I’ve been wondering this for awhile; how much information can you give in a write up or a review before you enter spoiler territory? And even if you do tell people what something is about, or what happens in it, does that actually spoil the watching of it?
Keep in mind, I’m not discussing murder mysteries where telling someone who the villain is would kind of defeat the purpose of the story.
And if you want to avoid any spoilers I’d recommend stopping.
However, I did turn this over to people on twitter to see how they felt about spoilers:
If we look at the fantasy genre specifically, there are a lot of quest stories containing the very basic hero’s journey. Joe ordinary has his life turned upside down by some sort of extraordinary event and has to begin a journey. Somewhere in the early stages he’ll meet someone who can act as a mentor character and point him in the right direction (so at least we don’t spend half the story with no clue about what the end goal will be).
Then there is usually the rushed attempt to succeed whereby our ordinary Joe loses something of value and in the process learns some valuable life lesson before he rallies again and we get to the real confrontation whereby Joe employs all of the skills he has learned (usually in short montages) and defeats the whatever and succeeds in his quest. Then he may or may not return home, sometimes with a girl, and sometimes he’ll choose to go on questing.
It’s the plot of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Katanagatari and Bleach and about several thousand other fantasy based stories.
So does telling someone that the mentor dies count as a spoiler for most of these shows?
I mean, they don’t in every single one, but it is certainly a consistent theme. The act pushes some emotion into the early stages of the story, gives our protagonist a reason to grow up or a personal investment in the challenge (if they weren’t already), and also usually provides a reason for an early fight that is awesome but not quite as awesome as the final one will be because that would ruin the climax.
Likewise, does saying our protagonist wins count as a spoiler? Really, they are either going to win or lose. It seems unlikely that in a finished story they are going to compromise or walk-away (though I guess that is possible). If the show feels like it is setting up a tragedy, be prepared for the protagonist to die. If the show feels like your typical fantasy, prepare for the victory march.
You can’t spoil basic plot elements because most people will have already seen where things are going.
Then what about the details? If the basic plot really can’t be spoiled because there’s only one or two ways it can end anyway, can we ruin some of the fun of the journey by giving too much information about the details?
So Ichigo has to save Rukia from Soul Society and he does it by mastering… Is that spoiling or simply engaging in a discussion about the plot?
I’m going to admit, I’m fairly indifferent to whether I know the details of a story before I watch or read it. This is probably because I read a lot of classics (as well as a lot of pulp fiction) and to be honest I usually know everything that is going to happen in a novel by the time I actually get around to reading it. Does that make it less enjoyable? Not really.
The way it is written and the way it delivers that story is what will make me love it. Knowing where it is going usually just heightens a sense of anticipation. However, if I don’t know, as I usually don’t with anime because I don’t read all that much manga, it is still enjoyable. Seeing how things unfold and trying to work out what will happen next is also pretty fun. It’s a different kind of pleasure from a story but still perfectly pleasurable.
That said, I’d love to know your thoughts on plot spoilers and what makes something a spoiler so be sure to join in the conversation and leave a comment below.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
There’s smart anime characters, and then there are geniuses who surpass all others, but it isn’t always easy getting these characters right.
Genius characters in fiction aren’t new. They’ve appeared in detective stories, fantasies, psychological dramas and so on for a long time and while we remember the Sherlock’s and Moriarty’s who seem to have gotten the balance just right, many characters and their ‘genius’ are largely overlooked and quickly forgotten by those who encounter them.
Which seems odd given even a mediocre action based character can remain pretty entertaining just so long as he hits things hard enough (and the audience cares about why he’s doing it). So why are smart characters harder to write and have work well for the audience?
Random aside, earlier this week I ran a poll on Twitter to find out who my followers thought the best smart anime character was. Despite Lelouche getting an early lead, Light came back in the end and stole victory by the skin of his teeth. Though I will point out that there were a lot of comments for Senku and then Yang Wen-Li.
The reason I most recently started thinking about this issue again is my recent viewing of Moriarty the Patriot (Yuukoku no Moriarty) where I found Moriarty was a really well written character who I quite enjoyed but the anime as a whole suffered because of the efforts made to make him appear so much smarter than everybody else. The characters Moriarty interacted with and manipulated were at times blindingly stupid or at the very least incredibly naïve.
One particular character, having already murdered someone, just accepted Moriarty’s advice about next steps without actually thinking anything through himself. And while you might argue that the character in question was distraught by the events that had unfolded, a more appropriate reaction might have been actually just stabbing Moriarty (which would have upset his overall plan enormously).
Likewise, other characters follow along with plans seemingly without ever considering their own actions and while I’m willing to accept that given the era a general lack of educational standards there’s almost nobody in the anime even acting with what one would consider an average amount of thought; and all so that Moriarty could really rise above and shine with his incredible intellect that seemingly predicted all manner of events, circumstances, and human psychology.
Part of this probably comes about because, let’s be honest, most of the authors are not super-criminal geniuses themselves. While they have the advantage of pre-planning and controlling all the narrative variables, ultimately the ploys and plans delivered by these genius characters were concocted by someone who was probably just hoping not to trip over their own logic and tangle their narrative in a knot.
What I found particularly interesting about Moriarty the Patriot is that ultimately it uses the same device as Death Note to ensure that there is some balance in the cast (though realistically Moriarty was always going to given the literary inspiration). That is, both anime introduce a character foil to ultimately oppose them in order to provide some sense of conflict into the story, and both anime end up having a genuine friendship, or at least respect, forming between the two characters despite their oppositional moral stances.
Of course, Death Note had the same issue of the vast majority of the cast (particularly all the policemen and people investigating who were not L) were pretty much unable to add 2 and 2 together consistently (though some in Death Note did at least get the occasional moment of intelligent dialogue just to ensure we didn’t write them all off as incompetent).
However, outside of the detrimental effect smart anime characters frequently have on the intelligence levels of their supporting cast, other issues emerge. Code Geass fans will know how incredible Lelouche’s ability to plan and outwit his opponent is. Why we even start off the series with a chess game won from a more or less unwinnable position within moments just to show-off how smart he is.
Of course, Lelouche is one of those characters who very quickly goes from being a driven and smart character to being a super-human who seems to have pre-cognitive abilities because a lot of what he pulls along the way in his story is just so far-fetched it defies actual belief. It’s a lot of fun, but you can’t for a moment take him seriously as an actual person because ultimately he’s a step ahead because he is and he conveniently always seems to get the information he needs at just the right moment.
Okay, in fairness, things do go wrong for Lelouche at various points in the story, usually because despite being a genius he is a teenager and sometimes doesn’t quite think before he speaks or plan things quite all the way through and his opposition has some god-level intel at times as well so really let’s just throw Code Geass entirely into the realm of fantasy and call it a day.
With difficulty balancing out a cast to make your smart character seem smarter without crossing into the realms on unbelievable some writers actually go the other way (and this is where we get a whole lot of forgettable supposedly genius characters). When I reviewed Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist I kind of pointed out one of the things that really didn’t work for me about the anime; the main character being ‘brilliant’.
My main point was that the audience is told again and again, by William, teachers, other students, the anime synopsis, that William is brilliant and yet I couldn’t point to one decision or action William takes in the entire anime that actually seemed to demonstrate it.
Of course, some anime try to get around these problems and largely succeed by simply making their super-smart character really, really quirky. I’m kind of feeling Ed from Cowboy Bebop but there’s a lot of these characters who the writer seems to have balanced their abundance of brilliance in one department by making them more or less non-functioning humans in others.
Professor Stein in Soul Eater with his obsession with dissection would be another example of a character whose overall intelligence and competence is balanced out by a fairly debilitating character quirk. However, on that note I actually thought of an anime that went with the quirky genius model and kind of pulled it off.
Probably the only reason Steins;Gate works is the majority of the core cast are brilliant in their own way, and those that aren’t genius’ all have a particular personality trait or skill set that is necessary to make the plot continue to churn along. That, and Okabe is a fairly erratic character who keeps getting pulled up short by Kurisu. Kurisu meanwhile constantly needs to be pushed out of her comfort zone by Okabe in order for things to progress.
Still, it seems that a lot of writers do have a difficult time balancing their cast when building it around a genius. Or worse, they diminish their genius character in order to make the cast dynamics work but then the core personality trait they seemed to be aiming for is more or less abandoned.
Despite the difficulties, when it is done well, these smart anime characters (or any work of fiction really) definitely leave an impression. What that means is we will probably continue to see writers play around with this particular archetype with varying degrees of success.
Before finishing I did just want to share a link to my list of top 5 smart anime characters. Realistically, Moriarty from Moriarty the Patriot deserves a spot but I just haven’t figured out where on the list he should go. But I would love to know who your favourite smart anime characters are so be sure to give them a shout out in the comments.
Images used in article:
Moriarty the Patriot. Dir. K Nomura. Production I.G. 2020.
Death Note. Dir. T. Araki. Madhouse. 2006.
Code Geass. G. Taniguchi. Sunrise. 2006.
Steins Gate. Dir. H. Hamasaki. White Fox. 2011.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
After a few months off I’m happy to get back into OWLS and what better month and topic than December where we look at miracles.
Spoiler warning for Code Geass.
Tis the season where miracles happen. For December’s theme, we will be exploring faith in anime and pop culture. We will discuss some of the miracles that enter a character’s life during their darkest moments. Some of their questions we will explore is how does a “miracle” change a person’s life? How do we define miracles? Can miracles only happen due to a legend or a mystical being? Or do miracles happen every day, but we just don’t see it?
Miracles are awesome when they happen. While media such as movies and TV series tend to exaggerate the response to miraculous events for dramatic events, we live in a world where each and every day we encounter small miracles. Whether it is a chance meeting with someone, the coin that dropped and made you stop rather than step out onto the street, the smile someone gave you when you were feeling down; all of these small miracles carry us day in and day out.
However, what we need to take away from stories is that we can’t rely on the miracle happening just because we need it and that even if we get a miracle that isn’t the end of the story. And while I was very tempted to look at Miracle Max’s pill in the Princess Bride – and if you’ve never seen that movie, please go watch it – I decided to stick with anime for this month because I think anime really does capture the spirit that miracles do come in and change people’s lives. Sometimes in a wonderful and welcome manner and sometimes in a way the character can’t appreciate until later. But, these characters can’t just stop just because a miracle has occurred.
Starting with Setsuna F Seiei from Gundam 00, his survival as a child in a war torn country was a miracle. That wasn’t the only factor given how hard he worked to stay alive, but ultimately his efforts wouldn’t have been enough. The reason he survived was because at just the right moment a Gundam appeared.
For Setsuna, this defines his life after this point. He has an obsession with not just being a Gundam pilot but being a Gundam. His actual commitment to the cause is questionable, his interactions with his team are fairly disruptive, but he believes entirely in the power of the machine that saved his life as a child.
The problem with this approach is that Setsuna takes a long time to look beyond the Gundam to the people and the cause. These are lesser concerns to him because his whole life has really just been in a holding pattern ever since the day his life was saved. He didn’t think about who sent the Gundam, who piloted it originally, why it chose to intervene in that war at that time. Setsuna simply took the miracle that he was saved and it became to core of his life.
For Setsuna, he never really considered what his life was all about outside of being saved by the Gundam and as a result while he lived quite a bit longer and accomplished quite a lot, he never found what he was really searching for because he just missed so much. The miracle happened when he needed it, but that still didn’t give him the life he could have had. Because the miracle was the starting point and instead of finding out where he could go from there, Setsuna’s life stagnated around that single point until it was pretty much too late to change the course his life was set on. Though, it was good that he met Marina when he did.
Setsuna isn’t the only mecha character experiencing a miracle though (actually considering mecha anime are built around technology it is amazing how often miracles feature where machines suddenly go beyond specs and the like). For Setsuna, he welcomed the miracle into his life, however if we turn our attention to Suzaku from Code Geass we can see sometimes ‘miracles’ aren’t exactly welcome even if they are exactly what we need.
Suzaku is a pretty complex character in Code Geass and unfortunately a pretty tragic one. Having killed his father and joined the British army in an attempt to end the war he is pretty much just living in hopes of dying. This doesn’t change as he begins the fight against the mysterious Zero. Yet, despite being Lelouch’s enemy, Lelouch uses his one command on Suzaku to force him to live.
It was a spur of the moment and probably not well thought out command but it has incredible implications on the rest of the story and Suzaku. No matter how close to death he comes, eventually the geass kicks in and he performs some fairly impressive manoeuvres to survive what seem like impossible situations.
But none of this makes Suzaku happy. He’s a character more or less bent on self-destruction and is denied it through his former friend’s command.
But… The important take-away is that because Suzaku lived despite his best efforts, he eventually found a cause to fight for and to believe in, a role to play, and while I won’t say he absolutely found happiness at the end of so much tragedy, he definitely found purpose. While for Suzaku the geass to live may have been seen as a curse initially, it was exactly the miracle he needed.
This holiday season, it would be nice if we all took a step back and remembered not just to see the miracles, but to think about what we will do after them. Will we use the miracle to grow to new heights or will we wait for another miracle to come and save us again? Will we question why the miracle occurred at all or will we simply assume it was meant to be? And most importantly, will we reach out to someone else when they need a hand and become the miracle they need this season?
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