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Fantasy, Anime, and Character Ideals

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Devor, Dec 10, 2015.

  1. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    I'm very much of the same opinion, Mytho, on most of your points. Though I have to admit I honestly can't think of an example other than the Furies of Calerdon... I'm probably ignoring a glaringly obvious, if somewhat better, example there.

    Japanese fiction really does mix tropes up in a fascinating way. If having more western writers take their cues from anime and manga means more of that, then I'm extremely happy. Of course that's just me!

    Being a fan of the style, I wouldn't consider it at all insulting if my writing reminded someone of it. I don't actively choose to include such elements, but I watch enough anime and Japanese show in general that I have no doubt it creeps in somewhere...
     
  2. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    I want to add that I think the anime/manga I talked about in the thread I started about villain redemption arcs is a great example of this. There's a pretty large ensemble cast (common in anime/manga) and each character undergoes a unique character arc, heroes and "villains" alike. Each character was like a different shade of the rainbow that comes forth from the prism, adding their own vibrant and beautiful color to illuminate the story as a whole. And I find this to be very, very common the more I read/watch of Japanese storytelling.

    I honestly feel really discouraged that no one in that thread felt the same way I do about how every character, pro or antagonist, main or supporting character, undergoes their own character journey and has resolution/redemption. Apparently no one here likes that. I just don't get it.
     
  3. Tom

    Tom Istar

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    To be fair, I really don't have a lot of experience with anime. Much like you with Western storytelling, it's just not to my taste. I have a friend who's something of an anime connoisseur, and he tried to introduce me to some of the non-mainstream series he likes, but I just couldn't get into it. However, I did watch enough of it to get what I feel is a pretty solid understanding of its qualities, one of which is the essentialism I stressed. It's a pretty obvious tenant of the genre.

    Yes, I understand you weren't born with your current worldview. I'm just commenting that yours seems pretty consistent, while mine is in a constant state of flux. Most of my day-to-day existence seems to consist of reevaluating and changing my opinions.

    While I do agree that anime creates a lot of opportunities for a variety of fascinating stories and characters, I think you sell Western media short. Just because a Western character is gray doesn't mean they're not carefully drawn--my own characters come to mind. While they may look messy, each of their traits is one I've thought out and refined and carefully tied into a core theme of the plot, strengthening the overall story structure. Gray characters can go through a transformative journey just as beautiful as that of an anime or other mythic-type character. The journey may look slightly different, due to their nature as a gray character, but it's still just as valid, in my opinion.

    For me, the moral of the story seems to be, just because something is crafted differently doesn't mean it's worth less in quality and meaning. All storytellers of any worth--no matter what storytelling type they ascribe to--set out to create characters and worlds that speak to people, that mean something, even if they go about it differently.
     
  4. Tom

    Tom Istar

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    I do like that, and it's one of the things I incorporate in my works frequently. I don't think it's necessarily an exclusive feature of anime, however. Just one that's rare in a lot of mainstream Western works. Harry Potter, I believe, contains an element of this quality. All of the major characters and most of the minor characters have a full character arc that plays out over the series. That's what makes Harry Potter so fascinating for me, personally. It's interesting to see how each character's arc ties together into the main plot and into each other.
     
  5. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Well, my point was that there was a time in my life when my worldview was very much more in flux. Actually, about 9 years ago I underwent a huge shift in my worldview and it has been developing constantly since then. So, it's really a matter of your point of view. If you had met me 9 years ago, you wouldn't think of me the same way.

    Similarly, a character will seem like a different sort of person depending on when in their journey you are meeting them. I think a lot of the time people look at characters who have already had their period of flux and have already gone through their personal journey of discovery and development and mistakenly call them one dimensional or black and white or simplistic or whatever. I think this is entirely the wrong way to view such characters. But it may tie into our western assumption that a story should be about a character changing, not about characters who have already changed. However, I think that in itself is a simplistic way to view storytelling and I reject it.

    That's another reason I prefer Japanese storytelling. There are a lot more "rules" over here. More "stories should have this and not this", more "this is how you should do it" and "this is what story is about not that". There are no such limitations, it seems to me, in anime and manga. Storytelling should be limitless in its possibilities. That seems more true in Japan than here, in my experience.

    In my experience, characters that fall under the label of "gray" in the west, are never as beautiful to me as Japanese characters are and their journeys often, in my point of view, amount to nothing. Obviously this is a matter of point of view and of preference, but I decidedly experience those types of stories and characters which are typically labeled "gray" as less interesting, less meaningful and less artful than what I have experienced from anime and manga. Generally, I experience them much as one experiences the dirty gray slush that the pristine snow has been transformed into after we humans have plowed and trampled it. That, to me, is "gray" storytelling. And while I would never go so far as to say no one should ever write it (I believe strongly in the individual vision of the author, after all), I would say that I almost always despise it.
     
  6. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I misread "over here" as "over there".
    And I was like "yes, Japanese cartoons do have a lot more rules and more specific expectations".
    That's my experience, as your experience is that there are fewer rules.

    I've found recently that I really dig Russian literature. Boy oh boy, are those characters interesting, meaningful and artful. And they are, often, also very "gray".

    I bring this up because I feel this thread is becoming too much an argument over whether or not anime/manga has more merits than Western media. I find this is an argument that anime fans seem to enjoy having.

    So, maybe we can move this topic more towards talking about idealistic characters on their own and not on how they stack-up against gray characters.
     
    Tom likes this.
  7. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Well, in Japan there's certainly an idea that you should try to make your entertainment to suit the needs and wants of its audience. And quite a bit of anime does have a specific audience in mind which leads to the frequent use of the tropes and cliches that will appeal to that audience. However, I don't believe there are rules for how you accomplish this. Whereas in the west we seem to be constantly making up rules for ourselves for how storytelling should be accomplished. In Japan you can basically take all the elements of storytelling and combine them in any way you wish, whether that way is well trodden or new and fresh, as long as you reach your destination. Over here, at least in the "industry" you're expected to conform to the way the people in authority think stories should work. I think it's a very different thing.


    The problem with "gray" is that there is no definition for it. Though I try to use it in the same ways I see the people who really believe in it use it as much as possible. The big thing about "grayness" seems to be moral ambiguity and I can definitely see Russian lit fitting in there. (Naturally, I am not a fan of Russian lit.)

    I don't think of myself as arguing about the merits of anime so much. I have been going out of my way to reiterate that I do know it is a matter of opinion, taste and preference. I don't fault anyone for not liking anime. Though I will fault you for mischaracterizing it, especially if you are doing so based on a lack of actual experience.

    What I have been arguing is that anime and its characters cannot be summed up and simplified by words like "ideals" and "archetype". There are anime that concentrate a lot on ideals and there are anime characters patterned after archetypes. But to assert that this then represents anime in general is, I think, a grave mistake. Anime is far, far too highly varied for simplification. It's like saying all western movies are about superheroes. The huge number of superhero movies lately might make you feel like this is true, but it still isn't.
     
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