Saturday, February 25 2012

A story that knows where it’s going

The latest episode of Bodacious Space Pirates wasn’t up yet when I started my morning workout, so instead I sweated to the first two episodes of Angelic Layer. It’s a fun series that I haven’t seen in quite a while, but this time, I noticed something.

Spoiler alert: it’s an old series, but if you haven’t seen it (and you should), stop reading now.


In episode 2, Misaki must activate Hikaru with her thoughts for the first time, after accidentally entering into a match instead of renting a practice table (Crunchyroll version, 17:40-18:20). It’s a big deal for a first-time player, but watching it cold, it seems a bit odd that the crowd should cheer her for the simple act of making her Angel stand up. At this point in the story, we maybe have an idea that it’s not a trivial task, but all we know is that she’s skipping some preliminary practice; lots of kids are controlling Angels, so it can’t be too hard, right?

This time, I saw something completely different in that scene. I saw the finale foreshadowed, the moment in episode 26 when the most important thing in the world for Misaki is to make Hikaru stand up one more time (Crunchroll version, 14:04-16:40).

AL is one of relatively few anime where the story is significantly better than the source material. That finale wasn’t in the original manga; it was created by someone who knew what the story needed. (in fact, pretty much everything related to Mom is original to the anime; in the manga, she’s just a socially-phobic engineer on Icchan’s team who ran away because she couldn’t even get close to her own child)

After my workout, I got to watch some piracy, and while it’s unfolding slowly, I’m still confident that we’re in the hands of a good story-teller who knows what it needs. There’s a whole lot going on, but so far, all of the conspicuous close-ups, questions not asked, and out-of-place items have purpose; if you find yourself thinking, “that’s a stupid thing to do on a warship”, well, yes, it is, isn’t it. Funny about that…