Neither Generically Exceptional Nor Exceptionally Generic

See if the following descriptions sound familiar to you:

1) A young boy uses his mysterious abilities to fight against the forces of darkness alongside his close friends. Though he’s short on brains, he’s long on potential, and as the series progresses you see him gaining more and more power at incredible rates.

2) When a young girl meets an adorable magical creature, she is transformed into a beautiful and striking figure. Together with her friends, she fights the forces of darkness while still finding time to have fun with her friends and care for her parents’ shop.

Most likely, the two images that popped into your head were the most generic shounen fighting anime and generic mahou shoujo anime ever , respectively. However, the two shows I was actually describing are Kekkaishi and Heartcatch Precure.

Kekkaishi and Heartcatch Precure are both series that are firmly rooted in all the tropes one expects out of them. Kekkaishi involves fighting progressively more powerful opponents as our heroes improve their abilities to keep up. The male main character has a lot of “power” while the female protagonist has “finesse.” In Heartcatch, there’s bright pastels and an entire flower motif and transformation sequences. Both series involve Monsters of the Week. But while they are definitely “generic” in a sense, I really believe both to be pretty exceptional, and it mainly has to do with the way both series approach characterization.

In both cases, the strength of the characterization stems from the interaction between the central characters. For Kekkaishi, it’s the subdued and yet progressive romance of Yoshimori and Tokine. For Heartcatch, it’s the budding friendship between Tsubomi and Erika.  And when you look at both, you see just how well one character complements the other, the way their similarities and differences provide sparks of clever interaction. It’s what sets them apart from other series in their respective genres; the characters feel significantly more fleshed out and three-dimensional than the usual fare, and in a way that I think people who don’t religiously follow shounen fighting or mahou shoujo can appreciate.

At the same time however, I think that for people who don’t really look for that sort of thing, both series can still come across as incredibly generic. And for people who outright despise the genres of shounen fighting and mahou shoujo, no amount of smart writing in these shows can make up for the fact that what aggravates them about shows like these are still present in full force. That is, unless the thing that aggravates them is a lack of good characterization.

6 thoughts on “Neither Generically Exceptional Nor Exceptionally Generic

  1. I’ve heard great things about Kekkaishi leading me to want to watch it. As for Heartcatch Precure, do I have to watch all the other Precure to get to it? I’ve tried to watch the first series and I just found it really bland after an ep and a half.


  2. @21stcenturydigitalboy: No you don’t have to watch the rest of Precure, I’m finding it pretty good as it stands. I couldn’t stomach the rest of the Precure series, but I’m able to get through this one.

    Mind you, I wish they would shoot those stupid “fairy” creatures out of a cannon into the sun, but then I suppose they need those to market dolls to impressionable young kids. I also wish they would tone down the repetitive and lengthy transformation/attack sequences, but at least I can fast-forward through those.


  3. Heey there!

    I’m a “freshman Ogiue maniac” I’ll read your blog for.. ever, starting today.

    But still, I’m a godamn lazyass to comment in every post, so keep the posts comming! I’ll be lurking arround hehe :X

    About this post.

    I’m not so much intersted in neither shounen or shoujo, plus, I’m two days without sleep,I’m lurking everything about genshiken since I finished the manga/anime two days ago…
    Also, don’t care if what I’m saying don not make sense at all. Problably i’ll read this after waking up, and be unable to understand myself too…
    whatever. D:


  4. “Execution” matters first an foremost. The most generic concept can be made exciting again. The most original concept can be made dull and uninspired. It’s not the idea that matters; it’s how you deliver it. This applies to all things in consumer culture, from the iPad to K-ON! So while I can’t comment on the two shows you mentioned (haven’t seen either), I can say that I agree with what you’re getting at here.

    I think it’s also a matter of “first impression bias” versus “deeper analysis.” Our first impression bias may signal “generic,” but on further inspection (and consumption) we see the real qualities that set the property apart from all the others out there (whether said good qualities are “ease of user interface,” or “fluid animation and charming characters”).


  5. I have a friend who’s a big fan of the magical girl genre, in particular a huge Sailor Moon fan, and he told me he was disappointed by Pretty Cure. Much of that was due to feeling that the characterization was inferior to the standards Sailor Moon had set. I don’t recall him saying which season he tried, but I’m guessing it was the original with Nagisa and Honoka.


  6. Pingback: More Shows Should Be Like Heartcatch Precure « OGIUE MANIAX

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