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.

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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.

3 Level Combination

3 Level Combination is a Korean comic by Il-Kwon Ha, the guy you may know as the author of Annarasumanara. Shaurya recommended me both of those manhwa, and I am really glad she did. Here I want to talk about what I think about that comic. I’ll make a tiny introduction for those who haven’t read it and put a spoiler warning before the part where I start to go deeper into the story.

3LC 3

3 Level Combination starts as a story about a boy Hogu, a boy from a poor family who is being bullied at school. We follow him around, observing how he is being humiliated, beaten and otherwise abused by a group of his classmates. It gets pretty heavy and the story doesn’t hold back at all. After a while a new character is introduced, a humanoid robot prototype named Chevrolet. That robot was supposed to attend school together with normal students as a part of its testing. For better or worse the robots ends up becoming Hogu’s friend, while Hogu is put in charge of keeping it safe. With this event the both the story and Hogu’s life become more complex, going through tragic and happy moments, always unpredictable and thought provoking. Please read it, it is very good.

I want to mention that for me 3 Level Combination was a really hard read, I even had to make a break for a few weeks, because I felt a bit overwhelmed. It is just my personal thing though, stories about abused people living in misery kinda get me. I don’t know if that affected my opinion about the comic, though.

3LC 10

Spoilers start from here.

I want to talk about a few of the characters, and since I myself can barely remember any names from this comic I decided to list them all beforehand. Besides Hogu I am going to be talking his former friend Minwoo, his class president Anna and her father Dr. Lee. Hope it won’t get too long.

I think a good way to start thinking about this story is with Dr. Lee. Who was that person? We know he was largely responsible of making a complete mess of his family life. His wife committed suicide after seeing him clearly displaying preference for a female humanoid robot over her. He said that the robot is better because “it is obedient”, because it is “his type”. He was a sad man who wasn’t able to appreciate the people around him and would rather play with toys. And his story doesn’t even seem all that interesting. The main reason I’ve brought it up is his daughter Anna.

I think Anna might be the central figure to this whole story, and I will try to explain what I mean. What defines Anna as a person? She grew up in a broken family and saw a lot more ugliness of human relations than a child should. Do you remember what was her reaction to that? She would say that it was “boring”. Such an inadequate description, such an obviously wrong choice of words. But let’s go on. Anna’s mother committed suicide because her father brought home a robot and stated that he liked it more than his wife. Naturally that influenced the way Anna felt about robots. She learnt to hate them. She even decided to study robots to prove that they can never be humans. Now let’s pause and think about it. Why would she do that? It is not a disgust towards machines that can be understood in her situation. What’s more, she was still working with her dad. I think what we see here is Anna misplacing the responsibility for what happened in her family; instead of blaming her father entirely she puts a part of the responsibility on the robots. It should be easy to realize that Dr. Lee’s self-centered destructive behavior was the reason Anna’s family ended up in the state it is. He could have had any other occupation, it wouldn’t have mattered, it wouldn’t have changed the fact that he didn’t appreciate his wife and was abusive.

So here is what I am getting at. I think a large part of Anna’s character is self-deception and neglect. Just as she was pretending to be bored to ignore her pain as a child she now pretended that the robots are to blame for what happened in her family. Why would she do it this time – who knows, but an obvious reason is so that she would be able to live on with her father without losing her mind because of the cognitive dissonance.

3LC 27

You’ve probably noticed that I didn’t justify the word “neglect” yet. To talk about that I will need to jump to another character I’ve said I would talk about, Minwoo. He, Hogu, and Anna were friends back when they were younger and Hogu was what kept them together. In the quick episode where Hogu takes a picture of Anna and Minwoo it is pretty obviously hinted that in this friendship Anna was mostly interested in Hogu, while Minwoo was more interested in Anna. And apparently she was oblivious to that. What’s more, this never stopped, with the only exception that after a while Minwoo started to target Hogu, making his school life worse and worse. It might have been jealousy, might have been a desire to get Anna’s attention, likely it was both. And it seems that Anna could have stopped the whole thing, as she did in chapter 17, just by asking Minwoo to do so. But she never even tried to talk to him, never started a conversation in the whole year, as Minwoo mentioned once. Imagine if she did, if she thought through this situation and realized Minwoo motives. Anna is smart, she definitely could do it. And if she asked Minwoo to stop hurting Hogu, then maybe there wouldn’t have been any fights in that class. And going from what we saw of Minwoo I think that is the only thing she needed to do was to ask, there wouldn’t have been conditions or price. But Anna never even thought about it. That is what I mean by “neglect”.

Minwoo 3 Level Combination

Minwoo

I am sorry if you think I’ve spend more than enough time on Anna, but I have to go a little further. In the late chapters we see Anna repeatedly putting effort into making Hogu see that Chevrolet is a robot and hence his friendship with it is absurd. She doesn’t see (or prefer to not notice) the simple fact that Chevrolet was the only one who showed Hogu kindness and care, who spent time with him when he needed it. It is so simple to see, and it is so easy to then understand why the boy would be so attached to the thing, regardless of its nature. What’s more, it is not hard to imagine that Anna might have wanted to be the one who did all of that for Hogu; only she didn’t do it. She would say that Chevrolet was a piece of metal, only the reality was that this robot was more of a human then most of the people around it. And instead of embracing that reality Anna would rather destroy it. She did, with a lie, betrayal and murder, a one act that took away all she had, including her own conscience.

I find it interesting that throughout most of the story Anna doesn’t do anything wrong, and there is no way to blame her. She isn’t hurting anyone, even does good things here and there. Nevertheless, it is as if her way of life slowly places a rope around her heck. It is one of the most interesting character arcs I’ve seen in a long time.

3LC 2

 

It doesn’t feel right to talk about supporting characters all this time and leave out Hogu and Chevrolet. But I don’t think I have as much to say about them. I like their story. It is the kind of story you would want to end on a happy note. While reading I thought that maybe they will use this bomb episode to say that from now on Chevrolet can’t be opened and since her remote control functions were disabled she could effectively become a human. That would open a possibility for a nice ending for both her and Hogu. I was also prepared for Chevrolet’s demise; I think Hogu would have survived that, and I wonder what kind of person would he ended up being. Neither of that happened though.

The actual end made me think of the Romeo and Juliet play. It used be regarded as the greatest love story of all. I’ve heard that since some time ago people started to look at it in a new light, considering Romeo and Juliet to be a cautionary tale about irresponsible passion of young people. I can see that point of view and I don’t think it takes away anything from the romantic side of the play. What’s more, I think the same argument can be made for the story of Hogu and Chevrolet. Do you want to see their story and it’s end as a beautiful romantic tragedy? Or do you want to see it as a tale that says “Don’t be as foolish as this boy was.”? Both ways are good I think. I like the ending, even though it does make the story even more sad.

One more thing. I imagine 3 Level Combination would naturally make you wonder about human-robot relations, asking yourself “What was this friendship between Hogu and Chevrolet? Was it different from the relations Dr. Lee had with his old robot? Can you take any of this seriously?”. I think the comic doesn’t have a lot to say about robots and their potential place as a new kind of sentient beings in our society. Was Hogu any different from Dr. Lee – I have no idea. It is a very hard question, and I don’t see any answers in the manhwa.

Sorry if this post was a bit too long. See you next time!

The Pale Horse

Before I begin, let me admit that I didn’t know anything about the Book of Revelation and the four horse men. I had no idea that The Pale Horse is the horse ridden by Death. I thought the manhwa’s title looked kind of boring. I was like “Maybe it is a story about a horse that looked pale or something.” So my first impression on this manhwa wasn’t all that good.

The story looked bright and sunny at the beginning. The protagonist Rose Dupre is a twelve year old who is the prettiest girl in her village. The villagers bully her because they thought her mother was a witch. Her only friend was Pierre Grand who always stood up for her. It looked like the story of a typical pretty damsel in distress who needed to be protected. I thought the story was going to be about Rose making friends and proving to the villagers what a good person she was. I felt like dropping it but kept on reading since they had all this talk about a witch and I thought the witch might make things more interesting at some point. You could imagine my surprise as I watched this seemingly bright story spiral into a dark and twisted tale.

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Rose Dupre

It is hard to write about all the good things about this manhwa without spoiling the story. What I liked most is how they portrayed immortality. The witch is immortal and we see what it did to her. Being immortal is no joke. Most of the anime and manga show immortal protagonists as people who are just sad about losing everything they hold dear. The Pale Horse says that immortality is something that slowly makes you lose your sanity and it felt more real. Imagine living for a couple of hundred years and watching all your family and friends die one after another. Yes, you will be sad and depressed. Now imagine living for a million years where everyone you once held dear were nothing but a fading memory. You watch people being born and dying on a daily basis that at some point you just won’t care anymore. You won’t feel sad. You would just feel tired of it all. We see the witch who was cursed with immortality try to destroy everything someone else had because she couldn’t have them. She was just jealous and bitter. And then she saw all the lives she had destroyed and all the people she had hurt and felt awful. She was jealous of them and yet she couldn’t bear the burden of destroying them. When the villagers tried to kill her, she was so tired of everything that she didn’t even fight back. She just stood while they tried to kill her but she couldn’t die. It was sad, watching a person who wished for death so desperately but still couldn’t die. It didn’t mean she was a good person by the way. She is spoiled and cocky and always puts herself first.

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This manhwa has amazing art.

The other good thing about this manhwa is that all the characters are flawed in one way or another. After watching all the anime with good protagonists, it is a nice change. After all people aren’t perfect. This manhwa deals with a lot of delicate issues like identity crisis, love, revenge and jealousy. It shows how people will cling to anything, even something that they know will destroy them, if they didn’t have anything else to hold onto. It shows how you can love someone up to a certain point and then hate them for the rest of your life because they did something really awful to you, something you could never forgive them for. This manhwa will mess up your sense of right and wrong because you wouldn’t want the witch or the hunters to die.

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It has interesting dialogue too. This is one of my favorites parts.

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Here is another interesting argument.

The character I found most interesting is Baron Guiness. It is hard to say anything about him without spoiling the story. I guess he is the guy who is sort of the antagonist of this story. I say sort of because he has his reasons for what he does and I like his character.

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I like how his face can change from looking nice to cruel almost instantly.

All the chapters are in full color and the art is really good. I like the way the manhwa-ka uses colors. 019

If you feel like reading a good psychological manhwa with a deep story, read The Pale Horse. I highly recommend it. The only bad thing about this manhwa is that it is licensed. Only 63 chapters are out and it might take a long time before they release the next chapter. If you don’t like how the story leaves you hanging, just read the first 33 chapters and drop the manhwa. The first 33 chapters cover the most interesting part of the manhwa and the 33rd chapter gives you a kind of closure, you feel like  you have seen a bright and interesting chapter from a person’s life end and dropping it at that point won’t feel weird.

See you next time ^^/