Tearing out the guts of a story – Rewrite Project
Having read a lot of anime blogs, it was only a matter of time before I would come across this topic; if you could, what would you change about an anime? Thanks to Valence over at Ambivalence – or is it ambiguity, I now have that answer. Being a writer of fanfiction, I often come across this dilemma – what was I so unsatisfied with in an anime, that I felt compelled to write my own endings and my own stories? For everyone the answer is different; some didn’t get the parings they wanted, or maybe they did, but it was never explored enough. Some saw wasted plots and sub-plots, wasted characters, and wasted situations; and others, they just love yuri and buttsex, and love injecting it into a story, whether it makes sense or not.
Where do I fall? Some who have read my work might think I fall into the yuri camp. My yuri goggles are so thick, that I can turn even the most pure and non-romantic friendship, into something worthy of a nosebleed. However, the yuri fanboy in me is just one half of my writing; the other half, is far more terrible.
As the great witch, Lady Bernkastel would say: “When they are alive, you can enjoy watching them struggle. When they are dead, you can enjoy tearing out their guts”. That would best describe the way I write fiction. I love tormenting my characters, over and over, endlessly, I never tire of it. So as it stands, I love turning something innocent and nice, into something dark and gritty; in a sense, I like to rip out the guts of a story, play around with the entrails, and remove all hope from the narrative, before finally allowing a happy ending. I’m rather twisted, wouldn’t you say?
And now that this introduction is over, I can move on to the real reason that this post exists; the rewrites.
There isn’t really a single genre or anime that I really want to rewrite, not completely; however there are things, important things I think, that would make them far more enjoyable, particularly in the Magical Girl genre. Before Madoka Magica came along, there were very few anime in that genre that explored the dark side of magic, and what it really meant to be a magical girl. Until this came along, we had to use our imagination if we wanted to make something dark out of what was essentially, a children’s cartoon. My first venture into this territory was a certain Shōnen anime, called Gate Keepers. Now, Gate Keepers is not exactly a MG show, but magic (if you want to call it that) does play a nice role in the story, as its about a bunch of teens who pull magical powers out of holes. This was my first anime, the anime to get me into the fandom, it is basically my catalyst, that is why I have started with it first.
It has a standard plot; teens save the world from monsters. As a show, it didn’t really feel very dark, and it wasn’t. Sure, a bunch of people turned into monsters, and then the main characters killed them – the morality of which was explored a bit – but it never felt very dark. This was rectified in the short sequel OVA, Gate Keepers 21. In that anime, the world was dark, gritty, the skies gray, and the people terrible. It was a world, one in which there was no hope. Still, it wasn’t quite dark enough. Yes, one character was losing limbs left and right, and another was shot in the head (the lead actually); and one was even killed, though that girl was pretty much a ghost to begin with. Still it lacked something, something important. One of those things was yuri admittedly; the two main leads had so much potential that it was maddening, but that isn’t too important. The real thing it was missing was the ‘message’. Unlike the original, the morality of the characters was explored a lot more, with the leads acknowledging that they were basically murderers. However, except for one lead, everyone else seemed to be jaded emotionally, which I can understand; but, it made them feel less relateable, because they didn’t really feel the weight of killing anymore; and brushed it off like it was nothing. Which is where my stories come in.
To Shatter Fate. It was originally a single story, set after GK21, and using mostly original characters. The lead character of my story (who was almost a Mary Sue), was a powerful gatekeeper, but had little control of both herself and her powers. My intention was for her to grow as a character, becoming stronger and mature, which she did. I also wanted her to retain her humanity, no matter how many invaders and people she killed. As a result, I introduced 2 love interests. The first was a friend from school, who you learn later on is also a gatekeeper, and the other was another gatekeeper, who was a member of the Earth Defense Force, A.E.G.I.S. These two kept my lead in balance; they keep her from going completely mad from killing, and keep her from being too jaded to enjoy life again.
The story soon expanded into a series, adding more characters, more bad guys, and more moral dilemmas to face. Of course, there was also more yuri, as there was only 1 man in the main cast. Needless to say, this story (before it was canceled near the end of the final story), gave me everything I wanted from GK. It was dark, it had romance, more action, it was my wet dream. And with the end of this dream, I soon walked into the nightmare that was Mahou Shoujo.
Since I had only written fanfictions for one MG anime, I will only talk about that; and its a title I’m sure every blogger knows well, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha.
Now MGLN was a little difficult. By the time I started writing fanfics for it, all three seasons were over. I was at a loss; besides yuri, there was little that I was unsatisfied with. The first season gave us a cast of cute characters to fawn over, as well as an emotional and well written plot. Season 2 gave us more action, more character development, and even more cute characters to fawn over. It also had excellent writing, and was mature in its own right. Still, something was missing, it still wasn’t mature enough, or dark enough; and then StrikerS came. The plot jumps forward many years and you get even more development, with the two lead characters now adults. Things in this season get very mature very fast. You have the military strife, and the gentle hints that the organization the leads work for want turn a world into a dictatorship. There are wars and death, even if, they are just seen in flashbacks. There is a group of assholes trying to do the standard taking over the world; and also the first hints that magic isn’t all its cracked up to be, with Nanoha becoming seriously injured and nearly rendered useless by her own magical capacity. And then we have Vivio, who later becomes the daughter of the leads from the first season, as if the yuri subtext wasn’t blatant enough already. This season, while not perfect, had the maturity and darkness that I was looking for (and even more that would be found in the newest manga, Force), and was a perfect closing to the series.
Now, at this point, there wasn’t much that I would change. Other than creating romantic relationships that should exist, there wasn’t much I could do with this world; then I came into contact with one particular fanfic. It was called “Connected”, and it was one of the few AU (Alternate Universe) fanfics from this anime that I read. In any case, the author stopped halfway through, going on a break. When I heard this, I was mad, but also happy, because an idea came to me then. Asked for permission, received it, and then, like it was a natural thing, I finished their story. Doing my best to mimic the original author’s style (so that it wouldn’t feel out of place), I wrote the second half; and it was there that I found how much I like tearing out the guts of a story.
I took a standard story, where the leads are in love, but don’t realize the other’s feelings, and turned it into something awful. I had one of the leads kidnapped and raped. it was the first time I wrote something so sickening, and I enjoyed every minute of it (this would later become the motivation to write a very, very dark short story). After it was over, I received all kinds of praise, from both readers and the author as well. This was my first really serious entry into the MGLN universe, and thanks to the immense happiness I got from torturing the characters, it wasn’t the last.
From that point on, I tried to make whatever I wrote as dark as possible. I did write many fluffy, happy tales; but in the end I always returned to the dark side. What I was lacking in Nanoha, the darkness that I thought I had obtained with StrikerS, I found in my own mind. Over and over, I made one story after another, coming up with different plots, mostly bittersweet at their core, but some very evil.
In StrikerS, there was also one scene, in which Nanoha becomes a bit of a Yandere, well, she certainly sounds the part. Since I liked that kind of thing (School Days, what have you done to me?), I decided to explore that a little. I created the “Forever…” series; which was a trilogy of stories, exploring two yandere relationships, both ending badly, and one story that was just plain twisted. Like most of my work, they were well received; but still, there was something missing, something I was still unsatisfied with. I thought maybe, “I can make this darker, I know I can.”
Despite that train of thought, I took a break from real dark fics, in order to explore one more thing I thought Nanoha really needed; back story. That gave me the idea for “Corruption”. While in the canon, there was a lost magical world called Al-Hazard, its existence was left up in the air. In Corruption I decided to create my own back story for Al-Hazard. After researching literally everything there was to know in the MGLN universe, from characters to history, I felt I was ready to tackle it. So I came up with a pretty basic back story, about a war that ravaged the world and ultimately lead to its destruction. Then I moved into the real story, which involved an artifact from Al-Hazard, one which would later try again to destroy another world.
As the title suggests, the story involved corruption, not just of the soul, but politically as well. In this story, Nanoha and a few others were turned evil, the world was placed under Martial Law as the government was infiltrated. I wanted it to be a fantastic story, my last one, after which I would get out of the game. That didn’t happen. The story is nice, but my writing at the time could use a lot of work, and there were a lot of things that I would ironically want to rewrite about it. That said, I was satisfied with the story the maturity and the grow of my characters, so I moved back into the world of darkness where I belonged.
Thus came the “Twisted Worlds” series of stories. In this I explored different topics that were a little closer to home; there was domestic abuse and murder; in one story, Nanoha and her daughter even had sex, it was the most controversial of the stories for good reason (though there was a doujin that was far more exciting in that area than I ever could be). In the third story, I finally introduced a plot that linked the others. It was a little like Higurashi, as Nanoha was remembering the things that she did in other worlds, including the world where she ‘raped’ her daughter, later killing herself, and the one where she murdered her partner (Fate-chan). This dark tale only got more horrifying as Nanoha’s delusions became greater. And after reaching the breaking point of insanity, she once again murders both Fate and Vivio, before killing herself again. The last story was more of a cop-out than anything. I had Umineko on the brain, so I revealed that pretty much, Trollkastel was behind all of the repeating worlds, and was using Nanoha to ease her boredom. The story ends with Nanoha going to yet another world, and Bernkastel noting that her suffering will never end, for all eternity.
After that was done, I got pretty much most of what I wanted out of Nanoha, I was satisfied at last. Of course, my hunger could never truly be satisfied, so I looked constantly for more things that I wanted, more guts that I wanted to tear out. After all the dark fics I wrote, I decided that I was lacking in some good old school romance. Nanoha didn’t really take place a lot in school, and high school was only shown once. So I thought “what the hell, I’ll do it”. That’s where Lyrical Girls came from. It was a re-imagining of the series. Rather than be elementary schoolers, the characters were in high school. There was no magic, just people. It was the most normal story I ever wrote, so of course I had to put an end to such normalcy. Fate was reintroduced, and the abuse she received from her mother was the focus of the first story. After that was resolved, I moved into the next “season”, and all of a sudden the plot became dark as all hell. Now we had muggings, one of my main characters risked her life, was nearly killed, and even turned out to be a yandere. At this point I was just making it up as I went along, but it worked out nicely; thanks Bill O’ Riley (in order words: fuck it, we’ll do it live!). Anyway, the story got dark fast, but eventually everything was resolved and I went back to the nice school life in the final story. At that point I had teased my readers long enough, and finally put Nanoha and Fate together, ending all the tension.
Moving on, we are almost at the end of this endless story; as Lyrical Girls is still on-going, I don’t have much else to talk about. With Nanoha, I was satisfied again, but still not in a way. Again I needed something dark, but not too much, I needed a break from that kind of stuff. And So, we have my final Nanoha rewrite; The Loving Melody of The Final Saint (Long title). This story once again takes place in the original canon; but in the future. In this story, Vivio has stopped aging due to an incident, and has lived for over 200 years. Everyone else is dead, her parents killed in a fight, everyone else gone from old age. Vivio is all alone now, tormented by her memories, and jaded, to the point where she can’t even find the resolve to end her own life. This story is really meant to be my last in the Nanohaverse, and I’m trying to make it my best. I’m trying to give Nanoha the deep plot and maturity that it deserves, and the darkness that I needed, and so I’m being careful this time.
This post has been extremely long, and is probably riddled with errors. I intended to write a short blurb about what I would add to some anime, and instead wrote an essay about the history of my fanfic writing. Still I think its relevant to the project. The idea was to write about what you would add, and I did; I gave a history about what I was unsatisfied with in certain shows, and this essay reflects my desire and many attempts to remedy that situation.
I hope that someone will read this, and by seeing this, find their own way of looking at anime, and find their own ways of filling the holes inside them left by the unsatisfying endings; the wasted plots and subplots, the wasted characters and wasted situations; and of course, the wasted yuri and yaoi potential.
But more than any of that; I’m looking forward to seeing if anyone else enjoys tearing out the guts of a story.