Saturday, September 8, 2012

Do I Even Care?

Such is the question that plagues my mind when I come across many anime, manga, and videogames that many have praised but I don't enjoy. And, honesty, the fact that I may not care about a stories' characters, world, and motivations there-of is often the main reason why I don't like a particular manga, anime, or game.

For example, the main reason why I didn't enjoy Final Fantasy X was simply because I didn't care at all about the characters, and whenever they acted so dramatic about certain events, I just couldn't get investd because I simply didn't care. And, basically, if you didn't care about Yuna, then you probably didn't enjoy FFX.

Another case is with Gainax anime. I can never get into Gaianax anime or their stories because I never care about the characters or their struggles; simple as that. Many would find that to be crazy, especially concerning something like EVA, but I suppose I just have different standards, or perhaps I'm just looking for something else.

For example, two anime/manga where I find myself truly caring about the characters and events of the story are One Piece and Astro Boy. In these two anime series I have found myself crying on more than one occasion, and its because I really care about the characters. When I care, I feel. When I don't care, I shrug it off.

So what does it take to make me care? Well, I'm rather picky in this case I think. Less so in terms of the situation, and more-so in terms of writing and structure. For example, Astro Boy's world of humans and robots living side-by-side is ripe for drama revolving around what it means to live and think. And in One Piece, the central focus is on the theme of friendship, and how deep those feelings can drive a person. I really like these types of themes, as it hits home stronger than others themes like romance, drug abuse, living in poverty, etc. Which makes sense considering we all have our own lives and we've all lived through different events, and depending on what you've gone through, it could effect how much you care about specific characters and specific stories.

That's not to say I can't care about a story involving someone who lived in poverty simply because I haven't, but that's where good writing has to come in. A writer can't simply rely on a stories' themes create the majority of an impact a story has (something I think Gainax is very guilty of); a story requires well written characters and scenarios to bring about those themes. It's in this careful structure where the writer makes me care, rather than me caring just because of a certain theme being present in the story. For example, just because you have a woman die in your story doesn't make the story suddenly "heavy" and suddenly make me care for the woman; there has to be an arc to that woman's story. Does it need to be an expansive arc? No. But it has to be well written and executed. The best example of this being Belle-mere in One Piece, or Pluto in Astro Boy. Both characters were only present for a short time, but their execution within the story was so well done that when they died, I couldn't help but cry for them, because I cared for them.

I know it sounds strange to speak about caring for fictional characters, but that's the magic of story-telling. A great story can engross a person, so much so, that the line between real and fake becomes blurred, and you feel as if you're reading/watching real people within their own conflicts. That is the might of the story.

And, you know what, I find the most engrossing stories to always be the ones aimed at younger children. I wonder why? Perhaps I just have a child's mind-set, and thus I enjoy them more? Or maybe, when writers create stories for an older audience, they know how much more difficult it will be to engross a well-lived adult, so they don't try as hard because they can't take on the challenge? Well, whatever the reason, I can see myself still reading Shonen manga long into my adulthood, and reading One Piece and Astro Boy to my children; because that's where the heart of storytelling lies: in the creative and wild mind of children and the stories made for them.

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