Okay. Maybe a little format, this time.
I posted something, earlier today, that sort of hit one of those buttons in my head. In the post on Galvanic Team, Why Is It Always A Girl? | I’m Curious!, I made a passing remark about my apathy as it pertains to the things stories want me to feel. Now, I’ve had no breakthroughs on that front. But I had a talk with my dad, last weekend, where I kind of brought it up. He said that, as far as characters dying, he also tends not to care. But I’m not sure it’s exactly the same thing, with me. Or maybe it is.
Ever since I started doing the anime commentary thing – heck, since I started doing the commentary thing, in general, death has bothered me. But never for the reasons it “should.” The only time I ever get upset at a character dying is if it’s just something I perceive as poorly handled. Using death as a shock tactic, for example, is a trope I absolutely cannot stand. And that comes down to what I think is both a hyperdeveloped sense of… I’m gonna say empathy and a highly trained writer sense (heh).
On the one hand, I don’t have a switch that lets me treat characters as “lesser.” For me, no matter how important they are, all characters are equal. Which is why I tend to have a problem when even the most insignificant of characters is used as a sacrificial lamb in a ploy to get me to feel sad or understand that a villain is evil. These things don’t work. All it does is trigger my writer sensibilities which turns into a situation of “you are so creatively bankrupt that you couldn’t figure a way to do that without resort to the absolute cheapest tactic you possibly could?”
The only other thing I’ll ever feel about a character’s death is the mild disappointment of “aw, I’m not gonna get to see them do cool stuff anymore.” That’s it. That’s as much as I ever feel, provided their death didn’t just annoy me. And it’s not just death, mind you. Almost about any time a series wants me to feel some negative emotion, it’s just… not there. Or, even if it is there, it’s not very strong.
And it’s honestly a thing that’s eaten away at me, pretty much since the launch of the main site. I see people getting all emotional over the deaths of their favorite characters and I just… don’t have that. It makes me feel like something’s just wrong with me. It even extends to real life. I’ve had to attend a few funerals in my life, thus far, and of the ones I can recall… I wasn’t especially emotional at those either. And given who those deaths were, I feel like I should’ve been. But I wasn’t. And I’m still not. Why do I just not feel these things? It genuinely bothers me.
Side note, but does anyone else get that looming sense of anxiety around making a new post, as if you were just starting out? I have this perpetual worry every time I do a post that it’s just not “good enough.” As I’ve said, I’m not really good at metrics and stuff. And I don’t really get many engagements on much of anything, so I never really know if a post is actually worthy of anyone’s time or I’m just kinda spinning my wheels. I know the whole schtick of “write what you’d want to read,” but other people write the things I’d want to read so infinitely better than me and so much more consistently than I’m able to. It doesn’t strike me as especially helpful advice. What would I have to add? My perspective hardly seems all that unique. I dunno. Maybe I’d have to just be someone else to see it.
The rest of my day was pretty nice. Got a lot of work done. More progress made on the outline of PROJECT ACADEMIA, for one. But also got a lot of good work in on Burning Sky. Even took a break and decided to make a dent in this building mass of unplayed games. Started with Shantae: Half-Genie Hero on Switch. I just love the style of those games. Finally actually downloaded Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Breath of the Wild. Think I’ll actually get a pro controller at work tomorrow so I don’t have to use the joy-cons all the time.
And that was my day, basically. Personal projects, videogames, and anime all serve as nice distractions for when my head goes to places like where it was, earlier in the day. Tomorrow’s gonna be the real bear. Back to my “actual” job. Just gotta make sure to go in and stay cool. Not let anything get in my head. Not stress over stuff that’s not important.
“Just gotta make sure to go in and stay cool. Not let anything get in my head. Not stress over stuff that’s not important.”
Exactly!!! Okay this is gonna be corny but, one of your me and your mom’s favorite old movies is West Side Story. There’s a song in the movie called Cool… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wugWGhItaQA Yeah that movie came out the year before your father was born, so its old and corny, but still on point. Stay cool tomorrow buddy. When any sign of stress starts to come your way..play it cool.
Its late so I’ll have to respond to some of the other things you mentioned tomorrow.
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I don’t know if anyone HAS to feel emotional when a character dies, it depends on how far you let yourself get into the anime to begin with. Clannad & After Story both made me very emotional, but I didn’t feel any emotion whatsoever in A Place Further Than The Universe, which ultimately felt like a boring “cute girls do cute things” anime to me because I just didn’t get into the emotional side of it.
I guess a lot of people don’t like “shock value” deaths, meanwhile I’m here hoping for them all the time haha. They simply aren’t common enough I think. I love them because they are so rare and unexpected in anime, and I tend to like a more dark and gritty story, because most anime follow a typical “nice” story where no one gets hurt and everyone is friends in the end. It’s pretty amazing that no one manages to die in the countless shounen anime that have fighting in EVERY episode!
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It doesn’t work on me at all. No matter how into the story I am. I don’t possess that quality. And I was just using death as an example. I don’t really feel any emotion that a story’s attempting to get out of me aside from the occasional “Awww” at the more mushy stuff. But even that’s more because I like cute stuff than the actual emotion it’s probably going for, which is a little more sentimental, probably.
Shock Deaths just bug me as a writer. As a person they do absolutely nothing for me. I’m not even surprised by them because they’re actually not as uncommon as you might think. If you’re not watching a shounen (which is aimed at a younger audience that will generally frown at their favorite characters suddenly being axed. And frowning youngsters = fewer merch sales), it’s extremely common, actually. Because the stuff that’s actually more “mature” feels they need to ax people off to be so. Which is objectively untrue, but that’s beyond the point. So already they don’t perform *either* of their two intended goals for me. I don’t feel anything for them because I already hardly feel anything and I’m not surprised by them. So it strikes me as nothing more than pointless and boring. And robbed of the two sensations that are expected of me, I have absolutely nothing to fall back on but “…that was badly written. Like… wow. That was so badly written, it’s not even funny.” Made worse by the fact that I don’t even *care* about being surprised. So I’m incapable of feeling one way and have no interest in feeling the other way. It’s just a lose-lose.
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But doesn’t that just mean you don’t like deaths at all? What differentiates a death that you think is trying to make the anime feel “mature” versus one that isn’t? Personally, I’ve watched over 400 anime across all genres and I’m hard pressed to think of a single anime where I feel like the deaths were purely for “shock value”.
Only reason I’m pushing back on this is because I’ve seen people complain about shock value deaths often but I never see any good examples of cases where a death is legitimately only thrown into a story for shock value. Death is a powerful tool in any story if used right, and I don’t see it used often in anime except for the seinen genre.
Plus I don’t think anything is expected of you when it comes to actually feeling for the characters. They’re fictional in the end, and a lot of people don’t feel anything from what they watch, I’m sure.
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No. I don’t like death. Doesn’t mean I’m beyond accepting it in a story. I don’t like my job, but I need money. Perhaps my speaking in absolutes is the issue. Killing off characters purely for shock value is a thing I see a *lot* more in Western media. Particularly in Superhero comics and such. It happens *all* the time. In anime? Maybe less often. But shock value is still a considerable thing. And I can probably think of a few where the shock factor seemed to be considered more than the actual execution or intent. For me it’s a matter of necessity.
In my own writing, I make stories with somewhat mature themes, but aimed at slightly younger audiences (say mid-teens and up, I guess). I actively avoid killing things because death *is* a powerful (if somewhat overrated) tool when used correctly and overusing it cheapens the experience, not deepens it. (also because I spent my nonrefundable time and energy making those characters, so they *better* be around for a good while XD)
I only kill a character off if they literally have to die in service of the story, or if the events of the plot have landed me in a place where there’s no feasible way they’d not live through it. It’s avoidance of cheapness in both directions. I don’t want either their deaths or their survival to be cheap. So I’m extremely careful about it (unless death is actually supposed to be more of an inconvenience in the world, but I don’t do that in many stories. In most of mine, people most definitely die when they are killed). A lot of the time, it feels like the reverse. Where the character’s death was decided on *before* the actual point of it or determination that it was unavoidable. So even if a point is there, the execution ultimately suffers and can therefore make it *feel* like it was nothing more than there to be shocking or otherwise failed to do the thing it set out to do because of overall poor consideration of those other elements, making it, again, nothing shy of an annoyance to viewing. Basically, if I get the impression that the same narrative end could’ve been achieved *without* someone dying, I’m gonna be a little miffed. Especially if it’s there so a character can learn a lesson that seems disproportionate to the consequence of having to learn it.
Yeah, I get that it’s probably not literally expected of me. But the thing is that I latch onto other people’s emotions. When I see other people talk about a thing from a clearly emotional perspective – be it a blog post or a video on AniTube – I sort of want to be able to do the same thing. But then I watch a thing for myself and I just… can’t. The most I can do is talk about mechanics and themes. People talk about how much they “relate” to a particular character’s struggle or a theme in some beautiful anime like, for example, Hyouka. I love Hyouka… because it is mechanically immaculate (not to mention gorgeous). But I don’t have that “I relate” thing that I keep seeing. I don’t have that “this theme spoke to me!” thing. And I just don’t feel like there’s honestly much anyone can get out of hearing me talk about something when other people are just more eloquent and able to speak so… personally about stuff. I like “the math of storytelling.” The other stuff just… doesn’t reach me. So I tend to struggle seeing what value my opinion has to anyone if I’m ultimately unable to feel the things the stories are definitely designed to make me feel.
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Ah, I see. I don’t really engage much with Western media so I never realized it, but then I guess I have heard that Game of Thrones and shows like that are pretty bad for just killing people off all the time. In that sense I get what you mean about death being overrated, as overuse most definitely sours the concept overall.
I think my favourite use of it is when a character dies in order to force a reality check on other characters. That whole “this isn’t a game anymore” situation. I feel like death isn’t as cheaply used in anime though so naturally I have positive experiences for the most part with it when it is used.
I guess the only solace I could leave in regards to emotions and stories is that while it can be powerful it’s still only one aspect of a story. And we all derive our enjoyment in different ways, placing different weights on certain aspects.
Anyways, this was a nice discussion. Thanks for your thoughts on all this!
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Yeah, I probably should’ve been clearer about that and not specified anime. Contrary to my leanings across the two sites, I have far more experience with western comics and cartoons than I do with manga and anime, so I tend to project across the two mediums a lot without really meaning to.
I’m not sure what my favorite (or, at least in my case, “most acceptable”) instance actually is. I’m not sure I’ve ever really given it that level of thought. Perhaps a well handled heroic sacrifice. As long as they’re executed properly (and I can’t sit there and think of a thousand completely feasible ways every character in the situation could’ve survived) I think I’m generally pretty cool with those.
You’re good. That’s kinda what this site’s for. Helping me explore these thoughts and emotions openly. Maybe learn something new.
Yeah, it was fun. Thanks!
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