Monday, August 23, 2010

An Ode to Anime

Hello Reader!  Last week I posted the third revision of my query letter.  I'm going with it.  Criticism has been lukewarm, and while I will take each critique into account I am going to use that summary for my letter.  Hopefully, this next round of query letters will work better for me.  Then again, I have to finish up the manuscript first.

I've essentially reorganized my entire novel.  Gone is the eleven chapter restriction - now it's been replaced by a twelve chapter restriction.  Where before there wasn't a first or second act, now there are four.  These four acts mirror the composition of Volume 1.  There is an exposition, a rising action, a climax, and a denouement.  I'm hoping my ever unsatisfied imagination will finally shut up after this manuscript because I dearly want to get back into the mode of selling my novel, rather than working on it.

Anyways, I wanted to discuss something a friend of mine brought up in an email.  I have a penchant for talking about set jaws.  I do not disagree.  I absolutely love the image of a set jaw in the face of adversity, of stoicism when fear would be the first emotion.  And I get this image from anime.  Every time an anime protagonist faces his foes, before the battle begins he clenches his jaw.  Then, he rages into battle.  It's an amazing image, a lasting one that's been burned into my brain.

And I want that image for my characters.  I've always considered Volume 1: The Proxy Wars as an ode to Japanese anime and film.  The mafias I've included in the novel are yakuza style families, built on a rigid honor code that uses existing cultural mainstays in their own rules and regulations.  The heroes keep their promises, even if that means doing completely ludicrous things in order to fulfill them.

Another thing that strikes me about anime is the absolutely insane character development.  Granted, the development isn't very deep.  But almost every single character in the pantheon of characters in any anime gets a backstory.  These backstories usually involve a traumatic event occurring, or a parent dying, or a village being burned.  Nonetheless, they get a story!  How often do you see that in Western television?  LOST seems to be the only mainstream, popular TV show in recent memory to have attempted giving each character a backstory (Battlestar Galactica also did this, but mainstream it was not).  LOST even one-upped anime, and gave each character a future story.  Then in Season 6 the creators one-upped themselves and gave each character a sideways story!

What I'm getting at is that I'm learning.  I'm learning from shows like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, or Cowboy Bebop.  Even LOST.  No, no, I'm not trying to emulate the ludicrous plots and constant yelling.  Or the unnecessary powering up that lasts a good three episodes.  No, I'm talking about the deep stuff.  Anime heroes stand for their principles, they never surrender them.  Anime heroes confront, whether it's foolhardy or not, their enemies head-on.  If they are going to hide, they hide in plain sight.  And the friendships!  Oh God, the friendships they develop over the course of a series!  These things are the kind of friendships kids dream of, the kind of group where each person specializes in something and is appreciated for it.

In the end though, I've always hewn close to realism.  Or at least, as much realism as I can get when talking about a guy who can control the elements and has to fight a person called the Howlamega.  Where can realism come from though, when I also hew close to anime stereotypes about stoicism and honor?

By turning them on their head.  Anime characters love making promises and doing anything in their power to keep them.  In real life, people do the exact same thing.  And often break these promises.  Sure, I can have my characters approach every dangerous situation with a strong chin and set jaw.  But each time they get punished for standing up and fighting, instead of running.  Each time they protect, they are whittled down to their barest self and left to rot.  That is real.  Rewards are not often given for the courageous, the bold and mighty.  In fact, rewards are so rarely given that falling into a prolonged lapse of hedonism would seem best for our heroes.

And that's why they are our heroes.  Because despite the realistic retribution for their actions, they persevere.  They eschew all temptation and continue to keep their promises, protect their friends, and face their problems with a straight back and unwavering determination.  That's high drama right there.  That's entertaining.  And most of all, it says something.  Until next time then.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:49 AM

    watch tengen toppa gurrenn lagann. you will certainly enjoy it. it basically embodies everything you wrote and condenses it into 24 episodes or so very successfully