Writing is 1 Percent Inspiration, and 99 Percent Elimination

February 28th, 2018

"It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book."

Last week's Darling in the Swimsuit episode gave me ample time to stop and think about all the biovating that people have been doing over that series. That in itself is nothing new, and believe me, I understand the urge. That is what blogging is all about. You're given a thing, and then you spew out some flavor of reaction or deep thoughts on it. Japanese media, for whatever reason, veers towards inane, repetitive, long-winded, and repetitive. You can only stare into the void for so long before you start getting distinctly void-like in return. And set the kind of people who blog or write long forum posts free on something? Psh. Of course you're going to get a spontaneous recitation of a hundred different versions of "this is totally a deep dive into codependency." Yeah, that and every single other magical girlfriend thing ever made.

The urge to apply greater meaning to something about driving moaning teenage girls by the ass might be great, but resist! I keep seeing it happen, even when there's absolutely nothing there at all. I can't remember if it was this season or last, but I remember being pointed towards a particularly bloated 'breakdown' of a first episode, singing its glory about how it exemplified the three act structure, which is the stick-in-the-ass way of saying "it had a start, middle, and end." Act one is that a girl wanted something. Act two is that she struggled against her insecurity when an opportunity to do it presented itself. Act three is that she tried to get it, and did. Which I think really helps demonstrate both why I can't remember what show they were talking about, and how you can turn goddamned anything into a two thousand word essay. And believe me, the irony here of me then writing about it is not lost on me.

Instead of taking a deeper dive on all the parts of the actual three act structure that were lost in that translation, let's look at a different way to structure an episode that I see in Western media all the time, but see only rarely in Japanese. X wants a thing. X gets the thing, but it doesn't make them happy. X realizes what they really wanted all along and achieves that. There are probably hundreds of thousands of sitcom episodes out there with this exact structure, to say nothing of the chick flicks to which this is the holy bible. An inciting event leads to the conscious desire. Conscious desire is pursued and achieved, but it's hollow. In the face of adversity, they cling to it even stronger, but in doing so, they have an epiphany about their true, unconscious desire, allowing them to return, with greater understanding of themselves.

I'm not sure I can even remember the last time I saw a genuine epiphany period in anime. Not just a twist or a reveal, but an actual realization from a character that changes them, even if just in the moment. Possibly because it involves changing a character, which as we know, is anathema. You'd think that kind of structure would be perfect for a show like Darling in the Frankfurter. I kind of feel like visual novels are a little more resitant to it, but it could just be personal bias talking. Galaxy Angel, Duel Savior, and Prism Ark immediately come to mind as games where almost every character had at least something that would scrape the bare minimum, but they're also structured for it with each introductory chapter specifically dedicated to such. They're also ancient at this point, and I'm not sure how relevant they are anymore to the direction Japanese writing has gone in over the past decade.

Baldr Sky, on the other hand, was especially godawful at that (leave me alone for always bringing it up, I spent two years on it and it's the last thing I worked on), especially since every damn 'relationship' exists in flashbacks, so the main difference between routes is which girl Kou goes "Wait, I was actually in love with X all along." You'd think, especially after Baldr Force, that it might be building up to some kind of (still not insightful) observation about how Kou becomes a completely different person depending on what set of memories he has, but you'd be completely mistaken. If anything, it pushes a narrative completely opposite to that. Mostly though, it's totally oblivious.

Anyway, the epiphany is such a staple of Western media, to the extent that some shows were all but based around it (eg Scrubs or Brooklyn Nine-Nine), and yet we're lucky if a show gets beyond "I care about my friends!" or "I do love the other main character!" That's far from the only way to write a compelling story, but it provides a nice little Hero's Journey, complete with returning to the starting point, something you'd think Japanese media would be all about. And with those thoughts having run their course, a mere three weeks of personal biovating left for this season!

Posted in Unimportant Crap | 4 Comments »

4 Shouts From the Peanut Gallery

  • Dave Baranyi says:

    Not every story needs to be Saul on the Road to Damascus, but maybe it shows up more in Western entertainment simply because of the 2K years of influence of Christianity on Western culture.

    Maybe there is no equivalent in Japanese history/culture.

    I don’t know enough about Japanese Buddhism, let alone Shintoism – maybe their influence on Japanese history/culture is a driving force in the direction that Japanese media take.

  • Tiresias says:

    Having a Three Act Structure is considered an accomplishment now?

    What. The. Fuck.

  • Anonymous says:

    Where do you get all the sprite art for these posts? I love sprite art and want to start my own collection.

    • Aroduc says:

      Google? Around? I don’t know. I have to find a new reservoir each time I get the urge to accumulate more.