There are many ways a fiction works. There are no strict prerequisite on what constitute a great fiction. I think I said before that I love creating stories in my mind and I like it when these stories gains an emotional response from myself. This helped me gain an entirely new perspective on how people make stories for anime, novel, movie and even games. It made me realise that the only guideline you need for a good story is whether is it interesting.
There are many ways to make a story interesting. You don’t even need to have an interesting plot to make things interesting. If a book is written in an interesting way, it’s a interesting story. It can be a stupid story about a boy running away from home and die in the drain but if it’s written with a very unique approach, the story is interesting.
For example, Finnegans Wake is pretty interesting. I have no idea what the hell it is or does it even mean anything but I like reading excerpts from it because they are kinda insane. Sayonara Gangster is very interesting. The plot is something about a poetry teacher who met this gangster girl and don’t know she’s a gangster girl but she realized finally that she’s a gangster girl while subplots of indescribable thing with no shape became a chair and poetry master Virgil turned into a fridge happened. Maybe there are some message in there? I don’t know but it’s interesting because it gives me interesting images.
Another great example in film is Gravity. Gravity plot is about this female doctor escaping from space. You have seen this story before, you know how it would end but it doesn’t really matter because the effects and experience are interesting. The way it cuts its music to portray vacuum and the pov shots to illustrate the physic are interesting. It’s more of show that you experience than trying to tell an interesting story.
Georges Méliès shorts are great examples too. One of its famous short shows a rocket launching to the moon and it got stuck in the moon’s eye. What’s the message of that short? What kind of story is that? Ignoring that, what I actually like to ask is, is it interesting? Yes, it is because the imageries are interesting. It’s a good fiction because it has imaginary visuals.
Messages, implications, plot, these are ways to make things interesting and I understand why people used them as the only barometer to gauge a work. Pointing out the flaws in these categories are great ways to showcase why you might not fancy a piece of fiction. I do that too. I personally hate Slumdog Millionaire because I think the way on how they portray every Indian as an asshole is very narrow minded. It’s also a caricature of India trying to act as if they are portraying the true India. It’s implying that India is a terrible place to live in and everyone is an asshole and the only good people are the American tourists who show sympathy to the slum kids. As a foreigner trying to make a film about other’s culture and act as if it’s a true representation, I felt that they should be more responsible in making things more neutral and shouldn’t exaggerate the mean spirited side of things.
However, I think it’s very narrow minded to only use these categories to gauge a work and question people’s opinion on how can they like a piece of work when something failed in one of that 3 components. I don’t think less of those who liked Slumdog Millionaire or challenge them with my opinions and demand an answer from them when they might be focusing on different aspect of the film. Maybe they love the sledgehammer approach of the movie? Maybe they don’t felt like it is over antagonized and love the raw power of the message? Or maybe they just like the cinematography and the bright coloured shots or how the film relays its intensity.
If they have any semblance of justifications on why they find a certain fiction interesting, I don’t really see the issue.
I know the message/plot/implication flaws( Five being a throwaway, Lisa and 12 are very useless in the end, no serious commentary about terrorism and so on and so fore) of Zankyou no Terror. I just don’t think I need to defend them because I don’t really care and there are other great reasons to find the show interesting.
In terms of message, despite its questionable approach, I can sympathise with the characters. Wanting to make a mark in the world knowing they will die sooner or later, needing to rely and be relied on and trying to find a place to be in a world that seems to isolate you are things I can get by. I personally felt that these are the core themes the anime is trying to show instead of saying something about terrorism. The act of terrorism is just a tool to keep these themes going. 12 wanting to forfeit the plan because he found being depended from Lisa. Lisa found a place to live with 12 and 9 taking part in terrorism act so he can find a reliance in Shibazaki(who is a cool character on his own term). How much more plot can you even jam in to illustrate these core themes? If you don’t fancy these themes then that’s that I guess.
I am very impress by how well it can relays its abstract and complicated themes. By abstract and complicated, I don’t mean its depth, but rather the difficulty on how to translate it into visual. Feeling of solitary and unwanted are basic thematic stuff that we have seen before. It’s nothing new but translating it to visuals like how ZnT had done is fucking difficult. I got what they tried to say instantly and what they tried to relay is very difficult to translate to visuals but I got it thanks to its great direction. Great direction examples? The shot of running in the grass field, the lone figure of 9 watching the aurora in the last episode, 12 and 9 scenes in the ferry wheel, people responding to Spinx by idolizing them, Shibazaki showing that he is a figure worthy to be relied on by solving the mysteries and believing in their promise in episode 4 and way too many other examples I could list.
I guess I am way too impressed by the technical aspects of Zankyou no Terror than I really should. I think the reason why is because I have my fair share of failures in trying to translate way simpler concepts into visual and understand how difficult they are so I am utterly dumbfounded by how they did it so masterfully.
I am also very impress in how they make Lisa character design likable just by looking at it. That’s very difficult and it cannot be accomplished by just drawing cute pictures. There’s a reason why Stallone and Arnold are more well liked than some other action stars like Van Dam. Van Dam looks ok compared to Stallone but the screen presence of a character is not only about look. Ok, maybe it’s about look because if a thing looks likable they are likable but what I want to say is that looking likable is not that easy and not everyone can do it. Just imagine this, people drew a character and you have a response even without knowing the story behind the character, how impressive is that?