Netflix House of Cards and Typical Shounen Handholding


So recently, I’ve started watching the critically acclaimed Netflix series House of Cards. While only a couple episodes into the second season, I must say that it has caught my attention with an iron grip. The only thing that really competes with it this season is My Hero Academia (because Owarimonogatari is over), which could be considered a happy coincidence because it may have led me to notice some striking similarities between what are otherwise vastly different shows. When I started familiarizing myself more with tropes of the shounen genre, I didn’t expect to be applying that knowledge to much outside of anime…and yet, here we are. It appears House of Cards is more anime than I would’ve initially thought, which is fascinating in its own right, yet also mildly concerning as an intellectual. Whatever the case may be, however, I am to be certain of one thing: It is time for Cory in the House to step down, because there is a new king of anime, and his name is Frank Underwood.

Before I delve into what exactly House of Cards does to earn my claims, I need to first explain the trope I believe it has adopted. In My Hero Academia, there are lots of moments that clearly embrace the shounen habit of being clear but blunt when ensuring the audience understands the gravity of a given situation. During the final episodes of the first season of My Hero (minor spoilers btw), All Might bursts in to save the day (shocking, I know). Leading up to this point, he is built up to be the ultimate hero, repeatedly recognized as “the symbol of peace” and most importantly, a savior who leaps into any catastrophe—no matter how dire the circumstance—with a smile. Back to the final episodes, here All Might is…not smiling. You might think that’d be enough to tip off most audience members, but just to guarantee that everyone knows that shit is about to go down, Deku lends his pipes to a bit of exposition by acknowledging his lack of grin in voiceover. It’s essentially the creators alerting you that THIS. IS. THE. FUCKING. MOMENT.

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A number of different approaches can be used to signify intensity, be it changes in the animation style, the swell of orchestrated music, the clear-written circumstance, and so on. My Hero Academia decides to incorporate as much as it can in order to land its grand emotional impact in the hearts of everyone watching. All Might’s battle is an epic payoff for all that lead up to it, even if some of it is substantiated in the form of Deku simply saying so. Although it does gives us insight into Deku’s mind and his ability to grasp the situation, at the end of the day it’s just not that clever of an approach.

This is where House of Cards and My Hero Academia are extremely similar. Frank Underwood, the ruthlessly pragmatic congressman and protagonist of the series, is known for breaking the fourth wall. He engages in dialogue directed at no one but the audience, akin to an aside in a play, sometimes when he’s alone, but more often in the middle of an interaction with someone. In these moments, Frank will mention things like his firm opinions of a person, what it will take to get what he wants from them, and etcetera. The most important use of his asides are when he stops to tell you what happens next is indeed just that: important.

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“Everything hinges on this”. “How I play my cards here will determine…”. “The President…his power level is over 9000!”. Okay, maybe that last one didn’t happen, but the point is Frank Underwood is a shounen boy that likes to assert to you the significance of a situation…and to be honest, it doesn’t really bother me.

I noticed it, I’m obviously thinking about it right now, but it’s not something that really troubles me whatsoever. My enjoyment of both these fine pieces of entertainment was never hindered by the possible notion that a story might be trying to coddle me. Last year, at around this time I believe, I wrote a post about flashbacks in ReLIFE.  In it, I stated how I was a tad annoyed by how the show constantly felt like it was belittling my intelligence. Specifically, its constant use of unnecessary flashbacks put me off in a way that almost felt like an insinuation of an inability of my memory. Flashbacks were used simply to remind me of things that I could’ve recalled easier than a children’s matching game.

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So, what’s the difference between that and this article your reading right now? They’re different in approach but provide the same outcome: telling you what you should already know. Why is it that I’m not even the tiniest bit aggrieved by this now? Am I just the one that’s changed? I know I’m leaving you with an awful lot of questions this time, but I would love to hear any thoughts you have on the subject. Also, tell me if you have or are now interested in watching House of Cards, because I just like knowing when I’ve turned someone on to something I think is cool. Until next time, thanks for reading.

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