The Secret Best Character: Kevin from Tiger Mask W

Pictured Right: The Best Guy

Both anime and pro wrestling are larger-than-life fantasy worlds, so it’s inevitable that a wrestling-themed anime like Tiger Mask W would be populated with big, bombastic personalities… some even based on real-world wrestlers! Among these characters, there’s one that at first seems easily forgettable, but as the show has progressed reveals himself to be the best man around: Kevin Anderson.

Kevin is a wrestler for the dastardly Global Wrestling Monopoly, the largest wrestling federation in the world and front for the Tiger’s Den, a clandestine organization that trains evil wrestlers. He does not have any appellations, like “Hitman,” or “the Ace,” or “Bigfoot.” With generic tights and a generic look, Kevin’s just Kevin. At best, he’s the guy always next to the GWM’s hot new wrestler, Tiger the Dark.

But it’s in the background where Kevin shines. Through thick and thin, Kevin rises to the occasion, especially when helping out Tiger the Dark. He knows he’s not quite as strong a wrestler, especially compared to the top echelon of GWM big-shots, but he’s loyal to this friends and will lend a hand in times of need. Over and over again, Tiger Mask W makes it seem like Kevin is just going to fade away into irrelevance as the other characters grow in power and intensity, but Kevin’s actually never far behind. When others look out for themselves, Kevin has an eye for the bigger picture.

In the anime and manga Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, there’s a scene where the characters are playing a dating sim and trying to genuinely find the right partner for the protagonist. As they go through all the girls, they find in every single one of them a deal breaker that makes them not good enough for their precious player character. Suddenly, it dawns on them: it’s the best friend, a guy who’s always there to help out, lend an ear, and even give a shoulder. Kevin is Dating Sim Best Friend.

Kevin Anderson is a seemingly milquetoast character who defies his own design. In doing so, he might just secretly be the greatest supporting character around.

Save

Tiger Mask W and the Significance of Global Wrestling Monopoly

In Tiger Mask W, a young wrestler dons the mask of the legendary Tiger Mask in order to fight against the villainous wrestlers of the Tiger’s Den. Most frequently, this involves taking on a wrestling company that exists as the outward-facing image of the Tiger’s Den, a thinly veiled World Wrestling Entertainment parody called “Global Wrestling Monopoly,” or GWM for short. The GWM is actually a brand-new creation for Tiger Mask W, something I personally found curious given how much having the most evil force in wrestling also be the largest and most popular. Why didn’t something like the GWM exist in the original Tiger Mask?

Upon reading the original Tiger Mask manga, I realized something: it would have been impossible to reference anything like the WWE. Tiger Mask first began in 1969 and ended in 1971, a time when there was no such thing as an international wrestling organization on the scale of what would become World Wrestling Entertainment.

In 1969, the promotion that would eventually become the World Wrestling Federation and later World Wrestling Entertainment was still known as the World Wide Wrestling Federation. At the head was Vincent James McMahon, father of current owner Vincent Kennedy McMahon, who ran the WWWF as just one of many territorial wrestling promotions in the US; in the WWWF’s case, it covered the Northeast, especially the New York area. During this time, Bruno Sammartino, one of the greatest WWE champions of all time (if not the greatest), was in the middle of his historic nine-year reign as WWWF champion.

Tiger Mask vs. “Classy” Freddie Blassie

Tiger Mask came from a time long before what many people today think of as wrestling. This was the era before Wrestlemania took the WWF national with Hulkamania, before Ric Flair’s battles with Ricky Steamboat and Dusty Rhodes. Naturally, it’s long before the eras of The Rock, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and John Cena. In addition to the Tiger’s Den wrestlers, Tiger Mask encounters real-world wrestlers of the time like all-time Japanese greats Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba. He wrestles against big names such as “Classy” Freddie Blassie (who would go on to train Triple H) and Angelo Poffo (father of “Macho Man” Randy Savage).

This is why the strategy used by the Tiger’s Den makes more sense for the period Tiger Mask came from. Unlike in Tiger Mask W, where they’re presented as employees of Global Wrestling Monopoly, the villainous secret organization would train heel wrestlers and send them around the world to various countries and territories in order to traumatize local wrestlers and take their money. Of course, in the world of Tiger Mask and Tiger Mask W, wrestling is 100% legitimate, so there’s no such thing as pre-planned matches or notions like kayfabe.

Save

Save

Wrestling Video Games, Where Performance is Power, and Fiction is Reality

Though I don’t mention it often, over the past year or so I’ve become a fan and regular viewer of Video Game Championship Wrestling, a weekly show streamed on Twitch that uses characters from video games and has them play out both matches and stories similar to an actual WWE show, with free pay-per-views (an oxymoron yes) that cap off each arc. During this time, I’ve come to realize how interesting the concept of pro wrestling video games are.

Whenever a video game is based on a “real world” activity, be it shooting people, playing basketball, or building TCG decks, the games are designed to simulate some activity where the intention is to win or lose. With pro wrestling, however, the point isn’t to overpower the opponent but to put on a show, and to merely mimic the idea that these two wrestlers are really going at it. This is what’s known to wrestling fans as “kayfabe,” or supporting the illusion that everything happening in wrestling is 100% real, and to go off-script or to break that illusion is a “shoot.” In that sense, a wrestling video game is akin to a video game about Shakespeare, where you would have to perform plays in front of an audience and receive their applause.

The gameplay mechanics that go into these wrestling games are a reflection of this performative quality, especially as time has passed and things have gotten more sophisticated. In the “drama” of wrestling, matches go back and forth, wrestlers have “signature moves” that tell you when they have the momentum, and they have “finishers” that generally net them the win should they land. If you look at a bad old wrestling video game, like Wrestlemania for the NES, it fails to follow “wrestling logic.” You punch and kick and never use holds, while occasionally a power-up symbol floats by and makes you stronger. Very few of the wrestlers can even perform their unique finishers, and overall there was clearly little effort expended to make it “feel” like wrestling beyond slapping some popular faces on and making the background a wrestling ring. In contrast, more successful games of the era such as Tecmo World Wrestling do a much better job of replicating the idea of a wrestling match, by doing something as simple as giving the characters unique finishers and having dramatic cut-ins when used on worn-down opponents.

In the case of WWE 2K14 (which VGCW utilizes for its show), there are actual built-in “drama” mechanics such as the fact that a wrestler can make a “comeback” that replicates digging deep when the chips are down.  You have signature moves that can build up into finishers. All of the attacks are things that have happened in the history of the WWE (or at least in some sort of televised wrestling). While there is obviously a wide chasm of difference in terms of technological and graphical power between an old NES game and a PS3 game, what’s more important is that the latter is practically a game whose display is fundamentally based on “storytelling” rather than “competition.”

While this could be extended to, say, fighting games (which take a lot of cues from martial arts films and anime), with the wrestling game there’s a greater sense of mixing up what is real and what is fake because of the origin of the wrestling itself. As with so many things that dramatize combat, certain techniques would never work or would be too impractical in a realistic setting In the game world, but the wrestling video games take it a step further because supporting and maintaining kayfabe is in a way the key to victory. To win is to play along with the rules of wrestling as performance, and to do otherwise is perhaps in its own way a form of shoot.

If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.

Great Puma (NES Pro Wrestling) for Super Smash Bros.

smashbros-greatpumamoves-small

Unlike the previous characters I drew movesets for (King K. Rool, Princess Daisy), Great Puma is much more obscure. He’s the final boss from Pro Wrestling for the NES, and notoriously difficult, if only because all the button mashing you had to do to defeat him would hurt your thumbs (unless you used a turbo controller).

The reason I decided to draw Great Puma over the other wrestlers is because he 1) is a villain/antagonist 2) represents a popular retro series 3) has that final boss characteristic of knowing all of other wrestlers’ moves, which allows him to represent the full repertoire of Pro Wrestling. Kirby is depicted as the victim because I wanted to get across how the moves would look on someone distinctly non-humanoid.

As a Smash character, Great Puma specializes in holds and throws. He not only has more throws than any other character in the game, but he has two special moves that also facilitate grabbing the opponent. His Rope Bounce is sort of like a pseudo-wavedash in that it allows him to quickly retreat and then spring forward into a grab animation. His Reversal works like Marth’s Counter but it activates only when the opponent tries to grab him, which causes Great Puma to grab the opponent instead. Even his Running Neckbreaker is considered a throw, which overall makes him a difficult opponent to shield against. His Flying Cross Chop is surprisingly powerful but is only mediocre in terms of stage recovery.

His Final Smash, Wild Roar, allows Great Puma to link up to three throws together. This isn’t quite the same thing as a chain grab, as that involves grabbing the opponent immediately after a throw and then repeating. Rather, this allows him to do things like Grab -> Pummel -> Backbreaker -> Piranha Bite -> Piledriver before the opponent goes flying. Also not pictured are most of his moves, such as his back-air being Fighter Hayabusa’s Back Brain Kick (Enzui Giri) and his forward smash being Giant Panther’s Iron Claw.

I changed his tights because I think they just look better this way.

Enter Animefan

A couple of days ago I made a post discussing the way in which the purchase of anime-related goods often transcends the purchase of anime itself. I didn’t concentrate much on the act of buying anime, and was planning a follow-up post, but Omo over at Omonomono beat me to the punch. He brings up some good points that I want to touch upon while also elaborating on this whole idea of what it means to “buy anime.”

First, a story.

I once told someone that I pretty much only buy DVDs of things with which I’m already familiar, to which he simply responded, “Why would you buy something you’ve already seen?”

Whereas I saw my ownership of DVDs as a testament of sorts to the shows I felt were good and enjoyable enough for me to have them in my collection, the other person saw DVDs simply as a way to try new things out. In the end, we agreed to disagree.

While this person was not what you’d call a hardcore fan of any kind of media, I think his philosophy applies to a lot of how anime fandom sees anime: Why spend money to see something that isn’t new to you?

Omo hit upon a simple, yet profound idea: the act of purchasing DVDs is “meta.” Anime fans generally love anime because it presents a world to them with a story and characters to whom they can relate or from which they can derive some kind of enjoyment or escapism. They become fans of the anime, but not necessarily fans of the anime as a creative work. If most anime fans find some way of watching their favorite anime for free, and they subscribe to the idea of not paying for shows already viewed, then it is difficult to see why they would purchase a DVD of it, as that would require them seeing their favorite show not necessarily as a window into another world, but as an endeavor born out of the thoughts and efforts of its creators. In other words, on some level, they would have to appreciate their favorite anime as a work of art, which I have to ask, how often does that happen with entertainment in general, let alone anime?

Are anime fans actually less likely to appreciate their favorite shows as works of art? I believe so, and I use anime conventions as an example. When it comes to anime convention guests, the people who get by far the biggest crowds are the voice actors. On the one hand this tells us that a lot of fans can at least see past the character the actor portrays to the individual performer, but on the other hand the voice of a character is directly a part of the show itself. The influence a producer or a director or even a writer has upon a work is less readily noticeable by someone viewing a show, and as such these guests tend to get fewer sheer numbers. Is this any more or less than the audiences who see actors over directors for live-action movies? I don’t think so, but I wanted to show that as far as anime is concerned, this is the kind of thing that happens.

My words bring up another potential conflict: is there something bad about being one of those fans who sees anime purely as a window into another world? My answer is that I do not find anything necessarily wrong with not engaging one’s favorite shows on that “meta” level. Nor is seeing the strings necessarily a good thing; it’s pretty much all subjective in the end. Actually, if you want to see a good example of a fandom which balances the meta with the immersive, then look no further than professional wrestling.

In pro wrestling, there traditionally have been two terms used to describe people who enjoy it: marks and smarts. Marks are people who believe wrestling is 100% real, that the Hulk Hogan in the ring is actually who he’s supposed to be. They see pro wrestling as a venue for good to defeat evil, or at least for bad-good to defeat namby-pamby-evil. Smarts on the other hand are fans who know that wrestling is all staged. They know that there are writers and scripts and politics behind the facade of Nothern Light Suplexes and Shining Wizards, and having a keen understanding of the backstage actions is where they derive their enjoyment.

But those are the two extremes, and in this age where the cat is completely out of the bag about wrestling being “sports entertainment,” there arises a new category of fan: the “smart mark,” otherwise known as the “smark.” Like smarts, they seek the truth of what goes on with the wrestlers as actors, but are also eager to suspend their disbelief just long enough for them to cheer for the good guys and boo the bad guys.

So who is the “better” fan? Is it the mark for his genuine immersion, or is it the smart who appreciates the performance?  Or is it the smark who tries to combine both worlds, arguably at the expense of either side?

And how do you get all of them to buy your stuff to keep you afloat?