Mar 212012

Y’know why I just can’t bring myself to give a damn about Naruto, DBZ, Fullmetal Alchemist, and all of those other “shounen” series?


I think these series have to get you when you’re in a certain frame of mind. You have to be in your early days of fandom, where you’re looking for something to grasp onto– some sort of epic, grandiose, all-encompassing┬ástoryline that every intellectual and emotional aspect of your psyche can latch its tentacles upon and dissect, consume, and absorb into your very soul.

The first story you come across that hits all of these buttons is gonna be the one that you (for the most part) always stand by. You’ll forgive (almost) any plot contrivance, shark jumping, or any other shit and blow it off as “that’s just the way this shit plays things out.” And as you grow more experienced in fandom, your tolerance of other similar series starts to wane to the point where most of us old-timers bitterly rant and rave about how Bleach and One Piece are shitty. All the while, we’re cuddling with our precious irrational obsession, doing our best to ignore the fact that this so-called glimmering jewel in the wastelands is no different from the very things we’re bashing.

For most of y’all whose primary fandom is anime, you probably have a similar soft spot for a particular anime. The catch with me is that I passed that phase long before I became an anime fan. My “stereotypical shounen series” was X-Men.

It all came down to that melodrama shit. When I was a middle school brat, I loved that kind of stuff. It was all people falling in love and dying and falling in love while dying and crying and stuff blowing up and getting blasted and punched while someone cried. That’s what X-Men was all about (and still is to this day). But it also had engrossing, contradictory, rules and jargon filled mythos that required the sort of encyclopedic knowledge that powers a young fanboy.

It basically had everything that the likes of Naruto and DBZ have. DB has its arcane power level systems, strange rules about evolving and “going Super Saiyan.” Naruto has its jutsus and politics between ninja clans and crying about Sasuke and all that shit. X-Men has all of that and more. You have the pseudo-political shit with mutants being a metaphor for everything from racial minorities to homosexuals. Mutant powers let every character have their own distinct martial style while still having everyone fall under the same “umbrella” the way Naruto has its ninjas and Bleach has its soul reapers. You even have the whole “school” element since most of the X-Men’s history has revolved around Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Kitty Pryde? She was doing the “audience cipher” thing years before your typical blank slate action lead like Ichigo or Naruto.

So I was getting all of this shit into my system well before I became an anime fan. I’d already gone through that phase where this sort of minutiae-driven storytelling was my primary interest. By the time I got into anime and started seeing these shounen series, it was all “been there seen that.” These shounen series weren’t new to me the way the likes of Ninja Scroll, Ranma 1/2, and the like were new. They were playing off the same vibes as the stuff I’d been reading for years.

And I think that’s one reason why you won’t see a lot of old school western fans give a damn about your typical Shounen Jump stuff. A lot of us got our start in comics and when we want that sort of fix we look back on X-Men and the like rather than fondly remembering something like DBZ. Least I know that’s the case with me.

 Posted by at 8:15 pm

  8 Responses to “X-Men was my Naruto”

  1. I think I was lucky to grow up in the 90’s when Anime was starting to become popular with Sailor Moon, DBZ and Pokemon at the same time I was watching X-Men, Spider-Man and the littany of Saturday Morning Cartoons like Savage Dragon, G. I. Joe and Thundercats also reading every issue of a comic book that strayed my way on my small 3rd World island. I played with Gundams, Evangelions, GI Joes and Dinosaurs.

    I understand the appeal of Shonen but I really can’t get into them anymore because the formula is all too transparent. You are right in the fact that it seems to appeal to people who are new comers and haven’t experienced that sort of 200+ episode story before.

  2. I think I was unlucky to grow up in the 00’s when Anime had already become popular with One Piece, Naruto and Bleach at the same time I was watching Spongebob, Fairly Odd Parnets and the littany of Saturday Morning Cartoons like, well, shit I don’t even remember anymore also reading every issue of a, uh, nothing. I played with my piano.

    I understand the appeal of Shonen but I really can get into them because the formula is all too cool. You are right in the fact that it seems to appeal to people who are new comers and haven’t experienced that sort of 200+ episode story before.

    inb4 ‘gtfo newfag’

    • Yes, you ARE unlucky to have grown up in the 00’s. Mainly because you didn’t get to live through “real” Saturday mornings. That’s a sort of magical, esoteric thing kids nowadays will never get to experience.

  3. Aw, c’mon. You can’t say that One Piece is as shitty as Bleach without providing any specifics. I never fell for Dragonball Z as a youngster and Naruto is terrible, but throwing One Piece in with them is just unfair. 80% of the Japanese audience of One Piece is over 18.

    So if you’re going to say One Piece is shit, at least put it in with shit like Gantz and what Berserk has become. Sure it’s formulaic and melodramatic, but in the same sentence as Bleach? That’s cruel.

    • It isn’t a matter of quality. It’s all about how all of these stories hit the same buttons in viewers and readers. I’m just saying X-Men and similar western comics target the same sort of “developing” fan that the likes of One Piece and Bleach and other Shounen Jump series target and how X-Men got to me long before those series made it over here. One Piece IS better than Bleach (although I don’t really care about One Piece), but it IS the same thing when you get down to it.

  4. […] but I’d spend several hours every night reading stuff. Said reading material would either be comic books or science books. One particular science book that I remember reading numerous times was a book on […]

  5. Oh the 90s and its awesome cartoons. X-Men was definitely a Saturday favorite, I even remember watching that special that aired on prime time on Fox with some weird alien thing, or the Dark Phoenix Saga or something, memory is hazy. Anyway, good memories. The Gargoyle cartoon also comes to mind. However, I still don’t mind the long shounen formula even to this day, I’m good as guilty as enjoying modern shonen shows just as much as I had X-men, spider-man, superman, etc. Apparently my tolerance for formulaic nonsense hasn’t reached your levels just quite yet after 15+ years.

  6. […] Problem is, when I reached for those super hero comics, my first instinct was to reach for X-Men. […]

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