Why Do We Enjoy Killing Off Badasses?

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If there’s one cliche that I haven’t mentioned on this site that I really ought’ve that also NEVER seems to get old, because it is in the essence of awesome contained within a very character, it’s the BADASS. The charismatic, jack-of-all-trades, often heartthrob, cool-as-can-be, handles-every-situation-with-flair-poise-and-mad-skills character, who can be anything from “the hero with the edge” to “the dark hero with the hidden heart-of-gold” to a douchebag who’s just so awesome we don’t care, to the GAR* who can totally betray you for noble reasons, so you can still totally love him for it when he repays his debt in the end. THAT guy. Easily the best part of any book, movie, or show.

And man do we secretly enjoy killing that character off.

Think I’m wrong? Okay, I’m not saying we don’t shriek and throw the book we’re reading about this character in across the room, or the remote control at the TV as we watch them die on-screen. But you can’t deny that killing off “the badass” seems to just add to that character’s badassery. Heck, even just having them go out quietly at the end of the series has just as much emotional impact as having them exploded out of our lives in some “fry-the-Coke” scenario.

That being said, I think that’s why, as much as we hate to see them go, having them die off is not only another gilding on their decoration of badassery, but it feels almost fitting. Most of these characters, with their habit of being drawn into daring and or dramatic situations, have it coming that they’ll end up dying in either a violent setup, or later on as the lingering result of one.

On the other hand, not all badasses end up dead, and still manage to turn out just as cool and memorable in our minds. Others just get a “death scene” that later turns out to be somehow staged for some reason or another, which is almost like a bonus, because they get an awesome exit while at the same time a reason to come back into the story that actually isn’t usually some kind of cop-out.

But I think the self-sacrificing badass tends to be the running favorite, and yet another cliche that doesn’t appear to have run out of steam, mostly due to the fact that if a character is deemed awesome enough to be badass, it just doesn’t matter. It’s like the nature of tired cliches can’t touch them they’re so awesome.

So even while we mourn such guys as these who get offed, we can’t help feeling a little satisfied that they were able to die by the principle of, “a good death is its own reward”. It comes from the kind of enjoyable sadness that only good drama can bring, and badasses blow it out of the water. In terms of entertainment value, there just isn’t much more you can ask for.

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*see the entry on Urban Dictionary

“Coriolanus” – Before Thoughts

All right, so I decided to start with Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, and it’s probably something that does get covered in college classes that concentrate on Shakespeare and Elizabethan poetry, etc, and may even crop up in high schools that include it in the curriculum (mine wasn’t, but that’s just me, so that’s what I have to go off of on including it in my list).

Why did I pick this one first? The Hunger Games of course! That being said, I already had a few ideas on what Coriolanus was about, but now that I know that the tyrannical leader of Panem, President Snow, shares his namesake with it, I can make a guess that it’s probably about a tyrannical leader named Coriolanus. And since this is Shakespeare, there will likely be murders most foul, political backhandedness, falls from grace, blood, etc.

And I promise I won’t cheat by watching a film adaptation, though some might argue that since all of these works are plays, they’re really meant to be seen performed (as in a film) rather than simply read. But we all read these plays in English class (and also from my experience, any scenes that were acted out were pretty starved for emotional impact, but I would guess that’s just par for the course, not everyone’s an actor, no less on cue).

With those thoughts taken into consideration before reading, I’d like to just add that I will continue (or try) to post other things on here as usual while I’m reading these plays, so keep your eyes peeled for each play’s “After” edition, as well as the introductory “Before”.

Right, on with the show! 😀

Here Are a Few Thoughts

So I finally got around to picking up a copy of collected Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I felt I ought to since BBC’s Sherlock is one of my favorite TV shows. I do have a blog post in mind that will serve as a continuing commentary on the “good use of recycling” in storytelling.

That, and this got me thinking on doing a few posts concerning my big fat book of Shakespeare’s works, maybe something following the plays that most generic high school curricula never touch on. So basically skipping Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet and going for the nice obscure ones you might only cover in college if that’s your concentration of study. I figure since I didn’t get the opportunity, I might as well make use of that big fat book rather than just have it sit on my bookshelf and proclaim that I’m clearly a well-read person.

More posts to come!! ;D

Finally Finished the Chronicles of Lumatere Trilogy

Being that I read just about everything and anything I can get my hands on, I will often switch between reading four or five books at once. Now if I could just master reading multiple books at the exact same time, that would increase the amount of books I could read exponentially, but alas, I don’t have the brain for that (yet). Usually, I’ll have one book going on my eReader in my bag, tucked away for emergencies like unexpectedly waiting in a doc’s office or a VERY long grocery line, and then I’ll have one or two books set aside at work that I usually pick between for my lunch break depending on my mood, and then I’ll have one on my nightstand by my bed, and there might well be one tucked away somewhere amongst my bookshelf books that still has a bookmark stuck in it.

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Well just a couple days ago I finally finished one of the books I had kept to the side at work, Quintana of Charyn, last book in the Chronicles of Lumatere Trilogy, and a book trilogy that I highly recommend–again. I’ve recommended it before, but I seriously think it’s an underrated gem of YA fiction. Granted, YA fiction has EXPLODED in recent years, and that seems to be where some of the money is (I don’t think it’ll ever change that romance and crime fiction are the biggest sellers) if you’re lucky enough (film deals, etc.). So obviously there are far more underrated gems than just this one, (Watersmeet I also highly recommend). That said, it’s very different from most of the medieval fantasy YA fiction I see lately. It has a gritty realism that feels more like a historical YA fiction story with some suggested magic thrown in based on the beliefs of the characters in the story, rather than anything tangible. Very spiritual, go-on-faith stuff. It’s very different from most YA fiction that I’ve read, which is why it stands out to me.

I guess my only complaint with the book would be that at times I thought it was a bit melodramatic, which is saying a lot for me, since I LOVE anything that’ll engage my emotions, be it moving fiction or captivating non-fiction that makes me question my significance in the universe (Amir D. Aczel’s Present at the Creation had that effect on me, ME, who thought she would never in a million years pick up a book about the LHC at C.E.R.N.). BUT there were times where I wanted to smack characters I otherwise liked because they were being…overly stubborn. And without giving anything away, let me just say that as much as I love a well-written, strong female character with a reasonable stubborn streak, when it gets to the point where she’s making decisions that, despite her understandable anger, are just…well…stupid, frankly, it makes me wince. From personal experience, I know that blame and anger can distort the truth and perspectives for someone, but nevertheless, in the case of this character,I felt she was a bit of an infuriating hypocrite who at times acted more like a child than a queen. I’ll leave it at that, because I can forgive the fact that she makes up one half of one of my most favorite literary couples.

And again, she’s only human. As all of these characters are, and no one is exclusively evil or good. Some swing closer to one of the spectrum than others, but there is no real villain in these books (okay, maybe that one S.O.B.), and again, we don’t get to see a whole of that in YA fiction of this genre. I’ve mentioned it before, but I mention it here again because it’s definitely worth mentioning.

That said, I’ve moved on to a new book in my ceaseless quest to conquer as many books as possible, one that goes back o my roots of good, ol’ fashioned good vs. evil fantasy YA fiction. Ah, the fairy tale world of black and white only occasionally painted with shades of gray. 😀

Film Adaptations

In the first place, I would like to point out that I do in fact understand that film and literature are two different art forms. That said, there can be no denying that in spite of that, the journey from novel to screen is not always a success, and by that I mean specifically, if a studio hopes to build a film franchise on a series of successful books—in other words, to be able to make the rest of the books in any given series into films after making the first of the series into one—the first film has to be a hit.

Film-Strip

I’ve noticed a particular pattern where these film-adaptations are concerned, as far as being a hit goes, and there are a couple things that I think that are required if it’s going to be a hit—at least most if not all of them are—and I’m going to expound on these features, which I hold altogether as a personal opinion, but that I think film execs ought to note when they want to option the first book in a series for a movie in hopes that it will grow into a memorable franchise.

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In the first place, the first film adaptation has to hold true to the spirit of the books. In addition to that, it doesn’t hurt to actually follow the content of the book, especially for the sake of the fans, but there have been successful films that have stayed true to the original book without drawing from the original content. Or, in the case of two Hayao Miyazaki films—Howl’s Moving Caslte (by Diana Wynne Jones) and The Secret World of Arrietty (based on The Borrowers by Mary Norton)—remain true to its own spirit. In those instances, Miyazaki took the content and made it his own, more or less, in an organic and honest way. But in the case of succeeding with widely popular book serials, the spirit has to be maintained (and again, no it doesn’t hurt to stick to the original plot material either).

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For example, let’s take the hugest book-to-film project probably ever endeavored in history, Harry Potter. That’s eight whole films, all of which were hugely successful. Not an easy feat. When they were first making the film for the first book, Sorcerer’s Stone (or as it goes by its original, European title, Philosopher’s Stone), they weren’t even sure they were going to get to make films out of the rest of the books. That didn’t stop them from working to craft a quality film on the first go. I’m not going to say that Chris Columbus is my favorite director (more on this when I touch on the adaptation of the first Percy Jackson book), but as far as adapting Philosopher’s Stone, he and everyone else made an excellent first impression, and after that, well, the rest was history: from then on, when a Harry Potter film came out, fans left the theaters not wondering if there would be a next film, but already on tenterhooks for when.

Sadly, that hype is now over and done with, but to prove a point, the impact that these books and these films alike has had on people across the generations for the last ten years or so is palpable. There are still Harry Potter conventions alive and kicking, wizard rock is still quite popular (you know you’ve hit it big when your books inspire its own genre of pop music), and with the public launch of Pottermore, fans can relive the magic of the books all over again in a new and exciting way, with ALL secrets revealed! Fans just can’t get enough, though luckily J. K. Rowling has the prudence to know when enough is enough (that’s why I don’t think we can expect to read any kind of series following the lives of Albus Severus Potter and the gang).

Getting back to the adaptation of the first film though, how exactly did Chris Columbus and Co. “keep to the spirit”, as it were? Well, in the first place, the focus was on the human story of Harry, not on the special effects that it would entail, being a fantasy film with plenty of action. Indeed, the techonology for Quidditch was not at its best at the time, but that’s not what was important, and the filmmakers knew that. The other thing they shied away from was adding plot points that were never in the book to begin with, and I think they owe that in part to the third ingredient of keeping to the spirit, which was in giving J. K. Rowling’s opinion its due. When they drafted the script, she was pretty much the quality control system. It’s true things were cut (alas, there was no Peeves!) for the sake of the film medium, but nothing was ever added, like some kooky new character or a tangential plot point (at least not in this one, let’s not forget the little dancing lesson scene in Goblet of Fire, or the attack on The Burrow in Half-Blood Prince, though again, those were plot points that made sense in the world of the book, and by then the films were so successful it almost didn’t matter, because fans enjoyed them for their humor or for their heightened action, respectively).

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But it does make me wonder if any other studios trying to adapt books into films ever took much input from the original authors—or if, I hate to say it, the author was too excited about their book becoming a film that they didn’t care if their opinion didn’t matter to the filmmakers, or if they didn’t know enough about film to realize that the filmmakers were making bad choices. It’s pretty clear, you see, that the Twilight Saga benefited from the involvement of Stephanie Meyer, and yes, that first film was an excellent adaptation, down to a T in fact (even if the content is questionable and a little oversensationalized—yes, I did read the books, and I own them on my bookshelf next to my Harry Potters and my Hunger Games, but I enjoyed them purely in the same way others enjoy 50 Shades of Gray).

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And on the subject of The Hunger Games, in that case too, they relied on consultation from author Suzanne Collins. And like with Harry Potter (and I’m sure, Twilight too) director Gary Ross was not sure they were going to make another film, but it’s clear that they were, following in the same vein as Harry Potter and Twilight and making the last one into a two-parter, which I have to say, benefits the content of the books all the more. But that first film indeed captures the human story (which according to Ross is what he focuses on anyway, as he did with other films of his, like Seabiscuit), and doesn’t focus on the stunts and action and flashing gizmos. And certainly no adding of additional plot-points (though again things were cut): there was one scene that was not in the book (this film did take a few more liberties in adding the perspectives of people other than Katniss’, being that the books are written in first person limited, like Twilight, which in fact does also veers off of Bella Swan’s POV too) in which Haymitch observes two Capitol children playing and laughing with toy swords given to them by their rich and indulgent Capitol parents, but it adds to the story, and it gets across a point that was actually brought up in the books, that the privileged Capitol children didn’t have to compete in these vicious games, only the children of the Districts had to suffer.

I would also throw The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but I like to think I’ve gotten my point across.

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All that said, here are a couple of films in particular based on two different book serials that simply…flopped. One of them were the monumental and unfortunate aberrations of the first book of The Inheritance Cycle, Eragon. Like with Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, the filmmakers could not be certain that they would be making another film, and unfortunately, they failed to make a good first impression. I myself loved The Inheritance Cycle, and I will say that my favorite parts were not just Eragon and Saphira’s relationship (which I think was glossed over terribly in the film, which is why I was confused when Jeremy Irons as Brom said, “Your bond with her is strong,” because I was thinking, “What bond?”), but also the love story of Roran and Katrina, which if you’ve read the books and then seen the movie, you’ll notice was entirely cut out. I assume it was because they didn’t think there would be any more films, but I think that by cutting that out, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Overall, the book was poorly translated to film. I won’t say that the spirit of the books wasn’t kept alive, but at the time I don’t think it had a good interpreter. And I think that it suffered the secondary pitfall of putting too much into the special effects, making Saphira the best dragon she could be, without giving her a damn good story for her setting.

Alagaesia 

Now it has been pointed out that the original author of the The Inheritance Cycle, Christopher Paolini (who I admire simply based on the fact that he published the first of this four-book series when he was only 15), drew a lot from The Lord of the Rings, and even if he himself’s never confirmed this, you can tell just by looking at the book: at the beginning there’s a hand-drawn map of the world of Alagaesia, his race of elves are immortal, beautiful, and wise beings, and the Urgals are…well, at first glance I would say they were Orcs, but they actually have more diversity amongst themselves as a race than the Orcs do, and aren’t just a race of monsters for our heroes to slay through to get to the end of their quest and stop from destroying the world, because I’ll concede that the Urgals feel like a race of beings that, while demonized, are not without certain idiosyncrasies that make them more complex as a race. AND a friend of mine even admitted that he didn’t much care for the books based on his feeling that the style of the writing made it seem like Paolini just picked words here and there out of a thesaurus to make it sound smarter (I didn’t particularly agree, but I could see where he was coming from).

THAT said, the books themselves did have a voice of their own, and that’s one of the basic tenets of a well-written story: a unique voice that identifies the story. When turning this book into a film script however, good grief was it ever full of cliche after cliche after cliche (and not the good ones I’ve praised and/or not ones used genuinely enough that I’d let it pass). Now I wouldn’t say it was The Last Airbender bad, but it came close. Maybe it was just a book that wasn’t meant for film, however good the prospect of it sounded.

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Another not-quite-up-to-par book-to-film adaptation, I will admit, was the first book in Cornelia Funke’s trilogy, Inkheart. It had basically the same problems as Eragon in terms of formula, and the fact that you could tell that they changed the ending to wrap up on the pretense that they would not be adapting the two books that came after, Inkspell and Inkdeath. BUT one thing it had on Eragon was that, apart from that, they kept to the spirit of the books, and managed to come up with something that, while it wasn’t a masterpiece, had a quirky character and rhythm of its own that didn’t just make it seem like it was a string of cliches. I really felt like the main character Meggie and her father Mo had a real relationship, even if Mo was being played by Brendan Fraser (ah 90s nostalgia). Somehow these cliches in this film worked because they still felt real and natural enough to how the characters played them out. And I think the casting was better done, even in the case of Andy Serkis as Capricorn (though I was disappointed they didn’t have him wear red, because I’ll admit, I imagined him more as looking much like a sort of Cardinal Richeleu from Three Musketeers), but they gave him some interesting character bits here and there that was part of what made the film still an entertaining watch for me. Actually, now that I think about it, it almost reminds me of the so bad-it’s-goodness of Dungeons and Dragons: not nearly as campy, but you could tell everyone involved was having fun and that there was effort put into creating a decent product. Add that to the fact that filmmakers of Inkheart still cared about creating a realism in the world from the page, whereas in Eragon it quite frankly felt utterly slap-dash. So in this case, I enjoy it for what it is, and accept it for what it is as a result.

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Then we have film adaptations that try to build a mass-market franchise on a book that quite frankly wasn’t written containing subject matter that would conducive to that end. This is not to say that the Harry Potter books didn’t contain some contemplation on the spiritual, like the nature of the human soul (more or less), but you have something like The Golden Compass, from the His Dark Materials Trilogy, which talks about, ultimately, killing God, (or I’d like to think, metaphorically speaking, the idea of God as the one and only answer for everything, take that as you will) and you make a film about that, and then, as I understand it (this film I didn’t actually see), try to edit out all religious references and yet still adapt that story into film…it’s just going to end up a mess, and you’re going to end up shooting yourself in the foot as far as how it goes in production, which in the end gave us an ending that was premature compared to how it went in the book with no clear resolution, or even purpose for that matter, since nothing was going to be built on all of that. Was it because, on top of not wanting to offend everyone from the church who swooned at the box office success of The Da Vinci Code, the climax dealt with the fact that we have a heroine, Lyra Belacqua, who’s the product of an illegitimate affair, whose mother, Mrs. Coulter, and father, Lord Asriel (no, not religious at ALL) both seem to have questionable stances on morality and are at once villains and anti-heroes, that the screenwriters just thought, “Oh, we can’t possibly put this to film and not cause a riot in the streets, let’s just stop it after the dirigible battle!”?

Whatever the reason, I have two words:

EPIC FAIL.

If you’re going to adapt a story into film, don’t betray that story in the adaptation because you’re afraid of offending someone, or whatever the reason might be. If you don’t want to put that content to screen, why put the book to screen at all in the first place? I think this quote below sums it up nicely.

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On the other hand, I probably never would have read the very awesome His Dark Materials trilogy if I hadn’t seen ads for the film. Maybe.

So why am I bringing this up? Well, it’s mostly just reflection on the fact that I feel like I’ve seen a lot of it of late. It’s not like books weren’t made into films before Harry Potter steamrollered in with its awesomeness and box office record-breaking, and truth be told when those films came out, I was still a kid and hadn’t experienced any kind of pattern of events in the media like that beforehand. However, I do have memories of being inundated with TV ads as a child, and of those ads, I don’t think I remember seeing so many adaptations of books marketed towards younger kids before, because let’s face it, Harry Potter essentially put YA fiction on the fast track towards a profitable future that went beyond just being a niche genre of fiction with a hodgepodge collection of various sub-genres and a tiny, off-to-the-side corner in every bookstore. It has much more of an identity, and I think gained more respect from those who may have previously looked down at YA fiction.

I get the sense that years ago, children’s books were not written in a way that could appeal to adults and therefore were not read by them. With Harry Potter, the fact that adults devoured them as much as kids doubled their sales, and probably have, as a result, made them an easier sell than they were before, almost to the point that I think that anyone who aspires to be a YA author writes with the awareness in mind that should their book become popular enough (though in the universe of “yet-to-be-a-reality”, that’s still a big “if”) it will probably be optioned for a film. And not that I can speak from experience (yet), but let’s just say that if it were me, I’d take this recent history in adapting YA franchise books into films into account in the case of studio execs approaching my future agent & co. for optioning my manuscript for a film script. I recall that in the beginnings of turning the first Harry Potter into a film, not only was J. K. Rowling initially hesitant about doing it (the books weren’t even all written and published yet), but when it came up that either the studio or whoever had some say, American actors in mind for the role of Harry, or the like–either way, it was established from the get-go that this case would be 100% British (or 100% French in the case of characters like Fleur Delacour, or 100% CGI if you’re Dobby the House Elf) and thank goodness for that.

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Now true, we also have an adaptation of Coraline, set in Britain and written by British author Neil Gaiman, which was Americanized. We have Matilda, set in Britain and written by British author Roald Dahl, Americanized, and those adaptations turned out okay (my bestie would disagree where Coraline is concerned, but I’ll leave her to lament the lack of what she coveted so dearly about Gaiman’s original work). So maybe that has nothing to do with it. Again, I think it comes down to keeping the spirit of the source material alive, and keeping the characters honest to how they were conceived in their original manuscript forms. Even the characters of Inkheart had this earmark in the film adaptation. The characters in flops like Eragon did not.

And it’s like with any good story: it’s more than just a good idea, it has to be good in the execution too. The characters have to be just as real and relatable on the screen as they do on the page. No amount of flashy special effects to cover it up is going to fix that, and no amount of trying to rewrite to avoid offending naysayers is going to have the end product turn out any better. Either way, the audience and the original fans and readership will see right through that garish veil. And this is true, to me, of any book-to-screen project, not just in the explosion of YA films.

So yeah, just something to bear in mind when you finally make it big as an author. ;D

See? What Did I Tell You? – Article on “Fifty Shade of Gray” and the Future of Publishing

I realize I’ve said this before, and even so, the proof that I would agree with this regardless of the success of Fifty Shades of Gray landing it a film deal or anything else is in the very fact that I do in fact have a couple different links to my fan fiction online (I leave it to you to read it, since it is for fans lol). Nevertheless, I couldn’t help giving a dry chuckle and muttering, “I could have told you that,” when I came across this article on “The Roundup” in my daily Publisher’s Weekly e-mail alert the other day.

The Daily Beast posted this article on their site:

Why Fan Fiction Is the Future of Publishing

I read it for myself, just to see what it had to say, and also because I think it’s kind of hilarious that an erotic novel is the first fruits to appear on this new branch of the publishing vine. Or something like that.

For yourself, I’d say take it as you will. Honestly, I can understand the stance of some authors like Anne Rice and George R. R. Martin, considering it “lazy”, that you’re just borrowing from an already established literary universe. In a minor capacity akin to swatting at a fly, I only take umbrage at this because, while the concept itself might be lazy, the execution isn’t so much if you want to do it right, if you want to write these already-created characters in a style that does them justice, but still in a way that shows signs of your own effort put into the craft. A mixture of an homage and a character and story study.

Thank you Ms. J. K. Rowling and Ms. Stephanie Meyer, respectively.

Still, I understand Rice’s and Martin’s points of view.

For me personally, I’ve recommended it mostly as a way for a person to test the waters of their writing style. Of course, fanfiction.net (where Fifty Shades was born) has a sister site called fictionpress.net, which I’ve also posted in my links page. But the nice thing about fan fiction is, because it’s based in a literary universe that already has a following, you’re guaranteed to at least get a glance. Putting your own fiction out there is harder, because let’s face, the literary world is built on what a person is aware is out there. There would be no such community of readers of anything without libraries, bookstores, and of course networking through websites, media, etc. It’s always been the best system for finding out what to read, what’s out there to read, and what the reader might be in the mood to read. It can be an excellent vindicator, to say the least. Something that tells you as an author, “Okay, yeah, I guess I really can write! And people really do respond to my writing style!” And I’m speaking from experience here. I’ve gotten several reviews for my works that have mentioned something about liking the way I write. That in and of itself is an achievement, because style can be really hard to pin down initially.

If it were me, and my books were published and popular, I’d love it if fans took it into their own hands and created their own stories. I often build my worlds with this possibility in mind. I figure, if my world is engaging enough that it can inspire stories from other people, it’s a pretty solid world, as solid as the real world is.

On the other hand though, I didn’t start writing fan fiction so much for my writing career. That might have occurred to me, that it would be cool to put something out there written by me, even if it wasn’t from a universe of my own making, but at the time, as I may or may not have mentioned before, I was going through severe Post-Potter Depression (PPD), especially concerning the sub-plot of the relationship between werewolf Remus Lupin and metamorphmagus Nymphadora Tonks (oh, nostalgia). So I decided to start writing a story where their son Teddy comes across a way to read the biography of his father’s life (a collection of journals). It’s still a work-in-progress, and I’ve branched off to other projects since so it’s harder and harder to update of late, but for the most part it’s done really well, and I’ve come a long way from writing a fanfic that’s now nearly 200 chapters in length (of course, this is taking place over the span of the seven Harry Potter books, and then some).

Huh. I should go back to that.

Anyways, for me in my heart of hearts, it was a closure thing. And I think that that too is what it is for a lot of fan fiction authors. Closure. So if anything, it’s a good way to pound out some of those desperate “fan feels” you shouldn’t keep bottled up inside.

Yes, there are some that are…for lack of a better term…ridiculous…but it’s all in good fun. And clearly E. L. James was having loads of fun with what started out as just as another Twilight fan fic, that, unbeknownst to her, would explode into–

Okay, I dunno if I want to use the word “explode” to describe Fifty Shades of Gray. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Harry Potter fan fiction on hiatus that I need to be dusting off here. 😀

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Links Page Updated

Just a quick notification that my Links page has been updated. It seems Suite101.com is long gone 😦 But I did replace it with a link to my YouTube Channel page. The videos I’ve posted on there are purely for fun, but cutting them together was really just another form of storytelling, and I’m proud of the effort I put into them and my results. 🙂 I’ve also added my Fanfiction.net and LinkedIn pages, just to pool absolutely everything together. 🙂

Cliche Reflection 2: Fate/Zero – So Awesome You Can’t Even Tell It’s There

As I’ve said before, the editorial process is a demanding beast of a task, however, I felt it was time I built more on the subject of cliches since my last post strictly focusing on the “evil laugh”. To be honest, evil laughs work best in the visual medium, rather than writing, but you still find evil laughs in the best- and worst-written books about good and evil (see post).

And even though this post is again taking the anime series Fate/Zero (seriously, this show will NOT let go of me) as an example of a single work that uses most of the best-known cliches into its story (though to be fair, the series was originally a light novel (think young adult novel) by Gen Urobuchi), it’s such a good example of one that uses these cliches effectively that I can’t help it. And by effectively, I mean that despite their being cliches, the story weaves them in with such natural and epic flair and style that while watching it, you may or may not even notice that they’re cliches, or if you do, they make so much sense within the context of the story, and add to the epicness rather than take away from it.

That said, I’m going to pick them apart like a genius kid picking apart the cogs of a clock. Because I can. And them I’m going to plug them back in and leave them as if they hadn’t been pulled out in the first place. Because I can. Plus I enjoyed this video by the Nostalgia Critic counting down the “Top 11 Coolest Cliches“, which you can watch for yourself on YouTube at the link in the title. Yes, it’s for movies, but it’s just another form of storytelling. (And there are ten of them because that’s a nice round number to go by.)

***also, warning if you have NOT seen Fate/Zero, read on at your peril, because unlike the last post, there are DEFINITELY spoilers ahead***

HOWEVER

Here is a spoiler-free explanation of the plot of the show, in general, just to give anyone who hasn’t seen it an idea of what’s going on–

Holy Grail War.

Seven Mages (wizards) called Masters.

They have servants called Heroic Spirits, which are the spirits of heroes long dead to come in and fight for their appointed Master in a battle royale for the Grail.

Each servant is referred to by what class of warrior they are, rather than their real name, to keep anonymity as an advantage. (Those classes are: Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Assassin, Berserker, and Caster.)

Whichever winning Master-Servant team each get whatever wish they want granted.

Game of Thrones reference.

Now, on with the list.

1) The Evil Laugh (Ep. 25 “Fate/Zero”)

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Okay, I thought I’d get this over with since I’ve already covered this where Fate/Zero is concerned. But aside from re-reading that post, I’ll add this to make the case for it as cliche used effectively: it’s in that they use it by sparingly, and by sparingly, I mean…basically once for one character, the main antagonist, Kirei Kotomine. Maniacal laughter comes out of another, minor antagonist, Caster, being that his true identity is that of a massacring soldier of Joan of Arc’s army, Gilles de Rais, but that doesn’t count, since the laughter is, as I said, “maniacal”, not “evil”.

Case and point: the entire show builds up Kirei’s character such that when the laugh comes out, it’s not only warranted, but gloriously wicked to hear.

Nice.

2) Pre-Battle Speech (Eps. 11 “Discussing the Grail” and 23 “The Sea at the End of the World”

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Here we have a classic dramatic build-up device that everyone enjoys, used in films like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Braveheart, and can be used in books to the same effect. In Fate/Zero its usage is no exception to the romantic lure of a stirring pep talk of epic proportions to the troops. The only character who employs this is Rider, a.k.a. Alexander the Great, which makes sense as his is a past life built on conquering armies.

Epic Speech = Epic Character = Fan Favorite.

3) Underdog (Waver. Just Waver.)

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It’s somewhat interesting to note that while in Fate/Stay Night, the story that follows the prequel that is Fate/Zero, consists mostly of Masters participating in that particular round of the Holy Grail War that are, for the most part, adolescents, while in Fate/Zero, the participating Masters consist mostly of adults. True, the visual novel (think electronic choose-your-own-adventure book) Fate/Stay Night. which is the original source material, was originally your typical visual novel where the main goal is for the player is to capture the heart of one of the three main heroines in each of the three storylines the novel lays out, so of course it’s full of high school age characters. But then the concept of writing a light novel (think short young adult novel) prequel to the three storylines (hence why it’s written in the third-person omniscient) was developed, there were all kinds of adult characters thrown in instead, maybe because the creators saw the opportunity to expand the universe in that way.

That said, Fate/Zero does still contain one adolescent character who participates as a Master in the War, and that’s Waver Velvet, hailing all the way from England, and eager to prove his worth as a mage by participating. There’s no question that he’s the underdog in the story, limited not only by age, but also by resources. While Masters like Kiritsugu Emiya have the backing of an ancient mage family, the Einzberns, through his wife Irisviel, as well as his own personally amassed resources through his work as a professional assassin, or Masters like Tokiomi Tohsaka and Kirei Kotomine are again backed by the wealth and power of the Tohsaka family, and even Waver’s school professor, Lord Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald (nice name, right?) has the esteem of his own illustrious family line, Waver’s basically a nobody. Even so, oddly enough, it’s what makes his Servant, Rider, so keen on him, especially when he begins to see Waver’s true potential as a mage, that he manages his magecraft effectively despite his limits, and in gaining respect from Rider, and vice versa, the Master-Servant pact between them is gelled all the more into a strong friendship that goes beyond that contracted bond, giving us a character in Waver that starts out as a bit of a brat who laments his insignificance in life to one who’s grown into something more, someone people can root for, and be all-around likeable.

The success of the underdog despite all odds at its finest.

4) Teamwork (Ep. 13 “The Forbidden Feast of Madness” – Ep. 15 “Golden Shine”) 

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In the course of the Grail War in Fate/Zero, things start to reach crisis levels to the point of exposing the War to non-mages (which is apparently a bad thing) when maniacal Caster and his Master, a non-mage, totally-randomly-chosen young psychopath named Ryuunosuke Uryuu, decide to wreak havoc on the city of Fuyuki (where the Wars are traditionally held) with Caster using his Grimoire to turn into a giant octopus (yeah, this is Japan after all, and I’m given to understand that Gen Urobuchi is apparently a fanboy of H. P. Lovecraft) that slowly devours any person or thing that tries to attack it. In order to destroy it and defeat Caster and Ryuunosuke, the other Masters and their Servants are forced to join forces. Ryuunosuke, who, in his madness and the fact that he isn’t a mage, isn’t even really aware of the War and is just in this for the opportunity to commit mass murder like he’s always enjoyed doing, is taken out by a sniper bullet from Kiritsugu Emiya during the fray, and then his Servant, Saber (formerly King Arthur, who was apparently a woman disguised as a man all this time, just go with it) strikes the fatal blow with Excalibur after another Servant, Lancer, breaks the curse he’d put on her hand in a previous duel with her by breaking one of his two lances. This is all after Rider took it upon himself to bring their forces together to complete this task, and used his Reality Marble (an enclosed space separate from the present world–where’s that physics book on multiverses?) to delay the expansion of Caster’s monster until an effective method of defeating it was reached.

Epic teamwork for the win!

5) The Jerk Villain Wooing the Heroine – Archer Chasing Saber (Eps. 15 “Golden Shine” – 24 “The Last Command Seal”)

For as long as there have been douchebags, and for as long as there have been women smart enough not to fall for their dastardly charms, there has been the cliche of the jerk who doesn’t get that “No,” means “No.” In the case of Fate/Zero, we have Archer, who is the spirit of the epic hero Gilgamesh (and just about one of the biggest egotistical jerks in human history), wooing Saber, who is, as we’ve discussed, the spirit of King Arthur, who apparently was really a woman disguised as a man because even though she was a girl she still managed to pull out the Sword in the Stone–and the hero of the aforementioned visual novel, Fate/Stay Night, Shirou, needed to have a total of three heroines to fall in love with for each of the three storylines–okay, man, you’ve got to think, this franchise has come a long way in its epic nature when you remember that the original source material for the game that started it all was in fact a game centering around the main player getting three different female characters to sleep with him, a game where people came for the sex and stayed for the story.

Anyway, back to Archer and Saber. Setting this up was crucial to the plot in that, like with most pres-stories, it plays a part in Fate/Stay Night. (And the original game’s creators, Type-Moon, took pleasure in parodying this relationship in their tribute/celebration/parody/totally-makes-no-sense explosion that is Carnival Phantasm.)

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Archer is dazzled (though in the way a god of the universe would be) by Saber’s use of Excalibur to deal Caster the final blow to defeat him, and from there on is determined to make Saber his (it’s a possessive love). This basically boils down to a confrontation at the appearance of the Grail in the penultimate episode, when Archer demands that Saber forget her quest for the Grail and marry him, she refuses, and he throws swords at her in an attempt to force compliance.

It happens.

6) Betrayal – Kirei Kotomine and Tokiomi Tohsaka (Ep. 17 “The Eighth Contract”)

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To me, some of the best villains in any given story are the ones that don’t start out as villains, because when done well it’s definitely a treat to watch them grow into a villain (dat character development again). Kirei Kotomine, who is a priest (look at that, you can already see the cliche coming a mile away) formerly working to weed out heretic mages with the use of his “Black Keys”, which are basically long blades that he can pop out from between his fingers (think Wolverine), at first does the bidding of his father, the overseeing priest for the Grail War, and Tokiomi Tohsaka, the head of the Tohsaka family, one of the three great ancient mage families associated with the history of the Grail Wars, by acting as a Master that works merely to make sure Tohsaka wins as a Master in the War unto himself. But then Archer, Tohsaka’s servant, who certainly sees Tohsaka as no master of him and as such takes pleasure in going off on his own, drinking as much wine as he can in the process and looking oh-so-chic while doing it, gets it into Kirei’s head that he is in fact, on the inside, really just a man who’s true source of personal pleasure is toying with other people’s lives and making them suffer, and that he’s been unhappy his whole life because he was denying himself that pleasure due to his growing up as the son of a devout priest (now vow of celibacy in this universe, apparently). He could not, until now, recognize that deep down he just wanted to be able to do wicked things. This comes to fruition when, after much discussion and insinuation, Kirei, instead of leaving the War when asked to shortly after the death of his father of Kayneth El-Melloi (who at this point has also been taken out by Kiritsugu), literally stabs Tohsaka in the back, murdering him right in front of a very unconcerned Archer who then gladly accepts Kirei’s offer for the two of them to form a new Master-Servant pact.

Yes, the fact that he literally stabs him in the back really hits the nail on the head, but the build up they give it is worthy of the final execution, which is why the sequence still gives me delicious chills up my spine. (Wonder what that says about me, heh, heh.)

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7) The Evil Set-Up/Misunderstanding – Kirei Kotomine and Kariya Matou (Ep. 21 “Knight on Two Wheels”)

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In this War for the Grail, among the Masters there is the underdog who overcomes, like Waver, and then there is the underdog who fails and for whom nobody roots because they already know they aren’t going to win, and that their defeat won’t just be a defeat, but a spectacular, cruel, and torturous defeat that makes us wince in compassion for the poor creature. This latter underdog is separate such from the likes of Waver that he creates his own cliche, with its very own cliche tragic ending. That latter, less-successful underdog is Kariya Matou, who’s only goal in this War is to save the life of Sakura Tohsaka (she’s another one of the three heroines in Fate/Stay Night as Sakura Matou), who’s been adopted by his family to be their next heir, since Kariya’s older brother has no talent and Kariya himself turned his back on magecraft because of his father’s cruel nature. The cliche storyline he exhibits here is that of the down-and-out who is duped into self-destruction by several factors.

First, that his father doesn’t actually believe he can win the War.

Second, that his father implanted him with creatures of his own making called “crestworms” (think those worm things from Wrath of Khan for example) in order to restore his previously abandoned ability to do magic.

Third, those worms slowly eat away at his mind, causing him to go insane with each defeat his very uncontrollable servant Berserker suffers.

Fourth, he used to be in love with Sakura’s mother, Aoi, but broke it off with her because he didn’t want her tainted by his father’s cruelty.

Fifth, while both Sakura and her older sister Rin (the third heroine of Fate/Stay Night) see him as an uncle, he loves them as if they were his daughters.

Sixth, he’s not a big fan of their father, Tokiomi Tohsaka (see where this is going?).

Seventh, Kirei’s just killed Tokiomi, and then he uses Kariya to get Berserker to kidnap Kiritsugu’s wife Irisviel, and then sets it up so Kariya comes across Tokiomi’s dead body and Aoi comes across him and is led to believe he did it–she rages at Kariya, only to have Kariya snap and strangle her.

Life’s a bitch.

8) The Past – Kiritsugu Emiya “Eps. 18 “Distant Memories – 19 “Where Justice Is Found”)

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So I keep mentioning this Kiritsugu Emiya guy, that he’s a professional assassin, the he has a wife, Irisviel, and the two of them are fighting as a team in the Grail War with the servant Saber. But it isn’t until we get to the latter half of the series, after seeing him anguish over the fact that he has to sacrifice Irisviel’s life in order to obtain the Grail, and seeing not only the close (if reserved) nature of his relationship with his wife, but also the tender relationship he shares with his daughter, Ilya, (who is the sacrificial loli-lamb in Fate/Stay Night) the child that Irisviel and he had not only as living proof of their love but also to give Kiritsugu a reason to keep on living after the War is over and Irisviel is dead, we FINALLY get to the meat of his character in where his concept of justice–the very Spockian, “kill the few to save the many” (something like that)–sprang from. It all started because he couldn’t kill his childhood crush, Shirley, who had turned into a bloodthirsty vampire, so to atone, he not only killed his father, who created the vampire-turning elixir in the first place, but from there on he dedicated himself, due to a dream he’d harbored as a boy from a very young age to be a hero, to eliminating as many people as he took to tip the scales of the world in favor of saving the world from its own destruction. FateZeroep24mkv_snapshot_1711_20120618_005543

Such themes come up when Saber, who of course has a very chivalrous sense of justice, confronts him about his underhanded killing methods–underhanded because he will do anything to make sure the outcome of any situation is that of most lives saved. This of course brings us back to his anguishing over having to sacrifice Irisviel’s life, since the wish he will ask of the Grail once he obtains it is to save the world and bring peace to it forever, end all wars, suffering, bloodshed, and sadness. For such a pure dream, he has been forced to take cruel measures so his efforts will not be in vain, and that includes forfeiting Irisviel’s life, as she was in fact a homunculus designed as a Vessel for the Grail, and must die in order to bring it into the physical world, along with the sacrifice of the servants, or Heroic Spirits in the War. Which is not to say that he did not give Irisiviel the chance to flee, because he did, but instead she chose to fall in love with him, and in the end, that and Ilya became her reasons for giving up her life, and she expresses her loyalty to him and his cause throughout the show very movingly. And what she says about him and how he gave her such a beautiful love in her short life, despite knowing that it would end in tragedy, speaks the volumes that his tendency towards silence leaves to the imagination.

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But just as Kiritsugu was once also forced to kill his mentor, an assassin named Natalia Kiminsky, who was like a mother to him and taught him everything he knew about hunting and killing targets, in order to save the city of New York from an infestation of vampire-turning bees (no I Am Legend scenarios then) by blowing up her plane, now he is forced to give up the life of the woman he loves, and risk losing his daughter too should he fail.

Which is why, despite his underhanded tactics, we see the point he makes about mankind’s own sordid past and the cycle of death and violence that its wasted itself on.

I guess here I could lump in the additional cliche of the cold killer who isn’t really cold at his core, and just does cold, cruel things at the risk of his own soul and for the greater good, but his past builds that persona for him. Plus, I’d love to go on and on about him (and I will in another section) but for now I’ll leave it at that.

And with this clear cut evidence that he is one of the sexiest anime characters I have ever scene. (I don’t care if he’s just a pattern of drawn lines and colors, he’s ATTRACTIVELY DRAWN. Cue the Cascada.)

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9) Mano a Mano (Rider vs. Archer – Ep. 23 “The Sea at the End of the World” and Kiritsugu vs. Kirei – Ep. 24 “The Last Command Seal” and Saber vs. Berserker – Eps. 23-24)

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The best satisfaction to be had from a great rivalry is when the conflict between the two rivals involved comes to a head. Both great rivalries in this show are built up nicely, like everything else. In the case of Archer and Rider, you have the golden douchebag who actually is, quite frankly, just as powerful as he claims to be, and badass Rider, the only guy with the guts to try and take him down. He experiences his own underdog moment in coming to his defeat at Archer’s hands, but he goes out the way all great blazes of glory should: he goes down fighting. Like a boss. And with that, Waver’s character comes full circle. Like a boss. Wait.

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As for Kiritsugu vs. Kirei, we get build up for that from the very beginning. The aftermath of their rivalry plays into events in Fate/Stay Night, so it was important to get this right. And even without Stay Night, it was still awesome. Both men don’t actually meet until the moment of their final confrontation, but from hearing of each other from the very beginning, both immediately come to the conclusion that the other is not only a man he can’t understand, but the only man who can kill him. They are, from the start, both intrigued and terrified of the other, and in the final battle for the Grail, it’s kill or be killed for the both of them.

Cue the Breaking Benjamin. Or the Fallout Boy.

Seriously though, watch the fight if you get a chance and have an appreciation for animated fight choreography, because even out of context, it’s HOLY EPIC. (There are several cuts of it posted on YouTube, but I basically inserted a sub and dub version for links, depending on your preference, lol.)

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Concerning the fight between Saber and Berserker, this actually ties in a bit into the par about the past too. Saber, as it turns out, is trying to atone for her own past (yes, despite their differences in moral grounding, she and Kiritsugu are very much alike, ha, ha irony). She was unable to save Britain from its eventual defeat in her time, so the wish she’d offer the Grail would be to prevent that from happening. Berserker meanwhile is curiously fixated on her throughout the War, and we find out that his true identity is Sir Lancelot, who’s basically gone insane because she never punished him for having betrayed her by sleeping with her wife Guinevere (I believe he wasn’t aware that Arthur was really a woman, Arturia, wink, wink). Confronting her mistake of rather than being a king that was open to her followers, being instead a martyrous king who kept to herself, she defeats Berserker, giving us a glimpse into the darkness that threatens her from within, and plays into the third and most brutal storyline of Fate/Stay Night.

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Gritty and fantastic.

10) Old defeated Warrior/Teacher/Sensei Passing On His Values/Teachers to a More Hopeful and Enthusiastic Youth (the Beginning of Kiritsugu’s relationship with Shirou, the hero of Fate/Stay Night, to conclude the story of Fate/Zero – Ep. 25 “Fate Zero”)

Sadly, this scene was not in the anime. Just in the Realta Nua re-release of the Fate/Stay Night VN game for PSP. :(

Sadly, this scene was not in the anime. Just in the Realta Nua re-release of the Fate/Stay Night VN game for PSP. 😦

I’m gonna be straight and just say right here and now, I think this is my absolute favorite cliche (apart from epic choirs and shouting the word “NOOOOOOO!”). If I had to pick one. It’s what got me to want to watch the 2006 Fate/Stay Night anime adaptation, and then thank the heavens when I watched the superior epicness of Fate/Zero that they were remaking Fate/Stay Night into something that promised to be equally epic, rather than blaise and corny and clunky (like the original adaptation was–and I must say so far, so good: they’re adapting the second and third storylines of the visual novel, with the second being a series like Zero and the third being done as a film–because there’s…um…rape).

But getting back to this last cliche, yes, this relationship, and Kiritsugu’s relationship with Irisviel and Ilya, is what got me invested in the Fate franchise–the Haagen-Dasz strawberry ice cream that delivered additionally with whipped cream and sprinkles. I’m a HUGE romantic, of a sort, so it goes without saying that we have a character like Kiritsugu who, despite his being a cold killer, does in fact have a wife and daughter that are very precious to him is all sweet goodness for me, but as for Kiritsugu and Shirou, well that has a romanticism of its own in the sense that it’s something beautiful out of something so simple.

In the climax of the last episode, despite Kiritsugu ordering Saber to destroy the Grail (the Grail turned out to be Evil, big surprise), the fact that all the evil contained within the Grail have now lost their Vessel upon its destruction (actually it wasn’t even really destroyed, argh) they basically spill everywhere and cause a disastrous fire, out of which Kiritsugu, screaming to the heavens, is only able to save one life: Shirou, who at the time is just a small boy of like five. Having lost his family, and lost any other reason to live while at the same time desperate for an opportunity to atone, Kiritsugu offers Shirou the option of coming to live with him, as he’s willing to adopt him, or go live in an orphanage (now that his biological parents are dead from the fire). Shirou decides he wants to live with the man who saved his life. From there, he comes to admire Kiritsugu and aspire to be a man strong enough to save other people, like he was too weak to do in the fire, like Kiritsugu was able to do for him. It’s because of this that just when Kiritsugu thinks he’s going to die with the weight of regret on his shoulder, he feels eased and free at last when Shirou proclaims that he will make Kiritsugu’s dream of becoming a hero in his stead.

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Paving the way for the stories in Fate/Stay Night.

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Part of what makes this relationship so beautiful to me is in part because of the emotional weight presented by both of these characters, and the fact that in some ways it reflects Kiritsugu’s relationship with Irisviel, the wife he loved and lost, only in the sense that he and Shirou are both broken in the same way that he and Irisviel both were.

And I’m gonna stop there, because I’m basically exploring this entire concept in grand detail in my Kiritsugu/Irisviel fanfic, which you can read here (shameless plug!!!). But the scenario itself evokes many a famous father-son relationship (that involves a man and boy who are in fact not related by blood but still share a bond) throughout story-telling: Luke and Obi-Wan, Harry and Dumbledore (or Sirius Black if you prefer), Frodo and Gandalf even. It’s what got me interested in checking out, Sword of the Stranger, an anime film that again tells a simple story in that same vein.

Even going beyond that, family bonds in generally fascinate me in storytelling. Harry Potter is as rife with them as shows like Fullmetal Alchemist and Eureka Seven are, and I adore them for it. And here we have it again in something like Fate/Zero. Diamonds of emotional awesome, right there.

Hmmm…maybe I should rename this post, “Reasons Why I Love Fate/Zero So Damn Much”.

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Anyway, the only reason I neglect the epic choirs used in the soundtrack (written by the awesome Yuki Kajiura) as a cliche is because, as great as books as are, music is the one thing the visual media has over them (but then again, there’s good and there’s bad just like with anything).

The thing about cliches is they can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they can be tired old things when put in a story just for the sake of having them, but at the same time, they can be quite awesome and that again is why storytellers can be greedy to use them. That, and to be honest, the root of any good story does follow certain formulas that just work (so quite a lot of elements in stories are in fact cliches when you think about it), and straying from the structure can turn the story into a mess. That’s why cliches work when done well: they are elements of storytelling that are time-honored, passed from generation to generation and entrusted to storytellers to be cared for properly in their stories. When not done so, they turn out wincingly awful. But handled right, handled with realism appropriate to the situation–even if the situation itself is fantastic–a cliche, an embodiment of a truth about life, can turn out brilliant.

Any cliches I missed? Post in the comments below!

Our Beloved, Brilliant Jerks

This one’s been sitting in the “drafts” section for FAR too long, so I’m just going to dive right in.

What is it we find attractive and/or intriguing about those who fight on the side of good (more or less, sometimes metaphorically speaking), but lack social graces either because they are terribly stuck up and believe their gifts give them unlimited bragging rights and the like, or they’re just somewhat socially impaired, or a mixture of both, and then end up coming off as jerks? Indeed, Sherlock Holmes on BBC’s Sherlock puts it very succinctly that in the “real world” there’s no such thing as a “hero” by definition, and by that I think he means that you’d be hard-pressed to find a person in real life who would fit the description of someone selfless and brave, the pinnacle of strength and altruism.

Perhaps it is because we desire the contrary, that despite their dark habits and demons, these beloved, brilliant jerks are beloved for how they use their powers of brilliance for good, as a hero would only be expected to do, and whatever they might say the fact that they choose to use their powers of brilliance for good is a sign of the humanity they try, for their own various reasons, to hide, or simply because they lack conventional social graces. We want to know in our heart of hearts that in spite of their insistence that they aren’t heroes, or that they don’t see the point in descending to the levels of “normal” human beings, they are in fact the best of all us, in spite of their imperfections–possibly because they acknowledge those imperfections, or because they soldier on faultlessly unaware of them but all the same prove to be of the most excellent among people.

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“Don’t make people into heroes, John. Heroes don’t exist and if they did I wouldn’t be one of them.” (Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock, “The Great Game”)

Detective Inspector Lestrade says something to that effect in the first episode of Season One, “A Study in Pink”. I don’t want to insultingly simplify it so much as to say that Lestrade represents the audience (you could do the same for Dr. John Watson too), but I would say that here Lestrade gives dramatic voice to what the audience might be thinking and wondering as they observe this “high functioning sociopath” commit himself to stopping serial killers and madmen, of all things. His brother Mycroft too wonders about this when he points the rather strange nature of this obvious fact in “A Scandal in Belgravia”. For all his lack of common humanity, what does come through Sherlock comes in shining illuminations of heroism, that are moving in the way they light up the otherwise dark innerworld he inhabits as a person.

“…Sherlock Holmes is a great man, and I think one day—if we’re very very lucky—he might even be a good one.” (DI Lestrade, Sherlock, “A Study In Pink”)

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“My brother has the brain of a scientist or a philosopher, yet he elects to be a detective. What might we deduce about his heart?” (Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock, “A Scandal in Belgravia”)

Indeed, when faced with his foil, Jim Moriarty, we are driven to the edge at the point of two equal yet opposite forces meeting in a cataclysmic collision. They recognize that they are kindred spirits, but in the face of such darkness, Sherlock faces lines that unprincipled and insane Moriarty will dance across happily, but which Sherlock himself stands before resolutely unwilling to cross for that shred of light that he possesses, and Moriarty does not. However, he also recognizes that while he remains firmly on that side of those lines, he is not by any means unfascinated by the possibilities opened up the dark side, like when he considers the idea of slowly poisoning two children by forcing them to eat chocolates out of mercury-laced wrappers as “neat”. He would never do something like that himself, but that doesn’t stop him from appreciating the mark of genius in it. As I said, “kindred spirits”.

“Oh, I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them.” (Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock, “The Reichenbach Fall”)

He even proves that he is no ordinary person, as Moriarty fears he might turn out to be after all–boringly ordinary. No, he’s beyond ordinary, “prepared to do what ordinary people won’t do”. But whereas Moriarty is prepared to kill himself to ensure the success of an evil scheme (I won’t spoil anything for those who haven’t seen the end of Season 3), Sherlock (without giving too much away for those of you who haven’t seen the last episode of Season 2) is prepared to kill himself to save the lives Moriarty threatens–John, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade, who for all of Sherlock’s denial, are, somehow, in some twisted and wonderfully strange way, his friends, for all intents and purposes. John Watson most certainly.

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Now take someone equally (if not, in his opinion, more so) brilliant like Sheldon Cooper, and certainly no less lacking in certain social components in his brain function that the rest of take for granted. Actually, I’d say Sheldon takes them so much for granted that he practically dismisses them. But just as it’s been theorized that Sherlock Holmes–in both the classic and original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle canon and the updated-from-the-canon version, and a few other versions there besides–might have some sort of form of Asperger’s Syndrome, Sheldon Cooper probably lacks something that makes him, for the most part, socially inept. Indeed he comes off as extremely arrogant, but at times he seems to be unaware that he’s acting that way, or if he does, that he’s ignorant of how it tends to insult the people around him.

As you can imagine, then, I’m positively EAGER with anticipation for Season 4. 😀

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“I’m not insane, my mother had me tested.” (Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory, “The Maternal Congruence”)

Other times though it can’t possibly be excused that he’s got some social blind spots, when he, like Sherlock, seems to relish in his own cleverness, gets high on the fact that he is a genius (since he certainly doesn’t get high on anything else, lol). Beyond his pride in his own genius (which as far as we can tell isn’t an exaggeration, evidenced by his anecdotes about being in college at the age of ten and the like), he also seems to take pride in the fact that he prefers and remains above baser human impulses of emotion, like romantic relationships and the like. The fact that he has friends in Leonard, Raj, and Howard is purely circumstantial and not relationships he actively sought out to really satisfy any emotional need. Which would explain his admiration of a science fiction character like Spock: though he is indeed half-human, his being half-Vulcan keeps him logical and thusly a cut above the rest of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

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But for all of that, he does use his genius for the good of mankind in unraveling the mysteries of the universe in his studies in theoretical physics. There are worse things people with his level of brain function could do, and he chooses to devote himself to a noble vocation as that of particle physics. On the one hand he’s no great shakes at comforting people or dealing with anything to do with the exchange of emotions (or small talk) but in one episode when his and Leonard’s neighbor Penny was hard-pressed for cash, he gave her some without hesitation. It was more of a logical decision than anything else, but still, it was a nice thing to do.

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And there are other jerks we love, strangely enough both doctors: Dr. House from House, and Dr. Cox from Scrubs. Actually, they’re far more on the jerk side of the spectrum even than Sherlock and Sheldon, but they still exhibit a range of habits and emotions that affirm they’re humanity. And in the end, I think that’s what we all find most satisfying, that with a little wheedling we can coax human feeling out of someone who denies or acts like the opposite of what is conventionally a good person, because in truth they “unconventionally human”, which proves to be an interesting quirk to explore. The same goes for the extreme of the extremes in this vein, the “anti-hero”, who is often a character that is totally despicable save for one trait that is their saving grace, the one trait that tips the scales and has us root for them rather than the outright villain–the lesser of two evils, as it were, much like in the case of Will and the Tooth Fairy from the film Manhunter (though I did prefer it’s remake, Red Dragon, but in that case Will wasn’t painted so much as an anti-hero as his character was in the original–either way, we all know Hannibal Lector was the real jerk in both cases, lol).

#MoralAmbiguityForTheWin!

As a side note though, it’s why I personally love shows like BBC’s Sherlock and The Big Bang Theory, as well as Scrubs, and why I love so many anime shows as well–the Japanese seem to have a thing for the “rough-edged, chain-smoking” type of hero. Ones who, quite frankly, are drawn as attractively carrying a gun as attractive men in real life carry guns.

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Oh, and the moral interplays that ensue as well. Heh, heh. Ah, now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go rewatch episodes of Psycho-Pass and Fate/Zero.