Sunday, August 08, 2004

Ah, romance. Love is a battlefield.

Romance has mystified far better and more experienced writers than myself, the common fanfic writer springboarding off said writers’ visions without turning a profit. (lest I exceed “fair use” laws.)

But I’ve got ideas about anime couples. Fun ideas. And a few gripes about overdone ones.


= = =

The bad news.

Yaoi, and its lighter variants, and its feminine counterpart, yuri: they’re all overdone. And considering the writers are basing their works on characters created in a country more sexually traditional than mine(the US), it’s funny.

Some of the writing is well-written, even thoughtful. Yet most of it is...well...falling into a few categories:

[our example anime will be Yu Yu Hakusho, one of my Fab Five.]

1. Written by teenage girl fans of shonen anime who find the available female characters dull or annoying.

If you watch the dub of YYH, this is an easy impression to get. Yukina’s great...except for the flat affect her actor adopts. OJV Yukina has a soft, girlish voice, and it grew on me more.

But it would require more than a library of Tenchi Muyo series to understand why the girls seem passive. You must at least know about the Two Lands of the Rising Sun: Before WW2 and After WW2. Words like “Meiji Era” and “Tokugawa Shogunate” are as important to the Japanese as “Gettysburg” and “Watergate” are to us; IOW, it’s not just chatter on Rurouni Kenshin.

To consolidate this, I’ll safely state that NOW-Japan isn’t a strong influence in the Japanese social fabric, and it definitely wasn’t in 1992. Hence, the girls on YYH--when compared to the boys--are a bit bland.[the woman of the hour, otoh, can kick great butt. don’t mess with ba-san.]

Thus, my guess--as good as anyone else’s--is that the writers subtly or bluntly remove Keiko from play with Yusuke, and replace her with Kuwabara. Their basis is the friends’ bond, and that odd kissing dream Kuwa had during the “Yusuke’s dead: gotta find the dragon balls to revive him” arc. (update: and, absurd as it sounds, that disturbing “married couple” montage. I never want to see Kuwa in a bonnet and dress again....)

2. Teenage girls who wanted to write a self-insert, but didn’t want to be branded a Mary Sue/CYOA writer.

They imagine themselves as, say, Kurama; wanting to feel Hiei’s fiery desire.

3. Same-sex “evangelists”.

Most fanfic written by Americans[US citizens] is targeted to that audience. We, the readers, are to learn about tolerance for the homosexual through Our Fictional Heroes. The problem is, a reader like me will hear Keenan Ivory Wayans in a mail carrier uniform yelling “Message!” every time she reads a tortured line like “ is love.” And if that person’s a writer like me, my own inner writer screams “WRITER!”

The problem with these fics for me isn’t in Leviticus. It’s just that the ranting about how it’s perfectly OK to be gay makes the story the fanfic equivalent of TBN. IOW, the fic is too preachy.

Now, the same writer that gave us “ is love” also gave us Angst Under Sakura Trees. It gives us Kuwabara musing over how attractive Yusuke is, etc. And that’s how I think it should be done. No Saint Paul-style “realizations” that the character is gay. Just natural human attraction.

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If you want the coupling to be believable, hetero or yaoi, a natural style is what’s needed. Write the story as though everything the characters are feeling and doing as they “hook up” are perfectly natural.

1. Don’t be OOC. In an anime’s case, find websites that detail the OJV version. If you decide to use the dub[and you have little choice with some shows], please don’t overdo the character’s primary traits. [like Kuwa’s Chris Sabat “why did I utter that line” behavior. though “...what’s shakin’, baby?” did make me laugh...let’s not overdo it.]

2. It usually helps me to simply put certain romances as a subplot in another genre of stories. For example, in Seibutsu Shan-no Book Two we have several of my choice couplings picked out, but it’s only part of the overall story.

3. Another trick is to create a believable pretext, which is what I did in my first fanfic, The Transformers Meet the Archies.

Basically, Laserbeak ostensibly detected energy in Riverdale, so Soundwave, Thundercracker, Rumble, Frenzy, and Ravage head to the small town to make more detailed scans. In order to not attract attention, said Decepticons disguise as humans. [as to HOW they did it, the answer is understood primarily by G1 Transformers fans. Rumble makes a reference to an episode.]

While in Riverdale, Soundwave encounters Betty, who’s on the losing end of the Archie war with Veronica at this point. He starts to favor Betty himself.

Now, I made many mistakes with this one. Veronica’s TOO snotty; Archie’s too clueless, and I left the Autobots in Riverdale at the end.(that, thankfully, was taken care of by another fanfic writer.)

An example that combines my two tactics is found in Seibutsu Shan-no Book One. The main plot is that mysterious forces switched Kuwa’s mind with Eikichi. The primary subplot is Kuwakina. Other subplots are explored in subsequent SS books.

= = = = = = = = =

A general pair of writing rules for me. They help me in writing actual stories.

1. Sandwich the story. This works great for one-shots or multiparters without sequels.

2. The Star Trek Phaser Rifle rule. If a phaser rifle is hanging on the wall in Act 1, use it in Act 3. If you use the rifle in Three, have it hanging on the wall in One. This rule will serve you well in solving continuity problems within fanfic.

Example: Mythos/Densetsu, Volume One. If Kuwabara’s wearing a Goofy baseball cap at the start of the story, there should be a reason why he’s wearing that cap.

Another minor guide: Surprise, but don’t confuse. You have a destination to reach. The mystery isn’t in the where; it’s in the how, to paraphrase Madame Web.

In any given action cartoon, like Transformers, you know after the first two episodes that the Autobots are going to win, while the Decepticons retreat. The real question, then, is how do they win?

The same idea was applied to a recent eco-disaster film, The Core. You know that the earth won’t be burnt to a crisp, but how do Our Adventurers do it? In other words, as director Jon Amiel well-states, this style of writing causes you to focus more on the characters than on their mission.

And this leads me to my Grand Dictum of Fiction: Characterization is job one. You can’t have a plot without characters to act it out. A character has to say the words written. A character could do fine without plots, settings, et cetera; but the latter needs the character.

Getting back to The Core: Some genius needed to use Project Destiny; someone needed to find out that the earth’s core was FUBAR because it stopped spinning; someone had to create Virgil; etc., ad nauseum.

= = = = = =

Returning to romance and couples, I now present:

My couples, and the reasons and episodic bases for them.

1. Usamamo: Tsukino Usagi + Chiba Mamoru, BSSM.

Aside from the whole “destiny/anime/manga” issue, the pair actually does match well. Usagi is light, and sometimes silly, and pure-hearted; while Mamoru C. is shadow, mysterious, brooding, and with a sardonic wit. The anime displays this best for me.

I look at the early SM eps. Chiba starts liking her after Rei arrives; plus, he teases the girl too much.

Also, he grins whenever Usagi appears. True, most of it is because Usagi’s liable to make a fool of herself, and he’s primed to laugh. Some of this is clearly genuine affection, however little he wants to acknowledge it.

2. Momiji/Kusanagi: Fujimiya Momiji + Kusanagi Mamoru, ABS.

Concentrated Usamamo, with a healthy dash of the Accursed Kikyo Syndrome.[originally the Evil Kaede Syndrome. is it coincidence that Momiji’s eco-terror happy twin and Kikyo’s younger sister share the same name...?]

Kusanagi’s less moody than Chiba, and seems to not see that while he had tried to kill her in the two-part opener, that she’s forgiven him for that, and has actually grown fond of him.

Momiji, likewise, can’t recognize her own wonderful qualities--like her intense courage--even though Kusanagi sees them(but rarely acknowledges).

3. Kenyako/Miyaken: Ichijouji Ken + Inoue Miyako, Digimon 02.

Only a few minor hints; the whole matter is far too subtle. Just keep in mind that Ken’s a quiet person, and had to earn Miyako’s trust after the whole Kaizer shtick.

Even as the Kaizer, though; a minor note. Ken comes to dominate soccer, and sees a fairly pretty older girl squealing over him. That has to feed an ego. And eleven-year old boys personify ego.

As for Miyako: she has a crush on Mr. Popular. But he turns out to be a jerk. Except she essentially gets to understand that jerk just feels guilty about his older brother’s death. Their friendship develops, without a Popular Guy image, and becomes something more. Hence, 2027.

Besides, indigo and orchid match so well together; they have nice hair. :D

4. Seto/Anzu: Kaiba Seto + Mazaki Anzu, YGO:DM.

Matching hair and eyes is a good reason, with Anzu being bright, and Seto more muted. They just...meld.

5. Kuwakina: Kuwabara Kazuma + Yukina, YYH.

The bold and the beautiful; it’s a tall guy with a short girl. Both of them are really gentle, kindhearted people.

6. Sesshoumaru/Rin: Inuyasha.

It’s only a matter of time! Plus, the IRONY.... He’s already protective of the girl; and in many ways, Fluffy and Osuwari are alike.(“you can tell by their tempers they’re related....”) Plus, Rin’s a sweetie.

A note on these couples: Except for Usamamo, these couples’ bonds take time to develop. Mominagi(#2) lets us get an idea of how a relationship would evolve over a year; Kenyako implies a friendship reestablished after adulthood. Like #2, Kuwakina and Setanzu would only blossom after their series’ runs. Sesshou, in addition to dealing with his prejudices against humans in general(and hanyou in particular; the anger really a misplaced jealousy over his pointy-eared kid brother getting Daddy’s COOL sword, while he--despite being the oldest--gets the sissy healing sword that kills nothing.)has to wait until the girl is of mating age. [and for fanfic writers, that means she has to be at least sixteen. I prefer eighteen, but I’m willing to give seventeen a bit of wiggle room.]

My couples of boredom.

Hiei/Kurama: overrated.

Seiji/Touma: next!

Kensuke, Yusubara: brothers....

Botan/any YYH guy: just seems contrived to me.

Yugi/Anzu: my setanzu-ship senses are tingling. yugi has everything else....

Seto/Jounouchi: it’s the doing of 4Kids, I tell ya! one too many puppy jokes.... more of a rivalry/unrecognized kindred spirit bit here(as said dub did actually touch on.) besides, seto tends to either dominate or be a sexually stunted, broken shell from goza’s abuse; while jouno’s father also likes to beat on jou-jou. both may be true of the comic, but I’m watching the animation.

Jouno/Mai: can’t really add to what the show did.

Bakura/anyone: sleep....

Seto/Goza: ALWAYS abuse, ALWAYS. just once, I’d like to see a twist. Goza as Seto’s love slave, or Seto being a willing NAMBLA toy.... if you’re going to write sad child/adult fics like this, do something with it besides having goza do things to seto guaranteed to have the CEO stripped of power and the news, or a conscientious KC employee.... if these things must be written, make it part of a murder case conan edogawa/shinichi kudo could solve.(this could even incorporate the manga abuse...because seto did kill goza there.) come on, surprise me.

Jin/Touya: seeing nothing...

Kurama/Karasu: nothing exists....

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Couples I haven’t seen yet(and some I don’t wanna see).

So far:

Younger Toguro/Kuwabara: this could only be handled by a skilled writer.

Elder Toguro/Kuwabara: NOOOOOO...!

Either Toguro/Yukina: wrong....

Tarukane/Yukina: cast...out...mental...image....

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Romances with an author’s original characters.

These are the trickiest. The Mary Sue must be avoided at all costs. The self-insert is lethal.

What I find helpful: create running biographies on your copyrighted character. Find out who he’s connected to, extrapolate his age based on the date of the show; also use his personality as a guide. Then, fill in the blanks.

Let’s use Gozaburo as an example.

I guessed him to be in his mid/late fifties, pinning his birth date at 1949. His family is centuries-old nobility; Goza’s father probably fought in WW2. Goza’s mom had to make hard choices post-bellum, as she lost everything. Mom met Dad at a bar and contracted out a night; Goza’s the product of it. By a twist of fate, Mom left Goza at Dad’s doorstep; stately Kaiba Manor; she was never seen again.

Dad’s postwar PTSD* caused him to be a nice person, but childlike; during the war, and until the incident, Dad was a brutal and ruthless teenage soldier.

[* his American cousin hijacked his kamikaze Zero and crashed into Kaiba Corporation’s main office on Alcatraz. --to stop Dad from crashing the plane into one of the US bombers launching the sustained raid over Tokyo.--]

Goza and Dad lived together with Grandfather; an angry, bitter, and ancient man. (sound familiar?) Dad died, hit by a car, when Goza was four; Goza’s remaining childhood was spent with Grandfather.

The above should establish why Goza is Goza, how this transmitted to Seto, etc.

We note that Noa exists. He didn’t come out of thin air, so...a wife is needed. Considering Noa’s extreme youth compared to Goza, Goza’s wife had to either be really young, or the woman had Noa late. [I went with the latter.] Also, Goza’s eyes are brown, but Noa’s are gray; their hair is nothing alike(unless we can find a young Goza with lime-green hair...).

Goza’s wife was born in 1952, one of a set of identical twins born out of wedlock to a Japanese woman and an American man. The man was engaged back home, and he had to go back; leaving Honey’s mom with said twins. Her family and the Kaibas share an ancient bond. She becomes KC’s accountant at fifteen, but quits when Goza takes over in 1970, a year after they married.

Now: why is Noa so late? Goza’s not the type to dilly-dally in making an heir. And I’m fairly sure she’s fertile enough, though she did suffer a miscarriage.

And several others after that. Too many for a coincidence. Somebody wanted to destroy the putative KC heir. There’s no motive for Goza’s honey to fail to produce the child[unless she wants to be turned out of the mansion without alimony....]; hence, an enemy has induced abortions. Someone within the company who stands to gain from Goza dying without a legacy.

[Only members of the Big Five would gain anything from this. B1 is too old to risk it, possibly older than Goza. B2 just wants a penguin zoo. B3’s too young; while B4, surprisingly, is a family man. That leaves B5: six years younger than Goza, unmarried, underhanded and lacking moral scruples. Judging by B5’s accent, he’s a small town “hick” with ambition who made good. --iow, the dub gave me ideas....--]

But, Noa was born; the boy jet-set with Mommy Kaiba until three, when he met Daddy Warbucks Goza for the first time. The three were inseparable, and Goza thought he could finally relax and enjoy his new idyll.

Alas! Loving wife and doting son die within the same year. Noa’s departure finally broke him.

Then...the boy Seto beat him in a chess match. Seto’s proposal reminds Goza of a conversation he had with his wife about adopting brothers to keep Noa company and challenge said minty son. (but since Goza wanted to resurrect his seed, the CEO had better ideas....) However, life left Goza bitter and vengeful; thus, Seto was duly placed on the shitlist as the nearest target.(the fact that the kid beat him at chess didn’t help....)

The reader should guess from this(or a dialogue-rich version) that Goza loved his wife dearly.

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One interesting way to make a couple: the crossover. To continue with the Goza example:

Mrs. Kaiba’s a character who was actually inspired by her great niece. You see, I needed a conduit; a pretext to match Goza with BSSM’s Ami; Honey Kaiba’s twin sister is Ami’s Granny. Ami often visited Great-Uncle Goza’s house, falling in love with the man’s brilliant--if mildly disturbed--mind. Great-Aunt Honey, devoted to Goza, wants to arrange a marriage between the two(if she dies); as Goza returns Ami’s affections to a lesser extent. [age is probably an issue.]

Crossover couples are fun, but very tricky. The key is to create a plausible universe where all your crossover shows can exist. Each series’ plot can coexist with the others without screwing up the works.

My structure:

1. Base continuum. This is created using the date the primary show(s) was/were produced. If Digimon 02 is in the story, I use it as an anchor timeline due to it being set only two years ago.

2. It’s best to pick shows and characters you’re familiar with and really like. Since the characters are more or less friends, per se, you know how they’ll react to any given situation you put them in.

Example: Sesshoumaru is sent forward 150 years in time. Because I like Fluffy’s character, I can imagine him exploring the “far West” with the Iroquois and chatting with Ben Franklin, etc.

3. Concoct a foe foreign to all the heroes; or if all else fails, steal from better, public domain sources. :D

Mythos/Densetsu is in part the aftermath of several Greco/Roman myths, colliding with the lives of several Japanese people; and an American.

These are the four main ones to help you with the story:

1. The Rape(kidnapping!) of Persephone
2. Cupid(eros) and Psyche
3. Death of Chiron
4. Fall of Cronos, father of the Pantheon

The villain, of course, is Cronos, who wants back his rule over the Pantheon. To do that, he has to kill his six children...

...who, due to an effort to resolve a centuries-old marital arrangement, are in the bodies of mortals along with the rest of the major Greek deities.

Here, I retell the above four and other myths in ways the modern-day crew can understand, along with other adventures.

Also a feature(inspired by Maetel Legend and Sailor Moon) is the Japanese snow queen legend and the moon princess Kaguya.

Yayoi Yukino, with great helpings of Hans Christian Andersen, is in this story the youkai goddess over the koorime.(the icy snow girls)

Kaguya(according to my globodix means furniture retail) is a legendary girl of the moon. Here, the name represents everything beautiful in Kuwabara’s life; the idea sprung from a white kitten with perfect blue eyes, whom he tried to nurse back to health when he was five. Kuwa failed, and gave little kitty Kaguya a noble burial. Hence, when his daughter was born, Kuwa named the girl Kaguya. (which should give you an idea of how he sees his little girl.)

As for the Snow Queen: she lives alone in an isolated area of the Arctic Circle. I fused YY with the loneliness of the SQ to create the koorime goddess.

All of this references the title: Mythos(gk. myth)/Densetsu(jp. legend)

When Digimon gets involved was primarily for DA02-2027 purposes; yet Culumon evolved into a Plotbunnymon. As I’m unwilling to clutter M/D with Digimon stuff, I created a side story, or gaiden, for this arc.

For this, you need a bit of real world trivia: DARPANET, 1969. Since all Chosen are usually Japanese, I just needed someone young in 1969. Goza was twenty, so he “created” the digital world, which is actually a repository for mankind’s reika-ju, or spirit realm beasts. The digital world’s maturity in 1996 meant that the problem Puu/Yusuke faced in 1992-93 no longer applied; a person can live without her inner self, and vice versa. Aside from that, the creature could still feel what their human counterpart feels.

A bit of alpha and omega/seven of everything monotheism snuck in here as well; hence I chose six other “Heavens”, a Chosen with a unique special effect on the digital world.

The effects:


But anymore would spoil the stories--if I even choose to post them on FF.Net. I think Xing got angry with me this week.

See the next post, “Xing has issues.” ^*above*^

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