Monday, May 31, 2010

Lessons from Fist of the North Star, part II

I am now nearly 60 episodes into Fist of the North Star. That comes out to about 40 episodes watched in the past 3 weeks, only two of which I've actively watched the series. Hey, what can I say? When your wife is off traveling to foreign lands, you have a lot more free time living a bachelor life. Anyhow, I've picked up some new lessons hidden in the plot of FOTNS. I'm still really enjoying watching Kenshiro kick ass, but these little points stuck out for me:

  1. Yuda wears lipstick and looks like a fugly woman. He also happens to be under the "star of deception." Rei pulled a similar stunt earlier in the series. He dressed as a woman to lure unwitting bandits into his trap. Lessons learned: (a) South Star fist martial artists are well versed in the cross-dressing arts, and (b) Never trust a transvestite.
  2. Kenshiro gets his arm bone "shattered" by Raoh in their battle, yet continues using his arm to fight in the subsequent episodes. Apparently, with muscles big enough, you can move your arm freely without any skeletal structure in place.
  3. When Rei is defeated by Raoh and only has three days left to live, he decides to avenge Mamiya. That involves traveling to 2 different cities... on foot... while occasionally spitting up blood... being overall weakened... and walking through the desert with no water. Yet, he and Kenshiro manage to walk between two cities easily within that three day window. And this is after we have seen that Bat has repaired his dune buggy in an earlier episode. I was mistaken to think the characters were Japanese. They must be crazy Europeans since they prefer walking to driving, even when it makes more sense to drive.
  4. If you suspect a cross-dressing, flaming martial artist is gay, then your suspicions are probably grounded in truth. Yuda started wearing lipstick after his bromance obsession with Rei.
  5. How can you identify bad guy martial artists? Because they all practice martial arts from foreign lands or need weapons other than their hands. You practice the ultimate Chinese kempo style XYZ? You're probably a bad guy about to be killed by Kenshiro. Invincible Persian spinning blades? Ditto. Also, if they look a lot bigger than the villagers, then they are probably bad guys.
  6. Of course, midgets are also evil. All short characters who aren't children are evil.
  7. Kenshiro is color-blind. He mistakes Mamiya for Yuria, despite their hair colors being quite different. Or maybe even in post-apocalyptic Japan, it's still fashionable to constantly change your hair color.
  8. The radiation from the nuclear war has changed biology and laws of energy (or mass) conservation. Characters often grow and shrink in size quite dramatically (particularly the bad guys, and especially around battle scenes). Must be all the radioactive energy in the environment.
  9. All of Yuda's henchmen are branded with "UD." I'm all for school pride, but that's no reason to make all of your underlings show off your school. And how the heck did Yuda get into the University of Delaware? He strikes me as more the type to go to Brown.
  10. After deciding to devote his remaining three days of life to saving his beloved Mamiya, Rei suffers exponentially greater pain from Toki extending his life and has his hair turn completely white. He manages to kill Yuda for Mamiya, but still dies in the end. What does this illustrate? "Women: can't live with them, and if you try you'll suffer, have your hair turn gray, and you still won't be able to live with them."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

What motivates you?

In the capitalistic model, it's money. But we all know (hopefully we all know) that money isn't everything. So, then what does motivate us? I thought this video had an interesting answer:

I thought the results of higher financial incentives leading to worse performance in cognitive and creative jobs was telling. It mirrors my own experience. Don't get me wrong. I DO like getting paid and would have absolutely no complaints about earning more money. But that's never been the drive behind my choices. I was groomed for and pushed to medical school most of my youth, primarily because the medical professions pay well. That didn't sit well with me since I'm pretty sure I couldn't stand doing a job I hated merely for money. So, I became a black sheep in the family by going to engineering school. There are a ton of jobs out there that I could have done that would be paying a heck of a lot more than I earn now, but I decided that job misery simply wasn't worth it.

As a side note: if monetary incentives are mostly ineffective at boosting job performance, you have to wonder why it's so commonly used in the financial sector. That would seem to select for greedy, self-interested people who get dumbed down by the financial incentives. Maybe that's not the greatest combination for an industry which drives a large portion of the country's economy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lessons from Fist of the North Star

I've recently started watching Fist of the North Star since I've discovered the Hulu has the complete series. I had watched the animated movie in college, but I never saw the t.v. series. I'm around 17 episodes into the 152 episode series, and I must say I am enjoying it (1980's graphics and all). But I am glad that I didn't watch the series as a kid. While it is technically a cartoon, I'm not entirely sure my 7-year old self would have been quite ready for all the animated gore. I also think that the cartoon quirks may have taught me some erroneous lessons. So far, I've noted several themes/messages/patterns in Fist of the North Star:

  1. To be a bad-ass protagonist in a manga series, you apparently need to have black hair, a triangular head, and really bushy eyebrows. That way, you can be readily distinguished from the evil European-looking arch-nemesis who has blond hair and well trimmed eyebrows. In fact, you can identify the rightful inheritor of the North Star Fist by the black hair, triangular head, and bushy eyebrows since everyone else appears to have different colored hair, round heads, and thinner eyebrows.
  2. You can identify the powerful characters by the ginormous pecs, thick arms, and thin waists. The bodybuilder "V" shape is the ideal martial artist shape because it allows maximal punching power. Kenshiro beats all of his enormous opponents because they have thick midsections and legs in comparisons to their chest and arms. Apparently, Kenshiro's ability to tap 100% of his body's potential has to do with his bodybuilder's physique.
  3. There's no need to worry about running out of oil. Even in post-apocalyptic Earth, there's plenty of gasoline for the multitudes of vehicles.
  4. There are 708 pressure points which Kenshiro can strike to brutally maim and explode his enemies. There are about 208 bones in the human body, and 640 skeletal muscles. Assuming those pressure points are evenly distributed, Kenshiro can pretty much hit anywhere to kill his opponents.
  5. You can easily identify the grunt bad guys. They have mohawks, tattoos, and ride motorcycles. They pretty much look like the bad guys from Mad Max.
  6. It looks like even in post-apocalyptic Earth, we still haven't gotten rid of cheap muscle shirts manufactured in sweatshops. All Kenshiro has to do is flex and the shirt disintegrates. He must be single-handedly keeping the Chinese t-shirt industry afloat by constantly destroying his shirts in every battle.
  7. Nothing says "endearing" and "lovable" character like a pre-pubescent orphan girl who constantly whines and longs for Ken (in a weird Freudian way) whenever he goes off into battle. That said pre-pubescent girl then proceeds to get hit on by a pre-pubescent boy around episode 14. Apparently, post-apocalyptic earth has fostered dysfunctional romances.
  8. Tapping 100% of your potential power depends on shouting the right syllables in a high-pitched voice. Something like "a-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah" followed by an emphatic "watah!" while hitting your opponent is sure to put the massive hurt on.
  9. To follow the previous point, announcing the poetic name of your deadly moves makes them more effective. For example, hitting 20 opponents and then saying "North Star 1000 crack fist" is sure to explode all opponents standing in your way.
  10. Yuria must be an extraordinary harp player because that harp she plays is enormous. Most regular humans wouldn't even be able to reach all the strings. Kenshiro must love her because of her supernormal powers to play strings out of reach. It sure isn't for her musical talent. She apparently can't hide her mood since she plays melodies in a minor key when she's sad and a major key when she's feeling more hopeful.
  11. Shin apparently suffers from the same problem as the James Bond bad guys. You'd think that after the first few times of Ken destroying his minions, he'd send the full forces to crush him, but that's not the case. Rather, he likes having his minions fall to Ken one-by-one and then angrily swear that next time Ken will certainly be stopped.
Despite all these points, I'm still thoroughly enjoying the series. There's something gratifying about the cheesiness and animated bad-guy head explosions. And hearing the predictable "you don't know that you are already dead" hasn't gotten old even after 17 episodes. I'm sure I'll find more quirks (and plot problems) with the cartoon, but I plan on finishing all 152 episodes anyway.