Anime Meta-Review


Glossary Entry : Burning Spirit


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    Abstract:   This is material where the lead character is driven by a powerful desire to better themselves in some discipline. It expresses the belief that a person can acheive any goal if they believe and strive enough.

There's always something dramatic about obsessive genius. A person who is always moving and working towards the highest of goals, rigorously purifying and changing themselves as they climb. It also makes for good drama, and can easily form the foundation for extremely long running story arcs. This element is also at the core of virtually all sport and most fighting anime which also champion the growth to ever higher levels of strength and skill. However it is not restricted to these sub-genres, instead it can be applied to virtually any field of human effort.

I also get the feeling, and this is from watching anime not some deep cultural understanding of the Japanese psyche, that it means even more in Japanese culture. One possibility is that, with the Japanese education system being such an efficient conveyor belt, a lot of people have the feeling they missed their opportunity to shine and gain fame. However a more likely possibility is a cross-over to the concept of "inner power" which, in theory, lets anyone overcome their mundane physical limitations. This element is largely absent in Australia where it is realised that, even with massive investment of effort, the vast majority of people don't have the talent to make it to the highest levels of achievement. This does let people "slack off" a bit, but it also stops people burning themselves out chasing unattainable goals.

Support for this viewpoint is provided by the fact that, in virtually all of these anime, the lead characters progression is as much about will-power and faith as anything else. Furthermore as they reach the highest levels they are able to perform at a level which transcends what seems physically possible. Whether doing fantastic martial arts moves that defy physics, or baking bread that is impossibly tasty. Through effort alone they have become super-human... of course it could just be that this super-human stuff makes better drama, that's definitely a part of it too.

Of course virtually all these anime cheat as well. The lead character not only has immense willpower and fanatical dedication they also end up having hidden talents. This is partly to explain why a rookie who has been training for a pathetically small amount of time is suddenly able to blaze their way to the top levels of their profession while still under 18. The fact that this actually degrades the achievement of their own effort seems to be lost on the producers. Likewise a lot of these leads spend more time posing, and doing silly martial arts practices like sitting under waterfalls, than actually doing practice. Indeed Yawara is one of the few series were we see realistic levels of practice for a champion athlete... which helps explain why she's envious of a normal life!


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:50 WST 2009