Bullet hell stories – realism in fiction

This is the third post in my realism in fiction series. This time I want to talk about the clash with reality that happens in certain kinds of stories, which involve guns and shooting. Lots of both.

Bullet hell is a term people use to describe videogames where there are way too many projectiles on the screen and you can’t possibly bother thinking about any single one of those shots. There are stories like that too. The ones I will bring up here are Black Lagoon and Jormungand. But before we go let me make a short detour.

When you have read your first few stories where characters fight with guns, I believe you asked yourself something along the lines “How long is this guy going to survive, fighting like that?”. Surely he is going to be shot one day, right? That is an old question too. Sword fighters surviving hundreds of battles also look somewhat questionable, or at least they should. But, for the sword fights there is a convenient set of arguments that can be used to justify survivability of the hero. The hero could be superior in speed, reflexes, physical strength and skill, making it literally impossible for most opponents to even scratch the guy. That is not actually a very good argument, but what’s important is – it is convincing enough. Additionally you can make it so your hero can survive a defeat, heal the wounds and get back into the story, this is realistic enough with many kinds of sword wounds.

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Naruto Gaiden, Sasuke and Sakura

Way before Naruto manga has ended I was planning to write a review for it once it does. I wanted to cover Kishimoto’s strange obsession with childhood as the only meaningful part of person’s life, his take on fate, family, free will, give him his due for making a few very memorable characters, etc. When the manga actually ended though I had another topic added to this list, and it is what I want to discuss here. So, let us go to the chapter 699 for a brief moment.

The chapter 699 finishes the main story. We see the aftermath of Naruto’s fight with Sasuke, see Sasuke apologizing to Sakura for causing trouble all this time, we see that Sasuke was eventually pardoned, thanks to Kakashi and Naruto. Now, I want you to read a page from that chapter, it is pretty interesting:

Sasuke and Sakura 1

Road to redemption, huh. What do you think that should mean? What exactly did Sasuke do to have to redeem himself? What is going on in his head at the moment? Let me make a guess.

The whole story about Sasuke was centered on revenge, from the time he was introduced till Itachi’s death. Revenge wasn’t his only thing though, he was also a normal hot-headed school boy, also a lonely orphan confused in his feelings, same as Naruto. When Itachi died, Sasuke suddenly lost the main purpose of his life and acted confused for quite a while, until he finally made the only obviously right choice returning to Konoha. His quest for revenge as well as his confused wanderings made a good deal of harm, undeniably. Still, nobody important to the story died in the process (and this manga does not care too much about nameless characters, as per usual). So, what is weighing down on Sasuke’s conscience?

I think nothing does. Sasuke doesn’t strike me as a guy who cares about the bad things he did, we’ve never seen him show that emotion. One thing that he does care about though is keeping cool appearances. And I think this is the real reason why Sasuke choses to travel for a while. After loosing his life’s purpose, returning to Konoha he so gloriously abandoned and threatend to destroy, and also after acknowledging Naruto’s leadership he needs time to collect himself, to rebuild his own identity in a new manner that would allow him to stay cool in these new circumstances. Spoiler alert, that is exactly what he does, he ends up being a “shadow hokage”, never being in the village and going to super-important missions; that is exactly the position that allows him to keep face. So my point is, if you take his words at the face value, then Sasuke is lying here, it is not a road to redemption, it is just him being in need to spend more time alone.

Don’t take me wrong by the way, I am not hating on Sasuke. In fact, that weak self he is showing is my favorite part of his entire character. “I am an avenger” and other pompous nonsense he was saying is cool, I guess, but it is when this image breaks that he becomes actually interesting to me. Sasuke being insecure about loosing to Naruto, Sasuke feeling the burden of living alone, Sasuke taking great risks for the sake of his comrades, these are the moments when his pretty normal human side starts to show, and I like them the best. So, don’t take me seriously when I make fun of him, I only do it cause he is such an easy target ^^’/

Now, let’s read the next page:

Sasuke and Sakura 2

This is the moment when Sasuke promises to tie his life with Sakura. So, what is going on here? Why does he do it?

You think it is love, right? Sasuke totally loves Sakura, and that is why he is making the gesture Itachi used when he wanted to say “don’t bother me for now, okay?”. And that is why Sasuke is going to leave Sakura behind for a few months or years even, right after he returned from 3 years of absence, right? I might have a poor comprehension of how love works for cool boys like him, but that has got to be the most tepid passion I’ve seen. Also, remember that the only interactions they had in the last few years before the war were a couple incidents where Sasuke attacked Sakura and Naruto. So, when did his feelings even grow? I hope no one is going to tell me that Sasuke loved Sakura from the time he left Konoha (fine for a fanfic, but hardly realistic).

Just to clarify though, I am not saying that Sasuke doesn’t have any feelings for Sakura in general, but I don’t think he could have had any real feelings at that moment.

But if it isn’t love, what was it then?  Here is what I think. At that moment there were only two people in the village who genuinely cared about Sasuke, namely Naruto and Sakura. Sasuke didn’t have any other options, if he wanted to be with someone, it had to be one of them. Guess, being with Naruto wasn’t going to happen (also fine for a fanfic, but Kishimoto wouldn’t write it :P ), so Sakura was the only one left. If Sasuke was going to “be with someone”, it would have to be Sakura. That doesn’t mean Sasuke had no choice though. He is a loner, he could keep it that way. He actually did go on a lone trip right after the scene we are reading, so. Then why did he made this promise, why make Sakura wait for him?

I think the answer is given to us in the first page I posted. Sasuke said to Sakura “It is my road to redemption. You have nothing to do with my sins”. This implies that by the end of the road he will be “redeemed”. But the one and only event that we know will happen to him is that he and Sakura will be reunited. I think in Sasuke’s head, apologizing to Sakura, accepting her love and granting her wish to be with him is a part of his “redemption”. He already sacrificed his arm in a meaningless fight with Naruto, granting his best friend’s wish, and later accepting his lead, I am sure that was part of his redemption as well. Maybe the trip itself only serves as a separator between these two “sacrifices” Sasuke was planning to make, first one was for Naruto, and the second for Sakura.

I like this idea because it makes so much sense in terms of Sasuke’s character. Unlike Naruro, he never showed the ability to care deeply about others, he had always been cold when it came to feelings and intimate relations. It makes sense that his family would be based on reasons, and not on an actual passion. I also find it interesting  because it turns Sakura’s story in a completely different direction, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

Okay, let’s say you agree with my take on Sasuke’s motivations. Now we can move to the events of Naruto Gaiden, and see how the two pages we just saw could shed some light on the events of that series.

Uchiha family photo

This series gives us a continuation of Sasuke and Sakura story. Apparently Sasuke did spend a ton of time traveling and eventually Sakura joined him, giving birth to his daughter Sarada (named after someone’s favorite food, as it seems) in one of the team Taka’s hideouts. Surely Sasuke couldn’t be bothered to bring his wife to a proper clinic.

If you forgot who team Taka are, here you go.

Sarada grew up without seeing her father, to the point that she couldn’t even remember him. The events of Naruto Gaiden start at the time when Sasuke is about to meet Naruto to discuss his findings. By that time Sarada discovers that her family photo is a fake composed of team Taka photo and Sakura’s photograph laid on top of it. She starts to doubt that Sakura is actually her mother, and that Sasuke has any feelings for her.

She has good reasons for these doubts, thanks to Sasuke. Arguing that Sasuke didn’t have time to visit his family is pretty ridiculous, he just didn’t want to. Later when Sarada meets Sasuke for the first time and asks him about her mother, he refuses to talk (wouldn’t be cool enough to explain himself to a kid, right?). In the end Naruto has to do the talking, trying his darnedest to stop Sarada from running away and giving up on her family.

Finally, though a series of events Sarada realizes that she loves her mom regardless. She asks her father about his feelings:
Here is Sasuke’s answer. Give it a moment of thought.

You heard it. The only reason Sasuke is feeling a connection to his wife is because they have a kid. Damn that guy is brutal.

That is enough exposition, now let me give you my thoughts. What we see here is an almost perfect example of a broken family. Dad is always away, doesn’t care about mom, the daughter is lost and doesn’t know what to do. Now, it is easy to just blame Sasuke and be done with it, but I think there is something way more interesting than that going on.

Let us remember the other families we see in Naruto. Remember Shikamaru’s family? At the very least you remember his dad, the hero who died defending Konoha. What about Choji’s family? His father was as fat as he was, also played a role during the last war. Same with Ino, Neji, Hinata, Might Guy, Kakashi and Asuma. You remember their dads. Their mothers probably existed, I guess. Shikamaru used to joke about his mom being violent, that is all I remember. In fact, the only family where the mother played a role was Naruto’s family. I also remember Sasuke’s mom and Gaara’s mother too. Incidentally, all of these women were dead from the beginning of the series. People are often joking that mothers always die in One Piece, but in Naruto they are simply washed away from the story.

This trend had to change when Naruto’s generation began creating their own families. You can’t make Hinata, Sakura, Temari and others disappear. But what Kishimoto did instead is also pretty interesting. Notice how every single pair in the anime has a leader husband and a wife that takes a more passive role. Shikamaru is really tough mentally, so his wife (Temari) is also pretty willful, but not enough to dominate him. Naruto, on the other hand, is rather weak, so his wife (Hinata) is extra submissive, with almost no personality of her own. Obviously, Kishimoto only cares about one family structure that he writes again and again.

Now, one problem with this (besides it being a case of blindly following gender stereotypes) is that Sakura would be ill fit for this template. From the beginning of the series she was willful and prone to make independent actions. There aren’t many characters who should be able to stand up to her, in particular I wouldn’t count Sasuke as one. So, instead of making a family where wife plays the lead, Kishimoto gave us a broken family where the husband is never home and his only connection to the family is through the child. This is such an ironic end for Sakura, who was the only one female character who was actively trying to catch her loved one.

But then, if Sasuke never loved Sakura and only stayed with her because he felt he owed that to her, then the whole mess makes more sense. It becomes even more ironic though, it is as if Sakura’s passion and patience had bitten her in the back.

This guy, what an ass.

I am not very happy with the fact that this hugely popular manga sticks to stereotypes and disrespects its female characters, but I have to give it to Kishimoto, at least he was consistent in his questionable ways of writing families. By the way, want another fun fact? To the best of my knowledge Sarada is the second girl in this series to get a meaningful iteration with her family on camera. Ino was the first one, if that even counts. The people who spent a lot of time with their parents in the original series were Naruto, Sasuke, Shikamaru, Gaara, Neji, Konohamaru and other guys.

On the up side, in the Boruto manga where Sarada is one of the protagonists, she keeps breaking the rules of the old manga. Aiming to become the next hokage, taking leading role in her team and being a very capable ninja; all that, together with the fact that we have a new writer, gives me hopes.

Hope you didn’t find this topic too boring. I tend to like characters like Sakura in shonen shows, so I am interested in the ways stories treat them. See you next time ^^/

Umineko no Naku Koro ni, manga

Umineko no Naku Koro ni (When the Seagulls Cry in English), a bit of a long title, eh? One of the inconveniences with such titles is that once you put them in a post’s title it already becomes a tad too long, so you have no room left to clarify what you are going to write about. So, let me explain it here. So far I have read two Umineko manga series (also called episodes), Legend of the Golden Witch and Turn of the Golden Witch, and 5 chapters of the series following them, Banquet of the Golden Witch. Haven’t seen the anime, don’t know the plot for the rest of the series. In a way, I am in the middle of the story, since each manga series I named is a part of the whole Umineko no Naku Koro ni thing, same as, say, all Harry Potter novels are part of the same story. But this suits the topic I want to talk about.

I’ll start introducing the characters. This is Battler, the protagonist of the story. He is a part of the third generation of his family, who are all cousins.

What I want to talk about is why one would want to read Umineko series. And I would have to explain why one would want to ask this question as well. As I go on, I hope you’ll see why I think it is alright for me to talk about something like this without having read the whole series.

Before we start though, I want to give a shout-out to all people who have seen the anime but haven’t read the manga. As I have not seen the anime I can’t judge it, but my impression is that it is a completely different experience from the manga, so when you read this post, please try to set aside your previous experiences with this story. To be clear, I have this impression for the following reasons. First, according to MAL, the 26 episodes-long anime adapts an equivalent of 4 manga series, which have 102 chapters total, and each Umineko chapter is 25-50 pages long, packed with material. So, there were likely pacing issues. Second, from what little I saw, the character animation looks nothing to write home about, where as the manga’s art is top-quality. Third, the anime has only covered half the story, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the ending wasn’t great. Forth, and most importantly, I think the story itself isn’t very suited for anime adaptation. So, please don’t judge the manga by whatever you experienced with the anime.

This is Natsuhi. She is part of the second generation, which comprises of siblings and their spouses.

Now we can finally start (spoilers ahead). So, why do I think it is a good question as to why one would want to read Umineko? At its heart, the story is a mix of a supernatural mystery and a detective novel. There are all sorts of reasons to read both, right? Well, here is the thing. Umineko repeats its plot every episode (meaning, every series). So a lot of the normal enjoyment of a mystery novel goes away after a while. You know the sequence of events, the characters at play, you can predict what will happen with a high probability. For example, in the first episode Natsuhi was the adult who survived and guarded the youngsters and in the second episode this role was given to Rosa. From the way first 5 chapters are laid out I can confidently predict that Eva will take this role for in the 3rd episode. So, I am not reading the story for sudden unpredictable turns of events, which is part of the thrill of a mystery novel.

That is Eva, whom I just mentioned. She also a part of the second generation.

Supernatural mysteries, especially the ones with murder, tend to serve as horror or torture-porn. To give examples, Mermaid’s Scar tries to be a horror, while Corpse Party is a splatter show. Well, Umineko is neither. It does give you a lot of bloody scenes, but it doesn’t chew on them. It does not like to show you how the characters get hurt, it doesn’t try to exploit violence in a sadistic way (I can’t back up this claim, by the way, but I think I am correct to say it). And Umineko isn’t scary, since you pretty much know what is going on.

Unless you are going to be scared by Maria’s face. She isn’t that scary though, right?

Right?..

So, what is so good about it then? The “detective story” part, maybe? Well yeah, that is rather close to the truth, I’d say. Umineko is all about finding the criminal who committed the murders that look very much like a work of a demon or some other supernatural entity. The story presents us with a barrage of puzzles that seem impossible to solve. People get murdered in a closed room that no one could enter or leave, corpses disappear and reappear without any logical explanations, etc. And the whole point of the series is to prove that it was all an act of men. So, sounds like a good detective mystery, many of such had already been written.

Here is Beatrice, the antagonist of the series. Yes, the one with the frying pan. What? Not satisfied? Don’t believe me? Okay, here you go, have a gallery of her:

The only problem is that we, the readers, also see again and again how supernatural forces do act and perform their deeds within the story. People fight bull-headed demons using blades of light, evil spirits are summoned and morphed into weapons that fly towards their victim, etc. If one takes this at the face value, the whole thing becomes meaningless, there is no need to solve the mystery in the first place.

Here is an example. By the way, notice how well the scene looks

On the other hand, as with any supernatural mystery, you need to think about which part of the story is a metaphor, which is an illusion and which is the reality. As you read Umineko, you start to realize that supernatural phenomena occur mostly to people who are about to die, and only when it would have been perfectly possible to achieve the same end result without these magic tricks. So you start to wonder, if maybe the whole deal with the magic is just an illusion and you can ignore it.

This is Shannon, one of the family servants. Her (and other’s) character design are pretty different between first 3 Umineko episodes. That is probably due to the fact that different episodes were drawn by different mangaka.

But then, the protagonist of the story, Battler Ushiromiya, the guy who is solving the mystery, exists in a magical limbo created by a witch Beatrice. She kills him and revives him, shows him all sorts of magical tricks that seem beyond any human capacity. It is one thing for us, the readers, to brush aside the all that magic nonsense, but how could Battler do it? Why does he denies the existence of magic while being engulfed by it? Makes no sense, right?

One more picture of Shannon. She deserves it, okay? :P

So I hope it makes sense now why I think it is strange that a story like Umineko would attract readers. But it does! It attracted me, for one. Let me ask you this, why do people like to play chess? It is not just about the sense of victory, right? A game is somehow enjoyable in itself, no? I can spend an hour talking about everything Umineko lacks, but then so does chess and other simple board games. They don’t even have characters or story, they only give you a problem that usually can be solved. In a way, Umineko is exactly that. It is written in such a way as to be a fair game for the reader. Of course, the reader get relevant information bit by bit, and there are tons of distractions, but ultimately you could figure out a lot of what is going on by yourself. Or so it feels.

This is Kanon, Shannon’s brother. He is also one of the servants.

As I said, I haven’t finished reading the story. So, why do I claim that it is a fair game for the reader who wants to solve the mystery before Battler does (if he does at all)? Well, because at the moment I am not interested in whether or not it actually is a fair game. Instead, I am talking about what keeps the reader going. It feels like a fair game, therefore I keep playing. And it is an interesting play too. As the time passes you get more and more relevant information, the kind that often is lacking even in good detective mysteries. Logic is one of the main tools the characters use in their struggles, which puts the reader in an equal position with them. I personally love to guess what is going to happen next in any story I read, and there are very few that go to the same lengths as Umineko to enable me to do so.

Just read what is on this page, it will give you an idea of what I am talking about in the passage above

But to get back on track, why does Umineko feel like a fair game for the reader? That is probably the most interesting question I can ask here. To start with, for a manga to feel “fair” it needs to respect its own logic. For example, once a rule is introduced it should avoid breaking it, or giving exceptions. And if there are exceptions, they should be given in advance. To give example, Bleach is the kind of manga that would introduce an event and the mechanics that allowed it to happen both at the same time, rendering any guesses (or “theories”, as community likes to call them) made in advance meaningless. Hunter x Hunter, on the other hand, tries to follow its own rules, therefore it is generally possible, although very hard, to construct a theory that predicts future events. Why is it hard though? Because Hunter x Hunter is not trying to provide the reader with enough information. Even though the events follow the rules of the world the necessary information you would require to predict them often comes together with the event. That is the second step to fairness. There are stories that try to be more theorist-friendly than this, One Piece for example. There, the relevant info is often given in advance, so a way better ground for manga theorist is provided.

Here are Jessica and George, both are members of the third generation. George is Eva’s son and Jessica is Natsuhi’s daughter.

Umineko has it all and more. For example, it is being painfully meticulous with the relevant details. If we discuss a murder in a closed room, the manga will explain to you that there were no secret doors, that only so many keys existed, that doors could only be opened and closed with the keys, that the doors and the widows were indeed closed, that there is no trick that would allow you to pass through a closed door, that only so many people had been present in the room, etc. You can discard a ton of theories based on that alone. Normally in manga you have to use your feel for the story to guess where it is going to and choose between equally likely theories. Here you are put in a position where you struggle to come up with any theory and you definitely don’t have to decide between them, as any theory that works is your victory in the game against Umineko.

So my point is, even though the readers have a valid reason to give up on the mystery solving after they see the first demon appear, even though Battler’s motives are highly strange, Umineko still is an interesting puzzle, just because it is constructed that way.

This is Kyrie, member of the second generation, Battler’s step mother.

Besides offering a fair game, another reason Umineko is appealing is its repetitive and meticulous nature, I think. This may not be true for everyone, but something in our minds enjoys repetitive and careful work being shown to us. A lot of people like watching game speedrun attempts, that usually have <1% success rate (the success being a new achievement; a personal best time for example), which is exactly that, a repetitive and careful process. Umineko might be playing with that part of our mind as well.

Also, even so I was focusing this post entirely on the “detective mystery” part of Umineko, it is not just that. The characters are fairly interesting as well, and the way they are introduced, with new details given to us at each episode, it is pretty good. The story usually focuses on a couple people at a time, making them “main characters” of the episode. Natsuhi and Battler were the main characters of the first episode, Shannon, Kanon and Rosa played that role in the second one, and the third episode seems to belong to Eva and maybe Beatrice. Some characters are just nice to watch, like Shannon who is a too-good-to-be-true girl, or Battler who is a very charismatic guy. Some are sort of interesting as people, like Kyrie or Jessica, who has more to her than she lets out, which is always intriguing. And some are wonderfully suspicious, like George who seems to be a manipulator, making Shannon and others do exactly what he wants, never showing anything that would allow to distinguish between his intended appearances and his real self.

Did I already mention that I like Umineko romantic and comedy moments? They are very fun to read. Like, look at George here, he is adorable.

Also, each episode gives you themes or motives. The theme with the older generation (like Natsuhi, Eva and Rosa) seems to be different forms of oppression. Natsuhi oppresses herself, her daughter and her servants for no reason other than being a huge snob. Eva oppresses people only as much as she needs to achieve her goals, one of which is to provide a great future for George. Rosa only oppresses her daughter as she is worried of the other people’s opinions about her. It is softly implied that some of these oppression tendencies have lead to the tragedies that we see in the Umineko episodes.

Servants have their own themes. Shannon and Kanon share a theme of doubting themselves as being humans. Although at first it seems too abstract and even silly, his is mostly a question of social status. A lot of their problems stem from the way they are treated by people around them, which leaves marks on their personalities. Older servants could probably tell their own stories, but I haven’t seen that yet. I would go as far as to say that social inequality is one of two big topics in Umineko.  Although this theme sort of finds a conclusion in the second episode, it may go on in the others, I don’t know.

More comedy!

The second big topic that goes though the whole series is gender inequality. This is something that made especially clear in the third episode, where Eva confronts her brother and father trying to prove her worth while they are limiting her role to being a wife and a mother. This manga doesn’t just try to state the problem, it also does a fair job going outside of the gender stereotypes the anime/manga stories seem to have. One of the most physically powerful character within the story seems to be Eva, the smartest person seems to be Kyrie, the ones with most agency are Battler, Beatrice, Natsuhi, Eva and Rosa. This is a supernatural murder mystery, yet it doesn’t employ a damsel in distress stereotype, the girls are not just victims. Even though the individual characters are pretty usual, their actions are done right. I wonder if the story manages to get anywhere with there two topics, it would be interesting.

To close this off, just a quick mention of the art. Apparently, Umineko is drawn by a whole lot of different people. The first and third episodes are drawn by Kei Natsumi and the second one is done by Jirou Suzuki. They have a clear difference in the art style, and they even use different character designs. I think both are really good, though they have different strengths and weaknesses. There are lots of really good panels, and character acting is nicely done. You can notice that Suzuki tends to deform human limbs in weird ways and she seems to like giving her characters bushy light-colored eyelids. Natsumi’s scary faces are more reminiscent of Higurashi series. On the other hand, if you read Umineko online, the scans quality is all over the place (especially for Natsumi’s volumes I’ve read) so there is that.

^.^

As my pictures hopefully showed, the manga isn’t hundred percent dark and serious, there are silly jokes and romantic subplots. I find these pretty enjoyable as well.

P.S. Just to let you laugh at me, I’ll tell you a few of the guesses I had about the murderer’s identity. When I read the first episode my favorite theory was that George was the killer. The first six victims were exactly all the adult members of the family, aside from his parents, so it makes sense to suspect them. Next, his parents attacked the only other survivor of the second generation, Natsuhi, though Battler stopped that. Then George’s parents died, which left George to be almost the closest one to be the new head of the family. And their death happened in a closed room. The murder seemed impossible, but it kinda-sorta made sense if they invited George in (they would trust their own son, right?). He did survive the episode too.

My favorite theory for the second episode, where everything was revolving around the fact that only servants had master keys, was that Beatrice counted herself as a servant, so she had a master key too. This would mostly explain all the closed door mysteries, I think.

Alright, sorry for a huge post, congrats if you made it all the way to the end ^^b If you did, be so good and tell me what you think about the series and what I’ve written about it in the comments. See you next time!

One Piece and life goals – realism in fiction

This is the second post in the “realism in fiction” series. In the first one I tried to describe the effect of having your story be as real life-like as possible, which is the most literal meaning of “realism”. I also talked about how breaking this sense of connection with real life in takes away from the feeling of the story. Here I want to talk about something different. I’ll focus on characters’ life goals and hopefully I’ll be able to make a convincing argument that this is directly linked to how realistic a story is.

Strawhats

I chose One Piece for this post because it is such a good fit for this topic (nothing to do with the fact that the manga is celebrating its 20th anniversary in a week, I swear!). The manga is very long and rich in detail for both the world and the characters, and it is well written too, allowing a meaningful discussion. Also it is a good excuse to feature Oda’s art on this blog ^^/

Perona Brook

Speaking of art, hope you don’t mind seeing a picture separating every paragraph, cause that is what I wanna do ^.^

Okay, let us start with simple examples, looking at the first members of Luffy’s crew. Luffy himself is famously going to become the pirate king, that is his motivation. It was rephrased as wanting to be the person with most freedom, which is supposed to clarify it, but it doesn’t. The “pirate king”, the “person with most freedom”, they are both completely abstract ideas. And it is very fitting that to become the pirate king Luffy seemingly needs to find One Piece, the McGuffin of this manga. You can easily wave all of this away as just an example of lazy writing. So how real is this motivation? Well in fact, it is very real. Almost anyone either experienced it or can understand how it feels, I think. “I want to become a great scientist!”, “I want to be famous one day!”, “I want to be a rock star!” and so on, all of those goals are almost as vague as Luffy’s. When you are a kid and you feel a desire to become something, you don’t necessarily imagine it in realistic (if any) detail. Neither does Luffy. He goes one step further though, refusing to learn what awaits him in the future (I am referring to the scene where he refuses to accept information about Raftel or One Piece from Rayleigh). In a way, his mindset is similar to that of a school boy who haven’t yet decided on his future occupation but is still thrilled about it and works hard to make it happen. So, on emotional level at least, Luffy’s goal is realistic and relatable.Luffy

Next is Zoro, the guy who wants to become the best swordsman. That is a clear and easily understood goal. It is similar to what an aspiring athlete would have. If you think about it, it is still a vague goal, at best it means something like “to defeat everyone who I think is stronger than me”. What matters for us though, it is very realistic and understandable.

 

Now we go to Nami. Her original goal was to get rid of Arlong. After Luffy granted this wish she joined him, and her official goal became to map the whole world. In reality though, she just seems to share Luffy’s dream of making him the pirate king. She also seem to enjoy the ride, same as the rest of the crew. Same story with Usopp, Sanji, Franky, Chopper and Brook. I’d argue their motivations are realistic too though. True, they might not be pursuing any real personal goals, but being part of Luffy’s crew, making miracles happen wherever they set foot to, seeing the world and having fun all the while, that seems like a worthy occupation. They are also all wanted people, so their options are limited.

makes me proud to be a freaking strawhat

Moments like this are what makes their motivations seem very real. I am totally with Franky there. These couple of pages were ones of my favourite in the Zou arc.

Okay, enough with the easy examples, let me start with real ones. First in is Edward Newgate, the Whitebeard. His life goal is to have family, as simple as that. This extended to having hundreds of people he called his sons and took care of, while not limiting their freedom. Point is, he had achieved this goal way back when Roger was still alive and Luffy hadn’t even been born. So, it is fair to say that he had no further goals, he just enjoyed his life. What about his crew though? I talked about how Luffy’s crew is kinda just in for the ride, they want to be a part of this grand adventure and to make Luffy the pirate king. Whitebeard did not had an ambition to become the pirate king, and everyone on his ship knew that. Knowing their leader’s history and abilities, Whitebeard’s crewmates couldn’t help but see that the main reason the Roger’s throne still is vacant is because their old man did not care to take it. At least that is what we know so far, of course there might be more to it.

Whitebeard

With all that said, I don’t think Whitebeard’s crew could operate the same way Luffy’s crew does. Whitebeard doesn’t do anything, his existence had been in stagnation for years. It is fine for him, and, sure, it is fine for those who just want an easy life free of worries. But his children are all fighters, they are pirates who had chosen to go against the government; it is hard to believe no one of them would have personal goals or ambitions of any kind. Or rather, it is hard to believe they could be satisfied living with no ambitions or goals. A famous example of a person who wasn’t satisfied is Teach, the arch villain of the series. He did have his own ambitions, and he realized them, which consequently made him an enemy of the Whitebeard.

Whitebeard 2

Another example of Whitebeard’s crewmate who had goals was Ace. His goal later in life was to hunt down Teach and make him pay for his crimes. That is a goal, and it also went against the desires of Whitebeard, although Ace still had his way. Ultimately this lead to the destruction of the whole crew and the death of Edward Newgate.

I feel this is an example where the story makes good use of the realistic life goals and their clashes. The motivations of every party involved in this conflict are clear and relatable, and you can see why it was inevitable, why it makes sense. You can’t achieve your ambitions while riding with a captain who has no goal, which is why Teach and Ace had to leave his ship (they did it in a different manner, of course).

Whitebeard pirates

I this this page is a perfect illustration why Whitebeard pirates are such an awesome crew

Let me give you a few more examples of this sort. Remember Donquixote family? Or Big Mom pirates? Or even Baroque Works? What strikes you about those pirate groups, compared with Strawhats? Among many things, the number of traitors those groups have spawned. The reason is that the goals of the leaders of those groups, as well as the means of achieving those goals, aren’t always supported by all their members. But, the people who disagree don’t necessarily leave those groups, in fact sometimes they can’t (as a reference, see resigning procedures that Big Mom installed). Same thing with the navy. Garp, Akainu, Sengoku and Fujitora all have very different goals, yet they are still working in the same organization. It doesn’t mean that they necessarily are going to betray each other, but that is a possibility.

Fujitora 2

I love that moment.

Doffy 3

Doffy was a fun character to have around too

Now we come to the point I wanted to make. Writing the story this way, where the personal goals of supporting characters matter and play into their actions, it is not just about realism, it is also useful for storytelling. It allows the reader to speculate about the actions of certain characters, making long term predictions. For example, you can speculate that Fujitora would eventually raise against the current navy/government system, in particular against the most inhuman practices (such as slavery, above-the-law position of celestial dragons, shichibukai system). You can predict that Garp and Sengoku would join him only if Fujitora will show clear intent to preserve marines as defenders of justice, otherwise they would fight against him. You can predict that Boa Hancock would be willing to side with the government against Fujitora, as long as she can keep government’s protection for her island. It is easy to assume that the Revolutionaries might aid Fujitora, while Stawhats might stay away from the conflict untill they are being dragged into it. All of this follows from the goals of those parties and their leaders. It might (and probably will) be all different in reality, the conflict might never happen at all, but it is still fun to speculate, being able to back up your ideas. This realism in how characters act on their goals is breathing life into the world, making it feel as if it has some internal laws to it that you can see if you look close enough. Compare it with, say, Bleach, where characters don’t really have realistic and meaningful goals, and when they do it feels like just another feature of their personality, rather than the driving force behind their actions. And, coincidentally it had been way harder to make meaningful long-term speculations about plot twists and character actions in that manga.

Doffy 4

That is also such a good page. Love how Tsuru treats Doflamingo as a boy who made a mess and has to take responsibility. And his arrogance plays into this role perfectly too.

So, this is great and all, but I didn’t mean this post to be just a praise of Oda’s writing. Let us talk about the Red Hair pirates. What are their goals? What is Shanks’s goal? Does he even have one? He seems to be in the same position as Whitebeard, a pirate who made it and who is not looking for any new progress. He seems like a person in stagnation, who does not aim for anything. Remember that scene, where Shanks is drinking on some island and Mihawk visits him to tell him about Luffy’s new bounty? I found that to be very depressing, cause it conformed what I thought about Shanks and his crew – they have nothing to do, they are wasting their time drinking because there is nothing else they need to be doing. That is a very sad life if you think about it. It is ironic that out of all yonko the nicest and the most likable one would be also the only one whose life goes on this depressing way. I can’t even imagine someone wanting to join Shanks’s crew at this point, cause they would have nothing to offer.

Sugar 2

Could have posted a picture of Shanks here, but opted for an actually scary pirate instead!

I don’t think that was the intent when Shanks was written, but there isn’t much that can be done about it. Oda will have to invent something huge to provide a meaningful goal for Shanks. And, if Oda doesn’t give him a goal and doesn’t address the fact that he has none, then it would make for a substantial hole in his writing. This is a consequence of the realism I talked about earlier, it can easily backfire like that. On the other hand, this aimless existence contrasts Shanks with Teach, who had been supercharged with motivation and goals, similar to Luffy. Maybe Oda can exploit this contrast somehow, who knows. Would be really interesting if he creates this battle of motivations, where Shanks would represent balance/stability/preservation and Blackbeard would stand for change/progress/conquer.

Teach 2

Same with Kaido’s crew. So far they all look like ruffians from Hokuto no Ken or something. Oda will have to come up with something to give them goals and motivation. The way he handled it for Big Mom pirates was rather clever and unique, but it would be harder with Kaido.

Before I finish I want to add one last bit. Of all the things Oda will have to deal with in his story as it progresses, one of the hardest things to write is  going to be change in Luffy’s goals (and consequently, in the goals of his crewmates). When he finds One Piece his main goal will be fulfilled. But being the protagonist he can’t enter the state of stagnation as Whitebeard and Shanks did. Instead, either the series will have to end or he would need to acquire a new purpose in life, or maybe both. And, it would be way better if this process happens gradually, so the readers can see this change coming and feel that it is natural. The manga had been slowly shifting from the personal adventure of a rubber boy and his friends to a grand world-wide epic, which deals with practical aspects of justice, good and evil and oh so many other things. It would be natural to expect Luffy’s goals to change and shift too. But, writing it in a manner that would make it feel natural is going to be a challenge, the high standards of realism that Oda had set up will be haunting him. Let us see how he does. Till the next time, see you!

Blue Heaven – realism in fiction

Today I want to talk about Blue Heaven, a manga by Tsutomu Takahashi. Also if all goes according to keikaku plan this will be the first in a series of post where I’ll be focusing on different aspects of “realism” in storytelling (hence the title). So let’s start!

Blue Heaven

Blue Heaven is a story about a dangerous individual being rescued from a small boat in the middle of Pacific ocean. His rescuers bring him aboard a luxurious cruise liner packed with passengers. The guy isn’t just dangerous, his hands are already covered in blood and there is no way to hide the fact, so he will have to flee from his benefactors to retain his freedom, while committing new crimes, all on board a huge ship in the middle of nowhere. Sounds interesting? How about you go read it, if you haven’t already? I am going to have to spoil at least half of the manga, so consider it carefully. The manga is only 24 chapters long, plus a few unrelated bonus chapters, it is not going to take too long.

Blue Heaven, Seiryuu

Alright, let me first recount the story. As I said, the story begins with a cruise liner saving a guy, Seiryuu, from a boat. There were two living people on that boat, and as we soon learn from that second guy, there were 11 more of them, but Seiryuu killed those. By the time we learn these details, Seiryuu had already escaped from his cabin, killing the person who guarded him, and started wandering the liner. The next thing Seiryuu did was finding a lone passenger and striking a conversation. They drink together, then Seiryuu get into his cabin and murders the guy, but not before interrogating him to get as much information as possible. Thus, Seiryuu was able to assume the identity of that passenger, and get a little bit of a breathing room. After all, that cruise liner holds about 2000 people, finding a new face isn’t an easy task.

Blue Heaven

So, what did the liner’s crew do to counteract this? First, they immediately saw the situation in all of its complexity. They rightly guessed that Seiryuu will mix in with the public rather than with the crew. They understood that there are only a few people who know Seiryuu’s face, and that those people would be targeted by him. Recognizing that their enemy is capable (being able to kill 11 people), they armed a group of people with guns. Also, they made a facial composite, which would soon prove to be useful, as one of the personnel members recognized Seiryuu as one of the passengers she saw earlier. You see, they did a fairly good job already. They also decided to call all the Asian passengers to one room, where they could try to identify Seiryuu. This is a drastic measure, definitely not something you would want to do to your passengers, and it is pretty questionable in terms of safety of those passengers. But, it shows crew’s dedication to deal with the problem as soon as possible.

Blue Heaven

Okay, so this is the summary. At this point of the story I was pretty happy and had high expectations for the rest of the manga, here is why. First, we have a pretty simple setup, an isolated place and two parties at play, “everyone” vs “the murderer”. It is a classic setup and I like it. I prefer it when the identity of the murderer is a mystery as well, but well, it is fun to read either way. Second, both parties play intelligently. Seiryuu seems to be on top of the game, he doesn’t make huge mistakes. You can say that he would have been better off hiding instead of roaming the ship, but I’d argue that is not his style. The crew too, they escalate the situation by bringing in guns, facial composites, calling the passengers into a single room. Can you immediately think of something they had forgot? Maybe having a dog tracking him? Maybe trying to take Seiryuu’s fingerprints? I would say it is reasonable to assume that they didn’t have trained dogs and dactyloscopy specialists on this cruise liner. So, my point is, the crew played it smart as well. At this point, I was eager to see the next moves, who will do what.

Blue Heaven, Fuyuki Jyungo

It is not what usually happens, by the way. Usually I would watch a similar two party struggle story and I would go “oh, why did they do that?”, “this came out of nowhere o.O”, “now that was kinda dumb -_-”, etc. Blue Heaven managed to capture my attention by being realistic, by showing me that it operates by sane logic. So, when I see Seiryuu posed with a situation that has no simple solutions, I wonder what he will do, how he is going to stay ahead of his pursuers. I expect the manga to give me a reasonable answer and waiting for this answer is exciting.

Blue Heaven, Seiryuu

Now, unfortunately Blue Heaven didn’t deliver. They soon introduced mentally and physically deformed neo-nazi family which decided to hunt down Seiryuu using submachine guns and explosives, which they conveniently had on the ship with them, unbeknown to the crew. They didn’t hesitate to kill random passengers and crew members, soon turning the manga into a depressive farce. This part was not interesting to read in the slightest, and I think it was because it didn’t seem real. I can believe into rich people carrying guns without permission and not being afraid to use them when needed, but I am not going to buy psychotic racist villains who outright slaughter people for no reason. Not only it makes no sense, but also there is nothing interesting about it, it is just repulsive. And well, the manga had been a bit repulsive all the way from the beginning, cause the utter disregard for human life was the motif of the story; but then it was balanced by the interesting struggle I described above.

Blue Heaven, Yoshiko Natsukawa

So, what I wanted to say is, Blue Heaven lots all of its appeal when it decided to introduce nonsensical characters, a bunch of cartoon villains basically. You can call it lazy writing, I’d agree with that. You can also say that the author lost his inspiration. Or, you can say that the story was supposed to be disgusting and I just mistook it for something else. People do write disgusting stories intentionally, check Gyo by Junji Ito, for example (here I don’t mean “disgusting” as a derogatory term, I think it is rather a weird genre or a theme or something).

Blue Heaven

But, even if it was lazy writing or an intentional spiral down, for me it seems that the driver of this motion was the loss of realism. But it may be just a personal preference. Another element I didn’t like was Seiryuu’s backstory. That backstory consists of Seiryuu spending about 10 years locked in a room, being thrown in there when he was 11. Regardless of everything else, there is no way he could be that strong and healthy after growing up in such conditions. That doesn’t make sense, and I didn’t like it. So, there you go, maybe I just don’t like nonsensical elements in fiction and my judgement is purely subjective.

Blue Heaven, Seiryuu

It is kinda ironic that one of the motivations that drives Seiryuu is wanting to know what the real world is like

Also, I want to add that the story didn’t need to lose its realism I don’t think. I would have been happy to read a story where Seiryuu runs around, hides himself and is being found eventually. Let the good guys win since they have such an overwhelming advantage. Sounds boring? I’d chose that over cartoon villains every day!

These are my thoughts on it. What do you think? Do you agree? Do you think I am wrong to attribute the quality of the first half of the manga to its realism? Tell me in the comments.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Figuration Libre

If you want to praise JoJo I think you would talk about its sense of humor combined with its unique narrative, especially the visual aspects of it. Like, it is fun to watch a vampire whose head was just split in half putting it back together, but having it a little off, so he has to adjust the two pieces, which seems to make him slightly annoyed.

Even better is to watch two dudes fight, where one throws a steamroller at another, and then both repeatedly punch it to make the machine hit the opponent. There are hundreds of awesomely stupid things like that in the series, and they all work because of how the show presents them. It is not all about actions scenes either, this anime can make even a static image work. Like this one, when an ark antagonist assumes a ridiculous pose and the anime treats it like focal point:

Dio Brando

It isn’t just one particular antagonists, they all do the poses

The whole anime is like this. People act as if they are actors on a stage, they strike poses that look like they belong to an athletic dance performance; the events are unpredictable and ridiculous while the characters are always in dire predicaments. You never know what would happen, would they outsmart their enemy or would they just overpower him or her, or will they get out on a sheer luck.

The anime went through four generations of JoJos already, each had their unique visual style, interesting quirks and interesting people to hang out with. There is a lot to say about each of the JoJos, a lot to praise in each season. But if I were to guess what would not make it to the list of praises I’d name the art style and animation.

JoJo is one of those (un)fortunate anime that were adopted from a manga with a got a huge and dedicated fan base. It is a common theme now to try to appeal to such fans by treating the source material with an utmost care. This usually means that the script, the key scenes, the character designs, all would be made as to follow the manga as close as possible. But JoJo took a step further, adopting an animation style that brings the characters closer to their manga look. This can be seen in the Stardust Crusaders, where character designs are notably heavier, which limited the fluidity of the animation and the diversity of the facial expressions. Take a look, can you imagine these faces moving very much? Right.

D'Arby

Polnareff and Kakyoin

Joseph Joestar

But even when the art style is this restrictive you can find animation gems. There was an episode where two brothers were trying to attack Jotaro Kujo (the third generation JoJo) and his friends. The younger brother had a power that allowed him to read near future in his comic book. It is not clear to me how much of an advantage this gave them, but the comic book did look pretty awesome. Here, take a look.

Boingo's comic book

This comic book inspired two alternative ending sequences made specifically for the episodes that feature this comic book. I’ll post a few screenshots from the second ending below ^^

You can watch the whole thing too, I definitely recommend it. Here is the first one:

What I found especially interesting is that this art style looks very similar to something called Figuration Libre, a French artistic movement. Here some examples of how this art looks (these are works of Robert Combas).

Do you see some similarities? When I first saw that JoJo’s ending I was very impressed by how unique it was, and I was even more impressed later when I realized it was an artistic influence of this not very well known French art style. I think this is the role those progressive art movements should play, discovering new forms of expression, new interesting aesthetics, and then giving them to the public by influencing popular commercial works, such as illustrations, decorative artworks and TV animations.

So what I wanted to say is, even in a show like JoJo you can find some awesome pieces of art, if you look carefully. It would be easy to brush aside this ending theme as some lazy weird joke, since the animation imitates still motion which creates an illusion of simplicity, and it would be easy to ignore it because the the art style looks so childish, while in fact it is very deliberate. Good job, whoever is responsible for this awesome piece of animation ^^b

JoJo's scenery

Just putting a few cool looking pictures here, which have nothing to do with Figuration Libre. Don’t mind me.

D'Arby

^^/

Kakyoin eating eyeballs

Okay, I’ll stop now -.-

If you want more art style talk, check out this post on Madoka Magika and postmodernism. If you wanna read more about JoJo, here are a few reaction posts on the first and second seasons.

Denpa-teki na Kanojo, episode 1 – tropes

Before we start let me say that this is not a review of Denpa-teki na Kanojo. If you want a review – we already have one written by Shaurya, you are welcome to read it. Here I want to discuss this OVA rather than to review it, so I’ll assume you’ve seen it. It is a good show by the way, and it is fairly short too, so if you haven’t seen it you can start watching it now and come back in 40 minutes =)

Ame Ochibana

I decided to write about Denpa-teki na Kanojo because it gives me a great opportunity to talk about certain recurring setups in anime. Before we start though I would ask you to try not to let any negative preconceptions about these tropes to guide you as you are reading.

The first trope I want to mention is “harem”, basically it is a setup where you have a guy and a group of girls who are showering him with their attention. It is a weird definition, but I find that it works pretty well. I’d personally consider it to be a harem setup if there are at least three girls who show interest in the protagonist. If there are just two of them you can use more specific terms like love triangle or something; these are just words anyways. First episode of Denpa-teki fits this pattern nicely, as Fujishima Kanako (the class rep girl), Satsuki Miya (the girl who turned out to be a psycho) and Ochibana Ame (the Juu’s knight with weird haircut) are all talking with Juu (the protagonist boy) almost exclusively, and each of them shows a distinct interest in him, though their feelings may be different in nature and depth.

Juu Juuzawa and Miya Satsuki

What do you think, does it make sense to call it a “trope”? If you have a character-driven show it is only natural that there would be people of both genders, and since all of them are teenagers it is also natural that there would be a bit of a romantic tension there. And since Denpa-teki is a short anime you can argue that there wasn’t enough room for more than one male lead, so it just happens that Juu has lots of girls interacting with him. Right?

Juu with Ame

While this is a reasonable thing to say, I don’t think it is quite right. Regardless of the writer’s intentions, making your protagonist seem popular with the opposite gender affects the way the show works. Supposedly, it makes the guys who watch the anime associate themselves with the protagonist, and it makes the girls pay more attention towards him because he is popular. These ideas sort of popular are psychology-based speculations, and it is a broad-brush picture. It doesn’t have to work this way, if at all, for you in particular, my dear reader, so don’t complain :P So anyway, making your protagonist popular will likely change the way your audience views him, in particular it would likely make people to wish him well. And this can be exploited.

Kanako Fujishima

Let me give you an example of another show that falls under the harem definition I gave. In Neon Genesis Evangelion its protagonist Shinji Ikari is living together with Misato Katsuragi and Asuka Langley. He is also the only friend of Rei Ayanami, thus making it thee girls none of whom likes him very much, but they do hang out together almost constantly. This anime definitely does exploit the extra attention that Shinji’s popularity draws to him. It does so by making him fail miserably at everything he tries and by making him give up without trying half the time. So, because you wanted him to succeed you feel disappointment, frustration and even anger. Read what people say about Shinji, you’ll see just how well this worked out, he is a legitimate contender to be the #1 in the “most hated characters” list. All because the show is very effective at making you wish for Shinji to succeed. Of course, it is not just about him being popular with the girls, there are like half a dozen different ways the anime establishes him as a character you root for. Check it out, it is a pretty great anime series.

Shinji Ikari, Misato Katsuragi, Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley. The white haired boy is also a friend of Shinji’s

So with Evangelion I’d say using the harem trope was an effective choice that helped the show in achieving its goals. What about Denpa-teki na Kanojo? It is similar, in a way. Imagine you don’t care about Juu at all. Then the events of the OVA become bland, like a not-so-scary horror film. But then imagine that you do root for Juu very much. Or, better still, imagine that you are Juu. Then how do you feel about Fujishima’s death? She is a person who was always running around you, she was a classmate, she was generally friendly and so on. Feels pretty horrible, right? And what about Satsuki’s betrayal? Forget the emotional side of the situation, just being beaten up with a bat and then stabbed is awful enough already. This is how the first episode of Denpa-teki na Kanojo is supposed to work, I think. It tries its hardest to make you root for Juu, and then it uses this connection between the viewer and the character to deliver the impact.

Juu with Satsuki

If you doubt that the OVA was set up to exploit this trick, remember when Juu was attacked by Satsuki. It was a second after she finished a sentence that was worded as if she was going to admit her love for him. If you were gonna root for Juu this was the time. And a second later he is beaten with a bat but that same girl.

 

So, I think this trope can be used as a writing tool, rather than just being a fanservice device. Of course, there are dozens of anime where harem is the genre, and that is a different story altogether. Also there are anime like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, where the harem setup seems to be used only to make the show more appealing, so in a way it is just a fanservice.

The second trope I wanted to talk about is quite similar to the first one, but it is slightly less obvious. I would call it designing a character to be likable. In Denpa-teki it is Juu, of course. Lets describe him. He is a strong and brave guy with a clear sense of justice. He is slightly wild, but not dangerous. In fact, even when attacked he might not fight back, if there is a reason not to. He would rather get hurt than let another person be hurt. He wouldn’t take advantage of a girl, even if there are no consequences and more over he wouldn’t even want to be in such a position. He is sensitive, being able to understand how a person feels, even if that person offended him or physically hurt him. This particular trait has an absurd magnitude, as Juu is able to be worried about a person who just broke his arm and leg. Even when stabbed in the gut, he thinks of the mental torment his attacker is in. He is also a nice guy to hang out with. When he decided to spend time with Ame he asks her where they should go to, even though she was willing to tail him wherever he himself would want to go. He treats Ame as a person and as an equal even though she constantly suggests that she is his servant.

So, what do you think? Half of those traits are just a normal behavior of a good person. Being strong, brave, just, chivalrous, selfless, nice, that is a reasonable package for a protagonist, there are tons of characters like this. But that is not all there is to it. While the traits themselves are fine, the show obviously puts a lot of effort into showing that Juu has ’em, to the point that half the anime’s run time is spent on establishing his character. As a consequence it feels like half the show was written in such a way as to allow for Juu to display various aspects of his personality.

The disproportional amount of time the show spends on Juu, the more than impressive set of great qualities he has, the fact that the show is willing to throw some of its realism out of the window to make Juu look cooler (as with the scenes where he displays kindness towards Satsuki who tries to kill him), the fact that the show is interested in minute details of his personality while the rest of the cast gets a bare minimum of development, all this makes Juu a “designed to be likable” character, at least in my opinion. In particular, it seems he is sort of designed to feel dateable, as a good portion of of his qualities relate to the way he treats girls. Also his character does not display any human faults that would allow him to grow later, which shows that the writers weren’t interested in his dynamics, rather they wanted to see him in his perfect form from the get-go. And, as I mentioned, some of his actions seem unrealistic and even clash with his personality, which indicates that giving him those characteristics was more important than keeping him “real”. These choices are also a part of the reason I call him a “designed” character.

Just to make it clear, I wouldn’t call most of the characters designed to be anything because they aren’t. Satsuki and Fujishima are both just functional characters, they serve their purpose and that is pretty much all there is to them. Ame has a bunch of different and interesting characteristics, but they don’t have a purpose; she isn’t meant to fit in any kind of mold, like Juu is. Most anime characters aren’t designed to be anything, they are just written to the best of writer’s abilities to fit into the story, serve their role and hopefully be interesting. Sometimes a character would fall into an archetype or something like that, but as often as not it wasn’t because the writers wanted it to happen, but rather because they couldn’t do any better or didn’t care at all.

At any rate, the designed to be likable Juu serves the same purpose as the first trope, making you more invested in the guy and in all the stuff that happens to him. I think all together it does a reasonable job, and the episode leaves a good aftertaste too. Tropes often feel like a lazy writing, but in the case of Denpa-teki na Kanojo they seem to work fine. The show’s impressive visual language holds your attention, and the writing is fairly clever too. Just as an example, remember the scene where Juu asks Ame to hit him because he was doubting her, thinking she was the murderer? She hits him making him bleed. This establishes yet another great quality of Juu’s, him being proactive in setting things right, apologizing the way that would not take advantage of the meek disposition of the person he apologizes to. But it also shows that Ame is not a doll and has feelings as well. If she wasn’t at least slightly annoyed with Juu’s lack of trust she wouldn’t have hit him hard enough to make him bleed. This is a clever way of achieving two goals with a single brief scene.

What do you think about it? Do you think the use those setups I talked about takes away from the anime? Do you think it is meaningful to talk about designed characters the way I did? See you in the comments ^^/