I think Shonen manga gets a bad rep for being mindless, pointless, and thoughtless–and many other things ending in “-less”. Which really isn’t fair. Especially when you dig a little deeper, and realize that a good portion of them, such as Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi (HSDK), to name a few, are actually teaching young boys an important life lesson. A lesson that I’ve only just started to understand myself.
How many times have we given up something because it was too hard? I know I have done that most of my life. Just recently I decided to make myself a little training course, using fanfiction as a medium, to practice specific aspects of writing. The stories I decided on isolated a specific writing technique I needed to work on, such as plot, quality of writing, creating characters, etc. The one I’m working on right now has no original plot, or characters, the entire purpose is to focus on improving the quality of my writing as much as possible.
While doing this I realized something very important. Writing is hard. Now, I already knew this, but when I started my training course, I didn’t realize exactly how hard it would be, even though I don’t have to think of my own plot or anything. All I need to do is copy the original manga I’m working off. Just that alone is hard. The act of writing itself is hard.
So, I’ve learned a valuable lesson, writing is hard, it’s hard because it’s tiring, it’s hard because most of the time you spend writing will be trying to ignore that little voice in your head telling you your writing sucks. All I’ve been able to do is just ignore it, my only real victory an ever increasing word count. A word count of suck, but a high one at least.
So, I started thinking of my goal as a shonen manga character’s goal, and to approach it with the same determination as Luffy aiming to be Pirate King, and Naruto training to be the Hokage. Once I did that, I realized, a large part of shonen manga is weak characters showing increasing levels of strength and capability, or strong characters getting stronger. All because they train, and fight stronger and stronger opponents. Training and experience make you stronger.
Sure, most manga characters have something that sets them apart from others, call it potential. What’s that telling us? That it’s a good idea to practice something you have some skill for. Sure that doesn’t sound like the greatest message, but it’s true. I’ve learned from manga that even if you have talent in something, you won’t get any better without practice.
And then there’s the other end of the spectrum, that even a talentless person can get strong where they were once weak. Take for example HSDK, which features weakling Kenichi on his path to superhuman martial arts mastery.
So. Even you can learn important life lessons from a manga where people punch each others brains out.