Observation on Small Differences

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes feels more like a superhero story than the main series.

The MHA universe is, essentially, the end result of the X-men scenario: mutant powers have become so common the pretty much everyone has a superpower of some kind. These powers, called Quirks in-universe, can be anything from telekinesis to having really good skin. An effect of having such a wide disparity of power is that there are still supervillians that can menace ordinary people, and superheroes to fight them.

Specifically, it’s a world where superheroes make up a class of celebrity crimefighters that are licensed by the government. The main series is about a boy, Izuku Midoriya, training to become one of these superheroes. The spinoff, on the other hand, concerns a rather pathetic college student named Koichi Haimawari that gets pulled into a life of illegal superheroics by a character that was clearly based off of one of the crazier versions of Batman.

Midoriya’s story feels like a superhero-themed Shounen Jump title, in the same way that Naruto feels like a ninja-themed Shounen Jump series. There’s a protagonist that’s starts out weak and derided by his peers, a rival that much better at their chosen profession that the protag is inexplicably friends with, there’s even a tournament arc where finding out who wins takes a backseat to the interpersonal drama the main character has with another competitor. My Hero Academia is a lot like Naruto, now that I think about it.

Anyways, Vigilantes is more like a superhero story that’s structured like a Shounen Jump series. Strangely, it mostly comes down to how the series interact with normal life. There’s a moment in V where the female lead fantasizes about what her future life could be like with the hero, and there’s this one moment where, having grown up and gotten office jobs, they get called away from their date to keep doing the vigilante thing. This is the most superhero moment in the comic.

Midoriya doesn’t really have a civilian life to disrupt like that. The closest that he gets is his mother worrying about his safety, but other than that, everyone around him is a part of the superhero world. He doesn’t really need a secret identity, or anything else to keep his friends safe, because his friends are all superheroes like himself.

Dreaming of Sunshine

I’ve recently read through Dreaming of Sunshine, a Naruto fanfic that created an entire genre of Naruto fanfics.

DoS is an excuse for the author to worldbuild, using the conceit that she died and was reincarnated as Shikamaru Nara’s twin sister.  The resulting character, Shikako Nara, is mostly an ordinary girl, given that she raised to be a magical assassin in a city full of magical assassins, except that she understands that an outsider could find the idea of sending a bunch of twelve-year-olds out to kill people disturbing, and she has partial knowledge of the future.

Part of the reincarnation conceit is that the person writing the fanfic is a fan of the original work, but by the time the actual plot starts, it had been over a decade since she had a chance to refamiliarize herself with the story, so her memory of it is somewhat spotty.  Adding on to this is that she only remembers the manga’s storyline, but the world she finds herself in is based on the anime, so she’s completely lost when she finds herself going through a filler arc.

One of the things I like about the fic is that the filler arcs are allowed to affect the ongoing story, albeit mostly in the form of Shikako acquiring a plot device from said arc and adding it’s power to her own.  This provides her with a unique upgrade path, allowing her to keep up with canon’s main characters in a way nobody in the original work could.

Shikako’s original powerset was already incredibly diverse for her age group, but it still fit together with her clan’s gimmick of shadow manipulation.  The first powers, beside the shadows, are the powers she learned from her mother: illusions and earth manipulation.  The illusions are thematically linked to shadows in a fairly obvious way, and the earth manipulation can be used to create more shadows.  She also knew medical ninjutsu on graduating the academy, fairly high level ones, albeit the only ones that really show up in canon.  It was a bit to far for me when Shikako performed a chakra transfer between people with incompatible chakra types, but it was a minor thing in the overall story.

As the story goes on, Shikako becomes even more impressive, her knowledge of the future driving her to train to become stronger, so as to be able to survive the challenges ahead.  He biggest jump in power comes when she learns fuinjutsu.  (As an aside, I don’t like the fic’s explanation of seals as ‘You can draw anything you like, as long as it makes sense to you.’  I just picture seals as more objective than that.)  However, her interests extend to pretty much every field of ninjutsu and administrative department of Konoha, allowing the author to worldbuild on almost everything.  Shikako’s vast array of powers are kept from being annoying through a mixture of her interests not leaving anytime to herself, her tendency to almost die on missions, and the fact that she was once so impressive that she caused a war.

Other things I noticed was the fact that the fic depicts the transformation jutsu causing physical changes to the caster’s body as something rare.  Evidence from canon heavily implies that the transformation justu causes physical changes by default.  Many fanfics have the change simply be an image laid over the ninja, because otherwise there would be little to keep the simple jutsu that every ninja knows from letting them grow to fifty feet tall, which is a clan gimmick.

Actually, Naruto’s full of things like that, where the full implications of something existing are simply ignored.  Magicwise, the biggest offender is transformation, but another basic technique, substitution, also nullifies vast swathes of potential powers, namely suicide techniques.  There are also narrative elements that are ignored, like how the main character would have had to skip two years of school in order to fail twice and be the same age as his teammates.  The technology level is all over the place, the only hard and fast rule being that nothing can obsolete people trying to kill each other with magical powers.  All in all, the worldbuilding of the original work is more hole than structure, which is probably why it’s fun to worldbuild in it.

As for myself, I don’t like playing in other people’s sandboxes.  Especially for ongoing works, as canon would have a chance to shift on me.  There’s also how I would have to do a lot of research to write for a huge, sprawling franchise like Naruto, watching filler, tracking down the data books, and other things, just so I would know how everything worked and not look like an idiot to the audience.  But there’s nothing keeping me from using any work simply as inspiration, taking the basic premise and reworking it into something unrecognizable.  Maybe I’ll do that to Naruto when I have the time.

Dragon Ball and its Imitators

The earliest thing that I remember that set me on my path to writing is first catching Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z on Toonami.  Ironically, the parts that I came in on were probably the worst parts of the series: the Pilaf arc (before the series had found itself) and the Buu saga (when the series was running out of steam).  This didn’t inspire me directly, but it did lead me to looking up scanlations online, of series that were, themselves, inspired by Dragon Ball.

After years of keeping up with Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach, reading through the scanlations of Dragon Ball was an eye opening experience.  The thing that struck me was how fast everything moved.  There was absolutely nothing in the series that doesn’t move the plot forward.  (Well, until the Buu arc.)  For example, there’s a part early on where two characters have to swim through an underground tunnel to escape a bad guy.  Other series might take three panels, one of the characters disrobing, one of the characters getting into the water, and one of the characters starting to swim, with maybe the second panel getting skipped.  I was surprised that the comic went right from ‘we need to take off our clothes’ to ‘we’re in the water.’

Perhaps even more striking is where the Piccolo arc ended, which is where the animation team divided the series.  This had been the most dramatic arc in the series at the time, involving an enemy from the mentor’s past, the origin of the Dragon Balls, and a villain that could create A-bomb level blasts.  The final tournament arc doesn’t just end where you would expect a shonen manga to end power level-wise, but narratively as well: the hero had saved the world, was going off to get married, and he had finally won that stupid tournament.  The only real plot thread left dangling was what was up with Goku’s tail.  All of this was done in under 200 chapters, about four years of weekly installments, while the later series needed at least a decade to even start to approach their ends.

The slowness of those series can be attributed to their authors’ style: Kishimoto has a tendency to draw everything out for the most drama possible, Kubo’s negative space needs gigantic panels that keep much from happening in a chapter, and Oda uses a ‘more everything’ approach to storytelling (More action!  More tears!  More shouting!  More everything!)  Kishimoto and Kubo are also much worse than Toriyama at improvising (Oda is, too, but he also improvises a lot less).

The problem with improvising is that it can lead to retcons.  The retcons in DB never really grate on the reader, because the past doesn’t matter.  The characters, especially Goku, never think about the past, because all that matters is the challenge in front of them.  From what I read about him, Toriyama also strikes me as a very in-the-moment kind of guy, so an in-the-moment kind of story suits him.

This is in contrast to, say, Naruto, where the change from ‘The Nine-tailed Fox Demon being sealed inside of someone is completely unheard of’ to ‘The Nine-tailed Fox Demon has been sealed inside of people for generations’ renders the early chapters of the story nonsensical.  (Why would people hate and fear demon hosts if they understood how to control them?  Or why would there be demon hosts if they couldn’t control the demon?)  Kishimoto’s style uses a ton of flashbacks, to the point that there was a flashback within a flashback at one point, so with the past constantly being shown like that, it’s really noticeable how the story doesn’t actually fit together.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from this, it’s to understand yourself when you write.  Toriyama’s in-the-momentness is also the reason that the story could move so quickly, not getting bogged down in pointless details or forcing the author to stall for time while he thinks something up.  Oda knew that he wasn’t that in-the-moment, so he did a ton of prep work, but he didn’t realize how much time it would take to tell his story.  Kishimoto and Kubo tried to replicate Toriyama’s ability to let the characters just act, and failed, so their series got worse and worse as time went on.

So what kind of writer am I?  For one thing, I’m the kind that needs to go over their work after the first draft.  That takes time that weekly updates won’t allow.  My mind has a tendency to create immense, detailed backstories for the characters I come up with, with almost no conscious effort on my part.  My creative process is mostly filling in the gaps between what I’ve thought up.  I think I can get away with only a little prewriting, because most of my universe is already inside of my head.

Naruto Fanfiction

There are over 400,000 Naruto stories on fanfiction.net, and general wisdom holds that we can expect over 40,000 of them to be worth reading.  That’s enough to have entire genres.  You can spend years wandering through the archives, even if you limit yourself to the good ones.  And when you read good fanfics, some things occur to you.

Canon never explains what the hand seals do.  Their done before a ninja does a jutsu, but there are jutsu that don’t need hand signs, and sometimes the seals can be skipped.  Some of the seals are associated with a particular element, but when Naruto learns how to use his element, he only uses it with a technique that doesn’t use hand seals.

The genin learn things a lot faster in fanfiction than in canon, especially elemental jutsu.  Some of this is a hold over from before the exposition about a ninja only being able to use jutsu of their innate element(s), and before that it was implied that the common elements could be used by anyone, but it’s still a far cry from canon, where victory is shown to be the result of using your Thing better than the other guy.  This might also have something to do with canon’s dialogue have everyone be very impressed by people with large jutsu arsenals, in spite of what is shown.

Sakura doesn’t have a Thing in Part I.  She isn’t versatile, which is what usually happens when people don’t have a Thing, and she doesn’t use the three jutsu taught in the Academy to devastating effect.  This becomes particularly obvious when she’s replaced on Team 7 with somebody that actually is versatile, like in Dreaming of Sunshine.  She was associated with genjutsu early on, in the same way Naruto was associated with taijutsu, and Sasuke was associated with ninjutsu, but then the original author realized that visually impressive genjutsu either win the fight or do nothing at all, and that went out the window.

There are a lot of ways that canon could have gone differently, and the number of good fics that rewrite the series based off of one relatively small change.  Switching up the original teams is common.  Much of this is due to the huge, sprawling cast, detailed magic system, and strange world who’s technology is mostly determined by what allows ninja to exist.  The plot is also poorly put together, with the original author’s brain seeming to spawn a ton of ideas and characters, and the weekly schedule not allowing him to take the time to turn these ideas into something coherent.  Assuming I’m not simply reading myself into his situation, of course.  I can understand why someone would like to backsolve the series into something logical, but for myself, I have better things to do than to rewrite other people’s work.  Except, perhaps, recreating the magic system.

Story-lines in Parallel

I never like Orochimaru as a main villain.

Let me back up and explain somethings.  Naruto is a series about a twelve-year-old ninja named Naruto, who has a fox demon sealed inside of him.  The second-most prominent character in the story is Sasuke Uchiha, another twelve-year-old ninja whose entire extended family was massacred by his older brother for mysterious reasons.  Also, Sasuke has an ability called the Sharingan, which I wrote another entire post on.  They do not like each other, but they get put on the same team and have to work together.

Orochimaru is a villain introduced in the second major arc of the series, the Chuunin Exam Arc.  For purposes of full disclosure, the first time I read Naruto, it was mostly just something to take up time.  I didn’t have particularly strong opinions on pretty much anything while I was reading, and the thing I found most amazing about the Chuunin Exams were how long they took.  If I felt anything, it was definitely over something exceptional.

Anyways, now that I’ve established that my first impression Orochimaru was distinctly neutral, I’ll explain his role in the series.  He’s introduced as someone Naruto and Sasuke cannot beat, or even damage.  The only reason he’s even fighting them was to test Sasuke, and give Sasuke a power-up, to tempt him into becoming evil.  Naruto and his fox demon are completely unimportant to Orochimaru’s plan.

As the story continues, Orochimaru is established as somebody that could destroy a small country by himself, and that he had a grudge against Naruto and Sasuke’s faction, the Leaf Village.  His interest in Sasuke was an interest in the Sharingan, which would allow Orochimaru to learn every jutsu (ninja power) in the world.  This is a part of early Naruto’s odd obsession with the number of jutsu a ninja knew, as if it was more interesting than what the ninja did with those jutsu.

Orochimaru’s plan against the Leaf involved another faction, the Sand Village.  Sand was an ostensible ally of the Leaf, but the treaty for this, it seemed, was a bit one-sided in the Leaf’s favor.  Even though the Leaf and the Sand were two of the five great powers of the ninja world, the Sand kept losing mercenary contracts to the Leaf, and could only support a limited number of ninjas.  In an attempt to compensate for their low numbers, the Sand did various things to make each individual ninja as strong as possible, including sealing a demon into a child named Gaara.

Due to being isolated because of the demon’s powers, and some mindfuckery by his caretaker, Gaara grew up crazy, only feeling like his life had meaning while he was killing people.  Thematically, Gaara represents what Naruto could have become, if he didn’t have his teammates beside him.  Gaara and his demon serve as the arc climatic fight, at least as far as Naruto and Sasuke are concerned.  Orochimaru was fighting the leader of the Leaf, the Hokage, at the same time.  I have an issue with how Orochimaru got his fight with the Hokage.

Namely, that it involved Orochimaru killing the leader of the Sand, the Kazekage.  So, immediately after Naruto’s fight with Gaara, the Sand ninja find their leader assassinated, and go back to being the Leaf’s allies.  We are left with a bad guy with more connection to the rival than the main character, made doubly frustrating by the fact that the Kazekage would have made an excellent villain for Naruto, the character.

You see, Naruto’s motivation at this point in the series was to become Hokage, in order to be respected by the Village that despised him for his entire life.  In my head, the Kazekage would, in much the same way Gaara represents what Naruto could have been, represent what Naruto could become: a leader that throws away his morals and ideals for the sake of his people.  This would result in Naruto having to confront the realities of his simple dream, namely, that becoming Hokage wouldn’t make him almighty.

A key part of the Kazekage’s characterization would be partial sympathy.  He would feel that he was forced into doing terrible things by the circumstances of the world.  This would also expand to his minions, who, as ninjas of the Sand Village, would just be people doing their jobs.  This would contrast to the creepy and gleeful villainy of Orochimaru, who would be Sasuke’s villain, in this set up.  Orochimaru would also be used to set up the deeper plot.  (A ninja must look underneath the underneath, after all.  There’s always a deeper plot.)

As for how the war between Leaf and Sand would look like, I mostly see it as both sides sending out ninjas to fuck with the other sides mercenary jobs.  Add in the minor factions that would be between the Leaf and the Sand, and the other great powers of the ninja world, and you have one complicated stew.  A stew based more on subtle politics than on impressive fight scenes, so more suited to prose than to comic books, but delicious, none the less.

Of course, ideas are one thing, and I’m sure that out of the hundred thousands of Naruto fanfics out there, at least one of them involves the Kazekage not getting killed off and the Leaf and the Sand having a war, so, what does this essay get me?  Well, it gives me a chance to think about how to tell two stories, with two different protagonists, at the same time.  The biggest problem I can see is that the plots take time away from each other, making the story take even longer than it already does.  Well, in Naruto’s particular case, much of that length comes from the author playing everything for as much drama as possible (for example, there is a chapter in the series, much later than the Chuunin Exams, that can be summed up as “Sasuke screams and gets tied up.”)

How can I mitigate this problem?  By making developments in one storyline cause developments in the other.  In this example, an example could be the theater of the Leaf-Sand war shifting into a territory that the villains of the deeper plot are acting in, making them begin to move against one side or the other, and, in turn, making Orochimaru begin to rush his plan.  Other potential problems include the themes of one storyline contradicting the themes of the other, characters and powers from one plot trivializing conflicts in the other, and keeping track of what each character was around for.  For these, I’ll just have to be careful.

God, the Kazekage could have made such a great villain.

Notes on “Bleach”

I feel like explaining why I felt the need to rewrite Bleach’s magic system.  In order to do that, I need to explain the structure of Bleach as a story.

The story begins with the main character, Ichigo, encountering a Soul Reaper, Rukia, and having to take on her powers and responsibilities due to Rukia getting injured.  During these early adventures, the basics of how ghosts, Hollows, and Soul Reapers work are all established, and the readers were introduced to some of Ichigo’s friends, Orihime and Chad, while they were attacked by Hollows.  More on these friends later.  There’s also a story where Ichigo fights the Hollow that killed his mother, which ends with the Hollow running off and something happening to it that leaves its face exposed.  More on this later.  There are also a couple of stories that introduce Kon and Don Kanonji, who you can forget.  Finally, the introduction ends with a story that introduces Ishida and the Quincies.

This story serves as a climax for the introduction.  It involves a mass attack on the living by the Hollows, the Quincy genocide performed by the Soul Reapers in the past, Chad and Orihime getting powers of their own, and Ichigo and Ishida teaming up to fight a Hollow the size of a skyscraper.  After all of this, six volumes and about a year in real life, the real plot begins to kick in.

I mention how long the introduction arc took, to emphasize how long every thing in the story takes.  The author’s style involves a lot of white space on the page, in order to put emphasis on the actual drawings.  Unfortunately, because this minimalism is applied so frequently, to the point that more things are emphasized than things that aren’t, the effect is less artistic and more laughable.

One of the side effects of this style is that the stories take forever to actually tell.  Each of the incidents I mentioned above (Rukia getting injured and Ichigo filling in, Orihime getting attacked, Chad getting attacked, Ichigo fighting his mother’s killer, introduction of Kon, introduction of Don Kanonji, Ishida and the mass hollow attack) all took up multiple chapters.  Some of this is the limits of sequential art being published at 18 pages a week, but if I was writing this, each of those would get a single piece, except maybe the last one, which I could see as being dramatic enough to be split into three.  As a result, it took the readers the better part of a decade to get any explanation for Chad and Orihime’s powers.

During this time, speculation abound.  The only real hints to anything about them were the explanations about other characters powers, and remarks about their powers by other characters.  Specifically, Chad’s powers (a right arm that has defensive powers, and a left arm that has destructive powers) are equated with Hollow powers, and Orihime’s powers (a pair of hair pins that turn into fairies that can use barriers to heal, block, and attack) are stated to be similar to the powers of a group of Reaper-Hollow hybrids.

To understand the significance of this, I should explain to you the powers of Reapers and Hollows, and the hybrids of the two.  Reapers channel their power through a weapon called a zanpaku-to, a sword than can gain unique powers when the Reaper says it’s name.  These swords have spirits of their own, and by meditating, the Reaper can speak with the spirit of their sword.  Hybrids that were Reapers first -Vaizards- retain this spirit, and can don the Hollow mask to get a power boost, while running the risk of flipping out and killing their allies.

Hollows generally have powers relating to their overall shape, like flying by having wings, taking over peoples bodies by hitting them with a spore shot from their body, and spawning living bombs they can make explode by whistling.  The hybrids that were Hollows first -Arrancar- lose their masks, and have their forms sealed into a weapon that also called a zanpaku-to.  While the zanpaku-to of the Reapers are always swords, the Arrancars weapons can be nearly anything, from sword to whips to scythes, even a little girl.  That little girl is the only indication of Arrancar swords being sentient.  When an Arrancar says the name of its weapon, they regain their original form.

For the sake of completeness, I’ll mention that Ishada, who was the only Quincy in the series at this point, had the power to turn ambient spiritual energy into arrows and fire them off.  A Hollow destroyed by these arrows is destroyed completely, soul and all.  He also had several ancillary abilities, all involving manipulation of ambient spirit particles somehow.

So, Reapers channeled their powers through sentient objects, while Hollows had powers relating to their monstrous forms.  The hybrids of the two worked completely differently, depending on which they were first, with Arrancar feeling like they got nothing at all that could be directly related to Soul Reapers.  That was the first problem I wanted to fix.

Now remember, while Ichigo spent several years fighting Reapers and Arrancar, there was almost nothing explained about Chad and Orihime’s powers.  They were mostly thought of as “humans with spiritual powers.”  The only thing nailed down about their powers was that Chad (who channeled his power through part of his body) had Hollow powers, while Orihime (who channeled her powers through a sentient object) had powers similar to the Vaizards.  Many people assumed that in much the same way as Chad being a “human with Hollow powers,”  Orihime was a “human with Shinigami powers.”

Finally, after two ridiculously long arcs, the readers were introduced to the Fullbringers. The Fullbringers were a group of humans with spiritual powers, specifically, humans with Hollow powers.  They channeled their powers through objects they had a special connection to.  You may notice that this is not how Hollow powers are shown to work.

Chad and Orihime were also revealed to be Fullbringers, with Chad’s special object just happening to be a part of his body, meaning that Chad and Orihime were both “humans with Hollow powers.”  Fullbringers also had a secondary power of manipulating the souls of objects, so that they could, for example, manipulate the soul of the ground to push them and give them superspeed.  This resembles Quincy powers, more than anything.

In the end, Fullbringers feel more like something between a Soul Reaper and a Quincy than living people that happen to have Hollow powers.  That’s the other problem I wanted to fix, so I made awakeners the first, unrefined form of human magic.  The hunters emphasized the special object, creating an object that served as a badge of office and a focus of pride in that office, while the destroyers focused on the manipulation of outside forces.

Copy Wheel Eye

Recently, I read a part of a website (on TV Tropes page for Character Shilling, if you’re curious) talking about how the Chuunin Exam arc of Naruto spent to much effort on making the character Sasuke seem awesome.  People come from miles around to see him fight.  Women comment on his good looks for no reason.  And a guy that beats the crap out of him thinks he’s a major threat afterwards.  Anyways, thinking about how Sasuke being overhyped left me thinking about how his abilty, the Sharingan, is overhyped.

First, I need to explain how abilities in Naruto work thematically.  Most abilities are discrete things called jutsu, with a few odd exceptions that are more fighting styles than anything.  These jutsu are powered by an energy called Chakra, and stanard jutsu can be taught to anybody with the Chakra to power them, at least in theory.  In practice, most characters fight by using their unique ability against other characters unique abilities, rather than anything that could be considered a standard jutsu, mostly because it’s more fun that way.

Sasuke’s special ability is the Sharingan (literally, “Copy Wheel Eye”).  The Sharingan’s signiture trait, the power that the series tells us is so fearsome, men would kill and start wars just to have, is the power to copy any jutsu that the user has seen even once.  In a series about colorful characters beating the crap out of each other with their unique thing.  This explains why the series so quickly introduces abilities that the Sharingan can’t copy, in the same arc that introduced the Sharingan, even.  These are Kekkei Genkai/Bloodline Limits (the Japanese term is awkward to translate, but the thrust of it is ‘abilities limited to a bloodline‘).  But even before that, the first chapter made a point about how rare it was for anybody to be able to make a small army of copies of themselves, like the main character could.

So even outside of Bloodline Limits, which are specifically called out as being uncopiable, there are several classes of abilities that the Sharingan can’t copy: abilities that require muscle strength or Chakra reserves beyond the user (Naruto’s Shadow Clones, Rock Lee’s taijutsu), abilities that require equipment that the user doesn’t have (Kankuro’s puppets, Shino’s bugs) and abilities that can’t be copied because shut up (Shikamaru’s shadows, Chouji’s size changing).  I know that the databooks give some explanation as to why the last category is uncopiable, but if you only read the main work, it’s just inexplicable.

Having established that the Sharingan namesake copying is useless because of the fundamental structure of the story it’s in, I have to wonder what kind of story jutsu copying would be useful in.  Perhaps we can return to Naruto’s original spy and assassin theme, a world where a jutsu your enemies don’t anticipate is the end of them, and the struggle learn and keep secret techniques is most of the battle.  And then there’s a family that can learn these secrets with a glance.  So what would be the point of keeping those secrets, then?

For my own work, I must be mindful of my stories themes, and not give character’s powers that make them completely irrelevant.

Notes on a “Bleach” Inspired Thing.

First, because symmetry pleases me, let each of the four types have powers unique to the individual, although with thematic similarities between them, and general powers available to every user of that type.  Also, let there be three states of power use: sealed (not actively using powers), normal (actively using powers), and excited (pushing powers to the limit, possible with disastrous consequences for the user or those around them).

The hunters have their weapons as their unique powers, and barriers as their generally available powers.  The weapons must be something designed to do damage, it doesn’t matter how, and the barriers are used for trapping and general utility.  Their excited state burns through their reserves of energy quickly, possibly prematurely aging them if over used.

The monsters are excused from having a sealed state and an excited state.  Let the monsters have their unique powers defined by their bodily form, and let their general powers be an energy blast.  Also, let the bodily form be mostly for movement and other utility, with the energy blast mostly being used to kill, forming a mirror image to the hunters.

When a hunter gains the power of a monster, let them gain the power to restore their limited supply of mystical power by eating souls.  Also let them gain the ability to restore their youth in this manner, and also give them the monsters ability to use energy blasts.  When a monster gains the power of a hunter, let them gain the power to think, to be actual characters, and to use the barriers.  They may use their sealed state as a normal state, relying on energy blasts and barriers to fight, and their normal state as an excited state, regaining their body’s power on release.

Let the awakeners be able to awaken the souls of objects, and to fully awaken the souls of one particular object.  Let them have the weakest thematic links between their unique powers, to imply that it is a natural power, from which the other powers sprang from.  Their general powers leave them particularly adept at altering the geography of the arenas they find themselves in.  Their excited state can have downsides unique to the user.

Let the destroyers’ powers be based around the mystical power found in the air, the ground, and the rest of the environment.  Their general powers can take the form of objects, that can be created by one destroyer and given to others for their use.  I am unsure of how manipulating the power of the environment could result in unique powers, and by the time the inspiration got around to introducing the equivalent’s unique powers, they had gotten very strange and conceptual.  The excited state of the destroyers cause vast damage to the environment, while leaving the user untouched.


Writing about Naruto has made me start thinking about Bleach, another Japanese comic book that was running about the same time.  Specifically, I’m thinking about how underdeveloped the shinigami’s non-Zanpakuto powers are.

First, I should explain what the hell those words mean.  The early days of Bleach were about a dude name Ichigo that could see ghosts being recruited into being a type of psychopomp called a shinigami – or, as the official translation calls them, a Soul Reaper, a term I’m going to use out of personal preference.  The main duties of the Reapers were to force normal ghosts to move on to the afterlife, and to fight and purify Hollows, which are ghosts that stuck around to long and turned into monsters.

The main tool used for the second task is the Zanpakuto (Soul-Cutting Sword), which I’m going to call a Soul Cutter.  What this Soul Cutter is will take a while to explain, especially since a lot of this information comes from after Bleach went from a story about hunting ghost-monsters to a series of angsty sword fights.

A Soul Cutter, to put it simply, is the Soul Reapers power sealed into a sword.  This sword can transform and release that power when the Reaper calls its name.  This transformed state, “shikai (initial release),” gives the Reapers their unique powers that define how their fighting style differs from other Reapers.

In addition to these unique powers, the Soul Reapers have access to a type of magic called “Kido (way of oni).”  This magic consists of spells, cast by means of chants and other rituals.  Very little is explained about this magic, because the protagonist is to busy trying to reach the next plateau of power.  In fairness, it would be thematically inappropriate for Ichigo to bother with formal spells; stacking power ups is just his thing.

Now, what is known about Kido, mostly gathered from what what various characters mention when they talk up a particularly skilled Kido user, is that the chant for most spells can be skipped at the cost of reducing a spell’s effectiveness, and that the spells are classified into 99 levels in two schools: bakudo (barriers and other utility magic) and hado (blowing things up).

First of all, that’s not a whole lot of detail available.  I can accept it for what’s supposed to be a supplemental power, I suppose, but what’s hado doing there?  I guess I just have a problem with it thematically.  Every Soul Reaper has a weapon on them, so why do they need an entire class of supplemental powers just for doing damage?

If I was to do something that inspired by the Soul Reapers, I would probably ditch hado, and leave bakudo as the only secondary powers they had.  Bakudo’s main use is to keep the target from moving, so that the basic idea would be to paralyze the Hollow with magic spells, and then go in for the kill with the magic weapon.  This would work well with the Soul Reapers’ original portrayal as hunters, actually.

Now I’m thinking about hunter wizard samurai.  I’ll have to think about this further.