12 Days of Anime, #7: Going Pro

I don’t know what I’m doing here, guys. Don’t have a goddamn idea. I started out on friggin’ reddit with a post about Nisemonogatari, and now I’m ANN’s official Monogatari analyst. That’s worth noting, right? I’m happy about how things have turned out, but am generally too stressed and busy to actually revel in it, which I guess is how this writing thing goes no matter how you’re doing? I hope?

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Ask Bobduh: Writing Action Scenes

As an enterprising writer, I’d like to ask… how do you go about crafting action scenes?

Action scenes are really tough in prose – never is a picture more worth a thousand words than when those words are turning a series of dramatic actions into a dry recitation of motions. There’s a variety of ways to tackle the problem – you can make quick poetry of it, you can make it matter-of-fact and let the reader paint their own emotional picture, you can frame it from a secondary/adversarial character’s perspective to actually give a better perspective on your characters’ actions. But you’re asking me, so I’ll tell you what I do.

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Plots Twists and Other Parlor Tricks

Look at this rabbit in my hand. See the rabbit? Surprise! It’s actually a turtle.

Pretty impressive, huh?

Alright, maybe that one didn’t work on you. How about this one. Look at this character – she’s just a mild-mannered high school student, right? Surprise! She’s actually an evil wizard.

Still nothing? Hm.

Okay, one more. Look at this upbeat, slice of life story. Got a good picture of it? Surprise! It’s actually a dystopian sci-fi drama.

Alright, you get the picture. Let’s talk about plot twists.

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Character Design 101: Want and Need

Management: Vague character-arc spoilers for a few shows here – FLCL, Eva, Tatami Galaxy, Cowboy Bebop, Hyouka. Hyouka’s the only one I get particularly specific on.

Gonna share something a little different today! Recently I’ve been thinking about characters, which is probably because I am always thinking about characters. While a lot of my personal views on character writing have obviously come from reading and watching a whole lot of stories, a fair amount of my understanding has also come from writing characters. As a fiction writer, knowing how to write a fleshed-out human being is rarely optional – but even just as someone who just wants to poke more deeply at the things they consume, I think analyzing characters from a character-creation standpoint can be very enlightening. Characters are kind of like trees – though the individual branches of their actions may look strange and circuitous, generally everything winds its way back to the central trunk of their base nature and desires. And looking at characters trunk-first can do a whole lot of work to make sense of their wildly winding limbs.

So let’s get down to that trunk, to the absolute base nature of a character. There are a few ways to approach this, but personally I think the easiest way to consider character writing is to start with two key variables. The two often-conflicting desires that tend to define their choices, their conflicts, and their ultimate resolution: what they want and what they need.

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Dai Sato at Anime Boston

As I’ve said elsewhere, all my writing was pushed back by Anime Boston this past weekend – but I didn’t leave empty-handed! Both literally (bought more manga and wall scrolls I have no idea what to do with), and figuratively, because Dai Sato was there and I managed to catch him at two fantastic panels. I didn’t actually take notes during his talks, unfortunately, but he had tons of interesting things to say that I figured you folks might appreciate, so I’ll run down the highlights of what I remember.

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Critical Evaluation, Part Two: One Given Perspective

Hey guys, back for Part Two of my critical evaluation piece. In Part One I argued, briefly, that art is valuable insofar as it imparts value upon the observer, and that in the collision between personal values and systems of aesthetic interpretation, we all have our own biases in such matters. Now, with that all said, it’s time to dive right in to my own stupid biases that make my evaluations crap that nobody should listen to. What kind of critic am I? Well, I’m actually pretty transparent.

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Critical Evaluation, Part One: The Human Element

So, I recently decided I’ve watched maybe enough shows to put together a useful Top Shows list, and in light of that, also decided it’s probably time to lay out a few of my own evaluative patterns and biases. I’ve talked about evaluation before – I covered it briefly in this piece, where my three main points were that people seek many different things in media, that evaluating shows requires taking their own goals into account, and that I believe not all goals are equally artistically valuable. But all of that doesn’t really tell you much about me – it’s just about systems in general, and if you’re going to get much use out of a “top anime list,” you really need more context than “these shows are great because I say so.” Who am I to say so? Well, the person who wrote all those essays on the right, at least. But can I offer a little more clarity than that?

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Why Critics Are Always Wrong

Management: This particular piece only covers one side of the equation, so before I start, I should link this earlier piece that tackles this issue from the opposite angle.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve witnessed a good number of online teapot-tempests related to both criticism generally and tone specifically. Which seems like a silly thing to even announce – of course people have been bickering, this is the internet, that’s what it’s for. But these particular arguments kinda struck me – though they all concerned different groups of people, they all played out similarly, and I think the reasons why touch on some general pitfalls of both criticism specifically and discourse more generally. Unfortunately, those pitfalls don’t all line up in a neat row, so I’m gonna have to break this down into a few pieces – starting with the dangerous assumptions critics can make and hopefully meandering my way towards something approaching a point. Consider this an open letter to critics, fans, and anyone else who’s ever valued their own opinion enough to inflict it on others.

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Why Don’t Anime Characters Ever Have Parents?


Why is it so rare that main characters in anime actually have parents? Or if they do have parents, they’re away on an extended trip, or just never show up in-show. Given how unlikely it is any teenager would be left to their own devices in real life, it seems weird that this comes up so often in anime.

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Do Characters’ Ages Really Matter?

Management: Just a mini-question today, since I found myself searching the archives for this and realized I’d never posted it in the first place. Organization!


Are shows starring adults meaningfully different from those starring teenagers? Are shows set in college meaningfully different from those set in middle or high school? I ask because I see this distinction made all the time, but generally it doesn’t seem meaningfully different outside of a setting/character-appearance sense.

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