Antihero Protagonist: Light Yagami

Audiences have grown tired of the traditional heroic story. A virtuous person rising up against the forces of evil and darkness is saved for children’s stories nowadays. Adults are bored with idealistic heroes. They want flawed individuals at the center of their stories.

What is it about antiheroes that audiences love?

I have been watching films and television shows about antihero protagonists to find out the answer to that question.

DEATH NOTE

Light Yagami

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Every story needs the right protagonist. Death Note has a money one in the god of the new world, Light Yagami. A story about a high school student that finds a notebook that can kill people is a novel concept by itself. When that high school student is a genius sociopath with a god complex, you get the intriguing cat and mouse game that is Death Note.

The Character:

Under other circumstances, Light would be a traditional hero. He has many heroic qualities. He is highly intelligent. Determined.  Battling against the evils of society. His major flaw is his hubris. That same flaw is shared by many ancient Greek Heroes.

However, Light Yagami is a sociopath who revels in the destruction of his opposition. He murders thousands of criminals over the course of the story. He is so driven to his goal that he will manipulate anyone to achieve his ends. He believes he has the right to judge the world and no one should dare stand in his way. Those who do deserve death.

Pivotal Scene:

After killing Raye Penbar and a team of FBI agents sent to investigate him, Light Yagami realizes he has left himself exposed. Penbar’s fiancee, Naomi Misora discovers a clue that could implicate Light in the murders. Light runs into her and finds out her discovery through idle chitchat. He asks for her name. With a name and face, he can kill anyone. She gives him a fake one. With his life on the line, Light slyly gets the woman’s real name and kills her.

I chose this scene as it shows all the facets of Light’s character. This woman is his first real challenge. If he fails, he will be arrested and executed. He acts out of survival. He gains her trust with subtle lies and compliments. Once he has won, he tells her he is the killer the police are looking for. By then it is too late for Naomi to do anything.

On the surface, this scene is a man killing a young woman and getting away with it, a villainous endeavor. But this scene is  a battle of wits. Two intelligent people go back and forth until one comes out the victor. Ultimately Light uses Naomi’s emotional attachments against her.

This scene is very well-thought out and logical, among the best in all of Death Note.

Things To Be Learned:

An intriguing protagonist only remains intriguing against strong opposition. The eccentric L. Lawliet is Light’s rival in this story. L is the world’s great detective. He is as ruthless and cunning as Light is. He has the support of the police force and applies immense pressure onto the wannabe god. The cat-and-mouse game between the two of them is the backbone of this story. The story drops in quality after Light defeats L.

It’s important to not try to force the audience to feel a certain way about characters. Death Note lets the audience decide on whether they want to side with Light or L. The story teller should be putting on a show, not trying to push morality onto the audience.

Closing Thoughts:

Death Note‘s Light Yagami is the reason this anime is able to appeal to people who do not usually enjoy animation. He draws the audience in. People want to see him caught. People want to see him get away with everything. No one would want to be friends with him, but we do all want to see how he gets past his next big obstacle.

I look forward to the upcoming live action adaptation of Death Note. There have been interesting casting choices made. The portrayal of Light Yagami will be the key to the success of the adaptation. If the writers and director accurately transfer his character to the screen, then American audiences will be in for a treat.

But that’s a big if.

 

 

Evolve or Die.

“Why don’t people watch Toonami?”

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In the 90s and early 00’s, Toonami was a block on Cartoon Network. It was responsible for bringing anime into the mainstream in the United States. Popular show like Yu Yu Hakusho, Dragonball Z, and Gundam Wing ran on it until its demise in 2008. That happened on my birthday. It was revitalized and retooled into a late Saturday night block for Adult Swim in May 2012.

My brother watches the new Toonami every week. He came up to me a bit miffed last week. Toonami‘s time had been cut in half. Now it was only three and a half hours. He wanted to know why people rallied on Twitter to bring it back but didn’t seem to be watching. It was going to die again! He even pointed a finger at me. He said that I was an avid fan of all things Dragonball (except GT). I had numerous action figures and video games. I had watched the series multiple times. Yet I do not watch Dragonball Kai on Toonami.

Here’s the answer I couldn’t give you before; Nostalgia only goes so far.

Like you said, I’ve seen Dragonball Z in its entirety (291 episodes!!!) many times. Why would I go out of my way once a week to watch it again? I’m certain other people have that exact same feelings. They are not starved for the content like they were when they were children. When the internet was younger, Toonami thrived on bringing foreign animation to the masses. Tape trading was around, but not everyone knew someone who could get them anime.

So Toonami used to be the place to get your anime fix. But times are different. The internet is faster. If you’re a huge Dragonball fan, you’ve bought all the DVDs or used illicit methods to get the content. It’s nice to tune in every once in a while to remember those old times when Goku and Freeza fought for five minutes in three episode, but beyond that I don’t have much interest.

What Toonami needs to not die isn’t to dig up the past or appeal to nostalgia. They have new shows, but they need more. They to evolve. You evolve or die.

Kill La Kill‘s English dub just came on . It ended in Japan slightly under a year ago. Anime fans are not patient nor reasonable people. Not many people will wait a year . I know the process of dubbing is long and takes money. But If Toonami is to thrive, the dub has to be out quicker. The best way to drive interest is to have exclusive content that people can only get from you.

In an ideal situation, the dub is out the next Saturday after the Japanese airing. A killer original show would do worlds for them. If Toonami could fund and air an animation on par with Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead, they’d be beating off viewers with a stick.

So there you go, bro. My answer.

Looking Deeper into The Dark Knight Rises

[Spoiler Alert]

Last Saturday I watched The Dark Knight Rises, the concluding chapter of Nolan’s trilogy. The movie was painful for Batman. He watched everything he had built over the past two movies destroyed at the hands of Bane and the League of Shadows. His arsenal was stolen. His money was taken away. His back was broken. And then the criminals that he had sent to prison were released as Gotham was cut off from the world. The stakes were raised and Bruce underwent some major character development to bring closure to the franchise.

As soon as the movie ended, I felt that something was missing. The Dark Knight Rises is a decent movie. It’s just missing something to make it into a great movie. More than just one thing. Today I watched one of my favorite Batman movies, Mask of Phantasm to try and figure out just what was missing from The Dark Knight Rises.

It quickly became apparent to me the things that I didn’t find made sense in The Dark Knight Rises as I finished Mask of Phantasm. There were a lot of things but I’ll just mention one major thing.

  • Motivation

There are parts in The Dark Knight Rises where the characters do things that just puzzle me.

Bane

The villain of the film is Bane or so we’re led to believe for the majority of the film. Miranda Tate turns out to Talia Al Ghul who Bane is working for. Talia want revenge because Batman let her father die in the first movie. Bane is just a pawn in her scheme. The movie does a switcheroo in the last couple of minutes. It leads the audience to believe it was Bane who escaped from the pit and not Talia. Bane who was born in the darkness. Then it turns out that is not true. It’s Talia who escaped the pit. Bane was her protector in the pit. After Talia is revealed, Bane’s motivations become a mystery.

Talia’s plan involved them blowing up with Gotham to just torture Bruce Wayne. Why would Bane want to die when they could easily escape? He had no quarrel dying for Talia nor taking a beating for her in the pit. What is his motivation? What does he stand to gain from the plan? Ra’s Al Ghul cast Bane out of the League of Shadows. Why would Bane want to die just to torture his killer? I thought he and Talia became lovers but before she leaves him to fight Batman, she refers to him as a friend. Is he willing to die for a friend when they can both easily survive and complete their plan anyway? I really felt like there was a missing segment to the movie that was supposed to explain why Bane was doing everything he did. Is he just the best friend ever? Did I missing something?

The Mask of Phantasm also does a switcheroo at the end. The audience is led to believe that Andrea’s father was the Phantasm. Then it’s revealed later that it’s Andrea herself. She is taking revenge for her father’s death. There’s a scene that explains her motivation. This is missing from The Dark Knight Rises.

Miranda Tate/Talia

  What was the point of Talia giving Gotham five months and then blowing it up? If she was just blowing it up, then why not just do it from the start? Did she want Batman to escape and try to stop her? I thought she was getting revenge on him. I can understand her wanting Batman to watch his city collapse from a television screen. Five months is a long time for that.

I also don’t get why she had sex with her father’s murderer. If she was so angry to make a plan that took years to set into motion, why did she feel the need to have sex with him? He already trusted her with his big company. She came onto him. Did she want him to fall in love with her? Did she just find him really attractive? I could understand if Bruce was still on the fence and not wanting to give her the location of the fusion reactor so she tries to use her allure to get closer. But he already gave her all that she needed from him. I was a bit confused about this after the reveal at the end with her being Talia.
In the Mask Of Phantasm, the main antagonist shares passionate moments with Batman because she still loves him. It makes sense that she does this because of love and all. But Talia has nothing to gain from sexing her father’s murderer. It’s puzzling.

This was also this one cop who refused to listen to Commissioner Gordon in the beginning of the movie. Gordon was shot and two other cops were dead yet he refuses to believe Gordon’s story about some guys in the underground. Why was he so stupid? Why wouldn’t he investigate it?

There’s a scene where Bane reveals to everyone that Commissioner Gordon and Batman lied about Harvey Dent. John Blake’s character inexplicably gets angry at Gordon for lying. He has no problem earlier in the movie talking with Bruce Wayne about it. He requests Batman returns. But now he’s all mad at Gordon for lying to keep criminals in jail.

I had some other problems with the movie, there’s one other thing that really pisses me off.

Why did they leave out Batman returning to Gotham from the pit? He goes from halfway across the world with no resources to Gotham off-screen. Why? I would rather have seen how he accomplished that instead of the opening scene with the planes.

Five Things I Want To See on TV, In a Book, or In a Movie Theater

In his book The Anatomy of Story, John Truby talks about the path to becoming a master storyteller. His first step is about developing the premise of your story. Truby states that nine of ten writers fail at this stage. I’d like to not be a part of those nine so I’m going to try out this exercise he suggests to do.

“Write down your wish list, a list of everything you would like to see up on the screen, in a book, or at the theater.” I’ll just do five. Otherwise this blog entry would go on and on and on.

An animated movie that removes the stigma from animation in the West

Animation can go to so many places that life action can’t. If you look at an animation like Miyazaki’s Spirited Away or Looney Tunes, these are worlds that wouldn’t work with live action at all or not nearly as well. Animation can exaggerate the rules of real life and get away with it. It’s another art form.

However it is limited because of the stigma that it appeals to children or can only be used for comedy. Pixar films are the closest to meeting this desire. but they are still seen as children’s films. I would love to see an animated movie that is not a comedy nor a family film. It’s possible that I haven’t looked hard enough and this movie does exist. If not, I would love to see this on the big screen.

A pedophile protagonist

This is a weird one but ever since I watched Hard Candy, a film with pedophile protagonist who is tortured and humilated, I’ve been wanting to see that sort of protagonist taken a different way. Can you get the audience to get behind a pedophile? They have to be the hardest people to have empathy for. You would have to be a great writer to make the audience feel sorry for a pedophile. It’s also very taboo in nearly every culture. It seems like an impossible task. I’d like to see this done in a book, or in a movie theater.

Decay/Evolution of Superhero’s morals

Batman doesn’t kill. Spider-man doesn’t. What would it take to push these guys over the edge? I know there have been plenty of Batman stories about this sort of thing, but I don’t think he ever actually snaps (Killing Joke is ambiguous). Whenever a hero finds themselves in a situation that would require them compromise their morals to solve their problem, they always find another way out. I’d like to read a story where they have no choice but to kill someone and they have to deal with it.  Whenever someone asks, “Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker?”, a person always brings up the slippery slope argument that Batman will then start killing all his villains. I’d like to see a story about this slippery slope.

The thing that really prompted this was the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Aang spends the episode contemplating killing the Fire Lord. He is opposed to it because of his morals, but he has to do it to bring balance back to the world. Then he finds a lion turtle that gives him the special power to not have to deal with that dilemma.

Mike Haggar as a protagonist

Mike Haggar is a former professional wrestler who becomes the mayor of his city. He then decides to beat up crime with his own fists. His fighting style is over the top. I’d love to watch a show about him just breaking people.

The Other Side of the Prophecy

Countless stories have been told involving prophecies and chosen ones. It sure would suck to be on the other side of a prophecy. Imagine being a ruthless tyrant and you find out that some 14 year old kid is going to kill you. Or what if you weren’t a ruthless tyrant and you found that out? What if you’re just a regular king who’s good at his job and don’t deserve one of these things? What would you do? Try to kill the kid? Find another way? Can you talk your way out of a prophecy? That would be a fun story to read. Or better yet write.