Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Day I Became an Adult (The Day Naruto Ended)

Very rarely do I write about anime/manga (major understatement as this is the first time), but it's not everyday that a major staple of my life and such a momentous series comes to a conclusion. I apologize to my usual readers. I normally write for you all, but this one is for me. Naruto, created by Masashi Kishimoto, has had an amazing 15-year run. I haven't been along for the whole entire ride, but I have been a devoted fan since 2007. Like most kids of my generation, I watched Dragon Ball Z, but Naruto was really my gateway into other anime and manga series. A part of my youth died when Naruto ended. My "youth" could be defined by two things, Track and Naruto, and now I have neither. But enough about my fandom as that isn't the purpose of this. I want to discuss the ending.

There are 3 things that I wanted to happen before the Naruto series ended. I wanted Naruto to reach his goal of becoming Hokage, become universally acknowledged as a great ninja, and marry Hinata the woman I thought he deserved. All three of those things happened, so you would expect that I'd be satisfied with the ending, but I'm not. Now I won't go as far as some frustrated fans have by calling it a terrible ending and/or series ruining, but for me it was just "meh". A good ending should never have the audience feeling indifferent. Let's address why I feel this way.

My Macbook background since July 2013

1. Lack of Closure. There are so many storylines that never seemed to get its proper due. A gripe of mine is that Naruto-Sasuke's rivalry went from an important piece of the story, to pretty much the entire story itself. I'm aware that you can not properly end every storyline created over 700 manga chapters, but I'm not entirely sure that Kishimoto closed any. Maybe that was his intentions, especially with the inevitable spinoff, and related material that will be released over the next few years (no one sits on a cash cow). I partially understand the rationale of that, but it still makes the ending of Naruto underwhelming. A story 15 years in the making deserves a just ending, and anything made extra after that should be exactly that,"extra".

2. Relationships. We could spend all day arguing about the merits of the relationship pairs at the end, and we wouldn't really get anywhere. I'm going to try to avoid criticism of any pair. Ultimately, I got the couple that I wanted (Naruto X Hinata), but it seemed so contrived and lacking in substance. I wanted this relationship to happen, but I wanted it to seem "right" and it just didn't. Now I know that Naruto: The Last Movie is supposed to address this issue in some regards, but it seems to me that it will just be major retconning. Now as an American, I'm very familiar with retconning, but I think my favorite aspect of anime/manga is the general avoidance of retconning. It makes choices matter. This goes back to me saying the relationships feel contrived. It doesn't seem like any choices made by the characters mattered. All works of fiction are contrived, but they shouldn't feel that way. Conclusions should be based on a natural and reasonable progression of choices made by the characters. Quick advice for any writer. If you're going to make relationships an important part of the ending, you might want to put more effort into writing romance throughout the story.

3. No Hokage Moment. It's nice to see that Naruto is Hokage, but I think for most fans we were more interested in experiencing the moment he became Hokage. His dream was always to become Hokage, not to work as Hokage. It would have been a better moment to show the selection process, the support he got from his peers and villagers, and ultimately concluding with Kakashi (6th Hokage almost by default) putting the Hokage hat on Naruto's head with the cheering of the villagers, and some anectodal quotes from the people that know him well. If someone's life goal is to win an Olympic gold medal, I want to see them in the moment that they win the Olympic gold medal, not a few years later walking around with the medal around their neck. Now maybe that Hokage moment is being saved for later, but all in all it led to a disappointment with the ending.

4. Sasuke's Redemption. There's a reason why most redemption stories in fiction end in death. It becomes too hard to imagine acceptance or a "normal" life after the crimes the redeemer perpetuated. Itachi, Nagato, and Obito are great examples of this. Plus, what is more redeeming than someone who selfishly pursued violence and destruction to sacrifice themselves for the survival of another. Then you have Sasuke's redemption. After a few pages of talk to someone that would have forgiven him and accepted him regardless, he's good to go. Not only that, but he's free to come and go through any shinobi village whenever he feels like it. Didn't seem like enough to me. Sasuke, Orochimaru, and Kabuto should have all been exiled. They all did some good which is why they keep their lives, but ultimately their crimes were just too much to live peacefully around the same people.

Those were my biggest issues with the Naruto ending. Maybe they will explore some of those issues over time, but as of right now it leads the ending to be unsatisfactory. But to keep this from being entirely negative I will list a couple highlights from the ending.

1. Naruto and Hinata's family.
2. Asuma's son could be an interesting storyline.
3. The choices for Kage were perfect.
4. Sasuke's epilogue to Naruto.

Thank you Masashi Kishimoto for a great manga/anime that deeply affected my life. My displeasure with the ending in no way affects my gratitude towards you for giving us Naruto. Thank you, and good luck in your next endeavor.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Are We Really After Our "Perfect Match"?

On Thursday I watched an MTV series called "Are You the One?" I watched a couple episodes in the past with my reality-junky teenage sister, but somehow I lost track of the show. The short synopsis is that they put 10 women and 10 men in the same house, and they have to find their predetermined (By some scientific process) "perfect match". If they find all the perfect matches, they get to split $1 Million dollars or roughly $50K apiece. Ultimately they all found their perfect match but enough about that as this isn't a review of the show, but rather how the show relates to finding love and our perfect match in reality.

The most interesting aspect of the show and I believe it to be true in real life as well, is how determined everyone seemed to NOT want to find their perfect match. Of course, they claimed to want to find their perfect match but it seems that they were trying to take the quickest and easiest path to their perfect match. That usually involved an early attraction to the person they were most attracted to or the person whom conversation flowed naturally with. The thing is, that no matter how good those things sound, they are two of the biggest deceptions in regards to finding your perfect match. It's a flaw of first impression which I will address a bit more later. Finding the perfect match was also often hindered by the excessive desire for "hookups" and the fallacy of that culture. People were quickly hooking up and developing a sexual bond that they wanted to force, oftentimes one-sided, and letting that drive their opinion to whom their perfect match was. Some people weren't even really playing the perfect match game and were just trying to hook-up with people, clouding everyone else's mind in the process. I'm pretty sure everyone can relate to that at some extent.

As the show went on, despite finding out who weren't their perfect match, people kept trying to force something with them. This was usually to the detriment of their real perfect match. As I mentioned before they ended up pairing together all the perfect matches, but that doesn't mean that they were actually interested in each other. For the most part they weren't. Out of the 10 perfect matches only 2 or 3 left the show with any real interest in trying to be together, and ultimately only one couple is together (they are engaged now). That summarizes our culture's dating arrogance perfectly. Go on a show because you aren't having dating success. Once you get there, continue to make the same errors which has led to countless bad hookups in the past. After finding your perfect match which seems like a gift, promptly show no interest in being with them. Now as "reality television", I'm aware the authenticity of the show could be questioned, but it is pretty consistent with how people act in real life.

So do people actually want to find their perfect match? I think people are more interested in obtaining and utilizing the power to chose. Maybe it's our misguided attempt at "free-will". We're all familiar with the slang word choosing, and it relates to our obsession with choice. Our generation values choice over success and compatibility, and any choice that we don't believe is our own constitutes "settling". That singular phrase defines 21st-Century dating. It's also used as a crutch, and allows us to justify our mistakes and shortcomings by refusing to change and evolve. It's much easier to say, "I don't like that, so it's settling", opposed to leaving our comfort zones, trying different things and questioning our own rationale. It's sad to say, but we even have people that are more interested in a partner that would get Instagram likes and approval more than something authentic (Social Media's effect on dating is a topic for another day). Even though we are relatively young, don't let that limit you either. You never know when you're going to meet your perfect match, there's no guarantee that because you're not ready at 24 that you'll still get another perfect match at 31. Or maybe you won't meet your perfect match until 31, the point is don't take your age for granted.

An often used phrase that I believe is misquoted is "you can't choose who you love." We use that phrase in justification of actually choosing who we want to love, and as an excuse to continually pursue non-perfect matches. That quote is supposed to mean that you are drawn to people and there's no real explanation, instead we use it to mean that that's the person we decided that we want and hopefully all our differences and incompatibility will just fall together. Going back to the show, there was a couple who hit it off instantly but weren't a perfect match. Throughout the show they still dated and went through the motions of finding their true match. Well after the show, they didn't last very long because even though they connected instantly they weren't a perfect match for a reason. Maybe instant sparks are more important to us than long-term sustainability. I think it's hard for us to accept, that the person that gives us those instant butterflies and fireworks, isn't really the one. It's strange to say but sometimes the reason you are attracted to a person is the exact reason you could never really be with them. In my opinion a "perfect match" is the perfect symmetrical balance between the mind and the heart, which means there is a level of rational thought required. First impressions are anything but rational, and maybe that impedes our progress. I think if you talked to people who found their perfect match, they would tell you that they had to not only open their heart but their mind as well to different possibilities. 

A great quote from a book I read is that "we humans question all our beliefs, except for the ones that we really believe, and those we never think to question" (Speaker For The Dead by Orson Scott Card). It is pretty straightforward how that relates to dating. We have already clouded our mind by what we absolutely believe our "soul-mate" will/should be, and by how we feel relationships should go that we never really think as to whether there could be a better way. Despite how often we are faced with the fact that maybe our beliefs (in regards to relationships) are wrong, we still hold on to them in hopes of a miracle. I challenge you to change, I promise it's not "settling". Every change won't work, but it will give you different experiences to base your perspective on.

Be more open-minded, less arrogant, and don't be so quick to call things you aren't familiar with "boring" (another word that has negatively influenced dating). Maybe I should have mentioned this earlier, but finding yourself first is imperative to finding your perfect match. Until you've realized who you are, your judgement will always be blurred. Good luck to finding your match.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Nice Guys Don't Have to Finish Last

We're all familiar with the cliche that nice guys finish last, well at least when it comes to dating and matters of the heart. Well I'm here to tell all of my nice guy brethren that you don't have to finish last, but it does require a different approach. "Nice guys" aren't losing simply because they are nice guys, boring, or unattractive. They're losing because in their naivete, they believe human nature and either refuse or aren't very good at playing the powerful game of "Seduction" (I promise that word is as graphic as this blog gets lol). We hear about the "Art of Seduction" but most men, underestimate its importance.

You're probably wondering what does seduction have to do with anything, and the answer is EVERYTHING. Contrary to popular beliefs or stated opinions, people actually want to be seduced. That's where it gets difficult, as people want to be seduced without actually knowing that they are being seduced. Great seduction requires suggestion and not directly stating. Nice guys have been lied to and like anyone with any shred of decency would do, they pay close attention to women's Twitter rants and Instagram posts detailing what they desire in a significant other and relationship. Those traits such as loyalty, and understanding, aren't false per se, but it ignores the important process of actually obtaining their interest in the first place. That is where seduction comes into play.

As mentioned previously seduction is based on suggestion. Most "nice guys" make the mistake of telling a woman how they feel about them immediately. Sounds admirable, but is a recipe for failure. At that point, you've basically admitted to a woman that you intend on wooing her. Not only does this come across as unexciting, it affects the perception of all of your moves. As I stated before, no one wants to know that they are being seduced. They may have an idea of the seduction, but the moment you come out and tell them, you've lost. Now the perception of your "scheme" has changed from charming, perplexing, spontaneous (things women like), and now appears conniving, dishonest, and manipulative (things women don't like). While direct honesty sounds good in theory, it comes across as brash and unflattering, but of course we are never told that. Time for an example.

You go directly up to a woman, and state that you have strong feelings for her. You have just took the worst route in obtaining a woman's interest. Women want to feel as if they chose to like you, not that you coerced them into liking you. Depending on how bored she is, she may even entertain you with a date out of kindness. If you think that's what's happening, under no circumstance do you allow that date to happen. If it does, I can assure you that she will spend the entire time observing you and rationalizing why you aren't the person for her. You've already lost, that's why your seduction game is vital.

People can usually sense when they are being seduced, but they give in because they enjoy the feeling of being led along. There is a strange pleasure derived from letting go and allowing yourself to be led into an unfamiliar situation. You must not announce your intentions or reveal them directly in words, and instead must apply strategies of misdirection and dare I say "deception" to confuse your target. Feign romantic interest, then merely friendship, enjoy the company of other women, go to places you normally don't, and stop going to places that you always do. These actions are confusing, but they will also generate excitement. A woman wants to be led down a path of intrigue and even desires a certain amount of jealousy and confusion opposed to the boredom of security. Nice guys aren't told this. Why you ask? Because women are familiar with the power of seduction. They absolutely do not want men consciously wielding such power.

You probably want proof as to what I'm telling you is true. Well think about it, who seems to always get the girl? The assholes, the doucebags, and the arrogant and disinterested guys. Well it's not rocket science, those guys are naturally better at seduction and not necessarily intentionally either. Women often confuse those guys' disinterest or unpredictable behavior as a thrilling game of seduction, when it is really just disinterest (maybe not sexually but in them as a woman). That is the danger of the art of seduction, so be sure to protect yourself against it. The greatest seducers are disinterested people. All the misdirection strategies discussed in the previous paragraph, are their specialties. They are even better at it, because they are doing it genuinely.

Before you start this game, make sure that you are willing to finish. If you revert back to your natural instincts and confess your affection before you have someone completely smitten with you (at that point it wouldn't matter) it will backfire. No one wants to feel manipulated. All of your previous acts will now be resented. Everything that once seemed charming will now seem ugly.

There is a story about an aristocrat in 17th-century Paris that desired the affection of a countess. He was a "nice guy" that struggled with women. This aristocrat obtained the services of Ninon de Lenclos, the most infamous courtesan of 17th-century France, a woman who lovers had been the greatest writers, philosophers, and politicians of that time period. For comparison, it would be like receiving seduction advice from an older, wiser Marilyn Monroe. Well anyways, de Lenclos guided the aristocrat in obtaining the heart of the countess. Her strategies were very effective, and the countess began showing interest in the aristocrat (laughing more at his jokes, asking others about him, etc). The aristocrat could now see the finish line. Well one day the aristocrat was alone with the countess, and without his adviser he reverted back to his true form and immediately confessed his love for the woman. Surprised and shocked, she subtly recoiled from him and excused herself. He was confused. It's quite simple, all of his actions were now viewed differently. He had been manipulating her, quite well at that, and no one wants to embrace that thought. What was once intriguing as a game with moves now appeared as nothing more than an artless show of passion. The countess felt embarrassed and used. He never had a chance with her again. This reinforces the idea of not starting the process of seduction if you don't intend on following it through to the end. If the aristocrat had showed more patience, and made his move once she was caught in his web and smitten with him, the process would not have mattered.

Now remember this is all about BEFORE you actually get a woman's interest, once she is yours avoid playing games that can lead to confusion and jealousy. They invoke a much different reaction in a partner than a prospect. That is where the Instagram posts traits come in handy. As a nice guy you have nothing to worry about, as you could perform those duties with your eyes closed, it is the obtaining interest part that normally fails you. Now take this information and prosper.
 
Disclaimer: A portion of paragraph 5, and the story in paragraph 8 is paraphrased from the 3rd chapter of the book "The 48 Laws of Power" by Robert Greene. Great book, and worth a read.