When Stories Leave Us Behind – Empathy and The Narratives of Adaptations (In OreGairu)

In case you’ve missed it, FLCL (pronounced ‘Fooly cooly’), which originally aired in 2000-2001 is getting a direct sequel, which will air in 2017. Most people’s response has been “Why?” I sought to calm these people down by reminding them that no matter how bad the FLCL continuation is, they’ll still have the original, untouched. But is that really true? One of the reasons Tolkien’s estate had been so reluctant to allow for movies to be made off of his work is the knowledge that the total mindscape of a franchise is indeed affected by all that it contains. Then again, look at Psycho-Pass’s 2nd season, or Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice, where the argument is that the new people in charge of the franchise don’t really understand what made it good to begin with, and don’t understand its core messages. So we use this argument to do away with dissenting evidence. Then again, we also see this argument with reboots such as female Thor, or black Spiderman, etc.

OreGairu S2 episode 5 anime - Yukinoshita Yukino thought Hikigaya Hachiman would understand her

And this is what it really comes down to; just as we dismiss the latest creation as outside “canon”, for not getting the original, we fear that somehow, we’ll be the ones left behind, where the newest creation will reflect on what the original has said and ruin it for us – not just our memory of it, but what it even said to us. And this is one of the reasons fans of source material are so often unhappy with adaptations: There are as many narratives on what the material really says as there are people who consumed it. This is unsurprising, because we filter the material through our own understanding of the world, and our own media preferences, until the effect of the media on us, through us, is as unique as the experience of having consumed it (and might be different should we revisit the material later on).

(This post will have very light OreGairu (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU in English) seasons 1-2 spoilers, mostly of a meta-nature, discussing where the story went rather than its details.)

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Sound! Euphonium — On Ensembles and Ensemble Shows

Sound EuphoniumA topic that I sometimes bring up when people discuss how certain characters in the latest novel adaptation to anime isn’t fleshed out sufficiently is that they’re not supposed to be fleshed out, because they’re a supporting character, only there to help the main character’s fleshing out as they interact with them. In most novels, it’s very clear who the protagonist is, and it’s often clear that other characters not only aren’t protagonists, but they might not even be main characters at all.

In anime, these novels, and often manga (where ensemble casts are slightly more common), get posed as stories with a handful of main characters, often between three and five (three is a particularly common number for romantic series), but let’s take a look at Sound! Euphonium (Hibike! Euphonium in Japanese), where if we go by popular site MyAnimeList (MAL), then we have four, and those are also the first four appearing on the Wikipedia page for the show. All is content added by private individuals, but considering these four appear on the anime’s poster (and are four of the five characters appearing on the first novel’s cover as well), we could go by that.

(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that rose in my mind as a result of watching the show. There will be spoilers for the entire show.)

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Media and Social Commentary – The Shows and the Fans

The following two answers had been given on ask.fm. I sometimes answer questions off of the blog and I think they’d make for good pieces. Specifically here, as following my almost infamous piece on how Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei is an “Ode to Meritocracy” I was asked or accused of condemning fans of the show for liking it. So I think this answer will be useful. The second question looks at a specific example of a show and whether it has subtext, and what it means if it does.

Do you think that, when making an evaluation of a piece of media, you are also (at least in part) making some statement about those people who enjoy that piece of media? e.g. thinking that Mahouka promotes a toxic message – does that mean you made a negative evaluation of it’s fans, on some level? Maybe sometimes somewhat?

Look. We are what we consume. Sometimes we realize what it is and ignore it. Sometimes we realize what it is and embrace it. Sometimes we don’t realize what it is and we’re affected to varying degrees.

Akame ga Kill! anime teaches bad morals

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Light-Novels are Poorly Written and Adapting Them Shows That

For those who don’t know, Light Novels are short books released in Japan, aimed at young adults, and would usually be considered to be novellas in the west. As a medium, they could technically have a variety of genres and tropes, and yet, just as anime has things we consider to be “genre-tropes”, the same is true for Light Novels. This article will try to pinpoint what some of them are, what people are referring to when they say “This is so LN-esque!”, and how they affect characterization of characters, and the effect it has when adapting them (and some western books as well).

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya - Kyon narrates

Kyon narrates, wryly.

First, to get us started, here is something I consider a quintessential example of light novels, which isn’t actually from any given LN, but had been written by myself:

“He stared intently at her shapely leg, while thinking wryly to himself that he understood her completely in that moment.”

And if you think that this isn’t typical of action LNs, then to reinforce this is about style, here is another quote I whipped up in half a minute:

“He smirked, holding his sword confidently in hand. He could see the course the fight would take, if you could even call it a fight, as he was sure he knew all the moves his opponent would take.”

Light Novels not only would fail according to the Hemingway App (which redlines your text based on Hemingway’s style), and Stephen King’s advice in “On Writing”, but are very intensely modern, in the sense that they put the individual at the center. Well, time to break that down.

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Handling Flashback Scenes and Respecting Your Audience

Total Recall - It totally fits! :3Some recent anime episodes led me to discuss flashbacks in a bit more length; I think this topic is interesting enough to devote more time to. The discussion and examples used will follow anime, western television, films and books. It is not an anime-only topic, but anime might get a bit more space and examples because I have examples on hand and it’s what made me revisit the topic conceptually.

Flashbacks obviously can come in the form of showing us content from earlier episodes, say, so we’ll remember what happened. An anime infamous for flashbacks in this way, which had episodes where up to a third of the content was recycled was Naruto – this was done because the anime was catching up to the source material and they wanted to use as little content per episode as they could. We’ve even had some examples of a flashback within an episode to something that happened the very same episode.

Note, however, that sometimes such “remembrance” sequences aren’t only required, but drive a point home – you can see it where someone is surprised by a new development and the flashback serves to have them narrate to us what actually happened, or show it again now that we’re armed with new knowledge and can put in the proper context – it’s very common in thrillers – think of the resolution of The Usual Suspects, The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, or recently in anime the case of Akatsuki in Log Horizon thinking of how Shiro and Nyanta had defeated Demiklas – we’ve seen the content we’ve just seen, in slow motion, accompanied with her trying to work out what happened which we’ve missed.

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Determinators – Power Fantasy, Wish Fulfillment, from Fiction to League of Legends.

Determinators are something I love, and knowing that I love it had allowed me to understand why I love some of the media, some of the stories, some of the characters that I do.
Let us begin with the definition of determinator as it appears on TV Tropes:

A character — good or evil, male or female, young or old — who never gives up. Ever. No matter what.

And let me tell you, if you’ve ever played a Dungeons and Dragons game (or specifically came across D&D related fiction), read a bildungsroman novel, watched anime or read manga, or uttered the term “Mary Sue” with regards to a male character, it’s like you’ve come across determinators, and plenty of them.

The hero that gets beaten but then rises once more, or who gets beaten, trains and then comes back, the hero who will not abandon their friends, the hero is a hero. Note, should a villain display these traits, and it’s actually quite common, we’ll call him persistent or a pest, which is also often about time-frame or due to the fact that this isn’t shown on-screen. Take for instance Ash Ketchum, the protagonist of Poke’Mon. In episode 5 his electric Pikachu is beatenby Brock’s rock/ground Poke’Mon, so he trains overnight and comes back in the morning with his dynamo-trained electric rodent to beat Brock. More commonly though, we think of determinators as those who do not give up within the scene, who get beaten but rise up once more.

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The Question at the Heart of Every Good Story – Code Geass, Others

Code Geass animeEvery good story, nay, every story, has a question at its heart. A question that the story revolves around, a question the story not only seeks to answer, but presents itself as an answer to. Every story, except some ;)

Understanding this question can often shape the way you look at a story. Things that you did not understand their “Why?”, the reason they occured, and that had seemed meaningless, are suddenly seen in a new light. You construct the story and give it a theme, of answering the question, of resisting the question, and so on.

Most interesting is the analogy of coloured glasses, or a point of view. Many people see a different story being told, a different theme. And in many cases, there are many “legitimate” answers, and switching from one question to another can help you consider the story from different directions.

An anime I absolutely love is Code Geass. Many people have found Code Geass, and especially its second season to be lacking, in some way. I try to get them to look at this “question” that the series poses as its theme in order to help them see the series as I see it, and hopefully appreciate it as I do. The question Code Geass poses is this, “At what cost victory?”

The first season is quite light-hearted, in a way. We see what Lelouch is willing to do, who he is willing to quash, what he will do in order to secure victory, and the world he is looking to establish. The second series is where the question which the protagonist thought he answered decisively in the first season returns, and the protagonist is told that his answer is unsatisfactory, his resolve untested, and that he must demonstrate further conviction.

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