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The Secret Theory of Why the Right Side of a Beam Clash Always Wins

By Johnson Ge
Apr. 17, 2023 updated 01:35

Beam Clash or Beam Struggle is a very common trope in Speculative Fiction across all media. It usually happens when one person sends out a devastating energy beam toward their opponent, who does the same in return. The two beams collide together in the center of the screen, with both people doing their utmost to overwhelm their opponent's beam.

In China, there is a meme about Beam Clash that “the right side will always win”. People believe there is a secret rule about the Beam Clash, mostly in Anime and Tokusatsu, that the one on the right of the screen has a significantly higher chance to win.

Supporters of this theory have listed many cases to strengthen the argument.

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In most cases, it is clear that the good guys have a better chance of winning. Though it begs the question: Why put the good guys on the right? What is the secret advantage of the right side? Is it simply a coincidence, and people are overreacting?

The answer might be behind the industry habits in Japan where “right” is considered to have the upper hand and “left” is seen as a disadvantageous position.

One theory is based on Japan's stage play culture. Stage play culture has a rich and long history in Japan. Since the first stage play was introduced by Takarazuka in 1914, public theaters have become popular and continue to this day. During the over 100 years of development, countless cultural and special norms have been born.

One of them is the distinction between "Uwate" and "Shitate". "Uwate" refers to stage right, the right side of the stage from the perspective of the audience, and "Shitate" refers to stage left. These words are used to avoid confusion among the actors as to which right and left are being referred to.

In Japanese, "Uwate" and "Shitate" can also mean to be good or not good at something. There is also a custom in stage plays: the protagonist enters from the "Uwate" (right) side, while the antagonist enters from the "Shitate" (left) side.

A picture shows the rule of "Uwate" and "Shitate".A picture shows the rule of "Uwate" and "Shitate".

The reason for this is based on years of experience in the industry - for the audience, characters on the left side will leave a more negative impression, while characters on the right side will have a positive one.

This set of conventions has been used in Japanese theater culture for many years and has even been referenced and used in tokusatsu dramas and anime. This has led to the current situation.

As for why people tend to think that "the right side is more positive," the famous Japanese anime director, the creator of the Mobile Suit Gundam Series, Yoshiyuki Tomino, says in his book that it's because the heart is on the left side of the human body.

He believes people tend to be defensive of those on the left side subconsciously. Most people are right-handed, which makes it easier to defend themselves from the people on the right side, putting them more at ease.

When both sides pose a threat, people are more sensitive to those coming from the left side and are more likely to have a negative impression of them.

Another similar theory is that the reading order of Japanese manga is from right to left. When there is a page of Beam Clash, the one on the right side will be the first one seen and will leave more of an impression on the readers. In most cases, the protagonist will take this position, and they will always win.

Supporters also point to another potentially hidden impact, that right-handed characters can show more of their front and face details when standing on the right.  If they were on the left, the beam might block the view, or the character may have to show their back to the viewer.

The beam clash scene in the movie Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.The beam clash scene in the movie Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.

The above was featured on a TV show where an elderly Japanese man posed with his chainsaw prop in a "2D anime" style, which went viral on social media, with people jokingly referring to him as a “real hero”. The well-known anime director Masami Obari even joined the discussion. He flipped the image horizontally, putting the man on the right side of the image, and added the sentence "Actually, this way looks more heroic," which received many comments in support and thousands of re-tweets.

In conclusion, the "right side always wins" meme in the Beam Clash trope may have originated from the Japanese theater culture and reading order of manga. This, combined with the fact that most people are right-handed, may contribute to the right side character being perceived more positively, all leading to an environment where the protagonists, and usual victors, are shown on the right.