Shinmaru on Acceptable Depictions of Violence

Original post here: Exploring the Spectrum of Pleasure: Guilt in Narutaru (NSFW)


February 9, 2010 at 12:51 am

This is something I think about a lot, actually. What manages to confuse (or even disturb) me most is that I don’t seem to have a cohesive value system for what is “acceptable” and “not acceptable” to me in terms of levels of violence and depiction of violence. I didn’t really bat an eye at Baccano! (which is a pretty violent series), but while I did enjoy Higurashi, the violence often repulsed me. I can’t even say there is much difference between how each series portrays violence — it’s bloody and tortuous in both, although in Higurashi I suppose it occasionally borders on the fetishistic, which I think is what got to me in the end. But overall I don’t think Higurashi is any more violent than Baccano!

There’s a certain weird energy to fictional violence — most people have that disconnect between reality and fiction, so they look at fictional violence — even enjoy it — on a different level than they would real violence. Something Baka-Raptor wrote about Kaiji when I did a post about it for the Twelve Moments stuff is pertinent: “Anyone who likes Kaiji is a sadist. Sure, we want to see him win in the end, but until then, we want to see him struggle as much as humanly possible.”

Your point about needing to empathize with the suffering of characters interests me. I don’t think this is true for all people, characters or stories, but many people of course have an emotional investment in the characters in whatever series they watch. And when those characters suffer, we (the royal we :p) suffer with them; we are right beside the suffering character, if not physically, then in spirit.

But the truth is, however, that we are not — we’re just watching. Few series choose to acknowledge that, but Kaiji is one of them. It takes great pains to show that Kaiji is not like the average person. He’s a lowlife, uneducated, perpetually jobless and a borderline criminal. He’s addicted to the rush of gambling. And to get himself out of the rut in which he has dug himself, he suffers — a lot. But do we truly empathize with his suffering? We want to see Kaiji win, but we want to see him suffer for it first. We’re the voyeurs.

I mean, that’s the very basis of fiction, isn’t it? If a character’s victory does not come with the “necessary” amount of suffering and hardship, don’t we feel cheated?


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