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Recently, I was watching the second season of Seven Deadly Sins on Netflix with my best friend. Its a show we both enjoy a lot so I decided to make him wait and watch it with me because he always complains when I don’t watch shows with him and then it becomes an argument and… well, you get the point. Not even one episode goes by when something that rarely shows up in shonen anime anymore became a major focal point of the show: Power Levels.
As I’m sure many of you reading this know, power levels originated in Dragon Ball Z. When Radditz first came to earth, he brought a tool with him known as a scouter, a wearable eyeglass that allowed him to sense the physical strength of other living creatures. Vegeta and Nappa also brought scouter with them to earth, leading to the now infamous scene where Vegeta screams about Goku’s power level being over 9000.
Something similar actually happens in the first episode of Seven Deadly Sins. Merlin gives Hawk a special earing that allows him to see people’s power levels. Additionally, the ring can also break down a person’s power level into three distinct categories: Physical strength, magic, and spirit. It is currently unclear what exactly makes up someone’s spirit, at least as far as I’ve gotten.
Some might say power levels in anime are perfectly reasonable, while others might say they are dumb and make no sense. Personally, I tend to fall in the middle. On one hand, power levels can be used to keep track of a character’s strength relative to others. This would also be good to narratively justify why one might make a rash decision, or go through a training arc because their power levels might be far too weak.
However, I also think that, historically, power levels have just made anime worse. In later episodes of Dragon Ball Z, the numerical values associated with power levels become utterly meaningless. Even when faced with Frieza’s power level of over a million, Goku still manages to take him down despite being at a huge deficit. It often times feels like you could take power levels out of a story entirely and have a similar, if not better in quality show then you did with them.
Despite what I’ve written so far, I do not actually hate the concept of power levels. I think if implemented in a story the right way, they can be more narratively impactful. However, it is also important to recognize that a lot of stories, including the most popular ones, do not seem to do it well.
What do you guys think about power levels in anime, or in any other medium? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you want to support the Aniwriter through donations or are just feeling generous, consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi. Otherwise, thanks for reading and bye for now, Friendos!