The East vs West worldview is seeing a new understanding in light of globalization. While the east was traditionally a place of mysticism and treasure, the west was a place of war and aristocracy. In a world connected by the internet and outsourcing, these differences are now understood to be mostly perceived, rather than real.
Operative word being – mostly.
Culturally and historically, the east and the west are really different. None of it more apparent in our favorite fiction – superheroes.
From Superman, Batman, Spiderman to Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Bleach, Naruto, One Piece – we relish each and every piece of fantasy and science fiction that comes our way.
And there are some drastic differences between these superheroes, although most of them have logic defying powers and resources – insane wealth, ability to fly, laser beams, super strength, etc. Let us check out in which ways these fictional people differ.
1. Fake science vs fake mysticism
We know these powers and situations are fake. Probably, that is what we like about them. The western superheroes derive their powers from fake science – alien planets, rays of the sun, mutant genes, insect bites. While the eastern heroes derive it out of fake mysticism – spirituality, will power, meditation, intellectual realizations.
How do you derive your power from the sun? Hinduhumanrights
2. Gift vs growth
Western superheroes never need real effort to do anything. Whether it is their power or their wealth that gives them power, they have inherited it or gotten it without planning for it – Spiderman’s bite, Green Lantern’s ring, Superman’s insane powers, Batman’s wealth. But, the eastern stories are all about discovering a power or a need and then making insane efforts to get better at it.
3. Single-level powers vs multi-level powers
Most western heroes have a single level of power they are gifted with. They can’t really dial up their power beyond a certain normal threshold. However, the eastern heroes keep getting power ups throughout the series. Naruto (Naruto Shippudden), Kurosaki Ichigo (Bleach), Shioon (Breaker), each Pokemon of Ash, are all examples of this. Each new threat they encounter, they get a massive power up.
4. Complex powers vs simple power
None of the western superheroes have a single simple power. They are the best, strongest, fastest at what they do. They have gadgets, vehicles, weapons at their disposal. Eastern heroes usually have a single power and which is simpler than most other characters even in the same universe – Ganta Gun (Deadman Wonderland), Ichigo’s Bankai (Bleach), Shioon’s Ki (Breaker), Kubera’s Divine Affinity (Kubera), Tigerwurmd Voln’s Bowskill (Madan no ou to Senki).
5. High powered loners vs groupies
Western heroes, more often than not, fight lonely battles. They are so hopelessly better than everyone else, they end up with hopeless amounts of responsibility as well. Stress and lack of time for loved ones is a sure result. Eastern superheroes are rarely alone. Most people around them have similar powers, some much more than them. They fight with friends and sometimes family beside them.
6. No mentors vs mentors
Usually, the mentors for the western heroes are entirely absent, dead, dying or have turned villains. Eastern superheroes usually have a strong mentor and, sometimes, even more.
A scene from Bleach. tumblr
7. Shared universe vs independent universe
All western superheroes belong to a larger universe – The Kitchen Sink effect. Everything has the same source. Easter superheroes usually have stand alone stories and universes that don’t interact with each other.
A bunch of loners all existing together don’t make them a group. marveluniverseroleplay
8. Crime fighting vs Single villain/threat
Which brings us to this point. Western superheroes fight a variety of injustice, villains, aliens, other superheroes, etc. Eastern superheroes are fighting one villain/threat at a time and the end of it either ends the story arc or the entire story itself.
Deadman Wonderland – Ganta vs the main villain, Wretched Egg. deviantart
9. White male vs groups
With the exception of a very very few characters, western superheroes are straight white males. Eastern superheroes, since they work in teams, are all sorts of genders, sexualities, age, races.
10. Never-ending rehashes vs coherent stories with beginning and end
Western superhero tales go on for decades and decades, changing backstories, rehashing backstories, recreating villains, recreating powers, etc. Superman has been going on since 1930s. Even with long running Eastern mangas and anime, there is a clear beginning and an end to the story, even if it takes 20 years for that to happen.
11. Equal heroes vs heirarchy
All powers in western stories are at the same ‘level’. Which means, in any story, Flash’s speed can beat Superman, Superman’s strength can beat Flash. There is no clear winner. This is also because each of these characters, through the decades, have had different writers. Eastern stories, with a single writer, tend to be clear in terms of who is stronger, faster, etc. with usually no room for real debate.
12. Fulfilled wish vs innocent & joyful
Western heroes are more of wish fulfillment (‘If I had such powers’) with a dash of ‘Be careful what you wish for’, thrown in. Eastern superheroes are more playful, innocent, have friends and their life is more than just their powers and their responsibility.
13. Instinct vs training
The western story trope follows – danger -> normal reaction -> failure -> letting go of self -> victory. Eastern story trope follows – danger -> normal reaction -> failure -> going back to basics and training -> victory. Western traditions give more importance to instinct while eastern ones place more trust in training and discipline.
Next time you watch your favorite Hollywood superhero film, read manga or watch anime, keep this in mind. And tell us what you find!
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