Episode 68: Punch Drunk with Posts

This week I’m going to try something weird and never before attempted for this particular blog. Posts from now until Sunday will have a theme that anyone who knows me would not expect. That’s right, midnight snack serial is going to talk about sport serials with a focus on boxing. You may be wondering why is it that an almost pacifist would write about the depiction of pugilism but it goes beyond some glorification of violence that the zeitgeist keeps pointing at. I’ve never been a big fan of boxing, especially with martial arts out there that have more flair and finesse than punching without being punched back, but I recently had a chance to see some if it’s athletic intricacies. That and it seems to be the most common type of sport to be featured in serial format in many places all over the world and I’m a sucker for a good training montage.

Each of the upcoming days will explore different specific texts but today I want to talk about the generalities of this sport within its serial depictions. Boxing seems simple enough to the amateur eye. You have gloves that prevent injury and you punch someone else in three minute intervals until one person gets knocked out or if after a certain number of rounds no one does then they have judges giving points to determine the winner. What you don’t really get to see is the months of intensive training that each competitor has to endure just to survive a few rounds. I challenge you right now to go and throw punches at the air for three minutes straight, they don’t even have to be fast or with power behind them. (don’t worry the blog isn’t going anywhere in the meantime). Winded I assume? Now do that while moving around and someone trying to punch you back for three minute intervals with a short rest in between. Wow that seems exhausting just to think about. Each round is long enough to keep people interested with the possibility of something epic happening at any moment but short enough to avoid boredom (unless they are clinching the whole time). Consider other sports and how they can be split up into any individual moment. Baseball has innings but things are actually best divided by pitch. Everything stops until the ball leaves the hand. Football (of the American variety) is similarly discernible by plays that start with each snap. Basketball is slightly more amorphous as anything can happen until someone scores, there’s a foul, or a timeout is called. At least scoring is pretty common, as oppossed to soccer, hockey, rugby, or other sports that have no real pauses beyond huge time intervals. The action is not subdivided into more manageable segments which end and viewers can take a breather from the action and direct their attention elsewhere (like commercials). Boxing in fiction can focus on one round, fast forward over others, and might even end an installment at a critical moment in the bout itself. The limited quantity of rounds makes sure that viewers know that the match won’t extend beyond a particular time frame (no overtime here). However, because a knockout can realistically happen at any point in the match, it’s not like any round can be filler material. The tension of any particular round can be increased with a fall limit rule (if you fall X amount of times, even if it’s for a second, you automatically lose the match) and really emphasize the potential of a lucky punch that can be thrown by anyone.

As any serial, you can’t just have nameless characters show up to fight one another and then have it end. You need character progression and growth which takes place during the training period up to any particular match. You see their desires and ambitions, a fear they need to overcome or a skill that must be learned in order to achieve victory. Modern real life boxing televised venues attempt to recreate this familiarization through the use of interviews and clips from previous fights but if you show up to a local match you will be lucky to retain any info from the program, the introductions, and maybe some color commentary along the way. Serialization through fiction (especially anime and manga) can stretch time even further through the use of flashbacks to have more character contextualization. This can easily turn into filler material if you are interested solely in the action. The ability to show temporal perception go at a completely different from an actual pace of time elapsing is a powerful tool in fiction and in something as unpredictable as boxing it can help dictate a particular mood or tone for proper buildup and climactic struggles even in an already tense setting like being in the middle of a fight.

The next few days will have some of my favorite serials to discuss but if you have one that you want me to analyze then feel free to ask. I will be taking requests for what will most likely be the weekend posts. I’m counting on you, my single digit readership, to get me some good starting material.

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