"Yamato-damashii" is loosely translated into "the spirit/soul of Japan", and defined as anything and everything which makes Japan (and the Japanese) unique, distinct, and great. Of course, this creates the logical question: What is "Japanese"?
At its most basic, Yamato-damashii implies pure merit and being or becoming "better". Japanese culture is rooted in a clan (or in-group)-based hierarchy system. Every person has a rank within their family, community, organization, and class the same way that some characters are more powerful or gifted than others. Each family, organization, and class has, in turn, a rank in society as a whole, reflected by Power Levels. By following Yamato-damashii, any person can increase their potential, and thus status, climbing to a higher rank in society while their True Companions help.
In fiction, it shows itself as a plethora of virtues, in words that may not translate directly into English well, but here we'll organize them into three forms: talent, insight, and persistence.
- Koyū note (or Innate) is any trait, gift or possession that makes someone a Born Winner, whether they're aware of it or not. note
- Chie note (or Insight/Resolve) is a belief or faith that remains correct and unshakable, and has more value even than the believer's life. note
- Seishin note (or Spirit/Persistence) is a level of vigilance, competitiveness and willpower which overcomes the impossible just by "trying harder". note
If you've ever read, seen or heard of a Japanese story with even a hint of a To Be a Master or Defeating the Undefeatable plot, this probably sounds familiar. The strongest characters in the work will demonstrate some of the tropes, but The Protagonist(s) will eventually become the epitome of it. The order and safety of our society is based on "rules". But what do you do if a threat comes along that completely disregards those "rules"? The answer is the Japanese Spirit. Japanese Spirit eschews certainty; it's why villains appear unbeatable at first and why more confident attacks rarely work.
In traditional Japanese philosophy, Persistence (hard work, hope, and spirit) was considered the most important and desirable of the three virtues, but takes time to develop. Resolve (moral rectitude and honor) appears once the hero finds something to fight for. Of the three, Talent is the most powerful, but least virtuous or important; with enough Presistence and Resolve, most heroes find that they actually had it all along. Yamato-Damashii believes that everyone will Die or Fly in their Darkest Hour, so even a weak-but-persistent person will prove themselves useful in the long run.
Rivals and antagonists, on the other hand, will be lacking in at least one virtue in comparison to the protagonist. Even an antagonist that starts out invincible will wind up defeated when this flaw is exposed. Sometimes, the Hero will reach their peak only via an 11th-Hour Superpower against the Big Bad. note
Ki, or some other equivalent Force, is often the manifestation of Yamato-Damashii and is almost all-powerful. Ki mastery will let you ignore injuries or No-Sell attacks entirely. There is usually a way to sense Ki or treat it like a measurable quantity that one person can have "more" or "less" of in a hierarchy of power.
As stated above, this trope defines what is good about Japanese culture. Thus, in the finale, Japanese Media will almost always need to demonstrate that it's superior. The Big Bad will typically achieve their One-Winged Angel form or have acquired the almighty MacGuffin so that when the hero finally succeeds, it is always with the knowledge that the villain was completely crushed despite every cheap trick. For this reason, heroes are duel the villain alone, or only with indirect support. After all, if Yamato-Damashii has transformed the hero into a "better" person, then proving it is more important than simply winning.. Others in a Five-Man Band may help the hero reach their destination, deal with specific threats or fight the Co-Dragons, but they will barely do anything more than buy time or distract the villain for the Final Battle.
A story setting doesn't actually need to be Japan to possess this trope. This is more about the general tone and logic that the story employs, which is more reflective of the setting it was created in than the one it takes place in.
Compare the Pillars of Moral Character, a separate but overlapping Japanese values system that more than likely defines what virtues the character's resolve springs from. Also compare Kawaisa, which is a later attempt at an idealized Japanese culture.
It's highly likely that the story structure is derived from Wuxia (Dragon Ball, the codifier of modern Shounen, was heavily inspired by wuxia). In America, the closest this concept approaches is the Superhero and Hollywood Action Hero. Westerns also have a similar feeling, but vastly different story structure.
Compare how well the concept fits into The Hero's Journey. Also, compare with stories that follow a Heroic Fantasy plot. The main character can also very easily be categorized as an Übermensch, with his or her nemesis being representative of the "Last Man". Any character that succeeds at Yamato-Damashii is likely to have Real-Life Super Powers in some form, if not actual Magic and Powers.
Contrast with the The Gift, where a character is extremely talented and may need little to no struggle to be strong; usually, these characters are defined by their talent and showcase the difference between the protagonist and his or her rival/antagonist.
- Attack on Titan:
- Eren is flat out stated in the story to be more Persistent than anyone. Unfortunately, his ego writes checks that his body can't cash. He's an example of a character who has strong willpower but not the raw talent or insight to go with it, and as a result, he repeatedly suffers injury, failure, and setback, which makes even his strong willpower constantly falter. True to the Japanese Spirit archetype, he has a number of hidden "talents/powers" which only work if he holds on to his persistence even in the face of death. His Evil Counterpart, Reiner, is similarly stated to be a soldier with incredible willpower. He teaches Eren the importance of using his strength of will for a greater purpose.....and is ultimately defeated by Eren when his own resolve wavers.
- Mikasa is described as one of the most Talented soldiers of all time. But she's somewhat lacking in the resolve and persistence departments. While, yes, she will do anything to save Eren from danger, this is due more to him being a Living Emotional Crutch and not because she has any particular goals of her own. If nothing else, she's the epitome of what women traditionally used Japanese Spirit for (helping the man they most treasured above all else). Her Evil Counterpart, Bertolt, is also noted to be an exceptionally talented individual, with great potential to master anything he's taught. However, his lack of confidence greatly hinders his ability to live up to his potential and he spends much of his time crippled by insecurity.
- Armin's Insight is pretty much the ray of hope that our protagonist holds onto. He's physically weak, but he's called one of the most brilliant soldiers, and his strong idealism to see the outside world still motivates his friends. His Evil Counterpart, Annie, also possesses incredible insight, providing insight to others on human nature as well as the potential of those "Special" people that hold on to their ideals. It is when she falters, hesitating to kill Armin and later allowing him to emotionally manipulate her, that leads to her downfall.
- Baki the Grappler: Baki wants to defeat his father, Yujiro Hanma, the World's Best Warrior. The show follows this trope implicitly in most battles, with many fights coming down to whose martial arts style is superior, and whose spirit is stronger. Unlike most others on this list, Baki follows one point raised under the Talent section in the description. That is to say, even during the final battle, Baki never defeats Yujiro (and in fact, gets curb stomped). Instead, Yujiro simply concedes to Baki after witnessing Baki's indomitable spirit and resolve. Baki's greatest Talent, in the end, was an overabundance of Resolve and Persistence.
- Ichigo is a Born Winner gifted with ungodly high reiatsu, guided by a superb moral compass, and persistent enough to never give up and risk everything by rushing into sure-death scenarios with abandon.
- The Anti-Intellectualism and Simple-Minded Wisdom elements abound in the series as well. One blatant example when this trope is used is during Ichigo's fight with Renji. He and Renji are evenly-matched physically, although Renji has the edge on him in experience. Then, Ichigo has a flashback to his training with Urahara, in which Urahara talks extensively about Resolve, and how you simply need to know your resolve will work. Instead of dodging and thinking "I don't want to be cut", when you dodge, you think "I will not be cut!" After Ichigo finds his Resolve, he defeats Renji with one strike.
- During a training session against his Inner Hollow, the hollow berates Ichigo for trying to rely on logic to defeat his enemies and says that doesn't work.
- When Yoruichi is training Ichigo to use Bankai (notice a pattern yet?), she tells us the quote above, which succinctly tells us what the Japanese Spirit is, in a nutshell.
- Another example of Anti-Intellectualism, where spirit overcomes logic, happens when Gin and Aizen are walking through the Precipice World back to Soul Society, a Cleaner (a giant spiritual bullet train that destroys anything it touches) is seconds away from hitting them. When Aizen (in the first stage of his One-Winged Angel form) steps up to challenge the thing, Gin states that the Cleaner "belongs to the world of reason" and that spirit energy is useless to defeat it. Aizen replies with "Reason is only for those who must rely on it to survive", and destroys the Cleaner effortlessly.
- In Claymore: Made explicitly clear during Teresa's Kirk Summation in Chapter 154. Her own raw talent and phenomenal power become combined with Clare's heart, forged with pure determination to form a power that dwarfs everything else seen thus far in the setting.
- Interestingly, Dragon Ball did not follow this trope at first. In fact, Akira Toriyama intentionally subverted it several times. In particular, though Goku definitely possesses the traits of Yamato-Damashii, Toriyama would never allow Goku to win a Tournament Arc (until the King Piccolo arc, which is the only time the world was actually at stake), despite fans demanding it. Secondly, the victories against Raditz and Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z were both done with true teamwork (as opposed to a single main fighter with token support). However, from the Namek Saga onward, Dragon Ball slowly helped codify this trope in Shounen. A later example is when fans were dissatisfied with the Android villains (partially because there was more than one, and because they did not appear to be Worthy Opponents), forcing him to make Cell the main antagonist.
- However, at the same time, Toriyama also codified Ki. According to him, ki is determined by courage and vigor and "being in one's true mind", which is flat out the basis of this trope. In addition, he also introduced Power Levels, which were essentially a sort of scientific measurement of a person's overall ki and battle capabilities. Toriyama stated he specifically introduced Power Levels as a quick method of establishing base strength to the audience, but that the numbers were intentionally not reliable. In other words, guts and courage ultimately overruled academic limits.
- Dragon Ball Super is returning to subverting this trope with the Universe Survival Arc. It begins with Goku's simpleminded Persistence and Resolve causing him to become the main villain for everyone else's point of view. It's also clear that teamwork and tactics will be just as important as effort, talent, and brute force.
- Probably the strongest subversion though, is in the "Future Trunks" arc. The heroes fight valiantly to defend what they believe in against an arrogant villain who feels he has a right to kill whomever he wishes simply due to his station and in the end the villain is proven to be completely right as everything the heroes do ends up being totally pointless as a last minute Ass Pull allows the villain to instantly merge with the universe, become the embodiment of justice (Which was his goal from the start) and kill all the humans the heroes had been fighting to protect. Only divine intervention stops the villain, at the cost of the entire universe. While previous arcs subverted Japanese virtues like hard work, determination, courage, honor, and self-improvement, the final episode of the Future Trunks arc seems to go out of its way to show that all of these virtues are absolutely worthless in the face of divine power.
- Eyeshield 21: The Amino Cyborgs' clinical approach to football is no match for the teamwork and enthusiasm of the Devil Bats, leading to them getting stomped in the first round of the fall tournament. Meanwhile, Jerk Jock Agon Kongo is seemingly untouchable with Talent out the wazoo, but he ultimately loses to Sena because he doesn't have the latter's Resolve and Persistence.
- The Real Eyeshield 21 from Notre Dame is essentially the embodiment of this. He's naturally gifted, has more than enough resolve to climb through the ranks of his school to become its starting running back, and is persistent enough during competitions that his signature move is simply to ignore tacklers as he runs with the football, sometimes dragging them along with him. It also helps that he's named after the equivalent of King Arthur in Japan.
- In Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro, like all masters of the North Star and South Star martial arts schools, has powers and abilities which make him extremely special and talented. Further, the Inciting Incident which caused the series (his first duel and loss to Shin) has Shin specifically state that Kenshiro lost because he lacked resolve. The desire for both revenge and to rescue his fiancée are what push Ken to his peak. Even later, when Ken needs to unlock his ultimate technique, it turns out that he can only do it by embracing "the true nature of sorrow", demonstrating that the "Insight" and Right Makes Might parts of this trope are intact. Lastly, Kenshiro at first glance appears to avert the Persistence side of the trope because he's so invincible that he never needs to do any training and rarely struggles against an opponent. However, it's revealed that all of the battles, lost friends and allies, and psychological trauma he's endured throughout the series has allowed him to perfect his abilities, thus fulfilling the Persistence angle after all.
- Food Wars!:
- Cooks like Erina and Akira have an innate talent, their tongue and nose respectively make them stand out and helps them refine their dishes.
- Megumi's greatest strength is her resolve - her concern for the people she is cooking for. Her hospitality can be felt in her food and touches the hearts of her customers.
- And thirdly is Soma's persistence. As Isshiki explains to a dumbfounded Eizan, what makes Soma stand out and the reason why most people in the school look down on him is that, despite his accomplishments in the short time he has spent in Tootsuki, if they were to acknowledge him, they would accept that they themselves did not put enough effort in their cooking. Soma's hard work and never faltering spirit is what makes him a great cook.
- Deconstructed in Future Diary. In a There Can Be Only One plot involving Scry vs. Scry, the protagonist is not talented (at least, no more so than the other characters), does not have resolve, and can barely be considered to have anything resolving willpower. But his good heart is what causes the female lead, Yuno, to develop a Mad Love for him, and Yuno certainly everything this trope dictates. She's exceptionally talented, insightful, and determined. But the zigs and zags keep coming throughout the story—Yuno is only The Ace because of her Abusive Parents and is actually an empty broken person inside who needs Yuki to validate herself. And later on, when Yuki's parents are murdered, he finally gets the resolve he needed...but it starts to slowly erode his willpower and push him into madness to the point that he would rather die than kill Yuno. In the end, Yuno betrays him because of this and it's revealed that she's actually the Big Bad, having manipulated everything to this conclusion. Since Yuki won't kill her and become God, then it wouldn't make sense for them to commit a lovers' suicide; she can travel back in time and be with his past self all over again (as she did last time after SHE became God). In the end, Yuki and Yuno become horribly broken people, and it's only through the intervention of others that the story even manages to avoid an outright Downer Ending.
- Hajime no Ippo not only follows this trope but was localized in the West as "Fighting Spirit". The story specifically calls out the Japanese Spirit by name more than once:
Coach Kamogawa: "Not everyone who works hard will succeed. But everyone who succeeds has worked hard."
- It's flat out stated to be the most common and powerful trait of every Japanese boxer (though other nationalities are capable of it). The virtues of Talent, Resolve, and Persistence are thus personified by the characters of Takamura, Coach Kamogawa, and Ippo himself, respectively.
- It's also deconstructed in this series through the characters of Aoki Masaru and Kimura Tetsuya. They've been boxing for many, many years and worked hard in the process. However, neither has ever had a championship belt, and they tend to suffer crushing losing streaks. When comparing themselves to Ippo, they state that Ippo is a "Hard Work Genius"—able to gain geometric leaps in skill through training, while most others will only gain a marginal difference.
- Hikaru no Go:
- Examined with regard to Akira Touya. When he asks his father if he has talent at go (Koyū), his father responds,
- Akira doesn't necessarily show much Koyū but his Chie and Kakan are enough to make him the strongest player of his generation.
- Hunter × Hunter:
- The most prominent example of the trope comes along with "Nen", the "ki" archetype of this story. Gon and Killua are explained by their master, Wing, to be one-in-a-million geniuses at using Nen, and they possess exceptional physical talents as well, such as being able to run for dozens of miles without getting tired. There are geniuses beyond even the two of them as well, although it's constantly demonstrated that hard work, training, and determination can overcome this natural disadvantage.
- Furthermore, Nen itself actually incorporates Resolve into its mechanics. There are two modifiers ("Vow" and "Restriction") which can increase an ability somewhere between slightly and exponentially depending on how resolute the vow is. For example, a vow that places a severely limiting restriction on an ability, along with a devastating consequence for breaking it, can make one's power immensely improve.
- In the Iron Man manga, Tony Stark works hard to curtail his American sensibilities, especially his womanizing, while in Japan, knowing it won't win him any points with the locals. His behavior, however, more closely resembles what a Japanese writer would GUESS an American hotshot would act like. For example, at one point, he is sparring with a Japanese fighter and compliments the man on his Japanese Spirit...before cheating and then proclaiming that as an American, he instead has "Pioneer Spirit". Not only Japanese Spirit is something most Americans have vaguely heard of, at best, but no American would ever use the term "Pioneer Spirit". The "American Way", maybe, but in this context, even that's a stretch.
- Kenichi from Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is noted to have unparalleled persistence but his resolve for training sometimes wavers. This is because he reserves his resolve for protecting his friends and innocents. This is usually the key to his many Die or Fly moments where Kenichi defies his usual cowardice and goes all badass on an enemy. However his own masters note that his talent is practically nil; even with six excellent if eccentric mentors, Kenichi takes quite a while to improve to the point where he can reliably protect Miu who is his own age. His youngest master, Shigure, is less than ten years older than him.
- Kill la Kill:
- Ryuko Matoi is unbelievably determined, even at the start of the show. She's driven by a desire to find the person who killed her father and believes that Satsuki Kiryuin is either that person or knows who is. However, in the beginning, she is no match at all for Goku Uniforms, even with the enchanted scissor she wields and winds up retreating or needing to be saved multiple times in the beginning. But when Ryuko gains access to Senketsu, her superpowered sailor uniform, her true powers and talents come to light. At that point, she is more than a match for Two-Star Uniforms, and she even gains new abilities/skills as she fights the Three-Star Uniforms and stronger opponents. Satsuki herself expresses admiration for Ryuko's spirit. Much later in the show, it turns out that Ryuko is a Born Winner, with a body that is infused with Life Fibers that allow her to handle a Kamui (essentially the equivalent of a Ten-Star Uniform), where 50% is enough to drive most people insane. However, finding her horrific origins out sends her into a massive Heroic BSoD.
- Satsuki Kiryuin is not only willing to take risks but believes that the power of sheer badassery will allow her to overcome any challenge (and it does). This is despite the fact that she is not as infused with Life Fibers as Ryuko is because she was too old to accept them at the time of the experiment while Ryuko was experimented on from the moment she left the womb. She also fits the archetype of the Japanese Spirit villain/Rival like a glove. She generally believes in a very cynical and harsh worldview and looks down on anyone who doesn't fit her ideals. However, it's revealed that her Long Game involves waiting for the perfect moment to betray her mother, the true Big Bad. Further, her worldview isn't completely unjustified; she needs soldiers with enough spirit and resolve to resist being controlled by Life Fibers, and doesn't have time to waste on "half-baked allies".
- Log Horizon: Japanese Spirit is subjected to a Decon-Recon Switch in this series. Atypical of most anime, the main character is not an Idiot Hero or Book Dumb, and thus the story does not bend over backward to make sheer Determination the highest virtue possible. In fact, the Training Camp arc goes out of its way to demonstrate how fighting spirit and Training from Hell alone are a recipe for disaster. At the same time, however, it's still shown that Resolve has its purpose and that although the strategy is absolutely necessary, there are times when you need to act. At one point, they even paraphrase a Samurai mantra which states that failure to act when necessary makes one no better than those already dead. Thus far, the Japanese Spirit trope is kept in delicate balance with actual pragmatism.
- In Lyrical Nanoha, Nanoha already begins extremely powerful, being a AAA mage right off the bat, proceeding towards S rank at Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS and having acquired the nickname Ace of Aces, as she is by that time one of the most powerful mages in the universe. She is also an undefeated Determinator who will not lose to anyone; career-ending injuries will only take her out of the action for a year at most and things like having a hand stuck through her chest will not stop her from casting her most powerful spell. However, the Training from Hell she endured to become that powerful did come to bite her during the Time Skip. Her case is relatively unique because this trope normally applies only to males, and she is a girl who fights in a white dress and twin ponytails while firing pink rays of doom; she even won one round in the Sai Gar 2007 tournament, where the manliest character of anime would be chosen.
- My Hero Academia:
- All humans are born with special abilities, so-called Quirks, and those who train their abilities can become licensed heroes and combat the evil and villains in the world. Izuku, however, is one of the rare people who are not born with a Quirk, which shattered his dreams to become a hero like his idol, All Might, the No. 1 hero in the world. Izuku is basically not born with any Talent, but still can enter the hero academy and pursue his dream, because All Might passes his Quirk on to Izuku, after the latter trained his body to inherit it and showed that he did not want to become a hero for money or fame, like other licensed heroes, but because he wants to save people, no matter how powerless he is. Izuku's Resolve and Persistence earn him the respect of his idol and even Arc Villain Stain, the Hero Killer, who deems Izuku worthy of becoming a hero and ends up saving him from another villain.
- After his fight with Bakugo, Izuku incorporates the latter's Resolve to win every battle and prove himself as the strongest.
- Zigzagged in Naruto:
- On the one hand, teamwork is a major focus of the ninja villages. But on the other, virtually everything comes down to a one-on-one battle anyway, with the best warrior of one side inevitably facing the best of the opposition. Just as relevant is that there are so many epic battles and so much post-school training is preparation for these, given how little ninja work supposedly comes with the goal of seeking out a worthy opponent and epically battling them. While this is explainable both for historical reasons (wars between early chakra users, their descending clans, and eventually villages have made this the dominant factor in the development of ninja skills from the start) and technical ones (the current state of skills means you can't expect to avoid a fight with anybody you can't beat in one), but it's clear all of this is set up just to ensure plot arcs must be resolved with "moral victories" as per this trope.
- Konoha village, the central setting of the series, has a belief called the "Will of Fire" which basically insists that Right Makes Might and that love is the secret to strength and peace. This belief best manifests in each successive generation becoming more powerful than the previous.
- The eponymous protagonist at first begins the story with being having nothing more but persistence in proving himself (being orphaned as a child and more or less having raised himself while the majority of the village feared and hated him for having the Demon Fox sealed in him). He gains true Heroic Resolve in his first real mission and begins to show his skills. While he was Cursed with Awesome, he was unaware for the first 12 years of his life and it took a while for him to be able to use the power. Also, his lack of actual technical skill or aptitude is constantly a plot point. And later chapters reveal that he was always exceedingly talented even without the above curse, though not in the obvious ways or just went unobserved. By the end of the series, Naruto's hard work has made him one of the single most talented shinobi in the series.
- One Piece has incredibly strong themes of idealism and dreams which naturally tie themselves into this concept. Every one of the protagonists, and plenty of antagonists, are sailing the high seas because they have a dream to fulfil or an ideal to uphold, and often sacrifice much to persistently pursue that dream at all costs. Luffy in particular has an ultimate "To Be a Master" aim, to become the King of the Pirates, and has such a strong resolve to achieve this goal that "I'm gonna be King of the Pirates!" is basically the kid's catchphrase.
- Even with the rather intricate Elemental RockPaperScissors system, Heroic Resolve tends to be the factor that decides the fights in favor of the heroes.
- Whilst most of the main characters were already renowned for their strength before joining the crew, and do get stronger as the story progresses, it isn't until the Enies Lobby arc that the story's tone changes more towards self-improvement, overcoming impossible obstacles and drawing on innate strengths. It's here that the Straw Hats' happy go lucky adventure to this point is deconstructed and it's shown without any uncertainty that they will not survive without the resolve to improve and protect each other. All of the Straw Hats have to take a level in badass and re-examine their commitment to their goals to even begin to tackle this arc. It's also when we start to find out about some of Luffy's innate gifts as the son of a powerful revolutionary and the grandson of a legendary hero of the marines.
- Considering that they are criminals and all, the Straw Hat Pirates end up doing the morally right thing a lot more often than the Marines sided with the corrupt World Government.
- There exists a force known as Haki which actually means "ambition". This manifestation of spirit allows the user to sense Power Levels and harden their bodies for both offence and defence. Luffy is gifted with the rare Conqueror's Haki with which you can literally knock out Weak-Willed opponents with sheer spirit alone.
- One-Punch Man is a comedic take on the concept, but mostly plays it straight. Saitama wanted to become a hero through diligence, and did so; except the Training from Hell he underwent turns out to have been mundane, less than what a real-life athlete would go through, yet somehow it gave him god-like power. Apparently he really just has excessive talent, and when superheroism becomes pathetically easy for him, he becomes lackadaisical (but still manages to save the day over and over without really trying). He does still have a strong sense of heroic morality, though this only comes out in the rare occasions where he faces someone who puts up a bit of a fight. Metal Bat's Fighting Spirit ability where he gets stronger the longer the fight is dragged on is also based around this trope.
- Ash Ketchum of Pokémon fits each of these tropes above. At first, it seems "Talent" is his exception, but Ash is stated several times to have an unusual ability to create deep bonds with Pokémon due to his extremely good heart and persistence. For example, Pikachu started out hating him, but quickly grew to love Ash when Ash faced a flock of Spearow to protect him, and Charizard warmed up to him after he burned his hands taking care of it while injured.
- In most feature-length movies, Ash is either The Chosen One or somehow important to saving a city, country, or even the entire world.
- There's even an instance in the first season of the series where Ash is facing an opponent who's turned Pokémon battles into a "science", relying upon data and statistics to win. His attitude upsets his family and offends Ash, who states that fighting spirit and instinct are the only true things that determine the outcome of a Pokémon battle.
- The girls in Puella Magi Madoka Magica are personifications of individual aspects. In many respects, the normal interpretations are subverted or deconstructed, though it's mostly played straight in the ending, where Madoka sacrifices herself to become a deity of hope and persistence:
- Sayaka has strong convictions and is willing to sacrifice her life for them, but she lacks talent. This leads to her downfall because her limited talent cannot support her overzealous ideals.
- Kyoko, Sayaka's antithesis, is talented but has lost her faith and ambition; though she is (unwittingly) inspired by Sayaka's determination. After Sayaka becomes a witch, Kyouko attempts the supposedly impossible task of turning her human again. But that turns out to be truly impossible, so she joins Sayaka in death instead.
- Homura is persistence-incarnate, relieving the same tragic month over and over until she achieves her goal. Subverted in that she ultimately fails to "protect Madoka" as she intended, but, see below.
- Madoka is extremely talented but she needs to find her one wish that is worth fighting for and the persistence to fulfill it by spending eternity rescuing other magical girls. Her talent, it turns out, comes mostly from Homura's perseverance, making it appropriately noble.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion turns the trope on its head, as Homura uses her persistent spirit to become even more powerful than Madoka... and evil.
- As a manga about swordsmen during the Meiji Restoration, it's no surprise that Rurouni Kenshin uses and discusses aspects of this trope extensively:
- The three traits:
- Koyuu: The main character, most of his supporting cast, and the majority of antagonists in the series all have some gift or trait that makes them stand out as fighters. Kenshin, by far, shows himself to be the most talented of all in skill, and starts off the series having attained the title of "the strongest". This is subsequently deconstructed as the series shows the toll that his style of swordsmanship takes on his body, in spite of his talent.
- Chie: Ideals are thrown back and forth between various characters, each of whom has their own ideas about life. In the very first chapter, Kenshin states that Kaoru's father's ideology of "the sword that protects life" is a utopian, impractical ideal, but one that he would rather believe in instead of the true nature of kenjutsu as a killing art. Other characters have their own ideologies, (e.g. Saitou's "Aku. Soku. Zan.", or "Swift Death to Evil"), and the entire focus of the Kyoto Arc pits Kenshin's principles of the strong protecting the weak versus Shishio's "The weak are food for the strong". Soujirou even asks if winning the fight proves that the victor's ideals are right (a concept which Kenshin rejects). At the end of the arc, it's even stated that time (or "the age") was the one that decided the winner. And subverted in the epilogue to the arc, where Japan's real-world rise to militarism prior to World War II is described, suggesting that Kenshin's fight may have been in vain.
- Kakan: Starting from the second half of the manga, Kenshin's pivotal fights are decided by two things: the Succession Technique, and the inability to die thanks to the sheer force of will. Sanosuke has his own Training Arc, and Yahiko spends most of the manga pushing his limits in order to become stronger. The Succession Technique is even explicitly stated to be affected by the user's will to live and resolve.
- Japanese Nationalism: Played with.
- Subverted on the surface. Kenshin doesn't fight for Japan, but for his own ideals and to protect the weak, having learned the cost of getting politically involved during his career in the Bakumatsu. Shishio, the villain of the Kyoto Arc, seeks the rise of Japan as a great power and intends to shape it in his own ideals.
- However, subtext suggests a straighter interpretation. A large number of Kenshin's opponents adopt non-Japanese technology (A Gatling gun, Shishio's battleship which he purchased from Enishi, an arm-mounted Armstrong cannon), forms of dress (e.g. Soujirou's and Houji's clothing), and other mannerisms and influences (e.g. Enishi's dealings in China). Kenshin and his supporting cast are more traditional in garb and style, and occasionally described as belonging to the previous era (e.g. the phasing out of traditional swordsmanship, even Kenshin's own insistence that the hitokiri should've been left behind with the Bakumatsu), and Houji explicitly compares defeating Kenshin from taking over Japan.
- Patterns: Kenshin's gantlets in the Kyoto and Jinchuu Arcs plays this completely straight - while Kenshin's supporting cast helps deal with the Big Bad's henchmen (and may interfere in the final fight to little benefit), it's always up to Kenshin to take on the Big Bad himself with minimal aid, and the fight always boils down to pitting his use of the Succession Technique (as mentioned, a symbol of his resolve) against his opponent's strongest move - following which the opponent is both physically and psychologically defeated.
- The three traits:
- Saint Seiya:
Aioria: "No matter how many times I fall... I will always get up with my two legs."
- The Cosmo is the Background Magic Field that Saints manipulate. Some people are born naturally Cosmo aware ("Koyuu"). In order to use the Cosmo, you must use what can basically be summed up as a combination of "Chie" and "Kakan".
- In the original series' early arcs, Seiya, would often make pretty clever strategies to defeat enemies. However, Seiya's determination to win (Kakan) is practically a plot point and Seiya`s fighting spirit (Chie) is the sole reason why the Sagittarius Cloth keeps protecting him.
- In Omega, the first half of the series involves the heroes running away from villains that are just too strong. On the other hand, it was through Kouga`s resolve to protect Saori that the Pegasus Cloth recognized him as a worthy bearer, and it was through his determination to not give up during his fight with Spear that allowed him to use the Pegasus Ryu Sei Ken at will. There is also the fact that Kouga has the extremely rare Light Cosmo and later Darkness Cosmo. "Koyuu" is also exhibited in the character of Dragon Ryuho who is the son of Shiryu from the original series, and is regarded as a genius.
- Episode G is probably the Saga that best exemplifies this; a big deal is made out of the fact that Aioria is the brother of the most powerful Gold Saint of his time, Aioria often talks at length about his resolve to never let the Titans win, and many of his enemies often comment on his stubbornness. It can best be summed up by a quote from the man himself.
- Sengoku Youko: The three greatest members of the Dangaishuu are said to be Jinun who has the greatest power, Yazen with the greatest wisdom, and Douren with the greatest technique.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann gives us this advice: "Go Beyond the Impossible and kick reason to the curb!" Furthermore, you have things like Spiral Power, constant Next Tier Power Ups and constant references to confidence, spirit, and resolve. It's safe to say that the series is this trope in its purest form.
- Zigzagged in World Trigger:
- Team Mikumo each embodies one of the virtues roughly (Yuma = Talent, Osamu = Insight, Chika = Persistence) but in reality, it isn't so neat and tidy. Osamu is not just insightful but persistent, lots of people not that it's Yuma's battle experience which makes him dangerous and not just natural talent, and Chika is a Born Winner with more Trion than 100 ordinary people put together. Further, though the team does work together to get stronger, the story doesn't use the Traumatic Superpower Awakening or 11th-Hour Superpower tropes.
- The fight between Team Nasu, Suzunari-1 and Team Mikumo during the B-Rank wars invokes the trope. specifically, the beginning of the fight focuses on Team Nasu's Resolve, since one of their team members (Akane) will be moving out of town with her family soon, so they wanted their last battle to be meaningful. As par for the trope, the battle is sparsed with lots of flashbacks of the team to show what they feel and why it means so much to them.
- As such, when Akane is put in a disadvantage, she chooses not to Bail Out when she has a chance and allows herself to be put into a Die or Fly position where she has to take out her opponent (Yuma) before he closes in and defeats her, at best she takes an arm before she gets taken out.
- Only minutes later, her teammate Kumagai tries to take on another Ace, Murakammi on her own by using an Indy Ploy. He cuts her down with almost no trouble, however.
- The match commentators specifically discuss this trope, and Tachikawa defies it. He says that strength and strategy are greater deciding factors in a battle than spirit. Sure, the spirit is great and it's fun to watch when it works out, but overall, if the difference in skill and strategy are too high, spirit won't work.
- For a good Western example that lacks the specifically Japanese elements but has virtually everything else about this trope, the Rocky franchise stands out quite well, as do the many sports movies that follow the formula it laid down. The finer details of Rocky Balboa's resolve vary between films, but it usually comes down to a desire to prove and defend his honor after another fighter underestimates and dismisses him, often ignoring the people around him who warn him, quite reasonably, that he might get himself crippled or worse in the process. His persistence... well, there's a reason why the Training Montage is such an iconic part of the series, as he prepares to fight foes with far more resources behind them. Rocky's talent, finally, is that he's a hell of a fighter who can withstand a lot of punishment and slowly beat down his foes (which also goes back to persistence). On the flip side, Apollo Creed, the villain of the first two films, was ultimately brought down in the second by his own hubris despite his superior fighting skill, and in the third, he becomes Rocky's trainer and friend, such that the plot of the fourth is in large part about Rocky's quest to avenge his death at the fists of Ivan Drago. An anime or manga adaptation would have to change precisely nothing except the setting in order to make for a perfect example of Japanese spirit — and indeed, this video makes the case that Dragon Ball is, in fact, a Spiritual Adaptation of Rocky as a shonen manga.
- The Dresden Files, oddly enough, applies the virtues to the Swords of the Cross, which are Christian in origin (albeit one of the swords is a katana which is actually Kusanagi, meaning that it was created for the use of Shinto gods and their descendants - or that at some point, it fell into their hands and the stories got mixed up). Each of the Swords corresponds to a virtue and can "level the playing field" against supernatural enemies for a wielder who embodies that virtue. It should be noted, however, that "Faith, Hope, and Love" are mentioned in the Bible as well.
- Amoracchius/Excalibur is the Sword of Love, a greatsword corresponding to Koyū. Michael Carpenter is an Ideal Hero from a wholesome family background, who is so devout that even without his sword's help he can burn evil beings by touching them. Prior to the events of the story it was used by King Arthur, who was likewise born to do so.
- Fidelacchius/Kusanagi is the Sword of Faith, a katana corresponding to Chie. It can be powered by different kinds of faith, religious or non-religious, but is at its strongest when fueled by the belief that a weak but just man can defeat even the strongest evil.
- Esperacchius/Durandal is the Sword of Hope, a saber corresponding to Kakan. Its only known wielder is a former villain fighting to redeem himself, and it is weakened by giving up.
- The Japanese wrestling scene is very much built on this in terms of Wrestling Psychology, especially the attribute of Seishin. Very often, an underdog wrestler will take another's finishing move, but will kick out of the pinfall attempt in a surge of energy before finally being put down. It is not so much no-selling the move but demonstrating a moment of being able to overcome and rise higher than he had been before before finally succumbing to impossible odds. Conversely, overwhelmingly one-sided matches in Japanese wrestling are very uncommon, and even between two wrestlers of different skill tiers, there is the possibility of the underdog winning against a heavily favored opponent simply by virtue of successfully rising to the occasion through willpower and determination.
- Ragna the Bloodedge is persistence incarnate. Despite how many times he gets knocked down, he's quick to get back up and continue trying until he succeeds. But he lacks insight as he's mostly motivated by anger than a truly righteous cause.
- His younger brother, Jin Kisaragi, embodies Talent. An exceptionally skilled fighter who single handily ended a war graduated top of his class and became the youngest major within his military. Staying true to his status as The Rival though, he lacks any sort of drive to succeed or improve mostly due to a combination of apathy and arrogance.
- Noel Vermilion definitely has Insight. She has a steadfast belief in her friends and family, which is her primary motivation to succeed. However, since she's a Shrinking Violet, she doesn't have much stubbornness to keep pushing.
- What's interesting is that all three characters undergo Character Development that helps them develop other parts of the trope and become much better individuals: Ragna gains a nobler cause to fight for, Jin finally has some conviction to succeed, and Noel develops much stronger abilities to help her.
- Civilization: In Civilization 5, one of the two unique abilities of the Japanese is based on Seishin. Japanese military units will continue to deal full damage to enemies no matter how damaged they themselves are (as opposed to all other countries units, which deal less damage the lower their health is).
- Disgaea: Hour of Darkness:
- The Power of Love and The Power of Friendship are repeated throughout the story and is what unites and eventually motivates the protagonists (even if Laharl doesn't want to believe it.
- However, demons have their own expression of it. Laharl and Etna are steadfastly against any form of complacency or taking an easy path to success. They gladly pick a fight with opponents even if the fight seems hopeless, value any Worthy Opponents for their strength, and will recruit (read:"vassalize") any strong persons they defeat.
- Nowhere is it demonstrated better than in the battle against Kurtis, where the characters specifically wait for Kurtis to give his life story so that they can compare how their ideals match up to his. Captain Gordon (Defender of Earth!) even states that Kurtis was fighting for what he believed was right, but that it was Not Quite the Right Thing. Upon being defeated, Kurtis says he feels the "Defender Spirit" within Gordon and makes a HeelFace Turn, followed by a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Also demonstrated in the last battle the party has against Mid-Boss, who is uncharacteristically serious during this battle and specifically fights them to "test their resolve". After losing, he gracefully bows out, but not before reminding them of everything they learned on their journey.
- The Defeat Means Friendship and Not Quite the Right Thing aspects are subverted against Vulcanus. Vulcanus is convinced that his goals are selfless and benevolent, but he really just wants to Take Over the World. The party tries to convince him that he's wrong and to see it their way, but he absolutely refuses.
- Guilty Gear: Though Japan and its culture remain only in fragments thanks to its destruction by the Gears, its virtues still exist, as shown through the three main characters, which personify its individual aspects:
- Sol Badguy represents Talent. Being a Gear, he has a large amount of power. However, he lacks persistence and insight due to his Brilliant, but Lazy attitude and his general personality.
- Ky Kiske represents Persistence, since he has contributed greatly to mankinds victory against the Gears and is the driving force behind humanity's recovery, but is somewhat lacking in the Insight department, as shown in the drama CD where Ky falls prey to I-No's manipulation, leading to his death and a future where humanity is losing soon afterward.
- Dizzy represents Insight. She tries to have the Humans and Gears peacefully coexist and easily is among the most idealistic in the cast, but lacks the Persistence thanks to being hunted down as a Gear and living in a secluded life.
- Hakuouki examines the concept, and Shiranui even uses the phrase "yamato-damashii" when he quotes his friend Takasugi Shinsaku. It's very much viewed in the context of the End of an Age, and to some extent deconstructed: when the Boshin War breaks out, Hijikata grimly acknowledges that the day is long past when "fighting spirit" was enough to overcome the vast disadvantage in numbers, equipment, and training that they face compared to their enemies. Kondou's failure to come to the same realization leads to a crushing defeat at the battle of Koufu-Katsunuma and causes Harada and Nagakura to break ties with the group. Nevertheless, resolve and persistence, in particular, are virtues to which Hijikata and the Shinsengumi remain utterly devoted.
- The Legend of Zelda codifies the three virtues as Power (Chikara), Wisdom (Chie) and Courage (Yuuki). The Triforce, embodying all three, can grant wishes to "one whose heart is in balance". The series also plays with the Triforce and its relation to these virtues in the following ways:
- In most games, Link starts out as the weakest of the three central characters, but the most strongly associated with Courage.note However, he must pass trials themed after each of these virtues (or more abstractly, their corresponding elementsnote ) before he can achieve victory. Starting with A Link to the Past, Link usually must gather three Plot Coupons which symbolize these virtues before he can wield The Master Sword. Also note that in Ocarina of Time, the Master Sword was the final key to receiving the Triforce, which symbolizes all three used together to create Omnipotence.
- The other two major recurring represent the other virtues for the trope, but also symbolize their flaws. Princess Zelda, although wise and possessing powerful magic, usually cannot solve the conflict of the plot or find the Triforce herself. The main antagonist, Ganon, is a Born Winner who embodies only Power, which (directly or indirectly) always prevents him from gaining full control of the Triforce.
- Abe no Seimei of Onmyōji embodies type 2 he's defined by an especially strong moral conviction in defending the good, staying on the side of good and protecting the delicate balance of the world at any cost even from a young age, to the point where he forcibly purged evil influences growing inside him to devastating results, and he does have knowledge, skills and capability in battle to put to good use.
- In Persona 3 and Persona 4, the Protagonist's social links tend to characterize them as The Ace, and they typically have stats like Academics, Understanding, Diligence, and Courage that exemplify this. Almost always, the Big Bad is defeated by the hero alone with the aid of an 11th-Hour Superpower.
- In the Street Fighter franchise, Ryu and Ken share the aspects of this trope, with Ken further on the "Talent" end and Ryu further to the "Persistence" end. Ken is a Born Winner and natural athlete that takes to everything he tries easily (including martial arts), but fighting shares a spot on Ken's list of priorities alongside his wife and child. Ryu is a Spirited Competitor who trains and seeks challenges day in and day out and constantly walks the path of the warrior; while not as talented as Ken, Ryu is so focused on the fight that he's pushed the basics beyond mastery. As stated in the description, the series tends to place a slight priority on Ryu's methods, as Ryu is Japanese. Of the two, Ryu is the only one that has tapped into the Satsui no Hado (which Ryu has to resist with great Heroic Resolve), and according to Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Ryu has a slight edge over Ken in terms of wins. However, in several media (including Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie), the two are at their peak when they either fight with or against, each other.
- Aang, Katara, and Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender exhibit talent, insight, and persistence respectively, and each of them gains more of the other two virtues. Aang is born a prodigy and the last of a lost people, but his lack of insight caused him to run away from his responsibilities. Katara helps guide Aang with her own insight, and through him and a little of her own persistence is able to find a waterbending master, and becomes a master herself. Zuko was not a firebending prodigy like his relatives, but this helped to fuel his persistence later in his quest to capture Aang, and through his own journey gains the insight on the world he had been lacking, as well as finding talents he had aside from firebending, such as swordsmanship and eventually leadership. Toph, Sokka, and Suki could even be seen to represent Talent, Insight, and Persistence, with Toph as the most powerful Earthbender before she was even a teenager, Sokka possessing a clever mind and ideas, and Suki being brave and courageous and taking great risks to help her friends.