Thursday, January 14, 2010
The Ontology and Epistemology of Superhero Transformations
Superheros have a tendency to transform, in some sense, the world over.
The transformation of Japanese superheroes has, in a matter of degreee at least, differences from that of those in the West.
Ontological or Epistemological transformation.
Western superheroes are more likely to transform by virtue of what is know about them, in the epistemological plane. Japanese superheros are more likely to transform in terms of what they are, in the ontological plane.
For example, Clark Kent is always super in his being. His transformation into Superman is an epistemoligical one, motivated only by the desire to protect his "secret identity." Clark Kent's being does not change. He is just as strong, just as super-powered, as Clark Kent as he is when he is Superman. Peter Parker likewise can be said to "transform" into Spiderman, but the change is purlely epstemological, one of cloaking, a change of appearance. Peter Parker is just as strong, just as super-powered, as Peter Parker as he is after he dons his spandex suit. His transformation is to protect the secrecy, the epistemoligical aspect of what people know about him. Bruce Wayne's transformation into Batman is predominantly epistemoligical, to protect his "secret identity" but thanks to the technology he dons, effects a change in his powers. His suit is not merely a charade, but change his ontology, who he is. Bruce Banner's epistemological identity as the Incredible Hulk is known to many in the films, but his being changes. He becomes far stronger. The X-men, such as Wolverine likewise transform in a predominantly ontological way. James Howlett or Logan is *known* by many, but not all, to be Wolverine. He changes predominantly in an ontological way; his body changes, he grows claws.
Japanese superheroes are far more likely to transform on the ontological end of the spectrum. The continuity of their two modes of being are more often not a secret. Epstemologically, the two modes of being are far more likely to be known as one and the same. Far more often, it is only their mode of being that changes. That Hayata is Ultraman is not so much a question of secrecy but of his mode of being. He changes at will to his superhuman form in order to fight, but not in order to keep a secret of who he is from day to day.
Many Japanese superheroes, such as those in the Super Sentai range, such as the Go-Onger five, make no secret of the fact that they are able to transform into their super-powered 'alter ego.' Even while human, they are in costume, they give away their identity completely. And yet they *transform*, ontologically, into a more powerful beings.
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.