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As all of you know, I am currently one entry away from completing my Top 11 Favorite Characters of All Time list. For those who have checked out all the other entries, I thank you for keeping up with my work after so long. For newcomers, I shall leave a link to all of the previous entries down in the description below. Check them out at your leisure.
Anyways, with a list like this, there's always going to be fierce competition. Okay, admittedly, the higher spots were never really in doubt for me, but point is, there's a LOT of characters within the realm of fiction. One year alone has produced thousands, if not millions of different characters with their own points, quirks, weaknesses, traits, etc.
So, how do I decide which characters are my absolute favorite in a sea of endless possibilities? Well, my friends, I made myself a few standards that helped me outline who deserves their spot.
1. Effectiveness in the Narrative: If a character excels in his or her part and I adore the part itself, the character has a better chance of landing on the list.
2. Relatability: Now, a character needs to speak to me as a person. Do I relate to him or her in some capacity and can I see myself being around him or her?
3. Aspirational Value: A character can utterly nail who they are in the story and possibly have some incredibly memorable moments for them. However, what really puts it all together is "do I look up to this character in some way and would I willingly strive to follow their example?"
4. Importance to My Lifestyle: What values and ethics a character has and their execution of the role, no matter how excellent, must also come with a certain dearness to the heart. If I experienced them during a time I was highly impressionable or they left their mark so powerfully that I had to deeply consider them, they very likely made the list.
5. Willingness to Homage: If I am writing or thinking, how often does this character pop up in my mind? How often do I try to personify them in some way? Would I attempt to call back to them as much as possible, even if it clouds my better judgement?
6. Status to Similar Characters: In spite of the very real possibility of the character not being quite as original as others, sometimes being copied itself, do I still feel inclined to remember and cherish said character and its mannerisms over other characters of similar design, no matter what? Even if the other characters are seen as better by peers?
Hopefully, you guys understand these rules well. With that out of the way, let's talk about the honorable mentions, which are in no particular order. Also, just to let you guys know, I had close to 100 picks I could've explained here, so, I capped it off at 33. Less hassle for both of us and it allows for more concise descriptions. Anyways, let's begin.
Optimus Prime (Transformers):
This one's for you, .
Ah yes, the leader of the Autobots, a classic character and hero. Honestly, if there were three characters in all of fiction that embodied hope and heroism, it would be Superman, Captain America, and Optimus Prime. All three have all the qualifications of what I believe make the perfect hero. So, then, why is he not on the list? Well, to be frank with all of you, he never really took off with me until much later. Not that I didn't know about him, quite the contrary. Transformers: Cybertron was a big part of my childhood and I loved that Optimus, even getting myself a ton of Optimus toys. However, when I rewatched the Generation 1 Optimus in action....I realized he was a far better characterization overall. So, I acknowledge this Optimus, the G1, as the best incarnation....but I cannot put him on the list because he didn't resonate with me quite as much as the other characters on the list. However, I recognize his importance in media.
Togashi Genji (Sakigake Otokojuku):
If there was any one character I feel is the closest to me as a person, it's this guy. A gruff, tough sonvabitch who's quite stern, honorable, has a good heart, always sticks by his friends' sides, has guts to no end, and a delinquent that likes to do things old school. He even gets into more trouble than he should, owns up to his mistakes, and can be quite the martyrous sonvabitch who gets the shit kicked out of him. Honestly, the guy's practically a spitting image of myself. So, why did he not make the list? Simple. He's already too much like myself. If he were a favorite of mine, he would have to be someone I'd more want to aspire to be, but I can't really do that if he's already a lot like me.
Carlton Banks (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air):
Alright, raise of hands, who did not expect this guy? If you have it raised, congratulations, you have just been bamboozled. In all seriousness, though, this is what I'd expect my best buddy to be like. Quirky, clean-cut, a bit of perfectionist and workaholic, all the while being totally honest, full of integrity, and can be the flyest mofo ever. And....admittedly, I kind of have weird reasons for keeping him off. First and foremost, while he would be my buddy....that's also the big issue. If the guy is so real that he could be my friend, I don't really see him as a 'character' anymore. I see him as this real life personality like you or me. I don't really see a 'character', if that makes any sense.
Mina Tepes (Dance in the Vampire Bund):
Dance in the Vampire Bund. This series was quite the interesting take, at least to me, on the royal vampire plotline. We followed Mina Tepes, a proud, somewhat snobby princess of the vampires that just so happened to be the one to lead her people out of the shadows and into the light. From this, we see that she dearly loves her people, even if she can be a little arrogant at times, but we also see that's she's not infallible. No, she's actually quite vulnerable as a person, which is showcased by her love for Akira Kaburagi. You see, he's practically her best friend/lover and wants him at her side for all time. But the very real dangers of royalty scandals, assassins, and a whole bunch of prejudice keep them from being together. It's a compelling story, but I can't put Mina on the list since it's not finished yet and I still have my negatives for this character, mostly in the arrogance department.
Sousuke Sagara (Full Metal Panic):
I love soldiers. And Sousuke Sagara is honestly an endearing one, as he's basically been raised his whole life as a trained professional and has no clue whatsoever on what society's norms and values are. I simply adore the different mindsets of the world at large and Sousuke bashing heads. I love his romance with Kaname Chidori, who is his equal counter as a character. He's calculating, cold, and efficient while Chidori is fiery, social, and open. However, I can't put him on the list entirely since, while I do enjoy him, he doesn't really 'jump' out at me.
The Punisher (Marvel):
Yes, the Punisher. The best anti-hero in all of comic history. I love how this guy is the antithesis to the more restrained superhero. He guns down criminal scum without hesitation so they don't come back for more. It's honestly a great mindset to play off of. However, I can't really put him on the list since I haven't exactly read a lot of Punisher comics besides big names ones.....and because there's two distinct mentalities in writing Castle: his more honor-based 616 variation and his brutal MAX incarnation. It makes the guy kind of inconsistent.
Dr. Doom (Marvel):
Doctor. Fucking. Doom. No other villain in comic book history comes close to this guy. His arrogance, his willpower, his insane charisma, and he ultimate goal of creating a peaceful, unified world. This is the type of guy who practically is a perfect villain, for he's the ultimate challenge for almost any type of hero to overcome. However, I left him off the list since I already had other villains on my mind way before I ever even knew of Doom. So, unfortunately, as good as he is, I didn't connect him as strongly.
Adrian Fahrenheit Tepes. Yes, that is his real name. Anyways, this guy was legitimately close to making it, but I ultimately scrapped him from the list. Don't get me wrong, Al is a great character that shows that the sins of the father don't pass onto the son and his angst is well executed in my opinion, but the competition he had for the number 11 spot, mostly Dante, just edged him out ever so slightly. Still, he's definitely a classic hero that deserves praise.
Once again, this guy represents a strong sins of the father scenario, but there's an added bonus of a soldier's melancholy. In many ways, the Dog of War is one who is constantly weary of it. He wants self-tranquility, but his status as an Apokoliptan outcast in the streets of New Genesis makes him one who is always alone at heart. And really, there's a reason he's nicknamed the Dog of War. Orion is a friggin monster in combat, one that even his father Darkseid fears. Unfortunately, that's all I can really say on him, since DC usually strays away from his story due to popularity issues. Sorry, Orion, if you were more heavily focused on, you'd have probably made it.
Son Goku (Dragon Ball):
Oooooh, boy, this is the big one. Goku and the world of Dragon Ball was a LARGE part of my childhood. I've bought several of the video games, watched both versions of the anime, and even my Deviantart name is based on this fellow. So, then, why is he not on the list despite how much of a presence he's had over my life? Quite simply, the parts of his character that were this pure hearted saint that fought against evil to protect that weak.....that's not him at all. Those are traits specifically added from the likes of Superman. Not that I don't enjoy the actual parts of his character, self-improvement is a vital part of us. However, I always felt his goals were always more for himself than anyone else. Now, granted, I know he still protects the planet and there are scenes even in the anime that depict him more as a Superman kind of guy....but honestly, I never really wanted to be like the real Goku. So, sorry to say, he's off the list.
The Boss (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater):
Going back to what I said about a character being the most like myself, while Togashi is the closest in personality, The Boss is the closest to me through her actions. She's the model soldier who's loyal to absolutely no end to her country, no matter how many times it screws her over. Why would anyone do this? Simple. She believes all of the atrocities she has seen, been subjected to, and even became a part of was all for a good cause and she believed in the judgement of her superiors. She wanted to see the world unified, which was defined in MGS4's ending. This is what honestly kept her off the list, however. While she is the root of all of MGS' conflict and has an intriguing story crafted for her, she's also a overly loyal soldier that, while it may be me, isn't something I find overly appealing.
Good ol' Spidey. One of the big three most famous superheroes of all time, along with Superman and Batman. Honestly, this guy was a huge part of my childhood. I watched the Raimi movies extensively, owned various video games (Including Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man), I dressed up as him for my 4th grade Halloween, I loved how real life problems played a big role in his stories, and I love his lesson of 'With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility'. He sounds like he should be on the list, right? Well, there's a huge problem that really keep him off the list. His biggest flaw as a character is, despite what his lesson is, Peter Parker is one of the most irresponsible superheroes in fiction. I wish to God I was exaggerating, but this is a built-in flaw of the character that keeps getting crammed down our throats because Marvel keeps writing him as a high schooler, even after he's graduated, married, and all that jazz. And, unfortunately, it made me grow past Spider-Man. If he does finally get the maturity push, I'd love that, but the damage is already done.
Rugal Bernstein (The King of Fighters):
For those of you who have read my entries, you may have remembered that I brought up two separate variations of the villain. One was the sympathetic villain, the other was the card-carrying villain, nasty sonsabitches who know they're evil and are completely in love with their diabolical, dastardly scheming and machinations. If I were to pick my favorite villain in the card-carrying category, it is definitely this guy, Rugal Bernstein, the nightmare of the King of Fighters. The way he's designed and portrayed makes him the PERFECT candidate for someone you just want to stamp the shit out of, but at the same time, he FORCES you to respect the living fuck out of him with his massive kill count, his sick and twisted tendencies, and his insane fighting skill. Seriously, the Genocide Cutter is probably my favorite fighting game move. But, he's off the list since, though he's delightfully evil, he lacks the substance that hold together the picks on my list.
All-Might (My Hero Academia):
My Hero Academia is a wonderful. I have to say, it's easily my favorite New Shonen show and probably the best one in terms of quality. And, my favorite character to come from it is this guy, Toshinori Yagi, All-Might. What's so refreshing is that this guy, despite being the Superman of his world, also has the issue of a power time limit, because he's essentially become a frail man at his human age. From that, he has to use his quirk in more creative ways that are more about setting up a proper attack than wildly rushing in like other heroes do. Plus, he's just a treat to be around. This is the kind of ham I would expect from a Pre-Crisis Superman. But, as good as he is and the story he's in, he simply doesn't connect to me as a person as powerfully as others. True, I do look up to him, but he's not my first choice hero, which sucks to say.
Takamura Mamoru (Hajime no Ippo):
The Lord of Perverts, Takamura. Just watching this guy in action is pure DELIGHT. He is the smuggest asshole who makes the most ridiculous machismo stunts in the series and I absolutely love him for that. Not only that, but he can trash talk like other and back it all the way up. The dude is based on friggin Sugar Ray Robinson and has the KO power to match. The dude's never lost a fight and essentially earns every bit of respect he gets and all the shenanigans he gives. Also, he has the trait of respecting the food he eats and the animals the became his food, which makes him a wonderful animal lover. Unfortunately, he's also not as appealing as other characters on the list, which keeps him off. But, Weight of My Pride goes PERFECTLY with him.
Yabuki Joe (Ashita no Joe):
Out of everyone on this list besides one pick at number 11, this guy is the quintessential acquired taste character. Why is that? Well, truth is, his story is one of his development from a street thug into an honorable warrior. Yabuki Joe is just one of those characters who is basically a bull trying to fit in with men. And the only way he can really do so is by embracing his tenacious instincts in an outlet that allows him to be violent as he can be. Through this, he attains massive respect, but also goes through gut-wrenching tragedy as the horrors of sports injuries, love, money, values in life, just real life shit keeps coming to bite him and those he comes across. I should also mention he has one of the most important and most powerful deaths in fiction. And, while he is an incredible and timeless badass man, I simply cannot put him on there because of his acquired taste being a bit too much for me in comparison to others.
Saiga Riki-Oh (Riki-Oh):
From the obscure manga of Riki-Oh comes its titular character, Riki-Oh. Honestly, this guy has one of the craziest fucking plots to take part of and I am not going to explain a single thing to you because it'll just hurt your head if I try. But, while the story is indeed bonkers, it always has Riki-Oh shine in a very self-destructive way. You see, back in his youth, he accidentally left his younger brother to die, which made him become a desperate death seeker that wanted to make amends by dying to his brother's hands once he finds out he's still alive. This desire for punishment, not forgiveness, is a strongly admirable attribute. Not only that, but he helps the innocent and the weak along the way. But, uh....I can't put him on the list because of his......likelihood to someone else. Won't say who that is, though...
Jonathan Joestar (Jojo's Bizarre Adventure):
Again, this guy is left off the list....for the same reasons as Riki-Oh, honestly. However, that doesn't mean Jonathan isn't a great character, because he totally is. He's a truly dignified gentleman that is the foundation of the entire Joestar bloodline. His spirit, his will, his entire being is one of honor and human strength that sets him apart from the average Shonen protagonist. Truth is, while he is born into a privileged family, he worked long and hard to truly perfect his craft. Not only that, but despite becoming a truly capable warrior, he still has distinct limits which are addressed throughout the series. Despite that, he keeps his chivalrous attitude at all times, making him a class act all around. Tar-Chan (Jungle King Tar-Chan):
Okay, friends, raise your hands if you actually know this guy. Those of you who raised it, stop lying. This guy is a truly oddball choice, not only because he's an obscure character, but also because he's quite the bizarre man in a bizarre world. However, I don't entirely knock for that, because, despite some of his weird animalistic tendencies, the dude is the perfect pacifist. Though he does fight, he only does so to protect nature and the beings in it, including people. Not only that, but the guy does not eat meat, he's a clean fighter through and through, and he goes through a lot of emotional stress throughout the series, such as trying to break up a fight between his siblings and wandering if evil exists in him when a clone shows such callous violence. It's compelling and intriguing, but his weirder bits keep him from getting on the list, in addition to the fact that his story needs a good translation.
Ponyboy Curtis (The Outsiders):
I've always loved reading and, if I am being totally honest, no book sticks with me as much as The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. It's a wonderful read that dives into the social orders within adolescence all in the lenses of a teen trying to make sense of it all. Ponyboy is a great teen character that explores different emotional states, his own viewpoints about certain people and ideas, and his development as a young man. I like that he makes mistakes and that he's not the big tough guy, just a kid living up in a confusing society. If someone else wasn't on the list for doing his job better, I'd probably put Ponyboy on the list.
Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird):
If there was one guy I was NOT expecting to leave off the list, it's Atticus Finch. I'm not saying he wasn't a damn good choice, he was DAMN close to making it high if it wasn't for another powerful father figure. I still gotta say, he's easily the second best father figure of all time in fiction. He's kind, patient, and treats everyone else as equals unless they belittle others to take advantage of them. He's a man of the future stuck in a past that just wants to glorify itself. I also love that he never gets angry with anyone, his mind one of restraint and kindness. And it's just painful when people ignorant and hateful disrespect him, because he deserves nothing but praise and admiration.
Haku Yuki (Naruto):
This one goes out to you, .
I'll be honest now, I did grow up a bit on watching Naruto. In my youth, I grew attached to the idea of the outcast, as I was one for a long while. Still am in many ways, but point is, I got attached to the loners who tried to find their meaning in the world. And, while I dropped the series hard in the later arcs for losing what its original charm was and its original purpose (And going back to it, its purpose was shitted on at the start), I still have fond memories of this guy in particular; Haku of the Yuki Clan, the second fiddle to the first major villain. What made him stand out was that he really was a precious soul that fought to repay the kindness of someone else. It just so happens that the man who gave him purpose is a cold mercenary. I also want to make mention of his sacrifice, which was brilliantly executed as he shows his dedication to the man who's practically become his father. And....that's why he didn't make it onto the list. As powerful as his dedication and love is, he is honestly kept down by being in one arc of an entire series. Honestly, it would have benefited from Haku and Zabuza taking part in other arcs. And NOT as zombies.
John Rambo (Rambo):
Rambo. Many people look at Rocky Balboa as Sylvester Stallone's best role, but for me, there was no performance more powerful than Rambo in First Blood. Not only was he a soldier, but he was also a Vietnam Vet in a time that simply despised the soldier. They treated him like subhuman trash when he went out and fought someone else's war, one that the people played a part in progressing. And so, seeing him not only take on an entire town because he was wronged, not only try to not kill anyone, but also break down and let his emotions out? Especially during an era that touted that real mean don't cry? It was emotionally touching for me especially. However, I can't put him up on the list due to him being more famous for his one-man army shtick rather than his more substance based attributes.
The T-800 (The Terminator/Terminator 2: Judgement Day):
The first two Terminator movies are among my absolute favorites. I love the separate tones they create for each film and the lessons they teach; the future is not set in stone, we can change it. And the two T-800s are amazing for different reasons. The first one is the perfect ruthless killer, you can't bargain with it, it is a cold engine of logic and efficiency. Like a Great White Shark, it leaves no stone unturned when searching for you and it is inevitable that it WILL find you. The one in the second movie, on the other hand, is a great example of a machine learning the weight and meaning behind emotion and life, in addition to how to apply what it's learned appropriately. They're both wondrous iron giants of cinema, but they lost out to worthy competition.
Master Chief (Halo):
If one guy is completely subtle about his character, it's Master Chief. While many would mistake him as a bland, generic space marine, there's actually a lot of nifty touches of melancholy and suppression that shine onscreen, particularly in Halo 3. His interactions with Cortana especially paint him as a tortured warrior, but a big brother who always pull through for those close to him and the world around him. He's definitely an underrated hero in that regard, though, he's off the list because let's face it, almost everyone looks at this guy for his awesomeness cliches of being a one man army and....I'm not gonna lie, that aspect does overshadow his more mature moments.
Cobra (Space Adventure Cobra):
People say Starlord is the lovable goofball 80s Hot Rod? Think again. Cobra, while he came out two years later than Star Lord, pretty much pulled off all the traits Star Lord has nowadays and does all of it far better. Unlike Star Lord who's seen as a bit lame for being unknown, Cobra actually relishes in being an unknown because he's actually the most wanted man in the galaxy. Not only that, but he's far more adventurous and natural as a charismatic badass as he uses his suave nature to impress others and actually respects other men for their masculinity rather than grow envious of them. Plus, Cobra has a Colt Cobra, the Psycogun (That lovely arm cannon), and a harem with loads of women who all love him equally and he loves them all back the same. He also sticks by his friends' side no matter what and will go to almost any length to pay them back for their services for him and take revenge for them if someone were to cross them. The dude just embodies cool. However, I still think that there are cooler characters and I haven't seen enough of him to really put him on the list.
Ryo Saeba (City Hunter):
The Mokkori Man. Trust me, you don't wanna know. Anyways, Ryo is a lot like Cobra in many ways, except he's a lot more of a goofball and more of an open pervert. While the latter would turn most off, I actually find his antics to be rather funny since he actually gains the affection of those he pervs on. Why does he? Simple, he's actually a melancholic hero that regrets the death of his partner and he only wants to see those he loves be at their happiest. So, he's forcible on purpose so that those that he wants to gain the affection of take notice of him and become more susceptible to his self-respecting thoughts. It makes Ryo quite the enigma that way. He's also a man of his word and a great caretaker for children. I left him off, though, because though he's a great example of a warrior playing the fool, I honestly remember him a bit more for his improbable aiming skills and the fact he's voiced by Akira Kamiya.
Future Trunks (Dragon Ball):
I've always loved science fiction, time traveling heroes, and the young boy trying to be a man. Trunks from Dragon Ball is a great example of all three, as he is a part of the most heavily sci-fi influenced arc, he travels back in time to prevent a horrible future, and constantly tries to take the most mature and direct approach in addressing his problems, whether it be through combat or through his interactions with others. I especially love his no-nonsense attitude with his arrogant father, something I do aspire to getting someday. However, I can't put him on the list since I only recently started to appreciate his attributes in full and.....I haven't seen Super nor care to do so.
I'm gonna be blunt with you guys. I never really got Wolverine. I believe it's part of the character to be sort of an enigma to try and justify his aggressive and standoffish tendencies, along with the fact that he's pulled a lot of terrible shit in his life, but honestly, Wolverine goes back and forth between unstoppable badass, bloodthirsty monster, and reforming cynical optimist that it gets overly confusing for me. However, his portrayal in Logan is one that instantly attracted me. The movie is DARK, constantly bombarding the senses with the grimness of reality and the inevitability of death. Seeing Wolverine all old and withered moved me, and when I saw his interactions with Laura and Chuck, I began to really warm up to Logan as a character. He basically answers the question of how to escape death as the film progresses, and his answer is an amazingly simple and effective one. We must take responsibility for our actions and legacies, so the next generation may thrive. While I didn't put him on the list because someone else was already in the way and because I never really opened up to Wolverine as a character until this movie, I still applaud the effect it had on me and my feelings for the guy.
Captain Marvel/Shazam (DC):
The Big Red Cheese. Be honest now, it's not hard to have a soft spot for someone as big of a boy scout as Billy Batson. In a world where super powers run amock and heroes and villains are constantly at each others' throats, it's nice to see a pure young lad going out there as a super powered being with the mind and heart of a young lad. It's completely endearing and charming to see his actions take effect in the world at large. But, as much as I have a soft spot for the guy, he can't compete with my favorite comic book hero.
Cutie Honey (Cutie Honey):
Fanservice in anime has always been something that usually annoys me. While I like cheesecake, not gonna lie, if it distracts from character and story, I'm more often than not going to be annoyed with it. However, when you attach fanservice to a character, making it a major part of who they are, it turns from annoying or distracting to utterly joyful and even endearing. That is the power behind Cutie Honey, a stripperific superheroine that can change costumes at will and is a playful seductress at the same time. What makes her stand out is her sheer embrace of her playful sexual tension, her risque attires, and the aura she protrudes as eye candy. Basically, she's unashamed of being fun. She's definitely one of the best female characters I've seen, but not the best. Thankfully, she's secured a place in my heart nonetheless. Also, hoorah for the queen of the Magical Girl Genre, everybody!
Angel (The King of Fighers):
I love fighting games. I love hot women. I love wrestling. What happens when you roll into one? You get Angel from the King of Fighters (Also, other fighting game wrestling ladies, but not the point). Seriously, just LOOK at her. You can tell just from her appearance exactly the kind of person she is, which is a big point in fighting games. And, her animations sell her as a cocky, playful, dangerously skilled wrestling machine of a woman. Add in her dominating personality, carefree attitude, chill mannerisms, and the fact she has two moves (The Rock Bottom and The People's Elbow) that are a homage to Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson (Who is my favorite wrestler and my uncle), and you got a winning recipe. However, I also recognize that she's more in stylishly pleasing category than one of true substance, so I can't really put her up there.
"You're much stronger than you think you are. Trust me."
"Is this what Gods do!?...There is no need...For Gods that only take...FOR GODS OF DEATH!"
At the number 2 spot, we have two of the most powerful and universally beloved characters in all of fiction. In many ways, these two are the perfect parallels of one another while also ultimately maintaining the same core beliefs that make them both intriguing to analyze and inspiring beyond comparison. They both hold several ideals I personally believe in with bulletproof passion and they are two of the most fatherly and mature characters ever.
Superman of DC Comics and Asura from Asura's Wrath.
Honestly, there is no end to the amount of praise I have for these two. These are definitely Gods among Men, but their Godhoods are not their defining traits. They're powerful beings that could toss around just about anyone they want to, but instead of choosing to selfishly take advantage of their tools for self-benefit, they turn their powers to something truly productive, progressive, and altruistic. They would lead the people into the future, by their own examples that showcase the best of what we cherish and, more importantly, what they cherish as core values.
With everything I've said, I still believe that I have sold these guys short. Despite how I feel with my descriptions, however, the meaning behind my words is what matters most. I truly adore and admire these two. In many ways, they are the greatest heroes in all of fiction and should be lauded for all time for their efforts, their sacrifices, their kindness, their rage, and their entire beings.
When one looks at them at first, it is admittedly difficult to draw parallels between them besides their vast power. However, upon a closer inspection, it becomes evident they are two halves of the same side of a coin. They are the embodiment of justice, honor, valor, pure good. The only ways they truly differ is in how they execute it.
Superman is the hope of humanity while Asura is the wrath of humanity.
The former spreads kindness, compassion, and joy to everyone and everything around them, reinforcing optimism so that the future will always seem bright. He comes to us not as a God to lead the way, but a man to lend us a hand. In the same vein, the latter extends his hand for us, but not to greet us in particular. He instead deals with the harsh, vile bitterness that seeks to destroy and corrupt our way of life. While he can never connect to us through his words, his actions show that he is our guardian, always opening the road for us to flourish.
And that is what makes them so compelling, so timeless, as close to perfect as characters as you can get. They are characters that move worlds, not just by the palm of their hands, but by the power of their spirit. Their hearts are our hearts' best qualities, their dreams are of our wildest imaginations, and their minds are as stern and as unbreakable as any metal.
They are not Gods, but the best men we can aspire to follow, to channel, to become.
"That man won't quit as long as he can still draw a breath. None of my teammates will. Me? I've got a different problem. I feel like I live in a world made of cardboard, always taking constant care not to break something, to break someone. Never allowing myself to lose control even for a moment, or someone could die. But you can take it, can't you, big man? What we have here is a rare opportunity for me to cut loose and show you just how powerful I really am."
"I understand it all now! The true reason for my wrath! I could not stand it! There is always some fool who wants to rule the world! Always forcing others to do what they cannot do for themselves! That's why....I pray to no one! Nor will I be prayed to! But....above all else....I will never....forgive you....for making MY DAUGHTER CRY!"
"Good. Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul I swear... until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share... I'll never stop fighting. Ever."
"I..I couldn't bear to see you suffer. No more crying. Smile. My wrath... is finally... gone. Durga...I'll be home...soon."
Probably should have shared this here sooner, but eh. Basically, I've started uploading playthroughs of my DC vs. Marvel Mugen build. Check it out if you're interested in that kind of thing and I hope you enjoy it.
We all know who this is. He's one of the most lauded video game characters and one of the most lauded characters in fiction. He is one of the best written soldiers ever. He captures several of the defining traits of previous characters on this list and expresses them masterfully.
Solid Snake of Metal Gear.
He's kept you waiting, huh?
Throughout the annals of entertainment, there were several mediums that I enjoyed, but none played such a big role in my life than video games. It's easily the medium I've spent the most time with. Fighting Games, First-Person Shooters, Puzzle Games, I am simply entranced by the aspect of picking up a controller and personally making the choices that would decide victory or defeat inside of the virtual world. I started with simpler games, such as Battle Arena Toshinden, Dynasty Warriors, and Tetris. I remember the joy I had with them and the patience the games in-grained into me, to play a game for the sake of a game.
But as I grew, storytelling and characterization became a big point of fascination. I wanted to envision worlds and people in rich detail, create something truly special. I always struggle with it, but I keep trying regardless of my self-doubt or lack of skill.
I talk about this small backstory of mine because of how it essentially speaks about my experience with this character.
When Super Smash Brothers Brawl was first announced, everyone I knew went crazy for this guy. While I was into military guys such as Master Chief and even one half of the number 4 pick on this list, I just saw him as a guy with a brawny look with some neat gadgets and tricks. Then I started playing him.....and I was absolutely hooked. While he is the Top Tier of Brawl, I never considered competitive utility at that age. Instead, I found myself mesmerized just with a simple thing: how different he was compared to the rest of the cast. Nintendo has always been known for rather cutesy designs, though admittedly they get quite fucked up in a lot of cases, but they rarely did someone as realistic looking as Snake, so seeing them tackle him in a game was a fun and educational journey. His hard-hitting, not at all flashy moveset was something I got instantly attracted to, much like Captain Falcon's rather basic repertoire. Not only that, but his gruff voice and tough as nails persona also caught my eye.
But what really caught my attention was his conversations on Shadow Moses Island, which I would learn are called Codec Calls. I actually got my first one by complete accident, so when I saw Snake crouched down talking into his ear rather than do his standard box taunt, I questioned what was happening with giant curiosity. And I got rewarded for it by learning about a taste of the enthralling cast of Metal Gear. The Colonel, Otacon, and Mei Ling all conversing with Snake with unique and colorful commentary on the opponent Snake was currently fighting. Something like that was never presented to me beforehand (Yeah, I sucked), so it alarmed me that something so interesting didn't catch my attention. Also, Slippy Toad of Star Fox making a neat little chat was icing on the cake.
In any case, as an impressionable young kid at the time, I legitimately wanted to know more about Snake, see EXACTLY why people loved him, even if I did have a really good idea. But, unfortunately, I could never my hands on any of the games because I kept forgetting what Snake was from and my interest waned over time since I wanted to keep moving to the next thing rather than get frustrated at a single option.
A decade later, I finally got my hands on the entire main series Metal Gear saga. I first started with 3 since it was the earliest point in the series. It gave me context I'd appreciate and understand for the rest of the series. Afterwards, I played Peace Walker before finally getting to the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.
And, I have to admit....I actually got more intrigued with him than I already was. Not because he was everything I expected him to be....but he was actually not living up to what I expected. I heard tales of a melancholic hero who, despite all of his trauma, would still stand to do the right thing, regardless of whatever pain came his way. Instead, I started off with the start: how he originally was before the transition.
And that's the thing: at the beginning of his journey, he's but a green rookie, not in-tune with war just yet, but ready to give it the best shot he can. He has faith in his commanding officer, Big Boss (Who also taught him everything he knew about CQC and became his father figure), and goes through his mission like the average 80s action hero, taking out whoever gets in his way and destroying the big threat to the world: the TX-55 Metal Gear . It's mostly straightforward taking on the soldiers of Outer Heaven....until it's revealed who was the leader of the terrorist faction is: Big Boss himself (Which would be retconned by having this one be his doppelganger Venom Snake, but I must explain this particular experience when it happened). I was wondering why Big Boss was feeding me misinformation the whole time, even with playing 3 and PW first, since I figured Big Boss was taking his loss of the Boss rather well. But then I realized: he had been using the assets he had acquired previously; the MSF, FOXHOUND, all to realize his interpretation of the Boss' will.
He wanted to create a world in which soldiers were appreciated and free from any government's control; an army without borders as the series put it. While this created a grand mercenary force universally praised and hated for its skill but malleable loyalty, it also created a chaotic group that no one might handle if they kept receiving work and supplies from various countries. Ultimately, the world would serve them, not the other way around, trapping everyone in a unification of war and profit.
Obviously, Snake wouldn't stand for this, as it would mean several innocents caught in the crossfire. In this battle, he defeated the legendary soldier and escaped the complex.
Then, in Metal Gear 2, he began showing shades of the man I had heard about. His nightmares of endless conflict, trapped like a dog to fight it out for causes he may not even believe in. He even abandoned the CQC techniques taught to him by Big Boss. So, when he's called back into action, he gets a chance to relieve himself of the haunting memories by doing another good deed.
This time, however, it's not as easy. While he is able to complete his initial objective, breaking through Zanzibar Land's defenses, his second objective of rescuing Doctor Marv and the OILIX formula did not go according to plan. A CIA operative, named Holly White, got captured and Snake had to go save her. Afterwards, after coming into contact with Marv and his bodyguard, Gustava Heffner, Snake is tormented by the pain of betrayal by two people: another scientist named Drago Madnar and his best friend, Gray Fox, resulting in Marv and Heffner's deaths.
Fox was originally in the Outer Heaven incident masquerading as an injured POW that Snake had rescued. Their relationship was strictly on professional terms, but the way that Fox guided Snake through the incident and the sheer talented tenacity of Snake himself made the two harbor an unspoken and deep respect for one another. Without Fox, Snake would have never completed his objective in Outer Heaven and Fox would likely have died in his cover as a POW. After the first defeat of Big Boss, Fox had disappeared shortly afterwards, never to be seen until this moment.
And what a moment it is for the two men. They fight bare-handed until one of them drops down, too banged up to continue fighting. The loser ends up being Gray Fox, who sheds light on why he fought Snake and betrayed him so callously. While he despised war as much as the kid hostages on the base, war is all what they know. Big Boss, several years ago, saved him and his sister from certain death, taking the two to a place they could call home. In this, Gray Fox swore loyalty to Big Boss because of such kindness and because he and others like him would know nowhere else where they would belong.
After destroying Metal Gear D and besting Gray Fox for the first, but not final, time, Snake pushes on to escape the facility. This ends up with him coming face to face with the man who has haunted him for so long: Big Boss himself. Somehow, he's still alive from the Outer Heaven incident and was behind the kidnappings of the child hostages. He reaffirms what Fox said; he has kidnapped several children that were victims of war only to train them and throw them right back into it, believing that no soldier can escape such a fate. He also says one detail that adds a whole new meaning to their original relationship.
He's Solid Snake's father.
Then, Solid Snake shows the first powerful instance of wanting to live his life as his own man, not as a tool or trapped within the concept of fate. He proclaims to Big Boss that he believes in the value of life and will have the nightmares of Big Boss and Outer Heaven washed away in this final battle between the two of them.
Ultimately, Snake succeeds in putting down Big Boss with a can of hairspray and a lighter. To give this scene context, Snake was stripped of his items and had to avoid Big Boss, who was armed with The Patriot (A high-caliber machine gun with infinite ammo) to find the two items. Afterwards, he outmaneuvers and puts him down, though he won't die now. Not yet, it's not over yet.
Finally, he escapes the warzone with Holly via chopper, ending the mission.
.....However, this isn't the end of his suffering, not by a longshot.
I then popped in Metal Gear Solid.....
And I knew the best was yet to come.
You see, despite defeating Big Boss again, doing the one thing he thought would cleanse his soul....it doesn't do that. No, the mission only worsened his condition. The pain of war, betrayal, and trauma overcame him, sending him into a deep depression. He even went off the radar and took a trip to Alaska to be alone for awhile. Simply put, he became a broken shell of a man.
This is where I started to fully understand why people lauded Snake so much. In the early days, he was the typical machismo 80s action hero everyone at the time was familiar with. However, even as an adamant fan of the era, I understand that the oversaturation turned people away. Too unrealistic and unbelievable. Then, I experienced the movie Die Hard and this wonderful game for the first time. Both Solid Snake and John McClane worked exceptionally well in delivering a fully-fledged hero to us, but not exactly in ways one would expect. Many people are drawn to the fact that a hero goes through suffering, they undergo angst, and are generally stuck with depressing circumstances that are inescapable. However, that inherent hopeless, this gritty reality in fiction isn't what we really crave. In truth, while the realism showcased in both draws us in because of the stakes and dangers being immediately intense, the people who are in the driver's seat are not merely bleak individuals defined by their surroundings.
John McClane, a cop out of his element, is actually a fun-loving, down-to-earth man that just wants to have a Merry Christmas with his wife and kids that just happened to get mixed up in a situation he had no idea about. It is through his vivid characterization, actions, and action-based storytelling that makes him so revolutionary for his genre and medium.
The same applies to Snake, but his depth surpasses him, and everyone on this list besides the man I had hinted to comparing him to earlier, which was Guts. Both are children of conflict that were trained to be the ultimate tools and warriors for their respective factions. Both are men supposedly tied to fate, but also fight against such fate with the most impressive displays of willpower throughout fiction, possibly history. Both have experienced the fullness of life, both the best and worst of it. Most importantly, both are tragic figures with bloody histories that end up alone in several points in their lives, becoming alienated to the world around them.
However, besides my relative inexperience with Guts, Snake is ultimately superior to him in my eyes because while both men are used in stories that explore similar themes of existentialism, I feel Snake is more complete as a character. At this point in time, though it seems he'll be eternally haunted by the memories of war and suffering, he takes on this mission anyway. At the beginning of Metal Gear Solid, his reason for doing so is not inherently noble, in fact, it's incredibly selfish.
He admits that the only time he ever felt alive is when he was on the battlefield, cheating death, fighting and killing anyone who was his enemy. It was simple and enough. It still was at that stage. The joy of battle was all the motivation he needed to come back aboard, not the several war crimes attributed to his name. He also says that he's a man who's only good at killing other people and that it only gets easier the more he does it. In many ways, he should be considered a psycho....But he also realizes these things. He feels that there are no heroes in war, for it is the only outlet that brings out the worst in people. To him, the only people of note are those who survive the conflict, only to end up somewhere else where battle looms over them, or the dead who no longer serve a purpose. While it seems like he's contradicting how he felt in Zanzibar Land, it honestly isn't. What this shows is that Snake, despite all the triumph he's had in his life, wonders if his actions are of any real importance. This is his THIRD time stopping a weapon of mass destruction and taking on an elite terrorist force, who's to say another won't just pop up?
And he tells all this to a woman who looked up to him her whole life as a hero: Meryl Silverburgh. However, despite Meryl learning his personal reasons for getting into the mission and the way he sees himself and his actions, she still considers him a legendary hero. While it does sadden her quite a bit and even makes her question the status of all war heroes, she still knows about what Snake did when he was young, the heroic acts he did in spite of his apparent cynicism of it all. It's what allowed her to push on through Ocelot's torture.
His status as a hero is further legitimized by his interactions with three other people: Naomi Hunter, Liquid Snake, and Hal Emmerich AKA Otacon.
The onboard personnel for the mission includes Colonel Roy Campbell, Mei Ling, Nastasha Romanenko, and Naomi Hunter herself. Everyone in the support team is friendly towards Snake except for Naomi, who acts rather aloof and even spiteful towards him. Despite this, Snake keeps a professional attitude towards her, especially since he figures she detests all the killing she has to oversee in the mission. Over time, Snake and Naomi do get some valuable time to talk to one another, once when Snake gets captured by Liquid and the other time being when Snake is obtaining the launch keys necessary to 'stopping' Metal Gear REX.
In the former instance, we get to see Naomi in a rather timid predicament, as Snake tries to talk about her own life. She admits that she doesn't know much about herself and that her family isn't a happy topic. Despite this, Snake starts the conversation by relaying the information that Big Boss was his father, something only he and Campbell knew about. He also expresses the melancholy and trauma caused by killing him, saying that though it had to be done, it was clear in his tone and him going to Alaska was all due to his the sorrow in such a heavy revelation. From this, Snake opens up Naomi about her only family, a big brother who put her through school. Then, Snake allows Naomi to ask her own question, if Snake had anyone he trusted or called friend. He admits to two people: Roy Campbell and Frank Jaeger, Gray Fox. The latter is described as Snake's best friend, which confuses Naomi as he and Fox were enemies in combat. Snake relays that just because they were on opposite sides of a war, that doesn't mean they still couldn't be friends. While their status was strictly professional, it was also one of student and mentor before they recognized one another as equals.
Then, in the latter instance, Snake finds out the truth about why Naomi came onboard as the medical staff in the first place: she was tasked with injecting him with a disease known as FOXDIE, which targets specific people that come into contact with the carrier. However, she also added a wildcard mechanic, which makes Snake one of the targets, but it will kill him at a randomized time, making his life an everlasting limbo of the fear of death. She did this out of hatred for Snake because he killed Big Boss and crippled Gray Fox, who were the people that helped her along her life. You see, her name really isn't Naomi Hunter, she's actually a Rhodesian orphan who was saved by Gray Fox in the 80s, who she deemed her brother. Then, later in the 90s, Big Boss took him and Naomi to America, granting them a happier life. So, Snake essentially taking out the two most important people in her life made her enraged at Snake, wanting to kill him in revenge. So, when the mission slot popped up, she stole the identity of the woman who originally had the name Naomi Hunter and the job she had as a doctor. She waited two long years for this opportunity, this heinous vengeance to slay the man that essentially took everything from her. However, she also expresses remorse about the whole thing, realizing Snake is NOT the merciless killer she imagined him as, but a truly tormented soul, even if he had a motive as selfish and simple as 'survival'.
Finally, there's the end of the game, where Snake talks to her one last time. While fighting Metal Gear REX, Gray Fox comes to Snake's aid, wanting to atone for the sins he's committed on the battlefield. The most important one that he feels he needs to own up to is in fact what he did to Naomi: he was the one who killed her parents. All those years ago in the 80s, Fox had taken out two civilians in the war he was fighting in at the time. From this, he discovered their daughter, half-starved and dying. He felt so bad that he took her in, raising her and caring deeply for her. Even at that point, where Frank was more a warrior looking for death than the same brother Naomi knew him as, she still considered him that same brother. Only Snake is told this information, which Frank asks him to tell to Naomi, as she deserves to know the truth. However, when given the chance to tell her, Snake instead chooses to keep Frank's secret. He instead tells her that Fox wants her to move on from him, find her own purpose in life, and that he always loved her. He feels it better this way since Frank was the only person she ever loved and ruining her perception of him would do more damage that he just didn't want to inflict. Naomi just ruined his life, but instead of hating her and falling into the same pattern of triple crosses others in the series get entangled into, he chooses to understand her, tell her to understand herself in the present, and forgives her.
Snake's main adversary in this mission is Liquid Snake, another famed soldier that earned the codename Big Boss did in his youth: Snake. As a contrast to Solid Snake, Liquid Snake is loud, theatrical, cocky, and makes light of every situation he finds himself in. Though you catch bare glimpses of him from time to time, it's clear that the man is boisterous and utterly determined to a destructive and selfish vision. He seeks to create a world of constant war, one which he controls. Its his own take on Outer Heaven, Big Boss' dream, where soldiers are appreciated by the world at large. At first, it's quite an intriguing puzzle to figure out. Why would this man want to have Big Boss' dream realized? Is he another soldier like Fox that was raised under Big Boss' wing? He does refer to the man as 'Father', so it is a good guess, especially considering he has the same codename of Snake and has the same trench coat Big Boss wore.
However, we soon learn from several bomb drops of the plot that there's a HELL of a lot more to it. After Metal Gear REX is activated by Snake himself, Liquid reveals himself to Snake....as Master Miller. As someone who played the original MSX games first, I got duped BIG time, as I couldn't conceive someone as outspoken as Liquid roleplaying as someone as calm and collected as Miller. Turns out, the real Miller died some time ago and Liquid took his identity and codec link to fool Snake, subtly manipulating him to do things he could not. After Snake escapes from a trap set up by Liquid, he chases him down to the entrance of REX's cockpit, where the latter tells Snake the truth behind Solid Snake, himself, and Big Boss.
You see, Solid Snake and Liquid Snake are considered the sons of Big Boss because they are in fact clones of the man. All this time, both men were never even real men to begin with, but copies of the perfect soldier. From here, it seems like the pieces fall into place: Liquid idolized Big Boss because he was his Father and it makes more sense when we learn that Liquid spent a good portion of his life training under Big Boss. However, it's actually FAR from the truth; in actuality, Liquid despises Big Boss because he was the inferior clone with recessive genes at birth and told by Big Boss and the men who created him and Solid Snake that he was nothing but that. From this, he became haunted by a large inferiority complex, chaining himself down because of his supposed genetic inferiority. And, from this, his ideology was born: to him, all life merely existed to pass on their genetic structure, to create more adept creatures from years upon years of physical modification. However, despite this sense of inferiority, he still sought to break the curse of his heritage by defeating the two men he deemed superior to himself: Big Boss and Solid Snake. Though Big Boss was out of the question, the next best thing would be defeating Snake himself, claiming his own destiny through beating the one man he saw himself worse than.
When the dust settles, however, the fate of their duel falls into the favor of Solid Snake.
In addition to fighting Liquid mano-e-mano and besting him at every turn, Snake also has the privilege of surviving their final standoff by way of FOXDIE infection. When Naomi had programmed FOXDIE to kill Snake at a randomized time, she had used Big Boss' dominant genes as the basis for her modification, basically meaning the clone with the dominant genes would be killed outright when the randomized time came. And that's where we learn that Liquid had everything backwards; he wasn't the inferior recessive clone rebelling against the people who were supposedly predestined to hold him and his own legacy down, but the actual superior clone with the dominant genes destined for greatness. So, the reality of the situation wasn't a battle between genetics, but a battle of ideals. Liquid Snake lived his whole life defined by the limitations of blood, physical identity, and the legacy of another man.
Solid Snake, meanwhile, never cared for what his genes looked like. He operated on his own willpower and instinct. Though he was used by governments and agencies beforehand as their ace-in-the-hole soldier, he was never their tool, nor a tool for anyone else. And from that, he overcame the odds, not as a copy of the perfect soldier, not as the high point of an experiment poised to create something better. Fact is, he was the one who was meant to be the failure, but surpassed all expectation to become the man who makes the impossible possible.
And now, we come to the man that becomes Solid Snake's best friend. Originally the head engineer of the REX project, Hal Emmerich was taken hostage by the Sons of Big Boss, forced to further the work on Metal Gear REX until its completion. During this time, Hal grew a strong attraction to the woman Sniper Wolf, likely from Stockhold Syndrome.
When Snake infiltrates Shadow Moses, he eventually runs into Otacon, saving him from the clutches of Gray Fox. From here, Snake and Otacon discuss information concerning Metal Gear REX. As it turns out, Hal had no idea he was aiding in creating a nuclear weapon, much less one as catastrophic Metal Gear REX was, so he decides to help Snake throughout the mission and own up to the naive mistake.
Unlike several of Snake's other comrades, Otacon is both on the field assisting Snake when he can, but also a lot more nervous to do so since he isn't a trained professional, just a rather normal programmer taken out of his element. The contrasts between Snake and Otacon makes it seem like that the two would constantly butt heads, especially since Snake doesn't like dealing with rookies due to his specialized training making him operate like a systematic machine. He wasn't trained to look over some fool who just rushed into a situation and pulled the trigger wildly. Conversely, Otacon hates war and conflict, making Snake look like quite the opposite kind of company he'd enjoy.
However, as the two talk more to one another, Otacon gains a great deal of respect for Snake and Snake comes to greatly respect Otacon. All of that stems from a simple thing: they believe in the same ideals as one another. Neither man thinks they can truly find peace for the world, but they'll do their damnest to try and go down fighting for that cause. Not only that, but both men learn harsh truths and comfort in each other's company.
For example, Otacon's infatuation with Wolf is one that Snake, though he disagrees with, completely understands. He tells Otacon that love can bloom anywhere, even on the battlefield. It just so happens that Snake and Wolf are on opposing factions and have no choice but to see which one kills the other. And, when Wolf succumbs to Snake's skill, Otacon's heart is damaged. However, it isn't crushed, as he comes to terms with himself, Wolf, and his own place in the world. It does take him some time to recover, but he doubles down in helping Snake afterwards because he knows that a man like Snake is one he wants to emulate: finish what he started and complete his duties. He even looks to sacrifice himself in the ending of the game by staying behind to keep the security locks of the base open, so Snake and Meryl would escape, showing that Otacon's dedication has become Snake's, all through Snake's own determination and sense of understanding.
One more note before I move on. Though Snake and Meryl escape the facility and the bombers that were originally targeting the base were called off, allowing Otacon to live to, I simply MUST address the alternate ending: where Meryl dies due to Snake giving into Ocelot's torture. Here, we see Snake completely crushed; his surrender caused Meryl's demise and he wishes for nothing more than for her to forgive him. He can't even find it in himself to move. Then, Otacon appears, telling Snake a similar harsh truth, yet still finds the words to comfort him. Meryl can't hear him anymore, but she lives on in him. His own love, Sniper Wolf, was gone from this world, but she would forever be with him because he chooses to keep her memory alive. The only way now, the only way in which Meryl would be remembered for her heroics and for who she was, is for Snake to live and uphold the values the two of them cherished. This simple, stern warmth is enough to empower Snake, showing that the two truly have become equals. And afterwards, David and Hal choose to no longer live alone, for themselves. They would now fight for a future.
In the canon timeline, Solid Snake and Otacon form an organization to stop Metal Gears and ensure the bright future of the world. The organization's name is Philanthropy, a word meaning "the desire to promote the welfare of others".
When we experience their plans in motion during Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (Which is my personal favorite game in the series), they are overlooking the Tanker known as Discovery to expose the existence of Metal Gear RAY. During the operation, Snake fights against the Russian Mercenaries headed by Sergei Gurlukovich and Revolver Ocelot. Then, when he gets to Metal Gear RAY, takes pictures of the machine, and uploads them to Otacon, a raid commences, leading to the sinking of the ship. This event seems like the end of Solid Snake as the rest of the world brands him as a terrorist. Why is that?
Several years later, the area the Tanker was destroyed at was made into an oil cleaning facility known as the Big Shell. Similar to Shadow Moses, a group terrorists overtake it and hold a ransom for hostages and a bunch of money, their ultimatum being the launch of a nuke. FOXHOUND then sends in their newest operative, Raiden, to deal with the situation at hand. During the ordeal, he learns of the Navy SEAL team's fate: all of them were slaughtered by the terrorists.....except for one man.
Also, for those of you that don't get this reference, shame on you. Go watch Escape from New York now. Possibly even Escape from LA.
Anyways, you might notice that this Plisskin looks and sounds incredibly familiar. Even Raiden has suspicions of who the man really is. But, in any case, the man serves as a helpful guide for Raiden throughout the mission, giving him several pointers about how to approach it and for what to do.
He also has a rather interesting debate with Raiden. When Raiden reveals that he's been trained through VR, Pliskin argues that Raiden is undertrained, or rather, mistrained. Field experience has several factors VR simply cannot account for, such as the fear of whatever comes within an operation or the margin of error that results in injury or death. Not only that, but field training is something VR training isn't: Real. The fact that Raiden has survived, let alone done so well in his mission at that point trips something in Pliskin's mind. Was this agent truly sent in as an agency's last resort? Or, is there something more under the covers?
Regardless, Raiden continues his mission, leading him to find out about Hal Emmerich being involved in the mission as well....just not as one of his personnel. Turns out, Hal and Pliskin are in fact contacts one another....and close friends. Eventually, the truth comes out and, wait for it.....
Iroquois Pliskin is in fact Solid Snake.
Now, to address the elephant in the room, Metal Gear Solid 2 is seen as the black sheep in the series and I admit it's not hard to see why. You don't play as Snake, you're duped into playing as someone who's not as mature and developed as him, and you're playing through a scenario that's a rehash of the first game. What's the point of it all?
Well, my good friends, that's the whole point of it and the genius of the game. The truth is, Raiden was never really a FOXHOUND agent, but in fact a tool for the Patriots, a shadow organization that sought to unite the world under one entity, essentially stripping it of free will entirely. From this, they crafted a drama that mirrored the events of Shadow Moses specifically because they wanted to create a version of reality that was unanimously palatable to the world at large. That, in turn, replicates the experience many of us players had during Metal Gear Solid, experiencing Snake's development as a person. Now, since most of us were stuck playing more akin to our actual selves, we got to see more of Snake's brilliance and more easily attach him to us as a role model.
He's still the melancholic badass soldier from one, but he's become more accepting to himself and what he should do to help others, not need to do for the sake of a mission. Though he feels heroes and madmen aren't so different, he still knows what the right thing to fight for is, no matter how hard it gets. He knows he's a warrior that can never escape the battlefield, so he chooses to use his expertise to make the world a better place for the next generation. Raiden, in many ways, represents the next generation and us. Through this scenario, we become more susceptible to Snake's more than ever.
When we finish the game, Snake leaves Raiden to rekindle his relationship with Rose, telling him to live his own life and find something to believe in. Afterwards, he tasks himself with finding a child hostage from the Patriots, named Sunny, and rescuing her, ending the game on a triumphant note that the mission was over, we could live our own lives, and our hero would come back safe and sound.
Finally, we come to his last outing thus far. His final mission within the epic conclusion of Metal Gear Solid 4. I know a lot of people have issues with the story for one reason or another....but this is the perfect ending point for Solid Snake as a whole. It further explores his beliefs, where they stand in the world, and whether or not he should keep going. It's honestly going to be a challenge for me to not just break and completely gush incoherently about Snake and this finale, but here we go.
Let's start with some simple plot details. So, the Patriots were responsible for several things, including the sinking of the Tanker Discovery (Revolver Ocelot was one of their members at the time) and the framing of Solid Snake for the whole thing. This is due to the fact that Solid Snake, despite being one of their finest creations, has been unintentionally putting wrenches in their plans from the very beginning. To counteract this, they tried injecting him with FOXDIE, framing him as a terrorist, and doing all in their power to strip the world's control from his heroic actions.
All of this led to a world run by The System, a collective of soldiers linked by nanomachines. Essentially, all the fears Solidus Snake originally had became true: a world put on auto-pilot and without anything real or substantial to back it.
Now, let's get to Solid Snake himself. Anyone would instantly recognize that he looks far older than he was in Metal Gear Solid 2. It's because of his cloned genes and the FOXDIE in his body worsening the accelerated aging. Due to this, he becomes frailer each day, with his estimated time left on the world being a year tops.
This sounds like the perfect reason for him to retire and just enjoy life for all that he has left, right? Well, no. Snake already sentenced himself to the fight and, by god, he's going to end his life that way, through battle. When asked to come aboard a mission to stop Liquid Ocelot, the combination of Liquid's mind and Revolver Ocelot's body, Snake obliges without a second thought. While it is a favor to Roy Campbell, he also knows that the mission is where he belongs.
Through this remarkable journey, Snake encounters several new faces that call back to his past and even people from the past repackaged as either members of the System, fallen from their former glory, or as heavily modified individuals with a stark contrast in attitude. Meryl has become the leader of a team within the System, Naomi has joined up with Liquid Ocelot to put an end to the System, Raiden has become a cybernetic ninja that has separated from Rose, and several other points.
His age of heroes, warriors who fought for ideals, has come to an end. What has followed is a farcry from his hopeful vision: technology has virtue, mindless drones have taken the place of soldiers, VR has overtaken field experience. It all looks like there's no place left for him here.
But then, Liquid Ocelot comes into the light and takes over everything. The System has been hijacked and the countless soldiers under it follow his command. Now, Snake's purpose once again becomes clear. He's going to save the world from itself. Furthermore, he's going to pass on his ideals and keep the sins of the past from moving on to the next generation.
That is his true fate.
What makes it even more sweet is how ungodly vulnerable Snake has become. He's an old man afflicted with a disease that continues to mutate, aging him far past his prime. His psyche has taken immeasurable amounts of abuse. His body suffers several strokes and heart complications that make him stumble down to the floor. To add on top of that, Liquid's takeover of the System affects him as well, due to having nanomachines. While it is not as effective, it still has the same effect as members of the System. He is struck by past memories, by trauma and all the emotional baggage he's felt in his life hitting him full force. Nothing is suppressed, yet he still pushes onward, toward his ultimate goal.
Furthermore, despite all the melancholy and trauma hitting him again, he still has it in him to be a righteous man that doesn't let his bitterness plague others. The best examples of this are his interactions with basically everyone in the story. Though Meryl is distraught by Snake's old visage and the fact that he's still going, he's still an utter inspiration for her and instills the will to live and fight. Sunny, who was raised by him and Otacon, has become a cheery girl who loves life, even taking Snake's cigarettes away from him without hesitation. Raiden, who strove to become exactly like Snake, gets dissuaded by Snake himself, who reaffirms that Raiden would waste his life and youth doing the same exact soldierly life he did. Otacon basically became his life partner. And the kindness Snake gave to Naomi all those years ago in Shadow Moses paid off, as she became the catalyst Snake and everyone else needed to free the world from the grip of war at the time.
....Honestly, I can't contain it anymore. Snake's feats during this saga are so breathtaking and unrivaled that I simply MUST talk about them. It may break up the flow of all this, but it's that damn good. He wields an anti-tank rifle barehanded and uses it to take out some smaller Metal Gear units known as GEKKOs. He can even barrel roll into one to knock it over. He bested younger and more violent variations of foes from his past. He went back to Shadow Moses Island to obtain and pilot Metal Gear REX, only to defeat the superior model Metal Gear RAY, perfectly mirroring his battle with Liquid Snake long ago.
And, most impressive, is the final stretch of the game.
Snake has to raid the vessel known as Outer Haven, a ship just as impressive as Arsenal Gear. To do this, he has to be catapulted onto the ship. Afterwards, he storms stealthily around the frigate until he reaches the entry room of JD, the AI the Patriots implemented into the System. He then bests a variation of Psycho Mantis before pushing onward, leaving Johnny Sasaki and Meryl to defend the rear. When he's inside, he suffers another heart issue, dropping to the ground as soldiers swarm him. Then, when it seems they're going to kill Snake, Raiden comes in to ward them off. Though Raiden wants to go in and stop JD himself, Snake pushes him aside, telling him to enjoy his life.
Then, we are confronted by something only the biggest sadist in history could come up with: a hallway of microwaves. For an agonizing 2 minutes of nonstop radiation, we see Snake limp, stumble, and crawl his way through, his items bursting and shredding. Then, when he finally makes it through, he's clearly not okay. He falls into the room where JD is and pukes, nearly passing out. But, even then, he gets up to protect Otacon's MK II robot against a swarm of other machines known of Dwarf Gekko. Only after JD is shut down does Snake get a rest, but it's not long before he actually passes out.
Then, when he comes to, he's greeted by none other than Liquid Ocelot himself. Their mission was completed. The world was indeed saved....
But their battle wasn't over.
Snake's final confrontation against Liquid Ocelot commenced atop the roof of Outer Haven and it's one of the greatest final battles of all time. The two truly test each other, even as battered and beaten as they are, as old and frail as they are. They show off their mastery of CQC, which Snake has come to terms with using again. They go through phases that echo the previous games. Metal Gear Solid. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. All of them are accounted for.
But, the best man had to win, and that ultimately meant that Snake triumphed once more, for the last time. From here on out, we see results of his labors and it is glorious. Johnny and Meryl marry. Campbell and Meryl makes amends with one another as father and daughter. Otacon and Drebin, an arms dealer of the Patriots, become free from war with the ability to lead normal lives. Even Raiden and Rose get back together, the former even seeing his son for the first time.
However, Snake's story doesn't have as happy an ending. His life is nearing its end. The FOXDIE originally placed in his body had become like a cancer, turning him into a ticking time bomb that could cause a worldwide epidemic. With not much else in his life, he sees that he has one more duty to accomplish: ending himself. He loads an M1911 Operator with a single bullet and puts it in his mouth, cocking the hammer.
And he pulls the trigger.....And afterwards, we see that Snake didn't go through with it.
It's a good thing. For there's one more man that awaited him at the grave of the original Boss. The first man to receive the codename of Snake. The leader of Outer Heaven. The one man his fate has always been tied to.
Big Boss himself.
Alarmed by the appearance of his eternal phantom, Snake prepares for combat once more. But, unlike their previous encounters, Big Boss is not there to fight. No, he instead drops his weapon, the famed Patriot, and brings his son in....for a hug. He requests that Snake lets go of the gun and the will to fight. He's had both for long enough and now Big Boss wants to see his son commit the rest of his days seeing the world he built up, enjoy the normal life he never got to have.
Big Boss details in the blanks of the story and wraps up everything we could have possibly wanted to know. Then, he fully puts the war between the Patriots and himself to rest by mercifully putting down the pale, wheelchair-bound Zero, his old friend and nemesis that we knew as Major Tom. After all that, Big Boss explains that Snake's FOXDIE virus was being overridden by a new string of FOXDIE. He would no longer spread an epidemic, but in doing so, it would kill Big Boss himself.
In their final moments together, Solid Snake helps Big Boss to the grave of his old master, the Boss. He salutes it one last time after realizing her will: to leave the world as it is, respecting the beliefs of others while believing in one's own ideals. He then acknowledges that Solid Snake was better than himself, the only man to truly accurately and effectively interpret and enact her will. He goes to shake his son, David's hand, but cannot as he stumbles to the virus' effect. As a final act of respect, Solid Snake lights a cigar and places it in Big Boss' mouth.
This is good, isn't it?
Big Boss finally passes on, cheating death no more. With it, he renews Solid Snake's lease on life, finally giving him the closure he needed, though he never knew so nor ever desired it. But now, the fighting was over and Snake could thrive in the accomplishments he crafted for the rest of us.
Is it any wonder why Solid Snake is so beloved by the gaming community and by people in general?
Everything crafted about him is narratively satisfying despite all the twists and turns thrown our way. We see him in his youth as a plucky up-and-comer, to his turn as a more tragic figure, to the legend everyone grew to love, to his simply breathtaking final outing.
The character himself is a truly inspirational figure, showing us that despite all the grimness in the world, we can still choose to do something good in it. No matter how bleak things may seem, our goals are always worth fighting for, even in those times it seems hopeless. Furthermore, his status as a hero is cemented firmly despite his own disagreement with it because he chooses to do the right thing for the right reasons, even as the public turns against him. He doesn't seek fame or fortune, but a future.
And what better future is there where his ideals are passed on, even and especially in a world where the future always seems uncertain?
He's accomplished everything a hero should; he saved the world on numerous occasions, he's became a wise mentor-like figure that looks to ensure the best tomorrow possible, he doesn't see himself above others, and he takes responsibilities for the actions he's committed. He doesn't hide behind excuses nor does he rely on the legacy and actions of someone else. He's chosen to define himself on his own terms, accepted yet defied a fate that was pressed onto him, atoned for the sins he and his 'family' committed, and ultimately received the greatest recognition and conclusion anyone could have had.
Simply put, Solid Snake is a timeless character beloved by many and shall always stick with us, even if his presence can only be felt through memories. The passing of his series and life have ingrained his ideals and thoughts into us, which we will fight for. I will choose to fight for them. They're worth that and more.
"I really got a sense of how strong you are during the fight!"
"I will follow the wind, wherever it may go."
"I just don't want to see battles happening in front of me."
These next picks are my favorite female characters in all of fiction. Not for reasons such as 'I think they're beautiful' or 'they're fun personalities', though, they are certainly both. No, the reason they are my favorite female characters and why they're at this point on the list is that they're precious individuals that I actually hold dear as people.
Sakura Kasugano from Street Fighter, Talim from Soul Calibur, and Maria from Junketsu no Maria.
To be blunt about things, these two gals are probably ones nobody expected to end up here. I figure that most would have guessed Wonder Woman, Cutie Honey, or even Medaka Kuorkami. Well, truth be told, while any of those three and more are great picks, I also have to stress that, despite their strong characterizations, I honestly find myself more attached to these particular two because they are able to be so much without needing to take the spotlight.
I'll be honest here, it's a bit difficult to really put what I feel into words, but I suppose I can try to boil it down to some things in the most tactful way I can do it. First and foremost, they're strong fighters with their own goals that are both relatable and quite respectable in their own rights. Next, well, despite both being women in fighting circuits, they don't really bring attention to the fact that they're women. Not that I have an issue with women standing up for themselves or anything of the like, it's more that I appreciate that they don't rely on their womanhood to prove who they are. I understand that people attach themselves to gender empowerment, which I approve of if they don't take it too far, but what comes first isn't their gender, but how they present themselves as people. Lastly, despite the two of them being rather simplistic in design, something about how they are in action makes them really come alive. They have distinct default mannerisms, such as cheery and adventurous for Sakura while Talim is more serene and easy-going with Maria being a mix of both, but the small moments when they do shift their tones to grit, sternness, and even their small bits of vulnerability make them highly endearing.
To start things off, Sakura Kasugano is probably the best fan in all of fiction. I know there's other characters that have more dedication the modeling themselves after their idol, but Sakura manages to do so in moderation. While she took up the way of street fighting to become like her favorite, Ryu, she also strove to improve her own actual skills, not just copy him. Due to this, she's a wonder to play as. In several ways, she's a glass cannon, as her moves can be described as quick but powerful burst variations of the Shotokan playstyle and all of her moves have a wonderful flair to them that don't come off as cocky, but scrappy. It's her best way of representing the style she wanted to emulate while also holding true to her own approach to a fight. The fact that she also has her own original moves that focus more on her own mobility compliment her status as a fighter and her own personality.
Speaking of which, her personality genuinely makes me smile. While, at first, she was just a simple fangirl, she developed into a more well-rounded character. However, even when she was that fangirl, she never came across as annoying or overly silly, which I highly adore. Anyways, after she had fought Ryu for the first time, she requested to learn directly under him. However, Ryu turned the idea down, stating that he himself has a lot to learn before he is ready to teach anyone. While this is a splendid immediate character moment for Ryu, it ends up making Sakura all the more awesome, as her development is fleshed out. When the next tournament came about, she still wanted to learn under Ryu, still under the belief that he was the master she had to be tutored by. However, when Ryu lost himself to M.Bison/Vega's influence during that tournament, Sakura stepped in with Ken to help Ryu snap out of it, Sagat joining the fray later on to assist her. Through their struggle, Sakura and Sagat are able to get through to Ryu. While I feel Sagat's urgings to Ryu to not lose himself to his own demons were more effective, I like that Sakura pushes Ryu back to himself through more simple means by stating how he's the man she wanted to follow. Then, afterwards, Ryu doubles down that he's still learning, which Sakura actually accepts. She still believe he's special in some way, but understands that she must let him come into his own.
During the events of Street Fighter 4 and 5, Sakura is much less a fangirl and more an aspiring fighter with her own ambitions. While she still praises Ryu as a champion of fighting, she doesn't try to become just like him. Instead, she seeks to equal him as herself and try to pick up a few things along the way whenever they fight it out. She also happens to become a lot more cheery during fights with others. Originally, she was happy during fights, but she also a bit of a sore winner. Now, she is a lot more respectable to her foes, even bowing before a match and always looking to compliment the opponent with smile after it. Not only that, but she's also shown her more personal troubles during these times. During 4, we see that she constantly worries that she won't be good enough to leave her mark as a fighter. In 5, she actually gets a freaking job and admits that she understands that Ryu wouldn't have a student for a long time, that student may not be her, and that she hesitated with the mindset of becoming stronger being a worthwhile way to live. From this, we see that she's grown from a teenager to a woman, capable on her own yet also open to any help she's offered to express in her own way. Furthermore, the way she handles these personal problems astounds and impresses me. Despite her own doubts in her dreams, she'll keep going because she truly believes that the day she proves herself will come. As for her love for Ryu and street fighting, she understands that she needs to take care of her responsibilities first, which Ryu praises her for. Not only that, but despite the wish to have children with Ryu, she awkwardly yet firmly states that she's certainly not ready to take on that task yet. Sakura's often been described as the Street Fighter embodiment of Innocence, which I whole-heartedly agree with and utterly cherish her as a result.
On the other hand, we have Talim, who I feel is the best priestess in all of fiction. Like Sakura, her dedication to her ideology is just enough to make it engaging, but also subdued enough to keep her from being preachy or self-righteous. Her playstyle portrays her characterization quite nicely, as she's easy to use, easy to learn, but difficult to master. Due to her unique weapon choice, she relies on the fighting style of Eskrima, making her a close-range specialist. Despite her lack of range, she's also one of the nimblest fighters in the game, using quick sidesteps and dodges to outmaneuver an opponent's guard. Put simply, she's a glass cannon like Sakura, but unlike her, she uses more of her speed and technique than pure ability. It's rather fitting, honestly, that she has a free flowing style, as she is a priestess of the wind.
In her role as a priestess of the wind, Talim has done more than enough to secure her spot on this list. You would think she'd be an easy-going priestess and you'd be right. She's always wandering around to search for people she can help, all with a lovely smile and a friendly demeanor. However, what's honestly surprising, no, shocking about her.....she's actually one of the maturest Soul Calibur characters.....and one of the youngest. Yeah, somehow, a girl at the age of 15 has one of the kindest hearts and wisest minds in the entire series. I've heard detractors of her call her a Mary Sue because of this, but I really don't see that whatsoever. What makes her more than just a mere Mary Sue (aside from the actual definition not matching up with what most people use it for in describing characters) is her actions. She doesn't beat everyone, but for those she does defeat, she doesn't talk down to them nor think of malice. No, she does her best to save them. Take for example Necrid, a man that was mutated by Soul Edge and could only be returned to his human state. He sought out Soul Edge to repair the damage done to him, slaughtering anyone in his way. However, when he ran into Talim, she didn't think of him as a rampaging beast, but as a man tormented by demons he could not overcome. After their battle, Talim emerged victorious, inadvertently leaving Necrid in a critical condition. Though he was consumed by his monstrous side, Talim did something wonderful and purified him back to his human state, allowing him to die in peace. She was willing to save this monster despite all the atrocities he committed....all because she sensed he was in pain.
And it doesn't stop there, either. Her greatest feat was yet to come. In Soul Calibur 4, the final boss of the game is Algol, a man who captured the Soul Calibur and the Soul Edge to soothe his guilty conscience over killing his son, Arcturus. In most endings of the game, he is either stripped of his power or killed outright before having his power taken from him. However, Talim does neither thing. In an act of true benevolence, she uses their power to return the one thing that has caused him grief and agony: his son. Yes, with the combined power of the Soul Swords, Talim brings Arcturus back to life, no longer tainted by the influence of Soul Edge. Algol and, in turn, myself were utterly moved beyond words. Not only that, but she didn't take the swords for herself or the safety of the world. She trusted Algol to keep them, for she saw him as a noble man with a heavy heart. With that heavy heart removed, he was free to rule as the king he once was.
That's not to say that Talim is overly hopeful or anything, no. As I said, she is a wise character, and has limits as to who she helps. For example, the character Zasalamel seeks to create a world where everyone does the right thing in stability. However, Talim sees through this and knows that he looks for tyranny and the erasure of free will itself. Not only that, but she also doesn't hesitate against pure evil, such as Nightmare or Inferno. That said, she also tries to at least understand evil characters, such as Tira, and even persuades them from fighting and going through with their intentions. No doubt, Talim stands as the symbol of Purity in Soul Calibur, and I love her all the more for it.
Last, but certainly not least, we come to Maria the Virgin Witch. Sakura is seen as the embodiment of Innocence and Talim represents Purity, so Maria is what happens when you combine the two. What I truly admire about her, first and foremost, is her determination and integrity in expressing her pacifism. She lives in one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history: the Hundred Years' War. In this story, most of the other witches are contracted by France and England respectively to tilt the odds in their respective favors. However, Maria is the only one amongst them that does something else: She actually interrupts the two from fighting, summoning monsters to keep the forces from bloodshed. All of this stems from her overwhelming compassion and pacifism. She utterly detests battles because of the harshness and bloodshed mankind could inflict on one another.
Now, despite her kind and utterly virtuous soul and goal, she is unfortunately subjected to the fanaticism that plagues the era. People swarm to the church for spiritual comfort, which results in those same people becoming overly zealous of upholding their religion absolutely. Any who are not one of them are seen as monstrous heretics that need to be forced into their way of thinking, even if human brutality is on full display. However, despite such hostility, she still chooses to help others regardless of how she's treated, regardless of how many people are so quick to burn her at the stake because she's a witch. That kind of integrity to do what she knows is right astounds me to speechlessness.
For those who know her warmth to be true, despite their faith, they find her to be a charming woman who's always fun to be around. I specifically adore her relationship with Anne, a small child who has heard about Maria's adventures; Martha, an elderly woman saved by Maria and eternally grateful to her; Ezekiel, an angel that was tasked with watching Maria so she wouldn't stop battles only to find herself sympathizing with Maria's cause; and Joseph, her gentle-hearted love interest that serves the Kingdom of France. All of her interactions with them are deeply intriguing, especially as Maria tries to find her own place in a world that keeps trying to reject her ideals and philosophy.
All this comes together through her conflicts with one entity: God himself. Though I have grown with religion, I still find myself questioning my faith, as there are several instances where I've seen its ideals not upheld by its followers. So, when I saw Maria clashing with Ezekiel and the archangel Michael in ethics, it mirrored how I felt. Ezekiel and Michael say to leave mankind to its own bloody devices, saying that through their suffering, they shall find purpose and progress. Maria, on the other hand, challenges this mentality, noting that she shouldn't stand by and let others slaughter one another when love and kindness can help them all the same. This conflict develops Maria further, as her own attitude toward her own reputation morphs from one of a heroic pariah to a woman who finds it necessary to seek her own happiness in addition to the betterment of others. The people who care about her worry for her safety, which she comes to acknowledge as she is exposed to the full potential of the human spirit and then comes to terms with the world in all its being. In this acceptance, she chooses to continue to defend all life under any circumstance and understands that it makes her happy. That, for me, is vividly beautiful and precious beyond comparison.
With all that said, these two embody certain aspects that truly breach my heart. They are pure and innocent, but in ways that are at their fullest potential. Sakura, though innocent, is not naive. She's more a woman who hangs onto the ideals she knew when she was young and evolves them as she grows to better suit her maturity. Meanwhile, Talim, though pure, is not puritan. She does the right thing because it's the right thing, not because they are standards in which all are to follow. She merely does what should be done. Maria embodies both worlds best, being a fun-loving, benevolent, and caring person that'll stick her neck out for others no matter what, even if her love for others is considered a crime against God.
That, in essence, is why these three are simply the most precious characters in fiction for me. They soften and soothe my soul whenever I see them in action and I look forward to the next steps on their journeys. Here's to the women who have taught me so much with such simplistic designs.
"Dreams, huh? I wonder if my dreams will come true. I don't know about any of that....I just run into my goals blindly. Then, when I realize that it's not what I made it out to be, I fall and get depressed over and over again. But....but you see...I keep telling myself, 'This time, for sure!' To definitely reach my dreams...If I go hard at it, one step at a time....Go beyond where I was yesterday....It's to see what kind of future I can reach and grab hold of it!"
"I place no blame on you. I won't even question what these swords are. However, they threaten the very fabric of nature. So, I'll return them to their true forms....And you as well. O wind, I beg of you....bring peace and tranquility to all...."
"Michael, I've got a word for you too! Whether I have my magic or not, I'm going to stop battles the same as always! All of them! And if you're going to kill me for that, then go right on ahead!...Well, with all the commotion recently, I had time to think on a lot of things, and I think I know a bit about how you folks feel now. So....Let your Father know this....That I'll forgive him just this once."
These next two are one in the same, as they both embody the heroic, patriotic spirit I looked up to as a wee child. Even today, I have nothing but bulletproof admiration for these guys, not just because of nostalgia, but also because they're some of the best 'human' characters, both metaphorically and literally, to have ever grace fiction. They have all the criteria to be both the best of soldiers and men amongst men.
Carter Grayson from Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue and Captain America from Marvel Comics.
I'll be upfront about this. I have always been a big fan and supporter of soldiers. They're the bravest of the brave who go out into the world and keep us safe from the cruelty of the worst of humanity. Many people detest them for the fact that they're warriors and solve problems with bloodshed. However, I never really understood this mentality. I get wanting to have peaceful resolutions to situations, but the truth is that there's going to points where we don't always receive ethically pleasing results. Even then, soldiers are not mindless killers, they're an elite force meant to do what most cannot. And they can and have reached peaceful solutions.
These two individuals are some of the best depictions of soldiers in my opinion. They're battle-hardened badasses, but they also fight with a drive to uphold the best of what people have to offer. Whether on the homefront or outside of our borders, I can always count on these guys to inspire me to keep going. They're courageous, selfless, and contain the best parts of the American spirit.
To start things off, I'll say it right now; Carter Grayson is the first hero I've ever looked up to. That's not an exaggeration by any stretch of the word. When I was four, there's always a memory that stuck with me: Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue. It defined a lot of things about myself then and now: a strong sense of justice, a love for the ideals of my country, and an undying respect for the armed forces that protect us. All of these traits were instilled into me mostly due to this guy. He was my absolute favorite character on the show and for good reason. Every moment he was on-screen, I remember how much I had fumbled about on my seat, cheering him on with passion. I even dressed up as his ranger form for Halloween one time, getting into character so much that I had actually called someone wearing a Titanium Ranger outfit 'Ryan', not realizing that wasn't him.
That said, I should actually analyze him rather than reminisce about my childhood.
Carter Grayson is a firefighter and the first we see of him is him doing his job. When I was a kid, I was in awe of a man as fearless as him. As I am now, I see that the scene also showed the kind of man Carter was. He's no-nonsense, to-the-point, and a hardworking man that will fight tirelessly to save the lives of others. Heck, the building that he has to enter has flames too intense for the firetruck's ladder to get close to. So, what does he do?
He jumps off the ladder to get inside.
Also during this particular rescue, he also captures a glimpse of a face in flames; not of a man, but of an actual demon. While he's shocked by the sudden appearance of the apparition, he doesn't let it distract him from saving a young girl. In fact, as the demon shoots a geyser of flames at him, he runs and jumps through a window with the girl in his arms, shielding her from the impact when they landed into a trampoline. Oh, and he jumped from the second story window, adding another element of danger.
After that, there was no doubt as to why he was chosen by the Lightspeed Organization to be the Red Ranger, AKA the leader. And, of course, the guy just continued to impress me. After meeting with the other rangers and the leader of the organization, Captain Mitchell, Carter receives his morpher and a spiffy team jacket. Just a quick note, I want a copy of that jacket. Anyways, the team is then alerted of an attack on the city by the demon Carter saw in the building. When they get there, it should be noted that Carter and the other rangers don't morph immediately, but they also don't try to hide their identities. This gave me an even better connection to Carter because it gave me a sense of trust in local law enforcement (Yeah, shocking to hear, huh?). It also told me that the most respectable heroes are those who choose to let people know who they are without needing to be a symbol for them. Underneath all that spandex and mystique lies a normal person who wants to do the right thing, and I like how the series and characters don't treat their civilian status as a necessary secret identity.
Also, we get a good glimpse of one of Carter's best traits: When there's a monster attacking, he does NOT fuck around. He's going straight for the best possible option to deal with the threat effectively and efficiently.
Look at this. While the rest of his team is trying to take on the demons with their bare hand-to-hand skills, Carter stays in the HUMVEE jeep and looks to run over the demons, even aiming for the main demon himself.
While this does get him blasted by a stream of flames, this trait shows just how badass Carter is and how badass he was going to be throughout the series. What makes this efficiency and fearlessness so good, too, is that it's synonymous with him. While the other rangers also have it to some capacity, he has it the most. Even among other Red Rangers, Carter is THE quick-thinking pragmatist.
To give context to this one scene, Carter and other Red Rangers such as Cole Evans, Jason Scott Lee, Tommy Oliver, and others are currently invading the headquarters of the remaining members of the Machine Empire. All of them fend off the foot soldiers, known as Cogs, using their own method of martial arts....except Carter. He automatically whips out his pistol and just shoots them. Even more technology-based rangers such as Andross and Eric Meyers use their bare hands to combat them.
While some may call this dishonorable or lame, I counter with it's the best answer to the situation at hand. Besides that, it shows that Carter, unlike several of the other Red Rangers, is NOT impulsive. Due to his occupation as a firefighter, he's calm under pressure and can make choices that serve to do the most for whatever he has to accomplish. Furthermore, he was prone to the same mistakes as those other rangers: being too headstrong. However, it's through his training that he becomes a better thinker, such as finding situations where the least amount of people would be hurt in a crisis or how to take down the most amount of hostiles without overextending himself or his resources.
His bravery and pragmatism aren't his only good traits, of course. The other two defining qualities that, while not isolated to him alone, are his compassion and his determination.
When talking about his compassion, it's easy to see that he's among the kindest, up there with the likes of Cole Evans and TJ Johnson. Besides his firefighting and rescues, there's two examples I remember fondly.
The first is during the episode Trial by Fire. In it, Carter has his enemy, Vypra, up against the wall, his blaster pointed at her. However, she sees something she doesn't: a pile of gas barrels hidden underneath a pile of rubble. She shoots it and the ceiling of the area starts to collapse on some nearby bystanders. His immediate reaction is to save the nearby civilians and shield them from the rubble. However, Captain Mitchell tells him to put out the fire, which he does reluctantly. This results in a young boy being hit by debris and being put into a coma. This devastates Carter, to the point that he actually stops being a ranger for some time. What really drives it home for me is how he reacted. At first, he confronts Captain Mitchell, saying that the boy wouldn't have been hurt had he immediately assisted the people escape. However, when he goes to visit the unconscious boy, we see that he really blames himself for the whole ordeal, saying he wasn't enough to help him. In that moment, we see that he doesn't see himself above others and that he doesn't like seeing people hurt. In spite of his self-doubt, he still chooses to help people because they need help.
The second instance comes in the two-parter Trakeena's Revenge. When a little girl is left alone by herself as a result of her parents being abducted by aliens, Carter goes to her to comfort her. If you've seen my previous entry, people who decide to help a lost/scared/lonely child without hesitation are outright badasses.
Now, when it comes to talking about his determination, he is easily one of the best examples I've ever seen. You might be wondering why he chose to become a firefighter of all things. Well, it's simple. When he was a kid, he was saved from burning and suffocating to death in his own room when it caught fire. The sight that stuck with him for the rest of life in that instant was the firefighter who held up a burning chunk of debris so he could get out. While the debris caved in and Carter never knew who that firefighter was for some time (It turned out to be Captain Mitchell), this action caused a solitary and admirable goal that makes him both an underdog and a myth in the eyes of the people: He wanted to be just like the man who saved him. Whether his face was known or unknown, he pushed himself tirelessly to become a hero.
There's quite a few moments sprinkled about showing just exactly how bad he wants it. For example:
In spite of being able to blast this demon that can copy itself, but the copies also hurt one another when either the original or the copy takes damage, he decides not to shoot him at first. It isn't because he doesn't guts for it, oh no, he shoots the moment the demon tries to attack him from behind. No, it's because he wishes to deal with the situation properly. He wanted to save his friend not by stooping to coldly shooting a demon in the face, but by being there to fight by his side. Even when he shoots the monster, it goes to show that he'll do the right thing and he's not afraid to get hurt.
If you're not convinced yet, then take a look at this:
His Megazord's down after a long fight. There's two gigantic demon beasts about to tear the city apart. And what's his first move?
Run up to them and shoot them in the face with his blasters.
The sheer will to protect others, even when he has virtually nothing left, is so utterly astonishing. He even gets smacked by a building-sized sword and he still gets up, ready to shoot them even more.
Lastly, after punching the Queen of Demons in the face, knocking her into a gateway into the underworld....
He's closed to get dragged down to it by her and it hanging on for dear life. However, despite his predicament, he doesn't ask for help, doesn't beg to be saved. He accepts what must be done in order to save the day. He shouts "Close the lid" to his friends. That is amazing. And while he ultimately does get pulled out thanks to interference to a demon who has gained respect for Carter, it just goes to show that he'll do whatever it takes, whatever he can do to do the right thing.
This man is my childhood hero and there's not enough praise I can honestly give him.
Captain America. Honestly....this is one of those guys on this list who needs absolutely no introduction whatsoever. You know him, I know him, he's an absolute icon with tons of respect and admiration not only in America, but around the world. In fact, most would say it would be an absolute challenge to make an interesting essay about him because there's so much that's been said about him.
Well, I think I have pretty good one. You see, while everyone else admired Cap as the star-spangled Avenger that brought peace, prosperity, morality, and principle to wherever he went, I never really knew about him for a long time in my childhood. Strange as it is, I was too absorbed with his rival company to take interest. Even then, there was already icon in my mind that was my hero. In fact, the only real reason I knew Captain America was for his appearance in the Marvel vs. Capcom series of games, which I simply adored. He was easily one of the my top picks for his versatility, but I never really knew who he was.
That said, I actually did give his comics a shot later on while I was in High School. Honestly, I think I may have lucked out with my first choice: it was "What If: Issue #44: What if Captain America Were Not Revived Until Today?". I remember my first read so well. I was taken aback at seeing a doppelganger take the place of Cap, polluting the minds of his fellow citizens into accepting the words of a fascist madman like drones. This in turn made me wait in jubilation for the appearance of the real Captain America and for what he would say about it all. The lies, the bastardization, the sheer disrespect for the ideals he cherished so dearly. And boy howdy, I was not disappointed.
He fought tooth and nail to restore his good name. He called out everything the impostor did. The denial of others, the hatred to keep them chained down, the coddling of the masses to support "security and peace". And most importantly, keeping 'freedom' to 'only those who deserve it'. It was undoubtedly satisfying.
But what came next was even more endearing and powerful:
In this speech, he outlines why America was worth fighting for. Not because it's a monument of greatness, never to be topped, nor a festering pile that needed to be stamped out. No, America is a fragile nation built upon wondrous ideals, but counterintuitive practices. With his rousing words, he sets the record straight. Truth, justice, and freedom. America is all about those ideals, but it has used it in ways that have rewarded those who are the most cutthroat, who would choose to selectively keep themselves happy at the expense of others. He points out that's not how things should be. America should be welcoming to all, because it was made as a counter to the old world of strength and might making what's right. Now, America should push for better ideals and stand strong and proud to represent them. Because there are those who wish to defile them, abuse them for their own purposes. Not only that, but there are countless who deserve to know how the warmth of mankind feels from every corner of the globe.
And Steve Rogers knows this better than anyone, for he was among the weakest in body. He was not the man one would deem soldier-material on a surface level. But past that barrier lied his true purpose: he was meant to be the man who would save us. Not just us, mind, but everyone, regardless of species or power. All because he's a good man.
While I was aware of the original Captain origin sometime after I read my first Cap comic, Hitler jaw punching and all, it wasn't until The First Avenger that I saw it in action. And honestly, I'm glad I first experienced such a streamlined variation of the origin.
Basically, we see every bit of Cap's moral fiber before we even see Captain America.
In this scene, for example, he shows how respectful he is to the military, the people around him, and the courage he has to stand up to wrongdoings. When he goes to the clinic, he knows full well of the risks he would partake in and doesn't care. He wants to fight the good fight no matter his own condition. And, despite knowing he'd likely get rejected, he has the dignity to face it down and accept it, having the will to try again anyways. In the theater, he knows that the other people, whether they care for the military advertisements or not, want to watch the movie without the rudeness of some impatient fool. Therefore, he steps up to the plate and confronts the man, frail and puny as he may be. It's not about if he was the big man in the situation, but the bigger man.
This resolve eventually pays off, as he catches the attention of Dr. Erskine, a scientist looking for the perfect subject for his experimental super soldier serum.
And, after a few tests, including one where a prop grenade is thrown out into the field to see how everyone would react (Rogers chose to cover the grenade with his body to shield the others), Rogers is chosen to be the subject for the test. Why?
He's exactly the heroic kind of individual that can handle such power. It's because of his care for others that makes him so strong. The bullies who picked on him were cowards that looked out for themselves, toying with the weak and fearing the strong. But Steve is already the strong for embracing the greatest qualities of men: honor, discipline, compassion, selflessness. These are the traits of a true man.
In fact, there are several instances in which Cap's own heroic and mature attributes are easily on-par with Carter's. For example, Steve has never had an ounce of hatred in him for anyone based on their genes, their mutations from what one would deem 'normal'. When Magneto, the extremist mutant, gets his hands on a device to erase prejudice of mutantkind from one's mind, he uses it on Captain America because he wanted to have the best man in the world to truly be the best in the world.
And what happens as a result?
He was already that.
He wasn't changed by the device because he never thought badly of mutants to begin with. This moment was so astounding to me and, more importantly, Magneto himself. The whole time, Magneto had hated man, for the abuse he suffered drilled into him taught him nothing but the worst of mankind and could not separate the pain and reality. In this instant, however, Magneto's hateful and solitary mindset is broken, for the impossibly implausible had just appeared before him. It breaks his will to fight, to torment, all because he found the kindness in the being he demonized so much for its demonization of himself.
And that's what makes Captain America so wonderful as a character. He's strong, he's a vulnerable human who could be hurt by things well-above his weight class, he still excels against those above his weight class, but at the end of the day, this is why Dr. Erskine chose him. Captain America never fought others to make them pay, not to punish them for their wrongs. No, his goal was far more altruistic and admirable. He sought to stand up for others because they could not. He understood that the best heroes are those who choose to fight selflessly.
I've seen cases like this before, where such simple kindness is alien to the person receiving it. However, this scene showed me what happens when kindness finally breaks through to someone's soul. They lose the anger, the turmoil that plagues them. They have felt the sting of compassion, of its grip which overpowers any and all wrath that may have encompassed their being. From that challenge on their misery, they crumble, allowing themselves to open up and experience something other than the hardship. They are able to feel joy and the drive for self-improvement that had long eluded them. Captain America's simplistic, tried and true methodology astounds me, even moreso when it is applied and proven to be overwhelmingly effective in a world that's supposed to be increasingly complex and actually alien to him. Much like the previous entry on my list, he inspires the new world by teaching it the proper moral values he upheld in his day and age.
I could honestly keep rambling on about what makes Captain America such a beloved American icon, upholding the nation's ideals to its fullest potential; how he's the model human being, having qualities all people should aspire to emulating and eventually attaining; but really, his entire history is littered with scenes that do him more justice than anything I could ever say about him could. His dutiful, warm existence puts a smile on everyone's face because he represents the best they'd ever want from principles and heart.
It's not hard to see why I admire these men, these heroic legends, so dearly. They represent the proudest aspects of my country, the ideals I wish she and her people can one day unite under completely. The pursuit of happiness and moral stability combined together to create an everlasting and hopeful tomorrow.
I may not be a perfect man, no one truly is, and there's several days where I and others struggle to call me a good person. I'll make my mistakes, sometimes graver than I anticipated. I can't mend every bridge nor repair every crack. But, truth is, I'm entitled to what I've done. I can't change the past nor should I let it drag me down. I have to keep moving forward, holding onto the ideals I've learned from better people such as these two. It isn't a matter of succeeding or failing. What matters is that I keep fighting and do my best to fight for the best possible outcome, even after I've hit a bump or fallen down. These two taught me such courage to own up to who I am, to embrace who I am, and strive to better myself, but also not be too harsh to myself or others.
While Carter was originally my Captain America, I soon learned about the latter and realized why he deserved all the praise and admiration from fans. Eventually, I saw these two for what they really were: equals in spirit. One may have been the one I'd known for so long, the other may have had the bigger impact to the world. But, they fight for the same things and fight for their common goal with such powerful dignity, class, and simplistic heroism that I stand in awe for both of these fine gentlemen. Their entire beings have molded my sensibilities and I am eternally grateful that I am able to look up to these men with reverent pride and astonishment as I go about my days.
These two soldiers are well-above their peers because they are the paragons, the examples in which others strive to follow.
"Every mile I run, every drop of sweat, I'm....doing it to be as good as him. A fireman who saved my life as a kid. I was in my room when our house caught on fire. I was nearly passed out when he suddenly ran in to rescue me. A burning board fell, but he held it up so I could escape. I never did find out who he was. That's why I train....I wanna be just like my hero."
"Captain America is not here to lead the country. I'm here to serve it. If I'm a captain, I'm a soldier. Not any of the military branch....but of the American people. Years ago, in a simpler time, this suit and this shield were created as a symbol to help make America the land it's supposed to be....to help it realize its destiny. Ricocheting from super-villain duel to super-villain duel doesn't always serve that purpose. There's a difference between fighting against evil and fighting for the common good. I'm not always able to choose my battles....but effective immediately, I'm going to make an effort to choose the battles that matter. Battles against injustice....against cynicism....against intolerance."
This next fellow is easily one of the manliest characters of all time and one I personally feel can work in any time period because he is the living embodiment of a time long gone, but not forgotten. Through his simple logic, he fights against the decadence of modern society and upholds the morality his age fought tooth and nail to honor.
Akira Kongou from Kongou Banchou.
Now, for those of you who have read my number 9 choice already (Which I'm very certain you did, because why would you be up here if you didn't), I prefer the older shonen era, particularly the 80s to early 90s, to the newer shonen era, which would be from late 90s onward. I'm not saying the newer era is bad or anything, but in terms of how stories are represented, how the characters are handled, I often find that the newer shonen focuses on how much of an underdog they are and how they can raise up against the society. While I relate to underdogs a lot, as there are many times in my life I look down on myself and have had quite a few people who do look down on me, I often read shonen to find someone to look up to, to model myself after. I want to read stories of people who have truly found their ideals, will put their lives on the line to protect others around them without hesitation, and can be counted on to live up to what they preach.
So, when this series, Kongou Banchou, blended the two eras together so ingeniously? I simply couldn't turn away from it once I picked it up. The premise is pretty simple; in modern-day Japan, there's a secret plan to enforce ethical thinking into the populace. Though the place is relatively peaceful, it is riddled with complacency and allows wrongdoing to go by just to ensure that the peace continues unhindered. Besides the 23 Districts plan, there are no big movements that spurn the youth or the people of Japan to stand up for themselves, for what's right. So, the 23 Disctricts plan, which puts Banchou as the leaders of the 23 districts of Tokyo, seeks to create a utopia in which a single leader can instill the power and righteousness of the old era into the new age. However, this underground war also causes several innocents to get involved in the crossfire, forcing Akira's hand.
While this premise is amazing, I know what most of you are wondering. How is this obscure manga character so high up?
This. This is the first act we see of him in the entire series.
He was ridiculed by this teacher, who called his delinquent ways repulsive and said the man was a good-for-nothing troublemaker. He also had ramen dumped on his head and the teacher physically assaulted him. Then, when a set of steel girders rain down due to poor handling by construction workers, Akira springs into action to SAVE the teacher without a single bit of hesitation. Despite all the abuse the teacher just did to him, he selflessly and effortlessly saved him. Why?
The teacher had a family.
No other reason is needed because it's utterly simple. That man had people had others who cared about him and he cared about other people.
Just from that singular act, I already knew what I was getting into and I relished in every moment of it. Hell, in the same issue, Akira does things like make a complacent manchild to own up to his actions in the best way possible, tanks the strongest hit of a boxing prospect because he knew that the other guy had no chance and understood that he wasn't trained to fight for vigilantism, and even invading a Yakuza headquarters to make a member apologize to a little girl for ripping her picture up.
Speaking of the little girl, when we see their first meeting, we get a good look at how kind and noble Akira really is as a person.
As you can see, the little girl, Tsukimi, is lost on her way home because her sister was late in picking her up. A whole crowd of civilians, despite seeing her and getting the impression that she's lost, don't even give her the time of day, instead brushing her aside to go about their own lives. This especially strikes a chord with me because I've seen experiments in real life that show that people these days really are like this. They don't look at lost children as a problem they should deal with, whether out of an uncaring attitude toward the plight of them or a fear that they'd look like a pedophile or abductor.
Then, Akira swoops in without a second thought to lend his aid to the girl. Not only that, but he puts Tsukimi on his shoulders, ensuring her safety and showing all of the onlookers how a situation like that should be handled. He also chats with her, making her feel comfortable around him by asking her about how she got lost, taking the time to look at her picture, and complimenting her on her innocent and kind spirit. Despite his stoic and intimidating presence, Akira shows that he is also a highly compassionate man that would lend his hand to the weak and downtrodden without question.
In fact, a Yakuza Lieutenant in the headquarters he invaded even comments on the rarity of a man like Akira and of the honorable qualities they had.
To put things bluntly, heroes like Akira, especially in Japan and the realm of Shonen, are pushed aside. It's understandable to see why; people gradually wanted more grounded/varied characters in the medium. They found that the heroes of Akira's era became stale or they were simply too unrealistic for their tastes. However, this shift in attitude also created a huge problem in societal decay. In the world of Kongou Banchou and in the real world, the number of people who withdraw from society in Japan in some way increased exponentially since the 80s. NEETS (Not in Education, Employment, or Training), Otakus, Hikikomoris, all these groups are well beyond the million threshold. All of them have intense issues with self-motivation and self-respect. Simply put, the people of modern Japan are comprised of a lot of people who won't stand up themselves.
When you think about it, the 23 Districts plan sounds like something Akira would take advantage of, to straighten society out. However, that's not how Akira operates. He knows that the society keeps rotting away, but being a totalitarian ruler has never been his way because he is one of the kindest people in the series and across fiction. In fact, another display of his kindness comes when he is asked by a group of parents of a hikikomorri to help their son step outside, get a job, and better himself as a person. It's easily one of the best chapters of any manga I've ever read and I highly recommend giving it a read. The exact point of when this event takes place is volume 3, chapter 19. To add to this, there's the tragedy that molded his kindness to its fullest potential; the death of his mother Sayuri. She was a well-renowned nurse stationed in a civil war. When he, Takeshi, and Soara visited her at a young age, it was unfortunately the day when the two sides became engulfed in battle. While Akira was busy saving a young woman, Sayuri went inside of the collapsing shelter to find Akira. This resulted in her being gravely injured, unable to recover. In her final moments, she outlined the best qualities of each of her children. Takeshi was the most delicate-hearted, Soara was one who would love everyone....and Akira was the kindest. Afterwards, Akira and Takeshi experience a crowd of people who despised Sayuri's position, people who were seen as close supporters by the children. While this volatile betrayal turned Takeshi into a man who wishes to see all the wicked punished in the worst way possible, this situation caused Akira to see how scary violence is and, when he visited his mother's grave, he saw that there are people who mourn the deeds of the noble. Akira fights for a better tomorrow, in which allies and foes can come together in peace and principle.
Besides that, there's also Akira's thoughts on how women are portrayed in society. During his confrontation with the complacent manchild, he gets surrounded by scantily clad women that serve that manchild's lustful wishes in an attempt to make Akira his personal bodyguard. However, after yelling at him that he doesn't care with such force that everyone in the classroom is shaken up, he then turns his attention to those same women, he covers them with his massive jacket, stating that they shouldn't cheapen themselves to such a degree. This shows that Akira is against the selling of one's body, as it is distasteful to the individual to do so. He also shows disdain to the idea of a maid cafe, as he views it as another way in which people degrade themselves and their bodies. However, he is NOT inherently against women who use their own appeal in productive ways. The best example is his own attitude toward Soara, his own sister. She is a pop idol who is a hardworking individual that does her best to love all of her fans. At first, one would assume that she's just another idol who sells her own image to gain popularity, fame, and fortune, being completely different in reality. Heck, we even learn that she does it in protest against her own father and older brother, Takeshi. However, it soon becomes apparent that she's truly dedicated to her role, wanting to spread love to as many people as she can, instead of preaching about the correct values and whatnot. For that, Akira whole-heartedly respects and encourages Soara's wishes, telling her to follow her dreams and uphold her principles as she pleases.
Finally, the inspiration Akira teaches to his peers and his foes is utterly astounding. Across the series, Akira comes to blows with several members of the 23 Districts plan, such as a bishonen samurai that sought to restore the values of Bushido, a Buddhist monk that wanted to bring the people to enlightenment, an excitable tomboy that wanted to be a superhero of the people, a coward that seeks to better the station of orphans by any means necessary, and so on. He defeats them all, but not once does he humiliate these people, tear them down. Instead, he finds honor in their various methods and praises them in the only way he can: with simple logic. From this mere understanding and acceptance, he gains irreplaceable friends. And, while he seeks to do things properly, he does not try to selfishly accomplish everything on his own nor sees himself above others. When his friends come to fight at his side, he accepts their help without quarrel. At the same time, he will never run from a fight and always fight alongside them.
This same inspiring mentality even spreads to the common man. Recall that complacent manchild I've brought up. His name is Oyanana and his redemption arc is quite endearing and empowering for the normal man. In many ways, he represents the new shonen that learns from the best of old shonen. At first, he relied on his status as the favorite son of his school's Chairman of the Board. He abused his riches, bribing everyone he could to advance his own interests and keep anyone he wanted in line. However, his mistake of trying to make Akira his bodyguard led to him becoming infatuated with the strength of character Akira displayed. When we see him pop up in the second volume, we see him trying to atone for the bribes he's pulled by cutting off those same bribes face to face with the people he bribed. Then, when the underlings of another Banchou show up to 'punish the sinners', Oyanana stands to protect them, despite them beating him up for cutting off the bribes. In that moment, he understood that he couldn't run from what he did anymore nor could he stand for the people he's manipulated, the people he still deemed his friends, being brutalized. He stands tall and proud as a man, even outright tearing down the enemy Banchou's cult by saying that a real man doesn't send others to do what they cannot do for themselves.
Here, we see the underdog rising up against the society that damns him and others like him, which I feel is the root of new shonen. And it's all thanks to the strength that the man of old shonen gave to him.
And even then, that's not his shining moment.
Later on, Akira is in fact killed for a short time. While everyone believes him to be fully dead, including Oyanana himself, he refuses to bow to the new regime of the machine that killed Akira. He sees that ruling with power, not with purpose, is wrong. However, he is alone in that situation as several androids surround him and his fellow students, who are cowering in fear of what might happen to them should they disobey. He's outmatched, he can't even hurt the androids. But despite that, he will not submit, give in to the commands of the overwhelming evil before him. All of his energy is devoted to satisfying the principles Akira taught him just by being a man. And when he finally is able to ruin an android on his own, bloodied, he inspires the rest of the students to rebel and follow his example. To follow Akira Kongou's example.
Men like Akira are far and few between in this modern era. While there are undeniably more complex and dynamic stories out there in the world of new shonen, it is the ideals of old shonen that they constantly strive to emulate and perfect. However, Akira perfectly showcases the values of old to the newer age, as he is indeed a man out of his time and element. However, this only serves to outline how truly great he is. Keeping the past alive and building the future are one in the same thing. He strives to pass on his mature ideals and make sure that the people who cherish them can uphold them properly.
Akira Kongou stands proud as one of the manliest characters of all time and one of my absolute favorite characters.
"Even the gods quake in fear before the power of my fists."
These next two characters are my undisputed favorite villains in all of fictional media. Both characters embody a certain ideal and both are the best villains because, not only can their work be considered evil in some regards, but they also do things that make you question if they're really villains in the first place. They walk a fine line between anti-hero, anti-villain, hero, and villain all at once, making them the perfect shades of grey for stories that practically have no white or black to them. Most of all, I feel these men capture the concept of legacy perfectly, both the good and bad of it.
Solidus Snake from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Raoh of Hokuto no Ken.
Whenever I think of villainous characters these days, I usually push them into two different categories: villains of the most pure heinous and outright evil and villains that are only called that by name because they oppose the hero. These two fit into the latter category, both being well-intentioned extremists. They want to create a better world for the people around them, but their methods and reasons for doing what they do make them unfathomably compelling in my mind. They are brutal leaders with bloody histories, yet their ultimate goals are morally upstanding in every way. Neither is completely right nor completely wrong in how they approach their vision, yet both need to be stopped by the hero in some way.
Despite their obvious similarities, they actually oppose each other in what type of goal they want, yet they go for their beliefs with the same level of passion and dedication that any man would envy. And honestly, when I measure their ideals, I cannot find myself being fully in either camp. One looks to free the world from the manipulations of the shadowy organizations that rule the people, wanting them to choose their own destinies of their own will. The other seeks to dominate the world, leading his people through strength of will and discipline in order to ensure the best orderly society possible. It's looking at two sons of destiny attempting to shape the world according to their own rebellions against such fate, yet also accepting that they may not be able to truly accomplish what they want on their own.
The third cloned son of Big Boss AKA Naked Snake, Solidus Snake was made to be a perfect clone, retaining his father's dominant and recessive genes at the same time. His codename reflected that, as Solidus means a state in which a substance is on the verge of becoming a liquid and a solid. He was very proud of his genetic heritage, unlike Solid Snake who didn't care about his genes or Liquid who despised the supposed fate he was given before he was even born. This in turn made him the amalgamation of the two men; Solidus has an idealistic mindset with outstanding goals that would benefit others, but at the cost of his own paranoia and grief getting the best of him when he was in action.
In the context of the Metal Gear series, Solidus was originally created to be the figurehead of the Patriots, a shadow organization that controlled the world from behind the scenes. Every major decision in the world was made by them, as they interpreted the will of a dead hero known as the Boss as uniting the world under a single entity, a single mindset. This led to the creation of the S3 program, which had two goals: to see if they could create the ideal soldier through the implementation of experience similar to Solid Snake and, more importantly, see if they could create a more palpable illusion of reality for the masses to be under their control without them ever realizing it. Despite being engineered to be the perfect puppet, Solidus found he could not stomach such a world.
You see, Solidus' creation wasn't as ideal as I've cracked it up to be. Though he is inherently proud of his genetic heritage, he was also given birth defects to keep him in line. As a clone, he cannot bear his own children and, due to his perfect genetics, he was given a larger dosage of accelerated aging written into his code. Though he appears to be an old man well into his 60s, he is in his late 30s. Not only that, but Solidus feared that, should the Patriots' existence continue, he'd ultimately be forgotten, either lost to the sands of time, intentionally kept under wraps by the Patriots, or overshadowed by the greatness of his father no matter what.
However, these fears only gave him a untamable spirit, which was further fueled by his ambitions as a man. Solidus Snake's real name is George Sears, specifically modeled after the revolutionary who would end up becoming his idol: George Washington. From this, Solidus gained an understanding of the original virtues of the founding fathers and began to long for their implementation within a new society in which America would uphold them, not merely preach them. In his teenage years, he then experienced war. During this time, he became a notorious leader, heading several units in the Liberian Civil War. He also managed to enlist child soldiers into his ranks, which likely gave him an epiphany. If he could not generate his own biological children, then he would pass down his own beliefs through children he took in.
Eventually, he got his chance to mold the world he envisioned. Sometime after the Patriots made him the President of the United States to carry out their bidding, he learned about Metal Gear REX, he orchestrated the Shadow Moses Incident in order to secure leverage against the Patriots. However, when the plan failed, he was targeted by his superiors for execution due to his actions. Unwilling to accept death at the hands of them, Solidus fled to parts unknown. During this time, he built up another army, waiting for his chance to strike.
When he finally does pop up again, the world has changed quite a bit. The digital age has flourished, making the spread of information easier and more hectic. Not only that, but soldiers are now trained more by virtual reality simulations rather than by field experience. Without a doubt, his re-entry into the war against the Patriots couldn't have been better timed. If he won against the Patriots, he could essentially let the world run its course of its own free will while his defeat would spell an era in which people are divided by unity.
It was during this time that he also crossed paths with his surrogate son, Jack AKA Raiden. During the war, he took Jack in as his own, teaching the boy everything he knew about combat. This made Jack a cold-blooded war machine, racking up kills and impressing his father at every turn. Unfortunately, the Patriots found out about this connection and snatched Jack up one day, robbing Solidus of the boy that he came to accept and love as his own flesh and blood. So, when he discovered Raiden's true identity, it ate him up to see the child he raised and became proud of suddenly turn up as a brainwashed pawn in a scheme of the very people he hated.
It is this hatred for the Patriots, this passion to see them gone, which also makes him far more human than most of the other main villains in the series. He's a highly illustrious warrior with a tendency for cold-blooded actions, but at the same time, he is an idealist that wishes for the best of all men. This is best reflected when he shoots Olga without hesitation, a woman who worked with him but was a Patriot spy all due to them kidnapping her child and threatening to kill her, and when he fights his son Jack for the final time. You see, after a machine known as Arsenal Gear crashes into the streets of Manhattan and plows into Federal Hall, the location where his own idol was inaugurated as the first President (On April 30th no less, which was the day this fateful battle between father and son took place), Raiden finds out Solidus' true intentions from word of mouth. He's also handcuffed after being captured. However, instead of Solidus simply killing Raiden off to get a list of names pertaining to the members of the Patriots, he actually cuts him free to fight for his own destiny. As a father, he loves Raiden too much to let him die shackled like this. As a man, he wanted Raiden to get revenge for the terrible deeds he has done, including the fact that he killed Raiden's parents. As a philosopher, he freed Raiden, gave him his own future and choice.
While this resulted in his death, it ultimately shows that Solidus is not a mere villain, but an individual with his own moralities and methods; a man just like you or me.
The third brother of Hokuto, Raoh was seen as the strongest of the Hokuto lineage. Though he lacked his brother Toki's technique and his brother Kenshiro's immediate compassion, he more than made up for it in ambition. Through his own force of will, he was able to match and surpass his brothers in sheer power and strength. Not only that, but his ferocity pushed both to become as good as they were. However, it is this ambition which ultimately drove him apart from the others. For you see, Raoh wished to claim the heavens themselves, as he wanted to be the one to bring peace and stability to the troubled times of the post-apocalyptic nuclear radiation filled future. He even murdered his adopted father, Ryuken, so he could pursue what he saw as destiny without hesitation.
In the context of Hokuto no Ken, the world was ravaged by nuclear warfare that wiped out life and civilization across the planet. When Kenshiro, Raoh, and Toki were young, they lived in the land of Asura, which is basically China. When it became engulfed in a sea of flames, it was up to the master known as Jukei to get the three of them to Japan so that they would be raised by Ryuken. During this time, Raoh and Toki's own parents perished in a village set ablaze as a result, strengthening the two's resolve to become strong warriors. However, their paths could not be any different. Toki chose the role of a wandering messiah, only using his abilities to heal the sick and wounded. Meanwhile, Raoh, in his anger and pride, took up the mantle of a conqueror.
Not only was he scarred by the death of his mother, who had saved Kenshiro as an infant, but he was also molded by the raw anger and determination his own blood brother, Kaioh, displayed at her loss. He was utterly broken as a man, swearing off his emotions to build a world in which the strongest ruled and the weakest were subjugated. From this, Raoh took such determination with him for the rest of his life. Even when he was thrown off cliffs and his body tortured with hellish training, he would not submit, refusing to give into his pain. He would realize his brother's dream and his own ambition in order to realize a world of order and peace. To him, it is his desire and responsibility to bring others underneath his heel so he can lead them into a new age of civilization and reconstruction. Back then, he also displayed his chivalrous side more openly, as he forced Ryuken to adopt him and Toki in addition to overseeing Kenshiro and Toki's training. These small bits of compassion bore untold levels of respect from the two of them, which showed that his ambition was not merely selfish.
However, this same ambition brought him to blows with Kenshiro and Toki, both of whom sought a world of freedom that allowed people to live as themselves while also respecting the wills of others. Raoh was intoxicated by the concept of righteousness to the point that it outright trampled over others. He wanted to bring the people back to societal sanity, but his brutal methods would terrify rather than strengthen in many cases. But, it is these same methods that make him so intriguing. For example, when a monk of a village he took over tells others to just happily give everything they have to the bandits Raoh put in charge of it, allowing the men to steal and kill so long as the pain would stop, Raoh was grotesquely offended by such a mindset. What kind of man just allows others to trample on him with a smile? Is that truly any way for somebody to live? Of course not, as people should be strong enough to fight for what they believe in and not surrender as soon as an obstacle comes along. Not only that, but he actually has good reason for having so many thugs and irredeemable pissants in his ranks. They are the strongest, so he culled them in with his own strength so that they'd do his bidding and reign in everyone else. Then, when the time came and his orderly rule was established, he would kill off these same men, as he knows they are nothing but blights to the people and the society he wants to return to.
That said, Raoh came to learn that his powerful presence also came with a big problem. Because he ruled through fear, many men would either act out of self-preservation or blind fanaticism. There were those in his ranks that did respect him, like his generals who understood what his true intentions were in the first place, but he ended up creating a legend in which a monster, not a man, was going to rule. While Raoh wanted to cast aside emotions originally, he learned that he just couldn't, especially not with the vision he was trying to achieve. This resulted in any showing of weakness would cause his own men to either doubt him or try to cover up for that and lie to themselves about what was best. In the fight between him and Fudoh, he ordered his men to kill him if he dared retreat past a certain point. Eventually, he does retreat after seeing the power of sadness turned into rage....but his men shoot and kill Fudoh. From this, he comes to realize just how powerful emotions are and that should not be bottled away to achieve some fantastical dream where he stood atop everything.
Speaking of turning sadness into rage, this all comes together in his contests against Kenshiro and Toki. During his fights with Toki, he admits that his brother always surpassed him in pure skill and ability, but his strength is what saved him, more than he ever would have wanted since Toki suffers from radiation sickness. In their final bout, Toki is simply unable to muster up the strength to kill Raoh when he has the opportunity because his body could no longer support his immense will at that point. This was the first instance in his adult life that Raoh experienced sadness and actually cried for the first time as an adult. He's ultimately unable to go through with killing Toki, saying that it is the only mercy he should commit.
He was wrong. When Kenshiro figures out how to harness the ultimate technique of Hokuto Shinken, Musou Tensei, Raoh freezes in fear and felt utterly defeated. He then learns why afterwards; the love Kenshiro held dear, the sadness of the loss of his allies, and the anger he accepted to stand against evil, they unlocked his true potential. And Raoh realized he could do it too if he killed the only woman he ever loved: Yuria. With her death, he would finally have the heaven that he was truly seeking: a victory against Kenshiro as himself. However, when the final blow was about to be made, Yuria revealed she had the same illness as Toki. In spite of her own neverending pain, she chose to be the woman to light up the world by giving her life to love. This shattered Raoh's emotional barrier, unlocking his own full potential and usage of Musou Tensei. It was not through killing his love that would give him what he wanted, but in the bearing of his love's pain and sorrow.
While he ends up losing to Kenshiro, he leaves the world with happiness in his heart as he finds his purpose completed, far better than he had originally intended.
Ultimately, these so-called villains are tragic heroes that rebelled against the cruel nature of their times, wanting to leave a lasting and meaningful impact upon the world for the better. They were twisted men doing the right thing for the right and wrong reasons. Despite both being on opposing ends of ideology, they share a shocking amount of similarities.
For one, though both men sought to change the world for the better, their goals were not directly achieved by them. Though their lives shook up the world, it is their deaths and the men who killed them that validated their worth in the end. Solidus' death symbolized a temporary death of free will, but his ideals were passed onto his son, who came to bear his struggle in a better light. Meanwhile, Raoh perished along with a true order, but his existence was vindicated by his brother, who sought out order amongst people rather than by government.
There is also the fact that both were inclined to return the past to the future, which is outright impossible. Both men were fond of days that they worshiped, but never got the chance to experience, therefore wanting to push their romanticized eras into the realm of today. Solidus idolized the founding principles of America so much that he likened himself to George Washington and even named his organization after the famed Sons of Liberty. Meanwhile, Raoh revered his brother Kaioh and his sheer determination to rule over the world so that weakness would no longer be an issue that he also wanted to see such a world, even admitting to himself that he'd want to become a demon if that's what it took.
Next, if both men had won their respective wars, this would not constitute an ideal victory for either side. Nay, the actualization of their beliefs would not be realized because they are extremists, therefore lacking the nuance to truly carry out their ambitions to the fullest. In a scenario where Solidus and his Sons of Liberty triumphed over the Patriots, there's no telling what could go wrong. Even though he sought to free the world from control, his own paranoia and doubt would leave him unprepared to deal with the repercussions of his actions. Instead of an insured democracy, it's more likely he'd open the door to chaos, where every man was for himself, instead of a peaceful collection of agreeing minds. Within the context of Ken-Oh the Conqueror ruling over the Century's End, he simply was too strong and unyielding to bring peace and stability. Even with his plans to kill off the worst of his men, Raoh wouldn't know his own limitations, therefore going overboard to secure the greater good. From this, rebellion and revolution would spurn, bastardizing his order as nothing but pure tyranny and turning all of his hard work to waste.
Lastly, these men embody the spirit of legacy. In their own respective ways, they passed the torch onto a new generation, and in such ways that can be compared and contrasted so thoroughly and intriguingly.
When we first hear of Solidus, we are led to believe he has nefarious intentions and he is seen mostly from afar. Then, when we do meet him face-to-face, he casually blocks our path and greets us so openly that we're taken aback. As we come to know him, we realize that we've had everything fed to us through fabrication and it is Solidus who was really manipulated the whole time. His image, his beliefs, they were all misdirected as to make us feel we were the good guys. But he showed us that such a picture was never so clear and that we have to accept that if we want to step forth to a brighter future.
When we first hear of Raoh, all we know of him is that he is a fearsome tyrant who wants to ravenously consume everything around him into himself. He is also in the shadows, seen as a powerful monster to overcome. However, when we first see him in action, he fights honorably despite his pragmatic brutality. Not only that, but the conqueror turns out to have several key components that are meant to benefit himself and others. It is through his own interpretations of power and strength that we come to find that even when the people are let loose to their own devices, there are those who would reign in the danger to guide his fellow man, even if he appears rather daunting as our leader.
Furthermore, the legacies their deaths leave behind are ones that are both glorified and tainted at the same time.
Everything that Solidus feared came to pass in his world, as the Patriots' control over the digital flow of information tightened and their system trapped thousands, if not millions, within an endless loop of warfare and control. Not only that, but his name was used for a controversial program in which children were harvested as soldiers through VR training, all for the sake of creating a world free from restraint, which was an extreme take of his own beliefs. However, he left the world imprinting his hopes and dreams within the son he had selfishly taken for himself after he killed his parents. Through this son's actions and his allies' actions, Solidus' legacy of ridding the world of the puppeteers that damned it came true.
Similarly, Raoh's death caused a power vacuum that caused more violence and bloodshed. Though there was a temporary peace, another empire rose to try and take his place, along with bandits becoming more common as a result. In addition, he is the result of a lot of characters' motivations and sorrows, all because of his tyrannical yet powerful presence within life. Even Kaioh, the man who he praised, became an even more extreme extremist than he ever could be. Thankfully, his brother and his own son remain in the world, taking the banner of Raoh's own wishes to bring peace with them wherever they went.
It is also worth mentioning their own ranks within their own franchises.
Solidus, though he is easily the most nuanced of the main villains besides Revolver Ocelot and is overall the most relatable, is actually the most underrated, taking a back seat to the Boss' will, Liquid's bombastic speeches, Volgin's sadism, and Ocelot's betrayal schtick. Hell, even the man who bastardized his name, Senator Armstrong, enjoys a much larger following. Not only that, but despite his beliefs being the ones I see the most merit with, the rest of the Metal Gear series barely brings him up at all or even credits his ideals to him.
Raoh, on the other hand, enjoyed an overwhelming amount of acclaim. He is the most beloved villain in Hokuto no Ken, for good reason of course, but this caused him to have an overwhelming presence in the series. All of the major players, from heroes like Falco or Shachi, to big bad villains like Kaioh, Jakoh, and Baran, are influenced by Raoh's activities in some way, all of which involve him directly.
Lastly, their individual death scenes are perhaps the most powerful I've ever seen. Both men are reaching up for the sky, etching their memory into history in their own ways. For Solidus, he reaches up on the statue of George Washington, reaching for the flag as a symbol of the America he was never able to attain in his life span. On the other hand, Raoh reached up to the heavens, accepting that he could never claim them and instead brought life back to the world as a symbol of hope.
Though both men were more than capable of making their dreams reality, it is through the lives of the men they've fought with and the lasting impacts they left on their hearts which truly elevated their statuses into legend. They felt nothing but passion toward their causes, gave their lives to those causes, and reaped everlasting importance as a result. They have taught me why that neither freedom nor order can bring a satisfactory result on their own, despite their passion and effort put in for these ideals. Instead, it is a balance between the two that gives the best possible outcome.
These antagonists are more than deserving of this spot and are eternally the greatest villains of all time in my eyes.
"Jack, it's not power I want. What I wanted to take back from the Patriots were things like -- freedom, civil rights, opportunities. The founding principles of this country. Everything that's about to be wiped out by their digital censorship. Jack, listen to me. We're all born with an expiration date. No one lasts forever. Life is nothing but a grace period for turning our genetic material into the next generation. The data of life is transferred from parent to child. That’s how it works. But we have no heirs, no legacy. Cloned from our father with the ability to reproduce conveniently engineered out. What is our legacy if we cannot pass the torch? Proof of our existence -- a mark of some sort -- When the torch is passed on from parent to child...It extends beyond DNA, information is imparted as well. All I want is to be remembered. By other people, by history. The Patriots are trying to protect their power, their own interests, by controlling the digital flow of information. I want my memory, my existence to remain. Unlike an intron of history, I will be remembered as an exon. That will be my legacy, my mark in history. But the Patriots would deny us even that. I will triumph over the Patriots and liberate us all. And we will become -- 'The Sons of Liberty'!"
"I, Raoh, have no regrets....for the life I have lived!"
Here, I detail my two favorite villains of all time and the duality of their conceptions.
Now, due to what may come, I must tell any who comment to remain civil. I would love to hear what comments you could leave about your own ideals, but do not trample on others just try to prove your own point. Both sides are right and both sides are wrong. No need to tear each other apart over political ethics or something else.
"A person's a person, no matter how screwed up they are."
This next pick is the character I feel that is the best written teenager in all of the media I've seen. While this character never really grows up into an adult, I find myself liking that we see this period in his life and how he tries to just be a normal kid.
Rex Salazar from Generator Rex.
Although I've shifted away from the medium recently, I grew up watching cartoons with a passion. Shows like Samurai Jack, Teen Titans, SpongeBob, Danny Phantom, I remember them all fondly. However, during my teenage years, I admit that my interest in them started to wane, preferring things like video games or anime. It didn't help out that, during 2008 - 2010, there was a big drought for cartoons. There was live-action stuff that I simply did not care for like Dude, What Would Happen? and ICarly, or there was actual crap such as The Misadventures of Flapjack or The Mighty B! Now, yes, I am aware there was also a lot of great cartoons also around, such as Avatar or The Secret Saturdays, but I didn't get fully immersed in those shows until much later. I just saw them, liked them, and moved on.
Then, this show came along and instantly hooked me in. The premise of a world run rampant by mutants? Sci-Fi that properly sets up the reason for why mutants are out and about? A teenage lead? Mecha powers? All done by Man of Action, which did the original Ben 10 series? Hells yeah. And thankfully, the show met my expectations at the time and even surpassed them. Even today, I look back in awe of how much of a quality show it was at a time when so much other trash was out there and how, during this time period, the major cartoon studios thought little of their actual cartoon products.
What especially impressed me is how much Rex himself is so well-defined, yet well-nuanced he was made to be. At the start of the series, we learn all about his personality just from his first speech. He's energetic, brash, larger-than-life, just the type of guy you want to get behind. Then, when we see him in action, and he's a good brawler and a decent on-the-fly thinker, but it's clear he's still in the process of growing. His powers actually fizz out on him because of his own stress at the thought of being the cause of others being put in danger. That, in and of itself, was a nice hint at Rex's potential as a character, which I feel he more than captures in full as the series progresses.
Another thing that I found excellently handled was Rex's entire story arc: finding his place in the world and how he fits into it all. He starts off as an amnesiac, unaware of who he was before the Nanite Event, which basically caused nanomachines to spread across the world and affect everything on it. He is deeply interested in finding out who he was, which does fall into place as he interacts with the villainous Van Kleiss, his old friends from his youth like Tuck and Cricket, and eventually his own brother when he comes into his new life. However, as much as he desires to know his past, he still cherishes his new life as a Providence agent, sticking close to the likes of Agent Six, Dr. Holiday, Bobo Haha, and Noah. The last one in particular is an intriguing spin on a best friend since Noah was hired to keep tabs on Rex, but still enjoyed his company and admitted that he wanted to hang around Rex as a friend. Though Rex was betrayed at first, he forgave Noah and the two still stayed as best friends. However, Rex still ran away from Providence, wanting to be his own man and help out people whenever he chose to. I enjoy this aspect, as, though he may crave his own path, he still has it in him to honor the people who raised him despite his differences with them. Not only that, but this leads to a dilemma that personally resonated with me.
Though he is a man who can control machines and even cure other mutants, known as E.V.O.s in this world, with his nanites, he also runs the risk of those same nanites overloading his body and morphing him into a mechanical nightmare. Seeing him convulse and mutate made me realize that he can't do everything he wants, or at least at the pace he wants to do. It's hard to see that, but with a little patience, he and others can do good in the world that sticks. Not only that, but the moment sticks doubly, as he still tries to overwork himself after this from time-to-time, showing me a strong-willed young man that can't always measure up, but is always willing to try. His bumpy progression is also nicely complimented by his attitude. While he tries to portray himself as a high-flying punk with some grit, a lot of the time he ends up showing off his more vulnerable and even stoic side. Though he can crack jokes like Dante, he also knows when it's time to shut up and put up. While there are times where his nerves get the best of him, he still does his best to address the situations to the best of his ability. I then realized that the whole 'cool punk' thing then ends up as a smokescreen; he's a scared young man that is stressed out at times about who he is and he makes a lot of mistakes along the way. But, despite those mistakes being there, he pushes on and rectifies what he can.
His best scenes, I feel, are with the character known as Breach. To be perfectly clear about things, Breach is a strange girl that was a variation of Samara from the Ring. However, unlike Samara, Breach comes off more as a troubled girl like Rex, only society hit her harder and earlier. She becomes distraught, disillusioned, and obsessive because she doesn't have anyone to really trust, only 'favorites' and 'toys'. This all changes through the small time she spends with Rex. At first, she just sees him as a toy, which he doesn't take kindly to. He breaks things in her home to escape, which causes a mental breakdown for Breach for some time. Though it sounds harsh, I feel it was ultimately necessary for Breach to go through it, much like Rex had to endure his own breakdown in order to progress. Then, once Breach came back, the two did contest one another, though Breach seems a lot more 'intrigued' with Rex than 'obsessive'. Through their continued conflict, she finds Rex to be a person who could very much give her what she wants and needs. Then, in the episode "Lions and Lambs", their interactions come full circle when Rex tries to truly understand Breach. Though he finds her perceptions of reality strange, he still attempts to figure out her world and even comes to his own conclusions afterwards. Furthermore, when Rex takes her out to a more normal hangout for teens, a bowling alley, he's able to get a genuine smile for her just through being there for her and for being completely honest. Hell, when the time came and Breach had to pick between him and Van Kleiss, her boss that viewed her talents as extraordinary but never thought to consider her own personal thoughts, she chose to help Rex, resulting in Van Kleiss being sent back in time and Rex being sent forward.
After the time jump, even though the world has changed again, Rex still shines as his punkish attitude dies down quite a bit as his more noble side comes front and center. He still helps out wherever he's needed, but he also fights against the New Providence, which has Black Knight, a dictator who wants power to establish her own order, as its leader. It shows that, though Rex fights the same fight New Providence does at its core, their methods are what ultimately makes Rex the better man. He cherishes the freedom of people and would not sacrifice free will for the sake of the greater good. Granted, while there are detractors to the ideals of freedom, it's honestly Rex's compassion as a person that seals it for me as to why he's the hero we need in that scenario.
With all that said, Rex was the teen who brought me back to why I loved cartoons as a child and why I adore animation as a whole these days. Through simple and subtle nuances to a boisterous kid, we can find a truly invigorating experience as we see how he looks at the world and draws his own conclusions while holding steadfast to beliefs he was given. Ultimately, Generator Rex gave us a character who developed far better than I had ever anticipated and Rex Salazar is by far the greatest teenage character I've ever had the pleasure of seeing live his life.
"OK, check it out. Here's our planet nice and normal right? Everything's cool. Then like from out of nowhere. Whoosh! There was this accident. Nobody knows why it happened but it caused these tiny machines called nanites to get into every living thing. Every once in a while the nanites turn things into monsters. Like this guy. We call 'em E.V.O's. Most E.V.O's just want to wreck stuff and that's why we have Providence...I guess you can say I work for the Providence. I’m their secret weapon. So secret they got to keep me locked up. Finally. When the situation gets really bad they call on me to handle things with the skill and professionalism of a highly trained soldier. Pshh, yea right!Woohoo! Here's the cool part: I'm an E.V.O too, but for some reason I'm different from the others. Instead of my nanites turning me into a rampaging monster, I control them - tell them what to do. That means I can do things like THIS! INCOMING!! Hello, monster guy. I'm Rex. Now thrill me."
"I am ready for any number of enemies! A thousand! Ten thousand!"
My next pick happens to be, besides Dante, the character I consider the coolest in all of fiction. He's got a laid back attitude and stylish fighting style to him, but this guy comes into his own by not only being cool on his own, but also being an example for the men he dutifully leads into the future.
Momotaro Tsurugi of Sakigake Otokojuku.
I've always been a big fan of Shonen manga, but the time period I hold dear is definitely the 80s-Early 90s Shonen era. To put it bluntly, the heroes and villains of this era appeal to me the most because they better fit an idealistic mentality in approaching a teenage escapist fantasy. While it's true that series like Naruto and Bleach show outcasts raising up against the societies that shunned them, I honestly feel that the series Sakigake Otokojuku covered what they aimed for much better. Basically, the story of outcast teenagers becoming men is at the front and center with no strings attached.
And, in my opinion, no one in Otokojuku's school does maturation better than the head of the first years himself. Now, admittedly, while his manga and anime characterizations are overall the same, they start from different points, so I will cover both incarnations of the character. It's best this way since the anime starts off with Momo's enrollment into Otokojuku and the manga covers the entire story.
When Momotaro first joins Otokojuku, we get a good glimpse of Momo just from how he walks into Otokojuku and signs up for it. He's cool-headed, a bit aloof, but exceedingly curious. Now, to give some context....Otokojuku is not your typical school. At all. Now, yes, weird high schools have always been a staple of fiction, east and west, but they usually show that they're normal in SOME capacity.
This is the kind of shit their curriculum consists of. And that's just scratching the surface. The reason why crap like this is implemented daily? It's to bring back the traditional spirit of Japan by training their students to be the leaders who will push Japan into the future. The students enrolled in this militaristic school aren't just any run-of-the-mill guys, either. Every single one of these guys are delinquents and dropouts from schools all across Japan. They're seen as the only ones tough enough to survive this kind of training and gain the discipline and guts necessary to make the tough choices as leaders. Most of these guys were forced into the school by their parents because no other school would accept them or they begrudgingly joined out of living necessities.
Momo, however? Despite being a dropout himself, he joined because the whole thing seemed fun to him.
After the first day's introductions are over, Momo is tasked with his first drill: an obstacle course with traps a plenty and within a treacherous cavern. During this, he becomes friends with the likes of Matsuo Taio, Tazawa Shinichiro/Ippei, Tsubakiyama Kiyomi, and Togashi Genji. The last guy in particular is vital in the development of Momotaro as a character, as he's got the most guts out of anyone in Otokojuku and opens Momo up to the ideals he would come to exemplify.
He's also the man who gives Momotaro his first trial as a man. When Togashi and the others plan to run away to get themselves something decent to eat, Momo opts out, feeling obligated to follow the rules. However, this ends up getting him dragged into an interrogation when Tsubakiyama and Matsuo are captured during the escape. Even though he wasn't a part of the fleeing company, he was still subjected to the interrogation due to being a roommate of theirs. They're beaten with whips and Kendo staffs until one of them squeals. However, Momo never does because he would not sell out his new friends. Unfortunately, the teachers are kind of dicks, so they lie to Togashi and Tazawa when they capture the two of them after beating them by saying that Momo was the one who ratted them out. From there, Tazawa drags Momo out of his bed to the outdoors, Togashi challenging Momo and seeking to smack some guts into him for his cowardice.
You would think Momo would try to tell Togashi that it wasn't him or something to get the two to fight....but it doesn't play out that way. No, instead, Momotaro accepts Togashi's challenge without hesitation, throwing his coat off and dueling his fellow Otokojuku freshman in a fist fight where he's at a direct disadvantage. Despite Togashi having spiked knuckles, though, the two draw, both falling to the ground. Afterwards, Tsubakiyama and Matsuo rush in to stop the fighting, admitting they were the ones who broke. Togashi reacts as anyone would, kicking the two for what they did. However, unlike with Momo, he did not try to knock them senseless. At first, I thought it was Togashi finding it not worth it to smack around weaker guys, but then he turned to Momo, and I instantly understood.
It wasn't Togashi's disgust that kept him from beating the two newbies, it was Momo's dedication to his friends despite what they did. That, in and of itself, is highly admirable. This isn't the only instance where he stands up for his friends, either. He's taken on a Yakuza gang all by himself because someone else smuggled in a pair of underwear (Basically, only fundoshi AKA a cloth wrap was allowed for undergarments), took the blame for food thievery and held up an entire stone ceiling for an entire night, and brought it upon himself to defend the honor of a midget classmate against an American boxer. The best example, though, is when he stopped Togashi from doing a kamikaze attack on his brother's killer. Not only did Togashi idolize his brother above all others, but his death made him the angry brawler he is, so, Momo steps in to stop him. He does this as, to him and the other students, some things are thicker than blood.
What makes this trait of his even more endearing is that he actually can be a little selfish. When the head of the second years, Akashi Gouji, comes back to Otokojuku, he tries to enforce an even more brutal system where the strong can freely step upon the weak, regardless of rank. So, Gouji was perfectly willing to let Momotaro do what he pleased because he had humiliated the second years, including the captain Edogawa. However, Momo refused, stating that it would betray their manhood to break a sacred rule of Otokojuku and to step upon those already beaten. For that, he and Gouji decide to duel to the death....but said duel is halted so it can be shown off as a publicity stunt for the school. Instead of showing pride in a chance to humble Gouji in front of the people of Japan, he finds such an event shameful, as it makes their duel nothing more than sport. He even stays in his room to skip out on the event, despite his friends' pleas that their contest would decide the honor of the first years. I do very much like this as he does have a limit to what his superiors can get away with and he stays true to his own code of honor. The only reason he decides to duel Gouji anyways is that Togashi stepped in to fight in Momo's place. As soon as he finds that out, he wastes no time to get to the arena to duel Gouji himself, fighting on Togashi's honor and the honor of the first years without question. Their belief in him urged him to battle and he answered their faith in him in full.
Hell, his selfishness isn't only displayed as something that keeps him from fighting. In fact, he has spared some of his deadliest adversaries, even though his friends urged him to do so. The consensus of several of the elder students is, whenever they spare someone, they find it a waste to kill someone so skilled, instead opting to kill the challenger later so they can have a better challenge. Conversely, Momotaro spares his enemies simply because he grew to respect his adversaries during the fight, weak or strong. So long as he sees the potential for the other to better themselves, he would not even think about killing the enemy, granting him several foes-turned-friend for his honorable determination and respect.
Momo's skill, cunning, camaraderie, and compassion all set him up to become the one leader of Otokojuku. uniting first years, dropouts from Otokojuku, the second years, and even the third years. Together, they faced numerous trials, whether it would be quarrels amongst themselves, tournaments against criminals or other schools, and even a worldwide trek to save their principal, Edajima Heihachi, from his sworn enemy. Eventually, after recovering Edajima and doing one final competition against the friendly rival school known as Rankanjuku, Momo and his fellow first years graduate.
His story doesn't end there, however. No, he in fact returns in the sequel, Akatsuki Otokojuku, where we discover that his son, Shishimaro, has become the new head of the first years, he married an American woman, and became the Japanese Prime Minister, ushering in a new age of prosperity. He's as manly as ever in his mid-years, teaching his son the tools of the trade and even getting involved with that series' events.
In short, Momotaro is a man of a cool mind, a stern mentality, a daunting dexterity, and a strong heart. He is my second favorite icon from his era, he stands apart from several of his contemporaries in that time period while also embodying the spirit of it, and he's one of the best embodiments of what Shonen is: the journey of adolescence into adulthood. In many ways, he and Sakigake Otokujuku can be described as a proto-Boku no Hero Academia, which I firmly believe to be the best Shonen currently. Despite this, I find Momo to be a better character than anyone in the Boku no Hero Academia cast so far because I've seen his entire story and can judge him more fairly.
Though he does not rank any higher on the list, mostly due to me having more extreme feelings towards the higher picks, he is still a class act and a man among men.
"Though Otokojuku's textbooks have the word 'death', they do not have the word 'defeat'!"
"After this battle is over....I can continue my journey."
"I'll teach you the meaning of fear."
"This is....my victory!"
This next entry pertains to three characters that I've probably had the most time experiencing. They're all childhood icons of mine, I've spent the most time playing as them in their respective games, and they are all the main protagonists of their respective series.
Ryu Hoshi of Street Fighter, Jin Kazama of Tekken, and Kyo Kusanagi of The King of Fighters.
I'll be blunt here. Fighting Games are my favorite type of video game. It's always a blast to try out several characters, learn their styles, and see how well you can apply what you've learned in a match against someone else. Though, for me, I've always stuck to the main character of a fighting game as my main. Yes, I know, it's incredibly lame of me, but I can't help but choose expediency over originality in these types of games. And these three represent my mentality perfectly, being the characters I have the fondest memory of playing as. Bonus points, since all three also happen to be from my three absolute favorite fighting game series.
Though, for those wondering why I have the characters I've experienced the most so low on the list as just a step up from the characters I've experienced the least, I suppose you could say that these guys are probably overexposed and I have a bit of fatigue with them. It's the same reason why other characters that I loved as a younger man aren't on the list, though these guys were nowhere hit as badly as others, since my thoughts about them are mostly the same. I have a special place in my heart for these guys, since they introduced me to my favorite genre and have continually been my go-to mains.
Here he is, folks. The grandaddy of fighting games himself, Ryu Hoshi. I'm certain most of you are wondering why I use Hoshi in his name, considering it doesn't appear in any of the games. Well, you know how Mario gets his last name from his live-action movie? Same deal here. Anyways, it's pretty clear who Ryu is, he's probably one of the most basic characters in all of fiction. Wandering martial artist that travels the world to improve his skills, not interested in fame or fortune, but the simple journey. His playstyle focuses on a balance between offense and defense, but with no real room for flash or combo ability. It suits me quite well, even if it's not the most eye-popping thing out there. However, that doesn't mean that he's boring or uneventful, not by a long shot. After all, complex simplicity is one of the best tropes in writing, in my opinion, and Ryu pulls it off quite well. He's a man who goes everywhere without shoes, money, or anything besides his trusty bag. He's naturally a nice person with his own quirks, but in a fight, he's stoic, always going all-out. There is a big catch, though, in the form of the Satsui no Hado. The more he fights for personal gain, not self-improvement, the more he becomes susceptible to its destructive wiles. That, for me, is a nice detail, as it is often difficult to distinguish between the two, especially in conflict. It's also quite nifty to see whenever Ryu faces off with his biggest rivals; those being Ken, Sagat, and Gouki. Each has their own feel; Ken is his best friend, so they fight like brothers. Sagat, the man he scarred for life, is a rivalry born from vengeance, but as both men grow, it becomes one of true respect. Gouki, the master of the very power he tries to push away, represents a literal manifestation of the darkest side of himself. These rivalries truly showcase how a simple man like him can be pushed into his best.
Next up, we have Jin Kazama,who is definitely the most controversial choice of the three. Not to say that I dislike in any regard, because I really don't, it's just that from an execution standpoint, he has detractors for valid reasons. The big one being his presentation in Tekken 6, but I'll get to that. First off, let's start off with the beginning. When he debuted in Tekken 3, it was a big gamble. Kazuya was the poster boy at the time and Heihachi killing him off (temporarily) seemed like it would follow his story. But, instead, we got this new teenage lead that had shades of Kazuya. Some thought he was a younger Kaz at first, but when his name was revealed, people then feared he would be a part of the 'new' fad in the 90s and just be a half-baked 'new' Kazuya. Thankfully, we didn't get that, but instead we got the best prodigal son in fighting game history alongside Rock Howard from SNK. Instead of being a copycat of Kazuya, he actually emulated moves from him and his mother, Jun Kazama, while also establishing his own fighting style, which is a mightily impressive feat. Add in that he's a bit of a proud family boy, and you've got quite the stark contrast to Ryu. But then, Tekken 4 came along. After Heihachi betrayed Jin by trying to kill him, he ran off and changed his style to that of Traditional Karate, which perfectly demonstrates his new stance on life. His shyness as a young man has come back because he finds it hard to trust anyone, but still has the drive to do the right thing. This all leads into the controversial side of him in Tekken 6. After gaining the Mishima Zaibatsu, Jin has become attained a colder persona that looks to deal with things swiftly, not because he abhorred violence like his Tekken 4 incarnation, but because he didn't want to waste any time to whatever pissant he was fighting at the time. While many considered this too radical of a change for the character, I actually love this, since it felt like a natural progression for a young man who was seeking his place in the world while experiencing betrayal. Not only that, but it's revealed why he plunged the world in war in 6: He wanted to end the Devil Gene for good. You see, unlike Ryu, who could find a way around his own curse, Jin's curse is tied to his own blood, meaning he has no real way of removing it. This is why he abhors violence, he fears the destruction he could cause. So, as an attempt to rid the world of the Gene, he sparked the war so he could kill the original source of the Gene. While this ultimately did nothing, as he and the Gene survived, the story also showed that he was remorseful of his actions and that, when he did awake from his coma, he was more than prepared to do what needed to be done: kill his father and himself in order to free the world from their evil bloodline. To do that says a lot about Jin's dedication to doing the right thing and I utterly applaud him for that.
Last, and certainly not least, we have the poster boy of SNK, the original rival to Capcom, Kyo Kusanagi. Funny enough, Kyo has simultaneously the most similarities and differences to Ryu and Jin. He's the protagonist of the game series he appears in, yet he's also not the first, since the King of Fighters is a dream match series that started as a way for Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting characters to duke it out due to timeline discrepancies. He's a driven young fighter that craves a good challenge, much like Ryu, but he also has a cocky attitude and later on becomes paranoid from events out of his control, much like Jin. His playstyle is also dynamic, yet it never has a radical shift in application, allowing it to be versatile yet also highly specialized depending on what game you're playing. In any case, I think it's safe to say that Kyo is probably the most unique of the three. Now, as to why I like Kyo, specifically, is that he's oddly enough the most normal of the three. Despite being a part of an ancient clan of warriors, Kyo just wants to live the life he wants to, motorcycle riding, fighting, and being in a healthy relationship with his girlfriend Yuki. By the way, points to this guy for being a fighting game character with an actual RELATIONSHIP with somebody. Anyways, his wish to live his own life speaks to me a lot, especially considering his a part of a family with a big name. The Kusanagi are known for being the main opponents of Orochi, a demon who wants to wipe out humanity for the chaos they inflict. But, Kyo doesn't tie himself down with the concept of 'destiny'. Instead, he believes that all battles that he fights are ones he alone has to deal with and that he chooses to do the right thing, rather than chalk his actions up to the fate born from his clan. Even his bloody feud with Iori Yagami, his eternal rival, is something he sees as a rivalry between men than a rivalry between clans. There's also the situation where he was cloned several times over. Instead of treating these clones as fakes, he saw them as individuals, which I highly respect, especially in the face of the paranoia he experienced at the time. Kyo's steadfast faith in himself makes him quite the mature man.
And so, there you have it. The three characters I have experienced the most of. It's honestly a little funny that I put them this low, but I suppose it could be no other way. While you'll always love certain things, there'll come times where your enthusiasm isn't bulletproof and you need some time apart. However, you'll always be able to depend on those things to pull on through for you.
I can safely say that I've played almost every main game from all three series and that, if they're available in that game, my first choice will always be them. They simply embody what their respective series are about and they embody the spirit of fighting games. Pure one-on-one duels that test your mind, skill, reflex, and talent, while also revealing your character through your own actions. Whatever you choose to be, regardless of established facts imprinted onto you, is what ultimately matters. I choose these three guys first and I can express who I am through their specific styles, making them the perfect fit for the number 10 slot.
"What would you ask for if you could have your wishes granted? Would you ask to be rich? Or to have the woman you're in love with be yours? You can wish for whatever you want, it's your business, but to have one's wishes come true always comes with a price. Every deal has a catch. You'd better be nice and careful."
"It was a journey for revenge. It was a journey to find the guy who deprived me of something precious, and kill him."
"Humans are weak... but we want to live... even if we're wounded... or tortured... we feel the pain..."
To kick this list off, I wanted to cover three characters that I feel are the best in certain fields, but I simply don't have enough of a personal connection to place them any higher. However, despite my own shallower experience with the lot of them, I simply feel unclean if I don't talk about them properly just because I haven't fully captured them yet.
Dante of the original Devil May Cry Series, Dart Feld from The Legend of Dragoon, and Guts from Berserk.
I'll be frank here, had I started this list at a sooner time, I probably would have just put them on the list out of kneejerk reaction. Dante is considered one of the most memorable video game characters of all time for his slick attitude, stylish combat, and his struggle with his dual heritage. Dart Feld is a far more underrated gem of a character that honestly showed me how having a dark past doesn't mean it should always bring you down. Guts is perhaps the most dynamic character in all of fiction and should be applauded for that simple fact.
However, the fact is, I've only really been exposed to these characters. I haven't actually had the time to experience them fully for myself. But, from what I have seen, I am perfectly content admitting that these guys are welcome at the opening part of my list and, whenever I do get around to experiencing them in full, I just may put them higher. At this moment in time, though, 11th place is quite respectable on this type of list.
Now, as to why I personally like these characters above others, despite not really having the benefit of fully seeing their journeys, are just what they honestly represent.
To start things off, let's talk about the most jovial guy in the bunch. Dante, despite all of his quips and flair, is a man who sees that all his demonic powers mean nothing in the face of his humanity. The core concept of the original Devil May Cry series is that humans have something that demons don't: heart, which is wonderfully expressed by Dante's levity and emotional side. I'll admit, he's probably the funniest and coolest character I know of and even had a taste of what it's like to be him when I used him in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Every moment I saw of him on-screen was just someone who I felt earned the right to be as cocky and as much of a showoff as he wanted to be because he is capable of all this extraordinary stuff and even more than that. Not to mention, a skilled Dante player is a damn nightmare to fight against; insane skillset and setups mixed in with an ungodly utility to him. And, much like his original games, he's difficult to master. As for his emotional side, I look no further than his treatment towards Vergil in Devil May Cry 3 and Trish in the original Devil May Cry. The concept of heart has always been prominent among man, but the way it was showcased in Devil May Cry 3 was one that spoke to me well. While the power of demons is daunting to look at, it is the ability to care and emote that makes men strong. This is why Dante ultimately triumphs over Vergil, he is able to come to terms with both sides of himself because he never shut off his emotional side. This is also why he is able to save Trish, a full-fledged demon, from damnation, because he has compassion for her despite the cruelty she originally had. Perhaps he didn't understand it at first, but there was pity in him for her. Besides these moments, he also spared another demon's life because he just wanted a peaceful life with a human woman, takes care of a little girl just because, and is a fair fighter in combat to all of his enemies, demons included. Simply put, Dante is a likable hero with a likable attitude and has some good depth to him.
Next, we have the middle ground between the 3 characters: Dart Feld. Like several fantasy heroes, he is motivated by a quest to protect his closest friend. When we start the game, we see his village burn to the ground and his childhood friend Shana taken prisoner for reasons we don't know at first. Without hesitation, he goes on a one-man rescue to save her, gaining a friend in Lavitz, a knight from the kingdom of Basil. They do end up saving her and it seems that Dart's intentions are clear: protect Shana. But then, later in the game, we learn that his parents were killed by an entity known as the Black Monster. As it turns out, he went out for five years at the beginning of the game to strengthen himself, so he could take revenge on the beast that murdered his parents. It's a shock to me, the player, but then I realized something. The other characters already knew of his quest....and more importantly, Dart never displayed his baggage unhealthily. Instead, we get to know a chipper fellow who's strong, loyal, and courageous. It doesn't stop there, either. Lavitz dies right in front of him where he was completely manhandled by a stronger foe, Shana gets kidnapped again and for a devious plot that would bring an end to the world, and he has to face both his dead friend as a zombie and his father under brainwashing. At some point, you think he'd snap, but no, even with so much emotional stress, he doesn't buckle, he keeps his kindness and valiance front and center. This all comes full circle with two characters: Lloyd and Rose. The former is the man who slew Lavitz and the latter is revealed to be the Black Monster. He has the perfect opportunities to take revenge on these people, but he doesn't do that. While Dart punches Lloyd in anger, he refuses to succumb to his hatred because he knows that killing him wouldn't bring anyone that died back. As for Rose, even though his rage seeps out, he refuses to even attack her because, not only did she do it to keep the world safe from an ancient prophecy, but also because she's a dear friend. That's why Dart is such a fascinating man; despite all his pain, he keeps himself in check and doesn't lash out even when he has the perfect moments to cut loose against those who deserve it.
And here we come to the last of the bunch: Guts. Where do I even begin with this guy? Born from a hanging woman's corpse, raised to be a pawn for his adopted father, was raped, killed said father, lived on his own for a few years as a mercenary, became a pawn in the plans of another again, the list goes on. Without a doubt, he's one of the grimmest characters out there, perhaps on this entire list. Not only that, but he also differs from the other characters on the list in a BIG way: He's not an ideal kind of character. No, he's portrayed more like a person constantly struggling with his sanity, but that's why he appeals to me so much. Guts' defining characteristic, in my eyes, is his perseverance. The amount of suffering and torture he's gone through is astounding, even more so than Dart and other characters down the line. Unlike Dart, though, these events have molded him into a cold killer in the middle of the story that, while incredibly off-putting to many, also makes him vastly more intriguing to study. In fact, I'd say his story is a more build-up heavy variation of one of my highest picks on the list. However, what makes him doubly intriguing as a character is seeing what made him this way in the first place. He grew a connection to the Band of the Hawk that ended with a sense of camaraderie and even love in a woman named Casca. However, once both things were taken from him in a betrayal by the man who he and the others followed, Griffith, he becomes a broken shell of a human being. This is what made him into the violent SOB we know him as, but it doesn't mean he stays that way. During the story, Guts comes across several new faces that help open him up again to the ideals he cherished when he was younger. And, eventually, this allows him to come to terms with his pain and move forward with a newfound spirit. Instead of pure animosity for one person driving him, he is now a man who seeks to protect his love no matter what, which is admirable beyond words. He also has scenes of introspection on the meaning of life, what he is to do with it, and the control he has over it, which are simply amazing, and show just how good his dynamic storytelling is. Guts is one hell of a warrior, a bit contemptible, but always interesting to see living his life.
With all that said, I think it's safe to say that it's astonishing that I can recall so much about them, yet I don't have them any higher. Well, truth is, I still need to have the chance to experience them, not just hear about them from word of mouth or text from other people. While I've played Dante quite a bit on Marvel vs. Capcom 3, I've never had the chance to play the original Devil May Cry games and ended up hearing about what others' opinions on him, which invest me, but I don't think that's enough to warrant a higher spot. As for Dart, I actually do have The Legend of Dragoon, but I have yet to finish it, so that one's on me for wasting my time. Same with Guts, as his story is always available online somewhere.
And how ironic it is to have these 3 tied to this spot, as their stories may not have the chance to be completed or continued. Dante, and the original Devil May Cry series for that matter, may never come back into the spotlight thanks to the reboot. Dart, and the possible expansions and sequels of the Legend of Dragoon, has his story concluded for good due to LOD's sales tanking. Guts and Berserk have been ongoing for a long time due to Kentaro Miura's incredible attention to detail and I have fears that the story might not receive a proper end due to my own fears for Miura's age.
In any case, while thinking about what could have been is always interesting to muse about, it's preferable to me to be happy with what I have, and these three characters are ones I'm happy with as a whole despite not having everything about them down. They deserve recognition in every regard and I hope that they continue to last, even if we can always come back to them at some point in our lives.
"We are the sons of Sparda, and within each of us flows his blood, but more importantly, his SOUL! And now, my soul is saying that it wants to stop you!"
"'Revenge does not generate anything.' That's what I learned from Lavitz. To tell the truth, I don't know what I am going to do or even what I want to do when I face the Black Monster. I just want to know what he is."
"So long as I have my sword to fight with, I'm sure to survive. Year after year, I've proven it to be true. Before joining the Hawks, I've always survived, no matter the odds, no matter how hopeless a losing battle. This time was no different. In truth, I don't believe that's any way to live one's life. I've been fighting in battles for as long as I can remember. The mercenary leader who raised me taught me nothing except how to wield a sword. I've never had anything, except my sword. I don't want to die; for me that is the only reason for me I keep fighting. There is nothing to save myself for or give myself to. I fight because I know nothing else. Once I was willing, to do just that, to commit myself to fighting, and let anyone else find a reason for me."
I'll admit, it's been awhile since I've really typed out anything. True, there was the Jotaro vs. Kenshiro review, but I'd like to focus my energies on something more positive.
So, I suppose I should dive into a topic that really sheds a light on who I am, who I was, and who I want to be.
TOP 11 FAVORITE CHARACTERS
Why top 11?
Because I like the Nostalgia Critic's work. Yes, I know of the debacle that went down between ThatGuyWithTheGlasses staff and the guys in charge. That doesn't mean I can't like his work or take a page from it in the very least.
Anyways, I'll be talking about characters that you may be expecting and may not be expecting that are my absolute favorites in fiction.
Each character or characters (Yes, there will be ties) shall receive their own page. There's little restraint on spoilers, so if you hate those, avoid my list. Or don't, since spoilers can also invest you even more since they tend to make you look more for the 'how' something is executed.
In any case, I'll be working on this. Stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen, if you are interested.
If you ever wanted to study something poorly done so you know how to not fuck up, THIS is a prime example of how not to do an animated fight.
From the top, then.....
What's the first thing we see?
What does a squirrel have to do with the desert?
I've heard that a dead squirrel is a trademark of the animator for this battle....but what point does it serve to open up A GODDAMN BATTLE!?
If you were going for a 'JoJo is known for using dead animals' thing, then use a dead dog. Even then, why put in a dead animal at all if it plays no narrative purpose?
If you wanted to make a cute little trademark reference, put it in where it's just a cute little easter egg.
Or, more preferably, don't put it in whatsoever. It takes away from the actual fight.
Next, the flash animation. For some parts, it was 'passable'.
But for the most part, it's really.....bad.
Okay, so, it's Joseph and Jotaro. Okay, it looks like they're going to DIO's complex in Egypt, maybe Joseph will give off fun commentary while also-
.....Oh no, indeed.
Why bring Joseph in....if he isn't going to act like himself....but instead a meme-spouting dumbass?
You could have actually had something interesting by having an actual reaction from him, like in Sakigake Otokojuku. Characters react to the situation at hand to EMPHASISE HOW POWERFUL OR IMPORTANT THEY ARE.
They aren't just fucking memes! When used right, a reaction shot can make the situation tense!
Okay, next we have....Kenshiro coming toward them....
In Bat's buggy.
I have several questions.
Why would Kenshiro have Bat's buggy when the latter is a child? Why would he use Bat's buggy when he WALKS everywhere? Even then, he gets KOKUOH. A giant fucking horse far faster than the buggy!
And if you wanted him to arrive in style, JUST HAVE HIM APPEAR OUT OF THE DUST.
Anyways, looks like they're setting up that they wanna fight. Alright, just have them say some quick banter and-
WHY ARE YOU HAVING KENSHIRO ACT THIS DAMN BLOODTHIRSTY TO A FUCKING MINOR!?
AND YES, PART 3 JOTARO IS 17!
Oh my god....who the fuck is this? This isn't KENSHIRO. Even if you wanna say 'Oh, Kenshiro just thinks he's a bad guy', NO THAT DOESN'T WORK.
This is why selling Musou Tensei short earlier was ESPECIALLY troublesome. One of the shared abilities Kenshiro could tap into was sensing the hearts of men thanks to Shuh, the Star of Benevolence. So, Kenshiro would IMMEDIATELY KNOW JOTARO ISN'T A BAD PERSON NOR A THREAT FOR HIM TO DEAL WITH.
If you wanted to do this setup right, have JOTARO be the one to misjudge Kenshiro! Bam, the situation is rectified! Not all the way 'good', but you just have Kenshiro have no choice but kill Jotaro, as to better fit with his character!
I'm not saying Jotaro should have been made bloodlusted, but be made to be the more aggressive of the two at first, starting the fight himself. Then, later on, have Jotaro having killing intent in his heart, which would make Kenshiro trying to kill Jotaro at least PLAUSIBLE.
And I haven't even got past the FIGHT yet. Yay.
Anyways, first part of the match has Kenshiro going for a punch, but it's interrupted like in the One Minute Melee.
Except, Star Platinum catches the fist and makes him question what just happened.....
And Kenshiro gets punched all the way into the pyramid....Okay here's why this doesn't work.
First and foremost, the weight of the punch. Yes, going off the 3-6 million ton force (which is not Star Platinum's punching output at all), this does make sense. However, from a storytelling perspective, this actually backfires. If they want to make this all 'Star Platinum can contend with Ken, but not put him down', then they've failed miserably because that one punch sent Kenshiro across the air like a beach ball. Not only that, but the punch doesn't feel complete because of the lack of animation on Kenshiro and the lack of a proper windup.
Lemme show you what I mean.
Here, we have Kenshiro running in, winding up his punch. However, Star Platinum interrupts him and the force of his momentum makes him shoot backwards. Not only that, but a short frame comes in before Kenshiro hits the wall, giving us a brief second to take in just how powerful that punch was. Lastly, Kenshiro is animated to SELL the attack. He flops backwards, looks shocked as he hits the wall, and crumples to the ground.
In the other version, he just looks like a PLANK. There's no movement, therefore no organic feeling of a guy getting WALLOPED. Hell, he's just in his STANDING POSE when he cut to a close up of him!
Next, Kenshiro jumps from his pyramid spot and Jotaro jumps up to meet him.
Why would Jotaro look to meet him? He doesn't exactly know what's up against, so have him be THE THINKER HE IS.
....You....have him just....use the Time Stop....no buildup....no feeling of the moment warranting it....just have him whip it out.....
Okay, no, I'm totally fine with this, I don't see how this could present any problems whatsoever-
THIS IS A HUGE ISSUE.
Why would Jotaro use the Time Stop so early? Kenshiro hasn't done much to make Jotaro think it's the best course of action. Next, good work THROWING AWAY JOTARO'S TRUMP CARD.
If you're as well-versed in fighting manga as I am, and this is ESPECIALLY TRUE with these two series, then you'd know that the FIRST MAN TO SHOWCASE HIS TRUMP CARD AND DOESN'T IMMEDIATELY KILL THE OTHER IS GOING TO LOSE.
It happens with DIO when he spams the Time Stop constantly against Jotaro, despite him KNOWING that Jotaro has the same type of Stand, and this happens to KENSHIRO HIMSELF when he resorts to Musou Tensei too quickly against Kaioh!
Kenshiro had NO idea of Kaioh's ability to sap him of his ki nor the ability to disorientate others, which was able to force Kenshiro out of Musou Tensei!
Oh, yeah, and the animation here is pretty bad. Jotaro just looks like a hunched over moron and never turns to face Kenshiro.
So, afterwards, we have the ONLY good moment in the entire fight.
You see, THIS is how Kenshiro should have first entered the battle, walking through the dust mysteriously.
Next, it has Ken using his Toki no Aura to actually spot Star Platinum.
And the effect here is pretty nifty.
....However, that doesn't mean it without flaws.
Kenshiro doesn't really 'figure out' that Jotaro is using fighting spirit to attack him, as the results claimed. They tell us that, not SHOW us that. We don't really see the gears in Kenshiro's head turning, just that him powering up revealed the Stand to him.
If you want the scene to be fully realized, then Kenshiro should have had some animations to him that made it look like he was actually thinking about what he was fighting, not just come as a by-product of powering up.
And....here comes the fist clash....a mere twenty-five seconds in (I started from the end of the word FIGHT, which was at 12:27, and got to 12:50 when they started the buildup for the clash) ....Okay, so, hands up, how many of you think that almost everyone was looking forward to THIS particular moment?
Oh, good, a whole lot of you BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY EVERYONE WANTED TO SEE THIS.
It came too early and didn't really set up HOW important that moment was to us fans.
And yes, I know that the One Minute Melee did the clash in a similar amount of time, but a few things. One, they had a great fight beforehand, had a GOOD setup for the clash, and the clash CAME AT THE END OF THE FIGHT.
Here, like MOST of the things in this battle, is just thrown at us without proper lead-in.
And it has little impact because of it.
Oh, and after the clash, rather than play up how Star Platinum's speed is a game changer or even Kenshiro giving a look of surprise, he just jumps away like nothing happened.
And then this:
Why does the Star Finger extend THAT far out of his 10 meter range? Even if Kenshiro was within the 10 meter limit, the Star Finger only extends about TWO meters.
Does that look ANYWHERE within that range?
So, after Kenshiro jumps into the air....We get a TERRIBLE animation of an airborne ki blast.
Why do you use the animation for the Gazan Ryozan Ha? A ground-based CHOP?
I'd forgive this if it was just because Kenshiro didn't have any other animations that could work, but WE'VE ALREADY SEEN THAT HE HAS BETTER ANIMATION FOR AN AIRBORNE KI BLAST.
There! Just flip the hand around and you'd have a GOOD airbone ki blast animation!
Even then, WHY would you have him go airborne? The original game Arc System sprite used here could have easily just used a grounded projectile attack!
And then the Tenha Kassatsu.....
What confuses me here is that....It has TWO types of usage here that don't add up.
At first, it's used like a beam, like, Dragon Ball Kamehameha.
Which isn't the right type of attack, but I could excuse it since it wasn't clearly defined as something else in the original source game.
....But then later, it's used as it's intended, as a blast of seven long-distance, different ki strikes aimed at specific pressure points.
This creates a lack of consistency and confuses the viewer to the nature of the actual attack. Just go with one style and STICK WITH IT.
And no, Kenshiro doing the arm twirls doesn't really differentiate the two types of usage. The arm twirls in the animation are for the Tenha no Kamae, a stance move. The actual usage in the game had no arm twirls whatsoever.
Alright, so, we have Star Platinum walking towards Kenshiro, looking to plant his fist right into the face. I'm certain Kenshiro will dodge or, because the fight is rushed to hell, has Kenshiro just flip Musou Tensei-
W-what?....Okay, weird way to have it just be there without ki of any kind to show how otherworldly/powerful it is....I'm certain it'll just be a mirage effect like stated-
.....N....Nuh.....No. No. No, no, no, no.....
NO. NO. NO. NO.
WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS!?
YOU HAVE ALL THAT RESEARCH, ALL THE SPRITES, ALL THAT SHIT.....AND YOU MAKE MUSOU TENSEI....A SHADOW CLONE JUSTU!?
THIS IS A SHADOW CLONE JUSTU.
THIS IS MUSOU TENSEI!
The Shadow Clone Jutsu is meant to have the effect shown in the damn matchup.
MUSOU TENSEI has the effect of making you a freaking VOID and capable of becoming ONE WITH YOUR ALLIES AND RIVALS. Yes, there are mirages, yes, they require ki to work.
But IT IS NOT AS SIMPLE AS A CLONE TECHNIQUE.
Hell, Kenshiro has already shown he can make clones of himself!
And guess what? THAT WASN'T MUSOU TENSEI!
EVEN THE OMM DID THIS BETTER!
EVEN THE BLANK SLATES OF THE ORIGINAL SPRITE WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER.
*5 minutes later*
Ugggghhh.....Okay, I'm back.
And for all you Naruto fans, I'm not trying to badmouth the Shadow Clone Jutsu. All I was saying was that it is NOT the same thing as Musou Tensei.
It is not a simple afterimage nor a shadow clone technique.
Anyways.....no, I refuse to acknowledge this as Musou Tensei. So, I will instead call it FAKE ASSPULL.
So, while Kenshiro is in the FAKE ASSPULL, one of him charges Jotaro. He throws his hand out and misses.
Yet, later, the animation cheats by having a flash animation show us what happened RATHER THAN JUST DRAWING IN A SIMPLE POKE EFFECT.
JUST LOOK AT IT. WAS A SIMPLE POKE EFFECT NOT THOUGHT OF BEFORE THE CLOSE-UP!?
Anyways, eventually, Kenshiro does that multiple Tenha Kassatsu thing I was talking about.....which doesn't suit Kenshiro whatsoever, because he's a close-ranged specialist and CONSTANTLY fights face-to-face with his opponent........not to mention that Kenshiro would only resort to such tactics IF the opportunity is a CLEAR SHOT.....Jotaro goes for a Time Stop (where the tension is promptly sucked out by Joseph memes) and Jotaro looks to kill Kenshiro by crushing his hea-
TO SOMEONE THAT DOESN'T HAVE TIME STOP RESISTANCE?
ARE YOU SHITTING ME?
JOTARO WOULD NEVER THINK THIS WOULD WORK.
HE WOULD TRY TO OPEN UP HIS OPTIONS BY RUNNING THE FUCK AWAY AND TRYING TO MAKE KENSHIRO FALL INTO HIS LINE OF ACTION, EVEN IF IT WOULDN'T WORK!
Oh my god, this is balls.
So, after trying to kill Kenshiro by heartbeat crush IN A TIME STOP....it fails because I guess the team for this gave up, much like Jotaro himself does once the Finger Poke of Doom that never occurred originally takes effect, then Jotaro just explodes (By the way, good job animating the blood hitting the floor).
Kenshiro then leaves....to the sound of Joseph memes.
No respect to the loser from a guy like Kenshiro....nothing.
Oh, and the music choice of the fight does nothing to help this battle stand out.
Wiz: Well, all Kenshiro needed to do to win was just get one hit in, but this matchup was far closer than that makes it seem.
Boomstick: Of course it was! Kenshiro spent the whole time fighting Star Platinum, who he couldn't even see. Lucky for him, once he figured that out, his ability to sense other fighting auras allowed him to keep track of SP, but no matter what he did, Kenshiro isn't a Stand user, so he couldn't actually hurt Star Platinum.
Bonus Fact: Kenshiro has seen and fought opponents who he can only detect by sensing their fighting spirit. Stands are officially described as physical manifestations of "fighting spirit."
(I've alread stated why this 'Stands can only hurt Stands' thing could be highly incorrect.)
Wiz: Then again, Star Platinum's own strength wasn't quite enough to hurt Kenshiro much either. One of Star Platinum's greatest strength feats involves breaking and throwing a small section of a building. In comparison, Kenshiro broke an entire building, let it fall on him, and acted like it wasn't even there.
(That's great and all, but you already fucked this up by showing Star Platinum being able to punch with the force of THREE TO SIX MILLION TONS. AND THIS FAR SURPASSES WHAT YOU'VE SHOWN FOR KENSHIRO.)
Bonus Fact: Star Platinum's distance limitations meant chasing down Kenshiro wasn't a viable option, giving Kenshiro plenty of safe space to operate from.
(Okay, if chasing Kenshiro down isn't an option, THEN WHY DIDN'T YOU MAKE JOTARO FORCE KENSHIRO TO PLAY HIS GAME!?
LIKE THE TACTICAL FIGHTER HE IS!?)
Boomstick: Also, while Jotaro may be skilled in deducing his enemy's weaknesses and strategies in mid fight, Kenshiro's skills, durability, and straightforward approach meant there really wasn't anything for him to pick apart here.
(THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE MADE THE EFFORT TO MAKE JOTARO APPEAR TACTICAL AND NOT A LINEAR IN-YOUR-FACE FIGHTER. KENSHIRO WAS MADE TO APPEAR MORE LIKE THAT, DESPITE BEING THE MORE STRAIGHTFORWARD OF THE TWO.)
Bonus Fact: Kenshiro has survived potentially fatal wounds more intense than Star Platinum typically delivers.
Wiz: Kenshiro did have trouble with Jotaro's time stopping and Star Platinum's speed, however, with his awesome durability plus additional intangibility when using Muso Tensai, Kenshiro survived the Time Stops, and the Time Stop's cool downs between uses gave Kenshiro enough time to work around them.
Bonus Fact: Multiple beings have taken advantage of Time Stop's limits. Stand user Bug Eaten used the environment to trick Jotaro into getting hurt despite use of Time Stop.
(Well, gee, that's all nice and dandy....yet Part 3 Jotaro doesn't have these instances to go off of and Kenshiro isn't really one that can trick Jotaro besides his clone technique and Musou Tensei.)
Boomstick: The Time Stop has been worked around by foes in Jotaro's past before, and as far as speed was concerned, Kenshiro may not have been faster than Star, but a mix of Muso Tensei and mirage clones were more than enough to get by, and let's be real, Jotaro never stood a chance against Kenshiro by himself!
(OH, NOW YOU BRING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO UP. GREAT.)
Wiz: In the end, both combatants had plenty of advantages, but Kenshiro's techniques and overwhelming power ended this fight.
A battle that should've been a legitimate big match....made into just a simple filler fight when it shouldn't have been.
Even going by filler fight standards, this one ranks pretty low.
Hercule vs. Dan Hibiki, Ace vs. Natsu, Guts vs. Nightmare.
All of these had much more fitting animations and better treatment of both characters given to them. Yes, Dan was made to be a joke, but that's his character. Ace his face blasted off was pretty nasty, but the flash for it looked good. Even in terms of a 2D Sprite fight, Guts vs. Nightmare simply had better understanding of how to utilize the strengths of their characters.
This....oh my god.
From a narrative standpoint, it utterly fails, because Star Platinum has lightspeed (Which is really FTL) and 3-6 millions tons of force with his blows! Kenshiro would get his ass DESTROYED by these stats!
Not to mention, both sides are just written as a battle-happy moron and a bloodthirsty motherfucker respectively! This ain't Jotaro and Kenshiro! These are just models with their statistics!
From a logical standpoint, it gets WAY MORE wrong than it does RIGHT.
A part 3 Jotaro doesn't have the kind of shortcomings his older counterparts do, is not as slow as presented, nor is as strong as presented. As for Kenshiro, you can find everything you want to find out about the guy here:
Granted, there may be problems in it, but I got a lot more than they ever could have. And hey, this and the battle I posted for Kenshiro vs. Jotaro was out WAAAAY before the official one.
If you really want a battle between these two done right, look no further than the One Minute Melee! It had even MORE constraints on it, yet it still perfectly committed both sides' characterizations to a T!
I see no reason why the battle should be as half-assed as this!
Even if the animator wasn't as talented as previous guys, there needs to be THOUGHT and EFFORT put into things! Most of the moments in this battle don't have that!
And I know what somebody's going to inevitably say to me.
'Why do you care for this dumb fight meant for entertainment so much?'
Because the thing is, besides me loving the art of this type of entertainment, I honestly did start doing what I do because of these guys. It doesn't matter if we have two differing mindsets on the matter, I want these guys to improve.
They can and have put out quality matches before.
But these last few seasons have just left a bitter taste in my mouth.
So, with this review, I hope that those who wish to do battle fiction in any form who stumble across this can learn from the mistakes of this fight. And to DB itself, if they do come across this critique, I want them to snap out of it and stop putting out rushed products.
If they really want to please the fans, don't work on matches by a weekly basis, send work early to your animators, and outsource your plans to more people so they can work on it. You have the time and money, I assume, so get at it.
Anyways, that's all I have to say on this. I'm out.
I'll admit, it's been awhile since I've really typed out anything. True, there was the Jotaro vs. Kenshiro review, but I'd like to focus my energies on something more positive.
So, I suppose I should dive into a topic that really sheds a light on who I am, who I was, and who I want to be.
TOP 11 FAVORITE CHARACTERS
Why top 11?
Because I like the Nostalgia Critic's work. Yes, I know of the debacle that went down between ThatGuyWithTheGlasses staff and the guys in charge. That doesn't mean I can't like his work or take a page from it in the very least.
Anyways, I'll be talking about characters that you may be expecting and may not be expecting that are my absolute favorites in fiction.
Each character or characters (Yes, there will be ties) shall receive their own page. There's little restraint on spoilers, so if you hate those, avoid my list. Or don't, since spoilers can also invest you even more since they tend to make you look more for the 'how' something is executed.
In any case, I'll be working on this. Stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen, if you are interested.
Favorite visual artistI don't have one.Favorite moviesFargoFavorite TV showsDragon Ball Z, Fist of the North Star, Jojo's Bizarre AdventureFavorite bands / musical artistsI listen to a mix of genres with no particular order.Favorite booksTo Kill a Mockingbird, The Holy WarriorFavorite writersGilbert MorrisFavorite gamesFighting GamesFavorite gaming platformXbox 360, Playstation 2, Nintendo WiiTools of the TradeI have an overly imaginative and analytical mind.Other InterestsI like to create.