka Seven. This happens in One Piece and I presume the the same thing happens in Bleach, Ao no Exorsist and Naruto. Although I recall Bleach reaching a point after the first story arc where pretty much every threat was eliminated and maybe this is why I lost interest.

 

Am I the only one that prefers the more realistic battling to the superhero power struggle? Am I wrong entirely? All I know for certain is that Truth is a poor character choice that broke the entire anime.


Responses

  1. I don’t mind a nice balance. Like… superhero power struggles are pretty damn awesome if it’s the standard or accepted thing in the universe. It’s what made DBZ so great, you don’t just have one guy blowing the hell out of everything, but /everyone/ is.

    • Good point; balance is important and if everyone is super powered it totally fine but when you only have one *cough* Truth *cough* it just feels like stupid child violence.

      • Or it feels like a Mary Sue, maybe even a bit of a power trip behind the guy writing him in.

  2. I had the opposite reaction to most people regarding Truth, mostly because I couldn’t believe an overpowered guy was in an Eureka Seven series. I want to see why E7 is using that kind of character.

    • That’s a good way to look at it as long as they end up explaining him properly but for the time being he’s still controlling the plot.

      It is a strange move considering the first series had no such characters. I’m just as curious as you.

  3. I always preferred it when the characters in a fighting series are at least relatively close in strength, because an unbalanced anime is like an unbalanced video game. I do feel like there’s a great deal of satisfaction in watching a weaker character beat a stronger one, but when you get ridiculous power levels there’s almost no way to portray that without the weaker character becoming ridiculous themselves.

    • Exactly It’s got to be all or none. All powerful or none powerful. I never thought about it quiet that way but you are right. I guess it’s the unbalance of Truth in Eureka Seven or the huge laser beam trex in Gantz which really upsets balance and that’s what makes it unappealing.

  4. I can’t really agree with you anymore on Truth, my thoughts when he first showed up were pretty much how out of place he is even in a world of mechas and magic flying coral dust, his powers don’t exactly make sense and at the same time there’s no end to them. First he could change his appearance, then fire off explosions, fly, and then turn into a smoke monster for some mindfuckery. While I still find him and the role he could play interesting, at the moment it’s almost like a thirteen year old came up with his character, his design doesn’t help either.

    As for power levels themselves, they’re not entirely bad but they’re not good either, for Shonen series part of the reason that I like Gintama and Nurarihyon is that the former avoids them entirely and has Gintoki go through the story with little more than a piece of wood, and the latter doesn’t really let anyone fall behind or the protag leave everyone in the dust. Power levels are good when they’re not exactly in your face or everyone’s on equal footing, but if they’re obtrusive and there’s exponential gaps they do get tiring fast.

    • My problem with him that he doesn’t match the series. If he was tied in with the giant land coral a bit better i’d understand but nope he’s just some random strong guy.

      If you list his powers like that it really does make him sound like he’s written by a thirteen year old. When I was that age I’m sure I’d create a character like that. He’s just too perfect and lacking any flaws.

      The problem with big gaps in power levels is that when the protagonist inevitably closes that gap it comes across as unrealistic or forced.

      • At the moment I suspect that he could be the Secret’s equivalent to Eureka, his design colours and powers suggest it and we still don’t know why Secrets and Truth are attacking/possibly abducting humans. I really hope it’s something touched upon soon.

        That too, the antagonist is usually built up so much or has built up their power over practically hundreds of years and then the protag just skips past them after a month or so. It’s an exaggeration but it can still be scaled down to fit the purpose. If anything I’d rather blame the author for attempting to one up their previous antagonist too much however, which in turn can be seen as a blatant attempt to keep the story going and interesting.

  5. normal human never have a chance againts anything really.

  6. I prefer classifications, like in most modern western comics. Humans can defeat mutants and powerful beings because they have an edge against them (either hi-tech weaponry etc etc)

    I prefer balance as in if you’re not tough as nails, you wear an armor that’s tough as nails. If you don’t hit hard enough, you put on some boxing gloves that can move mountains.

    And remember daredevil? Kingpin DESTROYED him, not by force, but by destroying his life, his work, his friends.

    Don’t get me wrong i like me some fantasy mayhem, but even fantasy mayhem should be “balanced” as in you don’t always win with power, but also with brains.

    Like in High School DxD, when Issei fought Raiser he lost his powers due to his body not being able to contain the true power of the dragon but he used his brain to stop Raiser using boosted Holy Water.

    • I never really considered items/objects when I wrote this. Item more often then not are used in games to give you an edge and having good things is often better then being tough without good things. Disgaea is the perfect example of how unbalanced items can be but I won’t go into that.

      In anime I can’t think of too many items which change the outcomes of battles unless you count giant mecha. Like you said it’s often the smarter character that wins in the end which is how it should be.

  7. Balance. Although I loved DBZ, as I got older, I was a bit baffled at how every successive bad guy was moar uber powerful than the last. I don’t agree with Mystia that DBZ is a good example. It was mostly just Goku owning everything. Like you said, most shonen manga adopt this approach. It’s predictable; “next guy is stronger so we must train hard to raise our power levels!”

    This can get boring. It pretty much renders certain past characters useless. In a slightly unrelated note, this reminds me of Gundam Seed. No one could touch Kira because his suit was uber powerful. Although most Gundam series has the protagonist slightly invincible, this was moar apparent in Seed than others with the amount of beam spam going on.

    Anyways, I prefer fights to be determined by skill, not power levels.

    • What you said about most Gundam is the very reason I don’t watch them. It’s obvious that the main character is going to be invincible in the face of most dangerous situations. I can stand to watch mecha if it’s skill or excessive motivation which is the source of “skill” for example Code Geass and Gurren Lagann.

      If brains never come into the fighting then chances are good it’s not worth your time.

      • I don’t think you should shoehorn all Gundam series like that. Gundam Seed and Gundam 00 are really bad, but you have to watch them all to have a proper opinion on the matter. And are you kidding me Ace? Code Geass and skill in the same sentence? Did you watch season 2 lol? And Gurren Lagann is hardly skill either. We don’t see what exactly goes into piloting Lagann except Simon’s extreme will power. That’s it. It’s easily one of the most OP mechs in existence. Let’s not kid ourselves man.

      • Hating the second season of Code Geass is pretty standard and I’ll never understand why. I’ll admit it wasn’t as strong as the first season but it did bring to light a great ending and some interesting dynamics between Lelouch and the King but lets not get into that as I know this discussion will deteriorate into childish bickering as we have an obvious conflict in opinion and I want no part in that.

        I seem to recall writing “Source of “Skill” and courage” but it seems I left the courage part out in my weariness from reading too much manga that day. Of coarse Gurren Lagann has no skill involved as the mechs operate solely on willpower and motivation. Sorry about the confusion there.

        Gundam is a different story and I’ve seen enough to know it’s not my type of anime. Even sitting through Gurren Lagann and Code Geass was hard for me because whenever grunts fight in mechs there is a 100% chance they will explode and die when facing main characters which is not good story telling. So I can’t stand the though of watching anime that is entirely focused on Mech battles.

  8. I agree with you that random power-up and overpowered characters just aren’t funny anymore. When I was a child it was nice to see how that happened in Dragon Ball and similar series, but now…well…:P


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