Anime Today: When Narrative Breaks Down

As the summer 2014 season winds down, I’ve recently been reflecting on my thoughts over the last few months of anime. Although this season has been one of the more enjoyable of the past year or so, it seems to have also been one of the most disappointing. But how can that be?

The answer is simple, and it comes down to let down expectations. If you’ve been following Anime Today, you are probably aware of how excited I was to see everything pan out this season. However, if you have been following Anime Today or listened to episode one of our podcast, you are also probably aware of how few of these entries have lived up to my artificially-raised expectations.

Without getting into too much detail (that’s what our live stream is for this Saturday!), between the overall poor production of Persona 4 The Golden Animation, Sword Art Online, Aldnoah Zero, and Captain Earth, to name a few, each week has been a question of how I am going to be let down. Why could I be so disappointed in these entries that originally excited me? With the exception of the possibility that I had simply misappropriated my preconceptions above and beyond what I should have expected, I place the majority of my blame on an inconsistency in writing and other production.

Aldnoah Zero is a prime example of this. With Gen Urobuchi at the writing helm (responsible for renowned shows such as Fate/Zero and Puella Magi Madoka Magica), expectations were high. And to be quite frank, expectations were met. Aldnoah Zero absolutely, wonderfully delivered.

Slaine Troyard

And then Urobuchi departed from the writing staff, and the fall into mediocrity commenced (this is not to say that Aldnoah Zero has been bad, per se, as much as it has just been closer to average than originally anticipated). The narrative shifted from what was an original, well-produced, thrilling, and thought-provoking exposition, to nothing more than an average mecha with a few interesting plot twists.

Coincidentally, or not, I have been also doing some more in-depth reading of The Message (a contemporization of the New Testament) by Eugene Peterson during the duration of this season. Something that has struck me about this reading, in part as a Christian and in part as nothing more than an intrigued student, is the amazing degree of uniform variance within the entirety of the Bible. All of Scripture covers thousands of years’ worth of writing, recorded by dozens of authors, and yet it is able to stand as a single narrative. Different writers reference different books, either directly or indirectly, with specific recorded events leading directly to other events separated by millennia.

Literature able to accomplish this (this is completely regardless of the argument of the accuracy of Scripture) is nothing short of amazing, and is also something generally unseen today. In fact, the only common example of a literary work that follows this example is the higher budget visual novel, like Key’s Rewrite, which employed a staff of writers who essentially divided story routes among themselves (as opposed to the more usual standard of sharing the load). However, even a masterpiece like Rewrite, which ranks as one of my favorite pieces of fiction to this day and has many spiritual themes worthy of placing it on our very own Visual Novel Recommendations Page, still succumbs to the inevitable plot hole that comes as a natural consequence of many writers.

It is this that makes the Bible as one coherent work, something extraordinary. While a piece of animation like Aldnoah Zero stumbles after only one writer change, and the remainder of my aforementioned list failing in some of the same areas without even that as an excuse, I am brought back to what brings Christians together in the first place… as a pivotal part of human literary history.

That is something stunning, even if it doesn’t have giant robots.

8 thoughts on “Anime Today: When Narrative Breaks Down

  1. I love how you have described the Bible; even in reading the King James version, one catches it– the oneness, the unity of it all. I’ve only been a Christian for seven years, but I was a student of literature and art before I believed, and reading the Bible as beautiful literature was one of my favorite ways to learn the character of God (as sovereign in the past, the present, and trustworthy unto the future) and to know the Bible more intimately.

    This is nothing new, I’m sure; I’m sure that every great Bible commenter and scholar has had this time with the Word, and still does.

    1. Thank you for the kind words! Sometimes I wonder if, after writing an article like this, I am either missing the audience entirely, or preaching to the choir. It’s very encouraging to read what you had to say!

      I’m constantly amazed by the literary work that is the Bible, and it’s something that even kept me tied to Christianity even during a period of my life when I truly doubted much of what I had learned growing up. Purely as ancient literature, it is a masterpiece, but taken as Scripture, it become even more!

  2. hmm really interesting!! i never really thought of it in this way. it’s true though. its amazing how coherent the bible is when works a lot shorter can’t keep it up.

  3. I can’t comment on Aldnoah Zero, since there was no room for it on my short watching list this season. But I appreciate what you said about the Bible. I forget how breathtaking it is. Just like with other, uh… unholy works (including anime), hearing someone else praise the Bible reawakens dormant excitement. I love the connections across books in the Bible. So many metaphors in the New Testament rely on Old Testament history. And, of course, God is the one common character and writer throughout all the books. Lately, I’ve enjoyed re-noticing details about who He is as I read 1 Samuel. But I haven’t stopped to savor these details in a while, so I’m glad I finally got around to reading this post. It’s a nice reminder.

    Annnnd… you mention Rewrite again. I think that’s the third time I’ve seen/heard you reference it in as many days. Someday, I’ll get around to trying one of the VNs from your recommendation page. Someday…

    1. Glad I was able to serve as a catalyst for you!

      And yes, Rewrite is fantastic. However, there are also a few accessible VNs in our recommendations page that are MUCH shorter (Planetarian and Narcissu/Narcissu: Side 2nd are each only a couple hours of reading).

  4. Urobuchi left the Aldnoah writing team???????? Aw man, forgot the comment I made on the Aldnoah article… Man, there goes my good day…

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