Why do Japanese action heroes 'evolve' so often?

I realized that one of the huge cliff hangers in Japanese cartoons is waiting for the characters to 'evolve' into their next, stronger form. Different hair, more Armour, new powers, new name.
Most obvious is Pokemon. Also Digimon, Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon. Card Captor has a moment.

It's kind of interesting. Is this an old tradition, a product of video games, or just an excuse to sell merchandise? Is it a sign of Japans militaristic history? Is it a fashion statement? The American and western action stories seem to go on a different tangent.


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Most Helpful Guy

  • A famous western example would be Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.
    The animes you used as examples have different kinds of "evolving".
    Sailor Moon: Magical Girl. A girl finding out she is in reality a princess and has secret powers. Many girls dream of this. In the west: The witch Sabrina.
    Pokemon/Digimon: The series is based on the game. I was/is a common method to let the player and his antagonist get stronger like in other games weapon upgrades.
    Dragon Ball: It includes: getting stronger beyond your limits (japanese culture is very performance driven, see ganbate genre), "you can do it if you just try hard enough", it's mostly down to show it easier to the audience like when the good and bad guys are color coded for your convienience and no other reason (white/black, red/blue) or when Super Mario grows with power up. But Dragon Ball is anyway known for the inflation of super power levels
    Card Captor: haven't seen the series

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    • I had to pay close attention to your answer. It was very detailed. I had to read it several times through to get everything out of it. It sounds like evolving is a visual representation of character development and personal improvement.

    • Yes, cahracter and strength development, to make the change more visible for the audience. Also often they look better/more cool after the evolution. The audience also wants to get stronger like the character and wants to identify more with him/her. This will also increase the audience. Especially in the 90s and 00s you could see people doing the evolving sequence of dragon balls and sailor moon in the public while they where waiting for the school bus.
      That you will be able to sell more merchandise is a nice side effect.

    • Yeah, if one character can be split up into a bunch of different characters without being fundamentally shifted in the context of the plot, that's not too bad.

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What Guys Said 4

  • I think not only anime it also appear on TV series. If you consider so serious.
    I think it may be so from background but in these, before WW1 they seemed to be a country as if affiliated states of china then raise up after it.
    they seem just want content without goal but the goal is necessary, reflective self under militaristic history.
    Just did not deal with the existence well cause it is like it. they would create enemy by themselves instead. They still need enemy to stand on good side.

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  • Merchandising. Lots of it.

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  • It's part of their culture.

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  • Because in real life there is evolution

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