Power Levels

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun

For the most part, the Railgun manga/anime does a good job contrasting Mikoto and Saten (levels 5 and 0, respectively) and coming to the conclusion that psychic powers are second to good morals, a heart of gold, and really close friends!  Something like that, anyway.

But then you have the mangaka/animation company trying to appease fans who want to see a level 5 Electromaster kicking ass.  Level Upper and Level Downer (whatever that thing’s called) are convenient, but they don’t mask up the true issue here.  It’s quite difficult for a series like Railgun to combine “awesome electric domination” with “powers aren’t everything.”  To Aru Majutsu no Index can pull it off because Touma has the power to defeat all powers and a really strong punch, but what does Saten have?  Good will and an optimistic personality doesn’t win against melted iron going at 1000 meters per second.

On a side note: this fan translation is really horrible.

But sometimes this goes overboard.  For every “I wish I had more powers, but this is fine too” line Saten says, Mikoto goes out and beats up some Level Twos.  As Mikoto Fan #1, there’s no way I wouldn’t be happy about this.  I could watch Mikoto beat up people for hours on end!  But from a thematic/story-centered point of view, doesn’t it seem… off?

Of course, I haven’t read all of the manga (buying the English volumes, so…).  The anime version ended on a pretty high note, with Saten playing a crucial role in the last arc but Mikoto still beating the crap out of evil mecha lady.  So I guess the conclusion that Railgun came to was “having no powers means you can’t do cool stuff, but you can still be useful sometimes.”

Dragon Ball/Z/GT/Kai/Whatever

Even with all the talk about being over nine thousand, under nine thousand, around nine thousand, and to the side of nine thousand, DBZ doesn’t rely too much on power levels to gauge a character’s strength.  The Super Saiyan levels were a rough measure of a character’s power, but once fusion and fusion earrings and majin stuff and a bunch of junk got in the way, it all became really fuzzy and confusing.

But that’s not to say that the original scouter-determined power levels were accurate, either.  I seem to remember Frieza’s power level at something ridiculous like a hundred million.  Why is the level so high?  Come to think of it, wasn’t Frieza supposed to be a galactic overlord?  If he’s such a powerful foe, how come the likes of Cell and Buu, etc. were so much stronger?  And why did they land on Earth, of all places?

I don’t remember that much about the Dragon Ball series, to be honest.  I would get back from school and watch Toonami before eating dinner, and they showed DBZ reruns every day.  I watched the Frieza saga at least three times before they started showing the Cell saga.  It was pretty annoying, but I had to keep watching!  Or else I might have missed out on thirty minutes of RARRRGHHHH and HURGHHHHH.

I was pretty dedicated to Toonami and anime on television until I realized that Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo wasn’t worth finishing.  Especially since the anime version (or maybe it’s the English version) changed Softon from a pile of poop to a pile of ice cream.  I like ice cream, but poop is an essential part of one’s life!  Why censor such a meaningful, integral symbol and replace it with something so superfluous and shallow as ice cream?

Eyeshield 21

So browsing the internet for Eyeshield 21 pictures was a terrible idea.  The first image that came up on zerochan was some BL thing with Agon and Rui Habashira and oh god I did not need to see that.  There are a lot of images with Agon, Hiruma, and Habashira.  There is BL of Hiruma and Musashi, Hiruma and Shin, Hiruma and Habashira…. I’m not one to judge, but this is the gayest shit.

Oh yeah, power levels.

Eyeshield 21 is one of my favorite manga, but I’ve always found the bench press/40 meter dash statistics counterproductive.  The manga succeeds at showing every single character (sans Agon) as an underdog, no matter if he’s on the Devil Bats or the Alexanders.  It’s a ridiculous concept, but somehow it works.

So why include the statistics?

One could argue that it’s a way to reinforce the underdog concept.  Kurita eventually beat Gao even though his bench press was weaker.  Sena beat Shin even though… wait, he’s faster.  Nevermind.  It doesn’t work.  Maybe it works with receivers and quarterbacks, but running backs?  Nope.  The manga really drives the “4.2 seconds is light speed” idea home.  Hell, Sena only beats Shin because he went 4.1 seconds.  It’s not about an underdog beating an overdog – Sena’s just faster, so he wins.  It’s as simple as that.

Like Railgun, Eyeshield 21 tries to put together two different concepts (“hard work pays off” vs. “better stats win”) and fails.  It would be great to have a really overpowered Shin at 4.0 seconds, but what kind of twisted logic would allow Sena to beat that kind of monster?  Kurita’s kind heart beating Gao was enough of a stretch already!

Gintama

Speaking of BL material, I bet there’s a thousand and one demoknights’ worth of fanart about Gintoki and Jiraiya already.  The Gintama fangirls are a crazy lot.   If fanart is any indication of the fanbase, then Gintama fans would be 99% female.  And by that, I mean each fan is 99% female, 0.99% male, and 0.01% retard.

That kind of sounds like the Earth’s atmosphere.  99% Nitrogen, 0.99% Oxygen, and 0.01% I should have googled this.  Don’t you feel sorry for plants, though?  There’s 500 times more oxygen than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so plants must have a lot of trouble breathing.  If plants were all humans and humans were all plants, we would have a lot of trouble breathing.

Redwood trees would be basketball players and baobabs would be McDonalds customers.  Roses would be murderous prostitutes and rafflesia would be big, stinky otaku who sit around all day.  Mikoto Misaka would probably be Yggdrasil or something because she is essential to the life of every living thing.

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3 Comments on “Power Levels”

  1. Mushyrulez says:

    Power levels are only used to give a sense of ‘progress’ – and it does, and it works. That’s why it’s in almost every shounen manga ever – quantitative measurements, not qualitative measurements. Even in Oumagadoki Zoo, which is a fucking manga about a ZOO, the cheetah can ‘only run at full speed for 20 seconds’, but with a burst of strength, manages to run at full speed for TWENTY-FIVE seconds. It’s a way of measuring ‘wow, look at that!’ as opposed to ‘the cheetah ran longer than it usually did’.

    Sometimes it does go overboard, I remember that one image where some Dragon Ball guy had like three trillion power points or something. tl;dr: read the Legend of Koizumi, the power levels used in there are /tasteful/.

    P.S. When you compare running 10.0 seconds and 10.1 seconds – running 40 yards in 10 seconds is running 4 yards a second; running 40 yards in 10.1 seconds is running ~3.9 yards/second, which is really almost the same speed as 40 yards/second. Then, when you compare 4.2 and 4.1, running it in 4.2 seconds is running ~9.5 yards/second, while running it in 4.1 seconds is ~9.76 – a whole 0.26 yards per second faster. Though, to be honest, that whole thing wasn’t really realistic – Sena probably ran at like 40 yards in 4.15 seconds rather than suddenly jumping from 4.1 to 4.2. They should really measure it in terms of speed rather than time…

    P.P.S. He only ran faster because of hard work. And also because evil mean bullies chased him and when evil mean bullies chase you you run faster.

    • flomu says:

      4.2 seconds was a little over the top to begin with. Nobody in the NFL runs that fast: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/40-yard_dash

      And it doesn’t really give a quantitative view of Sena’s progress, since he improves by 0.1 second in the whole series, and that’s with the help of Shin’s shoulder. It’s more of a guide to how fast opponents are… but when you have Shin, Panther, etc. all running at world record times, it’s pointless!

      After doing some research: DBZ actually ditched the concept after the Freiza arc, since several hundred million for the first boss set the bar pretty high for Cell and Buu. Fans gave later villains estimated power levels… but then again, fans also made super saiyan 20.


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