Friday’s Feature: Awakening the Dreamer Inside

Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions - Rikka

Warning: The post this week is just a little bit of a ramble. It does get to a point but my apologies.

There’s a reason so many people love Rikka Takanashi as a character. It isn’t just that she’s a moe high school character with an eye patch and a cute parasol (making her perfect for cosplay). It isn’t that she is a lead character in a coming of age/romance story where she gets her happy ending. Admittedly, both of these traits make her pretty appealing.

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No, what draws viewers to Rikka is that she is someone who has fully unleashed her inner dreamer. She is someone who is firmly rejected a reality she dislikes and is actively trying to shape a world where she feels she can be who she wants to be. It might seem selfish for her to simply push those who are worried about her away and it might seem childish. It might also seem at first glance that this is Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions is about putting aside your childhood dreams and moving on, but I think a lot of viewers get a very different impression from the story.

Certainly Rikka does tone down her behaviour as she grows closer to Yuuta Togashi in the story. For a small portion of the story, Rikka does even completely reject her delusions in favour of experiencing ‘normal’. However, it is clear by the way the story presents this section with Rikka looking abjectly miserable and everything that made her sparkle essentially sucked out, and Yuuta feeling incredibly guilty  for being the one responsible for guiding her to being ‘normal’ even though it was who she was that caught his attention, that this story doesn’t endorse surrendering to reality.

Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions

Instead, this anime seems to firmly ask the audience to question the expectations of normal even while ending up with a compromised ending where the characters learn more to curb their delusions to within a certain acceptable boundary. And a lot of that resonates with people in the audience.

People want to feel like they are being ‘true’ to themselves. They don’t want to feel like they’ve given in to society or had to compromise on who they are. At the same time, it is an essential life skill to learn how to get along with others and live in the world. However, I feel this show makes us wonder if some of us have surrendered too much and given up too much of who we were in the process of finding some solid ground to stand on.

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It is something I’ve been thinking about lately as I go about my day. How much of what I do and say exists only because it needs to? How many of my choices are made because to make another choice would be to cause a disruption to others? And do I still see myself when I look in the mirror?

I’m not actually having an identity crisis mind you. Just wondering if somewhere along the line my inner dreamer got beaten over the head by practicality, rationality, and a need to just get on with things. And I don’t dislike my practical and rational side that allow me to get on with things. These are traits that help me to set a course based on what I want to achieve and find the path to get there. Without these very sensible traits it wouldn’t matter what dream I conjured up I would never get closer to achieving it.

And that’s the pure beauty of Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions. Rikka has taken on her persona and has continued for a fair length of time searching for the Unseen Horizon but she herself knows she can’t get there. She has no clear idea of what it is or where it is or how to accomplish her goal or what comes after. It is Yuuta, who stands with what foot firmly in reality and utterly refusing to move and the other foot hovering over the line, that manages to plot the course. Rikka is the dreamer, the one who determined the destination, but it is Yuuta who takes them there.

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At the same time, Yuuta couldn’t go anywhere on his own because he was essentially treading water. He had a single goal of becoming normal and then just wanted to maintain a status quo. He was completely without a destination which is why Rikka’s will completely overwhelmed him.

The perfect balance of dreams and reality with the understanding that without dreams there is no destination in mind. Without a destination actions simply keep us bobbing along. However, without a firm grip on reality, we can’t reach the places we dream about.

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I love that anime makes me consider my own life and the choices I make. I love the way it makes me question who I am and who I want to be. Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions is an anime that really hit home for me and at the centre of it all is this questions about whether or not we should find our normal or whether we should embrace our dreams. Quite happily the story finds the happy middle ground and that seems like pretty solid advice to me.

Still, I’d love to know what your thoughts are on the show and the idea so please leave me a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Rikka Takanashi Theme Song Pack

Create a Story Tag – Or Create A Week of Writer’s Block Tag

create a story

I guess I should thank Arthifis for this given it did get me writing at least in a small way. And yet I don’t think I’ve been that frustrated sitting at my keyboard since I tried to write a series review of Yuri on Ice and scrapped it so many times before I finally just went with a plus/minus post so that I could finish it. Anyway, with all tags there are some acknowledgements and rules that need to go with it, so I’ll get on with those.

This tag was created by Leap, Keiko, and The Pantless Anime BloggerYou can check out the Create-A-Story Tag Announcement here!

– The Rules –

  1. You pick your first word, your setting, and your story genre from the list below. As individuals, your brand of creativity is unique to yours, so we want to highlight that by letting you choose from a bunch of words and creating something beautiful out of it.

Create A Story Tag

I picked “Fall”, “Mountain”, “Romance/Comedy/Tragedy – though the tragic part is probably the attempt at comedy”.

  1. The short story will have a limit of 1000 words. You do not need to write a story with 1000 words exactly. It could be 300, or 500 as long as it doesn’t surpass a thousand.
  2. YOU HAVE TWO WEEKS TO ANSWER THE TAG.
  3. You must tag three people to participate. The victims: The Lost Voice, Kawaii Paper Pandas, and Cain S Latrani (no obligation and I’m sorry if you’ve already been tagged).
  4. Don’t forget to link back to Keiko (use her post ) so she can collect all the stories. You can’t just link back to her WordPress, since she won’t be alerted of the pingback. You need to link back to a post or a page, because WordPress works like this.
  5. Use the Create-A-Story picture in the post.
  6. Copy and paste the rules in your tag post as well, so others can be clued in to the Create-A-Story rules.

Just so we’re clear my story:

  • Is incomplete.
  • Is incredibly dialogue heavy due to the majority of description getting cut to bring it in under 1000 words.
  • Has an asinine set of characters.
  • And any attempts at humour should probably be taken as a sign that I need more sleep.

With that disclaimer, I hope you enjoy.

Mountain - Falling.jpg


You Can Carry Me Home

“You should just fall in love with me already,” James said confidently as he clutched Andrea’s hands tightly. “I mean, you must have already, given the circumstances.”

“Exactly how long are you going to keep the bad puns going?” Andrea asked as she expertly pulled James closer to her and rolled them over so that she was on top.

“I love a woman who takes charge,” James chuckled and then he peered down. “I’m thinking I’ve got about another 600 words left in me for bad puns and movie references.”

Andrea laughed. “That and fourth wall breaking.”

“That too,” James admitted. “Want to tell me why you did it?”

“Did what?”

“Jumped after me? I mean, he throws me off the cliff, you kill him. Nice and easy. I’ll admit it made the whole thought of going splat at the bottom a little better knowing that bastard would have been dead. And yet, instead of finishing him off, here you are, plummeting down the side of this bloody mountain. I’m not sure if I’m thrilled or pissed off with you right now.”

“That goes for you and me both.” Andrea hugged him tighter as she leaned to the right to try to see how far the tree-line was. “I get there to rescue you and you tell me to let him throw you off the cliff. Really? As if that was ever going to happen.”

“Again, he’d be dead.”

“So would you! Idiot!” Andrea hugged him so hard that James thought his ribs would break. “Don’t you ever do that again.”

“I can more or less guarantee that.”

Far below James could now make out the shapes of the trees of the forest, a winding road in the distance. When the wind wasn’t rushing past his ears he thought he heard the faint sound of machinery. Possibly someone tree clearing or doing some road work.

It wasn’t such a bad place to die. A nice view at least.

“So, you had a plan right?” James asked trying to turn his head to see Andrea without moving his body. He knew she was up to something and he didn’t want to disrupt her.

“Excuse me?”

“A plan. You know, a scheme, an idea, a strategy… You know something other than a fairly lengthy drop before a sudden stop.”

“Did you just miss-appropriate a line from Pirates of the Caribbean?”

“Duh.”

“We’re dying here.”

“Unlikely.” James coughed. “So, the plan?”

“No plan,” Andrea said.

“You’re kidding. That’s just terrible. I mean, I’m average height with average brown hair and average looks and intelligence. By default that should make me the protagonist. Where is my plot armour?”

“James,” Andrea said.

“What?”

“I love you.” She rolled him over and kissed him. “Now don’t even think about moving.”

Shoving him back roughly she wrapped her arms tightly around him, locking her grip in place, hand to wrist. As the tree-line became richly detailed and the branches began to poke up toward James at an alarmingly fast rate, he suddenly felt a massive jolt as he was jerked abruptly backward and Andrea’s bony hands seemed to drive into his chest. A small cry of pain escaped his lips before he bit down on his own lip and the metallic taste of blood flooded his mouth.

Legs dangling and Andrea’s grip pushing roughly against his underarms, James once again twisted his head expecting to see a parachute, even though such a thing should be possible.

Instead he saw something even more improbable.

“Wings. You have wings,” he murmured.

“Sometimes.” Andrea let out a groan of pain and they began to rapidly descend between the branches of the trees. Her face was pale, she was sweating horribly, and it looked kind of like she was going to throw up.

“I don’t have wings,” James continued to prattle.

“I swear if you make a Dark Crystal reference right now I will let you drop,” Andrea muttered through clenched teeth.

“Any chance we could fly back up to the top of the mountain?” James asked mockingly.

“Are you crazy?” Andrea asked as the ground looked like it was about to rise toward them. She bit down on her lower lip and forced one single flap from her wings to decelerate and then they folded and the two of them fell, tumbling to the ground with a thud and groans of pain. When Andrea caught her breath she tilted her head toward James, heedless of the leaves and twigs catching in her hair. “Why would you want to go back to the top of the mountain that you were just nearly killed on?”

“Well, as we fluttered past that moron we could yell out, ‘Can you fly, you sucker, can you fly?’ totally Kevin Bacon style.”

Andrea let her eyes close. Part of her couldn’t believe what she’d just done to save the idiot laughing in sheer relief beside her. The other part of her couldn’t believe she’d come so close to losing him. Tears of pain and frustration leaked out of her eyes and she covered her face with a sweaty, dirty hand.

“By the way, aren’t I supposed to rescue you?”

“Why?”

“Well, I’m the guy. And every good 80’s action movie kind of made me believe that in situations like this I should like rappel in before leaping out and clutching your hand and then someone managing to cling back to the rock-surface Spider-Man style.”

“Well, Mr Hero,” Andrea said, “given I’ve severely injured myself by over straining my wings, if you want to be all chivalrous you could carry me home.”

James pulled himself to his feet. “It’s a long walk.”

“Complaining already, Hero-San?”

“I guess it gives you time to tell me why my child-hood friend has wings.” He scooped her up before she could protest and started walking.

‘Do you even know which way you are going?”

“Home, James!”


I’m going to be honest, it’s pretty dreadful and rushed, but I finally wrote something and didn’t delete it. I also actually had a lot of fun writing it in the end, though possibly that was just me enjoying writing the references in. I kind of figure if you are falling off a mountain you need something to take your mind off of it.

Anyway, let me know what you think and thanks Arthifis for tagging me.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Problem Solver

kirito klein

When I wrote this piece originally it had been on my mind for awhile. The idea that  fiction is a fairly distorted way of experiencing reality. Not saying that’s a bad thing, by distorting certain aspects of what is real other points can be more easily framed and foregrounded. Complex emotional ideas that usually get swept under the rug in reality can take centre stage or we can just enjoy the fact that our heroes are all but indestructible due to plot armour.

However one way that fiction consistently distorts is that regardless of the medium  stories have this tendency to lead the audience into thinking the problem (whatever it is) has a solution. It isn’t that every fictional problem is always solved neatly or easily, but there is almost always a forward motion in stories and usually this is built around characters advancing towards that final solution whether they ultimately achieve it or not.

And while certainly a non-defeatist attitude or a desire to be proactive might be admirable personality traits, hopeless optimism that everything could be solved is probably not. When we think about some of the situations anime protagonists are faced with and yet mostly they still say cheesy lines like:

I mean, they are wonderfully inspiring quotes that make you feel you can get out there and accomplish anything you put your mind to. But they don’t really deal with the reality most people face everyday. Changing things is sometimes not a matter of having courage but one of opportunity and those are few and far between.

march5

And sometimes you could try as hard as you like but without others being on board you may not succeed. Also, sometimes you don’t have endless chances to try once more. Sometimes you’ve tried and failed and that ship has sailed off into the sunset when you were not on board (I do mean a metaphoric ocean going vessel here and not a relationship).

That isn’t to say that there aren’t characters out there expressing a more down to earth view of things.

kunikida

However, that is why Kunikida is not the main character of Bungo Stray Dogs. He can’t be a main character with that kind of attitude. He exists to be a voice of logic or reason that others (those who will be the main character of their story) fight to overcome. In truth, he is directly positioned to be seen as unhelpful and negative at times and as the person who has a defeatist attitude. Comparing him to Atsushi (who is actually the main character of Bungo Stray Dogs for some reason), Kunikida is smarter, more focussed, and infinitely more talented. And yet it is Atsushi’s never say die and charge into the den of your enemy approach that ultimately saves the day in the final fights though there is a lot of giving up at smaller challenges earlier in the season (what exactly did Kunikida do for the entirety of season 2?).

Then we have Hachiman from My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU. From a casual observation he flies in the face of every other protagonist out there. He is the star of his show and carries with him a negative and self-destructive mantle that he absolutely refuses to change.

He doesn’t want to change, he doesn’t see his personality as a problem, and has more or less given up on expecting anything from the world. Yet then we look at the plot structure of this story. Almost every episode (or arc as some go over multiple episodes) deal with Hachiman having to address a problem and solve it. He may whinge, drag his feet, and act indifferent but even though his solution is unconventional and usually leaves him burned, the fact remains that he continues to act on behalf of others to bring problems to a solution.

The one problem that he refused to address is the problem everyone else in the series is forced to address and that is his own anti-social attitude which as he points out probably isn’t that big of an issue given he’s hardly the first teenager to go through high-school without friends. It becomes an issue though when it becomes apparent that a lot of what he says is an outer facade rather than his true feelings.

Kirito_Dual_Blades

And then of course we have Kirito from SAO who faced a problem so extreme that even with a never say die attitude and you never know until you try still couldn’t win so broke the game. While there might be a touching message about the power of emotions and desire the reality of that situation wasn’t just distorted it was completely thrown out the window for narrative convenience. Of course, any other ending wouldn’t have really worked at that point so we’ll just go along with it.

Fiction is a mirror for the world but it isn’t a true reflection and this is seen clearly in this idea of solving problems. Some things once broken can’t be fixed. Others require a work around, acceptance, or sometimes a tactical withdrawal (otherwise known as running away with purpose). And while all these ideas appear in stories, the overwhelming majority of fiction has a protagonist confronting a problem (regardless of what that problem might be) and in some way dealing with that problem (even if the protagonist ultimately does not succeed).

What do you think about fiction and how it constructs reality? What are some of your favourite quotes from anime protagonists as they go to confront overwhelming danger? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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BUNGO STRAY DOGS – SEASON ONE
BUNGO STRAY DOGS - SEASON ONE

Friday’s Feature: Fuuka – Fiction Filled with Faults

fuuka1

As many of you know, at episode 5 I decided to cut Fuuka from my watch list. It hadn’t reached the bottom of my watch list and it wasn’t even in the ‘they made this’ category meaning functionally the show works just fine and yet this is the first show that I’ve gotten any number of episodes into that I decided to throw in the towel on. Which made me really think about why, of all the shows I started this season, I first chose to watch Fuuka and then decided to drop it.

The problem with that line of reflection was that there are just too many reasons that could be the main reason I dropped it. I featured this anime in my line up of bland romances in an earlier feature and while this was the best of the bunch that I looked at, I wasn’t exactly complimentary. In my  5 episode reviews I note both good and bad things about the series, though I noticed myself becoming increasingly tired of the show even during episode 4 so it probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I was over it at episode 5 but that doesn’t tell me what went wrong at least for me as a viewer.

Just to be clear, as I didn’t finish the show I’m not reviewing it. For all I know, it could turn out to be a sleeping masterpiece. However, if that is the case, I just haven’t seen any evidence of it in these episodes. So this is a discussion just to look at why this show did not end up working for me.

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So I made a list. I went through each of my reviews and noted every negative thing or comment I made that might have contributed to my overall impression of Fuuka.

From episodes 1 and 2:

01. Fairly generic high school set up.

02. At times animation seems off when characters are walking.

03. Character does not learn from previous mistakes (though this was a positive in episodes 1 and 2 for humour value it quickly wore thin).

04. Fuuka is an overly energetic character who might annoy me (scratch that, she did annoy me).

05. Standard story.

06. Panty shots and totally unnecessary bathroom scenes.

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Episode 3:

07. Pep-talk from Fuuka totally changes Yuu’s character in space of 1 minute.

08. Near character drowning used for cheap plot contrivance (honestly, if you have to nearly drown someone at least do it for something for meaningful than teens thinking about a kiss when it is mouth to mouth and given he’d be hacking up sea water after that there’s almost no romance involved in this actual process).

09. Writers seem to not understand normal human interactions and only present characters through the lens of how other characters have acted.

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Episode 4:

10. I don’t care about these characters and their possible romance.

11. Teens fighting and not speaking to each other for most of an episode is boring.

12. Characters lack any sense of self-awareness about their own actions.

13. Yet another plot contrivance, now all the characters are a band.

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Episode 5:

Yeah, I didn’t even bother because between rehashes of the mouth to mouth sequence being viewed as something embarrassing and romantic. a main character tripping and landing face first in a girls breasts, and a band attempting to play a song when they don’t have music or actually all know how to play their instruments this was done.

Despite all of that though, I will admit I have watched worse anime through to the end. I’m watching worse anime that if I were to list every flaw would probably reach beyond the 13 points in 4 episodes I reached here. So while listing was fun and I very nearly wrote a break-up letter to this show just because I was annoyed, it didn’t get to the core of what is actually wrong with Fuuka.

And then it hit me.

I’ve described Fuuka as a romantic comedy most of the time but when I really thought about it, is Fuuka a romantic comedy? Certainly we have a main guy and a girl and early on they met under poor circumstances (generic and contrived though they might have been) and formed a false impression of each other. But that was cleared up nearly immediately and soon after they went on a kind of date and then they went to the concert together. The fight between them in episode 4 wasn’t used for comedic effect and didn’t advance their relationship so is this story actually a romantic comedy? Or do the romantic comedy elements just kind of give this anime some vague shaping and framework upon which it is…

fuuka5

Well, what is Fuuka trying to do?

Is it about Fuuka finding herself through this starting a band idea? It might be. That may be where it goes given after the fight in episode 4 it has given every indication it wants to head down the club/band route. But where does that leave Yuu?

See, while the anime is called Fuuka, Yuu was the one we were seeing events through the eyes of. And if the story is about Fuuka finding herself through the band what is Yuu doing other than learning to play bass?

And why did we need a random beach episode at all if the story was going to focus on the band? There seems no reason for this episode to exist because we could have got to much the same point by staying at school and just having idol girl come visit Yuu on her day off. According to MAL there’s 12 episodes so at episode 5 shouldn’t we know what the point of the show is and should they really waste large chunks of episodes?

As far as I can tell, Fuuka is following Yuu (the anime, not the girl but she’s doing a bit of following too). That could make this a slice of life but if so I’m not really sure what the point of any of what we’ve seen might be.

fuuka4b

So my conclusion from all of this is that my issue with Fuuka is that it lacks identity and direction. Stories can get away without a clear path if they are interesting and novel in their approach and give the audience something else to divert their attention away from a plot that might not be altogether there. In the first episode, Fuuka was kind of borderline too generic but episode 2 kind of hinted that we were going to follow these characters and watch them grow and maybe fall in love. That was enough to make it worth giving a go. But that aspect of the plot, while there, is pretty sparse when you actually look at what the characters spend their time doing.

Fuuka can’t get away with it’s murky plot path because there is nothing else to hold our interest. Any romantic elements of this show are far too emotionless to hold our interest. The ‘comedy’, if you could call it that, is entirely focussed on clichés and overused tropes, the characters lack depth or consistency so their daily lives and dilemmas can’t fill the void, and there’s just no reason for me to keep watching this show.

While Fuuka is most definitely not the worst show this season has to offer, it represents my least favourite of all anime types. The type that it isn’t really worth criticising because its just walking over ground other anime have before and it isn’t doing it in a particularly terrible manner, but neither is it doing it well.

Can Anime Stories Change Your World?

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I’ve always been straight forward about my obsession for devouring works of fiction. All my life I’ve been a reader and a viewer of stories. As a kid I read obsessively (a special thanks to all the IRL friends who have saved me from walking into traffic while reading) and I loved going to the movies and playing computer games. Sometime in my early twenties (pretty much when internet access started getting much better than dial-up) a new outlet for that obsession was found in anime. Needless to say, that obsession with anime is still going strong today.

But this post isn’t actually about me. It’s about the nature of fiction and why experiencing narratives is so fundamentally important and it is about how anime gives people access to so many rich and wonderful narratives (as well as just a whole lot of fun).

Narratives for Entertainment

Reading and watching for pleasure naturally involves entertainment and that is probably one of the main reasons people engage with stories. Right back to the days of people gathering around the fire to hear about how the earth was made or how man discovered fire. It gives you a break from the real and takes you somewhere else for a little while and can amuse you and invoke a whole range of emotions.

When watching anime for entertainment, there are plenty of options on the table. Whether you are after cute girls doing cute things, comedy, harems, action, adventure, and a whole bunch more, there’s plenty of anime out there that just wants to make you forget your worries for a time and mellow out.

However, this is just one facet of the experience.

Narratives as An Educator

I think we all can connect with this idea. Back to the gathering around the fire, people passed on their knowledge, their religion, their ideas through the stories they told. They also shared their values and ideologies through the characters who were made heroic and those that were made into villains. You could learn about what was dangerous, what was acceptable, what was known about something through a story.

We do much the same nowadays with our children’s stories and the way the basic Grimms fairy tales have been edited over time is quite telling of the values we feel we should be instilling and which ones we’ve apparently left by the way side.

Rei providing commentary on the game
I learned so much about shogi from Shion no Ou and then March Comes in Like a Lion. Still have no clue how to play but feel more knowledgeable because I watched these anime.

You also gain a rich knowledge in general through reading stories. Random facts stick with you well after you finish the story. Stories set in real locations or dealing with real issues usually weave facts into the story to make it more believable. While you can’t take everything in a fiction story at face value (how much research was done and how much was made up is questionable), you do gain a fairly diverse range of knowledge about places, settings, and things.

Narratives as Community Builders

shirayuki 5a

In addition to educating, narratives allow communities to form and to mesh. By having a shared story or understanding, people are able to understand one another better. It’s interesting as we see our world becoming increasingly small that we realise that a lot of the fundamental stories around the globe are very similar in nature and yet those small differences can become critical to understanding one another.

Narratives to Develop Empathy

Genos
One Punch Man – Poor Genos just wanted to be a hero. He worked so hard and got so incredibly rolled by the plot.

This is absolutely crucial. Over and over we hear that the current generation (whether it was X, Y, millenials) have no empathy and are self-absorbed. By experiencing things outside of their own life and connecting with characters, people can actually learn to empathise in a way that they might not just by interacting with people in the real world. A common trait of someone who does not have very much empathy is very little imagination. It actually takes imagination to consider how someone else might be feeling and imagination can be fuelled by exposure to narratives (not the only way to build imagination).

Narratives to Break Barriers

Following on from the ability to develop empathy and imagination, narratives allow people to see beyond the concrete reality and think in ways that might allow new solutions or new possibilities to be formed. At the very least, when confronted with a problem, someone with a rich exposure to stories (or to real life experiences) will have a wealth of options whereas someone without that exposure will struggle to think of a way around the issue. So without experiencing everything yourself, experiencing stories is a good way to build up your repertoire of problem solving skills.

As we increasingly see reality TV shows and talk shows dominating, I think it is important that the importance of narratives and the role they serve is remembered.

What are your thoughts about stories and the role they play? Or, what’s your favourite medium for stories?


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


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