Manga Case Study
The introduction of a multiple chapter case study on the manga Real Bout High School, in which there will be a relative analysis of the significance of fighting.
The wide amount of Japanese animation or comic titles that involve the act of fighting (or some other form of combat) to the extent where it is not just the character personalities and their environments that drive the story, but the fighting itself are large in number. At the same time, however, there are very few anime or manga titles that approach the niche genre as a means of exploring character consciousness. Character consciousness being the indefinite, fluctuating, and non-linear abstraction by which one constructs their particular theory of life, purpose for life, and/or motive.
The manga series Real Bout High School in particular manages to deconstruct both the concept of fighting and the act of fighting, in order to reach a more evident truth concerning each character within the manga's story. Additionally, Real Bout High School observes the contextual and intellectual significance of not merely the tolerance for violence, but also the significance of the actual, consensual act of violence itself.
The story of the Real Bout manga series concerns the institution of Daimon High School, which aside from the moderate troubles of struggling students, ardent school nurses, and overly ambitious teachers, has a rather unusual problem. This particular school has such an overwhelming amount of student clubs and activities that the clubs are crowding one another out, and as a result of the lack of space necessary to conduct business, several clubs have begun feuding with one another. Daimon High School students are becoming increasingly frustrated with the over-crowding, and are desperate for the school's administration to do something about the issue.
The headmaster and principal of the school, Principal Todo, decides that the best way to settle disputes between the student organizations, most of which are martial arts organizations, is to allow the students to literally, fight it out. While one may presume that such an allowance of brutality begets total chaos, surprisingly, two individual types of character consciousnesses emerge out of this chaos in order to establish their own predetermined understanding of justice and/or respect. Real Bout High School continues as the K-Fight System, as it is so called, soon begets an ambience of competitiveness, which is extremely impressionable.
Real Bout High School offers not a contrived, circumstantial, ahistorical series of relationships, but rather, a cohesive, rational, and expansive observation of the life of individuals simply being of fighting and nonfighting. Even though we have a wide variety of characters in the manga, there are chiefly two character identities that rise up out of the chaos, which was wrought by the somewhat unorthodox system of legal violence. These two identities are the wolf-like young man, and the anxious, nonmature young woman.
As the Real Bout High School manga series creates a variety of situations and endeavors for its characters through fighting, so does the manga series develop the personality of its characters during fighting. It isn't until Principal Todo establishes the K-Fight System that the lead female, Ryoko Mitsurugi, begins to question her bokuto wielding abilities, most of which she takes for granted. Ryoko in particular enjoys kendo, and takes pride in the fact that she is capable of accomplishing much even outside of her given stratagem of interest with her kendo training. She represents, in part, one of my proposed individual modes of consciousness of the Real Bout High School manga, in that her anxiousness and ambition, although granting her pleasure in combat, prevent her from maturing into an honest woman. Her charismatic nature is fostered by public encouragement, her inspiration comes from the wisdom of others, and while these and other aspects configure and flatter her person, she is a being of immense internal conflict. This conflict is brought to the girl's surface and can only be approached by one thing: fighting.
The young woman fears complacency, and while she does make an effort to maintain herself as adaptable to circumstance, her consciousness fears the stability of complacency. This stasis is not simply an acknowledgement of temporal resonance (of time and place) or of circumstance, but rather, this stasis also comes in the form of emotional and psychological stress. Ryoko, for example, detests the act of crying (considering crying a sign of ultimate weakness); however, she soon finds that crying as the result of losing a fight is not a sign of weakness, but instead a sign of emotional flexibility.
For the anxious young woman, her reputation is often what is most important to her, and her emotional and psychological understandings and reception of her reputation is what is frequently the starting point for this character's conscious (or sub-conscious) behavior. Because physical combat becomes the premiere motivation for this character to exist, it also becomes very clear that in order for her reputation to excel, she must then excel in fighting as well. Her emotive and psychosomatic resolutions are the result of the positive and negative feedback that she discovers from the catalyst of fighting.
The other character personality of the Real Bout High School manga series is the rigid young man, unafraid to question authority with his oft-disorganized anger. What the environment of Daimon High School offers him is a place where pride is perhaps the most important facet of a successful fighter. Certainly the best representation within the manga of this dangerously confident egoist is Shizuma Kusanagi. Shizuma is a roughneck whose enjoyment is hand-to-hand combat as stemmed from his ravenous love for tempting fate, and his incessant focus on the tangible. The manga Real Bout High School reveals a cynical understanding about this particular character-consciousness by observing his lack of motivation to surpass the verisimilitude chaos brings.
There is an incredible amount of neurotic/animalistic imagery in the Real Bout High School manga, however, despite the obvious consistency of the tireless tiger, self-conscious dragon, and an unholy ghost, I have concluded that this character personality of the young man is best understood as that of a wolf. Because of his veracity to pursue a goal of which he knows is materialistic, and because of his acknowledgement of his fear of the unknown (perhaps phrased better as the fear of "not knowing"), it has become abundantly clear to me that this type of character must feed his experiential ego to survive, so his love for fighting is inherent.
Because living a life that is always on the edge is the only way the prideful young wolf knows how to live, it is thus apparent that he engages in an exercise worthy of gaining him such credit. There are a lot of these young men in the Real Bout High School manga series, and while each one stands on the precipice of motivation, daring someone to give him that final push, they all remain ambivalent as to what the future holds for them. Living for the present allows one not to worry about future endeavors, and as these young men put their bodies on the line (literally), we suddenly see these characters becoming increasingly concerned for their future. When finally questioning themselves for the reason for their misadventures, the wolf-like young men are perhaps pacing themselves at last.
The Real Bout High School manga series is an intelligent assemblage of emotional conflicts, psychological conflict, and of social unrest. Originally written by Reiji Saiga and with art by Sora Inoue, this manga approaches issues of socio-political ambiguity with an unusual certainty. The creation of the dichotomy of the young woman and of the young man, as articles in the following months will illustrate, grants readers of the Japanese comic strip an innovative observation as to the purpose and influence of engaging in and consenting to various acts of physical violence.