So for a while i was going through a tradition and mythological stage of trying to understand the concept of "Life force" when it comes to Various faiths and beliefs, going back to ancient Vedic texts and Hinduism with "Prana" which also works in like the concept of the "Brahman and Atman"
Of course i didn't forget the tradition Chinese meaning and understanding of "Chi" Which means "Breath" but surprisingly, I've already gotten a decent handle on that. The problem that i was facing with for a very VERY long time, was the concept of Mana. Now through western fictional mediums, it's an esoteric source used to fuel magic. But i was like "Hold...that can't be right, it can't be so alien in nature...it must work similar to Chi, Ki and Prana in those aspects right?" So i did some digging and I'll citiations below so you can see where i'm coming from but allow me to state What i'm addressing is the concepts from their ORIGINAL and TRADITION conceptualisation, SO even though i will REFERENCE anime and manga...they will simply be just that....References.
The Concept of Ki, Chi and Prana is the idea that life energy flows through all things, down to the smallest subatomic atom...up the largest structures such as suns. Some works have tried to differentate the Ki that dwells inside humans to the Ki that dwells through all things. These are split into categories such as;
Inner Ki - The Energy inside one's body
Outer Ki - The Energy flowing through nature and other Non inanimate
This essentially derives from the Ancient Hindu concept of Brahman (Highest Reality and Atman (The Soul)
The Brahman - The vibratory field that flows through all things and is at beginning and end of all things
Atman - Is the "One true self" of a being. Their soul that resides in line with the Brahman (At least that is how Interpretated it)
Hinduism also possessed the term Prana, which was their life force and this was kept in check via points in the body or (Nodes) Called "Chakras"
(So for anyone wondering of Chakra was an actual life force because of Naruto? No. It is the NODES in which life force is stored within the body, basically the pressure points that the hyuga clan could see? Yes those Points are the chakra's and also the Gates in which lee and Guy opened? those are more of an accurate respresentation of what CHAKRA'S are. So essentially! The Ninja's in naruto are using KI but to differentate from dragonball at the time? Kishimoto just chose chakra I guess)
even the Avatar legend of aang got it right!
The Chinese had a similar conceptualization to their meaning of Chi being "The Breath, Air and many other things" This Chi dwelled within ones body and was kept in check through Nodes called Dantians these are very similar to the notions of chakra
(There are only three, Unlike chakra which can be in the numerous depending on the tradition)
so right now everything else is conjecture on my part. from what i researched, Mana it's much like Ki and Prana, much that it being impersonal, an impersonal force that exists within all things
"In Hawaiian and Tahitian culture, Mana is a form of a spiritual energy and also healing power which can exist in places, objects and persons."
it can exist in all things, both living and none living. Going by the Philosophy of others such as Taoism, Buddhism, shinto etc etc.
So this is my brief summary of everything if you managed to get this far this is where i throw out theories and ideas and YES you can now reference other fictions and what you define it as
There is one energy and that energy is Life force, Ki, Chi, Prana and Mana. It runs through allt hings and exists in all things. There are nexuses that store these energies and they care called Chakra or Dantians. The energy in itself is INPERSONAL but can become personal, as each node pertains to an emotion or feeling, such as Joy, anger, sadness etc etc. each pool of energy contains the energy inside of it pertaining to said emotion, which means you can imprint a PERSONALITY on your energy, like we see with various fictions trying to differeniate it such as Nen and how dbz has dark Ki such as freeza and how you can see ones "Evil" aura, this is because a person has imprinted an evil nature upon said energy and it has manifested in that sense. such as anger could be represented by an hot flaming aura, or that could represented as confidence, you get the gist.
Mana is the same bit fantasy and western fiction has led many to believe that it is strictly a mystical force. In the sense Ki could be written in the same way. If looked from the outside, but diving into the cultures that they pertain to?
They are the same thing. Magic is a way of manipulating the enviroment through the use of having mana interact with the environment through the use of spells such as fire etc etc
But it's always channelled from other realms or places that have specific mana types or objects stored with mana
Humans that practise magic never have enough mana because Unlike the martial artists of the east, they've never trained to break the limits of how much mana they can produce and intake. If taking it in the way that western society has done it? One could Use ki in the exact same way that Mana is used and channelled in games and fantasy. You could channel Ki from other dimensions or realms which could have different properities, use them to create effects not seen in reality that said character or person hails from. Like cold fire of black lightning or water that's fucking green or some shit XD Like i view Ninjutsu from naruto? Is more or less like that "Spells" but because Ninjutsu is such a primal focus on the series? they act exactly like magicians would act BUT still rely strictly on their OWN energy, keeping with the tradition. The gates are the only things reminiscent to the physical use of life energy instead of the spell/ninjutsu aspect of it.
But yeah that's about it >.>