.Monstering Out article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 4, No. 10, September 2001
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.
Many comic book heroes lead double lives, their super self separate from their everyday persona. Clark Kent takes off his glasses and dons his red cape to become Superman; Bruce Wayne removes his Armani suit and straps on his utility belt to become Batman. This kind of transformation from human to hero has been turned into a sensational event in anime. From Ultraman to Sailor Moon, there are scads of characters with flashy changing sequences, but anime has pushed the envelope beyond this, creating characters who physically change to become their hero halves. Rusie from Bastard!! is just one example. Normally Rusie is a passive, sweet 15 year old boy, but with a kiss from a virgin, he can become the hulking Dark Schneider, a warlock of legend with a body and personality diametrically opposed to Rusie's. To celebrate Viz' release of the Bastard!! comic, let's look at the phenomenon of monstering out!
The action-packed fantasy Bastard!! begins rather seriously, with the city of Meta-Rikana under attack by the evil forces of the Four Lords of Havoc. Despite this invasion, young Rusie is amusingly confused about his friend Yoko being upset that he did her laundry -including a pair of panties. Once they evacuate to the City's cathedral, the situation becomes grim. Meta- Rikana's only hope lies in reawakening the old master of the Four Lords of Havoc, Dark Schneider. Utilizing the spell which bound Dark Schneider to Rusie as an infant, Yoko kisses Rusie to release the powerful, ancient wizard. But is this the best choice for Meta-Rikana? After all, Dark Schneider is bent on taking over the world -he's also sarcastic, irreverent, and full of himself. A continual blend of comedy and drama, the Bastard!! videos have been released in English by Pioneer, and now the comic's available from Viz. See a sneak peek on page 38.
Bastard!! is hardly the first series to have a hero who monsters out. One of the oldest such manga is the Go (long o) Nagai classic Devilman. Long ago, demons were trapped in ice. Thanks to the melting polar icecaps, they have begun to reappear, and humans are ill-suited to battle these creatures. Although different versions of the story tell different tales as to how it happens, the hero Akira Fudo becomes merged with the demon Amon. Only a demon can defeat demons, and only a pure heart can keep a demon from taking complete control of a person. So in times of need, quiet Akira can call upon the power of Amon to mutate into Devilman, a demon hybrid fighting for humanity's survival. Naturally there's plenty of gory action and drama in this story. The original TV show and comic were released in 1972 and eventually spread across the globe. Since 1972, there have been multiple new Devilman manga titles, and three OVA series, including the spinoff Violence Jack. Most recently there has been the 1998 TV series Devilman Lady, a story which resembles the original only with a female lead who can monster out.
Another grim and violent classic about a hero who can monster out is The Guyver. Instead of demons, the lead, Sho Fukamachi, must save the earth from bio monsters and the evil corporation which controls them. The story begins when Sho stumbles across a strange metal disc. When he touches it, Sho monsters out into the bio mechanical warrior Bio Booster Armor Guyver 1. Full of dark biomechanical action, the OVA series has been released in English by Manga and part of the comic was translated by Viz.
Other series have used more subtle versions of monstering out for dramatic effect. When Dragon Ball Z's Goku or other Saiyans power up to Super Saiyans and beyond, there are physical changes as well as personality shifts toward more violence. Before they could turn Super Saiyan, there was the great monkey transformation, where Saiyans became Ozaru (long o), towering over their enemies.
Another Shonen Jump anthology hit, Yu Yu (both u's long) Hakusho (Poltergeist Report) has plenty of monsters in it, quite a few of whom monster out. It's not until the end of the series, however, that artist Yoshihiro Togashi decided his lead, Yusuke (first u long), needed to have a transformation to express the new power he'd achieved. Although not as shocking a transformation as Devilman or Guyver, powered up Yusuke's (first u long) long hair and body markings clearly convey the idea he's changed. Read more about this series on page 41.
Like Bastard!!'s Rusie, and Devilman's Akira, high school student Aya Mikage from Ayashi no Ceres (Ceres: Celestial Legend) has a legendary being living inside her. Like them, in times of need Aya's body and personality can be shared with this powerful being, giving her the powers of the celestial maiden Ceres. Unlike them, her monstered out form is in no way monstrous; Ceres has unearthly beauty. Filled with fun and angst, this fairly dark supernatural comic, and now the TV series, are available in English through Viz.
In the Meiji Era historic fiction Ruroni Kenshin (also known as Samurai X), the title character is powerful enough in his normal kind and polite persona, but when pushed, Kenshin can revert to the unstoppable assassin he once was. This contrast between pacifist and killer is expressed through a dramatic change in vernacular and a subtle shift in eye color and shape. When Kenshin changes, his eyes become narrow, his pupils yellow; he becomes a curt and ruthless warrior. Although less dramatic than the way some heroes monster out, Kenshin's change is one of the most disturbing. This popular manga may not be available in the U.S. yet, but the movie, OVAs and the beginning of the TV show are now available in English by A.D. Vision and Anime Works, respectively.
Monstering out is not used solely for dramatic purposes. Urusei Yatsura's Lei monsters out more for comedic effect than any real need. Bakuretsu Hunter's virtually helpless Carrot Glace mutates whenever he's struck by magic. In the comic, the potency of the magic which strikes him determines his form -the stronger the magic, the stronger the monster Carrot becomes. In both situations, the only way for him to turn back into regular Carrot is to be punished by the Miss sisters, providing some perverse comedy to this already amusing fantasy series.
Monstering out doesn't have to be creepy. It can be cute, too! There are plenty of magical girls who not only change their outfits when they power up, but their bodies as well. In the charming classic Maho (long o) no Tenshi Creamy Mami (Magic Angel Creamy Mami), the tomboyish gradeschool heroine, Yu (long u) Morisawa, uses a magical compact* to transform into the cool teenaged idol singer Creamy Mami. In a similar fashion, young Mai Katsuki* uses a magical bracelet to transform into Maho (long o) no Star Magical Emi (Magic Star Magical Emi), a teenaged girl who is fantastic at performing magical tricks. Using a special compact, Kokubu Karin monsters out into a super hero pig in Ai to Yuki (long u) no Pig Girl Tonde Burin(long u) (Love and Courage's Pig Girl Tonde Burin (long u)). With the use of a cross, Marron Kusakabe's hair and eyes change color along with her outfit when she becomes Kamikaze Kaito (long o) Jeanne (Divine Wind Thief Jeanne). As the modern reincarnation of Joan of Arc, Marron must defeat the Devil's evil plot to take over the world by possessing art in order to steal the hearts of mankind.
Cute, creepy, subtle or monstrous, the artists of Japan like to invent new ways to illustrate and enhance the changes their heroes go through when they power up. This kind of transformation not only makes stories more visually interesting for audiences, but more challenging for artists as well. The changes in personality which often accompany monstering out give the artist and character the freedom to do things the character's normal persona wouldn't allow, and it can add an intriguing dynamic to the story. With the wide variety of transformations creators have come up with already, you have to wonder what will they come up with next?
See if you can confirm if it Mami uses a compact; I haven't been able to.
I'm guessing at Mai's last name.
Please check my spellings of Lei, Ozaru, and Bastard!! names against the ones Viz is using, and, if possible, the spellings of The Guyver names/terms, too.
If you can think of another example of comedic monstering out (and no, Ranma doesn't count), then please add it.
If it's a little long, consider cutting the Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne part, or maybe Kenshin. (No! Not Kenshin!)
If you're aware of any US versions of Devilman, please tack on the information at the end of that paragraph.
Oh, and Cutey Honey is an android, which is why I didn't mention her. Yes, she transforms, but she's built to do it. I don't think she's significantly less powerful in one form or another. Does that make sense?
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