Monday, January 18, 2010

What? The King of the World? MoMM

As a writer, I like to watch how others weave stories together. I do it subconsciously as a study of sorts. How do certain plot devices make me feel. While some parts of story-telling are medium-specific, the art itself, spreads across forms- from books, to movies, to music, and so on.

I've just finished watching some of my anime, and it got me to thinking about some of the things we allow in various types of storytelling that are:

a. not permissible in other forms of stories
b. completely unreal
c. stereotypical

After watching today's instalments of Bleach, One Piece, and Naruto I realised how many times they pull a Deus Ex Machina. Deus Ex Machina is latin for God from the machine. Centuries ago, when storytelling was still young, if your characters got themselves in a fix they couldn't get them out of it, no worries. Just insert random superpower and fix the problem. You don't need to explain where random superpower came from. That was cool back then.

It's not cool now, except in anime, were it happens all the time.

How often is there a fight scene, where the "bad guy" proves to be too strong and the "goodies" pull a new move out of the hat mid-fight? Where did that move come from? We've been following every minute of your training for the last several months, you can't just develop a new move without us knowing. And if you had this new move, why not use it early? No, you wait til your energy's almost expended and the bad guys have pummeled you into the ground.

Luffy in Gear Second- a move invented midfight in Enies Lobby

And of curse there is the random insertion of new information. It's like "Oh, you've killed everybody, and dominated everywhere, but you don't win yet- look, here's the King of the World!" And you wonder, if you've gotten to this stage, why you never knew about the King of the World before. I mean one of his citizens should have mentioned him. Or you should have seen his picture somewhere. He shouldn't be a secret for you to stumble upon.

In this category, you'll find Impel Down and Enies Lobby in One Piece, the higher levels of hollow in Bleach, Uchiha Itachi, Uchiha Madara and the Jinchuriki in Naruto. Seriously, let's think about these things. A pirate who doesn't know about the justice system. A good guy who only knows about the 1st of 3 levels of bad guys. Or not explaining characters who are central to the story and have always existed.
Ulquiorra- one of the Arrancar in Bleach.

Another thing that I noticed is weather control. Ever notice how, when a character says something really deep (in live action) or just before two characters fight (in anime) the wind suddenly whips up and their hair is ruffled? Because the likelihood of micro-tornados is directly proportional to badadassness. ACK!

While these things annoy me, I appreciate why they work. One Piece, for example, has been running for ten years, and there's a need to introduce new information, because the story would have gotten boring by now.

But even if I understand them, they're a lesson in what not to do for me. It's okay for anime, and even film, to be stereotypical. Less so for books. A lesson in craft. My character's problems need to seem insurmountable, but they have to triumph, in a way that obeys the laws of our world. Even in science-fiction and fantasy, they still need to obey some of the same rules. Stuff can not crawl out of the woodwork and save them.

And that's what's on my mind this Monday!


Kealon said...

One small comment Luffy didn't invent that move mid fight Enies Lobby.

Claire Dawn said...

Really? As I remember, it's the first time it appears in the anime. I remember he'd just come from Water 7, where he hadn't really had that much of a fighting challenge and he was fighting the dude that looked like a Leopard (completely forgot his name).

When did he invent Gear Second?

Michael said...

soooo last year..but since i watched that arc recently. Luffy did invent gear second before that. After the fight with Aokiji or maybe even before that, and no they didn't show the process in which he went through to acquire it, since it would obviously ruin the surprise..which is alright! a little mystery is ok! compared to bleach I think they used a decent dosage of it. Bleach OP'd Ichigo which is just bullshit.

Though gear second may not have appeared in the anime before and seemed out of the blue at first, luffy did mention that he had a "New Technique" that he wanted to try out, while on his way to Enies you cant really say that gear second was entirely random and invented in mid combat.